Debating Bible Basics Duncan Heaster  


1-3-6 Appendix: How Was The Word Made Flesh?

How exactly was the word made flesh in the person of Jesus? It was not simply a question of the nature of His birth. ‘The word’ was a title given to the Lord in recognition of His achievement in being and becoming the ‘word made flesh’. It wasn’t something which automatically happened to the Lord, as an irresistible process in which He played no part. The Lord’s Old Testament allusions, His familiarity with and use of His Father’s words doubtless had a lot to do with His becoming ‘the word made flesh’. If Paul alluded to the words of the Lord Jesus once every four verses on average, it is to be expected that the Son of God quoted and alluded to His Father’s word even moreso. And this is what we find, when we search the Lord’s words for their allusions to the Old Testament.

An example of the Lord’s perhaps unconscious usage of His Father’s words is to be found in His exasperated comment: “O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I suffer you?” (Mt. 17:17). Of course the Lord would have spoken those words and expressed those ideas in Aramaic- but the similarity is striking with His Father’s Hebrew words of Num. 14:27: “How long shall I bear with this evil congregation…?”. As a son comes out with phrases and word usages which ‘Could be his father speaking!’, so the Lord Jesus did the same thing. What I am saying is that the Lord was not merely quoting or alluding to the Father’s Old Testament words, in the way that, say, Paul or Peter did. As the Father’s Son, He was speaking in the same way as His Father, no doubt saturated with the written record of the Father’s words, but all the same, there were those similarities of wording and underlying thinking which are only seen between fathers and sons. And His words of Mt. 17:17 = Num. 14:27 seem to me to be an example of this.

The level, depth and multiplicity of Old Testament allusions becomes the more amazing when we accept that these were spoken words, some of them clearly spoken unprepared and off-the-cuff. Literature can be crafted to pack multiple allusions. But when a speaker produces such a depth of allusion, one can only marvel at his intellectual depth. But with the Lord, it reflects His utter familiarity with the Father’s word, grasping the real spirit of it all. He breathed it, thought it, spoke it, lived it. And in all He said, this was reflected. He truly was “the word made flesh”. The following are just a few examples from the first words of Jesus; but the list can be continued. The simple fact is that on average, the Lord is alluding to the Old Testament at least 3 times in every verse! This means that every phrase of every sentence He is recorded as speaking- is alluding to His Father’s word. It would’ve been like an orphaned son ‘finding’ his late father’s words. He would read the words with such delight, and somehow eagerly pick up their sense in the way nobody else could.

The Words Of Jesus

Old Testament Allusions

Mt. 3:15 Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness.

Ez. 18:19,21 fulfill righteousness

Mt. 4:4 It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, butby everyword that proceedeth out of the mouth of God

Dt. 8:3 direct quote

Mt. 4:7 It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.

Dt. 6:16 direct quote

Mt. 4:10 Get thee hence, Satan: forit is written, Thou shalt worshipthe Lord thy God,and him only shalt thou serve.

Dt. 6:13 direct quote

Mt. 5:3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Ps. 40:17; Is. 41:17; 61:1

Mt. 5:4 Blessed are they that mourn:

Is. 61:1-3; 66:2

for they shall be comforted.

Is. 40:1

Mt. 5:5 Blessed are the meek:

Ps. 37:11,20; Is. 60:21; Prov. 22:24,25; 25:8,15

for they shall inherit the earth.

Gen. 15:7,8; Ex. 32:13

Mt. 5:6 Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

Gen. 49:18; Ps. 17:15; 119:20; Jer. 23:6; Is. 45:24; 51:1; 55:1; 65:13

Mt. 5:7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

2 Sam. 22:26,27; Ps. 18:25,26

Mat 5:8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

Ex. 33:20; Job 19:25-27; Ps. 17:15; Is. 6:5; 38:3,11

If you follow through some of those allusions- and there are surely many more that I’ve not picked up- it becomes apparent that the Lord had a mind capable of operating on several different levels of allusion at once. So it was not simply that He was hyper-familiar with His Father’s word. He had the intellectual ability, with all the intelligence of God’s very own Son, to think and speak on several levels at once. Hence His words were absolutely full of God’s thoughts and words. He was so fully and deeply “the word made flesh”. And in analyzing from where in the Old Testament the Lord quoted, we find that He had His favourite places- just as we’d expect from a genuine man. He appears to have been especially fond of the references to the “Servant” in the latter half of Isaiah; and also of the Psalms. He quotes from them both literally and freely, with all the confidence and appropriacy of a person who is thoroughly familiar with the text. But the way and extent to which He applied it all to Himself makes Him in very reality “the word made flesh”.