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Mediation; Mediator

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mē - 501 - ā´shun , mē´di - - tẽr :


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 I ntroductory.

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:

The term "mediator" (= middleman, agent of mediation) is nowhere found in Old Testament or Apocrypha (English Versions of the Bible), but the corresponding Greek word μεσίτης , mesı́tēs , occurs once in Septuagint ( Job 9:33 the King James Version, "Neither is there any daysman betwixt us," where "daysman" stands for Hebrew mōkhı̄aḥ , "arbitrator," the American Standard Revised Version, the English Revised Version margin "umpire" (see DAYSMAN ); Septuagint has ὁ μεσίτης ἡμῶν , ho mesı́tēs hēmṓn , "our mediator," as a paraphrase for Hebrew bēnēnū , "betwixt us"). Even in the New Testament, mesitēs , "mediator," occurs only 6 times, namely, Galatians 3:19 , Galatians 3:20 (of Moses), and 1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 8:6; Hebrews 9:15; Hebrews 12:24 (of Christ).

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 1 Samuel 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 (Micah 6:6-8; Psalm 40:6-8 , etc.), and their frequent direct appeals to God for mercy without reference to any mediation (Psalm 25:7; Psalm 32:5; Psalm 103:8 ff, etc.).

2. The Positive Teaching: Early Period:

(1) Mediatory Sacrifice.

In the patriarchal age, before the official priest had been differentiated from the rest of the community, the function of offering sacrifice was discharged by the head of the family or clan on behalf of his people, as by Noah (Genesis 8:20 ), Abraham (Genesis 12:7 , Genesis 12:8; Genesis 15:9-11 ), Isaac (Genesis 26:24 f), Jacob ( Genesis 31:54; Genesis 33:20 ). So Job, conceived by the writer as living in patriarchal antiquity, is said to have offered sacrifices vicariously for his sons (Job 1:5 ). Melchizedek, the priest-king of Salem (Genesis 14:18-20 ), is a figure of considerable theological interest, inasmuch as he was taken by the author of Psalm 110:1-7 as the forerunner of the ideal theocratic king who was also priest, and by the author of He as prototype of Christ's priesthood.

(2) Intercessory Prayer.

Intercession is in all stages of thought an essential element in mediation. We have striking examples of it in Genesis 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" (Exodus 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 (Exodus 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 (Exodus 32:12-14 ), and even offered to "make atonement for" ( kippēr , 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 (Exodus 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 (Jeremiah 15:1 ). He is reported as mediating by prayer between Israel and God, and succeeding in warding off the punishment of their sin (1 Samuel 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" ( 1 Samuel 9:9 ) - a commissioner sent by God (Isaiah 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 Hebrews 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 (Jeremiah 14:19-22; Amos 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, Exodus 28:30; Leviticus 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 (Numbers 4:19 , Numbers 4:20; Numbers 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 (Numbers 8:19; Numbers 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 (Exodus 28:29 ).

Something must be said of the sacrificial system, through which alone the priest exercised his mediatorial functions. For his mediatorship did not depend on his direct personal influence with God, exercised, for instance, through intercessory prayer (intercession is not mentioned by the Priestly Code (P) as a duty of the priest, though referred to by the prophets, Joel 2:17; Malachi 1:9 ). It depended rather on an elaborate system of sacrifice, of which the priest was but an official agent. It was he who derived his authority from the system, rather than the system from him. The most characteristic features in the ritual of P are the sin offering (ḥattā'th , Lev 4; 5; Leviticus 6:24-30 ) and the guilt offering ('āshām , Lev 5 through 7; 14; 19), which seem peculiar to P. These are meant to restore the normal relation of the people or of individuals to God, a relation which sin has disturbed. Hence, these sacrifices, when duly administered by the priest, are distinctly mediatorial or reconciliatory in character, i.e. they make atonement for or "cover" (kippēr ) the sin of the guilty community or individuals. This seems the case also, though in a far less degree, even with the burnt, peace, and meal offerings, which, though "not offered expressly , like the sin and guilt offerings, for the forgiveness of sin, nevertheless were regarded ... as 'covering,' or neutralizing, the offerer's unworthiness to appear before God, and so, though in a much less degree than the sin or guilt offering, as effecting propitiation" (Driver in Hastings, Dictionary of the Bible , IV, 132). We must beware, however, of reading the full New Testament doctrine of sin and propitiation into the sacrificial law. Two important points of difference may be noted: (1) The law does not provide atonement for all sins, but only for sins of ignorance or inadvertence, committed within the covenant. Deliberate sins fall outside the scope of priestly mediation. (2) While sin includes moral impurity, it must be admitted that the chief emphasis falls on ceremonial uncleanness, because it is only violation of physical sanctity that can be fully rectified by ritual ordinance. The law was essentially a civil code, and was not adequate to deal with inward sins. Thus the sacrificial system in itself is but a faint adumbration of the New Testament doctrine of Christ's high-priestly work, which has reference to sin in its widest and deepest meaning. Yet, in spite of these limitations, the priestly ritual was, as far as it went, an organized embodiment of the sin-consciousness, and so prepared the way for the coming of a perfect Mediator.

5. The Theocratic King: The Messiah:

On another plane than that of the priest is the mediation of the theocratic king . Yahweh was ideally the sole king of Israel. But He governed the people mediately through His vicegerent theocratic king, the agent of His will. The king was regarded as "Yahweh's anointed" ( 1 Samuel 16:6 , etc.), and his person as inviolable. He was the "visible representative of the invisible Divine King" (Riehm). The ideal of theocratic king was most nearly represented by David, the man after Yahweh's own heart (compare 1 Samuel 13:14 ). This fact led to Yahweh's covenant-promise that David's house should constitute a permanent dynasty, and his throne be established forever (2 Samuel 7:5-17; compare Ps 89:19-37). The indestructibility of the Davidic dynasty was the basal conviction on which the hope of a Messiah was built. It led to attention being further concentrated on one preeminent King in David's line, who should be the Divinely accredited representative of Yahweh, and reign in His name. As a Divinely endowed human hero, the Messiah will possess attributes which will qualify Him to mediate between God and His people in national life and affairs, and so inaugurate the ideal age of peace and righteousness. He is portrayed especially as the Royal Saviour of Israel, through whom the salvation of the people is mediated and justice administered (e.g. Isaiah 11:1-10; Isaiah 61:1-3; Psalm 72:4 , Psalm 72:13; Jeremiah 23:5 , Jeremiah 23:6; Jeremiah 33:15 , Jeremiah 33:16 ).

6. The Suffering Servant:

In the wonderful figure of exilic prophecy, the Suffering Servant of Yahweh , the principle of mediation is exemplified both in its man-ward and God-ward aspects. In its man-ward aspect, his mission is the prophetic one of being God's anointed messenger to men, His witness before the world ( Isaiah 42:6 , Isaiah 42:19; Isaiah 43:10; Isaiah 49:2; Isaiah 50:4 , Isaiah 50:5; Isaiah 61:1-3 ). But the profound originality of the conception of the Servant lies chiefly in the God-ward significance of his suffering (Isaiah 53:1-12 ). The Servant suffered vicariously as an atonement for the sins of the people. His death is even said to be a "guilt-offering" ('āshām , Isaiah 53:10 ), and he is represented as making "intercession for the transgressors" (Isaiah 53:12 ). Here is the profoundest expression in the Old Testament of the principle of mediatorship.

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 (Isaiah 41:8; Isaiah 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 Isaiah 53:1-12 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. Genesis 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 Proverbs 8:22-31 Wisdom is depicted as an individual energy, God's elect Son, His companion and master-workman ( Proverbs 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 (Isaiah 55:11; Psalm 33:6; Psalm 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 Proverbs 9:10; Proverbs 15:2; 40:6). The tradition of the agency of angels in the promulgation of the law is first found in the Septuagint of Deuteronomy 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 mēmerā' 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 PHILO JUDAEUS .

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 (Matthew 13:54 , Matthew 13:57 ). As Prophet, Christ is the mediator of revelation; through Him alone can men come to know God as Father (Matthew 11:27 ) and "the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 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 (Matthew 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.

The official name "Christ" (= Messiah, the anointed King) refers primarily to His kingship. The Messianic hope had taught men to look forward to the rule of God on earth instituted and administered through His representative. Christ was the fulfillment of that hope. Though He held an attitude of reserve in the matter, there can be no doubt that He conceived of Himself as the Messiah (Mark 8:27-30; Mark 14:16 f; compare His entry into Jerusalem as a triumphant king, Mark 11:1 ff; the inscription on the cross, Mark 15:26 ). But it is also clear that He fundamentally modified the Messianic idea, (a ) by suffusing it with the thought of vicarious suffering, and (b ) by giving it an ethical and spiritual rather than a national and official significance. The note of His kingship was that of authority (Mark 1:27; Mark 2:10; Matthew 7:29; Matthew 28:18 ) exercised in the realm of truth and conscience. His kingship includes the future as well as the present; He is the arbiter of human destiny (Matthew 25:31 ff).

(3) Christ as Priest (Redeemer).

The synoptists do not hint at the priestly analogy. Our Lord often spoke of forgiveness without mentioning Himself as the one through whom it was mediated, as if it flowed directly from the gracious heart of the Father (compare the parables of Luke 15 ). But there are other passages which emphasize the close connection of His person with men's redemption. Men's attitude to Him decides absolutely their relation to God (Matthew 10:32 , Matthew 10:40 ). Rest of soul is mediated to the heavy laden through Him (Matthew 11:28-30 ). He claims authority on earth to forgive sins (Mark 2:10 ). We have no evidence that He spoke definitely of His death until after Peter's confession at Caesarea (Mark 8:31 , "began to teach," etc.), though we seem to have vague allusions earlier (e.g. the allegory of the bridegroom, Mark 2:19 , Mark 2:20 ). This may be partly due to conscious reserve, in accordance with the true pedagogical method by which He adapted His teaching to the progressive receptivity of His followers. But inasmuch as we must think of Him as subject to the ordinary laws of human psychology, the idea of His death must have been to Him a growth, matured partly by outward events, and partly by the development of His inner consciousness as the Suffering Messiah. In His later ministry, He frequently taught that He must suffer and die (Mark 9:12 , Mark 9:31; Mark 10:32 f; Mark 12:8; Mark 14:8 and parallel passages; compare Mark 10:38; Luke 12:49 f). There are two important passages which expressly connect His death with His mediatorial work. The first is Mark 10:45 (parallel Matthew 20:28 ), "The Son of Man came not to be ministered unto but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many." The context shows that it was while the thought of His approaching death filled His mind that our Lord uttered these words (compare Mark 10:33 , Mark 10:38 f). As to the exact meaning of ransom ( λύτρον , lútron ) there are two circles of ideas with which it may be associated. (a ) It may mean a sacrificial offering, representing Hebrew kōpher (literally, "covering," "propitiatory gift") which it translates several times in Septuagint (e.g. Exodus 30:12 ). Thus, Ritschl defines it as "an offering which, because of its specific worth to God, is a protection or coveting against sin" (Rechtfertigung und Versohnung , II, 68-88). (b ) It may mean ransom price, the purchase-money paid for the emancipation of a slave. In Septuagint, lútron in most cases stands for some form of the roots gā'al , "to deliver," pādhāh , "to redeem" (e.g. Leviticus 25:51; Numbers 3:51 ). Hence, Wendt explains the "ransom" as the price by which Jesus redeemed His disciples from their bondage to suffering and death (Teaching of Jesus , II, 226 ff). This analogy certainly suits the context better than that drawn from the Levitical ritual, for it brings out the contrast between the liberating work of Christ and the enslaving work of those who "lord it over" men. We must not press the analogy in detail or seek here an answer to the question, who was the recipient of the ransom price (e.g. whether the Devil, as many Fathers, notably Origen and Gregory of Nyssa; God, as Anselm and later theologians; the "eternal law of righteousness," as Dale). The purpose of the passage is primarily practical, not speculative. It is certainly pressing the figurative language of Jesus too far to insist that the ransom price is the exact quantitative equivalent of the lives liberated, or of the penalty they had deserved regarded as a debt. This is too prosaic and literalistic an interpretation of a passage which has its setting in the ethical rather than in the commercial realm, and which breathes a spirit closely akin to that of Isaiah 53:1-12 , where suffering and service axe, as here, combined.

The other passage in which Christ definitely connects His mediatorship with His death is that which reports His words at the Last Supper (Mark 14:22-24; Matthew 26:26-28; Luke 22:19 f; compare 1 Corinthians 11:24 f). The reported words are not identical in the several narratives. But even in their simplest form (in Mark), there is evidently a threefold allusion, to the paschal lamb, to the sacrifice offered by Moses at the ratification of the covenant at Sinai ( Exodus 24:8 ), and to Jeremiah's prophecy of a new covenant (Jeremiah 31:31 ). There can be little doubt that the paschal feast, though it does not conform in detail to any of the Levitical sacrifices, was regarded as a sacrifice , as is indicated by the blood ceremonial (Exodus 12:21-27 ). The blood of the covenant, too, is sacrificial; and, as we have seen, it is probable that all blood sacrifices, and not those of the sin and guilt offerings only, were associated with propitiatory power. Wendt denies that there is here any reference to sin and its forgiveness (Teachings of Jesus , II, 241 f). It must be admitted that the words in Matthew "unto remission of sins," which have no counterpart in the other reports, are probably an explanatory expansion of the words actually uttered. But they are a true interpretation of their meaning, as is attested by the fact that the new covenant of Jeremiah's prophecy was one of forgiveness and justification (Jeremiah 31:34 ), and that Christ speaks of His blood as shed for others. And as the Passover signified deliverance from bondage to an earthly power (Egypt), so the Supper stands for forgiveness and deliverance from a spiritual power (sin). Clearly Christ here represents Himself as the Mediator of the new covenant, through whom men are to find acceptance with God, though the exact modus operandi of His sacrifice is not indicated.

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.

The early speeches in Acts reveal a primitive stage of theological reflection. Yet they are essentially Christocentric. ( a ) It is the Messianic Kingship of Christ that is chiefly emphasized. The main thesis is that Jesus is the Messiah (the "anointed one"; compare Acts 4:27; Acts 10:38 ), and that His Messiahship was realized in the crucifixion and attested by the resurrection. An important feature is the use of the title "Servant" for Christ (Acts 3:13 , Acts 3:16; Acts 4:27 , Acts 4:30; compare Acts 8:30-35 ), in evident reference to the Suffering Servant of Deutero-Isaiah. In the phrase, "thy holy Servant ... whom thou didst anoint ," coming immediately after the Messianic quotation, "against the Lord, and against his Anointed" (Acts 4:26 f), we have a concise instance of that coalescing of the idea of the Messiah with that of the Suffering Servant which gave the Messianic idea an entirely new meaning. As Messiah, Jesus was the sole Mediator of salvation ( Acts 4:12 ). (b ) Another Old Testament type which finds its fulfillment in Jesus is that of the "prophet like unto" Moses ( Acts 3:22; Acts 7:37; compare Deuteronomy 18:15 , Deuteronomy 18:18 ). (c ) But the priestly functions of Christ are not explicitly touched on. The questions are not faced, What is the God-ward significance of His death? How is it effective for man's salvation? It is rather the man-ward significance that is made explicit, i.e. Jesus as Messiah mediates salvation to men from His place of exaltation at the right hand of God. Yet the germs of a God-ward mediation are found in the identification of the Messiah with the Suffering Servant.

(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 (James 1:1; James 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" (James 1:18 , James 1:21 ), which _ must 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 (Judges 1:4 , Judges 1:21 , Judges 1:25 ).

(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 (1 Peter 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" (1 Peter 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" (1 Peter 2:5 ). So the elect are sprinkled with the blood of Christ, i.e. brought into communion with God by His sacrifice (1 Peter 1:2 ). Relatively to man, it is a means of ransoming or liberating man from the bondage compare sin. "Knowing that ye were redeemed (ἐλυτρώθητε , elutrṓthēte , literally, "ransomed," from lútron , "ransom," an echo of Mark 10:45 )...with precious blood, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot" (1 Peter 1:18 , 1 Peter 1:19 ). 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 Isaiah 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" (1 Peter 2:24; see the whole passage, 1 Peter 2:21-24 , reminiscent of the figure of the Suffering Servant of Isaiah, Isaiah 53:1-12 ).

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 (1 Timothy 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" (Galatians 3:19 , Galatians 3:20 ).

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 Leviticus 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 Acts 7:53; Hebrews 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:

The need of a Mediator arises out of the fact of sin . Sin interrupts the harmonious relation between God and man. It results in a state of mutual alienation. On the one hand, man is in a state of enmity to God ( Romans 5:10; Romans 8:7; Colossians 1:21 ). On the other hand, God is moved to righteous wrath in relation to the sinner (Romans 1:18; Romans 5:9; Ephesians 5:6; Colossians 3:6 ). Hence, the need of a mutual change of attitude, a removal of God's displeasure against the sinner as well as of the sinner's hostility to God. God could not restore man to favor by a mere fiat, without some public exhibition of Divine righteousness, and vindication of His character as not indifferent to sin (compare Romans 3:25 , Romans 3:26 ). Such exhibition demanded 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:

Firstly, He is Himself a man , i.e. not merely "man" generically, but an individual man. The "one mediator between God and men" is "himself man, Christ Jesus" ( 1 Timothy 2:5 ), "born of a woman" (Galatians 4:4 ), "in the likeness of sinful flesh" (Romans 8:3 , where the word "likeness" does not make "flesh" unreal, but qualifies "sinful"), i.e. bore to the eye the aspect of an ordinary man; secondly, He bore a particular relation to a section of humanity, the Jews ( Romans 1:3; Romans 9:5 ); thirdly, He bore a universal relation to mankind in general. He was more than an individual among many, like a link in a chain. He was the Second Adam, the archetypal, universal, representative Man, whose actions therefore had significance beyond Himself and were ideally the actions of humanity, just as Adam's act had, on a lower plane, a significance for the whole race ( Romans 5:12-21; 1 Corinthians 15:22 , 1 Corinthians 15:45 ).

(b) His Relation to God:

Paul very frequently speaks of Christ as the "Son of God," and that in a unique sense. Moreover, He was the "image of God" (2 Corinthians 4:4; Colossians 1:15 ), and subsisted originally "in the form of God" (Philippians 2:6 ). He is set alongside with God over against idols (1 Corinthians 8:5 , 1 Corinthians 8:6 ), and is coordinated with God in the benediction (2 Corinthians 13:14 ). Clearly Paul sets Him in the Divine sphere over against all that is not God. Yet he assigns Him a certain subordination, and even asserts that His mediatorial kingship will come to an end, that God may be all in all (1 Corinthians 15:24 , 1 Corinthians 15:28 ). But this cessation of His function as Mediator of salvation, when its end shall have been attained, cannot affect His Divine dignity, "since the mediatorial sovereignty which is now ceasing was not its cause, but its consequence" (B. Weiss, II, 396).

(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 ( 2 Corinthians 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 (2 Corinthians 5:19; compare Colossians 1:20 , Colossians 1:21; Ephesians 2:16 ). (b) It is an act of propitiation ( Romans 3:25 , ἱλαστήριον , hilastḗrion , from ἱλάσκεσθαι , hiláskesthai , "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.). ( c ) It is a ransom . The Mediator "gave himself a ransom for all" (1 Timothy 2:6 ). The idea of payment of a ransom price is clearly implied in the word "redemption" (Romans 3:24; 1 Corinthians 1:30; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14 , ἀπολύτρωσις , apolútrōsis , from lútron , "ransom"). It is not alone the fact of liberation (Westcott, Ritschl), but also the cost of liberation that is referred to. Hence, Christians are said to be "redeemed," "bought with a price" ( Galatians 3:13; Copyright Statement
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Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. Entry for 'Mediation; Mediator'. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​isb/​m/mediation-mediator.html. 1915.
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