#1 Claims of Inspiration (continued from last newsletter)
Even with this small sampling of verses (Proverbs 30:5-6; Psalm 19:7-9, etc), it soon becomes apparent that, whether we believe it or not, the Hebrew Scriptures claim to be a divinely perfect revelation from the God of our fathers. This of course is one big reason why those on the Orthodox/Conservative end of the Jewish spectrum tend to accept the Scriptures as a message from God. It is also why Messianic Jews have a deep respect for the Tenach as the unique word of God. In fact, those in Messianic Judaism have even more reason to have such a high regard for the Holy Writ as it is confirmed time and again in the pages of the New Covenant. Yeshua himself affirmed the divine natural of the Hebrew Scriptures. In the course of his vast teaching, the rabbi from Galilee alluded many times to the Tenach and based much of his theology on the trustworthiness of the Torah. You may note that he quoted from the creation account of Genesis (Mark 13:19), believed in the flood (Luke 17:26-27), accepted the Torah’s teaching about Moses and the burning bush (Mark 12:24-28) and even spoke of Jonah’s fish story as accurate history (Matthew 12:40). If you didn’t know better, you might think that Yeshua actually believed the Torah!
Besides his frequent quotes of the Tenach, Yeshua also addressed the issue directly in a most profound and amazing statement. In his famous commentary on the Torah (known as the Sermon on the Mount), Yeshua says the following:
“Don’t think that I have come to abolish the Torah or the Prophets. I have come not to abolish but to complete. Yes indeed! I tell you that until heaven and earth pass away, not so much as a yod or a stroke will pass from the Torah—not until everything that must happen has happened” (Matthew 5:17-18).
Not only does this declaration affirm the continuity between Yeshua and the Jewish Scriptures, it does so in a way that strongly confirms the divine nature of the Bible. What was known as a “jot” in Kings James English is the letter yud in Hebrew that is the smallest letter of the alef-bet. Yeshua so believed in the reliability of the Torah that not even the smallest letter could be changed or adapted. But there’s more. The word “tittle” in Kings James venacular is a translation of the Hebrew kotz, meaning thorn. This refers to an even smaller extention or stroke of a Hebrew letter that, at times, can make a significant difference in meaning. As a midrash on Deuteronomy 6:4 illustrates, if the kotz is dropped off the dalet letter in the word “echad/one”, the erroneous translation becomes “The Lord is Achar/another” (Leviticus Rabba 19)! Indeed, the Torah is so divinely inspired from HaShem that Yeshua upheld every yod and kotz in the text.
Messianic Jews also see many other references in the New Covenant that clearly claim that the Bible is a supernatural revelation from God. Shaul/Paul made it clear that he, as a traditional Jew, believed in the complete inspiration of the Tenach when he wrote: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is valuable for teaching the truth, convicting of sin, correcting faults and training in right living” (II Timothy 3:16). Although Shaul would be considered out of step with many modern theories, he held to the historical view that the Hebrew Scriptures were in fact “truth” because they found their source in God himself. Shimon/Peter also believed this very strongly as he states in his letter:
“First of all, understand this: no prophecy of Scripture is to be interpreted by an individual on his own; for never has a prophecy come as a result of human will—on the contrary, people moved by the Ruach HaKodesh/Holy Spirit spoke a message from God” (II Peter 1:20-21).
These verses, among many others, clearly substantiate biblical claims of divine inspiration of the Tenach. But a vital question for Messianic Jews (as well as others) is what about the New Covenant itself? The fact is that the Jewish writers of the New Covenant claim similar divine inspiration for their first century message. Yeshua, as well as the writer of the Gospels and the letters at many points claim to speak a word from the God of Israel (cf. John 8:38; Romans 1:1-4; I Peter 1:23-25). These first century Jewish believers understood that God was using them to communicate the divine New Covenant to our people and to all the nations. Shimon even confirms that, while Shaul’s writings are not always easy to understand, his letters were to be considered on equal authority with “the other Scriptures” (italics mine, II Peter 3:15-16). So the point is clearly made within the Scriptures themselves that they claim not to be the mere word of man but the divine word of God.
For some people, of course, these claims are less than convincing. After all, couldn’t the Bible be fallible in some details, for example, in science or history? Yet how can we trust a book on spiritual matters that is filled with mistakes on others issues? Some may suggest that maybe it is only the concepts of the Scriptures and not the actually words which are inspired. Of course this would call into question the traditional high view of Scripture, which Yeshua summarized, that every letter is vital. Or maybe we only need to hold to the position of partial inspiration. But if that is so, who is going to decide which words are valid and which are false and on what basis? And how do we dissect the words which are so intricately intwined? Admittedly, these questions are not to be taken lightly, yet even liberal Bible scholars struggle with the loopholes in many of these theories, as exemplified in the words of JEPD proponent Dr. Richard Elliott Friedman:
“Still, the simple fact is that, in large part, the puzzle remains unsolved. And the elusiveness of the solution continues to frustrate our work on a variety of other questions about the Bible” (Who Wrote The Bible? P.29).
Nonetheless, the Bible’s self-claims of inspiration cannot be brushed off lightly. The logical implications are vast. Simply put, either the Bible is the word of man, the word of God or a mixture of both. The internal claims of inspiration are one big reason why Messianic Jews believe that the Bible is the undiluted message from God. (To be continued)