Monday, December 2, 2019

The Old Testament's Revelation of Christ [Pt.2]

by Rudolph P. Boshoff


§ II. A Review of Christian Scholarship 
on the Person of Jesus Christ in the Old Testament

II.a Introduction

In this section, I will show what prominent Christian Scholars believe about the person of Jesus Christ as revealed in the Old Testament. Norman Geisler (2002:7) emphatically states that Christ is the thematic unity of the whole of Scripture and revelation. Even though this section will focus solely on how  Christian Scholars evaluate the reality of Jesus Christ in the Old Testament, we recognize that Jesus claims unambiguously that He is the central message of the whole sweep of the Old Testament (Luke 24:27, 44; John 5:39; Hebrews 10:7; Matthew 5:17). This is the central focus that preoccupies these scholars and they look at language, imagery, categories, and the text to answer these questions surrounding prophecy, typology, and Theophany.    

II.b Defining Major Scholarly Views: 
Jesus as Promised Messiah in Old Testament Prophecy

i.“Jesus as the coming Messiah”- Richard N. Longenecker (2001:7-8) points to the earliest Jewish Christian community was convinced of the fact that Jesus Christ was the long expected Jewish Messiah. It is important to note that this was a political and nationalistic expectation where Jesus would have been the coming redeemer of the nation of Israel that would rival and ultimately overthrow the then current political system of Rome. There was therefore a prevailing eschatological expectation that was embedded in the Jewish expectation in where this Messianic figure would ultimately inaugurate the final age and be the deliverer and King for God’s people as the Anointed One (Dan.9:25-26a). Haasbroek (2004:37-38) mentions that this Messianic King’s foundational task would be to restore what Adam lost and He would ultimately bring back creation and God’s people to their intended glory. The Messiah is therefore an actual individual that would be raised by God to a place of pre-eminence with the task and vocation to accomplish this task (Isa.53:4; Luke 2:11). Haasbroek (2004:39-40) points to that fact that Jesus was recognized by His own disciples to be this Messianic figure and the ultimate fulfillment of Gods promise (Matt.16:16; Mark 8:27-31; Joh. 1:41, 11:27). 

ii. “The Messiah as the preexistent One” - Aquila H.I. Lee stipulates another dimension that is important to our understanding of the Jewish Messiah (2005:100-102). She mentions that that coming Messiah was preexistent. Now this might seem like a foreign idea to contemporary Judaism and the current expectation of the Messiah, but she shows emphatically that there was a common understanding for this to be a reality. Even though some scholars (Dunn 1992:72) hold that there was no conception of a preexistent Messiah prior to the Similitudes of Enoch, Lee notices that the Messianic King was seen as a manifestation and embodiment of a Spirit sent by God. William Horbury (1998:108) urges that the descriptions of this Jewish Messiah were not incompatible with his humanity or position as king and that the portrayals consistently revealed in the Old Testament Scriptures shows the Messiah amongst the ancient Jews as preexistent (Isa.9:5, Mic.5:1). He then (Horbury 1998:169-191) infers from a number of texts from the Septuagint (nl. Pentateuch, Prophets, and the Psalms) that the Messiah was preexistent. He mentions that the Messiah was (a) light: Isaiah 9:1, 5; (b) a divinely sent Spirit: Amos 4:13; Lamentations 4:20; (c) had an angelic character, star: Numbers 24:17, Isaiah 11:1-2; (d) was endowed with the title ‘anotle’: Zacharias 6:12; and was in existence prior to the creation of heavenly bodies: Psalm 72:5, 17; Psalm 110:3).   

iii. “The Messiah as Divine regent” - The Messiah was not only held to be the eschatological fulfilment of the Jews or preexistent in early Jewish thought, but the expectation was also that He would be ultimately divine. James H. Charlesworth (1988:132) shows that Jesus refers to God as ‘Abba’, which is deduced from the Aramaic noun, “The Father” (3 Macc.6:3, 8). Jesus implicitly announce that he is not just referring to God as ‘ābînû’ (m.Yom 8.9), which would have been a generic reference to God as the One ordering all of Creation, but, Jesus alludes to God as the actual base of His own self-identity. Even though rare in ancient Judaism, Jesus Christ hyphenates a transcendent quality of Sonship that implicitly reveals the true nature of Him as the expected Messiah. Charlesworth wants us to notice that it is important to note that Jesus did not proclaim ‘Himself’ but rather calls attention to the dawning of God’s ultimate rule and we should be cautious to infer from the Gospels that it readily seeks to identify Jesus as god explicitly in His own self-understanding (1998:135). This is not a point I agree with that we will look at again in later in this paper where I will show that even though the authors had a primary concern to show how Jesus fulfilled His demanded function, he was still revealed as divine. The gospels seek to describe a functional revelation of Christ as well as an ontological revelation of Jesus Christ.           

iv. “The Messiah as the Only King” - Another aspect that is important is that the Old Testament depicts God to be the Only King and desires universal divine rulership (Psa.145:10-13; cf. 93; 96; 97; Isa.33:22, 52:7). Prolific scholar N.T. Wright (1992:302-307) mentions that there is only One King over all of Creation and that is Yahweh our God (hegēmon depotes). Even though there are kings that are functioning on earth, the kingdom of God, historically and theologically considered, is essential to Israel expectation in their hope that Israel’s god is the only King. 

The idea of Israel’s God becoming King in the unfolding historical expectation and stipulated traditions is seen manifest in the coming of the Messiah (Wright 1992:307-309). God’s kingdom is fully revealed in the coming of the Messiah inaugurating the Kingdom rule (Psa.110, Isa.9:6) and we clearly notice this is the exact reality of the coming of Jesus Christ in the New Testament (Matt.1:23, cf. Isa.7:14). The coming of Jesus Christ is also the eschatological fulfillment of Israel’s messianic hope and expectations but more so, Gods coming to His people (Wright 1992:310). Richard Bauckham (2008:109) affirms Wright’s point in that early Jewish Israel understood the uniqueness of God to be both the only sovereign Ruler of all things but also the only Creator of all things. In early Christology the Messiah is seated on the divine throne itself exercising divine sovereignty over all of the cosmos (2008:21-22) participating in the unique activity of creation (2008:26).   

v. “The Messiah as the coming Lord” - Stemming from the above-mentioned perspective of Yahweh returning to earth Michael F. Bird (2014:52) writes that Jesus without a doubt knew Himself to be divine. He adds that Jesus as Messiah was conscious that in him the God of Israel was finally returning to Zion to renew the covenant and to fulfill the promise Yahweh made to Israel about a new Exodus. The Isaianic declarations emphatically states that Yahweh will return and rule in Zion to judge Israel’s enemies and to dwell amongst His people (Isa.40:3, 52:7-10).  

Bird (2014:55) shows that these motifs are not isolated speculations but also evident in other prophetic books that exemplify the end of Israel’s exile entering a new Exodus where Yahweh will return to Zion to judge Israel’s enemies and dwell with His people (Ezek.34:7-16, 22-24). Jesus fulfills in all these expectations and even believes within Himself that He is finally Yahweh returning to Zion and scriptures like Luke 19 in the New Testament affirms that Jesus as Messiah (Luk19:38, cf. Psa.118:26) is Yahweh returning to Zion (Bird 2014:57). 

We will next look at Old Testament typology and the reality of Christ revealed by it.

[Continued in Pt. 3]

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