Knowing Jesus in the Old Testament?
The language of "christophanies" is used technically by scholars to refer to appearances of the incarnate Son of God after his resurrection, as narrated in the New Testament Gospels and Acts. At a more popular level, though, the term is increasingly applied to alleged appearances of the pre-incarnate Son in the Old Testament.
That Jesus appeared to—and was even recognized by—the likes of Abraham and Moses is usually argued from several scriptural trajectories. The New Testament suggests that God the Father is invisible, inviting us to ask who conducted the Old Testament appearances; the mysterious Angel of the Lord has often been interpreted as a manifestation of the divine Son; and several New Testament passages imply Old Testament appearances of and encounters with Jesus. It seems obvious, indeed orthodox, to affirm that Jesus has always been at work in communicating with and saving his world.
However, Andrew Malone argues that, while Christ-centred readings of the Old Testament abound, christophanies prove to be a flimsy foundation on which to build. Despite apparent success, any scholarship commending the idea does not withstand close scrutiny. Malone carefully sifts the evidence to show that the popular arguments should be abandoned, and that the pursuit of Old Testament christophanies ultimately threatens to undermine the very values it promotes. He concludes that it better honours the Trinity and the text of Scripture to allow that the Father and the Spirit, as well as the Son, were themselves involved in Old Testament appearances.
"Modern interpreters and preachers are often quick to identify the appearance of the Angel of the Lord as a pre-incarnate appearance of Christ. While Christ himself says that what we call the Old Testament anticipated his coming (see Luke 24:25-27, 44-49), Andrew Malone makes a persuasive argument that we should not identify the Angel as a christophany. This accessible, well-written book is a must read for everyone who wants to interpret the Bible correctly."
"For many years I have commented in class that I want to do more work on those mysterious references to the Angel of the Lord, on the fact that some people saw God while other passages say he isn't seen, and on how we are to think about the progressive revelation of the Father, Son, and Spirit across the Bible's unfolding narrative. Andrew Malone has done the work for us! Here is a careful sifting of the evidence, a close reading of the texts, and a mature, cautious, logical, Passionate, and convincing treatment of these questions. You'll be glad you read this engaging book."
"Did God appear to ancient Israel? Who is the mysterious Angel of the Lord who crops up throughout the Old Testament and seems to be very much like God himself? In this engaging study, Andrew Malone takes us through the various interpretations that have been given to this phenomenon and explores their plausibility in the light of the biblical evidence. His presentation is lively, making the book accessible to a wide public, and his conclusions are underpinned by serious scholarship. A must read."
"Who is the 'Angel of the Lord'? Is it God, Jesus or Michael? Thankfully Andrew Malone engages in a careful study of these disputed 'christophany' texts. He provides a thorough engagement with all the issues and offers some fresh thoughts about how the New Testament interprets the Old Testament. A great work on the hermeneutics of the so-called christophanies—well worth reading!"