Christ in the Old Testament (Part XIII)

Christ in the Old Testament, Theology, Worship

Christ in the OT 13 Conclusion


In this series, we have looked at how Jesus gives us his own key for interpreting the Bible. This key is to see him in all the Scripture. When a person does this, it is the key to life itself, for it opens the way by which we may come to him. We have seen many NT passages that explicitly teach that Jesus was in the OT. We have learned how prophecy, typology, and the law each point to him in their own unique ways. We have also seen how there are certain words and ideas that, sometimes, profoundly and mysteriously describe an actual person in the OT, a person who is present with his people, who walks among them, who fights for them, who delivers them, who covenants with them, but who had not yet come in the flesh. We have seen that he is the Word (here and here), the Angel, the Name, the Wisdom, The Son, the Glory, and the Arm of the LORD.

None of these ideas are original to us; all have been written about by scholars, in journals, books, Bible dictionaries, etc. to one degree or another. Also, it isn’t that in this series we are somehow saying that all prophecy is about Christ in the same way, or that there is no such thing as anthropomorphism in this list of words (sure there are, we can think of each of these in the more abstract senses too), etc. But rather that in some ways, Christ is related to all of these things. Not in every way, but in some ways. We are not presenting an either/or, but a both/and. We just happen to be talking about Christ at this time.

To conclude this thought, in an absolutely fascinating opening to a book-sermon, Hebrews begins by telling us how Christ is superior to angels. After writing most of these posts, I was flabbergasted to discover that we find all seven of these word-ideas being applied to Christ in the span of just five verses. “In these last days [God] has spoken to us by his Son” (Heb 1:2). “He is the radiance of the glory of God” (1:3). “He upholds the universe by the word of his power” (1:3). “He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (1:3). “Having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs” (1:4). “When the brings the firstborn[1] into the world, he says, ‘Let all God’s angels worship him” (1:6). If we add the first verse of the book, we can add the first three categories we talked about (prophecy, typology, law): “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets” (Heb 1:1). Whoever wrote this letter, “got it.” Of course he did! He was inspired by God himself. But he also interpreted the Scripture in the sense that, I believe, the original authors knew at least something about, for they knew the Person of Christ in the OT.

I hope that this series has shown that learning to see Christ in the OT is both a science and an art. It takes knowledge, desire, and practice. The more we do it, the better we should get. Nevertheless, it is not always easy to do this correctly, and many have made mistakes. In fact, all of us have. Some have seen Christ where he probably is not, by not using sound rules of interpretation, by wanting to see things that aren’t there, or by not understanding that there is more than one way to see Christ in the OT. But others—sadly many others—have failed to see him where he clearly is, often in many, many places where he is to be found in the OT, in places that I believe OT peoples would themselves have had at least an inkling of some kind of plurality in a kind of Godhead.

People often ask me about this. “Then who should try?” Well, we all “try,” no matter if we try to see him or don’t are to see him at all. I’ve often told people that on The Day I face the LORD in judgment, he may very well ask me how I handled his word. Perhaps he would ask me one of two questions. The first, “Doug, why did you see my Son in places he was not?” The second, “Doug, why did not you see my Son in places where he is to be found?” As for me, I guess I would much rather err by seeing too much of the Savior than not enough, especially given his own explicit teaching on this subject, and the reprimand he gave the ordinary (non-Apostolic) disciple Cleopas and his unnamed friend on the road to Emmaus. He expected they would do this. I do not desire to read and teach the Bible as an end to itself. The Pharisees read it in just this way, and would not come to Christ to have life (John 5:40).

How about you?

[1] Recall our discussion of “first” and “firstborn” in the post on Wisdom and then the post on the Son.

Christ in the Old Testament (Part XII)

Christ in the Old Testament, Theology

Christ in the OT 12 Christ the Right Arm of God

Christ: The Right Arm of God

Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?” asks the prophet (Isa 53:1), as he begins his lengthy and mysterious prophecy of the Suffering Servant which is probably the high water mark for all Messianic prophecies in the OT. The arm or right hand of the LORD will be our last in this series of blogs (except for some concluding thoughts). Like several of the most recent posts, this one is easy to misunderstand.

When people think of the “arm” of the LORD, many probably anthropomorphize the idea. God doesn’t literally have an arm, anymore than he literally has eyes or wings. God is Spirit. We wholeheartedly agree with this, in as much as we are talking about the One Being called God. However, when the Bible speaks of God’s arm or his right hand (see Deut 4:34; 9:29; 26:8), it has something more concrete in mind than merely symbolizing God vis-à-vis personification.

The “right hand” in the ancient world was a way of describing a position or seat of great authority and power that a particular individual, such as a general or captain, holds under the command of the king. God seated Christ “at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named” (Eph 1:20-21), after he “disarmed” and “triumphed over them” (Col 2:15), having made them subject to him (1 Pet 3:22).

The arm of the LORD is similar in this respect. We can see that the arm and right hand of God are related in the same way a human hand and arm are related by not identical. “You have a mighty arm; strong is your hand, high your right hand” (Ps 89:13). The arm seems to be what the right hand (man) carries out. The arm stands for military power (Deut 4:34; Isa 30:30), creative power (Isa 51:9; Ps 89:11, 14),[1] and God as a judge (Isa 51:5).

For this post, I would like to look at the arm as it is described in the Exodus as it regards salvation and judgment. The first verse describing it says, “I will redeem you with an outstretched arm” (Ex 6:6). We find this salvation theme with the right hand and/or arm in other places as well (Ps 98:1; Isa 33:2; 52:10). Moses then sings of the beginning of this prophetic fulfillment, “Terror and dread fall upon them; because of the greatness of your arm, they are still as a stone, till your people, O LORD, pass by, till the people pass by whom you have purchased” (Ex 15:16). Who shall do this? The LORD is a man of war; the LORD is his name” (15:3). Moses sees the arm of the LORD as the man of war, Yahweh, the angel of Yahweh, who is later called the LORD of Hosts (Hos 12:4-5).

Creation of Adam croppedIsaiah reflects on this very same thing and says, “Where is he who brought them up out of the sea with the shepherds of his flock? Where is he who put in the midst of them his Holy Spirit, who caused his glorious arm to go at the right hand of Moses, who divided the waters before them to make for himself an everlasting name” (Isa 63:11-12). This time we can see the relationship between the arm and the name. But dictionaries are very provocative when they boldly asserts things like, “‘Arm’ is used as a hypostasis in Isa 63:12. Here the zerôaʿ stands for an independent power going side by side with Moses and stressing the function of Yhwh as Shepherd and leader of his people”[2] “Hypostasis” is exactly how Christians describe the divine and human natures in the One Person of Jesus Christ (the hypostatic union) and the relationship between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Three Hypostases) to the Godhead (in one Ousia).

Into this theology, the last chapter of the Bible has Jesus himself saying, “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done” (Rev 22:12). This is a paraphrase of Isaiah 40:10 and the Messianic prophecy that says, “Behold, the Lord GOD (Adonai Yahweh) comes with might, and his arm rules for him; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him.” Thus, Greg Beale concludes, “What is prophesied of the Lord in Isaiah is now prophesied by Jesus to be fulfilled by himself.[3] No wonder then that Jude says Jesus saved a people out of the land of Egypt (Jude 1:5, see Christ in the OT Part II).

Thus, in answer to the original question of this post, John’s Gospel says, “Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” (John 12:37-38). Indeed, Jesus is the Arm the LORD, the great military commander who carries out justice on the earth, and who powerfully saves his people. Isaiah predicted this salvation would come through a great twist of irony. The Arm of the LORD would be revealed through the Suffering Servant. He would win the victory over sin, death, and the devil by suffering and dying for our sins and being raised from the dead.


[1] These texts combine the original creation and God’s mythical battle with the sea monster from pagan stories with the new creation God is doing in his military battle at the Exodus as he assaults and defeats Rahab, the Egyptian-Pharaonic “sea monster.” For more on the connection to the Exodus, Pharaoh, and how the arm is “the vehicle by which he conquers see J. K. Hoffmeier, “The Arm of God versus the Arm of Pharaoh in the Exodus Narratives,” Bib 67 (1986): 378–87; last accessed 8-29-2014.

[2] B. Becking, “Arm,” ed. Karel van der Toorn and Pieter W. van der Horst, Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible (Leiden; Boston; Köln; Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge: Brill; Eerdmans, 1999), 90.

[3] G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI;  Nottingham, UK: Baker Academic;  Apollos, 2007), 1156.

(By: Doug Van Dorn)

Christ in the Old Testament (Part XI)

Christ in the Old Testament, Theology, Worship

Christ in the OT 11 Christ the Glory of God

Christ: The Glory of God

Most people probably think of the glory (Heb. kabod; Gk. doxa) of God in a very abstract sense, like God’s reputation or his honor. “Glory” literally means “to be weighty, full of good things.” Certainly “praise” is not far removed from glory either. Each of these are good and right to ascribe to the glory of God. But this is a series on Christ in the OT, and we are going to take a look at how the glory of God is especially related to him.

A good place to start is with Moses. At one point he asks, “Please show me your glory” (Ex 33:18). The glory of the LORD appears in only a couple of places prior to this. In Exodus 16:10, “The glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud.” The glory is not the cloud, but is in the cloud. It is difficult to see how or why this would be talking about God’s honor or praise due him. We see the same thing eight chapters later when, “The glory of the LORD rested on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; and on the seventh day He called to Moses from the midst of the cloud” (24:16). “He?” We believe the “he” here refers to the Glory, for again, the glory and cloud are separate, and he is calling from inside the cloud.

Before discovering what Moses is actually asking for (and what God gives him in response), consider a couple more things from earlier in Exodus. First, as we saw with the Angel of the LORD, Moses has been talking to the Angel. This angel has been shrouded in flame (Ex 3:2) and in a cloud. “The angel of God … moved and went behind them, and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them” (Ex 14:19). Just before this, it says that “the LORD” went before them “in a pillar of cloud … and by night in a pillar of fire” (13:21). Just like the glory, the LORD is in the cloud. On Mount Sinai, “The LORD” promised, “Behold, I am coming to you in a thick cloud” (Ex 19:9). As we have seen, “The glory of the LORD dwelt on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it…” (24:16).

The word “dwelt” here is important. It is the verb shakan. It is from this that the famous “Shekinah” derives. Shekinah is not a biblical word, but it is found throughout the Targums as another buffer word (like Memra/word).[1] Thus, “Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, ‘Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it” (Gen 28:16) becomes, “The Glory of the Lord’s Shekinah dwells in this place, and I knew it not. (Gen 28:16 PJE). “Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God” (Ex 3:6) becomes, “He was afraid to look upon the height of the glory of the Shekinah of the Lord” (Ex 3:6 JPE). This last one is interesting for us, because we have seen that it is the Angel of the LORD Moses is afraid to look at.

Now, earlier in Exodus 33, it tells us that Moses entered into the tent and the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance, and the LORD would speak to Moses (33:9). “The LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD” (34:5). (Recall our discussion of The Name). Two things here. First, Numbers 12:8 tells us, “With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in riddles, and he beholds the form [Heb: temunah] of the LORD.” The form of the LORD? The Greek translates “form” here as doxa or “glory.”

tabernacle-in-wildernessSecond, there would later be a place where the LORD will choose “to make his name dwell there” (Deut 16:2). And yet, the Psalm says, “O LORD, I love the habitation of your house and the place where your glory dwells” (Ps 26:8). We see this emerge clearly in the dedication of the temple by Solomon. First, they bring the ark (God’s throne-seat) to the Most Holy Place inside the newly built temple (1 Kgs 8:6). Then, the “cloud” fills the house of the LORD (10). The LORD now lives here in a special sense, even though the highest heavens cannot contain him. Then, the cloud and glory are linked as God’s presence (11). Solomon recognizes that God will dwell in his temple, though the universe cannot contain him (27). Finally, the LORD appears to Solomon (9:1) telling him that now his “name is there” (3). We are supposed to understand from this that the name is the glory veiled by the cloud.[2]

One more OT prophet is important to look at here. Ezekiel see the “likeness as the appearance of a man” (Ezek 1:26). He looked like gleaming metal and his lower body was like fire. He concludes, “This was the appearance of the likeness of the Glory of the LORD” (28). Later in the book, the Glory is the LORD (Ezek 9:3-4).

The NT says some pretty amazing things about all this. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). John equates the logos, the glory, and the Son. They are all the same thing. It is into this Glory as a Person idea that John later writes, “Isaiah saw his Glory” (Isa 12:41).[3] Read epexegetically, Acts 7:55 may very well say, “He [Stephen] … saw the glory of God, that is Jesus standing at the right hand of God.”

And then there is Philippians 2:6-11. Christ exists “in the form of God” and the “likeness of men” (6-7). Recall that Moses beheld the “form [Heb: temunah; GK: doxa] of the LORD.” The Hebrew word was translated as “glory” by the LXX, but that same Hebrew word is translated as “likeness” (homoioma) in the Second Commandment (Ex 20:4). This happens to be the word used for “likeness” in Php 2:7. The old hymn here is not saying that Christ only appeared to be one of us, but really wasn’t. Rather, it is saying that he is the Glory of God. Thus DDD notes, “‘taking the form of a slave’, ‘becoming in the likeness of men’; and ‘being found in the fashion as a man’ (vv 7-8) … Phil 2:6 would seem to say that Christ is the divine Glory. The same idea is expressed by the title, ‘image of the invisible God”; in the beginning of the hymn of Christ in Col 1:15-20).[4]

In light of all this, it seems to me that Moses was not asking to see the Father (whom Jesus says no man has seen, or can see). He was asking to see the face of the preincarnate Second Person, in whom he was trusting (Heb 11:26); unshrouded from the cloud and fire (and the angel?). God granted that he might see his unshrouded backside, but not his face. Think about this. Moses asks to see God’s glory, and he shows him his “backside.” Not an abstract idea, but a person. The glory and the person are mysteriously united together.

But in the incarnation, God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor 4:6). “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you” (Isa 60:1). “Therefore it says, ‘Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you” (Eph 5:14).


[1] One Bible dictionary says, “In the later rabbinic sources does the Shekinah become a separate entity created by God as an intermediary between God and man.” The same dictionary says, “In the Targums ‘shekinah,’ ‘glory of God,’ and ‘word of God’ are used synonymously. “Glory,” in Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 1943.

[2] Meredith Kline believes that the Shekinah-glory is the Holy Spirit (“Kingdom Prologue, Lecture 14, 2012, p. 2; last accessed 8-16-2014. He is close. It is better to see the cloud and fire as images of the Spirit who then enshrouds the Word-Angel-Glory-Name person inside. This is the way the Revelator saw it, “Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, wrapped in a cloud”  (Rev 10:1).

[3] Isaiah 6:1, “I saw the Lord (Adonai)” becomes “I saw the glory of the LORD” (6:1 Isaiah Targum), which becomes, “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the Shekinah of the King of the worlds, the Lord of hosts” (Isa 6:5 IST).

[4] J. E. Fossum, “Glory,” ed. Karel van der Toorn, Bob Becking, and Pieter W. van der Horst, Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible (Leiden; Boston; Köln; Grand Rapids, MI; Cambridge: Brill; Eerdmans, 1999), 351 [348-52]. This entire entry is extremely helpful in grounding our discussion.

(By: Doug Van Dorn)

Christ in the Old Testament (Part X)

Christ in the Old Testament, Theology

Christ in the OT 10 Christ the Son of God

Christ: The Son of God

In the NT, a phrase occurs identifying Jesus Christ as “The [only begotten] Son of God” (John 1:14, 18; 3:16; 1Jn 4:9). It is familiar enough, but its origins might not be. This exact phrase does not appear in the OT LXX, so where might it come from? In this post we will look at two Psalms (Ps 2, 82) and Genesis 1 along with some NT reflections (John 10; Col 1) on these passages for an answer. The most obvious place where we see something conceptually similar is Psalm 2:6-7. “I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.” I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, ‘You are my Son; today I have begotten you” This passage is cited several times by the NT as referring to Jesus (Acts 13:33; Heb 1:5; 5:5).

There is a fascinating and deliberate connection between this Psalm and Psalm 82. Consider these two verses: “Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession” (Ps 2:8). “Arise, O God, judge the earth; for you shall inherit all the nations!” (Ps 82:8). The former verse has the Son inheriting the nations, while the later has “God” inheriting them. The conceptual parallels between the two Psalms would suggest that the Son is God. But we can see this in Psalm 82 all by itself.

The first verse has “God” taking his place in something called “the divine council” (ESV), where “in the midst of the gods he holds judgment.[1] These “gods” are called “sons of God” in vs. 6, and when they judge badly, the foundations of the whole earth shake (vs. 5). The “sons of God” (beney ha-elohom) are the heavenly beings that were praising God while he was creating the universe (Job 38:7). In both the Bible and neighboring nations, they were considered God’s heavenly royal family.[2]

Jesus cites Psalm 82:6 to the Pharisees (John 10:34-35). For a host of reasons[3] (not the least of which is the connection between Ps 2 and 82), the best interpretation of this passage is to see Jesus as claiming to be one of these heavenly beings. After all, he has “come down from heaven” (seven times in John 6). This is why they still want to kill him for blasphemy after he quotes the verse. Yet, he is also different from them, for he has a unique relationship to the Father, as he is “in” the Father and the Father is “in” him (John 10:34:36-38), or as Psalm 2 informs us, he is “begotten.”

The NT comes along and uses the word “only begotten” (monogenes) and applies it to Jesus. This word means “unique” or “one of a kind,” as is easily seen by the fact that Isaac is the “only begotten” son of Abraham (Heb 11:17), even though Abraham had Ishmael 13 years earlier (I think it is actually a double entendra, as it can also means “begotten”[4]). Thus, anytime we see “sons of God” or even “gods” in the OT, our thought should go to the unique Son of God, the one who created any others who “may be called gods” (1 Cor 8:5).

prototokosSpeaking of this creation, in Colossians 1:15-18, the Apostle Paul, reflecting upon creation and Genesis 1 (we talked about this in the previous post) explains, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation” (15). “God” seems to refer to the Father here. The word “firstborn” is the word prototokos. It comes up again in vs. 18 where it says, “And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn (prototokos) from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.” But Paul has not given up his treatment of creation in between these two verses, much less is he saying that this firstborn was created. For he says, “For by him [the firstborn] all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (16-17). Notice how predominate the creation of heavenly beings is in this text.

“But who is this “he,” this “firstborn,” this “beginning?” Psalm 8 called him “Wisdom.” But here, he is deliberately called “His beloved Son” (13). What is amazing about this is how the Church Fathers knew of translations of Genesis 1:1 that went this way: “In the beginning, God became a Son” or “In the beginning, God made for himself a Son.”[5] Depending on the exact Greek terms, these are most likely heretical ideas. However, the Latin Father Jerome states the opinion of people saying, “Most people think that in the Hebrew is contained In the Son, God made heaven and earth.[6] This is perfectly orthodox, but how could anyone possibly get this from Genesis 1:1?

The word reshith can mean either “beginning” or “first” or even the idea of a “firstborn” in Hebrew (cf. Gen 49:3). Thus, the Bible in Basic English reads, “At the first God made the heaven and the earth” (Gen 1:1 BBE). In English, “first” can have the idea of either time or rank (the same is true in Greek and Hebrew). If I say, “She was the first in class,” I could mean either that she was the first to arrive to the classroom, or that she was had the best grades in his class (in my experience, girls were usually first in class). Paul may in fact have this idea in mind and may be capitalizing on it in Colossians, though as John 1:1’s “in the beginning” shows, this would clearly be seen as a flexible idea. So it is strangely possible to translate Genesis 1:1 with the firstborn in mind, even as we have seen that it also includes ideas of the word and wisdom as well. All of this relates to Christ as the Son of God. The NT is not making the idea that Christ is the only begotten Son of God up. It is getting it from the OT.

In the next installment, we will look at Christ: The Glory of God.


[1] I realize there is controversy surrounding who these “gods” are among Evangelicals. For reasons why they cannot refer to humans see Cyrus Gordon, “אלהים (Elohim) in Its Reputed Meaning of Rulers, Judges,” Journal of Biblical Literature 54 (1935): 139–144; W. S. Prinsloo, “Psalm 82: Once Again, Gods or Men?” Biblica 76:2 (1995), 219–228; Lowell Handy, “Sounds, Words and Meanings in Psalm 82,” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 47 (1990), 51–66; Michael S. Heiser, “Deuteronomy 32:8 and the Sons of God,” Bibliotheca Sacra 158:629 (Jan-Mar, 2001): 60-72 [52-74].

[2] I have written about this in the Introduction to my book Giants: Sons of the Gods. There is a host of other literature that delves into this as well. Perhaps the best place to be introduced to this whole fascinating subject is the Divine Council website of Dr. Michael Heiser who did his dissertation on the subject.

[3] See Michael S. Heiser, “You’ve Seen One Elohim, You’ve Seen Them All? A Critique of Mormonism’s Use of Psalm 82,” FARMS Review 19/1 (2007): 221–266.

[4] On “begotten” see Lee Irons, “The Eternal Generation of the Son,” last accessed 8-15-2014. Basically, two etymologies have been proposed for monogenes. “Gennao” (Ps 2:7 LXX) means “to bear, beget.” “Genos” means “unique, class, kind.”

[5] See Tertullian, Against Praxeas 5.1.

[6] Jerome, Questions in Hebrew, in Genesis i. 507. Quoted in Saint Jerome’s Hebrew Questions on Genesis, trans. C.T. R. Hayward (Oxford: Oxford University Pres, 195), 30.

(By: Doug Van Dorn)

Christ in the Old Testament (Part IX)

Christ in the Old Testament, Christian Living, Theology

Christ in the OT 9 Christ the Wisdom of God

Christ: The Wisdom of God

The NT encourages us, “To reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col 2:2-3). This comes on the heels of Jesus himself saying, “The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here” (Matt 12:42), a passage we saw in our post on typology.

Solomon was of course known for his wisdom. God basically gave him one wish where he could have anything he wanted. “Ask what I shall give you” (2Ch 1:7), God said. “Give me now wisdom and knowledge” (10), was his answer. God was very pleased with this response, because Solomon did not ask for “possessions, wealth, honor, or the life of those who hate you … or even long life” (11), or might I add like I probably would have done, a thousand more wishes(!). So, “God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding beyond measure … Solomon’s wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all the people of the east and all the wisdom of Egypt … And people of all nations came to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and from all the kings of the earth, who had heard of his wisdom” (1Kgs 4:29, 30, 34). Somehow Christ is greater than this, but how?

A common way of answering this question is by demonstrating how wise Jesus actually was. Or, to put it another way, by going to the NT. Throughout his ministry, he was constantly outsmarting the Pharisees or teaching the Scripture with authority that no one else had. This is all necessary to know, but I have something else in mind in this post. This is a series on Christ in the Old Testament. So how might Christ be the Wisdom of God in the OT?

Wisdom at Creation

Let us remember that Solomon was the author of most of the Proverbs, including Proverbs 8. The end of this chapter has a rather extended and fascinating claim made by Wisdom:


   22 The LORD possessed me at the beginning of his work, the first of his acts of old.

  23 Ages ago I was set up, at the first, before the beginning of the earth.

  24 When there were no depths I was brought forth, when there were no springs abounding with water.

  25 Before the mountains had been shaped, before the hills, I was brought forth,

  26 before he had made the earth with its fields, or the first of the dust of the world.

  27 When he established the heavens, I was there; when he drew a circle on the face of the deep,

  28 when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep,

  29 when he assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress his command,

when he marked out the foundations of the earth,

  30 then I was beside him, like a master workman, and I was daily his delight, rejoicing before him always,

  31 rejoicing in his inhabited world and delighting in the children of man.

(Prov 8:22-31).

Clearly, this does not refer to Solomon. But it does seem to refer to someone, that is a person.

There are many fascinating correlations here to the creation episode of Genesis 1. Several words are found in both passages: beginning, the deep, water, sea, heaven, earth, and man. The Targum’s interpretation of Genesis 1:1 seems to have Proverbs 8 in mind. “From the beginning with wisdom the Memra of the Lord created and perfected the heavens and the earth.” Notice the link between the word (“Memra”) and the wisdom of God. Almost all of the words we have been considering in these last posts are related very closely in the texts, because they are all talking about the same Person. Combining the power and wisdom of God at creation, the Apostle says, “Christ [is] the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Cor 1:24).

wisdomOne final set of texts is worth looking at. Jesus tells the Pharisees, “Therefore also the Wisdom of God said, ‘I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and persecute’” (Luke 11:49). No one knows if Jesus is referring to some lost text or to the whole OT (much the same way that Hebrews 11:33-38 does). But in the parallel account Jesus says, “Therefore I [Jesus] send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town” (Matt 23:34). Clearly, Jesus sees himself as Wisdom, the one who revealed the future to us through prophecy and typology in the OT, the one who created the world. In the next post, we will look at the strangely related idea of Christ as the Son of God in the OT. The next time you read through Proverbs or any other wisdom book, do more than think of it as wise and practical advice. Think of Christ as being both the giver and fulfiller of all that wisdom, for he is the Wisdom of God.

(By: Doug Van Dorn)