Deuteronomy 30:19-20

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.

Saturday, November 28, 2009


In recent years it seems like when we say the words "Union University," "construction" seems to soon follow. Construction never ends on our campus, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. The next few months will see the completion of the Bowlds Commons, which also completes the 4 Quads. Starting next semester, the Commons will be open. Inside, there will be TV rooms, study rooms, a gym, 2 apartments (for the RD's), fireplaces, grills outside, and even rooms that will be used as classrooms. I recently talked to someone who told me that their schedule said that one of their classes would be in Bowlds Commons. So 2 years after the tornado, construction will be completed for the rebuilding process.

However, during our time of rebuilding, our campus did not quit growing. Due to our continual growth over the last 2 years, more dorms are desperately needed. Therefore, construction has begun in another section of campus to build new Quads, slated to be completed by the Fall of 2010. I think that they are only projecting one Quad to be completed by the date, but anything will be helpful at this point.

Finally, the Pharmacy building is moving right along. Construction has come along quickly on that building. Last Tuesday, while leaving campus, I noticed that the roof was being started on this building. This building is also being stated as being completed by next Fall. If this happens, the pharmacy department will be moved out of the PAC (the main building), across campus, and into a new building. Also, I heard that some of the other sciences will have classrooms in this building.

So construction is a good thing, especially when you are growing. It does get old seeing cranes and equipment constantly on campus. I get tired of always having a dirty car due to construction. But it is exciting to see the university continuing to grow. In my 4 years at Union there has not been a time when there was no construction on campus. Since beginning in the Fall of 2006, I have witnessed the construction of White Hall, The Grants Center, The New Dorms, Bowlds Commons, The Soccer Complex, the beginnings of the Pharmacy Building, and the beginning of more New Dorms. Union is not the same place that it was even 3 years ago. And it will probably look quite different in another 3 years.


Thursday, November 26, 2009

Twice Freed - Part 2

Picking up from yesterday, here is the rest of my review of Twice Freed:

Again, this is one instance where I feel that we forget that there is a story behind these letters of the New Testament. We read Philemon and just think that Paul sent a letter to some random man who had a slave, correcting him for his wrong. But if you really think about this letter, it becomes obvious that Paul and Philemon were good friends and that they had had some type of interaction prior to the writing of this letter. This is where St. John’s story comes in, especially the scene between Philemon and Paul at Ephesus. Furthermore, Paul states that he is sending Onesimus back to Philemon, a detail that I have always skipped over. I had never noticed that Onesimus was being sent back; I assumed he was already with Philemon. This story has helped me read the letter more carefully, noticing that I too missed a detail in the biblical story.

Now there are many more scenes I could discuss, but I want to hit this last one. Onesimus, in the story, is sent back to Philemon after having spent time with Paul in Rome. This scene appears to parallel the biblical story. Paul writes in Philemon that he is imprisoned, and that Onesimus has joined him in his imprisonment. So it seems entirely possible that the two met and spent some time together in Rome. Furthermore, Paul lists several men at the end of his letter that have been in Rome with them, and all of these people appear as characters in Twice Freed. These final verses of the letter are probably commonly overlooked as well. Once more, St. John’s interpretation has helped me look more closely at the letter itself.

This close attention to detail is the book’s strongest quality, and although I really do appreciate this book, the way that it was written, and the ideas that were presented, there were two aspects of the book that bothered me. First of all, near the beginning of the book, there are some characters who are discussing the freedom that we can all have in Christ. They make the comment that in Christ there is neither slave nor free, Jew nor Greek, etc. This is definitely a truth that is presented in the Bible, and St. John works it well into her story. However, in the listing of “opposites,” St. John also throws in that there is neither “black nor white.” That one little phrase caught me off guard. I think that it was probably an oversight on St. John’s part for including that phrase because so much of her book reads and feels like an ancient culture (the first century). But nevertheless, such a distinction would not have been thought of in the first century. I do not feel like this would have been a big deal in the Roman Empire as it is today. That is not to say that there were not different races in the Roman Empire, for I know there were (the book mentions Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Middle East). But to say that they would have made a distinction between black and white seems to be St. John adding a modern problem to the first century context.

The second problem that I saw in this book deals with what seemed to be a hymn that was sung. While in Ephesus, there is a time when some of the characters seem to quote 2 Timothy 2:11-13. Now I am not sure if this was a common saying prior to the writing of 2 Timothy or not. If it was, then my argument falls apart, and this scene was completely appropriate. However, if this was not a common saying or hymn, then it would appear as if St. John mixed up some of her events. 2 Timothy is Paul’s final letter, written at the end of his life. At this point in St. John’s story, Paul is still in Ephesus, having not been to Rome yet. That being the case, it would be impossible for the people to have knowledge of this saying unless it was already a common saying or hymn of the day.

I want to say that this is a common saying because other than this one instance, I did not notice any other mistakes in the timeline (as far as I know). She seemed to be quite particular in the details she chose to include within her story. Therefore, it is hard for me to imagine that she would miss such an obvious mistake. However, if she did make such a mistake, then this is one of those minor faults that I found in the book, one of the only faults.

So after reading and thinking about this book, I have been encouraged to pay closer attention to what I read in Scripture. So many times we miss the details of the passage, rushing through just to say that we have read it. We fail to read it carefully and thus miss out on what the passage might be teaching us. We have also forgotten that the Bible is filled with true stories. Too many times we forget this fact and it hinders our study as well. Now I am not saying that we should just view Scripture as a story, for that would be going to the other extreme. But we must not forget this fact, and we must find a balance between reading the Scripture for what it means today and what it meant when it was written. The historical background of a passage can sometimes be helpful. This simple children’s story has encouraged me to make sure that I pay close attention to what I read in the future.


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Twice Freed - Part 1

I read this book in my Pauline Epistles course, and it is the story of Onesimus from the book of Philemon. I wrote a five page book report on the paper, and this is the first half of that paper. I have left off in the middle of the report, so tune in later this week for the rest of the paper.

Patricia St. John’s historical fiction book, Twice Freed tells the story of Philemon’s slave Onesimus. In the Bible, the book of Philemon is only twenty-five verses long, but St. John extends the story into over two hundred pages. When thinking of books of this nature, the question has to be raised as to whether it is adequate or appropriate to extend the biblical text in such lengths. The biggest problem is that there is no way that anyone today knows exactly what happened during the first century. Therefore, when someone attempts to write a book such as this, readers have to remember that the majority of the book is purely speculation and really has no relation to the biblical text. That is not to say that these books are heretical or false, it is just to say that Scripture is limited as to the historical background in most of the New Testament letters, so all the details are purely left to interpretation and imagination. However, with all of these “problems” facing St. John in this book, she conquers them quite well.

Over all, I feel like Twice Freed is a well written story. When thinking about how fiction books are written, I tend to want them to be exciting, with a good plot, and not one that drags on and on. If the book does not grab my attention at the beginning, or if the suspense level decreases half way through the book, I will struggle the rest of the way through. At times, I might not even finish the book. Thankfully, Twice Freed is not this type of a book. The book begins in an exciting fashion, and I think that is partly due to the fact that I was curious as to how St. John was planning on interpreting the story of Philemon. But the book did not lose its sense of excitement. Most of this is because the book is targeted to a much younger audience, and if the book does not remain exciting and interesting then kids would refuse to continue reading the story.

Twice Freed is not the first book of this type that I have read. Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins have also taken a stab at writing historical fiction. They are currently in the middle of a series that looks at the lives of the four writers of the Gospels. I have read the first two books in this series, dealing with John and John Mark. It was actually interesting to see some of the same ideas and speculations come up in Twice Freed when Onesimus was speaking with John Mark during the end of the book. LaHaye and Jenkins center John Mark’s story around that of Peter and show how John Mark was present during Jesus’ ministry. They also focus in on how John Mark loved being with his mother, which according to them, might be one of the reasons as to why John Mark left Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey. Just like LaHaye and Jenkins, St. John takes a similar approach in interpreting the life of John Mark.

But in some ways, St. John’s task was much greater. Whereas LaHaye and Jenkins have chapters and chapters of information to build off of (the Gospels and Acts), St. John only has twenty-five verses. She really has to be creative in developing a storyline that will fit the few details that are mentioned in the book of Philemon. But again, I do feel that she accomplishes this task. The biggest aid to anyone who attempts to write a historical fiction book based off of the Bible is the fact that Luke wrote the book of Acts. Acts is the only book of history in the New Testament, and it helps fill in some of the gaps that Paul’s letters leave out. It helps put the life of Paul in perspective and has even helped many scholars take a stab at ordering the letters of Paul chronologically. Knowing this suggested order of letters and how they correlate with the events recorded in Acts (primarily Paul’s trips), writers such as St. John can build off of a basic framework already in place.

One of the greatest benefits of writing or reading one of these books comes in this reorganization of Paul’s letters. Many times I feel like we decide that we are going to read through one of Paul’s letters and we neglect to think about the context in which it was written. True, we can still gain much insight and find applications for our lives today by just reading the letter. However, if we know the reason why Paul wrote the letter in the first place, then our reading and understanding will only be enhanced. Too many times we forget that the New Testament was real. These were real people that Paul wrote to who had real problems that needed to be dealt with. Instead of viewing it like a story, we tend to see it as an instruction manual. We in essence have lost our sense of imagination. St. John takes hold of that imagination and ponders about what life might have actually been like for the Apostles and the early Christians.

I really appreciated the wide use of cities and characters that St. John included within the story. At the beginning, when it was primarily Philemon, his family, and Onesimus mentioned, I began to think that this story was going to really be stretched only focusing on them in their town. I was pleased to see that St. John included other cities and characters to help tie the story into other letters of Paul. The first big instance in which she does this is when Philemon travels to Ephesus (where he is converted). Now although this is purely speculation (as is much of the book), I felt it was appropriate for St. John to connect Philemon with Paul directly as she did in this scene. Philemon speaks directly with Paul and eventually becomes one of his students. Therefore, it is absolutely appropriate for Paul to directly write to Philemon at the end of the story.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

9. The Angel of the Lord - Bibliography


Aquinas, St. Thomas. Summa Theologica: Volume I. New York: Benziger Bros., 1948.

Augustine. Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Augustine On the Holy Trinity Doctrinal Treatises. Edited by Philip Schaff. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1994.

Enns, Peter. Exodus: The NIV Application Commentary. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2000.

Erickson, Millard J. God in Three Persons: A Contemporary Interpretation of the Trinity. Grand Rapids: Barker Books, 1995.

Eusebius, Church History, in Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Volume I, ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace. Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Company, 1980. http://www.n (accessed October 17, 2009).

Howard, David M., Jr. Joshua: The New American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1998.

Ireaneus, Against Heresies. Ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson. Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1867. (accessed October 17, 2009).

Lee, Francis Nigel. “More Than One Angel? – alias Who Is ‘The Angel of the Lord’?” http://w (accessed October 17, 2009).

Luther, Martin. Luther’s Works: Lectures on Genesis Chapters 15-20. Edited by Jaroslav Pelikan. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1961.

––––– Luther’s Works: Lectures on Genesis Chapters 21-25. Edited by Jaroslav Pelikan. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1964.

Matthews, Kenneth A. Genesis 11:27-50:26: The New American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2005.

Tertullian, Against Marcion, in Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume 3, ed. Philip Schaff. Grand Rapids: WM.B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1976. 30.htm#TopOfPage (accessed October 17, 2009).

Younger, K. Lawson, Jr. Judges/Ruth: The NIV Application Commentary. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002.

That is the end of my Doctrine of God paper. As I continue to turn in papers this semester and finish my textbooks, I will continue to post my thoughts. Stay tuned.


8. The Angel of The Lord - Conclusion


After looking at many of the options and views that have been given over the last two thousand years, what is the answer to this hard question? Should one of the three options listed at the beginning of this discussion be considered, and if so, which one? In some ways, all of the options seem to offer some truth. For instance, option one suggests that the angel is simply an angel sent for a specific purpose. In many ways this is true, for many have concluded that the angel can be viewed much like the prophets of the Old Testament who delivered God’s messages to His people.

Yet there also seems to be an indication that the angel is in some way connected to the Lord. So is it like option two where God directly speaks to his children, such as Abraham, Moses, or Joshua? Again, this option seems possible as well. There are many instances where Scripture is quite ambiguous as to who is speaking, stating that the angel appears and yet the Lord speaks. But there are also instances where Scripture does not call the men angels or God, such as Genesis 18. In this instance, Scripture states that three men appeared to Abraham. So could these instances be God revealing Himself to man? Although this option does seem possible, Scripture also speaks on how God does not allow man to see His face. He tells Moses that he cannot see His face and live and allows Moses to only see His back. If this instance with Abraham truly is God in human form, then it would have to be an instance such as Christ appearing to people during His time on the earth, which leads to option three.

Maybe these instances are actually a pre-incarnation of Christ, or at least a foreshadowing of what Christ will be like. Enns and Howard made a good argument for the latter. Now that the New Testament has been revealed, the Old Testament can be read in light of the New Testament. So whereas these passages would have not made sense to Old Testament and early New Testament believers, people today can read these stories in light of the revelation of Christ. Maybe these almost pre-incarnate instances were God’s way of preparing the world for the coming of His Son.

Ultimately, it does not appear as if any of these three options are adequate in and of themselves. Therefore, here is a fourth option and hopefully an answer to this discussion from Millard Erickson: “We are drawn to the conclusion that in some way, not really explicated in Scripture, the angel of the Lord is both the Lord and not the Lord.” It does not appear as if any one thinker developed an adequate explanation as to the identification of the angel of the Lord. Instead, they all did their part to further the discussion, investigate the options, and try to make sense of all of these passages. The problem, as previously noted, is that many of these passages are drastically different. Some tend to be more ambiguous while others are clearer. Some begin with the appearance of the angel of the Lord while others, such as Genesis 18, do not even mention the presence of angels. And finally, there are even distinctions between the angel of the Lord passages and passages in which a normal angel appears.

Therefore, it seems as if Enns, Howard, and Erickson may have developed the best answer. At times, Scripture intends for readers to see the angel as the Lord, especially in the passages when it seems to foreshadow Christ. But this reading is only possible in light of the New Testament. Therefore, in some real sense, these passages are supposed to be read verbatim. Yet God also spoke through His angels to deliver specific messages to His children, and at these times it was not God physically present on earth. So who is the angel of the Lord? It appears as if that answer is still up for debate. There is not one solitary answer that scholars agree on. Yet Erickson’s quote seems to sum it up best. The angel of the Lord can most definitely be viewed as the Lord, but only in certain passages. At other times, the passage must be read as is, without any other presuppositions or ideas being added to it. Consider this final point. All of these passages are different, and they cannot all be lumped into one main group. Instead, they must each be considered separately. There are times when the angel of the Lord appears to be only a messenger. But there are other times when Scripture intends to somehow connect the angel of the Lord with God or Christ. If all of these passages are placed into one large group, then there will be confusion, but when these distinctions are made, it becomes clear that each passage is different, and that the identity of the angel of the Lord depends on the passage.


Monday, November 23, 2009

7. The Angel of the Lord - Howard and Younger

A Modern Look 2

Enns made several good suggestions, and in many ways David M. Howard agrees. Looking at
Joshua 5:13-15, Howard offers his take on the angel of the Lord. In one sense, Howard wants to suggest that these passages cannot be viewed as there being an ordinary angel. In some way, God is present in these instances. For instance, as already seen, both Moses and Joshua are told they are standing on holy ground in Exodus 3 and Joshua 5 respectively, and they appear to worship the Lord in these instances. At the same time, in Exodus 23:21, it appears as if the angel is given the authority to forgive sins. However, there are also times in which there are clear distinctions made between the angel and God. In Exodus 33:2-3, God sends the angel ahead with the Israelites while He stays behind. Thinking on these passages, it appears as if Howard and Enns are making a similar argument. God is present with the angel of the Lord in that He speaks through the angel, using the angel as one of His messengers. But once again, that does not necessarily mean that the angel should be equated with the Lord.

Finally, Howard looks at the possibility of the angel being a representation of the pre-incarnate Christ. He agrees that there are several instances in the Old Testament where it seems appropriate to assume that a pre-incarnate Christ is present, but he cannot get past the fact that the New Testament does not make any such claim. In fact Scripture is particularly silent as to the real identification of this angel. There is not really a clear cut answer. Howard makes one final conclusion, much like Enns, believing that the angel of the Lord might be a type of typology of Christ. This statement once again suggests that there are connections between the angel and the Lord, but there may not be a one-to-one parallel between the two.

In one final example, K. Lawson Younger looks at Judges 13, when an angel appears to the parents of Samson. Younger points out that in this passage it is not a question as to the identity of an angel, for Scripture plainly states that this is an angel or messenger of the Lord. This example shows one last group of passages that must be considered. Although there are many instances within Scripture that are ambiguous, and there is much debate as to who the angel of the Lord might be, there are instances in which the angel is clearly an angel. In instances such as these, the reader is not expected to draw out any connections to the Lord or think in terms of Christology. So it is important that these other passages are not confused with the angel of the Lord passages. They are a case unto themselves.

We have almost made it to the end. Tomorrow I will post the conclusion of this paper, along with the Bibliography so that you can see how I came to my conclusion on this difficult topic...


Sunday, November 22, 2009

6. The Angel of the Lord - Matthews and Enns

A Modern Look

Beginning with Genesis 16:7, Kenneth Matthews looks into the identity of the angel, offering several explanations. In this passage, he considers the fact that the text clearly states that the Lord speaks to Hagar on several occasions. Although it is the angel who appears to Hagar, the Lord Himself is said to speak to her. For this reason, Matthews suggests that there times, such as this passage, when the angel of the Lord must be equated with the Lord. In this instance, Matthews appears to be agreeing with Eusebius, who took the text for what it explicitly said. But Matthews also believes that there is a certain ambiguity in this passage. Although this instance appears to suggest that the Lord appeared to Hagar, other such passages are not as clear.

In Genesis 18-19, three men appear to Abraham, and Matthews believes that one of these must be God while the other two are angels, the angels who eventually go to destroy Sodom. Furthermore, he suggests that these three men represent a theophany. Once more, Matthews connects the angels and messengers of God to the Lord. This suggestion lines up with Luther’s thoughts on the topic. He too suggested that these three men were a representation of the Trinity, and just as Luther tended to lump these passages into two categories, Matthews might be seeing a distinction in these passages as well.

He moves on to Genesis 31, once more finding an ambiguous passage. Like Genesis 16:7, specifics are not stated. This passage begins in the same way by stating that it was the angel of the Lord that appeared to Jacob. However, as the passage progresses, it once again appears as if it is the Lord who is speaking and wrestling with Jacob. Matthews clearly states that although it is not explicitly stated, he believes that this must be God (suggesting another theophany). There are clearly some strong parallels in Genesis 16:7 and Genesis 31, and both passages tend to be unclear on the true identity of the angel. The question for Matthews is the same as it was for Eusebius. Is it adequate to assume the Lord’s identity solely on the fact that the text at times states that “the Lord says”? Or should Augustine’s suggestion that the angels could be viewed in the same light as the prophets who delivered God’s messages be considered?

Clearly Matthews’s research further complicates the discussion, yet he did make a few new suggestions, even tying in Eusebius and Luther into his argument. His idea that some of these instances could be a theophany is not unique to him. But as already seen, not everyone believes that these passages should be viewed as representations of God on earth. One such man of the modern era is Peter Enns. By tying his discussion into Exodus 3, he makes a claim that the angel of the Lord should not be equated with the Lord.

Enns looks at the meaning of the Hebrew word for angel, stating that it can also mean “messenger.” If that be the case, then these angels could also be viewed as a simple messenger sent from God down to earth to deliver a message. Much like Augustine, Enns believes that although these angels appear to be closely identified with the Lord, they should not be equated with Him. Therefore, he would deny the claims made by Matthews and suggest that just because the passage states that the Lord is speaking does not mean that the Lord is physically present in the form of an angel. In fact, in the Ancient Near East culture, lords and masters commonly sent messengers to speak for them. In the same way, the Lord could have sent His angels only for the sake of delivering a message. So when they spoke the Lord’s commands, they were speaking in a way very similar to that of the prophets.

But this terminology debate is not the only reason Enns gives for suggesting that the angel of the Lord should not be viewed as the Lord Himself. He also discusses the idea as to whether the angel is a representation of the pre-incarnate Christ. As already seen, many scholars have found it easy to equate the angel of the Lord with God. But there were also some who suggested that the angel of the Lord was actually an Old Testament example of Christ, much like the Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego story. But Enns denies this possibility stating that the angel of the Lord is actually a foreshadowing of Christ in the same ways that “Moses, the priesthood, and the sacrificial system” are. He agrees that a pre-incarnate Christ idea is a good theological point, but he is hesitant to suggest that Christ actually appeared in bodily form prior to His incarnation. Therefore, he concludes with the suggestion that it might all be foreshadowing.

Enns takes a huge step in understanding the angel of the Lord. He does not flat out deny the possibility that God cannot somehow be equated with the angel of the Lord, but he does want to make a distinction between the two. Yes, Scripture is ambiguous when it introduces the angel of the Lord and later suggests that it is God who is speaking, but Enns makes a good point in saying that these passages can be viewed in light of God speaking through the angel or messenger. Furthermore, he preserves the idea that in some sense these instances could point to Christ. Again, he is hesitant to equate the two directly, but he does suggest the possibility of foreshadowing.

Sources used in this section of the paper consist of commentaries written by Matthews and Enns. Next, we will look at the final two modern figures: Howard and Younger...


Saturday, November 21, 2009

5. The Angel of the Lord - Luther

A Historical Approach 4

To end this historical look on the angel of the Lord, consider Martin Luther, one of the Reformers. Skipping ahead to the sixteenth century, Luther began a new era that has become known today as the Reformation. During this time he wrote a series of lectures on the book of Genesis and other passages. In his lectures on Genesis, Luther deals with the passages that refer to the angel of the Lord, but he neglects to look at some of the other passages scattered throughout the Old Testament. He also takes a different approach to these passages in that he does not speak of Moses or Joshua’s encounters and even separates the passages in Genesis into two separate categories.

He begins with Hagar’s encounter with the angel of the Lord prefacing his discussion with the idea that the angels were sent to earth as guardians for God. They were sent to guard Eden, protect Lot in Sodom, encourage the disciples at Jesus’ ascension, and in this case, protect Hagar in her present dilemma. In this explanation, Luther lumps together the passages that specifically mention the angel of the Lord with those that show how one or more angels were sent to deliver messages or protect God’s people. It seems as if he does not feel comfortable with making any distinctions between the different instances in which angels appear. Furthermore, he disagrees with Hilary who “thinks it was God Himself who spoke with Hagar” in Genesis 16:7-9. Instead, Luther believes that there are times in which the “angel had assumed the appearance of a human being.” He then looks at Genesis 21:17 and Genesis 22:11, where he once more suggests that God does not appear to Hagar and Abraham. In these instances, Luther sides more with Augustine who believed that the angels should not be equated with the Lord.

However, Luther also seems to believe that there were times in which God or Christ was present in physical form on the earth prior to the Incarnation. In his discussion on Genesis 18, Luther makes it clear that the three men who appeared were the Lord. In fact, he interprets Abraham and Sarah’s actions as being oblivious to the fact that they are in the presence of the Lord. At first, Abraham accepts these men as he would accept any visitors. When Sarah hears that she is to bear a son, she laughs in unbelief. Luther suggests that Sarah may have only considered these men to be messengers of God rather than God Himself. But in the end, Abraham does appear to worship these three men, an act intended for someone of divinity. From this encounter, it appears as if these three men can be viewed as a representation of the Trinity.

Now although Luther does not look to any of the other angel of the Lord passages for support, he does put forward two interesting cases. In one sense, he adamantly states that anytime the angel of the Lord is said to appear, the passage should be taken literally. The angel of the Lord is just that, an angel sent from the Lord, not the Lord Himself. However, in the vaguer situations, such as the three men who appear to Abraham, it may be possible that these types of passages can be viewed as the Lord appearing in physical form. Even though Luther does not look at Exodus 3 or Joshua 5, it appears as if he would classify these passages with Genesis 18. Since they explicitly state that the Lord appeared to Moses and Joshua respectively, and since both Moses and Joshua end up worshipping the Lord, these passages hold some strong parallels to Genesis 18. Therefore, Luther’s view seems to be split into two distinct types. He would suggest that the angel of the Lord passages should not be grouped with Genesis 18 and other passages of the like. Instead, there are two distinct groups: one where God sends His angels with a message, the other where God delivers the message Himself.

After taking this historical approach in looking at the angel of the Lord, what is the conclusion? As previously noted, confusion still abounds. The church fathers and scholars of the last two thousand years do not give a definitive answer to this difficult topic. Their opinions have shifted and changed. Therefore, consider some of the ideas presented in the last few years.

In the next post, we will begin looking at a more modern look to see what ideas they have presented in answering this question...


Friday, November 20, 2009

4. The Angel of the Lord - Augustine and Aquinas

A Historical Approach 3

During the fourth century, Augustine wrote On the Holy Trinity and devoted part of this work to the discussion of the angel of the Lord. Unlike those who had come before him, Augustine was not as quick to say that the angel of the Lord should be viewed as being God in bodily form, or even suggesting that the angel is Christ. He did, however, look at many of the same passages that the others had already dealt with. Yet one of the major differences in his view and the others is his reference to the prophets. Augustine is the first of these four to say that it is possible that God spoke through this angel in a similar fashion as to when he spoke through His prophets. In fact, Augustine is somewhat hesitant to claim that the angel is indeed the Lord God Himself. He comments on Stephen’s record of God speaking to Abraham, but he is also careful at claiming that God appeared directly to Abraham. As he moves on to Exodus 3, a slight problem rises in his argument as he cannot get away from the fact that it appears as if the angel and the Lord are one in the same as they speak with Moses. So which side is Augustine taking? Does he side with thinkers such as Ireaneus, Tertullian, and Eusebius, or is he developing a new line of thought? It appears as if Augustine is taking this discussion in a new direction, ready to offer a new opinion on the topic.

So he looks at Genesis 18, Abraham’s meeting with the three men. This passage serves as one of the key texts for those who claim that God appeared in the form of an angel to speak with His children. They latch onto this passage, claiming that these three men are an early look at the Trinity. Yet Augustine believes that these men had to be angels (although the text does not make this claim). He has already said that he does not believe that God appears to His children to where they could see Him with their eyes. Therefore, he cannot turn around and claim that these three men are an example of God in three physical persons, for that would be God directly revealing Himself to Abraham. God does not allow Moses to see His face in Exodus, so why would He allow Abraham to in this passage? By claiming that these are angels, Augustine sets up his discussion on Genesis 22. He is fine with stating that God sends angels to deliver His messages, and he is fine with saying that it is not God Himself who makes the appearance. So when Abraham is in the process of sacrificing his son, Isaac, Augustine believes that this situation is an instance where God speaks His message through a messenger or an angel. So ultimately, Augustine does not really agree with the opinions of those before him. In one sense, he wants to be able to say that the angel of the Lord is God, but he has trouble accepting the fact that God physically revealed Himself to His children. Therefore, Augustine concludes by comparing the angel of the Lord to the prophets. This angel is simply a messenger of the Lord (at a time before the prophets) who was sent to deliver a specific message to specific people in a specific time.

For the first time it appears as if the conversation is beginning to shift. For a few centuries it was commonly accepted that God appeared to His children, at times in the form of an angel. However, with Augustine’s research a new idea was presented. Maybe these passages should no longer be viewed as a physical representation of God on earth. Instead, maybe these angels and men are nothing more than an early prophet, sent by God to deliver a message. The problem though is that neither option adequately deals with all the passages mentioned at once. Whereas some passages such as Exodus 3 appear to make it clear that God appears in the form of an angel or that the angel should be viewed as God Himself, other passages question this assumption when the Lord Himself is not even mentioned.

Several centuries later, Aquinas took up this discussion, building off of some of Augustine’s claims. There is quite a large time gap between Augustine and Aquinas spanning almost one thousand years. But there was not much change in the discussion over these one thousand years. In Summa Theologica, Aquinas comments on some of the ideas that had appeared since Augustine. For instance, it appears as if there were some thinkers who claimed that the angels did not appear in bodily form, the same argument that Tertullian dealt with in reaction to Marcion. In many ways, Aquinas’ argument mirrors that of Tertullian. Like Tertullian, Aquinas did not specifically deal with the passages that mentioned the angel of the Lord. Instead, his goal was to prove that the angels could in fact appear in physical form.

To do so, Aquinas looked at Genesis 19. His claim is that if an angel intends to appear to one specific person in some spiritual or imaginary sense, then only that one person would see him. However, in Genesis 19, Abraham, along with Lot and those in Sodom, saw the angels. Now Aquinas is not arguing that angels exist only in bodies. Instead, he suggests that at specific times such as these, the angels assumed bodies to deliver the message to those on earth. The problem is that Aquinas does not deal with the angel of the Lord passages. Whereas Tertullian extends his proof about the angel’s physical appearance into a discussion on the identity of the angel of the Lord, Aquinas basically ends his discussion.

Yet there is one last point that Aquinas makes. He connects the angels, who deliver the word of God, to the word of God. He compares the idea of the angels taking on a bodily form to the idea that God’s word would one day come in bodily form, in Jesus. In this closing statement it appears as if Aquinas agrees with Augustine, in that the angels should be seen more like a prophet rather than a human manifestation of God. Now Aquinas does not explicitly state this, so this all purely speculation, but since he claims that it is the word that comes in the bodily form of Jesus and not the angels, it does not appear as if he wants to make the connection between the angel of the Lord and God. Instead, it seems as if the angel is God’s messenger, delivering His truths. God and Jesus, then, are completely separate from the angel, Jesus being the word made flesh.

Once more, all quotes and ideas came directly from the works of Augustine and Aquinas. The next post will finish out this historical approach as we look at Martin Luther...


Thursday, November 19, 2009

3. The Angel of the Lord - Eusebius

A Historical Approach 2

However, that means that as the third century began this topic had not yet been adequately dealt with. The option that Jesus was indeed connected with these physical appearances of men and angels was prominent, and appears to be the most prominent view held, but there was no further discussion on the issue. During the third century, Eusebius wrote his work entitled Church History and dealt with this issue in one section of his work. Unlike Ireaneus and Tertullian who did not provide enough discussion or evidence to support their claims, Eusebius looked into several passages as he struggled with the angel’s identity.

Beginning with Abraham’s encounter with God in Genesis 18, Eusebius plainly states that “the Lord God…appeared as a common man to Abraham while he was sitting at the oak of Mamre.” But Eusebius did not end his discussion here. Instead, he looked at Abraham’s reaction to this angel/man throughout the rest of the chapter. Genesis 18 shows Abraham worshipping and serving this being, and in verse twenty-five, Abraham clearly addresses this being as “Lord.” Furthermore, Eusebius looks at Moses’ description of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. At the beginning of chapter nineteen, Moses states that two angels appeared at Sodom, but later in the chapter it claims that the Lord is the one who destroyed the city. Eusebius’ claim here is that since the text clearly states that it was the Lord, then the beings who first appeared in Sodom were the Lord as well. Next he looks at Jacob’s encounter with God in Genesis 32, once again looking at the actual words that Moses used to describe the scene. The text specifically calls this being with whom Jacob wrestles, God. So once again, Eusebius takes this direct identification as proof as to the identity of the man who appeared to Jacob.

Eusebius provides a few more examples, but first there may be some problems with Eusebius’ train of thought up to this point. Although Eusebius has made some ground from the arguments of Irenaeus and Tertullian, he may be taking some shortcuts as well. It is true that one should completely depend on the actual text of Scripture, taking it as utter truth and not doubting what it has to say. However, there are many times in Scripture where God speaks through others, such as the prophets, an argument that Augustine would deal with later. During these times, God speaks through the prophets and the text clearly states that the message is spoken by God or that God is the one who takes certain actions against His people. Although the prophets speak these words that are from God, they themselves are not the Lord, and no one makes the claim that men like Isaiah, Elijah, or Daniel are the Lord. Yet that seems to be what Eusebius is doing with the Genesis 19 and Genesis 32. Since the text claims that God is speaking or that God is acting in a certain way, he automatically assumes that this means that the angels mentioned earlier in each passage must be directly equated with the Lord. But could not these angels be delivering a message in a similar manner to the prophets later on in the Bible? Maybe Eusebius too is making too big of a jump with his claims. But these are not the only examples given by Eusebius.

He continues by looking at Exodus 3. Moses encounters the angel of the Lord in the burning bush, according to verse two. Yet as the passage progresses, the text identifies the man in the bush as God Himself. Eusebius takes this verse literally, stating that God is the one who is speaking with Moses, thus making a connection between God and the angel of this passage. He concludes his argument by looking at Joshua 5 where Joshua meets the commander of the Lord’s army. Eusebius focuses in on the parallels between Moses’ encounter at the bush with Joshua’s encounter at Jericho. Thus, Eusebius claims that this man to whom Joshua speaks can also be identified as the Lord. These two passages strengthen Eusebius’ argument. Unlike the Genesis passages, Exodus 3 actually identifies the being as the angel of the Lord, and this is the first time in which Eusebius deals with a passage that explicitly identifies the man as an angel. Furthermore, Eusebius uses his previous method of depending solely on the text in identifying the being. Since Exodus 3 later states that God is the one speaking to Moses, Eusebius draws the connection between the angel at the beginning of the passage with God. Then, by using Joshua 5 as a parallel, he concludes that God is the one speaking with Joshua as well. Although Eusebius does not explicitly parallel the “standing on holy ground” phrases, this phrase also seems to support his argument. Why would Moses and Joshua worship an angelic being in this manner? The only one who deserves worship is the Lord.

Although Eusebius initially appears to be taking a shortcut in his argument, he ends up making a more solid claim than that of Ireaneus or Tertullian. He searches Scripture for various examples and attempts to bridge some connections. He agrees with these two previous men in that the angel of the Lord can many times be identified as the Lord Himself, and he greatly appreciates Scripture, taking it for what it says. But this is still only one side of the argument. Others would soon arise, and Augustine would be the next one to offer his opinion on this controversial topic.

Sources for this post came directly from the works of Eusebius. Augustine is next, as well as Aquinas...


Wednesday, November 18, 2009

2. The Angel of the Lord - Irenaeus and Tertullian

A Historical Approach

First, consider Irenaeus and his work Against Heresies. In the second century, Irenaeus proposed that the angel of the Lord passages referred directly to Jesus. By making connections between the Old Testament and the New Testament, Irenaeus believed that Jesus Himself was the one speaking with the Patriarchs and other Old Testament figures. He even claims that when Jesus states in John 5:39-40 that Moses spoke of Him in his writings, that this claim proves that these encounters link Jesus to the angel of the Lord. However, that does not appear to be the connection that Jesus is trying to make in John 5. Jesus does say that Moses wrote of Him in the Pentateuch, but Jesus does not explicitly connect the angel of the Lord passages with Himself. Although this does not discount the fact that the passages could be speaking of Jesus, Jesus does not come right out and make that claim. So Irenaeus appears to be stretching the words of Jesus in these two verses to fit his beliefs about the angel of the Lord.

Although it appears as if Irenaeus may be trying too hard to match his beliefs with what is presented in Scripture, both the New and the Old Testaments, he does make an argument that several other men have made throughout the centuries. For example, Irenaeus specifically targets the passages that picture the angel or the Lord in physical form. He speaks of the encounter between the three men and Abraham in Genesis 18, Jacob’s encounter with God in Genesis 31, and Moses’ time at the burning bush, claiming that these instances prove that the Son of God was present in Old Testament stories. But yet again, his argument may have a few holes. It does appear to be quite evident that the Lord directly spoke to these men, whether in some type of physical form or through a bush. And although this statement could be argued, many people would agree that his viewpoint is a very good option. However, do these three instances give ample evidence to support the passages where it plainly states that an angel of the Lord appeared? The dilemma lies within his take on other such passages, and Irenaeus does not go into any further explanation.

Irenaeus makes a valid claim when he states that it appears as if the Son of God is present within the Old Testament. Many would agree, even thinking of the encounter that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had in the fiery furnace when a fourth man that looked as if he might be the Son of God appeared. However, it does not seem as if Irenaeus provides enough evidence to support his claims. Instead, he quotes Jesus from only two verses and tries to apply Jesus’ broad statement to his belief system. When he develops a fairly solid argument from a few passages, he attempts to apply that argument to other similar passages, not considering the staggering differences. Irenaeus made a good start in the second century on attempting to bridge the connection between the angel of the Lord passages and the New Testament, but he was unable to fully develop his argument.

Therefore, other writers must be considered. Around the same time that Irenaeus was investigating and recording his thoughts, Tertullian published his own thoughts in his work Against Marcion. The beginning of his argument deals with the discussion as to whether the angels that appeared on earth were truly in physical flesh, like a human. Apparently, Marcion, to whom this work was directed, denied the fact that an angel could appear in physical form. Tertullian disagreed with this possibility, asking why this manifestation could not be possible. So why would this discussion be important for Tertullian in reference to the angel of the Lord passages? Like Irenaeus, Tertullian believed that at least one of the three men who appeared to Abraham was Christ. Yet it also seems as if Tertullian is suggesting that these men are also angels. So if Tertullian wants to connect Christ to the angels, then it is important for him to suggest that these men are also physical beings. Christ, the Son, came in human form, and with the connection that Tertullian is making between Christ and the angels, it is important for him to believe that the angels can appear in human form as well.

It appears as if Tertullian attempts to further the argument for Christ’s connection to the angel of the Lord, but much like Irenaeus, he might fall short as well. Is it adequate to only offer one example from Scripture as proof for this claim? Although Tertullian seems to justify his argument on the angels actually appearing in physical, human form, he does not offer enough support to suggest that Christ can actually be considered to be the angel of the Lord. Basically, Tertullian only states his opinion. He does not search the Scriptures for more examples and neglects to look at the other instances that occur even in the book of Genesis. As other scholars later suggest, some passages are more controversial than the one found in Genesis 18, and these passages cause many to believe that one cannot connect Christ to this angel of the Lord. However, to the defense of Tertullian, it does not appear as if this was the point of his argument against Marcion. His main objective was to prove that Marcion was wrong in believing that angels could not appear in physical form on earth, and Tertullian appears to succeed in this argument. So if it was not even Tertullian’s goal to prove the connection between Christ and the angel, then it would be appropriate to accept his belief as his opinion and not hold him to further explanation.

Next we will look at Eusebius's ideas as he begins to take the conversation in a different direction...

Also note that I still cannot get the sources into blogger, but all quotes came directly from their personal works, and that is the way it will be for all the men that I look at in this paper.


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

1. The Angel of the Lord - Introduction

I recently wrote and presented this paper on the Angel of the Lord. For some reason, I am no longer able to copy and paste my papers into blogger like I was able to a few months ago, so I am having to go about this in a different manner. Therefore, I will not have my footnotes and sources for this paper. However, once I finish uploading this paper to the blog, I will publish all of my sources into a separate post. Sorry for the inconvenience. Here is the paper:

Throughout the history of the church, Christians have struggled with the doctrine of God. Ranging from discussions on the character of God Himself to discussions on how God should be viewed as a Trinity, Christians have continued to debate how the God of the Bible should be viewed. Many of these discussions have been solved, giving Christians some solid ground to unite around. For instance, if a person does not accept the doctrine of the Trinity today, then they are no longer considered to be part of the Christian faith, for that is one of the central doctrines of Christianity. However, there are still some discussions in the world of Christianity that have not been settled, areas where people continue to debate by searching the Scriptures and seeing what the church fathers have come up with over the last two thousand years. One such instance deals with the passages that speak of “the angel of the Lord.”

Who is this mysterious being that speaks to the Patriarchs in the opening books of the
Bible? Ultimately there seem to be three options: “(1) It is simply an angel with a special commission. (2) It may be a momentary descent of God himself into visibility. (3) It may be the Logos himself (Christ) ‘a kind of temporary preincarnation of the second person of the Trinity.’” Over the last two thousand years, all three of these views have been considered and held by many of the church fathers, and like many debatable topics in the Church, there have been trends of thought where one of the options were more prevalent than others at certain times in history. So the question that remains is who was right? Have scholars of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries developed a final answer? After looking through several commentaries on these various passages, it seems as if there is still much confusion as to the true identification of the angel, but significant ground has been covered.

So what does Scripture itself say about the angel? The final word on this difficult doctrine should not lie on the shoulders of these great men of God but on the word of God. Therefore, it is important to look at the passages in which the angel of the Lord appears and see if Scripture can provide a definitive answer of this staggering question. Throughout the Old Testament, God sends the angel of the Lord to deliver messages to many of the Patriarchs. One of the first instances of his appearance is found in Genesis 16:7 where he promises Hagar that she will bear a son to Abraham. In chapter eighteen, the text states that the Lord appears to Abraham, but then it mentions that there are three men with Abraham. Although these men are not specifically called angels, it shows some messenger of the Lord (maybe even the Lord Himself) in a physical body speaking with Abraham, which has caused scholars to wonder if these instances with the angel could be paralleled to this passage. In chapter nineteen, two angels appear in Sodom to destroy the city, and once again the question arises as to their connection with God. Furthermore, some wonder if these might be the other two men that had appeared to Abraham in chapter eighteen. Later, in chapter twenty-two, an angel once again appears to Abraham, this time to prevent him from sacrificing Isaac. Finally, in chapter thirty-one, an angel appears to Jacob in a dream but declares that he is the Lord. In these five passages alone, the dilemma is introduced, providing a basis for each of the three options listed above, causing one to wonder who this angel is and if he can be connected to God.

But the problem is only further complicated as Scripture continues. In Exodus 3, the identity of the being to whom Moses is speaking shifts mid-text. The text first claims that an angel of the Lord appeared to Moses, but a few verses later it states that it was the Lord who met with Moses at the bush. A similar instance occurs with Joshua in Joshua 5. Instead of an angel, the text identifies the man as the commander of the Lord, but the situation is very similar to the other appearances of the angel. Furthermore, the man tells Joshua that he is standing on holy ground, which could possibly mark this man as being divine. Finally, in Judges, there are several more instances when the angel of the Lord appears to God’s people. Judges 6 shows another shift where the passage begins with the angel speaking and ends with the Lord speaking, this time to Gideon. Yet Judges 13 introduces the angel of the Lord to be strictly an angel, such as when Manoah’s wife says that the man looked like a messenger of the Lord.

Although this listing of passages is not exhaustive, for there are other instances at which the angel of the Lord appears to God’s people, it encompasses a good selection of occurrences that must be dealt with. How should these passages be read? Can this angel be directly identified as God, or is it simply a messenger of the Lord? And finally, what have some of the church fathers and heroes of the faith had to say about such passages? Although it may not be wise to fully depend on the opinion of others, for Scripture is the basis of our faith, their studies and conclusions can prove to be valuable. Therefore it is important to consider what men like Irenaeus, Tertullian, Eusebius, Augustine, Aquinas, and Luther had to say about the angel of the Lord.

Stay tuned as we look next at what some historical figures said about these passages...