Jesus is LORD – not Son of LORD. Some clarifications

Dave K has asked some excellent questions of my last post on this issue.  Here they are in full.  Afterwards is my attempt to address them. 

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.

Dave

…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.

Posted on by Glen in christology, covenant continuity, Doctrine of God, hermeneutics, Old Testament

About Glen

I'm a preacher in Eastbourne, married to Emma.

0 Responses to Jesus is LORD – not Son of LORD. Some clarifications

  1. rockbadger

    May I ask an extra related question?

    “Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11)

    Can you explain that for us in light of what you’ve been writing? e.g. what is the name above every name? If it is LORD (a la vv.11) did he not already have it? Or does Jesus become higher than all others, because he has been shown to be LORD? That kind of thing…

  2. Dave K

    Thanks for the response Glen. It is currently fermenting in my mind.

  3. glenscriv

    “Fermenting”… as is the wont of rotten matter ;-)

  4. glenscriv

    Rockbadger,

    I guess we’d all want to say that Jesus is called YHWH before His ascension (so for instance John the Baptist prepares the way of the LORD (Isaiah 40) and it’s clear that that LORD is the Lord Jesus). But yes there’s something about His exaltation that reveals the true depths of His divine name. So, Acts 2:33-36

    33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. 34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, “‘ The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, 35 until I make your enemies your footstool.’ 36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

    (note that the ‘Lord’ of Psalm 110:1b (quoted in v34) is Adonai, but the ‘Lord’ of Joel 2 (quoted in v17-21) is YHWH. The NT writers often seem to embrace the ambiguity of ‘kurios’ often seeming to see them as equivalent).

    Anyway God *makes* Jesus Lord and Christ through His death and exaltation. Was He Lord and Christ beforehand? Absolutely. But do we also want to hold onto the language of Acts 2 and Philippians 2 – a sense of ‘making’ and ‘bestowing’? Yes, I think so. We shouldn’t dismiss these as ways of speaking. The gospel events are not divine pageantry Jesus *is* who He is in these events. You might think my language a little strong but I’ll throw caution to the wind here (I can always recant later!): Christ ‘becomes’ who He has always been *in* cross and exaltation. (see also John 17:5). This is all tapping into a hundred thoughts surrounding God’s Being in Becoming – a fascinating book by Eberhard Jungel I’m reading at the moment. But I’ll try to restrict myself for the moment.

    So, yes, in answer to your question I think the name probably is YHWH. And I think He is given it in the sense that the LORD He has always been is precisely the exalted priest at God’s right hand. His eternal name is ratified (can we even say constituted?) in the ascension.

    That kind of thing

  5. glenscriv

    Dave – I meant that my response was rotten, not your mind btw!!

  6. Jacky

    Glen,

    I remember speaking to you briefly about the Holy Spirit when you were still doing your Christ in the OT series, and the book “God’s Being in Becoming” by Eberhard Jungel intrigues me. Does he speak much about the Spirit’s being in becoming as well? You gave me the Abraham Kuyper example of a house with one generator switching to a national grid (i.e. the Spirit being ‘constricted’ as it were to the LAND of Israel, c.f. the law of Exodus 20 being fulfilled AND revoked by Jesus’ work on the cross to fulfill the promise of Genesis 12. So Exodus 20 = land-generator, and Genesis 12 = global-grid?).

    In the same way, with the Christ, just as he has been appearing consistently to Israel via the name the “LORD”, would it be right to say that the expressions and explanations of him as the “LORD” in the NT by the gospel writers isn’t so much a revelatory context of him NOW becoming the LORD (i.e. only NOW is he glorified; or… only NOW is the Spirit given, and prior to this the Spirit was ‘unknown’ or sparsely known).

    Rather, the NT has always been about the Gentiles joining in, and the promise to Israel no longer constricted to Israel but pertaining to the entire world (Gen 12). Thus, EVERYTHING that we know in the NT should already be established within the physical land of Israel in the OT, from the Angel of the LORD to the Holy Spirit. The working knowledge of the gospel was ready for grabs in the OT, and explained AGAIN in the NT to the Gentiles and those of Israel who haven’t already understood.

    What this also means is that the NT was written primarily for the Gentiles in both an explanatory and fulfillment context (explaining the OT to them, and THEN the cross as fulfillment). Whereas, the NT for Jews is mostly fulfillment context (hence Paul’s argument in Romans that Jews have more advantage).

    And this may be the reason why people confuse NT as a set of books/letters of ‘revelation’, as if revealing something that wasn’t shown in the OT… when it is really just explaining things to the GENTILES (and the uncircumcised Jews) things that have always been clear. If not, then Genesis 3:15 makes no sense, if Jesus wasn’t eternally at God’s right hand. This is all the more made obvious with the gospel writers’ mentality. How could they themselves accept the fulfillment of the cross if Christ hasn’t already been seen, as Philo said, the Second Person? If Christ came to explain that He is the Second Person in the office of the Anointed Messiah, himself as Lord fulfilling his true glory, I sure hope His words were in themselves already clearly prophesied and directly revealed to the saints in the OT! Otherwise, indeed, Christ is not only ‘new’ in terms of establishing a new age of the Spirit with the inclusion of the Gentiles… but he is completely novel to BOTH Jews and Gentiles. :( I fear that is sometimes the implication given with the Goldsworthy camp of interpretation, if we read NT backwards to OT, despite his effort to make Christ the centrality of the OT.

    I hope I haven’t gone offtrack whilst I vomit my thoughts here… cause I think Philippians 2 and Revelation 13:8 and Genesis 3:15 (let alone Genesis 1 and 2 and some of the right hand references in the Psalms) would not make sense if Christ’s glory wasn’t physically and manifestly known and prophesied, but fully RE-displayed in his death, resurrection and ascension emphasised on the cross?

    BTW… maybe you can do a Spirit-series entry sometime. :)

  7. glenscriv

    Hi Jacky.

    I think I might have sent us on a bit of a tangent with answering rockbadger via Jungel. To answer briefly, we should probably distinguish a few related but distinct ideas:

    1) God’s being is not only truly revealed in the gospel events but the gospel events are internal to that being.

    2) Christ’s (and the Spirit’s) identity was consciously known and trusted in in the OT

    3) Christ has always had the name YHWH

    I think 3) is uncontroversial. 2) seems to me (and you)obvious (but clearly it’s not held universally!). 1) is a matter of debate but I’m persuaded of it through the verses that I’ve thrown around in the comments (plus stuff in Hebrews and John 10:17; Rev 13:8) and through the implications of Jesus of Nazareth being of one being with the Father.

    I think you make a good case for 2) in your comments. No arguments here!

    And, yes, the case of the Spirit is also interesting with regards to 3). The pouring out of the Spirit is actually effected by Christ’s exaltation. And yet it was in part (ie in Israel) enjoyed pre-exaltation. Just as forgiveness in OT was only enjoyed on the basis of the future work of Christ, so too with the Spirit. Bezalel had the Spirit because of the ascension. Pentecost was an event in time in which the eternal Spirit was manifest among us as the One He has always been – and yet everything He had been to the people prior to this was only on the basis of this historical event. etc

    a Spirit series is a good idea. I’ll add it to the list!

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