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Installment #6 in my “Common Sense” series.

 


Biblical Common Sense – Jesus – Jesus was seen!

 

Throughout the “Original” Testament God goes out of his way to say over and over that He is the one and only God of the universe and that He alone is responsible for all of creation. But God also reveals something else there and then confirms it later in the New Testament. God says that he CAN NOT be seen by man. In Exodus 33:20 God flat out tells Moses that “no man can see me and live”. Then in the Gospel of John we have collaborating texts like “No man hath seen God at any time” (John 1:18) and “You have neither heard His voice at any time, nor seen His form” (John 5:37). And in 1st Timothy we have the added facts that God is “invisible” (1 Tim 1:17) and that He “dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see” (1 Tim 6:16).

Yet according to all the biblical records, Jesus was seen and heard by thousands of human beings and was perceived totally as a fellow human. How could Jesus be God in human form if God has made it abundantly clear that he can NOT be seen? Sure the typical Trinitarian response tends to be something along the lines of that since Jesus put on “human nature” that allowed him to be seen and heard just like a normal human being. So perhaps the more important, critical common sense question here would be WHY? Why would God state that he couldn’t be seen, yet then turn around and come down into human form TO BE SEEN? It seems illogical not to mention totally contradictory.

The fact of this is amplified even further when one looks at the record of the events at Sinai. In Deuteronomy 4: we find God making the concise effort to tell the Israelites that they “saw no form” (verse 12), and that they needed to “watch yourselves carefully, since you did not see any form on the day the LORD spoke to you at Horeb from the midst of the fire, so that you do not act corruptly and make a grave image for yourselves in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female” (verse 15 &16). Here God specifically went to the trouble to prohibit the Israelites from attempting to worship him in human form (or any form for that matter). Yet according to the Trinity belief (as well as Oneness), God turned right around and did this EXACT thing by appearing in human form as Jesus. This seems absurdly contradictory and well beyond the realm of good common sense.

 

 

Biblical Common Sense series:

1. Intro

2. Jesus – God’s Son

3. Jesus – “This is MY Son”

4. Jesus – The Anointed of God

5. Jesus – The Messiah is suppose to be…

6. Jesus – Jesus Was Seen!

7. Jesus – Two Adams

8. Jesus – Not Equal, Not the Same!

 

9 Responses to “Biblical Common Sense – Jesus – Jesus was seen!”

  1. on 16 Jul 2011 at 8:15 amDoubting Thomas

    Ron S,
    Another great article. It “is” just common sense that God would not contradict himself…

  2. on 21 Jul 2011 at 10:48 pmMatthew Elton

    I’m not a Trinitarian, and I agree with what you’re saying, however, I don’t think its an especially strong argument when you look at the biblical evidence that God actually an be seen.

    The Old Testament repeatedly tells us that God “appeared” to certain individuals (e.g. Genesis 12:7, 17:1, 18:1, 26:2, 26:24, 32:40, 35:9, 48:3, Exodus 3:16, 4:5, 6:3, 24:9-11).

    The Old Testament also repeatedly tells us that Moses talked with God “face to face” (Genesis 32:30, Exodus 33:11, Numbers 14:14, Deuteronomy 5:4, Deuteronomy 34:10, see also Ezekiel 20:35).

    Exodus 24:9-11 tells us, “Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel: And they saw the God of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness. And upon the nobles of the children of Israel he laid not his hand: also they saw God, and did eat and drink.”

    The psalmist wrote “I have seen thee in the sanctuary” (Psalm 63:2). The prophet Isaiah also saw God (Isaiah 6:1, 6:5) as did Amos (Amos 9:1).

    There is a wealth of biblical evidence that God can be seen. And yet the Bible says that no man has ever seen God. The common sense explanation is that God, who dwells in inapproachable light (1 Timothy 6:16) has never be seen in his FULLNESS. However, men HAVE seen God in various manifestations which reveal God to a certain extent, but not in his full glory.

    For example, Genesis 18 tells us that “Yahweh appeared” to Abraham, who lifted up his eyes and saw “three men.” God appeared to Moses in the manifestation of a burning bush. He appeared to the children of Israel in the manifestation of a cloud and pillar of fire (Numbers 14:14). He appeared to the prophets in dreams and visions (e.g. Isaiah 6). Finally, Jesus the Messiah is the ultimate manifestation of God in human form. The scriptures tell us:

    “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds”
    –Hebrews 1:1-2

    “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.”
    –1 Timothy 3:16

    Jesus himself said, “he that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (John 14:9, see also John 12:45, 14:7).

    With the exception of Jesus, no man has ever fully seen God, who dwells in inapproachable light. But this is not because of any lack of power on God’s part. It is because of man’s sinfulness that we are unable to see God and live. Because of our sinful condition – our impurity – we cannot fully behold a God who is “holy, holy, holy.” Now we can see God only in part, like how Moses was allowed to look on God’s “back parts” but had to cover his eyes from the glory of God.

    But the good news of the Kingdom message is that Jesus our great high priest made atonement for our sins, and on his return he will rule the world until he has brought every evil power under his feet. There’s a day coming when there will be no more sin and no more evil. Then, there will be no more need for the sun or moon, for Yahweh himself will be our light (Isaiah 60). The earth will be restored to the paradise that God originally intended, and God will dwell with men (Revelation 21:3) like in the beginning, when God walked and talked with man in the garden (Genesis 2-3). And then the pure in heart “shall see God” just as Jesus promised (Matthew 5:8).

    So, while I agree with what you’re saying, I think the “Jesus cannot be God because he was seen, and God cannot be seen” argument is weak for these reasons. It’s like the “Jesus cannot be God because he was a man” argument. It’s true that God is not a man, but to say God cannot, under any circumstances, take the form of a man is to put a limit on God.

  3. on 22 Jul 2011 at 10:20 amSean

    Matt,

    I find it interesting to note that many of the Scriptures you mentioned include mediated experiences of God, whether through a vision or an angel. For example, if you read the burning bush incident carefully you will notice that the text explicitly states that it was the angel of Yahweh that was in the fiery bush. Furthermore, Stephen says the Sinai incident was mediated by angels (Acts 7.38, 53). Although Moses did speak “face to face” with God in the sense that they enjoyed an openness and cordiality far beyond what existed with the rest of the people, God clearly and unequivocally stated that Moses could not see his face and live (Ex 33.20).

    Ex 33.20 NASB
    20 But He said, “You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live!”

    This is why God hid Moses in the cleft of the rock.

    So, I’m not necessarily disagreeing with you, I agree God’s fullness cannot be seen…but I’m thinking a better way to put it is that no one can see God without mediation. I wonder if God has ever really been seen by anyone since so many of the times when that appears to be the case it is really accomplished through some type of mediation.

    Trinitarians often use this argument in debates. They say God cannot be seen (John 1.18) but God was seen (and they cite the various OT texts where people “saw” God). They ask us to explain this apparent contradiction. However, I’ve always been puzzled by how their solution actually works. I mean, if Jesus is God then of course the pre-existent Jesus could likewise not be seen, right?

  4. on 22 Jul 2011 at 11:55 amXavier

    Sean

    I wonder if God has ever really been seen by anyone…

    “…the Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me. You have never heard his voice nor seen his form.” John 5.37

    …if Jesus is God then of course the pre-existent Jesus could likewise not be seen, right?

    Right. They agree that God cannot be seen that is why people in the OT saw “[God] the Son”. :{

  5. on 22 Jul 2011 at 1:29 pmBrian

    Sometimes this topic gets muddled because of what the word “see” means. This word has different meanings. So the first question I would ask is, “What do you mean by ‘see’?”

  6. on 22 Jul 2011 at 2:59 pmSean

    Xavier,

    I think in John 5.37 is talking about those people present, not about all of those who have ever lived.

    Brian,

    As in English, the word ὁράω (I see) is wonderfully ambiguous in Greek including meanings: see, look, have sight, perceive, consider, provide, discern, and see visions. If we add to that the notion that God is not corporeal (i.e. without physicality) then we really end in a muddle.

  7. on 22 Jul 2011 at 5:00 pmRon S.

    Sean,

    Terrific reply to Matt there in #3! Thanks for putting that so well.

    Matt,

    Sean has hit the nail on the head. God has never literally appeared to anyone – else Exodus 33:20 is a bold-faced lie. When we combine that fact with those super-clear verses in the NT (God is invisible, no man can see or has seen Him, etc.), then we must carefully look at the verses in the OT that appear to say God appeared to men in various places from a different persepective.

    And that perspective is the Hebrew concept of “Agency”. In the Semitic cultures of those times, a Shaliach (Agent/Emissary/authorized representative) not only spoke for and carried out official business for his lord/master, but those that the shaliach/agent delt with treated, referred to, and respected him AS his lord/master. The closest thing today we have like this is in the legal world and is the “Power of Attorney”. If I appoint my attorney or adult child a “power of attorney”, the courts and authorities have to treat that person as if they were me – legally. It is not quite the same since the courts and authorities wouldn’t call them by my name and respect them as me (if that was even possible). But it is today’s closest thing to it.

    Since God can’t be seen, He sent angels to conduct his business as His “Shaliach”. That is who appeared to Abraham, Jacob, Moses, etc.. Of course when God didn’t need a literal being to go do something, he could show his chosen prophets glimpses of Himself and His heavenly court through dreams and visions (i.e. David’s Psalm, Isaiah, Amos, etc.).

    For more on this I’ll refer you to a post I did a long time back here on KR that contains a terrfic article from John Cordero on this subject. There’s a 2nd link in there to another similiarly good article by Uri Marcus, but I recently discovered that he removed it from the web because he’s currently writing a book and is expanding what he wrote about there not being any actual Theophanies or Christophanies.
    Here’s the link: http://kingdomready.org/blog/2008/07/21/no-theophanies-or-christophanies-in-scripture/

  8. on 22 Jul 2011 at 6:08 pmXavier

    Sean

    I think in John 5.37 is talking about those people present, not about all of those who have ever lived.

    I still think this verse still makes sense in light of John 1.18. Some commentary, like the NET Bible online, seem to agree.

    Compare Deut 4:12. Also see Deut 5:24 ff., where the Israelites begged to hear the voice no longer.

  9. on 13 Sep 2011 at 1:58 pmTim (aka Antioch)

    What a difference it can make to word study the original text. I now interpret John 1:18 as ‘no one has known God’ and not ‘no one has seen God’, that makes more sense to me in light of the later statement that Jesus ‘explained’ the Father.

    I still have trouble believing that God would manifest as a man (Gn 1:18), not that He couldn’t, I just have a hard time understanding why He would when his MO elsewhere is to send an agent. If He does manifest as a man, then I certainly see a distinction between that manifestation and His Full Glory, and for now, that explains to me the difference between seeing and not seeing.

  

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