Do OT Yahweh Texts Applied To Jesus Prove Jesus Is Yahweh?

In this study we will look at the popular notion that because OT texts about Yahweh are said, in the NT, to be fulfilled in some sense by Jesus, either in his first appearance, or at his second coming, that the NT authors intended their readers to understand Jesus to be Yahweh himself. This is the assertion of many apologists for the Trinity and the deity of Jesus, as well as many pastors and some scholars. I will quote a few popular personalities to demonstrate that this idea is mainstream.

Mark Kruger, president of Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, NC and associate pastor of Uptown PCA, in an October 2013 post on his website Canon Fodder, said this regarding Mark’s gospel:

In fact, it is worth noting that Mark presents Jesus as God from the very opening few verses … Mark accomplishes this by beginning his gospel with citations from the Old Testament.

He then quotes Mark 1:2 and Malachi 3:1 and then says:

The first notable observation is that in the original context of Mal. 3:1, it is God himself who is coming … For Mark to apply Mal. 3:1 to the coming of Jesus, which he is clearly doing, is a very plain way of saying that Jesus is God coming to visit his people.

After further elaborating on the passage he concludes:

Thus, for Mark, Jesus is God.

On the Ligonier Ministries website, http://www.ligonier.org, under the Devotionals tab, is an article titled The Fulfillment of Prophecy. In it the author, presumably R.C. Sproul, also deals with the passage in Mark 1:2-3, taking the same approach as Mark Kruger:

Also, we note that Isaiah 40:13 is about a voice that prepares the way for Yahweh, the one true God and covenant Lord of Israel. By applying this text to the voice that prepares the way for Jesus, Mark identifies Jesus as this one true God, implicitly teaching the deity of Christ.

Sam Shamoun of Answering Islam has an on-line article titled Jesus is Yahweh -Examining the New Testament Use of Old Testament Passages to Demonstrate the Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. The opening paragraph reads:

As any Bible-believing Christian already knows (assuming that he has actually carefully studied the entirety of Scriptures) the NT writers often apply OT passages which speak of certain characteristics or acts of Yahweh to the Lord Jesus. The only logical conclusion that one can arrive at is that the NT authors clearly believed that the Lord Jesus Christ was the incarnation of Yahweh God, i.e. they believed that Yahweh God Almighty had become an actual human being in the historical person of the Lord Jesus.

He then proceeds to prove his point by showing OT texts which say something about Yahweh and then comparing that to NT passages which have similar language applied to Jesus, and by OT passages which are fulfilled by Jesus.

One final example. On the CARM website, run by Matt Slick, there is an article titled Jehovah is Jesus. The article consists of two columns of Bible verses, one under the heading Jehovah, and the other under the heading Jesus. There is no commentary in the article but the title reveals the intended purpose of the author. Similar kinds of language or actions attributed to Jehovah in the OT and applied to Jesus in the NT, prove that Jesus is Jehovah.

Now I admit, that at first glance, this kind of argument seems impressive. When you see all the verses listed in these articles it appears that there is overwhelming biblical data in support of the assertion that Jesus is Yahweh himself. But when you take each verse separately and study it out, what at first seemed to be impressive, then appears to be not so much so. In fact, I have come to see a naivete and shallowness in this argument. It focuses only on those passages of Scripture which seem to put Jesus in the place of Yahweh, while totally ignoring all the passages that militate against that position. When each of the passages presented in these articles is looked at on it’s own merit, I can propose an interpretation of them that does not involve Jesus being Yahweh himself, and so keep these passages consistent with those passages which make it impossible that Jesus could be Yahweh himself. I do this by understanding the Messiah to be Yahweh’s chief and ideal agent, his supreme representative, the one through whom Yahweh accomplishes his eternal purpose. This concept is so thoroughly biblical and so prevalent in both the OT and NT, that I am ashamed and embarrassed to say, that in the first 35 yrs. of my life in Messiah, I had no clue about it. But I certainly am not alone in this. I had never heard a sermon or teaching, or had never come across a book or an article touching on this biblical concept. And why had I never seen this before? Because my mind had been trained from the very beginning to understand Jesus to be God himself. And the impressive list of verses supposedly teaching this idea confirmed me in that belief. But now that I have come to understand the biblical concept of agency, the idea that prophecies, titles, and characteristics of Yahweh attributed to the Messiah means that Messiah just is Yahweh, just seems sophomoric. Sam Shamoun’s assertion that “the only logical conclusion that one can arrive at is that the NT authors clearly believed that the Lord Jesus Christ was the incarnation of God, i.e… that Yahweh Almighty had become an actual human being” is simply absurd. There is in fact a logical and reasonable and biblical alternative.

Agency is the Key

In the culture of the ancient Semitic peoples, the concept of agency was well established. According to The Encyclopedia of the Jewish Religion, the concept of agency is defined thus:

Agent (Heb. Shaliah): The main point of the Jewish law of agency is expressed in the dictum, ‘a person’s agent is regarded as the person himself’ [Ned. 72B; Kidd, 41b]. Therefore any act committed by a duly appointed agent is regarded as having been committed by the principal, who therefore bears responsibility for it with consequent complete absence of liability on the part of the agent.   Adama Books, 1986, p.15

In The One and the Many in the Israelite Conception of God, Aubrey R. Johnson expressed this concept as follows:

In Hebrew thought a patriarch’s personality extended through his entire household … in a specialized sense, when the patriarch, as lord of his household, deputized his trusted servant as his malak (his messenger or angel), the man was endowed with the authority and resources of his lord, to represent him fully and transact business in his name. In Semitic thought this messenger-representative was conceived of as being personally — and in his very words — the presence of the sender.

So in the world of the ancient Near East, when an agent was sent, whether by a king or a wealthy patriarch, the agent was to speak and act as the one who commissioned him, with all of the authority and resources of his lord at his disposal. The agent came and carried out his task in the name of his lord and so his reception or rejection, by those to whom he was sent, was actually the reception or rejection of the one who sent him. Thus the agent was to be regarded as though he himself were the one whom he represents. As James F. Ross says, in Prophecy in Israel: Search for an Identity, p.114:

It would seem that the question of the messengers authority could be answered simply: it is that of the one who sends him. Thus a messenger is to be treated as if he were his master.

Rene A. Lopez, in his paper titled Identifying the “Angel of the Lord” in the Book of Judges, stated this concerning this mysterious figure in the OT:

In the ANE context, kingly messengers often addressed others in the first person and were treated as if the actual king were present. Semitic culture thus supports understanding the angel of the Lord as a messenger who represents God, but is not God himself.

In ancient Near East texts, this concept is seen not only with human agents sent by human kings but also with divine agents sent by the gods.

In the Hebrew Scriptures this concept is demonstrated in various ways. The Hebrew word used to signify such an agent is malak. This word is often translated in our English Bibles as angel, a misleading translation. Our English word angel is a direct transliteration of the Greek word angelos, which means messenger, envoy. The translators then use the word angel to translate malak, which also means messenger. Both words malak and angelos are used of both supernatural beings and humans. When the context seems to clearly be referring to supernatural beings it is translated as angel, and when the context seems clearly to denote a human it is translated as messenger or envoy or ambassador. The word angel, in my opinion, should be dropped from our English Bibles, seeing how it has become jaded in our modern times, conjuring up images and ideas that do not accurately portray the biblical meaning of a malak. I prefer the word agent over messenger because messenger could denote simply one who relays a message, whereas in the Scriptures, as we will see, a malak often does more than that. The Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary defines agent as “one who acts for or in the place of another by authority from him.” This fits quite well with the Biblical picture of a malak.

OT Examples of Agency

  1. Prophets – In 2 Chron. 36:15-16 the word malak is applied to God’s prophets:
    “Yahweh, the God of their fathers, sent word to them through his agents (malakim) again and again … But they mocked God’s agents (malakim), despised his word and mistreated his prophets until the wrath of Yahweh was aroused against his people until there was no remedy.”
    The prophet Haggai is called Yahweh’s malak in Haggai 1:13 and in Malachi 3:1 the prophecy fulfilled by John the Baptizer designates him as Yahweh’s malak. As God’s appointed representatives prophets were called to speak for God, which they often did in the first person. Sometimes the prophet would start speaking of God in the third person and then without the customary formula “thus says the LORD” suddenly switch to the first person, speaking as God himself. When we read these prophecies today it is easy to forget that these words were spoken by a representative of Yahweh, instead of directly by Yahweh himself.
  2. Moses – Though it is disputed as to whether or not Moses was ever called a malak, the fact that he was a prophet and a representative of God to the people surely entitles him to be called a malak. There is, however, a passage which I believe does refer to Moses as a malak, though perhaps, not conclusively. In Numbers 20:14-16 Moses sends messengers (Heb. malakim) to the king of Edom to say:
    “This is what your brother Israel says: You know about all the hardships that have come upon us. Our forefathers went down into Egypt, and we lived there many years. The Egyptians mistreated us and our fathers, but when we cried out to Yahweh, he heard our cry and sent an agent (malak) and brought us out of Egypt.”
    Now many do not see this as a reference to Moses, but rather to a celestial messenger who accompanied the Israelites on their journey. But I do not see any reason why the malak cannot be referring to Moses, even if this is the only time he is so designated. When we compare this verse with Exodus 3:7-10, I think it becomes clear that Numbers 20:16 is indeed speaking about Moses. In verse 7 Yahweh tells Moses that he has seen the Israelites misery and has heard their cry. In verse 9 he reiterates that he has heard their cry and in response is sending Moses “to bring my people out of Egypt.”
    We should also note in this passage how Yahweh says in verse 8, “I have come down to deliver them from the hand of the Egytians and to bring them up out of that land...” He then says in v. 10 that Moses’ task is to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” Here we see a perfect example of the role of a malak — to act in God’s place, on God’s behalf, with God’s authority and power backing him. It can be said that Moses brought the Israelites out of Egypt, but it is also true that Yahweh brought them out. Yahweh was working in and through his appointed agent {see 1 Sam. 12:6}.
    Also worthy of consideration is Moses’ (and Aaron’s) role as a malak in relation to Pharaoh. In Ex.7:1 Yahweh says to Moses, “See, I have made you God (Heb. elohim) to Pharaoh and your brother Aaron will be your prophet.” It is clear that Moses is in a sense standing in for God. Later in the same chapter we see again a blurring of the lines between Moses and Yahweh, in vv. 14-20. God tells Moses to take his staff  with him and sends him to Pharaoh. In v.17 Moses is commanded to say, “This is what Yahweh says: By this you will know that I am Yahweh: With the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water of the Nile, and it will be changed to blood.”  Moses then gives the staff to Aaron and commands him to strike the water, which he does, turning the water into blood. So in whose hand was the staff and who struck the water, Yahweh or Aaron? From this we can see that when Yahweh’s agent acts on his behalf it is as if Yahweh himself is acting.
  3. Priests – Malachi 2:7 – “For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, and from his mouth men should seek instruction — for he is the agent (malak) of Yahweh of hosts.” As far as I can ascertain this is the only time in the OT where priests are designated as malakim.
    Often in the OT we read of someone going to “inquire of the LORD,” and then that “the LORD answered him.” Now if we think that this is just someone asking God in prayer and then God speaking to them in response, then we have misunderstood the text. When someone, like a king, wanted to inquire of the LORD as to what course of action to take, they had two options — find a prophet or go to the high priest. Part of the high priests official garments included the ephod, to which the breastplate was attached. In a pocket behind the breastplate was kept the Urim and Thummim, the sacred lots, by which the priest would obtain decisions from the LORD and determine God’s will in specific matters {see Ex. 28:29-30}. When Moses was told by God to lay hands on Joshua to commission him as his successor, he was given these instructions: “He (Joshua) is to stand before Eleazar the priest, who will obtain decisions for him by inquiring of the Urim before the LORD.” In 1 Samuel 21-23 we see this method of inquiring of the LORD played out in David’s life {see specifically 22:10; 23:2, 9-12}. So we see that one function of the high priest, as a malak of Yahweh was to stand in for God. When one went to inquire of the LORD, they literally went to the priest, and when they went to the priest, they actually went to the LORD.
  4. Angels – Every time we see the word angel in the OT, the Hebrew behind it is malak. As noted above, the word angel is not really a proper translation of malak, which denotes a messenger, an envoy, one with a delegated authority. Again, I propose the word agent. In this category we will be looking at malak of the supernatural or heavenly kind, what are typically known as angels. Throughout both the OT and NT, these beings are sent by God to carry out certain tasks on his behalf. As with Moses, there is often a blurring of the lines between these beings and Yahweh himself. Appearing as men, they will often speak for Yahweh in the first person, as if they were Yahweh. At the end of such encounters, those to whom they appeared (once they understand they were not dealing with a human being), will often interpret the event as seeing God himself, although it is clear that it was not actually God himself. Examples of this can be seen in Gen. 16:7-14; Gen. 18-19; 22:9-18; 31:10-13; 32:24-30; Ex. 3:1-4:17; 23:20-23; Joshua 5:13-6:5; Judges 6:1-23; 13:2-23. The malak is often so closely identified with Yahweh (he speaks and acts as Yahweh) that many scholars have been led to believe that “the angel of the Lord” is actually a personal appearance of God himself in visible form. Some postulate that it is pre-incarnate appearances of the Son of God. But there is no biblical reason to draw such a conclusion. Although it has been a popular idea, since the middle of the second century down to our present time, to view the ‘angel of the Lord’ as the pre- incarnate  Son of God himself, the New Testament makes no such connection. No NT author ever equates the Messiah with the angel of the Lord, which is indeed strange, seeing that Christian teachers have been freely speaking this way since the middle of the 2nd century. If the believers of the first century did believe this, isn’t their silence about it baffling? In fact, in the only place in the NT where one of the OT appearances of the angel of the Lord is spoken of, in Acts 7:30-36, no mention is made of this angel being the Son of God. In this passage Stephen, who is described as being “full of faith and of the holy spirit,” recounts the incident of the burning bush. He simply says that an agent (Gr. angelos) appeared to Moses in the flames of the burning bush (v.30). He goes on in v. 35 to say that God commissioned Moses “by the hand of the agent who appeared to him in the bush.” ‘By the hand of’ is a Hebraism meaning ‘through the agency of.’ Stephen is clearly making a distinction between God and the agent through whom he spoke, and he says nothing about the agent being Messiah. Yet Stephen also says that when the agent spoke it was God speaking (vv.31-34). I think it is safe to assume that this was the way that the apostles and the first believers viewed the appearances of the ‘angel of the Lord’ in the OT, despite what Greek church fathers of the second century had to say. We can see that in their mind God’s malak stood in God’s place, speaking and acting as if he was God, yet was distinct from God.
  5. Messiah – There is one occasion in the OT in which the Messiah who was to come is designated as a malak. In Malachi 3:1 we read: “Behold, I will send my agent who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord (Heb. adon) whom you seek will come to his temple, the agent (malak) of the covenant, whom you desire will come,” says Yahweh Almighty. In OT theology David and his line were the uniquely chosen vessels to represent Yahweh’s rule over his people { 1Chron.28:5-7; 29:23; 2 Chron. 13:4-8; Ps. 89:19-37}. As such they carried the title ‘the LORD’s anointed (Heb. mashiach = messiah; Gr. christos = christ). The Davidic king was very closely associated with Yahweh as His appointed messiah {Ps. 2; 45:2-7; 80:17; 89:21-28; 1 Chron. 29:20; Zech. 12:8; 13:7}. The rest of this study will show how the Messiah as God’s malak explains the phenomenon of the NT authors applying OT Yahweh texts to Jesus.

Messiah, God’s Ideal Agent

Now let’s look at some of the specific passages, presented in the articles quoted at the beginning of this study, which are supposed to be conclusive proof that Jesus is Yahweh.

Mark 1:2-3 – The passage used most often in this regard is Mark 1:2-3. As noted in the above articles, Mark is applying two OT passages, Mal. 3:1 and Is. 40:3, to the coming and ministry of John the baptizer. The first point worth noting is that Mark is quoting this verse with reference to John, not Jesus. This surely weakens the theory that Mark’s intention is to equate Jesus with Yahweh. He’s quoting the passage to show it’s fulfillment in John. The second point of note is the fact that Mark’s version of Mal. 3:1 and Is. 40:3 (as well as other NT quotations of these verses – Matt.3:3; 11:10; Lk. 7:27) do not match either the Masoretic Text (MT) or the LXX. Both the MT and the LXX, at Mal. 3:1, have Yahweh saying that his messenger “will prepare the way before me.” The text in Mark changes the first person to a second person pronoun – “I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way.” This also undermines the idea that Mark wants his readers to equate Jesus with Yahweh, because the text he uses would obscure that connection. We have a similar problem with the Isaiah passage. Both the MT and the LXX read “our God” at the end of the verse, while Mark’s version reads “for him.” Again this militates against Mark wanting his readers to think Jesus is “our God.” It is true that the MT reads “prepare the way for Yahweh” in the first part of the verse. Mark’s version and the LXX, both being in Greek, read, “prepare the way for the Lord “ (Gr. kurios). What text is Mark (and Matthew and Luke) reading from? It is clearly not the MT or the LXX. Dead Sea Scrolls (DSS) readings of these verses seem to match the MT.
But for the sake of the argument, let’s just go with the MT and LXX readings. Do these readings prove that Jesus is God? The very question is absurd on it’s face. Yes the messenger (John) was to prepare the way for Yahweh and make straight a highway for God. In the appearing of Jesus of Nazareth on the scene, God was going to accomplish his long awaited plan of redemption. “God was, through Messiah, reconciling the world to himself ” {2 Cor. 5:19}. John’s mission was to ready a people prepared for what God was about to do in and through his anointed one {Lk.1:16-17}. Jesus himself told his disciples, “It is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work” {John 14:10; see also 10:31,38}. No Jew reading Malachi’s or Isaiah’s prophecy would have thought that Yahweh was literally, personally and visibly going to appear in the wilderness of Judea. They understood the language as it was intended to be understood – Yahweh was going to visit his people through the raising up of the promised Messiah. Luke gives us a clue as to how Jews understood prophecies about God coming or God visiting his people. Zechariah, the father of John, speaking in proleptic terms at the birth of his son, declared:

Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has visited  and accomplished redemption for his people. He has raised up a horn (symbol of a king) of salvation for us in the house of his servant David …      Lk. 1:68-69

Note how Zechariah understands God visiting his people — by raising up the Messiah in  the house of David. Later in Luke’s gospel we read:

They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has been raised up among us,” they said. “God has visited his people.”    Lk. 7:16

Again, how did the Jews understand God coming to them? By the fact that a great prophet had been raised up among them (at this stage in Jesus’ ministry the multitudes at least regarded him as a prophet, if not the Messiah). We can understand that when God’s appointed agent shows up on the scene, it is in effect God showing up. And when Yahweh foretells of something he is going to do in the future, and then some appointed agent of his shows up and carries it out, it is to be regarded as God himself doing it.

Zech. 12:10“They will look to me the one they have pierced , and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child.”

Rev. 1:7“Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye shall see him, even those who pierced him; and all the tribes of the land will mourn because of him.”
                 

Yahweh, in the MT and LXX, at Zech. 12:10, states that the inhabitants of Jerusalem will “look to me.Yet the author of the Revelation, speaking of Messiah at his second coming, says that Messiah is the one who was pierced. The mention of mourning in connection with this piercing, in both passages, makes it clear that the Zechariah passage is being referenced by the author of the Revelation. So does John (most scholars and commentators take the author of Rev. to be the same as the apostle John, author of the 4th gospel) intend by this reference, for his readers to understand Jesus to be Yahweh himself? Is this the “only logical conclusion that one can arrive at?” Absolutely not! To begin with, if this John of Rev. is synonymous with the apostle and author of the gospel of John, which I believe he is, then we can gain an insight into how he understood the Zechariah passage, from his gospel. In ch. 19:31-37 he relates the story about the soldiers not breaking Jesus’ legs, because he was already dead. Instead, presumably to confirm his death, one soldier thrust a spear into his side. John concludes:

These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken,” and , as another scripture says, “They will look to the one they have pierced.”

Note how John words the passage from Zechariah; it does not contain the ‘me‘ of the MT and LXX. If John wanted his readers to think of Jesus as ontologically equivalent to Yahweh then why present a reading that would obscure that interpretation. It is probable that John’s particular reading of the passage is interpretive, i.e. he understands not a hypostatic equivalence between Yahweh and Messiah Jesus, but a functional equivalence. So the Messiah, as Yahweh’s agent, takes upon himself the offense committed against Yahweh. The piercing is emblematic of rejection. If the one who was sent is rejected, this is tantamount to the rejection of the one who sent him {Luke 10:16; John 15: 23; see also John 12:44}. When the Messiah was pierced, it was in effect Yahweh himself being pierced. To make the claim, based upon the juxtapostion of these two passages, that Jesus must be Yahweh himself, strikes me as a rather simple-minded, even juvenile form of exegesis.

Isaiah 45:23 – “By myself I have sworn …  to me every knee will bow and every tongue will swear.”
                           
Phil. 2:10-11“… that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow … and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
                          

Here are another two passages which, when juxtaposed, are supposed to be proof positive that the NT authors, Paul here specifically, regarded Jesus the Messiah as Yahweh himself. But once again, the concept of agency helps us avoid such an overly simplistic reading of the NT. I would draw your attention to John 12:44:

Jesus cried out, “The one who believes in me, believes not in me, but in the one who sent me.”

The concept of agency is profoundly clear in this verse. To believe in the Messiah is in effect to believe in Yahweh who sent him. Can we not say then, that to bow the knee to Jesus and acknowledge him as Lord Messiah is equal to bowing the knee to Yahweh who sent him and who appointed him as Lord and Messiah. And can we not say that to acknowledge Jesus as Lord is to acknowledge the God who appointed him to that position. Now that God has raised up his chosen agent and has exalted him, one must now acknowledge and serve him, Messiah, in order to be faithful to God. If a man claims to be faithful to Yahweh yet refuses to bow the knee to Yahweh’s appointed ruler, then that man is not being faithful to Yahweh {Jn. 5:23}. Faith in Yahweh is now inextricably linked to faith in his anointed one {Jn. 14:1}. And to believe in God’s Messiah is to be faithful to the one who commands our belief in this Messiah {Jn. 6:28-29; 1 Jn. 3:23-24}.

Note in the Phil. passage, that the exaltation of Jesus and his having the name above all names, so that every knee would bow and every tongue confess him Lord, is something that is conferred upon him by God, as a direct result of his humble obedience, even unto death. This also militates against the idea that Paul is presenting Jesus as Yahweh. First off, Jesus is presented here as someone other than God – he is distinct from God. This God is said to have exalted Jesus and to have given him the name above all names. But if he were Yahweh wouldn’t he already have been exalted and had the name above all names? Why did these things have to be bestowed upon him, and that as a result of his obedience?

It must also be pointed out that it is not even clear that Phil. 2:10-11 is saying that every knee will bow and every tongue confess to Jesus the Messiah. Paul’s thought could be that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow to God and every tongue confess (i.e. acknowledge) to God that Jesus is Lord. Or, since the Greek word for at here is en, whose predominant meaning is in, we could read it as, “in the name of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue confess to God the Father, that Jesus is Lord.” As I said above, since God has exalted Jesus to the highest place and given him the name above all names, it is now a prerequisite for entrance into God’s eternal kingdom to acknowledge this one, and to acknowledge him is to acknowledge the one who exalted him. God exalted him ‘so that‘ only in his name can one truly bow the knee to God (Compare Eph. 5:20 and Col. 3:17).

Joel 2:32“And everyone who calls on the name of Yahweh will be saved.”

Romans 10:12-13“For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile — the same Lord is  Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ “

Much excitement is had by Trinitarians over this correlation of Scriptures, but I think without merit. It is assumed that Paul is quoting Joel 2:32 as being fulfilled in the fact that one must call on the name of the Lord Jesus to be saved. Joel says “the name of Yahweh” and Paul applies it to Jesus, hence Jesus must be Yahweh. This, once again, is far too simplistic. The above explanation is again applicable here. That is, now that the Messiah has been raised up by God and he has accomplished the work (phase 1 anyway) to which he was commissioned, God now requires acknowledgement of Jesus as Lord Messiah for ultimate salvation. So then to confess Jesus as Lord, he having been made such by God {Acts 2:36}, is equivalent to acknowledging Yahweh. To ‘call upon the name of Yahweh’ now involves confessing Jesus of Nazareth as Lord Messiah and believing that God raised him from the dead.  Yahweh has his appointed means of salvation, and those means involve a faith recognition of God’s work in and through Messiah Jesus {see Rom. 10:9; 2 Cor. 5:19}.

Also it is highly probable that Paul is not even quoting Joel 2:32 in the sense of a fulfillment in Messiah. Notice that there are none of the common formulas preceding the quotation, such as “as it is written” or “as the scripture says” or “that the scripture might be fulfilled.” I think what Paul could be doing here is a common practice (I have even done this myself) of using a passage of scripture whose wording aptly fits the present situation, but without implying that the present situation is a fulfillment of the original meaning of the passage. In fact, Paul does this same thing just five verses later at verse 18. This provides a good example of what I am referring to because v.18 is not embroiled in controversy as v. 13 is, and hence should be evident to all no matter what one’s Christological beliefs.

But I ask, did they (the Israelites) not hear? Of course they did. Their voice has gone out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world.

Paul here quotes Psalm 19:4, but it is clear he does not mean that this passage had been fulfilled in his day by the preaching of the gospel. Paul was not stupid. He knew that the original context of Psalm 19:1-4 referred to the heavens declaring the glory of God and that everyone has heard (i.e. seen) their testimony. It is only because the wording of that passage fit his present situation (that the gospel had been thoroughly proclaimed to the Jews both in the land and in the dispersion) that Paul quoted it. Notice again the lack of a fulfillment formula.

So, I suggest that Paul is quoting Joel 2:32 simply because the wording of the passage in the LXX came to his mind as a perfect fit for the present situation, in which now, by God’s decree, men must acknowledge Jesus as Lord Messiah for everlasting salvation.

Now I could go on looking at all of the examples given in the articles mentioned at the beginning of this study, applying the concept of agency to them, and showing how there is no necessity to think that the NT authors were making an ontological equivalence between Yahweh and Jesus, but that would be superfluous. These examples should be sufficient to show that the kind of exegesis promoted in the above mentioned articles is overly simplistic and not worthy of being taken seriously.



                     

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Author: Troy Salinger

I am 60 yrs. old. I live with my wife of 37 yrs. in Picayune MS. I have been a believer in the Lord Jesus since August of 1981. I have no formal theological education, but have been an ardent student of Scripture for 41 yrs. I am a biblical Unitarian i.e. I believe the Father is the only true God (John 17:3) and Jesus is His human Son, the Messiah.

12 thoughts on “Do OT Yahweh Texts Applied To Jesus Prove Jesus Is Yahweh?”

  1. Regarding Joel 2:32 and Romans 10:12-13, it is very relevant to note that the name “Jesus” means “Yahweh saves.” Thus calling on the name of Jesus is calling on Yahweh through the agent, and Son, through whom the Father saves. Likewise also with these verses you explained:

    “Isaiah 45:23 – “By myself I have sworn … to me every knee will bow and every tongue
    will swear.”
    Phil. 2:10-11 – “… that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow … and every tongue
    confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

    Here are another two passages which, when juxtaposed, are supposed to be proof positive that the NT authors, Paul here specifically, regarded Jesus the Messiah as Yahweh himself. But once again, the concept of agency helps us avoid such an overly simplistic reading of the NT. I would draw your attention to John 12:44:

    Jesus cried out, “The one who believes in me, believes not in me, but in the one who sent me.”
    The concept of agency is profoundly clear in this verse. To believe in the Messiah is in effect to believe in Yahweh who sent him. Can we not say then, that to bow the knee to Jesus and acknowledge him as Lord Messiah is equal to bowing the knee to Yahweh who sent him and who appointed him as Lord and Messiah. And can we not say that to acknowledge Jesus as Lord is to acknowledge the God who appointed him to that position. “

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  2. Have you counted how many Yahweh texts are used in Paul’s letters?
    And what would be comparable examples where a Yahweh text is used for others?

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  3. I should add one other key comment –

    We want to look at scripture as a whole – their exegetical models simply do not work with scripture as a whole which vitally and fundamentally distinguished the Messiah from His Master….

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  4. well captured in the above text.

    Please consider this text –
    10And the disciples asked Him, saying, “Why then do the scribes say that it behooves Elijah to come first?”

    11And answering He said, “Elijah indeed comes and will restore all things. 12But I say to you that Elijah already is come, and they did not know him, but did to him whatever they desired. Thus also, the Son of Man is about to suffer from them.” 13Then the disciples understood that He spoke to them concerning John the Baptist.

    Likewise, when Jesus spoke to Paul – Saul, Saul – why persecutest thou ME??
    >>> But who was being persecuted??

    There are certain basic literary devices – manners/ways of speaking – that trinitarians simply will not or simply are not able to grasp… God knows why…

    This is obviously and important and not so simplistic of a subject – especially considering another linguistic culture than hours – we need to understand their ways of speaking – and evangelical theologians simply do not – any better than vaticanists theologians when it comes to Jn6… (which text I would challenge the evangelical when he goes all “literal” on us…:-)

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  5. Prior comment should have read as below – technical difficulties occurred…:-(

    Troy
    I have appreciated some of your careful reflection on Trinities.

    This is a great text here –
    They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has been raised up among us,” they said. “God has visited his people.” Lk. 7:16

    Again, how did the Jews understand God coming to them? By the fact that a great prophet had been raised up among them

    I would like to push beyond a simple, technical “agent” in considering some of this language – to a larger literary device – which is well captured in the above text.

    Please consider this text –
    10And the disciples asked Him, saying, “Why then do the scribes say that it behooves Elijah to come first?”

    11And answering He said, “Elijah indeed comes and will restore all things. 12But I say to you that Elijah already is come, and they did not know him, but did to him whatever they desired. Thus also, the Son of Man is about to suffer from them.” 13Then the disciples understood that He spoke to them concerning John the Baptist.

    Likewise, when Jesus spoke to Paul – Saul, Saul – why persecutest thou ME??
    >>> But who was being persecuted??

    There are certain basic literary devices – manners/ways of speaking – that trinitarians simply will not or simply are not able to grasp… God knows why…

    This is obviously and important and not so simplistic of a subject – especially considering another linguistic culture than hours – we need to understand their ways of speaking – and evangelical theologians simply do not – any better than vaticanists theologians when it comes to Jn6… (which text I would challenge the evangelical when he goes all “literal” on us…:-)

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  6. #In Joshua 5:14, it is not Yahweh who visits Joshua but an agent.#

    I don’t think so for many reasons. I’ll start with this.

    Josh 5:14; 6:2: “He replied, “Neither; but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped, and he said to him, “What do you command your servant, my lord?” … The LORD said to Joshua, “See, I have handed Jericho over to you, along with its king and soldiers.”

    If he is just an agent, why doesn’t he deny Joshua falling down before him? If whoever appears in revelation (Ch 19 and 22) and appeared to Joshua are of the same kind, why is there a different reaction to the same treatment?

    #Didn’t people bow down/worship to Kings and other humans?#

    Moses’ bowing down to his father-in-law is just a mention of the action and not the attitude.
    The rest of bowing downs to Kings are respect to a higher authority. They aren’t justifiable either. God wasn’t originally in support of a man ruling another. Everyone is equal. Prophets never needed to be bowed down but King, unfortunately, yes.

    #So Joshua also just bowed down to higher authority as God’s agent?#

    How does God’s agent mean he is higher in authority. After all, he is also a servant of God. That is what an agent of God tells in revelation (Ch 19 and 22)!

    And God says,
    I am Jehovah, this is My name, And Mine honour to another I give not, Nor My praise to graven images.

    Moreover,
    Who is the commander of the army of the Lord? It is the Lord himself, who else will command 🙄Picturing God as a warrior is not a rare concept.

    Also, this parallels, the appearance at the bush. Remove sandals, the Lord said, first-person taking…

    Since the angel of the Lord speaks as first-person Yahweh there, the angel is both the agent of God and also Yahweh Himself.

    Ex 3:6: “He said further, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.”

    Mk 12:26: “And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the story about the bush, how God said to him, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’?”

    2 Esd 14:3-4: “Then he said to me, “I revealed myself in a bush and spoke to Moses when my people were in bondage in Egypt, and I sent him and led my people out of Egypt; and I led him up on Mount Sinai, where I kept him with me many days.”

    The one sent to Moses and accomplished all the redemption is the one who revealed himself in the bush

    If we remove the ‘angel of the’ or ‘commander of the’ from these verses, it perfectly makes sense.
    Even then Stephen could retell the history and say ‘God spoke through angel of the Lord(who is God himself)’ [Acts 7:35 and 38]

    So the Yahweh Himself could be his Malak. This doesn’t prove Trinity or anything. But it’s an indication of it and definitely suggesting that God Himself can come as his own agent.

    #Isn’t it just an agent of God spoke for God like Centurian’s servant spoke for the Centurian.#

    How do you say that?

    Can the Centurian’s agent say ‘I am the Centurian’. Can he wear the uniform of a Centurian?

    Can Jesus’ disciples go on to say ‘I am Jesus’? Can they receive the reverence that Jesus received? We know that they denied it.

    Whether any other agent of God, who is clearly not God, claimed to be YHWH? Claimed Worship like reverence, received offering supposed to be received by God, was understood to be seeing God?

    The angel of the Lord not once but consistently does it. So it’s not an exception event or manuscript problem.

    Yet, the Angel of the Lord says
    I am the *God of Bethel*, where you anointed a pillar and where you made a vow to *me*. Now leave this land at once and go back to your native land. Gen 31:13

    Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was *afraid to look at God*. Gen 3:6

    Why do Moses and Joshua have to remove their Sandals?

    It was the pagan custom during that time to remove sandals during worship. God demanded to implement that outward reverence that was in practice in that culture.

    I don’t think removing sandals is a necessity. It was cultural. Only because Moses and Joshua grew up in a pagan culture, it was demanded of them according to the tradition familiar to them.
    But it wasn’t commanded to Israelites anytime. Neither in Moses’ law nor in any other appearances of YHWH.

    Also, at least 3 appearances of Angel of the Lord, people feared not because of the message or happenings but of the fear of seeing God. Two places they explicitly feared death. These people had a high view of the transcendence of God. So the concept that they cannot live after seeing God is so strong in them.

    When Gideon realized that it was the angel of the Lord, he exclaimed, “Alas, Sovereign Lord! I have seen the angel of the Lord face to face!” But the Lord said to him, “Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die.” Judges 6:22-23

    Judges 13:17-23 Then Manoah inquired of the angel of the Lord, “What is your name, so that we may honor you when your word comes true?” He replied, “Why do you ask my name? It is beyond understanding.” Then Manoah took a young goat, together with the grain offering, and sacrificed it on a rock to the Lord. And the Lord did an amazing thing while Manoah and his wife watched: As the flame blazed up from the altar toward heaven, the angel of the Lord ascended in the flame. Seeing this, Manoah and his wife fell with their faces to the ground. When the angel of the Lord did not show himself again to Manoah and his wife, Manoah realized that it was the angel of the Lord. “We are doomed to die!” he said to his wife. “We have *seen God*!” But his wife answered, “If the Lord had meant to kill us, he would not have accepted a burnt offering and grain offering from our hands, nor shown us all these things or now told us this.”

    If people had to fear seeing just an agent of the Lord, the purpose of the agent itself is broken, right? The agent is supposed to deliver God’s word to people but he cannot because people fear dying if he appears!

    Moreover in the above passage, the Angel of the Lord is the one who accepted the offering.

    #How did Jacob physically fought with God?#

    Reactions when they knew that its YHWH and when they didn’t need not be compared.

    Gen 32:30: “So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.””

    If only Jacob knew it was the God of his father, would he have fought with him? Only at the end, he understood so. He understood that he saw God face to face and was still alive. Not after’ seeing an agent and still alive’, which would have been obvious.
    God also allowed that wrestle there to teach him something.

    Judg 13:23: “But his wife said to him, “If the LORD had meant to kill us, he would not have accepted a burnt offering and a grain offering at our hands, or shown us all these things, or now announced to us such things as these.””

    This is the proper understanding. If God wanted to reveal himself in some form, people need not fear death.
    People react differently as per their understanding or misunderstanding. 🤷‍

    Not every angel of the Lord is YHWH. Only sometimes God himself appears as his agent. Only if the text suggests that we can take that.

    For ex. Only after God said so, Moses understood it was the Lord.

    Ex 3:6: “He said further, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.”

    It’s not only by the reactions of people but also how the angels talk/claim about Himself, we understand it.

    #Then why doesn’t it directly say Lord appeared? If A appeared, why would someone say Messenger of A appeared?#

    No one denies its Messenger of A. The argument is only this – that the messenger is equal to A. Because people worship the messenger, which is reserved to God, the messenger talks in the first person as God, those who saw him feared that they have seen God. If it’s only the messenger who was not equal to God, people need not have feared. God need not console either.

    Why couldn’t you accept that it’s the Lord who appeared and spoke?

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    1. Rex,
      Thanks for taking the time to read the article and to comment on it. I am not sure how well you read the article though because nearly all of the objections you raised are answered by the concept of agency which I presented in the article. Your conclusion that “No one denies its Messenger of A. The argument is only this – that the messenger is equal to A. Because people worship the messenger, which is reserved to God, the messenger talks in the first person as God, those who saw him feared that they have seen God. If it’s only the messenger who was not equal to God, people need not have feared. God need not console either” is a non-sequitur. The problem is solved completely by the Semitic concept of agency in which a man’s agent, while in the process of carrying out his commission, is to be regarded as the equal of the one whose agent he is. Therefore, the words and actions of the agent can be recorded as being the words and actions of his lord who commissioned him. What cannot be explained adequately from your viewpoint is why, if these occurrences were simply Yahweh himself appearing, the entity is called the agent of Yahweh. Your answer to this was simply to point to those elements in the narratives which confirm the Semitic concept of agency.

      All of the other minor points you made only reveal your assumptions and are not real challenges to the agency view. For example, regarding Joshua 5:13- 6:2, this is a perfect ex. of agency. Of course the text can say that “Yahweh said to Joshua” because what the agent says is Yahweh’s word to Joshua. Maybe you can understand this better in the case of a human agent speaking for God. In Is. 7 God tells Isaiah to give a message to Ahaz and he does. Then in v. 10 it says, “Yahweh spoke again to Ahaz.” Clearly this is still Isaiah the prophet speaking to Ahaz, but it is in effect Yahweh speaking to Ahaz, through his agent Isaiah.

      Then you wrote, “How does God’s agent mean he is higher in authority. After all, he is also a servant of God. That is what an agent of God tells in revelation (Ch 19 and 22)!”

      But not all of a great man’s agents would be on the same level. A king could have three different level of agents: a servant, a trusted friend and a loyal son. It is unlikely that the trusted friend or the son would bow down in homage to the servant, but the servant would to the other two. The trusted friend would likely bow down to the loyal son also. It is not unimaginable that one of Yahweh’s human agents would bow down in homage to one of Yahweh’s heavenly agents. As for the Rev. passages, this reflects the change of status in humans beings who have become sons of God through Messiah. God’s heavenly messengers now see themselves as only equals of those redeemed in Christ.

      You wrote, “Who is the commander of the army of the Lord? It is the Lord himself, who else will command 🙄Picturing God as a warrior is not a rare concept.”

      But this is a non-sequitur. Joab was the commander (same word) of the army under David’s kingship. The Hebrew word is sar and is applied to Michael in the book of Daniel. So why could the figure in Joshua not be Michael? The objections you might raise would, again, be easily answered by the concept of agency. I deal with this passage in Joshua in more detail in this article here : https://letthetruthcomeoutblog.wordpress.com/2019/03/03/pre-incarnate-appearances-of-the-son-of-god-in-the-ot-truth-or-myth-part-3/

      I will respond to some of your other objections at another time.

      God bless!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Rex,
        In the incident with Moses and the bush the concept of agency is again so profoundly evident. Everything the agent says can be said as if God is speaking because in effect the agent is God speaking to Moses. Now let’s think this through. Moses may have been confused and thought that God himself is in the bush; how would he know any better. Did he have some text of scripture to guide him in this? So maybe he was confused at the time but later we know that he must have received understanding because he writes later that it was the malak of Yahweh in the bush. Stephen confirms that it was an agent of God who appeared in the bush in Acts 7.
        As for the removing of the sandals I don’t think anyone really knows the reason behind it. It only happened on these two occurrences. Even when Moses was meeting with God in the tent of meeting where God appeared as a cloud and spoke as it were “face to face with Moses, it never once says that he removed his sandals when entering the tent. But why not, if this is some indication that God was actually present?

        As for Gideon and Manoah being afraid of dying because they saw a heavenly agent of the Lord, this only further establishes the agency principle. In the ANE world to see a heavenly agent of a god was tantamount to seeing the god himself. Clearly they were not seeing God because no one can see God and live. Whatever their wrong conceptions of their experiences were is not relevant to the question of who actually appeared, the text plainly says it was an agent of Yahweh.

        The incident with Jacob further proves my point. If God cannot be seen and cannot physically wrestle with a man then he must send an agent in his place to do the wrestling. But it is as if it were God himself because the agent is acting in God’s place. Hosea later tells us it was an agent (12:4).

        Nothing you have said in your comment negates the agency principle in any of the scripture cases you cited.
        God bless!

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      2. 1 Retold as God or Angel of God.

        a.
        The verse you have quoted:

        Hosea 12:3 In the womb he tried to supplant his brother,
        and in his manhood he strove with God.
        4 He strove with the angel and prevailed,
        he wept and sought his favor;
        he met him at Bethel,
        and there he spoke with him.
        5 The Lord the God of hosts,
        the Lord is his name!

        This verse refers to God and angel interchangeably. V3 he says it’s God he strove with and v4 says it’s angel.

        If the rendering of NRSV is correct, which I think it is, then the angel whom Jacob stove with is the same one who met him in Bethel and He is the YHWH himself (v5).

        Hosea refers to this incident to show Israelites that if they also weep and seek God’s favor, they can receive it.

        b.
        In Acts 7 as well, Stephen refers to them interchangeably. How do you explain away the below verse?

        38 He is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness together with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our ancestors. He received living oracles to give to us.

        Angel spoke to Moses and Israelites in Sinai or God Himself as Exodus says?

        This favors my argument since I say that both the angel who appeared in the bush and in Sinai is God Himself.

        c.
        When Angel of the Lord and YHWH are used interchangeably, you will say it’s only the angel and not God. I will say it’s only the Lord who is referred to as his angel. So it’s not possible to come to a conclusion by looking at just how the person who appeared is referred. We need to take a deeper look at the claims and activities of the angel to come to a conclusion, which we will do below.

        2. Worship

        a.
        The Greek word for worship can mean the physical action of bowing down also.

        Every time the bowing doesn’t have the same intention. When roman soldiers bowed to Jesus, it was a mockery. It cannot be called worship.

        Only when the action is voluntary, acknowledging the greatness of the person, it could become worship.

        Rev 3:9 cannot be called worship(which is reserved to God alone). Those at the synagogue of Satan are torturing the saints. So the promise of God is – those who are torturing you will be defeated. They will bow down to you in defeat, not voluntarily. It would have consoled the saints a lot.

        When someone pushes me from behind and I fall at your feet, it is not worship. It wasn’t done at will.

        Dog also has tail, horse also has tail. So horse and dog are the same?

        b.
        Change of status in human beings who have become sons of God through Messiah.
        Change in status in relationship to angels? How do you say that?

        Consider saints are lifted to be equal with God’s heavenly messengers. These messengers received worship in OT from believers. Then why do Peter and Paul deny worship?

        So this change of status in relationship to angels neither has proof nor consistent.

        c.
        In Judges 13, the angel accepts the burnt offering. Can agents of God accept burnt offerings for themselves?

        The angel consumed Gideon’s sacrifice as well. This happening is parallel to Lev 9:24.

        If there are no strong evidence that the malak of God can accept worship and the burnt offerings, the only possibility is – it’s God who appeared in these cases.

        d.
        God himself says why it was needed to remove the sandals. Because of the explicit presence of God, the place was made holy.

        Even today idol worshippers in our place remove the sandals outside the temple because they think their deity is present in the temple.

        It might have been a practice in Egypt [I don’t have a proof for it now]. So God asked Moses and Joshua alone to do that since they grew up in such tradition.

        Since God said it in the bush, Moses already knew he had to do that in the mountain and tent. So God didn’t need to repeat it there.

        3. First-person speech

        a.
        Can the malak of God claim to be YHWH?

        Have any of the human agents spoken that way? If not how do you conclude this?

        b.
        Is 7:10 is not similar to the angel’s case.

        If Isaiah went to Ahaz and said ‘I am YHWH, the God of Abraham, Issac and Jacob. I am the one who made a covenant with Abraham. The place where you are standing is holy ground.’, then wouldn’t it be blasphemy?

        c.
        When it was only an angel who appears to men, they can introduce their name. Ex.

        The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news.” Luke 1

        But in the cases of the Angel of the Lord,
        ‘What is your name, so that we may honor you when your word comes true?’ He replied, ‘Why do you ask my name? It is beyond understanding.’ Judg 13

        Jacob said, ‘Please tell me your name.’ But he replied, ‘Why do you ask my name?’ Gen 32

        Do the named angels talk in first person Lord anywhere? Why not? Isn’t it inconsistent for the malak to use agency language(as you say) in one kind of appearance and normal language in another kind? Pause and think through.

        4
        a.
        In the ANE world to see a heavenly agent of a god was tantamount to seeing the god himself.

        Proof?

        b.
        If people had to fear seeing just an agent of the Lord, the purpose of the agent itself is broken, right? The agent is supposed to deliver God’s word to people but he cannot because people fear dying if he appears!

        c.
        Also, why didn’t people fear death when seeing named angels and other human malak of God?

        This is the proper understanding. If God wanted to reveal himself in some form, people need not fear death.
        People react differently as per their understanding or misunderstanding. 🤷‍

        5.

        There is an agency language applied to God’s Malak. Everyone agrees that. But we disagree when you stretch it beyond its limits.

        Can the Centurian’s agent say ‘I am the Centurian’? Can he wear the uniform of a Centurian?

        Also, we defend the point that God himself can appear as His Malak.

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    2. Rex,

      With respect… it appears you have never done a thorough study of the word “worship”.

      I invite you to engage in this study – rather than simply reflect the standard tradition that we are all taught in our Discipleship 101 class at the local evangelical communion. I am certain, if you are serious regarding Biblical study, you will find it enlightening.

      Would love to hear your feedback upon conclusion…:-)

      Hint: You could make it easy on yourself and simply start with Rev3.9 – but genuine mastery requires a full analysis…:-).

      Best,

      Greg

      Like

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