The God Who Became Human: A Biblical Theology of Incarnation (New Studies in Biblical Theology) by Graham Cole, IVP Publishers, 2013, 202 pp.
The incarnation is a central tenant of the Christian faith. For myself, having been involved Jewish- Christian theological discussions for several years now, the issue of the incarnation has come up on more than one occasion.
I read Graham Cole’s book with eager expectations in that I wanted to see if he had any new insights on the mystery of the incarnation in the Old Testament and how it relates to the New Testament. In other words, “Are there any explicit texts in the Old Testament that show the deity of Messiah?” Or, is the incarnation something that is totally foreign to the Old Testament?
Over the years Christian apologists have attempted to demonstrate that theophanies and messianic prophecies reveal a full blown deity of Jesus in the Old Testament. I have always been on the cautious side on this issue. I appreciated this book because Cole thinks that the Old Testament doesn’t reveal an explicit case for the incarnation. He elaborates on this by saying there are certainly “patterns”or “hints” of the incarnation. These patterns are seen in Old Testament themes of preparation, theophanies and messianic texts. But we can never arrive to the conclusion that the Old Testament demands or requires an explicit case for the incarnation.
“Although I hope to come to you soon, I am writing you these instructions so that,if I am delayed, you will know how people ought to conduct themselves in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth. Beyond all question, the mystery from which true godliness springs is great:He appeared in the flesh,was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory” (1Tim. 3:16).
Note that Paul speaks of a “mystery” here. This means Paul speaks of something that wasn’t previously revealed in the Old Testament. If the incarnation was already explicit in the Old Testament, why does Paul speak of it as a mystery here.
After years of debating this topic with Jewish people, I concur with Cole that while patterns and hints of the deity of Jesus are in the Old Testament, as with most progressive revelation, things become much clearer in the New Testament. It is for this reason, that I highly recommend this book. Keep in mind that this book is not a full blown apologetic for the deity of Jesus. If that’s what you’re looking for, I recommend the book Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ by J. Ed Komoszewski and Robert Bowman. For a current treatment of the theophanies topic, see Andrew Malone’s Knowing Jesus in the Old Testament?