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Week III: Christ


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#1 Evangelion

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Posted 25 April 2010 - 05:39 AM

Jesus Christ: Prefigured and Prophesied
Last week I finished my opening argument with a reference to Genesis:

Genesis 3:21
The LORD God made garments from skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them.


This is Christianity's foundation teaching:

  • Sin deserves death
  • Sacrifice offers a covering for sin
  • Only God can provide a sin-covering sacrifice; a sacrifice which is "other than God"

The OT repeats three principles constantly. They underpin the entire Law of Moses, which underpins NT atonement theology. It is essential to understand these principles and recognise how they were fulfilled by Christ, as they inform our understanding of his identity and purpose. The OT was a guidebook pointing forward to Christ (Galatians 3:24); thus any interpretation contradicting the OT's view of Christ must be rejected.

The OT refers to Christ in two ways: typology (symbolism) and prophecy. As Rob and I both agree Jesus appears in prophecy, I'll look closely at the typology and its implications for NT Christology:

  • Atoning sacrifice for Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:21)
  • Melchizedek (Genesis 14:18; cp. Hebrews 5:10, 7:1-10, 9:11)
  • Ram sacrificed by Abraham (Genesis 22:11-13)
  • Passover lamb (Exodus 12; cp. John 1:29, I Peter 1:19, Revelation 5:6)
  • Sin offering for high priest & (Leviticus 4)
  • Brass serpent on pole (Numbers 21:8-9; cp. John 3:14)
  • Joseph (Genesis 37-41)
  • Boaz (Ruth 2-4)
  • King David (I Samuel 17-I Kings 2)
  • King Solomon (I Kings 4-I Kings 11)

Jesus is represented in four primary roles: (a) sacrifice for sin, (b) priest; © redeemer; (d) divinely anointed king in King David's family line. As the Jewish Messiah he incorporates all four roles, none of which requires him to be God, and two (sacrifice for sin and descendent of King David) requiring he is not God.


Jesus Christ: Predestined, not Pre-existent
The connections between typology and prophecy in Jewish religious interpretation and ideas of prefiguration and predestination cannot be overlooked; thus, if God says something, it is as good as done, a prophecy uttered is as good as fulfilled, a promise made is as good as kept. If God determines to create something at a future date, it can be described as existing already. Likewise, the subject of a typological reference can be said to have "existed" in the past via a figurative reference made before their literal existence (e.g. I Corinthians 10:4, 9, "For they were all drinking from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ ... Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents").

We find examples in the Babylonian Talmud, Nedarim 39b:

Seven things were created before the world, viz., The Torah, repentance, the Garden of Eden, Gehenna, the Throne of Glory, the Temple, and the name of the Messiah. The Torah, for it is written, The Lord possessed me [ the Torah] in the beginning of his way, before his works of old. Repentance, for it is written, Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever thou hadst formed the earth and the world … Thou turnest man to destruction, and sayest, Repent, ye sons of men.

The Garden of Eden, as it is written, And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden from aforetime. Gehenna, as it is written, For Tophet is ordained of old. The Throne of Glory, as it is written, Thy Throne is established from of old. The Temple, as it is written, A glorious high throne from the beginning is the place of our sanctuary. The name of the Messiah, as it is written, His name [of Messiah] shall endure forever, and [has existed] before the sun!


Also in the apocryphal Assumption of Moses:

So says the Lord of the world. For He has created the world on behalf of His people. But He was not pleased to manifest this purpose of creation from the foundation of the world, in order that the Gentiles might thereby be convicted, yea to their own humiliation might by (their) arguments convict one another. Accordingly He designed and devised me [Moses], and He prepared me before the foundation of the world, that I should be the mediator of His covenant.


Thus Reverend E. C. Dewick (Primitive Christian Eschatology, reprint, Marton Press, 2007):

When the Jew said something was ‘predestined,’ he thought of it as already ‘existing’ in a higher sphere of life. The world’s history is thus predestined because it is already, in a sense, pre-existing and consequently fixed. This typically Jewish conception of predestination may be distinguished from the Greek idea of pre-existence by the predominance of the thought of ‘pre-existence’ in the Divine purpose.


Scripture also uses this predestination language to speak of events and people as occurring and existing before they literally did:

  • Jeremiah 1:5, "'Before I formed you in your mother's womb I chose you. Before you were born I set you apart. I appointed you to be a prophet to the nations.'"
  • Ephesians 2:6, "and he raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus"
  • Hebrews 7:9-10, "And it could be said that Levi himself, who receives tithes, paid a tithe through Abraham. For he was still in his ancestor Abraham's loins when Melchizedek met him.

(See also I Peter 1:20, "He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was manifested in these last times for your sake").

In each passage we find a statement not to be taken literally; Jeremiah appointed a prophet before his birth; Paul informing his fellow Christians they already sit in heavenly places with Jesus; Levi paying tithes to Melchizedek before he is conceived in Sarah's womb. (These texts would assist Rob's interpretation of other passages appearing to speak of literal pre-existence).

Reverend Sigmund Mowinckel was another Christian scholar who insisted the Jewish conception of predestination and prefiguration must inform our understanding of passages appearing to speak of pre-existence:

That any expression or vehicle of God’s will for the world, His saving counsel and purpose, was present in His mind, or His ‘Word,’ from the beginning is a natural way of saying that it is not fortuitous, but the due unfolding and expression of God’s own being. This attribution of pre-existence indicates religious importance of the highest order. Rabbinic theology speaks of the Law, of God’s throne of glory, of Israel and of other important objects of faith, as things which had been created by God, and were already present with Him, before the creation of the world.

The same is also true of the Messiah. It is said that his name was present with God in heaven beforehand, that it was created before the world, and that it is eternal. But the reference here is not to genuine pre-existence in the strict and literal sense. This is clear from the fact that Israel is included among these pre-existent entities. This does not mean that either the nation Israel or its ancestor existed long ago in heaven, but that the community Israel, the people of God, had been from all eternity in the mind of God, as a factor in His purpose. ...

This is true of references to the pre-existence of the Messiah. It is his ‘name,’ not the Messiah himself, that is said to have been present with God before creation. In Pesikta Rabbati 152b is said that ‘from the beginning of the creation of the world the King Messiah was born, for he came up in the thought of God before the world was created.’ This means that from all eternity it was the will of God that the Messiah should come into existence, and should do his work in the world to fulfill God’s eternal saving purpose.


( He That Cometh: The Messiah Concept in the Old Testament and Later Judaism, Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2005, p. 334).

Jewish predestination/prefiguration language was understood by the earliest Christians, themselves Jews. The apostle Paul even coined a phrase to describe it; he said that God "...makes the dead alive and summons the things that do not yet exist as though they already do" (Romans 4:17).

Last week Rob quoted John 17:5 and told us it refers to the literal pre-existence of Christ. Now more familiar with Jewish religious language, we can see why Rob's interpretation falls short. Jesus claimed ownership of the glory God intended for him long before his literal existence (he also said he had given that same glory to his disciples; a statement Rob didn't explain).

This is consistent with John 17's wider context, containing several such predestination statements. Like God, Jesus speaks of things yet to occur as if they are in the past:

  • John 17:4, "'I glorified you on earth by completing the work you gave me to do'"
    But Jesus' work was not finished until he said "It is completed" on the cross (John 19:30)
  • John 17:11, "'I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world'"
    But Jesus was still in the world; he had not yet ascended to the Father
  • John 17:18, "'Just as you sent me into the world, so I sent them [the disciples] into the world'"
    But Jesus had not yet sent his disciples into the world; this didn't happen until after his resurrection (John 20:21; Matthew 28:19-20)

The late G. H. Gilbert, former professor of New Testament Literature and Interpretation at Chicago Theological Seminary (The Revelation of Jesus: A Study of the Primary Sources of Christianity, reprint, BiblioLife, 2009, p. 222), wrote:

The glory of completed redemption cannot literally be possessed until redemption is complete. If now the pre-existence of Jesus, according to the seventeenth chapter of John, is clearly ideal, this fact confirms the interpretation which has been given of the other passages which are less clear.

We conclude, then, that these three passages in John [6:62; 8:58; 17:5] in which Jesus alludes to his pre-existence, do not involve the claim that his pre-existence was personal and real. They are to be classed with the other phenomena of the Messianic consciousness of Jesus, none of which have to do with metaphysical relationships with the Father.



Jesus Christ: Son of God; Son of Man
Rob has yet to address the Bible's exclusive emphasis on Jesus' humanity. He will say he accepts the humanity of Jesus in addition to his alleged deity, but Scripture says nothing of this position.

I maintain God predicated our salvation on the involvement in His plan and purpose of a man He would raise up from among men, among his fellows, his brethren, with whom he would share the very same nature, with all its qualities and weaknesses. I further maintain this message was contained in the OT and that NT believers were expected to know it.

Let's begin with a warning from the apostle John:

II John 1:7, "For many deceivers have gone out into the world, people who do not confess Jesus as Christ coming in the flesh. This person is the deceiver and the antichrist!"


For John, the touchstone of orthodoxy is Jesus' humanity - not his alleged deity. John writes against those who believed that Jesus was somehow more or less than human.

Trinitarians make it a fundamental fellowship issue that Christ was both 100% man and 100% God. But if this was truly the apostolic understanding, why can't we find it in Scripture?

Trinitarianism:

  • Objects to Christ being described as "only man", but the apostles insisted on it
  • Makes the "deity" of Christ a fellowship issue, but the apostles made the humanity of Christ a fellowship issue
  • Predicates the saving power of the atonement on the "deity" of Christ, but the apostles predicate the saving power of the atonement on the humanity of Christ
  • Focuses on proving Christ was God, but the apostles focused entirely on proving Christ was a man; the Son of God

The difference is profound.

Genesis 3 shows God's salvation process would involve a human being (the "seed of the woman" in verse 15) and a sinless sacrifice (the coats of skins in verse 21). A further detail was revealed to Moses:

Deuteronomy 18:18-19, "'I will raise up a prophet like you for them from among their fellow Israelites. I will put my words in his mouth and he will speak to them whatever I command. I will personally hold responsible anyone who then pays no attention to the words that prophet speaks in my name.'"


This passage shows how the prophet to come would be:

  • Like like Moses; a man acting as God's agent and representative, just as Moses had (God told Moses He had made Moses "God" to Pharoah; Exodus 7:1)
  • A man, raised up from among his brethren, bearing the same nature that they shared
  • Divinely authorised as the agent of God, his words considered the words of God Himself

The prophecy did not simply refer to Christ; it also applied to every prophet God raised up. All were mortal men, sharing the same nature as their brethren; all divinely authorised as the agents of God. But the ultimate fulfilment came with Christ, the promised Messiah.

Peter used these very words when preaching the Gospel:

Acts 3:22-23, "'Moses said, 'The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your brothers. You must obey him in everything he tells you. Every person who does not obey that prophet will be destroyed and thus removed from the people.''"


Peter tells the crowd that Jesus was a prophet like Moses, from among their brothers, not that Jesus is God, or that he pre-existed. He confirms Jesus was the greatest in this line of prophets, as many of the Jews had recognised:

John 6:14, "Now when the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus performed, they began to say to one another, 'This is certainly the Prophet who is to come into the world.'"


These people were familiar with the prophecy of Moses, and understood its correlation to the Messiah.

We receive additional insight from another Messianic prophecy:

Isaiah 42:1, 6-7, "'Here is my servant whom I support, my chosen one in whom I take pleasure. I have placed my spirit on him; he will make just decrees for the nations. I, the Lord, officially commission you; I take hold of your hand. I protect you and make you a covenant mediator for people, and a light to the nations, to open blind eyes, to release prisoners from dungeons, those who live in darkness from prisons.'"


Matthew applies these words to Jesus:

Matthew 12:18, "'Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I take great delight. I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations.'"


If Jesus was God, he would already possess authority and power by virtue of his deity. There would be no need to authorise, empower or protect him. Yet we find in Scripture that the prophecies speak of a man who is greater than any other man, but still totally human; he is not the Trinitarian "God-man."

Rob will probably say he agrees with all of this, but we know he cannot do so without qualification. He must claim that the prophecies merely refer to "Christ's human nature", or "Christ's humanity", adding what Scripture never says: Jesus had a divine nature in addition to his human nature. He cannot speak of Jesus as Scripture does.

The point I am making from these verses is not merely that Jesus is spoken of as a human being, but that he is only spoken of as a human being, and that this is done in a way which precludes the idea that he is God.

How did Jesus view these prophecies? We know he understood them; we know he believed he was fulfilling them; we know he believed the Jews should have been familiar with them. Thus, the OT prophecies spoke of Jesus and provided sufficient information to prepare Israel for their Messiah. They had no excuse for failing to recognise him:

  • Matthew 2:4-5, "After assembling all the chief priests and experts in the law, [Herod] asked them where the Christ was to be born. 'In Bethlehem of Judea,' they said, 'for it is written this way by the prophet'"
  • Matthew 2:23, "Then what had been spoken by the prophets was fulfilled, that Jesus would be called a Nazarene."
  • Matthew 5:17, "'Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have not come to abolish these things but to fulfil them.'"
  • Matthew 26:56, "'But this has happened so that the scriptures of the prophets would be fulfilled.'"
  • Matthew 26:63, "But Jesus was silent. The high priest said to him, 'I charge you under oath by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.'"
  • Luke 18:31, "'Then Jesus took the twelve aside and said to them, "Look, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished.'"
  • Luke 24:25, 27, 44, "So he said to them, 'You foolish people — how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!' ... Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things written about himself in all the scriptures. ... '...everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled.'"
  • John 1:45, "Philip found Nathanael and told him, 'We have found the one Moses wrote about in the law, and the prophets also wrote about — Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.'"
  • John 5:46, "'If you believed Moses, you would believe me, because he wrote about me.'"

Notice in Matthew 26, the High Priest reveals he understood the Jewish Messiah to be the Son of God (see also Mark 14:61). His question depends on Jesus' claim to be the Messiah; there is no suggestion Jesus had claimed to be God.

The trial reveals the Sanhedrin's hypocrisy. Accurately predicting Jesus' birth in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:4-5), understanding Messiah would be the Son of God (Matthew 26:63, Mark 14:61), they nevertheless accused Jesus of blasphemy despite the increasing weight of evidence proving his claim was valid.

Some had accused Jesus of making himself equal to God (e.g. John 5; John 10) but he successfully refuted this false charge, which was never raised again. Likewise his explanations about healing and working on the Sabbath (Matthew 10, Luke 6). In every case Jesus exposed the flawed logic behind these allegations and his counter-arguments were so compelling that even some of the rulers believed him (John 12:42).

This raises a number of questions for Trinitarianism:

  • Why is Jesus never accused of claiming to be God throughout his trial?
  • Why is Jesus only ever accused of claiming to be the Messiah?
  • Why are none of the alleged "Jesus claimed to be God" incidents (e.g. John 2:19, 5:18, 8:58, 10:30, etc.) raised at the trial?
  • If the Sanhedrin had any evidence Jesus had broken their law (e.g. healing on the Sabbath, forgiving sins) why was it necessary to bring false witnesses against him?
  • The High Priest equates "Christ" (Messiah) with "Son of God." If "Son of God" was considered a blasphemous claim to deity, why did the High Priest believe Messiah would be the Son of God?

A common theme saturates the NT: Jesus declares that the Father is the only true God, that he was sent by the Father, that he was empowered and authorised by the Father, that the Father was greater than himself. This is all found in John 17:1-4, which we examined earlier. In that passage Jesus distinguishes himself from the one true God, affirms his power and authority are derived (not innate), gives all glory to the Father, and acknowledges his lower status. These statements reflect a previous declaration in John 5:26-30, where, in response to the accusation he was claiming equality with God, Jesus defended himself by deferring to the Father:

John 5:26-30, "'For just as the Father has life in himself, thus he has granted the Son to have life in himself, and he has granted the Son authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. I can do nothing on my own initiative. Just as I hear, I judge, and my judgment is just, because I do not seek my own will, but the will of the one who sent me.'"


(See also John 14:10 & John 12:49).

Christ tells us he was granted life in himself by the Father (he did not have it in himself before), he was granted authority to execute judgment by the Father (he did not have it before), and he was granted that authority to judge; not because he was "God the Son", but because he was mortal: the Son of Man. This clear explanation of his mission and role was prompted by the Jews' accusation that he was making himself equal to God (John 5:18). James F. McGrath (The Only True God: Early Christian Monotheism in its Jewish Context, University of Illinois Press, 2009, p. 59) shows that Jesus rejected this false allegation:

How is Jesus portrayed as responding to the charge in John 5? He adamantly denies it. "Note the words which are used: "The Son can do nothing of himself; he can only do what he sees his Father doing... By myself I can do nothing... I seek not to please myself but him who sent me" (John 5:19. 30). The response repeats and negates the two key words used in the accusation: the Greek verb poiein means both "to do "and "to make", and thus the reply amounts to an emphatic denial: Jesus does not do/make himself anything. Conversely, Jesus is equally emphatically said to be God's obedient Son and agent.


Jesus' unqualified denial of equality with God is problematic for Trinitarianism. The standard response claims he was "denying equality of rank, not equality of nature." But Jesus had not been accused of claiming equality with nature. Ontology is not at issue here. The Jews had been outraged by Jesus' apparent usurpation of God's divine authority and privileges. His defence makes no sense in any other context.


Jesus Christ: Son of David; Born of a Woman; Made Like His Brethren
Jesus is referred to as the "son of David" fourteen times in the New Testament, usually in a Messianic context. This title reaffirms his genuine humanity, emphasising his ancient lineage all the way back to the father of Solomon. The Trinitarian Jesus cannot make such a claim, since the Trinitarian Jesus is not a son of David but a divine being who pre-existed in heaven before David was born. What does "son of David" mean in a Trinitarian context? Can Rob explain?

An identical problem arises from the title "Son of God", which only makes sense in the context of the virgin birth. The Bible insists that this mode of Sonship is unique to Jesus. Yet if Jesus is not literally the Son of God (ie. God's own special creation in the womb of Mary) then how is his Sonship any different to the spiritual sonship shared by Christians?

How odd that Rob wants us to believe Jesus is literally the pre-existent logos because he is called "the Word of God" in Revelation 19, but refuses to believe that Jesus is literally the Son of God despite the fact that this title is applied to Christ at least 35 times throughout the NT. What does "Son of God" mean to Rob? How does it fit into his belief that Jesus' Sonship is "eternal"? Will Rob explain the concept of "eternal Sonship" from Scripture? How does he arrive at this conclusion in light of the following verses?

  • Acts 13:33, "'that this promise God has fulfilled to us, their children, by raising Jesus, as also it is written in the second psalm, 'You are my Son; today I have fathered you.''"
  • Hebrews 1:5, "For to which of the angels did God ever say, 'You are my son! Today I have fathered you'? And in another place he says, 'I will be his father and he will be my son.'"
  • Hebrews 5:5, "So also Christ did not glorify himself in becoming high priest, but the one who glorified him was God, who said to him, 'You are my Son! Today I have fathered you'"

The word for "fathered" in the two quotations from Hebrews is the Greek gennaō. It occurs 97 times in the NT, always refers to the act of birth, and signifies the literal commencement of life. Scripture therefore affirms that Jesus' existence had a beginning and that he was made just like other human beings in every possible way:

  • Galatians 4:4, "But when the appropriate time had come, God sent out his Son, born of a woman, born under the law"
  • Hebrews 2:17, "Therefore he had to be made like his brothers and sisters in every respect, so that he could become a merciful and faithful high priest in things relating to God, to make atonement for the sins of the people.

Note that Jesus had to be made like his brothers and sisters in every respect, which is how he can make atonement for us. The saving power of his sacrifice is predicated upon his humanity.

The Biblical Unitarian Jesus was genuinely born to the virgin Mary following her miraculous conception by the power of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 1:20) and was therefore the literal Son of God (Luke 1:35). He grew up just like any other human child (Luke 2:52), was tempted like any normal man (Matthew 4:1-11) yet resisted sin (Hebrews 4:15) through the strength of his superior will (Matthew 16:23) and his close association with the Father, upon whom he depends for his existence (John 6:57), just as we do. Despite being capable of sin, he lived a sinless life (I Peter 2:21-22), died on the cross as a perfect sacrifice for sin (Hebrews 7:26-27) and was raised to immortality by the Father (Acts 2:22-24, Galatians 1:1).

None of this is true of the Trinitarian Jesus, who remains a theological paradox and a logical contradiction. Visible despite being invisible (Colossian 1:15); seen but "never seen" (John 1:18, I Timothy 6:16); tempted even though God cannot be tempted (Matthew 4:1-11; cp. James 1:13); "made like his brothers and sisters in every respect", which in Trinitarianism means "not being made like his brothers and sisters at all"; "dying" on the cross yet simultaneously eternal (I Timothy 1:17).

Readers, ask yourselves which Christology is more consistent with the Biblical evidence. If the Trinitarian Jesus pre-existed, he is neither "son of David", nor "Son of Man", nor "Son of God." If he is God, he was not tempted, cannot be seen and was not seen, did not really die, and was therefore not a sacrifice for sin. If his nature was simultaneously human and divine, he was not made like his brothers and sisters in every respect.

Since Rob has not explained his view of the atonement, I invite him to do so in his rebuttal. How does he views the sacrifice of Christ; what was achieved, and how? What was it about Jesus that made him a perfect sacrifice for our sins? Did he need to be God in order to save us? If so, why? Above all, what died on the cross? Was it God Who died, or simply a mortal human body?

Rob's not yet discussed the temptation. Was Jesus genuinely tempted? Was he capable of sin? Trinitarianism is hopelessly divided on this issue. Jonathan Edwards, Wayne Grudem, William G. T. Shedd and others have all argued that Jesus was capable of sin. E. F. Harrison, Charles Hodge, John W. McCormick and others have all argued that Jesus was incapable of sin. Mike Oppenheimer tries to have it both ways by claiming that Jesus "had the choice to sin", but "he did not have the ability." Who's right?

The apostolic testimony is equally perplexing from a Trinitarian perspective. Countless times we read of the apostles being persecuted for preaching (a) the Law of Moses is no longer required, (b) Jesus Christ is the promised Messiah and © Gentiles may now share in the promises to Abraham. These ideas shook first-century Judaism to its core and resulted in riots which brought entire cities to a standstill. Yet nowhere in the book of Acts do we find any apostle preaching the deity of Christ. Nowhere do we find the Jews reacting to any suggestion that Jesus is God. Why not? How does Rob explain this deafening silence on the subject of a doctrine that he believes is vital to the Christian message?


Jesus Christ: First of the New Creation; Last Adam
We have seen that NT Christology is based upon OT principles. Nowhere is this more clear than in the apostle Paul's use of OT terminology in the context of Jesus' identity and saving work on the cross. Paul refers to Jesus as "firstborn of creation" (Colossians 1:15) and "the last Adam" (I Corinthians 15:45), using concepts derived from Genesis.

In Philippians 2:5-11 Paul makes the connection explicit: he contrasts the first Adam (who sinned by reaching for equality with God, and fell) against the last Adam (who obeyed by humbling himself, and was exalted). The first Adam brought death; the last Adam brought life. Both are called "Son of God" and both are members of the literal creation, but only the "last Adam" offers salvation through a "new creation." We find references to this "new creation" in Ephesians 2:10, 4:24, Colossians 1:15-20, 3:10, & 5:17, where it is presented in language that explicitly differentiates it from the old, literal creation. I expect Rob to present these passages from a Trinitarian perspective, so I will address them in more detail during my rebuttal.
In necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas
Imago
Credo

#2 Evangelion

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Posted 28 April 2010 - 05:07 AM

First Rebuttal


Romans 10:8-13 (I) Jesus Christ: the Cornerstone who Became Lord
Rob,

Your very first proof text begins with a statement differentiating Jesus from God ("Jesus is Lord... God raised him from the dead"). You claim that Paul views "Lord" and "God" as divine titles, but if that is so, why not simply use "Lord" twice, or even "God" twice? Your interpretation of this entire passage requires us to understand that the saving confession is "Jesus is God and God raised him from the dead." Yet Paul's juxtaposition of "Lord" and "God" in this context denotes contrast, not equivalence:

Romans 10:9, "because if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved."

Notice that the saving confession has two parts (a) Jesus is Lord and (b) God (someone other than Jesus) raised him from the dead. The person "God" is clearly delineated from the person "Jesus".

Romans 10:10-11, "For with the heart one believes and thus has righteousness and with the mouth one confesses and thus has salvation. For the scripture says, "Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame."


Paul reiterates that a faithful confession leads to salvation, and quotes Isaiah 28:16 (cf. LXX). What is Paul's point? That a faithful confession leads to salvation. The "him" on whom we believe is obviously the Son, for he is the cornerstone established by the Father:

  • Acts 4:11, "This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, that has become the cornerstone."

  • Ephesians 2:20, "because you have been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone."

(Compare also Matthew 21:42, Mark 12:10, Luke 20:17, I Peter 2:6).

Note that the cornerstone (Christ) is distinguished from Yahweh (the Father) in Isaiah 28.

Jesus himself stated that we must believe on him in order to be saved, but look at the way he qualifies this claim:

  • John 5:24, "'I tell you the solemn truth, the one who hears my message and believes the one who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned, but has crossed over from death to life.'"
  • John 12:44-45, "But Jesus shouted out, 'The one who believes in me does not believe in me, but in the one who sent me, and the one who sees me sees the one who sent me.'"

Rather than claiming to be God himself, Jesus insists that he is merely the agent of God, acting on His authority, with His delegated power. Thus, by Jesus' own admission, we may call on him for salvation — not because he is God, but because he represents God to us, as demonstrated in last week's discussion of "agency language."

At this point the Trinitarian argument from Romans 10 is already redundant, but we can unpack it further. Verse 12 says "For there is no distinction between the Jew and the Greek, for the same Lord is Lord of all, who richly blesses all who call on him." Trinitarian scholar Marvin R. Vincent (Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament, Hendrickson Publishers, 1985) observes that the reference might not be to Christ at all:

Rom 10:12; "Lord." See on Matt 21:3. The reference is disputed: some Christ, others God. Probably Christ. See Rom 10:9, and compare Acts10:36. The hearing which is necessary to believing comes through the word of Christ (Rom 10:17, where the reading is Christ instead of God).


Even if the reference is to Christ, it is no proof of deity but merely echoes the same agency language used by Jesus himself. We can also learn the Christological significance of Romans 10:12 from other uses of Joel 2:32 in the NT. The most notable of these is Peter's speech at Pentecost:

Acts 2:15-16, 2-24, "'In spite of what you think, these men are not drunk, for it is only nine o'clock in the morning. But this is what was spoken about through the prophet Joel:

Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man clearly attested to you by God with powerful deeds, wonders, and miraculous signs that God performed among you through him, just as you yourselves know — this man, who was handed over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you executed by nailing him to a cross at the hands of Gentiles. But God raised him up, having released him from the pains of death, because it was not possible for him to be held in its power.'"


Surely there could have been no better time to preach "Jesus, God the Son" or "Jesus, Yahweh of Israel" to this huge assembly of Jews. Yet Peter does not do this. Why? Because Peter's use of this verse is eschatological, not Christological.

To Peter, the "Lord" of Joel 2:32 is not Jesus. To Peter, the "Lord" of Joel 2:32 is God, while Jesus is "a man clearly attested to you by God", through whom God wrought "powerful deeds, wonders, and miraculous signs." To Peter, Jesus is a "man, who was handed over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God" and executed by crucifixion. To Peter, Jesus is "released... from the pains of death" by God, who "raised him up." To Peter, Jesus is typified by another man, King David, who also died in the hope and faith of resurrection.

Peter doesn't need to explain the paradox of God dying and being resurrected by God, because that's not what he believes. Peter doesn't need to explain how King David can typify "God the Son", because that's not what he believes. Peter's use of King David as a figurative type of Christ demonstrates his unshakeable belief in a truly human Jesus, described in a way that precludes deity. This parallel does not work in a Trinitarian context, for the Trinitarian Jesus is not a real man and did not die in faith. Indeed, the Trinitarian Jesus had no need of faith; why would he? He's God!

Peter's speech finishes on a Christological high note:

Acts 2:34-36, "'For David did not ascend into heaven, but he himself says, 'The Lord said to my lord: 'Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.' Therefore let all the house of Israel know beyond a doubt that God has made this Jesus whom you crucified both Lord and Christ.'"


If "Lord" denotes deity in this context, the Trinitarian Jesus cannot receive it from God, for he possesses it already (how can Jesus be "made" deity?) Nor can the Trinitarian Jesus be "made Christ", for this is another title and role that he possesses inherently. But if "Lord" does not denote deity and Jesus is a man, it makes perfect sense for Peter to say that God has made him "Lord and Christ." In a Trinitarian context this statement is utterly incoherent.

Note also Peter's use of proof text — Psalm 110:1 — which helps us to understand what Peter means when he calls Jesus "Lord." This verse is especially powerful because it draws a sharp distinction between the three forms of "Lord" that we find throughout the OT, as represented in most English translations:

  • LORD: this is used to signify "Yahweh", the name of God, which is predominantly applied to the Father, occasionally to His representative angel, and perhaps once or twice to the risen, glorified Christ — but never to mortal men.
  • Lord: this is used to signify the Hebrew word "Adonai", a divine title which is applied to the Father and occasionally to His representative angel — but never to mortal men. It was often used in some Hebrew manuscripts as a reverent circumlocution for "Yahweh", which later Jewish scribes considered too holy to write.
  • lord: this is used to signify the Hebrew word "adon" (plural "adoni"), a non-divine title used in reference to mortal men, occasionally used to modify a divine title (albeit very rarely) — but never applied directly to God on its own. Bible translations often render it "my lord" (e.g. Genesis 23:6, "'No, my lord! Hear me out. I sell you both the field and the cave that is in it'") or "master" (e.g. Genesis 24:9, "So the servant placed his hand under the thigh of his master Abraham").

Trinitarian Herbert W. Bateman IV struggles with two of these titles in his article "Psalm 110:1 and the New Testament", Bibliotheca Sacra 149 (Oct. 1992): 438-53:

The form "to my lord" (adon) is never used elsewhere in the Old Testament as a divine reference. Also none of the 138 forms of "my lord" is a divine reference. Ninety-four percent of these 168 forms refer to earthly lords. The exceptions are when Joshua, Gideon, Daniel, and Zechariah addressed an angelic being as "my lord" (Josh. 5:14; Judg. 6:13, Dan. 10:16, 17, 19; 12:8; Zech. 1:9, 4:4-5, 13; 6:4).

These observations lend further credence to the generally accepted fact that the masoretic pointing distinguishes divine references from human references. Furthermore, when "my lord" and "Lord" are used in the same sentence, as in Psalm 110:1, "my lord" always refers to an earthly lord. Thus the phrase "to my lord" apparently indicates that David was directing this oracle from Yahweh to a human lord, not to the divine messianic Lord nor to himself.


Bateman's conclusion is staggering: he rejects Psalm 110 as Messianic because he believes the Messiah is God and therefore cannot be addressed as "my lord" (adon). This is a classic example of eisegesis, and demonstrates the extent to which Trinitarian scholars will allow their preconceptions to override the Scriptural evidence.

Trinitarians are often incredulous when anyone presumes to question or contradict their theologians, yet we must question them because their theological bias often leads them to commit fundamental errors of exegesis. These errors can go unnoticed because other Trinitarians read their material with the same preconceptions and see nothing wrong with an interpretation based upon a priori assumptions which they personally share.

If Bateman allowed himself to be guided by the text, he would realise that Psalm 110:1 demonstrates the unqualified humanity of Messiah by maintaining the vital distinction between these Hebraic titles:

Here is the LORD's [Yahweh's] proclamation to my lord [adon]: "Sit down at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool!"


Here David says that "the LORD" (Yahweh) spoke to "my lord" (Jesus). David is careful to address God by His divine name, but he refers to Jesus by a non-divine title. Peter quotes this verse word for word, but instead of telling us that Jesus is Yahweh, he says Jesus is the one whom David refers to as "my lord." Obviously the Messiah outranks David, but Yahweh outranks them both since He alone is God.

If Paul's words in Romans 10:8-12 are intended to prove that Jesus is God, he has obviously gone the wrong way about it by using a verse (Joel 3:32) which Peter had already employed in the very same context without any reference to Jesus' alleged deity.
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#3 Evangelion

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Posted 07 May 2010 - 06:23 AM

Romans 10:8-13 (II) Jesus Christ: Listening When We Call
Rob,

You claim that "'calling on' Jesus as Lord is an act of prayer", but I find no evidence of this in the verses you've listed; not even Joel 2:32. None of these texts contain a word for "pray", though many of them refer to the invocation of Jesus' name within the context of baptism (which is not the same as praying).

John 14:14 suggests prayer to Jesus, but the text is disputed and some authorities omit the word "me." This reduces the verse to "If you ask anything in my name, I will do it" and implies Jesus acts upon prayers that the Father receives in his name. This does not require Jesus to be the recipient of the prayer, nor even that he has heard it himself.

Is it possible for Jesus to hear prayer? I believe so. After all, he received the Holy Spirit without measure (John 3:34); he is perfected and immortal (II Timothy 1:10, Revelation 1:18); he has been exalted to the Father's right hand (I Peter 3:22) and all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him (Matthew 28:18). Does this prove that he is God? Not at all. The capacity to hear believers' prayers indicates tremendous supernatural power, but it is still a long way short of omniscience (a quality that Jesus clearly lacks; see Matthew 24:36, Mark 11:12-14, Luke 2:52, John 11:34).

In fact, there's an interesting OT passage which suggests that even angels might be able to hear prayer under certain circumstances:

Daniel 10:12-13, "Then he said to me, 'Don't be afraid, Daniel, for from the very first day you applied your mind to understand and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard. I have come in response to your words. However, the prince of the kingdom of Persia was opposing me for twenty-one days. But Michael, one of the leading princes, came to help me, because I was left there with the kings of Persia.'"


We can interpret this passage in two different ways.

  • Daniel had prayed to God, yet the angel says that "Your words were heard; I have come in response to your words." How can an angel respond to words he cannot hear, and why mention the reason for his delay if he was acting purely on God's instructions? The suggestion is that he heard Daniel's prayer and responded as soon as possible. We know that mortal men can read the minds of others when empowered with the Holy Spirit (e.g. Elisha in II Kings 5:26; Peter in Acts 5:3-9) and angels are demonstrably more powerful than men, so it is logical to conclude that they can read minds as well.
  • A more likely option is that God heard the words and told the angel to respond. If this is the case, we can say exactly the same for Jesus in John 14:14 (though compare with John 16:23, "At that time you will ask me nothing. I tell you the solemn truth, whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you").

Either way, neither the angel nor Jesus needs to be God in order to know believers' thoughts and respond to their prayers.

The fact that prayer in Scripture is predominantly focused upon the Father should give us pause for thought. Jesus taught his disciples to pray directly to God (not to himself) and the apostle Paul routinely addresses his prayers to God through Jesus (e.g. Romans 16:27). This pattern is repeated many times throughout the NT. I believe there are arguable Scriptural precedents for praying to Jesus (e.g. Acts 1:24, II Corinthians 12:8) but they are very few in number and represent exceptions to the rule.

Thus, on the subject of praying to Christ, Biblical Unitarians take a balanced view of the Biblical evidence. First and foremost, we believe it is important to follow the model of prayer laid down by Jesus himself and employed by the apostles, in which prayer is primarily directed to God (Luke 11:1-4), through Jesus (Jude 1:25). However, we also recognise that Jesus' current position of high priest and mediator allows us to approach him through prayer — provided that this is not done as an act of religious worship. Ultimately, prayer to Jesus is a matter left to the believer's conscience (Romans 14).

Rob, your proof texts contain not a single word about Jesus being recognised as Yahweh or prayed to for salvation. The cumulative effect of Romans 10:8-13 is to demonstrate that Jesus is identified as God's vice-regent, secondly only to the Father in majesty and power. In this capacity he can bear the name of God without being directly identified as deity, and respond to prayer without being omniscient or omnipotent. The OT precedent for this role is God's representative angel (or "Angel of God's Presence" as the NET refers to him):

Exodus 23:20-22, "'I am going to send an angel before you to protect you as you journey and to bring you into the place that I have prepared. Take heed because of him, and obey his voice; do not rebel against him, for he will not pardon your transgressions, for my name is in him. But if you diligently obey him and do all that I command, then I will be an enemy to your enemies, and I will be an adversary to your adversaries.'"


Note the characteristics of this angel: (a) bears the name of God (compare Exodus 3:2-6, Acts 7:30), (b) guides and protects the children of Israel, © must be obeyed as if he is God, (d) has the power of judgement and punishment, (e) rewards obedience (verse 25). Jesus, as the exalted Son of God, possesses all of these characteristics and more, outranking the angel by virtue of his unique status, power and authority, all of which are second only to God's.
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#4 Evangelion

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Posted 07 May 2010 - 06:24 AM

I Corinthians 8:4-6 (I) The One God of Israel
Rob,

In Week 2 you found it necessary to amend your exegetical approach, claiming that "'clarity' and 'obscurity' are usually subjective judgments that reflect the beliefs of the interpreters more than they inform us about the texts themselves." This was obviously going to be a setup for a future argument involving passages which are both undeniably clear and critically damaging to the Trinitarian position.

I was therefore not surprised when John 17:3 and I Corinthians 8:6 appeared on your hit list, since these verses unequivocally identify the Father alone as truly God, and preclude the inclusion of any other person in that category. We shouldn't really be spending any time at all on I Corinthians 8:6, except to point out that it speaks for itself. Two persons are mentioned, but only one is identified as God. Could it possibly be easier?

If God is more than one person, this would have been the ideal time to mention it. Yet the Father alone is identified as God, the Son is identified as "Lord Jesus Christ", and the Holy Spirit is not mentioned at all. This is truly a strange statement for Paul to make if he believed in the deity of Christ and the Holy Spirit. I Corinthians 8:6 is just another in the ever-growing list of verses Trinitarians cannot accept at face value, for the sheer simplicity of his language defies a Trinitarian interpretation. Thus, the only option for Trinitarianism is to obscure Paul's words and blur his terms of reference.

Does Paul draw upon the Shema in I Corinthians 8:6? Yes, though he does not formally quote it. But how does he define the "one God" of Israel? He defines the "one God" of Israel as the Father, exclusively, matching the consistent use of this term throughout the NT:

  • Mark 2:7, "who can forgive sins, but the one God?"

  • Mark 10:18, "there is none good but the one God"

  • Mark 12:29, "the Lord God our Lord is one"

  • Mark 12:32, "there is one and none other but him"

  • Luke 18:19, "there is none good but the one God"

  • Romans 3:30, "seeing it is the one God"

  • I Corinthians 8:4, "none other is God but one"

  • I Corinthians 8:6, "but to us there is one God the Father"

  • Galatians 3:20, "but God is one"

  • Ephesians 4:6, "one God and father of all"

  • I Timothy 2:5, "for there is one God"

  • James 2:19, "there is one God"

The Father is also distinguished by the terms "only God" and "only true God":

  • John 5:44, "the only God"

  • John 17:3, "the only true God"

  • I Timothy 1:17, "to the only God"

  • Jude 25, "the only God our Saviour"

No reader can fail to be struck by the complete absence of any such references to the Son or Holy Spirit. Observe the consistent use of singular personal pronouns, the consistent use of exclusive language "one", "only", one God", "only God", "only true God"), and the constant, deliberate application of these terms to the Father. A distinguishing feature of this list is the prominence of the expression "the One God" ("heis ho theos") and its variants. This term is only used of the Father. Nowhere in the Bible is Christ ever included in the unique title "One God." The same is true of "Only God" which is also used of the Father exclusively and in contradistinction to Christ, as the surrounding contexts demonstrate.

As if all of this wasn't enough, the NT contains at least forty different formal salutations in various epistles, with every single one of them unequivocally differentiating between God and Jesus Christ. Most explicitly identify the Father as God:

  • Romans 1:7, "Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!"

  • I Corinthians 1:1, "...called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God"

  • I Corinthians 1:4, "...the grace of God that was given to you in Christ Jesus"

  • II Corinthians 1:2, "Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!"

  • Galatians 1:3, "Grace and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ"

  • Ephesians 1:2, "Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!"

  • Philippians 1:2, "Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!"

  • Colossians 1:2, "Grace and peace to you from God our Father!"

  • I Thessalonians 1:1, "... to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace and peace to you!"

  • II Thessalonians 1:2, "Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!"

  • I Timothy 1:2, "Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord!"

  • Titus 1:4, "Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior!"

  • Philemon 1:3, "Grace and peace to you8 from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!"
  • I Peter 1:3, "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!"

  • II John 3, "Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Son of the Father"

It is impossible to read these verses and fail to be struck by the power of their message. Note the regular distinction between "God" and "Lord" in every context, reflecting the same use that we find in the Gospels and Acts:

Acts 2:36, "'Therefore let all the house of Israel know beyond a doubt that God has made this Jesus whom you crucified both Lord and Christ.'"


To Peter, God was someone other than Jesus, and Jesus was "Lord." We find this explicitly demonstrated in his speech at Pentecost (Acts 2). Psalm 110 applies a non-divine title of adon ("lord" or "my lord") to the Messiah. Peter applied this same non-divine title to Jesus (it is capitalised in English translations of the NT, but this makes no difference). Thus, to Peter, Jesus was the Messiah of Psalm 110 but he was not God. To Paul, the same distinction applied.
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#5 Evangelion

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Posted 07 May 2010 - 06:24 AM

I Corinthians 8:4-6 (II) One God, the Father, and one Lord Jesus Christ
Rob,

We have seen that first-century Christians viewed the Father alone as God, and Jesus Christ (whom they also recognised as "our Lord") as His Son. In I Corinthians 8:6 Paul retains this consistency. He does not reinterpret the Shema, or divide it into two parts so that Jesus can be included. Nor does he use "Lord" as "Yahweh"; he uses it in the same Messianic sense that he's used it everywhere else.

James F. McGrath (The Only True God: Early Christian Monotheism in Its Jewish Context, University of Illinois Press, 2009, p.41-2) offers a refreshing analysis:

Let us begin by looking first at slightly later Christian parallel, I Timothy 2:5. Whether or not this letter was written by Paul himself need not concern us, since the view of God and Christ expressed seems to be seeking to remain true to Paul's legacy, on this point at least. What is important for our purposes is that it shows another example of an early Christian statement of faith which asserts that there is one God and one mediator.

Here — as also, I would argue, in I Corinthians 8:6 — we have before us an expanded Shema rather than a split Shema. In other words, something has been added on the outside, alongside the Shema, rather than on the inside, into the definition of the nature of God himself.

The affirmation of the oneness of God is a traditional Jewish axiom, and in I Timothy 2:5 we find added alongside it the additional claim that this one God has only one mediator between himself and human kind: the human being Christ Jesus. It seems appropriate to interpret the passage in I Corinthians along similar lines: The affirmation of "one God" represents the monotheistic confession of the Shema, and the affirmation of "one Lord" is added to it.


Commentators have correctly noted that "kyrios" was used in the LXX and NT to represent the name of Yahweh. But in stressing this word in I Corinthians 8:6, they forget that it was also used to represent the non-divine title of "adon", which I discussed in an earlier section.

We can't simply claim that kyrios means Yahweh whenever it suits us; we need to show a reason why it must mean this in any given verse and context. Saying that "Lord" means "Yahweh" in I Corinthians 8:6 is both exegetically unjustifiable and theologically problematic, because it defines Jesus as "Yahweh" to the exclusion of the Father and does not solve the Trinitarian dilemma that Jesus is not defined here as "God."

Commentators today agree that I Corinthians 8:6 is polemical (e.g. Erik Waaler, The Shema and The First Commandment in First Corinthians: An Intertextual Approach to Paul's Re-reading of Deuteronomy, Mohr Siebeck, 2008). In defiance of pagan polytheism, Paul affirms his commitment to the one true God of Israel by saying that there are many which are called "God" and many which are called "Lord", but to Christians there is only one God (the Father) and one Lord (Jesus Christ).

In fact, Paul even makes a play on words here, since Jesus' full title is "Lord Jesus Christ." So we can read him as saying "One God, the Father, and one Lord, Jesus Christ" or omit a comma to retain Jesus' complete Messianic title, which gives us "one God, the Father, and one Lord Jesus Christ." Either way, the net result is the same: (a) Jesus Christ is clearly differentiated from "God", (b) Jesus is totally excluded from the category of deity and © Jesus is not "Lord" in the same way that God is "Lord."

Note that Paul makes no essential change to the Shema, and merely alludes to it without quoting it. The words he uses ("to us there is one God, the Father, and one Lord Jesus Christ") provide no excuse for treating "Lord" as "Yahweh" (which would result in the bizarre combination of "Yahweh Jesus Christ"). If he wanted to introduce a plurality of divine persons, why not just quote the Shema in full and apply it twice, once each to Father and Son?

Considering how easy it would have been for Paul to write "the Lord our God, the Lord is one: Father, Son and Holy Spirit", or some equally basic formula, it beggars belief that he intended to convey this meaning by using words entirely unsuited to the purpose, which would naturally lead his audience to a very different conclusion. The Trinitarian interpretation is not viable. It's the same logic which tries to tell us that John wrote "logos" because he thought it was the best way to say "Jesus."

James F. McGrath (The Only True God: Early Christian Monotheism in Its Jewish Context, p.42-3):

To clarify further that by appending something additional to the Shema one need not "split" it nor be understood to be incorporating the additional person or thing mentioned into the divine identity, we may note an example of similar language from the Hebrew Bible: 2 Samuel 7:22-24.

There we find a contrast made between Yahweh and other gods in a manner not wholly unlike I Corinthians 8:6. In it, the affirmation that God is one ("There is no God but you!") is coupled with the affirmation that there is likewise "one nation that God went out to redeem as a people for himself." I doubt whether anyone has ever suggested that in this passage the people of Israel are being included within the Shema.

Hopefully this example makes clear just how unnecessary it is to presume Paul to have been adding Jesus within the Shema, and also how quickly many of us today read back later theological ideas into Paul's statements, ideas that were only developed much later.

In the context of his own historical setting, there is no reason that the affirmation of "one God" (the creator) and one Lord (the mediator) would necessarily have compromised Jewish monotheism or "split the Shema", any more than would the affirmation that one God implies one people of God, or that one God implies only one temple (on which see especially Josephus, Against Apion 2:193).


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#6 Evangelion

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Posted 07 May 2010 - 06:25 AM

I Corinthians 8:4-6 (III) The Father, from Whom are All Things; Jesus Christ, through whom are All Things
Rob,

The second phase of your argument asserts that Jesus is God because he created the world, an idea you derive from I Corinthians 8:6b ("and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we live"). Strangely, you link this with Romans 11:36, which does not refer to Jesus and provides two additional qualifiers ("from him... to him") applied exclusively to the Father. The essential qualifier ("from him") appears in I Corinthians 8:6, but here again it is applied exclusively to the Father, demonstrating that He alone is the source of creation. Even if we concluded that the Son is described as God's agent of creation, this would still not make Jesus God; at the very most, it supports Arianism.

Paul's use of language in this verse provides a deliberate contrast:

  • All things from (Greek: "ek") the Father

  • All things through (Greek: "dia") the Son

The reference to the Father speaks of the first creation; the reference to the Son speaks of the second creation (or "new creation", as Paul calls it elsewhere). This "new creation" incorporates the "born again" experience of the believer (referred to by Christ in John 3:7 as being "born from above"), the glorification of those who are resurrected and judged worthy at Christ's return, the creation of a new spiritual order (referred to in Isaiah 66:22 as "the new heavens and the new earth"), the kingdom age (Greek "aion", meaning "age, generation", Liddell-Scott-James Greek Lexicon; definition and semantic range here), and the ultimate reconciliation of God's creation to Him through the work of Jesus.

Thus, the first creation is described here as being from the Father, while the second creation is through the Son. Nowhere is the Greek word "ek" ("from") applied to the Son in reference to creation, whether old or new. When Paul speaks of Christ's role in the new creation, he always uses terms which are clearly distinguishable from, and incompatible with, the old creation.

The new creation is described as being created "in" Christ (Greek "en"), "through" him (Greek "dia")and "for" him (Greek "eis"), but never "by him." This language is consistent with Christ's role as the agency through which the new creation was achieved; his sinless life and perfect sacrifice have made the new creation possible. All things are made new in him, through him and for him:

  • Ephesians 2:10, "For we are his workmanship, created in [en] Christ Jesus..."

  • Ephesians 4:24, "...and to put on the new man who has been created in [en] God's image – in righteousness and holiness that comes from truth"

  • Colossians 1:15-20, "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation, for all things in heaven and on earth were created in [en] him — all things, whether visible or invisible, whether thrones or dominions, whether principalities or powers — all things were created through [dia] him and for [eis] him. He himself is before all things and all things are held together in him. He is the head of the body, the church, as well as the beginning, the firstborn from among the dead, so that he himself may become first in all things. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in the Son, and through [dia] him to reconcile all things to himself by making peace through the blood of his cross — through [dia] him, whether things on earth or things in heaven"

  • Colossians 3:10, "...and have been clothed with the new man that is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of the one who created it"

  • Colossians 5:17, "So then, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; what is old has passed away - look, what is new has come!"
  • Hebrews 1:2, "in these last days he has spoken to us in a son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through [dia] whom he created the world [aion]"

  • II Peter 3:13, "But, according to his promise, we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness truly resides" (cf. Isaiah 66:22)

Colossians 1 is a particularly useful chapter, since it establishes the context of the new creation very strongly, using precisely the type of language that we would expect to find. This language do not match the old creation, and it is further qualified by the terms of reference. How can the literal creation be created "in" Christ? What would that even mean? Was the sun created "in" Jesus? Were the animals created "through" him? Were the plants created "for" him? On what day were "thrones", "dominions", "principalities" and "powers" created "in" Jesus? Why aren't they mentioned in Genesis? Why are they mentioned here at all? What does Trinitarianism say that they are? I've never received a consistent reply to this question.

Some Trinitarians will say "It must refer to the natural creation, because it says 'all things', which includes everything created." But this presupposes that the natural creation is in view and denies the possibility that Paul is referring to "all things" of the new creation (a possibility made more certain by the terms of reference). The mere use of "all things" does not preclude an allusion to the new creation.

What could the term "firstborn of all creation" mean in the context of the old creation? It could imply that Jesus was the first being to be created, but that is a belief which both Trinitarians and Unitarians reject. Fortunately we don't need to speculate on the meaning, since Paul explains it for us: Jesus' status as "firstborn of all creation" (Colossians 1:15) refers to the fact that he was the "firstborn from among the dead" (I Colossians 1:18; cf. Romans 8:29, Hebrews 1:6, 12:23, Revelation 1:5). This is not the language of the old creation. This is new creation language.

I Corinthians 8:6 therefore tells us:

  • There is only one God, and that one God is the Father alone

  • There is only one Lord, and that Lord is Lord Jesus Messiah

  • The physical creation was the work of the Father

  • The spiritual creation is the work of the Son

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#7 Evangelion

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Posted 07 May 2010 - 06:25 AM

Philippians 2:3-11 (I) The Form of God
Rob,

I'll start by saying that I agree Paul is presenting Jesus as an example of humility for Christians to follow in Philippians 2. This is the primary aim of the passage. But the language Paul uses is intended to demonstrate that Jesus is a genuine, mortal, flesh and blood human just like us — not the Trinitarian "God-man" whose apparent humility is undermined by the fact that he is simultaneously creator and supreme ruler of the entire universe. To make his point, Paul deliberately draws upon OT imagery derived from an OT event. This will become clearer as I progress.

I'm going to approach the passage thematically, and as usual I'll be quoting from the NET Bible, which treats Philippians 2 reasonably well despite the translators' Trinitarian bias:

Philippians 2:6, "who though he existed in the form [morphē] of God did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped"


Your own argument betrays a lack of certainty about the meaning of morphē. In your consideration of verse 6 you say:

This may mean that Christ possessed the glorious nature of God or that Christ was robed in God’s glorious appearance or outward display.


These are both typical Trinitarian interpretations, but they are mutually exclusive. To choose one is to preclude the other, since morphē cannot bear both meanings simultaneously. So which is it? Nature of God, or outward appearance? The force of your Christological argument hinges upon a specific choice; you can't have both, and you can't afford to undermine your position via recourse to theological ambiguity. At some point a decision has to be made.

As we saw earlier, Robertson wants us to believe that morphē means "the essential attributes as shown in the form". His position is consistent with one of the options you've allowed yourself ( actually committed to either of them!) and the NET translators make the same assertion in their footnote ("The Greek term translated form indicates a correspondence with reality. Thus the meaning of this phrase is that Christ was truly God"). Other Trinitarian commentators have taken the same view (e.g. Daniel L. Akin, Jack Cottrell, M. R. Vincent, Glenn Miller, B. D. Smith, J. B. Coffman, James White).

This interpretation of morphē is familiar to me; I recognise it from Aristotelian metaphysics. Aristotle used two words for "form" — eidos ("visual image") and morphē ("shape.") In simple terms, for example, a piece of bronze being made into a statue, the "form" is actually is a visual appearance or shape; more often, however, it is some quality of that object.

To illustrate this point, Aristotle uses the example of an axe. The "form" of the axe is not only its shape; it is also the power of the axe to cut wood. Of course, the axe only has this power by virtue of its shape (and we might add other qualities), so the two are closely related. Aristotle regards them as a unity and calls them both together the "form." However, while the Aristotelian definition of morphē is helpful to the Trinitarian interpretation, it does not reflect the broader usage that Paul is drawing upon when writing Philippians 2. For a more accurate definition we need to consult some standard authorities.

The Liddell-Scott-James Greek Lexicon defines morphē as "form, shape, fashion, appearance, outward form, kind, sort" (definition and semantic range here) and lists Philippians 2:6 under the secondary definition of "fashion, appearance, outward form."

We find the same word in Mark 16:12 ("After this [Jesus] appeared in a different form [morphē] to two of them while they were on their way to the country") and the only other occurrence is in Philippians 2:7. In all three verses the meaning clearly denotes outwards appearance, not "nature", "substance" or "the essential attributes as shown in the form." Rob, I invite you to consult such standard lexicons as BDAG, LSJ, EDNT, TDNT, ANLEX, LEHLXX, Louw/Nida and Spicq, for any consensus supporting the Trinitarian interpretation of morphē as "nature."

Rodney J. Decker (Professor of NT and Greek, Baptist Bible Seminary, PA) is one Trinitarian scholar who candidly admits that the traditional Trinitarian interpretation of morphē is largely the result of theological bias. In an online article (Philippians 2:5-11, The Kenosis) he says:

Lightfoot is a classic example of those who base the meaning of morfhv [MORFH] on Greek philosophy. He explains that it refers to "the specific character" (129); that "morfhv [MORFH] must apply to the attributes of the Godhead" (132). "In Gk philosophical literature, morfhv [MORFH] acquires a fixed and central place in the thought of Aristotle. For him the term becomes equal to a thing's essence (oujsiva) [OUSIA] or nature (fuvsi") [FUSIS]."


Decker also quotes Robert B. Strimple (Philippians 2:5-11 in Recent Studies: Some Exegetical Conclusions, 1979) who was forced to give up the traditional interpretation after realising its futility:

"For years I tried . . . to maintain the view of Lightfoot that Paul here uses morfhv [MORFH] with the sense it had acquired in Greek philosophy, particularly Aristotelian, and which Murray speaks of as 'existence form . . . the sum of those characterizing qualities that make a thing the precise thing that it is.'

Lightfoot wrote: 'though morfhv [MORFH] is not the same as fuvsi" [FUSIS] or oujsiva [OUSIA], yet the possession of the morfhv [MORFH] involves participation in the oujsiva [OUSIA] also for morfhv [MORFH] implies not the external accidents but the essential attributes.'

But I have had to conclude that there is really very little evidence to support the conclusion that Paul uses morfhv [MORFH] in such a philosophical sense here and that my determination to hold on to that interpretation was really rooted in its attractiveness theologically.


In a footnote, Decker quotes another authority who reached the same conclusion:

Feinberg, likewise, notes that "Frankly, the attractiveness of the Gk philosophical interpretation of morfhv [MORFH] is that it gives the theologian about as strong an affirmation of the deity of Christ as is possible. One must, however, be careful that he does not read his theological convictions into the text when they are not there" ("Kenosis," 29-30).


Thus we can reject any suggestion that morphē refers to "nature" or "essential properties" in Philippians 2. Rather than making statements about ontology, Paul is telling us that Jesus was "in the form of God" in exactly the same way as Adam:

Genesis 1:26, " Then God said, "Let us make humankind in our image, after our likeness"


The Hebrew words for "image" and "likeness" in this verse are tselem and demûth, which correspond to the Greek words morphē and eikōn. The latter is used by the LXX in Genesis 1:26; cf. Matthew 22:20-21, where Jesus refers to the eikōn of Caesar on a coin ("...the thought of Phil. 2.5ff. relates primarily to the Genesis story and can be understood only by reference to it. The morphe concept presupposes Gen. 1.26...", Oscar Cullman, The Christology of the New Testament, SCM Press, 1959, p.175). None of these words suggest a reference to nature or "essential attributes". The significance of the parallel with Adam will become clear in my next section.
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#8 Evangelion

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Posted 07 May 2010 - 06:26 AM

Philippians 2:3-11 (II) Equality with God
Rob,

Returning to the text:

Philippians 2:6, "who though he existed in the form [morphē] of God did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped [harpagmos]"


Note that the NET replaces the old, flawed reading ("thought it not robbery to be equal with God") with the more accurate "did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped." The theological impact of this correction is immediately clear: verse 6 is not saying that Jesus already possessed equality with God, but that he did not possess equality with God, and made no attempt to seize it.

This is demonstrated by Paul's use of harpagmos, which some Trinitarian commentators interpret as "retained" to support their belief in an eternally pre-existent Christ who was co-equal with the Father. But that is not what the word means.

The Liddell-Scott-James Greek Lexicon provides this definition:

A. robbery, rape, Plu.2.12a; "ἁ. ὁ γάμος ἔσται" Vett.Val.122.1.
2. concrete, prize to be grasped, Ep.Phil.2.6; cf. "ἅρπαγμα" 2.


Other lexical authorities concur with LSJ.

BDAG:

ἁρπαγμός , οῦ, ὁ (rare in nonbibl. Gk.; not found at all in the Gk. transl. of the OT; in our lit. only in Phil 2:6).
* a violent seizure of property, robbery
* As equal to ἅρπαγμα, someth. to which one can claim or assert title by gripping or grasping, someth. claimed


TDNT:

ἁρπαγμός.
In the NT this is found only at Phil. 2:6: οὐχ ἁρπαγμὸν ἡγήσατο τὸ εἶναι ἴσα θεῷ. In common with other subst. formed with -μός, ἁρπαγμός first means a. the activity of ἁρπάζειν.1 In non-Christian writings it is found only in this sense. Plut. Lib. Educ., 15 (II, 11 f.); in the form ἁρπασμός, Plut. Quaest. Conv., II, 10, 2 (II, 644a).

As a variant, Paus., I, 20, 3; Phryn. Ecl., 302, p. 407, Rutherford; Vett. Val., II, 38, p. 122, 1, Kroll accord. to V. Stegemann in the same sense. The word then took on the sense of the more common ἅρπαγμα and came to mean b, "what is seized," esp. plunder or booty.


Rob, harpagmos is not a "notoriously difficult word." Paul is saying that Jesus did not possess equality with God, and recognised that it was not something to be stolen, seized or clutched at. Here he consciously evokes the theme of Genesis 3 to present a contrast between Adam and Jesus. Adam was the first son of God (Luke 3:38); his pride led him to grasp at equality with God, and he fell. Jesus is the unique and only begotten Son of God; he obediently humbled himself before God, and was exalted. The first Adam brought death; the last Adam brought life. Paul exhorts us to follow the example of Jesus, the last Adam ("The association of thought is the Old Testament, and there is an implied contrast between the two Adams", Ralph P. Martin, The Epistle of Paul to the Philippians: an introduction and commentary, Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2002, p.103)

We can be certain that Adam's experience is the counterpoint in Philippians 2 because Paul establishes this connection in other epistles, where he presents Adam as a typological Christ:

  • Romans 5:14, "Yet death reigned from Adam until Moses even over those who did not sin in the same way that Adam (who is a type of the coming one) transgressed."
  • I Corinthians 15:22, 45, "For just as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive... So also it is written, 'The first man, Adam, became a living person'; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit."

This parallel was understood by many of the early church fathers (e.g. Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Hilary of Poitiers, Ambrose of Milan, Gregory of Nyssa, Gregory of Nazianzus). Modern theologians refer to it as "Adam Christology", and many Trinitarian scholars — including N. T. Wright, Robin Scroggs, Daniel L. Akin, Gerald O'Collins, Seyoon Kim, Brian O. McDermott, C. Marvin Pate, Sang-Won Son, T. M. Mauch and Oscar Cullmann — recognise it as a primary concept in Pauline theology. However, they remain divided about its connotations.

Some take the view that Adam Christology is compatible with the deity of Christ and poses no threat to Trinitarianism (e.g. Stephen E. Fowl, "...one can argue both that some sort of 'Adam christology' lies behind this passage and that the passage strongly asserts Christ's preexistence", Philippians, Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2005, p.114).

By contrast, others reject Adam Christology because they fear its implications for the deity of Christ and the basis of Pauline soteriology (e.g. Porter, Tombs & Hayes, "This Christology appeals to Macquarrie, inasmuch as it does not suggest anything superhuman about Jesus, who as the New Adam is contrasted with the first Adam and with his failure to attain appropriate human status. ...the totally 'Adamic' or merely human interpretation of the hymn that Macquarrie argues for does not command general agreement", Images Of Christ, T. & T. Clark Publishers, 2004, pp.133-4.).

Those who take the latter view understand correctly that if human salvation is predicated upon a strict Adam Christology, the Trinitarian "God-man" is theologically redundant and ultimately irrelevant.

Trinitarian Frank J. Matera (New Testament Christology, Westminster John Knox Press, 1999, p.95) is one who affirms a positive connection between Adam Christology and Pauline soteriology:

There are two places where Paul explicitly employs a comparison between Adam and Christ. The first is Rom. 5:12-21, where he contrasts the destructive results of Adam's disobedience with the salvific effects of Christ's obedience, and the second is 1 Cor. 15:1-58, where he contrasts the first Adam who brought death into the world with Christ, the new Adam, who has become the source of resurrection life. In both cases Paul's "Adam Christology" is in the service of his soteriology.

By casting Christ in the role of a new Adam, Paul shows that the obedience of Christ resulted in acquittal for all (Rom. 5:18), and through his resurrection all are brought to life (1 Cor. 15:22). Thus Paul's Adam Christology must not be isolated from his soteriology.


I agree with Matera as far as he goes, but his Trinitarian preconceptions prevent him from taking the soteriological theme to its necessary conclusion. Philippians 2 is written within the context of Adam Christology, demonstrating that the saving power of Christ's death is predicated upon his unqualified humanity, thereby precluding the concept of deity. A mortal man brought sin and death into the world; a mortal man was therefore required to bring salvation. Jesus had to be a genuine human being in order to repair the damage of Adam's sin by succeeding where he had failed. This could not be achieved by a divine saviour, for the atonement is impossible if Jesus is essentially different from Adam.

James D. G. Dunn (Christology in the Making, Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1996, p.120) emphasises the force of Paul's message:

Here then we can see the point of Murray-O'Connor's initial criticism and the danger for good exegesis of assuming too quickly that the phrases 'being in the form of God' and 'becoming in the likeness of men' necessarily imply a thought of pre-existence. For the language throughout, and not least at these points, is wholly determined by the creation narratives and by the contrast between what Adam grasped at and what he in consequence became. It was Adam who was 'in the form of God', Adam who 'became what men now are' (in contrast to what God had intended for them).

The language was used not because it is first and foremost appropriate to Christ, but because it was appropriate to Adam, drawn from the account of Adam's creation and fall. It was used of Christ therefore to bring out that Adamic character of Christ's life, death and resurrection. So archetypal was Jesus' work in its effect that it can be described in language appropriate to archetypal man and as a reversal of the archetypal sin.


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#9 Evangelion

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Posted 07 May 2010 - 06:26 AM

Philippians 2:3-11 (III) Why Presuppose Pre-Existence?
Rob,

The very first thing that jumps out at me every time I read Philippians 2 is that it does not contain a single word about pre-existence. This concept must be imported via eisegesis, because it simply cannot be found there. For example, A. T. Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament (reprint, Holman Reference, 1958):

Php 2:6; Being (huparchōn). Rather, "existing," present active participle of huparchō. In the form of God (en morphēi theou). Morphē means the essential attributes as shown in the form. In his preincarnate state Christ possessed the attributes of God and so appeared to those in heaven who saw him. Here is a clear statement by Paul of the deity of Christ.


Robertson was a notable Greek grammarian, but he was also a Trinitarian, and his interpretation of this verse is clearly imposed upon the text rather than being derived from it. He presupposes pre-existence even though the verse says nothing about pre-existence at all, and claims that morphē is an ontological category which proves that Jesus "possessed the attributes of God." This is blatant eisegesis; Robertson has approached the text with at least two theological preconceptions, so his interpretation is flawed before it even begins.

Your own interpretation of Philippians 2 (and other proof texts submitted during the course of this debate) employs the same presuppositional method. Beginning with an unproven assumption, you move quickly to the desired conclusion without stopping to validate the original claim. This is a common Trinitarian error, as I've already demonstrated.

James D. G. Dunn (Christology in the Making, p.114) observes that the concept of a pre-existent Christ in Philippians 2 is necessarily an a priori assumption:

In fact, as J Murphy-O'Connor has recently maintained, not without cause, the common belief that Phil. 2.6-11 starts by speaking of Christ's pre-existent state and status and then of his incarnation is, in almost every case, a presupposition rather than a conclusion, a presupposition which again and again proves decisive in determining how disputed terms within the Philippian hymn should be understood.


On page 120 he dismisses the idea that pre-existence is central to the passage and shows how this preconception obscures the point Paul is making:

As when reading Rom. 7.7-11 we are not to think of some specific time in the life of Paul or the Jew when he was 'alive once apart from the law', so when reading Phil. 2.6-11 we should not try to identify a specific time in Christ's existence when he was in the form of God and before he became like men.

As Rom. 7.7-11 is just a way of describing the character and plight of all men now, so Phil. 2.6-11 is simply a way of describing the character of Christ's ministry and sacrifice. In both cases the language used is determined wholly by the Adam stories and is most probably not intended as metaphysical assertions about individuals in the first century AD.


Rob, where is your evidence that Philippians 2 is speaking of a pre-existent Christ? I have to ask, because you didn't present any. You simply asserted it. Our readers should realise that you begin with this assumption simply because it suits your Christology, and not because it accurately reflects the words of Paul. But why should we presuppose pre-existence, as you have done? You've given us no reason to do so. What is there about Philippians 2 that even requires pre-existence? Nothing that I can see. Is anything lost from Paul's message if Jesus is not pre-existent? No. You seem to believe that pre-existence is necessary in this context, yet that is simply not the case.

Even the translators of the New American Bible (a Catholic translation) concede in a footnote that pre-existence is by no means a sine qua non:

Taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness: or ". . . taking the form of a slave. Coming in human likeness, and found human in appearance."
While it is common to take Phil 2:6, 7 as dealing with Christ's pre-existence and Phil 2:8 with his incarnate life, so that lines Phil 2:7b, 7c are parallel, it is also possible to interpret so as to exclude any reference to pre-existence (see the note on Phil 2:6) and to take Phil 2:6-8 as presenting two parallel stanzas about Jesus' human state (Phil 2:6-7b; 7cd-8); in the latter alternative, coming in human likeness begins the second stanza and parallels 6a to some extent.


So why presuppose pre-existence?
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#10 Evangelion

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Posted 07 May 2010 - 06:31 AM

Philippians 2:3-11 (IV) Kenosis
Rob,

Verse 7 tells us that Jesus "...emptied [kenosis] himself by taking on the form of a slave, by looking like other men, and by sharing in human nature."

Paul's words have caused immense difficulties for Trinitarianism. Their meaning hinges upon the question: what did Jesus "empty" himself of? Trinitarians aren't sure, because they can't agree amongst themselves on this point.

In the 19th Century, Lutheran theologian Gottfried Thomasius proposed that Jesus gave up three divine attributes (omniscience, omnipotence and omnipresence) as a necessary part of the incarnation process. This hypothesis is variously known as "kenosis theory" or "kenotic theology" and is considered heretical by the majority of mainstream Christians.

But Trinitarian critics of the traditional interpretation have pointed out that kenotic theology is an inescapable conclusion if harpagmos is interpreted as "retained" and morphē as "essential nature", since this requires that Christ lost his "essential nature" (or at least, some aspect of it) when he took upon himself the morphē of a servant.

Decker (Philippians 2:5-11, The Kenosis) highlights the extent of the problem by openly admitting that Trinitarianism currently contains 10 different hypotheses about the meaning of Philippians 2:7, most of which are irreconcilable with each other. According to these theories, Jesus variously:

  • Had a human soul, to which the Logos imparted divinity gradually until he was fully divine

  • Laid aside his deity and received it back again at his ascension

  • Abandoned certain divine prerogatives and permanent characteristics (e.g. omniscience)

  • Lived a "double life" in which his humanity and deity were divided to such an extent that they virtually comprised two individual persons, with his human side completely ignorant of his deity

  • Disguised his deity and divine attributes by limiting them temporarily

  • Gave up the use of certain attributes without actually losing them

  • Pretended that he did not possess his divine attributes

  • Gave up the independent exercise of his divine attributes, being solely guided and directed in their use by the Holy Spirit

  • Limited himself to the voluntary non-use of his attributes

  • Abandoned a substantial measure of independence in the exercise of his divine prerogatives

This lack of consensus is a testament to the unnecessary complications arising from the internal incoherence of Trinitarian Christology. Biblical Unitarianism has no such problems.

Some Trinitarians try to link verse 7 with II John 1:7 ("For many deceivers have gone out into the world, people who do not confess Jesus as Christ coming in the flesh. This person is the deceiver and the antichrist!") The connection is valid, but not in the way that they suppose. Rather than accepting the prima facie evidence of John's words (ie. "came in the flesh" = "was genuinely human"), they try to claim that John is speaking of the incarnation. In their minds, the phrase "Jesus as Christ coming in the flesh" appear as "Jesus as God coming in the flesh."

This subjective mistreatment of Scripture is often accompanied by the erroneous but popular belief that John's words were "written against Gnosticism." Gnosticism was a pseudo-religious ideology which taught that flesh was evil and spirit was good (some Orthodox Christians have argued that Gnostic concepts persist in mainstream Christianity via the Calvinist dogma of "Total Depravity"; a case for this might be made on the basis of Augustine's work in De Civitate Dei, which strongly influenced Calvin's theology).

Unfortunately for proponents of this theory, historical authorities agree that Gnosticism was a second-century heresy (e.g. Unger, "The Role of Archaeology in the Study Of the New Testament", Bibliotheca Sacra (116.462.153), 1996). Thus it was completely unknown to John, who wrote before it even existed. The false belief to which John alludes is actually Docetism, a first-century heresy which taught that Jesus only appeared to have a physical body, but was in fact an incorporeal spirit being (the evangelist refutes it in John 1:14 & I John 4:2-3).

Most lay Trinitarians are unconsciously docetic, since they cannot understand the mechanics of the hypostatic union and find it much easier to believe that Jesus is simply God appearing in the form of man ("In fact, popular supranaturalistic Christology has always been predominantly docetic", A. T. Robinson, Honest to God, SCM Press, 1963, p.65).
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#11 Evangelion

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Posted 07 May 2010 - 06:32 AM

Philippians 2:3-11 (V) From Humiliation to Glorification
Rob,

You approach Philippians 2:7 cautiously, still undecided about your options:

The expression "form of a servant" is parallel to "form of God" and means either that Christ took on the lowly nature of one of God’s created servants (if "form of God" means the divine nature) or that Christ took on the humble outward appearance of a servant (if "form of God" means the divine appearance).


As I've already shown, these two interpretations are incompatible. You have to choose one of the other. Which is it going to be? We've seen that the definition of morphē precludes the "divine nature" argument, so that's one down. Yet your other option ("divine glory") cannot stand either because it is entirely presuppositional, based entirely on the a priori assumption that Paul is speaking of a divine, pre-incarnate Christ.

Paul says absolutely nothing about a pre-incarnate Christ and makes no reference whatsoever to "divine glory." These are ideas you've imported to the text. Morphē doesn't mean "divine glory", and the example of Adam demonstrates that it is possible to be "in the form of God" without possessing "divine glory."

You eventually conclude that Jesus did not lose anything when he "emptied himself", and that the "emptying" was achieved by taking on "the form of a servant." But you equate "form of a servant" with "human nature", without presenting any evidence to support this idea.

The decision to go with "human nature" locks you into the "morphē = nature" argument, which is unfortunate because we have repeatedly seen that morphē does not refer to nature at all, which is why many Trinitarian scholars reject the morphē/nature hypothesis. How are you deriving "human nature" from "form of a servant" anyway? You don't explain and you offer no evidence; you merely assert it.

Having decided that "form of a servant" refers to human nature (against all evidence to the contrary), you briefly touch base with the "divine appearance" argument again before finally linking Jesus with Isaiah 53 — your first piece of Scriptural evidence in 715 words, and the only point upon which we can both agree. But the "servant" concept is not equated with human nature; it refers to Christ's ministry, not his ontology. Adam Clarke (Adam Clarke's Commentary, electronic edition):

Lastly, this sense of morfh qeou, is confirmed by the meaning of morqh doulou, Philippians ii. 7; which evidently denotes the appearance and behaviour of a servant or bondman, and not the essence of such a person.


Cf. Isaiah 53, Matthew 12:18 ("Here is my chosen servant!"), Luke 22:27 ("I have been with you as a servant"), John 13:3-5 ("...he began washing his disciples' feet and drying them with the towel he was wearing"), Acts 3:13 ("The God that Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and our other ancestors worshiped has brought honor to his Servant Jesus"), Acts 4:2, 30 ("Then they turned against your holy Servant Jesus... work miracles and wonders in the name of your holy Servant Jesus", Romans 15:8 ("I tell you that Christ came as a servant of the Jews").

Likewise, the glorification of the son requires no presumption of deity, and the "name above every name" is the name of Jesus, not Yahweh. M. R. Vincent (Word Studies in the New Testament, electronic edition):

A name Rev., correctly, the name. This expression is differently explained: either the particular name given to Christ, as Jesus or Lord; or name is taken in the sense of dignity or glory, which is a common Old-Testament usage, and occurs in Eph_1:21; Heb_1:4. Under the former explanation a variety of names are proposed, as Son of God, Lord, God, Christ Jesus.

The sense of the personal name Jesus seems to meet all the conditions, and the personal sense is the simpler, since Jesus occurs immediately after with the word name, and again Jesus Christ in Phi_2:11. The name Jesus was bestowed on Christ at the beginning of His humiliation, but prophetically as the One who should save His people from their sins, Mat_1:21.


Theodor M. Mauch (Philippians 2: 1-18: Greek or Hebraic?, lecture at Trinity College, 1968):

In the climax of the Philippian hymn, everyone recognizes the servant (doulos), the man who realized God’s life-style and the man who realized God’s intention in making man in His image; everyone acclaims this man as Lord (kyrios). In the servant God the Father is glorified, as in Isaiah 49:3 Yahweh is glorified in the servant. ...

The Philippian hymn climaxes in interrelated praise of the true man Jesus Christ and God the Father. This Hebraic reading of the Philippian hymn sees the themes as expressing not divine, albeit for a time veiled, ontology. Instead, the emphasis is upon activity, which indeed is the way the Old Testament speaks of God and man.


Rob, your interpretation of Philippians 2 is contradicted by standard theological and lexical authorities. It is inconsistent, unnecessarily complicated, and built on presuppositions which you make no attempt to substantiate.

I propose a simpler exegesis, which retains the OT subtext:

  • Despite being in the form of God and exemplifying His image perfectly, Jesus understood that equality with the Father was not something to be grasped at or stolen (unlike Adam, who hoped to seize it).

  • Instead, Jesus made himself nothing (unlike Adam, whose pride led to his fall), deliberately adopting a humble appearance as if he was merely a servant, and acting obediently in that role all the way to his death on the cross.

  • Consequently, God exalted Jesus and gave him a name above every name, so that everyone will bow the knee at the name of Jesus and confess him as Lord — to the glory of God, the Father.

Paul's triumphant climax echoes Isaiah 45:23 (where the Father declares His supremacy over creation) without quoting or applying it, as he does in Romans 14:11. Notice however, that Paul does not equate Jesus with Yahweh or "reveal" that Jesus is the God of Israel; he merely borrows the imagery of bowing the knee to emphasise Jesus' newly exalted status as king over all the earth. This strictly subordinationist Christology recalls the glorification of Joseph (a typological Christ) to express the glorification of God's Son:

Genesis 41:41, 43, "'See here,' Pharaoh said to Joseph, 'I place you in authority over all the land of Egypt.' ... Pharaoh had him ride in the chariot used by his second-in-command, and they cried out before him, 'Kneel down!' So he placed him over all the land of Egypt."


(Cf. John 8:54, "Jesus replied, 'If I glorify myself, my glory is worthless. The one who glorifies me is my Father, about whom you people say, 'He is our God''"; also I Corinthians 15:27-28, where the Son is permanently subordinate to the Father).

Central to Paul's theme is his exhortation that we can follow Jesus' example (cf. Matthew 20:26, "Instead whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant") and relate to him because he was just like us. This relationship is utterly destroyed by the Trinitarian view, which presents a "God-man" who merely pretended to be one of us for a few years and had no difficulty facing the trials and temptations of life because he was never properly human in the first place.

As Mauch puts it:

The Fathers countering the Arian dilution of Christ’s divinity clarified the terms "in the form of God" and "he emptied himself" to show that Christ is fully equal and co-existent with God. This dominant theology is evident in Calvin’s explanation of Philippians 2, "For a time his Divine glory was invisible, and nothing appeared but the human form, in a mean and abject condition."

In this Christology, "the truly human" is accomplished by someone who is pre-existent and transcendent. Emptied he may be, but is he truly man? If he is truly "emptied," then why not start there instead of constant reminders about his having the pre-existent context? It is difficult to have a two-nature theory and not re-fabricate dualism. The impact of this kind of Christology is that it confirms the Greek notion, and, one might add, the archaic, Ancient Near-Eastern view, that to be human is a negative condition.

Does a temporary orbit in the realm of the human have to be pasted on to the transcendent, in order for the human to become what it was intended to be? It would be hard to say that Philippians 2:1-18 in its traditional interpretation is causing very many people to become jubilant with the good news of the Gospel.


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Imago
Credo

#12 Evangelion

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Posted 07 May 2010 - 06:32 AM

Hebrews 1:1-13 (I) Heir, Image, and Creative Agent
Rob,

I find it interesting that you cite Hebrews 1:1-13 as your text and then completely ignore verse 1. Perhaps it's because you're not sure how to deal with this verse, which clearly states that God formerly spoke to people through His prophets, but has spoken through His Son "in these last days." Such a statement has obvious implications for the concept of Jesus' pre-existence and undermines the popular claim that OT angelic theophanies were actually appearances of the pre-incarnate Christ.

Despite this, you appear to approach the text with your usual preconception of pre-existence, as you did with Philippians 2. But why? I see no reference to pre-existence in the text, and no pre-incarnate Christ. Nor do some Trinitarian scholars:

The case for a belief in the pre-existence of Christ in Hebrews rests mainly on the opening sentence, with some support from the catena of quotations which immediately follows... My contention is that this traditional interpretation starts with the problematical instead of with the ascertainable. There are several difficulties about it, the first and most important being that it does not exactly represent what the author has said.

The epistle does not being with a reference to the eternal Son.
It begins with a contrast between what God has said in the past through the prophets, and what he has now, in these last days, said through Jesus. Here, as in the Fourth Gospel, "the Son" is always a title for the man Jesus. He it is whom God appointed heir to the universe and who has now by his heavenly exaltation entered upon that inheritance. Moreover, in one passage after another where that title is used, the idea of appointment is present in the context.


(G. B. Caird, "Son by Appointment" in The New Testament Age, ed., W. C. Weinrich; Mercer: Macon, 1984, pp.74).

You set up your exegesis by claiming that Jesus is spoken of in terms that are never used of angels (I entirely agree; it's a key feature of my own Christology) but is addressed in terms which are only consistent with the idea that he is genuinely God (a point you never actually prove). You further claim that "Not one of the proof texts in the catena in Hebrews 1 applied in reality to the Davidic king." This is a staggering assertion, flatly contradicted by Trinitarian and non-Trinitarian commentators alike.

As with every other Messianic passage, the OT texts applied to Christ in Hebrews 1 have a dual application. Some parts are equally true of Jesus and the Davidic king; others can only apply to the Davidic king; still others only find their true completion in Christ. For example, on Psalm 110:1, the NET footnotes say:

My lord. In the psalm's original context the speaker is an unidentified prophetic voice in the royal court. In the course of time the psalm is applied to each successive king in the dynasty and ultimately to the ideal Davidic king. NT references to the psalm understand David to be speaking about his "lord," the Messiah. (See Mat_22:43-45; Mar_12:36-37; Luk_20:42-44; Act_2:34-35)...

The Lord's invitation to the Davidic king to sit down at his right hand reflects the king's position as the Lord's vice-regent. When the Lord made his covenant with David, he promised to subdue the king's enemies (see 2Sa_7:9-11; Psa_89:22-23)


The speaker is a prophet, and his audience is the royal court. Thus, the entire psalm had an immediate, primary application to the Davidic kings of the OT era and a secondary application to Christ. While the full meaning of the psalm is only realised in the secondary application, this does not preclude a primary application. The same principle is repeated in other Messianic prophecies:

II Samuel 7:14, "He will build a house for my name, and I will make his dynasty permanent. I will become his father and he will become my son. When he sins, I will correct him with the rod of men and with wounds inflicted by human beings. But my loyal love will not be removed from him as I removed it from Saul, whom I removed from before you."


This verse is universally recognised as applying to both Solomon and Christ. Certain parts can only apply to Solomon ("When he sins, I will correct him with the rod of men") while others are only true of Christ ("I will make his dynasty permanent... Your house and your kingdom will stand before me permanently; your dynasty will be permanent").

Rob, your attempt to dismiss the well established principle of prophetic dual application is patently unjustifiable, reflecting a need to invent radical, subjective interpretations whenever mainstream exegesis does not support your preconceptions. It is not the first time you have done this.

Despite the obvious care you have taken to establish exegetical parameters which favour your Christology, the nature of your conditional exegesis does not preclude an Arian interpretation (remember that the Arians also called Jesus "God" and saw him as the agent of creation), so I could accept your entire excursus on Hebrews 1 and still reject Trinitarianism. I trust this was not the intended result?

You inform us that Jesus is the heir of all things (I agree) and that he was personally responsible for creation (I disagree). Strangely, you assert that Hebrews 1:2b refers to the literal creation without offering any evidence to support this interpretation. Rob, I think it's important to tell our readers that the Greek word translated "world" here is "aion." We saw earlier that this word does not mean "world" or "universe"; it means "age, generation" (Liddell-Scott-James), "space of time" (TDNT), "a long period of time, without reference to beginning or end" (BDAG). Typical NT uses of aion include:

  • Matthew 12:32, "Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven. But whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age [aion] or in the age [aion] to come"

  • Luke 20:34, "So Jesus said to them, "The people of this age [aion] marry and are given in marriage"

  • I Corinthians 2:6, "Now we do speak wisdom among the mature, but not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age [aion], who are perishing"

  • Galations 1:4, "...who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from this present evil age [aion] according to the will of our God and Father"

  • Colossians 1:26, "...that is, the mystery that has been kept hidden from ages [aion] and generations, but has now been revealed to his saints"

  • Hebrews 9:26, "... But now he has appeared once for all at the consummation of the ages [aion]to put away sin by his sacrifice"

In reference to the last quotation, Trinitarian scholar Marvin R. Vincent (Word Studies of the New Testament, electronic edition):

In the end of the world (ἐπὶ συντελείᾳ τῶν αἰώνων)
In N.T συντέλεια consummation, always with αἰὼν age. With the plural αἰώσων only here. Everywhere else συντέλεια αἰῶνος. The A.V. gives a wrong impression as of the end of this visible world. The true sense is the consummation of the ages: that is to say, Christ appeared when the former ages had reached their moral consummation under the old Levitical economy. Comp. Hebrews 1:2.


(Vincent betrays his preconceptions by translating aion as "creation unfolded in time through successive aeons" in Hebrews 1:2, even though this is not a natural reading).

Hebrews 1:2b is part of the "new creation" schema that we find in places like Colossians 1 and II Peter 3. It tells us that the era of the new creation was itself created through Christ; that is, made possible through his sacrificial death (for more on this, refer back to my analysis of I Corinthians 8:6).

Verse 3 refers to Jesus as "the radiance of his glory and the representation of his essence." The Greek word translated as "representation" here is "charaktēr", meaning "exact image" or "representation" and is derived from the concept of a stamp or imprint.

Liddell-Scott-James:

a mark engraved or impressed, the impress or stamp on coins and seals... the mark impressed (as it were) on a person or thing, a distinctive mark, characteristic, character... impress, image


BDAG:

a mark or impression placed on an object... impress, reproduction, representation... of a distinguishing mark trademark... something produced as a representation... characteristic trait or manner, distinctive mark... an impression that is made, outward aspect, outward appearance, form


Charaktēr therefore refers to a copy bearing the appearance of the original, without implying that the copy is equal or identical to the original in an ontological sense. Hebrews 1:3 echoes Colossians 1:15 ("He is the image of the invisible God"), affirming that Jesus reflects God perfectly in every way, revealing His image, glory and character to the world. It also reaffirms Jesus' role as the one who sustains the new creation era, echoing the Father's role in Hebrews 11:3 ("By faith we understand that the worlds [aion] were set in order at God's command, so that the visible has its origin in the invisible").

In the verses which follow, the author of Hebrews repeatedly emphasises Jesus' exalted position, demonstrating that he is ranked above everyone and everything in heaven and earth — except the Father (cf. I Corinthians 15:27-28, "But when it says 'everything' has been put in subjection, it is clear that this does not include the one who put everything in subjection to him. And when all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will be subjected to the one who subjected everything to him"). This description of Jesus' supreme pre-eminence matches the high Christology of Biblical Unitarianism.
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#13 Evangelion

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Posted 09 May 2010 - 09:09 AM

Hebrews 1:1-13 (II) Firstborn and "God"
Verse 6 provides a doxology to the Son ("Let all the angels of God worship him!"), but the Greek word for "worship" here is proskuneo, which does not carry the innate sense of religious worship and most often refers to obeisance or prostration within a regal context. I need not expand on this, since it has already been covered by my discussion of the NT words for worship in Week 2, which can be read by clicking here.

The origin of the quotation in verse 6 is disputed, but commentators generally agree that it cites Deuteronomy 32:43 from the LXX:

Rejoice, ye heavens, with him, and let all the angels of God worship him; rejoice ye Gentiles, with his people, and let all the sons of God strengthen themselves in him; for he will avenge the blood of his sons, and he will render vengeance, and recompense justice to his enemies, and will reward them that hate him; and the Lord shall purge the land of his people.


The referent here is not God but Israel, described elsewhere as God's "firstborn" (Exodus 4:22, "'Israel is my son, my firstborn'"). This provides the primary typological reference upon which the author of Hebrews is able to draw for his secondary application in Hebrews 1:6. G. W. Buchanan (To the Hebrews,2nd ed.; New York: Doubleday 1976, p.17):

In Hebrew texts of Deut 32:43, the object of adoration was probably intended to be "his people", with the "heavens", "nations", "gods", "sons of God", or "angels of God" doing the worshipping. The LXX translator understood God to the object of worship throughout. He was probably dissatisfied with the theology that suggested any object of worship other than God...


Another point of evidence favouring this interpretation is the most obvious fact that it would be impossible for the author of Hebrews to describe God as "firstborn", particularly since "God" is the Father throughout Deuteronomy 32, and not the Son. By the author's own rules, the use of "firstborn" in Hebrews 1:6 can only be valid if the original referent is a Messianic type, and thus the reference is to Israel, not God Himself:

Just as God once brought His people into Canaan, now He has brought His firstborn Son into the true heavenly homeland and thus opened the way for His other sons to enter this homeland.


(G. L. Cockerill, "Hebrews 1:6: Source and Significance", as cited by Peter T. O'Brien in The Letter to the Hebrews, Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2010, p.69).

The application of theos ("God") to Jesus in verse 8 is derived from Psalm 45:6-7, where it refers to a Jewish king in his role as God's representative on Earth, as noted by the NET translators:

The king is clearly the addressee here, as in Psa_45:2-5 and Psa_45:7-9. Rather than taking the statement at face value, many prefer to emend the text because the concept of deifying the earthly king is foreign to ancient Israelite thinking (cf. NEB "your throne is like God's throne, eternal"). However, it is preferable to retain the text and take this statement as another instance of the royal hyperbole that permeates the royal psalms. Because the Davidic king is God's vice-regent on earth, the psalmist addresses him as if he were God incarnate


Just as nobody would have mistaken this as a reference to literal deity in the psalmist's era, we also have no reason to assume literal deity from the use of this term in reference to Christ (as previously noted, even the Arians had no difficulty accepting this verse). To claim that theos implies the true deity of the Son but not the true deity of its original recipient is to commit the fallacy of special pleading, since there is nothing in Hebrews 1 which suggests that Jesus is literally God in the fullest sense of the word.

Since I take no issue with the rest of the chapter, the only other passage requiring attention is Hebrews 1:10-12, where Psalm 102:25 is apparently applied to Christ.

A notable feature of verse 10 is the lack of any explicit reference to Jesus. Every other OT quotation has always been preceded by a phrase which points directly to the Son, either by mentioning him specifically, drawing upon a previous reference, or presenting a comparison:

  • Verse 5: "for to which of the angels did God ever say..."

  • Verse 6: "when he brings his firstborn into the world, he says..."

  • Verse 8: "but of the Son he says..."

  • Verse 13: "but to which of the angels has he ever said..."

Verse 10 has no such pointer; it simply commences with the Greek word "kai", which usually means "and" but can also mean "but", "so", "also", "if", "moreover", "even", "that", "then", "for", "indeed", or "likewise" (Liddell-Scott-James lexicon; full definition and semantic range here). Unlike the other verses there is no unambiguous reference to Jesus, so we are not required to read the OT quotation as applying directly to him. The Contemporary English Version retains this ambiguity:

The Scriptures also say, "In the beginning, Lord, you were the one who laid the foundation of the earth and created the heavens. They will all disappear and wear out like clothes, but you will last forever. You will roll them up like a robe and change them like a garment. But you are always the same, and you will live forever."


Note the difference between the introduction to this passage and the phrase "God says about his son...", which is how the CEV introduces verse 8.

I believe that verses 10-12 should be read as a parenthetical doxology to the Father in contradistinction to the Son, with kai translated "but" instead of "and." This maintains the structure of Hebrews 1, which is constructed as a series of contrasts, primarily for the purpose of demonstrating the Son's glorified rank above all creation. Thus, verses 8-12 would read:

"but of the Son he says, 'Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, and a righteous scepter is the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness. So God, your God, has anointed you over your companions with the oil of rejoicing.' (But you, Lord, founded the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the works of your hands. They will perish, but you continue. And they will all grow old like a garment, and like a robe you will fold them up: and like a garment they will be changed, but you are the same and your years will never run out)".


(The usual Greek word for "but" is "deh", but the author of Hebrews tends to use it interchangeably with kai; cf. Hebrews 3:10, 3:18, 6:11, 7:2, 7:7, 9:3, 9:5, 10:33, 11:35, 11:36, 12:6, 12:27 and 13:22).

Another reason for favouring this interpretation is that Psalm 102 is not Messianic and does not have an immediate typological referent, but is addressed directly to the Father. To interpret Psalm 102:25 as speaking of the Son is to believe that the Father appeals to the Son as "Lord", which is theologically untenable. The speaker in Psalm 102 is King David, the context of the psalm is a prayer for support in time of trouble ("The prayer of an oppressed man, as he grows faint and pours out his lament before the LORD"), and the doxology in verse 25 contains no Messianic references.

While it is common for Scripture to ascribe statements to the Father which written or spoken via human agents under divine inspiration (as in Psalm 110:1), this only ever occurs in the context of Messianic prophecy, where the immediate referent is a typological Christ. In the case of Psalm 102 the referent is not a typological Christ, but the Father Himself. This ultimately eliminates Psalm 102:25 as an example of the Father speaking to the Son via divine agency.

Arguably the most striking feature of Hebrews 1 is its explicit subordinationism, with Jesus represented as the exalted Son of God who does not possess his glorified position inherently, but receives it from the Father. He is "appointed heir of all things" (verse 2), and "became superior to the angels" (verse 4) by "inheriting a name superior to theirs" (verse 4). This cannot be true of an eternally-existing deity, as even some Trinitarian commentators have conceded.

G. B. Caird ("Son by Appointment" in The New Testament Age, 1984, pp.75, 81):

Christ ranks higher than the angels because, by God's decree, he holds a superior rank; and this theme is sustained throughout the whole sequence of the seven quotations...

Dom Gregory Dix warned us many years ago against supposing that, if we compare a Christology expressed in functional, Hebraic terms with one expressed in ontological, Greek terms, the first necessarily will be "lower" and the second "higher." The author of Hebrews has no place in his thinking for pre-existence as an ontological concept.His essentially human Jesus attains to perfection, to pre-eminence, and even to eternity. Yet his is a high Christology. He could have sung with Thomas Kelly:

"The highest place that heaven affords
Is His, is His by right."

But the right was guaranteed by the place he held in the eternal purpose of God.


As usual, I will allow you the final word in this thread.
In necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas
Imago
Credo




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