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Off on holiday now for 9 days.  Some frivolity is about to be posted automatically by the blog.  If you want something more theological to chew on, here's a few older posts on the trinity issues that have been coming up recently.

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God is not revealed in His Twin

This should be very obvious, but we easily forget it.  Even in the verses that most directly uphold the full and complete revelation of the Father in the Son, the differentiation of Father and Son are also prominently in view:

"Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:9)

"The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven." (Heb 1:3)

"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation." (Col 1:15)

"...see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God... For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ." (2 Cor 4:4-6)

The Father is perfectly revealed, not by His Twin, not by a Clone, but by Someone who is His Complement.  The Father is revealed in His Son, the Firstborn, His Image, His right-hand Man-Priest.  Self-differentiation is at the heart of God's revelation.  Jesus is not the same as His Father and yet fully reveals Him. More than this - this difference is of the essence of the divine self-disclosure.  Self-differentiation in communion is the being of God - all of this is perfectly revealed in, by and through Jesus of Nazareth.

Now to say that Jesus is other to His Father is not an Arian position.  On the contrary this is a determination to see Jesus' revelation as a full disclosure of the life of God.  It was Arius who would leave us short of full revelation in Jesus.  Here we are embracing the otherness of Father and Son as the very deepest revelation of the divine nature. It is because of His equality with the Father that Christ's otherness must be taken as part and parcel of the divine revelation. Because Jesus fully reveals the divine life by speaking of Another, thus He is not obstructing our view of this Other.   Rather the interplay of He and the Other are constitutive of the divine life which He reveals.  Arius is refuted at the deepest level, and all by heeding this simple truth: God is not revealed in His Twin but in His Son.

This should be so obvious and plain and yet so many take their opposition of Arius in precisely the opposite direction.  Their first and fatal move is to maintain that homo-ousios commits us to three-fold repetition.  They assume Father and Son are identical from the outset - all in the name of Nicene orthodoxy (of course ignoring 'God from God...').  Now when they approach the eating, sleeping, dying, rising Jesus they must account for these differences while upholding that the Father and Son possess identical CVs.  What to do with the discrepancies?  Simple.  Ignore the fact that Nicea pronounced the homo-ousios on Jesus of Nazareth and instead attribute all discrepancies to a human nature that is distinct from His divine nature.  The cost of such a move?  Immediately, the otherness of Jesus is not revelatory of the divine nature, in fact it impedes our view of God.  To see Jesus is suddenly not to see divine life, but merely human.  We have in fact lost the one Image, Word, Representative and Mediator of God.  Jesus of Nazareth has become, to all intents and purposes, homoi-ousios with the Father.  Question marks hover over everything we see in Jesus as to whether or not we should attribute this to the divine life.  We have returned to Arius's problem via another route - we are left short of full revelation in Jesus.

Now if we took seriously the fact that God is not revealed in His Twin but in His Son we would be saved from all of this.  Christ's humanity neither commits us to an eating, sleeping, dying, rising Father, but nor does it distance us from a true revelation of God.  Instead Christ's eating reveals a Father who provides in our frailties, His sleeping reveals a Father who protects in our weakness, His death reveals a living, judging Father, His resurrection reveals a justifying, reconciling Father.  We see into the very heart-beat of the eternal trinity when we see Jesus of Nazareth in all His glorious humanity. 

And all because we have remembered the simple adage: God is not revealed in His Twin, but in His Son!

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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.

Just a brief point about my recent posts on the tribal deity of Israel (here, here and here).  

In those posts I assumed that the LORD of the burning bush was the very One who became incarnate of the virgin Mary.  Just to say, that wasn't sloppy grammar or fuzzy thinking (I don't think!).  To many of you the point is obvious but I've read enough biblical theology around the place to know that other views abound.  So often you hear things like: "Jesus is the Son of the one the OT calls Yahweh."  Now in one sense that is true.  In the OT, the Father often goes by the name of Yahweh, just as in the NT He often goes by the name Lord.  But most often 'Lord' refers to the Son - this is true in both testaments. 

Jesus' claim, and the claim of the NT, is that He is Yahweh (in Greek 'kurios'), the God of Abraham, the God of the burning bush (e.g. John 8:56-58).  Now the God of the burning bush is the Sent One from Yahweh ('The Angel of the LORD' Ex 3:2) and so clearly there is more than one Person called LORD.  But Jesus, the Sent One of the Father, claims to be the One who calls Himself I AM. 

Nowhere is Jesus ever called the Son of the Lord.  Everywhere Jesus is called the Lord.

I just mention this because it seems to me that many, wittingly or unwittingly, dilute the claims of Jesus in the Gospels.  But we must be aware of how radical Jesus' claims are - He's not simply saying 'I am the Son of the God of the Old Testament.'  He's saying 'I am the God of the Old Testament.'  The implications are many but I said I'd be brief, so there you are.

For more see Christ in OT.

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Further to the previous two posts (here and here), I just came across these two quotes from 'Jesus in Trinitarian Perspective' edited by Fred Sanders and Klaus Issler:

“Chalcedon already provides us with Christology in trinitarian perspective, and makes no sense without presupposing the Trinity.” (p15)

“At the center of the open space marked out by the boundaries of Chalcedon are two things: the apostolic narrative of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ; and the confession that this person in the gospel narrative is an eternal person distinct from the Father, yet fully divine. What stands in the middle of the Chalcedonian categories is the biblical story of Jesus, interpreted in light of the Trinity” (p. 25).

Haven't read the book, but that sounds like the kinda thing I'm banging on about - Nicea comes before Chalcedon.

Does anyone know if the book's any good?  Sounds promising to me.

Fred Sanders also has some helpful looking posts here on christology.

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It's common to see a link between christology and our approach to the bible.  There are limits to this but also benefits.  Our approach to both Christ and the bible requires us to encounter something fully human which nonetheless is the Word of God.  Christology can therefore teach us a great deal about how the bible as fully human can nonetheless be a fully divine revelation.

In my last post I discussed christology.  Namely, the (chronological and methodological) priority of Nicea over Chalcedon.  What this means is that we must linger long over Nicea's declaration that Jesus (born of a virgin, crucified under Pontius Pilate) is of one being with the Father (homoousios).  The Man Jesus exists wholly within the triune relations which constitute God's being.  Whatever else Chalcedon protects - it does not protect Christ's humanity from that Nicene homoousios.  The fully human Jesus is a full participant in this divine nature.  In this way we protect against a Nestorianism which always threatens to divorce the humanity from the divinity.

What we can then say is this:

  1. Nestorianism is rejected: In Jesus' humanity (and not apart from it) God is revealed.  To put it another way: As the Man Jesus (and not in some other realm of locked-off deity) He brings divine revelation and salvation.
  2. Adoptionism is rejected: It is not the case that the humanity comes first and is then taken up into deity.  The Word became flesh, not the other way around!
  3. Docetism is rejected: It is not the case that the humanity is an unreal facade which we must push beyond to get to the real (divine) Jesus. 

What would this mean when applied to biblical interpretation (i.e. hermeneutics)?  Given our OT focus in the last few posts - what would it mean in particular for OT interpretation?

I suggest it means this: 

  1. Nestorianism is rejected: In the humanity of the OT (it's immediate context, complete Jewish-ness, thorough Hebrew-ness) its divine Object (Christ) is revealed.  As the prophetic Israelite Scripture that it is (and not in some other locked-off realm of meaning) it is Christian, i.e. a proclamation of Christ.
  2. Adoptionism is rejected: It is not the case that a lower-level of Jewish meaning comes first and is then added to as it's adopted as Christian Scripture (by the NT).  From the beginning, at the very roots of its being, the OT is Christian/Messianic.  It is not first Hebrew Scripture and then Christian revelation rather it is Christian revelation that presupposes and brings about the Hebrew Scriptures.
  3. Docetism is rejected:  Having said all this I'm in no way denying the distinctly Israelite/Hebrew/pre-Gentile-inclusion/Mosaic-administration ways in which the Christ is proclaimed.  In its own context and on its own terms the OT will proclaim Christ to us.  We do not ignore contemporary details - rather we take them very seriously as that in which Christ is made known.

 

If the christological analogy holds and if this christology is right then I think we need to rule out certain brands of hermeneutics.  In particular we should be wary of any theory of interpretation that separates out Jewish-ness and Christian-ness in the OT.

On a similar note, I recently found a great short article on this hermeneutical issue by Nathan Pitchford.  His argument is that the reformers' notion of the literal meaning of the text was not something different to its christological meaning. It was the christological meaning.  You can also check out his excellent OT series here.

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Here's a christological motto to live by: Nicea comes before Chalcedon.

What do I mean by this?  I'm glad you asked.

It's common in christological debates to begin by thinking of the Council of Chalcedon, 451 AD (btw I'm not guaranteeing the quality/accuracy of the wikipedia links).  There a two-nature christology was hammered out in which

We confess that one and the same Christ, Lord, and only-begotten Son, is to be acknowledged in two natures without confusion, change, division, or separation (ἀσυγχύτως, ἀτρέπτως, ἀδιαιρέτως, ἀχωρίστως; inconfuse, immutabiliter, indivise, inseparabilter).

And so, typically, thinking on the Person of Christ begins with a consideration of these two natures, humanity and divinity, which subsist in the one Person without confusion or change (upholding the integrity of Christ's genuine humanity and divinity) and without division or separation (upholding the unity of His humanity and divinity in one Person).  Yet is this really where our thinking should begin?

Chalcedon is pretty universally regarded as a good ring-fence - defining the bounds of orthodox christology.  But ring fences do not make good foundations!

So where should we begin?  Well note that Nicea comes before Chalcedon.  It was in 325 AD that the Council of Nicea considered the identity of Jesus of Nazareth.  And crucially Nicea declared what the Scriptures clearly teach - that Jesus of Nazareth is 'of one being with the Father' (homoousios).  Now here's the crucial thing - Nicea does not simply say 'the eternal Son' is 'of one being with the Father.'  This is of course true, but Nicea says more than this.  It is the Jesus who was born of the virgin Mary, who suffered under Pontius Pilate, who is declared homoousios with the Father.

Now why do I say that this was a necessary assertion from Nicea?  Well, starkly put, who cares if the eternal Son is God if we can't say the same of Jesus of Nazareth!  It's Jesus of Nazareth who says 'If you've seen me you've seen the Father.' (John 14:9)  It's Jesus of Nazareth who says 'Son your sins are forgiven.' (Mark 2:5)  It's the Man Jesus who lives our life and dies our death.  If salvation is truly from the LORD then it has to be Jesus 'born of the virgin Mary and suffered under Pontius Pilate' who is declared fully God.  Nicea necessarily and clearly does this.

And what does this mean?  It means that before we've even gotten to Chalcedon we've affirmed that the Person of Jesus who is fully man and fully God exists entirely within the circle of divine fellowship which constitutes the being of God.  Jesus the Man is of one being with the Father.  If we could not affirm this then the revelation of Jesus would not be the revelation of God (contra John 14).  If we could not affirm this then the salvation of Jesus would not be the salvation of God (contra Mark 2).  But no, Jesus and the Father are one - not simply 'the Son' and the Father.

Why am I labouring this?  Well I have a sneaking suspicion that the christology story most people have in mind is a little different.  My fear is that people think the order of things goes something like:

1) we all know what divine nature is (some kind of essence probably!)

2) then (at Nicea) we insist that there is a trinity of Persons who we ought to confess as divine (and therefore in equal possession of this God-stuff)

3) then (at Chalcedon) we turn our attention to this pesky issue of how Jesus (who looks very different to our assumed conception of God-stuff ) is made up of God-stuff and man-stuff.  And it's pretty freaky, and a mystery, but hey orthodoxy demands it so we'd better confess it.

It's caricature obviously but does that kinda vibe resonate with anyone else?  It's a theological journey that treads this path:

Being of God (divine nature) => Trinity => Christ (two nature christology).

Or to put it even more crudely: "We all know God's essence is a load of 'omni's; then (weirdly enough) we affirm that these omnis are parcelled out equally among Three Persons and then (strangeness of all strangenesses) we declare that one of the Three not only has a God-nature (defined by these omnis) but also a man-nature (that's really very unlike His God-nature as defined by the omnis)."  I confess that I have seen a lot of this kind of thinking in my own theology in the past.  And it's pretty awful to be honest.

When we begin by looking through the wrong end of the telescope we are left looking at the human Jesus but this humanity is actually a problem - a barrier. True revelation of God lies behind the humanity (which is all we ever encounter of Christ) and so Jesus has actually concealed rather than revealed God.

But... Nicea comes before Chalcedon.  This is not just true chronologically, it should also be true in our theological method.  Nicea teaches us that our doctrine of the being of God; the trinity; and christology must be held together.  These three concepts must mutually inform each other or else all three will be misconstrued. The Being of God is the relationship of the Three.  And these Three are One not only as Father, Son and Spirit but equally (and crucially) as Father, Incarnate Son and Spirit.  In this way divinity, trinity and christology are held together.  Go here for another post of mine on Nicea.

The divine nature is precisely the communion of the Three - a communion that is in no way compromised by the incarnation.  Jesus is fully God because He is the Son of the Father and the Anointed One with the Spirit.  It is no wonder that He is so often identified as 'The Christ, the Son of God.'  Christ's deity consists in these relationships and is never diminished by taking flesh.  Thus His full humanity in no way contradicts His full deity.  The Man Jesus exists fully and without remainder within the circle of divine life.  Chalcedon upholds the full integrity of Christ's humanity, the complete perfection of His divinity, the absolute unity of His Person.  What Chalcedon does not say, and what it must never be made to say, is that there is a humanity to Jesus that is beyond the divine homoousios.  Nicea has for all time assured us that the Man Jesus is within the circle of triune fellowship which is the divine nature.

And this is the heart of our Christian hope. It means that the Christ I encounter in the gospel does reveal the very nature of God; He really is offering me the salvation of God and, through union with Christ, He really has brought me to participate in God's own life. (2 Peter 1:4). If we lose this, we lose everything.

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10

The End?

Ok time to bring these thoughts to a close (for now).

For links to the 14 posts in this series go here.

For the full text of the 14 posts go here.

Let me finish with a plea from the heart of true doctrine...  Jesus is the Word of God.  He is not the best Word.  He is not the ultimate Word.  He is not the seal of series of improving words.  He is the Word.  There is no knowledge of God that is not mediated through the Son.  Please consider these foundational verses.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made.  (John 1:1-2)

No-one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made Him known. (John 1:18)

He is the Image of the invisible God, the Firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created  (Col 1:15-16)

The context for these verses is not incarnation.  The Word became flesh long after the Word was.  The Son has been the revelation of God from before the creation of the world.  Incarnation does not make Jesus the Word, rather the pre-existing Word became flesh.  At the risk of sledge-hammer repetition: Jesus is the Word and Image of God prior to incarnation.  He has always been the one Way, Truth and Life.  To be ignorant of the Son pre or post-incarnation is to be ignorant of God.

Consider additionally these crucial passages:

Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)

 "All things have been committed to me by my Father. No-one knows the Son except the Father, and no-one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him." (Matt 11:27)

Christ in the OT is not an irritating hobby horse that some people ride and we wish they didn't and would let us alone 'cos we all get to Jesus in the end'.  It's about the identity of Jesus.  Is He the revelation of God or is He something less? 

Is solus Christus true in revelation just as it is in salvation or is it a case of 'Jesus and...'?  Are there other ways? Other truths?  Or does Jesus retain for Himself all the glory?

Ok so what are your thoughts on this issue?  Boring?  Irrelevant? Untrue?  Are my arguments overstated? Unworkable? Old hat? Garbage?  What?

Over to you...

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Ok, let's continue with this issue of the NT's handling of the Old.

If we take the reformation cry of sola Scriptura at all seriously we must allow the Bible to interpret the Bible. Historical-grammatical hermeneutics, archaeology, even the most careful exegesis conducted by the best scholarship must all bow to God's own word.  He determines His meaning.  He is the only fit witness to Himself.

Yet, in contemporary Biblical studies it is commonly said of New Testament writers that they re-interpret the meaning of Old Testament Scripture.  Thus, it is asserted that an Old Testament passage can be shown conclusively to mean one thing via a thorough application of historical-grammatical hermeneutics, and then when Jesus or an Apostle quote from it they invest it with a new Christological meaning.  Diligent exegesis yields one reading, the New Testament gives another.  Yet rather than bow to the Apostles and re-think their methods of exegesis, these Bible students assert without any New Testament support that these two meanings co-exist in the text.  Thus it is routinely suggested that Jesus and the Apostles did not faithfully exegete the Hebrew Scriptures (defined by contemporary models) but rather, with special license from the Holy Spirit, made Christological assertions that are not derived from exegesis itself.  Their treatment of the Old Testament is therefore not to be emulated.  What we primarily learn from their handling is the audacious apostolic authority invested in them.

But what if we were to take Jesus and the Apostles as our models in the Christian life? (radical thought!).  If we do that we'll see that the New Testament does not model a two-level exegesis of the kind: ‘David said ‘X', but now we can re-read this through Christian eyes as ‘Y''.  The New Testament simply says Abraham met Christ (John 8:56).  It states boldly that Isaiah saw Jesus (John 12:41).  It asserts that David looked ahead to the resurrection and spoke explicitly of Christ (Acts 2:31).  It declares that Christ saved the people out of Egypt and accompanied them in the wilderness (1 Cor 10:4,9; Heb 11:26; Jude 5).  The New Testament does not say ‘Abraham had an experience which we can now re-interpret as ‘meeting Christ''.  It does not say ‘Isaiah saw a vision which Christian eyes know to be Jesus'.  It does not say, ‘David looked to types of Christ later fulfilled in His Person'. It does not say, ‘retrospectively we can see signs and types of Jesus of which the Israelites were unaware but which manifested a Christ-like presence in their midst.'  Yet how often is the OT handles in this way?

If you continue, I've listed a number of New Testament texts which handle the Old Testament.  Just see the way New Testament writers read the Old.  Only the Bible can teach us to handle the Bible.  If we do not read the Old Testament the way these men did - we are wrong.  We must change.  Let these examples challenge our own reading of the Scriptures.

...continue reading "Christ in the Old Testament 13"

10

By the way, I'm collecting all the posts in this series into one page - Christ in OT.

Now I'd like to share one more reason why I think this stuff matters . It's this:

When we see that the OT is already a witness to Christ before and even without the NT then we see that the prophets aren't idiots and the apostle's aren't weirdos!

It's important to counter this notion because I suspect it lurks just beneath the surface of all our thinking.  So easily we think of the prophets as groping around in a sub-Christian darkness.  And married to this idea is the one that the apostles, when interpreting the prophets as illuminated Christian witnesses, are doing something really weird.  But no, the prophets aren't idiots and the apostle's aren't weirdos!

You will have noticed that I haven't really mentioned the NT at all in these posts.  My argument is not that the Old Testament is truly Christian because Jesus and the Apostles give us a new hermeneutic with which to re-read the Hebrew Scriptures.  My argument is that the Christian meaning (that is, the messianically focussed trinitarian meaning) is the intention of the original authors and the understanding of the faithful saints.

Thus when, for instance, Paul says: "That Rock was Christ" ( 1 Cor 10:4) it's not audacious apostolic authority that's allowing him to re-read the history of Israel!!  It's the fact he's a believer who simply takes the Hebrew Scriptures seriously.  When Jude says "Jesus saved the people out of Egypt" (v5) it's not some fancy telescoping of redemptive stories, it's just the plain fact that Jesus actually led the people out of Egypt.   When John says "Isaiah saw Jesus' glory and spoke about Him." (John 12:41) it's not because he's retrospectively awarding to Isaiah an encounter with Jesus.  He's just explaining the plain fact that Isaiah actually saw His glory (Isaiah 6!) and wrote the rest of his prophesies about this King who was high and lifted up (cf Isaiah 52:13).

New Testament handling of the Old is not a novel Christianization of an otherwise sub-Christian text.  It's simply stating the obvious.  Which means - thank GOD! - that the Apostles can actually teach us how to handle the bible.  This is so important because many want to claim that Apostles are doing weird things which cannot be copied.  The argument (much caricatured!) runs something like this:

  • When I read OT passage X, I don't immediately see it as refering to Jesus
  • Instead I think the assured findings of the grammatical-historical method yield a sub-Christian meaning.  i.e. it refers to David or Solomon or 'God' in the abstract.
  • Then I come across Jesus or an apostle who simply asserts that X is speaking of Christ
  • At this point I have two options
    • A -- I can say "I was wrong about X all along."  I can confess the paucity of my passion for Christ and the foggy-ness of my spiritual vision.  I can admit that my presuppositions in reading the OT are not those of Jesus and the apostles and I can repent.   Or...
    • B -- I can say "I was right about X all along" and hold onto my sub-Christian reading of X which is given no expression anywhere in the Old or New Testaments.  I will assert that my sub-christian understanding of X is in fact the intended meaning of its author! And then I will claim that Jesus and the apostles add an unintended Christian gloss.
  • I will probably not even consider A (it shocks me how rarely "A" occurs to the people I talk to!) and will, at the speed of thought, plump for B.  My justification?  I will proffer one of two quotations with an almost biblical assurance: Either, "The New is in the Old concealed.  The Old is in the New revealed," or "They spoke better than they knew."
  • If challenged on the Scriptural warrant for this view I'll mumble something about 2 Cor 1:20 or 1 Peter 1:10-12

Well let's look at those Scriptures:

19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by me and Silas and Timothy, was not "Yes" and "No", but in him it has always been "Yes." 20 For no matter how many promises God has made, they are "Yes" in Christ. And so through him the "Amen" is spoken by us to the glory of God. (2 Cor 1:19-20)

Notice here that Paul claims "In Him it has always been Yes."  I never see v19 quoted with v20 when used in these debates.  The promises of God find their Yes in Jesus Christ - and always have!

Let's look at the other oft-quoted passage:

10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, 11 trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. 12 It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. (1 Pet 1:10-12)

Astonishingly, people - intelligent godly people - can quote this verse to support the view that the prophets didn't know what they were talking about.  But look at what these prophets knew.  They knew the Spirit of Christ in them, they knew the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow, they knew that they weren't serving themselves - they weren't prophesying simply about contemporary events but knew they spoke of future gospel events.  What did they not know?  The time and circumstances.  There they were, full of the Spirit, fixed on the coming Christ - His sufferings and glories - they just didn't know when it would happen.  They would have been asking "Is this the time?"  "Are these the circumstances into which the Messiah will come?"  How on earth you get from this verse to "They didn't know what they were talking about" is truly beyond me.

So please let's see that the prophets weren't idiots and neither were the apostles weirdos.  Jesus and the apostles are not weird examples of a specially mandated NT exegesis which is off limits for us.  When we get this straight then they are seen truly as fellow exegetes with the prophets, laying bare the intended and understood meaning of the prior Scriptures and showing us how it's done.  Because if Jesus and the apostles don't teach you how to do hermeneutics, who will??

I heard of a hermeneutics professor who told his students that the Apostle Paul would have failed his class.  Well that's just backwards.  It's Paul who should have been teaching him.  But actually that's very typical of how many people think.  They know how to do exegesis (the text critics have taught them well).  Paul doesn't match up so he must be doing something weird - let's sideline him, claim that we mustn't follow the apostle and keep going with our own interpretive techniques before adding Paul's stuff as a weird extra.  But no, we must be taught everything in the Christian life including and especially how to read the Scriptures.  Let's not call them weird.  The Scriptures never claim that Jesus or the apostles are specially mandated in their interpretations.  They never ward us away from following them, quite the opposite.  They never claim to be going beyond what Moses and the prophets were saying (Acts 26:22).

So please don't buy into "The prophets spoke better than they knew."  What about this for a crazy idea - "They knew what they were talking about."  Doesn't that make a bit more sense?!  Doesn't that give you greater confidence in reading them!?  The prophets were not idiots.  And the apostles were not weirdos.

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3

Quotes from Church History continued...

JOHN OWEN

Genesis 3
… a revelation was made of a distinct person in the Deity, who in a peculiar manner did manage all the concernments of the church after the entrance of sin. (Works, vol 18, 216)

He by whom all things were made, and by whom all were to be renewed that were to be brought again unto God, did in an especial and glorious manner appear unto our first parents, as he in whom this whole dispensation centred, and unto whom it was committed.  And as, after the promise given, he appeared ‘in human form’ to instruct the Church in the mystery of his future incarnation, and under the name of Angel, to shadow out his office as sent unto it and employed in it by the Father; so here, before the promise, he discovered his distinct glorious person, as the eternal Voice of the Father. (ibid, p220)

Genesis 18
Neither is there any ground for the late exposition of this and the like places, namely, that a created angel representing the person of God doth speak and act in his name, and is called Jehovah; an invention to evade the appearances of the Son of God under the old testament, contrary to the sense of all antiquity, nor is any reason or instance produced to make it good. (ibid, 225)

Genesis 19:24
…in this place it is Moses that speaketh of the Lord, and he had no occasion to repeat ‘The LORD’ were it not to intimate the distinct persons unto whom that name, denoting the nature and self-existence of God, was proper; one whereof then appeared on the earth, the other manifesting his glorious presence in heaven…  There is therefore in this place an appearance of God in human shape, and that of one distinct person in the Godhead, who now represented himself unto Abraham in the form and shape wherein he would dwell amongst men, when of his seed he would be ‘made flesh’.  This was one signal means whereby Abraham saw his day and rejoiced; which Himself lays upon His pre-existence unto His incarnation, and not upon the promise of His coming, John 8:56, 58. (ibid, 225)

Genesis 32:24-30
From what hath been spoken, it is evident that he who appeared unto Jacob, with whom he earnestly wrestled, by tears and supplications was God; and because he was sent as the angel of God, it must be some distinct person in the Deity condescending unto that office; and appearing in the form of a man, he represented his future assumption of our human nature.  And by all this did God instruct the church in the mystery of the person of the Messiah, and who it was that they were to look for in the blessing of the promised Seed. (ibid, 225)

Exodus 3:1-6
He is expressly called an “Angel” Exod. 3:2 – namely, the Angel of the covenant, the great Angel of the presence of God, in whom was the name and nature of God.  And he thus appeared that the Church might know and consider who it was that was to work out their spiritual and eternal salvation, whereof that deliverance which then he would effect was a type and pledge.  Aben Ezra would have the Angel mentioned verse 2, to be another from him who is called ‘God’, verse 6: but the text will not give countenance unto any such distinction, but speaks of one and the same person throughout without any alteration; and this was no other but the Son of God. (ibid, 225)

That the faith of all believers, from the foundation of the world, had a respect unto him [Christ], I shall afterwards demonstrate; and to deny it, is to renounce both the Old Testament and the New. (Christologia, VIII)

From the giving of that promise [Genesis 3:15] the faith of the whole church was fixed on him whom God would send in our nature, to redeem and save them. Other way of acceptance with him there was none provided, none declared, but only by faith in this promise. The design of God in this promise--which was to reveal and propose the only way which in his wisdom and grace he had prepared for the deliverance of mankind from the state of sin and apostasy whereinto they were cast, with the nature of the faith and obedience of the church will not admit of any other way of salvation, but only faith in him who was thus promised to be a saviour. (ibid)

 

JONATHAN EDWARDS
From ‘A History of the Work of Redemption’

When we read in sacred history what God did, from time to time, towards His Church and people, and how He revealed Himself to them, we are to understand it especially of the Second Person of the Trinity. When we read of God appearing after the fall, in some visible form, we are ordinarily, if not universally, to understand it of the Second Person of the Trinity... John 1:18. He is therefore called the image of the invisible God - Col 1:15 - intimating that though God the Father be invisible, yet Christ is His image or representation, by which He is seen.

It is now revealed to Abraham, not only that Christ should come; but that he should be his seed; and promised, that all the families of the earth should be blessed in him.

Thus you see how much more fully the covenant of grace was revealed and confirmed in Abraham’s time than ever it had been before; by means of which Abraham seems to have had a clear view of Christ, the great Redeemer, and the future things that were to be accomplished by him.

The main subjects of these songs were the glorious things of the gospel; as is evident by the interpretation that is often put upon them in the New Testament: for there is no one book of the Old Testament that is so often quoted in the New, as the book of Psalms. … here Christ is spoken of by his ancestor David abundantly, in multitudes of songs, speaking of his incarnation, life, death, resurrection, ascension into heaven, his satisfaction, intercession; his prophetical, kingly, and priestly office; his glorious benefits in this life and that which is to come; his union with the church, and the blessedness of the church in him; the calling of the Gentiles and the future glory of the church near the end of the world, and Christ’s coming to the final judgment.  All these things, and many more, concerning Christ and his redemption, are abundantly spoken of in the book of Psalms.

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