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Analysis of How Jesus Used Scripture

How did Jesus use Scripture? And how does this compare with how we use it? I have extracted references that Jesus made to Scripture, and analysed them. There are three pages:

In the two main pages, you will find a table in which each row contains a Scripture use, with information about it. This page analyses the contents of that table.


At the foot of each table, a comment is given from the analysis. Some tables also provide correlation with the kinds of people to whom Jesus used Scripture.

How the Analysis is carried out: At the left side of the main tables is a 6-character code which is used in analysis. Each of the tables below is created by analysing one of the positions in the code (e.g. position 3 denotes the purpose for which Jesus used Scripture). To create a table below, the entries from the main table were sorted on each code position, and counts were made of the options the position might take. The following tables show the overall counts and percentages of individual options. See below for the actual codes.

Counts of Which Parts Scriptures are Taken From (Code position 1)
From Count %
Law / Torah, Genesis - Deuteronomy (l) 29 38 %
History, Joshua - Esther (h) 6 8 %
Writings, Job - Song (w) 9 12 %
Prophets, Isaiah - Malachi (p) 29 38 %
All or multiple (a, ?) 4 4 %
Comment: It is interesting that Jesus cited the Prophets almost exactly as much as he did the Law.

Jews today hold the Law as more important than the Prophets, and Christians tend to hold the Prophets higher than the Law. With roots in the Christian community, I can understand the latter: many Christians believe that the Mosaic Law is said to be superseded, even though Jesus said that not one part of it would be undone. I can perhaps also understand why Jews privilege the Law: it was disobedience to the Law that exiled them, and perhaps because Christians cite prophecies to support their claims about Jesus, they have been motivated to play down the importance of prophets - even a slight motivation in that direction would have an effect over 2000 years.

However, I wonder whether both Jews and Christians miss something. God, rather than God's Law, is or primary importance, and if God speaks via either Law or Prophets, is it not important? I believe in a God Who interacts with His creation rather than just giving it a Law and standing back. So prophecy seems to me as important as law. However, the Law of God is not superseded as some Christians assume, but expresses how God intended humanity to live, even if some of the details are different now.

Counts of To Whom Jesus used Scripture (Code position 5)
To Whom Count %
To God 1 1 %
To those positive to him 31 41 %
To those neutral 14 19 %
To those negative to him, critics, opponents 31 41 %
Comment: Scriptures were used by Jesus equally towards those positive and negatively disposed (around 40% each), and about half that for those neutral. The latter were usually the crowds, and perhaps with them, Jesus gave direct teaching rather than using explicit references to Scripture.

Counts of How Scriptures taken (Code position 2)
With how many in each were to people postively, negatively and neutrally disposed.
How Count % Positive Negative Neutral
Scriptures taken as they are (0) 44 58 % 16 18 9
Scriptures expanded in meaning (1) 16 21 % 6 7 3
Scriptures given second meaning or application (2) 15 20 % 8 5 2
Unknown or Other 2 2 %
Comment: In the majority of uses of Scripture, Jesus took it as it was written, without expansion or second meaning, though he might have used it to deepen or challenge people to new thinking. 'Second meaning' refers to the Jewish idea that Scripture can have multiple interpretations; for example, a prophecy might refer to something at the time of the prophet, but also to something in Jesus' life or times. Comment: The degree to which Scripture was taken as is, expanded or given second meaning, seems to be the same whether Jesus was addressing those positive, negative or neutral to him.

Counts of Purposes for Which Jesus Used Scriptures (Code position 3)
(This also shows how often each purpose was used with those positively and negatively disposed to him.) in Code)
Purpose Count % Number + Number -
To provide understanding (u) 14 19 % 12 0
To challenge to new ways of thinking (n) 11 15 % 1 7
To deepen thinking, uncovering roots or principles (d) 16 22 % 11 0
To encourage (e) 3 4 % 3 0
To rebuke (b) 10 13 % 0 10
To defend against attack, or to attack (k) 7 9 % 0 7
To reveal an unusual idea (r) 2 3 % 0 2
To urge hearers to take things seriously (s) 2 3 % 1 1
To make a claim (m) 5 7 % 1 3
To show fulfilment of Scripture (f) 3 3 %
To instruct or advise what to do (i) 2 2 % 2 0
Other 2 %
Comment: The wide range of purposes for which Jesus used Scripture is interesting. The number of times he directly claimed to fulfil prophecy is smaller that I would have expected.

So are the correlations with the kind of people to whom he was speaking. He seems to have tried to explain and give understanding mainly for those positively disposed to him (his disciples). As expected, he would used Scripture to rebuke and defend against attack with opponents. What is interesting is that he used Scripture to deepen a perspective with those postively disposed to him, while he challenged to new ways of seeing things mainly with those negatively disposed.

Counts of How Jesus Argued or Used the Scriptures (Code position 4)
(This also shows how often he used each method with those positively and negatively disposed to him.)
How Argued, Used Count % Number + Number -
Simple application of the scripture (y) 22 29 % 12 4
Deduction from generic statement or command (g) 19 25 % 5 12
Induction from events (v) 10 14 % 1 7
By inference from character (c) 3 4 % 2 1
Jumping off from from a scripture, or reinterpreting it (j) 9 12 % 8 0
Claiming a scripture (m) 11 14 % 3 5
Revealing an unusual scripture (r) 3 4 % 0 2
Comment: It is interesting the variety of ways Jesus used Scripture, and how some of these correlate with types of people. Simple application of Scripture, and using a Scripture as a starting point for other thoughts, was mainly with those positively disposed to him. That is as might be expected, because those people would be willing to listen. However, deducing something from a generic Scripture and induction from events - both of which are stronger kinds of logic - were used with those negatively disposed to him. What do we do? Do we use stronger logics with those positively disposed to Jesus, and/or weaker logics with those negatively disposed?


The codes in column 1 are like "l1kc-5". They are there to assist sorting and analysis. They are six characters (positions 1 - 6), each of which has a different meaning, and each of which can have certain values, as follows:

This page is offered to God as on-going work. Comments, queries welcome.

Copyright (c) Andrew Basden at all dates below. But you may use this material subject to certain conditions.

Part of his pages, that open up discussion and exploration from a Christian ('xn') perspective. Written on the Amiga with Protext.

Created: 6 July 2015. Last updated: 7 July 2015. 12 July 2015 contents and better explanation, small change to analysis. 14 August 2015 comment on types of scripture. 16 August 2015 John 10:11,14-15 added.