Posted 14 August 2004 - 03:02 PM
John 1:1-3 is known amongst Christians as “the battleground of the Trinity” – and it is not hard to see why. At first glance, this passage may appear to show irrefutable evidence for the deity and pre-existence of Christ. But a careful analysis will show that the entire Trinitarian case turns upon a spurious translation of John 1:1-3, by means of which the Greek word ”logos” is subjected to the most astonishing abuse.
As with any other proof text, the most effective way to refute the Trinitarian claim is to build up a counter-argument on the basis of first principles, in addition to the socio-historical context of John’s Gospel. But before we do anything else, we must establish that the logos is not a person, but rather the outworking of God's purpose and plan. This is even clearer when we read the Genesis record, in which:God said… and it was so.
Even a cursory glance at Scripture is enough to show that the Old Testament creation account never uses the language that Trinitarianism requires. Not once does Genesis attempt to persuade us that this spoken word was a divine person. Not once is this spoken word referred to as a distinct entity. It is always described as “the word” of God – never as God Himself.
Thus, in the words of Psalm 33:6 & 9...By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth... For he spake, and it was done; he commanded, and it stood fast.
See also Psalm 107:20; 147:15, 18, 19, Hebrews 11:3 (compare with Jeremiah 10:12, 13:5) and II Peter 3:5,7:. . . by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water . . . But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.
Ignoring the fact that the message of the New Testament is necessarily founded upon the old (and therefore cannot contradict it) Trinitarians place great emphasis on the alleged significance of the word logos in the Johannine prologue, which they claim is a direct reference to the pre-existent Christ.
The superficial nature of this argument is easily exposed.
Posted 14 August 2004 - 03:04 PM
That is the context in which the word "word" is used, both in the OT and the NT. This means that even if we accept the KJV reading (“…he was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him… by him was not anything made that was made…”) at face value, it must still be proved that a literal, personal being is here referred to. The very most that a Trinitarian can claim (on the basis of the KJV rendition) is that the logos has simply been personified.
Hence the following observations from a standard authority:
Prior to verse 14 we are in the same realm as pre-Christian talk of wisdom and logos, the same language that we find in the wisdom tradition and in Philo, where as we have seen we are dealing with personifications rather than persons, personified actions of God rather than an individual divine being as such. The point is obscured by the fact that we have to translate the masculine "logos" as "He" throughout the poem.
But if we translated "logos" as "God's utterance" instead, it would become clearer that the poem did not necessarily intend the "logos" in verses 1-13 to be thought of as a personal divine being. In other words the revolutionary significance of verse 14 may well be that it marks . . . the transition from impersonal personification to actual person. 
Christ was certainly God's spoken word in action – and therefore His representative on Earth – but that was all. He did not pre-exist as some sort of supernatural thing called "The Word."
Posted 14 August 2004 - 03:05 PM
In most instances, Scripture describes this event in the following way:The word [dabar] of Yahweh came to…
At some point however, we must address the fact that there are a couple of passages in which Christ is called “the logos of God.” What do we make of them? What are they telling us, and how might they be explained to our interested friends?
The answer is found in the principle of God manifestation.
Christ is the complete manifestation ("revelation") of the logos, for "in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily." (Colossians 2:9.) This same logos was “in the beginning with God”, before the existence of Christ.
When the "word was made flesh" (John 1:14) then, and only then, did Christ come into existence as “the logos made flesh.” Christ is called the logos (Revelation 19:13, compare with I John 1:1; Luke 1:2) because he constitutes the outworking of God’s logos; the physical reality of a plan which had previously existed in the mind of God.
Was there is a pre-existence of that which was and is Jesus Christ? Not in any literal sense whatsoever. A man might say that he existed as "A twinkle in my father's eye and a knowing look on my mother's face", but this is radically different from literal pre-existence. Could we honestly tell our friends that "That which is me, existed before I was conceived"? Not at all.
Christ came into existence when he was conceived and subsequently begotten. When did this occur? Luke 1:35 tells us that it was some two thousand years ago in Palestine, when the power of God overshadowed Mary, the betrothed of Joseph. (See also Matthew 1:20.)
Posted 14 August 2004 - 03:06 PM
Thus:The notion that the Son was begotten by the Father in eternity past, not as an event, but as an inexplicable relationship, has been accepted and carried along in the Christian theology since the fourth century....
We have examined all the instances in which 'begotten' or 'born' or related words are applied to Christ, and we can say with confidence that the Bible has nothing whatsoever to say about 'begetting' as an eternal relationship between the Father and the Son. 
We see therefore, that when John speaks of the logos he does not refer to a pre-existent Messiah – he refers to the conception of a Divine plan and purpose, which found its literal expression in the person of Jesus Christ.
Posted 14 August 2004 - 03:09 PM
His chief concern is that:
The point is obscured by the fact that we have to translate the masculine "logos" as "He" throughout the poem.
But Dunn is clearly labouring under a false assumption. There are no grounds on which it might be argued that we have to refer to the “logos” as “He.” It is true that the word “logos” is masculine (at least, in the grammatical sense) but this is irrelevant. Instead of focusing his attention on the word "logos", Dunn would do better to examine the word autos, which the KJV has translated as “Him.”
In fact, right up until the publication of the KJV 1611, most Bibles referred to the logos of John 1 as “it” instead of "he", even though their translators believed the logos to be a pre-existent Christ.
Yes, the logos was “in the beginning… with God.” But it was not God Himself, nor was it another divine being beside Him. So, while the logos (according to John) is divine, the logos is not the pre-existent Christ.
This distinction is crucial.
Posted 14 August 2004 - 03:24 PM
Here we seem to have a reiteration of John 1:3 - All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.
Under the Trinitarian interpretation, both verses are taken as saying that Christ himself was personally responsible for the Genesis creation; and at face value, this seems to be an inescapable conclusion.
We are told that Christ was "in the world"; we are told that he "made the world" and we are told that "the world knew him not." Clearly, the "world" being referred to here is the same "world" in each instance: the material world of verse 1. It seems most unlikely that John is speaking of the spiritual world (or "new creation", as Paul calls it in Colossians 1), since this would make no sense in the context of the statements "he was in the world" and "the world knew him not."
While it is true that John is no longer speaking of the logos at this point (for verse 10 is actually speaking of "the light"), it is nevertheless clear that "the light" is an unequivocal reference to Christ.
However, there is a proviso to this reference, for we must remember that verse 4 has described the light as something that was in the logos - proving that the light is not synonymous with the logos. This is conclusive proof that Jesus cannot be the logos himself.
But how are we to understand verse 10? While we agree that Christ was "in the world" and also that "the world knew him not", in what sense can Christ be said to have "made" the very world in which he lived, and which knew him not?
The answer is found by interpreting Scripture with Scripture.
Posted 14 August 2004 - 03:26 PM
This is easy enough to understand, for Scripture provides us wth many examples:
- John 9:5
As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.
- John 17:11
And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.
- John 17:12
While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition; that the scripture might be fulfilled.
- John 17:13
And now come I to thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they might have my joy fulfilled in themselves.
Posted 14 August 2004 - 04:48 PM
This is difficult to understand in the context of Biblical Unitarianism unless we take care to examine the wider application of the word ginomai.
Thayer's Greek Lexicon defines it in the following way:1) to become, i.e. to come into existence, begin to be, receive being
2) to become, i.e. to come to pass, happen
2a) of events
3) to arise, appear in history, come upon the stage
3a) of men appearing in public
4) to be made, finished
4a) of miracles, to be performed, wrought
5) to become, be made
The use of ginomai to denote something which has been finished (alternatively "fulfilled" or "completed") is far better suited to the context of John 1:10 than the customary "made", since verse 10 refers specifically to the period during which Christ was "in the world" and thereby draws our attention to the mission that he was sent to perform.
There are many other passages in Scripture which support this reading of ginomai:
- Matthew 5:18
For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled [ginomai].
- Matthew 24:34
Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled [ginomai].
- Luke 21:32
Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled [ginomai].
- John 13:2
And supper being ended [ginomai], the devil having now put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray him;
- Hebrews 4:3
For we which have believed do enter into rest, as he said, As I have sworn in my wrath, if they shall enter into my rest: although the works were finished [ginomai] from the foundation of the world.
- Revelation 16:17
And the seventh angel poured out his vial into the air; and there came a great voice out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, It is done. [ginomai]
- Revelation 21:6
And he said unto me, It is done. [ginomai] I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely.
The same is equally true of John 1:10, where the purpose of Christ being "in the world" is to complete it; to fulfill it; to bring into fruition God's purpose with it.
But the strongest support for this reading comes from Christ himself, for in John 5:36 he makes an explicit reference to his role as the "finisher" of God's work:But I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me.
The meaning of John 1:10 is clear: Christ did not create the world, but instead came to change it - for he is both the focal point of God’s creation and the means by which it is redeemed.
This is the point that John wishes us to understand.
Posted 14 August 2004 - 04:54 PM
and the world knew him not.
This, too, receives ample support from the rest of the New Testament - and lest we mistakenly assume that it refers only to unbelievers, John the Baptist himself openly admits that even he did not recognise Christ until he received a sign from the Holy Spirit:
- John 1:31
And I knew him not: but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water.
- John 1:33
And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost.
- Act 13:27
For they that dwell at Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning him.
- I Corinthians 2:7-8
But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory:
Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
Posted 14 August 2004 - 05:02 PM
Here we must take care to read the text properly. We have been told that it was the logos which was made flesh - not God Himself. But what does this mean?
I refer once again to Dunn’s analysis:But if we translated "logos" as "God's utterance" instead, it would become clearer that the poem did not necessarily intend the "logos" in verses 1-13 to be thought of as a personal divine being. In other words the revolutionary significance of verse 14 may well be that it marks . . . the transition from impersonal personification to actual person. 
Indeed, it certainly does! Just as the spoken logos of God had once brought forth light, it now resulted in a living entity – Jesus of Nazareth; the promised Messiah.
Notice also John's use of ginomai, denoting a change of the logos from what it already was, to something that it had not previously been.
Once again, Scripture is our guide.
In Matthew 4:3 and Luke 4:3 we read ...command that these stones become [ginomai] bread.
And again, in John 2:9 - the water... was made [ginomai] wine.
Examples could be multiplied.
The logos (God's plan and purpose, originally residing in His divine mind and later spoken in an act of creation) was now embodied in a new creation: the immaculate conception of Jesus Christ in the womb of the virgin Mary.
John's use of metonymy (in which the part is taken for the whole) employs "flesh" as synonymous with "person" or "human being." He is telling us that the logos did not simply become a piece of abstract flesh; it became a literal person; it became Jesus of Nazareth.
Posted 14 August 2004 - 05:05 PM
The astute reader of early Christian history will discover that it is possible to follow the evolution of the logos as a Jewish theological concept into the logos as a Hellenic philosophical concept - and, ultimately, a stepping-stone to Trinitarianism. It all began with the work of a man called Philo.
Philo (a well-educated Hellenic Jew from Alexandria) had a considerable influence on Christian leaders of the "Alexandrian School", such as Clement of Alexandria and Justin Martyr. His allegorical method for interpreting Scripture also influenced Origen, Ambrose, Augustine, and others.
Many elements of his philosophy made an impact on later Christian thinking, including his use of proofs for God's existence, his logos doctrine, his views about the unknowability of God, his negative language about God, his position on ex nihilo creation, and his interpretation of Divine providence.
Posted 14 August 2004 - 05:06 PM
Interacting freely with Greek philosophy, Philo borrowed certain Platonic concepts to express his own theistic views. His concept of the logos is a case in point.
In De Opificio he describes the logos as a cosmological principle, saying:God assuming, as God would assume, that a beautiful copy could never come into existence without a beautiful model...when He willed to create this visible world, first blocked out the intelligible world, in order that using an incorporeal and godlike model he might make the corporeal world a younger image of the older. 
Philo's philosophy was the original source of what later became the logos theology of mainstream Christianity. 
Posted 14 August 2004 - 05:09 PM
But, as we have already seen, Robinson dismisses both claims with a common-sense reply:John is a typical representative of the New Testament, not the anomalous exception, with one foot in the world of Greek philosophy, that he is so often presented. 
Of course, there is no disputing the fact that the term logos was widely used in the Greco-Roman culture (and also in Judaism), but not until the writings of Philo does the logos eventually become personified beyond personification and regarded as a, personal literal entity.
In the LXX, the term logos (Hebrew: dabar) was used frequently to describe God's utterances, and the messages of prophets - by means of which God communicated His will to His people. Logos occurs in both the major and minor prophetical books, as a figure of speech designating God's activity or action.
The Greek, metaphysical concept of logos is in sharp contrast to the concept of a personal God described in anthropomorphic terms typical of Hebrew thought. Thus when Hebrew mythical thought encountered Greek philosophical thought, it was only natural that some would try to develop speculative and philosophical justification for Judaism in terms of Greek philosophy.
Philo (who was, we must remember, a Hellenized Jew) produced a synthesis of both traditions developing concepts for the future Hellenistic interpretation of Messianic Hebrew thought. His theology was drawn not just from his traditional Jewish background, but also from the philosophical ideas of the Greek culture in which he found himself.
One of his more creative ideas was the suggestion that Plato had borrowed his own conception of the logos from the writings of Moses! Consequently, Philo’s logos is not entirely foreign to the Jewish or Hellenic schools of thought - but at the same time not entirely compatible with either of them.
This Logos, which according to the Stoics is the bond between the different parts of the world, and according to the Heracliteans the source of the cosmic oppositions, is regarded by Philo as the Divine word which reveals God to the soul and calms the passions (see LOGOS).
It is finally from this point of view of the interior life that Philo transforms the moral conception of the Greeks which he knew mainly in the most popular forms (cynical diatribes); he discovers in them the idea of the moral conscience accepted though but slightly developed by philosophers up to that time.
A very interesting point of view is the consideration of the various moral systems of the Greeks, not simply as true or false, but as so many indications of the soul's progress or recoil at different stages. 
Posted 14 August 2004 - 05:12 PM
The church preserved the Philonic writings because Eusebius of Caesarea labeled the monastic ascetic groups of Therapeutae and Therapeutrides (described in Philo's The Contemplative Life) as Christians. Eusebius promoted the legend that Philo met Peter in Rome, while Jerome (345-420 CE) even lists him as a church Father! All of this was patently false; but in time (as with so many man-made traditions), it came to be accepted as true.
The early synthesis between Hellenic philosophy and early Christianity was made easier by the fact that so many of the earliest apologists (such as Athenagoras and Martyr) were Greek converts themselves, whose belief system had consisted more of philosophy than religion.
Anyone who claims to believe in the “God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” would be well advised to note that Jewish tradition was uninterested in philosophical speculation and did not preserve Philo's teachings. Indeed, it is possible to contrast his understanding of the logos against the Hebrew dabar, which (to a large extent) it was actually intended to identify, personify, and explain.
In the words of Philo himself:The Absolute Being, the Father, who had begotten all things, gave an especial grace to the Archangel and First-born Logos (Word), that standing between, He might sever the creature from the Creator. The same is ever the Intercessor for the dying mortal before the immortal God, and the Ambassador and the Ruler to the subject. He is neither without beginning of days, as God is, nor is He begotten, as we are, but is something between these extremes, being connected with both. 
Posted 14 August 2004 - 05:13 PM
The earliest Christians (such as Peter, Paul, James, and John) were Jews themselves, which explains why the 1st Century church remained theologically static. Only later - in the 2nd Century and beyond - do we begin to find a subtle Hellenic influence taking hold. The Jewish Christians (with a conservative theology that was deeply rooted in the essential teachings of the Old Testament) strongly resisted any attempt to hijack, transform, or “develop” Christianity.
It was the Hellenic Christians such as Justin Martyr and Athenagoras (both well versed in Greek philosophy) who eventually transmuted the words of John into the logos of Platonic and Philonic philosophy. Searching for a way to justify Christianity in the eyes of their non-Christian colleagues, they soon found themselves justifying Hellenism to the Christians.
Thus:The apologists began to claim that Greek culture pointed to and was consummated in the Christian message, just as the Old Testament was. This process was done most thoroughly in the synthesis of Clement of Alexandria. It can be done in several ways.
You can rake through Greek literature, and find (especially in the oldest seers and poets) references to ‘God’ which are more compatible with monotheism than with polytheism (so at length Athenagoras.) You can work out a common chronology between the legends of prehistoric (Homer) Greece and the biblical record (so Theophilus.)
You can adapt a piece of pre-Christian Jewish apologetic, which claimed that Plato and other Greek philosophers got their best ideas indirectly from the teachings of Moses in the Bible, which was much earlier.
This theory combines the advantage of making out the Greeks to be plagiarists (and therefore second-rate or criminal), while claiming that they support Christianity by their arguments at least some of the time. Especially this applied to the question of God.
Justin’s ‘creed’, as we saw, spoke of a transcendent God and Father, of his Son (with the angels), and of the Spirit of prophecy. This triple confession is in line with what we know of the baptismal formula.
But when we look at the theology of the apologists, we find that generally their thought is ‘binitarian’ rather than ‘trinitarian’: it speaks of God and his Word, rather than of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The term ‘Trinity’ was not yet in use in the Church.
Theophilus is the first to use the Greek word for Trinity (trias, triad), when he takes the first three days of creation as signifying the trinity of ‘God and his Word and his Wisdom’ (To Autolycus 2.15), and Tertullian soon after 200 was using the Latin trinitas of God.
If we suppose that the baptismal confession and central Christian belief was in a threefold form, we have to account for the binitarian thought of Justin and those like him. The most obvious explanation is that their apologetic is directed towards Greek thought. They began from what appeared to be common ground.
Among the Greeks, a familiar notion was the thought of an utterly transcendent, perfect, unmoving God, and of a second, mediating, active being responsible for the created order, whether as its superior governor or as its immanent soul.
Such a theology was being propounded, for instance, by the Platonist Albinos in Asia Minor at the same time that Justin was himself there, before he moved to Rome. 
Posted 14 August 2004 - 05:15 PM
The only way to reconcile the strict “Jewishness” of John’s gospel with his (apparent) references to Christ’s pre-existence, is to accept his words in the context of Jewish thought (as opposed to Greek philosophy) and realise that he speaks of a pre-destined Messiah, rather than the “Eternal Son” of modern Trinitarianism.
Thus:First we have the Christology of the Synoptic Gospels, and here it cannot be contended on any sufficient grounds that they give us the slightest justification for advancing beyond the idea of a purely human Messiah.
The idea of preexistence lies completely outside the Synoptic sphere of view. Nothing can show this more clearly than the narrative of the supernatural birth of Jesus.
All that raises him above humanity - though it does not take away the pure humanity of his person - is to be referred only to the causality of the "pneuma hagion," which brought about his conception. This spirit, as the principle of the Messianic epoch, is also the element which constitutes his Messianic personality.
The Synoptic Christology has for its substantial foundation the notion of the Messiah, designated and conceived as the "huios theou"; and all the points in the working out of the notion rest on the same supposition of a nature essentially human. God raised him from the dead, because it was not possible that he should be holden of it (Acts 2:24). 
Posted 14 August 2004 - 05:17 PM
 Dunn, James D. G. (1980), Christology in the Making.
 Buswell, J. O. (1962), A Systematic Theology of the Christian Religion. Buswell is a former Dean of the Graduate School, Covenant College, St. Louis, MO.
 Dunn, James D. G. (1980), Christology in the Making.
 As quoted by Norman L. Geisler (2000) in his Baker Encyclopaedia of Christian Apologetics.
 This argument is comprehensively articulated (and defended) by a number of classical historians. For additional reading on the evolution of early Christian theology and practice (with particular reference to the infiltration of Hellenism), see Jaeger’s Early Christianity and Greek Paideia (1961), Engels’ Die Neue Zeit, Vol. 1 (1894-95), Werner’s The Formation of Christian Dogma, An Historical Study of its Problems (1957), and Reynolds’ The Christian Religious Tradition (1977).
 Robinson, J.A.T. (1984), Twelve More New Testament Studies. Robinson (now deceased) was a former Bishop of the Anglican Church in Woolwich during the 1960s.
 The Catholic Encyclopaedia (1908).
 Ante-Nicene Christian Library; Edinburgh: T&T Clark, (1868) or later editions.
 Hall, Stuart G. (1991), Doctrine and Practice in the Early Church. Hall was formerly Professor of Ecclesiastical History at King’s College, London. He now works as a parish priest of the Scottish Episcopal Church in Fife.
 Baur, F.C. (1853), The Church History of the First Three Centuries.
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