8 Sep 2023

Jesus the Eternal Jew: Incarnation & Resurrection

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Gnosticism, Jesus, resurrection, Salvation

In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God …
The Word became flesh and
made his dwelling [ἐσκήνωσεν] among us” (John 1.1, 14, note the third person singular aorist active indicative).

What did God do to redeem creation? What costs were involved in the salvation of sinful humanity and vandalized creation? Does salvation ensure God’s purposes in creating in the first place?

Sometimes we modern disciples do not fully understand our own faith. Many factors contribute to this. Our penchant for reading the Bible in isolated “morsels,” or playing “hopscotch/leap frog” with the biblical text. A major contributor is our penchant for reading New Testament texts not only in isolation of the Hebrew Bible but as if they are opposite of one another. These, and other factors, contribute to our sometimes missing matters that are actually quite fundamental historically to our faith as Christians.

For example, the Incarnation. Scripture binds Incarnation and Resurrection together and refuses to untangle them. The Resurrection of Jesus’s body ensures the continuation of the Incarnation of the Word in Jewish flesh. Thus as John states in his Prologue Jesus is the Eternal Jew. Jesus the Jew is more than a mere historical datum, a piece of trivia. The Word, John declares, became flesh as a Jew and was raised from the dead in that same human flesh. Word became “Incarnate.”

The Word that was “with” and “was” God did not temporarily rent some human flesh only to cast it aside as some worthless rag at some point. That in fact is the very thing the Gnostic Gospel of Judas, claims. Jesus’s human, Jewish, flesh was in fact rented, then cast aside as despised trash. The role of Judas in that Gnostic text is to help Jesus “escape” his very human, very Jewish flesh by betraying Jesus the enfleshed Jew to the cross in order to liberate him from his flesh and blood body. (See my article, The Gospel of Judas: Reflections & Thoughts).

But John, the author of the Fourth Gospel, will have none of it. John’s term in John 1.14 comes from the Septuagint (i.e. Greek Old Testament) and is God’s own promise of dwelling in Exodus 25.8 and numerous other texts (John insists that Jesus remains in the same flesh he was Incarnate in and raised in! John uses both the present and perfect tense to describe Jesus’s incarnate state.

Many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh [present tense]; any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist!” (2 John 7, NRSV)

He “has come.” He has not left.

This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh [perfect tense] is from God” (1 John 4.2, NIV)

When John wrote 2 John he describes Jesus’s Incarnation as something present to his reader, not something past. He is not talking about 4 BC in 2 Jn 1.7. In what we call 1 John he is even more specific using the perfect tense for the participle. It is a strange construction in English but John did not write to people who spoke English but Greek. The perfect tense occurs in the NT far less frequently than the present and when it is used it is deliberately. The perfect tense is used to describe an action/even that happened in the past but continues on in the present. Or as Greek scholar, Daniel Wallace put it, the perfect describes the “present state of affairs resulting from the past action.” Two examples to help us. Jesus says in John 19, “It is finished.” This is in the perfect tense. Something was completed and its results continue to “now.” Or “I have married your mother.” This means at some point in the past I married your mother resulting in a state of affairs showing that I am currently married to your mother. When John deals with the false teachers in Asia Minor he brings them to the Incarnate Jew named Jesus, who is the Messiah/King of Israel, and refuses to surrender an inch.

The only time the New Testament uses the term “antichrist” is in reference to those who denied that Jesus’s Incarnation continues. John uses it in 2 John 7 and again in 1 John 4 of the same people.

The Word that was “with” and “was” God has made his dwelling, his home, with creation. The Revelation of John uses the same term in Revelation 21.3, “See, the home of God is among humans. He will DWELL with them.”

This is not temporary dwelling. The Word became enfleshed in a Jew from Nazareth. The Word did not assume flesh. The Word became flesh. Jewish flesh.

That Jesus came to dwell/incarnate in flesh among humans within the created order and that God will dwell among humans on the new/renewed Earth is a remarkable parallel pointing to the goal of God for Creation since “the beginning.” In fact this dwelling by the Word and God among humans comes straight out of the Hebrew Bible in which God continues to say. It is in fact a deeply pervasive theme in the Hebrew Bible and stressed in multiple ways (i.e. tabernacle/temple).

I will look with favor upon you … I will maintain my covenant with you … I will place my dwelling in your midst, and I shall not abhor you. And I will walk among you, and will be your God, and you shall be my people.” (Lev 26.9-13).

The Word became flesh in a specific historical person, Jesus the Jew. That Jew was crucified. And that Jew was Raised from the dead a Jew. And that Jew, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham, the Son of Mary, was declared by God to be the “Messiah/Christ.” The identity of Messiah is tied forever to Israel. In fact he simply cannot be “King” (the word Messiah means King, the one who sits on David’s throne) unless he is the Son of David.

The Perfect tense in Daniel Wallace’s Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament, p. 573

The Hebrews Preacher goes at it from another direction. He speaks of our “High Priest.” But to be “high priest” or any priest the person must be a human being. And the Preacher switches from calling this person “Jesus” to “Christ/Messiah.” The Messiah is the priest-King from the tribe of Judah. The Christ is the Priest. But he is from the tribe of Judah (David’s tribe). There is a Jewish Priest King in the presence of God representing humanity. (You can’t get more Jewish than from the tribe of Judah, where the word “Jew” comes from!).

Again this is no useless historical tidbit. To make this the most “personal” we can, among other things, my personal identity is guaranteed preservation because Jesus’s identity was preserved in as Model and Promise to us.

It matters!

Paul states in his little book we call Ephesians that God’s “eternal purpose” for creation itself was carried out by “Messiah Jesus our Lord” (3.11). That includes the “rich variety” of God’s wonderful redeemed creation. (again we cannot call Jesus “Messiah” without identifying him as a Jew).

If Jesus ceased to be who he was, then I too will cease to be who I am. But that was not God’s goal! The “Creator God of all things” (Eph 3.9) did not send the Word to destroy human flesh in its beautiful diversity as Gnostics claim. Jesus was not raised from the dead as a “spirit being.” In fact the New Testament explicitly contradicts any notion of resurrection that is not of the body. Notice Luke’s words.

They [i.e. disciples] were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” (Luke 24.37-39, NIV).

Jesus was raised as he died, the Son of Mary, the Son of David. And was in that raised from the dead Jewish body that Jesus ascended to the Father (Lk 24.50-51; Acts 1.9-11) to enter the holy of holies to be our Priest-King from the Tribe of Judah as Hebrews insists and John says he “remains” in that Jewish body. In fact, to be the Messiah is by definition, in the NT, the “Son of David. This Son of David is our Mediator as Paul puts it,

For there is one God
and one mediator
between God and humanity,
the human Christ Jesus

(1 Timothy 2.5, CEB).

Instead, the Word became a particular human being, in a particular time, and a particular culture, and sanctified that particularity. And in the Resurrection of that Incarnate Flesh of that particular Human Being as the Model and the Promise of what God will do with all the “rich diversity” of creation testifying to the wisdom of the Creator God (Eph 3.10). Paul calls that “model” the “first fruits” a very rich Hebrew Bible image.

To put it another way: Jesus the Jew is why it matters that Martin Luther King Jr was and will forever be who he was before his life was ripped away from him (as Jesus’s was from him). The Resurrection of Jesus’s Jewish life makes Martin’s Black Life Matter! Jesus’s Jewish life makes Rosa Parks Black Life Matter. Jesus’s Jewish life is what makes the 26 Japanese martyrs (of February 5, 1597) Japanese Life Matter.

And it is Jesus the Eternal Jew who guarantees by his Incarnation and through his Resurrection in that Jewish flesh as the Son of David, the Son of Mary … Jesus’s Jewish life is what guarantees that Bobby Valentine will remain Bobby Valentine and his very human body will be “redeemed” through the resurrection of the Jewish Messiah. This is not only our hope as Christians but the hope of all creation (Romans 8.10-11, 22-25).

That creational diversity of God the Creator is “holified” in one particular human being: Jesus of Nazareth, the Word enfleshed now reigns as the Messiah, Song of David. The God of Israel did not destroy the body of the Incarnate Word, rather God crowned that Jew as King (Messiah) making him Lord of all nations where not only as Messiah but Priest he remains a human interceding on our behalf until all the enemies of God are defeated. In Messiah Jesus heaven and earth are united together reaching God’s goal for creation in the beginning.

The point of Incarnation was the salvation of what God created, not its annihilation. God created the world in love in order to share communion with it. Through Jesus of Nazareth, the one who will forever be the Son of Man and the Son of God, has united this purpose of God. And God will dwell with humans through King Jesus, forever.

Remember Jesus Messiah, raised from the dead, descended from David [i.e. Incarnate as the Son of David]. This is my gospel” (2 Timothy 2.8 ).

(P.S. this is also why we love the Hebrew Bible)

Related Reading

Jesus of Nazareth: Does it Matter that the Messiah is a Jew?

2 Responses to “Jesus the Eternal Jew: Incarnation & Resurrection”

  1. JT Says:

    A superb, very informative article, Bobby!
    There are some among us who equate “spiritual” as if it is synonymous with invisible or ghost-like. Jesus was raised in his fleshly body. We too will also be. Yet, that does not contradict that we will also be spirit, that it will happen in the twinkling of a moment, etc. No one comes to Jesus and becomes perfect without also taking his Spirit. We will be raised in body, but given new perfect bodies without blemish, and full of his Spirit. We won’t be raised as” invisible ghosts” as some teach.

  2. Don Prantl Says:

    Will God succeed at saving all God made, or end up having to annihilate some of it?

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