THE GOD OF JESUS: PART NINETEEN
Is Jesus YHWH?
If you have carefully read the material presented to this point, it should be apparent that the Father and only the Father is YHWH. Yet many Christians believe Jesus is also YHWH and as such is God as much as the Father is God. Some OT passages associated with YHWH are seen as being applied to Jesus in the NT and therefore are seen as identifying Jesus as YHWH. An example of this approach is seen in Romans 10:13 where it is believed Paul applies a quote from Joel 2:32 to Jesus.
Joel 2:31-32: The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD (YHWH). And everyone who calls on the name of the LORD (YHWH) will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as the LORD has said, among the survivors whom the LORD calls.
Romans 10:13: "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord (Greek: kurios) will be saved."
In Romans 10:9, Jesus is identified as Lord. “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Because Jesus is identified as Lord in verse 9, it is believed He is the Lord of verse 13 as well where Paul writes about calling on the name of the Lord. Therefore, the “Lord” of Romans 10:13 is believed to be Jesus and by Paul applying a phrase to Jesus that is applied to YHWH in the OT, it is believed Paul is identifying Jesus as YHWH.
It is interesting that Peter uses the same quote from Joel in asking his audience to repent and turn to God.
Acts 2:17-21: In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'
The Lord to whom one can call on to be saved in the Joel passage is YHWH God. When Paul and Peter quote Joel, it is YHWH God who is being referenced as the one to call on. Paul, in Romans 3:29, writes of there being one God who is the God of both Jews and Gentiles. In Romans 10:12 he writes of there being one Lord of both Jews and Gentiles. A careful reading of Romans chapter 3 will reveal that it is God the Father who is seen as the facilitator of salvation through his agent Jesus the Christ. In verses 25-30 Paul shows how the one God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin and it is through Jesus that the one God justifies both Jews and Gentiles. In Romans 10:9, God is seen as the one who raised Jesus from the dead.
In Romans 10:12 Paul says there is one Lord of both Jews and Gentiles who richly blesses all who call on him. Paul then follows this statement by saying “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." As already discussed in a previous Chapter, Salvation is facilitated by God the Father through Christ Jesus. Scripture shows it is God the Father who blesses us through Christ.
Acts 13:34: The fact that God raised him from the dead, never to decay, is stated in these words: "`I will give you the holy and sure blessings promised to David.'
Ephesians 1:3: Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.
When taking the whole of Scripture into account, it appears reasonable to conclude that when Paul and Peter quote Joel’s statement about calling upon the name of the Lord to be saved, it is God the Father, who is being referenced. Even if it is the Lord Christ being referenced in Romans 10:12-13, it does not mean Christ is the one and only Most High, Supreme LORD God.
As we have already discussed in this book, Paul distinguishes between the one God who is the Father and the one Lord who is the Christ, the anointed of the Father. A careful examination of the Scriptures will reveal it is the LORD (YHWH) God the Father who through His Lord Christ has facilitated salvation for both Jews and Gentiles. Jesus is the anointed Lord through whom the Most High LORD does his work. Jesus is called Lord throughout the NT in his role as the appointed and anointed agent of the one God who is the Father. Jesus is called Lord because He was made Lord by the one and only Supreme LORD, God the Father (Acts 2:36). Jesus is Lord in His capacity as the anointed of YHWH God, not because he is YHWH God. Only the Father is intrinsically LORD. No one made the Father LORD. The Father has eternally existed as the Supreme LORD of all including being the LORD God of Jesus. Jesus is seen as receiving His Lordship from the Father. The Supreme LORD, who is the Father and who is the source of salvation, is seen as facilitating His salvation through the one He made Lord (Acts 2:36). Jesus is the mediator of salvation. Paul plainly said, “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5).
The Father is the Supreme, Most High LORD (YHWH) God Almighty. Jesus is the Lord Christ, the begotten and anointed of YHWH God. Jesus is the LORD’s lord as we saw in our examination of Psalm 110:1 in Chapter Three. Since the Greek Scriptures use only the one word kurios to designate Lord, context must be the determining factor as to what Lord is being referenced in any given passage. For example, in Luke’s account of the birth of Jesus, Luke writes:
Luke 1:32: He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David.
Here it is obvious the “Lord God” is referring to the Most High God (YHWH) who is the Father and is seen as distinct and superior to the one to be called the Son. In Luke 2:26, the Son is referred to as the Lord’s Christ which is to say the anointed of the Most High LORD (YHWH) God. Here the word Lord is obviously referring to the Father. The word Lord (kurios) occurs nearly twenty times in Luke chapter 2 and by context can be seen to refer to God the Father. The very language of Luke, chapter 2 shows seeing Jesus as YHWH God to be a Scripturally untenable position.
NT writers apply many sayings from the OT to Christ. Often such sayings are seen to have a different meaning in their OT context. We will examine examples of this in Chapter Nineteen when we consider Matthew 1:23 and Isaiah 7:14. One example is when Joseph was told to escape to Egypt with Mary and the Christ child and return after the death of Herod. Matthew sees this as a fulfillment of a past historical event recorded in Hosea where the prophet speaks of Israel being called out of Egypt (Hosea 11:1/Matthew 2:14-15). Matthew uses a fulfilled event associated with Israel and applies it to Christ. In the NT, writers often see fulfillment of OT events in events current to them in the NT. Applying OT events to Christ doesn’t mean there is equivalent meaning between the OT and NT events. Taking statements associated with YHWH in the OT and applying them to Christ in the NT doesn’t mean Christ is YHWH.
Because YHWH is seen as savior in Scripture and Jesus is seen as savior in Scripture doesn’t mean Jesus is YHWH any more than Jesus being called out of Egypt means Jesus is Israel because Israel being called out of Egypt is applied to Christ in the NT. If it is Jesus who Paul says to call on for salvation in Romans 10:13, it is not because Jesus is YHWH but because He is the facilitator of YHWH’s salvation. Jesus perfectly represents YHWH. Calling on the name of the Lord Jesus for salvation is calling on the name of YHWH’s agent for salvation. Jesus is the intermediary between YHWH and man as Paul wrote to Timothy. When my son represents me in a business deal, he acts on my behalf and facilitates my intentions. My son acts as an intermediary. A vender dealing with my son is virtually equivalent to the vender dealing with me. This doesn’t mean my son is me.
Language applied to YHWH in an OT context which is applied to Jesus in a NT context does not equate YHWH with Jesus. Use of similar language in different contexts and in association with different individuals does not translate into those individuals being the same individual. To assume such is the case is to assume the thing to be proved and amounts to a Non Sequitur argument where the conclusion does not follow from the premise. For example, Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 10:22 about arousing the Lord’s jealousy is a phrase found in association with YHWH in several OT passages. Because it is believed Paul is using this saying in association with the Lord Christ, some conclude this identifies Christ as YHWH. It is concluded Jesus is YHWH because similar language is used in association with YHWH in the OT. Does arousing Jesus to jealousy identify Him with YHWH because YHWH is shown as being aroused to jealousy?
In Proverbs 6:34, the writer shows a husband to be aroused to jealousy over his wife becoming involved in adultery. In Acts 5:17, the high priest and his associates were aroused to jealousy over the success of Peter healing the sick. In Acts 13:45, the Jews were aroused to jealousy because of what Paul was doing. No one would conclude these folks were aroused to jealousy because YHWH is seen as being aroused to jealousy and therefore they are YHWH. In 2 Corinthians 11:2, Paul says, “I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy.” Does Paul having a godly jealously mean he is the Lord God or the Lord Christ?
In Psalm 24:1 it is written, “The earth is the LORD's, (YHWH’s) and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” In 1 Corinthians 10:25-26, Paul is dealing with the issue of foods sacrificed to idols and says, “Eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, for, ‘The earth is the Lord's, and everything in it.’" Because Paul references Christ a number of times in this chapter, some believe Paul is applying the statement from Psalm 24 to the Lord Jesus in 10:26 and this identifies Jesus as YHWH since it is YHWH who is seen as possessor of the earth in Psalm 24.
A careful reading of the entirety of 1 Corinthians 10 will reveal Paul speaks both of God and Jesus as Lord in this passage. Since the earth is seen as belonging to YHWH in Psalm 24 and YHWH is referenced in a similar manner in Exodus 9:29, I would lean toward Paul referencing the Father in 10:26 as the Father is seen as the YHWH who is creator of heaven and earth. On the other hand, YHWH has given great power, authority and glory to Jesus which includes rulership over the earth. Therefore, Jesus could be seen as possessor of the earth. This doesn’t make Jesus YHWH any more than Jesus being savior equates Him with YHWH. Jesus is who He is because YHWH has granted Him the wherewithal to be who He is and not because He is YHWH.
It is critical we look at the whole of Scripture in determining the relationship between YHWH as LORD and Jesus as Lord. Jesus is the appointed and anointed Lord of the Supreme LORD God Almighty. Jesus and YHWH are not the same Lord as is clearly seen in our examination of Psalm 110 and dozens of other Scriptural passages we have discussed. Statements directed to YHWH in the OT and used in association with Jesus in the NT do not identify Jesus as YHWH.
1 Corinthians 10:9:
There is one additional statement in 1 Corinthians 10 that is used to say Christ is YHWH and therefore it is a verse we must address. This statement is found in verse nine. In 1 Corinthians 10, Apostle Paul writes that the Israelite’s drank of the same spiritual rock that followed them and that rock was Christ (verse 4). I address this passage in Chapter Five. Paul goes on to write about how God was not pleased with them and that what happened to them were examples of how not to behave. Paul them gives warning to his readers to not follow the behavioral path of the ancient Israelite’s and thus test the Lord.
1 Corinthians 10:9: We should not test the Lord, as some of them did--and were killed by snakes (NIV 1978 edition).
The KJV, NKJV, NET, ESV, NIV: 2000 edition) and some other English translations use the word Christ rather than Lord in this passage. For example, the NET translation has it this way:
And let us not put Christ to the test, as some of them did, and were destroyed by snakes (NET).
Most of the extant Greek manuscripts of the NT have the Greek word Christos in this passage. This is the Greek word translated as Christ throughout the NT. A few of the oldest manuscripts have the Greek kurios which means lord and a few manuscripts have Theos which means God. The weight of evidence points to the original Greek word used by Paul being Christos and therefore the correct translation appears to be Christ.
Because of this, it is believed Paul is telling his readers to not put Christ to the test as the ancient Israelite’s put Christ to the test. It’s concluded that if ancient Israel put Christ to the test, Christ must be the God that was present with Israel in the wilderness. This is seen as proof of Christ’s pre-existence and proof of Christ being YHWH as it is YHWH that is seen as being put to the test in the wilderness.
Exodus 17:2: So they quarreled with Moses and said, "Give us water to drink." Moses replied, "Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you put the LORD (YHWH) to the test?"
It is assumed that when Paul says “let us not put Christ to the test, as some of them did,” Paul is saying Christ is YHWH because Scripture clearly shows it was YHWH who was put to the test by Israel. Is this what Paul is saying? If it is, it is a teaching quite in opposition to many other statements Paul makes that clearly show Paul sees Christ not as YHWH but as the subservient servant of YHWH (See Chapter Two of this series for an overview of how Paul viewed Christ.)
How can 1 Corinthians 10:9 be coordinated with Paul’s view of Christ as not being YHWH but being the servant of YHWH? To say Israel tempted YHWH is to say they provoked Him. The Hebrew word translated “to the test” means to “tempt utterly.” The Israelite’s utterly tested YHWH in that they failed to rely on Him to supply their needs and they behaved immorally and in an idolatrous manner before Him in the wilderness. This provoked and angered YHWH and He punished them. In 1 Corinthians 10:6-8 Paul warns the Corinthians not to behave in the same manner and in so doing test or provoke Christ.
The context of 1 Corinthians 10 is primarily dealing with behaving in a manner that will not provoke Christ as the Israelite’s provoked YHWH. It should be apparent from the dozens of Scriptures we have discussed to this point that Christ is not YHWH. Is it possible Paul is simply saying, “Don’t provoke Christ as some of them provoked YHWH.”
It is instructive that Paul doesn’t say “let us not put Christ to the test as some of them put Christ to the test.” Paul says “let us not put Christ to the test, as some of them did.” It is assumed Paul is seeing Christ as the one the Israelite’s put to the test and therefore Christ must be YHWH. Paul, however, doesn’t say it was Christ they put to the test. Some translations of 10:9 suggest Paul was simply saying to his readers they should not behave in a tempting way toward Christ as the Israelite’s were behaving in a tempting way toward YHWH. Paul could simply be reflecting on the behavior of the Israelite’s toward YHWH without actually mentioning the name YHWH.
Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents (KJV).
Neither let us make trial of the Lord, as some of them made trial, and perished by the serpents (ASV).
Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents (Geneva Bible).
Neither may we tempt the Christ, as also certain of them did tempt, and by the serpents did perish (Young’s Literal Translation).
As already indicated, it we are to conclude Paul was telling his readers not to tempt Christ as the Israelite’s tempted Christ, he would be saying Christ is YHWH. If this were to be true, it would result in serous cognitive dissidence as there are dozens of other Pauline statements where Paul sees Christ not as YHWH but as the servant of YHWH who Paul understands to be the Father and only the Father.