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Top 10 Myths about Bible Study: # 1 - Everything in the Bible Isn't About Jesus Dr. Michael Heiser

Updated: Aug 27, 2023

Video from Dr. Michael Heiser

Top 10 Myths about Bible Study

This series of videos on the bible is over 10 years old.

There is much to be learned from Dr. Heiser.

Although I have always been taught that the Bible is all about Jesus my take away from Dr. Heiser's position and the viewpoint in the article below is one of perspective.

It seems that Dr. Heiser is saying that not every jot and tittle pertains to Christ although the sum of the Bible is about Christ.

What do you think?

Everything in the Bible Isn’t about Jesus

"If you’ve been a Christian for very long or were raised in a Christian church, chances are that you’ve heard that the Bible is really all about Jesus. That cliché has some truth to it, but it’s misleading.

The truth is that there’s a lot in the Bible that isn’t about Jesus. Procedures for diagnosing and treating leprosy (Lev 13:1–14:57) aren’t about Jesus. Laws forbidding people who’ve had sex or lost blood (Lev 15) from entering sacred space aren’t about Jesus. The spiritual, social, and moral corruption in the days of the judges (Judg 17–21) wasn’t put in the Bible to tell us about Jesus. The Tower of Babel incident (Gen 11:1–9) doesn’t point to Jesus. When Ezra commanded Jews who’d returned from exile to divorce the gentile women they’d married (Ezra 9–10), he wasn’t foreshadowing anything about Jesus.

The point is straightforward: No Israelite would have thought of a messianic deliverer when reading these or many other passages. No New Testament writer alludes to them and many other portions of Scripture to explain who Jesus was or what he said.

Why is this idea so prevalent?

In my experience, the prevailing motivation seems to be to encourage people to read their Bible. That’s a good incentive. But I’ve also come across other factors, namely that it serves as an excuse to avoid the hard work of figuring out what’s really going on in many passages. People are taught to extrapolate what they read to some point of connection with the life and ministry of Jesus—no matter how foreign to Jesus the passage appears. Imagination isn’t a sound hermeneutic. Not only does it lack boundaries that prevent very flawed interpretations (and even heresies), but it makes Scripture serve our ability to be clever. Recognizing the inaccuracy of this assumption is important for some simple but important reasons.

First, if we filter passages that aren’t about Jesus through something Jesus did and said, we won’t have any hope of understanding what those passages were actually about. Nothing in Scripture is there accidentally. The Bible is an intelligent creation. Our task as those with a high view of Scripture is to discern why God wanted a given passage in the Bible in the first place.

Second, the assumption can lead to minimizing or ignoring passages in which we can’t clearly see Jesus. Since Jesus is central to God’s sovereign plan of salvation, passages that don’t add some detail about his teachings or the gospel story are considered peripheral or optional. Why bother spending serious time in a passage that “doesn’t matter” for having eternal life? Giving us the Bible as we have it was a providential, intentional decision on God’s part. We either believe that’s true and act accordingly (i.e., studying the whole counsel of God), or we’ll act as though God’s decision was random and unintelligent.

Third, becoming skilled at seeing Jesus in places where he isn’t can discourage others from Bible study or lead others under one’s spiritual charge to believe we have special (even authoritative) insight. When “Jesus stuff” isn’t obvious in a given passage and we’ve been taught that it’s somehow all about him, it’s easy to just give up and let pastors and others tell us what they “see.” People shut off their brains when they are led to believe they can’t think well about Scripture.

The bottom line is that we can talk about the inspiration and authority of the Bible all day long and still fall prey to marginalizing its content with familiar clichés that let us off the hook from doing the hard work of interpretation. While the drama of the biblical epic ultimately leads to Jesus, he isn’t the ultimate focal point of every passage. That’s homiletical flair, not the reality of the text." from the article: Everything in the Bible Isn’t about Jesus

A Response to Michael Heiser: Yes the Bible is All About Jesus

"Everything in the Bible isn’t about Jesus.” That’s the thesis of Michael Heiser’s piece at Logos Talk. As examples, he argues that the “procedures for diagnosing and treating leprosy” and the laws “forbidding people who’ve had sex or lost blood from entering sacred space” aren’t about Jesus.” He goes so far as to make the bold assertion that “No Israelite would have thought of a messianic deliverer when reading these or many other passages.” Heiser concludes his essay with his central concern that “While the drama of the biblical epic ultimately leads to Jesus, he isn’t the ultimate focal point of every passage.”

It appears to me that Heiser is particularly concerned about developing a hermeneutic that leaves the interpreter off the hook when it comes to studying the Bible or to make connections to Jesus that simply aren’t there.

I appreciate Heiser’s motivations but believe that his approach is misguided and ultimately can do greater damage to Bible interpreters everywhere. I would begin by stating that Heiser’s approach to the topic is fairly minimalistic. He asserts that unless the New Testament alludes to Old Testament presenting Jesus as the messianic deliver and fulfillment, therefore, Jesus must not be read into such ancient texts. This minimalistic approach actually discourages the reader and forces them to put boundaries in the text that do not exist. But the Holy Spirit is a creative God who moves and lives in the narratives of the Bible and who offers a rich array of harmonious themes throughout. Themes of marriage, war, sea, dry land, and creatures are already presented to us in the early chapters of the Bible to prepare us for all its luxurious repetitions throughout the rest of the Bible. Indeed the Word himself appears in the creation narrative which leads to the question: “How can the One in whom all things cohere not be found in some manner in the stories, laws, and descriptions of the Bible?”

Heiser seems to be looking for an explicit messianic formula. But nowhere does the Bible say that unless such a formula exists, Jesus cannot be seen or prophesied in the Old Testament. Rather, the pattern is more maximalist in nature. There is an inherent pattern in the text that enables the interpreter to connect various Bible passages and themes and to place Messiah Jesus at the center of it all.

The Apostle John makes this explicit when he chastises the religious leaders for not seeing Jesus in their Old Testament texts: “These are the very scriptures that point to me (bear witness about me).” The famous discourse in Luke 24 seals this case in a fairly comprehensive fashion:

He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”

Heiser’s point is invalid mainly because the Bible is inspired and Spirit-breathed to detail this inevitability of a Jesus-saturated text. It is somewhat shocking that Heiser, a man of great scholarship, would miss the rich symbolic world of the Bible; that instead of searching for more fruit in the Garden of the Bible, he would advocate limiting the harvest. It is true that interpreters may find details in the text that are not obvious or that may be clearly wrong, but time and further studies will make clear such misinterpretations.

I would also argue that the task of seeing Jesus in all of Scripture is a task that can only bear good fruit. Heiser sees this as a “desire to be clever.” But what does cleverness have to do with seeing Jesus in the sacred furniture or in lesser-known biblical stories? It seems to me that the reader is actually encouraged to adore Jesus more if he sees Jesus all throughout Judges. For instance, how can Heiser not connect the events of Judges with the clear antithesis established in Genesis 1:26? How can he not see the period of the Judges as an unfolding drama of the great war that began in the Garden and continues to the end of history? How can Heiser not see the theme of crushing in Judges when Ehud kills Eglon, a political head or when Jael crushes Sisera’s head with a tent peg or when Gideon destroys the four political heads Zebah, Zalmunna, Oreb, and Zeeb or when Abimelech’s head is crushed by a rock, again by a woman or when Samson destroys all five heads of the Philistine cities, by crushing them with rocks?a

It is also disconcerting that Heiser would use the procedures for diagnosing and treating leprosy as an example where Christ is not found. Has he ever considered that Jesus does precisely that when he inspects the temple? That Jesus is looking for uncleanness and that Jesus is the ultimate Judge who diagnoses the Temple and finds it worthy of destruction (Mat.23-24)?

Michael Heiser misses a tremendous opportunity to encourage readers to actually do the hard work of connecting the puzzle pieces. Rather, he chooses to see portions of the Bible not directly connected or interested to address the central Character who happens to be the Author and the Word made flesh; the One who harmonizes history because he is the very center of history.

Everything in the Bible is about Jesus and Jesus is everything." from the article: A Response to Michael Heiser: Yes the Bible is All About Jesus

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