Bible, Main, Teaching, z160
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How Langton messed up what Jesus meant


Jesus about to be baptized by John the Baptist Credit: Ottavio Vannini (1538-1643)/Wikipedia/Public Domain

You have probably never heard of Stephen Langton, but as a Christian you are very familiar with his work and have undoubtedly used it hundreds of times.

Langton was the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Canterbury between 1150 and 1228 AD.

About a year before he died, Langton created the chapter system that we use in the Old and New Testament today. It was first incorporated in the Wycliffe Bible in 1382 AD and basically used ever since. The verse break down was not created until 1555.

Though the chapter and verse system has proven extremely beneficial over the years, the chapter divisions created by Langton have some very horrid breaks, tearing apart stories that were obviously intended to be together.

Because of their very nature, chapter breaks suggest what is found in one chapter is not directly related to what appears in the following. Such is the case of what happens between Matthew 3 and 4.

In Matthew chapter 4, we have the record of Satan’s temptation of Jesus. But there is a particularly insidious one recorded in verse three where Satan challenged Jesus’s identity by saying:

“If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”

Matthew 4:3 ESV

Satan was screaming at Jesus if you are the Son of God prove it, show me your power, prove that you are the Son of God by performing a miracle.

So how does Jesus respond to Satan’s challenge?

“‘Man shall not live by bread alone,
    but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Matthew 4:4 ESV

Now we have customarily interpreted this to mean God’s word, the Bible, is to be our food, as it is described in several passages. But this verse is not about food, it is about identity.

Because of Langton’s misplaced chapter break we miss the critical point that Jesus was making.

Remember Satan was saying that Christ needed to prove His Sonship by displaying power. Jesus countered this by saying His identity was based solely on what God said about Jesus.

So had God previously said anything to Christ?

In fact, God did. God spoke to Jesus at his baptism, but because it is found in the previous chapter we often fail to connect these two accounts.

As Jesus was coming out of the waters of baptism, God spoke these words over Christ in the very last verse of chapter three:

“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

Matthew 3:17 ESV

And then three verses later we have the record of the first temptation, where Satan challenged to prove He was the Son of God by performing a miracle.

Now I am not suggesting that Langton was into the communion juice when he was working on his chapter breaks, but obviously Matthew intended these two accounts, separated by just three verses, to be together.

What Jesus was saying is that His identity was not based on what He did, but rather on who God said Jesus was. God referred to Jesus as His beloved Son and Christ’s identity was based solely on what God said.

If Jesus’s identity was based on what He did, such as performing miracles, then Jesus would have been the Son of God in Capernaum where He healed a paralytic (Matthew 9:1-8) but not the Son of God in Nazareth, where Mark says He could not perform many miracles because of their unbelief (Mark 6:5).

Unfortunately, this is how many Christians live our lives because we have not fully settled in our hearts that we are a child of God (John 1:12). And because of this, one day we feel like a Christian and the next day we don’t. One day we feel accepted by God, the next day we don’t.

God is well-pleased with us every hour of every day not because of how we live, but based solely on Christ’s redeeming work.

The first thing that Jesus did before starting His public ministry was settle His identity in God, and we must do the same.

3 Comments

      • Thanks for the reference!

        Yes, other references could be documents that talk about the first version with the Bible with verses, about the Langdon, etc.

        No need to worry – I was just wondering if there were more info on the references you used to write the post.

        Thanks again!

        Like

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