Saturday, September 25, 2010

Christ and the Holy Trinity in the Old Testament

Margaret, our blog friend in Scotland, who began life in Judaism, has remarked that you cannot remove Christ from Jewish worship. Corroborating that statement is a book Demetrios and I have been reading called, Rabbi Izaak M., by Nikolaou Ambraze, about a rabbi who converted to Orthodox Christianity in the late 19th Century.   Of course, he Fathers told us a similar thing as Margaret, too, that Christ was on every page of the Old Testament.  St. Paul also said it to the Jews in Berea, and they looked to see if they could see in Scripture what St. Paul saw. (Yes, that's what they were doing, not practicing sola scriptura.)

The book is in Greek, but the excerpts Demetrios read to me, translating as he went along, were so interesting that when he had finished the book I picked it up, and to my surprise, I could read it reasonably well. (I may not be able to tell the clerk in the shop what kind of slippers I want, but my theological vocabulary is pretty good. And it appears I haven’t quite forgotten every word of Hebrew, either, although heaven knows I've tried, as that language drove me to despair while I was studying it.) Usually, when I’ve finished a section, of this book, I ask Demetrios to read it to me, just to be sure I’ve gotten it.

Anyway, I think it may be worthwhile to point out some of the Old Testament witness to Christ and to the Holy Trinity that are featured and debated in this book.) Of course you know many or all of these passages and so did I, but somehow, I never got it!  I never appreciated the full force of these passages until now.  Now I can't get over my amazement!

We begin, then, right at the beginning, Genesis 1:1. In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Except this translation doesn’t do justice to the Hebrew text. It’s,  In the beginning, the Gods created the heaven and the earth. It’s Elohiym, Gods, plural (a common word for God  in the O.T.). To make it more interesting still, the verb “created” is in the singular.

Skipping ahead in the same chapter, to verse 26: And the Gods said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. Again, the subject is in the plural while the verb is in the singular. (Note also that the Hebrew word for “man” is “adam”, making it not so easy to say whether, in any given text, we ought to render it, “Adam” or “the man”.)

Now the rabbis traditionally have held that when God said, “Let us,” He was addressing the angels, but the book quite easily demolishes that idea. Are not angels servants of God, rather than gods? Does God invite them to help Him create anything? Are angels co-creators? Are we created in the image of angels?

Clearly God was not addressing angels. Whom, then? If we read a corresponding passage from the New Testament, we can answer the question. From John’s Gospel, Chapter 1: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in beginning with God. All things were made by Him, and without Him was nothing made that was made.

So, in Genesis, God creates by speaking. Let there by light, etc. In John, God creates by “the Word,” And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. (v. 14) So Christ is the incarnation of the creative Word, of the "Let there by light.". It was the Holy Trinity conversing among themselves in Genesis. Oh, yes, the Holy Spirit is explicitly in the Genesis account, too: “And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” (Genesis 1:2)

We move on to Genesis, Chapter 18, where Abraham sees God. “And there appeared to him the Lord on the plain of Mamre, while he was sitting in the doorway of his tent in the heat of the day. And lifting up his eyes, he looked, and behold, three men standing before him. And when he saw them, he ran toward them from the door of his tent and bowed himself to the ground. And said, “My Lord, if I have found favor in Thy sight, please do not pass by Thy servant.”

Okay, so we are told explicitly that who Abraham saw was indeed God. But he saw God as three men, not one. He saw three, but he addressed them as one! He said, “My Lord,” not "My Lords".  He said “Thy” sight and “Thy” servant, “Thy” being the singular.

The rest of the chapter is equally interesting in mixing singulars and plurals, and in again mentioning that these three men were the Lord.

“Abraham rejoiced to see My day,” said Jesus, “He saw it and was glad.” (John 8:56)

Not that we’re anywhere near finished in Genesis yet, but I have limited space here. So for now, let’s consider a verse from the Prophet Isaiah (9:6), very familiar because we’ve heard it sung so often: For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given. Okay, that’s a human baby, right? A child. Born not to angels, not to sheep, but to us humans.

And authority shall be upon his shoulder. That’s right; in the Septuagint, it isn’t “the government” but “authority” – which could be construed as government, but that's not what it says, at least not in the Greek.  (Margaret, the Hebrew word is misrah. Is "authority" a good translation of that?) Yes, the word carries a definite article, but in Greek, nouns nearly always do.  You don’t speak of your friends as George and Nick, for example; you say, “the George” and “the Nick.” And “the authority”. But in English we can just say “authority. 

Continuing with the same passage of Isaiah: And his name shall be called, Miraculous, Councilor, The mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace. Yes, it’s “Miraculous”. “Wonderful” no longer quite conveys what the text means.

But more surprising than this, His name shall be called “The Mighty God, the everlasting Father.”  Okay, Jews are as strict monotheists as can be found anywhere.  Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God, the Lord is One.  Why would any Jew in his right mind call a human being God? Would that not be blasphemy? The Jews at Jesus’ trial feigned such shock as to tear their clothes even at His being called the Son of God.  But here is Prophet Isaiah saying it very explicity:  this human child to be born is God Almighty!

* * *
You just have to read the Old Testament in the light of the New, don’t you, for it to make sense? Paradoxically (or not), only by Christianizing it do we even render it true to itself.

Perhaps I’ll share more of this fascinating book later, when I’ve read more. It may take a while!

6 comments:

elizabeth said...

sounds like you have a special book there! thanks for sharing... :)`

Elizabeth @ The Garden Window said...

How wonderful ! Is an English translation available ?

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Nina said...

I have always felt as your fiend....so true....and yes, is there an English translation available?

Anastasia Theodoridis said...

Unfortunately, I do nt know of any translations. If I found out about one, I;ll let you know. Meanwhile, I'm continuing reading it and am constantly amazed. More later.