The long conversation I have been having with John Tancock (starting here) illustrates rather well, to my mind, the difference between the theological approach and the narrative-historical (a.k.a. apocalyptic-eschatological, biblical critical, you name it) approach to reading the New Testament. John was responding to an old post entitled Did Jesus claim to be God?, but a couple of recent pieces have explored the conflict on a broader hermeneutical basis: The battle between theology and history for the soul of the church: 24 antitheses and Theology, narrative and history: how they work in practice.
From John’s perspective, as a long-standing defender of classic Trinitarianism against the barbarian tribes of Modalists, Arians, Oneness Pentecostals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and others, interpretation of the christological texts is ultimately answerable to the Council of Nicaea. So if I do not agree with him that one text or another does not teach that Jesus is God, then it would appear that I am an Arian and so a serious threat to the integrity of the faith.
From my perspective, however, it is very difficult to see why interpretation should be held accountable to a debate that took place centuries later in a very different intellectual environment. If interpretation of the New Testament is answerable to anything, it should be to the court of the Jewish scriptures and, to a lesser degree, of the literature of second temple Judaism.
My concern here is not merely with the methodological conflict. I suggested to John 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.
Thinking about it further, it seems to me that this different direction will be determined not by the question of whether Jesus is God but by the question of whether Jesus is Lord. This is the question that is at the heart of the New Testament. But it is also the fundamental practical question facing the western church today when it is having such a hard time differentiating itself from its surrounding culture other than in formal creedal or propositional terms. “Jesus is Lord” is prophetic, it challenges behaviour. “Jesus is God” is not, it doesn’t.
The “Jesus is Lord” narrative
The historical Jesus begins as a prophet of the coming kingdom of God, the embodiment of a new people of God, the leader of a movement of renewal, empowered by the Spirit of God to heal and restore, ordained since at least his birth to be Israel’s king. Understanding himself in some way to be the Son of Man of Daniel 7:13-14, he predicts that he will suffer, die, be raised from the dead, be vindicated, that Israel will suffer catastrophic divine judgment, and that at some point in the not too distant future his followers will be vindicated with and in him. This narrative is picked up by the early church, which came to believe that the resurrection of Jesus signified not merely the renewal of the people of God but also the impending overthrow of the ancient world, the confession of Christ as Lord by the pagan nations.
Where this apocalyptic argument takes us is not Arianism but the confession that God has raised his obedient Son from the dead and made him Lord, judge and ruler of the nations. This situation will endure throughout the coming ages. Once the last enemy has been destroyed, the reign of Christ will come to an end: as Paul understands it, Jesus will hand back the right to rule to the Father, so that God may be all in all (1 Cor. 15:28). Beyond this are the new heaven and new earth, where no king is needed because there is no further need for judgment, no further need for defence against enemies. Every enemy of God’s creation will have been defeated.
The storyline makes reference to major historical events—the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple and the defeat of pagan imperialism. It is the story of how Israel’s God took charge of history. But inevitably, as the story unfolded, perspectives changed.
The “Jesus is God” narrative
As Christianity left behind the Jewish world, with its orientation towards history, and entrenched itself ever more deeply in the Greek world, with its orientation towards reason, the intense apocalyptic argument about who would rule the nations gave way to an equally intense metaphysical argument about the nature of the Christian God.
There are certainly texts in the New Testament which lend themselves to the later line of thought. Many of them are in John, which as I noted before does not have the euangelion word group in it (a more significant fact than you might think), but which is the primary source document for those who wish to defend the orthodox Trinitarian position. I made some remarks on the use of John for this purpose in the original post.
There are also a number of texts in which Jesus appears to have been given the part of divine wisdom. He is not himself the Creator, but he plays an instrumental role in an act of creation:
For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Col. 1:16–17; cf. Jn. 1:3; 1 Cor. 8:6; Heb. 1:2-3)
So we have a dominant historical narrative about how Jesus came to be judge and ruler of the pagan nations to the glory of the God of Israel, and we have a secondary “mythological” narrative about Jesus as an agent of divine creation patterned on Jewish wisdom motifs. Roughly speaking. By “mythological”, of course, I do not mean “untrue”. I mean that this narrative does not engage with history in the same way as the apocalyptic narrative—unless Jesus is actually being depicted as the agent through which new creation has come about, a new world.
The missional challenge
As Christendom fizzles out, we still operate under the theological assumption that the most important thing we can say about Jesus is that he is God. This was the debate that fundamentally determined the shape of European theology, and instinctively we defend our place in the world—our raison d’être—by defending Nicene and Chalcedonian orthodoxy. This is why we tend to think that the Gospel of John contains the highest and most authoritative account of who Jesus was and why.
But we could argue that the Johannine development is not so much the acme of New Testament christology as a digression to deal with the emerging challenges of the Christian ingress into the Greek world. It should not get in the way of the primary eschatological affirmation found in Philippians 2:6-11 that God raised his obedient Son from the dead and authorized him to be the one confessed as “Lord”, not “God”, by the nations, to the glory of Israel’s God. Theologians effectively read the passage backwards as though the most important affirmation is the starting point of the argument—that Jesus was in the “form” of God, questionably understood as a statement of ontological identity.
Theology makes us work with a model that doesn’t need the title “Lord” except in a very attenuated personal sense, that makes no reference to the apocalyptic narrative, that turns “Son of God” into “God the Son”, that is not interested in the narrated historical existence of God’s people. It engages with at best the margins of the New Testament witness. It does not give us the theological resources to address the current missional challenge. Reaffirming the divinity of Christ will not deliver the church from irrelevance. Reaffirming the lordship of Christ will.
Yes, I still read here occasionally!
I have to wonder if you personally see any importance or necessity for any reason of affirming the trinitarian beliefs that Jesus is indeed God? Or is that a doctrine that you believe could be set aside easily and it would not really matter either from a personal perspective as it relates to eternal matters for the individual, or in the practical day to day way life is to lived here on this earth?
Cheryl, while we wait for Andrew to respond to your questions, might we ask how you see it? How do you see the importance or necessity affirming the trinitarian belief that Jesus is God? Is that a doctrine that you could easily set aside? Why or why not? How would it matter from a personal or practical perspective? Do you see a belief in Jesus at God incarnate as a requirement for salvation? Is it possible for someone to follow Christ in the obedience of faith without believing in his divinity? Is it possible for someone who believes in his divinity to fail to follow him and thus not attain salvation?
You have asked a whole bunch of questions there, haven’t you? In all honesty, I have had an extremely busy week and am very tired. I don’t think I have either the time or the energy to answer all of them right now. Or maybe to even do justice to any of them.
But no, the doctrine of the deity of Christ, the belief that He is God incarnate, is definitely not something that I could easily set aside. There are several reasons for that. One being that I can’t see that there is any other way to read certain passages of Scripture and have them make any kind of sense at all if they are not understood as meaning that Jesus is indeed God.
The second reason is very similar to some of what Peter stated in his comment in this thread. I see no way that a mere man could be a sufficient sacrifice for the sins of every other man that has ever lived on this earth. If Jesus had any sin of His own, how would He be able to atone for the sins of others? He would need someone to atone for Him in that case as the Bible clearly states that the soul that sins shall die.
The Old Testament typology speaks of a spot and blemish free sacrifece. I hardly think a sinful man would qualify, do you? And in this sinful and fallen world, there is no way that I can imagine that any mere man is going to be able to live from the time his first breath is drawn until he takes his very last breath without ever committing a single sin. Is it possible? I don’t see how it could be if we believe the Bible’s description of man. Can you imagine a man that never from the time he was born ever had one wrong thought or one wrong attitude? Never spoke one wrong word or failed to speak a word that he should have? Never did one wrong deed or failed to do a good deed that should have been done? A man that was utterly perfect in all things? I see no way for that to be possible except in the God/man, the incarnation of God Himself in the flesh of a human being. The perfect God, perfect man, Christ Jesus.
And I have to stop there for now.
Cherylu, it’s nice to hear from you again.
I am committed to the historic people of God and more narrowly to a broad evangelicalism, so I am committed to a church that has centrally affirmed that Jesus is God.
I do not think that the classic formulations of belief necessarily give us the best grids for understanding the New Testament, because they were devised to meet a particular historically conditioned set of needs.
From experience it seems to me that the move in biblical studies towards what I tend to call a narrative-historical reading of scripture gives us a much clearer understanding of what is going on, of what is being said, than the theological-doctrinal framework that I inherited from my church tradition.
Inevitably, therefore, I work by setting aside the theological-doctrinal framework so that it doesn’t interfere with the task of interpretation.
But this is a work in progress. I don’t know exactly where it is going to end up. It’s quite possible it will end up in the same place. In fact, a narrative theology probably has to accept the legitimacy of the conclusion reached by the Councils that Jesus is God, etc., just as it has to accept that Christendom was an inevitable outcome of the New Testament story.
Currently, however, I see far more practical value in the confession that Jesus is Lord than in the affirmation that Jesus is God, both for the individual and for the church as a whole, for two reasons: one, it connects much better with the New Testament narrative; and two, it has much more purchase missionally.
I must say that you tend to keep me perpetually confused! You say that “a narrative theology probably has to accept the legitamcy of the conclusion reached by the Counsils that Jesus is God, etc……”
But at the same time you seem to be dead set on an interpretation of Scripture that says something quite the opposite!
You may not know exactly where this work in progres is going to end up, commenting that it is quite possible that it will end up in the same place. But the trajectory you are on now and have been on since I started reading here seem to be taking you to a differennt place completely, a place of declaring Him “not God.”
Just one more thought or question here, Andrew.
Can you tell me how you would see a non divine Jesus as being able to atone for the sins of all of mankind? To be, “the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world,” as stated by John the Baptist in John 1:29.
The orthodox view is that it is the entrance of sin into the world and it’s ongoing existence here that is at the root of all of mankind’s problems. It would seem then that nothing would be of greater missional import then dealing with the sin issue. Anything less would be rather like putting a band aid on a gangrenous compound fractrue or a a cancer.
My question to you would be: biblically speaking, what makes you think that a divine Jesus is required to take away the sin of the world? My understanding from the New Testament is that Jesus’ sacrifice was sufficient because he was obedient. The phrase “lamb of God” doesn’t mean that the lamb is God.
I thought I answered that question in my reply to Brad last night in this thread. See above.
Thanks. I’d missed that. But I can’t think of anything in the whole of scripture that suggests that God himself needs to suffer in order to atone for the sins of humanity. The blemish-free animal sacrifice is never identified with God. On the contrary, if there is any identification at all, it is between Israel and the sacrifice. What qualifies Jesus is not his divinity but his faithfulness.
What about sinlessness? Can one sinner make atonement for a whole world of fellow sinners? If a man is a sinner, he must die for his own sins. How then would he be qualifited to die for the sins of the rest of the world too?
As far as I can see, Cherylu, the only argument given in the New Testament with respect to the conditions for the effectiveness of Jesus’ atoning death is that he was faithful (Rom. 3:22-25), that he made himself of no account and was obedient unto death (Phil. 2:7-8), that he did not give in to the temptation to avoid suffering (Heb. 4:15), that he learned obedience (Heb. 5:9), that he was “holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners (Heb. 7:26-27).
The New Testament is not interested in some absolute state of sinlessness—the emphasis is everywhere on his complete obedience to his Father in following a path of suffering. I cannot for the life of me think how you would justify the claim biblically that he had to be God in order to die for the sins of the world.
“but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” I Peter 1:15-16
“For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.” James 2:10
I beg to differ with you Andrew, the New Testament plainly declares that if we fail in just one point of the law, we are guilty of all of it. That sounds to me like it it interested in “some absolute state of sinlessness.”
Jesus was a Jewish man, born under Jewish law. Men paid for their sins by death, physical and spiritual, since Adam and Eve onward unless sacrifice was made for them.
So again my question, if Jesus was not a completely sinless man, how could he have paid for the sins of all of mankind by His death? when He would of needed to die to pay for His own sins? Where is it written that a sinner can pay the sacrifice for all other sinners? Instead the emphasis all through the OT with the typology there is on an unblemished sacrifice.
And can any mere man on this earth ever manage to live a completely sinless and holy life?
I don’t quite see the relevance of the 1 Peter text, but with respect to James 2:10 I think we simply have to accept that Jesus was righteous and blameless according to the Law, as both the rich young ruler and Paul were (Lk. 18:20-21; Phil. 3:6). He didn’t murder. He didn’t commit adultery. He fulfilled the role that Israel had failed to fulfil. But most importantly, he was obedient. You can speculate that a sacrifice for the sins of the world requires that Jesus was God, but the New Testament itself nowhere makes that argument.
I really wish my comments would quit being deleted before I have a chance to post them. Don’t know if it is the blog or my browser or what, but it has happened several times now. It’s frustrating!
Andrew, maybe I am not doing a very good job of explaining myself, but I think you may still be missing my point.
So I will try again. How could any sinful man—a man that had sinned even once in his life and that therefore had the spiritual and physical death penalty accessed to him by God pay the price for the sins of all of mankind past, present, and future? Any death (sacrifice) he could possbily make would have to pay for his own sins. How then could he also pay for the sins of all of those other humans who owed the same penalty themselves?
Only a sinless man that didn’t owe the penalty himself could begin to pay for the sins of the rest of the world. And that has been the consistent orthodox position. And I fail to see how any mere man could possibly maintain that type of sinlessless where absolutely nothing could be held against him by God. Remember James said if we fail in only one point, we are guilty of all. Only God can be/is that sinless. Does that help or make sense to you?
Andrew, did you notice that neither the rich young ruler nor Paul had eternal life in their “blameless” condition? Paul was specfically told by Ananias what he needed to do to “wash away his sins.” Could a man like that with sins of his own pay the price to wash away the sins of all of the rest of the world? Or again, would he have to pay that price to wash away his own sins?? Remember, each man dies for his own sins.
Have you read any of Richard Bauckham’s work on the divinity of Jesus? For example,
I’d be curious on your thoughts.
I’ll have a look at it. Thanks for the suggestion.
Richard Bauckham’s position is not without problems. He has his own set of contestable assumptions and has been criticized in particular by James Dunn and James McGrath. Bauckham’s “divine identity” neologism is philosophically crude and he takes the devotion to Jesus as priority at the expense of direct, confessional material which weakens his position.
Obviously those who favor post-biblical orthodoxy have welcomed and popularized his work.
Sigh well Dunn and Mcrath would wouldnt they! They are teacher and pupil!! I would recommend ‘In the beginning was the Logos’ by pavio for a delightful honest analysis of the pre nicene build up. Biblically there is enough material to support the ‘orthodox’ view ….frankly because that is where it came from. GOD applied to jesus YHWH applied to Jesus, worship given to Jesus, pre existence and creativity applied to jesus. Bauckham and Hurtado are two notable scholars who provide ample evidence of this.
So what if Dunn and McGrath are teacher and pupil? In McGrath’s most recent book, “The Only True God,” he criticizes Dunn on a few issues — doesn’t each person have a mind of his/her own??? Several other scholars maintain the similar positions such as Eduart Schillebeeckx, Hendrikus Berkhof, Ellen Flesseman-van Leer, Kuschel, Hand Hinrich Wendt, J.A.T Robinson, Friedrich Loofs, etc. Are their arguments and the validity thereof going to be dismissed on similar ad hominem grounds as Dunn and McGrath?
If so, then Hurtado’s (binitarian) and Bauckham’s arguments should also be dismissed on the same fallacious grounds, as they grew up in a trinitarian environment and simply write from a position of indoctrination… how’s that for high quality logic?
For those interested in a logically more proper way of approaching the issue, including the evolution of the trinity in the early centuries, a great blog to visit is www.trinities.org/blog by Professor Dale Tuggy. He’s recently added a series of articles on the early Fathers and their understanding of the persons of God and Jesus. The debates that follow in the comment are also very insightful.
A recent paper from Butler University on the Johannine prologue can be found here: http://www.academia.edu/2905451/Manifestation_or_Incarnation
Andrew, great article as usual…
just had a quick look at Pery’s paper. Anyone who uses the KJV these3 days udermines thier own theological and biblical credibility. Using 1 tim 3v16 ‘God manifest in the flesh’ indicates either a KJV onlyism (Lord help us) and /or a modalism which simply doesn’t stack up with scripture.
Another rash and short-sighted conclusion, which premises are totally irrelevant and unrelated to the issue at hand. How’s that for a basis to dismiss the validity of arguments made…
Another rash and short-sighted conclusion, whose premises are totally irrelevant and unrelated to the issue at hand. How’s that for a basis to dismiss the validity of arguments made…
neither rash (I have a considered vew of the translation issue) nor shortsighted, it will indeed affect my estimation of a scholar if he uses out of date texts and does not take into account the development of the Nt text when quoting. You may not care but I do hence my view. The author if I remember correctly sems to be ‘Oneness ‘ (modalist) are you Jaco?
That is precisely why your judgment is rash and shortsighted. If the texts Perry uses are irrelevant to the issue you raise (namely textual authenticity) then it doesn’t matter which translation he uses. Textual authenticity is not at issue here. The KJV is not my favorite translation either (I don’t even own a KJV). But any other translation or manuscript tradition used would support the position Perry is developing.
Neither Perry, nor myself am Oneness, no. I’m a Christian monotheist.
textual authenticity is not the issue of course but scholarly integrity and reliability is. Perry certainly sounds like a modalist (Oneness0 that isn’t the point though. I’m not even including him in my ‘head’ as a scholar to listen to even if I disagree with him.
In terms of Evangelical theology for the age to come ‘Monotheism’ meaning anti or non trinitarianism is excluded as it isn’t Evangelical. I am happy to discuss debate and get stuck in with all manner of heterodox views but whether they in some way are ‘Evangelical’ ‘Orthodox’ ‘Historic Christianity’ or ‘mainstream’, they are not. That is why i got involved with this blog a few weeks ago in the first place.
John, you are of course welcome to decide who to engage and on which topics. What your definition is of heterodoxy and orthodoxy is also subjective; victors wrote history and history of religion is no exception. There is a major drive in various Christian circles, however, in which the orthodoxy of “Orthodoxy” is getting reexamined. Many individuals shape their own spirituality on a more “original” and “historical” understanding of the early Christian belief system, before the later embellishments were integrated into the Church. The historical-narrative approach is a refreshing demonstration of this very drive. That does not prevent those moving in that direction from being members of mainstream churches. I am involved in a Reformed Church myself. But I realise that influence and affect will not be achieved without contact. I am certainly not a product of the judgmental and sectarian tendency so prevalent among fundamenalist Evangelicals today, so I couldn’t be bothered by others’ evaluation/estimation of my spirituality.
Whether monotheism is belongs to the age to come is certainly for God to decide. And if monotheism properly captures Who He is, then surely it will prevail as the truth-seekers’ preference.
I regularly and often engage Modalists, Arians, Socinians and also ‘monotheists’ in debate and discussion both privately, face to face and in public on TV. I am really familiar with the various arguments and yours of course. I am however concerned that some may be ‘emerging’ into false teaching, or ‘post orthodoxy’, I am an Evangelical and I am also Charismatic and a few more multiple syllable word descriptions of my theology or standpoint could be employed as well!
However my ‘take’ and my starting place here is biblical orthodoxy and its summary as seen in Nicea.
I love the ante Nicene fathers and am content that your ‘monotheism’ would have been rejected by them and the biblical writers. My interest on this board though is on Andrews credentials as an Evangelical author and writer and my view is that people living in that world (which is very orthodoxx) have a responsibility not to be public in seeking to overturn mainstream teaching. Within the ‘academy’ perhaps yes robust discussion .
You are just one of a small number of ‘monotheists’ (I would not for one minute forsake that description of me ..I AM A MONOTHEIST too as are all orthodox Christians. It is my concern that you deny the creeds of the Church you are part of and seek to overturn its teaching, I would have some ethical concerns about that.
your ‘spirituality’ is of little interest to me your actions concern me though. To be part of a reformed Church and to deny the Trinityand in such vociferous terms causes me to ask why don’t you join the Unitarians or Buzzards Abrahamic faith group….. more honest methinks.
Sorry to use the KJV — an ingrained habit; don’t think the paper needs the KJV and am happy to let 1 Tim 3:16 go by the wayside. I guess we all have Greek and at least three English versions on screen. And I don’t know why someone said the paper was from Butler University. And, no, I don’t think I’m a modalist.
u are andrew Perry then? I hadnt noticed you using the KJV before either, and the butler university thing is peculiar. !
Yes, and I have now put a companion article on academia.edu.
Can’t find the companion article sorry, where is it, whats it called?
The sudden appearance of Andrew Perry on the scene (this article was cited) appears to causing some confusion. It’s understandable—I was a bit taken aback myself. But he is not me. Otherwise, carry on as before….
Sorry for having the same first name. But at least I have read your ‘Speaking of Women’ and quoted it in a supportive way in my own work on that topic. I was just correcting a post above about my article which confused me. I will carry on as before.
Marvellous! But no need to apologize. I wasn’t complaining. It’s just that one or two people were getting confused.
Cherylu……do contact me!! either here http://www.jtsblogspot.blogspot.co.uk/ or on [email protected].
A more ‘earthed’ and textual understanding of Jesu/Trinity etc is I’m sure of importance. The shallow (almost modalistic) understandings and expressions currently used will not I think ‘stand the pace’ of the years ahead. However , ‘we’ meaning God people have been here before and we will be losers if we don’;t listen to our ancestors always holding scripture as out authority. I would recomend a book ‘PAul PAveo’s ‘In the beginning was the Logos’ it is a call to go back to Nicea but it is radical and causes problems for trinitarians who cannot keep one hand on the scriptures I KNOW you would like it. Its not academic but his scholarship in the ante Nicene fathers comes across in very straightforward language. I can send u a pdf if you promise to read it….and tell him what you thought? Do you have time?
Andrew, You say many things that make me go hmmm.
Differentiation of Father and Son, a new narrative, and new starting points…I like that – good assumptions! The last 100 years of academia has transformed its followers into their own image and their own terminology while fortifying their age-old presuppositions. So I like your new assumptions! This leads to a Christology that focuses mainly on the Man which gives us insight to God and ourselves. However, we must be leery of being rooted and grounded in explanations and apologetics (even if they are new) instead of being grounded in a relationship in Christ the Mystery. Explanations take the Mystery out of Christ whether they are good or bad. Our explanations may debunk another’s point of view but we must be careful not to be too comfortable in our enlightenment simply because we debunk another view. Assumptions, models, paradigms, and formulas eventually come to pass. Yet in saying that, I look forward to a better understanding of Christ which will no doubt involve more of the same but at least they will be new. And as you and JT discussed, it may end up Arian and Trinitarian but it should not start there. Our Christological assumptions should lead to relational and experiential explanations to be an authentic exercise toward the Object of our faith. To me, no explanation will do that does not focus on the Good News. Maybe, for this reason, I have learned plenty from Trinitarians even though I am not one.
Through different explanations, we should continue to learn more, but we should never reach grand conclusions about a Man that was born of a Virgin (can’t be explained – that act is/was simply impossible). Likewise and equally impossible is this same man making the declaration that He would raise Himself from the dead three days later (John 2:19). So from the start of “sonship”, He is the Mystery although He is not declared as such until after He is resurrected. So what to do with Jesus has been the problem for centuries. Generally what happens is Trinitarians expand meaning (God the Son) while Unitarians shrink meaning (YWHW is God and Jesus is a man) so the distinctions become obvious. It boils down to what do we do with this Man – this is and has been the problem?
If Paul were alive today, and using Microsoft Word, I believe I Timothy 3: 1-15 would read like bullet points in a policy handbook – clear, concise, and to the point. Also I believe verse 16 would be an addendum stated “Oh, by the way, without controversy great is the Mystery. Good Luck!” So back to what do we do with this Man — Born of a virgin and declared that He would raise Himself from the dead.
What is our responsibility? The answer to this question places us closer to original Christianity. I believe our responsibility is to steward the Mystery i.e., maintain the Mystery… Eph 3:8 the unsearchable riches of Christ; I do not believe it is simply an explanation from our intellect that returns us to original Christianity. Quite simply, we will end up in the dung that Paul, a Hebrew of Hebrews, found himself in.
So my muse is geared in the direction of one = one. Are we to worship God in a lesser self-disclosure (Logos) of Himself – Old Covenantal name – YWHW because Jesus is a man? Should we continue to focus on His introduction and progression YWHW = I am self existing, eternal – Elohim/God of gods, El Elyon/ most high, Jireh/provider, Rapha/healer, Nissi/banner, M’Kaddesh/sanctifier, Shalom/peace, Makkeh/Judge, Sabaoth/of Hosts, Rohi/Shepherd, Tsidkenu/ righteousness, Shammah/ LORD is there. And not His conclusion — Jesus = YWHW became salvation? Or to say it another way, Jesus is all that. Are we going to be so extremely focused on “just a man” (born of a virgin & declared that He would raise Himself from the dead) that our differentiations go to far. When we draw our differentiations between the Father and the Son, it can not be in name, Word, or deed; hence, the manifestation of God. If you seen me, you’ve seen the father…I manifest your name… if nothing else believe the works that I do and so forth. Jesus manifested a name above all names — the family name which is passed down from Fatherhood Eph 3:15. So the differentiation is not in name — YWHW is one and Jesus is the other. Nor is the differentiation in works – expressed image. Nor is differentiation in Logos/self-disclosure which proceeds forth from the Bosom/Heart/Desire of the Father and outwardly expressed by/through His Son who is now in the Bosom, on the Right Hand, Throne, etc… So our theological constructs should be about the Son – Good News who has been highly exalted and worthy to be praised – the Logos moves from abstract (Father’s heart) to concrete (Son’s life – the Glory of God).
In the beginning God said, “Let there be light.” And the Logos became light, yet the angels did not worship the light. When the Logos became flesh, well, now, they worship whom they can see. The Word is God. 1 Timothy 3:16 seen by angels, but not before then. The angels never saw God in a lesser revelation of Himself — YWHW Old Covenantal Salvic name.
I Timothy 4:10 God is the Savior of all men. Yet the blood of the last Adam saves us.
John 2:19 Can just a man raise Himself from the dead.
I like your idea of a historical narrative. I believe that will glean many new nuggets. Also, I believe you nailed the mystery/desire of creation Colossians 1:16 (purpose). This also provides the answer for the pondering philosophers – “Who am I, What am I doing here, and where did I come from?”
Unlike cherylu, I do read here all the time, though I made an unsuccessful vow of abstinent restraint for Lent.
I can see precisely why you say what you say in this post, Andrew. I think it’s unfortunate that you take J T John Tancock as reflecting the ‘theological’ position to highlight the contrasting ‘narrative’ position which you are promoting. It is setting up an antithesis which doesn’t really advance the argument.
I still think you have a point though, which probably explains why I keep chewing at the bone.
Just to pick out one thing from amongst many, there is the statement:
we still operate under the theological assumption that the most important thing we can say about Jesus is that he is God
I’m a little hazy, but I don’t think this was much of an issue after Nicaea until the 19th century and early to mid 20th century, when interpreting the gospels as proofs of Jesus’s deity became a major apologetic of ‘fundamentalist evangelicals’ against the depradations of the ‘woolly liberals’ who argued the opposite.
I no longer think this is the assumption today, as the battle lines have changed. There are many different arguments today, one of which is over the assumption of a biblical conflict between a ‘works-based Judaism’ and ‘grace based Christianity’ on the one hand, and a biblical gospel in which faith is generated by the proclamation of Jesus and his Lordship in our lives on the other. The latter has the potential to do away with the old divisions between Catholic and Protestant, liberal and evangelical, altogether, much to the consternation of both.
However, the real necessity of Jesus’s deity lies not in Greek arguments or Nicaea, but in his agency as renewer of creation. That was YHWH’s exclusive role. It also lies in his agency as atoning sacrifice for sin. Had Jesus been an Israelite like all other Israelites, he would have been under the curse, and as powerless to reverse it as the all the others.
Also, I don’t know if you are aware of it, but the argument for a non-divine interpretation of Jesus in Philippians 2:5-11 has been hugely set back since James Dunn’s proposal of something similar in his Adam Christology in “Christ, Adam and Pre-existence”. The counter arguments have produced some of the most compelling academic exegesis and interpretation of the passage to date. But we’ve been here before (many times!).
Quite who Jesus is in your interpretation is a mystery. “He is not himself the Creator, but he plays an instrumental role in an act of creation”. So at the very least, he was present at creation (or at “an act of creation” — whatever that mysteriously means). So who is he? Not God, not Creator yet pre-existent, not under the curse — there are sufficient assumptions here to fill a systematic narrative theology. Where in the O.T. narrative is anything like this suggested?
The huge strength of the traditional interpretation is that it was God’s suffering and God’s sacrifice which made atonement for sin, and this in itself highlights the depth and extent of sin as universal problem, something which is absent from your interpretation. Maybe that’s entirely as you would wish. As in atonement, so in renewal of creation; it was not in the power of any human agency to bring this about. It also goes a long way to explain why the Old Testament was written/preserved as it was, unlike, say, the Koran, where sinfulness in ‘God’s prophets’ was unthinkable, and they are rewritten as saintly superheroes.
Well I’m sort of honoured to be mentioned in another thread lol!
There are a load of issues here and perhaps not wise to drill into them all. However as I tried to point out, 1. Andrews Narrative view can be contianed within the mainstream position ,it does not require an abandonment of it. 2. The ante Nicene fathers did all this before , exegeted the passages, wrestled and weighed the issues and the Nicene conclusion shopuld warm the cockles of every Christian theological heart. To describe ourselves as Evangelical means we will not shed that ‘orthodoxy’ that quickly otherwise surely we must lose our ‘evangelical’ epithet.
A reading of the 4 major Christological passages JN 1,PHP 2,COLL 1, HEB 1, will result in a non arian non oneness undedrstanding of who Jesus is (in my view) I for one am happy to say of him ‘he is my Lord and my God’, )JN 20v28) ’he is my great God and Saviour’ (Titus 2v13) along with the angels I will ‘worship’ him (c/p Heb 1v6 with Lk 4v8). These are not matters of casual acceptance or rejection and neither is the ‘orthodox’ understanding unnatural to the text.
Peter, the long list of those who fought against the mainstream view including Servetus and even Isaac Newton shows the dynamism of this debate in history.
I am alarmed at the ease by which Jesus could be declared ‘not God’ ‘not creator’ when ;without him was not made ANYTHING that was made’ , the words ‘traditional’, ‘orthodox’, ‘mainstream’ may be used to describe my understanding of who Jesus is but these views are well extablished in the NT scriptures and greek arguments are indeed important because it was written in greek…my final comment for now is ‘kai theos en ho logos’.
WE don’t need Lord? To me it is the highest title, more specific than the clutch of references to Jesus as GOD (Jn 1v1,1v18,20v28,Rom 9v5, Coll2v9? Titus 2v13, 2 Pet 1v1 heb 1v8.).
It can mean ‘mister’, master’ lord of course but no no, from John 1v23 (c/p Isa 40v3) there is something else going on. Notably the useage in Romans 10 is telling. look up each occurence of Lord, check the OT reference quoted or alluded to. There is little doubt in my mind that here Jesus is being identified as LORD YHWH, its implications are and have proved to be monumental. In Php 2v11 with its background in Isaiah also indicates the bowing to the name of YHWH is in Pauline thought at least bowing to Jesus who is Kurios (Lord). The writers of the Nt have thier writings replete with these indications that GOD (EL) and LORD (YHWH) can be applied to Jesus with ease.
My theology, ‘orthodox’ theology loves ‘LORD’ as one of the titles of Jesus…don’t you?
Lord is certainly not by itself the highest title above even “God.” From a purely monotheistic/monolatrous perspective, God’s agent had God’s Name or authority to act in His stead. In Second-Temple Judaism angelic emissaries were addressed by the divine Name, judges were titled “elohim” and in particular the pseudepigrapha addresses such as Yahoel and ”second Yahweh” are designations for highly exalted individuals who where not numerically identical to Yahweh. It was the cultural understanding of the day without any hint of ontological equalization/identification with the Most High.
Functional or operational identity was the norm in ancient Judaism, which is also a more comprehensible position today. The Yahweh- passages applied to Jesus in the NT can therefore be perfectly understood this way. Jesus can bear Yahweh’s Name precisely since he is subordinate to Yahweh. The purposive clause in Php 2:11 shows that bearing that Name leads to the honoring of Someone else other than Jesus, and even in his exalted state as Lord, Jesus still has Someone else as Sovereign over him (1 Cor. 11:3; 2 Cor. 1:3).
The casual assumption that ontological identity with Yahweh can be the only conclusion renders your (and others’, of course) embarassingly circular.
I didnt realise there was a flurry of various replies from jaco on various points I’ve made. (I have been away) I am happy to engage with Andrew as he is the one who is claiming to be ‘Evangelical’ you aren’t Jaco? I will say though that yoiur ‘explanation’ of the texts is inadequate as plain ‘monotheism’ always is. The honour by which Jesus is held in the Nt just wont fit your ‘messenger’ explanation. he was ‘equal with God’ before he came Php2v6, ‘without him was not made anything that was made’!! Jn 1v3 seems clear to me.
The use of proskuneo is to my mind convincing c/p Lk 4v8 and Heb 1v6 yes it is used possibly twice not referring to Jesus but the context of Heb 1 is clear ….the OT ‘king/Messiah motif is being expanded enormously. The scattered references to Jesus as God is a difficult one to navigate unless one discounts the texts as some groups do. Jn 1v1, 1v18, 20v28 rom 9v5, Tityus 2v13 Heb 1v8 2 pet 1v1 I john 5v20 combined with the whole prologue of John, Coll 1 and Php 2 and heb 1 we are faced with more ‘high’ evidence than we can stuff into a ‘messenger of the one God bag.
I like Thomas am happy to call him my Lord and my God
John, I am not surprised that you cite these texts as support for the Nicean/Chalcedonian formulation of the 4th and 5th centuries. And, as I’ve pointed out in my previous comments, you seem to have made up your mind on these things. My approach is different, in that I have an allegiance to truth and not conviction. I gladly go where the evidence leads me; that is not you approach, which is rather sad. My link to the Dan Wallace reply addresses most of those texts, but alas, you couldn’t care less. You believe what you want, hence your reluctance to read what a proper, first-century understanding of these texts probably was.
If you were interested, you would find that the first-century understanding of agency adequately handles and explains all these phenomena you cite, without the rather reductionistic conclusions you default to. A functional identity, rather than an ontological identity was was the first-century norm. “The agent was as good as the one sending him” was the way it was understood. Hence the proskyneo, hence the functional application of Yahweh texts to Jesus, as well as the designation “God,” since seeing the image implied also seeing the Original (cp. Ex. 7:1, 23:21).
But who cares? You? Apparently not. And that’s your prerogative. Others do, however, and embrace these unaltered realities about God and Christ with all their hearts.
You have a rather insulting way of conducting discussion variously setting yourself up as the only one faithful to scripture and me being intellectually challenged, hidebound by tradition etc etc. I find it chuckle worthy but its not serious Jaco.
I couldnt chase up your replies to others because as I said I was going away for a week with 60 teenagers. Would you watch my two hour programme on the development of the Trinity, or my 90 minute debate with a modalist or read my various Trinitarian blogs….. if you dont are you then closed minded and not listening to scripture.
Your constituency is small, it is divided it is usually seeking to pick off uneducated or simple folk who havent fully understood biblical teaching or perhaps picking up on rebellious types who feel they have the true view of the bible and truth. I have talked to and have read many of your type of stuff. Its negative and uninteresting and not biblical.
I think the honest thing is to join some kind of Unitarian group and I have no idea why you distance yourself from JWs or christadelphians or the Mormons , the latter believe in a number of Gods evidently you do, if Jesus isn’t the true God then he is another one, and theres me thinking there was only one!
None of the texts you cite result in a trinitarian understanding by default. A particular epistemology, a specific interpretive frame and a complete redefinition and recategorization of GOD, SON, PERSON, etc., as well as an importing of culturally alien concepts such as persona, ousios, etc. are required to arrive at that fourth/fifth century formulation. Proper hermeneutic applied to those texts have us arrived at a solidly non-trinitarian monotheistic understanding of those texts. Claiming that the trinity is a natural outflow of the biblical text is false at worst and fallacious at best.
early 4th century is ok, no need to go further. Nicene creed is fine for me, captures the biblical material well.
Quite who Jesus is in your interpretation is a mystery. “He is not himself the Creator, but he plays an instrumental role in an act of creation”. So at the very least, he was present at creation (or at “an act of creation” - whatever that mysteriously means). So who is he? Not God, not Creator yet pre-existent, not under the curse - there are sufficient assumptions here to fill a systematic narrative theology. Where in the O.T. narrative is anything like this suggested?
I thought I had made a fairly orthodox statement there. Where is it suggested in the Old Testament? Proverbs 8:22-31, surely.
The huge strength of the traditional interpretation is that it was God’s suffering and God’s sacrifice which made atonement for sin, and this in itself highlights the depth and extent of sin as universal problem, something which is absent from your interpretation.
This is very bad theology. An Adam christology solves your problem quite adequately.
Just a brief comment Andrew…. you stated:
So if I do not agree with him that one text or another does not teach that Jesus is God, then it would appear that I am an Arian and so a serious threat to the integrity of the faith.
The issue is twofold.
1. To work within the Evangelical world and use the Evangelical label (even in the website name!!) means that a small number of key beliefs are central . One of these is the deity of Christ of course. To deny this would mean ‘non evangelical theology for age to come’. This is important.
2. If you believe that Jesus did not pre exist as ‘the word’ or ‘son of God’ then you probably ARE an Arian Andrew!!
Jesus is God is important for a number of reasons one being the issue of worship…do we worship him or not? The ‘Trinity’ though has always been to my mind an ‘explanation’ of the totallity of the varied information in each thread of the scriptures about God. This is not contradictory to your narrative approach and shouldn’t be made to do so. My appeal to Nicea is just to the accepted ‘definition’ of orthodoxy, my real ‘appeal’ is to the scriptures of course not Nicea.
The kurios/Lord title I have commented on elswhere in this thread but of course it is important he is YHWH.
To describe someone as NOT creator when it says ‘by him were all things created’ and ‘ALL things were created through him’ puzzles me. Is he THIS (created) side of the line or is he the OTHER (creator) side of the line Andrew?
To work within the Evangelical world and use the Evangelical label (even in the website name!!) means that a small number of key beliefs are central. One of these is the deity of Christ of course.
I was using “evangelical” in the New Testament sense. The evangel refers to what God was about to do to transform the status of is people in the ancient world.
To describe someone as NOT creator when it says ‘by him were all things created’ and ‘ALL things were created through him’ puzzles me. Is he THIS (created) side of the line or is he the OTHER (creator) side of the line Andrew?
Doesn’t 1 Corinthians 8:6 entail a functional distinction between God as the source of creation and Jesus as, in some way, the instrument of creation?
But for us one God the Father, from whom all things and we for him, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things and we through him.
Similarly, the language of Colossians 1:15 is puzzling if Paul presupposes or means to communicate that Jesus is God. “Image of… God” and “firstborn of all creation” certainly sound like a reference to Adam, overlaid perhaps with the thought of Israel’s king as God’s “firstborn” (cf. Ps. 89:27). Isn’t the basic argument that God created through the agency of Jesus?
The kurios/Lord title I have commented on elswhere in this thread but of course it is important he is YHWH.
Nowhere is it stated that Jesus is YHWH. Lordship, the authority to judge and rule, is something that is given to Jesus by YHWH. Because of his faithful obedience he is seated at the right hand of God and given the name which is above every name (Phil. 2:9-11).
Some comments I have made on the other thread Did Jesus call himself God… may be relevant to the discussion here.
OK here goes Andrew…… My guess is the word Evangelical is very rarely used to refer to the text but to a movement and a desxription of a type of belief ‘mainstream and orthodox’ but with a specific emphasis on the Gospel and the Bible. You have written for the Evangelical Alliance …pretty clear what that means lol!
Mmmm, 1 Cor 8v6 is a great passage and I have come to appreciate more in recent years. Also a mainstream ‘high’ Christology does not demand a confusing of the persons or a demand that the Father is always LORD and never God or that Jesus is always God and never Lord or indeed and relevantly vice versa. Neither does mainstream ‘biblical’ belief and scriptural exegesis restrict us to denying that the Father is the ‘source’ and Jesus comes from him as word, Son, LORD etc etc. Yet so close is this identity that they are not two Gods the ante Nicene fathers struggled with this as you know.
To us there is ONE GOD the Father…. of course and in the context of this discussion we know too that Jesu is called GOD (not a god ) on many occasions, I previously listed most of these.
and ONE LORD Jesus the Messiah (NTFE) but the Father/God is desxcribed as Lord as well often whether LORD (YHWH) or Lord (adonai).
The passage does show us the order or priority or whatever as do many other passages in pretty well all the writers of the NT. No disagreement but the useage of the two MAIN words from the NT describing God (EL/ELOHIM and YHWH) are seemingly shared between the Father and the Son here almost like an echo of the SHMA Deut 6v4. Im sure you will be familiar with this idea from Bauckham and Hurtado.
The key question is ‘which side of the line is Jesus (word/Son ) is he created or is he creator. There are only two options.
The NT describes him as begotten he ‘was with the Father’ and ‘in the beginning there as the Word ’All things came into existencethrough him,not one thing came into existence without him’ Jn 1v3 NTFE. (see also Coll 1 15-20)
God (the father) Jesus (the Son) and the Spirit were all involved in the creation of the world don’t believe me? ‘the Spirit’ hovered over the face of the waters Gen 1v1-3. The words ‘by’ ‘through’ and ‘in’ as well as ALL THINGS are spoken of Jesus he created all things alongside ‘his Father’. (Firstborn is language of primacy not necessaily of creation , Israel was YHWHS firstborn but not the first one!!)
Once again the mainstream understanding can include what you are saying (although I don’t accept Dunns Adam christology no way) INCLUDING Israel/Son /Messiah but much much more. Just as the gospel was for the 12 tribes but would eventually lead to the Restoration of ALL things, the whole of the created order. (sorry Im not a full preterist).
Finally is Jesus YHWH? He was part of the identity of EL/YHWH before he came, he humbled himself and he was exalted to that place this time having won the victory for fallen humanity as a man.
who though he was in Gods form, did not regard his equality with God as something he ought to exploit, instead he emptied himself…. NTFE. To my mind this is clear, we neither have to adopt a contentious rendering or interpretation he existed ‘equal to God’ before he caME BUT GAVE IT ALL UP.
So YHWH? Rom 10v9 ’Jesus is Lord’ then ISA 28v16 (v11), and notably Joel 2v32 (v13) are quoted ….who is the Lord they confess in v9 and who is the Lord spoken of in v13 ? Am I playing a LXX game here…no of course not , the LORD of the NT is Jesus and multiple verses can be shown to be YHWH in the OT and Jesus in the NT.
Also a mainstream ‘high’ Christology does not demand a confusing of the persons or a demand that the Father is always LORD and never God or that Jesus is always God and never Lord or indeed and relevantly vice versa. Neither does mainstream ‘biblical’ belief and scriptural exegesis restrict us to denying that the Father is the ‘source’ and Jesus comes from him as word, Son, LORD etc etc. Yet so close is this identity that they are not two Gods the ante Nicene fathers struggled with this as you know.
But don’t you think this all sounds terribly convoluted when all Paul says is that we have one God and one Lord? Consistently in Paul the pattern is “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”. God is God, Jesus is Lord. The explanation is very simple. The right to reign as Lord belongs to God but he has delegated that rule to Jesus (and to the martyred saints) as reward for his (and their) faithfulness.
To call Jesus “Lord” does not mean that he shares the identity of God. It means, as far as I can see, that God has given authority to rule to Jesus.
The NT describes him as begotten…
So “begotten” means “unbegotten”?
…and ‘in the beginning there as the Word ‘All things came into existencethrough him, not one thing came into existence without him’…
John 1:1-3 could be translated as follows since logos is masculine, highlighting the reference to wisdom:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. It was in the beginning with God. All things were made through it, and without it was not any thing made that was made. (John 1:1–3)
The words ‘by’ ‘through’ and ‘in’ as well as ALL THINGS are spoken of Jesus he created all things alongside ‘his Father’.
But it doesn’t say “he created all things alongside ‘his Father’ ”. That is a subtle distortion of the biblical text.
Firstborn is language of primacy not necessarily of creation, Israel was YHWHS firstborn but not the first one!
True. But to say that someone has primacy or pre-eminence with respect to creation still places them in creation, doesn’t it? Israel was not the first nation, but it was a nation.
Not convoluted at all. Its simple really as long as we dont approprite the text to say something it doesn’t. Generally the Father is God Jesus is Lord. but as I pointed out the Father is often Lord and Jesus often God! Lord too as I pointed out is remarkably lofty.There is no doubt in my mind that the application of OT passages with YHWH in the Heb and kurios in the LXX to Jesus in the NT is easily enough proof to say Jesus is YHWH!
God and Lord in the OT and in the NT we (as you pointed out) have also God and Lord but this obviously Two!! Here is the change then, what may be hinted in the OT is clear in the NT. Father and Son are the same stuff (Ousia !!lol).
I can imagine your rendering of John 1v14 the word became flesh and we saw ITS glory the glory of the only begotten of the father. nah, don’t think so!
subtle distortion?, well, it does say by him all things were created too! The issue of whether there was a time when the son was not ..is really important. So are you saying he is created then? Begotten does not mean created, begotten is life from life. Begotten is the word proceeding from God, (prologue of JN) the light that shines from a source (heb). The word was ‘in the beginning (BEFORE ANYTHING WAS CREATED!!) the Son elsewhere is Alpha and Omega, Beginning and the end and First and last . Are you saying hje was created then?
Of course saying someone has primacy in regard to soething doesnt make them part of it. God of creation doesnt make God created. Lord of the house, etc etc neither does ‘arche of the creation of God in Revelation mean he is the beginning but he is the beginner the one through whom everything exists.
Come back from the arian fringe andrew, enjoy the broad pastures of biblical orthodoxy and ditch this nonsense of Jesus having no pre existence, or being a created being!! lol
Andrew, I think if you carry your translating of “him” to “it” to it’s logical conclusion, you will see that it doesn’t make a whole lot of sence. Every time the same word that you changed from “him” to “it” occurs in this passage, I have changed it when it refers to Jesus. For ease in seeing where all those changes are, I will be putting them in all caps throughout the passage.
(This is the Net Bible version quoted below. https://net.bible.org/#!bible/John+1)
So here goes:
1:1 In the beginning1 was the Word, and the Word was with God,2 and the Word was fully God.3 1:2 The Word4 was with God in the beginning. 1:3 All things were created5 by IT, and apart fron IT not one thing was created6 that has been created.7 1:4 In IT was life,8 and the life was the light of mankind.9 1:5 And the light shines on10 in the darkness,11 but12 the darkness has not mastered it.13
1:6 A man came, sent from God, whose name was John.14 1:7 He came as a witness15 to testify16 about the light, so that everyone17 might believe through him. 1:8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify18 about the light. 1:9 The true light, who gives light to everyone was coming into the world.20 1:10 He was in the world, and the world was created21 by IT, but22 the world did not recognize23 IT. 1:11 He came to what was his own,24 but25 his own people26 did not receive IT.27 1:12 But to all who have received IT – those who believe in IT’S name28 – he has given the right to become God’s children 1:13 – children not born29 by human parents30 or by human desire31 or a husband’s32 decision,33 but by God.
1:14 Now34 the Word became flesh35 and took up residence36 among us. We37 saw IT’S glory – the glory of the one and only,38 full of grace and truth, who came from the Father. 1:15 John39 testified40 about IT and shouted out,41 “This one was the one about whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is greater than I am,42 because he existed before me.’” 1:16 For we have all received from IT’S fullness one gracious gift after another.43 1:17 For the law was given through Moses, but44 grace and truth came about through Jesus Christ. 1:18 No one has ever seen God. The only one,45 himself God, who is in closest fellowship with46 the Father, has made God47 known.48
Whew, hope I got them all in there correctly. Now I suppose you can argue that the word doesn’t always have to be changed from “him” to “it”. But Jesus and the Word are so closely identified here, that I am not sure that it would be possible to consistently translate it any other way.
Wd love to have a chat (off board) any chance of u emailing me ? [email protected]
Thanks for the invitation. But as a married woman, I really don’t feel comfortable with that. I hope you understand and certainly no offence is intended.
eek ok lol!!! Jst felt we were ‘singing off the same hymnsheet’ and could compare notes regarding these issues. I’m married too btw …33 years!!
Commit him then to the flames: for he can contain nothing but sophistry and illusion.
misquoting the text methinks lol!! commit IT to the flames….. lol
Empiricist nit-picker! ;)
Andrew, thanks for posting. Be encouraged, some of us hear you for what you are actually saying and are not as keen to misunderstand what you are actually saying. When one is raised to think one needs to read the Scriptures between the lines, it becomes easy to need to do the same to you; at least, that’s one theory I have on why people repeatedly insist ion thinking you’ve said things you’ve not actually said.
Eric (and Andrew) I don’t think I have misunderstood Andrwew, if I have please point out to me where. I Have over the years tried hard to engage with opposing views and the scriptures ad the subject of ‘Christology’ or ‘the Trinity’ have been constant companions of mine. I tell the story in my blog ‘Bible studies that changed my life’.
The fact is though that this issue is so important (in a way that Hell, end times etc isn’t) that the musings of Pastors, Bible teachers, and theologians should be kept within those circles and dealt with by effective study of the scriptures. I ‘internally’ re-examine key biblical issues occasionally but when these discussions become public it is important I feel to reinforce the accepted biblical view with some rigour. Hence the robust nature of the dialogue (akthough I hope not aggressive or offensive).
I recently replied to Dan Wallace and his “proofs” for a NT trinity here.
So many replies! I am away for a week with 60 teenagers, so I will be unlikely to reply for a while. Assertion isnt proof. Likewise if you cant see the ‘jointness’ of Dunnand Mcgrath its not worth me repeating. Im not familiar with specific viewpoints of most of the people you mentioned so I will take your word for it…shall I produce my list of names as well??
TRINITY is an explanation of the NT and OT data about God. It is certainly to preferred over arianism, modalism or some variation of adoptionsim or even socianism. It makes the most sense of most texts when understood correctly particularly a not too overrefined Nicene Christology, ‘does the job’ nicely.
I wont have time to chase your replies to Wallace but my texts stand as easily enough evidence for Nt data that points to Trinity. Jesus is my Lord and my God is he yours?
Would you count yourself as ‘evangelical’ Jaco?
Your highlighting Dunn and McGrath’s relationship in response to my pointing out that Bauckham does not have a critics-free case and using that as a rationale for why they would disagree is an attempt to invalidate my statements, hence the fallacious nature of your objection. Secondly, since the ad hominem you use, namely a particular relation, is the basis for discrediting their criticism of Bauckham and Hurtado, I cite other scholars who do not have any such relation, but by whose christological and interpretive schemes Bauckham’s proposals would also be found problematic on various grounds. Citing scholars just for the sake of citing them is therefore not the reason for my doing that, since you’ve apparently missed it.
Yes, Trinity is an explanation of the OT and NT data, as is Modalism, Adoptionism, Monophysitism, Arianism, and more recently even Mormonism. That in itself proves nothing. It has to stand the test of validity and soundness, as to whether the particular scheme compared to the biblical text, culture, theology and history follows from reason or not. The Trinity certainly doesn’t and is a fabrication that only emerges after the conditions I cite in my previous comment are met. Virtually every hermeneutical fallacy needs to be broken in order to arrive at it, and that is the problem.
I wont have time to chase your replies to Wallace but my texts stand as easily enough evidence for Nt data that points to Trinity. Jesus is my Lord and my God is he yours?
Hmmm…you have obviously made up your mind — probably why your logically inaccurate arguments in previous comments escaped your notice. You are obviously more than welcome to maintain a faith in total disregard of its errors and blind spots — there are millions of people in various faiths doing exactly the same. Is Jesus my Lord and my God??? In the biblical sense? Yes. In the sense you and your Nicean/Chalcedonian ancestors have formulated? No!
Would I count myself an evangelical? In the populist sense of the word, certainly not. I don’t have enough imagination to be one, or the emotional stamina to fight the cognitive dissonance that would result in my believing what doesn’t follow reasonably from Scripture. In addition to worshiping God with my whole heart, soul and strength, I strive to worship him with my whole mind too…
John Tancock’s question about evangelicals relates to the questions I previously asked Cheryl above. I asked them because she had previously asked them of Andrew. She appeared to be asking to determine if Andrew was in a particular category (maybe evangelical) or not. Now John raised the issue here again with Jaco. But that category is irrelevant. Who cares if someone is evangelical? Was Jesus an evangelical? Was Peter? Was Paul?
This whole discussion really seems to miss the point of Andrew’s approach to scripture. One primary feature of evangelicalism (which is generally a fuzzy category) is a reliance on the Bible, not tradition, for determining faith and practice. And Andrew’s theology seems to fit nicely into that reliance in that it seems to be based primarily on a methodology of “what is the Bible really saying?” If he earnestly and honestly looks at a particular passage (or group of passages) that is widely used by evangelicals to “prove” the deity of Christ and decides that such is not the actual point of the passage, then what is wrong with that? If God is saying something to us in scripture that is not intended to show us the deity of Christ, but is intended for an entirely different purpose and we misunderstand it, then aren’t we being poor evangelicals in so doing? More importantly, aren’t we being poor followers of Christ? Just because a particular passage that is often interpreted to imply or show the divinity of Christ does not actually mean such is not the same thing as denying the divinity of Christ. It just means that passage is intended by God for another purpose. And understanding what God is saying is very important.
As an example that is less controversial than the Trinity, consider Matthew 18:20 — “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” This passage is often taken to mean that any time two or three believers gather together, Jesus promises to be present with them in some spiritual or supernatural way. But the passage is actually talking about church discipline. If someone in the body of believers sins, this passage prescribes a method for dealing with it, including a reference to Deuteronomy 19:15 regarding the necessity of multiple witnesses. Jesus is authorizing his followers to gather together in judgment of those who do not follow his commands. Now is it possible/true that wherever two or three follower of Christ gather together Jesus is somehow spiritually present with them through the Holy Spirit? Sure. But that is NOT what Matthew 18:20 is written to convey. It is very important to determine what scripture is actually saying to us. Remember that we are not called to be evangelicals. We are not called to orthodoxy. We are called to follow Christ. We are called to be obedient to him through the message handed down to us by his earliest follower in scripture. Wherever his truth takes us is where we are obligated to go. If we don’t really care so much if God might be saying something different that how it has commonly been understood, if we want to simply follow tradition, then we should probably be Roman Catholic rather than evangelical.
Note that none of this is intended to claim that the divinity of Christ is not true, merely to point out that Andrew has not made that claim either. This whole debate over the Trinity just seems orthogonal to the points Andrew has made.
BradK, I hear you and I agree with your fierst paragraph fully. I do not, however, agree with the rest. Andrew’s approach to these texts and the discussion on the trinity complement each other. It shows how defaulting to clinical doctrine developed in later centuries can rob a text of its richness. This distinction drawn by Andrew has a direct bearing on doctrine, since there are countless other texts proving something similar to Andrew’s point above, and NOT the divinity of Christ. Maybe you don’t see the necessity of discussing and even undermining historically-considered salvatory doctrine; I’m not so sure that you would say the same about discussing undeniably false doctrine such as that of Mormonism or Watchtowerism, etc. The difference is simply sentimentality, historical relevance and popularity, that’s all. These things need to be discussed.
I don’t necessarily disagree, Jaco. I would merely point out Andrew’s comments here…
…and also point out that you may underestimate how difficult it is for people to set aside the “sentimentality, historical relevance and popularity” that you mention.
Aah, I hear you, BradK. I was also born in a country and a political system where the Reformed Churches were the predominant ones and with that the whole traditional theology package. As time went by, I could compare Scripture with Confessions and could see the similarites, but also the differences and contrasts between the two. I now know, for instance, that Sola Scriptura is a noble principle and motto, but sadly also a farce in Reformed Tradition. This is overwhelmingly clear by just engaging any traditionalist on some fundamental or uniquely Evangelical/Reformed theological topic; as soon as the tension or even contrast between Scripture and Tradition is pointed out, the machinery of years-long enculturation starts to turn, and Scripture is remolded to fit Tradition. The creativity in formulating arguments to ensure Tradition prevails can be rather spectacular. Once the imposed meanings to texts are shed and Scripture is allowed to speak for itself out of its historical/cultural/narrative milieu, richness bursts open and truly fascinating meanings are unlocked. Traditionalism to a large extent stifles such discovery.
You are so correct that it is difficult to reassess, rethink and reinvent one’s religious constructs; I’ve done that so many times myself. I therefore value dialogue. But dialogue can only be fruitful if all parties have an allegiance to truth in principle. Dialogue is utterly fruitless if the parties involved have made up their minds, have closed their minds and only have a facade of reasonability; what’s the use, then?
Thanks for your comments above.
“However my ‘take’ and my starting place here is biblical orthodoxy and its summary as seen in Nicea.”
What you describe above are contradictory terms. “Biblical orthodoxy” and “Nicean summary” are mutually exclusive terms. You don’t seem to be interested in finding out what the first-century Christian (and therefore monotheistic, non-trinitarian) understanding of these “prooftexts” were. What came to be regarded as “Orthodox” is not necessarily original or truly orthodox. Countless scholars – German, British, Dutch, etc. – have pointed this out and many churchgoers are discovering these facts too.
“I love the ante Nicene fathers and am content that your ‘monotheism’ would have been rejected by them and the biblical writers. My interest on this board though is on Andrews credentials as an Evangelical author and writer and my view is that people living in that world (which is very orthodoxx) have a responsibility not to be public in seeking to overturn mainstream teaching. Within the ‘academy’ perhaps yes robust discussion.”
There’s currently some discussion on the trinitarian/unitarian convictions of ante-Nicene fathers on Professor Dale Tuggy’s blog (www.trinities.org/blog).
“You are just one of a small number of ‘monotheists’ (I would not for one minute forsake that description of me ..I AM A MONOTHEIST too as are all orthodox Christians. It is my concern that you deny the creeds of the Church you are part of and seek to overturn its teaching, I would have some ethical concerns about that.”
You seem to build your confidence in your doctrinal fabrications on the most elementary kinds of fallacies. If it’s not ad hominem dismissals of a scholars (e.g. Dunn and McGrath), it’s ad populum confidence in the conviction of the masses. You would probably not have been a supporter of Luther and his small number of “apostates” or, to take it to the very extreme, even a follower of Jesus of Nazareth and his small group of contradictors, would you? If it’s all about the masses, regardless of truth, then I’m afraid that’s how it stands… And I am only extrapolating and applying your line of reasoning consistently, which has not counted in your favor at all – call it insulting if you want, but that’s just the truth.
The definition of monotheism is not for you to decide. Fabricating ontologically nonsensical dichotomies such as between BEING and PERSON won’t do it either. In reality regarding more than one as God Almighty in Himself renders the one doing that a polytheist, whether you like it or not. The only ethical concern you should have is professing “Sola Scriptura” while utterly contradicting it as soon as that very Scripture contradicts Church fabrications.
We obviously have different sets of what is ethical and what not. And I am not in the least interested to “join” any religious movement. If sectarianism is the design of your religious scheme, then you’re welcome to have it. If it were all about the Establishment, there would not have been a suffering Messiah, or an apostle Paul, or a Martin Luther, or even a Nelson Mandela. Your estimation of truth is Establishment-centred which should be THE CENTRAL concern you SHOULD have…
Pick off uneducated simple folk??? You’re hardly on the map and you dare call theologians like Goulder, Hick, Raymond E. Brown, Dunn, Schillebeeckx, etc., etc., uneducated?
You don’t seem to be the kind one can have a decent dialogue with.
Sigh! Jaco you have a most unfortunate manner about you and I’m glad we are unlikely to continue this dialogue. When did I call Dunn et al ‘uneducated’? i did no such thing. I look forward to having a coffee or ice cream with Jimmy when he comes to wales next.
I do so love your assumption of rightness about the 1st century and your daft conclusion about whether i am ‘intersted’ or not in that period. I LOVE the ante nicene fathers (second time I told you that), The 1st and second century is a happy place for me and your much later style of ‘monotheism’ doesn’t belong there so please dont read it back.
If you have no interst in joining any religious movement I would suggest you leave a movement whose statement of faith is Trinitarian… it must cause you pain. We belong with others, it preserves us from arrogance and isolation and the frosty wind of assertion and dogmatism.
When it comes to scholars I have a longer list and you know it, I dont need your bluster and accusation to know that the historic position of the churches prior to nicea is far more friendly to later orthodoxy than your ;assumed’ monotheism. Your description of the considered understanding of orthodox theologians (insert very long list here) as ‘nonsensical’ smacks of arrogance or at best of ignorance.
I’ve told you twice I am familiar with Tuggy’s blog and visit there occasionally.
I have had fruitful engaging and enjoyable daialogue both in private and in public (TV usually) with a range of folk with non orthodox views from Jimmy Dunn right through to Jim Bloggs. You however are a bit to concerned about ‘being right in your own eyes’ than engaging in robust discussion about these important matters. I would encourage you to speak and ask but don’t shout and accuse those you disagree with, it doesn’t sound or look nice. There is only one True God not two or three or more. In some remarkable way Jesus is included in that Oneness and because he is ‘God’ as John tells us in Jn 1v1 then I can and will say he is my Lord and my God, he is YHWH Php 2v11 Rom 10v9. When I baptise I use the words of Matthew 28v19 which is not a later interpolation . I’m happy to trust those biblical words my friend.
I am of course willing to discuss the viability of a Christological construct compared to the available biblical, cultural and historical evidence. But then there has to be sound logic and a coherent development of arguments without the ad hominem, ad populum, ad antiquitam, judgmental language, etc., so prevalent in your comments above.
I’ve had numerous engagements with truly sincere and informed Trinitarians who have advanced impressive arguments for their position. But then I’ve also encountered individuals who sound like you: in-group/out-group language, labeling the other as either orthodox or unorthodox, Arian, ignorant, KJV-Onlyist, etc.; talking down from a position of aloofness, “We’ve always had it right, you impostors should leave and start your own little group”-kind of rhetoric. You insult those hold these un-“Orthodox” positions by calling them “uneducated,” “divided,” and “simple folk who haven’t fully understood biblical teaching.” This type of communication, complete with “sighs” and everything else is NOT conducive to any kind of positive exchange. These are expressions by someone who has a serious grandiosity issue, utterly blind to his own insults while daring to rebuke another for doing it. If you want to correct another person, at least set the example.
To someone who is so concerned about preserving the Tradition; who only ascribes to Sola Scriptura as far as Scripture confirms these cherished and sentimentalized doctrinal fabrications, my being part of a Reformed Church will inevitably be an issue. But I’m afraid it will stay that way; it has been the course Jesus of Nazareth, the apostle Paul, Martin Luther and others followed, who brought about major necessary adjustments among their associates. So, “painful” is not the accurate description of my experience – “excitement” is instead.
From my side I was rash in thinking you were disinterested in considering the arguments for the opposite, based on your “not having time.” That was indeed a faulty conclusion from very limited evidence. My apologies for that.
“There is only one True God not two or three or more. In some remarkable way Jesus is included in that Oneness and because he is ‘God’ as John tells us in Jn 1v1 then I can and will say he is my Lord and my God, he is YHWH Php 2v11 Rom 10v9. When I baptise I use the words of Matthew 28v19 which is not a later interpolation . I’m happy to trust those biblical words my friend.”
Yes, there is only one True God. According to Jesus, Luke and Paul, the Father is that True God and the Father alone (Joh. 17:3; Ac. 2:22; 1 Cor. 8:6, 11:3; Eph. 4:6; Php 2:11). As such, no one else can be identified as God Almighty in Himself. There can be emissaries, agents, representatives, emulators, etc. of that one God, YHWH, the Father and ancient Judaism had all the cultural/theological tools within which Jesus and his saving ministry could be integrated. Functional identity was the norm, NOT ontological identity. “Divine identity,” as philosophically vague and unrefined as it is (as also pointed out by McGrath), still violates the functionality of the ancient norm and assumes ontology too easily.
John 1.1 evokes Philonic logos-theology which does not assume fully hypostatized personality; the Name Jesus received does not prove ontological identity with YHWH either, since God Almighty is YHWH by identity, not by imposed authority. Jesus functions in YHWH’s stead, fully in line with the ancient shelichut principle (cp. Ex. 23:21; Rev. 14:1; also Isa. 40:3, Joh. 1:23). The purposive clause in v. 11 precludes the possibility that Jesus is ontologically equal/identical to YHWH, the Father.
None of the texts you cite default to the Nicean formulation of God (they hadn’t figured out the role of the holy spirit, by the way…). In terms of ontology and epistemology, the Nicean formulation mis-fits the biblical data, culture, history and theology.
If you re read your own previous posts you may come to the conclusion that the tenor, wording and approach are unlikely to advance your case.
In response to your comment about my ‘in/out’ language, the context of my comments is important unfortunately you do not listen to what I have previously said so I have to keep repeating myself only usually to be greeted by a longwinded rant. The CONTEXT was part of my discussion with Andrew who writes as an ‘Evangelical’ and for the EA in the Uk. YOU say you are part of a reformed Church and yet you activilay propogate anti trinitarian teaching. This is contradictory and ethically suspect. I have no issues debating in depth with anti trinitarians but not on some kind of basis INSIDE the mainstream Evangelical constituency.
So Jesus is prayed to (Jn 14v14) worshipped Heb 1v6, Called God Jn 1v1 20v28 et al. Identified with YHWH called YHWH Jn 1v23 cip Isa 40v3, When the two titles of God are brought together El/Elohim and YHWH as Lord and God in the NT, the usual ‘split’ is God to the father and Lord to the Son. Not always but usually. The split Shma which Paul uses is a useful way in to understanding the relationship and identity of both. However jesus is Lord AND God in Jn 20v28 and ‘God the only Son’ in Jn 1v18.
Imagine a line between the creaqtor and the created one side of the line is EVERYTHING that has been created ‘without him was not made ANYTHING that was made’ Jn 1v3 by him ALL THINGS werecreated Coll 1v16. So the other side of the line is everything NOT created at any time and we have God which clearly inludes thr Spirit see Gen 1v1-3 and the Son/Word Jn 1v3.
We can downgrade the word and make him a representative of some kind but that is a 4 foot blanket for a six foot bed….IT DOESN’T COVER THE MATERIAL. Assuming simple ‘monotheism’ is just an assumption.
Jesus the Word is not the Father but he is ‘light from light’ ‘God from God’ as the creed says but more importantly he is as Hebrews says
in these last days he has spoken to us in a son,5 whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he created the world.6 1:3 The Son is7 the radiance of his glory and the representation of his essence, and he sustains all things by his powerful word,8
without the Son we would not truly know what the father is like, as the rays to the sun so the Son to the Father. Tertullian talked of a torch from a torch…. the same stuff. So John 1v1 says not the father of clause b but certainly ‘God’ the same stuff. It doesnt violate the Oneness of God unless we force it too by postulating a GOd and a god.
The Christology highlughted in Cherylu’s link and that in the NT cannnot allow us to accord any other status to Christ than
‘equal with God’ Php 2v6
‘My Lord and my God’ Jn 20v28
To sit on the throne of God and be recognised as such Heb 1v8, Rev 22v3
To confess him as YHWH c/p Rom 10v9 Php 2v11 with Isa 45v23 (context).
You see angels consistently told others not to worship (proskuneo) them but Jesus receieved it often and gladly and the Father commanded it of the angels to him.
‘simple’ monotheism never took off because it didn’t cover the biblical bases then and doesn’t now.
here are some Trinitarian rsources for you or indeed anyone to look at. http://rdtwot.wordpress.com/the-defense-of-an-essential/online-trinitarian-resources/
In the name of the father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
John, regarding the issue of Jesus receiving worship, do you see the worship of kings in the OT accounts to be relevant? For example, in 2 Samuel 9:8 Mephibosheth worships (προσεκύνησεν) David:
And Mephibosheth worshiped, saying “Who am I your slave that you should notice a dead dog like me?”
The semantic range of proskuneo is wide but the type of useage and the context is important. It is the word used for example in Luke 4v8, this is really important. the various angels who denied ‘proskuneo’ indicates it is not some casual ‘honour’. In Heb 1v6 the context is the exaltation of Christ not treating him as a special man or angel.
A similar situation is that of kurios (Lord). It can mean Mister, master, Sir, Lord or YHWH to make the high honour use of Lord always mean ‘mister’ may be technically possible but not contextually so. see Rom 10v9
For Jaco and anyone else that doesn’t believe that the ante Nicene fathers believed that Jesus was God, take a look at this list of quotes that I ran across the other day. Some of them are not that explicit and you will undoubtedly explain them away. Others are as blatant as they can be. Here they are:
There is currently a series of articles on Dale Tuggy’s blog dealing with the ante-Nicene Fathers. The subsequent discussions are also very robust and involved, especially coming from a certain “Miguel de Servet” from Italy. These discussions indicate that there’s much more to these Fathers than the reductionistic conclusions advanced in populist Evangelical discussions.
Great link Cherylu. Now if you or anyone else didn’t fancy going to an anti-trinitarian site like Dale Tuggy’s then you might like to have a look at Nick Norelli’s blog which has loads of helpful links and resources here it is http://rdtwot.wordpress.com/
Here is the actual resources page http://rdtwot.wordpress.com/the-defense-of-an-essential/online-trinitarian-resources/
I am familiar with both Tuggy’s and Norelli’s blogs although I hadn’t been there for a long time.
But since you brought up Tuggy, I stopped over there and read the first article on the subject that I saw there. It was concerning a rather long quote from the church father Hippolytus. Dale decided that in that passage Hippolytus showed himself to be Unitarian, not Trinitarian.
I must say that I am not in the least convinced of that after reading the passage for myself. And if I needed anything else to convince me one way or the other, there is the quote from Hippolytus in the link that I provided yesterday which, unless translated completely wrongly, shows in no uncertain terms that he believed Jesus to be God: ““For Christ is the God over all, who has arranged to wash away sin from mankind, rendering the old man new”
“Refutiation of all Heresies 10”
Arguments to the effect that the church father’s did not believe Jesus is God are going to have to be a whole lot more effective then that one for them to be taken seriously!
Cheryl, I could answer you, but why don’t you post your evidence there? Dale will be glad to explain himself…
But we are discussing here. And you are the one that used his site to show that people don’t necessarily agree that the fathers believed Jesus is God. See my next comment with even more quotes.
Also from Hippolytus: “ Now, as our Lord Jesus Christ, who is also God, was prophesied of under the figure of a lion, on account of His royalty and glory,…”
And in another two quotes from Hippolytus:
Therefore this solitary and supreme Deity, by an exercise of reflection, brought forth the Logos first; not the word in the sense of being articulated by voice, but as a ratiocination [i.e., the process of exact thinking] of the universe, conceived and residing in the divine mind. Him alone He produced from existing things; for the Father Himself constituted existence, and the being born from Him was the cause of all things that are produced. The Logos was in the Father Himself … The Logos alone of this God is from God himself; wherefore also the Logos is God, being the substance of God.
And this one: “For, lo, the Only-begotten entered, a soul among souls, God the Word with a (human) soul. For His body lay in the tomb, not emptied of divinity; but as, while in Hades, He was in essential being with His Father, so was He also in the body and in Hades. For the Son is not contained in space, just as the Father; and He comprehends all things in Himself.[37
From here: http://www.bethinking.org/bible-jesus/intermediate/the-early-church-fathers-on-jesus.htm
Tuggy can argue all he likes that Hippolytus was a unitarian. I do no buy it. Are his arguments any better for the other church fathers?
Hipplolytus says it so better than me!
“So Jesus is prayed to (Jn 14v14) worshipped Heb 1v6, Called God Jn 1v1 20v28 et al. Identified with YHWH called YHWH Jn 1v23 cip Isa 40v3, When the two titles of God are brought together El/Elohim and YHWH as Lord and God in the NT, the usual ‘split’ is God to the father and Lord to the Son. Not always but usually. The split Shma which Paul uses is a useful way in to understanding the relationship and identity of both. However jesus is Lord AND God in Jn 20v28 and ‘God the only Son’ in Jn 1v18.”
Worship language does not shake ancient monotheism. The ancient Jewish religion with their exalted figures and divine messengers still stood out as different, in that they had one God, YHWH, and him alone. Monolatrous would therefore be a more accurate depiction of it, than monotheism in the modern sense of the word. But to dilute “monotheism” to such an extent as to go beyond the clear boundaries of One Most High who receives cultic worship alone and to include ontologically more than one into that identity would therefore be taking it too far.
Since Jesus would be with his followers by means of the received holy spirit (Ac. 2:33), we are in contact with Jesus. This contact does not re-categorize him as someone else, other than HUMAN. A great and sinless human acting in God’s stead, yes, but a HUMAN nevertheless (cp. anthropos in Ac. 17:31; 1 Tim. 2:5). If one’s estimation of humanity is that of inherent worthlessness and good-for-nothingness, then this categorization comes across as problematic. As demonstrated by JAT Robinson and Hendrikus Berkhof, Jesus was the beginning of a new, valuable and precious human race, hence no “mereness” associated with it.
So the worship language is no issue for first-century monolatry, as Jesus consistently assumes the position of executor of Someone else’s will, and not the Ultimate End of it all. Proskyneo is therefore no challenge to the non-Trinitarian position, as this was habitually rendered to dignitaries in ancient Jewish culture (cp. esp. Rev. 3:9). Imposing the modern understanding of “worship” onto the biblical text is certainly erroneous.
John 1:1 does not render Jesus ontologically God, as the logos is spoken of here, not the human Jesus. You seem to ignore the ancient Philonic literary sources the Gospel writer employed in writing his prologue. You will have to get past this first.
John 1:23 is no proof of Jesus being YHWH either. As FF Bruce points out in his Commentary on John and his Epistles, the application is to Jesus as it was applied to Cyrus, who acted as the agent in preparing the way for YHWH. Ontological identity is not the issue here.
John 1:18 is suspicious as the mss, P66 and P75 show clear evidence of doctrinal bias also in other textual areas.
Since seeing Jesus means seeing Someone else, namely the Father (Joh. 14:9), you have to show that the exclamation by Thomas does not mean exactly that, namely that he saw God, the Father in Jesus. Unless you can show that, mine is a perfectly viable, if not preferable option.
The Shema was not split. The Jews understood the Shema as referring to One Single Someone, not to more than one. Splitting the Shema does the exact opposite, in that it depicts Someone else, other than Yahweh to be the One God. That is a complete violation of ancient monolatry which confessed that only One, among many, rightly deserved the position as Most High. No one else can assume that position. On the question, “is there any God apart from Yahweh?” the ancient Jew and Jewish Christian would therefore answer, No; while you would answer Yes. The Shema is not split in 1 Cor. 8:6, but contextualised using Ps. 110:1 as its grid. It is simply false to assume that Kurios has to default to Yahweh. If that were the case, then Mary would be the mother of Yahweh (Lu. 1:43); Christians would be brothers of Yahweh (1 Cor. 9:5) and the Father would be the Most High God over Yahweh (2 Cor. 1:3). I discuss this matter at length here: http://lhim.org/blog/2013/02/13/reply-to-daniel-wallace/
“Imagine a line between the creaqtor and the created one side of the line is EVERYTHING that has been created ‘without him was not made ANYTHING that was made’ Jn 1v3 by him ALL THINGS werecreated Coll 1v16. So the other side of the line is everything NOT created at any time and we have God which clearly inludes thr Spirit see Gen 1v1-3 and the Son/Word Jn 1v3.”
You are firstly creating a divide which never existed in the First Century. Only in later centuries did the issue of creation ex nihilo and the concrete divide between created and not-created come into the picture. Your assumption above is therefore anachronistic.
You are insisting on biological gender here while the linguistic gender is perfectly in line with the ancient understanding of the logos or davar of God. If Jesus was the content of that Great Intention for creation, then the expressions above would capture that concept perfectly.
“We can downgrade the word and make him a representative of some kind but that is a 4 foot blanket for a six foot bed….IT DOESN’T COVER THE MATERIAL. Assuming simple ‘monotheism’ is just an assumption.”
I think it does. There’s no downgrading taking place here. What did take place is the prevailing of the age-old tendency of man to tenaciously worship as God more than One. Worshiping One and One alone as God Almighty was not enough, so more had to be introduced. This tendency eventually emerged triumphant at Nicea and later in later Councils. Developing a doctrine amounting to plurality and then as a disclaimer denying that plurality doesn’t undo that. Plural remains plural and where it comes to the monos aleithenos theos, that cannot be allowed.
Heb. 1:1-3 does not violate ancient monotheism/monolatry either, since Jesus’ being the effulgence of God’s shekinah and imprint of Someone else, shows that he is not ontologically identical to that Someone. The metaphor is simple: one has the Original and the not-Original imprint. Functionality or referential identity comes into effect again and NOT numerical identity. Whether that Original is referred to as God or Father, Jesus is the not-Original imprint or image of that One, not that One Himself.
“To sit on the throne of God and be recognised as such Heb 1v8, Rev 22v3”
The ancient Israelites sat on YHWH’s throne as well. They were the executors of YHWH’s authority. Jesus is perfectly in line with that pattern.
“ ‘simple’ monotheism never took off because it didn’t cover the biblical bases then and doesn’t now.”
This is very reductionistic, sadly. Wouldn’t you allow for the possibility of other reasons for the non-popularity of ancient monotheism/monolatry?
Much more on these can be found here:
So many of your comments are your fixed opinion from an assumed ‘monotheistic’ perspective.
I am really familiar with the website (christian momotheism) been there many times. This isnt a sarcastic comment but I was shocked at how little it is visited and used. I initially got the impression the new anti trinitarian block buzzard/socinian/etc etc was much bigger than it actually is. Its not a ‘populum’ argument just a surprised observation.
Trinity is not a dilution of Monotheism, it ever has been. It is however an illumination of God…more information. The biblical data in the OT whether this is the ‘let us’ passages, the plural Elohim, the situations describing two YHWHs on a number of occasions plus the Christophanies and various people seeing God when they were not supposed to ( I know the arguments against some of these) all add up to produce ‘Yes there is ONLY One God but its not as simple as we thought’.
Joel Natan has produced some interesting work on Trinity in the OT do google his name and have a look.
The most shocking thing about your last post was the emphasis on ‘Human’ alone for Jesus. I take it he didnt exist before he became human (Socinian) and you really have to do somersaults over Php 2 and attempt to use some kind of Adam theology to get round the obvious issues. John 17 ‘the glory I had with you before the world was’ may possibly be sidestepped but the plain reader would still see the obvious reference to pre existence.
The use of proskuneo twice in the scriptures to others other than God or jesus (I will let you find the other one) doesnt negate for instance the Heb 1v6 passage, how anyone can read this and think Jesus was just a man leaves me gasping. ‘let all Gods angels worship him’ in a passage where he is called ‘God’ by his father and the lord pf psalm 102 is applied to him and creatorial powers applied to him at the beginning and end of the chapeter is to my mind a really clear indication of his Godship.
Of course he isnt the father, but he is the fathers visible image, and as such is seen as YHWH and God, he is the emanation but not the source but neither existed before each other. Even if we use through and in to describe the creation and we omit ‘by’ we still have a source and emanation none having ontological priority but ontological samness.
Trinitarians believe in the positional supremacy of the father ‘subordinationaism’ is an element of trinitarianism particularly as seen in Nicea.
You seem to mix up Trinitarianism with a number of other views, I keep thinking as I read you ‘he doesn’t understand what Trnitariansim is’.
Im familiar with Philo in fact Jimmy Dunn encouraged me to read Philo. The flow of the prologue though identifies the logos with ‘become flesh’ v14 and the pre existence language throughout Johns gospel makes much more sense than any number of arian/socinian or liberal theories I have seen including yours….sorry!
Interestingly I have in my possession a booklet written by FFB and Metzger on ‘The Deity of Christ’ they use Jn 1v23 to say the things I was saying, I wd rather follow those two fine scholars on this one. In fact my use of that argument and some others came from my first reading of that booklet some 35 years ago now.
You can choose to take John 20v28 as you prefer but a monotheistic jew understanding about the One most high God is not going to ‘say TO HIM my Lord and my God’ (mou tou kuriou mou tou theou) its just not going to happen. The unfolding revelatio of Jesus causes Thomas to utter the absolute truth and jesus ever rebuked him as a number of angels rebuked assorted worshippers in the scriptures for ‘proskuneo’ them. Once again the mainstream view makes most sense, it truly does.
The splitting of the SHMA in 1 cor 8v6 is not the creation of two Gods it is the revelation that One God within him is a plurality. Jesus is not ‘another god’ he is the same God, THAT is the key point which I believe you misunderstand about the mainstream view.
Your view on John 1v18 is against the flow, you can choose what you will. you may find the following comments from the NET bible notes interesting.
45tc The textual problem μονογενὴς θεός (monogenh” qeo”, “the only God”) versus ὁ μονογενὴς υἱός (Jo monogenh” Juio”, “the only son”) is a notoriously difficult one. Only one letter would have differentiated the readings in the mss, since both words would have been contracted as nomina sacra: thus qMs or uMs. Externally, there are several variants, but they can be grouped essentially by whether they read θεός or υἱός. The majority of mss, especially the later ones (A C3 Θ Ψ Ë1,13 Ï lat), read ὁ μονογενὴς υἱός. Ì75א1 33 pc have ὁ μονογενὴς θεός, while the anarthrous μονογενὴς θεός is found in Ì66א* B C* L pc. The articular θεός is almost certainly a scribal emendation to the anarthrous θεός, for θεός without the article is a much harder reading. The external evidence thus strongly supports μονογενὴς θεός. Internally, although υἱός fits the immediate context more readily, θεός is much more difficult. As well, θεός also explains the origin of the other reading (υἱός), because it is difficult to see why a scribe who found υἱός in the text he was copying would alter it to θεός. Scribes would naturally change the wording to υἱός however, since μονογενὴς υἱός is a uniquely Johannine christological title (cf. John 3:16, 18; 1 John 4:9). But θεός as the older and more difficult reading is preferred. As for translation, it makes the most sense to see the word θεός as in apposition to μονογενής, and the participle ὁ ὤν (Jo wn) as in apposition to θεός, giving in effect three descriptions of Jesus rather than only two. (B. D. Ehrman, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, 81, suggests that it is nearly impossible and completely unattested in the NT for an adjective followed immediately by a noun that agrees in gender, number, and case, to be a substantival adjective: “when is an adjective ever used substantivally when it immediately precedes a noun of the same inflection?” This, however, is an overstatement. First, as Ehrman admits, μονογενής in John 1:14 is substantival. And since it is an established usage for the adjective in this context, one might well expect that the author would continue to use the adjective substantivally four verses later. Indeed, μονογενής is already moving toward a crystallized substantival adjective in the NT [cf. Luke 9:38; Heb 11:17]; in patristic Greek, the process continued [cf. PGL 881 s.v. 7]. Second, there are several instances in the NT in which a substantival adjective is followed by a noun with which it has complete concord: cf., e.g., Rom 1:30; Gal 3:9; 1 Tim 1:9; 2 Pet 2:5.) The modern translations which best express this are the NEB (margin) and TEV. Several things should be noted: μονογενής alone, without υἱός, can mean “only son,” “unique son,” “unique one,” etc. (see 1:14). Furthermore, θεός is anarthrous. As such it carries qualitative force much like it does in 1:1c, where θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος (qeo” hn Jo logo”) means “the Word was fully God” or “the Word was fully of the essence of deity.” Finally, ὁ ὤν occurs in Rev 1:4, 8; 4:8, 11:17; and 16:5, but even more significantly in the LXX of Exod 3:14. Putting all of this together leads to the translation given in the text.
The booklet was actually written by FF Bruce and WJ Martin not Bruce Metzger. It is available on pdf if anyone wants it I can email it to you or I will try and find the site I got it from. My hardcopy sits proudly on my bookshelf!
How about we call it a day on this one, unless you guys actually have something to say about the subject matter of the original post? You will find it if you scroll to the top of the page.
Aah, would have loved to reply to the misinformation by John Tancock above… But it is your website, Andrew and I’d like to thank you for the enlightening work you’re doing. God bless!
I’m not trying to suppress debate, and I’m sure opportunities to pursue these issues further will arise. I appreciate the constructive and mostly friendly conversation that you guys have been having. I just feel that it’s probably gone far enough for now, and I think that the intensity of the debate rather proves my point—that we are wound up tight to argue about the divinity of Jesus and neglect the far more important biblical affirmation that Jesus is Lord.
I do understand Andrew, got no problem with that at all. My ‘discussion’ was with you which Jaco joined , so you were quiet and i and Jaco with some comment from cherylu and others carried on.
My reason for getting involved in the first place was because of your ‘Evangelical’ credentials and I felt that questionning essentials in open forum was not helpful.
Anyway, I won’t say anymore…. when I come to London next i may contact you to meet up.
“that we are wound up tight to argue about the divinity of Jesus and neglect the far more important biblical affirmation that Jesus is Lord.”
I’m not trying to keep the discussion going here in this particular thread. I just want to let you know that for myself, personally, and I would think that for others here too, the divinity of Jesus is a very essential issue. If you lose that, it causes irreparable damage. And I am also quite sure that none of us that believe He is God would in any way dispute that He is Lord and that the New Testament teaches that in very profound ways.
I so agree Cherylu, in fact Lord to me is ultimately YHWH anyway. If anyone wishes to continue re trinity/christological issues my humble blog is ‘open’ just posted a funny video about ‘Trinity’ lol http://www.jtsblogspot.blogspot.co.uk/
Ok no problem. here endeth……….
This is an interesting conversation. For the most part I agree with your post here. However, my only quibble would be with the language of “Jesus is Lord” within the American context in particular. First, we don’t live in, or have had history with, lords, dukes, or earls. We have no concept of what “lord” means in our American context. Also, given most English Bible translate the name YHWH as LORD, many Christians when they hear “Jesus is Lord” probably equate Jesus to the LORD of the Old Testament. So in effect “Jesus is Lord” and “Jesus is God” becomes interchangeable in my American context.
Though we don’t live under a monarchy, we do have a better idea of what a king is and how they function over a lord. Perhaps a better message is, “Jesus is King”?
Yes, and it may be that “Jesus is Lord” sounds better in the UK for the opposite reason—that we do have a monarchy. I don’t know.
Of course, YHWH is also “king” in the Old Testament, so don’t you have the same problem in principle as with saying that Jesus is Lord? In a way, it’s important not to lose sight of the continuity with the Old Testament attribution of these titles to YHWH. I think that in order to understand the lordship or kingship of Jesus we have to keep in mind that the authority to judge and rule were transferred or delegated from YHWH to Jesus to reign at his right hand until the last enemy is destroyed.
In your post here you make this statement:
“There are certainly texts in the New Testament which lend themselves to the later line of thought. Many of them are in John, which as I noted before does not have the euangelion word group in it (a more significant fact than you might think), but which is the primary source document for those who wish to defend the orthodox Trinitarian position.”
I am curious about the significance of the lack of the euangelion word group in the gospel of John. Can you elaborate a bit more on that?