Where do we find Jesus in the Old Testament?

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.

Purpose

Before AbrahamJesus 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.

Theophany

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?

The FloodMany 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 God YHVH, 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 am YHVH, that is My name‘”(Is. 42:5-8).

God’s name YHVH never appears in the New Testament.

God’s Title

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).

 image of the invisible GodNote 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 and dwells 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 YHVH appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, while he was sitting at the tent door in the heat of the day.

Abraham's three visitorsVerses 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

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 angel and prevailed”.  (“The angel” probably refers to the angel of YHVH, discussed below.”

Moses

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:

Daniel the prophet
Daniel the prophet

Visions: Sometimes God is seen in visions and dreams.  Isaiahsaw 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.

Conclusion

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.

Let Us make ManThe 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 Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness’” (Gen. 1:26).

And YHVH God said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of Us, 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).

Angels

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 us build us a city … let us establish a name.”  If that was literal, why would YHVH’s invitation, just three verses later, “let Us go 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.

Zechariah

ZechariahThis 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

Psalm 110:1 reads:

YHVH says 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.

Malachi 3

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.

Conclusions:
(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 messenger of 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 Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness” (Gen. 1:26).

In Zechariah’s visionthe 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 “messenger of 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.

In the Bible Jesus is sometimes called God. Does that mean that Jesus is God?

ElohimThe personal name of the one true God is YHVH (pronounced Yahweh or Jehovah).  The title “God” (Elohim in Hebrew and Theos in Greek) is used for all gods.  Even exalted people are called gods; even in the Bible.  Previous articles have shown that Jesus is distinct from God.  When the Bible says Jesus is God, it does not that He is the same Person as God or equal to God.

Purpose – This is an article in the series, “Is Jesus God?”  The Bible occasionally refers to Jesus as God.  The purpose of this article is to determine what that means.  To do this, we firstly need to understand the meaning of the words that are translated as “God”.

YHVH (Yahweh)

One True God – The Bible states that only one true God exists (e.g. John 17:3).  The Old Testament declares, “The LORD is our God, the LORD is one” (Deut. 6:4).  For more detail, see Jesus is not God,

YHWHIn the Old Testament God has a proper and personal name that is not applied to any other being.  That name is YHVH, sometimes called the Tetragrammaton.  This name appears over 6,800 times in the Old Testament and is transliterated as YHVH and pronounced as Yahweh or Jehovah. Some Bible translations render this name as Yahweh or Jehovah, for instance:

That men may know that thou, whose name alone is JEHOVAH, art the most high over all the earth (Psalm 83:18, KJV).

But in most translations this name is presented in English in capital letters as “the LORD.”  The same verse in the NASB reads as follows:

That they may know that You alone, whose name is the LORD, Are the Most High over all the earth.

God

The title “God” (el or elohim) is used for all gods; also for false gods.  Since the Bible is a book about the One True God, the word “God” in the Bible mostly refers to YHVH.

Old Testament Hebrew

ElohimThere are many words in the Hebrew Old Testament that are translated as “god” or “God” in English, such as: el, elah, eloah, and elohim.  Elohim is also found numerous times in the Old Testament.  It is mostly used for the true God, but the NASB also translates Elohim 45 times as “god” and 204 times as “gods”.   These are instances where Elohim does not refer to the Living God, but to exalted beings.  For instance, the princes of Egypt are called gods:

Elohim false gods“For I will pass through the land of Egypt … and on all the gods [elohim] of Egypt [the princes] I will execute judgments: I am the Lord” (Exodus 12:12).

The NASB also translates elohim also as divine (1), divine being (1), exceedingly (1), God’s (14), goddess (2), godly (1), great (2), judges (3), mighty (2), rulers (1) and shrine (1).  For example:

Judges – The judges appointed by Moses were called gods: “Then his master shall bring him unto the judges [elohim]” (Exodus 21:6, KJV; also see Exodus 22:8-9, 28).

Abraham – The Hittites called Abraham a “mighty [elohim] prince” (Gen. 23:6).

New Testament Greek

Theos – In the New Testament, the Greek word mostly translated “God” is theos.  Similar to Elohim, this word is a common noun applied to all types of gods.  Since we are dealing with the Bible, it is mostly translated as “God”, but the NASB also translates it 6 times as “god” and 8 times as “gods.”  In these instances theos does not refer to the one true God.  For instance:

Satan – Satan is called: the god [theos] of this world (2 Cor. 4:4).

Herod – The people also called Herod a god.  When the ruler Herod took his seat upon the throne, the crowd shouted, “The voice of a god and not of a man!” (Acts 12:21-22) “And immediately an angel of the Lord struck him because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and died” (v23).

Theos is also translated as divinely (1), godly (2), godly (1), Lord (1).

YHVH Elohim – The Old Testament frequently use Elohim in combination with YHVH as YHVH Elohim; translated as “the LORD God.”  God’s name YHVH does not appear in the New Testament (NT), but we do find the similar phrase “Lord God, the Almighty.

John 10 – Men are gods

After Jesus said to the Jews “I and the Father are one,” the Jews became very angry and were ready to stone Him, “because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God” (John 10:33).  In defense Jesus said: “In your own Law it says that men are gods (theos)” (v34).  In the next verse He explains that “to whom the word of God came”, are called “gods” (theos – v35).  He is here quoting from Psalms 82:6:

I have said, “You are gods (Elohim); you are all sons of the Most High.

This confirms that the Bible uses the titles elohim and theos also for beings who are not the God of the Bible.  The word God could describe any person or being that is exalted above others.

Conclusion

Jesus is not God – The article Jesus is not God has shown that the Bible consistently and clearly distinguishes between God and Jesus.  For example, Paul refers to “God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 1:7).  Revelation similarly refers to “God and … the Lamb” (14:4).  That article also shows that only one true God exists.  The New Testament draws a distinction between this one true God and Jesus, for instance in the phrase, “the only true God, and Jesus Christ” (John 17:3).  That article therefore concluded that Jesus is not God.

Jesus is subordinate to God – The article God is the Head of Christ furthermore showed that the Father is greater than Christ (John 14:28) and that Jesus is subordinate to God.  To quote 1 Cor. 11:3, God is the Head of Christ.  That article therefore confirmed the distinction between Jesus and God.  As the Son of God, Christ is subordinate to God, and therefore sits at God’s right hand.  Everything that His Son has, He received from His Father.  This includes His ability to raise the dead, His authority to judge, His teachings, His works, His disciples and even the Fullness of Deity.  Jesus Himself said, “the Son can do nothing of Himself” (John 5:19).

Conclusion –  The Bible claims that Jesus is God, but since the title “god” is used for any being that is highly exalted above others, this does not make Him the same Person as God.  It does not make Him equal to God or of the same nature as the One True God.  But it also means that it is most appropriate to refer to Jesus Christ as Elohim or as theos “God.”

With this in mind, let us now consider the instances where Jesus is called God/  Do these mean that Jesus is God?

Immanuel

God with us

Hundreds of years before Jesus became a human being, Isaiah predicted:

“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).

“Immanuel” means “God with us.”  Matthew concluded that this was fulfilled with the birth of Christ (Mt. 1:23); Jesus is God with us.  But this does not prove that He is equal to the only true God. All that we can say with certainty is that Jesus is highly exalted.

Mighty God, Eternal Father

Mighty GodIsaiah furthermore wrote,

For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).

This was a radical statement coming from a monotheistic Jewish prophet; to call a human being “Mighty God”.  In the next chapter Isaiah also refers to YHVH as “mighty God” (10:20-21).

But Isaiah also wrote that there is no other God besides YHVH:

The LORD” (YHVH) declared, “I am the first and I am the last, and there is no God besides Me” (Is. 44:6; cf. 45:21-22; 43:10-11).

It is therefore proposed that Isaiah used the title “God” in 9:6 in the general sense—as highly exalted—not to identify the “Son” as the only true God.  This is supported by the phrase “Eternal Father” in 9:6.  Isaiah is not saying that the Son is the Father.  Names in the Bible indicate the character, essence or nature of a person.  Isaiah used these names for the Messiah because they describe His being and character.  “Eternal Father” emphasizes the loving, paternal concern He has for His children: “Just as a father has compassion on his children, the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him” (Psalm 103:13).

Thomas

Thomas could not believe that Jesus had risen.  But when Jesus showed him His wounds, the doubting Thomas realized that the One standing in front of him is the risen Lord, and he exclaimed:

My Lord and my God” (John 20:28).

Thomas, however, had no idea of the profound concepts that God later revealed to John, which we read of in His gospel.  Just a minute previously Thomas did not even believe that Jesus was resurrected.  So his statement cannot mean that Jesus is God or equal to the Only True God.  His statement simply acknowledges Jesus as highly exalted.

Paul wrote:

The Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever” (Romans 9:5);

Our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus” (Titus 2:13).

But Paul also maintained a clear and consistent distinction between God and Jesus:

I Cor. 8:6 There is but one God, the Father … and one Lord, Jesus Christ.
1 Timothy 6:13 I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus.
Rom. 5:10We were reconciled to God through the death of His Son.
Rom. 7:25Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
Rom. 1:7God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (cf. Rom. 1:1-3; 8:3)

It is therefore proposed Paul wrote that Jesus is God because Jesus is “over all” (Rom. 9:5).  Paul is not saying that Jesus is the God of the Bible, or equal to the One True God.

Note that God is called “Father“, and Jesus is called “the Lord.

Peter

The Apostle Peter described Jesus as “our God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:1).  But in the very next verse Peter makes a distinction between God and Jesus:

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord” (2 Peter 1:2).

We see the same distinction between God and Jesus in Peter’s statement, “Lord Jesus Christ … received honor and glory from God the Father” (2 Peter 1:16-17).

Hebrews

God says of “the Son”: “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever” (Hebrews 1:8).  But the very next verse reads, “God, your God, has anointed you”.  In other words, God is the God also of “the Son”.

This entire passage is a quote from Psalm 82, where the king is called “God” (v6), saying “God, Your God, has anointed You” (v7). This shows again that exalted people are sometimes called “god”.  Hebrews, under inspiration, applies Psalm 82 to Jesus.  But the point remains; although Jesus is called God, the God of the Bible is also His God.  This statement does not make Him the same as or equal to God.

The Word was God – Jesus is God

In the BeginningPerhaps the best known verse, stating that Jesus is God, is John 1:1:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”.

The gospel of John is very different from the other gospels.  The reader will note how many times the articles in this series refer to John.  It would perhaps not be an exaggeration to say that the main purpose of the gospel of John is to explain who Jesus Christ is.  Jesus made the profound statements in John 5 and John 10 after He healed people who have been disabled for decades.  Those miracles created the right context for Jesus to explain who He really is.  And in John 1:1—the very first verse of the gospel—we have a summary conclusion of it all in the statement “and the Word was God.”  In other words, Jesus is God.

Two eternal beings

Two distinct Beings are mentioned in this verse.  Both existed in the infinite “beginning.”  Both are therefore eternal.  This is confirmed by verse 3, which reads, “All things came into being through Him (the Word), and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being”.  There was no time that “the Word” did not exist

Two Gods – Both are described as “God”, but there is a difference:

God identified – The phrase “with God” is translated from Pros ton theon.  Ton is the article, so it literally reads “with the God”.  Often in Gree,k when a noun, such as “God” is used with the article “the,” there is emphasis upon the identity of the noun.  The article seems to be used when the One True God is specially designated, unless its insertion is unnecessary by the addition of “Father”.  Ton theon (the God) in this phrase therefore identifies this as the one true God.

The Word described – The other God in this phrase is “the Word” in the phrase “the Word was God”.  The “Word” is identified in verse 14 as the One who became Jesus.  Since John 1:1 distinguishes between God and the Word, the Word is not the same Person as that One True God.  The phrase “was God” does not have an article.  In Greek, when a noun is used without the article, there is emphasis on the character or quality of the noun.  The phrase “the Word was the God” therefore does not identify His Person, but describes His nature.

To summarize, the title “God”, referring to the One True God, identifies Who He is, but the phrase “was God”, referring to “the Word,” identifies what He is; His highly exalted nature.  Jesus is God, but He is not the same Person as the One True God.  Jesus is God because He is highly exalted: He alone existed with God when time began.  And God made all things “through Him” (v3).  But He is distinct from the One True God.

The Only Begotten God

John 1:18A few verses later John refers to the “Word” as “the only begotten God”:

No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him” (John 1:18).

In the bosom of the Father” is translated by the NIV as “in closest relationship with the Father” and as “near to the Father’s heart” by the New Living Translation.

John 1:18, similar to John 1:1, identifies two distinct divine Beings:

God the Father – The first Being is called God.  He is also called “the Father” and He has never been seen.

The only begotten God – Since God is “the Father,” the other Being is His Son.  Since God is unseen, the Son is seen.

This verse is therefore very similar to John 1:1, and we reach the same conclusion.  Jesus is God, but He is not the One True God.  The title “God”, referring to the One True God identifies Who He is, but the phrase “the only begotten God” identifies what He is; His highly exalted nature.

The phrase “only begotten” is perhaps more significant that the title “God.”  John applied the phrase “only begotten” a number of times to Jesus.  This phrase is discussed in the next articleOnly Begotten Son”.

1 Timothy 3:16

In the KJV 1 Timothy 3:16 reads, “God was manifested in the flesh”, but the NASB reads “He who was revealed in the flesh”.  in the most ancient authorities, the word “God” does not occur.  See Bible Hub.  This verse is therefore not discussed.

Articles in the series: Is Jesus God?

1.     The three views of the Son
2.    Jesus existed prior to His birth in the form of God.
3.    Jesus in Colossians
4.    Did Jesus empty Himself of equality with God?
5.    Who is the Word in John 1:1?
6.    Jesus is not God.
7.    God is the Head of Christ.
8.    In the Bible Jesus is called God.  Current article
9.    He is the Only Begotten Son of God.  Next
10.  God created all things through His Son.
11.  We must worship Jesus.
12.  Jesus has equality with God.
13. 
Who is Jesus? – Summary of the series of articles
14.  Where do we find Jesus in the Old Testament?