The Great Trinity Debate (Comments Part 2)

The second round of The Great Trinity Debate has now been posted over at Parchment & Pen. Again, as a brief reminder, Rob Bowman is the Trinitarian in the debate (here is his second article) and David Burke is the non-Trinitarian in the debate (here is his second article).

Some Introductory Comments

Last week, I posted my comments on the first round of articles, specifically working through some of David Burke’s statements in his post. Before moving into addressing some of David Burke’s statements from his second post, I thought Rob Bowman gave some great words to ponder when studying theology through the science of exegesis and hermeneutics:

One commonly stated reason for assigning some texts priority, however, requires some rethinking. I am referring to the common hermeneutical canon that we should interpret the “obscure,” “ambiguous,” or “unclear” texts in light of the “clear” texts. Many people who appeal to this principle to validate their interpretations have engaged in untold mischief. All too often, people view any text that agrees with their predetermined position as “clear” and any that does not as “unclear.” The reasoning often proceeds along these lines: “My opponent thinks that Text A teaches his doctrine. However, Text B clearly teaches my doctrine, which is contrary to his. Furthermore, scholars disagree about the meaning of Text A. Since Text A, then, is not clear, we should go with the clear teaching of Text B.” Using this form of argument, it is all too easy to dismiss from serious consideration texts that do not seem to fit one’s theological position.

The reality is that almost invariably Text A seems clear to one group while Text B appears equally clear to an opposing group. Furthermore, one can find some scholars with differing opinions about the meaning of almost every text, including Text B (whatever that text may be). Scholarly inventiveness and creativity know almost no bounds, and since academia in the humanities (including biblical scholarship) encourages revisionism, scholars often put forth differing explanations of a text simply because they think that’s their job. In the end, “clarity” and “obscurity” are usually subjective judgments that reflect the beliefs of the interpreters more than they inform us about the texts themselves.

Now, I am sure each side could use such a statement against the other. We all have our clear texts and we all have our obscure texts. We have to deal with both, even when the obscure texts don’t seem to support our view. And, yes, we all know how to fit the obscure into our theologically conceptual boxes that we’ve created. But we must also realise that the obscure and debatable verses can be (and normally should be) interpreted in light of the more clear texts.

Below are now some specific comments I would like to make in response to some of David Burke’s statements in his second post.

Burke’s Statements About the Identity of Christ

I personally thought Burke spent too much time (or words) at the beginning of his article sharing what he did believe about Jesus Christ. He seems to have been laying some ground of agreement, which is not a bad thing at all. Hey, this is a good thing – find common ground. But I think that, sometimes, what might come across as agreement is rather subtle ways to work in differing theology. Again, shared ground is good (i.e. both Bowman and Burke have expressed their beliefs being first and foremost founded in the Scripture rather than ‘tradition’). But I believe that this shared ground can also be misleading at times.

Here is an example of what I mean.

Groups like the Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses can utilise specific vocabulary that sounds very similar to orthodox Christian beliefs for the average person. This might lead the person to say, ‘Oh, they are Christian. They believe in Jesus Christ.’ All the while, the group believes in quite a different Jesus Christ than what has been viewed as orthodox for some 1500-2000 years (they usually believe in a ‘less-than’ Jesus).

Or someone might say, ‘Oh, they are Christian. They believe in salvation by grace.’ All the while, the phrase salvation by grace can have a completely different context. For example, in the Mormon context, salvation by grace refers to the reality that every person will be resurrected from the dead and receive immortality. Quite a different meaning from the view that salvation by grace is the actual act wherein the believer is born again, united to Christ, reconciled to the Father.

Thus, I know Trinitarians would not agree with every one of Burke’s statements about the identity of Jesus Christ in the opening section of his article, though some of it would be shared ground. Simply stated, some of the wording was a bit questionable as to what he meant. Specifically, I would have liked him to flesh out this statement more: Jesus was conceived in the womb of the virgin Mary by divine intervention, on which basis he is the Son of God.

The wording seemed a little different. And, knowing that, from his perspective, the Holy Spirit is not a divine-person, I simply wonder what this statement fully means to a non-Trinitarian Christadelphian. I don’t expect him to address it in this series, but maybe David will stop by here and comment.

From the section: The “Easy” Verses

I believe Burke is holding off until next week’s post to address some of the more ‘crucial’ texts that Trinitarians use to support Christ’s deity, specifically John 1:1-18, Colossians 1:15-20 and Philippians 2:6-11. But he did look at Hebrews 1:1-14 (or at least vs8), which I will address later on in this post.

Still, I was surprised so much time was spent on some ‘less significant’ verses. And I think Bowman touches on what might be going on here in his own article, of which I quoted from at the beginning of my post here:

My opponent thinks that Text A teaches his doctrine. However, Text B clearly teaches my doctrine, which is contrary to his. Furthermore, scholars disagree about the meaning of Text A. Since Text A, then, is not clear, we should go with the clear teaching of Text B.

Now Burke does say why he is addressing some of the ‘less significant’ passages, as they might distract from the major Biblical texts:

I address these verses now since I feel that they distract from the far more important task of building a case for our respective Christologies on a Scriptural basis as a whole.

I am not sure, but it seems that he might be preparing to ‘deconstruct’ the Trinitarian view in his next article in regards to more significant texts (i.e. John 1; Colossians 1; Philippians 2; etc). But, he is already trying to defeat what seem as more ‘peripheral’ verses so that we cannot come back and lean on them once the more ‘central’ verses are deal with. I am not sure, we shall see how things continue to move forward next week.

Still, specifically, I feel Burke leaned way too much on this kind of arguing: There are varying interpretations of these secondary texts based on linguistic, grammatical and punctuational nuances. Thus, these texts fail in supporting Trinitarianism.

Well, there are multiple, multiple, multiple interpretations of almost every text that it simply becomes mind-numbing. You would think it doesn’t have to get so minutely detailed and difficult, but it can be at times. I am not saying we disregard study of the languages, grammar, punctuation (or lack of punctuation in the original languages). Nor do you not study the plethora of interpretations that are out there. It is important. But I believe pointing out that a verse has multiple interpretations and, thus, is not clear in its teaching is, by no means, something to lean too heavily on.

Even more, this seems to employ this specific tactic that Bowman refers to: Furthermore, scholars disagree about the meaning of Text A. Since Text A, then, is not clear, we should go with the clear teaching of Text B.

I personally believe this distracts too much from what is there in the clear passages. If it had been up to me (and it wasn’t and isn’t), I would have preferred that the clear passages be treated first, rather than the secondary (and sometimes more obscure) passages. Certain passages like Isaiah 7:14, Isaiah 9:6; Acts 20:28; Romans 9:5, etc, are interpreted in light of the more substantially clear passages of John 1, John 20:28, Colossians 2, Philippians 2 and Hebrews 1.

Now on to some more specific passages that Burke brought up:

Isaiah 7:14

Though familiar, Isaiah 7:14 says:

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

This was fulfilled in Matthew 1:18-23. In addressing Isaiah 7:14, Burke states:

There is no attempt to extrapolate an argument for Christ’s deity. The translators understand that a name is not the same as a statement about Christological identity or ontology (nature). Jewish names commonly include names and titles of God (a practice known as theophory) without ever implying that the person being so named is literally divine.

He, then, lists examples of names that declare something about God’s character. Most will recognise that the names of the Hebrews had great significance, even prophetic significance. The name could not only speak about the character of God but also about the character of the person, i.e. Abraham meaning ‘father of a multitude of nations’.

But, with regards to the name Immanuel, ‘God [is] with us’, this is not really the specific name that Jesus was called by. The name He was called by was Jesus, which does mean, ‘Yahweh saves’. So, Immanuel is not just a name like Elijah or Abraham or Zechariah. This is a signpost declaring and identifying who Christ is Himself. It’s almost a ‘title’ like Christ/Messiah, Lord, God, etc.

This is highlighted in Matthew 1:18-23 where Immanuel is applied to Christ, not as a name, but as an identity. He was called Jesus, but Jesus was literally ‘God with us’, hence why He was conceived of the Holy Spirit and would save His (not just God the Father’s) people from their sins. Or, we could say the opposite that, because Jesus was conceived by the Spirit of God and would be the one to save His (not just God the Father’s) people from their sins, Jesus was literally Immanuel, God with us.

In his own article, Bowman has this to stay as he addressed Matthew 28:16-20:

The evidence of this final statement in Matthew illuminates the reference toward the beginning of the Gospel to Jesus as “God with us” (1:23). Critics commonly argue that this expression means nothing more than that God was to be present through Jesus in his ministry and death. It means at least that much, of course, but in light of 18:20 and 28:20, it evidently means much more. Jesus promised that he himself would be present “with us” who believe in him whenever and wherever we gather in his name, and as we take the gospel to people of all nations. In this light, the statements in 1:23 and 28:20 form an inclusio, “bookends” statements in the Gospel revealing Jesus to be quite literally God with us.

Isaiah 9:6

Another well-known Messianic passage from Isaiah, it states:

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

I am not sure who Burke is quoting (I think the NET footnotes), but he says in regards to the title ‘Mighty God’:

[“El Gibbor”] is probably an attributive adjective (“mighty God”), though one might translate “God is a warrior” or “God is mighty.” Scholars have interpreted this title is two ways. A number of them have argued that the title portrays the king as God’s representative on the battlefield, whom God empowers in a supernatural way (see J. H. Hayes and S. A. Irvine, Isaiah, 181-82). They contend that this sense seems more likely in the original context of the prophecy. They would suggest that having read the NT, we might in retrospect interpret this title as indicating the coming king’s deity, but it is unlikely that Isaiah or his audience would have understood the title in such a bold way. Psa_45:6 addresses the Davidic king as “God” because he ruled and fought as God’s representative on earth.

Specifically I point out the bold statement. This, bothers, not the Trinitarian. We are very secure in the progressive nature of God’s revelation in Scripture. Something might not be clear in the Old Testament, but because of the greater light shed from the New Testament, there are things we can now ‘re-consider’ in light of that greater revelation of the New Testament.

Now, I’m not saying we need to abuse this. We need to be careful and not have a heyday. Goodness, some can see almost every verse as talking about Jesus. The whole Old Testament does point to Christ, but not each particular verse. In regards to the Trinity and the great revelation now seen in the New Testament, I like these words of B.B. Warfield:

‘The Old Testament may be likened to a chamber richly furnished but dimly lighted: the introduction of light brings into it nothing which was not in it before; but it brings out into clearer view much of what is in it but was only dimly or not at all perceived before. The mystery of the Trinity is not revealed in the Old Testament; but the mystery of the Trinity underlies the Old Testament revelation, and here and there almost comes into view. Thus the Old Testament revelation of God is not corrected by the fuller revelation which follows it, but is only perfected, extended and enlarged.’ (B.B. Warfield, Biblical Doctrines)

I suppose Burke will not like the word ‘mystery’ and, because of previous statements, he believes that everything about the nature of God was already clear to Jews before Jesus arrived. But that simply falls short by a long shot. Jesus came and brought a lot more revelation into our understanding of God, His kingdom, His purposes and quite a few other things.

Burke then quotes these words (again, I believe from the NET footnotes) about the title ‘Everlasting Father’.

[“Everlasting Father”] This title must not be taken in an anachronistic Trinitarian sense. (To do so would be theologically problematic, for the “Son” is the messianic king and is distinct in his person from God the “Father.”) Rather, in its original context the title pictures the king as the protector of his people. For a similar use of “father” see Isa_22:21 and Job_29:16. …The New Testament indicates that the hyperbolic language (as in the case of the title “Mighty God”) is literally realized in the ultimate fulfillment of the prophecy, for Jesus will rule eternally.

It’s interesting that the source quoted shows how the term father can be used to speak of the king being a protector, and thus, this is about Christ being the eternally ruling protector. Of course, Christ is the eternally ruling protector. But this does not strike at Christ’s deity, for what does eternal mean if not that Christ had no beginning and no end?!

Is this particular phrase the basket that we are to put all our eggs into for the case of Trinitarianism? By no means. But again, this phrase (and the whole verse) is considered in light of the full and final revelation of the New Testament. A Christian that does not read the Old Testament through the lens of Christ and the New Testament will find themselves having serious problems. Of course, we want to know what the passage meant in its original context. But, in the end, Christ and the New Testament help us know the fuller picture of what a passage was saying, i.e., what Isaiah 7:14 and 9:6 were teaching about the Christ.

John 1:18

I don’t really need to say much, for Bowman addresses the prologue of John in his own article. I specifically quote Bowman:

John also makes explicit an even more startling implication: the revelation that Moses received of God’s glory, of God himself, was only an anticipation of the revelation of God that came through his Son. John’s statement, “No one has ever seen God” (v. 18a), clearly recalls the Lord’s statement to Moses, “no man can see me and live” (Ex. 33:20). John concludes: “It is God the only Son, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him known” (John 1:18b NRSV). The textual evidence we have now strongly favors the use of theos here for Christ, and the best translation is the one quoted here from the NRSV (see Putting Jesus in His Place, 328 notes 14-15). In this text there can be no circumventing the fact that the one who makes the Father known is a real person distinct from the Father, yet this only Son of the Father is himself God. The apparent paradox of the opening sentence of the Prologue recurs in its closing sentence—just in case we missed it or didn’t believe it the first time! The Prologue thus affirms twice that Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh, is God.

Jesus is the actual glory of God revealed. Or, as the writer to the Hebrews says: [Jesus] is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature (1:3). Jesus is what God ‘looks like’.

Hebrews 1:8

It is interesting that Burke only focused on 1:8, as the whole chapter presents the glory, deity and worship due to the Son. It would have been good to also address vs6 and vs10.

Specifically, Burke points out that, in the original context of Psalm 45:7, this did not speak about the divinity of Christ. This is true, as Psalm 45:7 refers to the Davidic king of long before Christ. But this still fails in specifically dealing with Psalm 45:6 (or Hebrews 1:8).

Now, the author of Hebrews quotes Psalm 45:6 and 45:7 together in referring to Christ. So we have to deal with both together. While Burke seems to desire that vs7 help inform us about vs6, why cannot vs6 help inform us about vs7? Remember, Hebrews 1:8 says, ‘But of the Son he says.’ The author then goes on to quote Psalm 45:6, ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.’

However you slice it, there is no watering down this fuller statement. Yes, in and of itself, Hebrews 1:9 does not support the claim of Christ’s deity. And, in and of itself, one might even want to argue that it shows us that Christ is not divine. But Hebrews 1:9 was not put by itself. Rather it is connected with vs8 and that verse does identify Christ as God. And a Trinitarian has never had problems with God (the Father) being referred to as the God and Father of Jesus. It is something to grapple with, yes. But it is grappled within the context of other helpful and informative verses such as Hebrews 1:8.

And, while a non-Trinitarian might want to argue that Psalm 45:6 did not originally refer to Christ and His deity, that argument fails in light of the New Testament giving the greater light. The Old Testament, if you will, serves the New Testament revelation about Christ. And the writer to the Hebrews lets us know in his entire first chapter that Christ is of the exact imprint of God’s nature (vs3), He is worshiped (vs6), He is God (vs8) and He was involved at creation (vs10) – all four pointing to His divinity.

From the section: Jesus in the Old Testament

Though I have already addressed it, I again wanted to show how this statement of Burke does not really hold water:

Everything first-century Christians needed to know about Messiah was built into the words of the Law and the prophets. Jesus is popularly recognised as a New Testament figure, but he is foreshown frequently in the Old Testament as Messiah.

The word ‘everything’ is not helpful in this statement. Imagine a Christian, first century or today, only having the Old Testament to determine what they believe about Christ. I think major problems would arise. I don’t think you could really inform yourself about Christ. There are seeds, foreshadowings, types, etc, of Christ lying in the pages of the Old Testament. Of course! But all these are insufficient in themselves to tell us everything about Christ. We need to read about His life, what He taught, what His close followers taught. And I believe that is given to then help inform us about what the Old Testament was hinting at.

Now, as an example, Burke says:

We first glimpse Jesus in Genesis, an encounter providing a template for interpreting other passages referring to him.

As a specific illustration of this, he quotes from Genesis 3:21 – The LORD God made garments from skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.

Does Genesis 3:21 teach us about Christ?

Well, we learn something. But we only learn something because we know what the New Testament teaches, especially in places like Hebrews about the necessity of blood sacrifice for sin. And Christ’s eternal blood sacrifice made the way for eternal salvation. Again, the New Testament informed us about the underlying intent of the Old Testament.

And, this principle that Burke used above is the same that Trinitarians apply in viewing passages in the Old Testament as teaching about the deity of Christ, or other Trinitarian beliefs. Isaiah 7:14 or Isaiah 9:6 are not sufficient in themselves to teach about Christ’s divinity. But I would say they are now better viewed through the light of the New Testament. This is perfectly acceptable practise. Again, we don’t go haywire here and make everything about Jesus and His divinity. But such an ‘anachronistic’ approach is not out of bounds with the full revelation of God in the New Testament.

Ok, that is enough for me for now on part 2. We await next week now. If anyone is interested, the blog Trinities is also offering some ‘play by play’ commentary on the weekly posts. So check it out as well.

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44 thoughts on “The Great Trinity Debate (Comments Part 2)

  1. Scott, I agree that a title is different to a name. But a title is not necessarily a statmement of ontology any more than a name is. A title is a title. It denotes rank, purpose, status, role, etc. It doesn’t necessarily tell you anything about the physical or metaphysical nature of the individual.

    Such arguments from Isaiah 9:6 and 7:14 are little more than a form of special pleading. It’s the same approach you adopt in Hebrews 1 & Psalm 45. “When such-and-such is said about other people, it does’t mean they are God, but when such-and-such is said about Jesus it always means he is God.” This is an exegetical double standard.

    I’ll come back to your other points when I have time.

  2. I was thinking more about this last night and I do want to go back and make another statement about Burke’s dealing with the more ‘peripheral’ and ‘less clear’ passages. I think I came across a bit too negative about his work here, and that was not fair. I really appreciate Burke looking to deal with these passages. It still seems there was a little too much leaning on the idea that if he could show these other passages are not as clear, then this is somewhat a blow to Trinitarianism. I don’t believe it’s devastating to show that Acts 20:28, Romans 9:5 and other passages are not clear in their translation. But I wanted to state that I do appreciate Burke dealing with these verses.

  3. Thanks Scott, I appreciate that.

    With regard to my opening comments: it was necessary to spend so long explaining who and what Jesus means to Biblical Unitarianism for the simple fact that so many Trinitarians just don’t know what we believe, and many those who do know, don’t understand.

    On another blog someone has said that Unitarians are basically atheists. That’s the sort of ignorance and bigotry I have to face every day. So I can’t assume that everyone understands my position. I have to spell it out very carefully, step by step.

    With regard to the “Jesus is God” verses: I do not claim that the loss of these verses is a big blow to Trinitarianism per se, but it is nevertheless seriously damaging to a primary line of evidence for the doctrine and begs the question: “Why so little emphasis on the deity of Christ in Scripture?

    You say:

    There are varying interpretations of these secondary texts based on linguistic, grammatical and punctuational nuances. Thus, these texts fail in supporting Trinitarianism.

    You cite this as an argument that I am presenting, but surely you recognise that the argument is not originally mine? As my opening post clearly demonstrates, the argument itself comes from Daniel B. Wallace, the respected Trinitarian scholar and Greek grammarian.

    Notice that I do not extend this argument beyond its fair and reasonable application. I confine it solely to the texts that Wallace identifies as unreliable for Trinitarian purposes. I honestly don’t see how I can be criticised for presenting the argument of a recognised academic authority who also happens to be a Trinitarian himself.

    You refer to this statement of mine:

    Everything first-century Christians needed to know about Messiah was built into the words of the Law and the prophets. Jesus is popularly recognised as a New Testament figure, but he is foreshown frequently in the Old Testament as Messiah.

    This, according to you, “does not hold water.”

    You go on to say:

    The word ‘everything’ is not helpful in this statement. Imagine a Christian, first century or today, only having the Old Testament to determine what they believe about Christ. I think major problems would arise. I don’t think you could really inform yourself about Christ. There are seeds, foreshadowings, types, etc, of Christ lying in the pages of the Old Testament. Of course! But all these are insufficient in themselves to tell us everything about Christ.

    Here you move the goalposts by attacking a statement I have not made. You say that the Old Testament is “insufficient… to tell us everything about Christ.” But I never claimed that it was. I said:

    Everything first-century Christians needed to know about Messiah.

    That statement is carefully qualified.

  4. It looks to be sorted out now, Dave.

    As for the title of Immanuel. Yes, Isaiah 7:14 (and 9:6) are not unequivocally able to prove Christ’s divinity. But, what happens is that we allow Matthew 1:18-23 to help inform us. I cannot believe that Immanuel was somehow only telling us that God was with us in some sort of special way with Christ. Oh yes, it does teach us that, but not merely that. This was God actually with us, for his birth was specifically of the Spirit of God and He (Jesus) would save His people from their sin. This was already determined before He went 33 or so years without sinning.

    So I can’t get around this title of Immanuel informing us about WHO the Son is. Who else has the power to save His own people from their sin? I know we can go back and say so and so saved Israel in the OT. Yes, but what is really happening with Christ is more than mere saving from an enemy. This is the salvation that only Yahweh, and no one else, offers. Saving from sin!

  5. Dave –

    Notice that I do not extend this argument beyond its fair and reasonable application. I confine it solely to the texts that Wallace identifies as unreliable for Trinitarian purposes. I honestly don’t see how I can be criticised for presenting the argument of a recognised academic authority who also happens to be a Trinitarian himself.

    You are right. Wallace does argue this on some of these ‘peripheral’ verses. And you took advantage of a solid Trinitarian arguing this. And that is why I went back and pointed out it was good to address the more secondary passages. I was a bit hard at first. But, interestingly that Wallace (and a few others) would still decided they cannot abandon the belief in the Triune God.

    Flesh out this statement better:

    Everything first-century Christians needed to know about Messiah was built into the words of the Law and the prophets.

    You argue I have moved the goal-posts. I am fine to recognise that if it’s true. But I am going to challenge your wording. What we needed to know about Christ is ‘hidden away’ in their, not fully known. But the first century apostles and others had to come out and share the new revelation, the mystery of the gospel, in depth teaching about Christ, for the OT was not fully sufficient. But, once they started teaching about him, people like the Bereans could go back and read and say, ‘Ah, these guys are right. It’s there, but we are now only seeing the light.’

  6. Scott,

    So I can’t get around this title of Immanuel informing us about WHO the Son is. Who else has the power to save His own people from their sin? I know we can go back and say so and so saved Israel in the OT. Yes, but what is really happening with Christ is more than mere saving from an enemy. This is the salvation that only Yahweh, and no one else, offers. Saving from sin!

    That’s what makes Jesus so special. He did what nobody else could do! 😀

    You argue I have moved the goal-posts. I am fine to recognise that if it’s true. But I am going to challenge your wording. What we needed to know about Christ is ‘hidden away’ in their, not fully known. But the first century apostles and others had to come out and share the new revelation, the mystery of the gospel, in depth teaching about Christ, for the OT was not fully sufficient. But, once they started teaching about him, people like the Bereans could go back and read and say, ‘Ah, these guys are right. It’s there, but we are now only seeing the light.’

    Jesus addresses this issue directly several times in the Gospels. That’s the only hint you’re getting until next week. 😉

  7. He did what nobody else could do because He was the eternal, divine Son. If he were only man, it would be hard to offer a sacrifice once for all time.

    Don’t forget to look at the rest of the NT. 😉

  8. Aha, the soteriological argument for the deity of Christ. First advanced by Athanasius, infamous Alexandrian bishop and part-time gangster.

    I would be very interested to see this demonstrated from Scripture. 😛

  9. Dave,

    In your article on Parchment and Pen, you mentioned that the Net Bible footnotes showed that they did not believe that the name or title “Immanuel” meant that Jesus was God. If you look at the footnote in the Net Bible for Isaiah 8:10 which also speaks of “God with us”, you will see that they do make this very connection and refer back to the the earlier use of the word “Immanuel”. It is quite a long footnote but here is the specific statement made: “Through the miracle of the incarnation he is literally “God with us.”

  10. “Aha, the soteriological argument for the deity of Christ. First advanced by Athanasius, infamous Alexandrian bishop and part-time gangster.

    I would be very interested to see this demonstrated from Scripture.”

    I wonder, do these verses speak to this question?

    Ps. 49:7-9 “No man can by any means redeem his brother Or give to God a ransom for him— For the redemption of his soul is costly, And he should cease trying forever—
    That he should live on eternally, That he should not undergo decay. “

  11. Or how about this verse: “”I, even I, am the LORD, And there is no savior besides Me.”

    Here God clearly states that there is no other Saviour besides Himself. How then could Jesus save if He is not God?

  12. cherylu:

    In your article on Parchment and Pen, you mentioned that the Net Bible footnotes showed that they did not believe that the name or title “Immanuel” meant that Jesus was God. If you look at the footnote in the Net Bible for Isaiah 8:10 which also speaks of “God with us”, you will see that they do make this very connection and refer back to the the earlier use of the word “Immanuel”. It is quite a long footnote but here is the specific statement made: “Through the miracle of the incarnation he is literally “God with us.”

    Oops, I completely missed that! I guess I didn’t expect to find it there. Thanks for raising it. Nevertheless, I don’t believe that it proves the point Rob is making, nor does it undermine my argument from theophory.

  13. cherylu:

    I wonder, do these verses speak to this question?

    Ps. 49:7-9 “No man can by any means redeem his brother Or give to God a ransom for him— For the redemption of his soul is costly, And he should cease trying forever—
    That he should live on eternally, That he should not undergo decay. “

    Or how about this verse: “”I, even I, am the LORD, And there is no savior besides Me.”

    Here God clearly states that there is no other Saviour besides Himself. How then could Jesus save if He is not God?

    Well cherylu, I first need to ask you who you think is speaking here. We can see that it’s only one person, so who is that person – and how do you know?

  14. Dave,

    In the context of Is. 43:

    In verse 1: The Lord, the Creator

    In verse 3: The Lord your God, the Holy one of Israel, your savior

    In verse 10: The Lord that no God’s were formed before or will be afterwards

    In verse 12: The Lord who states that He is God

    In verse 13: The one who has been there from eternity

    In verse 14: The Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel

    In verse 15: The Lord, your Holy One, the creator of Israel, your King.

    In other words–God Himself.

    And by the way, verses 3 and 4 where He speaks of giving other nations and peoples for their lives obviously can not mean for eternal salvation. If that was the case, there would of had to have been many like Jesus giving His life for us in order to be our Savior. And the New Testament makes it very clear that the way to come to God is through Jesus and Him alone.

  15. I thought I did answer your question: God Himself. The God that describes Himself in all of the ways that were listed in those verses.

  16. By the way Dave, I am curious about something. Going back to that Isaiah passage about Immanuel, you dismissed that verse when Rob used it prove Jesus’ diety. To do this you sited the Net Bible footnotes and said they didn’t say anything about Him being God and said Rob was not listening to what scholarly voices said on the subject. Therefore, you dismissed this verse as evidence.

    Yet when you are shown that the Net Bible does show that the translator’s believe this verse means Jesus is God, you still dismiss this verse as not proving Rob’s point.

    How come is it that these footnote’s in the Net Bible only seem to have a lot of weight and need to be listened to when they seem to support your contention, and they don’t bear the same weight when they disagree with you? Are the only scholarly voices worth listening to those that support your views? Or am I missing something entirely here?

  17. Reading back further here, I think I understand more why you put so much weight on those verses in the Net Bible when they seemed to be suppporting what you said, Dave. It was because they were coming from a Trinitarian scholar, right?

    Your position makes a lot better sense to me now. We would all put a lot of weight on something coming from a scholar that generally opposed our view if he agreed with us in some specific area even if we didn’t put that much weight on what he said as a whole because we just don’t believe him to be right.

    I’m glad I realized this. It seemed to me before that you were operating with a double standard here. I apologize for my misunderstanding. And if I still don’t have it right, please don’t hesitate to let me know.

  18. Scott:

    Specifically, I would have liked him to flesh out this statement more: Jesus was conceived in the womb of the virgin Mary by divine intervention, on which basis he is the Son of God.

    The wording seemed a little different.

    What seems to be the problem here? How would you prefer me to phrase it?

    “Mary is the mother of Jesus; Jesus was conceived in Mary’s womb by the power of God’s Holy Spirit; Jesus is therefore the Son of God.”

    Any better? Is this really so different to what you believe? I mean OK, I know you don’t believe that Jesus is literally the Son of God (unlike me). But what’s wrong with the way I have said this?

  19. Scott:

    For you, was he the Son of God prior to His baptism?

    Yes, absolutely. Biblical Unitarians reject the Adoptionist heresy. Jesus was the Son of God from the moment of his conception. His receipt of the Holy Spirit at his baptism confirmed him as the Messiah, providing the power and authority required for his mission.

    Thanks for fleshing it out.

    Would you like a hypostatic union with that flesh, sir? To have here, or take away? 😛

  20. cherylu:

    Reading back further here, I think I understand more why you put so much weight on those verses in the Net Bible when they seemed to be suppporting what you said, Dave. It was because they were coming from a Trinitarian scholar, right?

    Your position makes a lot better sense to me now. We would all put a lot of weight on something coming from a scholar that generally opposed our view if he agreed with us in some specific area even if we didn’t put that much weight on what he said as a whole because we just don’t believe him to be right.

    I’m glad I realized this. It seemed to me before that you were operating with a double standard here. I apologize for my misunderstanding. And if I still don’t have it right, please don’t hesitate to let me know.

    Yes, you understand me now. I use the NET and other Trinitarian sources to avoid accusations of bias. They carry weight with Trinitarian Christians, whereas Biblical Unitarian sources would not.

  21. ScottL,

    You made this comment further up in this thread that got some of this discussion here rolling:

    “He did what nobody else could do because He was the eternal, divine Son. If he were only man, it would be hard to offer a sacrifice once for all time.”

    This morning over on the Trinities blog I see you made this statement when discussing God using an agent other then Himself for our salvation:

    “God can do so, but when this One comes who is the Son of Man, Son of God, eternal Logos, the Good Shepherd (as God said He would Himself shepherd His people), Saviour, the I Am, the Way the Truth the Life, the resurrection and the life, the Messiah/Christ, King of kings and Lord of lords, etc, etc, I’m thinking Jesus is more than an agent of God.” http://trinities.org/blog/archives/1723#comments

    Have you changed your mind on this issue? It seems to me that what you are saying in these two places is contradictory. If you have changed your mind, can you tell me why? Are there other Scriptures that you can think of that specifically show that the Savior from sin must indeed be God? I am still looking at this idea myself. It is obvious, as you said on one of these threads, that He used agents for other things besides eternal salvation. So I am trying to figure out how the verses that I quoted above play into this whole argument. I have always heard the Isaiah verse particularly quoted to mean that no one but God can provide eternal salvation.

    I am in no way questioning my belief that Jesus is indeed actually God, I am just taking another look at this one particular aspect of things.

  22. Isaiah 45:21-22 ”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.
    “Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; For I am God, and there is no other.”

    Here are another couple of verses where God says, “Turn to Me to be saved”. Not turn to an agent. But “turn to Me.”

  23. cheryl –

    Have you changed your mind on this issue?

    I have not changed my mind in regards to the divinity of Christ, if that is what you are asking? Not sure which of my words possibly led to you thinking that I had changed my mind on Christ’s divinity. I’m saying that how can Christ be all these things I listed and not be divine and a mortal man that needed to attain immortality? It baffles me how one could conclude such.

  24. ScottL,

    It was when you said God could of used an agent other then Himself–someone other then God–that made me wonder. At least that is what I understood you to say.

    Dave,

    I am still trying to decide exactly how to word my answer to your last question to best explain what I believe here and what I believe is the Trinitarian understanding of this issue. I don’t want to further confuse the issue by expressing it wrongly.

    By the way, I read your responses to Rob on P and P tonight. I was just noticing that this interlinar Bible uses a different word for created then the one you quoted in your article. That would make a difference in the point you were making about the different meanings of the word in the John 1 passage. They must come from different manuscripts–I wonder which is the most accurate?

    http://www.scripture4all.org/OnlineInterlinear/NTpdf/joh1.pdf

    There were a lot of points you made regarding this section that I questioned and that just didn’t make sense to me. But I certainly don’t have time or energy to go into any of them now. It is very late and need to get to bed.

  25. cherylu:

    I am still trying to decide exactly how to word my answer to your last question to best explain what I believe here and what I believe is the Trinitarian understanding of this issue. I don’t want to further confuse the issue by expressing it wrongly.

    I’m surprised that you even need to think about it, cherylu. Surely both questions are extremely simple for a Trinitarian to answer.

    By the way, I read your responses to Rob on P and P tonight. I was just noticing that this interlinar Bible uses a different word for created then the one you quoted in your article. That would make a difference in the point you were making about the different meanings of the word in the John 1 passage. They must come from different manuscripts–I wonder which is the most accurate?

    http://www.scripture4all.org/OnlineInterlinear/NTpdf/joh1.pdf

    It’s not a different word; it’s simply a different form of the word. The root word is “ginomai“, but in John 1:10 and Revelation 16:9 it is written in the aorist verb form of “egeneto.” Both verses contain the same word (“ginomai“) in the same aorist verb form (“egeneto“).

    In Greek, the aorist refers to an action which has simply happened, rather than one which will happen or continues to happen. It is what we would call “past tense” in English.

    By way of comparison, think of the word “run.” This is an irregular verb which appears in several different forms:

    * “ran” (past tense)
    * “runs” (present tense)
    * “running” (present tense)

    I’ve referred to “ginomai” because it’s the root word in both places. I could have said “egeneto” and my point would remain the same.

  26. Scott:

    I’m saying that how can Christ be all these things I listed and not be divine and a mortal man that needed to attain immortality?

    What is it about any of those names, titles and roles you’ve listed that requires someone to be God? Even “the eternal logos” does not require deity, and in any case, Jesus is never referred to in this way.

  27. cheryl –

    It was when you said God could of used an agent other then Himself–someone other then God–that made me wonder. At least that is what I understood you to say.

    I was noting that God could have done this, and had done it before. But there is too much resting on Jesus’ shoulders to be merely an agent. He is THE divine fulfilment in being the divine One Himself.

  28. Dave –

    What is it about any of those names, titles and roles you’ve listed that requires someone to be God? Even “the eternal logos” does not require deity, and in any case, Jesus is never referred to in this way.

    When Yahweh says I am Saviour and Jesus comes in and saves His own people, then I am good to conclude Jesus is God Himself acting. When God says I will personally shepherd my people and Jesus steps in and says I am the good shepherd, then I am thinking Jesus is the One who originally promised this. When Daniel speaks of a son of man that will come and receive all ruling authority and Jesus comes calling Himself the Son of Man, I’m thinking He is making a statement about His nature and who He is as the One with the Ancient of Days from the beginning. And so on and so on.

    Of course Jesus is not called the ‘eternal logos’ in that exact wording. But, though you have another explanation for John 1:1-3 and 1:14, I cannot back away from Jesus being the logos and eternal.

  29. Dave,

    Thanks for your clarification on that verb. I didn’t dig far enough to see that point.

    Even if they are the same verb, it seems to me that you are really reaching to suggest that the word used when speaking of Jesus being the Creator in the English translations have it wrong and in that verse John doesn’t mean that He created but that He caused division! I don’t know how or why any one would think that without an a priori conclusion that Jesus is not God and therefore this verse cannot mean that He created the world. Even you admitted this would be an unusual usage.

    There are other concerns I have with your understanding of this section of Scripture–things that just don’t add up to me, but I don’t have the time to go into them.

    Back to our discussion on God using an agent to be the Saviour. I am not certain that a person can always tell in the Old Testament particularly which member of the Trinity is speaking. Even though I believe the Old Testament does have many inferences to the Trinity. However, in this case I would say that it is likely the Father that is speaking. I am sure this is probably what you are expecting me to say. And then you will say, “But it is Jesus that died on the cross so how was He not using an agent beside Himself?” Am I correct?

    However this does not pose a problem for me as a Trinitarian when I believe the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all persons or members of an essence or being which together makes up God. In this understanding, even if it is the Father specifically speaking here, to have Jesus become the Savior is still having part of Himself–part of the Being that He is part of–becoming the Savior. So, in effect, it is not someone other then Himself that is doing the saving since they are both part of the total entity that we understand to be God.

    Now I know that you will not accept this at all because you don’t believe in a difference between beings and persons. But that is how I see it.

  30. Oh my, I so wish we could edit on this blog! I see several errors in my last comment. The most glaring is that I said, “I don’t know how or why any one would think that with an a priori conclusion that Jesus is not God”, when I meant “Without an a priori conclusion”.

  31. Scott:

    When Yahweh says I am Saviour and Jesus comes in and saves His own people, then I am good to conclude Jesus is God Himself acting. When God says I will personally shepherd my people and Jesus steps in and says I am the good shepherd, then I am thinking Jesus is the One who originally promised this.

    In my rebuttal to Rob I have shown that these titles are used in reference to other men as well. You do not believe that these other men are God, but you make an exception for Jesus. Why? What makes you think that Jesus “is the one who originally promised this”? He makes no such claim.

    When Daniel speaks of a son of man that will come and receive all ruling authority and Jesus comes calling Himself the Son of Man, I’m thinking He is making a statement about His nature and who He is as the One with the Ancient of Days from the beginning. And so on and so on.

    The Son of Man is clearly distinct from the Ancient of Days; they are not the same person (the Son of Man comes to the Ancient of Days while He sits on the throne). If you think “Son of Man” is a statement about his nature, please tell me how this implies deity. Surely “Son of Man” implies humanity? It was, after all, a title used by God in reference to other mortal men (e.g. Ezekiel 2:1, Daniel 8:17).

    Of course Jesus is not called the ‘eternal logos’ in that exact wording. But, though you have another explanation for John 1:1-3 and 1:14, I cannot back away from Jesus being the logos and eternal.

    Well, I can’t expect to convince everyone. 😛

  32. cherylu,

    See my response on Dale’s blog about the “saviours” issue.

    I didn’t expect you to agree with my exegesis of John 1:10, but that’s no big deal. 😛 You are correct when you say that it is not supported by any current translations, but that’s hardly surprising since the vast majority of current translations are written by Trinitarians, so it’s impossible to get an unbiased Bible these days.

    Please bear in mind that this Trinitarian stranglehold on Scriptural translation is a consequence of the fact that Trinitarians been the dominant force in Christian theology ever since they started killing people for refusing to accept Trinitarianism (something that Biblical Unitarians have never done). I hope that doesn’t offend you; it’s a historical observation, not a personal attack. I mention it to remind you that current translations are strongly influenced by the prevailing theology, despite any claims to objectivity.

    Returning to my interpretation: the bottom line is that even Trinitarian translations render egeneto as “split” in Revelation 19, which shows that it is a legitimate rendering of the word. They don’t do this in John 1:10 because they are influenced by theological preconceptions which lead them to turn it into a statement about Jesus creating the world.

    Yes my interpretation is unusual, but an unusual interpretation should not be rejected simply because it is unusual; Rob himself has presented several unusual interpretations that he wants me to accept, even though I was unable to find any support for them in 12 different Trinitarian commentaries.

    Every interpretation should be judged on its own merits. Mine fits the context and has support from several cross-references. Remember that John’s use of egeneto in Revelation 19 is very unusual too, so it seems I am in good company! 😀

  33. cheryl –

    I did a little doctoring up on the comment you wanted to edit.

    Dave –

    When one name or one title is applied to one person here and there, I recognise we are not talking anything super-special here. But when Jesus takes on every single name and title that God/Yahweh has, well, again, I’m thinking He is more than just a mortal man.

    You should know that, in the Daniel prophecy, no Trinitarian is worried by a distinguishing between the Ancient of Days and Son of Man. It bothers not. I might be able to give some more thoughts on the Son of Man in the future, from the way Jesus utilised it. But I would lean towards part of it being that Jesus embodied humanity as the Son of Man. Not an intrinsic connection with the second Adam theology, but somewhat correlating. He is THE Son of Man.

    I understand your arguments about John 1:1-3, or am trying to. 🙂 But vs14 helps us connect logos — theos — the logos become flesh. The first phrasing of vs14 tells us not that the logos is Jesus, but guess who the logos is in vs14? Well, thankfully John tells us in part B of vs14. So, if the logos is clearly the Son in vs14, guess who vs1-3 just might be talking about? I think I know how you will explain this one from your perspective.

    In your comment 8 on Rob’s article, you say: Of course Jesus is later called “the Word of God” in Revelation 19:13, but this is an eschatological reference not in the same context as John’s gospel.

    Not convincing, since I’m thinking John’s Gospel and Revelation are not too distant apart in when they were written. I’m thinking John is making a point in both places.

  34. Dave,

    “See my response on Dale’s blog about the “saviours” issue.”

    I can’t seem to find the comment you are referring to. Can you point it out to me?

  35. Here are some fascinating quotes from some very early Christians. They are found in the book, “A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs”, David Bercot, Editor.

    They show a very early belief in the concept of the Trinity, the belief that Jesus was indeed the Creator of all things, (not the the one who caused division, Dave!), that they understood the Word to be Jesus Himself and that He was indeed God, and that the Son existed before the creation of all things:

    “For with Him were alway present the Word and Wisdom, the Son and the Spirit, by whom and in whom, freely and spontanesouly, He made all things. He speaks to Him, saying, “Let Us make man after Our image and likeness.” Irenaeus (c. 130-200)

    “It is after the image and likeness of the uncreated God: the Father planning everything well and giving his commands, the Son carrying these into execution and performing the work of creating, and the Spirit nourishing and increasing.” Iraneus

    “The immediate Creator, and, as it were, the very Maker of the world was the Word, the Son of God. By commanding His own Son, the Word, to create the world, the Father of the Word is the primary creator.” Origen (c.185-255) (The words “immdediate” and “primary” were italicized.)

    “Jesus Christ, His Son, is His eternal Word. The Son did not proceed forth from silence. He in all things pleased Him who sent Him.” Ignatius (c. 35-107)

    “There is one Physician who is possessed both of flesh and spirit. He is both made and not made. He is God existing in flesh, true life in death. He is both of Mary and of God. Ignatius

    “The Word Himself, who took shape and became man, was called Jesus Christ.” (c. 100-165)

    “Ignorance does not apply to the God who, before the foundation of the world, was the counselor of the Father. For He was the Wisdom in Which the Sovereign God delighted. For the Son is the Power of God, as being the Father’s most ancient Word before the production of things, and His Wisdom.” Clement of Alexandria (c.150-215)

    “That the Son was always the Word is signified by saying, “In the beginning was the Word.” Clement of Alexandria

    “But someone will say to me, ‘You introduce a strange thing to me when you call the Son the Word. For John indeed, speaks of the Word, but it is by a figure of speech.’ No, it not by a figure of speech!” Hippolytus (c.170-236)

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