Jesus transforms Israel’s story–(from The Bible Tells Me So)


The story of Jesus is connected to the story of Israel….Israel’s story began it all, and without it there would be no Jesus story.

But the Jesus story also brings with it something utterly new and unexpected that Israel’s story is not set up to handle.

Jesus’s story is deeply connected to Israel’s story yet has a surprise ending. If we miss this paradox, we will miss seeing how the earliest Christian writers creatively adapted the familiar language of their Bible (the Christian Old Testament) to talk about Jesus. They believed Israel’s story was God’s Word, but what Jesus said and did could not be explained by that story.

To talk about Jesus they had to adapt and transform the old language for a new task.

Watching the New Testament writers at work yields a valuable lesson for Christian readers today: explaining Jesus drove the early Christian writers to read their Bible in new, sometimes radically different, ways.

The Bible was non-negotiable as God’s word, but it was not God’s final word. Jesus was.

Israel’s story, taken on its own terms, is not equipped to bear the weight of God’s surprise move of a crucified and resurrected messiah. It must be reshaped around Jesus.

If we miss that lesson—if we look to the Bible as a collection of unchanging information about God and miss how the reality of Jesus necessarily transforms Israel’s story—we will miss what the earliest Christian writers have to say.

We will miss Jesus.

The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It, p. 194-95

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  • Ian Paul

    I offered one particular example of this in relation to the return to the Land:

    • peteenns

      I talk about this, too, Ian. It’s nice to see how I am tracking with others! It’s a great–and I might add straightforward–example of using OT “language” and transforming it for another purpose.

      • Ian Paul

        Would love to review the book for a UK audience if you fancy sending me a copy…!!

        • peteenns

          I’m sure HarperOne would be very happy to send you one.

          • Ian Paul

            Do you have a contact name, email? Thanks

  • Mark K

    What I admire most about this project is its ability to take such a complex subject and make it accessible and interesting to everyone. Even thinking of using a loaner copy with high schoolers. But I have to see an entire copy of the book first…if I ever get mine. ;p

  • DonaldByronJohnson

    What Jesus said and did could NOT be explained by the OT? I am not sure what you mean. Yes, Jesus came as a Messiah that suffered when most Jews wanted a Messiah that conquered “to restore the fortune of Israel”, but the suffering Messiah is there in the OT.

    • peteenns

      OK, Don, I’ll bite: where in the OT do we get a hint that Israel’s deliver will die at the hands of the oppressors. (Please don’t say Isa 53.)

  • Billy North

    In Luke chapter 1 The angel Gabriel informs Mary that her son will be called the son of the most high and that God will give him the “throne” of his ancestor David. However when Jesus is officially given this title in public he is raised up on a cross. So this Davidic monarchy expectation is completely reworked.

    Also in Luke chapter 2 Simeon was looking forward to the “consolation of Israel” clearly referencing Isaiah 40. The 84-year-old Prophet Anna (the implications of gender equality here are huge but that would be another post) spoke about the child to all who were looking for the “redemption of Jerusalem”. Israel’s enemy Rome is not the enemy that Jesus deals with. Israel is not comforted nor redeemed out of Roman bondage. The enemy of Rome is transformed into the bigger enemy of death. 1 Cor 15:26

    So the entire story of Israel and Israel’s expectation of Messiah is being completely reworked.

    • peteenns

      You’re reading my mind, Billy. I go over all this in the book too! Great minds (and all that). I think these are very concrete examples where readers of the Bible can see for themselves how the Bible is “behaving.”

  • The best example that comes to mind of this borrowing of OT language to explain Jesus is the book of Hebrews. It is only in Hebrews that Jesus is ever referred to as a priest. The author clearly enjoyed this kind of figurative rhetoric, taking it to extremes when he talks about Levi paying tithes to Abraham in chapter 7. I find it regrettable that Hebrews is often used as a template for making Jesus fit functionally into the priestly system, when clearly the NT paradigm is much bigger.

  • In Jesus the disciples(and the world) finally encountered the true God. As they looked back upon their scriptures the light of the Spirit began to enlighten them as to how various scriptures pointed to Christ. If you start with Christ and then look back, your entire view of the Former Covenant changes. And surprisingly, Jesus and the Apostles’ applications of Scripture make complete sense.

  • leighcopeland

    Whew! Apple 6 and TBTMS all on one day!