Just who visited Moses in the burning bush? Was it God or an angel?

Monday Musings for May 20, 2019

Good morning, Musers

When is a supposed contradiction not a contradiction? When its statements are not mutually exclusive. So — to put it positively for a change — when two statements are independently and mutually true, then they are not in contradiction. That’s the kind of thing we explore today as a questioner takes on the burning bush.

The burning bush is the quintessential theophany… a theophany being a physical manifestation of God in the Bible. Theophanies have a near kin — Christophanies… and a Christophany is a manifestation of Christ in the Old Testament. The former are pretty plain… like in the burning bush where God basically said, “Hey Moses… it’s Me!”

But the Christophanies are highly interpretive… and I get a hermeneutical wedgie when someone insists that the original audience of the Old Testament had to have New Testament knowledge to read their own documents “correctly.”

But the burning bush doesn’t have that problem per se. What we have instead are contemporary readers of the Old Testament not realizing that what people understand as they read certain words that have changed over the millennia.

Now, I’m no angel — either ontologically or metaphorically… but I am one functionally… and if you are reading this, you’ve proved that this is true. You see, “angel” merely means messenger … and when I am in musings mode, my function is to be a messenger from God.

So, you could say that I sent you this message in one sentence… and that an angel sent you it in another… without being in contradiction — but only if you were at a place in the culture where the word angel still meant messenger primarily… and where it did not refer to celestial beings primarily as it does today.

This is today’s problem. There are thousands of years and multiple translations between writing down the story of the burning bush and today’s reading of that event, so I understand where people could see this as a contradiction… although I never personally stumbled over this. When I read, I just give God the break when these types of things appear… and they tend to sort themselves out.

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