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UCGia Bible Insights Thursday, June 06 2024

Who was Jesus Christ?

To the Jews, there was no mistaking who Jesus claimed to be. He said He was the One the nation of Israel understood to be God. By Jesus making claim to the name "I AM," (John 8:58) He was saying that He was the God whom the Hebrews knew as YHWH. This name was considered so holy that a devout Jew would not pronounce it.

The four English letters YHWH are transliterated from a Hebrew word (Strong’s Hebrew #3068) for the name of God, which is sometimes written as JHVH or YHVH, but the most common is YHWH. This name occurs thousands of times in the writings of the Old Testament.

The Bible translators used the English word “LORD” (with the “-ORD” in smaller-sized capital letters) almost every time YHWH appears. The word “lord” in lowercase is used when references are made to a mere man, and is usually translated from other Hebrew words. In the Septuagint, the Hebrew letters “YHWH” were translated as the Greek word “Kurios.” Biblical scholars tell us that since Hebrew writing had no vowels, the correct pronunciation of this name has been lost.

Although God worked on a personal level with many in the Old Testament, it seems there were periods of time when the relationship was somewhat limited. At the time of Noah, only one man and his family were judged worthy to survive the flood. Many decades later, God was well known to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph and others, but when God first began to work with Moses about 400 years after Joseph, it was clear that initially he did not know God’s name or who God really was. Exodus 3:13-14 records Moses asking God, “‘When I come to the children of Israel and say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you,” and they say to me, “What is His name?” what shall I say to them?’ And God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM’.... And He said, ‘Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, “I AM has sent me to you.”

The name “I AM” is related to the personal name for God in the Old Testament. “‘I AM’ and the related YHWH are the names of God that infer absolute timeless self-existence. Although impossible to translate accurately and directly into English, YHWH conveys meanings of ‘The Eternal One,’ ‘The One Who Always Exists’ or: ‘The One Who Was, Is and Always Will Be’ (See our study guide Jesus Christ: The Real Story, p. 8).

Except perhaps for the book of Hebrews, the Gospel of John gives the most complete explanation in the New Testament about the divinity of Jesus Christ. John 1:1-3 and 14 clearly explain that the Word was God and dwelt with the Father until He later became the Messiah or Christ, meaning "Anointed One." As The New Bible Commentary: Revised explains about the opening passage of John's Gospel: "In the prologue the pre-existence and deity of Christ are expressed explicitly. The Logos [the Greek term rendered 'Word' here] was not only with God in the beginning, but was God…and it was this Logos who became flesh and is identified with Christ" (p. 928).

Jesus Christ clearly said no person had ever seen God the Father and nobody had heard His voice (John 5:37). The YHWH of the Old Testament who interacted with mankind was not God the Father, although God the Father was always involved and present in the Word (John 17:21). John 8:53 records the Jews asking Jesus,"Who do You make Yourself out to be?" They had no idea of the real identity of the One with whom they were speaking and, even today, few really understand the true origins of Jesus Christ.

In answer to their question Jesus patiently explained, "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad" (John 8:56). The patriarch Abraham lived around 2,000 years before the birth of Jesus, so Jesus was immediately challenged, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?" (John 8:57). Jesus then made the stunning claim: "Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM" (John 8:58), declaring His existence preceded that of Abraham. The reason the Jews wanted to stone Jesus was because He said He was the “I AM” (John 8:58), which the hearers related to YHWH and therefore considered his statement to be blasphemy.

Although John 1:18 tells us no man has ever seen God the Father, Jacob declared he saw God “face to face” (Genesis 32:30), and the God of Israel appeared to Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu and 70 of the elders when they went part way up mount Sinai (Exodus 24:9-10). God also allowed Moses to see His back, but not His face (Exodus 33:18-23). Obviously this was not the Father, but the Word (John 1:1-4) .The Father was not revealed to ancient Israel, but He was always there. Jesus said He would tell us about the Father (John 16:25).

In John 17:5, Jesus asked God the Father in prayer to “glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.” John also wrote that when Jesus was asked to reveal the Father, He didn’t hesitate to say if a person has seen Him, he has seen the Father (John 14:9). Putting all of this and many more biblical accounts together, it is clear that the Word that became Jesus Christ the man was the YHWH men knew in the Old Testament (John 1:1,14). God, the Father, made the worlds through Christ and created all things by Him (Ephesians 3:9; Colossians 1:16; John 1:3), and dealt with man through the agency of the preexistent Word, Christ.