April 5, 2012

Not-So-Subtle Subtleties

I've written on this passage before but for subtlety different reasons and that is sort of the point of this post. Subtleties are incredibly important to how we interpret texts. Subtle nuances if they are missed can redefine how we understand Scripture. If they are subtleties that cause error in our understanding and then therefore our evangelism and teaching of others...we are doing no different than the Devil when he misused Scripture during the temptation with Christ.

"When they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead. “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ, ” he said. Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and not a few prominent women." ~Acts 17:1-4

This passage then goes on to describe the Christian brothers being dragged before city officials. What is of unique interest and vastly more important is the comment about Paul and what appears to have been a custom by Paul. He had a custom where he "went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scripture explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead". My question to my readers is this: What Scriptures? If Paul is talking about Jesus suffering, being punished and rising from the dead he most certainly must have been reasoning with them from the Gospels…right?


How could Paul have been reasoning from the Gospels...if they probably hadn't even been written yet? One needs to think of what Luke meant here. At the time Paul would've been reasoning from the Scriptures, the only Scriptures available to Paul would've been what? The only thing available to Paul in terms of Scripture was the Old Testament folks and possibly James or Mark. Paul's custom was to reason with people from the Old Testament. An Old Testament that Paul would've known in an impeccable manner having been a Pharisee "educated at the feet" of Gamaliel the Elder the celebrated scholar of the Mosaic Law. So what part of the Old Testament would Paul have referred to that addressed Christ suffering that Paul could've spoke of? How about every passage that spoke of a coming Messiah? How about this passage in particular...

"He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes e his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand. After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge h my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

If one didn't know the context of this passage a person less versed in the Bible could very easily assume this is from the New Testament in the Gospels or even Acts. But one would be wrong since this is very clearly of the Old Testament in Isaiah 53:3-12 and the famous passage of the Suffering Servant.

It is a portion of this very passage that Philip hears the Ethiopian eunuch reading out loud that he uses to reason with him and explain to him the Good News of the Gospel....

"…then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked. “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. This is the passage of Scripture the eunuch was reading: 
“He was led like a sheep to the slaughter,  and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth. In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.” 
The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.’ Acts 8:30-35

How about Him being scourged. How about the Messiah being spit upon? Tormented and tortured?

"I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting." Isaiah 50:6

That staunch believers of the Messiah, His disciples would desert Him in fear...

“Smite the shepherd and the sheep shall be scattered.” Zechariah 13:7

How do we handle the passages about the Messiah of humanity would be mocked by His subjects?

 “All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, He trusted on the Lord that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, see he delighted in him." Psalm 22:7-8

What do we make of these passages about the coming Messiah being pierced?

"They shall look upon me whom they have pierced" Zechariah 12:10
“They pierced my hands and my feet.” Psalm 22:16

We can observe fact that the Messiah would be sold for 30 pieces of silver and that money would be used to buy a Potter's field.

“If ye think good, give me my price; so they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver. Cast it unto the potter, a goodly price that I was prized at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the Lord.” Zechariah 11:12-13

What is even more interesting is that these same exact Scriptures would foretell of a man rising from the dead.

"... For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol [the grave], or let your Holy One see corruption. "  Psalm 16:10

All these passages and more...

These are most certainly the same passages (albeit in Greek or Hebrew scroll form) that Paul used to make his points and argued his case. To think that people would then mock Paul and treated him with scorn baffles this contemporary mind. To think people would mock us and treat us with scornful disdain while teaching the very same things is also baffling. The proof of fulfilled Scriptural prophecy is overbearing in support of the Christian. The burden of proof to prove differently is on those that do not believe. It just goes to show that some people are beyond saving...or perhaps...were never meant to be saved. Only those who repent can share in Christ's death, therefore in His Resurrection and his life also.

...or perhaps all these Old Testament Scriptures were just fulfilled coincidentally or serendipitously, and the story of a man who rose from the dead after being buried for three days was a mere by-product of an overzealous mind of an overzealous adherent to a new fringe faith named Christianity?

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