Why Does Jesus Assume the Duties and Actions of YHVH?It has been observed by many over the centuries that attributes, actions and duties which are attributed directly to YHVH in the Old Testament are said to be assumed by Jesus in the New.
The primary texts in question are Mt. 15:8 and Isa. 29:15; Jn. 6:45 and Isa. 54:13; Ac. 13:41 and Hab. 1:5; Ro. 10:13 and Jo. 2:32; Ro. 14:10, 11 and Isa. 45:23; I Cor. 2:16 and Isa. 64:4; Phil. 2:10 and Isa. 45:23; Heb. 1:10-12 and Ps. 102:25-27; Rev. 1:17 and Isa 44:6.
Of course each pairing deserves its own analysis, for each is saying something different and each is employed in different contexts with different intents. But it has long been recognized by scholars, if not by the general churchgoing public, that the NT writers used interpretive methods in common with first century Judaism, which differed greatly from accepted methods today. This meant that they felt no compunction about recasting OT texts without regard to original context or meaning, because that was the standard, accepted procedure of the time.
Some widely cited and fairly obvious NT examples of this rabbinic method at work are Mt. 2:15 by Hos. 11:1, Mk. 1:2-4 by Isa. 40:3; Heb. 2:8f by Ps. 8:4f and Ro. 10:6-8 by Deut. 30:11-14. Some have argued that since NT writers took OT scriptures out of context to suit their purposes, their writings cannot be Scripture.
The error in this conclusion is in requiring ancient writers to adhere to editorial standards and customs that weren’t developed for centuries after their death! The Bible is indisputably a collection of ancient writings and can only be fairly viewed within the context of the times in which the writers lived and worked. But, when we do this, we can see it is very doubtful that any of the writers of the above OT passages intended to say that YHVH would become Messiah Jesus.
Everything we know about ancient Hebrew thought and religious teaching would militate against suggesting God would (or even could) become a man. Therefore we can see the real work was being done on the other end—by the NT writers. They naturally pored over the scrolls of their scriptures to find foreshadowings of the work of Messiah Jesus, and they excised certain phrases out of the OT—regardless of context—to help make their case for Jesus.
So what were the NT writers trying to express about Jesus through use of these OT texts? In general we see in them the conviction that in Jesus much of God’s work has been, is being, and will be done. The application of OT writings about God to Jesus reveals the NT writers’ understanding that in Jesus, God was represented and expressed to such a great degree that when God does or says something, Jesus may as well be doing or saying it; and when Jesus is doing or saying something, God may as well be doing or saying it.
Underlying all of this is the Jewish concept of agency. For the Jew, when the principal’s agent appeared, it was as if the principal himself was standing before you. As a practical matter, it made little difference whether the principal or the agent was addressing you, for the authority of that office was confronting you in either case. This concept was not unique to the ancient Jews (even today, ambassadors and envoys represent their nations’ leaders), but ancient cultures generally and the Jewish culture specifically had a high awareness of agents acting on behalf of authorities—representing and sometimes wielding the full power of those authorities.
We have ... Ps. 82, where men who represent God are said to be "gods." But Judges 13 provides a real-life example of the Hebrew concept of agency at work. In verses 1-7 an angel appeared to Manoah’s wife to inform her that she will conceive a child (Samson). Manoah and her wife took this to be a direct word from God. So Manoah prayed to God for more information (v. 8). Immediately the angel reappeared (v. 10). More conversation ensued, and upon the angel’s disappearance, "Manoah knew that he was the angel of the Lord" (v. 21).
Then Manoah says something which might seem strange to us given the facts as he understood them: "We shall surely die, because we have seen God!" (v. 22).
Manoah knew it was only an angel; yet, because the angel represented God before him, he attributed to the angel all the attributes of God—including the knowledge that anyone who looks upon God’s face must die (Ex. 33:20)! A similar event can be seen in Gen. 16:10.
In the New Testament letter to the Hebrews, the writer evokes this ancient agency concept which he knew his readers would understand. There he calls Christ Jesus "the Apostle" (meaning one who is sent with the authority of one greater than him) "who was faithful to Him who appointed him, as Moses was faithful in all his house" (3:1, 2).
God made Moses, remember, "God to Pharaoh" (Ex. 7:1). He made Jesus "the head of every man" (I Cor. 11:3), before whom "every knee shall bow" (Phil. 2:10). This God did when "The LORD (YHVH) said to my lord (adoni, master) ‘Sit at My right hand, till I make your enemies Your footstool’ " (Heb. 1:13; Ps. 110:1).
The apostles recognized that this unique conferring of divine authority to a chosen representative was prophesied from ancient times: "For Moses truly said to the fathers, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear in all things, whatever he says to you’ " (Ac. 3:22 from Deut. 18:15).
Because Jesus was God’s Apostle, how one responded to him measured how one was responding to God. If you listened to him it was as if you were listening to God. If you received him it was as if you were receiving God. If you knelt before him you knelt, as it were, before God. If you obeyed his word it was because you understood that when he spoke, he spoke with the undiluted authority of God
(Mt. 10:40; Mk. 9:37; Lk. 10:16; 17:11-18; Jn. 5:19-23; 12:44, 45; 13:20; I Jn. 2:23).
Indeed, to the man Jesus was given authority on earth to perform nothing less than pronounce forgiveness of sins, offer salvation, judge the dead, even raise the dead—all things traditionally thought of within God’s exclusive purview.
Given these extraordinary duties, it isn’t difficult to see how in the New Testament Jesus could be directly associated with some OT passages referring to God. He was, and is, God’s Apostle—the one God sent to the world to be His unique agent and representative who speaks and acts as God and with the authority of God
(Jn. 4:34; 5:23-30, 36; 6:29, 38; 7:16, 28; 8:42; 12:44, 45, 49; 13:16, 20; 17:3).