Since my article on hermeneutics a couple weeks back, I’ve had a few questions on the remez (”hint”) technique. While I’ve mentioned it a few times in comments and on my own blog, I thought it might be good to step through the classic example of remez (probably one of the simplest ones to see).

Just to backtrack – remez is a TEACHING technique used by Jewish rabbis/sages dating back to (at least) the first century B.C. A number of modern Jewish sources, even if they do not believe his message, consider a certain rabbi, Yeshua of Nazareth, to be the master in its usage (which should not come to us as a surprise).

A remez, or “hint”, is a way of referring to a large portion of scripture by quoting a small part of that scripture (or one right before or after it). This was particularly useful in the first century, because most of the audience would have had Torah (at the least), along with most of the Psalms and other parts of the sciptures memorized. Thus, by quoting one part of a scripture, the listener could easily ‘fill in the blanks’ or draw additional insight from the teaching.
As I have studied remez, I have read through the gospels, in particular, and Acts to see where Jesus and his disciples quote from the Hebrew Scriptures. Wherever I find such quotes, I then go back to the passage they are quoting and read the verses around the one quoted. You might surprise yourself if you try this in your own study.

Probably the simplest example of remez in the gospels is found in Matthew 27:46 and its parallel passage in Mark 15:34. Here, Jesus is hanging on the cross and he cries out “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”

As it so happens, the first words of Psalm 22 are “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”. In remez, when you quote the first verse of a song (a psalm), you are referencing the entire psalm. So, as a student of the scriptures, you would hear Jesus say this, and you would instantly think of what Psalm 22 is conveying. Go read it now – seriously.

If you are like I was years ago, these words of Jesus on the cross were a bit confusing – I remember thinking “why on earth did Jesus (of all people) think that God had left him?” And while I heard a good number of sermons on the topic, none of them satisfied like the explanation that came directly from the Psalm Jesus quoted.

A couple years ago, the International Bible Society (who publishes the NIV) did a short video series on some of the Psalms, called streams. One of these was Psalm 22, in which they also mention the use of remez. Watch it (below) and tell me what you think of this example… (some browsers can’t see the video inline, and if yours is one of them, you can see it here)

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, January 15th, 2008 at 4:08 pm and is filed under Devotional, Original Articles, Theology. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
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6 Comments(+Add)

1   merry    
January 15th, 2008 at 4:25 pm

Yes, it makes so much more sense that Jesus was referencing Psalm 22 when He quoted the first lines of it on the cross! Psalm 22 was always amazing, but that makes it even more amazing. It’s like Jesus gave His thoughts to David years before– maybe to save time saying all He thought while on the cross! Prophecies like that are amazing.

I really enjoy these articles on Hebrew culture– it helps me understand the Bible so much more. Thanks!

2   Mark    
January 15th, 2008 at 6:00 pm

Like a Lion or They Have Pierced?

In verse 16 of this psalm, the minute difference of a centimeter of ink has ignited a firestorm of controversy. The majority reading of the Masoretic text literally reads, “Like a lion my hands and feet.” This reading is difficult, and doesn’t make sense. In the Septuagint (LXX), the text reads, “they have pierced my hands and my feet.” The difference between the Hebrew letters vav and yud are extremely small, yet the change it makes is incredibly significant.

3   dave
January 15th, 2008 at 9:59 pm

ugh… video… starting automatically… on page load… not. cool.

4   Chris L
January 16th, 2008 at 12:03 am

That’s weird – I can’t get it to do that in my browsers…

5   Chris P.    
January 16th, 2008 at 8:59 am

I find it interesting that long before I knew a lick about Hebrew culture, I took this passage as Jesus referencing the entirety of Pslam 22. Oh well…..

6   Joe C
January 16th, 2008 at 9:07 am


This was great when I saw it on your blog before, and it’s still great now. Thanks.


I noticed that in my Bible, but always chose the translation that made more sense. “Like the lion my hands and my feet” makes no sense in context, but “they have pierced” does.

I wonder if the anti-missionaries would say the same about this…

“…They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son” Zech 12:10b (See John 19:37).

‘They will look on the one they have like the lion?’ LOL