The old models of exegesis--coded messages that are uncovered and interpreted by exegetes using grammar, allegory, typology, etc.,--are attempts to house train God, to make his self revelation in Jesus conform to a pattern that is comfortable for men. But is it reasonable that we should expect this of God? Enns' answer, if I may extend his logic somewhat, is or should be, No. We should expect, rather, that revelation should be "somewhat messy." For the reason that reality, and above all human life, is "somewhat messy." Enns, of course, is following his Protestant (Judaizing--h/t Spengler) model of revelation, by which God "speaks to man through Scripture," but he realizes that that is not the whole story. Not by half. For, "in much the same way: he enters into our world and uses our own cultural patterns to reveal himself." Here, unfortunately, Enns is still trapped within the notion of God's self revelation in Jesus having been accomplished through a collection of books that we call the New Testament, rather than in the very personal reality of Jesus of Nazareth. For the Christian, Jesus IS revelation, and all else, including Scripture, can only be "revelation" in a secondary sense. This must be the beginning of exegesis. And as a start we must seek to determine Jesus' own understanding of how to deal with "scripture."
17 "Don't think that I came to destroy
the Torah or the Prophets;
I came not to destroy, but to fulfill.
18 For, amen, I say to you,Until heaven and earth pass away,
Not one iota or one stroke will pass away from the Torah,
Until everything has come to pass.19 So whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments,
and teaches this to others,
shall be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven;
But whoever obeys and teaches the commandments,
he shall be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.
20 For I tell you,
Unless your righteousness greatly exceeds
that of the scribes and Pharisees,
you'll never get into the Kingdom of Heaven." (Matthew 5)
16 The Torah and the Prophets lasted until John;
from then on The Kingdom of God is proclaimed in the good news,And everyone forces his way into it.
17 But it's easier for heaven and earth to pass awayThan for one letter or stroke of the Torah to fall. (Luke 16)
9 But what did you go out to see? A prophet?
Yes, I tell you, and one greater than a prophet.
10 He it is of whom it is written,Behold, I'm sending my messenger before your face,
who will prepare your way before you.
11 Amen, I say to you, among those born of women
there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist,
Yet even the least in the Kingdom of Heaven
is greater than he is.12 From the days of John the Baptist until the present
The Kingdom of Heaven suffers violence,
and the violent take it by force.
13 For all the Prophets and the Torah up to John prophesied,14 and if you can accept it, he's Elijah--he who is destined to come.
(For the application of the refrain “Heaven and earth will pass away,” to Jesus' own words cf. Mt 24:35; Mk 13:31; Lk 21:33 in the context of the end times.)
21 "You've heard that it was said to the ancients, You shall not murder,and that whoever does commit murder shall be liable to judgment.
22 But I say to you,
Anyone who's angry with his brother
shall be liable to judgment,
And whoever says to his brother, 'Raqa!'
shall be liable to the Sanhedrin,
And whoever says, 'You fool!'
shall be liable to the fire of Gehenna.
27 "You've heard that it was said, You shall not commit adultery! 28 but I say to you that anyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
31 "And it was said, Whoever puts his wife away, let him give her a written notice of divorce. 32 But I say to you, Anyone who puts his wife away...
except by reason of an unlawful union
...makes her an adulteress,
And whoever marries after putting her away
With regard to oaths, we see a situation similar to that regarding divorce: Jesus is forbidding a practice that is not forbidden by the Torah, and even appears to be sanctioned by the Torah:
33 "Again, you've heard that it was said to your forefathers, You shall not break your oaths! and, You shall fulfill your oaths to the Lord! 34 But I tell you not to swear at all, neither by heaven, because it's the throne of God, 35 nor by the earth,' because it's the footstool for His feet, nor by Jerusalem, because it's the city of the Great King, 36 nor shall you swear by your head, because you're not able to make one hair white or black. 37 Let your speech be 'yes, yes,' or 'no, no;' anything more than that is from the Evil One."
The Commands of Love
38 "You've heard that it was said, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. 39 But I tell you not to resist the evildoer; on the contrary,
Whoever strikes you on the right cheek,
turn the other to him as well;
40 To the one who wants to go to law with you and take your tunic,
give him your cloak as well,
41 And whoever forces you to go one mile,go with him two.
42 Give to the one who asks of you, and don't turn away the one who wishes to borrow from you."
43 "You've heard that it was said, Love your neighbor! And hate your enemy. 44 But I say to you,
Love your enemies,
And pray for those who persecute you,
45 so that you'll become sons of your Father in heaven, because
He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good,
and rains on the just and the unjust.
46 For if you love those who love you,what reward will you have?
Don't the tax collectors also do the same?
47 And if you greet only your brothers,what great thing are you doing?
Don't the Gentiles also do the same?
48 So you be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect."
28 And it happened that when Jesus had finished these words the crowds were amazed at his teaching 29 because he was teaching them on his own authority, and not like their scribes.
12. At that time Jesus was going through the grain fields on the Sabbath; now, his disciples became hungry and began to pluck the heads of grain and eat them. 2 When the Pharisees saw this they said to him, "Look, your disciples are doing what it's unlawful to do on the Sabbath!" 3 But he said to them, "Haven't you read what David did when he was hungry, as well as those with him? 4 How he went into the House of God and ate the loaves of offering, which it wasn't lawful for him to eat nor for those with him, but was for the priests alone? 5 Or haven't you read in the Torah that on the Sabbath the priests [serving] in the Temple violate the Sabbath yet are not [considered] guilty? 6 But I say to you, something greater than the Temple is here. 7 If you had known what this means, I desire mercy and not sacrifice, you wouldn't have condemned the innocent. 8 For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath." (Mt 12)
23 It happened that as he was going through the grain fields on the Sabbath his disciples began plucking the heads of the grain as they made their way through. 24 And the Pharisees said to him, "Look! Why are they doing what's unlawful on the Sabbath?" 25 He said to them, "Haven't you ever read what David did when he was in need and was hungry, as well as those with him? 26 How he went into the house of God when Abiathar was High Priest and ate the loaves of offering"which it isn't lawful to eat, except for the priests"and he gave them to those with him as well?" 27 And he said to them,
"The Sabbath was made for Man,
not Man for the Sabbath;
28 thus the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath." (Mark 2)
9 He left there and went to their synagogue, 10 and, behold, a man with a withered hand was there. And they demanded to know of him, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?" in an effort to find an accusation they could bring against him. 11 But he said to them, "Is there a man among you who, if he had one sheep and it fell into a ditch on the Sabbath, wouldn't take hold of it and pull it out? 12 So how much more is a man worth than a sheep! And, so, it's lawful to do good on the Sabbath." (Matthew 12)
4 Then he said to them,
Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil,
to save a life or to put to death?" (Mark 3)
9 Then Jesus said to them, "I ask you,
Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or do evil,
to save a life or to kill?" (Luke 6)
38 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees spoke up and said to him, "Teacher, we want to see a sign from you." 39 But in answer he said to them,
"A wicked and adulterous generation seeks a sign,
Yet no sign will be given it but the sign of Jonah the prophet.
40 For just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale
for three days and three nights,
So will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth
for three days and three nights.
41 The men of Nineveh will stand in judgment against this generation and will condemn it,
Because they repented as a result of Jonah's preaching,
And, behold, one greater than Jonah is here. (Matthew 12)
29 Now as the crowds pressed around he said,
"This generation is a wicked generation; it seeks a sign,
Yet no sign will be given it but the sign of Jonah.
30 For just as Jonah became a sign for the Ninevites,
So also will the Son of Man be for this generation.
31 The Queen of the South will rise up at the judgment against the men of this generation
and will condemn them,
Because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon,
And, behold, one greater than Solomon is here.
32 The Ninevite men will stand up at the judgment against this generation
and will condemn it,
Because they repented at the preaching of Jonah,
And, behold, one greater than Jonah is here!" (Luke 11)
10 Then he called the crowd to himself and said to them, "Hear and understand!
11 What goes into the mouth
is not what makes a man unclean;
On the contrary, what comes out of his mouth,
that makes a man unclean."
12 The disciples came and said to him, "Do you know that, when they heard, the Pharisees took offense at what you said?" 13 But in answer he said, "Every plant not planted by my heavenly Father will be pulled out by the roots. 14 Let them be. They're blind guides. Now,
If a blind man leads a blind man,
Both will fall into a ditch."
15 In response Peter said to him, "Explain the parable to us." 16 Jesus said, "Can you still be that dense? 17 Don't you see that everything that enters the mouth goes into the stomach and is expelled into the latrine? 18 But the things that leave the mouth come from the heart, and those are the things that make a man unclean. 19 For from the heart come wicked thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, and blasphemy. 20 These things are what make a man unclean, but eating with unwashed hands doesn't make a man unclean." (Matthew 15)
17 When he came into the house from the crowd his disciples questioned him about the parable. 18 And he said to them, "Are you that dense, too? Don't you see that nothing that enters a man from outside can make him unclean 19 because it enters his stomach, not his heart, and goes out into the latrine?" thus declaring all foods to be clean. 20 Then he said, "What goes forth from a man is what makes a man unclean, 21 for from within, from the hearts of men, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, evil intentions, deceit, indecency, jealousy, blasphemy, arrogance, and foolishness. 23 All such evil comes forth from within and makes a man unclean." (Mark 7)
3 And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by saying, "Is it lawful for a man to put his wife away for any reason?" 4 But in answer he said, "Haven't you read that He Who created them from the beginning made them male and female? 5 And He said, For this reason a man shall leave father and mother and be united with his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. 6 So, then, they're no longer two but one flesh. Therefore,
What God has joined together
let man not separate."
7 They said to him, "Then why did Moses command us to give a notice of divorce and put her away?" 8 He said to them, "Moses allowed you to put your wives away because of the hardness of your hearts, but it wasn't that way from the beginning. 9 So I say to you, whoever puts his wife away--not in [the case of] an unlawful union--and marries another commits adultery." (Matthew 19)
31 Then Jesus said to them, "This night you'll all lose your faith in me, for it is written, I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered,
32 but after I rise I'll go ahead of you into Galilee."
Jesus in Nazareth (Mt 4:1-11; Mk 1:12-13)
Strangers shall stand and pasture your flocks,
Aliens shall be your plowmen and vine-trimmers
You shall enjoy the wealth of the Goyim
And revel in their riches. (Isaiah 61:5-6)
All the people bore witness to him and were amazed at the graceful words (τοις λογοις της χαριτος) that came from his mouth
16 He went to Nazareth, where he'd been brought up, and as was his custom he went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. 17 So they handed him the scroll of the prophet Isaiah, and when he unrolled the scroll he found the place where it was written,
18 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring the good news to the poor,
He has sent me to proclaim release to captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty the oppressed,
19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord ...
20 When he had rolled up the scroll and handed it back to the attendant he sat down, and the eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 Then he began to tell them, "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." 22 All the people bore witness against him and were amazed at the words of mercy which came from his mouth, and they said, "Isn't this fellow Joseph's son?" 23 So he said to them, "No doubt you'll quote me this parable, 'Physician, heal thyself!' 'Do here, too, in your hometown, what we heard was done in Capharnaum.'" (Luke 4)
25 He said to them, "How dense you are, and how slow of heart to believe all the prophets said! 26 Didn't the Messiah have to suffer all these things and go into his glory?" 27 And starting from Moses and all the prophets he interpreted for them what was in all the scriptures about himself.
44 Then he said to them, "These are my words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Torah of Moses and in the Prophets and in the Psalms had to be fulfilled." 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures. 46 And he said to them, "So it is written, that the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance and forgiveness of sins for all nations would be proclaimed in his name--starting from Jerusalem. (Luke 24)
The first thing we notice is that Luke and the disciples have somehow failed to preserve the details of what should have been a fascinating Scripture Study session--conducted by Jesus himself! One would have expected the details to have been foundational for Christian theology, but they appear to have been lost beyond recovery--two millennia of searching the scriptures have failed to find any prediction of the passion, death and resurrection of the Messiah in the Israelite scriptures. The Catholic New American Bible notes (re the prediction in Luke 18, below):
Luke understands the events of Jesus' last days in Jerusalem to be the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, but, as is usually the the case in Luke-Acts, the author does not specify which Old Testament prophets he has in mind.
Even more pointedly, in its notes for Luke 24 the NAB drily notes:
The idea of a suffering Messiah is not found in the Old Testament or in other Jewish literature prior to the New Testament period.
What in fact we are seeing in Luke is the influence of the basic ideas of archaic ontology in early Christian thought: Jesus is not to be allowed to perform unique actions in history; instead, he is following a scripted reenactment of archetypal acts dictated by the Israelite scriptures, in turn dictated to Moses by God. This is a far cry from Paul's scandal of the cross and, if we are to accept the witness of the other Gospels, from the witness of Jesus himself, who clearly saw his actions as unique.
By way of comparison, we find that in each of the Synoptic gospels Jesus three times predicts his passion and death. Given the insistence of all three Synoptic gospels there appears to be little doubt that Jesus predicted his passion and resurrection and went to it with his eyes wide open. However, what is immediately striking is that, of the nine total narratives, in only one is Jesus presented as claiming any basis for his passion and death in the Israelite scriptures—in Luke 18. As the NAB notes, the reference to the prophets in Luke 18 is clearly “a Lucan addition to the words of Jesus”:
|31 Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man had to suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be put to death and rise after three days... |
|21 From then on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he had to go on to Jerusalem and suffer terrible things at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes and be put to death and rise on the third day. |
21 But he ... 22 ... said, "The Son of Man must suffer greatly and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes and be put to death and rise on the third day."Luke 9
|"The Son of Man will be given over into the hands of men and they'll put him to death, and when he's been killed, after three days he'll rise." |
|"The Son of Man is going to be handed over into the hands of men 23 and they'll put him to death, but on the third day he'll rise." |
|44 "Listen closely to what I'm going to tell you: the Son of Man is going to be handed over into the hands of men." |
|33 "Behold, we're going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes. They'll condemn him to death and hand him over to the Gentiles, 34 and they'll mock him and spit on him and scourge him and kill him, and after three days he'll rise." |
|18 "Behold, we're going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes; they'll condemn him to death 19 and hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and scourged and crucified, and on the third day he'll rise." |
|31 Then he took the Twelve and said to them, "Behold, we're going up to Jerusalem, and all the things written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be brought to completion, 32 for he'll be handed over to the Gentiles and he'll be mocked and insulted and spit upon. 33 Then they'll scourge him and put him to death, and on the third day he'll rise." |
|47 While he was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the Twelve, came, and with him a large crowd with swords and clubs from the chief priests and elders of the people. 48 Now the one handing him over had given them a sign and said," Whoever I kiss is him; seize him!" 49 And he came up to Jesus at once and said, "Hail, Rabbi!" and kissed him. 50 But Jesus said to him, "What are you here for, my friend?" Then they came forward and laid hands on Jesus and seized him. 51 And, behold, one of those with Jesus reached out his hand, drew his sword, and struck the high priest's slave and cut off his ear. 52 But Jesus said to him, "Put your sword back in its place all those who take up the sword will die by the sword! 53 Or do you think that I couldn't call on my Father and have him at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But then how could the scriptures be fulfilled, that this is the way it must be?" 55 Then Jesus said to the crowds, "You came out with swords and clubs to seize me, as if you were after a robber? Every day I sat in the temple teaching, yet you didn't seize me! 56 But all this has happened so that the writings of the prophets would be fulfilled." Then all the disciples forsook him and fled. ||43 And right then, while he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived, and with him a crowd with swords and clubs from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. 44 Now, the one handing him over had given them a sign, saying, "Whoever I kiss is the one; seize him and lead him away under guard." 45 Judas came right up to him and said, "Rabbi!" and kissed him. 46 So they laid hands on him and seized him. 47 Then one of those present drew his sword, struck the high priest's slave, and cut off his ear. 48 In answer Jesus said to them, "You came out with swords and clubs to seize me, as if you were after a robber? 49 I was among you daily, teaching in the Temple, yet you didn't seize me; but let the scriptures be fulfilled." 50 Then they all forsook him and fled. |
13 When the Jewish Passover was near Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14 He found in the Temple those who sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the money changers were also sitting there. 15 Then he made a whip out of rope and drove them all out of the Temple, along with the sheep and the oxen. He poured out the moneylenders' coins and overturned their tables, 16 and he told those who were selling the doves, "Get them out of here! Don't make my Father's house a market house!" 17 His disciples remembered that it is written, Zeal for Your house will consume me. 18 So in response the Jews said to him, "What sign can you show us to justify your doing these things?" 19 Jesus answered and said to them, "Destroy this sanctuary, and in three days I'll raise it up." 20 So the Jews said, "This sanctuary has been forty six years in the building, and you claim you can raise it up in three days?" 21 But he was speaking about the sanctuary of his body. 22 So, when he rose from the dead, his disciples remembered that he'd said this, and they believed the scripture and the word Jesus had spoken.
John 5 contains two sayings of Jesus regarding scripture. As in Luke, we note that John doesn't specify any particular scriptures in any of these three sayings, making it difficult to draw any conclusion except that the references to fulfillment ("bear witness," "wrote about me") are extremely general, probably not to be taken as having any specific referent.
44 No one can come to me unless the Father Who sent me draws him, and I'll raise him up on the last day. 45 It is written in the Prophets, 'And they will all be taught by God.' Everyone who listens to the Father and learns, comes to me.
14 When the festival was already half over Jesus went up to the Temple and began to teach. 15 The Jews were amazed and said, "How could the fellow get this learning, since he hasn't studied?" 16 So Jesus answered them and said, "My teaching isn't mine but is from the One who sent me. 17 If anyone wishes to do His will, he'll know whether the teaching is from God or if I'm speaking on my own. 18 Whoever speaks on his own is seeking his own glory, while whoever seeks the glory of the one who sent him, he's truthful and there's no falsehood in him. 19 Didn't Moses give you the Torah? Yet none of you keeps the Torah. Why are you trying to kill me?" 20 The crowd answered, "You have a demon! Who's trying to kill you?" 21 Jesus answered and said to them, "I did one work and all of you were amazed 22 by it. Moses gave you circumcision--not that it's from Moses; it's actually from the fathers--yet you'll circumcise a man on the Sabbath. 23 If a man can receive circumcision on the Sabbath so as not to break the Torah of Moses, why be angry with me because I made a whole man healthy on the Sabbath? 24 Don't judge by outward appearances; render just judgment, instead." (John 7)
The Woman Caught in Adultery
John 8 is the well known narrative of the woman caught in adultery, and it offers a subtle look at Jesus' views on “the Torah of Moses.” The Pharisees point out that Moses directly commanded that an adulteress (as well as an adulterer) should be put to death by stoning. Jesus never directly responds to their question: What do you say? Jesus doesn't directly challenge the Torah, but instead places a personal onus on the Pharisees by requiring that some one of them put himself forward in public as sinless before the stoning should begin. The implication, however is clear: mercy and forgiveness take precedence over the commands of the Torah. As always, this position is advanced on Jesus' personal authority.
2 Now early in the morning he again came to the temple and all the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. 3 Then the scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and after standing her out in the middle 4 they said to him, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 Now in the Torah Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?" 6 They said this to test him, so they could accuse him of something. But Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept asking him, he straightened up and said to them, "Let whoever is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her." 8 And once again he bent down and began to write on the ground. 9 Then those who had been listening began to go away, one by one, beginning with the elders, and he was left alone, with the woman still in the middle. 10 Jesus straightened up and said to her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?" 11 "No one, Lord," she said. Then Jesus said, "Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on sin no more." (John 8)
Your Torah, My Father, My Works
John's account of Jesus's activities at the Feast of the Dedication features Jesus stumping his opponents by taking a quote from Psalm 82:6 violently out of context and altering the tense of the verb. As we have had occasion to note in the past, Psalm 82:6 portrays El as Father God presiding over the assembly of gods, his family of gods, but Jesus claims that the verse applies to those “to whom the word of God came,” and notes: “and Scripture cannot be set aside.” What Jesus is doing is hoisting his opponents on their own petard—their reliance on the authority of Scripture. He then quickly changes tack and bases his own personal authority on the works he does. In other words, he is saying that he is not to be evaluated based on proof texts from ancient Israelite writings but on the actual works he performs. Anyone can perform this sort of evaluation—there is no need to study the Scriptures to decide who Jesus is and come to belief in him. Those who take this step will be placed in a direct relationship with the God whom Jesus calls “Father.”
31 Once again the Jews picked up stones in order to stone him. 32 Jesus answered them, "I've shown you many good works from the Father. For which of those works are you going to stone me?" 33 The Jews answered him, "We're not stoning you for a good work but for blasphemy, and because you, a man, are making yourself God!" 34 Jesus answered them, "Isn't it written in your Torah, 'I said, you shall be gods?' 35 If he called them gods, to whom the word of God came, and Scripture cannot be set aside, 36 are you saying to the one the Father consecrated and sent into the world, 'You're blaspheming!' because I said, 'I'm the Son of God?' 37 If I'm not doing my Father's works, don't believe me! 38 But if I am, and you don't believe me, believe the works, so you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father." 39 Once again they tried to arrest him, yet he came out from their hands.
15 If you love me, you'll keep my commandments, ...
23 If anyone loves me he'll keep my word, (John 14)
23 Whoever hates me also hates my Father.
24 If I hadn't done among them works that no one else has done,they'd have no sin,
But now they've both seen and hated both me and my Father.
25 But let the word written in their Torah be fulfilled,
They hated me without cause."
4 I glorified You on earth by completing the work You gave me to do,
12 When I was with them I kept those You gave me in Your name and guarded them,In John 18 the reference to Jesus' fulfillment of his commission is repeated, although the reference this time is to Jesus' own prior statement in 17:12:
And none of them is lost except the son of perdition,
so that Scripture may be fulfilled.
8 Jesus answered, "I told you that I am he, so if you're looking for me, let these others go," 9 in order to fulfill the word he had spoken, "I lost none of those whom you gave to me."
Even my bosom friend in whom I trusted,
who ate of my bread, has lifted his heel against me. (Psalm 41:10, RSV)
Jesus' Passion Predictions in the Gospel of John