Christ’s self Identity in light of intermediary beings by Rudolph P. Boshoff.

There just never seem to be a lack of keen interest in the study of the Person and place of Jesus Christ. Personally, I am challenged often by Unitarians to frequent a better understanding of “agency” if I am going to study Christ truthfully in the Jewish scheme of things, which conclusively shows him to be just an “intermediary being, agent, or deputy”. I have had a Unitarian say, “Read the Apostle Paul! He wrote; “It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed would come to whom the promise had been made” (Gal. 3:19). I have heard this idea even being used, implying that Jesus was just a mediator and nothing else!  ”For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim.2:5). Obviously ignoring verse 16 and 17 in Chapter 1 as well as verse 16 in Chapter  3, we have to look at the sentiment a little deeper that what we are askimages (1)ed to accept. Sir Anthony Buzzard exclaims boldly that, “Jesus is your accredited Shaliach, ambassador, agent, deputy, or plenipotentiary”.[1] Buzzard maintains that this is all Jesus ever was and ever will be. We need to look at this concept in detail and ask if it gives the only explanation as to the identity of Christ.

Rise of the “demigods”

I agree with T.F. Torrance that; “In the Old Testament, prophets and leaders like Moses, Elijah, Elisha and Ezekiel were referred to as Sheluchim; in the New Testament , the Apostles who bore witness to the life and resurrection of Jesus were also called apostle-Shaliachs”[2] There are extra-biblical literature where Angels are addressed as Creator (2 Esdras 5) which indicates that the agent was addressed as the “principle” of creation. In fact the chief criticism against Richard Bauckham by theologians like James Dunn and James McGrath is exactly that here the ontological distinction as well as a functional distinction that seems to be evident in the understanding of intermediary beings and their function in the ancient world. Some scholars show that intermediaries or agents can receive authority to give life and that even the Messiah had a reserved glory as God’s representative before creation (Pesachim 54a, Avot 3:14).

Professor J.A.T. Robinson writes in his book “The Human Face of God” (1973) that Jesus, “has been sent as the Father’s personal representative or plenipotentiary, who is given his seal of authority and the credentials to act in his name… John never implies, any more than the writer of Hebrews, that because Jesus is son he does not stand in the same human relationship to God as every other man. On the contrary, it is because he is the one completely obedient man who ‘always’ does his Father’s will, right ‘to the end,’ that he is the perfect reflection or representation of God, in the way that an only son may be said to be the very image of his father. Consequently, anyone who has seen this man has seen the Father… That one who was totally and utterly a man – and had never been anything other than a man or more than a man – so completely embodied what was from the beginning the meaning and purpose of God’s self-expression (whether conceived in personal relationship or Sonship) that it could be said, and had to be said of that man, ‘He was God’s man,’ or ‘God was in Christ,’ or even that he was ‘God for us.’” (Robinson 1973:179).

The point of intermediariesdownload

The central principle of intermediary figures is therefore that, everything the representative does displays the ontological nature of the one that is sending them (1 Cor.3:21-22). The agent bears God’s name, but remains subordinate and distinct from God (Exo. 7:1, 23:21) and because unity does not mean ontological identity (Exo. 17:21) it could be concluded then that Jesus was utterly man but not essentially God. He held a position of honour as God’s agent doing the deeds of God. 

John Macquarrie quoted James Dunn who summed it up this way: “The career of Jesus Christ is seen as a rerun of the programme which came to grief in Adam but has now achieved its purpose in Christ and in those who are joined with him in the Christ-event.”[3]

The sole purpose of Christ was to retell the ‘Adam’ story. Jesus showed what the “Eden State” is truly like – a state attainable by all humanity. We have the hope of assuming the “same form” of Jesus (Ro. 8:29) to share in true humanity as a reflecting of divinity (2 Pet. 1:4). None of these texts can have true impetus if one has a low view of humanity, or describe the non-Trinitarian Jesus as “merely” human. It betrays, instead, a non-biblical understanding of God’s initiative for mankind”. It is conclusively then shown that in Second Temple Judaism the idea of intermediary figures who were addressed as Yahweh (Ex. 23:21, Zechariah Chapter 1), God (Ex. 7:1), Creator (2 Esdras), Yahoel/Metatron/second Yahweh (3 Enoch), Elohim (Melchizedek scroll), etc. was perfectly accepted and worshipped as God since they were images or depictions of God but not because they were God. Unitarians conclude then that Jesus is utterly man and nothing else! He was the agent of God but not God![4]

The validity of this argument

What is the merit of this argument? Was Jesus Liar, Lord, Lunatic or just another intermediary being for God? Let me just add that there is serious disagreement on how to really deal with these supposed intermediary figures. Boyd and Eddy writes; “There is widespread disagreement over how to explain the development of these intermediary figures… on Jewish soil, as well as over how significant they are for our understanding of the theology of Second Temple Judaism”. [5] We need to be honest and ask how flexible second Temple Judaism was concerning the supposed ‘godlike’ status that was ascribed to intermediary beings. Boyd and Eddy remark, “First, scholars often exaggerate the difference between the view of intermediary beings in the intertestimental period and the view of intermediary beings prior to this time. In point of fact, “gods”, “angels”, “heavenly hosts”, and other intermediary beings play a significant role throughout the Old Testament, far more so than many seem to realize. In the Old Testament, as in the intertestamental period, these beings are sometimes spoken of in very exalted terms and are viewed as agents who to some extend affect what God does and what transpires in world history.”[6] Richard Bauckham mentioned though that “however diverse Judaism may have been in many other respects, this was common: only the God of Israel is worthy of worship because he is sole Creator of all things and sole Ruler of all things. Other beings who might otherwise be thought divine are by these criteria God’s creatures and subjects”. Historically we recognize that in intertestamental times, the language about intermediary beings became more flexible but the monotheism of the Jewish community was unwavering and incredibly strict due to the pagan community around them! Here are a few intermediary concepts we need to look at:

E57018Theios Aner

Carl Holladay mentions this idea predominantly in his own studies and tries to explain that the very understanding of divine agency solidifies the “theios aner” idea. Boyd and Eddy writes, “while it is true that some Jewish authors referred to various heroes of the faith as “divine men”[7] (theios aner), it is also true that no Jewish author ever refers to another human as “God” (theos) in the same manner used of Yahweh God. Nor is there any suggestion that a human could be worshipped such as we find in Greco-Roman religion. The Jews were repulsed by this concept, all the more so because they were surrounded by it. Never is the absolute distinction between God and his creation compromised… early Christianity were willing to apply the title “God” to Jesus and to play to pray to and Worship Him, as such ”.[8]  When we look at the use of the term in its historical context we find that the term ‘Theios Aner’ had quite a varied meaning in the Hellenistic world. In fact, Jews used the term purely as an ethical connotation, which would render its use and meaning as speaking of a “godly man” or “wise man” or “holy man”. Eddy and Boyd mention that “Jewish authorities rarely associate the term with supernatural power, and even when they do so it is strictly in keeping with supernatural feats already ascribed to them in Scripture”. They also add; “the occasional use of theios aner by Jews in no way suggests that they were indulging in a pagan-inspired compromise of their creational monotheism. As such, it does not help us to understand how the early Jewish disciples could have talked about, and even worshipped, a recent contemporary of theirs as, in some sense, Yahweh embodied”. [9] Here are a few other semi-divine figures:

Moses

In the Exagoge of Ezekiel the Tragedian we find Moses as one ‘replacing’ God  on the throne (Exagoge 68-80)  handing his crown to Ezekiel. This writing is very problematic to date even though most scholars put it in the second century B.C.E. James Dunn says thought that “there is no thought of Moses being Worshipped…Moses is said to have been deemed worthy to be honoured like a god” [not as a god/God].

Elijah

As a result of not knowing where Moses was buried; there was a hope of His eternal exaltation into the heavenly realm (Deut.34:6, 2 Kings 2) This idea is espoused on in the Book of Ben Sira (48.9-10) Dunn  cautions us though that “there is no thought of Elijah being worshipped in any of these accounts.”[10]

EnochEnoch_01

In a similar vain than Elijah, Enoch is seen as one who have been assumed into heaven (Gen.5:24). Consequently, Enoch has been seen as a subject of considerable speculation. He was thought to be the accountant of the sins of many (Jub.4.17-19; 23). He is even thought to be the individual who would return with Elijah at the end of the age (Rev.11:3, 1 Enoch 90.31, Apoc.Elijah. 3.90-99). He is also identified as Metatron, the Prince of the presence and a “lesser Yahweh” (3 Enoch 3-16, 12.5). James Dunn cautions us that the “exaltation of Enoch as Metatron evidently came to be judged a threat to Judaism’s monotheism (3 Enoch16;b. Hag.15a).

Great human figures

James Dunn writes that “the possibility that even within the monotheistic Judaism of the first century the thought of a great human figure being exalted to heavenly status, and thus receiving the honour due to such a one, was not far from being admissible….the figures [being]… all ancient, legendary, or even mythical figures weakens significantly any potential parallel. Nevertheless, the fact that even such possibilities was entertained within early Judaism remains significant”. [11] Are these Semi-Divine figures important to our study of the person of Jesus Christ? I believe it contains some value in showing the idea of semi-divine figures were evidentially entertained in these Jewish communities. That another would be given the same worship as God, I think it is explicitly denied by the earliest communities. The presence of these figures in the Jewish religious milieu  indicates that questions of the place and person of Jesus Christ could be asked and reviewed. James Dunn makes an excellent point duly noted in that what this show is that “the ‘oneness’ of Second Temple Judaism’s monotheism cannot simply be defined in terms of numerical oneness”. [12] The implication of semi-divine figures therefore does not aid the Unitarian but simply denounces their insistence to show that Christ being raised to Divine status is not that foreign to the Jewish understanding of agency!

Jesus as Shaliach

imagesEverett Ferguson gives us a definition of a Shaliach when he writes; “The rabbinic Shaliach (One sent) was a legal representative with power of attorney: “a man’s Shaliach is as himself”.[13] The rabbinic Shaliach and the Christian Apostle were independent derivations from the same conceptions in earlier Jewish thought.” The Shaliach in Rabbinical Judaism as a possible precursor of the apostle. The concept, we are told, was primarily a juristic one; the Shaliach was delegate for another, he acted as an authorized person to whom a definite commission had been entrusted. As such a representative, he was invested with the authority of the person or group he was charged to represent, in accordance with the oft-quoted maxim: “A man’s representative is as the man himself.” Thus, for example, under rabbinic law, marriage by proxy was possible. Again, a man might actually divorce his wife through such a representative, and even in a matter so personal as this, he could not subsequently undo what had been done in his name. On the other hand, the representative could not undertake independent action. It was assumed that he would keep within the commission given to him; his authority was derivative and therefore conditional upon obedience to his instructions. There is the sense that the Biblical concept of Apostleship is derived from this concept.[14] John Stott writes and mentions that there is a contemporary reason for the use of this word by Jesus and the New Testament. Apostolos is the Greek equivalent of the Aramaic Shaliach, which already had a well-defined meaning as a teacher sent out by the Sanhedrin to instruct the Jews of the Dispersion. As such Shaliach carried the authority of those he represented, so that it was said, “the one who is sent is as he who sent him.” In the same way, Jesus sent out his apostles to represent him, to bear his authority and teach in his name, so that he could say of them: “He who receives you receives me” (Mat. 10:40; cf. John. 13:20).[15] Was Jesus a mere intermediary being? Radz Matthew C. Brown writes that this will not be an adequate depiction of the person of Christ “because the scripture is explicit that the Lord Jesus Christ is God’s own Son, very Reason, Wisdom, Power, Invisible Image, Effulgence and Exact Imprint of his nature, that is, distinct person yet of same nature with God.

The following are scriptural proofs that the Son is of same nature with the Father:

1) John 1:1c The Word as God in nature (theos- qualitative in sense).

2) Philippians 2:6 who, existing in (Greek: morphe theou) God’s nature which expresses itself visually [i.e. glory] thought it not to be equal with God [in authority, see v. 9] something to took by force.

3) Colossians 2:9 because in him all the complete very nature of God (Greek: theotetos) dwells bodily.

4) Hebrews 1:3 the exact imprint of his nature (Greek: Hupostaseos).

5) Hebrews 1:5, 5:5 (Psalm 2:7 LXX) You are my Son. Today, I have begotten You. [To beget means to produce an offspring of same nature].
shaliach

The Lord Jesus Christ is not of same nature with angels, that is, he is not a creature whom God chose to be his agent but rather, he is his very own Son, of same nature with him. He is the Son functioning not only as a prophet but as the Logos himself! (John 1:1, Hebrews 1:1). “The Jesus who emerges then is a Jesus who said and did what only God could say and do. His claims are unmatched by Jewish expectations of the Messiah, by Jewish ideas regarding the glorious characters of Israel’s past, the most exalted of the angels, and even the heavenly Son of Man. According to the contemporary Jewish sources, these divine agents do not engage Satan directly, and they do not inaugurate the new creation. They do not forgive sins, and they do not autonomously pass the ultimate, eschatological judgment. They do not pit their own authority against the authority of the word of God. Nor do they demand a loyalty that takes precedent over the commandments of God”. [16] “Despite all their differences, there are some striking similarities in the portraits of Jesus presented in the Synoptic Gospel. They have all given considerable attention to the theme of Jesus acting in God’s place. For Mark, this means that Jesus is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecies regarding the new exodus, and he is the divine warrior who defeats Satan and his army of evil spirits. Jesus’ miracles show that the new creation is already a reality. For Matthew, Jesus’ equality with God means that Jesus is Emmanuel, God with Us. He is personally eternally present with his disciples and his presence is the presence of God. The proper response, therefore is to worship him. For Luke, Jesus’ equality with God means that the earthly Jesus is also the heavenly Lord. He is present in the heavenly council while he is also present with his disciples on earth”.[17]

The very explanatory scope of the Shaliach creature is deficient to ascribe to Jesus the plausible assumptions he enjoyed as a man. Agency cannot explain the full range of Christ’s person and function! Marianne Meye Thompson affirms that; “While the category of agency helps to account for much of the specific idiom of the Gospel’s Christology [John], it does not explain fully such themes as the heavenly descent and ascent of the Son of Man, the use of “Logos”, Jesus’s functions of teaching and illumination, or the gospel’s emphasis on seeing the Father in the Son ”.  She adds, “the limited duration of the commission of the Shaliach is a chief deficiency of it’s application to Jesus, for upon completion of a specific task, the Shaliach does not continue to function as the representative or agent of the one who had sent him on the assigned mission ”.. “The relationship is not permanent… one must turn to other categories and figures to help illuminate the presentation of Jesus”. Is it true that Jesus’s mission coming to earth can be adequately explained by him being the viceroy of God exemplifying the very authority delegated to Him by the Father? Was Jesus just the emissary of God’s will? I honestly do  not think so as He displays both a functional subordinate will to the father but also claims divine unity of ontology and authority. Thompson, therefore explains the deficiency in the idea that the Shaliach theory fails when she wrote that; “It is doubtful whether the role of the Shaliach could be thought to make the absent sender present through his own person. The Shaliach is indeed fully authorized to carry transactions on behalf of the sender and so serves as a legitimate representative of the sender. Yet the language of ‘seeing” Jesus and the Father evokes OT language of theophany and of visions of God”. [18] Even James D.G. Dunn agrees with the assessment that the Shaliach figure, on its own, cannot provide an adequate hold on the distinctive and central features of Johannine Christology, such as preexistence and the intimate uni24615849on between Father and Son. ” [19]

The Son

Theologian Paul Meyer  mentions that; “The Fourth Evangelist wants to persuade his readers of a heavenly origin for Jesus the Messiah which goes back to the beginning of time, and of a relationship between Father and Son which is more than simply of will or function.” [20] The Son always seem to be pre-eminent in, and by, Himself. To assert that the Son merely functions on God’s behalf would only be half of the story of the New Testament Scriptures.  T.F.Torrance says, however, that there is a difference when the term Shaliach is applied to God and to human representatives. For instance, “The whole New Testament doctrine of Shaliach is one which the person of the Shaliach retreats into the background so that the living person of the Risen Christ can come to the fore”.[21] Christ did not only reveal the will of the Father or took the very position of the prescribed “minus triplex”. Torrance mentions that “It is supremely in that sense that christ is Shaliach: he is the word of God and the deed of God, who not only brings from God His word of pardon but effectively enacts it. In Jesus Christ the word and deed of God are identical, identical in His person. He is the Word of God which He represents, so that His word is not just a word about God, but is actually God’s Word. God in His Word. His actions not only point to God, but He is Himself God in action so that his acts are God’s own acts. Christ was sent from the Father not only to forgive sin but to heal, not only to speak of God’s pardon but to enact that pardon in our flesh and blood”. [22] Dick O. Eugenio, Assistant Professor of Theology at Asia-Pacific Nazarene Theological Seminary, mentions that “Torrance concludes that inasmuch as Jesus Christ is the Shaliach of the Father, the Holy Spirit is the Shaliach of the Son, in that, “He [the Spirit] does not draw attention to Himself or speaks of His own Person, but speaks only of Christ”.[23] The silence is in fact deafening! Jesus came to reveal the Father, and in the process completes the demands of eternal Salvation on our behalf and in that secures His previously held position on the throne [singular] of Yahweh. And that this One Lord [Christ was venerated with the very Worship only due to the enthroned God.[24]

Angel Veneration in Judaism:

When we adequately look at angel veneration in the Old Testament we recognize that the Angel of the Lord were given the rightful allegiance of a form of Worship[25] (Gen. 16, 21; 31 & Ex. 3; 14, Judg. 2, 5, 5, 13; Num.22 etc). This leads us to believe the Angel of the Lord is no other than the Lord Yahweh Himself. Trinitarian Christian account for this reality by stating that the Second person of the Trinity was evident in the affairs of mankind before His own incarnation.[26] In fact, the worship of ‘normal’ angels and even ‘great’ angels were quickly squashed![27] James Dunn notes that there is great difficulty in distinguishing between the Angel of Yahweh and Yahweh Himself and that they are evidently the very same “person”. [28] Dunn also shows the clear definition of the term Enthroned“angel” and how it effects the Jewish understanding of mediation and adds that;  “Angels in the religion of Israel and early Judaism, therefore, are a reminder to us that in talk of worshipping God, the term ‘God’ can just be as unclear as ‘worship’ ”… in early Judaism the understanding was not simply of communications from God but of making real the presence of God…not simply a message from Yahweh but the presence of Yahweh.”[29] Angels were seen as clearly distinct from God and as Dunn noted even “great” angels being worshipped was quickly dismissed.[30] Richard Bauckham makes an interesting note when he describes “divine identity”. He writes “I find the divine identity more useful than many of these… [Agency, function, personification, hypostasis etc[31].]… for the Jewish religious tradition in general, what not what God is, or what divinity is (divine nature or essence) but who God is, who YHWH the God of Israel is…  He alone is supreme Ruler all else subject to His will… worship is understood as God’s qualitative uniqueness, God’s unique identity as only Creator and only Sovereign” [not only a “Quantitative” uniqueness] which is Biblically attributed to Jesus both “functionally” and “ontologically”(Heb 8:1, 12:2, Rev 3:21,5:6, 7:17, 22:3; Eph 1:20-21, 1 Pet 3:22,Rev 5:11-14). “[32]Bob Deffinbaugh says, “No angel has ever heard these words, which were spoken by the Father to the Son: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet” (1:13). No, for they are all servant spirits, whose service is directed toward those who will inherit salvation[33] (1:14)”.[34] Loren Stuckenbruck mentions that “on the basis of the texts it would be hasty for one to speak of the veneration of angels in Early Judaism. The releveant sources do not allow us to infer a common practice, but rather seem to reflect specific contexts within which worship of angels, in a variety of forms, could find expression… Angel veneration is not conceived as a substitute for the Worship of God. Indeed, most often the veneration language is followed by an explenation which emphasizes the supremacy of God.”[35]

The Divine Council

Sommer,-Benjamin-4Bejamin Summer writes, “The conception of a host of angels or heavenly beings surrounding Yahweh is always present in Israel. . . . People could not conceive Yahweh in another fashion. . . . Far from clashing with monotheism, this conception lays the greatest stress on the Majesty of Yahweh. Yahweh is a unique God, but He is not alone.The council imagery served a vital polemical function by providing Israel a way of asserting the superior majesty and authority of her God over the demons and no-gods (Deut 32:17) worshiped as deities by her neighbors. A survey of passages mentioning the council members provides a general list of activities in which they engage. These include:

(1) praising and worshiping God (Deut 32:43; Isa 6:3; Pss 103:20-22, 148:1-6; Job 38:7; Neh 9:6); (2) serving as ministers (Isa 6: 6-7; Ps 103:21); (3) serving as witnesses, fellow judges, and bailiffs in YHVH’s court (Isa 1:2; Ps 82:1-4; Zech 3:3-5); (4) acting as God’s throne or chariot (Pss 18:10, 99:1); (5) carrying God’s throne (Ezek 1, 10); (6) serving as captains and soldiers in the supernatural army (Jos 5:14-15; 2 Kgs 6:17); (7) interpreting visions (Zech 1:9, 19, 21; Dan 7:15-17, 8:15-19); and (8) serving as shepherds of men or as patron angels of nations (Gen48:15-16; Deut 32:8; Dan 10:21, 12:1). The council operates on a cosmic level, governing God’s universe; on an earthly plane, governing Israel and nations; and on an individual level, guiding and protecting the righteous believer (Jud13:8; 2 Kgs 6:17; Ps 91:11). These activities or functions are all relational to YHVH.[36] Even though the relations of the Divine council is in direct relation to Yahweh it clearly reflecting service to the One God, it should also be noted that this concil ultimately affords the same Worship, glory honour and place to the Lamb of God Christ Jesus as well (Rev.4-6). In fact, even though divine fugures, prophets, and agents had access to the throne room of Yaweh, they were never called the “only begotten”, or even “sons of God” or “holy ones”, or accorded membership in the divine council. They were not divinized or asked to be worthy to open up the Scrolls or to send the Spirit; they were mere mortal visitors.

God’s ‘dependance on creation’

Another question that we need to ponder is that question of God’s active involvement in and amongst the people of history. In my estimation, there is serious problems with an ‘absolute’ transcendent God that seemingly solely  works through intermediaries. For an actual transcendent being to exist he has to be totally apart from the actualized reality of mankind free from his creation absolutely able to make Himself known in person as with Abraham, Moses and Christ. Davenport and Tennant explains that “Pure transcendence requires intermediaries, whether these take form of angels, secondary causes or demiurges, logoi or aeons. Deism, both he and Aristotle perceived, was clearly an impossible doctrine, as the world in which we all, to some extent, ‘live and move and have our being’ is left on our hands unexplained”.[37] A distant God cannot be a ‘known’ god![38] Christianity is therefore the only ‘true’ personalized theism that can truly account for a personalized deity that is wholly free and not dependant on his creation.

Conclusion:

There is value in discussing intermediary beings and how it made a way for Christ coming to mankind. These early Jewish leaders around Jesus understood what He meant when they accused him as being equal with God! (V/18) Interesting that the Word “Equal” in this context is “Ison” which means equal in quality & quantity. Christ is clearly assumed here as both God (Theos) and Man (Shelichut). Again as J.S. Whale affirms “the experience of Christian men, confirms the classic experience of the first age of Christendom, that the Man Christ Jesus has the decisive place in man’s ageless relationship with God. He is what God means by ‘Man.’ He is what man means by ‘God’.[39] “Begotten, not made” (as we, finite creatures are made); “Being of one substance with the Father” (an awkward translation of the words which mean: “Of the same identical being or reality as the Father”); “Who for us men and for our Salvation came down from heaven.”[40]

RB ChrHope this was a worth-while read! 

Selah

Rudolph P. Boshoff

Bibliography and further notes:

[1] http://www.21stcr.org/multimedia/artitcles/abhelping_world_count_to_one.html

[2] T.F. Torrance “Atonement” Pg 317-319. 

[3] Jesus Christ in Modern Thought By John Macquarrie Pg.59.

[4] For several recent attempts to articulate a Christology in terms of agency see P. Borgen, “God’s Agent in the Fourth Gospel” in Religions in Antiquity: Essays in Memory of Erwin Ramsdell Goodenough (ed. J. Neusner; Leiden: Brill, 1968) 137-48; and A. E. Harvey, “Christ as Agent,” in The Glory of Christ in the New Testament: Studies in Christology in Memory of George Bradford Caird (ed. L. D. Hurst and N. T. Wright; Oxford: Clarendon, 1987) 23950. A more successful attempt was made recently by L. Hurtado, One God, One Lord: Early Christian Devotion and Ancient Jewish Monotheism (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1988). If Christ is not pre-existent Deity, i.e., if God is not an ontological Trinity (the unstated assumption which seems to control both this work and that of Harvey), then Hurtado has given a possible explanation for the exaltation of Christ to quasi-divine status in the very earliest strata of Christian devotion. But see the review/critique by P. A. Rainbow, “Jewish Monotheism as the Matrix for New Testament Christology,” Nov T 33 (1991) 7891, esp. 86-91. A further criticism of Hurtado must also be noted: i.e., there is no consideration of the most obvious background material. The Pentateuch and its theophany’s are completely ignored – as is, for all practical purposes, the entire OT prior to Daniel. Thus crucial messianic texts in the Psalms and Isaiah receive no treatment; while the Angel of the Lord receives a mere paragraph, being mentioned (p. 75) only to be summarily dismissed.

[5] A Jewish legend of “Yahweh embodied”? Pg106.

[6] A Jewish legend of “Yahweh embodied”? Pg106.

[7] ‘”the idea that the Emperor became a god when he departed this life was already common, even where the western Empire resisted the idea that the living Emperor was already divine. Such beliefs, of course, were quite far removed from the stricter monotheism of Israel and early Judaism. But there where still some potential precedents within Second temple Judaism for understanding a particular individual to have been exalted or translated to heaven. The question is whether there was a precedent for the Worship of such a person…” J.D.G. Dunn “Did the first Christians Worship Jesus?” Pg. 84.

[8]  A Jewish legend of “Yahweh embodied”? Pg130.

[9] Ibid. Pg. 131. 

[10] J.D.G. Dunn “Did the first Christians Worship Jesus?” Pg.86-87.

[11] J.D.G. Dunn “Did the first Christians Worship Jesus?” Pg.89.

[12] Ibid. Pg. 90.

[13] Encyclopaedia of Early Christianity by

[14] “According to this Gospel [John5:54], Jesus makes a promise on behalf of God. In many respects we may see this as a statement to the effect that Jesus is the plenipotentiary, the authorized representative, of God… The Son is sent by the Father (John 5:30). Jesus is clearly understood to make such promises on behalf of God, and at the desire of God, and is unquestionably understood as functioning as God and for God in this respect. Jesus functions as God’s Shaliach, His plenipotentiary representative, in whom and through whom God has pledged himself to act… we must learn to “think about Jesus as we do about God” (2 Clement 1:1-2). We are thus in a position to take the crucial step which underlies all Christian thinking on the incarnation – that, as Jesus acts as God and for God in every context of importance, we should conclude that, for all intents and purposes, Jesus is God. Thus when we worship Jesus, we worship God; when we know Jesus, we know God; when we hear the promises of Jesus, we hear the promises of God; when we encounter Jesus, we encounter none other than the living God. The idea of the incarnation is the climax of Christian reflection upon the mystery of Christ – the recognition that Jesus revealed God; that Jesus presented God; that Jesus speaks as God and for God; that Jesus acted as God and for God; Jesus was God”. (Studies in Doctrine Pg.66. Alister E. McGrath).

[15] Authority of the Bible, p. 19-20.

[16]  Siegurd Grindheim God’s Equal Pg.220

[17] Radz Matthew Co Brown  http://www.debate.org/debates/Jesus-is-not-only-man-in-nature-but-also-God-in-nature./1/

[18]  The God of the Gospel of John.

[19] Dunn: ‘Let John be John’ Pg 330.

[20] The Father: the presentation of God in the fourth gospel. Pg. 261.

[21]

T.F. Torrance “Order and disorder Pg.38”

[22] T.F. Torrance “Atonement” Pg.318.

[23]  “Communion with the Triune God: The Trinitarian Soteriology of T.F. Torrance”.

[24] “What matters is that only one was worthy of Worship as God, the God of Israel” J.D.G. Dunn “Did the first Christians Worship Jesus?” Pg. 65.

[25]

“There was a strong Jewish prohibition about the worship of angels (e.g., Tob12:16-22; 3 En.16:1-5), which carries over into the New Testament (Col.2:18; Rev.19:10;22:9).”“in the book of Revelation we have clear prohibitions of angel worship (Rev.19:10;22:9), but also lucid accounts of the heavenly worship of the “Lord God Almighty” (4:1-11) and “the Lamb” (5:1-14). In other words, Jesus receives the worship that is given to God but forbidden for angels. In Revelation, the worship given to Jesus is not angel worship but God Worship!” Michael F. Bird  “How God became Jesus” Pg.33.

“”angelic creatures, who were part of God’s heavenly court, and Biblical heroes like Enoch, who were thought to have ascended to heavenly glory, were not treated as rightful recipients of cultic worship in Jewish circles. Jewish devotion showed a concern for to preserve God’s uniqueness, and in their cultic worship they maintained an almost paranoid anxiety about exclusivity”.

Michael F. Bird  “How God became Jesus” Pg.34.

“Jesus remains distinct from the angels and even possesses a complete authority over them”.

Michael F. Bird  “How God became Jesus” Pg.37.

[26] “that “this conviction is that in Jesus Christ, in His life and sacrificial death, in his whole human historical existence, we have to do, not with a man among men, not with an angel of mercy and peace, not with a great demi-god, one among many mighty powers of the universe, but with God, the Almighty God, the only God there is. To express this and to leave us in no doubt as to this meaning, the Creed says “very (or true) God”; “Begotten, not made” (as we, finite creatures are made); “Being of one substance with the Father” (an awkward translation of the words which mean: “Of the same identical being or reality as the Father”); “Who for us men and for our Salvation came down from heaven.” Charles W. Lowry: The Trinity and Christian Devotion. Pg.61.

[27] J.D.G. Dunn “Did the first Christians Worship Jesus?” Pg.90.   

[28] J.D.G. Dunn “Did the first Christians Worship Jesus?” Pg. 67-68 “Theophanies”. “Clearly between these cases it is impossible to distinguish between the angel of Yahweh and Yahweh Himself, they are obviously one and the same person”

[29] J.D.G. Dunn “Did the first Christians Worship Jesus?” Pg. 71.

[30] J.D.G. Dunn “Did the first Christians Worship Jesus?” Pg 72.

[31]

Bauckham also notes that no intermediary figures (angels or exalted patriarchs) “is portrayed as participating in the work of creation…God’s Wisdom and Word, on the other hand, are regularly portrayed as participants in creation… the other so-called intermediary figures have much more limited roles” Richard Bauckham 159-160.

[32] Jesus and the God of Israel”. Pg. 154-5&183.

[33]Benjamin Summer.  YHVH’s relationship to his sons is that of Creator; he is their King and Commander. No angel is ever called a son of YHVH (only son of God), nor is worship of any member of the heavenly court countenanced.58 In fact, it is not quite correct to call them divine beings in the same sense as YHVH is divine. The biblical writers made certain that no one stood (or sat) on equal par with YHVH.59 (Pg. 27).

[34] Source: https://bible.org/seriespage/6-necessity-incarnation-why-son-drew-near-man-part-ii-hebrews-210-18.

[35] Angel veneration and Christology” Pg. 200-203.

[36] ~ The Divine Council in the Hebrew Bible. Summer B P. 2013. Pg. 16-17.

[37] S.F. Davenport & F.R. Tennant writes in their Immanence and Incarnation. Pg.131.

[38] Ibid. Pg.134. “The Hellenistic mind could not enter, in such an intense degree, into God’s immanence in the world as did the early Fathers-Origen, Clement and Athanasius-who borrowed from it many of their doctrines, because their standpoint necessarily excluded such an appreciation of His intimacy with creation.” God creates and rules the physical universe, as well as the world of men. In his position as head of the council, God holds three primary offices: King, Judge, and Warrior. He is absolute ruler over all. He makes judicial decisions about the activities of its occupants. And he initiates punitive actions against those forces (divine or human) which cause chaos and disorder (i.e. sin), in order to restore tsedaqah (righteousness) and shalom (wholeness, peace). His obedient angels serve him in each of his corresponding offices. In his royal throne-room, they praise their King and act as his official counsellors, courtiers, and messengers. As members of the court, they act as witnesses, investigating detectives, bailiffs, and perhaps fellow judges. As members of the Warriors vast army, they wage war on evil beings (Pg.2).  It is important to see how deeply embedded this imagery and concept are in the various strata of the Hebrew Bible. It is also important to note that the concept of a heavenly council did not threaten the position of YHVH as God of gods and Lord of lords (Deut 10:17), even in those portions of the Bible where monotheism is so very strongly emphasized (e.g. Deut 6:4; Isa 43-46).

[39] Christian Doctrine. Pg.104.

[40] Charles W. Lowry: The Trinity and Christian Devotion. Pg.6).

2 thoughts on “Christ’s self Identity in light of intermediary beings by Rudolph P. Boshoff.

  1. From a brief reading of your article, the following can be said:
    Firstly the “mereness*” associated with Jesus being utterly human. You say that Jesus being deputy, ambassador, etc. “is all Jesus ever was and ever will be.” This sounds awfully like a credulity fallacy. If there’s nothing else to justify expecting Jesus to be anything else, then being deputy, ambassador, etc. is exceptional. In fact, for a man to make God present and bring people into God’s presence is nothing short of amazing. Ancient Jews understood it. Subsequent Gentile Christianity lost it.
    2 Esdras goes further than merely using the title “Creator” in addressing Uriel. Ezra calls the archangel “Sovereign Lord,” “Lord,” and the one who “created everything.” Calling this rising of the demigods is a gross misrepresentation.
    It is not true that representatives display the ontological nature of the one sending them. The principle of representation operationalises what we call “reference” in the philosophy of mind. The representative stands for someone else. Identity, not so much being, is represented. I am not sure why none of these texts have true impetus if one has a low view of humanity. If God inspired the NT to make precisely that point – that God is encountered in and through humanity – on what basis can we deny the impetus of precisely what was revealed?
    Bauckham has been shown to be grossly in error re. his proposal of Christology of divine identity. It was not the act of worship that changed the recipient of such worship into God or not; it is instead the identity of the recipient which shaped the experience and understanding of that worship. It is no coincidence that proskynesis and latreuo are distinguished in the Greek. The Sibylline Oracles VIII depict Satan as disobeying God’s order to offer latreuo to Adam. The justification for such an order was that Adam bore God’s image. Offering shacha to Cyrus the Mede, or the brazen serpent, were all rationalised in ancient Judaism to ensure that YHWH remained the ultimate recipient of sacrificial worship. Bauckham does not deal with this adequately.
    Re. theios aner, Trinitarian Crispin Fletcher-Louis in his “All the Glory of Adam” demonstrates the extent to which restored humanity was considered divine. The temple cult with the high priest as enactor of creation dramatically displayed Yahweh in action. Redeemed humanity was considered to be angelic or divine, since it reflected God’s glory. And the evidence for this was not early apocryphal writings – instead it was derived from the Enochic and Qumran writings. And the consideration of Enoch as a threat to Jewish monotheism only came considerably later than the first century. Your partial quotation of Dunn on p. 90 of his Worship book can be misleading. Dunn does most certainly not allow for a multiplicity of persons within God in the Trinitarian sense. He elaborates on p. 149 where God made himself known through angelic form, as Spirit, Wisdom and Word. No-one would then conclude that angels are part of the divine identity. Using different mediums of self-revelation was no threat to God’s own Sovereignty. Nor did it turn monotheism into polytheism. Your conclusion is therefore false, namely that Christ is exalted to Divine status.
    Grindheim’s attempt at invalidating the shelichut principle re. Christ simply falls short of the evidence. Son of God makes Jesus the best kind of shaliach. As God’s embodied Wisdom, His effulgence, imprint, etc. Jesus makes the best representative and reflector of God. The relational dynamics of such a scheme presupposes the distinct Otherness of God from the one he uses as reflector (Jesus).
    Your whole discussion on nature is flawed. In ancient Judaism no distinctions in nature were conceptualised. As Mike Peppard demonstrated, glory was the running measurement of ultimate status and it could be shared. A person’s identity determined his glory. The species-like distinction in natures is simply not a Hebraic one.
    You don’t account for Jesus as the human which the logos became. None of the exalted functions of Jesus (forgiving sins, being agent of the new creation, etc.) necessitate his being God (cp. Matt. 9:8, 9; Isa. 51:16). Jesus’ full authority is considered to be significant, but temporary (Ps. 110:1; 1 Cor. 15:27, 28). After that authority, God Himself with be with mankind (Re. 21:3, 4).
    It is fallacious (begging the question) to assume functional subordination while ontological divinity. By all indication, Jesus’ functionality was rather divine and his ontology subordinate – even after his exaltation (Ac. 2:22, 17:31, Php. 2:9-11, 1 Cor. 11:3, “my God” references in Revelation). You will have to quote Dunn’s more recent works to accurately reflect his views.
    This is how far I can respond for now. Another major weakness in your proposal is the idea that God is a nature, as opposed to an identity. This was never imagined in Second Temple Judaism. No two entities that are different at one time can be considered identical. The fluid “God” concept in Trinitarianism – as nature and as identity – often obscures this fact. A volume I highly recommend is one by Irons, Dixon and Smith – Three Views on Christology.

  2. Vladimir Šušić Hello Jaco,I did a quick skim over your post and found a few interesting things to address. Nowhere in the Sibylline Oracles 8 do we find Adam being worshiped by Satan,NOWHERE! Rather what you may be referring to is The Life of Adam and Eve,specifically the Latin version of that. The Greek one does not contain it,nor does the Armenian one,oh did I mention the Slavonic one? That one neither The manuscripts of the latin work date from 9th-11th centuries. It is not compatible with the greek versions. Nowhere do we find latreuvo in this version,this is Latin Jaco rather we find adorare which is to adore,revere,honor,venerate or worship someone,it can be worship in the sense that kings are worshiped for example,however,what we find in Daniel 7 in LXX is pure and simple latreuvo used for the Son of Man,yipallehun in Hebrew,highest form of religious worship! The early jews had a concept of 2 powers in heaven,2 persons,that are indeed one God,2 persons of Yahweh,but one Yahweh indeed. Take a look at Justin’s conversation with Trypho for example,and the works of Michael Heiser. SO yes,the jews did have a sense of personhood and nature. Moreover it seems that you accept the shaliah argument which is absolutely nonsensical. So in the shaliah argument we have 3 roles. 1.The principal 2.The Shaliah 3.The buyer (it is a trade law primarily) So let’s say we have 3 guys- 1.Mark 2.John 3.Luke now Mark is this rich owner of thousands of sheep and he is too busy to meet the buyer,he sends John,who is his shaliah,he has all the authority of the principal in regards to buying and selling of sheep. He meets Luke. Now tell me Jaco,will Luke call John by the NAME OF MARK? No,of course not. That never happens,Luke of course acknowledges that John has the authority of Mark but he doesn’t call him by the name-MARK. He doesn’t call him by the title “Owner of Many sheep” either, Jesus is clearly called by the titles and names of Yahweh so such argumentation is nonsensical.Also Peter was the shaliah of Jesus,was he called by the name of Jesus? To finish it up I also noted that you said that Jesus’ function was divine but his ontology subordinate. Plainly wrong. You missuse several scriptures in order to prove your point. Funny how you quote Phillipians 2 which plainly puts your unitarian position into its grave. I will address that if you persist in doing so in your response,but clearly,from what he have seen,your unitarian position simply falls apart Jaco.

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