Who exactly did Jesus claim to be?

In the Late 2nd Temple Period (63 BC – 70 AD) we find the prevailing view was The Two Powers of Heaven in which the ancient Jew understood two distinct YHWH figures: the invisible YHWH and the visible YHWH. The latter of which is synonymous with the Angel of the Lord Who:
1. Spoke as YHWH in the 1st person:
“Now the angel of the LORD …said, “I brought you up out of Egypt and led you into the land which I have sworn to your fathers; and I said, ‘I will never break My covenant with you, and as for you, you shall make no covenant with the inhabitants of this land; you shall tear down their altars.’ But you have not obeyed Me; what is this you have done?” – Judges 2:1-2
2. Is called God by those who are interacting with Him:
“Moreover, the angel of the LORD said to her, “I will greatly multiply your descendants so that they will be too many to count.”…Then she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, “You are a God who sees;” for she said, “Have I even remained alive here after seeing Him?” – Genesis 16:10-13
3. Forgives iniquity:
“Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments and standing before the angel. He spoke and said to those who were standing before him, saying, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” Again he said to him, “See, I have taken your iniquity away from you and will clothe you with festal robes.” – Zechariah 3:3-4
4. Receives worship and consumes sacrifice:
“Then Gideon went in and prepared a young goat and unleavened bread from an ephah of flour; he put the meat in a basket and the broth in a pot, and brought them out to him under the oak and presented them. The angel of God said to him, “Take the meat and the unleavened bread and lay them on this rock, and pour out the broth.” And he did so. Then the angel of the LORD put out the end of the staff that was in his hand and touched the meat and the unleavened bread; and fire sprang up from the rock and consumed the meat and the unleavened bread. Then the angel of the LORD vanished from his sight.” – Judges 6:19-21
5. Makes covenants:
“Moreover, the angel of the LORD said to her, “I will greatly multiply your descendants so that they will be too many to count.” – Gen 16:10
The Angel of the Lord was also the One is speaking to Moses from the burning bush:
” And the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush…God called to him out of the bush,… And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to *look at God*… God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.”a And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” – Exodus 3:2-14
It is clear from the passages above that the Angel of the Lord is YHWH. Yet this same figure obeys commands:
“1And David lifted his eyes and saw the angel of the Lord standing between earth and heaven, and in his hand a drawn sword stretched out over Jerusalem… And David built there an altar to the Lord and presented burnt offerings and peace offerings and called on the Lord, and the Lord answered him with fire from heaven upon the altar of burnt offering. Then the Lord commanded the angel, and he put his sword back into its sheath.” – 1 Chron 21:16-27
…and also is sent from God:
“”The LORD, the God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house and from the land of my birth, and who spoke to me and who swore to me, saying, ‘To your descendants I will give this land,’ He will send His angel before you, and you will take a wife for my son from there.” – Gen 24:7
Of particular note is the passage below where God sends His Angel before Israel. Keep special attention on how the pronouns (*) are used interchangeably between YHWH and The Angel Who has YHWH’s Name “in Him”:
““Behold, I send an angel before you to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared. Pay careful attention to *him* and obey *his* voice; do not rebel against *him*, for *he* will not pardon your transgression, for *my* name is in *him*. “But if you carefully obey *his* voice and do all that *I* say, then *I* will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries. “When *my angel goes* before you and brings you to the Amorites and the Hittites and the Perizzites and the Canaanites, the Hivites and the Jebusites, and *I* blot them out, … You shall serve the LORD your God, and *he* will bless your bread and your water, and *I* will take sickness away from among you.” – Exodus 23:20-25
Also, notice who Jacob gives thanks to when he performs the blessing of Joseph’s sons Ephraim and Manasseh:
“And he blessed Joseph and said, “*The God* before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, *the God* who has been my shepherd all my life long to this day, *the Angel* who has redeemed me from all evil, bless the boys…”” – Gen 48:15-16
The New Testament directly identifies Jesus Christ as this visible YHWH figure described throughout the Old Testament:
“ For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.” – John 6:38
“ When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said … And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.” – John 17:1-5
“ And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” – Luke 10:18
“ Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” – John 8:58
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. ” – Colossians 1:15-17
This ancient understanding of “The Two Powers of Heaven” fell rapidly out of fashion within Judaism during the 2nd Century AD due to how supportive it was to the claims of Christianity. By the 2nd Century AD it was all but eliminated as an orthodox Jewish view. Yet, as demonstrated above, the chief claim of Jesus and the New Testament, is that He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: specifically the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father:
“ No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.” – John 1:18

Comments are closed