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God in the Old Testament

I've had many discussions under the title of "Christ in the Old Testament."  But perhaps the issues would be seen more clearly if we labelled the debate: "God in the Old Testament."

And actually, the fact that those two titles sound quite different tells you everything you need to know about the dire Christlessness of evangelical God-talk.

We (and I include myself here in my knee-jerk western deism) imagine that there's a bed-rock deity called "God" who is obviously the God spoken of in Genesis.  And then we discuss whether the Patriarchs also knew this shadowy figure called Messiah.  And we debate how Messianic certain discrete verses are, and to what degree the author was aware, and to what degree the first audience was cognisant of specific promises and appearances, etc, etc.  But we almost never challenge that view of "God" which we all signed off on in the beginning!

Thus from the outset God is defined as - essentially - 'the God of monotheism' (broadly conceived) and Christ is defined as a nuance to a more foundational divine reality.  Then we spend all our time debating how clear the nuance was!

But what if, from the beginning, Elohim was not the god of Aristotle!  It's a shocking thought I know, but let's run with it.  What if He makes all things by His Spirit and Word and says "Let us"?  And what if this is not something that needs to be kept in check by a hermeneutic that expects only the omnibeing?  And what if the LORD God stoops down and breathes into Adam's nostrils and what if, under the name "Voice of the LORD", He walks in the garden in the cool of the day and encounters the couple as a divine Person.

How much clearer Adam saw God than us!  Without the "benefit" of our western theistic presuppositions, he sees the "very God from very God."  He doesn't think in that exact language, but he certainly doesn't think in unitarian categories either.  To think of "the Son" as something extra to his simple belief in "God" betrays disturbing assumptions about who we think "God" is.

Who is this "God" for whom the Son is an addendum?  Why on earth are we beginning the Scriptures with that "God"?  And if the primary truths about God are unitarian, is our own faith primarily unitarian, just with a Jesus nuance?

The question is deeper than "Christ in the Old Testament."  It's deeper even than "God in the Old Testament."  It's the question of God.  Which explains why the issue can get quite heated at times.  But also why it's so crucial.

7 thoughts on “God in the Old Testament

  1. Howard Diehl

    This really hit me as I prepared some sermons for a series on the Book of Acts. As I went back over the flow of God's plan and movement in history, it really hit home that it's God's story that is the focus, and Christ is the one, of course, whom God the father sent to accomplish this plan. In the end everything goes back to God. It put things proper perspective. Makes sense for me.

  2. woldeyesus

    All theological doctrines are proved wrong by the Holy Spirit revealing the plain truth about God in Christ's characteristic death on the cross (John 16: 5-15, 25-26; 19: 30-37)

  3. The Orange Mailman

    Hey Glen-

    I'm having a hard time reconciling your post on the 16th with this. In some way, Jesus was declared to be the Son of God by the resurrection is a way that had not been previously declared. Now please don't misquote me. I'm not saying that Jesus became the Son of God at the resurrection. Certainly He is eternally the Son of God. The question is "how much knowledge did God reveal?" During the earthly ministry of Jesus, He deliberately suppressed the knowledge that He is Messiah and Son of God, Matthew 16:20. How much more did God keep this hidden (not completely unknown) before His earthly ministry?

    How would you factor in Psalm 2:7 with Hebrews 1:5, 5:5 in relation to His priestly ministry which only began after He sat down after His crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension? "You are my Son, this day have I begotten you." And then there's the enigmatic Acts 13:33 which links the resurrection to the declaration in Psalm 2:7 making the day of the resurrection seem to be the day that the Son is begotten, although I believe it's simply a declaration. It also seems that Romans 1:4 (mentioned in your previous post) and Colossians 1:15-19 (all linked together with first-born from the dead) lean toward an ongoing revelation about the Son of God.

    The burden of proof would fall on you to point to some scripture in Genesis that reveals God to be the Son of God. Yet the first reference to the firstborn Son of God in the scriptures is in reference to the nation of Israel, Exodus 4:22-23. Unless I'm missing something? Again, please don't misunderstand. I'm not saying that God could not have been understood as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit from the beginning. I'm simply saying that it is an unproved assumption that the scriptures clearly portray God as having a Son from the beginning. Yet it seems to me (and I hope this doesn't sound pompous) that you look down on anyone who doesn't agree and your position is the one lacking the proof.

    I think these are good thoughts that you have. We shouldn't assume that God was only "God" (singular) and specifically not "let Us" when the text says otherwise. But then we also shouldn't read into the text more than is there.

    Have fun and stay busy - Luke 19:13

    -The Orange Mailman

  4. Glen

    Hi Howard,
    As long as it's God-sending-His-Son that is always the revelation (rather than simply God who, surprisingly, sends His Son).

    Hi woldeyesus, if you mean that the cross of Christ judges all of theology I agree!

    Hi Orange, I see that my strong rhetoric in the post makes it hard to engage me. Sorry about that. Thanks for pressing me.

    The language used by OT believers would not be Nicene (neither would that of the Apostles, strictly). It's more the plural, inter-personal and mediatorial categories that I'm interested in. And they are all over the first three chapters of Genesis.

    I don't think it can be denied *that* the OT believers looked to a mediating divine Revealer/Saviour/Christ and that this did not "mess with" their doctrine of God but *was* their doctrine of God. I offer the following points as support:

    1) The plural, inter-personal, mediatorial language of the OT cannot be understood in its own context in unitarian ways.

    2) The NT reads such language as trinitarian (e.g. the Hebrews quotations of Psalms). It never claims that this is a re-reading.

    3) The NT speaks of OT believers seeing the reality of multiple divine Persons (e.g. Jesus speaking of Psalm 110; or Peter or Paul speaking of Psalm 16 - Acts 2 & 13).

    As for the becoming-in-resurrection language, as long as we make those careful caveats that you do (i.e. He *is* the Son before He is declared it with power) then I think the point affects *how* we speak of knowledge of Christ rather than *whether*. They know the Christ who is to be definitively manifested in the future - we know the Christ who was definitively manifested in the past. Their knowledge of Christ was in the key of expectation, ours is in the mode of fulfilment. But it's the same Christ and therefore the same God.

    And without this Christ there is no knowledge of God.

  5. The Orange Mailman

    Glen, thanks for your gracious reply and of course I agree with your main points. I can certainly respect your position even if I don't completely agree with every detail.

    Have fun and stay busy - Luke 19:13

    -The Orange Mailman

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