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Genesis 18:1-2

1 The LORD appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre while he was sitting at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day. 2 Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby.

I didn't include the entire chapter of Genesis 18 here, but, it seems that three men appear to Abraham just before Sodom is destroyed. They have come down so that "the Lord" can see for himself before he judges them. Over and over one of the men, in particular, is referred to by Abraham and the narrator as 'the Lord'.

Is this appearance understood to be a Christophany?

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Just in case I'm not the only one... "A Christophany is an appearance, or non-physical manifestation, of Christ." Wikipedia –  Wikis Sep 2 '11 at 7:49

5 Answers 5

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Looking at the opening verse you've quoted "The LORD appeared...", where the proper name of God, YHWH, is used, seems to set the context as being a Christophany. That it then goes on to say Abraham "saw three men", is not discounting that - it's quite common for angelic apparitions and Christophanies to be described in human terms, since they often initially appear to be normal men (I am reminded of Hebrews 13:2, "Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it").

Then again, a little further on we read the proper name of God again:

Gen 18:13-14

13 Then the LORD said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ 14 Is anything too hard for the LORD? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”

Further indicating that God himself was actually present.

Now since God is Spirit and John's Gospel tells us:

John 1:18 18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

this indicates that it's the incarnate Son who makes God known within this creation; indeed Jesus is the image of the invisible God

Colossians 1:15 15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.

and Jesus himself says:

John 6:46 46 No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father.

Getting back to our passage, we see:

Gen 18:16-19

16 When the men got up to leave, they looked down toward Sodom, and Abraham walked along with them to see them on their way. 17 Then the LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do? 18 Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him.[c] 19 For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just, so that the LORD will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him.”

Which very much seems like God himself discoursing with the other two angels who are with him.

Finally, we have the famous discourse between Abraham and God about Sodom and Gomorrah, in verses 27-33.

The only two interpretations other than a Christophany would be either (a) God the Father was manifest in this creation, or (b) angels are indistinguishable extensions of the presence of God, so much so that encounters with them are recorded with the proper name of God.

The sheer weight of evidence in this passage indicating the God himself was there, and the understanding that it is the Son who is the manifest presence of God in this word, leads me to conclude unequivocally that this was indeed a Christophany.

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Christphany is from the Greek noun Christos- "Christ, Anointed", and the Greek ending "phany" from the verb phaneroō, to be revealed or to manifest. So, it is Christ made known and clear to the eye. So, one was Christophany.

Just to confirm that the other two were angels and the third was the LORD (YHWH)

We put Chapters 18 and 19 of Genesis together.

First let's start with Genesis 18 vs 2 vs 2 "When he lifted up his eyes and looked, behold, three men were standing opposite him..."

The word "men" is the Hebrew word "ish" which actually is not merely used for people but for animals and angels it is a way of saying male (masculine features). Thus this tells us that they were not "adam" or from the soil.

Secondly we set our attention to the following verses of Genesis 18 vs 9-10 & vs 22 vs 9 Then they said to him, “Where is Sarah your wife?” And he said, “There, in the tent.” vs 10 He said, “I will surely return to you at this time next year; and behold, Sarah your wife will have a son.”

vs 22 "Then the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, while Abraham was still standing before the Lord."

I want to point out two things: 1) that one of the men says that he will return and Sarah will have a son. 2) The men have departed to Sodom and the LORD (YHVH) has stayed behind and is still talking to Abraham.

First point: the "man" that says he will return to Sarah we see is the LORD himself as we find in Genesis 21 vs 1 vs 1 "And the LORD visited Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did unto Sarah as he had spoken."

Now Second point: Genesis 19 vs 1 vs 1 "Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening as Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground."

We can make the math two angels are in Sodom (we will see that they are called men or "ish") these angels that are in Sodom are the "men" that left for Sodom in Genesis 18:16 (quoted above) but we only see 2 of the three meaning the third had to be the LORD (YHWH)

Now to confirm that the angels are called men it is confirmed by Genesis 19 vs 12 "Then the two men said to Lot, “Whom else have you here?" We see that same word "ish" not "adam", in Hebrew, is used thus we can conclude two of the three "ish" left to Sodom two being angels and the third "ish" being YHWH himself!

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Welcome to Christianity.SE! For a quick overview of what this site is about, please take the Site Tour. Thanks for offering an answer. It does contain some good information. I would suggest, though, that you include a specific statement in answer to the question of whether this incident in Genesis is a "Christophany," meaning an appearance of Christ. Your answer implies an answer to this question, but doesn't explicitly state an answer. What, exactly, is your answer to the question? –  Lee Woofenden 5 hours ago
I apologize I wasn't aware of this. I will add it now. Thank you for making it clear to me, Mr. Woofenden I will edit it. –  Leslie 54 mins ago

I do not believe that this is a Christophany at all (a spiritual representation). The verse clearly states that three MEN were standing there.

We know that Jesus Christ is the one that created the heavens and the earth from Colossians. So it would seem to me that this is Christ in the flesh, yes, prior to His actual birth as the messiah.

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Hey.. First time for everything ;) –  Ecommerce Consultant Sep 2 '11 at 14:00

It truly was Jesus with two angels. YHWH is Jesus, as also in Isaiah 6:1 - "I saw The Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up". And Isaiah 44:6 - "I am the first and the last" - ties in with Revelation 1:17 - "I am the first and the last".

Later in Genesis 19:1 we read "And there came two angels to Sodom at even". So, Jesus stayed back in verse 18 to talk with Abraham while the two angels went forward towards Sodom.

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it is definitely a christophany... it is true that there were three men: the preincarnate christ and two angels.. note that the 2 angels left and went to sodom and gommorahha while Christ stayed and talked with Abraham (genesis 18:22).. abrahamed bargined with Christ, (who is addressed as Lord) over the fate of sodomm knowing his nephew lot was still there...

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Hi and welcome, could you perhaps expand this a bit, some sources that support your claim. Have a look at the help center when you get some time. –  wax eagle May 27 '14 at 17:43

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