Biblical Hyperlinks

Biblical authors may not have had the Internet, but they did understand hyperlinking. On the Internet hyperlinks appear as text that we can click on to go to another page; often the text is blue or underlined to help us notice it. Wikipedia articles and blog publishers use hyperlinks to make brief allusions to tangential subjects, trusting that if you want to find out more you'll click the link. The Bible has a similar feature: quotations.

Paper and ink was expensive in the first century, and New Testament authors tended to conserve it by simply quoting the Old Testament and expecting their audience to either know what they were referring to or find out. For a Jew who was deeply familiar with the Old Testament, such references were like inside jokes, needing no explanation. Today we rely on margin notes to connect biblical quotations with their source, but those footnotes don't just add proper citation, they also create a whole new dimension to Bible study.

My own personal study has been greatly enriched by following these biblical "hyperlinks." Here's an example. In Luke 4, Jesus combats Satan's temptations in the wilderness by saying, "It is written" and quoting Scripture. As Christians, we frequently use this story to illustrate the power of memorizing God's Word and using it to resist the devil, but if we follow Christ's quotations back to their source, we discover an additional layer to His psychology, a layer that may help us fight our own temptations.

Jesus makes three quotations in response to Satan's suggestions: "Man shall not live on bread alone" (Deuteronomy 8:3), "Worship the Lord your God and serve him only" (Deuteronomy 6:13), and "Do not put the Lord your God to the test" (Deuteronomy 6:16). Each quote is taken from Deuteronomy, Moses's farewell speech to the Children of Israel. Let's go back to Deuteronomy 6 and 8 and zoom out a little from the exact quotation. Here's the fuller context of "Man shall not live on bread alone": shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness, to humble you and test you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.

Deuteronomy 8:2–3 (NIV)

And here are the verses that immediately precede Jesus's other two quotations from Deuteronomy 6:

When the Lord your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you—a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant—then when you eat and are satisfied, be careful that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

Deuteronomy 6:10–12 (NIV)

Do you notice anything in common to these two passages? My eyes went wide when I first discovered it. All three of Jesus's responses to Satan's temptations are in close proximity to Moses talking about food. Manna, vineyards, and olive groves. I don't think it's a coincidence. After 40 days without food, Christ's mind was on his hunger. These passages may have been circling in His head for days and weeks as He reminded Himself with the words of Moses that God supplies food when it's needed. When Satan arrived with the temptation to supply His own bread, Christ already had the relevant words on hand: "Man shall not live on bread alone." And he used the same pattern on the second and third temptations, leveraging his own hunger to call to mind the Scriptures that would rebuke the devil.

Following Luke's hyperlinks to Deuteronomy sheds light on Christ's psychology of resisting temptation.

The Bible is rich with these connections that deepen the meaning of God's Word, and as Pastor Stewart recently said, Scripture is by no means "mined out." God has supplied us with a wealth of meaning that only continued study and investigation can reveal, and I encourage you to dig in and see what discoveries you make!