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Friday, August 15, 2014

 

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PHANEROSIS


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PAGES 133-140

"Phanerosis" has been subjected to adverse criticism, and as this is still vigorously pressed against Brother Thomas' exposition, we feel that it is important to attempt an answer to the main points raised.

In doing so, we again direct attention to the comment of the late J. W. Thirtle (himself a Hebrew Scholar of no mean ability), published in The Christadelphian for May, 1881, reference to which is made in our Foreword. He declared:

"Some people, with nothing better than a vague notion as to what Dr. Thomas's writings on this subject really amount to, have adjudged him in error on some points; and most frequently a little examination has shown that the points of difference have involved a difficult criticism or an investigation of matters beyond the compass of those who have not seen their way to be content with dealing with things which are within their reach. Others, however, convinced of the impregnability of Dr. Thomas's position, have been thankful for the plainly expressed results of his labour and study, and grateful for the light he shed upon the doctrine of God-manifestation and its many revealed phases; and this, notwithstanding their individual inability to follow him in every stage of his reasoning, owing to their own lack of the qualifications necessary to support them in an adventure on the field of Biblical criticism . . . It will be patent to any reader of Dr. Thomas's works that he did not find his problems ready worked out, neither were the difficulties he encountered already solved and only waiting to be 're-hashed up.'... It is also clear to anyone having only a slight acquaintance with current and recent literature on the subjects dealt with by the Doctor, that hard study and careful investigation were required before he could, in the lucid way he did, 'open up the Scriptures' to enquirers after the way of life. Bringing to bear upon the subject of God-manifestation, a knowledge of the revealed purpose of the Deity, he was well equipped for his task of examining both the Old and New Testaments, and the position he eventually assumed was so strong that we might reasonably believe that, in some aspects and on some points, at least, his deductions have been corroborated by other, differently disposed or less enlightened, students of the Bible . . ."

 

We agree that a slavish deference should not be given to Brother Thomas, but rather that his expositions should be carefully considered in the light of Scripture. When that is done fairly and without bias, readers will be thankful for the instruction received, and will be drawn more closely to the Word itself.

Plural Titles Of God (See Hebrew Titles of Deity)

The Hebrew words Elohim (God), Shaddai (Almighty), and Adonai (Lord), are plural words selected by the Spirit to define God in manifestation, and frequently, though not invariably, used with a verb in the singular number. Thus, in Genesis 1:1: "In the beginning, God created : . . "the noun (Elohim) is in the plural number, but the verb (bahrah) is in the singular number.

This is contrary to the normal rules of grammar, which state that a noun and its verb must agree in number. Theology explains this departure from the normal rule as expressing a "plurality of eminence,'? and when, in Genesis 1:26, God is represented as saying: "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness," it explains the use of the plural word Elohim with its plural pronouns, us and our, as the three members of the one God (the Trinity) conferring among themselves.

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In Phanerosis, Brother Thomas shows that God in multiplicity, not God in trinity, is the true Bible doctrine. He demonstrates that the suggestion that the use of a plural word such as Elohim to express a "plurality of eminence" such as Hastings Bible Dictionary claims, is unsound, and states that the selection of plural terms to define the Deity is deliberate and doctrinal, being a feature of the theme of God-manifestation.

He explains the use of the plural noun with a verb in the singular number (as in Genesis 1:1), as indicating that Yah's agents, the Elohim or angels, were moved by the "one spirit" that emanated from Him. The work of creation, therefore, was His work, as a completed building is accounted the work of an Architect, and a Master Builder, because they directed the operations whereby it came into existence. The title Elohim, therefore, relates to Yahweh in manifestation (see Psalm 103:20). That is why the Scriptures refer to Jacob wrestling with God, Moses talking face to face with God, and yet, at the same time, state: "No man hath seen God at any time" (1 John 4:12). None has seen the great Increate, the El of the heavens, Yahweh Himself Who dwells in unapproachable light; but. many have seen manifestations of His power and glory in the Elohim, or angels.

But here occurs a difficulty. If the plural noun is used in regard to God wrestling with Jacob or speaking with Moses, does it mean that more than one were present? By no means. The Elohim of Genesis 32:30 is described as an angel by Hosea (Ch. 12:3-4). Why, then, the use of the plural noun in Genesis? Because, as Brother Thomas points out Elohim is a noun of multitude and the individual angel wrestling with Jacob, did so as officially representing the Elohim as a whole.. We use a similar form of language when we make reference to the Ecclesia. The word is a noun of multitude, and can represent one or more. When a person speaks officially on behalf of the Ecclesia, he represents the community as a whole, even though he be but one. Let several ecclesias appoint a representative, and the same principle remains.

In that sense, the plural term is used even of individuals when they are representing the aggregate of the Elohim.

The distinction between Yahweh and Elohim is revealed in the incident recorded in Exodus 24. Moses was told that he, alone, "shall come near Yahweh" (v.2), but the elders of Israel were not permitted to do so. Yet, v.11 states: "The nobles saw God (Elohim) and did eat and drink." Neither Moses nor the nobles saw the great Increate. The former saw His glory revealed through an angel of authority (probably the one referred to as bearing the Name according to Exodus 23:20), so that it is stated, "the similitude of Yahweh he beheld" (Num. 12:8). On the other hand, the nobles of Israel "saw God," or Elohim of lower status (though of the same physical constitution) as the one who appeared unto Moses, as recorded in the earlier verse.

We have personally considered nearly every instance where the word Elohim occurs in Scripture (it is used considerably more than 2,000 times), and have found no difficulty in interpreting its use in accordance with the suggestions contained in Phanerosis, whereas the suggestion of Trinitarians that it defines "a plurality of eminence" (whatever that might mean) would cause difficulty.

In a previous edition of Phanerosis it is claimed in an Additional Note that occurrences where the term Elohim obviously relates to one individual "demand attention in studying the usage of the Divine titles." Five references are specifically advanced, and in case any reader might feel embarrassed with these when studying Phanerosis, we propose to provide an explanation of them consistent with Brother Thomas' exposition.

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Exodus 7:1

It is claimed that this verse shows that the term is not plural in intent. It reads: "See I have made thee a god to Pharaoh, and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet."

The word "god" is Elohim, the same word as is elsewhere rendered "God." How is the passage to be understood? The Companion Bible, in a marginal note, suggests that it signifies "instead of God." This is confirmed by Exodus 4:16, where it is written concerning Moses: "He (Aaron) shall be thy spokesman unto the people; and . . . thou shalt be to him instead of God." The RSV has rendered both places "as God": "I have made thee as God to Pharaoh."

However, the term Elohim could apply to Moses in that he appeared before Pharaoh in an official capacity, representing both the Elohim of heaven who would bring the plagues upon Egypt, as well as the nation of Israel who are elsewhere described as "the body of Moses." As Moses before Pharaoh represented the people as a whole (as Christ before Yahweh represents his people) the plural term can properly apply: particularly as he was associated with Aaron in his approach to Pharaoh.

Deuteronomy 10:17

This reference reads: "For Yahweh your Elohim is Elohei of Elohim, and Adonai of Adonim, a great El, the mighty and the terrible ..... "

"Here," comment the critics, "it would appear that Jehovah, Elohim, Adonim and E1 are all used of the one 'great God,' whilst the name Jehovah and one of the titles is singular, and two titles are plural."

It is true that both plural and singular titles are here used in relation to Yahweh, but that is because they refer to Him in different aspects and manifestations. When the verse is read in the light of the exposition contained in Phanerosis, the following thoughts emerge:

"Yahweh your Elohim" -- This signifies that Yahweh will be manifested in a multitude identified with Israel.

"Is Elohei of Elohim" -- Or Elohim of Elohim (rendered "God of gods"). Two orders of Elohim are indicated, one higher than the other. The Scriptures refer to the angels of heaven as Elohim, and the rulers of Israel as Elohim (Ps. 82:6). The former have been placed over the latter (Exod. 23:20), but their authority stems from Yahweh.

"Adonai of Adohim" -- Two forms of the same plural word, and again indicating two orders of Lords or Rulers: one in heaven and the other on earth.

"A great El" -- Behind the multiple manifestation of power (Elohim) and authority (Adonai) there is the great Increate providing the Source of all strength and rule. He is one, but is manifested multitudinously: and that requires titles both in the singular as well as in the plural numbers.

The angels of heaven can well be described as the God of gods, or Elohim of Elohim because, receiving power from El or Yahweh, they energise the called on earth (described as gods, Ps. 82:6; John 10:34) that have been given into their charge (Heb. 2:5; Matt. 18:10).

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Psalm 82:1

This states: "God (Elohim) standeth in the congregation of the mighty (El); he judgeth among the gods (Elohim)."

It is suggested by some that here, the plural term Elohim must relate to Yahweh personally; but why should it? There is no difficulty in understanding this passage in the light of God-manifestation. The word Elohim occurs twice, and relates in both instances to the same people: the rulers of Israel. Jesus endorsed this when he declared to the Jews that the Scriptures "called them gods, unto whom the word of God came" (John 10:34-35), and he was specifically referring to this Psalm. The rulers of Israel are caviled Elohim (Gods) in several places in Scripture, because the authority they wielded came from heaven. Israel, in fact, constituted the "congregation of El," as this Psalm indicates. It can be read: "Elohim (Mighty Ones -- the rulers of Israel) are in the congregation of El (the Increate); He (i.e. El) judgeth among the Elohim (Mighty Ones)."

The obvious meaning is that though the Elohim of Israel constituted the congregation of El, He was judging among them, and as the subsequent verses of the Psalm show, they would be cast down from their positions of eminence, to die like common men (v.6).

Psalm 45:7

Concerning this reference, it is claimed:

"An outstanding illustration of the use of Elohim as a singular noun although plural in form, is in Psalm 45: 'Thy throne, O God is for ever . . . God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.' Here we have Elohim three times, and its singular usage is beyond question when the reference is to the Mighty One of v.3, and it is difficult to think of it as other than a singular noun when applied to the God (Elohim) that anoints and exalts the Elohim upon whom the sceptre is bestowed .... "

 

There would be some validity in this criticism if Brother Thomas set forward the view that Elohim related to a multitude of beings acting independent of each other. That is not his interpretation of the word in its plurality. He viewed it as indicating the One Eternal Spirit multitudinously manifested. The word is compounded of roots that signify "mighty ones" united together as one; and this idea is strengthened when the plural noun is used with a singular verb. Thus, as indicated earlier, Jacob wrestled with Elohim (Gen. 32:30), which Hosea describe's as an "angel" (Hos. 12:4).

Why use a plural noun to describe an angel? Hastings' Bible Dictionary suggests that the plural emphasises the eminence of the one referred to; but that hardly explains why an unnamed angel should be so treated! But if that angel wrestled with Jacob as the representative of his fellows in heaven, the plural term is appropriate.

Psalm 45 states that "Elohim anointed Christ." By Elohim we understand Yahweh in multitudinous manifestation. Did not Yahweh, through the angels, His Elohim, anoint the Son? Who can doubt it? The anointing took place after the resurrection of the Lord, and was performed by angels supervised by Yahweh. Did not the Elohim remove the stone from the sepulchre, revive the body, and clothe it with immortality?

The answer is not in doubt.

Psalm 45, however, applies the plural term to the Lord Jesus; on

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what grounds can it do so? On the same principle as suggested above.

Was the Lord anointed on his own behalf merely, or on behalf of those "in him"? Undoubtedly the latter. Scripture represents Christ as both an individual and a community. As a community the brethren of Christ are "the anointed" being "in him," that is, in the Christ, or the Anointed (2 Cor. 1:21; 1 John 2:27).

In this they have been anointed or Christed in him above their fellows of the Adamic race. This will apply even more so in the Age to come when they shall experience the full anointing of being changed into spirit nature, and will thus inherit blessings above those of their mortal contemporaries who will enjoy the privilege of Christ's reign.

Ehyeh And Yahweh

In Exodus 3:4, Moses was told to tell the Israelites that Ehyeh (translated "I am") "hath sent me unto you"; and then, in the next verse, the Name is more formally presented as "Yahweh Elohim of your fathers" etc.

What is the difference between Ehyeh and Yahweh? Ehyeh is the verb, and Yahweh is the noun. If this is accepted, (and it can only be disputed by those who reject the inspiration of the Bible), the prophetic significance and pronunciation of the Name, Yahweh, is beyond all doubt.

Doubt has been thrown on both by those who reject the declaration of Exodus 3:14-15 as inspired.

Ehyeh is the future form of the verb, to be. In Exodus 3:12, two verses before the declaration of the Name, we read that the Eternal Spirit, speaking through the Elohim said to Moses: Ki ehyeh immok: "Certainly I will be with thee." Yet, in v.14, the same verb is rendered "I am."

It has been observed: "Out of over forty other occurrences of this first person, singular number, future tense of the verb, in such a grammatical position as to make it allowable to draw a comparison with this verse there is only one sentence of 'Ehyeh' being rendered 'I am' in the A.V. We have 'I will be' 27 times, and the remaining occurrences represented by 'will I be,' I shall be,' 'shall I be,' 'though I be,' etc."

The fact that Moses was instructed to tell the Israelites that Ehyeh had sent unto them, and then that Yahweh had instructed him, would indicate that both forms of the Name were used by God. He used the name Ehyeh, I will be, when speaking of Himself ("Thou shalt say unto the children of Israel, Ehyeh hath sent me unto you" -- Exod. 3:14), but directed that Yahweh be the form of the name when used by others ("Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, Yahweh . .. hath sent me" -- v.15). In either case, what He will be is left unexpressed.

It is claimed that the Hebrew verb ehyeh does not mean "to be," so much as "to come to be." Hebrew has no real verb of "being," but one of "becoming." Thus, in selecting this verb, Deity proclaimed His intention of becoming or extending Himself, or His being in others. He was like a Father proclaiming His intention of extending Himself in a family, the firstborn of which is the Lord Jesus who now manifests the fulness of the Divine glory mentally, morally and physically. What he is now, we can become.

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When Was The Name First Known?

It is plainly stated in Exodus 6:3, that the name Yahweh was not known to the patriarchs; and yet we have Eve making reference to the Name (Gen. 4:1), and Abraham naming the site of the sacrifice of Isaac as Yahweh-Yireh: He who will become a Provider.

The explanations of this apparent anomaly that are generally advanced are:

1. He was not "known" by the Name in the fullest sense, though the Name had been proclaimed. Thus it is suggested that it was "known" as a Name but not "understood" or "appropriated" in the fullest sense of the word.

2. The Name was quite unknown prior to the revelation to Moses, and he, as the author of Genesis, introduced it wherever appropriate.

The first suggestion hardly seems appropriate to the circumstances. It is difficult to imagine that Abraham, the father of the faithful, of whom Christ declared: "He saw my day and was glad," did not fully understand the Name he used. In fact, his use of the name in Genesis 22, would reveal the very reverse, if, in fact, he used it.

This leaves the second alternative. But how could Moses introduce it into the conversation of the Patriarchs, or as the name of a place (Gert. 22:14) if it were entirely unknown?

We suggest that the principle, or doctrinal import, of the Name was well known to the Patriarchs, though God at that time had not appropriated it to Himself. They worshipped El Shaddai (Exod. 6:3) whom they believed would reveal Himself in a Son and sons. In fact, this had been proclaimed in the declaration of Genesis 3:15. The one promised was to be the "seed of the woman," not of a man; which shows that God had to become manifest in flesh! This is what was commonly believed by the faithful, so that to their minds, the One they worshipped was He who would become manifested in flesh. The common Hebrew verb ehyeh could well be used to define their belief, for as the late Bro. C. C. Walker observed: "though but one word in the Hebrew, it is in itself a complete sentence." Eve, therefore, could have used either ehyeh or yahweh as common words in Gen. 4:1, as expressing her mind of the intentions of the One she worshipped; and this could be the case with other places such as Gen. 4:26; 22:14, etc.

It was not until Moses was sent down into Egypt, however, that Deity formally took the verb ehyeh and made Yahweh His Memorial Name, which thence onwards was used to identify Himself with His purpose.

Christ's Equality With God

Brother Thomas writes of the equality of Christ with God, quoting from John 10:33-36. The equality of Christ with God or Yahweh is inferred in Phillippians 2:6. But what is meant by it? Not an equality of status (see 1 Cor. 15:28), but of nature; and to that equality all can attain (Rom. 5:2; 2 Pet. 1:4; Rev. 3:12).

This is made clear on p.69 of Phanerosis. The point of the argument which Jesus had with the Jews was whether Messiah was to be of God or only of David; whether he was to be "of Deity, or of mere humanity." If he were to have been simply son of David, "then he would be equal in natural descent, and inferior in rank" inasmuch as "fathers take precedence of sons."

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Jesus was begotten from above; so must all those ,who would be sons of God (Jhn. 3:3 mg.); he submitted to his flesh being, crucified, and in doing so denied it to serve His God; and so must all those who would attain unto an equality with Christ by attaining unto Divine nature. They become "heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that they suffer with him; that they may be also glorified together" (Rom. 8:17).

Brother Thomas is very careful to disclaim any connection with Trinitarian error, when writing of the "equality of Christ with God."

The Son Of Man Ascending Up Where He was Before

The "hard sayings" of John 6 caused many disciples to turn from the Lord Jesus (v.60), and have been the cause of much controversy since.

On the grounds that Jesus taught that he "came down from heaven" (v.38), many have claimed that he had corporeal pre-existence before his birth of Mary. In Phanerosis, Brother Thomas beautifully expounds upon this chapter, and his words of exposition should be carefully heeded.

The Lord's discourse in the Capernaum synagogue, stemmed from the statement of the Jews who quoted from Nehemiah 9:15: "He gave them bread from heaven to eat." They referred to the manna provided in the wilderness, and which Nehemiah described as "bread from heaven."

In reply, the Lord declared that "the bread of God is he (R.V. -- that) which cometh down from heaven, and giveth life unto the world," and then claimed: "I am the bread of life"; "I came down from heaven."

The context shows that he meant that he came down from heaven the same as did the manna in the days of Moses.

How was that "bread from heaven" provided? Was it manufactured in heaven, and wafted down through the illimit able space as a huge cloud of literal manna? Or did Yahweh send forth His spirit and manufacture it on earth?

Obviously the latter.

That, also, was the way the "true manna" was provided: "The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God" (Luke 1:35).

Jesus had no corporeal pre-existence before his birth, but he nevertheless "came down from heaven" in the sense that he was heaven-provided. He explained this by stating during the latter part of his discourse: "It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing" (John 6:63).

It is significant that the Lord stated that it would be the "Son of man" that would ascend, and not the Son of God (John 6:62). He was obviously referring to Daniel 7:13, and identifying himself with the one to which reference is there made. It is obvious, however, that the Son of Man did not pre-exist as such, and his words can only mean that the Spirit which was poured out upon Mary to beget the Son, would ascend in a new form: as Son of Man. His words can be paraphrased: "What if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he, the Spirit, was before? It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing?'

The title Son of Man defines Christ as the Judge (see John 5:27). There was a threatening note in the Lord's discourse, therefore, when he used this title. What would they do when they saw the one they refused

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elevated as judge over all! Further, he had told them that they must eat his flesh and drink his blood; or absorb into their beings all that is represented thereby. They misunderstood him to mean a literal eating. He now revealed that such was not what he meant, for the Son of Man must ascend up where the spirit was before. It was the spirit-word that they had to consume, and it comprised the teaching he delivered unto them: "the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life."

This is true of the doctrine of God-manifestation. It is a teaching that is worthy of our closest attention, one that we must understand, and manifest in action, if we would form part of the Yahweh Name (Isa. 30:17) in the Age to come.

Angelic God-manifestation on Sinai

It is not an opinion but a matter of testimony that it was an angel that spake to Moses on Mount Sinai (see Acts 7:38,53; Heb. 2:2). The simple question to consider, therefore, is how that angel could say, "Thou canst not see my face and live," seeing other angels were often seen. There is no difficulty in this, when we remember that the angels seen by men face to face, in a familiar way, had their glory veiled or drawn in, and appeared like ordinary men, while the angel on Mount Sinai shone with the unrestrained lustre of the Spirit nature. A man might look on an angel in the former state, as the disciples looked on the Lord before his ascension; but no man might look on the latter as exemplified in the brightness of the Lord's glory afterwards ("above the brightness of the sun"--see Matt. 28:1-2), striking Saul to the ground and blinding him when on his way to Damascus. Moses was not permitted to look on the face of the angelic-God-manifestation on Sinai. He was permitted to be near his person, and the skin of his face contracted a brilliancy which remained reflected (though it gradually faded) when he returned to the children of Israel (Exod. 34:29-30).

 


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