Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Stringing Pearls

I'm reading an excellent book called Sitting At The Feet of Rabbi Jesus for one of my classes. Click on the title to be taken to Amazon to see the book. I'm just a few chapters in but thought I would share some fascinating stuff about how rabbis in the first century often taught their students. It really sheds light on why we often miss the full meaning of a passage or statement because we are so far removed from the world of first century Jews. But we should not despair because the fact that we are far removed from that culture does not mean we can't uncover truth that they knew. The authors of this book mention something called "stringing pearls", and much of what I'm going to say is coming from chapter 3 of their book.

"Stringing Pearls" is a phrase used to describe the method many Bible teachers used to get their point across to their students and increase the students' knowledge of the Bible. The teacher would use parts of verses but intentionally leave off the other part, forcing the student to go back and look at the verse to see what was meant by the statement. Or, they would string together parts of several verses to get one major point across. Jesus seems to have incorporated this method of teaching often. It doesn't mean he was struggling to come up with the words or forgetting the ending of well known verse - he was actually so aware of the Scriptures that he would use parts of verses to make a whole point.

Going one step further, it seems that even God the Father was a fan of this method of using the Bible as well. The example given in the book is the one I want to make you aware of because it takes us way beyond the simple statement. In Mark 1:11, God the Father speaks the well known words "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased." I'd always taken that at face value - and even if that's all we ever did it would be quite the explanation of who Jesus is. But the Jews who heard this mysterious voice from Heaven, who were accustomed to their teachers "stringing pearls" together, almost undoubtedly put the three phrases together from three important sections of the Bible. Check it out:

"You are my Son" is from Psalm 2:7 - "He said t me, 'You are my son, today I have become your father"

"whom I love" is from Gen. 22:2 when God commanded Moses to take his only son, whom he loved, and offer him as a sacrifice.

"with you I am well pleased" is from Isaiah 42:1 which everyone believed was a Messianic Prophecy, meaning a statement from God that would have future fulfillment in the Messiah (Jesus).

God, by stringing pearls together from the three major sections of Scripture - Torah, prophets, writings - was declaring that THIS man, Jesus, was the Christ - the long awaited Messiah. Not only that, he hinted at the sacrifice Jesus would become by referencing the story from Gen. 22. And not only that, but by using Isaiah 42:1 he decisively told the people that Jesus is the divine and holy one who they were waiting for. As the authors say, "By quoting all three (sections of the Old Testament), he is proclaiming that the entire Scriptures point to Jesus as their fulfillment" (p. 45).

This whole concept was news to me and I'm excited to dig in some more to see what else I can learn about the Jewish culture that will help open up the Bible in greater ways to me. You really should pick up a copy of this book!

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