Footnote 35 – Teaching by Implication, Drawing Necessary Inferences

Footnote 35 — Christopher J.H. Wright, Knowing Jesus through the Old Testament (2nd ed., Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2014), pp. 71, 256-257.

Learning Biblical truths by implication (and the inferences drawn from narrative, prophecy, poetry, legal mandates or prohibitions, etc.) has been a topic of controversy in some religious circles for awhile now. Christopher J.H. Wright’s work connecting various Old Testament texts with Jesus provides some insight into how that process was used by the Lord himself to teach those who were seeking the truth about him.

“In order to explain Jesus, the New Testament connects him to a whole range of Old Testament Scriptures that are all perceived as expressing God’s promise – whether directly or by implication” (p.71, chapter 2).

Wright picks up this dangling thread later in his work, for example, in explicating the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-13) –

“And once again, in the conversation afterward, Jesus helps them to understand the significance of John the Baptist. They knew the accepted teaching of the experts – Elijah must first come before God arrives. The staggering challenge lay in the implications. Here is the logic:

Elijah comes first, then God will come down (drawn from Mal 4:5).
 You know that John has already come first, and then Jesus came.
 So if John was Elijah, who is Jesus?
 Get it?
“In ways like this Matthew shows that Jesus used Scripture that spoke about God in ways that pointed to himself. He did not stand up with a banner proclaiming, ‘I am God.’ He did not need to. The people around him knew their Scriptures. Jesus pointed to those texts, pointed to himself, and in effect told them to draw their own conclusions.” (pp. 256-257).

Part of the issue, of course, is not so much about whether Jesus, and Biblical authors, taught by implication. That they did is an obvious truism — and expected others to draw the logical conclusions. The problem seems to be some of the UN-necessary inferences which some have drawn from Biblical teachings – “whether directly or by implication.”

Think about it, and draw your own conclusions!

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