What Jesus Read

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.  All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

–          2 Timothy 3:14-17


“Once, a government tried to amputate the Old Testament from Christian Scriptures.  The Nazis in Germany forbade study of this “Jewish book,” and Old Testament scholarship disappeared from German seminaries and journals.  In 1940, at the height of Nazi power, Dietrich Bonhoeffer defiantly published a book on Psalms and got slapped with a fine.  In letters of appeal he argued convincingly that he was explicating the prayer book of Jesus Christ himself.  Jesus quoted often from the Old Testament, Bonhoeffer noted, and never from any other book – even though the Hebrew canon had not been officially closed.  Besides, much of the Old Testament explicitly or implicitly points to Jesus.

“When we read the Old Testament, we read the Bible Jesus read and used.  These are the prayers Jesus prayed, the poems he memorized, the songs he sang, the bedtime stories he heard as a child, the prophecies he pondered.  He revered every ‘jot and tittle’ of the Hebrew Scriptures.  The more we comprehend the Old Testament, the more we comprehend Jesus.  Said Martin Luther, ‘the Old Testament is a testamental letter of Christ, which he caused to be opened after his death and read and proclaimed everywhere through the Gospel.’”

–          Philip Yancey, The Bible Jesus Read


While some experts may disagree, the second letter to Timothy has been said to have been written about the year 67AD, which is before most experts place the Gospels.  It would be rather late in the distribution of Paul’s letters, but I doubt if the Apostle Paul would have considered his letters to be Scripture.  Most definitely, the Bible that Timothy studied ‘from infancy’ was the Old Testament.


I just finished reading Philip Yancey’s book, The Bible Jesus Read.  It was published in 1999.  I know, what took me so long?  But have you ever read a book and every page offered a quotable quote?  I recommend the book.


But more important is the book Yancey was talking about, the Old Testament.


I have heard a lot of Christians today talk about wanting to eliminate the Old Testament.  Not from the thought of the “Jewish book,” but from the thought that the God of the Old Testament was angry all the time.  They much prefer the God of Love portrayed in the New Testament.


My perplexed look at these people is due to not wanting to embarrass them by shouting, “Have you read either one of them?”


Many have read lengthy tomes regarding the prophecies of the Old Testament that lead us to Jesus.  But why did Jesus show up 2,000 years ago?  The reason why we needed Jesus to appear is that we, as a human race, screw up.  Just look at the Old Testament accounts of God’s Chosen People.  They screwed up early and often.  Yes, there are exceptions, many listed in Hebrews 11, but even they screwed up.  God may have chosen Abram, later having a name change to Abraham, because of his faith, but God did not choose Abraham, or repeat his covenant with Isaac and Jacob, because they led blameless lives.  David was a “man after God’s own heart,” but look at his long list of indiscretions.


God punished all people in the flood.  He saved Noah and his family, but they suffered as well.  God punished His Chosen People.  Yet, God is not going to go lightly on Judgment Day.  We were saved from something.  That means those who are not saved will suffer that punishment.  Yet, don’t forget, that is God’s justice.  For us who are saved, we are not blameless either.  We rely on God’s mercy to wash away our sins.


So, if God’s wrath can be seen in the New Testament, God’s Love can be seen in the Old Testament.  God heard the cries of His people in Egypt and called to Moses through the burning bush.  He had compassion on them and sent Moses to free His people from bondage.  Judges is a book filled with God sending one judge after another to rescue the wayward people.  Was God angry during the time of the book, 2 Kings?  Of course, He was, but even God gave Hezekiah a few more good years.  How many of the Psalms portray God as a loving God?  More than a few.


If the Apostle Paul is telling Timothy to study the Scriptures because it makes you wise toward salvation, I think that the Scriptures are then important to us to make us wise toward salvation.


And to focus on Yancey’s primary point for his entire book, if Jesus read and memorized the Scriptures (meaning the Old Testament), shouldn’t we?


You may see a few Yancey quotes in the coming weeks.  I do not intend to devote a two-week stretch to cover everything that I have down in my notes, but there may be some mini-studies based on each of his chapters.


As an engineering student in college, we had to take electives from a couple of the other schools.  With my ROTC requirements added to a heavy math, science, engineering load, I opted to make the summer between my sophomore and junior years to be Philosophy summer to cover my requirement for 12 credit hours of Humanities.  Otherwise, I could have never finished in four years, an ROTC requirement.  I took overloads almost every semester as it was.  That summer was fast and furious, and a lot gets muddled considering the 40+ years since then.  But I had no reason to refresh my mind other than a nagging feeling in my head.  One morning a week or two ago, I had just used an internet search engine to look up definitions of the primary schools of thought in Philosophy.  An hour later, I opened Yancey’s book to finish his chapter on the book of Psalms and start his next chapter.  Wow, Yancey starts off the chapter on Ecclesiastes talking about existentialism, one of the schools of thought that I had just read about.  You know God is talking when you have just used the dictionary to read the definition of a word before you read the word in a book.  And no, I did not peek at the next chapter, or even look at the table of contents to see what was next.


Usually, you read the word in the book and then grab the dictionary to make sure you understand what you’ve read, not the other way around.  God was calling.  I would not dare say “no.”


With that in mind, I will rely on God to help guide my further studies into what Jesus read.  Stay tuned.


Soli Deo Gloria.  Glory to God Alone.


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