From Heaven or From Men

By Clinton D. Hamilton

Interpretation of scripture is critical to one’s relation to God. Jesus often interpreted the Old Testament and from him we learn how to handle scriptures. He also through the Holy Spirit had the writers of the New Testament interpret the scriptures. From all these, we can learn how to handle the scriptures. Likewise, the scriptures or the word of God is agreeable to the reason. In I Peter 2:2, the word of God is said to be spiritual (ASV); this term is from logikos which means reasonable, agreeable to the reason, or rational. God is the author of man’s rational nature and he addressed his word to this nature. In order that man might understand the word, God suited it to man’s rational nature. In passages that will be addressed later in the article, attention will be called to the use of the rational nature in interpreting the rational word.

This article addresses the issue of interpretation and relates to a question concerning implications of a passage dealing with Old Testament prophecy. Every person brings to the study of the scriptures a uniqueness of spirit, personality, experience, reasoning ability, prejudices, and accepted propositions. One must seek to cut through these and get to the heart of the scriptures themselves so that one is governed by what they say and not by what one might read into them.

Question: Please comment on Luke 24:44-49, especially regarding its ramifications upon interpretation of Old Testament prophecy.

Response: It is probable that the querist is concerned about this expression concerning what Jesus did: “Then opened he their mind, that they might understand the scriptures” (Lk. 24:45). Just what occurred here? Does one need the intervention of Deity directly to understand or can one understand by a proper analysis of a given passage and other corroborating passages? These are some of the questions that appear appropriate as one approaches such a study.

What occurred when Jesus “opened their mind” so that they might understand? The two men on the way to a village name Emmaus were discussing the meaning and significance of the report that Jesus of Nazareth had been raised and was alive (Lk. 24:13-24). As they walked, Jesus joined them but they did not recognize who he was (Lk. 24:15-16). He asked them what communications they were having and they responded about the remarkable events of the last three days (Lk. 24:17-24).

His opening words to them were most instructive in the context of the issue being addressed in this article. “And he said unto them, 0 foolish men, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken” (Lk. 24:25). Their problem was that they had not properly read and analyzed the word of God. Had they done so they would not be so perplexed about his resurrection. They would have recognized the Christ had they believed in what the prophets had spoken. This question was then put to them: “Behooved it not the Christ to suffer these things, and to enter into his glory?” (Lk. 24:26) At this point, Jesus “interpreted to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself ” from Moses and from all the prophets (Lk. 24:27). He opened their minds by appealing to the scriptures and showing how the predictions about him had been fulfilled. Had they properly read and understood the scriptures, they would have already known what he pointed out the scriptures meant.

Later, when they came to know who he was, “they said one to another, Was not our heart burning within us, while he spake to us in the way, while he opened to us the scriptures?” (Lk. 24:32) He opened the scriptures to them by referring to them and explaining what they meant. Had they not been so slow of heart to believe, they would have already understood them (Lk. 24:25). The ordinary rational powers they possessed are those by which they came to have an understanding which understanding they could have had if they had believed the scriptures. Jesus did nothing directly to their minds; their minds were addressed and with their normal powers they understood his explanation.

This case of the two on the way to Emmaus becomes very valuable to us in addressing the passage which is the focus of the querist. The word opened is translated from dianoigo which means “to open up completely” (Vine). Thayer says that it means to open. He points out that metaphorically it means in Luke 24:32 “to open the sense of the Scriptures, explain them.” With reference to Luke 24:45, he says that it means “to open the mind of one, i.e. cause him to understand a thing.” This same word is used in Acts 16:14 with reference to Lydia of whom it is said, “whose heart the Lord opened to give heed unto the things spoken by Paul.” Of this use, Thayer gives the meaning “to open one’s soul, i.e. to rouse in one the faculty of under-standing or the desire of learning.”

Dianoigo appears in eight New Testament passages: Mark. 7:34-35; Luke 2:13; 24:31,32,45; Acts 16;14; 17:3. The passages in Mark refer to the healing of the deaf man with a speech impediment. Jesus implored, as he looked up to heaven, that his ears be opened and they were; he then also spoke correctly. The reference in Luke 2:23 is to every male that opens the womb, that is delivered from the womb of his mother. In Acts 17:3, Paul opened up and alleged that it behooved Christ to suffer and be raised again from the dead. These then leave the Luke and Acts passages for further consideration.

In Luke 23:31, the language is metaphorical referring to their seeing clearly that it was the risen Christ to whom they had been speaking, that is the women on the way to Emmaus. Likewise, there is a metaphorical use in verse 32 in reference to their listening while Jesus opened to them the scriptures. This he did by explaining to them what the scriptures meant as we have already seen. When Jesus showed how “the Christ should suffer, and rise again from the dead the third day” (Lk. 24:46), he opened “their mind, that they might understand the scriptures.” What then had been “written in the law of Moses, and the prophets, and the psalms” about the Christ was now clear to their understanding.

Their minds had been opened. There was no direct operation by Christ on their minds independent of the scriptures. Rather, there was an explanation of the sense of the scriptures whereby their minds were opened.

Directed by God precisely about where to travel and to bypass where he had intended to go, Paul arrived in Philippi where he found a group of women who were come together in a place of prayer (Acts 16:6-13). Paul spoke to Lydia about the Christ and his will; it is said that Lydia “heard them” (Acts 16:14). In the course of what she heard, her heart was “opened to give heed unto the things which were spoken by Paul” (Acts 16:14). This again is a case of the scriptures having been explained that caused the heart to be opened. The agency used by the Lord was his word; it was not a direct operation or intervention independent of the word of God. God had caused the preacher and the sinner to come together and he had given the word that opened the heart. Having learned what the message was and having understood, Lydia gave heed to that which was spoken. Without her heart’ s having been opened she would not have paid heed. She would have a closed mind to the Christ as did others who worshipped under the old Testament until such time as they clearly understood the message of the scriptures.

The ramifications upon interpretation of Old Testament prophecy that Luke 24:44-49 has are that when scriptures are properly explained and one is disposed to listen one’s heart or mind will be opened.

Guardian of Truth XXXVIII: 2, p. 5
January 20, 1994