Criswell Theological Review 3.2 (1989) 341-351.

              Copyright © 1989 by The Criswell CollegeCited with permission.    




                             HOW JESUS

                 INTERPRETED HIS BIBLE




                                           E. EARLE ELLIS

                        Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

                                         Ft. Worth, TX 76122



Biblical Christians have always taken the Gospels as their trust-

worthy guide to the teachings of Jesus. There are today strong his-

torical and literary grounds supporting that confessional commitment

which enable one with considerable confidence to synthesize from the

Gospels Jesus' views and teachings on a number of themes. They

include (1) the identification of the books composing the Lord's Bible,

(2) his attitude toward these scriptures and (3) the methods and

emphases of his interpretation of them.



            About a hundred years ago a theory was popularized that the

Jewish Bible--our OT--was canonized in three stages: the Pentateuch

about 400 B.C., the Prophets about 200 B.C. and the Writings, including

the Psalms and wisdom literature, at the Council of Jamnia about A.D.

90.1 This theory left the content of the Hebrew Bible in Jesus' day an

uncertain quantity as far as its third division was concerned.

            While the three-stage canonization theory continues to be widely

followed, in the past two decades it has been seriously critiqued by

Jewish and Protestant scholars and, in my view, has been effectively

demolished.2 The theory failed primarily for three reasons. (1) It was


            * This is the second of two lectures read at the Criswell Lectureship Series,

Criswell College, January, 1988.

            1 H. E. Ryle, The Canon of the Old Testament (London 21895) 105, 119, 183.

            2 E. E. Ellis, "The Old Testament Canon in the Early Church," Compendia

Rerum Judaicarum ad Novum Testamentum (edd. S. Safrai et al.; Assen and Phila-

delphia 1974-, II i [1988]) 653-00. Cf. S. Z. Leiman, ed., The Canon and Masorah of




not based on specific evidence but rather on inferences, some of

which can now be seen to have been clearly mistaken.3 (2) For certain

OT books it assumed a late dating, for example, for Ecclesiastes and

Daniel, that can no longer be entertained. (3) It assumed without

justification that the Council of Jamnia acted to canonize certain

books, but the evidence suggests only that it reaffirmed books long

received but later disputed by some.4

            It is significant that the OT apocryphal books, received by Roman

Catholics as canonical (or deuterocanonical), were never included in

Jewish canonical designations and are never cited in the 1st century

writings of Qumran, Philo or the NT. All the OT books appear at

Qumran except Esther, a book that also is lacking in one early Chris-

tian canonical list, is not cited in the NT and was questioned by some

rabbis and Christian writers.5 To summarize briefly, one may say with

some confidence that the Bible received and used by our Lord was,

with the possible exception of Esther, the OT received today as

sacred scripture by Jews and Protestants.




            Jesus' use of the OT rests on his conviction that these writings

were the revelation of God through faithful prophets, a conviction

that is decisive for his interpretation of scripture and that surfaces

explicitly in a number of places in the Gospels. Let us look at five

examples of this: Matt 19:4f., Mark 12:24, Matt 5:17f., Luke 4:3-12 and

John 10:35.

            Two examples of Jesus' attitude to scripture appear in his debates

with rabbis of other Jewish religious parties. In a question on divorce

posed by the Pharisees Jesus cites Gen 1:21 and 2:24 as the conclusive


            The one who created them from the beginning

            Made them male and female

            And said, “ . . . The two shall be one flesh."

                                                                                    Matt 19:4f.


the Hebrew Bible (New York 1974) 254-61 (J. P. Lewis); ibid., The Canonization of

Hebrew Scripture (Hamden, CT 1976); R. T. Beckwith, The Old Testament Canon

of the New Testament Church (Grand Rapids 1985).

            3 For example, the testimony of Josephus (ca. A.D. 90; Ag. Ap. 1.38-42) to a long-

settled, universally recognized Jewish canon of scriptures cannot simply be dismissed

as a sectarian viewpoint.

            4 Cf. Leiman, Bible, n. 2; R. C. Newman, "The Council of Jamnia and the Old

Testament Canon," WTJ 38 (1976) 319-49.

            5 Lacking Esther is the list of Melito, Bishop of Sardis (ca. A.D. 170), cited in

Eusebius, Hist. Eccl. 4.26.13f. For criticisms of Esther among the rabbis, cf. Megilla 7a;


            Ellis: How JESUS INTERPRETED HIS BIBLE     343


Noteworthy for our purposes is the fact that, according to Matthew,

Jesus identified the editorial comment of the author of Genesis as the

utterance of God. That is, the word of God character of scripture is

not limited to "thus says the Lord" passages.

            In a debate with the Sadducees on the resurrection6 Jesus identi-

fies their error thus:

            You err

            Not knowing the scriptures

            Nor the power of God

                                    Matt 22:29 = Mark 12:24


Two points are to be observed here. First, since these trained scripture-

scholars memorized the Bible by the book, Jesus is not ascribing their

theological error to an ignorance of the words of scripture but to a

lack of understanding of its meaning. That is, the "word of God"

character of scripture, its divine truth, is not to be found merely by

quoting the Bible but by discerning its true meaning. Second, the

Sadducees' ignorance of the scripture is tied together with their skepti-

cism about the power of God to raise those who have returned to the

dust in death. Not unlike some liberal Christians today, they appar-

ently allowed (Epicurean) philosophical dogmas to block their minds

from the teaching of the prophets.7

            In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus contrasts his teaching with

what his audience has heard before. For example,8

            You have heard that it was said to those of old

            You shall not kill. ..

            But I say to you

            That everyone who is angry with his brother

            Shall be liable to judgment

                                                            Matt 5:21f.


Sanh. 100a; among a few Christian groups, cf. T. Noldeke, "Esther," Encyclopaedia

Biblica (4 vols.; ed. T. K. Cheyne; London 1899-1903) 2.1407.

            6 Matt 22:23-33 = Mark 12:18-27 = Luke 20:27-40. Assuming Luke's indepen-

dence of Matthew, those two Gospels rely on a second source, a Q tradition, in addition

to their (presumed) use of Mark. This is evident from the agreements of Matthew and

Luke against Mark in this episode.

            7 The rabbinic tradition associates the Sadducean denial of the resurrection with

Epicurean philosophy. Cf. m. Sanh. 10:1; Ros. Has. 17a; K. G. Kuhn, ed., Sifre zu

Numeri (Stuttgart 1959) 328 (Section 112 on Num 15:31); J. Neusner, ed., The Fathers

According to Rabbi Nathan (Atlanta 1986) 47f. (ARN 5). Further, cf. M. Hengel,

Judaism and Hellenism (2 vols.; London 1974) 1.143; Str-B 1.885, 4.344. Pace E. Schurer,

The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ. New Edition (3 vols. in 4;

Edinburgh 1973-87) 2.391f., the Sadducean denial of resurrection was no mere retention

of OT conceptions, not even of Ecclesiastes (cf. 12:14).

            8 Cf. Matt 5:21, 27, 31, 33, 38, 43.




Jesus is thought by some to be setting his authority against that of

scripture,9 but several considerations exclude this understanding of

the matter. First, (1) as we have seen in the illustrations above, Jesus

never understands scripture as words of the Bible in the abstract but

as the message in its true meaning and application. Thus, in the

debate on divorce (Matt 19:3-9), which is also one of the antitheses in

the Sermon (Matt 5:31f.), he counters the Pharisees' appeal to Deut

24:1, 3 by arguing that Gen 1:21 and 2:24 are the governing texts for

the principle involved. In doing this, he follows good rabbinic prac-

tice, not denying the "word of God" character of either passage but

arguing against the traditional use of Deuteronomy 24 as the regulative

passage for the marriage relationship.10

            So also in the command, "you shall not kill," Jesus argues not

against God's command through Moses but against the traditional

limitation of that command to literal murder. If someone objects,

"But the text says 'kill,'" I shall reply as a certain rabbi once did to his

pupil: "Good, you have learned to read. Now go and learn to

interpret." 11

            A second objection to taking the antitheses in the Sermon to

mean that Jesus opposed or transcended the scripture is (2) the

introductory formula used to introduce the biblical texts: "You have

heard that it was said to those of old." As far as I know, this formula is

never used in Christianity or Judaism to introduce scripture as such,

that is, in its true force as the word of God.12 The words, "You have

heard," point to the oral reading and interpretation of scripture that

the audience of Jesus heard regularly in synagogue,13 and they show

that in the Sermon Jesus is contrasting his teachings with traditional

interpretations of the Bible known to his hearers. This is a character-

istic feature of the Lord's teachings which perhaps reaches its high-

point in his accusation against certain Jewish churchmen and theo-


            9 So, apparently, R. A. Guelich, The Sermon on the Mount (Waco 1982) 182-85.

            10 It is not that one passage is right and the other wrong but that both are right in

different senses. The permission of divorce (Deut 24:1, 3) was God's word to a

particularly evil situation, because of "the hardness of your hearts;" but to employ it as

a regulative principle for marriage was a misuse of the text.

            11 Cf. D. Daube, The New Testament and Rabbinic Judaism (London 1956) 428ff.

He notes a number of sayings that are similar to this although not the one that sticks in

my memory and that I cannot now locate.

            12 The term, "it was said" (e]rre>qh) at Matt 5:31 is so used elsewhere (Rom 9:12)

but the preceding clause, "you have heard that" makes clear that here the word is only

an abbreviation for the longer formula. Cf. Daube, (n. 11) 62.

            13 Cf. Daube, (n. 11) 55: "In Rabbinic discussion shome’aani, 'I hear' 'I under-

stand,' or rather 'I might understand,' introduces an interpretation of Scripture which,

though conceivable, yet must be rejected."

            Ellis: How JESUS INTERPRETED HIS BIBLE     345


logians: "For the sake of your traditions you have made void the word

of God."14 This conclusion is reinforced by the fact that the quotations

in the Sermon sometimes include an explicit non-biblical interpreta-

tion, for example,

            You shall love your neighbor

            And hate your enemy

                                                            Matt 5:43

The second command is not found in the OT but is part of the

interpretation of the Bible at Qumran.15

            A third and perhaps the most important objection to the proposed

interpretation is (3) the passage at Matt 5:17f., which is prefaced to

this section of the Sermon:

            Do not suppose that I have come

            To annul the law and the prophets

            I have not come to annul (katalu?sai)

            But to fulfil [them]

            Truly I say to you

            Until heaven and earth pass away

            Not one jot or tittle shall pass from the law

            Until all things be accomplished


Matthew doubtless knew that some readers could misunderstand the

antitheses in the Sermon as setting Jesus over against the holy scrip-

tures. To preclude that, he includes this explicit declaration of the

Lord on the inviolate character of the biblical teaching. This verse is

very similar to Christ's word in the exposition at John 10:35: "The

scripture cannot be broken of its force" (luqh?nai).16

            "The law and the prophets" represent here, as elsewhere,17 the

whole OT. Jesus is revealed not only as the proclaimer of God's word

but also as the proclaimer of himself as the one in whom that OT

word is to find fulfilment.

            Jesus fulfils the OT in two ways. By his interpretation of it he

unveils its true and final (eschatological) meaning. In his person and


            14 Matt 15:6 = Mark 7:13. Possibly (but not likely) Jesus here also rejects a view

expressed by some later rabbis that the oral tradition originated at Sinai and thus was a

divinely sanctioned interpretation of Scripture. Cf. W. D. Davies, "Canon and Christ-

ology," The Glory of Christ in the New Testament (ed. L. D. Hurst and N. T. Wright;

Oxford 1987), 19-36, 3Of.

            15 1QS 1:3f., 10.

            16 The term "broken" (luqh?ai, John 10:35) has this significance. Cf. Str-B 2.542f

(n. 7); C. K. Barrett, The Gospel According to St. John (London 1956) 319f.

17 Cf. Rom 3:21 with 4:7; "The law" can refer to the whole OT (cf. Rom 3:19 with

3:10-18; 1 Cor 14:21); so also "the prophets" (cf. Acts 13:27; 26:27).




work he fulfils the true intention of its prophecies and the goal of its

history of salvation.



            The great rabbi Hillel (ca. A.D. 10), who taught scripture about a

generation before our Lord's ministry, established seven rules or prin-

ciples for interpreting the Bible. Some of them, for example, interpret-

ing according to context (Rule 7), come down to us today virtually

unaltered. Hillel's Rules drew inferences and analogies from scripture,

and some of them were used by Christ in his interpretation of his

Bible. Consider the following examples:18


            Rule 1: rm,OHva lqa, inference from minor and major, a fortiori.


            Consider the ravens they neither sow or reap. ..

            And God feeds them (Ps 147:9)

            Of how much more value are you

            Than the birds

                                                Luke 12:24

            Is it not written in your law

            "I said you are gods" (Ps 82:6)

            If [God] called "gods" those to whom the word of God came. . .

            Do you say, "You blaspheme"

            Because I said, "I am 'the Son of God'" (Ps 2:7)

                                                John 10:34ff.


From the biblical verse teaching that God cares for the least of his

creatures, Jesus infers a fortiori that the passage also applies to his

disciples. From the verse addressing as "gods" the whole people of

God, he infers a fortiori that the title "Son of God" is appropriate for

the One God has sent into the world.19


            Rule 2: hvAwA hrAyzeG;, an equivalent regulation, an inference drawn from a

                   similar situation (words and phrases) in scripture.


            18 For Hillel's Rules and their exposition by the rabbis cf. Tosefta, Sanh. 7:11;

JAbot R. Nat. 37, 10. Cf. The Tosefta, ed. J. Neusner (6 vols., New York 1977-86);

Neusner (n. 7); M. Mielziner, Introduction to the Talmud (New York 1968 [11894])

123-29; H. L. Strack, Introduction to the Talmud and Midrash (New York 51959 [11887]

93-98. For other NT examples, cf. Ellis (n. 2); ibid., Paul’s Use of the Old Testament

(Grand Rapids 41985) 41f.

            19 That Jesus had (reportedly) identified himself as "the Son of God," that is, the

Messiah, is also presupposed by the high priest's question at Mark 14:61f. = Matt

26:63f. Peter's confession of some similar teaching of Jesus to disciples had apparently

become common knowledge. Cf. S. Kim, The Son of Man as the Son of God (Tubingen

1983) 1-6.

            Ellis: How JESUS INTERPRETED HIS BIBLE     347


            On the Sabbath. . . [Jesus'] disciples plucked and ate grain. . .

            The Pharisees said, "Why do you do that which is not lawful" (Exod

                        20:10) . . .

            Jesus said, . . ."[David] took and ate the bread of the Presence

            And gave to those with him (1 Sam 21:1-6)

            Which is not lawful to eat except for the priests (Lev 24:9) . . .

            The Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath"

                                                                                                Luke 6:1-5


David, who received a kingdom from God (1 Sam 15:28), was blame-

less when he and those with him violated the Law in eating the bread

of the Presence; the Son of Man, who has also received a kingdom

from God (Dan 7:13f.), is equally blameless when those with him

violate the Sabbath law in similar circumstances.


            Rule 3: dHAx, bUtKAmi bxa NyAn;Bi, constructing a family from one passage, a

                        general principle inferred from the teaching contained in one verse.

            Moses showed that the dead are raised. . .

            He calls the Lord “the God of Abraham” . . . (Exod 3:6, 15)

            He is not the God of the dead but of the living

                                                                                    Luke 20:37f.


God is not the God of the dead, yet he affirmed his covenant relation-

ship with the dead Abraham. Therefore, Jesus concludes, he must

intend to raise Abraham out of death. From this one passage one may

infer the resurrection of all the dead who have a similar covenantal

relationship with God.20


            Rule 7:  OnyAn;fim; dmelAhA rbADA, an interpretation of a word or a passage

                        derived from its context.

            He who made them from the beginning

            "Made them male and female" (Gen 1:27)

            And said, . . ."[A man] shall be joined to his wife

            And the two shall be one flesh" (Gen 2:24)

            Therefore, what God has joined, let no man separate

            [The Pharisees said], "Why then did Moses command

            That he give her a bill of divorce. . ." (Deut 24:1-4)?

            [Jesus said], "For the hardness of your hearts. ..

            But from the beginning it was not so"

                                                                                    Matt 19:4-8

At the creation God established marriage as an indissoluble union.

This context, Jesus concludes, takes priority over the later provisions

for divorce.


            20 Further, ct. E. E. Ellis, The Gospel of Luke (Grand Rapids 51987) 234-37.



            We have given no examples of a general principle derived from

the teaching of two verses (Rule 4), of an inference drawn from a

general principle to a specific example and vice versa (Rule 5) or of

an inference drawn from an analogous passage (Rule 6). But the

above are sufficient to show how Jesus employed, for the most part

implicitly, Hillel's Rules in his exposition of scripture. Not all of

Hillel's Rules are clearly attested in the Gospels and the Rules in Jesus'

usage appear less stylized than in the later rabbinic writings. But they

are present and do form a part of the hermeneutical framework for

our Lord's interpretation of scripture.

            Much of the older form criticism of the Gospels assumed that

Jesus uttered pithy pronouncements and that the scriptural references

and expositions almost always represented postresurrection creations

of the church.21  In this respect it read the historical development

precisely backwards. In part this reflected a mistaken dichotomy

between Jesus the apocalyptic prophet and Jesus the teacher; in part

it simply lacked an understanding of the Jewish context of Jesus'

ministry. For example, Jesus' teaching against divorce would have no

force with his hearers unless it could be established from scripture

and could, thus successfully counter the traditional interpretation of

Moses' teaching on the matter. Deut 13:1-3, with its requirement that

succeeding prophets agree with Moses' teaching,22 was too much a

part of Jewish consciousness for a prophetic personality to gain a

following wandering about the country uttering pronouncements or

even quoting isolated biblical texts. What was required was a midrash,

an exposition, in which various scriptures were called upon to aid in

understanding a particular text.23 That Jesus did this and did it with

an authority that exceeded the usual scribe or "Bible teacher" evoked


            21 For example, R. Bultmann, History of the Synoptic Tradition (Oxford 1963

[11921]) 46-50; cf. 16f., 26f., passim. Cf. J. W. Doeve, Jewish Henneneutics in the

Synoptic Gospels and Acts (Assen 1954) 178: "[The] classifications used by Dibelius and

Bultmann . . . are not cognate to the material. For they are derived from the Greek

world and not from the Jewish. . . ."

            22 Deut 13:1-5 and the judgment on false prophets invoked there is reproduced in

the Temple Scroll (11QTemple 54:8-18) and referred to in CD 12:2f.; m.Sanh. 7:4 and

applied to Jesus in Sanh. 43a; cf. Justin, Dialogue, 69. Cf. Str-B 1.1023f; A. Strobel, Die

Stunde der Wahrheit (Tubingen 1980) 81-94; W. A. Meeks, The Prophet-King (Leiden

1967) 47-57. The demand by the Jewish churchmen for "a sign" from Jesus (Mark 8:11)

also presupposes a suspicion or conviction that he is a false prophet and his miracles the

work of demons (Mark 3:22). Cf. W. L. Lane, The Gospel According to Mark (Grand

Rapids 1974) 277f.

            23 Doeve, Jewish Henneneutics, 115f. (n. 19): To the Jewish mind it "is not the

detached passage, the separate text, that has weight, that proves something. ..." "The

word becomes a testimonium for something or other after one has brought out its

meaning with the aid of other parts of Scripture."

            Ellis: How JESUS INTERPRETED HIS BIBLE     349


the astonishment of his hearers.24 Thus, it is, for example, the exposi-

tion at Matt 19:3-9 that represents the authoritative foundation of

Jesus' teaching on divorce which the pronouncement at Matt 5:31f.

summarizes and on which it depends. The biblical expositions of

Jesus elsewhere are likewise the bedrock of his teaching and of the

Synoptic tradition,25 and from a critical perspective they cannot be

regarded as creations of the Gospel traditioners.

            Two commentary patterns found in rabbinic writings also appear

in expositions of Jesus which are, in fact, among the earliest extant

examples of this form of exegetical discourse. They are the proem

midrash and the yelammedenu midrash.26 An example of the former

type appears at Matt 21:33-46:27


            33--     Initial text: Isa 5:lf.

            34-41--Exposition by means of a parable, linked to the initial and final

            texts by the catchword li<qoj (42, 44, cf. 35; Isa 5:2, lqasA); cf.

            oi]kodomei?n (33, 42).

            42-44--Concluding texts: Ps 118:22f.; Dan 2:34f., 44f.


The opening (proem) text has been reduced to an allusion and the

key word ("stone") omitted, but the reference to Isaiah 5 is clear. In

Mark one of the concluding texts (Daniel 2) has been omitted but is

retained from the Q Vorlage as an allusion by Matthew and Luke.

The pattern is looser than in the later, more stylized proem midrashim

in the rabbinic writings, but this common root is quite evident.

            The yelammedenu rabbenu28 midrash is similar to the proem

pattern except that the opening is formed by a question and counter-

question. An example is found in Matt 12:1-8:29


            24 Cf. Daube, "Rabbinic Authority," 212-213 (n. 11).

            25 A number of Christ's expositions are found in both Mark and in Q traditions,

for example, Mark 4:10-12; 12:1-12; 12:18-27; 12:28-34; 12:35-37.

            26 For rabbinic examples of these two types of midrash, see Pesikta de Rab

Kahana, ed. W. G. Braude and I. J. Kapstein (Philadelphia 1975) xf., xxviii-xxxvii, xlix,

passim; Pesikta Rabbati, ed. W. G. Braude (2 vols; New Haven, CT 1968) 1.3-5, 17, 26,

passim. Although collected later, these midrashim are largely the work of 3rd and 4th-

century rabbis. Cf. S. Maybaum, Die altesten Phasen der Entwickelung der judischen

Predigt (Berlin 1901) 1-27; E. E. Ellis, "Quotations in the New Testament," International

Standard Bible Encyclopedia. Revised Edition (4 vols.; ed. G. W. Bromiley; Grand

Rapids 1979-1988) 4.18-25.

            27 Matthew and Luke (20:9-19) utilize both Mark 12:1-12 and a Q tradition, as

their agreements against Mark show.

            28 UnBera UndEm;.lay; 'may our rabbi teach us.' For a discussion of the origin of the

pattern cf. J. W. Bowker, 'Speeches in Acts: A Study in Proem and Yelammedenu

Form,' NTS 14 (1967-68) 96-111.

            29 The parallels at Mark 2:23-28 and Luke 6:1-5 have lost a part of the com-

mentary pattern, indicating that Matthew is (or has retained) the earliest form of the




            1--       Theme

            2--       Pharisees' biblical question (Exod 20:10, allusion)

            3f.--    Jesus' counter-question (1 Sam 21:7[6]) and commentary

            5f.--    Jesus' second counter-question (Num 28:9) and commentary

            7a--     Concluding text (Hos 6:6)

            7b-8-- Application


Summarized here, using the yelammedenu commentary pattern, is an

elaborate and complex debate between Jesus and other Jewish church-

men about the true meaning of scripture for present conduct. Although

it cannot now be elaborated, (1) the eschatological and christological

hermeneutic of Jesus (Matt 12:6, 8) is at the center of the conflict

between his views and the traditional interpretation of scripture by

the Pharisees. At the same time (2) Jesus defeats the Pharisees on their

own ground by showing, exegetically, that the subordination and

relativising of ritual laws vis-a-vis the moral law was recognized by

scripture even for the OT time (Matt 12:4f., 7).



            Jesus' interpretation of his Bible proceeds from his recognition of

the canon of sacred books accepted by the main-stream Judaism of

his day and from his settled conviction that these writings, rightly

understood, were the expression of the mind of God through faithful

prophets. The exposition of the received scripture is, then, the sum

and substance of Jesus' message, both in teaching his followers and in

debating his opponents. This is true even when the Gospel traditioners

and Evangelists, because inter alia of the limits of space, have sum-

marized, compacted or omitted the express biblical references that

originally formed the basis of Jesus' teachings.

            Contrary to some misguided modern interpreters, there is never

any suggestion in the Gospels of Jesus opposing the Torah, the law of

God, the OT. It is always a matter of Jesus' true exposition of scripture

against the misunderstanding and/or misapplication of it by the dom-

inant scripture-scholars of his day. This becomes apparent in Jesus'

encounters with such rabbis in numerous debates, a number of which

the Evangelists are careful to retain.


tradition. For further examples ct. Matt 15:1-9; 19:3-8; Luke 10:25-37; E. E. Ellis,

Prophecy and Hermeneutic (Tubingen and Grand Rapids 1978) 158f. For rabbinical

examples cf. Pesiq. R., 1.3 (n. 26) and the Piskas cited. In the Gospels the pattern is

usually employed in Jesus' debates, with opponents, but it can also be used, as in the

rabbinic writings, in Jesus' instruction of his hearers; ct. Matt 11:7-15.


            Ellis: How JESUS INTERPRETED HIS BIBLE     351


            The Judaism of Jesus' day was a Torah-centric religion. To gain

any hearing among his people Jesus' teaching also had to be Torah-

centric. Thus it was necessary, not only from his own conviction of

the Law as the word of God and of himself as the fulfilment of that

Law but also from practical considerations, that our Lord show by his

teachings as well as by his acts that his message and his messianic

person stood in continuity with and in fulfilment of Israel's ancient

word from God. It is in this frame of reference that one finds the

meaning of Jesus' interpretation of his Bible.




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