Blog

The Great Trinity Debate, Part 3: Dave Burke on Jesus Christ, continued

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:

  1. Sin deserves death
  2. Sacrifice offers a covering for sin
  3. 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; (c) 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 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:

  1. 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)
  2. A man, raised up from among his brethren, bearing the same nature that they shared
  3. 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 has 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 (c) 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.

33 Responses to “The Great Trinity Debate, Part 3: Dave Burke on Jesus Christ, continued”

  1. This section – Jesus Christ: Son of David; Born of a Woman; Made Like His Brethren – shows up twice in Burke’s article.

  2. Thanks Scott, I have amended it.

  3. Since the pingback didn’t pop up, my comments are here, Dave.

  4. Burke said some good things. Some other arguments are insufficient to prove the point he is trying to make.

    For example, Burke seems to think that to demonstrate the occurrence of “predestination language” in itself (although some of his examples are debatable) is enough evidence that this concept can be forced on everything Jesus himself and the Bible says about Jesus’ prehuman existence. For example, in John 17 Burke quotes Gilbert who states that “the pre-existence of Jesus, according to the seventeenth chapter of John, is clearly ideal,” but Burke utterly forgets to even attempt to show us why *all of this* must be “clearly ideal”. The circular reasoning that follows is really funny: because it is supposedly 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.” So, because “predestination language” occurs in the Bible, Jesus’ prehuman existence can be denied as it makes the pre-existence of Jesus in John 17 “clearly ideal.” And as it clear, the concept can be used to override John 17:5, inherently admitting that John 17 was *not so clear* to begin with after all!

    Is this Burke’s supposed reading of John 17:5?
    “And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you (but do not have now) before I even existed.”

    ???

  5. Burke also says that Jesus is “only” firstborn of the “NEW creation.” This seems to be an evident weakness in his “Biblical Unitarian” Christology, because Scripture itself explicitly states that Jesus is the firstborn of “ALL [pas] creation,” which is unambiguously affirmed in Rev 3:14 where Jesus is plainly called “the beginning of God’s creation,” without anything in the context that might give the impression that this doesn’t quite mean what it literally says.

    For convenience’s sake Burke even has the guts to just eliminate that uncomfortable word “all” in his quotation of Col 1:15, saying: “Paul refers to Jesus as “firstborn of creation” (Colossians 1:15)”

    “All creation,” Burke, not just the “new creation”!

    Burke writes: “In Philippians 2:5-11 Paul makes the connection explicit,” and I agree. Especially verse 7 which says that Jesus “emptied himself, taking a bondman’s form, taking his place in the likeness of men” (Darby). Emptied himself from what? From the attributes he had before he even existed?? He emptied himself from the glory he had as an idea in the mind of God? Yeah, right…

    (On the other hand, did he actually empty himself from *something*? Bowman says: no, it doesn’t mean what it says, it is “an idiom synonymous with “humbled himself” later in the verse.” But he fails to demonstrate *why* the ’emptying of himself’ is supposed to be the same thing as the ‘humbling himself’ that he he did after the ’emptying himself’, and also why it makes even sense to say the same things two times, if it means exactly the same thing.)

    I suggest we simply take these verses to literally mean what they say when accepting the most natural reading of the text. It is in perfect harmony with the Bible as a whole.

  6. Helez
    As Paul is so obviously referring to the pride of Adam versus the servant in Isaiah, I would suggest “emptied” is referring to the “poured out” in Isaiah 53:12.

  7. Helez – “why it makes even sense to say the same things two times, if it means exactly the same thing.”

    Google the term “parallelism” – it’s a literary device used throughout the Bible.

    Here’s an example:

    Genesis 4:23: “Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; / Wives of Lamech, listen to my speech! / For I have killed a man for wounding me / Even a young man for hurting me.”

  8. Marke,

    Isa 53:12 is talking about his death in the end. Jesus himself referred to this verse in Lu 22:37.

    I understand Php 2:7 to refer to the humility God’s Son showed by accepting the assignment to come to earth. He “emptied himself” of his heavenly glory and spirit nature to be born a helpless human infant, not a God-Man with two natures bound together in a single person.

  9. Stephan,
    That doesn’t fully apply here. Php 2:7-8 (NASB) says that
    1) he “emptied Himself” by coming to be “in the likeness of men” (v. 7), and after that, while indeed “being found in appearance as a man”
    2) he “humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death” (v. 8 )

  10. Helez,
    I understand the reason for wanting this explanation, but it doesn’t fit the context about showing the same attitude as Christ. We are not able to “empty ourselves of heavenly glory and spirit nature to be born a helpless human infant”. One verse taken out of context can be taken to mean anything. We should try to understand Paul’s argument in the entire section first.

  11. Helez
    As Paul is so obviously referring to the pride of Adam versus the servant in Isaiah, I would suggest “emptied” is referring to the “poured out” in Isaiah 53:12.

    So obvious to who?

  12. Marke,
    I agree with you that the context in Php 2:5-6 encourages us to to imitate Christ in humility (in contrast with regarding “equality with God a thing to be grasped.”) We can show the same attitude as Christ did. One way to do this is by ‘not merely looking out for our own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.’ (v. 4) Jesus himself demonstrated that attitude. He willingly relinquished all his personal advantages by becoming a human and offered his life as a ransom for the benefit of mankind. Jesus Christ was determined to do his Father’s will, whatever it cost him. Are we likewise willing to put up with personal discomfort and inconveniences in our service of God?

  13. I thought the discussion was to be limited to Dave and Rob in these threads.

  14. I’ve been thinking about one more thing David Burke said to go along with some other comments on my blog. This is from the section Jesus Christ: Son of God; Son of Man

    First, he quotes 2 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!

    Burke then says: 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.

    The thing is, I believe Burke has misused this Scripture in support of his view. The view of the Unitarian, and Christadelphian, is that Christ is a mere human like us that reached immortality and exaltation through living a sinless life. But, in reality, this is not what John is arguing in passages like 2 John 1:7 and 1 John 4:2. To say that Christ ‘came in the flesh’, is not asserting that Christ is only a mere mortal human being, but rather John is combating the gnostic heresy that despised flesh, matter, or anything created.

    Thus, from the gnostic teaching, Christ did not really come in the flesh, since God does not really like flesh/matter that much. Rather, for them, Christ only appeared to come in the flesh. But John would say, ‘No, part of our confession is that the Christ came in the flesh. He was really a human, not just an illusion of becoming a human.’ This is central to the faith, and has implications reaching far beyond even our confession of the Christ. In all, we also learn that God loves His creation, our bodies are good, and matter does matter.

    Just some recent thoughts that has been in my mind this week.

  15. In reply to your post #5 Helez,
    I am interested in your understanding of the post from Dave above.
    You write that Dave seems to think “…to demonstrate the occurrence of “predestination language” in itself (although some of his examples are debatable) is enough evidence that this concept can be forced on everything Jesus himself”, I don’t think this is a fair comment for an argument which has just cited consistent exmples from Paul’s teaching in 1 Cor 10:4,9; The Babylonian Talmud, The Assumption of Moses, the Prophet Jeremiah, Paul in Ephesians, Hebrews, 1 Peter 1:20 (and by the way note that Christ was foreknown, how so if he also was there-this would be a redundant point, surely), along with John 17: 4,11,18. Not to mention the (Trintarian) scholars’ conclusions. Maybe I am misreading you, but it seems that your statement is inadequate in the face of the above. Isn’t the answer to your implicit question “how is all of this ideal language?” that of the specific context (John 17:4 etc) and the wider context of the understanding of his listeners (that is the First Century Jews). Doesn’t context define meaning?

  16. Stephan,

    Are you from South Africa? I’m taking a fat change here…

    Posters,

    Feel free to read my critique on the Debate on http://www.kingdomready.org/blog.

    In Christ,

    Jaco

  17. Hi Ross, peace to you,

    I’ll try to clarify what I was trying to convey. Dave demonstrated that some limited concept of “ideal” pre-existence language existed in Judaism (although I do not agree that all his examples from Scripture are legitimate examples of this concept).

    This does not mean that everything the Bible and Jesus himself say about his prehuman existence can be explained by means of this concept, because I believe the language, character and context of these Bible verses that vividly speak of Jesus prehuman existence as a whole (e.g. Mic 5:2; Pr 8:22-31; Joh 3:13; 6:38; 6:62; 8:23; 8:42; 8:58; 17:5; Php 2:5-7; Col 1:15-18; Heb 1:1-3; Re 3:14) do not resemble the language employed in legitimate examples of that concept.

    Christadelphians like to claim that because of their understanding of “ideal” pre-existence language, the first century Jews must have read the verses that speak of Jesus prehuman existence that way. But that is, at best, very debatable. There is no evidence that the Christian Greek Scriptures were understood as such. All of the existing early Christian writings of the first centuries seem to convey subordinationism, contradicting both a Trinitarian and Christadelphian christology. The complete lack of ancient writings defending a Christadelphian christology, makes it very hard to maintain that not only the Jews, but all of the apostles and original disciples of Christ, adhered to such a christology. This absence is rather deafening.

  18. Richard Worden Wilson May 5, 2010 at 11:10 pm

    Having had the door to comments left open earlier than was intended, I’ll make use of the opportunity for some brief comments.

    It seems Burke has not addressed the pre-existence of Christ explicit in role the NT attributes to Christ in creation (Col. 1; John 1; Heb. 1) and Paul gives to Christ in the Exodus. Yes, I do see the point regarding the quite explicit depiction of Christ as the “firstborn of all creation.” Pre-existence doesn’t equate to the eternal generation of a divinely substantial being. Most commentators fail to note that “in the beginning” statements don’t tell us anything about what existed before the beginning. I personally don’t think the NT answers the question of whether there was a time when the Son/Logos was not, but I can understand why the church and most of us might find that unsatisfying.

    It seems Bowman has not addressed much if any of the Jewish 2nd Temple thought world issues that Burke properly emphasizes, merely adopting the later Christian assumptions and weaving them into every scripture he looks at. A thoroughly Jewish understanding of the Holy Spirit would likely eliminate the “distinguishable person” conception of it found in later trinitarianism. Did anyone mention that the Holy Spirit is not prayed to depicted as an object of worship in the Bible?

    Even if the NT does convey some sort of conception of a triune Godhead, either the concept of “person” is wholly inadequate to describe the creator God of our universe or there has to be another God beyond all such conceptions. Where are the mystical theologians when we need them? But more importantly, where are the thoroughly and honestly biblical historian-theologians when we need them?
    All the best to all in Christ,
    Richard Worden Wilson

  19. Richard,

    I have written a rebuttal to Rob’s Week 3 argument, in which I address Colossians 1, Hebrews 1, Philippians 2, and his other proof texts. You can read it by clicking here.

  20. I am finding the comments here more helpful than the long rebuttals of the debaters.

    But the articles are worth reading. If we can recognize the areas where the evidence is overwhelmingly in favor of a particular detail, we will probably be able to glean something worthwhile from BOTH of the debaters.

    When it comes to the oneness of God, I think Dave has the edge. That’s because Rob has nothing positive to support his position. In all the trinitarian passages in the NT (and there are many) GOD is always ONE of the three – never all three.

    On other issues, though, Dave’s evidence is weak – as Helez has pointed out.

  21. Heletz, Shalom to you,

    thanks so much for that thoughtful explanation. Unfortunately I don’t have as much time on my hands as you and so I will just offer a couple of points about your comments about Micah (and apologise that it has taken so long to reply).

    So your contention would be that Micah is vividly speaking of Jesus’ “prehuman existence”. I am wondering if there is another way of understanding this phrase. I get your point, as (at prima facia) it does look like an explicit statement about his origins, but I wonder if this is more hyperbole (much as we would say “someone has always been like that”. Of course that would not be taken literally if that was the case).

    The same phrase occurs in Micah 7:14 (both references use the Hebrew words yom and olam, i.e are identical in Hebrew) where the words are translated days of old. This kind of fits with my reading of the prophets, who often seem (at least to me) to adopt expansive language although there is a more specific time frame in view. The point being that they are emphasising something- as in this case about the roots of Messiah- I would cite Micah as a case in point. So I am saying that this is referring to Messiah (obviously, totally agree there), but talking about his Old Testament origins, rather than his literal physiological (whatever that means in this case). I would also note that there is a nice little link between the two passages in that the former is about Bethlehem (The House of Bread) and the other about feeding the flock, but that is just in passing.

    I am suggesting that the Micah reference is not as clear-cut as that and the verse which you are taking as literal, may be more hyperbole. Note that I have not offered any thoughts on the Proverbs reference, as this post would get too long. I’d be interested in what you think.

  22. JESUS CHRIST: PREFIGURED AND PROPHESIED

    Dave,

    You argued that foundational to Christianity is the principle that “only God can provide a sin-covering sacrifice; a sacrifice which is ‘other than God.’” To establish this principle, you cited several examples of OT typology and grouped them into “four primary roles” that Jesus fulfills: “(a) sacrifice for sin, (b) priest; (c) 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.”

    Your last assertion is a theological inference, not something that the OT (or the NT) articulates. Nor do I see any sound argument to support this inference. For example, to assert that if the Messiah is to be the descendant of King David he cannot be God is simply begging the question of whether the eternal divine Son (who is God) became flesh of the seed of David. You may think it reasonable and even obvious that David’s descendant cannot be God, but I don’t see why David’s descendant cannot be God incarnate, if God chooses to become incarnate.

    Your argument is also flawed because it appeals to selective evidence. Yes, the OT speaks of the future Redeemer in various ways, including the typological pictures you mention. But it also speaks of his coming in ways that identify him as the LORD God, Yahweh, come to save his people.

    Three of the Gospels quote the following text in reference to the coming of the Lord Jesus:

    “The voice of one crying in the wilderness,
    Prepare ye the way of the Lord,
    make straight the paths of our God.” (Isa. 40:3 LXX)
    (see Matt. 3:3; Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4)

    This text, and many if not all of the other texts from this section of Isaiah that I will now quote, had a political, physical fulfillment (a partial fulfillment) in the Jews’ restoration to the land that ended the Babylonian Exile. However, as John the Baptist’s quotation of Isaiah 40:3 indicates, these texts also looked forward to the coming of the LORD to redeem his people from spiritual exile due to sin. If you prefer, the redemption of Israel from exile in Babylon was a type of the redemption of God’s people from exile in sin.

    In case we were not sure, Isaiah says it over and over: people will see the glory of YHWH, because God, the Lord Jehovah, is coming:

    Then the glory of the LORD will be revealed,
    And all flesh will see it together….
    Get yourself up on a high mountain,
    O Zion, bearer of good news,
    Lift up your voice mightily,
    O Jerusalem, bearer of good news;
    Lift it up, do not fear.
    Say to the cities of Judah, ‘Here is your God!
    Behold, the Lord GOD will come with might,
    With his arm ruling for him.
    Behold, his reward is with him
    And his recompense before him.
    Like a shepherd he will tend his flock,
    In his arm he will gather the lambs
    And carry them in his bosom;
    He will gently lead the nursing ewes.’” (Isa. 40:5, 9-11)

    It is easy to assume that these statements do not anticipate a time when the LORD God himself will literally come—that they refer to God “coming” through intermediaries. However, through Isaiah, the LORD even denies that he can accomplish redemption through a human intermediary, because he cannot find one who can accomplish the job—so he will come and do it himself:

    Now the LORD saw,
    And it was displeasing in his sight that there was no justice.
    And he saw that there was no man,
    And was astonished that there was no one to intercede;
    Then his own arm brought salvation to him,
    And his righteousness upheld him.
    He put on righteousness like a breastplate,
    And a helmet of salvation on his head;
    And he put on garments of vengeance for clothing
    And wrapped himself with zeal as a mantle.” (Isa. 59:15b-17)

    These texts illustrate the fact that OT revelation concerning the coming of the Redeemer utilizes a rich, broad range of themes or motifs to describe this eschatological hope. A simple list may be enough to make the point:

    • God with us (Isaiah 7:14)
    • The LORD himself (Isa. 40:3, 10)
    • The arm of the LORD (Isa. 40:10-11; 53:1 [cf. John 12:38]; 59:16)
    • The glory of the LORD (Isa. 35:2; 40:5; 60:1; cf. Ezek. 1:28)
    • The sacrificed beloved son (Genesis 22)
    • The eternal priest after the likeness of Melchizedek (Psalm 110:1-4)
    • The son of David (e.g., Ps. 132:10-17; Isa. 9:6; Jer. 23:5-6; Amos 9:11)
    • The prophet like Moses (Deut. 18:15-18)
    • The suffering Servant of the LORD (Isaiah 52:13-53:12)
    • One like a son of man (Dan. 7:13-14, cf. Ezek. 1:26-28)

    My intention here is not to offer an argument to “prove” that Christ is God directly from OT proof texts, although I think a surprisingly much stronger case can be made than most people realize. My point is to show that the OT speaks of the eschatological hope in many ways that are compatible with and even surprisingly encouraging to the orthodox belief that the Messiah is himself God come to save us. Thus, your selective use of OT motifs relating to the coming of the Messiah fails to give any good reason that would preclude the possibility of the eternal deity of the Messiah. We must look to the NT to see how in fact it interprets the OT types and prophecies in relation to the identity and status of the Lord Jesus Christ. When we do biblical theology — biblical Christology — that way, I maintain we will see evidence for Christ’s eternal deity in all kinds of places in the OT.

  23. PRE-EXISTENCE IN TALMUDIC JUDAISM

    Dave,

    A key claim in your case against the eternal deity of Jesus Christ is that all of the NT language that appears to describe or imply that Christ was preexistent is simply a Jewish way of saying that God had predestined to redeem the world through Jesus Christ. You write that “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.”

    To support this claim, you quote a passage from the Babylonian Talmud (Nedarim 39b) that begins as follows: “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” (emphasis yours). I should not have to point out that this passage dates from centuries after the NT era and we must therefore be cautious about using this or similar Talmudic texts to shed light on the NT. That having been said, the above statement simply does not illustrate your point.

    It is clear that the rabbis meant it rather literally when they said that Eden, Gehenna, and the Throne of Glory were created before the world. Numerous Jewish sources translated or otherwise construed Genesis 2:8 to mean that God had planted the Garden of Eden before creation (e.g., 4 Ezra 3:6; the Targum Onqelos and Targum Pseudo-Jonathan on Gen. 2:8; etc.). The Targum Neophyti on Genesis 3:24 states, “Two thousand years before the world was created, he created the Torah, established the Garden of Eden for the righteous, and [established] Gehenna for the wicked.” The Midrash on Psalm 90:2 likewise states, “These things, along with the Torah, preceded the world by two thousand years.” See James L. Kugel, Traditions of the Bible: A Guide to the Bible as It Was at the Start of the Common Era [Harvard University Press, 1998], 54-60.

    By “the Temple” in the context of Nedarim 39b is evidently meant the Heavenly Temple of which the earthly temple in Jerusalem was a copy (see Rivka Gonen, Contested Holiness: Jewish, Muslim, and Christian Perspectives on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem [Jersey City, NJ: KTAV, 2003], 119-20). However, Jewish thought on this subject (as on most subjects!) was fluid and varied, not monolithic (I’ll come back to this point below).

    The preexistent Torah probably was meant in a sense similar to the preexistent Temple: it was the original of which the earthly Torah written on paper with ink was an earthly copy. Ancient Jewish rabbis also appear to have taken the idea of the preexistent Torah quite literally. The Jewish scholar Abraham Joshua Heschel observed: “According to the Tannaim, the heavenly Torah is no mere idea or mental figment but a real existing being that has made its way from conception to actuality. It is written and exists in the same way that this world does, not as a mere idea in God’s mind. We might think that this is a case of overconcretizing the supernal realm. Actually, it is a way of elevating the status of Torah and emphasizing its grandeur and majesty” (Heavenly Torah: As Refracted through the Centuries, ed. and trans. Gordon Tucker [New York: Continuum, 2006], 333). As Heschel points out, the medieval Jewish philosopher and theologian Moses Maimonides took a much different view, essentially the view you are attributing to the biblical period. “Maimonides declared that all Israel agreed that the Torah was created like all other created beings, and came into existence only when God decided to reveal it to Israel” (Heschel, 336). Heschel documents vigorous discussion among medieval rabbis on the matter, with the general trend being the view that the ancient sayings about six or seven things existing before creation were parabolic or figurative (336-40). From what I can tell, however, it would be anachronistic to read this medieval interpretation back into the ancient rabbinical sayings on this subject.

    Obviously, “repentance” is not a concrete object, so you could argue that its “creation” before the world was ideal, but then, from that perspective repentance is still an ideal, that is, an abstraction. This is also true of “the name of the Messiah.” Note that what the Talmud says is not that God created the Messiah before the world (with this supposedly referring to God’s predestined plan to raise up the Messiah), but that God created the name of the Messiah before the world.

    Abstract objects of God’s work prior to the creation of the world were sometimes distinguished from the concrete objects that God literally created before the world. Thus, in a statement similar to the one you quoted, the midrash Genesis Rabba could say: “Six things preceded the creation of the world. Some of them were [actually] created, and some of them [merely] arose in the thought [of God] to be created. The Tora and the Throne of Glory were created…. The Fathers, Israel, the Temple and the name of the Messiah arose in the thought to be created…” (1:4). (Note that here the Temple is said to have existed only in God’s thought before creation; this is probably a different view than the one in the Talmud discussed earlier.) This statement illustrates that the later medieval rabbinical view that all of these things were only created in a figurative sense is a later anachronistic interpretation. By distinguishing those things that God only thought about creating before the world from those things that he actually created before the world, the Mishnaic rabbis showed that when they said that God created something before the world, they meant it. This does not mean they all held uniformly to the same view as to which things were literally created before the world, as the example of the Temple shows.

    Again, the Talmudic and even Mishnaic material date from after the NT period, or more broadly after the period scholars call Second-Temple Judaism (ca. 500 BC-AD 70). These classical Jewish sources do of course retain some continuity with Second-Temple Judaism, but our use of those sources must be cautious. Furthermore, the NT writers were not captive to rabbinic theology and so may have gone their own way on some matters. Nevertheless, the evidence from the classical rabbinic sources shows that the Jews could and did think of at least some things as existing prior to the creation of the world. On the other hand, they do not seem to have held this view concerning the Messiah—though they spoke of his “name” as preexistent. Whether the NT writers thought of the Messiah (Jesus) as preexistent we can know only from a careful exegesis of the NT.

  24. “PREEXISTENCE” OF PROPHETS?

    Dave,

    You quoted the apocryphal Assumption of Moses in which Moses is quoted as saying that God “designed and devised me, and he prepared me before the foundation of the world, that I should be the mediator of his covenant” (1:14). I agree that this statement does not mean that Moses preexisted the foundation of the world, but after all, it does not say this. The statement speaks of what God did before the foundation of the world; it does not attribute existence or activity to Moses before creation. The activity is all God’s (“he designed and devised me, and he prepared me”). Furthermore, the language is not that of creation; the text does not say the God “created” or “made” Moses before the foundation of the world, but that he “designed” and “prepared” him. This language easily means literally that God had designed Moses and planned exactly what Moses would do before creation. As with any text, including any biblical text, we must interpret such statements by a close reading of the texts in their contexts. It is by giving careful attention to the text in its context that we can conclude that no real preexistence is meant, not by an a priori hermeneutical principle that all such statements must be ideal. For such a careful exegesis of this text, see Johannes Tromp, The Assumption of Moses: A Critical Edition with Commentary (Leiden: Brill, 1993), 142-43.

    The statement in Assumption of Moses 1:14 is similar to Jeremiah 1:5, the first biblical text you cited to support your argument: “Before I formed you in your mother’s womb I chose you, and before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you to be a prophet to the nations.” Again, this statement attributes no existence or activity to Jeremiah prior to his conception; the activity is all God’s (“I formed you…I chose you…I set you apart; I appointed you”). Such statements simply do not compare to the NT statements that explicitly attribute preexistence and prehuman activity to Jesus Christ, such as the following:

    • “Amen, Amen, I say to you, before Abraham came into existence, I am” (John 8:58).
    • “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God” (John 13:3).
    • “I came forth from the Father and have come into the world; I am leaving the world again and going to the Father” (John 16:28).
    • “They drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ” (1 Cor. 10:4).
    • “Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form…” (Phil. 2:5-8).
    • “God…has spoken to us in his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the ages” (Heb. 1:1-2; cf. John 1:3, 10; 1 Cor. 8:6; Col. 1:16).
    • “Now I want to remind you, although you once fully knew it, that Jesus [some manuscripts say “the Lord”], who saved a people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed those who did not believe” (Jude 5).

  25. MOWINCKEL ON PREEXISTENCE

    Dave,

    One of the scholars whom you cited to support your argument about preexistence was Sigmund Mowinckel. You assert that he “insisted the Jewish conception of predestination and prefiguration must inform our understanding of passages appearing to speak of pre-existence.” You quote at length from pages 334-35 of his book He That Cometh: The Messiah Concept in the Old Testament and Later Judaism (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005), where Mowinckel explains that rabbinical theology could speak of such things as Israel as preexistent in this non-literal sense, and likewise spoke of the Messiah. Unfortunately, what you quote from Mowinckel you misunderstand, and what you failed to quote from Mowinckel demonstrates that you completely misrepresented him.

    Let’s look first at what you quote from Mowinckel. I will first reproduce your quotation exactly as you gave it:

    “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.

    The first thing I should point out is the ellipsis that appears four sentences before the end of your quotation. Now, of course, it is perfectly legitimate to omit material from within a quotation for the purpose of shortening the quotation to a manageable length, when that omitted material is not germane to your point. Given how lengthy your quotation is from Mowinckel, one would assume that you skipped a paragraph or two, or skipped some technical parenthetical material, or something along those lines. But that is not the case. Here is the relevant portion of the passage in Mowinckel, with your bold type removed and the missing portion in bold:

    “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, as an ‘idea’ in the platonic sense. It is an ideal pre-existence that is meant. This is true of references to the pre-existence of the Messiah” (334).

    You cut off the last seven words in a sentence that you quoted, and cut also a short eight-word sentence. Thus, you cut fifteen words from a quotation that runs over three hundred words. I think I know why. These fifteen words ruin your template in which the Unitarian reading of the NT is “Jewish” or “Hebraic” while the Trinitarian reading is “Hellenistic.” Hence, in week 4 you asserted:

    “Rob favours an approach that places great stress on the NT texts and interprets these in a Hellenistic way that frequently steps outside the first-century milieu, whereas I take a holistic approach which embraces the full range of data from OT and NT, and interprets them in a Hebraic way that is consistent with first-century Second Temple Judaism…. Later Christians developed their doctrine of the Spirit via philosophical speculations predicated upon the same Hellenic ideas of essence and consubstantiality which had led so many of them to conclude that Jesus is God.”

    Given this template, it won’t do to admit that the Jews were thinking Platonically when they spoke about preexistence, so you cut that bit out from your lengthy quotation from Mowinckel.

    The second point I need to make here, and one that directly refutes your use of Mowinckel, is that he clearly distinguishes between speaking of the Messiah as preexistent and speaking of the name of the Messiah as preexistent. I have already pointed out this distinction, but it deserves some emphasis. The rabbis did not speak of the Messiah as preexisting creation while meaning, as you argue, merely that God foreknew or predestined that the Messiah would one day live and fulfill God’s purpose for him. This is your construct of the matter. As Mowinckel himself carefully points out in the quotation you provided, “It is his ‘name,’ not the Messiah himself, that is said to have been present with God before creation.” This means that NT language about Christ (not merely the name of Christ) existing before creation cannot, as you would have it, be explained away as “predestination” language on the basis of this example that Mowinckel cites.

    Third, and most important, you have ignored the larger context of Mowinckel’s argument and in so doing extracted from him a claim he expressly refutes. The comments that you quote from his book come from his chapter on “The National Messiah,” in which he is providing details about Jewish expectations concerning the Messiah as an earthly son of David whom many Jews hoped would fulfill their nationalistic hopes for independence from foreign, pagan rule. In that context, Mowinckel argues that Orthodox Jews did not view this national military conquering hero-king Messiah as literally preexistent or divine. However, when the concept of this national Messiah was combined with other eschatological figures, the result was quite different. Thus, earlier in the chapter, Mowinckel writes:

    “In the rabbinic literature of the earlier Christian period we do occasionally find the thought of the ‘ideal’ pre-existence of the Messiah, i.e., his existence in the mind of God as part of His unchanging and eternal plan for the world; but there is no question of a literal and actual pre-existence (see further below, p. 334). The actual pre-existence of the Messiah was taught only in those circles in which the Messiah was identified with the Son of Man” (285).

    Of course, the NT Christianity of the apostles was one of those “circles in which the Messiah was identified with the Son of Man.” Oops…looks like Mowinckel’s statements that you quoted from page 334 were not the sweeping generalization that you made them out to be.

    In his chapter on “The Son of Man,” Mowinckel is explicit:

    “By contrast with the earlier, earthly Messiah of David’s line, the Son of Man is a pre-existent, heavenly being…. Many of the sayings about the Son of Man are dogmatic pronouncements about his nature, and presuppose that he already exists. See the discussion, and the decisive arguments in support of real pre-existence, in Sjöberg, Der Menschensohn…” (370 and n. 2).

    Mowinckel even says:

    “The paradox of ‘the Man’ is that, in spite of his name, he is not only a pre-existent, heavenly being, but also a divine being” (373).

    Later in the same chapter, Mowinckel lists the outstanding features of the Son of Man in ancient Jewish theology. Here are the first four:

    “1. He is divine by nature, arrayed in the glory of the deity, in appearance like the angels….
    2. He is a heavenly being….
    3. He is not merely an apotheosized man, who has been taken up to heaven, like Enoch or Elijah, or who has become one with the deity in mystical cultic experiences, like the king-god of the ancient east. He has always belonged to the heavenly plane. He was pre-existent….
    4. In spite of this he is called ‘the Man’ (the Son of Man), the typical man, the prototype of mankind. Thus, he is a divine being in human form, a ‘Man’ with a divine nature…” (429-30).

    Mowinckel’s list extends to 16 items, many of which obviously resonate with the NT portrayal of Christ, such as connections to creation, wisdom, the age to come, the throne of glory, the resurrection of the dead, and the final judgment (430-31).

    By no means am I claiming that these ancient Jewish speculations about the Son of Man are identical in meaning to what we find in the NT. According to Mowinckel, the Enochian Son of Man “was created by God before the world’s foundation was laid” and that he was “the first of God’s creatures” (372). Though he was a divine being, he was “also subordinate to God” as a “created” being (374). This sounds like the created divinity of Arianism or of Jehovah’s Witnesses, which we both agree is not a biblical option.

    Furthermore, I do not agree with all of Mowinckel’s interpretations, especially as they pertain to the NT. Since he did not approach the Bible from the conservative, evangelical perspective of its theological unity and consistency, he was prepared to see significant theological discrepancies between one NT writer and another. Thus, he concluded that Paul’s writings and the Gospel of John both reflect the view that the Son of Man was a heavenly figure who had come down to the earth, while the Synoptic Gospels generally reflect the notion that God selected the man Jesus to become exalted to the status of the Son of Man (447-48). Still, Mowinckel’s overall line of argument and his conclusion, expressed as follows in the closing sentences of his book, strike me as generally correct:

    “Jesus, the poor man, the carpenter from the provincial town in half-heathen Galilee, He is the heavenly Son of Man, who was once on high in divine glory. This paradox, which is clearly brought out in Paul’s thought of Him who was rich and became poor [2 Cor. 8:9], who did not count equality with God a thing to be snatched at, but was born in the likeness of man (Phil. ii. 6f.)—this paradox must go back to a similar tension in the soul and consciousness of Jesus Himself, which finds expression in the daring way in which He transforms and uses the concept of the Son of Man” (450).

  26. CHRIST’S HUMANITY: BEGGING THE QUESTION

    Dave,

    So much of the rest of your post repeatedly asserts what you need to prove (i.e., begs the question, argues in a circle) that it would be tedious to provide a point-by-point analysis of that portion of your argument. For example, you write:

    • “Rob has yet to address the Bible’s exclusive emphasis on Jesus’ humanity” (emphasis added).
    • “Trinitarianism…objects to Christ being described as ‘only man’, but the apostles insisted on it” (emphasis added).
    • “…the apostles focused entirely on proving Christ was a man” (emphasis added).
    • “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” (emphasis in original).

    The claim that Jesus “is only spoken of as a human being,” or that the apostles insisted that Jesus was “only man,” simply cannot be substantiated by selectively quoting biblical texts that refer to Jesus as a man, as coming in the flesh, as the son of David, as a prophet like Moses, etc. These texts prove that Jesus was a man, all right, but they do not disprove the doctrine that he was the eternal Son incarnate as a man. You know this, but to divert attention from the insufficiency of your case, you claim that I as a Trinitarian Christian cannot really affirm what these texts say:

    “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.”

    Outrageously, after ticking off various aspects of Christ’s humanity, including his virgin birth, growth as a child, temptation, sinlessness, death, and resurrection, you claim: “None of this is true of the Trinitarian Jesus.”

    This is simply, and slanderously, false. When the Bible says that Jesus is a man, I accept that statement fully. Jesus was a man. He had a human body and a human soul or spirit; he was conceived in his mother’s womb, born, and grew up; he worked, sweated, thirsted and drank, hungered and ate, slept and awoke, walked and got tired; he had friends, lost friends, touched and was touched; he felt love, joy, anger, compassion, sorrow, dread, pain, shame, and abandonment; he died and was buried. That’s a real human being. You cannot specify anything essential to the nature or experience of being human that I do not regard as true about Jesus. We even both agree that Jesus experienced the ordinary range of human temptations and yet never sinned. Orthodox Christians were affirming these truths for centuries before Christadelphians and other Unitarians came along. When I, as an orthodox, Bible-believing Christian, affirm that Jesus was God incarnate, I am not denying any of the above truths about Jesus. Nor am I even “qualifying” them in a way that would constitute equivocation. For example, you cannot truthfully say that I don’t believe that Jesus really felt pain, or that he really died. No, Jesus experienced these things fully and genuinely, as a real human being. This is not just compatible with orthodox theology; it is essential to it.

    You, on the other hand, do exactly in regards to the NT teaching about Christ’s deity what you falsely accuse me of doing with regard to his humanity: You affirm what you think you need to affirm, but you do so by qualifying and equivocating:

    • When Jesus says that no one knows the Father except those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him (Matt. 11:27), you say that the Jews had already known the Father for centuries while the Son did not even exist.
    • When Jesus says that he will be with any group of two or more that gathers in his name (Matt. 18:20; see also 28:20), you say that Jesus will not really be there literally, but only through the medium of the force or power of God’s spirit.
    • When Jesus says that all people are to “honor the Son just as they honor the Father” (John 5:23), you say both that we may give Jesus God’s honor because he God’s agent and that we must not honor Jesus with the religious service (latreia) that is due to God.
    • When Jesus said, “I have come down from heaven” (John 6:38), you say that he really did not come down from heaven, but that this is a figurative way of saying that Jesus’ mission is of heavenly origin.
    • When Jesus said, “I came forth from the Father and have come into the world” (John 16:28), you say he really did not come into the world from the Father, but that this is a figurative way of saying that God chose Jesus to save us.
    • When Thomas called Jesus “my Lord and my God” (John 20:28), you argue that this means merely that Jesus was God’s agent.
    • When Paul says that the Rock that followed the Israelites in the wilderness was Christ (1 Cor. 10:4), you say that Christ was not actually in the wilderness with them at all.
    • When Paul says that all things were created through God’s beloved Son (Col. 1:16), or when Hebrews says that God made the ages or worlds through the Son (Heb. 1:2), you say that this means only that the new creation is brought about through Jesus.
    • When Paul says that Christ existed in God’s form but humbled himself by becoming in the likeness of human beings and was found in outward appearance as a man (Phil. 2:6-7), you argue that this does not mean that he existed before he became a human being.
    • When Paul says that the fullness of the Deity dwells in Christ in bodily form (Col. 2:9), you cannot allow that this means what it sounds like it means.

    You can claim that you can justify these qualifications and equivocations exegetically, but we can all see that you do not take these statements at anything like face value. I, on the other hand, do take the biblical statements about Jesus’ humanity at face value. In the end, I do not think your exegesis of such texts as those listed above holds up. Your attempt to throw out all of the “preexistence” statements into the bin of “predestination” language doesn’t work. Your efforts to show that biblical texts that call Jesus “God” or “Lord” (= Yahweh) only mean that he is God’s agent also don’t work. But however much we may disagree about these things, it is simply false to claim that your view accepts the biblical teaching without “qualification” whereas mine supposedly does not.

    The orthodox doctrine of the deity of Christ does not add to Scripture. It affirms what Scripture affirms:

    • He is God (John 1:1, 18; 20:28; Acts 20:28; Rom. 9:5; Titus 2:13; Heb. 1:8; 2 Peter 1:1).
    • He is the LORD (Matt. 3:3; 7:21-22; 8:25; 14:30; Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4; 6:46; Acts 1:24; 2:21, 36; 7:59-60; 8:25 [etc.]; Rom. 10:9-13; 1 Cor. 1:2, 8 [etc.]; 1 Cor. 1:31; 2:16; 4:4-5; 5:4; 6:11; 7:17, 32-35; 8:6; 10:21-22; 16:22-23; Phil. 2:9-11; 1 Pet. 2:3; 3:13-15).
    • He made everything that exists in heaven and on earth and sustains the universe (John 1:3, 10; 1 Cor. 8:6; Col. 1:16-17; Heb. 1:2-3, 10-12).

    Orthodox theology accepts the teaching of the Bible without reservation or equivocation that Jesus Christ is both a real human being and that he is the LORD God, maker of heaven and earth. Unitarianism can only affirm one side of the Bible’s teaching about Christ—and for that reason fails to identify who Jesus really is.

  27. SON OF GOD ON TRIAL

    Dave,

    A fair amount of your third-week post focuses on the designation of Jesus as the Son of God. At one point, you ask a series of questions concerning Jesus’ trial before the Sanhedrin:

    • “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?”

    Some of these questions explicitly appeal to silence of the Gospels, and this argument from silence stands behind most if not all of the questions. Each of the Gospels reports those elements of the events of Jesus’ life, trials, death, and resurrection for which the authors had information from eyewitnesses (see Luke 1:1-4) or which the authors themselves witnessed (notably in the case of the Gospel of John). They also included those elements that they selected from their pool of available knowledge for whatever purpose (didactic, apologetic, pastoral, etc.) that guided their composition. The same is true for the Book of Acts. Thus, arguments from silence based on narratives that are admittedly not exhaustive accounts of everything that was said and done (e.g., John 20:30; 21:24-25) are hazardous at best.

    Jesus routinely spoke of himself as “the Son of Man” and frequently as “the Son.” The latter title, of course, can be expanded to “the Son of God,” though it is interesting to note that the Gospels report Jesus using this specific form only once (John 10:36). The Gospels never report Jesus saying “I am God” in those exact words. Although arguments from silence are hazardous, it isn’t unreasonable to guess that he never made that precise statement. That is probably sufficient explanation, if one is needed, why the Gospels do not report Jesus being accused in the trial of making that precise statement.

    However, according to John, on at least two occasions Jesus was explicitly accused of “making himself equal with God” (John 5:18; 10:33). On the first occasion, Jesus referred to God as his Father and claimed that he, like the Father, was exempt from the Sabbath law (5:17). On the second occasion, Jesus had made the famous statement, “I and the Father are one,” in the context of claiming the divine power over life and death (10:28-30). Thus, in both instances, the accusation of making himself equal with God had to do with his referring to himself as God’s “Son” in the context of claiming divine prerogatives. Furthermore, in both instances, his Jewish critics sought to kill him; in the second instance the reason is specified as blasphemy, which was a capital offense under Jewish law (5:18; 10:31-33). John does not say anything about the specific charges that the Sanhedrin brought against Jesus (18:19-24, 28). However, according to John, when the Sanhedrin demanded that Pilate execute Jesus and he balked, they explained their reason: “We have a law, and by that law this man ought to die because he made himself out to be the Son of God” (19:7). Here we see the same reason given for wanting Jesus dead as in the earlier two events: Jesus claimed to be the Son of God; in doing so, as his accusers saw it, he had broken a capital offense of the Jewish law. It is evident from these three parallel accounts in John that the complaint that Jesus claimed to be the Son of God mentioned in 19:7 is the same accusation as in 5:18 and 10:31-33. Clearly, they thought that Jesus’ claim, at least in the sense they understood Jesus to mean it, was blasphemous. Furthermore, they clearly did not think that Jesus was simply claiming to be the Messiah, or we would find John reporting that they said “because you make yourself out to be the Messiah” instead of “because you, being a man, make yourself out to be God” (10:33).

    So now you have some difficult questions to answer: If “Son of God” meant nothing more than or other than the human, Davidic Messianic king, what would Jesus’ opponents find blasphemous about that? If Jesus was simply claiming to be the Messiah, why did his opponents repeatedly accuse him of claiming to be God? The usual answer to this second question is that at first they misunderstood him, but he clearly explained to them that he was not making such a claim. You take this approach when you claim that in John 5 Jesus’ response to the accusation was an “unqualified denial of equality with God.” If Jesus issued such an “unqualified denial,” why did his opponents still think he was making that claim in John 10 and still again in John 19?

    You asked why, if the Sanhedrin had evidence that Jesus had broken their law by healing on the Sabbath or forgiving sins, they found it necessary to bring false witnesses against him. This isn’t a difficult question if you understand the political and religious context. The Sanhedrin needed an accusation that they could “sell” to two parties (in addition to themselves): the general Jewish population, and the Roman prefect Pontius Pilate. Healing on the Sabbath and forgiving people endeared Jesus to the general populace and, as an accusation of law-breaking, would have evoked a yawn if not a guffaw from Pilate. Besides, while some Pharisaic stuffed shirts may have felt comfortable arguing that healing on the Sabbath was technically a violation of the Torah, they could not plausibly claim that it was a capital offense. Some false witnesses offered a more suitable accusation: that Jesus had claimed he would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days (Matt. 27:60-61; Mark 15:55-59). The threat of violence against the temple would have been unsettling to the Jewish populace, while Pilate would have viewed it as a security matter. Another false accusation was that Jesus had forbidden the paying of taxes to Caesar (Luke 23:2), a charge obviously trumped up exclusively for Pilate’s benefit.

    What the Sanhedrin leaders really wanted, however, was proof that Jesus claimed to be the Messiah—not because they considered that claim blasphemous, but because they knew they could sell that to Pilate as a reason to execute him. They could—and did—explain to Pilate that the claim to be the Messiah was a claim to be the Jewish people’s rightful king, a direct threat to the authority of the Roman emperor. In the end, that was the charge for which Jesus was executed (Matt. 27:11, 37; Mark 15:2, 26; Luke 23:2-3, 38; John 19:12-15).

    This explains why the high priest Caiaphas asked Jesus point-blank if he was the Messiah. He wanted a capital political crime that he could pin on Jesus, and claiming to be the Messiah was made to order. On the other hand, the charge had to be a serious religious violation as well, for two reasons: (1) in order to satisfy the Sanhedrin that they should be taking any action against Jesus, and (2) to justify to the Jewish populace their action in turning Jesus over to Pilate for execution. Claiming to be the Messiah would be a religious claim as well as a political one, and if the Romans executed Jesus it would prove to the Jewish people that he was a false Messiah—so they thought. Hence the question posed at the Sanhedrin trial if Jesus claimed to be the Messiah (Matt. 26:63; Mark 14:61; Luke 22:67).

    In Matthew and Mark, Caiaphas adds “the Son of God” (or “Son of the Blessed”) after “Messiah.” It is possible that Caiaphas meant that title simply as a synonym for “Messiah,” as you assert. On the other hand, the matter may be more subtle than that. He may have added that title because he knew that it could be used synonymously with “Messiah” but also that Jesus was known to have claimed to be God’s “Son” in a way that went far beyond claiming to be the Davidic Messiah. Regardless, Jesus’ response gave the high priest all he could want. The Sanhedrin understood Jesus’ claim that he would sit down on God’s throne at his right hand and come in judgment on the clouds of heaven (Ps. 110:1; Dan. 7:13) to be a blasphemous claim to deity. (I’d love to go into all the details, but it would lengthen this comment too much; see Putting Jesus in His Place, 243-49.) What some of the Jews had understood Jesus’ past claims to be “the Son” to imply, the Sanhedrin had now heard from his own lips. This explains their comment to Pilate about the significance of Jesus’ claim to be the Son of God (John 19:7). His claim to be the Messiah and Son of God, in the terms that Jesus had affirmed, from their perspective was both a religious crime of blasphemy and a political crime of treason that would force Pilate to order his execution. This interpretation is consistent with the fact that in the Synoptic Gospels as well, Jesus’ alleged blasphemy was identified early on as that of claiming prerogatives belonging only to God (Mark 2:7; Luke 5:21).

  28. THE “LITERAL” SON OF GOD?

    Dave,

    You claim to believe “that Jesus is literally the Son of God” and challenge me to explain my view. In an ironic twist, you suggest that “if Jesus is not literally the Son of God” then his sonship is no different from the spiritual sonship that Christians have. Thus, you present yourself as defending Christ’s unique status as the Son of God and Trinitarians as somehow undermining that uniqueness!

    Now that I’ve picked myself up off the floor, let me respond to this argument.

    First of all, you do not believe “that Jesus is literally the Son of God.” Sorry, you don’t. There are only two senses in which anyone could possibly describe someone as “literally” the son of someone else: in respect to the way the person originated, or in respect to the shared natures of the two persons. For example, if someone claims that Billy Smith is the literal son of Johnny Jones, this claim must mean at least one of two things: that Johnny procreated Billy as his literal offspring, or that Billy shares his nature with and derives that nature in some way from Johnny (or both). Your view fits neither requirement. (1) You do not believe that God the Father literally procreated or sired Jesus. (2) You do not believe that Jesus has the same nature as God, since you deny that Jesus is eternal, omnipresent, omniscient, and so forth. If Jesus is not the same kind of being as God, and if God did not procreate Jesus, then Jesus is not “literally” the Son of God.

    Second, orthodox Christian theology views the Sonship of Christ as qualitatively of a different order altogether than the sonship of Christians. Believers are “adopted” as sons of God through faith in Jesus Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:14-23, 29; Gal. 3:26-4:7). Jesus is not an “adopted” son but God’s “natural” (i.e., by nature) Son. Believers in Christ are human creatures who become God’s adopted sons; Christ is God’s uncreated Son who became a human being. Christ alone is God’s eternal Son, having his incommunicable divine attributes, his divine status, his divine names, and his divine honors. Believers in Christ are God’s created sons, sharing his communicable attributes (love, holiness, etc.), benefiting from the Son’s divine status only by virtue of God’s gracious acceptance of them through their relationship with the Son as sealed by the Spirit. The claim that orthodox Christian theology does not understand the Sonship of Christ as unique is absurd on its face.

    You also asked how my view can account for the NT texts that apply Psalm 2:7 (“You are my Son, today I have begotten you”) to Jesus Christ (Acts 13:33; Heb. 1:5; 5:5). Simple: This is the figurative language of a coronation psalm that the NT applies to Jesus in reference to his exaltation to the right hand of the Father. If you look at the three NT texts in context, each one is referring to Christ’s resurrection and exaltation—not to Jesus’ virginal conception and birth. Since you agree that Jesus was already God’s Son from his birth, these texts in Acts and Hebrews cannot be referring to Jesus literally becoming God’s Son.

  29. Rob,

    Jesus was a man. He had a human body and a human soul or spirit; he was conceived in his mother’s womb, born, and grew up; he worked, sweated, thirsted and drank, hungered and ate, slept and awoke, walked and got tired; he had friends, lost friends, touched and was touched; he felt love, joy, anger, compassion, sorrow, dread, pain, shame, and abandonment; he died and was buried. That’s a real human being. You cannot specify anything essential to the nature or experience of being human that I do not regard as true about Jesus. We even both agree that Jesus experienced the ordinary range of human temptations and yet never sinned.

    There are a couple of serious issues here:

    * You claim that Jesus had a human soul or spirit

    A human soul or spirit is a person in orthodox Christianity. You are therefore claiming that God the Jesus entered a human body which was simultaneously inhabited by a human soul. This is called ‘possession’. You are actually describing God the Jesus as possessing a human being. You are not describing God the Jesus as a human being. The reason for this is that you don’t believe God the Jesus was ever a human being, you believe he was, and always will be, God the Jesus.

    * You claim Jesus worked, sweated, thirsted and drank, hungered and ate, slept and awoke, walked and got tired; he had friends, lost friends, touched and was touched; he felt love, joy, anger, compassion, sorrow, dread, pain, shame, and abandonment; he died and was buried’

    But in reality you actually only believe these things happened to the human body possessed by God the Jesus. You don’t believe God died, you believe a human body inhabited by God the Jesus died. You don’t believe God was tempted, you believe a human body inhabited by God the Jesus was tempted. You don’t believe God was seen, you believe a human body inhabited by God the Jesus was seen.

  30. This is why other Trinitarians have raised the charge of Nestorianism against the Trinitarianism you hold.

    * You don’t believe Jesus was the literal son of God

    Your definition of what constitutes a father is contrived. You say the only options are:

    1. That Johnny procreated Billy as his literal offspring.
    2. That Billy shares his nature with and derives that nature in some way from Johnny (or both).

    This is an artificial presentation. You have omitted any reference to the absolute criterion of literal fatherhood, which is that the father must be responsible for bringing the son into existence. That can be performed by means of a number of acts, of which the physical act of procreation is only one.

    You fail of course to remind readers that Luke refers to Adam as the son of God, despite the fact that neither did God procreate Adam as His literal offspring, nor did Adam share with or derive his nature from God. How then is Adam called the son of God by Luke? Because God literally brought him into existence.

    Of couse Trinitarians deny that God the Father brought God the Jesus into existence. They believe God the Jesus has always existed along with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit.

    With regard to your own criteria, you believe only that God the Jesus shares the nature of God the Father. You neither believe that God the Father procreated God the Jesus as his literal offspring, nor do you believe that God the Jesus derives his nature from God the Father. So you do not even follow your own criteria.

  31. My response to Rob’s rebuttal in this thread starts here.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The Great Trinity Debate (Comments Part 3) « The Prodigal Thought - April 29, 2010

    […] posted his third article here and David Burke, the non-Trinitarian, has posted his third article here. As in my last two posts on the debate (post 1, post 2), I will share some comments in regards to […]

  2. Thinking Matters » Blog Archive » The Great Trinity Debate at Parchment and Pen - May 26, 2010

    […] Rob Bowman on Jesus Christ, continued. David Burke on Jesus Christ, continued. […]