What was Jesus’s view of Scripture?
Today there are many different ways of looking at Scripture. Is it authoritative? Is it true? There are many different views on this, but you know what I find to be very interesting is that many people end up holding a view of Scripture that Jesus himself didn’t even hold. They might be trusting in Jesus for salvation, that he’s going to secure their place in the life after this one, and then they’re going to go to heaven because of him, but his view of Scripture is not refined enough. It’s not academic enough. It’s not, well, true enough for them.
I want to spend some time looking at what Jesus believed and taught about the Scriptures. Now, I did title this episode How Did Jesus Read the Bible? It is true that Jesus didn’t have the “Bible” as we have it today. I mean, some of the books weren’t even written yet, and that’s true, but I think this is not actually a problem when we dig into some of the reasons why we should trust Scripture. We can look at how Jesus looked at the Old Testament, at least today.
Scripture points to Jesus
The first point we’re going to look at is that Jesus taught that all of the Scripture pointed to him. It ultimately finds its fulfillment in him, and in the details of his life, death, and resurrection, and the gospel. Why do we think this? Well, it’s interesting. We read in Luke when some of the disciples are on the road to Emmaus and they’re complaining, they’re downtrodden, their messiah just got killed, and they don’t understand that he has risen from the dead. Jesus is walking in their midst, and they don’t recognize him. He’s concealing himself from them, and here’s what he says to them after they’re lamenting their situation. He says,
”You foolish people. How slow of heart to believe all the prophets have spoken,”
He’s saying here that the prophets spoke things that they did not believe and understand. He’s going to go on to explain what those things were.
”Wasn’t it necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and enter into his glory?”
Then Luke tells us,
“Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them all the things written about himself in all the scriptures.”
He interpreted the Old Testament to them in light of who he was and in light of the fact that it all points to him and finds its fulfillment in him. The Old Testament teaches us how the sacrificial system worked in God’s eyes, and why do we need to know that? Well, because it ends up telling us what we should expect and how the sacrifice of Jesus worked.
Jesus was the last sacrifice of the old covenant. It so happens that he was the sacrifice that actually perfected the people it was offered for, unlike the sacrifices and blood of bulls and goats, but nonetheless, we see how God dealt with sacrifices and sin in the Old Testament, and that’s exactly how we should understand that he does it in principle in the New Testament, except for Jesus is the new and better sacrifice. He actually perfects those the sacrifice was offered for.
The Old Testament in many ways points to Jesus. We see this in the prophets. We see this in Isaiah, where Isaiah tells of one who will be bruised for our iniquity and crushed for our sin, and the chastisement that will bring us peace will be upon him. That points to Jesus.
Now, that’s a little obvious, but so much of the Old Testament points to Jesus. The law points to Jesus. The law as an unmeetable standard pointed to one who needed to be able to meet the standard so we could be credited with his righteousness. There are so many of these parallels, but when we read the Old Testament especially, which were the scriptures Jesus had at the time, with Jesus-centered lenses, we will start to see these parallels. When we read the New Testament against the backdrop of Jesus telling us that he’s fulfilling the very things that the Old Testament pointed to, we’ll start to see those too.
My point here is that Jesus is affirming the Old Testament. He’s saying that it points to him. Those things written about him were true, and he fulfilled them. He had a high view of Scripture, and we’ll look at that more as we go on today. What’s more, a little later in this passage in verse 44 he says to them,
”These are my words that I’ve spoken to you while I was with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses, and the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.”
He has fulfilled much of it. He is about to fulfill some more of it, and ultimately, when this new covenant finds its fulfillment when Jesus comes back, he will fulfill the rest of it, but what’s he affirming? That what was written down was true and it’s been accomplished in him.
That’s huge. So the miracles he did oftentimes are fulfillments of Old Testament prophecies, so people who deny the miracles of Jesus are 1) disagreeing with what the gospels say, but 2) they’re disagreeing with Jesus, who says those prophecies were legitimate and that he legitimately fulfilled them. Scripture points to Jesus. That’s our first point, and so much more could be said about this.
Scripture is God Breathed
Another passage I want to look at today is Matthew 22:31. There’s a larger context here, but there’s the one sentence I want to zoom in on, and it’s where Jesus asks a question. He says,
“Have you not read to you what was spoken by God,”
And here he’s referring to the Scriptures. Now, you might say on the face of it, “Okay, well have they not read?” Well, they have read. He’s saying basically they didn’t understand, but what I want to zoom in on is the second part of that sentence. “Have you not read what was spoken to you by God?” Isn’t that a weird pairing of words? Reading what was spoken. Usually you would read what was written, or you would hear what was spoken, but no, Jesus says, “Have you not read what was spoken to you by God?”
What he’s getting at is the Old Testament and Scripture in general is God-breathed revelation. It’s His word to us that He speaks through Scripture to us under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. When the writers wrote down what they wrote, it was the very words of God. Scripture is totally of divine origin. It’s also totally of human origin, so there’s a parallel here between the incarnation of Jesus. Jesus was fully man, fully God. Scripture is fully the words of God and fully the words of man. There’s a dual authorship to Scripture, but Jesus is saying that Scripture at this point, specifically the Old Testament, is the very word of God.
This is something that’s picked up in 2 Timothy 3:16, where we see that every Scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training, and righteousness, that the person dedicated to God may be capable and equipped for every good work. Now, your translation might say “inspired.” “Every Scripture is inspired by God.” I’m not a big fan of that word inspired for a few reasons. One, people with a very low view of Scripture will still say that Scripture is inspired, and what they mean by this is not what the Bible means by this. It’s not what the Greek term underlying that word inspired means by this, and it’s not what conservatives mean by this either.
They mean inspired in the way of “I saw an athlete fall down in the Olympics and another athlete who was ahead of that person came back to help them across the finish line. They sacrificed their chance at glory to help someone else. That was so inspiring. Now I want to go help other people.: That is not what the word used there means when it says inspired. What it means is God-breathed. Literally that’s what the Greek says, theopneustos, “theos” = God, “pneustos” = breathed. The breath of God is what Scripture is. It’s His words breathed out to us. It doesn’t mean it’s an inspiring story in that way. That’s very different.
I’ve avoided using the word inspired in recent years due to how people with a very low view of Scripture have corrupted and used that term, and often it kind of helps them sail under the radar where other people don’t realize they have a low view of Scripture because they’re still saying it’s inspired. The real question is what do you mean by inspired when people use that term? My point here is what Jesus says in Matthew 22, “Have you not read what was spoken by God,” is exactly the same idea as what’s picked up in 2 Timothy, where every Scripture is God-breathed. It’s his speech out to us. I think that’s really important. Jesus affirmed that the Old Testament was the very word of God. It was spoken by Him. It’s contained in our Bible in Scripture, and that’s where we read it, but nonetheless it was spoken by God through the biblical authors.
So, the first point was Scripture points to Jesus. Our second point is Scripture is God-breathed. These are both things Jesus taught and believed.
Scripture contains true history
The third point is Scripture contains true history. One of the places people like to take potshots at today when it comes to the Bible is its historicity. Is it true? Does it contain accurate history? Some people will say, “Well, we can’t verify this claim,” or, “There’s no evidence for this, so we shouldn’t believe it.” Well, the question is why do we need extra biblical evidence, evidence from outside the Bible, to believe something written in the Bible? We don’t. In fact, if you take that approach consistently, what that shows is the Bible is not your authority but some secular history is.
If the Bible is history, which it is at its root level, why shouldn’t we trust it? Why shouldn’t we give it the benefit of the doubt that we give other sources of history? Why does it need to be corroborated by some other source before it’s actually trustworthy? We don’t treat other documents that way. We shouldn’t treat the Bible that way.
Jesus affirms that Jonah was swallowed by a fish. “Just as he was in the belly of a fish for three days, so the son of man will be in the belly of the earth,” so he’ll be in the ground for three days. He affirms creation. He affirms that God created mankind, male and female. He affirms Genesis 1 and 2, which has profound implications for our sexual ethics, and how we live, and marriage, and monogamy, and that marriage is one man and one woman for one lifetime, and its implications to all of those things.
But Jesus at the root is affirming the accurate historical content of the Old Testament. At so many points he talks about the Exodus. He talks about Moses, and Abraham, and different prophets, and Adam and Eve by extension, who were real people. God created one man and one woman. There weren’t people before them. There weren’t 200 people out of which came humans today. Jesus affirms the history in the Old Testament.
So far we’ve seen that Scripture points to Jesus. Scripture is God-breathed. Scripture contains true history and our last and perhaps most important and foundational point is that Scripture is authoritative.
Scripture is authoritative
We see this with Jesus. He tells people that the Scriptures are authoritative. He holds them accountable to what’s written in Scripture as opposed to what they add to it. For instance, in Mark 7, the Pharisees are upset that people aren’t washing their hands before eating because they’ve made up this rule and are trying to apply it to people. Jesus says, You make up rules and follow them but you don’t even follow the law when it comes to treating less fortunate people. So he affirms at every point the legitimacy of the law and its authority over all of mankind at that point.
He submitted to them. He kept the Sabbath. The only reason, and some people seem to forget this, the only reason that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross is able to efficacious for people is because he kept the law to every jot and tittle to the nth degree, both in its letter and its spirit. That perfect obedience of him is credited to us.
Part of the law is to love God with all your whole heart, soul, mind, and strength. I’ve never done that. I can’t do that, but thanks to Jesus and his perfect obedience when he loved God with his whole heart, soul, mind, and strength, that obedience is credited to me. So I’m credited with the perfect righteousness and obedience of Jesus Christ.
That obedience was to the Scriptures, to God as His word was contained in the Scriptures, which means the Scriptures are authoritative to Jesus. He obeyed them. He cites from them. He teaches from them, and people are surprised. He teaches as one with authority. Well, when God teaches what God said, yeah it has authority and it’s going to sound that way. But when we teach what God said without qualification, it still comes across as having authority today.
The question for us is:
Will we hold the view of Scripture that Jesus held?
Will we believe and read the Bible as though it all points to Jesus and finds its fulfillment in Jesus?
Will we believe that Scripture is not just inspiring tales from men who had experiences with God, but will we believe that it’s the very word of God breathed out to us?
Will we believe that Scripture contains true history, all of its historical claims are true?
Will we believe that? Jesus believed that. Jesus affirmed that.
Will we trust him for our salvation but not trust his view of Scripture?
Lastly, will we affirm that Scripture is authoritative, that it has binding authority on our lives because it’s the word of God? Will we trust that? Will we submit to that in a day and age when so many people want to say, “Yeah, but I feel … Yeah, but God wouldn’t do this,” or, “I couldn’t worship a God who would…”
I don’t have to like it, and in fact, my dislike of what’s in Scripture is sin, and I need to repent of that, and I need to submit to what Jesus has said. Will we do that? Will we contend for the truthfulness of Scripture based on how Jesus saw Scripture? I think that’s a very big question today.
Sometimes people want to say, “The Bible’s trustworthy because it sold a lot of copies and because it tells the same story.” Well, there are fictional series that fit together better than the Bible does. Now, I’m not saying the Bible contradicts itself. I’m saying other stories are more crafted and cohesive, and there are other books that are bestsellers, but that doesn’t make them true.
What we can bank on though is that Jesus’s view of Scripture is trustworthy and accurate, and if Jesus believed it about Scripture, I’m going to believe it about Scripture. I need the Holy Spirit to work on my heart so that I fully feel and affirm these things that Jesus believed, but nonetheless, that’s the standard, not something less than that.
Well, I hope this has been helpful, and I’ll talk with you next week on Unapologetic.