How did our Lord view the written oracles of God? How did He use God’s word while He lived among men for a third of a century? Since Jesus is our example (1 Pet. 2:21), we should allow His approach to Scripture to influence our approach.
Jesus recognized the true Old Testament canon. The word canon refers to a measuring rod; those books that are considered canonical are those which “measure up” to the characteristics of inspired writing. Our English Old Testaments today are comprised of 39 books. While several other books were circulated among the Jews, most frequently referred to as today as “the Apocrypha,” Jesus only recognized the material that comprises our 39 books as part of the canon. In Matthew 23:35, He said, in essence, from the beginning to end of the Old Testament, all the blood of the righteous would be required of that generation; thus, he delineated the ends of the Old Testament referring to Abel, the first martyr recorded in Genesis, to Zechariah son of Barachias, the last martyr mentioned in 2 Chronicles (the last book in the Jewish order of the Old Testament).
Jesus viewed the Old Testament as inspired and historically accurate. Instead of considering the first eleven chapters of Genesis as a fable, or reinterpreting the creation account in order to fit billions of years between creation and the coming of man, Jesus spoke of Adam and Eve in Mark 10:6 saying, “from the beginning of creation God made them male and female.” He considered the devil to be real, referring to him as “murderer from the beginning” and a “liar” (Jn. 8:44). The account of the days of Noah in Genesis 6 was a reality that he likened to the time when He would come (Lk. 17:26-27). Abraham (Jn. 8:56), Isaac and Jacob (Mt. 8:11) were historical figures in His mind. The demise of Lot’s wife, while laughed at by some today, was considered a real story with a sobering lesson by our Lord (Luke 17:32); moreover, that the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed was an historical fact that Jesus used to show the reality of God’s final judgment (Matthew 10:15). Jesus believed that God really spoke to Moses through a burning bush (Mk. 12:26), that Moses made the bronze serpent and lifted it up for Israel to be cured (Jn. 3:14), and that Moses received God’s commands and wrote the law (Mt. 8:4; Mk. 10:3;Lk. 24:44; Jn. 5:46; et. al.); should we not believe the same?
Christ not only believed in the inspiration of the law, but the other portions of the Old Testament as well. Jesus used David’s actions recorded in 1 Samuel 21 as inspired proof in His argument with the Pharisees over the Sabbath (Mt. 12:4). On another occasion, He quoted David’s words from Psalm 110, saying “David himself said by the Holy Ghost” (Mk. 12:36); thus, Jesus believed David was inspired. Jesus often referred to the prophets as part of God’s inspired word (Mt. 5:17; 7:12; 11:13; 22:40). He recognized God’s prophets of the Old Testament were persecuted because they spoke the truth (Mt. 5:12; 23:34) while the false prophets were lauded (Lk. 6:26). Jesus even considered the preaching of Jonah and his sojourn in the belly of a great fish to be just as historically accurate as His own death and resurrection; He even placed it aside the historical account of the Queen of Sheba visiting Solomon (Mt. 12:39-42). While legendary materials can be used as illustrations, it is hard to interpret Jesus’ use of Jonah as anything other than the use of historical material to make His point.
On and on we could go. Suffice it to say that those portions of the Old Testament that have been questioned or dismissed by some today as mythical or composed by uninspired men, Jesus considers historical and inspired. Jesus is the truth (Jn. 14:6), and we should side with Him.