From a prominent Unitarian Website:
I know it appears to our western minds that the one in the bush who says, “I am what I am” is Jehovah Himself. However, Stephen in Acts 7:30 identifies the speaker as “an angel.” And in verse 35 Stephen again speaks of “the angel who appeared to him [Moses] in the thorn bush.”
Thus we have the inspired interpretation of these OT passages from one who was filled with the Holy Spirit and with wisdom and faith. His understanding was that the Being who confronted Moses was not Jehovah Himself, nor the Son of God existing before his birth.
The same is true of Moses’ experience on Mount Sinai. Stephen says it was “the angel who was speaking to him on Mount Sinai” (v. 38). Yet again, when we read the Old Testament account the impression given is quite clearly that God Himself was the speaker. Hebrews confirms the presence of a divine agency when it states categorically that Israel received the Law through “angels” (Heb. 2:2).
These are classic instances of the principle of Jewish “agency.” When God commissions and sends a subordinate to speak and act for Himself, the subordinate is treated as though he is in fact God Himself. To oppose the “sent one,” God’s commissioner, is truly to oppose God Himself.
There is, indeed, a biblical tradition of 'agency.' It is, perhaps, most clearly seen in the parable of the evil vine-growers (Mark 12:1-9). The "beloved son" sent by the father is the father's agent par-excellance: "The will respect my son." Why will they respect the son? Because he is not only his father's agent (as were the servants sent before him), but also his son, his heir in all his estate, deserving of honor equal to his father.
It is important to note that the evil vine-growers recognize the son: "This is the heir!" In indisputable examples of Biblical agents, whether they are OT prophets, NT apostles, or angels, the agents are recognized as agents; they are never confused with God. The prophets never once called themselves "God." The inspired text never describes them as God (unless the two passages described above are the lone exceptions). The apostles carefully avoided any confusion on this point (Acts 10:25-26), as did angels (Rev 19:10, 22:9).
Now, let's turn to the passages discussed on the Unitarian website:
"I know it appears to our western minds that the one in the bush who says, “I am what I am” is Jehovah Himself. However, Stephen in Acts 7:30 identifies the speaker as 'an angel.'"
The reason our western minds understand the speaker to be God, is because the text explicitly identifies the speaker as God, "God called to him from the midst of the bush" (Ex 3:4). The speaker identifies himself by saying, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob." Yes, the figure in the bush is earlier described as the "Angel of the LORD," but the speaker is described as God. In fact, in this entire passage, it is God who is said to be speaking, not the angel.
But what of Acts 7:30? Careful examination reveals that here, too, the figure in the bush is identified as "an angel," but the speaker is God: "The voice of the Lord" (v. 31). Exodus 3 does not portray the angel as speaking on the Father's behalf, and neither does Acts 7:30. Both passages confirm that God was speaking, in close association with (or perhaps equated with) the Angel of the LORD.
The Unitarian website continues:
"The same is true of Moses’ experience on Mount Sinai. Stephen says it was 'the angel who was speaking to him on Mount Sinai' (v. 38)....categorically Israel received the Law through 'angels' (Heb. 2:2)."
As the website admits, "when we read the Old Testament account the impression given is quite clearly that God Himself was the speaker." Yes, indeed! The account does not merely "give the impression," it states without amibiguity that God was the speaker, that he "passed before" Moses, and that the Tablets were inscribed with his "finger."
Hebrews 2:2 simply acknowledges that formerly, God spoke His word through angels. In that sense, He used angels as agents or intermediaries. But it is not logical to conclude that He also did not speak directly Himself, particularly when the sacred text so teaches.
In short, Biblical Agency does not preclude God from acting and speaking on His own behalf. It also does not preclude the Angel (Hebrew ma'lak: "Messenger") of the LORD from being at once distinguised from God, and yet God Himself.
Going back to the parable of the evil vine-growers, the agent par excellance is the son. This parable is meant to picture the sending of the Son of God into the world, and the world's violent rejection of Him. The Son of God is the agent par excellance of His Father. This does not mean that He was simply a man, or perhaps an angel. Such beings, indeed, could be called the Father's agents, but there are no clear cases in Scripture where such agents are described as God.
Indeed, if agents can be described as God, can identify themselves as God, can be stand-ins for God, there is simply no way to determine when God is speaking anywhere in the Bible, and when it is an agent. The Gnostics and Neo-Platonists invented a series of intermediaries through whom their god had to act in the 'lower' world of material things. But that is not the God of the Bible, for whom the the physical universe (as He originally created it) was "very good," and who lovingly and sovereignly intervenes in human history, causing "all things to work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose."
Monday, February 05, 2007
From a prominent Unitarian Website: