Merriam-Webster defines archetype as “the original pattern or model of which all things of the same type are representations or copies; a perfect example.” Halverson tells us that, “Archetypes are standard characters that one might expect to find in a story. They unlock motives and operate as ‘shorthand for situations’ in which characters might find themselves. All archetypes are tied to story forms, but not all characters in stories are necessarily archetypes” (Halverson, 21). Carl Jung borrowed from Kant’s “forms,” Plato’s “ideas,” and Schopenhaur’s “prototypes” to further develop the concept of archetypes (Samuels, 1986). For Jung, archetypes were highly established components of a community’s or a culture’s collective unconscious. As such they were to be discovered by investigating outward behavior, symbols, stories, and religious beliefs. Archetypes play a key role in how humans think, relate, and understand their perceived reality.
The God of the Scriptures is presented to humankind with a kaleidoscope of archetypes – supreme archetypes. A prime example comes right out of the starting block: God is introduced in Genesis chapter one as the powerful, almighty Creator. By the sheer power of merely speaking words, the cosmos was brought into existence. Just saying “light” brought light into existence. Just saying “sun, moon, stars” brought the entirety of those vast and immense celestial bodies into existence. Imagine, just saying, “Lamborghini,” and wah-lah – she’s in the driveway. The genesis of written revelation begins with this grand Creator image/archetype of God in order to dispel the various major rival cosmologies familiar to the Israelites wandering in the desert wilderness. Those rival stories were well known to the tribes of Israel – this newly penned story by a first-time national author (Moses) hit the stands to dispel those stories and construct another – one that is real.
Following fast upon the Creator archetype comes one generally seen in more somber garb: here comes the judge – the Supreme Judge. One can follow this judge motif (and archetypical characteristic) of God all the way through the biblical story. See it burst on the scene in Genesis three when Adam and Eve choose to listen to and obey a rival voice. From then on in the story it scarcely stops. See the Judge with Cain. With the generation of Noah. With Sodom and Gomorrah. With Samson. With Saul. With David. With Solomon. With Israel. With Jesus (vicariously). Ah, and then there is the book of Revelation. No doubt about it – God is the archetypical righteous Judge.
Then, of course, there is God the Savior. This trail through Scripture follows much the same terrain as that of Judge. He is judging. But he is also saving. He does not leave all mankind in that sunken fallen state. No, he saves some. He comes up with a most staggering plan to righteously save unrighteous man. The Bible is a story of God as Savior. Right to the end.
Creator, Judge, and Savior – three obvious God archetypes. There are others, many others. But what we really want to see here is that as incredibly important as these aspects of God are, God was something (in logical sequence) before he was Creator. God was something (in logical sequence) before he was Judge. And God was something (in logical sequence) before he was Savior. Before he created, judged, and saved the world, he was somebody doing something.
In order to understand this created world now, we need to understand something of God’s uncreated world then. Who was he (first, in logical sequence) and what was he doing (first, in logical sequence)? He was not creating, judging, and saving – not yet. Not before creation. Who was he? Answer: He was Trinity. Now granted, “the doctrine of the Trinity is one of those Christian beliefs that we all affirm but which, in our more honest moments, we often think is rather perplexing and somewhat remote from ordinary life" (Parry, 3). We will find, however, that the Trinity is far from “remote from ordinary life.” So, other than being Trinity, what was God doing? Answer: He was relating within the community of the Trinity. “Before he ever ruled the world, before anything else, this God was a Father loving his son” (Reeves, 21). The God of the Scriptures is triune. This makes Him distinct. And it makes Him (by nature) One who relates, loves, and is in a perpetual state of "reaching out." God is (first and foremost) the One who relates, loves, and reaches out. He is the loving Relator.