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Polyfunctional Old Testament Biblical Texts: An Analogy to Molecular Biochemistry of DNA—Part 4


Part 4: Might Jesus Have Been an Audience?


Recap to This Point:

Link to First Article in This Series       Continued from Part 3

What Is Polyfunctional Old Testament Text? (see First Article)

A polyfunctional Old Testament text is any passage that functions in more than one context. Context includes audience, time frame, and referents. To be polyfunctional, a text need have multiples of only one of those items. For example, there may be two distinct audiences for a text in the same or different time frame, or there may be two referents for the same text. Similar to scientists’ new understanding of how cells use polyfunctional nucleotides within DNA strands, a polyfunctional biblical text must broaden our biblical understanding away from strict single purpose, single audience, single meaning kinds of interpretation. The same God who created the language of polyfunctional DNA is the same God who wrote Old Testament Scripture. God is the living Word. He designed Scripture with his own audiences, time frames, and referents in mind. Jesus the Son of God, one of the triune God, had to correct even his disciples for their lack of biblical understanding (see especially Luke 24). This author wants to be one of their number.

The Old Testament and Polyfunctional Texts

I. Introduction (Part 1)

II. Authorship of Scripture (see Part 2 at this link)

III. Who Are God’s Audiences? (Part 3): Some Pertinent Questions

New Material Begins Here:

IV. Might Jesus Have Been an Audience? (Did God Write the Old Testament for His Incarnated Son?)

A. Scripture (Old Testament) was of primary importance to Jesus and his ministry. 

    • Jesus often quoted Scripture (Scripture implies the Old Testament). Three examples follow:

Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes'” (Matthew 21:42 ESV)

For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.” (Luke 22:37 ESV)

“I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.'” (John 13:18 ESV)

    • Jesus saw himself as fulfilling Scripture

Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God? (Mark 12:24f ESV)

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, (John 5:39 ESV)

    • Jesus found Old Testament Scriptures fulfilled in himself.

But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” (Matthew 26:54 ESV, Jesus speaking about his suffering to come)

“Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But let the Scriptures be fulfilled.” (Mark 14:49 ESV)

And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:21 ESV)

While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. (John 17:12 ESV, Jesus praying to his Father)

    • Some of Jesus’s parables retold Scripture in story form.

(Matthew 21:28-45Matthew 21:28 “What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ … :45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them. (ESV)

For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his pleasant planting; and he looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold, an outcry! (Isaiah 5:7 ESV)

B. Even as a child, Jesus was intimately acquainted with the words of Scripture.

After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” 49 And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” 50 And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. (Luke 2:46 ESV)

C. From where did Jesus get his knowledge of the Old Testament?

This is a tough question, since neither the gospels nor the remainder of the New Testament tell the reader directly.

    • One approach is to leave Scripture and search through the cultural customs of the time. All results would be speculative, since Scripture does not tell us where Jesus got his knowledge.
    • Another approach would be to surmise that God gave Jesus knowledge directly, through the Spirit, during his long hours of prayer. This, too, is speculation.

This article, however, is not about exploring how Jesus got his knowledge; it’s about the important point that Jesus possessed a vast knowledge of Old Testament Scripture.

D. Most importantly, Jesus understood that the Old Testament was written about himself.

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, (John 5:39 ESV)

25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. (Luke 24:25-27 ESV)

44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. (Luke 24:44-47 ESV)

E. For those who  believe that Jesus is God’s own incarnated Son, then that must be our conclusion as well.

Next Time: Old Testament support that God specifically wrote Scripture with his future incarnated Son as his intended audience.

Link to Part 5: Jonathan and His Arrow Boy



Link to Part 1: Introduction

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