Friday, May 31, 2019


Things in the modern church have changed since I was a boy. When I grew up in the Church of Christ in Margaret Street, Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia, in the 1950’s and 60’s things were a lot more formal.

Only men took part in the public speaking during the services. We all wore white shirts and ties with coats --- even in the middle of our oppressively hot summers --- no air cons then (the women carried hand fans and waved them back and forth over their faces). Certainly, all women and girls wore dresses and stockings. Many of the older women still wore hats and ribbons.

The church services too were rather predictable. They used to talk about “the three hymn sandwich” with communion in-between and the hymn to finish the sermon! The men who were to participate in the public part of the services would meet in the vestibule for a prayer meeting asking the Lord to honour His name and bless His people in the service. We would then file down in order to the front and either take our place on the platform (if we were taking a speaking role) or sit in the front middle pew (if we were to distribute the Lord’s supper).

On the stage were two pulpits, with the communion table the centrepiece. Invariably, there were two Bible readings. The first was from the right-hand pulpit and was an Old Testament passage. The second reading was from the left pulpit and was a New Testament passage that was thematically linked to the first reading --- after all “the OT is the NT concealed and the NT is the OT revealed”! When it came time the speaker (preacher) would give a sermon --- hopefully based on the two Bible readings.

I did not know it at the time, but this practice for public Scripture reading followed by a sermon has solid Jewish roots that goes back, yes, thousands of years! I am not suggesting of course, that in the synagogues the New Testament was read. But for way more than two millennia the Torah and “the Law and the Prophets” have been the focal point of the synagogue Scripture readings, and remains so to this very day.

For centuries traditional Jewish practice has been to read aloud the entire Torah (the first 5 books by Moses) each year. This Torah portion is called the parashah. Then, selections from the prophetic 2 and historical writings (called Neviim) were read aloud. This portion was called the haftarah, which means “completion”.

After the second reading from the prophets --- the haftarah --- the rabbi or visiting speaker would deliver his homily, his message, which was based on the passages of Scripture just read. It’s this practice that Christians have emulated, mostly not realizing how very Jewish its method is!


Did you know that, to this day, the very same Old Testament Scripture readings from the Torah and the prophets are synchronised in every part of the world? If you went into a synagogue in Israel, in New York, in Sydney, in Europe, anywhere that Jews congregate, you will hear the same Bible passage(s) read aloud for that Sabbath?

This rhythmic pattern is so engrained in Jewish life that even secular Israeli calendars mark off the weeks of the year by the names of the parashah (Torah) that will be read that week. Can you imagine participating in a Bible study so universal that you can glance at a free calendar you got at the bank to see what you’ll be studying this week?

In Orthodox synagogues, the same Scripture texts have been recited each week of the year for over fifteen centuries. On the day they finish reading Deuteronomy, they throw a big party that they call Simchat Torah --- “The joy of the Torah.” After parading the scrolls around the synagogue with great pomp and circumstance, they read the last word of Deuteronomy followed immediately by the first words of Genesis. Not a moment should be spent outside of the Scriptures.


Two quick NT examples prove this standardised practice for millennia. The first in Luke 4 concerns Jesus’ opening public sermon made in his hometown of Nazareth. Although it had been Jesus’ lifelong weekly practice to participate in the public prayers and readings in the local synagogue, on this special Sabbath day he stood up to read (v.16).

After the Torah portion from Moses had been read, the scroll of the prophet Isaiah 61 was handed to Jesus for the haftarah --- the second reading --- and, when he had opened it, he found the place where it was written … (v. 1). Jesus then proceeded to give the ‘sermon’ in which he dramatically announced the year of God’s favour”, the Year of Jubilee, with himself being the very one promised in the Scriptures, the long-awaited messianic king! Jesus read aloud,

The Spirit of Yehovah is upon me, because He anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of Yehovah's favour (v. 1).

A careful study of this passage in Luke 4:16 shows Jesus was very Jewish in these actions, even if his exegesis was to the ears of the locals most controversial, unorthodox, and yes, confronting!

The second example follows the public reading of the Torah and the Prophets in Antioch. On the Sabbath day Paul and his companions went into the synagogue and sat down. After the reading of the Law (Torah) and the prophets (Neviim), the officials of the synagogue sent them a message, saying, ‘Brothers, if you have any word of exhortation for the people, give it.’ Paul then stood up, and with a gesture began to give his address (Acts 13:13ff). Two Bible readings followed by a sermon!


Most of us have heard of the Dead Sea Scrolls discovered by a bedouin shepherd boy in 1946. Their significance cannot be overestimated, but this is not the place to go into that. But are you aware of another earlier and equally important discovery in 1896 in Cairo of over 300,000 (!) Jewish documents? These discarded holy texts in a synagogue storeroom (called a genizah) contained, among many other documents, multiple lectionary lists.

To the astonishment of all, these were not the annual readings so well known today, but were from a more ancient synagogue tradition dating to well before Christ, and that had persisted in Israel, northern Africa and Egypt until at least 1100 A.D.

Upon close examination, the researchers noted that the modern Torah reading (remember it’s called the parashah portion) was derived from, and based upon, this much older tradition. Today’s Torah readings take one year to cycle through. This older liturgy was split into a cycle lasting three-and-a half years.

All of this is simply to say that, synagogue liturgies were not synchronised until they became standardized to the annual cycle instituted in Babylon a couple of hundred years after Christ. So it seems that Jesus and Paul on their travels would have encountered slightly different public readings from today’s as they traveled from town to town, village to village.


Lois Tverberg notes that, The most fascinating thing the researchers found was that while the Torah readings had hardly changed, the haftarah readings from the Prophets were completely different.

How, in what way, had the liturgical readings changed from their ancient lectionary to what is practised in synagogues this day? Well, in the ancient cycle the interest was on Israel’s future.

The Torah reading was followed by the haftarah reading from the Prophets that focused on God’s promises of a glorious future messianic kingdom age.

Every week the haftarah readings asked the question: What will the world look like when God establishes His earthly kingdom? How will Israel’s story ultimately play out? Let’s give an example or two.


If the Torah portion was on the creation story from Genesis 1 the haftarah reading would be about the new creation of the heavens and the earth from Isaiah 65:

“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind … the wolf and the lamb shall graze together, the lion shall eat straw like the ox … they shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain”, says Yehovah (vs. 17,25).


And on the week they read about the confounding of the languages at Babel from Genesis 11, the haftarah would cite the promise from Zephaniah 3:9:

For at that time I will change the speech of the peoples to a pure speech, that all of them may call upon the name of Yehovah and serve Him with one accord.


Or, when they read about Moses descending Mount Sinai with the tables of the covenant in Exodus 34: 27-35, they would read the haftarah portion from Jeremiah 31: 32-39:

This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares Yehovah: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people (v.33).


One last example. When they read Leviticus 12-13 about purification after childbirth, they’d read Isaiah 9:6 that looks forward to the birth of Israel’s messianic king, who would sit on David’s throne and receive an everlasting kingdom:

For unto us a child is born, unto a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty Hero, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Well, you get the idea from these few examples. The standard practice in the earlier synagogue liturgy was that the theme connecting the Torah reading (what’s it called? You remember! That’s right! The parashah portion) was oriented towards God’s promised future redemption for Israel --- and by extension the salvation of the nations of the world through Messiah.

As Christians this should excite and enthrall us to the point of jumping out of our skin with joy. To learn the earliest synagogue lectionaries --- the ones Jesus and the apostles were accustomed to --- were invariably oriented towards the future kingdom helps us understand why there was such power and controversy in their ministries, for they announced God’s promised future had arrived in the person of Jesus of Nazareth right in front of their very eyes.

Lois Tverberg says it is especially noteworthy that, over half of the prophetic readings came from Isaiah, especially chapters 40-66, which focus on promises of redemption and renewal. Jesus often quoted Isaiah 40-66. When he read in the synagogue in Luke 4, he was quoting from Isaiah 61, and the Beatitudes in Matthew 5 are filled with references from Isaiah 55-57 and Isaiah 66. Paul’s favourite book to quote was also Isaiah.

Now a big question: Do we know which lectionary was used in the days of the New Testament? Scholars are sure the Torah portion (you got it this time! the parashah) was predetermined, but the second reading, the prophetic portion, the haftarah, was left up to the reader to choose so he could fit it to hopefully, a good and inspiring message showing how the prophets predict the Torah fulfillment.

This practice took a reasonable amount of knowledge and familiarity with the Scriptures, because the whole had to be thematically woven together as well as end with the promise of future blessing and redemption. Even back then, congregants wanted happy endings to their sermons!


Understanding this practice helps us better understand some of the connecting arguments we find in the NT. For instance, when we understand the earlier lectionary reading pairs from Genesis 16 and Isaiah 54: 1-10, the apostle Paul’s argument in Galatians 4 is not such a stretch.

Genesis 16 is the story about Sarah’s barrenness and her hatching a plan to bear Abraham a child through the mistress Hagar. The haftarah reading from Isaiah 54 offers a future hope to end Sarah’s sorrow:

“Sing, O barren one, who did not bear; break forth into singing and cry aloud, you who have not been in labour! For the children of the desolate one will be more than the children of her who is married”, says Yehovah (v.1).

Paul makes the connection in Galatians 4. He starts with the Hagar/Sarah story then connects it to Isaiah 54 to support his argument about Gentile believers in Messiah now being sons of Abraham. Commentators have often struggled with how Paul likens Jews to the Egyptian slave Hagar. Some go so far as to suggest Paul has a strong anti-Semitic streak all of a sudden!

However, now we understand how the lectionary readings had already connected the two passages, we see how Paul is actually being very Jewish indeed when he links Genesis 16 with Isaiah 54. The Jews themselves had been connecting the two passages in their synagogue readings! But now in the full light of Messiah’s arrival, they were failing to see the implications.


So, what is the big picture so far? By examining the standardised synagogue readings we learn that Jews were reading their Bibles in the synagogues earnestly looking forward to the fulfillment of God’s ancient promises about His future Messianic Kingdom.

A classic example in the lectionary reading is the story of Joseph at Genesis 39:1-6:

Now Joseph had been brought down to Egypt, and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard, an Egyptian, had bought him from the Ishmaelites who had brought him down there. Yehovah was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master … Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance.

The assigned haftarah passage from the Prophets was in Isaiah 52:3 - 53:5, which recalls Israel’s oppression in Egypt and then God’s promise to intervene, For thus says Yehovah: “You were sold for nothing, and you shall be redeemed without money.” For thus says Yehovah God: “My people went down at the first into Egypt to sojourn there.”

Notice how the readings tie Joseph’s fate of going down into Egypt with Israel’s. Both were slaves. But all is not hopeless because God will arise and deliver from Egypt. But He is going to do something far greater than even the Exodus when He sends a “Servant” figure:

See, My servant will act wisely; he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted. Just as there were many who were appalled at him --- his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being and his form marred beyond human likeness --- .

As Tverberg comments, For centuries, Jewish congregations were reading Joseph’s story in light of the Suffering Servant of Isaiah. The short Genesis reading stops with the words that Joseph was “handsome in appearance”, deliberately contrasting with Isaiah 52: 14, “his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind.”

The Isaiah reading goes on to the greatly loved words: Surely, he has borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought our peace, and with his wounds we are healed (Isaiah 53: 4-5).

Repeat: In synagogues at the time of Christ, as people read about the Suffering Servant they were thinking about Joseph. And you remember the end of his story. It doesn’t finish with him sold into slavery, falsely accused of crimes he didn’t commit, rejected by his brothers, wasting away in the dungeon all those years. Not at all. Joseph ends up being promoted to second in command over all Egypt and if it were not for him, not only would his own family have perished in the famine, but also many nations.

It is a fact that Jewish tradition has struggled with the question as to whether there would be two messiahs or just one. The prophets describe visions of both a royal, victorious King who would sit on David’s throne --- son of David --- and they describe visions of a Suffering Servant who would atone for Israel’s sins --- son of Joseph. So, would both callings be found in one individual or two Messiahs? One who would die and one who would reign? Massive debate!

Go back to their lectionary readings for a moment. A few weeks after reading about Joseph’s imprisonment in Egypt, they read about Pharaoh setting him up as commander-in-chief over Egypt in Genesis 41. That passage ends with Pharaoh asking, “Can we find anyone like this man, one in whom is the Spirit of God” (v.38)?

The haftarah reading for this text is Isaiah 11:2-16, The Spirit of Yehovah will rest on him --- the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of Yehovah --- and he will delight in the fear of Yehovah.

Here is the vision of Israel’s glorious Messianic King (note too, it comes from Isaiah’s famous shoot from the stump of Jesse prophecy about a future son of David who will rule over a glorious renewed world).

Jewish synagogues were reading about Joseph’s suffering in light of Isaiah 52 - 53 and then a few weeks later reading about his reign over Egypt in light of Isaiah 11. Wowah! Could it be that a messiah who is the son of Joseph could someday reign? Hmmm.


We have now arrived at the time for impact. If you have followed all the way to now, you will have a pressing question. Why don’t the People of the Book, the People who have treasured, poured over, loved, revered, publicly and thematically read the Torah & Neviim in their synagogues for millennia and yes, why don’t the people who have died for their holy Scriptures rather than deny them, why of all people don’t they --- accept that Jesus is their Messianic King so hoped for?

Perhaps it might help to ask another question first: What happened to Jesus’ haftarah? What about the messianic prophecies that all point to Jesus? Prophecies like Micah 5:2 about a ruler to be born in Bethlehem? Like Zechariah 9:9 about Jerusalem’s future King riding into the city on a donkey? Like Isaiah 7: 14 about being born of a virgin? Like Isaiah 61 which Jesus read as being fulfilled in himself, “Yehovah has anointed me”? Like the dozens and dozens of prophecies all evidently fulfilled in Jesus the Christ all the way down to his rejection and crucifixion, and resurrection --- all foretold to the minutest detail?

Where do we find these haftarah in the synagogue lectionaries today?

I’ll let Tverberg answer:


Bear in mind that the Torah is read aloud in its entirety during synagogue services, but only a subset of the Neviim is read, selected because it complements the Torah reading.

NOTICE: In 2004, an Israeli newspaper published an article called “What Happened to Jesus’ Haftarah?” where Jewish scholar Hananel Mack examined the lectionary readings. He concluded that the pattern was clear enough to show that it was intentional.


Could it be just a coincidence that the fourth century AD, when Jewish liturgy began adopting a lectionary that downplayed prophetic promises, was also the era that Christian persecution of the Jews reached a peak during the reign of Constantine? At the same time that Christians were chopping themselves free of their Jewish roots, the synagogue was silencing the prophecies of a coming Messiah.

Horror! Historically then, as Christianity was cutting its ties from its historical and theological moorings to Israel, the Jews were separating themselves from their own Messiah too. Both have been the losers! Christianity adopted its pagan tri-theism with its two-natured Jesus. Judaism lost her Saviour King.

Let us pray for that Day Jesus himself predicted, the Day when the nation of Israel will say, “Blessed is he who comes in the Name of Yehovah!” For on that Day Jewish acceptance will be life from the dead (Romans 11:15). On that Day the Torah of Moses and the prophets who spoke of the coming Kingdom of everlasting glory will have arrived. On that Day Israel’s Messianic King will be coronated. On that Day the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the one with the lamb’s Suffering Servant heart, will at last receive his promised inheritance with the faithful, blessed ones.

Even so. Come Lord Jesus Messiah! Your haftarah will not, cannot be denied, for your God and our God, your Father and our Father, is faithful!


1. I acknowledge the title What Happened to Jesus’ Haftarah? is not mine. It originally appeared on August 12, 2005 at:

I also freely acknowledge that the inspiration for this article comes from Lois Tverberg’s chapter Moses and the Prophets Have Spoken: Finding Promises in the Synagogue in her book, Reading the Bible with Rabbi Jesus: How a Jewish Perspective Can Transform Your Understanding, Baker Books, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2017.

2. Some of the standardised lectionary lists that date from before Christ show an earlier triennial tradition, rather than the later annual cycle for the Torah readings.

3. Op Cit. Reading the Bible With Rabbi Jesus, pp 194-195

4. Luke 4:16; informs us this had been Jesus’ regular custom or habit (eiotha) in Nazareth where he had been raised.

5. The Greek verb anaptusso rightly translated means Jesus “unrolled it”. It takes some skill to be able to find the place you are looking for on a scroll many metres long! The fact Jesus carefully selected his verses on this occasion indicates he was familiar with handling the scrolls and of course, could read Hebrew!

6. Op. Cit. p 196 (My underlining).

7. Op Cit. p199

8. Op Cit. p204

An article from Greg Deuble's website: www.the bible edited by Bruce Lyon

Sunday, May 19, 2019


It was absolutely nothing like what Christendom presents to its churches today as the gospel.

If the apostle Paul went in to a church in Christendom today and preached what he preached in the time of his commissioned ministry, they would throw him out, telling him he was preaching a false Christ and a false God.

We need to get back to "sola scripturea" in reality and reject the traditions of men that have developed since the second century. Let us remember the word of the apostle Paul as he warned those he spoke to and all of us these words:

Acts 20: 28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the holy spirit has made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he has purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.

This was happening right at the end of Paul's ministry and has continued on down to the present time.

Notice that what Paul warned believer's about was already happening toward the end of his ministry:

2 Timothy 1:15: This know you, that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me.......;
2 Thessalonians 2:7: For the mystery of iniquity does already work: only he who now let [holds back] will let, until he be taken out of the way.

Jude's warning needs to be heeded today:

Jude 1:3 Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that you should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only true God, and the Lord Jesus the Messiah.

We need to learn what is means to deny the only true God [John 17:3] Yehovah and what it means to deny the uniquely begotten son of Yehovah - God, our lord Jesus God's anointed one - the Messiah! Only the scriptures can provide the true answer.

Reject any testimony that comes from men and cannot be proved simply and directly from the scriptures and you will begin to follow the narrow path that leads to deliverance into the coming Kingdom of God, life in the new age as a new creation in the lord Jesus! May that day soon come!

Friday, May 17, 2019


“And Jesus cried aloud and said, ‘He who believes in me, does not believe in me, but in Him who sent me” (John 12:44).

Observe that Jesus “cried aloud” these words, “He who believes in me, does not believe in me, but in Him who sent me.” The fact he spoke this at the top of his voice barely a week out from his own crucifixion, surely indicates it is significant and we better listen up!

Before proceeding to unpack these profound words from Jesus, I will make a guess that this is not one of your all-time favourite memory verses! Chances are you have not previously meditated on John 12:44 much (if at all). Maybe if you are honest, you did not even realise it was in the Bible, much less from Jesus’ own lips. But I am going to prove to you that it is a master key to unlocking our understanding of Jesus, his relationship with God, and the significance of all he came to be and do for us. A big statement surely! So let’s investigate.

Jesus “cried aloud” these words after the nation had, through their official religious and political leaders, rejected his claims to being their Messiah. They had not only witnessed his healing and teaching credentials fulfilling all that the prophets had previously announced, but in the immediate context, they had seen Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead. The Gospel writer John tells us that even Christ’s enemies admitted Jesus was “performing many signs” (11:47). John himself says the raising of Lazarus was a “sign” (12:18). A sign is an attesting miracle. Jesus’ mighty miracles were proof God had sent him. So, by rejecting Jesus, they were sinning against clear light and deadening their own consciences.

In this context Jesus “cried aloud”. He wants them to hear he really has been “sent” by their God. Which is to say, Jesus is making the stupendous claim that he is the bone fide ambassador of the One God of Israel. His works and his words have been performed because he has been “commissioned”, and is therefore God’s true representative or agent.


Because we come from another culture and another generation many times removed from Jesus, it’s easy to miss the impact of Jesus’ “loud” statement here. Indeed, few readers of the Scriptures know the significance of the principle of agency that Jesus is appealing to. Therefore, to understand Jesus’ claim, we first need to appreciate the culture and mindset of that day’s original audience.

Simply stated, in Hebrew and ancient Middle Eastern thinking, one who is ‘sent’ (the agent) is treated as if he or she were the principal (the sender/commissioner) himself or herself. Although the principal and the agent are two distinct persons, they are treated as ‘one’, not literally of course, but functionally. This is accurately stated in the words of the The Encyclopedia of the Jewish Religion:

Agent (Heb. Shaliah): The main point of the Jewish law of agency is expressed in the dictum, ‘a person’s agent is regarded as the person himself’ [Ned. 72B; Kidd, 41b]. 1 Therefore any act committed by a duly appointed agent is regarded as having been committed by the principal, who therefore bears full responsibility for it with consequent complete absence of liability on the part of the agent.” (1)

Don’t miss this vital fact: “A person’s agent is regarded as the person himself.“ Furthermore:

In Hebrew thought a patriarch’s personality extended through his entire household [and] … in a specialised sense when the patriarch as lord of his household deputised his trusted servant as his malak (his messenger or angel) the man was endowed with the authority and resources of his lord to represent him fully and transact business in his name. In Semitic thought this messenger-representative was conceived of as being personally --- and in his very words --- the presence of the sender.” (2)

So, when the agent acts on behalf of the one who sends him, it is as though the principal, the master, the lord, is himself there in person speaking and acting. Understanding this principle will help us avoid what often appear to be contradictions in the Scriptures. Let me show you a simple instance or two where understanding this ‘law of agency’ will keep us from error and unlock new significance in understanding Jesus --- as agent --- and his relationship with his Father God --- as Principal.


In Matthew’s telling of the healing of the centurion’s servant, it is the centurion who personally comes to Jesus and begs on behalf of his sick servant…

And when he had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, appealing to him, and saying, “Sir, my servant is lying paralysed at home, suffering great pain. And he said to him, ‘I will come and heal him.’ But the centurion answered and said, ‘Sir, I am not qualified for you to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I too, am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, ‘Go!’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come!’ and he comes, and to my slave, ‘Do this!’ and he does it… (Matt. 8:5-9).

The modern reader is under no illusion that the centurion himself made this request while literally standing right in front of Jesus. The centurion “came to him” and spoke in the first person throughout, “”My servant … my roof … I too …me … I say …” Jesus also spoke directly to the centurion and “said to him”.

But when we turn to Luke’s parallel account of the same story, a problem presents itself to the modern reader...

And a certain centurion’s slave, who was highly regarded by him, was sick and about to die. And when he heard about Jesus, he sent some Jewish elders asking him to come and save the life of his slave. And when they had come to Jesus, they earnestly entreated him, saying, ‘He is worthy for you to grant this to him; for he loves our nation, and it was he who built us our synagogue.’ Now Jesus started on his way with them; and when he was already not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to him, ‘Sir, do not trouble 2 yourself further, for I am not fit for you to come under my roof; for this reason I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed … (Luke 7: 1f).

Without the crucial knowledge of the Hebrew law of agency --- that the agent is as the principal himself --- the modern reader thinks s/he spots a contradiction. For in Luke’s telling, the centurion does not literally stand before Jesus asking for his servant’s healing. Instead, “he sent some Jewish elders” to do the asking. “They” made the centurion’s request known to Jesus. Then Jesus “started on his way with them” to go to the centurion’s home. When just about at the centurion’s house, the centurion from inside his own house sends other servants outside to tell Jesus, ”I did not consider myself worthy to come to you …”

The Biblical way to reconcile these apparent contradictions between the two accounts is to know that the centurion (the principal) sends (commissions) certain Jewish elders to act on his behalf as his agents. There is no confusion in the mind of either Matthew or Luke, for in the Bible the one sent is “regarded as the principal himself”.

The principal and the agent are not always clearly distinguished, and can be treated as though they were one and the same person! Matthew’s account only mentions the principal (the centurion) without distinguishing his agents (the Jewish elders and house-servants). Luke mentions both the principal and the agents separately. To listen to the elders’ was to listen to the centurion himself. Indeed, the agents can even speak in the first person! (Is this starting to make sense of John 12:44 where Jesus says, “He who believes in me, does not believe in me, but in Him who sent me”?) (3.)


This ‘law of agency’ is scattered right throughout the entire Bible. Let’s take an OT example.

Yahweh God tells Moses, “See I make you as God (Heb. Elohim) to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet” (Ex. 7:1). When Moses stands before Pharaoh it is as if it is God Himself really standing there speaking and acting. As the agent, Moses is sent to speak and to act, as if he were God Himself. The agent is regarded as the principal!

Later in the chapter, Yahweh God says to Moses, “By this you will know that I am Yahweh: behold, I will strike the water that is in the Nile, with the staff that is My hand, and it shall be turned to blood” (v. 17).

Next, God instructs Moses to tell Aaron, “Take your staff and stretch out your hand over the water of Egypt, over the rivers … that they may become blood … ” (v. 19). As God’s agent, Aaron at Moses’ command stretches out his staff before Pharaoh over the waters, but God says He is the One Who strikes the waters with the staff that is “in My Hand“. Aaron’s action is God’s action. Moses and Aaron are standing before Pharaoh in the very place of God Himself. In the Hebrew mind those men are God in Egypt! What they do is what God Himself does. But in the Hebrew mind there 3 is no confusion as to the actual identity of Who the Principal is and who His agents are.


This Hebrew “law of agency” also holds good when God commissions His angels. Angels can be spoken of as if they were God and can even speak in the first person as though they personally were God before whom they were speaking.

A classic example is the burning bush (that didn’t burn!) in Exodus 3. Who is it who appears to Moses in the bush and talks to him in the first person, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Ex. 3: 6)? The majority of evangelical commentators answer, “Why, this is Jehovah God of course.” Even noting in verse 2 that the text specifically states, “the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a blazing fire from the midst of a bush” they rush to the conclusion that this angel of the LORD must be God in Person, or even the pre-existent Son of God himself, because he speaks in the first person as if he is God.

Here is a clear case of a failure to enter the Hebrew mind and observe the ‘law of agency” in full swing. For what is happening is that the angel in the bush has been sent as an agent by God to represent His Principal. Remember that the agent is regarded as the principal himself. The commissioned angel is as God Himself before Moses.

When we turn to Stephen’s inspired commentary on the burning bush any dispute that this is the case should end. Stephen is a man “filled with the holy Spirit”, a man “full of wisdom”, and “a man full of faith” (Acts 6: 3,5). So I don’t want to disagree with this man! Listen to Stephen’s explanation:

“An angel appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, in the flame of a burning thorn bush. And when Moses saw it, and he began to marvel at the sight; and as he approached to look more closely, there came the voice of the LORD; ‘I am the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob.’ And Moses shook with fear and would not venture to look. But the LORD said to him, ‘Take off the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground. I have certainly seen the oppression of My people in Egypt, and have heard their groans, and I have come down to deliver them; come now, and I will send you to Egypt … [Moses] is the one whom God sent to be both a ruler and a deliverer with the help of the angel who appeared to him in the thorn bush” (Acts 7: 30-35).

Who appeared in the burning bush? Who spoke in the first person as if he were God? Who said, “I am God” so “take off the sandals from your feet for this is holy ground”?

Stephen is a Hebrew-thinking Christian, steeped in that culture and his Scriptures, and he is convinced that the angel-agent is as the Principal-God Himself. In Hebrew thinking, to pay homage to the angel-agent commissioned by God is to give the ultimate honour to God. As the agent of the One Who sent him to Moses, the angel of the LORD is so identified with his Principal that we find it hard to distinguish him from God! That sent angel speaks in the first person as if he really was God!

We could demonstrate this is the case with every angelic visitation in the Old Testament. (Even the occasion when Abraham had lunch with God in Genesis 18 fits this pattern. You can read my full exposition of this amazing story in my article, “Anyone Round here Seen God?”) We know this is the case because the Bible insists, “No one has ever seen God” (John 1:18; I John 4:12; I Tim. 6:16). But men have seen His angels, His agents, who acted and spoke as if they were God Himself. This is the “law of agency”, where the agent is as the principal himself. (4)


Now we are getting closer to understanding John 12:44 and Jesus’ claim to being the agent of the One God of Israel.

One of the arguments for the popular notion that Jesus is God Himself is that texts attributed to God Almighty in the OT are in the NT attributed to him, so therefore Jesus has to be God. If God alone is the Saviour (Isaiah 43:11) and Jesus is our Saviour, then Jesus must be God, right? If God is the Shepherd (Ps. 23; Ez. 34:11ff) and Jesus is “the good Shepherd”, then Jesus must be the God of Israel, right? If every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Yahweh is God, and since every knee and tongue will do this before Jesus, then surely Jesus is Himself God, right? If God is the Judge of all the earth (Gen. 18:25) and everybody will one day stand before Jesus as Judge (2 Cor. 5:10), then surely Jesus is God, right?

And what about all the OT passages that tell us that God Himself is coming in “that Day” to reign over all the earth, but when we come to the NT, those passages are now applied to Jesus at his Second Coming? For instance, the prophet Zechariah announces:

In that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which is in front of Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives will be split in its middle … (14:4).

Surely, if “His feet” in Zechariah 14 are the LORD’s feet, then Jesus must be God, right? Well, before jumping to that conclusion, how about we compare Scripture with Scripture and apply the law of agency? Remember how Aaron’s hand is spoken of as the LORD’s Hand (Exodus 7:17-19)? We are to understand that in exactly the same way Jesus’ feet are said to be God’s feet, for he too has been “sent” as the ultimate agent of the one God. The “law of agency” provides a very reasonable and satisfying answer to the whole question.

The same applies in the matter of Jesus being our Saviour. Moses also is called ‘saviour’, and Joshua is ‘saviour’ and all the judges of Israel are each called ‘saviour’ (Acts 7:35; Jud. 3:9,15; Neh. 9:27, etc.). When God sends somebody to deliver His people that agent is called ‘saviour’ (often translated as ‘deliverer’). The fact Jesus is called ‘Saviour’ does not prove he is God anymore than Moses who is called ‘saviour’ proves he is God.

This principle is very clear when Jesus is spoken of as the judge of the world. Jesus clearly claims agency when he says his Father God has “given” him all authority to judge. Paul also says that God:

Has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a man whom He has appointed [commissioned, sent, as His agent], having furnished proof to all men by raising him from the dead (Acts 17:31).

Of course there is only One ultimate Saviour of all men, One ultimate Judge of all men, One ultimate Authority over all the Universe --- the God and Father of Jesus (Eph. 4: 6). And Jesus is His perfect agent who will do the judging on behalf of the One God Who has appointed him for this work. Or, to put it in the words of Jesus who shouted it out:

He who believes in me does not believe in me, but in Him who sent me (John 8:44).

Jesus knew he was “sent” to stand in the very place before us as though he were God, but never claimed himself to be that One God, and never imagined his followers would confuse his identity as none other than that God’s anointed agent.

Yes, Jesus is functionally God to us. So, when he speaks, God speaks to us. When he acts, God acts for us. Although perfectly one in mission the Bible never confuses their personal identities. Nobody in Bible times for a moment imagined Jesus was Yahweh God Himself. Certainly Jesus never did! Remember this: The agent is as the principal himself.

John 10:30

Which by the way brings us to the oft-quoted words of Jesus, “I and my Father are one” (John 10:30). (5) If I have heard it once, I have heard it dozens of times quoted as a sure-fire proof-text that, Jesus is God. Well, hold your horses a minute! Has anybody stopped to consider the context of this statement?

The subject under discussion is whether Jesus really is the Messiah who has been sent by God. The Jews say to Jesus, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly” (v. 24). Jesus replies by claiming to do his work by the Name or under the authority of his Father God, i.e. his Principal.

Jesus further explains that all the sheep who trust in him will not perish because they are held safe in his hand. Jesus explains the reason for their absolute safety is that the Father “has given them to me” and that because He is “greater than all, no one is able to snatch them out of my Father’s hand” (v. 28-29) … and so, in this way, “I and my Father are one”.

‘Blind Freddy’ can see the obvious context concerns “the works” of Jesus in his mission to care for God’s people. It is an unwarranted imposition on the text to make Jesus talk about “essence” or “being” (i.e. a question of ontology). Not at all! The subject is oneness of ministry, that is, unity of mission between the Father who “sent” His Messiah to be His agent in this work. This is a classic case of the law of agency, for Jesus’ power to keep the sheep is derived from the commission given him by his Father.

Ah, it will be objected, that the Jews then want to stone Jesus “for blasphemy, and because you, being a man, make yourself out to God” (v. 33). But please don’t stop 6 reading there. Jesus once again corrects their erroneous and misguided allegations. (How often do the Jews misunderstand Jesus?) He explains that even the magistrates and judges in the OT who were appointed by God were called “gods” (just as Moses was called God in Ex. 7:1!) so it is only reasonable that Jesus should be called “the Son of God” [i.e. the Messiah] for he reflects like no other human or angel before him the Principal-God who “sent” him.

No other agent sent by God before him, comes near to the superior status of Jesus as God’s Son. He is fully authorised, fully empowered to do God’s work and accomplish his God-given mission to the sheep of his Father. This passage is another classic instance of the principal/agent law we have noted. (6)

Which brings us full circle to John 12:44. Jesus’ own “loud” testimony is that if we believe in him, we do not ultimately believe in him, but in the One God Who sent him as His perfect agent. This “law of agency” is surely a master key to understanding Jesus and his relationship to the One God and Father he beautifully represents. As God’s appointed Messiah, Jesus supersedes all other agents who came before him. He is greater than Moses, greater than any angel. As God’s model agent Jesus is the perfect reflection of his Principal-God. To hear and to see Jesus is indeed to see His Father. This is Jesus’ own “loud” claim.

Understand John 12:44 and you have a master key to understanding Jesus, for “he who believes in me, does not believe in me, but in Him Who sent me”. In the Bible the agent is as the principal himself. Oh, and don’t forget Jesus says to you and to me, “As the Father sent me, even so I send you”, which means we stand before the lost world with all the authority as though we are Jesus! Wow!


1. Werblowsky, R.J.Z., Wigoder, G. The Encycopedia of the Jewish Religion. New York: Adama Books, 1986, p. 15.

2. Johnson, R.A. The One and the Many in the Israelite Conception of God. (As quoted in my book They Never Told Me This in Church! with permission by Juan Baixeras, p. 65).

3. You may like to see how this key unlocks other apparent contradictions between two accounts of the same incident, such as Matthew 20: 21 and Mark 10:35-37. Who literally comes to make request of Jesus, the sons of Zebedee, or their mother? You now have the key!

4. In Genesis 32 Jacob wrestles with “a man” and reports, “I have seen God face to face, yet my life has been preserved”. Rather than jump to the conclusion of many commentators and say Jacob physically wrestled with God Himself (an impossibility for Jesus says “God is Spirit” in John 4: 24, and besides God Himself is All-powerful), or even with “God the Son” before he became incarnate as Jesus, why not accept the inspired prophet’s explanation that Jacob wrestled with God’s angelic agent that, “he contended with God, yes, he wrestled with the angel and prevailed” (Hosea 12: 3-4)? If you are interested, here is a sample of other Scriptures that demonstrate the Bible’s ubiquitous testimony to the “law of agency”… Judges 4: 15-16; Ex. 13: 21 with Ex. 14: 19; Ex. 23:21-23, 30-31; I Sam. 13: 3 & 4 where Jonathan as Saul’s son and agent 7 does the actual killing, but king Saul as the principal is the one ultimately attributed with the victory. 2 Sam. 3:18; 2 Kings 14:27; 1 Chron. 11:14. Also compare 2 Chronicles 4:11 where Huram finished the work king Solomon commissioned him to do, but in verses 18-19 the work is actually attributed to Solomon as though the king himself literally did all the work! Etc., etc.

5. My NASB translation transgresses the bounds of translation and ventures into overt commentary by its note in the margin which reads… “Lit., neuter, a unity, or, one essence.” As the NASB states, the adjective “one” is indeed neuter in the Greek (hen), but it is wrong to lead the reader to think Jesus is referring to oneness of “essence” or “being”, which of course, is what Trinitarian doctrine believes. The masculine (heis) is always the Greek word employed for the Personal God, as for instance Jesus’ own creedal statement about God in Mark 12: 29f.

6. In describing the unity of his ministry with Apollos, Paul says, “he who plants and he who waters are one (Neuter, hen) (I Cor. 3: 8). Paul says his ministry is in perfect harmony with the ministry of Apollos, because they are “fellow-workers”, commissioned by God Who gives their whole missionary endeavour growth and increase. There is no suggestion from my Trinitarian friends that Paul and Apollos are “one in essence”, of the “same substance”, or of the “one being” when it says they “are one”! Yet this is a clear parallel to Jesus’ own mission statement in John 10:30!!!

Written by Greg Deuble: 


And they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ (I Cor. 10: 4).

This verse is not without its challenges. Two difficulties emerge. How can a rock follow the children of Israel for 40 years during their wilderness wanderings? And how can it be said that the rock was Christ?

There was a tradition in First Century Judaism, that the rock smitten by Moses rolled down the mountain, and proceeded to literally follow the children of Israel throughout their wilderness wanderings. Imagine that! According to such midrashic commentary, we are to imagine a literal rock miraculously rolling along behind the Israelites, with water gushing forth from its perforations. And this went on for 40 years! Paul almost certainly would have known about this oral and written Jewish tradition when he penned our text.

Surely we cannot for a moment seriously accept this woodenly literalistic interpretation? It makes the apostle responsible for a Jewish fable. It implies Paul was misled by the tradition of his times. We might even irreverently suggest that if literally so, Moses and the Israelites enjoyed some rock ‘n roll in the desert!

Although most Christians reading the verse today cannot imagine a literal rock rolling around in the desert following the Israelites to miraculously assuage their thirst for 40 years, they fall into the same woodenly literalistic error when interpreting the second matter. For when they read the rock was Christ, it proves for them that Jesus Christ personally pre-existed in the Old Testament as God.

The rationale is that since the OT says Yahweh alone was the Rock of Israel, and since the rock that followed Israel in her wilderness journeys is said by the NT to have been Christ, then ipso facto Jesus Christ is God.

Of course we agree the OT metaphorically teaches that Yahweh is God the Rock, indeed our Rock:

He is the Rock, His work is perfect: for all His ways are just: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is He (Deut. 32: 4).

The LORD (Hebrew for YHWH, Adonai) is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust … my salvation, and my high tower (Ps. 18:2).

Thus, the argument goes, that when Paul says to the believers in Corinth, that Israel drank from a spiritual rock that followed them, and that rock was Christ, we are to therefore accept that the rock that rolled was Christ himself! Which is to say, that prior to his human birth, Jesus already existed as the “pre-incarnate” Messiah personally accompanying Moses and Israel in the desert.

This notion is actively encouraged by some very biased Bible translations. The NIV translates the word follow as “accompany”. They want you to think that Christ personally “accompanied” the Israelites in their wildness journeys.

The Greek word (akoloutheteo) occurs about 90 times in the NT and in almost all of them, it is translated as “follow”. Even the NIV translates the word as “accompany” only twice, the other time being in Mark 6: 1 where the disciples accompany Jesus to his hometown. But even there, “follow” is the more natural idea. However, the vast majority 1 of translators at I Corinthians 10: 4 read that the rock followed the Israelites.

As has been rightly said, translation is the subtlest form of commentary!


There is a tantalising nuance possible in this word “follow”. Follow can mean to come after in place or in time. I can follow after my grandfather, in the sense that I follow his steps and arrive at the place where he goes, perhaps his house. Or, I can follow after my grandfather, in the sense that being born after him I arrive later in time. This second idea, that Christ followed Israel in time is the one that best fits the context here, as I shall show.

Christ was the future hope and expectation of Israel, and they looked forward to his appearance as per God’s promise. The great patriarch and founder of the Hebrew nation --- Abraham --- is said by Jesus to have rejoiced to see my day; and he saw it and was glad (John 8:58). Abraham by faith anticipated the future coming of the Messiah.

This expectation was foreshadowed in the guise of many types and patterns throughout the OT. For instance, the Passover Lamb foreshadowed the Messiah dying to deliver from sin. The tabernacle portrayed Messiah being the one in whom the Glory of God would dwell with us. The manna anticipated Christ as the true bread from heaven. The High Priest was a type of Jesus Christ who would come to be our mediator in due time.

It was in the wilderness journeys that this great prophecy of the coming Messiah was repeated:

A star will come out of Jacob; a scepter will arise out of Israel … His kingdom shall be exalted … I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near … One from jacob shall have dominion … (Numbers 24: 17, 7, 19). 2

As they believed in their God-given destiny in the coming Messiah, and their part in that coming glorious kingdom, every faithful Israelite received strength and nourishment for their souls by faith. In this sense, they drank from the spiritual rock which followed them, which rock was Messiah. Believing in God’s promised future Messiah and his kingdom always strengthens the believer no matter how hot, dry and dusty our wilderness walk in this day may be!

Jesus claimed to be the fulfilment of that prophetic type when he stood to loudly proclaim, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the Scripture has said, Out of his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water (John 7: 37-38).

And so the water flowing miraculously from that rock in the desert was a foreshadowing of how God would mightily meet the heartfelt needs of every man, woman and child through the life-giving Spirit-empowered words and works of His Messiah.

And yet, the idea that this passage teaches that a so-called “pre-incarnate” Son of God, Christ Himself, was personally following the Israelites in that desert, persists. Once the horse bolts, well you know the rest of the story!

I could list a whole bunch of Trinitarian scholars who think Christ himself was the rock that followed Israel in the desert.

For this article, just 3 short ones will do. The first is from esteemed Robert Haldane in his verse by verse commentary:

This passage distinctly asserts not only the preexistence of our Lord, but also that he was the Jehovah of the Old Testament.

Robertson’s Word Pictures in the NT agrees:

He definitely states here in symbolic form the preexistence of Christ.

And Hodge’s Commentary:

The rock that followed them was Christ. The Logos, the manifested Jehovah, who attended the Israelites in their journey, was the Son of God who assumed our nature, and was the Christ. It was he who supplied their wants … The idea is not that they drank of the typical rock; it was not the type but the anti-type that supplied their wants ... He was the source of all the support which the Israelites enjoyed during their journey in the wilderness. 3

Is this sampling of a wider consensus to be trusted? When Paul says, and that rock was Christ, are we really meant to conclude as our erstwhile commentators would have it, that Paul is teaching this rock is really the “pre-incarnate Messiah” --- second member of the godhead, “the manifested Jehovah … the Son of God who assumed our nature”?

Is it wise to follow the crowd, no matter how well-credentialed and generally accepted they may be, when there are solid contextual and grammatical reasons for not doing so (not to mention those scholars who disagree the verse teaches any such notion anyway!)? I say, Let the Scriptures be our authority. Each of us bears the responsibility before God to examine our doctrine in the light of the holy Scriptures. ( Nor should you agree with what I say --- for who am I but a voice in the wilderness? --- unless it is exegetically sound!)


Let’s observe the reason why Paul introduces chapter 10. The chapter break here actually comes right in the middle of a serious homily from Paul. In the previous chapters Paul has been discussing the question of Christian liberty. Is the believer free to eat food that had been offered to idols?

Some in the Corinthian church had the attitude that since they had been baptized into Christ, and since they were partakers of the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper, and were thus partakers of the benefits of the Lord’s body and blood, that they therefore were quite free to partake of food offered to idols. They felt immune to the subtle dangers lurking in their free-lance approach. After all, they reasoned, an idol is nothing anyway.

So they felt they had no need to exercise self-discipline. They would arrive at their foreordained destiny regardless.

To check this potentially serious mindset, the apostle has already exhorted them to disciplined self-denial so that they might obtain the crown of life (I Cor. 9: 24-25). Christian liberty was not a licence to live without self-control. So adamant is Paul on this, that he even holds his own discipline up as an example they should emulate. He testifies that “I beat [ or as some translate it, I punish, I bruise, I buffet] my own body and enslave it, so that after proclaiming to others I myself should not be disqualified” ( I Cor. 9: 27).

Nothing is going to keep Paul from winning the prize.


It should go without saying that First Corinthians 10 continues this same theme. For I do not want you to be ignorant … (v.1). “For” is a connecting word. The argument from the previous chapters continues.

Moving along from his own example of endurance to Israel’s history, Paul will now show that even God’s people who enjoy enormous privilege are not immune to the consequences of compromise or careless living. Chapter ten is thus a ‘preacher’s illustration’ from the OT designed to bring home a powerful lesson to his audience. 4

It must have been very tempting for the Israelites standing on the victory side of the Red Sea to feel that all dangers were now in the rear vision mirror. Their future inheritance was secure. The God of Moses was their God. Their experiences gave Israel a perfect union with Moses the great law-giver. It could be said they were baptized into Moses, even though of course, the waters never touched them (v. 2). But they all perished before entering the Promised Land --- with the exception of Joshua and Caleb.

So Paul says, O you Corinthians blessed in Christ, beware. Do not take your standing in Christ for granted lest you suffer the same kind of judgment they did!

Think of the miraculous help those people had received. They had eaten of the manna from heaven, which is described as spiritual food (v. 3), not because it was ethereal in substance and had literally dropped out of heaven where God’s Throne is. No. The manna was real physical food but is termed “spiritual food” because it was not from a man-made source, but had been specially provided by God. And it was “spiritual food” even more so, because it pointed forward to Messiah’s coming to be the bread of life for the world.

The same idea applies to their water. It was spiritual drink (v 4). It was not supplied by a natural fountain or spring already existing in the desert rock. It was spectacularly provided by God’s creative power. They all were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them (v. 4). God Himself was sending it out of the rock. It was miraculously supplied. And it too was a foreshadowing of how God would supply His life to the world through His coming Messiah.


Many Bible readers today are unaware that in the Hebrew Bible there are many messiahs. Prophets, priests and kings who were consecrated for service to God were called “messiah”. Appointed to do His service, they were 5 anointed ones, which is to say, messiahs. The Hebrew word is ‘meshiach’. Even inanimate objects set aside for God’s use were said to be ‘anointed’.

Let’s apply this Hebrew contextual mind-set to our verse which says “the rock was Christ”. One Jewish Christian commentator writes:

When discerning the meaning of this allegory, it should also be taken into account that the simple meaning of the Hebrew concept of meshiach [messiah] points to something that is anointed. The rock was anointed to perform a purpose for HaShem [ie. for God]. It was set aside for HaShem’s use only. 6

In other words, this was a rock that God set aside and used for His purposes to give water to the Israelites in the desert. We could even say It was a sanctified rock --- an ordinary rock chosen and used by God for an extraordinary purpose. In classic Hebrew-speak, the rock was messiah. The rock was appointed and anointed for special use.

And this, by the way, helps us see why Christ Jesus himself does not need to be the “pre-incarnate” God so as to save the world. God is the origin of the water of life and He has appointed His Son to be the fountain or conduit bringing that life to us. Jesus himself testified he was the water of life precisely because the Father had given him this ‘authority’. 7 In another place Paul puts it this way,

This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour, Who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Messiah Jesus … (I Tim. 2: 3ff).

God is the one who gives that water of life to us, through His appointed mediator, our Meshiach (Messiah) Jesus. The rock from which the Israelites drank was a beautiful portrayal (“type”) of Christ who would be our fountain of the water of life. Jesus is God’s provision for our every spiritual need!


And lest we miss Paul’s point that he is speaking allegorically when he writes, the rock was Christ, he plainly states, These things took place as examples for us (v. 6). In fact, like a good teacher should do, Paul repeated this very point later, Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction … (v. 11).

The word in the Greek is literally, “a figure” or perhaps even better, “a type”. Paul is speaking figuratively, typically in the sense that the baptism of Moses, the manna from above, the supernaturally supplied water from the rock, are types of the Christ who was to come. Obviously, the apostle is making a parallel between Christian experience and OT type.

Just by the way, did you happen to notice earlier what Hodge’s comment concerning the figure of the rock was? This time let me underline his unfortunate claim, and put in bold his negation:

The rock that followed them was Christ. The Logos, the manifested Jehovah, who attended the Israelites in their journey, was the Son of God who assumed our nature, and was the Christ. It was he who supplied their wants … The idea is not that they drank of the typical rock; it was not the type but the anti-type that supplied their wants...

So who is right? Will you believe Paul spoke the truth when he said twice that he is speaking “typically” (typologically) and therefore allegorically or figuratively, or will you believe Hodge --- who represents the trinitarian doctrine --- when he says, The idea is not that they drank of the typical rock; it was not the type but the anti-type that supplied their wants? I never cease to be amazed by the careless tactics our trinitarian friends adopt to promote their theory, thus cancelling out the clear word of our God!.


The warning is clear. We should not crave evil things, as they also craved (v. 6). We should not be idolaters, as some of them were (v. 7). Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day (v. 8). Nor let us tempt the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents (v. 9). Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer (v. 10).

Paul sums up his whole argument this way: Therefore, let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall … flee from idolatry (v. 12, 14). The whole context, the whole point of Paul’s illustration, the whole allegory, the whole typological import, the whole example, is a warning against idolatry and the inevitable list of sins that flow from that sin…
Do not be idolaters! Do not run after other gods.

Yet that is the very thing our trinitarian commentators do when they impose upon this text their preconceived notion that Jesus is “the manifested Jehovah”, the “pre-incarnate Son of God who took on our nature”, the so-called God the Son (a descriptive title found nowhere in the Scriptures!) , second member of a multipersonal godhead!

This point of the passage is not to tell us that Jesus Christ was alive as God in the OT. It is a lesson on understanding the consequences of what happened to the nation of Israel and how we must heed their example. Surely the message is that we are to learn from the mistakes of the children of Israel who were on the wilderness journey just as we are?

Anyone who wants to find “Jesus” as the god-man in these verses is hijacking it to a place it never was intended to take us, and is playing irresponsibly with our Torah, doing exactly what Sha’ul [Paul] is telling him not to do. 8

There is no compelling evidence in this passage to support the notion that Paul was attempting to introduce a new doctrine about Christ being the “pre-existent God-man”.

In conclusion, the miraculous supply of manna from ‘heaven’ and of water from the rock in Israel’s history are types or models of spiritual truth. When the apostle says and that rock was Christ, he is using the same kind of Hebrew expression that Jesus used of the communion, when he said of the bread he held up, "This is my body broken for you". Nobody (except the Roman Catholic doctrine of trans-substantiation) really believes the bread Jesus was holding up at Passover was his own literal body.

The "is" clearly means "represents" --- this bread represents, or is a type of Christ’s body ---and that is Paul's point here. The rock and the water flowing from it --- and the manna for that matter --- are types of our spiritual food and drink supernaturally supplied as we share in the benefits of God’s provision mediated to us through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Have we taken to heart Paul’s main message here? The main thing is, that the main thing is, it’s sadly possible for God’s people to fall into sin and disaster. No matter how greatly blessed we are in Christ,there remains the tragic possibility of being disqualified (I Cor. 9: 27) as that generation was.

Of course, you are free to be woodenly literalistic if you like. You are free to picture a literal rock rolling around on the ground after the Israelites in the desert for 40 years. You are also free to say that the rock that followed them was a pre-existent, pre-incarnate Christ who is the God of the OT. Anybody can bend the context and grammar to fit their own theory. We live in a world where God allows us to make our own choices. We are free to have our own light and sound show --- our own rock ‘n roll show in the desert --- if you will.

However, the warning is, Therefore, let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall … flee from idolatry (v. 12, 14). The antidote to that fearful possibility is to continually drink from the living waters that come to us from God through Jesus our Lord Messiah.

1 The Greek has a perfectly proper way of saying “accompany” and the word is sunakoloutheteo. It is used in Mark 5:37; 14: 51 and Luke 23:49, but definitely not here in I Cor. 10: 4! This is not the first time the NIV alters the text in favour of promoting a pre-existent Christ. Another classic instance is in John 13: 3 where the Greek simply states that Jesus knew he was going to God, yet the NIV wants you to believe Jesus was “going back to God”, that is, “returning” to where he had previously been.

2 The careful reader will note I have altered the order of these verses to make better sense for good reading. This is of course, perfectly acceptable and follows the pattern of the Bible writers and subsequent Jewish commentary!

3 The three quotes are sourced from under their Bible Commentary Section pertinent to I Corinthians 10: 4.

4 To use the technical term, Paul employs Jewish midrash.

5 E.g. I Sam. 12:3, 5; 24:6; 26:9, 11, 16, 23; 2 Sam. 1:14, 16,21, etc.

6 Uriel ben-Mordechai, If? The End of a Messianic Lie, Volume 1, p218

7 The woman at the well was told this precise thing by Jesus who claimed to be “the Christ” whom God the Father had appointed to be the source of living water to the world (John 4).

8 Op Cit, Uriel ben-Mordechai, p 219

Written by Greg Deuble: www.the