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Holman Bible Dictionary
Old Testament Only once is a specific word used for mediator in the Old Testament. Bewilderment in the midst of extreme suffering forced from Job a plea for an arbiter, one to whom he could relate, to stand between him and God in judgment (Job 9:33 ). The concept of someone standing between opposing persons as spokesman or reconciler is a central one in the Old Testament. In human relationships, a champion could come between armies and represent his people (1 Samuel 17:4-10 ), and an interpreter or spokesman helped negotiate agreements. In divine-human relations, a leader such as Abraham could negotiate with God for the sparing of a city (Genesis 18:22-32 ), and a father such as Job could intercede with sacrifices for his family (Job 1:5 ).
More often, kings, priests, and prophets took this middle position. The king embodied the people and, at times, represented God to them (Psalm 93:1 ). Priests were consecrated to offer sacrifices of reconciliation, with the most awesome transaction dependent upon the high priest who entered yearly into the holy of holies to make atonement for the sins of his people (Leviticus 16:29-34 ). Israel itself was to be a kingdom of priests to channel the blessings of God to all people. Constantly, the prophets had to recall the nation to its vows of obedience and deliver God's words of judgment and hope. The Servant Songs of Isaiah told of one—whose sacrifice of Himself would bring pardon to many (Isaiah 53:1 ).
One of the greatest examples of mediators is Moses. He stood between the people and God, receiving the Commandments on which the covenant was based and beseeching God's mercy when the Commandments and covenant were broken (Exodus 20:18-21; Deuteronomy 9:25-26 ). Also, the wisdom, word, and Spirit of God were almost personified and used along with angels (messengers) as mediating agents (Proverbs 8:22-31; Psalm 104:4 ).
New Testament The Greek word used for mediator in the New Testament bore several ideas. Primarily, it meant an umpire or peacemaker who came between two contestants, a negotiator who established a certain relationship, or some neutral person who could guarantee an agreement reached.
The term is used of Moses in a negative sense (Galatians 3:19-28 ). There Paul stressed the preeminence of the promise given directly to Abraham by grace over the law which was instituted through the mediator, Moses, when the people feared meeting God face-to-face (compare Exodus 20:18-21 ). In 1 Timothy 2:5 , the term is used in a positive sense to designate Christ, the only necessary Mediator. This passage emphasizes not only that the legalities of the law or the ministrations of a priest are no longer necessary, but also that individuals cannot come into full communion with God by their moral or rational efforts alone. Full communion comes through faith in the Mediator who gave Himself a ransom for others.
The only other uses of the term occur in Hebrews where Jesus is presented as the Son of God who transcends all previous agents of the divine will and who mediates a new covenant (Hebrews 8:6; Hebrews 9:15; Hebrews 12:24 ). In each instance, the mediation of a new covenant is bound up with Christ's sacrificial death.
Thus, all of the mediating activities of intercession, sacrificial atonement, and covenant making and guaranteeing culminate in the New Testament with Christ. He is the great Intecessor, praying for His disciples while on earth and continuing to do so in heaven (John 17:1; Romans 8:34 ). He is the supreme High Priest who enters once for all into the sanctuary to make a sacrifice of Himself that brings eternal redemption (Hebrews 9:11-12 ). He is the Mediator of a better covenant which replaces the old one (Hebrews 8:6; Hebrews 9:15 ). By remaining forever, He guarantees that the covenant He establishes will forever endure since His priesthood never ends (Hebrews 7:22-25 ). As true God and true Man, Christ stands between and with both God and humankind and is the answer to Job's plea. Barbara J. Bruce
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Mediator'. Holman Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hbd/m/mediator.html. 1991.