The Son of God Given Authority to Judge Because He is ‘Human’: A Study in John 5:27, pt 6, Conclusion

[This is part 6 of a multi-part article. See part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, and part 5.]

Comparison with John 1:1c and 1:14a

Comparing 5:27b with other theologically similar anarthrous PN-CV constructions in John’s Gospel, specifically 1:1c and 1:14a, may reinforce the stance adopted here.

In the verse which begins John’s Gospel the author describes the same subject – ὁ λόγος (ho logos), the Word – using the same verb in the same tense-form (ἦν, ēn; was, existed) in three separate clauses with three different nuances: existence, association, and essence, respectively.123  This threefold repetition of subject-verb exemplifies merely one portrayal of John’s predilection for poetic expression.  While it’s the third clause with the same syntactical construction as 5:27b, it will prove helpful to briefly investigate the first two as well.

The first clause (1:1a), Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, translates In the beginning was the Word or, better, In the beginning the Word existed.  In its immediate context, taking into consideration verses 2-3, this declares the Word’s pre-existence with respect to creation, i.e., the Word’s eternality.  The second clause (1:1b), καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, is best rendered and the Word was with God.  This second clause, when taken in conjunction with the first, describes the eternal relationship between the Word and (the) God, logically indicating that (the) God is other than, and in distinction from, the Word.  While the direct object τὸν θεόν, (the) God, could be understood as the Trinitarian Godhead, for our purposes here we assume the referent is God the Father.124

This brings us to the third clause, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος, which is an anarthrous PN-CV-SN construction.  Most English translations render it and the Word was God.  While the PN could be deemed either definite or qualitative, an indefinite rendering (a god) is rejected from the outset for rather obvious exegetical and theological reasons.125

Colwell deems the usage in 1:1c definite by asserting the converse of his own rule; i.e., he presupposes definiteness unless “the context demands” indefiniteness or qualitativeness:

The absence of the article does not make the predicate indefinite or qualitative when it precedes the verb, it is indefinite in this position only when the context demands it.  The context makes no such demand in the Gospel of John, for this statement cannot be regarded as strange in the prologue of the gospel which reaches its climax in the confession of Thomas (20:28).126

Moreover, Colwell wishes to impose definiteness on 1:1c because of the definite, articular use of theos in another context (20:28)127 – precisely the same reasoning he used in 5:27b.  But, as we noted earlier, definite usage in one context does not necessitate definiteness in another.  In fact, if definiteness is pressed too hard, taking 1:1b in conjunction with 1:1c, modalism may obtain; i.e., the Word was God the Father.128

A better solution is to view the PN in 1:1c as (primarily) qualitative.129  Westcott understands 1:1c as qualitative, describing the divine nature of the Word, with 5:27b its converse, depicting the Word’s human nature:

The predicate (θεός) stands emphatically first . . . It is necessarily without the article (θεός, not ὁ θεός), inasmuch as it describes the nature of the Word and does not identify His Person . . . No idea of inferiority of nature is suggested by the form of expression, which simply affirms the true deity of the Word.  Compare for the converse statement of the true humanity of Christ 5:27.130

Harner, Dixon and Wallace view 1:1c as qualitative, as well.131  In addition, Barrett understands theos in 1c as describing the nature of the Word, hence, qualitativeness.132  Beasley-Murray seems to imply qualitative-definiteness in this context.133  Bruce also seems to imply qualitative-definiteness in 1c.134

The predominant English rendering and the Word was God seems fine, as long as the reader understands that it describes the essence of the Word.  Harner thinks it could be translated and the Word has the same nature as God.135  We prefer And the Word was by nature God.

Next we’ll discuss John 1:14a: Καὶ ὁ λόγος σὰρξ ἐγένετο.  Here we have the subject nominative (ὁ λόγος) preceding the anarthrous PN-CV construction (σὰρξ ἐγένετο, sarx egeneto; “flesh became”).  This is probably best rendered [And] the Word became flesh.

The analysis of the anarthrous PN-CV construction in 1:14a is more straightforward than either 1:1c or 5:27b.  It is clearly not indefinite, as we wouldn’t say the Word became a flesh.136  In a similar way, it would be difficult to state that the Word became the flesh, as this would mean that the Word took on a particular flesh, in which case a form of adoptionism would be implied: the divine Word ‘adopted’ a particular person, Jesus.137  No; the Word assumed another nature (human) when He became flesh, not another person, and this assumption of human nature resulted in the divine-human Person of Christ Jesus.  Hence, a qualitative understanding is the only possibility: [And] the Word became flesh – flesh consistent with that of every other human.

Wallace states that many commentaries prior to Colwell’s ‘rule’ noted a parallel between 1:1c and 1:14a because of the common anarthrous PN-CV constructions, with both clauses construed as qualitative.138  Westcott is but one example.139  In addition, as noted above, Westcott sees 5:27b as the converse of 1:1c.  Hence, these three qualitative PN-CV constructions can be viewed as forming a triad.  The Word was by nature God (1:1c).  Then, the divine Word became flesh, assuming flesh common to all humanity (1:14a), thus becoming the divine-human Person of Jesus.  This Jesus, the divine Son of God the Father (5:19-26), declared that the reason He was given authority to judge is because He is (also) human (5:27b).  In other words, though maintaining all the attributes of Deity (1:1c), the enfleshed Word is also human (1:14a), concurrently possessing all the qualities and characteristics consistent with being human, and it is the fact that the Word possesses human nature, in conjunction with His intrinsic divine nature, that enables Him to be Judge of all humankind (5:27b).

His incarnational humanity would remain a part of His Person – even after His “glorification,” which commenced at His death on the cross – as He, the divine yet human God-man, will be the future eschatological Judge of all humankind (5:28-30).  So, to reiterate, since the eternal Word is by nature God (1:1c), He possesses the divine capacity to judge humanity; however, it is only because He became flesh (1:14c) and is, hence, human that He cannot be seen as anything but a fair judge of humanity (5:27b) both during His earthly ministry (5:24-25) and at the eschaton (5:28-30).  For, like humankind, He suffered in His temptations (Heb 2:17-18; cf. Heb 5:2) and was tempted in all ways (Heb 4:15a-b); yet, unlike humanity, He remained unblemished, without sin (Heb 4:15c).

A contrarian may argue that John the Gospel writer could simply have used the adjectival forms (θεῖος, theios = divine; ἀνθρώπινος, anthrōpinos = human) instead of the nominal to make his intention clear in 1:1c and 5:27b.  However, using adjectives would have lessened the explanatory force, making these passages a bit ambiguous.  Was the Word simply another god, i.e. possessing the quality of divinity (1:1c), alongside God the Father?  Was Jesus merely human (5:27b)?  Moreover, these forms are infrequently used in the NT generally and, more importantly, completely absent in the Johannine corpus.140  Furthermore, it seems that the anarthrous PN-CV construction lends itself well to accentuating a particular quality of the subject nominative.  First, this is via the non-use of the article in the predicate nominative, which allows for a qualitative understanding, yet with an underlying definiteness.  Secondly, by placing the PN ahead of the CV – a linguistic device called fronting – the PN is necessarily emphasized.141  And the Gospel writer seems to have specifically intended this dual function in these contexts, just as he does predominately in the rest of his Gospel.

Conclusion

We have argued that John the Gospel writer, in making son of man anarthrous in 5:27b, wished to provide a distinction between this context and all other occurrences of the arthrous the Son of Man, while yet alluding to the latter.

It was shown that in the LXX the son of man idiom is always anarthrous, with the intended meaning mankind/humanity, or, human.  In the NT, the arthrous form is apparently a term specifically coined by Jesus, though it is used predominantly as a third person reference by Him.  Following Hurtado, we find that the articular ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου does not characterize or define “the Son of Man;” instead the individual contexts refer to the Person of Jesus Christ.  Moreover, “the Son of Man” does not refer solely to Jesus’ human nature, and, therefore, the term cannot be said to denote His humanity as opposed to His divinity.

A point of connection was found in the context of the anarthrous υἱὸς ἀνθρώπου in John 5:27b, specifically in regards to judgment, with both Rev 1:13 and 14:14, each of these verses in the Apocalypse alluding to the figure like a son of man in Daniel 7:13.  It was argued that in John 5:27b the Gospel writer also intended an allusion to Daniel 7:13-14, by both the use of the anarthrous huios anthrōpou and the larger context (which also points to Daniel 12:1-2).  This point of contact is argued as specifically evocative of the eschatological human-like figure in Daniel, making it clear that Jesus is the one spoken of by the Prophet.

Colwell’s ‘rule’ was found to be largely unhelpful in exegeting 5:27b.  However, the specific syntactical construction Colwell investigated, with the anarthrous predicate nominative preceding its copulative verb – which Wallace helpfully terms “Colwell’s Construction” – was shown to be primarily qualitative in the Gospel According to John.  John 5:27b was argued as having a qualitative force and an underlying definiteness.

This same construction is found in 1:1c and 1:14a, and along with 5:27b, these verses form a sort of triad.  In 1:1c the eternal Word was (ἦν, en) {by nature} God. In 1:14a the divine Word became (ἐγένετο, egeneto) flesh, taking on human nature; in 5:27b the Son of God is (ἐστίν) human, the abiding result of the former: the preexistent, eternal divine Son dwells in human form among humankind.  Jesus fully participates in humanity because He is fully human; however, He is not merely human, as He’s the Son of God.  His incarnational humanity remains into the eschaton where He will be eschatological judge (5:28-30).  For it is because the eternal Word is by nature God (1:1c) that He possesses the divine capacity to judge mankind; however, it is only because He became flesh (1:14c) and is, hence, human (5:27b) that he cannot be seen as anything but a fair judge of humanity.

It is the Word’s pre-incarnational, eternal intrinsic divinity (1:1c) coupled with his incarnational humanity (1:14a) that makes Him the perfect Judge (5:27b) for humankind (5:24-25; 5:28-30):

And he (the Father) has given Him (Jesus, the Son of God) authority to judge because He is (also) human.

In this view, the reason that the Son of God is given authority to judge is because He is also human.  This provides the basis for which He can be a fair judge of all, saved and unsaved, at the eschaton.

 

123 See Westcott, Gospel According to St. John, V1, p 2; cf. Brown, John I-XXI, p 4.

124 Thompson, God of Gospel of John, p 57, observes that there are 108 occurrences of θεός (God) in the fourth Gospel, as compared to “Father” which appears 120 times. God is first explicitly referenced as the Father of the μονογενὴς (monogenēs) Son in 1:14 (μονογενοῦς παρὰ πατρός), when considered in its full context to include 1:18 (μονογενὴς θεός/υἱός).  The large majority of times in John’s Gospel “Father” is in a context of relationship with Jesus as his Son, and what the Father does through the Son (pp 57-58, 69-72).  This leaves open the possibility that θεός in 1b refers to the entire Godhead rather than merely the Father.

David Alan Black, It’s Still Greek to Me, p 79, understands the Trinity as the referent, more clearly differentiating the Trinitarian Godhead from the Logos as God (1c) in its micro-context by paraphrasing the verse: In the beginning the Word existed, and the Word was with the Deity [τὸν θεόν], and the Word was Deity [θεός] (emphasis in original).  (Here Black seems to construe the PN of 1:1c as qualitative-definite (pp 77, 79).)  Carson, Gospel According to John, pp 116-118, also asserts 1b as a referent to the Trinitarian Godhead.

On the other hand, Brown, John I-XXI, notes that in contexts in which at least two members of the Trinity are expressed ho theos is “frequently used for God the Father” (p 5).  Moreover, in 57 of 58 appearances of ὁ θεός in John the referent is God the Father (See Dixon, p 36).  While Thompson, God of Gospel of John, observes that “God” is not used as a referent for the incarnate Word in the Gospel according to John, but that “God” is used for the preincarnate Word (1:1c) as well as the glorified Jesus (20:28), the author, though not explicit, strongly implies that τὸν θεόν in 1:1b denotes the Father (pp 233, 234).

Many modern commentaries assert the referent as the Father, e.g., Brown, John I-XXI, p 5, 24; Keener, Gospel of John: One, pp 369-374; Kostenberger, John, pp 27-29.  Ridderbos, Gospel of John, implies 1b as a referent to the Father, as he states that 1:1 “is explained, at the deepest level, by the absoluteness of the historic self-disclosure of Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God” (p 35).  Martin Hengel, “The Prologue of the Gospel of John as the Gateway to Christological Truth” (in Bauckham, Mosser, Gospel of John and Christian Theology) sees John 1:1 as corresponding with 10:30: “I and the Father are one” (pp 272-273); cf. Paul N. Anderson, “On Guessing Points and Naming Stars” (in Bauckham, Mosser, Gospel of John and Christian Theology) who, similarly, equates 1:1 with 10:30 (p 314).  In addition, one may infer that Barrett, Gospel According to St. John, p 156, understands 1b as a reference to God the Father; Bruce, Gospel & Epistles of John, pp 30-31, also appears to imply the Father as the referent for 1b.

Moreover, a sampling of Patristic literature indicates a strong belief that τὸν θεόν in 1b is in reference to the Father: Elowsky, Ancient Christian Commentary: John 1-10, pp 8, 9, 10, 11, 12-15.  This includes Hilary of Poitiers, Origen, Augustine, Tertullian, Athanasius, Cyril of Alexandria, Gregory of Nyssa, Chrysostom, Ambrose, and Methodius.

125 See Wallace, Grammar, pp 266-267.  Also, as noted earlier, an indefinite rendering of an anarthrous PN-CV is “the most poorly attested” of the three choices (Wallace, Grammar, p 267).

126 Colwell, “Definite Rule,” p 21.  Emphasis added.

127 In the lone use of ho theos as a reference to the Son (20:28), this is in conjunction with a possessive pronoun, which may well make the presence of the article insignificant (see Wallace, Grammar, p 239), though this does not negate the fact that the usage here is definite.

128 See Wallace, Grammar, p 268.

129 Wallace, Grammar, notes that commentators before Colwell viewed the usage here as qualitative (p 268 n30).

130 Westcott, Gospel According to St. John, V1, p 6; bold added for emphasis.  See quote at note 119 above for Westcott on 5:27b.

131 Harner, pp 84-87; Dixon, pp 35-40; Wallace, Grammar, p 269.

132 Barrett, Gospel According to St. John, p 156.

133 Beasley-Murray, John, pp 10-11.

134 Bruce, Gospel & Epistles of John, pp 30-31.

135 Harner, p 87.

136 See Wallace, Grammar, p 264.

137 See Oliver D. Crisp, Divinity and Humanity: The Incarnation Reconsidered (New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 2007), pp 34-71.

138 See Wallace, Grammar, p 264.

139 Westcott, Gospel According to St. John, V1, p 19.

140 Θεῖος is only used in Acts 17:29; 2 Pet 1:3, 1:4 (Titus 1:9 in a variant), ἀνθρώπινος in Acts 17:25; Rom 6:19; 1 Cor 2:13, 4:13, 10:13; James 3:7; 1 Pet 2:13.

141 In Koine Greek, most usually, the verb is placed first in a sentence, and by placing the PN in front of the verb the PN is emphasized.  For fronting see Martin M. Culy, I, II, III John: A Handbook on the Greek Text (Baylor Handbook of the Greek New Testament series, Martin M. Culy, gen. ed. (Waco, TX: Baylor University Press, 2004)), “Placing a constituent earlier in the sentence than its default order, most commonly in a pre-verbal position” (p 170).  Cf. Wallace, Grammar, p 269, nt 32.

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250 Responses to The Son of God Given Authority to Judge Because He is ‘Human’: A Study in John 5:27, pt 6, Conclusion

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  6. Craig Bridgforth says:

    Good to see you “back in the saddle”, Craig!

  7. Craig says:

    Really, I’m just finishing up what I started.

  8. schtoltzie says:

    Darren,

    Since your comment did not apply to this particular blog topic, I moved it here.

  9. Craig says:

    In preparing and making an online exchange, I’ve found an additional way to explain John 1:1. Specifically, I’ve found a way to better explain why “a god” will not do, plus a better way to explain why the context is best understood as qualitative with underlying definiteness. I may later incorporate this into the article:

    So, what then of 1:1? Context will assist us. The first clause, in its larger context to include verse 3, points to the Word’s preexistence with respect to creation, since He is the agent of creation. This implies that the Word is uncreated.

    The second clause describes the Word’s relationship with God [the Father]: and the Word was with God. Taking the first two clauses together we could paraphrase: In the beginning the Word existed with God. Taken as a whole, and including verse 3, this implies the Word’s eternality – the Word exists in relationship with God [the Father], preexisting creation, and is the vehicle through which creation came about. Thus, considering the context, theos here is best seen as qualitative: The Word exhibits the quality and nature of God [the Father]. In other words, though the Word is a separate entity, He possesses the same nature and quality of the Father. There is no implication that this is in some diminished sense, though we must investigate further.

    But, is the Word “a god”? Clearly, polytheism in not congruent with Christianity; however, is the Word “a god” in the diminished sense akin to a human ruler (cf. Psalm 82:6; John 10:34)? This is where the larger context of John’s Gospel provides the answer. All Jesus’ (Word-become-flesh) personal references to God as “My Father” was universally understood by His opponents as a claim that He was equal to God (5:17-18; 7:28-30; 10: 29-33, 37-39). Therefore, exegetically, it seems best to understand this as qualitative, though with an underlying definiteness, as opposed to indefiniteness: and the Word was by nature God.

  10. Jim says:

    I read recently that the phrase ‘Son of Man’ to the Jewish teachers of Jesus’s day would have inferred divinity; a status equal with God the creator of mankind.

    Footnote #124 was interesting in that the Trinity is the assumed given – the scientific equivalent of a constant – and the rest of the argument is framed around that constant. So much of what is written about the Trinity is in the same category as the Big Bang ie that’s the scientific majority view so let all other physics fit to that model, even if we can’t account for holes in the theory and have to stipulate, for example, undiscovered dark matter exists.

    What science has in its favour here is that it is prepared to be proved wrong and move on. But in the Christian praxis, if it can be shown that something like the orthodox Trinity is a false premise, or at least on very shaky ground, all hell breaks loose!

    Two more observations: I believe one of, if not the most important question facing any person is the one Jesus asked in Matt 16:13-20 ‘Who do you say that I am?’ If we get that right we won’t be lead into a false gospel by following a false Christ (2 Cor 11, Gal 1&3) that has no power to offer eternal life. The problem here is that the Trinity comes into play. Is Jesus the Son of God or God the Son? Is there a difference? Does it matter? I think it matters very much. Peter didn’t seem fazed though because he knew who God (Yahweh) was – the one God as proclaimed by Jesus in Mark 12:29 quoting Deut 6 – and he also knew that Jesus was totally divine yet not Yahweh.

    The second consideration, especially when reading John, is John’s constant battle against early gnostic heresies that were creeping in to church thinking. This comes through in his letters particularly. I think that the gnostic high god and the lower creative demiurge is a satanic distortion of how the early Christians conceived of God the Father (when he became the father is an interesting question to investigate – in pre-creation timelessness or when Jesus was physically incarnated through Mary, or both), and Jesus the creative Word, Logos and Wisdom (Prov 8) who came from God. Satan’s tactics are often to come in with a close to truth statement, enough to sucker in the target, and then drag them into deeper deceptions. Gnosticism sounds bizarre compared to Trinitarianism, but was it not actually closer to the early church’s understanding as taught by the apostles than we give it credit?

    Thanks for the comprehensive study by the way Craig.

  11. Jim says:

    I should add that I am on a journey of exploration here and on no agenda to convince, argue corners, or defend positions dogmatically, just ask questions and seriously consider the most convincing answers through the scriptures, even if they challenge centuries of tradition and accepted mainstream orthodoxy. This community is generally in the same boat, isn’t it?

  12. Craig says:

    I’m in the process of addressing things in your first comment here; but, I’ll address this latter one quickly. My position on the Trinity is, at the moment, fixed. That said, I don’t mind you posting your thoughts here, as I don’t see the harm. As long as one commenting doesn’t violate my policy related to commenting, all is fine. But, do expect me to challenge non-Trinitarian views, or other views I think at odds with how I understand Scripture.

  13. Craig says:

    Jim,

    Thanks for your comments. Can you tell me where you read “Son of Man” was inferred as divinity? If you have not read through the previous parts to this article, you’ll would have missed my discussion of the “son of man” idiom in the OT, in which it consistently means merely a human. When Jesus used it as a self-reference, He always used the article, “the”, making it distinctive.

    As for the Trinity being a given in Christian literature, and in my own article, yes, that’s true; but, it’s not without prior study for myself, and, presumably, those whose material I sourced.

    You wrote:

    Is Jesus the Son of God or God the Son? Is there a difference? Does it matter? I think it matters very much. Peter didn’t seem fazed though because he knew who God (Yahweh) was – the one God as proclaimed by Jesus in Mark 12:29 quoting Deut 6 – and he also knew that Jesus was totally divine yet not Yahweh.

    Here I’ll differ with you, if I’m understanding you – correct me if I’m not. Mark 12:29 quotes the Shema, no doubt; but, one mustn’t necessarily read this as Jesus excluding Himself from being God (Yahweh), i.e. part of the Godhead. Note Paul’s words in 1 Cor 8:4-6, most especially verse 6, which has been described as Paul’s reformulation of the Shema. That Jesus (“the Son”) is the agent of creation is found in Col 1:16 and Heb 1:3, which then helps us with John 1:3. That is, “the Word” of John 1:3 – the pronoun of that verse a reference to “the Word” of John 1:1 – is the preexistence of Jesus, which 1:14 and the intervening context illustrate.

    You wrote: when he [God the Father] became the father is an interesting question to investigate – in pre-creation timelessness or when Jesus was physically incarnated through Mary, or both)… I’ll agree with that!

    Regarding the Johannine writings and Gnosticism, my belief is that John’s Gospel was written specifically as both a polemic against proto-Gnosticism and as in line with the writings of the OT. Using logos was a masterful way of reaching both Jews and Greeks and either of these groups who were influenced by Platonism (or Hellenism).

  14. Jim says:

    That’s all fine Craig and it’s good to see you open to fielding views that don’t align with every element of your SoF. In working through the whole Trinity thing, as well as cessationism vs continuationism and the like, challenge is all part of the process for me.

    Very often Christians can appear light years apart, but if we only defined our key terms clearly, there would far less angst. We’d actually recognise we are closer than we often think. That said, a first century glossary of terms and definitions would have been really handy! There are probably many doctrines based on certain modern/conventional understandings of a word that in English is, for instance, body, soul, spirit, or hell. To the original writers, however, our conclusions and subsequent doctrinal views may not be entirely what was originally intended.

  15. Craig says:

    Re: your most recent comment: And it’s one of the reasons I’m self-studying Koine Greek. I want to at least know what the Greek actually reads; however, that doesn’t necessarily always help us with 1st century understandings of the associated terms. Thankfully, there are lexicologists who’ve done a lot of the background work, making things both a bit easier for the rest of us and more accurate than works of even just a decade or two earlier.

  16. Jim says:

    Craig, to answer your question from the 7.07pm comment, I recall it was a John Piper sermon but can’t find the exact link right now. http://www.goarch.org/ourfaith/bar-enosh explains that bar enos, translated son of man in Dan 7:13-14, could also be read as son of weakness. Whilst fully God, he presented himself to humanity as Paul describes in Phil 2 – divinity subordinated to the weakness of human flesh, even to death – but his true status as one of divine nature is not invalidated by the term.

    Jesus tied together Son of God and Son of Man in Matt 26:63-64 knowing full well that the Pharisees would recognise Dan 7:13-14 in his words. He was basically telling them he was the fulfilment of that prophecy. You say as much in Part 2. So, as a favourite title that Jesus used, Son of Man was probably as much about his divinity as it was about his humanity.

    Regarding the Shema, it is true that Jesus doesn’t necessarily rule himself out of being God (Yahweh), but to me that’s something of a supposition. On many occasions Jesus creates clear space between himself and the Father (I don’t think him saying he and the Father are one is a clincher – I am one with my wife, but I’m not her).

    The key here, I think, is that ‘Godhead’ and ‘Trinity’ get conflated and used interchangeably. To me, Jesus seems to see himself as part of the Godhead, but not the one God. Coming from the Father, being of divine nature, yet not God is how I read Paul when he declares repeatedly in the opening of many letters ‘from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ’.

  17. Craig says:

    Jim,

    One very important aspect that seems to be missed quite a bit when considering the “son of man” in Dan 7:13 is that it is prefaced with “like”: one like a son of man. This makes perfect sense when describing the glorified Messiah. In any case, the author of that piece conceded that “son of weakness” does not preclude an understanding that this figure would be human.

    At present, do you consider your views in line with what we understand Arius’ to be; or, do you consider yourself semi-Arian?

    Perhaps a resolution to your current understanding of Jesus is a consideration of these two points:

    (1) If an entity is not only not created but shares in the divine nature of the Uncreated, and is an instrument in creation, being the Agent of the Creator, then said entity cannot be a part of creation. What should we call said entity? Can we call said entity semi-divine? If not, and we conclude that said entity is truly divine – as it seems you are concluding – then we have two gods, with one seemingly subordinate to the other.

    (2) In considering the tentative conclusion of (1), a solution could be to view the Jesus of the Incarnation as taking on a unique existence, thereby making Him truly subordinate incarnationally, though it doesn’t necessarily follow that He’d have to be truly subordinate in His preincarnate state as “the Word.” That is, a situation in which two entities have different roles does not necessarily mean the entities are ontologically different. So, “the Word” in His preincarnate state could well be ontologically equal to ho theos as identified in John 1:1b (and the Word was with God), but functionally subordinate with respect to the act of creating (in some sense); and, when this “Word” becomes flesh, His role changes temporally such that He, as human, must obey God, yet He never ceases to be “the Word” (He must continue upholding/sustaining the cosmos per Col 1:17; Heb 1:3), as He’s just taken on a new mode of existence incarnationally. At the Ascension He no longer has this subordinate role He had incarnationally, temporally; and, he regains “the Glory He had” (John 17:5).

    In regards to your second paragraph, read part 3 carefully. I follow Hurtado in that the term “the Son of Man” itself says nothing says nothing about Jesus; it’s the context that says something about Jesus. In other words, Jesus’ favorite self-expression is not meant to mean something in and of itself, it’s the things He says in these contexts that explain the Person of Christ.

    When Jesus used the two terms (I don’t call “the Son of Man” a title as no one ascribed that to Him) in Matthew 26:63-64 He didn’t necessarily intend to equate the two terms. Jesus’ response to Caiphas could also be thought of as Jesus saying “so you say it is”, or something like that – that He was being a bit sarcastic, knowing this is not what Caiphas actually believed. Then, using the particularized the Son of Man was simply His way of letting him know that He was indeed that figure of Dan 7:13.

  18. Jim says:

    Craig, I’m not sure I identify my understanding of Jesus and the Godhead simply in terms like Arian, semi-Arian, Sabellian etc. I can’t hold to any form of Oneness modalism – there’s too much scripture separating the Father and Jesus both before, during and after the incarnation.
    Although not an SDA myself, some of their expressions come close to how the bible strongly suggests is the true nature of God and Jesus. But Arianism does come close too.

    So, in sum, I am currently persuaded that there is one, true, most high and almighty God – Yahweh, the Father, eternal, without beginning or end, uncreated. There is the essential monotheistic element.

    In similar vein to Heb 7:9-10, Jesus is the eternal Son of God in that he came from God in pre-creation timelessness and, therefore, has always been ‘in’ the Father. However, his Person had a beginning (Prov 8) before creation since he was agent by which all things came in to being, and all things are held together by him (Col 1:16-17). Since his begetting from God took place outside our human temporal reference, it’s almost moot to argue whether he is eternal or finite.

    He is of the same substance as God but ontologically separate. He has to be of the same substance in order to complete his task on the cross of cancelling the penalty for sin. A mere man could never achieve that, only the truly divine. An excellent type of the nature of God and Jesus is in the creation of Adam and Eve. God declared they should be made in their (God and Jesus) image. Adam was formed first and then Eve drawn from his body and fashioned differently but of the same substance and order. For me it’s a picture of God and Jesus that goes deeper than just gender. Jesus from God as Eve was from Adam.

    Lastly, the Spirit is mentioned at the point of creation and is sent when Jesus returns to the Father, but we have taken Greek masculine nouns and made a third ‘Person’ where none is required. The Spirit of God is no different in essence to the hand, finger, anointing, power, breath, fire, dove, water of God. In other words, where God chooses to manifest, we call that his Spirit. But it’s still God, not another divine being. Jesus saying to the disciples to wait in Jerusalem to be clothed with power from on high, is a parallel statement to the one when he declares the Father and he will come to live in believers. Their presence in us is the power and called the Spirit, the seal of eternal life. ‘Another helper’ is Jesus comforting the disciples while explaining he must physically depart; however, a helper for their walk with God, that is not Jesus in the flesh but Jesus and the Father as an immaterial presence, will be on the inside of them, helping. This is a new creation, never made previously, to be fulfilled in its highest form after our resurrection on Christ’s return.

    I don’t know if all that has a name from antiquity. It may be close to some ‘heretical’ declarations of faith, but not in every aspect is it Arian or semi-Arian. I think it just makes more sense from scripture than the all but inexplicable Trinity doctrine that Athanasius espoused in 325, which was solidified in 381.

  19. Craig says:

    Jim,

    You’ve obviously given the matter some serious consideration, so my response will, rightly, consider your response in its entirety. Until I have a bit more time this evening, I’ll state two things briefly.

    First, since you affirm the Word as a pre-creation, you must somehow account for the abode of the Word. To be more specific, if we assume that “creation” means all created things, and that this would include the entire cosmos, the solar system and all the space surrounding each and every planet, star, etc., then we must affirm that time itself is a part of creation. Science has proven that space and time are inextricably connected. Given this, wouldn’t the Word necessarily be eternal? And, going further, with no time/space/matter in which to exist, where would the Word live?

    Secondly, as you know, all words in Greek have gender; however, the gender does not always seem to correspond to what we might think in terms of male, female, or neuter. To my mind, this indicates that we cannot stress that the Holy Spirit is neuter in the Greek, as, by necessity, since pneuma is neuter, “Holy Spirit” (“holy” is merely adjectival) is recorded in Scripture as neuter. Yet the Holy Spirit is described as having the ability to be grieved. Moreover, Ananias lied to the Holy Spirit, i.e. God.

    Going back to Jesus, check out 1 Corinthians 10:4 in which Christ is the “rock” of Exodus. Similarly, check out this article: https://notunlikelee.wordpress.com/2014/05/10/who-led-the-exodus-a-text-critical-study-in-jude-5-2/

  20. Craig says:

    One other thing to consider. In the NT there are quite few quotations of OT Scriptures in which Jesus is referent, though YHWH was the original referent. One such example is Mark 1:3, which is a quote of Isaiah 40:3. LORD here in Mark is obviously Jesus, whereas in Isaiah it’s Yahweh.

  21. Craig says:

    Jim,

    I hope you’ve had a chance to reflect on my two recent comments in response to you. For me, these point to why the Trinitarian formulation makes sense, as long as one understands just what that entails.
    For now, let’s set aside the Holy Spirit and concentrate on the ontological relationship between the Father and the Son. I’m concerned that you refer to the Father and Son implicitly as separate divine beings in your statement But it’s [Holy Spirit’s] still God, not another divine being, thus implying some sort of polytheism.

    I find that many do not have a firm grasp on the Trinitarian doctrine – exactly how it’s defined. I’m not saying that you are necessarily in that boat; but, I think it may be beneficial for me to explain it. Compounding misunderstandings today are modern conceptions of what constitutes a person, as well as what is called Social Trinitarianism, which devolves into tritheism the way I read every account of it.

    As to the distinction between the ‘Persons’ in the Trinitarian formulation and a human person, here’s a decent delineation by Gerald O’Collins (The Tripersonal God [New York, NY: Paulist Press, 1999] p 178; bold added for emphasis). Prior to O’Collins’ words below, the author noted the difference in what person (Greek prosōpon; Latin persona) meant at the time of the Trinitarian formulation, which had evolved from the mask one wore in theatrical performance to the role of the one wearing the mask. This is in stark contrast to the individualist connotation of “person” in the current vernacular, which is imposed onto the Trinity.

    For the moment, disregard the Holy Spirit and read this with a mind of seeing how the following explains the relationship between Father and Son:

    Here, the distinction between the divine and human persons (and the distinction between divine and human relationships) comes into sharp focus. In the case of the tripersonal God, the distinctness of interrelated persons is not constituted by separation of conscious and free subjectivities. A threefold subsistence does not entail three consciousnesses and three wills [ED: contra many websites and Social Trintarianism], as if three persons, each with their own separate characteristics, constituted a kind of divine committee. One consciousness subsists in a threefold way and is shared by all three persons, albeit by each of them distinctively…Unless we accept that all the divine essential or natural properties (like knowing, willing, and acting) are identical and shared in common by the three persons of the Trinity, it is very difficult to see how we can salvage monotheism. Each person must be seen to be identical with the divine nature or the substance of the godhead…

    …[T]he divine relationships [are] crucial and unique…because being person in God is defined only through relationship to the other persons…The three divine persons are mutually distinct only in and through their relations…

    It’s important to note the meaning underlying the term homoousias, as used in Nicea and at Constantinople (381). Setting aside the prefix homo which can be easily understood, on the latter part, ousias, understanding that this is a form of the verb to be will go a long way toward understanding the intent of those formulating the Trinitarian doctrine.

    In the Nicene Creed the Son is homoousion with the Father, one essence/being with the Father. The word is defining the divine nature. The divine ‘Persons’ subsist IN that essence/being – ‘Persons’ understood within the framework provided by O’Collins above. Yet, the essence / being has one single consciousness and one single will, as we would expect of any person. To think of each member of the Trinity as having His own will and consciousness, as Social Trinitarians do, is to devolve into tritheism – three gods.

    You’re probably aware that YHWH is a verb. In the LXX (Septuagint), the rabbis translated Exodus 3:14 into the Greek as Egō eimi ho ōn…ho ōn, which twice uses the Greek verb to be, with the latter part reiterated by YHWH (“say ho ōn has sent me to you”). It can be translated a number of ways:

    I AM WHO I AM…WHO IAM
    I AM THE ONE WHO IS…THE ONE WHO IS
    I AM THE ONE WHO EXISTS…THE ONE WHO EXISTS
    or as Brenton’s has it: I AM THE BEINGTHE BEING

    I think this idea undergirds the Trinitarian formulation.

  22. Jim says:

    Thanks for your comments Craig, no doubt sandwiched in to a whole pile of pre-Christmas busyness. I’ll just respond simply and without much detail, mainly due to similar competing priorities right now!

    I can’t really speculate on the abode of the Word, or a pre-incarnate Jesus, given the paucity of scripture on the pre-creation environment. I haven’t seen the movie Arrival yet, but SPOILER it does use a twist on the nature of time which could be applied before our curved space-linear time came into existence. Therefore, Jesus can be both ‘eternal’ since he came from the eternal, infinite God, but still have a beginning (Alpha) point in pre-time. It all gets a bit esoteric, I’ll admit, but being of the same substance as God would be a distinct advantage.

    Just to touch on the Ananias reference to God and the Holy Spirit, the same parallelism is used in Ps 139:7. Presence and Spirit are synonyms just as in the Acts passage, and are to be read as a reference to God.

    Lastly, and I would like more time to do your last post justice, what I read to my thinking was modalism conveyed in Trinitarian verbiage. The words sound like they explain a non-tritheistic God, but to all intents say that God expresses himself in at least two modes – as Father and Son. To think otherwise, at least in my mind, requires significant cognitive dissonance given that we are talking about a singular God, not comprising three individual Persons, but having three essences. All so that the monotheistic tag remains intact.

    I think that Jesus can be divine, and not the one God, be Lord of all creation, and worshipped as such and not be polytheistic. Trying to have one God but accommodate other manifestations of his interaction with man is at the root of the Trinity, with the resulting mental gymnastics that, for most (if not all), have to follow. And I still wrestle with it.

  23. Craig says:

    Quickly here: I don’t think you’re far off in thinking of Father and Son as two modes; however, unlike Sabellianism, the idea is that both modes of existence are present simultaneously, not successively as in modalism. Also, think of the divine essence/being as strictly One with two (three including the Holy Spirit) ‘masks’, so to speak. One Divine Being, with one consciousness, mind and will, but individuated by the ‘masks’ of the Father and the Son (and Holy Spirit).

    In any case, I ask you to consider the Scriptural evidence of Mark 1:3 using Jesus as “LORD”, where the original OT source, Isaiah 40:3, explicitly uses YHWH in the Hebrew. And that’s only one example.

  24. Jim says:

    I agree Craig that, for Mark, Is 40:3 was fulfilled by Jesus. He was Emanuel, God with us. Paul says the same in Col 2:9 – the fullness of the Deity was found in Christ. However, is the only conclusion from Mark’s use of kurios (Lord) that Jesus was/is God the Father, YHWH? Mark says later in 11:9 that the people were shouting, ‘blessed is he (Jesus) that comes in the name of the Lord (Kurios – God). So, when Mark uses kurios, he could be meaning that where Jesus is, there God is, but still fall short of indicating conclusively that Jesus was God YHWH.

    The same can be said for Titus 2:13 which seems to portray Jesus as God. There is enough flexibility, however, in the Greek grammar (Granville Sharp rule) to separate the two and stay within the bounds of Pauline literature (see Titus 1:1 for example) that the coming of Jesus, our saviour, will be with the glory of God (Luke 9:26).

    Jesus is unique being formed from God for the purpose of representing the fullness of the Father to his creation. He is worshipped and glorified rightly. In adoration we may well exclaim what Thomas did and say, ‘My Lord and my God.’ Later, Jesus also said, ‘I go to your God and my God.’ How do we dovetail these statements that seem at odds? Either Jesus is God in Son mode, or he’s not God but still divine. The next question is whether the latter constitutes a binity or polytheism. Personally, I am comfortable (for now) that it doesn’t.

  25. Craig says:

    Regarding Mark 1:3 / Isaiah 40:3 you wrote: [I]s the only conclusion from Mark’s use of kurios (Lord) that Jesus was/is God the Father, YHWH? That’s not the conclusion I would draw. Rather, YHWH is plural (the ousia of the Trinitarian formulation) including the Father and the Son (and Holy Spirit); and, in the case of Mark 1:3 the Son is the referent (and the Deity of the Son subsists in the same ousia as the Father and the Spirit). In other words, in Isaiah 40:3 YHWH refers to the Trinity.

    As regards Mark 11:9, keep in mind this is the crowd’s interpretation as recorded by Mark; so, I don’t think we can use this verse to explain 1:3 or vice versa. But, even then, I’d think that the proper interpretation is that Jesus Christ came in the name of the Trinity, and He Himself, as the Divine-human incarnation, is part of that Trinity. In other words, that Jesus came in the name of YHWH is not meant to construe that Jesus is not YHWH, as being of the same ousia.

    Regarding Titus 2:13, from what I’ve deduced Granville Sharp ‘rule’ is not helpful; that is, it works sometimes, and sometimes it doesn’t and shouldn’t be understood as hard, fast rule. According to Stanley Porter (I forget the article) Sharp was attempting to ‘prove’ the Trinitarian doctrine using his own rule as hypothesis, and Wallace in his grammar follows same. Bottom line, I think appealing to Granville Sharp is unhelpful (Colwell’s ‘rule’ even less so). That said, I think the syntax and context (going into verse 14) well supports that Paul is speaking of one entity, not two. The NIGTC of George W. Knight III details the three main views on this passage, concluding that one ‘Person’ is in view here, discarding the others on the basis of syntax and context. Of course, not all will agree, and some worthy exegetes do.

    Of all the NT books, John’s Gospel is the one that especially indicates the Deity of Christ, Deity on par with the Father. Briefly, 2:19 (19-21) indicates that Jesus raised Himself from the dead (yes, in concert with “God” and “the Father”, as many NT references state); and 10:17-18 is further proof. The article I’m trying to put together (if I sit down and do it!) will go into more detail. Also, throughout this Gospel belief is key to eternal life – but belief in whom? Note the interchangeability in the following statements: that one who “believes Him Who sent Me [the Father who sent the Son] has eternal life” (5:24; cf. 6:40); those who “believe in His [the logos’/light’s] name, He gave the right to become children of God” (1:12; and note Jesus’ claim of being “the light of the world/life” in 8:12; cf. 12:36, 12:46); “everyone who believes in Him [the Son of Man] may have eternal life” (3:15; and cf. 9:35-41, 11:25-27); and “these [accounts of the signs] have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name” (20:31).

    Essentially:

    • Believing in the name of the logos/light, believing in the name of the Messiah/the Son of God, provides eternal life
    • Believing in the Father (“Him Who sent Me”), believing in the Son of Man, believing in the Son of God (11:25-27), provides eternal life.

    As regards 2:9, note its close proximity in the flow of the argument with 1:19. The way I interpret this, 1:19 should be understood: “For God [the Trinity] was pleased…” Since you recognize that the Son had been upholding/sustaining the cosmos during His incarnation, you must recognize that His Divinity, His Divine nature, was not confined to the Person of Christ; that is, Jesus was most certainly limited in physical space to His body, yet in His Divine nature He was omnipresent. That’s the essence of the hypostatic union.

    Commenting on your last paragraph: When Thomas made his statement, he was clearly affirming that Jesus is God (not, as some have opined, making an exclamation, which would have been using God’s name in vain, blasphemy). Jesus statement in John 20:17 should be understood incarnationally, as His human person stating that He – now eternally the Divine/human God-man – going to His God, who is also “My Father” in a particularized sense. That is, Jesus is “God” and “divine”(returning to My Father) and, using your words “God in Son mode” (returning to…My God and your God).

    You concluded with The next question is whether the latter constitutes a binity or polytheism. Personally, I am comfortable (for now) that it doesn’t. I’d be much more comfortable had you concluded your view as constituting a binity! Otherwise, what is it? We agree that God is wholly other than man; and, it seems we agree the Jesus is wholly other than man. Moreover, your view certainly posits Jesus as ontologically much closer to the Father than to us. I don’t construe your definition of Jesus as ‘semi-divine’, as it seems you’ve explained Him as fully Divine. So what is it?

  26. Jim says:

    Hi Craig, sorry, but I don’t know why you’ve concluded that the Isaiah 40:3 use of Yehovah indicates a plural and therefore the Trinity. That seems like back-casting or reverse-engineering the prophecy. In other words, the Mark 1:3 use has Jesus in mind in its fulfilment, but Isaiah had God the Father in mind. Since it’s both, it must mean that Yehovah is trinitarian in translation. Is that your line of reasoning?

    Not saying it is, but Isaiah had no trinity in mind when writing. Nor did any OT author. Trying to demonstrate the trinity from the OT is difficult. The Jewish concept was one God, often in a sea of multi/mini gods worshipped by their neighbouring pagans. So Yehovah would have been singular, although elohiym used in the same verse is often taken as a plural, but not always with the definite article. No doubt you’re familiar with elohiym.

    So, with the ousia mixed in it appears to support a trinity but then so would any reference to God, Jesus or the Holy Spirit if we came with that mindset. If they are substantially identical but functionally discrete we may as well just use one word. Alternatively, if the function is the Father, or Jesus, or the Spirit, then that would be clear in scripture, but when they are used those names are generally read as form not function. I still have to conclude modalism in the case of ousia, being of the same substance, even if it’s simultaneous modalism (which is a bit of a mental stretch).

    I come back to the idea that Jesus can be of the same divine constitution or nature as God, be uncreated, of a unique order, and still not be the one God. He is not God any more than I am not my father. He is the Son and very often sets himself apart from the Father in subordination terms, but also declares his oneness and total connection with the Father. We don’t have to conclude a Trinity (or Binity). They stand as they do without any diminishing of Jesus, whilst maintaining mono-theism in its purest form.

  27. Craig says:

    Jim,

    Regarding your first paragraph, you are correct about my reasoning. There must be some sort of way to harmonize the two passages, given that it’s a direct quotation. I’m sure we agree that it’s a prophecy of John the Baptist; yet, how do we account for the ‘switch’ from YHWH to Jesus? I’ve been in discussions with some in the ‘Hebrew Roots movement’ who claim that Jesus is the promised Messiah, though merely a man acting as God’s agent. I fail to see how a mere man can act in the place of God, though. That’s not to mention the many other problems that come with this view.

    In calling Himself YHWH in Exodus 3:14, He didn’t deny that He was/is ‘complex in His unity’; i.e., He wasn’t declaring Himself as a monotheistic God specifically over against Trinitarian monotheism. Whether Isaiah or any of the OT prophets understood that is not germane. For example, if you ask any orthodox Jew if YHWH had any ‘help’ in creation – that is, of course, “the Word” – s/he will look at you incredulously: “Of course not!” Yet the NT discloses this. And that’s why I see 1 Cor 8:6 as a reformulated Shema, though not contradicting Deut 6:4.

    Take a look at Genesis 18. The Scripture plainly states that YHWH [“LORD” in English versions] appeared to Abraham and YHWH speaks, yet Abraham sees three men, for whom he provides hospitality. Abraham shows obeisance to and worships these three men, but addresses either the men or YHWH (or are they one and the same?) as “my Lord” (singular).

    Yes, I’m familiar with the Elohim argument, but it quickly goes nowhere as the sole means by which to prove either side – monotheism or Trinitarianism.

    You wrote: If they are substantially identical but functionally discrete we may as well just use one word. We cannot do that, as God has revealed Himself as more than one “mode of being”, to use Moltmann’s preferred term (which I like much better than ‘Person’). Again, don’t think of Sabellianism, or modalism, since Trinitarianism is much different, recognizing different prosopon, “masks”, so to speak, at the same time. Distinctions between the “modes of being” are in virtue of their differing relationships and roles. The Father sent the Son. The Son is the One sent. The Spirit proceeds from the Father. The Son sends the Spirit.

    You wrote: He [Jesus] is not God any more than I am not my father. You are not the same person as your father, but you have shared genetics, making you ontologically of the same substance: human flesh. Similarly, Jesus is the Son. Is He of the same essence of the Father (homoousion) or a similar essence (homooision – the teaching of Arius)? Since he’s the Father’s Son He must be of the same essence, right?

  28. Jim says:

    I agree Craig, that Jesus has to be of the same essence as God, otherwise we get into a world of confusion about how we are saved, who does the saving, and not least how the ‘stripes’ of a mortal human could achieve any healing at all. Importantly though, how do you define ‘essence’?

    To change tack slightly, perhaps I can ask another question. Why is the Trinity as a doctrinal concept so important to uphold? And, leading on, what soteriological, ecclesiological and eschatological implications are there if we do not adhere to a trinitarian perspective? As long as Jesus is not diminished from divine Sonship, how does trinitarianism work best as an understanding of God? (Yes, that’s three questions!)

    The gnostic distortion of early church theology indicates to me that the (Jewish) apostles and church fathers were not, in general, trinitarians. Gnosticism came as a mockery of their view point, that the demiurge was somehow capricious and introduced evil into the world. Satanic deflection if ever there was one.

    We might need to ‘draw stumps’ soon and resume after the seasonal fun! But this interchange has been very useful.

  29. Craig says:

    “Essence” is a translation of ousia, which is a noun derived from a participle of to be, exist. Think of it as ontology.

    I really do think the Trinity is borne out in Scripture, when the entire corpus is taken into account. The ramifications for non-adherence to the Trinity will depend on the specific beliefs of the individual. In any case, it’s a BIG question (and yours is 3 in 1)! The way I understand your third question, it’s answered with my first statement in this paragraph.

    Regarding Gnosticism, I think John’s Gospel was, in part, a polemic, an apologetic against proto-gnosticism. This, I think, is, among other things, why He stressed the Deity of Christ and mentioned the Spirit along with the Father and Son. That is, I think an early form of Gnosticism (springing from the mystery religions) adopted and perverted Christianity to its own ends. John using ho logos (which the Greeks understood as “reason”) was one of his polemics, and, further, stating that the logos was agent in creation destroyed the Gnostic notion that the inferior demiurge was creator. Moreover, this idea would counter the semi-divine redeemer idea of gnosis as redeemer. This all presupposes that the Gospel of John was written late in the 1st century, ca. 95 or so.

  30. Craig says:

    Glad you found the interchange useful!

  31. Jim says:

    5 minutes before the Christmas morning service….just been reading Eph 1 – 2:10 and tried to conceptualise what Paul was communicating in Trinity terms and I simply couldn’t rationalise the passage or understand it coherently in that context. What was clear was that God is the Father and God of the Lord Jesus Christ (1:3, 17), and that God and Jesus have very discrete roles and persona. If, for example, Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father (1:20), he has to be observably separate, even in heaven. Even if ‘right hand’ means place or position of power rather than physical location, modalism, or ‘masks’ just doesn’t stack up.

    Things to ponder while chewing on the turkey. Have a blessed Christmas!

  32. Craig says:

    The very fact that God the Father is both God and Father to Jesus points to an ‘other than’ relationship and even being, doesn’t it? Yet there are other passages that make it seem like they share the same ontology, [ADDED:] or at least the same ‘genetics’ [/ADDED], though differing in relationship and role. It’s for this very reason that Trinitarians posit an economic Trinity (in the economy of salvation) as well as an ontological (or immanent) Trinity; that is, the Trinity has different roles and relationship relative to salvific function, as well as different roles in abstraction from interaction with humanity. In other words, the immanent/ontological Trinity is the outworking of the Trinity in and of itself; whereas, there’s an obvious difference in how the Trinity functions during the Son’s incarnation, due to the fact that He’s now constrained by human flesh, and living as a human. This changes the Son’s relation/roles incarnationally but not immanently/ontologically. “The Word” had always sustained/upheld the cosmos before the incarnation, during His earthly ministry as Word-made-flesh, as well as post-earthly life.

    In the Apocalypse/Revelation there are passages indicating the Lamb in the middle/center of the Throne (Rev 5:6; 7:17), also we find similar verbiage attributed to each – compare 1:8; 21:6 to 22:12-13, e.g.

  33. Jim says:

    I’d have to look into how the Holy Spirit became entrenched in creedal history as a ‘Person’ to create a trinity (or tri-theistic unity perhaps). The scriptures (notwithstanding trinitarian bias in interpretation from the KJV) only truly indicate that when the label Spirit is used it broadly means God (Jehovah), but in his manifest form as power, anointing, wisdom, and active working in and through a person. The fact that a trinitarian centrepiece was an accepted part of pagan mythology and religions may have influenced early doctrinaires seeking to ‘Christianise’ those elements, certainly ex-Greek philosophers such as Origen.

    If it can be shown that the Spirit is, honestly, God and not a third Person, we have a Binity, and if the answer to your opening sentence is ‘Yes’, which I believe we agree on, then we have, in practical terms, a unitarian Godhead. What I guess I’m trying to thrash out is: if Jesus is of the same essence/ontology/genetics, if he is divine in being, if he is worthy of worship, if he is the creative power behind the universe, if he is effectively on a par with God the Father, if he is all these things, does that mean he has to be God? If not, and Jesus is all these things, does that mean we can’t have mono-theism? Can mono-theism exist (because the Lord our God is one God) in a plurality of divine beings ie if there is a hierarchy?

    For me this last question is key because if there is scriptural latitude for two divine beings, one of whom is the Lord God Almighty, the other his Son, Jesus our Lord and Saviour, then a Trinity (both immanent and ontological) becomes moot.

    It seemed to me the economic trinity is a convenient adjunct to buttress the ontological version in that we can apportion roles or functions to each with respect to human salvation, but there are more than three functions performed by God in the whole salvation process – healing, the mind, resurrection of the entire person, overcoming death, freedom from sin, a new creation now, societal affects, the church body. God is all in all of these things. Jesus enables them and their presence in us is outworked in good deeds and spiritual gifts/fruits.

    Overall, a Nicene Trinity adds nothing to that concept of God and Jesus, but simply mixes and muddies what, I think, is scriptural clarity on the one true God, and his (divine natured) Son reaching into humanity in a form we’ve called Spirit (or breath, pneuma, ruach – the invisible wind of God evidenced in the physical). In sum, if something appears simple in the bible, its probably for a reason. When man creates philosophical frameworks that aren’t simple, and trying to explain the classic Trinity falls in to that category, we have to questions its validity.

  34. Craig says:

    From my perspective, I’ve no difficulty envisioning God as One who is difficult to describe, given our limited intelligence and His obvious omniscience. In fact, I’d say I’m more comfortable with God being indescribable than easily defined. You wrote: Can mono-theism exist (because the Lord our God is one God) in a plurality of divine beings ie if there is a hierarchy? Why does a plurality of ‘Person’s indicate a hierarchy (in the ontological Trinity)? The only thing differentiating the divine ‘Persons’ are their roles and relative relationships. The divine nature, consciousness, and will is shared. No hierarchy, just a subordination of role: the Father sent the Son, the Son is the One sent, the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father, the Son sends the Spirit from the Father.

    And, I must state again, Father created all things through the Son (John 1:3, I Corinthians 8:6, Colossians 1:16, Hebrews 1:2). We’ve not addressed the Holy Spirit just yet; but, given that He’s sent by the Son from the Father, He can be grieved and lied to (Ananias and Saphira), I’d say that’s a start.

  35. Jim says:

    The wall my head is hitting is that Trinitarianism wants to have its mono-theistic cake and then eat from three portions; each portion having a name, role, function, discrete ‘personality’, yet each slice be the entire cake. The cake has three slices. To keep with the analogy, the cake has to be made of the same ingredients for each slice to be congruent with classic Trinitarianism, but one slice is not the whole cake as Trinitarianism would have us believe. Further the slices cannot comprise different ingredients and support Trinitarianism. You’d have three cakes then.

    Water as ice, liquid and steam doesn’t help either. They’re all water but if different forms or modes, so we swing back to modalism which has been written off as non-compliant heresy. I think that God has equipped us to conceive of him as described in the bible – in the singular, but accompanied by another unique Person: his Logos Son. Surely, a plurality can only be true to God being one, yet having another divine agent active in human history, if it is hierarchical. Functional subordination but relational equality means either modalism or tri/poly-theism, if we’re being intellectually honest. Both are not congruent with standard Trinitarianism.

    As an aside, when you write about who raised Jesus, Craig, will you touch on what constitutes death, who died, and what happened after Jesus died, which are all vital components of the meta-narrative?

  36. Craig says:

    I can understand the difficulty; however, I’m more uncomfortable with overt polytheism (bitheism), which is how I view your stance. The “one slice” you reference is not how the Trinitarian formula is to be construed. Given that they all share the same ‘essence’, nature, including consciousness, will, and mind, their differentiation comes about primarily incarnationally. Since you’ve no issue with Jesus’ “divine” state, it shouldn’t be difficult coming to at least a binitarian understanding.

    You’re correct, no analogy will work.

    You wrote: Functional subordination but relational equality means either modalism or tri/poly-theism, if we’re being intellectually honest. Both are not congruent with standard Trinitarianism. In your first sentence, I don’t see your conclusion as necessarily following your initial clause. And, how is it incongruent with standard Trinitarianism?

    As regards this article I’m writing (that I’ve made no progress on this weekend, though I intended to), I won’t be able to incorporate most of those elements, as it will unduly lengthen it, thereby detracting from my purpose as a Trinitarian apologetic piece.

  37. Jim says:

    Equally though Craig, your understanding is gusting toward Sabellianism, using the mask instead of mode explanation.

    To me, functional subordination by three separate God Personalities leans more towards tri-theism since one being can’t subordinate facets of his character or essence. It could also be seen as modalism though if one mode was consistently presented by God as having an ‘inferior’ role or function, such as the Son to the Father. Both are not regarded as meeting the tenets of Trinitarian orthodoxy.

    I think I’ll quieten down and let you finish your next piece.

  38. Jim says:

    That said, I think the raising of Jesus makes an excellent case for a singular, unitarian God as long as we are clear about the nature of Jesus and the death he was raised from.

  39. Craig says:

    Jim,

    Skimming the wikipedia article, it seems to do a decent job of describing Sabellianism. Check it out; it references the three “masks” idea as being true Trinitarianism. Sabellianism is different in that the three modes are successive, never more than one mode at a time.

    Functional subordination need not entail tritheism: if there’s one will shared by all, then the wills cannot be in conflict with each other, potentially causing a situation like “I don’t want to do that, you do it” sort of thing. That would be tritheism. Possessing one will, yet dispensing an individual task to one ‘Person’, “mask”, via the shared will does not mean one is truly subordinate to the other. While the Son may seem to be subordinate to the Father, given that the Son was sent to be crucified, e.g., one could argue that the Son’s specific role here is the more important.

    As to the resurrection of Jesus promoting strict monotheism as opposed to Trinitarianism, that does not necessarily follow. That is, if it can be shown that the Son raised Himself – and Scripture does bear this out – then it promotes something much different than strict monotheism, specifically that more than one ‘Person’ raised Jesus. Keep in mind that Trinitarianism should be called monotheistic Trinitarianism in keeping with the insistence that it is a doctrine of one God in three ‘Persons’, modes, “masks”.

  40. Jim says:

    Having done a similarly quick job of reading about Nestorianism, Council of Ephesus and Chalcedon (451), and other early church Trinitarian dispute settlements, it is very clear that if a view was not that of the Pope/Emperor of the day you were variously excommunicated, anathematised, cast out, ignored, mortally wounded or sacked from senior leadership. In simple terms, there was huge pressure to conform to the very uninspired opinions of the evolving chief clergy and rulers.

    My point is that rather than reverse-engineer ‘orthodox’ monotheistic Trinitarianism whose root and soil is as I described above, back in to scripture (which is the predominant methodology, I would argue), let a biblically authentic view of the nature of God and Jesus emerge.

    Also, it seems that you hold a Trinitarian perspective that is both modalistic and Personified. ‘True’ Nicene Christian orthodox Trinitarianism declares the co-substantial, same essence, identical ‘consciousness’ of three eternal Persons of God – Father, Son and Spirit. If you mix in modes or masks to the lexicon it becomes confusing whether you’re espousing a view that (like mine probably) would be regarded by most mainstream denominations as unorthodox, even heresy.

    Just 2c on the resurrection. You’re right that there are verses that say God raised Jesus, Jesus said he would raise up ‘this temple’ (his body), and the Spirit (who) raised Jesus (is in us). But, in similar vein to 1 Thess 5:23, I don’t think this creates a solid basis for an ontological conclusion for the Trinity’s reality any more than Paul meant for his verse to be a summation of the nature of man. If the Spirit is God’s manifest presence and power, then the Father would have been exerting his presence and power in the tomb at the moment of resurrection.

    I’m sure Jesus saw all his miracles as evidence he came from God. So when he declared that he would raise himself from the grave (not hell or some flaming pit) he was saying that this most mighty of miracles would be the greatest evidence of his Father that he would perform, but not take any glory away from the source – God. Jesus stated that ‘he did’ many miracles, but it was by the Father’s enabling. So it was with his resurrection. Jesus ‘did’ raise himself, but with the power that came from the Father.

    I firmly see the NT describing Jesus as having all the fullness of God available to him but in his choice to clothe that power in human weakness, his human side died on the cross, which when combined with his subordinated Godliness, meant that death would have continued to reign over Jesus had he not been raised. For me, this is the extraordinary thing about the resurrection, that Jesus took our punishment, and that punishment is eternal death. But because he rose, by the power of the Father, he became a never before seen example of our future hope.

    Sorry Craig, I’m distracting you again!

  41. Craig says:

    Jim,

    I’ll respond briefly. First, as regards my own Trinitarian view, I may demur from using “person”, but that’s because it has so many different meanings today, most (all?) of which fail to capture the meaning of prosōpon, which was used in the formulation. The way I understand it (and I do plan on doing more research on this matter), the term refers to the role of the person wearing the mask in Greek drama. With this basic sense, it seems to capture the idea of three co-essential ‘Beings’ all sharing the same consciousness, mind and will, individuated by their relative relations and roles. In my opinion, calling Them “Persons” conveys that they are just like you and me = tritheism. Worse is that many websites which speak on the Trinity claim that each ‘Person’ has their own consciousness, mind and will, clearly devolving into tritheism.

    I like Moltmann’s “modes of being”, but, as you note, it sounds too much like modalism. However, I think that, explained properly, a charge of Sabellianism can be avoided. In any case, it’s all about carefully choosing words when trying to put pen to paper on this subject.

    Again, briefly, with regard only to Jesus being raised/raising Himself from the dead, there are two verses in John’s Gospel that make it clear He would raise Himself by His own power. The first is John 2:19, in which He claims quite boldly that He’d ‘raise this temple’, with the narrator noting that He was speaking of His body. The verb is in the active voice and Jesus Himself is the subject, making this unambiguously clear that He would raise His own body. John 10:17-18 states the same basic thing, with Jesus as subject and the associated verb in the active voice. There’s more, but that’s a start. In any case, I’m sure we’d agree that only God can raise from the dead, and we have many verses confirming that fact. Extrapolating further, those Scripture which state explicitly that God raised Jesus from the dead can and should be understood that God includes Jesus; and when the other verses which state that the Father raised Jesus are factored in, then we understand the Father is to be included as well. Hence, both God the Father and God the Son (God incarnate as Jesus) raised Jesus.

    Point to ponder: The Father has “life (zōē) in Himself”, and He granted the Son to have this same “life (zōē) in Himself” (John 5:26); Jesus claimed He had the authority/power to lay down His psyche and take it up again (John 10:17).

  42. Jim says:

    I’d better hold off significant comment going down the resurrection path until your piece comes out Craig, but just quickly on the second half of your response above. If the conclusion that A) Jesus said he would raise himself; B) only God can raise from the dead; C) Jesus was raised; therefore D) Jesus is God, is true, then who died? Jesus had to suffer a real death to take the full punishment. I don’t believe just his humanity died but his Godhood remained ‘alive’. Death has to mean death. If we take it that the cross was just a means for Jesus to transition from one form of existence to another, we’ve lost the proper meaning of death. But God can’t die, so what happened?

    I’ll suggest that it was the unique Son of God (not God the Son) who fully died, allowing his whole divine man to be extinguished and lie in a tomb for three days before new life from the Father flooded him. Yes he had ‘authority’ from God to do so, and he also knew that he had the full backing of the Father to choose when to die and when to receive the Father’s zoe life unto resurrection. This aspect has to be fully explored to put Jesus’s resurrection into its true context.

  43. Craig says:

    Jesus’ psyche died (see the LXX of Genesis 2:7), yet his “life (zōē) in Himself”, His divine life, lived on, as Deity doesn’t die. But, yes, He experienced a real death – in His psyche. I’ll put it in John the Gospel writer’s terms: The Word lived on; however, the flesh (sarx) part of Word-made-flesh (John 1:14) perished on the cross. The Incarnation should be viewed as a new mode of existence for the Word such that He is forever in hypostatic union with flesh He took on. However, with the death of sarx and the subsequent resurrection and glorification, the Word is now Word-made-flesh-glorified (or some nomenclature like that).

    Given that an unblemished animal could alleviate the sins of Israel for a year, why couldn’t a sinless man alleviate the sins of all humanity for all time?

    I’d say you are expounding well beyond the context. I’m trying to stick with the John’s words as much as possible.

  44. Jim says:

    The most significant of the various ways in which zoe, or abundant, life can be seen is life after the resurrection, but that couldn’t have applied in its fullness before Jesus was raised. I think I’m staying well within the context here. Indeed, psuche in the Greek is rendered nephesh mostly in the Aramaic (including Gen 2:7), and that simply refers to a creature that has God-breathed life in the generic sense.

    Consequently, Jesus didn’t have a psuche that could die because he was a psuche/nephesh, often called soul in English. His soul can’t die and leave something else alive – Jesus was all soul and entirely died. The true context here is captured by Paul in Phil 2:8 where he states Jesus became obedient to death, in exactly the same way that every other human was obliged to be obedient to death. There is no waking from death until resurrection, so when Jesus was raised after 3 days, Paul could proclaim the victory to come – that death has no sting, and is swallowed up in Christ’s return when he resurrects believers.

    It’s important to state here that I’m not saying the divinity of Jesus ‘died’ in some sense, he simply subordinated his deity to the weakness of human flesh – even death on a cross. If, as Paul declares in 1 Cor 15, Christ did not rise we may as well eat drink for tomorrow we die – in other words, Paul says enjoy life to the max, because if Christ has not been raised there’s nothing next, just eternal death.

  45. Jim says:

    The death of Jesus, if treated in Trinitarian terms gets contorted in order to fit conventional Trinity concepts; that God can’t die, so Jesus has to have a part that gets destroyed by death, and a part that is God that can’t die. But that enforced, and unscriptural dare I say, theme runs counter to the hypostatic union whereby Jesus is fully God and man, inseparable, without division, one person.

    If, as I have posited, we put the Trinity idea aside and settle on one God, his Son and their manifest presence, there is no tension when confronted with the death of Jesus. A Trinity hasn’t become a Binity for 3 days; God hasn’t died; the One who holds together all things has not left the scene. The Son of God, divine co-creator of the universe has amazingly stooped to become a man and veil his all encompassing power, even allowing himself, the author of life, to be subjected to death for a short period, to truly taste man’s ultimate fate. Satan thought he had the victory, so powerful is the force of death on mankind, He knew Jesus had voluntarily subjected himself to the prospect of needing to be resurrected, but what a victory was bought when the most creative power beyond all previous actions by God was unleashed!

    God was still in all things, the universe still functioned during that bridge from Christ’s old life in the flesh to new life in resurrection power as a firstfruit leader for all who believe. The Son was back in the glorious state he had permitted to be smothered, but not extinguished, by death.

  46. Jim says:

    A sinless man did alleviate the sins of all humanity for all time because he was, in a real sense, the only scape goat that the High Priest (here, God the Father) could lay his hands on, and God was pleased to impart on to Jesus man’s sin (Isaiah 53:10-11),

  47. Craig says:

    Given that the Word is the vehicle through which all creation came (John 1:1; I Cor 8:4; Col 1:16; Heb 1:2), and that the Word had been (prior to incarnation), was (during His earthly life) and is currently sustaining/upholding creation (Col 1:17; Heb 1:3), this zōē life must have always been to the full – to include the time that Jesus was on the cross, and between the cross and resurrection. John 10:17 states Jesus would lay down His psyche, only to take it up again; it states nothing about his zōē. If Jesus was fully man – as Christian orthodoxy claims, which makes sense if He is to be our sin substitute – His human life must be the same as any other. Hence, He should follow the pattern of Gen 2:7 in which, upon receipt of the “breath of life” a human becomes a living psyche (psyche zōsan). Therefore, when Jesus laid down his psyche life, His humanity died while His zōē lived on; and, when His zōē (in concert with the Father {and Holy Spirit}) took up His psyche again, this seems best understood that the “breath of life” came back into His lifeless body such that He again became a living psyche (psyche zōsan), only this time the body itself was changed, glorified. Jesus died a real death; God the Son did not. His humanity perished and rose again; His divine nature (zōē in Himself) remained alive.

  48. Craig says:

    There was never a separation of the hypostatic union. God is spirit, not corporeal; so, there’s no trouble envisioning God’s incorporeal Person, the Word, living, while Jesus’ body lay dead in the tomb, with the Word all the while sustaining the cosmos. And the Trinity is not ever reduced to a Binity – for a time the divine nature of the 2nd ‘Person’ of the Trinity was in hypostatic union with His dead human nature.

  49. Craig says:

    Jim,

    Regarding your most recent comment, you may want to look more closely at Hebrews 2:17 (and preceding, to get full context), as well as consider that Mark 1:3 (and its parallels) quotes Isaiah 40:3 in which the original referent for LORD is YHWH, yet in the NT that referent is clearly Jesus Christ. Also, do a word search for “redeem” in Isaiah and find all the contexts which point to the Redeemer, some of which are exclusively YHWH. Note especially 44:6 in which YHWH states “I am the First and I am the Last, And there is no God besides Me” while comparing that to Revelation 22:12-13 (“the First and the Last”). Is the latter the Son or YHWH? Who is the One granted authority/power to judge all (John 5:21-30)?

  50. Jim says:

    Hi Craig, re 7.01 am, I’m not sure I understand your use of psuche life and zoe life as ‘entities’ almost to be taken up or laid down. Are you saying that zoe life is, by its nature, the life that God and Jesus have always possessed, or is it what they impart to man? I agree wholeheartedly with your description that the humanity of Jesus died but not his hypostatic divinity. I think we’re on the same page but you’ve said it more succinctly than I did.

    It’s important to note, though, that Jesus still did not usurp or overthrow his human death for the sake of letting his divine side reign in the circumstance of his passion, death, and burial. After all, he could have avoided death altogether, or chosen to take up his life immediately after dying on the cross. That he didn’t, I think, was not only to fulfil prophetic scripture (the sign of Jonah), but to demonstrate that he was prepared to really place our humanity ahead of his divinity.

    Just leading on, at the point of Jesus’s resurrection, you said that he became a living psuche again, but I’m not sure that’s the case despite going on the say that his body was in a new, glorified state. I think we need to understand what’s really happening and the difference between psuche and zoe life.

    God creates a living soul or psuche by giving that creature breath, and that breath oxygenates blood, in which also is the ‘life’ (Lev 17:11). When, as believers, the Spirit (God and Jesus) comes to live in a Christ follower, then zoe life is imparted. This life is of a different, non-physical order, which we can enjoy a taste of (Romans 8:2, 6, 10 for example) and culminates at our resurrection and the gift of eternal (zoe) life. Since we know our old psuche life of flesh, breath and blood can’t inherit (experience) eternal life (1 Cor 15:50), zoe resurrection life must bring a new order of the means of animation. That means is God himself through what we’ve termed the Spirit (Rom 8:11).

    Jesus presents his physical resurrected body to his disciples, but is not a psuche with blood (‘see I am not a ghost, but have flesh and bones’) but the fullness of a zoe that they see. And that is the blessed hope of every believer.

  51. Jim says:

    Craig, I had a look at ‘redeem’ in Isaiah, and understand the interchangeability of various verses that reference God in the OT and Jesus in the NT. I’m not sure though how that affects the scape goat as a type of sin impartation that Jesus underwent. God certainly redeems mankind, through the sacrificial offering of Jesus who became sin for us (2 Cor 5:21).

  52. Craig says:

    I suppose I shouldn’t have extrapolated as much as I had (Jesus becoming a living psyche again), as Scripture doesn’t spell that out. However, my point in using “zōē life” here is to reference my original comments about John 5:26 – the life Jesus had in Himself, as granted by the Father. This is in distinction from any other human, implying His divinity. It’s for that reason that I think John 10:17 makes it a point to indicate Jesus would lay down his psyche, then take it up again. To potentially add confusion, zōē is used in reference to the believer.

    Upon belief, the Christian gains zōē aiōnios, eternal life (John 5:24). Comparatively, Christ already had unbounded eternality in His divine nature (as “the Word”). As for the body we receive, we’ll have to look to I Corinthians 15:42ff.

    Jesus’ body lying lifeless for three days was, as I’ve read somewhere, for the purpose that the understanding was that on the third day a dead body would already be decaying, and that it was presumed to be no way for the individual to come back to life. This is why Jesus waited as long as He did to bring Lazarus back to life.

    I’m not comprehending your seeming explaining away of Mark 1:3 (and parallels) and its direct quotation of Isaiah 40:3 with YHWH as the initial referent and Jesus Mark’s referent. While this may not make it a slam-dunk that Jesus is YHWH, Isaiah 44:6’s “the First and the Last”, and Jesus’ own “the First and the Last” in Revelation 22:12-13, point to them being the same Being – God.

    Also, the way I read Hebrews 8-10 (and 2:17), Jesus was both sacrificial lamb, the scape goat, and High Priest on the cross.

  53. Jim says:

    As you say, Jesus was a multiplicity of OT types and shadows. Just backing up one paragraph, my intent is not to explain away the cross-references between Yahweh and Jesus in, for example, Is 40:3 and Mark 1:3, but simply not to treat them as case closers. I think that the way prophets from Mark’s distant past saw God’s future redemptive plan was through a fairly broad lens, a scattering of Messianic scriptures, but with YHWH firmly at the centre. With Jesus being God’s means of reaching into mankind and changing its course, Mark takes those scriptures and sees what the original writer (in the example it’s Isaiah) was alluding to. I just don’t think we need be too prescriptive, or Trinitarian, over what was foreseen centuries earlier as it was played out through Jesus. At least the disciples saw Jesus as the fulfilment of God’s prophetic voice (eventually), whereas the Pharisees never got it.

  54. Craig says:

    Jim,

    It’s when the totality of Scripture is considered that the Trinity emerges. In reading through Revelation, we find a number of passages in which Jesus self-describes, or is described by John the Revelator, in language used of YHWH. My NIV 1984 uses red letters for 1:8, in which pantokratōr, “God Almighty” is used. I’m not so sure this is correct; however, compare that to 22:12-16 in which the two have “Alpha and Omega” in common, and see Isaiah 44:6 in which “the First and the Last” is used of YHWH (as in Rev 22:13 for Jesus), and note the use of this last phrase of Jesus Himself in 1:18. See all other uses of “God Almighty” in Rev: 4:8; 11:17; 15:3; 16:7,14; 19:6,15. Compare the contexts of those to other words of Jesus in the Apocalypse. Pay special note to “the Song of Moses and the Song of the Lamb” of 15:3-4, in which “God Almighty” and “King of the ages” is used. And check out the Rider on the white horse of 19:11:16 – the “King of kings and Lord of Lords”, then compare to 17:14. In the OT “Lord of lords” is applied strictly to YHWH in Deut 10:17 (and note this is immediately following the Shema) as well as Psalm 136:3 (see v. 1 for YHWH). There is just too much overlapping of titles to dismiss Jesus as anything but (inclusive of) YHWH!

    I recently had an exchange with a Jew who views Jesus as strictly a man, though the Messiah, who understands the NT as mere commentary on the OT, who understood Isaiah 44:6’s “the First and the Last” as pertaining strictly to YHWH, though claiming “the Alpha and the Omega” was OK for Jesus (aren’t these the same in meaning?!); and when I brought her to Rev 22:12-13 cognitive dissonance ensued, with her resorting to supposed changes by Christians of the NT in order to deify the Messiah.

  55. Jim says:

    I understand how the overlap in Godly titles appears to lend strong support Jesus being YHWH, or inclusive of him, but their separation and fundamental difference, is also strongly articulated.
    See Rev 1:4-6 for example;

    ‘Grace and peace to you from him (God) who is, and who was, and who is to come,…..and from Jesus Christ. ….To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to….serve his (Jesus) God and Father…’ How this dichotomy is resolved is what the church has wrestled with down the centuries. As we know all too well, the various Councils from 325 over the next 150 years or so settled on Trinitarianism. Is that truly justified is the challenge?

    The totality of scripture has to be contextualised properly first, and that context is predominantly Jewish; initially pre-Semite, then pre-Mosaic Law Abrahamic, Mosaic, second temple, and post the destruction of Jerusalem and the consequent diaspora. The apostles were Jews, the first believers were Jews or converts to Judaism. Whilst a good quantity of Greek philosophy became mixed in to Jewish thinking during the inter-Testamental period, the general Jewish consensus was not Trinitarian, but strictly mono-theistic, and this applied to new followers of the Way, the sect of the Nazarene. However, neo-Platonism had a strong and prevasive influence on the evolving pro-Trinity corpus as Christian doctrines were formulated after the 1st C.

    The Trinity only emerges from scripture if it’s read back in, but I suggest that it wasn’t the original writers’ intent to convey that understanding of God. The Trinity wasn’t a mystery to be revealed in later times. The mystery (Rom 16:25) that was revealed was God’s plan for a church that broke the single nation mould; that there was union with God through Christ for all tribes and tongues.

    If Christ was the full representation of God YHWH, who came with his full authority, then he had/has the God-given right to assume all the titles and descriptors afforded to God in the OT, but he can still be a separate divine being and not a ‘mask’ or mode of YHWH. Mono-theism isn’t shattered by this concept which, I would suggest, is a far stronger motif through the scriptures than a Trinitarian one.

    As to your Jewish commenter, there might be cognitive dissonance if she was trying to manage how Jesus could hold a title given to God and still not be God (Rev 21:6 also says God is the Alpha and Omega), but conversely the same thing happens when you try to meld God and Jesus when faced with so many verses about their discrete persons. A good way for her to reduce CD would have been to see Jesus, the Messiah, as YHWH’s redeeming emissary to man with the full legal authority and capability to execute the entirety of God’s will on earth, uniquely sinless, miraculously conceived, a perfect sacrifice. To those around him he was, to all intents and purposes, God on earth – Immanuel. He took the titles and crowns, and displayed God’s power. Eventually, he will fulfil what Paul wrote in 1 Cor 15:24-28 – God has put all things under Christ and, once death is defeated, Christ gives it all back to God. If Christ was God YHWH, this (and many other verses like it) make little sense.

  56. Craig says:

    The appeal to Messiah as shaliach, agent, with Jesus then taking on all the same titles of YHWH, to my mind, smacks in the face of logic. If I were to give you full agency, you would be able to do things ‘in my name’, yet you would sign any document “as agent”. You could not call yourself “Craig”, as we are distinctly different individuals. Wouldn’t the same apply to Jesus?

    Even more troubling, in the scenario I just supplied, we are both humans, homo sapiens (sapiens); yet what you’re proposing is that the One all-powerful God gives a lesser Being (though ‘divine’ in some sense) all His titles. How can there be two “‘Lords’ of lords”? If One is the Lord of lords, the other cannot be at the same time! Unless…

  57. Jim says:

    Amongst many things, Jesus was a heir to all the things of God, and since he was regarded as having been slain since the formation of the world (Rev 13:8), he could access this inheritance. This was certainly true during his earthly ministry, although veiled in human flesh, and why he could be Lord of Lords and the Alpha and Omega, alongside YHWH.

    The parable of the wicked husbandmen illustrates this well (eg Mark 12:1-12). Jesus, the Son of God, is sent to Israel, after a long line of prophets, and ends up being killed by Israel’s spiritual leaders.

    As to agent, Paul certainly saw Jesus as performing the intermediary role of an agent in 1 Tim 2:5, as does the writer of Hebrews in 9:15.

  58. Craig says:

    After I posted my most recent comment, I was going to follow up: Yes, Jesus certainly is in the role of agent, but that’s not all that He is. Since Hebrews describes Him acting as High Priest, sacrificial lamb and scape goat, He must be more. He is the final Prophet (Heb 1:1), King, Lord (Phil 2:11). The inheritance was for the incarnational Son upon the completion of His earthly ministry; but, the God the Son had always been Lord of Lords.

    An agent must be of the same ontology to represent another – just imagine, say, a dog representing a human (no jokes, please!). It cannot be. Yet Jesus could represent God the Father because He was (/is) ontologically the same, as “the Word”. In other words, in His divine nature He was the same as the Father, though in His human, of course, He wasn’t. So, He was the agent of YHWH (as “the Word”), and the ‘agent’ of humanity, dying in our place (as the human Jesus Christ).

  59. Jim says:

    Well, a donkey did represent the wisdom of God to Balaam!

    I don’t think identical ontology has to connect agent and the one sending. To use a parallel analogy, if I am to represent the President to another nation, I don’t have to be a national president myself. But when I say to that nation that I come with all the backing and status of the President, (to the Hebrew mind) I will be treated as if I am the President himself in word and deed.

    That said, I do think there is sufficient biblical evidence to say Jesus was uniquely of the same substance as YHWH, whatever a non-corporeal, everlasting, omniscient being is made from! He just had a start point to his eternality in becoming God’s Son, just as we will at the point of our resurrection.

  60. Craig says:

    Yes, God spoke through Balaam’s donkey. But that donkey never claimed to actually be God – I should say it never claimed the actual name of YHWH.

    Your analogy is not parallel. A human presidential envoy still shares the same (human) ontology with the President s/he represents. Your position is that a semi-Divine person (at least in some sense less Divine than YHWH) representing a fully Divine YHWH. I don’t think that can be.

    If Jesus had a starting point in eternity, then I’ll have to ascribe to you the words that had been ascribed to Arius: there was a time when the Son was not.

  61. Jim says:

    The donkey and the President were only supposed to say that identical ontology isn’t a prerequisite of being an agent, or acting on behalf of another. Yes, the President analogy is more function that substance, but still valid, I think, for illustrative purposes of how the Hebrew saw agency.

    As my last para stated, and it is the position I have consistently held, Jesus was both God’s agent and of the same ‘God stuff’, but that doesn’t necessarily have to mean he IS YHWH. Nor did he say as much. Lastly, if that was Arius’s position, it’s not a showstopper. Many individuals and denominations hold to positions with which I variously agree and disagree. If the Logos Son had a point pre-time that he commenced being with the Father, that harmonises with scripture perfectly easily.

    Happy new year Craig, and God’s prosperity and peace in 2017.

  62. Craig says:

    I’ll have to comment later, as the comment I typed was inadvertently lost, and I’m too frustrated and tired to do it all over again!

  63. Jim says:

    So, part of this trinity debate is the term ‘eternally begotten’ of the Father. It sounds something of an oxymoron in that if someone is begotten they should have a start point from the one from whom they are beget; if not then they can’t be regarding as begotten in the proper sense. How can one rationalise Jesus being eternally begotten? If he’s uncreated and without beginning and has been always with the Father, the only way in which he is begotten is through his incarnation. But eternally begotten clearly must mean prior to the incarnation.

    I can’t see how Jesus can be begotten, as held in scripture and the creeds, and not have a start point to his person as the Son. After all, we are given eternal life at our resurrection (supposing we’re in the Lamb’s book of life), but that doesn’t mean we existed in eternity past as well. We will have a commencement of our eternality/everlastingness.

    If he did have a beginning, does that affect the Trinity in any real way, other than to suggest perhaps that Jesus could be a separate divine being and not YHWH? The answer may be within one of your other threads. I have been gradually wading through some of them and seen answers or references made 3-6 years ago to points we’ve brought up recently.

  64. Craig says:

    As far as I know, I’ve not addressed the “eternally begotten” doctrine. But, here’s how to understand it.

    Looking at it philosophically (and considering that creation includes both time and space, which means these do not predate creation), the eternal realm is “timeless” in the sense that it is not like the temporal realm; that is, we should conceive of God’s consciousness as encompassing all things past, present and yet future. Eternity, then, has no past, or future. The present? I suppose it all depends on how to view the “present” in eternity, but it seems that one could say that the present is always present, which consists also of the past and future.

    Within a framework such as this, God always existed. The Father always existed. The Son always existed. Therefore, in the doctrine of eternally begotten-ness of the Son, we can’t look at as if the Son came “after” the Father, since “after” is a ‘time’ word.

    The difference between any human and God the Son is that we are created, which means we have a beginning point, a point after the advent of creation itself. Adam predates all other humans. However, once we enter the eternal realm, we become eternal beings. From a temporal perspective, we have a beginning point in the eternal realm; however, from the eternal perspective time is not applicable, so it’s improper to conceive that we somehow enter eternity “later” than the Father and/or the Son.

    “Eternity past” is really an oxymoron, but we use it as a concession, as way to describe pre-creation.

    Questions such as “why didn’t God create the cosmos sooner” or “why didn’t God create the cosmos later” are nonsense questions.

    We mustn’t compare eternal things to temporal things; therefore, it’s best not to compare the Divine Father-Son relationship from an earthly, temporal, human perspective.

  65. Jim says:

    Thanks for the quick response Craig. You could argue, then, that the Trinity, which seems to be wrapped up in the concept of eternity, is a man-made philosophical grappling by finite minds of something that we can’t begin to comprehend. If so, the Trinity shouldn’t be a non-negotiable salvation perspective, as seems to be the case with so many denominations (and individuals).

    As an aside, have you made the assumption that the laws of physics as we currently know them did not apply before this universe was created? If so, is there a reference for such a conclusion? Also is it assumed that time as it currently exists could not have similarly existed pre-Genesis 1:1, or even in a different form given possible different physics? My point being that Jesus could still be begotten in a temporal sense before man’s creation with a commencement of his Person after having come forth from the Father.

    If 1000 years are as a day to God, and Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever, surely time is a framework that is and always has been part of their existence. I’m just revisiting what I wrote earlier and think I should adjust my previous statements about pre-creation ‘timelessness’ which could well come from faulty reasoning.

    Lastly, just because we get to live forever, I don’t think that we can say that time has no meaning and that it’s ”improper to conceive that we somehow enter eternity ‘later’ than the Father and/or Son.” As physical beings in glorified bodies, we won’t be ‘outside’ of time suddenly. We simply won’t decay and die.

  66. Craig says:

    Jim,

    Regarding laws of physics, you could consult a physicist for his/her take on whether the laws of physics apply pre-Big Bang. I did. Time, like space, is understood as a construct of creation.

    You wrote: If 1000 years are as a day to God, and Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever, surely time is a framework that is and always has been part of their existence. I’m not sure your conclusion must necessarily follow. In fact, I’d say the opposite is more likely. It seems to me that this is a way of articulating the idea that God is not affected by time. Rhetorical question: If God were affected by time, would He age?

    You wrote: As physical beings in glorified bodies, we won’t be ‘outside’ of time suddenly. We simply won’t decay and die. You are free to believe what you like, but Paul calls these resurrection bodies pneumatikos, “spiritual”, as opposed to psychikos, “natural”. Furthermore, you are free to believe whether or not belief in Trinitarianism is a salvation issue or not.

  67. Jim says:

    A physicist might help, although even the best get all vague and mystical if you go back far enough towards the point of creation. Since I don’t hold to the Big Bang, I wouldn’t get many to chip in on the question of whether time existed before biblical creation (not that I know a cosmological physicist). I just conclude in my pop scientist way that if God is an existential being, he must be present in some form which implies an environment, which could facilitate time. I quite like the Gap Theory but, ignoring it, we still have something chaotic from which God created order and, therefore, scope to have pre-creation physics and time.

    If I can answer your rhetorical question: He is the Ancient of Days, so yes he ages, but is not affected by the passing of time would be my suggestion.

    Your last sentences are certainly true. There is freedom to believe anything, but whether that anything is true is what we’re after. So what do you conclude from ‘pneumatikos’ and ‘psuchikos’ (1 Cor 15:44)? Simply that they are immaterial and material? How about they delineate more clearly what animates each body. The post-resurrection pneumatikos example is Jesus who went to considerable lengths to demonstrate his solidness after being raised, particularly as walls and locked doors were no barrier. He is our firstfruit and at his his return we shall be like him. Paul would definitely have declared the resurrected Jesus to be a pneumatikos body.

    The point Paul is making in that passage is how they are animated and vivified. The order, he says a bit later, was the psuchikos through Adam, then the pneumatikos through Christ, whose image we shall bear (v49). The first is alive by natural means: breath, blood etc; the second by the power of the Spirit, or God himself, not reliant on the old order of providing life. Physicality, though, does not appear to change. A pneumatikos body will still occupy a small volume of space.

  68. Craig says:

    You’ll have to ponder the question “Who made time and space before creation?” If God must ‘live somewhere’, who made this place in which He exists?

    Could “Ancient of Days” be an anthropomorphic statement?

    As regards Jesus’ body between the empty tomb and Ascension, why is it that John the Revelator didn’t recognize Jesus in Revelation 1:12-16, and why is that description so different from his earthly post-resurrection one?

  69. Jim says:

    Craig, those kinds of questions in your first paragraph require a good deal of supposition and nothing conclusive comes from scripture. If God is the creator of all things, he would be the author of his own pre-creation environment, whatever that looked like. I think that there could even have been some other series of creative moments before ours, but we’re not told of much prior to our commencement in history. We almost get back to the point of asking how God came to exist; questions which cross over into the pointless. All that said, there is nothing that negates space and time existing before lots of ‘stuff’ came into existence. The very fact God was pre-creation could easily mean time (or a form of) was present.

    I would think that John was as dazzled by the presence of Jesus as Isaiah was in the throne room of God. Besides, Jesus was not recognised by either Mary or the disciples going to Emmaus in his resurrected body, so could ‘veil’ his identity if he chose. The difference between the two environments (one heavenly the other on earth) would, I suspect, have had some bearing on how Jesus presented himself.

  70. Craig says:

    You may have missed what I was trying to convey in asking those questions in the first paragraph: If God must exist ‘somewhere’, who made this somewhere in which He must exist? Sure, we could suppose that God made some thing/s precreation of our cosmos, but He’d hardly be able to create his own ‘space’ within which He Himself must exist. This isn’t the chicken and egg thing.

    The analogy comparing Isaiah and God with John and Jesus is not parallel. John had already seen Jesus; no one can see God (and live).

  71. Jim says:

    OK, put another way, rather than God being the ‘author of his own pre-creation environment’ (my words) a better perspective might be ‘where ever God is so a fabric of space-time is’. In other words, cosmologically, God has always held all things together, given them rules and laws by which to operate, and that could have been the state of things before our universe was made. That’s not postulating pantheism, however. He is to be worshipped, not his creation.

    I wasn’t making a parallel analogy Craig, simply stating that both John and Isaiah were present before an awesome presence of Jesus and God and both fell down. John did note the voice came from one like a son of man, but did not immediately recognise the figure as Jesus. Even in his earthly resurrected guise, Jesus was difficult to recognise as John 21 makes clear. I think that when heavenly beings appear to man, generally they do not present in a style that had a heavenly glory surrounding them. We are, after all, supposed to entertain strangers, who may actually be angelic (Heb 13:2) unbeknownst to us.

    When you say no-one can see God (YHWH?) and live, how, if Jesus is YHWH, can he be seen? Surely that’s a good reason for Jesus not to be YHWH. Notwithstanding, both Jacob and Moses said they saw God face to face and lived. I think that seeing God and not living is more about relationship than an immutable law. There are a good number of instances when priests and others tried to tamper with God’s instruments (Uzzah and the ark of the Presence, for example) and died from God’s wrath. They were not in same relationship place as a few OT figures, and certainly not as we are in our connection with the Father through Christ. 1 John 4:12 only says no-one has seen God; nothing about dying if we do.

  72. Craig says:

    Jim,

    I dunno. It seems that God would have to be in some sense coextensive with this “pre-creation environment” in which He must exist. In other words, it would be very difficult to escape pantheism.

    Scripture states that no one can see God (John 1:18) and live (Ex. 33:20). Yet, the narrator of John’s Gospel makes it clear that Jesus is the one who “exegeted” the Father (1:18) and that Jesus “does what He sees His Father doing” (5:19). Hence, to harmonize, Jesus had to be God in order to see the Father; yet, in His flesh body (1:14) His glory was ‘veiled’ (Phil 2:6-8), such that He could claim that “anyone who has seen Me, has seen the Father” (John 14:9) in a sense.

    As to Moses, you must read the whole context of Exodus 33, to include verse 20. As for Jacob, it’s clear that this was some sort of manifestation of God – a ‘veiling’ of some sort – rather than him actually seeing God.

    1 John 4:12 uses the perfect tense-form of the verb, just like John 1:18. The perfect is best understood as a stative form, and this state persists: No one sees God ever… (see Stanley Porter’s works on aspect – and those who follow him – as I note in a lengthy series on (verbal) aspect): . It doesn’t seem proper to cite 1 John 4:12 without considering both John 1:18 and Exodus 33:20.

  73. Jim says:

    Pantheists do not believe in a personal or anthropomorphic God as such, and I don’t think that a pre-creation environment infers pantheism. God is all in all, but still Personal. Before Gen 1:1 do you envisage a timeless nothing or void that God ‘occupies’ or sustains? I’m trying to grasp your alternative.

    I’m not sure I fully go with your reasoning in the second paragraph. You seem to indicate that the same ‘rule’ of not seeing God and living would apply to Jesus. Jesus as the Son of God, could would be able to see what the Father was doing without being YHWH (not that this implies actually seeing, but simply knowing what the Father’s nature was about and putting it into action through love, the forgiveness of sins and the miraculous). That appears to me to be more the thrust of ‘seeing’.

    Perhaps no-one can see the fullness of God and not be so totally overwhelmed that our human functioning would ‘fuse’. Jesus, in his humanity as well as divinity is perfectly placed to be the essential mediator between God and man.

  74. Craig says:

    Yes, pantheists view creation as God. In any case, it seems that your position necessarily makes God = “precreation”, where “precreation” is the necessary ‘place’ in which God exists. In other words, I see two options: (1) the two have always existed, which would make them “equally” eternal, or, in your view, they came into being at the same “time”; (2) this “precreation” ‘preceded’ God, which cannot be, of course.

    You asked, Before Gen 1:1 do you envisage a timeless nothing or void that God ‘occupies’ or sustains? God doesn’t ‘occupy’ or sustain anything precreation, as there is, yes, a timeless nothingness. God simply IS, not needing a ‘place’ to exist. And, as such, once creation was made, He has the ability to interact with it without being in any way affected by it; yet, He also lives ‘above’, ‘beyond’, or ‘outside’ His creation “where” He always exists.

    You wrote: You seem to indicate that the same ‘rule’ of not seeing God and living would apply to Jesus. Absolutely! If Jesus is fully man – which I affirm – He cannot see God; however, since He’s also fully God, He has the ability to see the Father. Jesus is the only human with this ability [ADDED:] in virtue of His divine nature.

  75. Jim says:

    I see my position that God = pre-creation as no more or less than God = creation. He isn’t the sum of his creation – not that you’re putting that forward – but clearly more than that. The only point to framing what pre-creation may have consisted of (rather than timeless nothing) was that time could well have existed and, therefore, Jesus could have come forth and had a commencement to his ‘begotteness’ at a particular point.

    Yes God IS, but does that have to imply him being beyond place, space or time? If God IS, then those aspects also ARE. I don’t think God needs a space to exist necessarily (despite multiple references to thrones and courts), but I believe that’s how he presents himself throughout the human experience of him, so why would he be any different in pre-human ‘history’. Yes, he could be beyond our concept of time and be an inter-dimensional or multi-dimensional being, but since we will live with him in the final outworking (Rev 21-22), I think he is far closer to anthropomorphic mankind than we might think. Imago dei.

  76. Craig says:

    But, the way you must frame your stance appears much more convoluted than the historical one – that God simply exists eternally, beyond any concept of time/space. To repeat what I’d said before, I don’t think we must equate Jesus’ ‘begotten-ness’ with our own begetting as humans.

  77. Jim says:

    I agree God exists eternally, Craig, but what I am also saying is that an existential God consisting of ‘spirit’, who is love, who is the author and sustainer of life has to, by virtue of existing, set his being and his qualities in a space/time reference otherwise the term ‘exist’ has no meaning. That’s not convoluted, but simply doesn’t assume God’s dislocation beyond or ‘above’ space and time.

    To me it appears your view of God means that, apart from the incarnation, Jesus can’t have been begotten in any meaningful sense of the word (ie come into being at a point in time), yet the bible and established creeds say he was. Johnson gets a tough deal for subtly redefining a term, or playing two meanings off against each other simultaneously, so shouldn’t orthodox historical perspectives beware the same trap?

  78. Craig says:

    Setting aside creation, why does an existential God consisting of “spirit” have to ‘exist’ in some sort of ‘precreation time’?

    I don’t disagree with the Nicene Creed. It states, with the italicized portion added from Niceno-Constantinople:

    We believe in…one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds (æons) [the only-begotten; that is, of the essence of the Father, God of God,] Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father.

    At the bottom are these words: “[But those who say: ‘There was a time when he was not;’ and ‘He was not before he was made;’ and ‘He was made out of nothing,’ or ‘He is of another substance’ or ‘essence,’ or ‘The Son of God is created,’ or ‘changeable,’ or ‘alterable’— they are condemned by the holy catholic and apostolic Church.]”

    An eternal, Divine “begetting” is not the same as a human, temporal “begetting”. An eternal, Divine “begetting”, means that the Father doesn’t precede the Son in any temporal sense, i.e., that the Son is not “after” the Father in any temporal sense. There is no before or after in the eternal realm. To think that the Son is “after” the Father in some temporal sense is to make the implicit claim that “there was a time when [the Son] was not”.

  79. Jim says:

    I think that here lies a significant impasse – that God’s begetting is different to our begetting. Yet I don’t know why because the scriptures paint as clear a picture, and speak in as plain a language as is required to understand God and Jesus. When you scratch beneath the man-made creedal surface of the Trinity, intellectual contortions are necessary to ignore tri-theism but maintain three individuals of the Godhead. Similar CD is encountered when we speak of divine begetting not resulting in the Son coming from the Father at some stage ‘down the track’ ie that he had a beginning. Begot means begot, came from, was parented by etc. both incarnationally and as the pre-creation Logos.

    Bringing eternality into the meaning and redefining it to state that Jesus was begotten but also eternally with the Father is really a sop to the Trinity conundrum. By calling into question the eternal Sonship of Jesus it means we start to unpick the Trinity, and therein lies a fundamental point of resistance.

    I would go with pretty much all of the Nicene quote above. It makes clear Jesus’s divine nature and gives clear daylight to him not being the Father. So far, so scriptural. Then the footnote. Some of it is sound guidance, such as the condemnation of Jesus as a created being in the sense that he is then on a par with the angels. But to say that there was never a time when he was not is forced into the open to conform to trinitarianism. A wrong conclusion from honest motives, no doubt.

    The overwhelming weight of scripture sides with Jesus the ‘God’-man being separate and subordinate to YHWH, whilst coming from him and having his nature, essence, substance. The few scatterings that seem to suggest he is also God (and I include the OT references to YHWH applied to Jesus in the NT) should not sway things, but here we are. I could not see a jury who had never heard of the Judeo-Christian faith finding in favour of the Trinity if presented with both sides of the biblical argument.

    I’d go so far as to say that 1st C proto-gnosticism was the enemy’s lie and subtle twisting of the truth that, when blended with neo-Platonic philosophy, over the next 200 years became what the major church denominations hold so doctrinally dear today. If the Trinity’s roots are tainted, then no matter how pretty and established the fruit, it won’t take us closer to God.

  80. Craig says:

    Jim,

    The creedal formula doesn’t mean that “intellectual contortions are necessary to ignore tri-theism”. The formulation is phrased the way it is in order to conform to monotheism, as per the Shema. Your bitheistic alternative violates the Shema, no matter how much you claim it doesn’t; that is, you have one god (the Son) who is subordinate to and lesser than the other (the Father), even though – paradoxically – they are of the same essence, nature. Unless you amend your stance to agree with functional subordinationism but total equality, which I’m OK with.

    Something I don’t think you’re adequately considering is God’s transcendence. Since we agree that God is creator (through the Son), then He must transcend the creation He made. Certainly, we wouldn’t think that God had, in effect, boxed Himself into His own creation!

    You wrote: The few scatterings that seem to suggest he is also God (and I include the OT references to YHWH applied to Jesus in the NT) should not sway things… If someone were to bake some brownies with a few drops of arsenic, would it still be just be brownies and nothing more?

  81. Jim says:

    What you’re saying Craig, is that there is no place, biblical or otherwise, for a ‘community of divinity’. If my view is bitheistic and, therefore violates the Shema, then logically, there is no being, other than YHWH God, who is divine or God-like in nature. Yet the bible tells us God is spirit and also that angels are ministering spirits in Heb 1:14. So, is God made from a more elite form of spirit, or is he of the same kind (spirit genus), but recognised as the Most High and All mighty God amongst a multiplicity of divine beings? For you to have an unviolated Shema, there is only God (singular), but because of other divine ‘entities’ in scripture, the Trinity, or Tri-unity, has to be formulated to counter this. It’s an awkward fit at best, compromised and unbiblical.

    I realise this starts to become very much like the Divine Council of the Mormons, but that’s not to say the concept should be written off wholesale. If there is a single, Most High, eternal, uncreated, transcendent God, monotheism is intact. If he is stated as three equal Persons, thri-theism becomes a serious obstacle to overcome. But if there is a family ‘order’, or hierarchy of divine beings, ‘gods’, non-humans, angels, that includes the Logos, that would fit the Shema and here is where I think we are most scripturally accurate.

    Jesus is the only one of the line that is not YHWH who is begotten (not made as are the angels), has all authority in heaven and earth given to him alone by YHWH (but is not transcendent above it), is the head of the church, the first born among those to be resurrected, co-creator and sustainer of all things, is God’s Son. Importantly, we haven’t required bitheism or a binity to be a necessary part of the construct. Monotheism and the Shema are intact, Jesus is who he consistently said he was, the Son of the Most High God and the pathway to him; we can all sleep well at night.

    BTW, I was doing some associated reading and came across Michael Servetus. What a horrendous end for a man who was at the forefront of medicine, cartography, pharmacy, language, theology and so much more. His dialogue with Calvin was his undoing, but his non-trinitarian views were well thought out and have been labelled as both Arian and modalism, although probably not quite either.

    Not sure about your brownies, but I’ll pass if that’s OK 🙂

  82. Craig says:

    The Trinity doctrine is in the creedal formulations precisely because it is Biblical! Even men have spirits (pneuma), so it’s obvious that Jesus’ phrase “God is spirit” was not meant to be exclusive. The main issue with your stance is that you affirm that Jesus and the Father share the same essence, nature, which means they are the same ‘genus’, so to speak; and, given that, you cannot rightfully claim a distinction between the two. Again, I wouldn’t have an issue if you adhered to a functional subordination of the Son to the Father.

    In case you didn’t understand the brownies analogy, if Jesus shares in ‘some’ of the essence of the Father [“the few scatterings that seem to suggest he is also God”], then He must share in it in its entirety.

  83. Jim says:

    There is considerable weight of evidence that the Trinity doctrine is not found explicit in the bible, and was a creedal compromise that supported the most influential theologian of the day, Athanasius, who himself (and his doctrines) were discarded and embraced alternately with Arius’s for a good while, all depending on the Emperor’s highly uninspired whim. If that’s not a flimsy basis for a supposedly foundational doctrine, what is? Mix in some strong influences from Greek philosophy and gnostic mysticism, and you have a doctrine that did not tally with the apostolic view of God and Jesus.

    Coming back to the comment I made very early on Craig, about certain terms that carry modern understandings which may not have been what the original writer intended. The way we use ‘pneuma’ as ‘spirit’ and turn it into an entity personal to every person is, I think, incorrect (you wrote, ‘men have spirits’). I’m not so sure people have spirits, any more than they have a soul. God-given breath (pneuma) + a body (soma) = a living soul (psuche). As James says in 2:26, the soma without pneuma is dead.

    This does not apply to beings that are said to be spirits, although there could well be something that the writer is conveying in that we can’t see them any more than we can see breath or movement of air. However, the spirit beings clearly can choose to appear in our physical domain as well, as plentiful appearances of the ‘angel of the Lord’ and the like attest to. The same word has separate meanings when used for man or angelic/demonic/divine entities, or the manifestation of God (usually translated with a capital S).

    I don’t know why you state that if Jesus and YHWH share the same nature or essence they become indistinguishable. This not the case with any other creatures. Identical twins are distinguishable. The functional subordination of Jesus to the Father is because there is an ontological subordination. A perfectly scriptural position.

    So with the brownies, are you saying that if Jesus has even a few drops of YHWH in him he’s YHWH? So the brownie with poison in it is just called poison and not a brownie? Is that it?

  84. Craig says:

    Jim,

    At some point we are just going to have to agree to disagree.

    Given that YHWH shares His glory with no one, and yet Jesus has, as you concede, “some” indications of being God, why won’t you accept that He is fully God? The Scriptural evidence here is much more vast than you’re willing to concede, and I’ve brought up quite a bit. To my brownie analogy: if you can see that Jesus has at least some divine attributes, or at least divinity ascribed to Him in some ways (poison), then isn’t He divine (poinsonous)? Brownies sans poison are, well, just brownies; however, with the poison added, they are now brownies + poison, not just merely brownies. Jesus is man, but not merely man, sharing in the same divine attributes as the Father. OK, it’s a far from perfect analogy, but I thought the point would have been made.

    While I’ve not done a complete study on spirit, pneuma, as regards men, Jesus Himself was “moved in spirit” (John 11:33) and “troubled in spirit” (John 13:21). Jesus “gave up His spirit” (“gave up His breath”?; Matthew 27:50); however, it is also said that He exepneusen, (~ “out-spirited”?) “breathed His last” (Mark 15:37), and into the Father’s hands He did paratithemai to pneuma mou “commit my spirit”, after which He exepneusen, “breathed His last”. There seems to be some correlation between the pnoēn zōēs, “breath of life” (Gen 2:7, LXX) that animates all living things and pneuma in man.

    Going back to your assertion that the Trinity was a “creedal compromise”, without attempting to trace that history, let’s look at some more Scripture. To me, that’s where the rubber meets the road.

    In John 10:25-30 Jesus responds to “the Jews” who wanted to know whether He was the Christ:

    25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father’s name, these testify of Me. 26 But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep. 27 My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; 28 and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

    Note the parallelism of vv. 28 and 29 – whose hand are the sheep in? Who gives the sheep eternal life? The Greek of v. 30 is peculiar: egō kai ho patēr hen esmen. Word-for-word in order: I and the Father one are. The first peculiarity is that “I” precedes “the Father”, when convention would have it the other way. Jesus is making this emphatic by placing “I” before “Father”: I and the Father are one. The two, Father and Son, of course, comprise the subject nominative. The predicate nominative preceding the copulative verb illustrates the very thing I’ve been pointing out in this six-part blog post: it makes “one” qualitative. And when we add the fact that “one” is neuter rather than masculine, it solidifies a qualitative over personal understanding. So, against modalism, we have two persons (Father and Son) who are one qualitatively (and the verb “are” is 1st person plural). Given the parallelism of 28-29 and qualitativeness in 30, this is best understood that Father and Son are “one” ontologically – against Arianism, with which your position most readily aligns.

    With a consideration that Jesus ascribes the same titles to Himself as YHWH does in the OT, such as, e.g., “the First and the Last” (Rev 1:17,22:13; cf. Isaiah 44:6), the best solution is the Trinitarian one (not that we’ve discussed the Holy Spirit, of course).

  85. Jim says:

    Agreeing to disagree is fine and, ultimately, seems to be the only option in debates where the ‘evidence’ is claimed by both sides, and no knockout blow can be landed. Disagreeing and calling out heresy, then each being vilified, ostracised, insulted and the entire debate descending in to a very un-Christian spectacle is succour to the enemy. If seen as part of the spiritual journey, they can be positive exercises in refining our knowledge of God.

    I suppose I go down the path of understanding a scripture like ‘I and the Father are one’ in the light of many others where Jesus says he and his Father and God are clearly two different beings, even if they can both save, forgive sins, heal the sick, raise the dead, create the universe etc. Yes they are one in quality (but not necessarily equality) and capability, but still two as the bible makes very obvious. The Trinity (adding in the ‘person’ of the Spirit of God) takes the seeming problem of the one true God having another one true God alongside him, thereby creating bitheism, and then applying a relatively marginal quantity of scriptural evidence to infer that Jesus is God YHWH, the Holy Spirit is God YHWH, the Father is God YHWH, but each are not the other and the three are actually still one God YHWH. God created us as rational beings, to be able to think logically, yet decides to present himself as a mysterious, illogical, contradictory being of conjoined triplets? I just don’t buy it Craig, especially given the uninspired sticky fingerprints of man all over this doctrine; one that is not made plain in the bible.

    Modalism or tri-theism – take your pick. To me, that’s the clear and uncomplicated outworking of what the Trinity doctrine tries to disguise. I am quite happy with a divine hierarchy which, to me, seems to be the clear and uncomplicated outworking of the biblical span of God’s interaction with man.

    Moreover, if we apply trinitarian logic that Jesus was of the quality and ontology as God, therefore is God, why then can’t the Manifest Sons of God proponents take verses such as Rom 8:15 – ”The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” ” or Gal 4:6 – ”Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” ” and use them to say we are like Jesus, therefore like God? In the brownie sense. Wasn’t that satan’s first lie – that we could be like God?

    I’m not in that camp, but can see that MSoG will use those verses as fair game given Trinity thinking to claim we are mini-Christs, deities even. If the spirit of Christ in us means we are adopted as sons (children) into God so that we can call him the Aramaic familiar term Abba (or Pops), are we not of the same ‘stuff’ as Jesus, sin removed, Spirit filled, one with the Father? Goodness, we’re almost God incarnate they might quietly conclude!

    Again, I don’t hold to this conclusion because I don’t hold to trinitarian (or brownie) thinking. It would appear that the logic lines necessary to make the Trinity ‘work’ also apply to making MSoG, and BJ and all that crowd, believe what they believe. Trinitarianism actually plays into the hands of those this blog is challenging in their Christ-view.

  86. Craig says:

    I’m OK with agreeing to disagree, but, as I mentioned in my previous comment, I don’t think you’ve yet adequately answered both “I and the Father are one” and the fact that both YHWH and Jesus claimed to be “the First and the Last”. You keep claiming that the Father (YHWH) and Jesus (the Son) are two separate beings – Trinitarians claim they’re two distinct “Persons” – yet you don’t address how both can simultaneously be “the First and the Last”. Trinitarians address this issue. You claim the Trinity is an uninspired doctrine of men, yet historic Christianity has affirmed that the mere presence of Holy Spirit-filled men at the proceedings which led to the formulation of the various creeds meant a Holy Spirit-led outcome. Who’s to say who’s right on that? I’d think it more likely the councils’ outcomes were God-led.

    As to whether or not a departure from Trinitarianism is to be called heresy, that is part of the early creeds, to include Chalcedon. On the latter, a denial that Jesus is “fully God” is considered anathema. If you wish to reduce it to just a “part of the spiritual journey”, that’s your prerogative; but, how, then, can you dismiss Mormonism or the Jehovah’s Witnesses as part of Christianity – or even those Messianic Jews who claim Jesus is the Messiah, but that he had no divinity at all, being a man, though the Chosen One? You may adhere to your own doctrine of “divine hierarchy”, but, again, how can you criticize the Mormons? Wouldn’t their view be just as valid?

    Your assertion that the Trinitarian view is more apt to lead to MSoG than your view is a non sequitur. According to your view, you affirm that Jesus is the Son of God, but that He is not YHWH, not God – a claim MSoG adherents wouldn’t take exception to (note the “sons” in the acronym), given that you claim Jesus is of the same substance, nature as God. Since your view is closer to Mormonism than historic, orthodox Christianity, and MSoG has many points of contact with Mormonism, MSoG adherents would have no trouble with your stance. MSoG-adherents get their doctrine by perverting Scripture, not by accepting Trinitarianism…or not. A favorite to distort is the KJV/NKJV of Romans 8:19, in which the words “the manifestation of the sons of God” are found explicitly. Those who, like Bill Johnson, wish to pervert Scripture will do so, no matter what else undergirds their theology.

    You wrote: God created us as rational beings, to be able to think logically, yet decides [contrarily, in your view] to present himself as a mysterious, illogical, contradictory… OK, then riddle me this: How logical and non-contradictory is it for a man (Jesus) to share the same nature as YHWH? How can an individual with human nature at one and the same time share the same ontology as God?

  87. Jim says:

    Last one first. Jesus the Son/Logos of God has clearly taken different forms from initially being begotten into being by God as the Logos – with God from before creation, being the one through whom all things were made and are sustained. To being incarnated miraculously through Mary, of a unique divine hypostasis of God nature and human. To being resurrected as, again, a unique individual and returning to the Father in this new form, in which he will return to earth. It is possible that Jesus as Logos was identical to Jesus after his ascension, but scripture lends itself to a kind of ‘heavenly evolution’ of the Son. One where he takes on the mantle of humanity, not assumed previously, to identify with and redeem us, and set the path for an eternal future when we become like him.

    So in a very real sense, Jesus is the firstfruit of man’s future, in that he blazes the trail of human and God merged in each individual believer, but without us BEING YHWH. This is the fullness of our resurrected state. The fine detail of how this outcome is achieved by God, I can’t comment on, so that remains a riddle, but not the higher order effect as described in the NT.

  88. Craig says:

    On quick reading of the first paragraph, I don’t find anything to disagree with (though I’d say ‘begotten into being as the Son/Logos’, which I think you imply), though I’d demur from your “It is possible that Jesus as Logos was identical to Jesus after his ascension…”

    As to the second, are you suggesting we become, in effect, like Jesus in a sense, being a combination of humanity and divinity?

    In any case, my overarching point in my last paragraph, is that the Incarnation itself is a logical contradiction. How can an individual be 100% man, yet 100% Divine (even accounting for your sense of seemingly less Divinity than the Father)?

  89. Jim says:

    Your first point next Craig. I and the Father are one. Contextually, Jesus is responding to the Jewish leaders asking for even plainer indication that he is the Messiah. He rebukes their lack of faith saying they are not his sheep (followers). He then reinforces his Messiahship by saying that God has given Jesus those who follow him; that nothing can deny them eternal life while they hear his voice; satan has no hold on them; all because Jesus and the Father are one.

    This is in similar vein to having listed his separateness but closeness to God in John 10:15, 18, 25, 29, 32, 36, 37, and he repeats v30 in v38. Oneness is used elsewhere (John 17:11, 21, 22 for instance, or 1 Cor 3:8) to convey being one in spirit, or living with common purpose, all having the love nature of God, rather than teaching an ontological oneness.

    So, whilst the grammar can be used to tease out a qualitative nature to ‘hen’, that still doesn’t, to me at least, appear to lend much weight to Jesus being YHWH. But, if it does, then I come back to my point that MSoGites (your third para) can use plentiful reference of God/Christ in us leading to a qualitative and therefore ontological deification of man. I know you or I would not support that conclusion, but it comes with the same logic as I think you’re espousing for John 10:30.

    Further, Jesus declares in Matt 28, that all authority has been given to him (by the Father). This chimes with an alternate translation of John 10:29 which is, ‘What my Father has given me is greater than all.’ It’s difficult to think that YHWH gives himself all authority; conversely, why didn’t Jesus say, ‘I have all authority in heaven and earth’?

    Lastly, as to your second para (sorry I’m bouncing around here), I could take various Mormon Christological doctrines to task, but just because they are most clear on a Divine Council shouldn’t mean that if they believe one thing that isn’t clearly scriptural, then doctrines that do make sense are thrown out. The Catholics have some seriously shaky aspects to their doctrines and creeds, but also some excellent contributions to man’s knowledge of God.

    We have to be careful taking the creeds almost at the level of the inspired canon. They aren’t, they are open to challenge and error. The Cappadocian Fathers who championed the Trinity, for instance, had considerable Hellenist philosophical backgrounds, as well as being influenced by Origen, who was highly enamoured by neoplatonism and whose writings, arguably, contributed to gnosticism flourishing in the 3rd and 4thC.

  90. Craig says:

    So, yes in John 10:29, “the Father is greater than all”; and in Philippians 2:9, Jesus inherits “the name above every name.” Whose name would that be?

    And, again, whose hand are the sheep in in John 10:28-29?

    Just because ‘oneness’ is used in other contexts in one way, doesn’t mean we impose that meaning upon John 10:30. A word only has meaning within its own specific grammatical context.

    You have to keep in mind that, incarnationally, the Son had a different role than before He took on flesh. He was not Divine-human before the Incarnation – only Divine. He came to die; that was His purpose.

    I’ve never said the creeds are at the level of inspired canon, though I can see how you could have inferred it from what I wrote. Canon is primary, however, given that the Councils were convened specifically to counter errant teachings, not to actually establish doctrine, I’d think the Holy Spirit superintended the sessions which contained (presumably) Holy Spirit-filled men.

  91. Jim says:

    Who decided that, for instance, Arius’s teachings were errant? For many years, they were in vogue and supported at the highest church levels. Was it those whose theology was cast and viewed through the lens of neoplatonism and rampant Hellenism? Paul was at pains to downplay the ‘wisdom’ of the day, so prevalent amongst Greek thinkers and their philosophies which can hold believers captive through hollow deceit (Col 2:8). I think it’s entirely credible, given that the Chalcedon council also ranked cities and their Christian importance, along with a host of ‘canonical’ decrees, that they weren’t entirely under the Holy Spirit’s influence, together with a good deal of denouncing, reinstating, judicial hearings and trials in the years leading up to the 4th Ecumenical Council.

    You wrote, ‘How can an individual be 100% man, yet 100% Divine?’ Not sure if you’re connecting the apparent illogical nature of the question to the similarly ‘illogical’ nature of the Trinity, in that, how can 1 + 1 + 1 = 1? I don’t think I’m going to checkmate myself by answering. Phil 2:6-8 says it best. Here, Paul understands the total divinity + total humanity of Christ by effectively saying that Jesus had all the power and glory of God (as the Son/Logos), but chose to veil it in human flesh, appearing in the form or nature of a man, with a man’s appearance, in his likeness. When we become believers, Paul uses an image of treasure in jars of clay, and this isn’t an inaccurate description of Jesus. You could say we are 100% treasure (new creations) in 100% fragile clay. His divine God-nature treasure was obscured within all the limitations of a man, albeit not a regular man. Jesus was not conceived in the conventional manner given that Mary was fertilised by God and not Joseph.

    All told, I think being fully 100% of God as the Logos/Son, in the likeness of a man that appeared 100% regular human is not so illogical. He wasn’t simply a normal man anointed by the Spirit, or a divine being that simply presented how a person would look like. Born of flesh, conceived by unique means, he humbled himself to the ultimate fate of man, one that he could not undertake as the Logos, death. Then God would elevate him to the highest place, as Lord of all, to the Father’s glory. Does this hypostasis lend support to the Trinity doctrine? I think not, but the two could be conflated I suppose.

  92. Jim says:

    Phil 2:9 has to be seen in the context of 1 Cor 15:27. Paul says here that God has put ‘everything’ under Jesus, not including God himself. Likewise in Phil 2:9, every knee in heaven and on earth will bow, except for God the Father (not stated but implied). Paul is recognising that Jesus was and is God’s ‘vice-regent’ – installed to the highest place of all things and peoples that exist under God.

    The hands in John 10:28-9 are both Jesus’s (into whose hand the sheep are given by God), and God’s (from whom the sheep are given). That doesn’t imply or suggest Jesus and God are one and the same. As the Messiah of God, whatever God has given to Jesus can be said, quite accurately in Hebraic custom, to be God’s and Jesus’s, including names and titles, such as the First and Last.

    Jesus is properly the Alpha and Omega of all that God has given him authority over within creation; God is also fully the Alpha and Omega, including Jesus and all things transcendent not under Jesus’s authority (whatever they may be).

  93. Jim says:

    Craig, you might find this explanation useful regarding how the Cappadocians influenced the current Trinity concepts. It gave me some insights I wasn’t previously aware of, especially with respect to the Greek.

    http://oodegr.co/english/dogmatiki1/D2b.htm#platwn

  94. Craig says:

    Prior to Arius, Tertullian, and even Iraeneus before him, were espousing the Trinity. The thought goes back further, to Polycarp.

    Re Chalcedon: I’ll concede that the canons were not inspired. However, importantly, those were issues not directly associated with Christology or Theology.

    I point to the logical incongruity with respect to the Incarnation precisely to make the point that the Trinity is the much the same in that respect. I have no trouble envisioning God’s being as something beyond our ken. In fact, how can we actually fathom a God who created all things as not somehow indescribable?

    You wrote: His divine God-nature treasure was obscured within all the limitations of a man, albeit not a regular man…he humbled himself to the ultimate fate of man, one that he could not undertake as the Logos, death. Do you believe Jesus, as Logos-become-flesh, retained all the powers He had as the Logos, or were those powers diminished or even non-existent during the Incarnation?

  95. Craig says:

    First of all, Phil 2:9 must be viewed in its own context, most especially 2:6. The first part of this hymn (assuming it was a hymn) is especially difficult to exegete; however, one thing is for certain: the word theos, God, is used of Jesus. The NASB, which is notorious for using a literal translation (as literal as possible), renders it who, although He existed in the form of God. The word “though” is added to make it into a clause in English. It reads word-for-word: who in form of God exists. That last word is masculine singular, a present active participle, in the subject nominative case. It clearly defines Jesus as “God”.

    Regarding 1 Cor 15:27, it too must be placed in its entire context. It was not uncommon for Paul to truncate God the Father to “God”; and he does that here. I’ve kept all the singular pronouns in, placing the referent in brackets:

    23 But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming, 24 then comes the end, when He [Christ] hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He [Christ] has abolished all rule and all authority and power. 25 For He must reign until He [Christ] has put all His enemies under His feet. 26 The last enemy that will be abolished is death. 27 For He has put all things in subjection under His feet. But when He says, “All things are put in subjection,” it is evident that He [the Father] is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him [Christ]. 28 When all things are subjected to Him [Christ], then the Son Himself [note: not “Christ”] also will be subjected to the One [God] who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all.

    See the distinction? All along the pronoun references were either to “the God and Father” or to “Christ”; yet once Christ has put everything under His own feet, the verbiage changes “the Son Himself” and “One”, with the result that “God may be all in all”. I see this as the Logos’/Son’s function as Christ/Messiah being over so that now He is properly only “the Son” (Logos), since the necessity for God’s interaction incarnationally has ended. In other words, it’s now “God the Father” and “God the Son”. This is why the term “One” is used rather than the pronoun “He/Him” as was used all along: The “One” refers to the Trinitarian Godhead, the “all in all”.

    This “Hebraic custom” to which you refer was anachronistically developed as an apologetic against Christianity, against the Christian doctrine that Jesus was/is Divine, God. Can you show me one instance pre-Christ in which an agent (shaliach) in Jewish literature referred to himself using the identical name as the one for whom he was agent? Claiming to “come in the name of __________” is one thing; however, to actually claim that name as if it were his own – nope.

    I must ask you directly: Did you see me commenting on Skip Moen’s blog and then come over here?

  96. Craig says:

    Thanks for the link. You can perhaps see why I’m reluctant to use the word “person” to refer to the Members of the Trinity.

  97. Craig says:

    Jim,

    In looking more closely at the Greek in 1 Cor 15:25-278, I’m not confident I’ve got this right. So scratch that part. However, there must be something to those last two clauses – the change from “Christ” to “the Son Himself” and concluding with “so that God may be all in all.”

  98. Jim says:

    Craig, negative on the other blog. I’ve been reading the Johnson stuff for a while here.

  99. Craig says:

    What prompted you to read the Johnson material?

  100. Jim says:

    Ever since one of our early churches, and its para-church organisation, got swept along with Toronto 20+ years ago, I have been keeping close tabs on where the charismatic end of the spectrum is at through discernment websites and blogs such as yours.

    That brand of Christianity seems like it has the spiritual gravitational pull of a black hole, and that isn’t a bad analogy. Once you’re beyond the event horizon of one of those churches, you can’t see back out into ‘normal’ Christian space.

  101. Craig says:

    Not a bad analogy. However, thankfully, it’s not impossible to return, as some have professed here.

  102. Jim says:

    Since you mentioned it, I had a quick look at a couple of Trinity threads on Skip Moen’s site. His promised piece on who Jesus actually is, rather than what he can’t be, will be useful.

    I can’t see, unless you have a low view of sin and a high view of man, how Jesus can be simply a man ‘infilled’ by God, if that’s his stance. There is so much in the scriptures that points to his pre-incarnational existence. I also see the balance of evidence that he is not YHWH, but has almost all of his qualities, nature and ‘essence’ having come from him a point in the past.

    Further, I can live with Jesus being part of the Godhead, if that term is used to describe the apex of divinity – an exclusive cohort of the most High God, YHWH the Father, and his Son, the Logos who is given all authority to rule his universe (albeit death is yet to come under his reign). I think that latter part would cause some problems for Moen, as it does trinitarians. So I mostly fall between the two camps, it seems.

  103. Craig says:

    His Christological views are governed by the following: In his opinion no 1st century Jew would have considered the Messiah Divine (there’s only one YHWH, and He’s the Father), so any NT text which appears to imply or state preexistence, e.g., is shoehorned into a “Jesus is a man” ideology. From my perspective, this renders texts like Col 2:9 superfluous – if Jesus is merely a man with the “fullness of the Deity” dwelling in him, how is that any different from any other Holy Spirit filled man? Or, do others have a diminished Holy Spirit indwelling, less than the “fullness”?

  104. Jim says:

    From what I understand, there was no all encompassing, definitive or absolute default setting as far as the Messiah for 1st century Judaism. A plethora of opinions existed. In any case, even if there was, Jesus came to present a Messiah that would blow that opinion on Messiahship out of the water. Given he fulfilled all scripture, obviously in relation to all things prophetically Messianic, Moen saying no Jew would have considered the Messiah divine is putting the opinion of 1st C Jews as having higher standing than NT revelation. They may well have thought the Messiah would be a human of the line of David who would set up his earthly kingdom by earthly means. The problem is that Jesus was evidently the Jewish (and Gentile) Messiah whose time was an essential prequel to him ushering in God’s kingdom on his return to earth in glory, and they never saw it, not they had it right!

  105. Jim says:

    It looked like you were quite busy over on the other side! Exhausting 🙂

  106. Craig says:

    It was! But, for me, engaging is the best way for me to comprehend another’s stance. So, it was a good learning experience, though very frustrating at times. I think I made some inroads with folks whose conceptions were very self-contradictory.

  107. Jim says:

    Craig, back to 8 Jan 7.26am, I don’t see the same logical incongruity in the incarnation of Jesus as there is in the Trinity doctrine. I think I explained the 100% divinity/deity of Christ clothed within 100% humanity, but they weren’t separate individuals of the Godhead combined, as Trinitarianism promotes. The heavenly Logos/Son infused, or merged if you will, the man Yeshuah. In fact, I think there’s a good case that his Messiahship, or Anointing, was from his being the Logos within Yeshuah of Nazareth ie from conception. But, unlike the Trinity, the higher ‘essence’ or Godly personality, is subject to the natural man’s limitations. The unique conception of Jesus brought this 100% + 100%, unlike a simple spiritual ‘possession’ of something natural.

    The Trinity doctrine speaks of ontological equivalence, of separate divine beings as one, and of one substance. Without calling this construct of the one God modalism or tri-theism requires way more cognitive dissonance than the incarnation – for me anyhow. I have a strong sense that scripture doesn’t require CD to unveil a mystery. Once the mind of Christ is working in us, and we see the majority of scriptures on God don’t paint a trinitarian picture, the few that might should be interpreted in the light of the plain and clear ones.

    In my early years as a believer, I never questioned the Trinity because I never did any real study. It was assumed knowledge and not discussed. Now I reason, not as a spiritual child, but as a man, and that has brought much deeper understanding of God’s word, often upturning previously accepted doctrines (tithing, heaven, hell, the trinity, professional clergy to name but five).

  108. Jim says:

    I meant to add that, yes, I do believe Jesus retained all the powers he had as the Logos/Son. He chose to keep the divine largely hidden, except through his authoritative teaching and miraculous deeds. Even though he could have summoned an army of angels to rescue him, or just gone ‘Superman’, he remained within his frail human frame’s limitations at the critical moments.

  109. Jim says:

    Same day, re your 8.12am post, I would rather zero in on the word ‘form’ than God. Really, it doesn’t say Jesus was ‘God’, but he existed in the ‘form of God’. If he was all God YHWH, shouldn’t he, by logical extension of this passage, be all man? Or, what does ‘form’ of a man mean? I suggest that Paul knew that the Son of God was a form of theos, but still not the Father.

    I don’t read 1 Cor 15:28 the way you do, Craig. I think it makes more sense that the Son is handing over his now pure and sin/death-free universe to God (the Father) having been given all authority and responsibility to restore it through his Christ role. There’s no need for ‘God the Son’ reference, which isn’t there, nor is the word ‘one’ in my NIV. If God is all in all, it’s simply because Jesus has handed over what he was given by the Father, who now has the reins, solely and in full. Nothing implicitly trinitarian there.

  110. Craig says:

    Glad to see you affirm that Jesus (Word-made-flesh) retained all the divine attributes of the preexistent Word. Of course, I don’t have an issue with the Incarnation as Jesus of Nazareth being 100% God and 100% man; but, from a secular viewpoint, doesn’t it seem self-contradictory to ascribe omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence to a finite being? Like you, I don’t experience CD with that, nor do I experience CD when considering the Trinity.

    You wrote: Now I reason, not as a spiritual child, but as a man, and that has brought much deeper understanding of God’s word… Perhaps you didn’t intend to be condescending, but that’s the way it came off.

  111. Craig says:

    The word “form” (morphē) is in parallel. He was and is in the form of God, yet took on the form of man. The way I understand this is by addition – and it seems you do as well – Jesus was “in the form of God” preincarnation, as the Word, and by adding “the form of man”, He becomes the unique God-man. We agree that in the Incarnation Jesus retained all His Divinity, and we seem to agree that He was (is) 100% man (your 5:29am post). But aren’t you contradicting yourself with your words “shouldn’t he, by logical extension of this passage, be all man?” If you’re implying that He’s not merely man, but also God, I’ll agree. Assuming so, I don’t think it follows that, from your stance here, “Paul knew that the Son of God was a form of theos, but still not the Father”, given that you don’t call the Son theos anywhere else. Doesn’t theos most everywhere else in Pauline literature mean simply “God”, and many references specifically God the Father? Isn’t that what you’ve been arguing?

    Coming at this from a different angle, “form of God” means simply what it says: He was in the form of God. Then, with kenosis, metaphorical self-emptying, He takes on the form of (100%) man – in addition to his morphē theou, His preexistence as “the Word” – without diminishing His morphē theou, though veiling His morphē theou under flesh. I think this is what you’re saying, in essence. So, the $64,000 question is why does Paul use theos here, the same word used of the Father?

  112. Craig says:

    I’d like to quote historian (and Christian) Larry Hurtado, from Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2003):

    [P]roto-orthodoxy does not equate with the fully developed orthodoxy of the fourth century and thereafter…In the period we are considering (ca. 70-170), emergent proto-orthodox Christianity is recognized in simpler and more flexible terms…

    Proto-orthodox devotion to Jesus honored him as divine within an exclusivistic monotheistic stance derived (and adapted) from the biblical/Jewish tradition. This, in particular, is what made the effort to articulate Jesus’ divine status so demanding; it largely explains the lengthy and complicated nature of christological debates among Christians in proto-orthodox circles in the first three centuries of Christianity. Had they been able to revere Jesus as something less than divine, or to accommodate more than one deity – that is, had they opted for either of the two major religious patterns of their time – they would not have required such a struggle to develop a theology adequate to their devotional traditions (pp 563-64).

    The pages following further explain the historical situation of the time (70-170) – a climate in which devotion to Jesus was as akin to devotion to YHWH, and NT references to the OT were used as justification for this, such as 1 Cor 15:1-7 (v. 4: “according to the Scriptures”), as well as, of course the NT itself.

  113. Jim says:

    The ‘logical extension’ of ‘form’ was just taking what you wrote saying the ‘form’ of God meant that Jesus was God and applying that to man – as in Jesus would be fully man. Since we agree on his incarnational nature, it’s moot anyway.

    I was being no more condescending than Paul at the end of 1 Cor 13, or the last verses of Heb 5. As an immature believer, I only consumed or wanted easy to chew, sweet food, like a child. I wasn’t suggesting trinitarian doctrine is childlike or such, so any condescension was certainly unintentional, Craig.

  114. Craig says:

    OK, got it; thanks for clarifying.

    But, I must ask again: Why is it that Paul uses “form of theos” here? Given that “form of God” and “form of man” are in parallel, and that “form of man” = having the same, identical nature as man, then wouldn’t “form of God” mean that Jesus has the same, identical nature as God – i.e. that Jesus is God?

  115. Jim says:

    Pauline use of theos doesn’t exclusively mean God YHWH. 1 Cor 8:5 for example uses the plural of theos for ‘so-called gods’. Notwithstanding its use for human rulers as well in John 10:34-36 the definitive authority on this question is probably Murray J Harris and ‘Jesus as God: The New Testament use of theos in reference to Jesus’.

    From his detailed analysis it’s pretty safe to say from the use of theos, Jesus was divine, had Godly qualities and God-like status. In other words he was a deity, full and proper. The next question which is captured in your Larry Hurtado quote is ‘so what does this mean for the Godhead?’ The question wrestled with over the next 400 years resulting in orthodox trinitarianism.

    My response is still ‘What prevents a hierarchy of the divine? Why does the acceptance of orders of spiritual beings create a polytheistic environment that is totally anathema to who God really is and our Christian belief in and worship of him?

    Indeed going back to 1 Cor 8, Paul makes clear that there may appear to be many other gods and lords but in verse 6 he crystallises his belief that they are as nothing to the one God YHWH AND one Lord Jesus Christ. That to me is Paul’s emphatic understanding of the Godhead and we should take it at face value.

  116. Craig says:

    Yes, and Luke records Paul on Aeropagus, using theos in a number of ways. One important way is in 17:24 in which Paul talks about “the God who made the world and everything in it”. Who was that exactly? 1 Corinthians 8:6 says there’s one God “from whom all things came”, and one Lord “through whom all things came”. Yet, in Colossians 1:16 all things were created by (en) Him [the Son], through (dia) Him [the Son], and for (eis) Him [the Son]. While one can challenge the first and the third translations, the fact that Paul used three different prepositions relating to creation must mean there’s a distinction in meaning between en and eis, and these must be different than dia (through).

    To answer your question in your third paragraph, I don’t see how you can escape polytheism, no matter how you try to nuance your stance. If there is more than one theos then there’s more than one God – or some other explanation such as the Trinity. Moreover, if you look later in Paul’s first Corinthian letter you’ll find the Trinity pretty much spelled out – 12:4-6:

    4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. 6 There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons.

  117. Craig says:

    I didn’t mention John 10, so I’ll address that. Those addressed as theos were acting as God’s agent. But, we know these were clearly men and not in any sense divine in the way YHWH is divine. Yet, the context we’re looking at in the Philippian epistle clearly means divine in an equivalent sense to YHWH.

  118. Jim says:

    Batman and Robin. The Lone Ranger and Tonto. We know who the boss is. We know who his able assistant is. There is one boss and one sidekick. Without getting irreverent they are one in mind, mission, capability, substance but distinguishable. There is only one Batman and one Lone Ranger. I think it’s pretty clear why this debate has existed for nearly 2000 years.

    Tell me Craig why this simple analogy is a biblical fail. Why is it polytheism when we know there are a multitude of ‘divine’ or spiritual beings, but only one is the Most High? That’s the other $64k question.

  119. Craig says:

    The other spiritual beings are never called theos. Moreover, it seems that some of the angels decided to turn from and rebel against theos, with haSatan becoming the king of the abyss. This then, leaves only God the Father and the Son in your divine hierarchy.

    Even still, your Batman/Robin and Lone Ranger/Tonto analogies are not parallel, as these guys share the same ontology – human nature – with the only difference their relative roles, with one subordinate to the other functionally.

  120. Jim says:

    Absolutely other spiritual beings were not called theos, and this is what I was thinking about on the cycle home from work. We wouldn’t worship, or give glory and honour to the archangel Michael, or Gabriel, mighty though they are, or the seraphim and cherubim, or the angels, but we would to a unique spiritual being, chief over all, brought forth from YHWH’S own Person, the Logos, Jesus. Rev 5:11-14 is very clear that Jesus is worthy of all praise and honour because of both who he is and what he’s done. Back up to verses 8-10 and we see why: He was the only one who was slain because only his blood (as an earthly man) could and did atone for man’s sin and purchased a kingdom of persons FOR God to be priests to serve God, not Jesus. He alone is worthy of our worship because he bought a kingdom of people for his Father. No wonder God YHWH elevated him to the place above all other names, principalities and powers. There is not a hint of trinitarianism, let alone binitarianism, in Rev 5. God is God over all and he has a family of saved humans with which to fellowship given eternal life through his one and only Son.

    So, in line with the Batman analogy, they are one in substance, mission and purpose, and I’m saying the Father and Jesus are the same in substance, mission and purpose, but Batman is not Robin is not Batman. We still credit all the success of the pair to Batman, without forgetting the fundamentally important role Robin played. No-one else could have enabled Batman’s mission to be accomplished other than Robin. The only added extra this analogy doesn’t express that the Godhead possesses is that Jesus came from the Father without being created. Robin wasn’t taken from Batman’s being, as it were. Michael was created, the angels were created, satan was created, Jesus was begotten or formed from an eternal source as a Son, not as a high-ranking spiritual being as the JWs would have, for instance.

    This is the only other alternative to a trinitarian solution to the scriptures, as I see it. It’s either, Jesus is God, therefore he has to be God YHWH to keep with mono-theism, but we have to make him discrete enough to marry with all the scripture that portrays him as a separate entity etc. Or, we hold to what I see as a much purer, honest expression which is there is one God YHWH, and his Logos Son, a divine and wholly unique Person whose sacrifice cancelled the debt of sin in man and qualified him for eternal life. This means he is worthy of honour, worship and praise, but is not the Most High God. Mission still accomplished.

    Some questions I was considering on the ride were along the lines of: Does God YHWH have to sacrifice himself (as the Son) to blot out man’s sin? Could this be done by a separate uniquely divine being? If we have two beings of ‘God’ status, so what? Does that model contravene mono-theism, if mono-theism is defined properly? How did God see his Son – as himself, or as an individual in which he was pleased to give the task of creating an abode for him. God’s plan has always been somewhere to dwell. Eden, a tent, a temple, our hearts, then joined with the eternal company of believers in person. The trinity does not sit comfortably as the answer to these questions.

  121. Jim says:

    Craig, Rev 3:12. Four times (normally three is enough to emphasise a point) Jesus, as the speaker to the church of Philadelphia, references HIS God. And this is the Jesus who is resurrected and standing in glory at the right hand of the Father, enthroned above all things, yet still speaking of YHWH as his God.

    Verse 21 provides an excellent insight into the sameness but separateness of Jesus and God the Father. Jesus sat down with HIS Father on God’s throne, not that he saw himself AS God, but because God had elevated him to his level. He didn’t usurp God’s rightful throne, nor assume equality, but accepted the position of being ‘beside’ God because of his unique redemptive journey from Logos to suffering servant to mighty King and ruler of all via a man’s death, still under God’s hand though.

    Amazingly, Jesus, in like fashion, invites believers who overcome to sit beside him on his throne, and this is very much echoed in Eph 2:6 by Paul who declares we are seated with him in the heavenly realms. My question is: How does trinitarianism complement, or add Godly perspective and understanding to, the plain meaning of these scriptures?

  122. Craig says:

    Q: Does God YHWH have to sacrifice himself (as the Son) to blot out man’s sin? Could this be done by a separate uniquely divine being? A: God can do whatever He wants, of course. I think we’ll agree that only a perfect man can make atonement. Since no mere man is perfect, no man can make a once-for-all atonement. God alone is perfect – even the angels are not, as haSatan exemplifies – so, God sending Himself in the ‘Person’ of the Son is the way God chose to do it. Beyond that, I don’t wish to speculate.

    Q: If we have two beings of ‘God’ status, so what? Does that model contravene mono-theism, if mono-theism is defined properly? A: I’m not sure what exactly you’re asking here. The term monotheism means one God, of course. Looking at your first question from a Trinitarian stance, with “being” equivalent to ousia (this term is derived from the verb ‘to be’), then I’d call polytheism.

    Q: How did God see his Son – as himself, or as an individual in which he was pleased to give the task of creating an abode for him. A: I think it depends (and you’ve framed your question specifically non-Trinitarian, I see). Incarnationally, the Father was pleased to give the Son a number of things; but, I’m not sure what you mean regarding “creating an abode for him”. How the relationship is between Father and Son in an immanent sense, i.e. ontologically, we have very little information.

    As for redeemed men sitting on the Throne, first we must look at the individual texts which speak of redeemed men on the Throne, including Matthew 19:28, in which there are twelve thrones. I can’t say I know what this all means.

    As regards the fourfold use of “My God” in Rev 3:12, one must also consider those verses which speak of Jesus as, e.g., “the First and the Last” – equivalent words for YHWH in the OT. There’s no doubt Jesus, as a man, refers to the Father as God; there’s also no doubt that He self-references or is referenced in terms equating Himself with God. On the latter, I include those in which He is in the middle/midst of the Throne, such as Rev 7:17, as well as Rev 22:1. That’s not to mention the neuter hen as pre-verbal predicate nominative in John 10:30.

  123. Jim says:

    First Q – saying ‘God chose to do it’ because he ‘can do whatever he wants’ is true but unsatisfactory. If God sent himself in the person of his Son, I’d call modalism.

    Second Q – mono-theism expresses the worship of one God, but if there is another who is almost identical but not the Most High God, how is that poly-theism? The Shema is intact because of a single pinnacle God at the apex of divinity, but mono-theism doesn’t have to be an exclusive club of one entity. An ontologically limited example is a company that has one President (God), a CEO (Jesus), and multiple VP (archangels and angels). It’s not poly-theism proper because I’m not suggesting we worship this god for the weather, and this one for battles, and another for fertility, or a fourth for good luck and fate etc. To my mind, that’s what the Shema is steering us away from – Egyptian, Babylonian, Greek, Roman and other pagan multi-god or pantheistic religious systems.

    Third Q – God has always been seeking a dwelling. He created man to dwell with them, but we screwed it up and got banished, resulting in personal fellowship being replaced by sacrifice and legalism initially, before Jesus came to do away with that means of connecting with God. The eventual fullness is in Rev 21-22.

    The point in Rev 3 though Craig, is that Jesus is in his glorified being, and not his earthly manhood, yet still calls YHWH his God.

  124. Craig says:

    Q1: If YHWH = ousia = being, then the collective consciousness of YHWH sent the Son (as opposed to the Father, e.g.), which is not modalism.

    Q2: It’s your “almost identical but not the Most High God” and “mono-theism doesn’t have to be an exclusive club of one entity” that I have trouble with. If Father and Son are ontologically the same, but are yet different individuals, then we have one God (theos) and one lesser God (theos) = polytheism – no matter if we don’t worship one as fertility god and the other as weather god, e.g. That’s the only way I can see this. The angels are not ontologically the same, so they are merely different entities.

    Q3: But the dwelling was not exclusively for the Father as opposed to the Son, and Col 1:16 seems to suggest creation was for (eis) the Son. Maybe I’m missing your point.

    I understood what you were saying re: Rev 3; but, how does that square with Jesus proclaiming Himself to be “the First and the Last”, an exclusive title YHWH ascribes to Himself in the OT? In other words, Jesus claims to have a God, but He also claims to be YHWH; somehow we have to harmonize these. A solution is the Trinitarian one: Incarnationally – and the Incarnation continues, as the Word is forever in hypostatic union with the human nature, though now with glorified body – He has a God, just like all men; yet in His Deity He is God/YHWH. I may not have stated this as carefully as I should, but I think you get the gist.

  125. Craig says:

    Regarding Q1: My parenthetical remark is not meant to exclude the usual Trinitarian statement that the Father sent the Son; the Son is the one sent. My overall statement is just another way of looking at the same thing. That is, we must be mindful that the Trinity has only one mind, one will, one consciousness – otherwise we’d have tritheism. When we say ‘the Father sent the Son’, we do not mean that the Father and the Son each have an individual mind/will, and that the Son decided to be the one sent in subjection to the Father. That would be subordinationism.

  126. Jim says:

    We’ll keep coming back to circle around the same buoys Craig. If the Trinity is three entities with only one mind, will and consciousness, then that’s actually one entity. Or they’re modes of the one entity. Or they’re three entities, and therefore have different wills, minds and consciousnesses.

    If theos can be used for ALL things Godly or godly, or like godly, why does it equal polytheism if God is called theos somewhere and Jesus somewhere else, as well as elohim, Jehovah, etc. It seems various words are used, often interchangeably, for the varying types of divinity, spiritual being and ontologically different referents. There is no one rule to rule them all.

    I provided how I see the Alpha and Omega earlier. God is the be all and end all of everything. Jesus is the be all and end all of what God has placed under him and given him authority over. To me, that seems very clear and scripturally accurate. A Trinity is not required to meet this framework.

  127. Craig says:

    Jim,

    Though you may think of it is an either/or of modalism/tritheism, I don’t see it that way, and I’ve not presented it that way. It’s one being, three ‘Person’s, each distinguished from the others by their relative relationships and individual roles (each His own prosōpon).

    As to your second paragraph, please show me how theos “can be used for ALL things Godly or godly” – I’m not sure I understand you here. In any case, we must keep in mind that unless a noun is strictly monadic – that it can only ever mean one specific thing – then context must determine meaning, as words do not have only one static meaning. In Linguistics it is argued that meaning can only be derived at, at minimum, the clausal level, though sometimes one must look to the sentence, paragraph, full document, or even the entire works by one author. I don’t think you’re arguing that the use of theos in Psalm 82:6/John 10:35, makes men into ‘gods’, in some literal sense of Deity.

    The word “Elohim” gets really knotty, so I don’t think it helps either of us. The plural has been argued as being an intensive singular.

    I don’t find your explanation for “the Alpha and the Omega” adequate. I specifically used “the First and the Last”, and Isaiah 44:6 makes it abundantly clear that this refers to YHWH, who claims to be the One God.

  128. Craig says:

    I subscribe to Academia, and just received this article on the eternal generation of the Son:

    https://www.academia.edu/29716725/_Common_Places_Pro-Nicene_Theology_Eternal_Generation?auto=download&campaign=weekly_digest

  129. Jim says:

    The point with Theos was that it can be used for a variety of subjects from God YHWH to Jesus to men with high ranking responsibilities. The context will naturally inform you but because YHWH is called Theos and then Jesus is too, that doesn’t necessarily lead to Jesus being God. I suggest Theos is as knotty as Elohim when it comes to nouns of God and other divine or spiritual entities.

    As to alpha and omega, I can’t really do much more. Sorry. It makes sense to me as I explained previously.

    I thought the article was excellent. Two considerations came to mind. The first was that the paper made no attempt to support the term eternal generation. It was very clear that Jesus was begotten from God and one could only assume that this occurred at some juncture during God’s existence. If so (and I know we touched on this earlier Craig) the eternality should be the continued eternal nature of Jesus from being begotten. This wasn’t altogether clear.

    The second observation is that if you weren’t a trinitarian the article would not even indirectly lead you to reach a trinitarian conclusion. It didn’t even come across as binitarian although that would have been reasonable. I got a distinct affirmation of the unique and perfect harmonious closeness between the Father and his Son, but not their ‘trinitarian’ oneness. That was perhaps assumed, but read it without that assumption and it is very lightly expressed if at all. That I found very appealing and could actually amen pretty much everything bar the somewhat misleading title.

  130. Craig says:

    Jim,

    The NT usage of theos is not nearly as convoluted as Elohim is in the OT.

    This discussion regarding Jesus being theos = being God came up in the context of Philippians 2, specifically in 2:6’s form of God. When mere men were called theos the context was agency; Philippians, on the other hand, is quite different. When Paul is putting form of God in parallel with form of man, how would this indicate that Jesus is ‘not quite’ YHWH? Paul’s no doubt equating Jesus with being = to man; so, it makes sense that theos = God YHWH in this context.

    Regarding your 2nd paragraph, you’ve not attempted to specifically explain how to harmonized Isaiah 44:6, in which “the First and the Last” is clear and exclusive reference to YHWH (cf. Rev 1:8 “Alpha and Omega” {with “Lord Almighty” = YHWH in OT} with Rev 22:13 “Alpha and Omega” {as Jesus}), yet Jesus ascribes this title to Himself in Rev 1:17 and 22:13. Quite simply, if YHWH = “the First and the Last” and Jesus = “the First and the Last”, then YHWH = Jesus & Jesus = YHWH.

  131. Craig says:

    Jim,

    Regarding the eternal generation article, did you click on and read the hyperlinks “divine simplicity” and “inseparable operations“? Also did you take note of the first sentence in the 2nd paragraph: “The doctrine itself can be stated plainly: The Son is from the Father, and God has always been this way and did not become this way.” It clearly puts “the Son” and “the Father” as encompassing God (though the Holy Spirit is not excluded, the HS is just not discussed in this context).

  132. Jim says:

    I did click the hyperlinks Craig. Neither actually addressed eternal generation per se. It was mentioned but only in passing as an assumed aspect. I have to say that there is a lot of quoting the Cappadocian fathers but not a lot of using scripture other than in isolated context to support a point being made. The level of philosophical lexicon and comprehension is almost out of reach of the lay believer (me included). Dare I say it this what the Catholic Church did taking the Christian faith beyond the intellectual and practical reach of the early medieval person.

  133. Craig says:

    John 5:26 is the main verse for this, but one also must consider John 1:3 in conjunction with Col 1:16 and Heb 1:2, in which the latter two speak of “the Son” as the agent of creation. Given that “the Son” has “life in Himself” given by the Father and that “the Son” is the agent of creation, then the relationship of Father and Son is eternal (pre-creation). The ‘begotten-ness’ of the Son in the Trinitarian formula is the way of speaking of these Scriptural truths – of the paternal/filial relationship of Father/Son without implying that the Father precedes the Son in some fashion.

  134. Jim says:

    I’ve just lost a block of text. I won’t go back in blow by blow, but essentially John 5:26 says that God granted Jesus life in himself. The one granting is usually greater than the one receiving, but life in himself does not create a case that God and the Son are co-eternal. The lives in themselves are different and specific to their roles and divine nature. The divine simplicity article also seems to be at pains to say that the Father and Jesus are modes of God as if God is the collective noun for the three persons that are distinct, but in the next breath denounce any modalism. I think the Oneness Pentecostals would have good grounds to cry foul given such a forced reading.

    I also wanted to provide some quotes from both articles that illustrated how on one hand the ‘sublime and unknowable ineffable essence of God’ (or similar) was to be the backdrop to the essay and then go into dogmatic detail about his very sublime and unknowable ineffable essence. Such contrary notions litter the Pro-Nicene articles and other trinitarian writing, and it is difficult to frame a counter argument when faced with ‘we can’t comprehend the depths of God’s nature’ on one hand and on the other ‘here is the nature of God in complex and (generally non-scriptural) opaque philosophical terms’. Can you see the undergirding problem here Craig?

  135. Jim says:

    I think Heb 3:2-6 is important in explaining what I am driving at in my opening two sentences.

    He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God’s house. 3 Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. 4 For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything. 5 “Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house,”bearing witness to what would be spoken by God in the future. 6 But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory.

  136. Craig says:

    To be more specific, Scriptural, John 5:26 states that the Father granted the Son [of God] – and not, as you state, “God granted Jesus” – to have “life in Himself”, just as the Father has “life in Himself”. Sure, I can understand one construing that Grantor is “greater” than Grantee; but, then, what does it mean to have “life in Himself” and how can one’s “life in Himself” be more or less than another’s “life in Himself”?

    The article on divine simplicity, simply states that the three ‘Persons’ of the Trinity are “three personal modes of subsisting of the simple divine essence”. That’s not modalism; that’s historic orthodoxy. The key word there is subsisting.

    I didn’t and don’t see the issue as you explain it in your 2nd paragraph.

  137. Craig says:

    Hebrews 3:6 concludes with “But Christ is faithful as a son over God’s house…” (NIV 1984) – the key word being “Christ”, i.e. the incarnational Son. Moreover, importantly, the article (ho) is not prefacing “son” (huios) here, though, of course, we know the text is speaking of Christ. The English definite article is used in a few of the English translations, though most use the indefinite article “a”, following the non-use of the Greek article in the Greek text.

  138. Jim says:

    I would say that the life in Jesus was granted by God because it has boundaries and limits just as explained in 1 Cor 15:27. In fact his life is framed back up in verse 22. As Heb 3:4 says, God is the builder (life giver) of everything, over and above what is created through the Son as per Col 1:16.

    So the Son has a role under God’s direction and authority, so does Jesus the Son of God as the incarnational Christ. Whatever is granted by the giver is to the level set and if God gave the Son life in himself it clearly wasn’t to the limitless level possessed by God and the life in himself. Otherwise the verse wouldn’t have discriminated between them.

  139. Jim says:

    Isn’t the context around John 5:26 that God has given Jesus authority to judge who is given and who is denied eternal life? Surely that is the life ‘in himself’ that is granted Jesus to give. And Jesus says as much in verses 27 and 30 that he only exacts the judgement he hears from God. John doesn’t seem to suggest that the life that is in God the Father and that which is in Jesus is one and the same, therefore implying the Father and Jesus are also one and the same.

  140. Craig says:

    Jim,

    This verse is part of the immediate context of the subject verse of this very post: John 5:27. Please read the first portion of part 4, through to the first five paragraphs, including the blockquote (a quote from Raymond Brown). It is precisely because the Son of God has “life in Himself” that He is Himself Divine, and it is because He is Divine that He has the capacity to judge all humanity, and, as I argue in this post, it is because the Son of God is also human – as opposed to the Son of God being also the Son of Man – that the Father has has given Him authority to judge. As God the Son He has the Divine capacity to judge, but it’s because He is also man, that is, being in the form of man, the Son of God has the understanding of what it truly means to be a man, and thus can be a fair judge of humanity. As I wrote near the end of part 4:

    The overarching point we are driving at here is that the Biblical author in John 5:27b seems to be emphasizing qualitativeness: And the Father has given the Son of God authority to judge because He is human. In other words, the function of the expression here appears best understood as taking on a strong adjectival force. The reason the divine Son of God has been granted authority to judge is due to His incarnational status of being fully human, sharing humanity with all humankind. If the Gospel writer intended an allusion or even a more direct reference to Daniel 7:13, as we’ve argued above, then it seems logical that the author would use the same non-particularized form of the term that the Prophet used, which, as we argued earlier, is best understood like a human. That is, the Daniel verse and the two in the Apocalypse which allude to Daniel are best construed as qualitative-indefinite, while John 5:27b seems best understood as emphasizing qualitativeness over definiteness. Assuming so, John 5:27 powerfully proclaims the hypostatic union – the unity of divinity and humanity in the Person of Jesus Christ.

    And, as in my concluding remarks here in part 6:

    This same construction [PN-CV] is found in 1:1c and 1:14a, and along with 5:27b, these verses form a sort of triad. In 1:1c the eternal Word was (ἦν, en) {by nature} God. In 1:14a the divine Word became (ἐγένετο, egeneto) flesh, taking on human nature; in 5:27b the Son of God is (ἐστίν) human, the abiding result of the former: the preexistent, eternal divine Son dwells in human form among humankind. Jesus fully participates in humanity because He is fully human; however, He is not merely human, as He’s the Son of God. His incarnational humanity remains into the eschaton where He will be eschatological judge (5:28-30). For it is because the eternal Word is by nature God (1:1c) that He possesses the divine capacity to judge mankind; however, it is only because He became flesh (1:14c) and is, hence, human (5:27b) that he cannot be seen as anything but a fair judge of humanity.

    It is the Word’s pre-incarnational, eternal intrinsic divinity (1:1c) coupled with his incarnational humanity (1:14a) that makes Him the perfect Judge (5:27b) for humankind (5:24-25; 5:28-30):

    And he (the Father) has given Him (Jesus, the Son of God) authority to judge because He is (also) human.

    In this view, the reason that the Son of God is given authority to judge is because He is also human. This provides the basis for which He can be a fair judge of all, saved and unsaved, at the eschaton.

  141. Jim says:

    The following from bible.org gets to the nub of the issue for me. From this web page https://bible.org/seriespage/3-son-god-begotten-not-made we read:

    ”Now follow this carefully. If Jesus is said to be the begotten Son of God (using the figure from human language to make the point), then Jesus has the same nature as the Father [Jim AGREES]. If Jesus has the same nature as God the Father, then Jesus is divine and eternal as well [Jim AGREES]. If he is eternally God [Jim DISAGREES. The previous line does not support that conclusion], then there was never a time he was literally begotten [Jim DISAGREES. You can be eternal from a point in time]–which is why we know the language is figurative [Jim – do we?] to describe his nature, and not his beginning. To call Jesus “the only begotten Son” means that he is fully divine and eternal. He is God the Son.” [Jim DISAGREES. A false conclusion from an illogical premise].

    I have added where i am at one with this argument, and not so, in square brackets. There are leaps in logic such as eternality equating to a never coming into being, which is not a normal or scripturally aligned outcome. Nor does being of like nature/substance/essence make him to be the Father. Again, a trinitarian jump which doesn’t come from the previous line. Nowhere is ‘God the Son’ referenced in the bible – only the Son of God. Merging the two conflates very separate ideas. Only one is scriptural, so the other term has to be disregarded.

  142. Craig says:

    I’ll refine what the author wrote and expound upon it, the brackets { } indicating where I’ve changed the text:

    Now follow this carefully. If Jesus is said to be the begotten Son of God (using the figure from human language to make the point), then Jesus has the same nature as the Father. If Jesus has the same nature as God the Father, then Jesus is divine and eternal as well. If he is {an} eternally God {Being}…

    I’ll stop there. Note that he wrote in the parenthetical portion “using the figure from human language“. It’s an analogy using anthropomorphism. You are taking it too literally. Moreover, unbounded eternality is considered a divine attribute; whereas, the eternality of created humans is bounded in time from the point of entrance into eternal life, yet unbounded once entering the eternal realm. Since “the Word”, aka “the Son” is uncreated and is the agent of creation (John 1:1-3; Col 1:16; Heb 1:2), and creation includes time itself, then the Son ‘predates’ time and His eternality is unbounded. If the Son has unbounded eternality (If he is an eternal Being, a fully eternal Being), then the Son of God must be God; however, since God the Father is clearly separate from the Son of God, then, the Son of God cannot be the same ‘Person’ as God the Father. That is, since bitheism is clearly not Scriptural, the Son of God must be a separate ‘Person’ from God the Father, yet somehow still be God. Hence, the trinitarian doctrine was formulated to explain this same nature/substance/essence of God the Father and the Son of God yet the distinct ‘Personhood’ of each.

  143. Jim says:

    I understood the ‘human language’ to be a reference to natural begotteness that clearly couldn’t begin to describe the non-incarnational or pre-creation begetting of the Son. Obviously, there is no anthropomorphism in the incarnation of the Logos/Son as Yeshuah, albeit his conception was not of the natural order, but rather divinely brought forth.

    I’m not sure how eternality can be bounded or unbounded. YHWH is regarded as being without boundaries, but if the Son has been begotten from eternity ‘past’ ie of identical infinite ‘duration’ or existence as YHWH, it makes being begotten a nonsense. There is no begetting if there has been God the Father and God the Son from eternity to eternity. Either they are two Gods existing in parallel, or one God who interacts with his creation modally. Or, as I have suggested several times, the Son was indeed begotten from (not by) YHWH, and thus there was a ‘time’ when he was not. He was generated from YHWH. In a non-divine yet illustrative way, so was Eve brought forth from Adam; similarly, the church was brought forth from Christ, yet can still be regarded as being in Christ, and Christ in it.

    Continuing with the definition of eternal, you wrote, ”the eternality of created humans is bounded in time from the point of entrance into eternal life, yet unbounded once entering the eternal realm.” I assume you mean that there is a point in time (the return of Jesus) when the gift of eternal life is given to believers, alive and resurrected. However, in what capacity does that eternality then become unbounded? How are you envisaging that realm? Revelation makes it clear that time will continue, with God and the Lamb co-existing with believers and those pre-Christ people of faith on a new earth. That doesn’t seem unbounded.

    Craig, you say time was part of the creation, but since we don’t know what pre-creation looked like, that is an assumption. Time (or at least a version of it that YHWH and the Son recognised) may well have existed. As I see it, for a being to ‘be’ in a non-time ‘environment’ is an oxymoron.

    Lastly, to avoid any call of polytheism, we probably need to have a look at the biblical case for a divine council, and assess whether there is a case for YHWH the Almighty, Most High God, who is the one God (not in a trinitarian concept, but more as ‘God alone’). Ruling the created order under YHWH’s given authority is the Son, unique having been generated from the Father and his emissary to mankind, the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, and the only means of bridging the chasm between God and man. Under them, other spiritual ‘sons of God’, seraphim, archangels etc who are permitted to attend the heavenly court. Some of the OT verses in support of such a framework are quite compelling and, importantly, Hebraic (and NT) monotheism remains intact. Implicit is the idea that the Logos can be both divine and from YHWH, but not be him in his totality, otherwise YHWH couldn’t be ‘God alone’.

  144. Craig says:

    Jim,

    It seems like we are mostly rehashing the same stuff. Also, we are getting into eschatological aspects that go well beyond this particular post – things which are debatable and which I’d rather not continue on about. Clearly, you are working from a philosophical construct regarding the relationship between the eternal and the temporal that is different from mine. Hence, we are not going to agree, and continued discussion along these lines will be fruitless.

    Regarding the monogenēs issue, Wikipedia has a pretty good article.

    You wrote: …Revelation makes it clear that time will continue, with God and the Lamb co-existing with believers and those pre-Christ people of faith on a new earth. That doesn’t seem unbounded. This is where we go into debatable eschatological territory. However, there’s one thing Scripture makes clear: the new heaven, new earth, and God’s children continue on, as Revelation 22:5 states, “for ever and ever” (eis tous aiōnas tōn aiōnōn = more literally to the ages of the ages).

  145. Jim says:

    Hi Craig, I have no problem with our eternal futures being ‘to the ages of the ages’, it’s just that when you wrote we will possess unbounded vs. bounded eternality, I wasn’t sure if I read you correctly. Especially since you wrote that unbounded (meaning existed in eternity past?) was a divine attribute thus connected with the eternal generation of the son, yet resurrected man will also possess this characteristic. I’m still not sure whether that’s your understanding on unbounded eternality.

    As to debatable eschatology, I’m also not sure why my last change of tack is off topic or goes well beyond the post. Surely Jesus’s qualifications as an eschatological judge would provide enough overlap to continue the debate. And looking back over our dialogue, debate it truly is. The trinity doctrine provides, if anything, debatable material, particularly in many of its creedal expressions. Notwithstanding that, our philosophical differences, and revisiting old arguments, this has been great for me to thrash out my ideas. Your responses have been very patient and gracious, as well as highly information rich, for which I’ve been grateful. Thank you for letting me engage on your blog and for your time and efforts in replying to my comments.

  146. Craig says:

    Jim,

    Thanks for your kind words about our exchange here. I always benefit from engaging with others’ perspectives.

    I see now what you mean re: bounded vs. unbounded eternality. What I meant to convey is that created beings are bounded ‘on one side’, so to speak – the point of entrance into the eternal realm – yet unbounded ‘on the other side’ in which we live “to the ages of the ages”. To state another way by comparison: Deity has unbounded eternality (the First and the Last, the Alpha and the Omega), while humans are bounded on one end (entrance into the eternal realm), though unbounded eternally ‘on the other end’.

    What I mean by debatable eschatology is the understanding of the relationship between time and eternity, time and (pre-)creation, and how that can affect eschatological thought.

  147. Jim says:

    Divine Council – thoughts?

  148. Craig says:

    The way you laid it out above, I cannot subscribe to it.

    Even if I try to adapt such a concept to the “One God” Himself (as opposed to including seraphim and archangels), from a Trinitarian perspective, it sounds more like tritheism. Moreover, I don’t see how we can include lesser beings in such a ‘divine council’, as if God is going to seek advice from His own creation.

  149. Jim says:

    Fair enough. But there are examples of God changing his mind, or being dissuaded from a certain course of action, through interaction with humans. Job 1 is also a classic picture of a non-Earth divine council.

    As the sovereign creator of the universe it doesn’t preclude being collegiate about some things. Moreover, the Hebrew elohim allows for a plurality of heavenly/divine beings.

    Personally, I don’t know why you ‘cannot subscribe to it’. Tritheism is exactly what you get if you retrofit the divine council concept into trinitarianism, but really monotheism is the logical outcome of a hierarchical order of beings overseen by Yahweh (Jesus being notable since he was not created by YHWH but formed from him).

    You’d think the term ‘Most High God’ infers YHWH at the pinnacle of all divine, supernatural and heavenly/non-Earthbound beings.

  150. Craig says:

    Could God’s change of mind be the result of individuals’ change of heart?

    The Hebrew elohim is not a fixed term, with only one distinct meaning, yes. But, this does not necessarily mean we can impose a “plurality of heavenly/divine beings” as one of its definitions. There’s a large chasm between the Creator and the created.

    If, as per Christian orthodoxy, YHWH is a plurality of One, then tritheism does not obtain. It may be beyond our ability to comprehend, but no more so than an uncreated man, i.e. the divine-human Jesus Christ.

  151. Jim says:

    So, essentially you appear to be saying that because the trinity is beyond our ability to comprehend (‘a plurality of One’ requires a fair degree of cognitive dissonance to most folks minds), but yet it’s Christian orthodoxy, we must adhere to the ultimately unexplainable and ignore the alternative scriptural and logical evidence for a God above all gods, co-ruler with a Son of his substance and nature but not him. ‘Greetings from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ’, says Paul many times.

    I would argue that God makes himself very clear throughout the bible, and there are very few if any mysteries that have not been revealed to us who harbour the mind of Christ. The trinity is not of his making, but it is man’s uninspired construct to avoid the charge of polytheism whilst maintaining the deity of Jesus. It’s a false charge. However, if we accuse Johnson and other word of faith proponents of stating their ‘revelations’ as coming from God, then an incomprehensible trinity is surely in the same category.

    Jesus the Son of God is still the only divine-natured human. He is no lesser in substance to YHWH, but his existence can still accommodate the one Most High God on behalf of whom he rules the universe that he created with YHWH. OT Judaism was very comfortable with a ‘two powers in heaven’ construct, but they still adhered to the Shema.

  152. Craig says:

    However, if we accuse Johnson and other word of faith proponents of stating their ‘revelations’ as [not] coming from God, then an incomprehensible trinity is surely in the same category.

    That’s a false equivalency.

    If “two powers in heaven” is consistent with the Shema, then why wouldn’t the Trinity be? And, why is the doctrine of the Trinity more dissonant than the two natures of Jesus?

  153. Jim says:

    Thanks for the missing ‘not’ Craig! I’m not sure why it’s false equivalence. It’s not a stretch to say that the progenitor of the trinity, Athanasius, could have been regarded as the Johnson of his day. The Arian position was, as I understand, the accepted view of Jesus. Athanasius’s opinion became gradually entrenched in church doctrine through the Councils which resulted in the trinity becoming orthodoxy. But it’s as scripturally flimsy as any of the WoF ‘revelations’ of who God is and how he works.

    The trinity is different from the two powers view. A trinitarian perspective would see that as bitheism probably and so the concepts don’t align. Conversely the two powers idea doesn’t view them as one being, which is how trinitarianism expresses multiple deities.

  154. Craig says:

    The Shema states that YHWH is ONE. If “two powers”, i.e. bitheism, can be construed as ONE, then the Trinity is not much of a stretch. I suggest you read Larry Hurtado’s work. His books show how Jesus was accorded worship on par with YHWH/God, and Hurtado argues that this is a development of the Shema, in view of Jesus’ earthly life and salvific role. I’ll agree with you to some extent, in that the Trinity doctrine was not firmly entrenched until later, but this does not mean that the Trinity is not borne out in Scripture. Just because a particular truth is not fully articulated until a later time does not negate the inherent legitimacy of said truth.

    Irenaeus is, arguably, one of the first to state a Trinitarian position. If one doesn’t accept that, then one must accept that Tertullian articulated it only a short time later–well before Athanasius and the Arian controversy. A careful reading of the Gospel of John refutes your notion that an Arian-like position (I’m trying to avoid anachronism here) was “the accepted view of Jesus”.

    To compare Athanasius with Johnson does not help your cause, in my opinion. The two are miles apart.

  155. Jim says:

    The point of the Johnson Athanasius comparison was not doctrine so much as the minority view, if it gets high level acceptance from the dominant denomination of the day, becomes orthodox. If Athanasius espoused Johnson’s kenotic understanding of Jesus, and that became Christianity’s perspective we wouldn’t be challenging his biblical interpretation.

  156. Jim says:

    Craig, re June 14 7:52, I can only present the argument for a Divine Council in the barest of detail, Dr Michael Heiser can provide the full monty. Plenty of you tube lectures, and all very scholarly. The only aspect I don’t go along with is his understanding that the medium of Endor actually brought up a disembodied Samuel in front of Saul, and his acquiescence of a disembodied afterlife. Since the OT uses ‘elohim’ to refer to this spiritual encounter, he includes disembodied people in a group of entities that have the term elohim used for them. However, the overwhelming biblical commentary is that the dead know nothing, are in silence, at rest, sleeping, not praising or conscious of their surroundings etc. So it wasn’t Samuel (although Saul was desperate to believe it was), but a familiar spirit using the medium. Anyway, that’s another conversation altogether. See if Heiser can present you the case for YHWH as head of a hierarchy comprising divine creatures, and monotheism remain intact.

  157. Craig says:

    Jim,

    I just cannot see how you can have one God (the Father) who is head of a hierarchy of lesser divine beings without bi- or tri-theism resulting. If a Being is “divine”, this implies being ‘other-than’ creation, and if non-creation, I don’t see how there can be gradations in divinity. Ya either is or ya isn’t.

  158. Jim says:

    The key is getting back to the original Aramaic/Hebrew words used to refer to YHWH and other supernatural or spirit beings and then think about their meaning from an original author and reader perspective. The average OT (and indeed, Messianic NT) Jew would have had known that certain uses of elohim (or theos) meant either YHWH or another ‘sub-deity’ depending on the context.

    They were comfortable (and so should we be) with a Most High God (monotheism) sitting in absolute authority over lesser ‘gods’. Unfortunately, when Western Christians brought up with a large measure of Greek dualism in their theology are confronted by the letters G O and D it results in caged thinking the like of which would not have been duplicated in ancient Jewish thought.

  159. Jim says:

    Before I forget, happy 4th of July – you are in the US right?

  160. Craig says:

    Thanks! Yes, I’m in the US. The same to you.

  161. Craig says:

    Sure 1st century Jews were comfortable with YHWH as having absolute authority over “lesser ‘gods'”, the latter understood as rulers who acted in YHWH’s stead. This is a far cry from one God who is hierarchically superior to the NT’s depiction of the Son.

    For me, the following is unassailable as implicitly decrying Christ’s absolute ontological equality with the Father. In Revelation 1:8 we have the Lord God (kyrios ho theos), aka ho pantokratōr speaking, the latter of which is an exclusive designation for YHWH in the LXX. Is the speaker here the Father or the Son? I think it’s the Father, even though my red letter NIV 1984 indicates it’s the Son. Thus, there’s not universal agreement on the speaker. If it’s the Father, then John the Revelator is being consistent with OT designations for YHWH; if it’s the Son, then we have the Son being called the same thing YHWH was called in the OT. Pantokratōr is found ten times in the NT: 2 Cor. 6:18 (LXX quote of 2 Sam 7:14/1 Chronicles 7:13); Rev. 1:8, 4:8 (LXX quote), 11:17, 15:3 (LXX quote), 16:7, 16:14, 19:6, 19:15, and 21:22.

    Even if we assume the speaker in Rev 1:8 is the Father—as well as the referent in all the others—we find evidence pointing to the Son’s ontological equality with the Father in 1:8, when compared with other texts. 1:8 describes Himself as “the Alpha and the Omega”, and Jesus describes Himself using the same exact language in 22:13. Moreover, in 22:13 Christ calls Himself “the First and the Last”, which is synonymous with “the Alpha and the Omega”; however, more importantly, “the First and the Last” is a specific designation of YHWH in Isaiah 41:4, 44:6 and 48:12. In addition, “He Who was seated on the Throne” in 21:5 calls Himself “the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End” in 21:6; “the Beginning and the End” was also spoken by Christ in 22:13. So, either the Father and Son are the same (Sabellianism), or we have monotheistic Trinitarianism (with the Holy Spirit factored in, of course).

    The best counter I’ve received is that this is an example of shaliach, or “agency”—Christ is acting as agent of the Father, though He’s ontologically different. I find this position fatally flawed. I certainly understand that an agent has been given the rights, privileges and “powers” of the principal; however, he cannot actually BE the other position person to the extent that he’s called by the same titles, etc. The principals set forth in agency define the relationship between the principal and the agent, and in no way can the agent legally be called the same name as the principle. The agent merely acts on the principal’s behalf.

    Moreover, from what I’ve seen, there’s not sufficient proof that this idea of shaliach predates Christ. In other words, it’s possible that this idea was brought forth as an anachronistic apologetic against the revelation of the NT Scriptures and the resulting codification of the Trinity doctrine.

  162. Jim says:

    I recall our earlier conversation covering the nature of divine agency and the idea that Jesus, as Yahweh’s emissary on earth, represented the totality of God in and through himself. He could, therefore, lay rightful claim to all the OT testament prophecies about YHWH saving a people, and the titles that were used in reference to YHWH, but presented to the Jews in Christ.

    Notwithstanding, Rev 1 is chock full of this same apparent ambiguity that trinitarianism tries to resolve. To me the heart of trinitarianism is to force an absolute construct in answer to the dichotomy created by overlapping, cross-merging and shared YHWH-Jesus nomenclature. It’s a bit like the ‘now, but not yet’ tension of our salvation through Christ – we are saved at the point of faith in Jesus’s death and resurrection, we are being saved, transformed by the renewing of our minds evidenced through good actions, and we will be saved to eternal life at Christ’s return and our subsequent resurrection.

    In Rev 1, the first verse makes it clear that God and the now resurrected, enthroned and gloriously reinstated Christ are two separate entities: ‘The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him…’ In verse 4, the benediction, John describes God YHWH as one ‘who is, and who was, and who is to come,’ and does so in verse 8. Verse 6 underlines as heavily as scripture gets that YHWH is our God, whom we will serve, and also Jesus’s God and Father. Trinitarianism is nowhere close to being espoused by John in this opening chapter. So verse 8 is the Lord God Almighty, who is also the First and Last and Alpha and Omega. I’m sure you know, Craig, that these are terms used figuratively, and three different ways for emphasis, that to a Jew would have captured the all-encompassing nature of YHWH and underscored the qualitative nature of Jesus too.

    In Rev 22:13, for example, Jesus applies these YHWH descriptors to himself, not, as I see it, to indicate he is YHWH, but to reinforce his credentials as the author and source of eternal life partly in response to remaining Jewish scepticism on one hand and Hellenistic proto-gnosticism on the other. In other words that Jesus was higher than the demiurge, as well as the fulfilment of OT prophecy that only knew YHWH (but glimpsed Christ from afar as Abraham did – John 8:56).

    Paul recognised this tension of OT references to Christ that were clearly YHWH speaking about himself. That’s why I think he is at pains to say that everything is made through Christ and for him to rule over (Col 1:15-19) but 1 Cor 15:27 ensures that there is clear delineation between YHWH and Jesus in this order by declaring YHWH’s absolute supremacy that he enacts or delivers through Christ.

    This all reinforces the deity and ‘from God-ness’ of Christ who was with (but still not) the Father from before the first creative act (John 17:5). He is from God, uniquely from his Father’s own being he came forth (not created) in pre-history, with a mandate to become a man and hold in another tension being 100% God within a totally human frame. I don’t see the need for trinitarianism, which is really seeking to resolve the apparent problem of monotheism being destroyed through two entities comprising the same God substance.

    Yet that is what scripture declares and praises time and again. The most High God, supreme, in total control, above all things, not ranked but the entirety of everything, and his Son, of the same substance, formed for a purpose, for relationship, given universal authority, worthy of all honour, praise, worship and adoration, the giver of eternal life, who became a servant of frail, rebellious humanity, died and rose to give us a hope that death is not the final act. He is also the First over creation, the first-born of those resurrected, and the Last, the closer of history on his return, finally completing his mission of reconciliation between YHWH and man.

    In the scriptural tension of YHWH and Jesus’s separateness yet oneness, the trinity becomes a pointless and constraining construct foisted on the early church by mindsets that were thinking in very different paradigms from the OT Hebrew writers.

  163. Craig says:

    Jim,

    First of all, can you provide any sort of historical proof for your ‘two powers’ idea—that there’s some sort of literature pre-Christ which mentions YHWH and some lesser, yet still divine entity? How is the ‘two powers’ congruent with the Shema in the OT or other pre-NT literature?

    Next, I don’t think you’re fully considering the tension between the eternal Word and the Christ of the Incarnation and the Incarnation’s effects on the relationship between the Word-become-flesh and God the Father vs. the pre-Incarnate Word’s relationship with God the Father (not to mention the relationship between the post-earthly Incarnational Word-become-flesh and God the Father!). The eternal Word predates creation (John 1:1), yet later this Word “became flesh” (John 1:14)—i.e., the eternal Word ‘became’ creation in His humanity while retaining His Deity. Much hinges on the definition of monogenēs (1:14,18), and I’m convinced “only begotten” is incorrect (Isaac was Abraham’s monogenēs, even though Ishmael was also Abraham’s son).

    I’m sorry, but I see no correlation between the ‘now, but not yet’ tension and the YHWH-Jesus nomenclature overlap. They are completely different things. Jude even goes so far as claiming that it was Jesus who “delivered His people out of Egypt” (Jude 5—see ESV, NLT, and NET Bible, as well as NA28/UBS5 Greek text—and see my article here)!

  164. Jim says:

    That’s an in depth study on Jude 5 – wow! Even if the ESV, NLT and a few others say Jesus was the Lord that delivered the Israelites, it could appear to be more evidence for Jesus being the theophany power acting on YHWH’s behalf. The name is the same, but the person behind the name is not God the Father. That would fit the variable translations.

    Historical proof for the two powers concept is widely available, although I haven’t time to provide a concise version right now. More later I hope Craig.

  165. Jim says:

    Do you see any correlation between Jude 5 and Exodus 23:20-23 in that if Jude understood the Lord who led the Israelites from Egypt as Jesus, he could have been referencing this passage in Exodus? Here, God tells the Israelites that they are to obey his assigned ‘angel, ‘for My name is in Him’ (NKJV). I’m not suggesting Jesus is an angel like Michael as the JWs do, but that the language used in Exodus is interpreted by Jude as the Lord (Jesus).

  166. Jim says:

    Angel in Ex 23:20 and 23 i: mălʼâk, mal-awk’; from an unused root meaning to despatch as a deputy; a messenger; specifically, of God, i.e. an angel (also a prophet, priest or teacher):—ambassador, angel, king, messenger.מֲלְאָךְ

  167. Craig says:

    Jim,

    Regarding the Jude 5 article, see footnote 35’s mention of Tommy Wasserman’s work on Jude, which I was unable to procure at a reasonable price for the purposes of the article, then see Wasserman’s comment on the article itself. My point is that I wasn’t as thorough as I’d have liked, but I just couldn’t acquire that book. His book wouldn’t have changed my conclusion, but it would have strengthened some of the analysis.

    An important part of the analysis of my article is the author of Jude’s Christological adaptation of contemporaneous Jewish pseudepigraphical, apocalyptic literature, which I note in the following selection (bold added):

    Jude references the well-known (at that time) pseudepigraphical work known as 1 Enoch in Jude 14-15.[24] In verse 14 the text is changed from θεὸς in its source (1 Enoch 1:9) to kύριοϛ, “…the Lord is coming…”[25] This is significant, as Jude uses kύριοϛ exclusively for Jesus Christ in his epistle, as opposed to God, meaning that Jude has most likely changed 1 Enoch’s eschatological Judge from a Jewish monotheistic conception of God to Jesus Christ here.[26] To see how Jude reserves kύριοϛ for Jesus Christ, observe how he uses this term in conjunction with the full designation of Jesus Christ in verses 4 (along with δεσπότηϛ), 17, 21, and 25, yet in these very same verses Jude references God, but not as kύριοϛ.[27] Thus, while in verse 14 kύριοϛ stands alone, almost assuredly Jesus is the intended referent.[28] Given the other evidence presented above, such as Jesus being portrayed as eternal Keeper, Redeemer, etc. we’ll adopt the position that Jude’s intention was, in fact, to make this distinction, as this appears the most probable understanding, given the full context of his epistle.

    Looking at verses 5 through 19 as a whole, we will see how Jude has masterfully taken OT and extra-biblical references and (re)interpreted them Christologically, i.e., Jude has changed the referent in the original works from God to Jesus Christ.[29] First, it’s important to understand that, by the full context of verses 5 through 19, the main subject is Jesus Christ (carried over from verse 4). That is, the subject of verse 5 runs through the intervening context, and that subject is Jesus Christ (see v 17), as confirmed through Jude’s alteration of θεὸς in 1 Enoch to kύριοϛ in Jude 14. And, of course, we’re arguing in the current article that Jude has changed the reference in Exodus from God / the Lord / YHWH to Ίησου̃ϛ in verse 5.[30] In verse 9 there is a presumed reference to an apocryphal (non-canonical) book known as The Assumption of Moses, in the words regarding the dispute between Michael the archangel and the devil over the body of Moses;[31] and it stands to reason that Jude refers to Jesus in verse 9 as well with “The Lord rebuke you!”[32] That is, Jude here likely means for us to understand “the Lord” as referencing Jesus, since the overall context of this section strongly implies such an interpretation.[33]

    This militates against your position.

    I don’t see a correlation between Jude 5 and Exodus 23:20-23, because the context of Jude is specifically about delivering God’s people out of Egypt, and this had already happened by this time (see Exodus 20:2).

  168. Jim says:

    Craig, last night I listened to this podcast from Trinities interviewing Dr Heiser. Very interesting and they touched on the Abraham, Isaac and Ishmael monogenes, as well as Jude 5 in some detail. You’d enjoy it.

  169. Craig says:

    OK, I see where the “two Powers” idea can be derived. However, the key here in Exodus is we consistently have YHWH/LORD as the One who delivered Israel out of Egypt; moreover, Jesus is never termed an “angel of the Lord”, and the Incarnation–of YHWH (as opposed to a ‘lesser power’, aka “angel of the Lord”), per Heiser–is a far cry from an “angel of the Lord” manifestation. In addition, while the “angel of the Lord” was never, as far as I know, called YHWH, there are OT quotations in the NT in which the original referent is YHWH while the NT referent is Jesus. Furthermore, one can argue for more than two powers–that is, three powers–on the basis of Genesis 18.

  170. Jim says:

    Craig, you wrote, ‘I don’t see a correlation between Jude 5 and Exodus 23:20-23, because the context of Jude is specifically about delivering God’s people out of Egypt, and this had already happened by this time (see Exodus 20:2).’

    I think there is a relevant connection here, more so than Ex 20:2. True, in Ex 20, YHWH declares he was the one who led Israel out of Egypt. That would make the ‘Lord’ (kyrios) in Jude 5 YHWH and not Jesus on first inspection due to the ‘leading out of Israel’ context, wouldn’t it? However, I don’t think that’s the point Jude is making. The point is in verses 4-19 where he refers to a litany of historic apostasy that is still evident in Jude’s day.

    So I read the context to be the destruction of the apostates and unbelievers in verse 5. Therefore, the if kyrios in Jude 5 is to refer to Jesus, the agent of destruction is the same kyrios, which leads us back to Ex 23:20-24. This angel of the Lord has YHWH’s name in him and so acts as his agent to bless those who are obedient and destroy those who aren’t.

    Using names, as Heiser states, is fraught with overlap and multiple applications with the same word being used for a variety of human and spiritual entities. For instance, if kyrios is used to imply Jesus in Jude 5, how does that square with kyrios in Matthew 1 and 2 regarding the angel of the Lord (kyrios), when Jesus is already on the scene?

  171. Craig says:

    Go to Numbers 14, in which you’ll find that it’s YHWH/LORD who destroyed the disbelievers/grumblers, not the angel of the LORD. Jude 5, therefore, refers to both the deliverance out of Egypt and the destruction of the disbelievers, and the referent is Jesus, whether one adopts Iesous or kyrios as the text in Jude 5, and Jesus/Lord is equated with YHWH–just as Jesus is equated with YHWH in those other NT passages quoting the LXX in which the original referent is YHWH while the NT referent is Jesus.

    Yes, the same word can be mean different things depending on context–this is true of most any word. My opinion, for example, is that when kyrios is used by the disciples to refer to Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels, they are not intending this as a term of Deity, as if it’s interchangeable with theos. It’s more akin to “master” or “teacher”.

    However, YHWH is reserved for GOD only. Sure, in Ex 23:20-23 YHWH placed His ‘name’ “in” the angel, but then certainly Gabriel spoke in GOD’s name in Luke 1:23-37, for example. Each was acting as agent for God, but neither can be construed as GOD. This is in contrast to what I’ve stated in the first paragraph above.

  172. Jim says:

    Let me ask this of trinitarianism: what is the early church doctrinal problem or scriptural issue that the orthodox trinitarian construct of God/Godhead solves?

    My assumptions ahead of an answer are:

    OT prophetic, apocalyptic language and a Hebraic mindset sets the framework for the church’s initial doctrinal positions on YHWH, and Jesus.
    Gentile, predominantly Greek, cosmological understandings were at odds with this.
    Creedal formulas evolved, ebbed and flowed according to increasing influence from church and civil leadership rather than any Godly inspiration.

  173. Craig says:

    Briefly, before I head off to bed: Nicea and Constantinople sought to make explicit what was implicit in the NT/OT revelation regarding GOD, due to the threat of Arianism. (Each Ecumenical Council was convened because of a threat to doctrinal integrity.) The Trinity was already spoken of–though not using that specific word–by Origen and Tertullian, and, arguably, Irenaeus, perhaps others before him.

  174. Jim says:

    Thanks Craig. The notion of an orthodox trinity being implicit in the canon of OT and NT scripture is difficult to believe given there was no agreed position on early church writings until much later (2nd Council of Trullan in 692, or even the RC position on biblical canon at the Council of Trent in 1546). Neither, I suggest was a trinitarian concept of God even considered during the 1st C church from their understanding of the OT.

    So, really the early Christian church relied on the teaching of regional senior clerics and bishops to guide them. You only have to do a surface skim of the the first 350 years of doctrinal wrestling to see what a multiplicity of opinion existed. Councils were enforced and certain bishops exiled, then brought back into favour according to the Emperor of the day’s views. Hardly solid ground for the current orthodox trinitarian position.

    Many a long dispute existed over whether homoousios and homoiousios was the correct description of Jesus. Consequently, I find it interesting when a particular view emerges and finally wins the day such that the previously accepted notions of God are deemed heterodox and heretical. Given that scripture is not black and white with neat perimeter lines when it comes to God, Jesus, the Spirit, angels, demons, false gods, satan, the apocalypse, etc it is frankly dangerous to declare something like the trinitarian ‘three persons, one God’ as absolute truth when, as you stated above, the concept is an inference at best if canonical writing.

    There are far more convincing arguments from scripture for alternative, dare I say more ancient and Hebraically authentic, concepts of YHWH and his Son.

  175. Jim says:

    Re your July 4 10:14pm post and the seeming discrepancy between who did the destroying ie Numbers 14 = YHWH, Jude 5 = (potentially) Jesus, Ex 23 = angel of the Lord. That’s the point that Heiser, Segal et al are making. The same event is recorded as being done by YHWH, but also not YHWH. To our conditioned, mostly Platonic Western minds there is a conflict, and it needs resolving. This is why I believe the trinity doctrine was an answer to a question that wouldn’t have been asked by second temple Judaism, or the first believers. It was clearly being asked by later Greco-Roman Christian leaders who wanted clear (extra-biblical) descriptors for the natures of God the Father and Jesus, whilst maintaining certain non-negotiables such as monotheism and God-level divinity in each (or all three ‘God elements’ if the Spirit is included). If you go in with such firm precursors, and include the Holy Spirit as another ‘person’, the trinity concept is what you’ll most likely come up with.

    But, as Heiser argues convincingly, and in a measured and thoroughly scholarly manner, de-Greece the entering arguments and you are closer to a form of semi-Arian binitarianism that would have been almost identical to Paul and the apostles concept of the Most High God and his son Jesus Christ. Just because we can see Jesus in the OT and at times have him as the referent for OT YHWH verses doesn’t actually add to the trinitarian cause. It merely reinforces the idea that God is the ultimate source or author of whatever (life, destruction, blessing), and Jesus acts as the means of delivery, and is viewed and known by man as effectively YHWH, but they also recognise he’s not YHWH.

    Perhaps through a trinitarian lens what I’ve just written makes perfect trinitarian sense as well. I don’t know – is that the case for you?

  176. Craig says:

    Jim,

    As for the Ecumenical Councils, while the Trinity was only very subtly implied at Nicea (325) due to its bare mention of the Holy Spirit, it was very strongly implied at Constantinople 381. The two are placed side-by-side for easy comparison here. Both make the statement that the Son is homoousion tō Patri, of one substance with the Father. In the later Council are the following words for the Holy Spirit:

    [We believe in] the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spake by the prophets.

    Only God gives life and is to be “worshiped and glorified”.

    You wrote: Many a long dispute existed over whether homoousios and homoiousios was the correct description of Jesus.

    This was, as far as I can see a late 3rd century / 4th century argument, with Athanasius the primary spokesman on the former and Arius championing the latter. While it’s true that a Council was convened to settle the issue, the truth of the matter is borne out in Scripture. There are a multitude of Scriptures claiming Christ’s Deity implicitly—see Raymond Brown’s article here in which he answers the question of Christ’s Deity in the 1965 article (though I don’t agree with everything in that article)—it is John 10:30 in context in conjunction with 5:17-19ff that solidifies it. Quoting Brown on 10:30 (his “Notes” section):

    The Father and I are one. This was a key verse in the early Trinitarian controversies…On one extreme, the Monarchians (Sabellians) interpreted it to mean “one person,” although the “one” is neuter, not masculine. On the other extreme, the Arians interpreted this text, which was often used against them, in terms of moral unity of will. The Protestant commentator Bengel, following Augustine, sums up the orthodox position: “Through the word ‘are’ Sabellius is refuted; through the word ‘one’ so is Arius” (p 403).

    Now, keep this in mind as we see his comments accompanying 5:17-18 (bold added):

    Verse 17 must be set against the background of the relation of God to the Sabbath rest. In the commandment concerning the Sabbath (Exod 20:11, but contrast Deut 5:15) we have this explanatory clause: “In six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth…but on the seventh He rested. That is why the Lord has blessed the Sabbath and made it holy.” However, the theologians of Israel realized that God did not really cease to work on the Sabbath. There are a whole series of rabbinic statements (Bernard, I, p. 236; Barrett, p. 213; Dodd, Interpretation, pp. 321–22) to the effect that Divine Providence remained active on the Sabbath, for otherwise, the rabbis reasoned, all nature and life would cease to exist.

    In particular, as regards men, divine activity was visible in two ways: men were born and men died on the Sabbath. Since only God could give life (2 Kings 5:7; 2 Macc 7:22–23) and only God could deal with the fate of the dead in judgment, this meant God was active on the Sabbath. As Rabbi Joḥanan (TalBab Taanith 2a) put it, God has kept in His hand three keys that He entrusts to no agent: the key of the rain, the key of birth (Gen 30:22), and the key of the resurrection of the dead (Ezek 37:13). And it was obvious to the rabbis that God used these keys even on the Sabbath.

    In 5:17 Jesus justifies his work of healing on the Sabbath by calling the attention of “the Jews” to the fact that they admitted that God worked on the Sabbath. That the implications of this argument were immediately apparent is witnessed by the violence of the reaction. For the Jews the Sabbath privilege was peculiar to God, and no one was equal to God (Exod 15:11; Isa 46:5; Ps 89:8). In claiming the right to work even as his Father worked, Jesus was claiming a divine prerogative (pp 216-217).

    In this current article on CrossWise, I took Brown’s thoughts a bit further in part 4. Going to Brown, in his commentary specifically on 5:19, Brown states: …All of this is summed up in 10:30: “The Father and I are one.” As Giblet, “Trinité,” points out, a Johannine passage like vs. 19 ultimately led Christian theologians to an understanding that the Father and the Son possess one nature, one principle of operation (p 218).

    You wrote: …it is frankly dangerous to declare something like the trinitarian ‘three persons, one God’ as absolute truth when, as you stated above, the concept is an inference at best if canonical writing.

    No, I did not state that “the concept is an inference at best” in Scripture. What I wrote was “Nicea and Constantinople sought to make explicit what was implicit in the NT/OT revelation regarding GOD…”. It is strongly implied, though there’s no statement like “Jesus is God” or “Jesus and the Father are of the same substance”, etc. However, when Scripture is viewed as a whole, the Trinitarian doctrine emerges.

    You wrote: Re your July 4 10:14pm post and the seeming discrepancy between who did the destroying ie Numbers 14 = YHWH, Jude 5 = (potentially) Jesus, Ex 23 = angel of the Lord. That’s the point that Heiser, Segal et al are making. The same event is recorded as being done by YHWH, but also not YHWH.

    The context of Jude 5 makes it clear that referent is Jesus, whether one adopts iesous or kyrios as the Greek. The first part of verse 5 speaks of delivering out of Egypt, which is something Ex 23’s angel of the Lord did not do. Hence, when the entirety of verse 5 is considered Jesus = YHWH. That’s not to mention all the other evidence I’ve supplied ad nauseum above.

    You’ve made your beliefs known. I’ve allowed you to engage. But, now we’re pretty much rehashing the same stuff. My stance is that Jesus is portrayed as YHWH, not “not YHWH”, i.e. an “angel of the Lord”. An “angel of the Lord” is a messenger, an agent. Jesus Christ is much more than a mere agent.

  177. Jim says:

    Yep, you’ve shown me some good latitude here, and thank you again. Just so that you’re clear, I’m not arguing against Jude 5 being a likely reference to Jesus, or that Jesus is just a messenger, or agent (although he is presents those roles). Nor do I view the pre-incarnational Jesus as anything other than uniquely of or from YHWH. For me, Jude reinforces the dual manner in which God interacts with humanity, both directly and through Jesus. This is borne out by man recording these events in scripture and using a range of descriptors, titles and words, sometimes consistently, and at other times more ambiguously.

    If the span of scripture is reviewed, it appears to me (and this is where we part ways, I suspect) that there are two entities engaging with man – one YHWH, the Most High God, and his son, a necessarily discrete person, incarnated for one purpose.

    The bottom line seems to be that you have as much difficulty conceiving of Jesus being a YHWH-level deity and not calling polytheism as I do the trinity and not calling modalism (or polytheism). I guess that’s why they had Councils! 🙂

  178. Jim says:

    Craig, whilst your article dealt with the son of man title in Dan 7:13 and Matt 26:64, could you please explain those passages from a Trinitarian perspective. They seem to indicate a very clear separation between son of man (one like a human being ie Jesus) and the Ancient of Days (ie the Father YHWH). Jesus identifies himself to Caiaphas as the same person being introduced to Daniel’s vision of the heavenly court presided over by YHWH.

  179. Craig says:

    Jim,

    I’m not sure exactly what you’re asking, so I’ll respond as best I can.

    Before considering Matt 26:64, I must ask: Are you sure the Ancient of Days is “the Father YHWH”? Compare the description of Dan 7:9 to Rev 1:14 (hair white like wool). Or is Dan 7:9 an anthropomorphic description of YHWH (and yet distinct from the one “like a son of man” in Rev 1:14)?

    But, on the other hand, Dan 7:13 illustrates “one like a son of man” (Jesus, the Son) approaching the Ancient of Days, implying a distinction between the two. But, then again, in Dan 7:22 who is this Ancient of Days who “came, and judgment was pronounced”?

  180. Jim says:

    Is the Ancient of Day YHWH? Highly likely but not absolutely cut and dried. The description is very similar to Ezekiel 1 which would be a good candidate for an encounter with YHWH. Whether hair as white as wool is an anthropomorphic clincher for the same person is probably moot. I’ve not researched it, but I would think it would have been a well-known Judaic descriptor for one who was very elderly, senior in command and wise in nature, much like the way our legal system uses white wool wigs for lawyers and judges. Just a supposition.

    Either way, the interesting thing for me is that these two verses and the others in Dan 7 and Rev 1 all indicate a separateness yet sameness. Two beings who are all but interchangeable (all but, yet not quite, at least not as far as OT Jewish concepts expressed); YHWH and Jesus, so similar, yet discrete. Trinitarianism is a not unreasonable outworking as 2nd and 3rd C Christianity developed its doctrines from this kind of established thinking. However, I would suggest that Athanathius and others who solidified the trinity doctrine departed from what was, and had been for centuries, a scripturally grounded and accepted understanding of the Most High God and man’s pre-incarnate Messiah.

  181. Craig says:

    Jim,

    I do think the Ancient of Days is YHWH, though I would demur from your more specific “the Father YHWH” designation. By that I mean I wouldn’t limit “YHWH” to only the Father.

    I don’t see the “separateness yet sameness” as really any different than Jesus as Son during His earthly ministry as compared with His Father.

  182. Jim says:

    I agree with you Craig. Jesus was equally qualified to be referred to as YHWH, yet his incursions into OT life were still discerned by Jews as not those of the Most High God/Father. And so we circle back to making sure monotheism remains intact in view of two intertwined deity figures. I think the OT view of two powers or highest ‘level’ deities, the higher of which is the focus of the Shema (maintaining monotheism) is simply easier to understand and also more scripturally honest than the average explanation of the trinity, even going back to the 4th C creeds.

    It’s almost as though the orthodox trinity was a doctrine that tried to keep the essence of what had been handed down by the Jewish belief system as it transitioned into Christianity, but also create some clear blue water as it vigorously decoupled from Judaism. At the same time Platonic-based gnosticism was on the rise with a concept of a god and his creative demiurge introducing evil into the world. Again, an unacceptable heresy. Therefore, what became established in response was the trinity doctrine we know, but is it really the right answer? I have to conclude that all the evidence says no.

  183. Craig says:

    I’m not convinced this “two powers” idea was part of Jewish thought before Christ. I’d need some sort of proof to agree with your assertion. I’m inclined to think it was a post-Resurrection reaction as a means by which to accommodate the ‘revised’ Shema of 1 Corinthians 8:6. The (first) Book of Enoch is not proof, as it is clear that the book had numerous additions/revisions and likely more than one author. The Similitudes portion—the one which speaks of the “son of man”—is considered a post-Christian addition.

    While I do believe that Gnosticism—all types of “Christian” or “Jewish” Gnosticism—was a reaction to Christianity, I don’t think it was necessary to establish some sort of competitive doctrine, i.e. the Trinity, as a means by which to counter it. Gnostics posited a false dichotomy between the Jehovah of the OT and the Father of the NT, Jehovah being the demiurge, while the Father is the true God. Yet the NT illustrates that the Son is the vehicle by which God (the Father) created all things. This by itself is antithetical to all forms of Gnosticism.

  184. Jim says:

    My understanding, albeit pretty limited, is that ancient rabbinic teaching and therefore common Jewish understanding was of two deities and one Most High God. This then came into direct competition with early NT church preaching about Jesus and YHWH and, consequently, branded a heresy by 1st C Jewish scholars. Essentially, they probably tried to keep Judaism from being subsumed into Christianity despite having had centuries of knowledge regarding two deities, but without the revelation (bar a few such as Abraham, David and other prophets) that the second deity had been incarnated only decades earlier.

    As to gnosticism, it’s difficult to tie that philosophical stream to any set construct of ideas. The highest order supreme being sits aloof as the lower deity creates his world with in-built error. I’ve not read Jehovah getting a name check in gnosticism however.

  185. Craig says:

    Jim,

    I’ve not ever heard of this “two powers” idea being as early as your claim, so I remain doubtful. It seems that the Shema taken with the first and second commandments would rule out such an idea.

    I agree that gnosticism cannot be distilled into one single set of ideas. Perhaps it’s best to divide up the strands into periods: Platonism (c. 310–90 BC), Middle Platonism (c. 90 BC – AD 300) and Neoplatonism (AD 300+). It’s the (roughly) Middle and later periods which take NT and OT texts, incorporating them into their theologies.

  186. Craig says:

    For a brief synopsis on the thought of Jehovah as the ‘evil creator’, see here: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/04707b.htm

  187. Jim says:

    To quote ‘twopowersinheavendotcom’:

    Twenty-five years ago, rabbinical scholar Alan Segal produced what is still the major work on the idea of two powers in heaven in Jewish thought. Segal argued that the two powers idea was not deemed heretical in Jewish theology until the second century C.E. He carefully traced the roots of the teaching back into the Second Temple era (ca. 200 B.C.E.). Segal was able to establish that the idea’s antecedents were in the Hebrew Bible, specifically passages like Dan 7:9ff., Exo 23:20-23, and Exo 15:3. However, he was unable to discern any coherent religious framework from which these passages and others were conceptually derived. Persian dualism was unacceptable as an explanation since neither of the two powers in heaven were evil. Segal speculated that the divine warrior imagery of the broader ancient near east likely had some relationship.

    In my dissertation (UW-Madison, 2004) I argued that Segal’s instincts were correct. My own work bridges the gap between his book and the Hebrew Bible understood in its Canaanite religious context. I suggest that the “original model” for the two powers idea was the role of the vice-regent of the divine council. The paradigm of a high sovereign God (El) who rules heaven and earth through the agency of a second, appointed god (Baal) became part of Israelite religion, albeit with some modification. For the orthodox Israelite, Yahweh was both sovereign and vice regent—occupying both “slots” as it were at the head of the divine council. The binitarian portrayal of Yahweh in the Hebrew Bible was motivated by this belief. The ancient Israelite knew two Yahwehs—one invisible, a spirit, the other visible, often in human form. The two Yahwehs at times appear together in the text, at times being distinguished, at other times not.

    Early Judaism understood this portrayal and its rationale. There was no sense of a violation of monotheism since either figure was indeed Yahweh. There was no second distinct god running the affairs of the cosmos. During the Second Temple period, Jewish theologians and writers speculated on an identity for the second Yahweh. Guesses ranged from divinized humans from the stories of the Hebrew Bible to exalted angels. These speculations were not considered unorthodox. That acceptance changed when certain Jews, the early Christians, connected Jesus with this orthodox Jewish idea. This explains why these Jews, the first converts to following Jesus the Christ, could simultaneously worship the God of Israel and Jesus, and yet refuse to acknowledge any other god. Jesus was the incarnate second Yahweh. In response, as Segal’s work demonstrated, Judaism pronounced the two powers teaching a heresy sometime in the second century A.D.

    Dr Michael Heiser

  188. Craig says:

    Thanks for posting this. I think if you read Heiser carefully here he is agreeing with Segal, which I’ll provide via a blog post by Larry Hurtado on Segal’s work, along with his responses to comments on the thread: https://larryhurtado.wordpress.com/2013/07/12/two-powers-in-heaven-is-back/. The comments section references Heiser, and Hurtado responds.

  189. Jim says:

    I’ll take a look – thanks Craig. Not sure if I’ve suggested this paper before but you might be interested in ‘Two Powers and Early Jewish and Christian Monotheism’ (McGrath and Truex, Butler University, 2004). Easily downloadable in pdf. They quote a good deal of Segal’s work, but also reference Hurtado quite frequently too.

  190. Jim says:

    Seems Hurtado is fairly sympathetic even complimentary towards Heiser. To me, what they both understand is that there is whole divine and cosmological comprehension active in ancient Jewish and Middle East societies, 1st C early church apostles and fathers, and 4th C creedal advocates that (strangely enough) aren’t anything like the same as ours today. That fact alone should make us tread so carefully with respect to our doctrines.

  191. Craig says:

    Jim,

    My point in hyperlinking to Hurtado’s blog post is to illustrate the following:

    In an analysis that I found (and still find) persuasive, Segal identified two types of such “heretics” in these rabbinic reports: (1) an earlier type in which two “complementary” divine figures are involved, and (2) a later type in which two opposing divine figures are pictured. Segal cogently proposed that the latter type was likely Jewish “gnostics”, who referred to a good/high deity and an inferior/evil creator-deity (“demiurge”), and that the earlier type was likely Jewish Christians, who pictured Jesus as sharing divine glory and status with “God” (“the Father”).

    In using the term “Jewish Christians” Hurtado implies that this {#(1)} occurred post-Easter, which means that this two powers idea was a reaction to Christianity rather than a doctrine which preceded it.

    There’s no doubt the 4th century creeds are a doctrinal development; however, they are based on Scripture. Prior to this time, not much ink had been given to the Holy Spirit. Keep in mind that all Councils were convened in response to heretical notions (or, if you like, doctrinal disputes).

  192. Craig says:

    Let me also add the following, from Hurtado’s comment to Dante Aligheri:

    …the more important matter (for ancient Jews) was cultus (worship, esp. sacrifice), and there is no indication of any duality in the worship practice of 2nd temple Jews. This is what makes the obvious duality in earliest Christian worship practice so noteworthy.

    Once again, this implies that the “two powers” idea was Christian, i.e. post-Easter, development, which was distinct from and absent in all 2nd Temple Jewish practice.

  193. Jim says:

    Conversely though, there seems to be plenty of scholarly and scriptural evidence that ‘two powers in heaven, but a single focus of worship’ was the standard operating practice BC. It was only when Jesus opened the eyes of the disciples (the road to Emmaus being a classic example) to who he was with respect to OT scripture that it began to dawn on them that the ‘second power’ was Jesus, and therefore totally worthy of worship, as had YHWH been down the centuries.

  194. Craig says:

    Jim,

    Here, show this to your son: William Parker’s IN ORDER TO SURVIVE // “Criminals In The White House” (Note that this was recorded in the Obama era). This is “inside/outside” jazz (it goes very “outside”/free at times). I came across this yesterday, and I’ve already listened to it three times.

    Ten years ago I saw a show with the bassist, drummer, alto sax player and trumpeter. The best show I’d ever seen. I could watch the drummer, Hamid Drake, all night, as he plays complicated rhythms and polyrhythms seemingly effortlessly. This is the first I’d heard of this pianist. Great stuff!

  195. Jim says:

    I will – thanks Craig. I watched the first 3 mins and it’s pretty crazy. He’ll love it!

  196. Craig says:

    No, it gets ‘crazy’ after that!

    This is probably more palatable–a duo of drums and vibraphone (I always loved the sound of the vibes): Pasquale Mirra meets Hamid Drake. The first 1:48 is the intro. After that the ‘groove’ begins.

  197. Arwen4CJ says:

    Hey all. It has been a while since I have visited this blog. I like to check in every once in awhile to see what is going on here.

    I read only the first 10-20 comments on this article, so I only read part if the discussion here, so I may not have a complete understanding of the discussion, but it seems that there is a discussion going on over whether or not Jesus is YHWH.

    No one seems to be questioning that the Father is YHWH (I actually did get into a discussion with someone who did not believe that the Father was YHWH). I think that most people who study the Bible believe that the Father is YHWH.

    However, there are quite a few people who are not sure whether Jesus is, or who outright deny that Jesus is YHWH. The same could be said for the Holy Spirit. There are people who deny that the Holy Spirit is YHWH.

    To me, the whole thing boils down to this:
    1.) Is YHWH the one and only true God?

    2.) YHWH declares over and over again in the OT that He alone is God.

    3.) The Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are all identified as God.

    4.) Thus, all of God = YHWH
    The Father = YHWH
    Jesus = YHWH
    The Holy Spirit = YHWH

    The whole Triune God can be called YHWH, and you would be correct.
    The Father can be called YHWH, and you would be correct.
    Jesus can be called YHWH, and you would be correct.
    The Holy Spirit can be called YHWH, and you would be correct.

    This is the only logical conclusion that makes sense to my brain. Otherwise you would either have more than one true god (YHWH and something else), or you have no distinction in Persons, and Jesus would be the Father, and Jesus would be the Holy Spirit, which makes no sense in Scripture.

  198. Craig says:

    Arwen4CJ

    You get no arguments from me!

    A good many of the consistent commenters of yore are either silent or no longer reading. Glad you still ‘peek’ in.

  199. Arwen4CJ says:

    I read how you said you were talking to Jews about the Trinity. I talked to a Jewish person online several years ago who was from Israel, and he had no knowledge of Christianity or Christian theology. I mentioned the Holy Spirit in a conversation, and he immediately knew that the Holy Spirit was God from Genesis.

    We got into some really good discussions. I told him about Jesus, and he was very interested. He was even more interested when I told him that we used his whole Bible as Scripture too, and that I too knew of Genesis, and knew what he was talking about with the Holy Spirit being identified as God in Genesis.

  200. Craig says:

    From what I understand, most Jews identify the “Holy Spirit” as God’s Spirit, i.e., not as a separate “Person” (in the Trinitarian sense), but as an aspect of God.

  201. Arwen4CJ says:

    Hmmm…. The guy I mentioned seemed to believe the Holy Spirit was actually God, but probably did not have a defined idea about how this was. He believed the Holy Spirit was God Himself, but probably had not thought about Him being a separate “Person” from the “Father.” It was like an undefined way of thinking of the Holy Spirit as God…

    Either way, at least it is a start to thinking about God as more than one Person. This guy was open to the idea that the Messiah was God as well, and that Jesus was the Messiah. He was really impressed by the things Jesus did and said, when I gave him a link to an online copy of the Bible.

  202. Arwen4CJ says:

    Hey Jim….if you are still around, what do you think of the NASB translation of Zechariah 12:10?

    “I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn.”

  203. Arwen4CJ says:

    I’m reading through some of the other comments now, and, Jim, you brought up Jude 1:5 as part of your argument for why Jesus isn’t YHWH. However, my study Bible has a note on “the Lord” in that verse which states that two early manuscripts have “Jesus” there instead of “Lord.”

    I think it is important here to note that it is two early manuscripts rather than two later manuscripts. What if those two early manuscripts were the correct ones…they would have been closer to the actual original than later manuscripts. Perhaps people copying manuscripts later thought that it would be too difficult for people to believe that it was Jesus in that passage, or they wanted to make it consistent, or they simply wanted to refer to Jesus as “the Lord” instead of using Jesus’ name.

    If the oldest copies actually say “Jesus” there, then it strongly suggests that Jesus is YHWH.

  204. Craig says:

    Arwen4CJ,

    I wrote an article on Jude 5. I thought I’d included a link to it in the ensuing discussion. In any case, the newest Greek critical text (NA28/UBS5) places Ιησους (Jesus) in the text, and many modern versions have changed the translation to “Jesus”.

  205. Arwen4CJ says:

    Thanks, Craig. Interesting. I hadn’t heard that. I guess I have “older” modern translations now. I had heard, though, that the original NASB translation used “Jesus” there, but mine is the 1995 translation, which uses “Lord” there.

    Maybe in their next update they will include/already have included “Jesus” again and put “Lord in the footnotes.

  206. Arwen4CJ says:

    Sadly, I have to add that what Jim is exposing actually seems to be the majority viewpoint in many mainline denominations today (that view or a total deny of Jesus’ deity). From my interactions with non-Trinitarians, many of them seem to think that Jim’s view is what Trinitarian belief is.

    I think if a poll were to be conducted in many mainline churches, the result would be a large portion of the people would be in agreement with Jim.

    Many people seem to misunderstand what the Trinity is, and they end up with some sort of Big and little gods viewpoint. I saw this in my introduction to theology class and also in my church history class. Even my pastor made a comment that he was confused whether or not YHWH was the whole Trinity or just the Father.

    The result is some strangeness in mainline denominations where the official position of the denomination/church is orthodox, yet most people don’t understand what the orthodox viewpoint is. People believe that God the Father is YHWH, and that Jesus is somehow a separate god, but can still be worshipped.

    I’m not sure why this belief is so rampant. I’ve mentioned this before, but I have heard several people make a comment that Jesus wasn’t God until after His resurrection. I’m not sure how people can be okay with that, worshipping something other than YHWH, in their belief systems. I guess it doesn’t bother people to worship more than one god, or to have more than one god in their theology.

    There is a tendency, too, in some non-denominational and charismatic settings to swing the other way — and have a Jesus Only belief system. A belief system where they believe that Jesus is all of YHWH, thus denying the Father and the Holy Spirit as separate Persons within YHWH.

    Then there are people like Johnson who have a more gnostic/mystical/New Age view.

  207. Craig says:

    The ‘Jesus-only’ belief is the heresy of Sabellianism, aka modalism–that God is only either Father, Son or Spirit at one time. The NT is the period of the Son, whereas now is the time of the Spirit–according to some adherents.

  208. Arwen4CJ says:

    Craig,

    There seems to be some variation in the whole Jesus Only beliefs — at least of the people I have talked with online who adhere to it. Yes, it is the heresy of Sabellianism/modalism.

    Of those that I have talked with who believed in it, they put a strong emphasis on their belief that Jesus IS the Father, and that Jesus IS the Holy Spirit, which directly contradicts trinitarian belief, especially the Athanasian Creed.

    While some of them might say now is the time of the Spirit, I have never hard any of them say this. Rather, I have heard them say that the Holy Spirit is named Jesus, as is the Father. (In other words, the Holy Spirit and the Father are simply names for different roles that Jesus has taken on throughout time).

    I have heard them say that when Jesus prays to the Father, the human part of Jesus is praying to His divine self, which makes no sense to me. They claim that the Father is the name of Jesus’ divine self.

    This is probably a different variant of the ancient variety of modalism, but it is modalism nonetheless.

  209. Jim says:

    Arwen, I would view Zech 12:10 in the same way that Ps 110;1 is understood by Christians reading the Jewish texts for examples of a plurality in the Godhead, or YHWH. I just don’t buy the trinity method of squaring the circle where scripture points to two deity figures but also monotheism.

    My experience is that generally people hold to your articulation of the trinity rather than my more binitarian version. In fact, the view taking hold more strongly is a mystical understanding espoused by WP Young, Rob Bell, Richard Rohr and others of a ‘divine dance’ or flow concept. That a constant flow of emptying and filling is occurring between the members of the trinity. It’s firmly wedded to New Ageism, but that’s probably a key part of the attraction.

  210. Craig says:

    Jim,

    You are describing the so-called Social Trinity model, and I’ve seen this espoused in scholarly circles as well. And, while I don’t think all adherents to this model come at it from the New Age angle, I think most do. I’ve even seen a feminist, anti-capitalist model of the Social Trinity. That one takes some mental gymnastics!

    I was going to write an article on the Social Trinity, but, like many others, it’s been sidetracked…

  211. Arwen4CJ says:

    Jim,

    Thanks for responding. The reason I specifically asked about Zechariah 12:10 is because it is Yahweh speaking, and yet He uses two pronouns to refer to Himself — “Me” and “He.” Also the “Me” there seems to be referring to Jesus, since Jesus, not the Father, was pierced.

    Okay, so if you acknowledge that there can be purity in the Godhead, or YHWH, what makes it difficult for you to buy the Trinitarian understanding of God? In your understanding, why can’t Jesus be YHWH along with the Father? Why must Jesus be some separate deity?

    I cannot see how Scripture can point to two deity figures without both figures being YHWH. Otherwise it can’t be monotheism because you would end up with two gods — YHWH and something that isn’t YHWH.

    For my counseling degree, I didn’t get too much into different theories of the Trinity. I heard of the Social Trinity, but I didn’t really have to engage with the idea too much. I am not really comfortable with humans trying to define just exactly how the Trinity works, as I feel like there is too much room for error. People can get way off when they make theories that go beyond what we find in Scripture. What can be defined from Scripture using logic is fine — we have do some of that — but when we start making up theories about how the Persons of the Trinity interact with one another, when that isn’t clearly defined in Scripture, can really lead people astray.

    Mysticism itself is very dangerous. It leaves people open to heavy deception. I don’t know too much about any of the people you mentioned, although I have heard of Rob Bell. I know he wrote a couple popular books, but I did not read them. I know he is popular in some Christian circles.

    Do you know if those individuals are popular in hyper-charismatic circles, such as at Bill Johnson’s church?

  212. Arwen4CJ says:

    After googling Richard Rohr, I found this quote by him:

    “Question of the Day:
    What is the difference between Jesus and the Christ?

    To understand Jesus in a whole new way, we must first know that Christ is not his last name, but his transformed identity after the Resurrection — which takes humanity and all of creation along in its sweet path. Jesus became the Christ, which existed from the moment of the Big Bang and included us in this divine identity. This is pretty amazing stuff, unappreciated by most Christians, it seems.

    That’s why Paul will create the new term “the body of Christ,” which clearly includes all of us. So think of the good Jesus, who has to die to what seems like him–so that he can rise as the Christ. It is not a “bad” man who must die on the cross, but a good man (“false self”) — so that he can be a much larger man (“True Self”). Jesus dies, Christ rises. The false self is not the bad self; it is just not the true self. It is inadequate, and thus needy and small, symbolized by Jesus’ human body, which he let go of.”

    My reaction:
    This is definitely New Age and reminds me of some things that Johnson’s theology suggests.

  213. Jim says:

    I hope the side-tracks are still productive though, Craig.

    As to your last line Arwen, I’m not aware they have much participation in ‘charismania’, but I get a sense that such expressions will coalesce and gravitate since both the mystical and charismatic focus clearly on the experiential as the cornerstone of their ‘gospel’.

    The reason I am not convinced about trinitarianism is similar to why I’m not convinced about biblical evidence for a pre-tribulation rapture or manifest sons of God doctrines – these come from very late interpretations of certain scriptures along thematic lines, such as eschatology. The trinity was, in my opinion, an early example of Platonic decoupling from long-held Jewish expression of YHWH in which a single Most High God was accompanied, and ‘operated’ through a co-substantial vice-regent, the latter who we know as Jesus of Nazareth. They were quite happy worshipping God in this form, still calling it monotheism, but it seems to omit the mental gymnastics and conflicting statements required by orthodox trinitarianism.

  214. Craig says:

    Jim,

    While I don’t have ADD, it seems recently I’ve been acting like it. I can’t seem to finish writing projects. I’ve not even finished the most recent article. Part of the issue is trying to figure out a way to define the Greek perfect verb tense in a way that isn’t too confusing.

    Then there are other things going on. I’ve also spent a good deal of time researching the current socio-political climate. It’s a mess. And, I’m convinced it’s all because of New Age-y thinking and New World Order agendas. Common sense, logic, and common decency all seem to be in short supply. But, that’s a whole ‘nuther topic not for this thread…

  215. Arwen4CJ says:

    Jim,

    I know that theologically liberal “Christianity” has gone in the mystical direction. John Shelby Spong and other scholars like him have embraced New Thought theology. Spong spoke at a Unity Church event in which he said that he hoped that New Thought would be the future of Christianity, and he praised Mary Baker Eddy for her “Keys to the Scriptures.”

    And, yeah, the hyper-charismatics are very much into the experiential. They base their truth on whether or not something feels good, whether or not they feel God’s presence, etc.

    As for pre-tribulation — I don’t necessarily buy into it because I don’t see enough evidence for it in Scripture. I see how some Scripture passages could be interpreted to include it. At the same time, I don’t see anything in Scripture that would go against it. It’s simply not something that I really think much about. What I concentrate on is what is in Scripture — and that is that Jesus will return someday, there will be a resurrection, and there will be a final judgment. Any more than what Scripture teaches is to risk emphasizing a non-essential. Whether a person believes in the pre-tribulation is not a salvation issue, and it says nothing about a person’s orthodoxy. Orthodox Christians believe in it, and orthodox Christians do not believe in it.

    However, like you, I do reject Manifest Sons of God doctrine. However, I do this for a different reason. I reject it because it clearly goes against Scripture.

    While tradition can help in determining whether or not something is sound, it is not the main basis for which I think we should evaluate teachings. Rather, the measure that should be used is Scripture itself. We have to go to where the evidence leads in Scripture itself. Forget whether or not something is human tradition for a moment. We can’t let that bias our opinion.

    Scripture itself points to a Trinitarian view of God. Sure, there is no word called “trinity” found anywhere in the Bible. However, the concept, I believe, is Scriptural. Any other interpretation leads to going against several Bible passages.

    Isaiah 44:6-8 NASB
    6 “Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts:

    ‘I am the first and I am the last,
    And there is no God besides Me.
    7 ‘Who is like Me? Let him proclaim and declare it;
    Yes, let him recount it to Me in order,
    From the time that I established the ancient nation.
    And let them declare to them the things that are coming
    And the events that are going to take place.
    8 ‘Do not tremble and do not be afraid;
    Have I not long since announced it to you and declared it?
    And you are My witnesses.
    Is there any God besides Me,
    Or is there any other Rock?
    I know of none.’”

    Here, YHWH says that He is the King of Israel and his Redeemer. He also refers to Himself as the first and the last. Then He says that there is no God besides Him. That would rule out there being a YHWH and something like YHWH but that wasn’t YHWH. He further says that there is no God besides Him again, and that there is no other Rock.

    Isaiah 44:24 (NASB)
    24 Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, and the one who formed you from the womb,

    “I, the LORD, am the maker of all things,
    Stretching out the heavens by Myself
    And spreading out the earth all alone,

    Here YHWH says that He is the maker of all things, and that He stretched out the heavens by Himself, and spreading out the earth all alone. To me, this suggests that nothing that was not YHWH created things. He created things all by Himself. Since we know from John and other books that Jesus created all things, then this must mean that Jesus is YHWH too.

    Isaiah 45:5-7 (NASB)
    “I am the LORD, and there is no other;
    Besides Me there is no God.
    I will gird you, though you have not known Me;
    6 That men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun
    That there is no one besides Me.
    I am the LORD, and there is no other,
    7 The One forming light and creating darkness,
    Causing well-being and creating calamity;
    I am the LORD who does all these.

    Once again YHWH says that there is no other. Besides Him there is no God.

    YHWH repeats this elsewhere in Isiah 45. Then we get to this part of Isaiah 45….

    Isaiah 45:21-25 (NASB)
    21 “Declare and set forth your case;
    Indeed, let them consult together.
    Who has announced this from of old?
    Who has long since declared it?
    Is it not I, the LORD?
    And there is no other God besides Me,
    A righteous God and a Savior;
    There is none except Me.
    22 “Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth;
    For I am God, and there is no other.
    23 “I have sworn by Myself,
    The word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness
    And will not turn back,
    That to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance.
    24 “They will say of Me, ‘Only in the LORD are righteousness and strength.’
    Men will come to Him,
    And all who were angry at Him will be put to shame.
    25 “In the LORD all the offspring of Israel
    Will be justified and will glory.”

    YHWH once again declares that there is no god except Him. Furthermore, to Him He says that every knee will bow, and every tongue will swear allegiance. Plus…in YHWH all the offspring of Israel will be justified and will glory….

    To me, this strongly points to Jesus….not only that, but this is very similar to a passage in Philippians….

    I don’t see how a vice regent is Scriptural, regardless of whether or not some ancient Jews subscribed to that belief. YHWH says that He alone is God. There can be no big god and little god here. Scripture just doesn’t allow for that unless passages like the ones I quoted above are interpreted in such a way as to avoid a Trinitarian conclusion.

  216. Jim says:

    Arwen, Craig and I discussed Isaiah and references to being the First and Last and also Jesus declaring the same about himself in Rev 1. I think we would both agree that Jesus is the total expression of God towards man and within the universe (Col 1:15-19). In other words, he was the point of connection between God and man – for atonement, reconciliation, our first fruit blessed hope of resurrection, and many more. In much the same way, God connected with man in OT times through the pre-incarnate and Son formed from God in eternity past (John 17:5), who is referred to variously as YHWH, Adonai, elohim, angel of the Lord, captain of the Lord’s armies. By vice-regent I mean there is this clear scriptural sense that the Son of God/Son of Man was YHWH’s instrument to engage with humanity.

    They co-rule the universe and preside over a divine council comprising different orders of spirit beings. Job 1 is a good picture of the council, but there are numerous others. Jesus the eternal Son could be seen as equal to YHWH, and therefore lay claim to all his names and titles, but chooses to be subordinate in so many instances, not least when describing himself while on earth. Paul sums all this up perfectly in so many introductions to his letters. Eg 1 Cor 1:3 – ‘Grace and peace to you from God our Father (monotheism intact) and the Lord Jesus Christ’ (co-deity and means by which we connect with the Father as in 1 Cor 1:9). He doesn’t hint at trinitarianism.

    So I do find it bemusing when people appeal to scripture for trinitarian proofs when scripture actually articulates a very obvious and transparent non-trinitarian perspective if read at face value. Trinitarianism is only arrived at if we take a plurality of divinity (Father and Jesus) but try to frame that in singular God terms like the Father is God, Jesus is God and the HS is God, but the Father isn’t Jesus or the HS, Jesus isn’t the Father or HS, and the HS isn’t the Father or Jesus. It descends into modalism or simply called a ‘mystery’ which we’re not supposed to understand.

    I actually believe God made himself very understandable and straightforward to grasp. If you want to do some extra research look up Michael Heiser’s stuff on the Divine Council, and Alan Segal’s work on Two Powers in Heaven and park your current understanding briefly. The reason I like these constructs is that they have a strong foundation in Hebrew thought and writings, and don’t pander to Greek philosophical leanings which so influenced the doctrinal councils in the 2-4th centuries. Bottom line, Arwen, is that where we are today with Bethel and whacked out New Age ‘christian’ mysticism is due in large part to the gnostic neo-Platonic roots of the eternal soul theories, knowledge as a means to ‘ascend’ and trinitarianism leading to ‘divine dances’. Those roots, in my opinion, go back to Nicea.

    BTW, Rohr is really out there isn’t he? But I watched Rob Bell interview him and they were best buddies!

  217. Arwen4CJ says:

    Jim,

    Now, of course concluding that there is only one God (YHWH) is only the first part of coming to the conclusion that Scripture points to YHWH being triune. However, this conclusion (that there is only one God) is essential, otherwise people could draw a tritheism viewpoint, which would violate all the above Scriptures, and many more.

    Not only do we see that YHWH is the one and only God, but we also see that there is a plurality within YHWH, which you already know, and you already agree is in Scripture. Some of the passages quoted earlier show this. In the OT, this is as far as you can really go….because that is as far as YHWH had revealed Himself to people.

    Some Jews may have been able to see that there were more than one Persons who were God, and that the Messiah would actually be YHWH. Some Jews may have seen that the Holy Spirit was YHWH. Some of them may or may not have understood these as different Persons within YHWH. If so, then the Holy Spirit would have revealed it to these individuals because it isn’t clearly defined in the OT.

    For that reason, I find it hard to understand why you want to base all your views about YHWH off of an OT understanding of theology that may or may not have actually existed. There could have been a theology based off of the OT that some Jews held to that somehow ignored the passages from Isaiah and other places in the Bible, and thought that there was YHWH and another god that was close to Him. However, that is a flimsy thing to base doctrine upon.

    When Jesus came into the world as a human (and yet still fully YHWH), He was able to reveal more of God to us. From the NT, the plurality within YHWH can be further defined. Jesus was on earth, and He prayed to the Father and spoke about the Father. The Father is YHWH, but Jesus is as well. The Holy Spirit made equal with the Father and Jesus because of how Jesus talks about Him. If the Father and Jesus are both YHWH, then so must the Holy Spirit be.

    Read through John 14:16-16:15. Look how Jesus talks about the Holy Spirit. From these passages, the Holy Spirit is obviously not the Father, and He isn’t Jesus. However, He is a Person. He does things that only a “Someone” can do.

    The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are discussed throughout the NT and treated as YHWH, yet the Persons are not each other.

    I really see the Trinity as the only doctrine that can be formed with all this information. That’s just where the evidence leads, and so I accept it as truth.

  218. Arwen4CJ says:

    Jim,

    Thanks for your reply. However, I think you missed the point of why I quoted from Isaiah. I wasn’t going the First and Last route. Yes, there is a correlation between that and Revelation chapter 1 and other places in Revelation were there is the “First and Last” and “Beginning and End” and “Alpha and Omega.” However, that wasn’t where I was trying to go by including that line in the passage above.

    I included those passages because they seemed to go against the YHWH and something close to being YHWH argument. YHWH says He ALONE is God, and that there is no god except for Him.

    If passages that refer to the Father as God make the Father YHWH, then what about passages that call the Son God, such as 2 Peter 1:1 (NASB)?
    1 Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ,

    To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ:

    and

    Titus 2:11-14 (NASB)
    11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, 12 instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, 14 who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.

    and

    Romans 9:1-5 (NASB)
    9 I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, 2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, 4 who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, 5 whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.

    I agree that the pre-incarnate Christ was YHWH’s instrument by which to communicate with people in the OT times…but not merely as an instrument, but as YHWH Himself. That is the point that we seem to differ on. I believe that Jesus is YHWH, and you believe Him to be something close to YHWH, even equal to YHWH, but not YHWH Himself.

    I can see the Persons of YHWH ruling over angels and whatnot as some sort of Council, but yet, there is still a distinction between YHWH and all created things. I cannot, however, see a divine Council as consisting of YHWH (as being only the Father) and something close to YHWH, but not YHWH ruling over it.

    I think you are understanding modalism differently. What you described is not modalism. Modalism requires that there only be one in the Godhead, and that this one in the Godhead takes on different roles. As an example, the modalists I have talked with claim that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are just different names for roles that Jesus has taken on. They do not believe in the Person of the Father or the Person of the Son, or the Person of the Holy Spirit.

    So…modalists might say that when the Son was praying to the Father, that was the human Jesus (the Son) praying to HIs divine self (the Father). They might say that the Holy Spirit is the name for Jesus’ power at work today. Some modalists would say that it was the Father who died on the cross. There are probably different varieties of modalism, but they all would deny that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are separate Persons.

    In trinitarian belief, while the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all YHWH, (the same God), there is a plurality within Him. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are separate Persons. As such, all three are in existence at the same time, all three can interact with each other. They are not three different gods, but they are not each other.

    Do you see the difference?

    I understand that you want to avoid Greek thought. Unfortunately, I don’t think we can completely avoid it. It is part of our culture. It was part of the culture of the NT. I agree that we should avoid concepts if they are not founded on/supported from Scripture. At the same time, we shouldn’t reject something just because it has some Greek influence, as long as the doctrine is founded in Scripture.

    I read an article written by a pastor who was raised Jewish. He talked about how unfortunate it was that Greek thought is so prevalent within Christianity. He thinks things would be a lot simpler if we used more Jewish thought. He talked about how Jews accepted truth in blocks rather than how the Greeks had linear thinking. By the way, he is a trinitarian.

    It is unfair to blame the social dance on the doctrine of the Trinity. Belief in the Trinity in no way requires that conclusion. It’s like anything else — any belief can be corrupted. Not everything that originates or has any connection to Greek thought is bad or wrong, necessarily.

    I’ll look into Michael Heiser and Alan Segal.

    I am no fan of Rob Bell. It’s unfortunate that some of these individuals have gotten together to collaborate on false doctrines. Yeah, Rohr seems pretty far out there.

  219. Craig says:

    Jim,

    I’d already shown below, via a link to Hurtado’s blog, that Segal’s ‘Two Powers’ in Jewish writings was a post-Easter thing. That is, it was an obvious reaction to Christianity. And, as Arwen notes, Trinitarianism mustn’t lead to a ‘divine dance’. Social Trinitarianism is, though not solely, mostly a New Age–which is Neo-Gnostic–imposition on the Trinity.

  220. Arwen4CJ says:

    Jim,

    I just did a little googling of both Hurtado and Segal. From what I could find of them, I cannot agree with the Divine Council idea at all. I cannot agree with there being more than one God in the universe, though I do believe that there are angels and demons. I cannot deny that Jesus is YHWH, as is the Father.

    As for Segal, when I looked him up, it is clear that he was Jewish, and I cannot find that he ever came to faith in Jesus. Maybe he did and I didn’t see it, but I couldn’t find it. The fact that he comes at Christianity and Christian beliefs from a non-Christian perspective says to me that we shouldn’t take his findings or thoughts over Scripture itself. I’m not saying that we cannot learn from non-Christians, or that nothing he said was of value. I believe it is important and valuable to consider what non-Christians think of Jesus and Christianity, but we should not base our Christian theology upon it. Our theology should come from Scripture.

    As such, I will say that the Two Powers theory is interesting, but I cannot buy into it as truth. I cannot buy into any doctrine that denies that Jesus is YHWH in the same way that the Father is YHWH. Otherwise you end up with more than one god.

  221. Jim says:

    Arwen, thanks for taking the time to dig into some of my references and writing thoughtful posts about your trinitarian position

    Dan 7:9-14 is an interesting passage, and one that Craig has done a good deal of study into. You can read his conclusions, but my take is that it portrays both a divine council session and a clear separation between YHWH and the Lord or Son of Man (Jesus). That said, please don’t understand me as thinking pre-incarnate Jesus as a created being. He came from the Father, from the being of the Most High God, in pre-creation past. But there are verses that indicate there was a ‘time’ when he was not, rather than the eternal sonship doctrine.

    If he is of the same divine nature as YHWH, you would likely say he is YHWH. I would say, he could claim to be but doesn’t, but that man would say he is the total representation of YHWH, and so can be taken as such. I’m not sure if you can see the difference. Two persons, one in nature and authority over creation. One the Most High, one the Lord Jesus Christ. Call it binitarianism if you this gusts too closely into two gods.

    I see the Holy Spirit as a description, almost a verb not a proper noun, of YHWH’s and Jesus’s interaction with the world. Jesus said that he and the Father would come to dwell in believers.

  222. Jim says:

    The personification of the Holy Spirit is, in my view, an unnecessarily linear extension of the way the Greek is translated, our one-dimensional understanding of pneuma, and essentially just a way of describing God’s manifestation in and through believers. A person is not held in view by the NT writers overall.

  223. Arwen4CJ says:

    Jim,

    And thank you for sharing your views with me here as well.

    I can see why you interpret Daniel 7:9-14 the way that you do. Taken the passage by itself, it seems as though the Ancient of Days (YHWH) is separate from the Son of Man. However, it seems to me that the Son of Man here is understood to be YHWH as well, since when Jesus used a reference to that passage at His trial, the high priest condemned Jesus for blasphemy.

    The passage doesn’t say anything against the Trinity — it does not deny the Messiah’s deity. Depending on what translation you use, you could say that it actually supports it. (The NIV says let all the nations worship Him instead of serve Him, which would imply that the Messiah would have to be YHWH as well).

    What the passage doesn’t say, though, is that there are other gods besides YHWH. It talks about YHWH holding court, but that doesn’t mean it is a court with other/lesser gods. It could simply be a court in heaven where angels are present. There is no reason to say that they are gods.

    Doctrine should never be reached based on examining just one passage. We have to look at Scripture as a whole to see where the evidence leads. Elsewhere in the Bible Jesus is called God. Since YHWH is the one and only God, Jesus has to be YHWH.

    Therefore, what we have going on in Daniel 7:9-14 is a case of the plurality within YHWH. The Father is clearly identified here as YHWH, but this does not mean that the pre-incarnate Jesus cannot be YHWH as well.

    If I understand you correctly, you believe that Jesus is a lesser god who is ruled over by the Father (who you believe to be the only Person who is YHWH). Jesus is a lesser god, who is close to YHWH’s level, but who isn’t YHWH Himself. You will even concede that Jesus is a god who is on the same level as YHWH and who rules with YHWH, and that together Jesus and YHWH rule over a council of lesser gods. Do I understand your position correctly?

    The difference for me is whether or not Jesus is YHWH. There is a big difference between being YHWH and being close to being YHWH, but not YHWH. If there is a Most High and a non-Most High, this amounts to there being more than one god. This goes back to whether or not YHWH is the one and only God. What you conclude about this influences how you view the Son.

    We are both in agreement that there are at least two Persons here — the Father and the Son, and that there is a difference between the Father and the Son (in other words, the Father is not the Son, and the Son is not the Father). We’re also both in agreement that the Father is YHWH.

    Where we differ, though is over how many gods are in the universe, and who exactly Jesus is. We differ in whether or not Jesus IS YHWH (and in whether or not the Holy Spirit is a Person and is YHWH).

    My next question would be – how does a verb lead people into truth? How does a verb comfort people? How doers a verb convict people of sin and lead them into righteousness?

  224. Jim says:

    Any reference to other gods comes from Elohim which of course is used at times for the Most High God as well as lesser spirit entities.

    As far as the Holy Spirit goes, a doing function seems more suitable than an anthropomorphic one. When Jesus says i will send another counsellor I don’t think he means another person but rather himself in non physical form.

    Holy Spirit = Spirit of God = Spirit of Christ = the action of God in and through a believer.

  225. Jim says:

    Arwen, I was reading Is 42 during a lull in church proceedings today (as you do!) and verse 8 is interesting when contrasted with John 17:5 when Jesus is praying to the Father asking for the glory he had with him since before the creation. If, according to Is 42:8, YHWH yields none of his glory to another, those verses would play into a ‘Jesus is YHWH’ case nicely.

    That said, if we take all the scripture that describe YHWH and another who is of YHWH-level divinity, but not him, does that necessarily mean two Gods? Difficult though it is to fully paint the entire canvass of God, a kind of ‘conjoined’ Father Son YHWH fits best to my thinking. Identifiably different, but still the essential sameness. That might seem like semantics to you and be another way of looking at what you believe to be the trinity to be (but as a binity). The unifying nature is clear from the interchangeable terms, but the many references to two persons, such as Dan 7, and the role Jesus played in creation and his continued sustainment of it all point to being a divine being.

    Is that markedly different to where you’re coming from, the personhood of the Holy Spirit notwithstanding? There is a strong case to the breath, spirit, ruach, pneuma of God entering Adam to create physical life, to the breath, future resurrection life and transforming presence of God that enters a brand new believer who becomes a new creation. Neither require a third ‘person’ of God.

  226. Jim says:

    Im assuming your perspective of 3 persons but one YHWH (the name of the Godhead?) is that they are individual entities but all one identical God nature or substance. Would that be close? Seems to be orthodox trinitarianism. I would agree that YHWH the Most High God (you’d think there would be a hierarchy of gods to be the highest) is so close in nature to the Son that was formed from him that, to all intents, they are indistinguishable. When the prophets wrote about them, they used names and titles that could be for both. To them they were equal in magnificence and worthy of honour and praise, however, they still didn’t get confused about the binitarian implications and maintained their monotheistic stance by focussing on YHWH the Father.

    I think this is where we part company because I would also see Jesus as deferring his right to equality and stepping aside to let YHWH the Father be the God to satisfy monotheism. I would suggest that what Jesus did in becoming a man described in Phil 2 was a copy of his spiritual subordinate role as the Son, as Paul makes clear in 1 Cor 15 that God put everything under Christ’s feet except for God himself. This would have applied both before and after his incarnation.

    Personally, I think YHWH and Jesus were and are quite content to be known as possessing divine equality yet functional, hierarchical and personal separation; nor would they be concerned that being ‘one God’ was somehow now void. Wasn’t the Shema a warning and guidance for the Israelites to avoid the multitude of ANE gods? My point being that we might have become over-focussed on maintaining monotheism within an obvious divine plurality thus coming up with the somewhat awkward and frankly convoluted Anathasian trinity doctrine when no such ‘solution’ was ever necessary.

  227. Arwen4CJ says:

    Jim,

    Thank you for your continued thoughtful engagement in this discussion.

    Yes, I understand that the word “Elohim” can be used for multiple things and beings, including for God Himself. However, I am convinced that there are no other real gods besides YHWH.

    You wrote:
    “As far as the Holy Spirit goes, a doing function seems more suitable than an anthropomorphic one. When Jesus says i will send another counsellor I don’t think he means another person but rather himself in non physical form.

    Holy Spirit = Spirit of God = Spirit of Christ = the action of God in and through a believer.”

    My response:
    Interesting thoughts. However, I have never heard someone use the word “another” to mean themselves. I think we are getting a step closer to each other. If you had said YHWH Himself in the Person of the Holy Spirit, I could agree with part of what you said.

    The use of “another” there tells me that Jesus isn’t talking about Himself.

    It also would make no sense for Jesus to say in Matthew 28 to “baptize in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit” if each of these three were not Persons. If the Holy Spirit were not a Person, then why mention the Holy Spirit alongside the Father and the Son?

    I will add more later.

  228. Arwen4CJ says:

    Now, going back to what you said Holy Spirit = the action of God in and through a believer…

    How does that fit with Jesus’ words in the following passages:
    John 14:16-17 (NASB)
    16 I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; 17 that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.

    Whom the world cannot receive
    does not see Him or know Him
    He abides with

    John 14:25-26 (NASB)
    25 “These things I have spoken to you while abiding with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.

    Whom the Father will send
    He will teach you all things
    And bring to your remembrance all that I said to you

    John 14:26-27 (NASB)
    26 “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me, 27 and you will testify also, because you have been with Me from the beginning.

    the Helper comes
    Whom I will send to you
    Who proceeds from the Father
    He will testify about Me

    John 16:5-15 (NASB)
    5 “But now I am going to Him who sent Me; and none of you asks Me, ‘Where are You going?’ 6 But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. 7 But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. 8 And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; 11 and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.

    12 “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. 14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. 15 All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you.

    The Helper will not come to you
    I will send Him to you
    When He comes
    Will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgement
    He will guide you into all the truth
    He will not speak on His own initiative
    Whatever He hears, He will speak
    He will disclose to you what is to come
    He will glorify Me
    He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you

    All of these things that I listed below the passages are things that only a Person can do. An action cannot do these things. It also seems clear to me that Jesus is not talking about Himself.

  229. Arwen4CJ says:

    Jim,

    You wrote:
    “Arwen, I was reading Is 42 during a lull in church proceedings today (as you do!) and verse 8 is interesting when contrasted with John 17:5 when Jesus is praying to the Father asking for the glory he had with him since before the creation. If, according to Is 42:8, YHWH yields none of his glory to another, those verses would play into a ‘Jesus is YHWH’ case nicely.”

    My response:
    Awesome. Yes, exactly!!! I did not bring that link up because I had already given you a lot of passages. But, yes, I had noticed that before as well. I’m glad that you noticed this 🙂 I think you are definitely understanding my interpretation of these passages. (Another one would be comparing Isaiah 43:11-13 with John 10:25-30).

    You wrote:
    “That said, if we take all the scripture that describe YHWH and another who is of YHWH-level divinity, but not him, does that necessarily mean two Gods? Difficult though it is to fully paint the entire canvass of God, a kind of ‘conjoined’ Father Son YHWH fits best to my thinking. Identifiably different, but still the essential sameness. That might seem like semantics to you and be another way of looking at what you believe to be the trinity to be (but as a binity). The unifying nature is clear from the interchangeable terms, but the many references to two persons, such as Dan 7, and the role Jesus played in creation and his continued sustainment of it all point to being a divine being.

    Is that markedly different to where you’re coming from, the personhood of the Holy Spirit notwithstanding? There is a strong case to the breath, spirit, ruach, pneuma of God entering Adam to create physical life, to the breath, future resurrection life and transforming presence of God that enters a brand new believer who becomes a new creation. Neither require a third ‘person’ of God.”

    My response:
    If you have YHWH and something else that isn’t YHWH, then yes, it would be two Gods.

    If you can believe that both the Father and the Son are YHWH, and have two Persons, then yes, we are getting closer to agreement!

    Yes, these concepts are not easy, and we will never fully understand God until we are face to face with HIm. All we can do is study Scripture, pray, and try our best to understand what God has revealed to us about Himself through Scripture, and by the Holy Spirit.

    I think we are closer in agreement now, but I’m not entirely certain we are exactly on the same page. I’m not sure if you are still seeing Jesus as something other than YHWH, or if you are still working through this, trying to define what Scripture points to.

    It’s okay if you are still working through it. I have really enjoyed our discussion so far, and I think we are both learning. This is the kind of discussion that I wish all Christians would have with one another. It helps us understand what we believe better, or helps us understand where we stand on different doctrines, and I think ultimately makes us and the church stronger. This, I believe, is what the Christian community is supposed to do for one another (well, one of many things).

  230. Craig says:

    Jim,

    In our discussion we purposely constrained it to Jesus, leaving out the Holy Spirit. But Arwen implicitly brings up a point—one I was going to bring up a while back—about the Holy Spirit. In John 14:16 Jesus speaks of ἄλλον παράκλητον, allov paraklēton, another paraclete, thus implying Jesus Himself is also a paraclete. That’s two paracletes. This 2nd paraclete is also defined as the Holy Spirit. Yet the Holy Spirit is also called ‘Christ’s Spirit’ and ‘God’s Spirit’. Moreover, the Holy Spirit can be grieved, according to Ephesians 4:30:

    And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption

    In Greek this verse renders this entity τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον τοῦ θεοῦ, to pneuma to hagion tou theou, the Holy Spirit of God (accusative), while in Eph 1:13, He is referred to as τῷ πνεύματι τῆς ἐπαγγελίας τῷ ἁγίῳ, tō̧ pneumati tēs epaggelias tō̧ hagiō̧, the Holy Spirit of promise, or the promised Holy Spirit (dative). Interestingly, while the usual pattern is to place “Holy” after “Spirit”, Eph 1:13 places “[the] promised”, or, more literally, “of [the] promise” in between the two, which makes it emphatic: the Holy Spirit of promise, or the promised Holy Spirit. The Spirit is a deposit (Eph 1:14), sealing us (2 Cor 1:22) for the day of redemption (Eph 4:30). This is apparently part of the reason some Modalists erroneously understand three dispensations of God: the OT was of the Father, Christ’s earthly life was of the Son, and we are currently in the age of the Spirit.

  231. Arwen4CJ says:

    Jim,

    You wrote:
    “Im assuming your perspective of 3 persons but one YHWH (the name of the Godhead?) is that they are individual entities but all one identical God nature or substance. Would that be close? Seems to be orthodox trinitarianism. I would agree that YHWH the Most High God (you’d think there would be a hierarchy of gods to be the highest) is so close in nature to the Son that was formed from him that, to all intents, they are indistinguishable. When the prophets wrote about them, they used names and titles that could be for both. To them they were equal in magnificence and worthy of honour and praise, however, they still didn’t get confused about the binitarian implications and maintained their monotheistic stance by focussing on YHWH the Father.

    I think this is where we part company because I would also see Jesus as deferring his right to equality and stepping aside to let YHWH the Father be the God to satisfy monotheism. I would suggest that what Jesus did in becoming a man described in Phil 2 was a copy of his spiritual subordinate role as the Son, as Paul makes clear in 1 Cor 15 that God put everything under Christ’s feet except for God himself. This would have applied both before and after his incarnation.

    Personally, I think YHWH and Jesus were and are quite content to be known as possessing divine equality yet functional, hierarchical and personal separation; nor would they be concerned that being ‘one God’ was somehow now void. Wasn’t the Shema a warning and guidance for the Israelites to avoid the multitude of ANE gods? My point being that we might have become over-focussed on maintaining monotheism within an obvious divine plurality thus coming up with the somewhat awkward and frankly convoluted Anathasian trinity doctrine when no such ‘solution’ was ever necessary.”

    My response:
    I really appreciate how deeply you have been thinking about this, trying to get to the truth. I appreciate that you also have been trying to understand my viewpoint, and that you have been asking excellent questions and that you have been very honest about what your beliefs are. I also appreciate how respectful you have been the entire time.

    If I understand your question above correctly, I think you are close to understanding what I believe as long as you are not seeing the Persons as 3 different gods, and as long as YHWH is the one and only true God.

    I understand what you are saying with the Most High title. When I read that, it looks to me like a supremacy title over all of creation, like how Colossians speaks of Jesus. YHWH is above everything that is created. I guess you could say that I see it as a term of respect. I have never thought of it being part of some rank over gods. I see it kind of like “Your Majesty” or “Your Highness.” I don’t know if that makes sense to you. I guess to get the full meaning of it, we would have to look at the historical and cultural context of the term “Most High” as it was used in biblical times.

    But again, because of passages like the ones I have already shared, I don’t see how YHWH leaves room for the existence of other gods in the universe.

    It still seems like you are able to acknowledge that the Father and Son share a lot in common, but that you do not see the Son as fully YHWH. It seems that you are seeing the Son as almost like YHWH still. I think we are moving closer in agreeing, but I still see this as a major difference between us.

    Jesus has a lot of humility, and there are times when He does defer (I’m not exactly sure that is the right word) to the Father. This is getting into how the different Persons in the Trinity interact with one another, and it gets into the territory of a lot of speculation and possibly going outside of Scripture to explain it. I will say, though, that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are co-equal.

    It’s clear that you still see YHWH as being only the Father.

    It isn’t just the Shema that declares that YHWH is the only God, as we have seen from passages in Isaiah and as it states elsewhere in the Bible. YHWH clearly did not want HIs people worshiping other gods. He is God, and He did not want His people to turn away to false gods. He loved them. No where in the Bible does YHWH allow/approve of people worshiping any other God but Him. He is worthy of worship because He is the one true God. To worship any other god would be to rebel against YHWH. The 10 Commandments reinforce this, as did Jesus with His most important commandment answer (which actually included the Shema). Therefore, it must be a fundamental truth.

  232. Jim says:

    Thank you Arwen for the positive response and appreciation of the discussion. Like Craig you have been very patient and fully explanatory in unpacking your point of view. I have enjoyed engaging with honest respectful Christians here. You’re right – it should be the norm even when we have a good deal of daylight between scriptural comprehension. However, perhaps the gap is closing.

    One question initially is how do you define YHWH? Is this term used for the trinitarian Godhead or singular Father? I think it’s important to understand exactly how you conceive of the Tetragrammaton. I have read that the word translated ‘one’ in the Deut Shema can also be seen as unique. Of course, one as in unity does suit a trinitarian perspective, but on the cycle home today I was wondering why God would provide a limited or veiled expression of himself that would only be revealed 400 years after Jesus. That seems an odd way of interacting with humanity whereas before God was pretty unambiguous. He was high and lifted up, magnificent and awesome in appearance as described (as best they could) by Isaiah and Ezekiel. Why then would he obscure the three Persons of himself or only offer fleeting and implied glimpses?

    I’m not convinced yet that Jesus has to actually be YHWH in order to avoid being a second God. I think monotheism stays intact if Jesus is of the order of the Father or YHWH. If God creates the universe through Jesus, Jesus sustains all things, and he is the means that man can reconnect with the Father as well as having authority over all things given to him by YHWH, to most of us he is pretty indistinguishable from YHWH. Like a prince who is given the keys to the kingdom by the King; the prince would be regarded by the people as effectively having the same power and ‘glory’ as the King, but they would still pay ultimate homage to the King. We’ve been here before so are probably circling back for little gain.

    As to the existence of other gods, perhaps it’s best to stick to the original Elohim or spirit beings. If God and Jesus are of a unique divine spirit consistency, there must be other angels, demons, cherubim etc that are still spirit but not of the divine order of YHWH and Jesus Christ. Hence there are other non material powers that wereregarded as gods, small g, by the ancient near east peoples.

  233. Arwen4CJ says:

    Jim,

    You wrote:
    “One question initially is how do you define YHWH? Is this term used for the trinitarian Godhead or singular Father? I think it’s important to understand exactly how you conceive of the Tetragrammaton. I have read that the word translated ‘one’ in the Deut Shema can also be seen as unique. Of course, one as in unity does suit a trinitarian perspective, but on the cycle home today I was wondering why God would provide a limited or veiled expression of himself that would only be revealed 400 years after Jesus. That seems an odd way of interacting with humanity whereas before God was pretty unambiguous. He was high and lifted up, magnificent and awesome in appearance as described (as best they could) by Isaiah and Ezekiel. Why then would he obscure the three Persons of himself or only offer fleeting and implied glimpses?”

    My response:
    You asked me how I define YHWH. I will do my best to answer that. I have tried to spell it out earlier, but I am probably not the best at explaining things so that they make sense to other people.

    I understand YHWH to be the one and only God in the universe, the God of the Bible, the Creator of all things, the First and the Last, the Alpha and the Omega, the only One worthy of worship, and the I AM of the OT. I also believe that He is triune. I am sorry if I have not made this clear — but, yes, I believe YHWH to be the whole trinitarian Godhead, not just the Father.

    I agree — I think it is extremely important to understand exactly how a person understands the Tetragrammaton.

    Yes, I have read that the word translated as “one” in Deuteronomy 6:4 can be seen as unique as well. Several of the study Bibles that I have have noted that. I have also read about the “one” as unity understanding as well. Neither understanding would go against the Trinity, and the “one” as unity does definitely support the Trinity.

    It is very hard for us humans to understand God. We can’t fully. All we can do is understand what God has revealed about Himself in Scripture. When we are a young child, God doesn’t give us a complete adult understanding of Himself. We learn about Him throughout our life. We have to grow in relationship with Him. Why doesn’t God give us a complete and total understanding of Him as soon as we hear about Him? Maybe it would be too much for us to handle. Maybe it is because God wants us to discover things about Him as we grow in relationship with HIm. I don’t know…we can only guess. I think the same can be said for humanity as a whole — God revealed more and more about Himself to us throughout time.

    As for the Trinity being revealed 400 years after Jesus — I think that isn’t necessarily accurate. Sure, that is when Councils were defining terms better, but that does not mean that the concept wasn’t something that was there beforehand. As you know, I believe that Scripture itself points to it. I see it as something that is in Scripture, which people later articulated better. The concept behind the Trinity wasn’t suddenly knew 400 years after Jesus. It has its basis in Scripture.

    As to your last question above — I don’t know why God has chosen to reveal Himself to humans in the way that He has. Your question is similar in my mind to atheists that say that they won’t believe in God unless God yells from the sky that He exists, or unless they hear from Him in some other audible way “I exist.” Perhaps to God, He has made Himself clear enough in the Scriptures already.

    You wrote:
    “I’m not convinced yet that Jesus has to actually be YHWH in order to avoid being a second God. I think monotheism stays intact if Jesus is of the order of the Father or YHWH. If God creates the universe through Jesus, Jesus sustains all things, and he is the means that man can reconnect with the Father as well as having authority over all things given to him by YHWH, to most of us he is pretty indistinguishable from YHWH. Like a prince who is given the keys to the kingdom by the King; the prince would be regarded by the people as effectively having the same power and ‘glory’ as the King, but they would still pay ultimate homage to the King. We’ve been here before so are probably circling back for little gain.”

    My response:
    This is the big point at which we differ. I think we have different understandings of what one God means. Please correct me if I am wrong, but it seems that you believe as long as people give ultimate homage to the Big God, there can be other little gods that are underneath Him, or almost equal to Him.

    Do I understand you right?

  234. Arwen4CJ says:

    Jim,

    I am just curious — you said that you went to church. What type of church is it?

  235. Jim says:

    It’s a pretty conventional non-denominational ex-AOG Christian church. I’ll get back later regarding your comments on the Holy Spirit but I’m a bit time compressed and can’t get WWW at work 😬

  236. Arwen4CJ says:

    Jim,

    No problem. Take your time.

    I was wondering about your church because I was wondering whether or not your church shared your views, or whether you were the only one there that believed that.

  237. Jim says:

    Just to briefly return to multiple gods over whom YHWH reigns, one example is Psalm 86:8 – ‘Among the gods there is none like you, Lord.’ Again, it’s important that we understand what words and terms mean, and quite often the same word is applied across a range of meanings according to the scriptural context.

    Nevertheless, I think there was a real comprehension among the Jews that the Most High God of Israel was unique in nature, power and authority over a hierarchy of elohim, or gods. That would have been Jesus’s understanding too, so to run counter to that cosmological view would be to view God and his universe through a lens of our own making.

  238. Jim says:

    Here’s a study (not mine I’ll add) that is interesting in the ‘is the Holy Spirit the third person of the trinity’ discussion. I’d like to write out each verse, but for brevity I’ll put a subject or theme up with the verse that points to Jesus and a verse that points to the Holy Spirit on the same theme. To some that might appear rock solid evidence for a trinity. To me it says that Jesus (the incarnation) became a life-giving spirit (1 Cor 15:45), which says to me: ‘the Lord is the Spirit’ (2 Cor 3:17) ie Jesus and the Holy Spirit are one and the same, not two entities or personae of God.

    Jesus – John 15:4, 1 John 2:24 Abide Spirit – John 14:17
    1 John 2:1 Advocate John 14:16, 15:26
    Eph 3:17, Gal 2:20 Dwell Rom 8:11, 1 Cor 3:16
    John 5:21 Life 2 Cor 3:6
    Rom 8:34 Intercedes Rom 8:26

    and so on through joy, peace, power, sanctification, strengthening, teaching, all done by Jesus and all done by the Spirit. At the simplest level of common sense, if God is spirit, then he is the Holy Spirit. To have another Spirit fails the plain meaning test.

    It comes back to my point above about how we conceive of a singular word – pneuma, ruach, spirit – and narrow the meaning in a way foreign to the thinking of the original writers, or to God himself. Sometimes it’s an entity, sometimes the principle of life, breath, wind, inner feelings, mind, emotions, invisible qualities. The trinity is really a dogmatic and very Greek answer to a very Hebrew notion of God. Consequently, I believe it misses the mark by a good margin.

  239. Craig says:

    Jim,

    Quickly, but that fails to address the distinction I brought up @ 2017/08/13 at 1:05 pm, that Jesus was going to send “another paraclete”, thus implying He Himself is a paraclete. That’s two paracletes.

  240. Jim says:

    Craig, that depends whether the Greek word for ‘another’ is qualitative (another version of Jesus in spiritual, non-material form), or quantitative (another in addition to Jesus making two). I think the former makes sense in the broad scheme of all the references stating ‘Holy Spirit’ or ‘Spirit’ is how the writers referred to the visible effect of the invisible Jesus and Father now dwelling in a believer (rather than the OT temporal anointing for roles and tasks).

  241. Craig says:

    Jesus Himself was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, He was led by the Holy Spirit to His temptation in the wilderness, and He was “full of the Holy Spirit” in Luke 10:21. Moreover, John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Spirit while still in the womb, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:41), Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:67), and then there’s Simeon (Luke 2:25-26)–all while Jesus was either in Mary’s womb or incarnate.

  242. Jim says:

    Craig, all those instances of being filled or anointed by the Holy Spirit were just the same as they experienced throughout OT times – God equipping them with his power and wisdom for a specific act or prophecy (Hebrews 1:1-3). That still doesn’t require a third person. The same for the conception and infilling of Jesus. If an action attributed to the Spirit is simply seen as YHWH at work, as I believe should be the case, then all the scripture that interchange Spirit with God and/or Jesus make good sense.

  243. Arwen4CJ says:

    Hey Jim,

    I’ve been wanting to respond to you all day, but I’ve been busy. I finally have time to send you a response, although I’m not sure if I’ll have time to say everything I want to say tonight. Whatever I don’t say today, I will write to you tomorrow about.

    I looked at Psalm 86:8, and I am not convinced that the “gods” there are real gods. When I read it, I interpret it as saying “among the gods that other people worship in the world, there is no God like You.” I can see how you are interpreting it as saying that there are other real gods — but if that is what it is saying here, then that would contradict other Scripture which says that God is the only God.

    That’s why I think that the Psalmist is talking about false gods, and saying that God is greater than any of the false gods that other people worship. If this is the meaning, then it would fit with the Isaiah passages where God says that all the other gods are no gods, basically.

    Yes, I agree that context is important to interpretation.

    You wrote:
    “Nevertheless, I think there was a real comprehension among the Jews that the Most High God of Israel was unique in nature, power and authority over a hierarchy of elohim, or gods. That would have been Jesus’s understanding too, so to run counter to that cosmological view would be to view God and his universe through a lens of our own making.”

    My response:
    If that were the general understanding of the Jews, I would think that this would be emphasized in the Bible. I would think there would be a lot of Scriptural evidence for it, and I would think that some of that belief would be carried over by at least some of the orthodox Jews today.

    If Jesus understood that God was the most high god over a lot of little gods, then why didn’t Jesus ever mention any of these little gods? Why didn’t He teach about this hierarchy? And how do the passages from Isaiah where God says He is the one and only God support this view?

  244. Craig says:

    Jim,

    But you’re still not addressing the fact that during Jesus’ ministry there was an entity specifically called “the Holy Spirit”, yet Jesus claimed He’d send “another paraclete”, which He also called “the Holy Spirit”.

  245. Arwen4CJ says:

    You know, your thoughts of Jesus and the Holy Spirit is the reason that Jesus Only/Oneness Pentecostals believe that Jesus is the Holy Spirit. They do the same with the Father to show why they believe that Jesus is the Father as well.

    Forget about the word “trinity” if it throws you off. Let us just stick to the concept behind it and Scripture. Is the concept at all found in the Jewish Scriptures? I believe that it is.

    When we are talking about sent ones…..this actually occurs here in Isaiah 48:12-16 (NASB)
    12 “Listen to Me, O Jacob, even Israel whom I called;
    I am He, I am the first, I am also the last.
    13 “Surely My hand founded the earth,
    And My right hand spread out the heavens;
    When I call to them, they stand together.
    14 “Assemble, all of you, and listen!
    Who among them has declared these things?
    The LORD loves him; he will carry out His good pleasure on Babylon,
    And His arm will be against the Chaldeans.
    15 “I, even I, have spoken; indeed I have called him,
    I have brought him, and He will make his ways successful.
    16 “Come near to Me, listen to this:
    From the first I have not spoken in secret,
    From the time it took place, I was there.
    And now the Lord GOD has sent Me, and His Spirit.”

    There are three Persons who are YHWH in this passage. There have to be, or this passage makes no sense. YHWH is speaking, and yet He says that God sent Him….and He sent Him with His Spirit. That seems very similar to what Jesus said in John where we were discussing the Holy Spirit.

    I agree with Craig’s August 17, 2017 at 2:41 pm comment — those things must be considered when thinking about the Holy Spirit and Jesus.

    One other thing — at Jesus’ baptism, the Holy Spirit landed on Jesus like a dove. If Jesus is the Holy Spirit, and not another Person, then how did that happen?

  246. Arwen4CJ says:

    Jim,

    What about the actions that I specified before about what Jesus said the Holy Spirit would do, things that only a Person can do? Those things cannot simply be YHWH at work — because they show that the Holy Spirit is doing something, implying that the Holy Spirit is not simply a name for YHWH at work.

    And, again, how does it explain Jesus listing the Holy Spirit in Matthew 28:19?
    19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

    Why list the Holy Spirit at all if the Holy Spirit is simply YHWH at work. Why should we be baptized in the Holy Spirit? Why is the Holy Spirit listed here — it sounds like the Holy Spirit is equal to the Father and the Son.

    And how can the Holy Spirit be sent if the Holy Spirit is just YHWH at work? You can only send a Person….

  247. Jim says:

    Craig and arwen I’ll have more time this weekend to describe my answers better. Until then thanks again for your thoughtful posts. My iron is definitely being sharpened here.

  248. Craig says:

    Who raised Jesus’ dead body?

    • God: Acts 2:24; Romans 4:24
    • The Father: Acts 5:29-31; Galatians 1:1; Ephesians 1:17-20
    • Jesus Himself: John 2:19/10:17-18
    • The Holy Spirit: Romans 1:4 (“Spirit of Holiness”)

    Now, one may contend that “Spirit of Holiness” is only found here and, therefore, may not refer to the Holy Spirit. However, four of the five commentaries I consulted were very clear opining that this is a reference to the Holy Spirit, one of them being James D. G. Dunn, who is seen as more of a liberal. Two of them claimed it was closer to the Semitic form rather than the LXX (Dunn and Thomas Schreiner), i.e, ruach qodesh.

    Romans 8:9-11 is an important passage in this regard. 8:11: “But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you” [NASB]. Who is “Him” in “Spirit of Him” and “He” in “He who raised Christ”? Earlier in 1:4 Paul said it was the “Spirit of Holiness” who raised Christ. Is this one a different ‘entity’–“God”, “the Father”, “Jesus”? Yet, in 8:9 Paul speaks of the indwelling Spirit as “Spirit of God”, “Spirit of Christ”; so, again, Who is the referent in 8:11?

  249. Arwen4CJ says:

    Jim,

    Sounds good. I just want to say something real quick — yes, I do believe that the Personhood of the Holy Spirit is important. However, establishing that Jesus is YHWH is even more important to me, so I definitely would like to get back to that eventually.

    For now, though, since we are discussing the Holy Spirit, I think we should continue with the questions/issues that Craig and I raised, as well as your explanations, Jim 🙂

    Let’s see where this goes.

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