Jesus as Lord in Mark

Ed Dingess, who appears to be a Reformed apologist, has taken the trouble to add some polite and thoughtful comments to my post “Kenton Sparks: historical criticism and the virgin birth”. He makes some good points and raises some good questions about the narrative-historical approach to reading the New Testament, recognizing that it cuts across the grain of more traditional theological readings. He takes issue, however, with my suggestion that it is “difficult to maintain the view that the Jesus of the synoptic Gospels claimed to be God”:

The theme of the divinity of Christ is obvious, not only in the initial launch of Mark’s project which points us up to the coming of Israel’s God in the person of Jesus Christ, but also in the fact that it is carried on throughout the entire project itself.

I will address some of the broader issues relating to method and traditional theological readings in another post—I don’t want my approach to be understood as anti-trinitarian; I don’t think it is, fundamentally, anti-trinitarian. Here I want to consider the claim that the Old Testament quotations in Mark 1:2-4 introduce the theme of the divinity of Jesus. The theoretical discussion should not be pursued apart from a careful and unprejudiced reading of the texts.

As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, “Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’” John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. (Mark 1:2–4)

The quotations from Isaiah and Malachi make it clear that Jesus is expected to fulfil the role of the “Lord” who will both judge the corrupt temple system (Mal. 3:1-4) and restore Israel following punishment (Is. 40:1-5). In the Old Testament this role is performed by YHWH. John proclaims a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins because Israel faces divine judgment.

But as I’ve pointed out on many occasions, the synoptic writers—and the writers of the New Testament generally—do not construe the lordship of Jesus as an expression of his identification with God, as a matter of ontological equivalence. Rather they maintain that Jesus has been chosen and authorized exceptionally by God to judge and restore.

So yes, Old Testament kyrios texts are applied to Jesus, but not because Jesus is thought to be YHWH: rather the role or function or agency that is indicated by kyrios has been transferred by YHWH to Jesus for the sake of the eschatological renewal of his people. So the Jews who will be saved from the destruction of the end of the age are those who call not on the name of YHWH but on the name of the Lord Jesus (Acts 2:21; Rom. 10:13; cf. Joel 2:32). Why? Because by the resurrection “God has made (epoiēsen) him both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36).

This is clearly and repeatedly stated, and it needs to be respected. There is no point in defending a high view of Christ at the cost of a low view of scripture.

Mark’s Gospel slips comfortably into this narrative. The messenger who prepares the way for the Lord says that Jesus will be greater in that he will baptize with the Holy Spirit (Mk. 1:8). At Jesus’ baptism the Spirit descends upon him, and a voice is heard identifying Jesus not with God but with the chosen servant of God, in whom God delights, upon whom God has set his Spirit so that he will “bring forth justice to the nations”, the king to whom God will give the nations as his heritage (Mk. 1:10-11):

Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. (Is. 42:1)

I will tell of the decree: The LORD said to me, “You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.” (Ps. 2:7–8)

That is, John prepares the way for the Lord who will come to judge and restore Israel, but the one who directly appears is the chosen, Spirit-filled, servant of God, authorized to carry out, on behalf of God, the tasks implied in Mark 1:2-3. He will be able to pour out the Spirit on his followers not because he is God but because he “received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:33).

This is also what we are to understand by the proclamation with which Jesus then begins his ministry:

The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel. (Mk. 1:15)

The coming of the kingdom of God will climax in the vindication of Jesus as the Son of Man, who will receive kingdom and glory from God, and of those who are not ashamed of him at his coming (Mk. 8:38).

At the end, Jesus tells Caiaphas that he will “see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven” (Mk. 14:62). The allusion to Daniel 7 and Psalm 110 makes it abundantly clear that Jesus sees himself as the one who will, as a consequence of his suffering, be authorized by God to judge and rule at least Israel and possibly also the nations.

So this is how the expectation generated by the quotation of Isaiah and Malachi right at the start of the Gospel is realized. First, the story of Jesus’s baptism identifies him as the chosen servant who will baptize Israel with the Holy Spirit, who will judge the corrupt temple system, who will rule at the right hand of YHWH. Secondly, Jesus himself tells a story about the coming kingdom of God that will climax in his exaltation to the right hand of the Father in the heaven, from where he will rule as God’s proxy until the last enemy has been destroyed (cf. Mk. 12:36).

Only God can forgive sins?

Ed also puts forward the familiar argument that only God could forgive sins, therefore Jesus was God:

Statements about His Lordship over the Sabbath, His ability to forgive sins…, etc., show that the authors believed Jesus to be divine and they show Jesus to be self-consciously aware of His own divinity.

The problem is that the texts simply do not bear that out. Jesus explains to the shocked scribes why he presumes to forgive the paralytic’s sins: it is not because he is God but because “the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”. Normally God would forgive sins from heaven, but exceptionally—and outrageously—he has given the authority to forgive Israel’s sins to Jesus on earth, because he is the Son of Man (Mk. 2:10). In Matthew 9:8 the crowds “glorified God, who had given such authority to men”. There is no suggestion that they had jumped to the wrong conclusion. In fact, they appear to have understood Jesus perfectly.

The simple fact is this. At every point in the New Testament “lordship” is something that is given to Jesus by his Father, especially as a consequence of his obedient suffering. Philippians 2:9-11 could hardly be clearer: Jesus was obedient to death, therefore God bestowed on him the name which is above every name. The lordship of Jesus is the wrong place to look for a New Testament statement of divine identity.

Classical trinitarianism is powerless to tell this story. Classical trinitarianism can only render it down to a metaphysical drama about incarnation and redemption. What we lose is not only the sense that at the heart of this is Israel’s story, but also the crucial significance of Jesus’ role as an obedient son or servant who is the forerunner of the eschatological communities—the firstborn of many brothers—which will have to make the arduous historical journey from the mess of first century Israel to the victory of YHWH over the nations.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit

The same argument applies in the case of another passage that Ed highlights:

Having read a few of your responses to those texts that most orthodox scholars accept as pointing to the divinity of Christ, I could not help but notice that when given the chance to admit that a particular passage (Matt. 28:19) is likely revealing Christ’s divinity, you preferred the interpretation with a lower christology, even when that interpretation has less to commend it.

All the way through Matthew the sonship of Jesus entails an identification with obedient Israel (“out of Egypt I have called my son”), with the servant of YHWH, and the thought that the obedient servant will be vindicated and given authority to rule at the right hand of the Father (Matt. 16:27; 26:64). The “Son of God” is the faithful Jew who has made the Lord his dwelling place, who will be safeguarded by God’s angels (Matt. 4:6; cf. Ps. 91:9-11). The “beloved Son” is YHWH’s servant, Israel’s king (cf. Matt. 17:5). This identification with obedient Israel is carried through to the extent that Jesus promises his disciples that they will reign with him (Matt. 19:28).

So when we come to the baptismal formula in Matthew 28:19, we must surely suppose that baptism in the name of the Son means baptism in the name of the one who was obedient, suffered, died, was raised to the right hand of the Father, and who would sooner rather than later come to judge and rule over his people. The candidate for baptism identifies himself or herself with this story. It might provide the basis for a narrative or apocalyptic trinitarianism of some sort—that remains to be seen. But it is too much to claim that either Jesus or Matthew was referring in non-apocalyptic terms to the three persons of the triune God.

I’ll come back to the issue of a “lower christology” bias another day.

Comments

I will address some of the broader issues relating to method and traditional theological readings in another post—I don’t want my approach to be understood as anti-trinitarian; I don’t think it is, fundamentally, anti-trinitarian.

Hi Andrew,

I am saying to myself the same thing as you as I read your - in my thinking, very helpful - posts on this topic, but in a context of being in relationship with my Jewish, Muslim, and Christian Unitarian friends.

The question that comes to my mind, if we are to keep the narrative-historical reading of scripture as the reading that is most faithful to the text, what right did anyone subsequent to this context have in imposing another framework on it and therefore arrive at understanding(s) that fundamentally take us away from these scriptures’ focus, whether Arius or Athanasius? Could they have just answered “We don’t do Greek Philosphy; this is different.”

I see it in the interaction between commenters like Jaco over Cherylu and JT from previous posts. As long as later theological reflection holds precedence over the text, and the questions brought to the text are, for example, “what is Jesus made of so that he can do the work of atonement;” or, “what is he made of so that we can explain incarnation,” don’t these questions obscure what the scriptures want to tell us and where they want to move us, and more fundamentally, what we really do need to believe to enter into this redemptive stream of history?

When Jesus tells me “You will know them by their fruits,” and, “Those who do the will of the Father will enter the Kingdom,” I am at a loss to see how Orthodoxy will ever make it, especially as I see it in relationship to others actually bearing the kind of fruit Jesus requires, but residing outside of it. I actually wonder most times if Servetus isn’t with Jesus, and Calvin isn’t in hell (just using the familiar understanding to make the contrast).

I am not “anti-Trinitarian.” When I am with my Muslim friends, I realize I cannot have the kind of reaction they do to the doctrine. However, the pressing issue for me in my context has been: has the church and its “orthodoxy” actually kept those outside it from seeing where our revelation focuses, because they have real concerns about the doctrine arising out of the kind of history that produced it?

All in all, I am very interested in how you’ve done your “project” Andrew, for very important reasons. The prophetic voices of the church have been constantly squelched in history, sometimes in very violent ways - ways that don’t show that Orthodoxy knows what Jesus is even about (to be fair, if any other entity had power it would probably do the same). However, I do wonder what “council” you would have to justify yourself before if the circumstances in which you and I live were like those of Christendom when it had the power to enforce creedal assent.

Mark

Some excellent reflections, Mark! Thank you.

One response I would make at this point is that a narrative-historical approach ought to be able to accommodate the contextualized development that was the theology of Christendom. I think the Greeks were doing what they had to do as a consequence of the success of the apocalyptic narrative. They had to answer Greek questions, and they devised many hermeneutical strategems to give the appearance at least that they were answering those questions biblically. That is all part of the story that we tell about ourselves.

The problem now is that the theologies of Christendom no longer answer the questions that the western world is asking. So they are problematic at both ends: they misunderstand scripture and they misunderstand our post-Christendom context.

So the story of the people of God keeps moving forwards. How we currently locate ourselves in it is a complex calculation involving the historical texts of scripture, the ongoing narrative of church history, and the present quandary that we face. I would suggest that conversation with Islam is an important part of this calculation and should be taken into account as we try to make sense of who Jesus is.

I think the Greeks were doing what they had to do as a consequence of the success of the apocalyptic narrative. They had to answer Greek questions, and they devised many hermeneutical strategems to give the appearance at least that they were answering those questions biblically.

Maybe you don’t mean it this way Andrew, but that statement comes across as if you are saying that those folks that hammered out what has been accepted as correct/orthodox theology for centuries now were not being entirely honest. To “devise stragems” to “give the appearance at least” of being “biblical” sounds like a very pragmatic attempt at coming up with an answer they thought would work–and would even give an “appearance” of coming from Scripture itself and thus correct. It doesn’t sound like you think they were really interested in the truth–only an answer that worked at the moment.

Yes, that was a rather heavy-handed way of putting it. The Greek Fathers hammered out a theological orthodoxy within the only worldview that they knew. They had no other choice, and I am happy to accept that they did it with a high level of intellectual integrity. The question is whether the observation that their worldview diverged both from the New Testament worldview and our own postmodern, post-Christendom worldview gives us grounds to relativize Christendom orthodoxy in some way.

I do not at all understand your last sentence. How could their world view diverge from our own postmodern, post-Christendom worldview?

OK, it would be more accurate to say that our worldview has diverged from theirs.

But Andrew, truth is still truth. If what they believed and stated in the the 4th century, (and the centuries before that after His resurrection) was indeed truth and the correct understanding of who He was/is, then it is still true today. And it will continue to be truth no matter what questions the church or the world around us is asking.

Truth about God and Jesus does not change because of our questions and our perceptions.

Yes, truth is still truth. But how we construe, express, structure, interpret, explain, etc., the truth that we have grasped does change as worldviews and knowledge change. The truth of gravity is exactly what it was a thousand years ago, but how we construe, express, structure, interpret, explain that truth now is very different.

And becasue truth is truth, I think we are also bound to read the New Testament—Mark’s Gospel, for example—on its own terms. As soon as we read Mark 1 from within its historical context, on the presumption of a Jewish outlook and worldview, with the Jewish scriptures actively in mind, I think we have to recognize that the story Mark is setting out to tell is not how God became man but how Jesus became Lord.

That, to my mind, is equally a matter of truth, and I’m not prepared to sacrifice it in the interest of preserving a superficial orthodoxy. Reading later ideas into a historical text is not the right way to defend trinitarian belief. It is dishonest, but worse than that, it obscures what the story that Mark actually wanted to tell.

It doesn’t sound like you think they were really interested in the truth–only an answer that worked at the moment.

Don’t know if that is what Andrew was saying or not, but is it not plausible? I see theologians/apologist do that very thing today? Many, when confronted with a “problem” (something that contradicts there current theology) in the Scriptures, will come up with the worest argument, which in their mind sounds great because they need it, just to satisfy their theology. Just look at some of the “answers” that various scholars/theologians have come up with to dance around Matthew 16:28 or 24:34.

Andrew, have you ever read Abraham Joshua Heschel’s classic “The Prophets”? I became acquainted with him years ago when the Mennonites used his book at a pastoral seminar. I sat in and was astounded by this man’s insights. Over the years, I’ve re-read this book with its ability to penetrate the prophet’s understanding of God and what is revealed by it. I have to say I’ve learned more from this Jewish theologian than pretty much any Christian theologian.

Why I bring him and this book to your attention is that he is constantly dealing with the contrasts that occur in history as the biblical God gets revealed in relationship to everything else. By the end of the first volume (both volumes are now combined into one for a text that is a little under 500 pages), one is confronted with God’s pathos, something Heschel indentifies as that which sets the biblical God apart and over against everyone else. In the second volume he delves further into a theology of Pathos and demonstrates the contrasts by showing how the Greek gods went about their business. He also has an excellent paragraph concerning the Muslim conception of Allah, and he does NOT place this within the Greek understanding. That caught my attention.

Here is what I wanted to get to, a quote that begins his chapter on the Philosophy of Pathos:

“The Repudiation of the Divine Pathos: For more than two thousand years Jewish and later Christian theologians have been deeply embarrassed by the constant references in the Bible to the divine pathos. What were the reasons for that embarrassment? Why did they oppose the idea of pathos? The opposition, it seems, was due to a combination of philosophical presuppositions which have their origin in classical Greek thinking.”

He then goes on with his “task”:

“It will be our task to set forth these presuppositions, to examine their validity, to show that these presuppositions represent a particular philosophical perspective, and to inquire whether that perspective is the only way to truth, or whether an alternative way may not disclose a more plausible view of ultimate reality.”

For me, Heschel is doing for theology what you are attempting to do with the biblical narrative in a historical way. However, he is showing how ideas can distort something and making it so obvious to us since we’ve been inundated with it for so long. His contrasts were a revelation to me when I first picked up this book. I found I needed these contrasts to “see.” In one sense I needed to walk in the shoes of the “other” to do this - not to bring my apologetics to bear - as much as to gain understanding of something new to me. Putting aside the apologetics of what was familiar allowed me to learn from Heschel.

It is this exposure that makes me feel that your statement “I think the Greeks were doing what they had to do as a consequence of the success of the apocalyptic narrative. They had to answer Greek questions…” needs to be challenged. I have actually been more accepting of your challenges in the Trinitarian posts than those that see the triumph of Christ over paganism in the empire and therefore allowing the “success of the apocalyptic narrative.” I see this more as a “false start” with tremedous consquences to the understanding of the church in the world than anything else. It most certainly affects the current discussion. Could Heshel’s “task” be used here as well to suggest “whether an alternative way may not disclose a more plausible view of ultimate reality”?

The question I have about Heschel, with his theology of pathos, is why he never came to see God acting in Jesus - doing Messiah in the way of pathos. It might just be that he did not see in Jesus’ followers the way of his God. He is also a corrective to the Protestant understanding of Judaism, the basis of so much misunderstanding of Paul.

Mark

I’ve attempted to address these concerns here.

Hi Mark,

Those of us that you see here defending “orthodoxy” do it because we are convinced that the orthodoxy we are defending is indeed the correct understanding of the Biblical texts. An understanding that was come to and hammered out centuries ago and had it’s beginnings in the first century. If I was convinced that “orthodoxy” was wrong, I would most certainly not be defending it.

I am also a bit confused by your comment about orthoxoy and fruit. Would you please clarify that? And does it have any direct relationship to the conversations on this subject on this blog?

Hi Cherylu,

I didn’t respond to you immediately because I needed to understand what you were asking in the second part of your response, which I see is two questions. I also knew that any response would require some context. I hope you will bear with me in my endeavor to answer you.

But first, regarding your first paragraph: Yes, that you would defend something you think is truth, especially with its historical pedigree, and would put it forward when you see a challenge to it is certainly to be expected. C. FitzSimons Allison, in his book “The Cruelty of Heresy: An Affirmation of Christian Orthodoxy” would put it like this: “Who would ever claim one’s own currently held opinion to be false?” So, in one sense, you have confirmed his statement.

In your second paragraph I do indeed think you are asking legitimate questions. Maybe I can answer them by giving you my situation in life. I come out of the Reformed tradition, not because I saw anything wrong while within it, but because I got acquainted with, and therefore saw it in relationship to, how it treated those outside it. When I got acquainted with Anabaptism through a Mennonite friend of mine, I read about their interaction with the powers that be at the time. There is a standing bit of dark humor in Anabaptist circles that says “The one thing both Protestants and Catholics could agree on was that it was right and proper to murder Anabaptists for God’s sake.” It was how the Anabaptists responded to all this that caught my attention, and started me rethinking everything that goes with what is called the “Constantinian Shift,” including the orthodox doctrine that comes with it.

Anabaptists for the most part remained Trinitarian. Mennonites are to this day Trinitarian. So I certainly recognize that the doctrine itself does not make for “bad fruit.” It is that once I saw something not quite right between what Jesus calls his disciples to, and the justifications for subsequent behavior on the part of the Church to defend orthodoxy, I knew I would never fit back in that context again. So, when Jesus says “You will know them by their fruit,” it is his words right here in this context that come to mind, and therefore this is my reason for making the association. But I do also recognize that most groups will defend their self-preservation, violently if push comes to shove; so even Arianism could do the same given the opportunity. If it had won the day, I would still probably be trying to figure all this out. But the nagging questions that kept coming to mind is “Do I really need to figure all this out? Is this the onus of revelation?

Once you ask that question, you move into an entirely different frame of reference. And if you do that, you ask whether in previous history that kind of shift occurred with others. And, of course, it challenges one to try to understand something like what Andrew is doing. The only way I can do that is put aside the apologetics of my “received” frame of reference, get into his world, and understand it on its own terms. And if it is a better fit than what I have been taught, then there is where I will go. Just because a bickering group of powerful church leaders make a decision in their own frame of reference and enforce it on everyone they can does not mean Jesus had anything to do with it. I thought we would have learned this lesson in John the Baptist’s reponse to the religious leaders when they came inquiring about him.

For the past two years I’ve been in a Muslim community, invited in to learn about Islam where it lives, in a third grade class of their children for Arabic and Quran. My wife and I decided we must understand Islam on its own terms. When I told one of my Christian friends where we were, he asked if I thought I could possibly mend the 1400 year Christian/Islam divide by doing what we were doing. I responded, “Well, it certainly has more chance of success than starting the newest Crusade!”

Being a Christian in America right now lends itself to a certain responsibility and call to discernment in light this context.

It is an eye-opening experience - to me anyway - of what Muslims think of us. Not what the Christian textbooks say they say; what they say themselves. I was with a group of Muslim men at an Iftar dinner (the evening meal that breaks a Ramadan day of fasting), asking questions about their life together in America. Being the only Christian there, it was inevitable that someone would begin challenging me to the “pagan idea of trinity” that I believe about the one true God. Well, I was far enough along in my own question about where the onus of revelation lay that I realized this was just going to be a distraction rather than any clarification. So I proceeded to talk about the story of Messiah Jesus and what it meant for God to work through him in relationship to Israel, and then the world. This was entirely new to them (as it was to me as well!).

This has been lengthy, Cherylu, but I wanted to give you some idea of why I interact with Andrew the way I do. As I said in response to his response to me above, it is a Jewish Theologian that fills out Jesus for me better than most of what I get in Christian theology, simply because of that Greek world where most of what is considered paramount belief in Christianity was forged. Something is definitely wrong; it had and continues to produce a history in relationship to the rest of the world that seems to create the next muddled situation that I have to work through if I want to be faithful to relating Jesus. The kind of Christian parochialism that thinks it is presenting Jesus in a framework that even the outside world can show is problematic (Heschel above), especially when it fails time and again, is not something I can sit back and watch without attempting to remediate. It is the toughest thing I have ever attempted to do, mainly because I find myself alone in doing it. But I have no other alternative.

Mark

Hey Mark,

I’m not too consistent on Andrew’s blog but have found him to be helpful in allowing me to see my inherited assumptions/bias… And this has been helpful as I interact with my Muslim friends/neighbors in the Seattle area with the hope of sharing the goodness of the Kingdom and it’s Messiah… and being a part of his ministry of reconciliation.

… that to say, God has others who are walking the fields along the same lines you are. I would love to interact with you more to learn and be encouraged by you. email? FB? I didn’t see you there… My email is my full name with the middle initial t using g mail. (Can you tell I’m nervous about giving my info out in cyberspace? :)

Grace and peace,

John

Mark,

I see two very basic problems with your approach and perhaps a third one. First, you left the reformed tradition because of how “it” treated those outside of it. A tradition does not treat anyone in any particular way. Some reformed people, specially, the reformed people you knew treated people a certain way. That is not a good reason to forgo the confession. If I followed your logic, I would be tempted to leave Christianity altogether.

Secondly, your approach to Islam seems to posit some sort of pure objectivity or neutrality of worldview. As a Christian, you have an ethical duty to view any and all competing claims to truth in a very specific way. Islam teaches lies about God, Christ, and even their own prophet. You cannot view Islam in any way other than as a false religion making false claims about God. Of course we should be gentle, respectful, and kind. But we cannot, for a second, look at the reality of God the way they do. We must thunder the exclusive claims of Christ always in all places to all men.

Finally, your approach seems far too pragmatic. Because there were men in the Protestant camp and the Catholic camp who were in error, that does not mean that their entire theological systems were in error. To test those systems, we look to Scripture. The wild, ignorant, and loose way the anabaptists handled Scripture along with most everything else was just as much a problem as the sinful desire to kill them for it was. In other words, the anabaptists were no better off than the Ps and Cs who wanted them dead.

Hi Andrew,

Thank you for taking the time to expand our discussion. I must confess I was hoping we would begin with a chat about methodology because it is here, more than anywhere else, that I think the issue rests. Since we come at these texts with two fundamentally different hermeneutics (paradigms), agreement is unlikely. Hence, my comment about where I had hoped we might begin our discussion. At any rate, I do appreciate your remarks and respect your ability to articulate your position so clearly. I only hope I can do the same. I am rather busy over the next couple of days, but I will comment prior to the close of the weekend and hopefully sooner on that timeline than later. I did not want you to think I was simply ignoring your work. I respect your time and wanted to make sure I extended to you a degree of Christian courtesy.

Ed

I’d be interested to hear what Ed’s response to all this is. My main comment is that it’s not a question of theologising versus a narrative-historical understanding of the texts. It’s more a question of which narrative we are talking about in the history, and how did Jesus fulfil it?

Is it a narrative which addresses immediate 1st century concerns only, or is the entire biblical narrative being addressed? Did Jesus come as an Israelite human agent, or did he come as God in person?

The quotations from Isaiah and Malachi make it clear that Jesus is expected to fulfil the role of the “Lord” who will both judge the corrupt temple system (Mal. 3:1-4) and restore Israel following punishment (Is. 40:1-5). In the Old Testament this role is performed by YHWH.

Isaiah 40:3 speaks of the coming of the Lord, which in Hebrew is YHWH, and is what Kyrios stands for in Mark, the word used in LXX translations. In Mark, John is the messenger, the Lord is announced as the one for whose impending arrival Israel was to make herself ready. From the very beginning, we are alerted by the gospel editors to the impending arrival of YHWH in person, not an appointed human representative of YHWH.

The expectations of Malachi and Isaiah are not simply that God will judge the corrupt temple system, but that God will come in person to His temple, just as He was also expected to do in Ezekiel, and will fulfil the purpose for whch the the temple had been made, which is what a considerable part of the story had been all about, both in Second Temple times and times preceding the Second Temple.

But as I’ve pointed out on many occasions, the synoptic writers—and the writers of the New Testament generally—do not construe the lordship of Jesus as an expression of his identification with God, as a matter of ontological equivalence. Rather they maintain that Jesus has been chosen and authorized exceptionally by God to judge and restore.

Yes, I realise that is a central plank of your argument, but is it true? John’s declaration of Isaiah 40:3 and the immediate appearance of Jesus as the one fulfilling the prophecy sets up a different understanding and expectation. Even if it was true that Jesus is merely authorised by YHWH, and not identified with YHWH as YHWH, it would be an extraordinarily novel development, as the acts performed by Jesus, which you go on to describe, would be just as extraordinarily novel to the narrative as a whole coming from a human agent as from God appearing in human form.

the role or function or agency that is indicated by kyrios has been transferred by YHWH to Jesus for the sake of the eschatological renewal of his people. So the Jews who will be saved from the destruction of the end of the age are those who call not on the name of YHWH but on the name of the Lord Jesus (Acts 2:21; Rom. 10:13; cf. Joel 2:32). Why? Because by the resurrection “God has made (epoiēsen) him both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36).

What was actually happening at Pentecost, which led to the statement of Acts 2:36? God the Father gave Jesus the Holy Spirit, which Jesus then poured out - Acts 2:33. But prior to this event and explanation, the OT had prepared us for YHWH alone pouring out the Spirit. This is what is said in the passage Peter quotes from Joel in Acts 2:17. In what sense are we prepared anywhere in the OT for the endowing of a human agent with the capacity to “pour out” God Himself, which the Spirit’s activity and presence consistently represents?

Mark’s Gospel slips comfortably into this narrative. The messenger who prepares the way for the Lord says that Jesus will be greater in that he will baptize with the Holy Spirit (Mk. 1:8).

Far from slipping comfortably into the narrative you outline, Mark’s gospel raises uncomfortable questions here, which are greatly amplified in their fulfilment in Acts 2. Does God really give an appointed human agent the authority to pour out God Himself? If the Holy Spirit is something other than God, where is this suggested in the OT precedents?

He will be able to pour out the Spirit on his followers not because he is God but because he “received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:33).

This is your explanation of Jesus’s authority to pour out the Holy Spirit. This divinely appointed human agent is, according to you, able to carry out “the tasks implied in Mark 1:2-3”, and I suppose this would encompass everything in Jesus’s ministry, including gathering people to himself as a subsititute temple where sins are forgiven, lepers cleansed, paralytics made whole, the sick healed, the demonised delivered, the blind given sight, the deaf made to hear and so on. It would also include Jesus’s authority over creation itself (in the stilling of the storm), his self-declared authority to overrule the law, especially in relation to the Sabbath, and a reversal of the Levitical holiness laws and procedures, where he cleanses the woman who has the bleeding, instead of her making him unclean.

The accumulated weight of these occurrences, which you so easily relegate to the category of human agent appointed by YHWH, makes the disciples, and myself, ask the question “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” - Mark 4:41. On this and many other occasions Jesus could have reassured them that he was only YHWH’s appointed human representative. It is more striking that he didn’t, and left them to draw their own conclusions.

This (the appointing of Jesus as a human agent) is also what we are to understand by the proclamation with which Jesus then begins his ministry:

The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel. (Mk. 1:15)

This begs the question (assumes the answer before it is proven). What was the kingdom? The OT, and its Second Temple expectations particularly, envisage a cluster of events, including the return of YHWH to the temple, so that the rule of the expected king of David’s line would be the rule of YHWH himself, in the fulfilment of Israel’s long and winding history. This would also include the outpouring of the Spirit, and the resurrection of the dead. It would be the beginning of the renewal of creation.

I don’t see these expectations fulfilled in your version of the narrative. I think the ‘third horizon’ of your horizons hypothesis is very much closer to 1st century events and experiences than you allow, and that it frames the whole narrative. Instead, you see something much more related to Israel’s immediate history, which had consequences for others, but not in terms of the actual means which brought about those consequences, such as Jesus’s death, resurrection, outpoured Spirit at Pentecost, which according to you were for Israel in her history, not the rest of the world in its history, or for us in our history.

You then focus on the forgiving of sins of the paralytic by Jesus, which is cited as a proof of Jesus’s deity by Ed:

The problem is that the texts simply do not bear that out. Jesus explains to the shocked scribes why he presumes to forgive the paralytic’s sins: it is not because he is God but because “the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”. Normally God would forgive sins from heaven, but exceptionally—and outrageously—he has given the authority to forgive Israel’s sins to Jesus on earth, because he is the Son of Man (Mk. 2:10).

What exactly do the texts say? The teachers of the law, who knew the law better than anyone else, think Jesus is blaspheming by claiming to be able to forgive sins - Mark 2:7. For Jesus here to call himself “the Son of Man” means next to nothing; it certainly does not refer to the Daniel 7 narrative. It is simply a way of saying “I have the authority to forgive sins”. Of course the people glorify God, even in Matthew’s version of events, which no more leads to your interpretation than Mark’s version does. The fact is that Jesus has done something which until then was the province of God and God in the temple alone. The texts simply do not say that the incident demonstrates an extraordinary preorogative performed by a divinely appointed human-born Israelite agent. One of the reasons they do not say this is because Israel as a whole was still under the curse of a broken law, still in spiritual exile, still unable to resolve her own difficulties by any human Israelite agent from her midst, no matter how extarordinary that agent might be. Jesus was very much more than this.

The simple fact is this. At every point in the New Testament “lordship” is something that is given to Jesus by his Father, especially as a consequence of his obedient suffering. Philippians 2:9-11 could hardly be clearer

Philippians 2:9-11 is one of the weakest texts to produce to support your case. James Dunn’s argument (for the whole passage, including verses 6-8) for an “Adam Christology”, which might support your case, has been discredited by subsequent criticism. The whole passage, which is probably a quotation of something like a hymn from a very early date indeed, is a hymn or credal statement of praise to Jesus. It is in itself an expression of worship more than a theological explanation. Jesus receives that worship, which you might have thought was God’s alone, but the passage concludes that everything that is said about Jesus is “to the glory of God the Father”.

The Jesus in the passage is a pre-existent Jesus, who had pre-existent rights of status which were equal to God himself, but who laid these aside for actions on Israel’s (and our) behalf, exchanging the form of God for human likeness. In this human form, God exalts him to a restored place alongside and equal to himself. If this was not a divine status, we would have to ask why the exaltation entailed the bowing of the knee at his name of “things in heaven and things in earth and things under the earth”, when this sort of reverence might be considered appropriate for God alone.

The clinching argument though, which refutes your interpretation of “Lord”, is the direct echo in Philippians 2:10-11 of Isaiah 45:23, where the first person is El in 22 and YHWH in 24, translated Kyrios in the Septuagint. There is no reason to suppose that Paul has changed the meaning of “Lord” in Phlippians 2:11, or to mean anything other than that “the name that is above every name” places the name of Jesus alongside the name of YHWH himself.

Classical trinitarianism is powerless to tell this story. Classical trinitarianism can only render it down to a metaphysical drama about incarnation and redemption. What we lose is not only the sense that at the heart of this is Israel’s story, but also the crucial significance of Jesus’ role as an obedient son

That isn’t the case at all, but I would agree that the role of Israel in the story has been consistently overlooked and even edited out by modern applications. But whatever the reason for that, it is nothing to do with trinitarianism. Trinitarianism, on the other hand, is the only interpretation which makes sense of Jesus’s role as sin-bearer, and as the one who renewed creation. In the wider sense, these were roles which could only be born by God on behalf of not only powerless Israel but powerless humanity.

So when we come to the baptismal formula in Matthew 28:19, we must surely suppose that baptism in the name of the Son means baptism in the name of the one who was obedient, suffered, died, was raised to the right hand of the Father, and who would sooner rather than later come to judge and rule over his people.

Yes, I agree; and this in no wise runs counter the Father - Son - Spirit trinitarian formula which it embodies. You have simply spelled out more fully what Jesus’s role in baptism comprises, which is also spelled out in Romans 6. I wouldn’t put the emphasis at all where you place it, but I don’t disagree with at least the rather truncated way in which you have put it.

In the baptism of Jesus, we also have a trinitarian event. Jesus comes out of the water, the Spirit descends on him, and the voice is heard from heaven, addressing Jesus as “my Son”. This was a unique occurrence, using unique language, and sets up a framework which is significant not only for the Mark, but for the entire NT, in its presentation of Jesus.

I wasn’t intending this to be so long, or even to write it. But you have produced a detailed comment, which I thought merited a detailed reply.

Peter, nothing you say here controverts the basic fact that the only argument given in the whole of the New Testament for identifying Jesus as the coming Lord is that the status of kyrios is something that is given to him by God; it is bestowed on him, he is made Lord, appointed judge and ruler of the nations. The argument about pre-existence in Philippians 2:6-11 is debatable, and not for the reasons that Dunn gives. But that’s beside the point. The New Testament does not say, either here or anywhere else, that the status of Lord was restored to him. It was given to him.

By the way, Philippians 2:6-11 is not a “hymn or credal statement of praise to Jesus”. If it is a hymn or creed at all, it is about Jesus. It is in the third person.

As for your bizarre dismissal of the relevance of Daniel 7 for understanding the authority by which Jesus forgives sins:

Although Mark’s use of the phrase ‘the Son of man’ at this point in his narrative has frequently puzzled commentators, it may well be significant. In Dan. 7.14, the authority exercised by the one like a son of man is authority delivered to him by the Ancient of Days. The scribes protest that only God can forgive sins—and they are right—but Jesus acts here as God’s representative and with divine authority. It is not in his own name or in his own strength that he acts, since he exercises a power which has been given to him, and yet he it is who exercises it. (M.D. Hooker, The Gospel According to Mark, 87)

Jesus proclaimed the remission of sins like a prophet…. The scribes rejected this pretension to the prophetic office as so much arrogance. They sensed in Jesus’ declaration of forgiveness an affront to the majesty and authority of God, which is the essence of blasphemy. (W.L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, 95).

Although Jesus refers to himself in using the title…, it does remain a title and cannot adequately be translated with the simple “I.” In the response of the crowds (v 8), the title is obviously not understood, but the readers of Matthew’s Gospel would not have missed its significance. If the Son of Man is the person of Dan 7:13-14 and he begins through his presence to bring the blessings of the eschaton (one of which was the forgiveness of iniquity [cf. Isa 33:24; Jer 31:34; at Qumran, CD 14:19; 11Q Melch 4-9]), then it is no surprise that he has the authority to forgive sins on the earth as an intrinsic part of his ministry. (D.A. Hagner, Matthew 1-13, 234)

The authority of the Son of Man is to be traced back originally to Dan 7:13-14. (J. Nolland, Luke 1-9:20, 237)

When Jesus says, “But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” (v. 6a), the self-designation “son of man” and the qualifier “on earth” point to Daniel 7, where a human (“one like a son of man”), coming with the clouds of heaven, approaches God (the “Ancient of Days”) and from him receives authority (Dan 7:9-14). The “clouds of heaven” are antithetical to “on earth;” with the latter presupposing the former. “Ihat is to say, because the “son of man” receives authority from heaven, he possesses the authority on earth to, among other things, forgive sins. (C.A. Evans, Matthew, 200)

Andrew,

I don’t know if I can do a very good job of expressing what I am thinking here in relationship to your last comment or not.

Your argument seems to be consistently resting on the fact that Jesus was given His authority by God. That He was a man that God had delegated authority and Kingship to.

In this comment, I am referring specifically to your argument from Daniel 7:13-14. I have just reread that chapter.

And you know, I can not see at all how the fact that the Son of Man came on the clouds to be presented before the Ancient of Days and receive dominion, etc, precludes Him being God from eternity past.

(As an aside, I see this reference to Him coming on the clouds as referring to His ascension into heaven, Acts 1:9, not as some reference to His being given authority while on earth as C. A. Evans seems to be stating.)

The fact that He was given “ruling authority, honor, and sovereignty,” is, in my understanding, something that He is given in His new position and being as the eternal God/man. The fact that He was God from eternity past does not negate the fact that He has now taken on something He never had before–the additional nature of humanity. It is in this capacity, and by virtue of what He accomplished for humanity in His earthly ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension, that He is now given this Lordship by the Father. Not that He as God didn’t have it before. But that He as the God/man didn’t have it before, because in fact before the incarnation there was no God/man to have this authority, and never before had He done what He did in that earthly capacity as God incarnate.

I believe that the Bible, the New Testament in particular, says way too much pointing to the fact that He was indeed the pre existent God to write that thought off and see this issue of Him receiving Lordship in any other way.

As I said, I don’t know if I was able to express that very well. But I hope it made sense and got my thinking across.

And you know, I can not see at all how the fact that the Son of Man came on the clouds to be presented before the Ancient of Days and receive dominion, etc, precludes Him being God from eternity past.

The question here is whether Daniel meant this figure in human form to be understood as divine. In the symbolic drama that takes place in chapter 7 he is interpreted by the angel as representative of the “people of the saints of the Most High”, against whom Antiochus Epiphanes made war. In contrast to the beast-like empires which emerged from the sea and which are judged before the throne of God, Israel will become an everlasting kingdom, which will be served by the other nations.

My argument (developed in The Coming of the Son of Man) is that Jesus deliberately identifies himself with this symbolic figure in this narrative in order to make the point that at a much more serious time of crisis both he and those who suffer for his sake will be vindicated and will be given kingdom amidst the nations.

In other words, Jesus as Son of Man is faithful persecuted Israel. Not a pre-existent divine figure.

I might agree with you about the ascension, by the way. I think probably we need to differentiate between a coming on the clouds which is the vindication of Jesus in the first place, and a coming on the clouds when Jesus comes in power and glory to deliver his persecuted followers from their enemies.

Andrew,

What chapter are you referring to in your first paragraph of this comment? You left the chapter # out.

Thank you. Fixed. Chapter 7.

Thanks, Andrew.

You know, there isn’t agreement that chapter 7 refers to the people of Israel. The Net Bible refers to them as “the holy ones” and “the people of the holy ones”. The notes say that “the holy ones” are either angels or people devoted to God in verse 7:18. And verse 27 where it refers to “the people of the holy ones”, the note still is not certain on who this verse means.

And even if Daniel is speaking of Him as representative of the people, I still see absolutely no problem with Him still being both fully divine and fully human. Those who believe He is God incarnate in human form, truly fully divine and fully human, see Him as the perfect representative of mankind. The new Adam, the perfect human that fulfilled all of what our fallen race had not been able to fulfill. Being the God/man does not change that for me at all.

Cherylu, I appreciate the fact that there is disagreement about the identity of the “saints of the Most High”, but it seems to me very unlikely that in this context they are thought of as angelic beings:

  • the four beasts represent human kingdoms; in Daniel (cf. 2:44) and in Jewish apocalyptic generally a sequence of earthly kingdoms is eventually replaced by the rule of God over a restored Israel;
  • I don’t think there’s any precedent for the idea that the nations serve and obey angelic powers;
  • I’m also not sure that there is any precedent for an earthly king such as Antiochus Epiphanes making war against a community of angels—the nearest we get in Daniel is the heavenly conflict between singular angelic representatives of the nations (10:18-21);
  • the attempt to “change the times and the Law” (7:25) makes little sense if this is a war against angelic powers;
  • kingdom is given to the “people of the saints of the Most High”, so even if the “holy ones” are angels, Israel is in view here (7:27);
  • the rest of Daniel (especially chapters 11-12) are about the conflict between Antiochus and the “wise” in Israel.

And even if Daniel is speaking of Him as representative of the people, I still see absolutely no problem with Him still being both fully divine and fully human.

That may be the case, but the question is where or how is it stated that Jesus is divine. It is commonly argued that by calling Jesus “Lord” the New Testament directly identifies Jesus with YHWH. What I have attempted to show in this post is that the New Testament consistently regards lordship as a status that is given to Jesus as a consequence of his obedience unto death. The Son of Man theme supports that: Daniel’s son of man represents persecuted Jews who remain loyal to the covenant and are vindicated before the throne of God and given the right to rule and be served by the nations.

So my point is that the lordship theme cannot be used as proof that Jesus was and always had been God. It means something different. There may be other ways of establishing the pre-existent divinity of Jesus—I have no objection in principle to that contention. But we fundamentally misunderstand what the New Testament is saying if we think that “Jesus is Lord” means “Jesus is God”. It doesn’t. It means “Jesus has been given the authority of God”.

John was not speaking of a status given to Jesus when he proclaimed Isaiah 40:3 in Mark 1:3, and neither was ‘Lord’ as a status something bestowed on Jesus in Philippians 2:11; it was a declaration of who he was.

The distinction between ‘to Jesus’ and ‘about Jesus’ in Philippians 2:6-11 also entirely misses the point. It is a credal hymn of praise to Jesus whichever way you look at it.

My comment on Son of Man in Mark 2:7 was not central to the issue, and some of the commentators you quote seem bizarre in the light of up to date critical work on ‘son of man’.

The comment I just posted seems to have come adrift; it should have attached itself to your response of 25.04.13 to mine above.

…neither was ‘Lord’ as a status something bestowed on Jesus in Philippians 2:11; it was a declaration of who he was.

So “bestowed” (echarisato) doesn’t mean “bestowed”? And “made” (epoiēsen) doesn’t mean “made” (Acts 2:36)? And “appointed” (horisthentos) doesn’t mean “appointed” (Rom. 1:4; cf. Acts 10:42; 17:31)—as Fitzmyer says, the verb suggests “a decisive act of divine appointment or establishment”? And “begotten” (gegennēka) doesn’t mean “begotten” (eg. Acts 13:33)?

…in the light of up to date critical work on ‘son of man’.

What critical work did you have in mind? The most recent stuff that I’ve read seems very much in favour of the Daniel 7 interpretation.

ὃς ἐν μορφῇ θεοῦ ὑπάρχων, who in the form of God existing, here we have the Present Active Participle, describing the continuous state of Christ as existing in the form of God. The Greek word translated “grasped” is very difficult to carry over into English. It actually means to hang on to by force. Jesus did not regard equality with God as a thing that He had to foricbly hang on to. There was no possibility of God becoming not God, in other words.

Then we move to the kenosis which was not Jesus becoming “not God.” We know this by the use of the present (continuous) participle, but rather it was adding to Himself the “form of a sevant.”

In addition, μορφῇ θεοῦ and μορφὴν δούλου are parallel. Jesus was existing continuously in the form of God, was equal with God, took on the form of a servant which is not quite in the same construction as form of God. He was existing (continuously) in the form of God, but he took (aorist) the form of a servant. Will you deny that Jesus was a servant? If you affirm that a plain reading of this text affirms the servant nature of Jesus, then you must accept that it affirms His divinity as well.

He emptied Himself and took the form of a servant and the likeness or appearance of a man, referring to his human nature.

1. This text affirms that Jesus was (is) existing in the form of God. 2. Jesus is equal with God and did not feel compelled to retain that equality by force. 3. Jesus added the form of a servant and likeness of a man to Himself (the kenosis).

The position you posit Andrew seems unintelligible in light of the Greek text. Jesus descended to human form without surrendering His divine attributes although He did surrender His place at God’s right hand for an appointed season. Once His mission was complete, God exalted Him to His right hand, returning Him to that place from whence He came. How hard is this to comprehend? Yes, the man Christ Jesus, born of a virgin, was exalted to God’s right hand from our perspective. But that same Jesus, being the second person of the Triune God does not occupy that position anew. He has simply returned to the Throne from whence He came. This is what Scripture affirms about Christ.

Emptied is the main verb. The present participle would be occuring prior to the main verb while the aorist participle “took,” would generally occur after the main verb. There are exceptions of course, but this pericope would appear to follow the general rule quite nicely.

I still have not heard your exegesis of one of the clearest passages on the divinity of Christ in Col. 1:13-20. Surely you cannot reduce this to wisdom, which by the way, I will review your post of John 1:1-18 soon. In the meantime, folks should investigate how Logos is used in the NT documents before they buy your definition that it means wisdom. It is NEVER used in that sense in the NT documents, not even once. In addition, John, the one who referred to Jesus as logos, and as being divine also wrote that His name is called the logos of theos in Rev. 19:13.

Since this is supposed to be a thread about Mark’s Gospel, let me direct you to a post on Philippians 2:6-11: A hymn of praise to the anti-Caesar, which in light of my comment to Peter Wilkinson recently should probably be titled “A hymn of praise about the anti-Caesar”.

In the meantime, folks should investigate how Logos is used in the NT documents before they buy your definition that it means wisdom. It is NEVER used in that sense in the NT documents, not even once.

That doesn’t get us very far because John 1:1-3 is a unique statement in the New Testament. The association of “word” and “wisdom” in the context of creation is evident in Jewish thought:

God of the fathers and Lord of mercy, who made all things by your word and by your wisdom formed human beings (Wis 9:1–2)

When he was making the earth by his strength, when he was preparing the world by his wisdom, by his understanding he stretched out the sky… (Jer. 28:15)

Proverbs 8:27-31 says, in effect, that all things were made through wisdom and without wisdom nothing was made that was made (cf. Jn. 1:3).

Wisdom declares:

I came forth from the mouth of the Most High, and like a mist I covered earth. (Sir. 24:3)

The idea of Wisdom coming to dwell in Israel is also evident (cf. Jn. 1:14):

Then Wisdom went out to dwell with the children of the people, but she found no dwelling place. (1 Enoch 42:2)

Then the creator of all commanded me, and he who created me put down my tent and said, ‘Encamp in Iakob, and in Israel let your inheritance be.’ (Sir. 24:8)

Hi Andrew,

You are forcing a paradigm on John without any justification whatever. Jewish thought murdered the Son of God, rejected His message and received God’s wrath. In fact, the Jewish people have not such a very good track record with God. The leaders of Jewish thought were the most vile enemies of Christ in the first century. God is said to have blinded the Jewish people so that they could not see the truth. In fact, according to Jewish thought, the gospel is nothing more than a scandal. So much for Jewish thought.

Second, even if you were in the ball park, John’s gospel was written to a universal audience, not a predominantly Jewish one. And his reason for writing was so that men would believe the gospel and have life, not to reinforce Jewish thought around the role of wisdom in creation. That is a violent conclusion if ever I heard one.

Third, you refer to literature that isn’t even recognized as authoritative by the very Jewish community you reference.

You continue to use a secondary translation, once removed from the MT (Hebrew) in order to prop up your view. I find that fascinating. What is profoundly clear to me at this point is that there is nothing unbiased and plain in how you handle these texts. Your conclusions display and clear proclivity to conclude whatever historic orthodoxy as not! At every point where orthodoxy stands, you make sure you are not there, by whatever means necessary.

Proverbs 8:27-31

“When He established the heavens, I was there,
When He inscribed a circle on the face of the deep,
28 When He made firm the skies above,
When the springs of the deep became fixed,
29 When He set for the sea its boundary
So that the water would not transgress His command,
When He marked out the foundations of the earth;
30 Then I was beside Him, as a master workman;
And I was daily His delight,
Rejoicing always before Him,
31 Rejoicing in the world, His earth,
And having my delight in the sons of men.


Proverbs 8:1 says does not wisdom call? Then in v. 4, To you O men, I call. Wisdom calls! Wisdom speaks. This is a literary device, the personification of wisdom and it is not at all uncommon in Jewish literature. But of course you know this! Why then the unnecessary confusion around John 1?

To refer to a hymn about the divine Christ as the “anti-Ceasar” hymn is more than outrageous.

How about Col. 1:13-20? How do you understand this text?

I think this has probably got to the point at which we’ll have to agree to disagree. You highlight a crucial distinction between your particular theological approach and the historical approach. I think that the New Testament has to be understood on the premise of a predominantly Jewish worldview. Paul is heartbroken in Romans that his people have rejected Jesus as the Christ, but his argument from beginning to end, in my view, is a thoroughly Jewish one. I see nothing amiss with the view that John drew on Hellenistic-Jewish traditions to communicate to a Hellenistic audience the significance of the Jewish Jesus.

The issue is not whether Jewish wisdom literature was authoritative or not. It is whether it is indicative of a shared language, worldview and conceptuality.

You continue to use a secondary translation, once removed from the MT (Hebrew) in order to prop up your view.

If the LXX was good enough for Paul, it’s good enough for me.

I’m sure you will let me know at some point why you think calling Christ the “anti-Caesar” is so outrageous.

How do I understand Colossians 1:13-20? It says that Jesus was the image of the invisible God, that he was firstborn of every creature, that all things were created by God through him and for him, etc. It is said similarly of Wisdom:

For she is a reflection of eternal light and a spotless mirror of the activity of God and an image (eikōn) of his goodness…. She orders all things well…. she is the fashioner of the things that exist. (Wis. 7:26; 8:1, 6)

Jesus was existing continuously in the form of God, was equal with God, took on the form of a servant which is not quite in the same construction as form of God. He was existing (continuously) in the form of God, but he took (aorist) the form of a servant. Will you deny that Jesus was a servant? If you affirm that a plain reading of this text affirms the servant nature of Jesus, then you must accept that it affirms His divinity as well.

I don’t think the doulos/douleuō word group is applied to Jesus anywhere else in the New Testament. The Son of Man came not to be served but to “serve” (diakonēsai) (Mk. 10:45). He became a “servant” (diakonon) to the circumcision (Rom. 15:8).

I think Paul is saying that Jesus took the “form of a slave” (morphēn doulou)—in contrast to the blasphemous pagan ruler who made himself equal to God. So, no, I don’t think Jesus was literally a “slave”, but he took the status of a person at the lowest point on the social scale, as far as it was possible to get from the self-exalting ruler, which I think must be a reference to the cross

Andrew,

You missed my point by quite the margin. When one looks at this text in the Greek, it is fascinating, and really quite consistent with my view that it asserts the divinity of Christ as well as His incarnation. You did not really interact with the plain Greek constructions here.

Do you believe that the apostles interpreted the OT the same after their conversion to Christ as they prior to that conversion?

What role, if any, does regeneration have on how one interprets the Scriptures?

Can unregenerate men interpretive the Scriptures and arrive at true understanding of God’s revelation therein?

Finally, I would love to understand how you interpret Phil. 2:6-7 and explain the kenosis. That Jesus, existing in the form of God, was obvious equal with God, empited Himself by taking up the form of a servant man to accomplish His mission. No one or nothing is equal with God. The only way Jesus could be equal with God was to be God. There is nothing outside God that is equal with God. John 5:18, 10:33, and 19:7 clearly tell us that the Jews understood very well that Jesus was claiming to be God. And they wanted to kill Him for it. In fact, the entire reason for Jesus’ crucifixion by the Jews was because He claimed to be God.

Actually, it seems to me that you missed the point of the comment. If “form of a slave” is not to be taken literally, then it is difficult to take “in the form of God” literally—or at least as being a statement of identity with God. The difference in construction is accounted for by the fact that a shift is made from one state to another. Once Jesus has taken the form of a slave, he is “in the form of a slave”.

I have yet to see any evidence that “being in the form of God” would have been understood as a way of say “being God”.

There is very little scholarly support, as far as I can see, even among conservatives, for the translation of heauton ekenōsen as “emptied himself” of something such as divinity”. The idiom means something much closer to “poured himself out” or “made himself of no account”.

I still think the passage makes best sense as a anti-imperial “hymn”. Jesus does not act like the pagan ruler who makes himself equal to God but takes quite the opposite course, to the point of a degrading death on the cross, but as a result of this obedience he is given authority to rule and YHWH is glorified among the nations.

I’m afraid I don’t have time at the moment to address the other questions.

Andrew, that has to be one of the most outrageous things you have said to date. Clearly your bias is screaming quite loudly at this point. Morphe carries the meaning, the nature or character of something, with emphasis upon both the internal and external form. Jesus was truly and literally a servant just like He was truly and literally a man just like He is truly and literally God. The participle indicates He was “being God” prior to being made a servant and a man. That is the Christian message. The text indicates equality with God, something you failed to address. In addition, the term “a thing to be grasped” actually carries the meaning “retained by force.” You are clearly distorting the plain meaining of this text.

The kenosis is more like an adding to His divinity the limitations of human nature. Your interpretation only makes sense if one is willing to permit your unique way of handling the text. I am not willing to permit that. That is precisely the issue of our disagreement.

Jesus was truly and literally a servant just like He was truly and literally a man just like He is truly and literally God.

It doesn’t say he took on the “form, outward appearance, shape” (BDAG) of a “servant”. It says he took on the “form, outward appearance, shape” of a “slave”. That’s rather different. Don’t you have a dictionary?

Andrew,

I note that there are quite a few Bible translations that use the word “servant” in that verse. Some say slave, some say servant or bond servant.

Slave and servant are the same thing Andrew. Pais, paidos means slave the same as doulos. Are we now going to engage in word fallacies also?

There is a principle in linguistics I would like to call to your attention: The meaning of a word is determined by its usage. The best way to understand word-meaning is to examine the context in which it is used.

Slightly by the by, but perhaps of some interest is that doulos is also the word used of ‘the servant’ in the LXX Isaiah.

I’m sure Paul was intending to imply the downward path of Jesus, so slave/servant would be the intended association. But servant as translated doulos in the LXX is not always a dishonorable status; it was used of kings, Israel, as well as the servant of Isaiah 53. A bit of Pauline wordplay, perhaps?

Also by the by, the conversations are getting very fractious at the moment, and have little to do with anything you have posted. Isn’t it time to blow the whistle?

Philippians 2:10-11 actually says that God gave Jesus “a name”, not made him “Lord” (in the interests of detailed accuracy).

Romans 1:4 horisthentos - “declared” ESV, NRSV, NASB, AV, NIV etc (also means determined, appointed etc as in Acts 10:42, 17:31).

But this is a completely meaningless exercise. Jesus’s exaltation as “Lord” is obviously associated with his glorification through resurrection and ascension. God raised Jesus from the dead, and in various ways “appointed” him, including, in Acts 2:36 “both Lord and Christ” Please see my comment on this above, which you sidestepped in your response. Your word study does not prove that Jesus was no more than man.

In Philippians 2:10-11, if you read my comment again, it’s clear that there is a direct allusion to Isaiah 45:23, which is bracketed by El (v.22) and YHWH (v.24, translated Kyrios in the Septuagint). Both references to God which qualify the 1st person of Isaiah 45:23 are transferred without modification to Jesus in Philippians.

Your word study does not prove that Jesus was no more than man.

I am not trying to prove that Jesus was no more than a man. I’ve made this point several times. My concern is rather that the lordship narrative is being misused.

Both references to God which qualify the 1st person of Isaiah 45:23 are transferred without modification to Jesus in Philippians.

But that’s not true. Neither “El” nor “YHWH” is mentioned in Philippians 2:9-11. “God” does something to Jesus and is glorified through that, but otherwise the passage says that the one who had the name Jesus was given the name “Lord”—I odn’t see how the “name that is above every name” can be anything other than “Lord”. “At the name of Jesus” seems to me to highlight precisely the point that the name of Lord—and the authority that goes with it—has been transferred from God to someone else.

So what was the point of Paul making a very obvious allusion to Isaiah 45:23, in which “myself, I, my, me, me” refer on the one hand to “El” and on the other hand to “YHWH/Lord” vs.23 & 25), and then transferring the same words of v.23 to Jesus? If they do not transfer the same meaning, that this is El/YHWH/Kyrios (LXX) who is being described, what do they mean?

Maybe we should move on to the Hurtado extract I quoted in the next post, which is summing up the meaning of Son of Man in the collective review “Who is This Son of Man?”, including Mark 2:10.

The point is that Paul wants to say that the conversion of the pagan nations will come about when the Gentiles recognize that Jesus has been made “Lord”, has been given the authority to judge and rule at the right hand of God. This is the means by which Israel’s God will be glorified in the pagan world.

…in the light of up to date critical work on ‘son of man’.

What critical work did you have in mind? The most recent stuff that I’ve read seems very much in favour of the Daniel 7 interpretation.

Some extracts follow from ‘Who is This Son of Man’/Larry Hurtado, but the whole concluding chapter would be worth reading here.

(All quoted from the chapter mentioned)

Summing Up and Concluding Observations - ‘Who is This Son of Man?’ The Latest Scholarship on a Puzzling Expression of the Historical Jesus, eds. Larry W. Hurtado and Paul L. Owen (LNTS 390; London: T&T Clark, 2011), 159-77.

The variations in the usage of ‘the son of man’ in the Synoptics, including particularly the apparent freedom of Synoptic authors to use ‘the son of man’ and the first-person pronoun somewhat interchangeably in sayings of Jesus, suggests that in these texts it functions simply (or at least primarily) as a unique self-referential expression.

The expression refers to Jesus (and almost entirely in sentences where it is used as a self-designation), but does not in itself primarily make a claim about him, or generate any controversy, or associate him with prior/contextual religious expectations or beliefs. ‘The son of man’ can be used in sayings that stake various claims about Jesus (e.g., Jesus’ authority, or humble situation, or heavenly provenance, or eschatological significance), but it is the sentence/saying that conveys the intended claim or statement, not ‘the son of man’ expression itself.

So, for example, to treat ‘the son of man’ as if in itself it ‘means’ a figure of authority (on the basis of sayings such as Mark 2.10), or of humility (on the basis of sayings such as Matt 8.20/Luke 9.58), or eschatological judge (on the basis of Matt 25.31), or a heavenly being (on the basis of John 3.13-14), or even the figure of Daniel 7.13 (on the basis of Mark 14.62/Matt 26.64) would all represent the fallacious move that I identify here. For emphasis, I repeat that in all the Gospels sayings, the function of ‘the son of man’ expression is essentially to refer to Jesus as the figure about whom the sentence says something. The particular ‘meaning’ of each statement/saying lies in the statement, not in the expression ‘the son of man’. In short, Jesus (as portrayed in the sayings/sentences in question) defines ‘the son of man’; ‘the son of man’ designates but does not define Jesus.

But the sheer diversity of sentences in which the Evangelists used ‘the son of man’, and the instances where they felt free to use the personal pronoun interchangeably with the expression, surely show that it did not have for them some precise and fixed meaning (or fixed set of meanings).

Several decades ago, Norman Perrin, argued that the expression ‘the son of man’ arose through a creative early Christian exegetical move in which the ‘one like a son of man’ in Daniel 7.13 was identified as the risen/exalted Jesus. Perrin found his evidence in the rather obvious allusion to Daniel 7.13 in Mark 14.62 and parallels, where Jesus is portrayed as affirming that ‘the son of man’ will be seen seated a God’s right hand and ‘coming with the clouds of heaven’.

But all such proposals that ‘the son of man’ originated in early Christian circles and expressed some christological conviction about Jesus seem to me to ignore, and so to founder on, a rather important datum. As we have noted already, there is no evidence that ‘the son of man’ functioned in the proclamation, confession or liturgical practices of any first-century Christian circle, at least to judge from the available texts. Instead, the sole place of the expression is in sayings of Jesus, where it seems to serve simply as a distinctive self-referential formula.

It is interesting that ‘the son of man’ does not feature in the representations of early Jewish-Christian proclamation and confession. The one instance of the expression on the lips of Stephen in Acts 7.56 is obviously one feature of the author’s larger presentation of Stephen’s martyrdom as echoing Jesus’ interrogation and death. So, in 7.56 we have an allusion back to Luke 22.69, where Jesus predicts that ‘the son of man’ will be seen at the right hand of God in heavenly glory. This sole instance of the expression scarcely suffices to show that it functioned as a christological title in ‘Palestinian’ Christian circles of the time.

Perrin, Burkett, and others who ascribe the expression to the early church tend to posit Daniel 7.13 as the crucial biblical text that provided the exegetical point of origin. Unquestionably, Daniel 7.13-14 was drawn on and alluded to in several NT texts (esp. Mark 14/62/Matt 26.64; Mark 13.26/Matt 24.30/ Luke 21.27; Rev 1.7). But it does not seem to me that Daniel 7.13 was quite as crucial in framing the christological convictions of the early church as would seem to be required/presumed in the sort of proposal supported by Burkett. Other OT texts seem to have been far more crucial (especially Psa 110).29 Moreover, if ‘the son of man’ originated via pondering OT texts, there are actually other texts as well that could have served to suggest the expression. These include Psalm 8.4; 80.18/LXX 79.18, the latter interestingly combining a reference to ‘the man at your [God’s] right hand’ and ‘the son of man’.

Hurtado writes:

So, for example, to treat ‘the son of man’ as if in itself it ‘means’ a figure of authority (on the basis of sayings such as Mark 2.10), or of humility (on the basis of sayings such as Matt 8.20/Luke 9.58), or eschatological judge (on the basis of Matt 25.31), or a heavenly being (on the basis of John 3.13-14), or even the figure of Daniel 7.13 (on the basis of Mark 14.62/Matt 26.64) would all represent the fallacious move that I identify here. (8)

It is significant that with perhaps the exception of “humility” (the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head) all these attributes are found in Daniel 7: the son of man is given authority to rule, either he or the Ancient of Days is an eschatological judge, and he appears as a heavenly being. The one reference to Jesus as Son of Man outside the Gospels reinforces this association: “And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:56).

Even if we accept the argument that “the son of man” has no inherent christological meaning, Hurtado still acknowledges that Jesus does at least in Mark 14:62 / Matthew 26:64 (and in the apocalyptic discourse, it appears) identify himself with the figure of Daniel 7:13; and the son of man figure in Daniel 7 is given an authority that he did not have before.

But as it is, if you look at all the “son of man” passages in Mark, a coherent story emerges about suffering and vindication:

  • the Son of Man has authority (2:10, 28)
  • the Son of Man must suffer at the hands of the Jewish authorities and of the Gentiles, giving his life as a ransom for many (8:31; 9:12, 31; 10:33; 10:45; 14:21, 41)
  • the Son of Man will be raised from the dead (9:9, 31)
  • the Son of Man will come in clouds, with great power and glory, having been given kingdom (8:38; 13:26; 14:62)

That is exactly what Daniel 7 is about—suffering and vindication. The connection between the son of man expression and Daniel 7 is much stronger that Hurtado admits, at least in Mark. It is nothing like as random as he suggests.

Hurtado thinks that the early church would have made much more of the expression “the son of man” if Jesus had used it in order to make important claims about his own ministry in light of Daniel 7:13:

If the expression was a ‘veiled’ way of making this claim in the time of Jesus’ own ministry, in the post-Easter situation of overt proclamation of Jesus we should expect a clear and forthright proclamation that Jesus is specifically ‘the son of man’ of that passage. (13)

But while it is true that the early church did not make use of the expression “the son of man”, the early church certainly did make use of the narrative of Daniel 7 to speak about the suffering and vindication of Jesus and his followers. Hurtado’s argument is principally directed against the use of “the son of man” as a title. My argument is that what Jesus applies to himself (and to his followers) is not the title but the story.

That is exactly what Daniel 7 is about—suffering and vindication. The connection between the son of man expression and Daniel 7 is much stronger that Hurtado admits, at least in Mark. It is nothing like as random as he suggests.

But your list of Son of Man references in Mark draws on a much wider background than a Daniel narrative.

The authority of Mark 2:10 to forgive sins (a prerogative, according to the passage, of God alone), and the authority of 2:28 over the sabbath have little bearing on the Daniel narrative, apart from the word ‘authority’ which they have in common.

The suffering of the Son of Man is at the hands of the Jewish authorities (as well as the Gentiles), which hardly fits the Daniel narrative - 8:31, 10:33; it is about betrayal - 9:31, 10:33, 14:21, 41; it is about rejection - 8:31, 9:12 and being flogged - 10:34, giving his life as a ransom for many - 10:45 - and being raised on the third day 9:31, 10:34. These are allusions to a great variety of OT sources - Isaiah 52/53 especially, but not Daniel.

But while it is true that the early church did not make use of the expression “the son of man”, the early church certainly did make use of the narrative of Daniel 7 to speak about the suffering and vindication of Jesus and his followers.

You could also say that the early church, as reflected in the gospels, made use of a variety of stories about suffering and exaltation - a theme which are not restricted to Daniel. In that sense, Daniel has this theme in common with them, rather than being a paradigm to which they conform.

There certainly was never an argument that in certain places, the Son of Man language does refer to Daniel 7 especially, but not always exclusively, eg the mixture of Daniel 7 with Psalm 110 in Mark 14:62. That was never in dispute. But I don’t think you can take a broad selection of Son of Man references as you do and say that they find their source in Daniel 7, or even that they reflect directly a Daniel narrative.

It is the variety of OT references which are incorporated into the Son of Man statements which is their distinguishing characteristic, as Hurtado asserts and illustrates, not their conformity to one single narrative source.

The quotations from Isaiah and Malachi make it clear that Jesus is expected to fulfil the role of the “Lord” who will both judge the corrupt temple system (Mal. 3:1-4) and restore Israel following punishment (Is. 40:1-5). In the Old Testament this role is performed by YHWH. John proclaims a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins because Israel faces divine judgment.

But as I’ve pointed out on many occasions, the synoptic writers—and the writers of the New Testament generally—do not construe the lordship of Jesus as an expression of his identification with God, as a matter of ontological equivalence. Rather they maintain that Jesus has been chosen and authorized exceptionally by God to judge and restore.

You know Andrew, something strikes me as quite incongruous here. Unless I am really mistaken, you are usually quick to point out that when the OT is quoted in the NT, it needs to be understood and applied with the same understanding as what was meant by the Old Testament writers. Or am I missing something here?

But in this case, you are insisting something quite different. While saying that Malachi and Isaiah speak of YHWH performing certain functions for His people, in this case you insist that the NT writers switched gears totally and are now speaking of an agent of God’s–not YHWH Himself. What happened here? It seems that you are totally going against a principle that you have repeatedly stressed.

Do you ever wonder if you are maybe missing something vital here?

(BTW, just in case you are not aware, the italics function only seems to work a fraction of the time. Don’t know if any one else has that problem or not).

But in this case, you are insisting something quite different. While saying that Malachi and Isaiah speak of YHWH performing certain functions for His people, in this case you insist that the NT writers switched gears totally and are now speaking of an agent of God’s–not YHWH Himself. What happened here? It seems that you are totally going against a principle that you have repeatedly stressed.

It’s an astute comment, and I accept that there may well be subtle ways in which I am bending the evidence to fit my thesis. We all do that.

However, I don’t think it’s inconsistent to say that the Old Testament narratives are borrowed and adapted to fit the particular unique circumstance that lies at the heart of the New Testament, which is that God raised Jesus from the dead and gave him authority to judge and rule.

We have to take into account the fact that the Jews found it very difficult to believe that the Old Testament hopes (and fears) could be fulfilled through the death of Jesus. The application is not straightforward. Isaiah 40:1-5 does not speak directly of the redemption of Israel in the first century. It speaks of the return from exile. What Mark has done is to take that narrative and reapply it under different conditions, which includes the conviction that YHWH has delegated the right to rule to his Son, whom he raised from the dead. So yes, there has to be some sort of switching of gears to accommodate the central New Testament witness to the resurrection. But the structure of the Old Testament narratives remains the same.

(I’m sorry you had problems with the italics. No idea why.)

“It’s an astute comment, and I accept that there may well be subtle ways in which I am bending the evidence to fit my thesis. We all do that.”

You know Andrew, that is the first time I have ever seen you actually admit at all that you have any bias whatsoever in this discussion of who Jesus really was/is.

And after all of your insistence through the years that you were just going where the evidence leads, that was quite a statement indeed!

But I then went on to say, “However…”, following the evidence as I see it. I am as prone as anyone else to bias, but a lot of the soul searching is done off-stage.

A brief comment about method: One writer astutely observes, “I know from personal experience that the move from (higher) criticism of the Bible to trust in the Bible does not occur through arguments that consider the intellectual presuppositions of the Bible critic in such a way that he can accept those arguments.” So it is with us.

The whole enterprise of narrative theology, narrative-historical criticism, and historical criticism arose as the result of worldview bias and a dissatisfaction with the current state. Avoiding bias is impossible. My only objection with those who desire to remain evangelical while rejecting the essential tenets of evangelicalism. That is confusing from nearly any perspective.

Responding to Malachi 3:1-4, God is said to be the one who is coming immediately after He sends His messenger to prepare the way. We may want to take a closer look: הָאָדוֹן אֲשֶׁר־אַתֶּם מְבַקְשִׁים.

Concerning Jesus’ identity as God and the view that the NT writers were merely showing that Jesus had been chosen and authorized by God, this view is anachronistic. The immediate history surrounding the Christ event in addition to passages you have not mentioned make such claims untennable. John tells us, through the Holy Spirit that Jesus was there from the beginning with God, and that He was God. He also tells us in 1:18 that μονογενὴς θεὸς ὁ ὢν εἰς τὸν κόλπον τοῦ πατρὸς ἐκεῖνος ἐξηγήσατο: The one and only God who is in the bosom of the Father, that one He has explained. John testifies by the Spirit repeatedly that Jesus is divine. In Phil. 2:6-11, Paul provides compelling proof that he believed Jesus existed prior to His incarnation. Col. 1:16 tells us He created all things, and that He is before all things, and that in Him all things are held together. How many times is the Church called the “Church of God?” Yet Jesus said I will build MY Church! Hebrews 1:8 could hardly be clearer that Jesus is presented by the NT writers as God. As you know, there is so much more that could be said about this subject, but time and space are unyielding at present.

Why the language in the NT about elevating Christ to this place of Lordship? The Christ event is the event when God emptied Himself to become a man. Becoming a servant in flesh was temporal as you know. It is not difficult to understand that such language is used to refer to the man we see called Jesus of Nazareth. He has been elevated to God’s right hand. Yet, this same Jesus was also there from the beginning, a member of the one triune God.

The Christian confession is that we believe in our heart that God has raised this Jesus from the dead and that we confess Him as Lord over all, our Lord and as Thomas said, my Lord and My God! Jesus said He would raise Himself from the dead in John 2:18-22. Entrance into the Christian community is precisely right here. A regenerate heart confesses not that Jesus is a Lord, a very special Lord, but that He IS Lord! The one and only Lord of all that is, ever has been, or ever will be.

This discussion has to turn to method. Before we approach the text and merits of our understanding around what it says, we must discuss method. I believe historical criticism to be dead, a useless tool of the skeptic to call into question the Word of God and the faith of the saints. I believe the method can be shown to rest upon speculations and human reason that is far from scientific. It is impossible to move the conversation forward until we can find common ground hermeneutically speaking. In my next comment, I will say a few things about narrative-historical criticism, and where I believe its fundamental problems reside.

At bottom, hermeneutical methods that are deeply rooted in secular philosophies are ipso facto hostile to God. Paul warned the Church about such philosophies even in his day. All assumptions underlying hermeneutical methods that would confute even the most basic Christian doctrine must be subjected to the highest degree of scrunity. Instead, we find the young, restless, evangelicals so-called (why I do not know) all too eager to uncritically accept anything that comes along so long as it is different and against tradition, or so it seems to this theologian.

Hi Ed,

Thanks for that comment.

Just so you are aware though, Andrew has dealt with most, if not all, of those verses that you cited and pretty much concluded that none of them show Jesus to be God . In fact, he to one degree or another, states just the opposite to be true.

Hi Cherylu,

This is why I want to move Andrew toward the direction of defending his interpretive paradigm. It is, for all intents and purposes, a purely rationalistic approach to a text of divine origin. Only if Andrew can show that his intepretive paradigm can he proceed to draw inferences and make conclusions about the content of Scripture. I am not arguing that narrative theology is utterly bankrupt as one of many tools in the interpreters toolbox. What I intend to show is that it is not appropriate to use that method as an interpretive paradigm.

The fountainhead of this discussion and all discussions relating to Christianity is epistemic authority. Historic Christian orthodoxy has maintained that Scripture is our sole authority and that all knowledge is revelational. Andrew’s approach is a categorical denial of both of these claims. Hence, he approaches the Scripture as if he is the authority, and treats it as if he would any other piece of literature. THAT approach has never been commendable within the Christian community and even though many so-called Christian communities do endorse that attitude, they only show signs of apostasy with such commendations. Now I do not mean that last remark to be offensive, even though I realize it might be taken as such. I do intend it to be reflective of the Church’s attitude toward teachers who create confusion around basic issues like the nature of Scripture and the person of Jesus Christ.

I have a difficult time disciplining myself in conversations with people who claim to be Christian and even evangelical while denying the divinity of Christ and the true nature of Scripture. I do not know how long the conversation with Andrew will carry on, but I am under no delusion that I will desuade him from holding to his methods. That will only come if God extends special grace. However, there are others reading the threads and the comments and perhaps I might say something that is encouraging and uplifting to them. That is my sincere hope. God’s will be done.

“Only if Andrew can show that his intepretive paradigm can he proceed to draw inferences and make conclusions about the content of Scripture.”

I meant to say, Only if Andrew can show his interpretive paradigm to be sound can he proceed to draw inferences and make conclusions about the content of Scripture.

We evanglelicals simply do not insist on a full trinitarian approach to hermeneutics any longer and that is regrettable. We have been bullied out of such an approach because we don’t want colleagues to accuse us of being anti-intellectual or uncritical or even naive. And this is precisely where the battle is being lost and the rationalist and empiricist knows it all too well. It is on this ground that I will argue and refuse to retreat, not even an inch. I will insist that a divine document requires divine aid in understanding it. As Andrew said in his opening line, I am a reformed apologist. We argue from Scripture to Scripture.

I do not know how long the conversation with Andrew will carry on, but I am under no delusion that I will desuade him from holding to his methods. That will only come if God extends special grace.

Ed, I’ll have a look at your comments, but we won’t get very far if you are going to make patronizing and misspelled remarks like that.

I am simply trying to be as transparent as possible Andrew. The argument must move to method or we will just go round and round with no movement. My whole point is to call into question your hermeneutic. And I have an ethical obligation to recognize when doctrine is clearly outside the confines of the Christian community. The denial that Jesus is God is outside the Christian community. I do not mean to be rude. At the same time, I am not only speaking to you, even though my conversation is mostly directed toward you. I hope to be an encouragement to others. My faith will not allow me to treat this sort of teaching in any other manner. Please do not be offended. I am sure you have similar views to my narrow way of thinking as well.

Ed, I don’t particularly regard the narrative-historical approach as an example of “higher criticism” or “historical criticism” in the very negative sense that you understand it. I take the scriptures pretty much at face value as saying what the writers wanted to say about Israel’s experience of God. It is then just plain common sense to read an ancient text, written in an ancient language, in relation to its linguistic, literary, and historical context. That is what a historical reading is, by definition. It is different from a theological reading, which operates largely without meaningful reference to linguistic, literary, and historical context.

I think of this as an “evangelical” program because it holds to a New Testament understanding of the “gospel” as an announcement to Israel and the nations about the coming eschatological transformation. If that is confusing, I suggest it is because our modern theology has made the mistake of reducing the New Testament gospel to an existential argument about personal salvation.

The immediate history surrounding the Christ event in addition to passages you have not mentioned make such claims untennable.

The post was about Mark and the question of whether Jesus is kyrios as a matter of direct identity or by appointment. Everything that is said about Jesus’ lordship in the New Testament suggests that he is Lord by appointment. Everything.

The quotation of Isaiah 40:3 and Malachi 3:1 raises the question, but as I pointed out, the answer provided is that Jesus as Son of Man is given the authority to forgive, judge, rule, etc. It is never asserted that he has such authority, that he is kyrios by nature.

I’m no sure what you mean by the “immediate history surrounding the Christ event”.

The statements in John to which you refer draw on a different conceptuality—either Jesus as wisdom/logos or Jesus as a son in intimate relation to his Father. They are not interpretations or explanations of the lordship motif. The phrase monogenēs theos is also textually debatable and in context next to unintelligible. I don’t question that in Paul’s mind Christ was or is associated with the act of creation, but again, this draws on wisdom ideas, not on a narrative of kingdom or lordship. Hebrews 1-2 is very important, and I don’t want to dismiss verse 8, but even here there is a strong emphasis on appointment that needs to be kept in mind: “his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things”, “today I have begotten you”, “Sit at my right hand”, “putting everything in subjection to him”.

I think it very unlikely that heauton keenōsen is to be understood metaphysically as a divine self-emptying. “Made himself of no account” or perhaps more substantively “poured himself out (for others)” would be sufficient and preferable.

At bottom, hermeneutical methods that are deeply rooted in secular philosophies are ipso facto hostile to God.

As a blanket statement that is patently untrue. What about Jewish hermeneutical methods? What about the hermeneutics of a fourfold medieval exegesis? The theological reading of the New Testament which you apply is just as much a hermeneutical method as the historical method—arguably more so. The Bible is a collection of historical texts, and the hermeneutical starting point has to be to read them historically.

It is then just plain common sense to read an ancient text, written in an ancient language, in relation to its linguistic, literary, and historical context. That is what a historicalreading is, by definition. It is different from a theological reading, which operates largely without meaningful reference to linguistic, literary, and historical context.

And this is why your views are held by so few? It is because so few people possess plain common sense? That is a significant over simplification in my humble opinion. The grammatico-historical method, held by the overwhelming majority of evangelicals would agree that we must always examine the socio-historical setting, linguistics, genre, etc in our efforts to understand the text. But your definition is different, new, perhaps even radical. Hence, the new kid always must prove himself. Moreover, I am not saying the narrative approach has nothing whatever to commend it. Like socio-science criticism, it has the ability to enrich our undersanding. But to elevate it to a place of prominence, to make it our interpretive paradigm is highly questionable, and seriously problematic in my view. Finally, theological readings do NOT operate without meaningful reference to these tools. That simply is not true. They are bound up together and it is a false dichotomy to create such a hard divorce between them. We have learned a similar lesson in philosophy with the problem of criterion and the relationship between ontology and epistemology.

I think of this as an “evangelical” program because it holds to a New Testament understanding of the “gospel” as an announcement to Israel and the nations about the coming eschatological transformation.

Fundamental to evangelicalism is a high view of Scripture and a high Christology. Your view rejects both. Hence, it is not evangelical. You are guilty of bifurcating on the term.

The quotation of Isaiah 40:3 and Malachi 3:1 raises the question, but as I pointed out, the answer provided is that Jesus as Son of Man is given the authority to forgive, judge, rule, etc. It is never asserted that he has such authority, that he is kyrios by nature.

Mal. 3:1-3 Behold I am going to send MY messenger, and he will clear the way before ME. And the Lord, WHO YOU SEEK, will suddenly come to His temple:

Now this is clearly Mark’s reference. And Malachi is clearly saying that God is coming to His temple. Adon is never used with the article where it does not refer to THE LORD GOD! He says the Lord whom you seek. Clearly Malachi is speaking for God Himself. Mark says this is that! In other words, Jesus is God come to His temple. The Son of Man is given authority refers to the servant, the human perspective of the Christ, not the divine. It also provides for human accomodation. Surely you are aware of this understanding.

We are talking about Mark, but in my hermeneutic, it is illegitimate to look at any one document in a silo. The entire corpus of Scripture is viewed as a unified whole with one message to humanity. It is unsafe to divide the Word of God as if God is schizophrenic. We begin with an immediate text and work out from there in order to valdiate our understanding of the text using sound exegetical principles. In addition, there are no atheological readings of the Scripture. In other words, the attempt at a pure historical reading of the text, especially a religious text, and especially this religious text in particular is an unattainable goal. I will say more about that below.

As a blanket statement that is patently untrue. What about Jewish hermeneutical methods? What about the hermeneutics of a fourfold medieval exegesis? The theological reading of the New Testament which you apply is just as much a hermeneutical method as the historical method—arguably more so. The Bible is a collection of historical texts, and the hermeneutical starting point has to be to read them historically.

Do you mean the kind of Jewish hermeneutical methods that accused Jesus of being demon possessed, attempted to embarrass and stone him, and eventually lied about him and had him crucificed? Yes, I am confortable saying that all Jewish hermeutical methods that resulted in a rejection of Jesus’ claim to be the unique Son of God, the Messiah, God of very God, were in fact, and are in fact hostile to God. Jesus told them Himself that they were of their father the devil. He told them that they were clearly in error because they did not understand Scripture. In how many ways did Jesus rebuke Jewish interpretive paradigms of His day? I cannot count them. Is that the method we should adopt? The one the murdered the Christ? The one that Paul said considered the gospel to be scandalous? Jesus stood in front of the Jewish nation, the one whose hermeneutic you seem to think we ought to emulate, and turned from them because they rejected the Christ. It seems to me that if their hemeneutic was so spot on, they would have recognized and embraced their King. They did not. It seems to me to be highly problematic to affirm the very hermeneutical methods that rejected the Christ and were responsible for murdering Him.

The goal of attaining a purely historical reading of the text is impossible. It should be abandoned for the utter folly that it is. No one approaches the Scriptures without some theological bias. To say we do is naive at best and disingenuous at worse. Scripture itself teaches us that men are hostile to God. The natural man is not able to discern spiritual matters. The divine revelation of Scripture is indeed a spiritual matter.

I applaud advances in hermeneutics that legitimately seek to enrich our understanding and build upon those things we have spent 2,000 years learning. I am by no means an advocate of uncritical approaches to the text. But when a new critical kid shows up, claiming he has found something that no one else before him ever thought of and it changes everything, I cannot help but subject that kid to heavy scrutiny. Many of these new kids on the block are children of discontentment, unhappy with the current state of affairs. Most of them do not like some aspect of the God that Scripture reveals, and they seek for ingenious ways to reinvent Him. The OT stories are just too bloody, unjust, and utterly incredible to be true. In short, many of these movements are the products of men who don’t like God very much and they desperately want to change Him into a being that they can adore and appreciate, while still hanging on their sinful desire for rational and moral autonomy.

Fundamental to evangelicalism is a high view of Scripture and a high Christology. Your view rejects both. Hence, it is not evangelical. You are guilty of bifurcating on the term.

I have a high view of scripture—actually a very high view of scripture—and a high Christology. But I quite agree that my understanding of the gospel is different to the prevailing modern evangelical view of the gospel.

We are talking about Mark, but in my hermeneutic, it is illegitimate to look at any one document in a silo.

True, but it’s poor hermeneutics to assume that the New Testament documents were written by a committee.

You clearly misunderstood my comments about hermeneutics.

Sorry this is a bit short. It’s late Saturday night. I shouldn’t be doing this at all.

I have a high view of scripture—actually a very high view of scripture—and a high Christology. But I quite agree that my understanding of the gospel is different to the prevailing modern evangelical view of the gospel.

Do you affirm divine authorship? Inerrancy? Infallibility? Self-Attestating?

Do you affirm that Jesus Christ is God, eternally existing in the triune God as the divine Son from all eternity? That He is God of very God being of the same divine substance with the Father and the Spirit?

True, but it’s poor hermeneutics to assume that the New Testament documents were written by a committee.

This is a statement, not an argument. If the NT is the product of the activites of the One Triune God, working through men, then the essence of that product would look very much like the same kind of document a committee might produce. The transcendant nature of Scripture necessarily leads one to assume that what the Divine Committee (Triune God) said through one man over here would not contradict and would be consistent what that same Committee said through another man over there. Hence, the assumption of divine action in Scripture forces one to assume that the New Testament documents were written by committee, a supernatural One. It is the essentence of divine origin that accounts for the unity and authority of Scripture and the fact that its production came through man that accounts for its diversity.

The statements in John to which you refer draw on a different conceptuality—either Jesus as wisdom/logos or Jesus as a son in intimate relation to his Father. They are not interpretations or explanations of the lordship motif. The phrase monogenēs theos is also textually debatable and in context next to unintelligible.

I am not sure why you would say that it is “next to unintelligible.” The earliest and best manuscripts do not have υἱὸς. The earliest manuscript containing “the only begotten Son” is A. However, P66, P75, Aleph, Aleph(1), B, C, L, Syr(hmg.p), 33, and cop(bo) all have either one unique God or the one unique God. While the text is still debated, the textual evidence for NU (Nestle Aland/UBS) is very strong.

I am curious why you feel so free in overturning and disputing standard interpretations of a text like Jn. 1:1 without overing any justification whatsoever for your argument. It is either this way or that way you assert, but you offer absolutely no argument for your assertions. You simply make statements as if these statements provide ample proof and should be accepted without dispute. Well, I reject your position and request that you provide sound exegetical ground for your conclusion.

It is exceedingly clear that John is talking about Christ in 1-18 of his first chapter. He says that Jesus was in the beginning with God. He says that Jesus is God. He says that all things came into existence through Jesus. Jesus created all things. Paul said the same thing in Col. John tells us that God was made flesh and we beheld Him. He closes his prologue by saying that no one has seen God at any time; the one unique God who is in the bosom of the Father, this one has explained Him. This one is Jesus Christ! The Son of God, the Son of Man, the Messiah, God of very God.

Ignatius, writing sometime between 98-117 said this commenting on Jn. 1:1

Ignatius affirmed that “God appeared in human form to bring the newness of eternal life.”

Another proof of early worship of Christ involve the use of the Nomina Sacra in all second and third century MSS of the Greek NT. Making a name nomen sacrum desecularized the term, lifting it to sacred status. (Comfort)

The evidence, historical, exegetical, textual, and theological that Jesus burst onto the scene as God in human flesh is overwhelming. It is a settled issue in the Church and no settled issue ought to be reconsidered without compelling evidence. Your argument provides no such evidence. It seems to be the product of dissatiscation with current views of God that are offensive. Therefore, basic tenets of the ancient Church must be rejected in favor of rational, anachronistic arguments designed to recreate a story that does God better service. It reminds me of the Greek allegories of the offensive behaviors of the gods. It is a reaction to something in the text that the proponents find unsatisfactory.

There is another problem with this narrative-historical program. Namely, that only around 10-15% of the audiences in the Greco-Roman world were literate. The bigger problem is related to the percentage of NT writings that were directed toward an audience that would have even the foggiest idea of Jewish apocalyptic literature and Jewish interpretive paradigms, both necessary in order to understand the message. For instance while Matthew’s audience was Jewish, Mark’s was Roman. Luke was written to an individual Roman while John’s audience was universal. Of the four gospel accounts, only one is predominantly Jewish. The others were directed toward thoroughly helenized audiences. It is this helenization process that is supposedly the culprit of unwittingly turning Jesus into God and hence, commiting idolatry by worshiping Him. It only gets worse in terms of the audience for whom most of the NT documents were addressed. It is a list of predominately helenized communities.

It is amazing to me that the NT writers knew the hermeneutical liabilities in these Gentile communities and did absolutely nothing to prevent them from inadvertingly and unwittingly turning Jesus into a deity. They should have know this was likely to happen given the nature of these highly religious communities.

Ben Witherington III tells us that these writings were, for the most part, sermons with predominantly pastoral concerns. I think he is right. These were sermons written to the new communities in Christ about what each community must confess and how it must live. The writings were directed to mostly simple, poor, uneducated Christians. The purpose: sanctification of mind and body. Scripture is given to transform us into the image of Christ.

Narrative realism or narrative-historical interpretation commits the error of giving privilege to one specific literary form of Scripture. And it does so without much justification. It requires predominatly Gentile audiences with extremely pagan polytheistic backgrounds to be highly competent in the Jewish intepretive paradigm, you know, the one that murdered the same Jesus that these communties are being instructed to die for, and they will. We need to appreciate and respect the fact that there are a diversity of genres in the revelation of Scripture and our hemerneutical method must be robust enough to account for each them adequately.

Ed, I’ve lumped together responses to a number of your criticisms here.

Do you affirm divine authorship? Inerrancy? Infallibility? Self-Attestating?

Do you affirm that Jesus Christ is God, eternally existing in the triune God as the divine Son from all eternity? That He is God of very God being of the same divine substance with the Father and the Spirit?

To be honest, most of that language is so far from the language of scripture that I’ve no idea whether it’s an accurate statement of matters or not. Am I supposed to believe in the viewpoint of the church fathers or in scripture?

I would certainly affirm that the scriptures constitute a Spirit-inspired and reliable—though of course, incomplete—account of the faith of the people of God from very early days through to the end of the first century AD or thereabouts. One element of that faith appears to have been a close and direct identification of Jesus with pre-existent divine wisdom.

If the NT is the product of the activites of the One Triune God, working through men, then the essence of that product would look very much like the same kind of document a committee might produce.

That is an assumption, not an argument. I believe that God spoke to his people through the untidy contingencies of their historical experience. Theology may require a single coherent voice, but history does not. I believe in the God of history rather than the God of theology. We probably differ there.

He says that Jesus was in the beginning with God. He says that Jesus is God. He says that all things came into existence through Jesus. Jesus created all things.

Are we talking about the same Gospel of John? My version says that the logos was with God, was God, was the means of creation, etc.

Well, I reject your position and request that you provide sound exegetical ground for your conclusion.

I think the onus is on you to show me that I’m wrong when I say that John does not use the wisdom motif to interpret or support an apocalyptic argument about Jesus being appointed as Lord and Christ by virtue of his resurrection. I don’t see good grounds for importing the theology of John into the Gospel of Mark.

The evidence, historical, exegetical, textual, and theological that Jesus burst onto the scene as God in human flesh is overwhelming. It is a settled issue in the Church and no settled issue ought to be reconsidered without compelling evidence.

It is not my intention to provide evidence against the view that “Jesus burst onto the scene as God in human flesh”. My intention is only to show that many of the passages that are used in defence of that theological conclusion are actually saying something else, and as far as the New Testament is concerned, something more important. I don’t seen anything in the synoptic Gospels to suggest that Matthew, Mark and Luke were trying to communicate the point that Jesus was God in human flesh. They were trying to say that Jesus would become king.

Namely, that only around 10-15% of the audiences in the Greco-Roman world were literate.

That’s irrelevant. You don’t have to be literate to share a worldview. On the one hand, people could listen to the scriptures being read; on the other, worldview is conveyed through numerous non-literary media.

The bigger problem is related to the percentage of NT writings that were directed toward an audience that would have even the foggiest idea of Jewish apocalyptic literature and Jewish interpretive paradigms, both necessary in order to understand the message.

Well, it seems pretty clear to me that Paul was taking a Jewish message via the synagogues of the diaspora to the Gentiles, and that he consistently dre on the Jewish scriptures in order to explain and defend it. I don’t really see what your problem is here. Under any hermeneutic you have to explain why there is so heavy a reliance the Old Testament and reconstruction of Jewish narratives in texts addressed to Gentile readers.

What did the Thessalonians make of the thoroughgoing and thoroughly Jewish apocalypticism of 2 Thessalonians 1:5-2:12?

Paul’s gospel was that YHWH had appointed his Son as Lord through the resurrection of the dead and that this had massive political-religious implications for the pagan world.The whole New Testament is essentially an apocalyptic argument to the effect that the God of Israel was about to lay claim to the entire oikoumenē. That, at least, is my narrative-historical reading of the New Testament. You will disagree with it, but I think it makes excellent biblical and historical sense.

Andrew,

At this point time are there any passages in the Bible any where that make you personally believe that Jesus existed as God from eternity past?

Andrew,

You made this comment earlier today, “I am not trying to prove that Jesus was no more than a man. I’ve made this point several times. My concern is rather that the lordship narrative is being misused.”

But in June of 2010 you made this comment re Acts 2 and Philippians 2: “In 2:34 Peter announces to all Israel that ‘God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified’. That makes no sense if ‘Lord’ denotes ‘God’. You would not want to say that God has made Jesus ‘God’, surely? ‘Lord’ in this context – a context very similar to Romans 1: 1-4 - must mean something other than ‘God’. In Philippians 2, of course, ‘lordship’ is something that is given to Jesus because he followed the path of obedience. It effectively presupposes that he was not God in his life of servanthood on behalf of Israel.”

Found in this thread: http://www.postost.net/2010/06/did-jesus-act-though-he-thought-he-were-god

I have wondered every since I read that the first time how you can even keep saying you are not trying to prove Jesus isn’t God, or how you can leave that possibility open at all if you really believe what you wrote here. You did say that these verses presuppose that He was not God. You seem to be saying two things at the same time here!

At risk of oversimplification, when the New Testament asserts that Jesus is Lord, the statement sums up a narrative in which the man Jesus is given authority to judge and rule because he was obedient to the point of death on a cross. This is a story of kingship or kingdom. So “Jesus is Lord” does not mean “Jesus is God”. It means “Jesus is King”—or that he has been given authority to rule at the right hand of God. That is to my mind the most important story that is told about Jesus in the New Testament. But it is not the only story. There is another story told, which draws heavily on Jewish wisdom ideas, about Jesus and creation, which gets us much close to the idea that “Jesus is God”. There is no doubt some sort of overlap between the two stories, but I think we will probably misunderstand both if we get them confused.

But Andrew, if one “story” declares that He is not God, how can another story declare that He is–and both be true?

I didn’t say that one story declares that he is not God. I said that the lordship story does not declare that he is God—it is saying something else.

I’m sorry, but this statement, ‘ It effectively presupposes that he was not God in his life of servanthood on behalf of Israel.”–would certainly seem to say exactly that. If to be be declared Lord effectively pressupposes He was not God–what else exactly are you saying there?

And for the record, Andrew, Jewish wisdom ideas about Jesus and creation, “which gets us much close to the idea that “Jesus is God”, is still a far cry from the orthodox belief that Jesus was pre existent as God and became fully God and fully man at the incarnation.

Hi Andrew,

John 1:1-18 is clearly concerned to present the pre-existent Christ as divine. Logos is never used in the NT to refer to wisdom, not even once. It appears 68 times by the way.

John clearly tells us that Jesus name is the Word of God (ho logos tou theou).

μονογενὴς θεὸς, the only begotten God, or the one unique God has the best mss support. Clearly John is calling Jesus God here. If one is going to choose the alternative reading, then they should have a compelling reason for doing so. Bart Erhman can offer sheer conjecture and speculation.

Phil 2:6-11 clearly expresses Christ’s existing in the form of God, being equal to God, and then taking up the likeness of man and the form of a servant. The present participle describing Christ existing in the form of God contrasted with the aorist participle with his form of a servant is not insignificant. you breeze by it without hardly a wink.

Proverbs 8 is a Jewish literary device that has nothing to do with wisdom participating in creation. Such an intepretation hardly qualifies as sound from nearly any perspective.

Most of the recipients to the NT documents would have been unfamiliar with Jewish interpretive paradigms Therefore, any intepretive method requiring such is highly suspect, if not easily dismissed from the start.

The apostle Paul, himself a master of Jewish interpretive paradigm rejected Christ so long as he employed it in his understanding of the law and the prophets. It was only after the miracle of conversion that Paul was able to interpret the OT text accurately. Hence, you thesis dismissed entirely the supernatural component necessary to rightly understand the sacred writings. Jesus did as much in his conversion of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. The Lord must open the heart. Naturalistic intepretive paradigms are severly limited in their ability to get at the heart of the meaning of Scripture.

Col. 1:13-20 is an amazingly simple and clear articulation of Christ as existing before all things, creating all things, and even holding all things together. You have provided no adequate treatment of this text so far as I can tell.

Concerning Jewish intepretive methods, I am wondering which one is the one we should use and why? Do you favor the Rabbinic, the Hellenistic, or the Qumranican? Rabbinic hermeneutics attempted to use the Law as a refuge to protect Jewish identity. But this would violate the NT inclusion of Gentiles into the community of Christ. It was a huge source of tension in the first century. Hellenistic hermeneutics would have borrowed heavily from platonic philosophy, something Paul was highly critical of in his writings. Qumranian hermeneutics constantly approached OT prophecies throught the grid of their own experience, overlaying their own light on the text and doing what many moderns do today, seeing only themselves is verses where they simply do not exist. It did not take long before God began to reveal to the early apostles that their interpretive paradigms about His program were wrong. It began when Jesus refused to tell them when the end would come and became clearer as the gospel spread to Gentiles and the Jews continued to reject the message more and more. It was obvious that a new interpretive paradigm was being ushered in along with the appearance of the Messiah and the birth of the Church.

I have reached the end of this discussion. My time and principles will not permit further discussion at this time. I am sad to say that your system is a system of unbelief. From my perspective, you do not embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ as revealed in the Scripture. Rather, your interpretive paradigm leads you to the wholesale rejection of the good news. I hope and pray that God will grant you the same mercy and light He granted Paul, resulting in a truth that leads to life eternal.

Take care.

Ed

Hi Jaco,

I read your response and it is woefully inadequate. Your explaination of 1 John 5:20 indicates a complete lack of proficiency in koine Greek. Your denial of the deity of Christ is heresy, and places you on the outside you Christianity. You cannot be Christian and deny the divinity of the Son of God. Refusal affirm Christ as divine places your soul in great peril. I pray God will open your eyes to see and understand thet truth of the gospel. I have responsbilities with my local Church, am preparing for an apologetics event coming up in July, work full-time, and have a wife and a teenage son. I am also involved in teaching and discipleship. I have to spend my time wisely. I wish you the best in seeing the truth.

Nothing concrete to add, Ed? Just the same old anathematic rhetoric? Really think hollow threats will scare me? LOL! Well, apparently you had a lot of time replying to Andrew (but then again those replies are old and lame and easy to copy and paste).

Anyway, just for the sake of reciprocity, my reply on 1 John 5:20 and Koine Greek per se are irrelevant, unless you’d like to invent some fancy linguistic rule again. Funny that even a trinitarian like Henry Alford denies a trinitarian reading in 1 Joh. 5:20. There are some honest people from among your ilk after all…

O well, hope you enjoy your apologetics event. I am quite a zealous apologist myself, my friend. ;-)

Cheers…

Jaco,

What if what Ed said is not just a “hollow threat”? There are many, many folks in this world that are quite convinced that belief in the deity of Christ is an absolute essential to salvation. See this evangelical blog article as an example: http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2013/03/chart-to-help-distinguish-between-essentials-and-non-essentials/

Here is a quote from that article: “Essential for salvation: These are the most essential doctrines of all. This includes what every Christian should always be willing to die for. In essence, if someone does not believe the doctrines that are “essential for salvation,” they are not saved.

What I include:

  • Belief in God (there is no such thing as an atheistic Christian)

Issues pertaining to the person and work of Christ:

I would personally believe that an outright denial of His deity does put one in a very dangerous place.

Hi Cheryl

What if what Ed said is not just a “hollow threat”? There are many, many folks in this world that are quite convinced that belief in the deity of Christ is an absolute essential to salvation. See this evangelical blog article as an example: http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2013/03/chart-to-help-distinguish-between-essentials-and-non-essentials/

I couldn’t be bothered in the least by what is popularly accepted as necessary for salvation. Ad populum arguments never phase me. Do you shape your own faith on what is popular?

I would personally believe that an outright denial of His deity does put one in a very dangerous place.

Cheryl, if 2 billion people in this world were Mormons and they preached to you saying that the only way to salvation is to accept as the official mouthpiece of God the authority of the Mormon Church and the prophethood of Joseph Smith (complete with Scriptural references and impressive statistics), would you believe it? I mean, would you even be bothered by it?

You do realize that Alford is not divine, right? And he would accuse you of heresy and demand your removal from the Christian Church, right?

Secondly, your argument about John’s use of the demonstrative pronoun is fallacious. All I have to do is show that John indeed used the pronoun in exactly the sort of construction that supports Wallace’s understanding once and your entire position is meaningless.

Finally, the syntactical support for a trinitarian view of 1 Jn. 5:20 is much stronger than the alternative. Heretics are always playing with language and pointing out alternative uses, even if those uses represent the smallest possibility. That seems to be enough for them.

Jaco, you have argued with enough orthodox Christians on the doctrine of the trinity to know where we stand. God’s word instructs me NOT to engage in endless debates and disputes, and He tells me not to keep casting my perils before the swine. You are a wolf in sheeps clothing if you deny the divinity of Jesus Christ. I have no interest in engaging in yet one more debate at this time. I am simply too busy. I will pray for you.

οὗτος occurs 55 times in John’s literature. In Jn.1:1 and 1:2, the antecedent is clearly ὁ λόγος which is in juxtaposed with it. Then again in Jn. 1:6-7, οὗτος is juxtaposed with its antecedent, Ἰωάννης. We haven’t even scratched the surface at this point. To argue that John had occassion to engage in certain syntactical styles does not mean that he always did so. What an absolutely absurb point of view! This is why I won’t waste my time on such argumentation. Not only are the arguments poorly constructed, the lack of understanding of the languages is remarkable. Hence it provides for silliness as far as I am concerned.

Ed Dingess, I have no interest in competing with you in being immature and rude. I’ve engaged so many trinitarians, few of whom were rather intelligible and honorable. But most are sadly of your stripe, being fine emulators of your murderous messiah, John Calvin. So you are welcome to continue with your raving hysteria, I’ll try and glean from your posts – for the sake of others, mostly – whatever intelligible can be gained from it.

Trinitarians only have indirect means for proving Jesus to be “God,” employing much the same hermeneutic styles JWs do in identifying Jesus with Michael or Muslims trying to find Mohammed in the Bible. Exactly the same kind of inferences is used to prove the Trinity. The text in 1 John 5:20 is a classic example where something as ambiguous as a pronoun, and something as cognitively unintelligible, especially in an oral community, as grammatical distribution are used to prove what is actually already decided upon by the Trinity believer; while the overwhelming evidence is simply ignored. Just in this chapter we find the following:

From vs. 2: For this is the love of God….

Vs. 4: For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world…

Vs. 9: If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater

Vs. 10: …he that believeth not God hath made Him a liar

Vs. 11: …God hath given to us eternal life,

Vs. 15: …we know that we have the petitions that we desired of [God]

Vs. 18: We know that whosoever is born of God sinneth not

Vs. 19: And we know that we are of God,…

The overwhelming theme of this chapter is God, his attributes, our relationship with him. Jesus is also placed in relation to God as the one born of God, that he is the son of God, that life belongs to him who confesses Jesus, that life is in his son and that we should believe in the name of God’s son. Even here Jesus is placed in relation to the dominant subject of the chapter, namely God.

Then we have the relational association, namely God and then His son. Jesus is of a distinct and different identity of God. There is no hint of “Godness” or shareable “divinity” associated with the identity of God. These concepts need to be imported to shoehorn the trinity into the text.

Then we have the regular designation of God as the “only true God” (John 17:3), that Jesus gives us an understanding of God, the One who is “true, and we are in him that is true and in his Son Jesus Christ.” Here again a distinction is drawn between the one true God and another identity, his son.

And then, after focusing mainly on the Father, God Almighty, in the chapter, after identifying Him as the One who is true, (the only True God) and articulating Jesus’ relation to this true God, the writer concludes:

“This [one] is the true God, and eternal life.”

Now, the trinitarian has to ignore the overwhelming and obvious, and has to resort to the indirect, flimsy and unintelligible. It is also obvious that the trinity is preferred and the text just used to gather support for it, however desperate.

Fortunately there are honest trinitarians (they are few and far between), and Henry Alford was one of them. It might strike some of our more fanatical Trinitarians as a surprise that not all trinitarians are oppressive. Henry Alford would therefore probably have engaged those disagreeing with him than oppressing them. Below are more admissions of the position I hold on the text in question:

‘[T]he most natural reference’ (Westcott) is to him that is true. In this way the three references to ‘the true’ are to the same Person, the Father, and the additional points made in the apparent final repetition are that is this One, namely the God made known by Jesus Christ, who is the true God, and that, besides this, He is eternal life. – The Epistles of John, An Introduction and Commentary by The Rev. J.R. W. Scott, pp. 195, 196.

Although it is certainly possible [acknowledging the ambiguity] that houtos refers back to Jesus Christ, several converging lines of evidence point to ‘the true one,’ God the Father, as the probable antecedent. This position, houtos = God, is held by many commentators, authors of general studies, and, significantly, by those grammarians who express an opinion on the matter. – Murray Harris, Jesus as God, p. 253.

You are more than welcome, Ed Dingess, to insult these scholars’ linguistic proficiency. Go right ahead…You accuse heretics of “playing with language and pointing out alternative uses, even if those uses represent the smallest possibility;” well, thus far I’ve only seen you doing it.

I think your second reply above has rather embarrassing consequences:

In Jn.1:1 and 1:2, the antecedent is clearly ὁ λόγος which is in juxtaposed with it. Then again in Jn. 1:6-7, οὗτος is juxtaposed with its antecedent, Ἰωάννης. We haven’t even scratched the surface at this point.

You don’t need to scratch any further. If the immediate antecedent determines the subject of the one referring to, then you have a major problem:

1 John 2:22 “Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He (οὗτος) is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son.”

Following your rule, the one immediately preceding the pronoun, οὗτος, is the antichrist. In the text above it is the Christ! I rest my case…

This is what I mean Jaco. You are, sad to say, entirely ignorant of Koine Greek. I could list out numerous scholars who agree with my view as well as Wallace’s view on 1 Jn. 5:20.

Secondly, I have not invoked a rule of any sort. I have shown that John does not ALWAYS place the antecedent of outos so far away and when he does, it is obvious what the antecedent is.

The rule is that οὗτός is used as the DP closest to the antecedent and ἐκεῖνός is used when the antecedent is more distant. This is a general rule and does not always hold. But the point is that when you find a place that it does not hold, you must come up with more than theological bias and conjecture as proof that the rule does not hold in that instance.

John uses ἐκεῖνός 62 times. He is quite familiar with how to use both of these words.

This is enough for me. I am sorry you think I am being immature. From my perspective, I have a responsibility to speak the truth, not only about Scripture but about the consequences of your doctrine. You bear herertical teachings. You are spreading them across the internet. The Church has dealt with most forms of “oneness” theology from antiquity and it has uniformly, consistently, and expressly excommunicated all heretics that confess it. You happen to be one of them. I urge you to repent and place your faith in the one triune God who is able to save and provide light out of the darkness in which you presently find yourself.

My prayer is that you find hope and peace in Christ, God of very God, Savior of all mankind.

Ed Dingess, I am certainly not going to report to you what my linguistic proficiency is, how many languages I speak and at what age I learnt them. It is entirely obvious that you are ignoring the compelling evidence against the trinitarian reading of this text (as supported by highly regarded trinitarian scholars themselves) and you base your understanding on indirect, ambiguous and weak evidence.

The rule is that οὗτός is used as the DP closest to the antecedent and ἐκεῖνός is used when the antecedent is more distant. This is a general rule and does not always hold. But the point is that when you find a place that it does not hold, you must come up with more than theological bias and conjecture as proof that the rule does not hold in that instance.

Aah, exactly! Are you willing to apply your own rule? What will guide YOUR deciding whether the above rule is faithfully upheld in a text, if not “theological bias and conjecture???” Thus far I’ve only seen you doing the latter…mind applying your own rule consistently?…

Secondly, I provided overwhelming TEXTUAL (not doctrinal) evidence which is recognizable in both a written and oral society that would as good as settle the case for a non-trinitarian understanding of the text.

This is enough for me. I am sorry you think I am being immature. From my perspective, I have a responsibility to speak the truth, not only about Scripture but about the consequences of your doctrine.

Yes, it is a pity that your behaviour would have me think you are. If it’s about consequences of doctrine we can have a great deal to speak about. The history of the Church is drenched in bloodshed and faith-crippling atrocities all in an attempt to safeguard an invented and artificially sustained post-biblical doctrine. You are right! A doctrine’s consequences speak for itself…

You bear herertical teachings. You are spreading them across the internet. The Church has dealt with most forms of “oneness” theology from antiquity and it has uniformly, consistently, and expressly excommunicated all heretics that confess it. You happen to be one of them. I urge you to repent and place your faith in the one triune God who is able to save and provide light out of the darkness in which you presently find yourself.

You are a heretic yourself – depending on who you ask. The Roman Church regards you as one; if you couldn’t be bothered by it, what makes you think I should? And you are right again (we agree on quite a few things after all, mind you?) that the history of the Church, particularly since the fourth century, has shown that they couldn’t stand the oneness of the biblical Yahweh. History shows that the Church has simply been infatuated with polytheism and with the insatiable craving to worship as God more than one. This was decided upon by the powerful, and dissenters were persecuted, murdered and tortured for taking a stand for their faith, regardless of how compelling their case. You sound very proud of these achievements. Had it not been for a more sophisticated society, you would probably have followed suit! No wonder you’re a Calvinist.

So thanks for your prayers, but forgive me for being utterly suspicious of your motives. And while you’re at it, better pray for the blood-stained hands of your disgraceful ancestors.

This is just an interlude for those seeking a comfort break from the white-hot heat of theological exchange which this thread is generating.

Jaco is a very personable young man, who comes across well on the video links provided. I’d love to listen to his recorded lecture on Psalm 110, but my connection can’t cope with the size of the file, and keeps buffering every 10 seconds. Psalm 110 was the subject of a difference between us ages ago, and I think Jaco argues it cogently, even though I disagree with him. I contented myself with the interview instead. I wouldn’t like to be in public debate with him. I’d get skewered.

I am always more interested in the persons behind the arguments than the arguments themselves, however important the arguments may be. (Same goes for Andrew). Jaco and I have debated before, very courteously, and he has a better mind and scholarship than mine, even though I still think he’s wrong!

I wonder whether Jaco’s personal journey from a Dutch Reformed background through to being a Jehovah’s Witness and then onwards has gone far enough, and whether it will lead further. I wonder if Jaco needs to look further into the Reformed faith which his mother taught him. I hope this doesn’t sound patronising. People get like this when they reach their sixties, and are usually tolerated with polite indifference!

Anyway, the bell signalling the end of the interval is sounding, so we return to our seats for the rest of the performance. Now, where’s my programme?

Thanks, Peter

You are one of the few Trinitarians I regard very highly. I have a few others and I’m honored to be their friend. If the Church’s history had more of you, she’d probably have achieved more and have been a more compelling force in our post-modern age.

I wonder if Jaco needs to look further into the Reformed faith which his mother taught him. I hope this doesn’t sound patronising. People get like this when they reach their sixties, and are usually tolerated with polite indifference!

Well, not being patronizing myself, and for a lack of a more palatable metaphor from the bible, I think vomit tastes the same at any age (cp. 2 Pet. 2:22). I am currently part of a wonderful church with great ministers as friends. It is refreshing to see how Calvin has died a slow death there and how the Emerging Church movement has them reexamine all the traditional tenets of Nicean/Chalcedonian Christianity.

As regards your faith journey, where is your next stop-over?

O yes, I expanded on my Ps. 110:1 paper. It should appear on the Kingdomready site sometime. I’ll remind you of it when it does.

One final comment about interpretive paradigm for those who might be really open that Andrew could be wrong.

Can we really trust the Ancient Jewish intepretive paradigms to uncover the meaning of OT laws and prophets? What did Jesus say to the very experts that Andrew affirms to be exemplars of understanding both the OT prophecies, laws, and writings, as well as the Christ event.

And He answered and said to them, “Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? 4 “For God said, ‘HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER,’ and, ‘HE WHO SPEAKS EVIL OF FATHER OR MOTHER IS TO BE PUT TO DEATH.’ 5 “But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever I have that would help you has been given to God,” 6 he is not to honor his father or his mother.’ And by this you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition. 7 “You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you:
8 ‘THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME. 9 ‘BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME, TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.’ ” Matt. 15:3-9

Apparently Jesus had major differences with the prevailing intepretive paradigm of first-century Judaism.

He was also saying to them, “You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition.
10 “For Moses said, ‘HONOR YOUR FATHER AND YOUR MOTHER’; and, ‘HE WHO SPEAKS EVIL OF FATHER OR MOTHER, IS TO BE PUT TO DEATH’; 11 but you say, ‘If a man says to his father or his mother, whatever I have that would help you is Corban (that is to say, given to God),’ 12 you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or his mother; 13 thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down; and you do many things such as that.”

Notice Jesus says that first century Judaism was expert at setting aside the commandments of God. He also accused this interpretive paradigm of invalidating the Word of God. These are serious indictments.

It was precisely in this interpretive paradigm that Paul was an expert among experts. Gal. 1:14

Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are mistaken, that you do not understand the Scriptures or the power of God? Mk 12:24

Apparently, ancient Judaism had adopted an woefully inadequate interpretive paradigm because the Jews were subverting the Scripture, fundamentally ignorant of the Word of God, and could not even recognize their own Messiah when He appeared.

Finally, Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight. Lk. 24:31

-AND- “Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.” Lk 24:45.

The Jewish interpretive paradigm was harshly rebuked by Christ for its inability to understand Scripture, its deliberate invalidation of the Word of God, and its ability to subvert the truth about the Messiah. Paul was a leading proponent and expert in this methodology. Yet, it was inadequate to lead Paul to the right conclusions about Jesus Christ. It took a miracle. The men on the road to Emmaus required divine intervention to recognize Jesus. The Disciples had to have their minds open by divine action before they could understand the Scriptures. The disciples never started following Jesus as the Messiah because of their interpretive paradigm. Jesus called, and they followed in every case. They only learned later, much later, how to rightly interpret Scripture so as to demonstrate the Jesus was the Messiah. If anything is clear, it is this: unregnerate people MUST have a new interpretive paradigm to understand the Scripture and to rightly know who Jesus really is. And that paradigm can only come through the agency of the Holy Spirit, by divine and supernatural transformation. Sinners do not become saints because they employed some ancient Jewish, naturalistic interpretive paradigm and figured it out. You must be born again said Jesus to one of the masters of Andrew’s narrative-historical method! If it was bankrupt and inadequate then, 2,000 years of distance cannot possibly have made it the interpretive paradigm of choice today.

What other motives could these men have for affirming interpretive paradigms that tell us Jesus is not God, eternal punishment is a product of men, and that the path to God is much broader than even Jesus said it was in Matt. 7?


Can we really trust the Ancient Jewish intepretive paradigms to uncover the meaning of OT laws and prophets? What did Jesus say to the very experts that Andrew affirms to be exemplars of understanding both the OT prophecies, laws, and writings, as well as the Christ event.

Ed, I think you’re missing the point here. It’s not about trusting ancient Jewish interpretive paradigms. It’s about putting Jesus in a Jewish worldview, in the biblical narrative, and in the first century Jewish political context. Christian theology has tended to take him out of that context. Recent developments in biblical studies and increasingly in the area of general Christian reflection have brought the historical frame of the New Testament back into focus, and this has exposed tensions between the texts and later theological formulations. For example, we have creeds that make no reference to the story of Israel, we have Trinitarian formulations that make no mention of lordship.

I do not discount the value of placing the NT events in their proper historical framework. At best, the current reaction is overblown in my opinion.

Dispensational theology does much to recognize the significance of Israel in its eschatological program.

It is hardly possible to emphasize divinity without inferring all that is bound up in lordship.

I am very familiar with the canons of grammatico-historical interpretation as well as standard exegetical rules involved in biblical theology. I am curious about the canons of narrative-historical interpretation and how they differ from traditional approaches. I would love some examples of how that method understands certain texts.

It is hardly possible to emphasize divinity without inferring all that is bound up in lordship.

True, but the does it work the other way round? Can we emphasize lordship without inferring all that is bound up in divinity?

There are plenty of examples in the commentary section of how the narrative-historical reading, as I understand it, casts texts in a very different light. How about The Lord’s prayer and its eschatological context to begin with?

What you need to demonstrate Andrew is that this is how the apostles read the OT. It is not enough to show that this is Judaism read it. By the way, you have not actually demonstrated that latter now that I think about it.

You use the term quite a lot, but you have yet to provide some canons or rules around its use. What I am looking for is a clear definition of the method, its rules, and some examples of use from the Scriptures. In addition, I would like you to demonstrate the application of these rules to a text that has been understood by orthodoxy to affirm Christ’s divinity and show how your method reasonably arrives at the opposite conclusion.

Until you can provide more clarity around what you are doing with the text, we will continue to talk past one another. The question is not this text or that text. The heartbeat of the issue is your method and its legitimacy. Will it stand up under the scrutiny of reason and evidence? Is it consistent? What happens if we apply it to other historical documents?

I am sure you are quite familiar with the grammatico-historical method of reading the text. It demands we let the text speak for itself. It recognizes the many different genres of the text. It affirms that communication between God and man is possible. I am also quite sure you are familiar with rules of exegesis. Textual critical issues, translating the passage (must know the langauges of course), setting the limits of the text in question, genre, literary devices, etc, etc. What I am asking for from you Andrew is the setting forth of your method with profound clarity and then a reasoned apologetic for why we should adopt it as our predominant interpretive paradigm.

I would have thought, Ed, that the onus is you to show that the apostles did not read the text in this way. If we take the Lord’s prayer example, which I’m sure you looked at, I hardly think it is necessary to demonstrate that Jesus was a Jew, that he knew the scriptures, that he thought like a prophet, that he was concerned about the condition of Israel, that he expected the kingdom to come within a generation. So the first assumption should be that when he uses the language of a biblical prophet in a prayer for the coming of the kingdom when Israel is under Roman occupation, he has in mind an impending crisis of judgment and renewal. That seems to me to be a basic rule of historical interpretation.

What rules do you operate under that would disqualify that reading? I will write a short piece next week, but I don’t really feel that I need to dance to your tune on this one.

Actually, Andrew, the new kid on the block, in this case your method of interpreting Scripture has the burden of proof. You are the one seeking to convince others that the Church was wrong from almost its inception about everything from the divinity of Christ and even the resurrection. Jesus was Jew begs the question. That He knew the Scripture begs the question. That He thought like a prophet in a certain sense begs the question. That He expected the kingdom to come is a matter of dispute. If you mean the actual, physical kingdom, you would be certainly incorrect.

Kingdom language cannot be restricted to one perspective or dimension. The term is used in more than one sense in the NT. Jesus said the kingdom of God is within. When he announced liberty to the captives, He did not have the literal liberation of Israel in mind as the other prophets would have. It is not a safe assumption to claim that Jesus possessed the same level of knowledge about His program that fallen, inperfect prophets had. This moves in the direction of Preterism, which, as you know, has also been deemed heresy by the Church.

I am not demanding that you dance to the Historical-Grammatico approach. I am demanding that your method be articulated clearly and defended. John tells us to test the spirits, does he not? Paul says that he that is spiritual judges everything. I am saying we place the “johnny-come-lately” method under scrutiny to see if it is a legitimate practice to use it as the predminate method for understanding the teachings of the NT documents, and hence, the OT documents as understood by the NT writers.

I have explained and defended my method widely on this site. I have also made the point in conversation with you and others that this is not fundamentally about whether the New Testament teaches the divinity of Jesus. It is about where and how—and whether in some important places the New Testament is actually saying something more important. And where did I say that the church was wrong about the resurrection? I’m a little surprised by that accusation.

Okay Andrew. I will take you at your word. Where exactly, in your opinion, using applying your method, does the NT teach that Jesus is God!

1. Do you affirm that Jesus is God?

2. Do you affirm that Scripture teaches the doctrine of the Trinity?

Your view that John 1 is talking about the incarnation of Wisdom is outrageous. No first-century Jew would have thought this in any way, shape or form.

I am more than capable of understand your hermeneutic. What I would like is for you to take just a few minutes to produce its canons, rules, or principles. What I suspect, Andrew, is that you prefer lack of precision so that you are at liberty to shift when the need calls for it. I am very acquainted with this method from emergents. It is like trying to nail jello to the wall.

I would be enouraged if you provided very direct answers to questions 1 and 2. What do you affirm about Jesus Christ and about God? Christianity affirms that Christ is God. It has from the beginning. Christianity also affirms that God is triune. These are cardinal tenets of the Christian faith. Refusal to affirm them or denial of either of them places one outside of Historic, biblical Christianity. This are very simple questions.

John identified the Logos as Jesus Christ. Logos is never used in the NT to mean wisdom. That is your own reconstruction. Everywhere the word is used, it never refers to wisdom. You cannot pull up unrelated quotes from secular philosophers and books that are outside of divine revelation and attempt to overlay a couple of vague comments about how these particular men understood the relationship of wisdom and creation and think you have made your case. Far from it!

The identity of the Logos is found in John 1. What is true of the Logos is true of Jesus Christ because HE IS the Logos. The same John said His name is called the Logos of God. There is no reason to think John is introducing the concept of wisdom’s relationship to creation.

The Jewish concern in literary devices like the personification of wisdom has to do with their overall concern for the uniqueness of God, not actually seeing these attributes as independent entities existing with God. Such is a leap is entirely unjustifiable.

Anyways, I look forward to reading your positive affirmation that Jesus Christ is God and where this IS taught in the NT. In addition, I also look forward to reading your unreserved affirmation of the trinity.

I’m not a great fan of emergent reasoning, but the problem I have is with people who want to go round nailing everything to the wall in this pseudo-scientific fashion. Historical narrative doesn’t work that way—it’s a different game with a different set of rules. If you keep trying to subordinate it to your theological rationalism, of course it’s going to be a frustrating experience for you.

There is a vast difference between theological rationalism and reason in theology. You said it yourself: there are a different set of rules in the narrative-historical approach. I want to know what those rules are. In other words, if I wanted to adopt the method, how would you go about teaching me those rules?

Is this method just another word for narraitive theology? How close are you to Lindbeck and Frei?

Andrew,

Thank you for providing the links. I will spend some time reading through them. If I have any questions along the way, I will post them here.

Using your method of interpretation, here is John 1:10-16, which you understand to be talking about wisdom, not the Jesus Christ. (IT being widsom)

10 IT was in the world, and the world was made through IT, and the world did not know IT.
11 IT came to IT’s own, and those who belonged to IT did not receive IT.
12 But as many as received IT, to them IT gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in IT’s name,
13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

14 And IT became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw IT’s glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.

15 John testified about IT and cried out, saying, “This was IT of whom I said, ‘IT comes after me has a higher rank than I, for IT existed before me.’ ”
16 For of IT’s fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace.

But John also recorded these words by John the Baptist just a few lines down:

“This is He on behalf of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’

If the “this is He” applies to Jesus, then we must move backwards appying all those pronouns to Jesus as well. And when we do that, we end up with Jn. 1:1 affirming that “the Logos” is in fact Jesus Christ.

Well, no. If the “word” becomes flesh, if wisdom dwells in Israel in the form of Jesus, then it is appropriate to talk about “word” up until the point at which it becomes incarnate in Jesus. Then we talk about Jesus. So from at least verse 14b onwards “he” is correct.

You are not connecting Logos with wisdom. That is my objection to your interpretation. You have not demonstrated that John had wisdom in mind when he used “ho logos” from the beginning. Your rule is imposing Philo on John’s thinking without consideration of how the word is used in NT literature. It is based off an unproven assumption that John was heavily influenced by Philo’s writings. Logos is used 330 times in the NT. It is never used in reference to wisdom. I am searching for justification of your assumption that John must have been heavily influenced by Philo and that in the isolated case of his prologue, he intended to claim that Jesus was wisdom incarnate, not God. No orthodox theologian would deny that Jesus was not only God incarnate, but that He was also those divine attributes summed up in the one man as well. That is to say that all wisdom is deposited in Christ. Paul clearly expresses this divine truth. But that does nothing to show that John was not attempting to point to the divinity of the person, Jesus Christ.

Are you saying that wisdom became a literal person? Do you believe that wisdom created the earth in cooperation with the Father, as if wisdom were some independent entity?

John never used Logos for wisdom. In fact, he only used the word sophia four times in all his writings. And everyone of those occurences are in the apocalypse. In addition, half of those uses are doxalogical.

If Jesus was wisdom in the flesh, how did he “increase in widsom” just like every other person?

This discussion is about the historic orthodox claim that Jesus Christ is God of very God. It is about the Christian view that God is triune in nature, three persons with one substance.

Do you affirm the eternal truine God, existing as Father, Son (Jesus Christ) and Holy Spirit?

Did Jesus Christ exist as God the Son prior to His incarnation? Did He create all that is? Is He not just a Lord, but THE Lord over all that is or ever will be and has He been so from eternity past?

These are plain questions that even my 13 yr old can answer. I would appreciate a direct answer to very direct questions. Is this converation a matter of semantics and exegesis here and there, or is it as serious as I suspect it to be?

Your rule is imposing Philo on John’s thinking without consideration of how the word is used in NT literature. It is based off an unproven assumption that John was heavily influenced by Philo’s writings. Logos is used 330 times in the NT. It is never used in reference to wisdom. I am searching for justification of your assumption that John must have been heavily influenced by Philo and that in the isolated case of his prologue, he intended to claim that Jesus was wisdom incarnate, not God.

Not at all. The argument is that John is drawing on Jewish Wisdom ideas, which presumably also influenced Philo. I also pointed out before that nowhere else in the New Testament is the logos said to be with God, God, and agent of creation. Your argument is worthless.

Incidentally, the link between word and wisdom is a major part of Richard Bauckham’s defence of the early recognition of Jesus’ divinity.

Andrew,

I can’t help but wonder why it is you call yourself an evangelical and say this blog is about evangelical theology? Since you absolutely refuse to affirm one of the main points of evangelical belief–that Jesus was fully God and fully man it really seems that claiming the title of Evangelical is not very accurate and is indeed rather misleading.

What’s wrong with that, Cheryl? 500 years ago “Christian” meant only one thing, namely “Catholic”. Did that hinder the reformers to uncover what they believed to be “Christian”? Please, remain different by not becoming dismissive and pejorative and prescriptive. Christianity has had enough of that. Or quit appealing to “sola scriptura;” instead, insist on “soli traditione.”. It is sad to see that what Church taught ultimately decides on what truth is…

Hi Jaco,

“Evangelical” is a term that is generally used to encompass some very specific beliefs. So, when one hears that term used, you would assume that those beliefs are a part of what is held. Do you not agree?

A PS to my last comment…

Jaco, I am sure you are familiar with the quote, “In essentails unity, in non essentials liberty, in all things charity.” This quote is often used by evangelicals as a statement of their approach to theology and fellowship.

The thing is, belief in the deity of Christ is one of those things that I see listed over and over as one of those essentials–thus needing unityof belief in this area. That is why it seems so incongruous to me to claim to be an evangelical while refusing to affirm that belief. (Maybe somewhat akin to someone that would claim to be a Unitarian while refusing to state they believe that God is one and that means that Jesus was not God. And then showing from Scripture place after place where it teaches that Jesus is God!)

Cheryl, whose is it to decide what is essential and what is not? The Roman Church regard you as a heretic, whether you confess Chalcedon or not. You’ve disowned the Mother, the True Representative of Christ. You can therefore claim to be “Christian” all you like, you’re NOT one in their eyes. So the offender (you) shifts the goalposts. The offended (Roman Church) disapproves of it. Does that prevent you from calling yourself Christian? No. I think Andrew assumes a similar position. What prevents anyone from proclaiming non-trinitarian Evangelical Christianity? Nothing. Hendrikus Berkhof did it, John Macquarrie did it, etc. It’s maybe not what you want to hear, but there is an awakening taking place among Christians who are not interested in starting a different religion. I think you will but have to learn to make peace with it…

“ What prevents anyone from proclaiming non-trinitarian Evangelical Christianity? Nothing.”

Well, let’s see then. Maybe I will go start a new blog. I will proclaim myself a Unitarian in the name of the blog and in the content I post on the blog. But I will consistently proclaim that the Bible teaches Trinitarian Christianity on that blog. Think it would be a good idea? And do you think that if those that are really Unitarians are reading it that it wouldn’t bring some flak? And probably eveb some, “How dare you use our name to promote the opposite theology?” responses?

Hi Chryl

Well, let’s see then. Maybe I will go start a new blog. I will proclaim myself a Unitarian in the name of the blog and in the content I post on the blog. But I will consistently proclaim that the Bible teaches Trinitarian Christianity on that blog. Think it would be a good idea? And do you think that if those that are really Unitarians are reading it that it wouldn’t bring some flak? And probably eveb some, “How dare you use our name to promote the opposite theology?” responses?

I’m afraid your analogy is not truly parallel to my argument above. “Unitarian” articulates “One God” or Shema theology explicitly and exclusively. Trinitarianism would be a contradiction of what One God theology prototypically stands for. The contradiction in theological definition would not be present in non-trinitarian “Christianity” or non-trinitarian “Evangelical” Christianity, simply because there is no absolute authority articulating “trinitarianism” to be a requirement for the label “Christian” or “Evangelical.” Nor is “Trinity” by definition enshrined in the name “Christian” or “Evangelical” as it is in “Trinitarianism.” So I take exception to your analogy simply because it falls short logically.

Now, you might want to disagree with my statement above, namely that there is no absolute authority insisting on Trinitariansim being a requirement for the label “Christian” or “Evangelical.” I’d imagine (or hope, rather) that you’d say that Scripture dictates that the Trinity is to be included in the “essentials” of Christianity and then we’ve gone full circle in this discussion, back to square 1. Every time Tradition is appealed to as to what is acceptable and unacceptable in the belief system of “Christian” and “Evangelical,” I’m a afraid we’ll have to walk this road only to end up at square 1 again. We all have to get past Scripture. And if tradition happens to be at odds with Scripture, guess what?…

So, in the mean time I’ll do what Luther and the others did during the Reformation. You might not like it, you might think we’re heretical influences, but I’d be bothered as little as those early Reformers were at the Roman Church’s rants against them.

Hi Jaco,

I am aware that my analogy is not strictly parallel. However, with the emphasis in evangelicalism on the belief in the deity of Christ as an essential doctrine, I think it is still close enough to have some merit.

And back to your accusation about folks appealing to tradition. Tradition is appealed to here only to the extent that we have believed that “tradition” most accurately defines Biblical reality.

Hi Cheryl,

And back to your accusation about folks appealing to tradition. Tradition is appealed to here only to the extent that we have believed that “tradition” most accurately defines Biblical reality.

I’m afraid you are misrepresenting the past few exchanges I had with yourselves and others on this blog. It is overwhelmingly clear that you folks have mixed allegiances, Cheryl. As soon as your traditional and doctrinal interpretation of Scripture is scrutinized and shown to be lacking Scriptural basis, you appeal to tradition, the historical account of the “Church,” the accepted doctrines, etc., and then you dare to push the chronology back to the First Century. When shown the obvious, namely that prima traditione shapes and guides your spiritual life, you resort to the “textual basis” of your tradition (full circle). The self-deception is deafening. You have NO textual basis for your most cherished fabricated post-biblical doctrines. These doctrines prevailed becausethey were artificially sustained through oppression, persecution and brutality. Sola Scriptura is a Big Lie, an impressive bait, only to be caught by the switch of Traditional Christianity.

It is good to see how people all over the world are starting to awake to this fact. The reaction from the Establishment is understandable, especially if these reactions are met with compelling responses. So yes, it’s interesting to see what’s happening.

Jaco,

The REASON oneness theology was rejected from its very inception is because it contradicts that clear principles of Scripture. Your reference to prima traditione is a tactic called poisioning the well. It is a polarizing and pejorative term designed to distract and deceive. Tradition is not ipso facto contrary to doctrine. It is used in both a good sense and a bad sense in the NT documents. Anyone can call anyone else “self-deceived” and sound like they know what their talking about when they do it. What you call “persecution,” Jesus Christ and Paul called Church discipline. Men who rose up teaching doctrines contrary to those handed down directly from the apostles were dealt with harshly for their obstinance and herersy. The Church must be kept pure. That means identifying the leaven and purging it from the body. Oneness theology is heretical leaven that was purged from the Church in the very beginning. And throughout Church history, every time it has attempted to infect the body with its vile self, it has been identified and purged and its adherents excommuicated. That is not persecution, it is obedience to the teachings and faith handed down to us by the apostles themselves.

Those of us in the Chruch are forbidden from debating this issue with you as if it is a discussion between fellow-Christians. It is not! Should we be surprised if the hearts of men grow continually wicked, never ceasing in their efforts to corrupt the Church of God for whom Christ died? We are not surprised. That a great falling away should come before the end is clearly taught by Paul. The closer we move to the culmination of the great appearing of our Lord, the more wicked men will become. This correlation is clearly delineated for us in Scripture.

Hi Ed

There are about 50 or so logical flaws in your comment above. Nearly every sentence you’ve written contains logical fallacies – which is not uncommon when engaging Trinitarians. Here goes:

The REASON oneness theology was rejected from its very inception is because it contradicts that clear principles of Scripture.

You’re overselling your theology here. You’re assuming the ultimate truth of human decisions and make a judgment call on the alternative based on those decisions. It’s again a matter of lending greater priority to tradition and not seeing what biblical history, culture, anthropology and theology say themselves.

Your reference to prima traditione is a tactic called poisioning the well. It is a polarizing and pejorative term designed to distract and deceive.

I beg to differ. My reference to prima traditione is in response to the overwhelmingly clear display of unquestioned allegiance and loyalty you have for your cherished tradition. When pushed on what you believe based on Scriptural, linguistic and historical grounds, you make ad hominem attacks, and resort to threats and name-calling while reminding us that that is the typical, traditional and historical way “the Church” has dealt with heretics. So you can rant and rave about this self-inflicted wound all you like – prima traditione it will remain until your behaviour, logic and rhetoric justifies my dropping it. Appeal to emotion all you like (another fallacy), but you have earned this label.

Tradition is not ipso facto contrary to doctrine. It is used in both a good sense and a bad sense in the NT documents.

Strawman. I’ve never dismissed tradition per se. I’ve been in disagreement with aspects of Christian tradition enforced upon the Church by the powerful, corrupt and oppressive, while having hardly any Scriptural basis for its preference. While the early Reformers were just as opposed to preferring Tradition over Scripture (hence the slogan sola scriptura), you folks have displayed an allegiance to inherited (however unscruptural) Tradition, hence my disagreeing with your inconsistency and your compromising the sola scriptura principle.

Anyone can call anyone else “self-deceived” and sound like they know what their talking about when they do it.

True, but you’re wrong again. I’m not calling you folks “self-deceived” just for the sake of doing it. My conclusions follow from reason. There are certain hallmarks of self-deception such as denialism, inconsistent reasoning, contradiction, circular argumentation, fallacious reasoning, etc. Since you folks have displayed these traits in my engaging you, the logical conclusion, namely self-deception is something you’ve earned yourselves. Take ownership of it – that might help…

What you call “persecution,” Jesus Christ and Paul called Church discipline.

False parallel. First off (again earning your prima traditione label) you’re assuming that the church has gotten it perfectly right every time as in the case of Jesus and Paul, elevating its doctrines to the level of biblical truth. Secondly, I’ve never read Jesus Christ and Paul ordering or practicing burning dissenters at the stake for confessing what the Bible articulates contra Church Confessions. I’ve never seen them so focused on avenging dissention that wet wood was used and sulfur dusted on the dissenters’ heads to prolong the burning at the stake. (Sound familiar? Your Messiah, John Calvin was a torturer par excellence). You’re obviously approving of the Church’s legacy to send dissenters to Inquisition chambers, lock them up in dungeons, slaughtering and killing their empathizers and pillaging their property. You and your approved Church legacy stand in stark contrast to Jesus’ and Paul’s legacy of decisive, yet nonviolent action against rebellion against Scriptural principles.

Men who rose up teaching doctrines contrary to those handed down directly from the apostles were dealt with harshly for their obstinance and herersy. The Church must be kept pure. That means identifying the leaven and purging it from the body.

I’m not sure which doctrines you’re referring to here. If it is the Trinity fabrication formalised in the 4th and 5th centuries, you’re most certainly mistaken. There was no direct handing down of this invention from the apostles. It was a development requiring certain cultural, philosophical and theological substrates as precursors to its final design. None of these cultural, philosophical and theological prerequisites can be found in or harmonized with the Hebraic thought-world of Jesus and the apostles. In fighting the “monster” the Church has become the monster. By elevating the word of man to the level of God’s Word, your ancestors shed innocent and righteous blood in the name of Christ. That is the God-dishonoring blight European Christendom has given to Christianity – a legacy you are obviously delighted about…

Oneness theology is heretical leaven that was purged from the Church in the very beginning. And throughout Church history, every time it has attempted to infect the body with its vile self, it has been identified and purged and its adherents excommuicated. That is not persecution, it is obedience to the teachings and faith handed down to us by the apostles themselves.

I’m not Oneness, so I’m not sure why you’re raising this issue. The judgment of the Church is still not to be elevated as if it were the opinion of God. Prima traditione vs. Sola Scriptura. And apparently according to you, the only difference between Church discipline and brutal persecution is the group doing it – that’s not a good testimony of sophisticated logic.

Those of us in the Chruch are forbidden from debating this issue with you as if it is a discussion between fellow-Christians. It is not!

Well, you can’t burn us at the stake anymore, can you?

Should we be surprised if the hearts of men grow continually wicked, never ceasing in their efforts to corrupt the Church of God for whom Christ died? We are not surprised. That a great falling away should come before the end is clearly taught by Paul. The closer we move to the culmination of the great appearing of our Lord, the more wicked men will become. This correlation is clearly delineated for us in Scripture.

Amen to that! During the Reformation the Reformers were the leaven who corrupted the Roman Church. How interesting to see that the persecuted has gradually become the persecutor. And alas! Self-deception has prevented you folks from recognising the villain in the mirror…

Obviously you have not been formally schooled in logic. fortunately, I have studied logic and know that we don’t call them “flaws.” We call them fallacies, and they have names. I did not see one single named-fallacy. All I saw was you assertiong that I committed about 50.

I didn’t make threats or call you names Jaco. The Church has dealt with oneness theology already in her past more than once. And every time she has been forced to formally deal with, she has rightly weighed it in light of Scripture and deemed it heresy. It contradicts the clear teachings of Scripture concerning the actual existence of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as One God ever existing in three persons. Hence, anyone who teaches it would be guilty of heresy. So, logically speaking, my arugment would look like this:

All human who believe oneness theology are humans who are heretics.

Jaco is a human who believes oneness theology.

Therefore, Jaco is a heretic.

This is in fact a valid argument. There is nothing fallacious about it. If you say it is fallacious, you clearly know nothing about logic.

Another one:

Trinitarion theology is the teaching of Scripture

Oneness theology contradicts Trinitarian theology

Therefore, oneness theology contradicts Scripture.

O > H

O

= H

O = Oneness theology

H = Heresy

> conditional

= conclusion

This is the modus ponens form in case you are curious.

Excommunication is as old as the Church Jaco. Leave it to the heretics to cry they are being persecuted. Heretic is not name-calling Jaco. It describes someone who has abandoned orthodox dogma. Paul called men who taught false doctrine ministers of Satan. Was he guilty of name-calling?

I am not arguing with you as if I am aruging with someone who is inside the body of Christ. You are not a Christian. Unless you repent and place your faith in Jesus Christ, God of very God, you are not in Christ and you do not know God. The proof of that faith will produce a willingness to believe all that Scripture teaches concerning who God is what He is like. So long as you pervert the plain meaning of Scripture with such teachings, you will walk as a covenant-breaker.

Ed,

Just a quick note. Obviously you and Jaco are using the term “oneness” in different ways. He said in the comment above that he is not Oneness. I think maybe clarification of word usage is needed here.

I am guessing that Jaco is using “Oneness” to mean modalisim, am I right Jaco?

And Ed, I assume you are using it to mean non trinitarian with Jesus being a man and not God? Is that correct, Ed?

That is correct. I recognize that Modalists do not like to be called oneness, but at the end of the day, that is what they are. Modalism, Sabellianism, are both forms of oneness theology which espouse that God is one person, not three. Hence, they teach that Jesus was nothing more than a mode or a manifestation of God. This is a denial of the person of the Son of God and places them outside the Christian group. It emerged as early as late second to early third century and was soundly condemned as heresy from the beginning. Oneness theology is any form of theology proper that asserts that God is one person. It affirms the one”ness of the person of God.

Ed,

But unless I am misunderstanding Jaco completely, he is not either oneness or modalist–whichever term you use. I don’t think he believes at all that Jesus was a “mode or manifestation of God.” I think he believes that Jesus was a man that was exulted to be Lord after His death as does Andrew. I would think his view would be much more Unitarian then Oneness.

Am I right Jaco?

Ed,

But unless I am misunderstanding Jaco completely, he is not either oneness or modalist–whichever term you use. I don’t think he believes at all that Jesus was a “mode or manifestation of God.” I think he believes that Jesus was a man that was exulted to be Lord after His death as does Andrew. I would think his view would be much more Unitarian then Oneness.

Am I right Jaco?

Aah, you got it, Cheryl. Modalism is older than trinitarianism, but is equally flawed, since they both insist on a Divine Christ, only the ontological machinery is different. Both are divorced from solid Scriptural support. The difference is, Trinitarianism got the political power it needed to sustain its artificial survival. And the rest was blasphemous history…:-(

Hi Cherylu,

You are correct in the need for definition here. I know Jaco is not a Modalist. Modalism is actually a another form of Trinitarianism. I recall my discussions with Jehovah’s Witnesses years ago. I pointed out in their own literature, which I read thoroughly, that they had confused two types of Trinitarianism, one being Modalism; the other, the Orthodox view. My challenge was, if they could confuse the two without understanding either, how could they discern the error they were purporting for Trinitarianism?

The problem now, in this blog conversation, is that that challenge needs to made to Ed. I know this because I come from Ed’s background and thinking. I would not have been interested in debating Jehovah’s Witnesses if that were not the case. However, once I started understanding the nuances of people’s beliefs, I knew I had to understand that misrepresenting people was just as heinous a sin to Jesus as defending truth.

I also understand something of your concerns, Cherylu, about how Andrew is working with the scriptures. If he is going to show a different way of looking at passages of scripture that have been used for centuries to support Jesus’ deity, until there are none left for anyone to make the claim the doctrine is biblical, then Trinitarianism disappears, except for the assertions of the creeds.

And that is exactly why exegesis is so important here, to defend either case. That the Orthodox version “won” the day by no means proves its exegesis is sound. Did you know that Nicea worked through this in a very political fashion? Every other view - and there were others - was subsumed under “Arianism” and condemned. I did not know why, in church practice, that publicly reciting the Nicene Creed was to proclaim one’s allegiance to the Emperor who once and for all declared it to be the right and true doctrine. Those churches that did not “publicly confess” were destroyed, or at least shut down. I actually became acquainted with all this by way of Muslim apologetics, and then through my own attempt at verification of these claims by them (Just when you think you’ve got something to give them :-)) They don’t see much use in “joining” something that simply was made “orthodox” by shear political might (never mind their own faith doing the same!). Problem is, I don’t either. It was never the way of Jesus, and brings to light what he said about knowing those who are his by their “fruit.” That is why I am concerned also about Ed’s take on ridding heresy from the church. He might not have that kind of power to destroy others now, but his is the same kind of attitude that allowed it to happen in the past. That is what finally convinced me to dissociate myself from that kind of orthodoxy.

I am in this process of attempting to understand the back and forth myself, once I became aware that there was dissent about Jesus from the beginning of the church within the scholarship of those that study early Christian origins (Larry Hurtado, Richard Baukham, James Dunn, and James McGrath, to name a few). Many of these references are known by Muslim scholars, and are used to create their apologetics. I had no choice but to engage “our” own scholars on the matter. This then led me to consider Christian Unitarianism. You can imagine the pressure, can’t you? On the orthodox side, I’d be accused of putting aside what is considered there to be the primary point of supreme confession. I would no longer be a Christian in their eyes if I even for a moment questioned it. I would be seen as bowing to my desire to find common ground with Muslim objections. But I know that would not be the case. Mine was an attempt at humbly coming to terms with scripture and history’s use of it, no matter who was using it at the time. I could convince no one of my motives.

And that is why I don’t just give it all up and come back into the fold. So much willful ignorance, and the justification to use power to misrepresent and coerce on the part of the orthodox, would never allow me to stand with it again. I just don’t see Jesus, and what he says is necessary to follow him, there. And the bigger problem is, those outside looking in, don’t see him either. They would just brush me and my testimony aside, unwilling to look at what was plainly starring me in the face.

Cherylu, you put a personal face on orthodoxy in a winsome way. That is important. You engage Andrew with honest questions, and you need to do that. But you do that within the frame of reference of orthodoxy. You just need to be aware of that. You will also need to step into the shoes of others so that at the very least you do not misrepresent them, or join in with others who do the “willfully ignorant thing.” (This can be the case with any contending parties, by the way).

Mark

Thanks for the response and the compliment Mark. Your comment helps me understand where you are coming from better.

You know, I don’t know how to not frame my arguments in “orthodoxy” when I believe that orthodoxy is the correct understanding of the issues involved. It seems that we are just supposed to lay aside that fact somehow. Do you really expect us to just give up our understanding of Scripture because it has the name “orthodoxy” attached? That just doesen’t work. There have been lots of discussions on various Scriptures here in the past, maybe not so much this time. But no matter what anyone else says, it is just insisted that it is wrong and the narrative historical hermeneutic and exegesis is correct. It becomes sort of an endless, circular argument. And I am a layperson and I admit I don’t know Greek, so I can’t dig into the fine points of language like a lot of the folks discussing here on both sides of the issue can and do.

Hi Cherylu,

It becomes sort of an endless, circular argument.

Yep, I think you are right on the money when you say the above. Like most of my thinking these days, I am trying to comprehend the reality that pretty much all beliefs begin with a faith assumption, and therefore have a certain circularity about them. Not a blind faith assumption, built on no reasonableness at all, mind you; but it will always come down to what one is willing to believe based on its plausibility. Exegesis can then be an exercise of what one is willing to see rather than what is there. Hopefully, by seeing this, we can understand whether we’ve succombed to it or not. A little humility is called for, I think.

I learned this in a way years ago when I took a liberal religious studies course at a State University (to fulfill an elective requirement). A Jewish woman (more of an agnostic than someone embracing Judaism) was teaching. She had a better handle on the gospels than most of the Christians taking the class. I spent most of the semester gearing up for debate using Josh McDowell’s “Evidence” books (now one volume - I am dating myself!). When it came time to discuss the resurrection, she asked the class this question:

“Who would be the most reliable person to report this event?”

Immediately someone raised their hand and said, “One who does not have a vested interest in the event.” She applauded his answer.

I sat there, thinking that that was a reasonable response. But it was “reasonable” insofar as the faith assumption underlying it was true: there is a place of “objectivity” regarding the event.

I raised my hand (she had had enough of me over the last weeks as I continued to try to challenge her, only to put my foot in my mouth time and again; I think I at least deserved an “A” for effort!):

“Now if I understand an event like this correctly, there are only two ways someone who is confronted with someone raised from the dead could respond: 1. I’ve had too much to drink the night before; or “what did I smoke last night?” Sort of like Scrooge trying to explain Jacob Marley’s apparition 2. OR, something actual has occurred, and the only one who would testify to it being an actual event would be the one who “believed” that it in fact was real.”

I had a “gotcha” moment! But it quickly faded as I realized what I was saying. Later, the apostles, when needed to apoint a replacement for Judas, and Paul, when he deals with the resurrection in I Corinthians 15, both talk about Jesus appearing to them, they being witnesses of his life, death, and resurrection. Their decision about apostolic replacement was based on this. Paul has a personal apocalypse that allows him to be a member of these witnesses. Five hundred others - believers - were also witnesses.

But, Jesus did not come out of the grave, and immediately go to Pilate’s door and say “Yo! Now what are you going to do?”

I think that would have settled a lot, don’t you? But Jesus even chides Thomas about the “seeing, touching, and believing” thing. Later on, the church would move into that realm of logic that insists on a reasonableness that just is not going to be where our proclamation lay. What does Paul mean that a crucified and resurrected Jewish Messiah would be “a scandal to Jews and foolishness to Greeks”? He is a stumbling block to Jews in that he is not the Messiah they expect(ed); to Greeks, God does not act in history in so local a manner - especially not with a “loser.” Here, we can see how the resurrection is a validation that God is with this Messiah, this person, and not some other. That is the locus of where faith is placed. God is not working out His plan anywhere else but HERE - in Jesus of Nazareth.

The real challenge for us is to place our faith where God says it must be placed in order to, as Andrew says, “narrate ourselves” into that stream of history that will culminate in our vindication for maintaining our confession faithfully.

Being a person who enjoyed debate and thinking I had logic on my side, I might have “won” one for the team in that class; but I was left with a whole new set of problems in light of it.

Jesus on purpose was not letting me reason to be a “trump card.” That is why he says to Thomas “you believe because you see; blessed are those who believe without seeing.”

Later, I was reading a book by the UK missionary Lesslie Newbigin. He had an experience with some Hindu scholars while a village pastor in South India. His interaction had him make the following statement: “One should not argue one’s faith assumptions on the grounds of another’s faith assumptions.”

The key to all this is that everything brings to it certain faith assumptions. All I did in that class in my apologetics was to show the invalidity of a faith assumption about objectivity regarding and event like the resurrection.

Ed is correct that there needs to be an understanding of the grounds on which someone argues before one can make a case. He accepts a certain grounds, he argues his case based on them. But that does mean the other must accept his grounds.

Ed defines “evangelical” in a certain way. So does Andrew. Me, I could care less if I were labeled “evangelical” or not. Well, actually, depending on the experience of those on the outside with American evangelicals, those whom I am trying to help understand the gospel, it would matter. Most times I have to dissociate myself from “evangelical.” It has a lot of baggage associated with that I think Jesus would deplore anyway.

I remember John the Baptist saying to the Jewish religious leaders of his day: “…don’t begin to say ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that God can raise up children for Abraham from these stones!” Those who act the part are the only ones that get to call themselves something. Self proclamation from any side of a debate is just that - the acceptance that “we have the truth.”

Not much chance making headway with that!

Mark

Hi Ed,

Obviously you have not been formally schooled in logic. fortunately, I have studied logic and know that we don’t call them “flaws.” We call them fallacies, and they have names. I did not see one single named-fallacy. All I saw was you assertiong that I committed about 50.

I’m not phased in the least by your impressions of me. The logic you’ve been employing up to now has proven to be nothing more than a shambles.

I didn’t make threats or call you names Jaco. The Church has dealt with oneness theology already in her past more than once. And every time she has been forced to formally deal with, she has rightly weighed it in light of Scripture and deemed it heresy. It contradicts the clear teachings of Scripture concerning the actual existence of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as One God ever existing in three persons. Hence, anyone who teaches it would be guilty of heresy.

The problem with name-calling is that it’s thought terminating. Someone doing that is obviously not interested in constructive, reciprocal discussion of an issue, and is most probably stuck in indoctrinated permafrost. I’ve repeated myself so many times, I can just as well do it again; depending on who you ask, you are a heretic yourself. So what? Where does that leave you, Mr. Heretic? Has that contributed to the discussion in any way? Ad hominem is ad hominem. So go right ahead, you’re just strengthening my case…

Furthermore, you’re clearly giving priority to the Church’s understanding of Scripture as if it were the Ultimate Truthful Understanding (“Is the Church divine?” is the question I’m reminded of…). This sentimentality did not hinder the Reformers from condemning the Church – you’re a product of such dissent, but your logic is so inconsistent; else you’d be a staunch anti-Protestant… Elevating the Church to the level of Divine Authority earns you the slogan of prima traditione yet again.

What is more, you reveal a moral character which is quite disturbing. By elevating the Church’s history of bloodshed to an acceptable level, you show yourself to be approving of the brutality, the atrocities, the blood-curdling cruelty she made herself guilty of. What is so sad is that peace-loving Christians living in non-Christian countries are suffering and are subjected to cruelty precisely because of this dastardly history you’re so proud of. That which you delight in results in the shedding of innocent blood – blood of saints. And you dare condemn the cruelty of Islam? You’re cut from the same fabric, my friend!

The ultimate flaw in your argument above is your reference to “clear teachings of Scripture” re. the Nicean/Chalcedonian trinity fabrication. There’s no such teaching in Scripture, no matter how hard you search for it. Mohammed is not in the Bible, and neither is your trinity.

Looking at your syllogisms, I find quite a few errors. First of all, a conditional requires an IF-THEN construct, but that’s just a technicality – I could still understand what you were trying to prove. Otherwise your syllogisms are structurally valid, but one premise in each of them is factually unsound. So your arguments are fallacious on that basis:

All human who believe oneness theology are humans who are heretics.

Jaco is a human who believes oneness theology.

Therefore, Jaco is a heretic.

P2 above is unsound, so your conclusion is fallacious.

Trinitarion theology is the teaching of Scripture

Oneness theology contradicts Trinitarian theology

Therefore, oneness theology contradicts Scripture.

P1 is unsound, so your conclusion is fallacious.

I don’t see the relevance of Oneness to our discussion. I’m not a Oneness believer (Theology 101).

Excommunication is as old as the Church Jaco. Leave it to the heretics to cry they are being persecuted. Heretic is not name-calling Jaco. It describes someone who has abandoned orthodox dogma. Paul called men who taught false doctrine ministers of Satan. Was he guilty of name-calling?

Equivocation upon equivocation. Church discipline in response to post-biblical fabrication is not equivalent to apostolic discipline in response to non-Scriptural falsehood. Dissenters who are persecuted have the right to cry out against persecution. The ancient apostles did in response to unjustified persecution by the Establishment; as did the Reformers; as do former Jehovah’s Witnesses against Watchtower brutality; as do former Calvinists against comparable brutality our friend Ed Dingess condones above, and the inconsistency in argumentation is deafening. The mere fact that defenders of the Establishment want to silence dissenters indicate an allegiance to Tradition, rather than an openness to see what Scriptural truths Tradition has missed (prima traditione contra sola scriptura). Another equivocation: Orthodox Church dogma is not identical to Orthodox Scriptural teaching. Unquestioning acceptance of Church doctrine as truth reveals allegiance to Tradition – something the ancient Reformers protested against. You are so unlike them (save Calvin the Murderer).

The rest of your comment is not really worth responding to. It must pain you to know that you cannot silence us anymore. You cannot kick us out of your Churches anymore. You don’t want to engage us either, lest we show how much you adore your Tradition. Our message is compelling and has solid historical, Scriptural, cultural, theological and logical grounds. People learn about the One single Yahweh and his grand plan for mankind as seen in the ministry of his human Messiah, King Jesus. People are set free and rejoice at learning about this suppressed truth and are delighted at renouncing the quasi-polytheistic doctrine of the trinity. You will have to learn to deal with it…

Jaco,

Lets be clear once more. You are NOT in the Church to be kicked out. Your heresy proofs your faith is false.

Secondly, step into a good SBC church or a PCA church or a reformed baptist church and start teaching your views and see how fast your are subjected to correct, then rebuke, then open excommunication.

The true Church of Jesus Christ repudiates your perversion of the nature of God. I have no interest in having “open” dialogue with you on an issue that is settled. Just because heretical groups continue to sprout up and claim to be in the Church does not make it so. Many will come and claim to be Jesus’ disciples, but they will prove their lies by their fruits.

I realize this upsets you. I understand that you want a seat at the table of conservative Christian discussion. But you forfiet that seat by your heresy. I will not open a dialogue on the Trinity, yet again. There are plenty of books and resouces written about that wretched view and they are readily available for you to research. I assume you have done your research and have willingly made up your mind. Therefore, there is nothing for us to do but argue. I could never be convinced by your arguments because I grew up around your theology and know it intimately. Having a B.Th, ThM, and a ThD in theology, I have studied these matters for thousands of hours. Having over 50 hours in the languages and a focus on hermeneutics and apologetics, I know how to see fallacies in interpretive paradigms.

Endless debates on modalism or oneness theology are of little interest to me.

It’s been fascinating, as usual, to engage a typical Trinitarian traditionalist. It’s been faith-confirming that Scripture stands apart and in opposition to popularised and violently enforced tradition. Prima traditione is the slogan of “Conservative” Evangelicalism. All they conserve is human tradition at the expense of divine truth. Basing your salvation, reality, worship and judgments on something as corrupt and flawed as invented tradition, I can only stand amused and entertained by your delusion. Public forums are a necessity putting you guys on display. ;-)

P.S.

Endless debates on modalism or oneness theology are of little interest to me.

Hmm… you’re not good at it anyway…

Jaco

You flatter yourself Jaco, my observations of the engagement are that ‘not very good at it’ is not an accurate description…..be that as it may…! I think you make a fundamantal mistake Jaco, the concerns that I and others have and the reason for our involvement in this issue are not to do with ‘is the Trinity biblical’ or something like that. You are described as an ‘outsider’ not because of bodily or doctinal odour! I is because you are not ‘Evangelical’. Any of the contributors here if we were discussing on say a ‘monotheist’ blog or whatever would probably hardly mention ‘orthodoxy’ or ‘Nicea’ or statements of faith, there wouldnt be any point in doing so. ON THIS page and site it is of concern to us that Andrew is working within hte Evangelical world and seems to be espousing anti trinitarian views or at least failing to affirm them.

You will find this encouraging but that to us isnt the point. ‘Evangelical’ is a word that defines a certain orthodoxy and Andrew knows what that is and he is identified as ‘one of us’ in that sense. Hence our c0ncern.

On the wider point , I have revisited Christology/trinity issues reasonably regularly all my adult life. I have read and read The ante nicene fathers, both pro and anti trinity material in abundance. Ive debated informally and formally as well as onthe media various anti trinitrians, This is an important issue and deserves my primary attention.

I have alteed my understanding and appreciation over the years but ‘within’ what is ‘orthodoxy’. The Trinity ‘explains’ things …it is the things themselves that are the non negotiables…deity of Christ etc.

My observation of the monotheist scene (kermit zarley/ Buzzard et al ) is that it is very vocal but very very small. Hardly anyone I know, know that it exists and its most vocal representative Anthony Buzzard has been given a clear hiding by White and Michael Brown and to my mind the whole movement has lost some credibilty in my eyes. Here s thelink http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4joi2P9lupw

Remember though that the ‘debate’ is really over ANdrews claimed evangelicalis not yours. You couldnt be in an Evangelical Church as ou know. That isn’t meant as a nasty comment of any kind just an obvous observation!!!

Hi JT

I think you make a fundamantal mistake Jaco, the concerns that I and others have and the reason for our involvement in this issue are not to do with ‘is the Trinity biblical’ or something like that. You are described as an ‘outsider’ not because of bodily or doctinal odour! I is because you are not ‘Evangelical’. Any of the contributors here if we were discussing on say a ‘monotheist’ blog or whatever would probably hardly mention ‘orthodoxy’ or ‘Nicea’ or statements of faith, there wouldnt be any point in doing so. ON THIS page and site it is of concern to us that Andrew is working within hte Evangelical world and seems to be espousing anti trinitarian views or at least failing to affirm them.

These discussions have gone beyond merely categorisation. And where categorisation is concerned, what ultimate authorite decides on whether someone is Evangelical or not? Before the Reformation, the Catholic Church decided on who may or may not be regarded as “Christian,” since up until then the only acceptible Christianity was Roman Christianity. Did that stop the Reformers from identifying themselves as Christians? NO! Neither should anyone else do it who want to identify themselves as Evangelical. You folks fail to see this time and time again. And seeing that you claim that your tradition is biblical, then let’s put it to the test. Up until now, you folks have shown a Bible-replacing allegiance to tradition and I’m glad that this could be conclusively shown.

The Trinity ‘explains’ things …it is the things themselves that are the non negotiables…deity of Christ etc.

There are certain precursors, certain preexisting (pun not intended) cultural, theological, philosophical and linguistic assumptions that need to be in place before the trinity can be arrived at. These precursors are misfits compared to the cultural, theological, philosophical and lingistic Umwelt the ancient bible writers composed the NT. Precisely since those “non-negotiables” are at odds with the Bible, and nevertheless preferred by the prima traditione loyalists, for that reason neither the assumptions, nor its intended product (the Nicean/Chalcedonian Trinity doctrine) can be regarded as Biblical.

My observation of the monotheist scene (kermit zarley/ Buzzard et al ) is that it is very vocal but very very small. Hardly anyone I know, know that it exists and its most vocal representative Anthony Buzzard has been given a clear hiding by White and Michael Brown and to my mind the whole movement has lost some credibilty in my eyes.

So what? Biblical scholars who have contributed greatly to the Biblical unitarian cause do not identify themselves as such. That does not mean that the message is not proclaimed. YOu folks only have fallacy upon which you build your salvation. Since when are ad populum arguments to be taken seriously? Jesus and his apostles were 13. So what? Church ministers in the Reformed tradition I know personally do not identify themselves as Biblical unitarians, but reject the Nicean/Chalcedonian trinity nevertheless. In my opinion the above debate was very one-sided and the host was at fault there. A follow-up discussion on these issues were had here: http://lhim.org/blog/2011/09/15/countering-the-counter-to-adoni-in-psalm-1101/ .

Remember though that the ‘debate’ is really over ANdrews claimed evangelicalis not yours. You couldnt be in an Evangelical Church as ou know. That isn’t meant as a nasty comment of any kind just an obvous observation!!!

Well, I am. And that’s your problem…

Truth is truth even if nobody believes it; and falsehood is falsehood even if everyone believes it…

Truth is truth even if nobody believes it; and falsehood is falsehood even if everyone believes it…

I agree of course but that wasnt my point. YOU then shouldn’t claim that there is some new kind of reformation or revivication taking place with a new Unitarianism set to storm the bastion of orthodoxy…… it isn’t so don’t claim it.

The Christadelphians are declining terribly, the abrahamic faith bunch are not even on the radar, the JWs are flat lining. If anything there is a resurgence and recovery of Trinitarian biblical thinking.

from JT

‘Jesus is my Lord and God

I don’t think you know exactly what is your point. You’re back-paddling on nearly every fallacy I’m pointing out. I’ve never heard that it’s all about numbers. I mean, the majority of Philosophy professors in the world are non-Christian atheists/agnostics… who cares? So if it were about numbers, you shouldn’t be bothered by the minority. You don’t know of any developments taking place in churches, so it probably isn’t happening…

I agree of course but that wasnt my point. YOU then shouldn’t claim that there is some new kind of reformation or revivication taking place with a new Unitarianism set to storm the bastion of orthodoxy…… it isn’t so don’t claim it.

The Christadelphians are declining terribly, the abrahamic faith bunch are not even on the radar, the JWs are flat lining. If anything there is a resurgence and recovery of Trinitarian biblical thinking.

from JT

‘Jesus is my Lord and God

“The self-deception is deafening. You have NO textual basis for your most cherished fabricated post-biblical doctrines..”

Frankly, just because you make that statement, does not make it a fact. Just because you and some others think that after 2000 years you have found THE way to interpret the Scripture that everyone else has missed and thus come to a different understanding of just about everything written in it also doesn’t make it a correct.

We can just as easily accuse you and yours of self deception.

Just because you and some others think that after 2000 years you have found THE way to interpret the Scripture that everyone else has missed and thus come to a different understanding of just about everything written in it also doesn’t make it a correct.

I think you’re exaggerating here. I’m not the dogmatic one here, you folks are. You declare your post-biblical doctrines to be gospel-truth, not me. I show where I and others find those fabrications seriously flawed and offer solutions that are actually valid and compelling. Are there weaknesses in some areas of my understanding? Yes! Would you care to be as honest about yours? The fear of Hell usually prevents you folks from admitting it…so sad.

So no, none of what I say is true in and of themselves (who on earth claims that??? Not me!). NOr have I claimed that I am the only one “enlightened” in the world. History shows that there’s been quite a number of dissenters who did not agree with the Establishment. (You’re a product of one of those movements, you know? You are not regretting the Reformation, are you?) Our exchange up until now has shown how deafening the self-deception can be, not only in biblical hermeneutics, but the appeal to authority, the majority, etc., the fallacies, on to tradition and now back to Scripture again. Why else does someone play hop-scotch in such debates?

Jaco,

First of all, if you really read what I said, you would realize I was not referring to you alone. I said, “you and some others” and “you and yours”. But I will grant that I may have overstated things somewhat in that there have been dissenters down throught the years.

But I do think that you will have to grant that folks like Andrew are pushing their hermenuetic as a much more accurate way to understand things. And in the process, isn’t it very much implied that all the other ways are greatly leaving something to be desired? And as far as I can tell from reading what you are saying here, you are agreeing with that. Technically I suppose, saying that you are pushing your hermeneutic as THE way may be somewhat of an exxageration. But that is the certainly the way it comes across to me.

But, and here is where the rubber meets the road–you say that our understanding of who Jesus is a “fabrication” without any textual merit and has been imposed on us by a tradition that we have swallowed. I strongly object to that charge. Just because you disagree with something does not make it a “fabrication.” Even Andrew hasn’t gone that far as he said he believes the doctrine of the Trinity was a necessary theological conclusion come to in the fourth century.

And by the way Jaco, of course I am a product of the reformation and glad to be so. However, just because I believe the church at that time had a lot of things wrong that needed to be corrected, it does not necessarily follow that I believe they had everything wrong.

Hi Cheryl,

But I do think that you will have to grant that folks like Andrew are pushing their hermenuetic as a much more accurate way to understand things. And in the process, isn’t it very much implied that all the other ways are greatly leaving something to be desired?

What reason do I have for dismissing Andrew’s proposal out of hand? Tradition??? I hope not. Validity is seen in the logic of a proposed understanding. I grant Anrew that, won’t you??? What is it with you people?I am not Preterist in my eschatology, but I won’t dismiss Andrew’s arguments dogmatically. So no, I think Andrew has all the right to push his hermeneutic and that hermeneutic is getting the time and scrutiny it deserves.

you say that our understanding of who Jesus is a “fabrication” without any textual merit and has been imposed on us by a tradition that we have swallowed. I strongly object to that charge. Just because you disagree with something does not make it a “fabrication.”

I wonder how many times have I repeated myself. My argument that your Trinity doctrine is a fabrication follows from historical evidence and not simply because I disagree with you. The Trinity is an evolved doctrine which lacks equivalence in the Bible at various levels. That makes it a misfit. History makes it a fabrication.

Cheryl, I’m referring to it in the sense of 1a above. I can’t attest tto the motives of the inventors… So not 1b.

Thanks for your clarification, Jaco.

What is very sad about folks who want to shut down authority is that they seem oblivious to the fact that such a task is impossible. The reformed principle of sola scripture contends that Scripture must interpret Scripture and that Scripture is by nature self-attesting. All other approaches to Scripture place man on the bench and the Word of God in the dock. In other words, we have disjunctive syllogism. Either Man or God is the judge. The elevation of any interpretive paradigm that sits in judgment of God’s word is hopeless subjective. If man is the measure, which man? That is the point! Those who argue in this way, also have essentials in mind as well. Otherwise, Christianity is such a free-for-all that it ceases to exist. That there was excommunication in the ancient Church over doctrinal and moral failure is indisputable. This and this alone is PRROF enough to demonstrate that the idea of essentials is rooted in biblical Christianity.

Chyrl is correct. The Trininty and divinity of Christ have been, from the beginnings of the church, required confessions for continuation in the Christian group. One the Church had established herself, she immediately began dealing with the more developed view of the triune God. Once she settled this matter, all opponents were dealt with harshly if they refused to recant the heresy. Excommunication is the biblical principle for those who deny the fundamentals of the faith. I do not say this to be offensive in any way. I say it because it is historically undeniable, and also because it is clearly what the Scriptures instruct.

Ed Dingess,

My primary authority is Scripture. If the Establishment is at odds with Scripture, other than Traditionalists, I’d follow the example of the apostles as recorded in Ac. 5:29…would you? Call it “shutting down” of authority or whatever you like, but we’re actually the ones upholding sola scriptura, even if it were at odds with tradition. Funny how the very arguments formerly used against the Reformers by the Roman Church officials are the ones used against those who recognize the need to take it further today. Funny how sola scriptura has given way to prima traditione; history is repeating itself and those ‘fighting the monster have actually become the monster.’

The reformed principle of sola scripture contends that Scripture must interpret Scripture and that Scripture is by nature self-attesting. All other approaches to Scripture place man on the bench and the Word of God in the dock. In other words, we have disjunctive syllogism. Either Man or God is the judge. The elevation of any interpretive paradigm that sits in judgment of God’s word is hopeless subjective.

I am in agreement with what you’ve written above, it is just that there is a clear disjunction between sola scriptura and prima traditione. The dynamics within the two principles make them mutually exclusive. And I have seen countless of times, especially in conversation with Evangelical fundamentalists, that tradition is ultimately defaulted to when tradition proves to be at odds with Scripture. Sola scriptura is a farce and is merely a slogan to ease the cognitive dissonance, simply since it’s not practiced and our conversations attest to that fact.

That there was excommunication in the ancient Church over doctrinal and moral failure is indisputable. This and this alone is PRROF enough to demonstrate that the idea of essentials is rooted in biblical Christianity.

Yes, rooted in biblical Christianity and abused in post-biblical Christianity.

Chyrl is correct. The Trininty and divinity of Christ have been, from the beginnings of the church, required confessions for continuation in the Christian group. One the Church had established herself, she immediately began dealing with the more developed view of the triune God. Once she settled this matter, all opponents were dealt with harshly if they refused to recant the heresy. Excommunication is the biblical principle for those who deny the fundamentals of the faith. I do not say this to be offensive in any way. I say it because it is historically undeniable, and also because it is clearly what the Scriptures instruct.

The post-biblical Church developed many doctrines. Some of those your church traditions still have vestiges of. And it is simply false that the trinity and divinity of Christ have been essential confessions. These doctrines find no basis in the Bible, nor did the first Christians confess either of these (in the Nicean/Chalcedonian sense) for several reasons: The first followers of the Founder were strictly monotheistic/monolatrous; neither their cognitive universe, nor their cultural schemes, nor their linguistic classes allowed for the sophisticated doctrine invented and refined in an alien culture, divorced from its Hebraic roots. Moreover, even where conceptual tangents or equivalents could have been settled for in non-Hebraic culture, these later formulations prove to be misfits in conceptual comparison, hence a clear deviation from First-Century unitary Christianity.

The authority enjoyed by subsequent Church leadership cannot be regarded as of the same kind as that enjoyed by the early followers of Christ (to echo your question to me re. Henry Alford, “are church officials divine???”). The ancient post-biblical Church authority upheld and enforced what they believed, not because their formulations were necessarily more compelling or bible-based than some of the rival doctrines, but because they had the political muscle to silence dissenters with persecution, torture and murder. The kind of interactive Christianity such as what we see at the Jerusalem Council is sadly missing from the annals of Institutionalised Christianity since their brutal inception in the fourth Century. So no, there’s no comparison…

Cherylu, I don’t “absolutely refuse to affirm” that Jesus is fully God and fully man. I’ve said this many times, so please don’t keep misrepresenting me. In any other professional sphere that would be libellous.

I have also said before that I call myself an “evangelical” for two reasons.

First, I have spent my entire Christian life studying, teaching, preaching, pastoring, writing within the sphere of mainstream global evangelicalism.

Secondly, I think that the narrative-historical approach leads us to a cogent and compelling understanding of the evangel in the New Testament as the proclamation of what YHWH was doing in and through his people in relation to the nations. I think that modern evangelicalism would do well to recover this “political” dimension.

So my argument is that modern evangelicalism is not evangelical enough—indeed, not biblical enough.

To be fair to Cheryl, Andrew, the best way to NOT “absolutely refuse to affirm” the full divinity of Christ and the truine nature of God is to state your affirmation positively and clearly which your comment technically does not do. You are a skilled writer, surely you know this. And that begs the question why you stated this the way you did. From my perspective, it is more than a little puzzling.

Andrew, as I remember it, you have said many times that you haven’t set out to prove that Jesus isn’t God. That is hardly the same thing as affirming your personal belief that He is when asked many times by various people about what you personally believe.

And please don’t accuse me of libel in this situation. Unless I have missed your stating somewhere that you personally believe He is–and I have read a lot of your material–that simply is not the fact.

I’m sure you know that one of the definitions of “refuse” is:

2 a : to show or express unwillingness to do or comply with <refused to answer the question> http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/refuse

If you haven’t been the epitome of that definition of “refused” in this discussion, I don’t know who ever has! And since it has happened repeatedly, over a period of time, and to questions asked by various people, I would say this definition of “absolutely” also applies, at least in the context of ongoing discussions here:

“adverb

1. without exception; completely; wholly; entirely: You are absolutely right. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/absolutely

So if you do believe that He is/was God, why is it that when asked repeatedly about it, you “show unillingness” to answer the question? Again, there is an old saying, “Silence speaks louder then words.” And your silence on this subject is quite deafening!

Here is a comment that Andrew made to me in another thread in answer to my asking if he believes Jesus was fully God and fully man:

“The Apostles’ Creed does a rather poor job of situating Jesus in the biblical narrative, but I think it gets the relationship between Jesus and the Father about right:

I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. And in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord…

Would that do?

I believe that Jesus is my Lord and Saviour.

Otherwise, I will simply repeat my basic point, which is that whether or not it is a valid theological conclusion to draw that Jesus is fully God and fully man, there is a strong likelihood that we will misunderstand the New Testament narrative if we try to make everything it says about Jesus fit that grid.

I believe that the controlling argument of the New Testament is that Jesus has been given—as a “reward” for his obedience and suffering—authority to judge and rule at the right hand of God until the final enemy is put under his feet. To say that Jesus is fully God and fully man is one way of restating that argument, perhaps one that is hinted at in the New Testament itself. But I do not believe it was the main point about Jesus that the New Testament was trying to get across.”

This quote was in the article “Did Jesus Claim to Be God” on this site. (I am having a computer war and I can’t get the article to link this a.m.)

Since we know from what Andrew has said elsewhere that being God’s Son and being Lord doesn’t mean that He was God in Andrew’s understanding, that whole statement is indeed ambigous at best. It may or may not be a valid theological conclusion, it is perhaps hinted at in the NT itself that He is God, but he doesn’t believe that is the main point the NT is trying to get across. Ambiguity and no definitive answer at all.

Hey Cheryl,

This is the old problem of criterion. Andrew has adopted an unorthodox interpretive paradigm. As long as he looks at the Scripture through this paradigm, he will continue to arrive at these conclusions. His argument and the paradigm upon which it rests are not sound theological conclusions from what I see. However, I am in the process of looking at some material he pointed me to so that I can provide a more thorough response to the rules and priniciples of that paradigm. Look for some posts from me regarding his hermeneutic. That is where things should get much more interesting from my perspective.

Andrew

I have had the privilage of chatting with you off and on . Theissue here now seems to be if what you are teaching can be regarded as ‘evangelicalism’. Sadly I dont believe it can. As I lock back o posts, you have always sought to deny/remove/minimise or re interpret any ‘trinitarian’ prrofs and to talk up anything which supports socinian or adoptionist views. I haveno issues talking bout these matters in this way with those ‘outside’ who dont have a platform in Evangelical Churches (like Jaco) but I have really serious ssues when someone is ‘inside’ and expresses these views (like you).

Whatever you may feel the primary focus would be the ‘bottom line’ when dealing with Jehovahs Witnesses, Islam, Christadelphians, all other religions, Mormons, uncle tom cobbleyites and all is ‘is Jesus God’. We may notl ike that question,we may wish to rewind the clock to pre christoogical debates but we cant. We may like the question is Jesus the promised messianic King but get this…no one is now asking this question.

We may like to re interprete the NT in this ‘new’ (its not new) way but we cant. The ‘cat’ is out of the bag. Your narrative/hist thelogy simply hasnt ‘got it’ when it comes to facing up to heresy or other religions. This isnt because itdoesnt represent some of theteaching of scripture but its because it doesnt go to the full degree of rigorous examinaton and conclusion. If you did you wouldnt be so ‘two minded; about Jesus being God and man.

I can see myself embracing much of what you say (already have) but there is no way I would let go of the expressions of belief like Nicene creed or even the EA satement of faith.

It seems to me you have …..please prove me wrong and then engagewith Jaco n disagreement like you do Ed Cheryl myself and others. You don’t though, the silence is deafening.

Exegetic ingenuity, eloquence and skill cannot deny Jesus as Lord and God (Jn 20v28) as ‘equal with God’ Php 2v6-7 the one who has never been ‘created’ Jn 1v3 or the one who shares the titles ,throne, attributes and worship of the one who will not give his glory to another. Jesus pre existed ‘the glory I had with you before the world was’.

Prove me wrong, don’t leave us hanging, be an honest provoker or an honest false teacher bt I realy hope you prove me(us) wrong Andrew.

JT, I am not on the “outside.” I am where the early Reformers were - right where the action is! You dislike it as much as your ancestors’ enemies (Roman Church) did.

It reminds me of my engagments with Jehovah’s Witnesses - they take pride in what the apostles did in speaking with boldness against the Establishment. They take pride in the Anabaptists doing the same, just as modern Protestants commemorate the Reformers “standing for biblical truth” against orthodoxy. It’s just a pity that virtually none of you have the bravery to do the same. You’re not of their ilk. You’re as Roman Catholic in spirit as can be - only under a different name. But the allegiance to Tradition, prima traditione vs. Sola Scriptura is inescapable.

Reformation and revivification is happening under your noses and nothing will stop it anymore. The Church does not have the political muscle or the power to isolate, gag or kill as it did in the past. Paradoxally enough, people respond very well to the Biblical understanding of God, history, eschatology and life. Tradition has been on life support for long enough. There’s no use keeping this hybrid creation alive anymore…

Jaco

Like I said you are all wrong and this time the size of ‘your’ movement is relevant. I dnt know anyone in my area who is reassessing the ‘Trinity’ due to some ‘revivcation. ‘Our types’ of churches are generally doing well, to describe me as a tradiionalist is to not know me very well. I am a trinitarian by biblical conviction not ‘tradition’. Our Churches are not on ‘life support’!

Those who do not accept the faith or acknowledge Jesus as Lord and God are not going to be killed or vilified but they (like you) need to remove yourselves from fellowship in Evangelical churches (if yours really is one), therees plenty of room for you guys to start your own, just dont do it inside ours.

Ive debated anti and non trinitarians many times, why do they want to be ‘inside’ our churches….go and take your message to the masses and see how many are interested.

in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.

John Tancock

Maybe you’d want to represent my case more accurately. Strawmen only serve the interests of falsehood. Size is utterly irrelevant. If you want to make it relevant, then knock yourself out. In non-Christian countries Christians are in the minority…does that have any bearing on the truthfulness of their message? YOur logic is shocking.

If you don’t know of any revivification in your area, that doesn’t mean it’s not happening in other areas to an observable extent. Unless you’re a solipsist.

‘Our types’ of churches are generally doing well, to describe me as a tradiionalist is to not know me very well. I am a trinitarian by biblical conviction not ‘tradition’. Our Churches are not on ‘life support’!

I’ve read and seen enough of your stuff to conclude that your a tradition primacist and your “biblical” support for the post-biblical fabrication of the trinity is extremely weak. Since that is the case and since persecution, brutality, political muscle and scare-mongering has been the standard employed by the Church to keep the 4th and 5th Centuries’ invention alive, this doctrine’s survival IS artificial and it IS on life support, and deserves to have its switch flipped.

Those who do not accept the faith or acknowledge Jesus as Lord and God are not going to be killed or vilified but they (like you) need to remove yourselves from fellowship in Evangelical churches (if yours really is one), therees plenty of room for you guys to start your own, just dont do it inside ours.

You sound like a record-player that got stuck. Jesus being Lord and God for me is different from what it is to you. You default to your cherished doctrine and I don’t. But don’t care about that… Ignore us - we’re too few and far between to be of any notice to you guys…we’re harmless anyway…:-)

ah Jaco….. it is you that emphasised the ‘revivication’….. so I mentioned I cant see it anywhere (Im reasonably aware of whats going on around the world).

Buzzard one of your major voices was discredited in that debate and I have read your further links that add nothing to it. Also there is an unusual insecurity even a desperation I see amonst the new unitarians. One example is the use by Buzzard of a supposed letter from FF Bruce probably the finest Conservative scholr of the 20th c and probably of all scholars. This letter which cant be revealed apparantly shows FFB as supporting anti trinitarian views. I have never heard anything so daft in all my life. I know the works of FFB and right up to his death he was ‘orthodox’. Things like this weaken the unitarian cause desperately and discredit the movement. There is no revivication just a few people who change thier views.

Far more of an issue are the JWs because of thier size (7 million) even though thier growth is flatlining . The new unitarians are loud and vociferous but of little consequence. They have been seen examined and found wanting. If I were you and you are right its an evenagelical church then I wd leave before eviction. But do it because of integrity and credibility.

This involvement by me Cheryl et al isnt about you though its about Andrew so i await his clarification about his position

If some of your heroes deny certain central tenets of your orthodoxy, that’s a problem you folks have to deal with. No one says FFB was Unitarian. He was at least honest enough to admit where YOU poor wishful deluded folk were too desperate in locating a Mohammed in the bible where there was none. (I mean trinity; equally absurd). You traditionalists have been the desperate folk. Oppression, coercion, and brutality are the epitome of desperation. Your denialism is blazingly evident. The revivification is seen in the reexamining of orthodox inherited doctrine and I had the Emergent Church specifically in mind. But we’re harmless and we’re too few to be of any effect. So you can sleep on peacefully. Maybe you can get some comfort from dreaming about the good ol’ days when your Church was the feared mind-contol cult in its hayday…

On that note, how about putting this conversation to bed, friends? Good night.

Andrew

Do you believe this?

CA is committed to the doctrines which are commonly considered as the essentials of historic, biblical orthodoxy. Such doctrines are found in the Apostles Creed and the Nicene Creed. These doctrines are most often labeled as “evangelical” in the language of Western Christianity and are expressed in the Lausanne Covenant.

CA affirms its belief in:

One Living and True God
God eternally exists in three distinct persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit – equal in power and glory. He has revealed Himself to be perfect in love, holiness and righteousness. He created all, upholds all and governs all.

The Written Word of God, the Bible
The scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are given by divine inspiration and are the written Word of God, the final authority for the lives of believers in every culture and age, and the infallible rule for faith and practice. They are to be interpreted according to their context and purpose in reverent obedience to the living Lord who speaks through them in power by his Holy Spirit. The primary purpose of scripture is to lead people to faith in Jesus.

God the Father
God has revealed Himself as a Father who is an infinite, personal Spirit, perfect in holiness, wisdom, power and love. He concerns Himself mercifully in the affairs of men; He hears and answers prayer; and He saves from sin and death all who come to Him through Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ
Jesus Christ is God’s only begotten Son Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and Who is both true God and true man. He was born of a virgin; lived a sinless life; fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies of the Messiah; performed miracles as evidence of His Messiahship; died a substitutionary, atoning death for our sins; rose bodily from the dead; ascended into heaven; and offers continual intercession for His people.

if so, which scriptures support the opening and last sections?

Jaco

Just a few non trinitarian comments for you.

I come from a background where i have dealt with many JWs Mormons, Moonies and engaged with many other religions and sects. I do try to answer with ‘gentleness and respect’ (1 Pet 3v16-17). I dont always succeed but I really do try. Unfortunately Jaco your style is rather offensive, mocking, and really doesnt present yourself as a godly or gracious person. You may be in ‘real life’ but you aren’t here. Your arguments are pretty typical of your viewpoint but your manner is worse than most JWs I have met and worse than almost all other groups.

generally speaking I have found Christadelphians very gracious and not offensive in the way they discuss matters. I would encourage you to perhaps learn some lessons from them.

You dont know me Jaco (if you had really done your research you might have learned a little) i am in the line of the radical reformation and its ancestors Montanists-donatists in the early days and anabaptists-brethren-pentecostal- ‘house church’ etc. Your insults about all of our intellectual abilities is just a bit silly, incorrect and not worthy of someone who has some status (conference speaker) in your circles. I am orthodox because like the historic Christian faith they have resolved that the best explanation of all the biblical data is ‘Trinity’ . The dishonesty and lack of integrity that you show by staying in what you call an evangelical church whilst propounding anti trinitarian views is beyond any explanation.

We may meet again Jaco but I hope your desire for conflagration and confrontation will be tempered by a wisdom that the grace of God will bring. It will be easier for you to demonise/vilify/mock me ,cheryl and others and think we are part of some mind control cult. These things are not true and we are simply biblebelieving christians who have come to believe the trinity. No amount of false accusation, grandstanding, plain nastiness can change that.

In your desire for argument you continually failed to understand that this was a discussion over ANdrews position not yours. It wasnt just a trinity type discussion , there will im sure on other blogs be plenty of time for you to engage in that type of thing.

Also Buzzard did claim support from FFB, showing the weakness of his position and the insecurity about unitarianism.

I have learned that you were a Jehovahs Witness, its a pity you didnt learn more from Barbara Anderson and others.

O dear, we’re playing the righteousness card again.Sadly no amount of self-righteousness will undo the violent legacy you have inherited whose spirit you and Dingess still display. Bluff yourself and others all you like. We will cross horns again, I’m sure. I hope you will have shed some of the dead traditionalist skin then…and have learnt to practice what you preach…

I am pleased to stand in the tradition of men like Calvin, Luther, Augustine, and yes, Paul. It pleases me that the enemies of the cross display such contemptuous attitudes toward the affirmations of Christianity. While I do not always agree with every belief, or every action, I am nevertheless honored to be counted among those who stand in the square of historic Christian orthodoxy. God is our vindication! He is our defense. Your vitriol toward the truth and the entire Christian community that embraces it encourages our faith even if it saddens our heart. On the one hand, we are reminded of the encouraging words of our God who told us men would hate us because of the truth we embrace. On the other hand, we are sad for you, taking no pleasure in your obstinate disobedience to the God who created all of us and has the right to be acknowledge and embraced without damage or perversion to His nature.

Paul commands us, regarding tradition,

Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us. 2 Thess. 3:6

You are mistaken if you think we accept the view that “tradition” is always a bad word. We are not post-modernists, Jaco. We are traditionalists. We reject the view that tradition is bad because it is tradition. It is the foundation of tradition that one must examine.

If everyone who calls others out because of their error is guilty of being self-rightouess, then calling others out because of their error is an impossible task. Your point is self-negating. In logic, your fallacy is referred to as the “Irish Bull.”

Prima traditione vs Sola scriptura. I have no other choice than to follow the example of the apostles in Ac. 5:29. And if that means evoking animosity from the Establishment, then I am honored. Gal. 1:8, 9 leaves me with no other choice than to stand for biblical truth and expose man-made tradition for what it really is. I want to thank Andrew for his thought-provoking work, and for the sake of respecting his wishes and for that sake alone, I’m laying this issue to bed for now.

Jaco,

You are attempting to establish a false disjunction. Sola Scriptura is the tradition we follow. Just because you want trinitarian dogma to be the product of tradition, that does not make it so. Even wanting it really badly does not make it so.

Ed

Same goes for you, thanks, Ed. And our little exchange shall testify on our behalf. ;-)

I am pleased to stand in the tradition of men like Calvin, Luther, Augustine, and yes, Paul. It pleases me that the enemies of the cross display such contemptuous attitudes toward the affirmations of Christianity. While I do not always agree with every belief, or every action, I am nevertheless honored to be counted among those who stand in the square of historic Christian orthodoxy. God is our vindication! He is our defense. Your vitriol toward the truth and the entire Christian community that embraces it encourages our faith even if it saddens our heart. On the one hand, we are reminded of the encouraging words of our God who told us men would hate us because of the truth we embrace. On the other hand, we are sad for you, taking no pleasure in your obstinate disobedience to the God who created all of us and has the right to be acknowledge and embraced without damage or perversion to His nature.

Paul commands us, regarding tradition,

Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition which you received from us. 2 Thess. 3:6

You are mistaken if you think we accept the view that “tradition” is always a bad word. We are not post-modernists, Jaco. We are traditionalists. We reject the view that tradition is bad because it is tradition. It is the foundation of tradition that one must examine.

If everyone who calls others out because of their error is guilty of being self-rightouess, then calling others out because of their error is an impossible task. Your point is self-negating. In logic, your fallacy is referred to as the “Irish Bull.”

Jaco,

This is a tangent, but I am wondering if you are the Jaco van Zyl that is the South African pro golfer? I know you are from South Africa.

Hey Cheryl, that’s a different Jaco van Zyl…

Thanks, I had been wondering.