Books, Scrolls, and Tablets of Stone (They too Misquoted Jesus)

This post is out of order.  It comes much earlier in Chapter 1 of Misquoting Jesus by Dr. Bart Ehrman.  Here it is and enjoy!!

A Tanach

The Tanakh

Christianity began, of course, with Jesus, who was himself a Jewish rabbi (teacher) who accepted the authority of the Torah, and possibly other sacred Jewish books, and taught his interpretation of those books to his disciples. Page: 19, Misquoting Jesus

I am continuing to plow through Bart Ehrman’s book, Misquoting Jesus.  This is a somewhat simplistic statement about how Jesus related to the works of the Jewish prophets. Jesus actually accepted the authority of the entire Old Testament and he demonstrated that by quoting from 24 different Old Testament books.

To discuss the copies of the New Testament that we have, we need to start at the very beginning with one of the unusual features of Christianity in the Greco-Roman world: its bookish character. In fact, to make sense of this feature of Christianity, we need to start before the beginnings of Christianity with the religion from which Christianity sprang, Judaism.  Page: 17

The New Testament as a whole quotes from 34 books of the Old Testament Books. These 5 books are never quoted in the New Testament: Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon. Page: 19

Set of scrolls comprising the entire Tanakh

Scrolls of the Tanakh

Dr. Ehrman gets into a very important characteristic of Judaism and Christianity—their bookish nature. That’s right God’s interaction with Israel is thoroughly documented in the Old Testament. Judaism had, over the history of the development of the Old Testament, several groups dedicated to preserving their scriptures. There is no civilization on earth that guards these writing quite like the Jews have down through their history. I have had first hand exposure to the preservation of the Hebrew texts. I walk into Temple Mickve in Savannah, Ga. There I find a Torah scroll that is over 300 years old, brought to the US from England.  You could tell that this congregation takes great pride in having that scroll and preserving it for many future generations.

The bookish characteristic of the Jewish faith and of Christianity is an indicator that something different is going on here. The God of the Universe wants His Word recorded because, indeed, if He is the God of the Universe, we need to read what He has to say.

Jesus’s life, as we have seen, was interpreted by Paul and others in light of the Jewish scriptures. These books too—both the Pentateuch and other Jewish writings, such as the Prophets and Psalms—were in wide use among Christians, who explored them to see what they could reveal about God’s will, especially as it had been fulfilled in Christ. Copies of the Jewish Bible, usually in Greek translation (the so-called Septuagint), were widely available, then, in early Christian communities as sources for study and reflection. Page: 20

This statement goes against one of Dr. Ehrman’s earlier contentions that among the early Christians there were few who could read and write. I believe his statements here is true and thus there was more reading of the Hebrew scriptures and more literate people around than Dr. Ehrman admits in other places.

As followers of Jesus, we believe that the Hebrew scriptures in the Bible are inspired and authentic and are significant in understanding how God has moved through history and that they provide context for the events of the New Testament.

It is not clear how much Paul used scripture (i.e., the writings of the Jewish Bible) in trying to persuade his potential converts of the truth of his message; but in one of his key summaries of his preaching he indicates that what he preached was that “Christ died, in accordance with the scriptures . . . and that he was raised, in accordance with the scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3-4). Evidently Paul correlated the events of Christ’s death and resurrection with his interpretation of key passages of the Jewish Bible, which he, as a highly educated Jew, obviously could read for himself, and which he interpreted for his hearers in an often successful attempt to convert them. Page: 20

Paul studied and used the Hebrew scriptures extensively based on his reference to or quoting from them.

About the 1 Corinthians 15 passage: many scholars acknowledge is that the creed from I Corinthians 15 does not originate with Paul but with the early Jerusalem Christians. This creed was developed and passed around among the Christian community very early and right after his resurrection.  But Dr. Ehrman is right. These early Christians did know what the Hebrew scriptures taught about the coming Messiah—that he would come, died, be buried and rise again. All those events were prophesied in the Hebrew scriptures. The apostles put together the pieces of the puzzle soon after Jesus was resurrected and began to teach that throughout the Jewish nation and then to other parts of the Meditaranian.

I have been summarizing the different kinds of writings that were important to the lives of the early Christian churches. As I hope can be seen, the phenomenon of writing was of uppermost importance to these churches and the Christians within them. Books were at the very heart of the Christian religion—unlike other religions of the empire—from the very beginning. Books recounted the stories of Jesus and his apostles that Christians told and retold; books provided Christians with instruction in what to believe and how to live their lives; books bound together geographically separated communities into one universal church; books supported Christians in their times of persecution and gave them models of faithfulness to emulate in the face of torture and death; books provided not just good advice but correct doctrine, warning against the false teachings of others and urging the acceptance of orthodox beliefs; books allowed Christians to know the true meaning of other writings… Page: 26

Well said by Dr. Ehrman and very important concepts in the early development of the church. This collection of letters and gospels were critical to its development and maturation. The same holds true today of true followers of Jesus Christ.


4 thoughts on “Books, Scrolls, and Tablets of Stone (They too Misquoted Jesus)

  1. Pingback: Was I the First to Discover that Jesus was Misquoted? | The Good News

  2. Pingback: What is the Message of Misquoting Jesus? | The Good News

  3. Pingback: The Misquoted Jesus is now a Forged Jesus | The Good News

  4. Pingback: My Investigation of Bart Ehrman | The Good News

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