The Angel of the Covenant is the Messiah

Behold, I am sending My messenger to clear the way before Me, and the Lord whom you seek shall come to His Temple suddenly.  As for the angel of the covenant that you desire, he is already coming.” (Malachi 3:1 NJPS)

     I have quoted the above verse from a Jewish translation of the text to demonstrate no Christian bias within the translation.  It has been my supposition for some time now, that the “Angel of the Covenant” is the pre-incarnate Messiah.  The above-quoted text validates this position.  Quite clearly, the messenger that cleared the way before Messiah was John the Baptist (Matthew 3:1-12), and the one that followed him, was to be the Angel of the Covenant, the Messiah, who would come to His Temple, and this is Jesus (Yeshua) (see John 1:24-28)

     In Mark 1:2, the evangelist ascribes the first part of the verse to John the Baptist.  He is described in the New Testament as the forerunner of Messiah. John also validates the Messiahship of Jesus (John 1:24-28) and Jesus affirms the John was “Elijah who is to come.” (Matthew 17:12) However, Mark stops short of explaining all the Messianic implications in the remainder of the text that is quoted above.  The above quoted verse reads, “The Lord whom you seek shall come to His Temple suddenly.  As for the angel of the covenant that you desire, he is already coming.”  This text is thousands of years old. Written at least, 400 years before the coming of Jesus.  I would challenge anyone to explain to me who this verse applies to if it is not Jesus.  Remember, Malachi said that “He is already coming.”  If this is not Jesus, than who is it?   The text very plainly identifies two different messengers.  A forerunner who would prepare the way, and the Angel of the Covenant, the Lord, who is divine.  This text, very matter of factly, in a Peshat manner, connects the Angel of the Covenant with “The Lord.”  Thus, this angel of the covenant would become the Messiah and the angel of the covenant, as I have previously written, is a reincarnate Messiah.  Keil and Delitzsch write, “The idea view is precluded not only by the historical fact, that not a single prophet arose in Israel during the whole period between Malachi and John, but also by the context of the passage before us, according to which the sending of the messenger was to take place immediately before the coming of the Lord to His temple…The Lord (ha-adon) is God, this is evident both from the fact that he comes to His temple, the temple of Yahveh..” (1)

     The only historical example that fits the description of this verse is John and Jesus (Yohanan and Yeshua).  I would like to hear from anyone, particularly the Karaite Jews, who embrace a Peshat interpretation of scripture, who this verse applies to, if it is not them.  Shalom.

Endnotes

  1. 1.       C.F. Keil, F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody Mass, volume , page 655-656.
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The Trinity in Isaiah

“Come near to Me:  Hear this, not from the beginning in secret have I spoken.  From the time of its Being, there I was.  And now, Lord Yahweh has sent Me and His Spirit.” (Isaiah 48:16)

     The above quoted verse is a transliteration of the Hebrew of Isaiah 48:16.  (I will spare you the gory details of the syntax, which too many of my friends, will be much appreciated.  My wife included.)  I am writing about this to continue on the theme of the last few post regarding Christian Deity from the Old Testament.  I mention the syntax and exegesis (translation and exact meaning of the text) because I’ve been using a “Peshat” approach to prove the existence of the Trinity from the Tanach (Old Testament).  Additionally, I’ve quoted the transliteration above because I believe that most English translations get it wrong.  They will write something like “Come near me and listen to this:  From the first announcement I have not spoken in secret at the time it happens, I am there.  And now, the Sovereign LORD has sent me with His Spirit.” (New International Version)  It is my opinion that this translation misses the essence of the text.  Mainly, that God is identifying His Triune Nature in this verse.  God is speaking in the verse.  He speaks of three distinct beings.  First, the speaker, second, the Lord Yahweh, and lastly, His Spirit.  Additionally, this speaker states, “From the time of its Being”, the word in Hebrew for Being is the same word from which “Yahweh” is formulated.  The speaker is identifying His eternal nature and thus, identifies Himself as Yahweh.  But, let’s not just take my word for it, let’s hear from the theologians.

     Keil and Delitzsch write, “Up to this point Jehovah is speaking; but who is it that now proceeds to say, “And now—namely, now that the redemption of Israel is about to appear (וְעַתָּה being here, as in many other instances, e.g., Isa. 33:10, the turning-point of salvation)—now that the Lord Jehovah sent me and His Spirit?” The majority of the commentators assume that the prophet comes forward here in his own person, behind Him whom he has introduced, and interrupts Him. But although it is perfectly true, that in all prophecy, from Deuteronomy onwards, words of Jehovah through the prophet and words of the prophet of Jehovah alternate in constant, and often harsh transitions, and that our prophet has this mark of divine inspiration in common with all the other prophets (cf., Isa. 62:5, 6), it must also be borne in mind, that hitherto he has not spoken once objectively of himself, except quite indirectly (vid., Isa. 40:6; 44:26), to say nothing of actually coming forward in his own person. Whether this takes place further on, more especially in Isa. 61, we will leave for the present; but here, since the prophet has not spoken in his own person before, whereas, on the other hand, these words are followed in Isa. 49:1ff. by an address concerning himself from that servant of Jehovah who announces himself as the restorer of Israel and light of the Gentiles, and who cannot therefore be ether Israel as a nation or the author of these prophecies, nothing is more natural than to suppose that the words, “And now hath the Lord,” etc., form a prelude to the words of the One unequalled servant of Jehovah concerning Himself which occur in Isa. 49. The surprisingly mysterious way in which the words of Jehovah suddenly pass into those of His messenger, which is only comparable to Zech. 2:12ff., 4:9 (where the speaker is also not the prophet, but a divine messenger exalted above him), can only be explained in this manner. And in no other way can we explain the וְעַתָּה, which means that, after Jehovah has prepared the way for the redemption of Israel by the raising up of Cyrus, in accordance with prophecy, and by his success in arms, He has sent him, the speaker in this case, to carry out, in a mediatorial capacity, the redemption thus prepared, and that not by force of arms, but in the power of the Spirit of God (Isa. 42:1; cf., Zech. 4:6). Consequently the Spirit is not spoken of here as joining in the sending (as Umbreit and Stier suppose, after Jerome and the Targum: the Septuagint is indefinite, καὶ τὸ πνεῦμα αὐτοῦ); nor do we ever find the Spirit mentioned in such co-ordination as this (see, on the other hand, Zech. 7:12, per spiritum suum ). The meaning is, that it is also sent, i.e., sent in and with the servant of Jehovah, who is speaking here. To convey this meaning, there was no necessity to write either ‏שָׁלַח אֹתִי וְרוּחוֹ‎ or ‏שׁלחני וְאֶת־רוחו‎, since the expression is just the same as that in Isa. 29:7, ‏צֹבֶיהָ וּמְצֹדָתָהּ; and the Vav may be regarded as the Vav of companionship (Mitschaft, lit., with-ship, as the Arabs call it; see at Isa. 42:5). (1)  Notice this last part, the Vav of companionship.  In Hebrew this vav is attached to the beginning of a word and is almost always translated “and” and almost never “with”.  Thus, the trinity is defined in the verse.

 

     What is the sense of all this?  Basically, the text speaks of three individuals.  Lord YHWH, and the messenger who steps forward to speak, a pre-incarnate Messiah, and the Sprit which linguistically is connected by companionship and, as such, represents a separate being in the text.  The trinity is here clearly (Peshatly) defined in the Hebrew of the Old Testament.  The speaker clearly identifies His co-eternal existence with Lord Yahweh (Hebrew is Adonai YHWH) and the Spirit.  This is strikingly similar to what Jesus says about Himself to a group of Jews.  He states, “Before Abraham was, I am.”  Jesus is clearly making a claim to Deity and His message is clearly understood by the Jews.  They pick up stones to stone Him.

 

Endnotes

 R.L. Harris, Editor; Gleason Archer, Jr. and Bruce Waltke, Associate Editors, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, Moody Press, Chicago, 1980, page 465

The Defense of New Testament Prophetic Writings

      In recent years, many of the prophecies concerning Messiah in the New Testament have been called into questions.  Many object to the prophecies as being too figurative or even twisted from the Old Testament writings. Many Torah-observant Christians have been incited away from Christianity because of this perspective.  Particularly the Jewish sect of Karaite Judaism has influenced torah-observant Christians to leave the Messiah.  Reason being, their approach and methodology of scripture interpretation.

 

     “The Karaites are a Jewish sect which does not recognize the authority of the post-Biblical tradition incorporated in the Talmud and in the latter rabbinic works.” (1)  The Karaites reject that the Talmud/ mishnah/ targums of the orthodox community are inspired by God.  They believe solely in the inspiration of the Old Testament (Tanach).  Their approach to biblical interpretation is as follows: 

 

“Karaites (Karaim/Qaraim) are followers of the Hebrew Scriptures (Miqra/Mikra). We use Peshat (Plain Meaning) to interpret the Miqra. This does not mean we are strictly literalist but are contextualist. We study and interpret the scripture based upon the context in the scripture, the historic context and a language context. Not all Karaites interpret the Miqra exactly the same but we are dedicated to the following of YHVH and him alone. There is no other Elohim (God) but him.” (2)

 

     Their approach, a Peshat or literal interpretation of scripture, is one of the four methods which are used by the rabbis to interpret scripture.  In essence, the Karaite approach, as well as the approach of modern scholarship, utilizes only one of the four methods commonly used during the time of the writing of the New Testament for biblical interpretation.  (More on this later).  This particular mode, the Peshat, is what modern scholars call a historical-critical exegesis.  Exegesis means that they are drawing the meaning of a text out of the text itself by literally translating the language and then placing it within its historic framework. This is the most common approach of modern scholarship.  Personally, this is my own favorite approach to scripture.  However, I’m forced to admit that this method is not comprehensive and can be very short-sighted. Although this is a great method for textual examination, it’s not comprehensive enough to cover all the aspects of the spiritual gamut.  Why?  Risto Santala, author of The Messiah in the Old Testament, explains, “Mental and spiritual concepts must, by their very nature, described figuratively.” (3). This figurative approach is what we see God using with many of the prophets of the Old Testament itself.  It is also the approach of many of the New Testament writers.  Let me give you an example of how an angelic messenger deploys this method.

 

     In Zechariah chapter four, the prophet is having a conversation with an angel.  The angel says to Zechariah, “What do you see?”  Zechariah responds, “I see a solid gold lamp stand with a bowl at the top and seven lights on it, with seven channels to the lights.  Also there are two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.  I asked the angel who talked with me, ‘What are these, my lord.’”(Zechariah 4:2-4)  The angel seems surprised that Zechariah would ask such a question.  To the spiritual being, the interpretation of this vision (now a passage of scripture) is very clear, but it is not so clear to the prophet.  Things in the spiritual realm do not always fit into the mode of modern scholarship or the Karaite approach to biblical interpretation.  The angel responds, “Do you not know what these are?” Then he will explain, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel:  Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord Almighty.” (Zechariah 4:6).  It appears that the angel has twisted the vision to explain something that is not “literally” present. The angel is privileged to certain information that makes little sense to the human intellect but makes perfect sense in the realm of the spirit.  Hence, the Peshat approach to scripture can be short-sighted.  I will allow that it has a tremendous place in biblical interpretation.  Perhaps even a place at the foundation, but it is not the end all and be all of biblical interpretation.  There are spiritual principles that simply cannot be explained by using a historical-critical syntaxical exegesis.  The full gamut of spirituality will require more than just the use of our brains. 

 

     As noted above, the Karaites and modern scholarship use a method of interpretation known as Peshat or “simple.”  The ancient rabbis, however, recognized a need for something more comprehensive than historic-critical methods of interpretation and develop a different approach.  The developed a system of biblical interpretation which is called  sdrp, (PaRDeS) an acronym for the four modes of interpretation.   Dr. David Stern gives us an explanation of what these different approached to scripture can mean to us:

 

  1. 1.       Peshat (simple)—the plain, literal sense of the text, more or less what modern scholars mean by “grammatical-historical exegesis” which looks to the grammar of the language and the historical setting as background for deciding what a passage means.  Modern scholars often consider grammatical-historical exegesis the only valid way to deal with a text.  (As we have demonstrated this cannot always be the case)
  2. 2.      Remez (hint)—wherein a word, phrase or other element in the text hint at a truth not conveyed by the Peshat.  The implied presupposition is that God can hint at things of which the Bible writers themselves were unaware.  (Passover and the Messiah for example.  There is not explicit statement connecting the two but the clues are self-evident)
  3. 3.      Drash or midrash (search)—an allegorical or homiletically application of a text.  This is a spercies of eisegesis (reading one’s own thoughts into a text) as opposed to exegesis, which is extracting form the text what it actually says.  The implied presupposition is that the words of Scripture can legitimately become grist for the mill of human intellect, which God can guide to truths not directly related to the text at all.  (The entire concept of Talmud and midrash comes from this interpretation.  Where the orthodox ere, as the Karaites have pointed out, is that the orthodox have elevated a method of interpretation to the level of scripture itself.  This is a mistake.)
  4. 4.      Sod (secret)—a mystical or hidden meaning arrived at by operating on the numerical values of the Hebrew letters, noting unusual spellings, transposing letters, and the like.  For example, two words, the numerical equivalents of whose letters add up to the same amount, are good candidates for revealing a secret through what Arthur Koestler in his book on the inventive mind called “biosociation of ideas.  The implied presupposition is that God invests meaning in the minutest details of Scripture, even the individual letters. (4 parenthetical notes are mine for emphasis and clarification)

    

     The word PaRDeS literally means garden or orchard.  The supposition underlying this mode of biblical interpretation is that God, in His love for humanity, expresses ideas to us through a wide variety of methodologies, not just intellectually.  Many struggle with this concept of interpretation because it has a subjective ring to it.  Their objection is noted and valid.  We must remember that these are approaches to biblical interpretation and that interpretation, in and of itself, cannot replace what is inspired and written.  (Again, this seems to be the error of orthodox Judaism in its elevation of the oral-torah as inspired.)

 

     In the defense of the New Testament, we must evaluate the text according to its historic context (both scholars and Karaites should agree with this because it is based upon a historic contextual model).  What we will find, is that all four of these methods of PaRDeS existed at the time of the writing of the New Testament and were commonly used in Jewish circles for biblical interpretation.  Therefore, when evaluating the New Testament application of the prophecies concerning Messiah, we must consider these methods.  To reject the methods of PaRDeS is to reject a historical critical approach to the New Testament because the New Testament writers deployed these methods many of the passages where they found Messianic fulfillment in the life of Jesus.  Let’s look at an example.

 

     “And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet:  Out of Egypt I called my son.” (Matthew 2:15)  Matthew writes this as the fulfillment of a prophecy written in Hosea 11:1.  Well, let’s take a look at it.  It states, “When Israel was a child, I loved him and out of Egypt I called my son.” This fulfillment makes absolutely no sense from a historical-critical model.  There is absolutely no mention of anything related to Messiah in this chapter.  Therefore, the Karaites dismiss it as being messianic and believe that Matthew was twisting the scriptures.  Is this the case?  I think not.  Again, Dr. Stern, “What then, is Mattityahu doing here?  Some allege he is misusing Scripture, twisting the meaning of what Hosea wrote from its context in order to apply it to Yeshua.  Such an accusation stands only if Mattityahu is dealing with the peshat.    For there is no question that the peshat of Hosea 11:1 applies to the nation of Israel and not to Yeshua.  Some think Mattityahu is using the drash approach, making a midrash in which he read the Messiah into a verse dealing with Israel.  Many rabbis used the same procedure; Matthew’s readers would not have found it objectionable.  Nevertheless, I believe Mattityahu is not doing eisegesis but is giving us a remez, a hint of a very deep truth.  Israel is called God’s son as far back as Exodus 4:22.   The Messiah is presented as God’s son a few verses earlier in Matthew, reflecting a Tanach passages such as Isaiah 9:5-6-7, Psalm 2:7 and Provervbs 30:4.  Thus the Son equals the son; the Messiah is equated with, is one with, the nation of Israel.  This is the deep truth that Matthew is hinting at by calling Yeshua’s flight to Egypt a “fulfillment” of Hosea 11:1.” (5)  It would be easy to see how someone with only a short-sided methodology would reject this as a fulfillment of the prophecy.  Many other examples could be used here, both from the Talmudic passages discussing Messiah, as well as, other references of fulfilled prophecies from the New Testament.

 

     As Dr. Stern noted, none of Matthews’s original readers would have taken objection to this application/interpretation of scripture.  They would have considered it a common approach to biblical interpretation (according to the PaRDeS method of biblical interpretation.)  Hence, in order to give the New Testament a fair assessment, it must be examined under the light of its historical context which has a PaRDeS approach to scriptural interpretation at its core.  When seen in this light, the prophecies of the New Testament can be fully explained inside of their historical approach to scripture.

 

    

Endnotes

  1. http://www.karaites.org/history.html.
  2. 2.       Hazzan Yochanan Zaqantov, http://www.karaitejudaism.org.
  3. 3.       Santala, Risto,  The Messiah in the Old Testament in the Light of Rabinical Writings, Keren Ahvah Meshihit, Jerusalem Israel, 1992, page 43.
  4. 4.       Stern, David, Jewish New Testament Commentary,  Jewish New Testament Publications, Inc., 1992, page 12.
  5. 5.       Ibid