by Rick Duncan
Jesus said, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about Me.”John 5:39
Jesus said, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.”Luke 24:27
Christophany. It’s a word not often used in church. But it has a rich history.
The word is made up of two Greek words: Christos, which means “Christ,” and phaino, which means “to appear.”
So, a Christophany is an appearance of Christ – the Second Person of the Godhead – in the Old Testament in a pre-incarnate form. The eternal Son of God, though not yet born in Bethlehem, at times chose to reveal Himself to His people.
Could it be that the voice that spoke to Moses from the burning bush in Exodus 3 was actually the pre-incarnate voice of Christ? After all, He is the Word of God (See John 1:1) and claimed to be the “I am,” the One who announced His name in Exodus 3 (See John 8:58).
God the Son seems to appear in the Old Testament is as the Angel of the Lord – “a special Angel [who] appears from time to time in the Old Testament, an Angel who is given divine titles…” (David Murray, Jesus on Every Page, p. 77).
Professor David Murray says that if one traces the storylines of His appearances in the Old Testament, this Angel offers 6 proofs of His divinity. The Angel 1) claims divine authority, 2) is a distinct divine person, 3) exhibits divine attributes, 4) performs divine actions, 5) receives divine homage, and 6) is identified as God.
Beyond Exodus 3, here are other biblical examples:
Genesis 16:7-13: In this passage, the Angel of the Lord appears to Hagar in the wilderness and speaks to her. Hagar recognizes the Angel as God and names Him “the God who sees.”
Genesis 22:11-18: The Angel of the Lord intervenes when Abraham is about to sacrifice Isaac. He reaffirms God’s covenant promises to Abraham and declares, “By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord.”
Judges 2:1-5: The Angel of the Lord appears to the Israelites at Bochim and delivers a message of rebuke and warning. The Angel’s words are spoken as if He were God Himself, indicating His divine authority and role in guiding Israel.
Judges 6:11-24: In the encounter between the Angel of the Lord and Gideon, the Angel consumes Gideon’s offering with fire, confirming His divine identity. Gideon recognizes Him as God and fears for his life.
Judges 13:2-23: The Angel of the Lord appears to Manoah and his wife, announcing the birth of Samson. Manoah initially does not realize the Angel’s true identity but later recognizes Him as God.
Hosea 12:3-5: Hosea references an encounter between Jacob and the Angel of the Lord, describing it as a wrestling match. This incident is often seen as a Christophany, with the Angel representing God Himself.
Some Christians find it difficult to adopt the idea that Jesus showed up in tangible ways thousands of years before His incarnation.
But if Jesus is the Eternal Son of God, if He has truly existed before time began, and if it’s true that Jesus is the Logos – the Word of God, the usual and supreme way God speaks to humanity, it should not surprise us that out of His great love He would appear to His people long before His incarnation.
O Come, Let Us Adore Him!