Archive for December, 2022

When God began creating heaven and earth…

December 31, 2022

When we look at our own life, our beginnings can influence what our end can also be. We all ask questions of where we have come from and where we are going.  Although these can be scientific questions, they can also be existential, moral, and spiritual questions. I found Rabbi Sacks really important on my understanding of Genesis one and two.  Some of the reflections I came to were heavily influenced by his thinking.  In Genesis one and two we can already see God’s love for his creation.  The way rabbi Sacks brought this out in his Covenant and conversation from my point of view is fantastic.  I really enjoyed reading it because it is not dry such as the higher criticism of J, E , and P… and taking the razor to the text that ought not to have ever have been done.

I am also aware of the ancients who also attempted to interpret Genesis allegorically, philosophically, scientifically. These ways I just mentioned are ways that Josephus talked about. All these ways fail if we miss the genre of Genesis.  The genre is Scripture and thus God wants to speak to us through his word. God is not so interested in what of knowledge rather he is more interested in who and this wrapped in Divine love.  The intention of the creation of the world was not out of selfish reasons but rather the opposite that people can have a meaningful relationship with God through His covenant as established through Abraham. For my own tradition this finds complete fruition in the life and work of Christ. These images were taken from the wikipedia. In a lot of the creation stories there can also be some type of monster.

The Translation of Genesis 1. 1-2

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. Genesis 1:1-2

Genesis chapters 1 and 2 are not a scientific textbook.  Indeed, the above text in the English translation has a serious problem. At the end of verse 1 it should have a comma and not a full stop because it is one idea that holds the two parts together. Scholars including Rabbi Sacks and Walter Brueggemann show this in their translations:

“When God began creating heaven and earth, the earth was void and desolate, there was darkness on the face of the deep, and the spirit of God moved over the waters.”

(From the KOREN TANAKH, The Magerman Edition, Bereshit, chapter 1, verses 1-2, The Torah was translated by the Late Rabbi Sacks)

Some modern translations such as the NRSV, The Contemporary Torah, JPS, 2006 and so on prefer this way of translating.  This way of reading though however can make life a little more difficult for scholars who try to make connections between the Old Testament and the New Testament.  One case in point would be john chapter one and Genesis 1.  ‘In the beginning…’ The translation of the Greek LXX and John on the other hand is an almost perfect copy.

Sometimes I think scholars can over complicate things and talk about consensus’ in the academic world.  However, we have to be careful not to fall into this trap.  Some have said that Genesis 1.1 is exilic rather than pre-exilic and that there are many comparisons with the Babylonian creation myths.

There can be a lot to say but I also think we can talk more about the contrasts than the comparisons.  One big contrast that in the six-day creation story until the moment of making Adam everything was made by God speaking.  God ‘brooded over the waters’.  The Babylonian creation story says somewhere:

“17. “Marduk laid a rush mat upon the face of the waters,

18. “He mixed up earth and moulded it upon the rush mat,

19. “To enable the gods to dwell in the place where they fain would be.

20. “He fashioned man.

21. “The goddess Aruru [Cuneiform] with him created the seed of mankind.

22. “He created the beasts of the field and [all] the living things in the field.

23. “He created the river Idiglat (Tigris) and the river Purattu (Euphrates), and he set them in their places,”


In the creation of matter and the setting up of the theatre for human civilization God did not do a lot. God spoke and said things and things happened. 

It is only when God got involved with man that God did things:

“Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. 8 The LORD God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed. Genesis 2:7-8”

Then again later for the creation of the woman:

“But for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him. 21 So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. 22 The LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man and brought her to the man. Genesis 2:20-22”

On reflection it is really only in the second creation story of Adam and Eve that God got involved with his creation.

In the second story God

  • Became a potter
  • Became a gardener
  • Became a surgeon

God took a personal interest in his creation of humanity.  Later on, we also find big differences between the Babylonian creation stories and Genesis.  In the Babylonian creation stories the gods were involved directly in the creation of city states.  God in Genesis did not create city states only a garden.  In fact, if we think about Sodom and Gomorrah the human invention of city states had every type of evil and vice in them. 

Where they agree is that the fashioning of the theatre for humankind started from a dark watery world.

One very good reason for Genesis 1 having a pre-exilic date is the symbolism around Solomon’s brazen sea which could represent the watery abyss:

“—In Rabbinical Literature:

The layer contained water sufficient for 150 ritual baths (“miḳwaot”), if forty seahs be taken as the legal measure of such bath. The laver was not entirely round, as might be inferred from Scripture (I Kings vii. 23): the upper two-fifths were round; but the lower three were square (‘Er. 14a, b). The symbolism of the brazen sea is described in detail in the Midrash Tadshe. The sea represented the world; the ten ells of diameter corresponded to the ten Sefirot; and it was round at the top (according to the Talmud passage above cited) as the heavens are round. The depth of the sea was five ells, corresponding to the distance of five hundred years’ journey between heaven and earth (compare Ḥag. 13a). The band of thirty ells around it corresponded to the Ten Commandments, to the ten words of God at the creation of the world, and to the ten Sefirot: for the world can exist only when the Ten Commandments are observed; and the ten Sefirot as well as the ten words of God were the instruments of the Creation. The two rows of colocynths (knops) below the rim were symbolic of the sun and the moon, while the twelve oxen on which the sea rested represented the zodiac (“mazzalot”). It contained 2,000 baths (cubic measures), for the world will sustain him who keeps the Torah, which was created 2,000 years before the world (Midrash Tadshe ii., ed. Epstein, in “Mi-Ḳadmoniyot ha-Yehudim,” xvi., xvii.; Yalḳ., Kings, 185).”


Obviously, Genesis 1 and 2 already existed in the Tanakh that Moses wrote!  If Moses was brought up in the household of Egypt, he certainly would have known about these competing creation stories and by the Holy Spirit we are given the correct version. Judaism was and is a purely Monotheistic religion and the disorderly chaos before the creation of man is shown for what it is.

The word ‘reshit’ ‘beginning’ is a noun that is in the feminine case. It has ‘b’ attached to the front and it reads ‘bereshit’ not bareshit.  There is one vowel difference between these two forms.  My argument is that no matter which form one takes whenever ‘reshit’ is used it is the ‘beginning or chief’ thus in the order of creation the chaos was created first.  No commentary is really necessary apart from the fact that this was a dark watery world which was completely in darkness.

Concerning the word created ‘bara’ it is a verb:


Hebrew, verb, qal, perfect, 3rd person, masculine, singular

In other words it is active but completed action. This stage of chaotic creation ‘was completed and finished’. 

The description was tohu and bohu

וְהָאָ֗רֶץ הָיְתָ֥ה תֹ֨הוּ֙ וָבֹ֔הוּ וְחֹ֖שֶׁךְ עַל־פְּנֵ֣י תְהֹ֑ום וְר֣וּחַ אֱלֹהִ֔ים מְרַחֶ֖פֶת עַל־פְּנֵ֥י הַמָּֽיִם׃ Genesis 1:2

The second verse starts with an ‘and’ and a noun ‘earth’ this is enough according to Hebrew convention to not start understanding it as a new sentence.

So I would change the NASB translation at the beginning of verse 2 with a comma.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth, 2 and the earth was a [a]formless and desolate emptiness, and darkness was over the [b]surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the [c]surface of the waters.

(From the NASB: I changed the end of vese 1 with a comma and I started verse 2 with a small and (wa-eretz).

Note to gap theorists on the creation story.

Some hold that at the end of verse one a new creation starts.  The evidence goes against this.

Note to those who hold a late date on Genesis 1. 1-2

The internal evidence goes against a late date because of ‘Solomon’s brass sea’.

The only two things that one can argue for is the creation of man and the sea of chaos.  In the Babylonian creation stories these were created by various gods.  The Genesis account rejects this completely.

Reflection and my view

The big mistake some scholars make is to see Genesis as a scientific interpretation of the universe, heaven and this earth.  No I think it is much deeper than this that God is interested in his relationship to mankind. Genesis chapter 1 is very impersonal, and the use of Elohim is favoured. In chapter one God only does things through the spoken word.  However, in the creation of Man and Woman God gets more personal and his name also changes from Elohim to the Tetragrammaton (Ha-Shem, the Lord).  In this creation God is more involved with his creation and he becomes:

A potter, a life-giving mouth blower, a gardener, a surgeon, and a clothes maker.  He is not only speaking but God the Lord is being creative and getting very involved with his creation.

Old Testament use of Genesis 1 & 2

  • He gathers the waters of the sea together as a heap; He lays up the deeps in storehouses. Psalms 33:7
  • You divided the sea by Your strength; You broke the heads of the sea monsters in the waters. Psalms 74:13
  • The fish of the sea, the birds of the heavens, the beasts of the field, all the creeping things that creep on the earth, and all the men who are on the face of the earth will shake at My presence; the mountains also will be thrown down, the steep pathways will collapse, and every wall will fall to the ground. Ezekiel 38:20
  • He established the earth upon its foundations, so that it will not totter forever and ever. 6 You covered it with the deep as with a garment; The waters were standing above the mountains. 7 At Your rebuke they fled, At the sound of Your thunder they hurried away. 8 The mountains rose; the valleys sank down to the place which You established for them. 9 You set a boundary that they may not pass over, so that they will not return to cover the earth. Psalms 104:5-9

New Testament use of Genesis 1 & 2

  • And He answered and said, “Have you not read that He who created them from the beginning MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE, Matthew 19:4
  • For those days will be a time of tribulation such as has not occurred since the beginning of the creation which God created until now, and never will. Mark 13:19
  • and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things; Ephesians 3:9
  • For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. Colossians 1:16
  • and swore by Him who lives forever and ever, WHO CREATED HEAVEN AND THE THINGS IN IT, AND THE EARTH AND THE THINGS IN IT, AND THE SEA AND THE THINGS IN IT, that there will be delay no longer, Revelation 10:6

Genesis is basic foundational truths for all Christians and Jews and also influences Islamic theology.  These texts for example would not make any sense without our foundational belief that God is Creator.  For the believer Genesis is important for the moral and spiritual truths God has for us.  Scholars have wanted to emphasise the Babylonian myth creation stories to Genesis as though somehow Judaism was reliant on Babylonian myths. Obviously prehistoric man was thinking about the elements of the Genesis story.  Creation has always played a huge role in how people saw this tiny world in the universe. 



If basic ideas were borrowed from creation myths, my own subjective opinion is that it is more likely to be from Egypt.  After all Moses was a prince of Egypt and thus would have been taught by their education system and this is the country from which the Israelites escaped.

I also find similar ideas between Solomon’s bronze sea and one of the Egyptian creation stories.

“Summary of a photo Description        

The sun rises from the mound of creation at the beginning of time. The central circle represents the mound, and the three orange circles are the sun in different stages of its rising. At the top is the “horizon” hieroglyph with the sun appearing atop it. At either side are the goddesses of the north and south, pouring out the waters that surround the mound. The eight stick figures are the gods of the Ogdoad, hoeing the soil.

Date      Book published 2003; artwork made in Twenty-first Dynasty (c. 1075–945 BC)

Source Scanned from the book Ancient Egypt, edited by David P. Silverman, p. 121; photograph from the Book of the Dead of Khensumose

Author Original artist unknown”


Immanu-El; ‘God is with us’ as Reported in the Gospel of Matthew 1:23

December 18, 2022

 Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14

When I think of the above verse I cannot think of anyone more suited to show us that Jesus is the Immanu-El (God is with us).  He quotes:

“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14”

The only difference in the Greek and Hebrew is that Matthew uses the LXX (Septuagint- the Greek translation of the TANACH (Old Testament for Christian readers)). 

The only dispute which to my mind is not a dispute at all is; Does almah in the Hebrew mean Maiden or Virgin?

The truth is that in this context the maiden for cultural reasons would be a virgin as other wise she would probably be stoned to death.  The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament also says:


    virgin, young woman of marriageable age

        maid or newly married ++ There is no instance where it can be proved that this word designates a young woman who is not a virgin. (TWOT)” Taken from

(In my quotations from the web sites I usually delete the first part for security reasons.)

In the LXX the word is always translated as virgin. 

The Church and many synagogues in the 1st century AD wrestling with the Scriptural texts of what type of Messiah was going to be born (the tension of Humble Servant and the Great Judge).

Paul and the first generation of early Christians did not see themselves as Christians. There was ‘no New Testament’. The New Testament came into being over time with reflections on the Tanach in its various forms (Hebrew and Greek).  As time has progressed and new discoveries have been made especially with the Dead Sea Scrolls, we find images of a Lowly Messiah and a Messiah as Judge.  Obviously, much thought went into this thinking. There is only one true Messiah not two. John in his Gospel showed Jesus the lowly Messiah who was born in a stable and the same John also Showed Jesus as the Judge of Mankind in the book of Revelations and the end times (eschaton).

These ideas were being wrestled with at the latter time of the Second Temple period.

Mathew, Mark, Luke and John all agree in the Messiah coming into the world as a humble servant who would be crucified a Horrific death on a Roman cross but on the third day be raised up as the glorified Messiah who would one day come back as the true king (within the Trinitarian framework) with power and authority on his second coming to judge the living and the dead.  As an added note I can say that although Mark does not show Jesus’ birth, he does show the repulsion of the cross and the resurrection. When we turn to the Dead Sea Scrolls proper we can see interesting ideas that were at work in probably the side corridors of the second Temple where Jesus probably taught his disciples,  and Judea including the surrounding areas.

The idea of a Messiah and the Dead Sea Scrolls

The messiah of heaven and earth (4q521) (plate 1)

The following text we will be looking at is taken from the penguin edition of the Dead Sea Scrolls Uncovered by Robert Eisenman &  Michael Wise page 23:


Fragment 1 Column 2 (1) [. . . The Heavens and the earth will obey His Messiah, (2) [. . . and all that is in them. He will not turn aside from the Commandments of the Holy Ones.

(3) Take strength in His service, (you) who seek the Lord.

(4) Shall you not find the Lord in this, all you who wait patiently in your hearts? (5) For the Lord will visit the Pious Ones (Hassidim) and the Righteous (Zaddikim) will He call by name.

(6) Over the Meek will His Spirit hover, and the Faithful will He restore by His power.

(7) He shall glorify the Pious Ones (Hassidim) on the Throne of the Eternal Kingdom.

(8) He shall release the captives, make the blind see, raise up the do[wntrodden.] (9) For[ev]er will I cling [to Him . . J; and [I will trust] in His Piety (Hated, also ‘Grace’),

(10) and [His] Goodness . . .] of Holiness will not delay . . .

(11) And as for the wonders that are not the work of the Lord, when He . . . “

(12) then He will heal the sick, resurrect the dead, and to the Meek announce glad tidings.

(13) . . . He will lead the [Holly Ones; He will shepherd [th]em; He will‘do

(14) . . . and all of it . . .”

According to Eisenman & Wise there are important themes here within this core tradition from the Judaean desert of what the messiah would be like and how he would function. Four key themes keep coming up

  • The Righteous
  • The Pious
  • The Meek
  • The faithful

The writers point out that the righteous and the pious are key themes within Jewish mysticism and the Meek and the Faithful key themes in Christianity.  I find this very interesting, but I would contend that these key themes are found throughout Scripture in the New Testament. For example, in the Beatitudes of Christ in Matthew 5 or those who over come in the Book of Revelations (from my past readings).

In this next section on the Messiah we read about the sufferings of the Leader of the community (Messiah (page 29)):

“Fragment 6 (1) . . . Wickedness will be smitten . . . (2) [the Leader of the

Community and all Israel . , .] (4) upon the mountains of . . . (5) [the]

Kittim . . . (6) the Leader of the Community as far as the» [Great] Sea . . .

(7) before Israel in that time . . . (8) he will stand against them, and they

will muster against them . . . (9) they will return to the dry land in that]

time . . . (10) they will bring him before the Leader of [the Community . . .]

Fragment 7 (1) . . . Isaiah the Prophet, [The thickets of the forest] will be

fell[ed with an axe] (2) [and Lebanon shall flail [by a mighty one.] A staff

shall rise from the root of jesse, [and a Planting from his r00ts will bear

fruit.’l (3) . . . the Branch of David. They will enter into Judgement

with . . . (4) and they will put to death the Leader of the Community, the

Bran[ch of David] (this might also be read, depending on the context, “and

the Leader of the Community, the Branch of David’], will put him to

death) . . . (5) and with wounding’s, and the (high) priest will command . . .

(6) [the slain of the Kittim . . .”

As it shows in the text one interpretation would be that ‘the Leader of the community would be put to death’.  This is interesting because Jesus as the Messiah was indeed put to death. It is no accident that the copper Scroll of Isaiah was also found at Qumran.

Reflection on the cultural background for the life of Jesus and common ideas within the Judaic community of the time.

I find this very interesting because there was serious thinking going on in the Old Testament of what kind of Messiah would come into the world.  The writers of the translation think that the Kittim in the text refers to the Occupying force of Judea as the ‘Romans’.  Certainly, Judas Iscariot was thinking of the Messiah being the one who would defeat the invading forces because he was a Zealot.

How does this relate to the birth of Jesus?

This shows that there were many interpretations going on from the Old Testament.  Matthew too was looking for the Messiah, the true King of Israel.  Within the Judaic world view of Judea seeing the birth of Jesus foretold in the Old Testament would not be a problem.  The Dead Sea Scrolls take the advent of the Messiah into the world as servant and conqueror very seriously.

The big difference between the Dead Sea scrolls and the teachings of Jesus is that the love of God rather than the vengeful God takes priority. Barabbas or Jesus is a perfect picture of this.


Within the framework of Matthew’s world, it was perfectly natural to show that Jesus would be born of a virgin.  The Holy Spirit is the same God at the time of Isaiah as he was in Matthew’s time, and he is the same God in our present milieu. The use of the LXX was completely acceptable as it has a tradition of 70 elders for its translation.  It is a hard fact that the Apostles used the LXX a lot in their quotations.  The LXX certainly interprets the maiden in Isaiah 7.14 as a virgin. 

Can any good thing come out of Nazareth? (John2. 46)

December 11, 2022

Nathaniel asked the question; “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” 

Let’s look at the context: 

The next day He purposed to go into Galilee, and He *found Philip. And Jesus *said to him, “Follow Me.” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, of the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip *found Nathanael and *said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” Philip *said to him, “Come and see.” 47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him, and *said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael *said to Him, “How do You know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49 Nathanael answered Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel.” 50 Jesus answered and said to him, “Because I said to you that I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” 51 And He *said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see the heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” John 1:43-51 

As you can see Nazareth is a backwater town in which nothing much happened.  Nathaniel certainly knew his Bible, that the Town Nazareth is not found in the Old Testament and no prophet came from this town.   

(The quotations I have used in much of the next sections are taken from Spurgeon’s writings:

Spurgeon reminds us of a verse that was to do with the arrest of St Paul:

“For we have found this man a real pest and a fellow who stirs up dissension among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes. Acts 24:5”

Spurgeon continues:

“Thus, it appears that our Lord and Master is called a Nazarene, and his disciples are styled “the sect of the Nazarenes,” while Christian doctrine was called by the Jews the heresy of the Nazarenes.

     Our Saviour, though actually born at Bethlehem, was commonly known as Jesus of Nazareth, because Nazareth was the place where he was brought up. There he remained with his reputed father in the carpenter’s shop until the time of his showing unto the people. This Nazareth was a place very much despised. It was a small country town, and the people were rough and rustic. They were some three days’ distance from Jerusalem, where I suppose the Jews thought that everything that was learned and polite could be found, as we are apt to think of our own city, or of Oxford, and Cambridge, and other seats of learning. The people of Nazareth were the boors of Galilee, the clowns of the country.”

Although Matthew puts ‘prophets’ in the plural Spurgeon gives us a messianic text from Isaiah with reference to the first verse but for context I will quote a little bit more:

“1 Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse,

And a branch from his roots will bear fruit.

2 The Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him,

The spirit of wisdom and understanding,

The spirit of counsel and strength,

The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD.

3 And He will delight in the fear of the LORD,

And He will not judge by what His eyes see,

Nor make a decision by what His ears hear;

4 But with righteousness He will judge the poor,

And decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth;

And He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth,

And with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked.

5 Also righteousness will be the belt about His loins,

And faithfulness the belt about His waist.

6 And the wolf will dwell with the lamb,

And the leopard will lie down with the young goat,

And the calf and the young lion and the fatling together;

And a little boy will lead them.

7 Also the cow and the bear will graze,

Their young will lie down together,

And the lion will eat straw like the ox. Isaiah 11:1-7”

As we continue looking at verse 1; “Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, And a branch from his roots will bear fruit.” (Isaiah 11:1)

The word branch here is translated from נֵצֶר netser.  Originally before the birth of the Masoretic text Hebrew was written without vowels so what you have is “ntzt= NaZaReth”.  Spurgeon and I think correctly sees a reference to the Messiah who would be a descendant of King David. This is why I quoted from the longer passage because the passage is obviously Messianic.

Concerning Jesse’s line and king David we have the following quotation from St Pauls first missionary journey:

“After He had removed him, He raised up David to be their king, concerning whom He also testified and said, ‘I HAVE FOUND DAVID the son of Jesse, A MAN AFTER MY HEART, who will do all My will.’ 23 From the descendants of this man, according to promise, God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, Acts 13:22-23”

This line of thaouyght about Jesus being a branch of King David is found.  There are other references in the Old Testament but I think this is sufficient to show the importance of Jesus as the Messiah from the Old Testament.  Even to the time of Spurgeon someone from Nazareth was looked down on:

Spurgeon continues:

“As Nazarene was a term of contempt in the olden times, so it has continued to be. The apostate emperor Julian was wont always to call our Lord the Galilean; and when he died, in his agony of death, he cried, “O Galilean, thou hast vanquished me.” He was obliged to confess our Lord’s supremacy, though he still showed his contempt by calling him the Galilean. The Jews to this day, when they feel wroth against our Christ, are wont to call him the Nazarene.

     Nazarene is not at all the same word as Nazarite. It is a different word in the Hebrew, and you must not confound the two. Never suppose that when you say, “He shall be called a Nazarene,” that it signifies that he was called a Nazarite. Nazarite among the Jews would have been a title of honour, but Nazarene is simply a name of contempt. A late traveller tells us that he had a Mahometan guide through Palestine, and whenever they came to a village that was very dirty, very poor, and inhabited by professed Christians, he always said, “These are not Moslems; they are netza,” or “Nazarenes,” throwing all the spite he possibly could into the word, as if he could not have uttered a more contemptuous term. To this day, then, our Lord has the name of the Nazarene affixed to him by those who reject him, and to this day Christians are called among (Muslims), Nazarenes.

     Our Lord Jesus Christ was never ashamed of this name: in fact, he called himself “Jesus of Nazareth” after he had risen from the dead. He told Paul when he smote him to the earth, “I am Jesus of Nazareth whom thou persecutest.” His disciples were not ashamed to call him by that name; for as they walked to Emmaus, and he joined them, and asked them what they were speaking of, they said they were talking of Jesus of Nazareth. This is a name at which devils tremble, for they besought him, even Jesus of Nazareth, that they should not be sent into the deep when he cast them out. It was the name which in contempt was nailed above his head upon the cross— “Jesus of Nazareth the king of the Jews.” Oh, but it is a glorious name, as I shall have to show ere I have done. But still this is the meaning of it— the meaning of Matthew when he says that the prophets declared that he should be called a Nazarene. He meant that the prophets have described the Messiah as one that would be despised and rejected of men. They spoke of him as a great prince and conqueror when they described his second coming; but they set forth his first coming when they spoke of him as a root out of a dry ground without form or comeliness, who when he should be seen would have no beauty that men should desire him. The prophets said that he would be called by a despicable title, and it was so, for his countrymen called him a Nazarene.”

So, Jesus was spoken of with a ‘despicable’ title.  Nazarene was a title of contempt but for believers the shame of the cross is full of glory and honour for the Christian.


Before I continue with this reflection, we need to be reminded that we are called to love everyone no matter what their background.  We are called to love Muslims, Jews, other Christians, Hindu’s, atheists and all the varieties found in the human race.  We are in this blog talking about Jesus the Nazarene. 

On reflection anyone claiming to be something special from Nazareth would be looked on with contempt.  This is exactly what the Old Testament expected from the Messiah in his first coming.  Spurgeon in this particular piece of writing gives us three collecting points:

  1. First, then, our Master, the Nazarene, was despised, and is despised even to this day.
  2. secondly, our other text informs us that Christ’s followers have been known as the sect of the Nazarenes
  3. there is, after all, nothing despicable in either Christ or his people.

So, then we know that Jesus is the Son of God in his birth and what followed even in the small print of the Old Testament, we find what sort of person the Messiah was going to be. Our Lord would be despised and rejected and killed on our behalf.  This is only Half the story as the Old Testament as well as the New Testament would show his glorious return as the real Judge and king of Israel, the Church and the world. 

‘The Word of God’ in the Christmas story and Jesus’ Second Coming from John the Apostles point of View is Grounded in History.

December 2, 2022

Have we been deceived by the commerce of the Christmas tree and the use of tinsel and bling that makes us like magpies running to and thro building our castles on snow? The real meaning of Christmas is very deep, if we could only see beyond the lights of our Christmas fairy tale.  The Christmas story is no Cinderella theme.  Christmas is about God becoming a person like you and me.  The question is why would God give up his heaven and be willing to be born in a barn?  If you were God, would you do that? Anyhow let us get started and look at John the Apostles World which was full of death and destruction.

I believe that John the Apostle wrote the Gospel, letters, and the Apocalypse.  During his life, he lived through the time of:

  • some cruel Roman rulers,
  • earthquakes such as Vesuvius that destroyed Pompeii and Heracleum (AD 62)
  • and the destruction of the Second Temple (AD 70) where Jesus preached, and the Second Temple was at the heart of Jewish life.

John also saw many of his brothers and sisters in the faith murdered by the State of Rome. Two of those people that were murdered were Ignatius of Antioch and Polycarp of Smyrna (Izmir).  There was an unbroken line of succession of believers in the Faith from Our Lord Jesus:

  • John the Apostle
  • Polycarp and Ignatius of Antioch
  • Irenaeus

Irenaeus was a student of Polycarp.  These basic historical facts obviously influenced John in his writings.  There were some serious political, economic, theological and geological events taking place around John including the deaths of many Christian Martyrs.  He was also the disciple who took care of Mary the mother of Jesus our Lord.  In the letters of Ignatius there is evidence of this.  So, then we begin looking at Jesus as the Word of God.

Jesus was not ‘a god’, he is God, fully Divine and fully human at the same time.  It is a mystery that the universal Church of Christ accepts these as fact and indeed John names Jesus as the Word of God in the book of Revelations.  I have two key texts found in the writings of John so let us read them:

The first coming (Incarnation)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. 5 The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. John 1:1-5

The Second Coming

“He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.” Revelation 19:13

Look at how superior to the angels Jesus is.  The angel’s functionality was working as emissaries and Mediators between Heaven and earth.  They never had the power of creation from nothing.  Angels are creatures just like humans, they had a beginning.  For John Our lord from his Divine side was instrumental with the Father and the Holy Spirit in the Creation of the world.  It is no accident that John started with ‘in the beginning’:

ἐν ἀρχῇ ἐποίησεν ὁ θεὸς τὸν οὐρανὸν καὶ τὴν γῆν” (from LXX Genesis 1 verse 1)

“ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος” (from John 1)

Even if you do not know Greek one can see that both sentences start the same: ‘ἐν ἀρχῇ’= in the beginning.  The Hebrew Masoretic text also begins with in the beginning:

“1 בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית בָּרָ֣א אֱלֹהִ֑ים אֵ֥ת הַשָּׁמַ֖יִם וְאֵ֥ת הָאָֽרֶץ׃” Genesis 1:1

My transliteration:

Berosheyth ||bara ELOHIM ||eth ha-shamayim va he-aretz

In the beginning =Berosheyth ||God created = bara ELOHIM ||the heavens and the earth = eth ha-shamayim va he-aretz

So then our Lord had a functionality of Creator at the creation of the world this means that on his divine side, Jesus was the ‘Eternal Son’.   

Reflection on the Christmas meaning of John 1.1

When we dig a little bit deeper on the meaning of Jesus as the Word of God, what it is actually saying is that God became a human being and lived among us. Jesus was no angelic being as an angelic being did not create the world.  God Himself in the economic Trinity created the world.  The Trinitarian God the Father by the two hands of God created the world and all life on it.  There is only One God but as Karl Barth would say there are ‘three modes of being’ in the Godhead.  Father, Son and Holy Spirit were involved in the creation.  The Trinitarian God was also involved in the incarnation of Christ.  The incarnation ‘God becoming a human being’ was the work of the Trinitarian God.  The incarnation was not just the birth story but includes the whole life of Christ up to his death and resurrection. Professor Thomas. F. Torrance goes into detail about this in his book the Incarnation.

Christ is named The Word of God in Revelations

So, we have looked and seen that Jesus as the Word of God was involved with the creation, so it is no surprise that John calls Jesus the ‘Alpha’.  My interpretation of Jesus as the Alpha is do with the Christmas story and his life on earth. 

The last time John speaks of Jesus as the ‘Word of God’ is in the Book of Revelation.   In the Book of revelations:

  • the Harlot Babylon (Rome) had been judged.  (Not the Catholic Church but rulers who professed to be divine)
  • We then have the fourfold Hallelujahs as we see God as the Judge.
  • We see the Lamb of God Jesus marrying his Church.

After this the Second coming of Christ is mentioned and he is called ‘The Word of God’:

“The Coming of Christ

And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. 12 His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. 13 He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. 14 And the armies which are in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, were following Him on white horses. 15 From His mouth comes a sharp sword, so that with it He may strike down the nations, and He will rule them with a rod of iron; and He treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. 16 And on His robe and on His thigh, He has a name written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.”

17 Then I saw an angel standing in the sun, and he cried out with a loud voice, saying to all the birds which fly in midheaven, “Come, assemble for the great supper of God, 18 so that you may eat the flesh of kings and the flesh of commanders and the flesh of mighty men and the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them and the flesh of all men, both free men and slaves, and small and great.”

19 And I saw the beast and the kings of the earth, and their armies assembled to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army.” Revelation 19:11-19

This is a different depiction of Jesus.  In Johns Gospel Jesus was the ‘sacrifice’.  This picture is Jesus as the glorified ‘Word of God’.  This really encourages me in my personal walk with God.  I can look back at the cross at Jesus as the Word of God who died in my place but then with this text as a believer we can look forward to the future with boldness to the same ‘Word of God’ but this time he rides as Judge. Our Lords function was both as sacrifice and as king (Messiah).  My focus however is on Revelations9:13, Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary says:

“13. vesture dipped in blood—Isa 63:2 is alluded to here, and in Re 19:15, end. There the blood is not His own, but that of His foes. So here the blood on His “vesture,” reminding us of His own blood shed for even the ungodly who trample on it, is a premonition of the shedding of their blood in righteous retribution. He sheds the blood, not of the godly, as the harlot and beast did, but of the blood-stained ungodly, including them both.

The Word of God—who made the world, is He also who under the same character and attributes shall make it anew. His title, Son of God, is applicable in a lower sense, also to His people; but “the Word of God” indicates His incommunicable Godhead, joined to His manhood, which He shall then manifest in glory. “The Bride does not fear the Bridegroom; her love casteth out fear. She welcomes Him; she cannot be happy but at His side. The Lamb [Re 19:9, the aspect of Christ to His people at His coming] is the symbol of Christ in His gentleness. Who would be afraid of a lamb? Even a little child, instead of being scared, desires to caress it. There is nothing to make us afraid of God but sin, and Jesus is the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world. What a fearful contrast is the aspect which He will wear towards His enemies! Not as the Bridegroom and the Lamb, but as the [avenging] judge and warrior stained in the blood of His enemies.”” Taken from

Let us remind ourselves of verse 13 again:

“He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.” Revelation 19:13

Reflection on Revelations 19:13

Jesus here is no Lamb to his enemies.  He is pictured as the Messiah who has just trodden over his enemies.  Babylon the Great Whore (Rome with its evil emperors) who were killing Christians at a whim has now met its fate.   Here Jesus is seen as the avenging Judge and the blood that soiled his robe is that of his enemies. 

Reflection on John 1:1 and Revelations 19:13

Jesus came as the Word of God.  In the first place God became a human and humbled himself to be born into a stable where animals were kept and then he humbled himself to death on a cross so that we could be saved from eternal death.

Jesus will come again into the world as the Word of God but this time his function will be as the Messiah to judge his enemies. His enemies were murderers who killed Christians. Jesus’ enemies have brought down their own doom through their own sins.

Final Reflection

I find John the Apostles Christology very interesting because his use of Alpha and Omega does really touch on the Word of God. Christ as the Son of God was involved with the Holy Spirit and the Father at the creation of our world, and it was good.  We then see the Christmas story when the Word of God became a human being and lived among us for a time as a servant and Sacrifice to fix our fallen world.  We then see Jesus, the Word of God at the End of time at the eschaton the final Omega the Judge of the living and the dead.

A call to repentance

In today’s society it is very fashionable to turn away from God and to worship ourselves through various forms of Atheisms and agnosticisms. Have you stopped and thought about who Jesus is?  There are three choices:

  1. Was Jesus mad?
  2. Was Jesus a liar?
  3. Was Jesus who he claimed to be?

For me the evidence is overwhelming that Jesus was who he claimed to be.  His disciples believed in him so much that most of them were killed or imprisoned for him.  He healed people and scholars such as Josephus wrote about Jesus.  The effects of Jesus’ teaching is still with us today throughout the whole world. Christmas time is a time of reflection on the birth and incarnation of Jesus Christ.  Christmas time is not only about Mary and Joseph fleeing to Egypt.  The Christmas story is much bigger, and this Weeks Advent blog is about looking behind the pretentious tinsel picture of Jesus.  This Week we followed the Apostle John’s picture of Jesus as the Word of God.  Jesus as the King, Jesus as the Judge, and as the Judge who was willing to take our judgement on himself.  There are not many judges in the world that would be willing to take the place of the convict.  This is what Jesus did. Let us not believe in a make-believe fairy tale in which the shops get rich on Christmas season by giving us a glossy page.  

Like magpies we fly to this pretentious image that the media gives us, and this is so disrespectful towards people of faith. I am not saying there is anything wrong with these trappings of Christmas time as it can be a time to teach our young ones about the birth of Jesus but let us move on to maturity and dig deeper into the mountain full of spiritual jewels that will help us get closer to God in a living relationship.