Why did Jesus say several times that nobody has seen God, when plenty of people are recorded as having seen and heard God in the Bible ? John 6:46; John 1:18; John 5:37; also 1 John 4:12: “No one has seen God at ANY time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him”.
There appears to be a contradiction, since Jesus said no man has ever seen or heard God, yet many times throughout the Old Testament, people DID see and hear God! Nonetheless, “You have never heard his voice, nor seen his form….” [John 5:37]
The Voice of God
What then of Ezekiel? “This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. When I saw it, I fell facedown, and I heard the voice of one speaking.” (Ezekiel 1:28)
WHO then did Adam and Eve hear? In Eden Adam and Eve “heard his voice” and presumably saw him also, because he had a conversation with them. (Genesis 3:8)
WHO then spoke from the Mount? “The Lord spoke to you out of the fire. You heard the sound of words but saw no form”. Deuteronomy 4:12
Elijah recognized God by a “still, small voice” (I Kings 19:12–13)
Daniel 4:31 A voice came from heaven, “This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar…”
So God spoke directly to Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:8), to Cain (Genesis 4:6), to Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3; 17:1-2), to Jacob (Genesis 28:13-15; 32:26-29), to Moses (Exodus 3:4; 19:19), to Elijah (I Kings 19:9, 11-12), and to many others. Yet Jesus said, no one has heard the voice of God the Father!
The site below lists 35 times in the bible that God’s voice was heard – did Jesus LIE about those instances? Is Jesus Christ a liar, or was the voice that people heard from heaven, the voice of GOD, actually the voice of the pre-incarnate Christ? https://bible.knowing-jesus.com/topics/God~s-Voice
(It’s interesting that AFTER the incarnation, when Jesus was in a human form on earth, the voice of God is heard testifying to the Son. [John 12:28-30, Luke 3:22, 2 Peter 1:18 etc].)
Why did Jesus tell his disciples that no one had ever seen or heard God the Father? Was it in an effort to focus the Jews’ attention on himself instead of God the invisible Father in heaven? No, Jesus did not crave attention, in fact he avoided it and walked away from the “multitudes” who sought to make him king before the time. Then why?
Israel Should Have Known
Instead of simply correcting a scriptural misunderstanding, Jesus was opening up a “can of worms” relating to the core belief system of the religious Jews: that God is ONE, and therefore cannot have a Son.
Their coming Messiah was supposed to be a miracle-working MAN. Yet, looking forward into the plan of God for salvation, a mere man could not have achieved redemption for all mankind.
Judaism forbids the worship of a person as a form of idolatry, since the central belief of Judaism is the absolute unity and singularity of God. In Judaism, the idea of God as a duality or trinity is heretical — they believe that the Torah rules out a trinitarian God [Deut 6:4): “Hear Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is one.”
Thus Judaism teaches that it is heretical for any man to claim to be God, part of God, or the literal son of God.
This is still the case. The Jerusalem Talmud (Ta’anit 2:1) states explicitly: “if a man claims to be God, he is a liar.” So, the implication of Jesus’ statements about the body and voice of God in their scriptures was that Somebody else (He Himself) was the God who appeared to mankind and spoke! Imagine how shocking that would be to their beliefs.
Jesus is Either God, or a Liar
Several times Jesus was accused of blasphemy. When he healed the paralytic man (Mark 2:1-12), he forgave his sins! So, the scribes said, “Who but God alone can forgive sins?”.
Jesus told the Jews that He knew Abraham, who “rejoiced to see My day” (John 8:56), and when they protest, He announces, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM” (verse 58), taking upon Himself the divine name of the Eternal God.
Jesus was known to call God his “Father” – thereby “making Himself equal with God” [John 5:18] and “for this reason therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father”.
So it was, at his trial, the Jews said, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God” (19:6-7).
Jesus: not mere Man but God
The problem for Israel is NOT that they didn’t believe in a Messiah to come, but they denied his divinity. The Messiah would not and could not be the Son of God. They absolutely believed in God and the scriptures, but failed to see Jesus therein. Jesus said:
“You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me”. [John 5:39]
After he rose from the dead, he explained this further to his followers: “‘Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and then to enter His glory?’” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He explained to them what was written in all the Scriptures about Himself.” [Luke 24:26-27]
The Appearance of Jesus throughout History
It is surprising to some just how many times Jesus the Son of God appeared before his incarnation. These are called “Christophanies” or appearances of the pre-incarnate Christ.
There is no doubt at all that the people of the Bible heard and saw God, but until Jesus pointed it out, the disciples could not understand that it was He, the ever-existing Word who “was God, and was with God” since the beginning (John 1:1) and who had revealed himself throughout the ages.
The God they saw, and called the “Angel [Messenger] of the Lord” was in fact the pre-incarnate Jesus! See http://halfshekel.com/angel.html where it is explained that the Hebrew and Greek word for Angel means one who is SENT, a messenger or ambassador, see Malachi 3:1.
How fitting that Jesus said he was “sent from God” and John calls him the Word of God, that which is expressed and sent out from God the Father, the Living Word! Jesus explicitly stated: “I came forth from the Father and have come into the world.” (John 16:28) He was SENT, with the message of redemption, thus is rightly called the Angel of God in the Old Testament.
Not One God, but One in Three Persons
In stating that no man had ever seen or heard God the Father, Jesus was making a distinction between the God who is “the only Sovereign One, the King of kings and Lord of lords [who] alone is immortal and dwells in unapproachable light [whom] no one has ever seen, nor can anyone see Him.” [1 Timothy 6:16] and “His only begotten Son” (John 3:16) who indeed HAS been heard, approached, and seen many times in history!
Imagine how difficult was that fact to any religious Jew in the day of Jesus!
Pre-Incarnate Appearances of the Son of God
Adam and Eve: heard the voice of God, and hid from the “presence of GOD” in the Garden, and he talked with them.
Hagar: sees the “Angel of the Lord” and calls him El Roi, saying, “You are the God who sees me… Have I truly seen the One who sees me?” (Genesis 16:14).
Abraham: “The LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; Walk before Me, and be blameless…”(Gen. 17:1)
Abraham: “And the Angel of the LORD called to Abraham from heaven a second time, saying, “By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord…” [Genesis 22:16]
NOTE: We’re told in the Bible that God can’t swear by anybody higher than himself. When the angel of the Lord says to Abraham, “By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord,” we see this ‘person’ who is distinct from the Father and yet still called God.
Jacob: spent the night wrestling with an unnamed Man. “So Jacob named the place Peniel, saying, ‘Indeed, I have seen God face to face, and yet my life was spared’.” [Genesis 32:30]
Moses: sees Yahweh in the burning bush, who says “I Am That I Am”. (Exodus 3:14) And he said, ““I am the God of your Father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”” And Moses hid his face for he was afraid to look at God”.
Moses: “God spoke further to Moses and said to him, “I am the LORD [Yahweh]; I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name, Yahweh, I did not make Myself known to them.” (Exodus 6:2-3)
NOTE: Jesus said: “if you do not believe that I AM, you will die in your sins.” (John 8:24)
Moses Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, “saw the God of Israel” (Exodus 24:9-11)
Moses: saw God in the midst of the fire and heard his voice on the mountain “we have seen this day that God speaks with man…” Deut 5:24
Moses: God says of Moses, “With him I speak mouth to mouth, even openly, and not in dark sayings, and he beholds the form of the LORD”.(Num. 12:6-8)
Jacob: said to Joseph, “God Almighty appeared to me at Luz in the land of Canaan.” Genesis 48:3
Gideon: When the Angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he exclaimed, “Alas, Sovereign Lord! I have seen the Angel of the Lord face to face!” [Judges 6:22]
Samson’s parents: Manoah and his wife saw the Angel of the Lord and fell with their faces to the ground. “We will certainly die,” the man said, “for we have seen God.” (Judges 13)
Let’s take a look at some of the characteristics of this “Angel”
- The “Angel” is referred to with masculine pronouns (Genesis 16:13; Judges 6:21).
- He is identified as God (Judges 6:11, 14; Zechariah 12:8).3
- He performed miracles (Judges 6:21; 13:20).
- Gideon and Manoah thought they would die because they saw the “Angel” face to face (Judges 6:22; 13:22).
- The “Angel” accurately foretold future events (Judges 13:3).
- His name is “wonderful” (Judges 13:18; cf., Isaiah 9:6).
- He destroyed 185,000 soldiers of the Assyrian army in one night (2 Kings 19:35).
“The Angel of the Lord” cannot be viewed as a normal angel. He is occasionally identified as God, accepted worship, and at least two people who saw Him thought they would die for seeing Him face to face. These same attributes and activities are clearly attributed to God elsewhere in Scripture. [Source]
“So, who is that strange figure, the angel of the Lord who appeared to the patriarchs, to Moses, and the burning bush, and in the courtroom of Zachariah’s night vision? Who is that mysterious commander of the Lord’s army, who shows up confronting Joshua on the battlefield, sword drawn? We normally associate the presence of God, the eternal Son with and among us, with the incarnation, and certainly, the word did become flesh and tabernacled among us. But he didn’t come out of nowhere — at various places in times in biblical history, we have theophanies or christophanies where the Son manifested himself in human or angelic form prior to his incarnation”. [Source]
An Open Challenge to Israel
The answer to the question, why did Jesus several times tell his followers that “no man has seen the Father” but also, “if you have seen me, you HAVE seen the Father” is that he was claiming to be the very same God that Israel saw, heard and worshipped in the Old Testament.
“There is only one true, supreme God—the God of the Bible—and his Name is YHWH. YHWH is usually translated as LORD (all capital letters) in English translations of the Hebrew Bible, the Old Testament.
“Yahweh means: “I Am who I Am.” God explained his Name to Moses during the burning bush encounter when he commissioned Moses to free Israel from Egyptian bondage (Exodus 3:13-15). God’s Name, the “I Am”, gives a sense of the enigmatic, transcendent and eternal nature of God (cf. Rev. 1:8).
“In Isaiah 44:6, the LORD (Yahweh) refers to himself as “the First and the Last”. In Revelation 1:8 and 17, Jesus similarly refers to himself as “the Alpha and the Omega” and “the First and the Last”.
“In Zechariah 12:10 the LORD (Yahweh) is speaking and says that, “they will look on Me whom they have pierced.” This is Jesus speaking (Psa. 22:16; John 19:34). This verse from Zechariah appears again in Revelation 1:7b and is about Jesus Christ.https://margmowczko.com/proving-that-jesus-is-god-from-the-old-testament/
There are some mysteries too deep to comprehend, and although we believe in One God in Three Persons, it’s difficult to grasp it mentally, as an intellectual concept. Human minds are not made that way. Nonetheless, we do know from what Jesus explained that the GOD who appeared to the men and women of the Old Testament is the same GOD who appeared on earth as the child of Mary, the incarnate Saviour, and the crucified and risen LORD.
Once having seen that fact, we can never go back to the comfy impression of just a humanised “gentle Jesus meek and mild”, merely a special man filled with mercy and compassion who came to help and heal mankind. Although Jesus “took flesh” and became like one of us, he is also the almighty Lord and God who was the agent of creation, upholds all things with the word of his power, who rose from the dead to ascend to the right hand of the Father as LORD over all, having “all authority in heaven and on earth”.
“And Jehoshaphat stood in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the LORD before the new court and said, “O LORD God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you.”” [2 Chronicles 20:6]
“He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names. Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.” [Psalm 147:4-5]
“But God made the earth by his power, and he preserves it by his wisdom. With his own understanding, he stretched out the heavens. When he speaks in the thunder, the heavens roar with rain. He causes the clouds to rise over the earth. He sends the lightning with the rain and releases the wind from his storehouses.” [Jeremiah 10:12-13]
“The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. “ [Hebrews 1:3]
In the old days, God spoke to Israel through the prophets,
But in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, and through whom He made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His nature, upholding all things by His powerful word. After He had provided purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. So He became as far superior to the angels as the name He has inherited is excellent beyond theirs. [Heb 1:3]
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