The Jewishness of Christ

Within theology there are many different topics.  One such topic is known as Christology, and it deals with who Jesus is.  It deals with his nature, divinity, and how it is portrayed within the New Testament.  There are many views of Christology that have been debunked over the years, and some are still taught today.  Who was Jesus, and how does his Jewish heritage affect our understanding of the New Testament? 

When we read the New Testament, we tend to read it through modern eyes.  We read the Gospel accounts and see the divinity of Christ, but we often overlook key aspects that assist us in understanding him in a deeper way.  We may have a good understanding of the doctrines that Christ preached, but pay little attention to his relationships and social interactions (Carter 150).  In fact, understanding the Jewishness of Christ will have a big impact on our exegesis of the New Testament.  By viewing the Jewishness of Christ, we are removing the presuppositions of western culture, and placing the New Testament back into its cultural and societal context.

One thing that many see Jesus as doing is abolishing the law, but is this really accurate?  Certainly, there are some things a that are no longer applicable under the New Covenant, but Jesus tells us himself that he came to fulfill the law in Matthew 5:17.  This seems to indicate that He recognized his Jewishness and embraced it.  Regarding this Gerald Collins writes, “We throw away any right to comment on the way Jesus perceived reality, if we ignore the earthly particularity of his language (Collins 47).

Jesus spoke in a manner in which his Jewish audience would understand.  Like other Rabbis of the time, he taught lessons by telling a story.  One example is His example of putting new wine into old wineskins in Luke 5:36. A surface reading of the text suggests a disagreement between Jesus and the Pharisees in regard to Jewish dietary laws.  These parables give us peeks into Jewish culture, and a proper understanding of them assists us in understanding the New Testament in a fuller way.

As previously stated, we tend to read these parables within the context of our western culture, but to do so is to miss the point.  By reading scripture in this manner we run the risk of coming to a conclusion that in totally foreign to the intention of the text.  That has ramifications for how we engage the rest of the New Testament. 

Jesus was Jewish, and the first Christians were Jewish.  The worshipped in the synagogue, kept kosher dietary laws, and strove to keep other aspects of the law.  Most Christians are gentiles, and as a result it becomes hard to imagine Jesus as a Jewish man.  We say it, but it is something that comes from our mouth with little understanding of the ramifications.  This means that the Gospels should be seen as a conflict between Jesus and the Jewish leaders of his day, particularly in regard to the interpretation of the law.  It also means that we measure what Jesus said with the understanding that he was a Jewish Rabbi in 1st century Palestine.  These two things may be difficult for us to grasp, but when we do so we see the New Testament in its proper context, and the message of scripture become more fully alive.

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Works Cited

Carter, Warren. “Proclaiming (in/against) Empire Then and Now,” Word & World 25/2 (2005) 149-158.

O’ Collins, Gerald. Jesus: A Portrait. New York: Maryknoll, 2013

Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version

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Sources of Old Testament Interpretation

According to Collins there are seven methods to interpreting the Bible:  source criticism, form criticism, redaction criticism, archaeology, new criticism, new historicism, and sociological methods.  All of these are developments that help us understand the Bible in a deeper way.  Source criticism is seen as “the separation of sources especially in the Pentateuch (Collins, page 16).”  It relies on reading the text and gathering ideas from it, but falls short in that it expects the text to relate to modern times.

Form criticism attempts to delve deeper and look at individual stories in the text instead of the text as a whole.  This form is important because it recognizes the importance of location of the author.  It also emphasizes the reason for the work being written.  Was it written to people during a celebration or time of sorrow?  One method that is closely related to the previous two is redaction criticism.  In redaction criticism there is a focus on the way units are combined by the author of the text.  There is a tendency among editors to want to impose their own theological ideas and redaction criticism seeks to limit that.

In recent years Archaeology has been a way to help interpret scripture.  It is important because we get to see material with our eyes instead of trying to imagine it while reading.  It gives insight to how biblical characters lived, their landscape, and traditions.  A problem may arise if a reader is looking for the Bible to be historically accurate as archaeology may show something different.

Those that want to look to the text itself for meaning instead of social, archaeological, and geographical factors will fit in with New criticism.  It was a formal movement that looked at the text alone for meaning.  This form is limited by eliminating the factors that help interpret the text.  A response to this was new historicism.  New historicism focuses on the text while keeping things in context.

Lastly sociological methods are used in interpreting the Bible.  Collins explains that “interpretation is not objective and neutral but serves human interests and is shaped by them (Collins, Page 19).”  The way scripture in interpreted may vary from country to country and in some cases church to church.  Every method has some valuable qualities in interpretation and it is best to have a basic knowledge of all to get various interpretations.

WORKS CITED

Collins, John J. Introduction to the Hebrew Bible. Minneapolis: Fortress, 2004.

Theories of Creation Part One: The Gap Theory

Within the scope of creation account interpretations, the Gap Theory is a fairly new idea.  Though there may have been adherents to it previously, it was made popular by a Presbyterian minister by the name of Thomas Chalmers.  He preached a series of sermons in 1804 in which he promoted the theory. The theory peaked in popularity when it was included in the Scofield Study Bible.

The Gap Theory holds that there was a gap perhaps as long as five billion years between Genesis 1:1 and Genesis 1:2[1].  Genesis 1:1 states, “In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth[2].”  According the theory, this is when God created a perfect world[3].  To understand the scope of the theory a look at Genesis 1:2 in vital.  Genesis 1:2 states, “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters[4].

It is at this point that this interpretation gets interesting.  What happened between verse one and verse two?  Those that adhere to the Gap Theory hold that there is a mistranslation in most English versions.  The word that is translated as “was” in Genesis 1:2 should be “became”.  This one word describes a whole new meaning in Genesis 1:2. If the world became void it means that it had already existed.  The theory proposes that the time period between verses one and two was marked by Satan’s rebellion against the creator.  Satan lead the original creation in total rebellion[5].

Thus, the original creation that God had created was destroyed.  Included in this original creation were prehistoric men, and prehistoric animals such as the dinosaurs[6].  Following this rebellion, the world was covered with a cataclysmic flood, which proponents say can be evidenced in Genesis 1:2[7].  The undisclosed time period between verses one and two allows for the various layers of sediment and rock to form. This interpretation continued with God hovering over the waters and deciding to create what we have today.  The creation following the rebellion was done in six literal days, but still allows the earth to be billions of years old because of the gap between verses one and two[8].

The view was very popular for a time, but there are some concerns for it.  Among these concerns are that the Hebrew grammar in verses one and two go against it[9].  From an exegetical standpoint time is not inserted between verses one and two, because verse two does not follow in that manner.  This can be seen by using a grammatical device in Hebrew called a waw-disjunctive.  The Hebrew word waw, which means “and”, is connected with a noun.  In this case the noun is the earth, and this literary device links up to the previous verse.  It does so that it may describe verse one more fully, and thus time is not permittable to be inserted.

 

[1] Dan Story, Defending Your Faith (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1997), 147.

[2] Genesis 1:1 (New International Version).

[3] Robert J Utley, How It All Began:  Genesis 1-11 (Marshall, TX: Bible Lessons International, 2001), 24.

[4] Genesis 1:2 (New International Version).

[5] James M. Boice, Genesis:  An Expositional Commentary, vol. 1, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1982), 50-52.

[6] James E. Smith, The Pentateuch (Joplin, MO: College Press, 1993), 50.

[7] C.I. Scofield, The Scofield Reference Bible (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1909), 3.

[8] Carl F.H. Henry, God, Revelation, and Authority (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1999), 144.

[9] Paul S. Carleen, The Handbook to Bible Study (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1987), 328.

 

Meaning of "Canon"

 

The term canon comes from the Greek word kanon which means rule [1].  Some may say that it is a measuring stick because by the canon is how we get our doctrine.  It is through the canon that we not only get our doctrine, but the rules and norms on how Christians should conduct their lives [2].  The canon that we have today consists of the 66 books of the Bible and is the supreme authority of our faith and was written over a period of over 1,500 years.  Through the canon God chose almost every mode of communication to get his message across [3].  The books included in the canon are authoritative and inspired by God and are profitable for the study of the faith [4].

The books of the New Testament were still being written during the rapid expansion of the early church.  From AD 49-95, the New Testament scriptures were being produced and copies were most likely not keeping up with the new conversions [5].  By AD 100 the four Gospels had gained universal acceptance, as did Acts, the epistles of Paul, but others such as Revelation, Hebrews, and 2 and 3 John, were only partially accepted as they were written later in the century.  The early church needed to establish an authoritative canon to combat the other heretical writing that were out there confusing Christians.  The gnostics were prolific writers who were using the names of the Apostles to con people into reading their material.  Marcion also published his “canon” which contained very little of the New Testament we see today.  The early church saw the need for the canon, and had to act to protect the flock. To determine the canonicity of a book the early church used the following three principles:  apostlicity, orthodoxy, and catholicity (universal) [6].  All of the writings of the New Testament had an apostolic connection.  They may not have been written by the Apostles themselves, but they had a close connection with them.  The books themselves lined up with the shared theology, or orthodoxy, or the rest of the Christian world [7].  Thirdly the books had been very useful for the churches since the earliest Christians.

In my opinion the most important criteria of canonicity is the apostolic connection.  Using this element we connect ourselves with the first followers of Christ, and those whom He gave the Great Commission to.  They saw Jesus, lived with him, or had personal encounters with him that they could write down.  These earliest Christians allow us to read about the faith from its infancy without development of traditions.  If it does not have an apostolic connection there is a possibility that it is not orthodox, and it most likely will not be accepted by the worldwide church.  That lack of acceptance would make it fail the catholicity test.  The least important element in my opinion is that of catholicity.  In the beginning some books of the New Testament were not accepted universally.  Revelation and Hebrews are good examples of this.  They were accepted in some parts of the world and rejected in others.  Yet they are still believed to have an Apostolic affiliation, with the exception of Hebrews, and came to be accepted.  I believe this third criteria is dependent on the other two and thus the least important.

What should we say to someone who thinks the canon is open?  In a loving way the three principles of canonicty and what the early church did would have to be discussed.  The three criteria for something to be included in the canon has no way of being met.  The work will not have an apostolic connection for the simple reason that the apostles died long ago.  If they do not have that apostolic connection then they would not meet the orthodoxy requirement.  Thirdly the new revelation would not be accepted by the universal church, and because of that it would fail the catholicity test.

This post is not intended to be an exhaustive summary of the meaning of the canon (After all it isn’t even 1,000 words), but a brief summary.  This is becoming a very important theological topic as many groups are now calling the canon into question.  May we be diligent in doing our research and growing in our understanding of the Christian faith.

Footnotes

1.  William W. Klein, Craig L. Blomberg, Robert L. Hubbard, Jr., Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2004), 114.

2.  J. Scott Duvall and J. Daniel Hays, Grasping God’s Word: A Hands-On Approach to Reading, Interpreting, and Applying the Bible, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012), 446.

3.  Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, 3rd ed., (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003), 22.

4.  Duvall and Hays, Grasping God’s Word, 446.

5.  Duvall and Hays, Grasping God’s Word, 448.

6.  Klein, Blomberg, Hubbard, Jr., Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, 115.

7.  Ibid, 116.

Bibliography

1.  Duvall, Scott J. and Hays, J. Daniels, Grasping God’s Word: A Hands-On Approach to Reading, Interpreting, and Applying the Bible, Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012.

2,  Fee, Gordon D. and Stuart, Douglas, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, 3rd ed., Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003.

3.  Klein, William W., Blomberg, Craig L., Hubbard Jr. ,  Robert L., Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2004

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