I was astounded to learn that the Jesus Seminar claims that “Scripture was of interest to early Christians but not to Jesus” (Craig Evans, Fabricating Jesus: How Modern Scholars Distort the Gospels [IVP: 2008], 38 [Kindle]). “Therefore, when we encounter passages in the Gospels where Jesus quotes or alludes to Scripture, the Seminar thinks it is the early church that is speaking, not Jesus.”
But wherever they get that idea, it’s not from the text. Evans points out some fascinating facts.
- According to the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus quotes or alludes to twenty-three of the thirty-six books of the Hebrew Bible (counting the books of Samuel, Kings and Chronicles as three books, not six).
- Jesus alludes to or quotes all five books of Moses, the three major prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel), eight of the twelve minor prophets, and five of the “writings.” In other words, Jesus quotes or alludes to all of the books of the Law, most of the Prophets and some of the Writings.
- According to the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus quotes or alludes to Deuteronomy fifteen or sixteen times, Isaiah about forty times and the Psalms some thirteen times. These appear to be his favorite books, though Daniel and Zechariah seem to have been favorites also.
- Superficially, then, the “canon” of Jesus is pretty much what it was for most religiously observant Jews of his time, including–and especially–the producers of the scrolls at Qumran.