Did Abraham Meet Jesus?

Some of the most startling things in the Bible are hidden in plain sight.

Galatians 3:7 is a case in point. Amid the predictable focus on law, grace, and the gospel, Paul blindsides us: “the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘In you shall all the nations be blessed.’”

But Abraham lived two millennia before Jesus. There’s nothing about a crucified Savior in the stories about Abraham. What is Paul thinking? To correctly process Galatians 3:7, we need to think about the gospel in different terms.

We typically think of the gospel in terms of the crucified Savior, Jesus, dying for our sins. But the work of Christ was just the means to accomplish what God sought. God wanted a sinless, holy, human family. The sacrifice of Jesus—fully God and fully human—was the necessary mechanism to achieve that larger goal. The gospel is God’s plan to become a man so He could have that holy, human family. Could Abraham have grasped that?

God’s decision to produce his family through Abraham is described in Genesis 12:1–3: “I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great . . . and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Paul quoted part of that passage in Galatians 3:7. Paul believed that as a result of that divine encounter, Abraham came away with the knowledge of the gospel: God would become a man to provide the means for a human family. And even more than that, Abraham discerned that he and his offspring—which didn’t yet exist, and which seemingly couldn’t exist—were a critical part of that plan. Was Paul reading a different Old Testament than us? No, Paul got his information about the good news where all the gospel writers did—Jesus (Gal 1:12; 1 Cor 15:8).

If John 8:56 is any indication, Jesus happened to be an authority on Abraham’s divine encounter with God: “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” Abraham saw Jesus’ day? The Jews listening to Jesus immediately understood him to mean that he had met Abraham. That’s why they said in the next verse, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” They were actually right—on both counts.

We know that John referred to Jesus as the Word (John 1:1). Less well known is that the “Word of the Lord” is at times an Old Testament description of the embodied God of Israel. For example, Jeremiah was visited by “the word of the Lord” (Jer 1:2, 4) whom he called Lord God (Jer 1:6). The Lord God, the “word,” is embodied in human form in Jeremiah 1:7: “Then the Lord put out his hand and touched my mouth.” There are other such passages in the Old Testament. One of them is Genesis 15, where the covenant promises between God and Abraham were sealed: “After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision.” Notice that this was a vision. Genesis 12, the passage Paul quoted in Galatians 3, has the same language: “Then the Lord appeared to Abram.”

Paul wasn’t out of his mind. Abraham had met the Word, and through that encounter, he understood the salvation plan of God.

***

why is the bible hard to understandDr. Michael S. Heiser is a scholar-in-residence for Faithlife, the makers of Logos Bible Software. He is the author of The Unseen Realm: Recovering the Supernatural Worldview of the Bible and has taught many Mobile Ed courses, including Problems in Biblical Interpretation: Difficult Passages I.

This article is excerpted from Dr. Heiser’s book I Dare You Not to Bore Me with the Bible.

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Comments

  1. If Trinity were the true God one would not have to work so hard all the time to prop up the doctrine.

    • Olaf Michel says:

      Dear Bill, this is an interesting idea. May I ask you a question? Is there anybody you know of who is not a doctor in theology? Why is it so, if everything concerning the Bible´s teaching is easy to understand. Should there anybody be, who is not able to earn that degree?
      Trinity is in my mind an absolute imperative to the teaching of the Bible. And this is the reason in short words:
      If God wouldn´t be a Trinity, He wouldn´t be in accord with the Bible, His own word, saying (1. John 4,16): “God is love.” (An ontological statement). Otherwise He would have been incomplete from eternity without a creation. Because love needs an object to love. Without an object in Himself, God is no perfect, complete being. But He is infinite and creation is finite.
      How do you think About this?

      • I’m not sure that I understand your question about doctorates. I actually agree with Dr. Heiser entirely in what he had to say. But Trinity is not about the scriptures but rather about a creed. Your Bible doesn’t make these assertions (except for a few):

        “Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the Catholic Faith. Which Faith except everyone do keep whole and undefiled, without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. And the Catholic Faith is this, that we worship one God in Trinity and Trinity in Unity. Neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Substance. For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son, and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son and of the Holy Ghost is all One, the Glory Equal, the Majesty Co-Eternal. Such as the Father is, such is the Son, and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father Uncreate, the Son Uncreate, and the Holy Ghost Uncreate. The Father Incomprehensible, the Son Incomprehensible, and the Holy Ghost Incomprehensible. The Father Eternal, the Son Eternal, and the Holy Ghost Etneral and yet they are not Three Eternals but One Eternal. As also there are not Three Uncreated, nor Three Incomprehensibles, but One Uncreated, and One Uncomprehensible. So likewise the Father is Almighty, the Son Almighty, and the Holy Ghost Almighty. And yet they are not Three Almighties but One Almighty.

        So the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not Three Gods, but One God. So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord, and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not Three Lords but One Lord. For, like as we are compelled by the Christian verity to acknowledge every Person by Himself to be God and Lord, so are we forbidden by the Catholic Religion to say, there be Three Gods or Three Lords. The Father is made of none, neither created, nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone; not made, nor created, but begotten. The Holy Ghost is of the Father, and of the Son neither made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding.

        So there is One Father, not Three Fathers; one Son, not Three Sons; One Holy Ghost, not Three Holy Ghosts. And in this Trinity none is afore or after Other, None is greater or less than Another, but the whole Three Persons are Co-eternal together, and Co-equal. So that in all things, as is aforesaid, the Unity is Trinity, and the Trinity is Unity is to be worshipped. He therefore that will be saved, must thus think of the Trinity.

        Furthermore, it is necessary to everlasting Salvation, that he also believe rightly the Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. For the right Faith is, that we believe and confess, that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man.

        God, of the substance of the Father, begotten before the worlds; and Man, of the substance of His mother, born into the world. Perfect God and Perfect Man, of a reasonable Soul and human Flesh subsisting. Equal to the Father as touching His Godhead, and inferior to the Father as touching His Manhood. Who, although He be God and Man, yet He is not two, but One Christ. One, not by conversion of the Godhead into Flesh, but by taking of the Manhood into God. One altogether, not by confusion of substance, but by Unity of Person. For as the reasonable soul and flesh is one Man, so God and Man is one Christ. Who suffered for our salvation, descended into Hell, rose again the third day from the dead. He ascended into Heaven, He sitteth on the right hand of the Father, God Almighty, from whence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. At whose coming all men shall rise again with their bodies, and shall give account for their own works. And they that have done good shall go into life everlasting, and they that have done evil into everlasting fire. This is the Catholic Faith, which except a man believe faithfully and firmly, he cannot be saved.”

        Heiser points out that the “second YHVH” figure is entirely obedient and dependent on YHVH. There is not “eternally co-equal”. Nor is there any “one substance” in the scriptures because that concept came from gnosticism, along with “Very God from Very God”. No co-equal in majesty, etc. It is all made up:

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homoousion#Pre-Nicene_usage

      • That God is love does not refer to him loving himself but being benevolently disposed toward others:

        [Luk 6:27-35 KJV] 27 But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, 28 Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you. 29 And unto him that smiteth thee on the [one] cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloke forbid not [to take thy] coat also. 30 Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask [them] not again. 31 And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise. 32 **For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them.** 33 And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same. 34 And if ye lend [to them] of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again. 35 **But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and [to] the evil**.

        [Rom 5:5-10 KJV] 5 And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us. 6 For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. 8 **But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.** 9 Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. 10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.

        • Olaf Michel says:

          Thank you very much.
          I´m aware of Catholic teaching although I´m not Catholic.
          How shall I understand your comment? Do you think, that there is no Trinity except in the Catholic doctrine?
          If it were so, I would agree, that it is a question of doctrine rather then Scripture. But you answered my reference to the ontological statement in 1.Joh 4 by saying it is not. But you missed to show sufficient evidence.
          To give bibletexts referring to God as loving does not away the fact that He is love. And this is a difference. My wife is very loving. But to say that she is love, would still be incorrect.
          If you refuse Trinity in any form, you owe me biblical Explanation, not only for this circumstance, but also for many other things otherwise not to be understood or contradictory.

  2. Roy Harrisville says:

    St. Paul did not write that Abraham met Jesus of Nazareth. The Apostle wrote that scripture preached the gospel to Abraham, and then quoted exactly what he meant. Abraham was not informed of the incarnation, only that blessing would come. We do not need to construct a complicated exegetical argument to explain this verse in Galatians.

    • Bingo! Indeed.

    • Alan Criado says:

      Hello Roy, could you please clarify for me the statement “The Apostle wrote that scripture preached the gospel to Abraham”? What was Scripture was this that preached the gospel to Abraham?

      Thank you.

      • Alan Criado says:

        Sigh, my question should have read, “What Scripture was this that preached the gospel to Abraham?” I do not know how that first “was” got in there and once posted there is no editing.

  3. Roy Harrisville III says:

    Gal 3:9 quotes Gen 12:3 to the effect that “…in you all the nations will be blessed.” When St. Paul writes that “scripture” foreknew that the Gentiles would be made righteous by faith, the Apostle is using the term in a multivalent fashion to mean more than a written word (because, after all, Abraham didn’t have a scripture!). Abraham did not know about Jesus of Nazareth specifically, and never met him and Paul never wrote that he did. But Paul did write that Abraham knew the gospel, or good news, about the nations being blessed. Does that help?

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