AMONG the writings that have been passed in review, the Epistle to the Hebrews is clearly one for which some specific setting may be postulated, and such a setting, it has been suggested, may be found in the ardent Jewish nationalism which the opening of the Jewish war (AD 66) precipitated: or perhaps in some other situation independent of this crisis, when Christian Jews were persecuted: the converted synagogue, which (as is suggested later, p. 75) may be implied by the Epistle to the Hebrews, might have begun to suffer immediately after the Neronian persecution.
For the birth of much else in the New Testament, however, – and, indeed, for the antecedents of the Epistle to the Hebrews itself – it is natural to postulate a prolonged process of gestation. Thus, to take an example, the formulations of St Paul's arguments in his epistles represent, no doubt, the results of much debate, preaching, and instruction that had preceded these crystallizations. It is one of the merits of' form-criticism' that it has forced us to strain our eyes – though we generally have inadequate illumination – to see these antecedent stages in the formation of the Christian scriptures; and the Acts offers us some sufficiently convincing pictures of the process. Its very last scene (xxviii.23 ff.) portrays an intensive debate between Paul and representatives of the Jews in Rome. Scriptures in hand, they hammer away from dawn till dusk: and this is only a more extended description of what is lightly sketched in earlier chapters also (xiii.16 ff., xiv.1 ff., xvii.2 ff., 11, xviii.4, n, xix. 8 ff.). Accustomed to think of Paul as the apostle to the Gentiles, we too easily forget his extensive ministry in the synagogue, and the heroic courage that it must have required. The passing allusion in 2 Cor.xi.24 to five occasions when he had received the Jewish penalty of scourging (see Deut. xxv. 3, where forty strokes is the maximum, and the Mishnah, Mak. 3, 10, where this is interpreted so as to mean thirty-nine) reveals how often he must have come within range of synagogue jurisdiction. Admittedly the offences for which scourging was a penalty mentioned in Mak. 3. i ff. are scarcely relevant, except that a scholar might be scourged instead of suffering excommunication (see S.-B. iii. 530 and iv. 293 ff.). But in Acts v. 40 the apostles are beaten (δείραντες, and cf. xxii. 19), and it seems reasonable to conclude that, at any rate in St Paul's day, the penalty was more widely imposed. At any rate, there is no doubt about Paul's extensive ministry within Judaism.The usual pattern of events is probably that of Acts xiii. 15 ff. – first, a polite hearing, but later (vv. 44 ff.) a deeper realization of the implications of this teaching, accompanied by jealousy, resentment, and a fiercely antagonistic reaction. There is plenty of scope here for the development of scriptural debate.
Again, Acts xv draws a (perhaps stylized) picture of a scriptural discussion within the Church. Here is a wider than the Pauline circle debating, still with scriptures in hand, about the conditions for Gentile membership of Christ's Israel – sinister echoes of the debate, still unconcluded, returning in Chapter xxi. Much of the story of the Church's explanation of itself has to be deduced by attempting to read between the lines of the New Testament – the end-product of the oral process; and later, we shall see how the Gospel parables bear traces of such controversy, and how the Fourth Gospel contains polemic with a similar stamp. But at the moment we are more particularly concerned with the use of Jewish scripture in these discussions, and we must only pause now to note, in passing, that of course a great deal of other material besides scripture entered in. Controversy about the Sabbath law, for instance, would no doubt be conducted not only by reference to scripture but also by recalling incidents and sayings from the life of Jesus. This is exactly (we may presume) how such sections of our Gospels originally began to take shape. Christians in a ghetto, living shoulder to shoulder with non-Christian Jews, would daily be driven into controversy over their unorthodox ways, their novel standards of reference, their altered scale of values. What was more natural than that they should recall and recite traditions (or, if they were eyewitnesses, personal reminiscences) about Jesus healing on the Sabbath or pronouncing about its ultimate purpose? How, again, could they help recalling sayings of Jesus bearing on the clean and the unclean – foodstuffs, leprosy-laws, and so forth? Christians in the great pagan centres, correspondingly, would have their own particular problems: they would be faced with difficult decisions about what constituted idolatry, what latitude might be allowed in sexual conduct, how far pagan institutions might be 'baptized' into use for Christians; and might Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians fraternize and participate in an agape at the same table? It is not difficult to imagine how self-contained units of Christian teaching came to be hammered out, first orally, then as written fly-sheets or tracts – often in several differing though related shapes, according to the contexts in which they were used.
When, therefore, John Mark (for example) sharpened his reed pen and dipped it in the ink to write, he had already behind him a considerable tradition of Christian speaking and possibly writing,by Peter and many others, – recognized patterns of argument and exhortation, of defence and attack, of instruction and challenge – from among which he might select his narrative material and his sayings. The earliest Christian writers were probably already heirs to a considerable body of tradition.
Within this, we now turn especially to the early Christian uses of Jewish scripture. 'Jesus is Messiah!" the Christians asserted. But what in the world had led them to find the King of Israel in this Jesus of Nazareth, and how could they hope to support such a claim? By the orthodox Jerusalem Jews – and especially, one suspects, any who had never seen or heard Jesus personally – he must have been thought of as a popular prophet who had taught dangerously subversive doctrines such as to undermine the very structure of rabbinic Judaism; who had even made some maniac claims to a unique relationship with God; who had perhaps been a sorcerer;and who, in the end, had been brought to book by the Jewish High Court who had managed to get him ignominiously executed, by the degrading torture of crucifixion, as an insurgent against the Emperor's authority. By Jewish law a dangerous false teacher and heretic, by Roman law guilty of treason, disgraced and made an object-lesson: how could Jesus of Nazareth conceivably be argued to be the Lord's Anointed?
In the earliest days, the Christians' convictions seem, as a matter of fact, to have been expressed less as a statement about who Jesus was than as evidence about what God had done in him and to him.God had anointed him with Spirit, they said: that is, Jesus had received the spiritual equivalent of an enthronement ceremony or at least some sort of special commissioning, like the speaker of the words in Isa. lxi. i, 'The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me; because the LORD has anointed me to bring good tidings ...' There were witnesses who could describe the baptism of Jesus as just such a spiritual' Christing' (Ps. ii, 'You are my son', was a messianic address, and something like it was associated with the baptism of Jesus, even if actually it was even more reminiscent of the suffering servant); they might even have heard Jesus himself applying Isa. Ixi to his ministry (Lk. iv. 18; cf. Acts x. 38). Besides, the exceptional deeds of power accompanying his ministry were evidence that 'God was with him' (Acts x. 38); Jesus himself, when asked by the Baptist's followers whether he was the one they were hoping for, had pointed to these events, and again had linked them with such Isaianic passages (Isa. xxxv. 5, Ixi. 1, Matt. xi. 2 ff., Lk. vii. 18 ff.). Once, in controversy with the educated religious men of Jerusalem, Jesus, the Christians recalled, had invoked Ps. cx – a Psalm seemingly referring to a royal (and priestly) personage of even higher dignity than David himself (Mk xii. 35 ff.). Such were the passages most naturally appealed to, to locate in the scriptures, so to speak, the divine imprimatur upon Jesus of Nazareth during his lifetime – scriptures which, according to tradition, Jesus had himself appropriated.
But there was much more even than his ministry. After his death, God had not allowed his dead body to become corrupt (that was just like Ps. xvi – '... thou wilt not abandon my soul to Hades, Nor let thy loyal servant suffer corruption', Acts ii. 27); he had raised him from the tomb to a position of supreme honour (Ps. cx again!). In view of these overwhelming events – and the Christians had been convinced of them, despite their own despair and loss of all confidence, by the inescapable evidence of their eyes – was it not clear that they were living in the midst of a divine fulfilment of all the hopes of Israel?The Christians began from Jesus – from his known character and mighty deeds and sayings, and his death and resurrection; and with these they went to the scriptures, and found that God's dealings with his People and his intentions for them there reflected did, in fact, leap into new significance in the light of these recent happenings. Sooner or later this was to lead, through a definition of what God had done, to something like a definition of who Jesus was.
But first we must look more closely at the circumstances controlling the early Christian use of scripture. Three main factors are discernible. First, pre-Christian Judaism (drawing partly on Gentile traditions) had already developed certain ways of interpreting scripture. Secondly, Jesus himself, during his ministry, had used scripture with great originality, and yet with an understanding of traditional methods. And thirdly, the early Christians were conscious that the voice of inspired prophecy, long silent, had begun once more to be audible; and they therefore used both scripture and the memories and traditions of the words of Jesus with the creative freedom of the inspired. This third factor, as a matter of fact, interlocks in a striking manner with the second; for the historical Jesus whose exegesis of scripture they recalled was at the same time found to be far more than a teacher of days gone by: as the Lord of faith, he was still with and in and among his people as they continued to expound the scriptures in his name. Thus, early Christian exegesis of scripture (in keeping with what we have already discovered about early Christian worship and the character of the early Christian community as a whole) was a new and creative thing, albeit rooted also in an antecedent Jewish tradition. Christ was found to be more authoritative than scripture, but in the sense of fulfilling and transcending, not of abolishing it.
We must examine these three factors.
(i) What methods of handling scripture were current in the days of Jesus? For all devout Jews alike, it was axiomatic (says R. Loewe) 'that the channel of divine Revelation is Torah – Torah as explicitly set forth in the inspired text of the Bible, but also, in regard to anything not explicitly found therein, deducible by the application of human reason to the text, provided only that human reason acknowledges its dependence upon divine grace'.But within this assumption it seems possible, broadly speaking, to distinguish two main attitudes. One attitude attached a good deal of importance to the traditions of the great rabbis – to traditional interpretations of particular passages handed down communally, by which rules of conduct and other rulings were extracted from the scriptures. 'Extracted' is not an unfair word for some of these performances, though the best rabbis knew the dangers of arbitrary word-juggling, and only used it when it seemed absolutely necessary to sanction some much-needed ruling by Mosaic authority. To Rabbi Eleazar of Modin (a contemporary of the mighty Aqiba, about AD 120) is attributed the saying, 'He who discloses aspects in the Torah which are not in accord with rabbinical teaching has no portion in the world to come'. Indeed, it was the strength of this position that sufficient weight was attached to the traditions of the great exegetes to prevent an irresponsible individualism in interpretation. The other attitude to the text of the Torah was essentially more individualistic (even if its adherents would not have acknowledged this). Viewing the actual written words as themselves a constant source of inspiration, it made it possible for any individual, provided only (to repeat the proviso from Loewe's article) that he acknowledged his dependence upon God's grace, to expect direct divine guidance from his private study of them. The former attitude tended to locate authoritative interpretation in rabbinic leaders of learning and in the communally transmitted traditions of their wisdom; the latter in the individual's own use of the very words of scripture (often, it must be confessed, in a wildly inaccurate Greek translation). Christian readers will recognize here, mutatis mutandis, the respective tendencies of Christian 'Catholic' and 'Protestant' exegesis. In the article already cited, Loewe seems to characterize what underlay the latter attitude when he says that the exegetical principle stressed by R. Aqiba 'points to the inspired quality of the text, asserting that no jot or tittle in it can be without significance for deductional exegesis' (loc. cit. 505). Loewe contrasts with this Ishmael ben Elisha's insistence (at about the same period) 'that Torah speaks in human language': but that is perhaps simply a stress upon reasonableness in interpretation, and is not quite the equivalent of the traditionalist attitude that is here being contrasted with the essentially individualist. There was a time when the verbal inspirationist type might have been called the more Hellenistic – and it is certainly well represented by Philo of Alexandria. But it has been.observed by P. Katz, that it is also represented in the (Palestinian) Wisdom of Sirach (Ecclesiasticus). Geographical generalizations are thus dangerous. But the traditional type of exegesis was undoubtedly well established in Palestine by the time of Christ, and Jeremias traces the influence of the scribes to their esoteric knowledge, often of an apocalyptic character. This, no doubt, is the key of knowledge which they professed to possess but would not use for the benefit of others (Lk. xi. 52). Whatever its origin and milieu may be, 2 Pet. i. 20 f. seems to be making a very interesting pronouncement on the nature of inspiration, though its meaning would be clearer if one could be certain of the situation to which it is addressed:
But first note this: no one can interpret any prophecy of Scripture by himself. For it was not through any human whim that men prophesied of old; men they were, but, impelled by the Holy Spirit, they spoke the words of God.
Presumably it means 'the original prophets, whose words are now part of scripture, were themselves speaking not of their own human choosing but under the compulsion of the Spirit of God; therefore the present-day reader, correspondingly, must not expect to understand them by his private, unaided judgment'. But whether the opposite of 'private, unaided judgment' is, in this case, private, inspired judgment, or not private judgment at all but only what the authoritative Church leaders say, is another matter.
It is to be noticed, at any rate, that both the attitudes just defined worked on the assumption that the voice of prophecy had fallen silent. Divine authority must be sought not in the living, contemporary utterance of contemporary inspired men, but in the interpretation of a past inspiration – the inspiration of scripture.As a matter of fact, however, the voice of prophecy was not as silent as might appear. There was apocalyptic writing to be reckoned with. Apocalyptic usually purported to be inspired prediction by some ancient sage of the prophetic period, preserved to be divulged to a later generation on the eve of its destined fulfilment. In fact, however, it was generally a contemporary writer's work, masquerading under the ancient name. Thus, there were contemporaries, though they did not declare themselves, speaking original messages of hope or consolation: seldom voicing the social righteousness of the great prophets, but at least uttering, under their measure of direct inspiration, a message for the times. And so popular was the outlook of the apocalyptists that it in some measure controlled also the exegesis of the earlier writings: the Law, and (so far as they were used as authoritative) the Prophets and the other scriptures too, tended to be interpreted along the lines of the apocalyptic message – supernatural rescue is imminent for the People of God. For this was the burden of apocalyptic. The old Prophets had looked for God's purposes to be achieved in righteous kings and rulers of integrity; but now, under the alien domination of Rome, it was in the main easier to hope for some supernatural intervention and to reinterpret even ancient moral and political messages along these lines. The so-called 'commentary' on the Book of Habakkuk in the Dead Sea Scrolls represents an interesting combination of the political and the apocalyptic. For the most part (so far as one may judge from the defective manuscript) it was an effort to apply the words of the prophet, perhaps some 500 years before, to the pressures of secularism and all the alarums and excursions of the period just before Christ. ' The interpretation (pesher) of (such-and-such a phrase) is. . . .' So runs the formula of the Habakkuk commentary, like the Aramaic equivalent in the interpretation of the dreams or the writing on the wall in Daniel (iv. 6 (M.T. iv. 3), v. 15, 26, vii. 16, etc.); and generally the interpretation is in terms of persons and peoples contemporary with the interpreter – the wicked priest, the teacher of righteousness, the Kittim. But the contemporary period is believed to be the closing days of the age; and now and then the expectation of supernatural intervention breaks in also: ' in the day of judgment God will destroy all the worshippers of idols and the wicked from the earth' (the last words, in Millar Burrows' translation). Stauffer is probably right in saying that in the latter years of Judaism apocalyptic was the dominant factor in biblical interpretation. In the paintings in the synagogue at Dura on the Euphrates (excavated in 1934 and following years), figures tentatively identified as Enoch and Ezra (apocalyptists) enjoy a place of honour side by side with Moses and Joshua.
Yet even so we must not lose sight of messages of individual piety which were also current at the same time. To look at Philo's writings is to be reminded that there were at least some (and why not many?) who were interested in the scriptures chiefly as an allegory of Mansoul, and who found in them the ideal for individual self-culture in religion and piety.
(ii) Thus it was into a long and varied tradition of scriptural exegesis that Jesus came. How did he use his Bible? One striking example of contemporary application at once springs to mind: 'Today ... in your very hearing this text has come true', he says (Lk. iv. 21), as he expounds Isa. Ixi. Here is Qumran-like pesher – the interpretation of an ancient passage so as to apply to current events; but the idea of fulfilment, unlike the Qumran usage, holds in it an eschatological intensity. This passage is peculiar to Luke, though that is, in itself, no reason for doubting its authenticity. Both Matthew and Mark have what is almost a pesher-application of Zech. xiii. 7 after the last supper:
Tonight you will all fall from your faith on my account; for it stands written:'
I will strike the shepherd down and the sheep of the flock will be scattered'.
(Matt. xxvi. 31, Mk xiv. 27). But even more securely embedded in the traditions – in all four Gospels – is Jesus' use of the term 'the Son of Man', which is most simply explained (despite all arguments to the contrary) as the use of a symbol from Dan. vii which is both historical and eschatological. It is the symbol of the loyal martyr-people of God (embodied, in the first instance, by the Maccabaean martyrs) – the human figure who, for all his unprotected weakness before the bestial empires of tyranny, is divinely vindicated in the end, and, because of his readiness to suffer, is crowned with glory and honour, and seen exalted to the presence of God. Jesus applies this symbol to his own ministry, and to himself as the initiator and representative of the loyal and obedient people of God, now on earth in humiliation, but destined to be exalted with the clouds of heaven.
To the same paradoxical denouement Jesus is said to have applied also the figure of the 'stone' of Ps. cxviii which, rejected by the expert masons who ought to have known better, turns out after all to be the most vital stone of the whole edifice (Mk xii. 10 and pars.).
Again, Jesus seems to have applied the expectations of the coming Elijah (Mal. iv. 5) to the mission of John the Baptist – perhaps intending the startling corollary that his own ministry must be identified with the Day of Yahweh (Mk ix. 13, Matt, xvii. I2).
On one occasion, too, Jesus is represented (Mk xii. 35 ff. and pars.) as appealing to Ps. cx to convince his antagonists that their messianic expectations were too superficial. The argument seems to run thus. David, who is assumed to be the speaker, alludes to a divine promise, addressed to some unnamed person, that this person will be given a position of royal majesty at God's right hand until all his enemies are subdued. The person is commonly identified (evidently by Jesus' antagonists, among others) as the hoped-for divinely-chosen King of Israel (the anointed one, messiah). But in this very Psalm David calls him 'my Lord': how can he, then, be junior to David, – be David's descendant, as the Messiah is commonly expected to be? There is the dilemma. And the moral might be (as some commentators hold) that the true Messiah is not Davidic at all; but more likely it is that the Messiah, even if Davidic, is also of supernatural status,' David's greater Son'. It is curious that the latter part of the Psalm, in which the person is addressed as a priest (cf. Heb. v. 7), seems to cause no embarrassment in this context, although the Evangelist clearly intends the Psalm to apply to Jesus (who was no priest), whether or not Jesus himself so intended it. Ps. cx. 3, which seems to describe a miraculous divine birth, ('... from the womb of the morning, thou hast the dew of thy youth' (? )), was not used in New Testament testimania, but Ps. ii came in for this purpose instead. 'You are my son; this day have I begotten you' (Acts xiii. 33). At any rate, here is an instance of the use by Jesus of an exegetical process which is not straightforwardly historical (still less 'critical' as to the authorship and original setting of the Psalm), but which depends on the suggestive quality of words in the context of certain assumptions and presuppositions – Davidic authorship, messianic reference – entertained by his hearers and probably also by him.
But this is rare in the Synoptic tradition of Jesus' teaching. The only other synoptic instance of the attribution to Jesus of what might be deemed strained exegesis, dependent on merely verbal detail, is the refutation of the Sadducees' disbelief in an after-life by the citation (Mk xii. 26) of 'I am the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob', leading to the conclusion that, since God is not the God of the dead but of the living, these patriarchs must all be still alive. The actual words of Exodus of course need mean no more than 'I am the God who was formerly worshipped by Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob'. Again, therefore, the lesson depends on something extraneous to the bare meaning of the words. The real authority for the conclusion is the conviction that if God establishes contact with a man and is willing to be called his God, then that relationship is such that death cannot break it: the appeal, beneath and behind the words of scripture, is to an otherwise known quality in the character of God and therefore of his relations with men. If the prediction that Jesus would rise in three days, or after three days (Mk viii. 31 and pars., ix. 31 and pars.), were based on , here again would be a Hos. vi. 2 seemingly forced reading of scripture; but it is by no means clear that, even if these are genuinely dominical words, they were related by Jesus himself to Hos. vi. 2 in precisely this way (see below, p. 85). And the strained application of the tale of Jonah to the resurrection is attested only in the Matthean version of that saying (Matt. xii. 40), and is far from secure as a genuine logion of Jesus. Apart from these few, practically all the uses of direct quotation from scripture attributed to Jesus himself in the synoptic tradition – we are not thinking now of the application of scriptural figures to his mission – are the straightforward moral or religious ones which depend upon no straining or subtle word-play or allegorizing, and which anyone today would recognize as valid: worship and love of God; love of neighbour; the ideal of life-long wedlock; and the design of God through the obedience of his people as against worldly scheming and materialistic values (see Matt. iv. 10 and par., Mk xii. 30 f. and pars., Mk x. 2 ff. and par., Matt. iv. 4 and par., and passim).
In the Johannine tradition there is one argument from scripture on the lips of Jesus that seems unacceptable to the modern reader, namely that in Jn x. 34, where the obscure words from Ps. Ixxxii, 'I said: You are gods', assumed to be addressed by God to men, or, at most, to lesser gods or 'angels', [See J. A. Emerton,' Some New Testament Notes', J.T.S.,n.s.,xi (1960),] are appealed to in defence of Jesus' own claims. Men (or other beings) to whom God's word came – so runs the argument – were called gods; how much more may he be called God's Son who is expressly sanctified and sent into the world by the Father! It is very probable that the whole dialogue reflects the Christian Church's conflict with the Synagogue rather than the original words of Jesus – especially in view of the literalist phrase, ' Scripture cannot be set aside', so unlike anything that we can gather about Christ's attitude to authority. Incidentally, it has been argued (see p. 41, n. 1, above) that even the Matthean form of the 'great commandment' itself shows a rabbinical tendency to deduce morals from scripture ('on these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets', Matt. xxii. 40), over against the Marcan form (Mk xii. 31) which seems to set the basic law of religion – love of God and neighbour – above any other commands, whether scriptural or not. If so, here, too, may be traced the echoes of later Christian misunderstanding and adaptation of the Lord's words to more literalist ways of thought. But none of this is absolutely demonstrable; and if the arguments in Jn x and Matt, are sound traditions, we are driven to accepting that Jesus himself, on occasion, used, ad hominem, the verbal casuistry of rabbinic techniques. Elsewhere in the Fourth Gospel (vii. 23) we find him using the a fortiori method of deducing the greater from the less: if circumcision is permitted on the Sabbath to avoid breaking the Law, how much more the restoration of health to an entire man! But in general the Jesus of the Fourth Gospel uses scripture in an allusive, poetic, evocative way – Jacob's ladder (?), the brazen serpent, the manna, the living streams of water (see Jn i. 51, iii. 14, vi. 49, vii. 38): it is the picture-writing, the symbols of scripture that he uses, almost as embryonic parables. Once in John he applies a scriptural phrase to current events in the pesher-manner: the allusion to the treachery of a close friend in Ps. xli is all too relevant (Jn xiii. 18).
It is only Luke who depicts Jesus after the resurrection as clinching the process of exposition by expounding in all the scriptures the things concerning himself (Lk. xxiv. 27, 44 ff.). And the phrase 'that the Messiah had to suffer' (Lk. xxiv. 46, Acts iii. 18, xxvi. 23) may be Luke's own summary.But, if so, it does express in a nutshell the whole emphasis of the ministry of Jesus – the suffering, the service, the vindication, the transmission of the achievement to others. When Luke represents Jesus at the last supper as saying 'all that is written of me is being fulfilled' (Lk. xxii. 37), he is at any rate pointing to a principle of interpretation compatible with the whole Christian understanding of scripture, and apparently rooted in Christ's own use. The use or non-use of Isa. liii will come up for further consideration later. What is important and original is that Jesus seems to have taken not so much individual proof-texts as the whole sweep of God's dealings with his People and of God's design for them, and interpreted his mission in the light of it.
(iii) The originality of Jesus' use of scripture is strikingly confirmed when we consider the early Christian use of scripture and its implications. It is true, as has already been pointed out, that the use of the Old Testament scriptures by the New Testament writers does include a considerable element of verbal play and literalism which are much less characteristic of the traditions about Jesus' own use. But the remarkable phenomenon is not that artificial uses persisted (or even were freshly coined) but that the dominant use was – as compared with its Jewish antecedents – a quite new and convincing one: and the best explanation for this is that it was derived from the Lord himself. This new use has been described as a use of scripture ' in the round', in contrast to its use – for instance by Philo – as a flat, two-dimensional area.As long as scripture is viewed primarily as an inspired device for yielding divine pronouncements, it is reasonable enough to go to any part of it indifferently with an equal expectation of extracting, from the words of whatever verses are chosen for interrogation, a hint or an oracle; and, if so, it is almost inevitable that techniques should be devised for ensuring that the words do yield up a message even when they are intractable and unpromising. As has already been said, such devices may be in the hands of authoritative exponents, heirs of a long tradition, like the rabbis; or, in another tradition or situation, they may be applied by an individual like Philo in his private studies and devotions. But this is not the distinctively New Testament use of scripture. Whatever New Testament specimens there may be of rabbinic and Philonian interpretations, these are not the most characteristic. What marks the New Testament use as new is precisely this treatment of scripture 'in the round', as a three-dimensional entity – indeed, one ought to say four-dimensional, for time is a very important factor. The most characteristic New Testament use of scripture is 'modern' in that it treats the Old Testament as a record of revelation – as a historical narrative of God's dealings with his people, to be listened to as a whole and learnt from as a continuous story. There is a world of difference between this and the use of scripture as a divining-medium.
And the reason why the Christians began thus to use scripture 'historically' (as we should say) was that they had actually found in Jesus of Nazareth the climax of the long story of God's dealings with his people. In Jesus par excellence was exhibited the age-long principle of God's way with men: it is the loyal, devoted minority in whom God's purposes are fulfilled. And chosen individuals – anointed king, anointed priest, prophet, and sage – these representative figures were, all through the history of God's people, the rallying-points summing up this principle of response to God in the teeth of a disloyal, self-seeking majority. Thus, while material wealth and worldly success might temporarily pass to the majority, it was along the course of disinterested loyalty that the pure stream of God's purpose had run. Now, it is precisely this principle that was not only epitomized but perfectly achieved in Jesus – Jesus, who, for all his vivid individuality, turned out also to be so far more than an individual; and it was inevitable, therefore, that the great biblical passages about the ideal people of God, as well as those about their ideal representatives, should begin to be drawn together round Jesus, as a magnet collects iron filings. It was not only Jesus' own use of scripture (though that was probably normative), but also his person, his character, and the mighty work of God in him that gave a new coherence to scripture and led to a new use of it. The result was a new grouping of the passages. A non-Christian Jewish rabbi, if asked about the scriptures relating to God's purposes for his people, would almost certainly not have offered exactly the same anthology as a Christian. For one thing, it would have been less comprehensive. Jewish expectation ran along different lines at different times and in different places. The messianic expectation was only one – and not always a prominent one – among many forms which it took. The anointed one, messiah, is a figure more appropriate to literal, political hopes of a Kingdom than to a period of indefinitely prolonged domination by an alien empire. Kingship – the Lord's anointed – is prominent enough in the Psalms of Solomon written about 60 BC; but by the time of Christ such hopes lingered mostly among the fanatic revolutionaries, whereas other forms of expectation filled less violent minds. One of these was the apocalyptic hope that, if only Israel were loyal, God would dramatically intervene; and a specially noble form of this hope was the other-wordly conviction that, though the loyal minority were extinguished in martyrdom, yet on the spiritual level this 'human figure' would be vindicated over the bestial oppressors. The anointed priest was another embodiment of hope. He had become a reality in the best days of the Maccabees. The most spiritual form of all might have been the creative and redemptive suffering of the anonymous martyr of Isa. liii, whose loyal death mysteriously converted and redeemed his very enemies; but the extent to which pre-Christian Jews exploited this is obscure.
But the new and exciting phenomenon is the convergence of all these figures upon Jesus; and that in him they became coherent was due to the fact that upon Jesus converged the whole history of Israel in the past, and from him deployed the whole future of the People of God. It was the coherent organizing of all this into a single inclusive personality that made a completely new thing of Old Testament exegesis.And although, as has been said, Jesus' own expositions no doubt set a precious example and began a lasting tradition, it was his living person even more than his remembered words that conditioned its course. To have lived responsively through the events of the ministry, death, and resurrection was to have gained a completely new angle of approach to scripture: or, to change the figure, it meant viewing the map of scripture for the first time as a genuinely three-dimensional relief map illuminated centrally by a brilliant light.
It was from this experience – though doubtless without a clearly articulated account of its implications for scripture – that the apostles and their companions first set out upon their witness, and their task of explanation. And this has brought us back to the point from which we began: the distinctiveness of the early Christian use of scripture is part of the conviction that, in Jesus, God had spoken directly to his people: that thus the voice of 'prophecy' – the immediate witness to the behest of God – had begun to sound again; that God had visited and redeemed his people and that a new understanding of his purposes had been vouchsafed. Therefore the Christians were no longer dependent upon rabbinic traditions for discerning the mind of God or upon the importuning of jots and tittles to yield up a message: they came to scripture from an already given experience, and had only to read in its main contours and its living story the confirmation that what they had experienced was not alien, though so new: it was the climax, the culmination, the 'Amen' to all God's purposes (2 Cor. i. 20).
As has been said already, they had intensely difficult questions to answer: it must have seemed a quite preposterous story that they had to vindicate – ' Christ nailed to the cross ... a stumbling-block to Jews and folly to Greeks' (1 Cor. i. 23). And it was inevitable, that, in the course of controversy, 'proof texts' should be invoked – in some cases, they had already been used by Jesus himself. But behind all such adventitious uses of scripture, the Christians had their solid, impregnable experience. Whatever this verse or that might mean (or be tortured into meaning) they now had the key to the whole purposes of God – to sum up all things in Christ (Eph. i. 10). When Luther affirmed this principle of scriptural interpretation, he was going back to the primitive Church.
With this behind us, we may go forward to see the various forms taken by the Christian argument from scripture – some, as we might judge today, retrograde, some over-ingenious, but all controlled by this new, overruling conviction: Christ the ultimate authority, the key to the scriptures.
We are, we must remember, pursuing the genesis of Christian writings. What, then, for a start, lies behind such a passage as Rom. ix-xi, St Paul's extended defence of the Christian Gospel in the face of its rejection by the bulk of Judaism? Here we are immediately reminded of a persistent argument against Christianity. If the Gospel is really God's word, how comes it, its antagonists were continually asking, that God's own Israel have rejected it? According to the traditions, Jesus himself met the problem of unresponsiveness by the recognition that, as a matter of fact, this always had been the pattern in Israel. Was not the prophet warned that his message would be rejected? (Isa. vi); was it not the expert builders who rejected the most vital stone? (Ps. cxviii); is there not a famous passage about a stone that would cause downfall in Israel? (Isa. viii). And equally, the scriptural conviction of God's ineluctable purposes affirmed their ultimate vindication: the vital corner-stone did, in the end, come into its true position; the stone for stumbling over turned out, after all, to be a sure foundation (Isa. xxviii); the stone hewn by no human hands eventually came to shatter the fragile empires of the godless (Dan. ii); the despised and rejected human figure was vindicated (Dan. vii). And it was along these lines that debate developed in the apostolic age. Its results, pro and con, are expressed in almost lyrical terms, in 1 Cor. i. 22-25:
Jews call for miracles, Greeks look for wisdom; but we proclaim Christ – yes, Christ nailed to the cross; and though this is a stumbling-block to Jews and folly to Greeks, yet to those who have heard his call, Jews and Greeks alike, he is the power of God and the wisdom of God. Divine folly is wiser than the wisdom of man, and divine weakness stronger than man's strength.
Peter is shown in Acts iv. 11 appealing to the corner-stone saying:
This Jesus is the stone rejected by the builders which has become the key-stone – and you are the builders.
At the end of the Acts Paul's last word to the unconvinced Jews as they leave the long debate is to quote the passage from Isa. vi (Acts xxviii. 25-28):
How well the Holy Spirit spoke to your fathers through the prophet Isaiah when he said,' Go to this people and say: You will hear and hear, but never understand; you will look and look, but never see. For this people has grown gross at heart; their ears are dull, and their eyes are closed. Otherwise, their eyes might see, their ears hear, and their heart understand, and then they might turn again, and I would heal them.' Therefore take notice that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles: the Gentiles will listen.
But sooner or later the thoughtful Christian disputant is bound to attempt to piece together these fragments of defence. If Israel was all along 'meant' to be unresponsive, then what of its future? If the Gentiles are now invited in, has God's election passed to them? And, if so, what of the constancy of God's promises? A major problem of 'theodicy' has developed; every Christian missionary is confronted by it in some form or another; but no one meets it in such an acute form, or is so well equipped to wrestle with it, as Paul, the rabbinically trained disputer with the Jews on behalf of the Gentiles. And we are fortunate to have, in Rom. ix-xi, the deposit of his conflicts. Gal. iii. 7-iv. 31 is an earlier specimen. The correlative to the testimonia for the obduracy of Israel is in the scriptures about God's welcome to the Gentiles. There is little evidence that Jesus appealed much to this during his ministry. Matt. viii. 11, 'many shall come from the east and west ...' may be a reminiscence of Isaianic phrases; but, in the main, a case can be madefor a deliberate reserve in this respect, and an application of the 'Gentile' scriptures rather to the post-resurrection situation. Acts xv. 16 f. affords one example; but it is Paul, especially in Rom. ix-xi and xv, who provides them in profusion.
But not all were travelling evangelists or skilled disputants. What of the humble Christians whose circumstances brought them into constant touch with non-Christian Jews – the Jewish Christians still living within the ghetto, or the Gentile Christians just outside it? It looks as though St Matthew's Gospel may represent the end-term of a long process of evolving catechetical instruction designed for just such circumstances. It is possible that the Evangelist himself was not a Jew.But in any case, it seems designed as an apologia, to be used by Christians in reply to curious or critical Jews. And its burden is that Jesus of Nazareth can be shown to have fulfilled the scriptural pattern, that he did not undermine the righteousness of Judaism, but, on the contrary, enhanced and completed it, and that to belong to Christ is truly to belong to Israel. And if members of Israel rejected him, so did their forefathers reject the prophets: true Israel has always been a remnant within the larger, degenerate mass. Nowhere in the New Testament is so extreme an acceptance of rabbinic Judaism enunciated as in Matt. v. 18, 19:
I tell you this: so long as heaven and earth endure, not a letter, not a stroke, will disappear from the Law until all that must happen has happened. If any man therefore sets aside even the least of the Law's demands, and teaches others to do the same, he will have the lowest place in the kingdom of Heaven, whereas anyone who keeps the Law and teaches others so will stand high in the kingdom of Heaven.
It is perhaps (see further pp. 88, 90 f. below) intended to show that Christ had no intention to lower the highest standards of Israel but rather to heighten them:
I tell you, unless you show yourselves far better men than the Pharisees and the doctors of the law, you can never enter the kingdom of Heaven (v. 20).
Yet nowhere is a self-regarding 'priggish' righteousness more ruthlessly exposed than in Matt, xxiii – the great onslaught on the doctors of the law and the Pharisees. These two factors well suit a Christian 'ghetto' within or near the Jewish ghetto. And it is hardly surprising to find here also, in addition to the uses of scripture which have been described as characteristic of Christianity, other uses which can only be described as artificial, forced, and literalistic. A plausible case has been made for the interpretation of Matthew as the result of a 'school' of exegesis.It is quite conceivable (though it cannot be demonstrated) that the better educated Christians, in such circumstances as have been described, should get together as a study-group to see whether they could not, for the benefit of themselves and of less well-educated members of the community, draw up a reply to their critics in their own language and with their own techniques. And if indeed the writer of this Gospel, or (if he was not himself a Jew) one among his circle, was a trained rabbinic scribe who had become a disciple in the Kingdom of Heaven (xiii. 52) – a converted scribe – here is at least a partial explanation of the phenomena. The only problem is to explain the inclusion, here and there, of mistakes about Judaism. Perhaps, even if the writer was himself not a Gentile but a converted scribe, there were, in this scribe's group, at least some who did not know their way about Judaism as well as he did. A large number of Christian converts were from among the σεβόμενοι, the Gentiles who reverenced the God of Judaism. It is far from unlikely that these had a hand in the compiling and using of such a document. Or may it be, instead, that the final editor was not a rabbinic but a' secular' scribe (exactly as Matthew himself, if a tax-collector, would have been)?
If much that went to the compilation of Matt, is correctly placed in the context of strenuous conflict between Church and synagogue, the same may well be true of St John's Gospel. But its use of the Old Testament is less direct, and its consideration therefore scarcely belongs here. Returning to indications of public debate in the Acts, we are reminded that, besides the debates of Peter and of Paul, a vivid description of a different type of Jewish-Christian apologetic is offered in the account of Stephen in Acts vi, vii. Here is a man, who, like Jesus himself, is accused of a traitorous attack upon the very heart of Judaism – Moses and the Temple. His defence is of an arresting character. Instead of replying directly, he simply begins to recount the familiar story of the origins of Israel, from Abraham onwards. But he does it in such a way as to indicate that every advance involved the rejection of the traditional and the static; and that at every point the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of advance, of movement, of the refusal to be static; so that the heroes of Israel are all people of gigantic faith, exchanging the known for the unknown, abandoning the security of the familiar in blind obedience to the call of God. Abraham, Joseph, Moses – these are the three mighty men who laid the foundations of Israel by coming out, or going away, and by serving God in the dangerous and the unfamiliar. Accordingly, it is the portable tabernacle rather than the solid Temple that Stephen chooses as his symbol for the true worship of God; and it is Moses, foretelling a future Prophet, and David, debarred from building a static Temple, who are his pointers forward.
In other words, here is a lively defence of the Christian position by carrying the attack behind the enemy's lines: read your scriptures, Stephen is saying in effect, and you will find that it is the scriptures themselves that tell you to look beyond Moses and beyond the Temple (cf. Jn v. 39). Stephen was in all probability a 'Hellenist' (Acts vi. 1 ff.) – that is, a Jew who read his scriptures in Greek translation and who could not or did not speak Semitic languages; and he probably belonged to a synagogue of similar traditions (Acts vi. 9, cf. xi. 19 f.); and it seems entirely possible (although this is only a guess) that his successful disputing and his courageous death may have led to the conversion to Christianity of a group of like-minded Hellenistic Jews from this synagogue. May it not, then, be precisely such a group who are addressed by one of their number in the Epistle to the Hebrews? Its main argument runs in part along the very same lines as Stephen's – that true Judaism lies in advancing forward to Christ, not in retreating back to an entrenched position; that the tabernacle is the sketch (or rather copy!) – not of the Solomonic or any other material Temple, but of the true sanctuary in heaven; and that Moses is the pattern of that greater Moses who was to come. It is certainly not impossible, in view of this, that the apparent allusion in Heb. xiii. 7 to martyr-leaders may include Stephen himself.At any rate, this epistle affords us a fascinating example of the end-product, the written form, of precisely the kind of debate which is represented as in progress in the trial of Stephen; and it bears witness to yet another 'school' of interpretation, besides what may be postulated behind Matthew. Here is the carefully – indeed brilliantly – constructed apologia of an educated, Alexandrine-type Jewish Christian. He is concerned to help his friends to meet the extreme temptation to relapse back into Judaism, perhaps under nationalist pressure; and he is using all his (or perhaps their joint) resources of scriptural exegesis to show the finality of Christ and his absolute superiority over Moses and all Jewish approximations. In Num. xii. 8 Moses is described in superlative terms, as the only one with whom God spoke mouth to mouth. It looks uncommonly as though Heb. iii. i ff., with its quotations from this very context, reflects conflict with the proof-text mind of a Jewish opponent, who had been saying 'Your claims for Jesus, even if they are soundly established, place him at best no higher than Moses'. Such an argument is reminiscent of the artificial proof-text method alluded to by a modern writer who says that in face of the Christian doctrine of the virgin birth a Muslim will sometimes appeal to Melchizedek's mysterious origin, and urge therefore that Jesus was no better than Melchizedek – thus taking a subsequent leaf out of this epistle's very argument and reversing it! At any rate, it is a familiar fact that this writer does indulge in a good deal of the 'Alexandrine' type of exegesis – depending on words and hints to make his points. Perhaps the most perplexing of all these to the modern reader is the astonishing application to Christ in Heb. i. 10-12 of a Psalm (cii) which seems manifestly to be addressed to God almighty as Creator, and which (one would think) could therefore have no cogency whatever as a scriptural proof about the status of Christ.
It is one thing to read Ps. cx as an address by David to his Lord the Messiah (Mk xii. 36, etc.); it is surely quite another to lift a passage addressed by a worshipper to God and to use it without more ado as evidence for the qualities of the Christ. Even when Paul (or a Christian hymnwright quoted by Paul?) takes Yahweh the Creator's description of himself in Isa. xlv (that every knee shall bow to him, and every tongue swear by him) and applies it to Christ in Phil. ii. 10 f., he is still not using it as a proof that these are the attributes of Christ: he is (on other grounds) affirming these divine attributes and borrowing ready-made phrases to describe them. But here in Heb. i. 10 ff., apparently in the course of an argument from scripture intended to strengthen the Christian convictions of readers who know Judaism from the inside, and to arm them with arguments against non-Christian Jews, is the application to Christ of words which a Jew, one might have assumed, would simply claim to be irrelevant to Christ:
By thee, Lord, were earth's foundations laid of old,
And the heavens are the work of thy hands.
They shall pass away, but thou endurest;
Like clothes they shall all grow old;
Thou shalt fold them up like a cloak;
Yes, they shall be changed like any garment.
But thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end.
Most commentators follow the lines of B. F. Westcott (in loc.): ' The application to the Incarnate Son of words addressed to Jehovah ... rests on the essential conception of the relation of Jehovah to His people. The Covenant leads up to the Incarnation. And historically it was through the identification of the coming of Christ with the coming of "the LORD" that the Apostles were led to the perception of His true Divinity.' That may be: but it goes no way towards explaining how in an argument from scripture for the divinity of Christ a passage which an opponent would presumably have assumed to belong not to Messiah but to Godcould be used as proof of qualities claimed by the Christian apologist to belong to Christ. Whatever the obscurities of the quotation from Ps. xlv, which in Heb. i. 8 f. precede this one, it at least does not present this problem, for it is demonstrably intended as an address by God to some man (even if he be a God-man). It is in this respect comparable to Ps. lxxxii ('I said: You are gods') used, as has already been noted (p. 66, above) in Jn x. 34. B. W. Bacon seems to be the only scholar who has attempted a thoroughgoing explanation. He maintains that Ps. cii (LXX ci) in the LXX version (whose variants can here be explained as misreadings or misinterpretations of the Hebrew), had already turned these verses into an address by Yahweh to his Messiah. They thus become Yahweh's reply to the Messiah's complaint; they admonish him not to be impatient, for God's planned delay is only half completed; the Messiah must be patient, for in due course he will be vindicated and shown his own eternity. In the course of this exalted reply the Messiah is understandably addressed by the Lord himself as 'Lord', κύριε (although, if the argument of Mk xii. 37 from Ps. cx were pressed, it would mean that a greater than God was being addressed!). Now, admittedly, there is much here that is speculative and seems far fetched. But it is perhaps the only intelligible explanation of the use – here, in what is manifestly an apologetic sequence – of such a passage. If Greek-speaking non-Christian Jews did already recognize Ps. cii (LXX ci) 24b-29 as God's answer to his Messiah's appeal, then it does become a strong argument in the hands of the Christian apologist who is trying to demonstrate the superiority of Christ over all other intermediaries. He may then justly say, See in what supernal, divine terms God himself addresses Christ!
One other passage, Heb. ii. 13, presents a comparable problem. The quotation in the preceding verse from Ps. xxii is not too difficult to understand, for the Psalmist may without too much strain be assumed to have been, in the eyes of the ancient reader, 'Messianic':
... he says, 'I will proclaim thy name to my brothers; in full assembly I will sing thy praise';
But why should words from Isa. viii,
... and again,' I will keep my trust fixed on him'; and again,' Here am I, and the children whom God has given me",
be tacitly assumed to be spoken by 'Christ'? The answer may possibly be, once more, that the Greek Bible had already, in pre-Christian days, made them Messianic. For 'the Greek text of Isaiah viii has the words καὶ ἐπεῑ ("and he will say") inserted before verse 17, which give the impression that another speaker than the prophet is introduced':'and he will say: "I will wait for God. ... Behold, I and the children. ...'" If this is the right explanation, here are two non-Christian Messianic intrusions into the Greek Bible, requisitioned by our writer for his Christian purposes.
These passages and the Moses-passage in Heb. iii have been singled out for special mention here as pointers (which have not always received so much attention as other citations) to the situation behind this epistle. Taken with all the other uses which are made of the Old Testament in the course of its argument, on which the commentaries have plenty to say, they point to a body of readers used to subtle exegesis of the Greek Bible, and they make it plausible to postulate for Hebrews, as K. Stendahl has postulated for Matthew, a 'school' of Christian apologetic: a systematic re-examination and re-application of the Greek scriptures by educated Christians in debate with scripture-searching non-Christians.And if one of them – their leader – is writing to the rest (cf. xiii. 19), it is natural that he should go over again the ground that they had traversed in their joint studies, reiterating, reapplying, and working them into an ordered whole. It is true that he addresses them throughout as though their leader and father in God; and that once (v. 11 ff.) he complains that they are sluggish in understanding and are still children when they ought to be mature enough to teach others. But that still does not make it impossible to postulate previous concerted study under his leadership.
Of all the scriptures that Christians of the present day might have expected to be prominent in early Christian apologetic, Isa. liii is the chief: but in fact it is curiously seldom used in the New Testament. It would appear to combine, as has already been observed, the finest conception of the vindication of the martyr (herein comparable to the vindicated human figure of Dan. vii) with the even finer conception of the redemptive power of the martyr's death, even for his tormentors and oppressors. And, a priori, one would have expected that Isa. liii would have been prominent both in Jesus' own interpretation of his mission and ministry and in early Christian evangelism and apologetic.
But in fact the only definite quotation from Isa. liii on the lips of Jesus in the Gospels is the allusion, peculiar to Luke, to his 'being reckoned among the lawless' (Lk. xxii. 37) – not a redemptive allusion. Whatever other allusions we may detect in the words of Jesus are in phrases not demonstrably dependent on the words of Isa.: Mk x. 45 and the words of Institution.And even the New Testament writers themselves make startlingly little use of the Servant Songs. Outside the New Testament, but within the first century, 1 Clement xvi cites Isa. liii at length, though even then, it is related only to Christ's example of humility; and Barnabas v. 2 cites the 'redemptive' passage. But within the New Testament, how little it is used! Matthew applies Isa. liii. 4 to Jesus' ministry of healing (viii. 17); Acts iii. 13 probably uses παῑς in this sense (Acts iv less probably: see p. 21, above); Philip the evangelist applies Isa. liii. 7 f. (about the humble submission to injustice) to Jesus according to Acts viii. 32 f.; Acts xiii. 47 applies another Servant Song (Isa. xlix. 6) to the apostles; 1 Pet. ii. 24 has a definite application to the death of Christ of the redemptive words (the solitary instance in the New Testament). But in Paul's writings, where one would expect much,there is little. Unless Phil, ii contains allusions to the Hebrew text of Isa. liii (and this, though certainly possible and even probable, is not demonstrable), the only other allusions are in Rom. iv. 25 and x. 16. The former is a definitely redemptive allusion (but how fleeting!); the latter is a citation of Isa. liii. 1 in the interests of showing that Israel's obduracy was all along recognized by scripture as something to be expected and reckoned with.
Thus, a passage of scripture that might have been expected to contribute signally to the formation and shaping of Christian apologetic is singularly rare. One can only surmise that it had somehow been vitiated for this purpose – that it had already been spoilt or blunted as an argument directed to the Jews, by some circumstances no longer clearly discernible to us. Jeremias has argued that Isa. liii had in pre-Christian times been applied by some to the Messiah (or to God's chosen Deliverer in some form), and that it was because the Jews realized too clearly its applicability to Jesus that they reacted against this and began to impose on the passage a quite different interpretation. Later rabbinical interpretations show how the suffering had, by then at least, been applied to the Jews' enemies, and only the exaltation and glory to their own nation or its representative.If such interpretations began to be used very early in the Christian period, it is possible to imagine why Christian apologists seldom appealed much to Isa. liii: they knew in advance how their exegesis of it would be countered by their opponents. But this would still go only a little way towards explaining why the traditions about the words of Jesus himself show so little direct trace of its use by him; for the contents of these traditions are at other points by no means wholly conditioned by what the Church seems to have found useful or interesting for itself; and if Jesus had often quoted Isa. liii, one would expect that, even after it had been largely abandoned by Christian apologetic, it would still survive among his words. Jesus' life, death, and resurrection were clearly recognized by the Church (and, the evidence seems to suggest, by himself also) as redemptive: this is the Gospel of Paul, of Peter, of the Epistle to the Hebrews, and of the Johannine writings, even if one leaves out of account the Synoptists and Acts. Yet the only clearly redemptive-suffering passage in the Jewish scriptures is only sparingly used. Here is a phenomenon that still awaits explanation.
Enough, however, has perhaps been said to indicate, by a few selected examples, how the scriptures entered into early Christian apologetic, until sooner or later whole tracts, such as Rom. ix-xi and the Epistle to the Hebrews and Matthew were the result.
Outside and beyond the New Testament one finds other extended examples, such as the Epistle of Barnabas, Cyprian's work on testimonies, and Justin's Dialogue with Trypho. Comparison of these with the New Testament serves to throw into sharp relief the prevailing sanity and reserve of the New Testament.
But the mention of Cyprian is a reminder that it is relevant to our enquiry to ask whether we are to imagine the Christians of the New Testament period already, like Cyprian and Melito before him (Euseb. H.E. iv. 26), using 'testimony books' – anthologies of such Old Testament passages as were regarded as significant for Christians. J. Rendel Harris answered in the affirmative.Working back from Cyprian's treatise on the Testimonies (c. AD 249), and observing such phenomena as the juxtaposition of the 'stone-passages' from Isa. viii and xxviii in Rom. ix and i Pet. ii, he suggested that the evidence pointed to the very early use of such testimony-books. More recently C. H. Dodd, followed by J. W. Doeve and others, has argued that the New Testament data may be satisfied by postulating simply that, without necessarily using written anthologies at all, the Christians learnt to use whole sections of scripture in the light of the events they had experienced, and that these sections thus came to be associated together in their minds and on their lips. It is difficult, even so, to see, prima facie, any reason why written collections should not also have been in circulation, and M. D. Hooker, Jesus and the Servant (1959), 21 ff., has questioned whether Dodd's claims can be upheld, at any rate, in the case of the Servant Songs.
If written testimony-collections were used, we are confronted once again with the long-debated suggestion that the Hebrew logia attributed by Papias to Matthew (Euseb. H.E. iii. 39. 16) were Old Testament testimonia. On the whole, however – even if we allow the probability that testimony-books circulated in early days – the likelihood is that Papias meant by logia sayings of Jesus, and that what he is describing is something like what critical scholarship has labelled 'Q' – a collection, or a group of collections, of sayings of Jesus, drawn upon in the compilation of the Gospels according to Matthew and Luke.That such a sayings-collection should have been associated with Matthew the apostle is not a priori unlikely. At any rate, whatever answers are given to the questions whether there were testimony-books and whether the logia were Old Testament testimonies or sayings of Jesus, the important fact remains that early Christian writings took shape under the influence of Christian interpretation and application of Jewish scriptures. When it is claimed that whole sections in the Gospels were spun out of Old Testament material, this is far out-running the evidence. In the main, the evidence points to the Gospel events as the controlling and decisive factor, to which the Old Testament material is almost always subordinate. Here and there an Old Testament passage may have contributed some circumstantial detail in the recounting of a tradition about Jesus – the two beasts in Matthew's triumphal entry (Matt. xxi. 2, 5) provide a standard instance. Similarly, A. Guilding attributes the name Malchus in Jn xviii. 10 to the Old Testament lection which her theory finds behind this passage. But it is questionable whether any story of Jesus in the New Testament has been generated, from start to finish, by nothing but an Old Testament passage.
On the contrary, the fact is rather that the choice of Old Testament passages is determined by the Christian events and their interpretation dictated by Christian tradition. Indeed, it is plausibly suggested (by Fr Barnabas Lindars) that it was (for instance) the literal fulfilment of what he believes may have been Christ's own prediction that he would rise again 'on the third day" that the Christians first fastened upon; and that it was only secondarily that they attached it to Hos. vi. 2, although it may have been from here that Jesus himself drew the phrase (using it idiomatically to mean 'very soon').
The Christians thus found themselves pushed by the pressure of events into a new way of selecting, relating, grouping, and interpreting what we call 'Old Testament' passages;