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Christophanies

Definition

A Christophany is an appearance of Jesus in human form which happens in  the Old Testament.

There is much dispute about which passages are Christophanies, which are appearence of God (theophany), and which are appearances of angels (angelophany).

Some authors also use Christophany to refer to post-resurrection appearances.

Distinguishing Criteria?

How do we distinguish an Old Testament appearance of Christ from an appearance of an angel or a person?

  1. No man has seen God at any time (John 1:18).
  2. Best criteria - Does the New Testament refer to the event as an appearance of Jesus?
  3. Does the person receive worship?
  4. Is the person addressed as the Lord?

Bible Passages - An exercise in discrimination

In the Garden of Eden

Gen 3:8 And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden.

Abraham's Visitors

Gen 18:1 And the LORD appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day;
. . .
31 And he said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord: Peradventure there shall be twenty found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for twenty's sake.

Melchizadek/Melchisedec

Gen 14:18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine: and he was the priest of the most high God. 19 And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth: 20 And blessed be the most high God, which hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave him tithes of all.

Psa 110:4 The LORD hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.

Heb 5:6 As he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.
. .
Heb 5:10 Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec.
. . .
Heb 6:20 Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. 7:1 For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him; 7:2 To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace; 7:3 Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually. 7:4 Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils.
. . .
Heb 7:24 But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood.

Passage portion Arguments for Identification as a Christophany Arguments Against Identification as a Christophany
Without father and mother Means he wasn't "human". Means he had no recorded geneology. Having no geneology shows he was not part of levitical priesthood
brought bread and wine Jesus brought bread and wine Ordinary form of hospitality in ANE (Ancient Near East).
Blessed Abraham Greater than Abraham due to the blessing. Jesus is greater than Abraham. Was the priest of God. Could recognize God's favor on Abraham.
Was Priest and King Jesus is Priest and King Unique individual to be both priest and king. Not uncommon in ANE that king would be the high priest..
Without end of days, no beginning, no ending. Jesus is eternal Refers to recorded life, not eternality.
King of  Salem Figurative title Literal King of [city] Jerusalem

Jacob's Wrestling Match

Gen 32:24 And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day.
. . .
Gen 32:32 Therefore the children of Israel eat not of the sinew which shrank, which is upon the hollow of the thigh, unto this day: because he touched the hollow of Jacob's thigh in the sinew that shrank.

The Angel of the Lord in the Old Testament

Exo 14:19 And the angel of God, which went before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind them; and the pillar of the cloud went from before their face, and stood behind them:

Exo 3:2 And the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed.

Num 22:22 And God's anger was kindled because he went: and the angel of the LORD stood in the way for an adversary against him. Now he was riding upon his ass, and his two servants were with him.
. . .
Num 22:35 And the angel of the LORD said unto Balaam, Go with the men: but only the word that I shall speak unto thee, that thou shalt speak. So Balaam went with the princes of Balak.

Judg 6:11 And there came an angel of the LORD, and sat under an oak which was in Ophrah, that pertained unto Joash the Abiezrite: and his son Gideon threshed wheat by the winepress, to hide it from the Midianites.
. . .
Judg 6:23 And the LORD said unto him, Peace be unto thee; fear not: thou shalt not die.

Characteristics of the angel of the Lord

  1. Assumes divine titles
  2. Assumes divine perogatives
  3. Accepts divine homage

Rock in the Wilderness

Num 20:11 And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also.
. . .
1 Cor 10:4 And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.

Pillar of Fire

Exo 13:21 And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night: 22 He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.

Captain of the Lord's Army

Josh 5:13 And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, there stood a man over against him with his sword drawn in his hand: and Joshua went unto him, and said unto him, Art thou for us, or for our adversaries? 14 And he said, Nay; but as captain of the host of the LORD am I now come. And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, What saith my lord unto his servant? 15 And the captain of the LORD'S host said unto Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy. And Joshua did so.

Tossed into the Fire

Dan 3:23-25 And these three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell down bound into the midst of the burning fiery furnace.Then Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonied, and rose up in haste, and spake, and said unto his counsellors, Did not we cast three men bound into the midst of the fire? They answered and said unto the king, True, O king. He answered and said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.

External Links

Books

kaiser.jpg (4111 bytes) Kaiser, Walter C.,  Borland, James. Christ in the Old Testament: Old Testament Appearances of Christ in Human Form
hodge.gif (11969 bytes) Hodge, Charles., Systematic Theology

Copyright 2000-2001 - Douglas Gilliland