Author: Ron Graham
Comparing Scripture with Scripture
—Four examples from John
Arguably, the most fundamental principle of interpreting scripture is that what the Bible says in one place agrees with what it says elsewhere. To understand any religious topic correctly, we must look at it under all the light the Bible shines on it.
In this lesson we look at three instructive examples of a failure to compare scripture with scripture. These examples are recorded by John. They occurred during the ministry of Jesus.
1 Servant or King?
Some of the people said about Jesus, "Truly this is the Prophet". Others disagreed and claimed, "This is the Christ (Messiah)" Who was right?
The Old Testament does predict that a great prophet would come, and like all prophets he would be mistreated and suffer. On the other hand it tells of the Messiah to come and of his glory. It did not occur to people that the prophet and the Christ were the one person.
- A man whom God called "My Servant" was to suffer death and thereby make atonement for the people's sins as a priest (Isaiah 53 esp v10-12, cf Daniel 9:26).
- A man whom God called "The Branch" was to rule upon David's throne as a king (Jeremiah 33:15-18, cf Isaiah 9:6-7, Isaiah 11 esp v1,10-11).
- A man whom God called "My Servant the Branch" would be both priest and king (Zechariah 3:8, 6:12-13). In connection with this, prophecy said that although Christ would suffer death, he would be raised up (Psalms 16:9-11 cf Acts 2:22-36).
The people of Jesus's time could have understood that Jesus was filling both offices and fulfilling both prophecies.
2 Bethlehem or Galilee?
John 7:40-43 (again)
Some people raised the question, "Shall Christ come out of Galilee?" They quoted scripture that foretold that Christ would come from Bethlehem.
- The Christ was to come from Bethlehem (Micah 5:2).
- The Christ was to come from Galilee (Isaiah 9 esp v1-2,6-7).
- The Christ was to come from Egypt (Hosea 11:1).
The people could have understood that all three prophecies were true of Jesus. He was born in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:1), hidden temporarily in Egypt (Matthew 2:13) and then grew up in Galilee (Matthew 2:22, 4:13)
3 Sabbath Breaker or Doer of Good?
Some accused Jesus of being a sinner. They accused him of breaking the Sabbath. Others argued that the miracles he did proved he was no sinner.
- It was a sin to work on the Sabbath (Exodus 31:15).
- Yet priests were to work on the Sabbath, for example in preparing grain offerings and in performing animal sacrifices (Leviticus 24:5-8, Numbers 28:9-10).
- Any work more sacred than sacrifices would therefore also be above Sabbath law and exempt. God says, "I desire mercy rather than sacrifice" (Hosea 6:6). Jesus was merciful on that Sabbath.
The people could have understood how the nature of Christ's work fitted into the Sabbath law and resolved the conflict. We too will understand various issues if we compare all that the scripture says when studying or debating a matter.