How Did Jesus Use the Scriptures?

Jesus knew the scriptures. As a twelve-year-old boy, he impressed the experienced teachers in the temple at Jerusalem with his insight and understanding. (See Luke 2:46-47.) He publicly announced that He was the Messiah by quoting Isaiah 61:1-2 in the synagogue at Nazareth. (See Luke 4:18-19.) And at the end of His life, as He hung on the cross, He shouted the first words of Psalm 22: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (See Matthew 27:46.) He internalized the scriptures. They became part of Him, and He quoted them instinctively.

At the beginning of His ministry, He was tempted three times by the devil. He responded all three times by quoting scripture. (See Matthew 4:1-11. The scriptures He quoted are: Deuteronomy 8:3, Deuteronomy 6:16, and Deuteronomy 6:13.)

The scriptures in Jesus’ time consisted of:

  1. The five books of Moses, which He called “the law.”
  2. Old Testament prophets. He specifically quoted from Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Hosea, Jonah, Micah, Zechariah, and Malachi.
  3. Other writings, including the book of Psalms. Jesus quoted from the book of Psalms more than any other book.

He speaks of all three of these groupings of scripture in Luke 24:44, as He testifies, “all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.”

So when a lawyer asked, “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?” (Matthew 22:36, emphasis added), he specifically meant the five books of Moses. Jesus appropriately responded with two passages from those books:

  1. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” (Matthew 22:37, quoting Deuteronomy 6:5).
  2. “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matthew 22:39, quoting Leviticus 19:18).

Jesus expected His disciples to study the scriptures and become familiar with them. At least 17 times in the Gospels, He uses the phrase, “Have ye not read…” or “Is it not written…” to introduce a scripture passage.

When Jesus visited the American continent following His death and resurrection, He quoted extensively from Isaiah and Micah. He also shared passages from Genesis and Deuteronomy to explain that the scattering of Israel was always part of the plan. (See Jesus Christ’s Sermon at the Temple in Bountiful – 3 Nephi 12-16, 20-22.) He then urged His listeners to “search these things diligently” (3 Nephi 23:1).

Then He told them they were missing some important scriptures He wanted them to have: the fulfillment of the prophecies of Samuel the Lamanite, and two chapters from the book of Malachi, which He dictated for them, since they didn’t have access to Malachi’s words. (See 3 Nephi 24:1.)

Finally, He “did expound all things unto them, both great and small” (3 Nephi 26:1). Jesus didn’t treat books of scripture as independent entities. Instead, He wove together concepts and passages in order to show how God’s messages shine through the words of multiple prophets.

Today, I will strive to follow the Savior’s example in my scripture study. I will dedicate time and energy to learning the gospel. I will internalize passages, so that I will have access to them in times of need. I will also look for connections between passages of scripture and find God’s voice in the words of multiple prophets.

3 thoughts on “How Did Jesus Use the Scriptures?

Add yours

  1. Love this! Should be shared with all youth and missionaries!

    If we want to follow Jesus and become like Him, studying the scriptures as He did is a great place to start.


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