Jesus’ relationship to the Hebrew Bible

Deuteronomy 18:18 I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. (NASB)

נָבִיא אָקִים לָהֶם מִקֶּרֶב אֲחֵיהֶם כָּמֹוךָ וְנָתַתִּי דְבָרַי בְּפִיו וְדִבֶּר אֲלֵיהֶם אֵת כָּל־אֲשֶׁר אֲצַוֶּנּוּ׃ Deuteronomy 18:18 (BHS Hebrew text from biblehub.com)

Introduction

Following His resurrection from the dead, Jesus appeared on the Emmaus Road to his grieving disciples who thought He was still dead.  To their delight Jesus revealed Himself to had physically risen from the dead and ended up unfolding to them further truths concerning Himself.  Jesus kept doing after His resurrection the purpose predicted about Him in the opening passage of today’s blog – Deuteronomy 18:18.  What was the source He used to explain Himself to His disciples? Luke 24:44 records a three-fold division of the Old Testament that perhaps we as English readers may not immediately recognize.  Luke writes – “Now He said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” (NASB) For a Jew – the reckoning would had been unmistakable.

The English listing of Old Testament Books 

The Greek text of Luke’s Gospel uses three words that we have translated into our English as the law (toe nomoe = τῷ νόμῳ); the prophets (propheiteis = προφήταις ) and the psalms (psalmois = ψαλμοῖς ).  For any Jew who spoke Greek in Jesus’ day, those Greek words were the most common way of rendering the three-fold division of the Hebrew Old Testament.  Below is a list of the Old Testament Bible Books as we know them in our English Bibles:

The Law      History          Poetic Books        Major Prophets       Minor Prophets

Gen                Joshua             Job                             Isaiah                           Hosea

Exodus          Judges             Psalms                  Jeremiah & Lamen.       Joel,Amos, Obadiah

Leviticus       Ruth                Proverbs                   Ezekiel                         Jonah, Micah, Nahum

Numbers      1&2 Sam         Ecclesiastes               Daniel                          Habakkuk, Zephaniah

Deuteronomy 1&2 Kings    Song of Solomon                                     Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi

Ezra,Nehemiah

Esther

A quick word on the difference between inspiration and canonization

For reasons I won’t get into today, our English Bibles have the books of the Bible divided up into 5 categories that function as a standardized collection (or canon) topically arranged. Let the reader be reminded that the Holy Spirit inspired each individual Bible book through the writing styles of each prophet and apostle.  Once those books were completed, the people of God recognized them for what they were – God’s inerrant, infallible words. The scriptures birthed forth the church, not the church the scriptures.  To illustrate: Isaac Newton’s recognition of gravity and mathematical formulation thereof did not create gravity, rather Newton’s laws of gravity proceeded from the recognition of the binding force created by God. The process by which the Bible books were collected, recognized and organized is what is termed “canonicity”.

The Holy Spirit Divinely inspired and ensured the inerrancy and infallibility of each individual word in each individual Bible book.  Once His work of Personal Divine inspiration ceased for each book, His people’s recognition, gathering, collecting and organizing each of those books into an authoritative, working collection or canon fell under the Lord’s more general work of providence.  Being that the canonical ordering or arrangement of the Bible books is not inspired, allowances of how the books are arranged from the Hebrew Bible to the Greek Old Testament (Septuagint) to our English Bibles can and does occur.  In future posts we will explore further the Septuagint, Hebrew Bible and how we got our English Bible.

We still contend for the Divine inspiration, inerrancy and infallibility of each book, asserting that canonization is a process that occurred following the Holy Spirit’s authoring of each book.  Divine inspiration of each Bible book is a product of the Person of the Holy Spirit superintending each author and their words. Canonization is a product of the people of God responding to and recognizing the Bible books as God’s Divinely inspired, inerrant and infallible words.

The Hebrew Bible, also called TaNaK

The Hebrew Bible today referred to as the TaNaK. My keyboard is not broken, rather I am showing you how the Jews use the acronym “TaNaK” to mark in their memories the three-fold division that existed in the 1st century as seen in Luke 24:44: Torah (“Law” or “τῷ νόμῳ”) Neviim (“Prophets” or “προφήταις” (prophetiteis) and Kethib (“Writings” or “ψαλμοῖς” (psalmois).  We will explore further these divisions in a moment. First for reference sake, a summary listing of the Hebrew Bible books is given below per the three-fold division mentioned above. I have retained the English names for the Bible books for convenience sake and hope to discuss further in future posts the original Hebrew names of the Bible books.

Torah (Law)

Genesis-Deuteronomy

Neviim (the prophets)                  Kethib (the writings)

Joshua,Judges,1 & 2 Samuel             Psalms, Job, Proverbs

1&2 Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah              Ruth, Song of Songs

Ezekiel, Hosea, Joel, Amos                Ecclesiastes, Lamentations

Obadiah, Jonah,Micah,Nahum         Esther, Daniel, Ezra

Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Malachi        Nehemiah, 1 &2 Chronicles

Why the Hebrew Bible is called the TaNaK (also Tanach, Tanack)

The Hebrew Bible or TaNaK (also called Tanach or Tanakh) is arranged differently, with each division given a Hebrew word that corresponds with the general overall contents of the books in each part. The memory aid or mnemonic device used by the Jews is the word Tanach. Hence the “T” refers to the books of the Law are called “Torah” meaning that which teaches or guides.  The Torah constitutes the foundation of the Hebrew Canon and was written by Moses under Divine inspiration (except the last couple of chapters of Deuteronomy, which would had been written by Joshua under Divine inspiration following Moses’ death). The Torah (Genesis to Deuteronomy) would had functioned to “guide” God’s people in matters concerning creation, the Gospel, the Jewish identity, the Godly life and God’s future promises for His people. The fact that the first five books occur at the beginning of our English Bibles testifies to the enduring belief of Christian people regarding this function of the Torah specifically and the Bible in general. Thus the first division of Divinely inspired, inerrant and infallible bible books.

The second division, or “N”, is given the name “Neviim” and refers to the Hebrew word most often associated with prophets in the Old Testament.  As you can see, the Hebrew Canon referred to our “Historical Books” as the “former prophets” due to recognizing them as having been divinely inspired prophetic writings written in earlier periods. The Neviim also include the same prophetic books as we have termed in our English Bibles, with the distinction being in the older copies of the Hebrew Bible that the twelve minor prophets being collected and written on one long scroll.  Thus this is the second division of individually Divine inspired, inerrant and infallible Bible books.

The final division, called the Kethib (or sometimes ketiviim) comes from a Hebrew word meaning “the writings” and include some of what we would term prophetic books (i.e Lamentations and Daniel), historical books (i.e 1 & 2 Chronicles) and of course the remaining poetic books much like we have in our English Bibles. Jesus’ use of the word “Psalms” recognizes the book of Psalms as being the head book at this third division of the Hebrew canon or collection of individually inspired, inerrant and infallible books. When you put together these three divisions, and take into account the first letter of their names, you derive the mnemonic (memorization aid) “TaNaK” for the Hebrew Bible.

Why would Jesus use the Tanach or Old Testament to demonstrate Himself as the fulfillment of Divinely revealed prophecy and promise? Some thoughts.

The Canonical ordering of the Bible Books communicates as much about the theological convictions of God’s people as it does their practical gathering, recognition and care for God’s inspired, inerrant, infallible words.  Jesus’ taking His disciples through the TaNaK and teaching them about Himself emphasizes for us three truths:

1. He is pictured the Torah.

Jesus lived out or “full filled” the Torah perfectly and suffered the penalty demanded by the Torah on behalf of sinners.

2. He is predicted in the Prophets.

Again the idea of fulfillment means Jesus alone came to live out the Torah perfectly, as well as “fill” the requirements and predictions of prophecy.  Jesus lived out and completed the 109 prophecies about His first coming, and will come again to bring to completion the 224 prophecies surrounding His second coming. Jesus Christ is the summation of God’s purposes for creation, redemption and consummation.

3. He is precious in the writings.

The writings (Ketiviim) in how they were arranged in the Hebrew Bible reveal the emotional, passionate and often questioning mind of the Jews. We see the Personal as well as the painful, revealing that in the Lord alone is found comfort and peace. Thus Jesus Christ demonstrated Himself to be the precious, predicted and pictured Messiah of Old Testament expectation and New Testament exaltation.

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About pastormahlon

By the grace of God I was converted to saving faith in Jesus Christ at the age of 10 and called into the Gospel ministry by age 17. Through the Lord's grace I completed a Bachelors in Bible at Lancaster Bible College in 1996 and have been married to my beautiful wife since that same year. We have been blessed with four children, ranging from 7-18 years of age. In 2002 the Lord enabled me to complete a Master of Arts in Christian Thought at Biblical Theological Seminary, Hatfield PA. For nearly 25 years I have been preaching and teaching God's Word and have been studying the original languages since 1994. In 2016 God called my family and me to move to begin a pastorate at a wonderful Southern Baptist Congregation here in Northern New York.
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