I’ve been musing on this post over the last day. This is what I have been wondering:
This is clearly right, in many passages NT writers read Jesus in OT passages saying YHWH, as well as ascribing him the same attributes, relationships etc as YHWH in the OT.
But how do you deal with the psalm in which David says ‘The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”’? The NT writers here interpret ‘my lord’ to be Christ and, at least in Heb 1, ‘the LORD’ as ‘God’. In a way I expect you would draw on what you say that ‘there is more than one Person called LORD’. But is there a danger here that we flatten the relationship between the two persons and lose the clear emphasis of the bible that Jesus receives his authority from the Father. So while he is never called the Son of the LORD, he is called the Son of God.
Also I wonder if there how you would demonstrate that in the OT ‘most often “Lord” refers to the Son’. To me it seems that this is far from clear, and while it is clear that ‘more than one Person called LORD’ in the OT, it is not so clear that you can always confidently identify which person is being referred to. In fact, often it seems that the Trinity and one person of the Trinity is in view.
Thirdly, how confident can we be that NT references to Jesus as lord are primarily about identifying with YHWH, and not the Davidic messiah? Both are obviously in view but, again, it is a lot more murky to me than you I think.
…nervous that his attachment to the murkiness is diluting Jesus’ claims, but still struggling with the revelation of the Trinity in the OT.
Let me begin by trying to say a bit better what I said quite obscurely in my last post.
To say “Jesus is the Son of the God of the Old Testament” is technically true. The Father (and the Spirit) were equally active in the OT and, just as in the NT, Jesus has always been Son of God Most High. However it must give us pause for thought that Jesus is never called “Son of the LORD.” Instead He is consistently called LORD. I believe that Jesus and the Apostles are telling us not simply that “Jesus is ontologically equal to the God of Israel” but that “Jesus is and always has been the God of Israel.” ie not just “Jesus has the same status, dignity and attributes as Yahweh” but that “He is and always has been Yahweh. Here is the One who brought the Israelites out of Egypt etc” (cf Jude 4,5)
Some further thoughts in no particular order:
- There could be a number of reasons why NT says Jesus is the referent of OT passages saying YHWH.
1) The second Person of the trinity was not the original referent but He is equal to the original referent (“”God””) and so deserves the title.
2) The second Person of the trinity was the original referent.
I go for number 2) because:
A) I find the second solution much more straightforward (to be honest I find the first solution really quite strange.)
B) I think the pre-existence of Jesus is not just a ‘being’ issue but a ‘doing’ issue. John 5 says Jesus has been working from the beginning with His Father. I just find it odd to say the Father was the hero of the OT while Jesus only becomes the hero in the second half. I’m not sure that takes His pre-existence (and equal deity) seriously enough as an equality of doing as well as being.
C) I see number 2 taught in places like like Hebrews 1 (“About the Son He says…”)
Basically I think that either 1) or 2) could, once assumed, account for the NT data but that actually 2) is taught. I can’t think of where 1) is taught.
- The equation of “Jesus is Kurios” as “Jesus is YHWH” seems to me the most obvious meaning if we simply let the bible interpret the bible. (I don’t know about you but I get frustrated when commentators immediately go to Caeser Kurios as the equivalent of Jesus is Lord. As though the Roman Empire is a more important interpretive context than the OT!?)
Certainly, as you note, the NT cites OT references to YHWH and applies them straight to Christ. I think the ‘I AM’ statements also function as straightforward claims to being YHWH (see esp John 8:56-58).
To say that ‘Lord’ could simply refer to the ‘Davidic Messiah’ begs the question about how the Israelites were to understand the High Priest at God’s right hand (see the points below). Certainly people like Philo called him the ‘deuteros theos’ – the second God! And Jesus considered the Adonai of Ps 110 to be a far more exalted title than Davidic King (Mk 12:35-37).
At the end of the day I think that a person reading the Septuagint would get a pretty good idea of what kurios meant (6818 times YHWH!) When they turned to the Gospels they would be introduced to John the Baptist who prepared the way for the LORD (ho kurios) who was this man called Jesus. And as they kept reading they’d see ho kurios now eating at a Pharisee’s house (Luke 11:39) etc etc. And on they’d go. I propose that if they were reading it according to its natural sense they would simply exclaim: “The Lord God of Israel is among us”
- As for how to prove that “Lord” refers predominantly to the Son, I’d say, first of all, that’s virtually undisputed when it comes to NT. But I also think the NT teaches a similar expectation for reading the OT. When 1 Cor 8:6 says “for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist” OT usage (esp Deut 6:4) is almost certainly in view.
But I suppose you’re only likely to be persuaded that LORD is mostly used of the Son in the OT if you agree with my take on Christ in the OT. Basically I’d say that the One Word and Image of God Most High has been the eternal Mediator of all the Father’s business (John 1:18). He is the One walking in the garden, the One who appears to Abraham, who wrestles with Jacob, who brings Israel out of Egypt etc etc. It takes 70 chapters of the bible before we are brought to the Unseen LORD on Sinai, yet we have been led by the Appearing LORD throughout. It is He who has been revealing the divine name to us, even as this name has been given Him by the Father (Ex 23:21). Given that this is just the same dynamic as the NT then in both testaments my default supposition is that ‘Lord’ refers to the Son unless proved otherwise. Following this pattern, there’s many passages that I’m confused about in the OT. But there’s also a few in the New too. (What’s going on in 2 Cor 3:16-18??)
- I hear you on not flattening the distinctions between Persons! I’m the last person to want to do that! And the truth that Jesus is fully divine in His obedience to / dependence upon the Father is a glorious truth (with much gospel comfort actually – maybe that’s for another post).
But I also think that this truth is as much an OT as a NT truth.
So, it’s as the Angel sent from the LORD (Ex 3:2) that He is the great I AM (v14) who will bring people to God (v12)
It’s as the Most Excellent of Men that the Bridegroom Warrior is anointed King by God, His God (Psalm 45:6-7)
It’s as the Priest at God’s right hand that He is Lord. (Psalm 110)
So I affirm absolutely that His deity includes and is expressed in His dependence and difference from the Father. I would add that this is the OT’s teaching as much as the New. And I also affirm that it’s technically true that Jesus is Son of the LORD who is the Father (since all three Persons can take that name). But the real issue is whether the Sent One of the Gospels is claiming to be the Sent One of the Torah. This is my claim.
Jesus is the LORD who remembers meeting Abraham (John 8:56-58), who led Israel out of Egypt (Jude 4,5) and who appeared to Isaiah (John 12:40,41). He’s not simply closely related to the God of Israel. He is the God of Israel. And there’s no better way for the NT to affirm that than to simply say Jesus is LORD.