Did Jesus claim to be God?

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In his little book Is God a Delusion? Nicky Gumble (‘the pioneer of the Alpha course’) addresses Richard Dawkins’ claim that ‘There’s no good, historical evidence that Jesus ever thought he was divine’ (79-80, 127-131). It’s an old debate, of course, and neither Dawkins nor Gumble contributes anything very new to it; but I suspect that Dawkins may have the better of this particular argument, and not merely for historical reasons. I draw attention to it partly because I have covert sympathies with Dawkins anyway and feel a little embarrassed by the way he has been so rudely duffed up by evangelicals, but mainly because it highlights again (see also Putting the theological cart before the biblical horse) the worrying structural discrepancy between theology (in this instance, admittedly, a rather elementary apologetic defence of a mainstream belief) and the interpretation of Scripture.

It is curious, in the first place, that this type of popular apologetic is so dependant on John’s Gospel (and, of course, C.S. Lewis) for the argument that Jesus believed himself to be God. As a witness to the words of Jesus John must be considered as the least historically reliable of the four Gospels – surely in some measure a rewriting of the story of Jesus in the language and thought-forms of Hellenism or of Hellenistic Judaism. Having said that, three passages from the Synoptics are cited in support of the argument that the historical Jesus believed himself to be God, which I would suggest actually give a good indication of the underlying apocalyptic narrative that shaped, if only at some remove, the christology of John.

Authority to forgive sins

Mark 2:7 clearly cannot be counted as evidence that Jesus thought of himself as being God. In fact, it shows quite the opposite. Here’s what happens. Jesus forgives the sins of the paralyzed man who is brought to him in Capernaum. The scribes accuse him of blaspheming, insisting that no one can forgive sins but God alone (Mark 2:7). Jesus then demonstrates that ‘the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’ by healing the paralytic. But the point is not that Jesus is God but that God in heaven has delegated the authority to forgive Israel’s sins to the one who plays the part of the Son of Man. Matthew underlines this by noting that the crowds ‘glorified God, who had given such authority to men’ (Matt. 9:8).

So Gumble is right to observe that the claim to be able to forgive sins is an astonishing one (128), but what was astonishing was that the authority to forgive sins, which the Jews believed was the prerogative of God alone, had been given not just to men but to the one who in the symbolic guise of Daniel’s Son of Man would embody in himself the suffering and rejection of the persecuted saints of the Most High (which is why Jesus extends the authority to forgive to his disciples).

The Son of Man at the right hand of Power

Similarly, Jesus’ retort to the high priest in Mark 14:62 that he will ‘see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven’, which the high priest condemns as blasphemy, is not ‘tantamount to a claim to be God’ (129). Daniel’s Son of Man figure stands for a righteous Israel that remains loyal to the covenant, loyal to YHWH, in the face both of pagan antagonism and Jewish apostasy. What shocks the high priest is Jesus’ presumption in believing that he (and not the priestly hierarchy or the Pharisees) will eventually be vindicated before the throne of God and given the kingdom.

Judgment of the nations

The story of the Son of Man who suffers and is vindicated and given sovereignty is also operative in the case of Jesus’ commonly misunderstood account of a judgment of the nations (Matt. 25:31-46). Gumble quotes Jesus’ words that people will be judged according to how they have treated him and his followers, and says: ‘For a mere human being to make such a claim would be preposterous. Here we have another indirect claim to have the identity of Almighty God’ (129). No, it is precisely Jesus’ point that the authority to judge has been given to him as the Son of Man – and indeed, to those who will suffer with him, who will reign at the right hand of God throughout the age to come (cf. Matt. 19:28; Rev. 20:6). I think that what he has in view is a judgment – in characteristic Old Testament fashion – specifically of the nations that would persecute his disciples, not a final judgment as is commonly assumed. But the point is that it is a serious misreading of the text to regard it as evidence for a claim to have the identity of God. What it shows is that the right to judge has been devolved to this man and to this community.

‘I and the Father are one’

Jesus makes a number of statements in John’s Gospel that suggest (if we are to take them as historically true recollections of his speech, which seems a little unlikely) that he believed that God was revealed to his disciples through his own presence amongst them. When he claims, ‘I and the Father are one’ (10:30), the adjective ‘one’ is neuter: the point presumably is not that they are ‘one’ in identity but of one mind or purpose. The distinction probably holds for all statements of this sort, though John’s language is never easy to pin down: ‘My Father is working until now, and I am working’ (5:17); ‘whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise’ (5:19); ‘If you knew me, you would know my Father also’ (8:19; cf. 14:7); ‘I am in the Father and the Father is in me’ (14:10-11; cf. 10:38; 17:21). The Jews threaten to stone Jesus when he tells them ‘I and the Father are one’, but he treats this as a question of what he has done rather than of who he is: ‘I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?’ (10:32). They complain that he has made himself God (10:33), but Jesus’ response can hardly be taken as an acceptance of the charge. He points to the fact that in Psalm 82:6 the Jews as ‘sons of the Most High’ are described as ‘gods’, and asks how in that case he can be accused of blaspheming for having said, ‘I am the Son of God’ (10:36). The issue again is not identity but authority (cf. 7:17).

‘My Lord and my God’

Finally we have Thomas’ unprecedented and enigmatic confession, which perhaps must be allowed to stand for what it is (John 20:28). His words may have reference to the argument of 13:31-32 that God is glorified when the Son of Man is glorified: in other words, it is in the resurrection of the one who suffers that the true glory of God is revealed to Israel. Jesus’ word to Mary that he is about to ascend ‘to my God and your God’ (20:17) may have a bearing. She goes back to the disciples and announces that she has ‘seen the Lord’ (20:18). We must at least ask how Thomas’ confession is to be reconciled with so much that Jesus says to differentiate himself from God or from the Father. John’s own statement that these resurrection appearances have been recorded ‘so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God’ (20:30-31) should also be taken into account. ‘Son of God’ denotes an anointed agent, not a figure who self-consciously identifies himself with God – though perhaps some thought should be given to the influence of an imperial ideology that identified the divine Caesar as ‘Son of God’. If Thomas’ confession and John’s reflection on the significance of the resurrection appearances aim at such Hellenistic conceptions, then we have further reason to think that the christology that emerges in the New Testament is apocalyptically inspired.

The renewal of theology

This is not an attack on Nicky Gumble especially or on the whole Alpha-driven shebang, with which I have always been, albeit begrudgingly, impressed. The book does a reasonably good job of what it sets out to do. But I do think it is necessary to address the considerable deficit that exists generally between popular apologetic defences of core beliefs and New Testament interpretation. My reading of the texts may be flawed in all sorts of ways, but it is representative of an emerging new perspective on the New Testament that is searching for a theology that inheres in the historical narrative and does not need either to be abstracted from or retrojected into it.

In our search for a renewed theology after Christendom this seems to me the right path to take, but it will challenge many of the commonplace arguments and formulations out of which the fabric of modern faith has been woven. If we are going to proclaim and defend a high christology, I think we have to go by way of the apocalyptic narrative about the Son of Man who suffers and is vindicated and who, in that way, supplants the concrete authority of the divine Caesar; I don’t think we can skirt around it. It is not enough now merely to assert that Jesus claimed (directly or indirectly) to be God, and then postulate that if he weren’t telling the truth, he must have been either mad or bad. But that means that a new popular, user-friendly theology needs to be developed from such new exegetical starting points, and undoubtedly that will take time.

Finally, I should perhaps make it clear that I am not arguing that Jesus was or is not in some sense ‘divine’. It is the disconnect between theology and Scripture that concerns me. And if that sounds disingenuous, well, that is simply part of the problem.

See also What has the emerging church to do with the Alpha Course? on Open Source Theology.

Assuming (1) that this argument is correct and (2) that Jesus was/is divine, the question raised for me is this: Why might Jesus have not wanted to claim that he was (in some sense) God?

@Josh Rowley:

You may want to have a look at some of J.C. O'Neill's books, where he puts forward the argument that in Jesus' time there were some Jews who believed that a hidden Messiah would come who would not talk openly of his messiahship but who would nevertheless be vindicated by God at the right time. By the way, O'Neill also addresses the disconnectedness between theology and Scripture mentioned in the main post (a "disconnectedness", if this is the right word, which is clearly reflected in the treatment given to the texts by the editors of the Bible).

I am no theologian, however much of what you write has run through my mind over the years. What always worries me about standing back 2000 years later is that John was probably written seventy years after Jesus — which is a little closer to the time of Jesus. However he is not the first — neither are the gospels the first — to speak about Jesus occupying a very high position. Phillipians is probably the closest we shall ever come to Jesus being divine outside of the gospels.

But I often wonder how John could write those first eighteen verses of his gospel — what was the certainty on which he could write such astonishing words? Perhaps Hurtado’s question ‘How on earth could Jesus become God’ — if not fully answered in his two books on the subject — nevertheless does raise some serious questions about an early acceptance of Jesus as God.


In seemingly allowing that Jesus may have or still is ‘divine’  what do you mean. How ‘high’ is your Christology?

Does ‘Trinity’ feature in your view of the future?  Why would you want to modify John 20v28  to downgrade its meaning??  Particularly when the Gospel starts with the magnificent statements in John 1v1f?

How would you exactly see ‘Christology’ being reinvented in the emerging Church, would this amount to a rejection of orthodox Chalcedonian formulations, would it be embracing some form of semi arianism?

@'JT' John Tancock:

John, any perceived ambiguity in the piece probably reflects the fact that I have a lot of questions still about how the argument about Jesus plays out in the New Testament.

I have expressed a view on the word becoming flesh here.

The assumption I work from is that narrative gives us a much better understanding of who Jesus was for the authors of the New Testament than theology, and that the dominant narrative is the apocalyptic one about Jesus ultimately becoming judge and ruler of the nations by way of suffering and the cross. I have considered the possibility of a “narrative trinitarianism” elsewhere.

Probably the two main questions, then, in my mind, are: i) how much of the material in the New Testament belongs to this narrative? and ii) how does this narrative relate to a Wisdom argument that involves Jesus in the process of creation? What, in particular, is being said in Colossians 1:15-20?

I don’t think we are much helped by imposing on this the categories of classical Trinitarian debate. All the while we keep trying to answer the problem in ontological terms, we will miss the point of the narrative.

@Andrew Perriman:

Wow, I read the links and most of the comments. I’m with cherylu! It disturbs me I suppose. Is it because i don’t fully ‘get’ your narrative approach, or is it because teaching that is ‘wrong’ is wrong whichever way and whoever says it!  It could be because most of my life I have ‘rerun’ the 4th century christological/trinitarian debate. I have engaged with modalists (Oneness pentecostals) Arians -JWs and others claiming nomenclature as ‘monotheists’.   The situation today exists as it did pre and post Nicea. ‘They’ would make mincemeat of us if we embraced the things proposed by you Andrew.

I would say most defenders of ‘Trinity’ use a highly processed version extremely nuanced and developed but in my view Nicea reflects a closer to the bible view and expression.

I fail to understand how you seem to falter at recognising the pre=existent and ‘Godness’ of Jesus

who being in the form of God

did not consider equality with God something to be held on to

The later exaltation (every knee shall bow) is surely the other side of the ‘u’ curve from v6 to 11?   To question surely is in the context of ‘being found in fashion as a man’  …… PRIOR to that he was ‘in the form of God’.   Coll 1 of course to my mind tells the same story connecting with John 1, Php2 and Heb 1. The traditional view is a perfectly reasonable way to understand these passages, don’t you think? Isn’t Nicene orthodoxy a truly biblical place to be?

@JT John Tancock:

Nicene orthodoxy may be a legitimate place to end up, but the New Testament does not set out to teach Nicene orthodoxy. The question that a narrative-historical approach asks is: What does the New Testament set out to teach about Jesus? And why? It appears that in order to answer these questions we must resort primarily to the categories of Old Testament prophecy and apocalyptic. Throughout the New Testament the consistent narrative is that Jesus became king at a time of eschatological crisis as a consequence of his obedience to the point of death. That is not a philosophical argument. It is much more a political argument, one that has to do with the relation of God’s people to the nations, the peoples of the empire.

It is not all that the New Testament says about Jesus. As I said in the previous comment, there is also an argument, seemingly drawing on the Wisdom literature, about the role of Jesus in creation. This takes us beyond the apocalyptic narrative, and it is not entirely clear to me how the two themes work together. I’m not saying they don’t work together, I’m just unsure how—and of course, there’s no doubt other stuff needs to be taken into consideration.

But the concern of New Testament studies has to be to ensure that later ideas and beliefs are not allowed to prejudice interpretation, which means in this case, I think, giving the apocalyptic narrative its due weight. The New Testament is very little interested in asserting the metaphysical identity of Jesus with the Father, but preoccupied from beginning to end with the story of how Jesus is given the authority to judge and rule at the right hand of the Father.

What I want to ask is: What are we missing by downplaying this story in our christology? And perhaps, can we understand our relation to God better—or at least to the New Testament—through the narrative than through the traditional categories?

@Andrew Perriman:

But the questions leading up to Nicea and the ‘answer’ that Nicea is are STILL being asked and the vehemence of the anti trinitarian voices continues to grow. The NT sets out to teach that Jesus is God with us …Mt 1v23 and the Trinitarian formula of Mt 28v19 has its own eloquence. Likewise at the beginning of John is ‘kai theos en ho logos’  and at its end ‘My Lord and my God’.  Coll 1  states he is by him all things were created…. Php 2 ‘in the form of God#’….’equal with God…’, Heb 1 to the Son he says ‘Your throne O God is forever’.   He is shown as ‘Son of Man and Son of God’  …..entirely Human and entirely Deity? 

Perhapos we operate and serve i different worlds, I fear confusion and softening of who Jesus is, ‘should we worship him’?  if not why not, if so surely he is ‘God’.

I would like to recomend a book Andrew, by Paul Paveo, ‘In the beginning was the Logos’ its not ‘academic’ but is scholarly. It promotes a return to Nicene orthodoxy which he believes is biblical and answers the arguments to both right and left. He also provides a useful explkanation of the 1 cor 15 passage ‘handing the kingdom to his Father’.

@JT john Tancock:

Yes, the questions are still being asked, but they are not the questions that the New Testament attempts attempts to answer. Even if the later formulations are theologically correct, we still have to enquire into what the New Testament is actually saying.

So, for example, Matthew 1:23 simply does not mean that Jesus was God. It means that the expectation of Jesus’ birth and the giving of a significant name are foreshadowed in the assurance that Isaiah gave Ahaz that at a time of crisis God would be with his people, not only to judge but also to deliver. The circumstances of Jesus’ miraculous conception were a sign to Israel that God was with his people.

Matthew 28:19 presupposes a close relation between Father, Son and Spirit, but it is much more likely to refer back to the narrative of Jesus’ baptism than forward to the post-Jewish debates leading up up to Nicaea. It is a baptism, in other words, into the calling and empowering of Jesus to be Israel’s king.

It may be the case that “being in the form of God” (Phil. 2:6) denotes ontological identity with God, but that is by no means certain.

Son of Man and Son of God do not mean “entirely Human and entirely Deity”. This is a classic example of the superimposition of later christological categories on the New Testament. “Son of Man” presumably is a reference to the human figure of Daniel 7:13-14, who represents the faithful saints of the Most High. “Son of God” denotes perhaps Israel but primarily Israel’s king. Psalms 2 and 110 are of central importance in this regard.

In Psalm 45 a clear distinction is drawn between the king, to whom the psalm is addressed, and God, who has blessed and anointed his king. In this context Psalm 45:6a is presumably an expression of praise directed towards God: “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.” Whether Hebrews 1:8-9 preserves this distinction is hard to say, but elsewhere in the chapter God and his Son are consistently differentiated: God has spoken through his Son; the Son is the radiance of the glory of God; God has begotten his Son; he is a Father to his Son; he has made him sit at his right hand. It perhaps cannot be ruled, but it would be very odd if in the midst of this the writer confused the identity of God and his Son, Israel’s king.

@Andrew Perriman:

WHY Andrew?  Why cannot son of man mean ‘human’, many translations translate it as such or similar, it cal also refer to Daniel 7 ..’one like a human’. Your idea can still apply and I agree with it but Jesus. use of the title speaks of his identity with us ‘one of us’ surely. The use of Son of God has a number of echoes and resonances  BUT  fail to understand how it cannot refer to his deity not just his kingship.

It may be ‘form of God’ etc but when passages differ from your individual narrative view it seems to be ‘maybe’ or ‘unlikely’ or ‘more likely something else’ well taking a Jimmy Dunn adamic view it ‘maybe’ but plain reading is pretty clear the form of God and form of a servant sound suspiciously like son of man /son of God.

The approach you take to Psalm 45 surely is odd. No one takes Jesus ‘godship’ (for want of a better word) as a 100% identity and no trinitarian or advocate of nicene orthodoxy would either. The only ones who would make this mistake would ne ‘Oneness’ people (monarchian subordinationists).  The distinction between ho theos clause 2 of john 1v1 and ‘theos’ of clause three makes the distinction also. The verse which kicks off the gospel adequately refutes both other options of later christological debate.

Of course God and his Son are distinguished which is the case throughout the scriptures and in the nicen creed.   I believe that the route you are travelling is a bit like someone choosing to follow a route well set out previously but ignoring the signs and marks set up by previous walkers. You will end up after your narrative approach STILL having to face the issues and my guess you will be arian.

@JT John Tancock:

also re Heb 1

why ‘doubt’ v8  of the Son he says (‘he’ being God!)  your throne O God…..

The son is described as  N T Wright version  NTFE)

the shining reflection of God glory

The precise expression of his very own being

let all God angels worship (proskuneo him see Lk 4v8) HIM

and amazingly another quote from Psalms  in v10 you established the earth O lord

Of course there is God , his Son and his Spirit we aren’t modalists but the Son is clearly seen as ‘the other side of the line’ and is included in the divine identity (Bauckham and Hurtado). He is higher than the angels as Heb 1 says.  he is not created but is creator whether by in or through he himself wasn’t and isnt part of creation.  Jn 1v3 Heb 1v3 Coll 1v15-18

I might even travel along your narrative route but you seem to be rejecting anything that looks like mainstream orthodoxy. It surely is a dangerous path. In the real world out there a world inhabited with arians, socinians, modalists, unitarians and anti trinitarians they would unfortunately jump with joy and Im sure you will be quoted in support of thier anti trinitarian material if your views are accesible or published.

@JT John Tancock:

John, thank you for continuing to engage with this.

Certainly, the “Son of Man” theme has been interpreted in different ways. My view is that if Jesus is consciously applying Daniel 7:13-14 to himself, then he intends solidarity not with humanity but with suffering righteous Israel in the context of its conflict with paganism and apostasy. That’s what the story in Daniel 7-13 is about.

I am aware of no passage in the Old Testament on which you could base the argument that “Son of God” connotes deity. There is every reason to think that in the New Testament the phrase presupposes the Old Testament background. So to think that it connotes deity in the New Testament, we would have to have some pretty unambiguous evidence to that effect. I don’t think that evidence exists. To say that Jesus is Son of God is to say that he is Israel’s king.

I don’t see how form of God / form of a servant are like son of Man / Son of God. Paul could have said “though being God” and “became a slave”. Jesus wasn’t a slave but he took the form of a slave. Shouldn’t one then infer that he was in the form of God but wasn’t God. I don’t rule out the possibility that Paul means to equate Jesus with God here, but exegetically it is difficult to defend.

John 1:1 may affirm the pre-existence and divinity of Jesus, but to my mind we should not let this interfere with the apocalyptic narrative. My main concern is to bring the apocalyptic narrative into the foreground and ask what it says about how the early church understood itself historically. Having said that, there is at least a case for thinking that “Word” in John 1:1-4 is not Jesus but wisdom reinterpreted in terms of the Greek logos concept. The wisdom of God became flesh and lived among the people of God.

The introduction of the wisdom motif, of course, is also part of the narrative and needs to be understood. For example, in Hebrews 1:2-3 Jesus is both the king who is appointed heir of all things, seated at the right hand of God, and the counterpart to wisdom, as the one through whom the ages have been made, the brightness (apaugasma) of his glory, etc. Consider this passage, for example:

For [wisdom] is a breath of the power of God and an emanation of the pure glory of the Almighty; therefore nothing defiled gains entrance into her. For she is a reflection (apaugasma) of eternal light and a spotless mirror of the activity of God and an image of his goodness. (Wis. 7:25–26)

You may be right about the route that is being travelled here. But at the moment it seems to me that the historical understanding of the New Testament that has emerged over the last few decades may be taking us in a rather different direction altogether. We may end up in the old tug-of-war between Arius and Athanasius. But we may not. I’m not sure that there is any reason from a biblical point of view to absolutize Nicaea.

peter wilkinson | Tue, 03/19/2013 - 10:49 | Permalink

Purely because I saw J T John Tancock’s comment, this paragraph of the original post caught my eye - 

Jesus’ retort to the high priest in Mark 14:62 that he will ‘see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven’, which the high priest condemns as blasphemy, is not ‘tantamount to a claim to be God’ (129). Daniel’s Son of Man figure stands for a righteous Israel that remains loyal to the covenant, loyal to YHWH, in the face both of pagan antagonism and Jewish apostasy.

I’d have thought Gumbell’s comment has merit. First, because “clouds of heaven” in Daniel 7:13 and Mark 14:62 associates the son of man with divinity, “clouds” in this sense always being associated with the divine presence in the OT.

Second, because in Daniel 7:27, by way of interpretation of 7:13-14, the son of man attributes of 7:14a are given to “the people of the Most High”,  while the son of man attributes of 7:14b are given to God, as “the Most High”.

In that sense, the son of man figure is both human and divine. Some attributes are transferred to the people of God. Others can’t be. It’s what the passage says. Just like Jesus.

Interesting thought, don’t you think?

@peter wilkinson:

The first point will depend partly on how we understand the symbolic figure in human form. In the context of Daniel’s vision he stands for the persecuted saints of the Most High, so clearly the clouds of heaven do not mean that the “Son of Man” is divine. But also Paul speaks of believers being caught up “in the clouds to meet the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:17). This is presumably dependent on Daniel 7:13. Clouds either signify that this is a heavenly location or a heavenly journey. Believers at the parousia are no more divine than the saints of the Most High.

The second point is interesting and complex. One thing to point out is that in the LXX there is nothing said of the Son of Man in 7:14 that is not said about the saints of the Most High in 7:27 because the prospect of ruling over an everlasting kingdom in verse 27 is associated not with God, as in the Aramaic text, but to the saints of the Most High:

And royal authority was given to him, and all the nations of the earth according to posterity, and all honor was serving him. And his authority is an everlasting authority, which shall never be removed—and his kingship, which will never perish. (7:14)

And he shall give the authority and the kingdom and the magnitude of all the kingdoms, which are under heaven, to the holy people of the Most High, to reign over an everlasting kingdom, and all authorities will be subjected to him and obey him until the conclusion of the word. (7:27)

The other thing to note is that the masculine pronoun in these clauses does not necessarily refer to God:

his kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him (Dan 7:27 ESV)

and all authorities will be subjected to him and obey him until the conclusion of the word (Dan. 7:27 LXX)

Both in the Aramaic and in the Greek “people” is masculine, so we could read:

And the kingdom and the dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High; its kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey it. (Dan 7:27)

In this case there would be no need to differentiate between 7:14 and 7:27.

@Andrew Perriman:

This identity of God people is extended throughout the scriptures

Peter says ‘we have become partakers of the divine nature’

he is the head WE are the body

Jesus did not say I am the stem YOU are the branches, he said I am the vine (we are included in him)

Paul said  ….not and so it is with the church  he said and so it is with the Christ (when it obviously referred to the church!!)

Jesus nsaid ‘you shall be one even as we are one’

sorry to be so concrete about this but anti trinitarians use these verses to show that Jesus is like one of us he is a son of God like we are, he is one with God just as we are. This is utterly preposterous of course and the more likely understanding is that in a mysterious but glorious way we are lifted up NOT that Jesus has come down to our level and status. In his exaltation we can be included in some way.

What disturbs me here Andrew is that what I see is ‘maybe’ might be’ ‘could be’ when it comes to mainstream orthodoxy and muxchmore assertive phrases when talking of other views.  I’ve seen it all before and dare I say ‘arianism’ by any other name is still arianism!

@JT John Tancock:

I understand your concerns. But it seems to me that what your argument points to is a fundamental difference between theological and historical approaches. New Testament exegesis is not bound to find uniformity of meaning, texts are not regarded merely as straws in a theological wind, symptoms of some higher transcendent truth. Exegesis works from the bottom up, from the beginning forward; theology works from the top down, from the end backwards. The maybes, etc., simply reflect that canon does not entitle us to read into one text meanings imported arbitrarily from somewhere else, particularly from later attempts to make sense of the Jewish scriptures in a culturally foreign Greek environment. I am not attacking Trinitarianism; I am defending biblical interpretation. That is a limited task. Theologians can do what they will with the outcome.

@Andrew Perriman:

Thanks Andrew, yes I understand that and I try and show my journey with the text of the scriptures in a series I recently diid on my blog ‘Bible studies that changed my life’  an albeit imperfect journey of course.

However ‘Biblical interpretation’ is not some innocent pursuit, sealed off from the rest of the world. Likewise asking the question ‘who is Jesus’  surely a fundamental question for an honest searcher, academic, theologian or Church leader is desperately important to answer.

After the messianic King /embodiment of Israel etc is done and dusted then we are still left with the question …who is Jesus and all its follow ups, should we worship him, is he creator or created etc

Your comments I have read in this thread and the links given make judgments on verses which are as theological  and refined as Berkhof, Grudem or whoever.  They include…

1. Questioning of reliance on John (why?)

2.Attempted softening of John 20v28 

3. I and my father are one NOT a deity of christ verse.

4. A ‘defense’ of Dawkins ‘rudely duffed up by evangelicals’…. Have you read what he says about God, Jesus, Christians !!!!!!

5.you said ‘My reading of the texts may be flawed in all sorts of ways, but it is representative of an emerging new perspective on the New Testament 

@JT John Tancock:


But those words are not ‘neutral’ and these texts have been discussed and the same views exist now as did in the 4th century and the struggle to provide an explanation of all the bibliacal data about ‘God’  and to answer questions about it(which I believe the Trinity is) continues today.

You can say ‘its just what the bible says’ ….can’t we all. I will not trade off Php 2 …you said form of God may mean…  or Coll 1 you said ‘what does that mean’, or that the Father din’t call Jesus ‘God’ in Heb 1v8, its not because I am theologicaly pedantic or heresy hunting and you are innocently unpacking the scriptures…..its because when I read for instance Jn1, Coll1, Php 2 and Heb 1  I am convinced that these passages point to the ‘orthodox’ understanding.  This is important and if any ‘emerging’ understanding comes to a different understanding then will it be Oneness or Arian……are there other real choices?

Evangelical  means what?  non trinitarian, anti trinitarian it means something ..for a reason!

@JT John Tancock:

However ‘Biblical interpretation’ is not some innocent pursuit, sealed off from the rest of the world.

True, but that does not mean biblical interpretation has to answer all the questions. Biblical interpretation answers the questions that scripture poses. My view is that biblical interpretation has suffered a serious loss of literary and historical integrity because the agenda has for too long been set by theologians. I see nothing wrong with defending scripture against incursions from a later age. The task of theologians, if they mean to take scripture seriously, ought to be to construct their theologies in the light of the work of biblical interpreters. They do not have to do so uncritically; they may wish to highlight flaws in the interpretive process; but I think we have to insist that biblical interpretation and theological construction are distinct activities and should not be confused.

Likewise asking the question ‘who is Jesus’ surely a fundamental question for an honest searcher, academic, theologian or Church leader is desperately important to answer.

Agreed, but these different people will obviously approach the question in different ways.

I don’t dispute the fact that the exegetical judgments I make are “theological and refined”, but I do think that the historical methodology, which takes full account of the historical context of the New Testament texts, is fundamentally distinct from what generally passes as “theology” and theologically justified—if you can follow the tortuous logic of that statement.

1. John is part of scripture, and I have no intention of discounting it. What I object to is reading the rest of the New Testament through the Johannine lens as though it gave us a more reliable picture of who Jesus really was. I think it is also very difficult to take John as historical testimony of the same kind as the synoptic gospels.

2. John 20:28 says what it says.

3. I can’t check this at the moment, but what are the implications of the neuter adjective “one” (hen) in John 10:30? Is Jesus saying that he and the Father are one “person” or simply of one mind and purpose?

4. I wasn’t defending what Dawkins has said about God, Jesus and Christians. But I do think that a lot of the things that Christians say about Dawkins, especially in the US, are indefensible.

5. Not sure I follow your train of thought here between comments. As I see it, it is the task of theologians to “provide an explanation of all the biblical data” and the task of exegetes to determine what those data are.

This is important and if any ‘emerging’ understanding comes to a different understanding then will it be Oneness or Arian……are there other real choices?

In my view the whole debate needs to be had again after Christendom and in the light of fresh historical understandings of the relation of the New Testament to the literature and history of second temple Judaism, preferably using fresh categories. The problem is that theologians don’t trust historical exegesis and historical exegetes don’t like being told the answers by theologians before they’ve even asked the question.

Evangelical means what? non trinitarian, anti trinitarian it means something ..for a reason!

I would have thought that evangelical means holding to the good news that God raised Jesus from the dead and made him sit at his right hand to rule over his enemies. Significantly, the euangelion word-group is not found in John or in the Letters of John.

@Andrew Perriman:

It’s a good point about ‘clouds of heaven’ in 1 Thessalonians 4:17. Things get beyond my competence when discussing early Greek versions of Daniel, for example the merits of the Septuagint over Theodotion’s Greek translation, and reasons for accepting the latter as the standard translation rather than the former. I’m not familiar with either version, and in the end it becomes a rather narrowly technical issue of interpretation.

I think it’s interesting that in the standard versions of Daniel, which Jewish copyists might have had good reason to ‘correct’, an ambiguity over the identity of the Son of Man arises bewteen 7:13-14 and 7:27. What does Goldingay have to say on the matter in his commentary on Daniel?

I don’t think it makes sense of Daniel to limit his account of the Son of Man purely to the time of Antiochus Epiphanes and immediately following, and therefore fulfilled in ancient history. It makes a lot of sense to see the dual identity of Jesus reflected in Daniel’s Son of Man figure, and in the closely connected image of the Son of Man being seated at “God’s right hand” in Mark 14:62 — by adding which the key NT reference to Psalm 110 is drawn into the picture. This further complicates the debate. Or not, depending on your point of view.

Jesus also identified himself in Mark 14:62 with Daniel’s Son of Man as a singular figure, yet bearing the corporate destiny of Israel in himself. This has direct relevance to his significance in atoning for sins on the cross, preceding the exaltation which he predicts in Mark 14:62. Did he intend this as fulfilment of prophecy, or simply as a useful parallel? Are we to see it as fulfilment in a martyr’s death (your preferred reading), or as an atonement with a much wider significance because fulfilling a wider purpose through an agent with a divine identity? (Definitely my preferred reading).

@peter wilkinson:

Ah Andrew , for the sake of this discussion I must hold in my concern and seek to reply!! 


What I thik is happening here is that you are rooting for an OT kingship/messianic fulfillment but I (and I wd hesitate to add mainstream Christianity) would agree with you in that but surely the NT sees Jesus being and doing what you say but far far more. Here are some of my reasons and also why ‘Son of God’ does speak to his deity (as does kurios  Jn1v23 Rom 10v9 Acts 10v30 and theos   Jn 1v1, 20v28, Heb 1v1 etc).

No OT person called God ‘my father’ Jesu s  did, this wasn’t ‘just’ a promised king.

Jesus claimed to my mind ‘ontological’ Sonship  not just ‘son of God..as king etc’ type Sonship, particularly in the Gospel of John.

The ‘monogenes theou’ of the Nt even if not on the lips of Jesus shows us there is a difference here between simple kingship promise and the one who actually came.

His declaration as Son of God (Rom 1) came through his Resurrection

I would also say to read Logos as NOT Jesus does violence to the purpose as I see it of the prologue. The Logos became flesh. So wisdom motif yes but ALSO God ‘coming’ by his Word, his Son  our Lord’.  

It seems that you don’t accept the pre existence of Jesus which was a turning point of course in the Arian conflict (there was a time when the Son was not). John 1 ‘in the beginning was the logos’ v3 without him was not made anything that was made’ reinforced by the Sons awareness of pre existence (all the way through John)  e.g ‘the glory I had with you before the world was’ and Coll 1  by him all things were created, and Php 2 ‘who BEING in the form of God …

I am puzzled/worried/   I hear argumentsa from you that  I hear all the time from various anti trinitarians,   there is nothing new under the theological sun. The 4th century might have been a greek milieu  but so was Johns gospel and for that matter Luke!

The first heresies seemed to deny the humanity of Jesus later ones his deity…. I really do believe that your view can be contained within orthodoxy provided he is seen as not JUST  a kinhship/messianic son of God. Which is clearly for me what John and Paul (at least ) show us.

@JT John Tancock:

I can’t back this up at the moment, but it’s not quite correct to say that no Old Testament person called God “my father”. Consider, for example:

I said, How I would set you among my sons, and give you a pleasant land, a heritage most beautiful of all nations. And I thought you would call me, My Father, and would not turn from following me. Surely, as a treacherous wife leaves her husband, so have you been treacherous to me, O house of Israel, declares the LORD. (Jer. 3:19–20)

What this suggests is that calling God “my father” was a marker of complete obedience, which makes excellent sense in the Gospels. Jesus did what Israel should have done but didn’t. As I recall it’s not even the case that Jesus’ use of Abba was unique.

Similarly, Israel is God’s “firstborn and only-begotten son” (huion prōtotokon monogonē) in Pss. Sol. 18:4. These expressions put Jesus not in the place of God but in the place of Israel in relation to the Father.

Yes, Jesus became or was appointed or designated Son of God through the resurrection: this was how he became both Israel’s king and judge and ruler of the nations (Rom. 1:4; Acts 17:31) in accordance with Psalms 2 and 110. 

I would also say to read Logos as NOT Jesus does violence to the purpose as I see it of the prologue. The Logos became flesh. So wisdom motif yes but ALSO God ‘coming’ by his Word, his Son our Lord’.

The purpose of the passage is to say that the “word”, which for Jews was wisdom and for Greeks was a principle of rationality, became flesh and lived among God’s people. Jesus was the incarnation of divine wisdom. Jesus pre-existed as divine wisdom. Perhaps Paul has a similar idea in mind in Philippians 2:6 and Colossians 1:15-17. How far apart are we on this?

@Andrew Perriman:


I don’t find the evidence that you provide convincing regarding ‘Father’  in the OT. The Jeremiah passage is rather oblique Andrew.


Jesus’ own self identity is clear ‘the glory I had with you before the world was’, I know its Johannine but thats your problem not mine. The Logos concept is so ‘strong’ plus the many other references in John to Jesus’ pre existence that once again we are at the place where your point about the passage can be contained in the wider understanding but you seem to want to ‘dump orthodoxy’ in favour of a more limited approach…just saying!!


To call oneself evangelical today is to self identify as a person who embraces mainstream orthodox Christianity, testifies to Christ and his resurrection and ‘believes the bible’ (whetehr inerrant or infallible). To redefine that is define oneself ‘outside’ of Evangelical. To deny the Trinity/Deity of Christ is do define oneself outside of that. I see this as important.

I do understand what you are saying about the task of biblical exegesis and interpretation but we can all do that. What I mean is that I could exegete a passage and say it was just an honest attempt to let the bible speak for itself before the theologians get stuck in. But your interpretation Andrew is no more morally ‘neutral’ than many others. You see if post/emerging/ new type Church /theology takes on board some of the things you are saying it will be arian or some form of adoptionist and ppl must’nt delude themselves to think that al others have an imperfect understanding of the text.

Any emerging situation does not need to eject orthodox trinitarianism, none at all. To consign to ‘the Christendom’ era would be foolish in the extreme. The exegetical work on the texts took place before Nicea as well as after. These people faced exactly the same issues as today and focussed in lazerlike on the key issues one of them being ‘there was a time when the son was not’ (as Arius said).

The evidence for Jesus being ‘God’ by his own words and the words of others is pretty clear, his response to Thomas in 20v28 is an example. I may spend some time responding to the John 10 and 5 passages soon about this. I just detect a less than dispassionate approach to ‘orthodoxy’ in your approach Andrew, which far from being neutral , it actually colours the way you read the passages, hence my reasonably regular accusations of arianism!! lol. 

@JT John Tancock:

Here’s what you said:

No OT person called God ‘my father’ Jesus did, this wasn’t ‘just’ a promised king.

It seems pretty clear from the Old Testament and elsewhere that fatherhood was a common metaphor for the relationship either of Israel or of Israel’s king to God. When Jesus calls God “father”, this is what he means: he fulfils the ideal relationship of Israel or of Israel’s king to YHWH. See the following:

He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. (2 Sam. 7:13–14)

I said, How I would set you among my sons, and give you a pleasant land, a heritage most beautiful of all nations. And I thought you would call me, My Father, and would not turn from following me. Surely, as a treacherous wife leaves her husband, so have you been treacherous to me, O house of Israel, declares the LORD. (Jer. 3:19–20)

I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn (Jer. 31:9)

For you are our Father, though Abraham does not know us, and Israel does not acknowledge us; you, O LORD, are our Father, our Redeemer from of old is your name. (Is. 63:16)

For You are a father to all the children of Your truth, and You rejoice over them as a loving mother over her nursing child. (1QH 17:35–36)

The pious ones of old used to spend an hour before praying to direct their heart to the Father who (is) in heaven. (m. Ber V, 1)

O Father, my God, leave me not forsaken, in the power of the nations. (4Q 372 f1:16)

I don’t what to keep making the same point, but what this is about is not whether I affirm or deny the Trinity. It’s about what the texts are saying. If you think that Jesus calling God “father” is evidence for his deity, I have to say that I think you are wrong—and I think you obscure something very important in the process. If John presents Jesus as claiming pre-existence, that is another matter.

@Andrew Perriman:

Ok lets have a look at these and then some of the statements about and by Jesus  regarding Sonship/Fatherhood.

2 Sam passage  indictaes the type of relationship YHWH has with the messianic King ..no problem.

Jeremiah doesnt show exculsivity but ‘amongst my sons’ and is one of a number of relational descriptors between YHWH and Israel. 

God is a father to the peoples of Israel and Ephraim is firstborn, so this isn’t the king but all the tribes of Israel, once again no problem.

Isa 63 ‘our father’ np, we all say that and make no claims as Jesus did.

The others are non biblical, relevant for greater dioscussion but not to my point.

My point was about ‘No OT person…….  ’ So we come to the son father relationship of Jesus and God in the NT. Can it include Jesus as fulfilment of the messianic King….yes it can. Can it include Jesus as the embodiment of Israel…yes it can.  Is it MORE than this and does it indicate some kind of common identity?  ….yes of course it does.

the use of ‘one and only son’ (monogenes theou)   different from other sonship INDIVIDUALLY.

Before Abraham existed ! AM’ (NTFE Wright)

‘Through the Son he created the universe’ Heb 1v2 (NLT)

To the SON he says your throne O God is forever’ Heb 1v8 quoting a kingly Psalm yes but making it mean SO MUCH MORE.

‘the glory I had with you before the world existed’ JN 17v3

‘I want them to see father the glory you gave me, beacuse you loved me before the foundation of the world. JN 17v24 (NTFE)

The time will come when the dead will hear the voice of Gods son, and those that hear it will live. Jn 5v25 (NTFE)  hardly containable in israel/king/or angels.

…’so that everyone honours the Son just as they honour the Father who sent him’ JN 5v23 

As I said previously just as ‘son of man’ (in the vast majority of instances of its occurence in the OT notably Ezekiel) means ‘one of us. totally human, so it means that on the lips of Jesus AS WELL AS the messianic figure of Daniel 7. So too does Son of God imply onenes and identity with the Father the divine but ALSO speaks of one who is the messianic ‘son’ of Psalm 2, the national ‘son’ of Hosea and Isaiah but ALSO one ‘greater than Angels’…. the Son of God.

The language of sonship is applied to Israel, the King, Angels ,us and Jesus. The NT uses examples of non jewish responses and within its pages the writers aware of the jewish understandings also bring  other wider understandings into play …the use of the Centurion at the cross ‘a son of god’ (at least) is an example of this.

Ok I will stop now, sorry if you feel you are repeating yourself Andrew, I could be thick (many say so) but it is partly because I agree with you BUT ALSO see the passages we are referring to as telling a bigger story an important story of  a King a Lord who would end up being describes as sharing the Throne of God (Rev 5v13) and being King of Kings and Lord of Lords ’  I’m not shrinking that down I can’t it’s there in the text. He is ‘my Lord and my God’ !!   I hope I am not an irritant on the site.

@JT john Tancock:

In Psalms of Solomon (1st century BC) Israel is said to be disciplined as a “firstborn son, only-begotten” (huion prōtotokon, monogenē), so it cannot be argued that monogenēs in the New Testament points to a sonship different from the other examples. Interestingly, though, wisdom may also be described as monogenēs (Wis. 7:22), which may be more relevant for the passages in John.

Hebrews 1 is one of the passages in which the sonship (i.e. kingship) theme is overlaid by a wisdom argument. But this cannot be taken as evidence that “son” or “Son” in itself signifies deity or identity with God. The argument is that the one who has been seated at the right hand of God and given authority to rule is also the one through whom the ages were made.

I think John 5:25 is fully containable in Israel/king terms if it’s taken in context:

Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. (John 5:25–27)

The “Son of God”—that is, Israel’s king—has been given authority to execute judgment. Why? Because he is the Son of Man, who suffers righteously and is vindicated, according to the narrative of Daniel 7:13-27. There is a critical argument here: Jesus is given authority to judge and rule as Israel’s king because he chose a path of faithful suffering in a time of eschatological crisis. The argument of Philippians 2:6-11 exactly.

I strongly disagree that “son of man” simply means “totally human”. Jesus invokes a prophetic narrative about the persecuted saints of the Most High, who do not apostasies like other Jews, when faced with a threat to the integrity of the covenant but who suffered, were killed, and were vindicated.

The argument about being greater than the angels does not prove divinity: it is that Jesus has been raised to the right hand of God, given an inheritance as Israel’s king, given authority to judge and rule the nations (Heb. 1:5, 13; cf. Ps. 2, 110). Even Psalm 45 is about Israel’s king being anointed beyond his companions.

John, you have been an excellent interlocutor. We don’t have to keep these conversations going indefinitely, but I have plenty of experience of “irritants” on this site. You’ll just have to put up with me being a bit stubborn, that’s all.

@Andrew Perriman:


I will continue a little bit more….you never know the corner of some London hostelry may one day resound to you talking to someone with a welsh accent!  I can be stubborn too lol.   

I never said ‘only’  human, THATS my point. Son of man on the lips of Jesus occurs some 70 times. At the trial (Mk 14v61f) it is a likely reference to the Daniewl passage.  or Psalm 110v1. The phrase is used extensively in thew Hebrew scriptures to mean ‘human’ and is translated as such by some (TEV).  ‘who is man that ….the sonof man that…..’ Psa 8v4 (mere mortals NLT) here is a parralel useage reinforcing my point that usually son of man means human.   It is often said that ‘son of man’ could be circumlocution on the lips of jesus for ‘me’ or ‘I’. It can mean the messianic figure of Dan 7 BUT NOT EXCLUSIVELY

Son of God

If you ‘filter’ any solution that is ‘orthodox’ you will produce conslusions and language that isn’t. So if you cannot see that Jesus is the ‘creator’ side of the line then you will seek make scripture fit your own presuppositions. So varying translations say all things were created by, through, in him. ALL THINGS. Now I ask the question which side of the line is JEsus creator or created? If whenever ‘God’ is used it (in your mind)exhausts the meaning of God then you will always place the Son as ‘not God’ but this is simply not recognising the holistic picture not just of the whole bible but of the passage being read.

So, Heb 1 is a rich Christological passage and apart from some jiggery pokery with proskuneo in v6 and ‘O God’ in v8   the meanings are easy to construct.

The son is intriduced he is the creator side’ of the line immediately even if ‘through” is used. Jesus suatains ALL THINGS  and he is greater than angels. Now of course he has been exalted but even in this passage through him EVERYTHING was created. Unless you limit this to ‘new creation’ the meaning is obvious. God (the Father) commanded the angels to worship him…. now this is only to be given to GOD  (Lk 4v8)  What is also staggering is that Psa 102 is quoted in v10 …’you O lord…’   who does this refer to and when does it refer to in Psalms and who does it refer to in Heb 1?   This person created as God only can, was worshipped as God only should be, was called God by ‘God’!   The theological concluisons to my mind point in the direction of ‘Trinity’ and Jesus being ‘God’  being YHWH in some way.

Prior to the ‘incarnation’ (Jn 1v14) he was ‘equal with God’ PHp 2, ‘without him was not made anything that has been made’ Jn 1v3, the heavens are the work of his hands Heb 1v10   HE HUMBLED HIMSELF

and then was exalted just like Philp 2v6-11 says!  Almost all translations would not support your reading of Php 2v 6 I quote agin Wright ‘did not rehgard his equality with God as something to exploit’. 

@Andrew Perriman:

I strongly disagree that “son of man” simply means “totally human”. Jesus invokes a prophetic narrative about the persecuted saints of the Most High

This was Hurtado’s point (and mine in the relevant post) in his summing up in the October 2012 collection of essays ‘Who is the Son of Man?’ Some of the “son of man” references in the gospels are to Daniel 7; the majority are not.

Your sense of humour was not lost in me in the earlier response, Andrew.

J T John Tancock – I agree with your affirmations and criticisms of Andrew, that a narrative historical interpretation does not of necessity exclude a divine Jesus. The text itself frequently affirms it. The problem then is that the narrative starts to break out of the exegetical strait-jacket which Andrew has imposed on it, and does actually become a different narrative.

Andrew – I agree that the gospels are misused when treated purely as sources of proof for Jesus’s deity. Nevertheless, there’s plenty in them, beyond those mentioned by John Tancock, which infers his deity. There are also broader reasons to understand Jesus as having divine status, which, contra your assertion, reside in the meaning of his death, and in his role as renewer of creation through his resurrection. It is very good theology on both counts.

The question of the identity of Jesus becomes as pressing in your interpretation as anyone else’s. If he was referred to in Proverbs 8 (actually refering to God’s wisdom, not Jesus the person), and was present at the creation of the world, what kind of person would that make him in the gospels?

@peter wilkinson:

I agree with your affirmations and criticisms of Andrew, that a narrative historical interpretation does not of necessity exclude a divine Jesus…

I have not said that a narrative-historical approach excludes a divine Jesus. At least to the extent that the New Testament attributes to Jesus a role otherwise attributed to wisdom, he is closely associated with divinity. What I object to is the imposition of theological conclusions on passages that are trying very hard to say something else.

@Andrew Perriman:

What I object to is the imposition of theological conclusions on passages that are trying very hard to say something else

Not wishing to start a trawl through the passages which you may have in mind, but I did observe that in your response to J T John Tancock’s much earlier list of ‘markers’ for Jesus’s divinity, you produced your reasons for rebutting these which I wouldn’t describe as definitive at all.  For instance your treatment of the Father/Son relationship, which left huge questions about the nature of the relationship and its NT significance still open to question.

So I think that when you assert that some passages have theological conclusions imposed on them when ‘they are trying very hard to say something else’, my observation is that you are trying very hard to say something, which would not be without justification if it were disinterested enquiry, which forecloses justifiable alternative possibilities.

I think there is far more ‘theological’ editing and interpretation of the person of Jesus, in the gospels for instance, than a narrative historical theology likes to admit. I still have to ask the question: if Jesus was not deity, who then in your reading was he, since according to you he is associated with wisdom at the creation of the world through Proverbs 8, was involved in ‘an act of creation’, and had a pre-existence with God?

Was he someone of unique status: below God, but above the angels and man? Someone who did not share in Israel’s spiritual exile, and therefore her national unforgiveness of sins which all other Israelites experienced? Someone who could come in from the outside and make sacrifice for sins because he himself didn’t share in those sins, not needing (unlike all other high priests) to make a sacrifice for himself?

Doesn’t this start to get uncomfortably theological?

@peter wilkinson:

I still have to ask the question: if Jesus was not deity, who then in your reading was he, since according to you he is associated with wisdom at the creation of the world through Proverbs 8, was involved in ‘an act of creation’, and had a pre-existence with God?

Look, there is an overarching question about who Jesus was/is, which requires a comprehensive answer in which we might attempt to consolidate or correlate all the New Testament data. But the answer to that question cannot be made the answer to every particular question that arises in the course of reading the New Testament. So while John or Paul may have come to the conclusion that Jesus is to be identified with wisdom, that does not necessarily mean that Jesus spoke or even thought of himself as divine wisdom, or that the synoptic writers presented him as such.

Similarly for the Son of God argument. The Old Testament background nowhere suggests that the figure referred to as “Son of God” is to be identified with God himself. The term always refers to a human individual or group in close relationship with God, and there is very little, if anything, in the New Testament to suggest that either Jesus or those who wrote about him understood the term otherwise.

@Andrew Perriman:

Yes of course, in response to your first paragraph. But when the question of Jesus’s identity arises, it dents the view that he was an apocalyptic prophet in the line of OT prophets, addressing a purely contingent historical situation. If he was only the few unusual things that you imply, and which go beyond apocalyptic prophet, he was a very unusual person indeed, and not a straightforward Israelite who had come to deliver Israel.

Ditto meaning of Son of God — which actually means various things, not just one, in the OT, and therefore approximates to its overall meaning, one close to God and like him. Jesus was including some of the OT meanings — eg Israel, assembly of divine beings (angels?), messiah/king, but adding others — such as his unique Father/Son relationship with God, which was not a simple extrapolation to be understood from the very few OT references.

The fact is that while Jesus fulfilled OT expectations in some senses, he defied and overturned OT expectations in many others. In fulfilling the OT narrative, he went considerably beyond anything that was straightforwardly anticipated in the OT. Not least in the kind of person he was, ie a step-change from any previous OT figure. I think you focus on the OT expectations in a narrower sense, whilst tending to overlook the NT person, who surprised everyone and was not expected. That’s like not being able to see the wood for the trees. You have also yet to answer the questions which your own analysis of Jesus’s identity is starting to raise, let alone anyone else’s.

cherylu | Mon, 03/25/2013 - 14:18 | Permalink

I’m not sure who Andrew thinks Jesus is either, but it appears to me that whoever he thinks He is, He does not think He is the second person of the Trinity in any usual orthodox sense of the word. Being seen as in some way “being associated with wisdom” is not the same thing at all.

Andrew, you have apparently overthrown the carefully hammered out theology that the orthodox church has carefully guarded for many hundreds of years.  I must say that I think you are dead wrong and that I truly fear for you in the place you find yourself and the place you seem to be headed.  And more then that, I truly fear for all of those that you may be influencing in the same direction.


Don’t be so melodramatic. All I am trying to do is clarify the meaning of the New Testament. There is no reason to think that I have got everythying right, but equally there is no reason to think that the church has got everything right—or that there aren’t better ways of articulating the New Testament narrative in a post-Christendom, post-modern context. The simple fact is that “Son of God” does not mean “God the Son”.

What New Testament scholarship doing for the last two or three decades is working through the New Testament on the premise that it was written not by fourth century Greek Christians but by first century Jewish Christians. I don’t see how that cannot be a legitimate and necessary undertaking. As I’ve said elsewhere, it’s work in progress. It has brought considerable clarity, in my view, to the place of Jesus in the story of Israel and to the kingship theme in particular.

It is up to theologians to deal constructively with the theological consequences of the output of New Testament scholarship—and not simply panic because they don’t like the sound of what they are hearing.

The particular questions that I want to ask here are: i) How much further does this approach need to be taken? and ii) What are the practical implications for the life and ministry of the church?

@Andrew Perriman:

The output of the Nt scholaraship isn’;t necessarily a correct reflection of the Nt either. Particularly if it fights hard to keep the concepts, ideas, wording and teachimg within a 1st century ‘second temple’ type framwework.

Luke was not a jew.

The NT was written in greek, has been passed down and preserved in Greek.

The bible of the first Christians was the LXX ….greek.

The range of greek interactions and understandings in the Nt is immense. Notably the prologue to John and Pauls speech in Athens.

We CAN learn so much from a recovery of a ‘jewish’ background to the Nt but also we cannot ignore the staggering place of Jesus in the life of th first Christians.  Called God by 4 or 5 NT writers, worshipped, sung to and honoured ‘just as the father’ (Jn 5v23). Equal with God before the Incarnation and LORD after his resurrection.  The languag of Nicea was used well before the events of that fateful council. Ignatius (late 1st early 2nd) called Jesus ‘God’ without batting an eyelid 12 times in the ‘accepted’ letters. So did Irenaus, Hippolytus, Tertullian etc etc etc.

My field s of service include ‘apologetics’ and ‘evangelism’. The language of the NT ‘God with us’, ‘became one of us’, ‘my Lord and my God’  can mislead and lead to modalistic thinking but I too am currently working through if Andrews narrative approach can be used in these situations. I believe it can but will take some work but only as PART of the picture.

The 4 major christological passages of the NT fit very nicely into ‘;orthodoxy’ in fact it was they that produced ‘orthodoxy’….. lets not close them down or limit them.

@JT john Tancock:

The range of greek interactions and understandings in the Nt is immense. Notably the prologue to John and Pauls speech in Athens.

The fact that the New Testament was written in Greek does not mean it’s not essentially and thoroughly Jewish in outlook. Every text—including Luke and Acts—is deeply imbued with scripture and a Jewish worldview. It is hardly correct to say that the “range of greek interactions and understandings” in the New Testament is immense. Apart from the word logos there is little in John’s Prologue that cannot be accounted for in Jewish terms. Paul’s speech to the men of Athens can be mostly paralleled in Jewish Wisdom writings—a standard critique of paganism. He throws in a couple of quotes from Greek poets, but his conclusion about judgment and resurrection is Jewish through and through.

The New Testament was written within a first century, second temple Jewish framework. This was a Judaism that engaged with Hellenism in many ways, perhaps more than we usually appreciate, but my basic point stands: it is illegitimate historically to read the New Testament in the light of the second, third or fourth centuries; it is fully legitimate and necessary to read it in the light of scripture and the literature of second temple Judaism.

@Andrew Perriman:

It IS necessary to read the NT as it is and not force it back into the box of 1st century judaism. The way in which they talked of Jesus and the most natural reading of Php 2, Coll 1 and Jn1  will take one out or at least point far beyond the confines of Judaism.

We must let the NT speak for itself and neither press upon it much later or much earlier understandings.

The circle you are travelling will I’m sure bring you back to ‘orthodoxy’ which will be to me the ultimately the best way of explaining the overall collection of NT and OT Data about God. It is also the best explanation of the various Christological passages.

The ‘it’ idea in JN 1 doesn’t work at all it is unnatural in the text. The idea that Jesus rejected ‘equality with God’ in Php 2 is also an unnatural reading of the text. The specifics of Jn 20v28 and Heb 1v8 and more have to be altered or ‘explained away’ unnaturally. The worship of angels in Heb 1v6 and the significant explanations of Jesus in the upper room discourse of his relationship with God the Father. All of these and more make up the natural picture.

The route you have taken Andrew has seemingly led you to a ‘worse’ place than arianism  it is to socinianism….denying the Sons pre existence (like some modern ‘monotheists’ and also ‘Christadelphians’). Without serious rearrangement  of the wording of the texts it is impossible to sustain ‘no pre existence’ of the Son. Cherylu’s questions are pertinent Andrew.   Who is Jesus to you?

@JT john Tancock:

The way in which they talked of Jesus and the most natural reading of Php 2, Coll 1 and Jn1 will take one out or at least point far beyond the confines of Judaism.

I don’t see this at all. I agree that it is understood that Jesus will have an impact on the nations—I’ve argued that consistently. I also agree that something is said about a role in creation. But that is still conceived in essentially Jewish terms. The New Testament does not have the metaphysical categories of later conciliar orthodoxy. The New Testament is a political-religious text, not a philosophical text.

I wish you would stop trying to stick all those heavy-duty labels on me. They miss the point entirely.

@Andrew Perriman:

Theres me thinking we were winding down. The fact is Andrew is the views you hold and the texts and angles you have on the salient passages are to me straight lifts from the material produced under the heavy duty lables!

@Andrew Perriman:

Andrew,  I am not wanting to be melodramatic here.  But I see the implications of the conclusion that you seem to be more and more certainly coming to as very profound indeed.

Yes, you have said this is “a work in progress”.  BUT on Saturday you also made this statement, “I have not said that a narrative-historical approach excludes a divine Jesus. At least to the extent that the New Testament attributes to Jesus a role otherwise attributed to wisdom, he is closely associated with divinity.”  That doesn’t sound like you are leaving a whole lot if any room for the orthodox position that Jesus was/is fully God and fully man.  An association with wisdom is not the same thing at all.

And today you made this comment, “ So while John or Paul may have come to the conclusion that Jesus is to be identified with wisdom, that does not necessarily mean that Jesus spoke or even thought of himself as divine wisdom, or that the synoptic writers presented him as such.” You also stated again that the term “Son of God” does not mean He was God.

Again, John or Paul maybe coming to the conclusion that Jesus is to be identified with wisdom is not at all the same thing as saying He is the second person of the Trinity, God Himself, as the orthodox church has believed.  And that I believe to be the truth.  It is indeed far, far from it.  And if you don’t necessarily even believe that the NT shows Jesus thought of Himself even as divine wisdom or that the synoptic Gospels even granted Him that much, I wonder where you think you may find orthodox belief in the NT at all?  If Jesus didn’t believe it, if the synoptics don’t affirm it, if John and Paul don’t affirm it—if they indeed say something else in all of those places where the church has found teaching that He is indeed God—from where or on what grounds would you base a belief that Jesus was/is indeed God from eternity past?  It seems to me that at best you have left yourself very little wiggle room here to come to that conclusion.



Let me ask you about all of this in a different way.  At this time in your studying, what do you see in the NT that does affirm that Jesus is truly God’s Son—the second person of the trinity—fully God and fully man?

Are there places that say that to you at this time?  And if so, how do you think they fit with the rest of the picture that you have been painting—that the NT as examined so far does not teach that is who He is?


What I think is something like this—though it is rather idiotic on my part to try to sum up such a complex subject, so you should probably take this with a pinch of salt…

The New Testament may marginally and somewhat ambiguously state, and may more widely imply, that Jesus is fully God and fully man, but that is not what the New Testament centrally wants to say about Jesus. The core argument is not that Jesus is God but that Jesus is Lord, that he has been appointed, by virtue of his death, judge and ruler of the nations. That is the sense in which he is Son of God, which I don’t think is the same thing as saying that he is God the Son. The New Testament is a political-religious text, not a philosophical text. It is about kingdom, not ontology.

Basically, I don’t think that the New Testament sets out to answer the questions that the Greek fathers felt they need to ask. The same thing happens when we try to make Genesis 1-3 answer modern scientific questions about the origins of the cosmos and human life. Genesis 1-3 answers ancient questions about origins. The doesn’t mean that the Greek fathers were wrong—I would happily regard the conclusions reached by Nicaea and Chalcedon as historically necessary inferences from the biblical narrative.

By the way, I appreciate the careful questioning.

@Andrew Perriman:

Thanks for your answer, Andrew.

It is rather curious to me however that from this, “The New Testament may marginally and somewhat ambiguously state, and may more widely imply, that Jesus is fully God and fully man….”  you can come to this conclusion, “The doesn’t mean that the Greek fathers were wrong—I would happily regard the conclusions reached by Nicaea and Chalcedon as historically necessary inferences from the biblical narrative.”

With all of those “may marginally”, and “somewhat ambigously” and “may more widely imply”s, you can come to “historically necessary inferences?”


I’m terribly sorry, Cherylu, but in deleting the repeat comment I inadvertently deleted the further comment you had attached to it. It’s late here and I’m getting tired. I didn’t even get a chance to read it.

With all of those “may marginally”, and “somewhat ambigously” and “may more widely imply”s, you can come to “historically necessary inferences?”

Well, yes, but that simply represents the degree of disconnection, as I see it, between the New Testament and the theologians of the fourth century. One of the interesting possibilities opened up by a narrative approach is that the narrative continues.

@Andrew Perriman:

Thanks for deleting the duplicates!  Never did figure out what happened there.

From your reply I could tell that you got the main idea of what I was saying.  So don’t worry about the rest of the comment!

@Andrew Perriman:

As I was thinking more about what you said, I find myself wondering why you think it was necessary historically to affirm Jesus Deity when you see such a huge disconnect with what the text thought.  When you said the narrative might possibly continue, are you implying that in the fourth century the fact that He was God was perhaps a new revelation given to them that didn’t really depend on the NT text? 


No, I wouldn’t see it as new revelation. I would suggest that the apocalyptic narrative of the New Testament created a problem for the Greek-thinking church which they had to resolve in terms that made sense to them. The apocalyptic narrative about YHWH becoming king through the faithfulness of Jesus has its roots in a thoroughly Jewish worldview shaped by centuries of political-religious conflict. Greek-thinking Christians did not share that worldview. Increasingly, the challenge to their faith came from the philosophers, so the Jewish stories and arguments out of which the New Testament was composed had to be translated into rational-metaphysical rather than political-religious arguments. This is why allegorization becomes rampant: it is a means of translating concrete narrative into abstractions.

@Andrew Perriman:

So, as you see it, the GreeK thinking folks of the fourth century couldn’t understand (or relate?) to the Jewish story of Jesus as told in the New Testament. So they came up with their own “translation” of who Jesus was that made sense to them.  Is that essentially what you are saying?

Then my question to you is, did those Greeks come up with an accurate statement of who He is?  Do you believe that when they said that He is/was “begotten of the Father before all worlds”, “very God of very God,” and of “and of one substance with the Father,” they were accurate and stating who Jesus really was before creation, during the incarnation, and at the present time?

@Andrew Perriman:

This ‘fourth century’ stuff is not the full truth.  False teaching arose much earlier which your narrative theology would not have been sufficient to answer.

Ebionites -Jesus only human (1st century)

Monarchical subordinationists — the MAIN problem in the second and third centuries.

assorted adoptionist groups

These are but a few examples.

Today the Mormons would say he is one of many gods, the JWs he is a god but not THE God and he was Gods first creation, Christadelphians wd say he didnt exist before he came as a man.

All these questions arise from much earlier than the 4th century and the Arian controversy.

The fact is that the NT data produces these questions 1. Is Jesus just a man. 2. Did he exist before he was ‘born;. 3. If he is God and Lord what about the fact that there is only ONE God ONE Lord (Deut 6v4). 4. So how do we respond to him if he is exalted in some way?

MANY passages talk of his pre existence, the PHP 2 passage does Coll 1 does, JN 1 does, Heb 1 does JN 17 does.   A lot of work has to be done to explain away these passages in almost any translation you read it in. The most natural way to read them isn’t to my mind the way you do Andrew. The ancient solution (a long time before Nicea) was to see Jesus ‘sharing the identity of God’ not his father but ‘same stuffness. Echoes of this CAN be seen even in the OT (Angel of YHWH is an example)  so this Jewish background is not ‘simple monotheism’ there is more going on. 

If allw e had was Johns gospel we would without doubt believe in a pre existent Christ…….your problem is?

If emerging/post modern/post evangelical folk head in your direction they will be bringing down Christ, denying the pre christendom roots of the NT and people like Tertullian, Hippolytus, Irenaus and Ignatius.

Bad news, bad news indeed.

@Andrew Perriman:

By NT I think you in practise discount the Johannine writings. The gospel of John starts of with a crazy phrase ‘kai theos en ho logos’ pretty well ends with ‘my Lord and my God’. In between pre existence, a bundle of I ams  (c/p Ex 3v14 and Deut 32v39 also in LXX)  accusations of being equal with God, in many translation ‘God the only Son Jn 1v18 (now thats close to God the Son!!))  I have no idea how the 4 major Christological passages could be regarded as marginal or ‘implying’ the divinity of Jesus.

On LORD. To my mind it is at least as high as ‘God’ and in the OT ofc course GOD (EL/ELOHIM)  ad LORD (YHWH) are the main descriptors of the one God.

I will show that just as GOD is applied to Jesus so also is YHWH applied to him via the LXX (kurios).

here is a section from Romans 10 (Net bible)

10:8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” 9 (that is, the word of faith that we preach), 10:9 because if you confess with yourmouth that Jesus is Lord 10  and believe in your heart that God raised him fromthe dead, you will be saved. 10:10 For with the heart one believes and thus has righteousness 11  and with the mouth one confesses and thus has salvation. 12 10:11 For the scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” 13  10:12 For there is no distinction between the Jew and the Greek, for the same Lord is Lord of all, who richly blesses all who call on him.10:13 For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. 14 

Now Jesus is LORD v9,  ‘everyone who believes in HIM will not be put to shame’ v11  v12 ‘same LORD‘   v13 everyone who calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.

There is a simple and poweerful consisitency here  who is the Lord of v9 it is of course Jesus but when we arrive at v14 this same Lord is in the words of Joel 2v32  is YHWH. It is not marginal, oblique or ‘might be’ it is as natural in this passage as it is many many times in the NT    the writers move seemlessly from Lord to YHWH in reference to Jesus.      Andrew I’m sure you are aware that OT references to YHWH are applied unselfconciously to Jesus.

you may say no Jew from the 1st century would say such a thing …that a man is YHWH. This is a non valid response the same could be said ogf John 20v28 but the argument is circular and self defeating.

The fact that the Father is God and Lord and the Son is God and Lord and even thoiugh we are not discussing Holy Spirit here we see he is also Lord and God.   The solution to these issues arising from the direct text of the NT (particularly the Son and Lord ones)  is what later would be called the Trinity.

Jesus is YHWH.   LORD is a VERY high title I can’t think of another one.

@'JT' John Tancock:

I don’t neglect John. It is very important. The problem is that theologians tend to neglect everything else—the whole political-religious, eschatological-apocalytic narrative.

There is a simple and powerful consisitency here who is the Lord of v9 it is of course Jesus but when we arrive at v14 this same Lord is in the words of Joel 2v32 is YHWH.

Yes, of course, because, as is clear throughout the New Testament, the right to be called Lord, the authority to judge and rule as Lord, has been given to Jesus. There is no convergence of identity here. Because he was faithful and obedient, because he fulfilled the purposes of the Father, he was given the name which is above every name, he was appointed Son of God in power, he was given kingdom and dominion and glory, etc. YHWH hands over the title kurios to Jesus.

Is the Spirit said to be “Lord”? “God”?

@Andrew Perriman:

Yes the Spirit is but thats another thread lol

@Andrew Perriman:

The pre existence issue is so important, that is why ‘there was a time when the son was not’ was the key phrase that was fought over earlyon.  The idea that the Son was ‘begotten’ not from nothing like creation but from the substance of God (light from light’ God from God) was crucial and the contentious word homousios was used ‘same stuff’.

I will say a bit more on another part of this thread.

@JT john Tancock:

I think that amply demonstrates the disconnection between the language of scripture and the language of the Fathers.

@Andrew Perriman:

at risk of repetition.. Scripture identifies Jesus as God …. the jewish background wouldnt. Heb 1v8 JN 20v28  (John Paul and Peter)

Scripture identifies Jesus as YHWH  as I previously showed. Rom 10v 9f

Scripture shows worship of Jesus as I have shown. Heb 1v6

Scripture uses trinitarian triplets on more than a dozen times. Mthw 28v19

Scripture talks of jesus’ pre existence ..a number of writers John Paul Peter for three! with many esxpressions on the lips of Jesus.

if someone had asked is Jesus just a man?  in 30Ad  this would have raised the same issues that would eventually emerge as the Nicene creed in 325ad.

@Andrew Perriman:

not high enough Andrew.  kurios in the NT is used in passages where it is YHWH in the OT again and again and again. Its not enough to do ‘lord’ in those contexts. Much of the Nt material is unexplainable if we don’t take into account the useage of the OT.   Trading off Johnbecause most over emphasise is terrible!!  The whole picture must include John. I have no idea how you get around JN17 and the other pre existence passages. I know what the christadelphians say I will wait for parralels.

The route you are taking (possibly even if ‘in theory’) moves you away from PRE Nicene PRE Christendom  biblical understanding.  I repeat that your view can be contained in the full picture and more emphasis can be placed on it BUT you seem to be advocating rejecting historic Christianity …you are setting up an unnecesary and false conflict. We are not in the Jewish 1st century now. The ‘people of God’ are now multi national, the engagem,ent is not with Rome but is worldwide. The questions we face (many of them) want to know does God love us, does he really know us can he understand us , does he know pain and suffereing? The biblical answer is YES HE became of of us, he died as one of us, he rose again and is now strong enough to reverse even death itself. He is King of Kings Lord of Lords he is the visible face of God himself. 

@JT john Tancock:

That second paragraph rather sounds like an admission that the church has gone beyond the natural Jewish historical purview of the New Testament. But we are repeating ourselves, John. Probably time to let this one rest for a while.

@Andrew Perriman:

Ok I can ‘pause’ until some time in the future. One question though. Most of your arguments are almost straight ‘lifts’ from the work of Anthony Buzzard. Have you read his material? The similarity is significant. He is an anti trinitarian ‘monotheist’.


If Jesus isn’t what the mainstream churches say he is then he MUST NOT be worshipped. It is this giving of honour and treating him as ‘the One’ marks out not only the NT but the line of biblical Christians since that time.

In an academic theological mileiu  it is easy to think that ‘this’ is the world, it isn’t. Having only been on this board /blog/site less than a week really I recognise almost all the  arguments Andrew is using from many situations I have dealt with over the years. These are not new things and if the route Andrew has taken (and its trajectory) continues for the ‘emerging’ or ‘post evangelical/modern’  groups then God help them, they will be made mincemeat of by those ‘out there’ and they will have traded off one of the jewels of orthodoxy.

In the search for the new, the progressive, the different and the desire to breal with all that is perceived as ‘Christendom’   the baby will literally be thrown out with the bathwater. A high Christology preceded the state/Church alliance and should must and WILL post date it as well.

I hope Andrew has journeyed the full circle and continues to work on the narrative stuff which is so helpful.

Glory to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit!

cherylu | Tue, 03/26/2013 - 21:04 | Permalink


I really have to wonder why it is that when you have been asked repeatedly by several people over the course of the last week or two who it is that you personally believe Jesus to be, it has seemed to be basically impossible to get a direct answer from you?

If my memory is correct, the closest you have come is when you stated that you believed that it was “historically necessary” for the Greek thinkers in the fourth century to come to the conclusions that they did.  And that they weren’t wrong in that conclusion—even if it was a huge disconnect between what you see the Scriptures as explicitly teaching and is only seen there ambiguously, by implication, etc.  That really doesn’t answer any of our questions as I am sure you must know since we keep coming back to them over and over.

There are those of us interacting on this blog, and many, many folks in the church at large that understand the orthodox position that states that Jesus was fully God and fully man to be true and of the utmost importance.  And we have very plainly stated so.

Very frankly, when you keep dodging the issue or downright avoiding it I have to think that it is highly likely that either you are really uncertain yourself about His identity, or that you really don’t believe that He was fully God and that He is still so today as well as being fully man. 

Can you please just speak plainly and let us know where you are with this issue?  If not, I reckon that I will find myself assuming that one of my assumptions in the last paragraph is correct.  And I am trying not to make false assumptions here.  But sometimes silence does speak louder then words!


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

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

Would that do?

I believe that Jesus is my Lord and Saviour.

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

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

@Andrew Perriman:

How about substituting the Nicene Creed instead of the Apostles Creed? 

“We believe in one God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father by whom all things were made; who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man…..”

Since you think that is “perhaps hinted at in the New Testament itself” that He is fully God and fully man, do you think what is stated in the Nicene Creed is true?  “Begotten of the Father before all worlds,”  “God of God,” “Very God of Very God,” “Being of one substance with the Father…”  etc?

Is that at least a part of your belief system about who He is?  Or have you departed from orthodox belief in this area?


Andrew, I just want to add a quick thought to my last comment.  It may seem that I have pushed a lot harder then is maybe necessary in trying to get a more complete answer from you on this issue.  Although not everyone may understand this, the issue of Jesus divinity is a very big deal to theologically conservative Christians.  And I don’t think a lot of folks know where you stand on this. I have had someone tell me that of course you believe that Jesus was/is God.  Someone else told me that your mind was already made up that He wasn’t God and that was why you were interpreting things the way you do.  Seems like one should know the answer “straight from the horses mouth” as the old saying goes.

peter wilkinson | Wed, 03/27/2013 - 10:25 | Permalink

It’s amazing how much debate the question of Jesus’s humanity/deity raises — though only between a limited number of participants here.

I think Andrew’s general response to the questions raised is that it’s a side issue, in view of what he maintains the central narrative of the NT texts to be all about.

I don’t think it can be a side issue, since central even to Andrew’s interpretation is the sacrifice Jesus offers in his own death to provide, at the least, survival of those loyal to YHWH and his purposes. Sometimes, I think, Andrew would prefer the sacrifice to be seen simply as a martyr’s death in the line of the Maccabean martyrs, but I think he probably has to concede that the NT texts don’t really allow such a limitation. There was a penal subsitutionary atonement — couched in terms which indicated a fufilment of the Levitical sacrifiical system.

The debate then rages around whether the sacrifice was made by a human or human/divine figure. They are valid arguments, since the defining event itself raises them — even within Andrew’s limited narrative historical interpretation. I don’t think you can have it both ways: you can’t say the narrative is about a human figure, but there are peripheral suggestions that Jesus was actually divine. If you start to say that Jesus was a human/divine person, it affects the narrative. The gospels begin to appear in a very new light. The entire narrative of OT and NT also then appears in a new light.

It is disingenous to say that from the narrative point of view, Jesus was human, but from statements made elsewhere in the NT, it could be said he is human/divine. These are very real theological issues embedded in the narrative, and were validly addressed by the church fathers. I think the authors of the gospels were also addressing them.

I think part of Andrew’s argument, apart from the primary narrative argument, is also driven by an intellectual objection: how can Jesus (or anyone) be God and man, and how can God ‘die’ on the cross? It’s not a new question, but while it’s a problem to some, it’s not for others. Matthew 11:25 comes to mind, though that might be regarded as provocative.

@peter wilkinson:

You know, I am starting to wonder if Andrew even thinks any more that, “from statements made elsewhere in the NT, it could be said he is human/divine.”

He has recently said that this is still a work in progress which seems to say that he still keeps that possibility open. But on Saturday he made this statement, ““I have not said that a narrative-historical approach excludes a divine Jesus. At least to the extent that the New Testament attributes to Jesus a role otherwise attributed to wisdom, he is closely associated with divinity.”  On Monday this statement was made, “The New Testament may marginally and somewhat ambiguously state, and may more widely imply, that Jesus is fully God and fully man, but that is not what the New Testament centrally wants to say about Jesus. ” And then yesterday he said, “I believe that the controlling argument of the New Testament is that Jesus has been given—as a “reward” for his obedience and suffering—authority to judge and rule at the right hand of God until the final enemy is put under his feet. To say that Jesus is fully God and fully man is one way of restating that argument, perhaps one that is hinted at in the New Testament itself.”

Maybe I am understanding this incorrectly, and I would appreciate if you would correct my misconception in that case, Andrew, but it seems to me that in the course of a few days you have gone from it being a work in progres where the possibility of His divinity is still left open, to now being a possibility that is “perhaps hinted at in the NT.”  It sounds like a constant downgrade throughout the week.

And so far anyway, it doesn’t seem that any amount of asking has been able to bring forth a really clear answer to who Andrew believes Jesus is. To say that, “He is my Savior and Lord” is great.  But when we know that “Lord” is a state that was bestowed upon Jesus because of His obedience and doesn’t mean He was God in Andrew’s understanding, that still doesn’t answer the question.

Those of us who believe He is God and always was freely say so.  Why then the great hesitance to state such a fact if it is indeed what Andrew believes?  Even if he believes it but does not believe it is central to what the NT is trying to say?  It seems the question is either ignored or just danced around. 

As I said yesterday or the day before, sometimes silence does indeed speak louder then words!

Keith Hendrick | Wed, 12/19/2018 - 20:23 | Permalink

If we believe the words in the new testament as scripture, then we should also believe in why the Jews were going to stone Jesus in their belief, who he was claiming to be or equal too

Keith Hendrick | Wed, 12/19/2018 - 21:50 | Permalink

The whole thing would be cleared up, if Jesus just came straight and said ( I am God, The Almighty, Jehovah, the God of your fathers) and I took a peice of me which I called my son and came into the world in the fleash to walk among my creation to try to save you from sin, I talk to Moses from a burning bush, I spoke from heaven when I was getting baptized by John, my spirit was in the form of a dove cause i can do that too and I gave myself all authority over everything in heaven and earth. If Jesus just said, I am God the messiah and I am here to fulfill prophecy which I gave so you may see what’s to come and to die for your sins and to return one day not far from now. Instead of almost saying it or speaking in parables, even his discipe ask what?

@Keith Hendrick:

 What you ask for would teach Modalism.

 The fact that Christ taught and accepted that He is to be prayed to (John 14:14) and worshiped (Luke 24:52; John 9:38) is adequate proof that He claimed to be God.