(More Bible Studies Available At www.marktabata.com)
It is written:
Isaiah 9:6-For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
In our studies of the conspiracy theories regarding the Council of Nicaea (which are especially promoted by books like the Da Vinci Code), we have learned that many of these conspiracies are false.
We now turn our attention to one of the most intriguing theories proposed regarding the Council Of Nicaea: the belief that this council somehow invented the idea that Jesus Christ is Divine.
Our format of study here will be simple.
First, we will examine how the Old Testament Scriptures prophesied that the Messiah would be Divine (beginning with Jesus’ identity as the Angel of the Lord and then moving on to investigate His title as Son of Man).
Second, having established that the New Testament Scriptures predate the Council of Nicaea by some two hundred years, we will notice that they clearly teach the Messiah is Divine.
Third, we will then examine what the actual topic of the Council of Nicaea was regarding the Nature of Jesus.
Let’s start by talking about a Person in the Bible known as the Angel of the Lord.
First, we will see that this Angel is actually another Name for God.
Second, we will observe that this Angel is somehow identified as being separate from God the Father.
Third, we will then see that the New Testament clearly shows that this Angel is another Title for Jesus, hence reinforcing the notion that Jesus is Divine.
Throughout the Old Testament, there is an interesting phrase that is found: “the angel of the Lord.” The grammar of this particular particular phrase has reference to an Angel which is somehow different from other angels.
“The angel of the Lord is identified with God himself, so he must be a manifestation of God and not just a created angel. There are several reasons why we believe this to be the correct understanding. First, the grammatical construction of the expression “the angel of the Lord” has special significance. From Weingreen’s Grammar of Hebrew Language we learn that a noun in the construct state never takes an article. So, “Malach Elohim,” or “angel of the Lord,” without the article, would mean “an” angel of the Lord. However, the scriptural references to the angel of the Lord read “Malach Ha Elohim,” which means “the” angel of the Lord. Therefore, the reference is to one specific angel. Second, the people to whom the angel of the Lord appears acknowledge him as the Lord.” (Edward P. Myers, A Study of Angels, 71-72 (Kindle Edition); New York, NY; Howard Books)
So “the” Angel of the Lord is different from “an” angel of the Lord.
In the following Scriptures, the Angel of the Lord is identified with God-and yet is shown to be separate from God!
Genesis 22:11-17-But the Angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” So he said, “Here I am.” 12 And He said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” 13 Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 And Abraham called the name of the place, The-LORD-Will-Provide; as it is said to this day, “In the Mount of the LORD it shall be provided.” 15 Then the Angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time out of heaven, 16 and said: “By Myself I have sworn, says the LORD, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son— 17 blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies.
Genesis 31:11-13-Then the Angel of God spoke to me in a dream, saying, ‘Jacob.’ And I said, ‘Here I am.’ 12 And He said, ‘Lift your eyes now and see, all the rams which leap on the flocks are streaked, speckled, and gray-spotted; for I have seen all that Laban is doing to you. 13 I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed the pillar and where you made a vow to Me. Now arise, get out of this land, and return to the land of your family.’
Genesis 48:15-16-And he blessed Joseph, and said: “God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, The God who has fed me all my life long to this day, 16 The Angel who has redeemed me from all evil, Bless the lads; Let my name be named upon them, And the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; And let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.”
Commenting on this passage, Heiser notes:
“The parallel position of elohim and mal’ak (“angel”) is unmistakable. Since the Bible very clearly teaches that God is eternal and existed before all things, and that angels are created beings, the point of this explicit parallel is not to say that God is an angel. On the other hand, it affirms that this angel is God. 9 But the most striking feature is the verb (“may he bless”). In Hebrew, the verb “bless” in this passage is not grammatically plural , which would indicate two different persons are being asked to bless the boys. Rather, it is singular , thereby telegraphing a tight fusion of the two divine beings on the part of the author. In other words, the writer had a clear opportunity to distinguish the God of Israel from the angel, but instead merges their identities . As we leave this chapter, the implications of what we’ve seen are staggering. The patriarchal stories create an astonishing picture for us. If there is only one God—one Yahweh—then why does the writer fuse Yahweh and the angel in some passages, but have the angel refer to God in the third person in others? Why blur the distinction between Yahweh and this angel and yet keep them distinct? What’s being communicated? When the biblical text does this, it pushes us to wonder whether there are two Yahwehs, one invisible in heaven and one visible on earth. We’ll see next that this is precisely the point. The God of Israel is God, but in more than one person.” (Michael S. Heiser, The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible, 2613-2623 (Kindle Edition): Bellingham, WA; Lexham Press)
Several passages of Scripture indicate that this Angel of the Lord is God Himself…yet somehow He is separate from God the Father! Indeed, many clues in the Scripture identify this Angel with Jesus.
“1. HIS IDENTITY What evidence is there that this angel might be Jehovah or even the eternal Son of God, our Lord? A. HIS IDENTITY WITH JEHOVAH The Angel of Jehovah acts as a unique messenger of God in Old Testament times. His appearances extend from the time of Abraham to the time of Zechariah. 1. His peculiar title. The title Elohim (“the mighty one”) was used of both the true God and the gods of the heathen. But the title Jehovah (Heb. Yahweh) was reserved for the God of Israel, the eternally self-existent One who made heavens and earth and who entered into covenant relationship with His people. The angels in general are called “the sons of God” (bene elohim), but never “the sons of Jehovah.” Therefore, since this one has a singular and peculiar title, “the Angel of Jehovah” (malak Yahweh), we may suspect that he was more than an angel, perhaps Jehovah Himself. self. 2. His personal identification. From a number of appearances throughout biblical history, we notice this angel consistently presented as Jehovah. This angel found Hagar (Genesis 16:7) and promised to do himself what God alone can (v. 10). Moses, the writer, identifies the angel as “Jehovah that spake unto her” (v. 13 ASV). When this angel appeared to Moses “in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush” (Exodus 3:2 KJV), verse 4 says “God called unto him out of the midst of the bush” (KJV). The one who spoke with Moses is called the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and with this announcement, Moses hid his face for fear of looking upon God (v. 6). Upon this historic occasion, God revealed His name as I AM THAT I AM (v. 14), the eternal, unchanging One. Would God entrust this unique personal revelation to a mere angelic creature? Acts 7:30-34 seems to identify the angel as the Lord (Yahweh, Exodus 3:2-7), “the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob.” The record of Gideon’s commission identifies the one who spoke to him as “the angel of Jehovah” (Judges 6:12 ASV) and as “Jehovah” (v. 14 Asv) without any notice of change of speaker. Manoah and his wife saw the Angel of Jehovah; and upon recognizing him, Manoah feared they would die because they had seen God (Judges 13:21-22). That this angel was Jehovah is also implied in the vision of Zechariah when the angel in 3:1 seems clearly called Jehovah in the next verse (v. 2). Most likely, the Angel of Jehovah was a theophany, a manifestation of God in visible and bodily form before the Incarnation. His appearances were evidences of God’s grace in revealing His person and purpose to His people. B. HIS DISTINCTION FROM JEHOVAH The same person is most likely in view in every mention of the singular and peculiar title, the Angel of Jehovah. Yet this angel, while identified as Jehovah, is presented as distinct from Jehovah. 1. He intercedes to Jehovah. In Zechariah 1:9-11 we see that the man among the myrtle trees was the Angel of Jehovah, and that Jehovah had sent the horsemen who were to report to this angel. Their separate identity also appears in verses 12-13 where the Angel of Jehovah intercedes for Jerusalem as he speaks to Jehovah. 2. He calls upon Jehovah. In the visions of the cleansing of Joshua, Zechariah saw the Angel of Jehovah defending this priestly leader of Israel against the accusations of Satan in the presence of Jehovah (3:1-2). The angel (v. 1) is called Jehovah: “And Jehovah said unto Satan, Jehovah rebuke thee, 0 Satan; yea, Jehovah that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee” (3:2 Asv). The angel called Jehovah was speaking to a separate person called Jehovah. How can there be more than one person called Jehovah?” (Fred Dickason, Angels Elect and Evil, 796-815 (Kindle Edition); Chicago; Moody Press)
The New Testament identifies this “Angel of the Lord” with Jesus.
1 Corinthians 10:1-4-Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, 2 all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.
The “Angel of the Lord” went before the people, and is here identified as Christ Jesus.
Exodus 23:23-For My Angel will go before you and bring you in to the Amorites and the Hittites and the Perizzites and the Canaanites and the Hivites and the Jebusites; and I will cut them off.
The words of the early church fathers on this passage are enlightening:
“Consider the following commentators from church history… When Moses was looking after the sheep of his maternal uncle in the land of Arabia, our Christ in the shape of fire from a bush talked with him, and said, “Loose thy sandals and come near and listen.” He, loosing them and approaching, heard that he must go down to Egypt and lead out from there the people of Israel; and he received mighty strength from Christ, who spoke to him in the form of fire. (Justin Martyr, Apology 1.62) [Stephen] calls the Son of God an angel as one who is also a man … not only does he show here that the angel who appeared to Moses was the Angel of Great Counsel, but he also shows how great was the compassion God manifests through his appearance… There is no Temple as yet, so the place is holy by the appearance and activity of Christ. This is much more wonderful than the place in the holy of holies. (Chrysostom, Commentary on Acts 7: 30-33)” (Douglas Van Dorn, Matt Foreman, The Angel of the LORD: A Biblical, Historical, and Theological Study, 222 (Kindle Edition); Dacono, Colorado; Waters Of Creation Publishing)
Not only does the phrase “the Angel of the Lord” teach us about the Divinity of Jesus Christ, but so also does the title “Son of Man” (Daniel 7:13-14), and which was also used to refer to Jesus Christ (Matthew 16:13-19).
“We should note that there is at least one biblical text that speaks explicitly of people “serving” Jesus Christ. The book of Daniel contains a vision in which people of all nations, tribes, and languages “serve” someone who is “like a Son of Man” (Dan. 7:13 NASB). In the New Testament we learn that Jesus Christ, of course, is that Son of Man (e.g., John 9:35-38; Rev. 1:12-18). In the Septuagint version of Daniel, the word translated “serve” is latreuo, which is also used in the Rahlfs edition of the Septuagint and in other critical editions of the Greek Old Testament. In the Greek version of Daniel produced in the late second century A.D. by Theodotion, the word translated “serve” is douloo, a far more common Greek word that has a broader range of meanings. Whichever Greek translation one chooses to follow, the underlyingAramaic word (Daniel 2:4-7:28 was originally written in Aramaic, not Hebrew) is pelach, a word that is always used to refer to rendering religious service or performing religious rituals in honor of a deity.6 In other words, latreuo is an excellent Greek translation of pelach. That is why all extant ancient Greek versions of Daniel usually use latreuo elsewhere in Daniel to translate pelach (Dan. 3:12, 14, 18, 28; 6:16, 20 [6:17, 21 in Greek] ).7 In the earlier chapters of the book, Daniel and his Jewish friends had refused to “serve” the image of Nebuchadnezzar or to “serve” Darius, identifying themselves as those who “serve” only their God, the living God (3:12, 14, 17, 18, 28; 6:16, 20). In this setting, the vision of people from all nations “serving” the Son of Man presents ents a startling contrast. The “service” that Daniel and his friends refused to give to Nebuchadnezzar’s image or to Darius, Daniel envisions all nations giving to the heavenly Son of Man. Daniel’s reference to the Son of Man being “served” implies a divine status for the Son of Man, not merely because of the use of that one word, but because cause of the context in which it is used. The universal sovereignty attributed to the Son of Man is earlier attributed to Daniel’s God by the Babylonian and Persian kings. The signs and wonders that the Most High God has worked for me I am pleased to recount. How great are his signs, how mighty his wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and his sovereignty is from generation to generation. (4:2-3, emphasis added) When that period was over, I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me. I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored the one who lives forever. For his sovereignty is an everlasting sovereignty, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation. (4:34, emphasis added) I make a decree, that in all my royal dominion people should tremble and fear before the God of Daniel: For he is the living God, enduring forever. His kingdom shall never be destroyed, and his dominion has no end. (6:26, emphasis added) This language of a kingdom that will not be destroyed and that will endure forever is then applied to the kingdom of the Son of Man. To him was given dominion and glory and kingship, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting ing dominion that shall notpass away, and his kingship is one that shall never be destroyed. (7:14, emphasis added) Within this larger context, the reference to all peoples “serving” the Son of Man is confirmed as an expression of religious devotion. The One whom you regard as the Ruler of your entire universe for all time is by definition your God, and it would be the height of folly not to render religious devotion or service to him.’” (Robert Bowman & J. Ed Komoszewski, Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ, 636-658 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Kregel Publications)
The Old Testament Scriptures clearly prophesied that the Messiah (Jesus Christ) would be Divine. This was a common understanding in the New Testament period and long before the Council Of Nicaea.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.