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fulfilling scriptureThe Hebrew Bible is not a prophecy about the coming of Jesus, nor is it discussing or predicting anything at all about his life. For example, Isaiah prophesizes that a region of the Jewish state would one day be delivered from the tyranny of Assyria, and Matthew adopts Isaiah’s words as if they were a prophecy about Christ’s arrival in Caperneum many centuries later. That is not in any way what Isaiah was talking about. There is certainly nothing wrong with using the words of Isaiah, and other prophets, to help elaborate and explain the meaning and intent of the Gospel story. On the other hand, it is quite another thing to pretend that Matthew’s habit of doing so somehow proves that the Hebrew Bible was ‘really’ about Jesus. The author of Matthew was Jewish, and he was writing his story for Jews — most of whom had not joined his Christian sect. The purpose behind his transformations of Biblical statements was twofold: (1) partly it was a brilliant and useful literary device that helped shed added light on many of his statements; (2) it was also an attempt to appeal to his fellow Jews, so they would take him seriously and join his group, by linking Christ’s story with familiar scriptural quotes that he hoped would make his listeners comfortable. But in no case should this be taken literally. That is enormously disrespectful to Judaism, and frankly, in my opinion, extremely silly.

The Hebrews presented the perennial Wisdom Teaching in a myth about their ancestors that covered hundreds of years. The Greeks told the story through the adventures of fanciful gods and goddesses. What Christ and his disciples did was to perform the entire story, the entire initiation rite, the entire “Mystery Play”, on the stage of world history where everyone could watch it and participate. This was something new – Jesus decided that it was time for the sacred wisdom that had always been scrupulously concealed and preserved in “the Mysteries” to flow directly into history, to become the possession of all humanity. His great message for us was, “I did it, now you do it.” Since he was demonstrating the seven stages of initiation that were symbolically described already in the Hebrew Bible, this is what he actually meant when he said he was “fulfilling the scriptures” – it doesn’t mean that the Hebrew Bible is ‘really’ some sort of weird fortune-telling device!