Biblical Archeology

Discipleship Disciplines
During Jesus' ministry, prospective disciples of a rabbi they desired to study under committed to do four things. They would...
  • memorize his words,
  • adopt his interpretation of Scripture,
  • imitate what he did,
  • and commit to reproducing what they learned in the lives of new disciples.

This 1st-century pattern for making disciples tells us much about how and what Jesus taught His first disciples.

Jesus instructed Matthew, John, Peter, and His other disciples how to read and interpret the Hebrew Bible. What we read today in the New Testament reveals how Jesus taught the Hebrew Bible, known today as the Old Testament. Modern-day readers of the Bible have a cultural context that is two thousand years removed from the cultural context of the first Resurrection Day. Our cultural context often interferes with observing what the Bible says, what it means, and how we apply it. Don't feel bad. It was the same for Jesus' first disciples.

Teach and Reteach
Anything important is worth saying again. On Resurrection Day, Jesus appeared twice to begin systematically reteaching His disciples how to interpret and apply the Hebrew Bible.

En route to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-21), two of Jesus' followers had left Jerusalem in despair. Along the way, they met a stranger and expressed their sorrow about how the man they thought was the Messiah of Israel had been crucified. The stranger said, "O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?" Starting with Moses' writings and continuing through all of Israel's prophets, the stranger explained everything the Hebrew Bible said would happen to the Messiah when He came. Arriving at their home, the stranger joined them for the evening meal. As he broke the bread and gave thanks, the men's eyes were suddenly opened to His identity. "It's Jesus!" Suddenly, Jesus disappeared from their table.

The two men (Cleopas and an unidentified disciple) hurriedly returned to Jerusalem to tell their story to Jesus' disciples, who were in hiding. While telling their story, Jesus appeared in their midst, asking for something to eat. After not eating for three days, He must have been hungry! Finishing His meal, Jesus said, "These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses (Torah) and the Prophets (Nevi'im) and the Psalms (Ketuvim) must be fulfilled (Luke 24:44)."

In both Resurrection Day appearances and over the next 39 days, Jesus appeared to His followers and explained how His disciples would tell His story by using the Old Testament Scriptures as He had taught them.

Jesus Is Building His Church
Jesus is the heart of the Old Testament. Every word on every page concerns Him. The Old Testament is the foundation on which Jesus built His Church from the 1st to the 21st Century. Jesus repeatedly demonstrated that His interpretation of the Hebrew Bible was the only one that mattered. Once His first disciples understood that fact, they embraced Jesus' teaching about how they were to interpret and teach His Word to their disciples. They understood what He was calling them to do with the rest of their lives.

For some, Jesus' calling included writing the New Testament. Matthew and John provided first-person eyewitness accounts of Jesus' life and ministry. Mark's account is largely based on Peter's testimony. The Gospel of Luke is a compilation of eyewitness testimonies from among Jesus' first followers combined with what Paul had taught him. The Gospels and the Book of Acts reveal the specific interpretive model Jesus taught His followers.

An Illustration
While touring Israel, my groups participate in an underground archeological dig at Tel Maresha. Our amateur yet hardworking archeologists are thrilled to discover something recognizable. Occasionally, someone finds pottery that has remained unbroken after 2,200 years.

Participants in the dig carefully scoop dirt and debris into buckets that are hauled out of the underground cave they dig in. There, the contents are spilled onto a grate and sifted to find pieces of potsherds, bones, and more. The pieces are collected by the dig supervisor and tagged with information about where the samples were found. Not long ago, several young women identified what appeared to be a black stone. It didn't look like the rest of the material they were sifting. They asked the dig director, "Could this be something important?" He took the piece and soaked it in a chemical bath not far away. He returned ten minutes later to show them what they had found. A gold earring in the shape of Nike, the Greek god, was in the palm of his hand. Shocked, they shrieked, "Look what we found!"

Most of the pottery uncovered during the dig is small pieces. Archeological profiles, the base, handle, or rim of what was once a pot, plate, cup, lamp, or amphora (wine container), are also found. Archeological profiles are like the corners and edges of a jigsaw puzzle. They identify the shape and size of an object. The profiles are then matched with the smaller pieces of pottery of the same material, color, and thickness to reconstruct the object. Here is the point: digging through the dirt, an archeologist never knows how a seemingly useless stone or piece of pottery could be a discovery that changes everything.  

The Old Testament, which most Christians read today, differs from the Hebrew Bible that Jesus taught His disciples. The pieces are the same. But the organization are different. The different shapes of modern Bibles lead to incorrect conclusions about what one is reading. On Resurrection Day, Jesus affirmed the 1st-century structure of the Hebrew Bible, known to Jewish people as the Tenak, an anacronym for Torah, Nevi'im, and  Ketuvim). Their design structure of the Tenak led many to identify Jesus as the Messiah of the Jewish people 2,000 years ago. It is still doing it today. Just ask the people from One For Israel.

In the same way that our amateur archeologists learn how to identify and assemble 2,000-year-old pottery, they also discover how important small details are when attempting to study, practice, and teach the Bible when they return home. Observed independently, apart from their original context, the messianic prophecies of the Hebrew Bible have little meaning. However, when re-connected to the larger, more identifiable components, they produce a comprehensive and fleshed-out picture of Messiah Jesus during His first coming. They also point to the facts concerning His second coming.

You Can Do This!
One of the great joys of the believer's life is having the opportunity to share what they believe with those who do not know the Savior. The purpose of the writing of this blog is to encourage others in that endeavor. Nothing is more rewarding in this life (or in the next) than being used to lead someone to personal faith in Messiah Jesus and then to help them begin to grow strong. If discipled properly, they will eventually begin to do for others what you did for them! We can help you experience that for yourself!

If you would like to know more about Disciple Daily, please take the time to explore the rest of this website. If you have questions, ask them. We are here to serve you as you serve Jesus.

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