John 12:37–43 (ESV) — 37 Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, 38 so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” 39 Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, 40 “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.” 41 Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him. 42 Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.
In this text, John cites two passages from Isaiah.
- Isaiah 53:1 and Isaiah 6:10.
- He does so to explain why so many of Jesus’ own people reject Him.
- “A major burden informing John’s use of explicit OT quotations is to provide his readers with a biblical rationale for the rejection of Jesus as Messiah” – Andreas Kostenberger.
But, not surprisingly, there is much more going on with John’s use of Isaiah.
- We will see that, based on John’s use of Isaiah, we have yet another implicit identification of Jesus with YHWH and/or the uniqueness of YHWH.
We have referred to these implicit identifications as the messaging of the NT writers.
- Jonathan Lett calls this messaging a “field of symbols and metaphors” from which the NT writers draw from.
- And this messaging about Jesus’ identity is every bit as explicit – in their eyes – as direct proclamations that Jesus is God.
To begin, we need to get a quick grip on a hermeneutic in play with the NT usage of the OT.
- Often, when NT writers quote a verse from an OT passage, they mean to invoke the entire passage.
- So a reference to one text is a reference to the entire passage.
- “No text is received in isolation from other texts” – Jonathan Lett.
Furthermore, the connections made to these OT passages are often shaped or directed by…
- The “exegetical principle of gezera shawa” – Jonathan Lett.
The principle of gezera shawa simply means:
- “Passages that contain identical or similar words should be interpreted with reference to one another” – Jonathan Lett.
- Or, better yet, “passages including identical words or phrases may be used to interpret each other” – Richard Bauckham.
Using these principles, John connects Jesus with two significant passages and some significant words.
- The Passages – Isaiah’s encounter with God (Isaiah 6), and the Suffering Servant (Isaiah 52-53).
- The Words – Glorify and Exalt.
As we connect all these dots…
- We will see how John identifies Jesus with the uniqueness of YHWH.
- Yet another example of how the NT writers blur the lines between Jesus and YHWH.
- Once again, something we think is best understood from a Trinitarian framework.
- (The source for this is a recent article by Jonathan Lett in JBL).
(1) The first thing that connects John 12, Isaiah 6 and Isaiah 53 is the display of God’s glory.
- John 12:23 (ESV) — 23 And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified [doxazo].
- Isaiah 52:13 (LES) — 13 Look! My child will understand and be raised up and be magnified [doxazo] exceedingly.
- Isaiah 6:3 (ESV) — 3 And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory! [doxa]”
John associates Jesus glorification with the upcoming Passion events.
- Isaiah associates the glory of the Suffering Servant with his appearance, “marred, beyond human semblance” – Isa. 52:14.
- And he associates the glory of YHWH with the nature of his appearance in the temple.
(2) The second thing that connects these passages is the idea of exaltation or being lifted up.
- John 12:32 (ESV) — 32 And I, when I am lifted up [hypsoo] from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”
- Isaiah 52:13 (LES) — 13 Look! My child will understand and be raised up [hypsoo] and be magnified [doxazo] exceedingly.
- Isaiah 6:1 (ESV) — 1 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up [hypselos]; and the train of his robe filled the temple.
John links Jesus coming glorification with His exaltation to the cross – cross=glorification.
- “…it is precisely through the Servant’s suffering and death that he comes to be glorified” – Kostenberger.
- Isaiah links the Servants glorification with being raised up for all to see.
- And he links YHWH’s glory to his exalted status on His throne.
(3) There is one more thing that connects the passages – the idea of rejection.
- John 12:37 (ESV) — 37 Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him,
- John 1:11 (ESV) — 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.
- Isaiah 53:3 (ESV) — 3 He was despised and rejected by men…he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”
- Isaiah 6:9 (ESV) — 9 And he said, “Go, and say to this people: “ ‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’
John links the exaltation and glorification themes with the reason for the rejection of Jesus.
- Isaiah makes the same link in Isaiah 53 with the rejection of the Suffering Servant.
- And in Isa. 6 he contrasts his reaction to the exalted YHWH with the Israelites who “do not perceive”.
From this we can see a correlation of events:
- So, obviously, there is a connection between the three passages around the themes of “lifting up, glorification, [and] rejection” – Jonathan Lett.
- And the subject of these actions is Jesus, Suffering Servant and YHWH.
The question, for our purposes, is how does John connect the identities of these three?
- From a Christian perspective, there is little debate that Jesus is the Suffering Servant.
- Some argue that the Suffering Servant is Israel.
- John’s use of the passage creates problem for this approach.
Given this, the real question for us would be:
- Is the exaltation, glorification and rejection of Jesus/Suffering Servant…
- Something He experienced as merely a DHA (divinely appointed human agent)…
- Or are the connections between the passages meant to tell us Jesus/Suffering Servant is the Visible YHWH of Isaiah 6?
John has two things to say about this question.
(1) Firstly he says this:
- John 12:38 (ESV) — 38 so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”
This is a quote from Isaiah 53:1:
- Isaiah 53:1 (ESV) — 1 Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
Who is the arm of the YHWH?
- It is the Suffering Servant.
- It is Jesus.
- This language is OT visible YHWH language.
(2) Secondly John says this:
- John 12:41 (ESV) — 41 Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him.
When did Isaiah see “his glory”?
- Isaiah 6:1–3 (ESV) — 1 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord [Adonai] sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. 2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord [YHWH] of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”
Whose glory did Isaiah see?
- In Isaiah 6, Isaiah says he saw Adonai/YHWH’s glory.
- And he saw it while Adonai/YHWH was sitting upon His throne.
- This is the glory of the visible YHWH!
But John just said that Isaiah saw Jesus’ glory.
- So given all the connections we have discussed…
- John is connecting Jesus, the Suffering Servant with the uniqueness of YHWH.
- Jesus’ glory is YHWH’s glory.
- YHWH’s glory is Jesus’ glory.
Craig Evans puts it this way:
“The glory which Isaiah saw, according to the evangelist, is that of the ‘exalted’ Christ, that is, the Christ who was ‘lifted up’ on the cross and crucified. This was the same glory which was seen when the ‘word became flesh and dwelt among us’” – Craig Evans.
(3) There is one more way John intimately connects Jesus with YHWH.
- Jesus, the Suffering Servant, is despised and rejected.
- He is not rejected as merely a DHA of God.
John makes it clear with his connections…
- Jesus is rejected, like YHWH in Isaiah 6, as the exalted and glorified Lord.
- John places the “rejection of Jesus onto the wider history of Israel’s inability to respond to God” – Jonathan Lett.
In other words:
- To reject Jesus and His exalted glory on the violent and jarring cross…
- Is to reject the exalted and splendid glory of YWHW the Lord on His throne (who John says was Jesus).
Jonathan Lett puts it this way:
“Isaiah’s visions of Jesus’s glory in the temple and in the figure of the servant force the reader to reconcile these seemingly disparate images of Jesus as a dishonored and disfigured servant and as the holy Lord enthroned on high in his heavenly temple.”
I will let Lett conclude this section for us.
“With Isa 52:13–53:12 and Isa 6, John delivers the most startling news: the divine and holy Jesus sits on the temple throne because he also hangs on a cross—scorned, disfigured, steeped in shame—and because he hangs there forsaken, he also presides gloriously over all the earth in his heavenly temple…Israel simply cannot recognize the identity of their God, who is the kind of God that comes to them in the lowliness of Jesus” – Jonathan Lett.
There is one final element of the NT’s handling of Jesus that is better explained by a Trinitarian view.
- The worship of Jesus – or cultic devotion of Jesus (Larry Hurtado).
- (This section is based on the work of Larry Hurtado).
The first thing to take note of is that the worship of Jesus represents a massive change in the Jewish tradition.
- The “earliest Christian devotion constituted a significant mutation or innovation in Jewish monotheistic tradition” – Larry Hurtado.
Specifically, the Christian mutation was as follows:
It involved “making the exalted Jesus an object of devotion. More specifically, Christ came to be included as an object of the devotional attention characteristically reserved for God in other examples of Jewish tradition” – Larry Hurtado.
And significantly, this addition of Jesus was unprecedented!
- “…this mutation in Jewish tradition may be seen as an unprecedented reshaping of monotheistic piety to include a second object of devotion alongside God…” – Larry Hurtado.
- There is no other case in any Jewish tradition of such a thing taking place.
And importantly, this unprecedented mutation, as we saw last week…
- Happened “among a group that continued to consider itself firmly committed to ‘one God’” – Larry Hurtado.
Larry Hurtado says there were six specific mutations in Jewish monotheism to accommodate Jesus.
- (1) Hymnic Practices
- (2) Prayer Practices
- (3) Use of Name of Christ
- (4) Lord’s Supper
- (5) Confessing Jesus
- (6) Prophetic Pronouncements of Risen Christ
When we speak of worship as cultic devotion…
- It is to these 6 mutations that we are referring.
(1) Hymic Practices
The hymns are “mainly devoted to celebrating the work and significance of Christ” – Larry Hurtado.
- There are three major passages considered to be Christ hymns.
- John 1:1-18
- Colossians 1:15-20
- Philippians 2:5-11
There are many more “fragments of hymns” throughout the NT (Hurtado).
- Revelation has many hymns sung to the Lamb.
- And, no doubt, many Psalms were sung in devotion to Jesus (Hurtado).
- Most notably, Psalm 110, the most quoted OT passage in the NT.
The Philippians hymn is as follows:
- Philippians 2:5b–11 (ESV) — 5b Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
(2) Prayer Practices
“Christ was regularly invoked and appealed to in prayer” – Larry Hurtado.
- A practice usually reserved for YHWH.
- But in the NT, prayer is now split between the Father and Jesus.
A couple of examples of prayer to Jesus:
- Acts 7:59–60 (ESV) — 59 And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.
- 2 Corinthians 12:7–9 (ESV) — 7 So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
(3) Name of Christ
Invoking the name of Christ was yet another way cultic devotion and worship of Christ were demonstrated.
- (a) “The most familiar practice involving the name of Christ is the Christian initiatory rite of baptism” – Larry Hurtado.
- (b) There are also instances of “calling upon the name of Jesus the Lord” – Hurtado.
Some examples of baptism in the name:
- Acts 10:48 (ESV) — 48 And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days.
- Acts 19:5 (ESV) — 5 On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.
Some examples of calling on the name:
- 1 Corinthians 1:2 (ESV) — 2 To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:
- Romans 10:13 (ESV) — 13 For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Interestingly, this calling on the name idea:
- “…apparently derived originally from Old Testament passages that refer to calling ‘upon the Lord’” – Larry Hurtado.
- Genesis 12:8 (ESV) — 8 From there he moved to the hill country on the east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. And there he built an altar to the Lord and called upon the name of the Lord.
- Joel 2:32 (ESV) — 32a And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.
- Does Romans 10:13 suggest that the name of YHWH in Joel is the name of Lord Jesus?
- Yet another blurring of the lines with the name of YHWH and Jesus.
(4) Lord’s Supper:
The Lord’s Supper is one of the earliest glimpses “we have of the corporate gatherings of Jewish Christians” – Larry Hurtado.
- Strikingly, it is centered around and shows, “the prominent place of the risen Christ in their devotional practice” – Larry Hurtado.
- And as with the other mutations, there is no record found in “ancient Jewish devotion” of such a practice.
The obvious Lord’s Supper example comes from 1 Corinthians.
- 1 Corinthians 11:23–26 (ESV) — 23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.
(5) Confessing Jesus
Confessing in Jesus’ name simply meant:
- “…owning up to one’s faith before others who did not share it and affirming one’s faith in gatherings of believers” – Larry Hurtado.
Matthew attributes it to Jesus Himself:
- Matthew 10:32 (ESV) — 32 So everyone who acknowledges [homologeo] me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven,
- ASV version rightly uses “confesses” instead of “acknowledges”.
The most popular example is found in Romans.
- Romans 10:9 (ESV) — 9 because, if you confess [homologeo] with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
It is also widely believed that the beginning of Romans has a homologeo of Christ.
- Romans 1:3–4 (ESV) — 3 concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh 4 and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord,
And so given the practice of confessing Jesus:
- “We have…yet another example of the distinctive shape of [Christian] religious life” – Larry Hurtado.
- Distinctive, as we have been saying, from any previous Jewish practice.
(6) Prophesying Words of Risen Jesus
A final Christian mutation of early Jewish devotion that must be noted is:
- “…prophecy uttered as the words of the heavenly Christ” – Larry Hurtado.
An example of this is found in Revelation.
- Revelation 1:17–19 (ESV) — 17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. 19 Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this.
- So John was prophesying, not YHWH’s words, but Jesus’ words.
Why is the prophesying of Jesus’ words particularly significant?
The context is a people committed to ancient Jewish monotheism “and its traditional concern about false prophecy” – Larry Hurtado.
Moses reveals why this context is so important.
- Deuteronomy 13:1–3 (ESV) — 1 “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, 2 and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ 3 you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.
Moses would go on to say that the prophet prophesying in the name of any god but YHWH should be put to death.
- This is because prophesying the words of any one but YHWH was a sign of disloyalty and disobedience.
- And it was a subversion of the authority of YHWH over His people.
And yet, we have ancient Jewish monotheists who confess loyalty to YHWH prophesying Jesus’ words.
So, “If a person was able to command the attention and acceptance of early Christian groups and be regarded as a true prophet by convincing them that he or she spoke the words of the risen Christ [instead of YHWH], this means that these groups gave to the words of this Lord the same sort of authority as they accorded to the prophetic address of God himself or of his ‘Spirit’’’ – Larry Hurtado.
The prophesy from Christ equaled the prophesy of YHWH.
- It had to; otherwise Deut. 13 would be in play!
- And those prophesying the words of Jesus would be going after “other gods”.
I will let Larry Hurtado close this lesson out.
“Jewish Christians gathered in Jesus’ name for worship, prayed to him and sang hymns to him, regarded him as exalted to a position of heavenly rule above all angelic orders, appropriated to him titles and Old Testament passages originally referring to God, sought to bring fellow Jews as well as Gentiles to embrace him as the divinely appointed redeemer, and in general redefined their devotion to the God of their fathers so as to include the veneration of Jesus” – Larry Hurtado.
“The proper questions are whether Jesus was included uniquely in the sort of reverence that was otherwise reserved for God, and whether Jesus shared in the sort of reverence that in ancient Jewish and Christian circles was typically denied to any other figure (than God)…the answer to these questions is a resounding ‘yes’” – Larry Hurtado.