Jesus, the interpreter of scripture

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Series: Who is this Jesus?
‘You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life’. John 5:39-40
I once asked a biblical scholar what he was looking forward to most in heaven. He replied, “I can’t wait to read the scriptures with full understanding.” Seems like a noble desire yet it appears to me to be a very strange ambition. In heaven we will have full access to the Lord Jesus Christ, the author of scripture, so why would we read an ethereal version of the Bible when we can talk to its author?
I believe in the inspiration and authority of the Bible, yet I understand that it is for our temporal benefit; in other words, it is for here and now. It is by Jesus and about Jesus and its purpose is to enable us to come to know Jesus. John wrote; ‘Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.’ John 20:30-31
You might have paused in your reading when you came to my statement that Jesus is the author of scripture. Sure, the Bible was produced by men, but these men were inspired to write by the Holy Spirit. As evangelical Christians, we believe in the Holy Trinity, three personages yet one God, so if God inspired the scriptures then this means that Jesus is the author – see what I mean?
But without sounding like a telly ad presenter’s, “Wait, there is more!” there is more; Jesus is not only the author but also the interpreter of the Bible. An illustration will help explain what I mean by this. Say my friend David wrote a book about himself, and then died, I would have to determine what he meant in the various chapters by using both literary tools and my own logic. I could discuss the meaning with others who knew him and our combined appreciation of his character and values would help us interpret his writing. The problem would be even greater if David were a historic character that no one alive had personally known. Most Christians treat the Bible in this way, as though its author were no longer accessible.
Now let’s assume that David is very much alive and I could phone him from time to time. I would still read his book, but if I got stuck in parts, or felt I was missing an important shade of meaning, I would simply phone him and ask him what he meant. He would serve as both author and interpreter. How strange it would be if I, and my scholarly friends, arrived at our own interpretations without checking with him.
Jesus is not dead, He is alive, and He is accessible to us in two important ways.
Firstly, He is accessible through prayer and meditation. John recorded Jesus’ words in chapter 16 verses 12-15 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.”
The other way that the author is accessible to us is also through the agency of the scriptures. The Bible reveals all we need to know of the words and works of Jesus Christ. His teachings and His actions reveal His nature, character, and values. By reading the Bible, under the illuminating influence of the Holy Spirit, we can gain understanding of how Jesus understood the teachings and narratives of the biblical record. In some places it is obvious and at other times it is subtle, yet we are at all times able to understand scripture through the ‘Jesus’ interpretive lens.
“Jesus was all right, but his disciples were thick and ordinary. It’s them twisting it that ruins it for me.” John Lennon
In my next series of postings I will develop this concept further – I call it the Christocentric Principle.


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