Monday, October 16, 2006

Jesus and the Father

In discussing Jesus and the silence of the Scriptures, one must have not only an understanding of what the Law itself asks of those who are under the Law, but also how Jesus has treated that Law.

The Scriptures assert without exception the sinlessness of Jesus (Heb. 4:14-16; 1 Peter 2:21-24). Had Jesus sinned, He could not have been the perfect Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29).

As one studies through the Law of Moses, especially as Moses reviews in the book of Deuteronomy, one is easily and often struck with the conscientiousness demanded of those who are in the covenant God made at Sinai. Jesus was a Jew and lived his entire earthly life under that covenant. The concept of keeping the law carefully is found some 27 times (NASB; 31 times in the NIV) in the book of Deuteronomy alone. That concept can also be seen in Joshua and frequently in the assessment of the Jewish kings in Kings and Chronicles. Careful obedience to the Law was extremely important. If your God told you something that many times, you would conclude that He meant it.

The object of the stipulations in the covenant was the maintenance of a true and living relationship with the Lord of the covenant. “To break the commandments was to disrupt the relationship of love; when there was no love there could be no covenant.”[i] One kept the commandments carefully as a means of showing loving commitment and pure devotion to Yahweh. Walter C. Kaiser noted that the “ancient mind fastened on the outward acts revealing the inward state, while the modern mind goes directly to the internal condition.”[ii] Modern man tends to focus on merely the feelings of devotion and ignore the form; yet the Scriptures do not adopt such a position. Whether one follows the form reveals whether one has the appropriate internal condition.
[i]Craigie, pp. 42,43.

[ii]Walter C. Kaiser Jr., Toward an Old Testament Theology (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Academie Books, 1978), p. 112, quoting G. A. Cooke, "The Book of Ezekiel," in International Critical
Commentary (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1967), p. 199.

In Deuteronomy, careful obedience and loving obedience are closely linked with fearing God, a major theme. Carefulness showed love and reverence. There was none of this notion that reverent obedience was loveless or that loving obedience could be careless or presumptuous. These concepts are often blended in the same commandments and exhortations.

Gunther Warnke further describes the use of the term yare’ in Deuteronomy in his study of phobeo in the LXX:[1]
In Deuteronomic and Deuteronomic lit., esp. Dt. itself, “to fear God” occurs in a series of formulae which demand piety orientated to the Deuteronomic Law. Fearing God can be a result of hearing and learning God’s Word, Dt. 4:10, or keeping the commandments of Yahweh, 8:6, but it can also be equated with the demand to hear Yahweh’s voice, 13:5, or to serve Yahweh, 6:13; 10:12,20; 13:5; or to tread His way, 8:6, etc., so that this fear is not just demanded but can also be learned as a statute or commandment, Dt. 14:22f.; 17:19. The combining of two other words with “fear,” namely “to love” and “to cling to,” Dt. 10:12,20; 13:5, makes possible a broader understanding of the content of fearing God, esp. since what is said about yare’ applies to “loving” and “clinging,” and the terms are more or less interchangeable. Since, however, the norms of the conduct to God and man described by these words can be expressed in the Law, fearing God along with loving God is not just a basic attitude but amounts to the observance of moral and cultic demands.
[1]Gunther Warnke, "phobeo," in Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, ed. Gerhard Friedrich, trans. Geoffry Bromiley, 10 vols. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1974), IX:201.

The concept of carefulness is derived from the Hebrew verb, shamar, which is found 44 times in Deuteronomy. John E. Hartley in the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament describes the term:
The basic idea of the root is “to exercise great care over.” This meaning can be seen to underlie the various semantic modifications seen in the verb: In combination with other verbs the meaning is “do carefully or diligently.” Deut. 11:32, “Be careful (i.e., perform carefully) all the statutes and ordinances,” and in Num. 23:12, “speak carefully and faithfully.”
Secondly it expresses the careful attention to be paid to the obligations of a covenant, to laws, statutes, etc.[i]
[i]John E. Hartley, "shamar," TWOT II:939.

The careful, conscientious, observance of the laws was an attitude Israel was to manifest in the actual doing of the commandments, statutes and ordinances. It was not considered legalism but loving to be zealous in keeping the laws. The words of the law were to be pressed upon their hearts.[i] Careful obedience in the context of loving God is emphasized in 6:3-5; 11:22; 30:15,16. One should be careful not to confuse the conscientious observance of the Law with the over-scrupulous abuses of the hypocrites of the New Testament.[ii] “Carefulness” is not a license for self-made religion or innovative legislation. Carefulness does all that an ordinance requires and does not assume that it can add new requirements.
[i]Taking the commandments to "heart" is commanded four times in Deuteronomy: 4:39,40; 6:5-9; 11:18; 32:46. The word "heart" is found 46 times in Deuteronomy. The phrase "with all your heart" occurs nine times: 4:29; 6:5; 10:12; 11:13; 13:3; 26:16; 30:2,6,10.

[ii]Notice Jesus’ opposition to the hypocrisy of the Jews, who manipulated Scripture and whose hearts were far from God (Matt. 15:1-14).

Two other concepts come out of Deuteronomy: first, there is a need to keep all the commandments (32 times emphasized in the book).

Second, there is the concept Moses emphasizes remarkably well--the need for accuracy in one's obedience to God. The vocabulary of Deuteronomy also shows that God expected His people to act just “as the Lord commanded.” The Pentateuch uses the phrase 69 times, 12 of which are in commandments. The remaining 57 uses are confirmations that the people of God did as they were instructed.[1] Moses instructs the people seven times in Deuteronomy to do “just as the Lord commanded.”[2] This persistent emphasis on precision can be seen in Deut. 24:8:
In cases of a skin affection be most careful to do exactly as the levitical priests instruct you. Take care to do as I have commanded them.
The English Standard Version here says, “As I commanded them, so you shall be careful to do.” The emphasis on keeping the specific details carefully and exactly must not be overlooked when one considers the kind of response God desires from His people. Moses had already instructed the priests how to respond to leprosy in Leviticus 13-14. His later instruction in Deuteronomy was to exhort the people to “diligently observe” the legislation already in existence.[3] Once given, the consistent teaching of Scripture is to fulfill faithfully and accurately what has already been taught. It is significant that Jesus in cleansing the leper counseled them to show themselves to the priest and to make an offering as a testimony to them, “just as Moses commanded.”[4]
Another significant phrase arises in acting “according to” the instruction, commandment, ordinance, statute or word of the Lord. This phrase is found 43 times in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.[5] Deut. 17:9-11 demonstrates the covenantal precision God desires from Israel:
When they have announced to you the verdict in the case, you shall carry out the verdict that is announced to you from that place that the Lord chose, observing scrupulously all their instructions to you. You shall act in accordance with the instructions given you and the ruling handed down to you; you must not deviate from the verdict that they announce to you either to the right or to the left.
Carefulness and accuracy in keeping the verdict of the priests was crucially important. Disregarding that instruction demonstrated a presumption that carried the death penalty (17:12,13). If the presumptuous disregard for human verdicts carried a death penalty, how much greater offense in God’s eyes was the presumptuous disregard for His own statutes and laws.
The phrase describing going “to the right or to the left” is found five times in Deuteronomy and is built upon the example of Israel’s promise to King Sihon of Heshbon to “keep strictly to the highway, turning off neither to the right or to the left.”[6] Four times Moses exhorts the people to stay within the revealed commandment in order to avoid entanglement with idolatry.[7] The people could not survive on the land should they forsake God by deviation:
Be careful, then, to do as the Lord your God has commanded you. Do not turn aside to the right or to the left: follow only the path that the Lord your God has enjoined upon you, so that you may thrive and that it may go well with you, and that you may long endure in the land you are to possess. (5:29,30 JPS or Tanakh)
God has never permitted deviation from His revealed will.[viii] He expects those who follow Him to conscientiously follow the strait and narrow way (Matt. 7:13-14). Other phrases that attest this same concept include “walk in His ways,”[ix] “turn from the way,”[x] and “turn aside from the commandment.”[xi]
[1]Ex. 7:6,10,20; 12:28,50; 16:34; 34:4; 39:1,5,7,21,26,29,31,43; 40:19,21,23,25,27,29,32; Lev. 8:4,5,9,13,17,21,29,31; 9:7,10,21; 16:34; 24:23; Num. 1:19; 2:33; 3:16,42,51; 36:10; Deut. 1:19; 6:25; 10:5; 34:9. In addition to the phrase "just as the Lord commanded," are the confirming statements "so they did": Ex 7:10; 12:28; 16:34; 39:43; Lev. 16:34; Num. 1:19; 8:20,22; 9:5; 17:11; 20:9; and "thus they did": Ex. 7:6; 29:35; Lev. 8:36; 24:23; Num. 1:54; 2:34; 17:11. See also Lev. 8:36; 9:16; 10:7.

[2]Deut. 4:5; 5:12,16,32; 12:21; 20:17; 24:8. Other Penteteuchal passages include Ex. 29:35; 34:18; Lev. 10:15,18; Num. 26:4.

[3]Craigie, Deuteronomy, p. 308.

[4]Luke 5:14. Cf. Matt. 8:14; Mark 1:44.

[5]Ex. 17:1; 29:35; 31:11; 36:1; 38:21; 39:32,42; 40:16; Lev. 5:10; 9:16; 10:7; Num. 1:54; 2:34; 3:16; 4:37,41,45,49; 8:20; 9:3,5,12,14,20,23; 10:13; 15:24; 29:18,21,24,27,30,33,37,40; 36:5; Deut. 1:3; 17:11; 24:8; 26:13,14; 30:2; 31:5. See also Josh. 1:7,8.

[6]Deut. 2:27; 5:32; 17:11,20; 28:14. See also Josh. 1:7; 23:6,7; 2 Sam. 14:19; 2 Kings 22:2; Prov. 4:26,27; Isa. 30:18-22; 2 Pet. 2:15; Matt. 7:13,14; Luke 13:23,24. Cf. Wilhelm Michaelis, "hodos," TDNT V:42-114, esp. 51,52.

[7]Craigie, p. 338.

[viii]Some think they have found an exception to this principle in Hezekiah’s prayer in 2 Chron. 30:18-19, "May the good Lord pardon everyone who prepares his heart to seek God, the Lord God of his fathers, though not according to the purification rules of the sanctuary (NASB)." While the Lord heard Hezekiah’s prayer and healed the people, one should not presume that the people of Israel could continue with their disobedience. Because Hezekiah prayed, God pardoned. “Pardon” implies the presence of sin. Continued presuming upon the grace of God to cover acting outside the rules leads to the loss of any blessing. “For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain terrifying expectation of judgment, and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries” (Heb. 10:26-27 NASB).

[ix]Deut. 5:33 (NIV); 8:6; 10:12; 11:22; 13:5; 19:9; 26:17; 28:9; 30:16.

[x]Deut. 9:12,16; 11:28; 31:29 (in association with idolatry).

[xi]Deut. 17:20

To suggest that Jesus lived under the covenant in any other way than lovingly, reverently, carefully, completely, and accurately is to accuse Him of sin. I dare not.

Where does Jesus fit in all this:

Jesus said something that was very important on the night of the Passover. Hear thes words from John 14:31: "but so that the world may know that I love the Father, I do exactly as the Father commanded Me. Get up, let us go from here." (NASB, cf. ESV, GWT and NIV) A closer examination of these words in Greek, show their close ties to Deuteronomic phrases found in the LXX: "just as the Father commands, even so I do."

Jesus showed this same scrupulousness in John 12:48-50, and I am thankful that he did. Had Jesus not carefully, accurately, lovingly, and completely revealed the truth of God's will and teaching for our lives, we might well live in confusion.

Jesus never acted outside the will of His Father. Jesus never acted on his own authority or initiative. Jesus always did that which was pleasing to the Father (John 8:28-29).

To suggest then, that Jesus set aside all of this and followed Rabbinic traditions that nullified the word of God is to assume, no to presume, too much.

The weakness of the wine argument is that one must take extra-Biblical understandings from suspect Rabbinic writings (even Edersheim admits that it is difficult to know how much of the tradition was practiced in the days of Jesus). This understanding also assumes that all the "people of the land" worshiped like the most scrupulous Pharisees. It further ignores the strong stance the Lord himself took against humanly-devised traditions (the traidition of the elders in Matthew 15:1-14).

One can be very logical if one is able to set the terms leading to the conclusion. The problem is that one must read the Rabbinic writings into the premises to come out with the conclusion that Jesus drank four cups of wine. Such eisegesis, reading into the text what is not there, will always lead to whatever the author wants to be the conclusion. The problem, however, is that the conclusion may not be true, because the premises are not true. The premises are altered with assumptions. If the premises are not true, the conclusion will be false and the argument invalid. Such is the case here.

If anyone would like a copy of my paper "Reponse Hermeneutics," dealing with obedience in Deuteronomy, please send me an email:

I will also send this to so that it can be posted.

I hope this little study is helpful to you.


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