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Transcript

Is Jesus God?

Podcast Date: October 29, 2018

(56:21)

Speakers in the audio file:

Jon Collins

Tim Mackie


Jon: Is Jesus God? That's a question that people who read the Bible don't all agree on it.

And as it turns out...

Tim: ...the word "Jesus is God" never appears in the New Testament anywhere.

Jon: Yet throughout church history, the majority view is that Jesus is God. So where did

we get this?

Tim: What does appear many times is "Jesus is Lord." I think for most people, what

they're trying to say with the sentence "Jesus is God" is what the apostles are saying

by the phrase "Jesus is Lord."

Jon: I'm Jon Collins, and this is The Bible Project podcast. Tim and I are working through

a discussion on the identity of God in the Bible, and we've finally gotten to Jesus. In

this episode, we look at what the apostles thought of the identity of Jesus of

Nazareth.

Tim: What modern Westerners typically want for the apostles is to just say it. Just say

what you think about Jesus.

Jon: But instead, we get a very Jewish way to talk about Jesus is God. We'll look at how

Mark narratively portrays Jesus as Yahweh himself arriving on the scene. We'll see

how the baptism of Jesus shows God's complex identity of Father, Son, and Spirit all

together as one, and we'll see how Jesus walking around forgiving sins is a clear

narrative signal of who he thinks he is. Finally, we end the episode today looking at

how Jesus refers to God as my Father.

Tim: You go through Jesus's teachings about "my Father." He lived in a place of deep,

deep conviction that in his essence, the Father was gracious, extremely generous,

merciful, compassionate, and that the Christian tradition has received this three-part

identity, Father, Son, and Spirit and that Father is grounded in Jesus's on choice of

that word.

Jon: Thanks for joining us. Here we go. You're ready?

Tim: I think so.

Jon: All right.

Tim: What are we talking about, Jon Collins?

Jon: Is Jesus God? That's how you posed it when we first had this conversation hours ago.

Saying that Jesus is God is confusing. And I think you said something like not

helpful.

Tim: Yeah. Given our current cultural situation, I don't think it is a clear way to

communicate what the apostles want us to understand about Jesus.

Jon: Okay.

Tim: And the word "Jesus is God" never appears in the New Testament anywhere. What

does appear many times is "Jesus is Lord."

Jon: Which is a transliteration of?

Tim: Yeah, we'll talk about it. It's their way of saying "what we wish Jesus is God would

mean to people." I think for most people, what they are trying to say with the

sentence "Jesus is God" is what the apostles are saying by the phrase "Jesus is Lord."

Jon: Okay. So we're going to talk about Jesus as God - God revealed in Jesus.

Tim: The God revealed in Jesus who surprise turns out to be complex. A complex unity.

Jon: Which that phrase will sound familiar if you've been listening. And if you haven't, I

recommend going back.

Tim: We're going to dive into New Testament stories about Jesus and passages in Paul

and John, that for me just has so many more layers of significance now than they did

many years ago before I started learning about any of this.

Jon: Yeah, cool.

Tim: So let's start with what I call just the facts on the ground. There's just the fact, and

you don't have to be a religious person, a Christian to acknowledge this fact. The

fact is that all of a sudden out of Second Temple Jewish culture living in the land of

Israeli–Palestinian in the first century, there emerged a movement, a vibrant,

energetic movement that started out of Jerusalem connected to the person of Jesus

of Nazareth.

This movement made incredibly exalted claims about Jesus, and those claims

generated tension within... These are all Jewish people at first, and the way they

talked about Jesus, it both fit within Jewish culture, it was recognizable as a Jewish

messianic movement, but it also generated tension. And the way that these early

followers of Jesus talked about Jesus, it fit within Jewish categories, but also was

without precedent.

And the things like this, the early Christians, if you to read the literature, whether it's

in the New Testament and the literature, after the New Testament, you can find

worship songs and hymns sung to Jesus the Messiah and about Jesus the Messiah.

So that's true, no other religious figure in Jewish history except Yahweh the God of

Israel. You sing songs of worship to Yahweh.

Jon: Not to Moses, not to David.

Tim: You can sing songs that maybe talk about how Yahweh raised up David in Psalm 78.

David's exaltation as king is the culmination in many poems, but to create full on

hymns and praise songs sung to Jesus and about him. And many of them are

preserved within the New Testament itself. So that's interesting.

What you see reflected in the earliest Christian writings are people praying to Jesus

and to God, like alongside. Or Paul will write letters. "Grace and peace to you from

God our Father and from the Lord Jesus the Messiah." Whereas 100 years earlier,

you would say, "May God's grace be with you." It's a very Jewish thing to say. And

now you have Jewish people saying, "May God's grace and the grace of Jesus be

with you." As if they're just—

Jon: There's new edition.

Tim: You get things like the Passover meal all of a sudden becomes in these

communities...

Jon: ...a celebration of Jesus.

Tim: Yeah, a Jesus meal. People start using the name of Jesus in prayers and blessings. So

all over the Hebrew Bible, "May you be blessed by Yahweh. May Yahweh's name be

with you." But now you can pray in the name of Jesus in these communities.

Here's one that never stuck out to me until someone pointed it out. Twenty years

after Jesus of Nazareth, you have Paul the Apostle and he's all over the ancient

Mediterranean world, and he can write a letter was in 20 years to the non-Jewish

followers of Jesus in Corinth in 1 Corinthians. He says at the end of the letter, he

uses an Aramaic phrase, "maranâ thâ'" - Maranatha is how English speakers butcher

it - and just assumed that these people know what it means.

He's writing in Greek to people who don't know Hebrew or Aramaic. But he can just

throw out an Aramaic phrase "maranâ thâ'," which means "our Lord come." So what

that assumes is within two decades, Aramaic phrases have become normalized in

this religious movement so that even new converts who don't speak the language of

the first generation back in Israel-Palestine are adopting phrases that aren't their

own. Like an English, "baptism" or "Eucharist" are good examples. They are Greek

words that we've used.

The phrase means, "Oh, Lord, come." So it's a phrase address to Jesus asking him to

come as if he's the Lord. Which again, that sounds normal. That's normal Christian

vocabulary now. But try and imagine a day where that was a brand new thing to say.

So these are the facts on the ground.

Jon: Well, Jewish people would have said it.

Tim: They would have said it about Yahweh. May Yahweh's justice come. May

Yahweh...that kind of thing. But now they are saying it about Paul.

Jon: But now Paul says to the Corinth, "Maranatha." Maranâ thâ'.

Tim: Maranâ thâ'.

Jon: So you're saying the significance of that is one, that they know Aramaic phrases, but

more specifically, that they know an Aramaic phrase that is taking what Jewish

people would say about God, but now applying it to Jesus?

Tim: And now they're saying about Jesus, yeah.

Jon: Okay. So nobody can dispute these things. You can say, "Yeah, the early Christians

believed and said all this and they made it up," but you have to provide an

explanation one way or another. How do you explain the rise of an extremely

vibrant, enthusiastic movement that is what Christianity became in human history?

How do you explain it? There's no precedent for a Jewish group coming around...

Jon: There's no other Jews group that came around a person like this?

Tim: ...that ever did this constellation of things. Because these are the things that

essentially equate in Jewish culture to treating someone as if they are Yahweh. All of

these practices were reserved for Jews just for Yahweh alone.

Jon: Worshiping, saying prayers, anticipating the coming back of, that in particular is a

very Jewish thing for God to come, and now they're using it for Jesus.

Tim: Yeah. So there's a New Testament scholar, his name is Larry Hurtado, I mentioned

him earlier, he's been the one really pushing this thesis forward. That you can't just

look at the New Testament and the theological claims that they make, that the

apostles make about Jesus; you also need to look at what he calls the devotional life

of these communities.

So Paul can make an argument about who Jesus is, but when you look at the actual

daily habits and lives of these communities, those also tell us something.

Jon: Yeah, the actions are saying something.

Tim: Yes. And you can disagree with Paul or think that maybe he didn't actually think

Jesus was God, because, look, you know, maybe you could explain his words this

way or that way. But once you look at their behavior of the early followers of Jesus in

his line up, you just go, "Oh, my God."

Jon: There's no other explanation.

Tim: No one ever did this for Moses. There's no Moses cult or like a Melchizedek. I mean,

people said all exalted things about Moses or Melchizedek or Michael the archangel,

but there was no... people didn't worship the archangels in the temple.

Jon: And pray in his name and that kind of thing.

Tim: No, no. So, again, in a Jewish setting, these things speak loud and clear about who

they believe Jesus to be. So, if these are the facts on the ground, the question is, can

we look to the new testament to help us understand what gave rise to this

movement? It's a different way to kind of come up the question.

Jon: Right, okay. So instead of like, "Let's try to prove through the verses what they

believe, we observe what they believe by their actions, now, let's try to figure out

how they came to that belief."

Tim: Yes. I found over time, the debates about Jesus deity tend to be emotionally charged

for people. At least for many people. And so, what I found refreshing about Larry

Hurtado's work is he is himself a committed Christian but he really is trying to come

out of it as a historian, and just what kinds of beliefs would give rise to this kind of

behavior that is so abnormal and without precedent in the Jewish tradition. When

you ask it that way, it helps you to see new things that you maybe wouldn't have

noticed before.

[00:12:49]

Tim: Another fact on the ground that requires a little bit of more Old Testament

nerdiness. We talked about Daniel 7 a lot already.

Jon: Son of Man

Tim: So here's something. This is a good trivia. The apostles and Jesus really had a high

view of the Hebrew Scriptures or the Greek scriptures - The Septuagint. What is the

most quoted and alluded to most often mentioned text from the Jewish scriptures

that you find in the New Testament writing?

Jon: Oh. Well, isn't the most quoted verse in the Bible of itself the Exodus verse, "God is

just and—

Tim: Oh, yeah, yeah.

Jon: What's the verse?

Tim: Exodus 34:6. Yahweh is gracious, compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in

covenant love. So yeah, within the Old Testament—

Jon: That's the most quoted.

Tim: In the Old Testaments use of the Old Testament, that's the most quoted.

Jon: But the New Testaments use Old Testament.

Tim: Yeah.

Jon: What is it?

Tim: It Psalm 110:1.

Jon: Oh, it's a verse? It's one verse.

Tim: It's a sentence from Psalms. The opening sentence of Psalm 110. In fact, it was so

important that it's made its way into all of the historic creeds of the church. It's the

statement of Jesus sitting at the right hand of the Father. Sitting at the right hand.

Where did that come from?

Jon: So whenever they say, "Jesus sat at the right hand or sits at the right hand," they're

quoting Psalm 110?

Tim: Psalm 110, yeah. Psalm 110 is a psalm connected to David, and it opens in the

mouth of David saying, "Yahweh said to my Lord." It opens like a little narrative. A

poem in David's mouth. So imagine David speaking and he's telling you, the reader

of the poem about something that happened. He's telling you an old story. "You

know, one day I heard Yahweh my God say to my Lord."

Jon: Who is the Lord?

Tim: Yes, it's the first thing that strikes you.

Jon: And this isn't Lord meaning Yahweh, this is Lord—

[crosstalk 00:15:07]

Tim: Master.

Jon: Master. David is saying he has a master that Yahweh was talking to him.

Tim: David says, "Yahweh said to my master." And then, "Here's what Yahweh said to my

master, "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet."

End of quote from Yahweh. And then the poet goes on. "The Lord will stretch forth

your strong scepter from Zion saying, 'rule in the midst of your enemies.'"

Jon: And that second Lord, is that Yahweh?

Tim: It is.

Jon: Okay. So Yahweh says to my master, "Sit at my right hand till I make your enemies a

footstool for your feet. Then Yahweh will stretch forth your strong scepter." Referring

to the master?

Tim: Yeah. In the first sentence, he's reporting to me the reader of the poem what

Yahweh said to his master. "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your

footstool." Then the poet addresses the master. David addresses his master saying,

"May Yahweh stretch your scepter from Zion saying, 'rule in the midst of your

enemies.'"

Jon: By the way, sitting at the right hand of a king, this is important, right?

Tim: Okay.

Jon: Is this where we get the phrase "right-hand man"?

Tim: Oh, yeah, I think so. To be at someone's right hand is the equivalent of being their

like number one go-to. I think that's a good English - still a good English phrase. So

one, David's acknowledging that he has some greater authority that's other than

Yahweh, and that —

Jon: Wait. He's King.

Tim: He's the king.

Jon: There's no one above him in Jerusalem.

Tim: Search high and low in the David story.

Jon: Who would he be calling his master?

Tim: Correct. That's interesting.

Jon: That's really interesting.

Tim: The other thing is that this one who's above him is invited to rule the world on

Yahweh's behalf sitting right next to Yahweh. So, what other biblical passage in the

Hebrew Bible is there where God as King is described as having a seat next to him?

There's only one.

Jon: In Daniel 7 throne?

Tim: Daniel 7. Do you remember that little detail that when his vision of final justice

brought on—

Jon: Yeah, we never closed the loop on that. There was thrones.

Tim: Thrones. Plural. And the Son of Man was brought up on the clouds into the divine

presence and given God's rule. Here's what you find.

Jon: So you think Daniel 7 was just talking about two thrones?

Tim: More than one throne.

Jon: More than one throne. It was funny as when we were in Daniel 7 and it said thrones,

I just pictured a whole like—

Tim: A ton of them?

Jon: Like a big group.

Tim: A bunch.

Jon: Like a circle of like...You know, a dozen thrones for some reason. But who knows? It's

thrones.

Tim: It's just more than one.

Jon: More than one.

Tim: So here's what you see throughout the New Testament. And we'll come across it.

We're going to look at some passages in the Gospels and in Paul's writings and in

the gospel and letters of John, and you'll see this pattern right across is that the

apostles and Jesus Himself hyperlinked Psalm 110 and Daniel 7 to make a claim

about Jesus. That Jesus is the master referred to here, in Psalm 110, and that he is

the Son of Man.

Jon: Let me try to remember Daniel 7.

Tim: Okay, yeah. That's right.

Jon: So, Daniel's having a vision of all the crazy beasts, and then there's the super beast

that is like an amalgamation of all the beasts. And then he sees the skies open or he

sees a bunch of thrones in the sky.

Tim: Yeah. The beast has been trampling, killing people.

Jon: The beast is trampling the saints?

Tim: Yeah. It's a symbol of human empires at their worst.

Jon: And the innocent blood being shed. Then the skies open and he sees thrones. I was

picturing a bunch but more than one throne. Sitting on the throne is Yahweh, the

Ancient of Days. He calls him the Ancient of Days. And then—

Tim: And rides on a God mobile.

Jon: Oh yeah, it's on the chariot throne.

Tim: Totally.

Jon: That's crazy. And there's another thrown - at least one more throne. Then we see this

other character called the Son of Man rising up on the clouds.

Tim: After the beast has been judged—

Jon: Oh, that's right. First, he judges the super beast. "You're done, you're out of here."

He throws them in the fiery lake. Is it a lake?

Tim: A river.

Jon: Oh, the river of fire.

Tim: Well, it seems like what John did is do a logical conclusion. If there's a river fire

pouring out from before the throne, it collects into a lake. So you get the lake of fire.

Jon: John the visionary throws a bunch in because he's riffing off of Daniel 7. Making you

think again of like even Eden of like the rivers coming from the mountain of God.

Tim: Out of the divine presence.

Jon: Cool. Then Son of Man riding in the clouds. And you made the point of saying, "The

only other time the Hebrew Bible talks about a crowd rider, is always referring to

Yahweh in reference to him being in control over creation. But all of a sudden, it's a

man—

Tim: A human.

Jon: A human who is riding the cloud and he's riding it up to the throne. And then God

gives them the authority to rule and he says that His kingdom will be an eternal

kingdom, and people will worship Him forever.

Tim: Yes, yes. So what I'm saying is, now, another fact on the ground alongside all that

other stuff about what the early Christians did and said about Jesus, this poem,

Psalm 110 got connected together.

Jon: So the early Christians said, "Oh, wait a second. We got the Daniel 7 crazy thing, Son

of Man, Jesus calls himself up Son of Man, that was Jesus being elevated. But then

we also have the Psalm 110 where King David is referring to his Lord who's not

Yahweh, who God gives a seat next to him. Oh, this is obviously talking about the

same thing." So they put these two ideas together and then the shorthand way of

them talking about both of them is to say Jesus sat at the right hand of God.

Tim: That's right. Jesus rules, sat at the right hand of God over all things, which is a Jewish

first century way of saying Jesus is Lord.

Jon: Jesus is Lord.

Tim: Jesus is Lord.

Jon: The master.

Tim: We'll get there.

Jon: Okay.

Tim: Jesus is Lord, which is the equivalent of what modern Westerners want to mean

when they say the sentence "Jesus is God." But I think saying "Jesus is Lord" is

actually more faithful to what the apostles were trying to get across.

Jon: Well, we'll have to get into the difference of that, what you mean.

Tim: Okay. So there you go. Facts on the ground, Jesus is treated like Yahweh, like Jews

treat Yahweh and they use these handful of biblical passages in a unique way. Why

and how did this happen?

[00:22:59]

Tim: All right, let's go to the accounts of Jesus. So just pointing out what people point out

in the stories about Jesus in the gospels. First of all - I already mentioned it. We've

talked about it before - there's a really robust Jewish hope based on the Hebrew

Scriptures that Yahweh himself would come to visit, rescue his people from violent

oppressors that had been ruling them since Babylon, and that Yahweh himself would

come and do it. It's expressed in many passages.

Jon: Yeah, in the God's kingdom.

Tim: Isaiah, Ezekiel, Zachariah, the Psalms. So consider the Gospel according to Mark. The

opening sentences of the Gospel according to Mark, the first sentence is "the

beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God." Oh, this is

going to be a story about Jesus making a claim that he's the Messianic King, royal

Son of David.

Jon: Yeah. Which doesn't mean he's Yahweh. It just means he is the hoped-for king to

bring deliverance.

Tim: That's right. Up to this point, the meaning of the Messianic King was he's going to

be a—

Jon: And Son of God was a common term for someone in the line of David?

Tim: Kings from the line of David.

Jon: Okay.

Tim: But then what happens next is the story actually doesn't begin. He pauses and he

just copies and pastes a long block quote from the Hebrew prophets. "Like it's

written about in Isaiah the prophet: 'Behold, I will send my messenger ahead of you,

who will prepare your way, the voice of one crying in the wilderness:" Here's what

the voice cries. "Make ready the way for the Lord, make his paths straight.'"

So even though he said he's quoting from Isaiah, he's actually quoting from two

different Hebrew prophets. He's selling them together. So he's quoting from the

Prophet Malachi and the prophet Isaiah. So a couple things here. First of all, the

word "Lord" is really important.

Jon: Make ready the way of the Lord.

Tim: Yes, the way the Lord. So this is a document written in Greek. The quotations from

the Old Testament are all rendered into the Greek and most of them using the Greek

translation of the Hebrew Bible. Jon Collins, you studied Greek?

Jon: Yeah.

Tim: You know the Greek word for "Lord" and all this?

Jon: Kurios.

Tim: Oh, you know, there's different pronunciation traditions. I always say kurios.

Jon: Kurios.

Tim: But I think they're probably some people that say kurios. So it's the word for

"master" or "Lord." Remember, the divine name stuff? By the time Septuagint

translators are translating the Bible Jews have already stopped saying the divine

name.

Jon: Yahweh.

Tim: Yahweh.

Jon: They won't say it. In fact, they won't even write it. Instead, they write Adonai which

means Lord.

Tim: They'll say it, they'll leave the four letters in divine name in Hebrew texts. But when

they translated it into other languages, they wrote the equivalent of the divine name,

the swap in word, which was Lord or master. In Greek, Lord or master is kurios.

So it creates this interesting dynamic where when you read kurios from an old

testament quotation, but in the New Testament, nine times out of ten it's standing

for to the actual divine name, Yahweh in its Old Testament source. And this is one of

them. So, what Mark's telling us is, "Hey, the story you're about to read about Jesus

is the fulfillment of these two characters hoped for in the prophets. It's coming

messenger who would prepare your way, O kurios, O Lord." And then he goes on to

tell you a story about a messenger who showed up.

And so, if you map it right onto the Old Testament quotation, so John.

Jon: John's the messenger. Then who's the Lord?

Tim: And then Jesus shows up the next character in the story which means he fits the slot

of kurios.

Jon: The divine name.

Tim: So within a plain face value reading of the first page of the earliest gospel according

to Mark, the first of the four to be written you have a clear narrative argument for

Jesus' identity.

Jon: He didn't come out right and say, "Jesus is Yahweh but..."

Tim: But virtually.

Jon: Basically.

Tim: Basically, the equivalent would be to say, "Just...what would be an equivalent? Like

quoting a super well-known storyline and then telling a story about your friends or

your friends—

Jon: It stands in.

Tim: Stand in for the different character. So at "Washington Crossing the Delaware" and

then it would be "Jon Collins, I was having a hard day but then John crossed the

Willamette to deliver me a cup of coffee or something." That's a stupid example. The

Willamette is the river that divides Portland east and west.

Jon: Well and what's interesting is it's not just a story. This was a prophetic hope.

Tim: For something that would happen.

Jon: That would happen. So I'm trying to think of an example of something that we're

expecting to happen and then for us to go, "Oh, this guy." A lot of antichrist stuff

happens in predictions but that's not helpful. I mean, but it's very intuitive. Like

you're taking a prediction from the Old Testament - a prophecy - saying, "God's

going to come and here's how they're talking about it prophetically. That a

messenger will come ahead, prepare the way for Yahweh himself to come."

And then Mark says, "Hey, I want to tell you a story about Jesus, who's the Messiah,

and it was all written about by the prophets, and there was a messenger and then

preparing for Yahweh himself to come. And then he tells a story about John the

Baptist as a messenger." And then the question is, okay, well, then where's Yahweh?"

Tim: Yeah, Yahweh's going to show up.

Jon: Yahweh's going to show up. And then who shows up? It's Jesus.

Tim: Yeah, in the narrative, Jesus of Nazareth. There you go. What modern Westerners

typically want for the apostles is to just say it. Just say what you think about Jesus.

And they don't say it the way we wish they would say it. That's why you don't find

the sentence "Jesus is God" in the New Testament.

Jon: Or "Jesus is Yahweh."

Tim: What you get is "Jesus is Lord" and narratives like this, that so clearly are putting

Jesus in the slot of Yahweh arriving personally.

Jon: As a Jewish person, reading Mark 1, you would go, "I see what you're doing and this

is scandalous."

Tim: Well, or it's more than I could have hoped for. Because if you're reading the Gospel

of Mark, you're part of a church community and you've already been told the story

about Jesus.

Jon: That's true if you're already stoked on Jesus. But if you're not—

Tim: These are evange—

Jon: They are not evangelist...

Tim: They're called the gospels, but they weren't a means of evangelism. The church itself

as a living community of people was the means of spreading the good news.

Jon: These are records for the Jewish.

Tim: Yeah, these were written for communities to foster and learn the story of Jesus that

you've already heard orally taught. So that's how Jesus is introduced. Then this is

what happens. Jesus is baptized. Here's the story. It's in Mark 1 starting in verse 9.

"In those days, Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee. He was baptized by John in the

Jordan. Immediately coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens open." Very

similar prophetic vision. Just like Daniel.

Jon: From Daniel 7. Skies are opening.

Tim: It is, yeah, a common phrase. And what does he see when the divine command

room's curtain's peeled back and see what's really happening. And so what does he

see?

Jon: Behind the scenes.

Tim: He sees the Spirit descending on him in a bird-like form. And then here's a heavenly

voice saying what? "You are my beloved Son, in you I'm well pleased." So there's a

universe happening. And we've unpacked some of this before in the Spirit stuff.

Jon: Oh, the Spirit stuff, yeah.

Tim: The Spirit in the water.

Jon: Yeah, the Spirit hovering. The word "hovering" in Genesis 1 - Was it 1:2? - is the

word used of birds flying. So the Spirit has this kind of bird-like quality already and

it's connected to creation. Here is the Spirit of God like a bird descending on Jesus.

What else is significant about that?

Tim: The words that the voice says to the Son, which is to quote from three different Old

Testament passages. "You are my Son" is copied and pasted from the opening

words of Psalm 2, which is what God says about his Messiah. "The beloved son" is

the phrase used to describe Isaac in the story of Abraham and Isaac. "Take your Son,

your beloved Son." And then, "in you I am well pleased" is copied and pasted from

Isaiah 42, which is the poem that introduces the servant who will go on to suffer and

die for the sins of his people. And this is coming from a heavenly voice.

Notice that the depiction of God here it's very similar to the depiction of God in the

opening sentence of Genesis.

Jon: The Spirit was hovering and there was a voice.

Tim: You have a very clear God figure in the heavens, speaking from the heavenly throne

room. You have the personal presence of God being communicated in a bird-like

form of the invisible presence of the Spirit. And then the heavenly voice speaks a

word. Here, it speaks a word to someone called the Son.

So it's clear in one sense, Mark is already...There's an event being recounted, but it's

being recounted by the vantage point of the apostles after decades of reflection on

all of this. And notice, he presents God as one in three. So this is a story about how

Yahweh is coming to be with his people.

Jon: This is Yahweh appearing.

Tim: Here's Yahweh showing up just like Isaiah 40 said. And it's Jesus being addressed by

the one enthroned in heaven saying, "I love you," and that love is communicated

through and by means of the Spirit.

So there's two layers. One is something remarkable happen. Every one of the Gospel

accounts retells this moment as a key turning point in the life and vocation of Jesus.

So there's something happened in history, and all four of the Gospel accounts

represent it as a revelation of the one and more than one Yahweh.

It's significant because we already have shelf space for this from the Hebrew

Scriptures. That's what we've been talking about for so long. And then right out of

the gate, all four the accounts of Jesus just tap into that portrait of the complex unity

of God's identity. But they just stick Jesus right in the thick of it. It's the heavenly

enthroned one speaking to the Son by means of the Spirit.

Jon: By means of the Spirit. I mean, he's speaking words just himself and then the Spirit is

there.

Tim: Yeah, that's right. but we have to think about the heavenly voice is saying, "I love

you," and essentially communicating "You are the one that I have appointed as

Messiah and Lord to rule and do the suffering servant stuff."

Both in the story of David who's kind of the first anointed missing messianic ruler

and in the story in Isaiah of the servant, both of them are empowered and by the

Spirit. So it's the Spirit who carries the energy and love from Yahweh to the Son. The

point is, this is a portrait about God that the apostles reflected on. We're getting

decades of reflection as they represent this event.

Jon: And this is how they rendered it.

Tim: And all of this is in response to the opening lines of Mark. This is what it looks like

when Yahweh—

Jon: When Yahweh arrives.

Tim: When Yahweh arrives.

Jon: Yahweh himself arrives.

Tim: The Father is speaking to the Son.

Jon: So it's not so simple as saying, "When Yahweh arrives, here's Jesus." When Yahweh

arrives, it's Jesus being spoken to by the one enthroned in heaven and the Spirit of

God. That's Yahweh arriving. All three.

Tim: Yes. So notice that it has a three-part shape.

[00:37:17]

So from here in Mark, just to keep with Mark, Jesus starts walking around doing...I call it Yahweh

stuff.

Jon: Stuff attributed to Yahweh.

Tim: Yeah, stuff that's Yahweh's prerogative in the Hebrew Scriptures, but Jesus does it.

The most famous example because it's registered in the story itself that this is what's

happening, that Jesus would walk around pronouncing that people were forgiven of

their sins. In English, it doesn't faze us as much.

Jon: Tim, I forgive you for stepping on my foot.

Tim: But in that case, that's legitimate because if I wronged you, then you can forgive me

for you. But that's not what Jesus is doing. He's going around saying that people just

are forgiven, not because they wronged him. You now live in a state of being

forgiven by God. Oh, really?

Jon: Well, that's something that priests do.

Tim: That's right. I think that's why we have categories for it now in the Christian tradition

of someone else mediating God's forgiveness.

Jon: That didn't happen in Jewish culture?

Tim: Oh, it did. It did. And it happened in one place.

Jon: At the temple.

Tim: At the temple.

Jon: Did Jesus walk around outside the temple doing temple stuff?

Tim: That's right. It would be like someone walking around - we thought of analogies like

this before - just saying like, "Hey, I'm the president." Or like I'm walking around to a

college campus. This is a good one. Walking around a college campus saying,

"Whoever has debt, come to me."

Jon: "I'll pay up the tuition. Don't worry about it, your debts are cleared. And here's your

degree."

Tim: "Here's your degree." That's right.

Jon: "Go and be well."

Tim: Yeah, that's right. And then, like, the school administrators will come out and be like

Jon: "This guy is not appraised to do that."

Tim: "Who authorized you to pass out degrees?"

Jon: "We have a system."

Tim: Yeah. "We've got protocol and the system for this whole deal for people to gain

official forgiveness." And he goes around—

Jon: Official forgiveness in the temple.

Tim: That's it. So, for example, when Jesus says to the paralyzed man, "Little boy, little

child, your sins are forgiven," it doesn't say, "I forgive your sins." They are forgiven.

And some of the religious Bible nerds, scribes sitting there and they get it

immediately and they say, "Why does he speak this way? He's blaspheming, which

means he is offending the honor and reputation of God. Who can forgive sins, but

the one God?" Literally, they say "The one God." They use the Shema. "We have one

God and He forgives sins. What's happening." It's a narrative argument for Jesus's

identity.

Jon: Jesus doing Yahweh stuff.

Tim: Jesus doing Yahweh stuff. So the one on the throne calls Jesus "My Son." Jesus and

all of his teachings, you go right through all the parables—

Jon: Well, let's stop there for a second.

Tim: Okay, all right.

Jon: So the voice from heaven is saying, "You're my Son." What's that quoting from?

Psalm 2?

Tim: It's quoting from three texts in the Old Testament.

Jon: The Son part.

Tim: Oh, "You are my Son" is Psalm 2.

Jon: Okay. And that's referring to a messianic King?

Tim: Yeah. The one that God has appointed to bring justice over the rebellious nations.

Psalm 2.

Jon: So God saying, "You're my Son," he isn't saying, "I birthed you. I parented you."

Tim: Yes, yes, yes. Thank you.

Jon: He's just saying, "You are the one who will inherit this divine line of kings and then

rescue Israel."

Tim: Yes. Thank you. Yeah, actually, thank you. When son language is introduced in the

Old Testament, it's not that Yahweh gave birth to David. It's about someone being

appointed to the unique one and only place of the status of the firstborn son. In

other words, in Psalm 2, God isn't saying to David, "I gave birth to you." It's "I'm

granting you the status that a son gets as the firstborn."

Jon: Let's talk about that. What does that mean, the status of firstborn?

Tim: Oh, it had to do with a majority of the inheritance and then the one who represents

the father's authority in his place.

Jon: So it's a bunch of kids, who's in charge after the father. It's the firstborn son.

Tim: Yeah, as dad gets older, who runs a family business? Firstborn who gets the majority

of the state when dad passes away.

Jon: Okay. So then, as it relates to God and His people, it's like who gets to stand in for

God and rule over us?

Tim: Yeah.

Jon: That's the Son of God.

Tim: In that language, just inherently doesn't necessarily mean this figure is divine. It

means that they hold the status of a special representative. However, when the

apostles apply it to Jesus in light of all this other stuff, that category Son of God—

Jon: It gets packed with everything else.

Tim: Again, it's a shelf space that existed from Old Testament, but once Jesus gets put on

the shelf,...

Jon: It becomes a divine title.

Tim: ...it exceeds; it explodes the ceiling.

Jon: In my interactions with that title, it's always been divine to me. There's never been a

moment in time where that just meant someone who was like a king. That always

meant Jesus was—

Tim: That's right. And that's how the apostles use the title. But they use it because they've

developed its meaning in a new direction based on their whole set of convictions

about Jesus. Again, the Gospels, they're telling us events that happened as the

foundation of the Christian movement, but the accounts have been shaped by

people who have had decades to reflect on these things. And so, the language is

loaded with that reflection. That's right.

Jon: Cool.

Tim: Here's another layer to this Son language. In the baptism is just the one speaking

from heaven from the divine throne room. In Jesus's teachings, the sayings of Jesus,

teachings, parables, the most common title that he used is to call the one on the

throne is Father. My Father.

Jon: When he's referring to the voice from heaven, the one enthroned in the skies?

Tim: That's right. He will sometimes say, God, he will most often say, "Father" or "my

Father."

Jon: Which is just a unique thing to Jesus

Tim: Well, it's interesting. The phrase or the idea of God as Father, I forget the total count.

It's like 10 times or so in the Old Testament. So it's there. It's not a dominant way

that God's referred to. It's the proportion that makes Jesus stand out. He uniquely

referred to the God of Israel as his Father.

Jon: There was no other Jewish sect that was their preferred way of talking about God?

Tim: That's right. This is the unique marker of Jesus, his teaching and then of the Jesus

movement. And so there's Father language everywhere. You see it in the baptism.

You see it in Jesus' teachings. You see it in the Lord's Prayer where Jesus invited

other people to relationship to the Father that he had, which is why we pray "Our

Father" instead of "Jesus' Father." I pray to my Father because he's also Jesus' Father.

Jon: Now, is this significant? Because it seems like as we've talked about the complex

nature of Yahweh, it's always in context of how Yahweh is interacting with someone.

That's where we kind of see a part of his identity.

So we have this kind of abstract sense of Yahweh himself, but that is still the

transcendent Yahweh we don't have access to. When we access him, it's the angel of

the Lord or it's the Word of God, or it's the glory of God, or it's all these things. And

so, how does Father fit into that?

In my mind, it seems to mean that the way Jesus interacts with Yahweh is through

the identity of Father. That's almost like another way Yahweh is made known. Is that

right or is it just a stand-in for Yahweh?

Tim: Well, for the gospel authors, Yahweh is the whole package. He's the Father and

Jesus.

Jon: So it wasn't just a swap for Yahweh?

Tim: Yeah. The whole claim of chapter 1 of Mark is Yahweh showed up. What does it look

like? The heavenly voice speaking to Jesus by means of the Spirit. That's Yahweh by

the logic of Mark 1. Here, I think what we see is Jesus' relationship to the one he

called God, His dominant image and Word was my Father. And you go through

Jesus's teachings about "my Father" and he lived from a place of deep, deep

conviction that in his essence, the Father was gracious, extremely generous, merciful,

compassionate, and he allowed that to determine his identity.

That's what's going on the baptism. Jesus' identity, fundamentally, is as one who is

eternally loved. The internally loved one. And is before Jesus has lifted a finger as

like to do anything. So Jesus' whole ministry of announcing of the kingdom flows

out of his identity as the beloved one of the Father. And so when he talks about the

Father, it's always just this very intimate, precious language. There you go. And that's

going to become really, really important as we get into Paul letters and gospel and

letters of John because they both are carrying on the conviction from Jesus, that it's

that love between the Father and the Son that followers of Jesus are invited to

experience.

Jon: So let me ask this way. In the Old Testament, in Hebrew Scriptures, there's categories

that help us understand Jesus being Yahweh.

Tim: You mean the ones that we worked through.

Jon: Yeah. So Jesus being exalted to the right hand of God, the Son of Man character, the

Word of God character, all these characters, there's like, "Okay, this is a

manifestation of Yahweh." Or what would be the word you would use?

Tim: Attribute. Isn't that what we were using? The glory, the wisdom.

Jon: Personified attributes. But then also the Son of Man character.

Tim: Oh, yes.

Jon: Anyways, there's shelves already and you go, "Okay, we'll put Jesus on that shelf."

And then the Spirit, that's there. But is Father there in the Hebrews scriptures?

Tim: I see. In the Old Testament, "father" is a metaphor to describe Israel's experience of

God's mercy and generous love. So the first time it's used is in the introduction to

the Exodus story where God says to Pharaoh, "You've enslaved my son, let my son

go."

Jon: He's referring to Israel.

Tim: He's talking to the people of Israel as a whole. It's the first time the concept of

Yahweh as Father, Israel as the son. So in the Old Testament, Israel's the beloved

Son. And then when they come to have a king, they are represented by the king who

is the metaphorical and literal Son in terms of he's born into the line of David

literally, which makes him a metaphorical Son of God, and represents the covenant

people. And so, he has the status of a firstborn son.

Jon: So do we need to develop that shelf too in the video?

Tim: It's not a personified attribute, it's just an image that the biblical authors use—

Jon: Yeah, but Son of Man is not a personified attribute, and angel of Yahweh is not

either. And that helps knows help create shelves.

Tim: I see. Yeah, I suppose. But passages where God's called Father it's alongside other

descriptions like "you keep your promises forever," "you are Father." Like Isaiah

where Yahweh is called Father. And then that famous metaphor: We are the clay you

are the potter. So God's called Father and Potter in the same couple of lines. And

they're metaphors.

Jon: Okay, maybe that's a helpful way to try to unpack this for me. The Trinity, the

identity of God in three parts seems very sacred. It's not kind of like, "Oh, let's just

choose the word Father." It's like, "These are very distinct, important personhoods all

uniting." And so why Father?

Tim: I see.

Jon: If Jesus' preferable way was to call God the potter for some reason, and he told us to

pray, "Oh, Potter in heaven," would now the Trinity be Potter, Son, and Holy Spirit?

Tim: I understand. Got it. Well, I guess here's what I say. I don't think you can just draw a

neat line from the Old Testament to the trinity of Father. It seems to me from what I

understand the Christian tradition has received this three-part identity, Father, Son,

and Spirit, and that Father is grounded in Jesus' own choice of that word.

Jon: It seems like that's where I was thinking, "If all of this identity conversation is around

how God interacts, then, really, we're talking about, well, how did God interact with

Jesus?"

Tim: Yeah, that's right.

Jon: And it wasn't something that we ever really had access to. There's no other

characters in the Hebrew Scriptures who are having the same sort of experience that

Jesus had except for...you said Israel.

Tim: Yeah. I mean, Israel's called the firstborn son, and occasionally there are poets that

call Yahweh Father. Okay, but the way that Jesus is the Son and what that means,

and the way that he addressed God as his Father is unique. It's unique.

Jon: Well, you use the phrase of exploding categories. So is it a category that's exploded

or is it a brand new category?

Tim: I think so. In other words, it doesn't just seem to have been a handy metaphor for

Jesus. It's that he experienced God in some fundamental way as the loving, generous

Father.

Jon: And then he wanted us to experience God that way too.

Tim: Correct, yeah. And it's Father the one who generates life. I mean, you need to-

Jon: Like a biological father?

Tim: Yeah, totally. You need two humans to do that - a male and female. So there's

something fundamental about that. So there you go. For Jesus, this was a special

and important term because he used it in a fundamental way to describe his

experience of my Father.

Jon: And is it just by the nature of him using it now that's one of God's three important

personhoods?

Tim: I mean, that's the reason why it's not Yahweh the Son and the Spirit or why you

don't say God, the Son, the Spirit.

Jon: Because Yahweh is the Father, Son, and the Spirit.

Tim: Yeah. And once we get farther on into how John and Paul reflect on this, it's because

for them God is this eternal community of life-giving others centered intimate love

between the Father and the Son communicated by the Spirit.

As the conversation goes on, we're going to continue to have these moments where,

what are we talking about? We're going to lack language. And I actually think the

apostles themselves came to that moment quite often, because what they will use is

scriptural imagery or they'll simply just use the language of Jesus himself to describe

things that are talking about ultimate reality - the nature of the universe, and its

center, and the being regenerated.

And that's so other, that in a way I think that Jesus uses such a familiar term that

doesn't have positive meaning for everybody - the word Father. But the way Jesus

experienced and define that word allows us to both critique our own fathers and

allow it to be its own category.

Jon: Thanks for listening to this episode of The Bible Project podcast. If you've been

following this conversation about God, I've got good news. Our video on God is now

up on our YouTube channel and on our website. It's called God. It's our most

ambitious video to date. I think it came together really wonderfully. It's got really

cool motion graphics, and we tackle the complex identity of God in a way that really

ties everything together nicely. You can find the link to that video in the show notes.

This show was edited and produced by Dan Gummel, music by Tae the Producer and

the music by the band Tents. We're nonprofit in Portland, Oregon, and make all sorts

of resources, videos, study notes. This podcast, it's all free because of the generous

support of people like you chipping in to make it happen. So thanks for being a part

of this with us.

Man: We believe the Bible is a unified story that leads to Jesus. We are a crowdfunded

project by people like me. Find free video, study notes and more at the

bibleproject.com.


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