Bring Back Jesus' Bible

I propose that we consider bringing back Jesus’ Bible. I argue that the Bible Jesus liberally read and quoted from is worth our consideration.

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Jesus’ Bible is the Hebrew Bible, often called the TaNaKh.[1] It has a tripartite shape as Jesus Himself indicated.

“These are the things that I told you while I was with you. Everything written about me in the Law,[2] the Prophets,[3] and the Psalms[4] must be fulfilled.” Luke 24:44

Without exception, every time Jesus referred to the Bible in His day, He referred to the arrangement of the books seen in the Hebrew Bible today—the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings (or the Psalms[5]).  

Our English Bibles are arranged differently, though they carry the same exact 39 books. English translations also begin with the Torah, followed by what are called the “former prophets,” Joshua and Judges.

But at this point, Jesus’ Hebrew Bible and our English Bibles split up and begin to differ substantially in arrangement. In our English versions, Ruth comes after Judges. Not so in Jesus’ Bible, where Ruth follows Song of Songs. It appears that placing Ruth after Judges was an attempt to impose chronology, but it overlooks the seamless transition between Judges and Samuel.

And why is it that our English Bibles differ from Jesus’ Hebrew Bible? Easy. The order in our English Bibles is based, not upon the order in Jesus’ Hebrew Bible, but upon the arrangement of the books in the Greek version of the Old Testament (which is called the Septuagint or LXX).

I would argue that we should consider returning to the arrangement of books in Jesus’ Hebrew Bible. I know. Sounds like I’m trying to move Mount Everest to a different. Well, maybe not that difficult. But, nevertheless, a tall order. I agree.

But maybe you might agree with me if you heard some of the evidence for reverting back to the order in Jesus’ Hebrew Bible. One big reason why has to do with Jesus Himself.

In its original tripartite form, Jesus’ Bible announces a coming messiah (king) through both content and canonical arrangement. That’s right.

The arrangement of the books itself is messianic in design. The order of the books reflects intentional interpretation of a coming king[6] and is explicitly messianic, unlike the various permutations in the Septuagint.

In other words, the canonical shape or arrangement of Jesus’ three-part Hebrew Bible explicitly and intentionally points to Him. Our current English Bibles do not. The arrangement is not messianic like the original. That fact alone ought to gain some traction for the original arrangement.

Here is just one example of how the three-part arrangement of Jesus’ Bible explicitly foreshadows the coming Messiah and anticipates Him:

All three sections—the Torah, the Prophets, and the Writings—open in a deliberately parallel fashion. Parallels reflect a parallel-Maker. 

Parallels Scream Purpose

Observe the following series of parallels:

At the beginning of the Torah, Adam, a Messianic figure, is given authority over the entire land. Genesis 1:26, 29.

At the beginning of the Prophets, Joshua, also a Messianic figure, is given authority over all of the land. Joshua 1:3-4.

At the beginning of the Writings, which begins with the Psalms, the Son of God and of David, another Messianic figure, is given authority over all the land. Psalm 2:8.[7]

Each character, Adam, Joshua, and the Son of God, each messianic in character, is given authority over the entire land.[8] There’s more. At the conclusion of each of the same three sections, there is an expectancy of the coming of the Messiah. See Deuteronomy 34:1-12,[9] Malachi 3:2, 2 Chronicles 36. So, the beginning and ending of each of the three sections is explicitly messianic, forward-looking.

And last, but not least, the very first consonant of each of the three sections[10] of Jesus’ Bible spell out the Hebrew verb, “Come!”[11]

In other words, the beginning and ending of each of the three sections in Jesus’ Bible yearn for the coming messiah, the future King of Israel. “Come Messiah” is the cry from start to finish. Jesus’ Bible is arranged in order to prepare people for Him.

Do you think it is accidental or lucky that John’s Revelation of Jesus Christ in the New Testament begins and ends with the same yearning, the same exact word?

Beginning: “Look He is coming with the clouds and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced him, and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him.” Revelation 1:7

Ending: “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.” Revelation 22:20

Wise for Salvation

 Observe Paul’s confidence that Jesus’ Bible was able to make Timothy wise for salvation through faith in Jesus:

“You, however, must continue in the things you have learned and are confident about. You know who taught you and how from infancy you have known the sacred Scriptures,[12] which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” 2 Timothy 3:14-15

How was Jesus’ Bible able to make Timothy wise for salvation? The Scriptures were able to make him wise through its content and its three-part compositional arrangement. So, I would argue that the evidence for the Messianic tilt of Jesus’ Bible—pointing to Him, the true Messiah, a Bible that even yearns for Him, is worth considering. As I said in the beginning, in its tripartite form, Jesus’ Bible explicitly announces a future, coming messiah (king) through both content and canonical arrangement.

Tip of the Iceberg

There is so much more, of course. I’ve only revealed the tip of the canonical iceberg. The Messiah, His death, resurrection, and ascension, is foreshadowed everywhere in the Hebrew Bible.

If you learn the Hebrew language and can read the Hebrew Bible, then you’re all set. You won’t even need an English translation. But now, with seminaries not even requiring students to learn Hebrew or Greek, there is little possibility that reading Hebrew is in anyone’s future. So, I say, bring back the arrangement of Jesus’ Bible! It will help us all to grasp the seamlessness of Scripture, its messianic tilt, and its fulfillment in the Gospels. Jesus’ Bible points to Him and calls for Him to return!

Thank you for reading.

 

 

NOTES:

[1] The letter “T” represents the Torah. The letter “N” represents the Nebi’im, the Prophets (the former prophets and latter prophets). The letter “K” represents the Kethubim Writings.

[2] The Law is the Torah, the Pentateuch: Genesis—Deuteronomy.

[3] The former prophets begin with Joshua and end with the latter prophets, beginning with Isaiah and concluding with the so-called minor prophets.

[4] The third section of Jesus’ Bible is also called the Writings. The Psalms constitute the first book in the writings and the Chronicles conclude it.

[5] The Psalms are the first book in “the Writings.”

[6] See the excellent work of Carol Hupping in The Jewish Bible, Jewish Publication Society, 2008, p. 2

[7] The writer of Psalm 2 goes to great lengths—using semantic, phonological, and lexical parallels--to identify the Messianic figure in Psalm 2 with the “blessed Man” in Psalm 1. The cumulative evidence for the identification of the two characters as the same person is irrefutable. Psalm 1 & 2 form the two-fold introduction to the Psalter. The introduction is entirely messianic in nature. Luke quotes portions of Psalm 2 as referring to Jesus. See Acts 4:25-26 and Acts 13:33.

[8] Remember Jesus’ words at the conclusion of Matthew’s Gospel: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me…” Matthew 28:19.

[9] A prophet like Moses never rose up again in Israel’s history. Every prophet thereafter looks like Moses in some way and so they all portray a future prophet like Moses from Deuteronomy 18:15. But the prophet who knows God face to face like Moses and does signs like him has yet to arrive in the Hebrew Bible. At the conclusion of the third section of Israel’s Bible (Chronicles), the nation still awaits a prophet like Moses, a prophet with a Messianic profile.

[10] Genesis, Joshua, Psalms

[11] The 1st consonant in Genesis 1:1 is בְּ; the 1st consonant in Joshua 1:1 is וַ; the 1st consonant in Psalm 1:1 is אַ֥. Taken together, the three consonants spell out the word “come.”

[12] Paul is obviously referring to the Hebrew Scriptures as the New Testament was not yet written.