I didn't know this. Thank you for explaining it to me.
Yes these issues are not very well known even amongst the general Christian population; I personally only recently started approaching and looking at the New Testament from a purely Jewish perspective. The Jewish roots of the New Testament are often under-rated, which really doesn't make sense, considering the fact it was written by Jewish authors, in a Jewish context, fundamentally relying on the Jewish scriptures.
I'd like to expand on how the New Testament identifies one of these “periphrasis” of God, with the Christ; namely the Shekinah, since you mentioned it before.
Concerning the incarnation of The Word, the most blatant and to-the-point statement concerning this event is in John 1:14 where it is declared: “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us
, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father) full of grace and truth.”
The interesting thing about the expression “and dwelt among us” is that if it were to be translated literally from its Greek, it would actually read something like “lived in a tent”. The imagery being conveyed here by St John the apostle, is that God pitched His tent among us and temporarily settled in our midst through Jesus the Christ.
At this point I would like to recall the point you brought up regarding the Shekinah:
The Hebrew word shekhinah means "God’s presence" (and is a cognate of a root meaning "to dwell" & is related to the Hebrew words for "neighbor", the Biblical "tent of meeting"
Examining this in more depth, we discover that when Solomon dedicated the Temple of the Lord, he said “The Lord has said that he would dwell in a dark cloud; I have built a magnificent temple for you, a place for you to dwell forever.” (2 Chronicles 6:1-2). Understanding the limitations of such a building, Solomon then says: “But will God really dwell on earth with men? The heavens, even the highest heavens, cannot contain you. How much less this temple (In Hebrew, the temple is often referred to as a “house”) I have built!” (2 Chron. 6:18). Nonetheless, despite his inability to comprehend the ways of the Lord, He knew that this was the promise God had given to Israel through Moses: “Then have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them” (Exod. 25:
The God whom the heavens and the earth could not contain would dwell in the midst of His people in the Tabernacle (literally an elaborate tent) and Temple. Furthermore, He would do this by “pitching His tent” among them. This is exactly how the Septuagint expressed 2 Chronicles 6:1-2, translated the word dwell with the Greek verb “to pitch a tent”, exactly as it is said in John 1:14. In this sense, Christ becomes the replacement of the ancient Tabernacle, The divine, being present in a very real sense, without diminishing God's omnipresence, the Glory of God filling and being manifested through both the ancient tabernacle and temple, as well as Christ Jesus in the last days. And so it is that St Paul declares concerning the Christ "For in Him all the fullness of deity dwells in bodily form" (Colossians 2:9)
Hospitality is greater than receiving the Divine Presence.
According to Christian theology, we would put a little twist on that above statement by declaring that is is through Hospitality that we indeed receive the divine presence. Here is what one of our contemporary monks had to say concerning this passage.
“Abraham, entertaining the Lord and His two angels, drew the attention of the saintly men of God; St. Paul the apostle says: “Keep on loving each other as brothers. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.” (Hebrews 12;1-2) The fathers have abundantly spoken of the act of ‘entertaining strangers’, as a way of entertaining the Lord in His creation. St. Ambrosius says: “The Lord Christ comes in the person of the stranger or the poor, for as it is written: “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me’
St. Jerome says: “The true temple for Christ is the believer’s soul; So let us adorn it; :Let us offer Him clothes, and gifts; Let us welcome Christ in him! What would be the use of walls adorned with jewels, if Christ in the poor, is in danger of death because of hunger?”
As such, when Abraham received the three visitors, he received the divine presence which was manifest in one of them. We have many reasons for holding this particular belief. First of all, we see no contextual factor which necessitates or calls for a replacement of the Lord who first appears in verse 1, with the three men who are mentioned in verse 2. Of the three men, one is addressed as both Lord - adonai, and YHWH. Abraham also bowed to the ground, an act reserved for obeisance of kings or worship of the Lord. The wider context also clearly indicates, that two of these men went on to Sodom, where they are clearly identified as angels, and that Abraham stayed before YHWH, with whom he had an extended dialogue, implying that YHWH was indeed one of the original three.
How Abraham perceived God is beyond our ken but he certainly couldn't have "seen" Him (since this would violate Exodus 33:20).
Exodus 33:20 is reformulated in John 1:18 to read: “No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him”
Though we as Christians acknowledge that God cannot be seen nor beheld according to His essence and the fullness of His glory, we believe that He was nonetheless fully manifest/revealed/declared through the incarnation of His Word in the form of a man. He is, as St Paul states “The image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15), such that Christ may declare: “He who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:
. We believe that before the incarnation, the pre-existent Word declared the Lord through certain theophanies such as that of Genesis 18, and many other interesting passages involving “The Angel of the Lord” who seems to be implicitly equated with YHWH. A curious note is also struck when we find that 9 chapters prior to Exodus 33, it is written “Then went up Moses, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel: And they saw the God of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness.” (Exodus 24:9-10)
We find in the Hebrew scriptures, that The Word of the Lord is involved in many of God's divine activities, including creation (Psalm 33:6), revelation (Je. 1:4; Is. 9:8; Ezk. 33:7; Am. 3:1,8) deliverance (Ps. 107:20; Is. 55:1) and judgement (Ps. 29:3). As such we see The Word as both the divine agent manifesting God to men, and The divine - intrinsic aspect of God's being.
Sorry if I tend to ramble on :- And please forgive me if im starting to sound a bit polemical, I just love discussing theology with respectful and wise persons of other religious belief systems! :thumbsup: