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me-di-a’-shun, me’-di-a-ter:


1. The Terms

(1) Mediation

(2) Mediator

2. The Principle of Mediation


1. Negative Teaching in the Old Testament

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



1. The Synoptic Gospels

(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 Death of Christ

(4) The Resurrection and Exaltation

(5) The Cosmic Aspect of Christ’s Mediatorship

4. Epistle to the Hebrews

5. The Johannine Writings

(1) The Fourth Gospel

(2) The Epistles

(3) The Apocalypse



I Introductory.

1. The Terms:

(1) Mediation:

"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 Jesus Christ. The term itself does not occur in Biblical literature.

(2) Mediator:

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 1Sa 2:25 seems definitely to contradict the idea of mediation. Still more striking are the words of Job above referred to, "There is no umpire betwixt us, that might lay his hand upon us both," i.e. to enforce his decision (Job 9:33), where the Septuagint paraphrases, "Would that there were a mediator and a reprover and a hearer between us both." The note of despair which characterizes this passage shows that Job has no hope that such an arbitrator between him and God is forthcoming. Yet the words give pathetic utterance to the deep inarticulate cry of humanity for a mediator. In this connection we should note the protests of prophets and psalmists against an unethical view of mediation by animal sacrifices (Mic 6:6-8; Ps 40:6-8, etc.), and their frequent direct appeals to God for mercy without reference to any mediation (Ps 25:7; 32:5; 103:8 , etc.).

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 Ge 18:22-33; Job 42:8-10.

(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" (Ex 33:11). He went up to God and "reported the words of the people" to Him, as to a sovereign who cannot be approached save by his duly accredited minister (Ex 19:8). We have a striking example of his intercessory mediation in the episode of the golden calf, when he pleaded effectively with God to turn from His wrath (Ex 32:12-14), and even offered to "make atonement for" (kipper, literally, "cover") their sin by confessing their sin before God, and being willing to be blotted out of God’s book, so that the people might be spared (Ex 32:30-32). Here we have already the germs of the idea of vicarious suffering for sin.

(4) Intercessory Mediation.

Samuel is by Jeremiah classed with Moses as the chief representative of intercessory mediation (Jer 15:1). He is reported as mediating by prayer between Israel and God, and succeeding in warding off the punishment of their sin (1Sa 7:5-12). On such occasions, prayer was wont to be accompanied by confessions of sins and by an offering to Yahweh.

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" (1Sa 9:9)--a commissioner sent by God (Isa 6:8 f) to proclaim His will by word and action. In that capacity he was Yahweh’s representative among men, and so could speak in a tone of authority. Prophetic revelation is essential to the Old Testament religion (compare Heb 1:1), which by it stands distinguished from a mere philosophy or natural religion. God is not merely a passive object of human discovery, but one who actively and graciously reveals Himself to His chosen people through the medium of the authorized exponents of His mind and will. Thus in the main the prophet stands for the principle of mediation in its man-ward aspect. But the God-ward aspect is not absent, for we find the prophet mediating with God on behalf of men, making intercession for them (Jer 14:19-22; Am 7:2 f,5 f).

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 Urim and Thummim, Ex 28:30; Le 8:8); but the power they lost with the oracle they gained at the altar. First they acquired a preferential status at the local sanctuaries; then, in the Deuteronomic legislation, where sacrifice is limited to the Jerusalem sanctuary, it is assumed that only Levite priests can officiate. Finally, in the Levitical system as set forth in the Priestly Code (which regulated Jewish worship in the post-exilic times), the Aaronic priests, now clearly distinguished from the Levites, have the sole privilege of immediate access to God in His sanctuary (Nu 4:19,20; 16:3-5). God’s transcendence and holiness are now so emphasized that between Him and the sin-stained people there is almost an infinite chasm. Hence, the people can only enjoy its ideal right of drawing nigh unto God and offering sacrifice to Him through the mediation of the official priesthood. The mediatorship of priests derived its authority, not from their moral purity or personal worth, but from the ceremonial purity which attached to their office. All priests are not on the same level. A process of graduated sanctity narrows down their number as the approach is made to the Most Holy Place, which symbolizes the presence chamber of Yahweh.

(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 (Nu 8:19; 18:6).

(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 the Holy Place and 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 Holy of Holies, and that alone once a year, on the Day of Atonement, when he makes propitiation not only for himself and the priesthood, but for the entire congregation. The ritual of the Day of Atonement is the highest exercise of priestly mediatorship. On that day, the whole community has access to Yahweh through their representative, the high priest, and through him offer atonement for their sins. Moreover, the role of the high priest as mediator is symbolized by his wearing the breastplate bearing the names of the children of Israel, whenever he goes into the Holy Place (Ex 28:29).

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 (Isa 41:8; 44:1 f, and often), and the unity is therefore actual, not ideal merely. In other passages, however, they are clearly to be distinguished, for while the people as a whole is unfaithful to its mission, the Servant remains faithful and suffers for it. Whether in Isa 53 the Servant is the pious remnant of the people or is conceived of as an individual we need not here consider. In either case, the tie between the Servant and the whole nation is never completely broken; the idea of their mystical union is still the groundwork of the prophet’s thought. In virtue of this ideal relation, the Servant is the representative of the nation before God, not in a mere official sense (as in the case of the priest), but on the ground of personal merit, as the true Israel, the embodiment of the national ideal. On that ground God can accept his suffering in lieu of the deserved penalty of the whole people. We have here a wonderful adumbration of the New Testament doctrine of atonement through the One Mediator, the Son of Man, the representative of the race.

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. Ge 16:7-11) did not possess abiding personality distinct from God, but was God Himself temporarily manifested in human form. But the more God came to be conceived as "the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity," the greater was the need for mediation between God and the world, and even between God and His servant the prophet. In post-exilic writers there is an increasing disposition to fill up the gap between God and the prophet with superhuman beings. Thus Zechariah receives all Divine instruction through angels; and similarly Daniel receives explanations of his dreams. We do not in the Old Testament hear of angels interceding with God (God-ward mediation), but only as intermediaries of revelation and of the Divine will (man-ward mediation). Modern Jewish scholars deny that Judaistic angelology implied that God was transcendent in the sense of being remote and out of contact with the world. So, e.g., Montefiore (Hibbert Lectures, 423-31), but even he admits a "natural disinclination to bring the Godhead downward to human conditions," and that "for supernatural conversations angels formed a convenient substitute for God" (p. 430). The doctrine of angels had no influence on the New Testament doctrine of mediation, which moves on the plane of the ethical, rather than on the basis of the merely physical transcendenee of God.

(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 Pr 8:22-31 Wisdom is depicted as an individual energy, God’s elect Son, His companion and master-workman (Pr 8:30) in creation, but whose chief delight is with the children of men. Though the personification is here purely ideal and poetical, and the ethical interest predominates over the metaphysical, yet we have in such a passage a clear proof of contact with Greek thought (especially Platonism and Stoicism), and of the felt need of a mediator between God and the visible world. This mode of thought, linked to the Hebrew conception of the Divine Word as the efficient expression of God’s thought and the medium of His activity (Isa 55:11; Ps 33:6; 107:20), has left its mark on Philo’s Logos-doctrine and on the New Testament Christology.

See Wisdom.

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 De 33:2 (not in the Hebrew original), but was greatly amplified in rabbinical literature (Josephus, Ant, XV, v, 3). In The Wisdom of Solomon a bold advance is made toward the conception of Wisdom as a personal mediator of creation (especially 7:22-27). In later Judaism, the idea of the Word is further developed. The Targums constantly refer the Divine activity to the memera’ or "Word" of God, where the Old Testament refers it to God directly, and speaks of it as Israel’s Intercessor before God and as Redeemer. This usage seems to arise out of a reluctance to bring God into immediate contact with the world; hence, God’s self-manifestation is represented as mediated through a quasi-personal agent. The tendency finds its full development, however, not among the Jerusalem Jews, but among the Jews of Alexandria, especially in Philo’s Logos-doctrine. Deeply influenced by the Platonic dualism, Philo thought of God as pure Spirit, incapable of contact with matter, so that without mediation God could not act on the world. To fill up the great gap he conceived of intermediary beings which represented at once the Ideas of Plato, the active Powers of the Stoics, and the angels of the Old Testament. The highest of these was the Divine Logos, the mediator between the inaccessible, transcendent Being and the material universe. On the one hand, in relation to the world, the Logos is the Mediator of creation and of revelation; on the other, in his God-ward activity, he is the representative of the world before God, its High Priest, Intercessor, and Paraclete. Yet Philo’s Logos was probably nothing more than a high philosophical abstraction vividly imaged in the mind. In spite of Philo’s influence on early Christian theology, and even perhaps on some New Testament writers, his doctrine of mediation moves on quite different lines from the central New Testament doctrine, which is concerned above all with the reconciliation of God and man on account of sin, and not with the metaphysical reconciliation of the absolute and the finite world. The Mediator of Philo is an abstraction of speculative thought; the Mediator of the New Testament is a concrete historical person known to experience.

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 (Mt 13:54,57). As Prophet, Christ is the mediator of revelation; through Him alone can men come to know God as Father (Mt 11:27) and "the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven" (Mt 13:11). In all His teaching we feel that He speaks within the center of truth, and hence can teach with authority and not as the scribes (Mt 7:29), who approach the truth from without. His teaching is part of His redemptive work, and not something extraneous to it, for the sin from which He redeems includes ignorance and error.

(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. The Epistle of Jude 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 Mr 10:45) .... with precious blood, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot" (1Pe 1:18,19). The sacrificial language is simple and undeveloped, and it is not clear whether the figure of "lamb" implies a reference to the paschal lamb or to Isa 53:7, or to both. The effect on man is, however, clear. Christ "bare our sins in his body upon the tree, that we, having died unto sins, might live unto righteousness; by whose stripes ye were healed" (1Pe 2:24; see the whole passage, 1Pe 2:21-24, reminiscent of the figure of the Suffering Servant of Isa 53).

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 (1Ti 2:5), and that in the only other passage where he uses the word, he applies it to Moses, in a sense which might seem to be inconsistent with the idea of Christ’s mediatorship, namely, where he discusses the relation of law to promise. The law was "ordained through angels by the hand of a mediator. Now a mediator is not .... of one; but God is one" (Ga 3:19,20).

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 Le 26:46, where the Septuagint has "by the hand of Moses"; Philo calls Moses "mediator and reconciler," De Vit. Moys, iii.19), who, according to a rabbinical tradition, received the Law through the intermediation of angles (compare Ac 7:53; Heb 2:2). Nor is it likely that Paul meant the reader to realize the glory of the law and the solemnity of its ordination (Meyer). The point is rather the inferiority of the law to the evangelical promise to Abraham. Mediation implies at least two parties between whom it is carried on. The law was given by a double mediatorship, that of the angels and that of Moses, and was thus two removes from its Divine source. But in relation to the promise God stood alone, i.e. acted freely, unconditionally, independently, and for Himself alone. The promise is no agreement between two, buy the free gift of the one God (so Schleiermacher, Lightfoot, etc.). This is by no means a denial of the Divine origin of the law (Ritschl), for the mediation of angels and of Moses was Divinely authorized; but it does seem to make the method of mediation inferior to that of the direct communication of God’s gracious will to man. Paul is not, however, treating of the principle of mediation in the abstract, but only that form of it which implies a contract between two parties. Christ is not Mediator in the same sense as Moses, for the free and unconditioned character of the forgiving grace which Christ mediates is by no means diminished by the fact of His mediation.

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 (2Co 5:19). Paul’s view of the death may be seen by considering some of his most characteristic expressions.

(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 (2Co 5:19; compare Col 1:20,21; Eph 2:16).

(b) It is an act of propitiation (Ro 3:25, hilasterion, from hilaskesthai, "to render favorable" or "propitious"). Here there is a clear though tacit reference to a change of attitude on God’s part. He who was not formerly propitious to man was appeased through the death of Christ. Yet the propitiatory means are provided by God Himself, who takes the initiative in the matter ("whom God set forth," etc.).

(d) Strong substitutionary language is sometimes used, notably in Ga 3:13 ("having become a curse for us") and in 2Co 5:21 ("Him who knew no sin he made to be sin on our behalf"). But the sinless substitute is not regarded as actually punished (that would be a moral contradiction). His death was not penal substitution, but a substitute for penalty. It had the value to God of the punishment of sinners, in virtue of His oneness with the race. It was the recognition from within humanity of the sinfulness of sin, and expressed the Divine righteousness as fully as penalty would have done. The secret seems to be Christ’s sympathetic love by which He identified Himself with man’s sin and doom of death.

(e) Sacrificial language is used, as in 1Co 5:7; Eph 5:2, and in the references to Christ’s "blood." Not often, however, does Paul explicitly speak of the death in terms of the Levitical ritual, which would be less congenial to his mind than the prophetic conception of the Suffering Servant. Yet he does seem to regard the death of Christ as the culmination of all that the sacrifices of the Old Testament had imperfectly realized. Secondly, the subjective aspect of Christ’s work is emphasized quite as much as the objective. The death of Christ, being inwardly assimilated by faith, becomes to the believer the principle of ethical transformation, so that he may become worthy of the Divine favor which he now enjoys. As a result of his subjective identity with Christ through faith, the objective state of privilege is changed into actual liberation from sin (Ga 2:20; 6:14; Ro 6:6,7; Col 3:3).

(4) The Resurrection and Exaltation:

The resurrection and exaltation of Christ are essential to His mediatorial work (1Co 15:17). It is not alone that the resurrection "proves that the death of Christ was not the death of a sinner, but the vicarious death of the sinless Mediator of salvation" (B. Weiss, I, 436), but that salvation cannot be realized except through communion with the living, glorified Christ, without which the subjective identity of the believer with Christ by which redemption is personally appropriated would not be possible (Ga 2:20; Ro 6:4,5; Php 3:10; Col 3:1). The exaltation also makes possible His continuous heavenly intercession on our behalf (Ro 8:34), which is the climax of His mediatorial activities.

(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 (1Co 8:6). He is resisting a kind of nascent Gnostic dualism, according to which God could communicate with the world only through a hierarchy of intermediate powers. Against this he proclaims Christ as the one and only Mediator between God and the universe, having, on the one hand, a unique relation to God ("the image of the invisible God," Col 1:15; in whom the fullness of God dwells, 1:19; 2:9), and, on the other hand, a unique relation to the world, as its creative agent, its immanent principle of unity, and its ultimate goal (Col 1:15-17). Here the apostle shows affinity with the Logos-doctrine of Philo, though the differences are marked and fundamental. Corresponding to this wider view of Christ’s person, there is a wide view of the reconciliation wrought through Him. It even extends to the world beyond man, and restores the broken harmony of the universe (Col 1:20; Eph 1:10).

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 (Heb 1:1-3).

(2) He is superior to the angels, through whose mediation the law was given (Heb 1:4-14).

(3) He is superior to Moses, the human agent in the giving of the law (Heb 3:1-6). (4) He is greater than Aaron the high priest, the people’s representative before God. This leads to the central doctrine of the epistle, the high-priesthood of Jesus. The following are the salient points in the elaborate treatment of this subject:

(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" (Heb 5:1). Hence, the author lays great stress on the human nature and experiences of Christ (compare Heb 2:10,17,18; 4:15; 5:7,8). (b) His Divine appointment. Every priest must have a call from God. So Christ has been appointed priest, not indeed in the Aaronic line, but after the order of Melchizedek (Heb 5:1-10).

(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 (Heb 7).

(3) The Realization of His High-Priesthood.

A high priest implies a sacrifice; hence, Christ must "have somewhat to offer" (Heb 8:3). In the Levitical system, the priest and the sacrifice are distinct from each other. But Christ offered not an external gift, but Himself. Much stress is laid on Christ’s voluntary obedience (Heb 5:8; 10:7), progressively attained through suffering, and culminating in the absolute surrender of His life ("blood") in death. His sacrifice harmonizes with the principle that "apart from shedding of blood there is no remission" (Heb 9:22), although the principle is lifted from the physical to the spiritual realm. In working this out, the author makes use of analogies drawn from three parts of the Levitical ritual.

(a) Christ’s death was a sin offering. He has offered one final sacrifice for sins (Heb 10:12,18). As priest, he has "made propitiation for the sins of the people" (Heb 2:17); as victim He was "once (for all) offered to bear the sins of many" (Heb 9:28).

(b) The Sinaitic covenant (Ex 24:8) is made use of. Christ is "the mediator of a new (better) covenant" (Heb 8:6; 9:15; 12:24), i.e. the agent interposing between God and man in the establishment of a new relationship analogous to Moses in the old covenant. Even the first covenant was dedicated with blood, and so the blood of the Son of God was "the blood of the covenant" (Heb 10:29; compare Mr 14:24). On the double meaning of the word diatheke ("covenant," "testament"), the author bases a twofold argument for the necessity of Christ’s death (Heb 9:15 ).

(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 (Heb 9:12,24-26; compare Heb 7:25). He is a ministering priest in the true tabernacle, the immediate presence of God (Heb 8:2). Thus the ascension and session make possible the culmination of the mediatorial work of Christ in the eternal sacrifice and intercession within the veil.

(4) The Man-ward Efficacy of His Mediatorship.

The effect of Christ’s death on man is described by the words "cleanse," "sanctify," "perfect" (Heb 9:14; 10:10,14,29; 13:12), words which have a ritualistic quite as much as an ethical sense, meaning the removal of the sense of guilt, dedication to God, and the securing of the privilege of full fellowship with Him. The ultimate blessing that comes to man through the work of Christ is the privilege of free, unrestricted access to God by the removal of the obstacle of guilt (Heb 4:16; 10:19 ).

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 Gospel of John, 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.

V. Conclusion.

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 on New Testament Theology by 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