The answer to the question posed in the title of this article should be obvious. We should immediately acknowledge that the messenger is obviously not the same as the one who sends the messenger. However, indoctrination can put blinders over our “eyes” so that we become unable to see what would otherwise be very clear.
Such is the case with the orthodox Christian view of Jesus, God’s anointed. As I have pointed out in several previous articles, Jesus and his ‘apostles’ clearly distinguished between God and Jesus. For instance, Paul referred to God as “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” – plainly making a distinction between God and Jesus. John, in the book of Revelation (1:1) said that God gave the revelation to Jesus – again clearly distinguishing between God and Jesus. They’re not the same.
Nevertheless, over the first few centuries following the death and resurrection of Jesus, a strange doctrine developed that maintained that Jesus was/is in fact the One True God. Despite the fact that God is the one who sent him into the world as His messenger, we are supposed to believe that the sender and the sent are one and the same. We are told that this is a great “mystery” which we are bound to believe despite how nonsensical it may sound to our “carnal” ears.
This ‘orthodox’ teaching has become so ingrained that Christians now simply don’t see the clear distinctions the Bible makes between God and Jesus. The doctrine of the “Trinity” and the Deity of Jesus are read back into the Bible. Some passages are made mysterious which would not be otherwise.
As an example, consider these 2 “Old Testament” prophecies:
(16) “Come near to Me, hear this: I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, I was there. And now the Lord God and His Spirit have sent Me.” (17) Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the LORD your God, Who teaches you to profit, Who leads you by the way you should go” (from Isaiah 48, New King James Version).
(10) “Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion! For behold, I am coming and I will dwell in your midst,” says the LORD. (11) “Many nations shall be joined to the LORD in that day, and they shall become My people. And I will dwell in your midst. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent Me to you. (12) And the LORD will take possession of Judah as His inheritance in the Holy Land, and will again choose Jerusalem” (from Zechariah 2, New King James Version).
With regard to the first quote, it is obvious that the LORD God was the speaker in this chapter, uninterrupted right up to verse 16. But it is also clear that at the beginning of verse 17 the speaker has changed to the prophet Isaiah: Thus says the LORD… But what about the sentence immediately preceding that: And now the Lord God and His Spirit have sent me? Can it be that it is God saying that the Lord God has sent Himself? That’s the way the translators render the text, and the “evangelical Christian” commentators assume that the speaker throughout is the Christ, proclaiming the “mystery” whereby he is both the LORD, and the one whom the LORD sent.
Yet this “mystery” would be cleared up with just a little bit of clear headed reasonable thinking. The whole matter hangs on where the quotation marks are placed in the text. It is obvious that there are 2 distinct speakers in the prophecy: Isaiah, and the LORD as quoted by Isaiah. It is plainly Isaiah who makes the comment, at the beginning of verse 17, that the next statement is something the LORD is saying. Surely it should be plain that it was also Isaiah speaking in the last part of verse 16. So verse 16 begins with a continuation of the statement of the LORD, and ends with Isaiah commenting that now the Lord God has sent him. Thus the quotation marks should be as follows: “Come near to me, hear this: I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, I was there” [says the LORD]. And now the Lord God and His Spirit have sent me [Isaiah]. Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the LORD your God…” Hey, why do I have to be such a ‘spoil sport’, and take away all of the ‘mystery’?! 😀
Having said that, I guess you can figure out what I’m about to say about the passage from Zechariah 2. In this chapter, there are actually 4 different speakers. Verse 1 begins with Zechariah speaking: Then I raised my eyes and looked, and behold a man with a measuring line in his hand. So I said, “Where are you going?” Then this man/angel spoke to Zechariah: And he said to me, “To measure Jerusalem…” The third speaker is a second angel who appears on the scene, and addresses the first angel/man with the measuring line (verse 4): “Run, speak to this young man [Zechariah], saying: ‘Jerusalem shall be inhabited…” Next, this second angel starts quoting the LORD (the 4th speaker) in verse 5: “ ‘For I’ says the LORD, ‘will be a wall of fire all around her… (6)Up, up! Flee from the land of the north’ says the LORD; ‘For I have spread you abroad like the four winds of heaven,’ says the LORD.” The next several verses, down to verse 11, are mostly the words of the LORD, with a couple of breaks for the angel to remind Zechariah (and the readers) that what he is saying is actually what the LORD is speaking.
What could be more natural, then, than to recognize that in verse 11, the angel ends his quotation of the LORD, and addresses Zechariah himself – referring to the LORD God in the 3rd person (rather than saying that he himself is the LORD who sent himself to Zechariah)? The quotation of the LORD would end with this phrase in verse 11: ‘And I will dwell in your midst’. So we should read verses 11 and following this way: “ ‘Many nations shall be joined to the LORD in that day, and they shall become My people. And I will dwell in you midst’ [says the LORD]. “Then” [the angel said] “you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you. And the LORD will take possession of Judah as His inheritance…” Alternatively, this could be read as the angel himself ceasing to speak and quote the LORD, and Zechariah (the first speaker in the passage) resumes talking to his readers. Then it would read: Then [said Zechariah] you will know that the LORD of Hosts has sent me to you… Either way of reading this verse makes good sense, and avoids the ‘mysterious paradox’ (which would actually be ‘blasphemy’) of God’s messenger, and the God who sent him, being one and the same. It’s simply a matter of using our reason to determine where the quotation ends.
This use of reason to discern who is speaking can be illustrated from the Qur’an. I just noticed this in my reading a few nights ago, though I’m sure there are other places in the Qur’an where the same thing occurs. Sura 7, in recording the story of Moses’ confrontation with Pharaoh, says this (Muhammad Asad’s rendering): (109) The great ones among Pharaoh’s people said, “Verily, this [Moses] is indeed a sorcerer of great knowledge, (110) who wants to drive you out of your land!” [Said Pharaoh:] “What, then, do you advise?” (111) They answered: “Let him and his brother wait awhile…” You will notice that the words Said Pharaoh are in brackets, indicating that they are an interpretive interpolation by Muhammad Asad (just as I interpolated ‘Moses’ in brackets). Since there are no quotation marks in the Arabic (to the best of my knowledge), the question What then do you advise? might at first reading appear to be a continuation of the “great ones’ ” words. But just a little bit of thinking would make one realize that the question must have been Pharaoh’s. Surely the “great ones” did not ask themselves that question, and then answer themselves. 🙂 So Mr. Asad added the bracketed words, and appropriately placed the quotation marks, in order to differentiate the various speakers.
Let’s use our common sense when reading and interpreting Scriptures, and not create unnecessary ‘mysteries’ and ‘paradoxes’. 😀