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The Bible is not a simple compilation of disjointed stories. Everything is important to a particular end. What’s the focal point? Or should I ask, Who’s the focal point? From the first verse of Genesis to the last verse of Revelation, it’s about Jesus. Genesis 1:1 states, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth,” and Revelation 22:20-21 reads, “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming quickly.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.”
We learn from the New Testament that Jesus is the agent of creation:
For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together (Col. 1:16-17).
Michael Heiser offers what he believes is some clarification on the claim that Jesus can be found throughout the Old Testament in stories he claims do not necessarily point to Jesus. Uri Brito has kindly given me permission to publish his article “A Response to Michael Heiser: ‘Yes, the Bible is All About Jesus!” on the subject that originally appeared in Kuyperian Commentary.
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 deliverer 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? (See James B. Jordan’s Judges: God’s War Against Humanism.)
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 (John 2:13-25; Matt. 21:12-17; 24:1-3)?
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.