Tuesday, January 2, 2018

What Does It Mean For Jesus to be the Divine Word? Investigating John's Logos Theology

Image result for in the beginning was the wordOne of the most famous texts in Scripture is the prologue to the gospel of John, where the apostle John represents Jesus as being the divine Logos, or the Word. Here is John 1:1-5,14:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it...14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John begins his gospel by asserting Jesus' identity as being the very essence of God incarnate. The transliteration of the Greek of verse 1 reads, "En arche en ho logos kai ho Logos en pros ton Theon kai Theos en ho Logos." You will notice that the noun "Theos" for God at the end of verse 1 lacks a definite article "ho" ("the") but precedes the verb "en" ("was"). In Greek grammar, this renders it a qualitative. Thus, John 1:1 is most accurately translated, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and all that God was the Word also was." Moreover, this divine Word has existed from eternity past. "In the beginning was the word" indicates that in the beginning (as far back as you want to push it) the Word already was in existence. And yet even although the Word is the very essence of deity, "He was in the beginning with God" (verse 2). In other words, in some other sense the divine Logos was distinct from God. This is what Trinitarians believe with respect to the Son's relationship to the Father -- the Son is in very essence deity (possessing all of that which makes God God) and yet in some other sense He is distinct from God.

Just to drive the point home, John then continues in verse 3 by telling us that "All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made." Nothing exists that has not been created and fashioned by the divine Logos. Thus, the divine Logos is the very essence of God. He cannot Himself be a creature.

In case we still were not convinced about the deity of Jesus, John continues in verses 14 and 23 with a double citation of Isaiah 40:
14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth...He [John the Baptist] said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”
Compare these verses to the words of Isaiah 40:3-5:
3 A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. 5 And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
Thus, not only does John the Baptist identify Himself with the voice crying out in the wilderness from Isaiah 40:3, but John the Apostle also alludes to Isaiah 40:5. But instead of saying that we have beheld the glory of Yahweh (as per Isaiah), he says, "...and we have seen his [Christ's] glory..." There can thus be no question that John is representing Jesus to be God Himself. John 1:14 literally says that the Word became flesh and tabernacled in the midst of us. Just as the very presence of God dwelt within the tabernacle of ancient Israel in the wilderness, so also now in the body of Christ, God dwells in the midst of His people. Just as the tabernacle is where the Hebrews could meet their God, so also Christ is where God's people meet their God. As the Apostle Paul writes in Colossians 2:9, "For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily..."

John also tells us, in 1:18, that,
No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known.
Here, he identifies Jesus as the monogenes Theos, meaning God the one and only. This monogenes Theos, he tells us, who is at the Father's side, has exegeted or explained to us the nature and essence of the unseen God. I shall have more to say about the significance of this later in this article.

But what does it mean for Jesus to be the divine Word, and how does John's prologue connect with the portrayal of Jesus throughout the rest of John's gospel? John in fact derives this concept directly from the Old Testament, as I shall show.

The Commander of the Lord's Armies is the Messenger of Yahweh

To begin our investigation, let's first examine the other place in the New Testament where John explicitly identifies Jesus as the Word of God. This is in Revelation 19:13. For context, let's read verses 11-16:
Image result for revelation 19 jesus11 Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. 13 He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. 14 And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. 15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 16 On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.
Here, Jesus is identified as the commander and host of the Lord's armies. In fact, He is portrayed as treading the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty, the exact same picture as we see of the Lord Himself in Isaiah 63:2-6:
2 Why is your apparel red, and your garments like his who treads in the winepress? 3 “I have trodden the winepress alone, and from the peoples no one was with me; I trod them in my anger and trampled them in my wrath; their lifeblood spattered on my garments, and stained all my apparel. 4 For the day of vengeance was in my heart, and my year of redemption had come. 5 I looked, but there was no one to help; I was appalled, but there was no one to uphold; so my own arm brought me salvation, and my wrath upheld me. 6 I trampled down the peoples in my anger; I made them drunk in my wrath, and I poured out their lifeblood on the earth.”
Revelation 19 thus clearly contains yet another allusion to Christ's deity. There is also an allusion in verse 15 to Psalm 2:9, where we read that He will rule the nations with a rod of iron -- but I shall have more to say in a future article about the Messianic significance of Psalm 2. For now, I want to home in on the reference in verse 13 to His title as The Word of God, and explore its connection to Jesus as the commander of the Lord's armies.

Who is the commander of the Lord's armies according to the Old Testament? To find out, we can turn to Joshua 5:13-15, which records a narrative taking place shortly before the conquest of Jericho, of which we read in Joshua 6:
Related image13 When Joshua was by Jericho, he lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, a man was standing before him with his drawn sword in his hand. And Joshua went to him and said to him, “Are you for us, or for our adversaries?” 14 And he said, “No; but I am the commander of the army of the Lord. Now I have come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped and said to him, “What does my lord say to his servant?” 15 And the commander of the Lord's army said to Joshua, “Take off your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.
Interestingly, the commander of the Lord's armies speaking to Joshua, in Joshua 6, is identified as the Lord Himself (Joshua 6:1-2):
1 Now Jericho was shut up inside and outside because of the people of Israel. None went out, and none came in. 2 And the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and mighty men of valor.””
But there are other curious features about this commander of the Lord's armies. The first is that he appears in front of Joshua with his drawn sword in his hand. This reminds us of another occasion where the messenger/angel of Yahweh appears in the road with His drawn sword in hand. Turn over to Numbers 22:31:
"Then the Lord opened Balaam's eyes, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road with his sword drawn. So he bowed low and fell facedown."
This suggests that the commander of the Lord's armies from Joshua 5 is in fact the same individual as the messenger/angel of Yahweh figure. Remember, the Hebrew word malak can be translated either "angel" or "messenger", and thus the title, the malak Yahweh can be translated "the messenger of Yahweh". From this point on in this article I will be speaking of this individual as "the messenger of Yahweh" (to distinguish Him from celestial creatures).

There is another clue in Joshua 5 that the commander of the Lord's armies is in fact the messenger of Yahweh. Consider the account of the burning bush in Exodus 3:1-6:
Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. 2 And the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning, yet it was not consumed. 3 And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” 4 When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” 5 Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” 6 And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.
Compare the command to Moses to remove his sandals from his feet, for the place where he is standing is holy ground, with the parallel command to Joshua in Joshua 5:5. But here in Exodus 3, again we see that it is the messenger of Yahweh who has appeared to him in the burning bush. This, then, corroborates further that the commander of the Lord's armies is in fact the messenger of Yahweh.

The Deity of the Messenger of Yahweh

Now, it is without question that, although the messenger of Yahweh represents Yahweh, he Himself participates fully in the essence of Yahweh. We see this, for example, in Genesis 31:10-13:
10 In the breeding season of the flock I lifted up my eyes and saw in a dream that the goats that mated with the flock were striped, spotted, and mottled. 11 Then the angel of God said to me in the dream, ‘Jacob,’ and I said, ‘Here I am!’ 12 And he said, ‘Lift up your eyes and see, all the goats that mate with the flock are striped, spotted, and mottled, for I have seen all that Laban is doing to you. 13 I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar and made a vow to me. Now arise, go out from this land and return to the land of your kindred.’”
Thus, here the messenger of Yahweh identifies Himself as the God of Bethel from Genesis 28. This gets rather interesting when we turn to Genesis 35:1, and find that God, when speaking to Jacob about God's appearance to him at Bethel, switches to the third person:
God said to Jacob, “Arise, go up to Bethel and dwell there. Make an altar there to the God who appeared to you when you fled from your brother Esau.”
Is this just coincidence that God switches from speaking in the first person to the third person when describing the appearance of God to him at Bethel in Genesis 28? I don't think so. This is not an isolated occasion. Consider, for example, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. In Genesis 18:1-2, we read,
And the Lord appeared to him [Abraham] by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day. 2 He lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, three men were standing in front of him. 
In verse 22, we read,
So the men turned from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the Lord.
At this point, Abraham intercedes with the Lord over the fate of the people of Sodom.

At the start of Genesis 19, we read,
The two angels came to Sodom in the evening…
Image result for sodom and gomorrah
Thus, one of the three men/angels who appeared to Abraham in Genesis 18 turns out to be the Lord Himself, since two of the angels have come to Sodom and one has evidently remained to talk to Abraham (and he is identified in Genesis 18:22 as the Lord Himself).

But then something interesting happens, in Genesis 19:24:
Then the Lord rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from the Lord out of heaven.
Thus, we read that Yahweh rained on Sodom and Gomorrah sulfur and fire from Yahweh out of heaven. This suggests that there are two distinct individual persons who bear the title of Yahweh -- there is a Yahweh on earth and a Yahweh in heaven. This is consistent with the messenger of Yahweh Himself being in very essence Yahweh and yet in another sense distinct from Yahweh.

But this is where we come back to the switching between the first and third persons when describing actions carried out by the messenger of Yahweh (recall my comments on Genesis 35:1). Let's examine the references in Scripture to the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.

  • Isaiah 13:17-19: 17 Behold, I am stirring up the Medes against them, who have no regard for silver and do not delight in gold. 18 Their bows will slaughter the young men; they will have no mercy on the fruit of the womb; their eyes will not pity children. 19 And Babylon, the glory of kingdoms, the splendor and pomp of the Chaldeans, will be like Sodom and Gomorrah when God overthrew them.
  • Jeremiah 50:39-40: 39 “Therefore wild beasts shall dwell with hyenas in Babylon, and ostriches shall dwell in her. She shall never again have people, nor be inhabited for all generations. 40 As when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah and their neighboring cities, declares the Lord, so no man shall dwell there, and no son of man shall sojourn in her.
  • Amos 4:11: “I overthrew some of you, as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and you were as a brand plucked out of the burning; yet you did not return to me,” declares the Lord.
Another text that indicates the deity of the messenger of Yahweh is Genesis 48:14-16 where Israel (formerly known as Jacob) blesses the sons of Joseph:
14 And Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it on the head of Ephraim, who was the younger, and his left hand on the head of Manasseh, crossing his hands (for Manasseh was the firstborn). 15 And he blessed Joseph and said, “The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, the God who has been my shepherd all my life long to this day, 16 the angel who has redeemed me from all evil, bless the boys; and in them let my name be carried on, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.”
Thus, the angel/messenger who has redeemed Jacob from all evil (an allusion to the messenger of Yahweh who appeared on various occasions to Jacob) is taken as a parallelism for God Himself. Thus, again, we see that the messenger of Yahweh is in very essence deity.

Another fascinating text can be found in Exodus 23:20-22:
20 “Behold, I send an angel before you to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared. 21 Pay careful attention to him and obey his voice; do not rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgression, for my name is in him. 22 “But if you carefully obey his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries.
Thus, God says of this angel that God's very name is in Him. Moreover, He has the ability to forgive and withhold forgiveness of sins -- an exclusive prerogative of deity.

Indeed, we see this same angel identified in Isaiah 63 as "the angel of His presence". Here is Isaiah 63, which in fact reveals the whole Trinity:
7 I will recount the steadfast love of the Lord, the praises of the Lord, according to all that the Lord has granted us, and the great goodness to the house of Israel that he has granted them according to his compassion, according to the abundance of his steadfast love. 8 For he said, “Surely they are my people, children who will not deal falsely.” And he became their Savior. 9 In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them; in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old. 10 But they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit; therefore he turned to be their enemy, and himself fought against them.
Check out my previous article here, where I show an interesting connection between this text and Isaiah 53. For even more discussion on the identity and nature of the messenger of Yahweh, please see another previous article of mine here.

The Functions of the Messenger of Yahweh

What are the functions of the messenger of Yahweh? One of them can be found in Zechariah 1:7-13:
7 On the twenty-fourth day of the eleventh month, which is the month of Shebat, in the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, son of Iddo, saying, 8 “I saw in the night, and behold, a man riding on a red horse! He was standing among the myrtle trees in the glen, and behind him were red, sorrel, and white horses. 9 Then I said, ‘What are these, my lord?’ The angel who talked with me said to me, ‘I will show you what they are.’ 10 So the man who was standing among the myrtle trees answered, ‘These are they whom the Lord has sent to patrol the earth.’ 11 And they answered the angel of the Lord who was standing among the myrtle trees, and said, ‘We have patrolled the earth, and behold, all the earth remains at rest.’ 12 Then the angel of the Lord said, ‘O Lord of hosts, how long will you have no mercy on Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, against which you have been angry these seventy years?’ 13 And the Lord answered gracious and comforting words to the angel who talked with me.
Here, we see the messenger of Yahweh interceding on behalf of God's people, and in fact he is answered with gracious and comforting words from the Lord -- so great is the extent he has for God's people. Again, in this text, the messenger of the Lord is identified as the commander of the Lord's armies, to whom the other horsemen report -- this again connects the messenger of Yahweh to the commander of the Lord's armies in Joshua 5, and therefore in turn with Jesus in Revelation 19. I shall have more to say about the significance of this shortly. Myrtle trees, by the way, are elsewhere associated with Messianic blessing -- e.g. see Isaiah 55:13).

We also see that the messenger of Yahweh has the ability to forgive sins and remove iniquity. In Zechariah 3:1-5, we read,
Image result for zechariah joshua the high priest
“Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. 2 And the Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, O Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?” 3 Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. 4 And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.” 5 And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the Lord was standing by.”
Thus, here we see Joshua, representing Israel, standing in filthy garments (a symbol for Israel's sin). The messenger of Yahweh instructs that his filthy clothes be removed, and then declares that he (i.e. the messenger of Yahweh) has taken away his iniquity. But this is something that only Yahweh has the authority to say.

There is in fact a fascinating foreshadow of the Messiah's purpose and mission in the actions of the messenger of Yahweh in Judges 13:19-20 after He has appeared to Manoah and his wife to announce the birth of Samson:
19 So Manoah took the young goat with the grain offering, and offered it on the rock to the Lord, to the one who works wonders, and Manoah and his wife were watching. 20 And when the flame went up toward heaven from the altar, the angel of the Lord went up in the flame of the altar. Now Manoah and his wife were watching, and they fell on their faces to the ground.
This action typifies the sacrifice of Christ who, being God incarnate, was made a sacrifice unto the Father. The ascension of the messenger of Yahweh in the flame which rises from the burnt offering on the alter carries much symbolic significance and undoubtedly represents the coming sacrifice of Christ as an atonement for sin.

The Messenger of Yahweh is the Messiah

To show one example of the messenger of Yahweh being the Messiah in Hebrew prophecy, consider Malachi 3:1:
Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the Lord of hosts. 
Thus, we learn that the Messiah is given the title of "the messenger of the covenant." Jesus in fact applies this text to himself in Matthew 11:10/Luke 7:27. As already noted previously, it is the same word for messenger (malak) used here that is used elsewhere in relation to the angel/messenger of Yahweh. But who is the messenger of the covenant? To find out, we turn to Judges 2:1:
Now the angel of the Lord went up from Gilgal to Bochim. And he said, “I brought you up from Egypt and brought you into the land that I swore to give to your fathers. I said, ‘I will never break my covenant with you. 
Thus, the angel/messenger who delivered the covenant is the angel/messenger of Yahweh. We can thus see that the Messiah will be this angel of the covenant.

Moreover, in Judges 13:18, the messenger of Yahweh gives his name to Manoah as peli, meaning "Wonderful", the same name given to the Messiah in Isaiah 9:6 (pele, from the same root). In fact, the Greek Septuagint renders Isaiah 9:6 “the angel/messenger of the great council”, thus linking this Messianic figure with the messenger of Yahweh. I have already shown in a previous article the connection between the messenger of Yahweh and Isaiah 53, a text which also speaks of a divine person (for reasons discussed in my previous article) who is in another sense distinct from Yahweh (Isaiah 53:1).

But there is yet another reason to think that the Messiah is the messenger of Yahweh. Consider Daniel 7:13-14, in which Daniel has a vision of the Son of Man:
13 “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. 14 And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.
Now, the Son of Man Himself can be identified as a fully divine person (for some of my reasons why, see my previous articles on this subject here and here). The Son of Man here can also be given the title of the prince of princes. How do I know this? Turn with me to Daniel 8:10-11,25:
10 It [the little horn] grew great, even to the host of heaven. And some of the host and some of the stars it threw down to the ground and trampled on them. 11 It became great, even as great as the Prince of the host. And the regular burnt offering was taken away from him, and the place of his sanctuary was overthrown...25 By his cunning he shall make deceit prosper under his hand, and in his own mind he shall become great. Without warning he shall destroy many. And he shall even rise up against the Prince of princes, and he shall be broken—but by no human hand.
The little horn here is Antiochus Epiphanes, and the host of heaven is God's heavenly council (1 Kings 22:19-22). The reference to "the stars that it threw down to the ground" is also an allusion to the members of God's council (see its parallel usage in Isaiah 14:12-15).

This same evil and wicked tyrant is said to oppose the god of gods in Daniel 11:36-37:
36 “And the king shall do as he wills. He shall exalt himself and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak astonishing things against the God of gods. He shall prosper till the indignation is accomplished; for what is decreed shall be done. 37 He shall pay no attention to the gods of his fathers, or to the one beloved by women. He shall not pay attention to any other god, for he shall magnify himself above all.
Piecing these clues together, it appears likely that the prince of the host and the prince of princes is in fact the same individual, who is also identified as being the God of gods. Both are opposed by the little horn, and so it seems quite probable that these are in fact the same person, who is given multiple titles. And yet the prince of the host seems to be the same individual as the commander of the host from Joshua 5. Thus, the prince of princes can be identified as the messenger of Yahweh.

But here's the thing: The Son of Man's dominion is described in the same manner in which the reign of Yahweh is depicted. Compare Daniel 7:14 (above) to the words of king Darius in Daniel 6:26 when he speaks of the God of Daniel.
I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people are to tremble and fear before the God of Daniel, for he is the living God, enduring forever; his kingdom shall never be destroyed, and his dominion shall be to the end.
Thus, the Son of Man must thus occupy the very highest office of authority. Therefore, he must be the prince of the host, which means he is the commander of the Lord's armies and thereby the messenger of Yahweh.

The Messenger of Yahweh is the Word of God

In the Hebrew Bible, we also see the messenger of Yahweh identified as the Word of God Himself (yes, the Word of God is a person in the Old Testament). The word of God is even assigned a masculine personal pronoun, e.g. in 1 Kings 19:9:
There he came to a cave and lodged in it. And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
Consider, moreover, Zechariah 4:1-10:
And the angel who talked with me came again and woke me, like a man who is awakened out of his sleep. 2 And he said to me, “What do you see?” I said, “I see, and behold, a lampstand all of gold, with a bowl on the top of it, and seven lamps on it, with seven lips on each of the lamps that are on the top of it. 3 And there are two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.” 4 And I said to the angel who talked with me, “What are these, my lord?” 5 Then the angel who talked with me answered and said to me, “Do you not know what these are?” I said, “No, my lord.” 6 Then he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts. 7 Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain. And he shall bring forward the top stone amid shouts of ‘Grace, grace to it!’” 8 Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 9 “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also complete it. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you. 10 For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel.
In verse 8, we read that the word of the Lord comes to Zechariah with a message. In verse 9b, we read that the conclusion of what is said by the word of the Lord is "Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you." Thus, here we see that the word of the Lord is identified as a personal agent who has been sent with a message to Zechariah. In verse 1 of the same chapter, we learn that it was the messenger of Yahweh who had been speaking to Zechariah. This at least suggests that the word of the Lord and the messenger of Yahweh may be one and the same person.

To tighten this inference further, consider 1 Kings 18:31:
Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord came, saying, “Israel shall be your name."
According to this text, it was the word of the Lord who named Jacob Israel. But then turn over to 2 Kings 17:34:
To this day they do according to the former manner. They do not fear the Lord, and they do not follow the statutes or the rules or the law or the commandment that the Lord commanded the children of Jacob, whom he named Israel.
According to this text, it was the Lord Himself who named Jacob Israel.

According to Genesis 32, it was the man who wrestled with Jacob who called him Israel. And according to Hosea 12:4-6:
4 He strove with the angel and prevailed; he wept and sought his favor. He met God at Bethel, and there God spoke with us— 5 the Lord, the God of hosts, the Lord is his memorial name: 6 “So you, by the help of your God, return, hold fast to love and justice, and wait continually for your God.”
Thus, in this text, we learn that the man with whom Jacob strove in Genesis 32 -- the man who named him Israel -- is in fact the messenger of Yahweh Himself. By putting these texts together, we learn that the messenger of Yahweh is in fact the word of God Himself.

Still not convinced? Consider this text from the Aramaic Pentateuchal Targumim, Section III (Genesis 12-17), where the angel of Yahweh is expressly identified as the word (memra) of God, showing that this is the understanding of the ancient Jews:
And Abram said to Sara, Behold, thy handmaid is under thy authority: do to her what is right in thine eyes. And Sara afflicted her, and she escaped from before her. And the Angel of the Lord found her at the fountain of waters in the desert; at the fountain of waters which is in the way to Chagra. [JERUSALEM. Chalitza.] And He said, Hagar, handmaid of Sara, whence comest thou, and whither does thou go? And she said, From before Sara my mistress I have escaped. And the Angel of the Lord said to her, Return to thy mistress, and be subject under her hand. And the Angel of the Lord said to her, Multiplying I will multiply thy sons, and they shall not be numbered for multitude. And the Angel of the Lord said to her, Behold, thou art with child, and thou wilt bear a son, and thou shalt call his name Ishmael, because thy affliction is revealed before the Lord. And he shall be like the wild ass among men: his hands shall take vengeance of his adversaries, and the hands of his adversaries be put forth to do him evil; and in the presence of all his brethren shall he be commingled, (yitharbeb, Arabized,) and shall dwell. And she gave thanks before the Lord whose Word spake to her, and thus said, Thou art He who livest and art eternal; who seest, but art not seen! · for she said, For, behold, here is revealed the glory of the Shekina of the Lord after a vision. (JERUSALEM. And Hagar gave thanks, and prayed in the Name of the Word of the Lord, who had been manifested to her, saying, Blessed be Thou, Eloha, the Living One of all Ages, who hast looked upon my affliction. For she said, Behold, Thou art manifested also unto me, even as Thou wast manifested to Sara my mistress.] Wherefore she called the well, The Well at which the Living and Eternal One was revealed; and, behold, it is situate between Rekam and Chalutsa. And Hagar bare Abram a son, and Abram called the name of his son whom Hagar bare, Ishmael. And Abram was the son of eighty-six years when Hagar bare Ishmael to Abram.
Thus, here, the Word of God who appeared and spoke to Hagar is explicitly identified as none other than the messenger of Yahweh.

Making Sense of John's Logos Theology

Thus, with the background concerning the commander of the Lord's armies / messenger of Yahweh and His connection to the Word of God. we are now in a position to better understand what John means when he identifies Jesus as the divine Word. In Revelation 19, he specifically identifies Jesus by the title of "The Word of God" in the context of identifying Jesus as the commander of the Lord's armies, whom, as I have shown, is the messenger of Yahweh.

The Deutero-Canonical book, The Wisdom of Solomon 18:15-16, although not inspired, also reveals the understanding of the ancient Hebrews to be very consistent with this idea:
15 Thy almighty word leapt down from heaven from thy royal throne, as a fierce conqueror into the midst of the land of destruction. 16 With a sharp sword carrying thy unfeigned commandment, and he stood and filled all things with death, and standing on the earth reached even to heaven.
Notice the striking parallel between this text and the portrayal of Jesus in Revelation 19.

In Revelation 19:12, we are further told that Jesus, the commander of the Lord's armies, "has a name written that no one knows but himself." This connects with Judges 13:18, where, after Manoah inquires as to the name of the messenger of Yahweh, he is told, “Why do you ask my name, seeing it is wonderful?” A similar reply is also given to Jacob in Genesis 32:29.

Indeed, it is through His Word that God, according to the Hebrew Bible, creates the world. For example, we read in Psalm 33:6,
By the word of the Lord the heavens were made, and by the breath of his mouth all their host.
This relates to John 1:3, in which we read that,
All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.
In fact, the word translated breath in Psalm 33:6, is ruach, which means “spirit”. Thus, in Psalm 33:6 the whole Triune nature of God -- and the role of each member of the Trinity in creation -- comes into focus.

In a future post, I want to explore further the connection between John's prologue in his gospel and the rest of his narrative of Jesus' ministry that follows. I will largely save that for another day. For now, I will offer a couple of teasers.

Consider the words of Jesus to the pharisees in John 7:34:
You will seek me and you will not find me. Where I am you cannot come.
Compare this to Amos 8:11-12:
11 “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the Lord God, “when I will send a famine on the land— not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. 12 They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, to seek the word of the Lord, but they shall not find it.
Thus, Jesus alludes to this text in Amos 8, thereby identifying Himself as the Word of God. Note also the context of these verses in Amos. Verses 9 and 10 speak of God's judgment:
9 “And on that day,” declares the Lord God, “I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth in broad daylight. 10 I will turn your feasts into mourning and all your songs into lamentation; I will bring sackcloth on every waist and baldness on every head; I will make it like the mourning for an only son and the end of it like a bitter day.
This imagery is also employed in the gospel of Luke 23:44-45, with the darkening of the sun at Jesus' crucifixion.

Let's look at another connection in John's gospel to the word of God. Recall the statement in John 1:18, that,
No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known.
No one has ever seen God? Of course, in Exodus 33:20, Moses is told by God that "you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live." But throughout the Old Testament, people do see God, which creates a kind of tension, one with which the ancients themselves often grappled. Often, upon a manifestation of the messenger of Yahweh, people in the Old Testament marvel at the fact they have been allowed to see God face-to-face and yet their life is spared. This is the reaction of Jacob in Genesis 32:30; of Gideon in Judges 6:22-23; of Manoah and his wife in Judges 13:22; of Isaiah in Isaiah 6:5, and many other Old Testament saints (see my previous article here for further discussion of this). How can this be? The distinction between the seen and unseen Yahweh, I would argue, can only be understood through the lens of the Triune nature of God.

There are similar texts also in the synoptics, which also reveal that Jesus, the Son, is the unique expression or exposition of God to mankind. In Matthew 11:27 (paralleled in Luke 10:22), we read,
All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.
John 1:18, and Matthew 11:27/Luke 10:22, again are drawing on the Old Testament. Turn over to 1 Samuel 3:6-7,21:
6 And the Lord called again, “Samuel!” and Samuel arose and went to Eli and said, “Here I am, for you called me.” But he said, “I did not call, my son; lie down again.” 7 Now Samuel did not yet know the Lord, and the word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him...21 And the Lord appeared again at Shiloh, for the Lord revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the Lord.
Thus, we learn that God revealed himself to Samuel by the person of the word of the Lord which was sent to him.


I have barely scratched the surface of this subject. The more one examines the Scriptures, and uncovers the intricacy of its connections and cross-references, and the subtle consistency with which the Triune nature of God and the identity, nature and mission of the Messiah and presented across a timespan of 1500 years and across different genres of writing, the more one comes to appreciate that the Scriptures are not merely the work of man, but bear the very fingerprint of God Himself.


Andrew said...

Terrific. Great stuff. Thanks Jonathan.

Troy Salinger said...

Wow! There is so much circular argumentation going on here it would be difficult to point it all out. You begin your 'investigation' with the conclusion foregone. Therefore every bit of data you come across is simply interpreted according to the foregone conclusion. You present no alternative interpretations to any of the texts, you just assume the only possible interpretation is the one that matches with the foregone conclusion. This is extremely shoddy biblical exegesis. It reminds me of the way many evolutionists think. Whatever data is found in nature is automatically interpreted in line with the foregone conclusion that evolution is a fact. Don't even consider any other possible interpretations of the data.

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