the Bible is like clay to be molded around Jesus–(from The Bible Tells Me So)

the Bible is like clay to be molded around Jesus–(from The Bible Tells Me So) September 9, 2014

ForTheBibleTellsMeSoMore than any other writer of the New Testament, the apostle Paul transforms Israel’s story—beyond even where Jesus and the Gospel writers took it.

A centerpiece of Paul’s letters is that the Good News of the Jewish messiah Jesus is for everyone, and by everyone he means Jews and Gentiles. Paul argued that Gentiles could be fully part of the family of Israel’s God just the way they are, as Gentiles, without adopting Jewish laws and traditions first. The idea was radical enough to ruffle the feathers of even some of Jesus’s other followers (Paul mentions in the book of Galatians a run-in with Peter).

Jesus was a surprise ending; a crucified and risen messiah wasn’t something Israel’s story was set up to handle. Yet, for Paul, this is how Israel’s God was now moving in the world.

To get this radical idea across, Paul had to reimagine his Scripture, transforming it from a local and ethnic story into a universal story around Jesus. Paul even wound up declaring parts of Israel’s story null and void.

If you are expecting Paul to read the Bible like it was set in stone, you will find yourself getting pretty nervous. For Paul, now that Jesus has come, the Bible was more like clay to be molded.

The Bible Tells Me So: Why Defending Scripture Has Made Us Unable to Read It, p. 214

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  • I remember reading Longenecker’s Biblical Exegesis in the Apostolic Period when I was in seminary. I remember he made a similar point, which was very new and exciting for me to see. But he ended the book essentially saying, “Yes, they reshaped Scripture around Jesus, but they were Apostles so it’s okay; we aren’t allowed to do that.” It was a very disappointing conclusion.

    • peteenns

      I agree. It’s a great book, but I feel he needed to go the next step.

      • Bev Mitchell

        One wonders how much decisions like this are due to conviction or to careful judgement of how far the audience can be stretched at any point. Perhaps a combination.

        It is so encouraging that we have now reached a point where a critical mass of creed believers seems willing to take bigger steps toward a more Christ centred hermeneutic of the OT.

        I’m sure many of us are looking forward to reading “The Bible Tells Me So”. Thanks, Pete, for these teasers, they are working on me at least. 🙂

    • Derek

      “Yes, they reshaped Scripture around Jesus, but they were Apostles so it’s okay; we aren’t allowed to do that.”
      Amen. lol.

  • DonaldByronJohnson

    I do not see Paul “declaring parts of Israel’s story null and void.” although I agree that Paul can be misunderstood so that it might seem that way. Paul repudiates the idea that he tells Jews to forsake Moses (discard (parts of) Torah) in Acts 21 which I think is simpler to understand than Paul’s letters.

    • DonaldByronJohnson

      Based on Acts 21, I teach the Paul/Torah interpretation principle, which says simply that if one thinks Paul is against the Torah of Moses (or the Tanakh, for that matter) then one is either misunderstanding Torah (Tanakh) or Paul or both.

      • Derek

        Hey so how do you read Phil. 3:1-11:


        1Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you.

        2Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision; 3for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh, 4although I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: 5circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; 6as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless.

        7But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, 9and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, 10that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.”

        I would be very interested to hear your thoughts on this.

      • peteenns

        I feel Paul’s view of Torah is ambiguous. The impression I get from his letters is that he working through the implications of the Christ event for Torah. In my opinion, Luke’s Paul can be a conundrum, but Paul’s keeping of Mosaic Law seems more to be for missional purposes than anything else–e.g., his having Timothy circumcised the very chapter after circumcision was ruled unnecessary for Gentiles. I’m not contradicting what your saying Donald. Just that’s its got some interesting dimensions.

  • Casey

    Just started TBTMS this morning and can’t put it down – It’s like a breath of fresh air. This and your other writings have quite honestly kept me committed to the Christian faith amidst massive doubt. So thank you.

  • Matt McLaughlin

    Paul just wanted to pass the plate to more people, sooner and reducing the Jewish characteristics of his flock

  • mforus

    First off the Jew’ish people are not Israelites and Yeshua is not the savior of them but of the Israelites, they are not the same people!!. The bible is the history of the Israelites which Christ came here to save. This is repeated althrough the bible and Apocrypha. Back to the imposter Jews. They are Khazariens aka Edomites who have been impersonating the Israelites since the 7th century. They hate Yeshua whose name is not YeZues/Jesus, the bible tells us to never translate his name, the Jesuits did this in the 16th century. The Jesuits are the strong arm of the corrupt Vatican, read the Edict of Milan done under Constantine, they mixed clay with iron/Paganism with Christianty!! They killed him and many of you support the people who used to be called the Serpent people, todays Jew. I couldnt even read past this knowing it starts with deception..The sleep is no more and light is a gift given by the most high and light is truth. You Preachers have an obligation to speak nothing but the truth or pay the price, our days are short

    • Pixie5

      I hope that you will be healed from your hate and fear. God is love, not hate.