Wright and the divinity of Jesus

Fri, 04/05/2012 - 23:33

In order to distinguish his own approach from well-meaning but misguided attempts to prove that Jesus was divine, Wright argues in How God Became King - Getting to the heart of the Gospels that the Gospels do not aim to prove Jesus’ divinity; rather they presuppose it.

The point… is not whether Jesus is God, but what God is doing in and through Jesus. What is this embodied God up to? (55)

Does that really work? It seems to me that as soon as we start to talk in dynamic terms of God acting “in and through Jesus”, we have more or less abandoned the presupposition of divine identity. We could speak, for example, of God acting “in and through” Moses or even “in and through” Cyrus without thereby asserting that these figures were divine. God does things “in and through” the church, but that does not make Christians divine. God certainly does things “in and through” Jesus that he does not do “in and through” others, but the basic differentiation between God and the human agent remains in force.

So I rather suspect that the functional argument is simply incompatible with the presupposition of divinity. But if we concede Wright’s point here, do we not still have to ask what evidence there is for the presupposition in the first place?

I can see that the Gospels are telling the story of “how YHWH came back to his people at last” (89), not least to cleanse and remake the temple system, though I would characterise it more as a historical process than as a singular event—how YHWH was coming back to his people at last. But that in itself does not point to a direct identification of Jesus with God, even on Jewish terms. There are two other thoroughly Jewish explanatory models, if you like, that could be invoked at this point, neither of which compels the conclusion that the writers of the Synoptic Gospels were trying to say that Jesus was God.

First, we may suppose that the prophet Jesus enacts or pre-enacts, largely in symbolic terms, what God is about to do regarding his people in order that his name may be hallowed amongst the nations.

Secondly, there is the explicitly stated notion that Jesus has been given, or will be given, the power and authority to act on behalf of God or in the place of God as Israel’s king.

Wright discusses a number of passages in the Synoptic Gospels—he wants to show that we do not have to resort to John in order to establish a high christology—which he thinks point to a “strong identification between Jesus himself and the God of Israel” (90). It seems to me that they can be accounted for in terms of the two roles of prophet and king, though this does not mean that the identification is not found, in some form, in other strands of thought in the New Testament. I am not out to disprove the divinity of Jesus. Nor does it mean that I know entirely what I am talking about—this is very much a work in progress, and perhaps more to the point, I am on holiday at the moment, writing this in a vaulted majlis in a hotel in Mardin in south-eastern Turkey.

1. John the Baptist is the voice in the wilderness warning that YHWH is about to come to judge and overhaul the temple system, and he proclaims that a much stronger one is coming who will baptize with the Holy Spirit. But at the baptism of Jesus we have a clear differentiation between God and the Son with whom he is pleased. The Lord is coming to put things right in Israel, but Jesus will prophetically enact this impending judgment when he enters the temple and will be given the authority to judge and rule Israel as God’s anointed king. The scriptural allusions underline this point.

We can certainly call this a high christology, but insofar as it is a Jewish high christology, it is worked out in the categories of prophecy and kingdom. This seems sufficient to explain why Jesus points to God in order to explain his own actions (92)

2. When Jesus calls his first followers and designates the twelve (92), he is performing a symbolic reconstitution of the twelve tribes of Israel or rebuilding Israel around himself as Israel’s king. Wright even says here that Jesus is acting in a “deeply symbolic way”.

3. When Jesus calms the storm (Mk. 4:39), he is certainly doing what YHWH does in the Psalms (92-93). But is he implicitly claiming to be YHWH, or to be acting with the authority of YHWH? Would he not have said, if asked, that the Son of man has authority on earth to calm such storms, as a sign that God is present to judge and save his people? Also just as the healing of the paralytic was a sign of Israel’s forgiveness, the calming of the storm was, arguably, a prophetic sign that the “lost” of Israel were being redeemed and restored—if we read the whole of Psalm 107 and not merely verses 29-30.

4. For Isaiah the child called “Immanuel” is a sign that God is with his people at a time of political crisis (Is. 7:14; 8:8). What compels us, then, to think that when Matthew cites this with reference to Jesus, he means something more than that the birth of Jesus was a sign that God was with his people at a time of political crisis (96)? No one looked at Isaiah’s child Immanuel and saw in him the “personal presence of Israel’s God”.

5. Wright thinks that in Luke’s version of the parable of the talents (Lk. 19:11-27) Jesus tells a story “about Israel’s God and Israel itself” in order to “illustrate what he himself was doing” (97, italics removed). He connects the parable with Luke 19:44: Jerusalem had failed to recognize the time when God was “coming back at last to see how his people had been doing with their centuries-old commission”. Since Jesus applies the parable to himself, he was in effect “telling a story about Israel’s God coming back to his people to explain what was going on when he himself was arriving in Jerusalem” (99).

I really don’t understand, however, how Wright can read this as a parable of his imminent arrival in Jerusalem. Jesus tells the story “because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately”; and it ends with the slaughter of those of citizens who “did not want me to reign over them”. So the return of the nobleman will lead to the vindication of some of his servants and the destruction of his enemies, which seems to me a pretty clear prophecy of the Jewish War.

But more to the point here, the nobleman goes into a far country “to receive for himself a kingdom”. He does not have a kingdom before he goes; he is given kingdom—and authority and power—after his departure; and he returns, comes again, to reward his loyal servants and punish those of his citizens who hated him. There is no possible sense in which by telling this story Jesus identifies himself with God.

6. Finally, we have Jesus’ words to the demon-possessed man in Luke 8:39:

“Go back to your home,” said Jesus, “and tell them what God has done for you.” And he went off around every town, declaring what Jesus had done for him.

Wright regards this as “unassailable” evidence that Luke was trying to tell us that “what Jesus was doing God was doing—and vice versa” (100). No doubt, but does it count as unassailable evidence for the presupposition that Jesus was God? I’m not so sure. The man had earlier called Jesus “Son of the Most High God” (8:28). The “Son of the Most High God” in Luke is not himself God. He is the one to whom the Lord God will give the “throne of his father David” (Lk. 1:32). According to the terms of Luke’s Gospel, therefore, it seems much more likely that Jesus does what God does because he has been, or will be, given authority to act as king—for example, by expelling a “legion” of demons from Israel.

Wright concludes:

One way and another, all three synoptic gospels are clear: in telling the story of Jesus they are consciously telling the story of how Israel’s God came back to his people, in judgment and mercy. (100)

This seems to me unobjectionable per se, but it does not address the question of how the story of Jesus is the story of Israel’s God. The direct identification of the respective actors is one way of accounting for the correlation between the two stories, but it is not the only way, and I don’t think it is the way that best fits the actual data.

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Comments

I would agree that nothing in the synoptic gospels seems to presuppose divinity. It would be difficult to find any argument that doesn’t equally apply to characters like Elijah, Enoch, Melchizedek, and even John the Baptist in the various sects of Second Temple Judaism.

You could add to the list the occasion which Wright mentions in Matthew 14:33 after Jesus has walked in water, when the disciples “worshipped him”. On aother thread, Jaco has argued that proskynesis can simply mean respect, such as accorded to many of the ‘ancient worthies’. Consistently though, in the NT proskyneo is used of God or Jesus exclusively. The only exception is its use of the beast in Revelation - where false deity is presupposed.

What is interesting about the Matthew example, is that immediately following it, the disciples say: “Truly, you are the Son of God.” On the one hand, you might say (paralleling what you say of “Son of the Most High” in the Luke 8:39 passage), that “son of God” is a human messianic term. Others would say that both terms are suggesting an enhancement of the meaning of the phrases. Wright I think suggests the same in the use of “Son of God” after Thomas’s reinstatement in John, following the dual declaration by Thomas “My master and my Lord - the latter suggesting “God”.

I think it’s possible to take all the examples given by Wright and more, and one by one argue, as you do, that they could all apply simply to human agency, like Moses, Elijah etc. The problem is that Jesus is very unlike Moses, Elijah or any other representative of YHWH, first in his flawlessness, second in the ways in which he overrode, altered or reinterpreted the law, third in his embodiment of a comprehensive fulfilment of the Jewish narrative, and, Wright argues, the creation narrative which is carried within it, and fourth, in addition to Wright’s examples, in his claim, and the claim of his followers, that he would, and did, pour out the Holy Spirit - ie he pours our either God Himself (Unitarians) or pours out God as the third person of the Trinity (Trinitarians).

Fifth, also adding to Wright’s argument, at no point is there some “appointing” occasion of Jesus by YHWH, in which all these extraordinary attributes are endowed upon him. Not even at his baptism. Since the attributes go so much further than in any other delegate of YHWH, one would have thought that some justification would be provided. As it is, Jesus simply leaves his followers to ask questions, and does not address the mystery of his identity directly. One can see very clearly whiy he would not have done, if he was indeed YHWH in person.

Sixth, also in addition to Wright’s examples, one could add Jesus’s description (in John) as creator. The contra argument is that Jesus was only the one through whom God created the world, and through whom God brought about the new creation. I think this is stretching what God does or did through a mortal human being, who apparently had a unique pre-existence, beyond credibility.

Take all these arguments, and the balance tips strongly in favour of a divine/human identity of Jesus.

Some of these examples go beyond Wright’s limited survey of the gospel picture of Jesus, but I’m simply reinforcing a view, especially in the light of the cumulative effect of the evidence, which favours Jesus as being seen as the physical embodiment of YHWH himself in a person, and not simply a representative.

As I’ve gone on to say in conversations with Jaco, there are then hugely important reasons why Jesus should have been a divine and not simply human representative of YHWH, but that’s another argument in another thread, and likewise does not form part of Wright’s arguments in his book.

Just a brief comment on proskuneō before we set off to see the old city of Diyarbakar. The wise men come to pay homage (proskunēsai) to Jesus not because they think he is God but because they think he is Israel’s king (Matt. 2:2); and are we to suppose that the synagogue ruler “knelt” before Jesus because he thought he was God (Matt. 9:18)? Moreover, the verb is used widely in the LXX with the sense of paying homage to a person or people.

While it is true that προσκυνέω (proskuneo) can refer to obeisance, honor, and reverence, this term is also the most often utilized term in the New Testament for “worship.” The usage of προσκυνέω as it is found in Hebrews 1.6 can only refer to true genuine worship. The author of the Book of Hebrews draws from a couple different OT passages (Deuteronomy 32.43 LXX, Psalm 96.7 LXX), both of which are in reference to none other than YHWH. In Deuteronomy 32.34-43 the Lord claims that He alone is God (vv. 37, 39), and that He will take vengeance on His enemies and rescue His people. The broader theme is a warning to Israel not to abandon the Lord for any other god (Deuteronomy 31.24-30). Since the passage as it is found in the OT is speaking of giving worship to YHWH, by applying this quotation to Christ, the author of Hebrews is affirming that Christ is the object of worship in and to the same degree that YHWH is. But that’s not all!

We can examine the way in which God the Father receives worship and compare that to all other kinds of proskuneo. This then ought to provide a line of demarcation that boldly identifies a distinction between the Creator as the object of true worship and the creature who is called to do the worshiping.

How then is the Father worshiped? One can scarcely imagine higher worship than that of the heavenly scene found in Revelation 4.8-11:

“And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within ; and day and night they do not cease to say, “holy , holy, holy is the Lord God , the Almighty, who was and who is and is to come.” And when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying, “Worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.”

We read that worthiness, glory, honor, and power are ascribed to Him who sits upon the throne. We also see the elders prostrating themselves before Him. Surely this is worship that is suitable only for the divine! Therefore, if the Unitarian position is to be understood as a correct assessment of biblical teaching, we ought not see anyone else receive this kind of adoration, praise, exaltation, and worship. But is that the case? Revelation 5:8-14 states,

“And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they sang: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: “To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.”

While it is certainly true that many human persons other than the incarnate Son receive proskuneo in Scripture, those instances do not in any way parallel the proskuneo due to God. However, in the above text we see the same exact kind of worship being given to both to God and to the Lamb; worthiness, power, wealth, wisdom, strength, honor, glory, and praise. We see the elders, the angels, and all other creatures prostrating themselves before the Lamb to worship. Most striking is the comprehensive description of those who were worshiping the Lamb: every single creature. If the Lord Christ was a mere creature He would have been included among those worshiping, but instead He is declared to be the object of worship of all of creation. This heavenly scene painted by John makes it all the more clear, and gives depth to the verbiage of Hebrews 1.6, “let all of God’s angels worship Him.”

William, thanks for this response. I’ve had a request from someone else to address the question of the worship of Jesus, so I’ll do a separate piece on it.

I think it is a very reductionistic approach to impose what the writer of Hebrews had to say onto the text instead of allowing him to say it himself.

Since the passage as it is found in the OT is speaking of giving worship to YHWH, by applying this quotation to Christ, the author of Hebrews is affirming that Christ is the object of worship in and to the same degree that YHWH is.

That is not necessarily the case. If the writer applied the text in this sense, fine, but he doesn’t. He uses the LXX text and applied it differently, namely that worship is rendered, not to YHWH, but to the firstborn son. This is perfectly in line with how ancient ambassadors had to be treated: the representative was as good as the one represented. This was the ancient rabbinical slogan and norm. Worship in and to the same degree as agent of Yahweh is a far cry from worship in and to the same degree as numerically and ontologically identical to Yahweh. This is what “orthodox” Trinitarians fail to grasp time and time again.

A classical example of this central flaw can be seen when one employs the exact line of reasoning using Rev. 2:26, 27:

Re 2:26, 27 And he that overcometh, and keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations. And he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father.

This is a quote from the Messianic Psalm 2. But no-one will argue that the conquering saint will be the Messiah, will they? But no one will deny that the conquering saint will do Messiah things. This is precisely the line of reasoning and application of many OT texts on Jesus and others. Conditioning and reconditioning with the Trinity formulation in mind prevents the majority to reason consistently.

Or take 1 Chron. 29:10

1Ch 29:20 And David said to all the congregation, Now bless the LORD your God. And all the congregation blessed the LORD God of their fathers, and bowed down their heads, and worshipped the LORD, and the king.

To echo your words, “However, in the above text we see the same exact kind of worship being given to both to God and to the [king].” This line of argumentation simply cannot be upheld, since we find an OT text where BOTH Yahweh and the king were the recipients of the same worship. What Yahweh received, the king received too.

In the Sybelline Oracles Adam is said to receive latrevo! Not even Jesus is ever depicted as receiving cultic worship (latreuo). Following the classical trinitarian line of reasoning, one could make all kinds of value statements here, but this will obviously not square with biblical theology and neither should it where Jesus is concerned.

In my opinion, there is a major error in all these approaches in trying to get Jesus on the other side of the Divine/non-divine dividing line and that is by looking at proskyneo to determine his classification. Instead, the approach should be the other way around: the status of the one receiving proskyneo determines the extent of the proskyneo rendered and received. And if the recipient is already categorised as not-Yahweh, him receiving proskyneo won’t catapult him into another category altogether.

“…A good understanding have all those who do His commandments…” Psalm 111:10

Amen!

Latreuo, when used of the True God, is a Greek word denoting service given to the Lord God Almighty. Some have said that since Jesus is never given latreuo, He cannot be God. Besides being an argument from silence, Scripture explicitly disagrees with this position.Revelation 22:3 - And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him.I want to note that the word translated “serve” is latreuo. The object of latreuois the pronoun “Him.” In language, the antecedent of a pronoun is generally the closest noun that agree with the pronoun in gender and number. In this case, the closest antecedent is “the Lamb.” Some would consider “God” to be the antecedent.But John takes pains to show the unity the Almighty and the Lamb. Just a few verses earlier John writes:Revelation 21:22 - But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.The word translated “are” is NOT the plural form of the “to be” verb here. Instead, it is the singular form of the verb. In a literal translation, Revelation21:22 would say:Revelation 21:22 “for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb is its temple.” (literal)Grammatically, John indicates the most intimate unity of the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb with a singular verb.So whether one would argue that the antecedent of “serve Him” in Revelation22:3 is God or the Lamb, John has already indicated their unity. Even if one were to say that God is the one who receives latreuo, service would also be done to the Lamb by virtue of their unity expressed just a few verses earlier.That is the language of the New Testament, and it is clear and explicit. I affirm that the Lamb is God and the Lamb receives latreuo. Those who deny Jesus’ divinity disagree. In doing so, they disagree with Scripture. Could those who deny Jesus’ divinity please explain how you disagree with the clear language of Scripture? refer to http://www.forananswer.org/Top_JW/Jesus_Latreuo.htm that proves jesus did receive latreuo

Hi there, me

There’s no use in reading later theological musings eventually enforced upon Church members onto the ancient text. I see you’re doing it above. There are, therefore, various serious shortcomings with your (and Sam Shamoun’s) theology-driven interpretation of the text.

Firstly, the scriptural absence of latreuo in relation to Jesus as proof of his non-identity with the One who is consistently presented as receiving latreuo is NOT an argument from silence. In forensic science a profound anomaly in a pattern of evidence is regarded as highly significant. Arguing from silence is not applicable if expected presence of evidence is notoriously missing. At such a point, the absence of evidence implies the evidence of its absence. This is also the case with latreuo.

Secondly, there is no explicit disagreement with this position in Scripture. You are overstating your case here. What is explicit is that YHWH of the OT and YHWH alone receives this sacred latreuo. This is also consistently and explicitly rendered to God, the Father, in the NT. The disagreement is seen in the proposals of theology-driven apologists who want to shoe-horn doctrinal misfits onto the biblical text which disagrees with what the text truly says explicitly.

Thirdly, the pronoun auto is ambiguous, as you imply, but to base the subject of the pronoun merely on its proximity of the subject is dubious at best. 1 John 2:22, arising from the same Johannine community as the Apocalypse is a classical case in point:

“τίς ἐστιν ὁ ψεύστης εἰ μὴ ὁ ἀρνούμενος ὅτι Ἰησοῦς οὐκ ἔστιν ὁ χριστός; οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ ἀντίχριστος, ὁ ἀρνούμενος τὸν πατέρα καὶ τὸν υἱόν.”

If the antecedent of the pronoun determines who/what the pronoun is referring to, then Jesus Christ is also the antichrist. The sooner theology-driven apologists drop this rule, the better.

Fourthly, cognitive linguistics does not work as computer parsers. In other words, the statistical distribution of linguistic particles such as pronouns does not accurately represent the use and function of words in human language, particularly not function words such as pronouns. Context is a better determinant of the meaning of words, as well as linguistic use above text level.

Fifthly, since the above is true, what does the context say regarding the recipient of latreuo? It says that this One would be rendered latreuo by “his slaves,” that they would “see his face,” and “have his name written on their foreheads.” The book of Revelation presents these “servants” to be the servants of the Lord God; there is no ambiguity in this regard in texts such as 7:3, 10:7, 11:18, 19:2 and 22:6. Seeing the face of God had been elusive privileges not even the Johannine community had the honor of having. To see the face of the Lord God, the Father, would be the ultimate reward for his servants. The ambiguity persists regarding the “name written on their foreheads,” as this name can refer to either Jesus’ or the Father’s (cp. 14:1). I know Shamoun attempts to circumvent these issues, but his attempts have issues of their own.

Sixthly, it reveals a poor understanding of Greek to claim that the writer of the Apocalypse used a singular copular verb to describe BOTH God and Jesus together. This is simply false, as the absence of the copula in reference to the Lamb can be perfectly implied through the use of copular ellipsis.

Seventhly, I am perfectly fine with “unity” between the Lord God Almighty and his faithful Messiah, Jesus. Unity by necessity does not imply ontological identity – not between Father and Son, and for exactly the same reasons not between the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb. Unity would be expected, as distinct thrones and distinct temples would not convey the same idea, namely, that Divine authority and presence is executed by the faithful and approved Messiah.

Eighthly, even if it would be granted (by a long shot) that Jesus is the object of latreuo here, it would be the odd exception which would also necessitate an exceptional explanation. An interesting case can be made if one of the Sibyllene Oracles is considered (VIII:590), where Adam is said to have received latreuo. Since Adam was created in God’s image and ruling over God’s creation, this sibyl understood him to be worthy of latreuo, which does not necessitate his being ontologically identified with Yahweh.

Ninthly, what is explicit in the Book of Revelation, which are also insurmountable obstacles to the promoted theologies of later centuries, are the depictions of Jesus as distinct from the Lord God Almighty, as opposed to his being identical to Him; His receiving a revelation and conveying it, as opposed to being the omniscient, omnipotent Originator of it, and his referring to another as his God, as opposed to being that God, or as opposed to being the Most High and therefore not having a God. These are explicitly stated in Scripture which theology-based readers conveniently ignore or go to great lengths to reinterpret.

Finally, if you want a balanced view of Christology, and the issues involved, don’t read self-promoters like Sam Shamoun and James White. Read proper, robust scholarship. I recommend James Dunn, James McGrath, Edward Schillebeeckx, Pannenberg, Maurice Casey, Bart Ehrman, even Larry Hurtado. Rid yourself of theology-driven biblical interpretation. This world has bled enough because of it.

“The writer of Revelation carries the equating of Christ with God to the furthest point short of making them eternally equal. Christ is still ‘the beginning of the creation of God’ (7:14) by which is probably to be understood that He Himself was part of the creation.”
C. Anderson Scott, Dictionary of the Apostolic Church, Vol. I, p. 185.

In addition to my earlier comment about the use of proskuneō, we obviously also have to consider what the disciples would have meant by the confession “You are the Son of God”. The use of the title in Matthew’s Gospel does not encourage us to think that they meant “You are God”. For example, the devil, the high priest, and those who mocked him at the crucifixion explicitly differentiate between God and the Son of God; and for the high priest “Son of God” means “messiah” (Matt. 4:5-6; 26:63; 27:43). You suggest that the title has an enhanced meaning, but how do you account for that? Appeal to John seems out of place, and Thomas’ “My Lord and my God” does not provide grounds for interpreting “Son of God” in a supra-human sense.

The problem is that Jesus is very unlike Moses, Elijah or any other representative of YHWH, first in his flawlessness, second in the ways in which he overrode, altered or reinterpreted the law, third in his embodiment of a comprehensive fulfilment of the Jewish narrative, and, Wright argues, the creation narrative which is carried within it, and fourth, in addition to Wright’s examples, in his claim, and the claim of his followers, that he would, and did, pour out the Holy Spirit - ie he pours our either God Himself (Unitarians) or pours out God as the third person of the Trinity (Trinitarians).

The problem is that none of this requires an explanation in terms of direct identity.

Jesus’ obedience and the fact that he fulfils the story of Israel classifies him as a model of obedient Israel, the beginning of a new humanity, a second Adam. God made humanity as something different from himself. If the New Testament actually said that Jesus was sinless because he was God, it would be different, and we would have to think of this new creation in Christ, in which we all participate, as being some sort of divine-human hybrid, utterly different from the originally created humanity. But the New Testament does not say that.

It is as “Son of Man” that Jesus is Lord of the Sabbath (Matt. 12:8)—he has been given authority to overrule the Law, in keeping with the consistent affirmation throughout the New Testament that Jesus has been given authority to bring in the new age.

He pours out the Spirit because he received the “promise of the Holy Spirit” from the Father (Acts 2:33), having been made to rule at the right hand of God, which is a far cry from your idea of pouring out God himself.

…at no point is there some “appointing” occasion of Jesus by YHWH, in which all these extraordinary attributes are endowed upon him. Not even at his baptism.

That surely goes against both the significance of the reception of the Spirit at his baptism and the widespread idea in the New Testament that Jesus is made Lord, given authority, appointed judge of the nations, by virtue of his baptism and ascension. Jesus tells the Pharisees that he casts out demons by the Spirit of God (Matt. 12:28), which is the Spirit that came upon him at his baptism, just as it would later come upon the disciples.

What on earth does Jesus mean when he likens himself to a nobleman who goes away to receive a kingdom? Even Wright says that against the background of Daniel 7 the ascension could only mean “that, from that moment, Jesus was the Father’s right-hand man, in charge of the whole world” (15). Peter says that God has “made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:36), and we could multiply examples.

Whatever we understand by God creating the world “through” Jesus, that is what is said. At no point is it said that Jesus created the world.

Andrew - you are addressing my points without really responding to them - or even engaging with the issues they raise. In that sense, you are defending a position rather than engaging in dialogue. As this is something I normally do (or at least am accused of doing), maybe we have become partners in crime.

The meaning of “Son of God” I have explored in conversation with Jaco. To fix it to “human messiah” is not actually warranted from the way it is used in the OT, where it does not occur as a phrase, and can mean Israel, and possiby angels, or a government assembly, or even magistrates. At the very heart of the term is the meaning: “One like, and close to the heart of, God”, from the use of “Son of” to convey concretely abstract adjectival description.

How do I account for the suggestion of divinity in the storm-stilling passage, and the disciples’ use of “Son of God” to address Jesus? Because of the preceding “proskuneo” and because it coheres with other examples in which the phrase begins to suggest divinity in Matthew, as it does throughout the NT. There is also other evidence of an incipient Trinitarianism in Matthew, the one gospel which contains the verse generally acknowledged to be explicitly Trinitarian - Matthew 28:19.

A Trinitarian understanding of Matthew makes sense of the narrative, and beyond Matthew, in my opinion, is the only way in which a narrative can cross over into direct personal/community experience of God, then and now. I’ve also explored this at some length with Jaco.

Overruling the law is exactly the sort of action by Jesus whereby you would expect some explicit authority to be provided by the gospel writers. There is none - and certainly not at his baptism.

If Jesus as man pours out the Holy Spirit, then there is some explaining to do as to exactly who or what the Holy Spirit was.

Acts 2:36 is one of the examples of Jesus being made more than human messiah, against the backdrop of the use of “Lord”, especially in the LXX, throughout the OT. Of course it expresses his rule of the world. The question is: how does he rule it?

Again, it’s pushing credulity to the limits to say that because God created the world through Jesus, we can still define Jesus in human categories. So we have a mortal human with a pre-existence with God, and one who was given the power to create all things. Meanwhile God himself has retreated into deistic obscurity - He just gets all his human or angelic delegates to do everything for him.

Peter, you say:

Consistently though, in the NT proskyneo is used of God or Jesus exclusively. The only exception is its use of the beast in Revelation - where false deity is presupposed.

This is not correct. Here a human master is the recipient of proskuneo:

Matthew 18:26, “Then the slave threw himself to the ground [proskuneo] before him [his master]…’”

Here faithful believers are the recipients of proskuneo:

Revelation 3:9, “Listen! I am going to make those people from the synagogue of Satan — who say they are Jews yet are not, but are lying — Look, I will make them come and bow down [proskuneo] at your feet…”

Jesus is also the recipient of proskuneo, albeit rarely.

Proskuneo has a broad semantic range and occurs in many different contexts. Legitimate translations include:

* Worship
* Prostration
* Kissing the hand
* Kneeling
* Bowing

LXX examples include:

Genesis 23:7, “Abraham got up and bowed down [proskuneo] to the local people, the sons of Heth.”

Joshua 5:14, “He answered, ‘Truly I am the commander of the LORD’s army. Now I have arrived!’ Joshua bowed down [proskuneo] with his face to the ground and asked, ‘What does my master want to say to his servant?’”

I Samuel 24:9, “When Saul looked behind him, David kneeled down and bowed [proskuneo] with his face to the ground.”

I Samuel 25:23, “When Abigail saw David, she got down quickly from the donkey, threw herself down [proskuneo] before David, and bowed to the ground.”

Many places in the NT use proskuneo in a religious sense:

John 4:22, “You people worship [proskuneo] what you do not know. We worship [proskuneo] what we know.”

Here God is clearly the subject of proskuneo, so we may assume a religious meaning. But where God is not the obvious recipient, an alternative meaning is clear from the context.

If Jesus was God, the most appropriate honour for him would be “latreou.” This word is typically used throughout the NT to denote religious service, worship and devotion. Yet we never find it applied to Jesus, as James Dunn observes:

“Bearing in mind that the latreuein word group is the nearest expression for the offering of ‘cultic worship’, the fact that it is never used for the ‘cultic devotion’ of Christ in the New Testament is somewhat surprising…”

(Did the first Christians worship Jesus? London: SPCK, 2010, p. 15).

The NT contains three other words consistently used in an explicitly religious sense:

* Sebazomai: “to worship; to be religious; to feel awe or fear before God”
* Sebasma: “an object of awe or worship”
* Sebomai: “revere, worship”

Unlike proskuneo, these are always used by NT in the context of religious worship and devotion towards God alone. They are never applied to Jesus or any other human being.

Nicely presented and argued, David. I guess it would be more precise to say that when proskuneo is used of Jesus, the significance of the word needs to be judged from factors other than the word itself and its broad semantic range.

I’m less convinced about whether latreou would have been “an appropriate honour” for Jesus, “If he had been God”. The word in the NT seems to be specifically associated with Judaism and its sacrificial temple offerings. This is the sense which is deliberately echoed on the one occasion when it is used of believers in Christ - Romans 12:1. So I don’t quite know why Dunn should find it “surprising” that it is not used for the “cultic devotion of Christ”. Or maybe “cultic devotion” isn’t really a good way of describing how the early Christians expressed their devotion to Christ.

I don’t draw any conclusions one way or the other from the sebazomai word groupings.

Thanks Peter.

I guess it would be more precise to say that when proskuneo is used of Jesus, the significance of the word needs to be judged from factors other than the word itself and its broad semantic range.

That’s a good way to put it, though I wouldn’t want to rule out any appeal to the semantic range of proskuneo. At some point it must be allowed to inform our understanding of the text.

I’m less convinced about whether latreou would have been “an appropriate honour” for Jesus, “If he had been God”.

Can you suggest a more appropriate word for the worship of Israel’s God? I can’t think of a better one than latreou.

The word in the NT seems to be specifically associated with Judaism and its sacrificial temple offerings.

Is it? I’m not so sure about that. Latreou occurs 21 times in the NT and in most cases it simply means ‘worship’ or ‘serve’ in the sense of religious devotion.

In any case, even if what you say was true, how would it make the word any less appropriate as an honour for Jesus?

So I don’t quite know why Dunn should find it “surprising” that it is not used for the “cultic devotion of Christ”.

I think he finds it surprising because if we start with the assumption that the first Christians believed Jesus is the God of Israel, we have to find some way of explaining why they don’t treat him that way.

‘Latreou’ is typically used to describe the worship of God in the NT. Yet we never find it applied to Jesus. Why not?

I don’t draw any conclusions one way or the other from the sebazomai word groupings.

I find it difficult not to draw conclusions from the fact that every Greek word in the NT which refers unequivocally to worship or religious devotion is consistently applied to the Father but never to the Son.

Occurrances of laterou in the NT:

Matthew 4:10, Luke 1:74, Luke 2:37, Luke 4:8, Acts 7:7, Acts 7:42, Acts 24:14, Acts 26:7, Acts 27:23, Romans 1:9, Romans 1:25, Philippians 3:3, II Timothy 1:3, Hebrews 8:5, Hebrews 9:9, Hebrews 9:14, Hebrews 10:2, Hebrews 12:28, Hebrews 13:10, Revelation 7:15, Revelation 22:3

As far as I can see, only five of these verses refer specifically to Judaism and its sacrificial temple offerings (Luke 2:37; Hebrews 8:5, 9:9, 10:2, 13:10).

Yes, O.K. David. Point taken, though some of the references you cite pick up more on the “serve” meaning of latreou than “worship” in the devotional sense, but I accept that service and worship are not easily disentangled in the use of the word.

It’s rather interesting though, that in Revelation 22:3 (which you cite), worship is directed towards God and the Lamb, one throne between them, with a singular “him” applying somewhat ambiguously to one or the other or both. (Or are you going to pull another word study out of the hat to disprove this?).

The lack of any one particular word in the NT to describe devotion to Jesus which would have an exclusive connotation of worship of a deity is no more a problem to me than in the OT, where ‘worship’ may also be, and is, used of mortal beings as well as God. I wasn’t making a big deal out of proskuneo, though the word and others are becoming bigger than the point I was making.

That Jesus is part of a divine godhead is a scriptural sine qua non for me, for as many reasons as I have been putting forward in various comments to different people, but most of all, because the story is just that - a story, with no personal connection or transformative power in the lives of believers without it. I’ve also been worshipping him as God for the last 30 years, and so far nobody has produced any compelling evidence to disabuse me of deception, not least God himself.

There has to be a cross-over between narrative, personal experience and transformation somewhere. Narratives of themselves are no more transformative for the post NT people of God than they were for OT Israel. The early church clearly understood and experienced this cross-over (if the phrase doesn’t conjure up unhelpful associations), and the various ways in which Jesus is presented, addressed and understood, in gospels and letters, leave no doubt in my mind as to Jesus’s divine origins and identity in delivering personal and community transformation through, of and in himself.

On words used to describe worship: how about throwing in theosebeia and threskeia for good measure, just to keep the word-search junkies happy?

Peter,

It’s rather interesting though, that in Revelation 22:3 (which you cite), worship is directed towards God and the Lamb, one throne between them, with a singular “him” applying somewhat ambiguously to one or the other or both.

As you note, the word ‘him’ is singular. This tells us immediately that it cannot apply to both, and since latreou is used here the most logical recipient is the Father, not the Son.

The fact that only one throne is mentioned doesn’t strike me as particularly significant. Throughout Revelation we see multiple thrones (e.g. Revelation 4:2, 4) and Jesus himself tells us that believers will sit on his throne (Revelation 3:21) so this seems more a statement about authority than Christology.

If we can share Jesus’ throne without being Jesus, surely Jesus can share the Father’s throne without being God.

The lack of any one particular word in the NT to describe devotion to Jesus which would have an exclusive connotation of worship of a deity is no more a problem to me than in the OT, where ‘worship’ may also be, and is, used of mortal beings as well as God.

I don’t think that’s a valid comparison.

In the OT we have multiple lines of evidence for the deity of one person (Yahweh, identified by a single personal pronoun ~7,000 times) and no reason to suspect that the OT wishes to identify any other person as God.

In the NT we have Jesus and God (the Father) and perhaps some reasons to suspect the NT wishes to identify both as God, yet only the Father is consistently referred to in terms which unambiguously identify Him as deity.

We search in vain for certain types of evidence we would expect to find if Jesus was believed to be God. Honours and titles fall into this category, yet the honours and titles which function as specific identifiers of deity (e.g. latreou, pantokrator) are exlusive to the Father and never applied to the Son.

If the NT writers did indeed believe Jesus is God, we need to explain why they never speak of him in the unambigious language of deity they consistently apply to the Father. In fact, everything they write about Jesus points to the opposite conclusion: that he is the Son of God, but not God himself.

Whenever I read the Bible I can’t help but be struck by the remarkable absence of NT data in favour of the idea that Jesus is God, and the overwhelming NT data which supports the idea that the Father alone is deity.

There has to be a cross-over between narrative, personal experience and transformation somewhere. Narratives of themselves are no more transformative for the post NT people of God than they were for OT Israel.

I certainly agree with that. We can’t just proof-text our way into a transformative experience of God. However, the narrative, personal experience and transformation I read of in the NT and the early post-apostolic church strongly convinces me that Jesus is not God.

On words used to describe worship: how about throwing in theosebeia and threskeia for good measure, just to keep the word-search junkies happy?

I spent some time looking up the NT use of these words a few years ago. I don’t think they add much to this debate either way.

Thanks for the exchange.

Dave,

What do you make of Acts 2:36 (and elsewhere) which names Jesus as Lord, thus bequeathing to him as an inheritance those 7,000 unique OT references to YHWH (Lord)?

Mike,

What do you make of Acts 2:36 (and elsewhere) which names Jesus as Lord, thus bequeathing to him as an inheritance those 7,000 unique OT references to YHWH (Lord)?

Firstly, I don’t see any evidence that naming Jesus as Lord is the same as identifying him as Yahweh. Nor do I see any evidence that 1st Century Christians believed so.

Secondly, the Greek word kyrios is not equivalent to the Hebrew word Yahweh (notice that kyrios is applied to humans in the LXX and NT).

We cannot insist that every instance of kyrios must necessarily mean ‘Yahweh’ just because most English Bibles translate them both as ‘Lord’ in the NT. We need good reasons for believing that the NT Christians called Jesus Yahweh, and I just don’t see them.

Thirdly, even if the NT Christians had called Jesus Yahweh, you’d still be stuck with the problem that Yahweh is only ever identified as a single person in the OT (not two or more persons). This would point towards Modalism, not Trinitarianism.

What do you think about the fact that the Septuagint uses “Lord” (Kyrios) in place of YHWH?

And what do you think about the fact that the NT never makes explicit reference to YHWH but uses “Lord/YHWH” in the same way as the Septuagint?

Modalism, by the way, is just a variation on trinitarianism. Therefore, I don’t see it as an option either.

Mike,

What do you think about the fact that the Septuagint uses “Lord” (Kyrios) in place of YHWH?

Not much. What else were they going to use?

You can’t leap from ‘kyrios was used for Yahweh in the LXX’ to ‘the NT writers must have believed Jesus is Yahweh because they called him kyrios.’

Both the LXX and the NT use kyrios in reference to human lords as well as God Himself. Saul calls Jesus kyrios on the road to Damascus before he even knows whom he’s addressing.

And what do you think about the fact that the NT never makes explicit reference to YHWH but uses “Lord/YHWH” in the same way as the Septuagint?

Again, not much. How else would the NT make explicit references to Yahweh? What would that even look like in Greek? Seems to me the NT writers just followed the LXX use of kyrios.

Modalism, by the way, is just a variation on trinitarianism. Therefore, I don’t see it as an option either.

I see Modalism as distinct from Trinitarianism. I wouldn’t call it a variant.

Not much. What else were they going to use?

If the Masoretic Text is to be trusted, the Hebrew text showed YHWH but readers knew to pronounce Adonai. The translators of the LXX could therefore have transliterated YHWH and pronounced Kyrios. Instead the translators did the equivalent of replacing YHWH with Adonai. That bears note.

You can’t leap from ‘kyrios was used for Yahweh in the LXX’ to ‘the NT writers must have believed Jesus is Yahweh because they called him kyrios.’

You are using “YHWH” as if it is a name; but what if it is a title? Jesus thus inherits the title of “Kyrios” (as in “all authority in heaven and earth has been given to me”).

David - you may be right, or you may simply be defending a position you have already adopted in advance.

I think there is an anomaly in Revelation 22:3, and actually, the entire relationship in Revelation between God and the Lamb, and the thrones or throne they occupy, raise questions which are more striking for the attention they draw to the extraordinary equality between the two figures than an obvious subordination of one to the other.

On o6/05/12 (UK dating), Tim drew attention to David Boyarin’s exploration of binitarianism in inter-testamental Jewish literature, not least in Daniel 7, a key text for Jewish thought both in Jewish writings and in the gospels.

I took the trouble to obtain a copy of The Jewish Gospels by David Boyarin, and am currently reading it. Although clearly binitarianism was a controverisal idea in Jewish thinking, it is nevertheless also equally clearly a strand of Jewish thought which needs to be taken into account in exploring the identity of Jesus.

Boyarin suggests that a high Christology was not a later development, arising from reflections on the nature of Jesus after his death and resurrection. On the contrary, a high Christology already existed, which Jesus fulfilled in his appearance.

I suggest then, that your argument for a non-divine Christ is not clear-cut, taking into account examples in the literature of the identity of the son of man as well as the messiah, which parallel Jesus’s pre-existence as God and his apotheosis as man. Daniel 7, the key text for the gospels, is central to the argument.

Peter,

David - you may be right, or you may simply be defending a position you have already adopted in advance.

Well, we can both say that about each other. :)

I think there is an anomaly in Revelation 22:3, and actually, the entire relationship in Revelation between God and the Lamb, and the thrones or throne they occupy, raise questions which are more striking for the attention they draw to the extraordinary equality between the two figures than an obvious subordination of one to the other.

The Lamb’s role strikes me as consistently subordinate to God’s. I don’t perceive equality here.

Boyarin suggests that a high Christology was not a later development, arising from reflections on the nature of Jesus after his death and resurrection. On the contrary, a high Christology already existed, which Jesus fulfilled in his appearance.

I’m not familiar with Boyarin’s work, but it sounds like an odd hypothesis. If a high Christology already existed, we need to explain (a) why the gospel authors are entirely ignorant of it (yes, even John) and (b) why nobody ever references it in Acts or the apostolic epistles.

Does the intertestamental literature of Second Temple Judaism suggest a messiah who is also God? Not to my knowledge. The most we seem to get is speculation about mystic figures like Enoch, and sophisticated personifications of wisdom.

I find it interesting that the apostles earliest evangelism lectures (e.g. Acts 2) make no reference to Jesus fulfilling a high Christology. On the contrary, they describe him in terms which are perfectly consistent with the ‘lower’ Christology of the Second Temple milieu, where the Christ figure is an agent of deity but not God himself.

I suggest then, that your argument for a non-divine Christ is not clear-cut, taking into account examples in the literature of the identity of the son of man as well as the messiah, which parallel Jesus’s pre-existence as God and his apotheosis as man. Daniel 7, the key text for the gospels, is central to the argument.

Jesus is certainly the ‘son of man’ in Daniel 7, but this prophetic vision contains no suggestion of his alleged pre-existence as God.

I don’t have the time or inclination for a protracted Christological discussion in this thread, but if you’re interested to know how I treat standard Trinitarian proof texts you’re welcome to read my replies to Rob Bowman from our debate in 2010 (here: http://bit.ly/yXz0NE).

Boyarin argues that “son of man” is a divine appellation, and “son of God” a human appellation. The argument looks at Daniel, and the intertestamental literature - especially Enoch.

From this point of view, the gospels can certainly be better understood, in many respects, if we start with a high Christology. The issue was not the Christology, but whether Jesus fulfilled it.

“Son of man” also fits harmoniously into this scheme - side-stepping the traditional ‘son of man problem’ debate.

I’m happy to look at your discussion on ‘standard Trinitarian proof texts’ - though your choice of phraseology makes me wary. (Proof texts is of course a loaded phrase). I suggest you also look at Boyarin - and indeed, all contributors to this site would do well to do so.

Andrew - a book review on Boyarin please?

(By the way - it’s Daniel, not David Boyarin, Note to myself).

Considering the breadth and depth of the debates about Christology that we have today, it is most ironic that we see so little evidence of any debate about it in the New Testament documents. Those folks debated about many things, but not about who Christ was. Amazing!

Boyarin (The Jewish Gospels) makes a compelling argument that there was a Jewish expectation, based on their reading of Daniel, that the Son of Man figure was a second divine figure. He notes this is clear in other Jewish writings, such as the Similitudes of Enoch (eg 1 Enoch 48). As Boyarin puts it: “A people had been for centuries talking about, thinking about, and reading about a new king, a son of David, who would come to redeem them from Seleucid and then Roman oppression, and they had come to think of that king a a seond, younger, divine figure on the basis of the Book of Daniel’s reflection of that very ancient tradition. So they were persuaded to see in Jesus of Nazareth the one whom they had expected to come.”

If he is right, Jesus’s use of the Son of Man title would have been a clear statement that he was divine and a reason why the Gospels could be said to presuppose that divinity.

Tim, thanks. It’s an important consideration. There may well be something in the idea that Jesus came to be seen within early Jewish-Christian apocalypticism as a secondary divine figure—or a divine figure within the narrative of Israel’s renewal and exaltation in relation to the nations. I wonder if Hebrews 1 (with the highly significant comment in 2:5) does not fit into this sort of scenario.

I hesitate, though, for the reason that Jesus himself seems to echo only Daniel 7 and not the sort of apocalyptic development that we see in 1 Enoch. In Daniel 7 the Son of Man figure stands not for God but for righteous Israel—indeed, this may also be the case in 1 Enoch 48. The Son of Man motif has to do with the vindication of that part of Israel which remains faithful despite intense persecution by a pagan power, and which is therefore given the right to rule over the nations.

This is where I see the correlation with Christendom. The conversion of the empire was precisely the means by which the suffering remnant of Israel, including Gentiles who had been grafted in to the rich root of the patriarchs, came to rule over the nations of the oikoumenē.

Nothing to do with anything current on the blog, but just to record that Larry Hurtado here swats aside Daniel Boyarin’s notion of ‘son of man’ as a ‘Christology’ - a divine title.

Hurtado dismisses any idea of ‘son of man’ being used or regarded as a title in this way. He also asserts that ‘son of man’ is only occasionally in the gospels associated with Daniel 7, in agreement with Maurice Casey (whose ‘Solution to the Son of Man Problem’ is now available at Amazon UK for a mere £23.74).

I suppose I could try returning my copy of the now discredited Boyarin to Amazon - or see if I can arrange a discounted exchange on the Casey.

Hurtado’s ‘How On Earth Did Jesus Become A God?’ presents his view that it was the cultic practice of the early church from the earliest times, evident in gospels and elsewhere in the NT as well as demonstrated sociologically, which provides the answer to this question, not the imported significance of a title such as ‘son of man’, or even ‘son of God’.

It is clear that if the apostles who wrote the New Testament documents knew that Jesus was God, they did not clearly communicate it in their teaching. Nonetheless, it would be a mistake to conclude from this that Jesus is not God. As we know from His first coming, God prophesies in mystery, and that what is hidden is hidden until it is revealed (Deut 29:29; Matt 10:26). Is it not possible that the Second Coming, occurring in the apocalyptic time frame given by Jesus and apostles (i.e. sometime 70-100 AD), was the revelation that Jesus was God? And is it not possible that as the messianic identity of Jesus was not to be publicly proclaimed until after His resurrection and ascension so His divine identity was not to be publicly proclaimed until after the revelation that came with the kingdom of God?

Mike, thanks for your kind assessment of my comments on the other thread.

I’m not too sure what exactly you confess. But your suggestion above has been advanced by several religious groups and cults, including the Seventh Day Adventists, the Mormons and JWs for their particular slant of dogma. If the world had to wait for Jesus’ special revelations about himself after his disappearing from this earth and these special revelations were to be accepted independent from or even contradicted by previous revelation, then any theology could fly. “Orthodox” Trinitarianism as the evolved theology formalised at Nicaea and Chalcedon is one of those doctrines that should never have survived until now. But, alas, politics, power and greed even saw to it that the Muslim cult survived…

Jaco,

To be clear, I reject the doctrine of the three religious groups you name.

I don’t propose a revelation that is independent from or contradictory to prior revelation. Rather, it is based on that prior revelation and organically dependent upon it.

Trinitarianism, even if it were true, is not explicitly taught by the Scripture. I can respect a Trinitarian who will admit this. Neither, however, do I believe that the Scriptures implicitly teach it. It’s just not true. Neither is modalism, which is just a variation of Trinitarianism.

My point to you would be that revelation is progressive and to define Jesus as merely an exalted human denies the further revelation of Him (e.g. 1 Cor 1:7) that was promised in the coming of the kingdom of God.

Even so, given that you seem to regard Jesus as Lord just as I do and just as the Trinitarians do, I’m still stratching my head wondering how any of our behaviors toward Jesus should vary. Lord is lord, and there’s no getting out of obedience by reference to the Lord’s ontology.

Mike, I see what you mean. I think the difference in behaviour might be subtle, but I think they are there. I’d say in expression, in implicit meaning, in personal experience, etc. there is a difference between a Jesus who is Yahweh and a Jesus who is a rewarded, exalted, glorified conquering human. It feels different, Mike. So subjectively or phenomenologically there is a difference. We also need to consider external varification. What I mean by this is, although the experience is important, we need an external science to guide and shape our experience. Both are equally important, I think. Else the 3 groups I mentioned above would simply be equally valid on the basis of comparable behaviour to ours. And so we can go on until we arrive at a New Age kind of “we all worship the same God” kind of lingo.

Peter, we’re engaging each other again sooner than I expected :-).

Just a few observations from my side.

I never said that proskynesis simply means respect in any of my comments. Proskynesis has at its basis honor and respect, but the ancient norm was to proskyneo to God, to masters, to teachers, to slave owners, to the king, etc. A cultic association was never attached to it per se, although worship included proskynesis. Your exception in Revelation is also inaccurate as the saints according to Rev. 3:9 will also be rendered proskynesis. To claim that in the NT proskynesis is only rendered to God, hence Jesus being God, is circular in that you assume divinity of Jesus on this basis, while you need to prove it. Proskynesis is simply not a basis for this claim at all, since the king of Israel, the son of man, Israel’s prophet and its Messiah deserves proskyneo in line with the standard usage of the word without insisting on divinity at all. What is striking in the NT, especially since this is to be expected had Jesus been God Almighty, is the absence of latreuo associated with Jesus. God Almighty is the only recipient of this. The only occurrence of latreuo being rendered to anyone other than God is found in the Sibylline Oracles where Adam as God’s image is said to receive latreuo. Again well in line with the shaluach principle.

The shaliach principle in the NT is overwhelming and immediately recognizable by those familiar with the usage and its institution in ancient Jewish culture and worship. Jesus is indeed typologically equivalent to the ancient figures such as Moses, Elijah, Solomon, David, etc. The differences located are differences in degree and not, as you would like it to be, difference in kind or category. A case in point is in Matthew 9:6, where, unlike ever before, a human forgives sins. It is precisely here where the shaluach principle is most clearly stipulated. Since, had there been a change in category or a change in kind, here would be the opportunity to finally articulate it. But it is not. Instead, a change in degree of representation or agency is articulated. It is given here:


Matt 9:8 But when the multitudes saw [it], they marvelled, and glorified God, which had given such power unto men.

So the authority or power to forgive sins moved these onlookers to glorify God – not as the One who was human in front of them, but the one who worked in and through someone else, namely this anthropos in front of them.

In every single case the committed “orthodox” Trinitarian can come up with after combing Scripture to prove an assumed position, an alternate, authentically Jewish, functional explanation can be given as a more valid and authentic alternative. So, neither Jesus’ flawlessness (ascribed to his exceptional humanity in Hebrews; divinity excluded in James 1:13), nor his “overriding” Old Covenant tenets (as one would expect from the human mediator of a New Covenant) nor in his pouring out holy spirit (as seen in the Upper Room Discourse where it is explicitly stated, as in Acts 2, that he would receive it from the actual Source – John 14:26, 15:26; 16:7) does the divinity of Christ follow as the valid and necessary condition for doing all these things. Unlike in degree? Yes! Unlike in kind? Absolutely not (Acts 17:31, 1 Tim. 2:5). Never is Jesus’ being the Most High ever to be understood as the reason for any of these. In fact, ontological identity to the Most High is implicitly excluded.

As I’ve demonstrated before, the re-creation or restoration was never a process only Yahweh Himself could do in and as Himself. I cited examples where even Elijah was expected to re-enact Yahweh as the One through whom He would restore all things.

Taken together, what was the conclusion the ancient followers of Christ drew? That Jesus was divine? God in Himself? Oh no. They concluded in a text, yet another filtered out of the “orthodox” Trinitarian scheme, that God approved this man, Jesus of Nazareth, as could be seen by miracles, wonders and signs performed through this anthropos. Ontological identity is excluded, functional identity articulated.

The “Son of God” notion has been dealt with and it is conclusive that, from the vast literature we have using this term colloquially as well as Jesus’ colloquial and normative use of this term, ontological identity with God can be excluded. There is simply no hint of it in any of the writings or the usages of the term. “Being like God” is never to be found as a possible meaning. Even in the highly philosophical treatises of Philo, “being guided by God” or “responding to God” are the closest one gets to ontological identity.

I obviously disagree with your conclusion (or return to presupposed assumption) that Jesus is God and understood to be God by the calming of the storm. In Matthew 8, Mark 4 and Luke 8 we see a sleeping Jesus (contrasted with an ever-vigilant Yahweh) and after the calming of the storm, marvelling at who this was. Nothing in itself meant that Jesus was God Himself. As on other occasions, Jesus was seen as a powerful human or prophet (John 6:14, Ac. 3:22-26). He received holy spirit without measure (John 4:34) which by definition (biblical definition, as Yahweh is the Source, not recipient of holy spirit) excludes Jesus from ontological identity with Yahweh.

Acts 2:36 is one of the examples of Jesus being made more than human messiah…

This is circular reasoning. Jesus was the MAN appointed by God for various functions (Ac. 2:22, 13:38, 17:31). His being MAN is central to the apostles’ kerygma. NEVER is Jesus categorised as anything but MAN. So your statement above miss-fits the entire book of Acts.

Wright, as every other “orthodox” Trinitarian, seems to read Scripture selectively, decontextualised and with an alien epistemology. While they’ll read “God in him” or “God through him,” they simply default to understanding, “God in Himself” or “God Himself.” This is simply erroneous. It is erroneous from a cultural perspective as well as from a cognitive linguistic perspective where the mediatorial/functional role is simply ignored and an ontologically identical position assumed. In other doctrinally insignificant passages this cognitive error would not be committed. To have “Christ in us” or “as though Christ in us” or “God abiding in us” (2 Cor. 5:20, Gal. 2:20, 1 John 3:24) is understood correctly in functional, attributive or representative sense. But as soon as it comes to Christ and God, that God was “in Christ” and “through Christ” acting in the world, the machinery of post-biblical dogma starts to turn and a doctrine rather than a scriptural Christology is resorted to. I have yet to meet an “orthodox” Trinitarian not reading scripture through doctrinal filters violating the functions of language, history, and culture… (but then this mutual exclusivity will prevent me from ever finding one…)

Wright, as every other “orthodox” Trinitarian, seems to read Scripture selectively, decontextualised and with an alien epistemology.

I think I shall now class myself—at least for the time being—as an unorthodox Trinitarian.

Bravo. It is always better to be biblical than to be orthodox.

This is not just sloganeering. To be biblical is to adhere to “Thus saith the Lord.” To be orthodox is to adhere to “Thus saith the church council.”

There is much more of God’s word that He would reveal to us but “orthodoxy” shuts off the kingdom of God from humanity and puts church authority in the place of the Spirit. It’s not good.

It feels great to hear these things. Thanks, Mike.

So then what if it is Gods charachter we worship (because that is all we can know to worship) anything else we just make up? What you need to ask yourself is what you are paying sacred service to if it is true worship? i.e no sane person worships something they do not know, unless just out of blind fear? See what I am getting at? It is all a matter of perception, not who God is, but how we are to understand God, perceive God. You cannot worship/pay sacred service to God any other way (if it is sincere worship) than through the life and example of Jesus (by loving Jesus).

People think they can know God and worship Him from examples in the OT, but they are gravely mistaken if they think they can judge Gods character from the OT, this is the mistake Thom Stark makes. In books like Deutronomy God is not trying to prove He is as moral as we are, or better or worse, or say nice liberal things to impress Thom Stark, God is saying whatever pragmatically will work. If your child keeps running into the middle of the road you may have to put the ‘fear of God’ in him in order to save his life, that is actually true love, but while in the process of doing that you would not expect someone to be judging your whole character based on that act or similar, alone and without fully understanding the context. That is why God sent Jesus, but Thom seems wants to judge God by the examples in Deutronomy (I have only got to page 9 so far).

If we seperate Jesus into a lesser god we miss the entire point, no He is not literally God, yes He manifests Gods character (and THAT is all we worship), there is nothing else made available to us to worship. This is the lesson we are being taught, so ultimately if you manifest a Christlike mind then in that sense you will manifest God, ulimately we are to see God in each other. That does not of course mean we are literally God, Christadelphians know what it means very well. I would then admire your character and as you would be reflecting Gods charachter (then that is the logical rationale why we worship/adore God). No other rationale exists that is not more akin to false worshipping a dictator out of fear and ignorance. You could reply to that and say then why did the angel in the book of Revelation insist we must not worship him? And why do the other angels serve Christ? There can be only one answer to this, none of the angels either went through the tests Christ did and are so not worthy to be as exalted or only He ever truly reflected God, although we all try our best.

Context - we worship the Divine Image (as that is all we know of God). Therefore I have no problem if Jesus is receiving Revelation 22 or in Daniel 7:13-14 if what is being worshipped is the Divine Image/the character of God, as their is nothing else available for us to worship. By worshipping the Divine Image we worship God.

The honest truth is the NT teaches “God” is a concept, (that does NOT mean God is just a concept and their is no literal God as we understand it) but saying ‘God is Spirit’ and ‘God is love’ is conceptual, so the idea is we are being told we are only allowed to understand God conceptually on this earth, this may annoy us but thats just the way it is, that means via character alone, or a set of charachter traits, in that sense you could say God is the fruits of the spirit, not that God is literally just the fruits of the spirit of course, but that is all (we) are taught about God that we can admire, adore and worship, apart from the fact He made us and everything else of course.

So if you accept that Gods character is NOT revealed in the OT because the OT is in the business of being pragmatic (i.e saying whatever will pragmatically work) more often than not. And if you accept we are being taught in the NT to see God as a set of character traits, as manifested by Jesus and that this is what we are to understand as God and worship, then as Jesus was the reflection of God their is no other way of worshipping God than via Jesus. None whatsoever, (unless you believe you can know Gods character from the OT), as Thom Stark assumes, but misses the point as the OT is about pragmatism “strict schoolmaster”, NOT about revealing Gods true character.

It seems to me that both the Jews and the more learned Jews knew exactly what Jesus was saying and understood that he declared himself to be God. Consider John 5:18 and also Ciaphas’ questions to Jesus. Ciaphas didn’t accuse him for blasphemy because Jesus called himself the messiah.


I think the NT isn’t trying to ‘prove’ the deity of Christ but is indeed presupposed. However, this isn’t to say that at points this specific issue isn’t expressly shown. For instance, Philippians 2:5-11; John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:16-17, just to name a few.

There is a central error in looking at the Jews’ reaction to Jesus’ expressions in an attempt to prove his “divinity,” and that is because the Jews’ moral fabric were flawed. Jesus was a threat to them and they sought to remove him and his influence from their midst at all cost.

His miracles they dismissed as coming from Satan (Beelzebub, Luke 11), his revolutionary understanding of the essence of the Torah they saw as violating the Torah (Mark 3:2-4) and they even released Barabbas the murderer in order to get Jesus crucified (Lu. 23:14-19). Quite a few more examples can be mentioned here. These Jews hardly ever got it right:

Matt 11:18, 19 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, He hath a devil. The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners. But wisdom is justified of her children.

John 3:19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.

So, determining truth from the understanding of a blind and deceitful people is simply absurd. In John 5 Jesus never claimed to be God. That was a fallacious leap the Jews used to incriminate Jesus. In fact, in his subsequent words Jesus makes it clear that he is an obedient human representative of God, his Father. There is simply no proof and even more so, no presupposition, of Jesus being divine. That would have caused an earth-tilting controversy among the Jews which never happened and would therefore have been way too controvertial to simply be “presupposed.” I think this is desperate.

The Philippian hymn does not refer to Jesus’ divinity - either before, during or after his earthly life. It is limited to Jesus’ earthly life and post-ascension glory alone. The ultimate purpose of this all is to confirm what was written about the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 52/53 and leads to the glory of Someone else, other than himself (vs. 11).

John 1:1-3 does not necessitate or presuppose a personal, conscious individual logos. This is Logos-christology derived from Philonic Logos-theology. This is also in line with the Hebrew understanding of God’s davar’ (logos) finding expression in nature and in Israel and reflects who or what God is. Personality is therefore introduced into this Prologue, rather than derived from it.

The Colossian hymn speaks about Jesus’ pre-eminence with strong reference, not to the old creation of Genesis, but to the new or emergent creation by God in Jesus. Even if the old creation of Genesis is assumed, Jesus’ pre-eminence is shown to be the motivation behind creating in the first place - the reason or the purpose according to which or through which God created.

Centuries of oppressive indoctrination and persecution of dissenters have left us at the receiving end of erroneous and mis-applied understandings of many things - particularly of who God and Jesus are.

Jaco,

You may recall that I share your belief that the doctrine of the trinity is a big mistake. However, I also recoil at the idea that he is merely human. Therefore, I wonder if you or someone else might comment on the apparent absence of any curiosity among the epistle recipients about the identity of Jesus if he was, as you say, a mere human who was being progressively endowed with divine prerogatives at such a rate that by the coming of the kingdom there’d be nothing left for God to do.

Hi, Mike

I don’t think there was any “mereness” in Jesus’ humanity. There was no “mereness” in Adam’s humanity. Adam was the climax and crown of God’s creation and as representative and created image of the Almighty, Adam’s ontology was no mediocre and deprived condition. When we observe Jesus, we see a human who had access to the heavenly counsels (John 3:13), who had holy spirit without measure (John 3:34) and who was responsive and imitative of Almighty God (John chapters 5-7). He was not ontologically God, but was the human Messiah and son of God - in colloquial and normative sense (Mt. 16:16, John 14:28, 20:17) who was in all categorical aspects nothing else but human, except in sinning (Heb. 2:14, 4:15), Adam’s equivalent (Rom. chapter 5) and after his exaltation proclaimed to be nothing else but human (Ac. 2:22, 17:31, 1 Cor. 15:21, 1 Tim. 2:5). Since Jesus is categorised as belonging firmly to the class of man, there should be no reason to want to reclassify him. Certainly not from post-biblical writings and speculations around his ontology either. If this great man, the human face of God (2 Cor. 4:4-6), the one through whom God ultimately spoke (Heb. 1:2), by whose life and death we received life (Joh. 6:68, Ac. 20:28, 1 Cor. 15:21) was nothing else but human, then certainly there was no “mereness” in his humanity as such, nor in ours.

Jesus uplifted humanity to a state of worth and virtue where we belong. Through centuries of self-condemnation in practice and doctrine we have come to learn that we as humans are worse than unable to save ourselves - we are unworthy of salvation. Calvin’s Total Depravity idea just fueled this sense of worthlessness even more, in that our need for grace was not by virtue of our state or our being sinful, but by virtue of our being human. Being human came to be equated with something to be despised. This was NOT how God viewed humanity. In sending our saviour who was neither a docetic phantasm, nor a Gnostic Redeemer too sacred to be physically human nor an incarnated hybrid being, but a pure-blooded human being like you and me, God showed that he valued our category of being. Jesus further confirmed this by mingling with the despised and rejected, giving them worth and dignity as something he wants to grant all of us.

Instead of reinterpreting biblical categories to fit our conditioned concepts, we should allow biblical categories to recondition the concepts and categories in our minds. It is therefore a red herring to argue against Jesus being “merely human.” There’s no “mereness” in humanity to begin with, hence no objection to Jesus’ being categorically human.

Thanks, Mike

Jaco,

Not being a disciple of Calvin, my concept of “mere” is not laden with all the subtractions to, and barnacles upon, the human category you have rightly bemoaned. Merely is “merely” the barrier between being human, however great that might be, and something else.

If a human soul is the union of a spirit and a body, what is to have kept the spirit of Jesus’ body being God Himself since God is spirit? And if that was the case, how could anyone have recognized it by looking at him? Indeed, how could he himself, in his human state, have fully comprehended the enormity of that reality? We know from experience that our minds cannot contain all that is in our spirits, for there there are yearnings too deep for words, and there only is the word of God able to divide between soul and spirit. How deep are the ways of God!

Adam is indeed a good model for Christ, but the assignation of duties to Adam - unlike the assignation of duties to Christ - was not so great that it would have left God practically a loiterer in the universe - the point I made above which in your otherwise generally constructive response you never quite got around to addressing.

I don’t dispute for a moment that Jesus was fully human, and that his humanity accomplished all the wonderful things that you listed. I’m just uncomfortable with the idea that He’s exclusively or only human.

Mike,

Sorry for not replying to you sooner. I am not going to use the word “mere” in connection with Jesus’ humanity simply because the word has way too many associated meanings to it and I’d be opening myself up for equivocation anyway. “Utterly” is a much better word, describing the full extent of Jesus’ humanity qualitatively (nothing but human) and quantitatively (fully human, nothing more, nothing less).

“If a human soul is the union of a spirit and a body, what is to have kept the spirit of Jesus’ body being God Himself since God is spirit?”

Jesus’ classification and what is revealed to us are what prohibits Jesus being classified as God Himself. As I’ve pointed out elsewhere in discussion with Peter, Jesus is consistently depicted as someone other than God Almighty and functionally shown to be acting in God’s stead. Seeing Jesus in action was seeing God in action as God acted in and through Jesus. Jesus also imitated God and from the normative understanding of being the son of the one imitated, Jesus qualified also in that regard. As I’ve also shown, one of the purposes of Jesus as the prototypical man was to uplift mankind he was the representative of. He removed “mereness” from humanity and gave it glory and meaning in God’s grand plan. But he did this as someone who is utterly human.

“Adam is indeed a good model for Christ, but the assignation of duties to Adam - unlike the assignation of duties to Christ - was not so great that it would have left God practically a loiterer in the universe - the point I made above which in your otherwise generally constructive response you never quite got around to addressing.”


Well, not according to the Genesis story. The point made by the author of Genesis was that Adam would continue where God had left off. While God would cease from working Adam would work (Genesis 2:15) as God’s vice-regent on earth. Adam and his offspring have not done a good job of acting in God’s stead. On the contrary, God had to intervene again and give mankind a new beginning in the Second Adam. What is also worth noting is that even with Jesus acting in God’s stead, the principle of shaluach or agency is still maintained. Jesus does not replace God, he represents Him. Jesus therefore does not assume the identity of God, he assumes the function of God. As I’ve also argued before, the extent of Jesus’ acting in God’s stead is indeed vast, but it is vast in degree while those who push for a divine Jesus want it to be vast in kind. Nothing in Scripture, ancient theology or culture warrants any such insistence. Jesus was antitypical to many types of times gone by. Typology requires a pattern to be followed. Even with the change in degree, none of the extent of Jesus’ superiority renders Jesus different in kind or in type; different in degree alone. The Father as Almighty God remained superior to Jesus (cp. 1 Cor. 11:3, 2 Cor. 1:3).


“I don’t dispute for a moment that Jesus was fully human, and that his humanity accomplished all the wonderful things that you listed. I’m just uncomfortable with the idea that He’s exclusively or only human. ”

For Jesus to be anything beyond human requires certain non-human or above-human abilities implicitly ascribed to him. In other words, if Jesus is God in Himself then some of his abilities need to be implicitly his and not anybody else’s. First of all, Jesus always glorified the One who was truly behind his wisdom and power. None of this was ever depicted to be implicitly Jesus’. Secondly, Jesus indicated that that was precisely what God intended for mankind. Jesus, wise and powerful, was exactly the prototype of what God intended mankind to be. Thirdly, we humans have the prospect of assuming that image of God (Eph. 3:19, 2 Pet. 1:4). So what is true about Jesus will have to be true about every other human in line for Jesus’ glory (Ro. 8:29). With everything Jesus accomplished as well as his display of wisdom and power, it would be possible for him to do it, not because he was more than human, but because he was utterly human with God acting in and through this human whom He approved (Matt. 3:17, Ac. 2:22).

Thanks,

Jaco,

Do you think Jesus enjoyed any greater powers upon being raised from the dead and seated at God’s right hand than He enjoyed while walking the earth before His death?

If so, please characterize the difference.

That’s a very interesting and thoughtful reply.

I hope this doesn’t sound dismissive, but couldn’t the hearers just have grasped the implications of Jesus’ statement (John 5:18)?

The Philippians hymn certainly shows pre-human existence. How could Jesus have emptied himself and had glory with God if he didn’t exist? How can anything even be equal to God if what is equal isn’t God?

From what I understand about John 1:1, and I am no Koine Greek scholar, is that the Word–which is God–was in a face to face relationship with God. The Scriptures are not ambiguous and say explicitly that all things came from, through, and for Jesus. How can’t he have pre-existence, especially before creation?

I thank you for your kind and thoughtful response. You have certainly persued these discussions a lot more than I have. I just have problems with getting past the explicit statements and getting to and understanding view points such as yours.

“I hope this doesn’t sound dismissive, but couldn’t the hearers just have grasped the implications of Jesus’ statement (John 5:18)?”

Thank you, RobertH. I don’t find the hearers’ conclusion to be valid. Nothing in Jesus’ words prior to this conclusion or following it identify him ontologically with God. On the contrary, God is shown to be distinct from and superior to Jesus.

“The Philippians hymn certainly shows pre-human existence. How could Jesus have emptied himself and had glory with God if he didn’t exist? How can anything even be equal to God if what is equal isn’t God?”

To empty oneself of deserved honor or to render oneself of no repute does count as kenosis, doesn’t it? That Jesus could only “empty himself” by undergoing a categorical change from GOD to HUMAN is certainly not the only option here, nor does that have any historical support from Scripture. Equality to God is not what Jesus had either. If one assumes that “form of God” means glory or nature or essence of God and one assumes that this was what Jesus had before he became human, it would be easy to conclude that he did not consider equality with God something to “cling to.” Here again these assumptions change the meaning of harpazo. Without these assumptions however, a completely different picture is drawn. Consistent with the historical narrative of Jesus’ life as well as the prophecies regarding the Servant of Yahweh, the Philippian hymn is understood to refer to Jesus’ human life alone. As the second Adam, image or form of God, as well as son of God with all the prerogatives intended for him, Jesus lived a life of self-humiliation, chose his followers rather than them choosing him, and didn’t even have a place to rest his head (Mt. 8:20). Mingled with the outcasts of society, endured ridicule and rejection only to end his earthly life as a rejected outcast himself. If this does not look like an emptying of self, then nothing is. Contrary to Adam, who did snatch at (true meaning of harpazo, rather than “cling to”) equality with God, Jesus never did. On crucial occasions when Jesus’ obedience was tested, Jesus obeyed God perfectly. To do God’s will, not his own, was what Jesus fully accomplished (Joh. 5:30). Because of this Jesus was highly exalted and was given the name above every other name to the honor and glory of the Initiator of Salvation, namely Jesus’ God Almighty.


“From what I understand about John 1:1, and I am no Koine Greek scholar, is that the Word–which is God–was in a face to face relationship with God. The Scriptures are not ambiguous and say explicitly that all things came from, through, and for Jesus. How can’t he have pre-existence, especially before creation?”


One needs to read this with a First-century mind and not with post-Nicene spectacles. God’s word was God’s plan and purpose. His word reflects also what God is. So, in line with Paul in Romans 1 and with Philo, we see God by taking notice of his word. His word in turn is shown in what God’s word accomplished in creation and in Torah. God’s word, this time, became a human, Jesus. Seeing Jesus means seeing the One he is the reflection of, namely God. So in meaning the word was indeed God (in a descriptive sense). It would be anachronistic to say that Jesus was the word who existed before he came into existence. No, just as the manna in the wilderness “was” or “meant” Jesus, God’s word and his purpose for creation “meant” ultimately Jesus. Jesus was the content of God’s word. In that sense everything was created “through” the word which meant Jesus.


I encourage you to read the book by J.A.T Robinson, The Human Face of God and of Jimmy Dunn, Christology in the Making.

Thanks,

Wow, Andrew, you sure have some interesting commentary, critiques, and comments from others; cudos!

I think you may be overstating what NTWright is asserting in _How God Became King_ when you say: “Wright argues in How God Became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels that the Gospels do not aim to prove Jesus’ divinity; rather they presuppose it.”

I haven’t read this book, so I’m just surmising from the other many things I’ve read and heard him say that his argument is from a rather narrowly confined historical analysis that the Synoptic Gospels neither aim to prove Jesus’ divinity nor do they presuppose it. His historical reflections are rather more subtle than that.

“The point… is not whether Jesus is God, but what God is doing in and through Jesus. What is this embodied God up to? (55)” This, I suppose, is a quote or paraphrase from the book, and doesn’t make the point you assert, that he presupposes the divinity of Jesus.

Jesus is clearly potrayed as God in the Bible.

John 1:1is clearly stating that Jesus is the Word and that the Word is separate from God the Father but that the Word is God being God the Son.

He uses God’s name I AM also used when He is on trial in Mark’s gospel. Jesus says He and the Father are one and the word one means equal in John 10. Jesus is clearly proclaiming His divinity in John 8 and John 10 which is the point of the summation of the chapters.

In John 20:28 Thomas calls Jesus God and is not corrected.

Jesus is called Lord which is the name of God thoughout the Bible.

Romans 8:9 says the Spirit extends from the Father and the Son making them equivalent

In Philippians 2:6 the word ‘form’ (morphe) in greek means to have attributes or parts of and Jesus is in the form of God and is considered equal to Him.

Hebrews 1 identifies Jesus as God.

More can be found at this link

http://www.catholic.com/magazine/articles/jesus-is-god

Early Christian writings identifiy Jesus as God which cna be found at this link

http://www.catholic.com/tracts/the-trinity

Writer42, thank you for your response.

I don’t think any of the text references you cite are proof of some Catholic trinity doctrine. John 1:1 does not “clearly state” that the word was separate from the Father and that it was God the son. You’re reading that into the text. What it does state is that the word was in the beginning with God who is only the Father according to the NT and that God’s word was God Himself in plan and action.

The I AM statements of Jesus are also inconclusive and circular. If used by anyone else, those statements simply mean self-identification. If Jesus uses ego eimi then suddenly he identifies himself as God. I don’t think so. None of your other “proofs” are proofs at all.

As is consistently shown in John’s Gospel, Jesus is the reflection of God’s glory. Seeing Jesus, therefore means seeing the One he is the image of, namely the Almighty Father (John 14:9). For Thomas to have seen the risen Christ meant for him to see God, since Jesus reflected God. That is consistent with the rest of Scripture, so John 20:28 is therefore no proof either.

Your Romans 8:9 can only point to the divinity of Christ if the rest of Scripture is ignored and this text read in isolation. But if we read what Scripture actually says, we see the picture changing completely and the orthodox Catholic trinity actually refuted, as Acts 2:33 says that Jesus received holy spirit from his Father. That by definition precludes him from being ontologically God, as God is the source of holy spirit, not the recipient of it.

Philippians 2:7 speaks of morphe which in classical Greek refers to external appearance and physicality. Others have conclusively shown this word to be equivalent to eikon or image, which was precisely what Jesus was – the human image of God.

Where does Hebrews 1 identify Jesus with God???

The earliest Christian writers did NOT identify Jesus with God. On the contrary, the apostolic fathers showed Jesus to be distinct from Almighty God.

Thanks,

Jaco

Dear Jaco,

I am first off curious to what your view of Jesus’ nature is?

In Jn. 1:1 I agree that Jesus is not God the Father, but is God the Son. Jesus is the Word and the Word is identified as God. The Father is not the Word just as the Father is not the Son.

The I Am statements are indication of Christ’s divinity because they have to have some significance to the text. What do you think that Jesus menat by saying I Am? He was using God’s name. The Jews also took the proclamation as blasphemous.

Thomas proclaimed that Jesus was God. What else could he have meant by saying My Lord and My God?

We must read scripture in light of every verse as I’m sure you would agree. So the rest of scripture should be read in light of Rom. 8:9. I think that verse is a further reflection of the Trinity jsut as other verses are.

Acts 2:33 says that Jesus received the “promise” of the Holy Spirit as He already had received the Holy Spirit at His baptism. The verse then goes on to seemingly say that it is Jesus who will pour out the gift of the Holy Spirit.

In Phil. 2:7 the word is translated as form or nature in most translations. You reference classical Greek and while I am not versed in Greek I am not sure if classical Greek is different than koine in which the New Testament was written. Even if the word was translated image though, I agree that Jesus is the human image of God because Jesus is God Incarnate. The verse also says that Jesus did not consider equality with God something to be grasped or exploited, so Jesus is considered to be equal to God the Father or that that would be a possibility for Him, showing His divinity.

Heb. 1:8 “But of the Son He says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever…therefore God, your God, has annointed you”

Did you click on the link I provided that shows early Church Fathers who believed in Jesus’ divinity?

I am curious to hear your responses.

Thanks,

Caleb

Dear Caleb


I am first off curious to what your view of Jesus’ nature is?


Jesus’ “nature?” As in “essence?” Well, such categories fall outside the theological, historical and cultural frame in which Jesus’ life and mission were recorded for us. Essences, natures and hypostases are philosophical categories later introduced when contamination in the Church’s theology and worldview took place in the centuries following the apostles’ demise. Needless to say, the Roman Catholic Church is the product of centuries’ long syncretism and hybridization of a Hebraic church with alien Greek/Roman philosophies. So from Scripture I cannot answer that question, since it falls outside its epistemology. What I can say from Scripture which will have a bearing on your answer is what Jesus’ category of being was. Jesus was utterly human (Ac. 17:31; Ro. 5:17-19; 1 Cor. 15:45; 1 Tim. 2:5). He uplifted mankind by showing God acting in and through a human being (Ac. 2:22). Nothing about Jesus – what he did and his insights – were inherent to him (John chapters 5-7). Everything was derived, hence by definition his being excluded from the category of GOD. No “two natures” and no alternate identities between “God the Son” and Jesus the man (another of the Roman Church’s inventions). Jesus was utterly human in and through whom Someone else acted.


In Jn. 1:1 I agree that Jesus is not God the Father, but is God the Son. Jesus is the Word and the Word is identified as God. The Father is not the Word just as the Father is not the Son.


We actually don’t agree here. Here you partially substitute “God” with “the Father.” In John 1:1c you also identify the word as “God” without consistently also substituting it with “the Father.” Your reasoning is therefore circular as is the case with the websites you referred me to. You assume an interpretive scheme while you need to prove it. You and the authors of your websites commit further errors: you assume the Father to be also God while Scripture consistently show Him to be God alone (John 17:3, 1 Cor. 8:6, Eph. 4:6). Secondly, you assume a trinitarian interpretive scheme while the ancient Johanine of God and his word was Philonic. God’s word was a reflection of who and what he was. No later invented Catholic scheme is necessary here.

The I Am statements are indication of Christ’s divinity because they have to have some significance to the text. What do you think that Jesus menat by saying I Am? He was using God’s name. The Jews also took the proclamation as blasphemous.


No, ego eimi was an expression of self-identification (compare John 9:8, 9). Jesus was not quoting Ex. 3:14 as your rather outdated sources suggest. Ex. 3:14 has ego eimi ho On as the self-identification of God. Jesus did not use this fixed expression. And to judge the veracity of Jesus’ words by the reaction of a people whose judgment was obviously flawed is also desperate. This is what I have responded to Peter Wilkinson:


The scribes and Pharisees, as I’ve shown, did not believe because of “wicked and hardened hearts.” The Gospel writers give no other excuse for that. Jesus’ insulting them, their plot to kill Jesus after resurrecting Lazarus (John 11), their calling him Beelzebub after witnessing miracles and the nation’s insisting on releasing [Barabbas], a murderer, to crucify Jesus, (to mention a few) are indications of how crooked and twisted that generation was. If there is one thing never to be ascribed to their objections against Jesus’ Messiahship, it is validity.


Thomas proclaimed that Jesus was God. What else could he have meant by saying My Lord and My God?

I answered you here. I said,


“As is consistently shown in John’s Gospel, Jesus is the reflection of God’s glory. Seeing Jesus, therefore means seeing the One he is the image of, namely the Almighty Father (John 14:9). For Thomas to have seen the risen Christ meant for him to see God, since Jesus reflected God. That is consistent with the rest of Scripture, so John 20:28 is therefore no proof either.”


We must read scripture in light of every verse as I’m sure you would agree. So the rest of scripture should be read in light of Rom. 8:9. I think that verse is a further reflection of the Trinity jsut as other verses are.


No, everything scripture says about something needs to be considered, including Rom. 8:9. Just because it nicely confirms a cherished doctrine doesn’t mean it deserves higher priority. To prove the trinity one needs to do what you do above, namely, to isolate certain texts and dismiss others on the basis of this isolation. The mere fact that Jesus receives what was promised indicates that that he is someone other than the Source of holy spirit.


In Phil. 2:7 the word is translated as form or nature in most translations. You reference classical Greek and while I am not versed in Greek I am not sure if classical Greek is different than koine in which the New Testament was written. Even if the word was translated image though, I agree that Jesus is the human image of God because Jesus is God Incarnate. The verse also says that Jesus did not consider equality with God something to be grasped or exploited, so Jesus is considered to be equal to God the Father or that that would be a possibility for Him, showing His divinity.

You are correct that most translations render morphe as “nature” of God and here they betray their translational bias. Nothing in the word warrants such philosophically loaded translation. Morphe has inherent to its meaning physicality and external appearance. Jesus was therefore existing in God’s form or image when he was human on earth. Isaiah 52:14 says that he would nevertheless not be recognized by most people. Your conclusion on Jesus’ possibility to be equal with the Father does not follow logically. Jesus could “grasp at” being like (isa) God in the same sense as Adam could be like (isa) God in choosing for themselves knowledge of good and bad. It is therefore no proof of Jesus’ inherent equality with the Father. In fact, the hymn ends with a crescendo in which everything Jesus did ultimately leads to the honor and glory of Someone else, namely the Father, the True God (vs.11).


Heb. 1:8 “But of the Son He says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever…therefore God, your God, has annointed you”


Another isolated text. This is a quote from PsLXX 45:6. The ancient Israelites understood this text to refer to a human king who acted in God’s stead. Just as ancient judges were called elohim as representatives of God, so this king was also understood in a similar way. If this text renders Jesus Almighty with the Father, you’ll have to be consistent in also accepting an ancient human king as part of your growing pantheon.


Did you click on the link I provided that shows early Church Fathers who believed in Jesus’ divinity?

Yes, I did. And it was sad to read such slanted, partial and obviously flawed material. It reminded me of reading through a Watchtower with censured and selective references to its sources.

Just to mention a few (and this post is getting long already).
Your sources failed to mention that there are 4 different variants to the Ignatian Letters. His writings were heavily tampered with. By just considering the Long and Short Recensions of his letters, particularly the two “proof texts” your author attempts to give, we see staggering variations between the texts:


IgEph. 1:1 (Short) “Ignatius, who is also called Theophorus, to the Church which is at Ephesus… being united and elected through the true passion by the will of the Father, and Jesus Christ, our God.”
IgEph 1:1 (Long) “Ignatius, who is also called Theophorus, to the Church which is at Ephesus… being united and elected through the true passion by the will of God the Father, and of our Lord Jesus Christ our Saviour.”

IgEph 18:2 (Short) “For our God, Jesus Christ, was, according to the appointment of God, conceived in the womb by Mary, of the seed of David, but by the Holy Ghost. He was born and baptized, that by His passion He might purify the water.”
IgEph 18:2 (Long) “For the Son of God, who was begotten before time began, and established all things according to the will of the Father, He was conceived in the womb of Mary, according to the appointment of God, of the seed of David, and by the Holy Ghost. For [it]says, “Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and He shall be called Immanuel.” He was born and was baptized by John, that He might ratify the institution committed to that prophet.”


The one is obviously Trinitarian, the other obviously non-Trinitarian. Did you know this?

Didache only mentions the Baptismal formula. And what does this prove? Non-trinitarians and non-orthodox trinitarians do not deny the existence of the Father or the Son or the holy spirit. They deny their relationship and ontology. So the Baptismal formula in Matthew and the Didache is as much a proof of my faith as it is of yours. The same argument goes for Justin Martyr and Irenaeus.


“Trias” in Autolycus 2:15 “In like manner also the three days which were before the luminaries, are types of the trinity (Greek trias) of God, and His Word, and His wisdom.” Theophilus is often cited among Trinitarians as the first to use the word “Trinity.” Fact is that trias to Theophilus is not the same as the trinitas according to the later Catholic Councils. He is not using the term to refer to three persons in one being as it was used in later Trinitarian theology, but to a threefold economic relationship with God. Here “God” is identified as distinct from Wisdom and the Word. What is more, if your sources were anything worth reading, they’d quote the whole of verse 15 in which a fourth of God’s economy is mentioned, namely man. They did not, for obvious reasons. Furthermore, it is presumptuous to say Theophilus is equating the Holy Spirit with Wisdom. To Theophilus, God’s Word is that which is born out of His Wisdom and was in His bosom until he uttered that Word and creation came to be.

  • For if I say He [God] is Light, I name but His own work; if I call Him Word, I name but His sovereignty; if I call Him Mind, I speak but of His wisdom; if I say He is Spirit, I speak of His breath; if I call Him Wisdom, I speak of His offspring. (1:3).
  • Who is the Physician? God, who heals and makes alive through wis word and wisdom. God by His own word and wisdom made all things; for “by His word were the heavens made, and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth.” Most excellent is His wisdom. By His wisdom God founded the earth; and by knowledge He prepared the heavens; and by understanding were the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the clouds poured out their dews. (1:7).
  • Wherefore they were also deemed worthy of receiving this reward, that they should become instruments of God, and contain the wisdom that is from Him, through which wisdom they uttered both what regarded the creation of the world and all other things. (2:9)
  • God, then, having His own word internal within His own bowels, begat Him, emitting Him along with His own wisdom before all things. He had this word as a helper in the things that were created by Him, and by Him He made all things… He, then, being Spirit of God, and governing principle, and wisdom, and power of the highest, came down upon the prophets, and through them spoke of the creation of the world and of all other things. For the prophets were not when the world came into existence, but the wisdom of God which was in Him, and His holy Word which was always present with Him. Wherefore He speaks thus by the prophet Solomon: “When He prepared the heavens I was there, and when He appointed the foundations of the earth I was by Him as one brought up with Him.”… (2:10)
  • In like manner also the three days which were before the luminaries, are types of the trinity of God, and His word, and His wisdom. And the fourth is the type of man, who needs light, that so there may be God, the word, wisdom, man. Wherefore also on the fourth day the lights were made. (2:15).


As time went by, the evolution of proto-Trinitarian schemes became clear. The earliest Christians and apostolic fathers were not Trinitarian in the Catholic sense of the word, however. I will select the following: Clement who was firmly non-trinitarian:

  • 1Clem 46:6
  • Have we not one God and one Christ and one Spirit of grace that was shed upon us? And is there not one calling in Christ?
  • 1Clem 59:3
  • [Grant unto us, Lord,] that we may set our hope on Thy Name which is the primal source of all creation, and open the eyes of our hearts, that we may know Thee, who alone abidest Highest in the lofty, Holy in the holy; who layest low in the insolence of the proud, who settest the lowly on high, and bringest the lofty low; who makest rich and makest poor; who killest and makest alive; who alone art the Benefactor of spirits and the God of all flesh; who lookest into the abysses, who scanest the works of man; the Succor of them that are in peril, the Savior of them that are in despair; The Creator and Overseer of every spirit; who multiplies the nations upon earth, and hast chosen out from all men those that love Thee through Jesus Christ, Thy beloved Son, through whom Thou didst instruct us, didst sanctify us, didst honor us.
  • 1Clem 59:4
  • We beseech Thee, Lord and Master, to be our help and succor. Save those among us who are in tribulation; have mercy on the lowly; lift up the fallen; show Thyself unto the needy; heal the ungodly; convert the wanderers of Thy people; feed the hungry; release our prisoners; raise up the weak; comfort the fainthearted. Let all the Gentiles know that Thou art the God alone, and Jesus Christ is Thy Son, and we are Thy people and the sheep of Thy pasture.
  • 1Clem 64:1
  • Finally may the All seeing God and Master of spirits and Lord of all flesh, who chose the Lord Jesus Christ, and us through Him …that they may be well pleasing unto His Name through our High priest and Guardian Jesus Christ,through whom unto Him be glory and majesty, might and honor, both now and for ever and ever. Amen.
  • 1Clem 65:2
  • The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you and with all men in all places who have been called by God and through Him, through whom be glory and honor, power and greatness and eternal dominion, unto Him, from the ages past and forever and ever. Amen.

Does this sound consistently and homogeneously Trinitarian since the apostles? Certainly not.


Pseudo-Clementine (dated between 180 and 220 A.D.) Recognitions 2:42, written by Jewish Christians who did not immerse themselves in Hellenistic ways of thinking:

“Therefore the name God is applied in three ways: either because he to whom it is given is truly God, or because he is the servant of him who is truly; and for the honor of the sender, that his authority may be full, he that is sent is called by the name of him who send.”

So, I’m afraid the evidence is not in favour of your Catholic Trinitarian formula. Your sources have just reminded me again of the kind of self-invented religion people present as objective truth. It’s at the order of the day, unfortunately.

Looking forward to your reciprocal responses.

Jaco

Jaco,

If you don’t mind me asking what denomination are you a part of (if any)?

I believe that Jesus was fully human so pointing out that scripture says this does not undermine my claim of His two natures.

The Word is different from God the Father so when it says Word, it doesn’t mean God the Father, which may be why John didn’t use the definitive article before God when he said “the Word was God” as he did when He said “the Word was with God.”

The other passages are reintepretations of the shema which now includes Jesus alongside as Lord. Scripture throughout draws a distinction between God the Father and God the Son usually by calling the Father God and the Son Lord.

Jesus did not say I AM WHO I AM, but He did say I AM which God had said “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, I AM has sent me to you.” Plus when Jesus said I AM He was declaring eternal existence which only God posesses.

Ok, so could Adam have been called God according to your understanding of John 20:28? When Thomas called Jesus Lord that is because He is Lord so when Thomas called Him God that is because He is God.

Romans 8:9 isn’t identifying that the Holy Spirit was received by Christ it is identiciating that the Holy Sprit is from Christ just as the Holy Spirit is from God the Father.

Phil. 2:7 is clearly starting out with Christ as preexistent which is why it starts with Him in the form of God then He empties Himself and takes the form of a slave which further states is the form of human. So He goes from form of God to form of human. I don’t think that form means image, as in Adam was made in the image of God. In Romans 8:29 is says we are called to be conformed to the “image” of His Son which I take to be in contrast to the image of Adam who was made in the image of God. In John 5:37 it says “And the Father who sent me has Himself testified on my behalf. You have never heard His voice or seen His form” which does use the word form (which I honestly don’t know if it is morphe) but if translated consistently would show that form is different than image. I agree though that Jesus’ goal was to glorify His Father.

The Jews may have understood the text as referring to a human king but the context that Hebrews uses it is to dinstinguish Jesus as greater than the angels as Hebrews also says that Jesus created the universe which only God can do and why the text says that all the angels are to worship Him.

The whole discourse of John 10 also is a great indication of Jesus’ Divinity, I can’t remember if I brought that up.

I did not know about the controversy surrounding the Ignatian letters so thank you for informing me. I have however found other sources that discuss his views.

You can read it at the link below.

http://www.caic.org.au/theology/trinity.htm

The fact that the Baptismal formula says in the name of and not names of is clearly Trinitarian.

I don’t know a lot about the early Church Fathers but here is another link that might be of interest, especially the part about Clement.

http://www.bumby.org/faq/is_jesus_deity_antenicene.html

Thanks hope to hear again, will pray.

Caleb,

Thank you for your reply. To answer your first question, I attend a Reformed Church whose ministers are quite open-minded. One is non-trinitarian. I do not confess the “orthodox” trinity.

With regards to our discussion, I don’t think we’ll get anywhere with this. When I engage fellow theologians, there’s a measure of commonality or agreement in hermeneutical rules and we try to be as accommodating as possible toward the other person’s viewpoint. I think you need to cultivate such open-mindedness first, instead of simply repeating hard-wired pre-programmed information. For that reason I asked you for a reciprocal response to my refutations, not mere repetitions of what you’ve written.

So, if you are truly interested in my take on Christological matters, especially where it pertains to the “orthodox” Trinity invention, you can visit the following websites. Here and there you’ll find some of my contributions to the issue as well:


http://focusonthekingdom.org/articles.html
http://www.21stcr.org/
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2011/12/the-divinity-of-…
http://lhim.org/blog/2009/05/14/john-858-before-abraham-was/
http://lhim.org/blog/2011/09/15/countering-the-counter-to-adoni-in-psalm…
http://www.questioningchristian.com/2005/05/the_apostles_te.html
http://trinities.org/blog/
http://postost.net/2011/09/jimmy-dunn-one-god-one-lord-shema
http://danielomcclellan.wordpress.com/2011/12/22/on-jesus-divinity/
http://biblicaltruthseekers.co.uk/articles.html

I hope you’ll expand your horizons beyond the sadly slanted and biased attempts by Catholic “apologists.”

Take care,
Jaco van Zyl

Jaco,

I apologize if I came across as unengaging I can see where than can be frustrating. I just truly feel that the Trinity is taught in scripture and the history of the Church. I also feel that there is nothing greater than the idea that God would humble Himself to take human form and suffer for our sins.

I will attempt to engage in one of the points that you made that I did not address before but if you feel that I have not adequately done so then you have the right to feel that way.

You had stated that mentioning the Jews as claiming that by Jesus claiming to have authority to forgive sins and be God’s Son made Him Divine is not evidence that Jesus is actually God becaue the Jews were hard hearted. That is a fair point, but I would like to bring up that Jesus never corrected these statements, or at least I feel that He never repudiated their claims on these points. I think it is also important to bring up that the Pharisees and the scribes knew the Law very well it was not their knowledge that was the problem it was their willingness to accept the truth. As Jesus said they sit in Moses’ seat so do what they say but not as they do. That doesn’t mean that they were correct about everything, as Jesus had to instruct them, but I believe that they were correct to point out that God alone has the authority to forgive sins and carry the authority that Jesus did.

I think the verses mentioned above are pretty straightforward especially the Phil 2 verses. I like your point about how the pharisees and scribes being hard-hearted does not undermine their knowledge of the law. That Jesus did not correct them and say I am just a man and that is all I am like Paul and Barnabbas in Acts 14 or the angel in Revelation when John tried to worship it is very revealing.

RobertH

I never even thought about connecting the verse in Acts 14 that’s a very good point especially since Jesus recieved worship from His followers. It really upsets me that the Bible is very clear about Jesus’ divinity yet some do not accept it. Why wouldn’t a person want to accept that God became man and suffered and died for us?

I haven’t been following this conversation very closely, but I’m not sure that the Acts 14 passage is very helpful. The people of Iconium explicitly state that Paul and Barnabas are gods who have come down in the likeness of men and they identify them with Zeus and Hermes, which is a very different conception to anything that might have been thought in the Gospels. Then the priest of Zeus “brought oxen and garlands to the gates and wanted to offer sacrifice with the crowds”. This is a far cry from the mere prostration that we find in the Gospels.

Andrew Perriman,

I think that the telling point for me is that Paul healed someone just like Jesus did but people believed that Paul and Barnabas are divine because of this and I believe that people saw Jesus as divine because of doing these same things but Jesus never rebuked them for it.

What do you think of the passage in Revelation of the angel?

Paul is in a pagan context where it was not unreasonable to suppose that the gods had appeared in human form. We cannot assume that Jews would have had the same response to Jesus’ miracles.

As for the angel in Revelation 22:8-9, I notice that he does not rebuke John for attempting to “worship” him as God but for prostrating himself before one who was only a “fellow servant”. It’s a little difficult to believe that John was confusing the angel with God and not merely showing excessive respect for this supernatural being.

Just because Jesus was not explicitly proclaimed as God in the New Testament does not mean that He is not God. Recall that Jesus was not explicitly proclaimed by His disciples as Messiah during the days of His flesh - but this does not mean that He was not the Messiah. There is a time for something to be hidden and a time for it to be revealed.

Nevertheless, even though Christ is God, it does not mean that the trinity concept is true, for it is not. Nor is modalism. The truth is more simple and scriptural than either.

One key to understanding Jesus’ divine identity is to go back to His interaction with the Pharisees in Matt 22:41-46. As there was a riddle to be solved with regard to Jesus’ messianic identity, so there is a riddle to be solved with regard to Jesus’ divine identity. That is, if the Shema says the Lord is one, how can there be two Lords?” We miss it because we live in a monotheistic world while the biblical age was polytheistic. Obey Christ and you will come to see it. Only give lip service to Christ and you won’t.

Whether you believe Jesus was divine or human, however, is secondary to our commitment to trust and obey Him. There really should be no difference between the behavior of a trinitarian and a unitarian as long as each is genuinely devoted to Jesus Christ. How could there be?

Andrew Perriman

The Jews may not have believed that Jesus was God Incarnate but they did witness that He was acting like He was God and He didn’t question their hearts like He did in other circumstances.

I agree that John probably knew that the angle was not God. But how come when people fell at Jesus’ feet He did not respond like the angle did if He is a servant just like the angel?

Mike Gantt

I think that the disciples did explicitly claim that Jesus was the messiah when He was in the flesh as in Matt. 16:16. I also believe that Peter proclaimed Jesus’ Divinity in this statement in calling Him the Son of the living God.

I also believe that Jesus proclaimed His own Divinity such as in John 8:58 and John 10.

I am not sure how Christ can be God and neither the Triune understanding or the modal understanding be true. Both of these are logical constructions of what the Bible proclaims. Either Christ is God and so is the Father and the Holy Spirit or Christ is God because God presents Himself as these Divine persons at different times. Or as you seem to be alluding to, polytheism is true. The Jewish world was monotheistic. There is only one Lord as the Shema proclaims and Christ is the Lord and so is God the Father and God the Holy Spirit, in my view.

I believe that it is very important whether we recognize Jesus as God or not because if He is God then we know that God has revealed Himself to us as a man and we can worship and love Jesus and obey Him as God.

I agree that a person who trusts in Christ will be helped by Him to be the best person that they can be, but it is important that we recognize who Jesus is just as we must recognze that our parent are our parents in order to obey them properly.

writer42,

Read more carefully what I wrote and you will see that I was speaking of what was “explicitly proclaimed” by Jesus’ disciples during the days of His flesh, as opposed to what might have been acknowledged in private settings. Certainly Jesus did acknowledge His messianic identity at times (e.g. Matt 16 and John 4), and He dramatically conceded the point at His trial, but it was not something He instructed His disciples to preach until after He had ascended into heaven post crucifixion-resurrection, at which point it became central to the message being preached about the kingdom of God.

As for your point about John 8:58 and John 10, here’s the question you have to ask yourself: If the disciples understood Jesus to be making a claim to divinity in trinitarian terms, why do they never use explicitly trinitarian terms in NT writings? (Explicit trinitarian terms would include “trinity,” “triune,” “one God in three persons,” and such.) And if you say that explicit trinitarian terms did not arise until after the disciples’ time, then why did the disciples not act more perplexed by His statements given your view that they were monotheistic?

I’ll forego answering your other points as they’d all be a bridge too far if we can’t find agreement on the two paragraphs I just wrote.

Thanks for interacting.

Mike Gantt,

I see your point about proclamation.

I recognize that Trinitarian terms are never used in the sense that the word Trintiy is not used but I think that that is a logical term applied to the what is stated in scripture.

For instance I can know what water is but not understand the term H2O.

I think that during Jesus’ lifetime His identity was probably a great mystery and I am not sure if it was competely understood but I believe that Jesus understood it and that scripture records what He said.

Thanks

Hi Mike, I think you are right their is a riddle (intentional paradox) in Matt 22:41-45, I think I have worked it out but would be interested in hearing your solution to it.

Thanks

Russ

Resurrection.

The paradox, of course, was in David calling his son “lord.” (An ANE son might call a father “sir” or “lord,” but a father would never call his son “sir” or “lord.”) The solution to the riddle was that messiah would be raised from the dead, which meant, of course, that the messiah had to die to become lord. That is, Jesus was the son of David according to the flesh and the son of God according to the spirit (through the resurrection - Psalm 2:7 cf. Acts 13:33). Thus Jesus could be a son to David in the flesh, but a lord to him in the spirit. Paul recites this riddle solution in Rom 1:3-4 and it is echoed in 2 Tim 2:8. This formulation was probably a common confession of the early church, stemming likely from the Matt 22 passage we have in view.

Like all good riddles it is utterly enigmatic unless one knows the solution, and completely obvious once one knows it. Not only is the answer obvious once revealed, it is the only possible explanation. All other answers are ruled out. Thus the centrality of Christ’s resurrection to the gospel message (1 Cor 15:16-19).

We can also see resurrection as the answer to the riddle of Psalm 118:22. Before Christ’s passion, that verse would have been a real brain buster: “How can a rejected stone be accepted as the corner stone?” Of course, we today can look back and see the answer: rejected by men but accepted by God.

The riddles of Samson are thus not merely a sidelight in scripture, but a foreshadowing of the way so much of messianic prophecy worked. In biblical terms these are “mysteries” that are “revealed.” But it’s not wrong for us to also say that they are riddles that are solved.

Mike Ganttt

Your explanation is interesting because by Christ’s resurrection He received the name Lord.

Though could Christ also be alluding to the fact that the Messiah is the Son of God because He said “What do you think of the messiah? Whose son is he?”…If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?”

So could Christ be saying that the Messiah is descended from David but is the Son of God and not the son of David?

Also, there is One Lord Ephesians 4:5

Psalm 110 which reads (in its entirety):

1 A Psalm of David. (110:1) YHWH says unto my Adon: Sit you at My right hand,
until I make your enemies your footstool.
2 The rod of Your strength, YHWH will send out of Tziyon. Rule you in the midst of
your enemies.
3 Your people offer themselves willingly in the day of your warfare; in adornments of Set-Apartness: from the womb of the dawn, yours is the dew of your youth.
4 YHWH has sworn, and will not repent: You are a cohen forever after the manner of
MalkiTzadek.
5 YHWH, at your right hand, does crush kings in the day of His wrath.
6 He will judge among the nations: He fills it with the dead bodies. He crushes the head
over a wide land.
7 He will drink of the brook in the way: therefore will he lift up the head.
(Ps. 110:1-7 HRV)

Jesus identifies himself as the Messiah as being the “my Adon” who YHWH speaks to in verse 1.

The Midrash Tehillim (Midrash on Psalms) identifies the “My Adon” of Psalm 110:1 as Messiah. According to the Midrash Tehillim:

The Lord said to my Lord,
Sit you at My right hand.
To the Messiah it will also be said,
and in mercy the throne be established;…
(Midrash Tehillim on Ps. 110:1)

The JWs etc insist that the “my Adon” of this passage is not YHWH.

However this identification is based on one of the “Tikkun Soferim”, the “emendations of the scribes” the Masorah indicates that the text originally read “YHWH” and had been altered by the scribes.

God often reveals a truth in a riddle (in the form of an intentional paradox), yet the scribes not understanding this took it upon themselves to change YHWH to Adonai in verse 5 because they did not want you to “mistakenly” identify the “My Adon” on the right hand of YHWH in verse 1 with the “YHWH” on the right and in verse 5. They did this over 100 times (no different to how JWs behave today) for the same reasons, to uphold their own presupositions. The original reading of Psalm 110:5 identified the Adon on the right hand of YHWH as YHWH.

Verse 4 of Psalm 110 identifies this figure as “Melchizadek.” This Melchizadek figure was particularly important towards the Essenes. One document available at Qumran generally known as the Melchizadek document quotes from Isaiah 61:1 but substitutes “Melchizadek” for YHWH. As the OT Prophecies say (YHWH saves His people). Verses like does not give glory to another (Isaiah 42:8) and there is none beside me (Isaiah 45:5) are classic intentional paradox’ (the style in which much of the Bible is written), they are intended to contradict as they reveal a spiritual truth that is intentionally hidden, i.e it is the glory of God to conceal a matter (Proverbs 25:2).

Remember Jeremiah 8:8, the lying pen of the scribes has made it into a lie. Think about it, in what context where the scribes going to alter the Scripture when confronted with an intentional paradox they understood not? The Shema of course!

The Masorah also notes 134 places, in which the Masoretic Text reads “Adonai”, but which based on the Masorah, initially read “YHWH”. In all these locations the HRV has “YHWH” within the primary text, together with a footnote explaining the Masoretic Text reads “Adonai”, but the Masorah signifies the initial reading was “YHWH”.

The Greek Septuagint is the earliest known translation of the Tanak into another language, and preserves a Greek translation of a Hebrew text of the Tanak, that existed in the third century C.E.(in the case of the Torah; the second century in the case of the Prophets and the Writings). It was not composed by Christians;

“Since it was often used in debates between Christians and Jews, it came to be viewed with suspicion by the latter. This led, in the course of the second century A.D., to the production of three rival Greek versions that each bore a different relationship to the original Septuagint.” (Old Testament Textual Criticism: A Practical Introduction, By Ellis R Brotzman; pp. 74-75)

Now since the Masoretic Text is not the perfect, end all text, we are fortunate to have other witnesses to the text of the Tanak. Among these are the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Samaritan Pentateuch, the Septuagint and the Peshitta Tanak.

Russell:

Thanks for that great information, it’s a Godsend.

Just to make sure I am following what you are saying, would you say that Jesus was identifying Himself as the Adon which is a word that could be used for God while Adonai is a word used for human rulers that the Masoretic tried to turn Adon into

Yes it is definately a prophecy about Jesus/the Messiah, that is not in doubt.

Adon is also used for God (Exod 34:23), who is “Lord of lords” (Deut 10:17; Ps 136:3). Adon means master, sovereign, lord, even husband. It is used for human males (Sarah calls husband Abraham her “lord”; Gen 18:12. David calls Saul his “lord”; 1 Sam 24:6. Ruth calls Boaz “my lord”; Ruth 2:14).

It is not verse one of Ps 110 I am referring to it is verse five which says this before the Masoretic scribes changed it…

5 YHWH, at your right hand, does crush kings in the day of His wrath.

The scribes changed YHWH to Adonai in verse 5 because they did not want you to “mistakenly” identify the “My Adon” on the right hand of YHWH in verse 1 with the “YHWH” on the right hand and in verse 5. Why? Because it was revealing in the form of an intentional paradox that the messiah was really YHWH, unless you think YHWH is sitting on the right hand side of Himself and crushing kings?

In verse 5 the Masoretic Text it does not say “YHWH” in verse 5 it says “Adonai”, because this was one of 134 places where the “Tikkun Soferim”, the “emendations of the scribes” changed YHWH to “Adonai” (which means human ruler) but which the Masorah indicates originally read “YHWH” and had been altered by the scribes in an attempt on their part to clarify the text. A copy found at the Cairo Geniza also has “YHWH” here as well.

Now you may say to this, well obviously God must have made a mistake so the eminant scribes were right to correct Him as you obviously cant have YHWH being on the right side of YHWH and striking down the nations as it makes no sense? Wrong, it actually makes alot of sense when you examine how the rest of the Bible reveals such things in the form of intentional contradictions, or intentional paradox. This is the style of a riddle and how much of the Bible is written.

Here are some more (intentional contradictions) which are (intended) to reveal a hidden spiritual truth in the exact same way…

“Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. By myself I have sworn, from my mouth has gone forth in righteousness a word that shall not return: ‘To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.’” Isaiah 45:22-23

God says every knee will bow to Him, but below we are told it will be Jesus, (this is an intentional paradox), a riddle or contradiction designed to reveal a hidden spiritual truth. DUH to the scholars! DUH to the Masoretic scribes!

“At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess the Lord Jesus Christ to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:5-11

So every knee will bow to YHWH and Lord Jesus? And in Pslam 110 YHWH is sitting on the right hand side of YHWH in verse 5 but in verse one it is Jesus? You getting the idea yet? This is how God conceals a truth in a riddle.

Here are a load more intentional paradoxes in the same context…

“Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call His name IMMANUELGOD WITH US” (Vii. 14). “Behold, the days come, that I will raise unto David a righteous branch, and a king shall reign and prosper; and this is His name whereby He shall be called, JEHOVAH OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS” (Jer. Xxiii. 5, 6, xxxiii. 15, 16). “And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God, we have waited for Him, and He will be save us; THIS IS JEHOVAH, WE HAVE WAITED FOR HIM; we will be glad and rejoice in our salvation.” (Isa. xxv 9) “Surely God is in thee; and there is none else, there is no other God; verily, Thou art a God that hidest Thyself, O’ GOD OF ISRAEL, THE SAVIOUR” (xlv. 14, 15). “Am I not JEHOVAH, AND BESIDE ME THERE IS NO SAVIOUR (Xliii. II). “I AM JEHOVAH, AND BESIDE ME THERE IS NO SAVIOUR” (Xliii. II). “Am I not Jehovah? And there is no God beside Me; a JUST GOD AND A SAVIOUR; THERE IS NONE BESIDE ME” (Xlv. 21, 22). “Thou Jehovah art our FATHER OUR REDEEMER; Thy name is everaslting” (Isa. 1xiii. 16). “Thus saith JEHOVAH THY REDEEMER, I am Jehovah that maketh all things, and alone by myself” (Xliv. 24) And in many other places, like Zechariah, “IN THAT DAY JEHOVAH SHALL BE KING OVER ALL THE EARTH; IN THAT DAY SHALL THERE BE ONE JEHOVAH AND HIS NAME ONE”, “Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be on His shoulder, and His name shall be called Wonderful Counseller, the Mighty God, THE EVERLASTING FATHER, the Prince of peace” (isa. Ix. 6).

Now, in Ps 110, because the eminant scribes of the Jewish Masoretic tradition did not understand that this is how God wrote large parts of the Bible *i.e in the form of a riddle in which what seemed to contradict like YHWH sitting on the right hand of YHWH, in order to reveal a hidden spiritual truth, they took it upon themselves, in verse 5, along with 134 other places to change YHWH to “Adonai”, for which reason I am sure right now they are doing alot of weeping and gnashing of teeth!

So Pslam 110 was originally yet another (intentional paradox designed to conceal the glory of God), “it is the glory of God to conceal a matter” Proverbs 25:2

Who is the glory of God? Lord Jesus of course. This is how the Bible is written. This is an intentional paradox, something the so called ‘scholars’ still havent managed to fully get their head around. If you type in “Genesis Intentional Paradox” on Google my page will come up top on the BTDF forum.

Here are a few more in the exact same context…

Whoever calls on the name of YHVH will be delivered. (Joel 2:37=Heb 3:5)

for whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be delivered. (Rom 10:12-13)

For YHVH your God is the God of gods and the Lord of lords … (Deut 10:17a)

the Lamb will overcome them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings…
And on his robe and on his thigh he has a name written:
King of kings and Lord of lords. (Rev 17:14b; 19:16)

The Bible style is to conceal a mystery and then reveal it by means in (intentional contradiction). This is called a riddle, it is how every important aspect of theology is revealed in the Bible, especially when it comes to revealing who is really God.

Here’s the paradox. Though the Messiah is not the Father at least while the Son is on earth (the Father is a conceptual NT God), Lord Jesus manifests his Name on earth, that means character and authority. (Paul calls Jesus “the image of the invisible God”; 2 Cor 4:4; Col 1:15.) or the conceptual God, i.e “God is Love”, “God is Spirit”, which means mind. YHVH in the OT is NOT a conceptual God, like Jesus, people see Him, they talk to Him, we are told no man has seen or heard the Father and the Father is held in parallel with a conceptual father of the Pharisees the devil which doesnt exist (the devil is just a metaphor for sin based on a Babylonian idea the Jews believed in).

Now just image for a moment the Lord Jesus was indeed YHVH and that is what these intentional paradoxes are revealing/implying and let us just suppose the Essenee were right and the Melchizadek figure is indeed YHVH. Ask yourself this, how could YHVH come to redeem His Creation in the person of Jesus and still be a humble example to us unless He himself did not have a God? Or even a conceptual God like God as Love? 1 John 4:8. Remember we are told that every man swears by something greater than himself? Hebrews 6:16. Even if Jesus was God He was still fully man. So He would have had to had atleast a conceptual God as say Love that perfectly reflected Him. Remember the Bible does allow us to view the idea of God as conceptual (see Philippians 3:19) - and remember even if you believe Jesus was YHVH born into this world to redeem us as we are clearly told He would..

“Am I not JEHOVAH, AND BESIDE ME THERE IS NO SAVIOUR (Xliii. II). “I AM JEHOVAH, AND BESIDE ME THERE IS NO SAVIOUR” (Xliii. II). “Am I not Jehovah? And there is no God beside Me; a JUST GOD AND A SAVIOUR; THERE IS NONE BESIDE ME” (Xlv. 21, 22).

….He was still just a man and in every way tested as man so this would still apply Hebrews 6:16.

So even if He was lord God Almighty Himself (as you will all find out one day He was), in order to show us the Way, He would have had to invent a (conceptual idea of God) called “the Father” as a personification of Love “God is Love” and of universal mind “God is Spirit” and then claim He (YHVH) reflects that higher ideal/God. Or how could He also have been our perfect example and humble Himself as we must? After all the idea of God is also used conceptually in the Bible, “there God is their stomach” etc, the king of Babylon refused to stop praising the Gods of materialism, wood and stone etc

If God Almightly was going to become a man and show us the Way by humbling Himself as our perfect example in participation then He would have had to invented His own conceptual idea of a God, even if it was only a perfect reflection of Himself and a personification of the very highest ideal you could possibly attach yourself to i.e Love, “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love” 1 John 4:8.

Think about it ;) its up to the Holy Spirit to do the rest.

Just one last thing, if you all look in to it you will find ministering angels of which there are millions (Rev 5:11) have identical OT symbolism and roles to the Holy Spirit, that is because the Holy Spirit is a personification for Gods great company of ministering angels. Something else organised religion has never got around to working out yet. It is a bit like the Police Force. If a police constable is at knocking on your door and someone says who is it? You say “its the Police Force”, i.e a personification, you dont mean its all 500.000 of them. So it is with “the Holy Spirit”, there are many many holy spirits, they are ministering angels to everyone saved, they taught me this I am teaching you now Hebrews 1:14. The Father is a personification of Love, conceptual, it was always right their in plain site 1 John 4:8.

The greatest commandment is love Love with all your heart and mind and everything else will follow…..

As it will not let me edit my posts perhaps an editor could clear up the html in the previous post.

Thanks

Russell,

I am trying to understand your beliefs a little better. Are you saying that Jesus is God Incarnate but that God is only one person? Like a modalist understanding?

Modeslist would be close, Apostolic Oneness close, but none of them exactly as yet none of them seem to know what the Holy Spirit personifies. There is no organised religion that exactly reflects what I believe, but that does not surprise me as I believe it is a logical impossibility to be taught by God/the Holy Spirit unless non denominational. Otherwise we are just telling God we are buying into inherited dogma. I believe Revelation 14:4 is saying no organised church has salvation truth. Symbolic woman = churches/denominations. It is important everyone grasps the concept of intentional paradox, especially scholars because it is central to understanding why everyone is permanantly confused over whether the Bible is telling us Jesus is God or not.


God is one person (Yahweh/Jesus) and one concept (Love/mind), both exist in one person. John 4:24, 1 John 4:8. The Holy Spirit is a personification of thousands of angels/holy spirits who are “fellow servants” Revelation 22:9, although they also manifest the same mind/spirit which is Love and have the same purpose so in that sense you could say their is a tri-unity.

Russell,

I believe that the Bible is very clear about Jesus being God and I believe that the Triune understanding is the way to resolve the
paradox” that you are talking about. You said that truth can only be derived outside a church but what about what Jesus said in Matt. 16 “on this rock I will build my church”

God being Love is great reflection of the Trinity because in order for one to love there must be a lover and one being loved. So God is the Father loving the Son and the Holy Spirit who is the love between them.

Yes, but what is the Church. It is not a building made of bricks of mortar. 1 Corinthians 3:9; 1 Peter 2:4-6.

Those verses don’t say that the church is not a congregation, I think that they actually imply that it is.

Anyhow when you talk about God as “conception” it seems to be in reference to passages in the Bible where people have turned what are not God into gods like worshipping a stone and treating it like God. If you say that Jesus is doing this when He prays in scripture then it seems you are making Jesus into an idolater.

Hi, I agree the Church is a congregation, my point is it is made from “individual stones”, whoever the Lord Jesus decides to save. That could be you, a man down the road a mile away, 20 people in Manchester, a few people in Chester, but not necessarily a “church” how you interpret the word, God knows who the Church is and it is, I believe, a non visible organisation.

Almost all Christians think their ‘church’ is the one that is saved, so God will save the Anglicans, but not save the Baptists etc etc. I do not expect it to work out like that. All the evidence from Scripture implies none of them teach salvation truth (Rev 14:4; Rev 17), all of them have “defiled” those who trust in them and your only sure way of salvation is to fall upon your knees and call upon the Name of the Lord for help (and by that I actually mean the Name of the Lord) not three Constantine inserted titles. In other words, do not throw your lot in with any old sect that takes your fancy because you are a bit too busy to do it any other way. Remember spiritual Israel were supposed to be a nation of priests.

I did not say God was just a conception, Lord God Amighty (Yahweh) is the Lord Jesus Christ, but only He choses who He wishes to reveal this to (see my posts above i.e intentional paradox/riddle) the glory of God to conceal a matter etc.

What I said was the Bible uses the idea of god to represent whatever conceptual idea we hold most dear, so for some god is their stomach, we are told, for the king of Babylon god is the gods of materialism which he praised, for Jesus His God is Love, the very highest conceptual ideal and He reflected that perfectly. Every major attribute is personified in the bible, wisdom is personified, sin is personified, so obviously Love is going to be personified as the greatest personification of them all, i.e the Father.

However, that does not mean I am saying the Father is (just) a abstract personification of Love, the Father is every mind of Love in the universe, the Divine Council if you like or the Heavenly Assembly so often alluded to in the Bible which planned all this, including Lord Jesus at this present time, but when Lord Jesus was in His humanity and to show us the Way, He had to humble Himself before a higher concept, so His God was unversal Love. So the answer who was Jesus praying to , He was praying to every mind of Love in the universe that sent Him to us as Loves Plan to die for us.

Any other idea than that is not in the Bible. I have a book coming out about it soon God Willing, not for profit or I would remain blind like the ‘scholars’, but first for Paul as instructed.

Writer42, most Christians go through life and they do not even know who or what they are worshipping as “God”, the worst just make up their own idea of God from bits and pieces of the OT misunderstood, the best concentrate only on the life and example of Jesus.

The Lord your God is One, the lord your God is LOVE.

Anything else is idolotary.

Russell,

I think that the Bible is very clear that Jesus worshipped the same God who the Jews did who is YHWH. That is why Jesus identified Him as His Father who sent Him. No where does Jesus identify the god He is worshipping as an abstract concept, but as an actual person.

I am Catholic but that doesn’t mean that I know every Catholic will be saved and every one outside the Church will not be. I believe though that Jesus founded an actual church and instituted sacraments to be recieved within the church in order to be saved.

I believe that the First Commandment is to worship God who is YHWH. Do you think that Jesus obeyed that commandment as a human?

Is it just my computer or is this thread getting thinner and thinner?

writer42, there are many sincere people still in the Catholic church, my family were all Catholics until God gave me a vision for them that the RCC was MYSTERY BABYLON (Rev 17). Consider this another message from God. We all get a few in life. Turn to Jesus with all your heart and all your mind.

Yeah my thread is getting thinner and thinner also.

I believe that Jesus founded sacraments such as the Holy Eucharist that are only found in the Catholic Church in the way He taught them and that the Church put together the Bible and established doctrinal understandings to make sense of it such as the Trinity, that leads me to believe that it is certainly the true Church. I recognize that you don’t feel that way but I guess that’s what I want to further understand.

It’s good to see that the conversation has developed somewhat. But to backtrack a bit, just to point out what I find to be interpretive errors to push for a cherished doctrine:


On the Jews’ charge that Jesus made himself equal with God, it is clear that from Jesus’ own words and from his subsequent reply that he never claimed equality with God. John 5:18 says that Jesus “broke the Sabbath” and that “he made himself equal to God.” None of this Jesus ever did. He never broke the Sabbath (faulty judgment) and he never claimed equality with God (faulty judgment). Knowledge of the Law was not what was needed to identify Jesus as the Messiah. A pure heart was required (John 3:19; 12:37-40). Fact remains that whoever bases their judgment on who Jesus truly was on the judgments of those Jesus demonstrated were wicked in their judgments is simply disingenuous and proves to be in error on all counts.
What about the “absence” of Jesus correcting them? This is a weak argument since it’s reasoning from the negative. Jesus never replied to Pilate when asked “what is truth?” Does that mean truth is non-existent simply because Jesus never answered him? Ridiculous… As is this argument above. Acts 14 is also a mute point – a different book, different author relating an event in a totally different setting and yet again another erroneous judgment by pagans. This actually proves my point. Nothing in John 5-7 prove Jesus being God. In fact, it shows that Jesus was God’s sent-out-one, God’s shaliach or agent. God was wholly someone else, the Origin of Jesus’ teaching and saving work. Jesus confirmed his non-equality with God.

Maybe RobertH can explain why Philippians 2 proves Jesus’ pre-existence/divinity and does not refer to Isaiah 52/53 (Song of the Suffering Servant) which would put him squarely in the human realm and not before that.

There are also inaccuracies in the assessment of Ps. 110. Verse 1 indicates without any doubt that the recipient of the oracle was someone who was NOT Yahweh. Yahweh was someone wholly distinct and different from the recipient of the oracle. The Masoretic text, the ancient Targummim, not to mention the pre-Christian speculations on the oracle distinguish between the identities of Yahweh on the one hand and the recipient on the other. This verse is the text challenging the Catholic trinity invention. Verse 5 is no proof of Jesus’ divinity either. Yes, the text did suffer from the Soferim’s emendations as did 133 other areas changing YHWH to “Adonai.” This was NOT, however, to change the category of the subject from GOD to MAN. It was, instead, to ensure that the reader does not read the Name aloud, especially since the subsequent verses are so anthropomorphic. “Adonai” cannot refer to anyone else but Yahweh.

Jesus was not God (I disagree with Mike Gantt on this point). If Jesus were God, we’d expect an enormous controversy on this issue, a proclamation of this new kind of monotheism and a well-developed formulation of this idea in Scripture. We find none. Instead we find elaborate proclamations and formulations of Jesus’ Messiahship and saving work. He was God’s personal representative, his closest representative, as he was God’s own son sent to reconcile mankind with the Almighty. The Parable of the Wicked Husbandmen shows this most clearly (Mark 12). God Almighty still remained someone other than and distinct from Jesus Christ (John 17:3; Ac. 2:22; 1 Cor. 8:6; Jude 25).


http://lhim.org/blog/2012/02/02/judges-6-and-the-hebrew-masoretic-vocalization-of-adny-trinitarian-arguments-challenged/


http://lhim.org/blog/2011/09/15/countering-the-counter-to-adoni-in-psalm-1101/

Jesus was not God (I disagree with Mike Gantt on this point). If Jesus were God, we’d expect an enormous controversy on this issue, a proclamation of this new kind of monotheism and a well-developed formulation of this idea in Scripture.

Jaco,

I quite agree with you that the doctrine of the trinity is untrue. It has no scriptural basis and even contradicts Scripture. However, that the trinity doctrine is false does not preclude Jesus being God.

Any unbiased reader of the New Testament documents has to conclude that the writers lived in expectation of a great, dramatic, and revealing event that we have come to call the Second Coming. In all the various timetables people have given for this event, it is strange that so few people are willing to accept the idea that the original timetable given was correct and that the Second Coming occurred on time in the late 1st Century. This would mean it was a spiritual event with earthly consequences as opposed to an earthly event with spiritual consequences. The most dramatic revelatory aspect of this event was the disclosure that Jesus was God. Decades had been spent laying the groundwork for this astonishing revelation. “The path of the righteous is like the like of dawn that shines brighter and brighter until the full day.” No effort was made by the apostles to proclaim Jesus as God. They were too busy proclaiming Him as Messiah.

But even if it’s too hard for you to accept the notion that Jesus is God, we should always be able to agree that Jesus is to be obeyed in every aspect of our lives right down to the smallest thought. “Let us therefore take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” Whatever the nature of Jesus’ identity, He is Lord.

Jaco,

I am glad that you ahve decided to return to the conversation.

What is intersting about the parable in Mark 12 is that the Son (clearly Jesus) is not called a servant.

I want to answer your other points but first I am curious what do you make of Hebrews 1 :10 -12?

(Of the Son)

He also says,

“In the beginning, Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
11 They will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like a garment.
12 You will roll them up like a robe;
like a garment they will be changed.
But you remain the same,
and your years will never end.”

Jaco you said (in italics)John 5:18 says that Jesus “broke the Sabbath” and that “he made himself equal to God.” None of this Jesus ever did. He never broke the Sabbath (faulty judgment) and he never claimed equality with God (faulty judgment).”

This is not the way the Gospels are written, when we get an explanation we are getting an explanation by the Holy Spirit, it is not meant to be disputed or up for debate. If what you are saying was correct John 5:18 would read, “For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only [did they think he] was he breaking the Sabbath, but [they thought] he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.”

Look, here is how it works, notice the bit I put in bold…

John 7: 37 On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”[c]39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.

That is a summery by the Holy Spirit of what Jesus means, just like John 5:18 is, therefore it is not up for debate, unless you are an athiest or you do not believe the Scripture is God-breathed, only then is it up for debate and I dont debate non believers.

When we are told in John 7:39 “by this He meant the Spirit….” that is the Holy Spirit telling us what is going on. So likewise in John 5:18 when we are told “not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.” That is the Holy Spirit telling us what is going on.

You then say ” Fact remains that whoever bases their judgment on who Jesus truly was on the judgments of those Jesus demonstrated were wicked in their judgments is simply disingenuous and proves to be in error on all counts. “

But Jaco, we are basing our judgements on what the Holy Spirit is telling us is happening in those verses. Furthermore, you keep telling everyone we are believing those wicked Pharisees, when we are just believing the Holy Spirits commentary on what is happening, you forget the Jews thought He was an imposter and killed Him. So even the logic in your own polemic is floored.

Jaco says “What about the “absence” of Jesus correcting them? This is a weak argument since it’s reasoning from the negative.”

- Jaco, we have the entire NT narrative without Jesus correcting anyone, when Thomas said My Lord and My God that would have been a prime moment for example, in contrast we have the apostle Paul who people started to worship as divine absolutely insisting he was not at every given opportunity.

Jaco says “Jesus never replied to Pilate when asked “what is truth?” “

- Jaco, re-read my posts above, you first need to grasp the basics, the entire idea is learning who Jesus really is, is a riddle, an intentional paradox (how the Bible is written), i.e “it is the glory of God to conceal a matter” etc. Until you grasp this absolute fundemental basic then we are just going to be talking past each other.

Jaco “Does that mean truth is non-existent simply because Jesus never answered him? Ridiculous”

- No it means you havent a clue how the Bible is written, rediculous.

Jaco says “As is this argument above. Acts 14 is also a mute point – a different book, different author relating an event in a totally different setting and yet again another erroneous judgment by pagans”

- Ok Jaco so you are back to athiest logic, different author etc, not really God-breathed by the Holy Spirit? Not really the Word of God? Like I say first let me know you are believer or not.

Jaco says “this actually proves my point. Nothing in John 5-7 prove Jesus being God. “

- Jaco, nothing Jesus says is about “proving” to you He is God, that is the idea, otherwise we would not have statements like this “No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” Matthew 11:27 , go back and read my earlier posts. Learn what an intentional paradox is, learn why the OT says God will do something and the NT says it is Jesus, learn why we are told over and over again the greatest Biblical mysteries God conceals, you do not throw your pearls to the swine remember?

Jaco says “Jesus confirmed his non-equality with God.”

- Jesus was a man, God is not a man, you first need to work out what that means before you can tackle your own question above.

Jaco says “There are also inaccuracies in the assessment of Ps. 110. Verse 1 indicates without any doubt that the recipient of the oracle was someone who was NOT Yahweh. “

- No it does not “confirm without a doubt”, at all, it uses a word that is used 400 times in the Bible for God and 300 times in the Bible for man, that is not confirming “without a doubt” is it, especially when verse 5 identifies the one on the right hand of Yahweh and Yahweh.

Jaco says “The Masoretic text, the ancient Targummim, not to mention the pre-Christian speculations on the oracle distinguish between the identities of Yahweh on the one hand and the recipient on the other.”

- Yes Jaco that is verse one, I am talking about verse five, where the scribes being as ignorant as you about how the Bible is written (in the context of riddles which intentionally contradict to reveal a spiritual truth), also, like you just assumed it must have been a mistake on Gods part and changed verse five so it didnt say Yahweh is on the right side of Yahweh.

Jaco says “This verse is the text challenging the Catholic trinity invention. Verse 5 is no proof of Jesus’ divinity either. “

- Well thats good as I think the Trinity is nonsense. Verse five is infact proof Jesus is Divine because unless you think God made a mistake, as we have Yahweh sitting on the right side of Yahweh (hint: this is called an intentional paradox), the style in which the Bible is written, it is intended to contradict to reveal a hidden spiritual truth, now what could that be I wonder???

Jaco says “Yes, the text did suffer from the Soferim’s emendations as did 133 other areas changing YHWH to “Adonai.” This was NOT, however, to change the category of the subject from GOD to MAN. It was, instead, to ensure that the reader does not read the Name aloud”

- Yes that was the usual reason, but the funny thing is it originally said Yahweh was sitting on the right side of Yahweh and striking through the nations, but they didnt change, both, only one, because they thought God must have made a mistake, because they couldnt get their heads around the fact it was a riddle/intentional paradox.

Ok I have other things to do, when you all first learn the basics I will continue otherwise their is little point. Has anyone worked out what a riddle is yet and that this is how things are concealed in the Bible? Any of you bright sparks managed to work out that might apply to Deity as well?

Thank you for the replies


Mike, thank you for your reply. When you say, Jesus is God, you need to explain what you mean by that. Judaism was not polytheistic. They insisted on the worship of a single Deity, Yahweh. The transcendent Yahweh did use emissaries – both human and angelic – to represent him. “His name was in [them]” (Ex. 23:21). We therefore have scores of divine figures or figures acting in divine capacity as God’s representatives. In 2 Esdras we have an angel addressed as “Creator,” Melchizedek is called “elohim” in the Melchizedek scroll, we have Yahoel or “second Yahweh” in Enoch, etc., etc. The principle followed is that of shaluach and this principle settles each and every instance of divine representation. None of these violated or threatened monotheism since functional identity was never confused with ontological identity. When God used someone to act, it was still God’s activity. When God used Jesus to save his people, it was still God’s saving activity. Anticipating God to act eschatologically in the first century does not mean Him coming to earth and doing the suffering and dying Himself by necessity. That is something people who push for a divine Christ do not seem to address. This conclusive explanation is constantly being ignored.


If the apostles were too busy to proclaim Jesus as Messiah, instead of proclaiming him as God, then do we have partial revelation from Jesus’ companions? Did we have to wait for post-biblical writers and their hybrid musings to formulate doctrines in which their obsession with worshiping more than one as God Almighty can finally be quenched in something that is effectively polytheism? I don’t think so. What took place post-biblically was not light, it was darkness. If a rival concept had to wait until the apostles’ demise, then I’d rather stick to what those apostles proclaimed before the apparent “falling away.”


“But even if it’s too hard for you to accept the notion that Jesus is God…”


It is not only hard for me to accept what you and Trinitarians propose, it’s unacceptable, simply because none of your arguments hold up under scrutiny and it is no challenge to me take part in a spiritual “Fear Factor Challenge.” There’s no bravery in swallowing down what proves to be repulsive – be these physical substances or Jesus-is-God formulations. Overcoming resistance toward a belief system that proves to be unacceptable is no achievement to me.


Writer42, you are quite correct that the Mark 12 parable does not call Jesus a “servant.” Others do, however, the most exquisite piece of messianic prophecy is the Song of the Suffering Servant, and Jesus as Yahweh’s Servant fulfilled everything described therein. Jesus being the son of the Most High God excludes him relationally from being ontologically identical to the One he is son of. I know, I know you don’t believe that Jesus is the Father, but his being distinct from the Father because he is the Father’s son distinguishes him in equal fashion also from the Most High God Whose son he is. The One who sent out the prophets in the past is Yahweh. What he did in the latter days also distinguishes Him from the one he sent out, once again excluding Jesus from being ontologically identical to the One God, Yahweh.


The Hebrews passage you’re referring to has its difficulty in that the Masoretic Text (MT) and the Septuagint (LXX) vary in wording and in address. The MT has Psalm 102 as:


“He [Yahweh] weakened me…I [the suppliant] say, ‘O my God…’”

But the Hebrews writer does not quote the MT. He quotes the LXX which says:


“He [Yahweh] answered him [the suppliant]…Tell me [God speaking to the suppliant]…Thou, lord [God addressing someone else called ‘lord’].


So the whole discourse is different between the MT and the LXX. The MT has a suppliant praying to Yahweh, while the LXX has Yahweh addressing someone else as “Lord.” F.F. Bruce in the New International Commentary on Hebrews says:


“In the Septuagint text the person to whom these words [“of old you laid the foundation of the earth”] are spoken is addressed explicitly as “Lord,” and it is God who addresses him thus. Whereas in the Hebrew text the suppliant is the speaker from the beginning to the end of the psalm, in the Greek text his prayer comes to an end with v. 22, and the next words read as follows: “He [God] answered him [the suppliant] in the way of his strength:

‘Declare to Me the shortness of My days: Bring Me not up in the midst of My days. Thy [the suppliant’s] years are throughout all generations. Thou, lord [the suppliant, viewed here as the Messiah by Hebrews], in the beginning didst lay the foundation of the earth.’”


The Commentary continues, saying:

Bacon suggested that the Hebrew, as well as the Greek, text of this psalm formed a basis for messianic [i.e. future Kingdom] eschatology, especially its reference to the “shortness” of God’s days, i.e., of the period destined to elapse before the consummation of His purpose [the arrival of the yet future Messianic Kingdom on earth]; he found here the OT background of Matt. 24:22, Mark 13:20 and Ep. Barn. 4.3 (“as Enoch says, ‘For to this end the Master [God] has cut short the times and the days, that his Beloved [Jesus] should make haste and come to his inheritance’”

So, to the readers of the LXX and the author of Hebrews, this Psalm has an eschatological meaning of future creation, not of the Genesis creation (Isa. 51:16; Heb. 2:5).


The Oxford Bible Commentary (2000) says: “The text at the center of Heb. 2:5ff. is Ps. 8:4-6 and it exhibits thematic connections to the scriptural catena of the first chapter . Heb. 2:5 [“the inhabited earth to come of which we speak”] is an introductory comment continuing the contrast between the Son and angels. Its reference to the “world to come” reinforces the notions of imminent judgment and cosmic transformation intimated by Ps. 102, cited at 1:10-12.”


I bet you your sources did not inform you of this.


Russell Brown, thank you also for your reply. I don’t think you can decide how the holy spirit should have rendered John 5:18 had it meant what I propose it’s saying. Jesus did not break the Sabbath. Jesus kept the Law perfectly. Breaking the Law especially on such salient points as Sabbath keeping and not being presumptuous or rebellious would have disqualified him as the historical Messiah or the “Prophet like Moses” (Deut 18:15, 18). None of his deeds or words truly violated anything Yahweh stood for. Hence the Pharisees’ erroneous judgments and the report to that effect, namely, that Jesus broke the Sabbath and made himself equal to God. Jesus did neither and he established that in his subsequent words to those religious leaders. He was God’s faithful, obedient and elected representative. God was in him. That is hardly the rebellious Sabbath breaker and usurper of divine equality Jesus was falsely accused of.


Your John 20:28 argument does not hold up either. A few days earlier Jesus said that seeing him meant seeing the only True God (the Father, John 17:3; 14:9). Seeing Jesus meant seeing the Father. When Thomas saw Jesus he most certainly also saw the One Jesus was the glorious image of. So, once again, ontological identity with God from Thomas’ exclamation is most certainly NOT what follows by necessity.


On Psalm 110, which word is used 400 times for God and 300 times for man??? Adoni is used almost exclusively to refer to non-divine figures such as angels and humans. Adonai can only refer to God Almighty, so I don’t understand your argument here. In verse 1 Yahweh speaks to someone else who is NOT Yahweh. That does sink the whole “Jesus is God” and “Jesus is Yahweh” attempts immediately.


What about verse 5? I do not see how changing “YHWH” to “Adonai” proves your point in any way, since the Sopherim did it in numerous other places without attempting to change the referent (YHWH) to be anyone other than God Almighty. Their issue was not the referent itself, but the Name. They trusted that the Name would not be pronounced when encountered in the Sacred Texts but in certain other instances they took the extra precaution of substituting the Name with Adonai or Elohim which would still refer to God Almighty, but in such “dishonouring” contexts that they wanted to safeguard the Name from being pronounced even more. So the Name and its substitution in vs. 5 is a non sequitur, sorry.

What about the expression, “at your right hand?” In vss. 1-4 Yahweh is addressed in the third person as the One speaking to His anointed King. From vs. 5, the King is directly addressed by the psalmist and Yahweh is spoken of in the third person again. There is therefore a clear distinction again between the two referents. By being at the right hand of someone does not render that “someone” God Almighty, though. While vs. 1 is a royal heavenly session, verses 5ff refer to conquering warfare. Just because Yahweh is at the Messiah’s right hand does not make the Messiah Yahweh and Yahweh the Messiah. Of David it is said:


Ps 16:8 . I have set the LORD always before me: because [he is] at my right hand, I shall not be moved.


Should we consider David to be Yahweh and Yahweh to be Adoni of Psalm 110:1 just because Yahweh is on David’s right hand???


And of every faithful Israelite it is said:


Ps 121:5 The LORD [is] thy keeper: the LORD [is] thy shade upon thy right hand.

So, is every other Israelite the Yahweh of Ps. 110:1 and Yahweh their Adoni because Yahweh is on their right hand??? If you insist on Ps. 110:5 to mean that the Adoni at Yahweh’s right hand is Yahweh Himself, then David and every other faithful Israelite should also be Yahweh, for the very same reasons. Your arguments simply don’t hold up under scrutiny.

Just a friendly request: All of us on this blog have respect for the other person’s viewpoints. We disagree vehemently on certain points but we’re MATURE enough and CHRISTIAN enough to allow the other person to be convinced in their own hearts. It is therefore unfitting and strange to read statements by you where it is insinuated that those who disagree with you are “atheists” or “clueless” or “bright sparks.” There are many websites on the Net where one can “bash” those who disagree with them. But over here we’ve only been passionately respectful of one another. I hope we can continue to engage one another respectfully.

Thank you,

Jaco

Jaco,

Thanks for your response.

Regarding your explanation of divine agency, I accept and support all that you say. The apostles proclaimed Jesus as God’s agent -not as God Himself, and certainly not as part of a Trinitarian God.

When I say “Jesus is God” I mean that God “died” and was resurrected in the embryonic form of Jesus conceived in the womb of Mary. A human being is the union of a spirit and a body. Thus the spirit animating Jesus was God, even though, as a human, Jesus did not fully recognize this - or at least did not proclaim it. When Jesus was raised from the dead and brought to heaven, His restoration as God Almighty was begun. And when His Second Coming was accomplished in the late first century, His restoration was complete. Thus “God” ruled the first age (i.e. the biblical age, or what the NT called “this present age”), and “Christ” rules the second age (i.e. the eternal age, or what the NT called “the age to come”). “God” and “Christ,” however, are one and the same person. In other words, when God tells us to die to ourselves that we might live eternally, He is preaching what He Himself has practiced.

Regarding your second paragraph, my “too busy” comment only meant that the apostles’ mission was to bear witness to Jesus of Nazareth as the resurrected Messiah of Israel and the imminent coming of His kingdom. The proclamation that the Messiah is God is left to those in the kingdom of God once it came, even the least of them. This is why Jesus said he who is least in the kingdom is greater than the greatest of all the prophets (John the Baptist) - because we give voice to the greatest and final revelation. That is, God visited the earth in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. Your insistence that we cannot believe that the Messiah is God because the apostles did not proclaim it is like that of the Jews who insist that Jesus cannot be the Messiah because the prophets did not proclaim it. They consider the New Testament to be “post-biblical revelation” and thereby discredit it. You similarly discredit any post-apostolic revelation - yet the apostles themselves said a great revelation of Christ would post-date them (1 Cor 1:7-8; Col 3:3-4; 1 Pet 1:5, 13; 4:13; 5:1). We can look at the Old Testament and recognize Jesus in it, but those Jews who are not open to the Lord cannot see Him there. Likewise, many of us today can look in the Old and New Testaments and recognize Jesus as God, but that doesn’t mean that everyone can.

I don’t at all understand your reference to “Fear Factor Challenge.” My last paragraph was an appeal for unity with you on what I was confident would be a point of agreement: the lordship of Christ. That is, even if you don’t believe Jesus is God, you seem to see Him…er, him…as God’s chief agent, the one to whom we all owe obedience, trust, and devotion. Is this not a point on which we can agree? And, if so, aren’t you and I seek to be conformed to the same Christ?

Lastly, I take exception to the scolding with which you closed your comment. I have spoken to you, and others, respectfully at all times.

Mike, thank you for taking the time to respond to my post. I understand your position better. I suppose you must have found Dale Tuggy’s posts interesting as he obviously challenged your and others’ Sabellian positions there and with good reason. To the Sabellian there is nothing “eternal” to God the Father as He “died” and ceased to exist according to you. What is more, Jesus must have been so oblivious to this “fact” that he never realized that the One he prayed to was really not there – that he, Jesus, was in fact God…it simply does not make sense.


When Jesus was raised from the dead and brought to heaven, His restoration as God Almighty was begun.

Something like this was never proclaimed. When Jesus was raised and ascended into heaven, he gave the promised holy spirit to lead his followers in all the truth. After Pentecost, especially in second Luke, Jesus was never proclaimed as God Almighty. In fact, the ground work was firmly laid that Jesus was a human God approved, animated and appointed (Ac. 2:22; 17:31).

Thus the spirit animating Jesus was God, even though, as a human, Jesus did not fully recognize this - or at least did not proclaim it.

Jesus did not recognise that he was in fact God, but he did recognise that Someone else was acting in and through him? Gave him life in himself? Was spirit and needed to be worshiped in spirit and truth? Was in Him and He was in Jesus? Jesus recognised everything necessitating agency and mediatorial activity, yet NEVER that “Jesus and God was the same person?” That’s hard to believe, Mike.

“God” and “Christ,” however, are one and the same person.

I don’t see that. I see God as someone else and is continually proclaimed as such. The Apocalypse of John was written after 70 C.E. as well as his Gospel and Epistles. None of these proclaim Jesus and God as ontologically identical.

Your insistence that we cannot believe that the Messiah is God because the apostles did not proclaim it is like that of the Jews who insist that Jesus cannot be the Messiah because the prophets did not proclaim it.


What else can I go upon, Mike? If neither Christ, nor his followers, nor the Apostle Paul, nor the post-70 C.E. books nor the Apostolic Fathers proclaim Jesus as God, why should I wait for someone to think about this, alienate it from its cultural bedrock and invent something of completely strange and odd epistemology??? If the “full truth” would only come after 70 C.E., then why shouldn’t we embrace the weird Christology of the Shepherd of Hermas or Paul of Samosata or the Gnostic Christ or even Isa al’Islam according to Mohammed, seeing that none of the NT writers should be consulted in our quest for the true Christ? Mike, there is no way in how I or anyone else for that matter should take this proposal seriously. Using the line of reasoning you’re proposing you should have no objection to the Mormon revelations or the Watchtower developments since they also claim progressive post-biblical revelation equally violating the Gospels of Christ according his followers as the Jesus-is-God ideas are. I prefer to take heed to the apostle Paul’s words:

Ga 1:8, 9 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any [man] preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.

Lastly, I take exception to the scolding with which you closed your comment. I have spoken to you, and others, respectfully at all times.

You may take exception to it. My previous reply was to you, writer42 and Russell Brown consecutively. So that final paragraph was not aimed at you or writer42. I don’t know you for very long, but I’ve found you to be passionate and compassionate. You’re a sincere man with an exemplary attitude. It’s a joy to engage you, Mike.

Thanks,

Jaco

Jaco,

I’m not a philosopher, so I can only follow Dale’s posts to a limited degree. I believe the Scriptures call upon us to be logical (though they usually use the word “reason”). Formal logic, however, with its notations and philosophical context, can be distracting - especially for those of us not trained in those disciplines.

My perception of Sabellianism is that it’s merely a variation of Trinitarianism, substituting “mode” for “person.” That is, it’s just a slightly different philosophical construct. My concern is in all this is practical, not philosophical. I want to know, for myself and others, how to obey Christ.

I welcome your quoting of Gal 1:8,9. God forbid that I should be saying anything contrary to the gospel that the apostles preached. I certainly don’t think I have, though I can see why you think I have. Perhaps we’ll do better to focus on where we agree for a while.

I am still struggling to understand the practical difference between a Unitarian and Trinitarian insofar as the lordship of Christ is concerned. Presumably, you believe that we are to “obey Jesus Christ” (1 Pet 1:2), that he is “the cornerstone” of God’s work (1 Pet 2:7), that he is to have “first place in everything” (Col 1:18), that calling him “lord” without obeying him is useless lip service (Luke 6:46). I cannot think of a way that Jesus being merely the chief agent of God as opposed to God Himself would blunt the force of these verses (and the many others in the NT like them).

Therefore, my question to you is twofold: 1) How do you personally go about obeying Jesus? and 2) How would someone behave any differently in this regard if he believed Jesus was God instead of the chief agent of God?

These questions are not rhetorical devices. They are born of genuine curiosity.

Jaco says, “Mike, thank you for your reply. When you say, Jesus is God, you need to explain what you mean by that. Judaism was not polytheistic. They insisted on the worship of a single Deity, Yahweh. The transcendent Yahweh did use emissaries – both human and angelic – to represent him. “His name was in [them]” (Ex. 23:21). “

- Jac0, if I can just step in for Mike here. To begin, your comment about Judaism not being polytheistic is both true and untrue (Gen 1.26-1-27) depending on how you want to look at it, even your response “His name was in them” is polytheistic when you consider the name does not just denote authority but also character and you first need to define “God” before you can even begin to tell us what is truly polytheistic or not. We already have the Bible calling those angels who come in His Name “God” so we have a definition given to us by the Bible that you are re-defining out of your own imagination. This definition from the Bible is telling us that the Name (character/authority) = God. So there was a problem with angel worship (Colossians 2:18) so the solution was to personify the Godhead as we see from Gen 1:26-1:27. The idea is we then all rally behind one central concept, i.e Love (1 John 4:8). Anything else is idolatry, your own imagination and not in the Bible.

Normal 0 false false false EN-PH X-NONE X-NONE /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:”Table Normal”; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-parent:”“; mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt; mso-para-margin-top:0cm; mso-para-margin-right:0cm; mso-para-margin-bottom:10.0pt; mso-para-margin-left:0cm; line-height:115%; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:11.0pt; font-family:”Calibri”,”sans-serif”; mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-bidi-font-family:”Times New Roman”; mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi; mso-ansi-language:EN-PH; mso-fareast-language:EN-US;} Jaco says - “We therefore have scores of divine figures or figures acting in divine capacity as God’s representatives.”

- immediately proving point

Jaco says, “In 2 Esdras we have an angel addressed as “Creator,” Melchizedek is called “elohim” in the Melchizedek scroll, we have Yahoel or “second Yahweh” in Enoch, etc., etc. The principle followed is that of shaluach and this principle settles each and every instance of divine representation. None of these violated or threatened monotheism since functional identity was never confused with ontological identity.”

- Jaco, can you show me where you have decided on behalf of everyone what decides ontological identity? You do realise you need to first define “God” before you can even begin to make such assertions, right? Can you also show us how you have decided for everyone how to define “God”? You do know the DSS implies Melchizidek was atleast typologically prophetic of Christ and indeed Yahweh (function not identity). You are also aware that there are occasions in which Yahweh is not manifested as to His Name/representation?

Jaco says, “When God used someone to act, it was still God’s activity. When God used Jesus to save his people, it was still God’s saving activity.

- hmm I think that is your assumption based on representation Jaco, do you think the ‘myriads and myriads’ of angels are all worshipping sincerely the One who sent someone else to do the hard work or the One who actually did it? You see here lies the riddle and if you ever find the answer to it then you will REALLY love God and respect Him, as the angels do.

Jaco says, “Anticipating God to act eschatologically in the first century does not mean Him coming to earth and doing the suffering and dying Himself by necessity. That is something people who push for a divine Christ do not seem to address. This conclusive explanation is constantly being ignored.”

- No I addressed it with my last reply.

Jaco says, “If the apostles were too busy to proclaim Jesus as Messiah, instead of proclaiming him as God, then do we have partial revelation from Jesus’ companions?”

- Jaco has completely ignored everything I have said about concealing a mystery and the entire context of how the bible is written and missed the point in spectacular style.

Jaco says, “Did we have to wait for post-biblical writers and their hybrid musings to formulate doctrines in which their obsession with worshiping more than one as God Almighty can finally be quenched in something that is effectively polytheism? I don’t think so. What took place post-biblically was not light, it was darkness. If a rival concept had to wait until the apostles’ demise, then I’d rather stick to what those apostles proclaimed before the apparent “falling away.”

- Jaco is arguing the great straw man called the Trinity again. He has completely ignored everything I have tried to teach him about how the Bible is written and continued as per usual on Unitarian autopilot. What do these words say to you, “No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” Matt 11:27

Jaco says, “It is not only hard for me to accept what you and Trinitarians propose, it’s unacceptable, simply because none of your arguments hold up under scrutiny and it is no challenge to me take part in a spiritual “Fear Factor Challenge.” There’s no bravery in swallowing down what proves to be repulsive – be these physical substances or Jesus-is-God formulations. Overcoming resistance toward a belief system that proves to be unacceptable is no achievement to me.”

- Jaco, Unitarians = wrong, Trinitarians = wrong.

Jaco says “Writer42, you are quite correct that the Mark 12 parable does not call Jesus a “servant.” Others do, however, the most exquisite piece of messianic prophecy is the Song of the Suffering Servant, and Jesus as Yahweh’s Servant fulfilled everything described therein. Jesus being the son of the Most High God excludes him relationally from being ontologically identical to the One he is son of.”

- Jaco, I like the last line “Jesus being the son of the Most High God excludes him relationally from being ontologically identical” you have a whole pile of assumptions based on that assertion. I would have to spend a few days with you and I have others to write to but what you claim is rational is a human natural assumption that a Father is ontologically superior to the son, the problem is we are not talking about human concepts, that is part of the riddle. Another part of the riddle is in the fact God cannot teach us the Way and be for us an example unless He himself becomes a servant to a higher ideal, a conceptual God, i.e Love 1 John 4:8, I have told you this already you have responded to precisely zero percent of what I said in this context and just defaulted to Unitarian anti Trinitarian auto pilot mode with all the usual incorrect assumptions.

Jaco say, “I know, I know you don’t believe that Jesus is the Father, but his being distinct from the Father because he is the Father’s son distinguishes him in equal fashion also from the Most High God Whose son he is. The One who sent out the prophets in the past is Yahweh. What he did in the latter days also distinguishes Him from the one he sent out, once again excluding Jesus from being ontologically identical to the One God, Yahweh. “

- You see this is where both of you are wrong. Jesus is indeed the Father but the Father is not who or what you think, both Trinitarians and Unitarians are wrong. The One who sent out the prophets in the past was the Divine Council actually “who will go for USIsaiah 6:8, 2 Chronicles 18:18 Normal 0 false false false EN-PH X-NONE X-NONE /* Style Definitions */ table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:”Table Normal”; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-parent:”“; mso-padding-alt:0cm 5.4pt 0cm 5.4pt; mso-para-margin-top:0cm; mso-para-margin-right:0cm; mso-para-margin-bottom:10.0pt; mso-para-margin-left:0cm; line-height:115%; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:11.0pt; font-family:”Calibri”,”sans-serif”; mso-ascii-font-family:Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-hansi-font-family:Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-bidi-font-family:”Times New Roman”; mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi; mso-ansi-language:EN-PH; mso-fareast-language:EN-US;} , here is the big clue!

Jaco says - “We therefore have scores of divine figures or figures acting in divine capacity as God’s representatives.”

- immediately proving point

Jaco says “In 2 Esdras we have an angel addressed as “Creator,” Melchizedek is called “elohim” in the Melchizedek scroll, we have Yahoel or “second Yahweh” in Enoch, etc., etc. The principle followed is that of shaluach and this principle settles each and every instance of divine representation. None of these violated or threatened monotheism since functional identity was never confused with ontological identity.”

- Jaco, can you show me where you have decided on behalf of everyone what decides ontological identity? You do realise you need to define “God” before you can even begin to make such assertions, right? Can you also show us how you have decided for everyone how to define “God”? You do know the DSS implies Melchizidek was atleast typologically prophetic of Christ and indeed Yahweh (function not identity). You are also aware that there are occasions in which Yahweh is not manifested as to His Name/representation?

Jaco says “When God used someone to act, it was still God’s activity. When God used Jesus to save his people, it was still God’s saving activity.”

- hmm I think that is your assumption based on representation Jaco, do you think the ‘myriads and myriads’ of angels are all worshipping sincerely the One who sent someone else to do the hard work or the One who actually did it? You see here lies the riddle and if you ever find the answer to it then you will REALLY love God and respect Him, as the angels do.

Jaco says, “Anticipating God to act eschatologically in the first century does not mean Him coming to earth and doing the suffering and dying Himself by necessity. That is something people who push for a divine Christ do not seem to address. This conclusive explanation is constantly being ignored.”

- No I addressed it with my last reply.

Jaco says, “If the apostles were too busy to proclaim Jesus as Messiah, instead of proclaiming him as God, then do we have partial revelation from Jesus’ companions?”

- Jaco has completely ignored everything I have said about concealing a mystery and the entire context of how the bible is written and missed the point in spectacular style.

Jaco says, “Did we have to wait for post-biblical writers and their hybrid musings to formulate doctrines in which their obsession with worshiping more than one as God Almighty can finally be quenched in something that is effectively polytheism? I don’t think so. What took place post-biblically was not light, it was darkness. If a rival concept had to wait until the apostles’ demise, then I’d rather stick to what those apostles proclaimed before the apparent “falling away.”

- Jaco is arguing the great straw man called the Trinity again. He has completely ignored everything I have tried to teach him about how the Bible is written and continued as per usual on Unitarian autopilot.

Jaco says “It is not only hard for me to accept what you and Trinitarians propose, it’s unacceptable, simply because none of your arguments hold up under scrutiny and it is no challenge to me take part in a spiritual “Fear Factor Challenge.” There’s no bravery in swallowing down what proves to be repulsive – be these physical substances or Jesus-is-God formulations. Overcoming resistance toward a belief system that proves to be unacceptable is no achievement to me.”

- Jaco, Unitarians = wrong, Trinitarians = wrong.

Jaco says “Writer42, you are quite correct that the Mark 12 parable does not call Jesus a “servant.” Others do, however, the most exquisite piece of messianic prophecy is the Song of the Suffering Servant, and Jesus as Yahweh’s Servant fulfilled everything described therein. Jesus being the son of the Most High God excludes him relationally from being ontologically identical to the One he is son of.”

- Jaco, I like the last line “Jesus being the son of the Most High God excludes him relationally from being ontologically identical” you have a whole pile of assumptions based on that assertion. I would have to spend a few days with you and I have others to write to but what you claim is rational is a human natural assumption that a Father is ontologically superior to the son, the problem is we are not talking about human concepts, that is part of the riddle. Another part of the riddle is in the fact God cannot teach us the Way and be for us an example unless He himself becomes a servant to a higher ideal, a conceptual God, i.e Love 1 John 4:8, I have told you this already you have responded to precisely zero percent of what I said and just defaulted to Unitarian anti Trinitarian auto pilot mode with all the usual incorrect assumptions.

Jaco say, “I know, I know you don’t believe that Jesus is the Father, but his being distinct from the Father because he is the Father’s son distinguishes him in equal fashion also from the Most High God Whose son he is. The One who sent out the prophets in the past is Yahweh. What he did in the latter days also distinguishes Him from the one he sent out, once again excluding Jesus from being ontologically identical to the One God, Yahweh. “

- You see this is where both of you are wrong. Jesus is indeed the Father but the Father is not who or what you think, both Trinitarians and Unitarians are wrong. The One who sent out the prophets in the past was the Divine Council actually, of which Yahweh was God Almighty.

Jaco says, “So, to the readers of the LXX and the author of Hebrews, this Psalm has an eschatological meaning of future creation, not of the Genesis creation (Isa. 51:16; Heb. 2:5). “

- Not sure who you are addressing with this but anyone who still believes Genesis is referring to the natural creation and not the spiritual creation hasn’t got past first base.

Jaco says, “Russell Brown, thank you also for your reply. I don’t think you can decide how the holy spirit should have rendered John 5:18 had it meant what I propose it’s saying. Jesus did not break the Sabbath. Jesus kept the Law perfectly. Breaking the Law especially on such salient points as Sabbath keeping and not being presumptuous or rebellious would have disqualified him as the historical Messiah or the “Prophet like Moses” (Deut 18:15, 18). “

- It is fairly straight forward, either you are a Theist and believe that commentary was the Holy Spirit explaining what is going on or you are an atheist/agnostic scholar in which case it is up for dispute, you seem to take the latter track.

Jaco says “None of his deeds or words truly violated anything Yahweh stood for. Hence the Pharisees’ erroneous judgments and the report to that effect, namely, that Jesus broke the Sabbath and made himself equal to God.”

- Nope, the Holy Spirit is plainly telling us He is making Himself equal to God, we are also told the same elsewhere.

Jaco says “Jesus did neither and he established that in his subsequent words to those religious leaders. He was God’s faithful, obedient and elected representative. God was in him. That is hardly the rebellious Sabbath breaker and usurper of divine equality Jesus was falsely accused of.”

- If I remember correctly He said His Father was working on the Sabbath and so was He.

Jaco says, “Your John 20:28 argument does not hold up either. A few days earlier Jesus said that seeing him meant seeing the only True God (the Father, John 17:3; 14:9). Seeing Jesus meant seeing the Father. “

- But Jaco, unless you can first define “God” how can assume anything? What is “God” is a representative concept, a personification of the highest ideal. You start with an assumption and then proceed based on that assumption, first prove the assumption you start with is right.

Jaco says, “When Thomas saw Jesus he most certainly also saw the One Jesus was the glorious image of. So, once again, ontological identity with God from Thomas’ exclamation is most certainly NOT what follows by necessity.”

- I refer you to my last reply. No one is denying the concept of manifesting the Name (authority/character) but you first need to prove to us that is not indeed the very definition of God and Oneness. You see the problem with you Unitarians is you are all very good at saying what is not God, but then at the end of it all you have nothing left to worship, just your own bits and pieces of Yahweh or the Father you think you have found left in the OT, its like God of the gaps!

Jaco says, “On Psalm 110, which word is used 400 times for God and 300 times for man??? Adoni is used almost exclusively to refer to non-divine figures such as angels and humans. Adonai can only refer to God Almighty, so I don’t understand your argument here. In verse 1 Yahweh speaks to someone else who is NOT Yahweh. That does sink the whole “Jesus is God” and “Jesus is Yahweh” attempts immediately.”

- Ignoring the fact you have avoided most of what I wrote in relation to the above proceed to argue a straw men (verse one) when I am only interested in (verse five), do you believe God made a mistake when He said Yahweh was on the right side of Yahweh? NB - this is verse 5, NOT verse 1?

Jaco says, “What about verse 5? I do not see how changing “YHWH” to “Adonai” proves your point in any way, since the Sopherim did it in numerous other places without attempting to change the referent (YHWH) to be anyone other than God Almighty. “

- So you DO think God made a mistake by saying Yahweh was on the right side of Yahweh?

Jaco says, “Their issue was not the referent itself, but the Name. They trusted that the Name would not be pronounced when encountered in the Sacred Texts but in certain other instances they took the extra precaution of substituting the Name with Adonai or Elohim which would still refer to God Almighty, but in such “dishonouring” contexts that they wanted to safeguard the Name from being pronounced even more. So the Name and its substitution in vs. 5 is a non sequitur, sorry. “

- Jaco completely misses the point. I repeat (for the third time), do you therefore think God made a mistake when He said in verse five that God Almighty was on the right side of God Almighty? I am not interested in why the MT scribes changed this or that, its a simple question…..

Jaco says, “What about the expression, “at your right hand?” In vss. 1-4 Yahweh is addressed in the third person as the One speaking to His anointed King. From vs. 5, the King is directly addressed by the psalmist and Yahweh is spoken of in the third person again. There is therefore a clear distinction again between the two referents. By being at the right hand of someone does not render that “someone” God Almighty, though. While vs. 1 is a royal heavenly session, verses 5ff refer to conquering warfare. Just because Yahweh is at the Messiah’s right hand does not make the Messiah Yahweh and Yahweh the Messiah. Of David it is said: “

- Jaco, in the previous Pslam God is at the right hand side of the poor, God cannot personally be at the right hand side of all the poor in the world but His representatives/angels can. To be at the right hand side denotes omnipotence and omnipresence, so when it says Yahweh is on the right side of Yahweh it is not a contradiction, it is Yahweh in two different functions/roles. That is my point.

Jaco says, “Ps 16:8 . I have set the LORD always before me: because [he is] at my right hand, I shall not be moved.

Should we consider David to be Yahweh and Yahweh to be Adoni of Psalm 110:1 just because Yahweh is on David’s right hand???”

- yes well done, exactly as I just said, Yahweh is on the right hand side of David and the poor because on the right hand side denotes function (omnipotence and omniprecence), if you dont believe me go look it up.

Jaco says “Ps 121:5 The LORD [is] thy keeper: the LORD [is] thy shade upon thy right hand.

So, is every other Israelite the Yahweh of Ps. 110:1 and Yahweh their Adoni because Yahweh is on their right hand??? If you insist on Ps. 110:5 to mean that the Adoni at Yahweh’s right hand is Yahweh Himself, then David and every other faithful Israelite should also be Yahweh, for the very same reasons. Your arguments simply don’t hold up under scrutiny.”

- Yes exactly as I just said, it is very simple, its called a riddle, you have to work out why the apparent contradiction of Yahweh on the right side of Yahweh when we know from verse one it is Jesus, (because it is One God but two functions).

Jaco says “Just a friendly request: All of us on this blog have respect for the other person’s viewpoints. We disagree vehemently on certain points but we’re MATURE enough and CHRISTIAN enough to allow the other person to be convinced in their own hearts. It is therefore unfitting and strange to read statements by you where it is insinuated that those who disagree with you are “atheists” or “clueless” or “bright sparks.” There are many websites on the Net where one can “bash” those who disagree with them. But over here we’ve only been passionately respectful of one another. I hope we can continue to engage one another respectfully.”

- yes, I read those two links you put up with your previous debates where you had caps lock on to some Hebrew Trinitarian scholar called Dr Ghaze I think it was, “WHO THE HELL DO YOU THINK YOU ARE!”, so I was expecting more of the same. Yes, I will try to be nice, avoid such cap locks etc, do not take it personally this is a very serious matter. However, it would be nice if you did try and respond to all my points next time not just the ones you are used to tackling with the trinitarians. I have to finish what I have to finish, when it is done I will be clearer about why both Trinitarians and Unitarians are wrong.

Can someone tidy up all that html in my last post please, not sure why it does that?

Thanks.

Jaco says “To the Sabellian there is nothing “eternal” to God the Father as He “died” and ceased to exist according to you. What is more, Jesus must have been so oblivious to this “fact” that he never realized that the One he prayed to was really not there – that he, Jesus, was in fact God…it simply does not make sense. “

- Jaco, I know Trinitarians cannot answer these points, but I can. So you are going to have to get used to me answering on behalf of others. First of all Jesus was born into time, God is outside of time, as I said in my previous posts, who sent the prophets? The answer is the Divine Council, what does the NT define as the Father? Spirit/Love, both are attached to the Divine Administration which is governed by these principles just as the “father” of the pharisees was the devil whose earth governments were controlled by sin. Now try again, who was Jesus praying to as “the Father” in His humanity? It is all very well you arguing straw men with Trinitarians who do not know the answer themselves, niether of you do so you just go around in circles.

Mike says “I am still struggling to understand the practical difference between a Unitarian and Trinitarian insofar as the lordship of Christ is concerned.”

Unitarians make Jesus a man and Trinitarians make Him a lesser God to the Father. Both are wrong. Infact ontologically Trinitarians make Him right down at the bottom of the 3, first is the Father, then the Mother (Holy Spirit), then the Son (Jesus). There is only one God, Lord Jesus/Mighty Yahweh!

Russell,

I will ask you the same question I have asked Jaco and others: 1) how do you obey Jesus Christ? (i.e. how do you determine on a day-to-day basis what He wants you to do?), and 2) how would this be any different if you were to decide Jesus were the second Person of the Trinity or even merely an exalted man?

Hi Mike, I have learnt over the years that God will only respond if

1. we have the correct theology

2. we do not sin

I pray to Jesus as Lord God Almighty, by doing this the angels respond (Hebrews 1:14) and go before me (Exodus 23:20) as I battle the giants in the land (various forms of sin). It really works, you can overcome sin! I used to have incorrect beliefs and deny the power of the Holy Spirit in my life (because I wanted to prove I could do it all myself) and it nearly ruined me. If you pray to Jesus as part of a trinity you are putting Him on the same level as the angels who worship Him, as the Holy Spirit is just a personification for Gods great company of angels. If you just focus on Lord Jesus alone it will change your life! I pray once in the morning and once at night, to Jesus for the forgivness of sins. I will probably pray tonight for forgivness for being a bit too harsh on Jaco (I am sorry Jaco), it is hard to find the right balance sometimes but it is only strong debate.

Russell,

Thanks for responding. I agree that focusing on the Lord Jesus is the practical means of resisting sin and the most important thing we do (since God’s will is that we always do righteousness). When we forget that Jesus is watching us, we become susceptible to sin. When we remember Him, the grace in His eyes empowers us to do what is right (i.e. please Him). In this regard I have found Brother Lawrence’s Practice of the Presence of God to be most useful book I have ever encountered outside of the Scriptures.

I cannot imagine, however, that a Trinitarian who focuses on the second person of the Trinity (the Lord Jesus) or a Unitarian who focuses on God’s chief agent (the Lord Jesus) would not receive the same benefit from the Lord. A case in point would be Brother Lawrence himself, who appears to have been a Trinitarian. It seems to me that the only way to miss this glorious blessing is to ignore the Lord Jesus.

Therefore, I cannot agree with you that “we must have the correct theology.” My wife and I raised four children and we did not wait until they could correctly address us before responding to their requests.

I am convinced that if more Trinitarians paid attention to the second person of their Trinity (whom they claim is Lord) and more Unitarians paid attention to the Lord Jesus (whom they claim is God’s chief representative) all our theologies would improve…and eventually be purified into the one that is right. In other words, God grants understanding of Himself. If we are obedient, that understanding will grow. Stated another way, obedience is a better way to grow in our understanding of God than is philosophy or even theology.

I hope you will consider this.

Mike, there is only One person to take notice of in your Trinity, that is Lord Jesus, because the Holy Spirit and the Father are both personifications. Everytime you read “he” or “she” in the bible do not assume it means one person. The Holy Spirit is a personification of Gods great company of angels, so in that context you have “myriads and myriads” in the Godhead. There is a numeric significance in the number 3, a sort of tri unity, but definately not the Trinity. Talk is cheap I know, I promise to revisit this thread within the next few months and prove my claims but first I have been given a mission by the Holy Spirit. I agree with what you said i.e “we must have the correct theology” (I was being a bit harsh), what I sort of meant was witnessing gifts (which have broadly ceased but still seem to be active in areas like Mozambique with missionaries etc), will only manifest in support of correct doctrine and no one has it anymore. Unitarians and Trinitarians are wrong, Oneness are wrong because they make Jesus the man more than a man, everyones wrong. The key in understanding who the Father is, is in understanding who the Pharisees Father is and applying it in an opposite conceptual way.

Russell,

I look forward to further contributions from you. I don’t follow everything you say and some of your explanations are more cryptic than you realize, but your focus on the Lord Jesus is an obvious place of agreement between us…and, I trust, between Andrew and most of the folks that read and comment on this blog as well.

Jesus Christ is the cornerstone (1 Pet 2:7), the One who is to have the first place in everything (Col 1:18), the One in whom are things are summed up (Eph 1:10), the One to whom we are all to be devoted (2 Cor 11:3), and the One upon whom all our eyes are to be fixed (Heb 12:1).

Andrew likes to talk about the people of God, but I keep pushing him to focus more on Christ.

Mike, thanks for your reply.

My concern is in all this is practical, not philosophical. I want to know, for myself and others, how to obey Christ.

Well, that’s what we all should strive for. But Mike, how would you know how to obey Christ if you read the Gospels with “one eye closed?” How would you even attempt obeying Christ with all your heart if you have certain dogmatic and conceptual reservations that would automatically filter everything you read about him in the Gospels? Furthermore, if you follow doctrinally or otherwise what was written by people who did NOT know Jesus, who had disparate ideas about him and how to imitate him, how can you truly say you’re obeying JESUS if what was written about him differs from your beliefs?

John 3:36 says:
He that believes in the Son has everlasting life: and he that disobeys the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abides on him.

If believing only what was written about Jesus after the NT period is what you believe to be truth about Jesus – who he was and what he taught – then how can you claim to be obedient to him if on such a crucial aspect as his identity you find no evidence in the Bible? Let’s take a few examples:

If Jesus was worshipping his Father as God Almighty and ordered others to do the same (Matt. 4:10; 22:37, etc.) then how can anyone justify worshiping someone else, namely the True God’s son as Almighty in and of himself and still claim to be obeying Jesus? Or say that we represent Jesus fully if we make him the be-all and end-all of our worship while he is consistently depicted as the means or the agent, the Way, to his Father and our Father, to his God and our God? (Php. 2:11; Heb. 3:1; Joh. 14:6; 20:17)


I am still struggling to understand the practical difference between a Unitarian and Trinitarian insofar as the lordship of Christ is concerned. Presumably, you believe that we are to “obey Jesus Christ” (1 Pet 1:2), that he is “the cornerstone” of God’s work (1 Pet 2:7), that he is to have “first place in everything” (Col 1:18), that calling him “lord” without obeying him is useless lip service (Luke 6:46). I cannot think of a way that Jesus being merely the chief agent of God as opposed to God Himself would blunt the force of these verses (and the many others in the NT like them).


Mike, that’s why I enjoy engaging you – the issues you raise are actually real and meaningful. The practical difference between a “Unitarian” and a “Trinitarian?” Let’s take an equivalent example: What is the practical difference between a devout Jew and a devout Muslim? Both have strict dietary regulations to follow, they have holy days and prayer traditions to keep. Both have schools they attend at different ages of their lives, including initiation ceremonies, scripture studies and the wearing of religious garb.

There are undoubtedly not only parallels in their religious practice, but even identical similarities. What would be the difference, apart from the one reading the Qur’an and the other the Talmud or the one attending a mosque and praying in Arabic and the other one attending the synagogue and praying in Hebrew? What would be the difference? The difference lies in the meaning they attach to certain things. Both claim to be obedient to Hadhr’t Musa’ (Prophet Moses) but what Moses means to the Jew according to the Torah and Talmud is different to who Moses is according to Mohammed. What HaShem means to the devout Jew is different to what Allah means to the Muslim. Similarity in itself is not enough if one wants to reconcile what is qualitatively different. Difference in meaning needs to be considered as well. It is therefore with good reason that the Bible focuses, not only on the external practical obedience of God’s laws and standards but also the motivations and the meanings we attach to such obedience (cp. Matt. 15:8; 22:37 (worship God with your whole heart and mind); Rom. 10:2).


Therefore, my question to you is twofold: 1) How do you personally go about obeying Jesus? and 2) How would someone behave any differently in this regard if he believed Jesus was God instead of the chief agent of God?

1) I obey Jesus by imitating him, but realizing that he was and is “one of us.” He is of our kind and has gone through the whole human experience. I can relate to Jesus and there’s a sense of familiarity to him when I speak to him as my saviour – the one who is still involved in the people he saves. My obedience to Jesus is therefore different to the magical cosmic Christ of the Catholics, for instance. Meaning makes it different – meaning attached to his person and his role.


2) Operationally my obedience to Jesus would be no different from, for instance, a kind-hearted Buddhist. Since religion is by nature transcendental there will most certainly be universal values espoused and taught by virtually all religions. But here again the meanings attached to practice, to subjective experience and the worldviews are what make the difference.

We need to realize that the biblical faith is not the kind of New Age subjective truth we’re constantly being bombarded with. If so, then there would be no need to “make disciples,” to refute and uphold and to “persuade” others of what we’ve come to learn as the truth. There is something like “external religious reality” we need to explore and accept if we want to practice the kind of Christianity Jesus founded on earth 19 centuries ago…

Take care,

Jaco

Jaco,

But Mike, how would you know how to obey Christ if you read the Gospels with “one eye closed?”

I don’t. I am utterly dependent on the Scriptures. For me that means the 39 books of the prophets and the 27 books of the apostles. (I don’t mean by this that the apocrypha or other books aren’t inspired; I only mean that this core of 66 is more than enough to challenge my attention, and I place no other writing on a plane with them.)

How would you even attempt obeying Christ with all your heart if you have certain dogmatic and conceptual reservations that would automatically filter everything you read about him in the Gospels?

I don’t know what “dogmatic and conceptual reservations” you think I am bringing to my reading of the Scriptures. As I’ve suggested, I don’t see how the commands of Christ are in any way contingent on whether he is an agent of God or God Himself.

Furthermore, if you follow doctrinally or otherwise what was written by people who did NOT know Jesus, who had disparate ideas about him and how to imitate him, how can you truly say you’re obeying JESUS if what was written about him differs from your beliefs?

Again, I don’t know why you think I appeal to any authority other than the Bible.

If believing only what was written about Jesus after the NT period is what you believe to be truth about Jesus – who he was and what he taught – then how can you claim to be obedient to him if on such a crucial aspect as his identity you find no evidence in the Bible?

As I’ve said, I believe the Bible. What it says leads me to believe that Jesus is God. You seem to be objecting to the idea that a person should believe anything that is not explicitly stated in the Bible. By this logic, Peter could never have made the messianic confession to Jesus in Matthew 16 because there was no Matthew 16 at the time. In fact, the New Testament church could not have been formed because there was no New Testament on the day of Pentecost. Everyone in those days was believing that prophesy had been fulfilled. That’s all I’m doing.

Let’s take a few examples:

If Jesus was worshipping his Father as God Almighty and ordered others to do the same (Matt. 4:10; 22:37, etc.) then how can anyone justify worshiping someone else, namely the True God’s son as Almighty in and of himself and still claim to be obeying Jesus?

Read on in Matthew 22 and see that the Messiah was to be made Lord, which Peter declared fulfilled in Acts 2:36. As Lord, Jesus was now due the obedience scripturally required for the Lord. Thus, the honor previously due the Father was now due the Son (John 5:23). Thus, Paul commended the love required the by Shema when bestowed on Jesus (Eph 6:24). 1 Cor 8:6 and Eph 4:4-6 make clear that God had ceased to be Lord when He gave that title to His throne (there is only one Lord). There was some authority retained by God, as Paul makes clear in his 1 Cor 15 reference to Psalm 110, but that was only “until” the coming of the Lord when all things would be put under Jesus’ feet. If everything is under Jesus’ feet, what right or reason does anyone have for going around Jesus to God?

Or say that we represent Jesus fully if we make him the be-all and end-all of our worship while he is consistently depicted as the means or the agent, the Way, to his Father and our Father, to his God and our God? (Php. 2:11; Heb. 3:1; Joh. 14:6; 20:17)

This takes me back to my point that I can see no practice difference in the behavior required of a Trinitarian who believes in the Lordship of Christ and a Unitarian who believes in the Lordship of Christ. I do see how the two would be at odds when it came to addressing God in prayer, but in terms of every other form of behavior, their allegiance to Christ would seem to make their respective approaches to life identical.

The practical difference between a “Unitarian” and a “Trinitarian?” Let’s take an equivalent example: What is the practical difference between a devout Jew and a devout Muslim?

I don’t see how this is an equivalent example at all. Unitarians and Trinitarians use the same holy book (the Bible); Jews and Muslims do not. Unitarians and Trinitarians have the same example to follow (Jesus); Jews and Muslims do not. Unitarians and Christian have the same teaching to follow (Jesus’); Jews and Muslims do not. Jews and Muslims may come together at Abraham, but Unitarians and Trinitarians come together at Jesus – and the unifying scope and power of Abraham is a less than pittance when compared to that of Jesus, for Jesus’ example and teaching commandeers our entire lives.

Thanks for your answers to my two questions. Your first answer was clear, and it is one to which I can relate. Your second answer threw me for a loop. I don’t know why you brought a Buddhist into the discussion. My curiosity was about how you think your answer to 1) would be different from someone who believed Jesus was God – whether that be a Trinitarian, or someone more simple-minded like me.

Mike,


I don’t. I am utterly dependent on the Scriptures. For me that means the 39 books of the prophets and the 27 books of the apostles. (I don’t mean by this that the apocrypha or other books aren’t inspired; I only mean that this core of 66 is more than enough to challenge my attention, and I place no other writing on a plane with them.)

Ok, thanks for explaining that to me. I’m still curious to know when this “change” took place from understanding Jesus to be utterly human to something or someone else. It is clear from the historical writings and from the early Christian kerygma that Jesus was never understood to be anything or anyone other than the human son of God. This implies that Jesus is relationally and subsequently ontologically distinct from the God he is son of. Since you do not base your position on noncanonical sources, then what do you base it on?


You seem to be objecting to the idea that a person should believe anything that is not explicitly stated in the Bible. By this logic, Peter could never have made the messianic confession to Jesus in Matthew 16 because there was no Matthew 16 at the time.

No, I think this is a bit of a strawman. From the OT as well as the Intertestamental writings and cultural speculation, Peter could indeed discern that Jesus was the Messiah. For him to do that, he had to be aware of the criteria. He did not make a baseless claim. And that is the difference between what the “Jesus-is-God” crowd are doing and what happened in biblical times. Peter did not confess what you confess, precisely since Jesus did not fit the criteria. Not only that, but one would expect something as central as the Godhood of Jesus to be explicitly stated, even more so than his Messiahship, as that would be consistent with the bold declarations of YHWH’s prophets in the past. Why the striking silence? Everything else – the kingdom, salvation, ransom, election, etc., are elaborately and repeatedly discussed from every angle possible, but the most important of all as you claim, namely Jesus’ divinity, had to wait until post biblical centuries when the ancient Hebrew mindset and the proper understanding of functional identity were sufficiently crowded out by the noise of hybridizing Hellenism. Your position makes no sense to me, Mike, nor your explanation above.

I said,

If Jesus was worshipping his Father as God Almighty and ordered others to do the same (Matt. 4:10; 22:37, etc.) then how can anyone justify worshiping someone else, namely the True God’s son as Almighty in and of himself and still claim to be obeying Jesus?

Your reply:

Read on in Matthew 22 and see that the Messiah was to be made Lord, which Peter declared fulfilled in Acts 2:36.


I do not see how you can quote from Acts to prove your point. There is no book more adoptionistic in its kerygma than the book of Acts. Furthermore, being made Lord had a different meaning to what Jesus-is-God believers want to prove with their reductionistic arguments. I’m sure you know the detail of the Session Matthew 22:44 is referring to. None of it ever had a meaning you and others what to give it. It is also confusing to me that you quote from the Gospels to somehow prove Jesus’ deity while in previous posts you clearly denied Jesus or his apostles ever realizing or expressing their belief that Jesus was God himself. That’s contradictory. If Jesus was God Almighty himself and, since you deny the trinity, no one else is God, then the Father isn’t God either. The two are mutually exclusive, unless one pursues the disingenuous road of fiddling with categories such as BEING and NATURE and SUBSTANCE and ESSENCE, and what you end up with is a doctrinal invention artificially kept alive which does not hold up under scrutiny.

As Lord, Jesus was now due the obedience scripturally required for the Lord. Thus, the honor previously due the Father was now due the Son (John 5:23). Thus, Paul commended the love required the by Shema when bestowed on Jesus (Eph 6:24).

No, the exaltation of Jesus in no way replaces or substitutes for the Lordship of God Almighty. Functional identity, the biblical understanding given to this event is that Jesus, the apostolos (Gr.) or shaliach (Heb.) of God would now be the one acting in God’s stead. His activity would therefore by extension or implication be God’s activity. As such, we can have full trust in Jesus’ leadership, as he was fully approved by God and deserve all that trust, devotion and confidence. It does not replace the honor given to the Father (John 14:13; Php. 2:11). We are obedient to Almighty God when we obey, love and exalt the one He approved. I do not see the love required by the Shema bestowed upon Jesus and in line with your argument declares him to be God Almighty himself. Nothing in the text above necessitates such a conclusion. And if that is so, then we need to be included in the Shema as well, since loving one’s neighbour is equal to the command to love Yahweh our God… Such argumentation brings us nowhere, I’m afraid.


1 Cor 8:6 and Eph 4:4-6 make clear that God had ceased to be Lord when He gave that title to His throne (there is only one Lord). There was some authority retained by God, as Paul makes clear in his 1 Cor 15 reference to Psalm 110, but that was only “until” the coming of the Lord when all things would be put under Jesus’ feet. If everything is under Jesus’ feet, what right or reason does anyone have for going around Jesus to God?


Your argument above corresponds to the Orwellian phenomenon of black-white. You want God to cease being Lord and Jesus taking the position of Lord. But there are obvious flaws with that idea, so we play it safe, claiming that God retained “some authority.” How much is “some?” 70%? 30%? And the rest belongs to Jesus? Is Jesus then “mostly” Lord? Is Jesus fully Lord now, or what? Fact is that the Session of Psalm 110:1 makes it clear that the Lord God, Yahweh remains such when he gives royal Messianic authority to his human Messiah. Whether and how and to what extent that makes the Messiah God is a bizarre non sequitur. Your last sentence also contradicts what vs. 28 of 1 Cor. 15 says, namely that the son will submit himself to God so that God be all in all. This, according to you, happened in the first century. Why you still insist on pre-surrender glory of the son beats me.


This takes me back to my point that I can see no practice difference in the behavior required of a Trinitarian who believes in the Lordship of Christ and a Unitarian who believes in the Lordship of Christ.

This is a distinct matter altogether. Related to our earlier discussion, but still distinct. Please read my explanation below.

Jews and Muslims may come together at Abraham, but Unitarians and Trinitarians come together at Jesus – and the unifying scope and power of Abraham is a less than pittance when compared to that of Jesus, for Jesus’ example and teaching commandeers our entire lives.

I used the Jew/Muslim analogy deliberately to demonstrate how any two phenomena sharing some similarity and some dissimilarity can be reconciled to an extent, depending on the weight one lends to either the similarity or dissimilarity. I can, for instance, lean heavily on the fact that religion per se is transcendental. As such I can trivialise any difference as inferior to the one unifying feature, namely spirituality. As such, no difference is a difference at all, since we all want to attain spiritual bliss, regardless of the route one takes to attain it. Sounds New Age, I know, but that is parallel to your argument above. I agree with you that we can practically obey Jesus in doing good and living exemplary lives, regardless of whether we believe him to be God or not. Mechanically here and there there will be differences, but in essence we’d still be living in harmony. In that case there is truly no difference between a Roman Catholic and a Mormon. And the reductio ad absurdum also stands out clearly when one applies the logic you propose to extreme cases.

That brings me to my point and question to you. How do you think would obeying Moses as God’s spokesman have been any different in obeying the Torah compared to deifying him as a demigod of some sorts by the Israelites? How would Daniel’s worshiping Gabriel as another god have been any different in maintaining his devotion to Yahweh compared to him restricting his understanding of Gabriel as being an angelic messenger? The same with John the Seer falling down before the angel. Once we compare your argument to other equivalent ones one realises that similarity is important, but so is difference. One also sees where the bible writers upheld the difference instead of trivialising the similarities. Bottom-line is, that if we want to have a biblical faith, we need to align not only our behaviour, but also our cognitions to what the bible teaches. Our devotion to Yahweh affects not only our might, soul and heart, but also our mind. Worshipping God in truth involves not only practice or behaviour, but also doctrine. As a post-graduate student of Psychology, I would have loved settling for the airy-faerie “all spirituality is good” idea. But that would put me well outside the biblical understanding of true worship. By extension that would include your analogy of obedience to Jesus despite our differences too.

My reply may be robust in places, but be assured of my deep respect for you.

Thank you,

Jaco

Jaco,

Thanks for your thoughtful response.

I think it is difficult, if not impossible, to come to a proper conception of God without a proper view of the Second Coming of Christ. To be more specific, I think holding to the notion that the biblical timetable for the Second Coming was not met will confuse and confound one’s understanding of God. For me, the matter is simple: the promises were kept. Thus Jesus and His apostles meet the Deuteronomy 18 standard for true spokesmen of God.

You can see my defense of this position, which includes access to a book-length biblical case, at Jesus Christ Has Already Come Again.

I do intend to respond to the specific points you have made, but, as my schedule is not entirely my own for the next few days, I can’t say just when that will be. In the meantime, I hope you will give consideration to what I have written on this vitally important and highly relevant point - and can have digested at least the main thesis by the time you get to read my specific responses.

If the promises of Christ’s Second Coming were not kept in the timeframe consistently given by the NT authors then I believe it would call into question the very idea of having faith in Christ. To borrow from Paul’s logic in 1 Cor 15:12-19, if the day of the Lord has not come then our faith is in vain and we are of all men most to be pitied.

Another shorter piece which speaks to the same broad subject is All Bible Prophecy Has Been Fulfilled in Christ.

Jesus is Lord! (I trust that’s a rallying cry that can bring together Unitarians, Trinitarians, and the Uncategorized.)

Jaco,

I had a posted responses and now I cannot find them….

Anyways I was hoping that you could address my points.

In Rom. 10:9, St. Paul says “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord” and later quotes from Joel 2:32 saying “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” which was a quote from the Old Testament about God now applied to Christ.

In the prologue to John the Word is referrred to as He, indicating to me that the Word is a person. But you think the Word is just a plan correct? Also in Rev. 19:13 Jesus is called the Word of God.

In 1 Cor. 15 St. Paul makes a comparitive type between Jesus and Adam and that Adam is from the Earth but the Second Adam is from heaven. Indicating Jesus’ preexistence, in my mind.

In 2 Cor. 8:9 St. Paul says “For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich became poor, so that by His poverty you may become rich.” This to means alludes to the Incarnation because what else could St. Paul mean by Jesus going from rich to poor, so that we can go from poor to rich?

In Hebrews 1:1 it reads “a Son…through whom He also created the worlds.” Indicating that Jesus created the worlds.

In John 17:5 Jesus says “So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in presence before the world existed.” Indicating Jesus’ preexistence and divinity.

What do you make of these verses?

Also, you had asked at one point why the Incarantion makes sense. The reason that it makes sense to me based upon Catholic theology is that man had fallen away from God and needed to be restored. No one can do this better than God so God became man. This is exhibited by verses such as Col. 1:15 which says that Jesus “is the image of the living God.” Adam was made “in the image of God” but Jesus is the perfection of humanity as “the image of God.”

In Ezekiel 34 we are told that “The Word of the Lord came” to Ezekiel (I think that there is good reason to believe that Jesus is the Word). Then Ez. 34:11 “For thus says the Lord: I myself will search for my sheep, and I will seek them out….I shall judge between sheep and sheep, and rams and goats…I will save my flock….I will set over them one shepherd, my servant David…You are my sheep…and I Am your God.”

Jesus says “I Am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd lays down His for the sheep…I know my own and my own know me. (John 10:11,14). So Jesus fulfills what God said that God would be the shepherd of His sheep and save them but that also His servant David (the messiah) would be put in place over the sheep because Jesus is both God and the servant David of God.

Please respond. Thanks

Jaco,

As promised, here’s my more specific reply:

I’m still curious to know when this “change” took place from understanding Jesus to be utterly human to something or someone else. It is clear from the historical writings and from the early Christian kerygma that Jesus was never understood to be anything or anyone other than the human son of God. This implies that Jesus is relationally and subsequently ontologically distinct from the God he is son of. Since you do not base your position on noncanonical sources, then what do you base it on?

When I read the New Testament, I don’t see the assumption you’ve baked into your question. That is, you seem to want to characterize Jesus as perceived to be human to the exclusion of being anything in addition to that. Yet the NT, beginning with the gospels, describe Jesus as being a unique human being, even from his conception. Whether it was “I have need to be baptized by you,” “Who is this that the winds and the sea obey him?” or “Never spake a man thus,” that Jesus was recognized as unique among human beings, at least by the humble if not by the proud, is a constant. While this does not prove that He was God, neither does it fit your portrayal of the disciples as folks who’d be utterly shocked to learn that Jesus was anything more than a man.

An even more eye-opening experience for the disciples occurred when Jesus was raised from the dead. With this event, Jesus’ uniqueness goes off the charts! And throughout the epistles, we see attention constantly called to this uniqueness. In fact, He - not God the Father - is the focal point of all revelation recorded in the NT. This is reflective of what was taking place in the gatherings, which we can tell from 1 Cor 12-14 and elsewhere, consisted largely of continuing revelation about the Son of God. There was no point in time at which the disciples knew all they were going to know about this Messiah.

Lastly, we also see the NT documents looking forward to a great revelation of Christ to come (e.g. 1 Cor 1:7; 1 Pet 1:7; and elsewhere). Even with all the revelation that had been given, something greater was coming!

(Note that I have not even made reference to to the “pre-existence” scriptures, for which I presume you have alternative explanations. We can argue these if you like, but note for now that what I’ve said does not depend upon them.)

Thus, the New Testament is a full-motion video of revelation in progress. Like time-lapse photography beginning with the black of midnight to the first pinpoint of light in the dawn to the full expression of the sun, we are seeing the brightness of Christ gradually brought forth in his generation. He’s a man of God. No, wait - he’s our messiah! No, wait - he’s our heavenly messiah! No, wait - he’s not only among the angels, he’s greater than any of them!

There was a progression of revelation taking place - each step advancing on the foundation laid before, each stage expanding - not contradicting - what had previously been known. You seem to think I’m suggesting a binary switch - he’s definitely a man - no, wait - He’s definitely God! That’s not how God reveals. Rather, “the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn that shines brighter and brighter until the full day.” You’re looking for the point in time when midnight changed to noon. That’s not how midnight becomes noon.

Of course, none of what I’ve just said proves that Jesus is God, but I hope it does encourage to you acknowledge that it’s inaccurate to portray the disciples as never being stretched to think of Jesus as more than just one of the guys and, at that, simply a guy who happened to get a tap on the shoulder that no one else got. If the Trinitarians go too far in this regard, you do not go far enough.

I readily acknowledge that the New Testament presents Jesus and God as two distinct beings. (By the way, unlike the Trinitarians, I do not distinguish a “person” from a “being.” That’s just double-talk. A person is a being.) What I hope you will acknowledge is that this distinction is much clearer before the resurrection-ascension than it is after. That epic event was the most notable point in the progressive revelation about Christ (like the pinpoint of sunrise) and began a blurring of the two beings. The question is then: would the progression result in the two becoming one, or would they revert at the Second Coming to being more distinctly two?

From the OT as well as the Intertestamental writings and cultural speculation, Peter could indeed discern that Jesus was the Messiah. For him to do that, he had to be aware of the criteria. He did not make a baseless claim. And that is the difference between what the “Jesus-is-God” crowd are doing and what happened in biblical times. Peter did not confess what you confess, precisely since Jesus did not fit the criteria. Not only that, but one would expect something as central as the Godhood of Jesus to be explicitly stated, even more so than his Messiahship, as that would be consistent with the bold declarations of YHWH’s prophets in the past. Why the striking silence? Everything else – the kingdom, salvation, ransom, election, etc., are elaborately and repeatedly discussed from every angle possible, but the most important of all as you claim, namely Jesus’ divinity, had to wait until post biblical centuries when the ancient Hebrew mindset and the proper understanding of functional identity were sufficiently crowded out by the noise of hybridizing Hellenism. Your position makes no sense to me, Mike, nor your explanation above.

1. I’m doing just what Peter did. He acknowledged Jesus as messiah because he recognized that Jesus met the scriptural criteria for messiah. I’m recognizing Christ as God because He meets the scriptural criteria for God.

2. I presume by “Jesus is God” crowd you mean the Trinitarians and Modalists. I don’t speak for either.

3. I don’t share your expectation that Peter should have declared Jesus to be God. It wasn’t the time or place. As Jesus forbade the proclamation that He was messiah before his resurrection, so the proclamation that Messiah was God was not to be made until after the Second Coming. Too much light at one time blinds and overwhelms.

4. While the doctrine of Trinity may have taken centuries to formulate, the revelation that the Messiah was God came in the twinkling of an eye with the coming of the kingdom to those who received it. It was the last step of a long progression.

I do not see how you can quote from Acts to prove your point. There is no book more adoptionistic in its kerygma than the book of Acts. Furthermore, being made Lord had a different meaning to what Jesus-is-God believers want to prove with their reductionistic arguments. I’m sure you know the detail of the Session Matthew 22:44 is referring to. None of it ever had a meaning you and others what to give it. It is also confusing to me that you quote from the Gospels to somehow prove Jesus’ deity while in previous posts you clearly denied Jesus or his apostles ever realizing or expressing their belief that Jesus was God himself. That’s contradictory. If Jesus was God Almighty himself and, since you deny the trinity, no one else is God, then the Father isn’t God either. The two are mutually exclusive, unless one pursues the disingenuous road of fiddling with categories such as BEING and NATURE and SUBSTANCE and ESSENCE, and what you end up with is a doctrinal invention artificially kept alive which does not hold up under scrutiny.

As I’ve stated, I am not a philosopher and therefore I don’t delve into philosophical categories. That is the province of Trinitarians. I’m just a guy who believes that God the Father died and was resurrected as Jesus of Nazareth. If we can die and be resurrected, why can’t God? Aren’t we made in His image?

No, the exaltation of Jesus in no way replaces or substitutes for the Lordship of God Almighty.

Then you think, contra 1 Cor 8:6 and elsewhere, that there are two Lords?

Your argument above corresponds to the Orwellian phenomenon of black-white. You want God to cease being Lord and Jesus taking the position of Lord. But there are obvious flaws with that idea, so we play it safe, claiming that God retained “some authority.” How much is “some?” 70%? 30%? And the rest belongs to Jesus? Is Jesus then “mostly” Lord? Is Jesus fully Lord now, or what? Fact is that the Session of Psalm 110:1 makes it clear that the Lord God, Yahweh remains such when he gives royal Messianic authority to his human Messiah. Whether and how and to what extent that makes the Messiah God is a bizarre non sequitur. Your last sentence also contradicts what vs. 28 of 1 Cor. 15 says, namely that the son will submit himself to God so that God be all in all. This, according to you, happened in the first century. Why you still insist on pre-surrender glory of the son beats me.

“Lord” was God’s covenant name given to Israel (YHWH in the MT; Kurios in the LXX). It never pertained to the Gentiles. Jesus inherited this role in His resurrection-ascension. He was given as head over all things to the church until his coming in the kingdom of God. The Gentiles were unaffected by his lordship unless they repented and called on him as such, at which point they became Jews in the spirit (Rom 2:28-29; Gal 6:16). Only at the coming of the kingdom would Jesus become Judge of all in place of His Father. Until then, God was still Judge insofar as the Gentiles were concerned; His relinquishing of the role of Lord to Israel would have no effect on them. Once Jesus came in the kingdom of God the distinction between Jews and Gentiles would be completely obliterated (for He would judge the living and the dead: Acts 17:30-31; Rom 2:14-16; 1 Pet 4:5). I hope you’ve had time to read the material on the Second Coming to which I referred you.

I used the Jew/Muslim analogy deliberately to demonstrate how any two phenomena sharing some similarity and some dissimilarity can be reconciled to an extent, depending on the weight one lends to either the similarity or dissimilarity. I can, for instance, lean heavily on the fact that religion per se is transcendental. As such I can trivialise any difference as inferior to the one unifying feature, namely spirituality. As such, no difference is a difference at all, since we all want to attain spiritual bliss, regardless of the route one takes to attain it. Sounds New Age, I know, but that is parallel to your argument above. I agree with you that we can practically obey Jesus in doing good and living exemplary lives, regardless of whether we believe him to be God or not. Mechanically here and there there will be differences, but in essence we’d still be living in harmony. In that case there is truly no difference between a Roman Catholic and a Mormon. And the reductio ad absurdum also stands out clearly when one applies the logic you propose to extreme cases.

Your equating Jew/Muslim and Mormon/RC with Unitarian/Trinitarian only makes sense if the lordship of Christ is a matter of mere lip service. Alas, lip service is what by and large passes for Christianity these days. However, I am arguing for genuine daily obedience to Him, which I maintain would transcend all six categories. Of all the points on which I have interacted with you, none is more important to me than this one. The supreme question for every person who loves Christ - whether Unitarian or Trinitarian - is how do I imitate Christ? Whether I am imitating him or Him is secondary to the supreme question. To repeat: It does not matter with which group I self-identify. It matters whether I am being conformed to the image of Christ.

Bottom-line is, that if we want to have a biblical faith, we need to align not only our behaviour, but also our cognitions to what the bible teaches.

Indeed we do. But I’m still waiting to understand how one’s behavior outside the prayer closet differs if he cognitively apprehends Jesus as agent instead of principal.

Mike, thank you for your response, and my apologies for my very sporadic participation lately.


Whether it was “I have need to be baptized by you,” “Who is this that the winds and the sea obey him?” or “Never spake a man thus,” that Jesus was recognized as unique among human beings, at least by the humble if not by the proud, is a constant. While this does not prove that He was God, neither does it fit your portrayal of the disciples as folks who’d be utterly shocked to learn that Jesus was anything more than a man.


You are correct that none of the statements above prove that Jesus was God. He couldn’t have been since God was someone else, as is prototypically implied by the relational phrase, “son of God.” Was he unique? Yes! And here trinitarians and others see the opportunity to push this uniqueness beyond its category and produce a Jesus different in kind instead of different in degree. Without you realizing it, you are wandering into the philosophical woods and even with the mechanics of logic your proposal of who Jesus was is not upheld. As unique as he was, as favored as he was, as awesome as he was, this Jesus was consistently proclaimed to be nothing else but utterly human (Acts 2:22, 17:31, etc.). Anything beyond that is alien to the biblical testimony which yourselves and “orthodox” trinitarians are fond of exploring. Nothing in Jesus’ life placed him outside or above the category of MAN, simply because his super-human wisdom and power was not inherently his but Someone else’s he was the emissary of (John chapters 5 to 7, Luk. 2:40, etc.).


You make several statements regarding the post-resurrection revelations of Jesus. Neither the epistles nor the reports on the apostles’ acts proclaim Jesus to be anything else but human. Our hero, our savior, yes, but still human. Instead of allowing Jesus’ uniqueness and glory – a glory held out to us to achieve in future (Ro. 8:29) – to adjust our concept of humanity as something glorious and not deplorable, “orthodox” trinitarians and yourselves decide to hold on to an ignoble concept of humanity and instead re-categorise Jesus, since he does not fit YOUR insistence on a particular understanding of humanity. Jesus came to uplift humanity. His humanity is the ultimate and glorious crown God intended for us humans in the first place. Jesus introduced new and renewed things particularly for us, God’s now-redeemed people.
Jesus was not a substitute for God – he was God’s representative. You simply cannot get past Heb. 3:1 and all the other statements echoing representation (not substation) language belonging firmly within the realm of ancient Judaism. Once these explicit truths are incorporated into one’s interpretive paradigm, no amount of focusing on Jesus will or can replace God the Father. In fact, where God the Father is mentioned, Jesus’ position relative to the Almighty is reaffirmed and he is consistently shown to be 1) distinct from God the Father and 2) subject to God the Father (1 Cor. 11:3, 15:28; 2 Cor 1:3; Php 2:9-11; 1 Tim. 2:5, Rev. 14:1, etc.). Unless one reads scripture with one eye closed and read segments of statements about Jesus disconnected from the ones where his relation to Almighty God is explicitly stated, does one reach the doctrinal conclusions like the ones by “orthodox” trinitarians and yourselves.


Like time-lapse photography beginning with the black of midnight to the first pinpoint of light in the dawn to the full expression of the sun, we are seeing the brightness of Christ gradually brought forth in his generation. He’s a man of God. No, wait - he’s our messiah! No, wait - he’s our heavenly messiah! No, wait - he’s not only among the angels, he’s greater than any of them!


I’m aware of the Proverbs 4 text, and to what an extent it’s been applied to prove various versions of biblical “truth.” Roman Catholics use it to justify the later infallible post-biblical developments of their church and its liturgy. The Jehovah’s Witness religion justifies their whole fringe theology with this text. Mormons apply this text to their prophet. Fact is that this text is no blanket statement to justify and validate any or every apparent theological development. None of the revelations about or by Christ himself have one arriving at the doctrinal tenets of “orthodox” trinitarianism or modalism. Jesus being man, Messiah, heavenly Messiah, leader over angels – none violate the category of MAN as Christ came to demonstrate it. In fact, OT references are used as support for all his roles. These titles of Jesus conveyed meaning – way more explicit than the meaningless labels obscured by religious noise these days – and by their very meaning Jesus was relationally and ontologically understood to be distinct from Almighty God.


Of course, none of what I’ve just said proves that Jesus is God, but I hope it does encourage to you acknowledge that it’s inaccurate to portray the disciples as never being stretched to think of Jesus as more than just one of the guys and, at that, simply a guy who happened to get a tap on the shoulder that no one else got. If the Trinitarians go too far in this regard, you do not go far enough.


Mike, I have never claimed any *mereness to Jesus’ humanity. *Mereness is a straw man “orthodox” trinitarians and others employ to somehow discredit this very biblical position; quite evidently revealing to what extent their concepts of “total depravity” and “sinful nature” have shaped their interpretive scheme. I propose you reassess the glorious value Jesus gave to the human category and family, and base your categorization of Jesus on the concept of New Creation Jesus was the Adam of. I therefore take exception to your argument above.


I readily acknowledge that the New Testament presents Jesus and God as two distinct beings. (By the way, unlike the Trinitarians, I do not distinguish a “person” from a “being.” That’s just double-talk. A person is a being.) What I hope you will acknowledge is that this distinction is much clearer before the resurrection-ascension than it is after. That epic event was the most notable point in the progressive revelation about Christ (like the pinpoint of sunrise) and began a blurring of the two beings. The question is then: would the progression result in the two becoming one, or would they revert at the Second Coming to being more distinctly two?


I agree with you on the normative understanding of “person” and “being.” There’s a false distinction drawn and new philosophical categories are invented to alleviate the obvious logical difficulties around these concepts.


1. I’m doing just what Peter did. He acknowledged Jesus as messiah because he recognized that Jesus met the scriptural criteria for messiah. I’m recognizing Christ as God because He meets the scriptural criteria for God.

I’m not following your logic, Mike. In one of your previous posts you said,

You seem to be objecting to the idea that a person should believe anything that is not explicitly stated in the Bible. By this logic, Peter could never have made the messianic confession to Jesus in Matthew 16 because there was no Matthew 16 at the time.

By this I can’t imagine that you are comfortable with inferred or even imposed doctrines onto the biblical text. Seventh-day Adventist “Investigative Judgment,” JW two-class system, Jesus-is-Michael and their 1914 doctrines are nowhere explicitly stated in Scripture, but inferred. The same with Mormon teachings on prehuman existence, baptism for the dead and tritheism. My question would be, What makes your hermeneutical apparatus any different from theirs since your position is not explicitly taught in Scripture either? What Peter did and what you are doing are to vastly different things.

Since Jesus met the Scriptural criteria for God in the way you understand it, namely that Jesus is ontologically and numerically identical with God Almighty, the Father and that by necessity, I’m curious to hear from you how that is conclusively shown from Scripture.

2. I presume by “Jesus is God” crowd you mean the Trinitarians and Modalists. I don’t speak for either.

Trinitarians, modalists and anyone else who believe Jesus is God Almighty.

3. I don’t share your expectation that Peter should have declared Jesus to be God. It wasn’t the time or place. As Jesus forbade the proclamation that He was messiah before his resurrection, so the proclamation that Messiah was God was not to be made until after the Second Coming. Too much light at one time blinds and overwhelms.

I’m not following your parallel here. Jesus’ forbidding proclaiming his being Messiah did not prevent the Gospel writers from articulating in their writings his being the Messiah nevertheless. To the Gospel writers it was clear that Jesus was exactly that. I see no parallel with your claim that Jesus was God Almighty. Not only was this not proclaimed either before or after his crucifixion, resurrection and glorification, but his being God Almighty is never articulated in historical commentary by any Bible writer. He is, on the contrary, consistently shown to be distinct from and subjected to God the Almighty Father – ontologically and relationally. Numerical ontological identity would violate this fact immediately and create insurmountable contradiction.


4. While the doctrine of Trinity may have taken centuries to formulate, the revelation that the Messiah was God came in the twinkling of an eye with the coming of the kingdom to those who received it. It was the last step of a long progression.

If you believe that the kingdom arrived in Pentecost 33 C.E., then your position is rather difficult to discern from the apostles’ kerygma and the epistles. Instead, Jesus is consistently depicted as someone distinct from the Father and subjected to Him. If your date for the Kingdom’s arrival is 70 C.E., then none of your proofs should come from any of the writings prior to 70 C.E., since according to you, the “Jesus is God” revelation has not reached its appointed time. Since John’s writings are all placed after 70 C.E. we should expect Jesus to be depicted as one who is numerically identical to God the Father and no distinction should be drawn – ontologically or relationally – between them. Neither of these do we find in John’s writings. The opposite is what we find instead. The same can be said about the apostolic Fathers who were all non-trinitarian (in the “orthodox” sense) in their doctrinal formulae.


I’m just a guy who believes that God the Father died and was resurrected as Jesus of Nazareth. If we can die and be resurrected, why can’t God? Aren’t we made in His image?


God the Father died? When? When Jesus incarnated? When Jesus was crucified? Then there was a period of atheism, according to you…God’s creatures murdered their Creator… When God was powerless in death, someone else resurrected Him. Who was the one giving life to God Almighty? When Jesus perished, in whose hands did he commit his spirit, since God died there and then? Jesus was resurrected with a body of flesh and blood…are you claiming as the Mormons do that God Almighty has a human body today? Since God Almighty was the one slain, then he is the Lamb taking away the sins of the world…I’d like to know who the sin offering was presented to, since God died. Did he present it to himself?

Just because we can die and be resurrected does not mean that God can, or that that was how He revealed himself as doing. We can lie…does that mean God can too? If we can, does it mean he does?
I’m afraid that the mere notion of God the Father dying and being resurrected as Jesus of Nazareth is something I can’t imagine arriving at from the biblical witness.

Then you think, contra 1 Cor 8:6 and elsewhere, that there are two Lords?

I think there’s a potential for equivocation above. Of course there is only one lord Messiah. If a Christian slave such as Onesimus were to address Philemon, he would use the title “kyrie.” That did not violate 1 Cor. 8:6, since that extent and kind of lordship was not assumed to belong to his master. Or, just because Abraham was the Jews’ father did that mean that God the Father wasn’t the One God and One Father? Of course not, and neither should it be with Jesus’ lordship.

“Lord” was God’s covenant name given to Israel (YHWH in the MT; Kurios in the LXX). It never pertained to the Gentiles. Jesus inherited this role in His resurrection-ascension. He was given as head over all things to the church until his coming in the kingdom of God. The Gentiles were unaffected by his lordship unless they repented and called on him as such, at which point they became Jews in the spirit (Rom 2:28-29; Gal 6:16). Only at the coming of the kingdom would Jesus become Judge of all in place of His Father. Until then, God was still Judge insofar as the Gentiles were concerned; His relinquishing of the role of Lord to Israel would have no effect on them. Once Jesus came in the kingdom of God the distinction between Jews and Gentiles would be completely obliterated (for He would judge the living and the dead: Acts 17:30-31; Rom 2:14-16; 1 Pet 4:5). I hope you’ve had time to read the material on the Second Coming to which I referred you.

Thanks, Mike. Your description above is interesting and no, I have unfortunately not had the chance to read your material. I do have a few question marks around some of the things you say. Are you saying that between Jesus’ resurrection/ascension and his coming in Kingdom glory he would still be someone other than God? Would this only change at his return? When do you see this return, Mike? At 33 C.E, 70 C.E. or some other date? Moreover, since you claim that the unbelieving Gentiles did not recognize Jesus as God Almighty, shouldn’t we expect the opposite from the writings to believing Gentile Christians who indeed did accepted him as such? It’s been a rather slow process understanding your theology, but the picture is becoming clearer. Thanks.


To repeat: It does not matter with which group I self-identify. It matters whether I am being conformed to the image of Christ. I’m still waiting to understand how one’s behavior outside the prayer closet differs if he cognitively apprehends Jesus as agent instead of principal.

I take your point here, Mike. There would be absolutely no difference in behaviour between an “orthodox” trinitarian and a non-trinitarian. Transcendence would have both devout in their worship live exemplary lives of generosity, of being non-retaliatory, of seeking peace and cooperation, of wanting the best for his/her fellowman, etc., etc. All the things Jesus stood for and articulated in his preaching and practicing. Your argument follows that our differences would therefore be redundant. Remove the dogmatic rhetoric and religion-specific ritual and all we have will be truly good and virtuous humans. Seeing such humans would be seeing Jesus. Indeed.


But then I’d ask you, if the differences in our comprehension of Jesus are therefore made redundant and irrelevant by our having transcended in our consciousness, then what prevents us from rendering the differences between Christian and Muslim or Christian and Buddhist or Christian and Jew also redundant? “Jesus” you might say. Well, if such noble selfless humanity can be achieved without the confession of a specific character, such as Jesus, then why push for it? Precisely since noble and selfless humanity can be achieved without the articulation of a specific Christology – trinitarian or non-trinitarian – and hence your argument to transcend our differences and just “confess Jesus” (whatever that’s supposed to mean). Would you embrace every other religion and ignore how their understanding of Jesus differs from yours simply because “outside the prayer closet” (or prayer shrine or prayer trance) there would be no difference in truly transcended humanity? Seeing that the assigning of priority to various Christological articulations is merely arbitrary, then by extension this should be the case with every other religious confession – Christian or not. By others’ standards your vision is not sufficiently transcending. I appreciate your vision, Mike, but I do not share all the sentiments thereof.

Thanks,

Jaco

Jaco,

Thanks for the reply. I am only going to address the last portion since 1) it is the most important aspect of this discussion, at least from my point of view, and 2) because, until you take time to read and understand my biblical case for the kingdom of God having come late in the 1st Century A.D., you are going to continue to interpret what I say about Jesus in the light of what you’ve previously heard from Mormons, Roman Catholics, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Trinitarians, Modalists, Seventh-Day Adventists, and whoever else you invoked in your answer above that I’ve left out of this list. I’m glad to concede that your understanding of Scripture is more accurate than all of theirs; thus you can cease warring with them in your comments to me.

But then I’d ask you, if the differences in our comprehension of Jesus are therefore made redundant and irrelevant by our having transcended in our consciousness, then what prevents us from rendering the differences between Christian and Muslim or Christian and Buddhist or Christian and Jew also redundant? “Jesus” you might say. Well, if such noble selfless humanity can be achieved without the confession of a specific character, such as Jesus, then why push for it?

I don’t think it can be achieved without such a confession. In fact, I believe it’s essential that the confession be “Jesus is Lord” with appropriate corresponding behavior on our part. Moreover, the Scriptures help to explain what “Jesus is Lord” actually means.

And it’s not just the best human behavior that is achieved by this method, it’s the best human understanding of God’s nature that will be achieved by this method. As Psalm 111:10 suggests, a good understanding is the result of obedience. Mere academic study will never generate a sufficient understanding of God.

Most Trinitarian-Unitarian debates about God are based on this premise, whether stated or not: Deciding whether Jesus is man or God is something independent of obeying Him. And not only is it considered independent, the resulting discussion is almost entirely academic. My counter to that is that only by obeying Jesus signficantly and over a significant period of time can we even hope to understand Him or the Father.

“He who studies, thinks he understands, but the one who studies and practices what he studies will truly understand.”

Thus my fundamental view is that we who profess Jesus as Lord (and this includes every group named in this comment as well as many who aren’t) are focusing far too little on living by that confession. As a result, our lives look insufficiently like h/His. It is by imitating h/Him more that we will come to understand h/Him better (and be less divergent in our views of h/His ontology) - not the other way around.

Mike,

Thank you for your reply. It has indeed been a very interesting discussion, thanks.

Faith without works is indeed dead. And I think in many instances this dichotomy between belief and practice should be a topic of discussion and concern. I do think, however, that this issue has been more of a red herring in our discussions than anything else, precisely since I do not disagree with you on this issue. Obedience is indeed required if one wants to be a true Christian. But obedience without a religious code would be nothing more than humanism, Mike. This is what I’ve apparently unsuccessfully tried to explain to you with all my examples. At some point ALL of us insist on religious preferrence - you included! Your (and my) preference for Christ vs. non-theistic humanism is just as valid as my preference for a unitary confession of Yahweh vs. a pluralistic confession of Him (or substitutive in your case) in addition to humanitarian goodness. The issue is, whose reasons for their preferrence are best supported by a standard of truth? To me obedience to Christ involves not only imitating him as best I can, but also obeying what he taught to be religious truth. Hence my contention that your obedience vs. doctrine dichotomy is a false one (at least in this discussion).

As an obedient follower of Christ I therefore will have to disagree with your understanding of who you think him and his Father are. You are correct that Scriptures help to explain what “Jesus is Lord” means, and I’m afraid I don’t see your explanation to be solidly Scriptural. Too many inferrences, too many loose ends, too much circularity in your arguments. No extent of obedience can deny what Scripture actually says. No amount of obedience can change Jesus’ ontology from one to another. There is a true God and one that is not true. There is a true Jesus and one that is not true. In the end, Scripture will be the final acid test as to who the true God and Jesus are (Gal. 1:8, 9). Obedience to Jesus would have us also obey the word he confessed as truth (John 17:17). This brings us back to our discussion - academic or otherwise - of who Christ is. I am unconvinced that he was anything else but God’s obedient human Messiah. This is my confession as part of my obedience to him and to his Father’s word.

Thanks again,

Jaco

Jaco,

The scriptural declaration that “Jesus is Lord” makes Jesus, for all practical purposes, God. However, like the Trinitarians and Modalists you only give lip service to this profundity, placing greater value on belonging to the right crowd and confessing the right creed. However, until you acknowledge that the kingdom of God has come, rendering the church as obsolete as Moses’ tabernacle or Solomon’s temple, you will remain locked in a conception of God inconsistent with the fullness of Scripture. I say this not with animus but rather with affection for one whom I believe tends to hearken to the sound of truth. May God bless.

Why do we believe scripture? Because the authors were divinely inspired and infused with god’s holy spirit? But then, so was Jesus. So are they all god?

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A couple more problems with the narrative-historical premise. Will it never end? In The narrative premise of a post-Christendom theology, which stands as an introductory piece for the approach to reading the New Testament that I think an “evangelical” church somehow needs to take on board, I suggest that: The New...
Transmillennialism™ Paul Seburn referred in another post to the ‘transmillennial’ view on New Testament eschatology. I thought it might be worth examining this separately. There’s a lot of material on the two sites I looked at (www.presence.tv and www....
Church in the court of the Gentiles The analogy of the church as the temple of God is a familiar one (cf. 1 Cor.3:16-17; 1 Pet.2:5). It has usually been used, however, in an exclusivist sense: the church is the sanctuary at the heart of Herod’s temple, where legitimate...