Alpha & Omega Ministries Apologetics Blog
A Test for Your Listening Skills -- Part II
04/11/2007 - James WhiteNow, a little behind the scenes information. I have often said that the best "the other side" has to offer is the best way to make sure your own arguments are strongest. Arguing on the basis of the Least Common Denominator, going for the "popular" viewpoint, may sell more books, but it is not the way to honor the truth. In any case, I have credited Stafford's published discussion of the texts that identify Jesus as Yahweh as a catalyst for a much stronger presentation in my own book. And so I was a bit surprised at Stafford's response to the initial question, because it indicated to me that if he had in fact read my book, he had not read the endnotes. Or, he had no response to that material, because he was unable to interact meaningfully with the point. Here is what I said in The Forgotten Trinity. Note especially the material found in the endnotes:
Who Did Isaiah See?
Toward the end of Jesus public ministry as recorded by John we find an incident where a group of Greeks seek out the Lord Jesus. The significance of the passage often goes right past us because we are looking more at the encounter than a little comment John tacks onto the end of his citation from Isaiah:
But though He had performed so many signs before them, yet they were not believing in Him. This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet which he spoke: LORD, WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT? AND TO WHOM HAS THE ARM OF THE LORD BEEN REVEALED? For this reason they could not believe, for Isaiah said again, HE HAS BLINDED THEIR EYES AND HE HARDENED THEIR HEART, SO THAT THEY WOULD NOT SEE WITH THEIR EYES AND PERCEIVE WITH THEIR HEART, AND BE CONVERTED AND I HEAL THEM. These things Isaiah said because he saw His glory, and he spoke of Him. (John 12:37-41)
The struggle with the meaning of the words from Isaiah often causes us fly right past verse 41. Yet, what does John mean when he says that Isaiah said these things because he saw His glory and spoke of Him? Who is the Him to which Isaiah refers?
We have to go back a little to see that John cites two passages from the book of Isaiah. In verse 38 he quotes from Isaiah 53:1, the great Suffering Servant passage that so plainly describes the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. John says the unbelief of the Jews, despite their seeing signs, was a fulfillment of the word of Isaiah in Isaiah 53. He then goes beyond this to assert their inability to believe, and quotes from Isaiah 6 and the Temple Vision Isaiah received when he was commissioned as a prophet:
In the year of King Uzziah's death I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple. Seraphim stood above Him, each having six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called out to another and said, Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory. And the foundations of the thresholds trembled at the voice of him who called out, while the temple was filling with smoke. (Isaiah 6:1-4)
In this awesome vision, Isaiah sees Yahweh (the LORD) sitting upon His throne, surrounded by angelic worshipers. The glory of Yahweh fills his sight. Isaiah recognizes his sin, and is cleansed by the Lord, then commissioned to go and bring a message to the people. But the message is not one of salvation, but of judgment.
He said, Go, and tell this people: Keep on listening, but do not perceive; Keep on looking, but do not understand. Render the hearts of this people insensitive, Their ears dull, And their eyes dim, Otherwise they might see with their eyes, Hear with their ears, Understand with their hearts, And return and be healed. Then I said, Lord, how long? And He answered, Until cities are devastated and without inhabitant, Houses are without people And the land is utterly desolate (Isaiah 6:9-11)
John cites the heart of the message of judgment given to Isaiah, and sees the hard heartedness of the Jews who had seen the miracles of the Lord Jesus, and heard His words of grace, as the fulfillment of these words.
Then John says, These things Isaiah said because he saw His glory, and he spoke of Him. John has quoted from two passages in Isaiah, Isaiah 53:1 and Isaiah 6:10. Yet, the immediate context refers to the words from Isaiah 6, and there are other reasons why we should see the primarily reference as the Isaiah 6 passage. John speaks of Isaiah seeing glory. In Isaiah 6:1 the very same term is used of seeing the LORD, and the very term glory appears in verse 3. Even if we connect both passages together, the fact remains that the only way to define what glory Isaiah saw was to refer to the glory of Isaiah 6:3. And that glory was the glory of Yahweh. There is none other whose glory we can connect with Isaiah's words.
Therefore, if we ask Isaiah, "Whose glory did you see in your vision of the temple?" he would reply, "Yahweh." But, if we ask the same question of John, "Whose glory did Isaiah see?" he answers with the same answer---only in its fullness, "Jesus." Who, then, was Jesus to John? None other than the eternal God in human flesh, Yahweh.
 The connection is actually closer than first glance might indicate, for the Greek Septuagint (the LXX) contains both the verb form John uses in verse 1, ei=don, and departing from the Hebrew text, it contains at the end of the verse the reading
th/j do,xhj auvtou/ meaning the house was full of His glory. This is the same phraseology used in John 12:41, th.n do,xan auvtou/, (the accusative for the genitive) meaning he saw His glory. The use of the same phraseology makes the connection to the John 6 passage unbreakable.
 Or, more likely, the term glory used in the LXX in verse 1.
 Stafford insists that we look only at Isaiah 53 for the referent to John 12:41, but does not deal with the verbal parallels to the Greek LXX. In fact, one will search in vain in Isaiah 53 for ei=den / ei=don being used with glory; and one will not find the phrase th.n do,xan auvtou/ or anything similar to it. The term glory only appears once in Isaiah 53, and that in a completely separate context.
Now, Stafford claims that the verbal form of "glorify" appears in the LXX at Isaiah 53:13, and he repeats this assertion in his book (Jehovah's Witnesses Defended, 177). However, there is no Isaiah 53:13 in the LXX. He is referring to Isaiah 52:13, "Behold, My servant will prosper, He will be high and lifted up and greatly exalted." The LXX has the verb, doxasqh,setai, here. But as anyone can see, it is a tremendously far reach to try to connect this to the citation in John---downright desperate, in fact, especially in light of the obvious and direct parallel to Isaiah 6:1.
In answer to his question, "Where did Isaiah speak about him?" the answer is far too obvious to even mention: Isaiah spoke of him in the Temple, surrounded by the angels, for his point is that Jesus is Yahweh! Stafford's entire response collapses in light of the LXX reading, and the identification of Jesus as Yahweh stands firm.
Tomorrow we will examine the second portion of the discussion.