Jesus in the Old Testament

Jesus in the Old Testament

God appears in the Old Testament in different ways: as an angel of the Lord (Acts 7:30-32; Exodus 3:2; Judges 2:1), apparently in physical form (Gen. 3:8; Exodus 24:9-11), in visions and dreams (Num. 12:6-8), and in flame (Judges 13:20-21). However, there are verses that say that you can’t see God: Exodus 33:20; John 1:18). If this is so, then is there a contradiction in the Bible?  No, there isn’t.

These verses below are taken from the New American Standard Bible. Please note that “LORD” is equivalent to YHWH, Yahweh, and Jehovah which is the name of God.

Plurality of God

  • Gen. 1:26, “Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness…”
  • Gen. 19:24, “Then the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven.”
  • Amos 4:10-11, “‘I sent a plague among you after the manner of Egypt; I slew your young men by the sword along with your captured horses, and I made the stench of your camp rise up in your nostrils; yet you have not returned to Me,’ declares the LORD. ‘I overthrew you as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah…'”
  • Isaiah 44:6, “Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: ‘I am the first and I am the last, and there is no God besides me…‘” See also, Isaiah 48:16.

Appearances of God

  • Gen. 17:1, “Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, ‘I am God Almighty; walk before Me, and be blameless.'”
  • Gen. 18:1, “Now the LORD appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, while he was sitting at the tent door in the heat of the day.”
  • Ex. 6:2-3, “God spoke further to Moses and said to him, ‘I am the LORD; and I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name LORD I did not make myself known to them.'”
  • Exodus 24:9-11, “Then Moses went up with Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and they saw the God of Israel; and under His feet there appeared to be a pavement of sapphire, as clear as the sky itself. Yet He did not stretch out His hand against the nobles of the sons of Israel; and they beheld God, and they ate and drank.”
  • Exodus 33:11, “Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend…”
  • Num. 12:6-8, “He [God] said, “Hear now My words: If there is a prophet among you, I, the LORD, shall make Myself known to him in a vision. I shall speak with him in a dream. Not so, with My servant Moses, He is faithful in all My household; with him I speak mouth to mouth, even openly, and not in dark sayings, and he beholds the form of the LORD…”
  • Acts 7:2, “And he [Stephen] said, “Hear me, brethren and fathers! The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham when he was in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran…”

Can’t See God

  • Exodus 33:20, “But He [God] said, ‘You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!'”
  • John 1:18, “No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father; He has explained Him.”
  • 1 Tim. 6:16, “[God] who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light; whom no man has seen or can see.”
  • John 6:46, “Not that any man has seen the Father except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father.”

It is evident from the above scriptures that God was seen.  But, considering the “can’t-see-God” verses, some would understandably argue that people have not seen God; otherwise, there would be a contradiction in the Bible. A possible explanation for this is that people were seeing visions, or dreams, or the Angel of the LORD (Num. 22:22-26; Judges 13:1-21). But the problem is that the verses cited above do not say vision, dream, or Angel of the LORD. They say that people saw God (Exodus 24:9-11), that God was seen, and that He appeared as God Almighty (Ex. 6:2-3).

At first, this may be difficult to understand.  God Almighty was seen (Ex. 6:2-3) which means it was not the Angel of the Lord; for an angel is not God Almighty, and at least Moses saw God, not in a vision or dream, as the LORD Himself attests in Num. 12:6-8.  If these verses mean what they say, then we naturally assume we have a contradiction. Actually, the contradiction exists in our understanding – not in the Bible – which is the case with most alleged biblical contradictions.

More

  • John 8:58, “Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.”
  • Exodus 3:14, “And God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM’; and He said, ‘Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.'”
  • Zech. 12:10, “And I [God] will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son…”

The solution is relatively simple. If the people of the OT were seeing God, the Almighty God, and Jesus said that no one has ever seen the Father (John 6:46), then they were seeing God Almighty but not the Father.  It was someone else in the Godhead. They were seeing the Word before He became incarnate.  In other words, they were seeing Jesus – compare John 8:58 with Exodus 3:14 above.

Because God is a Trinity, then John 1:18 is not a problem because, in John chapter one, John writes about the Word (Jesus) and God (the Father). In verse 14 it says the Word became flesh.  In verse 18 it says no one has seen God. Since Jesus is the Word, God then, refers to the Father; and the apparent contradiction is easily resolved, especially when this is examined in the light of Jesus’ words in John 6:46 where He said that no one has ever seen the Father. Therefore, Almighty God was seen but not the Father. It was Jesus before His incarnation. This correlates with the fact that there is more than one person in the Godhead (Father, Son, Holy Spirit).

It is interesting to note that the appearances of the “Angel of the Lord” cease after the incarnation of Christ. Angels are mentioned numerous times in the New Testament, but “the angel of the Lord” is never mentioned in the New Testament after the birth of Christ.

An interesting followup link is mannsword.blogspot.com/2018/08/jesus-in-book-of-judges.html

Plus an “after published” followup link that also addresses this same topic:

christian-apologist.com/2018/09/02/jesus-the-angel-of-the-lord-of-the-old-testament/

Source: “extracts” from carm.org and gotquestions.org

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About

Disciple of Jesus, married to Peggy, with 5 grown up children, 7 grand children, ex-Canadian military and residing in beautiful Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada. a.k.a. "Papa"

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Posted in Apologetics, Defending Christianity, New Testament, Old Testament
9 comments on “Jesus in the Old Testament
  1. Thank you Bruce. Did you mean angels are mentioned numerous times in the New Testament? Blessings.

  2. SLIMJIM says:

    Good post. I have always found these theophanies and Divine Angel of the Lord (Messenger of the Lord) as fascinating stuff

  3. Wonderful compilation, Bruce!!

  4. Richard says:

    Thanks Bruce for your wonderful explanation and examples of Jesus in the Old Testament. You outlined many more than I previously knew.

  5. Kaleb says:

    Unnecessary othering of Ehrman aside, I think this really reveals the problem Evangelicals have with the near worship of the Bible and textual criticism. Your conclusion states “This means, when you read your New Testament today, you can be confident that the text has been preserved for your reading and not radically altered as some skeptics say.”

    That’s well and good, but note who can be confident… *you,* the modern reader. The ~12,000,000,000 Christians who were around before us were simply unlucky? God did not bother to preserve the text for those readers? They were forced to deal with the interpolations, omissions, and changes which were substantial, even at times affecting the development of orthopraxy or orthodoxy, such as Mark 1:1, 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, or the Johannine Comma? God was ok with giving them a flawed or incomplete transmission which we are finally able to have perfected by our own work?

    Perhaps it’s best to simply admit that there is no such thing as an “original” text we can uncover. Instead, the Bible is inherently meshed into church tradition and worship, and it is constantly changing and evolving, neither the “original” nor the later versions being any better or worse, and both affecting the development of the Christian faith greatly.

    • Bruce says:

      Hi Kaleb, I understand what you are getting at, I just don’t agree with your summation, and to be candid with you, I’m really not convinced that the time and effort expended responding to you in any great detail would result in any worth while exchange as you seem to have already formulated your conclusion. Considering that the Apostolic Fathers and the early Church Fathers quoted the NT extensively (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_New_Testament_Church_Fathers) wherein every New Testament book is quoted by the Apostolic Fathers (the early Christian writers down to A.D. 150), where almost every book of the New Testament is explicitly cited by the Church Fathers as Scripture, and by around 300, nearly every verse in the New Testament was cited in one or more of over 36,000 citations found in the writings of the Church Fathers and considering that this is a secondary primary source aside from the manuscript evidence, to infer that “we” or “they” can have no assurance of the trustworthiness of the NT scriptures is hardly worthy of comment. So I’m assuming you just wanted to make a statement and as noted, I disagree.

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