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Seeing Jesus in the Torah

There are a great many folks who do NOT see Jesus in the Torah. Atheists claim that Christians are torturing the Hebrew Scriptures to make t...

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Jesus in the Torah: Genesis

Jesus Christ said that he came to fulfill the Torah and the Prophets (Matthew 5:17). He also said that the Hebrew Scriptures testified about him (John 5:39). Moreover, we know that the only Scriptures available to Christ and his followers were that collection of writings which we now refer to as the Old Testament (the writings which we now refer to as the New Testament did not emerge in their present format until the Fourth Century). In other words, when Paul wrote to Timothy that "All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (II Timothy 3:16), he was speaking about the Old Testament Scriptures. Hence, the apostles and early Christian Church used the Hebrew Scriptures to teach about Jesus. Indeed, we see the evidence of this in the fact that the Old Testament is quoted so extensively in the New Testament.

For Christians, seeing Jesus in the Old Testament is a central tenet of their faith, and they literally see him everywhere in those documents! However, folks on the outside of the Christian community do not see what Christians see in those writings. They claim that Christians twist those writings to mean things that the authors never intended for them to mean. They believe that Christians have projected Jesus Christ into those writings and have effectively hijacked the Jewish Scriptures! Why can't they see what Christians see in those writings? For Christians, the answer to that question is simple - because they don't have God's Holy Spirit! Christians believe that the Holy Spirit enables them to see Jesus in the writings of the Old Testament, and that this explains why nonbelievers cannot see what they see in them. Hence, for unbelievers, the exercise in which we are about to engage will be futile and meaningless. Nevertheless, for Christians, seeing Christ in the Torah is faith affirming and inspirational!

The first five books of the Old Testament (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) are referred to as the Torah, Pentateuch, or Law. These writings will be the focus of this series, and we will begin with the book of beginnings, Genesis. To be clear, the purpose of these posts is to underscore Jesus Christ's presence in those writings for Christians. Once again, those outside of that community will find little of interest or value in what follows.

The book of Genesis opens with the most famous line in all of literature: "In the beginning, God created the heaven(s) and the earth." (Genesis 1:1) The Gospel of John informs us that Jesus Christ was the one who actually created all things (John 1:3), and the Apostle Paul told the saints at Colosse the same thing (Colossians 1:16). Moreover, as the Creator of human life (Genesis 1:26-27), many Christians have pointed out that Jesus Christ's life was worth more than the rest of humankind combined (enabling him to pay the penalty for our sins - see Romans 5:8-9). Continuing in the first chapter of Genesis, we read that God said, "Let there be light" (verse 3). In this connection, it is interesting to note that this creation of light happens prior to the creation of the sun in this narrative (verses 14-19). For the author of the Gospel of John, this too pointed to Jesus Christ. He wrote that Christ's "life was the light of men. And the light shineth in the darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not (or did not swallow it up or overwhelm it)." (John 1:4-5) This is also consistent with two statements by Jesus about himself recorded later in the same gospel account (John 8:12 and 9:5).

In his letter to the saints at Rome, Paul said that Adam was a "figure of him that was to come [Christ]" (Romans 5:14). In Paul's first letter to the saints at Corinth, he pointed out that Christ was a type of the Adam of Genesis. He wrote: "The Scriptures tell us, 'The first man, Adam, became a living person.' But the last Adam—that is, Christ—is a life-giving Spirit. What comes first is the natural body, then the spiritual body comes later. Adam, the first man, was made from the dust of the earth, while Christ, the second man, came from heaven. Earthly people are like the earthly man, and heavenly people are like the heavenly man. Just as we are now like the earthly man, we will someday be like the heavenly man." (I Corinthians 15:45-49, NLT)

In the second chapter of the book of Genesis, we are informed that "God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it." (Genesis 2:2-3) In this connection, it is interesting to note that the anonymous author of the epistle to the Hebrews tied this Sabbath rest to Christ's work. After referencing the passage in Genesis (Hebrews 4:4), the author observed: "For if Jesus had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from his. Let us labor therefore to enter into that rest, lest any man fall after the same example of unbelief." (Hebrews 4:8-11) Hence, for the Christian author of this epistle, the Sabbath of Genesis found its ultimate fulfillment in the rest which Christ's work provided for the people of God.

At the end of the second chapter of Genesis, we also find a passage (verse 24) that Christ quoted in his answer to a question posed to him by the Pharisees about divorce. In the Gospel of Matthew, we read that Christ told them: "Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, and said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." (Matthew 19:4-6) For Christ, this passage from Genesis about the first man and his wife informed us of God's will regarding human marriage.

In the third chapter of the book, we have what most Christians regard as the first prophecy referring to Jesus Christ. After the Serpent coaxed Adam and Eve to disobey God and partake of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (3:1-7), we read of God's judgement on all of the offending parties - beginning with the Serpent (verses 14-24). However, the verse that is seen by most Christians as offering a preview of the great cosmic conflict between Christ and the Devil is found in the fifteenth verse of the chapter. We read there that God told the Serpent: "I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel." OR, as it is rendered in the NIV: "I will put enmity [rendered 'hostility' in some modern translations] between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel."

The next Genesis narrative that is referenced in the writings of the New Testament in connection with Jesus Christ is the story of Cain and Abel. In two of the synoptic gospels, it is recorded that Christ warned the religious leaders of that day that they would "be held responsible for the murder of all godly people of all time—from the murder of righteous Abel to the murder of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you killed in the Temple between the sanctuary and the altar." (Matthew 23:35 and Luke 11:51) Also, the author of the epistle to the Hebrews noted that Abel's offering was superior to Cain's offering (11:4), and Christ's sacrifice was superior to Abel's (12:24). We could also note that Abel was a shepherd (Genesis 4:2), and that Christ referred to himself as the "Good Shepherd" (John 10:11, 14). Moreover, just as Abel was killed by his brother, Christ was killed by his Jewish brethren (John 1:11 and Matthew 27:20-25).

As for Noah, Christ compared the time just prior to his second coming to the time just before the flood. In the twenty-fourth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, we read that Jesus told his disciples: "But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be." (Verses 36-39) Also, when we compare the story of Noah to the story of Christ, we see the contrast between God condemning a sinning humanity to death (Genesis 6:5-7), and Christ coming into the world not to condemn mankind - but to save him (John 3:17).

In terms of the genealogy of Genesis, the New Testament authors noted that Jesus was a descendant of Adam, Seth, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob (Israel) and Judah (see Matthew 1:1-17, Luke 3:23-38 and Romans 9:5). In his letter to the Galatians, the Apostle Paul compared faith in Christ to Abraham's faith in God's promises (Galatians 3:1-13). He also noted that Christ was the heir to the promises made to Abraham; and that, through him, his followers had been made heirs to the same promises (Galatians 3:15-29). In the same letter, Paul also equated the children of the New Covenant with Sarah, and the children of the Old Covenant with Hagar (Galatians 4:22-31). In the Gospel of John, we read that Christ upbraided the Jews for taking refuge in their physical descent from Abraham and told them that if they were really Abraham's children that they would follow his example of belief and obedience (John 8:33-40) He went on to tell them that "'Your father Abraham rejoiced as he looked forward to my coming. He saw it and was glad.' The people said, 'You aren’t even fifty years old. How can you say you have seen Abraham?' Jesus answered, 'I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I am!'" (John 8:56-58)

In the fourteenth chapter of Genesis, there is a curious story about the mysterious King Melchizedek of Salem (Verses 17-20). In this account, we are informed that Melchizedek "was the priest of the most high God," and that Abraham "gave him tithes of all." Once again, the anonymous author of the epistle to the Hebrews tied this story to Jesus. He wrote: "So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee. As he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him; Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec." (Hebrews 5:5-10) Later, in the same epistle, we read: "For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him; To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace; Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually. Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils. And verily they that are of the sons of Levi, who receive the office of the priesthood, have a commandment to take tithes of the people according to the law, that is, of their brethren, though they come out of the loins of Abraham: But he whose descent is not counted from them received tithes of Abraham, and blessed him that had the promises. And without all contradiction the less is blessed of the better." (Hebrews 7:1-7)

In the seventeenth chapter of Genesis, we read that God told Abraham: "This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised. And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you. And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed." (Verses 10-12) Hence, in accordance with this covenant with Abraham, we read in the Gospel of Luke: "And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called Jesus, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb." (2:21) Now, later, in our discussion of the book of Deuteronomy we will also see that Christ transformed circumcision into a spiritual exercise for New Covenant Christians. Even so, we see that Christ's parents fulfilled this requirement of the Torah when Jesus was just a baby.

As for the story about the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19), it is interesting to note that Christ is recorded to have said that it would be more tolerable for those cities in the Judgment than it would be for any cities which didn't welcome his missionaries (Matthew 10:15, Mark 6:11, and Luke 10:12). In similar fashion, we read in the Gospel of Matthew that Christ upbraided the city of Capernaum for its failure to respond to his works. He said: "And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee." (Matthew 11:23-24)

In the twenty-second chapter of Genesis, we are informed that God told Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. However, before Abraham could perform the deed, God intervened and prevented him from harming his son (and provided another sacrifice). Now, in terms of a connection to Jesus Christ, there is one passage from this account that is of particular interest to us. We read there: "And the angel of the Lord called unto Abraham out of heaven the second time, And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice." (Verses 15-18) First, the fact that Abraham did not withhold his son, his ONLY son calls to mind one of the most famous passages of the New Testament: "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16) Moreover, Christians have traditionally recognized the promise that all of the nations of the earth would be blessed in Abraham's seed as having been fulfilled by Jesus Christ.

Finally, The Open Bible (Expanded Edition) [Thomas Nelson Publishers] points out that: "Joseph is also a type of Christ. Joseph and Christ are both objects of special love by their fathers, both are hated by their brethren, both are rejected as rulers over their brethren, both are conspired against and sold for silver, both are condemned though innocent, and both are raised from humiliation to glory by the power of God." Hence, we can see that Christians have always seen Jesus Christ in the book of Genesis. Moreover, for those of us who claim to be followers of Jesus, the evidence is extensive and compelling.

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