Thursday, July 31, 2008

Jesus as the Unifier of the Bible




I am reading a manuscript by Phillip King entitled The Bible is for Living, in which the following comment struck me---

"the New Testament is not necessarily a commentary on the Old
Testament, that is to say, Jesus is not to be found on every page of
the Old Testament. The Old Testament text is not simply shining
in reflected glory; it has rich meaning in its own right. Without
the Old Testament, the New Testament is a superstructure suspended
in midair. There is both continuity and discontinuity
between the Testaments. Jesus is the unifier of the Bible, both
Old Testament and New Testament; for example, the two great
commandments—love of God (Deuteronomy 6:5), and love of
neighbor (Leviticus 19:18). These two Old Testament injunctions
are combined in the New Testament: “You shall love the
Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and
with all your mind, and with all your strength … You shall love
your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:30-31; Matthew 22:37-39)." (p. 12 of mss.)

In what way are the two testaments united in and by Jesus, especially since the OT is not in the main about Jesus? One way would be to say that if we fulfill the Great Commandment(s) as Jesus said we should we would love Jesus with all our hearts as God and also love Jesus as our nearest neighbor (and so as our nearest and dearest human relative). A second way to look at this, is our modeling our love of God the Father and neighbor as Jesus himself practiced it, showing us the way.

Think on these things.

49 comments:

Seven Meditations said...

Ben,

I'm not really sure what Mr. King is after here. While I understand and can appreciate that the various census data and ancestral lines found in the Old Testament does not immediately inform us as to who Jesus was, the foreshadows found in the Old Testament seem to be far more than a mere uniting under Jesus - at least as Mr. King seems to define it.

In other words, I do see Jesus on every page in the Old Testament at least in the sense as to how each page reveals "the definite plan and foreknowledge of God" found in life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The methodical revelation of Jesus displayed through the emergence of the Israelite nation, her kings, her falls, her prophets..all paving the way for the glorious coming king...seems to produce a far more cohesive set of testaments than what Mr. King is suggesting.

Brad

Leslie said...

That is a powerful way of describing it, and I definitely appreciate what he's saying here. I think it's interesting because the OT on its own could in some ways seem like a history of yet another rival ANE religion. But unlike any other religion, the OT really gets tied off by the coming of Jesus. In other words, at least for me, without the coming of Jesus in the NT, the OT would seem obscure and too distant. But Jesus helps me understand it all by bringing a unity to the whole thing. Thanks for sharing this :)

phil said...

Excuse the corny metaphor… but to me it is almost like the Old Testament without Jesus is a 3D movie without the 3D glasses. Sure, the picture is there and you can certainly learn, gain information and enjoy the film without the glasses, but once applying the glasses (seeing Jesus in the OT) it becomes more alive; it becomes a story in which you find yourself wanting to participate in more and more. And when those glasses are on, you can read the OT narratives in such a way that they feel as if they are reaching out of the pages, reaching into your heart and sometimes even making you squirm in your seat.

Ryan said...

<< In what way are the two testaments united in and by Jesus, especially since the OT is not in the main about Jesus? >>

Ben,

The OT revelation is not merely an account that contains some similar commands or even just a shadow of the reality which came in Christ Jesus in the NT. Just as Jesus mediated the law to people in the NT, He also mediated it in the OT. He was the One who Moses could speak with as a man speaks to his friend (and not perish). He is the One who appeared to Moses in the burning bush whom Moses bowed down to. He is the One who led the Israelites through the desert and into the promised land, fighting the battle ahead of Joshua.

Mr. King would be correct to suggest that the Bible is intended to be lived (and not just studied), but while it may not be technically true that Jesus appears on every single page, it is most definitely "in the main about Jesus." Brad and Phil are right to react to these comments. Without Christ, there would be no OT. Further, Jesus did not change or add to the law but simply clarified its original intent which was lost because of Israel's blind teachers...

Indeed, as you said, we need to "think on these things"...to which I would add..."more carefully."

Ryan

Ben Witherington said...

Hi Ryan: No, it was Yahweh, the one we call the Father who mediated the Law to Moses. You are mistaken about that. And it is absolutely false that there would be no OT without Jesus. The Hebrew Scriptures were written as timely words of God for the Hebrews in the first place, and were not merely preparations for the coming of the Messiah. They had their own value mediating earlier covenants with God's people. Only a minority of the OT, particularly some of the prophecies, are about a coming greater King or ruler. There was no Incarnation before the Incarnation--- only hints, promises, prophecies. Christians do not have the right to co-opt the Hebrews Scripture and act as if they would never have been written if there was no Jesus or no church. This is false. Yahweh cared about his people and spoke with his people long before he ever sent Jesus.

Blessings,

BW3

Cheryl Schatz said...

Jesus is Yahweh. I am working on a DVD project proving that the second person of the Trinity is YHWH of hosts or the LORD of hosts who appeared in the Old Testament.

The glory of Jesus is the glory of YHWH, the authority of Jesus is the authority of Yahweh and He is the one who has always given eternal life. Jesus said about the Old Testament scripture:

John 5:39 "You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me;
John 5:40 and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.

Ben Witherington said...

Cheryl I am sorry to have to inform you that calling Jesus Yahweh was a heresy condemned by the early church. The Son is not the Father, they are distinct persons of the Trinity. Those verses in John refer to how the OT prefigures in various ways the coming of the Christ. It is not a claim that Jesus is the subject of the OT. You need to rethink this entirely.

BW3

Andrew C. Thompson said...

I think Cheryl and Ryan are trying to make Trinitarian points, rather than simply conflating the Father and the Son. That is, you never find one Person of the Trinity wholly separate from the other two. When the Law was revealed to Moses on Mt. Sinai, the God who revealed it was the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - not just the Father. It may have been the Father speaking, but he was speaking through the Son and in the power of the Holy Spirit (cf. the creation of the heavens and the earth in Gen 1). It might be worth pointing out that Paul affirms the presence of Christ with the Hebrews in the Wildnerness in 1 Cor 10:3-4 - "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."

It is true to say there would be no OT without Jesus Christ in the sense that he is the Second Person of the Triune God and there would be no OT without God. The Incarnation is a historically contingent event, but the Trinity is not. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."

Ben Witherington said...

Andrew my response to this is that this view of the Trinity does not respect the stated division of labor as outlined in the NT. God the Father did not speak through the Son nor by the power of the Holy Spirit in OT times. Nothing in the OT or NT really suggests such a thing. This is like arguing that my father could not have acted without my assistance as his son--- this false both at the human and the divine level. This is why in the 4th Gospel the language of agency is used of both Son and Spirit. The Son becomes the agent of the Father in the incarnation, and speaks on his behalf. Then the Spirit becomes the agent of the Son and speaks on his behave.

Blessings

BW3

Nathan said...

Ben,
Unless I’m mistaken, your response to Cheryl begs the question (in the proper sense of the term): the early church did not declare heretical an equation of Jesus and YHWH. It was the equation of the Son and the Father that was declared heretical. You’re assuming that YHWH = God the Father, but that is the very question at hand, isn’t it? Is YHWH God the Father only, or is YHWH the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit?
It seems that what we have at the very heart of Trinitarian doctrine is an affirmation of the latter. How can the Church affirm the Shema (“Hear, O Israel, YHWH is your God, YHWH alone) and worship Jesus? Does the worship of Jesus entail adding a second object of worship to Israel’s YHWH, or do we understand YHWH to be the one Trinitarian God? The doctrine of the Trinity is an affirmation that, even while the Father and the Son can be distinguished and have a real relationship with one another (against modalism), when we worship Jesus we are worshiping the one God of Israel.
This canonical reading is not merely imposed on the Bible. For example, David Yeago’s article “The New Testament and Nicene Dogma” (Pro Ecclesia) demonstrates the equation of Jesus and YHWH (not Jesus and the Father) in Phil 2. Also, C. Kavin Rowe’s book Early Narrative Christology (RBL review: http://www.bookreviews.org/bookdetail.asp?TitleId=5966 ) argues quite convincingly that Luke uses the word kyrios in a way that suggests both Jesus and God are to be equated with YHWH.

Moreover, while the analogy you make about you and your father is invalid because you are not one in being with your father – which means Andrew’s objection was correct – it’s worth mentioning that the NT explicitly speaks of the agency of the Son in the times before the incarnation. “All things were made through him,” according to John 1:3. The famous hymn to Christ in Colossians agrees: “All things were created in him … all things were created through him and for him” (1:16). Indeed, “in him all things hold together” [!] (1:17). (Also note that the Nicene Creed states that the Holy Spirit spoke through the Prophets).

Thus, I would argue that we should not be so timid about following Jesus in “beginning with Moses and all the prophets, interpret[ing] to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself” (24:27).

Grace and Peace,
Nathan

Ben Witherington said...

Actually no Nathan, it does not beg the question. The consistent witness of the OT is that Yahweh is a singular person, the one person we call the Father. This is precisely who Jesus addressed as Father calling him Abba. Only Yahweh was called Abba by any early Jews. I'm afraid the historical evidence on this is perfectly clear. See my book Shadow of the Almighty. One more thing. The Holy Spirit is not mentioned much at all in the OT. The term ruach most often refers to the spirit of Yahweh, by which is meant God's own personal presence, not the third person of the Trinity. There is in fact only one reference to the Holy Spirit in the whole of the OT by those terms, in a Psalm, and even there the reference is not to a person distinct from God the Father, but rather to God's living presence which the psalmist pleads not to be removed.

Blessings,

Ben W.

Cheryl Schatz said...

Ben,

You said, "Cheryl I am sorry to have to inform you that calling Jesus Yahweh was a heresy condemned by the early church. "

Jesus is YHWH indeed and I am surprised that you as a teacher in the body of Christ do not know this.

When I witness to Jehovah's Witnesses and they question me on the Trinity or on the Deity of Christ I always answer them this way. I ask, "When I say that Jesus is God are you hearing me say that I believe Jesus is the Father?" 100% of the time they answer back "Yes." I then tell them that I do not believe that Jesus is the same person as the Father.

This is the problem with the cults. They do not understand the Trinity nor do they understand the importance of Jesus being God. Jesus is not the same person as the Father but he is indeed God and he is indeed YHWH.

In the Trinity there is a unity of persons so complete that they act as one. There is only one name, one authority, one God and one Lord.

I ask Jehovah's Witnesses what is God's own name?

They will tell me that God's own name is Jehovah (we would say YHWH or Yahweh). I ask them to look at John 17:12 in their own New World Translation.

John 17:12 When I was with them I used to watch over them on account of your own name which you have given me;

God's own name has been given to Jesus born as the last Adam, because the Son is of the same essence as his Father. He has the Father's name by inheritance. Even the New World Translation shows this:

Hebrews 1:4 So he has become better than the angels, to the extent that he has inherited a name more excellent than theirs.

All three in the Trinity act together in creation, all three raised Jesus from the dead and all three persons are the one God. If Jesus isn't YHWH, then he isn't God.

The DVD project that I am working on right now not only defines and defends the Trinity but it reveals the false views that have crept into the church. For example one popular author has written a book about the Trinity and has presented many sermons on the Trinity where he states that the Son does not have equal authority with the Father and we are not to pray to the Father. This notion will be thoroughly refuted in the DVD scheduled for release by October 2008. It is called "The Trinity - Eternity Past to Eternity Future, explaining Truth & Exposing Error" copyright 2008.

I believe that it is time that the body of the Jesus Christ stands together united in the essentials of the faith. We need to study to show ourselves approved unto God so that we know how to explain and defend the Trinity in a way that will challenge the cultist at our door as well as those who are in our midst who have relegated the Lord Jesus to a lesser place in the Trinity. When someone says that Jesus is without equal authority or equal ability to answer prayer and forgive sin we should know how to refute this error and defend the truth from scripture.

Warmly,
Cheryl Schatz

Cheryl Schatz said...

Isaiah 44:6

Thus says the LORD (YHWH) the King of Israel, And his Redeemer, the LORD (YHWH) of hosts: I am the first and I am the Last, Besides Me there is no God.

Two persons who call themselves "I" and who are both the first and the last. There is no God besides YHWH.

This one God, this one YHWH declares that he made all things alone.

Isaiah 44:24
Thus says the LORD (YHWH) your Redeemer, And He who formed you from the womb, "I am the LORD (YHWH_ who makes all things, Who stretches out the heavens all alone. Who spreads abroad the earth by Myself."

There is only one YHWH, only one God and only one Lord. There is only one creator and onoly one who stretched out the heavens all alone and by Himself.

That one is the one true God and he is three persons united together in the nature of the one true God.

Isaiah 45:5
"I am the LORD (YHWH), and there is no other; There is no God besides Me."

Ben Witherington said...

Cheryl I can see why your confused, what with the quotes from Isaiah. What you don't understand is that the phrases and terms applied to the Father in the OT are in various cases applied to the Son in the NT, not because the Son is Yahweh, but because the Son is also viewed as God. This is a complicated matter, but the term Yahweh in Isaiah refers always and only to God the Father. It is only in the NT that the language of Alpha and Omega etc. is applied to the Son to emphasis that he too is God.

Blessings,

Ben W.

Nathan said...

The belief that the second and third persons of the Trinity were active in the OT is not based on exegesis of any OT passage, but on the conviction that - if we are to avoid the error of Marcion - that both testaments speak of the same God. It is the New Testament that speaks of the agency of the Son before the incarnation, and it is the New Testament that identifies the Son with YHWH (so Yeago et al.).
Thus worshippers of Jesus still affirm that YHWH alone is our God.
Nathan

Cheryl Schatz said...

Ben,

I hate to say this, but you wouldn't get anywhere with a Jehovah's Witness. You would find yourself agreeing with them that Jesus is not YHWH. I find that sad.

In Isaiah 44:6 there are two persons both with the name YHWH. Notice the word "and"? It is the LORD, (YHWH) the King of Israel AND his redeemer the LORD (YHWH) of hosts. Two persons, one God. Two persons one YHWH. Besides YHWH there is no God. Either Jesus is YHWH and shares the Father's name and authority or Jesus isn't God at all.

The Rock that followed Israel was Jesus in his pre-incarnate form. All of Israel drank from this Rock and this Rock was Christ.(1 Cor 10:4) Jesus himself said that the Old Testament testifies about him (John 5:39) Jesus said that Moses wrote about him (John 5:46)

Ben Witherington said...

This has become an interesting and really odd conversation. First of all, Isaiah is not referring to two separate persons Cheryl. The Hebrew there really doesn't suggest such a conclusion. Secondly the reference in 1 Cor. 10.4 is not to be taken at all literally. It was already said of God's wisdom, the very same thing, in Wisdom of Solomon, and the reference there was simply to the mind of God guiding God's people. Paul is deliberately doing allegory in 1 Cor. 10.4 to make a point-- namely that the Israelites had the same sort of gracious benefits of God and yet they committed apostasy. Jesus is not being identified with a piece of igneous matter in this text!

If you want to see how Paul makes appropriate distinctions, look at 1 Cor. 8.6-- "we have one God, the Father and one Lord, Jesus Christ". What he is doing is taking the Shema, where both the term God and the term Lord refers to Yahweh, the first person of the Trinity, and now with the benefit of further revelation, Paul is prepared to say that for Christians these functions of God are performed by two distinct persons, the Father and the Son. This is what you call the Christological reformulation of Jewish theology, which is not in evidence in the OT to any real extent.

Blessings,

BW3

Ben Witherington said...

P.S. You must have a concept of progressive revelation to understand what is going on in these matters, just as the author of Hebrews says--- partial and piecemeal was the revelation to God's people before the coming of Christ, but now in God's Son we get the fuller and clearer picture.

Cheryl Schatz said...

I do not find it an odd conversation at all. In fact with the ministry work that I do, I see the Trinity attacked all the time and the consequence is always that Jesus is given a lower position or authority than the Father. This is why we felt such urgency to do a DVD on the subject. When it comes to the place that it is said by Evangelical Theologians that it is doctrinally wrong to pray to Jesus, there is something very wrong being spread to the body of Christ.

You will also notice that in 1 Cor 10:4 that the rock is said to be a spiritual Rock. In this passage the Rock is identified specifically as Jesus and not the Father. The reference to the Rock is all about "eating" and "drinking" just as Jesus spoke about the disciples "eating" and "drinking" his blood. While it is a spiritual reference, it identifies Jesus as the source of supply of salvation for both the Israelites in the OT and the Church in the NT. Jesus is our source of life and this is why Jesus could easily say to the Jews that the OT scriptures testified about Him. It was also these OT scriptures that should have led them to Christ.

Jesus needed to remove the veil from the OT so he could the minds of his disciples could be opened to see him in the OT. Look in Luke 24:44 where Jesus opened their understanding to see Himself in the Prophets and the Psalms and in the Law.

I would also be very interested to know if you are also one of the ones who deny that Jesus should be prayed to. Is prayer to go to the Father alone and does Jesus not have equal authority with the Father in order to answer our prayers? Would you mind sharing?

Ben Witherington said...

Hi Cheryl: Of course Jesus should be prayed to. This is what marana tha in 1 Cor. 16 is all about. But you need to bear in mind that wherever we have Yahweh texts in the OT, Yahweh identifies himself in the first person SINGULAR, not the first person plural. Yahweh is the personal name of the Father in the OT, from the verb hayah, meaning the living one. Eyeh asher eyeh at the burning bush means 'I will be what I will be' or less possibly 'I am that I am' but in either case the reference is to a singular person. The generic term for God in the OT is elohim or el, or adonai. Jesus is clearly called God seven times in the NT, and is indeed the object of prayer and worship, but this is a NT development not found in the OT.

Blessings

BW3

tdunbar said...

The discussion here makes me recall a somewhat related essay by S.M. Hutchens, on the Touchstone blog.

José Solano said...

A truly fascinating discussion on the Trinity by Christians sharing somewhat different views as they ponder diverse biblical passages. Just what I need before going off to church this morning.

So, what is the interpretation here of Col. 2:9, “In Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily?” Does the Pleroma refer to Yahweh?

Thanks Dr. Witherington for helping us "think on these things."

Ben Witherington said...

Excellent question Jose. The pleroma doesn't refer to a person, but rather a state of being--- fullness. And the point of course is that there is no other mediator between God and us than Christ. In other words there is not a little bit of the divine in various other avatars, all of the divine comes to us in one package-- the God-man. Christ.

Blessings

Ben W.

José Solano said...

And now Dr. Witherington I must ask, What is the Godhead? Is it not the Trinity?

Ben Witherington said...

Well Jose I could just say yes, but that would not satisfy you. The Godhead involves three distinguishable persons who share a common ousia or essence, as the Greek fathers said. A weak analogy would be with Siamese triplets. Each of those three persons who are God do something together and some things that are separate. The Son alone became incarnate, the Son alone died on the cross, the Son alone rose from dead. In the Bible activities are predicated of divine persons, not of the shared common divine nature. It is interesting as well that in the NT the term theos is never used of the Trinity. It is used either of God the Father or of God the Son. This is hardly a surprise since Jews wrote all this stuff and for them God was a person, not merely a divine nature, essence or, force. What is amazing is how what was previously said exclusively of Yahweh the Father came to be said of the Son as well. The doctrine of the Holy Spirit was more fully developed after the NT era, but as I have shown at length in the Shadow of the Almighty, the Spirit is indeed treated as a divine person not merely a power or a force, and a divine person who is distinguishable from the Father or the Son. So, for instance in John, the Spirit is called 'another parakletos', with Jesus being the first one.

Blessings,

Ben W.

Don B. Johnson said...

I thought I read a chart somewhere where YHWH was the name of Father, Son and Spirit, but now I cannot find it, so now I think I might have DREAMED it!

But a question is what is the name of the Spirit? I read somewhere that someone thought the Spirit was not named or at least the name was not revealed.

I am sure everyone knows Yeshua is "Yah is salvation" or "Yah saves" or similar.

When we read a theophany in the OT, how do we KNOW it is the Father? The theophany at Mamre in Gen had 3 individuals.

My understanding is that God was revealed as a plural unity in the OT, which while perhaps not a trinity does not disallow it.

P.S. Ben, while I am new here, I have read some of your books and thought they were very insightful. And if my post is too scatterbrained, just ignore it.

Ben Witherington said...

The Holy Spirit, it would appear does not have a personal name. Jesus' name is indeed Yeshua, but everyone in his context, including his mother (see the Magnificat) would take that to be a form of the name Joshua, and thus a reference to Yahweh who saves, not to Jesus as the savior.

The theophany at Mamre involves angels including the famous Malak Yahweh, or angel of the Lord. Since Jesus was not an angel, either before or after the incarnation (read Hebrews 1 carefully), but rather the divine son of God, none of these three visitors are the son of God, nor are these folks members of the Trinity. They are rather God's agents (angels) authorized to speak directly for and as Him.

Blessings,

BW3

Cheryl Schatz said...

Ben,

I am glad that you are not one of the theologians who say that it is not doctrinally correct to pray to Jesus. I give you credit for that.

You said:

"But you need to bear in mind that wherever we have Yahweh texts in the OT, Yahweh identifies himself in the first person SINGULAR, not the first person plural."

This is because God is One. He at times calls himself "We" and at times "I" because he is only one Being.

In Isaiah $$:24 we have two who call themselves a singular "I"

Isaiah 44:24
Thus says the LORD (YHWH) your Redeemer, And He who formed you from the womb, "I am the LORD (YHWH) who makes all things, Who stretches out the heavens all alone. Who spreads abroad the earth by Myself."

This singular "I" is the who stretches out the heavens all alone. Yet the New Testament reveals that it was Jesus who stretched out the heavens and who is Creator of all.

There is no savior but YHWH (Isaiah 43:11) and there will never be another savior but YHWH. YHWH says that he will never give his glory to another (Isaiah 42:8) yet Jesus shares the Father's glory and His name. Does anyone deny that Jesus has his Father's name by inheritance?

The Holy Spirit is also called YHWH. In Exodus 17:2,7 it says that Israel tempted YHWH. Yet Hebrews 3:7-9 quotes this as the Holy Spirit speaking and that He was the one who was tempted.

Heb 3:7 Therefore, just as the Holy Spirit says, "TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE,
Heb 3:8 DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS AS WHEN THEY PROVOKED ME, AS IN THE DAY OF TRIAL IN THE WILDERNESS,
Heb 3:9 WHERE YOUR FATHERS TRIED Me BY TESTING Me, AND SAW MY WORKS FOR FORTY YEARS.

The Holy Spirit indeed does have a personal name and it is YHWH, the same as the Father's name and the Son's name. The three work as one and they have one authority and one power.

You said:

"Jesus' name is indeed Yeshua, but everyone in his context, including his mother (see the Magnificat) would take that to be a form of the name Joshua, and thus a reference to Yahweh who saves, not to Jesus as the savior."

It is indeed a reference to Yahweh, because Jesus is Yahweh just as the Father is Yahweh. Jesus is God just as the Father is God. Jesus is Lord just as the Father is Lord. There are not two Yahwehs or two Lords or two Gods. They are united and we cannot separate the Godhead into differing authorities or roles.

While Jesus came to the earth to become human, still the Trinity was working in unity. All three were involved in Jesus' birth. Jesus claimed to have the Holy Spirit and the Father and they communed together during Jesus' life here on earth. All three raised Jesus from the dead.

Jesus John 2:19-21
The Holy Spirit Romans 8:11
The Father Gal 1:1

Their works are united.

You said:

"The theophany at Mamre involves angels including the famous Malak Yahweh, or angel of the Lord. Since Jesus was not an angel, either before or after the incarnation (read Hebrews 1 carefully), but rather the divine son of God, none of these three visitors are the son of God, nor are these folks members of the Trinity. They are rather God's agents (angels) authorized to speak directly for and as Him."

While Jesus was not an angel, meaning a created spirit being called an angel, the term "angel" also means messenger. We know can that the one who was called the Angel of the Lord was not a created angel because he was worshiped and he was called God.

We see YHWH on earth raining down fire from YHWH out of heaven.

Gen 19:24 Then the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven,

It was no mere angel who promised Hagar to multiply her descendents.

Gen 16:10 Moreover, the angel of the LORD said to her, "I will greatly multiply your descendants so that they will be too many to count."

Hagar called this YHWH the God who sees.

Gen 16:13 Then she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, "You are a God who sees"; for she said, "Have I even remained alive here after seeing Him?"

The angel of the LORD revealed himself as God to Abraham.

Gen 22:11 But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, "Abraham, Abraham!" And he said, "Here I am."
Gen 22:12 He said, "Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me."

It was the angel (messenger) of the LORD (YHWH) who had the right to Abraham's son.

The angel of the LORD came again to Abraham:

Gen 22:15 Then the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven,
Gen 22:16 and said, "By Myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son, your only son,

This angel of the LORD is God himself as there is no one higher to swear to but Himself.

Do a search on the angel of the LORD and you will find him speaking as God, called God, worshiped and saying things that only God could say.

There are no created angels who speak as God. This is impossible for God has said that he will not share his glory with another. No created angel is allowed to be worshiped and no created angel speaks of himself as God.

Ben Witherington said...

Well Cheryl we certainly have very different views of the Trinity. What early Christianity always argued was that the Trinity is three persons sharing one divine essence, not that God is 'one being'. As Richard Bauckham has shown at length in his book God Crucified, the statement God is One in the Shema and elsewhere was not understood to mean that God is one person or one being necessarily but that God is unified. More to our point, when the Son says I and the Father are one, what the Aramaic means is that the Son and the Father have one purpose, one will, one plan etc. It certainly does not deny the tri-personal nature of God by asserting that God is one being. Please rethink this.

BW3

Ben Witherington said...

P.S. Not only do angels speak as and for God as his mouthpiece, this is also exactly what the prophets do when they say 'thus sayeth Yahweh:' and then speak in the first person for God-- sorry but you are quite wrong about all this.

Cheryl Schatz said...

Ben,
Actually I am not wrong at all. When the prophets spoke they said "Thus saith the LORD..." They quoted God. They did not speak AS God. Yet the Angel of the LORD does not quote "Thus saith the LORD..." He speaks AS God.

Also YHWH says about this Angel of the LORD:

Exodus 23:20 "Behold, I am going to send an angel before you to guard you along the way and to bring you into the place which I have prepared.
Exodus 23:21 "Be on your guard before him and obey his voice; do not be rebellious toward him, for he will not pardon your transgression, since My name is in him.

This is the Angel of the LORD who can forgive sins. But he will not forgive their sins if they are rebellious toward him. YHWH said that his own name is in this Angel of the Lord.

The one who has the name of the LORD in them and the One who can forgive sins is YHWH himself.

Cheryl Schatz said...

Ben,

You said:

"Well Cheryl we certainly have very different views of the Trinity. What early Christianity always argued was that the Trinity is three persons sharing one divine essence, not that God is 'one being'. As Richard Bauckham has shown at length in his book God Crucified, the statement God is One in the Shema and elsewhere was not understood to mean that God is one person or one being necessarily but that God is unified."

One essence is one being. This allows God to call Himself "I" or "We". This is why there is only one Savior not two or three. This is why God has only one forever name (Exodus 3:14, 15) and not two or three.

This is why the Nicene Creed says that the Son is one being with the Father:

We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father,
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made,
of one Being with the Father.

The Athanasian Creed shows that the substance of God is not divided:

"Neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the substance."

The Christians Creeds affirm that God is one essence, one Being, one substance and in that one Being is three persons.

Ben Witherington said...

Thanks for the further comments Cheryl but no, the Nicene Father said that 'ousia' refers to the shared substance of the three persons, not the shared being. Look at the Latin translation of 'ousia' from that council. Unius Substantia-- of one substance with the Father, does not mean of one being with the Father. That would either be monarchianism or modalism, both of which were condemned by later church councils (see for example the Chalcedonian formula).

Blessings anyway,

Ben

Ben Witherington said...

Cheryl, about angels, notice in Mk. 13.32 that Jesus clearly distinguishes not only himself (the Son) from angels, but all mere mortals ('no one knows') from angels. Jewish angelology was clear enough. Angels were created beings, unlike the Son who is the only begotten of the Father. If you start arguing the angel of the Lord=Yahweh=Jesus you fall right into the Jehovah's witness trap. There is a good reason why the author of Hebrews so clearly distinguishes the Son from the angels in Heb. 1-2. Go back and look at that again.

The other thing you are missing is the Jewish concept of agency, whether applied to a angelic or human agents. Early Jews had a saying "a person's agent is as himself". The agent can speak for and as the sender, and was expected to be treated as if the sender was present in person. It is thus not a surprise that the special angel messenger of God is able to speak for and as Yahweh. This was part of the common understanding of how agents could and would speak.

Blessings,

BW3

Cheryl Schatz said...

Ben,

Modalism has to do with persons not being or substance. I have not said that God is only one person. God is three persons in one being or one substance.

The Westminster confession:

http://www.spurgeon.org/~phil/creeds/wcf.htm#chap2

I. There is but one only, living, and true God, who is infinite in being and perfection, a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions;

The 1689 Baptist confession of faith:

http://www.spurgeon.org/~phil/creeds.htm

1._____The Lord our God is but one only living and true God; whose subsistence is in and of himself, infinite in being and perfection; whose essence cannot be comprehended by any but himself; a most pure spirit, invisible, without body, parts, or passions, who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto;

We can clearly see from the creeds that God's being and God's substance or subsistence is one. All three are the one being, the one substance and all three are the one God. We cannot go back and rewrite the history of the Church to make God to be three separate Beings. God is Spirit and there is no division in his Being. We are not to divide the substance of God nor make him into three Beings.

I myself am very grateful for the many church councils who have defined and refined over and over again so that we can clearly see the teaching of the Trinity. There are no three Beings who are God and the Church has not taught this nor will you find it in any council. The one true God is completely united as three persons and we cannot fully understand how he can do this (God can be called "he" because he is one being) or how they exist (God can be called "they" because he exists as three persons).

Cheryl Schatz said...

Ben,

You said:

"Cheryl, about angels, notice in Mk. 13.32 that Jesus clearly distinguishes not only himself (the Son) from angels, but all mere mortals ('no one knows') from angels."

This is what I have affirmed. Jesus is not in the category of mere created angels. However the term "angel" can mean also messenger and not a created spirit creature.

In the book of Revelation we have John writing to the "angel" of the church in Ephesus. John was not writing to a created spirit creature but to the messenger for the church.

Rev 2:1 "To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this:

Every time we find a mere created spirit being called an angel appear we find that he will not accept worship and he does not call himself by God's name.

We also find every prophet speaks God's word but clearly never speaks as God himself. Never even once does a prophet speak AS God.

However the Angel of the LORD speaks as God, does the work of God, forgives sin and is worshiped as God. Thus we can see that the one who is called the Angel of the LORD, whose name is "wonderful" is also called God and YHWH

Judges 13:18 But the angel of the LORD said to him, "Why do you ask my name, seeing it is wonderful?"

Judges 13:22 So Manoah said to his wife, "We will surely die, for we have seen God."
Judges 13:23 But his wife said to him, "If the LORD had desired to kill us, He would not have accepted a burnt offering and a grain offering from our hands, nor would He have shown us all these things, nor would He have let us hear things like this at this time."

Ben Witherington said...

Jesus is not in the category of any angel of any kind, and for the record the term malak and other OT terms for angels including 'sons of God' and elohim refers always to created beings. It is quite irrelevant that the term angellos in secular contexts can mean an ordinary messenger. If you compare Revelation to other early Jewish apocalyptic literature it is clear enough that John is not talking about something different than what you call created spirit beings, nor are the authors of the OT. In fact all turn of the era Jewish apocalyptic literature have angelic mediators conveying the revelation to a human recipient (see Rev. 1). So yes indeed, John is writing using one of God's Fed Ex messengers, expecting that the angel of that church will help interpret his words to that church.

Blessings

BW3

Ben Witherington said...

I don't see the relevance of confessions that say God is infinite in being. That is neither a comment on the oneness or the threeness of God but of the infiniteness of God. The term 'being' is not interchangeable with the term substance, essence or nature, and more to the point the Greek terms for being and substance are not synonyms. The term ousia can be translated nature, substance, or essence but certainly not 'being'. Let's stick with what the Greek and Hebrew actually meant in their original historical contexts, not in much later church confessions, which were too often based on even the later Latin translations of the NT.


Blessings BW3

Cheryl Schatz said...

Ben,

You said, "Jesus is not in the category of any angel of any kind, and for the record the term malak and other OT terms for angels including 'sons of God' and elohim refers always to created beings."

It would be correct to say that the pre-incarnate Jesus is not in the same category as any messenger. It would also be correct to say that the Angel of the LORD is treated in a way that no mere angel and no mere prophet was treated. You haven't explained that the Angel of the LORD is worshiped. Is it acceptable to worship a created angel?

Cheryl Schatz said...

Ben,

You said: "I don't see the relevance of confessions that say God is infinite in being. That is neither a comment on the oneness or the threeness of God but of the infiniteness of God."

Let me see if I understand you right? Are you saying that God is made up of three beings? The Father is a separate being, the Son is a separate being and the Holy Spirit is a separate being?

Ben Witherington said...

The Father, Son, and Spirit are three persons sharing one divine essence. That means they are not three separate beings, that would be tri-theism, rather than monotheism. The trick here is to not over-emphasize either the threeness or the oneness, but to do justice to both. The threenesss means that each member of the Trinity can have different roles or functions on any given occasion, and in turn it means that you cannot predicate of each member of the Trinity everything that you can predicate of one of them. For example neither the Spirit nor the Father have ever died on a cross.

As for the angel of the Lord, he is not worshipped in the OT, but obeisance is done to him, the extreme form of respect.

Blessings,

BW3

Cheryl Schatz said...

Ben,

You said:

"The Father, Son, and Spirit are three persons sharing one divine essence. That means they are not three separate beings, that would be tri-theism, rather than monotheism. The trick here is to not over-emphasize either the threeness or the oneness, but to do justice to both."

You are right in that three beings is tri-theism. However one being is monotheism. One cannot get away from the Trinity being one Being.

Monotheism is defined by places such as wikipedia as: By the same token, monotheistic religions may still include concepts of a plurality of the divine, for example the Trinity, in which God is one being in three personal dimensions (the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit).

To define God as not "three beings" but also not "one being" appears to be outside the established Creeds. The unity of the Trinity is their unity of essence and being along with unity of all of the qualities of being as God.

Ben Witherington said...

Cheryl God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit don't have 3 PERSONAL DIMENSIONS. Come on now. The creeds are clear--- three persons, sharing one divine essence. The Latin of the Nicean Creed discussion says explicitly 3 'personae'. Personhood is not a dimension of being. If you are a person, you are a person, and all the more so if you are a divine person.
I think some of the problem here is the way you are using the term being. And I would remind you one more time. The term God (theos) in the NT refers either to the Father or the Son as persons who are distinguishable. Nowhere in the NT does the word theos refer to the tri-personal unity we now call God. At some point, your thinking about the term being, and the term person needs to conform to what the NT actually says about these matters. The later creedal statements have to be normed by Scripture, not the other way around.

This has been a fun conversation, and I can see you have thought a lot about this, and are passionate about it. But its time to call a halt to it.

Keep studying, and blessings,

BW3

Cheryl Schatz said...

Ben,

Of course wikipedia isn't perfect, but the idea of monotheism as one being is there while still being three persons and not "modes".

You said:

"Nowhere in the NT does the word theos refer to the tri-personal unity we now call God."

This one should be defended biblically and I hope you will allow me one last post :)

1 Cor. 15:28 When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all.

Here we see the human Son willingly subject himself to the Father so that there will once again be an undivided unity. God here is Father, Son and Holy Spirit all in all. If the resurrected man Jesus had refused to subject himself the Godhead would not appear one again. From this point we see unity in only one Being, we have one throne and everything is united and no longer seen as divisible. How this will happen, I don't know if anyone knows, but Theos here certainly means the Trinity. There is so much more I could share but since you have called an end to the discussion, I will bow out and continue to work on the editing of my DVD on the Trinity. My focus will be on the LORD of hosts and the revelation of his work in the OT.

Ben Witherington said...

Well Cheryl, you may be surprised to learn that every single commentary on 1 Corinthians, including all the conservative ones conclude that the word God there in 1 Cor. 15 must refer to God the Father, not to the Trinity because of the grammar and Greek structure of the sentence. But, nice try....

BW3

Cheryl Schatz said...

Ben,

"Well Cheryl, you may be surprised to learn that every single commentary on 1 Corinthians, including all the conservative ones conclude that the word God there in 1 Cor. 15 must refer to God the Father, not to the Trinity because of the grammar and Greek structure of the sentence."

Nice try, Ben. I am not home now and will be home in about a week. If you would like I can quote you from the commentaries that say that "God" does not mean the Father but means the triune God. So they "all" do not say such a thing. I would agree that the commentaries that have a complementarian bent who believe that Jesus is eternally subordinate to the Father would say such a thing. The ones that are true to the full equality of the Son in the Trinity that includes his full equal authority and his full equal works say that "God" means the Godhead.

Now I will bow out as you requested. I think people should check out the facts for themselves since this is an issue of primary doctrine not a secondary issue of faith.

Blessings,
Cheryl Schatz

Ben Witherington said...

Cheryl bless your heart that very verse you site says that God will be all in all once the Son subjects himself to the Father, having handed the Kingdom back over to the Father. Its quite impossible after the discussion about subjection there to come to another grammatically plausible conclusion than that God, at the end of that verse has to refer to the Father, and I say that to you as no fan of the Wayne Grudem school of understanding the Trinity.

Blessings,

BW3

Cheryl Schatz said...

Ben,

Okay you goaded me on to one more response. You said:

"Its quite impossible after the discussion about subjection there to come to another grammatically plausible conclusion than that God, at the end of that verse has to refer to the Father, and I say that to you as no fan of the Wayne Grudem school of understanding the Trinity"

Not true. It is not only NOT impossible, but it is completely understandable and sustainable in context with the inspired words. I won't give you the explanation here since I want to be respectful of your request to end the conversation. But I would suggest that it would be worthwhile to get a copy of "The Trinity - Eternity Past to Eternity Future Explaining Truth & Exposing Error" when it is released by the end of September or early October 2008. I think you will find in it a very logical refutation of both Dr. Bruce Ware and Dr. Wayne Grudem. I think both you and I have refuted Grudem in our own way :) and those refutations are worthy of consideration.

Blessings to you as well,
Cheryl Schatz

José Solano said...
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