Here are some notes I saved from TOL about ten plus years ago. It is an interesting subject. I did not write it but it is worth your time.

Agency


The foundation of our Bible is the OT. It contains the first three-quarters of our Bible. It stands to reason that if we misunderstand this Hebrew foundation then we construct a system of error. The art of successful reading is generally to let the last quarter of a book agree with the first three-quarters. As the grand finale of the Bible, the NT agrees with and is consistent with its OT heritage. It might sound like an over-simplification to say that the Bible is a Hebrew book and must be approached through "Hebrew eyes;" however, it was written within the culture and thought-forms of the Middle East. In order to understand its message we must become familiar with the thought-forms, the idioms, the culture and the customs of those who lived in Biblical times. Every sincere reader of the Bible understands this. Doing it is the challenge.

H. N. Snaith in his book, "The Distinctive Ideas of the Old Testament," writes "Christianity itself has tended to suffer from a translation out of the Prophets and into Plato." (p161) "Our position is that the reinterpretation of Biblical theology in terms of the ideas of the Greek philosophers has been both a widespread throughout the centuries and everywhere destructive to the essence of the Christian faith." (p187.). Snaith also makes this remark that if his "thesis" is correct: "then neither Catholic nor Protestant theology is based on Biblical theology. In each case we have a denomination of Christian theology by Greek thought We hold that there can be no right (theology) until we have come to a clear view of the distinctive ideas of both Old and New Testaments and their differences from the pagan ideas which have so largely dominated Christian thought." (p188.).

With the passing of many centuries since Scriptures were written much of the original intent has been buried under the accretions of generations of human tradition.According to Mr. Deuble a lot of Bible confusion can be cleared up by understanding "The Principle of Agency."

A common feature of the Hebrew Bible is the concept (some even call it the "law") of Jewish agency. All Old Testament scholars and commentators recognize that in Jewish custom whenever a superior commissioned an agent to act on his behalf, the agent was regarded as the person himself. This is well expressed in the Encyclopedia of the Jewish religion. Thus in Hebrew custom whenever an agent was sent to act for his master it was as though that lord himself was acting and speaking. An equivalent in our culture to the Jewish custom of agency would be one who is authorized to act as Power of Attorney, or more strongly one who is given Enduring Power of Attorney. Such an agent has virtually unlimited powers to act on behalf of the one who appointed him.

Let's look at one of the stories in the Old Testament with this new mindset. In the story of Moses and the burning bush in Exodus 3, "who" is it who appears to Moses and talked to him? My answer once was typical of the vast majority in the Church. Of course it was God himself, Yahweh, who spoke to Moses. After all, the text states that "'God' called to him from the midst of the bush and 'said', 'Moses, Moses!'" (v4). Verse 6 is even more convincing when the same speaker says, "'I am' the 'God' of your father, 'the God' of Abraham, 'the God' of Isaac, and 'the God' of Jacob.' Then Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at 'God'." Surely it was Jehovah God himself who appear to Moses and who personally spoke? But what do we make of verse 2 that prefaces this narrative by stating that "'the angel of the LORD' appeared" to Moses from the midst of the brush? Many scholars have declared this angel to be God himself, even the pre-existing Christ. They make much of the definitive article and point out that this was a particular angel not just any angel.

This is a fancy bit of footwork that disregards the Hebrew text as we shall see. If we turn to the New Testament's commentary on this incident, we will see how Hebrews understood their own Scriptures.

Let us now turn to answer our question: Who is it who appears to Moses and talks to him? The martyr Stephen was a man "filled with the Holy Spirit." Let's listen to his commentary on the burning bush incident. He clearly states that it was "an angel who appeared to him in the wilderness of Mount Sinai, in the flame of a burning bush" (Acts 7:30) As Moses approached this phenomenon, "there came the voice of the Lord: I am the God of your father. The Lord said to him, 'Take off the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground. (31-33).

Quite clearly this is an example of agency. It is an angel who appears to Moses and it is the angel who speaks. But note that this angel evens speaks for God in the first person. The angel of the Lord says, "I am God." The angel is distinguished from God yet identified with him. In Hebrew eyes, it is perfectly natural to consider the agent as the person himself. In Hebrew thought, homage given to God's agent or representative is homage ultimately given to God Himself.

Let's look at just one more example. In Acts 12, the apostle Peter is in jail about to be executed. But while he was asleep, "behold, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared, and a light shone in the cell; and he struck Peter's side and roused him, saying, 'Get up quickly.' And his chains fell off his hands. And the angel said to him, 'Gird yourself and put on your sandals and follow me'" (Acts 12:7-8). Peter thought he was dreaming. As he followed the angel past the guards, out through the iron gate which "opened for them by itself," Peter "did not know what was being 'done by the "angel"' was real, but thought he was seeing a vision"(v.9). Now the Church was meeting in a house and praying for Peter's release. Peter started banging on the house door and Rhoda, the servant girl went to open the door Once Peter was eventually inside you can imagine the stir in that place. Peter motions with his hand for everyone to be quiet. He told them his incredible story. And what did he say? "He described to them how 'the LORD' had led him out of prison" (v.17).

So who really did get Peter out of jail? The angel or the Lord? The text says both did. But we know that the Lord sent the angel to do the actual work. To the Hebrew mind, it was really the Lord who rescued Peter.

There are many such OT examples. An agent of God is actually referred to as God, or the Lord himself. In Genesis 31:11-13 Jacobs said to his wives, "'The angel' of God 'said' to me in a dream 'I am the God' of Bethel." Here is an angel speaking as though he was God Himself. He speaks in the first person: "I am the God of Bethel." Yet, Jacob was comfortable with this concept of agency.

In the next chapter, Jacob wrestled with "a man" until dawn, but he says he had "seen God face to face" (Gen 32:24-30). So was at this time when God appear to Jacob as a man? Perhaps as some have suggested it was actually the Lord Jesus himself, as the second member of the triune God, who wrestled with Jacob.

Not at all according to Hosea 12:3-4 which says, "As a man he [Jacob] struggled with God; he struggled with "the angel" and overcame him. So the one who is called both "a man" and "God" in Genesis is identified as an angel in Hosea. This is a perfect example of Jewish agency where the agent is considered as the principal.

There is another instance of agency in Exodus 7. God tells Moses he will make him "God to Pharaoh, and your brother Aaron shall be your prophet" (Exodus 7:1). Moses is to stand before the king of Egypt with the full authority and backing of heaven itself. Then God says, By this you shall know that I am the LORD: behold, I will strike the water that is in the Nile with the staff that is in "My hand", and it shall be turned to blood" (v.17). But observe carefully that just two verses later the LORD says to Moses, "Say to Aaron, take your staff and stretch out your hand over the waters of Egypt that they may become blood" (v.19). God says He Himself will strike the waters with the staff in His own hand. Yet, it was Aaron's hand that actually held the rod. Aaron is standing as God's agent in the very place of God himself. There is identification of the agent with his Principle. In Biblical terms, Moses and Aaron are "God" (Heb. elohim) to Pharaoh!

Sometimes this concept of agency has caused the translators of our Bible difficulties. The Hebrew word for "God"(elohim) has a wide range of meanings. Depending on context, it can mean the Supreme Deity, or "a god" or "gods" or even "angels" or human "judges." This difficulty is reflected in verses like Exodus 21:6

The KJV reads "Then his master shall bring him unto the judges;"
The NIV reads "then his master must take him before the judges."
But
The NASB reads "then his master shall bring him to God"
So too the RSV "then his master shall bring him to God"

Clearly, because the judges of Israel represented God as His agents, they are called "God," elohim. As the slave gave his vow before these representatives of God, he was in fact making a binding vow before Jehovah. The agents were as God.

Another example that we have time for in this brief overview, is in Judges 6:11-22. "The angel of the LORD came and sat under the oak tree while Gideon was threshing wheat". As 'the angel of the LORD appeared to him,' he greeted Gideon with the words, "The LORD is with you, O valiant warrior." We can hear Gideon's disbelief when he says to the angel, "Oh my lord, if the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us?" Now notice a change in the text at Judges 6:14: "And the LORD looked at him and said, 'Go in this your strength and deliver Israel from the hand of Midian. Have not I sent you?" At this point Gideon murmurs and throws up excuses as to why he could not rescue Israel from their enemies. "But the LORD said to him, 'Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat Midian as one man.'" Notice how the angel who is speaking on God's behalf actually uses the first person personal pronoun. And the text clearly says that when the angel looked at Gideon it was God himself who looked at him: And the LORD looked at him." Gideon is not confused regarding who he is looking at or who is speaking to him. For as "the angel of the LORD vanished from his site," he exclaimed, "I have seen the angel of the LORD face-to-face." (V.22). We know that the angel of the LORD is the agent and not literally God, because the Scriptures are absolutely clear that no one has ever seen God himself (John 1:18; 1 Tim 6:16; 1 John 4:12). Many scholars have failed to take this very Hebrew way of looking at things into account. They have literally identified the angel of the LORD with God Himself. All confusion is dissipated when we understand the Jewish law of agency: "a person's agent is regarded as the person himself."

There is one last very clear OT example of Hebrew Principle of Agency. It comes from Deuteronomy 29. Moses summons all of Israel and says to them, "You have seen all that the Lord did before your eyes in the land of Egypt to Pharaoh and all his servants and all his land; the great trials which your eyes have seen, those great signs and wonders" (v.2-3).

Moses continues to recite for the people all that God has done for them. But notice that in verse 6, while still reciting all God's wonders, Moses suddenly changes to the first person and says, "You have not eaten bread, nor have you drunk wine or strong drink, in order that you might know that I am the LORD your God." It is obvious that God himself is not personally speaking to the people. Moses is preaching. But Moses as the agent of God can speak as though he is the Lord himself. What is happening here? God is speaking through His man, His appointed representative. Therefore, he can move from speaking in the third person, "the LORD did this and that for you" to the first person: "I am the LORD your God doing this and that."

Knowing this principle helps us with other apparent difficulties, even seeming contradictions through the Scriptures. Lets look at one New Testament example. The story that has created a problem to many minds is the one concerning the healing of the Centurion's servant. In Matthew's account (Matt 8:5-13), it is the Centurion himself who comes to Jesus and begs him to heal his servant. The Centurion himself says, "Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering great pain" (v.6).

However, the parallel account in Luke (Luke 7:1-10) states that the Centurion did not personally go and speak to Jesus. He actually sent or commissioned as his agents "some Jewish elders." These Jewish elders pleaded with Jesus on behalf of the Centurion saying, "He is worthy for you to grant this to him; for he loves our nation, and it was he who built us our synagogue" (v.4-5)

So who actually went to Jesus here? Did these gospel writers get confused? Are the detractors perhaps right to say that the Bible is full of errors and contradictions? Not at all! The difficulty is cleared up when we understand the Hebrew mind behind these Scriptures. The answer to who actually stood before Jesus is the elders. They had been sent by the Centurion. Matthew in typical Hebrew idiom has the Centurion himself there and speaking in the first person before Jesus. The agent is as the principal himself.

Jesus claimed to represent God like no other before or after him. He claimed to be the unique spokesman for God his Father and to speak the ultimate words of God. He claimed to act in total accord and harmony with God like no other. He claimed to be the Son of God, the Christ or Messiah, and the agent of the Father. The NT claims that he who sees Jesus sees the Father. He who hears Jesus the Son hears the words of God Himself.

The New Testament puts this theory about the angel of the Lord being Jesus in his preexistence to rest in Hebrews 1: "God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son" (v 1-2). So, the Son of God "did not speak" in the Old Testament days! Back in those days God spoke in various ways and only in "portions," whether by vision or by prophet or by angel. It is only since Jesus Christ was brought into existence at birth and appeared "in these last days" that we have heard God speak "in his Son." This is axiomatic. Jesus Christ was not God's messenger before his appearance as a man, born of Mary in history. Look at the scriptures:

Act 7:38 "This is the one (Moses) who was in the congregation in the wilderness together with the angel who was speaking to him on Mount Sinai, and who was with our fathers; and he received living oracles to pass on to you.

Act 7:53 you who received the law as ordained by angels, and yet did not keep it."

Gal 3:19 Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed would come to whom the promise had been made.

Heb 2:2 For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just penalty,

Just note, Jesus who came to fulfill the Law, was not the one in the O.T. who gave the law, as seen by these three verses!

Now let's review one last example and look at Exodus 23:20-23. Notice 'my name is in him!' (agency)

"Behold, I send an angel before thee, to keep thee by the way ... Take ye heed of him, and hearken unto his voice; provoke him not (be not rebellious against him): for he will not pardon your transgression; for my name is in him" "But if you truly obey his voice and do all that I say, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries. "For My angel will go before you… (Exodus 23:20-23).

In this passage the angel was to be for Israel in the place of God; he was to speak God's words, and judge them. In fact the angel expressed God's name; he was God for them. Now if this was true of an angel of the Lord, how much more of the Son of God himself? Hence these sayings:

"This is life eternal, that they might know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent ... I (Jesus) have manifested thy name unto (the disciples) ... Holy Father, keep in thy name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, even as we are one" (John 17:3,6,11).

"I and my Father are one" (John 10:30).

Jesus, then, enjoyed a unity of mind and Spirit with the Father, so that he could say, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father" (John 14:9). For the disciples Jesus was in the place of God; he spoke God's words, proclaimed God's truth, and pronounced His judgements.

Hebrews 1:1 makes more sense now:
God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, 2 in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world (ages).

[The Net bible adds… The temporal (ages) came to be used of the spatial (what exists in those time periods). See Heb_11:3 for the same usage.]

Heb 11:3 By faith we understand that the worlds (ages) were prepared by the word (ρημα G4487) of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things which are visible.

Jesus had every right to claim to be God because God was in Him doing His works.

"Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which god performed through (dia) him in your midst" (Acts 2:22).

Posted with permission from the author, Paul Pierac my brother in Christ/