Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Messiah: King, Prophet, Priest, Lord and God

Following the publication of the book, The Jewish Roots of Christological Monotheism - Papers from the St. Andrews Conference on the Historical Origins of the Worship of Jesus, back in 1998, there has been considerable interest among Biblical scholars concerning the concept of a coming eschatological messiah (i.e. anointed one) alluded to in the Old Testament, and inter-testamental literature. From the preface of this book, we read:

In many ways, this volume is an extension – and specific application – of the of the Divine Mediator Figure Group at the Society of Biblical Literature. For seven years (1991 – 1997) many of the contributors for this work met annually to discuss developments and counter-developments of the phenomenon of divine mediation during the Greco-Roman period. (Page ix)

I have seen a number of the essays presented in the above tome quoted in literally dozens of books I have read read that discuss the themes of early Christology and/or Messiahship (and their related topics), since the book's publication. I would like to reserve the question of the veneration of Yahweh's mediating agents for a later post, and at this time discuss the attributes and titles of those agents—especially as it relates to the eschatological messianic figure(s) depicted in the OT and inter-testamental literature, which, of course, relates to the title of this thread.

I will begin my exploration into the topic of this thread by examining nomenclature concerning the Christian understanding of the Messiah (Gr. christos) as king, prophet, priest. That the Messiah would function as Yahweh's mediatorial agent in the capacity of king, prophet and priest, has its roots in the Old Testament, though it is distributed somewhat unevenly within its pages; and yet, prior to the New Testament one finds all three attributes/functions/offices tied together. Note the following extract from the famous Dead Sea Scroll document known as The Community Rule:

As for the property of the men of holiness who walk in perfection, it shall not be merged with that of the men of injustice who have not purified their life by separating themselves from iniquity and walking in the way of perfection. They shall not depart from none of the counsels of the Law to walk in all the stubbornness of their hearts, but shall be ruled by the primitive precepts in which the men of the Community were first instructed until there shall come the Prophet and the Messiahs of Aaron and Israel. (1QS ix.9-11, trans. Geza Vermes, The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls, 1997, p. 110 - bold emphasis mine.)

Commenting on this passage, the esteemed Biblical scholar, Joseph E. Fitzmyer wrote:

Here one finds an affirmation of the community's expectation of three coming figures: a prophet (undoubtedly a prophet like Moses, an allusion to Deut. 18:15, 18), a (priestly) Messiah of Aaron, and a (kingly) Messiah of Israel, who are all to be God's agents for the deliverance of His people. Such an affirmation has to be seen as a development beyond that of Dan. 9:25, where the coming Anointed One was expressed as ער משיח נגיר, "up until an Anointed One, a prince." (The One Who Is to Come, p. 89.)

The expectation of three eschatological figures is not unique to the DSS literature; in the New Testament we read:

And they asked him, and said to him, "Why then are you baptizing, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?" (John 1:25 - NASB)

And just a few verses later:

Nathanael answered Him, "Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel." (John 1:49 - NASB)

Turning now to the Old Testament, the 'seeds' for the view that the one who sits on the Davidic throne is not only king, but also a "son of God", a "prophet", a "priest", "lord" and even "God", are detected. We shall begin with Psalm 110:1-5:

Jehovah saith unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, Until I make thine enemies thy footstool. Jehovah will send forth the rod of thy strength out of Zion: Rule thou in the midst of thine enemies. Thy people offer themselves willingly In the day of thy power, in holy array: Out of the womb of the morning Thou hast the dew of thy youth. Jehovah hath sworn, and will not repent: Thou art a priest for ever After the order of Melchizedek. The Lord at thy right hand Will strike through kings in the day of his wrath. (ASV)

Psalm 45: 6, 7:

Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: A sceptre of equity is the sceptre of thy kingdom. hou hast loved righteousness, and hated wickedness: Therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee With the oil of gladness above thy fellows.

Psalm 2:2, 6, 7, 12:

The kings of the earth set themselves, And the rulers take counsel together, Against Jehovah, and against his anointed... Yet I have set my king Upon my holy hill of Zion... I will tell of the decree: Jehovah said unto me, Thou art my son; This day have I begotten thee... Kiss the son, lest he be angry, and ye perish in the way, For his wrath will soon be kindled. Blessed are all they that take refuge in him. (ASV)

In the above verses, the eschatological Davidic king is termed, "my [God's] son", "priest", "lord" and "God". I am not cognizant of any OT passage that explicitly identifies any Davidic king (past or future) as a "prophet", however, in the NT we read:

"Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. And so, because he was a prophet, and knew that GOD HAD SWORN TO HIM WITH AN OATH TO SEAT one OF HIS DESCENDANTS UPON HIS THRONE..." (Acts 2:29, 30 - NASB—see also 2 Sam. 23: 1,2; Matt. 22:43; Acts 1:16; 2:25-28.)

Conclusion/s: I think it is accurate to state that the attributes/titles most Christians identify with Jesus as the promised Messiah (as expounded in the NT), find their roots in the OT, and were cognizant on the minds of others besides the early Christians. Further, all of these attributes/titles concerning the Messiah seem to be linked to the Davidic monarchy, and are identified not only with certain past kings, but also with a future, unnamed, eschatological king.

Grace and peace,


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

An honest assessment of Sola Scriptura

After 163 posts, the Back to the Bible thread is finally winding down. Before proceeding onto the more detailed look at Psalm 110:1 that I hinted at in the combox, I would like to bring to the attention of AF's readers some recent reflections from the pen of the highly respected Evangelical scholar, Roger E. Olson:

I admit it. I am a fallibilist–with regard to human beings (except when being infallibly inspired by God). My definition of “theology” is human reflection on God’s infallible revelation. (Or, in the case of philosophical theology–human reflection on God insofar as unaided reason is able to know something about God.) In other words, I assume that all theologies (outside Scripture itself) are fallible because they are created by finite and fallen human beings.

Unless a person is quoting Scripture in the original language, he or she is humanly interpreting Scripture. There is no such thing as a statement about the meaning of Scripture that is not human interpretation. “It’s interpretation all the way down” applies to every theological system and doctrinal statement. (Roger E. Olson, "Why can't we all just admit our theologies are flawed?".)

Finally, an honest, sober admission from one who holds to the principle of sola scriptura. Any Christian who is not either Catholic or Eastern Orthodox, should deeply reflect on Dr. Olson's cogent assessment...

Grace and peace,


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Back to the Bible

In the combox of our previous thread (Salvation before the birth of Jesus), Ken Temple and GV19 have been carrying on an extended dialogue that is covering numerous issues pertaining to certain distinctions between Christianity (as represented from the Reformed Baptist perspective) and Islam (as represented from the Sunni position). Lvka and myself have also made a few contributions in the combox, some of which Ken has directly responded to apart from his ongoing discussion with GV19. Due to the fact that there are now over 70 comments, I thought it best to create a new thread to address some of the Biblical issues that have been raised by Ken.

I am quite pleased that Ken has raised some very important Biblical issues pertaining to theology proper (i.e. the doctrine of God) and Christology, for I love the Bible, and have been deeply studying the content within its pages for over 40 years now. The above picture represents 4 of my personal Bibles that I have pretty much 'worn out' through extensive use, and in this opening post, will draw heavily upon the 'fruit' that came via their use.

I shall begin by addressing the following that Ken posted back on October 1, 2010 (4:34 AM):

Declare ye, and bring it forth; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath showed this from ancient time? who hath declared it of old? have not I, Jehovah? and there is no God else besides me, a just God and a Saviour; there is none besides me. Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is none else. (Isaiah 45:21, 22 - ASV)

The Father is Jehovah;
the Son is Jehovah;
The Holy Spirit is Jehovah;

3 persons within the One God is not ascribing partners to God, because that would be "two or three gods", which is not what Christians believe.

The details of the revelation of this are not explicitly said in the Isaiah 45 passage, but when Christ came in the flesh ( John 1:1-5; 14-18) - He revealed, manifested, exegeted God. John 1:18

Ken asserts that 3 separate persons are the Jehovah, "the One God", of the Old Testament. In a previous thread (LINK) I demonstrated that the Hebrew and Greek terms used for "God" had a much broader use than today. However, the phrase "the one God", is reserved for the Father alone. The use of God's personal name Jehovah/Yahweh (יְהוָ֨ה), is much more restrictive; apart from a half dozen uses of representation (i.e. where the referent represents Jehovah, but clearly is not the one Jehovah), Jehovah refers to "the One God", the Father—more simply put, Jehovah is the personal name of one person. The overall theology of the OT flows from the Shema:

Hear, O Israel: Jehovah our God is one Jehovah (Deut. 6:4 - ASV)

To state the obvious, the person Jehovah, is one person, not three.

When we turn to the NT, the same clarity is taught; note the following:

Jesus answered, "The foremost is, 'HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD"...

And the scribe said to Him, "Right, Teacher, You have truly stated that HE IS ONE; AND THERE IS NO ONE ELSE BESIDES HIM..." (Mark 12:29, 32 - NASB)

"And this is eternal life, that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent." (John 17:3 - NASB)

"The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus, the one whom you delivered up, and disowned in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release Him." (Acts 3:13- NASB)

...yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things, and we exist for Him...(1 Cor. 8:6 - NASB)

... one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all. (Eph. 4:6- NASB)

Particularly revealing is the quotation of Psalm 110:1 in the NT (5 times, more than any other OT verse):

This Jesus hath God raised up, whereof we all are witnesses. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear. For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, Until I make thy foes thy footstool. Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. (Acts 2:32-36 – KJV: also Matt. 22:44; Mark 12:36; Luke 20:42; Heb. 1:13)

When one references the Hebrew text, a clear distinction between the two "Lords" is made, for the first LORD is the person Jehovah/Yahweh (יְהוָ֨ה) while the second is the generic "lord" (לַֽאדֹנִ֗י):

Jehovah saith unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, Until I make thine enemies thy footstool. (Psalm 110:1 - ASV)

It sure seems to me that the NT is quite clear on WHO the “one God”, “the only true God”, the Jehovah/Yahweh of the OT, “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” is—the Father. So I ask: why is it the case that so many Christians attempt to identify Jesus (and the Spirit) as the “one God”, “the only true God”, the Jehovah/Yahweh of the OT, “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob”? IMO, the answer is not as complex as one might think, and ultimately boils down to a failure to recognize that the terms “God” and “Lord”, and the name Jehovah/Yahweh, are used in a representational sense when applied to persons (and in some cases, places) other than the the “one God”, “the only true God”, the Jehovah/Yahweh of the OT, “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob”.

For instance, Jerusalem is called Jehovah:

In those days shall Judah be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell safely; and this is the name whereby she shall be called: Jehovah our righteousness. (Jer. 33:16 - ASV)

The promised Messiah, the “Branch” is called Jehovah:

In his [the “Branch”] the days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely; and this is his name whereby he shall be called: Jehovah our righteousness. (Jer. 23:6 - ASV)

And the angel of Jehovah is called Jehovah:

And he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of Jehovah, and Satan standing at his right hand to be his adversary. And Jehovah said unto Satan, Jehovah rebuke thee, O Satan; yea, Jehovah that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire? (Zech. 3:1, 2 – ASV)

Now, I know of no one who believes that Jerusalem is actually the Jehovah, “the one God”; with this in mind, read the following from the pen of the prophet Zechariah, and try to discern the very important interpretive principle presented:

Jehovah also shall save the tents of Judah first, that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem be not magnified above Judah. In that day shall Jehovah defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem: and he that is feeble among them at that day shall be as David; and the house of David shall be as God, as the angel of Jehovah before them. (Zech. 12:7, 8 – ASV)

So much more to cover, but it will have to wait for another post (probably posts).

Grace and peace,