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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783 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.

  250. Jim says:

    Arwen re your 6:14pm post. Elohim translated gods is not referring to false gods in the sense of statues or carved idols, if that is what you meant. Gods in this context would have been a reference to the many spiritual entities that the ancient near east would have been familiar with, whether they originated as fallen angels, nephilim derivatives, other order deities, as well as human rulers. So I think the context is important when YHWH says there is no other God besides me. He is saying I’m the real deal, not these other imitations.

    Jesus didn’t need to go into this kind of detail with his audience because he knew they had that awareness already. He mentioned satan and his angels, he understood the story of Job and would have known the divine council opening scene, as would the listening Jews. God is simply saying that he is the only spiritual entity worthy of worship, and the only source of true life and therefore the highest.

  251. Jim says:

    Craig your 6:31pm comment says that the Holy Spirit is an entity, and was in operation during the time of Jesus implying a separateness. The only time scripture refers to the Spirit was pre-birth, at his baptism and when he breathed on his disciples saying receive the Holy Spirit. I’ll roll in Arwen’s last line in the 6:34pm post regarding his baptism. If Jesus was fully God and fully man, then acquiring the Holy Spirit would have been something we’d call surplus to requirement. This was a demonstration by YHWH that Jesus was a King and priest, hence the OT anointing by God in visible form signified by a dove alighting and the words from God. I don’t think Jesus needed to be anointed but this was evidence of his continual claim to be the Son of God. Being led to the desert by the Spirit doesn’t require another person of God to do the leading, any more than it would us; it’s a phrase indicating Jesus was moved by God to spend time in the desert communing with the Father.

  252. Craig says:

    There’s also Simeon (Luke 2:25-27), who was “full” and “moved” by the Spirit to see Jesus as a baby.

    Then there’s my post @ 8:39 last night regarding the raising of Jesus’ dead body.

  253. Jim says:

    Back to your 8:39pm post Craig, and the opening verses of Romans are interesting. Firstly Paul says that God spoke through the prophets, yet Peter in 1 Peter 1:11 states that they spoke through the Spirit of Christ and then in 2 Peter 1:21 he says the prophets were carried along by the Holy Spirit. To me that indicates not trinitarianism but parallelism. Paul and Peter recognised the Word at work and the Father too imparting an invisible breath (pneuma or spirit) from themselves into certain men of old to prophesy.

    It’s much the same when the writers are expressing who raised Jesus. Romans 1:4 doesn’t closely link the Spirit of holiness with Jesus resurrection but God’s manifest power was clearly present at the time of resurrection ie the Spirit, but not a separate entity necessarily. Jesus could also claim to have raised himself. His words in John that you cited could be taken as words of prophecy spoken by God much as many prophetic utterances come across as God speaking in the first person. Further, Jesus death was a voluntary submission to a state of being that was summed up in Phil 2:5-8. He chose to allow his God-ness to be subject to death for a short period. After three days he released himself under the power of God from that state by rising from the dead. So in a sense he did raise himself from the dead, but also his prophecies about that event could be taken as God speaking through Jesus in the first person.

  254. Jim says:

    Arwen, I’m definitely not a oneness type. I don’t equate Jesus with the Holy Spirit, but I do think they get conflated and the common use of parallelism in Jewish writing and thinking plays a significant part in making our mostly linear Greek minds translate that into concluding a trinity is at work.

  255. Jim says:

    Arwen your 6:45pm post talks of actions a person would do, so when Jesus reference the Holy Spirit he must mean a separate entity of God. Not if Jesus is thinking in terms of him and the Father dwelling a believer by an invisible ‘presence’ that he calls the Holy Spirit. It’s bizarre to my mind that one of three portions of the Godhead is never referred to by any name, just a generic term, never prayed to, never referenced in the same way as the Father by Jesus. Why would God who is spirit have another spirit?

    Matt 28:19 is no more a description of the Godhead than 1 Thess 5:23 is a description of man. It looks all too formulaic rather like the Johannine comma. Is that a trinitarian translators insert? Certainly the disciples baptised in Jesus name only throughout Acts.

  256. Craig says:

    Jim,

    But, then why does Scripture make the distinctions I laid out in my 8:39 comment?

    I’m not sure what you’re trying to convey regarding the John verses about Jesus raising Himself. You agree that Jesus is divine in some sense, that He and the Father form a binity. The issue here is the Holy Spirit’s role in the raising of Jesus’ body. When one considers the Scriptures Arwen and I brought up, they cannot be seen in isolation; that is, they must be considered together. There’s still Jesus’ words about the Spirit in the Upper Room discourse, in which He sends the Spirit, ‘another paraclete’ besides Himself, from the Father. This paraclete “testifies about Me (Jesus)”. Why would Jesus speak about Himself–if the Spirit is really just another manifestation of Jesus post-Ascension–unless the Spirit is not really another manifestation of Himself.

  257. Craig says:

    Jim,

    No doubt the Johannine Comma is a later addition. However, there’s scant evidence that the ‘Trinitarian formula’ in Matthew 28:19 is some later addition. If you think that’s the case, then it’s incumbent upon you to provide proof.

  258. Arwen4CJ says:

    Jim,

    If you are calling angels and demons little gods, I understand — but they aren’t actual true gods. They are simply another order of creation…they are still created beings. Have humans ever worshiped angels or demons as gods? Sure. That doesn’t mean that they are real gods in the same way that YHWH is god. They are false gods. They might have spiritual power, but they are in no way equal to YHWH, nor are they gods in any true sense. The same can be said of Satan. Satan is just a created being — not a real god. People can worship him as a god, but that doesn’t make him a real god.

    So…if you are calling these things gods — then I think we are in closer agreement. I just do not believe them to be real gods. I still believe that YHWH alone is the only true God. It seems that you may agree with that…I’m not clear on whether or not you do. Can you help clarify this for me please?

    And if YHWH is the one and only true God, then do you agree that Jesus IS YHWH as well? This is the essential part.

    It seems that you do believe that the Holy Spirit IS YHWH, even if you don’t believe in His Personhood. I’ll ask to make sure — do you believe that the Holy Spirit is YHWH?

  259. Jim says:

    So the referent in Rom 8:11 Craig is God (YHWH). The Spirit (breath, presence, power) of God, who raised him from the dead.

  260. Jim says:

    Luke 24:47 has a similar version to Matt 28:19 and only states ‘in his name’.

    “With one word and voice He said to His disciples: “Go, and make disciples of all nations in My Name, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you,” — (Proof of the Gospel by Eusebius, Book III, ch 6, 132 (a), p. 152)

    Professor Carl Clemen:

    “The baptismal command in Mt 28:19, of which there is an echo in Mk 16:15, cannot be historical at all events in its present form,,
    …..but even at a previous time Jesus cannot, I think, have instituted a form of baptism in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy spirit: for such a triadic formula of baptism- and that is surely what is wanted to correspond with baptismal command – is not found elsewhere before the second century.”
    

    Professor Carl Clemen goes further and writes in his footnote:

    “The formula… or the like, still occurs in the second century; but that does not prove that a triadic formula of baptism was in existence even at an earlier time, when we always hear only of a baptism in the name of Christ…” [9]
    

    (3) Professor of the New Testament Rudolf K. Bultmann:

    “As to the rite of baptism it was normally consummated as a bath in which the one receiving baptism completely submerged, as if possible in flowing water as the allusions of Acts 8:36, Heb. 10:22, Barn. 11:11 permit us to gather, and as Did. 7:1-3 specifically says. According to the last passage, it suffices in case of need if water is three times poured on the head. The one baptizing names over the one being Baptized the name of ‘the Lord Jesus Christ,’ later expanded to the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit…” [10]
    

    (4) Dr David Wenham:

    “The command to make disciples of all nations and the command to baptizs in the name of the Trinity are both probably read back from later church situation ; for if Jesus himself had spoken about the Christian mission in the way Matthew suggests, it is hard to see why the early church should of have found the Gentile question such a problem And if Jesus himself commanded the use of the Trinitarian fornula in baptism, it is hard to explain the evidence of Acts and of Paul, which both indicat baptism was simply in the name of Jesus during the earliest days.” [11]
    
  261. Jim says:

    Arwen, yes I believe the Holy Spirit is YHWH…..and Jesus Christ, but not a separate, distinct person of the Godhead.

    Yes, I believe YHWH is the only true God. All other ‘gods’ or elohim are still spiritual entities, but of a lesser ‘order’ being created.

  262. Craig says:

    So, Eusebius paraphrased it. This is not unusual.

    Most scholars concede that Mark 16:9-20 is a later edition, and not original. Hence, it’s fallacious to say that Matthew 28 is “an echo of Mk 16:15”.

    As to Clemen’s 2nd quote, it’s an argument from silence. The earliest extant manuscripts we have of Matthew 28 contain the triadic formula.

    Sorry, Bultmann’s quote is cut off to where I cannot figure the point he’s trying to make. You’ll probably have to retype it out.

    Wenham’s assertion is pure speculation.

    Soon I’m going to be out of pocket for a bit and unable to release comments. So, this will provide ‘each side’ a chance to ponder all the goings-on here…

  263. Jim says:

    Sorry, I missed one question. I believe the Logos was co-substantial with YHWH, having been formed from him, and in becoming Jesus Christ is still of the deity order of YHWH.

  264. Arwen4CJ says:

    Jim,

    You wrote:
    “Arwen, I’m definitely not a oneness type. I don’t equate Jesus with the Holy Spirit, but I do think they get conflated and the common use of parallelism in Jewish writing and thinking plays a significant part in making our mostly linear Greek minds translate that into concluding a trinity is at work.

    Arwen your 6:45pm post talks of actions a person would do, so when Jesus reference the Holy Spirit he must mean a separate entity of God. Not if Jesus is thinking in terms of him and the Father dwelling a believer by an invisible ‘presence’ that he calls the Holy Spirit. It’s bizarre to my mind that one of three portions of the Godhead is never referred to by any name, just a generic term, never prayed to, never referenced in the same way as the Father by Jesus. Why would God who is spirit have another spirit?

    Matt 28:19 is no more a description of the Godhead than 1 Thess 5:23 is a description of man. It looks all too formulaic rather like the Johannine comma. Is that a trinitarian translators insert? Certainly the disciples baptised in Jesus name only throughout Acts.”

    My response:
    I think that we might be moving a little closer to an understanding here. It seems to me that we agree, then, that the Holy Spirit is not Jesus, but that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are definitely connected in some way….very closely connected, so that they are inseparable, and yet, there is still a distinction between them. It’s something we struggle to describe because we can’t quite conceive of it in our minds.

    Would you say that the above paragraph is accurate to how you think of Jesus and the Holy Spirit?

    You could say that The Father is a generic term as well. Jesus did refer to the Holy Spirit — He even said that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven. He mentioned the Holy Spirit several times in His ministry, and He always spoke of Him as if He were a Person and part of the identity of YHWH….just by how Jesus spoke about Him.

    The Word was spirit before He took on human flesh, too. It’s just how God exists. I have heard non-Trinitarians suggest that Matthew 28:19-20 may not be authentic to the text, but from what I can see, that is just speculation. Some of these same people suggest that John 1 and any verse that talks about Jesus’ deity was added in later as well. None of my Bibles that I have have Matthew 28 in brackets, or any note that says that it isn’t in the oldest Greek texts. There are notes on the second ending of Mark, and in 1 John where there is doubt that text was authentic.

    Even if Matthew 28:19 were not authentic, that still leaves all the verses in John that say that the Holy Spirit was sent. That still leaves all the verses where Jesus talked about the Holy Spirit, and treated Him like He was YHWH.

    As for the claim that the disciples baptized only in Jesus’ name….that is yet another point that the Oneness Pentecostals use to try to prove that Jesus is the Father, and that Jesus is the Holy Spirit. In Acts, I’m not convinced that they were literally baptized only in Jesus’ name. Like, “I baptize you in the name of Jesus.”

    I’ll look into this more, and let you know what I find.

  265. Arwen4CJ says:

    Jim,

    Okay — so…..some of your most recent comments (and in some earlier), you seem to think that YHWH is the name of an order of gods, the highest order of Gods.

    Or, like in some other of your comments, do you believe that YHWH is the one and only true God in the universe?

    Please help me understand this so that I know exactly what you’re talking about.

    If you think the first, then I completely disagree with you. If you think the second, then I agree with you….but I need to check to make sure that we are on the same page…that we mean the same thing when we say that Jesus is YHWH and the Holy Spirit is YHWH.

  266. Arwen4CJ says:

    Jim,

    I looked checked the study notes in my most theologically liberal study Bible, and it does not say anything about Matthew 28:19 being added in later. In fact, it suggests the opposite. It suggests that this was important to the church that Matthew was part of, and it made a reference to The Didache.

    I don’t know if you have ever heard of The Didache, but it is a very early Christian catechism writing, which most scholars date back to the 1st century. It includes instructions for baptism, which say that a person should be baptized “in the Name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

    That’s quite strong evidence that Matthew 28:19 is authentic to the Bible, and that people, in fact, did use that baptismal formula in the early church.

  267. Jim says:

    I didn’t quite understand your comment about not being able to release posts due to being out of pocket Craig.

    Regarding Matt 28:19, I merely asked whether it was a trinitarian flourish added later. It wouldn’t be the first somewhat clunky profession of trinitarianism to be regarded so. Since baptism took place in the name of Jesus, according to Acts, either the early church disobeyed the command or took it that Jesus covered all the God bases, which does play to oneness despite my not supporting that view.

    To your 8:22am post Arwen. I don’t think of YHWH as on order or class of Elohim/gods. He stands supreme and alone, most High, uncreated, unlike everything else in the universe bar Jesus.

  268. Jim says:

    If the Holy Spirit is a person and part of the Godhead why is this entity never referred to in NT greetings? It’s always ‘from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ’ or similar. Could this be because the early church never thought in strict trinitarian terms, or even implied ones? The bottom line is that despite the personification style references to an invisible Jesus and the Father coming to inhabit believers in their inner man by Jesus in John, there is too much counter evidence that the Holy Spirit of God and/or Jesus simply does not feature in scripture as a person or entity. There is no picture of him in Revelation in heaven or the new earth, no prayers offered to him, nothing that prompts me to consider this term pneuma or ruach as other than a description of God or Christ doing something that is visible to the human senses.

  269. Craig says:

    Jim,

    I have to manually release comments on this blog. Since I was going to be away (out of pocket), I was going to be unable to release any comments.

  270. Arwen4CJ says:

    Jim,

    You wrote:
    “Regarding Matt 28:19, I merely asked whether it was a trinitarian flourish added later. It wouldn’t be the first somewhat clunky profession of trinitarianism to be regarded so. Since baptism took place in the name of Jesus, according to Acts, either the early church disobeyed the command or took it that Jesus covered all the God bases, which does play to oneness despite my not supporting that view.”

    My response:
    Good question, Jim. The answer has to be based on the oldest copies of the New Testament that are available, as well as other writings in church history. We can’t just speculate and make assumptions based on how we think it should be.

    As evidence from The Didache and other early Christian writings, at least some of the baptisms were done as Matthew 28:19 outlines. In fact, The Didache gives instructions that this SHOULD be how people are baptized.

    Now, “baptized in Jesus’ name” does not literally have to have meant that they were not baptized via Matthew 28:19. There is no Scripture that gives the exact words used. By saying they were baptized in Jesus’ name, it could have meant with the authority of Jesus. It also could have been a phrase that was used to distinguish Christian baptism from Jewish baptism like John the Baptist’s baptism, or a phrase used to say that the person professed faith in Jesus. It could also have meant that some people did literally baptize in “Jesus’ name,” although, again, there is evidence that some early Christians thought using the formula in Matthew 28:19 to be important.

    Jim….I’m still confused by exactly what you believe. In an earlier post you told me you agreed that Jesus is YHWH. However you wrote this in your recent post:

    “To your 8:22am post Arwen. I don’t think of YHWH as on order or class of Elohim/gods. He stands supreme and alone, most High, uncreated, unlike everything else in the universe bar Jesus.”

    My response:
    It still sounds like you believe Jesus to not be YHWH here, since you don’t seem to be including Him in YHWH.

  271. Arwen4CJ says:

    Jim,

    You wrote:
    If the Holy Spirit is a person and part of the Godhead why is this entity never referred to in NT greetings? It’s always ‘from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ’ or similar. Could this be because the early church never thought in strict trinitarian terms, or even implied ones? The bottom line is that despite the personification style references to an invisible Jesus and the Father coming to inhabit believers in their inner man by Jesus in John, there is too much counter evidence that the Holy Spirit of God and/or Jesus simply does not feature in scripture as a person or entity. There is no picture of him in Revelation in heaven or the new earth, no prayers offered to him, nothing that prompts me to consider this term pneuma or ruach as other than a description of God or Christ doing something that is visible to the human senses.

    My response:
    Because the Holy Spirit always points to Jesus. It is true that the early church had not fully worked out the doctrine of the Trinity. If they thought in blocks or chunks of knowledge, then they didn’t specifically have to spell out everything. They just accepted that there was one God (YHWH), and the Father was YHWH, Jesus was YHWH, and the Holy Spirit was YHWH.

    You still haven’t dealt with the idea that the Holy Spirit was sent.

  272. Jim says:

    Arwen, it will be very difficult to deal with every point brought up and challenge each verse from a trinitarian and my semi-binitarian perspective. There are seemingly game set and match verses and concepts on both sides depending how we fit them together to form the broad span of God’s word. I deal with the idea of the Holy Spirit being sent by taking Jesus words in John 16 that he has to go back to the Father so that The spirit of truth can come in his place. That Spirit is Jesus and the Father. Jesus is the way the truth and the Life.

    This chapter is not as clear cut a trinitarian proof text as one might think. Jesus says in John 16:25 that he has been speaking figuratively ie he has been deliberately indirect in his message. I don’t envisage, and I don’t think the early Jewish church did either, that there were two persons of YHWH in heaven waiting for Jesus to ascend so the other spirit of God could be released.

    I think we have to be careful about trusting in post-canonical theorising or conceptualising. I believe that the 1st C church had a full understanding of Jesus and the Father as well as what and how to be saved unto resurrection. What comes through loud and clear is a separateness yet sameness between God and the Son of God and their working in mankind through their pneuma, breath, transformational presence, invisible influence etc.

  273. Jim says:

    I’d better provide another perspective which influences how I view the trinity. Craig, this is a bit off topic, so apologies. I hold to a view of man that is not body, soul and spirit. So I don’t think of spirit when referring to man as being a thing, certainly not a thing that exists after the body’s death. I believe the bible demonstrates that we are a body animated by breath, pneuma, spirit and that means we are a soul. The entirety of who we are is called a soul. Take breath, pneuma, spirit away (as God does after he has gifted it to us for a span of time) and you have a body without life. We are whole beings and nothing sentient or sensory from our previous existence continues after death.

    Consequently, whilst I know that certain pneuma contexts are about spiritual beings, or creatures invisible to our human perception, that influences my view of God’s spirit more as his thoughts, life giving power, wisdom, inner being essentially, but as always context is king when figuring out what is meant by any particular pneuma, ruach or spirit term in scripture. Hope that helps.

  274. Craig says:

    Arwen4CJ,

    I partially disagree with Jim, and you can see a discussion on the interrelationship between body, soul, and spirit [EDIT; italicized phrase added:] in John’s Gospel, in my (not-yet-finished) article in the following link. Be sure to view footnote 46 (some other footnotes are important, as well):

    https://notunlikelee.wordpress.com/2017/05/06/it-is-perfectly-finished-part-ii/

  275. Jim says:

    O—o

    YHWH/the Father conjoined [should be a solid connection not pecked] with the Logos/Jesus Christ

    Make of that totally simplistic picture what you will, but it captures what I believe the bible says about God.

    View it is one God, and see it as two separate ones, but that’s what scripture seems to declare.

  276. Arwen4CJ says:

    Jim,

    I think the word “trinity” throws you off because of the Greek connotations that you associate with it, and I think that “Person” language may be throwing you off as well because of connotations that you have with that word.

    Ignoring those two words, and just going by a general concept — it seems like you agree that YHWH is the one and only God, and that the Father is YHWH and the Holy Spirit is YHWH. If I understand your views on Jesus correctly, it sounds like you believe that Jesus appears to be YHWH in Scripture, but actually isn’t, but is somehow connected to YHWH and very closely associated with YHWH? Is that accurate to your belief?

    As far as the body, soul, spirit thing goes — I’m going to stay away from that topic. It’s not something I feel comfortable getting into. The piece there that I do think is important is whether or not there will be a physical resurrection of the dead at Jesus’ Second coming.

    I’ve heard people state that they believe that people sleep until the resurrection, and it will be like they wake up as if nothing had ever happened between dying and the resurrection. I have heard other people argue that when a person dies, their soul will go to heaven — and at the resurrection, their soul and body are reunited. I can see how people can arrive at both of these conclusions.

    So Jim….let me ask you — do you believe in the resurrection of the dead (the resurrection at Jesus’ second coming)?

    You wrote:
    “I think we have to be careful about trusting in post-canonical theorising or conceptualising. I believe that the 1st C church had a full understanding of Jesus and the Father as well as what and how to be saved unto resurrection. What comes through loud and clear is a separateness yet sameness between God and the Son of God and their working in mankind through their pneuma, breath, transformational presence, invisible influence etc.”

    My response:
    I agree that things that are not Scripture do not have the same weight as Scripture, but that does not mean that they are of no value, or that we should not consider the contents for historical reasons.

    If we want to talk about church history, and be accurate, we should consider historical sources outside of the Bible to help us better understand the practices of the early church. This is a much more solid way of analyzing it then just make assumptions based upon how we want it to have been.

    So….when we are talking about the historical practice of baptism (how it was actually done in the early church), a good source would be an actual catechism written within the first century. That shows what at least some of the Christians did at the time. It is historical record. It doesn’t mean that all Christians baptized in that manner. What it does show is that at least SOME of them did. It also shows that the phrasing of Matthew 28:19 was not foreign to the first century.

    This isn’t simply theorizing, since it is based on actual historical evidence. To say that Matthew 28:19 was probably added in later would be theorizing because there is absolutely no evidence to support that viewpoint.

    I think we are closer in agreement than we were — but it is how we conceptualize this sameness but separateness between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit that we differ on.

  277. Jim says:

    Leaving aside the veracity of Matt 28:19 as a genuine text, let alone a practical instruction, the verse itself still does not speak to three co-equal Persons of God as articulated in orthodox trinitarian creeds from the 4th C and beyond. The verse has become a baptismal statement, but that of itself proves nothing other than there is a Father, a Son and a Holy Spirit. I believe in all three, but my concept is not trinitarian. So, yes Arwen, your last paragraph above is true.

    As to the resurrection, I believe in the exact words Jesus spoke in John 6, that he will raise up his own on the last day, which will occur at his return. It will be a physical resurrection of our bodies, preceded by a resting in peace (for those in Christ), albeit that it will seem like an instantaneous transition from death to resurrection to the one who died.

  278. Arwen4CJ says:

    Craig,

    Can you please help out with the Greek for Matthew 28:19? Is “name” singular there? And is the word “the” in front of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit in the Greek?

    If so, then it seems to me that since all three are listed together as they are — under the same name, yet are distinct — then it seems to me that it is suggesting that God is both one (one God) and three (three — the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit).

    Would that be a correct conclusion using Greek scholarship?

    Jim,
    Is it that you are biased against the term Trinity, so you feel that there is no way you could agree with the doctrine? You’ve said a couple times that you consider the doctrine to be Greek in origin, so you reject it.

    Aside from your belief that it is an entirely Greek concept, what are the theological/Scriptural ideas that you take issue with?

    From everything you have said so far, I think you could accept the doctrine if you allowed yourself to. You are close to accepting it, but you are stopping short at the Personhood of the Holy Spirit (although you at times seem to accept even that — as you acknowledged in your most current post — Matthew 28:19 shows that there is a Father, there is a Son, and there is a Holy Spirit), and at times you agree that Jesus is YHWH, though you seem to be going to the idea that Jesus just appears to be YHWH in Scripture, but is actually separate from YHWH in reality.

    I think that if you could bring yourself to allow for the one God (YHWH) to ACTUALLY BE three (rather than just appear to be), then you could accept the concept behind the Trinity. You could accept that the one God YHWH is three Persons.

    I am relieved to hear that you do believe in the resurrection of the dead. Your belief about that does not differ from some people I have heard expressing that view, and I think it is a legitimate Christian viewpoint (as I also think the belief that souls go to heaven as soon as they die is a legitimate Christian viewpoint.)

  279. Craig says:

    I’ve looked at this before, and I’m reviewing it again now. I need to study the Oneness view over against the Trinitarian view. At play here is the so-called Granville Sharp rule (actually ‘rules’). But, yes “name” is singular and the article (“the” in the genitive/possessive, which is best translated “of the”) is present before all: Father, Son and Spirit. (Some call it “definite article”, but there is no indefinite article in Greek, therefore “article” is correct–it doesn’t always denote definiteness anyway. See first part of this series we are commenting on.)

  280. Arwen4CJ says:

    Craig,

    Thanks for your Greek expertise 🙂

  281. Craig says:

    The Granville Sharp rule may just complicate things, but you can see its application here: http://www.velocity.net/~edju70/web/Trinity7

    “In the name of” should be thought of as “in/by the authority of”, and given that it’s in the singular, and that we have Father, Son, and Spirit all preceded by the article (“of the”), a Trinitarian understanding is the best rendering.

    To be fair, I’ll cite a lengthy selection from the more liberal scholar Donald Hagner in his Word Biblical Commentary (Matthew 14-28 [Dallas, TX: Word Books, 1995], pp 887-888)—some brackets added for clarity (and, Jim, note last sentence):

    …The threefold name (at most only an incipient Trinitarianism) in which the baptism was to be performed, on the other hand, seems clearly to be a liturgical expansion of the evangelist consonant with the practice of his day (thus Hubbard; cf. Did[ache] 7.1). There is a good possibility that in its original form, as witnessed by the ante-Nicene Eusebian form, the text read “make disciples in my name” (see Conybeare). This shorter reading preserves the symmetrical rhythm of the passage whereas the triadic formula fits awkwardly into the structure as one might expect if it were an interpolation (see H. B. Green; cf. Howard; Hill [IBS 8 (1986) 54-63], on the other hand, argues for a concentric design with the triadic formula at its center). It is Kosmala, however, who has argued most effectively for the shorter reading, pointing to the central importance of the “name of Jesus” in early Christian preaching, the early practice of baptism in the name of Jesus, and the singular “in his name” with reference to the hope of the Gentiles in Isa 42:4b, quoted by Matthew in 12:18-21. As [D. A.] Carson rightly notes of our passage: “There is no evidence we have Jesus’ ipsissima verba [the very words] here. The narrative of Acts notes the use of the name only of “Jesus Christ” in baptism…or simply “the Lord Jesus”…Baptism εις, lit. “into,” the “name” (the singular ονομα, “name,” points to the unity of the three) of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit reflects the Hebrew/Aramaic expression…lĕs̆ēm, which has a cultic sense and means “fundamentally determined by” (Hartman). In contrast to John’s baptism [of repentance], this baptism brings a person into an existence that is fundamentally determined by, i.e., ruled by, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (cf. εις τὸ ἐμὸν ὀνομα, “in my name,” in 18:20). Schaberg’s theory that the triadic formula goes back to the triad of Dan 7 (Ancient of Days, one like a son of man, and angels) remains an improbable speculation.

    Moreover, again, to be fair, we do not have any papyri, i.e., the earliest extant manuscripts of this section of Matthew are from the 4th century. On the other hand, an argument from silence (Eusebius’ notwithstanding) is not a good argument; and, as noted, there are no known textual variances on this passage pertinent to this discussion.

  282. Craig says:

    Well it’s a good thing I have editorial ‘powers’ as the host/moderator, since I’d really bungled the tags on that comment. I had to type out the selection from the book, and there were quite a few italicized portions. Plus I could not get the link to work as a hyperlink–I tried 4 times. That’s not to mention a few grammatical and spelling errors I found…

  283. Arwen4CJ says:

    Craig,

    Thanks again for all of your hard work. So….there are some liberal scholars that do think that it might have been added in later, as I thought there were.

    It seems there is no way to prove for sure what the original passage said, so the passage is not rock solid pointing to Trinitarianism, but if authentic (which we have no real evidence that it isn’t–we won’t have any evidence unless there is an older copy of Matthew found that does not contain it), then it provides strong evidence for a trinitarian understanding of God…

  284. Arwen4CJ says:

    Jim,

    I guess what I’m asking you is why is it important to you to identify yourself as a non-Trinitarian?

  285. Jim says:

    Arwen, I do appreciate you taking the time and effort to understand my perspective. Online discussions can descend very quickly into sniping and create division, whereas you and Craig have been patient, seeking to get the full picture.

    Researching the trinity as well as the nature of man, heaven, hell, salvation, gifts of the spirit amongst other more minor topics of Christian doctrine over the past 10 years have drawn me back to one underlying reason why most Christians basic statements of faith (and generally they’re not that well thought out) come from Catholic or Protestant creeds that have become orthodox after marinating for centuries in Greek dualistic, philosophical thinking. Generally.

    Satan’s tactic from the very beginning has been to coat God’s truth with a seemingly attractive lie that once swallowed sets in train a deviation from that truth. The forbidden fruit seemed good to Eve and Adam, pleasing to their senses and they wanted to be like God, so in they jumped. As Jesus pointed out regarding the Pharisees, it only takes a little leaven and the entire loaf is affected. So it is with Greek philosophy and the permeating influence it had on early Christian thought culminating in the 4th and 5th C councils and creeds.

    It’s that dualism, the desire for a compartmentalism of man into parts that die and parts that survive, thereby evading the sting of death and negating a solid rationale for resurrection as the path to eternal life, that feeds into stovepiped thinking about God from a Platonic worldview. In broad terms, the church migrated steadily and purposefully away from Jewish thinking and scriptural perspectives. What I have concluded is that the trinity concept of God is not what the average OT or messianic 1st C Jew would have understood. Whilst we can squeeze that line of thought from hints or derive implications of trinitarianism, the concept largely has to be reversed engineered back in. Eisegesis in other words.

    The entire subject is taken to be almost forbidden ground to question and in some circles is a salvation issue. Where the deity of Christ is in doubt, then I would agree that a wrong Jesus equals a wrong gospel that is powerless to save. So, overall, I see orthodox trinitarianism as compromised, post-canonical, and the fruit of a philosophical seed planted over 1500 years ago to decouple the church from a proper understanding of God and Jesus.

  286. Jim says:

    I recognise that what I’ve written comes over as pretty harsh – that the trinity doctrine is a ploy of satan to trick Christianity into adhering to a skewed view of God. Perhaps it is too strong worded and perhaps we’re actually closer than it appears in our understanding of the Godhead.

    I have heard the case for the trinity explained by saying God made man in his image which is why he is a tripartite being, reflecting God’s trinitarian nature. Problem there, for me, is that I see man as a whole being, much as I see God monotheistically. There are other elements to man’s nature, his inner person, but that does not mean he has other ‘things’ (soul or spirit) as part of him.

    The way I see man and woman made in God’s image, in one sense, is that Eve was taken from Adam and created to be his partner, flesh of his flesh. This, to me illustrates the Father Son relationship in that the Logos was begotten or formed from the Father, from YHWH, as a perfect representation of him, Spirit of his Spirit, but as discernibly separate as woman is from man.

    Thank you both again for the interaction.

  287. Arwen4CJ says:

    Jim,

    I will respond to your post later. I just want to ask a question for clarification first.

    It sounds to me like you are equating Greek thought (and everything that came out of Greek thoughts) with the leaven that Jesus spoke of. That, or everything associated with Greek thinking is sinful.

    Do I understand you correctly?

  288. Craig says:

    While I’ve heard of the tripartite man being a model of the Trinity, I’ve never bought into the idea. Not the same–even if one believes in tripartite man.

  289. Jim says:

    It is pretty tenuous Craig. Arwen, I am equating a seemingly small correction or innocuous idea, even point of clarification, which, if an error, is like the leaven of the Pharisees. Their legalism could not be mixed with the purity of the Kingdom Jesus was preaching.

    What did the Greeks ever do for us? Well apart from philosophy, rote learning, and school classes, and medicine, and the Olympics, and weddings, and kleftico, oh, and yoghurt, Nothing. Seriously, their desire for ‘wisdom’, gnosis, was the wind that blew early Christianity on to the rocks that became Catholicism, frankly.

  290. Craig says:

    Jim,

    I’m not sure it’s so cut and dried.

  291. Jim says:

    No, it never is, but big hand, small map, probably not far from the evolutionary path to solidified doctrine.

  292. Craig says:

    Jim,

    Regarding whether or not man is made up of parts, what do you make of Paul’s vision, specifically 2 Cor 12:2-4, particularly verses 2-3 regarding in vs out of they body? Similarly, what do you make of Revelation 4:2?

  293. Jim says:

    Craig, I read the 2 Cor 12 verses to be paraphrased as: ‘whether I was actually there (in paradise) in person or it was just a vision given to my mind’. I suspect strongly it was the latter, but Paul is at pains to not get carried away with either.

    Rev 4:2 pictures a scene in heaven and like all of Revelation consists of visions and allegorical imagery. Whether John is there in person or ‘in the spirit’ ie praying and witnessing these scenes in his mind, is not the point. The point is to inform the reader about something.

  294. Craig says:

    Jim,

    I don’t think it can be quite that simplistic. Compare 2 Cor 12:2 with verse 3–“in or out” of body (2) vs “in” or “apart from the body” (3). Perhaps more compelling, in Revelation, John the Revelator was approached by an angel, then he began to see things, such as someone “like a son of man” dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet… (1:13ff). While apparently already in a vision, in Rev 4:2 things change: At once I was in the Spirit…

  295. Arwen4CJ says:

    Jim,

    Thank you for the clarification.

    You wrote:
    “Arwen, I do appreciate you taking the time and effort to understand my perspective. Online discussions can descend very quickly into sniping and create division, whereas you and Craig have been patient, seeking to get the full picture.”

    My response:
    Without trying to understand one another, how can there be any real discussion? That’s why it is important to me to try to understand your perspective. I want us to have a real conversation. I don’t want to guess at what you believe, or make assumptions about what you believe.

    Yes, sometimes online discussions can get pretty nasty, and I am very grateful that we have been able to keep the conversation at an adult level. That’s one of several things that I have appreciated about you in our discussions.

    You wrote:
    “Researching the trinity as well as the nature of man, heaven, hell, salvation, gifts of the spirit amongst other more minor topics of Christian doctrine over the past 10 years have drawn me back to one underlying reason why most Christians basic statements of faith (and generally they’re not that well thought out) come from Catholic or Protestant creeds that have become orthodox after marinating for centuries in Greek dualistic, philosophical thinking. Generally.”

    My response:
    What I would suggest here would be to look at the beliefs laid out in the creeds and determine which beliefs you think are not Scriptural. I’m willing to discuss the creeds with you as well. I see nothing in any of these creeds that goes against Scripture, and I’d be interested to see what points you think do.

    There is no doubt that creeds like the Apostles Creed, Nicene Creed, Chalcedonian creed, and the Athanasian Creed define what orthodox Christianity is in most Christian circles. The basis for evaluating these creeds should be Scripture, and not whether something had anything to do with Greek Christianity or not. So…let’s look at these items from Scripture.

    Since the creeds I listed are thought of as the standard for Christian orthodoxy by the majority of Christians, then it makes perfect sense that Christian groups and churches would incorporate them into their own individual statements of faith.

    I think you are correct, though, that some people do not think about the beliefs contained in the creeds. Others might use the creeds deceptively, knowing that some Christians will look at a statement of faith to decide whether or not a church/organization is orthodox, even though it really isn’t — or it changes the meaning of the items in the creed in such a way that the organization/church appears to uphold the creed.

    So, again…the standard for any doctrine needs to be Scripture itself, not philosophy, not the culture the people who wrote it came from, or any other factor. It must be taught by Scripture itself. Nothing else matters. We should affirm or deny a belief solely on Scripture. Everything stands or falls on that.

    You wrote:
    “Satan’s tactic from the very beginning has been to coat God’s truth with a seemingly attractive lie that once swallowed sets in train a deviation from that truth. The forbidden fruit seemed good to Eve and Adam, pleasing to their senses and they wanted to be like God, so in they jumped. As Jesus pointed out regarding the Pharisees, it only takes a little leaven and the entire loaf is affected. So it is with Greek philosophy and the permeating influence it had on early Christian thought culminating in the 4th and 5th C councils and creeds.”

    My response:
    Yes, and we can be tricked into believing that something that is true is really a lie, or the other way around. None of us are above being deceived, and we can all be deceived in different areas. We might be right about one thing, but believed something else wrong.

    Now, here is my take on Greek culture — not everything that came from Greece or Greek thinking is necessarily bad. There are some good things as well. Greek culture has had an impact on humanity and human history, and it continues to do so. It’s simply part of our story as humans. We can’t escape from it. Ancient Greece was very influential in its day. It was kind of like the America of its day.

    I do like my country, but I recognize that not everything that America has done has been good, and not all of our influence on the rest of the world has been good. That doesn’t mean that the rest of the world should dismiss us with one broad brush. I think the same should be said of ancient Greece.

    When I was in graduate school, my NT professor made the comment that we couldn’t understand any of Paul’s writing without studying Greek thought and Greek culture. I didn’t really agree with him on that, although I know that Paul was influenced by Greek culture, as that was the scholarly culture of the day.

    There is no doubt that Greek culture had an influence on the early church. That doesn’t mean that it is bad, or necessarily anti-God, or pulled people away from God. There are some traditions that are in the church today that I am not sure are exactly Scriptural, but at the same time they do not go against Scripture or what God has revealed about Himself.

    I guess, what I’m saying here is that not everything is black and white on this subject. As long as a belief or ritual is not anti-biblical, and it does not pull someone away from God, then I think it is okay. There are some Christian topics that are not discussed in the Bible, and yet Christians have been doing things in certain way for years.

    There is something else to consider — some people may only be able to reached through things like Greek philosophy because it is an interest to them. As long as this philosophy draws them near to the real God (and not away), then I think it would be good for them. That same philosophy might repel another person, and cause them to grow farther away from God.

    You wrote:
    “It’s that dualism, the desire for a compartmentalism of man into parts that die and parts that survive, thereby evading the sting of death and negating a solid rationale for resurrection as the path to eternal life, that feeds into stovepiped thinking about God from a Platonic worldview. In broad terms, the church migrated steadily and purposefully away from Jewish thinking and scriptural perspectives. What I have concluded is that the trinity concept of God is not what the average OT or messianic 1st C Jew would have understood. Whilst we can squeeze that line of thought from hints or derive implications of trinitarianism, the concept largely has to be reversed engineered back in. Eisegesis in other words.”

    My response:
    Okay, now you are getting into a specific kind of Greek belief that IS anti-biblical. All of these individual beliefs that you listed above don’t necessarily lead to that conclusion. For example, someone might believe in the compartmentalism of humans, but yet deny all of those other beliefs.

    As I said before, I really have no opinion on the compartmentalism of humans. I freely admit that I don’t know the answer to that, and I am content to leave it in God’s hands. What I do know to be true, though, is that at Jesus’ second coming there WILL be a bodily resurrection. Every speculation beyond that is to go outside of the bounds of Scripture. A person can be an orthodox Christian and stand on either side of the “what happens immediately after we die” question.

    So…you need to take into consideration that not all people who subscribe to some of the “Greek” beliefs will come to the conclusion that we can evade the sting of death and disbelieve in the bodily resurrection of the dead. In fact, if anyone does believe in the bodily resurrection of the dead, then they are not an orthodox Christian (remember that the creeds do soundly affirm the resurrection of the dead).

    Now, just as with Greek thinking, not all Jewish thinking is necessarily biblical. There are Jewish beliefs and teachings that I think do go against Scripture, and are wrong. In this case, I am talking about some of the Jewish mysticism, which is actually closely related to Gnosticism.

    I do think it would have been better for the church if they had kept more Jewish thinking, and not been as hostile to some of the Jewish, biblical traditions. I think it could help us Christians understand God and our faith better if we considered Jewish thinking, etc.

    Jim, it is impossible to say what the average 1st century Jew would have thought. We can make guesses and speculations, but all we have is the Bible and early Christian writings. All of the original apostles were Jewish, as was Jesus, of course. From the evidence that we have within the Bible, as well as church history — I have to conclude that they believed in one God, and believed simultaneously that that one God was three — the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. They could do this using Jewish thought without needing to use Greek thought. From these basic beliefs, the doctrine of the Trinity became better spelled out by Christians later on.

    A person could accept that there is one God, but that that one God is Three (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit), without having to define all terms or explain exactly how it was. They could simply accept it as what Scripture teaches, and not get into any of the Greek thought that later contributed to the defined doctrine of the Trinity — if they wanted to.

    In other words, what I am saying is that I don’t think the Greek definitions that were used to define the doctrine of the Trinity are needed to just believing what I believe the Bible is teaching. Nor do I believe that defining things exactly was required by the first century church. They could just accept it without the need to explain how or why.

    You wrote:
    “The entire subject is taken to be almost forbidden ground to question and in some circles is a salvation issue. Where the deity of Christ is in doubt, then I would agree that a wrong Jesus equals a wrong gospel that is powerless to save. So, overall, I see orthodox trinitarianism as compromised, post-canonical, and the fruit of a philosophical seed planted over 1500 years ago to decouple the church from a proper understanding of God and Jesus.”

    My response:
    Since you brought this up, I wanted to mention that I came across a verse in the Bible on my own that makes me question whether or not it IS a salvational issue to believe that Jesus is YHWH, which is why I really wanted to discuss it with you. Craig knows about this because I e-mailed him a few days ago asking for his thoughts.

    The verse is John 8:24 (NASB)
    24 Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.”

    Now, I think Jesus is calling Himself YHWH here, (saying that unless you believe that Jesus is YHWH, you will die in your sins), but I see how it could also be a reference to Him being the Messiah (that unless you believe that Jesus is the Messiah, you will die in your sins), or both — if being the Messiah necessarily also implied that He was YHWH, which I think is very possible. From the NT, it often seems to me like people in Jesus’ day believed that the Messiah was YHWH — just by how they respond to Jesus when He claims to be the Messiah.

    So…if people are thinking of the above verse, I understand why they consider it to be a salvational issue.

    Now…I don’t think that questioning anything should be forbidden in any church. If we can’t question things, then how can we grow stronger in our faith? If someone has questioned something, prayed about it, and decided that they agree with the viewpoint, then they would come out all the stronger. They would know why they believed something, and they would actually believe it. I think it is unhealthy for a church not to allow for people to question things, and to take the time to just talk.

    But, yes, a wrong Jesus is a wrong gospel.

    Okay — so when you think about trinitarianism, you are thinking about the full, well defined doctrine. Would you be against a general belief system in one God, yet that one God is three, as I said above…if nothing was defined or explained…just a simple belief. Would you feel that that belief system would be compromised?

  296. Arwen4CJ says:

    Jim,

    You wrote:
    “I recognise that what I’ve written comes over as pretty harsh – that the trinity doctrine is a ploy of satan to trick Christianity into adhering to a skewed view of God. Perhaps it is too strong worded and perhaps we’re actually closer than it appears in our understanding of the Godhead.”

    My response:
    Yes, it is rather harsh — what would Satan get out of tricking Christians to believe in the Trinity? It wouldn’t cause anyone to turn to Satan, and it wouldn’t draw them away from God. So….what would Satan gain from such an action?

    Again, are you just talking here about the final well thought out, defined doctrine of the trinity when you say “trinity” there, or do you also include the very basic belief in one God, who is also three (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit0?

    You wrote:
    “I have heard the case for the trinity explained by saying God made man in his image which is why he is a tripartite being, reflecting God’s trinitarian nature. Problem there, for me, is that I see man as a whole being, much as I see God monotheistically. There are other elements to man’s nature, his inner person, but that does not mean he has other ‘things’ (soul or spirit) as part of him.”

    My response:
    Yeah, I have heard that explanation as well, though I have tried to avoid that here, as I don’t necessarily agree with the ideas behind that explanation. I once had an online friend who held strongly to that viewpoint, and he and I were talking to a Jehovah’s Witness about the trinity. He used that argument with the Jehovah’s Witness. I wasn’t convinced that that was actually how things are.

    So, know that it is not a requirement of Trinitarian belief to think that way. Some Trinitarians do think like that, but not all do.

    You wrote:
    “Thank you both again for the interaction.”

    My response:
    And thank you for yours.

  297. Arwen4CJ says:

    Jim,
    You wrote:
    “It is pretty tenuous Craig. Arwen, I am equating a seemingly small correction or innocuous idea, even point of clarification, which, if an error, is like the leaven of the Pharisees. Their legalism could not be mixed with the purity of the Kingdom Jesus was preaching.

    What did the Greeks ever do for us? Well apart from philosophy, rote learning, and school classes, and medicine, and the Olympics, and weddings, and kleftico, oh, and yoghurt, Nothing. Seriously, their desire for ‘wisdom’, gnosis, was the wind that blew early Christianity on to the rocks that became Catholicism, frankly.”

    My response:
    Not all Greeks were into gnosticism, and not all Greek thought leads to gnosticism. Gnosticism should be rejected not because it is a Greek thought, but because it goes against Scripture, and it pulls people away from the true God, and it is a false gospel. It teaches a false Jesus and a false salvation.

    Aside from the Catholic mystics, the Catholic Church does not teach gnosticism. I do not agree with all Roman Catholic doctrine, or their interpretation of all of the Scripture, but I do feel I need to defend them on the charge of gnosticism. Could it have embraced some gnostic concepts? Possibly — but it does not teach gnosticism.

  298. Jim says:

    Arwen, sorry, I didn’t mean that Catholicism embraced or taught gnosticism. Paul said the Greeks valued wisdom, or philosophical solutions to the meaning of life. Gnosis or knowledge comes from that path but, certainly, not many Greeks were gnostic as a result of pursuing knowledge.

    My reference to Catholicism was that the later creeds formed the doctrinal foundations that grew into what was the formative Roman Catholic church. I don’t link that to gnostic influence as such, although it has been on the margins of Catholicism, and still is as Richard Rohr demonstrates.

  299. Jim says:

    ‘Again, are you just talking here about the final well thought out, defined doctrine of the trinity when you say “trinity” there, or do you also include the very basic belief in one God, who is also three (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit?’

    The reason I have difficulty with the trinity description of God is that it is all but impossible for it to be well thought out. To me, even what you call the very basic belief defies a logical understanding, unless modalism is the result. So, trinity whether basic or detailed is a conundrum that I don’t think is the intent of scripture.

  300. Craig says:

    Jim,

    I’m not so sure that it’s that “gnosticism has been on the margins of Catholicism”. I think it more likely that Rohr is influenced by the modern day ‘incarnation’ of gnosticism in the New Age version. I just went to his website and saw this quote:

    “Sin” primarily describes a state of living outside of union, when the part poses as the Whole. It’s the loss of any experience of who you are in God.

    This denies the Catholic doctrine of original sin. And it sounds more like Cynthia Bourgeault’s idea of “sin”, which is, of course, New Age.

  301. Craig says:

    Funnily, the very next quote I saw as I was going to click away from the site is this:

    We are first of all a blessing, but we are also a mixed blessing. Some called this “original sin,” but original “shame” would have described it better.

    While the first quote was implicit in its denial of original sin, but here Rohr is more explicit.

  302. Jim says:

    Arwen,

    As to John 8:24, Jesus identifies himself as both I AM and the Son of Man (v28). I read all the surrounding references he makes to himself and the Father as a clear separation of person – he wasn’t being vague or ambiguous. I think Jesus wanted the Jews to believe he was from God and sufficiently close to God (his son) to lay claim to God’s I AM WHO I AM name.

  303. Jim says:

    Craig, ektos ‘out of’ is used in 2 Cor 12:2&3 so should be translated the same, not ‘out’ in one verse and ‘apart’ in another. I don’t think Paul is advocating an ‘out of body experience’, just a vision.

  304. Craig says:

    Jim,

    I’m still studying this section in conjunction with commentary. 8:28 also uses the Divine Name like 8:24: “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I AM.” In the Greek, there is no predicate following “I AM”, so many translations follow it with “He”, or assume Jesus meant “the one I claim to be”, or something to that effect; therefore, the predicate is filled in accordingly. We must be careful not to dichotomize “the Son of Man” and “the Son of God” here–not saying that you are, necessarily.

    As to the separateness of Father and Son, of course you know that Trinitarians see this a necessary aspect of the Incarnation; however, for Jesus’ to claim the Divine Name is for Him to make a claim of Deity. God is One per the Shema.

  305. Craig says:

    Jim,

    Regarding 2 Corinthians 12, the NA28 has chōris (“without”) in verse 3, not ektos. There’s a textual variant, yes, with some manuscripts containing ektos, but this hardly makes sense in the context–why would Paul repeat himself?

  306. Arwen4CJ says:

    Jim,

    I see, so it isn’t just the Greek thought association that causes you to reject the doctrine of the Trinity, but it is the very idea of there being one God, who is three (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit) because you consider it to be illogical…therefore it must be wrong?

    But isn’t that in and of itself using Greek type thinking?

    Modalism is illogical (from Scripture) because it assumes that the Jesus is the Father, and Jesus obviously prayed to the Father — so then they have to say that the human part of Jesus was praying to the divine part of Jesus, etc.

    Yes, the creeds did form the background theology of the Catholic Church. However, they also added to the Catholic beliefs — what was defined as Catholic doctrine– over the years. Still, as Craig said, New Age/gnostic beliefs goes against traditional Catholic teaching.

    To embrace the New Age teachings of Richard Rohr and Fox and others like them is to depart from real Catholic teaching.

  307. Arwen4CJ says:

    You wrote:
    “As to John 8:24, Jesus identifies himself as both I AM and the Son of Man (v28). I read all the surrounding references he makes to himself and the Father as a clear separation of person – he wasn’t being vague or ambiguous. I think Jesus wanted the Jews to believe he was from God and sufficiently close to God (his son) to lay claim to God’s I AM WHO I AM name.”

    My response:
    Thanks for your take on the verse. From your response of “he makes himself and the Father as a clear separation of person,” we are agreed on that part. It is the modalists who think that Jesus and the Father are the same person. Trinitarians fully agree that Jesus and the Father are two distinct persons. At the same time, the two Persons are the same God, YHWH. So…there is a distinction, and yet a unity/sameness at the same time.

    I think we can agree that there is a distinction, yet a unity/sameness at the same time. However, we are coming to different conclusions about what this means.

  308. Jim says:

    Craig, it is likely that Paul repeats himself in 2 Cor 12 to create emphasis. It’s a pretty common narrative technique if you want to underline something important.

  309. Craig says:

    The earliest manuscript, p46, a papyrus, one of the oldest for the NT, has chōris (“without”) in verse 3.

  310. Craig says:

    Jim,

    But you’ve still addressed my rebuttal to Revelation 4 @ 2017/08/20 at 2:58 pm.

  311. Jim says:

    So, Arwen, when you say that there is very clear separation in the persons of the Father and the Son, that they are distinct but the same God, I wonder what image you have of God. How do you conceive of this singularity consisting of three in a non-tritheistic way? Other than accepting it as a mystery we’re not supposed to understand, how do you rationalise a coherent picture of God that is portrayed by that triangular diagram with the word God at the centre and Father, Son and Spirit on the three corners connected by ‘is not’ along each external line and ‘is’ on each internal connection with the word ‘God’. Let’s be honest, it’s either tritheism or modalism. There is no other way that diagram can work. It’s a contradiction in terms and a verbal illusion.

    1 Tim 2:5 sums up NT teaching perfectly – ‘For there is one God and also one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.’ He was also the Logos, begotten from before creation, a deity alongside YHWH, but that never meant two gods to the NT writers and early church. Neither did they think of God’s invisible presence as another Person complementing the two. I think that’s simply how the lexicon of the day referenced non-material activity – pneuma. It was God at work, and he could be grieved or blasphemed or trampled on.

    I’m just doing some reading on the founder of the trinity, Anathasius, without whom this doctrine would not have gained the creedal centrality it did in the 4th C church, and his primary tutor Origen. At first blush, it looks like a heavy dose of Neo-platonic thinking slanted both their understanding of scripture.

  312. Jim says:

    Is it really not yet 5 am with you!

  313. Craig says:

    It’s just before 6am now.

  314. Jim says:

    I’m not entirely sure what the change or shift in John’s perspective is from his initial one in Rev 4:2 Craig. My NASB has a note against that verse that says it could read ‘in spirit’. To me that means ” ‘from within me’ or ‘to my inner being’ I saw……”

  315. Jim says:

    I should add Origen influenced Anathasius posthumously.

  316. Jim says:

    Interesting that the Catholic newadvent.org has this on Arius:

    The heresy, of course, had its supposedly philosophic basis, which has been ascribed by authors, ancient and modern, to the most opposite sources. St. Epiphanius characterizes it as a king of revived Aristoteleanism (Haer., lxvii and lxxvi); and the same view is practically held by Socrates (Church History II.35), Theodoret (Haer. Fab., IV, iii), and St. Basil (Against Eunomius I.9). On the other hand, a theologian as broadly read as Petavius (De Trin., I, viii, 2) has no hesitation in deriving it from Platonism; Newman in turn (Arians of the Fourth Cent., 4 ed., 109) sees in it the influence of Jewish prejudices rationalized by the aid of Aristotelean ideas; while Robertson (Sel. Writ. and Let. of Ath. Proleg., 27) observes that the “common theology”, which was invariably opposed to it, “borrowed its philosophical principles and method from the Platonists.”

    Looks as though the old Platonists cop it from both sides!

  317. Arwen4CJ says:

    Jim,

    You claim that Athanasius was the founder of the Trinity. What about Tertullian? As far as I know, Tertullian is thought to be the “founder” in that he was the first to really articulate a more defined doctrine of the Trinity. It is true that Athanasius was the main apologist against Arius’ view, but he didn’t invent the concept. He defined it further, and helped people understand the view better.

    You wrote:
    “So, Arwen, when you say that there is very clear separation in the persons of the Father and the Son, that they are distinct but the same God, I wonder what image you have of God. How do you conceive of this singularity consisting of three in a non-tritheistic way? Other than accepting it as a mystery we’re not supposed to understand, how do you rationalise a coherent picture of God that is portrayed by that triangular diagram with the word God at the centre and Father, Son and Spirit on the three corners connected by ‘is not’ along each external line and ‘is’ on each internal connection with the word ‘God’. Let’s be honest, it’s either tritheism or modalism. There is no other way that diagram can work. It’s a contradiction in terms and a verbal illusion.”

    My response:
    Let’s use that diagram to help distinguish the three viewpoints — trinitarianism, tritheism, and modalism.

    In the trinity diagram where it says “is God” replace that with “is YHWH,” and that should help to clarify how I understand how God can be one and yet three.

    If they were three gods, they would not all be the one God, YHWH. Instead, they would each be “a god” or “A God.” (tritheism) It would be YHWH and other Gods — YHWH and Jesus and the Holy Spirit. They would not be of the same essence or being. Instead, each would be their own essence and being.

    As for the modalist view, you would change the diagram to delete the word “not” from each of the lines, so that it would say the Father is the Son, the Father is the Holy Spirit, the Son is the Father, the Son is the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is the Father, and the Holy Spirit is the Son. This would make for no distinction between the three. They would all be the same as each other.

    Do you see how the Trinitarian view is distinguished from both tritheism and modalism? Do you see how the other two viewpoints are distinguished from each other?

    This is important, because if you can’t see the distinction of the three views, then we’re not talking about the same thing when we say “trinity,” and we are talking past each other.

    You wrote:
    “1 Tim 2:5 sums up NT teaching perfectly – ‘For there is one God and also one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.’ He was also the Logos, begotten from before creation, a deity alongside YHWH, but that never meant two gods to the NT writers and early church. Neither did they think of God’s invisible presence as another Person complementing the two. I think that’s simply how the lexicon of the day referenced non-material activity – pneuma. It was God at work, and he could be grieved or blasphemed or trampled on.”

    My response:
    How could the view of YHWH and a deity alongside of YHWH not be two gods?

  318. Arwen4CJ says:

    Jim,

    What sources are you using for your information on the trinity? It seems that whatever source it is has misspelled a name……

    You have used the spelling “Anathasius,” but I am pretty sure you mean “Athanasius.” This means that there are either two correct spellings, some legitimate sources spelling it both ways, or there is an error in some of the sources….

  319. Craig says:

    Jim,

    My reply to you was delayed, as we lost electricity for a few hours (so I’ve been playing ‘catch up’ for a bit). Yes, in Rev 4:2, it is literally “in spirit”, but “the” is supplied for better English. But this then seems to help make my point. If it were the Holy Spirit, then the article would have been used in the Greek (“in the Spirit”). Since the context lacks the article, it seems best to understand it as the human spirit (“in [the] spirit”). So, how do we account for the fact that John the Revelator had already been seeing a vision, yet the text signals some sort of change in which he was “in [the] spirit” before entering Heaven?

    As regards 2 Cor. 12:3, I will say I find it curious that Metzger’s Textual Commentary on (some) textual variants omits this particular variant in the (current) 2nd edition (same with Omanson’s commentary and Philip Comfort’s), while it is listed in the 1st. As it happens, I bought a used copy of the first edition before I was aware there was a 2nd. The first edition reads:

    12.3 χωρις The earliest reading appears to be χωρις (p46 B D* Methodius[according to Epipanius]), which, under the influence of ver. 2, was changed in other witnesses to εκτος.

    To be fair, there are more manuscripts reflecting the other reading, but that’s not unusual for an error to get replicated down the line. It’s not difficult to imagine a copyist losing his place in the text and using εκτος from verse 2 in error, and subsequent copyists faithfully copying his error.

  320. Jim says:

    You’re right Arwen. I have transposed the ‘th’ and ‘n’.

    ”How could the view of YHWH and a deity alongside of YHWH not be two gods?” It depends whether you’re concerned that such a view contravenes Jesus declaring the Shema and monotheism is consequently broken. Some would argue that it can still be intact.

  321. Arwen4CJ says:

    Jim,

    So did you understand what I wrote about how trinitarianism differs from both tritheism and modalism?

    Thanks. Good to know that you meant “Athanasius.” It’s a mistake that a few others have made as well, as when I did a google search, a lot of search results came up when I searched for the spelling you had used.

    Yes, I think that having YHWH and a deity alongside of Him (someone who isn’t Him) would make two gods. But, like you said, other people have a different view.

  322. Jim says:

    Arwen, I’ll answer your last question initially. ”How could the view of YHWH and a deity alongside of YHWH not be two gods?” If one is content to see Jesus/Logos as YHWH material, but distinct from him, you can still adhere to the Shema and believe God/YHWH is the Most High and Almighty One. It’s just that you would also hold to the view that his Son is of, or from him, but not him. That’s because you are happy with a cosmological view that understands the existence of many elohim, or ‘mighty ones’, amongst whom the Father stands supreme, and Jesus is pretty much shoulder to shoulder.

  323. Jim says:

    Here is a paste of most of the Athanasian creed translated from Latin:

    Whosoever will be saved, before all things it is necessary that he hold the catholic faith. Which faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled; without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. And the catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the Persons; nor dividing the Essence. For there is one Person of the Father; another of the Son; and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one; the Glory equal, the Majesty coeternal. Such as the Father is; such is the Son; and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father uncreated; the Son uncreated; and the Holy Ghost uncreated. The Father unlimited; the Son unlimited; and the Holy Ghost unlimited. The Father eternal; the Son eternal; and the Holy Ghost eternal. And yet they are not three eternals; but one eternal. As also there are not three uncreated; nor three infinites, but one uncreated; and one infinite. So likewise the Father is Almighty; the Son Almighty; and the Holy Ghost Almighty. And yet they are not three Almighties; but one Almighty. So the Father is God; the Son is God; and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not three Gods; but one God. So likewise the Father is Lord; the Son Lord; and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not three Lords; but one Lord. For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity; to acknowledge every Person by himself to be God and Lord; So are we forbidden by the catholic religion; to say, There are three Gods, or three Lords. The Father is made of none; neither created, nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone; not made, nor created; but begotten. The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son; neither made, nor created, nor begotten; but proceeding. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts. And in this Trinity none is before, or after another; none is greater, or less than another. But the whole three Persons are coeternal, and coequal. So that in all things, as aforesaid; the Unity in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity, is to be worshipped. He therefore that will be saved, let him thus think of the Trinity.

    First up is the need to believe in the trinity, not because of any implied deity issues regarding Jesus, but for its own sake, in order to be saved. I would argue strongly that claim is not scripturally sound. In fact it’s downright wrong.

    Next, I quoted this section because your interpretation of the Trinity diagram to differentiate trinitarianism, tritheism and modalism confused me due to the substitution of YHWH for God/Deus. The diagram has Father on one triangle apex and God in the middle, but did your version dispense with Father and just have YHWH in the middle vice God? It seemed to in the tritheism para.

    Despite that, I got your line of reasoning, but then you finished by saying that trinitarianism is proved (not your words) because it wasn’t either tritheism or modalism. The problem to me though is that statement still doesn’t make sense of the claim illustrated in the diagram. It’s having your cake but ignoring the ingredients in a way. It’s saying it’s not modalism or tritheism when it actually is. To conclude trinitarianism is saying,’ yes, I know it looks like either tritheism or modalism, but it’s not. It’s trinitarinaism because of the ‘is’ ‘is not’ connectors.” Those connectors, however, don’t make the case, they simply illustrate the declaration of the trinity, which remains illogical. Sorry, but I just don’t get it. And I honestly don’t think God would reveal himself in a way that requires a good degree of cognitive dissonance.

  324. Craig says:

    Jim, you wrote, in part, It’s saying it’s not modalism or tritheism when it actually is. To conclude trinitarianism is saying,’ yes, I know it looks like either tritheism or modalism, but it’s not. It’s trinitarinaism because of the ‘is’ ‘is not’ connectors.” Those connectors, however, don’t make the case, they simply illustrate the declaration of the trinity, which remains illogical.

    Look at this precursor to the Trinity, with “Ieve” in the middle understood as YHWH and the circles representing Father, Son and Spirit. For your purposes, think of this as sort of like your “many elohim” in place of YHWH, and within that framework the “is” and “is not” distinctions. Now you still may claim that this image appears tritheistic when construed as the Trinity, but you cannot escape the same charge of polytheism in your particular view of, in essence, many Elohim.

  325. Craig says:

    Or, perhaps I should call your view bitheism (YHWH + not-quite-YHWH-but-subordinate-YHWH) + other less-than-YHWHs = “many elohim”

  326. Jim says:

    From wikipedia – ‘Elohim’:

    Elohim (Hebrew: אֱלֹהִים‎ ’ĕlōhîm) is one of the names of God in the Hebrew Bible and worshipped as part of the Western monotheistic tradition; the term is also used in the Hebrew Bible to refer to groups of other gods.

    Are you saying, Craig, that there is only one spiritual entity? YHWH. Also, isn’t polytheism the systematic worship of multiple deities? It’s not about the existence of multiple deities/elohim.

  327. Jim says:

    ”perhaps I should call your view bitheism”

    I’d prefer functional binity.

  328. Craig says:

    In the definition of Elohim are two: 1) a name for God; 2) groups of other gods. The way I see your conception of God, you’ve conflated the two.

    I’m saying there’s only one God, YHWH, with which I think we agree. I’m not so sure that polytheism must entail the worship of the different gods, as such. I think belief in many gods is the primary definition, with worship of these gods not necessarily a constituent part of the definition.

  329. Craig says:

    I understand what you’re putting forth as a “functional binity” within a larger group of Elohim, but my contention is that when you subsume YHWH and functionally-subordinate-YHWH (which is really bitheism, as the two are separate entities) under “many Elohim” this grouping entails a sort of polytheism in which two members are to be worshiped while the others are not. That is, your grouping of Gods and gods together is by the definition provided for Elohim polytheism. I understand that you’d not actually call the other Elohim “gods” in a pagan sense, but that’s what it amounts to the way I see it.

  330. Arwen4CJ says:

    Jim,

    You wrote:
    “First up is the need to believe in the trinity, not because of any implied deity issues regarding Jesus, but for its own sake, in order to be saved. I would argue strongly that claim is not scripturally sound. In fact it’s downright wrong.

    Next, I quoted this section because your interpretation of the Trinity diagram to differentiate trinitarianism, tritheism and modalism confused me due to the substitution of YHWH for God/Deus. The diagram has Father on one triangle apex and God in the middle, but did your version dispense with Father and just have YHWH in the middle vice God? It seemed to in the tritheism para.

    Despite that, I got your line of reasoning, but then you finished by saying that trinitarianism is proved (not your words) because it wasn’t either tritheism or modalism. The problem to me though is that statement still doesn’t make sense of the claim illustrated in the diagram. It’s having your cake but ignoring the ingredients in a way. It’s saying it’s not modalism or tritheism when it actually is. To conclude trinitarianism is saying,’ yes, I know it looks like either tritheism or modalism, but it’s not. It’s trinitarinaism because of the ‘is’ ‘is not’ connectors.” Those connectors, however, don’t make the case, they simply illustrate the declaration of the trinity, which remains illogical. Sorry, but I just don’t get it. And I honestly don’t think God would reveal himself in a way that requires a good degree of cognitive dissonance.”

    My response:
    I’ve tried to say this before, but I think it is hard for you to understand what I’m saying because you are interpreting “Father” and “YHWH” through your own lens, thus blurring what I’m trying to say.

    In my belief, YHWH and Father are not synonyms. In other words, I don’t believe that only the Father is YHWH, or and I don’t believe that the Father is all of YHWH. I also don’t believe that only the Father is God, and I don’t believe that the Father is all of God. I think this is where the confusion is coming for you.

    Now, the trinity diagram that you and I are referring to is a diagram that was made to show what the Athanasian Creed is saying about God.

    The reason that I substituted YHWH for the word God is because the writers of the creed understood that there is only one God, and that would be YHWH. I did the substitution because the word “God” can be confusing to people, and to make clearer that it wasn’t “a god” in the middle to help distinguish trinitarian belief from tritheism. (To make sure that you saw that we are talking about the same God, YHWH, rather than individual gods.)

    Maybe you are not quite understanding the diagram, so let me see if I can explain it.

    So, the circle in the middle says “God.” (Ignore this middle circle for now).

    There are three other circles which say “The Father,” “The Son,” and the “Holy Spirit.” These are on the outside. They are the points to the equilateral triangle. These three are the Persons.

    The lines connecting the points on the triangle are labeled as “is not.”

    So what is this part of the diagram saying? It is showing the relationship between the points to one another. They are all labeled as “Is Not.”

    What this is saying is that The Father IS NOT the Son. The Father IS NOT the Holy Spirit. (remember, you are following these lines to see that these points are not synonymous). Each point is distinct.

    So, going around the triangle, we see that The Son IS NOT the Father, and The Son IS NOT the Holy Spirit.

    The Holy Spirit IS NOT the Father, and The Holy Spirit IS NOT the Son.

    These outer lines are meant to show that the each of the points (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit) are distinct from one another.

    Does that make sense to you?

    Modalism would remove the word “Not” from each of the connections, which would result in saying The Father is the Son, The Father is the Holy Spirit; The Son is the Father, The Son is the Holy Spirit; The Holy Spirit is the Father, The Holy Spirit is the Son.

    This view eliminates all of the distinctions between the points, making each point synonymous with each of the other points.

    Tritheism, for this part of it, would keep all the outer lines and labels the same as it is for trinitarianism.

    Does everything that I’ve said in this post make sense to you? I’m not going to move on to explaining the middle circle until the outer part makes sense. Otherwise, you will continue to be confused.

    Do you understand how modalism is different from both trinitarianism and tritheism on the outer part of the triangle?

  331. Arwen4CJ says:

    Please note that my previous post is only talking about the OUTER part of the triangle. (In other words, it is not talking about the inner “God” circle with the lines leading to it). We will talk about the inner part of the triangle once I’m sure that we are in agreement on what the outer part of the diagram is saying.

    Please also note that I am not asking you to agree with my beliefs. I am simply trying to help you understand what the diagram means so that we can continue our discussion.

  332. Arwen4CJ says:

    Jim,

    One more thing — I think if we were to make a drawing of your own beliefs involving the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, even your beliefs would agree with the outer part of the diagram, as you believe that there is a distinction between all three points, although with the Holy Spirit it might be different, as you sometimes have stated you believe there is a distinction, and at other times you have said that the Holy Spirit is the Father and Son….

    So, at least with the Father and Son, you would agree that the two are not each other….that there is a distinction.

    The Holy Spirit is a bit more complicated in your belief system, so I’m not quite sure how you would want to express that according to your belief system.

  333. Jim says:

    Well a bit less complicated, so my diagram would simply be a straight line between the Father and Jesus with ‘is not’ written. The complicated part is the God depiction. Probably a line saying ‘is’ from the Father to a circle in which is the Most High God. Another ‘is’ line from Jesus to a circle saying ‘the Son of God Most High’.

  334. Arwen4CJ says:

    Jim,

    I’ve thought of a way to make the middle part more understandable to you (I hope), and I’ve also thought of a way to make the middle represent your view, and also that of tritheism in a clearer way, but I’m going to wait to post any of that until after you’ve responded to my posts from yesterday. I don’t want to overwhelm you, and I want to make sure that you understand the outer part first. (Otherwise you won’t be able to understand the inner part).

    I did want to address a couple things briefly first. Earlier you had written this:
    “The problem to me though is that statement still doesn’t make sense of the claim illustrated in the diagram. It’s having your cake but ignoring the ingredients in a way. It’s saying it’s not modalism or tritheism when it actually is. To conclude trinitarianism is saying,’ yes, I know it looks like either tritheism or modalism, but it’s not. It’s trinitarinaism because of the ‘is’ ‘is not’ connectors.” Those connectors, however, don’t make the case, they simply illustrate the declaration of the trinity, which remains illogical. Sorry, but I just don’t get it. And I honestly don’t think God would reveal himself in a way that requires a good degree of cognitive dissonance.”

    My response:
    Cognitive dissonance can work both ways. It can also be at work when trying to understand a viewpoint that you yourself do not hold, unless you are actually able to put your viewpoints on the shelf for a moment, and try to understand it from a different viewpoint. Again, this doesn’t mean that you have to agree with the other person’s viewpoint or conclusions, but you do have to truly understand them. I know that you are trying hard to understand our viewpoint, but I think your own viewpoint and understanding keeps blocking you from understanding.

    For example, Craig and I have told you several times that we believe that there is only one God, YHWH, and that YHWH is not only the Father, and yet it is something that you keep thinking that we believe because that is what you believe. Our view on YHWH here is essential to our beliefs, without it, you are NOT going to be able to understand what we actually believe. In other words, it is the key. Hopefully my next post will clarify this for you in illustration.

    Secondly, it is true that trinitarianism is in between modalism and tritheism. You have it exactly right that without the “is not” and “Is” connector words, it would be either of those beliefs. That is because trinitarianism holds a perfect tension between the conclusion of both of those belief systems — you go too far on either of those extremes, and you wind up with modalism or tritheism. That is why both the inner and the outer connectors are essential.

    As you have seen, the outer connectors are the same for both trinitarianism and tritheism. The same is not true for modalism. It’s these outer connectors that make the difference between trinitarianism and modalism.

    The connector words for the outer circle are not just words that someone put down to avoid sounding like modalism. Rather, they stand for our actual beliefs that the three points are NOT each other.

    To illustrate that the words matter, let me ask you this:
    Does it matter to you whether there is a distinction between the Father and the Son?

    From our conversations, I know that the distinction does matter. Therefore, the phrases “the Father is not the Son,” and “the Son is not the Father” matter to your belief system too. It is the same with us. To remove those words (“is not”) would be to misrepresent what we believe about the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

    In the same way, if we removed the “is not” from your belief system, it would misrepresent what you believed about the Father and the Son as well.

  335. Arwen4CJ says:

    Jim,

    “Well a bit less complicated, so my diagram would simply be a straight line between the Father and Jesus with ‘is not’ written. The complicated part is the God depiction. Probably a line saying ‘is’ from the Father to a circle in which is the Most High God. Another ‘is’ line from Jesus to a circle saying ‘the Son of God Most High’.”

    Excellent – you wrote your reply as I was just writing mine, and I didn’t see it until after I had posted my previous post.

    What you said about your beliefs is exactly how I was thinking of depicting your beliefs wiith the center as well. I think you are understanding how this diagram is working now.

    Are you okay with moving on to the center of the diagram then?

  336. Arwen4CJ says:

    Given your most recent reply (August 25, 2017 at 6:22 am), it sounds to me like you are definitely ready to move onto the middle. You clearly understand that the center of the diagram is about deity, and is not one of the points.

    Therefore, even though you did not say that you understood the outer lines explicitly, you implicitly did because you showed me that you did agree that in your beliefs, there would be a line from the Father to the Son that says “is not.”

    Also, you clearly understand what the lines in the middle are meant to reflect, as you illustrated those lines exactly as I would have done for your beliefs. You even made two circles in the center to illustrate your beliefs, which is what I would have done for your beliefs as well, and labeled them the way that I would have.

    So, yes, for trinitarian belief, there is one circle in the middle. This label, and this label alone, I would suggest changing the label to “the one and only God, YHWH.” That is for clarification so that you trinitarian beliefs are easier to see. (the label in the diagram “God” is correct as well, though, because for trinitarians, there is only one God, YHWH, so God here is understood to be deity. The creed explicitly says there is one God, and that is this center part of the diagram.)

    The connecting lines in the center each go from each point, the result being “the Father is YHWH, the Son is YHWH, and the Holy Spirit is YHWH.” The “is” on the connectors here is essential.

    Modalism, for the center, would look the same as it is for trinitarianism.

    For tritheism, you could depict it in two ways. The first way that I suggested earlier would be to change the center label to read “a god,” but I thought of a better way. The other way to illustrate tritheism would be to have THREE circles in the middle instead of one. You could label them “God 1,” “God 2,” and “God 3.” Then, there would be a line from the Father to God 1, a line from the Son to God 2, and a line from the Holy Spirit to God 3. Each connecting line to the center would say “is.” This would be a better way of depicting tritheism because it would show how many gods there were in the center.

    And for yours, I would have two circles just as you had, with the lines just as you depicted.

    For all of these belief systems (including yours), you have to keep in mind that both sets of lines (the inner and outer lines) are true at the same time.

    Now, do you see the difference between the different belief systems?
    (Modalism, trinitarianism, and tritheism)?

  337. Arwen4CJ says:

    Oh, I just realized that one of my previous posts might be misunderstood, so let me clarify…

    When I was talking about the tension between two viewpoints, what I meant was the tension between the belief in one God and the belief in the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit being distinct from one another.

    If you go too far in one direction, without holding the other belief in exact tension, you will end up with either modalism or tritheism, depending on which way you are leaning. This is why both beliefs (belief in one God, and belief in the distinction of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) are essential.

  338. Jim says:

    Craig, if I can respond to your 24 Aug 7:06 and 7:21 posts first. I’m not sure we totally align with respect to the term gods. I don’t think I’m conflating the use of the word Elohim because I think I’ve stated that its translation is context dependent. It can mean God YHWH or god (small ‘g’ due to the referent being a lower order spiritual entity, or even senior public human figures and kings.

    What I think you and Arwen agree on is that YHWH is the ‘composite’ of Father, Jesus and Holy Spirit. What I’m saying is that YHWH is the Name of the God Most High also called God Almighty and his Son is Logos/Jesus Christ who is of his nature and not a created being in the sense that other ‘gods’ were made from whatever ‘spirit’ material consists of. I believe that ANE Jews and NT believers understood that this wasn’t bitheism, although I do recognise that it seems that way to you.

    I’m still not sure that while you state that there is one God, YHWH, do you acknowledge other entities that the bible calls Elohim or gods; so called mighty ones that mankind has encountered and refers to as, angels, higher beings, or gods. I’m not talking Eric von Daniken aliens or such, but Angels, nephilim, spiritual beings that are created and under the authority of Jesus and God Most High / YHWH. Can you just clarify that part please.

  339. Jim says:

    Arwen, I need to go through your very detailed posts a couple of times. Thank you for taking so much time and trouble. It’s not that I don’t understand the trinitarian principle. After all, I came from that church doctrinal environment and have only been questioning its validity fairly recently. I totally get the diagram and what it sets out. I’m just not convinced it portrays what the bible honestly declares in a straightforward fashion. 1 Cor 14:33 – God is not the author of confusion but of peace….

  340. Jim says:

    Before moving on, I’d like your take on why the trinity doctrine is the only true way of describing God or YHWH. Is it that monotheism has to stay intact? A singular God entity whereby there are no others. But then having to accommodate a Son who is the mediator between God and mankind who has to be of the order or nature of supreme deity. If Jesus in his incarnation, fully divine and fully man, could say he was going to his God and their (disciples) God and, on multiple occasions, referenced his separateness and subordination to the Most High and All Mighty God, who is man to tamper with that explanation?

  341. Craig says:

    Jim,

    As regards Elohim, you’ve made the comment before that you believe in a sort of divine council consisting of YHWH (Father and Son) and, as I recall, something along the lines of “lower order spiritual entities”. This is where I think you’re conflating the meanings.

    As I see it, any acceptance of binitarianism was as a post-Resurrection reaction to Jesus’ Messiahship–a Messiahship only fully understood post-Easter. ANE Jews added this to their monotheism. Hurtado indicates that the worship of Christ–worship on par with YHWH–was a development of monotheism. It was reactive. In other words, until Jesus Jews were strict monotheists, worshiping YHWH, understood as One single entity, not made up of any ‘parts’.

    Jewish Messianic expectations was of a man who would be anointed by God to lead them out of captivity by political means (revolt). This did not include any sort of divinity on the part of the Messiah. Jesus changed all that retroactively.

    As far as what Elohim means in other non-YHWH contexts see “Occurrences of Elohim that don’t mean God” section here (be sure to exclude the meanings for “El” in the bottom half of that same box).

  342. Craig says:

    Jesus said He was going to His God, but He also called God “His own Father”, which the Jews understood as equating Himself with God (John 5:17-18). While Jesus also spoke as one Person, He sometimes spoke as if He were human, and at other times as if He were God (John 8:58, as merely one example).

  343. Jim says:

    Didn’t the prophets speak as if it were God’s actual voice speaking? There were only a few occasions that the audible voice of God was heard. We are all familiar with a person speaking God’s words in the first person singular. We would simply regard that as ‘speaking by the Spirit of God’. We wouldn’t regard that speaker as YHWH, nor would we include ourselves as part of YHWH despite being permitted to call out ‘Abba, Father’ in prayer.

  344. Craig says:

    Yes, the OT prophets spoke as God’s mouthpiece, as His agent. When the prophet spoke ‘as God’, he did so by quoting Him–not as if he were, in fact, God Himself. Speaking in one’s stead is very different from actually being that person.

    But Jesus made divine claims of Himself. No other prophet did that.

  345. Jim says:

    Elohim is one of a collection of Hebrew words and terms for Lord, Master, God, Almighty etc I understand. Each also have contextual translations and not absolute definitions. I’m not sure that’s conflating matters, just alternating meaning according to context.

    I do think there is good evidence for a divine council. Jesus and Paul make reference to principalities, powers, the kingdom of the power of the air, divine beings with certain responsibilities, all of which took oversight by God.

    I also think that there is sufficient scriptural and cultural evidence of a two powers divine construct through the OT that was only fully revealed in the NT by Jesus Christ. These compelling themes run counter to a trinitarian understanding of the Godhead. So, we see that YHWH was without beginning. Before the creation of the universe he begat or formed the Logos, with whom he co-founded all things, seen and unseen. The Logos incarnated became Jesus who was the Christ who, post death and resurrection, was elevated to a place of at least equal his previous glory and honour with all things placed under his authority, with the exception of God himself. Scripture would support such a narrative very clearly.

  346. Jim says:

    The framework I described above would fit with Jeus making both divine claims and still refer to YHWH as his God.

  347. Craig says:

    But Elohim either means God/YHWH or it means something else. It doesn’t mean both God/YHWH and something else.

    Yes, there may well be a ‘divine council’, if that’s what you’d like to call it (by what you’d just described); however, the term Elohim means either God/YHWH or it has some other meaning–not YHWH + divine council.

  348. Jim says:

    If we start getting into separating Jesus talking sometimes as a man and sometimes as God, it all gets very convoluted. Not that you’re saying as much, but I don’t think he was referring to ‘his God’ from his human side, and his divine nature from his God side. But that was the implication. I think Jesus knew his identity clearly and always referenced himself as the Son and not as equal with the Father.

  349. Craig says:

    I and the Father are One (John 10:30). I Am (John 8:58, etc.). I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last. Shall I go on?

  350. Jim says:

    August 24 6:40am. Definition of elohim according to Wikipedia. Depending on the context, it means God/YHWH or plural lower gods/mighty ones/spirit beings/human lords. It doesn’t mean those things simultaneously clearly.

  351. Jim says:

    I think we’ve covered the names used by Jesus of himself that are found in OT verses about YHWH. If Jesus had been given ALL authority on heaven and earth, that’s tantamount to being the Most High God, but he knew he wasn’t because all these things will be handed back to the Father on the last day once death is defeated 1 Cor 15. He still laid claim to the titles since he was from God and returned to God, and was of God, just not God.

    I’ve been on the road a good time today so will pack up for the night. Looking forward to the overnight posts!

  352. Arwen4CJ says:

    Jim,

    You wrote:
    “What I think you and Arwen agree on is that YHWH is the ‘composite’ of Father, Jesus and Holy Spirit. What I’m saying is that YHWH is the Name of the God Most High also called God Almighty and his Son is Logos/Jesus Christ who is of his nature and not a created being in the sense that other ‘gods’ were made from whatever ‘spirit’ material consists of. I believe that ANE Jews and NT believers understood that this wasn’t bitheism, although I do recognise that it seems that way to you.

    I’m still not sure that while you state that there is one God, YHWH, do you acknowledge other entities that the bible calls Elohim or gods; so called mighty ones that mankind has encountered and refers to as, angels, higher beings, or gods. I’m not talking Eric von Daniken aliens or such, but Angels, nephilim, spiritual beings that are created and under the authority of Jesus and God Most High / YHWH. Can you just clarify that part please.”

    My response:
    I think that you do understand what Craig and I believe about YHWH a lot better now.

    I agree that the point of disagreement between you and us is over who all is YHWH, as well as who exactly Jesus is.

    Jehovah Witnesses have a similar understanding to you, but they have some differences with you as well (for example, they believe that Jesus was the angel Michael). They, too, believe that the Father alone is YHWH (well, they prefer the name Jehovah of course), and refer to Him as Almighty God. They call Jesus Mighty God.

    The problem with there being an “Almighty God” and separate “Mighty God” is not only would that amount to two different Gods, but there are some passages in Revelation that seem like Jesus is sometimes referred to as Almighty God along with the Father. I don’t see anywhere in Scripture where the title “Almighty God” is defined as only the Father. I don’t see anywhere in Scripture that allows for an “Almighty God” and a separate “Mighty God.”

    For my part, I do believe that there are spiritual entities such as angels and demons. However, I do not believe that these are real gods in any way. They are a completely different order of creation from that of humans, and they have different functions. I would NOT include these as being equal to YHWH or even factoring into the trinity diagram at all. They are not gods. Some of them might be worshiped by people as gods because those people have been deceived into thinking that some demons are gods. These angels and demons are created beings.

  353. Craig says:

    Jim, you wrote …if Jesus had been given ALL authority on heaven and earth, that’s tantamount to being the Most High God, but he knew he wasn’t because all these things will be handed back to the Father on the last day once death is defeated 1 Cor 15. He still laid claim to the titles since he was from God and returned to God, and was of God, just not God.

    Yes, being given ALL authority on heaven and earth is tantamount to being the Most High God. And since Jesus clearly was not the Father, then both most constitute the Most High God. I say this in view of the fact that there cannot be possibly be two ‘I AMs’, yet both Jesus made this claim and YHWH made this claim (Exodus 3:14). The Son is a ‘separate “Person” from the Father, yet both are YHWH.

    But, then again, someone–obviously the Father–bestowed this authority to the Son. And the Son will give all things back to the Father at the eschaton. However, we must circle back to Jesus’ claims of being YHWH (yet NOT the Father) either explicitly (“I AM”) or implicitly (“I and the Father are One [in essence/being]”), etc.

  354. Arwen4CJ says:

    Jim,
    You wrote:
    “Arwen, I need to go through your very detailed posts a couple of times. Thank you for taking so much time and trouble. It’s not that I don’t understand the trinitarian principle. After all, I came from that church doctrinal environment and have only been questioning its validity fairly recently. I totally get the diagram and what it sets out. I’m just not convinced it portrays what the bible honestly declares in a straightforward fashion. 1 Cor 14:33 – God is not the author of confusion but of peace….”

    My response:
    Sure, no problem. Go through my post as often and for as long as you need. I don’t want those posts glossed over, and I want to make sure that you understand what I said. Please don’t feel rushed.

    No problem. To me, this is a really important topic, and since we are discussing the Trinity, I want to make sure that we understand one another.

    The reason why I thought you were not quite understanding the trinity is because of some of your previous posts. I think you understood some of the basic ideas, and yet it seemed as though you didn’t understand some of the most important trinitarian beliefs. It isn’t an easy doctrine to understand, and it has been misrepresented by people over a long period of time as well, and our culture has changed over the hundreds of years since the doctrine was defined in the church. It’s not as accepted as it once was in some of the more theologically liberal churches.

    Yes, I understand that you came from a church environment that believed in the trinity. Most Christians today do come from a background that officially believes it, even if their pastor or particular congregation does not. I think for the average person who attends church, most people do not actually understand what the doctrine of the trinity teaches. This may be because they don’t care, it was never explained to them, or they never thought about it themselves, or some combination of those reasons.

    However, you are taking the time to question the view, and to really think about these issues. I’ve thought about them deeply as well. I learned a lot about it when I was put into a situation where I was talking to Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons and Oneness Pentecostals about my beliefs. I had to figure out what the doctrine taught, whether I agreed with it, and then how to distinguish it from various people I met online and in person, and finally, how to explain my beliefs to them and help them know how my beliefs contrasted with theirs.

    Although I went through confirmation class in my church, I never understood the doctrine. I suspect that it was never taught to me in confirmation. However, it might have been. I was really young when I went through — I was in 6th grade. My class was huge, and we had students that were anywhere from 6th grade to seniors in high school in my class because we had not had a confirmation class at my church in quite a few years. The senior pastor at the time taught it, and he was pretty old. He was close to retirement age, and he didn’t really seem to like children much. On top of that, we had some kids in my class who really misbehaved. They would distract the rest of the kids in the class by making fun of the actors and actresses in the confirmation videos that we would watch. I don’t remember any doctrine being discussed. From what I remember of it, it seemed to be just how to be a good church member, what church committees did, etc. Again, my view might have been skewed because of my young age and the other factors that happened in class. I did not get much out of confirmation class.

    In the Sunday school classes that I attended, we never really learned much about church doctrines either. We learned about the Bible stories, many of them being Old Testament stories, but we never discussed anything theological about them. We just learned the stories of our faith. In junior high and high school, we discussed some topics, but not really doctrines. The doctrine of the Trinity never came up in class. Neither did the deity of Christ.

    Now, some of the adult classes have discussed doctrines, but not many other adults take the classes that are offered. Usually it is the same few people who take classes. I didn’t really attend these adult classes until after I had graduated from college because I was not at home while in college. The adult classes that I’ve taken happened after I had already determined what I believed.

    The point of all of this is to say that I think a lot of people who attend churches may never have actually been exposed to the doctrine, so they don’t really know what it is. I am glad that you are taking the time to understand it, and to really consider what it is that you believe. It is pretty meaningless for a person to say they affirm a doctrine when they don’t know what it is, and have never thought about it.

    It seemed to me like you were confused about the diagram because you said you were confused when I said to substitute YHWH for God in the center. You made a comment about questioning that I had eliminated the Father from the diagram. You also said you didn’t what I was saying about the diagram, and you couldn’t really tell how trinitarian belief differed from modalism or tritheism.

    That is fair if you do not think that the diagram portrays what Scripture says about God in a straightforward way. I was just asking you to understand it from a trinitarian perspective since you asked me how I interpreted the diagram.

    As for 1 Corinthians 14:33, I have heard that verse used like how you use it against the Trinity, (God not being the author of confusion), but I think that is taking the verse out of its context and misapplying it.

    Paul had been speaking of spiritual gifts in that whole section of the letter. He had just been explaining the purpose of the spiritual gifts, including that of tongues. He saying that if there were people speaking aloud in tongues, it should just be a small number, and that each must have an interpretation. This is to clear up confusion and bring order to the service.

    As for prophets, Paul was saying that only one should speak at a time, and again, it should be a small number of people who give prophecies per service. Another thing — these prophecies that were spoken of needed to be judged by other prophets.

    All of these instructions were given to provide order to the service so that it would not descend into total chaos and confusion. It’s within this context that verse 33 should be interpreted in. It isn’t talking about church doctrine, or the nature of God, or anything like that.

    Nowhere in the Bible does it say that true doctrine cannot be confusing to people. In fact, in 2 Peter 3:15-17 it seems that some people were confused by Paul’s letters and distorted his teachings. This didn’t mean that Paul’s teachings should be condemned or incorrect because they brought confusion to some people.

    The test for any doctrine is not whether or not some people can be confused by it. The test is whether or not it is what Scripture teaches.

  355. Arwen4CJ says:

    Jim,

    You wrote:
    “Before moving on, I’d like your take on why the trinity doctrine is the only true way of describing God or YHWH. Is it that monotheism has to stay intact? A singular God entity whereby there are no others. But then having to accommodate a Son who is the mediator between God and mankind who has to be of the order or nature of supreme deity. If Jesus in his incarnation, fully divine and fully man, could say he was going to his God and their (disciples) God and, on multiple occasions, referenced his separateness and subordination to the Most High and All Mighty God, who is man to tamper with that explanation?”

    My response:
    The simple, short answer is because it is what I am convinced that Scripture teaches.

    Now, for a longer answer, some of which is going to be a repeat of what we’ve talked about before–
    YHWH Himself declared that He was the one and only God. There is no god besides Him. Passages such as the ones from Isaiah that we discussed previously. as well as the Shema, and various other passages throughout the Bible attest to there being only one God.

    Therefore, yes, monotheism must stay intact with YHWH being the one and only God. Any other viewpoint would violate all the Scriptures that say that YHWH is the one and only God.

    I have more to add here, but I need to go right now. I will be back later to finish this.

  356. Arwen4CJ says:

    Continuing from my previous post…

    Scripture also shows that the Father is God, Jesus is God, and the Holy Spirit is God. If there is one God (since that is what Scripture teaches), and the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are clearly not the same person as each other, then the only conclusion can be that the one God is triune.

    It’s the only view that I can see that is fully supported by all Scripture passages — those that speak of there being one God, and those that speak of the Persons as being distinct, and those that speak of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit each being God.

    Any other viewpoint would end up violating Scriptures in at least one of the categories (there being only one God, the Persons each being God, and the Persons being distinct from one another.)

    Now, let’s take the last section of your post:
    “A singular God entity whereby there are no others. But then having to accommodate a Son who is the mediator between God and mankind who has to be of the order or nature of supreme deity. If Jesus in his incarnation, fully divine and fully man, could say he was going to his God and their (disciples) God and, on multiple occasions, referenced his separateness and subordination to the Most High and All Mighty God, who is man to tamper with that explanation?”

    My response:
    Remember that in the trinity diagram, the Father is YHWH, the Son is YHWH, and the Holy Spirit is YHWH, and the whole triune God is YHWH.

    So, it is correct to refer to the Father is God, just as it would be correct to refer to either of the other two Persons as God. Since YHWH is all one God, then I see no problem with Jesus referring to one of the other Persons as God. It would still be true, and it would not violate trinitarian belief.

    Jesus did refer to the Father as God, but He also referred to Himself as God. To be sinless, as a human (of course He was also fully God), He had to worship the Father as God. He had to refer to the Father as His God. Being a perfect human requires this.

    Again, I see no problem with Jesus referring the disciples to worship the Father, but He also accepted the worship of them as well. He also claimed to be YHWH several times, though of course, He never claimed to be the Father.

  357. Jim says:

    The problem with appealing to scripture as a basis on which to build the trinity doctrine is that there is a significantly larger body of the bible that speaks of other ‘gods’ (spiritual entities, non-YHWH god-like creatures with powers beyond normal human capabilities), such as Ex 18:11, Job 1. There are also plenty of examples of thrones in heaven, a figure clearly meant to be YHWH accompanied by a secondary divine person, and theophanies various, culminating in ‘all the fullness of God’ poured into Jesus to represent him perfectly on Earth – Emanuel, God with us (John 14:10). Yet in the same monologue, Jesus stated,John 14:28, the Father, who was working in and through him, was greater than him.

    Regarding Jesus claiming to be YHWH or God, I think that there is a good deal of supposition in that. The John 8:58 passage – Before Abraham was born, I am – is not so much a declaration he is YHWH, it was to state that in another way what he said in John 3:13, 31 that he had been sent from their God YHWH, from a pre-existence in heaven. So John 8:58 is simply Jesus saying, ‘before Abraham was ever alive, I existed’, using the sacred haShem means of stating his existence. That the Jews had turned God’s words to Moses of him being the true and living God into a sacred name that could not be written or uttered was of no consequence to Jesus, nor should it be to us.

    Another example is Rev 5:7 of separateness and sameness. In verse 6, Jesus/Lamb is standing in the centre of the throne on which YHWH/God is sitting indicating all-supremacy. but still under God. The heavenly beings recognise the role Jesus has played through his death and resurrection of bringing a kingdom of believers to serve God (there seems to be no mention in Revelation’s heavenly scenes of the person of the Holy Spirit).

    I honestly think we’re circling round the same points. I truly appreciate both your engagements and desire for clarity. I’m not shutting down the conversation by any means, but don’t want you to feel you’re wasting your time either. Whilst we probably understand each other, there is a last 10% that cognitively ‘clicks’ for both in our views on the nature of God and Jesus. This morning as I sing in church, I know I can worship and thank Jesus for his unsurpassing sacrifice, give glory and honour to God/YHWH for who he is, supreme and above all things, creator through Jesus of everything seen and unseen, and see evidence of his life in each of us by his wisdom, mind, breath, word, spirit. I can do that without holding a trinitarian perspective of YHWH. I’m also happy you are drawn closer to him by your trinitarian understanding.

    That said, I am very aware that the two views are pretty widely separated and neither of us wants to following after a wrong gospel that ultimately will be in vain for the purpose of qualifying us for eternal life. So, perhaps it really is a matter of life and death after all….

  358. Craig says:

    Jim, you wrote (in part): So John 8:58 is simply Jesus saying, ‘before Abraham was ever alive, I existed’, using the sacred haShem means of stating his existence.

    Take a closer look at the context. In verse 56 Jesus mentions to the Jews that their father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing His (Jesus’) day. Upon hearing this, the Jews ask, “You are not yet fifty years old yet you have seen Abraham!?”. This indicates that they understood Jesus was making the incredulous claim of being a contemporary of Abraham. To this, Jesus said, “Before Abraham [was born], I AM!”. (The verb for “was born” is absent in quite a few manuscripts, but this fact doesn’t change the thrust of the statement.) Using the sacred haShem was seen as blasphemy (Lev 24:16)–an offense for which stoning to death was punishment–as evidenced by their response in verse 59.

    Now look carefully at Genesis 18. In the first verse YHWH appeared to Abraham, yet in 18:2 it’s stated that Abraham saw three men. Each time the ‘three men’ speak to Abraham (18:5, 9) they speak as one; however, in 18:10, 13-14 it’s YHWH speaking. Are the ‘three men’ the Trinity?

    On another note, regarding whether or not the human body has ‘parts’, see Romans 8:16: The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God. Certainly the second “spirit” must be our human spirit. 8:10 could solidify this (that human bodies have parts), however it contains an ambiguity–to de pneuma zōē dia dikaiosynēn, which translates as literally as possible as the but spirit life through righteousness (de, “but”, is always placed post-positively–i.e., second in any clause–thereby separating to and pneuma). The clause lacks a verb (not rare in the NT), and both “spirit” and “life” are nominatives. (This is sufficiently different from tou pneumatos tēs zōēs, “the Spirit of life” in 8:2, with tēs zōēs genitives [singular].) Translations are split, with some rendering this “but the Spirit is life”, and others “but the spirit is alive”. The latter would help to solidify my belief that humans have ‘parts’ (see footnote 46 in my most recent article).

  359. Arwen4CJ says:

    Jim,

    Before I answer your post (which will have to be tomorrow), I need some clarification.

    So you believe that everything that is called an Elohim in the Bible is an actual God (deity) … a lesser deity and subject to YHWH and Jesus? (Since you believe Jesus is a second God).

  360. Jim says:

    Craig, the three men could well have been the Logos as a theophany and two angels. Gen 19 opens up with two angels who were part of the original visiting party in Gen 18. In the latter parts of the chapter the word Adonai is rendered Lord, rather than it being YHWH. I’m not sure what you would conclude from the various forms of Lord/LORD. So Jesus had every right to talk about what Abraham had said to him. If it was Jesus, also referred to as YHWH here, could that not be a qualitative reference to the Logos? That would not have to mean two persons in one YHWH, but two persons with the qualities of YHWH, with one being the Most High God.

    I would read Romans 8:16 as something like: ‘The in-dwelling mind of God and Christ confirms to our innermost being that we are God’s children’. It’s not so much an anthropological declaration. I don’t tend to see us as having a ‘dead’ spirit that needs resurrecting or enlivening. God is the giver of physical and (eventually) resurrection life. Spirit parts, especially ones that survive death, are a Platonic construct, but not found in Hebrew scripture, or within NT understanding.

  361. Jim says:

    Arwen, I read the term elohim in context, which can vary between the singular Almighty God to plural ‘gods’. By ‘gods’ I think the understanding in scripture is of lower order created deities that are not of human composition, although angels mating with humans would have produced a stream of deviant humanity that was eradicated by the flood. Elohim can mean a variety of things besides just gods such as mighty ones or rulers.

    Just to be absolutely precise, I don’t regard Jesus as a ‘second God’. He is formed from the ‘stuff’ of God/YHWH, had a beginning and is God’s vice-regent ruling on behalf of the Most High. It’s not like Dr Seuss’s Thing 1 and Thing 2! There is God and the Son of God, separate but intimately connected.

  362. Jim says:

    Arwen, this morning, singing some great worship songs in church, I was thinking as well about all the references to God, and how you and Craig would picture who you are singing or praying to. If YHWH is essentially the Godhead, three in one, who is it that you’re recognising when all that’s written in the lyrics is ‘God’?

    Would you say, for instance, ‘Thank you YHWH for dying on the cross to cleanse me of my sin’? Or YHWH (Jesus), or just Jesus? We haven’t really looked at the ‘did God die on the cross’ line of reasoning as yet. I have my take on that, and it’s pretty straightforward for a non-trinitarian.

    And if YHWH is three in one, can he be two in one while the other is ‘out’, as might be taken during the incarnation? in fact, how does the idea of ‘persons’ even work within an omni-present being? How does one omni-present spirit being (the Father) differentiate himself from another co-substantial spirit being (the Holy Spirit)? Mashed potato + mashed potato = mashed potato, not 2 x mashed potato surely.

  363. Jim says:

    Arwen, you wrote: ‘Therefore, yes, monotheism must stay intact with YHWH being the one and only God. Any other viewpoint would violate all the Scriptures that say that YHWH is the one and only God.’ You also wrote: ‘the Father is YHWH, the Son is YHWH, and the Holy Spirit is YHWH, and the whole triune God is YHWH’. So you are saying that the triple Godhead is YHWH, but the individual Godhead Persons are also YHWH ie the Godhead (which is a plurality).

    So the logic here, if I’ve got it right, is that each individual person of the Godhead YHWH, is also the triune plurality that is the Godhead YHWH. Is that your understanding?

  364. Craig says:

    Jim,

    There are a lot of curious features to the 18th chapter of Genesis. Note that in verse 3 Abraham addresses all three as “my Adonai”, for it was “they” who answered Abraham in verse 5. In v. 22 “the men” went to Sodom, yet “Abraham was still standing before YHWH”. Abraham addressed YHWH, then the verses following indicate Abraham is addressing “Adonai”, yet in verse 33 once YHWH had finished speaking with him, Abraham returned home. This indicates that Adonai and YHWH refer to the same entity. But, upon arriving in Sodom (Gen 19), we find that it’s “two angels” rather than three, or even two, men.

  365. Craig says:

    Jim,

    I suppose it would depend on the full context of the lyrics.

    You asked, Would you say, for instance, ‘Thank you YHWH for dying on the cross to cleanse me of my sin’? Sure.

    Or YHWH (Jesus), or just Jesus? I would usually say “Jesus”, but “YHWH” is OK. However, Trinitarians (most) recognize that God really didn’t die on the Cross in a strict sense. God cannot die. This is how/why Jesus raised Himself from the dead. This points to the mystery of the hypostatic union (1 Timothy 3:16, e.g.).

    You also asked, in fact, how does the idea of ‘persons’ even work within an omni-present being? I can’t say I can explain this satisfactorily, however I accept this is how Scripture pictures the Godhead–three in One, a Trinity.

  366. Craig says:

    Jim,

    As The way you’ve laid out your question to Arwen4CJ in your first paragraph @ 5:02 am is my interpretation of the Godhead, as well.

    You asked, So the logic here, if I’ve got it right, is that each individual person of the Godhead YHWH, is also the triune plurality that is the Godhead YHWH. Is that your understanding? As Dr. Michael Brown stated (from memory), YHWH is complex in His unity, a multiplicity-in-unity.

    YHWH (the Godhead) has one will, not three, as the latter would be tritheism (this is the problem I see inherent in all ‘Social Trinitarianism’–it either outright states or implies three wills). By this one divine will, no “Person” of the Godhead can be at odds with another.

  367. Jim says:

    ‘God cannot die’. We all agree that an everlasting entity cannot cease to exist. But Jesus had to ‘taste death’ (Heb 2:9) in a very real way in order to accomplish his ultimate mission. I believe the clue here is not that Jesus went to a Paradise immediately after his death in some non-material spirit form (in fact he declared he would be buried for three days as the sign of Jonah). In Phil 2:5-9 Paul states that Jesus through his servant nature permitted his divinity to be subject to physical death. A real death that only resurrection could counter. The Son of God actually submitted himself to the Son of Man within the hypostatic union in an act of the most incredible humility.

    As Paul knew only too well (1 Cor 15), no resurrection by Jesus, no resurrection for us. He was subject to a death that would have continued into infinity had not the power of God intervened, and so we have that same hope after our death.

  368. Jim says:

    Craig, Dr Brown has summed things up nicely – to paraphrase, it’s all too complex and mysterious to truly wrap our heads around. To me that’s the last stop on the trinitarian train journey. If, say, Jesus is YHWH, and YHWH is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, then Jesus, is also the Father and the Holy Spirit. Correct?

    I don’t see much, if any solid evidence that this is what God CLEARLY communicated about himself in scripture.

  369. Craig says:

    Jim, you wrote, If, say, Jesus is YHWH, and YHWH is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, then Jesus, is also the Father and the Holy Spirit. Correct? No, the “Persons” of the Trinity are not ‘confused’ with one another; there are distinctions in “Persons”. What you’ve presented here is modalism.

    The Father did not die on the Cross (that would be Patripassianism). The Father sent the Son; the Son died on the Cross (‘in His humanity’). The Holy Spirit was sent by to us by the Son from the Father (John 15:26).

  370. Jim says:

    There is no confusion, Craig. What I have presented is what it appears trinitarianism boils down to as written on this thread. It really is modalism from one angle or tritheism from another. Saying it’s not can’t make it trinitarianism. Have we reached an impasse? It’s like stalemate in chess.

  371. Craig says:

    Jim,

    I meant the term “confusion” in the manner in which Chalcedon uses it–a mixing together. Not that you are confused. I think you understand the issues quite well.

    As Arwen4CJ has articulated, Trinitarianism holds things in tension–not unlike the hypostatic union–go too far one way and you get modalism, go too far another and there’s tritheism.

    Have we reached an impasse? I suppose that depends. I think you leave a lot of questions unanswered. Speaking just about Father and Son, there are just too many Scriptures declaring the Son as YHWH. Either there are two(+) YHWHs…or something else…

  372. Craig says:

    In G. K. Beale’s commentary on the Apocalypse (The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text, NIGTC; Accordance electronic ed. [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999]) are words explaining chapters 21 and 22 (and others), which are pertinent to the discussion here [bold added]:

    As in Ezekiel 47, the living water flows from the temple, though now God and the Lamb are the temple (21:22). Though the Holy Spirit may be in mind, the water metaphor primarily represents the life of eternal fellowship with God and Christ, which is borne out by the way 22:3–5 develops 22:1–2. Later Judaism understood the water depiction similarly: Midr. Rab. Gen. 70.6 adduces the “living waters” of Zech. 14:8 (see above) as a demonstration that God will redeem Israel and will be their God (likewise Midr. Rab. Gen. 48.10). This fellowship can never be broken. In like manner, the LXX of Ps. 45(46):5a[4a] says, “the flowings of the river gladden the city of God,” which is a metaphor in vv 4b–5 for God’s presence, which provides the security of the city and its temple: “the Most High has sanctified his tabernacle. God is in the midst of her; she will not be moved.” This fellowship is reserved in Revelation for those who have maintained their faith in the Lamb’s atoning death and their testimony to his redemptive work. That the river is “pure” and the water “bright as crystal” indicates the purifying nature of the water. The water purifies away people’s sins so that they may enter into the intimate presence of God, as portrayed in 22:3–5 (so similarly 22:14, 17) (p 1104).

    …Just as Ezekiel’s waters cause the trees to bear fruit because they “flow from the sanctuary,” so also the waters of John’s vision cause the trees to be fruitful because they “proceed from the throne of God and of the Lamb,” who together are the sanctuary in the new world. The “living waters” coming from God and the Lamb represent eternal life because the presence of God imparts life to all those able to enter into intimate communion with him (so 22:17). This meaning of the waters in connection with the trees may be confirmed further from Odes [of] Sol[omon] 11:16, where “fruitbearing trees” and “a river . . . irrigating them” in paradise are both directly associated with “eternal life” (similarly 1QH 14[6].14–18; 1QSb 1.3–4).

    The river in Ezek. 47:8–9, 12 purifies (literally “heals”) much water (cf. the “[pure] river” in Rev. 22:1), gives “life” to the creatures swimming in it, and causes trees to grow whose “leaves are for healing.” Ezekiel’s river is the source of renovation for the natural world. The likelihood is that the vision in Ezekiel 40–48 is a figurative picture of God’s final dwelling with his people. The imagery of the river in Ezekiel 47 appears to fit into such a figurative portrayal, since similar OT imagery of restored Zion clearly employs water figuratively to signify the renewed life of the saints in their final reunion with God (cf. Isa. 35:6–9 [above] and Joel 3:18: “the mountains will drip with sweet wine, the hills will flow with milk, all the brooks of Judah will flow with water, and a spring will go out from the house of the LORD to water the valley of acacias”; so likewise Isa. 41:17–20; 43:18–20)…(pp 1106-07).

    …There will be no form of curse in the new Jerusalem because God’s consummate, ruling presence will fill the city: “the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it.” There are not two thrones but only one, as is clear from 3:21: “I also overcame and sat down with my Father on his throne” (cf. similarly 5:11–13; 7:17; see likewise 1 En. 51:3). All who enter the city have access to the presence of God and the Lamb. They respond to this presence by becoming “servants” who “will serve” (λατρεύω) before the throne. The observation that in 7:15 the saints “serve” (λατρεύω) God as priests in his heavenly temple shows that here also they are performing priestly service in the temple of the end-time city…

    That “they will serve him” likely does not refer only to God or only to the Lamb. The two are conceived so much as a unity that the singular pronoun can refer to both. This may find a parallel in 6:17b, where [some manuscripts, including the Majority Text,] read αυτου [ED: sing. instead of pl. pronoun], possibly in reference to both God and the Lamb (see on 6:17; cf. also 11:15). That both are sitting on only one throne and together form one temple (21:22) enhances their perceived unity. Also, this unity is highlighted by both having the titles “Alpha and Omega” (1:8; 21:6; 22:13). Such statements as these in 21:22 and 22:3 were among those that gave rise to later trinitarian formulas (p 1113).

  373. Jim says:

    That is interesting Craig. I’d have to go back to the end of revelation and see whether it looks as though Jesus is subsumed back into the Father from whom he was begotten or formed. It may indicate that his purpose was complete once man had been fully reconciled to God and to exist separately was not necessary. I’ll take a look.

    I’ve tried to answer all your questions. Inevitably there will be some I haven’t done to others satisfaction. I’m not sure I or you could answer all our outstanding issues on this topic. Happy to keep trying and exploring along the way.

  374. Craig says:

    Jim,

    As you may be aware, there is what is called the Economic Trinity and the Ontological Trinity. The former defines how God has revealed Himself by how He relates to His creation, the latter to who God is in Himself. The following article gives a brief overview of the Economic Trinity [Important caveats: the author claims the Son has a separate will from the Father. This is not considered orthodox. Most affirm that the Son has two wills–one divine and one human–as per the Third Council of Constantinople, 680-681 AD. The Son’s divine will is the same will as the Father and the Holy Spirit. I’ve written to the author, and I cannot get him to see this. Oh well]:

    https://carm.org/ontological-and-economic-trinity

    I provide this background, because I think it possible that the Ontological Trinity does not really have such sharp divisions in “Persons” as the Economic Trinity. Frankly, we just don’t know, as Scripture only goes so far in this. Any sort of discussion of God’s ontology apart from how He reveals Himself in creation is necessarily speculative. This is especially so, if we grant that time as we know it is a necessary construct of creation, while our own conception of eternity is, again, necessarily speculative.

  375. Jim says:

    Having read revelation it indicates that the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb still exist as discernible entities after the new heavens and earth are created. But that’s still not absolute and could be read that God is the sole source of light and goodness now.

    I read the CARM article too and the economic trinity reads like a non-trinitarian’s list of proof texts!

  376. Craig says:

    Did you get to his “Objections Answered” part at the bottom?

  377. Arwen4CJ says:

    Jim,

    I’m sorry I wasn’t able to make any posts today. I’ve been really, really busy all day, and just have not had any time to respond to anything. I will try to do so tomorrow.

  378. Jim says:

    Arwen, no worries. Don’t rush.

    Craig, I did, but will review them. Can’t recall exact detail just now.

  379. Jim says:

    So having re-read the objections answered it left me simply confused over different wills but one will, and all working in harmony, with the four scenarios just rehashes of the same challenge. It’s strange that some Christians are quite happy to take allegorical eschatological scriptures from, say, Revelation as literal, yet not take at face value verses such as John 17:3, 1 Cor 8:6, Eph 4:6, 1 Tim 2:5, and James 2:19. These are unequivocal, non-trinitarian declarations that don’t require the massaging of phrases such as the CARM article does, for example, “Since God is a Trinity of persons, where does it say in Scripture that God (implying a single person) can only have one will?” Well, where does it say in scripture God is a trinity? It doesn’t but with some cross-referencing you could achieve that conclusion by inferences.

    With respect to wills, a separate person, separate will is far cleaner and more honest interpretation. However, if you have already assumed trinitarianism cannot be tampered with, these contra-logical twists have to be made to accommodate multiple wills, but one God. The other natural conclusion from seeing the very evident passages about wills and mission is that Jesus is subordinate to the Father. It’s stunningly apparent, but to call it heresy is simply to prevent trinitarianism unravelling. Wayne Grudem wrote a thoughtful piece called ‘Biblical evidence for the eternal submission of the Son to the Father’. 1 Cor 15:27-28 sums up Pauls theology on this succinctly.

    It plays into my conception of the trinity because I see scripture conveying a Father who has a Son, who has his name and is of his nature (there is a very clear human equivalence), but the Father will always be the highest authority as the only one who can bestow or delegate full authority. He does so to Jesus placing all things under him except himself. A co-equal unity of three entities or persons can’t do that. There are serious logical fault lines running through trinitarianism that break apart under scrutiny.

  380. Jim says:

    1 Cor 11:3 gives a clear picture of the order of things – ‘But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.’

    Paul confirms the Genesis creation of man in vs 7-8 that Adam came first and Eve from him. I’ve said it before, but I see strong parallels between God begetting Jesus in pre-creation ‘times’ and Eve taken from Adam. When man and woman marry they are regarded as one flesh, almost a reversal of the creation account. So God/YHWH and Logos/Jesus could be seen the same way – one spirit rather than flesh, but two distinct entities, united but with an order of authority in that oneness.

    That’s not binitarianism nor is it bitheism if all honour and worship is given to the highest authority (monotheistic) but the highest authority confers it also on the subordinate one.

  381. Craig says:

    Jim,

    I suppose I should not have used the CARM site, since Slick construes Christ as having one will. He’s also bought into the Social Trinity idea, with each “Person” having an individual will, but all in harmony, which strikes of tritheism.

    I have Grudem’s Systematic Theology, and I don’t recall him teaching subordinationism. His sections on the Trinity and Christology were fine, as I read them. Submission does not necessarily entail subordination.

    You mention John 17:3, a favorite of unitarians, but what about 17:5? God shares His glory with no other (Isa 42:8).

  382. Craig says:

    1 Cor 11:3 is for the marriage relationship. There is no marriage in heaven. See the picture of “the Lamb” and God sharing the Throne I presented yesterday.

    I don’t think you can equate God taking Eve from Adam’s rib with the Son as God’s monogenēs Son. Different things altogether.

  383. Jim says:

    You’re right Craig about submission being different to subordination, and Grudem makes that clear sticking firmly with submission. Definitions are essential here.

    Is 42:8 should be seen in the context of its last line ‘nor my praise to graven images’. In other words YHWH was stating in a different form commandments 1 and 2. That’s not to say that he couldn’t or didn’t give Jesus glory. He came from glory and was reinstated to God’s right hand, a position of the highest honour. God wasn’t jealous of Jesus clearly, but just because he did give Jesus glory doesn’t mean that Jesus had to be him since he gives it to no other as per Is 42:8. He gives it to no idol.

  384. Jim says:

    Yep, I recognise that the marriage analogy isn’t a direct read across. Obviously YHWH isn’t married to Jesus, nor is Jesus the product of God and a ‘queen of heaven’ as many pagan worship structures expressed.

    But since YHWH and Jesus had a conversation before man’s creation and decided to make us in their image, there is scope for the parallel manner of Jesus and Eve respectively coming into being. Just to be clear, Jesus is begotten of YHWH’s highest divine spirit, and Eve of the flesh. Not saying it’s a perfect picture, but I think it works to a good degree.

  385. Craig says:

    Jim, you wrote (in part): God wasn’t jealous of Jesus clearly, but just because he did give Jesus glory doesn’t mean that Jesus had to be him since he gives it to no other as per Is 42:8. He gives it to no idol.

    There are two different phrases in Isa 42:8: ‘no glory to another’ and ‘no praise to idols’. These are two different things, not the latter constraining the former. In your view God the Father is a superior entity to the Son of God (YHWH vs. ‘almost-YHWH’), yet the Father God gives no glory to another. This is a problem for your theology.

  386. Jim says:

    Aren’t you overly constraining 1 Cor 11:3 by limiting it to the marriage relationship? It’s broader than that, but speaks to a marriage as well.

  387. Craig says:

    As I’m working on something else, I was thinking of Ephesians 5 and hastily replied with that in mind.

    But I still don’t see 1 Cor 11:3 as somehow analogous to the Father’s relationship with the Son.

  388. Jim says:

    ‘No glory to another’ and ‘no praise to graven images’ is parallelism. It is a reflection of God steering his people from their desire to depart from worshipping him, and he certainly doesn’t ascribe any praise or value to their focus of worship. I don’t see how that affects non-trinitarianism. Why is it a problem?

  389. Jim says:

    Wouldn’t ‘God is the head of Christ’ be analogous to the Father’s relationship to the Son?

  390. Craig says:

    You have one God (the Father), and He will not share His glory with anything else. Why would He share it with ‘almost-YHWH’?

  391. Craig says:

    Wouldn’t ‘God is the head of Christ’ be analogous to the Father’s relationship to the Son? That would be subordinationism, not submission.

  392. Jim says:

    Given the many passages clearly stating the glory and honour bestowed upon Jesus by the Father, he very much does give glory to another. Is 42:8 has to be read in the context I’ve described. It’s about false worship and not a trinitarian support text by inferring that Jesus does get glory therefore he must be YHWH. God does give glory through creation and other direct means as Paul describes in 1 Cor 15 at length.

    God is the head of Christ because Christ submits to him. That doesn’t mean he is subordinate in essence or deity. Grudem makes this point well. It’s a good article but at 26 pages not a coffee cup skim.

  393. Craig says:

    One must keep in mind that “Word” is not the same as “Word-made-flesh”. Word was the agent of creation; Word-made-flesh was not. In the same way Word has a different relationship with the Father than Word-made-flesh has with the Father. The difference is the Incarnation. Being “fully man” (as per Chalcedon) brings restraints that Word did and does not have.

  394. Arwen4CJ says:

    Jim,

    You wrote:
    “The problem with appealing to scripture as a basis on which to build the trinity doctrine is that there is a significantly larger body of the bible that speaks of other ‘gods’ (spiritual entities, non-YHWH god-like creatures with powers beyond normal human capabilities), such as Ex 18:11, Job 1. There are also plenty of examples of thrones in heaven, a figure clearly meant to be YHWH accompanied by a secondary divine person, and theophanies various, culminating in ‘all the fullness of God’ poured into Jesus to represent him perfectly on Earth – Emanuel, God with us (John 14:10). Yet in the same monologue, Jesus stated,John 14:28, the Father, who was working in and through him, was greater than him.”

    My response:
    Clearly none of the biblical writers considered any other “Elohim” to be a true God except for YHWH. It is clear that that is how the Jews of the time, and Jews today interpret those passages from Isaiah, as well as other Scripture (there is no God in the universe except for YHWH).

    If they considered the other “Elohim” to be actual true gods, then the Hebrew religion that became Judaism would be polytheistic, or at the very least, be henotheistic, and so would have Christianity. Neither Judaism nor Christianity would be monotheistic religions were your interpretation of Elohim the intention of the biblical authors.

    You wrote:
    “Regarding Jesus claiming to be YHWH or God, I think that there is a good deal of supposition in that. The John 8:58 passage – Before Abraham was born, I am – is not so much a declaration he is YHWH, it was to state that in another way what he said in John 3:13, 31 that he had been sent from their God YHWH, from a pre-existence in heaven. So John 8:58 is simply Jesus saying, ‘before Abraham was ever alive, I existed’, using the sacred haShem means of stating his existence. That the Jews had turned God’s words to Moses of him being the true and living God into a sacred name that could not be written or uttered was of no consequence to Jesus, nor should it be to us.’

    My response:
    I know that some people do not interpret John 8:58 to be a claim by Jesus to be YHWH. However, many more people think that it is a claim by Jesus to be YHWH. It is clear from the context of that verse that this is what the Jews understood that Jesus was claiming about Himself. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have wanted to stone Him for blasphemy, and they would not have considered His statements to be equating Himself with God.

    If Jesus were not YHWH, it would have been sinful for Him to make such comments, and also ones like in Matthew 10:37 (NASB):
    “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.

    Why do I say this? Because Jesus is asking them to put Him as their first love. To love Him before family. Only YHWH should have this place in people’s hearts.

    You wrote:
    “Another example is Rev 5:7 of separateness and sameness. In verse 6, Jesus/Lamb is standing in the centre of the throne on which YHWH/God is sitting indicating all-supremacy. but still under God. The heavenly beings recognise the role Jesus has played through his death and resurrection of bringing a kingdom of believers to serve God (there seems to be no mention in Revelation’s heavenly scenes of the person of the Holy Spirit).”

    My response:
    The book of Revelation is filled with symbolism. When people read Revelation, they should not take every single statement in the book as if it is literal, especially when it describes God. While we should definitely use things in Revelation to help understand God, the descriptions of God’s appearance, the throne, etc. can be very symbolic and may not be literal. That being said, I would not accept or reject the Trinity solely on the basis of what Revelation says.

    There are parallels to the description of God and phrases used to describe God that are found elsewhere in the Bible. These descriptions can be used to show that they applied to YHWH in the OT. We also know that Jesus is going to come back, and that all things will be restored. We know that there will be judgments and that there will be apostasy and a false prophet and an Anti-Christ. We can also see how people respond to God in heaven in Revelation.

    But since you brought Revelation up, there is a passage in Revelation that shows that the Father and Son are both worshiped together as God in heaven.

    Revelation 5:11-14 (NASB)
    11 Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice,

    “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.”

    13 And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying,

    “To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.”

    14 And the four living creatures kept saying, “Amen.” And the elders fell down and worshiped.

    As for the Holy Spirit, there is a mention of the Holy Spirit in the book of Revelation. Consider Revelation 22:12-21 (NASB). I suggest reading that whole passage, but I am not going to post the whole thing here. I am only going to post what I consider to be the most relevant parts to our discussion:

    12 “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”

    This is almost a direct quote from Isaiah….

    Isaiah 40:10 (I suggest reading Isaiah 40:9-11 in context)
    Behold, the Lord GOD will come with might, With His arm ruling for Him. Behold, His reward is with Him And His recompense before Him.

    In context you can see that this is referring to God, which could only be YHWH. It is not talking about an almost YHWH being.

    Isaiah 62:11
    Behold, the LORD has proclaimed to the end of the earth, Say to the daughter of Zion, “Lo, your salvation comes; Behold His reward is with Him, and His recompense before Him.”

    Then look at verse 16:
    16 “I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”

    The speaker of verse 12 is identified as Jesus, which makes Him YHWH.

    Verse 17:
    17 The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.

    Here both the Holy Spirit and Jesus are mentioned, yet it is very similar to what YHWH says of Himself in another Isaiah passage, which would make both the Holy Spirit and Jesus YHWH.

    Read Isaiah 55

    Finally, verse 20:
    20 He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming quickly.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
    21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.

    From these verses it is obvious that it is Jesus who is the one that is mentioned as coming throughout all the book of Revelation.

    You wrote:
    “I honestly think we’re circling round the same points. I truly appreciate both your engagements and desire for clarity. I’m not shutting down the conversation by any means, but don’t want you to feel you’re wasting your time either. Whilst we probably understand each other, there is a last 10% that cognitively ‘clicks’ for both in our views on the nature of God and Jesus. This morning as I sing in church, I know I can worship and thank Jesus for his unsurpassing sacrifice, give glory and honour to God/YHWH for who he is, supreme and above all things, creator through Jesus of everything seen and unseen, and see evidence of his life in each of us by his wisdom, mind, breath, word, spirit. I can do that without holding a trinitarian perspective of YHWH. I’m also happy you are drawn closer to him by your trinitarian understanding.

    That said, I am very aware that the two views are pretty widely separated and neither of us wants to following after a wrong gospel that ultimately will be in vain for the purpose of qualifying us for eternal life. So, perhaps it really is a matter of life and death after all….”

    My response:
    It could very well be that there is not much further to discuss. I will read over your more recent posts and respond to them. However, I do think we are probably reaching a limit to our discussion on the Trinity. I would like to hear your thoughts on other topics, though….you said that the Trinity was not the only doctrine that you had questioned and revised your opinion on. You mentioned salvation as another one. As the doctrine of salvation is another important topic, I would like to hear your thoughts on this once we finish up our Trinity discussion.

    I appreciate your continued engagement in this discussion as well.

    Yes, as we have discussed further, especially when we discussed the Trinity diagram, it became apparent to me that we were not moving closer in our views. We do still have very different understandings of Jesus which are not minor. I agree — I do not want to follow a wrong gospel, and it could truly be a matter of life and death.

  395. Arwen4CJ says:

    Jim,

    You wrote:
    “Craig, the three men could well have been the Logos as a theophany and two angels. Gen 19 opens up with two angels who were part of the original visiting party in Gen 18. In the latter parts of the chapter the word Adonai is rendered Lord, rather than it being YHWH. I’m not sure what you would conclude from the various forms of Lord/LORD. So Jesus had every right to talk about what Abraham had said to him. If it was Jesus, also referred to as YHWH here, could that not be a qualitative reference to the Logos? That would not have to mean two persons in one YHWH, but two persons with the qualities of YHWH, with one being the Most High God.”

    My response:
    I have read over Genesis 18 and 19, and it appears as though Abraham sometimes addresses all three men, and sometimes one or two as YHWH.

    Pay special attention to Genesis 19:24 (NASB)
    Then the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven,

    This verse makes no sense unless YHWH is at least two Persons.

  396. Arwen4CJ says:

    Jim,
    You wrote:
    “Arwen, I read the term elohim in context, which can vary between the singular Almighty God to plural ‘gods’. By ‘gods’ I think the understanding in scripture is of lower order created deities that are not of human composition, although angels mating with humans would have produced a stream of deviant humanity that was eradicated by the flood. Elohim can mean a variety of things besides just gods such as mighty ones or rulers.

    Just to be absolutely precise, I don’t regard Jesus as a ‘second God’. He is formed from the ‘stuff’ of God/YHWH, had a beginning and is God’s vice-regent ruling on behalf of the Most High. It’s not like Dr Seuss’s Thing 1 and Thing 2! There is God and the Son of God, separate but intimately connected.”

    My response:
    If Jesus is not actually YHWH, then that would make Him a second God. You can’t have YHWH and an almost YHWH and not have two Gods. Jesus only had a beginning in the sense of Him taking on flesh. The Word has no beginning or end.

    See Hebrews 7:1-4
    7 For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham as he was returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, 2 to whom also Abraham apportioned a tenth part of all the spoils, was first of all, by the translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then also king of Salem, which is king of peace. 3 Without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, he remains a priest perpetually.

    4 Now observe how great this man was to whom Abraham, the patriarch, gave a tenth of the choicest spoils.

    From this, I believe that Melchizedek was the pre-incarnate Jesus. But regardless of whether or not you agree with me on that, the passage says that the Son of God has no beginning or end of days.

  397. Craig says:

    Arwen4CJ,

    I agree with you regarding Hebrews 7. Clearly the individual has “no beginning or end of days”.

  398. Arwen4CJ says:

    Jim,

    Also consider Micah 5:2 (NASB)
    “But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
    Too little to be among the clans of Judah,
    From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel.
    His goings forth are from long ago,
    From the days of eternity.”

    You wrote:
    “Arwen, this morning, singing some great worship songs in church, I was thinking as well about all the references to God, and how you and Craig would picture who you are singing or praying to. If YHWH is essentially the Godhead, three in one, who is it that you’re recognising when all that’s written in the lyrics is ‘God’?”

    Would you say, for instance, ‘Thank you YHWH for dying on the cross to cleanse me of my sin’? Or YHWH (Jesus), or just Jesus? We haven’t really looked at the ‘did God die on the cross’ line of reasoning as yet. I have my take on that, and it’s pretty straightforward for a non-trinitarian.”

    My response:
    That is a good question, and one that I have actually thought about when singing worship songs, especially contemporary worship songs.

    It would depend on the actual lyrics. If the lyrics were talking about things that Jesus did — such as dying on the cross and rising from the dead, I would think of Jesus when singing that song. Otherwise, I tend to think of the 3-in-1 when worshiping God. Since YHWH is all one God, it doesn’t matter so much to me to address any one of the Persons in worship. I worship God as a whole.

    If the song is addressed to one of the Persons, then obviously I think of that Person. Otherwise, again, I think of worshiping God as a whole. Some songs are actually explicitly trinitarian (“How Great is Our God,” by Chris Tomlin, “All Creatures of Our God and King,” “Holy, Holy, Holy,” “He is Yahweh,” by Dean Salyn, “Holy God,” by Brian Doerksn, “Father, Spirit, Jesus,” by Casting Crowns etc.)

    Actually, if you read the lyrics to all of those songs, you will have a better understanding of what it means to worship one God in trinity, and trinity in unity. You will see that we are not worshiping three gods.

    Just to be very clear, it is only Jesus who died on the cross, not the Father or the Holy Spirit, and not the whole Trinity. So, because Jesus is YHWH, you can say “thank you, YHWH,” for dying on the cross, as long as you only had the Person of Jesus in mind when you said that. You could also say, “thank You, Jesus, for dying on the cross for me.” The second way would be much more common.

    You wrote:
    “And if YHWH is three in one, can he be two in one while the other is ‘out’, as might be taken during the incarnation? in fact, how does the idea of ‘persons’ even work within an omni-present being? How does one omni-present spirit being (the Father) differentiate himself from another co-substantial spirit being (the Holy Spirit)? Mashed potato + mashed potato = mashed potato, not 2 x mashed potato surely.”

    My response:
    Jesus never stopped being YHWH while on earth. He wasn’t “taken out,” during the incarnation. (That is essentially what Bill Johnson teaches, and there are several articles that Craig has written on that topic, which he could point you to).

    As far as how the Trinity works internally, that is not something that Scripture really deals with, and I am satisfied with not knowing the details of it. Anything that we humans would come up with would be prone to error, as God has not revealed exactly how He works to us. Read Isaiah 55 where God says His ways our higher than our ways. He is beyond human comprehension, so I couldn’t begin to guess what goes on within the Trinity.

  399. Arwen4CJ says:

    Jim,
    “So you are saying that the triple Godhead is YHWH, but the individual Godhead Persons are also YHWH ie the Godhead (which is a plurality).

    So the logic here, if I’ve got it right, is that each individual person of the Godhead YHWH, is also the triune plurality that is the Godhead YHWH. Is that your understanding?”

    My response:
    I don’t quite understand what you are asking here. I don’t understand your question well enough to give a “yes” or “no” answer.

    I am leaning towards, “no,” though, as I think you are asking if I think the individual Persons can be the rest of the Godhead (the other two Persons), but I’m not quite sure that is what you are asking for sure. Can you please clarify?

    If that is what you are asking, the answer is a definite “no.” As I have stated before, and if you look at the trinity diagram that we discussed earlier:
    the Father is NOT the Son
    the Father is NOT the Holy Spirit
    the Son is NOT the Father
    the Son is NOT the Holy Spirit
    the Holy Spirit is NOT the Father
    the Holy Spirit is NOT the Son

    When I said that each Person could be referred to YHWH, I meant that they were each the one God, YHWH. In other words, you can do this:
    Call the Father YHWH
    Call the Son YHWH
    Call the Holy Spirit YHWH
    Call all three YHWH

    He is one God in three Persons. However, the Persons are not each other.

  400. Arwen4CJ says:

    Jim,

    You wrote:
    “‘God cannot die’. We all agree that an everlasting entity cannot cease to exist. But Jesus had to ‘taste death’ (Heb 2:9) in a very real way in order to accomplish his ultimate mission. I believe the clue here is not that Jesus went to a Paradise immediately after his death in some non-material spirit form (in fact he declared he would be buried for three days as the sign of Jonah). In Phil 2:5-9 Paul states that Jesus through his servant nature permitted his divinity to be subject to physical death. A real death that only resurrection could counter. The Son of God actually submitted himself to the Son of Man within the hypostatic union in an act of the most incredible humility.

    As Paul knew only too well (1 Cor 15), no resurrection by Jesus, no resurrection for us. He was subject to a death that would have continued into infinity had not the power of God intervened, and so we have that same hope after our death.”

    My response:
    Oh, I see — you are applying your interpretation of what happens after death to Jesus, and then to the nature of both His resurrection and ours…..

    I don’t agree with you that Jesus had to permit His divinity to die or it couldn’t have been a real resurrection. As God, Jesus’ divinity could not die. Jesus clearly had something that lived on after death.

    Since Jesus was both fully human and fully God, He had a human body that was subject to death. As a human, He fully experienced physical death. He didn’t pretend to be dead. His body died.

    In the same way, His resurrection was a real physical resurrection. He received a glorified body, the same type that believers will receive at His second coming.

    You referred to Philippians 2:5-9 in support of your belief, so let’s look at it:
    Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

    That passage doesn’t say anything about Jesus’ divinity dying. If you are referring to the “emptied Himself’ part, then Craig has a couple articles on that topic, which he can refer you to. In short, this passage is talking about Jesus’ humility. It doesn’t mean Jesus ever gave up His divinity, or that His divinity ever died.

    It does say that He died on the cross, but it doesn’t say that His divinity died. His physical body died. He experienced human death.

    As, I think Craig has pointed out, all three Persons raised Jesus from the dead. For a verse that shows that Jesus did….

    John 2:18-22 (NASB)
    18 The Jews then said to Him, “What sign do You show us as your authority for doing these things?” 19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20 The Jews then said, “It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” 21 But He was speaking of the temple of His body. 22 So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken.

  401. Arwen4CJ says:

    Jim,

    You wrote:
    “Craig, Dr Brown has summed things up nicely – to paraphrase, it’s all too complex and mysterious to truly wrap our heads around. To me that’s the last stop on the trinitarian train journey. If, say, Jesus is YHWH, and YHWH is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, then Jesus, is also the Father and the Holy Spirit. Correct?

    I don’t see much, if any solid evidence that this is what God CLEARLY communicated about himself in scripture.”

    My response:
    Incorrect. Look at the Trinity diagram that we spent a couple of days discussing, and see my post from August 28, 2017 at 9:14 am.

    That’s because you still don’t quite understand what it is you are arguing against (the Trinity). We are agreed that Scripture, as a whole, does not support modalism (the belief that Jesus is the Father, Jesus is the Holy Spirit, the Father is Jesus, the Father is the Holy Spirit, Jesus is the Father, Jesus is the Holy Spirit).

  402. Arwen4CJ says:

    Jim,

    You wrote:
    “There is no confusion, Craig. What I have presented is what it appears trinitarianism boils down to as written on this thread. It really is modalism from one angle or tritheism from another. Saying it’s not can’t make it trinitarianism. Have we reached an impasse? It’s like stalemate in chess.”

    My response:
    Remember our discussion about the diagrams. All the the outer “is not” and the inner “is” words are important. If you don’t think the words matter, then consider the diagram of your beliefs.

    Does it matter to you you whether or not the Father is the Son? If it does, then those words are essential to your beliefs.

    Does it matter to you whether or not the Father is the Most High God? If it does, than the “is” there is essential to your beliefs.

    Without those words, you would have another belief system. The same is true for ours. You never answered my question on whether or not you could see the differences between trinitarianism and tritheism, and trinitarianism and modalism in the different diagrams that I described. From your recent posts on here, I don’t think that you can see the difference between trinitarianism and the other belief systems.

    I don’t know how else I can explain the differences.

    Consider the lyrics of the trinitarian songs that i mentioned. Hopefully that will help to clarify the viewpoint. Otherwise, I think we will have reached an impasse because you when we say “trinity” you are thinking about either modalism or tritheism.

  403. Arwen4CJ says:

    Jim,
    You wrote:
    “You’re right Craig about submission being different to subordination, and Grudem makes that clear sticking firmly with submission. Definitions are essential here.

    Is 42:8 should be seen in the context of its last line ‘nor my praise to graven images’. In other words YHWH was stating in a different form commandments 1 and 2. That’s not to say that he couldn’t or didn’t give Jesus glory. He came from glory and was reinstated to God’s right hand, a position of the highest honour. God wasn’t jealous of Jesus clearly, but just because he did give Jesus glory doesn’t mean that Jesus had to be him since he gives it to no other as per Is 42:8. He gives it to no idol.”

    The type of glory that YHWH has is a kind that He will not yield to another. It isn’t just idols here, but it is any other god.

    For Jesus to share in the same kind of glory that the Father has, this means that both have the the same type of glory — the glory of YHWH. Jesus had the same type of glory with the Father before the world began.

  404. Jim says:

    Thanks for the comprehensive replies. I’ll be quite selective in my responses only because I’d like to zero in on some specific points.

    I think we’re at cross-purposes regarding how we perceive the term ‘gods’. As I stated previously both ‘elohim’ and our English word ‘god’ can be applied several ways. Pagan religions referred to a god of the sun, or goddess of love, or god in everything, but that didn’t mean there was an actual deity figure. Likewise, the worship of gods represented by statues does not mean the statues had a real entity as their inspiration.

    However, that’s not to say there weren’t ‘mighty ones’ or spirit beings, or nephilim, or non-flesh creations that when they interacted with man came to be regarded as ‘gods’ or deity figures. I think our myths and legends are based in that kind of ancient interaction. Finally, the bible is clear that there is only a single Most High God, who was the God of Israel and unlike the pantheon of ‘gods’ in the worship systems of other nations..

  405. Jim says:

    I was at an Alpha evening tonight helping in the group discussion. It was the one about why the bible is so vital to read. We closed with a verse, and the person leading read out Jude v25 – ‘to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.’

    I realised that the verse did not lead me to think of the Father and the Son as part of a triunity. In fact it summed up my position and the constant theme of NT letters and gospels, that God does all that he does, and is all that he is THROUGH Jesus Christ. So a new Jewish believer in Christ can still adhere to his Jewish monotheism and worship YHWH, but now he recognises that he can connect with the God of Israel and his fathers through the person of YHWH’s Son, Jesus.

    This is where I believe trinitarianism tries to provide an answer to the preservation of monotheism that would not have accorded with the early Christian Hebrew mind. They would have been, and so should we be today, perfectly happy relating to the one God, but through his divine Son and their Lord. They understood that Melchizedek was a theophany of Jesus (and yes it says he was without father and mother, and had no end of days [resurrected] and no beginning of days [not birthed in ‘time’ but begotten in ‘pre-time’]), and pre-existed his incarnation, that he was from God – the man of heaven – and of a unique divinity along with YHWH. That did not seem to trouble their monotheism.

  406. Jim says:

    This mindset would have been at work in their new understanding of Gen 19:24, that there is one LORD working through one Lord.

    On to your post August 28 at 9:42am. I do not believe Jesus’s divine ‘side’ or nature died. If I gave that impression, that’s my poor articulation. I used Phil 2 to show that in not letting divinity be something to be accessed or utilised in becoming a man, when he died he still allowed his divinity to remain submitted to his flesh – the ultimate act of humility. The hypostatic union had not been broken by him being in the grave. In his God-ness, he could have transfigured himself at any stage and not suffered death, but he withheld that right so that the resurrection could take its course. Divinity can’t die, but it remained ‘encased’ in dead flesh for three days, until that flesh was transformed into an eternal body that fully reflected his divine status. One that we will inherit on his return. I hope that’s a bit clearer.

    I have read the articles by Craig on kenosis and agree with his conclusions.

    You asked if I properly understood the difference between trinitarianism, tritheism and modalism. I think I do, but maybe I didn’t phrase things convincingly. I do get the diagram, I just don’t see the diagram coming from scripture in a clear-cut way.

    I think we’re going to have to agree to disagree on Is 42:8. To me it is a contextually clear reference to false gods/idols, not that any worship given is to YHWH only, and since Jesus is worshipped he must be YHWH. I come back to the point about Jewish Christian monotheism, and worship of Christ evident in Rev 5 would not have compromised Is 42:8. In Eph where Paul writes that we are seated with Christ in heavenly places doesn’t mean we are Christ any more than the Lamb occupying the Father’s throne means Christ is the Father, but it’s more about the position of honour than exampling a singular God in two or three persons.

    Finally, on something of a practical note, how could Jesus Christ be the Son of God if there was no begetting (ie eternal sonship), or when is a son equal to his father – equality is normally reserved for, say, twin brothers, or marriage – or why would YHWH need to be three Persons at all to accomplish his goal of reconciling man to himself? I kind of get the last point, which is more the social and sacrificial aspect, but even so.

    I would be happy to switch subject material, but Craig would have to write an article on it first to be fair! I have become quite comfortable in my ‘non-eternal concious torment but conditional eternal life’ (aka annihilationism) skin of late, so perhaps that’s one for discussion.

  407. Craig says:

    Jim,

    What you write about Jude 1:25 works for your theology, but only in isolation. One has to factor in those “I AM” statements (John 8:58, e.g.) and Jesus’ other statements understood as claims of being YHWH. John 5:17-18 is one of the latter. I’ve experienced Messianic Jews and other unitarians claim that the reason “the Jews” wanted to stone Jesus here is because He was making an implicit Messiah claim, while “the Jews” rejected His Messiahship; however, that belies the context in which their issue is described as Jesus’ claim that “God is his own Father” thereby “making Himself equal with God”. Clearly, they didn’t understand a ‘YHWH + almost-YHWH’ type of “monotheism”.

  408. Jim says:

    But Craig, if the Jewish leaders understood a ‘two powers in heaven’ concept within their monotheism ie that the Shema was given to Moses by the ‘higher’ power, then their interpretation of Jesus’s words that he was the second power would have been equality by divine status.

    I think we need to get away from the YHWH almost-YHWH idea. There is no such concept. There are two persons, both have at times been named the same because the singular Most High and Almighty God works through his Son. Their co-divine natures mean there aren’t two Gods.

  409. Jim says:

    Jude 25 works in concert with all the other ‘one God and one Lord’ verses.

  410. Arwen4CJ says:

    Jim,
    Just to clarify…

    In the Genesis 19 verse that I quoted earlier, I might have forgotten to capitalize LORD in both places. (When I copy and paste from Bible Gateway, it removes the LORD in the small caps, so I have to manually fix it.)

    Let me quote that verse again. Genesis 19:24
    24 Then the LORD rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD out of heaven

    It isn’t the LORD rained….from the Lord….it is LORD and LORD, so YHWH in both places, not just the first place. That was the point of my quoting that verse. Check that verse in all the Bible translations that you have.

    I realize that elohim can be translated into English several ways. I acknowledged that before. I also acknowledge the existence of other spiritual beings besides God, but they are not real gods. Just because the word elohim can be translated into English for both angels and God does not make those beings lesser gods.

    As for the ending of Jude 25, yes, it acknowledges that the Father is God, and I can see how that fits with your theology just by itself. But what about the verses that call Jesus God and Savior?

    Anyway, I understand why you believe what you do, and I do think we are at an impasse now on the topic of the trinity. I think we discussed just about everything that we could, and there is still a lack of understanding, so I’m not sure that discussing it further would do a lot of good. I will leave that up to you and Craig, though.

    As for Alpha, I went through that course several years ago. I know that it teaches a trinitarian understanding of God. In fact, they sold some books that were written by the guy who started Alpha — the guy who spoke on the videos when I took the course, Nicky Gumbel. There’s a book that I bought at the time to help with apologetics called “Searching Issues,” by Nicky Gumbel. The last chapter in that book is titled “Is the Trinity Unbiblical, Unbelievable, and Irrelevant?”

    I haven’t read that book or that chapter in a long time, but maybe that book would be worth picking up. You could read that chapter and see if he can clarify the trinity for you in a way that I cannot. It might also help you to ask questions about it to your alpha group and see what other people think.

    Since you are in Alpha, that is an excellent place for people to talk about their faith, and for you to ask questions of other Christians, and for them to ask you questions. That might be a better way to dialog about your what happens when we die thoughts rather than on here. I’m willing to discuss it, and I’m sure Craig is, too. However, with Alpha, you get to talk to people you know in real life, and the discussion might be more effective face to face. Just my thoughts…

    My only caution with Alpha is how they handle gifts of the Holy Spirit, which I don’t think you have gotten to yet. I just checked my old Alpha manual to see what the order of the lessons was in. Just be really cautious of how they encourage people to prophecy over each other. The way the particular church that ran the course handled it when I took it, I don’t think was biblical. They wanted everyone to try to see if they had any impression of anything or any vision, and then share it aloud with the whole group, and then they asked if those things applied to anyone.

    The problem with that is that they didn’t check the prophecies first, and they allowed everyone present to give the prophecies, without first assuring that the people were believers. The same was true of the Holy Spirit weekend when they had the leaders give “words” to those present. Nothing was tested first.

    Other than that, I think Alpha is really good at helping people build up small group relationships with other Christians. It’s a good place for Christian discussions, for non-Christians, Christians, and everyone. Just pray before any of the Holy Spirit sessions.

    I have not argued against the eternal Sonship of Jesus, but we clearly understand what that means in different ways. I think we also have a difference of understanding in what “begotten” means, as we do “eternal.”

    I don’t see the Trinity as something that God “needs,” but rather simply how He exists.

    All right, well, I think I am going to have to drop out of this discussion soon because I feel like we aren’t getting anywhere new with our discussion. Again, I’m going to leave that up to you and Craig, though, and I’m willing to discuss further. I just question how productive it will be, even for just trying to reach an understanding of each other’s viewpoints.

    I truly have appreciated the time and effort that you and Craig have put into this discussion, and I think it has been very good. I think we did understand each other a little better, and we have strengthened our own beliefs more, and we have each grown in our faith. Just let me know what you want to do with this discussion.

    If you’d like to part ways on this discussion, then I’m glad to have met you online, and I hope that all goes well for you in the future. Nice talking to you. Otherwise, if you would like to continue, then let us continue to talk. 🙂

  411. Craig says:

    Jim, you wrote:

    But Craig, if the Jewish leaders understood a ‘two powers in heaven’ concept within their monotheism ie that the Shema was given to Moses by the ‘higher’ power, then their interpretation of Jesus’s words that he was the second power would have been equality by divine status.

    I’m not sure I understand exactly what you mean. Are you saying that Moses on Mt. Sinai was the ‘lower power’? If so, did this ‘lower power’ change to Jesus in the NT; i.e., is the ‘lower power’ different persons at different times?

    You also wrote:

    I think we need to get away from the YHWH almost-YHWH idea. There is no such concept. There are two persons, both have at times been named the same because the singular Most High and Almighty God works through his Son. Their co-divine natures mean there aren’t two Gods.

    If there are two persons, as you say, then by your own objections against the Trinity, you are espousing bitheism if both are YHWH; however, if you’re saying that Jesus is acting as agent of the Father in His capacity as the ‘lower power’, then you are having your cake and eating it too.

  412. Arwen4CJ says:

    One thing I do want to point out in regard to “eternal” is the title that YHWH uses for Himself that we have talked about before:
    The First and Last
    The Alpha and the Omega
    The Beginning and the End

    I think these titles for YHWH show that He is eternal. He has always existed and He always will exist, but that could just be my interpretation of the title.

  413. Craig says:

    Arwen4CJ,

    I agree that these indicate eternality.

  414. Jim says:

    You could argue that being before all things and existing after all things could mean eternality; or, you could argue that God is stating his existence is before all things and will last after all things without implied eternality but simply saying he is greater than all that exists. I don’t think it’s absolute. To me Alpha is a start point and Omega is an end point. The purpose of the phrase is to indicate the full span of all things.

  415. Jim says:

    Craig, Moses was not the second power, that would be the Logos, then Jesus Christ.

    And thank you Arwen for patiently engaging in an informative and positive way. It was good and may lead to more chats.

  416. Craig says:

    Jim,

    Before going further, I want to be sure I understand you. Are you saying that the Logos and Jesus Christ are the same Person–the first the name of Him preincarnate, the other HIs name during the Incarnation?

  417. Arwen4CJ says:

    Jim,

    You wrote:
    “You could argue that being before all things and existing after all things could mean eternality; or, you could argue that God is stating his existence is before all things and will last after all things without implied eternality but simply saying he is greater than all that exists. I don’t think it’s absolute. To me Alpha is a start point and Omega is an end point. The purpose of the phrase is to indicate the full span of all things.”

    My response:
    Yes, I think it means those things as well, but I also think it is more — as in eternally existing forever. I think the title encompasses a lot, just as the name “I AM” does.

    You wrote:
    “And thank you Arwen for patiently engaging in an informative and positive way. It was good and may lead to more chats.”

    My response:
    My pleasure. Yes, it may lead to more chats 🙂

  418. Craig says:

    Jim, you wrote (in part): To me Alpha is a start point and Omega is an end point. The purpose of the phrase is to indicate the full span of all things.

    However, given that God was there at the Alpha/start point, then He necessarily predated this point as the Creator, and if He will be at the end point (eschaton), He must necessarily extend beyond it. The point of the statement is not to frame the beginning and end points of creation, but to indicate that God YHWH is present at both. This implies eternality, the latter understood as not a succession of events, as if time is a subsection of eternity, but as a state of Being that just IS.

  419. Jim says:

    Craig, I do see the Logos as the pre-incarnate Son who, on earth, was Jesus Christ – Jeshua haMashiach and who after his resurrection returned to heaven in his bodily resurrected form.

  420. Craig says:

    Jim,

    OK then, we agree that Word and Word-made-flesh are one and the same. With that clarified, are you calling Jesus as Logos/Word the ‘lower power’, and, if so, was both Word and Word-made-flesh ‘lower power’?

  421. Jim says:

    Just a (possible) final thought. I think the major difference in our viewpoints is that you would regard God (I assume) as Father, Son and Spirit, each and all = YHWH. I see the Father as God, accompanied by his Son, who co-shares the I AMs, Alpha and Omegas and YHWH names but is still not called the Most High God. Their co-presence is the pneuma of God.

    Not a binity (only one being is Almighty), nor bitheism (both of the same divinity ‘order’). Want a slice? 🙂

  422. Craig says:

    Jim,

    As you present it, the best way I can put it in shorthand is ‘YHWH + almost-YHWH’. I don’t see any other way around it. At times ‘almost YHWH’ acts as agent of YHWH, and, hence, is called divine names. I’ve discussed this with others who affirm that Jesus as Messiah (but not divine) is strictly an agent for YHWH in that role, but then see the very first quote in part 4 of this series, which I’ll cite here:

    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 . . . 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

    ADDED: In John 5:17-18 “the Jews” wanted to stone Jesus because He ‘made Himself equal with God’ in His claim of being God’s Son. To this, Jesus makes even more astounding claims, such as having a role in life/resurrection from the dead and death in 5:19-30.

  423. Jim says:

    I think the key thought here Craig is that God YHWH works through the Logos and then Jesus. So all of God and his capabilities are expressed in Christ without monotheism being compromised.

  424. Craig says:

    Jim,

    But how does that work in John 1:1? In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was pros (with/towards/facing) God, and the Logos was God (or a G/god?).

    More importantly, the theology you posit still admits a YHWH plus a not-YHWH-but-almost (one acting as agent), with the latter making claims as if He were YHWH (John 8:58, e.g.), and it doesn’t adequately account for Jesus’ explicit claim that the Father judges no one (5:22).

  425. Jim says:

    The aspect in John 5:22 whereby Jesus says that the Father judges no-one has to be set in the context of Heb 12:23 and Gen 18:25. God as the Most High is the judge of all the earth. So when Jesus seems to contradict that truth it’s because he knows that the role of judge has been delegated or transferred or committed to him. This is captured in Acts 17:31. Jesus is appointed, by God the Father, as humanity’s judge.

    So the buck stops with with God Almighty but the act of judging is conducted by the Son. That does not imply or suggest a trinity at work but does strongly support what I have been saying that God is working all things through Christ.

  426. Craig says:

    For the moment let’s assume, what you state here @ 6:49 pm is correct. How do you explain John 1:1; and, at the same time, how do you account for Jesus claiming the divine name–a name reserved strictly for YHWH? As to the latter, asserting that Jesus is agent of YHWH is a deficient answer, as no other agent of YHWH claimed the divine name (of course). And, using the analogy of agency as it pertains to power of attorney, if I were to give you, Jim, power of attorney over my affairs, you still cannot sign my name as if you were literally me; you’d have to sign “as agent”.

  427. Jim says:

    How do you explain John 1:1 Craig? Does it reinforce a trinitarian perspective? I can read it and say that if someone is with another they are separate entities (v2), not persons within a melded homogeneous being. John 1:1-2 states that the Logos was a deity on a par with Theos/God (the Father). It doesn’t say he was him, nor I believe does John think he’s just invented two Gods either.

    Your power of attorney and agent analogy is a good one, and legally my signature after hand over of that power is as if it is yours (obviously once you’re deemed unable to make a decision which is where this analogy breaks down for God and Jesus). Jesus was God’s representative or agent, his emissary on earth, and was also his son, therefore of the nature of his Father. Consequently, when he presented himself in situations he had full delegated authority to sign as YHWH. A messenger who held an envelope with the royal seal had the full backing of the king to enforce the message, all the more if that messenger was the king’s son.

    So, Jesus could sign as if he were God, just as the lawyer would take my future decisions as yours if you had given me power of attorney over your affairs. If I was also called Craig, it makes the overlap even greater.

  428. Craig says:

    Jim,

    Please re-read this particular article (part 6) that we are commenting on for my analysis of John 1:1. I’ll reduce it down a bit: The Logos was with God the Father (1b), and the Logos was “God” (1c) in a qualitative sense; if the Logos were defined as God in an absolute sense in this context (adding the article in front of “God” in 1c), modalism would obtain (God the Father is the Logos), which is self-contradictory in context (that would indicate that the Logos is with God the Father, yet Logos is God the Father). They (God the Father and Logos) are no doubt separate entities, yet the Logos is “God” (1c).

    Yes, your signature as agent is just as valid as the principle’s; but, you cannot sign (forge) the principle’s name (see here). That’s the difference. Moreover, you cannot claim to be or otherwise impersonate the principle in an agency-principle relationship. Possessing delegated authority as agent is not the same as claiming to be the principle. Authority to act on behalf of the principle is as far as the agent-principle relationship goes. So, accordingly, Jesus’ claim to be YHWH (John 8:58) goes beyond agency. And while Jesus certainly receives delegated authority in John 5:19-30, that doesn’t make Him indicates He’s not the same “Person” as God the Father; however, by claiming to have the authority to do the things only YHWH can do while simultaneously making a claim that He is Himself YHWH is an indication that the Son is YHWH, rather than merely an agent of YHWH. Hence, the most logical conclusion is that Jesus/Logos/the Son is YHWH but not the same “Person” as God the Father YHWH.

  429. Jim says:

    Craig,isn’t the same Greek in John 8:58 used in, for example, Mark 13:6 – ‘Many will come in my name claiming ”I am he” ‘, or John 14:6 – ‘I am the way, the truth and the life’? As an aside, in the John verse, if Jesus knew he was YHWH from John 8:58, then 14:6 saying no-one can come to the Father except by Jesus is a somewhat obtuse comment at best if trinitarianism (which Jesus must have comprehended if true) was the case. He clearly segregated himself from the Father in a way trinitarianism doesn’t address.

    Back to ego eimi, We’ve already been here, but John 8:58 is Jesus reinforcing his divine pre-incarnate credentials with the Pharisees. Before Abraham was born, I existed is a perfectly adequate translation. He didn’t say, ‘I AM THAT I AM.’ His use was a strong hint towards divinity but not actually being the God of Israel in a monotheistic sense. The words translated I AM are only a title, but the entity behind the words is simply ‘the Being’, or ‘the One who has always existed’. This cutting from an in-depth article on John 8:58 might explain it better (here:

    ”Note that the words ego eimi (I am – εγω ειμι) in Exodus 3:14 need a predicate. That is, it needs to say what you are. It cannot just say, “I am nothing.” And so we find that God said, “I am the being – εγω ειμι ο ων.” And yes, ego eimi is found in John 8:58 but it is not the substance of emphasis, “ho ohn – ο ων” is. So the divine name is actually “ho ohn – ο ων”, not “ego eimi – εγω ειμι.” This is further proven by the end of verse 14 which says “(ho ohn – ο ων) has sent me to you.” (ο ων απεσταλκεν με προς υμας.) It does not say “(ego eimi – εγω ειμι) has sent me to you.” (εγω ειμι απεσταλκεν με προς υμας.) It literally says “the being has sent me to you,” not the “I am has sent me to you.” The words are different in either language and there is no connection. No matter how it is translated into English, “ho ohn” is not the same as “ego eimi.”

    So the Greek has Exodus 3:14 using ho ohn for the divine name, but the same Greek has Jesus saying ego eimi to the Jews in John 8:58. The divine memorial name is not ego eimi (ἐγώ εἰμι) which Jesus said. It is however, ho ohn (ὁ ὢν), which Jesus did not say. As you can see, there is no connection between “I AM” in Exodus and “I am” in John. In no way does John 8:58 equate Jesus to God except by biased inference based on weak translation and bad grammar.”

  430. Craig says:

    To put this as succinctly as possible: The author doesn’t know Greek very well, nor does the author take into account the various usages of egō eimi in both the NT and the OT. In general, I need anyone who comments to provide a source for direct quotations or I can be in violation of copyright/fair use. Please provide source for this, or I will have to delete the quote.

  431. Jim says:

    You wrote: ‘They (God the Father and Logos) are no doubt separate entities, yet the Logos is “God” (1c).’

    That wouldn’t confirm or deny trinitarianism if you’re saying being God is qualitative in nature ie ‘of the stuff of God the Father’. My point all along has been that such a premise doesn’t lead you to trinitarianism (or binitarianism or bitheism). Since I don’t believe John 8:58 is a solid case for Jesus calling himself YHWH (not whether the Pharisees said he was claiming to be the one God), then divine agency is much more likely.

    Jesus wouldn’t have been forging God’s signature as it were, but he did have all authority given to him, so could give life, forgive sins and do all the things God could do because he was fully authorised by God Almighty. He was stating that he was the Logos, and the Jews recognised such a claim was tantamount to claiming to be God, which was blasphemy and worthy of death to them.

  432. Jim says:

    The quote comes from http://www.trinitytruth.org/meaningofIamjohn858.html

    It seems to be a SDA-oriented site

  433. Craig says:

    Jim,

    First, take a look at the Hebrew in this handy transliteration and translation here: http://biblehub.com/lexicon/exodus/3-14.htm

    You’ll see that eh·yeh translates as “I AM”, and it is used three times: “I AM THAT I AM…I AM”. Greek grammar does not allow egō eimi to be used as the Hebrew does (egō eimi THAT egō eimi), so Egō eimi ho ōn is the best way to render “I AM THAT I AM”.

    “The Being” is a very wooden translation for ho ōn, but it’s best rendered “THE ONE WHO IS” or “HE WHO IS”, though context will decide. This construction is used throughout the NT (and OT in the LXX); in John it’s found in 1:18 (“[the one] who is in the bosom of the Father”), in the N/KJV of 3:13 (ὁ ὢν ἐν τῷ οὐρανῷ, ho ōn en tō ouranō = “[the one] who is in heaven”), 6:46 (“the one who is from God”), 8:47 (first clause), and others.

    So, the bottom line is that context is the determiner. In John 8:58 context does indeed indicate that Jesus was using the divine name, I AM. Clearly, they understood that not only did Jesus make a claim of predating Abraham, but that He was making a divine claim, as evidenced by their desire to stone him. Divine agency is not part of this context–the climax of the passage. Given that John 8:58 is a clear statement of divine identity, your position is unsustainable.

  434. Jim says:

    Craig, divine identity is something I totally concur with. I just don’t take the extra step of saying that two divine beings claiming the ‘name’ (description is better) YHWH means bi or trinitarianism. Their God nature means equality but they are still two beings although not two different Gods. One is Most High and Almighty. The other has all the Most High’s power and authority delegated to him. That’s the clear teaching of scripture. I’m happy not to call that theology anything lest it diminishes or skews thinking and understanding.

  435. Craig says:

    Jim,

    OK, we agree that both Father and Son are YHWH. We also agree that they’re not two different Gods, as that would not be monotheism. Yet, if YHWH is the Most High, and the Father is YHWH and the Son is YHWH, then either we have two claiming to be Most High, or we have something else. In other words, Jesus’ claim of being YHWH is tantamount to a claim of being Most High, as well (same with First and the Last, Alpha and the Omega, Beginning and End, etc.).

  436. Jim says:

    So from Ex 3:14 I suggest God (Elohim) is providing Moses with an added dimension or facet of himself framed as I AM ie I exist in a way all the other surrounding ‘elohim’ don’t.

    As the son of God, Jesus could legitimately apply the I AM discriminator, since he was of the same divine nature, and still not compromise the monotheistic Jewish faith.

  437. Craig says:

    Now you’re conflating the various usages of Elohim once again. That’s an exegetical fallacy called illegitimate totality transfer.

  438. Jim says:

    Just to clarify, I understand I AM as describing a state of being not the ‘name’ of an individual entity as we perceive name.

  439. Craig says:

    Not only that, but makes nonsense of the passage: The Elohim consisting of God (I AM) and the others, said to Moses “I AM THAT I AM…I AM”–how can only part of a subject speak (I AM) when the entire subject is expressed initially (Elohim consisting of I AM and the others)?

  440. Jim says:

    Sorry Craig. You’ll have to explain where the conflation exists. The verse start with Elohim. God is expanding Moses’ understanding of who he is in a polytheistic society.

  441. Craig says:

    Just to clarify, I understand I AM as describing a state of being not the ‘name’ of an individual entity as we perceive name.

    Yet, Exodus 3:14 clearly calls Himself by this, and there are other OT passages which do the same. It is not merely a state of being, it’s a name. The Jews recognized it as such.

  442. Craig says:

    Sorry Craig. You’ll have to explain where the conflation exists. The verse start with Elohim. God is expanding Moses’ understanding of who he is in a polytheistic society.

    Each individual context determines meaning of a given word (though double meanings can be intended for rhetorical value). In Exodus 3:14, clearly Elohim means God YHWH. If what you’re saying is the context is merely clarifying or expanding something about YHWH, then OK. But, this doesn’t negate the fact that I AM is understood to be the (ONE) divine name in Palestinian Judaism–a name claimed by Jesus in John 8:58.

  443. Jim says:

    Arwen4CJ, sorry, I don’t know if you’re still tracking this conversation, but I didn’t respond with respect to Alpha. I have been a Christian for 25 years and done several Alpha courses in a variety of roles. Whilst I am no cessationist, I also don’t adhere to gifts of the Holy Spirit being accessible to all, whenever we want a la Bill Johnson et al. So that clashes with the Alpha ethos.

    Further, I don’t believe that the scriptural explanation by Paul in 1 Cor regarding tongues is something that happens after a separate ‘baptism in the Holy Spirit’ as Alpha teaches. We are in-filled at the point of initial faith and subsequently on a daily basis with all that we need to live a God-focussed life (2 Peter 1:3-4 and Eph 1:3). Biblical tongues are human languages, not ecstatic utterances whereby we babble out a noise not knowing what it means, and therefore not edify the listeners. Paul specifically warns the Corinthian church to bring right order to their meetings so that foreign languages spoken are translated for everyone’s benefit, either by the speaker or someone else.

    That doesn’t align with Alpha teaching either, so I tread carefully at these sessions. Thanks for the warnings though. I do find I have to bite my tongue at times, but the overall direction Alpha takes is commendable.

  444. Jim says:

    Arwen, your Aug, 29 at 9.32 am post about Gen 19:24, prompted a bit of research and I found a couple of alternative takes from some Jewish-based sources. Firstly, rather than the verse describing a YHWH in heaven and another YHWH on earth, it could be read as:

    ‘Then YHWH rained on Sodom [comma or pause] and on Gomorrah fire and brimstone from YHWH out of heaven’. So the second YHWH is just reiterating that Gomorrah’s punishment came from the same source as Sodom’s.

    Alternatively, it could be understood as, ‘Then YHWH rained on Sodom and Gomorrah fire and brimstone from YHWH [emphasis – yes, it was truly an act of divine retribution, not from an evil source] out of heaven’.

    Or we could have two simultaneous presentations of YHWH. But as I said earlier to Craig, the name that the Jews made sacred (almost deified) to me is more a description of divine being, and an elevation above polytheism, than identifying an individual entity.

  445. Jim says:

    Just reading the original post again, Craig, and it would seem that you’re not advocating a trinitarian perspective much at all. I realise that wasn’t the purpose of your study, but it comes over as almost a case for Father and Son as two separate co-substantial divine entities.

    I have read that John 1:1 can be most purely translated as: ‘In (a) beginning was the saying, and the saying was within the God and God was the saying.’ So, it’s not a huge stretch that the first act by God is to speak forth what was within him (analogous to Heb 7:10) which was light, and that light was the first saying of God and therefore the Logos. I know the Genesis account calls the light ‘day’, but this was pre-sun, so not a solar day.

    This could feasibly connect to John 1:4-9, 9:4-5 and Rev 21:23 and 22:5. Being within God he would have shared in his glory from before creation (John 17:5), and then Prov 8 personifies (albeit earlier in the feminine form) wisdom, or the Logos, coming forth from God before the founding of the earth proper. Without getting too mystical about it, perhaps the female wisdom connection to the Logos is a nod to Eve being brought from within Adam just as the Logos was within the Father originally too.

  446. Craig says:

    Jim,

    Let me begin this with an apology. Yesterday was very stressful for me, and I was in severe sleep debt, the latter especially impacting my cognitive skills. These two factors provided frustration as I tried to figure out your 2017/08/31 at 6:24 pm comment, reflected in my 6:29 and 6:32 comments.

    Regarding the Alpha Course, I have similar reservations with it, knowing it’s roots. I brought this up to a local church, and the church defended it, suggesting I take the course to see. I did. It was not bad, except the “Holy Spirit weekend” is just plain wrong, as you make reference to. The church did not go overboard on the HS weekend, but it just seemed odd. There were other minor things I disagreed with (this church’s rendition of it–though instructions indicate that the format is to be adhered to in full), but they bettered the raw material in some ways. I think someone should take the basic idea and rework it.

  447. Craig says:

    Yes, the purpose of the study was very narrowly focused on identifying “son of man” in John 5:27; everything else was peripheral at best.

    I don’t know where you read this about John 1:1, but two points of grammar prove it wrong. First pros is never translated “within”. See, e.g., this chart, which indicates the spacial application of the various Greek prepositions, noting that pros cannot mean “within”. The only one that would be definitive for that translation is en, though there are a few others which could possibly work (meta, peri). Secondly, the third clause has two nominatives, and it’s not uncommon to the have the subject switched with the predicate. To determine if this is so, the one with the article preceding it would be the subject. In Greek, word order is somewhat flexible, and when a word is “fronted”–placed first when it should be placed later in the sentence–it is usually seen as emphatic (see the Westcott quote). The ‘standard’ word order is verb-subject[-object]. Hence, the third clause should be rendered and the Word was God, with “God” understood as meant in a qualitative sense. That is, like I wrote, something to the effect of “and the Word was by nature God“.

    As far as logos translated “saying”, this doesn’t work. If the saying is merely some metaphysical aspect of God, then “saying” is not a person. Some unitarians advocate for this position, but stating that the “saying” became flesh, doesn’t fit the overall context. Was John the Baptist (6-8) speaking about a person or an aspect of God (see especially v. 12)?

  448. Jim says:

    Thanks for the comments on the variant of John 1:1. It did lead me to think about some ‘what ifs’ as a result, but I’d have to can them if it couldn’t honestly come from the original Greek.

    No need for an apology. I hope whatever caused the stress is alleviated soon and that you enjoy fresh peace. PM me if you want to share more that can be prayed about specifically.

  449. Craig says:

    Jim,

    Regarding egō eimi (I AM), the LXX of Deutero-Isaiah (Second Isaiah—chapters 40-66) are replete with this, expanding on Exodus 3:14. While there are a number of individual verses exhibiting “I AM”, I’ll focus on just two.

    Isaiah 45:18: Look at this in the Hebrew, specifically the first clause and last part (disregard the parenthetical remarks in the middle to keep this simple). Notice YHWH twice. In the LXX these are rendered:

    Ohutōs legei kyrios… Egō eimi, kai ouk estin eti
    Thus says LORD…I AM, and not is yet.

    Translation: “Thus says the LORD…I AM, and there is no other”. The latter part reflects an idiom. Importantly, YHWH is rendered two different ways, but most importantly, as egō eimi. Also, of note is that the first clause is in reference to creation.

    The very next verse, 45:19: Again, first look at the Hebrew, beginning with “YHWH”. Here’s the LXX version:

    egō eimi egō eimi kyrios lalōn dikaiosynēn kai anaggellōn alētheian
    I am —- I AM — LORD speaking righteousness and declaring truth.

    I’ll leave the above not further ‘translated’, as it is intelligible as is.

    As I was finishing up my own research on this, I went to the ‘net and found this by James White, which is pertinent. The following quote confirmed that I was on the right track:

    It could fairly be admitted that an immediate and unqualified jump from the ego eimi of John 8:58 to Exodus 3:14 is unwise. The connection that is much more properly traced is the one given here, that of ego eimi/ani hu as found in Isaiah. The connection between Isaiah and Exodus 3:14 is so obvious as to be undeniable.

    In addition, as I was trying to relocate something else related, I came across the wiki page for egō eimi—very biased and inaccurate!

  450. Jim says:

    Isaiah 45:19: ‘I am —- I AM — LORD speaking righteousness and declaring truth’ is a really good example of how God uses the references to his name to expound on his character and nature. I think this is the key attribute when it comes to the YHWHs, I AMs, and Alpha and Omegas that intersect the persons of the Father and Jesus.

    The same appears in Ex 34:6-7: ‘The LORD (YHWH), the LORD (YHWH), the compassionate and gracious God etc..’ This is where I think that the various Names can apply to both the Father and Jesus Christ, but without a trinitarian ‘next step’ that coalesces their persons into a single Godhead.

    Basically, Jesus has all the fullness of YHWH in him, the entire character of the Most High God is his, so the Names that indicate nature and character of God are justifiably his also. That doesn’t mean he is part of a trinity, but I can certainly see how you could arrive at a trinitarian conclusion when faced with Jesus using the ‘I will be’ name describing his pre-existence, and John interchanging Alpha and Omega. Jesus had the same divine nature, character and essence as his Father.

  451. Jim says:

    Have you considered logical implications of the following Craig? If during his incarnation Jesus is self-aware enough to know he is the Son of God, to make references to his divinity, to use ‘I am’ and not challenge the Pharisees who accuse him of equality with God YHWH, why does he go to such lengths to separate himself from the Father? He clearly doesn’t conceive of a classic trinitarian Godhead. If a trinitarian Godhead existed, Jesus would have been fully cognisant in a way that was only articulated centuries later. He wouldn’t have had a muted version of the trinity that only became clear through the uninspired deliberations of the 4th and 5th C councils.

    To say to his disciples he was returning to his Father and their Father, his God and their God (John 20:17), or from Paul in Eph 1:17, it would be apparent Jesus knew his place in the divine order, but also knew he and his Father were one in mission, character, and capability to forgive sin, save unto eternal life and judge. These attributes had, after all, been conferred on him by Almighty God. I suggest orthodox trinitarianism has ignored this inconvenient truth.

  452. Craig says:

    Jim,

    The 4th and 5th century Ecumenical Councils weren’t making up doctrine out of whole cloth. They were putting into formula the various truths found in Scripture. This was in reaction to the disparate alternate teachings of the time, such as modalism and Arianism. With these competing doctrines, it was necessary to put into more succinct words the truths borne out in Scripture.

    I think the best way to begin a search for the truth is to first focus on Christology. Since Christ Jesus is clearly human and apparently divine—the latter evidenced by Jesus ‘equating Himself with God’ (John 5:16-17) and the use of divine monikers by Jesus Himself (John 8:58, Revelation 22:13, e.g.) and others—Jesus’ unique status must be considered alongside the Father’s obvious Deity as YHWH. If Jesus is YHWH on earth, yet He is communicating with God the Father YHWH ‘in heaven’, then there appears to be (at least) two YHWHs—which would contravene monotheism and violate the Shema. How is that to be reconciled? The hypostatic union is the most logical conclusion to this sort of duality you and I both perceive in the Scriptures.

    The Chalcedonian Definition sought to make sense of the seemingly self-contradictory statements “I and the Father are one” alongside “the Father is greater than I” and “My Father and your Father, My God and your God”. Chalcedon made sense of the apparent dichotomy of Jesus’ claims of possessing divine prerogatives along with His obvious humanity as evidenced by, e.g., His prayers to the Father.

    The disputed clause “who is in heaven” in John 3:13, found in the N/KJV, is an indication of the sort of thing that could tilt more definitively Jesus’ divine status as YHWH. Was this clause a later addition (note placed in the margin that found its way into the text eventually?) in light of the doctrinal conflicts arising in the 3rd century and later, or is it original to the text? David Alan Black argues for its originality, over against the scholarly consensus. I’ve long wanted to do my own analysis, which is what prompted me to begin studying Koine Greek in earnest (most especially the so-called “perfect tense”, as found in anabainō, ascend in the first clause of 3:13, which could bolster Black’s view—or not). But that’s, as of yet, one of those unfinished projects…

  453. Jim says:

    ‘I think the best way to begin a search for the truth is to first focus on Christology.’

    And you don’t get any higher Christology than the Johannine contribution to the NT.

    I’d be interested in any study on John 3:13. I’ve simply taken it as a declaration of divinity by Jesus, but with the sub-text that heaven was not designed for regular humanity, which ties in with Peter’s preach in Acts 2:34. To me this supports a conditional immortality view of salvation. Raised to eternal life, not the ‘die and go to heaven’ type.

  454. Craig says:

    I think Acts 2:34 just means that at the time David spoke those words he had not and was not ‘ascended’ into heaven.

    I must ask: Who are the saints in Revelation who must patiently endure to the end of all things? And who are the 24 elders?

    Did you look at Black’s paper on John 3:13? I’ve been studying that off and on for a few years. To understand, I had to delve into textual criticism (and some of what he stated there is out of date–it was written in 1985). One unresolved issue is that the early church material has itself not really been subject to proper textual criticism, so one must keep this in mind. That is, these documents are subsidiary to Scriptural evidence.

    If you look at page 61 of Black’s article, you’ll see a number of texts he cites which feature “(the one) who is…”. I consulted this as I posted my earlier comment regarding this (though I had to look each one up for context, and to determine where the clause was in each verse). Frankly, John 1:18 (“who is in the bosom of the Father”) is very comparable to the disputed final clause in 3:13 in meaning (“who is in heaven”).

  455. Jim says:

    I will take a look at Black’s paper, but I’ve not had the chance yet. Yes, there are options with respect to Acts 2:34. The Messianic Psalm 110 is clearly in focus, and Peter’s ultimate point is in verse 36 when he declares the Jesus they had crucified is both Lord and the Jewish Messiah.

    We have spoken about souls under the altar and other heavenly visions in Revelation, Craig. Arwen intimated earlier that to extract pure doctrine from Revelation is risky – it is just so allegorical. Therefore, I weigh the clear aspects of scripture against the less so (as I’m sure you do), and let the clear interpret the opaque. Consequently, I regard the biblical expression of life after death as through resurrection, not a disembodied afterlife that leads to eventual resurrection.

    One for another day perhaps. I wouldn’t want to go off track.

  456. Jim says:

    Paul could lend credence to Black’s interpretation in Eph ch 2 where he writes about us being seated in heavenly places. I think that is more our status in Christ than a reality of simultaneous existence. In Eph ch 4:9-10 he states that Jesus descended from heaven having ascended there post-resurrection. This lends itself to a more simple view of John 3:13 in that Jesus was explaining to Nicodemas that he was the Son of Man from heaven and qualified to teach on spiritual matters.

    An all powerful, knowing and present Jesus on earth is difficult to conceive given his lack of knowledge regarding when he would return in glory, and also make Phil 2 somewhat nugatory in that his human form voluntarily masked his God-given authority over all creation. It’s gusting towards modalism again for me. We have two separate entities, one doing the will of the other in submission to his highest authority, but Black is saying that someone utterly indistinguishable from God was speaking with Nicodemas because he was all the omnis. I don’t think even John’s Christology went that far.

  457. Craig says:

    I think Eph 4:-10 is merely making a logical conclusion to the statement in 8, in which he “ascended” post-resurrection after he had descended into to “the lower, earthly regions” (tēs gēs), which implies Sheol, the Jewish understanding of the place of the dead–not hell, or, worse, the furnace of fire, as some think. This comports with Jesus’ statement about the “sign of Jonah”–the three days in the belly of a great fish.

    I think what Black is getting it is what is known as the extra Calvinisticum (not that one has to be a Calvinist to adhere to this doctrine)–Calvin’s idea that while Jesus was on earth necessarily constrained in His human body (limited in presence), like all humans, He was yet omnipresent in His divine nature. I consider this necessary in order for Christ to continuously sustain the cosmos (Col 1:17; cf. Heb 1:3). This is considered orthodox Christology. Omnipresence, by its definition is not constrained by any physical boundary. And just like Jesus was obviously not everywhere at once in His physical body, He was not all-knowing incarnationally.

  458. Arwen4CJ says:

    Hello Jim,

    I am following the conversation still, just not checking in as often as I had been.

    I noticed something interesting today in church this morning. I don’t know if the church you attend follows a lectionary (or, if it does, whether or not it would be the same), but my pastor chose to preach on the Old Testament passage appointed for today. Can you guess what it was? Exodus 3:1-15.

    Verse 15 caught my eye in a way that I had not quite noticed before. Let me quote verses 14 and 15…

    Exodus 3:14-15 (NASB)
    14 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” 15 God, furthermore, said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is My name forever, and this is My memorial-name to all generations.

    The part that caught my attention was when God said that I AM is HIs name forever, and that it His name for all generations.

    So…..anyone who applied the very name of God to Himself, HIs name forever to all generations….that suggests to me that no one except Him could apply it to themselves legitimately. He wouldn’t let a representative use His very Name and Identity.

    For John to imply that Jesus was implying the name I AM to Himself, and it is clear that this was John’s intention in his gospel, then Jesus has to be YHWH in the same way that the Father is YHWH. If Jesus were not actually YHWH, He wouldn’t have applied this name to Himself.

    I have heard some people argue that it was actually the pre-incarnate Jesus speaking to Moses out of the burning bush because Jesus is God’s revelation to humanity. I don’t think that this can be proven that it was specifically the Word speaking here, and my pastor did not get near that idea at all. I just remembered reading it somewhere.

    Ok. I just wanted to make sure that some of the practices in Alpha in regard to the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts may not be biblical. I’m glad that you saw an issue there, too, and that having been through the course before, you already knew to be cautious. I am not a cessationist either.

    Right — I don’t agree with the whole “baptism in the Holy Spirit” idea as being a separate, second baptism. The Vineyards that I went to for awhile did not teach a “baptism in the Spirit,” and so with their Alpha course, they did not teach it like that either. They do believe in a constant filling of the Holy Spirit, which they say happens multiple times, and nothing distinctive about it. (They don’t look for tongues or any gift to accompany it.)

    Perhaps this is one way that the people who taught the Alpha Course I went through differed from maybe what the actual instruction booklet teaches. They just taught that tongues and other spiritual gifts are gifts that can be given by the Holy Spirit at any time. No “baptism in the Holy Spirit” was mentioned.

    Now, they did believe in a couple different kinds of tongues. The first kind was known human languages. The second kind was a special language between that person and God. Although they acknowledged that people can sing in tongues, they never did what many other charismatic groups do — have people pray aloud in tongues altogether. They don’t believe in doing that, as it would go against the teachings in 1 Corinthians, so we didn’t do any speaking aloud of tongues during Alpha. However, some people might have when praying for a person one on one, but they definitely did not emphasize it. I think it was more rare when someone spoke in tongues in one-on-one prayer with someone. I don’t think I heard anyone speak in tongues all of the Holy Spirit weekend.

    Because my experience differed from yours in regard to tongues and a teaching about the baptism in the Holy Spirit, I am assuming that churches teach these parts of the Alpha Course differently from one another, or at the very least, put different emphasis on different things.

    Yeah, I agree — Alpha in general is positive, and I like what it is trying to do.

    Thanks for researching Genesis 19:24. Those are interesting viewpoints, and could be possible interpretations. I still think it is showing that there are at least two who are YHWH because of the verses that came earlier regarding YHWH’s visit to Abraham just before this –the meeting that you and Craig have discussed already.

    Yes, God’s name is a description of divine being, but it cannot be seen as merely an elevation above polytheism. God claimed that this was His name, and thus, it seems that this is tied to His very identity.

    Moses asked who he should say sent him. That is a question of identity. The answer that God gave him was meant to clarify exactly who he was speaking to. In other words, I see in Exodus 3 a definite identification of an individual entity, Himself. I see the name I AM as both a description His state of being, and as identifying who He is. This is even more clear when I look at the I AM statements from Isaiah.

    I see similarities between YHWH’s claim in Isaiah and Jesus’ claims in John. I find it difficult to see the I AM statements in John in any other way other than Jesus claiming the divine name and applying it to Himself, indicating that He is YHWH in the same way that the Father is YHWH.

  459. Jim says:

    Glad you’re still tracking this thread Arwen. Interestingly the divine being Moses encounters at the burning bush in Ex 3 is called the Angel of the Lord. This is verified by Stephen in Acts 7:30, 35. This angel, says Stephen, was operating on behalf of God. As I’m sure you know angel simply means messenger. In the Ex 3 passage, the angel, LORD and God are used interchangeably it seems.

    What does that say to you? To me it appears that another entity, not God, is also a YHWH-named figure. Is this the Logos? Quite probably. Does that naming convention support a trinitarian perspective of God? Perhaps, but I’m more inclined to see it as the name of a state of being exhibited by two entities: the Father and Jesus Christ. That’s almost binitarianism but not quite.

  460. Jim says:

    So, I guess a key question is: was there some kind of proto-bi/trinitarianism in the OT that was evident but, either, was not recognised as such so wouldn’t have impinged upon a monotheistic worship system, or was recognised and still allowed monotheism because of the entities not being each other but both being YHWH?

    Actually, even the Oneness modalists could get in on this particular construct. But Ex 3 does beg the question whether or not we have multiple entities all legitimately called God/YHWH/Lord, and where the haShem says the God of Israel is one (in number, but could well be ‘unique’ too).

    But if the NT is the full revelation of what was obscured and hidden in the OT, surely that revelation is about God and his Messiah. That would be two very distinct entities both of YHWH name status. So for monotheism to remain intact they either coalesce into a Godhead called YHWH, or early Christians recognised the Father as the God of monotheism, and also the Lord through whom he operated, without thinking in terms of two separate Gods,or in binitarian terms.

  461. Arwen4CJ says:

    Jim,

    I actually have heard, though I don’t know for sure that it is the correct interpretation, and I don’t know that all scholars would agree with this…..

    But I have heard someone claim that the “angel of the LORD” is just another name for God — more specifically, the pre-incarnate Jesus. They argue that it isn’t really an actual angel — it is just God. There are sometimes passages that switch between calling YHWH “YHWH’ or calling Him and angel of YHWH. It seems that these individuals are reading the passage, and from the context, they can tell that it is actually YHWH rather than any angel. (Perhaps “angel of the LORD” could be an expression that people used when they were actually talking about God.

    It seems to me from context that this isn’t an angel, but is actually God. Moses took off his shoes and turned away from him — like he did not want to look at God, and YHWH here is treated as God.

    If you take the angel as messenger idea literally — then couldn’t it be possible for one Person of YHWH to be a messenger for another Person of YHWH.

    I need to dig up that website article of the guy who spoke at Christmas Conference because he had a whole website showing why he believed that this messenger was pre-incarnate Jesus and fully YHWH.

    After doing a search, I remembered the name of the guy’s website, but it no longer is in existence.

    Either way, it seems to me that the divine name applied to both the Father and Jesus, and as such, both are YHWH.

    So then, it is only our understanding of how this is that is difficult for us to understand. I believe the best way to account for this and to describe it is through the Trinity. There are still sometimes (even in your two most recent posts) where you have described your beliefs, and I see them as almost being compatible with the Trinity, without your wanting to use the label “trinity.”

    I re-read the chapter that Nicky Gumbel wrote on the trinity, after recommending it to you, and he has a big quote in there from C.S. Lewis. Basically, the argument goes like this — God is a unique Being, and there is no one like God, and we humans can’t conceive of what God is truly like. We express what we can from the truths of Scripture that we know, but we can only go so far.

    He compared this to if we were living in a one dimensional world where we only saw lines, or if we lived in a two dimensional world where we only saw flat objects, etc. This argument reminds me of a book that my intro to calculus teacher from high school had us read called “Flatland.” The same principles apply.

    The book is about a character that is a square, and he is taken to point land, and he sees how they differ from his flatland (where there are only two dimensions that he knows about), then he is taken to a 3-d world where he reflects that in his flatland, the 3rd dimension does exist — it’s there — they just have no means of describing it. It affects their world a bit, but they never notice it.

    C.S, Lewis suggests that this kind of thing could be like how it is with God. We only see maybe a side of him (if we use the analogy of the shapes), thinking that each Person or side of God is a separate square, but in reality He could be a like a cube — we just don’t have the means of conceiving Him as He truly is.

    So — for us, we acknowledge what we find in Scripture — the Father is YHWH, Jesus is YHWH, and the Holy Spirit is YHWH, yet there is only one God.

    We should not thinking of God like we see a person. God may not look like what a human being looks like. He is different from us — so how he exists in a triune way is something that we cannot truly fully grasp. Our responsibility is not to explain how this is exactly, but just to simply accept what He has revealed about Himself to humanity.

    I think it is difficult for you to see Almighty God as being more than just the Father, so sometimes it seems that you are confused when Craig and I talk about our beliefs. It does seem, however, especially in your recent posts, that you are understanding us a lot better, and we are moving into a sort of understanding here. I think you understand our beliefs much better now than you did before. I also think that your own view about God is more open, and you are willing to modify your belief towards where Scripture leads.

  462. Craig says:

    I see yet another way of understanding Exodus 3. First, a messenger/angel of the LORD appeared manifested as a burning bush. This message (the burning bush) was a theophany, providing the means by which to get Moses’ attention. Once the bush provided this purpose, YHWH spoke to Moses from within this theophanic burning bush.

    In other words, the angelos of the LORD is to be restricted to the manifestation of the burning bush, and this messenger of the LORD is to be distinguished from YHWH Himself, Who is the One Who conversed with Moses in this exchange. It wasn’t the angelos of the LORD who spoke, it was YHWH. The bush itself did not speak, it was YHWH ‘within’ the burning bush Who spoke.

    The angelos of the LORD = the burning bush itself
    YHWH = the One Who conversed with Moses within the theophanic vision of the burning bush

  463. Arwen4CJ says:

    That is possible, Craig. I saved the article from the guy who wrote it, just in case his website ever went down. Since it has gone down, I’m glad I did.

    I don’t remember the man’s name, and none of the documents I saved have his name on them. I do want to offer a word of caution in regard to his articles — I am not sure how reliable what he said was. When I did the search for his ministry today online, I came across some questionable articles on other topics that people had mentioned here and there.

    That doesn’t mean that what he said about Jesus is definitely wrong. I can send it to you, if you are interested. It is a Word document. Let me know.

  464. Arwen4CJ says:

    Jim, if you want the article, I can send it to Craig, and he can send it to you in e-mail (if you want). E-mail is the only way it can be sent because it is no longer on the Internet.

  465. Jim says:

    Thanks Arwen. I would probably have the same conclusions as this author but by all means send it on if you can.

    The research I’ve done on this pre-incarnation theophany or christophany is that it would most likely be the Logos given all the attributes and divine titles afforded the ‘angel’ of the Lord. All the instances are of a person engaging with variou OT figures. Again I’m still working through the implications with respect to the nature of God and Jesus.

  466. Jim says:

    The C S Lewis comment is an interesting one. I’m not entirely convinced God is so above our imagination that it’s like a line trying to conceive of a 3 dimensional object. He seems to be made of a unique substance we call pneuma or spirit. I’m not sure if it’s the same ‘type’ of spirit that the angels are made from, but that’s possible. Overall there is a mystery but also a good deal of clear cut revelation.

  467. Craig says:

    Jim,

    I can send the document to you at the email address you use as a WordPress login. Will that work?

  468. Jim says:

    Should do, thank you.

  469. Craig says:

    I sent it. Did you receive it?

  470. Arwen4CJ says:

    Jim,

    If you liked how that article was written, he wrote another article about Jesus appearing throughout the Old Testament. If you want that one, let me know, and I can send it to Craig.

    He also has an Alpha/Omega/Beginning/End/First/Last argument that is similar to what Craig and I have already discussed with you. I can also send that one to you.

    The author of these articles was a Jehovah’s Witness who was reading through the book of Colossians one day, and realized that JW doctrine was wrong. He saw Jesus’ full deity in Colossians, so then he started a ministry in defending Jesus’ deity, and helping people to witness to Jehovah’s Witnesses.

    It was also from him that I first learned about Oneness Pentecostals. He had some material about talking to Oneness Pentecostals as well.

    Just let me know. I will send these articles to Craig, and he can pass them along to you as well.

    I will write a little more later.

  471. Arwen4CJ says:

    Jim,

    I do think that you will like how the author of those articles reaches his conclusions. He starts with the same messenger of the LORD idea that you do, but his conclusions end up to be Trinitarian. It definitely will be interesting for you to read his stuff. He uses the same theophany language that you do, so he has likely read some of the same sources as you.

    In his Jesus in the OT article he also suggests that the pre-incarnate Jesus interacted with OT figures.

    The line/square/cube argument is meant to provide an analogy to how difficult it is for us humans to think about God. When I read Flatland, before I knew about C.S. Lewis’ thoughts on this, I wondered if that was how it was with us and God — that maybe there was a God dimension that we interact with, but yet are not able to really conceive of it, and that we could not see God for how He truly was.

    I agree that God is spirit. The angels are spiritual beings, but they are created. God is uncreated, and because of this, I think that whatever “spirit stuff” God is, it is unique to Him. This is speculation, as God did not say anything about His own makeup, other than that He is spirit.

    Craig, did you want me to go ahead and send you the Jesus in the OT article as well as the First/Last Alpha/Omega Beginning/End article?

  472. Craig says:

    Sure, you may send those as well.

  473. Jim says:

    Received fine thanks Craig. Appreciate your time Arwen too.

  474. Arwen4CJ says:

    No problem. I sent Craig the rest of the guy’s documents that I had, so if you are interested in any of those, just let him know.

  475. Jim says:

    So I read the first article which made a good case for the pre-incarnate Christ to have been those manifestations called the Angel of the Lord, as well as YHWH. I have no real issue with all that. I do, however, take issue with his point under the heading ‘Applications’ #1. There is no scriptural indication that we fall into a damnable heresy if we don’t take John 8:24 as a trinitarian verse that the Logos being referred to as YHWH equals the trinity as stated in the orthodox creeds (I assume that’s what he means).

    What I am interested in is that monotheism and by default trinitarianism relies on the Shema and God being one in a numerical sense, but I think there must be more to it than that. The fact that man had to wait several centuries, even millenia, between creation and Moses encounter on Mount Horeb for God to announce his ‘name’, or probably more accurately define his character and nature through a particular phrase, indicates there was no direct or significant threat or opposition to worshipping him up to then.

    Clearly, by the time Moses was about to lead the Israelites from Egypt confirming to them the ‘one’ true God amongst the plethora of alternative pagan non-deities required divine intervention, hence the burning bush. That there are two entities at work here and in multiple other OT passages does not necessarily play into a trinitarian perspective whereby the two entities have to be seen as ‘one’ God or YHWH.

    I truly believe the biblical course in all this is neither unitarian, trinitarian, binitarian, or bitheistic. It is one Most High and his supreme vice-regent, co-creator, ‘sent one’, Messiah, earthly representative, sacrificial Lamb, divine-sharing yet begotten at a point in pre-(human) time, eternally submissive Son.

  476. Craig says:

    Jim,

    And YHWH took even longer to reveal His plan of salvation through His Son, Jesus Christ–even though besides YHWH there is no savior. Should we say that God did not save until Jesus?

    The way I understand the author’s point regarding John 8:24 is that one must believe that Jesus is YHWH, for, if not, “you will indeed die in your sins”. We agree that God the Father is YHWH, and here Jesus claims to be YHWH as well. Oneness Pentecostals Modalists, who affirm only one YHWH at one time, use this verse to claim that the NT is the time in which Jesus was YHWH, indicating that they understand this verse as Jesus pronouncing His unqualified Deity. Of course, the author also accepts the Holy Spirit as part of the Godhead, so he necessarily concludes a belief in Trinitarianism must be understood along with John 8:24.

  477. Jim says:

    Do you agree with your last line, Craig? It’s a statement, but is it your understanding of salvation? No belief in God as trinity equals ‘dead in your sins’ and therefore destruction?

    ‘Should we say that God did not save until Jesus?’ I would say God doesn’t save until Jesus returns and, even then, there will be no global judgement until the great white throne prophecy is fulfilled well after his return. God saves through Christ.

  478. Craig says:

    Jim,

    I won’t be dogmatic on that issue. Let me explain, though I’m not sure I’ll capture all the necessary nuances. In the context of John 8:24, the text clearly uses egō eimi with nothing following, i.e., “I AM”. Those translations that add a clause are filling in the predicate from the larger context. This is because it is clear that the Pharisees did not construe Jesus as claiming the divine name in this context. However, in my view, the Gospel of John doesn’t always use the very words of Jesus; i.e. the Gospel writer is using His own rhetorical skills to effect a double meaning at times (just like born again/from above in John 3), yet he captures the essence of Jesus’ words through the power of the Holy Spirit. So, is John 8:24 a case of double meaning; or, are we to understand it strictly as the way most translations fill in the predicate from the context (“the one I claim to be”)? When one considers Jesus’ explicit “I AM” statement in John 8:58, I think the evidence tilts to a dual meaning, though one could certainly argue a single meaning without Jesus making a divine claim.

    But what does that mean, then? At most, it means that one must believe that Jesus is YHWH to be saved. The Holy Spirit is not mentioned in this context. Yet, according to historically orthodox Christian doctrine, as established from the Ecumenical Creeds, if one doesn’t believe in the Trinity, one is considered a heretic and unsaved. This places, e.g., Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons outside Christian orthodoxy. With all this in mind, I think the decision is yours to make.

  479. Arwen4CJ says:

    Jim,

    I asked Craig’s opinion on John 8:24 a couple weeks ago in private — in regard to that very issue — whether or not it seemed that John 8:24 made belief in Jesus as YHWH essential to salvation. I asked him to examine the Greek there, and the Greek in several Isaiah passages, etc. I asked him this privately through an e-mail message.

    I hadn’t read the Eads ministries stuff in a long time, but I did remember that he made several arguments and use words similar to what you use, and that he covered topics that we were talking about. I hadn’t remembered that he considered John 8:24 to be a salvation issue.

    But, yes, it is really important that you come to your own conclusion, as there is a possibility that it is a salvation issue.

  480. Craig says:

    Jim,

    Let’s look again at the context of 8:24, expanding it out just a bit. As the writer of that Word doc shows, 8:28 has another egō eimi statement:

    27 They [the Pharisees] did not realize that He had been speaking to them about the Father [“He who sent Me” in v 26]. 28 So Jesus said, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am [He—“the one I claim to be”], and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me.

    Like v 24, the “I am” here is likely used for rhetorical effect—a possible implicit double meaning. The deeper meaning is lost on the Pharisees, but not on the astute reader—the reader who read and understood the implications in John’s prologue (1:1-18). “Lift up” is a euphemism for the Cross, of course. This ties v 28 in with v 24’s “die in your sins”.

    But, can we be sure that John intends “I AM” in both verses? Perhaps not unequivocally, but enlarging our scope of enquiry may provide more evidence. In 8:12 Jesus makes His second “I AM” + predicate declaration in John’s Gospel (the first is 6:35: “I AM the bread of life”): “I AM the Light of the world”, which He calls “the Light of life” (cf. 1:4,9,13). To this (8:13) the Pharisees claim his self-testimony is invalid, as, of course, 2 or 3 witnesses are required. In response—and this is key here—Jesus states, “Even if I testify about Myself, My testimony is true/valid…” Jesus’ testimony about Himself is never a testimony of one. It always comes as two, to include the Father—the One Who sent Him.

    And when one factors in 8:58—the indisputable “I AM” statement—this tilts the scales even further. From this, I conclude that Jesus, the Son of God, is YHWH. As I’d noted before, to claim agency (vice regency) is deficient, as an agent/vice regent cannot claim to BE the principal—he’s always the agent for the principle.

    On another note, there’s room for disagreement with the author regarding his claim that Rev 1:8 is a statement of the Son. The identity of the speaker is not 100% certain, though it’s clearly either the Father or the Son. My NIV 1984 red letter edition has this verse in red text. But I’m not so sure. I think it’s the Father.

  481. Jim says:

    I had a pretty long post which the iPad just dumped. Basically, what I was saying was that God called Abram from his polytheistic life in Ur to faith in the one, true God. He didn’t provide an I AM name for Abram. Fast forward to Moses, and God knows that the Israelites are being constantly seduced by foreign ‘gods’. Consequently, God chooses that point to reveal his nature by declaring to Moses the God who will bring them out of slavery. That God was the I AM, the one who exists, the one who will be what he will be; in other words, a real, living entity unlike all the other idols and lesser non-gods or false worship systems. Not only that, but he is alone and unique in that standing of being above all.

    However, despite God saying to the Israelites this is who their God is, and to remember that ‘name’ or description, they became enraptured by the name I AM/YHWH/Yahweh, to the level that that they couldn’t even pronounce the name without fear of blaspheming. They turned the name into an idol essentially. So, when we read ego eimi in John’s gospel, we shouldn’t get too wrapped up in Jesus trying to imply he was YHWH, or the God of the Pharisees. He never hinted at that and always declared that he was sent by the Father, did nothing without the Father’s leading and was separate from the Father, albeit that he was with him in a pre-incarnate time as described clearly in 8:58.

    That verse is really about his pre-incarnate credentials, not a statement of being YHWH, although it would have been recognised as claiming a divine status. Being the Son and saying he was with the Father before Abraham lived meant that he had the same YHWH qualities because he shared the Father’s unique divine nature, but he still wasn’t shipwrecking monotheism. The Jews knew about the Angel of the Lord, about a second entity or power that could act the same as YHWH ie judge, forgive, save, create ex nihilo, destroy; the rock in the desert that gave water, one who was the full representation of God in his engagement with man.but still not the Most High. The Jews simply hadn’t seen that the Messiah, who was supposed to come from David was Jesus, despite his miracles, references to his divine nature, teaching on Ps 110:1, pre-existence as the OT theophanies.

    So I’m not very dogmatic on the few absolute ‘I am’ references being a direct read across by John that Jesus is YHWH. He was qualitatively of the nature as YHWH, but being the Son, he knew all his power had been conferred on him by the Father, all authority given to him and not acquired by dint of being the Son or YHWH in nature/substance. That meant that monotheism still stays intact, and doesn’t split the Father and Son in to two Gods since they share the same unique divine state of being. God the Father was uncreated, the Logos was brought forth, as Jesus states in John 8, not in an incarnational way, although that fits too, but before the founding of the earth..In becoming the Son of God, he knew he was not God the Son, that much is transparent. So any desire for co-equality, co-eternity, co-everything of Jesus with YHWH, is our trying not to compromise our idea of monotheism, but actually misunderstanding what monotheism meant to the OT Jews and the new converts to Jesus.

  482. Craig says:

    I’ll have to compose a fuller response a bit later. Sorry your post got lost—hate it when that happens. Many times I’ll compose in MS Word first, saving as I go. I’ve had too many well-thought out comments disappear for various reasons.

  483. Arwen4CJ says:

    Jim,

    If you are writing this mostly on an iPad, you can type it up on Pages and save it, just as you would with Microsoft Word. (You might have to download Pages from the app store. It comes on most iPads, but apparently doesn’t always come on iPhones. Not sure why that is.)

    I have Pages on both my computer and iPad. I also have Word on my computer, as well as TextEdit. I usually use my computer to type up responses on here.

  484. Arwen4CJ says:

    Jim,

    I think it all boils down to John’s intention when writing the Gospel. It seems to me that he, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, was clearly presenting Jesus as YHWH in his Gospel. If you look at the book of John as a whole, Jesus is being presented as the I AM of the OT.

    This is made clear starting in John 1:1. Almost everything in the whole Gospel always points back to this.

    If he were making a case of a God Most High and a vice regent, then this would have been explicitly stated.

    I do not see any legitimate, real gods besides God.

    If your belief is correct, then why don’t any of the three main branches of Judaism today teach the Two Powers concept? Why is there no evidence of this thinking contained in any early Christian writing?

    In my view, this Most High God/vice regent / two powers concept exists to avoid the doctrine of the Trinity.

    Regardless, if you have a Most High God and a Vice Regent — that makes two gods. It doesn’t matter if one comes from the other, as long as you insist that they are not both the Most High God. It doesn’t matter if you say that they are both made of “YHWH stuff.” You still end up with two gods because you have a “Most High” and a “vice regent.”

    The only way to avoid having two gods is to either have a true Trinity, or to have modalism.

  485. Jim says:

    The only way to avoid having two gods is to either have a true Trinity, or to have modalism..

    And this is what we’ve been discussing, just as they have been down the centuries. What did the OT revelation of God, and the pre-incarnate Christ look like and how did they flow into the NT incarnation and beyond?

    Cognitive perceptions are important here, because I don’t see scripture being absolutely black and white on this subject. It’s something of a jigsaw and then step well back to see the big picture.

    I regard my position as carrying good substance and, therefore, don’t necessarily agree with your statement Arwen, but totally understand why you say it. I have said similar.

    Thanks for the posting advice. Craig, normally your Leave a Reply box holds the content in the event of a crash (iPad power failure in my case), but didn’t seem to this time. It gave me a chance to reflect on what I wanted to say though.

  486. Jim says:

    Because a name to a Jew, or anyone from the ancient near east, stated more about the person’s family, location, status and key history or features, I think we should understand YHWH in the same context. The list is endless: from Adam meaning red or soil, Abram and Sarai having their names changed by God all the way to Jeshua – the God who saves, names indicate nature, character and are far more than a mere label or identifier.

    So even if Jesus aligned himself with YHWH by including subtle references to the Jewish holy name for God, that indicates more about his nature than actually being part of a whole called YHWH who comprises two other divine entities, also called YHWH. He could be separate and in submission to YHWH, the Most High, but of the same nature. That meant he was recognised by the early Jewish monotheistic believers as Lord but not God, although they knew he was of God-stuff and unique in nature. Being of the same ‘stuff’ as God and having all authority conferred on him by God gave him an equality with God from man’s perspective although it was never claimed by Jesus himself who always saw himself beneath God.

    So there weren’t two Gods to the early Christian church since they were of the same unique divine nature, but they knew one was God and the other their and our Lord, God’s Son.

  487. Arwen4CJ says:

    Jim,

    That doesn’t account for verses like John 1:1, which do call Jesus God explicitly. (Note that the biblical writers obviously didn’t believe that Jesus was the Father. The only way that this works is if God is at least two Persons because the biblical writers believed in only one God.)

    2 Peter 1:1 (NASB)
    1Simon 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:

    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.

    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.

  488. Arwen4CJ says:

    One more thing — I heard that the phrase “Jesus is Lord” was meant to contrast with the phrase “Caesar is Lord.” I heard that such a phrase was supposed to imply deity.

  489. Jim says:

    John 1:1 has other viable translations that don’t state the Word was God (the trinitarian entity).

    Why would 2 Peter 1 open with a different greeting to every other letter that discriminated between God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ? If Greek has no commas, one could just as reasonably write that verse, ‘…of our God, and Saviour Jesus Christ.’

    Likewise for Titus 2, same logical flow should be read, not with a trinitarian slant. Paul has never said that Jesus was God in any other letter, so it would be odd to assume he held such a view from this reading in Titus. Indeed, Paul makes it clear in 1 Thess 4:14-16 that God will accompany Jesus in some form or guise when Jesus returns to earth, and he says the same in Titus 2:13.

    Romans 9:5 has to be seen in the light of 1 Cor 15:28. Whilst Jesus is over all, that is because it has been delegated to him by God to whom Jesus will present all things once death is finally defeated. The ‘God’ at the end doesn’t have to refer to the preceding Christ, but could easily be a short doxology.

    Finally, Arwen, even if Jesus is Lord implies deity (that obviously out ranks Caesar’s non-deity) that doesn’t equate him to God the Father or part of a YHWH Godhead. I have always maintained the deity of Jesus, both as incarnated, and either side.

  490. Craig says:

    Jim,

    To which “valid” translations do you refer regarding John 1:1?

  491. Jim says:

    Craig, perhaps ‘translations’ is too strong. Let’s say emphasis or conclusions. I won’t go down the JW claim that ‘there is no definite article in front of the second theos, so it must mean a god.’

    But I do find it compelling that the translation which reads:
    Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος. En archē ēn ho Lógos, kaì ho Lógos ēn pròs tòn Theón, kaì Theòs ēn ho Lógos. In beginning was the Word, and the Word was with the God, and God was the Word,
    would mean the emphasis on the second God would be more about the Godly essence and nature of the Word than stating that the Word was one of two or three persons of God because of monotheism.

    Therefore, I would take John 1:1 to mean something like: In the beginning was THE Logos, and the Logos was with THE God (note two separate entities), and the Logos had those unique divine qualities of THE God (so by implication was not a second God, but THE God was the God of Jewish monotheism).

  492. Craig says:

    There are two problems with this understanding. The first one is that theos has the article preceding it, indicating that it is the subject nominative rather than the predicate nominative, and “fronting” logos as it does (placing it first in this clause) puts emphasis on it. Secondly, there is another Greek word which would have been more appropriate for your rendition: theios (Divine), the adjectival form of theos.

    I don’t have time to address any of your more recent comments.