Twelve important things to keep in mind about the Christmas stories

1. Let’s be blunt. Christmas has nothing to do with God coming to earth as a helpless babe to save humanity from sin, etc. That is another matter, it’s not what’s being said, it’s not the burden of the stories in Matthew and Luke. These narrate the birth of a king who will deliver first century Israel from a national crisis. When the angel says to Joseph that Mary’s son will “save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21), he means that Jesus will save Israel from the concrete social-political-religious transgressions that have brought the nation to the brink of catastrophe.

2. The key question to ask about the virgin conception of Jesus is not “Did it happen?” but “What did it mean?” Neither Matthew nor Luke understood it as the metaphysical process by which God became man. Rather it makes Jesus’ birth an outstanding prophetic “sign” of things to come.

3. A sign of what? It’s in the name “Immanuel”. During the Syro-Ephraimite war in the 8th century BC, Isaiah told a nervous king Ahaz that a boy would be born to a young woman in the royal court who would be given the name Immanuel, which means “God with us”. The mere existence of this significantly named child would be a “sign” to Ahaz that the alliance between Rezin and Pekah would fail and that YHWH would preserve Jerusalem from the Assyrians (Is. 7:10-17; 8:5-10). The birth of the boy, therefore, was a sign that God is with his people at a time of great political crisis. Same for the boy Jesus, who is not given the name Immanuel but a name meaning “YHWH is salvation” (Matt. 1:21).

4. Luke puts a different prophetic spin on the miraculous conception of Jesus. The child being born will be called not Immanuel or even Jesus but “holy, Son of God”. By this he means not that Jesus is the second person of the Trinity or God incarnate, true though that may in some sense be, but that he is the Davidic king who will bring peace to a people under Roman occupation and will rule over the house of Jacob for ever (Lk. 1:32-33, 35; 2:1, 11, 14).

Given the poor reputation of the church and of the God of the church in the West today, I feel that we are in need of another such act of wonder-engendering redemption.

5. I wonder if Luke is not also pointing his readers to Isaiah’s description of a restored Jerusalem when he says that the Spirit will come upon and overshadow (episkiasei) Mary, and that the child will be called “holy”: on that day, what is left behind in Jerusalem “will be called holy, all who have been recorded for life”, because the Lord will wash away the filth of his people; then he will come, and as a cloud will “overshadow” (skiasei) the city (Is. 4:2-6 LXX).

6. Mary expects God to keep his promise to Abraham and help Israel at this time of grave crisis by scattering the proud, bringing down the powerful from their thrones, raising up the wretched and low-born, filling the hungry with good things, and sending the rich away empty-handed (Lk. 1:51-55). Simeon says that “this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed…” (Lk. 2:34). This was inflammatory, revolutionary talk.

7. People like Zechariah and Elizabeth, Simeon and Anna, need salvation not on account of their own sins but because of the sins of the nation. These are righteous folk, but they are suffering the consequences of the wilful disobedience of a people that is on a broad road leading to destruction.

8. For the priest Zechariah the redemption of Israel simply means that he can go about the business of serving God in the temple without fearing for his life (Lk. 1:68-75). But he knows that redemption will begin with a devastating judgment against a corrupt priesthood (Lk. 1:76; cf. Mal. 3:1). The prophetess Anna expects no less and no more than the “redemption of Jerusalem” (Lk. 2:38).

9. Whereas the story of the coming of the magi is told against Herod, the angelic announcement to the shepherds has a ring of anti-imperial propaganda to it (Lk. 2:8-14). The Priene calendar inscription, celebrating the birth of the god Augustus, is now quite well known:

Whereas Providence, which has regulated our whole existence… has brought our life to the climax of perfection in giving to us Augustus, whom it filled with strength for the welfare of men, and who being sent to us and our descendants as Saviour, has put an end to war and has set all things in order; and having become [god] manifest, Caesar has fulfilled all the hopes of earlier times… in surpassing all the benefactors who preceded him…, and whereas, finally, the birthday of the god [Augustus] has been for the whole world the beginning of good news (euangeliōn) concerning him….

10. The infant Jesus is hailed as the Davidic king who will at the very least overthrow an unrighteous régime, deliver his people from oppression, bring peace and justice to Israel, and restore the international reputation of the nation—so that kings and magi and peoples would come to pay tribute. This was the good news.

11. Joseph and Mary presumably stay with family in Bethlehem. The guest room (katalumati) being already occupied or too small, Jesus is born in the animal stalls beneath the main living area and is laid in the feeding trough. This will be a sign to the shepherds (Lk. 2:12). Why? Perhaps because Isaiah says that “the donkey knows its master’s manger”, but Israel has not known the Lord (Is. 1:3 LXX); or because Jeremiah says that when Jerusalem is restored, there “shall again be in this place that is waste and in all its cities, lodgings (katalumata) of shepherds resting sheep” (Jer. 40:12 LXX). Again, a revolutionary message.

12. Simeon says that he has seen the salvation that YHWH has prepared “in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel” (Lk. 2:31–32). What he means is that the coming judgment and restoration of Israel will reveal the power and character of Israel’s God to the nations and that this will bring glory and renown to Israel. This is clear not least from the allusion to Isaiah 52:10: “The LORD has bared his holy arm before the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.” When God redeems his people from captivity in Babylon and brings them back to the land, the nations will see and wonder at this extraordinary act of salvation.

Given the poor reputation of the church and of the God of the church in the West today, I feel that we are in need of another such act of wonder-engendering redemption.

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Submitted by Alex  on  Fri, 12/20/2019 - 17:45

Andrew, the Lukan nativity songs seem to express what might have been if Israel and its leadership had accepted rather than killed their Messiah. As such there is nothing about a child born to die for Israel’s sins. 

So do you think that when Jesus first started announcing the kingdom of God in Galilee he had any intention to die/die for sin? If not, when and why did Jesus’ plans change? Or was it the post-resurrection disciples who reimagined the Messiah’s mission? 

Deep questions!

The angel says to Mary that YHWH will give to Jesus the throne of his father David and that he will “reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Lk. 1:32-33). Presumably that carries the implication that Jesus’ flesh would not see corruption (in contrast to David), and that he would therefore reign in the immortality of resurrection life at the right hand of God in heaven (Acts 2:22-36). Apart from that, I think, the stories are quite narrowly focused on the birth of a king for restored Israel.

In the Synoptic narratives Jesus begins to teach that the Son of Man would suffer many things and be killed when they were in the region of Caesarea Philippi. Since his identification with Daniel’s “one like a son of man” is so integral to his self-understanding, I don’t myself see good reason not to view this as historical.

Did that mean his plans changed? I don’t know. Is it significant that even the owner of the vineyard thought that perhaps the wicked tenants would respect his son and not treat him as they had done the servants?

Submitted by Marc Taylor on  Sat, 12/21/2019 - 05:55

 Point #1 is incorrect. Matthew’s account describes the Lord Jesus as being “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). Matthew would immediately reveal to us that this is to be understood in its fullest extent in that the Lord Jesus was worshiped (Matthew 2:11; cf. v. 2) — and this worship is to be to “the Lord your God” (Matthew 4:10).

 Furthermore, as “God with us” (YHWH — Psalm 37:7), people can come to Him and find rest for their souls (Matthew 11:28-29). As being the omnipresent ”God with us” He is always with the believer (Matthew 18:20; 28:20).

 I do find it interesting that there are phrases used by Luke in reference to the Father which are found in the first two chapters of his gospel are later applied unto the Lord Jesus.

a. In the sight of the Lord (Luke 1:15; cf. 2 Corinthians 8:21).

b. Magnify the Lord (Luke 1:46; cf. Acts 19:17).

c. The glory of the Lord (Luke 2:9; cf. 2 Corinthians 8:19).

Thanks for this, Marc.

Isaiah describes the boy born in the court of Ahaz as being “God with us”. Indeed, unlike Jesus, this boy is actually given the name Immanuel. But he was not God incarnate. His birth would be a sign. So too Jesus’ birth.

There’s no point getting into an argument about the use of proskyneō again. The magi didn’t think they were looking for God born in Judea, they were looking for a special king to whom they would do obeisance, as was the custom (cf. 2 Sam. 24:20 LXX). Herod didn’t conclude that this child must be God incarnate when he heard that they wanted to worship him. He was told only that a rival king had been born, and only on that understanding did he offer to go himself to “worship” him (Matt. 2:8). In Matthew 4:10 Jesus identifies himself with obedient Israel when he tells Satan that he is under obligation to worship God alone. In effect, Jesus says to Satan, “I worship the God of Israel, not Satan.”

Your “interesting” observation about phrases later used with reference to Jesus falls flat on its face (pun intended). These expressions are commonly used in biblical Greek with reference to people.

“He will be great before (enōpion) the Lord…” cf. ‘And he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before (enōpion) men”’ (Lk. 16:15). And notice that even in the verse you cite “in the sight of” is used with reference both to the Lord Jesus and to “men” (2 Cor. 8:21).

“My soul magnifies the Lord…” cf. “And I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great (megalynō, and you shall be one blessed” (Gen. 12:2 LXX).

“The glory of the Lord…” cf. Simeon’s statement about a salvation prepared that will bring “glory to your people Israel” (Lk. 2:31-32); and obviously the risen Lord Jesus was glorified.

Only Christ being God could He be with every believer at all times (Matthew 28:20). This holds true also for prayer (Matthew 18:20). Although others can be referred to as “Immanuel,” Christ is truely with us as God.

Steven Tsoukalas: This declaration of Christ in Matthew 28:20 is in the style of deity, for only Yahweh can declare His presence with His people (Knowing Christ in the Challenge of Heresy, page 58). 

 It is ineteresting how close Matthew puts the worship of Christ (Matthew 2:11) with the command to worship God alone (Matthew 4:10). As used in the NT proskyneō is the worship for God alone — not for the devil (Revelation 13:4), not for false gods (Acts 7:43; Revelation 9:20), not for apostles (Acts 10:25) and not for angels (Revelation 22:8). This worship is “for God” (Revelation 22:9). In fact, the absolute holiness of God (who alone is holy) forms the foundation of this worship ascribed unto Him (Revelation 15:4). To assert that others can properly receive this worship is to denigrate God’s holiness.

 Don’t forget also that according to Matthew 28:18 Christ is omnipotent (= God).

 In terms of my observations concenrng the phrases of Luke falling flat on their face, none of your examples refutes what I have asserted. Those in Luke 16:5 are not referred to as “Lord” — the same hold true for Genesis 12:2 and Luke 2:31-32.

Here they are again:

a. In the sight of the Lord (Luke 1:15; cf. 2 Corinthians 8:21).

b. Magnify the Lord (Luke 1:46; cf. Acts 19:17).

c. The glory of the Lord (Luke 2:9; cf. 2 Corinthians 8:19).

Don’t forget also that according to Matthew 28:18 Christ is omnipotent (= God).

This is not what the verse says. Jesus declares that “all authority” has been given to him. He didn’t have it before, and he has it now only because God has given it to him. I take this as an allusion to Daniel 7:13-14: he is the Son of Man who suffered and has been vindicated before the throne of God. He will reign as Lord and king at the right hand of God because God has given him the authority to do so. He will exercise YHWH’s rule over the nations on YHWH’s behalf, because YHWH has delegated that authority to him. I take your point about the Lucan phrases, but it is on the basis of this delegation that the attributes of lordship have been carried over to Jesus.

TDNT: Elsewhere, however, it is said of the Redeemer during His earthly life that He has laid aside His power and appeared in lowliness and humility, Mt. 11:29; 12:18-21; 2 C. 8:9; Phil. 2:5-8…cf. the temptation of Jesus, Mt. 4:8 f. par. Lk. 4:5 f. Thus, when the full power of Jesus is occasionally mentioned during the time of His humiliation, it is merely a proleptic fact. A new situation is brought into being with the crucifixion and resurrection. The Chosen One seizes the full power which He had from the beginning of the world, Mt. 28:18 “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth” (5:895, All, B. Reicke).

 To claim that since the Lord Jesus was “given” this authority/power it proves that He is not God actually destroys monotheism. Since the Lord Jesus has universal power (which means He is Omnipotent/Almighty), that would mean that God the Father created another Omnipotent being. There are not two Beings who are “Almighty.” The Bible teaches there is only one Almighty God.  Those who believe the Lord Jesus is God can account for the fact that He was “given” all power in that before His resurrection He simply refused to always employ His omnipotence, but those who deny the Lord Jesus is God are unable to satisfactorily explain that the Lord Jesus possesses (right now) all power — He is omnipotent/Almighty.

To claim that since the Lord Jesus was “given” this authority/power it proves that He is not God actually destroys monotheism. Since the Lord Jesus has universal power (which means He is OmnipotentAlmighty), that would mean that God the Father created another Omnipotent being.

Not at all. The delegation of YHWH’s authority to rule over the nations is entirely in keeping with Old Testament thought about kingship. That’s why Psalm 110 proved so important both for Jesus and for the early church:

The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” The LORD sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter. Rule in the midst of your enemies! (Ps. 110:1–2)

God did not create another omnipotent being. He gave the authority to rule (for the sake of his body, the church: Eph. 1:22-23) to the “son” whom he raised from the dead and seated at his right hand. That hardly destroys monotheism.

I can understand why later theologians felt the need to roll this apocalyptic narrative into the smooth ball of a Trinitarian definition of the godhead, but exegesis has to run that process backwards.

The rule of Jesus is not limited to simply all nations. It is that and so much more — the entire universe.

Murray Harris: When believers sing or recite the confession ‘Jesus is Lord’, we are affirming his absolute supremacy, not only over the physical and moral universe (Matt. 28:18; 1 Pet. 3:22), and not only over human history (Rom. 9:5), not only over all human beings (Acts 10:36; Rom. 10:12), whether living or dead (Rom. 14:9), not only over the church (Eph. 1:22), but also over our own lives as his willing slaves (Slave of Christ: A New Testament Metaphor for Total Devotion to Christ, page 90).

 This demonstrates He is Omnipotent/Almighty. Not surprisingly Christ is worshiped in praise of His “power” (Revelation 5:12), because just like the Father (cf. Revelation 4:11) it is an attribute they each possess. If Christ was not the Almighty then He would not be praised for possessing this attribute.

TDNT: In 5:12f. the angelic choirs extol the omnipotence of the Lamb in a seven-membered doxology (8:178, timē, J. Schneider).

“To claim that since the Lord Jesus was “given” this authority/power it proves that He is not God actually destroys monotheism. Since the Lord Jesus has universal power (which means He is Omnipotent/Almighty), that would mean that God the Father created another Omnipotent being.”

u never have jesus say in the entire new testament that he has access to the same authoritative and commanding powers like the father, thats why the son never gives anything to the father, neither can he take away knowledge from him. you make up the words “universal power”

how can u have two persons who are different yet have the same powers and not be two gods ?

You asserted: u never have jesus say in the entire new testament that he has access to the same authoritative and commanding powers like the father

The Lord Jesus did in Matthew 28:18. “Universal” means applicable everywhere. On this passage the BDAG (3rd Edition) reads: Of Jesus’ total authority (exousia, page 353, the underlined is mine).  

 In answer to your question: Because God is Triune.

“The Lord Jesus did in Matthew 28:18. “Universal” means applicable everywhere. On this passage the BDAG (3rd Edition) reads: Of Jesus’ total authority (exousia, page 353, the underlined is mine).”

“all authority” means that the son has the same/IDENTICAL commading authority as the father, meaning that the son has FULL access to the commanding powers that the father has? 

let me tell you that if x has full access to a COMMANDING power, he does not need another to receive it, since the power is already in reach. 

what does authority mean? 

having authority over something does not mean having the power which gives you the power to command for something to be, to exist. 

you are dangerously falling into polytheism and imagining things which the nt writers did not even image. 

 There is nothing in the Bible that teaches Jesus can not be God simply because He refused to employ the use of some of His power. 

 You assertion concerning authority conveniently left out the import word “all” — there is no limitation anywhere of the authority of Christ — “heaven and earth”.

“You assertion concerning authority conveniently left out the import word “all” — there is no limitation anywhere of the authority of Christ — “heaven and earth”.”

the bible clearly teaches that the “primary” commanding power and authority belonging to the father is greater than the composite (fully son and fully god) which you worship.

“the father is greater than i”

“i by my ownself cannot do anything”

the father is NEVER said to NEED the son to do anything, he seems to be the “daddy” or “driver” behind everything. 

this is why i said that the “commanding authority” which seem to be an INTERNAL power which brings into existence, which informs and COMMANDS jesus (i am COMMANDED what to say…) is the daddy here. 

You asserted: the bible clearly teaches that the “primary” commanding power and authority belonging to the father is greater than the composite (fully son and fully god) which you worship.

 Functional subjection does not necessitate ontological inferiority. It would be helpful if you cited the book, chapter and passage. You mentioned “worship” in your post. There is not one example from the Bible when we compare the worship properly rendered unto the Father and the worship properly rendered unto the Lord Jesus that the worship the Lord Jesus receives is subordinate to the Father.

 A created being would never come close to the Father in this area. This demonstrates that the Lord Jesus is God.

“You asserted: the bible clearly teaches that the “primary” commanding power and authority belonging to the father is greater than the composite (fully son and fully god) which you worship.

Functional subjection does not necessitate ontological inferiority. “

how is an  absolute, unchanging being which have inherent qualities get “functionally subjected” ? 

how does he get “functionally subjected” to his own commands lol ? where is “functionally subjected ” in the nt ? 

where do you find in the nt that the father and the son share the same commanding powers inherent in both of them, while the son gets subjected to what is inherent in him? 

“It would be helpful if you cited the book, chapter and passage. You mentioned “worship” in your post. There is not one example from the Bible when we compare the worship properly rendered unto the Father and the worship properly rendered unto the Lord Jesus that the worship the Lord Jesus receives is subordinate to the Father.”

which part of my argument were you addressing ?

“A created being would never come close to the Father in this area. This demonstrates that the Lord Jesus is God.”

so what is the “fully man” part doing while he is currently existing with “fully son” part in trinity ? which argument were you addressing ? can you quote my words

You asled: how is an absolute, unchanging being which have inherent qualities get “functionally subjected” ?

Answer: Because He chooses to. In fact, we read many times that God chose not to display His power and wrath. He could have, but chose not to.

You asled: how is an absolute, unchanging being which have inherent qualities get “functionally subjected” ?

Answer: Because He chooses to.

THEN he is a CHANGING ,non-absolute being which goes through accidents , thanks. what is worse is that you have the father who becomes NON-identical to the one who “chooses” to.

“In fact, we read many times that God chose not to display His power and wrath. “

we are not talking about CHOICE over POSSIBILITIES BUT ESSENTIAL attributes. i am trying to make this distinction clear for you.

“He could have, but chose not to.”

these are POSSIBILITIES. i am talking about ESSENTIAL qualities.

And if I cast out demons by Be-elzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges

Jesus’ remark makes it clear both that Jewish exorcists existed in His day, and that they were apparently successful in driving out demons.”

for which reason it is, that all men may know the vastness of Solomon’s abilities, and how he was beloved of God,

The manner of the cure was this: He put a ring that had a Foot of one of those sorts mentioned by Solomon to the nostrils of the demoniac, after which he drew out the demon through his nostrils; and when the man fell down immediately, he abjured him to return into him no more, making still mention of Solomon,

calling a name or using it to remove evil spirits in your thinking would be blasphemy, but jesus did not think so.

Cite Bible passages please for what you are asserting concerning others being prayed to.

“Cite Bible passages please for what you are asserting concerning others being prayed to.”

catholics use the same bible to justify calling out to OTHER than Yhwh. you call it “prayer” they call it intercession.

stephen in acts NEVER prays to JC.

i already showed you evidence for this here.

1. Since you are not a Catholic then don’t refer to their false theology concerning prayer.

2. Stephen did pray to the Lord Jesus in Acts 7:59. Once again see this:

a. Frederick Danker: Just as Israel was to understand her role as one of obedience to the God who saved her, so the Christian is to see the moral and ethical implications of this recognition of Christ’s claim to ownership expressed so often in such a phrase as “Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus.” Out of such conviction the iron of steadfast confession was smelted. As the stones came flying at Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” (Acts 7:59) (Creeds in the Bible, page 45, c. 1966).
b. David Peterson: But he pointedly ‘calls upon’ the Lord Jesus in prayer instead of the Father, trusting him for salvation through death and beyond (The Acts of the Apostles, Pillar New Testament Commentary, page 269).
c. William Mounce: Jesus is the addressee when epikaleō is used in the sense of praying (Acts 7:59) (Mounce’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, Call, page 93).
d. J. Jeremias: Stephen prays: kurie Iesou dezai to pneuma mou (Ac.7:59) (TDNT 5:771, paradeisos).
e. W. E. Vine: Prayer is properly addressed to God the Father, Matt. 6:6; John 16:23; Eph. 1:17; 3:14, and the Son, Acts 7:59; 2 Cor. 12:8 (Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, Prayer, page 872).

3. Your link goes to an incredibly long mess. Please summarize your point/s as to why you believe Stephen was not praying to the Lord Jesus, because the above in #2 is very clear that he did.

“Because He chooses to. In fact, we read many times that God chose not to display His power and wrath. He could have, but chose not to.”

if a god choses to stop using inherent quality (how do you stop using OMNISCIENCE lol?) , how is he “all seeing” ?

this god would be a god which would be EXISTING in different ways of existence. he would no longer be neccessary in his existence, he can lose ESSENTIAL qualities at will and gain at will, which means he is changing creature. the father would always trump him, because possibilitities are always under his will.

The Jesus of the Bible is praised for His wisdom. This proves He is omniscient.

Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: supreme intelligence, such as belongs to God: Rev. 7:12, also to Christ, exalted to God’s right hand, Rev. 5:12 (sophia, page 582, the underlined is mine).

Yep, just like Solomon is praised for his sophia in 1 Kings 10:7 (LXX), thus proving he’s omniscient.

But it’s not my intent to discuss this with you. You just trollishly repeat the same vacuous circularities over and over on a site that is not about Trinitarianism and where nobody agrees with you. As Andrew requested, I’m not interested in continuing this conversation and you shouldn’t be, either.

You need new hobbies, seriously.

When Solomon is praised for his wisdom in eqaulity with the Father like the Lord Jesus is in Revelation 5 then you have a point, but obviously Solomon (nor anyone else) ever was. Thus your point is pointless.

Once again you err. He doesn’t “lose” being omnipotent, He just refuses to employ His powers in certain ways.

How about we bring this one to an end now, gentlemen? The facts and opinions have probably been adequately aired.

“Once again you err. He doesn’t “lose” being omnipotent, He just refuses to employ His powers in certain ways.”

and how does an omniscient one “refuses to employ” omniscience in certain way to such extent that he starts seeing like a created HUMAN BEING

are you not able to see what i am trying to say?

/////

Boring uses the expression “all authority” and does not use the expression “all power”. He understands this passage to be talking about Jesus becoming a “king” and a “ruler” and that Jesus has “assumed his throne and begun to reign.” But all of this language speaks of AUTHORITY not of POWER. In this passage, Jesus claims to have been given great AUTHORITY, not unlimited POWER.

According to the book of Genesis, God put human beings in charge of the Earth:

Genesis 1:26 (NRSV)
26 Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.”

When God put humans in charge of the Earth, he gave humans AUTHORITY over the Earth, according to Genesis. But that does not mean that God gave humans unlimited POWER over the Earth. Animals sometimes injure or kill humans. Fires, floods, storms, volcanoes, and earthquakes sometimes injure or kill humans. Humans do not control the weather. Humans do not control geological forces. So, God giving authority over the Earth to humans does NOT imply that God made humans omnipotent or all-powerful, or even that God gave humans unlimited power over the forces of nature on the Earth. AUTHORITY over X is not the same as unlimited POWER over X. Thus, the claim that God gave Jesus AUTHORITY in “heaven and on earth” does NOT imply that God gave Jesus unlimited POWER over what happens in “heaven and on earth”.

Second, Jesus states that this power or authority “has been given to me” which implies that at some previous point in time he did NOT have “all authority in heaven and on earth”. In order to be God one must be eternally omnipotent, not just omnipotent for one day or one month or one year or one century.

In Matthew 28:18, Jesus only claims to have a great deal of authority (not power), which was (allegedly) given to him by God at some point in time. So, in that verse Jesus does NOT claim to be an all-powerful person, and Jesus does NOT claim to have been all-powerful from eternity. In fact, if one prefers the translation using the word “power”, then Jesus implied that he was for a period of time NOT all-powerful, and thus Jesus implied that he was NOT God, based on the translation of Matthew 28:18 that uses the word “power”.

Another passage from the Gospel of Matthew might be used as evidence for the view that Jesus implied his own omnipotence:

Matthew 11:27 (NRSV)
27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

There are at least three problems with interpreting this verse as a claim to the divine attribute of eternal omnipotence.

First, whatever it is that Jesus is talking about, it had “been handed over to me by my Father”. As with Matthew 28:18, this implies that there was a previous point in time when it was not yet the case that Jesus possessed this attribute. Thus, if we interpret “all things” to mean “all power”, then Jesus is implying that he did not always have such power, and thus Jesus is implying that he was NOT eternally omnipotent, and thus that he was NOT God.

Second, this verse sounds rather similar to Matthew 28:18, which is probably about AUTHORITY rather than about POWER, so that gives us reason to doubt that Matthew 11:27 is about power. The author of Matthew might have intended for verse 11:27 to be read and interpreted in relation to the similar sounding verse Matthew 28:18.

Third, the context of this statement is clearly focused on KNOWLEDGE rather than on POWER. Immediately after the sentence speaking about “all things” having been “handed over to” Jesus by God, Jesus speaks about how only God “knows the Son” and how only the Son “knows the Father”. Furthermore, if we look at the verses immediately preceding verse 27, we see that those verses also are focused on KNOWLEDGE rather than POWER:

Matthew 11:25-27 (NRSV)
25 At that time Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants;
26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.
27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

Note that in verse 25 Jesus refers to important bits of wisdom that God has revealed to some people as “these things”. Thus, when Jesus speaks of “All things” in verse 27, this appears to be a reference back to the bits of wisdom that God has revealed to some people. The most likely meaning of the expression “All things” is thus, “all of the important spiritual, theological, and moral truths and principles that God wants to reveal to (some) human beings”. It is unlikely that this expression was intended to refer to “complete power and control over everything that exists”.

Submitted by Marc Taylor on  Fri, 01/10/2020 - 00:45

In reply to by james

All authority in heaven and earth (universal authority).

Authority — the power to determine, adjudicate, or otherwise settle issues or disputes; jurisdiction; the right to control, command, or determine (Webster’s Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, page 100, NY: Gramercy Books, c. 1996).

Power — one who or that which possesses or exercises authority or influence (Webster’s Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, page 1127, NY: Gramercy Books, c. 1996).

That Christ has universal authority encompasses the fact that He has universal power (= omnipotence).

To be omniponet means to be the Almighty.

“That Christ has universal authority encompasses the fact that He has universal power (= omnipotence).

To be omniponet means to be the Almighty.”

nonsense. when jesus was GIVEN authority in the gospel of mark to make commands to the storm, was he OMNIPOTENT? no he wasn’t, he did not have POWER AND CONTROL over every atom, flood, fire, storm ect.

there is NOTHING in the gospels which say that jesus was GIVEN the INHERENT authoritative power and creating ability which comes from the father.

when joshua COMMANDED the sun to stop, WAS he omnipotent?

i am still waiting for you to show me where the gospels say that jesus’ “authority” is IDENTICAL to the fathers COMMANDING power.

“There is nothing in the Bible that teaches Jesus can not be God simply because He refused to employ the use of some of His power.”

sorry, but a god experiencing being a fully CREATED human being is not “refused to employ the USE of SOME of….,” this is a BEING which is EXISTING as something OTHER than what it EXISTED as prior to “incarnation” 

you literally have a pagan and changed person within the god you worship. 

you made “the son” into something like a man with supernatural powers and at same time “switching” experiences . this is very pagan like beliefs. 

BUT, there is nothing in the bible which teaches that “the son” has POWERS which BELONGED to him begininglessly and can be easily accessible. 

“You assertion concerning authority conveniently left out the import word “all” — there is no limitation anywhere of the authority of Christ — “heaven and earth”.”

what don’t you get? the fathers COMMANDING authority is an INHERENT quality which exist in the person of the father. in the entire bible, the son NEVER says that he HAS access to this INHERENT power. “all AUTHORITY” does not mean HAVING access to a commanding power which is inherent in the father. plus, what is worse for you is that the son receives , no where does it say he RECEIVES the COMMANDING ability FROM the nature of the father. 

what you are doing is conflating inherent quality which belong to the father with “all authority” which is given. 

two different things. 

 

If the Son were not God then He would not be praised in worship for His attribute of “power” (Revelation 5:12) just like the Father (Revelation 4:11).

Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (TDNT): In 5:12f. the angelic choirs extol the omnipotence of the Lamb in a seven-membered doxology (8:178, timē, J. Schneider, the underlined is mine).

“If the Son were not God then He would not be praised in worship for His attribute of “power” (Revelation 5:12) just like the Father (Revelation 4:11).”

you assume that the authors would imagine god like you imagine him today. you assume that the author would have had a problem with worshipping a being which did not have inherent in him that commanding power which was inherent in the father .  the guy is saying that the power is not inherent, the primary “daddy” is the father, he has the quality in him. 

none of this is evidence that the son has the same commanding attribute/quality  as the father in heaven. 

///

Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (TDNT): In 5:12f. the angelic choirs extol the omnipotence of the Lamb in a seven-membered doxology (8:178, timē, J. Schneider, the underlined is mine).

///

there is no omnipotence. he clearly is dependant on another. you are just imaging like a pagan that the son has an INHERENT quality when even the pagan writers of the new testament didn’t imagine such. 

nonsense. the intermediary who does not have ACCESS to omnipotence is sought, not that the intermediary itself has inherent in him omnipotence. in the nt MAJORITY of prayers by christians are directed to the omnipotent father. The god-man himself DIRECTLY PRAYED to the father, this means even his prayer request was dependant on another NOT on himself.

Prayer and omnipotence

1. The Jewish Encyclopedia (1901): Prayers should not be considered as a set task, but as petitions to Omnipotence for mercy (Abot 2:18) (Prayer, see “Prayer Substituted for Sacrifice”).

http://tinyurl.com/srfxu28. Click or tap to follow the link.”

2. New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis: To pray is an act of faith in the almighty and gracious God who responds to the prayers of his people (4:1062, Prayer, P. A. Verhoef).

3. New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology: In prayer we are never to forget whom we are addressing: the living God, the almighty one with whom nothing is impossible, and from whom therefore all things may be expected (2:857, Prayer, H. Schonweiss).

4. James Dunn: at the time of Jesus…prayers of adoration, of penitence and confession, of petition and intercession, all indicating the dependence of the inferior (creature) upon the all-powerful Creator, Saviour and Lord (Did the First Christians Worship Jesus?, page 30).

The underlined above is mine.

If the Lord Jesus was the proper recipient of just one prayer would demonstrate that He is omnipotent. The fact that the Bible teaches He is the proper recipient of quite a few prayers leaves us no doubt that He is the Almighty.

what christians like you do not realise is that mark does not think of jesus in the terms of john. even john does not think that yhwh SHARES his POWERS with created dependant beings like jesus.

here is an interesting discussion :

brojangles 2 points 12 hours ago
Elijah and Elisha all performed the same miracles as Jesus, including multiplication of food, control of the weather, levitating objects on water and bringing people back from the dead.

Mark says Jesus is performing his works by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit enters into him at his baptism, he performs his healings by the power of the Spirit (which apparently emanates from the hem of his robe) and the Holy Spirit leaves him on the cross.

Mark definitely does not think Jesus was God. He has Jesus praying to God and asking him for things. He says that God and Jesus have separate wills. etc.

megustame1 2 points 11 hours ago
To my point, Elisha’s multiplication of food and control of the weather is preceded by “This is what the Lord says” (2 Kings 3:16 and 4:42) control of the weather. Elisha brings someone back from the dead after praying (4:33). It was culturally acceptable to perform miracles as long as it was in the name of a deity or in the context of prayer, as in Elisha and Elijah’s case. This is why the disciples are surprised when they say “Who is this that the wind and the waves obey him?” (Mark 4:41). Performing miracles without the divine name is either demonic blasphemy (as the pharisees thought) or divine (as Mark must have thought, given the consistent “son of God” reference in chapter 1, 10 and 15).

Besides the baptism, what support do you have that it is merely the spirit that allowed him to do miracles, would that not be a more consistent theme in the gospel? Would not a pious jew rebuke his disciples for marveling at his intrinsic power?

brojangles 1 point 11 hours ago
You are just making up criteria out of thin air and Mark make it pretty clear that the requirement for miracle is faith. People are healed by their own faith. When people do not have faith, Jesus has no powers.

Mark says that the Holy Spirit enters “into” (eis auton) Jesus at the baptism (1:and the “drives him into the wilderness.” (1:12). Jesus sees in the Spirit that tell him what other people are thinking or talking about (2:8). Jesus feels the power “go out” of him when a woman heals herself by touching then hem of his robe (5:25).

There is also still the fact that Mark has Jesus praying to God as a separate being with a separate will.

megustame1 1 point 9 hours ago*
It’s not from thin air its from semantic analysis of dunamis when compared to mageia. (Moises Silva TDNT) Dunamis in the context of miracles involves harnessing a divine power to achieve something supernatural, often by invoking a divine name. This is why Jewish sailors used clubs that said “ehyeh asher ehyeh” to calm storms (see Gideon Bohak, Ancient Jewish Magic). Its also why Simon the Sorcerer asks Peter to pay to receive the Holy Spirit, because he has seen that the Spirit has a power which is stronger than those by which he performed magic.

The power by which one performs miracles is the primary way that miracles were differentiated from magic, which the Mishnah makes clear. Further, spoken incantations were generally seen as unacceptable while written incantations (including amulets) were not (Sanhedrin 10a). Jesus never used written incantations but only oral ones, which would have added to the charge of blasphemy.

The power going out of Jesus I think is actually an argument for me, once again the power is Jesus’ own and so touching him can be interpreted as tapping into Jesus’ intrinsic dunamis.

It may appear to be “out of thin air” for us, but I argue that its exactly the way that 1st century Jews would have thought about it.

Edit: Forgot to mention prayer. I don’t feel this is conclusive. John records more prayers than any other gospel writer but nearly everyone agrees that he sees Jesus as God.

brojangles 1 point 9 hours ago
The δύναμις in Mark comes directly from the Holy Spirit which enters into Jesus at the baptism and abandons him on the cross. It is not from Jesus himself. It is all coming from the Holy Spirit.

The power of the Spirit is directly correlated to the faith of the believers, not to Jesus. Jesus is unable to heal them if they don;t have faith. When Jesus is accused of using spirits to heal, he says that blaspheming against the Holy Spirit is an unforgivable sin. That is why he says that. It’s directly because they attribute works of the Holy Spirit to demons. Jesus is healing with the Holy Spirit, not with demons. That is Mark’s point.

Mark does not think Jesus is God. Mark does not think Jesus is the Holy Spirit. Mark is not a Trinitarian. Reading that into Mark is anachronistic and incorrect.

megustame1 1 point 9 hours ago
I don’t think that Mark is a Trinitarian (nor do I really think anyone really was until Nicea). But you do make a good point about the blaspheming against the Spirit. But I still feel that my interpretation explains the data of the entire book better. Particularly that Jesus’ incantations never mention a deity, while incantations in the first century unanimously did. There at least seems to be something about Jesus’ miracles which are completely unique within the first century.

brojangles 2 points 9 hours ago
No entity needs to be mentioned because the power is coming directly from the Holy Spirit. It is also stated that faith is necessary, which implies, necessarily, faith in God.

Nothing Jesus does in Mark is unique within the Jewish prophetic tradition. See Geza Vermes’ Jesus the Jew. JP Meier’s’ Marginal Jew series or EP Sanders’ Historical Figure of Jesus.

Mark sees Jesus essentially as a vehicle for the Holy Spirit, in the same way as Elijah and Elisha who were said to do their miracles by the spirit. In fact, Elisha supposedly gets “twice the spirit” of Elijah, and this relationship is alluded to by the relationship between Jesus and John the Baptist, who Mark explicitly has Jesus identify as Elijah.

“That the Lord Jesus is the proper recipient of prayer demonstrates that He is the Almighty.”

yeah, lets see how many jews were making him “proper recipient of prayer”

https://old.reddit.com/r/AcademicBiblical/comments/ert2cm/if_there_was_…

the catholics pray to mary because she is seen as an intermediary who is close to god.

the catholics pray to saints because they are holy

the jews CAST OUT DEMONS IN SOLOMONS NAME

yet, these guys say that THEY ARE NOT MAKING THESE GUYS INTO CO-EQUALS with the father. what i am saying is that it is clear that the writers of nt had mindset like the catholics and jews .

Here’s one example (among quite a few) where the Lord Jesus is the proper recipient of prayer — others besides God are prayed to by certain people, but it is always wrong to do so:

Acts 7:59-60
(59) And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”
(60) And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep. (ESV)
1. Frederick Danker: Just as Israel was to understand her role as one of obedience to the God who saved her, so the Christian is to see the moral and ethical implications of this recognition of Christ’s claim to ownership expressed so often in such a phrase as “Paul, a slave of Christ Jesus.” Out of such conviction the iron of steadfast confession was smelted. As the stones came flying at Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” (Acts 7:59) (Creeds in the Bible, page 45, c. 1966).
2. David Peterson: But he pointedly ‘calls upon’ the Lord Jesus in prayer instead of the Father, trusting him for salvation through death and beyond (The Acts of the Apostles, Pillar New Testament Commentary, page 269).
3. William Mounce: Jesus is the addressee when epikaleō is used in the sense of praying (Acts 7:59) (Mounce’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, Call, page 93).
4. J. Jeremias: Stephen prays: kurie Iesou dezai to pneuma mou (Ac.7:59) (TDNT 5:771, paradeisos).
5. W. E. Vine: Prayer is properly addressed to God the Father, Matt. 6:6; John 16:23; Eph. 1:17; 3:14, and the Son, Acts 7:59; 2 Cor. 12:8 (Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, Prayer, page 872).

“Here’s one example (among quite a few) where the Lord Jesus is the proper recipient of prayer — others besides God are prayed to by certain people, but it is always wrong to do so:”

i just sent you a link addressing acts

(59) And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”

this does not mean that jesus is IDENTICAL to the father in being and power. this “calling” is not one of WORSHIP. i know you are a polythiest and want to see it this way, but christian CATHOLICS ask to be received by mary and the saints too. THEY deny they are worshipping these peoples .

(60) And falling to his knees he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep. (ESV)”

the “lord” here refers to the father .

“father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing”

https://old.reddit.com/r/AcademicBiblical/comments/ert2cm/if_there_was_…

“Functional subjection does not necessitate ontological inferiority.”

this makes no sense. u r arguing that each person has IDENTICAL powers. if one of them gets subjected to the other, then one of them has more authority than the other. how do you get “functionally subordinated” when the power in each is inherent in each ? unless the son does not take it off and lock it away (CHANGE in nature) , how do you functionally subordinate? 

if x shares identical powers with y , y “functionally subordinates” using the same powers ? what ? you are saying the same powers are being used to command and subornicate, how does that work? 

father

“i through my power, command u”

son

“i through the same power am subjected to the command which is from the same identical power” 

My wife is functionally subject to me (Ephesians 5:24), but she is no less of a human being than I am.

“My wife is functionally subject to me (Ephesians 5:24), but she is no less of a human being than I am.”

nonsense. if your wife was born the same time as you, same power, same STRENGTH, same knowledge , and HAD ACCESS to everything you had access to, then “functionally subject” nonsense makes no sense.

i am waiting to see that the new testament thinks that the son ALWAYS /BEGININGLESSLY had the same commanding powers as the primary god which had full power and control over the son. the son never says that he has the same inherent powers the father has. don’t tell me about creating since nt thinks that things other than yhwh could create by yhwhs will and power. the primary/dominant is the father, the son is subjected, controlled , commanded. your theological beliefs cannot be found in nt. 

You wrote: “don’t tell me about creating since nt thinks that things other than yhwh could create by yhwhs will and power.”

Both Job 9:8 and Isaiah 44:24 teach that God alone is the Creator. Since the Lord Jesus was also involved in the creation this demonstrates that He is God (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16-17).

You are quoting texts which show that x is dependant on y and “word” in john 1 does not mean “jesus”

when the father said “let there be light” this means the word became light.

When the fathers spirit was in jesus, he was INSTRUMENTING jesus, commanding and controling him.

the INSTRUMENTED has no inherent omnipotence, please try again

I’ll try again and just basically repeat the same thing. God alone created the heavens and the earth The Lord Jesus was involved in creating the heavens and the earth.

Therefore the Lord Jesus is God.

Simple, and yet clear and true.

“I’ll try again and just basically repeat the same thing. God alone created the heavens and the earth The Lord Jesus was involved in creating the heavens and the earth.”

NOTHING in the text says jesus was “involved” in gods CREATING attribute or OMNIPOTENCE.

your pagan nonsense and idolatrous relationship with your god is getting busted here

https://old.reddit.com/r/AcademicBiblical/comments/ert2cm/if_there_was_…

Therefore the Lord Jesus is God.”

your god is a dependant thing man. you are worshipping a dependant and commanded thing.

You insist on adding your “creature-jesus” to what God teaches He did alone.

This is nonsense and blasphemous.

“You insist on adding your “creature-jesus” to what God teaches He did alone.

This is nonsense and blasphemous.”

your god is not “alone” he is three distinct beings which work all by themselves in each of their persons. the bible seems to be saying that yhwh does use creatures other than he to do his works . the sun gives light , heat and feeds plants. thats yhwh using CREATION to SUSTAIN and support the earth. is the SUN sharing the being of yhwh ?

Wrong. God is 3 distinct Persons and one Being.

God alone created the sun so your assertion is both meaningless and absurd.

the sun which SUPPORTS our existence is created object. is YHWH IN THE SUN?

is the sun YHWH?

“God is 3 distinct Persons and one Being.”

god is THREE AND ONE ? IS it three HOVERING ABOVE ONE OR THREE IN ONE?

IS IT three IS ONE

?

each person is FULLY YHWH

each person IS not the other

if each person is FULLY yhwh, then yhwh IS NOT yhwh MEANING THREE ESSESNCES.

Hi James,

Just in case you missed it, Andrew requested in this thread that we wind up the Trinity discussion.

Also, I appreciate that you’re trying to have a discussion with Marc, but Marc is not interested in having a discussion. He’s a troll, and talking to him just makes it worse.

The arguments always follow this form:

1. Some word is used to describe Jesus that Marc insists is only used to describe the divine, typically citing some evangelically hyperbolic “reference” work.

2. Someone points out that same word is used to describe clearly non-divine people.

3. Marc points out that Jesus is God, however, so even if the word is used of non-divine people, when the word is used of Jesus, it must be in reference to divine characteristics.

4. Someone points out that this is question begging. How does Marc know Jesus is divine?

5. Marc repeats step 1.

There is no breaking this circular reasoning. I don’t know if Marc actually believes the things he says or not (I suspect he does not), but he just likes to troll this website for some reason, saying the exact same things over and over hoping someone will engage with him.

I used to engage a lot with him, too, but the general consensus is that he’s trolling and should probably just be ignored. He’s not trying to discuss or learn.

Submitted by Marc Taylor on  Thu, 01/23/2020 - 15:23

In reply to by Phil L.

Sadly, Phil, the troll agument doesn’t work. It is just a lame excuse to avoid the fact that the Lord Jesus is God. I keep it very simple. That the Lord Jesus is the proper recipient of prayer demonstrates that He is God. Concerning prayer I have cited the Jewish Encyclopedia (1901), NIDOTTE, NIDNTT as well as James Dunn - many other sources can easily be cited.

Others can be prayed to but it is misplaced worship.

But somehow all the sources I cited are all wrong and your position is right. Nope. That’s won’t work. It would work in stories concerning fairy tales and make believe, but the serious Bible student would know to put away such kind of thinking (1 Corinthians 13:11).

Marc, I feel that the problem is less the content, which anyone can make their own mind up about, but the repetitive and interminable nature of the exchange. It rarely takes on the character of a constructive conversation. After a while it begins to look like trolling, even if it’s not.

Andrew,

When several very good sources affirm that God alone ought to be prayed to, and of course to which the Bible affirms, and then certain people refuse over and over again this most basic truth it is not trolling to point out the support for this truth every time they do so. When Phil accuses me of being a troll and as his evidence says that the same word for is used for others besides God doesn’t really address the issue at all. The same Greek word for pray that is used in reference to the Lord in Luke 10:2 is also used in reference to what was done to the disciples (Luke 9:40), so that means we can also pray to the disciples! This one example (among many) easily proves (1) his position is absurd and (2) his accuation is without merit.

Submitted by Andrew on  Fri, 01/24/2020 - 21:28

In reply to by Marc Taylor

The problem, Marc, is that we seem to operate by different rules of interpretation, which makes it almost impossible to understand each other.

I’ve just had a look back over this post on talking to the exalted Jesus, where you try to argue that sanctifying Jesus in the heart means praying to him because in the Lord’s Prayer we say, “hallowed be your name”. Peter does not tell his readers to pray to Jesus, “Hallowed be your name….” The prayer would rather be to God: “Hallowed be Jesus’ name….”

Your argument simply makes no sense to me.

Your quotation from Davids doesn’t make your point. He argues that Peter urges his (Jewish-Christian?) readers to sanctify Jesus in their hearts in the same way that they might sanctify God (cf. Is. 8:13). Fair enough. But he says nothing about prayer, and the other argument hardly holds that the Lord Jesus is equivalent to the Lord God. The name of God is to be sanctified, the king at his right hand is to be sanctified—as lots of things and people were sanctified both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament.

Remember Andrew, all there has to be is just one example in the Bible where the Lord Jesus is the proper recipient of prayer and this will prove that He is God.

If you (and others) can’t agree with this then you/them are just simply refusing to believe the Bible and how prayer is properly defined…even by Jewish sources.

Sanctifying God in our hearts would encompass prayer. If a person always refuses to pray to God then He is not being sanctfified in their heart. Furthermore, Peter applies YHWH of Isaiah 8:13 unto the Lord Jesus in 1 Peter 3:15. Whenever this is done in the NT demonstrates that the Lord Jesus is YHWH. This also occurs in Romans 10:13.

You asserted: There’s no point getting into an argument about the use of proskyneō again. The magi didn’t think they were looking for God born in Judea, they were looking for a special king to whom they would do obeisance, as was the custom (cf. 2 Sam. 24:20 LXX).

 Concerning the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, the altar where YHWH was worshiped is said to consist of gold all around (Exodus 30:3). And notice as well that the very first mention of myrrh and frankincense in the Bible are also associated with this worship (Exodus 30:23, 34).[*1] Furthermore, these men were worshiping Jesus when they presented/offered these gifts to Him because it is “always in a religious sense of offerings to God. Beyond doubt, therefore, we are to understand the presentation of these gifts by the Magi as a religious offering”[*2] (cf. Matthew 5:23-24; 8:4; Hebrews 5:1; 8:3-4; 9:9).

[*1] Peter Pett: These were the greatest portable treasures that the world could afford, and all three were involved in Israel’s worship. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/matthew-2.html

[*2] See Matthew 2:11 in the Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible — Unabridged by Robert Jamieson, Andrew Robert Fausset and David Brown. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/matthew-2.html

Submitted by peter wilkinson on  Sat, 12/21/2019 - 22:56

A fresh slant on the 12 Days of Christmas perhaps? As the 12 Days were meant in the church calendar, if not in the song, to lead to Epiphany, maybe the something similar could be said about  your post?

Yet I found on reading your post that I was taking your points, or many of them, in the exact opposite sense to your intention.

“Concrete social, political and religious transgressions” do bring the nation Israel to actual disaster, don’t they? Whatever king was being born, it rapidly became apparent that Israel was not simply on the brink of disaster, but was about to  be overwhelmed by it in the sight of all the nations.

The virgin conception of Jesus might strike some as more than a prophetic sign. As to its meaning, the name Immanuel (which is never mentioned again, despite the instruction that he should be named thus) leads to a puzzle. By my reading of Isaiah 7 the naming of the boy in Isaiah seems to be a sign against Judah, since the associated warning about Assyria was of disaster for Judah as well as Israel. Judah became a vassal state of Assyria under Ahaz when he made an  alliance with Assyria. The river which swept Israel away overflowed up to Judah’s neck. Matthew was doing what he did with four of the other five prophecies in the birth narrative: taking a verse from an OT context and giving it an entirely different meaning in the new context.

Luke’s king does not bring peace to a people under Roman occupation, but the opposite, as he later goes on to predict.

There is no restored Jerusalem for Luke to predict, again the very opposite which he himself goes on to predict.

I do agree though that Mary’s song was “inflammatory, revolutionary talk”, though the revolution was not about to be brought about in Israel through the violent actions of its king in the time honoured fashion of Israel.

According to the Jew Paul, the death of Jesus exposed sin which went deeper than the national apostacy of Israel (Romans 7). Paul wasn’t talking about corporate sins alone here, but his own sin, in the first person, which traced it’s origin to Adam and his primal sin. 

I haven’t been able to see where you get the idea of a devastating judgment on a corrupt priesthood from Zechariah (the priest). The confirmatory verse from Malachi doesn’t seem to connect with Luke 1:76.

I agree with point 9, though. Like Mary’s song, the angelic announcement of good news to the shepherds points to a kingly birth, and hence programme, which was very different from that of Caesar Augustus, or any kind of idealised Davidic warrior king (Point 10).

At least we’re agreed that Jesus was (probably) born in a family home, where there was no room in the guest room (so the birth was probably in the main living area, above the animals). But the connection with Isaiah 1:3 is a 13th century invention, when the current “born in a stable” tradition really began. The connection of kataluma with the Jeremiah passage seems untenably far fetched.

If Simeon means what you say he means, then he was wrong. The nations saw the destruction of Israel, which was in plain sight, and also predicted by Luke later in his gospel — as something that Jesus himself predicted. It’s likely that Simeon meant something quite different, or at least that his words lent themselves to a very different meaning from what even he may have been thinking.

Maybe we should stick to the 12 Days of Christmas? Anyway, in the spirit of the season, a very happy Christmas to you and all the followers of this blog , and a prosperous exegetical New Year!

Thank you for this, Peter.

Whatever king was being born, it rapidly became apparent that Israel was not simply on the brink of disaster, but was about to be overwhelmed by it in the sight of all the nations.

How is that the “exact opposite” of my intention? Doesn’t “on the brink of disaster” mean the same as “about to be overwhelmed by it”? Are you sure you’re not just disagreeing for the sake of it?

The virgin conception of Jesus might strike some as more than a prophetic sign.

Yes, but only because tradition has taught us to see it as such.

Matthew was doing what he did with four of the other five prophecies in the birth narrative: taking a verse from an OT context and giving it an entirely different meaning in the new context.

I disagree. The point of the Immanuel prophecy in Isaiah, I think, is that when Jerusalem is threatened with being captured by the Assyrians, perhaps because of Ahaz’s lack of faith, God will nevertheless be with his people and Jerusalem will be preserved. The boy is a sign both of peril and of deliverance, which fits Matthew’s narrative pretty well. Matthew was not stupid. He would not have given the Jewish scriptures an “entirely” different meaning.

Luke’s king does not bring peace to a people under Roman occupation, but the opposite, as he later goes on to predict.

My point here is only that the Christmas story is limited in scope to the accession of a king to the throne of David. It is not about God becoming incarnate to save humanity. Quite how this accession would come about is another matter. There is a clue, I assume, in the statement that he will rule over the house of Jacob (not over a multinational church) for ever.

Paul wasn’t talking about corporate sins alone here, but his own sin, in the first person, which traced it’s [sic] origin to Adam and his primal sin.

That, of course, is debatable. But in any case, the post is not about Paul.

I haven’t been able to see where you get the idea of a devastating judgment on a corrupt priesthood from Zechariah (the priest).

Malachi is largely a denunciation of the priesthood (Mal. 1:6-2:9). Luke 1:76 alludes to Malachi 3:1. Zechariah’s son will be the messenger sent to prepare the way of the Lord before the day of YHWH’s coming to “purify the sons of Levi” (Mal. 3:1-3). Jesus’ action the temple is in line with this.

If Simeon means what you say he means, then he was wrong.

No, he was right. I think you have misread me again: “What he means is that the coming judgment and restoration of Israel will reveal the power and character of Israel’s God to the nations and that this will bring glory and renown to Israel.” The God of Israel brought both destruction and restoration upon his people—as was the case with the exile, hence the relevance of Isaiah 52:10. The nations would see the power of God to save in both aspects. Destruction was judgment on Israel’s persistent sin—the punishment of the unrighteous tenants. Salvation took the form of the renewal of the “descendants” of Abraham through the death and resurrection of Jesus and the faithfulness of his followers. The nations (beginning with the centurion at the cross) saw this whole drama being acted out on the stage of history and glorified the God of Israel (cf. Rom. 15:8-11).

You bring Israel to the brink of disaster, implying that the disaster wasn’t total. I meant total disaster did actually happen — which was what all the nations saw. 

I think a virgin conception (of a male child) would strike anyone as more remarkable than simply a prophetic sign (i.e. it was in some way symbolic, or a metaphor).

Jerusalem was not preserved under Ahaz, but it was thoroughly compromised. Matthew was far from stupid. He was engaging in 2nd temple exegesis, in which entirely new meanings were given to passages of scripture by applying them to a different context. The ‘cleverness’ of the application was applauded by appreciative audiences, as we see with Jesus and Paul..A new meaning was given which could not possibly have been understood in the original context. Matthew does this with other OT prophecy/texts.

The post is not about Paul, but Paul helps us understand how righteous people in Israel might come to see themselves as sinful in the light of Paul’s autobiography and awareness.

I still can’t see how Luke 1:76 reflects Malachi.

Simeon’s words were right, but there was no restoration of Israel. It never happened. Salvation must have meant something else of a very different order.

Always a pleasure to have these discussions Andrew.

brink: “a point at which something, typically something unwelcome, is about to happen; the verge: the country was on the brink of a constitutional crisis | the club has come close to the brink, surviving winding-up orders.” (ODE)

I think a virgin conception (of a male child) would strike anyone as more remarkable than simply a prophetic sign (i.e. it was in some way symbolic, or a metaphor).

Odd, then, that no one in the whole of the New Testament thought to make that point. Certainly, neither Matthew nor Luke interprets it as the “incarnation” of the one true God.

Jerusalem was not preserved under Ahaz, but it was thoroughly compromised.

Jerusalem was preserved under Ahaz. In any case, the point of the name Immanuel was that the schemes of the nations against Judah would not succeed:

Be broken, you peoples, and be shattered; give ear, all you far countries; strap on your armour and be shattered; strap on your armour and be shattered. Take counsel together, but it will come to nothing; speak a word, but it will not stand, for God is with us. (Is. 8:9–10)

So Matthew’s point is that the birth of another boy at a critical moment in Israel’s history is a sign that God is with his people and that there is hope of deliverance. If the original Old Testament meaning, transferred into a new context, makes excellence sense, it has to be preferred, surely, over any supposed “entirely” different meaning.

Simeon’s words were right, but there was no restoration of Israel. It never happened.

So what does Jesus mean when he says, “in the restoration, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging (krinontes) the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matt. 19:28)? Josephus uses palingennesia for the “restoration” of Israel (Ant. 11:66). According to Psalms of Solomon 17:26 the Messiah will “gather together a holy people, whom he will lead in righteousness. And he will judge the tribes of the people that has been sanctified by the Lord his God.”

For Luke this is the fulfilment of expectations regarding the kingdom of God: “You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Lk. 22:28–30). So Acts begins with a question about the timing of the restoration of the kingdom to Israel (Acts 1:6).

It seems pretty clear to me that Jesus believed that Israel would be restored, only under a different régime, and he wasn’t sure when it would happen.

The difference between us is that you say Israel was restored, and I do not. It certainly does not make sense to say that OT prophecy about a restoration of Israel in the sight of the nations of the ancient world took place. Plainly the nations saw the destruction of Israel, its capital, temple, land, government — in fact everything that constituted a nation at that time. The persecution and growth of the church was not a grounds for the nations to think that Israel was restored and continued, and nowhere in the New Testament is the church presented as such. We therefore have to ask in what sense can Jesus’s words about his followers “judging” the 12 tribes of Israel be understood? And what did Jesus mean by saying it was not for the disciples to know the times or seasons? Since there is not a single further reference to a restoration of Israel in the NT, we clearly have to take a different view of his meaning from a literal restoration — unless he was mistaken.

I take the view that the nativity stories were probably a later addition to the gospels, and the NT as a whole, hence no development of the incarnation. There seems to have been no awareness of the birth or early life of Jesus elsewhere in the NT. But anyway, the incarnation isn’t really part of what I was commenting on in your piece. I just thought the virgin conception was rather more than a prophetic sign. If a sign, a sign of what?

My main point about Ahaz and Isaiah 7 was that in context, the “sign” of Immanuel (the boy) was spoken against Ahaz, not for him, for not trusting or obeying the prophet’s words. It was a sign in a historical context. It was not a sign of a Messiah who would come several hundred years later. Matthew is taking the prophecy out of context and applying it to a new context which Isaiah had certainly not intended. We would call that a misreading of prophetic fulfilment. In his day, Matthew was engaging in 2nd temple exegesis, which was a way of interpreting scripture which his audience, Jews especially, would have understood and applauded. I don’t think it has anything to do with a supposed parallel between Assyria and Rome — which wasn’t borne out by events anyway.

The only way your understanding of a restoration of Israel makes sense is if it is yet to happen, since plainly it has not happened. Everything that constituted Israel as a nation state in the ancient world finished in AD 70. Even the Jews who survived and were scattered no longer called themselves Israel (in any literal sense). It would have been a contradiction in terms. From the church’s point of view, it never called itself Israel, because it wasn’t, and just as Jesus brought something entirely new and unforeseen as a way of fulfilling the OT and its prophecy, so the church continued to bring something entirely new and unforeseen as a way of fulfilling the OT and prophecy. To say otherwise is to be blind to reality and the most outstanding characteristics of Jesus himself, his followers, and the church.

A few quick thoughts…

  • Arguably in Romans 9-11 for Paul a remnant of believing Jews constitutes the true Israel.
  • The phrase “Israel of God” is difficult (Gal. 6:16), but it’s certainly an option to maintain that Paul thought of the churches as restored Israel, now combining Jews and Gentiles under the sort of new covenant prophesied for Israel in the Old Testament.
  • Gentiles are included in the “commonwealth of Israel”, which keeps “Israel” foundational for the identity of the movement (Eph. 2:12).
  • The writer to the Hebrews highlights the fact that the new covenant would be made “with the house of Israel” (Heb. 8:8-12).
  • The new Jerusalem is said to have a “great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed” (Rev. 21:12).

I don’t think Jesus foresaw the inclusion of large numbers of Gentiles in new covenant Israel, but it seems to me reasonable to say that his vision of restored Israel essentially runs through the whole New Testament. With time, of course, the defeat of Israel by Rome in the period AD 66-135, the breakdown of relations between Christians and Jews in the 80s and 90s, the shift of the centre of gravity to the Greek-Roman world, and the overwhelming preponderance of Gentile believers put an end to the vision of Israel restored. But I think that largely belongs to the post-NT period.

I don’t think any of these verses are conclusive Andrew. In particular:

Ephesians doesn’t say that Gentiles are included in the commonwealth of Israel. It says that once they were excluded (under the law) from the commonwealth of Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise … But now “they have been brought near” (no mention of commonwealth or covenant).

The Hebrews verses are quoting Jeremiah 31, primarily to Jewish recipients of the letter. It would be especially relevant to remind them of their inclusion in the new covenant.

Otherwise I think the verses you quote don’t seem particularly to reinforce your case. I don’t see the relevance of Romans 9-11, Galatians is ambiguous at best, and the names and gates of the New Jerusalem, whilst declaring a fulfilment for Israel, aren’t saying that only restored Israel may enter.

All these verses would be true of a fulfilment in which Israel as a nation was destroyed. They don’t speak of a continuing restored Israel.

I don’t see this vision of a restored Israel  being declared by Jesus — rather warnings of the opposite, repeatedly.

Where else is there a vision of restored Israel, which you say “essentially runs through the whole New Testament”?

Paul says that the Gentiles were 1) separated from Christ, 2) alienated (apēllotriōmenoi)) from the commonwealth of Israel, 3) strangers (xenoi) to the covenants, and 4) having no hope and without God (Eph. 2:12). His point, surely, is that all of those have now been overcome. It is fundamental to Paul’s theology that Gentiles have become heirs of the covenant promises by faith (Rom. 4; Gal. 3). He also says that they are no longer strangers (xenoi)—that is, strangers to the covenants of promise—and foreigners (paroikoi) but are “fellow citizens (sympolitai) with the saints and members of the household of God” (Eph. 2:19), all of which is an explicit reversal of the exclusion described in verse 12).

What has changed is that Jesus’ death has removed the dividing partition of the Law which required male Gentiles to become circumcised Jews if they wished to be part of the commonwealth of Israel. If the point wasn’t inclusion in a renewed Israel, the abolition of the Law would be irrelevant. The argument elsewhere with Judaizers was that Gentiles were already members of Israel-undergoing-renewal by virtue of the Spirit, therefore Law-observance was unnecessary.

This is what I mean when I say that the underlying assumption in the New Testament is that Gentiles were becoming part of a restored Israel—under a crucified king and in the power of the Spirit of the new covenant that was promised to Israel by the prophets (cf. Eph. 2:20-22). Much of the time it simply goes unstated because it was the obvious premise: the Jewish apostles were proclaiming a Jewish Lord and Messiah, a Jewish king to rival Caesar.

As Paul says in Romans 15:8-12, Jesus became a servant to the circumcised in order to confirm the promises to the patriarchs so that in the long run the “root of Jesse” (ie., Israel’s king) would rule over the nations. The restoration of Israel leads to a new Jewish empire.

Ephesians 2:15 also speaks of the abolition of the law with its commandments and regulations, which were central to the identity of Israel the nation, and included temple, land and Jerusalem based monarchy. In its place, Christ’s purpose was “to create in himself one new man out of the two”. This was not a restored Israel, as envisaged by OT prophecy, for instance (or any OT expectation for Israel’s future). 

From Ephesians 2:19 onwards, the household and temple are built not on restored Israel, but “the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone’.

Paul is not dismissing his Jewish heritage, but the new is not a restoration or continuation of the old. The promises to Abraham, to which the gentiles are now heirs, went beyond the borders of Israel, and beyond anything envisaged by OT prophecy. That’s why Paul describes it as a “mystery” in Ephesians 3, made known to Paul by revelation, but hidden from previous generations. It’s fair to say that previous generations were expecting what you say they now received: a restored Israel. I say that Israel was definitely not restored. The new was just that, not a reworking of the old.

The abolition of the law was necessary because it divided the world into Jews and Gentiles. Of course it had to be abolished so that gentiles could be fully included — not in a new Israel (which is mentioned nowhere, not even in the texts you have quoted), but in “the new man” of Ephesians 2. 

I simply don’t see “the underlying assumption in the New Testament … that Gentiles were becoming part of a restored Israel”. I do see however that “Christ became a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth to confirm the promises made to the patriarchs so that the gentiles may glorify God for his mercy” — not to join a restored Israel, but to fulfil the various texts then quoted, including the reign of Jesus “the root of Jesse” whose rejection by Israel the nation proved to be the means by which God’s mercy came to the gentiles outside the nation — not in a restored version of it. There is no “new Jewish empire”, but “members together of one body”, which is now the metaphor Paul uses, replacing Israel the nation.

This is significant, because you have replaced faith in Christ as the basis for universal justification, with faith in what God has done for Israel, which depends on the visibility of a restoration of Israel the nation. I argue that what was visible was the destruction of Israel the nation. In its place was something entirely unforeseen: small groups of Jesus believers scattered across the Roman empire, who subverted the empire from within. Nobody looked at them and saw a restored Israel. Jesus did not foresee a restored Israel, neither did the apostles. The new might employ imagery from the old (temple, the whole building, dwelling place of God), but it wasn’t the old, and one image is notable by its absence, namely a restored Israel.

This was not a restored Israel, as envisaged by OT prophecy, for instance (or any OT expectation for Israel’s future).

So what does Paul mean when he says that the Gentiles have become part of a structure that is built on the foundation of the prophets? Either this was a restored Israel as envisaged by OT prophecy (ie. Israel at the centre of a transformed empire) or it is meaningless.

(Actually, I’m inclined to think that the reference is to New Testament prophets.)

The promises to Abraham, to which the gentiles are now heirs, went beyond the borders of Israel, and beyond anything envisaged by OT prophecy.

The promise to Abraham was only that those nations which blessed Abraham’s descendants would be blessed (Gen. 12:3). This assumes the independent existence of Israel apart from the nations. There is no Old Testament vision of a supra-Jewish or post-Jewish people of God, nothing that goes beyond the borders of Israel. The vision is always of an intact Israel in the midst of separate nations, and when God acts to save his people, etc., the nations respond with worship and tribute.

I’ve been skimming through Markus Barth’s excellent analysis of the text. He says:

Through his incorporation into Israel a Gentile finds communion with God. God himself, and not an indigenous quality or superiority, is the mystery of Israel. That man is under God’s protection who submits to Israel’s king and becomes a citizen of Israel. He is not only a citizen of an earthly city or state but a “member of God’s household.” (M. Barth, Ephesians 1–3, (1974), 270.

Needs more careful reading, though.

Of course it had to be abolished so that gentiles could be fully included - not in a new Israel (which is mentioned nowhere, not even in the texts you have quoted), but in “the new man” of Ephesians 2.

But when you put it like this, the abolition of the Law lets Jews out rather than Gentiles in. If the new man is not Israel, there is no need to abolish the Law in order for Gentiles to become part of this new third people.

The prophets in Ephesians 2:20 were those mentioned in 4:11, not Old Testament prophets. Also 1 Cor. 12:28. Ministry gifts for building the church. I agree with your bracketed comment.

The promise to Abraham of blessing to the nations was not solely conditional on those nations blessing Israel. 12:3 adds that “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you”. This unconditional promise is repeated in 22:18 where there is no mention of a conditional promise. As far as a New Testament understanding of the promise goes, we have Paul’s 2nd temple exegesis of “the seed” in Galatians 3, which completely bypasses the need to be part of a restored Israel, and jumps from Abraham to his seed as all who belong to Christ — Jew/Greek, slave/free, male/female. There is no supra-Jewish identity. Clearly, Markus Barth was mistaken.

The “new man” comprised of course Jew and Gentile. The law needed to be abolished to let Gentiles in as well as letting Jews out. If Jews had not been let out, they would still be under the curse of the law.

Submitted by peter wilkinson on  Mon, 12/23/2019 - 23:06

I should slightly qualify my last comment. I used “supra Jewish identity” in the sense of an overarching Jewish identity which would have come from any restored Israel. This is different from the way you were using it. My argument is that there is no restored Israel, no “Jewish empire”, no “supra Jewish identity”.

Also, the law prevented Gentiles from “getting in” to the privileges which came with being part of the Jewish nation and God’s people (covenant, law, temple). This is summed up with the word “access”. Because of the law, Gentiles did not have access to, or were kept at a distance from, the closer proximity to God enjoyed by Jews through their status in the  covenant, or in the temple, for instance. Paul uses the word to describe how Jesus removed the “dividing  wall”  by providing in himself “access” to grace, to the father by one spirit, to God. To “enter” (the presence and privileges of God), gentiles needed only faith in Jesus (Romans 5:2, Ephesians 2:18, Ephesians 3:12). Membership of a restored Israel was neither a precondition nor a consequence of this access, and is not mentioned as such.

Membership of a restored Israel was neither a precondition nor a consequence of this access, and is not mentioned as such.

Yes, both the Jew and the Gentile now has access in one Spirit to the Father. But Paul continues:

So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God…. (Eph. 2:19)

Because they have access to the same God in the same manner, they are not xenoi and paroikoi, both terms which presuppose alienation from Israel, but are “citizens-together” with the saints and oikeioi of God.

It still seems to me that if Paul says that they were once far from Christ, citizenship (politeias) of Israel, and the “covenants of promise”, and then says that they have now been “brought near” to these things by the blood of Christ, he must mean that they have been included in what they were previously excluded from—ie., Israel., the covenant people, from whom the promises and the Christ, etc.

It is not just proximity to God from which they were previously excluded, it is the status of being a citizen of Israel and participation in the covenants of promise (plural, so covenants from Abraham to Jeremiah?). I think this is explicitly stated.

The Ephesian believers were now “fellow citizens” not with Israel but “the saints”, who are always and only in Paul believers in Jesus, not Israelites. They are “members of the household of God” which is now the non racial body of believers, “neither Jew nor Greek”, not members of Israel or adherents to temple worship in Jerusalem.

They participate in the covenants of promise given to Abraham before (and after) he was circumcised, and it’s fairly obvious from the NT that the new covenant described by Jeremiah was fulfilled in a new people “one new man” which comprised Jew and Greek, but whose prior identity was in neither.