1. The Terms
2. The Principle of Mediation
II. MEDIATION IN THE OLD TESTAMENT
1. Negative Teaching in the
2. The Positive Teaching: Early Period
3. Prophetic Mediation
4. Priestly Mediation
5. The Theocratic King: the Messiah
6. The Suffering Servant
7. Superhuman Agents of Mediation
(1) Angelic Mediation
(2) Divine Wisdom
III. IN SEMI-CANONICAL AND NON-CANONICAL JEWISH LITERATURE
IV. MEDIATION AND MEDIATOR IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
(1) Christ as Prophet
(2) Christ as King
(3) Christ as Priest (Redeemer)
2. Primitive Apostolic Teachings
(1) The Early Speeches in Acts
(2) Epistles of James and Jude
(3) 1 Peter
3. Epistles of Paul
(1) The Need of a Mediator
(2) The Qualifications
(3) The Means, the
(4) The Resurrection and Exaltation
(5) The Cosmic Aspect of Christ’s Mediatorship
5. The Johannine Writings
(1) The Fourth Gospel
(2) The Epistles
(3) The Apocalypse
1. The Terms:
"Mediation" in its broadest sense may be defined as the act of intervening between parties at variance for the purpose of reconciling them, or between parties not necessarily hostile for the purpose of leading them into an agreement or covenant. Theologically, it has reference to the method by which God and man are reconciled through the instrumentality of some intervening process, act or person, and especially through the atoning work of. The term itself does not occur in Biblical literature.
2. The Principle of Mediation:
Though the actual terms are thus very rare, the principle of mediation is one of great significance in Biblical theology, as well as in the Jewish-Alexandrian philosophy. It corresponds to a profound human instinct or need which finds expression in some form or other in most religions. It is an attempt to solve the problem raised by (1) the idea of the infinite distance which separates God from man and the universe, and (2) the deeply felt want of bringing them into a harmonious relation. The conception of mediation will differ, therefore, according to whether the distance to be surmounted is understood ethically or metaphysically. If it be thought of in an ethical or religious sense, that is, if the emphasis be laid on the fact of human sin as standing in the way of man’s fellowship with God, then mediation will be the mode by which peaceful relations are established between sinful man and the absolutely righteous God. But if the antithesis of God and the world be conceived of metaphysically, i.e. be based on the ultimate nature of God and of the world conceived as essentially opposed to each other, then mediation will be the mode by which the transcendent God, without Himself coming into direct contact with the world, is able to produce effects in it through an intermediate agent (or agents). The latter conception (largely the result of an exaggerated Platonic dualism) exerted an important influence on later Jewish thought, and even on Christian theology, and will come briefly under our consideration. But in the main we shall be concerned with the former view, as more in harmony with the development of Biblical theology which culminates in the New Testament doctrine of atonement. Mediation between God and man as presented in the Scriptures has 3 main aspects, represented respectively by the functions of the prophet, the priest, and theocratic king. Here and there in the Old Testament these tend to meet, as in Melchizedek the priest-king, and in the Suffering Servant of Deutero-Isaiah, who unites the priestly function of sacrifice with the prophetic function of revealing the Divine will. But on the whole, these aspects of mediation in the Old Testament run along lines which have no meeting-point in one person adequate to all the demands. In the New Testament they intersect in the person and work of Jesus Christ, who realizes in Himself the full meaning of the prophetic, priestly, and kingly ideals.
II. Mediation in the Old Testament.
1. Negative Teaching in the Old Testament:
We do not find in the Old Testament a fixed and final doctrine of mediation universally accepted as an axiom of religious thought, but only a gradual movement toward such a doctrine, under the growing sense of God’s exaltation and of man’s frailty and sinfulness. Such a passage as
2. The Positive Teaching: Early Period:
(1) Mediatory Sacrifice.
(2) Intercessory Prayer.
Intercession is in all stages of thought an essential element in mediation. We have striking examples of it in
(3) The Mosaic Covenant.
In Moses we have for the first time a recognized national representative who acted both as God’s spokesman to the people, and the people’s spokesman before God. He alone was allowed to "come near unto Yahweh," and to him Yahweh spake "face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend" (
(4) Intercessory Mediation.
Samuel is by Jeremiah classed with Moses as the chief representative of intercessory mediation (
3. Prophetic Mediation:
Samuel represents the transition from the ancient seer or soothsayer to the prophetic order. The prophet was regarded as the organ of Divine revelation, to consult whom was equivalent to "inquiring of God" (
4. Priestly Mediation:
Mediation is in a peculiar sense the function of the priest. In the main he stands for the principle in its God-ward aspect. Yet in the early period it was the man-ward aspect that was most apparent; i.e. the priest was at first regarded as the medium through which Yahweh delivered His oracles to men, the human mouthpiece of supernatural revelation, giving advice in difficult emergencies by casting the sacred lot. Before the time of the first literary prophets, the association of the priests with the ephod and the lot had receded into the background (though the high priest theoretically retained the gift of interpreting the Divine will through the
(1) Out of the sacred nation as a whole, the priestly tribe of Levi is elected and invested with a special sanctity to perform all the subordinate acts of service within the tabernacle (
(2) Within this sacred tribe, the members of the house of Aaron are set apart and invested with a still higher sanctity; they alone officiate at the altar in theand expiate the guilt of the people by sacrifice and prayer, thus representing the people before God. Yet even they are only admitted to the proximate nearness of the Holy Place.
(3) The gradation of the hierarchy is completed by the recognition of a single, supreme head of the priesthood--the high priest. He alone can enter the
5. The Theocratic King: the Messiah:
6. The Suffering Servant:
The substitution of voluntary, deliberate, human sacrifice for that of unwilling beasts elevates the sacrificial idea to a new ethical plane, and brings it into far more vital and organic relation to human life. The basis of the mediatorship of the Servant seems to be the principle of the solidarity or organic unity of the people, involving the ideal unity of the Servant and the people he represents. In the earlier servant-passages the Servant is identical with the whole nation (
See Servant of Jehovah.
7. Superhuman Agents of Mediation:
In later Judaism, the growing sense of God’s transcendence favored the tendency to introduce supernatural intermediaries between God and the world.
(1) Angelic Mediation.
Not until post-exilic times did angels come to have theological significance. Previously, when God was anthropomorphically conceived as appearing periodically on earth in visible form, the need of angelic mediation was not felt. The "angel" in early narrative (e.g.
(2) Divine Wisdom.
Of more importance as a preparation for theology of the New Testament is the doctrine of Wisdom, in which the Jews found "a middle term between the religion of Israel and the philosophy of Greece." In
III. In Semi-and Non-canonical Jewish Literature.
In the Apocrypha, the idea of mediation is for the most part absent. We have one or two references to angelic intercession (Tobit 12:12,15), a function not attributed to angels in the Old Testament, but prominent in later apocalyptic literature (e.g. Enoch 9:10; 15:2; 40:6). The tradition of the agency of angels in the promulgation of the law is first found in the Septuagint of
See Judaeus Philo.
IV. Mediation and Mediator in the New Testament.
The relatively independent lines of development which the conception of mediation has hitherto taken now meet and coalesce in Jesus Christ.
1. The Synoptic Gospels:
The traditional division of Christ’s mediatorial work into that of prophet, priest and king (very common since Calvin, but now often discarded) offers a convenient method of treating the subject, though we must avoid making the division absolute, as if Christ’s work fell apart into three separate and independent functions. The unity of the work of salvation is preserved by the fact that "no one of the offices fills up a moment of time alone, but the others are always cooperative," although "Christ’s mediatorial work puts now this, now that side in the foreground." "The triple division is of special value, because it sets in a vivid light the continuity between the Old Testament theocracy and Christianity" (Dorner, System of Christian Doctrine, English translation, III, 385 ff). These three aspects of Christ’s mediatorship can be distinguished in the Synoptics, although the formal distinction is the work of later analysis.
(1) Christ as Prophet.
It was in the character of Prophet that He mainly impressed the common mind, which was moved to inquire "Whence hath this man this wisdom?" and by His reply, "A prophet is not without honor," etc., He virtually accepts that title (
(2) Christ as King.
(3) Christ as Priest (Redeemer).
The Synoptics give special prominence to those historical events which are most intimately associated with Christ’s mediatorship--not only the agony in the garden and the crucifixion, but also the resurrection and ascension (which make possible His intercessory mediation in heaven).
2. Primitive Apostolic Teachings:
(1) The Early Speeches in Acts.
(2) Epistles of James and Jude.
In these epistles the doctrine of Christ’s mediation does not occupy a prominent place. To James, Christianity is the culmination of Judaism. Christ’s mediatorial functions are set forth more by way of presupposition than by explicit statement, and the whole weight is laid on the kingly and prophetic offices. The Messiahship of Jesus is assumed to such an extent that the title "Christ" has become part of the proper name, and His Lordship is also implied (1:1; 2:1). Nothing definite is said of His function in salvation; it is God Himself who regenerates, but the medium of regeneration is "the word of truth," "the implanted word" (1:18,21), which
refer to the word which Jesus had preached. This implies that Jesus as prophetic teacher is the Mediator of salvation. Nothing is said of the death on the cross or its saving significance.assumes the Lordship of Christ, through whom God’s Saviourhood works, and whose mercy results in eternal life (1:4,21,25).
(3) 1 Peter.
In 1 Peter we have the early apostolic teaching touched with Paulinism. The fact that salvation is mediated through the sufferings and death of Christ is now explicitly stated. Christ has suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous (3:18). The suffering has significance both God-ward and man-ward. Relatively to God it is a sacrificial offering which opens up a way of access to Him; He suffered "that he might bring us to God" (3:18), and that through His representative priesthood the ideal "holy priesthood" of all God’s people might be realized, for it is "through Jesus Christ" that men’s "spiritual sacrifices" become "acceptable to God" (2:5). So the elect are sprinkled with the blood of Christ, i.e. brought into communion with God by His sacrifice (1:2). Relatively to man, it is a means of ransoming or liberating man from the bondage compare sin. "Knowing that ye were redeemed (elutrothete, literally, "ransomed," from lutron, "ransom," an echo of
3. Epistles of Paul:
Christ’s mediatorship stands at the very center of Paul’s gospel; this in spite of the fact that only once does he apply the term "mediator" to Christ (
This passage has had to undergo about 300 different interpretations. The view that the "mediator" here is Christ (Origen, Augustine and most of the Fathers, Calvin, etc.) is clearly untenable. Modern exegetes agree that the reference is to Moses (compare
What, then, is Paul’s positive teaching on Christ’s Mediatorship?
(1) The Need of a Mediator:
(2) The Qualifications:
The qualification of Christ to be the Mediator depends on His intimate relation to both parties at variance.
(a) Christ’s Relation to Man:
(b) His Relation to God:
(3) The Means, the Death of Christ:
The means of effecting the reconciliation was mainly the death on the cross. Paul emphasizes the mediating value of the death both on its objective (God-ward) side and on its subjective (man-ward) side. First, it is the objective ground of forgiveness and favor with God. On the basis of what Christ has done, God ceases to reckon to men their sins (
(a) It is an act of reconciliation. This involves a change of attitude, not only in man, but in God, a relinquishing of the Divine wrath without which there can be no restoration of peaceful relations (though this is disputed by many, e.g. Ritschl, Lightfoot, Westcott, Beyschlag), but not a change of nature or of intention, for the Divine wrath is but a mode of the eternal love, and moreover it is the Father Himself who provides the means of reconciliation and undertakes to accomplish it (
(b) It is an act of propitiation (
(d) Strong substitutionary language is sometimes used, notably in
(e) Sacrificial language is used, as in
(4) The Resurrection and Exaltation:
The resurrection and exaltation of Christ are essential to His mediatorial work (
(5) The Cosmic Aspect of Christ’s Mediatorship:
In his later epistles (especially Colossians and Ephesians), Paul lays stress on Christ’s mediatorial activity in creation and providence, though the germs of his later teaching are found in the earlier epistles (
4. Epistle to the Hebrews:
The main thesis of Hebrews is the absoluteness and finality of the gospel and its superiority over Judaism. The finality of Christianity depends on the fact that it has a perfect Mediator, who is the substance of which the various Jewish forms of mediation were types and shadows. He illustrates this by a series of contrasts between Christ and the mediators of the old system (by the application of principles and exegetical methods which reveal the influence of the school of Philo). In each contrast, Christ’s superiority is based on His Sonship.
(1) Christ is superior to the prophets as Mediator of revelation. The Old Testament revelation was fragmentary and multiform, while now God speaks, not through many agents, but through One, and that one a Son. As Son He is the perfectly adequate expression of the Father. The author takes us at once to the high transcendental sphere of Christ’s relations to God and the universe, in virtue of which He is God’s Mediator in creation, providence, revelation and redemption (
(2) He is superior to the angels, through whose mediation the law was given (
(3) He is superior to Moses, the human agent in the giving of the law (
(1) Christ’s Qualification for the High-Priesthood Is Twofold:
(a) His participation in all human experience (except sin), which guarantees His power of sympathy. Every high priest, as men’s representative before God, must be "taken from among men" (
(2) The Nature of His Priesthood, Its Superiority to the Levitical Priesthood.
The priests of the Old Testament themselves needed atonement, for they were not sinless; Christ is holy, guileless, undefiled, and need not make atonement for His own sins. They were priests only for a time, and were many in number, for they were mortal; but He abideth forever, and His priesthood is eternal. They were dependent on the law of physical descent; He was a priest after the order of Melchizedek, whose priesthood did not depend on genealogy or pedigree, and who combined the functions of king with those of priest. In a word, their order was transient, temporary, shadowy; His belonged to the world of unchanging reality (
(3) The Realization of His High-Priesthood.
A high priest implies a sacrifice; hence, Christ must "have somewhat to offer" (
(a) Christ’s death was a sin offering. He has offered one final sacrifice for sins (
(b) The Sinaitic covenant (
(c) The ritual of the Day of Atonement furnishes another analogy. As the high priest once a year entered the most holy place of the earthly people, so Christ has entered once for all the true spiritual sanctuary in heaven, and there He presents Himself to God as the Mediator able to make intercession for us with the Father (
(4) The Man-ward Efficacy of His Mediatorship.
The effect of Christ’s death on man is described by the words "cleanse," "sanctify," "perfect" (
5. The Johannine Writings:
(1) The Fourth Gospel.
Aspects of our Lord’s teaching unassimilated by the other disciples, and therefore but meagerly touched on in the Synoptics, find prominence in the, but colored by his own meditations. Great emphasis is laid on the idea of salvation by revelation mediated through Jesus Christ. The historical revelation of God in the person and teaching of Jesus is the main subject of the Gospel. But in the Prologue we have the eternal background of the historical manifestation in the doctrine of the Logos, who, as Son in eternal fellowship with the Father, His mediator in creation, and the immanent principle of revelation in the world, is fitted to become God’s Revealer in history (1:11-18). His work on earth is to dispense light and life, knowledge of God and salvation. Through Him God gives to the world eternal life (3:16). He is the Water of Life (4:14; 7:37), the Bread of Life (6:48 ff), the Light of the World (8:12); it is by inward appropriation of Him that salvation is mediated to men (6:52 ff). He is the perfect revealer of God, hence, the only means of access to the Father (14:6,9). It is on salvation by illumination and communion, rather than on salvation by reconciliation and atonement that chief stress is laid. Sacrificial or propitiatory language is not used of Christ’s death. Yet emphasis is laid on the voluntary and vicarious character of His death. He lays down His life of Himself (10:18); "The good shepherd layeth down his life for (equals on behalf of) the sheep" (10:11; compare 15:13). Christ’s death was the supreme example of the law that self-sacrifice is necessary to the highest and most fruitful life (12:23 ff). In John 17 we have a unique instance of our Lord’s intercessory prayer.
(2) The Epistles.
In 1 John we find more explicit statements with regard to the connection between the death of Christ and sin. "The blood of Jesus his Son cleanseth us from all sin" (1:7); "He was manifested to take away sins" (3:5); "If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father," i.e. a pleader who will mediate with God on our behalf, the ground of His intercessory efficacy being that He is the "propitiation for our sins" (2:2; 4:10, a term which links the Johannine doctrine to that of Paul, though 1 John represents Christ Himself, and not merely His death on the cross, as the propitiation). This latter term shows that an objective value is attached to the atonement, as in some way neutralizing or making amends for sin in the eyes of God, yet in such a way as not to contradict the principles of righteousness (compare "Jesus Christ the righteous," 2:1).
(3) The Apocalypse.
Our inquiry will have shown how central and prominent is the idea of mediation throughout the Scriptures. We might even say it supplies the key to the unity of the Bible. In the Old Testament the principle is given "in divers portions and in divers manners," but in the New Testament it converges in the doctrine of the person and work of the One final Mediator, the Son of God. Amid all the rich diversity of the various parts of the New Testament, there is one fundamental conception common to all, that of Christ as at once the interpreter of God to men and the door of access for men to God. Especially is Christ’s self-sacrifice presented as the effective cause of our salvation, as a means of removing the guilt and sin which stand as a barrier in the way of God’s purpose concerning man and of man’s fellowship with God. There is a tendency in some influential writers of today to speak disparagingly of the doctrine of the one Mediator, on the ground that it injures the direct relationship of man with God (e.g. R. Eucken, Truth of Religion, 583 ff). Here we can reply only that the doctrine properly defined is attested in universal Christian experience, and that, so far from standing in the way of our personal approach to God, it is a simple historical fact that apart from the work of Jesus we would not enjoy that free access to Him which is now our privilege.
Besides the commentaries, such works on Old Testament Theology as those of Oehler, Schultz, A.B. Davidson, and onby B. Weiss, Beyschlag, Holtzmann, W.B. Stevens, Weinel; Wendt, The Teaching of Jesus; A.B. Bruce, Paul’s Conception of Christianity and The Epistle to the Hebrews; J. Denney, The Death of Christ; Du Bose, The Gospel in the Gospels, The Gospel according to Paul, High-Priesthood and Sacrifice. For the idea of mediation in Jewish religion, Oesterley, The Jewish Doctrine of Mediation; Toy, Judaism and Christianity. Much material on the Biblical doctrine may be found in such works as Dorner, System of Christian Doctrine; Ritschl, Die christliche Lehre von der Rechtfertigung und Versohnung, 3 volumes (Volumes I and III, English translation); Dale, The Atonement; McLeod Campbell, The Nature of the Atonement; F.D. Maurice, The Doctrine of Sacrifice; Moberly, Atonement and Personality; J. Scott Lidgett, The Spiritual Principle of the Atonement; G.B. Stevens, Christian Doctrine of Salvation; articles in HDB, DCG, and in this Encyclopedia on "Mediation"; "Mediator"; "Atonement"; "Messiah"; "Propitiation"; "Prophets"; "Priests"; "Ransom"; "Reconciliation"; "Sacrifice"; Salvation," etc.
D. Miall Edwards