Is Jesus Yahweh, God of the nation of Israel?
I cannot definitively say that it is the view of the early churches that it was the Son of God, the divine Logos [Word], that interacted with Israel as their God, but I can make a very strong Scriptural case for it.
A “theophany” is an appearance of God so that he can be seen by humans. “Christophany” is the word we Christians use to describe appearences of God in the Hebrew Scriptures that we believe to have been the Son of God rather than the Father.
The early churches believed that every theophany was actually a Christophany. They based this on two things.
- The apostle John tells us that no one has seen God at any time (Jn. 1:18).
- God fills everything. He cannot be confined to one place. His Son, the Word of God, can appear in one place.
You may not like that second point, but I would be lying to you if I did not tell you that was one of the arguments they used.
The God and Father of all truly cannot be contained, and is not found, in a place … but his Word, through whom he made all things, being his power and his wisdom, assuming the person of the Father and Lord of all, went to the garden in the person of God and conversed with Adam. (Theophilus. To Autolycus II:22. AD 168.)
Whether you agree with their second argument or not, the first seems ironclad. If you’ve read the posts leading up to this one, then you know that when the Scriptures say “God” without further explanation, at least in the apostles writings, they are referring to the Father alone, not all three persons of the Trinity. In John 1:18 there is no doubt that John is specifically referring to the Father as the one who has never been seen because he immediately follows with a reference to the Son.
No one has seen God at any time. The only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, has explained [lit. “exegeted”] him.
No one has seen the Father at any time, but lots of people have seen the Son.
What more majestic view of God was ever given than the revelation of God to Isaiah described in Isaiah 6? God was seated on his throne in the temple, surrounded by dragons crying out “Holy, holy, holy; the whole earth is full of your glory.” The temple shook, smoke billowed, and Isaiah was terrified.
John tells us that was Jesus, the Son of God, before his birth on the earth.
These things Isaiah said, when he saw his glory and spoke of him. (Jn. 12:41)
If you look at John 12:41, you’ll find that the “things Isaiah said” are found in Isaiah 6:10. Take a look at the context of John 12:41, and you’ll see that the “he” clearly refers to Jesus, the Son of God, not the Father.
It was the Son, the Word of God, sitting on the throne in Isaiah 6.
It was also Jesus who appeared to Moses in the burning bush. Is there any other explanation for Jesus’ statement that “Before Abraham was, I am”? (Jn. 8:58).
Jesus claimed in the same chapter that he was the one who appeared to Abraham, infuriating the Jews by informing them that “Abraham rejoiced to see my day” (8:56).
If Jesus was the one who appeared to Abraham repeatedly, and if he was the great I Am who appeared to Moses, and if he is the One that Isaiah found seated on the throne in heaven, then is it unlikely that he was also the One who wrestled with Jacob at Penuel and ascended in the smoke of Manoah’s (father of Samson) offering?
Yahweh the Sent One
It seems blasphemous to suggest that Yahweh, God is Israel and Creator of the universe, was ever sent anywhere by anyone.
Yet Yahweh himself, speaking through the prophet Zechariah, says he was.
For thus says YHWH of hosts, “After glory He has sent me to the nations which plunder you, for he who touches you, touches the apple of His eye. For behold, I will wave My hand over them so that they will be plunder for their slaves. Then you will know that YHWH of hosts has sent me. Sing for joy and be glad, O daughter of Zion; for behold I am coming and I will dwell in your midst,” declares YHWH. “Many nations will join themselves to YHWH in that day and will become My people. Then I will dwell in your midst, and you will know that YHWH of hosts has sent Me to you.” (Zech. 2:8-11. NASB.)
I used the NASB to quote that passage, but you can read it in any translation you like, and it will read the same. The Septuagint translates it this way. Even the New World Translation—the Bible of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who do not like this passage at all—makes it clear that Jehovah is sending Jehovah, though they try to disguise it with carefully placed quotes.
How could Yahweh of Armies possible be sent anywhere by anyone?
The answer is simple if the Yahweh who spoke through the prophets is Jesus as the pre-incarnate Word. The Father has always directed the Son, and the Son’s will has always aligned with the Father’s will because the Son is the begotten Word and Reason of the Father.
Just as the Father sent the Son to the earth to save us all, so he sent the Son to speak to the nation of Israel.
This revelation of the Son was hidden from the Jews, of course, though it leaked out in prophecy over and over, such as in this passage in Zechariah, and in the two Yahweh’s mentioned in Genesis 19:24.
There is more to be said on this matter, especially concerning Jacob’s wrestling with God at Peniel, but those things are too long for a blog post. Pray, please, for my use of time, and I hope to get to more things like that which we have forgotten over the centuries.
I mention that we have forgotten things over the centuries. If we have forgotten them, how do I know them?
I am not a prophet. I am simply a researcher. I did not get a college degree to do that research. I was almost a decade old in the Lord before someone told me about the existence of the EARLY church fathers. We tend to think of church fathers as being people like Augustine and Jerome, but Augustine and Jerome belong to the 5th century. They were teaching some 400 years after Jesus.
There are many others who were teaching much closer to the time of Jesus and the apostles. In AD 185, over two centuries before Augustine and Jerome were in disagreement, Irenaeus, a missionary/church planter in barbarian Gaul, wrote this:
The Church, having received this preaching and this faith, although scattered throughout the whole world, yet, as if occupying one house, carefully preserves it. She believes these things … and she proclaims them, teaches them, and hands them down with perfect harmony, as if she possessed only one mouth. (Against Heresies I:10:2)
All I have done is read the writings of these early Christians and be taught by them. I have been astounded at how the Scriptures have fallen into place as a result.
Recently, a friend wrote to me and said:
When interpreting scripture, it is not right to take a vague verse, or one that can have 2 meanings to overturn many concrete verses that have an obvious different meaning.
The idea of “clear” verses and “difficult” verses is bandied about a lot in Protestant Christianity. There is some truth to it if it is really applied to a “vague” verse. In my experience, though, “vague” verses almost always means “verses that I don’t believe.”
I have almost zero “vague” verses anymore because I have listened to the teachings that the earliest Christians said were given to them by the apostles. Difficult verses are a concept that I have been able to forget about and leave behind because Jesus opened the Scriptures to his apostles, his apostles explained the Scriptures to the churches, and now I have learned from their churches the things they passed on.
It’s something anyone can do. You will notice I reference my early church quotes. You can read their writings at http://www.ccel.org/fathers, the source I usually reference, but there are many others. One of the best is http://earlychristianwritings.com/.
If you don’t want to read them directly, stay tuned to this blog, and I will keep passing on their teachings to you.