googlef87758e9b6df9bec.html A Sure Word: Haven't You Read?

Friday, June 18, 2010

Haven't You Read?

The Pharisees would often criticize Jesus over things He said or did which they believed violated the Law. Jesus often responded with the phrase, “Haven't you read...” followed by an appropriate passage of Scripture (Matthew 12:3 NIV, Matthew 12:5 NIV, Mark 12:10 NIV, et al). His rebuke of the Pharisees must have been especially stinging because the Pharisees prided themselves on their knowledge and adherence to the Law. For Jesus to say to them, “Haven't you read?” would be like saying to Donald Trump, “Haven't you ever run a business before?”

This response that Jesus used is interesting on several levels. First, Jesus confirmed that the authority of the word of Scripture trumped the opinions of Pharisees. Being the religious leaders of the day, the Pharisees believed it was they who most correctly interpreted Scripture. To that end, they often added complicated rules and traditions to the plain reading of Scripture. For example, to the very simple command to keep the Sabbath, the Pharisees added a complex system of rules that regulated how much a person could carry or how many steps he could take before he is considered to be “working” on the Sabbath. In Matthew 12, when the disciples of Jesus were hungry, they picked the heads from the stalks of grain and ate them. The Pharisees felt the disciples were violating the Sabbath by harvesting grain. Jesus cited 1 Samuel 21:6 with the simple assumption that the passage alone rebutted the Pharisees' traditions.

Another thing we see from Jesus' responses is that He always seemed to rely on the plain meaning of the words of Scripture. He didn't need to elaborate on them or twist them to reveal some obscure meaning. To the contrary, He seemed to rebuke the elaborate interpretations of the Pharisees and reminded them that the more simple reading of Scripture is the correct one. In Matthew 19:3-5, the Pharisees were testing His understanding of the Law according to their complex rules surrounding divorce. Jesus answered by quoting Genesis 2:24 and the plain understanding that the man and woman, once married, are no longer two people but become one flesh. We see that the plain reading of Scripture trumped the complex system of rules established by the Pharisees.

I wonder, then, how Jesus would have answered people who take compromising views on Genesis. Many people who call themselves Christians reject the ordinary meaning of the account of creation. They seem to think that, through science, they have a better understanding of what is true than what God has revealed to them about the creation. Sometimes, they have created elaborate scenarios about how the Bible can be “reconciled” with science. Usually that means they reject the ordinary meaning of the passage and substitute some tortured interpretation like theistic evolution, the Day-age theory, or the Gap theory.

When describing the events of the creation, God consistently used phrases like, “the evening and the morning were the first day.” Some people actually argue that doesn't mean an ordinary day but instead means an age. If God had meant to say ordinary day, I wonder how much clear He could have been? If people asked Jesus His opinion on theories like evolution or Day-age, I think I know what He would have said... “Haven't you read?!”

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