8

Questions like this: Does John 1:3 identify Jesus Christ as the creator? raise the issue of whether it is accurate to identify the Word as Jesus. Some hold the position "Jesus" is a name which begins at His birth and should not be applied retrospectively to the Word.

Another way of saying this is "today" we can look back in time to the day in which Jesus was born:

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8 ESV)
Ἰησοῦς Χριστὸς ἐχθὲς καὶ σήμερον ὁ αὐτός καὶ εἰς τοὺς αἰῶνας

The writer of Hebrews says "Jesus Christ yesterday today the same..." If one goes back in time a single day to what was yesterday, then what was yesterday would be then today and there is still another yesterday. In other words, the phrase ἐχθὲς καὶ σήμερον ὁ αὐτός, (yesterday today the same) requires a looking back in time one day at-a-time as long as there is another day in time to go back. Then the last yesterday would be the first day of creation. On the other hand, given the the writer's choice of words it does not seem possible the meaning is that the yesterdays are to begin at Jesus' birth.

How far back in time is "yesterday" in this phrase?

2
  • 1
    Good question. Up-voted +1. – Nigel J Jan 28 at 10:15
  • A prime example of where the literal translation can not be applied. Why? Because this is an idiom! Like me saying ‘* it’s raining cats and dogs*’ to mean it’s raining heavily. And, your Q is taking the literal translation. The idiom used here means ‘eternal’, ‘unchangable’. – Dave Jan 28 at 18:02
5

'Jesus' is a personal name, given at the time of birth.

'The Christ' is a title (it is not a 'surname') and the title identifies someone promised from of old, who existed of old, but was not yet revealed.

The 'Christ' is revealed, in manifestation, and - born of the virgin - is named 'Jesus'.

To say 'Jesus' is 'the Word', therefore, is a mixing of concepts that is inaccurate.

But the Person identified as both 'Jesus' and 'the Christ' is evidently One who is the same, yesterday (an indefinite extension into the past) today (an indefinite statement of the present) and for ever (an indefinite extension into the future).

5
  • 1
    By "To say 'Jesus' is 'the Word', therefore, is a mixing of concepts that is inaccurate.", do you mean that "the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us" is not referring to Jesus? – Ray Butterworth Jan 28 at 15:21
  • 2
    @RayButterworth It is correct to say 'the Word was made flesh'. But it would be not correct to say 'Jesus was made flesh'. He was not named 'Jesus' prior to being made flesh. Thou shalt call his name - 'Jesus'. – Nigel J Jan 28 at 16:10
  • 1
    +1 But regarding your comment to Ray, is that how a "name" was considered? His name was Jesus and yet He was the answer to Isaiah 7:14 where His name shall be Immanuel, not Jesus. Also Isaiah 9:6 his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Again, not "Jesus." Then "Jesus" which corresponds to "Salvation" in Hebrew is not a mixing of concepts it is an actualization of salvation by God who chooses to live among us in order to die and bring salvation to us. How far back in time does that go? – Revelation Lad Jan 28 at 16:36
  • 1
    @RevelationLad As I said in the answer, I think that the text is not being specific in terms of time. Left unspecified, 'yesterday' extends back indefinitely. One needs other texts (such as 'in the beginning was the Word') to garner further information. With Spirit-given understanding and God-given insight, our appreciation of Christ encompasses, increasingly, all that is revealed in holy scripture. – Nigel J Jan 28 at 16:53
  • @RevelationLad Good point on quoting Isaiah 9:6. Further food for thought. – Nigel J Jan 28 at 16:58
2

The word (correctly) translated "yesterday" is χθές (echthes) which occurs just three times in the NT. BDAG provides two basic meanings for this word as follows:

  1. the day preceding today, yesterday, eg, John 4:52, Acts 16:35
  2. time that is past as opposed to now, yesterday, eg, Heb 13:8

Obviously, the second meaning is the relevant one here for Heb 13:8. How far does "yesterday" extend? MacLaren says this:

How far back does this ‘yesterday’ go? The limit must be found by observing that it is ‘Jesus Christ’ who is spoken of - that is to say, the Incarnate Saviour. That observation disposes of the reference of these words to the past eternity in which the eternal Word of God was what He is to-day. The sameness that is referred to here is neither the sameness of the divine Son from all eternity, nor the sameness of the medium of revelation in both the old and the new dispensations, but the sameness of the human Christ to all generations of His followers. And the epoch referred to in the ‘yesterday’ is defined more closely if we observe the previous context, which speaks of the dying teachers who have had the rule and have passed away. The ‘yesterday’ is the period of these departed teachers; the ‘to-day’ is the period of the writer and his readers.

The Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary is more precise:

The Jesus Christ (the full name being given, to mark with affectionate solemnity both His person and His office) who supported your spiritual rulers through life even unto their end "yesterday" (in times past), being at once "the Author and the Finisher of their faith" (Heb 12:2), remains still the same Jesus Christ "to-day," ready to help you also, if like them you walk by "faith" in Him. Compare "this same Jesus," Ac 1:11. He who yesterday (proverbial for the past time) suffered and died, is to-day in glory (Re 1:18). "As night comes between yesterday and to-day, and yet night itself is swallowed up by yesterday and to-day, so the "suffering" did not so interrupt the glory of Jesus Christ which was of yesterday, and that which is to-day, as not to continue to be the same. He is the same yesterday, before He came into the world, and to-day, in heaven. Yesterday in the time of our predecessors, and to-day in our age" [Bengel]. So the doctrine is the same, not variable: this verse thus forms the transition between Heb 13:7 and Heb 13:9. He is always "the same" (Heb 1:12). The same in the Old and in the New Testament.

2
  • 3
    I read those commentaries but I question if they are sound exegeses. First, Ἰησοῦς Χριστὸς is Greek terminology. Therefore, applying the same reasoning leads one to conclude Ἰησοῦς Χριστὸς was not until it was given in Greek. OTOH if Ἰησοῦς Χριστὸς is taken to be a Greek expression of an Aramaic or Hebrew term, then placing the beginning or origin of that expression at the birth is arbitrary (and likely wrong). Second, Ἰησοῦς Χριστὸς is a fulfillment of OT prophecies such as Isaiah 7:14, 9:6 and so "yesterday" must in some way envision the OT and look back in time before the Greek. – Revelation Lad Jan 28 at 16:25
  • @ Revelation Lad.That is food for thought.Excellent question btw. – Bagpipes Jan 28 at 16:45

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.