Friday, March 14, 2014

God in the Midst

"Where two sit together to study the Torah, the Shekinah glory [i.e. the Divine Presence] rests between them." (Mishnah, Pirke Aboth 3:2)

[Also translated, "But two who sit and exchange words of Torah, the Divine Presence rests amongst them..." - Ethics of the Fathers (Pirkei Avot), chapter 3 ]

The above was a common saying among rabbis during the first century according to some scholars (e.g. David Instone-Brewer in his dialogue with rabbi David Lister HERE at 57 min.). The Jewish Annotated New Testament confirms this on page 34, "rabbinic teachings stated that the Divine (Heb “shekhinah”) is present when people study Torah (m. Avot 3.2,6)." Therefore, it makes much sense that when the Gospel of Matthew records the statement of Jesus in Matt. 18:20, that the author of Matthew intended for us to identify Jesus with God. The author was affirming the divinity of Jesus in some sense.

"For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst."- Matt. 18:20 (NASB)
"For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them."- Matt. 18:20 (ESV)
"For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them."- Matt. 18:20 (NKJV)

Similarly, when Matthew has Jesus stating, " Yet I say to you that in this place there is One greater than the temple" (Matt. 12:6 NKJV), the author of the Gospel intends for us to identify Jesus with God since the Jewish temple was the place where Jews believed their God resided in a special sense over and above His normal omnipresence. John 1:14 states, "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." The word "dwelt" could be translated "tabernacled." The Logos as God (in some sense) fixed/pitched His tent in the body of Jesus as the God of Israel dwelt in the Tent in the wilderness and the stone Temple in Jerusalem.

19 Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up."20 The Jews then said, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?"21 But he was speaking about the temple of his body.22 When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.- John 2:19-22 (cf. Mark 14:58 where Jesus' accusers seem to be confused about what Jesus claimed)
Notice that Jesus referred to His body as a temple. This suggests that He's affirming the fact that His body is the temple of God in which God Himself dwelt (in agreement with Col. 1:19; 2:9; John 1:14). We have here therefore an instance of Jesus making a self-affirmation of being God in the flesh. This is a special dwelling of God different from God's usual omnipresence, as the following verses refer to.
23 "Am I a God at hand, declares the LORD, and not a God far away? 24 Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the LORD. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the LORD.- Jer. 23:23-24 (ESV)

"But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built!"- 1 Kings 8:27 (ESV)
And yet, even though God's presence dwells in a special sense "within" the body of Jesus, the New Testament also affirms Jesus' own omnipresence. As the following verses explain:
18 And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."- Matt. 28:18-20

22 And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church,23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.- Eph. 1:22-23

15    He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.16 For by him 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.17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent.19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.- Col. 1:15-20

9 For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily,10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority.- Col. 2:9-10
Unitarians who reject the full deity of Jesus have to argue around these evidences of Jesus' full deity. If Jesus wasn't fully God, it would have been inappropriate for Jesus to refer to Himself as the true temple of God  that's above and beyond the physical temple made of stones in Jerusalem.

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