Radiance, Power, and Righteous Character

From The Glory of God and the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ, 13-14 (1949)

Perhaps Isaiah of Jerusalem had a decisive influence on the Old Testament understanding of God’s self-revelation expressed in the Hebrew word for glory – kabod, as a result of the vision which he saw in the temple (Isa. 6:1-4). The glory of the Lord is linked with is holiness; and if his holiness means a remoteness from all that is unrighteous, his glory is that union of sovereignty and righteousness, which is the essence of the divine character. Isaiah’s words have significance for the revelation of God’s glory that reaches far beyond the Old Testament, however, into the worship of the Christian Church. For in the liturgy of the Church the adoration of the divine glory in the words of the song of the seraphim, “Holy, Holy, Holy,” immediately precedes the Eucharistic action, in which the glory of the Cross of Christ is set forth.

The post-exilic writer of the last part of Isaiah, however, pictures Jerusalem as the scene of the shining forth of the glory of God to the nations (Isa. 60:1-3). Here the idea of radiance has the greatest prominence. Indeed, in the glory of the Lord, radiance, power, and righteous character are inextricably blended; and the word tells of a theology in which the attributes of God in himself are inseparable from his attractiveness and the saving activity in the world. Israel’s knowledge of God’s glory has its corollary, however, in Israel’s obligation to reflect God’s character in care for the poor and the naked (Isa. 58:7-8).

Archbishop Michael Ramsey (1904-1988) was the 100th Archbishop of Canterbury. A gifted spiritual theologian and a strong advocate of Christian unity, he taught at Durham and Cambridge before being consecrated as Bishop of Durham in 1952. His study of the Transfiguration, The Glory of God and the Transfiguration of Jesus Christ was probably the most scholarly of his many books, following in the footsteps of the early twentieth century “Biblical theology” movement, and Ramsey counted it as his favorite.


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