Inerrancy: Pesher

Hello everyone and welcome back to Deeper Waters where we are diving into the ocean of truth. We’ve been looking lately at the doctrine of Inerrancy. I’ve been looking at the way that the Jews would have interpreted Scripture in the time of Christ to help with our understanding. Tonight, I’m going to look at Pesher.

Pesher essentially means “This for that.” Consider how last time I wrote, I wrote about how Matthew used Hosea’s prophecy of “Out of Egypt, I called my Son.” Immediately, the atheist objector stands up and shouts “Foul! Hosea was talking about Israel! He wasn’t talking about Jesus! Matthew is misusing Scripture!”

Of course, we know the atheist wants to make sure Scripture is being used properly…

But in any event, we still have to answer the objection as the NT use of the OT is quite puzzling to many Christians. Did Jesus really not fulfill the prophecies of Messiah if the testament to them is so flimsy?

Matthew did Pesher. It was a common practice for his time. In the Qumran community, they often used this to speak of themselves or of their Teacher of Righteousness. The community saw a parallel between what was going on in the life of the writer of the OT and what was going on in their own times. Usually, this would be connected with an eschatological fulfillment, as it was in Christ’s time.

Jesus used this when he spoke of the Pharisees and how Isaiah was right when he prophesied about them saying that they honored God with their lips, but their hearts are far from Him. Jesus was not saying that Isaiah was directly speaking of the Pharisees, but he had in mind people like the Pharisees. The Pharisees would have seen this as a serious charge as they were being compared to apostate Israel, the very Israel that was judged by YHWH Himself.

Events in the life of Israel were often seen in a similar sort of way. In 1 Corinthians, Paul talks about passing through the waters and compares it to Israel going through the Red Sea and how that was a sort of baptism. Considering the constant contrast between the church and Israel in the Bible, we should be looking at such events. Can we learn anything about how we are to behave? Remember, Paul told us that the events were written not just for the benefit of Israel, but also for our benefit.

I personally find pesher to be a very enjoyable style to look for and it’s one we should keep in mind. Let us not be hesitant to check the OT texts and see if there are parallels that are being missed. If pesher is being used, then why is it being used? How is the situation in the lifetime of Christ or in the case of the Qumran community, their own life, an example of what was going on back then? What is the connection with the past? Remember for the Jews, YHWH was Lord over all of history and it was tied together. The pronouncements of God were still very much active and in a time of great eschatological fulfillment, as was the time of Christ, much of pesher would have been going on.

It will be awhile before next time. I will be out of town for a few days. I hope what has been written is sufficient to keep you reading until then.

  • Alvin

    I’m assuming im the one referred to as an atheist; I don’t subscribe to that philosophy. I’m a deist in as far as god designed the universe and left it to its own devices.

    secondly, can you give me examples of good pesher vs bad pesher? What do you think of the legitimacy of certain jewish fundamentalist interpretation of equating modern-day palestinians and nazi germans with ancient amalekites? You would object no doubt that such interpretations don’t hold. But you have to show to your readers what exactly is good pesher hermeneutic? And why the apostolic interpretations of the OT meet the correct way of doing pesher over the Qumran’s or any would be fundy preacher like Westboroean Christians who identify strongly with the times and philosophy of moses, ezekiel and isaiah. That they protest and picket at gay people’s funerals, as well as believe that 9-11 was God’s judgment on an unholy America? just as the prophets condemned sin and warned of coming judgment of unholy Israel?

  • No. You weren’t in mind at all. Thus, your first assumption is false.

    My idea of bad interpretation is the modern newspaper interpretation used today with taking every prophecy of Israel in the past and thinking it really means Israel in 1948 or America today.

    It could be done today, but to do so would be to give someone a serious prophetic stance and all that that would entail, a highly dangerous move. I also see a lot of eschatological fulfillment going on in the time of Christ that we don’t see going on today.