Search for the Son of God and the Son of Man in the Old Testament

From Genesis 3:15 exiled humanity began their search for the offspring of woman who would bruise the head of the serpent. Irenaeus said, “For from that time, He who should be born of a woman, [namely] from the Virgin, after the likeness of Adam, was preached as keeping watch for the head of the serpent.”[1] 

Perhaps when Eve gave birth to Cain (קַ֫יִן), the first parents had hope the promise had been fulfilled. It soon became apparent that Cain would not become the restorer of life when he quickly ended the life of his brother Abel (הֶ֫בֶל). The search continued for the man who would bruise the serpent’s head. It soon became apparent that the search for the serpent crusher would be tenuous. Even as Moses, the great liberator, grabbed the staff turned serpent by the tail rather than touch the head (Ex 4:3-4). 

Slowly, God’s people were taught to wait for their redeemer to come. But this redeemer was not only the son of a woman, he was also to be the “ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from old, from ancient of days” (Mic 5:2). This redeemer was “one like a son of man” who, like God, came “with the clouds of heaven” to receive “glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed” (Dan 7:13-14).  The search for this royal serpent crushing redeemer continued until “the fullness of time had come” and “God sent forth his Son, born of woman” (Gal 4:4).[2]

How could this redeemer be the descendent of woman and the Son of God? How could one person be both human and divine? This question has puzzled all those who have dealt with the identity of Jesus. John began his Gospel with the model high Christology when he wrote, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men” (Jn 1:1-4). This same “Word” invaded time as he “became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (Jn 1:14). The eternal Creator Word who was in the presence of God and had life in himself, after he took on flesh, was able to grow “in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man” (Lk 2:52).

This Jesus was truly God and truly man. This is the mystery of the incarnation. Jesus was the Son who was “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” and he “upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Heb 1:3). The divine Son “was made a little lower than the angels” (Heb 2:9). As a human Jesus could suffer (Heb 2:10) and be tempted (Heb 2:18) since he did “share in flesh and blood” (Heb 2:14). This incarnation was necessary because “he had to be made like his brothers in every respect” (Heb 2:17). 

From the Old Testament to the New Testament, Scripture points to the deity and humanity of Christ. It is easy to see understand how individuals could focus on the humanity of Christ and neglect or distort his divine nature. It is equally understandable that individuals could so focus on the deity of Christ to the neglect and/or distortion of Jesus’ humanity. Modern readers are blessed with the history of Christological discussion which can serve as an interpretive guide to protect the reader from heresies of the past. Still, the question of Jesus’ humanity and deity remain a mystery. 

[1] Irenaeus of Lyons, “Irenæus against Heresies,” in The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, ed. Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe, vol. 1, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company, 1885), 548.

[2] All Scriptures are from the English Standard Version 2016 text edition (Grand Rapids: Crossway, 2001). 

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