Tag Archives: Larry Hurtado

Scott Swain Misrepresents Larry Hurtado in JETS?

misrepresentation

Context

I’ve been studying the doctrine of the Trinity for two plus years. I’m obsessed with it. Can’t imagine a more engaging subject. It’s a topic that overlaps many disciplines – patristic studies, church history, biblical theology, dogmatics and philosophy. I love it. It’s a challenge.

 

My pursuit of the Trinity has included authors as diverse as Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Origen, GNaz, Dale Tuggy, Fred Sanders, James White, James Anderson, Thomas McCall, Scott Swain, William Hasker, Keith Ward, Luke Stamps, Larry Hurtado, Michael Heiser, Alan Segal, Richard Bauckham, Daniel Howard-Snyder, Michael Rea, Sarah Coakley, George Karamanolis, Kavin Rowe, WLC, and more.

 

To that end, I recently read an article in the March 2017 edition of the Journal of the Evangelical Society. The article is written by Scott Swain, president of Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando. The title: “The Bible and the Trinity in Recent Thought: Review, Analysis, and Constructive Proposal”.

 

In a section dealing with “the mode of the Trinity’s presence in the Bible,” Swain makes this point:

The Trinity does not present himself to us in Holy Scripture in the form of the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed. Some, of course, claim this as evidence that the Trinity does not present himself to us in any form in the Bible and that the church’s Trinitarian dogma is the product of later, extrabiblical influences on its thinking, life, and liturgy. Wilhelm Bousset argued that it was only when the church had forgotten its Jewish monotheistic roots that it could, under the influences of its Hellenistic context, affirm the deity of Jesus Christ. The church’s Trinitarian dogma, according to this view, is “a work of the Greek Spirit on the soil of the Gospel,” to use Adolf Von Harnack’s famous description. Martin Hengel and others have undermined Bousset’s sharp distinction between an early Palestinian form of Christianity and a later Hellenized form.

 

Swain then cites scholars Richard Bauckham and Larry Hurtado as having “further discredited” Bousset’s view:

Richard Bauckham and Larry Hurtado, representatives of what Hengel dubbed the “new history of religions school,” have further discredited Bousset’s theory, demonstrating that the early church identified Jesus with and worshipped Jesus as the one true God of Israel.

 

 

Concern

What concerns me here is Swain’s representation of Larry Hurtado’s work. Along with Bauckham, Swain cites Hurtado as, “demonstrating that the early church identified Jesus with and worshipped Jesus as the one true God of Israel”. (I’m not dealing here with Swain’s larger point about the work of Bousset).

 

At the time, this representation of Hurtado struck me as wrong. I’ve read a number of his books, scores of his blog posts, and listened to him multiple times on assorted podcasts. I was certain he never endorsed or espoused this “Jesus is God” view in his published work.

 

But to be sure, I decided to go straight to the source – Hurtado himself. I contacted him with the following question:

I just read in the March issue of JETS a Scott Swain article. He cites you as demonstrating, and I quote, “that the early church identified Jesus with and worshipped Jesus as the one true God of Israel”. Now, unless I’m mistaken, I’ve never read or heard you make such a claim. Have you ever claimed this in your writings? If so, where? I need to reread the appropriate sections if I have overlooked this.

 

Hurtado did not disappoint. His answer to my question was clear and precise:

Corby: I too don’t recall making the claim that the early church identified Jesus “as the one true God of Israel.” I’ve noted that the earliest evidence shows the glorified/risen Jesus treated as uniquely linked with God, and as sharing the divine throne, divine name and glory, but also regularly distinguished from “God”. The application of OT “YHWH texts” to Jesus is remarkable (as David Capes showed in his book on the topic). But I myself don’t think that this justifies the sort of statement that you cite.

 

Hurtado confirmed my suspicions.

 

But more than that, he actually undercuts the “Jesus as God” point Swain attributes to Hurtado. Hurtado says, “But I myself don’t think that this justifies the sort of statement you cite”. What statement? Jesus is identified “as the one true God of Israel”.

 

Here is my concern: It appears to me that a highly respected scholar in Trinitarian studies misrepresented the work of another scholar in order to give an additional appearance of credibility to his argument. This is a serious problem.

 

 

Conclusion

At this point in the story, I decided to  contact Scott Swain directly. He was gracious enough to private message with me and hear my concerns. He disagreed with my take on his use of Hurtado. And yes, I sent him Hurtado’s response.

 

I pressed Swain further on the issue and he ended the conversation. I did have a glimmer of hope, however. He said he would seek the opinion of Hurtado directly. I asked him to keep me in the loop. If I am wrong on this, I want to know. I never heard back from him.

 

Did Swain misrepresent Hurtado? If you think he did, how would you characterize the severity of Swain’s misrepresentation? If you think he didn’t, where have I gone wrong?

 

Exploration of the Trinity – Part 9 – Jesus Glory and Jesus Devotion

Jesus Glory:

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.

 

 

Hermeneutics 101:

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).

 

 

The Connections:

(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 Meaning:

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.

 

Why?

  • 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.”

 

Conclusion:

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.

 

 

Jesus Devotion:

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).

 

 

Christian Mutation:

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.

 

 

The Mutations:

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:

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”.

 

 

Conclusion:

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.

 

Therefore:

“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.

 

Exploration of the Trinity – Part 3 – Divine Agency, Visible YHWH and The Two Powers

Last week we dealt with the first proposition in our Trinity septad:

  • “God is one”.

 

To that end, we unpacked the meaning of ancient Jewish Monotheism.

  • We saw that its main feature was the uniqueness of YHWH.
  • This uniqueness was highlighted by comparisons to other “elohim” – other gods.

 

And importantly, we noted that:

  • Ancient Jewish monotheism as a concept did not affirm or deny that YHWH’s nature was singular.

 

The significance of this is that it is part of our efforts to…

  • Lay out the Biblical landscape that is relevant to an affirmation of the Trinity.

 

Today we continue to build on this Biblical landscape with more weird, wild stuff.

  • Specifically, Divine Agency, Visible/Invisible YHWH, and Two Powers.
  • All of these expand on what the uniqueness of YHWH can accommodate.

 

 

Divine Agency:

Divine Agency is an idea prevalent throughout the OT and 2nd temple Judaism.

  • It is “the fundamental idea that God might have a chief agent prominent over all other servants of God and associated with him particularly closely” – Larry Hurtado.
  • This chief agent “stood far above all other servants of God” – Larry Hurtado.
  • This agent was “associated with God in a unique capacity in the manifestation of his sovereignty” – Larry Hurtado.

 

Some examples of OT divine agents are.

  • God’s Wisdom
  • The Angel of YHWH
  • Cloud Rider Son of Man

 

Wisdom:

Proverbs is full of references to a personified Wisdom seen as a divine agent of YHWH.

  • Proverbs 8:22–31 (ESV) — 22 “The Lord possessed me [Wisdom] at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of old. 23 Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth. 24 When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water. 25 Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth, 26 before he had made the earth with its fields, or the first of the dust of the world. 27 When he established the heavens, I was there; when he drew a circle on the face of the deep, 28 when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep, 29 when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command, when he marked out the foundations of the earth, 30 then I was beside him, like a master workman, and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always, 31 rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the children of man.

 

Angel of YHWH:

Exodus 23 contains one of many well know examples of the Angel of YHWH.

  • Exodus 23:20–21 (ESV) — 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.

 

About this text, Larry Hurtado says:

“Given the enormous significance of the name of God in ancient Jewish tradition, the description of [the angel] as indwelt by God’s name suggests that this figure has been given exceptional status in God’s hierarchy, perhaps superior to all but God himself” – Larry Hurtado.

 

Cloud Rider Son of Man:

  • Daniel 7:9–14 (ESV) — 9 “As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of Days took his seat; his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames; its wheels were burning fire. 10 A stream of fire issued and came out from before him; a thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him; the court sat in judgment, and the books were opened. 11 “I looked then because of the sound of the great words that the horn was speaking. And as I looked, the beast was killed, and its body destroyed and given over to be burned with fire. 12 As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but their lives were prolonged for a season and a time. 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.

 

Notice here that more than one throne is in view – presumably two.

  • One is obviously for the “Ancient of Days” since he “took his seat”.
  • Is the other for the cloud rider who appeared to be a “son of man”?
  • It seems rather odd to be “given dominion and glory and a kingdom” and not given a throne.

 

And about this text, Larry Hurtado says:

“The description of this figure supplies us with evidence that ancient Jews of the time of Daniel were comfortable with picturing God as exalting some figure to the position of chief agent, with no threat to the uniqueness of God” – Larry Hurtado.

 

We have only skimmed the surface of divine agency in ancient Judaism.

  • There are many more examples to be found both in the OT and in 2nd Temple Jewish literature.

 

But from this very brief survey, it should rather obvious that:

  • Divine agency provides us with yet another important piece of the Biblical landscape relevant to the Trinity.
  • There will be more on this when we get to the “Jesus is God” premise of our septad.

 

 

Visible and Invisible YHWH:

In the OT there exists a distinction between YHWH in visible and in invisible form.

“The startling reality is that long before Jesus and the New Testament, careful readers of the Old Testament would not have been troubled by the notion of, essentially, two Yahwehs — one invisible and in heaven, the other manifest on earth in a variety of visible forms, including that of a man” – Michael Heiser.

 

The Angel of YHWH (which we have seen is also cast as a divine agent) is the most intriguing example.

  • Exodus 3:1–6 (ESV) — 1 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.

 

Look what Stephen says in Acts 7:

  • Acts 7:30–32 (ESV) — 30 “Now when forty years had passed, an angel appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, in a flame of fire in a bush. 31 When Moses saw it, he was amazed at the sight, and as he drew near to look, there came the voice of the Lord: 32I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob.’ And Moses trembled and did not dare to look.

 

As is demonstrated in the above verses:

  • The OT constantly blurs the lines between the visible YHWH – the Angel of YHWH – and the invisible YHWH.

 

Who was speaking?

  • Who was visible?
  • If it was only the heavenly YHWH, why the appearance of the Angel of YHWH?

 

Another great example of this is when the OT talks about who led the Israelites out of Egypt.

  • Deuteronomy 4:34–37 (ESV) — 34 Or has any god ever attempted to go and take a nation for himself from the midst of another nation, by trials, by signs, by wonders, and by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and by great deeds of terror, all of which the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes? 35 To you it was shown, that you might know that the Lord is God; there is no other besides him. 36 Out of heaven he let you hear his voice, that he might discipline you. And on earth he let you see his great fire, and you heard his words out of the midst of the fire. 37 And because he loved your fathers and chose their offspring after them and brought you out of Egypt with his own presence, by his great power,

 

Who or what is the presence of YHWH from verse 37 above?

  • Judges 2:1 (ESV) — 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,
  • Once again, the OT blurs the lines between the two.

 

One more example of blurring the lines between the visible Angel and the invisible God is Genesis 48.

  • Genesis 48:15–16 (ESV) — 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.”

 

This passage connects “The God” and “the angel” textually in parallel.

  • Does doing so mean God is a mere angel or is the angel God?

 

Michael Heiser answers the question this way:

“The parallel position of elohim and mal’ak is unmistakable. Since the Bible very clearly teaches that God is eternal and existed before all things, and that angels are created beings, the point of this explicit parallel is not to say that God is an angel. On the other hand, it affirms that this angel is God. But the most striking feature is the verb (“may he bless”). In Hebrew, the verb “bless” in this passage is not grammatically plural, which would indicate two different persons are being asked to bless the boys. Rather, it is singular, thereby telegraphing a tight fusion of the two divine beings on the part of the author. In other words, the writer had a clear opportunity to distinguish the God of Israel from the angel, but instead merges their identities” – Michael Heiser.

 

This visible/invisible YHWH stuff is yet another crucial piece of the Biblical landscape relevant to the Trinity.

 

And, we also need to note something else fairly significant.

  • These Jewish beliefs about divine agents and the visible/invisible YWHW were held BEFORE Jesus came on the scene.
  • In other words, we are not reading something into the text that isn’t there just to suit our purposes.

 

 

Two Powers:

There is one more feature of ancient Judaism that is relevant to our construction of a Trinitarian Biblical landscape.

  • It is called Two Powers.
  • And it does have overlap with divine agency and the visible/invisible YHWH.

 

What is Two Powers?

  • It is “interpreting scripture to say that a principal angelic or hypostatic [embodied] manifestation in heaven was equivalent to God” – Alan Segal.
  • And that this angelic or personal manifestation was equal in authority to God.

 

Alan Segal tells us that:

  • “The early biblical theophanies which picture God as a man or confuse YWHW with an angel are the basis of the tradition” – Alan Segal.

 

Our knowledge of this tradition comes from 2nd Temple Judaism and Hellenistic Jews like Philo.

  • Philo was born before Christ in 25 BC in Alexandria, Egypt.

 

But even more interesting is what we learn from the Jewish rabbis of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd centuries.

  • They characterized Two Powers as a heresy.
  • One that jeopardized their monotheism.

 

The rabbis acknowledged “that God manifested Himself in two ways” – Alan Segal.

  • They rejected two authorities.

 

And like divine agency and the visible/invisible YHWH traditions:

The “two powers in heaven was a very early category of heresy, earlier than Jesus” – Alan Segal.

 

Two Powers Examples:

Daniel 7 provides us with our first example.

  • We just saw it as an example of divine agency.
  • But it also serves as an example of two powers.

 

We only need to look at verse 9.

  • Daniel 7:9–14 (ESV) — 9 “As I looked, thrones were placed, and the Ancient of Days took his seat; his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames; its wheels were burning fire.

 

Alan Segal simply says this:

  • This passage “may easily be describing two separate, divine figures” – Alan Segal.
  • Why? Two thrones.
  • Thrones represent authority.
  • And this text gives us two seats of authority.

 

Daniel 7 gave the rabbis such headaches that one, Rabbi Akiba (mid 2nd century), opted for the idea that:

“Both figures in heaven were seen to be divine, one God in two hypostases [embodiments]” rather than allow for the “Son of Man” to be the Messiah – Alan Segal.

  • In other words when faced with two powers or Messiah – he oddly went with two powers.

 

Some other examples where two powers were believed to be present:

  • Exodus 15:3 (ESV) — 3 The Lord is a man of war; the Lord is his name.
  • Exodus 24:9–10 (ESV) — 9 Then Moses and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel went up, 10 and they saw the God of Israel. There was under his feet as it were a pavement of sapphire stone, like the very heaven for clearness.
  • Exodus 24:1 (ESV) — 1 Then he said to Moses, “Come up to the Lord, you and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and worship from afar.

 

Deuteronomy 32:39 gives us a peculiar one.

  • Deuteronomy 32:39 (ESV) — 39 “ ‘See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.
  • The two “I’s” were seen as two powers of YHWH.

 

Interestingly, the LXX changed this verse.

  • It changed the two “I’s” to two “sees”.
  • It reads, “See, See that I am, and there is no god except me”.
  • Alan Segal says such a change implies “an early [two powers] sensitivity to the verse” – Segal.

 

Joshua 24:19 also gives us an interesting example.

  • Joshua 24:19 (ESV) — 19 But Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the Lord, for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins.

 

“Holy” here is plural whereas “jealous” is singular.

  • In other words – it can be read as “they is/are a holy God”.

 

 

Philo and The Two Power Tradition:

Philo has a very interesting version of the two power tradition:

  • He believed in “…a second, principal, divine creature, whom he calls a ‘second God,’ who nevertheless is only the visible emanation of the High, ever-existing God” – Alan Segal.

 

Philo’s two power beliefs centered around a hypostasized (embodied) logos.

  • The logos was “a separate, second divine hypostasis [embodiment]” – Alan Segal.
  • Logos was Philo’s explanation for “all the angelic and human manifestations of the divine in the OT” – Alan Segal.
  • The Angel of YHWH was the logos, for example.

 

Philo believed that:

  • “The logos becomes the actual figure of God, who appears ‘like a man’ in order that men may know His presence” – Alan Segal.
  • “…God is able to reach into the transient world, act in it, fill it, as well as transcend material existence, without implying a change in His essence” – Alan Segal.

 

Another interesting tidbit about Philo and logos:

  • “Philo maintains that the logos was God’s partner in creation…he calls the logos, ‘The Beginning,’ ‘The Ruler of the Angels,’ and significantly, ‘the Name of God.’” – Alan Segal.

 

 

Place Where God Stands = Logos:

Philo saw any text that spoke of “place” in reference to God’s presence as the manifestation of the second power – the logos.

  • Yes…this overlaps with our visible/invisible YHWH discussion.

 

Some examples of this are found in the following passages (LXX):

  • Exodus 24:10 (LXX) – “And they perceived the place where God stands…
    • Philo read this as “they perceived the logos”.
  • Genesis 31:13 (LXX) – “I am the God who appeared to you in the place of God…
    • Philo read this as “appeared to you as logos”.

 

Philo says that these two power passages:

  • Demonstrate that God assumes the “likeness of man”.
  • “Thus God can actually appear to men as a man or angel” – Alan Segal.

 

Rabbis judged all of these views as heresy.

  • Such views seemed to advocate two equal powers and authorities with YHWH.
  • Something they soundly rejected.

 

 

Conclusion:

Over the past two weeks, we have surveyed the Biblical landscape as it pertains to the Trinity.

  • We have seen nothing that would render a Trinitarian view as unreasonable.
  • Over the coming weeks, we will look at Jesus in light of this Biblical landscape.

 

 

Psalm 110 – An Exaltation Psalm

Psalm 110:1–7 (ESV) — 1 The Lord [Yahweh] says to my Lord [Adonai]: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” 2 The Lord sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter. Rule in the midst of your enemies! 3 Your people will offer themselves freely on the day of your power, in holy garments; from the womb of the morning, the dew of your youth will be yours. 4 The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, “You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” 5 The Lord is at your right hand; he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath. 6 He will execute judgment among the nations, filling them with corpses; he will shatter chiefs over the wide earth. 7 He will drink from the brook by the way; therefore he will lift up his head.

 

 

Introduction:

Psalm 110, a Davidic Psalm, is the most cited and alluded to OT text in the NT.

  • The main point of this lesson will be to find out why this is so.
  • Before we do anything, however, we need to determine whom Psalm 110 is about.

 

Who is Psalm 110 about?

  • We will let Jesus answer this question for us.
  • Matthew 22:41–46 (ESV) — 41 Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, 42 saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” They said to him, “The son of David.” 43 He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, 44 “ ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet” ’? 45 If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?” 46 And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.

 

Jesus asks the Pharisees about the sonship of “the Christ” – the Messiah.

  • They suggest that the Messiah will be a “son” of David.
  • They were partly correct.
  • The OT makes clear that the Messiah is in the line of David.
  • The problem is that Jewish thought understood that this “son” of David would be nothing more than a man.
    • More on this later.

 

Jesus then quotes Psalm 110 to correct them and thereby does three important things.

  • (1) He affirms the Davidic authorship of Psalm 110 – “David…saying”.
  • (2) He affirms the inspired nature of David’s words – “David, in the Spirit…
  • (3) He answers our question – David is not speaking of himself, but about the Messiah.

 

Jesus’ words in Matthew certainly give us some insight into why Psalm 110 was important.

  • But, they only scratch the surface.

 

 

The Exaltation of Jesus Christ:

The fundamental reason that Psalm 110 is so important to the NT writers is because it is an exaltation Psalm.

 

We need to answer three questions to dig into why this makes Psalm 110 so important.

  • (1) How do we know it is an exaltation Psalm?
  • (2) What is exaltation?
  • (3) Why was the exaltation so important?

 

Question 1 Answered – Why an Exaltation Psalm:

The best way to answer this question is to look at a few passages of NT Scripture.

  • Mark 16:19 (ESV) — 19 So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God.
  • Acts 5:31 (ESV) — 31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.
  • Philippians 2:9–11 (ESV) — 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name [the Lord], 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.
  • Hebrews 10:12–13 (ESV) — 12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet.
  • Ephesians 1:20–22 (ESV) — 20 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church,

 

All of these texts directly quote or allude to Psalm 110.

  • In so doing, they teach us that:
  • (1) Jesus is the one about whom David spoke.
  • (2) Jesus is the one in Psalm 110 who was exalted to the “right hand of God”.

 

Huge Implication:

What this means is, as Jesus made clear above, King David is not saying, “God said to me” in Psalm 110:1.

  • According to the Hebrew in Psalm 110, Jesus’ exegesis in Matthew, and the NT writers, King David is literally saying, “Yahweh said to Adonai – Jesus the Messiah – sit at my right hand”.
  • So Psalm 110 is a prophetic Psalm of David about the exaltation of the divine Messiah – Jesus Christ!
  • This begins to get at why Psalm 110 was/is so important.

 

BTW – We spoke last week about baggage we carry that hinders our understanding of God’s truth.

  • We should be asking why is it that the Pharisees to whom Jesus was talking to in Matthew didn’t see what David was talking about – that the Messiah is Adonai; more than just a son of David.
  • The problem goes back to one’s posture before Scripture.
  • John MacArthur says of the Pharisees in Matthew 22 that they, like so many of us, looked to Scripture “…for the purpose of trying to shore up their humanly devised religious traditions and personal preferences” – John MacArthur.
  • It appears that sometimes the truth might get in the way of our personal preferences.

 

Question 2 Answered – What is Exaltation:

Exaltation means to “raise to the supreme position” and “give exceptional honor to” – DBL.

  • The above texts make this very claim for Jesus.
  • Jesus’ exaltation meant He was/is seated at the right hand of God – “the supreme position”.

“In the ancient world, to sit at a person’s right hand was to occupy a place of honor; a seat at the right hand of the host would be a place of honor at a dinner. To sit at a king’s right hand was more than mere honor; it was to share in his rule. It signified participation in the royal dignity and power” – James Boice.

 

Implications of Exaltation:

Jesus’ resurrection vindicated His death on the cross by demonstrating His power to defeat death.

  • Jesus’ exaltation demonstrated His identity as God and His right to rule over the Kingdom He inaugurated.
  • “The Psalm [110] celebrates the exaltation of Christ to the throne of an eternal and increasing kingdom, and a perpetual priesthood (Zec 6:13), involving the subjugation of His enemies and the multiplication of His subjects, and rendered infallibly certain by the word and oath of Almighty God” – Robert Jamieson.

 

Question 3 Answered – Why So Important:

We have seen that Psalm 110 is a prophetic Psalm of David about the exaltation of the divine Messiah – Jesus Christ!

  • Clearly an incredibly important declaration.
  • But there are more reasons why Psalm 110 is so significant.

 

With the onset of this new Jewish sect we have something problematic in a Jewish context.

  • “Earliest Christianity wasn’t simply a set of beliefs or assertions, but also involved a new pattern of worship of the one God in which Jesus was central” – Larry Hurtado.

 

From a Jewish context, then, two things needed to be established concerning Jesus.

  • (1) How is a “man” who walked among us now worthy of worship?
  • (2) How does this work within Jewish monotheism?

 

Think about it like this.

  • Why was Saul of Tarsus killing off members of this new Jewish sect that worshipped a “man” who died?
  • It is worth noting that the first thing he proclaimed after his conversion concerned the identity of Jesus (Acts 9:20).

 

Peter Answers These Questions:

With Psalm 16, we saw that Peter was making His case for Jesus’ identity using the OT.

  • Specifically, he used Psalm 16 to show that David knew that the Messiah would die and be resurrected.
  • But a resurrected Messiah does not a God make.

 

So Peter continues:

  • Acts 2:33-36 (ESV) — 33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. 34 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, “ ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, 35 until I make your enemies your footstool.” ’ 36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”

 

Peter argues that Jesus is “both Lord and Christ” because He has been exalted (and resurrected).

  • And in fact, it is from this exalted position that He “has poured out” the Holy Spirit – the very thing happening at Pentecost.
  • So using Psalm 110, Peter answers the two questions we raised.
  • Answer – Exaltation means Jesus is “both Lord and Christ”.

 

So What?

  • If it was true that God exalted Jesus to a seated position at God’s right hand, then, for the Jew, there was a rather profound implication.

 

OT scholar Michael Heiser puts it like this:

  • “Such identifications would mean that Jesus is in the Israelite Godhead” – Heiser.
  • This meant that a Jew “…committed to monotheism, even upon pain of death, could accept that there was…a power in heaven who ‘was Yahweh but wasn’t Yahweh the Father’” – Heiser.
  • We of course see this as the basis for the Trinity.

 

Larry Hurtado puts it like this:

The “…earliest circles of Jesus-devotion (which included Jewish believers) saw themselves as responding to God’s exaltation of Jesus…So, obeying the one true God by re-shaping their devotional practice to include Jesus, they saw themselves as faithful to the God of the biblical tradition” – Larry Hurtado.

 

In other words:

  • “The fundamental basis for these claims [Jesus’ identity] and the devotional practice was the powerful conviction that God had exalted Jesus to heavenly glory and now required him to be reverenced” – Larry Hurtado.

 

For the “Jewish Christian”, Yahweh’s exaltation of Jesus to His right hand meant Jesus is God and worthy of worship.

 

The Text:

What about the meaning of Psalm 110 itself?

  • Reading the text in view of what we have discussed would be a fruitful exercise.
  • The problem is that to do so would require another lesson.

 

We can say a few things about Psalm 110, in light of what we have learned.

  • (1) It is an OT instance of the mention of Christ’s 2nd Coming.
    •  “…he will shatter kings…” (vs. 5)
    • He will execute judgment…” (vs. 6)
    • …he will shatter chiefs…” (vs. 6)
  • (2) Jesus is actively reigning as we speak.
  • (3) Jesus is our priestly intercessor.
  • (4) Jesus will pour out the wrath of God on the unrighteous – the same wrath he bore on the cross.
    • “…he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath” (vs. 5)