Apr

04

2013

Scott Redd|12:01 AM CT

Christ Is Not Just Another Theme in the Old Testament

I am increasingly hesitant to use the phrase "finding Christ in the Old Testament" (or Pentateuch, Psalter, or Wisdom Literature, and so on). It seems to imply that the person of Christ is merely a theme among others to be mined from the Old Testament alongside other themes such as justification, resurrection, or the like. 

The second person of the Trinity made incarnate is, of course, more than simply a theme of God's self-revelation in the Old Testament Scriptures. He is the culmination of God's self-revelation in all of history, the perfect embodiment of the godhead (Col 2:9). To a certain extent, we could say that the quest to find Christ in the Old Testament is analogous to the quest to find Thomas Jefferson in Declaration of Independence. Christ is everywhere throughout the Old Testament. It speaks of him explicitly and implicitly, in promises, patterns, types, hints, and images. Through these various ways the Old Testament reveals and anticipates the richness of his character: his work, his life, his glory, his hope, his might, his love, his suffering, his wisdom, and so much more, and it does this all before the historical event of his incarnation.

The OT witness to Christ is as rich and varied as are all of the functions he performs. When evangelicals talk about Christ in the Old Testament, they tend to look for images, patterns, or outright anticipations of Christ's work of substitutionary atonement. Of course, Christ's work as once-and-for-all sacrifice is central to the Christian hope for salvation, but it only gets at part of the distinct and lordly character and work of the Son of God himself.

In fact, the New Testament claims that Christ fulfills the Old Testament in many ways. Just to name a few, Christ is:

  • Old Testament covenant Lord (John 8:58; see also kurios as title for Christ)
  • Sovereign eschatological king (Rev. 21:22)
  • Key actor in creation (John 1:1-5 [Genesis 1])
  • True Israel (Matt. 2:15 [Hos 11:1]; John 15:1-17)
  • The temple of God (John 2:19-21)
  • Restorer from exile (Matt 3:3 [Isa. 40:3; Mar 1:3; Luke 3:4; John 1:23])
  • Final and authoritative prophet (Heb 1:2)
  • Heir to the world (Heb 1:2; Ps 2:8)
  • Sustainer of his people in wilderness (1 Cor 10:4 [Exod. 17:6])
  • Foundation of human salvation (Acts 4:11 [Ps. 118:22])
  • Wisdom teacher par excellence (Matt 12:42 [Luke 11:31])
  • The very wisdom of God (1 Cor 1:23)

Wisdom Literature

Let's look more closely at how Christ is revealed in the wisdom literature of the Old Testament, primarily Proverbs, Job, and Ecclesiastes.

If Jesus is, in fact, what he claims to be, the sage "greater than Solomon" (Matt 12:42)—essentially a superlative meaning "the greatest sage ever"—then we expect that he will excel in the field of wisdom in every way. For instance, the first step or principle of wisdom is "the fear of the Lord" (Prov 1:7; 9:10), which Bruce Waltke describes as both a moral and emotional stance toward the Lord (see also Pss 19:7-9; 34:11). 

As the only truly righteous son of God, we would not be surprised to learn that Christ exhibits such righteous fear of the Lord in a way no other wisdom teacher possibly can.

This principle can be extended to the whole of wisdom teaching. The wise sayings are more than mere guides for those aspire to godly wisdom; rather, when taken together, they provide a composite profile of the sage greater than Solomon. This is not a meaningless distinction, because for the rest of humanity, wisdom is a thing to be aspired to, something that requires hard work, failure, sacrifice, and commitment. For Christ, wisdom is his character profile. It is a description of his rich, skilled, insightful, and wise character.

Therefore, when we read about Job's humiliation and suffering, his debates with his friends, his progression in the way of wisdom, and his final stand before the creator God, we are called to grow in the way that he has grown. When we read of Christ's humiliation and suffering, we see the wise life already achieved and on display. Christ is the truly innocent sufferer whose authentic suffering is answered with perfect holiness and profound understanding of the character of God. As such he is both as a goal to be pursued and a cause for worship. 

Wisdom and the King

Wisdom teaching in the Old Testament is almost always connected to kingly reign and the royal court. This is due in part to the central role King Solomon plays as the great sage of the Old Testament. The establishment of his kingdom is highlighted by his military and diplomatic successes as well as his feats of wisdom (1 Kings 4:29-34). It is likely that wisdom is mentioned because it is part of a particularly royal function in the Old Testament, along with naming animals and plant life (1 Kings 4:33). By exhibiting wisdom, the king shows his command over the realm of ideas and the skillful life. By naming plants and animals, he shows his command over taxonomy. Both of these tasks qualify the king for the role of representative human, the image bearer, like Adam working and increasing the garden and naming the specimens brought before him (Gen 2:40).

Wisdom is elsewhere connected to the royal court. The book of Ecclesiastes is associated with a king from the line of David (Ecc 1:1), and his grand observations are derived from his royal experience. Wisdom counselors, including Ahithophel (2 Sam 15:12), Zechariah (1 Chron 26:14), Jonathan (1 Chron 27:32), and the "men of Hezekiah" (Prov 25:1) are depicted as attending to the needs of Israelite kings. Many proverbs assume a royal setting (Prov 11:14; 24:6), particularly those attributed to kings Solomon (Proverbs 1:1; 10:1; 25:1) and Lemuel (Prov 31:1,4). 

For those thinking of Christ's roles in terms of three "offices"—prophet, priest, and king—his function as sage would, therefore, emanate from his kingly office. Through his wisdom Christ shows his perfect lordship over the world, including the realm of ideas and the skills needed for the wise life. We should not be surprised to find that Jesus becomes known for speaking in "parables," one of the Greek words used to translate the Hebrew word for "proverb" in ancient Greek translations of the Old Testament (see 1 Kings 4:32; Prov 1:6; Ecc 12:9; Sir 3:29).

Jesus is both the wise king and the king of wisdom.

Role of the Spirit

The Spirit of Christ testifies to his lordship and draws his followers into his service and worship (John 1:32; 15:26; Acts 15:8; Heb 1:15). As they grow in faith through the work of the Holy Spirit, they will to pursue wisdom as those who have tasted the benefits of the "wisdom of God" in Christ. By faithful gratitude, they will serve the sage-king greater than Solomon with delight. Bearing this "spirit of adoption" (Rom 8:15-16; cf. Prov 1:8; 1:10; 1:15 2:1), they now sit at the teacher's feet, celebrating and learning from his experience and applying the wisdom gained from it.

Paul takes things a step further by teaching that the atoning death of Christ on the cross grandly expresses God's wisdom in contradiction to the "wisdom of the world" (1 Cor 1:24; 2:7). For Paul, it falls to the church to proclaim such varied and wonderful wisdom to the world (Eph 3:10-11). Now that the church is equipped with the knowledge of the glorified Christ and the testimony of the Spirit, it can proclaim the wise teachings of the Old Testament in light of the ultimate wisdom teacher.

Christ's followers can be consoled by the fact that their sage-king has suffered and died for their foolish sinfulness. He has bore the weight of their folly, and they have been united with him and his wisdom. As a result they are privileged to pursue biblical wisdom in freedom and loving acceptance, bound to succeed, fools no more.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Scott Redd will participate in one of two dinner panels hosted by our The Gospel Coalition 2013 National Conference's Premier Sponsor, Reformed Theological Seminary, next month in Orlando. The topic of the panel will be "Having Confidence in the Scriptures." Redd—from RTS Washington—will be joined on the panel by David MathisMark FutatoDerek Thomas, and Miles VanPelt. Here is a brief description of what you can expect on Tuesday, April 9, at 5:30 p.m.:

On the road to Emmaus, Jesus helped two disciples see him in the Old Testament: "And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself" (Luke 24:27). Christians affirm that all of Scripture points to Jesus but often have difficulty seeing how the pieces fit together. This panel will show us Christ in each part of the Old Testament, tracing the crescendo that builds in God's plan of redemption and leads directly to him.

Scott Redd is the president and an associate professor of Old Testament at the Washington campus of Reformed Theological Seminary.

Categories: Christ in the OT, Theology
  • http://januaryrainstorm@blogspot.com Mark Z

    "Christ is everywhere throughout the Old Testament. It speaks of him explicitly and implicitly, in promises, patterns, types, hints, and images. Through these various ways the Old Testament reveals and anticipates the richness of his character: his work, his life, his glory, his hope, his might, his love, his suffering, his wisdom, and so much more"

    I love what you have to say in this quote. But doesn't this count as 'finding Christ in the Old Testament', even if you don't choose to call it that? I think I understand your sentiment to not turn the Savior into semantics, the Word into words, the Incarnation into exposition. Yet even as we recognize the possibility of this error, we still see Christ in the OT, not just as a principle or idea, but as Person and Author.

    You make a great quote about Jefferson, or, as I'm more poetically minded, you could say we are trying to find Frost in his poetry, we may not find him in the text, but we find him in the telling.

  • http://www.goingtodamasc.us Ben

    Mark-

    I understand your sentiment. I believe what Dr. Redd is getting at is that we don't go out and find Christ in the OT as some separate theme or concept. But, as you suggest, we do technically "find" him there, not as some separate concept or action, but as the pervasive truth in the OT.

    I guess we're really disputing semantics on what it means "to find" :-p

  • L. Spencer

    "This is not a meaningless distinction, because for the rest of humanity, wisdom is a thing to be aspired to, something that requires hard work, failure, sacrifice, and commitment. For Christ, wisdom is his character profile. It is a description of his rich, skilled, insightful, and wise character."
    Scott, I would disagree with your comment here which seems to lessen the fullness of Jesus humanity. Luke 2:52 says that "Jesus (the twelve year old boy)increased (Gk. prokopto)in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man" (ESV) Louw Nida defines prokopto as ‘to advance, to progress, to change for the better, advancement.’ (Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Vol. 1: Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: Based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition.) (154). New York: United Bible Societies.) BDAG gives the same definition, "to move forward to an improved state, progress, advance" Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., & Bauer, W. (2000). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed.) (871). Chicago: University of Chicago Press
    John Nolland makes an interesting point in his commentary, "Traditional theology has stumbled here at what might be taken to undermine the conviction that Jesus was at all times and in all respects utterly without flaw. Luke speaks, rather, out of the conviction that the human maturing process even in perfect form involves not only growth in size but also development in wisdom and in the capacity to execute that which is pleasing both to God and to one’s fellows."Nolland, J. (2002). Vol. 35A: Luke 1:1–9:20. Word Biblical Commentary (133). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.
    I do not disagree with your assement of Jesus as the sage of God's wisdom without rival by vrtue of Jesus being fully God. But to say that Jesus had no need to grow in wisdom as humans do, lessens Jesus as being fully human.

    • http://scottredd.com Scott Redd

      Thanks for your comment. I don't think that I disagree with your point other than to note that the idea of Christ's "increase" in Luke 2 is an inherently difficult one to grasp with much precision. We can confidently say that Jesus matured in a truly human manner though without failure, sin, or folly. Therein lies the difference I was attempting to highlight. He is the perfectly responsive student and sage, whereas we are not.

  • Kenton

    There is certainly a case to be made for finding Christ in the OT, inasmuch as he is foretold explicitly by the numerous prophecies and promises and his kingdom and people are prepared and foreshadowed in the giving of the Torah to Israel via Moses and the establishment of godly rule in Jerusalem under David and Solomon. However, there is a tendency to either read Christ literally into the OT (usually via angels that act on God's behalf and/or are associated with His person), or we view each and every literal thing as a spiritual type of Christ to the point where the OT just becomes an automatic redirect to the New Testament.

    The only problem is that when we do this, we actually miss all that the OT is about (its not proof-text for the New Testament or supplementary material to it.) The OT is about the redemption of humanity and God's glory through the out working of God's promises to Abraham. Everything that God does in the OT is a foreshadow of what He will do through Christ, but it also stands on its own as the necessary steps leading to Christ's advent. That, I think, is a better way of reading the OT, rather than as a poor precursor to Christ. There is no break between the OT and NT. The NT isn't a reboot after past failure. The NT is the necessary conclusion to the OT; therefore the OT must be able to stand on its own as the narrative of all that God began to do (though its events are given their full meaning after Christ's resurrection).

    The other thing in connection to this is the view that Christ is the primary agent in the OT; that it is Christ who calls Abraham, puts up with Israel, establishes David, speaks to Isaiah, etc. While this sounds nice, given Christ's deity, I think we lose the significance of Christ's advent when we take this view. In fact, I think the New Testament is clear that Christ's interaction with the world, though present in Creation, only begins at his incarnation. And the reason why I say this is because of these verses:

    Hebrews 9:26 If that had been necessary, Christ would have had to die again and again, ever since the world began. But now, once for all time, he has appeared at the end of the age to remove sin by his own death as a sacrifice.

    1 Peter 1:20 He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you

    Hebrews 1:1-2 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.

    The indication is that the Father spoke by the prophets (through the Spirit) to the patriarchs and Israelites, but *now* the Father speaks by the Son (through the Spirit) to us. Christ did not appear at the beginning of the world, though he was foreknown before its founding. He has appeared once, at the end of the age, in these last times. Consequently, there are no theophanies of Christ in the OT, and he doesn't begin speaking until he comes in the flesh.

  • http://www.takeacopy.com/ John Dunn

    Jesus is THE primary theme of the Torah, Psalms, and Prophets. The entire OT Scriptures is dripping with pictures, types, and patterns of Him. (See hyperlink for more)

  • Pingback: Christ Is Not Just Another Theme in the Old Testament | Already Not Yet

  • Theo K

    One of the most astonishing things I have come to realise is that Jesus *is* the Lord God of Israel. He *is* WHVH.
    It is mind blowing. The scriptures are Christ-centered from Genesis to Revelation. The faithful Israelites of old knowlingly worshiped the Lord Jesus.

    If you want to explore more on this, please see here:
    http://christthetruth.wordpress.com/2013/04/04/ot-interpretation-the-myths-we-just-know
    http://christthetruth.wordpress.com/christ-in-ot/

    • Kenton

      Except,the New Testament contradicts such a simplistic view of Christ's centrality in God's activity. Hebrews alone contradicts much of those claims of any prominent, front-and-center activity by Christ in the Old Testament. How so? By making deliberate contrast between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant:

      1: 1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 ...After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

      The author is quite clear. The Son did not speak to "our fathers". It was the Father speaking by the prophets. *in these last days* the Father speaks by His Son. Furthermore, it is *after making purification for sins* that Jesus takes his seat at the Father's right hand, implying that he was not seated at His right hand prior to that. Additionally, he *becomes* superior to angels, and he *inherits* a more excellent name than they, both implying that Christ's exaltation was a real, unprecedented exaltation, and not simply a return to former status. All to say that the Israelites could not have been worshipping the Lord Messiah, much less knowingly, since he had neither appeared nor spoken nor been exalted.

      2:2 For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution...

      Contrary to the blog you cite, the Angel of YHWH cannot be Jesus. Why not? Because if the Angel of the LORD, the mediator at that time, was Jesus, then the author of Hebrews cannot say that angels declared the message then (which is the Torah): Stephen also says, "you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it"(Ac 7:53). So the mediators were actual angels, not a pre-incarnate Christ.

      9:6 But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises.

      The author is clear here as well. Were Christ the mediator also of the Old Covenant, then the author could not make such a great distinction between the two. However, he does make such a distinction, such that Christ is not the mediator of the Old Covenant, but only of the New Covenant.

      9:11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.

      9:15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.

      9:25 Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own, 26 for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.

      I think it's pretty clear. Christ has appeared once, at the end of the ages. He did not speak to the fathers, he did not lead the Israelites through the wilderness, he did not give the Torah to Moses. That is not saying that he is against them, but that he came into the world for one purpose. Hebrews is clear, and the rest of the Bible is clear, that Christ was not the primary agent of the Old Testament. Which means that the way in which we look at the OT cannot be to literally find the pre-incarnate Christ throughout its pages, or to substitute every reference to YHWH with Jesus. If you do that, then you are merely advocating modalism or unitarianism. The Father speaks through prophets via His Spirit and via angels in the Old Testament. In the New Testament, He speaks solely through His Son. And it is the Son who speaks to prophets and apostles via the Spirit.

      How then are we to understand the New Testament's usage of the OT?

      The author of Hebrews states that the gospel was preached prior to Christ. How so? The promises that God made to Abraham (in accordance with His blessing on Adam and Eve, and Noah), and that God repeatedly confirmed and defined to the Patriarchs and to the nation of Israel, and to David, were all concerning the same thing: God would establish a people chosen for Himself, in the place of His choosing, under the rule of His chosen servant, that would inhabit the earth. In other words, the sum of the Old Testament points toward the kingdom that God will establish in a new creation through the offspring He appoints to bless humanity by redeeming a people for God's glory. This is the narrative theme that runs throughout the entire OT, and as such, the Messiah is seen as the one to whom all the prophecies point, the one who fulfills all the promises of God, and who includes people from every nation and family within his covenant with God. And so he becomes the head of Abraham's house, which includes all families of the earth.

      This is the way in which the Messiah is seen in the OT. He is its goal and culmination. What God intended for Adam and Eve's offspring, He fulfills in Jesus. In light of this, everything from Noah's modified Adamic blessing down to Solomon's Adamic reign is seen to be provisional and antitypical, anticipating the true redemption that comes through the Messiah, the promised offspring who reverses the curse and ushers in the kingdom of God, in which the resurrected people of God enjoy God's glory-filled new creation, underneath and through their new head, the Messiah.

      • MIchaelA

        Hi Kenton, I suggest in your efforts to avoid a common error (although not one committed by the article) you have gone too far the other way. You wrote:

        1. “Except, the New Testament contradicts such a simplistic view of Christ's centrality in God's activity. Hebrews alone contradicts much of those claims of any prominent, front-and-center activity by Christ in the Old Testament.”

        You appear to be reading more into the article than is actually there. It does not suggest that Christ operates in the same way in the Old Testament as he does in the New. And certainly no-one has suggested that Christ’s activity there is “front-and-center”. Nevertheless, he is present and operating throughout the Old Testament.

        The book of Hebrews deals with specific issues, mainly the difference in the way God speaks to us and we reach out to him – it does not suggest that Christ was not present and active in the Old Testament at all.

        2. “Contrary to the blog you cite, the Angel of YHWH cannot be Jesus. Why not? Because if the Angel of the LORD, the mediator at that time, was Jesus, then the author of Hebrews cannot say that angels declared the message then (which is the Torah): Stephen also says, "you who received the law as delivered by angels and did not keep it"(Ac 7:53). So the mediators were actual angels, not a pre-incarnate Christ.”

        Why does that follow? I think we all agree that when the angels declare a message God is also declaring it, so the language is not meant to be exclusive. I assume you are referring to the Exodus passage, which makes clear that the “angel of the Lord”(which equally means “messenger of the Lord”) is not a mere angel, but is God:

        “There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, "I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up." When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, "Moses! Moses!"…” [Exodus 3:2-3]

        3. “9:6 But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises.”

        I agree that Christ is not the mediator of the Old Covenant in the way that he is the mediator of the New Covenant. But does anything turn on that? It doesn’t justify us saying that he did not have a very important part to play throughout the Old Testament.

        4. “I think it's pretty clear. Christ has appeared once, at the end of the ages. He did not speak to the fathers, he did not lead the Israelites through the wilderness, he did not give the Torah to Moses.”

        This is where I have a real problem with your conclusions because they appear to run directly counter to Scripture. For example:

        “For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.” [1 Cor 10:4]

        Jesus himself links Abraham knowledge of him with Jesus’ eternal existence: "‘Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.” “You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!” “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!”’ [John 8:56-58]

        5. “The Father speaks through prophets via His Spirit and via angels in the Old Testament...”

        Err no, in the context you have written this, it does not go far enough, because Peter makes clear that it was the *Spirit of Christ* who inspired the Old Testament prophets:

        “Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow.” [1 Peter 1:10-11]

        6. “Which means that the way in which we look at the OT cannot be to literally find the pre-incarnate Christ throughout its pages, or to substitute every reference to YHWH with Jesus.”

        Of course, but that was not remotely what the article suggested.

        • Kenton

          Per #1 and #6, I was referring to the links that Theo K posted, not Dr. Redd’s article itself.
          1. Hebrews 1:1 sets up a contrast:

          A. God spoke –
          1) when: long ago
          2) how: in many ways
          3) to whom: the fathers
          4) via: the prophets

          B. God speaks –
          1) When: in these last days
          2) How: [singularly]
          3) To whom: us
          4) Via: His Son

          The logical conclusion is that God did not speak via His Son to the fathers. Otherwise, the contrast is meaningless, and the author should say, “Long ago, God spoke by His Son, and in these last days God still speaks by His Son.” But he doesn’t say that. In fact, the passage loses meaning if we read that meaning into the very plain words. The entirety of chapter 1 is a contrast between the Son, who declares the gospel of “this great salvation” and the angels, who deliver the Torah. So if God didn’t speak by His Son to the fathers, then the Son cannot be that Angel because that Angel spoke to the fathers. This is the logic. Or else, the Son was not “the Son” until he appeared in flesh. But we hold that the Son has always been the Son. Accordingly, the Angel was not the Son.

          2. The point is this: both Hebrews and Acts say that the Torah (“the message”) was delivered by angels. Actual angels. And Hebrews again in the beginning of chapter 2 makes contrast between that and the present message of salvation. Given the contrast, the point is that the Son did not declare the first message (not that he was opposed to it), and angels have not delivered this second message. The author is showing the superiority of this second message over the first message, precisely because the Son has spoken this message.

          3. Again, the entire book of Hebrews hinges on contrasts, between the Son and angels, between the gospel and the Torah, between the old and new covenants. The Son was not the mediator of the old covenant, but he is the mediator of this better covenant, which is better in part because he is its eternal mediator.

          4. 1 Corinthians 10 has been used to say that Christ was literally that “spiritual Rock” and that “spiritual drink”, in order to say that Christ was literally the one who led the Israelites (Acts can be interpreted to read Joshua, rather than Jesus, which is the most natural reading). But what is Paul referring to? The rock that Moses struck, which gave the Israelites water; the manna from heaven. Jesus wasn’t actually that rock. Why don’t I believe so? 1) he says that they were baptized into Moses, not Christ, via the cloud and sea (types of the Spirit and baptism), and 2) though describing the food, drink, and rock as spiritual, we know that the manna, water, and rock were physical. So Paul is saying something else about what they were being partakers of. They were partakers of Messiah in a sense, being that Messiah was the aim and hope of the covenant (and therefore that which accompanied them, this spiritual rock, was a type of the Messiah). It’s no different than Hebrews saying that Moses chose the reproach of Messiah greater than the fleeting pleasures of Egypt. Was Moses actually choosing to suffer as Messiah was going to suffer? No. Messiah had not suffered yet. Rather, he chose Christ-like suffering for righteousness rather than the favor of sin.

          A more telling point is how Paul goes on to describe the Israelites who, despite sharing in the blessings, were destroyed by “the Destroyer”. The ESV’s cross-references include numerous passages where this Destroyer (Exodus 12) is described in other texts as the angel of the LORD (2 Samuel 24, 1 Chronicles 21), or a company of destroying angels (Psalm 78). So even within the canon itself there is ambiguity. So why doesn’t Paul say that this destroyer was Christ?

          As for John 8, notice what Jesus actually says, what the Jews mistake him for saying, and how he actually responds. Jesus says, “Abraham rejoiced to see *my day*. He saw it (my day) and was glad.” The Jews take that to mean, “I have seen Abraham.” Jesus responds, “I am God. I existed before Abraham.” The Jews misunderstand his first statement. Note that both Matthew 13:17 and Hebrews 11:13 say that the prophets and righteous saw the promises from afar, and desired to see them in person, but didn’t. So all Jesus is saying is that Abraham saw his day, and was glad. Where does the OT say that Abraham saw and rejoiced in Jesus’ day? Every place where God promises to bless all nations through Abraham’s offspring, to give his descendants their inheritance, to make him the father of many nations. These promises pertain to the Messiah, as Paul states in Galatians and Romans. This is what Abraham saw, and this is what he rejoiced in. It is not saying that Abraham actually saw Jesus himself.

          5. Much as Hebrews 11 states about Moses considering the reproach of Messiah greater wealth than Egypt, 1 Peter 1 is not saying that it was Christ himself who was speaking through the prophets (again, that would directly contradict Hebrews 1). Rather, the focus is on the Spirit (i.e., the Holy Spirit) and the Spirit is described as the Spirit of Messiah because of what the Spirit is prophesying through the prophets about the Messiah.

          I just want to note that my starting point is what Hebrews clearly implies: that the Son was not the primary agent through which God (the Father) spoke to the fathers. God (the Father) spoke to the prophets through dreams and visions and angels and fire, or directly to Moses, who then took God’s words to the people. Now, however, God (the Father) has spoken by His Son, who He has seated at His right hand as the heir of all things. With that basis, and the fact that the Angel is described by later texts in Psalms or elsewhere as an angel or multiple angels (or simply that it is God speaking), and the fact that Angel is never said in the New Testament to be Jesus; in fact, Stephen refers to this angel three times (!) but never says that this angel is Jesus. And then he says at the end of his speech that the Torah was delivered by angels. Stephen clearly believes this to be an angel, not the pre-incarnate Messiah. Unless Stephen is uninformed, and Hebrews is wrong, these clearer verses should restrict how we interpret the less clear passages.

          • MIchaelA

            Hi Kenton,

            Please don't view my brevity in the following responses as terseness. Its just there is a lot to get through:

            1. "The logical conclusion is that God did not speak via His Son to the fathers. Otherwise, the contrast is meaningless ..."

            As a simple matter of logic, that does not follow. I am trying to find something in Hebrews which demands that Christ was neither present nor active in the Old Testament (in effect, that God ceased to be a Trinity). It is clear that Christ did not act in the same way in the OT as he does in the NT, but that is a different matter.

            2. "The point is this: both Hebrews and Acts say that the Torah (“the message”) was delivered by angels."

            There actually isn't anything in either Hebrews or Acts which denies that the message was delivered by God even as it was delivered by angels.

            3. "Again, the entire book of Hebrews hinges on contrasts, between the Son and angels, between the gospel and the Torah, between the old and new covenants. The Son was not the mediator of the old covenant..."

            Sure. None of which is inconsistent with Christ appearing and being present and active in the Old Testament. God wasn't one person in the Old Testament and three persons in the New Testament!

            4. "So Paul is saying something else about what they were being partakers of. They were partakers of Messiah in a sense, being that Messiah was the aim and hope of the covenant (and therefore that which accompanied them, this spiritual rock, was a type of the Messiah)."

            But Paul doesn't say that they were partakers of Messiah, he says they were partakers of Christ.

            (Also in 4): "A more telling point is how Paul goes on to describe the Israelites who, despite sharing in the blessings, were destroyed by “the Destroyer”..."

            I don't find it telling, or relevant. What you appear to be saying is something like this: "Christ can't have been present in the Old Testament, because if he was, Paul would have specifically identified him on every occasion, like a sort of Apostolic concordance". That doesn't follow.

            (Also in 4): "It is not saying that Abraham actually saw Jesus himself."

            It might be, we don't know. But Jesus' point is that he has been in Israel's history since before Abraham. He doesn't say: "I am here now and Abraham saw my day" (which he could have done and still made his point); rather, he says, "I have always been, and Abraham saw me".

            5. "1 Peter 1 is not saying that it was Christ himself who was speaking through the prophets (again, that would directly contradict Hebrews 1"

            It is the other way around: To read into Hebrews 1 the implications (not explicit statements) that you see there, would directly contradict the clear words of 1 Peter 1:10.

            (Also in 5): "Rather, the focus is on the Spirit (i.e., the Holy Spirit) and the Spirit is described as the Spirit of Messiah ..."

            You appear to be doing the same thing that you did in 4 above: Trying to read out a specific reference to "Christ" by substituting the more general word "messiah". But that is not what Peter says; Rather he says plainly that it was the "Spirit of Christ" that directed the Old Testament prophets.

            "I just want to note that my starting point is what Hebrews clearly implies: that the Son was not the primary agent through which God (the Father) spoke to the fathers."

            Since neither I nor the article have suggested otherwise, we can agree on that!

            "Stephen clearly believes this to be an angel, not the pre-incarnate Messiah."

            I disagree - I don't find it clear at all.

            • Kenton

              Brevity is good. I could use such a skill.

              Again, my specific comments toward Theo K are in response to the links he posted, which did give Jesus the central, forefront place as the mediator of the Old Covenant.

              1. I'm not saying that Jesus was not "present". I'm saying that Hebrews sets up a clear contrast, with the very plain meaning that Jesus as the Son did not speak to the fathers "long ago", "but in these last days". There is a contrast, and the contrast is between the messengers and the mediators. The former speech is defined by "many times and many ways" but is through the prophets. The latter speech is through the Son. This is the contrast. Yet, you might say that this doesn't rule out the Son speaking in the OT as God. However, we have to recognize a few things:

              a) When the author of Hebrews uses the term Theos, he always means "the Father", unless specifically identifying Jesus. That's basically the default of the entire New Testament. And it applies in this case because God speaks by His Son.

              b) The Father speaks by His Son, and is the same One who speaks in many ways by the prophets. Which means that the Father is the initiator of this divine speech, not the Son, and so He is the one constant in these verses. Everything else is contrasted. So, yes, logically, that is the conclusion.

              c) the focus is on God speaking. So God spoke through one order of messenger "long ago", but "in these last days" He has spoken through a superior order of messenger, His Son, who is superior to the mediators of the former speech, the angels. Why? Because the Son is the superior mediator who needs no mediators between himself and God.

              2) I think so. Hebrews 2 again is premised on this contrast between the Son of God and prophets, angels, and priests. So the message delivered by the Son has greater weight than that delivered by angels. Why? Because the Son, not the angels, is the heir of God's kingdom in the age to come. He, not them, has been crowned with glory and honor because he died for sins. That's the central point of chapter 2. Again, the contrast loses meaning if the Son is seen to be the mediator and speaker in both covenants.

              3) Yes! God isn't just one person! And that is precisely why the silence of the second person in the OT does not lessen his deity. Rather, it means that for the purpose of redemptive history, he was concealed until he should come as the Son of God.

              4)

              a) Christ means Messiah. Messiah is the actual term. I highlight that to point out that he had not come as Messiah, so the way in which they partake of Jesus as Christ (as Messiah) is a forward oriented hope and inclusion in Moses (because he says they were baptized into Moses, not Jesus). This was how they drank of the Messiah. Through Moses. Because the Torah was meant to safeguard and tutor those under Sinai's covenant, leading them to Jesus as the one who fulfills the promises.

              b) the point about the Destroyer is that Paul doesn't actually identify him as Jesus (so we can't automatically assume that the Destroyer was Christ, since the OT itself identifies him as either an angel or a company of angels). And yes, if Christ is present and active in the OT, then Paul should specifically identify him in specific places. You are assuming that Christ is everywhere in the OT in person, and therefore we can assume that everything Paul talks about, including the Destroyer, is Christ. But we can't start from such an assumption. Because then we are simply identifying each and every non-human messenger as Jesus, and that IS too simplistic.

              c) Jesus DOESN'T say, "Abraham saw me." He says, "Abraham saw my day", and "I have existed since before Abraham." So you can't identify that as his point. And in fact, Jesus doesn't say that he has been involved in Israel's history. The context is Jesus talking about how the Jews claim to be Abraham's offspring, and therefore not enslaved to sin or blind. And Jesus is also defending his God-verified authority as the Father's Son. So the point is that Abraham is a witness to Jesus's work and authority as God's Son. The question is, how? Jesus says these things not out of thin air, but from the Scriptures. So where would Abraham have heard of the Son's work and authority? In the promises about his offspring's blessing and authority. Note that this is the starting point of the section: the Jews' claim to be Abraham's offspring. Jesus' point? He is Abraham's true offspring because he comes from the Father and does His will.

              5) 1 Peter 1:10 states that the Spirit of Christ directed the prophets. The Spirit is the Holy Spirit, not a separate spirit of the pre-incarnate Christ. It is the Spirit of the Messiah just as He is the Spirit of the Father and the Spirit of truth and wisdom and love and might and holiness. That's why he says Spirit of the Messiah, rather than just Christ/Messiah/Jesus.

              6) You agree that Christ was not the primary agent through which God spoke to the prophets? Theo K's links claim otherwise. I am responding to them.

              7) Stephen says "an angel" three times. Again, you can't assume that Christ is being referenced if not explicitly made clear (especially since Stephen is talking to Jews who wouldn't hold to such a belief). Stephen then ends by saying that the Torah was delivered by angels, and that the Sanhedrin has killed Jesus, the Righteous One. So if Stephen had meant that "an angel" was Jesus, he would have made that clear to the leaders; it would have made his case stronger. But he doesn't.

            • MichaelA

              Hi Kenton,

              "1. … you might say that this doesn't rule out the Son speaking in the OT as God"

              Yes, that is what I am saying – well defined. However, I go further than that: (a) If the Son speaks, he speaks as God – he can't speak as anything else but what he is by nature, so the last two words of your definition I see as redundant; (b) Almost never are we told that God in the Old Testament means only God the Father. That means that in most cases the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit are speaking. Of course they have different roles to play and sometimes that is manifest, e.g. when the Spirit directly takes hold of someone like David or Saul.

              "(a) … When the author of Hebrews uses the term Theos, he always means "the Father", unless specifically identifying Jesus. That's basically the default of the entire New Testament."

              I disagree with both assertions (about author of Hebrews and about entire NT). But, what is your ground for either assertion?

              "(b) … which means that the Father is the initiator of this divine speech, not the Son…"

              Again, what is your ground for this assertion?

              "(c) …the focus is on God speaking. So God spoke through one order of messenger "long ago"…"

              That's not what Hebrews says. It is quite explicit that God spoke through "many and diverse ways" long ago, not one way or one order.

              "2. … Again, the contrast loses meaning if the Son is seen to be the mediator and speaker in both covenants."

              Sure, but since I am not suggesting that the Son is "THE mediator" and "THE speaker", it doesn't relate to my position.

              "3. … And that is precisely why the silence of the second person in the OT does not lessen his deity"

              Sure, I have no problem with that. But neither do I think he was utterly silent. I agree that his full identity and purpose were deliberately not revealed in OT.

              "4(a). Christ means Messiah. Messiah is the actual term. I highlight that to point out that he had not come as Messiah…"

              I disagree – you tried to prove your point by relying on messiah as a general term which could also apply to Moses. This was in response to my points:

              (i) Peter says that the Old Testament prophets were guided by "The Spirit of Christ";

              (ii) Paul says that the people of Israel drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them "and that rock was Christ".

              Hence why I said that what you were really trying to do was gloss over the use of the specific word Christ at places inconvenient for your argument.

              "4(b). … And yes, if Christ is present and active in the OT, then Paul should specifically identify him in specific places".

              I disagree. Actually, scripture almost never works like that – the prophetic and apostolic authors make only those identifications that are necessary for the doctrine they are expounding. Arguments from silence carry no more weight in scriptural exegesis than they do in any other field of study – very limited.

              "You are assuming that Christ is everywhere in the OT in person, and therefore we can assume that everything Paul talks about, including the Destroyer, is Christ."

              No, I am not. Rather, you are making the assumption that unless Paul attaches the label "Christ" to something, it cannot be Christ. I am not the one making a sweeping assertion!

              "4(c) … Jesus DOESN'T say, "Abraham saw me." He says, "Abraham saw my day"…"

              I agree entirely. I realised after I posted it that it wasn't what I meant to write. Unfortunately, there is no edit function. My apologies. The way it was posted made my point seem stronger than it actually is.

              "5. 1 Peter 1:10 states that the Spirit of Christ directed the prophets. The Spirit is the Holy Spirit…"

              Of course, and I agree that the Holy Spirit is both the Spirit of the Father and the Spirit of Christ, and the third person of the Trinity in his own right. But my point is that Peter goes out of his way to tell us that the Spirit in the Old Testament that illumined the prophets was functioning as the Spirit of Christ. Hence my point: Christ both acts and speaks in the Old Testament; he just doesn't do it in the same way as he does under the new covenant.

              "6. You agree that Christ was not the primary agent through which God spoke to the prophets?"

              I do, although probably not for reasons that will give you any satisfaction – I think 1 Peter 1:10 shows clearly that the Holy Spirit was the primary agent through which Christ spoke to the Old Testament prophets, and that for the most part neither Christ nor the teachings about him were revealed to said prophets in the way they are now revealed to us.

              "7. Stephen says "an angel" three times. Again, you can't assume that Christ is being referenced if not explicitly made clear…"

              I am not. That is the whole point: you are the one assuming that Stephen cannot be talking about Christ.

              "especially since Stephen is talking to Jews who wouldn't hold to such a belief"

              Good point, and one that assists my argument, not yours – theophany would have been a huge red herring from Stephen's main point, hence why he didn't got there. The structure of Stephen's argument is fairly simple when boiled down: (i) the scripture was given by angels, i.e. by God himself; (ii) the scripture predicts the coming of the righteous one; (iii) the righteous one was Christ; (iv) his listeners have killed the righteous one, and thereby rebelled against God. There is no reason why he should go off on a tangent by discussing theophany, and a good reason why he wouldn't.

            • Kenton

              "1.Yes, that is what I am saying – well defined. However, I go further than that: (a) If the Son speaks, he speaks as God – he can't speak as anything else but what he is by nature, so the last two words of your definition I see as redundant; (b) Almost never are we told that God in the Old Testament means only God the Father. That means that in most cases the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit are speaking. Of course they have different roles to play and sometimes that is manifest, e.g. when the Spirit directly takes hold of someone like David or Saul."

              My grounds are these: a) Just do a quick look through the New Testament: starting with the Gospels, Jesus uses "God" to refer to the Father, exclusively. Acts does the same, and the majority of the epistles, especially Paul's, do the same. That's my basis. b) Going off of Hebrews 1:2, "God has spoken to us by His Son"; so the One identified as God here is distinct from the one identified as Son here. The God who speaks through the prophets is the God who speaks through His Son; hence, we can substitute terms and have the same meaning: The Father who speaks through the prophets is the Father who speaks through His Son. You can't really do the same for the Son: "the Son spoke to the fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken by His Son"? No. And the way the structure is, you also can't say, "The Father&Son&Spirit spoke to the fathers by the prophets, but now the Father&Son&Spirit has spoken by His Son." The One being referred to is the Father. And so, taking that with the almost absolute use of the term theos for the Father, I come to the conclusion, which I don't think is ungrounded, that the Father is the primary one who initiates divine speech, and He is the One who does so through the Spirit and through the Son and through the angels and through the prophets. I don't think this is something foreign to Scripture. After all, one must ask: Is the Son "our Father"? That's how God interacts with and identifies Himself in the OT to Israel.

              "That's not what Hebrews says. It is quite explicit that God spoke through "many and diverse ways" long ago, not one way or one order."

              Actually, that is what he says. I didn't mean one way. I said, "one order of messenger." And I meant the prophets. Many ways indicates dreams or visions or appearances of angels or the burning bush or mules or any other sign, but the focal point is that He spoke through the prophets. But, "in these last days", He has spoken by His Son, a different order of messenger. That was my point.

              'Sure, but since I am not suggesting that the Son is "THE mediator" and "THE speaker", it doesn't relate to my position.'

              I think the contrast still loses meaning, as pertains to Hebrews 1 & 2 at least, if you read into that first verse that the Son was either an initiator or mediator to the prophets. It still changes the meaning of the opening entirely, because if that were the case, then his focus would have been on the Son as the one who spoke in many ways through the prophets, but *who now speaks directly and in person*. But the author doesn't say that, nor does he come close to implying that. The force of the passage, even of the book itself, is carried by this: God our Father has done something that He has not done before; He has spoken to us by His Son. Every contrast in the book (and there are many) is propelled by the unprecedented speech [and work] of the Son as the mediator of a new and better covenant.

              "3. Sure, I have no problem with that. But neither do I think he was utterly silent. I agree that his full identity and purpose were deliberately not revealed in OT."

              I think the passages that state that the Son was specifically manifested/appeared in these last times/last days/end of the age give strong implication that the Son's interaction with mankind (as it pertains to revelation and salvation) begins in these last days.

              "4(a). I disagree – you tried to prove your point by relying on messiah as a general term which could also apply to Moses. This was in response to my points:

              (i) Peter says that the Old Testament prophets were guided by "The Spirit of Christ";

              (ii) Paul says that the people of Israel drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them "and that rock was Christ".

              Hence why I said that what you were really trying to do was gloss over the use of the specific word Christ at places inconvenient for your argument."

              No. I wasn't trying to do that. Moses is not the Messiah, though Paul does specifically say that Israel was baptized into Moses. I could just as easily have used Christ, except for the fact that when most people use it they use it just as a proper noun, almost a synonym for "God", when in fact the title "Christ" retains all of its inherent meaning (that is, referring to David's heir and Abraham's offspring , and all the other acts that occur post-incarnation). In other words, for Paul to use Christ, rather than Lord, at this point indicates what he means by "that rock was Christ." He is saying, "that rock was the Messiah." So I'm not generalizing the term: I'm restricting it to what Messianic activity pertains to. In contrast, I'd say that you are equating "Christ" with the more general "Lord", when in fact for Paul to use Christ indicates what he means. Same with Peter. Christ, Messiah, is not a term that can be applied backwards in such a way as to describe pre-incarnation activity. The term is restricted to incarnational activity. That's why I say that Paul and Peter are not referring to any activity by Jesus in the OT, but rather that they are pointing forward to the Messiah's advent.

              And I prefer to use Messiah because for most people it retains some of its original meaning at least, whereas Christ has become just a name, and if not that, then a synonym for God, when the term refers to Jesus in his incarnation (so, as Son of Man, Son of God, Son of David).

              "4(b). I disagree. Actually, scripture almost never works like that – the prophetic and apostolic authors make only those identifications that are necessary for the doctrine they are expounding. Arguments from silence carry no more weight in scriptural exegesis than they do in any other field of study – very limited."

              It is necessary for trinitarian theology. If the NT carries a trinitarian and not modalist theology, then identification of which Person is doing what is crucial. And I think the NT authors are quite clear in distinguishing the Father from the Spirit from the Son; the way in which they do that is to use God for the Father (mostly), and Lord for the Son (mostly). Take this passage, "And God raised the Lord, and will also raise us up by his power." Or take this passage, also from 1 Corinthians, "yet for us there is one God, the Father from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus [the Messiah], by whom are all things and through whom we exist."

              "No, I am not. Rather, you are making the assumption that unless Paul attaches the label "Christ" to something, it cannot be Christ. I am not the one making a sweeping assertion!"

              I am saying that we can't make those assumptions. The Corinthians don't have the benefit of 2,000 years of theological and doctrinal tradition that HAS identified virtually every singular agent of YHWH with God the Son (some more than others). And again, keep in mind that much of this began as a rebuttal against the links Theo K provided. So Paul would have had to readily identify whether this or that agent was the pre-incarnate Jesus. We can't approach the text with such assumptions.

              "5. Of course, and I agree that the Holy Spirit is both the Spirit of the Father and the Spirit of Christ, and the third person of the Trinity in his own right. But my point is that Peter goes out of his way to tell us that the Spirit in the Old Testament that illumined the prophets was functioning as the Spirit of Christ. Hence my point: Christ both acts and speaks in the Old Testament; he just doesn't do it in the same way as he does under the new covenant."

              So if I understand correctly, you are saying that "Spirit of Christ" indicates the on whose behalf the Spirit is speaking? I view it as referring to the one to whom the Spirit is pointing (or giving prophecy about), especially in the OT. This changes in the NT, where the Spirit is speaking on behalf of Christ, and not merely pointing to Christ. But I think the context of the verse indicates that the Spirit is that of Christ because he is functioning as the Spirit who gives prophecy about Christ (or about the things of Christ).

              "6. I do, although probably not for reasons that will give you any satisfaction – I think 1 Peter 1:10 shows clearly that the Holy Spirit was the primary agent through which Christ spoke to the Old Testament prophets, and that for the most part neither Christ nor the teachings about him were revealed to said prophets in the way they are now revealed to us."

              See, I'd say that it was the Father who was speaking to the prophets through the Holy Spirit, specifically about Christ (note: not the only means of speech, for God also used dreams and visions and angels, but rarely about the specifics of Christ).

              "7. I am not. That is the whole point: you are the one assuming that Stephen cannot be talking about Christ... Good point, and one that assists my argument, not yours – theophany would have been a huge red herring from Stephen's main point, hence why he didn't got there. The structure of Stephen's argument is fairly simple when boiled down: (i) the scripture was given by angels, i.e. by God himself; (ii) the scripture predicts the coming of the righteous one; (iii) the righteous one was Christ; (iv) his listeners have killed the righteous one, and thereby rebelled against God. There is no reason why he should go off on a tangent by discussing theophany, and a good reason why he wouldn't."

              It wouldn't be a tangent. It would have assisted his argument. Why? Because if this angel were Christ, then not only would they have now rejected Christ, but all their idolatry and rebellion would have been against Christ from the beginning. That would have unified his argument (the Israelites out of Egypt rebelled against Christ, and you have rebelled against Christ). But, it would also have meant that his focus would have been different. If Stephen did mean that the angel was Christ, why does he focus on Joseph and Moses as rulers and deliverers who were rejected by their people? Moses is the focus, not the angel. The angel would have been the focus rather than Moses. So it's not a tangent. Theophany was not something that just points to Christ's future incarnation; it would have meant that Christ was the primary actor in the establishment of the old covenant, and such a thing would not have been left out in Stephen's sweeping condemnation of the Temple establishment, indeed, of the entire national religious system.

            • MIchaelA

              Hi Kenton, you wrote (using fresh numbering):

              1. "Just do a quick look through the New Testament: starting with the Gospels, Jesus uses "God" to refer to the Father, exclusively."

              I disagree. I can't say much more because you haven't cited anything to support this assertion. Of course you will find some cases (a few) where we know from the context that the speaker is referring only to God the Father, but that is the point - it is the context that tells us that. Equally we find others where the context shows that the Son is being referred to, or the entire Trinity.

              2. "And so, taking that with the almost absolute use of the term theos for the Father, ..."

              Did I just read the word 'almost' inserted into that sentence? :) That is at least a start. But in fact it is far less even than that. There is no rule that 'theos' means God the Father.

              3. "I said, "one order of messenger." And I meant the prophets"

              Now I agree with you. And this in no way requires that God the Son did not speak in the Old Testament, nor that only God the Father spoke in the Old Testament .

              4. "I think ... that the Son's interaction with mankind (as it pertains to revelation and salvation) begins [only] in these last days."

              You are entitled to your opinion! I would prefer to follow the teaching of the apostles Peter and Paul.

              5. "If the NT carries a trinitarian and not modalist theology, then identification of which Person is doing what is crucial."

              I disagree. The NT is clear about Persons when it needs to be. Often it doesn't say anything because "God" means the Triune God acting in concert. There are no hard and fast rules of the sort you are suggesting.

              6. "the way in which they do that is to use God for the Father (mostly), and Lord for the Son (mostly)."

              Thank you for adding the words "mostly" - I don't need to add anything further.

              7. "So Paul would have had to readily identify whether this or that agent was the pre-incarnate Jesus. We can't approach the text with such assumptions."

              I agree - you cannot make that assumption, but you are still trying to argue it!

              8. In paragraphs 4, 5 and 6 generally of your post, I note your various points, but suffice to say that to me they appear to be an attempt to explain away the clear words of Peter and Paul, which show us that Christ both acted and spoke in the Old Testament, however much his true destiny and role were hidden at the time.

              9. Re Stephen in your paragraph 7, I disagree - it makes perfect sense why Stephen would not have gone to the subject of Theophany, and it would not have assisted his argument if he had done so.

      • Theo K

        Kenton,

        I love your passion for theology, and generally I am in agreement with your understanding of things. And thank you for the time it took for you to write this reply.

        And, allow me to say that once I held similar views to what you stated here. Not any more. I hope and pray that as you keep searching the scriptures you will come to the understanding that this isn't 'a simplistic view of Christ's centrality in God's activity'.
        Brother, there is nothing simplistic about it. Only divine beauty.

        Your arguments have (I believe) sufficiently been answered in the site I mentioned. All the verses you mention have been taken into account. For example, just look for Calvin's comments on Hebrews 1. I do encourage you to keep an open mind and go through all the material there. And do take your time. It takes time to change our mind on strongly held views.

        Please also note that I do not promote a view that says 'substitute every reference to YHWH with Jesus'.
        I do believe though that the OT is inherently trinitarian, when read on its own terms. That there are two distinct divine persons called YHWH (and a person called 'the spirit of YHWH') that reveal themselves to the believers of old (for example, there are two divine persons on Mount Sinai, and I think that Moses knew them distinctly and explicitly) : (a) The Lord, and (b) the angel (which really means sent one) of the Lord, who himself is also the Lord.

        Again, I would ask you to carefully study the articles here, and see what you make of it:
        http://christthetruth.wordpress.com/christ-in-ot/

        Finally, I would like to point out that the fact that Christ is the angel of the Lord in the OT was well acknowledged and celebrated by such theological giants as John Calvin, John Owen, Johnathan Edwards:

        http://christthetruth.wordpress.com/2012/12/20/who-is-in-the-burning-bush-2/
        "the ancient teachers of the Church have rightly understood that the Eternal Son of God is so called [the angel of the Lord] in respect to his office as Mediator, which he figuratively bore from the beginning, although he really took it upon him only at his Incarnation. And Paul sufficiently expounds this mystery to us, when he plainly asserts that Christ was the leader of his people in the Desert. (1 Corinthians 10:4.)" - Calvin

        "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." - Edwards
        http://christthetruth.wordpress.com/2008/05/11/christ-in-the-old-testament-11/

        • Kenton

          With the greatest respect for John Calvin and John Owen and Jonathan Edwards, they were not perfect men, and they aren’t the final authority on the Scriptures. Just to bring up the quotes in the article:

          “Holy men of old knew God only by beholding Him in His Son as in a mirror. When I say this, I mean that God has never manifested Himself to men in any other way than through the Son, that is, His sole wisdom, light and truth. From this fountain Adam, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and others drank all that they had of heavenly teaching. From the same fountain, all the prophets have also drawn every heavenly oracle that they have given forth. (IV.8.5)

          Hebrews 1 directly contradicts this. Clearly. It says that God had and DID manifest Himself in many ways, and the implication of the contrast is that NOW, and not before, He has manifested Himself by His Son. So he’s wrong on this point. That said, look at what he says elsewhere:

          The fathers, when they wished to behold God, always turned their eyes to Christ. I mean not only that they beheld God in his eternal Logos [sermone], but also they attended with their whole mind and the whole affection of their heart to the promised manifestation of Christ. (Commentary, John 1:18)

          Again, I think Calvin is wrong in that they directly looked to the crucified and risen Messiah (who had not yet appeared; 1 Peter 1:10 suggests that the prophets had to inquire about the person that the Spirit indicated would suffer and enter into glory). That said, notice that he says, “they attended… to the *promised manifestation* of Christ” (my emphasis). This is correct. Christ’s manifestation was promised since the fall. But that manifestation has only occurred in these last times.

          From Owen:
          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)

          Despite Owen’s polemic and characterization that the view that the Angel was an Angel is a late exposition, Stephen in Acts 7 identifies the Angel as… “an angel”, and not as the Messiah. Three times, and neither time does he take the opportunity to say, “This was Jesus.” And he concludes that the Torah was delivered by angels (not by Christ, which would be the conclusion if Christ was the Angel who appeared to Moses in the bush, on Mount Sinai, and in the congregation).

          Edwards:
          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.

          Again, Hebrews 1 plainly contradicts this. It clearly says that the way and agency through which God the Father spoke to the fathers is different than the way and agency through which He now speaks to us. Clearly. John 1:18 does not say that Christ always revealed the Father; rather, the implication is that now, in his incarnation, he reveals the Father.

          On another note, Colossians 1:15 (and Hebrews 1:3) state not that Christ as Deity is the image of God. Rather, one should take in mind the original use of the phrases “image of God” and “firstborn over all creation”. They were used to refer to Adam and David, respectively. Luke’s Gospel draws upon both Adam and David to describe Jesus as the Son of God, the one who is both born by the power and will of God, and the one who is great in his reign as David’s heir.

          Hence, the title Son of God, and the phrase “image of the invisible God” are terms that apply specifically to Jesus as the perfect Man, the second Adam, the Son of Man who rules over all God’s creation and possesses the character of God perfectly (as Colossians says, the fullness of divine virtue). Hebrews is even clearer that Jesus is the ikon of God’s hypostasis. Note the two words. Ikon – image, impression, engraving as on a coin. Hypostasis, the term used to refer to each “Person” of the Trinity. The same word. Christ is the impression of a singular hypostasis of God: he is the image of the Father.

          So with the upmost respect, I don’t think that Edwards, Owen, or Calvin are right on this. That might sound arrogant to you, but the Scriptures are clear. Hebrews 1 is clear (which is not addressed at all). As for Jude, I do not have an answer. Most of the manuscripts from the fourth century onwards do have Jesus, while only one from the fourth century has Lord. So the evidence is clearly in favor of Jesus. However, not all scholars are convinced (even if Jude himself holds that it was Jesus, rather than Moses or the Angel of the LORD or YHWH Himself, who delivered the Israelites out of Egypt). But then that brings up a problem. Hebrews and Jude cannot both be right (Hebrews is clear that God didn’t speak by Jesus).

          • Theo K

            Kenton,

            A few closing comments.

            The reason that you think that the best theological minds of all time are wrong is probably because you employ a different hermeneutic than they did:
            http://www.reformationtheology.com/2006/03/the_reformers_hermeneutic_gram.php

            Let the reader decide who is right.

            You agree Jude is against your position. This is a good first step.

            What do you think of the fact that John 1:18 says that no-one can see the Father and still so many people in the Old Testament met with a divine person?
            The answer is clear, they met with Christ :
            John 12:39-41 --> Isaiah 6, John explicitly states that Isaiah saw Jesus in His glory.

            For a different perpsective on the fact that Jesus is the image of God, see here (and in the comments section an answer to your objection concerning Heb 1)
            http://christthetruth.wordpress.com/2008/05/22/christ-in-the-old-testament-14/

            For more on 1 Pet 1:10-12 see here:
            http://christthetruth.wordpress.com/2008/05/12/christ-in-the-old-testament-12/

            Finally on the issues you raised concerning the angels as mediators of the law, you can find a good approach in the comments section here:
            http://christthetruth.wordpress.com/2012/12/20/who-is-in-the-burning-bush-2/

            Overall, I would say that the issue is quite important. Is Jesus the revelation of God or something less?

            Kenton, keep searching the scriptures, and keep praying to God to open your eyes to see the beautiful things of His law.

            • Kenton

              I will address your reply briefly on most points, but I do want to linger on Hebrews 1, because I did read that before I responded, but I don't think the text says what Glen says it says. First the other points:

              regarding hermeneutics. I am not a trained theologian, nor a trained historian. That said, I appreciate the use of "grammatical-historical" as a descriptive term applied to hermeneutics. Except despite what you may say, there is nothing grammatical or historical about the approach described if neither grammar or history are taken into account.

              "Simply put, I mean they employ a hermeneutic that does not have as its goal to trace every verse to its ultimate reference point: the cross of Christ... If we would follow in the steps of the reformers, we must realize that a literal reading of scriptures does not mean a naturalistic reading. A naturalistic reading says that the full extent of meaning in the account of Moses striking the rock is apprehended in understanding the historical event. The literal reading, in the Christ-centered sense of the Reformation, recognizes that this historical account is meaningless to us until we understand how the God of history was using it to reveal Christ to his people."

              It is neither grammatical nor historical to expunge the original, most direct meaning of a passage in order to point out the greater, more important truth. Take for example the passage about Moses striking the rock, in the context of 1 Corinthians 10. It is neither grammatical nor historical to take 1 Cor 10 and impose it upon Exodus 17:6 in such a way that the physical rock is interpreted as a spiritual rock (Paul does say, after all, "that rock is Christ"). That might sound absurd, but that is the way in which your application of this hermeneutic seems to treat the Old Testament. And I think that's too simplistic and ignoring the text's inherent meaning.

              To see everything in the OT as pointing to Christ does not mean that the "naturalistic reading" has to be abandoned for the Christ-centered meaning. Rather, it means that we as Christians, as those who have received Christ, can look back and see how those things were meant to *point to Christ*; it doesn't mean that Christ was literally in those things, or was those things. It simply means that they point to what was to come.

              That's how I read the OT, which allows for the most immediate reading of the text to remain, while pointing to the greater reality which is revealed in Christ presently. After all, Paul describes everything under the Old Covenant as shadows. They were NOT the reality. So while Glen may criticize the oft-stated view that the New Covenant is the Old revealed, it does ring true. A better way of saying that, however, is that the New Covenant is the Old Covenant realized, fulfilled, perfected, brought to it's appointed end -> the better covenant. And I believe that applies to revelation as well as salvation.

              This is the only point I'll make on this subject, because we could go back and forth all night about semantics and whether this is historical or not or Christ-centered or not. This leads to John 1 and John 12. John 1, like Hebrews, DOES set up a contrast between Moses and Jesus. But more importantly to John 1:18, I think it necessary to note that everything that John says after 1:12-13 relates to the incarnate Word of God. As I will adamantly affirm, though controversial and going against orthodoxy, I strongly believe that the title Son of God (and by connection the description "image of God") is one that refers entirely to Jesus in his humanity. And my basis for that comes from numerous places:

              1) Luke 1:35 directly states that the title is based on Jesus' conception by the Holy Spirit and his taking up of David's throne.
              2) Not a single place in either Testament connects Jesus' filiation with pre-incarnation. Rather, they are all in the context of Jesus' relationship to God either in the context of inheritance, obedience, or special revelation post-incarnation.
              3) Again, against orthodoxy (I'll take the blow), when John uses the term monogenes, it's a) in the context of Jesus being sent or incarnation, and b) it's meaning is "one-of-a-kind"/"only begotten," but it has the connotation of "beloved" (as an only child).
              4) John himself only begins to describe Jesus as the Son of God once he's explained that those who receive the Word are given such a right, and John first uses the term with regard to Jesus in the context of incarnation.

              What does that mean for "no one has ever seen God"? No one has ever seen God in His essence. No one has ever seen God's face. Save the angels (Jesus confirms this in Matt. 18:10). And Jesus as revealed God in a way that angels cannot. How so? Keep in mind that John is speaking about Jesus in his incarnation. So he has revealed God in his words AND actions. But let's ignore that interpretation for a moment. What *if* no one has ever seen the Father, and Jesus has always been the one to reveal Him?

              First, the text says, "No one has ever seen *God*." So then you run into the problem that, if no one *can* see God (which Paul states), then how would God the Son have revealed himself to anyone, since he is equally God? Let me posit a response. If the disciples can see the "face of God" in the face of the human Jesus, then don't you think that the people of old could see the "face of God" in the faces of angels? After all, their faces behold that of the Father "always". And Moses' own face glowed with the glory of God as the mediator between God and the Israelites. Don't want to linger on that, but I think it requires us to understand what it means in the OT to "see the face of God", even when God Himself says that no one can see Him and live (which would apply to those who see the pre-incarnate Christ, correct)? And in anticipation of a rebuttal, Paul only says that Christ condescended once, when he rebuffed Satan's attempts to get him to commit Adam's sin (that's what I think Phil. 2 is about).

              As for John 12, I'll point you to my answer to the hermeneutics question above. For Isaiah to see Christ's glory does not require Isaiah to literally see Christ. Just as with Abraham, and as Hebrews 11 states, the patriarchs and prophets saw these things from a distance. Abraham received promises about the glory and purpose of the Messiah, and Isaiah received clearer promises of the same thing. Also, I think it necessary to point out that while most Christians assume John is talking about Isaiah 6:1, that's NOT what John cites. Rather, the glory John speaks about is the glory of Christ's death, and he cites passages that speak of Christ's rejection and sacrifice. So Isaiah 6:1 really isn't in view. Again, a true grammatical-historical hermeneutic would recognize this and exegete what John himself actually says and refers to, rather than eisegeting it. As for Isaiah 6, there is no reason to think that Isaiah is not actually seeing the Father.

              Now to the specific case of Hebrews. This is what Glen says:

              * The rest of the chapter assumes that the OT is a christocentric revelation. E.g. “But about the Son He says (Psalm 45)” – Heb 1:8. The writer says that the Psalmists etc were speaking about the Son.

              * It’s not a change in the content of revelation between v1 and 2.

              * Therefore, what is new about these ‘last days’ (v2)? Well it’s surely that the Son has addressed His people in person. On only one occasion does the Son address Israel as a whole (Judges 2:1-4). Every other OT revelation is mediated by the Son through the prophets and to the people. (cf Num 12:7-8; Isaiah 6:8; Jer 1:4-5). God has spoken by the prophets, repeatedly, in so many different ways.

              * But in these last days the Son has got up in front of the people as His own Prophet. There hasn’t been an intermediary saying ‘Thus sayeth the LORD’ instead He Himself said: ‘Truly *I* say unto you.’

              * So for 3 years in the middle of history the Son has addressed His people as His own Apostle and Prophet.

              * This has ushered in the last days

              * But don’t forget that ever since those three years the Son addresses us as mediated through others – the apostles. Those years of Jesus’ earthly ministry were utterly unique but God’s revelation has always been through and concerning the Son.

              To put it bluntly, the text clearly presents a contrast between the revelation through the prophets and the revelation through the Son. The entire first chapter is dominated by this contrast between the message delivered by angels and the message spoken by the Son. God spoke... by the prophets, but now he has spoken by his Son. That's a clear contrast. The structure of the sentence alone demands that we reject the argument that God's revelation has always been through the Son. Let's not mention the "Long ago... but in these last days" contrast. The addition of the "in these last days", which qualify "he has spoken by His Son" places a chronological restriction on when the Son acts as mediator. I'm sorry, but while Jude is rather clear "Jesus saved a people", Hebrews is also clear.

              Again, a grammatical-historical hermeneutic does not impose meaning upon the text in contradiction to the grammar, especially when involving chronology and history, as Hebrews 1 does. Rather, in a true grammatical-historical hermeneutic, grammar restricts interpretation, and history means that we read and interpret texts in their original context, with regard to how the original hearers received and understood it, and how the writers intended it.

              This doesn't mean that we are placing human composition over God's word. Rather, what it means is that we understand that God did not send a book down from heaven, nor did He dictate the entirety of the Scriptures. Rather, most of the Scriptures (aside from the Prophets and the direct words of God in the Pentateuch), were conceived in the minds of human writers, and composed for specific people in a specific context for specific circumstances, as the writers were lead along by the Holy Spirit.

              That means, to take Nathan's example, that we can view Song of Solomon as being fundamentally about the love between Solomon and his bride. That's what it was written as, that's how it was received, and it doesn't lose that meaning when we look at it from a Christocentric view. A Christ-centered view of Song of Solomon does not extract the original content and replace it with new meaning (turning everything into a metaphor). Rather, it means that we can view it as an example and type of the relationship that Christ has with his church, and the relationship that should exist between husbands and wives.

              And so when we talk about the Angel of the LORD, or the Commander of the LORD's army, or the "one like a son of the gods" in the fiery furnace, or the pillars of cloud and fire, or the rock at Horeb, we can view them as types of the Messiah, and what he is to the redeemed of the new covenant, while remaining fully and truly Christ-centered in how we read the Old Testament.

              And in this way, we can actually maintain that the revelation of God in the New Testament is in fact fuller and clearer, not solely because of Christ's death, but because his humanity shows us what God is like in person via the Son of God who demonstrates precisely what God intended when He created man in the image of God: therefore Jesus reveals God fully in a way that no angel or fire or cloud or finite, mercy seat "glory" could ever do, because God uniquely created MAN to reveal God.
              And Jesus is that preeminent firstborn over all creation, image of the invisible God, wrath-bearing substitute, raised from the dead, and seated at God's right hand with all authority as Ruler and Deliverer and High Priest and Judge, who reveals God even more fully from such a position than even when he walked the earth.

              I want to be clear, though, in concluding. Glen goes to great lengths to emphasize that the OT has an inherent Christological bias to it. I agree fully and wholeheartedly with this statement. I do believe that the OT seeps with messianic overtones and undertones, and that the gospel and the kingdom of God and the Messiah are the driving force behind the entire Old Testament, inasmuch as the promises that drive the OT are specifically and explicitly Christological/messianic/evangelistic. But where I differ is that I don't take that to mean that the institutions and revelation of God in the OT were Christ-filled in terms of Jesus being present in them. Rather, all pointed forward to the day when the Messiah would be present as the fulfillment of all the promises and institutions, when Messiah would be present in them. And as a result, I don't think that "Christological" requires us to take a passage such as Absalom's betrayal of David and try to turn it into an explicit, overt Christological metaphor. That's not what it means that the Law and Prophets and Psalms testify about the Messiah. The Old Testament is not a massive metaphor. It is not allegorical but typological and anticipatory, meaning that everything in the OT, from the details to the whole, retains inherent meaning that only makes sense, and that only fits together, in light of what comes later.

            • Kenton

              As for the central question posed:

              "Is Jesus the revelation of God, or less?"

              I will say yes, he is the revelation of God. But saying that does not require me to say that he is the only historical revelation of God, in the sense that the OT revelation of God was ONLY EVER Jesus, rather than something *pointing to* its fulfillment in Jesus, who himself points to God. So ultimately, God is His revelation, and the way in which He revealed Himself in the OT was through visible manifestations of glory and majesty and through the giving of instructions for holiness and purity.

              The way in which He reveals Himself now is not through those things, but through demonstration, namely the demonstration of Himself through the words and deeds of the Son of God, seen supremely in his death on the cross (a work of propitiation and redemption and consecration). After all, this is how Jesus himself describes his actions in John's Gospel.

              And when Jesus comes and establishes the kingdom of God, we will see God in all the fullness of His revelation, through Jesus, for we will see Him face to face (yes, the One of whom it is said that no one can see or has seen, the Father), and we will also see the Lord who died for us, who himself reveals God and provides access to the presence of the Father.

            • Kenton

              A final, postscript point on angels in the OT. The link provided was really helpful with regard to thinking about the role of angels, yet at the end of the day, it still seems that the author is forcing the Son to be the mediator of the Torah, where the Scriptures don't say that he is, and where Hebrews opposes such a reading. I don't think Paul and Stephen and Hebrews are merely saying that cherubim sculptures sit on top of the ark of the covenant. No, their words imply that it was via actual angels (especially the Angel of the LORD) that the Torah and Old Covenant were given via Moses.

              Again, may I simply point out Stephen's words, the only direct mention of the Angel in the wilderness. Stephen, to make his point crucially clear about the Israelites rejecting the LORD's servants (and His ultimate servant, the Messiah), could have said that Jesus was this Angel, underscoring and solidifying his point. But he doesn't. Three mentions, not one connected at all to Jesus.

              And regarding the mercy seat, it seems more likely to me that the presence of the cherubim were meant to signify both that the mercy seat was a type of the heavenly court -- God's throne itself is said to be surrounded by cherubim/seraphim, according to Isaiah 6:1-3 and Ezekiel 1 and Ezekiel 10:1,20 and 2 Kings 19 and Psalm 80:1 and Isaiah 37:16 (a second account of 2 Kings 19) -- and that the Old Covenant was mediated by angels (note that the way to the Garden, the original "Temple of God" on earth, was guarded by cherubim, as was the Ark and the Holy Place of the Temple).

              But, so often overlooked in Romans 3:24-25, Jesus is said to be the mercy seat; the word we translate as propitiation here, hilasterion, though having many sisters in the NT, is only used elsewhere in Hebrews 9:5 for the mercy seat. Jesus is "the mercy seat [of the new covenant, sprinkled] in his blood", referring to Leviticus 16:14-15, which concerns the Day of Atonement (also Hebrews' frame of reference for describing Jesus as the better High Priest).

              I point this out because I think that the primary point made by these numerous references to angels as the ones who deliver the Torah (and old covenant) is that the gospel and covenant delivered by the Son of God is greater and more binding, precisely because the first was not delivered by the Son of God. Otherwise the first would be greater, for it was attended with visible signs of glory and with angels and fire and voices from heaven. But the second is greater, because the voice of the Son of God speaks in it, not in the first.

            • Kenton

              minor point, almost forgot: the reason why the Church Fathers equate the pre-incarnate Logos with the Angel of the LORD is because Jews such as Philo of Alexandria equated an heavenly [semi-divine] Logos with the Angel of the LORD; this Logos was seen as the sole mediator between the transcendent God and His creation ("incarnate" in the Torah).

              In fact, much of what John writes regarding the Logos is an appropriation of Philo's thought to explain Jesus' significance. It is Philo (b. 20 BC, d. 50 AD) who directly identifies the Angel with his Platonic Logos, and gives this divine intermediary the central role in creation, as one who bridges the "enormous gap" between the divine and His mundane creation. He even calls this Logos the non-human "first-born of God" and "the bond of everything, holding all things together and binding all the parts", which sounds like Paul in Colossians 1:15-18, except that Paul restricts his terms to "all creation" and "thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities."

              I don't mean to imply that John and Paul aren't true, but just that their descriptions come from Philo. And it's worth noting that while Philo identifies his Logos with the Angel of the LORD, John does not equate Jesus with the Angel of the LORD. But Justin Martyr does.

            • MIchaelA

              Hi Kenton,

              "In fact, much of what John writes regarding the Logos is an appropriation of Philo's thought to explain Jesus' significance."

              What do you think so?

              "I don't mean to imply that John and Paul aren't true, but just that their descriptions come from Philo."

              Again, why would that be the case?

            • Kenton

              MichaelA,

              Because Philo originates the language of the Logos, itself borrowed from Platonic thought. Judaism never embraced it, so it doesn't come naturally from Jewish thought. So, John borrowed it from Philo. But it's worth noting that Philo doesn't connect the Logos to the Messiah, while John does. And John doesn't revisit the title after he describes the incarnation. So it serves to set up his account, but doesn't persist as a major title. Hence, I think it safe to say that Logos is not a central title that John intends to draw extended implications from. Rather, John is quite focused in what the Logos is and what role the Logos plays in creation and as the light of men. In fact, whether John identifies the Logos as the Angel or anyone else in the OT is questionable because he specifically says that the Logos was not recognized when in the world (hence, he's only talking about post-incarnation). So even John is silent about whether the Logos was active in OT history.

              But John's use of the Logos is far more restricted than Philo's usage.

            • MichaelA

              Hi Kenton

              1. You wrote: "Because Philo originates the language of the Logos, itself borrowed from Platonic thought. Judaism never embraced it, so it doesn't come naturally from Jewish thought."

              I have to disagree with both of your assumptions. Firstly that Philo originated the language of logos within Judaism – What about its use in the Wisdom of Solomon?

              "Your almighty word [Logos] leapt down from heaven out of your royal throne, as a fierce man of war into the midst of a land of destruction, and brought your unfeigned commandment as a sharp sword, and standing up filled all things with death; and [the Logos] touched the heaven, but it stood upon the earth." [Wisdom 18:15-16]

              That is a thoroughly Jewish source, and dated a century or more before Philo.

              Or Greek translations of the Old Testament, going back probably another century before Wisdom:

              "By the [Logos] of the LORD the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth" [Psalm 33:6]

              Secondly, your assumption that Judaism never "embraced the language of the Logos" – what about e.g. 4 Maccabees?

              2. You also wrote: "So, John borrowed it from Philo."

              Even if your premise is true (and as I have shown in 1 above, I don't think it is) why would this follow? Given that the Old Testament is full of references to the word of God, and that key passages were translated "logos" centuries before Philo, why does John have to get anything from Philo?

              In any case, aren't you giving Philo more prominence in Greek thought than he deserves? The idea of Logos as divine, and having a presence identified with God appears at least as early as the 6th century BC. Zeno in the 4th century BC and Cleanthes and Chrysippus in the 3rd century refer to it.

              I would have thought a better way of putting it is that both Philo and the Apostle John separately adopted the concept of "logos", which already existed in both Greek and Jewish theology/philosophy, to suit their particular aims.

            • Kenton

              I don't know if I'd call Wisdom of Solomon a thoroughly Jewish source, with no hints of Greek influence. But I do stand corrected on Philo's origination of the usage. Wisdom of Solomon does seem to connect the logos with the Angel of the LORD, as well as the Destroyer. But Philo is the one who states:

              But to those souls which are still in the body He [God] must appear in the resemblance of the angels, though without changing His nature (for He is unchangeable), but merely implanting in those who behold Him an idea of His having another form, so that they fancy that it is His image, not an imitation of him, but the very archetypal appearance itself.

              … this is the Logos of God, the first beginning of all things, the original species or the archetypal idea, the first measure of the universe.

              And God … nourishes us with his own Word (Logos), which is the most universal of all things, for manna being interpreted, means "what?" and "what" is the most universal of all things; for the Logos of God is over all the world, and is the most ancient, and the most universal of all things that are created.

              Why is it that he speaks as if of some other god, saying that he made man after the image of God, and not that he made him after His own image? Very appropriately and without any falsehood was this oracular sentence uttered by God, for no mortal thing could have been formed on the similitude of the supreme Father of the universe but only after the pattern of the second deity, who is the Logos of the supreme Being…"

              So Philo connects the Logos with much of what God does throughout the OT, even with manna and with the creation of Man. So while the use of the term logos to describe the Angel and to describe wisdom and the Torah is not exclusive to Philo, much of what Philo says can be seen in John’s Gospel (heavily adapted, far less Hellenistic, and tied to the Incarnation), but my point in this was to address why the Church Fathers readily identified Christ with the Angel and other “theophanies” (note: the Church Fathers DID read Philo, and cite him). My point about John and Paul was that the language that they use in limited sense indicates that they were aware of his thought, and appropriated some of the language (perhaps also current in other strands of Judaism), but mostly that their usage was quite limited, and they didn’t make the same sweeping identifications that Philo did. In fact, most of their use of this logos language is applied exclusively to creation and Christ being the archetypal authority (Colossians). What John does uniquely with the Logos is ascribe to it essential life, eternal life, which drives his Gospel.

            • MIchaelA

              Hi Kenton,

              I have somehow posted my response at the end of the thread. Please see below.

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  • MIchaelA

    Hi Kenton,

    I think the essential point where we disagree is that you see similarities between Philo and John, and therefore assume (on the basis only of the similarities that you perceive) that John must have derived his ideas and thoughts from Philo.

    I disagree, and I suggest you have made two basal errors:

    (i) You have not sufficiently considered the wide corpus of Jewish literature beyond Philo. Philo's ideas and expressions are not as unique as you think - there is no need for John to have derived his ideas from Philo.

    (ii) You have not allowed even the possibility that both Philo and John independently read the Old Testament and drew their inspiration and ideas from it. Yet that is the only conclusion possible - John's teaching is too fundamentally different from Philo's to be derived from it.

    "But I do stand corrected on Philo's origination of the usage"

    Quite. And on the wide use of Logos at relevant points in the Greek translations of the Old Testament (not just the Septuagint) two centuries before Philo.

    "What John does uniquely with the Logos is ascribe to it essential life, eternal life, which drives his Gospel."

    I disagree. I don't think that teaching is unique to John at all, if by eternal you mean "existing for ever more". However, what John does do uniquely is teach that the Logos is uncreated. That is also where he fundamentally differs from Philo, and he drives his point home in the first three verses of his gospel. Whether or not John had read Philo, by the time any reader finished his verse three verses, he knew that Philo and John could not be reconciled.

    • Kenton

      "I think the essential point where we disagree is that you see similarities between Philo and John, and therefore assume (on the basis only of the similarities that you perceive) that John must have derived his ideas and thoughts from Philo."

      Where we disagree is that I see John as deriving his conception of the Logos from Philo -- or other contemporary Jewish thought that identified the logos theou as a divine or semi-divine being. I don't think that John's Gospel is itself derived from Philo. Merely the conception of the Logos. Only John's Gospel and Revelation identify Jesus specifically as the Logos of God.

      "(i) You have not sufficiently considered the wide corpus of Jewish literature beyond Philo. Philo's ideas and expressions are not as unique as you think - there is no need for John to have derived his ideas from Philo."

      Well, whether from Philo or from other Jewish wisdom traditions, the concept of the Logos as the chief divine being (whether angelic or possessing deity) is contained within John's Gospel, and John draws upon that, either because he holds it central to his identification of Jesus (doubtful, if only because he doesn't return to it as a title) or for the sake of his Jewish-Christian audience (who most likely is very familiar and reliant upon the wisdom literature).

      "(ii) You have not allowed even the possibility that both Philo and John independently read the Old Testament and drew their inspiration and ideas from it. Yet that is the only conclusion possible - John's teaching is too fundamentally different from Philo's to be derived from it."

      I allow that John doesn't have to have drawn his thought from Philo directly. But I don't think that he drew it directly from the OT either. I don't think Philo does either. There is a very developed wisdom tradition, as you pointed out, which identified wisdom (notably found in Prov 8:22) with the word of God (logos in Greek) and in Wisdom of Solomon with the Angel of the LORD (though I still argue that John doesn't carry this over). So John is drawing from some existing tradition. And yes, I agree that John's thought is very different from Philo's. Which is why I noted that it is especially with regard to the Logos, which as a theme in itself isn't brought up again, that John seems to draw upon Philo.

      "Quite. And on the wide use of Logos at relevant points in the Greek translations of the Old Testament (not just the Septuagint) two centuries before Philo."

      The use of logos in the Septuagint does not mean that the term carried all of the philosophical meaning that Plato, and then Philo, gave to it. Nor does it mean that logos in the Septuagint becomes a synonym for the Angel of the LORD.

      "I disagree. I don't think that teaching is unique to John at all, if by eternal you mean "existing for ever more". However, what John does do uniquely is teach that the Logos is uncreated."

      What I mean by eternal life is the life that the Logos gives to men. John states, "In him was life, and the life was the light of men." Now this does seem a little similar to Philo (who states that the Logos is the supreme image of God, and mankind was created in the image of the Logos; therefore, the Logos is the archetypal Man, and can be called the first-born of God). But I'm not saying that John gets this from Philo. But eternal life does play a significant role in John's Gospel, and this is what the Logos gives (along with the right to become sons of God). And Jesus as the incarnate Logos, the Son of God, gives eternal life at the command of the Father.

      Yes, John does teach that the Logos is uncreated. But the opening verses are very similar to Philo's thought. Nothing in the first three verses differs fundamentally from Philo's thought. You did say that they show how different John is from Philo, but really its everything after the first four that differs. Let me show how:

      In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. (Jn 1:1–4)

      the holy Scripture on the present occasion indicates that it is the true God that is meant by the use of the article, the expression being "I am the God (ho theos);" but when the word is used incorrectly, it is put without the article, the expression being, "He who was seen by thee in the place, not of the God (ton theon), but simply of God" (theon); and *what he here calls God is His most ancient Logos*

      Man was created as perceptible to the sense, and *in the similitude of a Being appreciable only by the intellect, but he who in respect of his form is intellectual and incorporeal, is the similitude of the archetypal model* as to appearance, and he is the form of the principal character; but *this is the Logos of God, the first beginning of all things, the original species or the archetypal idea, the first measure of the universe.*

      ...the active cause is the Logos of the universe... while the passive subject is something inanimate and incapable of motion by any intrinsic power of its own, but having been set in motion, and fashioned, and endowed with life by the intellect, became transformed into that most perfect work, this world.

      he is called the Authority, and the name of God, and the Logos, and man according to God's image, and he who sees Israel. For which reason I was induced a little while ago to praise the principles of those who said, "We are all one man's sons." (Gen. 42:11). For even if we are not yet suitable to be called the sons of God, still we may deserve to be called the children of his eternal image, of his most sacred Logos; for the image of God is his most ancient Logos.

      Everything that John says in his first verses can be reconciled with Philo's philosophy. That isn't saying that John's Gospel depends on Platonic philosophy, but nothing that John says in the first couple of verses contradicts Philo's own ramblings. The key points that are in common:

      1) The Logos exists from the beginning and is with "the God" as "God".
      2) The Logos created the world
      3) The Logos is central to human existence and identity.

      This they hold in common, though John doesn't rely on complex philosophy in order to make his points, and they diverge with respect to just how the Logos relates to God and to humanity. The other central point of departure is the incarnation itself (which is so important that John's first epistle, which carries much of the same themes and language from the Gospel, deals with it).

      • MIchaelA

        Hi Kenton,

        Most of your last post I agree with (or our differences are minor). My remaining comments are as follows:

        1. I think most scholars would hold that to Philo, the Logos is a created entity (as opposed to John). But I agree Philo's words on this issue are not clear. Philo's purpose was to show how Stoic concepts could be reconciled to the Old Testament scriptures, and he doesn't always make clear that which we might like him to.

        2. "Where we disagree is that I see John as deriving his conception of the Logos from Philo -- or other contemporary Jewish thought that identified the logos theou as a divine or semi-divine being."

        Its possible, but given that John constantly (and overtly) cites from the Old Testament, and since the relevant passages in the Old Testament were translated Logos in the Greek translations which long predate Philo, as well as in Jewish wisdom literature which also predates Philo, I think you are drawing an extremely long bow. But obviously you disagree, and you see distinct similarities between Philo and John, in content and style. There doesn't seem to be much further we can take this point.

  • Kenton

    MichaelA, I'm responding here because its a bit cluttered at the top:

    1.“I disagree. I can't say much more because you haven't cited anything to support this assertion. Of course you will find some cases (a few) where we know from the context that the speaker is referring only to God the Father, but that is the point - it is the context that tells us that. Equally we find others where the context shows that the Son is being referred to, or the entire Trinity.”

    I’ll indulge you and provide as many references as I can, within this limited space. With respect to the Gospels, *Jesus* DOES use theos for the Father EXCLUSIVELY. So I’m not going to cite anything from them. Rather, Lord willing I will begin with Acts and then show how the majority of the time, *theos* is used to refer to the Father above and beyond its use for Jesus or the Holy Spirit.

    Kyrios is another case, and it is used a little more generally to refer to Father, Son, or Spirit, though mostly for the Son. I disagree strongly that theos is ever used for all three at once, though if you can point out the verse to me, that’d be really helpful. Since this will take up some space, I’ll include it as a separate comment.

    2."Did I just read the word 'almost' inserted into that sentence? :) That is at least a start. But in fact it is far less even than that. There is no rule that 'theos' means God the Father.”
    Yes, because there are clear, specific cases, where theos is used with reference to the Son, or at least it is unclear whether the Father or Son is in view (Timothy and Titus are the primary places where this is the case). That said, I don’t ever recall a place where theos is used with respect to the Son without being explicitly associated with the Son.

    3." Now I agree with you. And this in no way requires that God the Son did not speak in the Old Testament, nor that only God the Father spoke in the Old Testament .

    Except, again, for Hebrews 1 which makes the contrast and places a chronological limit on when God begins to speak by His Son.

    4." You are entitled to your opinion! I would prefer to follow the teaching of the apostles Peter and Paul.”

    Can you show me the teaching of Peter and Paul on this matter that somehow makes my position against their teachings? Haven’t we been taking their teachings into account already?

    5." I disagree. The NT is clear about Persons when it needs to be. Often it doesn't say anything because "God" means the Triune God acting in concert. There are no hard and fast rules of the sort you are suggesting.”

    It is when "God" is referred to in the same place as Christ or the Spirit. But more importantly, how theos is used in these cases gives an indication for how theos is used in other cases.

    6." Thank you for adding the words "mostly" - I don't need to add anything further.”

    Mostly means that except for specific places where theos is used for the Son, it refers to the Father. Kyrios becomes the primary way of speaking about the Son, such that when Paul is speaking of the Father and Son together, he either says “God and Christ” or “God and Lord” or “Father and Christ” or “Father and Son” or “Father and Lord”; it’s never “Father and God” or “Lord and God” (where Lord refers to the Father and God refers to the Son). And usually, in the case of “God and Lord”, Paul is clear that theos refers to the Father and kyrios to the Son.

    7." I agree - you cannot make that assumption, but you are still trying to argue it!”

    The only assumption that I make is that Paul’s audience doesn’t have the benefit of any clearly articulated doctrine of the Trinity, nor any clearly articulated doctrine of Christ being the Angel in the Old Testament. Therefore, it is necessary for such things to be clearly articulated (at any point).

    8.“In paragraphs 4, 5 and 6 generally of your post, I note your various points, but suffice to say that to me they appear to be an attempt to explain away the clear words of Peter and Paul, which show us that Christ both acted and spoke in the Old Testament, however much his true destiny and role were hidden at the time.”
    I’m not explaining away.

    1) I’m saying that the texts don’t say what you say they say.

    2) I’m saying that in both cases, how we understand the texts is limited by what they do say, which is a) the SPIRIT of Christ spoke to the prophets, and b) Christ was a spiritual ROCK analogous to the physical rock that provided water for the Israelites. Neither one presents Christ as active, nor as speaking.

    9.“Re Stephen in your paragraph 7, I disagree - it makes perfect sense why Stephen would not have gone to the subject of Theophany, and it would not have assisted his argument if he had done so.”

    Can you explain it better to me then? What do you see as the aim of his argument?

    • Kenton

      Acts 2:22-47; God here refers to the Father (the only way the passage makes sense), while the Holy Spirit is clearly identified as such. There’s no way to interpret theos here as referring to either the Spirit or to the Son. Lord refers to Jesus. So here, at the beginning of Acts, a precedent is set. What I want to do, therefore, is point out other places throughout the New Testament where such is the case. To save space, I’m only going to list passages that use God to refer to the Father, and other terms to refer to Jesus (many of which might not be referring to his deity). Many of these will also refer to the Holy Spirit as the Holy Spirit, or the Spirit. If a passage warrants comment I will do so. Keep in mind that my overall point is that Hebrews 1:1-2 refers to the Father when it uses “God”, and He has only spoken by His Son in these last days, lest this turn into a debate about Christ’s deity.

      Acts 3:13-26; Acts 4:8-10;

      Acts 4:24-31 is a case where Lord is used to refer exclusively to the Father, which most likely means that YHWH/Adonai is specifically meant (rather than the mere divine title used to refer to the exalted Jesus). This is why I said *mostly*, because there are cases when the Father is specifically indicated, such as this.

      Acts 5:29-32; Acts 7; Acts 10:34-43; Acts 13:16-37; Acts 17:30-31; Acts 22:14; Romans 1:1-9; Romans 2:16; Romans 3:24-25; Romans 4:17, 24; Romans 6:10; Romans 8:34; Romans 10:9; Romans 14:6, 18; Romans 15:5-7; 1 Cor. 1:9, 30; 1 Cor. 3:23; 1 Cor. 6:14; 1 Cor. 8:6; 1 Cor. 11:3; 1 Cor. 12:4-6; 1 Cor. 15:15, 27-28; 2 Cor. 1:21; 2 Cor. 2:15; 2 Cor. 3:4; 2 Cor. 4:4; 2 Cor. 5:18-19; 2 Cor. 6:18; 2 Cor. 11:31; 2 Cor. 13:14; Gal 4:4-6; Eph. 1:17; Eph. 2:4-7; Eph. 4:4-6, 32; Eph. 5:2; Phil 2:5-11; Phil 4:19-20; Col 1:3; Col 2:12; Col 3:1-3; 1 Thess. 1:9-10; 1 Thess. 3:11-13; 1 Thess. 4:14; 1 Tim 2:3-5; 1 Tim 5:21; Heb 1:1-6; Heb. 2:17; Heb. 3:6; Heb 5:4-5, 9; Heb 9:14, 24; Heb 10:12; Heb 12:1-2; Heb 13:20; 1 Pet 1:20-21; 1 Pet 3:18, 21-22; 1 Pet. 5:10; 1 John 1:5, 7; 1 John 3:21-23; 1 John 4:9-10; 1 John 5:10-11; Rev. 1:1; Rev. 3:2, 12, 14; Rev. 7:10; Rev. 14:4; Rev. 20:6; Rev 21:7, 22; Rev. 22:1.

      I do this only to prove my point about Hebrews 1, and to point out as thoroughly as I can that the majority of the time, God is used to refer to the Father, especially when both the Father and the Son are in view. And it isn't that big of an issue to me, to be honest, except that I think it diminishes the uniqueness of the incarnation and the new covenant and restricts its purpose to just the cross, rather than the whole purpose for which Christ came and died and rose again and for which he will return.

      Obviously we probably differ on how to interpret these. I will point out lastly that I don’t think there is any verse here that uses *theos* to refer to the activity of all three Persons in concert. Places where God is mentioned generally, apart from a reference to the Son or the Spirit, may be cases of this (and such places abound in Scripture). But there isn’t a place where the Son is referenced AND the Trinity as a whole is indicated simply by *theos*.

      You may think this a biased and unfounded assumption, but verses that refer to God doing something through Christ (or “His Son” or “the Lord” or whatever) I take to be the Father doing something through Christ. Hebrews 1:1-2 certainly fits in this case. Hence, since it is the Father who is said to be speaking through the prophets “long ago”, therefore it is the Father who speaks through His Son “in these last days”. And the logic of the contrast, and the force of the statement, dictates that the author means that the Son was not the means through which God spoke “long ago”.

      Therefore, I think there are one of three conclusions:

      1)The Son did not speak at all prior to his incarnation, nor was he active under the Old Covenant

      2)The Son did not speak as the distinct Second Person; rather, the Trinity spoke as one (and the Spirit separately through the prophets)

      3)The author of Hebrews has a very restricted use of the term Son to refer only to Jesus in his incarnation.

      Only these three conclusions can account for the contrast that the author makes in the first two verses. I will reiterate once more that all of this is initially borne out of a response to Theo K’s arguments via the links he provided (which argue that the Son was prominent and active as the Son, as the Second Person, and that everyone under the Old Covenant knew it).

      • MIchaelA

        Hi Kenton,
        "So here, at the beginning of Acts, a precedent is set."

        No it isn't. You don't get to expound one passage of Scripture in opposition to another, simply by asserting that a reference early in the fifth book of the New Testament is "a precedent". Scripture is coherent with the whole of itself, not with some verses that we might decide we like more and therefore decide should be called 'precedents'.

        "To save space, I’m only going to list passages that use God to refer to the Father..."

        Since neither I nor anyone else on this thread has ever denied that "theos" is at times used to refer to God the Father, this is not relevant.

        "Keep in mind that my overall point is that Hebrews 1:1-2 refers to the Father when it uses “God”, and He has only spoken by His Son in these last days..."

        No-one has a difficulty with the first part of this sentence. Your exclusive claim in the second part (i.e. that Christ does not speak or act in the Old Testament) is the issue. Citing a whole lot of verses wherein you claim that the New Testament refers to God the Father (even if you are correct) doesn't add anything to the debate.

        "I do this only to prove my point ... that the majority of the time, God is used to refer to the Father"

        Which no-one has disputed - it may be correct, or it may be that "the majority of the time" the word God in the New Testament cannot be tied down to a particular member of the Trinity - but either way, it does not assist your argument.

        "Therefore, I think there are one of three conclusions:..."

        I disagree that these are the only three. Hebrews reminds us that God's revelation in the new covenant is through the special mediation of God the Son, but at no point does it suggest (nor does it logically follow) that God the Son could not act or speak prior to the incarnation. We know that he did, even though the Old Testament prophets did not understand the full implications of who he is.