Justin Martyr was an early Christian apologist. He was born around AD 100. Most of his works are lost, but two apologies and a dialogue did survive. The First Apology, his most well-known text, passionately defends the morality of the Christian life and provides various arguments to convince the Roman emperor to abandon the persecution of the Church. But apparently he failed, for he was martyred, more or less in the year 165, alongside some of his students. It is for that reason that he is called Justin Martyr.
In his view, the Greek philosophers had derived the most essential elements of truth, found in their teaching, from the Old Testament. Thus he does not hesitate to declare that many historical Greek philosophers, such as Socrates and Heraclitus, in whose works he was well studied, were unknowing Christians (Apol., i. 46, ii. 10). However, in his view, the old philosophers had only a part of the Logos (the Word or Wisdom), while the whole is in Christ.
Justin Martyr identified Jesus with the Logos of John 1 and Revelation 19, He also identified Jesus with the Angel of the LORD and with many other Theophanies of the Old Testament. He used this argument to convince Jews of the truth of Christianity.
Origin of Christ
Justin Martyr described Jesus as follows:
“God begot before all creatures a Beginning, [who was] a certain rational power [proceeding] from Himself” (Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter 61). He was “born of the very substance of the Father.”
To describe the Word as “a Beginning” implies that God’s purpose, in begetting the Son, was to create all things. We often read in the Bible about “the beginning,” such as that “in the beginning, God created heaven and earth.” But Justin Martyr thought of Jesus Himself as the Beginning. Jesus is also described as “the beginning” in Colossians 1:18, and the Revelator referred to Him as “the Beginning of the creation of God” (Rev. 3:14).
Since the Word is “rational,” He is a separate Person.
Justin Martyr wrote, “through the Word, God has made everything.” In other words, it is still God who created, but He created “through the Word.”
Justin Martyr described the Logos as “numerically distinct from the Father;” “Numerically distinct” is a phrase that philosophers use. It stands in contrast to “qualitatively distinct” and means that one being is different from another, even when they are extremely similar; qualitatively the same. Justin used the sun as a metaphor to explain the relationship between the Father and the Son: The sun and the light that comes from the sun are highly related but still distinct entities.
For Justin Martyr Jesus was distinct from the Father, but in his view the Father is God. This is seen in the statement quoted above that “through the Word, God has made everything.” That means that Jesus is also distinct from God.
In Matthew 28;19 Jesus told His disciples to baptize “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Justin similarly wrote:
“For, in the name of God, the Fatherand Lord of the universe, and of our Savior Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit, they then receive the washing with water” (First Apol., LXI).
This expands Matthew 28, for Justin replaced “the Father” with “God, the Father.” He also added in a few words to exalt the Father over the Son and over the Holy Spirit. The reference to “God, the Father” confirms the distinction between God and Jesus. Furthermore, the description of the Father as “God” and as “Lord of the universe” and implies that the Son is subordinate to the Father.
Justin continues to speak about baptism in the very next paragraph. He again equates God with the Father, in distinction to Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, and describes God alone as ineffable (indescribable):
“No one can utter the name of the ineffable God…And in the name of Jesus Christ, who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and in the name of the Holy Ghost …” (First Apology 61)
In his First Apology 8, Justin explicitly states that Jesus is “in the second place” next to God. This clearly evidences his view that the Son is subordinate to the Father.
Slick quoted Justin’s version of the baptismal creed because it mentions all three Persons, but the way in which the church fathers in the second and third century used these triadic passages make a distinction between God and His Son and declare the Father to be superior over the Son.
Justin Martyr’s understanding of Christ and the Trinity may be summarized as follows:
The Father, who is God, begot the Son before all creatures. The Father begot Him as a Beginning; born of the very substance of the Father; a rational power that proceeded from God; numerically distinct from God and subordinate to the Father. Through Him, God has made all things. In Old Testament times the Son appeared as the Angel of the LORD. In these quotes Justin did mention substance, but not that Jesus has both a divine and a human nature or that the Holy Spirit is self-aware.
Jesus has always existed. In fact, God created all things through Him. Therefore, the question arises: Where do we find Jesus in the Old Testament? God is invisible, but was seen in the Old Testament. To solve this apparent contradiction, this article finds evidence in the Old Testament of two distinct divine beings.
Jesus was “before Abraham” (John 8:58). He existed “before all things” (Col. 1:17). He is “from the days of eternity” (Micah 5:2). “He was “in the beginning with God” (John 1:2). God created all things through Him (John 1:3). Before He became a human being, Jesus existed in the form of God and had equality with God (Phil. 2:6). (See Jesus existed prior to His birth in the form of God.)
The question in this series of articles is therefore: Where do we find Jesus in the Old Testament?
Jesus was accurately predicted in the Old Testament. He was also represented by many symbols and types. He said that the books of the Old Testament “testify about Me” (John 5:39), and that Moses “wrote about Me” (John 5:46). After His resurrection, He met two disciples on their way to Emmaus. ”Beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures” (Luke 24:27; cf. v45; 1 Peter 1:10-12). But the purpose of this article is not to discuss the predictions or types. The purpose is to search for His visible appearances in the Old Testament.
A visible or audible manifestation of God is called a theophany. This is a combination of two Greek words; theos (god) and epiphaneia (an appearance). An appearance of Christ in Old Testament times is similarly called a Christophany.
This article examines some of the appearances God in the Old Testament to discern which ones are actually appearances of Christ. Dr. John Walvoord, in his book Jesus Christ Our Lord, says, “It is safe to assume that every visible manifestation of God in bodily form in the Old Testament is to be identified with the Lord Jesus Christ” (Walvoord, 54). God sometimes only speaks. Other times He appears in visions and dreams, or He appears as a blinding light on in the form of fire. Walvoord used the words “visible” and “bodily” to exclude visions, dreams and non-bodily appearances. But that does not mean that Jesus did not appear in visions, dreams, or in other non-bodily forms, such as a pillar of fire. In Daniel 7 the Son of Man (Jesus), was seen in a vision.
Is the God of the Old Testament severe?
Many think of the God of the Old Testament is harsh. He, for example, expelled Adam from the Garden of Eden for eating the forbidden fruit, destroyed the earth with a flood, sent plagues on ancient Egypt, instructed Israel to kill all inhabitants in Canaan and punished Israel through captivity by foreign nations.
Jesus, on the other hand, is merciful. He taught love towards enemies. He healed multitudes, held children in His arms and voluntary gave His life to save us.
But if it can be shown that Jesus is the God of the Old Testament, who destroyed almost the entire human population through the flood, then we must reconsider our views of the God of the Old Testament.
YHVH and Elohim
In this study the words YHVH and Elohim are important.
God’s Name is YHVH.
YHVH (pronounced Yahweh or Jehovah or Yhovah) is the most common transliteration of the Hebrew name of God. It is the proper name of the God of Israel, similar to the names Peter, John and James.
The name YHVH appears 6,668 times in the Hebrew Scriptures. Most English translations render YHVH as “the LORD” — all capital letters. But “lord,” in normal English, is not a name; it is a title. To translate God’s name as “LORD” distorts its meaning. For instance, consider the following statement:
“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” (Ex. 6:2-3).
This statement says that the LORD revealed His name to Moses. But it is not clear what His name is. However, if we replace “the LORD” with “YHVH,” then it reads,
“I am the YHVH; and I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name, YHVH, I did not make Myself known to them” (Ex. 6:2-3).
Now it is clear what God’s name is: It is YHVH. As standard practice, this article uses the NASB, but all instances of “the LORD” have been replaced with “YHVH.” For instance:
“Thus says GodYHVH, Who created the heavens … Who spread out the earth … Who gives breath to the people on it … ‘I am YHVH… I will also hold You by the hand and watch over You, … I amYHVH, that is My name‘”(Is. 42:5-8).
God’s name YHVH never appears in the New Testament.
Elohim (gods) is the plural form of el (god). False gods are also described as el or elohim, but false gods are never called YHVH. Although Elohim is plural, when referring to the true God, it is commonly translated as “God” (singular).
God is invisible.
John revealed something which must have been a surprise to the first Jewish believers:
“No one has seen God at any time” (John 1:18; 1 John 4:12).
“Not that anyone has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father” (John 6:46).
Note that the title “God” is used here for the Father only, and excludes Jesus. Paul confirmed that the only God is invisible:
“The King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God” (1 Tim. 1:17)
“who alone possesses immortality anddwells in inapproachable light whom no man has seen or can see” (1 Timothy 6:16).
Jesus “is the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15).
God not only has never been seen; He is “invisible” (Col. 1:15). He cannot be seen (1 Tim. 6:16). He exists outside space, time and matter.
These statements draw a distinction between God, who is invisible, and Jesus, who is visible. For a discussion of this challenge to the divinity of Christ, see Jesus is not the same Person as God.
Face to face
But then, how are we to explain the numerous Old Testament Scriptures that God spoke face-to-face with humans?
“YHVH used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend” (Ex. 33:11). But still Moses found it necessary to ask God, “I pray You, show me Your glory!” (v18). To which YHVH responded, “You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live” (v20).
Moses said to Israel, “YHVH spoke to you face to face at the mountain from the midst of the fire” (Deut. 5:4). But he also said “YHVH spoke to you from the midst of the fire; you heard the sound of words, but you saw no form—only a voice” (Deut. 4:12). “Moses went up with Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and they saw the God of Israel … they saw God … at a distance” (Ex. 24:9-11).
“Face to face” therefore does not mean literally face to face. It must rather be understood in a sense of a direct interaction.
Similarly, in Numbers 14:14, we read, “You, YHVH, are seen eye to eye, while Your cloud stands over them; and You go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night”. In this verse the expression “eye to eye” means that Israel saw the cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. There was no literal “eye to eye” interaction with God.
But God was seen.
The claim of the apostles, that God is invisible, would have been a surprise to the first Jewish Christians because they knew that God was seen.
Adam and Eve
“They heard the sound of YHVH God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of YHVH God among the trees” (Gen. 3:8).
It does not explicitly say that they saw Him, but that is a fair assumption.
Abraham in Genesis 18
In Genesis 18 YHVH appeared to Abraham. Verse 1 serves as introduction, and simply says that “Now YHVHappeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, while he was sitting at the tent door in the heat of the day.”
Verses 2 to 8 elaborates to tell the story of how three men appeared to Abraham. He welcomed them and served them food, and “they ate” (v8). These verses do not specifically mention YHVH, but verses 13 to 22 identify one of the three men as YHVH (vv 13, 17, 19, 20, 22). This means that YHVH looked like and ate like a human being.
YHVH promised Abraham that Sarah will have a son (vv9-15 ). He also said, referring to Abraham, “I have chosen him” (v19). This confirms that this is God speaking.
In verse 22 “the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, while Abraham was still standing before YHVH.” Since “two angels came to Sodom in the evening” (19:1), “the men” in 18:22 were “two angels.”
In verses 23 to 33 Abraham negotiates with YHVH about “Sodom and Gomorrah” (v20). In this section the writer of Genesis twice refers to the One speaking with Abraham as YHVH (vv 26, 33). Once Abraham refers to Him as the “Judge of all the earth” (v25).
Jacob wrestled all night with “a man” (Genesis 32:24-25), but the following indicate that this “man” was actually God, appearing in the form of a man:
(A) Just before daybreak the “Man” finally disabled Jacob. He told Jacob “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel; for you have striven with God and with men and have prevailed” (verse 28). The next morning Jacob understood that it was God Himself whom he had wrestled: “So Jacob named the place Peniel, for he said, ‘I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved’” (v30).
(B) While still wrestling, Jacob asked the “Man,” “Please tell me your name.” The “Man” said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” (v29). Many years later YHVH said to Moses, “I am YHVH; and I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name, YHVH, I did not make Myself known to them” (Ex. 6:2-3).
(C) Hosea 12 reflected on to this incident as follows: “In his maturity he contended with God. Yes, he wrestled with the angeland prevailed”. (“The angel” probably refers to the angel of YHVH, discussed below.”
“If there is a prophet among you, I, YHVH, shall make Myself known to him in a vision. I shall speak with him in a dream. Not so, with My servant Moses … he beholds the form of YHVH.” (Numbers 12:6)
To explain this statement, it is proposed that the appearances of God be divided into at least three categories:
Visions: Sometimes God is seen in visions and dreams. Isaiah “saw the Lord sitting on a throne” (Is. 6:1), but only in vision (Is. 1:1). Ezekiel saw “something resembling a throne … and on that which resembled a throne, high up, was a figure with the appearance of a man” (1:26), but only in “visions” (1:1). Daniel saw “the Ancient of Days” (7:9), but only in a dream (7:1). John saw “One sitting on the throne” (Rev. 4:2), but only “in the Spirit” (1:10). In these cases God gave images directly to the brains of the individuals; by-passing their physical eyes.
Human form: Sometimes YHVH appears in human form, visible to physical eyes, for instance to Adam, to Abraham and to Isaac.
Form of YHVH: Sometimes God appears in the form of God, but visible to physical eyes. However, according to Numbers 12:6, Moses was the only one who ever saw YHVH with His physical eyes. YHVH made it a specific point of not letting other people see any form of Him. But even Moses, “cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live” (Ex. 33:20). Moses only saw a form.
Adam and Eve saw YHVH God. YHVH appeared to Abraham in the form of a man. Jacob wrestled all night with God, appearing in the form of a man. Moses saw YHVH, appearing in the form of God. But the NT tells us that “No one has seen God at any time” (John 1:18). Even Moses did not see God, because God cannot be seen. Who then appeared to Adam, Abraham, Isaac and Moses? Was Jesus the YHVH of the Old Testament? Jesus existed in the form of God (Phil. 2:6). Was that the form which Moses saw?
Two divine beings
To solve this apparent contradiction, that God is invisible, but was seen, we note that the Old Testament implies two distinct divine beings.
Let Us make man.
The Book of Genesis contains three passages in which “Us” and “Our” are used in reference to God, implying more than one divine being:
“And God said, ‘Let Usmake man in Ourimage, after Ourlikeness’” (Gen. 1:26).
“And YHVH God said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one ofUs, to decide good and evil’” (Gen. 3:22).
“And YHVH said … ‘Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language…’” (Gen. 11:6-7).
The title “God” in these verses translates Elohim, which literally means “gods” (plural).
Some explain the plural pronouns (Us and Our) as the Deity conferring with his angels; a single God and His angelic host. However, angels do not have the power to create, took no part in man’s creation, and were therefore not part of the “Us” of Genesis 1:26.
Figure of speech
Others claim that such plural pronouns for God are only a figure of speech. But what justification do we have for taking the text as symbolic? In Genesis 11:4 the men of Babel said, “let usbuild us a city … let usestablish a name.” If that was literal, why would YHVH’s invitation, just three verses later, “let Usgo down,” be symbolic? As a general rule of interpretation, when a word or term is used more than once by the same writer in the same context, it should be interpreted in a parallel manner.
Plural of majesty
A third theory is that the “Us” passages of Genesis, and the use of the plural Elohim for God, are examples of the plural of majesty; a royal style of speech. It is argued that the plural is used for the singular to show honor to God. However, one of the keys to Bible interpretation is that we must allow the New Testament to interpret the Older Testament:
Jesus Created: John and Paul made it clear that God created all things through Jesus Christ (Col. 1:16; John 1:3; Heb. 1:2; 1 Cor. 8:6). This is strong evidence that the Father and the Son were the “Us” who created Genesis 1:26.
Jesus spoke of God and Himself as “Us”: In John 17 Jesus seems to explain the “Us” of Genesis. Here Christ prays the Father to bless His disciples; “that they also may be in Us” (John 17:20-21). If Jesus was not who He said He was, this would have been a most arrogant statement; to talk about the Father and Himself as “Us”.
Conclusion: When God said, “Let Us make man in Our image” (Gen 1:26), He included the One who later became the man Jesus.
This conclusion is supported by Zechariah’s visions. In these visions we find two distinct Beings, namely:
YHVH of hosts: To simplify the narrative below, He is referred to as YHVH.
The Angel of YHVH: The word “angel” translates the Hebrew word malak, which means “messenger.” To simplify the narrative below, He is referred to as “the Messenger”.
In Zechariah’s visions the Messenger is called YHVH, and He acts as Judge, but He is subordinate to YHVH:
Zechariah “saw at night, and behold, a man was riding on a red horse, and he was standing among the myrtle trees which were in the ravine, with red, sorrel and white horses behind him” (Zech. 1:8).
This “man” is identified as the Messenger (the Angel of YHVH) in verse 11. The patrol reports back to the Messenger, saying, “we have patrolled the earth, and behold, all the earth is peaceful and quiet” (1:11). The Messenger is therefore the captain of this supernatural patrol.
The Messenger then asks YHVH, “how long will You have no compassion for Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, with which You have been indignant these seventy years” (v12)? This implies that the Messenger is subordinate to YHVH. YHVH is the One that makes the decisions.
In another vision Zechariah saw “Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of YHVH, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him” (3:1). Now it becomes clear that this Messenger is no normal angel, for He is called “YHVH” (3:2). He acts as Judge, rebukes Satan and forgives Joshua his sins (3:2-3).
The Messenger then conveys a message from YHVH (3:6-7). This confirms the distinction between the Messenger and YHVH. It also confirms that, although the Messenger is called YHVH, He is subordinate to YHVH. This is also indicated by His title; Messenger of YHVH.
Conclusion:These visions confirm that there are two distinct divine beings. What Zechariah adds are the following:
(1) To identify them as the angel of YHVH (the Messenger) and YHVH of hosts (YHVH); (2) That the angel of YHVH is subordinate to YHVH of hosts.
It will later be argued, when we address the question, Where do we find Jesus in the Old Testament in more detail, that the Messenger of YHVH is the One who John called “the Word” (John 1:1) or “the Word of God” (Rev. 19:13).
Psalm 110:1 reads:
“YHVHsays to my Lord (Adonay): ‘Sit at My right hand Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.’”
Verse 5 of Psalm 110 continues,
“The Lord (Adonay) is at Your right hand; He will shatter kings in the day of His wrath.”
However, verse 5, as originally written, did not read Adonay. The monotheistic scribes anciently altered the word from YHVH to Adonay. Appendix 32 of the Companion Bible lists the 134 passages where the scribes altered YHVH to Adonay. This includes Psalm 110:5. They probably did this probably for the following reasons:
(1) It does not seem right that there are two called YHVH. (2) The relevant individual was called Adonay (Lord) in verse 1.
Strangely enough, even although modern translators know that the text was changed, they still keep to the revised text.
Conclusion: Psalm 110:5 originally had YHVH at the right hand of YHVH, implying two that are called YHVH. The YHVH sitting “at My right hand” is subordinate to the other.
In Malachi 3:1 YHVH of hosts says, “the Lord (Adon), whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming.”
This “Lord” is also YHVH, for the following reasons:
(1) The title “Lord” occurs eight times in the Old Testament with the definite article, but always, except here, with YHVH following it (Ex. 23:17; 34:23; Is. 1:24; 3:1; 10:16; 10:33; 19:4.
(2) He comes “to his temple.” But the temple is God’s.
(3) In the previous verse the people asked, “Where is the God of justice?” (2:17) As also indicated by the first word “behold,” 3:1 responds to this question by saying “the Lord whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple.”
(A) There are two divine beings, namely YHVH of hosts and the Adon who “will suddenly come to His temple.“ (C) “Messenger” is the same word malak that is translated “angel” in the phrase “angel of YHVH.” It is therefore proposed that “the messengerof the covenant” (Mal. 3:1) is the angel of YHVH. (B) Since He is called a “messenger,” He is not the source of the message, but subordinate to YHVH of hosts.
Summary of the article
Jesus always existed. In fact, God created all things through Him. Therefore, the question arises: Where do we find Jesus in the Old Testament?
God is invisible, but was seen in the Old Testament. To respond to this apparent contradiction, this article finds evidence in the Old Testament of two distinct divine beings. For instance:
God said, “Let Usmake man in Ourimage, after Ourlikeness” (Gen. 1:26).
In Zechariah’s vision “the angel of YHVH” is called YHVH, which is the personal name of God. He also does God’s work, for He acts as Judge, rebukes Satan and forgives Joshua his sins. But He is subordinate to “YHVH of hosts,” for He puts a question to “YHVH of hosts” and brings a message from “YHVH of hosts.”
Psalm 110, in the original text, had one YHVH sitting at the right hand of another YHVH. But the YHVH sitting “at My right hand” is logically subordinate to the other.
Malachi 3:1 promises that “the Lord” “will suddenly come to His temple.” He is therefore God, but it is “YHVH of hosts” who makes this promise. This implies two who are called YHVH. But the promised Lord is called the “messengerof the covenant,” which means He is subordinate to YHVH of hosts.
Zechariah identified the two divine beings as “the angel of YHVH” and “YHVH of hosts.” The next article discusses “the angel of YHVH,” and provides further evidence that He is God.