how to tell the biblical story in a way that makes a difference

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John Tancock,

“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: