“Abraham Rejoiced To See My Day And Saw It”: Jesus’ Take On Theophanies -- By: Randy Rheaume
JOTGES 32:62 (Spring 2019) p. 69
“Abraham Rejoiced To See My Day And Saw It”: Jesus’ Take On Theophanies1
Stony Creek Church
Your father Abraham was overjoyed to see my day, and he saw it and was glad” (net). Jesus’ intriguing words in John 8:56 have puzzled church fathers, scholars, and Bible readers of all kinds for centuries. Indeed, the crowd of Jesus’ original hearers was also baffled and asked, “You are not yet fifty years old! Have you seen Abraham?” (John 8:57 NET). To what does Jesus refer when He speaks of “my day” and Abraham’s joyful response to it? What did Abraham see and when did he see it?
As we would expect, differing interpretations have been defended, but there is no clear consensus among Johannine specialists today. Amid the contenders from ancient times till the present has been the view that Jesus refers to pre-incarnate appearances in human form to Abraham and Sarah as recorded in Genesis. Like all the other suggestions, this one is not without its difficulties—among them the concern that pre-incarnate appearances of Christ (i.e., theophanies or Christophanies) diminish the uniqueness of the Incarnation. But what did John’s Jesus mean when He spoke these words?
In this paper, I shall argue that when we consider Jesus’ statement in John 8:56 in light of the account of Yahweh’s appearances
JOTGES 32:62 (Spring 2019) p. 70
in Genesis and contextual factors in John’s Gospel, Jesus is most likely alluding to His appearing as Yahweh in pre-incarnate form to Abraham.2 First, I will look briefly at some alternative viewpoints and then devote the bulk of this article to demonstrating my thesis.
II. Alternative Explanations
Since treatments of the views discussed in this section are readily available in the technical commentaries on John,3 here I shall provide only a very brief sketch of three common interpretations of John 8:56 and an even briefer critique of each so as to maximize space for explaining and defending my own thesis.
A. A Visionary View
One approach to John 8:56 is to appeal to the understanding, at least among some first-century Jews, that A...
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