Jesus & NT Quoting Early Passages

(Mazrocon) #1

Hey everyone.

I’m just curious how people (in general) deal with statements by NT writers and even Jesus, quoting from very early on in the Bible? For example Jesus quotes Noah’s Flood and Genesis 1-2.

Is the way they seem to have interpreted those events similar to how we interpret them? What is your general take on Paul when he, talking to Jews about circumcision and “blood purity”, mentions Sarah and Hagar, in Galations, and says “This is an allegory”…?

(Christy Hemphill) #2

I think it matters what point the NT writers are trying to make. For example, a pastor in his sermon could refer to something that happened in the Chronicles of Narnia to make a theological point. The theological point is not less valid because it makes reference to literature that is allegorical not historical. You could say it matters whether the pastor believes that Narnia is a real place when it comes to the interpretation of his point, and in some cases it might.

It’s not an issue that has passed unnoticed. I don’t remember any specific posts on BioLogos, but questions about what Paul and Jesus believed about the passages they quoted and whether it matters or not have been discussed on lots of Evangelical blogs over the last several years.

Kenton Sparks wrote a pretty interesting book called Sacred Word, Broken Word that deals with this topic to some extent, if I remember right. It considers questions like how limited was Jesus by taking on human culture. Did he know things that a typical person of his culture would not know unless it was specifically revealed by the Holy Spirit? Could he ever have been mistaken? Same idea with Paul. It’s kind of an uncomfortable book if you were raised on inerrancy (as I was), but it’s interesting to think about from his perspective for a while.

(Mazrocon) #3

Hey Christy.

The issue of biblical inerrancy is a touchy subject for many Christians. It all depends on how you view “divine inspiration” and whether or not you read the Bible with the frame of mind of: “What is the author’s intention for this specific passage?” Or “What does this mean to me, personally, in my day ‘n’ age?”

If you view divine inspiration as some sort of paranormal event where God takes control of your mind, as the prophet writes on a sheet of a papyrus uncontrollably, then any perceived errors in Scripture will be interpreted as errors from God himself… When it could just be human error.

Lately I’ve been wandering, if God wanted to create a completely error-free text why did he choose infallible people to write it down? He could, theoretically, just have the entire Bible, with all it’s prophecies and moral teachings, just drop from the sky, already written down.

But He chose to use a multitude of authors, over extended periods of times, in a wide variety of historical context to do so.


(Christy Hemphill) #4

Well, even aside from views on inspiration and responsible hermeneutics, there are interesting things to think about. Namely what does it mean for Scripture to be “perfect”?

One of the things Sparks brought up is the difference between sinfulness (moral error) and limitedness (he uses the word brokenness, but I think that terminology is a turn-off for a lot of people because it is almost always associated with sin.). Did Jesus make mistakes because of his human limitations? Did he ever cut a board the wrong length or hit his thumb with a hammer? Did he ever look across the way and call out to James, but it was really John he saw?

I think many people, if they think about it, would say he was human and he had to learn things by trial and error, and his senses may have led him astray in perceiving things accurately once in a while, as happens with all humans. But then you can take that a step farther and ask in what way was he a product of (or limited by) his human culture, and did he have the same views on some things that everyone else in his culture had at the time? Did he, for example, believe too much blood gave you a fever, or that the sun rotated around the earth? Does it matter that he may have been wrong about things that have no moral implications?

And if God incarnate can make “mistakes” or be “wrong” as a part of taking on a limited human nature, then what does that mean about God’s word in-scripturate (I just made that word up ;))? In what ways does human limitedness affect Scripture because it is integrally a human cultural product as well as a divine product? In what way does God debase and humiliate his revelation by allowing it to be wrapped in human story and history and told in human words?

One of the conclusions some of the people who look at the messiness of the Bible have come to is that maybe we should stop focusing on trying to make the Bible less messy and start trying to figure out what the messiness of it all is supposed to teach us about God and ourselves. If a perfectly worked out systematic theology was what God wanted us to have, he could have given us that. But we have something different. So maybe instead of trying to keep up the pretense that the revelation we have is a perfect systematic theology that just needs to be decoded properly, we should admit that’s not what it is at all, and read it on its own terms.

(Mazrocon) #5


Those are very interesting points, Christy.

I wouldn’t argue against Jesus accidentally hitting his thumb with a hammer, or mistaking John for Peter. I would, however, have difficulty thinking that his scientific knowledge of how the universe works (i.e., is the universe heliocentric or geocentric?) is faulty or misguided. It says in the Book of John that Jesus is the creator of the universe (John 1:1-3). Paul says by him all things consist (1 Colossians).

How could the creator of it all not know how it all works?

One argument I’ve heard is that the fact Jesus doesn’t ever give you a single scientific statement (being that He IS the creator) it should give you pause about why Jesus (God incarnate) dwelt amidst us. To teach you how the world was created? About molecules, gravity, the orbits of the planets? No. He came to tell us spiritual Truth, and a means by which we can be saved.

It is interesting trying to wrap your mind around the idea that Jesus is fully human as well as fully God. As God he can perform miracles, speak prophecies, teach you moral truths, raise up from the dead etc. But as a human he gets thirsty, has to walk to travel (or ride a donkey), bleeds, gets weary, is tempted by sin… but yet never gives in.

As far as “messiness in the Bible”, I mostly agree with you. Growing up, I found biblical contradictions deeply disturbing to me. I felt the need to provide answers for each and every perceived contradiction (or inconsistency) … and by doing that can halfway make you crazy.

The biggest turning point in my biblical understanding is when I chose to stop asking the question: “What does the Bible say?” to instead “What is the Bible trying to teach me?”. When you ask the “why” and “what for?” you start thinking about the Bible in a much more critical-thinking fashion. Reading Genesis 1 as a kid I created bizarre theories in my mind about how you could have an evening and a morning on each Creation Day, while simultaneously have a Sun and Moon that’s created on Day Four (maybe the light and darkness circled around the earth for three days, and on the fourth day, that light was manifested into the sun?) When I read the puzzling verse of water being BEHIND the Sun, Moon and Stars in Genesis 1, I was elated to find that NASA actually discovered trillions of tons of water, out in space, millions of light-years away — (I accepted the data of the water discovery, while simultaneously discrediting the part that said "millions of light-years away)

Long story short, it took me awhile to finally realize how illogical my thinking was; how many mental gymnastics I went through in my mind, simply to maintain the sanctity of the “100% hyper literal reading” of Genesis. When it wasn’t even necessary (nor profitable) to do so.


(Christy Hemphill) #6

Right. As the Word, 2nd person of the Trinity. But how much of that knowledge did he willingly put aside in order to humble himself and take on humanity? What did it mean that he emptied himself? (Eph 2:7) If he was human in every way, he did not have access to the omniscience of the godhead in any way different than we do, that is, in any way except through communion with the Holy Spirit. Why would the Holy Spirit reveal things to him that were totally irrelevant to his messianic mission (i.e. modern scientific/medical knowledge)? There are examples in the biblical text of Jesus not knowing the future and seeking wisdom and guidance in prayer, the same as we do. All of the things you mention Jesus doing because he was God (healing, prophesying, raising the dead, performing miraculous signs, casting out demons) were also done by the Old Testament totally human prophets and/or apostles by the power of the Holy Spirit. I think even though most Christians say they believe Jesus was fully God, fully man, they slip into Apolinarianism when they are talking about Jesus’ mental powers. But the idea that Jesus had a divine mind in a human body isn’t orthodox.

Exactly. Though I would say it’s not really critical thinking, it’s teachable thinking. You aren’t standing over the text trying to make it fit your belief system, you’re standing under the text, trying to let its story shape you, even when you aren’t quite sure how it all works together and even when it challenges what you thought you had all figured out already.

(Mazrocon) #7


I’ll be honest with you. The doctrine of the trinity confuses me a lot at times. In some passages there is no distinction between Jesus and God… And in other passages they seem separate.

When people say “in the name of the father, and of the son, and of the Holy Ghost” they presume three entities in this passage. But it does not say “names” plural, but it says “name” singular. The father is not a name, the son is not a name, neither is the Holy Ghost a name. The only name that’s above all names is that of Jesus Christ.

As far as a divine name in a human body, I’m not really sure what passages support or don’t support that claim. But I don’t think that trinity was taught by the very early church fathers but is something that developed later.


(Christy Hemphill) #8

The Doctrine of the Trinity was formalized at Nicaea in 325. They didn’t invent it at the council, they just decided on the precise language the Church was going to use to describe what was already accepted as part of the apostolic tradition. You can find emerging Trinitarian theology (which was based on exegesis of Scripture in light of apostolic tradition) in the patristic writings before Nicaea of Ignatious, Clement, Origen and Tertullian, among others. It is one of the most fundamental doctrines of Christianity, affirmed by Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Protestant, and Pentecostal Christians, so I don’t think you can dismiss it as something extraneous to the faith that developed later.

Linguistically, the singular “name” is coordinated with each of the persons mentioned. It’s grammatically equivalent to saying “in the name of the Father, and in the name of the Son, and in the name of the Holy Spirit.” But, I’m not quite sure where you were going with that.

Maybe this is just a typo, but Apolinarianism is the belief that in Jesus, a divine mind existed in human body. So, in other words Jesus did not have a fully human nature, he was God in human physical form.

You’re in good company. I think it is probably one of the most neglected doctrines in Evangelicalism. Pastors don’t preach on it, a good number of our worship songs have terrible Trinitarian theology, and a recent survey reported in CT showed that a large chunk of people in the pews have totally heretical views on it. From that article:

(Mazrocon) #9


Yes, that was a typo… I meant to say “divine mind”. And thanks for the “apolinarianism” — I learned a new word :smile:

My comment about the father, son and Holy Ghost, is that it seems to be describing not three entities but rather three qualities of the same person: the person Jesus Christ. Father, son, nor Holy Ghost are names. My brother, Justin, is a father… But that’s not his name. He’s also a son… But that’s not his name either.

Why does the Gospel say that the name of Jesus Christ is above all other names? Is his name elevated above that of the father?

This is just my understanding (and I could be mistaken on this) but after the Scripture says “baptize in the name of the father, son and Holy Ghost” the apostles are always baptizing in the name of The Lord (and other times in in the name of Jesus).

I’m not per say, dogmatic about this issue, for I too have trouble understanding a divine mind inside a human body (Did Jesus have a divine mind even as a little child when his brain was smaller? or perhaps even when he was a baby?) But I also have trouble understanding people when they say “second person of the Trinity” when Scripture doesn’t always describe this trifecta… In the Gospel he is sitting on the right hand side of the throne of God. But in Revelations he is sitting (not on the right or the left) but on THE throne of God. He is described as Alpha and Omega, the beginning and end, the root and offspring of David etc. — these seem to me very lofty descriptions for someone who is called “the second person of the Trinity”…

So like I said, I have no easy answers for this problem… But I would like to hear what you have to say about it.


(Merv Bitikofer) #10


Did he ever cut a board the wrong length or hit his thumb with a hammer?

What I would really like to know was exactly what did Jesus say right after he clobbered his thumb with the hammer!

(Merv Bitikofer) #11


I think we get too hung up trying to imagine what a Divine Mind could be like as if a human mind could house such a comprehension. Sure, we have words like omniscience or omnipresence that we throw around. But even our limited imaginations can see how impossible it would be that a mind anything like ours would be attending simultaneously to all events in the universe. No human mind (and yes, that must include Jesus if we are to be orthodox about this) can include any such capabilities. It seems to me that when we are told Jesus was surprised by something, that maybe it is because … He was surprised!

(Christy Hemphill) #12

“Oh, σκύβαλον!” :speak_no_evil:

(Mervin Bitikofer) #13


I’ll have to learn Greek (or do those double as Hebrew letters too?), so I can say the same thing on my own similar occasions. At least it may have kept his Aramaic compatriots guessing about his exclamations.

(Chris Falter) #14

Christy is alluding to Paul’s letter to the Philippians, chapter 3, verse 8, which is politely translated by the King James version as follows:

“Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things and count them but dung, that I may win Christ.”

The word translated dung is actually a good bit cruder. I refer you to this reflection for an interesting perspective on the verse.

Fwiw, Hebrew is a very different language from Greek and has a different alphabet. It even reads from right-to-left, unlike Greek which reads from left-to-right like all the European languages, and even this post. :smile:

(Mazrocon) #15


It seems the relationship between Jesus and God: i.e., Jesus who “is and isn’t” God, is still quite confusing. I was raised on the idea that the Trinity was something that came later, and therefore not a God who was a “three-in-one” but a “One” who has three qualities, or three titles, that He goes by… but maybe this is just semantics.

I will temporarily refrain from the idea of a “divine mind inside a human body”, as it seems I don’t quite have the biblical support for this…


(Christy Hemphill) #16

Except that’s modalistic monarchianism. So many heresies, so little time. (Can you believe people have such fun names for everything? And since at one point in my life I was forced to memorize them for quizzes, I feel compelled to throw them out there.)

I’m not a theologian and I’ve never been to seminary, so I’m no expert on the Trinity (and the experts on the Trinity don’t always elucidate things anyway, in my humble opinion) but here is my understanding of what I think is the important stuff.

The Trinity is one of the most mysterious and most yet fundamental beliefs of the Christian faith. That God is one being who exists in three distinct persons is not something we have any analogous experience with so our attempts to understand and describe it always fall a bit short.

The different Persons of the Trinity have different roles in accomplishing God’s mission in the world. The Father is the source of all creation and all revelation and all truth. It is the Father’s will that is accomplished. The Son is the mediator. Creation is made through him. Salvation is accomplished through him. He is also the sent one. The Father sends the Son into the world to embody revelation and bring reconciliation and accomplish the will of the Father. (And now, we as the Church are supposed to replicate the work of the Son by being sent out into the world and also embody God’s revelation and reconciliation.) The Spirit goes out from the Father and the Son (unless you are Orthodox, in which case, just the Father :wink: ) and connects people to the work of the Son, making possible our spiritual union with Jesus in his death and resurrection and life, which is our salvation. The Spirit instructs believers, speaks through Scripture and the Church, gifts and empowers the Church for service, and makes believers grow more and more righteous (sanctifies them).

As I understand it, the Son is still incarnate as a human. He rules the world as a human, but a human exalted over every other human because he is the first to be Resurrected to the coming New Creation. So his name is above any other human ruler or authority who thinks he or she has claims to power or a kingdom, His is the ultimate kingdom. God has given him, as a human, the highest place of authority over the world because of his faithfulness to God’s mission and the fact that he succeeded where every other human before him had failed. He lived a life of perfect submission to God’s rule.

(GJDS) #17

An important point we often overlook regarding scripture (and esp the Gospels) is they are written and preserved primarily for our (the Church) benefit. You will find many times, Christ would heal people because they show faith in Him, and also to teach His disciples. We also have Christ as a boy debating deep subjects with prominent theologians of the day - yet the Gospel writers do not provide a list of topics discussed, nor the insights the young Jesus provided to the Jewish teachers.

I think we need to keep this in mind; I do not think details of the carpentry skills of Jesus would amount to a revelation of God or show the importance of faith, repentance and rebirth into a Christian.

It is worth pointing out that Christ revealed God as the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit. Once the Apostles finally understood this, no-one needed a formal elaboration. Once the Christian faith spread throughout the Roman Empire, however, the diverse views of gods and other matters caused many converts confusion, and the doctrine of the Trinity is enormously important in ensuring Christianity was not harmed by teachings of idols and pagan gods.

(Patrick ) #18

Here is something I always wondered about. When did the third person of the trinity appear - the Holy Spirit? and why? I am talking historically. Judaism has God, then Christianity adds Jesus as the Son, when does the Holy Spirit appear in literature, doctrine. And for what reason?

(Christy Hemphill) #19

The Spirit of God “came upon” or “filled” people in the Old Testament and the Holy Spirit was linked with the work of the prophets, leaders, and other people designated to perform a task for God (e.g. certain artisans who crafted parts of the temple).

In the Gospel’s the Holy Spirit is mentioned in relation to Zechariah, Elizabeth, Simeon, and linked with the ministry of John the Baptist, and the Virgin Birth. John baptized with water, but he prophesied Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is present in the form of a dove at Jesus’ baptism, as God the Father speaks from heaven. Jesus preaches that God will send the Holy Spirit in multiple places and Pentecost (in Acts) is the permanent arrival of the Holy Spirit in a new way. Acts and the epistles are full of references to the Holy Spirit’s ministry and work. So, I don’t see where you are getting that the idea of the Holy Spirit is some sort of later development.

(I found a webpage for you that lists all the references to the Holy Spirit in Gospels.)

The formalized conceptual understanding of a triune God was worked out at Nicaea, but it was just trying to make sense of what the Church already witnessed, believed, and taught. They didn’t invent new ideas there, they just tried to come to an agreement about what words the Church was going to use to express the ideas they already had.

(Mazrocon) #20


Thus far I’ve been accused of Apolinarianism and Modalistic Monarchism. I’m not sure whether to be offended or flattered by such extravagant titles :smile:

In all seriousness though, I think my confusion might lie in how I was raised. I was always taught that everything that is God existed in Jesus simultaneously. However, that train of thought always had me scratching my head when Jesus was praying to God in the Mount of Olives, “If it be possible let this cup pass from me; nevertheless let not my will but your will be done.”… and when God appears in Heaven saying, “This is my Son in whom I am well pleased.” (would it be more accurate to say, “This is Myself whom I am well pleased”?.. lol) … When Jesus says there are things He doesn’t know but the Father does know… “No man shall the day nor the hour when the end will come. Not the Son, but my Father only.”

Patrick, there is an interesting video on YouTube, hosted by Michael Heiser that talks about allusions to the Trinity in the Old Testament… I find it pretty fascinating, but it is an hour long, so it’s only if you’re very curious. <<<