Monday, August 17, 2020

On the Validity of Mask Mandates, Obedience to the State, & Christian Liberty

 by Michael R. Burgos

By means of several executive orders, my state (Connecticut) has required its citizens to wear masks whenever they are closer than six feet from someone who is not in their family. The latest order (7NNN) requires those who have medical conditions that preclude mask-wearing to produce documentation of such from a medical professional. The state justified this order upon the basis of “the effectiveness of using masks or face coverings in preventing the transmission of COVID-19.”

Several phenomena have arisen simultaneously: Most retailers claim that all who enter must wear a mask due to the government’s requirement and most have posted employees at entryways in order to ensure compliance. Such a claim is, in fact, completely erroneous since the government’s order does not require masks at all times in retailers but instead only when one is within six feet of a non-family member. Admittedly, if a private business requires masks from its customers, that is their prerogative. Any that desire to do business there ought to abide by the owner’s stipulation or find another business to patronize. However, to pin the blame for masks-at-all-times on the state is a deceitful—as that is simply not what the state has required.

Additionally, many Christians have argued at length upon the basis of a variety of biblical passages, that compliance with this requirement is our Christian duty. The typical trope argues that 1.) the Bible states that we are to obey the governing authorities upon the basis of Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-17 and 2.) in keeping with the apostle Paul’s teaching on Christian liberty in 1 Corinthians 8:1-13, we ought to wear masks since we might offend a weaker brother. Both of these claims suffer from an invalid application of the relevant biblical texts. However, prior to addressing these, let us consider the state’s justification for it's order.

Masks & Facts

Do masks prevent the transmission of COVID-19? One might assume as much given the constant barrage of mask exhortations from virtually every media outlet, politician, and even many churchmen. The evidence tells another story. A 2009 study that evaluated mask use with regard to H1N1 influenza concluded, “There is little evidence to support the effectiveness of face masks to reduce the risk of infection.”[1] Another 2009 study concluded, “Face mask use in health care workers has not been demonstrated to provide benefit in terms of cold symptoms or getting colds.”[2] A 2015 study concluded that the “penetration of cloth masks by particles was almost 97% and medical masks 44%.”[3] Further, researchers found that the use of cloth masks may increase one’s risk of infection: “Moisture retention, reuse of cloth masks and poor filtration may result in increased risk of infection.”[4] A 2016 study determined that there is “insufficient data” to show that even N95 respirators prevent respiratory infections.[5] A 2019 study showed that “N95 respirators vs medical masks…resulted in no significant difference in the incidence of laboratory-confirmed influenza.”[6] A study completed in February of 2020 concluded “The use of N95 respirators compared with surgical masks is not associated with a lower risk of laboratory-confirmed influenza.”[7]

But wait! Wasn’t there a study just published in July that claimed the opposite, namely, that universal masking leads to a lower infection rate?[8] The Wall Street Journal and other news sources pounced on this study in order to demonstrate the legitimacy of mask mandates. The study, which focused upon front line health care workers, attributes masks to a lower infection rate but then notes that this “could be confounded by other interventions inside and outside of the health care system.” That is, the lower infection rate may be due to other factors (e.g., interventions such as hand washing, social distancing, etc.). The point here is that there is no evidence that masks preclude the transmission of COVID-19. Rather, the best the state and others can point to is research that observes correlation and not causation. Add to this sordid state of affairs the statistical probability of healthy people suffering from a debilitating case of COVID-19: People under 65 years of age make up only 2.6 % of COVID-19 fatalities.[9] As one immunologist put it, “Those young and healthy people who currently walk around with a mask on their faces would be better off wearing a helmet instead, because the risk of something falling on their head is greater than that of getting a serious case of Covid-19.”[10]

Masks & Obedience to Authority

Does Romans 13 or 1 Peter 2 require Christians to obey the government at all times? Clearly, that isn’t the case since Peter and John demonstrate that there are times when obedience to the state is immoral (Acts 4:19-20). Imagine for a moment that the state mandated that the entire citizenry wear masks in their homes at all times. Would we object to such a requirement? Rather, ought we object to such a requirement? Of course. On what grounds? The state does not have the authority to mandate what we do in our homes.

I hear many voices cry out, “Wait, aren’t we supposed to abide by Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2?” Certainly, as the highest authority in our land is the constitution and it is that document that precludes the state from infringing on our personal liberty. Mandating that we wear masks in our homes or in our churches is an infringement upon liberty as the state does not have the authority to do so. For that reason, our Romans 13 and 1 Peter 2 duty is to uphold the authority of our land (i.e., the constitution) and to reject the tyranny of the state. Furthermore, Romans 13, despite the assumption of many to the contrary, is a prescription of what the state ought to do and not a description of what the state was in Paul’s day or our own.

Lest you think that I’ve gone off the rails and into some libertarian quagmire, consider an analogous situation in the church. Say your local board of elders begins to mandate that everyone believe that Jesus wasn’t really born of a virgin and that the celebration of Christmas is wrong. Meanwhile, the Bible explicitly states that Christians ought to obey their elders and submit to their authority. Ought we believe wrong things merely because the elders told us to? Certainly not. Rather, a higher authority prohibits our obedience to the elders in this specific area. Moreover, the elders derive their authority from the Scriptures. Similarly, when a governor is elected into office, he places his hand upon a Bible and swears to uphold and defend the constitution. Like elders, his authority is derivative and dependent upon a higher authority. Whereas we ought to disobey our elders when they go against the Bible, we also ought to disobey the governor when he acts like a tyrant and treats the constitution as if it doesn't exist. This ethos is what our nation is built upon.

Masks & Christian Liberty

In 1 Corinthians 8, the apostle taught that Christians may exercise their liberty to engage in non-sinful activity so as long as this exercise does not confound the conscience of a brother. The example provided in that passage is that of meat offered to idols. While new believers, having come out of paganism, may associate that meat with what they left behind for Christ, other Christians viewed idols and paganism as illegitimate and essentially fake (i.e., “An idol has no real existence” in v. 4) and thus looked at this meat as a mere meal. Paul concluded this scenario by asserting that we ought to curtail our liberty if it may lead to wounding the conscience of a weaker brother (v. 12).

Are masks a legitimate application of this principle? Note first that the meat in question was associated with idolatry. Masks are not associated with idolatry nor any sin in particular. Second, the weak conscience of the immature brother in 1 Corinthians 8 was due to his new faith and background in paganism. Those who might be offended at resistance to mask mandates don’t have a background that associates non-mask-wearing with sinful behavior and their offense is not due to a recent conversion. Rather, the likely reason for people to become offended at non-mask-wearers is fear. These folks fear that if everyone doesn’t wear a mask, they too will become sick and possibly die. Not only is that fear misguided, it is predicated upon a worldview that places life and death in the hands of men. Christian liberty isn’t the issue and thus the application of 1 Corinthians 8 to masks is unwise at best.

How then ought we deal with our brother who is offended at our lack of masks? We ought to inform him that there is no evidence that masks are effective in preventing the spread of COVID-19 and that it is unreasonable to expect everyone around us to do something merely because we want them to. There is no law against a difference of opinion in the church. Further, we ought to point him to a sovereign God who holds life and death in his grasp. 

[1] B. J. Chowling, Y. Zhou et al, 12/16/2009, “Face masks to prevent transmission of influenza virus: a systematic review,” Epidemiology and Infection.

[2] Jacobs JL, Ohde S, Takahashi O, et al, 02/12/2009, “Use of surgical face masks to reduce the incidence of the common cold among health care workers in Japan: a randomized controlled trial,” Am J Infect Control.

[3] C Raina MacIntyre, Holly Seale et al, 04/22/2015, “A cluster randomised trial of cloth masks compared with medical masks in healthcare workers,” BMJ Open.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Jeffrey D. Smith, Colin C. MacDougall et al, 05/17/2016, “Effectiveness of N95 respirators versus surgical masks in protecting health care workers from acute respiratory infection: a systematic review and meta-analysis,” CMAJ.

[6] Lewis J. Radonovich Jr, Michael S. Simberkoff et al, 09/03/2019, “N95 Respirators vs Medical Masks for Preventing Influenza Among Health Care Personnel: A Randomized Clinical Trial,” JAMA.

[7] Youlin Long, Tengyue Hu et al, 02/03/2020, “Effectiveness of N95 respirators versus surgical masks againstinfluenza: A systematic review and meta-analysis,” Wiley.

[8] Xiaowen Wang, Enrico G. Ferro, Guohai Zhou et al, 07/14/2020, “Association Between Universal Masking in a Health Care System and SARS-CoV-2 Positivity Among Health Care Workers,” JAMA.

[9] 08/12/2020, Weekly Updates by Select Demographic and Geographic Characteristics, CDC.

[10] Beda M Stadler, 07/01/2020, “Coronavirus: Why everyone was wrong,” Medium.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Yehoshu'a and Yeshu'a: Christ in the Book of Numbers

I. Introduction: Joshua and the New Generation of Israelites

In the book of Numbers, there are numerous types of Christ that shadow forth his person and work. As with all types of Christ, some are more elaborate than others. Under the heading of more elaborate types of Christ, we find the interrelated events recorded in Numbers 27:12-23. There we read –
The Lord said to Moses, “Go up into this mountain of Abarim and see the land that I have given to the people of Israel. When you have seen it, you also shall be gathered to your people, as your brother Aaron was, because you rebelled against my word in the wilderness of Zin when the congregation quarreled, failing to uphold me as holy at the waters before their eyes.” (These are the waters of Meribah of Kadesh in the wilderness of Zin.) Moses spoke to the Lord, saying, “Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation who shall go out before them and come in before them, who shall lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the Lord may not be as sheep that have no shepherd.”  So the Lord said to Moses, “Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him. Make him stand before Eleazar the priest and all the congregation, and you shall commission him in their sight. You shall invest him with some of your authority, that all the congregation of the people of Israel may obey. And he shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall inquire for him by the judgment of the Urim before the Lord. At his word they shall go out, and at his word they shall come in, both he and all the people of Israel with him, the whole congregation.” And Moses did as the Lord commanded him. He took Joshua and made him stand before Eleazar the priest and the whole congregation, and he laid his hands on him and commissioned him as the Lord directed through Moses.
Broadly speaking, what we see in this passage are the following –
I. Moses fails to uphold the Lord as holy in the eyes of the first generation of Israelites. 
II. The first generation of Israelites, due to their lack of faith, are rejected from entering the promised land. 
III. Moses is succeded by Joshua/Yehoshu’a whose leadership, it is implied, is like that of a Shepherd. 
IV. Joshua is equipped with the Spirit for the task of bringing the second generation of Israelites into the promised land.
To summarize, we see that the first generation of God’s people were under the leadership of Moses, the one through whom came the Law of God, but neither could enter the promised land. Instead of Moses, it would be the Spirit-empowered successor of Moses named Joshua/Yehoshu'a who would lead God’s people into the promised land by means of his Spirit-empowered words/directions, not by means of the Law. Moreover, it is the new Israel, i.e. the second generation of Israelites, who would enter the promised land with Joshua, and not the first generation of Israelites. By separating the unbelieving first generation from the second generation, God was beginning again with the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Moses guided the second generation of Israelites, i.e. the children of the first generation, only up until it was time for him to be succeeded by Joshua/Yehoshu'a.

With these things in mind, let us look a little more closely at how these things point forward to the person and work of Christ.

II. The Elder Rejected, and the Younger Accepted

As early as the book of Genesis, we see that God often chooses the younger over and against the elder. God rejected Cain, but accepted Abel. God did not make his covenant with Ishmael, but he did with Isaac. God loved Jacob, but he hated Esau. Indeed, he chose the nation of Israel over and against the rest of the nations who were more numerous than them (see Deut 7:6-8). And we see this pattern in the New Testament as well. There, Christ teaches us that the last will be first and the first will be last (see Luke 13:22-30). The kingdom of God, he later teaches, will be taken from the natural descendants of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, and “given to a people producing its fruits” (see Matt 21:33-46), i.e. the Gentiles.

In Numbers 27:12-23, we see that the first generation of Israelites is rejected by God for their unbelief, whereas the younger generation is not. The initial body of those who received the Law of God, the Word of God, would not inherit the land promised to Abraham’s seed. Rather, the land was taken from them by God and given to the younger generation of Israelites. The first became the last; and the last became the first.

III. Moses’ Inability, and Joshua’s Ability to Bring Israel to Canaan

The first generation and Moses are rejected by God, and in their place we see the second generation and Joshua. Moses played a limited role in the leading of God’s people, giving them the Law, guiding them to the very edge of the promised land, and proclaiming the one who would come to bring God’s people into Canaan. Moses literally pointed to Joshua/Yehoshu'a, the servant of the Lord who was born under the Law, lived empowered by the Holy Spirit, lived a life of faith, saw the land of Canaan as good, and did not doubt that God’s promises would materialize.

Because of Moses’ sin, he was unable to lead the people into Canaan. The only one who was capable of doing this was Joshua/Yehoshu'a.

IV. Joshua the Shepherd

Joshua is represented as one who will shepherd God’s second generation of Israelites into the promised land. God provides Joshua in response to Moses’ prayer, in which he says –
“Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation who shall go out before them and come in before them, who shall lead them out and bring them in, that the congregation of the Lord may not be as sheep that have no shepherd.[Num 27:16-17 (emphasis added)]
The language here points forward to Israel’s plight under king Ahab. In 1 Kings 22:17, the prophet Micaiah, speaking for the Lord, declares – 
“I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains, as sheep that have no shepherd.” (emphasis added)
Whereas the Lord provided the second generation of Israelites with Joshua/Yehoshu'a, he did not do so with the southern kingdom. The people were scattered like sheep without a shepherd, a situation that would remain constant over time, as we learn from the prophet Ezekiel, writing during the Babylonian exile. Ezekiel later declares –
The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, Thus says the Lord God: Ah, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fat ones, but you do not feed the sheep. The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them. So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd, and they became food for all the wild beasts. My sheep were scattered; they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. My sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with none to search or seek for them.
“Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: As I live, declares the Lord God, surely because my sheep have become a prey, and my sheep have become food for all the wild beasts, since there was no shepherd, and because my shepherds have not searched for my sheep, but the shepherds have fed themselves, and have not fed my sheep, therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: Thus says the Lord God, Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require my sheep at their hand and put a stop to their feeding the sheep. No longer shall the shepherds feed themselves. I will rescue my sheep from their mouths, that they may not be food for them. 
“For thus says the Lord God: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep and will seek them out.”
[Ezek 34:1-11 (emphasis added)] 
Whereas the Lord had provided Israel with Joshua after Moses prayed for them, and raised up other leaders who shepherded Israel according to God’s commandments, in Ezekiel we are told by the Lord that he will come and shepherd his people, those Israelites who were like sheep without a shepherd.

V. Jesus the Greater Shepherd

Thus, we clearly see the significance of Mark’s description of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus, Mark declares,
...saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.[Mark 6:34 (emphasis added)]
Seeing that the people were “harassed and helpless” (Mat 9:36), Christ exercised compassion on them. Like Joshua, Jesus is a Shepherd. However, he is the Greater Shepherd, as he explains in John 10:14-18 & 10:27-30 –
“I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me,  just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again.  No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father. 
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand.  I and the Father are one.” 
(emphasis added)
Whereas Joshua (Yehoshu’a) could only lead the people externally, Jesus (Yeshu’a) shepherds his people internally as well. Whereas Joshua could not ensure that the people would follow him, Christ clearly declares that his people will hear him and follow him. Whereas Joshua could not say that he and God are one, Christ openly declares himself to be one with the Father.

In Christ, Moses’ prayer for a man to lead Israel finds its ultimate answer. In Christ, Yahweh’s promise to personally come gather his sheep and lead them becomes flesh and blood.

VI. Conclusion

Without denying the historicity of the narrative found in Numbers 27:12-23, we can make out the rough lineaments of the historical events of the New Testament, as well as the person and work of Christ. We see that the Law (Moses) would only function as a tutor up until the time when God would send his shepherd (Joshua) to lead his people into the promised land. We see that those who enter the promised land under the leadership of the shepherd do so by God’s mercy and grace, not by obedience to the Law. And when we take the entirety of the OT into consideration on this matter, we see that Yahweh himself is the Greater Shepherd, the Greater Joshua who would be born under the Law, made like his brethren, and become our salvation, the one who brings us all who have been shown mercy and grace, apart from works, into the greater promised land – the new heavens and new earth in which righteousness dwells.

Friday, February 28, 2020

The Old Testament's Revelation of Christ [Pt.6]

by Rudolph P. Boshoff

[Continued from Pts. 1234, & 5]

I. A Holistic Understanding of the Person of Jesus Christ Revealed in the Old Testament

There is a clear indication from the above-mentioned chapters that Jesus was the expected Messiah that was anticipated through prophetic types within the Old Testament text, active within the world through Theophanies, clearly mentioned in the Scriptures. In conclusion, we will show how the Old Testament flows into the New seamlessly.   

II. The Story of God as the Story of Jesus

N.T. Wright (2000:167) calls for the explicit recognition that when we start with the Old Testament Scriptures and ask ourselves what it might look like if God was to become a man, He would very much look like Jesus Christ of Nazareth. Thinking and speaking therefore of God and Jesus in the same breath are not a category mistake, but simply the realized expression of what the Old Testament predicts and foreshadows. Job (19:25-26) looks forward and says:
“For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God.” 
John (1:14) the Beloved writes: 
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory.
The only truthful expression to this reality of Christ is found later in the same Gospel (John 20:28) when Thomas calls out to Jesus as “My Lord and my God.” [Gr. Ὁ Κύριός μου καὶ ὁ Θεός μου]. Larry Hurtado (2003:53) says the clear accommodation of Jesus as recipient of cultic worship with God is uncontested and was a major development in the practice and belief of the first Christians. 

When Jesus, therefore, affirms Himself to be “the Alpha and Omega” (Rev 22:13) we understand that He is calling on the Old Testament to affirm who He was and is (Isa 41:4, 44:6, & 48:12). The very identity of Christ hinges on the fact that He was the revealed Lord Yahweh from the Old Testament. We can therefore clearly see that the Worship of God is given to Christ (Isa 45:23, Phil 2:10-11) because He reveals the works of God (Joel 2:32, Rom.10:13) and the glory of God (Exod 33:19, John 12:41), being judge as God (Ecc 12:14, Acts 17:31). Jesus has the highest possible position on the throne of God (Dan 4:34-35, Rom 14:10, Ps 110:1, Matt 22:44, Heb 1:3,13) being equal with God (Exod 20:3, 7; Deut 5:7,11; cf. Ps 110:1; Dan 7:13-14; cf. Ezek 1:26-28, Matt 9:3; cf. Mark 2:7 & 14:61-64; John 5:17-18, 8:58-59, 10:27-33, & 19:7). Jesus Christ as Yahweh rules over everything (Isa 44:24; Jer 10:16, 51:19; Matt 11:25-27 & 28:18; Luke 10:21-22; John 3:35, 13:3, & 16:15; Acts 10:36; 1st Cor 15:27-28; Eph 1:22; Phil 2:10 & 3:21; Heb 1:2 & 2:8; Rev 5:13) forever and ever (Ps 9:7 & 45:6; Luke 1:33; Eph 1:19-21; Heb 1:8). 

The first Christian community who looked at the Old Testament and identified the fact that this Jesus Christ was both Lord and God gave this seamless reality. Michael J. Kruger (2017:144) mentions that the first Christian community could affirm on the authority of the Old Testament that there was One God that was the sole creator of heaven and earth and the same God predicted the coming of the Messiah Jesus Christ. This Messiah was from the seed of David born from the Virgin Mary and was the creator of all things who came into the world as God in the flesh. To those who believe in Him He would grant salvation because of His suffering and vicarious death, burial, and resurrection. In addition, he will one day return visibly to judge both the living and the dead and reward those who faithfully followed Him.

To understand the central revelation of the Old Testament Scriptures was to identify the person and work of Jesus Christ within the Scripture. There was no other reality evident amongst the first Christian community and to them the coming of Jesus Christ was the ultimate eschatological reality fulfilled in the historical person of Jesus Christ. Therefore, John the Beloved writes:
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us.
[1st John 1:1-3.]

Works Cited

Bates, MW. The Birth of the Trinity: Jesus, God, and Spirit in the New Testament & Early Christian Interpretations of the Old Testament. Oxford University Press, 2015.

Bauckham, Richard. Jesus and the God of Israel. (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2008.)

Bird, Michael F.; Evans, Craig A.; Gathercole, Simon J.; Hill, CE; Tilling, C. How God Became Jesus: The real origins of belief in Jesus’ Divine Nature – A Response to Bart Ehrman. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014.)

Bowman, Robert M. and Komoszewski, J. Ed. Putting Christ in His Place: The case for the deity of Christ. Grand Rapids, Michigan. Kregel Publications.

Borg, Marcus J., Wright, NT. The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions. (San Francisco: Harper Collins Publishers, 2007.)

Borland, James A. Christ in the Old Testament: A Comprehensive Study of the Old Testament Appearances of Christ in Human Form. (Chicago: The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago, 1978.)

Brueggemann, Walter. Genesis: Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching. (Louisville: John Knox Press, 1982.)

Bruce, FF. Zondervan Bible Commentary: One-Volume Illustrated Edition. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008.)

Carson DA. Jesus the Son of God. (Wheaton: Crossway Publishers, 2012.)

Childs, Brevard S. Isaiah. (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2001.)

Dunn, James DG. Christology in the Making. (London: SCM Press Ltd, 1989.)

Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology. (Baker Books. 2004.)

Fairbairn, Patrick. The Typology of Scripture. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1969.)

Frame, John M. The Doctrine of God. (Phillipsburg: P & R Publishing , 2002)

France, RT. Jesus and the Old Testament: His Application of Old Testament Passages to Himself and His Mission. (Vancouver: Regent College Publishing, 2000.)

Geisler, Norman L. 2002. To Understand the Bible Look for Jesus: The Bible Student's Guide to the Bible's Central Theme. (Eugene: Wipf and Stock, 2002.)

Gowan, DE. Abingdon Old Testament Commentaries: Daniel. (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2011.)

Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology: An introduction to Biblical Doctrine. (Nottingham: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994.)

Haasbroek, D. The Wonder of Jesus in the Old Testament. (Pretoria: MP Books,  2004.)

Hamilton, VP.  The Book of Genesis, Chapters 18-50. (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans,1995.)

Hammer, R. The Cambridge Bible Commentary on the Book of Daniel. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1976.)

Holmgren, FC. The Old Testament and the Significance of Jesus. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999.)

Horbury, W. Jewish Messianism and the Cult of Christ. (London: SCM Press Ltd, 1998.)

Hurtado, Larry W.  Lord Jesus Christ. (Grand Rapids: Wm B. Eerdmans, 2003.)

Kruger, Michael J. Christianity at the Crossroads: How the Second Century Shaped the Future of the Church. (London: SPCK Publishing, 2017.)

Lee, AHI. 2005. From Messiah to Preexistent Son. (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck GmbH & Co., 2005.)

Loader, RG. Jesus and the Fundamentalism of His Day. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001.)

Longenecker, Richard N. The Christology of Early Jewish Christianity. (Vancouver: Regent College Publishing, 1970.)

Macleod, Donald.  The Person of Christ: Contours of Christian Theology. (Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1998.)

Nägelsbach, CWE.  The Prophet Isaiah: Theologically and homiletically expounded Volume XI. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1980.)

Nelson, WB. Daniel: Understanding the Bible Commentary Series(Grand Rapids: Baker, 2012.)

Robinson, R. Christ in the Sabbath. (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2014.) 

Rosen, C. & M. Christ in the Passover. (Chicago: Moody Publishing, 2006)

Stephens, J. Theophany: Close Eencounters with the Son of God. (Herefordshire: Day One Publications, 1998)

Walvoord, John F. Jesus Christ our Lord. (Chicago: Moody Publishing, 1969)

Walton, John H. The NIV Application Commentary Genesis. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2001)

Wiersbe, Warren. The Bible exposition commentary: Old Testament Prophets. (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook Publishers, 2002.)
_____The Wiersbe Bible Commentary on the Old Testament. (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook Publishers, 2007).
Wright, NT. The New Testament and the People of God. (London: SPCK Publishers, 1998.)

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

The Old Testament's Revelation of Christ [Pt.5]

by Rudolph P. Boshoff

[Continued from Pts. 1, 2, 3, & 4]

I. Introduction

In the previous section, we affirmed a definite presence of Jesus Christ as the expected Messiah who was clearly typified throughout the Old Testament and exemplified in theophanies by scholars. Now we will turn our focus to two passages of Scripture and see how they relate to Jesus as God.  

II. Exegesis of Daniel 7:13-14

I have selected the Daniel 7:13-14, since it is the climax of the book where we finally have an encounter with the Son of Man, which is clearly more than just an ordinary man. It is also one of the texts in the Old Testament scriptures that emphatically situates the person of Jesus Christ in a place of clear pre-eminence and Old Testament fulfillment. It reads as follows:
“In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence.”
(a.)“There before me was one like a son of man.” 

The Son of Man title existed in pre-Christian Jewish thought and resembled a transcendent redeemed figure whose coming to earth would inaugurate the end of the age (Longenecker 1970:82). This portion relates also to ore-Christian source materials in the first book of Enoch (37-71) and the fourth book of Ezra (13) and affirms the pre-Christian Jewish expectations regarding the Son of Man as the eschatological agent of redemption (Longenecker 1970:83). Hammer (1976:78) holds that this is a man that approaches the Ancient of Days (God) and he is definitely the Messiah. Gowan (2011) notes that the use of fire in this context can signify the presence of a theophany and this can also be a Semitic idiom that means ‘like a human being’ or ‘someone’ but maintains that in light of the New Testament that this refers emphatically to Jesus Christ. This would mean that even from the Enochian Similitudes we see clearly that Daniel’s ‘Son of Man’ is a transcendent and glorified redeemed figure who is exalted above all sufferings (Longenecker 1970:87). Jesus fits perfectly into these categories and the earliest Christian communities affirm that this was in fact Jesus of Nazareth (Mark 14:16-62) and His subsequent crucifixion on the charge of blasphemy by the High Priest (Mark 14:64) affirms He was perceived, yet rejected, as the coming Messiah. 

Longenecker (1970:92) mentions that for the first Christian community the title ‘Son of Man’ resembled Jesus as the suffering man in line with Daniel’s representation that would be glorified and return to complete the full prophetic picture. Jesus also relates to the Son of Man as being and confirms that ‘No one has ever gone onto heaven except the One who came from heaven-the Son of Man [who is in heaven].’ (John 3:13). Jesus clearly relates that him being the Son of man pre-existed with the Father in heaven coming down to be the agent of redemption. He even prayed in John 17:5 that the Father restore Him to the place of glory He had ‘before the world began’ [with you – Greek: ‘papa soi’]. In his exaltation, we can clearly affirm that the Son of Man seated on the divine throne itself (Dan 7:14) receives obeisance and is recognized as the unique Divine Sovereign (Bauckham 2008:171). 

(b.) “Coming with the clouds of heaven.” 

In Matthews Gospel Jesus says:
“Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory.” (Matt 24:30) 
He also mentions that He will ‘come with the clouds of heaven’ (ἐρχόμενον μετὰ τῶν νεφελῶν τοῦ οὐρανοῦ) in Mark’s Gospel (14:62). This passage draws from Daniel 7:13 that states: 
“And behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like the Son of Man.” 
Miller (1994:207) mentions that in the ancient world, clouds provided transportation only for deities and Jesus is clearly associating this metaphor with Himself (cf. Rev 14:14-15). Clouds are depicted in the Old Testament as being Yahweh’s chariots (Ps 104:3) and God even appears within a thunderstorm (Judges 5:4). David pleads Yahweh for help, and God arrives upon the cherubim from His heavenly temple (Ps 18:11) and Nahum (1:3) beholds clouds at the feet of Yahweh in his theophanic vision. Clouds were associated with Yahweh’s judgement (Isa. 19:1) and the prophet Ezekiel records Yahweh coming from a cloud (1:4, 28) where the temple was filled and judgement would be poured out later (10:3-4). What startled the High Priest was that Jesus dared to parallel Himself with Yahweh that would judge the nations. 

This was a prerogative that was clearly only central to Yahweh in the Jewish understanding. Yahweh would judge the nations several times in the Old Testament from a cloud-mass (Ezek 30:2, 34:12; Joel 2:2; Zeph 1:15) where His anger would become a dark smoke cloud (Isa 30:27). France (2002:612) holds that Jesus here declares that in the metaphors ‘sitting’ and ‘coming’ Jesus is referring to one initiative and that is ‘sovereign authority.’ The representation of clouds in the Old Testament was clearly connected with eschatological judgement and salvation (Isa 4:5; Nah 1:3). What Jesus is saying is in fact justifying the High Priest reply, because He identifies Himself with Yahweh that will stand in complete judgement of the High Priest Himself as well as the whole nation of Israel. Further, makes Himself the spiritual head of the nation of Israel because He was assuming a place of authority over the High Priest who was under the impression that He was judging Him.  Donald Macleod (1998:59) says the fact that Jesus calls for the return with the clouds of heaven is synonymous with his return to the glory of His Father and being the royal, superhuman, and divine, Son of Man clearly lends itself to the idea that He was preexistent and the divine Messiah.          
II.a Exegesis of Isaiah 7:14

I have selected Isaiah 7:14 to show that the intention of God in the incarnation of the Messiah was so that He would be a sign of God born of a Virgin being God with us. 
The passage reads:
“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel.”
F. F. Bruce (2008:738) contends that the Prophet Isaiah was referring to a young woman (almâh) or virgin in the time of Ahaz born to his harem or even of Isaiah’s own son born to his wife (Isa 8:1-4). As for the immediate context, this Son would be a sign of God’s presence amongst the nation of Israel and there would be a future expected fulfillment in another Son (Isa 9:6). Matthew immediately mentions that Christ fulfilled this expectation and says that “the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel” [Greek – ‘μεθ ἡμῶν ὁ Θεός’] (Matt 1:23) coming directly from Isaiah’s prophecy. In this book there is clear evidence of double fulfillment’’ where specific texts would be applicable to the immediate context and to a future point of time. 

The Prophets Isaiah (9:6) states that ‘a Son will be given’ who will be ‘eternal father. Oswalt (1986:247) says this phrase must not be taken lightly as this person mentioned in an ancient Near Eastern context contains a clear divine element. Some scholars might think that only an immediate fulfillment would apply to this context, but what we recognize is that Ahaz’s good son Hezekiah was already born at the time of the prophecy and he had other children as well which means that his wife would not have been a ‘virgin’ anymore. The only reasonable explanation was then to understand that this Prophecy was given with an future prophetic intent as well and the context of Isaiah clearly speaks of the Messiah as being send and commissioned by God (Isa 9:6, 11:2). 

Carl Nägelsbach (1980:125) says that we should keep in mind that the title ‘Immanuel’ [אֵֽל] refers to the Son as a ‘type’ that points to the faithfulness of God and a pledge from God that in His Son’s visitation to His people in the person of the God-man, He would redeem His remnant. Wiersbe (2002:19) mentions that the ultimate fulfillment is of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is ‘’God with us’’ (Matt 1:18-25; Luke 1:31-35). The virgin birth is a key doctrine because Jesus is not born from sinful human flesh but He is born sinless and perfect to be the Savior of the entire world. Brevard Childs (2001:66) shows that this name does not occur elsewhere in the Old Testament and closely only parallels a Psalm (46:8, 12) that is an expression of trust in the presence of god integral to Israel’s piety. There is a clear application evident within this given text and we can be assured that the New Testament believers had absolutely no reservations to apply this phrase to both the Old Testament context. Ahaz did not accept the sign of God’s presence amongst them and the Jews in the New Testament the sign of the Son in their presence as Immanuel God with us but Jesus bares a clear resemblance to the Messiah predicted in the book Of Prophet Isaiah and is ultimately deemed as the fulfilment of its context (Isa 40-55).  

II.b Summary

This section sets out to show that in the Old Testament there was definitely an expectation within the Hebrew text of one to come as the Savior of all humanity. In Daniel’s vision, he speaks of a figure that would transcend the bounds of just a normal Prophet or human being, approaching the Ancient of Days being accepted and commissioned by Him as the ruler of everything. In the New Testament, the favorite designation of Christ was to title Himself the ‘Son of Man.’ Similarly, in the book of Isaiah we find the prophet speaking of events that would inaugurate the favor and direct presence of God amongst Israel. The sign will be that this child will be born from a virgin as affirmed by the voice of the Gospels in latter times. There are numerous passages of Scripture that hints and confirm the expectation of Jesus Christ in the Old Testament and the fulfillment is applied in the new.

[Continued in Pt.6]

Monday, January 13, 2020

The Old Testament's Revelation of Christ [Pt.4]

by Rudolph P. Boshoff

[Continued from Pts. 12& 3]

III. Jesus in Old Testament Theophanies

James A. Borland (1978:9) describes a theophany as “a manifestation of God in visible and bodily form to conscious man perceptible by human senses, before the incarnation” of Jesus Christ. The validity and fact that distinguish theophanies are evident and we will look at the characteristics and facts of Theophanies in the Old Testament. 

III.a The Characteristics of Theophanies in the Old Testament

Borland (1978:17-19) mentions that it is important to recognize that Theophanies were actual and not imaginary that was initiated by God alone. In Judges 13:8 Manoah prayed; “O my Lord, let the man of God which thou didst send come again to us” and Moses inquired to God to “show me thy glory” (Exo 33:18-34:9) but the Old Testament text unanimously shows that God was always the One that disclosed Himself out of His own will. Genesis 12:7 mentions that He “appeared… and said”; “found her… and He said” (Gen16:7-8). No human petition, prayer, technique, or formula could evoke the presence of God because God’s will revealed His essence and nature where man was the recipient of His self-revelation. Theophanies were therefore always revelatory in that it always revealed something about God or His will to a recipient (Borland 1978:20). 

God would declare a promise to a specific individual like Abraham (Gen 12:1-3), Hagar (Gen16:10-12) and sometimes He would warn or judge as we see with Adam and Eve as well as the serpent (Gen 3:14-19) or Cain (Gen 4:9-12) or Sodom (Gen 18:20-21). At another time God would simply instruct like with Joshua (Jos 5:14-15) or Samson’s parents, Manoah and his wife (Jud 13:3-5). It is important to note that Theophanies were for specific chosen individuals. Many times God would appear to individuals like Adam and Eve (Gen.3:8-19), Cain (Gen.4:9-15), and Enoch (Gen 5:22, 24), Noah (Gen 6-9), and Abraham (Gen.12:1, 7; 17:1-22; 18:1-33), Hagar (Gen 16:7-11), Isaac (Gen 26:2, 24) just to mention a few (Borland 1978:21-22). Another point is that Theophanies were intermittent and did not occur with precise regularity. God appeared as He pleased and there was no hard or fast rule as to these apparitions (Borland 1978:23). 

Theophanies were therefore temporal occurrences that were transitory only for a brief period. Gods preferred self-disclosure is ultimately evident in the persona and manifestation of Jesus Christ (John 1, Col 2:9-10) as perfect God and perfect man (Borland 1978:25). Theophanies also included auditory perception and were both audible and visible (Borland 1978:26). In Genesis 32:30 Jacob expressed amazement when he said, “I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved” and with God’s revelation of Himself at Mount Sinai (Exo 24:11) there was a very similar wonder at the actual visible and aural experience. Even though these experiences were visible and audible, they varied in form. It is a fact that God did appear (Gen.18:1, 4-8) in the semblance of human form (Gen 18; 32, Exo 24:9-11, Jos 5:13-15, Jud 13:3, 6, 8-11, 1 Sam 3:10, 21) that showed signs of change from time to time to where not even Abraham always immediately recognized his visitor from heaven (Gen 12:7, 17:1-22, 18:2) (Borland 1978:27-29). 

Borland (1978:29-30) also mentions that we need to keep in mind that Theophanies were Old Testament occurrences before the incarnation of Christ. There is nothing in the New Testament similarly to these revealed experiences and we know that these appearances were related to the second person of the Trinity as revealed in the New Testament. In the next section, we will look at four Old Testament references that show these apprehensions of God the Son. 

III.b Some Theophanies in the Old Testament

i. Jacob Wrestling With God (Gen 32:24-32)

In this Theophany there is a clear identification of both the form and the person that is Jacob is encountering (Borland 1978:78). This Theophany reveals an appearance of a man and the person is a messenger of Jehovah (Hos 12:3-5). This apprehension of a man asks Jacob his name being fully aware of his promise (v.28). Walvoord (1969:52) indicates that God changes Jacob’s name to Israel, in this culture only God changed names. Jacob was so deeply impressed with this event and was assured that the ‘man’ he struggled with was the place where he saw God ‘’face-to-face’’ and he called the place ‘Peniel’ because he survived (v.30).  Jonathan Stephen (1998:141) mentions here that for Jacob this was the most critical part of his whole experience and in it, God reveals Himself to show himself faithful on Jacob’s behalf. Jacob does inquire of the man to reveal His name, but at the time, it was more then what God was willing to reveal (Stephen, 1998:142).  

ii. Balaam, the Donkey, and the Angel of the Lord (Num 22:22-38)

Borland (1978:79) mentions that the messenger of the Lord stood in the path of Balaam and mentions that the donkey could perceive him but not Balaam. God opened up the donkey’s mouth (v.28) and the eyes of Balaam (v.31). Both the donkey and Balaam saw an individual who ‘stood’ with a sword ‘in his hand’. These speak of human acts that show that God seems dressed for the occasion to fit the social customs and the circumstances of the particular situation. The angel of God warns Balaam (vv.22-35) and even cautions him that what he is about to do is evil in His sight (v.32). God instructs what Balaam must say (v.35) and speaks just as he heard from the man who was God (v.38).  

iii. Joshua and the Commander of the Lord's Army (Jos 5:13-15)

Even though this is the shortest theophany in the Old Testament, it is worth noting as it corresponds once more with the two previously mentioned examples that I have given. Joshua encounters a man standing with a drawn sword in his hand (v.13). Joshua immediately inquires of the man if he is for them or against them (v.13). The reply from this man is ‘neither’ (v.14) which seems a bit confusing but the then mentions that He is the commander of the Lords army. Joshua immediately bowed down with his face to the ground (v.14) worshiping asking what the Lord wants from him (v.14). As with Moses at the burning bush when He encountered God (Exo 3:1-15) the commander of the Lord’s army instructs him to take of his sandals as He was in the presence of God and the place where he was standing was sacred to which Joshua complied (v.15). Borland (1979:79) states that Joshua does not use the word ‘Adam’ but ‘Ish’, which clearly denotes a being that appears to be human but do not have a human nature. Joshua’s immediate reaction is worship to which a monotheistic Jew clearly held as only reserved to the God of Israel (Deut 6:4) but interesting to note that this theophany held both the appearance of a man and the designation of God.   

iv. Gideon Questioning the Angel of the Lord (Jud 6:11-23)

The author of the book starts of by attributing personalized traits of a man who ‘sat under a tree’ (v.11) and in his encounter with Gideon, he calls him ‘sir’ (v.13). Clearly, Gideon at first had no idea who he encountered and in this instance thought, he was encountering an ordinary man. He carried a staff (v.21) and spoke (vv.12-23) with questions that evoked a deep skepticism in Gideon’s mind (v.13). When the Lord turns to Gideon, he asks for an additional sign to confirm it is God speaking to him (v.17). Gideon brings the Lord a meal in where the Lord stretches out His staff and consumes the food with fire (v.21). Gideon mentions that he had seen the God face to face (v.22) but the Lord immediately gives him peace that he would not die because Gideon had seen him (v.23) (Haasbroek 2004:95).  

III.c Summary

This chapter sets out to show what scholars reveal about what the Son of God was actively present in the combined testimony of the Old Testament. He was prophetically present in the Old Testament and we recognize that he was the fulfillment of the coming expected Messiah. He is also seen as portrayed and signified through the lives and typologies evident in all of the people, places, and prophecies. Lastly, we maintain that the Son did not just exist in the mind of the father but that He was in fact active and communicated directly with various individuals in history even before His incarnation. We can therefore affirm that the reality of the Old Testament is truly given to the Jewish people, and in retrospect for us, to come to the full understanding of the revelation of Jesus Christ who explained that all of the Scriptures evidently speaks about Him (Luke 24:27, 44; John 5:39; Heb 10:7; Matt 5:17). These theological perspectives agree therefore that Jesus transcends both space and time and He seems to be the very central focus of our faith in both the Old and the New Testament. In the next chapter, we will look at a textual analysis that affirms this reality.