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]

Friday, November 29, 2019

Word of God Speak: A Response to Professor Bobby Killmon

Bobby Killmon is the Dean of Biblical Studies at Indiana Bible College, a Oneness Pentecostal institution. Killmon wrote a blog post entitled John 1 Is Not a Separate Person of a Trinity wherein he has sought to debunk the notion that “the Word/Logos in John 1 is not a separate person of a trinity.” I was pleased to find this article, and I assumed that Mr. Killmon, a professor of biblical studies, would provide good interaction with the biblical text. However, upon examination, I noticed that this article affords almost no interaction with the prologue of the fourth gospel and merely rehearses the well-trodden arguments of Oneness Pentecostals and other theological unitarians. 

Killmon begins his article by asking, 
“Should we use 2nd-4th century creeds and philosophical developments are [sic] how they understood the ‘Word’ in Jn. 1?”
He answered, 
“In order to do this we must dismiss the entire OT usage of the term word and all material outside of Scripture used by Jews of the time.” 
Killmon has implied that the manner in which trinitarian Christians arrive at their understanding of the λόγος is by merely parroting the creeds and some ambiguous “philosophical developments.” This notion, however, is negated by a vast body of exegetical literature that has been produced by Christians for nearly two thousand years. The means by which we should understand John’s Word is an examination of what John actually wrote. Only then, after apprehending what the apostle has said, can we then move on to the analogy of Scripture. Ironically, however, Killmon never interacts with the prologue. 

Killmon then went on to appeal to the utilization of the term “Word” as it appears in the OT:
Numbers 22:38 says, “…the word that God putteth in my mouth, that shall I speak.” Jer. 23:9 says, “…because of the LORD, and because of the words of his holiness.” These references are clearly about the utterances of the prophet spoken by divine inspiration. Even though this “word” of the Lord is spoken of as independent of God, no one can seriously claim these show a second person. This is being readily admitted today by many non-Oneness scholars, such as noted Cambridge scholar James Dunn. Regarding passages that seem to show the Word being independent of God, Dunn states, “…that is more an accident of idiom than anything else.” He further argues, “But for the prophet the word he spoke under inspiration was no independent entity divorced from Yahweh.” Even Rudolf Bultmann says, “God’s word is God…” Dunn affirms this too stating, “God’s word is God’s act … the manifestation of his power, the real manifestation of God.”
Killmon should feel acute cognitive dissonance in his appeal to both Bultmann and Dunn. Neither of these men shares virtually any of the theological commitments possessed by Killmon, including any orthodox understanding of biblical inspiration or inerrancy. In any case, I suppose Killmon believes ‘The enemy of my enemy is my friend.’ 

One would think that learning what John means when he wrote about the λόγος would require that one examine what he actually wrote. Instead, Killmon appeals to a handful of texts in the OT, which are essentially irrelevant to what John wrote. Killmon has essentially argued that since the term “word” is used in the OT to refer to something impersonal (e.g., a prophetic word), John cannot, therefore, intend to identify the Word as a person distinct from God. This sort of argumentation is surprising from a “Dean of Biblical Studies.” Taking the use of a term as it is found in two texts within the OT and imposing that definition upon another text without actually considering what that author wrote is both illogical and eisegetical by definition. Using Killmon’s method, one could take the term άρτος (“bread”) as it occurs in the Septuagint and insist that Jesus Christ is made up of flour, water, and yeast.1 Such an interpretive method is absurd and commits essentially the same error that Killmon accuses trinitarians of committing.

There are multiple pericopes within the OT which describe a personal Word. For example, Genesis 15:1 states that “the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision.” Abram calls this Word, “O Lord God” in v. 2. If the Word is identified as “Lord God” and appears and speaks with Abram, the Word is necessarily personal. In 1 Samuel 3 we are told that the Word of the Lord was revealed to Samuel and “stood” by him (vv. 7, 10). The chapter concludes in v. 21 with, “And the Lord appeared again at Shiloh, for the Lord revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the Lord.” This Word is distinguished from God (v. 21), speaks of God in the third person (v. 13) and is said to have “appeared” and “stood” with Samuel. Clearly, this Word is personal. 

While there are many other OT texts which one could marshal in order to further disprove Killmon’s narrow definition of either dabar or logos, I will now turn to his assertion regarding second temple Jewish literature. Killmon continued, 
Scripture speaks clearly in Psalms and the Prophets of the Word being God Himself acting in creation, in judgment, and in salvation. This is simply OT language used in its right and typical function. Even G. F. Moore says, “It is an error to see in such personifications an approach to personalization. Nowhere either in the Bible or in extra-canonical literature of the Jews is the word of God a personal agent or on the way to come such.” Catch that. This isn’t about PERSONS! Further, NOWHERE in any Jewish literature of the time does saying it’s persons exit. Dunn further admits that, “…a considerable consensus has been achieved by the majority of contemporary scholars would agree that the principal background against which the Logos prologue (Jn. 1) must be set is the OT itself…” The OT, not later doctrinal development. We are against this interpretation. We are anti-trinitarian in this sense.
Not only does the OT describe the Word in personal terms, there is a vast body of second temple literature which does as well. The Aramaic Targums include many passages which identify the Memra (i.e., the “Word”) in many of the same ways the NT identifies the Son of God. Targum Jerusalem translates Genesis 1:26, “And the Word of the Lord created man in his likeness…” In the same way that John identifies the Word as the one through whom are things were made (1:3), Targum Onkelos states, “And the world was made by his Word.” Whereas John associates the Word with light in John 1:4, Targum Neofiti states, “The earth was void and empty and darkness was spread over the face of the abyss, and the Word of the Lord was the light.” The Targums interpret Genesis 15:1 similarly: “Fear not…My Word will be your shield.” 

Some interpreters have argued that the Targumic Memra is merely a linguistic device that was utilized in order to distance God by means of circumlocution.2 The difficulty with this view is that the Targums translate the OT Angel of the Lord, who is both identified as Yahweh and is clearly portrayed as personally distinct from God,3 as the Word. Thus, if one asserts that the Angel of Yahweh is personal, then necessarily, the Targumic Memra must be similarly understood.4

Killmon concluded,
As one man poignantly said, “Right readers must read rightly.” Necessarily then, we must first approach the Bible correctly as the inerrant Word of God. Then, we must read rightly or interpret it correctly by not presupposing our own ideas and reading them into the Scripture. The “Word of the Lord” must be defined by the OT usage, not a post-New Testament invention. The only way one can see a trinity in the reference to the “Word” in John 1 is to presuppose it, ignore the OT usage, interpret it a new way, and disregard the first century usage as well. This is telling “eis-egesis” (reading your meaning into the Bible) not true exegesis (drawing the meaning out of the text’s intention). Which approach is Christian? Which treats Scripture as the inerrant Word of God? The way we use Scripture tells on us. I want to not only say I love and revere His Word, but in my practice demonstrate this is true.
In the final analysis, Killmon commits the very sin that he accuses orthodox Christians of committing, namely, he imports an interpretation upon a text from elsewhere and forces that text to fit his pre-conceived paradigm. His assessment of the use of “word” in the OT and in second temple literature is shallow and inaccurate, betraying even a cursory understanding. Killmon never provided an exegesis of the relevant text and instead appealed to two other texts whose relevance consists only in the fact that the term “word” appeared in them. That isn’t exegesis. Rather, such an approach is, ironically, intensely eisegetical.

1 John 6:48.
2 Martin McNamara, Targum and the Testament Revisited, 2nd Ed., (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010), 162.
3 Gen. 16:7-13; Zec. 1:12; 3:1-2.
4 For a more in-depth consideration of the Targums and for an exegesis of John’s prologue see Michael R. Burgos ed., Our God is Triune: Essays in Biblical Theology (Torrington, CT: Church Militant Pub., 2018), 106-42.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

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

by Rudolph P. Boshoff

§ I. Introduction

I.a Background

There has been an increasing trend in Christian Scholarship that the Old Testament Scriptures is not a central revelation of Jesus Christ or His divinity. Marcus Borg (2000) evidently finds Jesus to be a sage but not a divine and Bart D. Ehrman (Bird 2014) speculates what it meant when we spoke of Jesus as being Lord over all.

Some evangelical Scholars have been of the opinion that the very central focus of the Old Testament was essentially Jesus Christ. In this study I will show that Scholars affirm how Jesus was significant to the Old Testament context and then press on to look at two key Scriptures that would affirm that very fact. In conclusion, we will show that the story of God was indeed the story of the revealed Jesus Christ.

I.b Objective and Key Questions

The primary objective in this paper will be to explore the Old Testament references to Jesus Christ. I shall attempt to answer three key questions:
1. What have theologians, both historical and contemporary, taught about Jesus Christ in the Old Testament? 
2. What does Scripture teach about Jesus Christ in the Old Testament? 
3. Based on the evidence of Jesus Christ in the Old Testament, who is he?
I.c Thesis Statement

The Old Testament reveals a picture of Christ that shows him to be the Messiah, Angel of the Lord and ultimately divine.  

I.d Methodology

The introductory part of the paper will (a) state the research problem, (b) highlight three key questions, (c) define vital terms and (d) conclude with a tentative practical supposition of the antecedent clause of the thesis statement.
Step 1: This step will describe current views within Christianity about Jesus Christ in the Old Testament including important features that will develop the basis of my investigation. Each view will utilize the works of significant scholars like Bates (2015), Bauckham (2008), Bird (2014), Borland (1978), Charlesworth (1988), Geisler (2002), Haasbroek (2004), Horbury (1998), Lee (2005), Loader (2001), Longenecker (2001), Rosen (2006), Robinson (2013), Stephen (1998), Talbot (1942), Walvoord (1969), Wright (1992). I will show what each scholar’s perspective stipulates in Old Testament prophecy, typology, and Theophany concerning the preincarnate Christ. 
Step 2: This step will focus on the Biblical teaching concerning Jesus Christ as revealed in the Old Testament with the focus on the Son of Man (Daniel 7:13-14) and Jesus as Immanuel, God with us (Isaiah 7:14). For the book of Daniel, I will use Bauckham (2008), Gowan (2011), Hammer (1976), Horbury (1998), Longenecker (2001) and Macleod (1998). For the Book of Isaiah I will use Bruce (2008), Nägelsbach (1980), and Wiersbe (2002).
Step 3: This step will conceptualise a theology extracted from the key ideas and applicable passages in Scripture by showing how the New Testament authors found what they believed about Christ in the Old Testament Scriptures. I will then also construct a Biblical perspective that will show that Jesus Christ was more than just the coming Messiah of the Old Testament was and that the story of God is the story of Christ.
In conclusion, I will show that Christian scholars have positively affirmed the deity of Christ in the Old Testament Scriptures and that we can show biblically with absolute assurance who the God of the Bible is in the Old Testament because of the revelation of Jesus Christ.

[Continued in Pt. 2]