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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Did Jesus Christ affirm that everything in the Old Testament was the word of God?

In beginning to answer that question, it should be noted that the phrase "word of God" is only used to refer to Scripture a few times in the Bible. Indeed, of the forty-eight times this exact phrase is used in Scripture (KJV), only four of those are in the Old Testament. Of those forty-four instances that it occurs in the New Testament, only one of them is a direct reference to Scripture (Mark 7:13); and that refers to a specific commandment (Mark 7:10). All of the other instances where this phrase is used are references to the message that God gave to John, Christ and the twelve apostles!

The Gospel According to Luke states that "the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness." (Luke 3:2) In this same book, we are informed that the people came to Christ "to hear the word of God." (Luke 5:1) In the book of Acts, we are told that the disciples "spake the word of God with boldness." (Acts 4:31) A little later in the same account, we are informed that "the word of God increased" in the hands of the apostles. (Acts 6:7, 12:24) Later still, we are told that Paul and Barnabas "preached the word of God in the synagogues of the Jews" at Salamis. (Acts 13:5) Now the Jews were accustomed to hearing the Scriptures read to them every time they gathered in their synagogues, but notice that this scripture makes plain that Paul's and Barnabas' message was the word of God! Following this, we are told that Sergius Paulus "desired to hear the word of God" from Paul and Barnabas. (Acts 13:7) Finally, we are informed that almost the entire city of Antioch came together one Sabbath "to hear the word of God" from Paul's lips. (Acts 13:44) Likewise, Paul told the saints at Thessalonica that they had received the word of God from him. (II Thessalonians 2:13)

The Gospel According to John goes even further. We read there: "In the beginning was the Word, and Word was with God, and the Word was God...And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth." (John 1:1, 14) Notice that John says that Jesus Christ was/is the personification of the word of God. He is also referred to as the "Word of God" in the book of Revelation. (Revelation 19:13)

In this same vein, Christ claimed that he was "greater" than the temple (Matthew 12:6), Jonah (12:41), Solomon (12:42), Jacob (John 4:12-14) and Abraham (John 8:53-58). In the book of Hebrews, we are told that Christ was superior to Moses. (Hebrews 3:1-6)

Moreover, Christ clearly believed that he had the authority to modify and change the things in Scripture that had been attributed to Moses. Notice how Christ amended many of these teachings with the preface "Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time..." (Matthew 5:21-22, 27-28, 31-32, 33-34, 38-39, 43-44) In fact, his contradiction of Moses' teaching on the subject of divorce is made even more apparent in the account of his confrontation about this by the Pharisees. (Matthew 19:3-9) After stating that God did not intend for His people to divorce, the Pharisees asked him "Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?" (verse 7) Notice Christ's reply: "Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so." (verse 8) In other words, Moses was wrong!

"Isn't Christ affirming the Genesis account of creation here by stating 'that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female'?" Is he? Is Christ talking about the Genesis account of creation or the principles behind God's view on divorce? Isn't he affirming here that God is the Creator, and the One who designed a man and a woman to function as husband and wife? In the final analysis, is Christ really affirming anything about the mechanics of how they were created?

To be sure, Christ and his disciples constantly referred to stories in the Old Testament and quoted those Scriptures in their messages to the people of the First Century; but I don't recall a single instance where they passed judgment on the scientific or historical veracity of the material they were using. "Didn't their use of the material imply that they accepted it as fact?" Did it? Or were they using stories and writings that the people were familiar with to make their own points about what God expected of them and wanted for them? Do you think that all of the men who wrote those prophecies about Christ and his ministry expected them to be interpreted and fulfilled in the manner that Jesus and his disciples used them? In short, was Christ confirming what others had written or was he using their writings to preach a message about salvation through him? Ultimately, I guess we all have to answer these questions to our own satisfaction.

8 comments:

  1. You believe in the accuracy of these Jesus Gospel statements therefore you believe in the divine preservation of these conversations from ~40 to 70 years earlier. That would indeed require a miracle!

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  2. I do believe that God had a hand in the preservation of the writings of the Old and New Testament, but I do not believe that the men who wrote them had perfect recall or were incapable of making mistakes or contradicting each other. However, taking into account that they were composed thirty to fifty years after Christ's death, burial and resurrection, the degree of harmony that is apparent among these four accounts is very impressive to me.

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  3. ".. the degree of harmony that is apparent among these four accounts is very impressive.."

    Yeah, it's amazing how "harmonious" documents can be when they plagiarized the original one. Scholars/literary analysts have known this for hundreds of years.

    Your quest for truth is not scientific because you assume miraculous inspiration for belated documentation of "historic lectures/ teachings" of Jesus by some anonymous hacks ~70 years after alleged events. You also make *Appeal to Authority* of said documents. Science/scholarship doesn't work that way.

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  4. You correctly point out that most biblical scholars regard Mark as a source for Matthew and Luke, but most of those same scholars also acknowledge that both authors employed other sources in their accounts (There is obviously information in Matthew and Luke that does not appear in Mark). With regard to John, it is generally acknowledged that his account is not dependent on any of the other three accounts (and it claims to be an eye witness account of the events it describes). Most of these scholars also believe that people other than the original authors embellished these accounts at a latter date (e.g. Mark 16:9-20 and John 8:1-11). Hence, with that many hands in the mix, I don't think that it's outlandish to be impressed by the degree of harmony that they exhibit (In fact, I think that this is underscored by the differences and contradictions that exist within them).
    I believe that my quest for truth is both scientific and philosophical in nature. I have not assumed anything about the inspiration of these documents (My studies have led me to an understanding of inspiration that is radically different from the "standard" Christian model). After having my former belief system shattered, I embarked on an intensive study of those beliefs and the book that I once believed to be the source of them. When I began my quest, I still believed HWA's old axiom that there were only two choices vis-à-vis Scripture: Acceptance or Rejection. I reached the conclusion that this line of reasoning represented a False Dilemma - that there was in fact a middle way. As I now reject the Bible as the sole or final authority in matters related to my religious beliefs, I think that your charge that I've made an Appeal to Authority doesn't ring true.
    The scientific and scholarly pursuit of evidence and answers can (and often does) produce different theses and conclusions. I have not disparaged your pursuit of the truth as being unscientific or lacking in scholarly rigor - Why do you feel the need to characterize my journey as such? I don't have to see things the way that you see them to be scientific or scholarly. I don't think that it works that way.

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  5. "..most biblical scholars regard Mark as a source for Matthew and Luke.."

    Do you think Matthew and Luke used Mark?

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  6. I think that it is possible that they did. Are you aware of the fact that some scholars believe that the Gospel of Matthew was based on an earlier account by the actual disciple of that name in Aramaic? Do you think that any of these writings were based on oral traditions? What do you think about the arguments that each of the four accounts has very different objectives and target audiences? If you accept these arguments, do you believe that this accounts for any of the differences between them? And what are your thoughts on the original premise of this post? (Did Christ affirm the contents of the Old Testament?)

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  7. Gospel means "good news", but it's not good news for Christianity if plagiarism is detected in its "divinely inspired" messiah "biographies".

    Now let's consider the original Gospel (be it Mark or Matthew, doesn't matter): How bad would it be if plagiarism was detected in it? Is it a true biography or did this anonymous writer use other sources - Greek Septuagint, Homeric Epics, Josephus...? Truth or literary fiction?

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  8. Dear Minimalist,
    Although you did not address my questions and comments, I will respond to yours. A "true biography" incorporates many different sources into the story it tells about a person. Moreover, it is very often the work of more than one person [i.e. co-author(s), research assistant(s), librarians, editor(s), etc.]
    Are you suggesting that we should hold these almost two thousand year old documents to our modern standards relative to plagiarism? Isn't it a little unfair to hold people to scholarly standards that didn't exist during their lifetimes? We define plagiarizing as stealing and passing off the words and/or ideas of another as your own without attributing it to the responsible party (Merriam-Webster). If we ignore tradition and consider all of these documents to be the work of anonymous writers, how can we say that anyone is taking credit for someone else's work? The "good news" was about Jesus Christ, his work and the future - it didn't have anything to do with the authors of these accounts or their writing styles and standards.
    And once again, framing the question as "truth or literary fiction?" IS A FALSE DILEMMA! Can you name a SINGLE biography that has ever been written by anyone that has not contained disputed or discredited information? Moreover, we designate works as being Fiction or Non-fiction; but isn't there usually some truth in most works of Fiction and some falsehood in most works of Non-fiction?

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