The Bible Project

Experiencing God Through Humans - God E6

Episode Summary

This episode continues our series on the development of the character of God in the Bible. Today, Jon and Tim tackle how God would portray himself in and through humans.

Episode Notes

In part 1 (0-20:20), Tim shares a insight from biblical scholar Richard Baukham. Baukham outlines the differences between ancient Judiasm and other ancient religions of that time period. Specifically a “Binary view” vs. a “gradient view” of reality. A “gradient view” can be characterized as: polytheistic worldviews (like Israel’s ancient neighbors, and the Greek and Roman world) draw distinctions of degree between the most powerful divine being and other divine beings and humans.

A “binary view” can be characterized, by looking at this quote from Richard Baukman “Monotheism understands the uniqueness of the one God in terms of an absolute difference in kind from all other reality. We could call it ‘transcendent uniqueness… understanding the uniqueness of the God of Israel as that of the one Creator of all things and the one sovereign Ruler of all things. In ancient Judaism, this binary distinction between their God and all other reality was observed and promoted by monolotry -- their worship and allegiance and prayers were offered only to the one God of Israel. In a gradient worldview, many beings are accorded honor, to the degree appropriate to their rank on the cosmic scale. Judaism turned their monolotry into a powerful symbol of exclusive monotheism.” -- Bauckham, Jesus and the God of Israel, 109.

Why is this important? Because a binary view of reality eventually sets the stage for Israel’s belief that God can be both transcendent and personally knowable. And the biblical authors paint a picture of God who can be relatable to the world most often through a human mediator, but at the same time can be utterly unknowable. Tim says that these overarching thoughts set the stage for Christian beliefs like the incarnation and the trinity.

In part 2 (20:20-25:20), Tim outlines “God’s complex relationship with the world”. When you pick up the Bible you first notice that God is portrayed as very relatable, with human like qualities. In Genesis, God is portrayed as walking around the garden. Other times, God’s attributes becomes personified, his wisdom, his justice etc all have stories where they act as a character.

In part 3 (25:20-40:00), Tim outlines portrayals of God through humans. When Genesis starts, God self limits himself by willingly wanting to partner with humans who are made in his image and commissioned to rule the world on his behalf. What’s the problem with that? Humans rebel. But God continues to work through humans who he uses to accomplish his purposes. The first person that is a great example of this is Moses.

When God calls Moses at the burning bush in Exodus 3, God says he will deliver Israel out of Egypt, but then he tells Moses to go do it. Tim says this is a good example, that most stories in the Bible show God acting through a person, or a mediator and its actually very rare to see God doing something without a mediator.

In part 4 (40:00-end), Tim expands on this point by illustrating the biblical theme of “God’s outstretched arm”. Where does this image come from? Does God actually have an arm? Tim says this theme starts in the plagues in Egypt (Exodus 7). “Then Yahweh said to Moses… “Go to Pharaoh in the morning as he is going out to the water, stand on the bank and take in your hand the staff… and say “Thus says Yahweh the God of the Hebrews, ‘By this you will know that I am Yahweh, with the staff that is in my hand I will strike the water of the Nile and it will turn to blood.’ Then Moses did as Yahweh commanded… he lifted up the staff and struck the water in the Nile.

Tim says the point is Moses arm with the staff = Yahweh’s arm. Moses’ physical actions become merged with Yahweh’s actions. Moses is not God. Moses is an image of God. Jon says that this is really interesting because it seems that Moses is becoming conformed to the image of God, their seems to be a fusion of God and Moses. It makes Moses truly human and brings justice and life for the Israelite slaves in Egypt.

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Show Resources:
Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the God of Israel.

Show Produced By:
Dan Gummel. Jon Collins. Matthew Halbert Howen

Show Music:
He’s Always There - Tae the Producer
Eden - Tae the Producer
Another Chance - Tae the Producer
Defender Instrumental - Rosasharn Music