I was reading Acts chapter 1 today and in verse 16 peter talks of a prophecy by David in the psalms about Jesus being betrayed by Judas. it is cross referenced in my bible to Ps. 41:9, so I went there and read a bit about David talking about being betrayed which is also apparently a reference to a historic event in the life of David.
I find it interesting how Peter pulled out certain scriptures to be prophecies about the life of Christ that don’t straightforwardly seem to be speaking about Christ’s life. This got me thinking about what scriptures the Jews felt were messianic in nature and how they had compiled this list. Many of the Jewish leaders were looking for a Messiah who would establish an earthly kingdom and route the Roman invaders.
If my memory serves me correctly there was a sect that was political/religious about this very fact. I can see how this may have caused certain Jews to reject Jesus as the messiah because of him not fitting their views and their reluctance to change their mindsets.
I guess my question comes from the desire for more information about the scriptures that the Jews believed to be messianic and their interpretation of them and subsequently Peter’s declarations about David’s Psalm.
It’s fairly well known that in Jesus’ day there were two main theories about what the Messiah would be like. Some scriptures prophesied a Coming King, others a Suffering Servant. (Isa 9 6, 7 & Isa 53 10, 11 are well known examples.)
Because Israel was then under Roman rule, most groups found it easy to ignore the “Suffering Servant” theology and were hoping for an earthly king/saviour who would lead an army against the Romans and restore independent rule for Israel.
There seems to have been much diversity in the detail though, some expecting a religious “High-Priest” figure, some a military leader, some a divine or angelic being.
[There is a very full evaluation of the different Jewish expectations at http://www.christian-thinktank.com Sorry to post a link, but it’d take me weeks to come up with the same level of detail as this.]
But the disciples of Jesus, with the hindsight of knowing his life, found large numbers of accurate Messianic references in the Old Testament. I have a list of over 300 prophecies about Jesus. Some claim they can detect over a thousand.
But I’d like to take up your point about Peter using words in the Old Testament which didn’t “straightforwardly seem to be speaking about Christ’s life”.
Peter was using the standard Jewish interpretation method of “Remez”.
In order to explain this, I’ll list for you the four main Jewish methods of interpreting Scripture.
Principles of Jewish Scripture interpretation:
1. P’shat – the “simple” – the obvious meaning of the text.
This is often the only meaning which Christian teachers will allow.
But the Jews go much further. They argue that if Scripture is really God’s word, then God jolly well knew what he was doing and built in several levels of understanding what he was saying.
2. Remez – the “hint” – a word or phrase in the text hints at another meaning. The argument is that God may hint at things of which the writers of the Scriptures were unaware.
This is the case in your references about Peter’s talk and David’s Psalm.
If we could ask Peter what he was up to, he would reply that David wrote what God wanted, and it fitted David’s circumstances, but David had no idea that there would be another occasion when the same words would again ring true, in an even fuller way.
3. Drash – the “search” – where a person will use Scripture to express a meaning which he has been thinking about, and is not itself unscriptural, but cannot be understood from the Scriptures alone.
I heard a good example of this in a sermon many years ago.
The preacher was talking about the four anchors which were thrown out of the boat in which Paul was being carried. (Acts 27 29) The four anchors were to hold the boat steady against the storm, to stop it being dashed against the rocks.
He was saying that we are all in danger of catastrophe in our lives (like a boat hitting rocks).
He then gave us, from his own thoughts, four principles which could hold us steady, like an anchor. I forget what these were now, but they were things like Prayer, Bible reading, Fellowship, Evangelism. It may even have been those four.
Anyway he said that these four principles “were” the four anchors in the story in Acts.
Of course he was wrong. The story in Acts talks about large lumps of stone or metal. It doesn’t give any spiritual interpretation at all. The interpretation he made was a Drash, putting his own (no doubt Godly) thoughts into an unrelated story.
4. Sōd (pronounced “sowed”) – the “secret” – in which the numerical values of Hebrew letters are used.
Hebrew letters were also used as numbers, Aleph being “one”, Beth “two”, Gimel “three” and so on.
So if you are looking at Hebrew text, you might see a whole lot of words and sentences, OR you might see rows and rows of numbers.
They were especially keen on pairs of words whose numbers added up to the same answer. They thought that putting the two words together would reveal something spiritual, the idea being that God puts meaning into even the tiniest detail of Scripture, even the individual letters.
Most Christians would be uncomfortable with this last one, but I suspect if God knows every sparrow that falls, and every hair on my head (getting less) he is well able to have exactly the letters and words he wants in Scripture.
I hope that covers the elements within your question. Please ask further if there are things I haven’t covered.