After His resurrection, Jesus met the disciples on the road to Emmaus. They did not yet recognize Him as their resurrected Lord, but began to explain to Him why they are so downcast. They told him of heir hopes that were dashed when Jesus, “a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people” (Lk. 24:19) was crucified and entombed. And now, on the third day since his crucifixion, they were bewildered, unsure of whether to believe reports about His resurrection.
Jesus chastised them, and then, as any good teacher would, he turned their conversation into a teachable moment.
25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. (Lk 24:25–27 ESV)What I wouldn’t give to have listened to this conversation with Jesus (in English!). Oh, to have him “interpret” (NIV: “explain”) for me Moses and the Prophets!
What did this “interpretation” involve? What did He say? What verses did He cite? Did he work from the Hebrew Scriptures or the Septuagint? While we don’t have a record of what Jesus told the disciples, we can gain significant insight into a key interpretive principle recorded in the words of Luke.
But first, let’s do a little Greek!
The word translated “interpreted/explained” is ἑρμηνεύω (hermeneuō) from which we get the word “hermeneutics” (the art and science of [biblical] interpretation). It is etymologically related to the Greek god Hermes, who was the messenger of the gods credited with discovering language and writing.
Of course, the modern thinker rejects the idea that there is a “messenger-god” who brings divine language and meaning to us from beyond the mortal realm. Rather, each person is left to find (or create) meaning for him or her self. Indeed, many today question whether any message from or about the divine can even be meaningfully expressed. Others (e.g. Derrida) balk that any claim to possess “the meaning” is really a power play for a god-like control over others.
But in Jesus we have a clear affirmation that not only is meaning attainable – that interpretation is not a vain pursuit – but that He is the one who makes it attainable.
Jesus is our Hermes. He is the Divine Logos (Word). He is the real presence of God, communicating the divine essence to mortal man. He is the Word become flesh.
It is this reality that brings meaning to the Bible and to life in general. When Jesus interprets the OT for the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, he centers it’s meaning on His own life, ministry, death and resurrection. Only when bare facts and bare texts find their proper context in a proper relation to Jesus do they find ultimate meaning.
So, while we agree with the secular rejection of the Hermes myth, we do not reject the underlying premise that for language and life to be meaningful, it must have a divine origin.
Concerning Jesus Paul writes, “all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Col. 1:16b-17)