By Ed Vasicek, Midrash Detective
Although the Holy Spirit inspired Paul with new revelation, much of what he wrote was the application of pre-existing Scripture to his recipients. This application is a central aspect of what we call “midrash” (elaboration). Today we will casually discuss two possible midrashim (the plural of midrash).
Supporting local and central governments
The Talmud talks about obligations resident Jews had to participate in their cities of dispersion.
A man must reside in a town thirty days to become liable for contributing to the soup kitchen, three months for the charity box, six months for the clothing fund, nine months for the burial fund, and twelve months for contributing to the repair of the town walls. (Bava Batra 8a)
They probably partly based this on Jeremiah 29:7 [ESV],
But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.
Could I Timothy 2:1-2 be a midrash on the Jeremiah text (at least partly)? I think so:
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.
Although Paul targets praying for the leaders, the implications between this and Romans 13:1-7 are clear: Christians are not to isolate themselves into separate communities, but need to contribute toward public welfare.
The God Incarnate As Man Mediator
I Timothy 2:5 is a key verse, akin to John 14:6 and a number of others. I am suggesting it could also be a midrash on a First Testament text. It reads (in the ESV),
For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus…
This verse might be a midrash on Isaiah 59:16-17 where we see the divinity of the Messiah and his incarnation (figuratively described as putting on armor):
He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no one to intercede; then his own arm brought him salvation, and his righteousness upheld him. He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head; he put on garments of vengeance for clothing, and wrapped himself in zeal as a cloak.
Thus, in addition to the idea of God existing as Three Persons, we see the Messiah (the Son) represented as part of God Himself, his own right arm! This right arm dresses for warfare (the incarnation) to intercede (serve as mediator).
Many New Testament texts are expositions (midrash) of Old Testament texts. Putting these texts together enriches — or reinforces — our understanding of God’s Word.