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The Great Trinity Debate, Part 3: Rob Bowman on Jesus Christ, continued

I turn now to some major Christological passages in the epistles. Regrettably, I wrote a full treatment of Colossians 1:12-20 but have had to cut it for sake of space.

Romans 10:8-13

Verses 8-10: Paul states that the saving confession is that “Jesus is Lord” (kurios) and “that God raised him from the dead.” As Paul does regularly in his epistles, he refers to Jesus by the divine title “Lord” while referring to the Father by the divine title “God.” That these are both divine titles in Paul’s usage will become clear as we proceed.

Verse 11: “For the Scripture says, ‘Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.’” The word “for” (Greek, gar) indicates that Paul is citing this Scripture reference from the OT as support for the statement he has just made about believing in Jesus as the risen Lord for salvation. The reference is to Isaiah 28:16, which Paul has just quoted: “They [unbelieving Israel] have stumbled over the stumbling stone, as it is written, ‘Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame’” (Rom. 9:32b-33). Of course, Jesus is the “stumbling stone” and “rock of offense” (Matt. 21:42-44; Mark 12:10-12; Luke 12:17-18; Acts 4:10-12; 1 Pet. 2:6-8).

Verse 12: Paul explains that belief in Jesus for salvation is for anyone who “calls on him” for salvation. This is because “the same Lord” (kurios) is Lord “of all.” In this context, the “Lord” here must be Jesus. Paul cannot be referring to this Lord as “the same” Lord if he is a different Lord than the one he just mentioned! Paul states that this same Lord, Jesus, bestows his riches (cf. 2 Cor. 8:9) “on all who call on him.”

Note that “calling on” Jesus as Lord is an act of prayer (cf. Gen. 4:26; Deut. 4:7; Ps. 145:18; Is. 55:6; Joel 2:32). Paul speaks of prayer to Jesus elsewhere (1 Cor. 1:2; 16:22; 2 Cor. 12:7-9), as does Luke (Acts 1:21-24; 7:59-60; 9:14, 21; 22:16) and John (John 14:14; 1 John 5:13-15; Rev. 22:20-21). Thus, we have support from the Gospels, Acts, the Epistles, and Revelation for the practice of addressing prayer to Jesus Christ (see Putting Jesus in His Place, 47-53).

This biblical practice of praying to Jesus raises severe difficulties for the Unitarian position. First, if Jesus is a different being than God, and yet Jesus hears and answers prayers, the conclusion follows that Jesus is at least functionally a second God. That is, Jesus is a supernatural or heavenly being to whom believers address prayers—including prayers for salvation and at the moment of one’s death (Acts 7:59-60).

Second, if Jesus is even an incredibly exalted man, just how is he able to hear all of these prayers? At any one moment, no doubt thousands of people are praying to him simultaneously. Jesus must be able to hear both audible and silent prayers and “process” all of the information pertaining to these prayers (including the attitudes of each heart). In order for Jesus to function as the hearer of prayer, he needs to have abilities commensurate to that responsibility—and it is difficult to see how any finite creature could have such abilities. Thus, for Jesus to be “functionally” God in regard to prayer, he must also be “ontologically” God—possessing his transcendent knowledge of millions of simultaneous prayers and the hidden attitudes of the hearts of those praying.

Verse 13: Paul backs up what he has been saying with another Scripture, Joel 2:32: “For ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’” (Rom. 10:13). In context here, the Lord on whose name everyone calls for salvation must be “the same” one who is Lord “of all” and who bestows his riches of salvation on everyone who calls on him (v. 12). Since that Lord is Jesus (vv. 9-11), Paul is clearly identifying Jesus as the “Lord” of Joel 2:32—who in the Hebrew text is called YHWH, or Jehovah.

In Romans 10, then, Paul speaks about Jesus as the object of Christian faith and confession (vv. 9-11), dispenser of salvation (v. 12), recipient of prayer (vv. 12-13), and possessor of the divine name (vv. 9, 12, 13). The cumulative effect is to identify Jesus as Jehovah, the God to whom the OT teaches all people must turn in prayer for salvation (Joel 2:32).

1 Corinthians 8:4-6

According to Paul, the person who “loves God” knows that “there is no God but one” (1 Cor. 8:3, 4). These statements clearly echoes the Shema (“The LORD our God, the LORD [is] one; and you shall love the LORD your God…,” Deut. 6:4-5), the traditional confession of Judaism. The references to loving God and believing that God is one in such close conjunction eliminate any reasonable doubt that Paul is drawing here on the Shema. Given this immediate context in verses 3-4, there should be no question about whether verse 6 also alludes to the Shema. The confession “to us there is but one God, the Father” picks up the same point already made in verse 4, “there is no God but one.” The question is whether the words “one Lord” in the second part of verse 6 continue that allusion to the Shema. Several considerations converge to show that they do.

1. The transitional verse 5, which bridges Paul’s two allusions to the Shema in verses 4 and 6, shows that Paul is using “God” and “Lord” as synonyms: “For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many ‘gods’ and many ‘lords,’ to us there is one God…and one Lord….” The “so-called gods” encompass all of the objects of wrongful religious devotion of the Gentiles, in contrast to the believing community’s devotion to only one God (verse 4), as the words “whether in heaven or on earth” underscores. In this context, the expression “many ‘gods’ and many ‘lords’” simply expands on Paul’s earlier reference to those “so-called gods.” This implies that “God” and “Lord” also function as equivalent terms in verse 6.

2. Given that verses 4 and 6 clearly echo the Shema, the fact that “Lord” and “God” are both divine names in the Shema and that Paul uses the parallel expressions “one God” and “one Lord” strongly supports understanding “Lord” to represent the “Lord” of the Shema. In the Shema, the word “one” actually qualifies the noun “Lord” (Hebrew, YHWH) directly: “Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD [is] one” (Deut. 6:4). In a sentence that echoes the Shema, the expression “one Lord” can hardly fail to be part of that echo.

3. In the context of calling Jesus the “one Lord,” Paul also assigns him an active role in creation: “through whom are all things, and we through him.” Paul places this affirmation in tandem with a similar affirmation about the Father, “from whom are all things, and we for him.” The expression “all things” (Greek, ta panta) was a standard way of referring in Jewish literature to the totality of the creation (e.g., Gen. 1:31; Neh. 9:6; Jer. 10:16; Acts 17:25; Rom. 11:36; Eph. 1:10-11; Rev. 4:11).

Compare Romans 11:36, “For from him and through him and for him are all things.” Here Paul speaks of the Creator as the efficient cause (ek/ex, “from”), the instrumental cause (dia/di’, “through”), and the final cause or goal (eis, “for,” “toward”) of creation. In 1 Corinthians 8:6, Paul attributes these three causal functions to both the Father and Jesus Christ; specifically, he associates ek and eis with the Father and dia with Christ. Thus, minimally, 1 Corinthians 8:6 affirms that Jesus Christ is the instrumental cause of creation. This affirmation presupposes the preexistence of Christ (evident elsewhere in the same epistle, e.g., 1 Cor. 10:4, 9; cf. Rom. 8:3; 2 Cor. 8:9; Gal. 4:4-6; Phil. 2:6-7; Col. 1:16-17) and attributes to Christ an active role in the divine work of creation. This is highly significant, since in Paul’s Jewish theology, the Lord God is the sole creator and maker of all things (e.g., Gen. 1:1, 31; Ps. 102:25-27; Is. 44:24; Acts 17:24; Rev. 4:11).

4. Throughout 1 Corinthians, Paul’s use of “Lord” for Jesus repeatedly alludes to OT texts and motifs involving the divine name YHWH. Christians, according to Paul, are “all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 1:2). The OT taught that one should “call on the name of the Lord” YHWH (e.g., Joel 2:32, cf. Rom. 10:13). A few verses later, Paul says that Christians hope to be found “blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1:8), whereas the OT spoke of judgment day as “the day of the Lord [YHWH]” (e.g., Joel 1:15; 2:1, 11, 31). The allusion to “the day of the Lord” (cf. Joel 2:31) in the same context as “calling on the name of the Lord” (cf. Joel 2:32) makes it all the more likely that Paul’s language alludes directly to Joel. Paul refers to this future day of the Lord Jesus in several other epistles (2 Cor. 1:14; Phil. 1:6, 10; 2:16; 1 Thess. 5:2; 2 Thess. 2:1-2; 2 Tim. 1:18).

Such allusions continue throughout the epistle (e.g., 1 Cor. 1:31, cf. Jer. 9:23-24; 1 Cor. 2:16, cf. Is. 40:13; 1 Cor. 6:11, cf. Is. 45:23; 1 Cor. 10:20-22, cf. Deut. 32:21; Mal. 1:7, 12). At the end of the epistle, Paul writes: “If anyone does not love the Lord, he is to be accursed. Maranatha. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you” (1 Cor. 16:22-23). In this short space of words, Paul calls for those who do not love the Lord to be cursed, prays to the Lord to come, and attributes divine grace or favor to the Lord Jesus. The importance attached to loving the Lord (Jesus) here is especially striking in view of the fact that the Shema includes a command to “love the Lord your God” (Deut. 6:4-5).

When we take into consideration all of these allusions to YHWH texts in Paul’s references to Jesus as “Lord” throughout 1 Corinthians, the conclusion that “one Lord” in 8:6 refers to Jesus as possessing the divine name YHWH seems inescapable.

Philippians 2:3-11

Verses 3-4: The key to the proper interpretation of Philippians 2:6-11 is to understand it in the context of Paul’s pastoral concern stated here. Paul urges the Philippian believers to regard others humbly as more important than themselves, to look out not just for their own interests but also for the interests of others. The presupposition here is that the Philippians are all in fact equal, but each is to act humbly as if others are more important than he or she is.

Verse 5: Paul continues this exhortation by directing the Philippians to have the same mindset as Christ Jesus. In other words, Christ is going to set the example of someone who humbly regards another as more important than himself, who treats someone else (to whom he is actually equal) as if he were more important.

Verse 6: Now Paul elaborates on how Christ set that example. Christ existed in God’s form and yet did not consider equality with God harpagmon (a notoriously difficult word). Here Paul says that Christ set the example for us in the way that he humbled himself toward God. Now remember, the example Paul is saying Christ modeled for us is the way we should treat others who are in fact our equals, by humbly treating them as more important than ourselves. This context confirms that Paul is not denying that Christ was equal with God. What sort of example of someone treating an equal as more important would it be for Christ to submit to God, as any creature should, if Christ was just a creature? No, Paul means that Christ was in fact equal to God but did not insist on being treated as such (either by clinging to his equality with God, as some older exegetes argued, or by seeking to take advantage of it, as many modern exegetes think; either view of harpagmon fits the context). His equality with God is related here to his existence in the form of God. This may mean that Christ possessed the glorious nature of God or that Christ was robed in God’s glorious appearance or outward display (exegetes have understood “form of God” in both ways). Either way, Paul here presupposes that Christ preexisted in heaven with God (the Father) in the divine form.

Verse 7a: Christ did not demand that God (the Father) treat him as an equal; instead, Christ “emptied himself.” This is an idiom synonymous with the parallel expression “humbled himself” later in the verse. It does not mean that he emptied himself of something, as if he had some specific thing and then got rid of it. The KJV translation, “made himself of no reputation,” is actually a nice paraphrase. It means that Christ acted as if his divine status was unimportant.

Paul tells us exactly how Christ “emptied himself”: he did so by taking on something he didn’t have before: “the form of a servant, becoming in the likeness of human beings.” The expression “form of a servant” is parallel to “form of God” and means either that Christ took on the lowly nature of one of God’s created servants (if “form of God” means the divine nature) or that Christ took on the humble outward appearance of a servant (if “form of God” means the divine appearance). Again, Paul’s line of thought here presupposes that Christ existed in heaven before becoming a man. A human being cannot humble himself to become a human being because that is what he already and originally is. What Paul says here, then, must refer to Christ’s decision before the Incarnation to become a human being.

Verse 7b-8: Having become a human being, Christ found himself in outward form, appearance, or likeness (schema) as a man. This seeming redundancy emphasizes the full indignity that Christ suffered, of coming not in divine blazing glory (which he partially revealed only once for a short time to a few disciples in the Transfiguration) but in outward shape and appearance as just a regular guy (not even a halo!). But Jesus wasn’t done “putting himself down”; he humbled himself further by becoming God’s obedient servant, the “servant of the LORD” of Isaiah 53, and dying the most gut-wrenching, awful, humiliating death ever devised, death on a cross.

Verse 9a: Having become a human being, Christ had humbled himself as God’s servant and thus placed himself in a position of dependence on God for whatever place might be given to him. This is why God needed to exalt Christ and give him the divine name above every name. Paul is not saying that God took a mere man and exalted him to a position of divine authority. Christ was a divine person existing in heaven with God and sharing his divine status prior to humbling himself to become a man and die on the cross (vv. 5-8). Rather, God the Father “super-exalted” his self-abased incarnate Son above the whole cosmos. The term that Paul uses here appears only once in the Greek OT, referring to the proper exaltation of the LORD God “above all gods” (cf. Ps. 97:9). Paul’s use of this word, once again, treats Jesus Christ as identical to God.

Verse 9b-11a: Paul says that God gave Christ “the name above every name.” In no sense did God bestow on Christ the name “Jesus” at his resurrection and exaltation; this was Christ’s given, public name even during his humble life and death on earth. “The name above every name,” then, in this context almost certainly is not the name “Jesus.” In context, it is the name “Lord” in verse 11, that “every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” Here “Lord” represents the divine name YHWH (Jehovah) in the OT, a point confirmed by Paul’s applying words from Isaiah 45:23 to Jesus here in verses 10-11a. Since Christ preexisted in God’s form and with God’s status before the Incarnation (vv. 5-6), presumably he also had the name YHWH at that time, but the incarnate Son, Jesus Christ, was not yet known to the world as YHWH (LORD). Thus, God quite properly exalted his Son by publicly naming him with his own name YHWH/LORD, letting the world know that the man Christ Jesus was not merely a man but was indeed LORD.

Verse 11b: This act of exalting his incarnate Son in no way detracts from the glory of the Father, but in fact everything that Christ did, from humbling himself to become a man to dying on the cross to rising from the dead to ruling as LORD over all creation was to bring glory to God the Father. This brings us back to the point from which Paul began: Christ did not seek merely his own interests, but sought the interests of his Father; though they were in reality equal, Christ treated the Father as more important than himself, doing everything he did to bring God the Father glory.

The whole passage, then, reveals Christ to be eternal God by nature and rightful status, yet choosing to come into this world as a human being, as the servant of God, and die a shameful death, in order to bring glory to God the Father through the redemption of the cross. Christ’s self-abasing, self-humbling acts in relation to the Father are the ultimate example of treating others, who by right are our equals, as more important than we are.

Hebrews 1:1-13

The writer of Hebrews (like most scholars, I do not think he was Paul) opens his work with a series of affirmations about the Son (verses 1-4). He then follows up these affirmations (what scholars call the exordium) with a catena of seven biblical passages that support and explain what he means.

Those who do not believe that Jesus Christ is truly God argue that in their OT contexts the writer’s proof texts could not have been actually referring to the Messiah as God. For example, many have argued that the quotation of Psalm 45:6-7 in Hebrews 1:8-9 cannot mean that the Messiah is actually God, because the Israelite king to whom the Psalm originally referred obviously was not God. They contend on this basis that either we must translate the text differently (e.g., “God is your throne”), which is really not feasible, or that if the Davidic king is called “God” it must be in some lesser sense. Perhaps the text calls him “God” in a representative sense. After all, the Bible sometimes calls angels “gods,” presumably in such a lesser sense.

There are at least three difficulties for this line of interpretation. First, the writer insists that the things these OT texts say about the Messiah are things that God never said about any angel (vv. 4-5, 13). Thus, the writer absolutely precludes the idea that he is speaking of the Messiah as “God” in the same sense or significance as when other texts refer to angels as “gods.”

Second, the OT texts that the writer quotes say things that never really applied to any earthly, merely human Israelite king of the Davidic dynasty. Not one of the proof texts in the catena in Hebrews 1 applied in reality to the Davidic king. No Davidic king ruled over all the nations (Ps. 2:8), received worship from all the angels (Ps. 97:7), ruled forever (Ps. 45:6), made the universe (Ps. 102:25-27), or sat at God’s right hand as king and priest forever (Ps. 110:1, 4). The Psalms look forward to the coming of the Messiah, and often speak of the earthly, merely human Davidic king as a type of the Messiah—a figure who anticipates the reality that was to come, realized in Jesus. In effect, at least some of the things that the Psalms say in reference to the contemporary rulers in Jerusalem are really not directly about David or his dynastic heirs in the first half of the first millennium BC. Those figures rather functioned as types of the Messiah, and some of what the texts say did not apply directly to those men but do apply to the Messiah. The apostle Peter established this hermeneutical approach to the Psalms in the first Christian sermon, when he argued that Psalm 16:8-11 was really not about David (the author) but about his descendant the Messiah (Acts 2:25-31).

Third, at least three of the Psalms citations in the catena did not refer in any way to the earthly Davidic king, but clearly in context referred to the LORD God (Heb. 1:6, quoting either Ps. 97:7 or Deut. 32:43; Heb. 1:7, quoting Ps. 104:4; Heb. 1:10-12, quoting Ps. 102:25-27). The writer of Hebrews includes these texts in his catena of proof texts because in their broader contexts they speak of the full establishment of God’s kingdom, which the Messiah accomplishes (Ps. 97:1-9; 102:18-22; 104:310-35). Nevertheless, he cites statements in these texts that in their original contexts refer quite explicitly to God.

Now with these preliminary observations in place, I will offer a commentary on the passage.

Verses 1-2: The writer states that God appointed the Son “the heir of all things”; that is, the Son is to receive the honor and status due him as the primary owner of God’s estate (creation, “all things”). The writer also tells us that God created the world through the Son, a statement that presupposes that the Son existed prior to creation. This fits perfectly, of course, with God designating his Son as his primary “heir” prior to the creation of the world.

Verse 3a: The writer now describes the Son as perfectly reflecting or expressing the glorious nature of God. The Son is exactly like his Father. Only someone who is divine by nature could do what this Son does: “he upholds all things by the word of his power.” The writer is not saying that God the Father upholds all things, but that the Son does so—and not by the powerful word of his Father, but by his own powerful word.

Verse 3b: The writer affirms that the Son, “having made purification for sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” He does not mean that the Son took a seat on a separate throne to the right of God’s, but that he sat down on God’s very throne. In the imagery of the furnishings of the tabernacle and sanctuary, the Ark of the Covenant represented the throne of God, and Hebrews pictures Jesus sitting next to the Majesty. Thus, the best translation of Hebrews 8:1 is that he sat down “on the right-hand side of the throne of the Majesty on high” (similarly at 12:1; see Martin Hengel, Studies in Early Christology, 142, 149). The conventional Jewish imagery of God’s throne pictures it raised far above the heads of all those present in the throne room (e.g., Is. 6:1; Ezek. 1:26), so that anyone seated at his right hand is in effect placed “on the same level” as God.

Verse 4: The writer concludes that the Son had become “as much better than the angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.” Some people understand this verse to mean that at some point in Jesus’ human life—perhaps his conception or ascension—he obtained this “more excellent” name for the first time. However, what the writer says is that the Son inherited his name, not that he obtained it. What we have already read up to this point all would seem to indicate that he “inherited” his name when he was designated the “heir of all things,” which in context is prior to the creation of the world (v. 2). But the Son has in some sense become “better than the angels,” specifically as a result of his work in making purification of sins and sitting on the divine throne to bring that work to completion (v. 3). This description of the Son as “better,” then, has to do with his redemptive work of providing a “better hope” in a “better covenant” with “better promises” (Heb. 7:19, 22; 8:6; 9:23; 12:24). The superiority or extent to which the Son proves to be “better” matches the superiority of the name that he “inherited” in comparison even with that of the angels.

Verse 5: The writer now begins his catena of Scripture quotations in support of his affirmations about the Son. The writer assigns him ever more exclusive, exalted names, until at last he calls him “Lord” (in a context where this means YHWH, the divine name). Thus, “Firstborn” is more exclusive and specific an honorific than “Son”; “God” is higher still; and then finally “Lord” (=YHWH) is as high a name as anyone can have (cf. Phil. 2:9-11). We may say, then, either that “the” name that he has is the divine name (Lord), or that by “name” the writer means the identity or status that the Son has and that all of the “names” he goes on to mention reveal.

Verse 6: The writer states that when “he” (God) brings the Firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.” As I have already pointed out, there are two OT texts that might stand behind this quotation, but either way the contexts of those texts has to do with the worship due to the LORD God himself. It might make some sense to speak of human beings “worshipping” a creaturely representative of God, on the hypothesis that humans do not have direct access to God, but this will not explain why angels worship the Son.

Verse 7: The quotation from Psalm 104:4 describes the created heavenly beings as angels and messengers, terms that emphasize their comparatively humble rank compared to the Firstborn Son. The description of the angels as “winds” and “flame of fire” also emphasizes in this context just how insubstantial and changeable the angels are. The author will then go on to contrast those characteristics with those of the Son, especially in verses 10-12.

Verses 8-9: The quotation from Psalm 45:6-7 assigns yet another exalted name to the Son, the title “God,” understood (as I have explained) in a sense other than and superior to any sense in which the OT might refer to angels as “gods.” The words “Your throne, O God” confirm the point made earlier that the Son sits on the throne of God. The fact that his throne “is forever and ever” simply adds further confirmation that the Son will rule as God, since of course God’s kingdom rule is eternal. In his perfect, sinless human life, the Son qualified himself to rule over the rest of humanity as the King-Priest of the new creation (a theme that will dominate much of the rest of the book).

Verses 10-12: The names that the writer assigns to the Son reach a climax with the name “Lord,” which he has in the context of a quotation that contrasts the eternal, unchanging nature of the Creator with the temporal, changeable, perishing nature of everything in the creation. There really can be no question in the context of this catena that this quotation of Psalm 102:25-27 refers to the Son. It is he, who is the “Lord,” who “in the beginning laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the works of [his] hands.” The language here is standard biblical rhetoric for God’s work as Creator (e.g., Job 38:4; Ps. 8:3, 6; Is. 40:12, 21; 64:8). Thus, Hebrews 1:10 explicitly credits the Son with actually making the universe. As the maker of all things, the Son also sustains their existence (see verse 3) until such time as he chooses to allow them to be changed or perish—things that will never happen to him. In this context, and in keeping with the meaning of Psalm 102 itself, the “Lord” here is YHWH, the LORD God, maker of heaven and earth.

Verse 13: The writer finishes his catena of proof texts with Psalm 110:1, confirming the statement in his exordium that the Son took his seat at God’s right hand. Ironically, some people claim that Psalm 110:1 proves that the Son is less than God, but such an argument must ignore the way the writer situates Psalm 110:1 in his argument. The Son has God’s names, sits on God’s throne, receives worship from God’s most glorious creatures, performs God’s works, and will rule over God’s kingdom forever and ever. Frankly, if this is not the LORD God himself, it is a second God, and we must conclude that the writer is teaching ditheism.

Conclusion

The NT writings repeatedly speak of the Lord Jesus Christ in the most exalted terms possible. They frequently call him “Lord” in contexts that equate him with the LORD (YHWH), the God of Israel. They occasionally call him “God,” again in contexts where this must have its absolute, usual meaning in Jewish usage. Beyond titles or names, the NT speaks of Jesus as God in several ways. Jesus does what God does: he makes and sustains the universe and rules forever from God’s throne over the entirety of creation, all of which belongs to him. Jesus also receives the honors that God receives: he receives worship from both humans and angels and is the proper recipient of prayer. Jesus can do what God does, and he deserves the honors God does, because he is what God is: eternal, uncreated, transcendent deity. When we consider the way these various lines of evidence converge, with multiple statements from throughout the NT, the conclusion that does this evidence justice is that the NT does indeed teach that Jesus is God.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • Acts 4:11, “This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, that has become the cornerstone.
    • Ephesians 2:20, “because you have been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Acts 2:15-17, 21-24, “‘In spite of what you think, these men are not drunk, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning. But this is what was spoken about through the prophet Joel: ‘And in the last days it will be,’ God says, ‘that I will pour out my Spirit on all people, and your sons and your daughters will prophesy, and your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams…

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

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

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

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

    Peter’s speech finishes on a Christological high note:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    We can interpret this passage in two different ways.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • Mark 2:7, “who can forgive sins, but the one God?”
    • Mark 10:18, “there is none good but the one God”
    • Mark 12:29, “the Lord God our Lord is one”
    • Mark 12:32, “there is one and none other but him”
    • Luke 18:19, “there is none good but the one God”
    • Romans 3:30, “seeing it is the one God”
    • I Corinthians 8:4, “none other is God but one”
    • I Corinthians 8:6, “but to us there is one God the Father”
    • Galatians 3:20, “but God is one”
    • Ephesians 4:6, “one God and father of all”
    • I Timothy 2:5, “for there is one God”
    • James 2:19, “there is one God”

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

    • John 5:44, “the only God”
    • John 17:3, “the only true God”
    • I Timothy 1:17, “to the only God”
    • Jude 25, “the only God our Saviour”

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

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

    • Romans 1:7, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!”
    • I Corinthians 1:1, “…called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God”
    • I Corinthians 1:4, “…the grace of God that was given to you in Christ Jesus”
    • II Corinthians 1:2, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!”
    • Galatians 1:3, “Grace and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ”
    • Ephesians 1:2, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!”
    • Philippians 1:2, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!”
    • Colossians 1:2, “Grace and peace to you from God our Father!”
    • I Thessalonians 1:1, “… to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace and peace to you!”
    • II Thessalonians 1:2, “Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!”
    • I Timothy 1:2, “Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord!”
    • Titus 1:4, “Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior!”
    • Philemon 1:3, “Grace and peace to you8 from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!”
    • I Peter 1:3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!”
    • II John 3, “Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Son of the Father”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • All things from (Greek: “ek“) the Father
    • All things through (Greek: “dia“) the Son

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

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

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

    • Ephesians 2:10, “For we are his workmanship, created in [en] Christ Jesus…”
    • Ephesians 4:24, “…and to put on the new man who has been created in [en] God’s image – in righteousness and holiness that comes from truth”
    • Colossians 1:15-20, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation, for all things in heaven and on earth were created in [en] him — all things, whether visible or invisible, whether thrones or dominions, whether principalities or powers — all things were created through [dia] him and for [eis] him. He himself is before all things and all things are held together in him. He is the head of the body, the church, as well as the beginning, the firstborn from among the dead, so that he himself may become first in all things. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in the Son, and through [dia] him to reconcile all things to himself by making peace through the blood of his cross — through [dia] him, whether things on earth or things in heaven”
    • Colossians 3:10, “…and have been clothed with the new man that is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of the one who created it”
    • Colossians 5:17, “So then, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; what is old has passed away – look, what is new has come!”
    • Hebrews 1:2, “in these last days he has spoken to us in a son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through [dia] whom he created the world [aion]”
    • II Peter 3:13, “But, according to his promise, we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness truly resides” (cf. Isaiah 66:22)

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

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

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

    I Corinthians 8:6 therefore tells us:

    • There is only one God, and that one God is the Father alone
    • There is only one Lord, and that Lord is Lord Jesus Messiah
    • The physical creation was the work of the Father
    • The spiritual creation is the work of the Son
  6. Philippians 2:3-11 (I) The Form of God
    Rob,

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Trinitarian scholar A. T. Robertson (Word Pictures of the New Testament, reprint, Holman Reference, 1958) wants us to believe that morphē means “the essential attributes as shown in the form”. His position is consistent with one of the options you’ve allowed yourself (without committing to either of them!) and the NET translators make the same assertion in their footnote (“The Greek term translated form indicates a correspondence with reality. Thus the meaning of this phrase is that Christ was truly God”). Other Trinitarian commentators have taken the same view (e.g. Daniel L. Akin, Jack Cottrell, M. R. Vincent, Glenn Miller, B. D. Smith, J. B. Coffman, James White).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Returning to the text:

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

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

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

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

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

    Other lexical authorities concur with LSJ.

    BDAG:

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

    TDNT:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Rob, where is your evidence that Philippians 2 is speaking of a pre-existent Christ? I have to ask, because you didn’t present any. You simply asserted it. Our readers should realise that you begin with this assumption simply because it suits your Christology, and not because it accurately reflects the words of Paul.

    But why should we presuppose pre-existence, as you have done? You’ve given us no reason to do so. What is there about Philippians 2 that even requires pre-existence? Nothing that I can see. Is anything lost from Paul’s message if Jesus is not pre-existent? No. You seem to believe that pre-existence is necessary in this context, yet that is simply not the case.

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

    Taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness: or “. . . taking the form of a slave. Coming in human likeness, and found human in appearance.”

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

    So why presuppose pre-existence?

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

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

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

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

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

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

    1. Had a human soul, to which the Logos imparted divinity gradually until he was fully divine
    2. Laid aside his deity and received it back again at his ascension
    3. Abandoned certain divine prerogatives and permanent characteristics (e.g. omniscience)
    4. Lived a “double life” in which his humanity and deity were divided to such an extent that they virtually comprised two individual persons, with his human side completely ignorant of his deity
    5. Disguised his deity and divine attributes by limiting them temporarily
    6. Gave up the use of certain attributes without actually losing them
    7. Pretended that he did not possess his divine attributes
    8. Gave up the independent exercise of his divine attributes, being solely guided and directed in their use by the Holy Spirit
    9. Limited himself to the voluntary non-use of his attributes
    10. Abandoned a substantial measure of independence in the exercise of his divine prerogatives

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • Despite being in the form of God and exemplifying His image perfectly, Jesus understood that equality with the Father was not something to be grasped at or stolen (unlike Adam, who hoped to seize it).
    • Instead, Jesus made himself nothing (unlike Adam, whose pride led to his fall), deliberately adopting a humble appearance as if he was merely a servant, and acting obediently in that role all the way to his death on the cross.
    • Consequently, God exalted Jesus and gave him a name above every name, so that everyone will bow the knee at the name of Jesus and confess him as Lord — to the glory of God, the Father.

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

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

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

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

    As Mauch puts it:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • Matthew 12:32, “Whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven. But whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age [aion] or in the age [aion] to come”
    • Luke 20:34, “So Jesus said to them, “The people of this age [aion] marry and are given in marriage”
    • I Corinthians 2:6, “Now we do speak wisdom among the mature, but not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age [aion], who are perishing”
    • Galations 1:4, “…who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from this present evil age [aion] according to the will of our God and Father”
    • Colossians 1:26, “…that is, the mystery that has been kept hidden from ages [aion] and generations, but has now been revealed to his saints”
    • Hebrews 9:26, “… But now he has appeared once for all at the consummation of the ages [aion]to put away sin by his sacrifice”

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

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

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

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

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

    Liddell-Scott-James:

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

    BDAG:

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

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

    In the verses which follow, the author of Hebrews repeatedly emphasises Jesus’ exalted position, demonstrating that he is ranked above everyone and everything in heaven and earth — except the Father (cf. I Corinthians 15:27-28, “But when it says ‘everything’ has been put in subjection, it is clear that this does not include the one who put everything in subjection to him. And when all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will be subjected to the one who subjected everything to him“).

    This description of Jesus’ supreme pre-eminence matches the high Christology of Biblical Unitarianism.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    • Verse 5: “for to which of the angels did God ever say…”
    • Verse 6: “when he brings his firstborn into the world, he says…”
    • Verse 8: “but of the Son he says…”
    • Verse 13: “but to which of the angels has he ever said…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    As usual, I will allow you the final word in this thread.

  13. Nice (though exhaustive) rebuttal, Dave.

    One remark. In the subsection “I Corinthians 8:4-6 (II)” you wrote: “It’s the same logic which tries to tell us that John wrote “logos” because he thought it was the best way to say “Jesus.” ”

    This is not the same logic at all. Jesus wasn’t “Jesus” before being a human soul, but he *was* the Logos, God’s spokesman. Though John didn’t use the word “Logos” in the same way as Philo did (and Philo’s teaching about the Logos later contributed to the development of the Trinity), it can hardly be denied that, also considering the historical context of the word Logos, John in his poetic prologue was referring to Christ as “the beginning of the creation.” (Re 3:14)

    By claiming that “Jesus Christ, through whom all things are” (1Co 8:6b) only refers to “the new creation,” you make the same error of which you accuse Bowman: you obscure Paul’s words in regard of a text that, taken at face value, is “both undeniably clear and critically damaging” to your position. You do this again in regard of Heb 1:2, which unequivocally refers to Jesus as the one “through [di] whom also He [God] made the world.”

  14. Dale,

    It ain’t over until it’s over! I have had difficulty finding the time to respond to Dave’s comments in this thread, but most of them are ready to go now.

  15. JESUS IS LORD—ROMANS 10:9-13

    Dave,

    You claim with regard to Romans 10:9-10 that “Paul’s juxtaposition of ‘Lord’ and ‘God’ in this context denotes contrast, not equivalence.” I’m afraid you offered no exegetical support for this alleged “contrast.” I agree that in this passage Paul calls Jesus “Lord” and the Father “God,” but this linguistic difference in no way shows that “Lord” in this context is not a divine name.

    You argued that Jesus, as the “cornerstone” to which Isaiah 28:16 referred, is distinguished from Yahweh who laid that “cornerstone.” In support you cited several NT texts that apply Isaiah 28:16 to Jesus, including 1 Peter 2:6. However, Peter also applies in this same context Isaiah 8:12-14 to Jesus, even though the “stone of stumbling and rock of offense” of which Isaiah spoke there was Yahweh (see further Putting Jesus in His Place, 168-70). Notice how the “stone” imagery in Isaiah 8:12-15 and 28:16 overlap in Psalm 118:22, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.” Here the cornerstone (cf. Is. 28:16) is the rejected stone (cf. Is. 8:12-15). The NT also applies Psalm 118:22 to Christ several times (Matt. 21:42-44; Mark 12:10; Luke 20:17-18; Acts 4:11; 1 Peter 2:7; cf. Eph. 2:20). More importantly, Paul himself fuses Isaiah 28:16 and 8:14 into one quotation in the immediate context in Romans 9:33. Here are the texts:

    “He will be as a sanctuary, But a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense” (Isa. 8:14a Heb., as translated in the NKJV).
    “And if you put your trust in him, he shall be for you a sanctuary and not meet him as a stone of stumbling or as a rock that makes you fall” (Isa. 8:14a LXX).
    “Behold, I lay for the foundations of Zion a costly chosen stone, a precious cornerstone for its foundations, and the one who believes in him shall not be put to shame” (Isa. 28:16 LXX).
    “As it is written: ‘Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame’” (Rom. 9:33).

    Paul has clearly conflated the two texts from Isaiah into his quotation in Romans 9:33 (a point widely acknowledged by commentators and denied by none so far as I know; for an in-depth analysis, see Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, NICNT [Eerdmans, 1996], 628-30). In this light, we should reject the idea that his quotation of Isaiah 28:16 in Romans 10:11 distinguishes Jesus from the Lord YHWH.

    Exegetically, it is reasonably clear and scholars widely agree that “Lord” in verse 12 refers to Christ (see, e.g, Moo, Romans, 659-60; Thomas R. Schreiner, Romans, BECNT [Baker, 1998], 561, who quotes a virtual who’s who of commentators including Sanday and Headlam, Barrett, Murray, Cranfield, Käsemann, and Fitzmyer; see also Leon Morris, The Epistle to the Romans, Pillar NT Commentary [Eerdmans, 1988], 388; James D. G. Dunn, Romans 9-16, WBC 38B [Word, 1988], 617). I will therefore not argue the point. The one secondary source you cited merely claimed that this was a disputed point, but favored the correct exegesis that “Lord” in verse 12 is Christ, not the Father.

    Likewise, the chain of Paul’s argument from verse 9 through verse 12 to verse 13 makes it reasonably certain that the “Lord” of verses 12 and 13 is the same “Lord” as verse 9. To argue that “Lord” in verse 13 refers to the Father instead of to Christ simply is not exegetically feasible. As Moo says, “the flow of the context makes this almost impossible” (Moo, Romans, 661). Even Dunn admits that Paul cites Joel 2:32 “evidently with the full intention of referring it to ‘the Lord Jesus,’” only to finesse the evidence for Christ’s deity away on the grounds that Paul’s point “is not, however, a Christological one” (Dunn, Romans 9-16, 617). Whew, that was a close one!

    You spend a lot of time trying to prove that Peter in Acts 2 understood Joel 2:32 to refer to the Father and not to Christ. In fact, you devoted about three-fourths of your post on the exegesis of Romans 10:9-13 not to that passage but to Acts 2. I have addressed the use of Joel 2:32 in Acts in my fifth-week post, but exegetically we must look at Acts 2 and Romans 10 each on its own, though we may then make some comparisons and draw some connections. Whatever you may think is going on in Acts 2, it does not change the fact that in Romans 10:12-13 Paul applies Joel 2:32 to Jesus.

  16. PRAYER TO THE LORD JESUS

    Dave,

    You wrote:

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

    Dave, frankly, if you didn’t find any evidence, you didn’t look. The Greek word epikaleō that Paul uses in Romans 10:12-13 (“rich to all who call upon him…whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved”) in religious contexts denotes prayer or the petitioning of a deity:

    • Liddell-Scott: “to call upon a god, invoke, appeal to”
    • Friberg: “as invoking God’s name in prayer”

    Thayer’s detailed comment is worth quoting:

    “Hebraistically (…to call upon by pronouncing the name of Jehovah, Gen. 4:26; 12:8; 2 Kings 5:11, etc.; …an expression finding its explanation in the fact that prayers addressed to God ordinarily began with an invocation of the divine name: Ps. 3:2; 6:2; 7:2, etc.) epikaloumai to onoma tou kuriou, I call upon (on my behalf) the name of the Lord, i. e. to invoke, adore, worship, the Lord, i.e. Christ: Acts 2:21 (from Joel 2:32 (Joel 3:5)); 9:14,21; 22:16; Rom. 10:13f; 1 Cor. 1:2; ton kurion, Rom. 10:12; 2 Tim. 2:22.”

    That this is its meaning in Joel 2:32 and in Romans 10:12-13 is a fact that commentators routinely point out. “The OT background of the term indicates that it refers to invoking God in prayer” (Schreiner, Romans, 562; similarly Leon Morris, Romans, 387-88; etc., etc.). Even James Dunn admits regarding Paul’s language in Romans 10:12 that “the most obvious connotation is of calling in prayer or entreaty on [sic] a divinity” (Dunn, Romans 9-16, 617).

    Your comments on John 14:14 employ the same tried and true methodology you used to dismiss most of the texts that call Jesus “God” from consideration. Yes, there is a textual variant, but the text-critical evidence definitely favors inclusion of the Greek word me (meaning “me”!).

    After trying to slough off the evidence that Jesus receives prayer, you argue that even if he does it doesn’t support his deity:

    “Does this prove that he is God? Not at all. The capacity to hear believers’ prayers indicates tremendous supernatural power, but it is still a long way short of omniscience (a quality that Jesus clearly lacks; see Matthew 24:36, Mark 11:12-14, Luke 2:52, John 11:34).”

    “A long way short”? Hardly. You haven’t even addressed the difficulties I mentioned in my post. Christ must know what everyone is thinking at every moment of the day in order to be sure that he hears every prayer that people direct to him. The texts you cite show that Jesus experienced finite limitations of knowledge in his humiliation as a mortal for our salvation. None of these texts suggests that Jesus lacks any knowledge now, after his resurrection.

    By the way, Mark 11:12-14 and John 11:34 do not say anything about Christ that the Bible doesn’t also say about God. Mark 11:12-14 says that Jesus saw a fig tree at a distance and went to it looking for figs and found none, so he cursed the fig tree. This should remind you of an Old Testament passage: “My well-beloved had a vineyard on a fertile hill…. He expected it to produce grapes, but it produced only worthless ones…. Judge between me and my vineyard. What more was there to do for my vineyard that I have not done in it? Why, when I expected it to produce good grapes did it produce worthless ones? …For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his delightful plant. Thus he looked for justice but behold bloodshed, for righteousness but behold a cry of distress” (Isa. 5:2, 4).

    John 11:34, “Where have you laid him?” also need not imply ignorance, any more than God’s questions to Adam and Eve: “Where are you? …Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat? …What is this that you have done?” (Gen. 3:9, 11, 13).

    Regarding Daniel 10:12-13, you conclude that God heard Daniel’s prayer and told the angel to respond. “If this is the case, we can say exactly the same for Jesus in John 14:14.” Really, now. This argument ignores the fact that the angel could only be in one place at a time. God could hear all prayers of all people in all the world; he sent the angel to one person (at that moment), Daniel. The angel was not responding to all prayers but just this one. And even then, the angel told Daniel he was delayed three weeks in reaching him!

    Finally, you suggest that even though there is some evidence in the NT of people praying to Jesus, it is the exception rather than the rule. What does this prove? If we find evidence of Jesus receiving worship, is that also irrelevant if you can claim that it is the exception rather than the rule? Suppose for the sake of argument that out of the two billion professing Christians in the world, only one per cent of them prayed on any given day. Let us suppose that these 20 million Christians spend an average of just one minute in prayer each day. Suppose further that just one per cent of those prayers are directed to Jesus (which would satisfy your “exception to the rule” dictum). That would still mean that Jesus would need to listen to more than a thousand different people praying every second of every minute of every day! And again, this “listening” would have to include knowing what was in people’s minds and hearts—and not just one at a time, but a thousand or more at a time.

  17. DOES “ONE GOD” IN 1 CORINTHIANS 8:4-6 SETTLE THE MATTER?

    Dave,

    You opened your response to me on 1 Corinthians 8:4-6 with the following comment:

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

    Your claim that I “found it necessary to amend [my] exegetical approach” is unfounded. Such a statement suggests that I altered my approach in week 2 from the approach I had staked out in week 1. This is simply not true. Your suggestion that my comments were “a setup” to allow me to dispense with texts “critically damaging to the Trinitarian position” is a nice bit of projection on your part. My whole point was that neither of us should take the approach of putting texts on a “do not use” list on the basis of their allegedly not being “clear.” Of course, this is exactly what you did in week 2, arguing that most of the texts that appear to call Jesus God were a mere distraction from the task of developing a biblical Christology because of the uncertainty as to their text, translation, or meaning.

    You wrote:

    “I was therefore not surprised when John 17:3 and I Corinthians 8:6 appeared on your hit list, since these verses unequivocally identify the Father alone as truly God, and preclude the inclusion of any other person in that category.”

    I don’t follow you. John 17:3 was not on a “hit list” of mine; it was a text to which I gave direct attention, recognizing that you would regard it as proof of your position. As for 1 Corinthians 8:6, apparently we both think it supports our views. One of us must be mistaken, of course.

    You wrote:

    “We shouldn’t really be spending any time at all on I Corinthians 8:6, except to point out that it speaks for itself. Two persons are mentioned, but only one is identified as God. Could it possibly be easier?”

    Your entire line of reasoning here is specious because it confuses vocabulary with theological meaning. When you say that only the Father is identified as “God” in 1 Corinthians 8:6, what you mean is that the linguistic label “G-o-d” is applied only to the Father in that text. We all understand that, Dave, but that isn’t the issue. The issue is whether 1 Corinthians 8:6 identifies only the Father as the one Creator and Sovereign Ruler of the cosmos, or whether it identifies both the Father and Jesus Christ as occupying that position. That the Father alone is referenced using the linguistic unit “G-o-d” is not, in this context, the same thing as saying that the Father alone is God and Jesus Christ is not. I could say to you that 1 Corinthians 8:6 applies the linguistic label “L-o-r-d” only to Jesus Christ and not to the Father, and this would be true, but it would not follow (I trust you agree) that this does not mean that 1 Corinthians 8:6 is denying that the Father is truly Lord.

    You wrote:

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

    Your claim is easily turned around on you: Paul states quite explicitly that Jesus Christ is the “one Lord,” and this is a statement that you do not take at face value. I accept both halves of Paul’s statement; you do not.

    You listed a number of statements that affirm “one God” but do not apply this expression to Jesus Christ. In a few of these statements Christ is explicitly distinguished from the one who is called the one God in those contexts, that is, the Father (1 Cor. 8:6; Eph. 4:6; 1 Tim. 2:5). The rest of the texts do not identify the one God as the Father or clearly distinguish the one God from Jesus Christ (Mark 12:29, 32; Rom. 3:30; Gal. 3:20; James 2:19), and in a few texts we Trinitarians actually find evidence that Jesus is God (Mark 2:7; 10:18). You won’t agree with that, of course. Similarly, the NT a few times refers to “the only God,” and twice this language is applied to the Father as distinct from Jesus Christ (John 17:3; Jude 25) and twice this distinction is simply not made (John 5:44; 1 Tim. 1:17). Of course, the NT customarily does use the word “God” for the Father and “Lord” for Jesus, as many of the salutations you cited also illustrate (Rom. 1:7; 2 Cor. 1:2; Eph. 1:3; etc.).

    You argue from this linguistic data that the customary use of “God” for the Father and the specific expression “one God” exclusively in reference to the Father disproves the Trinitarian belief that Jesus Christ is eternal deity. Yet all of this is perfectly consistent with the doctrine of the Trinity. Your entire line of attack on the doctrine of the Trinity is theologically fallacious because it is fixated on words instead of on the theological substance of what the NT writers say about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in many different ways. You continue to appeal to the lack of certain linguistic expressions in certain places (arguments from silence, i.e., Paul did not mention the Holy Spirit here) and to dictate to the biblical authors how they should have expressed things if they are to be understood to mean that Jesus Christ is eternal deity. When a NT writer fails to call Jesus God, you claim this to be evidence that he is not; when a NT writer does call Jesus God, you dismiss this as evidence that he is. When a NT writer fails to mention the Holy Spirit alongside the Father and the Son, you claim this to be proof that he is not a distinct person; when a NT writer does mention the Holy Spirit alongside the Father and the Son, you dismiss this as evidence that he is a distinct person. Either way, you think you’ve got it covered. In fact, you are playing a shell game with the words of the Bible in which it doesn’t really matter whether the “right words” are under any particular shell or not. If the right words are not under the shell, you win; if they are under the shell, you have a sleight-of-hand maneuver to hide them and again you win.

    Tell me: if the Bible could call Jesus “God” and mean merely that he is God’s agent, why could the Bible not, hypothetically speaking, call Jesus “one God” and not also mean that he is the one God’s agent? After all, you have already argued that even though the Bible does call Jesus, not just “God,” but “my Lord and my God” (as you admit), these statements mean only that he is a man whom God exalted to serve as his agent. So why could the words “one God” not likewise be finessed to mean only that Christ is the one God’s agent? The only reason that you treat these words as definitive in 1 Corinthians 8:6 is because the happenstance that these words never apply in Scripture to Christ fits your paradigm that he cannot be the eternal Creator. If the Bible did refer to Jesus as “one God” you would simply explain it away in the same manner that you explain away Thomas calling Jesus “my God.”

    If you are to mount a case against the Trinity, you will have to find a method that does not equate linguistic data with theological meaning, that does not constantly depend on arguments from silence, and that does not approach the biblical texts using a method that in effect makes it irrelevant what the Bible actually says.

  18. “ONE LORD”: STRAW MAN ARGUMENTS

    Dave,

    You wrote:

    “Commentators have correctly noted that ‘kyrios’ was used in the LXX and NT to represent the name of Yahweh. But in stressing this word in I Corinthians 8:6, they forget that it was also used to represent the non-divine title of ‘adon’, which I discussed in an earlier section. We can’t simply claim that kyrios means Yahweh whenever it suits us; we need to show a reason why it must mean this in any given verse and context.

    Straw man alert!

    Although you couch your comment here in reference to unnamed “commentators,” it has no relevance here unless it is also aimed at me, since you are responding to my claim that kurios represents the name Yahweh in 1 Corinthians 8:6. Thus, I must point out that you are engaging in the old fallacy of knocking down a straw man by suggesting that I merely “claimed” that kurios represents Yahweh in 1 Corinthians 8:6 because it “suits” me and without showing any “reason” for this interpretation in the context. In fact, I gave four exegetical reasons for my interpretation! You completely ignored three of those reasons and addressed the fourth (concerning Christ’s role in creation) in a separate comment, separating that point from my cumulative four-point argument for interpreting “one Lord” as an allusion to the Shema. In short, you tried your best to represent me as offering no exegetical argument for my interpretation of kurios in 1 Corinthians 8:6.

    You wrote:

    “Saying that ‘Lord’ means ‘Yahweh’ in I Corinthians 8:6 is both exegetically unjustifiable and theologically problematic, because it defines Jesus as ‘Yahweh’ to the exclusion of the Father and does not solve the Trinitarian dilemma that Jesus is not defined here as ‘God.’”

    All you are doing here is applying your same fallacious reasoning with regards to the expression “one God” to the parallel expression “one Lord.” I give you a point here for consistency, but your reasoning is consistently flawed. Identifying Jesus as the “one Lord” of the Shema (i.e., Yahweh) does not identify him as such “to the exclusion of the Father.” In saying so, you are seeing a theological problem where none exists. I believe that would be another straw man!

    You wrote:

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

    Here you have a different problem: You cite a work here that absolutely refutes your position, and you don’t even mention that fact! Waaler’s dissertation masterfully demonstrates that Paul in 1 Corinthians 8:6 is indeed speaking of Jesus Christ as the “one Lord” of the Shema. Paul’s polemic against pagan polytheism does not oppose polytheism with ditheism, in which the Creator God exalts a mere creature to divine status as his “agent God.” Rather, Paul placed his confession of Jesus Christ within the context of his Jewish commitment to the Lord God of Israel by including Christ in the identity of that Lord God. Waaler takes the argument for this conclusion to a new level, carefully examining Paul’s use of Deuteronomy in 1 Corinthians, including statements in the larger context (especially 1 Cor. 8-10) in which Paul refers to Jesus as “Lord” in other ways that also identify him as the “LORD” of Deuteronomy. I touched on this evidence in one of those three exegetical arguments that you pretended I didn’t present.

  19. JAMES MCGRATH ON 1 CORINTHIANS 8:4-6

    In your critique of my position on 1 Corinthians 8:4-6, you relied very heavily on James McGrath’s recent discussion of this passage (The Only True God: Early Christian Monotheism in Its Jewish Context [University of Illinois Press, 2009], 38-44). McGrath attempts to refute the view of Richard Bauckham and others that “one Lord” in that passage identifies Jesus Christ as the “one Lord” of the Shema. According to McGrath, Paul’s confession of Jesus relates to the Shema as an addition, not an adaptation or amplification: Paul confesses the Father as the one God of the Shema and Jesus Christ as “one Lord” who serves God as his created, exalted agent.

    McGrath presents two main arguments against the view that Bauckham takes and three main arguments in support of his own view. I will address each of these five arguments.

    1. McGrath finds it dubious that Paul could have adapted the Shema to distinguish “God” as the Father and “Lord” as the Son without any explanation or defense (39). This objection does not quite get right what Bauckham and others of the same perspective (including me) are saying. The claim is not that Paul took the Shema, which referred to the Lord as God, and split its divine figure into two deities, one who is God (not Lord) and the other who is Lord (not God). Rather, the claim is that Paul treated these two divine names “God” and “Lord” as both identifying the one divine Creator and proper object of religious devotion, but included Jesus in that divine identity. As for Paul not stopping to explain or defend this idea, this may simply reflect that the identity of Jesus Christ was not an issue of dispute between Paul and the Corinthians.

    2. McGrath asserts that “we would surely have expected Paul to express himself differently” had he meant to identify Jesus as the one God of the Shema. McGrath suggests that Paul “could have written, ‘There is one God: the Father, from whom are all things, and the Son, through whom are all things’” (40). This would make the point in modern English, all right, with its convenient use of the colon, but it would have not said what McGrath is suggesting in ancient Greek (which ran words together with no spaces and rarely used any sort of punctuation).

    Both of these objections are essentially a priori objections, complaining that Paul would not have used the Shema in the way suggested and if he had he should have done it differently. I have already explained in some detail why such arguments are invalid.

    3. McGrath proposes that verse 5 distinguishes “gods” as heavenly figures from “lords” as their earthly representatives, setting up verse 6 to distinguish between the Father as God and Jesus as his representative Lord. He presents the following outline in support of this explanation (41):

    in heaven . . . or on earth
    many gods . . . many lords
    one God . . . one Lord

    There are several reasons to reject this explanation. (a) Paul refers to the “gods” as being both in heaven and on earth: “For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth….” This shows that McGrath’s outline is flawed; Paul was not distinguishing between “gods” in heaven and “lords” on earth. (b) According to the Christology that McGrath appears to favor (and that you explicitly defend), Jesus did not become “Lord” until his exaltation to heaven. Thus he is not an earthly representative of God but is, like God the Father, a heavenly figure—making McGrath’s proposed distinction of no relevance. (c) McGrath cites no evidence to show that such a distinction between “gods” and “lords” was in play in the first century, and for good reason: from all the evidence we have, it was not. The terms “god” and “lord” were overlapping in their semantic domains, with “god” favored more often in some contexts and “lord” in others, but never so far as I know distinguished in the way that McGrath proposes.

    4. McGrath cites 1 Timothy 2:5, “one God and one mediator,” as a parallel to 1 Corinthians 8:6, suggesting that the meaning of both texts is the same (41-42). You liked this argument and quoted it in your comment. The problem with this argument is that the word “mediator” is not in the Shema, whereas the word “Lord” is—twice. Again, there is no basis for interpreting “Lord” to mean a mediator or representative.

    5. McGrath also cites an OT text as another example of a text supplementing the Shema: “For there is none like you, and there is no God besides you… And who is like your people Israel, the one nation on earth whom God went to redeem to be his people” (2 Sam. 7:22-23). McGrath is almost sarcastic: “I doubt whether anyone has ever suggested that in this passage the people of Israel are being included in the Shema” (42). You also liked and quoted this argument in your comment. In response, perhaps the reason why no one has ever suggested that Israel is included in the Shema is that “the one nation on earth whom God went to redeem to be his people” is obviously not even remotely synonymous with “God,” whereas “Lord” is the divine name emphasized in the Shema itself!

    There are poor arguments, and then there are dreadful arguments; this last argument is in the “dreadful” category. I’m afraid that McGrath’s case for his alternative interpretation of “one Lord” in 1 Corinthians 8:6 is a failure.

  20. ALL THINGS THROUGH CHRIST

    Dave,

    You wrote:

    “The second phase of your argument asserts that Jesus is God because he created the world, an idea you derive from I Corinthians 8:6b (‘and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we live’).”

    Actually, this is not a “second phase” of an argument “that Jesus is God,” but rather the third of four arguments that “one Lord” in 1 Corinthians 8:6 identifies Jesus as the “one Lord” of the Shema. You wrote:

    “Strangely, you link this with Romans 11:36, which does not refer to Jesus and provides two additional qualifiers (“from him… to him”) applied exclusively to the Father.”

    There is nothing “strange” about this comparison. I didn’t claim that Romans 11:36 refers to Jesus. I claimed that both texts speak about “all things” being “from” and “through” someone—in Romans 11:36, God. Comparing 1 Corinthians 8:6 to Romans 11:36 is standard fare in the exegetical commentaries.

    The statement that all things are “to him” (or “for him,” eis auton) is not something that Paul says exclusively about the Father. He says these very words also about Christ (Col. 1:16). It might help to set out in one place all of the relevant texts:

    God, Rom. 11:36—“for from him [ex autou ] and through him [di’ autou] and for him [eis auton] are all things [ta panta]”
    God, Acts 17:28—“For in him [en autō] we live and move and exist”
    The Father, 1 Cor. 8:6a—“from [ex] whom are all things [ta panta] and we for him [eis auton]”
    The Father, Heb. 2:10—“because of whom [di’ hon] are all things [ta panta] and through whom [di’ hou] are all things [ta panta]”
    Christ, 1 Cor 8:6b—“through [di’] whom are all things [ta panta] and we through him [di’ autou]”
    The Logos, John 1:3—“All things [panta] came into being through him [di’ autou]”
    The Son, Col. 1:16—“For in him [en autō] were created all things [ta panta]…all things [ta panta] have been created through him [di’ autou] and for him [eis auton]”
    The Son, Heb. 1:2—“through whom [di’ hou] also he made the ages”

    What we see here is that both Paul and Hebrews can say that all things were created “through” God (Rom. 11:36), specifically the Father (Heb. 2:10), and that all things were created “through” the Son (Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:2), Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 8:6b). Paul can also say that all things are “for” (eis) God (Rom. 11:36), specifically the Father (1 Cor. 8:6a), and that all things are “for” (eis) the Son (Col. 1:16).

    You wrote:

    “The essential qualifier (‘from him’) appears in I Corinthians 8:6, but here again it is applied exclusively to the Father, demonstrating that He alone is the source of creation.”

    If the words “from him” apply exclusively to the Father and therefore not to Christ, then by that same reasoning the words “through whom” could not apply to the Father but must apply only to Christ. But both Paul and Hebrews use these words “through him” for the Father. Therefore, your claim that the words “from him” apply exclusively to the Father cannot stand.

    You wrote:

    “Even if we concluded that the Son is described as God’s agent of creation, this would still not make Jesus God; at the very most, it supports Arianism.”

    Since all things exist “through” the Father without making him a mere agent, the same can be said about the Son. If the Son was God’s agent in creation, then, in light of Isaiah 44:24, he must be Yahweh. Of course, if the Son participated in any way in the making of all things, Unitarianism is dead.

    You argued that Christ’s role in 1 Corinthians 8:6, “through whom are all things,” refers to the new creation and not to the original creation of the universe. This idea cannot be extracted from the text of 1 Corinthians; it must be read into the text, which is why to support it you had to go to verses like John 3:7 and Isaiah 66:2. Your main attempt to establish this interpretation depends on a particular reading of Colossians 1:16 that is itself at best debatable. Specifically, your view is that all of Colossians 1:15-20 is about the “new creation” effected by Christ’s redemptive work. You wrote:

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

    Perhaps you should answer some of your own questions first, before demanding that Trinitarians answer them. Just what do you think these thrones, dominions, principalities, and powers are, and how are they created for the first time as part of the new creation?

    Paul says in Acts 17:28 that all people live, move, and exist “in” God. He is speaking here in the context of creation (vv. 24-27), so his statement here appears to mean that as a result of creation all of us have our existence in some sense “in” God. If Paul can say this about the original creation in reference to God, I don’t see why he cannot use similar language in reference to Christ’s role in the original creation.

    In any case, the parallel (not contrast) in 1 Corinthians 8:6 between “all things” being “from” and “for” the Father and “all things” being “through” Christ really requires that “all things” has the same meaning in both cases. Furthermore, the parallel confessions about the Logos in John 1:3, 10 (“all things came into being through him”) and about the Son in Hebrews 1:2 (“whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom also he made the ages”) shows that this is stock NT Christian language for the role of Jesus Christ in the original creation.

  21. PHILIPPIANS 2:3-11

    Dave,

    Your five-part series of comments on Philippians 2:3-11 is really not a rebuttal to my treatment of the passage in the above post. Only 148 words of the 1,193 words in your first comment, regarding “form of God” in verse 6, even pretend to address anything I wrote. The rest of that comment criticizes a position I did not take. Only 8 of the 1,318 words in your second comment, regarding the Greek word harpagmon, have anything to do with my treatment of the passage! In your third comment, 167 words of the comment’s 753 words purport to be addressed to my position, but in fact (as I shall explain below) completely ignore what I actually wrote. The rest of that third comment does not even pretend to address anything I wrote. Your fourth comment, consisting of 708 words, on “kenosis,” actually ignores me entirely! Finally, about 370 words of the 1,428 words in your fifth post, regarding Christ’s being in the form of a servant and his exaltation, do address something I wrote.

    In sum, less than 700 words of the 5,400 words in your five-part series of comments on Philippians 2 even pretend to engage anything I wrote. If we remove those 700 words, what we find is a multi-part examination from you of Philippians 2 that critiques other people’s views, not my view. It appears that you wrote something on Philippians 2 and decided to use it as a “rebuttal” to my argument, adding a few comments here or there directed at something I said (and in a couple of instances something I did not say!) to make it appear that you were rebutting my argument.

    “Form of God”

    Your comments completely ignored what I wrote about verses 3-5, which, as I clearly explained, is the key to my interpretation of verses 6-11. Instead, you jumped immediately to verse 6. That alone disqualifies your series of posts as a rebuttal to my argument.

    In your first comment, you focused on the expression “form of God” (morphē theou), arguing at length that it does not mean the essence or nature of God; instead, you argued, morphē must mean “appearance.” In my treatment of the passage, I had explained that my interpretation does not depend on choosing definitely between “nature” and “appearance” as the meaning of morphē in this context. Your one and only criticism of my argument in this comment was that I had failed to come down decisively on one explanation or the other. I don’t think there was anything wrong with me framing the argument to show that it didn’t matter which way we understand morphē, but I am happy to tell you what I think. I actually tend to agree with Strimple, Decker, and other recent exegetes who conclude that the meaning of morphē is “appearance.”

    If we simply accept this conclusion without qualification, it does not undermine my interpretation at all. Christ existed in the outward appearance of God (v. 6) but humbly took on the outward appearance of a servant (v. 7). If we set aside the “nature” interpretation of morphē, it actually simplifies the reading of the passage from an orthodox theological perspective: Christ could have come in the blazing glorious appearance of deity that was properly his, but he chose to come in the humble, self-effacing appearance of a lowly servant. He exchanged the robes of deity for the loin cloth of the slave. He stripped off his outer garments of divine glory and wrapped himself in the towel of a human servant to wash our feet. Not only is this way of reading the text consistent with my position, it really demands it.

    By contrast, interpreting morphē consistently to mean “appearance” will not fit the Unitarian interpretation. Christ “existed in the appearance of God…but emptied himself, taking the appearance of a servant.” How does this fit Unitarian Christology? You don’t think it does, either, which is why, after all the argument to show that morphē means “appearance,” you assert that what this really means is “image” (citing Cullmann, whose views on what this means in context you do not mention and certainly do not accept). Well, then, if you want to take this view, then you must be consistent: Christ “existed in the image of God…but emptied himself, taking the image of a servant.” This would appear to mean that Christ exchanged the image of God for the image of a servant. So, did Christ stop existing in God’s image? When did he do that?

    By the way, I agree with Strimple, whom you quoted to refute a claim I did not make. He wrote: “The argument that because morphē translates the Aramaic [TSELEM] in Daniel 3:19, it is synonymous with eikōn (image) which translates the Hebrew [TSELEM] in Genesis 1:26—and therefore Christ being in the form of God equals Adam (and all men) being in the image of God—is just too facile” (“Philippians 2:5-11 in Recent Studies,” Westminster Theological Journal 41 [1979]: 260-61). More recent studies have also seriously undermined this popular argument. See, for example, Dave Steenburg, “The Case against the Synonymity of morphē and eikōn,” Journal for the Study of the New Testament 34 (1988): 77-86; Gerald F. Hawthorne, “In the Form of God and Equal with God (Philippians 2:6),” in Where Christology Began: Essays on Philippians 2, ed. Ralph P. Martin and Brian J. Dodds (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1998), 96-110.

    I’m content that the orthodox belief that Christ preexisted in heaven as God, existing in God’s glorious appearance, before coming to earth as the Servant, makes far better sense of the passage than your Unitarian reading.

    “Did not consider equality with God harpagmon

    In your second comment on Philippians 2, your only remark that was in any way directed to my discussion of the passage was this statement: “Rob, harpagmos is not a ‘notoriously difficult word.’” I confess that I found that statement amusing. Anyone familiar with the scholarship on Philippians 2:6 knows that harpagmon is perhaps the most controversial word in the NT! Cullmann, whom you quoted, observed that the words “did not consider equality with God harpagmon” were a “difficult phrase” (Christology of the New Testament, 177). Peter T. O’Brien refers to the word harpagmon as an “enigmatic expression” (The Epistle to the Philippians: A Commentary on the Greek Text, NIGTC [Eerdmans, 1991], 212). Examples of such statements can easily be multiplied. N. T. Wright grouped as many as twenty different explanations into a still nearly unmanageable list of ten types of explanations (“Harpagmos and the Meaning of Philippians 2:5-11,” Journal of Theological Studies 37 [1986]: 321-52).

    If you’re going to argue about the meaning of the word and cite scholarly reference works, you simply cannot do this adequately without at least mentioning the now dominant interpretation of harpagmon as “something to be exploited” (Phil. 2:6 NRSV) and the work of such scholars as Wright and Roy W. Hoover (“The HARPAGMOS Enigma: A Philological Solution,” Harvard Theological Review 64 [1971]: 95-119). But you don’t do this, despite the fact that you cite scholars who mention these things. I can only conclude that you omitted any reference to this information because it spoils your claim that harpagmon is a non-controversial word that indisputably means that Christ did not have equality with God and did not try to get it.

    Christ v. Adam in Philippians 2

    In the remainder of your second comment on Philippians 2, you argue strenuously for an “Adam Christology” approach to the passage that would understand it to mean that Jesus was, in effect, a better man than Adam. You admit, though, that some scholars agree that Philippians 2 implicitly contrasts Christ with Adam while maintaining that it does so in a way that still means that Christ preexisted his human life. In other words, that the passage implicitly contrasts Christ and Adam does not settle the question of whether Christ is a preexistent divine person. Pauline scholar Lincoln D. Hurst makes the following important observation: “The central issue to be decided is whether the act of Adam is contrasted with the act of the heavenly Christ or with that of the human Jesus” (“Christ, Adam, and Preexistence Revisited,” in Where Christology Began: Essays on Philippians 2, ed. Martin and Dodd, 84).

    The traditional understanding has been stated this way: “Adam, who grasped at a dignity to which he had not right, should be contrasted with Christ, who renounced a status to which he had every right” (G. B. Caird, Paul’s Letters from Prison [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1976], 121, quoted in Hurst, “Christ, Adam, and Preexistence Revisited,” 84). As New Testament scholar N. T. Wright put it: “Adam, in arrogance, thought to become like God: Christ, in humility, became man” (“Harpagmos and the Meaning of Philippians 2:5-11,” 348).

    You don’t offer any exegetical evidence against this understanding of Philippians 2. Instead, you offer a theological objection:

    “Philippians 2 is written within the context of Adam Christology, demonstrating that the saving power of Christ’s death is predicated upon his unqualified humanity, thereby precluding the concept of deity. A mortal man brought sin and death into the world; a mortal man was therefore required to bring salvation. Jesus had to be a genuine human being in order to repair the damage of Adam’s sin by succeeding where he had failed. This could not be achieved by a divine saviour, for the atonement is impossible if Jesus is essentially different from Adam.”

    This theological objection assumes what you are supposed to be proving. What if Philippians 2 actually teaches that the man who saves us is a divine person who became a man for that very purpose? Again, the contrast between Adam and Christ does not disprove this claim.

    The Preexistent Christ in Philippians 2

    Two or three times in your third comment on Philippians 2, you allege that I merely presuppose or assume that the passage teaches that Christ is preexistent, rather than presenting any evidence for this conclusion. For example, you wrote:

    “Rob, where is your evidence that Philippians 2 is speaking of a pre-existent Christ? I have to ask, because you didn’t present any. You simply asserted it. Our readers should realise that you begin with this assumption simply because it suits your Christology, and not because it accurately reflects the words of Paul.”

    Dave, this is so outrageously false that I would be quite justified in simply ignoring everything you said about Philippians 2. Again, your 5,400 words of argumentation about this passage almost completely ignored my presentation and did completely ignore the exegetical arguments I gave for my interpretation.

    There are at least three key points that I made in my brief discussion of Philippians 2 that support my view and that you completely side-stepped. (1) Paul is using Christ’s deference to God the Father as the ultimate illustration of a person treating an equal as someone more important than himself (vv. 3-5). This makes perfect sense if Christ is by rights equal with God but makes no sense if Christ is by rights not equal with God. (2) Christ existed in God’s form but took the form of a servant (vv. 6-7). I have already explained why this means that Christ existed in heaven in the glorious appearance of God but graciously took on the humble appearance of God’s servant. (3) Christ “emptied himself,” that is, humbly gave of himself, by “becoming in the likeness of human beings,” and he found himself in outward appearance as a man (v. 7). As I put it, “A human being cannot humble himself to become a human being because that is what he already and originally is. What Paul says here, then, must refer to Christ’s decision before the Incarnation to become a human being.” You failed to engage any of these arguments, and instead falsely claimed that I “didn’t present any” evidence for my view. Shame on you!

    In your fifth comment (your fourth comment completely ignored me!), you falsely claimed that I “equate ‘form of a servant’ with ‘human nature.’” No, becoming human was simply part of what was involved in Christ taking on the “form of a servant.” That “form” was fully realized in Christ not only becoming a man but in suffering for our sins in fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy of the suffering “servant of the LORD” (Isa. 52:13-53:12). But Paul clearly indicates that becoming a man was part of what was involved: “he emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, becoming in the likeness of human beings” (v. 7).

    The rest of your fifth comment ignores my treatment of Philippians 2, so I will not bother with a point-by-point response to that material. Recent scholarship on Philippians 2 has sharply trended in the direction I have defended. Even Dunn, who denies that Paul taught the preexistence of Christ, admitted in an essay published in 1998 that it is “almost inevitable” that the passage should be understood as speaking of the preexistent Christ choosing to become a man. According to Dunn, though, what Paul meant was that “preexistent” Wisdom became embodied in the human person of Christ (James D. G. Dunn, “Christ, Adam, and Preexistence,” in Where Christology Began: Essays on Philippians 2, ed. Martin and Dodd, 78-79). The problem, of course, is that Paul says that Christ “existed in God’s form” (v. 6) and that it was Christ who took a slave’s form, was born in human likeness, and found himself to be a human being (v. 7). Thus, combining “Adam Christology” with “Wisdom Christology,” though creative, cannot eliminate the evidence from Philippians 2 that Paul understood Christ to be a preexistent divine person.

  22. THE DEITY OF CHRIST IN HEBREWS 1: THE EXORDIUM

    Dave,

    You begin your response to my treatment of Hebrews 1 with an odd criticism:

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

    You seem to reach for arguments from silence a lot, Dave. I said nothing specifically about verse 1 because I had a lot of ground to cover and little room to cover it. Verse 1 poses absolutely no problem for my Christology. God spoke in the past in the prophets; in these last days he has spoken to us in the Son. This statement has no implications, obvious or otherwise, as to when the Son began to exist. Nor does this statement mean that the Son could not have spoken as the preincarnate angel of the LORD. By your reasoning, the order is rigidly (1) prophets and no Son, (2) Son and no prophets. But we know, as it turns out, that there were prophets after the Son came (Acts 11:27; 13:1; 15:32; 21:10; 1 Cor. 12:28-29; 14:29, 32, 37; Eph. 2:20; 3:5; 4:11). The author’s point is simply that the revelation that came through the Son “in these last days” represents the climax, the high point, of the history of revelation.

    You wrote:

    “Despite this, you appear to approach the text with your usual preconception of pre-existence, as you did with Philippians 2.”

    Dave, this refrain is getting annoying. Both of us have our interpretive paradigms; that is not the issue. Your constant criticism that I “presuppose” Christ’s preexistence, or that this is merely a “preconception” of mine, is a bit of debating rhetoric, not a substantive argument.

    You claimed that you “could accept [my] entire excursus on Hebrews 1 and still reject Trinitarianism,” that is, by adopting Arianism in place of your Unitarianism. Well, in some respects that might represent a bit of progress, but your statement is false. Arians do not admit that the Son sustains the universe by his own powerful word (v. 3), that the angels give the Son the same worship due God (v. 6), that the Son’s designation as “God” has its full, usual biblical sense (v. 8), or that the Son is the eternal Lord who made heaven and earth (vv. 10-12). These are key conclusions for which I argued in my treatment of Hebrews 1, and they are no more acceptable to Arians than they are to Unitarians.

    You argue that the use of aiōn in Hebrews 1:2 shows that it is not referring to the creation of the world. Rather, “Hebrews 1:2b is part of the ‘new creation’ schema that we find in places like Colossians 1 and II Peter 3. It tells us that the era of the new creation was itself created through Christ; that is, made possible through his sacrificial death.” Unfortunately, you cited not a single text in which this usage appears, nor a single scholarly reference to back it up. The only secondary source that you did cite (Vincent) disagrees with your interpretation of Hebrews 1:2, which you chalk up to “his preconceptions” as a “Trinitarian”! You are quick to cite lexicons and other reference works where you think it suits your purpose; where are these citations here? Here are a few that I have handy at the moment:

    • Friberg: “plural, as a spatial concept, of the creation as having a beginning and moving forward through long but limited time universe, world (He 1.2; 9.26; 11.3)”
    • United Bible Societies: “age; world order; eternity”
    • Louw-Nida: “always occurring in the plural): the universe, perhaps with some associated meaning of ‘eon’ or ‘age’ in the sense of the transitory nature of the universe (but this is doubtful in the contexts of He 1.2 and .3) – ‘universe.’ di’ hou kai epoiēsen tous aiōnas ‘through whom (God) made the universe’ He .2. In He 1.2 it may be essential in a number of languages to translate ‘he is the one through whom God created everything,’ though in some instances a more idiomatic and satisfactory way of rendering the meaning would involve a phrase such as ‘… created both the earth and the sky’ or ‘… the heavens and the earth.’”
    • Thayer: “by metonymy of the container for the contained, hoi aiōnes denotes the worlds, the universe, i. e. the aggregate of things contained in time”

    Notice that this use of the word has to do especially with the plural form, hoi aiōnes (in Heb. 1:2, the accusative case, tous aiōnas). I am not aware of any recent commentator or exegete that does not agree that the term in this context refers to the original creation. Nor can I see any plausible way that “through whom also he made the ages” can mean “through whom he brought about the (redemptive) age of the new creation.” If you wish to construe the term in purely temporal terms, its meaning will be “the ages” or “the eons” rather than “the world(s),” but the conclusion will be the same: the whole order of creation, “the ages,” were created through the Son. Vincent’s translation, which you rejected, is quite accurate. The Jewish worldview divided history broadly into two ages (with some subdivisions possible): the present age, and the age to come. The unqualified expression “the ages” in Jewish usage would refer to the totality of the ages of creation. Thus, to draw a connection to your first objection, we may understand Hebrews to affirm that the “age” in which prophets dominated divine revelation (v. 1), along with all other “ages,” were created through the Son. This means, of course, that he was already there.

    The cosmic scope of the text’s affirmations is evident from the clauses that surround the one concerning the making of the aiōnes. The Son, whom God appointed “heir of all things [pantōn]” (v. 2), “upholds all things [ta panta] by the word of his power” (v. 3). None of this language is in any way restricted or narrowed to refer to the “new creation”; it is all standard Jewish rhetorical language for creation itself, the cosmos. Peter T. O’Brien’s new commentary (which you quoted on another point) draws the connection in this way: “The universe of time and space has always belonged to the Son since it was through his agency that it came into being. As the exalted Son and heir he rules over what was created through him in the beginning” (The Letter to the Hebrews, Pillar NT Commentary [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010], 53).

    The clause “and upholds all things by the word of his power” is an especially potent affirmation of the Son’s deity. As I pointed out in my discussion of this passage, the writer says that the Son does this by his word, not by the word of his Father. As to the meaning of this action, the late Hugh W. Montefiore, a Jewish Christian scholar, had this comment: “What is here being ascribed to the Son is the providential government of the universe, which is the function of God Himself” (A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews [New York: Harper & Row, 1964], 35). Your statement that Christ “sustains the new creation era” is not so much wrong as it is weak and incomplete. The writer says that the Son sustains and bears along “all things”; he is providentially guiding history toward its redemptive, new-creation consummation by his own powerful, creative fiat.

    Sounds like God to me.

  23. THE DEITY OF CHRIST IN HEBREWS 1: THE CATENA

    The Catena and the Davidic King

    Dave,

    You quote me as saying: “Not one of the proof texts in the catena in Hebrews 1 applied in reality to the Davidic king.” You then comment:

    “This is a staggering assertion, flatly contradicted by Trinitarian and non-Trinitarian commentators alike. As with every other Messianic passage, the OT texts applied to Christ in Hebrews 1 have a dual application. Some parts are equally true of Jesus and the Davidic king; others can only apply to the Davidic king; still others only find their true completion in Christ.”

    Your criticism here completely misses my point and yet in a way ends up agreeing with it. You admit that some parts of these OT passages “only find their true completion in Christ.” There you go. That was my point: the specific statements that Hebrews excerpts from those OT passages “only find their true completion in Christ.” Of course most (not all) of the passages (mostly from the Psalms) from which these quotations come in general were written about or addressed to the Jerusalem king, and much of what those Psalms say did have at least partial application to that OT individual. But the specific statements that Hebrews quotes did not have direct application to those kings or other types of the Messiah. The Psalms look forward to the coming of the Messiah, and often speak of the earthly, merely human Davidic king as a type of the Messiah—a figure who anticipates the reality that was to come, realized in Jesus. As I explained: “In effect, at least some of the things that the Psalms say in reference to the contemporary rulers in Jerusalem are really not directly about David or his dynastic heirs in the first half of the first millennium BC” (emphasis added). That means that some of what they said did apply to those men, at least in part. But the specific statements that Hebrews quotes did not apply to them, at least not fully. Hence, I wrote: “No Davidic king ruled over all the nations (Ps. 2:8), received worship from all the angels (Ps. 97:7), ruled forever (Ps. 45:6), made the universe (Ps. 102:25-27), or sat at God’s right hand as king and priest forever (Ps. 110:1, 4).” You ignored that statement and went to town knocking down a straw man argument, instead of wrestling with the point I actually made.

    Hebrews 1:6

    Your discussion of Hebrews 1:6 suffers from some confusion, both with regard to the text itself and to scholarly interpretations of the text. You correctly state that “commentators generally agree that it cites Deuteronomy 32:43 from the LXX.” Then you assert, “The referent here is not God but Israel, described elsewhere as God’s ‘firstborn’ (Exodus 4:22, ‘“Israel is my son, my firstborn”’).” As support for this interpretation of Deuteronomy 32:43, you quote Buchanan as saying:

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

    So, is Hebrews 1:6 dependent on the LXX or a Hebrew version of Deuteronomy 32:43? According to your quotation from Buchanan, the LXX “understood God to be the object of worship,” whereas the Hebrew versions probably understood “his people” to be the object of worship. Yet you agree that Hebrews 1:6 quotes the LXX, not one of those Hebrew versions.

    You then assert, “By the author’s own rules, the use of ‘firstborn’ in Hebrews 1:6 can only be valid if the original referent is a Messianic type, and thus the reference is to Israel, not God Himself.” In support you quote Gareth Lee Cockerill as saying, “Just as God once brought His people into Canaan, now He has brought His firstborn Son into the true heavenly homeland and thus opened the way for His other sons to enter this homeland.” Cockerill does indeed suggest that the words introducing the quotation in Hebrews 1:6, “when he brings the firstborn into the inhabited world,” allude to God bringing Israel into the Promised Land. However, he does not agree that the reference of the quotation itself is to angels worshipping Israel. Here is how he interprets the first four lines of Deuteronomy 32:43 in the LXX:

    “First, the heavens are called on to rejoice with God (line a), and the angels are commanded to worship Him (line b). Then the nations are called to rejoice with God’s people (line c), and His sons are told to strengthen themselves in Him (line d)” (Gareth Lee Cockerill, “Hebrews 1:6: Source and Significance,” Bulletin for Biblical Research 9 [1999]: 60).

    As for how Hebrews 1:6 applies Deuteronomy 32:43, Cockerill concludes that the author of Hebrews 1:6 understood “him” in the quoted line to refer to the Son:

    “Thus the writer to the Hebrews probably understood the first ‘him’ as referring to the Son and the next two as referring to God: ‘let all the angels of God worship him [the Son] for he [God] will avenge the blood of his [God’s] sons.’ Ellingworth says: ‘the reference to God in the LXX is less than explicit . . . and rapid changes of person in the passage may have been understood by the author of Hebrews, not as a peculiarity of Hebrew poetic style, but as implying a dialogue of divine persons in which the Father presents the Son to the angels, to be worshipped by them’” (Cockerill, 61 n. 24, quoting Ellingworth, Hebrews, 120).

    Regarding O’Brien, on whom you are dependent for your quotation from Cockerill’s article, he also asserts that the statement that Hebrews 1:6 quotes in its original context referred to the worship of God. “In the original contexts of both Deuteronomy and the Psalms the texts constitute a summons to the worship and homage due to God” (O’Brien, Letter to the Hebrews, 71).

    Hebrews 1:8

    On Hebrews 1:8, it is only necessary to point out that what the NET Bible describes as “royal hyperbole” when the Psalmist addresses the Israelite king as “God” (Ps. 45:6) is no hyperbole in the context of Hebrews 1. The NET Bible footnote on Psalm 45:6, which you quoted, refers the reader to its note on Isaiah 9:6, where the editors comment that it also may be an instance of “royal hyperbole” (n. 19). That footnote then adds: “The New Testament indicates that the hyperbolic language (as in the case of the title ‘Mighty God’) is literally realized in the ultimate fulfillment of the prophecy.” This is consistent with the interpretation that I advanced, in which statements that were not literally applicable to the Israelite king are literally applied to the Son in Hebrews 1.

    Hebrews 1:10-12

    Finally, I must address your claim that Hebrews 1:10-12 is not identifying the Son as the maker of the universe in Psalm 102:25-27. To justify this claim, you argue that the lack of an introductory reference to the Son preceding the quotation suggests that he is not the subject of that quotation:

    “Every other OT quotation has always been preceded by a phrase which points directly to the Son, either by mentioning him specifically, drawing upon a previous reference, or presenting a comparison.”

    Your statement is incorrect, because the introductory phrase introducing the second quotation in verse 5 is simply “and again.” Furthermore, your argument overlooks the careful structure of the introductory formulae in the catena of quotations in Hebrews 1. The seven quotations are arranged in a literary structure called a chiasmus, with the introductory formulae marking the parallel lines of the chiasmus, as follows:

    (A) For to which of the angels did He ever say (v. 5a)
    — (B) And again (v. 5b)
    — — (C) And again when He brings the Firstborn into the world, He says (v. 6)
    — — — (D) And of the angels He says (v. 7)
    — — (C’) But of the Son (vv. 8-9)
    — (B’) And (vv. 10-12)
    (A’) But to which of the angels has He ever said (v. 13)

    Note that lines (A) and (A’) are parallel, using the words “to which of the angels.” Lines (B) and (B’) are also parallel, using the simplest introductory formula “and,” with “again” added in (B) as also in (C). Lines (C) and (C’) are parallel because they both use synonymous designations for Christ, “the Firstborn” and “the Son” (note that no nouns designating Christ appear in any of the other introductory lines). The use of “again” in both (B) and (C) advance the chiasmus forward and is dropped once the center line of the chiasmus, line (D), is reached. The center line (D) contains a quotation about the angels (“and of the angels he says”) in contrast to the surrounding quotations about the Son. Everyone admits, as they must, that the quotations in lines (A), (B), (C), (C’), and (A’) are about the Son. But then, given the literary arrangement of the catena into this chiasmus, we must acknowledge that the quotation in line (B’), like the one in line (B), is also about the Son. The colorless introductory formula “and” (kai) in verse 10 is exactly parallel to the formula in verse 5 except for the use of “again” (palin), which is also used in verse 6 and is evidently, as I have said, advancing the top half of the chiasmus forward toward the center line.

    Thus, the introductory formula in verse 10 does not suggest that the quotation refers to someone other than the Son. Quite the opposite is true: the place and wording of the formula in the chiasmic structure of the catena confirms that the quotation refers to the Son.

    If further confirmation is needed that verses 10-12 refer to the Son, one must consider the fact that the quotations in verses 5-13 are scriptural proof texts for the Christological affirmations in the exordium in verses 1-4. You can see a table that sets out the correlations between the affirmations and the proof texts in Putting Jesus in His Place (192). The affirmation that God has spoken to us in his Son (vv. 1-2) is backed up with two quotations calling the Messiah (typified by the Davidic king) God’s “Son” (vv. 4-5). The affirmation that the Son is heir of all things (v. 2) is backed up with the quotation that the Firstborn (= heir) is to be worshipped by all God’s angels (v. 6). The affirmations that God made the worlds (or ages) through the Son, that the Son is exactly like God in nature, and that the Son upholds the universe (vv. 2-3), are backed up with the quotation from Psalm 102:25. Finally, the affirmation that the Son sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high (v. 3) is backed up with the quotation from Psalm 110:1 (v. 13). For a similar analysis, see James W. Thompson, Hebrews, Paideia Commentaries on the NT (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008), 52. These correlations clearly support the conclusion that the author’s quotation of Psalm 102:25-27 is meant to support the affirmation that the worlds or ages were made through the Son.

    These considerations show that the quotation in 1:10-12 is fully integrated into the author’s argument in Hebrews 1 if the referent of the quotation is the Son. If, on the other hand, we suppose that the referent is the Father, the quotation is simply hanging in the passage with no purpose or function in the argument of the passage. This explains why the vast majority of scholars, even those who find the idea theologically problematic, agree that the author is applying Psalm 102:25-27 to the Son.

    But if what Hebrews is saying is true—if the Son made heaven and earth, if he providentially sustains the universe and moves it forward toward its consummation by his own divinely powerful word, and if the angels worship him—then the Son is preexistent, eternal Deity, not merely a man exalted to divine status.

  24. So as to respect the character limit I have offered some brief responses to Rob Bowman’s points concerning my interpretation of 1 Corinthians 8 on my blog:

    http://exploringourmatrix.blogspot.com/2010/05/trinitarians-without-colons-rob-bowman.html

  25. Dave,

    Rob, I think it’s important to tell our readers that the Greek word translated “world” here is “aion.” We saw earlier that this word does not mean “world” or “universe”; it means “age, generation” (Liddell-Scott-James), “space of time” (TDNT), “a long period of time, without reference to beginning or end” (BDAG).

    That gives the impression that ‘world’, in the sense of ‘universe’ or ‘creation’, is not part of the lexical range of the word. Perhaps you only meant that it doesn’t have that meaning in Hebrews 1, but that is certainly not what your post sounds like.

    Even if you did, that’s difficult to assert without substantiation, and it is opposed by standard lexical glosses. BDAG says ‘the world as a spatial concept, the world’, and glosses Hebrews 1:2 with this meaning (‘Created by God through the Son Hb 1:2’), and TDNT says ‘the αἰῶνες of Hb. 1:2 (διʼ οὗ καὶ ἐποίησεν τοὺς αἰῶνας) and 11:3 (κατηρτίσθαι τοὺς αἰῶνας ῥήματι θεοῦ) are to be understood spatially as “worlds” or “spheres.”’.

    EDNT says ‘According to Hebrews God created the αἰῶνες (in 1:2 through the Son, in 11:3 by means of God’s word)’, and ‘ Formally the pl. is of Semitic origin; materially it designates the sequence of worlds, esp. perhaps the sequence of this world and the “world” to come’

    LSJ has ‘this present world’, but places this definition under ‘space of time’, an ‘epoch, age’ in opposition to ‘the world to come’ (‘ὁ μέλλων’, citing Matthew 13:22), rather than as a reference to the material universe, and does not gloss Hebrews 1:2.

    I believe Bowman is wrong to cite LSJ in support of his reading, but he has strong support for the physical creation being included in the lexical range of ‘aion’, and three standard lexicons gloss Hebrews 1:2 with this meaning.

  26. Rob,

    In your second comment on Philippians 2, your only remark that was in any way directed to my discussion of the passage was this statement: “Rob, harpagmos is not a ‘notoriously difficult word.’” I confess that I found that statement amusing. Anyone familiar with the scholarship on Philippians 2:6 knows that harpagmon is perhaps the most controversial word in the NT! Cullmann, whom you quoted, observed that the words “did not consider equality with God harpagmon” were a “difficult phrase” (Christology of the New Testament, 177). Peter T. O’Brien refers to the word harpagmon as an “enigmatic expression” (The Epistle to the Philippians: A Commentary on the Greek Text, NIGTC [Eerdmans, 1991], 212). Examples of such statements can easily be multiplied. N. T. Wright grouped as many as twenty different explanations into a still nearly unmanageable list of ten types of explanations (“Harpagmos and the Meaning of Philippians 2:5-11,” Journal of Theological Studies 37 [1986]: 321-52).

    You’ve done a bait and switch here. Dave said that ‘harpagmos’ is not a difficult word in the context of defining its meaning. You cite a number of Trinitarians who find it incredibly difficult to exegete in Philippians 2:6. The 20 different explanations Wright lists are not lists of 20 different lexical definitions for ‘harpagmos’, they are lists of different explanations by Trinitarians as to how this word can possibly be reconciled in Philippians 2:6 with orthodox Christology.

    The fact that the meaning of ‘harpagmos’ is non-controversial, yet Trinitarians find it exruciatingly difficult to reconcile its use in Philippians 2:6 with their theology, only exposes a weakness in Trinitarian theology.

  27. Rob, Dave said that you hadn’t provided any evidence that Philppians 2 is speaking of Christ’s pre-existence. Your outraged response was ‘But that’s exactly how I interpreted it!. You listed three points, which I can’t reproduce here because of space limitations:

    There are at least three key points that I made in my brief discussion of Philippians 2 that support my view and that you completely side-stepped.

    Leaving aside the fact that you pointed to your conclusions as your evidence, there are other issues.

    * Paul is using Christ as an example of deference, but where does he say anything about this deference being from one equal to another?

    * You claim Paul saying Christ existed in the ‘morphe’ of God means Christ existed in heaven before he was born, but that is not what Paul says. He simply says that Christ was in the ‘morphe’ of God, without saying ‘this was back in time when Jesus was in heaven, by the way’. You’ve brought an assumption to the text.

    * You say’A human being cannot humble himself to become a human being because that is what he already and originally is’. But Dave doesn’t argue Paul juxtaposes ‘human being’ and ‘human being’. Paul juxtaposes the pair form of God/in the likeness of men and the form of a man, and the pair did not regard equality with God something to be grasped/emptied himself by taking on the form of a servant.

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