Is Jesus or Joshua Referenced in Hebrews 4:8 & Acts 7:45?
Jesus or Joshua, Giver of Rest to Israel? Hebrews 4:8
Details of New-Testament Christology appearing only in the KJV, while Greek-text inerrancy is maintained, will reveal providential guidance in the writing of the KJV. This occurs in Heb.4:8 as the incarnate name Jesus applies to the pre-incarnate Christ who is with Israel in the wilderness wandering after Egyptian bondage. It’s no surprise to see Christ here, for Micah 5:2 says He who entered the stream of human events at Bethlehem was eternal God whose goings forth (appearances) have been from of old, from everlasting (He has no beginning of days).
In Heb.4:8 the KJV notes Jesus not giving the wilderness wanderers under Moses a spiritual rest in faith. Scholars reject use of Jesus in this verse, for the Greek name corresponds to Joshua’s Hebrew name. Early-church elders understood the passage to refer to Christ,* but scholars today say Jesus in the passage is the historical Joshua. The passage suggests to scholars Joshua leading his people to eventual rest in Canaan, a faithless people who need the great spiritual rest of faith for God’s people.**
* Evans, C.A. 2002. The Scriptures of Jesus and His Earliest Followers. “The Canon Debate.” Ed.
Mcdonald, L.M. & Sanders, J.A.
**Hagner, D.A. 1983. Hebrews: A Good News Com. Harper & Row
In the New Testament, Greek forms of Hebrew names are common, but that doesn't apply here. The Greek text is inspired, and Iesous in the Greek of the Hebrews epistle can’t be Joshua since that would create identity confusion denying inerrancy, there being no qualifying explanation. If the historical Joshua were intended here, he would be identified in a way other than by a Greek form of his name. This is very likely because the scholarly Hebrews writer, an expert in Hebrew culture & Greek language, would know that the ambiguity creates a potential for misconstruing the identity of the personage here.
Further, the name Jesus in reference to Christ is noted shortly after verse 8, in verse 14, and the verse-8 theme on rest relates to the verse 14-16 theme on God’s mercy and grace as the basis for rest. Indeed, the epistle concentrates on Christ, the name Jesus being noted in clear references to Christ through- out (2:9, 6:20, 7:22, 10:19, 12:2,24 & 13:12), while Joshua is nowhere evident in Hebrews, and would not be introduced solely & abruptly in verse 4:8. Christ is likely referenced by his incarnate name in order to make the point that our beloved Jesus, who showed His people what God is like, fed the hungry, raised the dead and gave himself for our salvation, is the same one who, in His pre-incarnate form, spoke through David about the vital need for the rest in faith. Showing God's people, and the whole world, that Jesus is present in veiled form throughout the Old Testament would be a crucial factor in evangelizing the world, especially in the early-church centuries.
The notion that Heb.4:8 refers to Joshua is linguistically & contextually un- sound, as seen by the clear indication here of Christ in Israel's past. The verse is preceded by an account in chapters 3,4 of failure of the Moses-led wanderers to enter into a rest of faith in God. This spiritual rest is the type referenced in Heb.4:8. The rest scripture associates Joshua with by his lead- ership in Canaan victories, was a physical temporal one, and Heb.4:8 implies the physical rest, but doesn’t refer to Joshua. The physical rest was given by God through Christ, as seen by His appearance in theophany as Captain of the Host, before whom Joshua bowed in submission before leading Israel into war (Josh.5:13-15). Thus even the implied physical rest refers to Christ, and it’s this Jesus who didn't give the greater spiritual rest. Thus he in Heb. 4:8 refers to Christ, as expected with Jesus being the immediate grammatic- al antecedent to he, while modern scholars link he to a grammatically-dis- tant reference to God the Father.
With Jesus as the giver of physical rest, language/context proves Christ is the Jesus of Heb.4:7,8. The KJB says…he limiteth a certain day, saying in David, To day, after so long a time…harden not your hearts…if Jesus had given them rest (this alludes to the physical rest given by Christ pre-incarnate, and the direct subject is spiritual rest) then would he not afterward have spoken of another day. When he spoke of another day, this was in/through, David at the writing of Ps.95, ~400 years after the time of the historical Joshua. How could this Joshua be with Israel and ~400 years later speak holy scripture in or through David? However, Jesus the Christ, the living eternal Word of God, has no trouble being with the wilderness wanderers, and ~400 years later speaking through David in the writing of scripture. As a matter of fact, the words harden not your heart and words about entering into God's rest in Psalm 95 are those spoken by Christ in an example of inspiration by dictation, and divine authorship of the words of the Psalm is proven by consistent use of first-person pronouns in the passage relating to matters of God's judgment of the wilderness wanderers.
NIV & RSV translators tried to justify "Joshua" by changing he (God the Son) to God (the Father implied). This permits a change in passage sense to allow the name of the historical Joshua linguistically (not contextually). But, as the RSV reveals in footnotes, the word in the Greek is he, and other vers- ions, the NASV & Amplified, have he. The NASV skirts the issue, capitalizing H in he to suggest that the Father or Jesus can be understood. Jewett in his personal translation, free of group pressure, renders he and speaks of the impossibility that Jesus could be the historical Joshua.*
*Jewett, R. 1981. Letter to Pilgrims: A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews. N.Y. Pilgrim Press. p2
The Hebrews writer speaks of Christ's role in dealing with a lack of faith of God's Old Testament people at a time in history when the presence of Christ is verified in 1 Cor.10:4. Paul refers to Christ as the spiritual rock that follow- ed Israel (in the wilderness wandering with Israel under Moses). The major purpose of the Hebrews writer is to relate Jesus, not Joshua, to Old Testa- ment history, and Heb.4:8 does so. He teaches the truth of Micah 5:2 on the appearances of Christ pre-dating His Incarnation at Bethlehem, to illustrate His status as God without beginning of days.
Jesus or Joshua, Leader of God's Old Testament People? Acts 7:45
Providential KJV guidance is seen in another case of Jesus and Joshua, the Acts 7:45 confrontation of the Christian martyr Stephen with the Jerusalem council. In the KJV, Stephen speaks of ancient Hebrew fathers bringing the tabernacle with Jesus into the land of Canaan. Modern versions, such as the NASV & RSV, have them bringing in the tabernacle with Joshua, which is grammatically awkward & ambiguous, for, while it can be interpreted logic- ally as saying that the fathers acted with Joshua to bring in the tabernacle into Canaan, it can also be interpreted illogically as saying they brought in the tabernacle and their leader Joshua together. In the NIV the problem is recognized and addressed by saying the tabernacle was brought in under the leadership of Joshua which is capricious word choice that obscures the issue and allows Joshua.
But Jesus offers dual-sense logic, not ambiguity, suggesting more than one truth, and indicating Jesus is correct. This logic has physical and spiritual aspects. In a physical sense, the fathers act with Jesus, the Captain of the host and the true leader, to bring in the tabernacle to Canaan. In a spiritual sense they bring in the tabernacle together with Jesus since the tabernacle is symbolic of Christ in several ways, as students in a Pentateuch class know (confirming that Jesus in Heb.4:8 is Christ pre-incarnate).
The dual-sense logic is vital to Stephen who recounts Israel's history to the council to show them Jesus as the God of their history and to denounce their crucifixion of their own Messiah (Acts 7:52). The council knows that Jesus is Messiah (Mt.21:38) and can be convicted by scripture of their sin in betray- ing Him. And Stephen knows scripture, and would not miss the chance to stir-up the council's scriptural knowledge by showing to them the dual-sense logic of Jesus spiritually linked to the tabernacle. He establishes Jesus in their minds as foundational to their history, and shows them Jesus Christ as the Captain of the Host giving ancient Israel physical victories in Canaan. Re- garding the latter point, it would be Stephen's intent to show them Jesus gave the victories to correct their belief that Joshua did this. He can't mean Joshua, for that would defeat his intent. He must name Jesus Christ openly at, or very near, the point of Acts 7:45 in his oration since he has only alluded to Him so far (Acts 7:37). The opportunity soon will be gone as he's very close to the point where he will denounce the council for their betrayal of Jesus.