Biblical doctrine can be both helpful if you need a guide through a particular scripture. It can also be very befuddling, especially with some of the widely accepted interpretations. By presenting solutions that are validated and echoed by respected voices it’s very easy to simply accept these opinions as precise and correct. Even when a presented and accepted doctrine makes very little sense it’s often seen as blasphemous to question it. In many ways doctrine itself has become an extension of scripture. However, doctrine is simply opinion and often contradicts other accepted doctrines and in many cases is simply misused to justify traditions dating back hundreds of years. It’s hard to do this but wiping these interpretations out of your journey through Biblical scripture and just allowing the text to talk is how you can best understand the Bible. It will require a lot more reading but a good place to start is to reframe doctrinal explanations as “opinions”. They are no more valid than your own if you take the time to read the words carefully. Not only that but doctrine, sorry… opinion come from multiple sources so it’s like taking small sections from different study guides, throwing them together and wondering why it reads so convoluted and conflicted.
Let’s unpick this by looking at a few key verses that help explain this popular Biblical conundrum…
Who is the Old Testament God?
It doesn’t matter whether your approach to the Bible is study or spiritual, one thing bounces out at you pretty quickly. Not only that, it’s a consistent point raised by critics of the text and also a very good question. Why is God so different in the Old and New testaments? Various unsatisfactory explanations have been offered but nothing really explains why they are so wildly different. One is angry and demands a great number of atrocities ranging from genocide and warmongering while the other is a pacifist who speaks only of peace, forgiveness and selflessness. Make no mistake, we are not talking a different nature. They are actually opposites.
Forget what you think you know or have been told on this topic, there is an explanation and it makes perfect sense as long as you’re able to ditch doctrine….sorry, opinions and allow the text to explain.
Who is Melchizedek?
A mysterious figure appears very early in Genesis for only a few verses but they are vital. Melchizedek appears to Abraham and makes mention of El Elyon, “God Most High”. Melchizedek breaks bread and wine with Abraham who tithes to El Elyon, The God Most High. Melchizedek is unique in that is the only character in Genesis to not be mentioned with a genealogy and this omission is important . It’s not entirely clear what Melchizadec is but it’s clear that he represents Christ. Think about it, he breaks bread and wine and then simply advises Abraham to follow The God Most High. There are many Christ figures in the Old Testament including one in the Garden of Eden but they all have a purpose and Melchizadek just like Christ says worship God and reveals his name, El Elyon who is The God Most High. What we can be sure of from here is that the NT God who Jesus speaks of is called “God” or “El Elyon and he is without equal. No mention of Jehovah, The Lord or Angels of The Lord.
Who is the Angel of The Lord?
When Abraham is asked to sacrifice his son we read that he liases with “The Angel of the Lord”. While this character initially claims to speak on behalf of God he then shifts to speaking as God.
Let’s look at what’s been asked by God and its meaning. Abraham is asked to sacrifice his son but why does God ask this? We are told that it’s a test that God backs down on and then points him in the direction of a ram caught in thicket. This is a very odd explanation. Why does God still need a sacrifice for his own test? Why is it “The Angel of the Lord” intervening instead of God? It doesn’t really add up but let’s first look at the reason why God asks Abraham to sacrifice his son.
The Bible interweaves perfectly so if we are to look forward to Christs sacrifice we see God do something very similar. He allows Christ to be sacrificed. At that point we are told that Christ is the only human who has been accepted as a child of God (something he invites others to do) so he is the only son of God. It’s already a little murky with this character going speaking as third person in Jehovahs Angel to the first person of Jehovah. He then appears to call Isaac Abrahams ONLY son which of course isn’t true. Abraham has multiple sons.
The truth is that Abraham is unable to endure this which demonstrates the ability of God against Man. Man will fail in this undertaking and accepts the advice of another entity to take a ram and offer this instead. What’s also overlooked is that Abraham tells Isaac that “God will provide himself, a lamb” and not a ram. What Abraham is speaking of is Gods eventual sacrifice of his child who is referred to as “The Lamb of God”. Abrahams eventual sacrifice is the wrong animal because we are not seeing God change his mind, it’s Abrahams inability to endure the pain that God can and acceptance of advice from a tempter called “The Angel of the Lord”.
One final thought on this, is the Angel speaking to God prophetically about Jesus when he says “your only son”? Abraham has already something similar when he states that “God will provide himself, a lamb” in Jesus so is the Angel doing the same? If so then could that potentially make the Angel of The Lord Satan because Jesus is sacrificed to cover Satans work, Sin? It’s certainly worth pondering because Isaac is definitely not Abrahams only son.
Who is The Lord?
While we are given a representation of Christ tied to a “God Most High” in Melchizedek which foreshadows Christ and the peaceful NT God, another title is weaved in and out of scripture. The Lord, a title which in hierarchal terms is not quite the most high but certainly powerful appears throughout the OT and is used exclusively when the angry jealous OT God is speaking or being spoken of. While “God” is also used we see an attitude more consistent with the pacifist NT God. There is a clear distinction.
Why would God change his character and his title? Surely this is actually another entity? It would certainly appear so and makes a good deal more sense that a single entity contradicting himself under different names.
Who Numbers Israel?
Oh boy…this one takes some serious logistical acrobatics to explain away and I have yet to hear anything close to an explanation. Sure, the Bible often covers the same story in multiple books while delivering different overall events or themes. While there are some small differences in the delivery the narrative is consistent and without contradiction in all cases but one.
“And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel.”
1 Chronicles 21:1
“And again the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah.”
2 Samuel 24:1
King David is compelled to take a census but we this is attributed to two separate entities. Satan and a very unpeaceful “Lord”. If you’re to read the text and not the interpretations given by renaissance art, Satan isn’t an actual figure but instead represents a lack of God but that’s another topic. Either way, “Lord” in this verse is most certainly lacking the essence of the NT God with his anger so the entity addressing David and requesting the census is either Satan himself or one that lacks Gods nature.
What’s clear is that the entity exemplifies the very behaviour that contradicts the peace loving all forgiving God of the NT. Are we really to accept that God had an off day and was recorded as Satan in error?
Why Does God have so many names?
While we are told of El Elyon, The God Most High by a mysterious Christ like figure, there are a number of other names given which replace “God” with the lesser title “Lord”
- Adonai (Lord, Master)
- Yahweh (Lord, Jehovah)
- Jehovah Nissi (The Lord My Banner)
- Jehovah Raah (The Lord My Shepherd)
- Jehovah Rapha (The Lord That Heals)
- Jehovah Shammah (The Lord Is There)
The common doctrinal understanding is that God has a few names and they are used throughout the OT. There isn’t really any reason given for this but we are told that they are all the same entity. While this isn’t out of the question when you factor in that the nature changes from verse to verse it’s surely more likely to be different entities. If the attitude was consistent then sure, multiple names would be acceptable albeit odd. However, let’s apply some common sense here. Different names, different approach and attitude is clearly differing entities.
Why Does God Deny being called Jehovah?
Following on from Abrahams sacrifice of the ram we read that he names the place of this even, “Jehovah Jireh” meaning “The Lord will provide” referring to the provision of a ram in place of his son. Abraham does previously call upon the name of Jehovah so we can be sure that he is referring to that entity. However, when “God almighty” (not Lord) speaks to Moses in Exodus 6 he tells him quite clearly that he wasn’t ever known to them by that name.
“And I appeared unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, by the name of God Almighty, but by my name JEHOVAH was I not known to them.”
Exodus 6:3 KJV
Not only that, some translations say it’s “Lord” he denies being identified as.
“I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name LORD I was not known to them.”
Exodus 6:3 NKJV
Why would the character identifying as God take the time to deny such a thing without it being what he actually meant? Did he forget or was he confused? This verse takes what we have already understood to be differing voices and confirms it along with throwing doubt on the various Jehovah names being used.
Does Apostle Paul Confirm The Deception?
Apostle Paul was a man supposedly beyond reproach when it came to handling scripture when he was amongst the Pharisees before his conversion. In his letter to the Corinthians he warns of false teachers masquerading as apostles. He punctuates this warning by stating that it should come as no surprise because Satan himself transforms into an “Angel of Light”. What’s important here is that Paul states that Satan has done this already. Not can or might, he tells the Corinthians that it should be of no surprise to anyone because Satan has already used this tactic himself so expect his ministers to do the same.
“For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. 15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.”
2 Corinthians 11:13-15
What’s clear is that Satan on at very least one occasions has disguised himself as an angel. With that in mind is it really such a stretch to accept that he is the angry jealous “Lord” of the OT? It certainly makes far more sense that God having a unexplainably fickle nature.
There are countless other examples that validate this explanation but I am keen to not fall into the trap of creating doctrine so just take this as my opinion. My intention is actually quite the opposite and I encourage anyone reading this to simply read the words without any influence at all. What I have given you are a number of questions,verses and my own logical answers to them based simply upon what’s written. If you disagree or see something I may have missed then please comment, I’m open to correction as long as you have drawn these conclusions yourself. I am well aware of the odd explanations that are widely accepted.
So… to summaries my own position on this topic I see the OT God as not a single different entity but a number of voices which include the NT God. El Elyon, The God Most High is the only name that refers to an entity above all others and fits perfectly with the Christ figure who mentions that name. Throughout the text we see other voices influence but under different names, most prominently “The Lord” which is in itself a title that isn’t quite the highest. This certainly explains the inconsistent tone. Where I can see some coming unstuck is looking at the OT entity as a single different character instead of more than one. What we have are OT Gods and not God which is demonstrated by the multiple names which are as you would normally expect, different characters but also Gods denial of one of them. Am I suggesting that plural Gods within monotheism? Not at all, only one character is referred to as God and the others are identified as either “The Angel of the Lord” or “The Lord” which leaves God as the single highest entity.
While there are some very convoluted explanations presented for the points I raise I genuinely see none of them making as much sense as what is probably the simplest. God does speak to the OT characters but so do various Lords who are different characters with completely different personalities.