Edited by Rev. John Adams, B.D.
By Rev. Thomas Whitelaw, D.D.
1. The Jehovah of the Old Testament.
Among the names given to the Divine Being in the Old Testament that of Jehovah (in the A.V. " Lord ") is by far the most frequently employed, occurring no fewer than 6823 times; while other designations are used less often — Elohim (God) 2570 times, Adonai (Lord) 134 times, and Shaddai (Almighty) 39 times. It is generally recognised that Jehovah was the specific name of the God of the Israelites as distinguished from the deities of the surrounding nations. In this sense it may be held that Jehovah was a tribal god, without conceding that, in the judgment of His worshippers, at least the most enlightened and spiritual of them. He was nothing more — "that, in fact. He was a purely local divinity, and stood upon a level with the Phoenician Baal and the Moabitish Chemosh. Being sometimes conjoined with Elohim as in Gen. ii., and sometimes used as equivalent to Elohim as in Ps. xlviii., the name Jehovah cannot be understood as the designation of a lesser divinity, but as an appellation of the supreme God.
(1) About the origin of the name scholars are not agreed, some supposing it to be derived from the Kenites, others from the Assyro-Babylonians, and others from the Canaanites. That it may have been known to all these peoples as well as to the Israelites is by no means inconceivable, as according to Old Testament tradition it appears to have come down from a remote antiquity. If Ex. iii. 14 and vi. 3 seem to indicate that it was first revealed to Moses when shepherding his flocks at Horeb) Ex. iii. 15 distinctly asserts that Jehovah claimed to be " the Lord (Jehovah), the God of the fathers of Israel, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob "; and, as Kautzsch well observes, " it is hardly conceivable that Moses should have been able to proclaim a god that was simply unknown as "the god of the fathers" and still less conceivable (we add) that Jehovah should have represented Himself as " the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob," had He not been such in reality. Accordingly, we find the name familiarly used not only in patriarchal but also in pre-diluvian times — even as for back as the dawn of human history, by Eve when she welcomed her first-born, saying, " I have gotten a man from (R.V., "with the help of") the Lord (Jehovah)," and by the Sethites when they " began to call upon the name of the Lord."
(2) The pronunciation of the name has occasioned controversy. The letters composing it (Y H V H), four in number, — whence it is called the Nomen Tetragrammaton, — "were looked upon as sacred and unpronounceable by the Massoretic scribes, and fitted with the vowels o and a taken from the word Adonai, except when Adonai itself precededy in which case the vowels of Elohim (God) were employed. As to its own vowels, unanimity of opinion is not yet reached. Modern scholarship inclines to Jahve, though Jahave, Jahva, and Jahava have their advocates, while even Jehovah is not so indefensible as some writers allege, Gesenius himself admitting that it better accounts for such contractions as Jeho and Jo than the form he favours.
(3) A more difficult problem is to determine with certainty the precise significance of the word. The locus classicus for this is Ex. iii. 1 4, where Jehovah Himself expounds it to Moses as meaning " I Am that I Am," which, according to Kidisch, has been interpreted in twelve different ways, of which these are the best: as equivalent to describing Himself as " the absolutely Self-existent One "; as "the Becoming One," with reference to the revelation rather than to the essence of the divine nature; as " the Coming One," who was afterwards to appear for man's redemption, and as " the Permanent and Unchangeable One," with special reference to His faithfulness. Possibly all of these may be included, as unquestionably all are true of the supreme God who in Himself is the absolutely Self-existent One, in relation to humanity is the God of History, Revelation, and Redemption, and in contrast to the vicissitudes of earth and time is the Permanent and Unchangeable One, "the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever." "I am Jehovah: I change not."
(4) The character of Jehovah as declared by Himself and understood, if not by the Israelitish nation at large, at least by its great religious leaders and their spiritually minded followers, by men like Moses, Samuel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and the lesser Prophets, and by David and the Psalmists, was that of an infinitely wise and powerful Being, eternal, uncreated, and immutable, by whom the heavens and the earth were summoned into existence, and the universe in its widest extent and minutest events was governed; holy and just, of purer eyes than to look upon iniquity, and so righteous in all His works and ways as to render to every man according to his deeds; yet merciful and gracious, pitiful and compassionate, long-suffering and slow to wrath, ready to forgive and able to save, not willing that any should perish but that all should turn unto Him and live; at the same time standing in specially close and tender relations with Israel as a nation because of the covenant made with their fathers; and yet with an outlook of complacency and goodwill to other peoples who might desire acquaintance with and wish to serve Israel's God. If here and there in the Old Testament expressions occur and incidents are reported that seem difficult to harmonise with Jehovah's character as therein depicted and as just set forth, it should be borne in mind that frequently these expressions reveal the thoughts of men rather than the mind of God, and that these incidents, if permitted by God, derive their essential qualities not from God but from men whose wills they carry out. Should any expressions or incidents remain for which these explanations do not suffice, they may be safely left to the arbitrament of Him who is "just in His ways all, and holy in His works each one." "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?"
(5) The works of Jehovah reported in the Old Testament — in addition to those already mentioned as displaying His wisdom and power, viz. the creating, upholding, and governing of the universe as well as the superintending of human history and the ruling among the nations — may be grouped under two heads: deeds of mercy and acts of judgment. In the former of these categories must be placed His promise immediately after the Fall, of a woman's seed to bruise the serpent's head; His selection of Abraham to be the head of a new nation through which all the families of the earth should be blessed; His frequent theophanies or manifestations of Himself to the patriarchs in the likeness of a man; His call of Moses to be the liberator of Israel, with the emancipation from Egypt which followed; His merciful and patient dealing with Israel through long years, amounting to centuries, of disobedience, idolatry, and wickedness, raising up prophets — " rising up early and sending them" — to warn and instruct the people, and to direct their hopes to a Golden Messianic Age, in which the promises made to the fathers should be fulfilled. In the latter category must be ranged His judgments on our first parents in the Garden and of Cain the first murderer; His overthrow of the first race of men by a flood and of the cities of the plain by fire; His destruction of Pharaoh's hosts in the Red Sea, and of Sennacherib's army before Jerusalem; His punishments inflicted on Israel, oftentimes severe, following in swift succession and culminating in the siege of Jerusalem, the burning of the Temple, and the misery of exile. Both categories showed that the Jehovah of the Old Testament was a God at once of mercy and of judgment.
2. The Jesus of the New Testament.
It is too late in the day for any intelligent student of history to deny or even to question the historicity of Jesus. Equally impossible is it to doubt that the Four Gospels present a substantially accurate and faithful account of His person and work. Unless these Gospels are all second-century compilations of traditions which have passed through many mouths and been both coloured and enlarged in the passing — unless they contain incidents which never occurred but were only imagined, and speeches that were never spoken but only invented — and unless it be an a priori assumption that miracle is impossible and every narrative reporting miracle is a fiction — it must be admitted that no reasonable ground exists for challenging the truthfulness of the portrait of Jesus which has been drawn by the Evangelists. Tolerably conversant with modern theories of the composition of the Gospels, but not persuaded those are well grounded, we accept the Four Writings as reliable sources from which to construct a picture of Jesus.
(1) The details of His history are soon told. Born in Bethlehem, the city of David, of a virgin whose name was Mary, He was brought up in Nazareth, where He worked as a carpenter along with His reputed father Joseph, the husband of Mary. On reaching the age of thirty He stepped forth into publicity as a religious Teacher or Prophet, after first receiving baptism from John, who six months before had startled his countrymen and produced a profound religious awakening by preaching repentance as a preparation for the long-promised and eagerly expected Messiah of Israel, whom he declared to be at hand. In connection with His baptism a special endowment of the Spirit was given to Jesus, of which obviously He alone could be conscious, and a special testimony was added, which probably He alone understood, of the Father's good pleasure in Him as Son. Then followed, in the Judean desert, forty days of temptation by the Devil, whom He successfully resisted, after which, drawing towards Himself a number of disciples. He spent three years and a half in preaching the gospel of the kingdom and performing signs and wonders, chiefly in Galilee but also in Jerusalem, on the several occasions on which He visited the metropolis — healing the sick, casting out devils, and even raising the dead, besides exhibiting His power over nature in various superhuman acts, such as turning water into wine, multiplying loaves, calming the winds, and walking on the waves. For a time He attracted the attention and excited the enthusiasm of the common people, who at the height of His popularity would have crowned Him a$ their Messianic King. Never in fevour with the rulers of the nation, who almost from the first hated Him and plotted how they might remove Him, He ultimately fell a victim to their murderous designs and, after a series of trials before the ecclesiastical and civil tribunals of the day, before Annas and Caiaphas, Herod and Pilate, which violated all the canons of justice, was put to death by crucifixion as a common malefactor. After three days, according to the narrative, which notwithstanding the assaults made upon it has not been discredited, He rose from the dead, showed Himself to His disciples, and after forty days ascended up into heaven.
(2) The character of Jesus as delineated in the Gospels was such as never before was, and never since has been possessed by man — in fact, it was distinctly superhuman, being perfect in the double sense of being complete and pure. It was full-orbed, having every attribute, quality, or distinction needful for ideal manhood, and every attribute, quality, or distinction in the highest degree of excellence — humility, love, sympathy, tenderness, patience, gentleness without selfishness, weakness, feebleness, indifference, or unconcern. And it was stainless, being wholly without sin, in entire harmony with the law of holiness and the will of God. There were those indeed who, while He lived, accused Him of all sorts of wickedness called Him a deceiver, a revolutionary, a blasphemer, a devil: the Sanhedrim, in particular, said, "We know that this man is a sinner* It is, however, doubtful if His accusers believed their own accusations. In any case, the picture of Jesus drawn by the Four Evangelists is generally (with some exceptions) allowed to be that of a sinless man, which certainly the Evangelists had never looked upon if they beheld it not in Jesus, while if they saw it not in Him it is difficult to understand how they could have imagined it. To be sure, every detail in the life of Jesus, every thought and feeling, word and deed, has not been recorded, and the insinuation has been put forward that perhaps the imperfections, defects, and shortcomings in His character have been deliberately omitted from His biography. Such a supposition is both incredible and impossible — incredible, if Jesus was really sinful, that these should have entirely disappeared from the record of His life; and impossible that four literary artists working more or less independently, at different times and in different places, should have unconsciously agreed to drop out every trace of moral and spiritual imperfection from the character of their hero, and should have succeeded so completely as they have done.
(3) The teaching of Jesus as recorded in the Gospel narratives manifestly places Him outside the category of common men, even of the wisest and best It is not merely that He eclipsed all teachers before Him — and none after Him have shown themselves His equals — in the simplicity, lucidity, graciousness, and authority of His manner of teaching. Nor is it only in respect of His doctrines, their sublimity, spirituality, and sanctifying power, for "never man spake like this Man." It is primarily and chiefly what He taught about Himself, the extraordinary pretensions He put forward or the claims He made with respect to His relationship to the Father and to the world of mankind, which set Him apart from the rest of men. Not simply did He claim with respect to the Father to have had glory with the Father before the world was, to have come forth from the Father whose Son He was" and to have been sent by the Father, in a different sense from that in which it is said of the Baptist, '" There was a man sent from God, whose name was John "; but He emphatically declared that He and the Father were One; that whosoever saw Him beheld the Father; that the Father dwelt in Him and He in the Father; that all the Father had belonged to Him; that no man knew the Father but Him, and that none knew Him except the Father; that everything He spoke was given Him by the Father, and everything He did was done by the Father; that the Father ever heard Him when He prayed, and was always pleased with what He did; and that the Father had committed all judgment to Him the Son, that all men might honour the Son as they honoured the Father.
Then, with respect to men, He with perfect calmness asserted for Himself a relationship such as could not be reconciled with the possession on His part of nothing more than ordinary humanity. He announced — without any indication that He felt His words to be either presumptuous or extravagant — "that He had come to earth to be men's Saviour and would one day be their Judge; that He was the Light of the World, whom if any man followed he would never walk in darkness, but should have the light of life; that He was the Bread of Life which had come down from heaven and of which if a man ate he would never hunger more; that He had living water to bestow of which if a man drank he would never thirst again; that He was the Resurrection and the Life, on whom if a man believed he would never see death; that He was the Good Shepherd who should lay down His life for His sheep (men), to ransom them from death; that He was about to be crucified in order to procure for men remission of sins; that after death He should rise again and return to His Father's house to prepare mansions for them who believed on Him as they believed on the Father; and that when He came again in the glory of His Father all nations should be gathered before His throne for judgment Such pretensions, it may safely be argued, were never made by one who was himself a sinner, and would never by any honest writer have been put into the mouth of one whom he considered was only a man.
3. The Identity of the Two.
It may justly be contended that if the claim of Jesus to be the pre-existent Son of the Father can be established — as we believe it can be and practically has been in what has just been written concerning His supernatural history, character, and teaching — then the identity of the Two, though not in all respects, has been conclusively made out. For if Jehovah was the manifested God under the Old Testament dispensation, and Jesus was the manifested God under the New Testament dispensation, as the just-cited evidence shows, it will be hard to prove that they were not the same Person though in diverse forms. The language used by Jesus Himself in His high-priestly prayer — " And now, O Father, glorify Thou Me with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was" — implies that He regarded Himself as having pre-existed with God in eternity; in other words, as having been the Son of the Father, or Jehovah, the manifesting God who had in former times appeared to the patriarchs and had been in the Church in the Wilderness in the days of Moses. John also looked upon Him as the only begotten Son who had been from everlasting in the bosom of the Father, and who had become incarnate in order to reveal the Father. Peter in his Pentecostal sermon calls Him "Lord"(Κύριος, the word used in the Septuagint as the translation of " Jehovah "). Paul employs the same designation in the phrase "the Lord Jesus Christ," and expressly states that He existed originally in the form of God, which He laid aside, taking upon Himself the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of sinful flesh and being found in fashion as a man, exactly as Jehovah temporarily did under the Old Testament. James likewise employs the appellation "Lord" when speaking of Jesus; and the writer to the Hebrews, besides styling Him "* Lord '* and calling Him " God's Son," " the brightness of His Father's glory and the express image of His person," assigns to Him an everlasting throne, and ascribes to Him the works that were peculiar to Jehovah, the creation of the universe and the accomplishment of God's gracious scheme of redemption, — from all which it is apparent that Jesus was not merely a man filled with God's spirit and ethically one with God, but was Jehovah Himself become incarnate, God manifest in the flesh.
All attempts to reduce Jesus of Nazareth to the dimensions of a mere man, though probably the best of men, must, apart from considerations and arguments to the contrary, shatter themselves on this plain fact, that the New Testament writers, the authorised interpreters of Christianity to subsequent ages, distinctly identify Him with the Jehovah of the Old Testament Nor need it be much more difficult to credit the proposition that in Jesus Jehovah has taken human nature into permanent union with Himself, becoming "God manifest in the flesh," than to believe that in Old Testament times He occasionally and temporarily, for some specific purpose of immediate urgency, assumed the similitude, appearance, or likeness of a man or angel. Both phenomena — Incarnation and Theophany — belong to the region of the supernatural, in which degrees of difficulty or of easiness are unknown. Both phenomena transcend human reason: neither phenomenon contradicts it In any case, if sacred Scripture is to be our guide, it will not be possible, without doing violence to its teaching, to accept any doctrine of the person of Jesus which, while recognising His true humanity, does not at the same time acknowledge His supreme divinity. On this sublime truth, that He was "God and man in two distinct natures and one Person for ever," the whole superstructure of Christianity rests.