Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The Godhead in the Old Testament

Most of us recognize the Jewish roots of Christianity and most of us also acknowledge that Christianity wouldn't even make much sense without an understanding of the Jewish context. Unfortunately much of our Jewish understanding has come from the New Testament without really understanding how that was shaped by the Torah and the Prophets. I have long been fascinated with the precursor images of Jesus presented in the Old Testament and even how Jewish scholars also recognize that these passages speak of a less than rigidly monotheistic YHWH. (If you really don't find this type of stuff interesting you might want to skip this post. My daughter just came down and saw what I was working on and said "That looks really boring Dad." I said; "Actually, it is fascinating!" Her answer? "That's nice Dad.")

Some of this material is found in a number of excellent books that speak of the Jewish roots of Christianity (Our Father Abraham and In The Shadow of the Temple). One of the best Christian apologetic books in my mind is actually a series of books by Michael L. Brown called Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus particularly Volume 2: Theological Objections.

The other excellent online resource is a lecture given by Michael Heiser called The Concept of a Godhead in the Old Testament. It is available as a podcast or MP3 - but you can see the powerpoint presentation he used if you listen to it online. (You will need a high speed connection) If this is interesting to you or if you have frequent conversations with Jewish Rabbis, it is worth the hour it takes to listen to it.

In this lecture Heiser presents material that shows that there are:
1. a number of very significant Old Testament passages which show the presence of YHWH and of "another" God-like figure at the same time (Exodus 3:1ff with Moses at the burning bush, Exodus 34:5-7 where the Lord passes by while also covering Moses eyes; Judges 6:11-14 where the angel and YHWH are both called the Lord and Genesis 31 and 32 where Jacob wrestles with an angel and says he wrestled with God).
2. an even greater number that speak of YHWH appearing in physical form, speaking, touching and even eating (the angel wrestling with Jacob, 1 Sam 3:10 where the Lord comes and stands beside Samuel, Jeremiah 1:1-9 where the word of the Lord reaches out his hand and touches Jeremiah and Genesis 18 where the Lord appears to Abraham and actually sits down and eats).
3. a number of Jesus style "descriptors" that are used that are considered to be God or to be equal to God (the "name of the Lord, the angel of the Lord, the word of the Lord and even "wisdom").
4. And that there are even a few passages that suggest the Trinity (Isaiah 63:7-10 mentions YHWH, the angel of the Lord and his Holy Spirit especially when seen in parallel with Psalm 78:40-41).

Up until the second century Jewish scholars acknowledged these passages as evidence of two YHWHs - one seen and and the other unseen. Philo even calls the seen YHWH the Logos! But of course after the explosive growth of Christianity after the second century (and perhaps because of some anti-semitic behaviour and of course the destruction of the temple) Judaism distanced itself from the emerging Christian movement by reinterpreting some of these OT Christian precursors.

If you can, I would highly recommend listening to the lecture. I think you would enjoy it.

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