We were finishing up a Sunday School lesson run by the church Director of Ministries, a seminary-taught church position under the Pastor. We were wandering through Exodus 33 when we chanced upon verse 19 and 20.
Say these verses: “And the Lord said, ‘I will cause all of my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But,’ he said, ‘you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.’” That’s pretty clear – we are not allowed to look at God.
I have a question. Is God stupid, lying or contradictory? Go back a tad and you find in Exodus 33:11, “The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend.” That’s pretty clear – Moses spoke to God face to face.
Go back a tad more to Genesis 32:30 and you find Jacob wrestling with God. “So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, ‘It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.’” In ancient Hebrew, Peniel means “the face of God”. Again I ask, was God stupid, lying or just contradictory in these two opposing statements?
Our teacher, when this obvious contradiction was pointed out to him, did not have a reasonable explanation. Despite his years of seminary and study, he would have to check.
He checked and a week later had an answer satisfactory to him. It wasn’t satisfactory to me. His explanation after an examination through other Biblical works, concordances and Bible commentaries, was that in this part of the Bible, “God” could mean “God” “an angel” an “archangel” or some other heavenly creature. He left out Jesus and the Holy Spirit, perhaps because this was in the Old Testament.
Of course, the idea of being able to switch around God and angels is another of the Christians series of legerdemain magic tricks in cherry picking through the Bible the sections that will fit the predetermined answer that all Christians want.
It is an example of abductive reasoning. The two Biblical statements about seeing or not seeing God contradict each other, so we must find an explanation that makes this contradiction work. Thus, mix up God and angels and presto, you have your religious answer.
In this case, the answer was fabricated from nothing so that you could switch around God and angels to fit the obvious contradictions in the Bible between Genesis 32:30 and Exodus 33:11 and the opposite view in Exodus 33:20. Of course, it is kind of hard to make this case when the two opposing Exodus references are so close together.
In short, it is like a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat and then insisting to you that it is a hamster. Or pulling a hamster out of a hat and telling you that is obviously a rabbit.
Picking verses in which the knowledgeable, capable Bible translators use the name of God, and then wimping out later by having other scholars and Bible commentaries and concordances say that God could really mean an angel or that referencing an angel could really be God is a trick that would be sneered at by even a five year. Which is the hamster and which is the rabbit?
Isn’t it much better to be a skeptic, agnostic or atheist? After all, we can look at the true meaning of words, and not have to make up fake “facts” as does some learned, seminary Biblical scholar Director of Ministries.