This is a special episode in our series exploring the portrayal of God as a character in the Bible!
In this episode, Tim and Jon host a friend of the Bible Project’s, Dr. Michael Heiser. Dr Heiser is a Ph.D. in Hebrew studies from the University of Wisconsin. He’s a well-published author whose work has been mentioned on this podcast before. He also runs his own podcast called “The Naked Bible Podcast”.
In part 1 (0-18:05), the guys begin to talk about God’s “name”. This is a motif that is found throughout Scripture. Tim says that the Old Testament well primes the observant reader to expect an incarnation of God. The guys zero in on the commandment to not take God’s name in vain. “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord God in vain.” What does this actually mean? Is it about cussing or something more? Dr. Heiser says the commandment is much more significant than most modern readers think.
Tim shares a quote from Gerhard Von Rad’s Old Testament Theology.
“The name Yahweh was committed in trust to Israel alone among the nations… In it alone lay the guarantee of Yahweh’s nearness and of his readiness to help… This name shared directly in Yahweh’s own holiness, for indeed it was, so to speak, a double of his being. And so it had to be treated as holy in the very heart of Israel’s worship, to 'call on the name of Yahweh' was equivalent to true worship.” -- Gerhard Von Rad, Old Testament Theology, Vol. 1, p. 183.
Dr. Heiser says that to represent someone’s name is a big deal. He says that to “not take the name in vain” would be better translated to, “do not misrepresent the name."
In part 2 (18:05- 33:00), the guys dive into more stories of God’s name. Dr. Heiser makes a point that God incarnating happens repeatedly in the Old Testament, so it was expected that God would incarnate in the New Testament as the Messiah. Heiser says the question for an ancient Hebrew was not, "Is it possible for God to incarnate in a human?" but rather, "Is Jesus the chosen one whom God has incarnated in?"
The guys zero in on some stories of the Angel of the Lord in the Old Testament.
Dr. Heiser says that in the Exodus 23, the Angel has God’s name “in him”. Then in Joshua 5, “the ruler of the Lord’s army” or “captain of the hosts of the Lord” appears to Joshua. Joshua is told to remove his shoes, for the ground is holy. This is the same language that appears in the story of Moses and the burning bush. In the burning bush story, it is the angel that is in the bush. Dr. Heiser says this is the same figure in all the stories. The angel is both an angel and Yahweh, yet is distinct from Yahweh.
In part 3 (33:00-44:30) Tim and Dr. Heiser continue to make the point that God was known to incarnate in physical form. Dr. Heiser references Dr. Alan Segal, saying that ancient Judaism had a duality in it. God could be both Yahweh and distinct from Yahweh.
Tim refers to Jesus’ brothers who didn’t believe Jesus was the Son of God when he was alive, but after his resurrection they did.
Tim and Dr. Heiser also refer to John 17. Dr. Heiser says that when Jesus claims to have “manifested God’s name” he is claiming in other words, “He who has seen me has seen the Father.” Jesus is the one who carried the name faithfully, doing the job Israel was supposed to.
Tim says the claim being made in John 17 is behind the whole universe being in unity, a community of eternal love.
In part 4 (44:30-end) The guys talk about the “name” or the “mark” of the beast in the book of Revelation. Dr. Heiser says this is also much more significant than modern readers realize. To carry the name of the beast means to have a willful alignment with evil.
Jon comments that he still feels a little confused. “The name” of God operates so complexly.
Dr. Heiser says this is intentional and that there is a whole “matrix of ideas” in the Bible. A key to reading the Bible well is to understand how the vocabulary used in the Bible all interconnects.