. The Real Christ...
The name of God can be carried by anyone through whom He chooses to ‘manifest’ or reveal Himself. So men and angels as well as Jesus can carry God’s name. This is a vital principle which opens up so much of the Bible to us. A son especially may carry the name of his father; he has certain similarities with his father, he may have the same first name - but he is not one and the same person as the father. In the same way a representative of a company may speak on behalf of the company; he may telephone someone on business and say, ‘Hello, this is Unilever here’; he is not Mr. Unilever, but he carries their name because he is working on their behalf. And so it was with Jesus.
ANGELS CARRYING GOD’S NAME
We are told in Ex. 23:20,21 that God told the people of Israel that an angel would go ahead of them; “My name is in Him”, they were told. The personal name of God is ‘Yahweh’. So the angel carried the name of Yahweh, and could thus be called ‘Yahweh’, or ‘The LORD’, in small capitals, as the word ‘Yahweh’ is translated in the N.I.V. and A.V. We are told in Ex. 33:20 that no man can see the face of God and live; but in Ex. 33:11 we read that “The LORD (Yahweh) spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaketh to his friend” - i.e. directly. It could not have been the LORD, Yahweh, Himself in person, who spoke to Moses face to face, because no man can see God Himself. It was the angel who carried God’s name who did so; and so we read of the LORD speaking face to face with Moses when it was actually an angel who did so (Acts 7:30 33).
There are many other examples of the words ‘God’ and ‘LORD’ referring to the angels as opposed to God Himself. One clear example is Gen. 1:26: “And God (the angels) said, Let us make man in our image”.
MEN WITH GOD’S NAME
One of the passages which is most helpful in demonstrating all this is John 10:34-36. Here the Jews made the mistake which many do today. They thought that Jesus was saying he was God Himself. Jesus corrected them by saying, “Is it not written in your law, I said, You are gods? If He called them ‘gods’...why do you say of (me)...’You blaspheme!’ because I said, I am the Son of God?’. Jesus is really saying ‘In the Old Testament men are called ‘gods’; I am saying I am the Son of God; so why are you getting so upset?’ Jesus is actually quoting from Ps. 82, where the judges of Israel were called ‘gods’.
As has been shown, the full name of God in Hebrew is ‘Yahweh Elohim’ - implying ‘He who will be revealed in a group of mighty ones’. The true believers are those in whom God is revealed in a limited sense in this life. However, in the Kingdom, they will be ‘mighty ones’ in whom the LORD will be fully manifested. This is all beautifully shown by a comparison of Is. 64:4 and 1 Cor. 2:9. “Men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither has the eye seen, O God, besides you, what He has prepared for him that waits for him”. Paul quotes this in 1 Cor. 2:9,10: “It is written, Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither has entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for them that love Him. But God has revealed them unto us by His Spirit”. The passage in Is. 64 says that no one except God can understand the things He has prepared for the believers. However 1 Cor. 2:10 says that those things have been revealed to us.
The priests were God’s representatives, and for a man to ‘appear before the Lord’ effectively referred to his appearance before the priest. When we read of “men going up to God at Bethel”, the ‘house of God’ (1 Sam. 10:3), we aren’t to think that God Himself lived in a house in Bethel. The reference is to the priests, his representative, being there.
Not only is the Name of God carried by people, but language and actions which are specific to God are sometimes applied to humans who manifest Him. The daughter of Pharaoh who saved baby Moses is described in the very terms with which God is described as saving His people Israel 'out of the water' just as Moses was saved. She came 'came down', 'sees' the suffering child, hears its cry, takes pity, draws him out of the water, provides for him (Ex. 2:23-25; 3:7,8). The parallels are surely to indicate that God was willing to show Himself manifest in that Gentile woman in the salvation of His people. And of course the whole practical idea of 'God manifestation' is that we consciously try to reflect the characteristics of God- for His Name is in fact a summary of His characteristics and personality (Ex. 34:4-6).
JESUS AND THE NAME OF GOD
It is not surprising that Jesus, as the Son of God and His supreme manifestation to men, should also carry God’s name. He could say “I am come in my Father’s name” (Jn. 5:43). Because of his obedience, Jesus ascended to heaven and God “gave him a name which is above every name” - the name of Yahweh, of God Himself (Phil. 2:9). So this is why we read Jesus saying in Rev. 3:12: “I will write upon him (the believer) the name of my God...and I will write upon him my new name”. At the judgment Jesus will give us God’s name; we then will fully carry the name of God. He calls this name, “My new name”. Remember, Jesus gave the book of Revelation some years after his ascension into heaven and after he had been given God’s name, as explained in Phil. 2:9. So he can call God’s name “My new name”; the name he had recently been given. We can now properly understand Is. 9:6, where concerning Jesus we are told, “His name (note that) shall be called, Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father...”. This is a prophecy that Jesus would carry all the titles and Name of God - that he would be the total manifestation or revelation of God to us (1). It was in this sense that he was called ‘Emmanuel’, meaning, ‘God is with us’, although He personally was not God (2). Thus the prophecy of Joel 2 that men would call on the name of Yahweh was fulfilled by people being baptised into the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:21 cf. 38). This also explains why the command to baptize into the name of the Father was fulfilled, as detailed in the Acts record, by baptism into the name of Jesus.
The Jews were fierce monotheists, any idea that there was any God apart from God the Father was to them blasphemous. And yet their own writings have no problem in using the language of 'God' in relation to men and Angels- e.g. Ezra addresses the Angel Uriel as God Himself (2 Esdr. 5:43). It is this idea of 'God manifestation' in a person or Angel which is so common in the Bible, and which inevitably at times is used about God's own Son, Jesus. But the use of such language doesn't mean that Jesus is God Himself in person.
Language Of God Used About Jesus: Some Background
We need to appreciate the extent to which the first century Middle East understood a messenger as being the very person of the one who sent him. R.J.Z. Werblowski and Geoffrey Wigoder in The Encyclopedia Of The Jewish Religion speak of "the Jewish Law of Agencies" or 'Schaliach', as: "The main point of the Jewish law of agency expressed in the dictum, "A person's agent is regarded as the person himself". Therefore any act committed by a duly appointed agent is regarded as having been committed by the principle." G.R.B. Murray comments that: "One sent is as he who sent him... The messenger [the Shaliach] is thereby granted authority and dignity by virtue of his bearing the status of the one who sent him. This is the more remarkable when it is borne in mind that in earlier times the messenger was commonly a slave" (3). Bearing this background in mind, it isn't surprising that language specific to God is used about His Son and messenger.
The idea is sometimes expressed that calling Jesus "Son of God" somehow makes Him God. Apart from the illogicality of this [a son isn't the same being as his father], the language of "Son of God" is used in the Old Testament of men. Even the term "God" is used of men (Ps. 45:6; 82:6; Ex. 21:6; 22:8). The first century mind was quite used to men being called 'god' or Divine. The Jews were strongly monotheistic, paranoid of any implication that Yahweh was not the only God; and yet they were happy to use the word "god" about men. Philo [a Jewish writer] spoke of Moses as "appointed by God as god" and "no longer man but God" (4). And of course the Greek and Roman rulers, both local and otherwise, were described with 'Divine' language- e.g. Antiochus Epiphanes means 'God made manifest'. There was no understanding that these 'divine' titles therefore made these men to be God Himself in person. Apollonius explains that "every man who is considered good is honoured with the title of "god"" (Apollonius Of Tyana 8.4). Indeed any hero, leader of King was addressed as 'God' (5). We can see from Acts 14:11-13 and Acts 28:6 how easily first century folk were inclined to call a man "God" if he did miracles. I remember clearly in my early days of missionary work in Africa being called "Wazungu" or "Mazungu" by fascinated children who'd scarcely seen a white man before. And I recall my shock on discovering that this term means both "white man" and "God" (and is frequently used as such in translations of the Bible into Central and East African languages). But this is actually what was going on in the Hellenistic and Roman worlds. And so when Divine language was applied to Jesus, there is no reason to think that the first century mind would've concluded that therefore Jesus was God Himself in person, just as those fascinated kids calling out "Wazungu! Wazungu!" as I walked by were hardly understanding me as God Himself in person. Here we have one of the most glaring examples of problems arising from not reading God's word with an appreciation of the context in which it was spoken and written. In European culture, it would be unheard of, or blasphemous and at best inappropriate, to call any man "God" or "Son of God". But this wasn't the case in the first century world. In that world- and it was against the background of that world that the New Testament was written- the use of Divine language about a person, or about Jesus the Son of God, didn't make them God Himself in person.
Again and again we have to emphasize that we read the Biblical documents at a great distance from the culture in which they were first written. It was quite understandable for a person to carry the name of their superior, without being that superior in person. And so it was and is with the Lord Jesus. To give just one of many possible confirmations of this: "[In 2 Esdras 5:43-46]... God's spokesman, the angel Uriel, is questioned by Ezra as though he were both Creator and Judge [which God alone is]. Ezra uses the same style of address to Uriel ("My lord, my master") as he uses in direct petition to God. This practice of treating the agent as though he were the principal is of the greatest importance for New Testament Christology [i.e. the study of who Christ is]" (6). The acclamation of Thomas "My Lord and my God!" must be understood within the context of first century usage, where as Paul says, many people were called Lord and "god" (1 Cor. 8:4-6). If we're invited by our manager "Come and meet the president", we don't expect to meet the President of the USA. We expect to meet the president of the company. The word "president" can have more than one application, and it would be foolish to assume that in every case it referred to the President of the USA. And it's the same with the words "Lord" and "God" in their first century usage. Hence a Jewish non-trinitarian like Philo could call Moses "God and king of the whole nation" (Life Of Moses 1.158)- and nobody accused him of not being monotheistic! Significantly, there is in the New Testament the Greek word latreuo which specifically refers to the worship of God- and this is always [21 times] applied to God and not Jesus. The worship of Jesus that is recorded is always to God's glory, and is recorded with the same words [especially proskuneo] used about the worship of believers (Rev. 3:9, Daniel (Dan. 2:46 LX), kings of Israel etc. (1 Chron. 29:20 LXX). The word means essentially 'to kneel' and this is how it's translated in Mt. 9:18 ESV: "A ruler came in and knelt before him". The Septuagint uses the word without implying that the person being bowed down to is God. Two clear examples: " And Jacob lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, Esau was coming ... He himself went on before them, bowing himself to the ground seven times, ... Then the servants drew near, they and their children, and bowed down. Leah likewise and her children drew near and bowed down. And last Joseph and Rachel drew near, and they bowed down (Gen. 33:1-7). And then 2 Kings 5:17–18: "Then Naaman said, “If not, please let there be given to your servant two mules’ load of earth, for from now on your servant will not offer burnt offering or sacrifice to any god but the LORD. In this matter may the Lord pardon your servant: when my master goes into the house of Rimmon to worship there, leaning on my arm, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, when I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, the Lord pardon your servant in this matter”.
(1) The way the Lord Jesus is given the title "Everlasting father" or 'father of the eternal age' has been confusing to some. But note that this is a title which He is given, not the Name itself. The term "father" is used in Semitic languages to mean a leader- Jesus will be leader of the future, eternal age. Note how the term is used in Esther 3:13; 8:12 LXX, where Haman is called "father" of the Persian king; a Levite priest was 'father' to some Danites (Jud. 18:19); Elijah was 'father' to Elisha (2 Kings 2:12); Eliakim was 'father' to the people of Jerusalem (Is. 2:21). Joseph was 'father' to Pharaoh (Gen. 45:8), and it has been commented that "There is no title "father to Pharaoh" in Egyptian; and the closest parallel it-ncr, "god's father", is something of an embarassment... being an appellative granted... to the progenitor of a dynasty"- Donald Redford, The Biblical Story of Joseph (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1970) p. 191. Thus the title "Father" used about the Lord Jesus shouldn't lead us to think that Jesus "is" God the Father. "Father" is being used in Is. 9:6 in a manner consistent with other Old Testament usage to denote a leader, a great one- but not God Himself in person.
(2) It should be noted that "Many think that the list of titles in Is. 9:5 was borrowed from the traditional titles of the monarchs of other countries, especially of the Egyptian pharaoh... the title applied to the king of Judah portrays him as one specially favoured by God, e.g. "the divine mighty one" or "divine warrior"- Raymond Brown, An Introduction To New Testament Christology (London: Geoffrey Chapman, 1994) p. 187.
(3) George R. Beasley Murray, Gospel of Life: Theology In The Fourth Gospel (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1991), p.18.
(4) Citations in James Dunn, Christology In The Making (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1980) p. 17.
(5) For documentation, see D. Cuss, Imperial Cult And Honorary Terms In The New Testament (Fribourg: Fribourg University Press, 1974) pp. 134-140.
(6) G.B. Caird, The Language And Imagery Of The Bible (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1980) p. 181.
Duncan Heaster has written over 20 books, some of which contain material relevant to The Real Christ. And there is a host of other relevant material...