Biblical Verses Supposedly Supportive of Preexistence

 

 Noel Rude


Pendleton, Oregon

[Editor's Note: Noel is a specialist in linguistics, a former university professor of linguistics,
and a serious student of Scripture for over 50 years.]

 

 

Did Jesus pre-exist his human birth?  If so, then this is an extraordinary claim that ought to be explicit in Scripture.  It isn’t.  But there are a number of New Testament verses that are traditionally cited in support.  The virgin birth is perhaps the strongest argument for preexistence, but inasmuch as it requires a more lengthy response I deal with it in a separate article.

 

I Beheld Satan as Lightening Fall from Heaven

The first verse to consider is from Luke.  Jesus had just sent out the seventy, and upon their return he said (Luke 10:18), “I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.”   For many this evokes Isaiah 14:12, אֵי נָפַלְתָּ מִשָּׁמַיִם הֵילֵל בֶּן־שָׁחַר ‘How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!’  That taunt was directed at the king of Assyria and probably reflects an ancient myth of the fall of a deity (Helel ben Shahar).[1]  Nevertheless the problem for us, whether we’re talking about an original fall of Satan or the demise of Assyria’s king, is this: Was Jesus there to witness it?

 

Here are the relevant verses from Luke 10 (note that I have adjusted the translation of the verbs in verse 18):

 

17 ὑπέστρεψαν δὲ οἱ ἑβδομήκοντα

17 And the seventy returned again

Μετὰ χαρᾶς λέγοντες,

with joy, saying,

κύριε, κα τ δαιμόνια

Lord, even the devils

ποτάσσεται μν

are subject unto us

ν τ νόματί σου.

through thy name.

18 επεν δ ατος,

18 And he said to them,

θεώρουν τν σατανν

I was watching [2] Satan

ς στραπνκ το ορανο

as lightning from heaven

πεσόντα.

fallen. [3]

 

Context and verb tense does not allow reference to a long ago witnessing of the fall of Satan.  Rather everything points to the present when the demons were subject to the seventy in the name of Jesus.  Note how this also meshes with John 12:31—“Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.”  This is the proper understanding of the verse, even for conservative commentators.[4] 

 

In the beginning was the Word

The prologue to the book of John causes confusion for a number of reasons.  In our English translations the Word or Logos is referenced as “he” and “him”, as for example in the King James:

 

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 The same was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made by 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. 5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.

 

And this tradition continues in many modern versions:

 

New International Version

New King James Version

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning.              3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood [5] it.

1 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 nothing was made that was made. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend [6] it.

 

This gives readers the impression that the Word was a person, namely a preexistent Jesus.  William Tyndale (c. 1494 – 1536), who was the first to translate the Bible into English directly from its original languages, saw no reason to so personify “the worde”.[7]

 

1 ν ρχ ν λόγος,

1 In the beginnynge was the worde

κα λόγος ν πρς τν θεόν,

and the worde was with God:

κα θες ν λόγος.

and the worde was God.

2 οτος ν ν ρχ πρς τν θεόν.

2 The same was in the beginnynge with God.

3 πάντα δι ατο γένετο,

3 All thinges were made by it

κα χωρς ατο γένετο οδ ν

and with out it was made nothinge

γέγονεν

that was made. [8]

4 ν ατ ζω ν,

4 In it was lyfe and

κα ζω ν τ φς

the lyfe was ye lyght

τν νθρώπων·

of men

5 κα τ φς ν τ σκοτί φαίνει,

5 and the light shyneth in the darcknes

καὶ ἡ σκοτία αὐτὸ οὐ κατέλαβεν.

but the darcknes comprehended it not.

 

Greek independent pronouns, such as οτος ‘this’ in verse 2, reflect the gender of the antecedent noun, which in this case is the masculine λόγος ‘the word’.  But in a language like Greek all nouns have gender (e.g., λόγος ‘word’ is masculine, ζωή ‘life’ is feminine, τ φς ‘light’ is neuter).  The logic is not that of sex, but simply what grammarians call noun class.  There is nothing unusual, however, in personifying an abstract concept by pronominal reference, as for example in Proverbs 8:

 

א  הֲלֹא־חָכְמָה תִקְרָא

1 Doth not wisdom cry?

וּתְבוּנָה תִּתֵּן קוֹלָהּ׃

and understanding put forth her voice?

 

The Hebrew חָכְמָה ‘wisdom’ is feminine (as also σοφα in Greek and sapientia in Latin), and though this may not lead conservative Judeo-Christians to see a goddess behind the text, it has influenced precisely this among many others throughout history, as any quick Google search will show. But personification with ‘he’/‘him’ in John causes confusion even among conservatives because of their prior commitment to the preexistence of Jesus.

 

If John was writing from the Diaspora and in Greek, he or his scribe perhaps would not have missed some resonance in Stoic philosophy (i.e., logos, logic, wisdom, reason, order), but the Jewish fisherman son of Zebedee (יוחנן בן זבדי) obviously intended to connect Genesis: ν ρχ [9] … ὁ θεός ‘in the beginning … God’; σκτος ‘darkness’ and φς ‘light’; and for the word ( λόγος) Genesis has κα επεν θες ‘and God said …’

 

Hebrew

King James Version

Septuagint

א  בְּרֵאשִׁית

1 In the beginning

ν ρχ

בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים

God created

ποησεν θες

אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ׃

the heaven and the earth.

τν ορανν κα τν γν.

ב  וְהָאָרֶץ הָיְתָה

2 And the earth was

δ γ ν

תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ

without form, and void;

ἀόρατος κα κατασκεαστος

וְחֹשֶׁ

and darkness

κα σκτος

עַל־פְּנֵי תְהוֹם

was upon the face of the deep.

πνω τς βσσου

וְרוּחַ אֱלֹהִים מְרַחֶפֶת

And the Spirit of God moved [10]

κα πνεμα θεο πεφρετο

עַל־פְּנֵי הַמָּיִם׃

upon the face of the waters.

πνω το δατος.

ג  וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים

3 And God said,

3 κα επεν θες

יְהִי אוֹר

Let there be light:

γενηθτω φς

וַיְהִי־אוֹר׃

and there was light.

κα γνετο φς.

 

Thus for John the logos is not simply the logic behind the order in the cosmos, as it was for the Greeks,[11] it was also the instruction that came by the authority of the God of Israel whose words are recorded in Genesis.  It is Torah, as in Proverbs 6:

 

כג  כִּי נֵר מִצְוָה

23 For the commandment is a lamp;

וְתוֹרָה אוֹר

and the law is light;

וְדֶרֶ חַיִּים תּוֹכְחוֹת מוּסָר׃

and reproofs of instruction are the way of life …

 

The word (דָּבָר) is already a well developed concept in the Hebrew Bible, as in Psalms 33, for example:

 

ו  בִּדְבַר יהוה שָׁמַיִם נַעֲשׂוּ

6 By the word of the LORD were the heavens made;

וּבְרוּחַ פִּיו כָּל־צְבָאָם׃

and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.

ז  כֹּנֵס כַּנֵּד מֵי הַיָּם

7 He gathereth the waters of the sea together as an heap:

נֹתֵן בְּאוֹצָרוֹת תְּהוֹמוֹת׃

he layeth up the depth in storehouses.

ח  יִירְאוּ מֵיהוה כָּל־הָאָרֶץ

8 Let all the earth fear the LORD:

מִמֶּנּוּ יָגוּרוּ כָּל־יֹשְׁבֵי תֵבֵל׃

let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him.

ט  כִּי הוּא אָמַר וַיֶּהִי

9 For he spake, and it was done;

הוּא־צִוָּה וַיַּעֲמֹד׃

he commanded, and it stood fast.

 

Everywhere in the Prophets the prophet invokes “the word of Hashem” [דְּבַר־יהוה]:

 

ü  וַיְהִי דְּבַר־יהוה אֶל־יְשַׁעְיָהוּ לֵאמֹר “Then came the word of the LORD to Isaiah, saying …” (Isaiah 38:4)

ü  וַיְהִי דְבַר־יהוה אֵלַי לֵאמֹר Then the word of the LORD came unto me, saying …” (Jeremiah 1:4)

ü  וַיְהִי דְבַר־יהוה אֵלַי לֵאמֹר “And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying …” (Ezekiel 6:1)

 

The word of Hashem is his instruction, his law, his Torah.  In the World to Come “many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths:

כִּי מִצִּיּוֹן תֵּצֵא תוֹרָה וּדְבַר־יהוה מִירוּשָׁלִָם׃

for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

Isaiah 2:3; Micah 4:2

 

To reject the word of the LORD (דְּבַר־יהוה) is to reject wisdom (חָכְמָה), as in Jeremiah 8:

 

ט  הֹבִשׁוּ חֲכָמִים חַתּוּ וַיִּלָּכֵדוּ

9 The wise men are ashamed, they are dismayed and taken:

הִנֵּה בִדְבַר־יהוה מָאָסוּ

lo, they have rejected the word of the LORD;

וְחָכְמַת מֶה לָהֶם׃

and what wisdom is in them?

 

And just as creation was by the word of Hashem, so also it came by God’s wisdom (Psalms 104):

 

כד  מָה־רַבּוּ מַעֲשֶׂי יהוה

24 O LORD, how manifold are thy works!

כֻּלָּם בְּחָכְמָה עָשִׂיתָ

in wisdom hast thou made them all:

מָלְאָה הָאָרֶץ קִנְיָנֶ׃

the earth is full of thy riches.

 

And wisdom is the theme in Proverbs—as here in chapter 2:

 

ו  כִּי־יהוה יִתֵּן חָכְמָה

6 For the LORD giveth wisdom:

מִפִּיו דַּעַת וּתְבוּנָה׃

out of his mouth cometh knowledge and understanding.

 

And in Proverbs 8 this wisdom was there in the beginning as recorded in Genesis.[12]

 

כב  יהוה קָנָנִי רֵאשִׁית דַּרְכּוֹ

22 The LORD possessed me in the beginning of his way,

קֶדֶם מִפְעָלָיו מֵאָז׃

before his works of old.

כג  מֵעוֹלָם נִסַּכְתִּי מֵרֹאשׁ

23 I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning,

מִקַּדְמֵי־אָרֶץ׃

or ever the earth was.

כד  בְּאֵין־תְּהֹמוֹת חוֹלָלְתִּי

24 When there were no depths, I was brought forth;

בְּאֵין מַעְיָנוֹת נִכְבַּדֵּי־מָיִם׃

when there were no fountains abounding with water.

כה  בְּטֶרֶם הָרִים הָטְבָּעוּ

25 Before the mountains were settled,

לִפְנֵי גְבָעוֹת חוֹלָלְתִּי׃

before the hills was I brought forth:

כו  עַד־לֹא עָשָׂה אֶרֶץ וְחוּצוֹת

26 While as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields,

וְרֹאשׁ עַפְרוֹת תֵּבֵל׃

nor the highest part of the dust of the world.

כז  בַּהֲכִינוֹ שָׁמַיִם שָׁם אָנִי

27 When he prepared the heavens, I was there:

בְּחֻקוֹ חוּג עַל־פְּנֵי תְהוֹם׃

when he set a compass upon the face of the depth:

כח  בְּאַמְּצוֹ שְׁחָקִים מִמָּעַל

28 When he established the clouds above:

בַּעֲזוֹז עִינוֹת תְּהוֹם׃

when he strengthened the fountains of the deep:

כט  בְּשׂוּמוֹ לַיָּם חֻקּוֹ

29 When he gave to the sea his decree,

וּמַיִם לֹא יַעַבְרוּ־פִיו

that the waters should not pass his commandment:

בְּחוּקוֹ מוֹסְדֵי אָרֶץ׃

when he appointed the foundations of the earth:

ל  וָאֶהְיֶה אֶצְלוֹ אָמוֹן

30 Then I was by him, as one brought up with him:

וָאֶהְיֶה שַׁעֲשׁוּעִים יוֹם יוֹם

and I was daily his delight,

מְשַׂחֶקֶת לְפָנָיו בְּכָל־עֵת׃

rejoicing always before him;

לא  מְשַׂחֶקֶת בְּתֵבֵל אַרְצוֹ

31 Rejoicing in the habitable part of his earth;

וְשַׁעֲשֻׁעַי אֶת־בְּנֵי אָדָם׃

and my delights were with the sons of men.

 

And all this has messianic implications, not just in John, but also in Isaiah 11:

 

א  וְיָצָא חֹטֶר מִגֵּזַע יִשָׁי

1 And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse,

וְנֵצֶר מִשָּׁרָשָׁיו יִפְרֶה׃

and a Branch shall grow out of his roots:

ב  וְנָחָה עָלָיו רוּחַ יהוה

2 And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him,

רוּחַ חָכְמָה וּבִינָה

the spirit of wisdom and understanding,

רוּחַ עֵצָה וּגְבוּרָה

the spirit of counsel and might,

רוּחַ דַּעַת וְיִרְאַת יהוה׃

the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD;

ג  וַהֲרִיחוֹ בְּיִרְאַת יהוה

3 And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD:

וְלֹא־לְמַרְאֵה עֵינָיו יִשְׁפּוֹט

and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes,

וְלֹא־לְמִשְׁמַע אָזְנָיו יוֹכִיחַ׃

neither reprove after the hearing of his ears:

ד  וְשָׁפַט בְּצֶדֶק דַּלִּים

4 But with righteousness shall he judge the poor,

וְהוֹכִיחַ בְּמִישׁוֹר לְעַנְוֵי־אָרֶץ

and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth:

וְהִכָּה־אֶרֶץ בְּשֵׁבֶט פִּיו

and he shall smite the earth: with the rod of his mouth,

וּבְרוּחַ שְׂפָתָיו יָמִית רָשָׁע׃

and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.

ה  וְהָיָה צֶדֶק אֵזוֹר מָתְנָיו

5 And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins,

וְהָאֱמוּנָה אֵזוֹר חֲלָצָיו׃

and faithfulness the girdle of his reins.

 

And thus the word is a very Jewish concept. But there is still a bit of a difficulty in the 3rd clause of John 1:1 (κα θες ν λόγος).  It has been rendered,

 

ü  ‘and the Word was God’ (KJV, RSV, NKJV, NIV)

 

ü  ‘and the Word was a god’ (New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures)

 

ü  ‘and the Word was divine’ (James Moffatt, Edgar Goodspeed)

 

Trinitarians and binitarians that see John’s Logos as Jesus before the Incarnation naturally prefer the first, Arians who see Jesus as the avatar of a created deity will like the second.  But what meaning could this clause hold for unitarians?

 

What would it mean from a Hebrew perspective to equate the word (דָּבָר) with God (אֱלֹהִים)?  One thinks of places in Exodus where אֱלֹהִים (or הָאֱלֹהִים) has been translated as ‘judges’ (as in the KJV in Ex 21:6; 22:8, 9).  And then there is Psalms 82,

 

ו  אֲנִי־אָמַרְתִּי אֱלֹהִים אַתֶּם

6 I have said, Ye are gods;

וּבְנֵי עֶלְיוֹן כֻּלְּכֶם׃

and all of you are children of the most High.

 

Interestingly Jesus, in the same book of John, quotes this very verse and affirms that the ones here called God (אֱלֹהִים) were those to whom the word ( λόγος) came (John 10):

 

34 πεκρίθη ατος [] ησος,

34 Jesus answered them,

οκ στιν γεγραμμένον ν τ νόμ μν

Is it not written in your law,

τι γ επα, θεοί στε;

I said, Ye are gods?

35 ε κείνους επεν θεος

35 If he called them gods,

πρς ος λόγος το θεο γένετο,

unto whom the word of God came,

καὶ οὐ δύναται λυθῆναι ἡ γραφή,

and the scripture cannot be broken;

36 ν πατρ γίασεν

36 … whom the Father hath sanctified,

κα πέστειλεν ες τν κόσμον

and sent into the world,

τιμες λέγετε

[Say ye of him,]

βλασφημες,

Thou blasphemest;

τι επον, υἱὸς το θεο εμι;

because I said, I am the Son of God?

 

Therefore I would suggest that if in plain Jewish fashion John’s Word were the Torah, then rather than simply equating the Word of God with God, John is speaking of God’s Word as a judge over our lives.  Is not this what he has Jesus say in John 12?

 

48  θετν μ

48 He that rejecteth me,

καὶ μὴ λαμβάνων τὰ ῥήματά μου

and receiveth not my words,

ἔχει τὸν κρίνοντα αὐτόν·

hath one that judgeth him:

λόγος ν λάλησα

the word that I have spoken,

κενος κρινε ατν ν τ σχάτ μέρ·

the same shall judge him in the last day.

 

In John 1 Jesus may not be referred to directly until verse 14: “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”  In the intervening verses as laid out below I have converted the pronominal references of the KJV into ‘it’.

 

6 γένετο νθρωπος

6 There was a man

πεσταλμένος παρ θεο,

sent from God,

νομα ατ ωάννης·

whose name was John.

7 οτος λθεν ες μαρτυρίαν,

7 The same came for a witness, [13]

ἵνα μαρτυρήσῃ περὶ τοῦ φωτός,

to bear witness of the Light,

ἵνα πάντες πιστεύσωσιν δι᾽ αὐτοῦ.

that all men through [it] might believe. [14]

8 οκ ν κενος τ φς,

8 He [John] was not that Light, [15]

λλ να μαρτυρήσ περ το φωτός.

but was sent to bear witness of that Light.[16]

9 ν τ φς τ ληθινόν,

9 [It – λόγος] was the true Light, [17]

ὃ φωτίζει πάντα ἄνθρωπον,

that lighteth every man [18]

ἐρχόμενον εἰς τὸν κόσμον.

that cometh into the world.

10 ν τ κόσμ ν,

10 [It] was in the world, [19]

κα κόσμος δι ατο γένετο,

and the world was made by [it], [20]

κα κόσμος ατν οκ γνω.

and the world knew [it] not. [21]

11 ες τ δια λθεν,

11 [It] came unto [its] own,

κα ο διοι ατν ο παρέλαβον.

and [its] own received [it] not.[22]

12 σοι δ λαβον ατόν,

12 But as many as received [it],

δωκεν ατος ξουσίαν

to them gave [it] power

τέκνα θεο γενέσθαι,

to become the sons of God, [23]

τοῖς πιστεύουσιν εἰς τὸ ὄνομα αὐτοῦ,

even to them that believe on his [God’s] name:

13 ο οκ ξ αμάτων

13 Which  … not of blood,

οδ κ θελήματος σαρκς

nor of the will of the flesh,

οδ κ θελήματος νδρς

nor of the will of man,

λλ κ θεο γεννήθησαν.

but of God [were born]. [24]

 

The Father Hath Sent Me

In the book of John, Jesus claims that God has sent him. The expression is everywhere—one does not find it in the other Gospels.  But then John’s first mention of being sent from God concerns not Jesus but John the Baptist (John 1:6), “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.”

 

Being sent from God was not unique to Jesus and thus cannot be used as an argument for preexistence.  It was Jesus’ mission that was special (John 5:36): “But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me.”

 

The first one to be sent by God was Adam (Genesis 3),

 

כג  וַיְשַׁלְּחֵהוּ יהוה אֱלֹהִים

23 Therefore the LORD God sent him forth

מִגַּן־עֵדֶן

from the garden of Eden,

לַעֲבֹד אֶת־הָאֲדָמָה אֲשֶׁר לֻקַּח מִשָּׁם׃

to till the ground from whence he was taken.

 

And this, believe it or not, was Jesus’ commission.  The “tension”[25] that was to be resolved by Adam/Messiah is given first in Genesis 1:2 (my translation):

 

וְהָאָרֶץ הָיְתָה תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ

And the land was a desert and a waste …

 

Which in the second account of creation is phrased (Gen 2:5),

 

וְאָדָם אַיִן לַעֲבֹד אֶת־הָאֲדָמָה

… and there was not a man to till the ground.

 

And when Jerusalem goes into captivity the tension resumes (my translation - Jer 4:23):

 

רָאִיתִי אֶת־הָאָרֶץ וְהִנֵּה־תֹהוּ וָבֹהוּ

I saw the land and it was a desert and a waste …

 

So in Jesus’ parable of the sower (Mat 13:37), “He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man …” [26]  In Mark 4:14, “The sower soweth the word.”

 

The imagery in the book of John is of one who has been taught of God, prefigured by Adam in the Garden, and who is then sent out into the world to teach.  Upon completion of his studies, a disciple/student (μαθητς/תַּלְמִיד) of a teacher is sent (πστολος/שָׁלִיחַ) to represent that teacher—that’s the meaning of the term “apostle” (πστολος) in the Greek New Testament (Heb 3):

 

1 Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus; 2 Who was faithful to him that appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house.

 

Joseph, just like Jesus, said that God had sent him—Genesis 45:

 

ז  וַיִּשְׁלָחֵנִי אֱלֹהִים לִפְנֵיכֶם

7 And God sent me before you

לָשׂוּם לָכֶם שְׁאֵרִית בָּאָרֶץ

to preserve you a posterity in the earth,

וּלְהַחֲיוֹת לָכֶם לִפְלֵיטָה גְּדֹלָה׃

and to save your lives by a great deliverance.

ח  וְעַתָּה לֹא־אַתֶּם שְׁלַחְתֶּם אֹתִי הֵנָּה

8 So now it was not you that sent me hither,

כִּי הָאֱלֹהִים

but God:

וַיְשִׂימֵנִי לְאָב לְפַרְעֹה

and he hath made me a father to Pharaoh,

וּלְאָדוֹן לְכָל־בֵּיתוֹ

and lord of all his house,

וּמֹשֵׁל בְּכָל־אֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם׃

and a ruler throughout all the land of Egypt.

 

Here one is reminded of 1John 4:14, “And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world.”  God also sent Moses (Exodus 3):

 

12 And he said, Certainly I will be with thee; and this shall be a token unto thee, that I have sent thee: When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain. 13 And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them? 14 And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you. 15 And God said moreover unto Moses, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, the LORD God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath sent me unto you: this is my name for ever, and this is my memorial unto all generations. 16 And thou shalt say unto him, The LORD God of the Hebrews hath sent me unto thee, saying, Let my people go, that they may serve me in the wilderness: and, behold, hitherto thou wouldest not hear.

 

God spoke to Moses directly and instructed him personally, as it says (Ex 33:11), “And the LORD spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend.”  And the Torah concludes (Deut 34):

 

10 And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, 11 In all the signs and the wonders, which the LORD sent him to do in the land of Egypt to Pharaoh, and to all his servants, and to all his land, 12 And in all that mighty hand, and in all the great terror which Moses shewed in the sight of all Israel.

 

Is Jesus suggesting that God had spoken to him and instructed him personally just as Moses?  I think not.  As it says in John 1:17,

 

ὅτι ὁ νόμος διὰ μωϊσέως ἐδόθη,

For the law was given by Moses,

χάρις κα λήθεια δι ησο χριστο γένετο.

but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.

 

The Torah or Word of God didn’t come through the Messiah—it came through Moses.  Jesus is the king whose job it is to uphold the Word.  If Jesus was to be the king he obviously would fulfill the law (Mat 5:16-1), as in Deuteronomy 17:

 

18 And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites: 19 And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them: 20 That his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left: to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he, and his children, in the midst of Israel.

 

And thus we see that Jesus was an exceptional bar mitzvah (בַּר מִצְוָה ‘son of the commandment’) in Luke 2:

 

42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast. 43 And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother[27] knew not of it. 44 But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day’s journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. 45 And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him. 46 And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. 47 And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers. 48 And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. 49 And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business? 50 And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them.

 

The grace and truth that would come through Jesus (John 1:17) is the mercy and truth [חֶסֶד וֶאֱמֶת] that are attributes of the Great King (Psalms 89):

 

טו  צֶדֶק וּמִשְׁפָּט מְכוֹן כִּסְאֶ

14 Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne:

חֶסֶד וֶאֱמֶת יְקַדְּמוּ פָנֶי׃

mercy and truth shall go before thy face.

 

Repeatedly the psalmist ascribes these attributes to God (Ps 25:10; 57:3, 10; 61:7; 85:10; 86:15; 89:14; 98:3; 100:5; 108:4; 115:1; etc.); and they are, as in the KJV, a salutation of David (2Sam 15:20), “…mercy and truth be with thee [עִמָּ חֶסֶד וֶאֱמֶת].”  They are also to be the attributes of the king (Prov 20):

 

כח  חֶסֶד וֶאֱמֶת יִצְּרוּ־מֶלֶ

28 Mercy and truth preserve the king:

וְסָעַד בַּחֶסֶד כִּסְאוֹ׃

and his throne is upholden by mercy.

 

Bread from Heaven

There are several verses in John 6 that seem to be saying that Jesus had come down from heaven.  Thus there is verse 51, “I am the living bread which came down from heaven …”  And there is verse 62, “What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before?”  This section follows the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes and when the people return for more free food (verses 26-27):

 

Jesus answered them and said, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled. Labour not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life, which the Son of man shall give unto you: for him hath God the Father sealed.

 

Jesus’ style is never to flatter but always to provoke. 

 

28 Then said they unto him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? 29 Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent. 30 They said therefore unto him, What sign shewest thou then, that we may see, and believe thee? what dost thou work? 31 Our fathers did eat manna in the desert; as it is written, He gave them bread from heaven to eat.

 

They had seen a great miracle—that of the loaves and fishes—but what they were interested in was the food—not the word.  So Jesus likens himself to the manna they mention—called the bread from heaven” in the Hebrew Bible.[28]

 

32 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven;[29] but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world.

 

Now if one is already committed to preexistence in this comparison to the manna Jesus’ personal descent from heaven—just as the manna fell from the sky so also Jesus descended from above.  But rather than the imagery of an avatar,[30] let me suggest that we see here once again the biblical concept of the Word.  Moses is first to make the connection (Deut 8):

 

ג  וַיְעַנְּ וַיַּרְעִבֶ

3 And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger,

וַיַּאֲכִלְ אֶת־הַמָּן

and fed thee with manna,

אֲשֶׁר לֹא־יָדַעְתָּ

which thou knewest not,

וְלֹא יָדְעוּן אֲבֹתֶי

neither did thy fathers know;

לְמַעַן הוֹדִיעֲ

that he might make thee know

כִּי לֹא עַל־הַלֶּחֶם לְבַדּוֹ יִחְיֶה הָאָדָם

that man doth not live by bread only,

כִּי עַל־כָּל־מוֹצָא פִי־יהוה

but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD

יִחְיֶה הָאָדָם׃

doth man live.

 

This verse was one of three references, all from Moses in Deuteronomy, that Jesus employed in his battle with the devil.

 

Matthew 4:4

Luke 4:4

But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.

 

It is the primary theme in the book of John—that Jesus comes to personify the word of God—the Torah—as it says (John 1:14), “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,)[31] full of grace and truth.”  Jesus embodies the word of God and as our teacher we are to figuratively eat him.

 

53 Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. 54 Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. 55 For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. 56 He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father hath sent me, and I live by the Father: so he that eateth me, even he shall live by me. 58 This is that bread which came down from heaven: not as your fathers did eat manna, and are dead: he that eateth of this bread shall live for ever.

 

This imagery is admittedly quite foreign to us.  In the Roman Catholic doctrine of “transubstantiation” the substance of the bread and the wine of the Eucharist converts into the actual flesh and blood of Christ. [32]  But Jesus is still emphasizing the word, as in verse 63 of John 6—a most pivotal verse of the book, I would suggest.

 

61 εδς δ ησος ν αυτ

61 When Jesus knew in himself

τι γογγύζουσιν περ τούτου ο μαθητα ατο

that his disciples murmured at it,

επεν ατος,

he said unto them,

τοτο μς σκανδαλίζει;

Doth this offend you?

62 ἐὰν ον θεωρτε

62 What and if ye shall see

τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου ἀναβαίνοντα

the Son of man ascend up

που ν τ πρότερον;

where he was before?

63 τ πνεμά στιν τ ζοποιον,

63 It is the spirit that quickeneth;

σρξ οκ φελε οδέν·

the flesh profiteth nothing:

τ ήματα γ λελάληκα μν

the words that I speak unto you,

πνεῦμά ἐστιν καὶ ζωή ἐστιν.

they are spirit, and they are life.

 

There is the imagery in Scripture of eating the word, as in Jeremiah 15:

 

טז  נִמְצְאוּ דְבָרֶי

16 Thy words were found,

וָאֹכְלֵם

and I did eat them;

וַיְהִי דְבָרְ[33] לִי

and thy word was unto me

לְשָׂשׂוֹן וּלְשִׂמְחַת לְבָבִי

the joy and rejoicing of mine heart:

כִּי־נִקְרָא שִׁמְ עָלַי

for I am called by thy name,

יהוה אֱלֹהֵי צְבָאוֹת׃  ס

O LORD God of hosts.

 

And there is the imagery of eating a book, as in Revelation 19:

 

9 And I went unto the angel, and said unto him, Give me the little book. And he said unto me, Take it, and eat it up; and it shall make thy belly bitter, but it shall be in thy mouth sweet as honey. 10 And I took the little book out of the angel's hand, and ate it up; and it was in my mouth sweet as honey: and as soon as I had eaten it, my belly was bitter.

 

The book of Psalms opens with the righteous likened to a fruit bearing tree (Psalms 1):

 

א  אַשְׁרֵי הָאִישׁ

1 Blessed is the man

אֲשֶׁר לֹא הָלַ בַּעֲצַת רְשָׁעִים

that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly,

וּבְדֶרֶ חַטָּאִים לֹא עָמָד

nor standeth in the way of sinners,

וּבְמוֹשַׁב לֵצִים לֹא יָשָׁב׃

nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.

ב  כִּי אִם בְּתוֹרַת יהוה חֶפְצוֹ

2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD;

וּבְתוֹרָתוֹ יֶהְגֶּה יוֹמָם וָלָיְלָה׃

and in his law doth he meditate day and night.

ג  וְהָיָה כְּעֵץ שָׁתוּל עַל־פַּלְגֵי־מָיִם

3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water,

אֲשֶׁר פִּרְיוֹ יִתֵּן בְּעִתּוֹ

that bringeth forth his fruit in his season;

וְעָלֵהוּ לֹא־יִבּוֹל

his leaf also shall not wither;

וְכֹל אֲשֶׁר־יַעֲשֶׂה יַצְלִיחַ׃

and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

 

In the book of Proverbs this tree is even the tree of life—as in Proverbs 11:

 

ל  פְּרִי־צַדִּיק עֵץ חַיִּים

30 The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life;

וְלֹקֵחַ נְפָשׁוֹת חָכָם׃

and he that winneth souls is wise.

 

And also as in Proverbs 15:

 

ד  מַרְפֵּא לָשׁוֹן עֵץ חַיִּים

4 A wholesome tongue is a tree of life:

וְסֶלֶף בָּהּ שֶׁבֶר בְּרוּחַ׃

but perverseness therein is a breach in the spirit.

 

The connection to the last supper is not explicit in the book of John, but it is in the other Gospel writers and by Paul (Mat 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:14-20; 1Cor 11:23-26). [34]

 

Before Abraham was, I am

Seven times in the book of John, Jesus identifies himself with γώ εμι and each time—except in John 8:58—the KJV translates as “It is I” or “I am he”:

 

1

John 4:26 — “Jesus saith unto her, I that speak unto thee am he [γώ εμι].”

 

2

John 6:20 — “But he saith unto them, It is I [γώ εμι]; be not afraid.”

 

3

John 8:24 “I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he [γώ εμι], ye shall die in your sins.”

 

4

John 8:28 — “Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he [γώ εμι], and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things.”

 

5

John 8:58 “Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am [γ εμί].”

 

6

John 13:19 “Now I tell you before it come, that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am he [γώ εμι].”

 

7

John 18:5 — They answered him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I am he [γώ εμι]. And Judas also, which betrayed him, stood with them.

 

Thus also the blind man who was healed and thence cast out of the synagogue identifies himself with γώ εμι (John 9:9): “Some said, This is he: others said, He is like him: but he said, I am he [γώ εμι].

 

One might ask why the verb is accented (γ εμί) only in John 8:58 whereas the pronoun alone is accented (γώ εμι) everywhere else.  First we should say that the accents are the work of the compilers of our texts.  The original Greek manuscripts have no accents and it is therefore scholars who have put the accent on the verb in John 8:58, perhaps to emphasize the contrast between γενέσθαι ‘to become’ and εμί ‘I am’ (if not to connect Exodus 3:14).

 

πρν βραμ γενέσθαι

Before Abraham came to be/will come to be

γ εμί

I am he.

 

Greek πρίν ‘before’ requires an infinitive whose tense must be supplied by context, as in Mark 14:30,

 

πρν ... φωνσαι ‘before [the cock] crow ...’


Note how the same infinitive
γενέσθαι (as in John 8:58) occurs in John 13:19 (with implied future tense): “Now I tell you before it come [πρ το γενέσθαι], that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am he.”  In like manner let me suggest that the infinitive in John 8:58 derives its tense from εμί ‘I am’, meaning that our verse should be read something like, “before Abraham comes to be [is resurrected], I am [the messiah].”  The NIV has, “before Abraham was born, I am!”  No one seems to want to translate, “I am he.”

 

Those who see Jesus as the God of the Torah are tempted to find in John 8:58 the “I AM THAT I AM” (אֶהְיֶה אֲשֶׁר אֶהְיֶה) of Exodus 3:14, yet I think it worth mentioning that those who have translated the Gospel into Hebrew do not use אֶהְיֶה ‘I am’ as suggesting the Deity (Exodus 3:14) but rather the verbless אֲנִי הוּא ‘I am he’ as reflecting his messiahship.  Consider, for example, the New Covenant Scriptures in modern Hebrew. [35]

 

הֵשִׁיב לָהֶם יֵשׁוּעַ:

Jesus replied to them:

"אָמֵן אָמֵן אֲנִי אוֹמֵר לָכֶם,

“Amen amen I am saying to you,

בְּטֶרֶם הֱיוֹת אַבְרָהָם,

Before the being of Abraham,

אֲנִי הוּא."

I am he.”

 

Compare 1Samuel 16 where God identifies David—

 

יא  וַיֹּאמֶר שְׁמוּאֵל אֶל־יִשַׁי

11 And Samuel said unto Jesse,

הֲתַמּוּ הַנְּעָרִים

Are here all thy children?

וַיֹּאמֶר

And he said,

עוֹד שָׁאַר הַקָּטָן

There remaineth yet the youngest,

וְהִנֵּה רֹעֶה בַּצֹּאן

And, behold, he keepeth the sheep.

וַיֹּאמֶר שְׁמוּאֵל אֶל־יִשַׁי

And Samuel said unto Jesse,

שִׁלְחָה וְקָחֶנּוּ

Send and fetch him:

כִּי לֹא־נָסֹב עַד־בֹּאוֹ פֹה׃

for we will not sit down till he come hither.

יב  וַיִּשְׁלַח וַיְבִיאֵהוּ

12 And he sent, and brought him in.

וְהוּא אַדְמוֹנִי

Now he was ruddy,

עִם־יְפֵה עֵינַיִם

And withal of a beautiful countenance,

וְטוֹב רֹאִי  פ

And goodly to look to.

וַיֹּאמֶר יהוה

And the LORD said,

קוּם מְשָׁחֵהוּ

Arise, anoint him:

כִּי־זֶה הוּא׃

for this is he.

 

The Glory which I had with Thee before the World was

In his last major recorded prayer Jesus cried out (John 17:5),

 

5 κα νν δόξασόν με σύ, πάτερ,

And now, O Father, glorify thou me

παρ σεαυτ τ δόξ

with thine own self with the glory

εχον πρ το τν κόσμον εναι

which I had … before the world was.

παρ σοί.

with thee. [36]

 

Note that it says that this glory was there with the Father before the world was. It does not say that Jesus’ person was there with the Father at that time.

 

If we already believe that Jesus was there with God before the world was, then that’s how we’ll interpret this.  But we can also read this verse with Jewish eyes.  The Midrash, for example, teaches that God’s Throne and Torah were actually there before the six days while other things—including the office of Messiah—were contemplated (Genesis Rabbah 1:4):

 

בְּרֵאשִׁית בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים

In the beginning God created

שִׁשָּׁה דְּבָרִים קָדְמוּ

Six things preceded

לִבְרִיאַת הָעוֹלָם

the creation of the world.

יֵשׁ מֵהֶן שֶׁנִּבְרְאוּ

There were some which were actually created

וְיֵשׁ מֵהֶן

and some of them

שֶׁעָלוּ בַמַּחֲשָׁבָה לְהִבָּרֹאת

that arose in anticipation of being created.

הַתּוֹרָה וְהַכִּסֵּא הַכָּבוֹד נִבְרָאוּ

The Torah and the Throne of Glory were created,

תּוֹרָה מִנַּיִן שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר

Torah, for it is said (Proverbs 8:22),

ה׳ קָנָנִי רֵאשִׁית דַּרְכּוֹ   

“The LORD possessed me in the beginning of his way…”

כִּסֵּא הַכָּבוֹד מִנַּיִן דִּכְתִיב

The Throne of Glory, for it is written (Psalms 93:2),

נָכוֹן כִּסְאֲ מֵאָז   

“Thy throne is established of old …”

 

In the New Testament it is quite common to speak of the pre-existence of offices.  It is because Christians misunderstand this language that they get so mixed up in regard to “predestination”.  In these verses even we ourselves had glory with the Father before the world was.  Paul, in particular, seems to be fond of this imagery:

 

ü  Rom 8:29-30—“For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.”

 

ü  1Cor 2:7—“But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory …”

 

ü  2Cor 5:1—“For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”

 

ü  Eph 1:4-5—“According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will...”

 

ü  Eph 1:11—“In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will…”

 

ü  2Tim 4:8—“Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.”

 

In anticipation of the World to Come Jesus said (Mat 25:34), “Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world”.  That kingdom includes offices for which we must qualify through our deeds now (Mat 16:27), “For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.”  And again he says (Rev 2:23), “… and I will give unto every one of you according to your works.”  These are offices that we can lose through neglect, as he says (Rev 3:11), “Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.”

 

Our works in this life earn us a glory in the next and we will have this glory with the Father even as we sleep in the grave. It is called “treasure in heaven” in Matthew 19:21.  Even now some of the details of those offices are being prepared (John 14:2): “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.”

 

At this point someone exclaims, “But it says that Jesus was there!”

 

Well, let us note that the language is ambiguous even in English. A son could ask his father about “the inheritance which was mine with you when you first thought of having a son”. I believe it’s our preconceptions that make this difficult, though admittedly we do not often use vocabulary exactly like this today. But we do talk about things like having had rights in a constitution ratified long before we were born.

 

And that Rock was Christ

Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; And did all eat the same spiritual meat; And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. (1Cor 10:1-5)

 

Of what spiritual meat and drink is Paul speaking? It’s similar to the language we have seen in John.

 

Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Moses gave you not that bread from heaven; but my Father giveth you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world. Then said they unto him, Lord, evermore give us this bread. And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.  (John 6:32-35)

 

In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.)  (John 7:37-39)

 

Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you.  (John 6:53)

 

When Paul says (1Cor 10:5), “and that Rock was Christ”, he obviously means that the rock symbolizes Christ.  So the question is whether that the rock symbolizes Christ being there in person with Israel in the wilderness at that time, or whether Paul means that Christ is a source of the spirit now, just as that rock was a source of water for Israel then (Ex 17:1-6; Num 20:1-12).

 

Paul even calls these things “types” in this very chapter (1Cor 10:6), “Now these things were our examples (τύποι),” And again in verse 11: “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples (τυπικῶς): and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.”

 

Notice again John 7:38—“He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.”  There Jesus pictures his followers as sources of water symbolic of the spirit, which of course come from God (Isaiah 44:3): “For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring …”

 

It is the Torah that accompanied Israel in the wilderness, and it is the Torah that is personified in the Messiah and which in this manner accompanies us yet—as he says (John 14:18), “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.”

 

When we talk preexistence I think we play right into the antinomians’ hands. They think it’s only a Person, a relationship with a Person.  There is the person, of course, but there’s more.  John constantly emphasizes the Torah, the Word of God that is personified in the person of the messiah. And isn’t that what messiah—מָשִׁיחַ/Χριστς ‘anointed’—implies?  Anointed with the word—the Torah—of God!
 
John writes late when (2Thess 2:7) “the mystery of iniquity [
τῆς ἀνομίας ‘of lawlessness’] doth already work”.  Thus throughout his gospel he emphasizes God’s word or Torah.  The Gnostics sought gnosis, of which Paul says (1Cor 8:1), “Knowledge [γνῶσις] puffeth up, but charity [ἀγάπη] edifieth.”  This love [ἀγάπη] is not without knowledge—it is rather the fruit of the spirit (Gal 5:22) which is a spirit of Torah knowledge, as it says (Isaiah 11:2),

 

א  וְיָצָא חֹטֶר מִגֵּזַע יִשָׁי

1 And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse,

וְנֵצֶר מִשָּׁרָשָׁיו יִפְרֶה׃

and a Branch shall grow out of his roots:

ב  וְנָחָה עָלָיו רוּחַ יהוה

And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him,

רוּחַ חָכְמָה וּבִינָה

the spirit of wisdom and understanding,

רוּחַ עֵצָה וּגְבוּרָה

the spirit of counsel and might,

רוּחַ דַּעַת וְיִרְאַת יהוה׃

the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD …

 

Paul declares (Rom 13:10), “Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.”  The gnosis of the pagans was not, as they say today, “propositional knowledge”.  It was not words, logic, reasoning, torah.  Rather the gnosis of the pagans was—and still is—an experience with the divine.  It was, if you will, a “personal relationship” apart from the word of God.  And, as we have seen, this kind of gnosis indeed “puffeth up”. The truth does not puff up, however, as Paul says (1Cor 5:8), “Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.”

 

Let me suggest that we come to accept the truth through suffering—“the bread of affliction” (Deut 16:3).  Then God can rain down “bread from heaven” (Ex 16:4; Neh 9:15).

 

When people bring up 1Cor 10:5 I ask, “Do you really think Christ was the literal Rock that Moses struck?”  O course they don’t.  Paul is painting a picture with Torah imagery.  Israel was baptized in the sea, partook of the word of God symbolically in the manna and miraculously provided water, “and that Rock was Christ.

 

Now will you permit me an allegory or midrash of my own?

 

Messiah is a source of the spirit, which is the spirit of understanding and truth (Isaiah 11:1-5; John 14:17; 15:26; 16:13).  And whereas the Law was given through Moses, it is the king who must internalize that Law and rule accordingly (Deut 17:18-20).  It was exceedingly important that Moses be the perfect conduit for the Law, for which God chose the meekest of all men (Num 12:3), which should have meant that he would inherit the land (Psalms 37:11), but because he struck the rock and didn’t recognize God he lost his chance to enter the land (Num 20:9-13; 23-24; 27:12-14).

 

Moses sinned in the heat of the moment by not giving God credit (Num 20:10), “Hear now, ye rebels; must we fetch you water out of this rock?” And it was for this that he was kept from entering the land (Num 27:14), “For ye rebelled against my commandment in the desert of Zin, in the strife of the congregation, to sanctify me at the water before their eyes …”  Nevertheless Moses was not authorized to act of his own accord.  God always told him what to do and always, other than that one time, he did it.  Joshua, however, who served as the namesake for the Messiah, exemplified the exercise of power by his own command—even to the point where God complied (Joshua 10):

 

12 Then spake Joshua to the LORD in the day when the LORD delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon. 13 And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day. 14 And there was no day like that before it or after it, that the LORD hearkened unto the voice of a man: for the LORD fought for Israel.

 

Jesus also exercised the power of God at his own command—as he indicates in John 11:

 

41 Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. 42 And I knew that thou hearest me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that thou hast sent me. 43 And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth.

 

Moses, however, will inherit the land in the World to Come.  For in the transfiguration—the vision of the World to Come—Moses was present (Mat 17:3): “And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him.”

 

Once the Torah was given, the king is obligated to read it daily (Deut 17:18-19), but unlike Moses his job is to make judgments based on his understanding of that Torah.  Thus David, a man after God’s own heart (1Sam 13:14; Psalms 89:20; Acts 13:22), made many mistakes.  Jesus also (Heb 5:8), “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered …”

 

Thus whereas Moses is the conduit for the Word, it is the king who has to make decisions based on that Word.  Constantly in the book of John, Jesus distinguishes himself from the word that he speaks.

 

ü  John 5:19—“The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.”

 

ü  John 8:28—“… I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things.”

 

ü  John 10:37—“If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. 38 But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him.”

 

ü  John 12:49-50—“For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak.”

 

ü  John 14:10-11—“… the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake.”

 

The question then is, what was the source of the word that Jesus lived and taught?  Was it from a preexistent contact with God in heaven? Was it from private encounters with God during his life on earth?  Or was it from the Torah that came via Moses?  In John 5 Jesus clarifies that it is Moses who is witness to his words and actions:

 

30 I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me. 31 If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true. 32 There is another that beareth witness of me; and I know that the witness which he[37] witnesseth of me is true. … 39 Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. … 44 How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only? 45 Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust. 46 For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me; for he wrote of me. 47 But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?

 

Moses said (Deut 31:26), “Take this book of the law, and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may be there for a witness against thee.”  In the judgment we are judged out of books, as in Daniel 7:10, וְסִפְרִין פְּתִיחוּ ‘and the books were opened’, and as in Rev 20:12, “… and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.”  Are these books the record of our deeds, or they the books of the Torah?  According to Moses (Deut 31:26) and Jesus (John 5:45), it would seem the latter—that our works are judged according to the standard of the Torah.

 

He thought it not Robbery to be Equal with God

Here the “difficult scripture” is in Philippians 2:

 

5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. 9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: 10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

 

When he says, verse 7, “and was made in the likeness of men”, this means that Jesus was of the lineage of Adam, just as in Genesis 5:3,

 

ג  וַיְחִי אָדָם שְׁלֹשִׁים וּמְאַת שָׁנָה

And Adam lived an hundred and thirty years,

וַיּוֹלֶד בִּדְמוּתוֹ

and begat a son in his own likeness,[38]

כְּצַלְמוֹ

and after his image;

וַיִּקְרָא אֶת־שְׁמוֹ שֵׁת׃

and called his name Seth …

 

And then “being in the form of God” (verse 6) evokes not being God, as in trinitarian and binitarian thinking, but rather Adam, as in Genesis 1:26,

 

נַעֲשֶׂה אָדָם בְּצַלְמֵנוּ כִּדְמוּתֵנוּ

Let us make man in our image, after our likeness …

 

And as in Genesis 5:1,[39]

 

בִּדְמוּת אֱלֹהִים עָשָׂה אֹתוֹ

… in the likeness of God made he him

 

And then again,

οχ ρπαγμν γήσατο τ εναι σα θε

“did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,” [40]

 

recalls Eve (Gen 3:6),

 

וַתִּקַּח מִפִּרְיוֹ וַתֹּאכַל

…and she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat,

וַתִּתֵּן גַּם־לְאִישָׁהּ עִמָּהּ וַיֹּאכַל׃

and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

 

For the serpent had promised (Gen 3:5),

 

וִהְיִיתֶם כֵּאלֹהִים יֹדְעֵי טוֹב וָרָע׃

… and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.

 

If the tree of life represented God’s wisdom, as in Proverbs 3,

 

יח  עֵץ־חַיִּים הִיא לַמַּחֲזִיקִים בָּהּ

18 She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her:

וְתֹמְכֶיהָ מְאֻשָּׁר׃

and happy is every one that retaineth her.

 

Then taking of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil (Gen 2:9, 17) was grasping equality with God by means other than God’s wisdom, i.e., by developing one’s own standard of good and evil.

 

Also just as David would not seize the throne of Adam/Israel (1Sam 24:3-22), neither would the Messiah consider taking the kingdom by force (Matthew 26):

 

52 Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword. 53 Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels? 54 But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?


This is the understanding of David H. Stern (who, by the way, is Trinitarian and accepts preexistence).  As he explains in his Commentary (
Stern 1992),

 

 [T]he second Adam (Rom 5:15-18; 1Cor 15:45-49), was, like the first one, in the form or ‘image’ of God (Gen 1:26-27; 2Cor 4:4; Col 1:15; Heb 1:2), he, unlike the first Adam (Gen 3:5­7) and unlike Satan (Mat 4:1-10), did not consider equality with God something to be possessed by force. Not possessing by force could mean not retaining the equality with the Father which, as the Son of God, he already had.  But more likely it means refraining from seizing what was not yet his, namely, rulership …
 
The pre-existence of the Messiah was a familiar concept in rabbinic Judaism …, so that it is unnecessary to resort to the idea that Sha’ul is drawing on pagan notions of a ‘heavenly man’ who descended and carried through a mission of redemption for mankind.  The Tanakh provides more than sufficient ground for this passage in its material about Adam (Gen 2:4-25; 3:1-22) and the suffering Servant of Adonai (Isaiah 52:13-15; 53:1-12); there is no need to resort to explanations that assume Hellenistic or Gnostic influence.

 
The rabbis saw the preexistence of the Messiah as the preexistence of the office, not of the person,[41] and, as we have seen, this is also the most sensible way to understand “predestination” (Eph 1:3-11).  It is the preexistence of crowns (John 14:2; 2Tim 4:8; Rev 3:11). The crowns are first in God’s plan, then there is the calling and choosing (Isaiah 41:8-10; Mat 22:14; John 6:44; 1Pet 2:9; 2Pet 1:10; Rev 17:14).  One is not predestinated as a person—rather the crown to which one has been called was predestinated and thus preexisted.
 
When Paul says that the Messiah (Phil 2:7) “made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men”, Paul is echoing David who easily could have mounted a palace coup and taken the kingdom but who instead humbled himself and endured years of persecution.  The Messiah was born to be king of Israel (John 18:37).  Nevertheless he humbled himself and went to the death rather than take on that right by robbery.  The Messiah was no Marx.  He is no revolutionary.  He will yet be king in Jerusalem but he will sit upon the throne of Israel legitimately.
 
This is the suffering servant motif in Isaiah (Isaiah 52:13-15; 53:1-12).  It applies, as the rabbis show us, to the whole nation of Israel and all its subjects.  It also applies most particularly to the King.

 

For by him were All Things Created

Did a preexistent Jesus create the Universe?  In Colossians 1:16 it says, “For by him were all things created …”  Note that it does not say that he created the heavens and the earth.  Rather it says “all things … that are in heaven, and that are in earth …”  Following is the relevant passage from Colossians 1.

 

12 Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: 13 Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: 14 In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: 15 Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:

16 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: 17 And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. 19 For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; 20 And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.

 

Again we should not miss the Genesis imagery.  There is “darkness” (verse 13) and there is “light” (verse 12), and there is Adam (verse 15), “Who is the image of the invisible God”.  And then the “all things” in heaven and earth are not defined as stars and clouds and creatures but rather as things “visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers”.  Again this recalls Genesis (Gen 1:28),

 

וּרְדוּ בִּדְגַת הַיָּם

… and have dominion over the fish of the sea,

וּבְעוֹף הַשָּׁמַיִם

and over the fowl of the air,

וּבְכָל־חַיָּה הָרֹמֶשֶׂת עַל־הָאָרֶץ׃

and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

 

Which is expanded in Psalms 8:

 

ד  כִּי־אֶרְאֶה שָׁמֶי

3 When I consider thy heavens,

מַעֲשֵׂה אֶצְבְּעֹתֶי

the work of thy fingers,

יָרֵחַ וְכוֹכָבִים

the moon and the stars,

אֲשֶׁר כּוֹנָנְתָּה׃

which thou hast ordained;

ה  מָה־אֱנוֹשׁ כִּי־תִזְכְּרֶנּוּ

4 What is man, that thou art mindful of him?

וּבֶן־אָדָם כִּי תִפְקְדֶנּוּ׃

and the son of man, that thou visitest him?

ו  וַתְּחַסְּרֵהוּ מְּעַט מֵאֱלֹהִים

5 For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels,

וְכָבוֹד וְהָדָר תְּעַטְּרֵהוּ׃

and hast crowned him with glory and honour.

ז  תַּמְשִׁילֵהוּ בְּמַעֲשֵׂי יָדֶי

6 Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands;

כֹּל שַׁתָּה תַחַת־רַגְלָיו׃

thou hast put all things under his feet:

ח  צֹנֶה וַאֲלָפִים כֻּלָּם

7 All sheep and oxen,

וְגַם בַּהֲמוֹת שָׂדָי׃

yea, and the beasts of the field;

ט  צִפּוֹר שָׁמַיִם וּדְגֵי הַיָּם

8 The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea,

עֹבֵר אָרְחוֹת יַמִּים׃

and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas.

י  יהוה אֲדֹנֵינוּ

9 O LORD our Lord,

מָה־אַדִּיר שִׁמְ בְּכָל־הָאָרֶץ׃

how excellent is thy name in all the earth!

 

Paul is aware of the imagery in Psalms 8, and he understands it as referring to Messiah’s dominion which he sees as subordinate to God’s (1Cor 15):

 

27 For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. 28 And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.

 

This dominion is realized through the resurrection (Ephesians 1):

 

20 Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, 21 Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: 22 And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, 23 Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.

 

The same connection to Psalms 8 is explicit in Hebrews 2, where Adam’s dominion is seen as replacing the present dominion of angels:

 

5 For unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak. 6 But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man that thou visitest him? 7 Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands: 8 Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him. 9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. 10 For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.

 

There is even a time frame for Paul’s imagery (Col 1:16), “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth …”  It is preserved in the Babylonian Talmud (Sanhedrin 97a-b; Abodah Zarah 9a-b):

 

תָּנָא דְּבֵי אֵלִיָּהוּ

The words of Elijah were studied:

שֵׁשֶׁת אֲלפִים שָׁנָה הֲוֵי עָלְמָא

The world endures six thousand years—

שְׁנֵי אֲלָפִים תּוֹהוּ

tohu two thousand,

שְׁנֵי אֲלָפִים תּוֹרָה

Torah two thousand,

שְׁנֵי אֲלָפִים יְמוֹת הַמָּשִׁיחַ

the days of the messiah two thousand.

 

The tohu in Genesis 1 stretches from verse 2 (וְהָאָרֶץ הָיְתָה תֹהוּ ‘and the land was tohu …’) until verse 11 (תַּדְשֵׁא הָאָרֶץ ‘let the land put forth …’)—two days in all.  And the two thousand years of tohu correspond to the period between Genesis 1:2 (וְהָאָרֶץ הָיְתָה תֹהוּ ‘and the land was tohu …’) and the beginning of the third millennium (Gen 12):

 

א  וַיֹּאמֶר יהוה אֶל־אַבְרָם

1 Now the LORD had said unto Abram,

לֶךְ־לְ מֵאַרְצְ

Get thee out of thy country,

וּמִמּוֹלַדְתְּ וּמִבֵּית אָבִי

and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house,

אֶל־הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר אַרְאֶךָּ׃

unto a land that I will shew thee …

 

The next era begins when, as it says (Gen 1:12), וַתּוֹצֵא הָאָרֶץ ‘and the land brought forth …,’ and it ends when, as God said (Gen 1:20), יִשְׁרְצוּ הַמַּיִם ‘let the waters swarm …’[42]  There are two millennia between Abraham’s entry into the land and the final exile.  It is an era of Torah in the land as represented by the trees in Genesis 1:12,

 

יב  וַתּוֹצֵא הָאָרֶץ דֶּשֶׁא עֵשֶׂב

12 And the earth brought forth grass,

מַזְרִיעַ זֶרַע

and herb yielding seed

לְמִינֵהוּ

after his kind,

וְעֵץ עֹשֶׂה־פְּרִי אֲשֶׁר זַרְעוֹ-בוֹ

and the tree yielding fruit, whose seed was in itself,

לְמִינֵהוּ

after his kind:

וַיַּרְא אֱלֹהִים כִּי־טוֹב׃

and God saw that it was good.

 

Which correspond to the Torah observant man (Psalms 1):

 

א  אַשְׁרֵי הָאִישׁ  

1 Blessed is the man

אֲשֶׁר לֹא הָלַ בַּעֲצַת רְשָׁעִים

that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly,

וּבְדֶרֶ חַטָּאִים לֹא עָמָד   

nor standeth in the way of sinners,

וּבְמוֹשַׁב לֵצִים לֹא יָשָׁב׃

nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.

ב  כִּי אִם בְּתוֹרַת יהוה חֶפְצוֹ

2 But his delight is in the law [Torah] of the LORD;

וּבְתוֹרָתוֹ יֶהְגֶּה יוֹמָם וָלָיְלָה׃

and in his law [Torah] doth he meditate day and night.

ג  וְהָיָה כְּעֵץ שָׁתוּל עַל־פַּלְגֵי־מָיִם

3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water,

אֲשֶׁר פִּרְיוֹ יִתֵּן בְּעִתּוֹ

that bringeth forth his fruit in his season;

וְעָלֵהוּ לֹא־יִבּוֹל

his leaf also shall not wither;

וְכֹל אֲשֶׁר־יַעֲשֶׂה יַצְלִיחַ׃

and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

 

And, as it says (Mat 11:13), “For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John.”  And thus begins שְׁנֵי אֲלָפִים יְמוֹת הַמָּשִׁיחַ ‘the days of the messiah two thousand [years]’ (Luke 16:16; John 1:17).  That the Messiah would come at the beginning of the fifth millennium can be deduced from Genesis 2.  There Adam is created outside the Garden (verse 15), [43]

 

טו  וַיִּקַּח יהוה אֱלֹהִים אֶת־הָאָדָם

15 And the LORD God took the man,

וַיַּנִּחֵהוּ בְגַן־עֵדֶן

and put him into the garden of Eden

לְעָבְדָהּ וּלְשָׁמְרָהּ׃

to dress it and to keep it.

 

Adam was alone with God in the Garden when God brought forth the creatures for him to name (verse 19),[44]

 

יט  וַיִּצֶר יהוה אֱלֹהִים מִן־הָאֲדָמָה

19 And out of the ground the LORD God formed

כָּל־חַיַּת הַשָּׂדֶה וְאֵת כָּל־עוֹף הַשָּׁמַיִם

every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air;

וַיָּבֵא אֶל־הָאָדָם

and brought them unto Adam

לִרְאוֹת מַה־יִּקְרָא־לוֹ

to see what he would call them:

וְכֹל אֲשֶׁר יִקְרָא־לוֹ הָאָדָם נֶפֶשׁ חַיָּה

and whatsoever Adam called every living creature,

הוּא שְׁמוֹ׃

that was the name thereof.

 

And thus Adam (Rom 5:14) who is the figure [τύπος] of him that was to come was taken to paradise (Rev 2:7), [45] just as a son of Adam [בֶּן אָדָם] was later to be positioned at God’s right hand (Psalms 80):

 

יח  תְּהִי־יָדְ עַל־אִישׁ יְמִינֶ   

17 Let thy hand be upon the man of thy right hand,

עַל־בֶּן־אָדָם אִמַּצְתָּ לָּ׃

upon the son of man whom thou madest strong for thyself.

 

The most quoted Tanakh verse in all the New Testament testifies to this heavenly association (Psalms 110):

 

א  לְדָוִד מִזְמוֹר

1 A Psalm of David.

נְאֻם יהוה לַאדֹנִי

The LORD said unto my Lord,

שֵׁב לִימִינִי   

Sit thou at my right hand,

עַד־אָשִׁית אֹיְבֶי הֲדֹם לְרַגְלֶי׃

until I make thine enemies thy footstool.

 

In Genesis 1 Adam and Eve are not made in the image of God until the end of the sixth day,

 

כז  וַיִּבְרָא אֱלֹהִים אֶת־הָאָדָם בְּצַלְמוֹ

27 So God created man in his own image,

בְּצֶלֶם אֱלֹהִים בָּרָא אֹתוֹ

in the image of God created he him;

זָכָר וּנְקֵבָה בָּרָא אֹתָם׃

male and female created he them.

 

But according to Genesis 2, Adam alone was formed at the beginning of the 5th day, before God brings forth the creatures, just as Jesus became the first of God’s spiritual creation at the beginning of the fifth millennium (Col 1:18), “And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.”  Not until the end of the sixth millennium will Adam’s wife be made ready (Rev 19:7), “Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.”

 

Language similar to Colossians can be found in Hebrews 1:

 

1 God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, 2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; 3 Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high: 4 Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.

 

When it says (verse 2), δι᾽ οὖ καὶ ἐποίησεν τοὺς αἰῶνας ‘through whom also he made the ages’, we best connect the Greek αἰών with the Hebrew עוֹלָם ‘age’ and Elijah’s שְׁנֵי אֲלָפִים יְמוֹת הַמָּשִׁיחַthe days of the messiah two thousand [years]’—the last two of the six millennial days of God’s work.

 

These are the millennia of the Joseph messiah (Gen 48:19), וְזַרְעוֹ יִהְיֶה מְלֹא־הַגּוֹיִם ‘and his seed shall be the fullness of the nations/Gentiles.’  It is also the time of Jerusalem’s exile (Luke 21:24), “And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.”  And it is the time of the Northern Kingdom’s blindness (Rom 11:25), “For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.”

 

The office of messiah son of Ephraim produces God’s firstborn, as in the New Covenant chapter (Jer 31:9), “They shall come with weeping, and with supplications will I lead them: I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way, wherein they shall not stumble: for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn.”  To the apostles this meant God’s firstborn by a resurrection from the dead (Luke 20:36; Rom 1:4-5; 1Cor 15:20; Col 1:18; Rev 1:5).  That the two messianic offices—that of Ephraim and that of David—are to be occupied successively by one person is indicated in Psalms 89:27 where it says of the Davidic messiah—“Also I will make him my firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth.”  While fulfilling the first office he bears the name of Ephraim’s heir Joshua (Mat 1:21, 25; Luke 1:31; 2:21) and upon ascending David’s throne he will bear a new name (Rev 3:12), “Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.”

 

Not being aware of the ubiquity of Genesis imagery in the Old Testament, we tend to miss it in the New.

 

References:

 

Bruce, Frederick Fyvie, ed.  1986.  International Bible Commentary (with NIV).  Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan.

 

Clark, Gordon Haddon.  1972.  The Johannine Logos, on John the Evangelist’s use of the term Logos.  International library of philosophy and theology. Biblical and theological studies.  Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company.

 

Flood, Gavin.  1996.  An Introduction to Hinduism.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

 

Foxe, John.  2007.  Foxe’s Book of Martyrs.  First published by John Day in 1563, with many subsequent editions, also by Day.  Forgotten Books.

 

Heiser, Michael S.  2001.  The Mythological Provenance of Isa. XIV 12-15: A Reconsideration of the Ugaritic Material.  Vetus Testamentum, 51/3, p. 354-369.

 

Liddell, Henry George, Robert Scott, and H. Stuart Jones.  1951.  A Greek-English Lexicon.  Oxford University Press.

 

Longacre, Robert E.  1983. The grammar of discourse. New York and London: Plenum Press.

 

Metzger, Bruce M.  1994.  A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament.  Second Edition.  Stuttgart: Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft

 

Morris, Leon.  1971.  The Gospel According to John.  New International Commentary on the New Testament.  Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

 

Patai, Raphael. 1979. The Messiah Texts: Jewish Legends of Three Thousand Years. Detroit, Michigan: Wayne State University Press.

 

Peters, F.E.  1967.  Greek Philosophical Terms.  New York University Press.

 

Schaff, Philipp.  1980.  The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus.  Edition edited by Alexander Roberts.  T. & T. Clark Publishers. Both the English and the Greek original are available on line at http://www.documentacatholicaomnia.eu/20_30_0100-0160-_Iustinus,_Sanctus.html.

 

Stern, David H.  1992.  Jewish New Testament Commentary: A Companion Volume to the Jewish New TestamentBel Air, California: Messianic Jewish Resources International.

 

Tyndale, William.  1989.  The New Testament.  Antwerp, 1534; Reprinted in modern English spelling, complete with Prologues to the books and marginal notes, with the original Greek paragraphs.  Yale University Press.

 

Tyndale, William.  2000.  The New Testament.  Worms, 1526; Reprinted in original spelling and pagination.  The British Library.

 

Valea, Ernest.  undated.  The divine incarnation in Hinduism and Christianity.  On line internet article at http://www.comparativereligion.com/avatars.html.

 

Wigner, Eugene.  1960.  The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences, Communications on Pure and Applied Mathematics 13(1):1-14.  Available on line at http://www.dartmouth.edu/~matc/MathDrama/reading/Wigner.html.

 

 

 


 

[1] See Heiser (2001).

[2] θεώρουν ‘I was watching’ (imperfect active indicative - θεωρέω).

[3] πεσόντα ‘fallen’ (second aorist active participle - πίπτω).

[4] See International Bible Commentary (1986, F. F. Bruce, editor, with NIV): “Satan fell like lightning from heaven (18). The verb I saw is in the imperfect tense (‘I was watching’); the participle fall is aorist (‘fallen’). Because this saying recalls Isaiah 14:12 —‘How you have fallen from heaven, O morning Star, son of the dawn!’, it has been interpreted throughout Christian history as a reference to a cosmic fall of Satan in the remote past; so, for instance, Gregory the Great as early as the sixth century. But Plummer (P. 278) says: ‘The aorist indicates the coincidence between the success of the Seventy and Christ’s vision of Satan’s overthrow’. The kingdom has come, ‘the success of the disciples is regarded as a symbol and earnest of the complete overthrow of Satan’ ...”

[5] NIV footnote: Or darkness, and the darkness has not overcome

[6] NKJV footnote to: Or overcome

[7] For his translation efforts William Tyndale was tried for heresy, and “was there tyed to the stake, and then strangled first by the hangman, and afterward with fire cōsumed in the mornyng at the towne of Filford. an. 1536. crying thus at the stake with a feruent zeale, & a loude voyce: Lorde open the Kyng of Englandes eyes.” (see http://www.hrionline.ac.uk/johnfoxe/main/8_1570_1229.jsp)

[8] There is some controversy over whether γέγονεν ‘what was made’ should be joined with the preceeding (κα χωρς ατο γένετο οδ ν γέγονεν ‘and without it nothing was made that was made’) or with what follows ( γέγονενν ατ ζω ν ‘that which was made by it was life’).  See Metzger (1994).

[9] Here the Greek reflects the Septuagint’sν ρχ of Genesis 1:1.  The Peshitta has ܒ݁ܪܺܫܺܝܬ݂ bərīšît (reflecting the Hebrew בְּרֵאשִׁית bərē’šît) in both John 1:1 and in Genesis 1:1.

[10] In the Midrash this is messianic—reflective of the office of Messiah (Genesis Rabbah 2:4):

וְרוּחַ אֱלֹהִים מְרַחֶפֶת

“And the Spirit of God moved …”

זֶה רוּחוֹ שֶׁל מֶלֶ הַמָּשִׁיחַ

This is the spirit of the King Messiah …

 

[11] See, for example, λόγος in Liddell, Scott, and Jones (1951).  This is not to say that the Greek notion of eternal verities was false.  It survives in mathematical realism (or mathematical platonism), as suggested in Wigner (1960).

[12] Justin Martyr, whatever his understanding, nevertheless connects the Logos with Proverbs 8 (see Dialog with Trypho, Chapter LXI—Wisdom is begotten of the Father, as fire from fire). His lengthy quote from Proverbs 8 follows on this (translation from Schaff 1980):

Μαρτύριον δὲ καὶ ἄλλο ὑμῖν, φίλος, ἔφην, ἀπὸ τῶν γραφῶν δώσω, ὅτι ἀρχὴν πρὸ πάντων τῶν κτισμάτον Θεὸν γεγέννηκε δύναμίν τινα ξ αυτοῦ λογικῂν, ἥτις καὶ δόξα Κυρίου ὑπὸ τοῦ Πνεύματος τοῦ ἁγίου καλεῖται, ποτὲ δὲ Υἱὸς, ποτὲ δὲ Σοφία, ποτὲ δὲ γγελος, ποτὲ δὲ Θεὸς ποτὲ δὲ Κύριος καὶ Λόγος·  ποτὲ δὲ ἀρχιστράτηγον ἑαυτὸν λέγει ἐν ἀνθρώπου μορφῇ φανέντα τῷ τοῦ Ναυῆ Ἰησοῦ.

“I shall give you another testimony, my friends,” said I, “from the Scriptures, that God begat before all creatures a Beginning,2167 [who was] a certain rational power [proceeding] from Himself, who is called by the Holy Spirit, now the Glory of the Lord, now the Son, again Wisdom, again an Angel, then God, and then Lord and Logos; and on another occasion He calls Himself Captain, when He appeared in human form to Joshua the son of Nave (Nun).

Schaff note 2167: Or, “in the beginning, before all creatures.” [Justin’s reference to Josh. i. 13–15 deserves special consideration; for he supposes that the true Joshua (Jesus) was the substance, and the true “captain of salvation,” of whom this one was but a shadow (Heb. iv. 8, margin), type, and pledge. See cap. lxii.]

[13] John, of course, bore witness both of the Torah and of the Messiah (John 1:15), “John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me.”

[14] John 17:20 — “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word”.

[15] Here, however, one senses a possible contrast between light (φς/אוֹר) which is Torah and one anointed (χριστς/מָשִׁיחַ) as a light source (φς/מָאוֹר).  In Genesis אוֹר is the light of the first day (Gen 1:3), “And God said, Let there be light [אוֹר]”, “and light is Torah [וְתוֹרָה אוֹר]” (Prov 3:23); but on the fourth day we read (Gen 1:14), “And God said, Let there be lights [יְהִי מְאֹרֹת]”, which is referenced again in regard to the menorah, “Oil for the light [שֶׁמֶן לַמָּאֹר] …” (Ex 25:6). John’s vision of the resurrected and glorified Messiah is also associated with the menorah: “And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man [ὅμοιον υἱὸν ἀνθρώπου ‘one like a son of man’] …” (Rev 1:12-13)

[16] Deut 31:26 — “Take this book of the law, and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may be there for a witness against thee.”  Rev 20:4 — “… them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God ...”  Mat 14:10 — “And he sent, and beheaded John in the prison.”

[17] Proverbs 6:23 — “For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light …”

[18] Psalms 119:105 — “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”

[19] Proverbs 8:22-23 — “The LORD possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was.”

[20] Psalms 33:6 — “By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.”

[21] If in Stoic philosophy the Logos (λόγος) was the fundamental ordering principle of the cosmos (κόσμος), that same world (κόσμος) was hostile to the logos that is Torah.

[22] Jeremiah 6:19 — “Hear, O earth: behold, I will bring evil upon this people, even the fruit of their thoughts, because they have not hearkened unto my words, nor to my law, but rejected it.”

[23] Compare Romans 1:3-4, “Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; And declared to be the Son of God [υο θεο ‘a son of God’] with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead”.

[24] Note that we are not born of Jesus but of the Father who (James 1:18), “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.”

[25] Every narrative introduces some difficulty or problem—called a tension by linguists who analyze discourse genres (Longacre 1983).  Imagine, if you will, a story or novel or history that presents no problem, no difficulty, no challenge.  The Torah is not such a text—its discourse tension is right there at the beginning (Gen 1:2): “And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.”

[26] Here the Shem Tob Matthew has simply, הַזּוֹרע זֶרַע טוֹב הוּא הָאָדָם ‘he that sows the good seed is man’.

[27] According to Metzger (1994), “As in verses 33 and 41, in order to safeguard the doctrine of the virgin birth copyists replaced ο γονες [ο γονες ατο ‘his parents’] with ωσφ κα μητήρ [ωσφ κα μητήρ ατο ‘Joseph and his mother’].”

[28] לֶחֶם מִן־הַשָּׁמָיִם in Exodus 16:4 and לֶחֶם מִשָּׁמַיִם in Nehemiah 9:15.

[29] Neither did Jesus give them his own word.  John 5:30—“I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me.”  John 12:49—“For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak.”  John 14:10—“Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.”

[30] Sanskrit अवतार avatāra ‘descent’ is typically translated into English as “incarnation”.  Vishnu (विष्णु), second member of the Hindu Trinity (त्रिमूर्ति trimūrti), has had ten incarnations or avatars.  Many Hindus see Jesus as an additional avatar of Vishnu.  See Flood (1996) and Valea (undated).

[31] The expression ς μονογενος παρ πατρός ‘as of the only begotten of the Father’ recalls Heb 11:17 (“By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten [μονογεν]”).  Greek μονογενς doesn’t mean ‘only begotten’ but rather ‘one of a kind’—it compares to the Hebrew יָחִיד in Gen 22:2— קַח־נָא אֶת־בִּנְ אֶת־יְחִידְ אֲשֶׁר־אָהַבְתָּ אֶת־יִצְחָק “Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest …”

[32] See, for example, “The Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist” in the Catholic Encyclopedia, available on line at http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05573a.htm#3.

[33] Kətîb: דבריך.

 

[34] The bread symbolized his body and our body (1Cor 12:27), “Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.”  And Messiah’s body symbolizes the bread from heaven (Ex 16:4; Neh 9:15; John 6:41, 51) which is the word of God (Deut 8:3; Mat 4:4; Luke 4:4), evidently not the bread of affliction (Deut 16:3) which symbolizes Israel’s suffering.  The blood that Messiah shed is the blood of the Covenant (Mat 26:28; Mark 14:24; Luke 22:20; 1Cor 11:25).  There is no mention of blood in Jeremiah 31, but the word and blood were both prominent in Exodus 24:

ז  וַיִּקַּח סֵפֶר הַבְּרִית

7 And he took the book of the covenant,

וַיִּקְרָא בְּאָזְנֵי הָעָם וַיֹּאמְרוּ

and read in the audience of the people: and they said,

כֹּל אֲשֶׁר־דִּבֶּר יהוה נַעֲשֶׂה וְנִשְׁמָע׃

All that the LORD hath said will we do, and be obedient.

ח  וַיִּקַּח מֹשֶׁה אֶת־הַדָּם

8 And Moses took the blood,

וַיִּזְרֹק עַל־הָעָם וַיֹּאמֶר

and sprinkled it on the people, and said,

הִנֵּה דַם־הַבְּרִית

Behold the blood of the covenant,

אֲשֶׁר כָּרַת יְהוָה עִמָּכֶם

which the LORD hath made with you

עַל כָּל־הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלֶּה׃

concerning all these words.

As it says (Heb 9:22), “And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.”

[35] Bible Society in Israel, 1976, 1991 edition. Available on line at http://www.standardversion.org/hnt-modern/Yoh.8.html.

[36] For some the expression ‘which I had with thee’ ( εχον … παρ σοί), with ‘I’ as subject, connotes being there in person. The Peshitta’s ܕ݁ܺܐܝܬ݂ ܗ݈ܘܳܐ ܠܺܝ ܠܘܳܬ݂ܳܟ݂ ‘which was mine with you’ (reflecting a Hebrew אֲשֶׁר הָיָה־לִי עִמְּ ‘which was mine with you’), would ease that sense.

[37] When he says “another (λλος) that bears witness” he uses the masculine gender—why?  In verse 39 it is the Scriptures (τς γραφάς) that bear witness, which are feminine and referenced with the feminine ν ατας ‘in them’ and κεναί ‘those’.  It is not until verse 45 that the λλος of verse 32 finds its masculine referent—Moses.

[38] Here the Peshitta’s ܒ݁ܰܕ݂ܡܽܘܬ݂ܰܘܗ݈ܝ ‘in his likeness’ is mirrored in Phil 2:7, ܘܰܗܘܳܐ ܒ݁ܰܕ݂ܡܽܘܬ݂ܳܐ ܕ݁ܰܒ݂ܢܰܝܢܳܫܳܐ ‘and was in the likeness of men’.

[39] Here the Peshitta’s ܒ݁ܰܕ݂ܡܽܘܬ݂ܳܐ ܕ݁ܰܐܠܳܗܳܐ ‘in the image of God’ is the same as in Philippians 2:6.

[40] Revised Standard Version.  The KJV has “thought it not robbery to be equal with God”.

[41] See Patai (1979).

[42] The waters symbolize (Rev 17:15) “… peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.”

[43] According to the Midrash (Bereshit Rabbah 14:8), מִמָּקוֹם כַּפָּרָתוֹ נִבְרָאout of the place of his atonement was he created’, and in the Rambam’s Mishne Torah (הלכות בית הבחירה פרק ב), אָדָם מִמָּקוֹם כַּפָּרָתוֹ נִבְרָא ‘Adam was created out of the place of his atonement.’  Adam was formed on the temple mount.

[44] Remember that the creatures symbolize governments, as in Psalms 8, and as the Ramban to Genesis 2:3 tells us: הַחַיּוֹת הֵם הַמַּלְכֻיּוֹת אֲשֶׁר לֹא יָדְעוּ אֶת ה׳ ‘the beasts, they are the kingdoms which do not know Hashem.’

[45] The garden is called παράδεισος in the Septuagint (Gen 2:8, 9, 10, etc.) as also in the New Testament (Rev 2:7).  It takes on the sense of ‘heaven’ in (2Cor 12:4): “How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.

 

See "Addenda" from index for additional verses