posted on Jul, 19 2019 @ 05:00 PM
“Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is
old” – Matthew ch13 v52
Matthew has collected “the parables of the Kingdom” into a single chapter, following on from the parable of the Sower. At the end of the
discourse, Jesus asks the disciples if they have understood all these things. They respond with a confident “Yes”.
His reply is the comparison quoted above.
“Therefore”; their ability to understand his teaching makes them examples of the kind of people that he’s describing.
“A scribe”; The scribes who appear in the gospel narratives are men trained to understand and explain the old Hebrew scriptures.
“A scribe who is trained for the kingdom” has also, like the disciples, understood the new teaching of Jesus.
In the Middle Ages, a man qualified in canon law and civil law could be called a DOCTOR UTRIUSQUE- a master of both kinds of legal
The same can be said about the scribe who understands the kingdom. He has “both” kinds of knowledge. He has two strings to his bow.
Such a man is like a householder who can bring new things and old things out of his treasure chest.
This comparison is clearly meant to express approval.
It’s an excellent example of domestic economy. The man is supplying his needs by making the best of all the resources available to him.
I am that householder, in a most literal sense.
I mow the lawn with my own electric mower, powered by my father’s extension lead, attached to an obviously home-made drum.
When I make the sherry trifle at Christmas, I use fresh sherry and my mother’s glass trifle dish.
I sleep on my own mattress, covered with some of my grandmother’s stock of sheets and blankets (she did bed-and-breakfast in the summer).
I type my ATS threads on a modern laptop, resting on an elegant inherited dining table.
Taking advantage of the new without discarding the useful parts of the old, I can enjoy the best of both worlds. This is true conservatism.
As a householder, I benefit from the continuity of my family’s life and possessions.
In the same way, the whole of the Bible is a genuine family inheritance, with a continuity which needs to be recognised.
The disciples of Christ are the latest generation of the family that goes back to Abraham.
The combined history of the two Testaments shows the preparation of God’s people for the task of presenting him to the world.
In particular, Israel’s history in the Old Testament is preparing the ground for the arrival of Jesus and the kingdom.
One of the functions of the Old Testament, indeed, is to demonstrate why the work of Christ was necessary.
This continuity has practical implications.
In the first place, the scribe who is familiar with the old learning should not ignore the new teaching of the kingdom. That would be like the
householder neglecting to fill up the gaps in his chest with fresh goods.
Many of the scribes and Pharisees of the time of Jesus were making this mistake.
That may have been part of the point of the comparison.
On the other hand, those who are trained in the kingdom should not abandon the older learning of the scribes. That would be like the wasteful
householder throwing away good and useful products.
Historically, the Christian church has not been making that mistake.
The lesson was taught by Jesus at a very early stage; “Beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the scriptures the
things concerning himself” (Luke ch24 v27).
The church has always been assiduous, and sometimes over-ingenious, in discovering references to Jesus in the themes and images of the Old
They disowned the teachings of Marcion, who made a dogma out of discarding the Old Testament and focussing on a detached and edited version of the New
Testament. In fact Marcion could be refuted by the connections which were still visible even in those portions which he retained.
So Christians need to be conscious of the Old Testament, as the background of Christian teaching.
At the same time, they need to be reading the Old Testament in the light of the new knowledge available in Christ.
When I first entered into lodgings, away from home, the nation’s electrical fittings were undergoing change. Round-pin electric plugs were giving
way to square-pin plugs, as the new standard. My landlords had not replaced the round-pin wall-sockets, which appeared to mean that my vital equipment
(such as the electric kettle) could not use them. The solution was to go out and buy an adaptor, which could receive the new plug and fit into the old
socket, and provide a connection between the two.
In the same way, the Old Testament cannot be used, for the purposes of the kingdom, without the help of an adaptor.
In this case, the name of the adaptor is “the Holy Spirit.”
Paul explains the necessity (2 Corinthians ch3).
The difference between the old covenant and the new covenant is the difference between “the letter” and the Spirit. “The letter kills, but the
Spirit gives life” (v6).
Moses delivered the old covenant wearing a veil, to protect the Israelites from the brightness of his face.
But the veil was also there to conceal the fact that the splendour of the old covenant would fade and give way to the new covenant (v13).
So the Jews of Paul’s day still cannot read the old covenant with full understanding;
“To this day, whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their minds; but when a man turns to the Lord, the veil is removed” (vv15-16).
In other words, the veil is removed by the Spirit, because Lord “is the Spirit”, and the Spirit speaks for the Lord.
We need to understand that the veil is the over-literal interpretation, which helps to conceal how the old covenant is pointing towards Christ.
That is why the obsessively literal reading of the Old Testament practised by many modern Christians frequently involves them in a falling away from
In effect, they are deliberately picking up the discarded “veil” and re-placing it over their minds, preventing themselves from receiving the new
understanding provided by the Spirit.
The knowledge of the scribes needs to be adapted for the purposes of the kingdom. Those who are trained for the kingdom need to be reading the Old
Testament, but they should not be reading the Old Testament except in the light of Christ.
The best way to gain understanding of the Biblical God is to recognise the continuity of the information available from the Old and New Testaments,
and make the best use of both elements.
That is why it is desirable to be a scribe AND to be a scribe who is “trained for the kingdom of heaven”.