Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Christ in the Old Testament Part I

Christ In the Old Testament PART I

The Angel of the LORD

In the Old Testament, we are confronted with the enigmatic personage of the Angel of the LORD or Angel of God. Different from other instances of angelical beings, these titles are translations of Malak YHWH or Malak Elohim (which literally translate as "Messenger of YHWH" or "Messenger of God" respectivly; "angel" simply means "messenger" and can refer to any number of beings who act in that capacity.)

What is so unusual about this "Angel of the LORD" is that He not only speaks (and is spoken of) as someone "other" than "God" or "the LORD", but also speaks (and is spoken of) as God Himself. He is plainly called God by others, speaks as God, and even receives sacrifice as God. Instaces of this which I encourage you to examine at your own leisure can be found in...

Genesis 16:7-13
Exodus 3:1-6
Exodus 23:20-23
Judges 2:1-5
Judges 6:1-23

Exodus 23:20-23 is particularly interesting, since it describes this Malak Elohim as being a bearer of God's "Name". This is an important conscept, since the dwelling of "God's Name" in any given place was the Hebrew idiom for describing the presence of the Divinity. For example, Deuteronomy 12:11 describes the (then) future place of sacrifice as the place where God's 'Name' was to dwell; this denoting His presence in that place. This "Name" is held as being very sacred, as the object to which thanksgiving is directed (Psalm 140:13), and to this present day the Christian prays "hallowed be Thy Name" (Lord's Prayer; St.Matthew 6:9, St.Luke 11:2). Tellingly enough, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself describes His work as manifesting this "Name" to those elect souls whom God has chosen (St.John 17:6). In the "concrete" imagery of the Hebrews (which was quite different than the philosophical tradition of Athens which tended more toward abstraction), "the Name" simply denoted the Divine Presence, which the literal "shem" of the Hebrew Bible ("YHWH" - "He Who Is") was only a symbol of (and hence treated with a high, but still relative reverence.)

The Christian Scriptures clearly relate the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ to the "Malak YHWH" of the Old Testament. One very clear example of this is found in 1st Corinthians 10:1-9, where St.Paul states plainly that it was Christ Who accompanied the Israelites through the wilderness. This understanding was also the consensus of the Church Fathers, and is plainly represented in Orthodox Christian Iconography.


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