Knowing Jesus in the Old Testament? : A Fresh Look at Christophanies, by Andrew S. Malone $10.36 (Free Shipping) Inter-Varsity Press 2015 (208 pages) https://www.bookdepository.com/Knowing-Jesus-Old-Testament-Andrew-S-Malone/9781783592043
I found this book online when I was looking for some common sense (and scripturally based) reasoning regarding ‘Christophanies’ or: pre-incarnate appearances of Christ in the Old Testament.
I found this book to be well worth the $10 it cost me, which included free shipping.
After numerous recent interactions with people online regarding issues surrounding the study of Christ (Christology) I began to see what I consider to be erroneous understandings of Christ. Namely, people referring to Jesus (or Christ) and his actions in the Old Testament (OT).
I have no problems with people referring to the Son before the incarnation, but I do have a problem with referring to Jesus in the OT. I also don’t care for people referring to Christ in the OT. Why? Because, although the Son is eternal, Jesus Christ was born of Mary in Bethlehem.
Jesus, by definition, is the God-Man (Greek: theanthropos). Jesus has both a divine and a human nature. He’s no more human than he is divine, and he’s no more divine than he is human. Ultimately, the dual nature of Jesus is a mystery, and we, as believers, are expected to maintain that mysterious balance whenever we speak or write about him. To go to either extreme, and express a position in which Jesus appears to be more God than man, or more man than God, is heresy. A balance, and an avoidance of error, is our goal whenever we speak or write about Jesus.
As I said, I’ve been dealing online with quite a few people in recent months who were speaking/writing about Jesus as though he were more God than man. For example, people were saying Jesus did things before he was born in Bethlehem. This is anachronistic, to say the least, and heretical to say the most. To me, this smacked of heresy… a too-high Christology that made Jesus God but not really man, since the dual natured Jesus — the God-Man — didn’t come into being until Bethlehem. The Son is eternal. He has always existed. He never came into being. Jesus, the God-Man, came into being when the eternal Son took on human flesh and became man (for us and for our salvation). This is the whole point of the incarnation. And this is also why most people will qualify their statement about Jesus, or Christ, doing something in the OT by saying the pre-incarnate Jesus, or the pre-incarnate Christ, did something.
But when people talk about the pre-incarnate Christ doing something in the OT they aren’t speaking about something the OT actually says, they’re speaking about something they believe. People have constructed the notion of a pre-incarnate Jesus in their own minds, mostly due to having a New Testament (NT) perspective as a Christian, and ‘discovering’ many appearances of a (supposedly) pre-incarnate Christ in the OT.
People do this because they are taught to do it. I used to accept the notion of pre-incarnate appearances of Christ in the OT, because that’s what I had been taught, too. But after the recent experiences I’ve had with people in discussing this issue, after reading this book, after thinking about the issue, and after pondering what the Bible actually says, I no longer believe we can say with any certainly that the Son, Jesus, or Christ appeared in the OT. As the author says:
“No one here doubts that God the Son has always existed and been active throughout history as part of the Trinity. What is in doubt is whether we should identify particular activities of the Son in Old Testament times and whether we can read any evidence of these in the pages of the Old Testament itself.” (p.177)
This book is something of a voice crying in the wilderness, because it seems almost everyone these days believes in OT Christophanies. The author does the Church a great service by writing this (no doubt unpopular) book. It is well researched, well outlined, well written, and scripturally based.
If you’re at all interested in the subject of Christophanies I suggest you read this book.
For further reading, the author has also written an informative article on: John Owen and Old Testament Christophanies, by Andrew S. Malone http://www.theologian.org.uk/doctrine/johnowen.html