One of the difficulties modern scholars deal with is the way the authors of the New Testament interpret the Old: by employing a "prediction/fulfillment" technique.

Since Pope Pius XII's 1943 encyclical, "Divinu Afflante Spiritu," that notion has been gradually relegated to the history of biblical exegesis.

Following the Holy Father's lead, scholars now spend time not so much trying to find predictions of Jesus in Genesis as surfacing the sacred authors' original intention.

No predictions

More than 30 years ago, Rev. Raymond Brown, a noted Scripture scholar, disturbed some of my brother priests when he stated, "There are no predictions of Jesus of Nazareth as we know Him anywhere in the Hebrew Scriptures."

Some clergy quickly challenged him by quoting passages from Isaiah 7 about a virgin giving birth to Emmanuel and Isaiah's fourth song of the suffering servant. In both cases, Father Brown patiently assured us, the prophets were referring to someone other than Jesus.

Then, in a calm voice, he said, "Fathers, if you think there are passages in the Hebrew Scriptures which refer to Jesus, the burden of proving that is on you. I don't have to prove that they don't. The consensus of scholarship is on my side, not yours."

Luke's clues

Unfortunately, St. Luke wasn't present for Brown's conference. Without recourse to the discoveries of biblical research over the last 200 years, he and his evangelical predecessors believed Jesus' suffering, dying and rising could be found throughout the Hebrew Scriptures.

That's why Luke doesn't hesitate to have the newly risen Jesus chide His astonished disciples for their unbelief, proclaiming, "'Everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and psalms had to be fulfilled.' Then He opened their minds to the understanding of the Scriptures. He said to them, 'Thus it is written that the Messiah must suffer and rise from the dead on the third day" (Luke 24:35-48).

That parallels what Luke has Peter tell the Pentecost crowd in the first reading for Sunday (Acts 3:13-15,17-19): "God has brought to fulfillment by [Jesus' death and resurrection] what He announced long ago through all the prophets: that His Messiah would suffer."

If these prediction/fulfillment readings can't be looked at today as they were 1,900 years ago, how do we know Jesus is "the one"? By employing the same method as the sacred authors: Long before they found the risen Jesus in Scripture, they found Him in their lives.

Both the author of I John and Luke speak about people "knowing" Jesus. The former states (I John 2:1-5), "The way we can be sure of our knowledge of Him is to keep His commandments. Whoever claims, 'I have known Him,' without keeping His commandments, is a liar." And the Gospel passage begins with Luke describing the return of the Emmaus disciples: "They recounted...how they had come to know Jesus in the breaking of bread."

Experiencing Jesus

As I've mentioned many times before, the biblical writers presume we only "know" what we experience. The second reading teaches us that we always experience the risen Jesus among us when we carry out His command to love one another.

Luke believes one of the best ways to discover Jesus' presence is to die enough to ourselves to become one body -- the body of the risen Jesus -- when we participate in the Eucharistic breaking of bread.

The writers of the Christian Scriptures turned to the Hebrew Scriptures to help them understand the experience of a lifetime. Some of us, on the other hand, explore the Scriptures in place of exploring our experiences.

No wonder we insist on finding Jesus in Scripture. If we haven't found Him in our lives, it's our only recourse.

(4/27/06)