Was Jesus Interested in the Old Testament?

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.

 

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Defining Success in Apologetics

How do we know when we’ve been successful in our efforts in apologetics?  Do we judge success by whether we gave compelling and convincing arguments?  Or does it depend on the response of the person we’re sharing with?  James Beilby explains why neither of these is a good measurement for success in apologetics.

“While the quality of one’s arguments is certainly not irrelevant, this is also not the most important feature of apologetics.  After all, it is possible to give profound and logically persuasive arguments but do so in a way that is arrogant, dismissive and thoroughly un-Christlike.

Similiarly, while in one sense apologetics should be focused on the response of one’s interlocutor, it is possible to achieve a positive response through manipulation or shoddy arguments that will, upon closer inspection, fall to pieces.

Consequently, apologetics success is best understood as faithfulness to Jesus Christ.  In our apologetic endeavors, we are called to be faithful to Christ in at least three senses.

  • First, what we say should accurately represent who Jesus is, what he taught and, specifically, the good news he brought to the world.
  • Second, the way we do our apologetics should augment our arguments, not detract from them.  We must defend Christ in a way that fits with Christ’s message.
  • Finally, we must be faithful to God’s purposes in specific situations.  In some cases, apologetics appropriately and naturally leads to an offer for a person to commit her life to Christ, but in the vast majority of cases, our apologetic endeavors are a small step in a person’s long and winding journey that one hopes will culminate in relationship with Jesus Christ.”

— from Thinking About Christian Apologetics: What It Is and Why We Do It (IVP Academic, 2011), 22-23.

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