Jump to content


Photo
- - - - -

Week VI: Closing Statement


  • This topic is locked This topic is locked
34 replies to this topic

#1 Evangelion

Evangelion

    Administrator

  • Admin
  • 24,344 posts
  • LocationAdelaide, South Australia

Posted 17 May 2010 - 02:21 PM

Biblical Christology: Which Way does the Evidence Point?
In previous weeks I have shown that my arguments are strongly supported by standard authorities and a broad range of recent Trinitarian scholarship. This week I will be summarising the key elements of the Biblical Unitarian position, identifying key weaknesses in the Trinitarian position, and weighing the evidence against three primary criteria: reason, Scripture and history.

I maintain that Biblical Unitarianism:

  • Is the original, first-century Christology

  • Enjoys greater compatibility with the Biblical evidence

  • Allows a more natural reading of the text

  • Eliminates alleged "paradoxes" and "contradictions"

  • Maintains the essential connection between the OT, Second Temple Judaism, and first-century Christianity

  • Preserves the cultural and ideological context of original Christian beliefs

  • Is logically and rationally superior to Trinitarianism

  • Commands the earliest historical support

  • Offers a coherent high Christology, grounded in OT typology and comprising a consistent doctrinal arc stretching from Genesis to Revelation

  • Provides the basis for a deeper, more meaningful relationship with God and Christ


The Argument from Reason
Trinitarianism is contrary to logic and reason. For example, the Athanasian Creed states:

So likewise the Father is Lord; the Son Lord; and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not three Lords; but one Lord. For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity; to acknowledge every Person by himself to be God and Lord; So are we forbidden by the Catholic Religion; to say, There are three Gods, or three Lords.


This presents us with three "divine persons" who are collectively and individually called "God" and "Lord." God + God + God = three entities in the category of "God", yet the Athanasian Creed forbids Christians to say "three Gods." Lord + Lord + Lord = three entities in the category of "Lord", yet the Athanasian Creed forbids Christians to say "three Lords." Even if we allow the Trinitarian explanation that the three who are called "God" are not individual gods but individual persons who comprise one God, this still leaves us with three Lords within the Godhead. The Creed permits us to acknowledge these three Lords individually as "Lord", provided we do not refer to them as "three Lords"! Thus the Creed demands an illogical confession by insisting we confess three Lords as one Lord.

This is just one example of the way Trinitarianism requires unique definitions of words, contrary to regular usage. For example, Rob insists that within the context of Trinitarianism, the term "person" is "...stipulated to be used with a somewhat different connotation as compared to its use for human beings." But why use the term "person" in a way which differs from its use for human beings in the first place? The OT offers no basis for the Trinitarian view of personhood, so how is the idea deduced from Scripture? Where is the Biblical evidence which demonstrates this is how we are intended to use the word "person" in reference to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit?

The answer: there is no such evidence. The uniquely Trinitarian definition and usage of the word "person" arose as a fourth-Century solution to the logical and rational problems presented by the triune formula. Even in common English versions we can see Scripture does not use the words "being" and "person" in the way required by Trinitarianism. This is a major impediment to Rob's theology.

Since the Trinitarian Jesus is believed to be God, everything in Scripture which applies to God must necessarily apply to him. But this results in many contradictions:

  • Visible despite being invisible (Colossian 1:15)

  • Seen but "never seen" (John 1:18, I Timothy 6:16)

  • Tempted even though God cannot be tempted (Matthew 4:1-11; cp. James 1:13)

  • "Made like his brothers and sisters in every respect" (Hebrews 2:17), yet not really made like them at all, since he is God and does not possess "fallen nature"

  • "Died" on the cross despite being eternal (I Timothy 1:17)

  • "Raised from the dead" (Matthew 28:7) and "released from the pains of death" by the Father (Acts 2:24), though he never truly died

  • Omnipotent yet dependent upon the Father's power for his miraculous works (John 14:10)

  • Omniscient yet lacking knowledge (Matthew 24:36)

  • Simultaneously "God" and "not-God"

These are just some of the logical problems resulting from Trinitarian Christology. Rob calls them "paradoxes" as if this somehow makes them acceptable. A paradox can be acceptable, if its contradiction is only apparent. Yet the contradictions within Trinitarianism are not merely apparent; they are real and insoluble.

For example, Rob believes Jesus could be tempted, yet was incapable of sin (Putting Jesus In His Place, p.122). But there can be no temptation without the possibility of sin. To deny Jesus could sin is to deny he could be tempted, so the statement "Jesus could be tempted but was not capable of sin" is both self-refuting and utterly meaningless. If Jesus cannot be tempted, then Hebrews 2:18 and 4:15 are both false. If Jesus was incapable of sin, then Hebrews 2:17 and Galatians 4:4 are both false. These are not mere "paradoxes." They are blatant logical contradictions which defy clear statements of Scripture.

Trinitarianism tries to deflect the problem by appealing to the hypostatic union (the alleged "dual nature" of Jesus), claiming Jesus acts and responds "from his human nature" or "from his divine nature" depending on the context. Jesus' physical weaknesses and limitations are thus attributed to his human nature, while his supernatural capacity is attributed to his divine nature. But this effectively turns the two natures into two de facto persons, thereby lapsing into the heresy of Nestorianism and begging the question: what does it mean to act or respond "from one's nature"? If we allow doctrine to be illogical, it becomes arbitrary and ceases to be meaningful. There is no point in systematic theology if our beliefs are permitted to be self-contradictory.

In previous weeks we have seen Rob's own terms of reference are logically inconsistent. For example, he employs the name "Yahweh" in two different ways:

  • As the name for the Trinity as a concept (ie. the concept of three persons in one being)

  • As a name possessed by each individual member of the Trinity

Following the Shema of Deuteronomy 6:4, Rob is compelled to agree there is only one Yahweh, since this is the name of God and there is only one God. But he also believes the Father is called Yahweh and the Son is called Yahweh (presumably the Holy Spirit is called Yahweh as well). Yet if Father + Son + Holy Spirit = 3 because they are all distinct from each other, and if each of them can be individually referred to as Yahweh, how can this not mean there are three Yahwehs? It is yet another example of inconsistent terminology.

Rob counts the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as "three persons", all of which are called "Yahweh", but he doesn't want to accept that three persons each called "Yahweh" comprise three Yahwehs. He accepts the Trinity as "three persons", when it suits him, but at other times he wants to count the three persons as one (ie. one Yahweh, or one Lord). He does this by effectively treating the three separate persons as a single unipersonal being, which is logically inconsistent and results in Modalism (see also Dale Tuggy's critique).

One particularly revealing aspect of Rob's language has been his use of singular personal pronouns in reference to God. This is strange, because he does not actually believe God is a single person; he believes God is a single divine being consisting of three divine persons. To Unitarians, God is a "whom"; a single person who is also a single divine being. But to Rob and other Trinitarians, God is a "what"; a triunity of three divine persons comprising one divine being. Why, then, does he refer to this triune collective as if it was a single person? Is his use of singular pronouns unconsciously influenced by the Biblical usage, or does he honestly believe the correct pronoun for three persons is "he"?

Rob has previously argued that Genesis 1:26 is proof of multiple persons within the Godhead. In his eyes, plural personal pronouns denote a plurality of persons. By taking this position he concedes that singular personal pronouns denote a single person and leaves us asking why the Bible overwhelmingly applies singular personal pronouns to a God who is really three persons. Why not an overwhelming number of plural personal pronouns, as Rob's own argument requires?

Some appeal to Judges 1, where the tribes of Simeon and Judah are referred to by the use of singular personal pronouns (verse 3, "Judah said to Simeon his brother"). This is used to argue there is no inconsistency in the application of singular personal pronouns to the Trinity. But Judges 1 merely personifies the two tribes and refers to those personifications using singular pronouns. Trinitarians need to explain why the OT refers to God in the use of at least 7,000 singular personal pronouns, consistently treating Him as a single being Who is also a single person.

At most, Trinitarians can offer a total of four so-called "plural personality passages" (Genesis 1:26; 3:22; 11:7; Isaiah 6:8) which they claim are indicative of multiple persons within the Godhead. (A. Fruchtenbaum — Jewishness and the Trinity, 1997 — adds Genesis 20:13, 35:7, II Samuel 7:23 and Psalm 58, but this is an extreme minority position). Yet these interpretations find little or no support among current Trinitarian commentators. Even Trinitarian Bible translations such as the NET contain footnotes advocating a Unitarian interpretation of certain passages on contextual and grammatical grounds.

It is illogical to suggest that a meagre four verses within the entire OT comprise evidence of a plurality of persons within the Godhead, when the rest of the OT militates against this hypothesis. Rob has conceded (a) the OT evidence is consistent with a Biblical Unitarian God, and (b) the OT Jews understood the Shema in the same way that we Biblical Unitarians do. There is no evidence the Jews ever understood God in anything but a Unitarian sense, or that He revealed Himself to them in any other way. The burden of proof lies upon Trinitarianism to demonstrate that God provided a new revelation about His identity in the NT era.

Perhaps the greatest admission of logical incoherence comes from Trinitarians themselves. Michael Patton ("The Trinity is Like 3-in-1 Shampoo". . . And Other Stupid Statements) says:

One more thing. I often tell my students that if they say, “I get it!” or “Now I understand!” that they are more than likely celebrating the fact that they are a heretic! When you understand the biblical principles and let the tensions remain without rebuttal, then you are orthodox. When you solve the tension, you have most certainly entered into one of the errors that we seek to avoid. Confused? Good! That is just where you need to be.


Emphasis mine.

Patton urges Christians to confess an incomprehensible faith, ignoring any "tensions" which may arise and aspiring to confusion as the benchmark of orthodoxy. But did Jesus or the apostles ever preach God in this way? On the contrary, Jesus said to the woman of Samaria "You people worship what you do not know. We worship what we know, because salvation is from the Jews" (John 4:22). Biblical Unitarians are well positioned to repeat these words to Trinitarians.

Rob began this debate with an argument consisting of six propositions which he claimed would vindicate Trinitarianism if all proved true. But I showed that Trinitarianism is not a necessary conclusion from these propositions; they could result in several different Christologies. (Dale Tuggy has criticised the propositions on similar grounds). Thus it is not enough for Rob to prove only some of his propositions without demonstrating every aspect of Trinitarianism. In order to justify his position he must prove all of his propositions, show that they necessarily lead to the Trinity, and demonstrate every aspect of Trinitarianism from Scripture (whether directly or indirectly).


The Argument from Scripture
The argument from Scripture can be summarised thus:

  • Scripture repeatedly presents us with consistent unipersonal language in reference to God (e.g. God only referred to in singular pronouns; God only referring to Himself in singular pronouns)

  • Scripture repeatedly presents explicit statements depicting God as only one person

  • Scripture qualifies its references to others who appear to possess attributes and titles of God

  • Scripture qualifies its references to others as "god" or "gods"

  • Any agent or representative of God can legitimately bear His name, exercise His authority and command a measure of His divine power

  • Sin deserves death; sacrifice offers a covering for sin; only God can provide a sin-covering sacrifice (a sacrifice which is "other than God"); Jesus was that sacrifice

  • The first-century Christian understanding of God's identity comprehended all of the points listed above

  • The first-century Christian understanding of God's identity was consistent with the Old Testament Jewish understanding of God's identity

  • Biblical Unitarianism provides the best interpretation of the Biblical evidence

In Week 1 we saw the Bible defines God as one divine person who exists as a single divine being known by the name of Yahweh and consistently referred to as "Father" or "the Father", reflecting His relationship with creation. We saw the Father possesses a wide range of unique attributes, which set Him apart from creation. We saw that NT references to God are consistent with the OT, using the same language and titles established over several thousand years of pre-Christian Jewish theology.

We saw first-century Christians did not claim to bring a new revelation about the identity of God, but drew their teaching about Him directly from the OT. We saw current scholarship accepts the first-century church was not Trinitarian, requiring Trinitarians to explain (a) why this was, and (b) how Trinitarianism successfully emerged from an ideological climate which was wholly unfavourable to it (Rob has done neither).

In Weeks 2 and 3 we saw that Jesus Christ is defined by the Bible as the Son of God, Jewish Messiah, Christian sacrifice for sin, Lord, high priest and mediator. We saw he was a mortal man, made like his brethren in every way (Hebrews 2:17), subject to the Law of Moses (Galatians 4:4) and capable of sin (Luke 4:1; cf. James 1:13-14), yet possessing the Holy Spirit "without measure" (John 3:34). We saw he worshipped the Father as his God (John 4:22, 20:17) and did not claim deity for himself.

We saw his sinless life was made possible (though not inevitable) by the advantage of his superior mental and intellectual qualities (Luke 2:46-47), his close relationship with the Father (John 1:18, 10:30, 38), and the angelic assistance he received whenever necessary (Matthew 4:11; Luke 22:43). We saw his sinless life qualified him as a perfect sacrifice for sin, thereby fulfilling the OT typology which begins in Genesis and permeates the Mosaic Law (Genesis 3:21; John 1:29; I Peter 1:19).

We saw Jesus struggled with the awful burden of his task (Matthew 26:39-42; Luke 22:42) and suffered when he was tempted (Hebrews 2:18), yet completely resisted sin (Hebrews 4:15), required release from the pains of death (Acts 2:24) and recognised this need through his prayers and supplications to God, Who was able to save him from death (Hebrews 5:7).

We saw he obediently submitted to his sacrificial death on the cross (Philippians 2:8; Colossians 1:20), genuinely died on the cross (John 19:33-34), was raised to life by the Father (Galatians 1:1) and now sits at His right hand in an exalted, glorified form (Mark 16:19; Acts 5:31; Philippians 3:21), exercising divine power, authority and judgement while he awaits his Second Advent (Matthew 25:31-46; Luke 21:27; John 5:27; Acts 1:11; Ephesians 1:20-22).

We saw Jesus received divine authority from God and was permitted to exercise this authority as the Father's representative during his mortal life (John 5:43, 10:37) — just as angels and OT prophets had done before him — but we also saw that the full extent of his authority was unprecedented, far above any angel or prophet (Matthew 11:27, 26:53). We saw Jesus lacks crucial attributes of God, including omnipotence, omniscience and omnipresence. We noted differences between the mortal, pre-crucifixion Jesus and the immortal, exalted, glorified post-resurrection Jesus.

We saw Jesus is frequently honoured as God's Son, the Jewish Messiah and king, but never worshipped as God, demonstrating that he is subordinate to the Father both functionally (by rank) and ontologically (by nature). We saw that NT teaching about Jesus was invariably derived from the OT, with Jesus and his apostles showing that the full details concerning Messiah had already been revealed in the Jewish Scriptures:

  • Luke 24:27, "Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, [Jesus] interpreted to them the things written about himself in all the scriptures"
  • Luke 24:44, "Then he said to them, 'These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled.'"
  • John 1:45, "Philip found Nathanael and told him, 'We have found the one Moses wrote about in the law, and the prophets also wrote about — Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph'"

  • Acts 26:22-23, "'I have experienced help from God to this day, and so I stand testifying to both small and great, saying nothing except what the prophets and Moses said was going to happen: that the Christ was to suffer and be the first to rise from the dead, to proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles'"

Jesus and his apostles were adamant that everything people needed to know about him could be sourced directly from the OT. There was no "progressive revelation" about the Messiah; there was no new doctrine concerning his nature and identity; there was no change from OT to NT.

Above all, we saw that the apostolic preaching in the book of Acts reveal that they believed in a Jesus who was solely human. They baptise thousands of people in the name of a Unitarian Jesus described in terms which distinguish him from God and preclude deity. Acts contains a total of nine preaching lectures (Acts 2:22-42, 3:12-26, 7:2-56, 8:30-39, 10:34-48, 13:15-39, 17:22-31, 24:14-21, 26:2-27), revealing a list of core doctrines presented repeatedly:

  • The Bible: the word of God, divinely inspired

  • One God: the Father and Creator; the Holy Spirit, His power

  • Jesus: the Son of God

  • Jesus: a mortal man

  • Jesus: his perfect life, sacrifice

  • Jesus: his resurrection, glorification, and ascension

  • Christ as mediator

  • The second coming

  • Resurrection and judgment

  • Promises to Abraham: inheritance of the land

  • Promises to David: his kingdom restored

  • Forgiveness of sins through faith in Christ, repentance, and baptism

  • One body: fellowship and breaking of bread

(Summarised from What Are the First Principles?, by George Booker).

Months of preaching before thousands of people, yet no mention of the Trinity or the deity of Christ. Why not? Trinitarians respond that Acts doesn't record everything the apostles said at every preaching event. Although true, this does not answer the question. Why would the apostles be silent on the subject of Jesus' deity, particularly if they believed it to be an essential doctrine? Trinitarians cannot explain this.

The Trinity would have been the most important and groundbreaking doctrine of the day, yet we find no mention of it. Nor do we find any evidence of first-century Christians persecuted for believing that Jesus is God. We do find them persecuted for believing Jesus is the Messiah, and that the Law of Moses has been superseded by a new covenant (e.g. Acts 6:11, 14). We do find riots and assassination attempts resulting from the Jews' reaction to the Gospel message.

But where is the uproar against the notion of a Messiah who is also a God-man? Where is the backlash against a triune God? There is no such uproar; there is no such backlash; there is no outcry against Trinitarian concepts. On the Trinity and the deity of Christ, the preaching record and the Jewish response are both silent. In light of the Jews' response to the Gospel message, this is inexplicable unless proto-Trinitarian doctrines were not preached at all. And if they were not preached, why weren't they preached?

In previous weeks we saw Trinitarians sometimes struggle with Scripture, finding it necessary to qualify even the simplest of statements. Examples emerged from Rob's treatment of passages such as Deuteronomy 6:4, John 17:3, John 20:17, and I Corinthians 8:6. We saw Trinitarians perpetuate errors of interpretation through a failure to challenge their own theological presuppositions. Examples were demonstrated by Rodney J. Decker in his critique of kenosis theory.

We saw Trinitarians approach Scripture with a priori assumptions about its meaning and impose them onto the text. Examples were presented from the work of prominent Trinitarian scholars such as Herbert W. Bateman IV and A. T. Robertson, and emerged from Rob's interpretation of Hebrews 1 and Philippians 2, where he presupposed Christ's pre-existence before commencing his exegesis. We saw Rob's arguments are often based upon, or derived from, logical fallacies, including:

  • affirming the consequent

  • false dichotomy

  • affirmative conclusion from negative premise

  • argument from ignorance

  • argument from silence

  • straw man

  • special pleading

These are not the hallmarks of sound interpretation.

In Week 4 we saw that the OT provides a consistent doctrine of the Spirit as the power of God manifesting His divine presence; yet not a divine person ("God the Holy Spirit") or the totality of God Himself. We saw that throughout the OT, God's Holy Spirit is described as something that belongs to Him, like a property or a power. We saw that the NT follows this model exactly, without deviating in any way from OT teaching. There is no new revelation about the identity of the Holy Spirit. We saw occasional personification, but no evidence of literal personality. We saw the apostles received the Holy Spirit as a miraculous gift that they passed on at their own discretion.

In Week 5 we saw the Father, Son and Holy Spirit were each recognised as sources of apostolic authority (Matthew 28:19, Luke 9:1, II Corinthians 12:11-12, I Thessalonians 4:8) but only two (Father and Son) were recognised as literal persons. We saw they occasionally mentioned the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the same context, but not in any way which suggests they are three distinct persons who together comprise the totality of God. We saw that even John's divine revelation of the heavenly court displays Jesus as a distinct being entirely separate from the Father, and does not portray the Holy Spirit at all.

Rob claimed the Trinity is "implicit" in the Bible (without providing examples of "implicit doctrine" as opposed to "explicit doctrine"), but avoided raising central issues like the temptation and atonement of Christ in his primary arguments. Presumably he did this to minimise the burden of proof and present me with a smaller target.

While his position is convenient for a debate, it is theologically weak, leaving the first-Century Christians with only a loose conceptual framework from which Trinitarianism might be conceivably (but not necessarily) derived. It results in a first-century church which is not Trinitarian in any true sense of the word, and lacks a clear articulation of Christ's deity. It also begs the question of why the Trinity is merely "implicit" in a book inspired by divine revelation, spanning almost 4,000 years of history, throughout which God claimed to be providing humanity with a complete picture of His identity and purpose.

Why did God allow His chosen people to believe He is only one divine person instead of three, right up until the Christian era? Why did He conceal His triune identity? What was the rationale behind this divine deception? When and where was the new revelation first made clear? Rob claims it is "implicit", but why only "implicit"? All the other key apostolic doctrines are explicitly preached. How can divinely inspired church leaders fail to provide an explicit teaching of the triune God if that is what they genuinely believe? Jesus told his disciples that the Holy Spirit would lead them into all truth (John 16:13); why didn't it lead them to Trinitarianism?


The Argument from History
In Week 5 we also saw the doctrinal foundations of Trinitarianism in early extra-Biblical Christian writings from the 2nd Century AD. We saw that the heretical and apocryphal Epistle of Barnabas contains the very first example of Genesis 1:26 being used as a proof text for the pre-existence of Christ. This verse was not used by Jesus, his apostles, or the earliest post-Biblical Christians such as Polycarp, Clement of Rome and Ignatius.

We saw the evolution of "Logos Christology" in the writings of Justin Martyr, who believed that Jesus was not literally God but only a type of divine super-being created by the Father and through whom He created the world. We saw this belief was held in various forms by most second- and third-century Christians, including prominent theologians such as Theophilus, Hippolytus, Irenaeus, Origen, Methodius and Tertullian. Christology continued to develop through a variety of successive heresies (Sabellianism, Patripassianism, Arianism, Homoiousianism, etc.)

We saw Trinitarianism began to take shape at the Council of Nicaea in AD325, in an era when Christianity became politicised under the reign of Constantine. We saw this initial Trinitarian definition was incomplete, being gradually refined by successive councils over the next 120 years. We saw even in the late 4th Century there was no consensus on the deity of Christ or the Holy Spirit, and prominent Trinitarian scholars were accused of tritheism. Does this sound like the faith once preached by the apostles?

Historically, doctrine always develops from the minimal to the complex, evolving as it is exposed to new influences and adapting in response to perceived heresies. Thus, the simplest doctrinal statements are more likely to be the earliest and most authentic. It is therefore significant that the earliest Christian creedal statements are Unitarian. They begin with simple, Biblical formulae:

Ephesians 4:4-6, "There is one body and one Spirit, just as you too were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all"


Later post-Biblical era Christians employed identical language to express an identical theology. The Didache (a late first-century church manual) contains a summary of key beliefs including salvation by grace, the need for repentance, the ritual of baptism, the Eucharistic meal, the identity of Jesus Christ, the Second Advent, and the resurrection of the dead. These are supported by copious quotations from the NT, demonstrating that the apostolic writings were in wide circulation and upheld as the benchmark of orthodoxy. Yet there is no mention of three persons in the Godhead; there is no suggestion that Jesus is God.

Rediscovering the God of Israel and His Human Son, Jesus Christ
Before concluding, I would like to thank Rob and his colleagues at Parchment & Pen for arranging this debate and permitting a robust exchange. I am particularly grateful to Rob for candidly acknowledging the high Christology of Biblical Unitarianism and the strength of the evidence in our favour.

The Biblical Unitarian Jesus is a Messiah you can relate to, because he can relate to you. Unlike the Trinitarian Jesus, he genuinely understands your pain and sympathises with your temptations, because he is truly human. He once experienced the very sufferings that you endure (and more!)

Some Trinitarians are beginning to recognise that the deity of Christ poses a challenge to our relationship with him. Scott Lencke is one who has carefully reconsidered Jesus' humanity and its theological implications. In a thoughtful article on his blog he sensitively addresses the problem of a Jesus who was never really the same as us, but only pretended to be.

Key phrases stand out in Lencke's analysis:

I do believe that we are a little too afraid to admit to what it really meant for Jesus to be human... I believe that it’s quite easy for us to believe that Jesus was somehow more divine than human. Or we at least talk about him in a way that says he was more divine than human... Yet, we must be honest and recognise that this can cut at an important part of Christ – his humanity... Think about what you and I go through. Think about what it means to be one who is fully human. To do so, I believe Christ would have had to lay aside every aspect of his divinity... I believe Christ, in his human incarnation, laid aside his omniscience, his omnipresence and his omnipotence. All of it!


Lencke has challenged the unconscious Docetism beneath the surface of lay Trinitarianism as an obstacle to our relationship with Christ. Scripture says it was essential for Jesus to be made like us in every way so that he could relate to us and act as our mediator to God. Yet if he was never truly one of us, he cannot understand us in the way that Scripture describes. To believe in a human Jesus we must accept he is not God. Lencke believes Jesus is God, but can only achieve a truly human Christ by committing himself to full kenosis theology. This drastic step is a testament to his intellectual honesty; he recognises the need to resolve one of the “tensions” that Michael Patton, Rob Bowman and others would prefer us to ignore.

In Week 1 of this debate I emphasised that Christianity began as a Jewish religion. That Jewish foundation is critical to our interpretation of Scripture. The first Christians were Jews; they interpreted Scripture from a Jewish perspective; they described God and Jesus using OT language and Messianic typology. They were able to express every aspect of their faith by the use of Scripture alone, as Biblical Unitarians still do today. They affirmed a belief in the God of Israel and His human Son, the Jewish Messiah.

Biblical Unitarianism calls for a return to those Jewish roots. I urge you to rediscover Israel's God; the God Whom Jesus himself worshipped; the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob — not the God of Justin Martyr, Arius, or Basil the Great. If God is not three persons, Christianity loses nothing but regains its necessary connection with God's chosen people, the Jews. Don't accept anything I have written throughout this debate unless you have confirmed it is consistent with reason, Scripture and history. Search God's Word for the true gospel of Jesus Christ, as the Bereans did.

God is near to all those who call on Him. Seek Him while He may be found.
'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#2 Evangelion

Evangelion

    Administrator

  • Admin
  • 24,344 posts
  • LocationAdelaide, South Australia

Posted 01 June 2010 - 08:06 AM

New Week; New Formula
Rob,

Since you've had to wait so long for this response, I thought it only fair to make it worth your while by adding some counter-rebuttal (you'll find them posted immediately after this rebuttal).

I was intrigued by the fact that the Trinitarian formula you presented in Week 6 was not the same one you presented at the start of the debate.

In Week 1 you opened with this:

1. There is one (true, living) God, identified as the Creator.
2. This one God is the one divine being called YHWH (or Jehovah, the LORD) in the Old Testament.
3. The Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is God, the LORD.
4. The Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, is God, the LORD.
5. The Holy Spirit is God, the LORD.
6. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are each someone other than the other two.


In my Week 1 rebuttal I criticised this formula on logical and theological grounds, showing that it does not necessarily result in Trinitarianism, fails to adequately express the sum total of Trinitarian belief, and remains vulnerable to Christological heresy. Dale Tuggy took the same view >in a detailed critique on his blog.

I applied pressure to your formula throughout the debate (e.g. here, >here and here), and Dale's analysis (here, here and here) shows I was right to do so.

Initially you insisted the formula was valid, but at some point between Weeks 2 and 5 it was quietly abandoned, and in Week 6 you replaced it with this:

The doctrine of the Trinity is biblical if and only if all of the following propositions are biblical teachings:

1. One eternal uncreated being, the LORD God, alone created all things.
2. The Father is the LORD God.
3. The Son, who became the man Jesus Christ, is the LORD God.
4. The Holy Spirit is the LORD God.
5. The Father and the Son stand in personal relation with each other.
6. The Father and the Holy Spirit stand in personal relation with each other.
7. The Son and the Holy Spirit stand in personal relation with each other.

The only theological position that affirms all seven of the above propositions is the Trinity. However, each of these propositions finds affirmation in at least one or more non-Trinitarian doctrines.


It's not difficult to spot the essential differences between the Week 1 formula and the Week 6 version. The latter is more refined, makes some sort of attempt to assert Christ's humanity, and includes three subclauses intended to guard against Modalism (a necessary amendment, since your original formula was tacitly Modalistic). Nevertheless, it is still logically weak, theologically inadequate for Trinitarian purposes, and susceptible to heretical interpretation. Like the Nicene Creed (which it vaguely resembles) it could be safely confessed by Arians and other ontological subordinationists without hesitation.

In previous weeks we have seen that you count the Father, Son and Holy Spirit as "three persons" (all of which are called "Yahweh") yet refuse to accept that three persons each called "Yahweh" comprise three Yahwehs. Rob, if I have three persons and each one is called "Yahweh", that's three Yahwehs in the language of anyone who knows how to count.

You accept the Trinity as "three persons", when it suits you, but at other times you treat the three persons as one (ie. one Yahweh, or one Lord). You do this by effectively treating the three separate persons as a single unipersonal being, which is logically inconsistent and results in Modalism.

Consistent with this Modalistic model, you maintain the use of singular personal pronouns in reference to God despite the fact that you do not believe God is a person. Instead you believe God is a single divine being consisting of three divine persons. Why, then, do you refer to the triune collective as if it was a single person? I keep asking this question, but your only response has been to re-assert the contradiction.

It seems to me that the formula best suited to your Christological requirements is found in the Athanasian Creed, which I cited in the first of my Week 1 rebuttals. But as we saw, its illogical use of language results in a self-contradictory confession ("So likewise the Father is Lord; the Son Lord; and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not three Lords; but one Lord"). I originally thought that this might be one reason why you found it necessary to develop your own definition of the Trinity — and let's be clear about that, Rob: it is undeniably your definition of the Trinity, not a strictly orthodox, creedal formulation — yet your DIY version solves none of the problems associated with the traditional formulae.

At this point I feel justified in reminding our readers that my definition of God remained consistent all the way from Week 1 to Week 6. I found no need to change it in any way at all. Additionally, I have been able to express my Christology and my doctrine of God in language that is purely Biblical. I can do this because the words of the inspired OT and NT writers reflect my beliefs perfectly. We both know you cannot do this and we both know why.
'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#3 Evangelion

Evangelion

    Administrator

  • Admin
  • 24,344 posts
  • LocationAdelaide, South Australia

Posted 11 June 2010 - 09:46 AM

Misquoting and Misrepresentation (I) Use of Sources
Rob,

You have accused me of misrepresenting, misquoting, and otherwise mistreating certain sources. I'd like to revisit these alleged misrepresentations and clarify them for the sake of our readers.

#1 The first was my quote from Mowinckel in Week 3, within the context of "pre-existence" passages. My argument here was that the Jewish concepts of predestination and pre-figuration were often described in language which appears to denote literal pre-existence when read through modern, western eyes. Mowinckel shows that this Jewish use of language plays an important part in NT literature and must be taken into account when we come to interpret statements about the Messiah.

Please note: I did not claim that Mowinckel's Christology is the same as my own, nor did I misrepresent his overall position in any way. This is how I introduced the quote from Mowinckel:

Reverend Sigmund Mowinckel insisted the Jewish conception of predestination and prefiguration must inform our understanding of passages appearing to speak of pre-existence



That was the only claim I made about the meaning and significance of Mowinckel's statement. I then went on to quote Mowinckel's description of the Jewish view (which he does not claim as his own), and I quoted him word for word. I did not assert or imply that Mowinckel himself rejects the pre-existence or deity of Christ. (Dale Tuggy realised this once I had pointed it out, and amended his blog accordingly).

Let's review:

  • I claimed that Mowinckel "insisted the Jewish conception of predestination and prefiguration must inform our understanding of passages appearing to speak of pre-existence"

  • Mowinckel does indeed insist that the Jewish conception of predestination and prefiguration must inform our understanding of passages appearing to speak of pre-existence
  • I explicitly referred to Mowinckel as a reverend and made no claims about his personal Christology; nor did I claim that he subscribed to the Jewish view of pre-existence he describes in the quote

There is no misrepresentation here. You had more to say about Mowinckel, but I'll address it later.


#2 Another source you claimed I had misrepresented is Erik Waaler, but your reasons for making this claim remain unclear. Here's a direct quote from my Week 3 argument, which contains my one and only reference to Waaler:

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).


What exactly is wrong with this? I referred to Erik Waaler as one commentator who says that I Corinthians 8:6 is polemical (specifically, a polemic against polytheism). That's the only thing I've said about Waaler's views on I Corinthians 8:6. I have not said that he doesn't believe Jesus is God, nor have I said that he shares my Christology. So where's the misrepresentation?


#3 In your discussion of my Philippians 2 argument you claimed I had dismissed the exegesis of A. T. Robertson simply because he was a Trinitarian. This is not true. I simply cited Robertson as an example of eisegesis, demonstrating that he presupposes Christ's pre-existence without evidence (here I quoted Dunn, who observes that this presupposition is common practice) and relies on a misinterpretation of morphē which is rejected by modern Trinitarians. I then went on to address arguments raised by some of those Trinitarians, who explicitly refute the interpretation favoured by Robertson and explain why it is flawed. I've done nothing wrong here. If Trinitarian scholars can't agree amongst themselves, that's your problem — not mine.


#4 You objected to my use of Max Turner in Week 4, but why? I did not claim that his Christology is the same as mine, nor did I claim that he rejects the literal personhood of the Holy Spirit. He is addressing Adler, but he is also addressing "others holding the position" (p.40) I quoted him initially to demonstrate that inter-testamental Jewish pneumatology was reflected by Luke. Later I quoted him in my analysis of the "personal" language applied to the Holy Spirit in Acts.

Turner examines a wide range of passages from Acts and concludes that they do not reflect literal personhood, but merely show the language of personification that was common within the first-century Jewish theological milieu. I quoted him word for word, in context, and in full. I showed that he rejects the "personal" language of Acts as evidence of a Lucan understanding of any literal personhood in respect of the Holy Spirit, and by quoting him extensively I allowed him to explain why he takes this view:

The important question we must ask in each case, however, concerns the intended linguistic status of such affirmations. Is the personal language intended literally (and so to imply the Spirit is a hypostasis), or is it part of the more widespread and typically Jewish tendency to personify divine attributes, or to represent the Spirit as the extension of Yahweh's own presence?

Most treatments of the subject are too insensitive to the various possibilities. If we bear this distinction in mind, an examination of Luke's Spirit material does not suggest he thinks Christians were any more aware of the Spirit's personhood than their Jewish contemporaries were. The 'personal' traits within his Spirit traditions rarely move beyond the types of personification of the Spirit (and of the word, the Shekinah, the name, etc.) regularly found in exclusively monotheistic Judaism.


For Turner, the question turns upon whether or not we can take Luke's "personal" language literally. Here he says Luke did not intend it to be taken literally, and explains why he reaches this conclusion. (Note that Turner's view of later Christianity as Binitarian rather than Trinitarian is consistent with his understanding of early Christian pneumatology). How can you accuse me of misrepresenting Turner when I've simply let him speak for himself?

Your own exegesis of Turner misses the point of my usage of Turner: rather than make my own claim about the correspondence between Luke and inter-testamental Judaism, I am using Turner's construal of this evidence. Your exegesis is concerned with the conclusions that Turner is interested in making; I am concerned with his construal of evidence. Your exegesis is something of a smokescreen deflecting readers away from the evidence.

Having accused me of misrepresenting my sources, you go on to misrepresent me yourself by accusing me of ten arguments from silence and ten straw man misrepresentations. I will now demonstrate that these accusations are false.
'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#4 Evangelion

Evangelion

    Administrator

  • Admin
  • 24,344 posts
  • LocationAdelaide, South Australia

Posted 12 June 2010 - 03:04 AM

Misquoting and Misrepresentation (II) "Ten Arguments from Silence"
Rob,

Let's be clear about the definition of this term: an argument from silence involves an appeal to silence to assert an argument. Yet you have not shown a single place in which I have actually done this. Instead I identify the absence of evidence which could reasonably be expected if your case was true. While noting this absence as significant negative evidence against your case, I never draw a positive argument from this silence to assert my case.

For example, I never said that since the NET Bible footnote on Isaiah 7:14 does not say that the verse means Jesus is God, or that this means the Trinity is false, or even that this means the verse does not mean Jesus is God. What I did, as I have always done, is demonstrate that there are Trinitarian scholars who agree with me that this verse cannot be relied on to prove Jesus is God. This is not an argument from silence, because I'm not appealing to the absence of anything. On the contrary, I'm appealing to the presence of something, namely the NET's comment that this passage, when read naturally in its original context, does not support the case claimed for it.

Likewise, I never said that since the Bible does not apply latreuō ("or any of the sebomai word group") in reference to Jesus, that this proves Jesus is not God. I simply pointed out that this is contra-intuitive to the claim that Jesus was worshiped as God. There was a perfectly good word which could have been used, and which was used consistently of God, but it is never used of Jesus. It is not an argument from silence when I point out that your argument needs to address this fact. You even acknowledged the force of my point by actually taking time to address it. After noting that the word appears 26 times in the NT (hardly a hapax!) you admitted none of them are applied to Jesus, except possibly Revelation 22:3 (though you concede it is grammatically ambiguous).

This evidence allows three positive assertions:

  • The word is used sufficiently frequently in the NT for us to establish its range of application in the NT (it is not a hapax)

  • The word is used consistently in the NT of God (the Father)

  • The word is never used in the NT of Jesus

This does not prove that Jesus is not God, or that Jesus is not worthy of such worship, or that he never received such worship. But it does mean I can make the following positive statements without fear of contradiction:

  • There is a word used for worship, which is applied consistently in the NT to God and not to Christ

  • The NT contains a consistent distinction between the kind of worship Christ received, and the kind of worship God received

  • This coheres well with the Unitarian perspective; from a Trinitarian perspective it is possible to explain as indicative of the functional subordination of the son, but this is an ad hoc explanation

An argument from silence is a clearly defined logical fallacy. The alleged examples you have cited from my work simply do not meet this definition. If I had indeed committed the fallacy ten times, Dale Tuggy (who appears to be something of a logic specialist) would have nailed every single one of them in his analysis. Yet although he criticises me on a few points, he does not accuse me of multiple fallacies in the way that you have done here.

Consider why that might be.


An argument from silence is a clearly defined logical fallacy. The alleged examples you have cited from my work simply do not meet this definition. If I had indeed committed the fallacy ten times, Dale Tuggy (who appears to be something of a logic specialist) would have nailed every single one of them in his analysis. Yet although he criticises me on a few points, he does not accuse me of multiple fallacies in the way that you have done here.

Consider why that might be.
'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#5 Evangelion

Evangelion

    Administrator

  • Admin
  • 24,344 posts
  • LocationAdelaide, South Australia

Posted 12 June 2010 - 03:11 AM

Misquoting and Misrepresentation (III) "Ten Straw-Man Misrepresentations"
Rob,

As before, let's define our terms of reference. A "straw man" is a misrepresentation of an opponent's argument or position, which is then attacked as if it represented the opponent's views. Your examples of my alleged straw men were curious because in some cases you claimed I was misrepresenting Trinitarian doctrine, when in fact I merely presented typical statements which can be found in regular Trinitarian commentaries. Let's look at them one by one.


#1 "The Incarnation means that Jesus is both God and not-God (in the same respect)"

You claim this is a misrepresentation of the Trinitarian doctrine of the incarnation, saying:

the doctrine maintains that Christ is God in one respect and man in another.


Well, that's an interesting spin on the hypostatic union and I'm sure it works for you, but it is not orthodox Trinitarian teaching. The official dogma teaches that Christ is ontologically God, and ontologically man; "God" with regard to his nature, and "man" with regard to his nature. These statements directly assert that Christ is God in one respect, and man in exactly the same respect. I can prove this by reference to standard commentaries.

Tell me what you think this means:

The next challenge to the orthodox view came through the Arian, Apollinarian, and Nestorian controversies in the 3rd and 4th centuries. Arianism held that the incarnation was total, so that Christ the "Logos" was no longer fully God. At the same time he was not fully human, so Christ was someone between two natures. The Council of Nicaea (A.D. 325) affirmed that Jesus was indeed both God and man. A further question soon arose, however, as to the relation between his two natures. Apollinarius (310?–390?) taught that only the body of Jesus was human; his soul was absorbed completely into the divine Logos. Nestorius (after 381–451) taught that the two natures must always remain distinct in the person of Christ; they functioned together but were separate in his being. The Council of Chalcedon (A.D. 451) affirmed the unity of the two natures in Jesus.


(W. A. Elwell & B. J. Beitzel, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, Baker Publishing Group 1988, p.1027).

Does this say that the Council of Nicaea "affirmed that Jesus was indeed both God in one sense and man in a different sense"? No, it makes an explicit reference to two natures, one of which is divine and the other human. That is precisely why Jesus is referred to as "fully God" and "fully man"; because Trinitarianism teaches that Jesus is God in the same respect that he is man: his nature.

Again:

According to the traditional teaching, it is precisely by virtue of the Word assuming flesh in Jesus of Nazareth that Jesus' humanity is fully and completely human in the same sense as we are, but without sin - even though it is our sinful flesh that he assumed.


(Paul D. Molnar, Incarnation and Resurrection: toward a contemporary understanding, Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2007, p. 295).

What is Molnar saying here? He says Jesus is "completely human in the same sense as we are, but without sin." Would you deny that Jesus is "fully God" in the same way "God the Father" is fully God? Do you believe Christ is God with regard to his nature, and man with regard to his nature? In other words: can you affirm that Christ is ontologically God, and ontologically man? A positive answer is necessary in each case unless you want to stop calling yourself a legitimate Trinitarian.


#2 "The mere use of theos for Jesus does not prove he is God."

I did not say that you believe the mere use of theos for Jesus proves he is God, and you offered no evidence that I did. If you are to assert that I am committing a straw man argument, it is essential to demonstrate I am misrepresenting you. In this case you can't even claim I'm misrepresenting Trinitarians, since you and I both know that many Trinitarians claim that the very use of theos for Jesus does prove he is God. You can't even assert that I represented you as making this argument, since I went on to discuss your book and its approach to these verses, but never once attributed this argument to you or to your book.

Instead I went on to discuss a number of passages you raise, which I agree "apparently call Jesus 'God' literally, directly and without qualification." You will note that two of them are in the OT (thus having nothing to do with the use of theos with regard to Christ), and one of the NT verses doesn't even contain the word theos at all (Acts 20:28). If you know of any places where I claimed that you assert "The mere use of theos for Jesus proves he is God", please quote me directly.


#3 "Trinitarians think that 'one' in John 10:30 means 'one but with room for two more if I need them'."

You've taken this statement out of its original context and completely distorted its meaning. I didn't make a statement about Trinitarians in general; I asked you a question and you replied "I refuse to dignify it with any further response." A question which asks you to clarify your meaning is just about the opposite of misrepresentation. It's a question which I can use to help me avoid misrepresenting you, and an opportunity for you to help me do so. Despite the fact that you declined to answer, I did not repeat the question in the form of a statement; I just added it to the growing list of "questions Rob doesn't want to answer."


#4 "Trinitarians cannot mean it when they claim to affirm that Jesus is human."

No, I said "Rob will probably say he agrees with all of this, but we know he cannot do so without qualification" (my emphasis). Big difference!

You say:

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


Actually, I'm the one who should be outraged, since you're not telling readers what I wrote. Let's recall that long list to which you refer. Look particularly at the parts in bold, which you have carefully avoided mentioning:

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


Is your Jesus literally the son of God because of the miraculous conception by the Holy Spirit? No, because you believe his sonship is eternal. Did your Jesus grow up just like any other human child? No, you told me that "Jesus is eternal, omnipresent, omniscient", which means Jesus either suppressed or relinquished these qualities while he gave the appearance of "learning" what he already knew. Is your Jesus tempted like any normal man? No, you have told me categorically that Jesus was not tempted like any normal man; you said "in the sense of being 'tempted' that James is talking about in James 1:13-15, Jesus was never 'tempted'." Yet James says explicitly that this is the manner in which every man is tempted.

Did your Jesus resist sin through the strength of his superior will? Apparently not, since you told me "I have no idea what you mean by 'the strength of his superior will'" (which part of this was unclear, Rob?) though you muddied the waters with "I actually agree that Christ's will is the key." Some elaboration on that point would have been helpful, but perhaps you felt it was safer to avoid specifics.

Does your Jesus depend for his existence on the Father, just as we do? No, your Jesus is the self-existent Christian God. Is your Jesus capable of sin? No, you explained in some detail that your Jesus "could not sin because he was the divine Son incarnate." Was your Jesus raised to immortality by the Father? No, you believe he is eternal (not merely immortal) and did not receive immortality from the Father.

Reviewing my statement therefore, we find that it is you who has misrepresented me, by carefully excising the very words with which you have explicitly expressed disagreement previously. Your alleged "straw man" is, ironically, a straw man.


#5 "Trinitarians cannot affirm that Jesus' sonship is unique."

Once again you're not quoting me accurately. Let's look at what I said:

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


I linked the virgin birth with the kind of sonship unique to Jesus, saying specifically that "this mode of Sonship is unique to Jesus." I then asked if Jesus is not literally the son of God, that is "God's own special creation in the womb of Mary", how is his Sonship any different to the spiritual sonship shared by Christians? Predictably you answered this question without any reference to the virgin birth at all, proving that you do not see the virgin birth as relevant to Jesus' unique sonship. Instead you believe Jesus' unique sonship is derived from the fact that he shares the nature of the Father.

But X having the same nature as Y whilst being a natural consequence of biological procreation, is not itself a definition of sonship. You and I have the same nature, yet neither of us is the son of the other. Your definition of sonship therefore completely omits the sine qua non of the literal father/son relationship, namely that the father is responsible for bringing the son into existence. Your "definition" of "literal sonship" is actually not a definition at all; it's a description of the kind of nature we would expect of a biologically reproduced son (a concept we both reject as applicable to Christ).

Indeed, Trinitarian commentaries typically take care to identify the fact that the terms "father" and "son" are not applied in Trinitarian theology with their standard English meanings. On the contrary, a unique and completely non-literal definition of ‘father’ must be applied in the case of Christ:

Moreover, all subsequent Trinitarianism has been indebted to Origen for his exposition of the "eternal generation" of the Son. This clarification illustrated Origen's awareness of the analogical function of language applied to God: "Father" did not imply what it did of a human father, that he existed before his son.


(D. F. Wright, "The Formation of the Doctrine of the Trinity in the Early Church", Reformation and Revival, 10.3, (2001), p.79).

I have pointed out that the Unitarian view has Christ as uniquely the son of God by virtue of his miraculous conception and the virgin birth; a mode of sonship which does not apply to anyone else. You claim Jesus as the son of God simply because he shares the same nature as God, despite the fact that this is not itself a definition of sonship, and this is not unique to Jesus, since the person you call the Holy Spirit also shares the nature of God the Father, yet you do not refer to the Holy Spirit as a Son of God. The only way therefore in which you have claimed that Jesus is "uniquely the son of God", is not unique to Jesus. Thus your claim is self-refuting.


#6 "Trinitarians claims that kurios means YHWH whenever it suits them, without providing any evidence from the context."

Let's see what I really 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.


Notice that this is very different to the words you have put in my mouth. Additionally, I made no reference to you whatsoever; a fact you even acknowledged in your reply ("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"). Actually Rob, it has total relevance regardless of whom I'm referring to, and it was simply a general statement about commentators. If you wish to be included in my criticism, you're more than welcome.

I then went on and addressed your actual argument about kyrie in 1 Corinthians 8:6, so you can't claim I dismissed you with a straw man and you can't claim I didn't address your argument. You even acknowledge that I addressed your argument, though you claim I didn't address all of it:

In fact, I gave four exegetical reasons for my interpretation! You completely ignored three of those reasons and addressed the fourth.


Correct. Three of your reasons weren't worth addressing, so I only dealt with the fourth. The bottom line is that you can't cannot simultaneously accuse me of a straw man and claim I addressed what you'd written, especially when you admit that what you claim is a straw man was a statement which wasn't even addressed to you, or used to describe your argument.


#7 "I supposedly claimed that the Psalms quoted in Hebrews had nothing to do with the Israelite kings."

Wrong. I quoted you as saying "Not one of the proof texts in the catena in Hebrews 1 applied in reality to the Davidic king", and I specifically addressed the claim that none of these texts applied in reality to the Davidic king. Thus:

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.


There is nothing whatever there to suggest I was saying you claimed that "the Psalms quoted in Hebrews had nothing to do with the Israelite kings." Quite apart from the fact that I used the phrase "applied in reality", not 'had nothing to do with", I used the highly specific term "the Davidic king", not "the Israelite kings", and you know these are not synonymous terms. Once again the misrepresentation is yours, ironically.


#8 "I supposedly claimed that John 13:3 and 16:28 use the words 'down from heaven.'"

Wrong. I said no such thing. This is what I said:

You claim that John 13:3 and 16:28 literally say Jesus "came out of heaven from the Father."



The phrase "came out of heaven" was mine (not "down from heaven"). Even more importantly, I did not say "use the words", which is critical to your claim of a straw man. You make it look as if I was saying that you claimed these verses use the words "down from heaven", as if I said that you claimed the words "down from heaven" actually appear in the verses; but I did not actually say that. My statement was with reference to the literality you claimed for these verses.

Let's look at the claim of yours to which I was referring:

Biblical Unitarians agree that Jesus literally left this world and went to the Father in heaven. However, they deny that he literally came out of heaven from the Father. Yet this is what 13:3 and 16:28 clearly say. If the going out of the world to the Father is literal, the coming into the world from the Father in the same statements must also be literal.


Your words, not mine.


#9 "Michael Patton says that Christians should aspire to confusion."

If you're going to quote me, please quote me in full and in context. This is what I actually said:

Patton urges Christians to confess an incomprehensible faith, ignoring any "tensions"' which may arise and aspiring to confusion as the benchmark of orthodoxy. But did Jesus or the apostles ever preach God in this way? On the contrary, Jesus said to the woman of Samaria "You people worship what you do not know. We worship what we know, because salvation is from the Jews" (John 4:22). Biblical Unitarians are well positioned to repeat these words to Trinitarians.


(My emphasis).

Did I represent Patton correctly? Let's see what he wrote:

One more thing. I often tell my students that if they say, "I get it!" or "Now I understand!" that they are more than likely celebrating the fact that they are a heretic! When you understand the biblical principles and let the tensions remain without rebuttal, then you are orthodox. When you solve the tension, you have most certainly entered into one of the errors that we seek to avoid. Confused? Good! That is just where you need to be.


(My emphasis). Now for a question: does Patton identify "confused" as the state at which Christians "need to be" in order to be sure they are orthodox in their understanding of the Trinity? If he doesn't, I'll stand corrected as having misunderstood him. But from where I'm standing now, it's pretty clear. If you disagree, perhaps you should talk to Patton about the meaning and use of the word "confused."


#10 "The Trinity teaches three Lords who are not three Lords, and three individuals who are only one being."

Rob, where did I use the phrase "three individuals who are only one being"? You haven't quoted me, so what's your source for this claim? You are clearly equivocating here, as if I have used the word "individuals" to mean individual beings. But I was careful not to do this. Instead I specifically used the term "individual persons."

This is what I actually said:

This presents us with three "divine persons" who are collectively and individually called "God" and "Lord." God + God + God = three entities in the category of "God", yet the Athanasian Creed forbids Christians to say "three Gods." Lord + Lord + Lord = three entities in the category of "Lord", yet the Athanasian Creed forbids Christians to say "three Lords." Even if we allow the Trinitarian explanation that the three who are called "God" are not individual gods but individual persons who comprise one God, this still leaves us with three Lords within the Godhead. The Creed permits us to acknowledge these three Lords individually as "Lord", provided we do not refer to them as "three Lords"! Thus the Creed demands an illogical confession by insisting we confess three Lords as one Lord.


Nothing there about "three individuals who are only one being", but plenty about "three individual persons who comprise one God." This is an important distinction, since some Trinitarians claim the Trinity does not consist of three individuals, yet accept "three individual persons" as an orthodox statement.

You have said:

The three persons are not individuals, and they are not individuated from one another.


But I didn't say that the three persons are individuals, nor did I use the term "individual" in the sense of separate beings. I said that the three are individual persons, which that is exactly how Trinitarianism defines them. You will find this definition everywhere from the classical creeds to contemporary Trinitarian literature. It is an orthodox definition. Why are you fighting it? Do you honestly mean to tell me that you don't believe the Trinity consists of three individual persons who comprise one God? Is this yet another facet of your increasingly idiosyncratic version of Trinitarianism?

Interestingly, "social Trinitarianism" does present the persons as "three individuals", and recent commentary identifies the danger of misreading this term. B. Hebblethwaite (The Essence of Christianity: A fresh look at the Nicene Creed, SPCK Publishing, 1996, pp.61-62):

The social analogy pictures God as a society of three individuals, as in the Rublev icon. Only so can justice be done to the fact of personal relation in God and to the priority of communion and love in God, not just between God and creatures. This must mean that there are, within the one God, distinct centres of consciousness and will, between which relations of reciprocity, co-operation and love obtain. Of course the use of the phrase 'three individuals' is dangerous and can mislead. The three Persons are not separate, externally related substances, as three finite, embodied, humans are. The one God, rather, consists in the three, inseparable and mutually interrelated spiritual subjectivities that we call Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In ultimate reality, communion is basic.


My emphasis.

On the inadequacy of the Athanasian Creed, R. A. Smith ( Paradox and truth: Rethinking Van Til on the Trinity, Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 2002, p.27):

What this means in terms of the Athanasian Creed is spelled out as follows: "The Father is the divine essence, the Son is the divine essence, and the Holy Spirit is the divine essence; yet there are not three divine essences but only one—the very thing that God the Trinity is." This statement may be analyzed in two ways, both of which fail to accomplish what the traditional view aims to accomplish: a biblically consistent statement of the doctrine of God.

First, Plantinga suggests that if Father, Son, and Spirit are taken as mere names for the divine essence, then the conclusion is not inconsistent. But this is mere modalism. Second, if Father, Son, and Spirit are taken as names of persons, then the statement reduces persons to essences, which are abstract. Each person would be a set of properties and the three sets of properties would be identical. The persons themselves thus disappear.


My emphasis. I think Dale Tuggy would appreciate this, since it reflects some of the problems he has already identified with your own definition of the Trinity.
'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#6 Evangelion

Evangelion

    Administrator

  • Admin
  • 24,344 posts
  • LocationAdelaide, South Australia

Posted 12 June 2010 - 03:19 AM

Misquoting and Misrepresentation (IV) "Five Other Fallacious Arguments", Part 1
Rob,

As if your ten straw men weren't enough, you continue to misrepresent me by attacking statements I have not made and arguments I have not presented. I'll go through them one by one.


#1"Guilt by association: Shepherd of Hermas appealed to the plural pronouns in Genesis to support plural persons, but Hermas is heretical."

Wrong. Guilt by association would be saying "Shepherd of Hermas appealed to the plural pronouns in Genesis to support plural persons, but Hermas is heretical, therefore the appeal to plural pronouns in Genesis to support plural persons is also heretical." We both know that I didn't do that. I simply noted that this interpretation of Genesis 1:26 is never found in the canonical works, and appears for the first time in an unorthodox post-apostolic heretical work. From my Week 2 rebuttal:

The 'plurality of persons' argument from Genesis 1:26 was used for the first time in a heretical apocryphal book called The Shepherd of Hermas, written in the mid 2nd Century AD, more than 100 years after Jesus' ascension. Prior to that time, nobody had used Genesis 1:26 for this purpose – not even the apostles, who knew Christ intimately.


Nowhere do I imply guilt by association. My point is that the first evidenced Christian use of the argument so long after the apostolic era goes against the idea that it represents a natural reading of the text, or that first century Christians would have interpreted it this way. Of course, as I've already demonstrated, standard textual and linguistic commentaries contradict the view that the plural pronouns in Genesis 1:26 refer to plural persons in the Trinity, a view which is now marginal to say the least.

I note with interest that you failed to explain why the Genesis 1:26 argument is not presented at any time by Jesus or the apostles. You also provided no explanation for the fact that this argument did not emerge until more than 100 years after Christ's ascension. That's a pretty long time to wait for a proof text, Rob!


#2 "Overgeneralization: the apostles are 'always' careful to distinguish Jesus from God."

Omitting any reference to the many passages I have cited which do this (see the list here) you simply say "they call him "God" at least a few times and 'Lord' many times in contexts where it appears to represent the divine name YHWH." Of course when you say "they call him 'God' at least a few times" you are begging the question. As I have agreed previously, they call him theos a few times. Certainly they call him kurios many times, though again you beg the question when you claim that this appears "many times" in contexts where it represents the divine name YHWH (though you offer no evidence for this claim). But even if it did so in every case, it is further begging the question to claim that this blurs the distinction between God and Christ.

Furthermore, you are not quoting my entire argument I was speaking explicitly of those passages in which God and Christ are referred to together. Let's look again at how the apostles consistently distinguish Jesus from God in such passages:

  • Acts 2:22, "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—"
  • Acts 2:23, "this man, who was handed over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God."

  • Acts 2:24, "But God raised him up"

  • Acts 2:32, "This Jesus God raised up"

  • Acts 3:15, "You killed the Originator of life, whom God raised"

  • Acts 3:26, "God raised up his servant"

  • Acts 4:10, "Jesus Christ the Nazarene whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead"

  • Acts 5:30, "The God of our forefathers raised up Jesus"

  • Acts 5:31, "God exalted him to his right hand"

  • Acts 13:33, "this promise God has fulfilled to us, their children, by raising Jesus"

  • Acts 17:30-31, "Therefore, although God has overlooked such times of ignorance, he now commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has set a day on which he is going to judge the world in righteousness, by a man whom he designated"

  • 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!"

  • I Thessalonians 1:1, "… to the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ."

  • 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 you 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"

I'm beginning to sense a pattern here. How about you?

What you really need to do is start addressing this evidence. Jesus is not simply differentiated as "other than the Father"', he is differentiated explicitly and consistently at other than God. Not only that, but in such passages he is frequently differentiated as "other than God" by the term "man." This takes place even in the very passages you claim identify Jesus as God:

Philippians 2:5-11, "You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had, who though he existed in the form of God did not regard equality with God as something to be grasped, but emptied himself by taking on the form of a slave, by looking like other men, and by sharing in human nature. He humbled himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross! As a result God exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow – in heaven and on earth and under the earth – and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father."


The last verse completely contradicts the Trinitarian interpretation of this entire passage. Whereas the Trinitarian claims that the purpose of this description of Jesus' exaltation is to tell us that Jesus is God, the passage itself concludes by telling us that the exaltation of Jesus is to ensure that all people confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God, who is not only differentiated from Jesus but is identified as one person, the Father.


#3 "Selective evidence: The Messiah was to be 'only' human."

You didn't actually quote me saying this, because I didn't actually say it. Shall we move on?
'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

Credo.

#7 Evangelion

Evangelion

    Administrator

  • Admin
  • 24,344 posts
  • LocationAdelaide, South Australia

Posted 12 June 2010 - 03:19 AM

Misquoting and Misrepresentation (V) "Five Other Fallacious Arguments", Part 2
Rob,

#4 "Begging the question: If the Messiah was to be human, he cannot be God."

What this really identifies is the fact that to you "God" is not in the class "not-man", and "man" is not in the class "not-God." So for you, the fact that the Father and Holy Spirit are "God" does not exclude the possibility that they are both "man", and the fact that Moses and David are "man" does not exclude the possibility that they are both "God." You are compelled to this conclusion by your Trinitarian theology, which denies that "God" and "man" are mutually exclusive categories. Yet Scripture repeatedly affirms them as mutually exclusive categories, particularly when describing their respective characteristics.

That aside, the link you provided didn't actually quote a single statement from me which said this. What I actually said was (and you quote me saying this), "only God can provide a sin-covering sacrifice; a sacrifice which is "other than God.'" I provided exegetical reasons for this, which you acknowledged ("To establish this principle, you cited several examples of OT typology and grouped them into 'four primary roles' that Jesus fulfils"), so you cannot claim I am begging the question. Begging the question requires a conclusion which proceeds from a premise for which no substantiation is offered, and yet that is not what I've done.

But while we're here, let's look at some of the passages you cite with reference to Christ. Explaining your use of these terms, you say cautiously:

My intention here is not to offer an argument to "prove" that Christ is God directly from OT proof texts, although I think a surprisingly much stronger case can be made than most people realize. My point is to show that the OT speaks of the eschatological hope in many ways that are compatible with and even surprisingly encouraging to the orthodox belief that the Messiah is himself God come to save us.


Are these terms "surprisingly encouraging to the orthodox belief that the Messiah is himself God come to save us"?


  • "The arm of the LORD" (Isa. 40:10-11; 53:1 [cf. John 12:38]; 59:16); does "arm of the LORD" really mean "LORD"? Does "arm of Rob" really mean "Rob", or does it mean "the means by which Rob carries out his work"?


  • "The glory of the LORD (Isa. 35:2; 40:5; 60:1; cf. Ezek. 1:28)"; does "glory of the LORD" really mean 'the LORD"? Does "glory of Rob" really mean "Rob", or does it mean "an attribute or expression of Rob"?


  • "The suffering Servant of the LORD (Isaiah 52:13-53:12)"; does "servant of the LORD" mean "the LORD"? Does "servant of Rob" really mean "Rob", or does it mean "servant who is other than Rob"?


  • "One like a son of man (Dan. 7:13-14, cf. Ezek. 1:26-28)"; does "like a son of man" really mean "actually God"? Does "son of Rob" really mean "Rob", or does it mean "son who is other than Rob"?


    In particular, let's look at the "son of man" in pre-Christian literature. The problem here is that although the phrase appears in a range of pre-Christian Jewish sources, with a range of meanings, there is no evidence that the Messianic "son of man" of the pre-Christian Jewish literature was the background of the gospel use of the term:

    In the light of our discussion of Dnl. 7, 12En 37–71, and 4 Ezra 13, it appears that (1) there were emerging beliefs in Judaism of heavenly, angelic redeemer figures (e.g., Michael), and of human beings who were somehow identified with heavenly, angelic figures (e.g., Enoch, Melchizedek); (2) there was a tendency to speak of the preexistence of the Messiah; (3) there is no evidence for a pre-Christian messianic Son of man figure that could serve as a background for understanding the Son of man sayings in the Gospels; (4) two functions of the Son of man in 12En 37–71 and of the man from the sea in 4 Ezra 13 that are not found in Dnl. 7 are that he judges the nations on behalf of God and that he gathers the redeemed for the kingdom.


    (D. E. Aune, "Son of man", in Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2002, p. 576).

    So even within the range of Jewish literature, the closest option you have of use to Trinitarian theology is that Jesus is an "angelic redeemer figure" like Michael the archangel. This will not do, because your claim is that this is a term "surprisingly encouraging to the orthodox belief that the Messiah is himself God come to save us", not an angel.

    It is noteworthy that early orthodox and heretical literature identified the term "son of man" as a reference to Christ's humanity:

    Three texts generally dated to the first quarter of the 2nd cent A.D. use the phrase "son of man" as a way of designating the human nature of Jesus. In Ign Eph. 20:2 Jesus Christ is called "the son of man and the son of God," referring to His human and divine natures. Similarly, Barn 12:10 states, "See again Jesus, not as a son of man, but as a son of God," reflecting His current heavenly status. Finally, Odes of Solomon 36:3 has, "And although I was a son of man [Syr br˒nšˊ], I was named the light, the son of God."

    Similarly, the Georgian translation of Did 16:8 (with interpolations in parentheses) reads, "Then will (this) world see (our) Lord (Jesus Christ, the Son of man who at the same time is Son of God as) coming on the clouds," etc. (Audet, p. 474). In HE ii.23.13 Eusebius has preserved a fragment from the Christian historian Hegesippus that includes a statement attributed to James the Just, containing allusions to both Ps. 110:1 and Dnl. 7:13, immediately before his martyrdom: "Why do you ask me about the Son of man? He is sitting in heaven on the right hand of the great power [Ps. 110:1], and he will come on the clouds of heaven [Dnl. 7:13]." In Acts of John 109, the phrase "him that for us was called the Son of man" occurs in a prayer of John, along with a string of other christological titles.


    (D. E. Aune, "Son of man", in Bromiley, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2002, p. 578).

    Aune notes the same usage in the following Gnostic literature (pp. 578-579):


  • Fragments of Baruch
  • The Coptic-Gnostic Treatise on the Resurrection 44.21–26
  • The Sophia of Jesus Christ 105
  • An Ophite source quoted by Irenaeus, 'Against Heresies', i.30.6
  • The Coptic-Gnostic Apocryphon of John 14.14
  • Heracleon, the Valentinian Gnostic commenting on the gospel of John, quoted by Origen, 'Commentary on John', 13.49
  • The Naasenes and Monoimus, quoted by Hippolytus, 'Refutation of All Heresies', v.6.3; v.7.33; viii.12.3; 14.2

    Thus G. W. E. Nickelsberg ("Son of Man", in Toorn, Becking, & Horst, Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible, Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2nd rev. ed., 1999, p. 802):

    Thus, for Mark 'son of man' is a complex and ambiguous code word that denotes Jesus' humanity (the ordinary meaning of the expression), Jesus' identity as the eschatological son of man and messiah, and his fate in the role that Wisdom explicates for the servant and the central figure in Ps 2: the suffering and vindicated righteous one...

    The Gospel of Mark, the earliest extant Christian text with references to the son of man, plays on the ambiguities in the paradoxical use of the term mentioned above. Son of man denotes Jesus in his humanity and stands in contrast to 'son of God', the gospel's highest designation for him. At times, however, the expression is ambiguous and can also indicate the notion of a transcendent son of man.


    Also Douglas & Tenney (New International Bible Dictionary, Zondervan, 1987, p. 958):

    Jesus, in assuming this title, was saying to the Jews, "I am the Son of man in that prophecy." This title emphasized his union with mankind. It was also a name no one would criticize. Jesus could not call himself the Son of God or the Messiah. The Jews would not accept him as such. But they did not object to the term, the Son of Man. But no one else ever called him by that name.


    It is noteworthy, as the last source quoted here identifies, that the term "son of man" evoked no outrage from the Jews; not even Christ's enemies. It is clear they did not see this as a claim to be a supernatural being, certainly not a claim to be God. Can you really assert that this term in particular is "surprisingly encouraging to the orthodox belief that the Messiah is himself God come to save us"? What evidence is there that Jesus' Jewish audience understood it in this way?
  • 'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

    Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

    Credo.

    #8 Evangelion

    Evangelion

      Administrator

    • Admin
    • 24,344 posts
    • LocationAdelaide, South Australia

    Posted 12 June 2010 - 03:20 AM

    Misquoting and Misrepresentation (VI) "Five Other Fallacious Arguments", Part 3
    Rob,

    #5 "Suppressing contrary evidence: discussing scholarship on the meaning of harpagmos in Philippians 2:6 while ignoring the now dominant view, 'something to be exploited'."

    We shall see. Let's look at your claim a little closer:

    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).


    As a matter of fact, my exegesis of Philippians 2 mentions two alternative interpretations of harpagmos which favour a Trinitarian reading, and explained why I reject them:

    • "thought it not robbery to be equal with God"

    • "retained"

    In light of this, it seems rather petty to criticise me for not mentioning your preferred interpretation.

    You claimed that "something to be exploited" is "the now dominant interpretation." To support this you quote the NRSV (published in 1989), an article from the Harvard Theological Review (published in 1971) and allude to Wright's book The Climax of the Covenant (published in 1991). Is that supposed to be evidence that "something to be exploited" is "the now dominant interpretation"? One Bible translation published 21 years ago, a journal article published 39 years ago and a book published 19 years ago? Is that what you call "now"?

    In order to test the strength of your claim I enlisted the services of my twin brother, who possesses an extensive library of commentaries, translations and journals, including volumes 1-11 of the Theological Journal Library Series and the Portfolio Edition of Logos Bible Software 4, as well as:

    • Essential IVP Reference Collection
    • IVP Biblical Theology Collection
    • IVP Evangelical Theology Collection
    • Early Church History Collection
    • Gnostic and Apocryphal Studies Collection
    • Exegetical Summaries Series
    • NIBC
    • NICOT/NICNT
    • NIGNT
    • Word Biblical Commentary
    • JPS Tanakh Commentary Collection
    • Second Temple Period Collection
    • Library of NT Studies: JSNTS on the Gospels and Acts
    • Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary
    • Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: New Testament
    • Christian Origins and the Question of God Series
    • Studies in Talmud and Misdrash Collection
    • Judaism and Christianity Collection
    • New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology
    • Tyndale Commentaries
    • The standard lexicons (ANLEX, BDAG, EDNT, GELS, Louw/Nida, LSJ, Newman, Spicq, Swanson, TDNT, Zodhiates)
    Not to mention many more academic resources (the complete list of his Logos collection is over 8 pages long, but I’ll spare you). He generously took the time to search for your preferred interpretation throughout a broad range of theological publications. The material which follows is distilled from the results of his search.

    Rendering of "harpagmos" in English Bible translations:

    • 1959: Harper's New Testament Commentary, "plunder"
    • 1962: Baker New Testament Commentary, "something to cling to"
    • 1973: Translator's New Testament, "that he must cling to"
    • 1985: NJB, "something to be grasped"
    • 1989: NRSV, "something to be exploited"
    • 1991: NAB (rev. ed.), "something to be grasped"
    • 1992: GNB/TEV, "to try by force"
    • 1995: ASV, "a thing to be grasped"
    • 1995: NASB95, "a thing to be grasped"
    • 1996: NIV, "something to be grasped"
    • 1997: CEV, "try to remain equal"
    • 1998: NIrV', "something he should hold on to"
    • 2001: ESV, "a thing to be grasped"
    • 2003: HCSB, "something to be used for his own advantage"
    • 2004: NLT, "something to cling to"
    • 2006: NET, "something to be grasped"

    I see only the NRSV giving "something to be exploited", and the HCSB close behind with "something to be used for his own advantage." What do you see?

    Interpretation of "harpagmos" as "something to be taken advantage of" or "something to be exploited", or equivalent (such as "an opportunity to exploit"), in standard commentaries (academic and popular):

    • Bruce, F. F. (1989), New International Biblical Commentary: Philippians (69): No
    • Loh, I., & Nida, E. A. (1995), A handbook on Paul's letter to the Philippians, UBS Helps for translators; UBS handbook series (58): Yes
    • Ash, A. L. (1994), Philippians, Colossians & Philemon, The College Press NIV commentary (Php 2:6): No
    • Fee, G. D. (1995), Paul's Letter to the Philippians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (206–207): Yes
    • Martin, R. P. (1987), Vol. 11: Philippians: An Introduction and Commentary, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (107): Yes
    • Silva, M. (2005), Philippians (2nd ed.), Baker exegetical commentary on the New Testament (114): Yes
    • Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953-2001), Vol. 5: New Testament commentary: Exposition of Philippians, New Testament Commentary (107): No
    • Arnold, C. E. (2002), Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary Volume 3: Romans to Philemon (355): No
    • O'Brien, P. T. (1991), The Epistle to the Philippians: A commentary on the Greek text, New International Greek Testament Commentary Series (215): Yes
    • Melick, R. R. (2001), Vol. 32: Philippians, Colossians, Philemon (electronic ed.): Yes
    • Anders, M. (1999), Vol. 8: Galatians-Colossians. Holman New Testament Commentary; Holman Reference (225): No
    • Robertson, A. (1997 reprint), Word Pictures in the New Testament (Php 2:6): No
    • Wuest, K. S. (1997), Wuest's word studies from the Greek New Testament: For the English reader (Php 2:6): No
    • The Pulpit Commentary: Philippians, 2004 (H. D. M. Spence-Jones, Ed.) (60): No
    • Keener, C. S., & InterVarsity Press, (1993), The IVP Bible background commentary : New Testament (Php 2:5): No
    • Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary, (1983-), The Bible knowledge commentary: An exposition of the scriptures (Php 2:6–8): No
    • Carson, D. A. (1994), New Bible commentary: 21st century edition (4th ed.) (Php 2:5–11): Yes
    • Dockery, D. S. (1998), The Pauline Letters. In D. S. Dockery (Ed.), Holman concise Bible commentary: Simple, straightforward commentary on every book of the Bible (D. S. Dockery, Ed.) (584): No
    • Ellsworth, R. (2004), Opening up Philippians (37): No

    Number of commentaries that use "something to be taken advantage of" or "something to be exploited": 7. Number of commentaries that use a different interpretation: 12.

    Definitions of "harpagmos" in standard lexicons:

    • 1985: TDNT, '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', 'the word then took on the sense of the more common ἅρπαγμα and came to mean b, "what is seized," esp. plunder or booty', 'to take up an attitude to something as one does to what presents itself as a prey to be grasped, a chance discovery, or a gift of fate, i.e., appropriating and using it, treating it as something desired…'

    • 1988: Louw/Nida, 'a plunder', or 'something to hold by force, something to be forcibly retained'(Philippians 2:6 is glossed as 'he always had the nature of God and did not consider that remaining equal with God was something to be held on to forcibly')

    • 1990: EDNT, gives 'robbery' as the definition, and then blatantly admits that it cannot accept this definition in Philippians 2:6 for theological reasons ('The meaning which predominates in secular Greek, robbery, is out of the question for Phil 2:6′)

    • 1993: Newman, 'ἁρπαγμός , οῦ m something to grasp after; something to hold onto'

    • 1996: LSJ9, 'ἁρπαγμός, ὁ, 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.'

    • 2000: ANLEX, 'literally something seized and held, plunder' (Philippians 2L6 is glossed as 'figuratively in PH 2.6 of Jesus' equality with God οὐχ ἁρπαγμόν")

    • 2003: BDAG (3rd), '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' (the gloss on Philippians 2:6 is ' the state of being equal w. God cannot be equated w. the act of robbery', which helpfully shows that the meaning of the word is incompatible with the idea that Jesus is God in Philippians 2:6
    Rob, out of all of these sources I am not seeing "something to be exploited" as a "now dominant interpretation." On the contrary, I see several comparatively recent translations returning to the older rendering (thus ESV's "a thing to be grasped", and NET's "something to be grasped"). I see "something to be exploited" (or equivalent) in significantly less than a majority of the commentaries. I do not see it as a dominant definition in the lexicons.

    A few key journal articles from my brother's search help to illustrate the lack of consensus on "something to be exploited":

    • 1980: Feinberg, 'The Kenosis And Christology: An Exegetical-Theological Analysis Of Phil 2:6-11', Trinity Journal, volume 1, p. 31 (1980):

      A more common approach is to take ἁρπαγμός in the passive sense, usually res rapienda. Translators have given the word the meaning of "something to be seized." The problem with such an interpretation should be clear; it seems to demand that equality with God was something that could be seized or snatched, although unlike Adam Jesus refused to do it.


      Interestingly, we see this 1980 article saying that at that time at least, it was apparently "more common"' to interpret this in a manner contrary to Trinitarian theology.

    • 1991: McClendon, 'Philippians 2:5–11', Review and Expositor (88.4), p. 441 (1991):

      KJV preserves the mistranslation of harpagmos, a term which as research has shown need not mean "robbery," but can have the idiomatic sense "an opportunity to exploit."

    • 2001: McLeod, 'Imitating the Incarnation of Christ: An Exposition of Philippians 2:5-8', Bibliotheca Sacra (158.631), p. 316 (2001):

      The expression does not mean to cling to something in a grasping way. Nor does it refer to grasping something aggressively or robbing something. Rather, it has the idiomatic meaning, "to regard as something to be taken advantage of."


    I quote these out of complete fairness, showing that I'm not suppressing evidence contrary to my position. However, what we have to note is that these articles reference the 1971 study of Hoover, "The Harpagmos Enigma: A Philological Solution", Harvard Theological Review, volume 64, pp. 95-119 (1971). This is particularly significant because it is the very same study you've cited.

    You will note that we have seen nothing to support your claim that this is the "now dominant interpretation." Instead you have cited two authors to support this conclusion, and a few commentators cite Hoover as support for their view. Even in the journals it remains only one of several accepted interpretations, with the "Adam Christology" interpretation still alive and well.

    I invite you to search the following journals for any articles which cite Hoover's study:

    • Bibliotheca Sacra, 1934-2005
    • Grace Journal, 1960-1972
    • Grace Theological Journal, 1980-1991
    • Trinity Journal, 1980-2004
    • Master's Seminary Journal, 1990-2003
    • Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, 1995-2005
    • Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 1966-2005
    • Westminster Theological Journal, 1950-2005
    • Emmaus Journal, 1991-2004
    • Michigan Theological Journal, 1990-1994
    • Journal of Christian Apologetics, 1997-1998
    • Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society, 1998-2005
    • Chafer Theological Seminary Journal, 1995-2003
    • Conservative Theological Journal, 2000-2004
    • Reformation and Revival, 1992-2003
    • Journal of Ministry and Theology, 1997-2005
    • Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal, 1996-2005
    • Bible and Spade, 1972-2000
    • Christian Apologetics Journal, 1998-2000, 2005
    • Reformed Baptist Theological Review, 2003, 2005
    • Review and Expositor, 1982-2005
    • Global Journal, 1998-1999
    • Ashland Theological Journal, 1991-2005
    • Faith and Mission, 1984-2005
    • Southern Baptist Journal of Theology, 1997-2005

    I can spare you some exertion by informing you that Hoover's study is cited only five times throughout this entire body of literature (Strimple, WTJ:1979, Feinberg, TrinJ:1980, McClendon, RevExp:1991, MacCleod, BibSac:2001, Hellerman, BibSac:2003). Likewise, in the professional historical lexicons we find no reference to this study as definitive. Clearly, this is not "now the dominant interpretation."

    So why did you make this claim in the first place? Perhaps it was a hasty generalisation based on something you read in the McLeod article, "Imitating the Incarnation of Christ: An Exposition of Philippians 2:5-8" (Bibliotheca Sacra (158.631), pp. 315-316 (2001)):

    A translation that is somewhat different from the traditional ones is gaining wide acceptance today.40 Instead of translating "a thing to be grasped" (NASB), or "He thought it not robbery" (KJV)41 scholars have recently suggested that the word should be translated "something to be taken advantage of."

    The expression does not mean to cling to something in a grasping way. Nor does it refer to grasping something aggressively or robbing something. Rather, it has the idiomatic meaning, "to regard as something to be taken advantage of." And the words translated "although He existed," should be rendered "because He existed."43 Thus the verse can be rendered, "Precisely because He was in the form of God He reckoned equality with God not as a matter of getting but of giving," or "He did not regard His divine prerogatives as something to use for His own advantage."


    I have included the footnotes because they allow us to examine the basis of McLeod's assertions. In support of his claim that "to regard as something to be taken advantage of" is "gaining widespread acceptance today" we have footnote #40, which says:

    Hawthorne, Philippians, 84–85; Silva, Philippians, 117–18; and O'Brien, The Epistle to the Philippians, 212–16


    McLeod doesn't provide any dates, so my brother looked them up; Hawthorne is 1987, Silva is 1992 and O'Brien is 1991. Three scholars do not constitute "wide acceptance"!

    McLeod also claims that "to regard as something to be taken advantage of" is one which "scholars have recently suggested." In support of this we have footnote #42, which says:

    Here Wright (ibid., 336-37, 344-52) has nicely woven together the views of H. C. G. Moule and R. W. Hoover (C. F. D. Moule, "The Manhood of Jesus in the New Testament," in Christ Faith and History, ed. S. W. Sykes and J. P. Clayton [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1972], 97; idem, "Further Reflections on Philippians 2:5-11," in Apostolic History and the Gospel, eds. W. W. Gasque and Ralph P. Martin [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1970], 271-74; and Hoover, "The Harpagmos Enigma," 117-19.


    Well, that's disappointing. The footnote cites only Wright, who cites only Moule (1970, 1972) and Hoover (1971), for a grand total of three references from three scholars who quote each other in work that is not "recent" by any stretch of the imagination.

    As a follow-up to his investigative work, my brother also his electronic resource library for the specific phrase "something to take advantage of", applied to Philippians 2 (excluding Bible translations). It occurs only twice: once in the McLeod article quoted above, and once in the New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition (4th rev. ed. 1994). In the same body of resources (excluding Bible translations), "something to be exploited" as a specific phrase turns up just 20 references in 19 resources. Of those references:

    • Fifteen are instances of the NRSV's translation of Philippians being simply quoted (without any comment, sometimes in the context of a broader quote from Philippians 2), or quoted specifically as an appropriate translation of "harpagmos" (without scholarly commentary justifying why it is appropriate)
    • One is in a daily Bible reading companion (Carson, 1999)
    • One is not even a reference to Philippians 2 ("The extent to which the handling of the law had become a matter for the specialists and therefore something to be exploited, is shown by the debate in the Sanhedrin after an abortive attempt to arrest Jesus"; Brown, New international dictionary of New Testament theology, volume 2, 1986, p.448)
    • Another is likewise not even a reference to Philippians ("Instead, the human response was all too often cynical, treating God's choice as something to be exploited: a shelter against his judgment (Jer. 7, especially verses 8–15) or an asset to be commercialized (Matt. 21:12f.)", Kidner, Psalms 73-150: An Introduction and Commentary, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, volume 16, 1975, p.487)

    • The other two are scholarly comments arguing on exegetical or linguistic grounds (or both) that this is the correct interpretation of harpagmos in Philipians 2

    You might feel that this was all a little over the top, but we don't want you accusing me of "suppressing evidence" again, do we? I have laboured the point because your claim was a bold one, and it's important for our readers to know that it was utterly false. Contrary to your assertion, we find that in order to argue for harpagmos in Philippians 2 means "something to be taken advantage of", or "something to be exploited", you cited a mere two scholars and overlooked references to all the intervening scholarship and standard English translations, including all the professional historical lexicons. This would not be necessary if it was the "now dominant interpretation", as you claimed.

    In contrast, references to and citations of the "Adam Christology" interpretation remain plentiful in the relevant literature, with recent studies by the likes of Dunn being cited with increasing frequency from 1991 onwards.
    'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

    Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

    Credo.

    #9 Evangelion

    Evangelion

      Administrator

    • Admin
    • 24,344 posts
    • LocationAdelaide, South Australia

    Posted 12 June 2010 - 06:38 AM

    God (I)
    Rob,

    I agreed that the Jews interpret the OT to teach that God is unipersonal. I did not agree that this is what the OT actually means. Your argument is unsound. It is like the following argument. "If the OT revealed that Messiah would come just once to destroy the wicked (and you've already accepted that this is how the Jews interpreted the OT) and if Jesus revealed that as Messiah he was coming twice, first to die and then to destroy the wicked, then there is no logical basis for claiming that 'Jesus' revelation did not contradict the revelation in the Jewish scriptures.' A contradiction necessarily arises."


    Can you provide any evidence whatever, from any standard scholarly commentary, that the OT itself does not teach God is unipersonal? Wood, D. R. W., & Marshall, I. H. (1996), New Bible Dictionary (3rd ed.), p.1209:

    Without the titanic disclosure of the Christ event, no one would have taken the OT to affirm anything but the exclusive, i.e. unipersonal monotheism that is the hallmark of Judaism and Islam.


    You believe that singular personal pronouns indicate the Father is one person, Jesus is one person, and the Holy Spirit is one person, but as soon as singular personal pronouns are used of "God", suddenly you backflip and don't want singular personal pronouns to refer to one person. You believe that plural personal pronouns could have been used to indicate one multi-personal God, and you even believe there's evidence that they were used in Genesis 1:26 for this purpose, yet when singular pronouns are used instead you still read them as plural. This is the fallacy of special pleading.

    The Trinitarian God is more than a grammatical paradox, He is – or should I say "They are", or should I say "They is", or should it be "He are"? – a philosophical conundrum. One being, yet three persons, and one of these persons has two natures but remains one person. Could you honestly get anything like that out of the Old Testament, even if you really tried? The NBD I quoted just now says "The robust monotheism of the OT concedes only a few hints of plurality within the One God", citing just six, all of which it provides explanations for within traditional orthodox Jewish monotheism, noting "It is unlikely that any of these was understood by the OT authors or their contemporary readers to denote eternal personal distinctions within Israel's one God."

    The article makes the point that the relevant data just doesn't exist in the Old Testament, people had to wait for the "new revelation" of the New Testament. And since that's what you've said you also believe, then why turn around and try to argue that the Old Testament doesn't teach God is one person? If it does, there's a need for new revelation. If it doesn't, there isn't.

    By the way, I think I should correct what I said about the Jews' understanding of the OT teaching. They clearly did understand that the LORD was one God, and they clearly held that the LORD God was one "being" (see Ex. 3:14 LXX). But on reflection I wonder if it isn't anachronistic to assert that the Jews in Jesus' day thought of the LORD as one "person," i.e., as unipersonal. Not only would they not have used the word "person," but the issue of whether the one Divine Being was unipersonal or tripersonal simply had not come up. If you assume that each and every being, including the Divine Being, must be one and only one person, then on that assumption of course the ancient Jewish view of God as one Being would entail that God is one person. The problem is that this assumption introduces a concept (that of person) that the ancient Jews did not have (i.e., as an explicitly held and articulated concept).


    There's quite a bit of backtracking here. You now seem to be saying that the Jews had no concept that a person was always a being. Please provide evidence for this. You've already acknowledged Greek had no word for a person who was not a being; can you provide the word in Hebrew which means a person who is not a being? If not, I believe you'll have to acknowledge with standard grammars that a person in Hebrew was always a being.

    Asserting that the Jews had no concept that one being was one person, and vice versa, is certainly difficult in light of the fact that their personal pronouns assume exactly that, when plural pronouns could just as easily have been used to describe one God and a plurality of persons. Asserting it without evidence, as you have done, really gets you nowhere at all.

    You've referred to my interpretation as an assumption, but it's not; I am simply reading the Bible and accepting the normative meaning of the words that it uses, as its original audience would naturally have done. This meaning is demonstrably consistent from the OT to NT. I don't need to assume that the Bible uses singular personal pronouns to denote single persons; we can all see for ourselves that this is the case. The burden of evidence lies upon you to prove that a non-normative meaning is more appropriate.

    Perhaps I've missed it, although I went back over your previous comments twice, but I did not see any citations from Trinitarian commentators on Matthew 11:27. Could you please quote for me the portion of your comments where you demonstrated that my exegesis of Matthew 11:27 has no support from Trinitarian commentators? All I see is a generalized assertion about Trinitarian commentators saying that Matthew 11:27 is about the relationship of the Father and the Son.


    That's actually what I was referring to Rob. Can you provide quotations from Trinitarian commentators showing any of them interprets this passage as meaning "No one knew the person of the Father until I came along", as you do?

    However, I agree it is reasonable for me to quote some Trinitarian commentators, to show that I've had a look and can't find any agreement with your point. I searched a number of Trinitarian commentators and have found none which give your interpretation. Here are the results:

    • "it is only through him that they have received and can receive their special knowledge of God's truth", France, R. T. (2007), The Gospel of Matthew. The New International Commentary on the New Testament, p.445

    • "It may be important not to press the exclusivity of the mutual knowledge. The image of the special relationship between a father and his son and heir marks out a space of particular privileged mutual knowledge, but should not be taken to mean that knowledge of either father or son is totally lacking outside that relationship", Nolland, J. (2005), The Gospel of Matthew: A commentary on the Greek text, p.472

    • "Clearly Jesus and God have a unique relationship. He is God's Son in a different sense than believers are God's children (John 1:12). Epiginōskō means more than know, involving the most intimate and fullest acquaintance. The theology is not yet Trinitarian but prepares the way for the references to the Father and Son in the baptismal formula of 28:19", Blomberg, C. (2001), Vol. 22: Matthew (electronic ed.), The New American Commentary, p.193

    • "The exclusive communion between Father and Son is of the essence of their relationship. For anyone else to share in this knowledge, however, is a matter of revelation, and as such is not a natural right, but a matter of divine choice. Thus God's sovereign initiative in revelation, set out in vv. 25–26, is applied specifically to our knowledge of God: it does not come naturally (see 1 Cor. 2:6–16 for a spelling out of this theme). It depends on God's choice, or, more specifically, the Son's choice. Thus Jesus unequivocally describes himself and his will as the key to men's approach to the Father; there is no other", France, R. T. (1985), Vol. 1: Matthew: An introduction and commentary, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, p.203

    You will note that all these quotes understand the passage to be referring to the relationship of mutual revelation between the Father and the son, not between "God" and the son. None of them say that this passage means people can only understand the identity of God unless Jesus tells them first, and of course none of them say anything about the OT saints being unable to know the true identity of God because Jesus hadn't told them.

    Remember, whereas this passage says that no one knows the Father unless the son reveals Him, what you're trying to argue is that the OT saints did not understand God, not just "the Father." You're claiming that they wrongly understood God to be one person, a critical error which had to be corrected by Christ, and yet which Christ never actually dealt with in any of his many addresses both to the crowd in public and his disciples in private.

    On that point, let's keep going and look at these commentaries:

    • "The sentence can be expressed with a positive construction instead of a negative: 'Only God the Father knows who the Son really is, and only the Son and those he chooses to reveal it to, know the true nature of God'", Newman, B. M., & Stine, P. C. (1992), A handbook on the Gospel of Matthew, UBS helps for translators; UBS handbook series, p.343

    • "Whatever the background, Jesus' words testify to an exclusive awareness of God that can only be explained on the basis of his unique transcendent relationship to God", Chouinard, L. (1997), Matthew, The College Press NIV commentary (Mt 11:27)

    • "Matthew 11:27 may attribute the power of predestination (assigned only to God in Jewish sources) to Jesus; as the revealer of God, he assumes a position often assumed by divine Wisdom in Jewish tradition", Keener, C. S., & InterVarsity Press (1993), The IVP Bible background commentary: New Testament (Mt 11:24)

    This is almost close to what you're saying, though none of these say anything about no one before Christ being able to know who God really was, or no one being able to understand God unless Jesus comes and explains it to them personally. We have instead an unspecified "true nature of God" (but not that God is multi-personal), "an exclusive awareness of God" (nothing about God's identity), and yet more generically "the revealer of God" (even less specific). Unfortunately they also differentiate between "God" and "the Son" such that "the son" is "other-than-God." This is where that "God the Father", and "God the Son" language is so desperately needed by Trinitarianism, and this is yet another example of the fact that such language is completely absent from the NT.
    'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

    Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

    Credo.

    #10 Evangelion

    Evangelion

      Administrator

    • Admin
    • 24,344 posts
    • LocationAdelaide, South Australia

    Posted 12 June 2010 - 06:38 AM

    God (II)
    Rob,

    You continue to insist "that a singular pronoun does not denote multiple persons" despite the evidence I presented that in some cases a singular pronoun can refer to a group of multiple persons (e.g., Ps. 25:22; 130:8). Your objections to this evidence are irrelevant. You say that it is clear "from the context" of these verses that "Israel" refers to the nation, not the man. In fact, it is not "the context" (i.e., the literary context, something in the psalm) that tells you this, but your historical background knowledge. In any case, it doesn't really matter, because the point stands that the singular pronoun refers to a group of persons. You also criticize the point by noting that "Israel" is a name whereas "God" is not. This is also irrelevant; for one thing, the referent of the singular pronouns for God is more often than not the name YHWH (Jehovah). Again, your absolute statement that a singular pronoun always refers to a single person turns out not to be correct.


    This gets you nowhere because none of your proof texts contain an example of the singular pronoun used in reference to a plural person. On the contrary, your texts show that the singular pronoun is consistently used in reference to a singular person. Thus:

    • Psalm 25:22: Israel (singular noun), his (singular pronoun) trouble

    • Psalm 130:8: Israel (singular noun), his (singular pronoun) iniquities

    The grammar is consistent here. A singular noun is identified as a singular pronoun. In this case "Israel" is a singular noun, not a plural noun, and is being treated as a singular person, not as a plural person. It is a personification of the entire nation as one person. This is certainly not a case of multiple persons being identified with a singular pronoun. You're supposed to be finding something analogous to Genesis. All you've done is to confirm what I've already said, that God (whether referred to by name or by a noun, e.g. "God"), is referred to consistently using singular pronouns, not plural pronouns. You cannot obscure this point by the use of irrelevant proof texts.

    I would very much appreciate you getting onto the B-Hebrew email list, where you can explain to professional Hebraists how Hebrew pronouns function, and what they mean. I will await your arrival with anticipation, and look forward to seeing you validate your grammatical views with people who are fully qualified in the relevant field. Do make sure you explain to them that when the Hebrews used a personal pronoun it didn't mean they thought of the subject as a single person, and that the Hebrews had no concept of single beings as single persons, or vice versa.

    Regarding the plural pronouns in Genesis 1:26, if you agree with me that angels did not assist in creation, then those plural pronouns in Genesis 1:26 cannot refer to God and the angels collectively.


    No, that's a false dichotomy. What it means is that those plural pronouns cannot be indicating that the angels actually participated actively in the creation. We know that anyway, from the singular pronoun of the verb "created", in the very next verse, and I'm not arguing for that as you know. But that the angels are addressed by God in the phrase "Let us", is not even controversial in the relevant literature. Aside from the NET footnote, we have:

    The first area of debate is over the striking use of the first person plural pronouns: us … our. Needless to say, earlier Christian commentators were prone to see here a reference to the Trinity. But even if one grants that Moses was in some way responsible for Gen. 1, it is going too far to call Israel's hero a trinitarian monotheist!


    (Hamilton, V. P. (1990), The Book of Genesis. Chapters 1-17, The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, p.132).

    Although Hamilton believes that "God here speaks to the Spirit, mentioned back in v. 2, who now becomes God's partner in creation", he acknowledges that the view that the heavenly court is addressed "is probably the most widely held."

    And in fact the use of the singular verb "create" in 1:27 does, in fact, suggest that God worked alone in the creation of mankind. "Let us create man" should therefore be regarded as a divine announcement to the heavenly court, drawing the angelic host's attention to the master stroke of creation, man.


    (Wenham, G. J. (2002), Vol. 1: Word Biblical Commentary: Genesis 1-15, Word Biblical Commentary, p.28).

    Wenham throws a sop to fellow Trinitarians by suggesting Christ may be included in the sensus plenior, but notes "such insights were certainly beyond the horizon of the editor of Genesis."

    In the final analysis any of these three views is plausible and makes sense for the imagined audience. Perhaps the three views are not mutually exclusive; the imagined audience might well have read this text in more than one way.


    (Kissling, P. J. (2004-), Genesis, The College Press NIV commentary, p.123).

    The three views Kissing finds plausible are an address to the heavenly court, the plural of deliberation, or God addressing the Spirit.

    The extraordinary use of the first person plural evokes the image of a heavenly court in which God is surrounded by His angelic host.20 Such a celestial scene is depicted in several biblical passages.


    (Sarna, N. M. (1989), Genesis, The JPS Torah commentary, p.12).

    Interestingly, the UBS Handbook, after listing the various options, says that many translators prefer to read this is as a plural of deliberation, so that the passage is rendered with singular pronouns throughout:

    The usage is a "plural of deliberation"; that is, when the speaker is conferring or consulting with himself. For example, in Isa 6.8 the Lord says "Whom shall I send and who will go for us?" A similar usage may be in Gen 11.7, "The Lord says, 'Come, let us go down and there confuse their languages.…'" Modern interpreters prefer the last explanation. Speiser translates "I will make man in my image," while NJV did the same in an earlier printing but has since returned to the use of the plural.


    (Reyburn, W. D., & Fry, E. M. (1997), A handbook on Genesis. UBS handbook series, p.50).

    This of course makes the Trinitarian reading completely invisible.

    Remarkably, in the link you gave me to your explanation of the plural pronouns, you claim "nontrinitarian interpretations cannot account for these occurrences." Yet as I showed in previous weeks (and have now demonstrated again) the scholarly consensus of Trinitarians themselves is that non-Trinitarian interpretations not only can account for these occurrences, but offer the most plausible explanations.

    You then tried to defend your claim that proving that the Father is God, the Son is God, and Holy Spirit is God would not prove the Trinity. You suggested that these propositions might be consistent with both the Trinity and Modalism or Monarchianism. However, your argument here overlooks the fact that my core propositions included not only the three you listed but also the proposition that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are each someone other than the other two.


    Let's revisit what I actually said. I pointed out that you are using the word "God" in two different ways:

    • As the name for the Trinity as a concept (ie. the concept of three persons in one being)
    • As a name possessed by each individual member of the Trinity

    In other words you use the word "God" in reference to the triune Godhead as a single unit, but you also use it in reference to each of the three persons individually. You do exactly the same with the name of Yahweh, as we saw in a previous exchange which left some unanswered questions on the table. Remember this, from my second counter-rebuttal in Week 1?

    All your energy so far has gone into proving the first formula at the expense of the second. But if you only manage to prove the first, what would you actually have proved? Possibly Trinitarianism; but possibly also Modalism (or even Dynamic Monarchianism).


    That's my point here: if you only manage to prove the first. Not "if you prove all your propositions", not even if "all your propositions are true", but "if you only manage to prove the first."

    For example, Modalism easily comprehends the idea that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all God; however, it does not work the other way because Modalism teaches that God is not the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The second formula is an essential element if you wish to preclude Modalism (and similar heresies) and it must be proved independently of the first formula. Trinitarianism only becomes a necessary deduction when both formulae are equally demonstrated, independent of each other. Proving the first does not prove the second.

    That is precisely why I am requiring you to prove all your propositions independently. I am demonstrating that you can't prove just the first and then claim you get any others "free." You still have to explain why you are using the word "God" in two different ways, and you still have to prove that the Bible uses them in these two ways. If on the other hand you want to acknowledge freely that you use the word in these two different ways in order to express your Trinitarian understanding of what the Bible says, that's fine too. It will simply make clear the fact that this terminology is a by-product of your own theological requirements.
    'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

    Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

    Credo.

    #11 Evangelion

    Evangelion

      Administrator

    • Admin
    • 24,344 posts
    • LocationAdelaide, South Australia

    Posted 12 June 2010 - 06:38 AM

    Christ (I)
    Rob,

    So now, "the Word of God" in Revelation 19:13 is a theophoric name? That is a very interesting claim.


    Straw man. I didn't say that "Word of God" is a theophoric name. I said the fact that Jesus is called the Word of God in Revelation 19 does not prove that he pre-existed as the logos of John 1:1-3. I agree it's not a proper name. I agree it says something about Jesus. I agree it says something about his function, just as "Lamb of God" does. The term "Word of God" says that Jesus is God's agent. The Word of God is not God any more than the word of Rob is Rob, and if you call someone else the Word of Rob, you'll have a hard time convincing people that you mean they're really Rob.

    With regard to "King of kings and Lord of lords," no biblical text applies both designations to any human ruler; in fact, no biblical text refers to anyone other than God as "Lord of lords." My point was that it is hermeneutically fallacious to separate the two designations in order to argue that, since Daniel called Nebuchadnezzar "king of kings" (Dan. 2:37), the application of these designations together to Jesus does not identify him as God.


    You repeat your claim that the application of the title "king of kings and lord of lords" to Christ actually identifies him as God. I'm still waiting for the logical process of reasoning by which you reach this conclusion. You've already agreed that it's a title, and you're well aware that the Unitarian position is that Christ, as the divinely appointed agent of God, bears God's titles just as the angel of the presence bore God's own name, so you need to explain why bearing a title of God (even uniquely), means that the one bearing the title is also God. You argue the same with the title "first and last" and "alpha and omega", so it's clearly a critical argument for your case.

    I apologise for inadvertently mis-phrasing your statement regarding the word "saviour." Since you acknowledge it isn't used exclusively of God, and since you acknowledge it's a title, this is another instance in which you need to explain how bearing a divine title means someone is God. By now you should have an understanding of the divine agency principle and the fact that it was well developed in Second Temple Judaism, so you really need to engage the relevant 1st century milieu in your explanation. This leaves you with an awful lot to prove, since you're saying that these titles aren't a reference to literal deity when used of other people, but are a reference to literal deity when used of Christ. If that's not intended to be special pleading, you'll to have to rephrase it in a way which makes this clear. You'll also have to provide evidence that when a title was applied to Christ, the intended meaning was literal deity.

    The fact is you can't do that. You can work backwards from Christ's deity to the titles, but you can't work forwards from the titles to his deity. All you're doing is retrofitting the Trinitarian understanding of the titles, to the intention of the original writer. Remember, the argument you need to defend is that if X bears the title of Y, then X is Y. You also need to prove that these titles weren't used of Christ to identify him as God's agent. You need to prove that they're not being used of Christ as divine titles were understood and used in Second Temple Judaism.

    Thus, Martin, R. P., & Davids, P. H. (2000), Dictionary of the Later New Testament and its Developments (electronic edition):

    The documents of Second Temple Judaism demonstrate a proliferation of "divine agents" (Hurtado, 17–92). These heavenly figures can be divided into three sometimes overlapping categories: agents who are depicted as personified attributes of God (e.g., Wisdom, Word), as exalted patriarchs/matriarchs (e.g., Enoch, Moses, Jacob) or as principal angels (e.g., Michael, Melchizedek, Yaoel). Similar to other figures, these divine agents either originated in or were exalted to heaven; however, unlike other figures, these divine agents were depicted as bearing the marks and properties of divinity in unprecedented ways. In some cases these divine agents were described as performing deeds typically reserved for Israel's God—i.e., creating the world and/or executing eschatological judgment and redemption.

    The phenomenon of divine agency undermines any claim that Jewish monotheism had weakened during the Second-Temple period. Instead of indicating transcendence and distance (Bousset), these divine agents actually demonstrate God's immanence and immediacy (Hurtado). Despite the exalted ways in which these figures could be described, divine agency did not compromise the piety of Jewish monotheism. Divine agents were never worshiped as god(s).

    Although the extravagant epiphanies could well have confused the line of demarcation between one of these powerful agents and the one true God, the angelic refusal tradition (in which angelic figures refuse to be worshiped) safeguarded Jewish monotheism by legitimating the veneration of the one true God alone (Stuckenbruck; see Worship).

    If the monotheism of the biblical writings emphasized the singularity of the one true God (there is only one God, Yahweh; all others are mere idols), the writings of Second Temple Judaism preserved the unity of the one true God (despite the presence of powerful agents that share the marks of divinity, Yahweh is one). The singularity and unity of the creating, covenanting and purposeful God formed the conceptual matrix for early Christian theological reflection.


    That's a highly well developed matrix of divine agency. Now, how do you intend to show that Christ is depicted as doing anything more than previous divine agents? Bearing divine titles? Already done. Given the name of God? Already done. Bearing the marks and properties of deity? Already done. Performing deeds typically reserved for Israel's God? Already done. Creating the world, executing eschatological judgment and redemption? Already done. This is the Second Temple paradigm within which you have to work before moving forward to the New Testament. You can't keep starting with the post-apostolic creeds and working backwards to the New Testament, isolating it from its original context.

    How did the apostles explain that Christ was "not a divine agent like all the others?" We can see they would have had to do something fairly drastic, which is why we can expect it would have left its mark on the first-century era and prompted a massive backlash from first-century Judaism, as did the abolition of circumcision and the Law. So what did they do?

    Remember that Christ bears the name and titles of the Father (not just "God"), so be careful to make your argument whilst avoiding identifying the person of the son with the person of the Father. While I'm here I'll point out that it's not an argument from silence when I identify the absence of evidence we could reasonably expect if your argument is true. I am not saying this is positive evidence that your argument is false. I am pointing out that you need to provide an explanation for the lack of evidence that we could reasonably expect if your argument is true.

    No, I was very specific as to what was the methodological problem with your approach. I did not "imply" what you were doing; I stated it explicitly. Here is what I wrote: "Your line of argument moves from the premise that differing interpretations of a text exist to the conclusion that the text has nothing to contribute to the discussion." Your claim that I never quoted you to prove that this was how you were reasoning is also false. Here is what I quoted you as saying:

    "However, these passages are not decisive, since virtually all of them can be understood differently due to textual variations and contextual/grammatical issues. Textual critics and Trinitarian authorities of various schools observe repeatedly none can be relied on with absolute certainty, and even the strongest requires qualification."

    That this meant in context that you wanted us to set aside these verses is clear from your statement, "I address these verses now since I feel that they distract from the far more important task of building a case for our respective Christologies on a Scriptural basis as a whole" (your emphasis). Note your claim that these verses "distract" people from the task of developing a biblical Christology. Dave, they can only be a distraction from that task if they have nothing to contribute to it.


    The fact that I actually did address these verses proves that I do not believe that they should be simply set aside as having nothing to contribute to the discussion. That was never my argument. What I said was that they cannot be relied on with absolute certainty, which means they are not decisive. However, even though they are crux interpreta I never said that they have nothing to contribute to the discussion. You cannot accuse me of leaving them to one side when I actually addressed them specifically, and did so before I did anything else.

    Nor did I say that they "distract people from the task of developing a biblical Christology." I said that for you and I to spend most of our time on these texts rather than others is a distraction from the debate requirement that both of us develop a biblical Christology. I made that quite clear:

    I address these verses now [note I address them, I don't discard them] since I feel that they distract from the far more important task of building a case for our respective Christologies on a Scriptural basis as a whole.


    Spending time on verses which do not constitute "a Scriptural basis as a whole", does distract us from spending time on verses which do constitute "a Scriptural basis as a whole."
    'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

    Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

    Credo.

    #12 Evangelion

    Evangelion

      Administrator

    • Admin
    • 24,344 posts
    • LocationAdelaide, South Australia

    Posted 13 June 2010 - 03:05 AM

    Christ (II)
    Rob,

    Your first question rhetorically argues that if the Bible rarely calls Jesus "God," then he must not really be God. This argument is fallacious and easily backfires. The NT rarely calls the Father "Lord" (= Yahweh), roughly about as often as it calls Jesus "God." Does this mean that the Father isn't really the LORD? You claim that when the Bible does call Jesus God it does so according to the principle of agency, and you find this principle at work practically everywhere in the NT. I could ask you the same question, then: If it was completely normal to call God's agent "God," why doesn't the NT call Jesus God more often than it does?


    Wrong. Firstly, I didn't say that if the Bible rarely calls Jesus God, then he must not really be God, nor was that my intended meaning. Secondly, what I actually said was that you made no attempt to explain why Jesus is so rarely referred to as theos. Thirdly, you have blatantly avoided my question. I'll take that as "I don't know and I can't answer your question."

    I can answer your question about God's agent being called "God" (actually theos) very easily. The simple answer is that it wasn't very common for God's agent to be called theos (in the LXX we have theos used only occasionally of angels, God's judges, and the Davidic king). The NT application of this word to Christ therefore follows precisely the pattern we would expect from the OT use, referring to Christ many times using divine titles, but rarely as theos. Thanks for asking, and thanks for confirming that you couldn't answer my question.

    You say:

    Your second question may reflect badly on the behavior of some ancient Christian scribes, but it has absolutely no relevance to the doctrine of the deity of Christ or the Trinity. We have plenty of evidence for these doctrines after we eliminate the overzealous scribal changes reflecting concern to safeguard the deity of Christ. I simply don't need 1 Timothy 3:16 to say "God was manifest in the flesh" to defend the deity of Christ, nor do I need the Johannine Comma (1 John 5:7) to defend the Trinity.


    As before, this is just another version of "I don't know and I can't answer your question." It's nice that you don't need I Timothy 3:16 and I John 5:7. But early Trinitarians felt very strongly that they did. These passages have also been defended hotly by Trinitarians over the centuries. You have not yet answered the question. Why was it felt necessary to write these interpolations, as the Ignatian epistles were interpolated?

    Frankly, you have to admit it looks pretty bad. The JWs are notorious for the Arian bias in their New World Translation, and Trinitarians have been quick to point out that such careful word choices would hardly be necessary if the text actually said what they want it to say. Yes, I'm aware that some Christologically significant textual variants work in the other direction. I'm not exactly sure what this contributes to your case though. You can't claim that they were put there by Unitarians, because you don't believe any Unitarians existed during that time.

    You say:

    I stand by my criticism: the NET Bible was not rejecting a Trinitarian interpretation of Isaiah 9:6, as you claimed (and still claim); rather, they were criticizing a "Trinitarian" understanding of "Everlasting Father" that would erroneously identify Jesus as God the Father.


    Here's a breakdown of the NET's analysis:

    • Extraordinary Strategist: "Does this suggest the deity of the messianic ruler? The NT certainly teaches he is God, but did Isaiah necessarily have this in mind over 700 years before his birth? Since Isa 11:2 points out that this king will receive the spirit of the Lord, which will enable him to counsel, it is possible to argue that the king's counsel is "extraordinary" because it finds its source in the divine spirit. Thus this title does not necessarily suggest that the ruler is deity."

    • Mighty God: "Scholars have interpreted this title is two ways" (the NET presents an application to the Davidic king, and "a reference to God, confronting Isaiah's readers with the divinity of this promised 'child'").

    • Everlasting Father: "This title must not be taken in an anachronistic Trinitarian sense", and "The use of 'everlasting' might suggest the deity of the king (as the one who has total control over eternity), but Isaiah and his audience may have understood the term as royal hyperbole emphasizing the king's long reign or enduring dynasty."

    • Prince of Peace: "This title pictures the king as one who establishes a safe socio-economic environment for his people."

    Let's recap.

    They explicitly reject a Trinitarian interpretation of "Extraordinary Strategist" and "Everlasting Father", they do not identify "Prince of Peace" as a reference to deity, they list two options for "Mighty God" (neither of which support Trinitarianism), and they only refer to the Trinity in order to advise that that "Everlasting Father" shouldn't be read in a Trinitarian sense. At most you could say is that they list one "Trinitarian compatible" option for one of the titles. This being the case, I don't believe I'm exaggerating to say that they reject a Trinitarian interpretation of this verse.
    'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

    Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

    Credo.

    #13 Evangelion

    Evangelion

      Administrator

    • Admin
    • 24,344 posts
    • LocationAdelaide, South Australia

    Posted 13 June 2010 - 03:06 AM

    Christ (III)
    Rob,

    With regard to my argument that Jesus cannot be David's descendant if he is actually God, you say:

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


    How can anyone be David's descendant unless they postdate David? That is a basic requirement of the definition of "descendant." If they don't postdate David, they cannot be his descendant. A descendant isn't someone who existed several thousand years before you did. Would you like to use a special definition of "descendant", to go with your special definition of "person"?

    You say:

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


    One word, agency. We've been through this many times now. See the quote from Martin and Davids in Christ (I), and my subsequent comments.

    You say:

    My intention here is not to offer an argument to "prove" that Christ is God directly from OT proof texts, although I think a surprisingly much stronger case can be made than most people realize. My point is to show that the OT speaks of the eschatological hope in many ways that are compatible with and even surprisingly encouraging to the orthodox belief that the Messiah is himself God come to save us.


    Which is typical of the description of divine agents, as I've just demonstrated. Thanks.

    You refer to my use of OT motifs as "selective"; but what other motifs do you think I should have included? You certainly didn't list any; in fact, I'm the only one of us who has consistently been able to show that his Christology is explicitly taught and reflected throughout the OT. Your use of the OT has been sporadic and unsystematic; you dip into it occasionally for a proof text here and there, but you cannot demonstrate that this is part of a wider theology.

    You can make no argument from Genesis 3, from the patriarchal types, from the Law of Moses, from the Psalms or Proverbs, from the kings, nor even from the minor and major prophets. I have been able to show a consistent doctrinal arc from Genesis to Malachi which fully supports my Christology, and I have been able to demonstrate that Jesus and the apostles drew upon this material as a basis for their own theology. In fact, they insisted that everything about the Messiah could be found in the OT, and Jesus openly criticised people for not realising this.

    By contrast, you have been forced to argue against the relevance of the OT, claiming instead that there was a special "progressive revelation" (the precise nature of which you have never actually defined) which somehow taught everyone that God is actually three persons, two of whom are Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Yet you were not able to support this claim from the OT or the NT. You could not explain why Christ and his apostles constantly employ the OT in their preaching lectures and refer their listeners to it again and again. You could not explain why they never claim any "progressive revelation." The entire book of Acts militates against your hypothesis and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it.

    You say:

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


    That's right, and it's a good argument. Why? For these reasons:

    • I can actually demonstrate that "ideal pre-existence" was common to Second Temple Judaism, and applied to a range of concepts, including the Messiah

    • I can acknowledge without damage to my argument that "literal pre-existence" was also present in Second Temple Judaism, and applied to a range of concepts, including the Messiah

    • I can demonstrate that the "literal pre-existence" language of Second Temple Judaism (well attested to, being clearly and repeatedly applied even to such figures as Melchizedek), was not applied by the apostles to Christ (by contrast, you couldn't find any; the best you could do is say "Well here it seems to say that Jesus created the world, from which I deduce that he existed before he was born", acknowledging that we lack the explicit "pre-existence" language you yourself have quoted)

    • I can list a number of standard Trinitarian scholars (as you know), who acknowledge that in light of A, and despite B, the apparent "pre-existence" language used of Christ in the NT is non-decisive in identifying him either as having literally pre-existed, or as being God, or as even being divine, largely because of C

    As you say yourself (my emphasis):

    Nevertheless, the evidence from the classical rabbinic sources shows that the Jews could and did think of at least some things as existing prior to the creation of the world. On the other hand, they do not seem to have held this view concerning the Messiah—though they spoke of his "name" as preexistent.


    I am thus entirely content to rest on the interpretation I hold with regard to this subject, since it has scholarly support from those to whom it is least useful, and to whom it is least convenient. You should be more concerned about the fact that the interpretation you hold is not considered convincing by your own fellow Trinitarians (notably the most scholarly among them).

    I'll leave you with this:

    Whether pre-Christian Judaism regarded the Messiah as simply human, or as a being of a higher order, and especially whether it attributed to him pre-existence, cannot, with the uncertainty about the dates of authorities, be positively decided. The original Messianic hope did not expect an individual Messiah at all, but theocratic kings of the house of David. Subsequently the hope was consolidated and raised more and more into the expectation of a personal Messiah as a ruler endowed by God with special gifts and powers.

    In the time of Christ this form had at all events long been the prevailing one. But this naturally implies that the picture would more and more acquire superhuman features.

    The more exceptional the position awarded to the Messiah, the more does He Himself step forth from ordinary human limits. In the freedom with which the religious circle of ideas moved, this was effected in a very different fashion.

    In general however the Messiah was thought of as a human king and ruler, but as one endowed by God with special gifts and powers. This is especially evident in the Solomonian Psalter. He here appears as altogether a human king (17:23, 47), but a righteous one (17:35), free from sin and holy (17:41, 46), endowed by the Holy Ghost with power, wisdom and righteousness (17:42). It is the same view, only briefly expressed, which designates him as ἁγνὸς ἄναξ (Orac. Sibyll. 3:49).

    Elsewhere, on the other hand, even pre-existence is ascribed to him, and his whole appearing raised more to the superhuman. So especially in the figurative addresses in the Book of Enoch.


    (E. Schürer, Vol. 4: A history of the Jewish people in the time of Jesus Christ, second division, Vol. II, 1890, pp.159–160).
    'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

    Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

    Credo.

    #14 Evangelion

    Evangelion

      Administrator

    • Admin
    • 24,344 posts
    • LocationAdelaide, South Australia

    Posted 13 June 2010 - 03:07 AM

    Christ (IV)
    Rob,

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


    Wrong. I quoted only what was necessary to prove my point; that's all. I don't have any issue repeating Mowinckel's phrase "in the platonic sense." It certainly doesn't ruin my template in which the Unitarian reading of the NT is Jewish and the Trinitarian reading is Hellenistic. You should know by now that I move from the Second Temple milieu forward through the Jewish concepts of the Old Testament and inter-testamental Jewish literature to the New Testament, reading the latter in the context of the former. In contrast, you move from the Athanasian Creed (or whichever of the creeds you prefer) back through the Hellenistic concepts of the Greek Fathers to the New Testament, reading the latter in the context of the former.

    We both bring our paradigm to the New Testament, and meet there. At this point I read Jesus as a unique divine agent, a concept I have brought from Second Temple Judaism, not Hellenism, as you acknowledge. At this point you read Jesus as the second person of the Trinity, a concept you did not bring from Second Temple Judaism (as you admit), but from the 3rd-4th century Christological developments.

    Do you honestly think that Mowinckel is saying that the Jews had adopted a specific understanding of "ideas" from Plato? It's no more saying that than when I talk of someone holding a "platonic love" for someone else it means the person was influenced by Plato's definition of love. You're completely over-reading Mowinckel here; in fact, I would say that you're misrepresenting him.

    To say the Jews understood that the community of Israel had been from all eternity in the mind of God as an "idea" in the platonic sense, means that this is the sense in which they understood it. It doesn't mean that they borrowed this idea from Plato, still less that their theology was Hellenistic. It's Mowinckel's choice of adjective, not theirs. If Mowinckel had at least said they understood the community of Israel had been from all eternity in the mind of God in a sense they derived from Plato, you would have half a chance at this argument. But he didn't. Nor did he say that they were "thinking Platonically" (your phrase, your all important capital letter).

    Mowinckel even explains what he means:

    It is an ideal pre-existence that is meant.


    I agree entirely! So unless you want to try and argue that Second Temple Judaism obtained the concept of "ideal pre-existence" from Plato, you don't even have an argument here. Let me know when scholars of Second Temple Judaism start insisting we need to read Second Temple Judaism through Plato, by the way.
    'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

    Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

    Credo.

    #15 Evangelion

    Evangelion

      Administrator

    • Admin
    • 24,344 posts
    • LocationAdelaide, South Australia

    Posted 13 June 2010 - 03:07 AM

    Christ (V)
    Rob,

    The claim that Jesus "is only spoken of as a human being," or that the apostles insisted that Jesus was "only man," simply cannot be substantiated by selectively quoting biblical texts that refer to Jesus as a man, as coming in the flesh, as the son of David, as a prophet like Moses, etc. These texts prove that Jesus was a man, all right, but they do not disprove the doctrine that he was the eternal Son incarnate as a man.


    We've been through this before. I am not begging the question when I say that the apostles repeatedly and explicitly taught people Jesus is a man. They distinguish him carefully from God and specifically identify him as human: "a man", "the man", "himself human" (see Acts 2:22-23, 17:31; Romans 5:15; I Timothy 2:5). This is not positive evidence that the apostles never taught your understanding of Jesus as "the God-man", but it is negative evidence for the case. On the other hand, we do have positive evidence that the apostles preached Jesus is a man. You have acknowledged that this positive evidence is silent on key Trinitarian doctrine, by accusing me of an argument from silence.

    I am thus able to say without contradiction that there is explicit positive evidence for the apostles teaching the Unitarian understanding of God and Christ before baptising people, but none for their pre-baptismal teaching of the Trinitarian understanding. Despite your claim that this is an argument from silence, you feel the force of this argument and attempt to salvage at least some kind of Trinitarian compatible teaching from Acts (claiming that the application of "Lord" to Christ identifies him as Yahweh, and thus as God, and thus as the second person of the Trinity). This proves you are aware that the negative and positive evidence is against you, and you wish it wasn't.

    The fact is you know full well this isn't an argument from silence, which is why you make exactly the same form of argument when challenging me over early Christian history. You certainly wouldn't accept me responding to your request to explain where the early Unitarians are in the historical record with "Invalid, that's an argument from silence." And what if I told you "The reason why there's no such evidence is because the Trinitarians destroyed it"? You would rightly point out that this was nothing but an ad hoc argument, a defensive attempt to reconcile contrary evidence with my case. Of course in this instance I claim there is indeed such evidence, and I can provide it from the relevant academic sources (EDB, ODCC, EoC, DLNT, ABD, Schaff).

    So please, show me where the apostles preached that Jesus was not simply a man, before they baptized people. If you can't do that, it doesn't necessarily prove that they didn't, but it does mean you cannot claim that they ever did, because you have absolutely no evidence for it. I, on the other hand, can claim with complete confidence that the apostles preached a Unitarian understanding of Jesus, and then baptised people with that knowledge. I can say that because I have actual evidence for it, and the onus is then on you to provide evidence that they preached something in addition to this.

    To summarise:

    I have strong, explicit, consistent positive evidence for my argument that the apostles preached Christ as an exalted man, and baptised people into that belief. You have no positive evidence whatsoever that they preached Christ as God, and baptised people into that belief.

    The evidence therefore favours my position overwhelmingly. But where is the evidence for yours? It doesn't exist.
    'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

    Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

    Credo.

    #16 Evangelion

    Evangelion

      Administrator

    • Admin
    • 24,344 posts
    • LocationAdelaide, South Australia

    Posted 13 June 2010 - 03:08 AM

    Christ (VI)
    Rob,

    You claim that when the Bible says Jesus is a man you accept this statement fully. But if that's the case why do you add to it by saying that he is the "God-man"? That's not good enough. You do your own theology a disservice by presenting only half of it in order to claim that it's no more than what the Bible actually says. Ironically, you do exactly in regard to the NT teaching about Christ's deity what you falsely accuse me of doing with regard to his humanity: you affirm what you think you need to affirm, but you do so by qualifying and equivocating.

    With regard to your points:

    • I believe that no one knows the Father except those to whom the son reveals Him; what I don't believe is that Jesus said "No one has known the Father until now"

    • I believe that when two or more are gathered in the name of Jesus, he is there among them; since the phrase "in my name" is a technical term of authorisation and the context is the authoritative disfellowship of the impenitent believer (as it is when Paul use the same phrase), I understand Jesus is saying they are acting as authorised by him ("Though verses 19 and 20 appear to be speaking of corporate prayer, the context suggests that the agreement reached with its heavenly sanction relates to the matter of church discipline mentioned in verse 17", Mounce, 'Matthew', NIBC, 1991. p.177)

    • When Jesus says that all people are to honour the son just as they honour the Father, I agree; no qualification necessary

    • When Jesus said "I have come down from heaven", I agree; he came down from heaven in the same way that the manna "came down from heaven" (which is precisely the parallel he himself draws, so it makes sense to be guided by his comparison)

    • When Jesus says he came forth from the Father and came into the world, I agree; he was conceived by the Father through the Holy Spirit, and came into the world

    • I agree Thomas called Jesus "My "kurios" and my "theos" (unless he used Aramaic) and it's only through examining his own self-described Christology that we can understand what he meant

    • When Paul says that the Rock that followed the Israelites in the wilderness was Christ, I agree with him that the Rock that followed the Israelites in the wilderness was Christ; I don't agree that Paul says "Christ was in the wilderness with the Israelites", just as I'm sure you don't believe Hagar is Mt Sinai in Arabia (Galatians 4:25)

    • When Paul says that all things visible and invisible ("whether thrones or dominions, principalities or powers") were created through God's beloved Son, and when Hebrews says that God "made the ages" through the Son, I agree on both points (the "thrones, dominions, principalities [rulers] and powers [authorities]" are hierarchical elements of Christ's kingdom; see Revelation 5:10 and note II Peter 2:10, where kuriotēs ("dominions") is translated "governments")

    • When Paul says Christ was in the form of God and humbled himself by taking the form of a servant and was found in the form of a man, I agree; it's strange that you use this passage, since you're the one who believes "in the form of God and humbled himself by taking the form of a servant and was found in the form of a man" really means "existed before he became a human being"

    • When Paul says that the fullness of the deity dwells in Christ in bodily form, I agree wholeheartedly

    So you see, I do actually agree with these passages. I just don't agree with your interpretation of them. More to the point, I don't say that they all left out half the story. I don't say that they have to be interpreted as making two contradictory statements resulting in an insoluble paradox, such as that Jesus was God and man. Not only that, but you know perfectly well that my understanding of every one of these passages can be found in mainstream Trinitarian exposition.

    But let's return to the primary issue, which is that you cannot accept what the apostles are recorded as teaching before baptising people, as an accurate description of Christ. You can't. You literally cannot. Unitarians know this better than most, because when we teach people these very words of the apostles and then baptise them, Trinitarians say we are wrong, say we have omitted critical teaching, say we are teaching a false Christ, say we have affirmed only "one side of the Bible's teaching about Christ", say we have failed to "identify who Jesus really is." This apostolic teaching is just not good enough for you.

    Unitarians can prove the apostles used "God"' as a reference to one person, the Father, that they consistently differentiated Christ from God, that they taught Jesus Christ is a man, predicated the salvic efficacy of the atonement on Jesus being a man, and that they taught Jesus Christ is a divinely appointed agent of God. Can the Trinitarian identify any arguments used by the apostles to teach the Trinity, or even to teach that Jesus is God? You have already acknowledged you can't, and accused me of an argument from silence. But this is not an argument from silence; it is simply an observation that the evidence which would support your case is absent from the record.

    So I'm not the one begging the question here. The apostles never preached that Jesus is "both a real human being and that he is the LORD God, maker of heaven and earth." Can you find me anyone in the Bible who was baptised with that teaching?
    'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

    Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

    Credo.

    #17 Evangelion

    Evangelion

      Administrator

    • Admin
    • 24,344 posts
    • LocationAdelaide, South Australia

    Posted 13 June 2010 - 03:09 AM

    Christ (VII)
    Rob,

    In reference to the trial of Christ, you accuse me yet again of presenting an argument from silence. As usual, the accusation is false.

    When I asked you these questions, it was not an argument from silence. It's not an argument from silence when I identify the absence of evidence we could reasonably expect if your argument is true. I am not saying this is positive evidence that your argument is false. I am pointing out that you need to provide an explanation for the lack of evidence that we could reasonably expect if your argument is true.

    The fact is, you know this isn't an argument from silence, which is why you make exactly the same form of argument when challenging me over early Christian history. You also acknowledge that this isn't an argument from silence by actually attempting to supply answers to my questions (thank you), although the irony is palpable when you start by appealing to what you freely acknowledge yourself is an argument from silence:

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


    My emphasis. Apparently you believe arguments from silence are bad unless you're the one using them...?

    The reason why Christ was not accused of saying "I am God" is because he never made that precise statement. But since we've seen what the false witnesses were prepared to do with the statement "I will destroy this temple and in three days raise it up again", you'd think they would at least have something to go on if they wanted to accuse Jesus of claiming to be God.

    What about the passages in which Trinitarians say Jesus was claiming to be God? The trial of Christ is a great example of how at the very time when such claims would have been most useful to his enemies, they were never even raised. Yet there is literally no evidence that the worst of Jesus' enemies, prepared to twist and wrest his words to their own advantage, were prepared to accuse him of claiming to be God, even though this would have been a clincher in the trial.

    You say:

    If "Son of God" meant nothing more than or other than the human, Davidic Messianic king, what would Jesus' opponents find blasphemous about that?


    Nothing at all, unless they believed him to be a false Messiah. But remember, this entire issue did not turn upon the question of whether or not Christ could claim to be the Messiah and Son of God, since this was an accepted belief in Jesus' era, even amongst the conservative Sanhedrin. We find confirmation in Mark 14:61, where the High Priest openly confessing his personal belief that the Messiah would indeed be the Son of God:

    But he was silent and did not answer. Again the high priest questioned him, "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?"


    (Note the synonymous parallelism there).

    The Second Temple milieu informs us further on this point. During this time the charge of blasphemy was applied broadly to a wide range of actions and statements. A key work on the subject is Bock's Blasphemy and Exaltation in Judaism and the Final Examination of Jesus: a philological historical study of the key Jewish themes impacting Mark (1998).

    In any case, you're missing the fact that the whole point of the trial is that it was a travesty of justice. False witnesses were brought and false accusations were made. The problem for you is that none of these accusations involved any assertion that Jesus had claimed to be God. This is a point you have consistently failed to explain. And why are you treating the trial as if it was fair? Critical scholars have previously argued that none of Jesus' words or deeds met the conditions under which blasphemy was defined by the laws of his day, so that even if the trial was a genuine historical event described accurately in the Gospels, the cries of "blasphemy" were as false as every other charge laid against him.

    Bock (p. 8, op. cit.), cites Lietzmann as making this very argument:

    In fact, the blasphemy question by the high priest in the scene is not Jewish, nor is Jesus' reply believable as blasphemy. Had Jesus spoken in this way, it would have been detested as senseless fantasy and as pernicious superstition, but not as blasphemy. Here the problem of the nature of the blasphemy is introduced in as clear a form as possible. If, as the Mishnah says, one must pronounce the Divine Name to blaspheme, then where is Jesus' blasphemy in this scene?


    Bock explains that many critical scholars similarly dismiss the entire scene as non-historical, in order to get around this problem. His own understanding is far simpler and has nothing to do with a claim of deity. Referring to his previous work, he writes (p. 24):

    In it I argued, as several others have, that the key to the blasphemy is the combination citation of Ps 110:1 and Dan 7:13. Then I argued that in the conceptual world of Judaism, the claim by a contemporary [his italics] to sit by God in heaven [note this, Jesus is claiming to sit by God, thus identifying him as "other-than-God"] would be seen as blasphemous, because it was worse than claiming that he would walk into the Holy of Holies and sit by the Shekinah. The article discussed the concept of God's holiness, blasphemy in the first century, and the fact that the temple was seen as a model of God's heavenly presence. These concepts stand as the world view basis behind the perception of offense.


    According to Bock, the issue turns upon the idea of a man claiming unauthorised access to the presence of God. You will note his explanation is grounded firmly in the Second Temple milieu.

    A few other points he makes are worth noting (pp. 25, 50, 52, 111):

    O'Neil correctly observed that blasphemy is not limited to just using the divine Name (m Sanh 7.5), since idolatry was also seen as blasphemous (Isa 65:7; Ezek 20:27-28).


    These Maccabean texts reveal the broad use of blasphemy to describe someone who has shown great disrespect to God in the way the people and his holy place have been treated. [cf. the false charge that Christ claimed he would destroy the Temple]


    So the few references of the so-called Pseudepigrapha also suggest a broad definition of the term blasphemy.


    Yet beyond utterances of blasphemy involving the Name, there is also a whole category of acts of blasphemy. These examples move beyond mere utterance of the Name, though often include it. Here one can start with the use of a range of substitute titles. But beyond these offensive utterances one can see discussed a whole range of actions offensive to God. Such actions would have been perceived by all as blasphemous, even if they were not specifically addressed by any formal, ideal legal statute.


    You say:

    If Jesus was simply claiming to be the Messiah, why did his opponents repeatedly accuse him of claiming to be God?


    Well that's just it: they didn't. They never did. At best they accused him of making himself equal with God. On the other hand, if Jesus had repeatedly claimed to be God, why didn't they just accuse him of this? The best you can do is acknowledge that he didn't say it in so many words, but this only demonstrates how far his words really were from such a statement, given how they were prepared to re-phrase his statement concerning the temple.

    You say:

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


    That doesn't work, because the purpose of the false witnesses was to provide evidence for the Sanhedrin to convict Christ, not to convince Pilate. You're completely misrepresenting the trial.

    When we read what the Jewish leaders accused Christ of to Pilate, these false claims are never mentioned. They don't say "Oh, he said he would destroy the temple, a disturbing terrorist act!" (by the way, Matthew 27:60-61 says nothing about the Temple, it's Joseph of Arimathea requesting the body of Christ from Pilate, and Mark 15 ends at verse 47; there is no such passage as Mark 15:55-59). What the Jewish leaders told Pilate was actually a truth, not an untruth. They said Jesus had referred to himself as the king of the Jews, and Jesus confirmed this fact (they also accused him falsely of forbidding people to pay tax to Caesar, a charge which was never raised at the Sanhedrin trial). Your argument just doesn't fit the facts: the Jewish leaders never presented the other charges to Pilate.

    You say:

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


    This is a false dichotomy. Your carefully contrived definition of literal fatherhood introduces an irrelevance ("share his nature with and derive that nature in some way from"), avoids one simple fact: that in order for X to be the literal father of Y, then X has to bring Y into existence. That is the sine qua non of literal fatherhood. Your definition carefully leaves this out, because you do not believe God brought Jesus into existence. I believe that God was literally the Father of Jesus, just as He was literally the Father of Adam. In both cases God brought them into existence, and appropriately both men are referred to as the son of God.

    Ironically, neither of your definitions fit Adam, since Adam was not the product of a procreative act, nor did Adam share the nature of God. But of course, yours is not the normative definition of fatherhood; it's a contrived definition for the purpose of shoring up a theological argument. Does the Bible say that Jesus would be called the son of God because he would "share his nature with and derive that nature in some way from" God? Or does it say something else? I find it says this:

    Luke 1:34-35, "Mary said to the angel, 'How will this be, since I have not had sexual relations with a man?' The angel replied, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called the Son of God.'"


    According to the Bible, Jesus is "son of God" because he was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, namely, God brought him into existence. That is literal fatherhood. That is what I believe. That is not what you believe.

    As usual, I find plenty of standard Trinitarian commentators who share my view that Jesus was literally the son of God by virtue of his conception by the Holy Spirit, though not a literal procreative act as in the pagan religions. Naturally they must qualify this interpretation against their belief that Jesus pre-existed, which is something I have no need to do since I can accept Scripture at face value.

    Green, J. B. (1997), The Gospel of Luke. The New International Commentary on the New Testament, p.91:

    First, he emphasizes the relation of the Spirit's activity and Jesus' sonship: Jesus is "Son of God" not as a consequence of his assuming the throne of David (as in Ps 2:7), but as a result of his conception, itself the result of the miraculous work of the Spirit.


    Marshall, I. H. (1978), The Gospel of Luke : A commentary on the Greek text, The New international Greek testament commentary, pp.70–71:

    God's powerful presence will rest upon Mary, so that she will bear a child who will be the Son of God. Nothing is said regarding how this will happen, and in particular there is no suggestion of divine begetting (Creed, 20).


    Morris, L. (1988), Vol. 3: Luke: An introduction and commentary, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, p.90:

    Speaking with reverent reserve Gabriel says that the Holy Spirit will come upon Mary and that the power of the Most High will overshadow her. This delicate expression rules out crude ideas of a "mating' of the Holy Spirit with Mary. Gabriel makes it clear that the conception will be the result of a divine activity. Because of this the child to be born would be holy, the Son of God. We should not miss this explanation of what the Son of God means.


    Black, M. C. (1996), Luke, College Press NIV commentary (Lk 1:34):

    Though not expressing doubt, Mary does wish to know how a child can be born to her, a virgin. Gabriel's answer satisfies her, and, as in John's birth, involves the Holy Spirit. However, Jesus' beginning is even greater than John's, in that Jesus will be literally the Son of God. The term Son of God was not at all uncommon among first-century people. In this instance it seems to refer to God's role in the conception of Jesus. However, it also could be for Jews simply a synonym for "Messiah" (4:41; Acts 9:20, 22). The term was also used outside the Jewish world in the sense of a human who nonetheless was seen by his moral virtue or miraculous powers to be divine.


    Evans, C. A. (1990), New International biblical commentary, Luke, p.26:

    The angel explains that her pregnancy will result from the Holy Spirit, and for this reason her child will be called the Son of God (v. 35).


    'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

    Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

    Credo.

    #18 Evangelion

    Evangelion

      Administrator

    • Admin
    • 24,344 posts
    • LocationAdelaide, South Australia

    Posted 13 June 2010 - 03:16 AM

    The Holy Spirit (I)
    Rob,

    Let's begin this section with our dispute over your "'definition by parallelism' fallacy", where you say:

    I'm afraid it is also fallacious to argue, as you did, that accusing a person of committing an invented fallacy demonstrates that the person committed no fallacy at all. Consider the following exchange:

    Jim: That professor's obviously unqualified. He didn't even mention if he has a PhD.
    Tim: Your criticism is fallacious because you committed the "contraction fallacy"—your argument uses contractions.
    Jim: There's no such thing as a contractions fallacy. The fact that you would accuse me of a nonexistent fallacy proves that what I said was not fallacious.

    In this case, Jim is right to object to Tim's "contraction fallacy" criticism, but Jim's claim that Tim's bogus criticism proves that Jim's original argument was not fallacious is also wrong. Jim's original argument exhibits the fallacy of arguing from silence. Thus, a misdiagnosis of the original argument does not clear it of being fallacious. Jim's defense commits the non sequitur fallacy: it does not follow from the fact of a faulty criticism of his argument that his argument was not fallacious. Your defense of Buzzard's argument commits the same fallacy.

    The reason why the "definition by parallelism" fallacy does not appear on "standard lists" in logic textbooks is that it is a hermeneutical fallacy specific to the study of Hebrew poetry. Naturally, you won't find it in university logic textbooks.


    There are several issues here Rob. The first is that there was no appeal to authority. An appeal to authority is the claim that argument X is true or false simply because source Y says so. I made no such appeal. I simply pointed out that the fallacy you described is not a recognized logical fallacy. You actually acknowledged this by arguing that it is a hermeneutical fallacy instead. Nor did I argue that since I had not made the "'definition by parallelism fallacy", proves I had not made any fallacy at all. I simply pointed out that I hadn't made the fallacy you claimed.

    The second is that there was no argument from silence. An argument from silence means that if there is no evidence for claim X, then claim X is false. I did not make such an argument.

    The third issue is I can find nothing to support your claim that "definition by parallelism fallacy" is a hermeneutical fallacy (especially "specific to the study of Hebrew poetry").

    It appears nowhere in these 14 works on hermeneutics. It appears nowhere in these 30 odd journals. It appears nowhere in this collection of over 400 theological commentaries, Bible dictionaries and encyclopaedias, lexicons, discourse analyses, and other original language tools. It does not appear in a single book in Google Books, nor in a single article in Google Scholar. Even a Google search turns up just four references to the "definition by parallelism fallacy." Two of them are your own words in this debate, and the other two are quotations of you on other blogs, such as Dale Tuggy's. Without any evidence, how can we call this a formal hermeneutical fallacy recognized in the relevant scholarly literature?

    The shorter phrase "definition by parallelism" does appear, just once, in this collection I mentioned previously (though nowhere in all the other sources). However, it does not appear as a fallacy. It does not even appear as an exegetical technique. Instead it appears as a legitimate literary technique by a Biblical writer.

    Nicole, "The Biblical Concept of Truth", in Carson, D. A., & Woodbridge, J. D. (1992), Scripture and Truth, p.288:

    ‎In Exodus 18:21, there is a kind of definition by parallelism: "… men who fear God, trustworthy men [literally, men of ʾemeṯ] who hate dishonest gain.…" (Cf. also Neh. 7:2.)

    Here the writer of Exodus uses what Nicole refers to as a "kind of definition by parallelism." The writer himself is creating a definition by using a parallel. There is of course no reference to the idea that this is a fallacy, either by the writer or the reader. Your "definition by parallelism fallacy" may be a genuine hermeneutical fallacy specific to Hebrew poetry (feel free to prove this) but right now it just looks like you made it up on the spot.
    'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

    Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

    Credo.

    #19 Evangelion

    Evangelion

      Administrator

    • Admin
    • 24,344 posts
    • LocationAdelaide, South Australia

    Posted 13 June 2010 - 03:16 AM

    The Holy Spirit (II)
    Rob,

    This text satisfies perfectly the conditions you claimed were missing in the texts I cited as counterpoint to Buzzard's argument. This text uses what scholars typically label Hebrew synonymous parallelism, with the second line introduced by the word "and," just as in Luke 1:35. Moreover, this text is just ten verses later in the same book! But does this text prove that "soul" and "spirit" are interchangeable terms? No, although evidently they are used synonymously in this particular text. Oh, and by the way, could Mary plausibly mean "My power has rejoiced in God my Savior"? I don't think so.


    Actually yes Rob, I'd be perfectly happy reading "soul" and "spirit" as synonymous, both here and in a number of other passages where they are paralleled, since the Greek words in question share semantic and lexical overlap and are often used in synonymous parallelism in the LXX and New Testament. Of course you know that I don't believe "power" is the meaning of the word "spirit", so your question about what Mary could plausibly mean is irrelevant. Why do you persist in these straw man arguments?

    You committed a similar error when you said that the Bible never refers to someone's "spirit" as their "power", to which I can only say: "Yes, I agree. So what?" Since I do not claim that "spirit" and "power" are equivalents, your observation is completely irrelevant. Are you sure that you actually know what I believe? I have to ask because it's difficult to understand why you're still misrepresenting my position.

    In any case, you're moving the goal posts because the issue under discussion is not the definition of the word "spirit", but specifically the definition of the "Holy Spirit."

    Now going back to Luke 1:35, the second line does not merely restate the first line but augments it. The language of the Spirit coming upon a human being was familiar from the OT, generally referring to an empowering of the individual to function as a prophet or ruler (e.g., Num. 24:2; Judg. 3:10; 6:34; 11:29; 14:6; etc.; 1 Sam. 16:13 is especially relevant). The second line alludes to the cloud of God's glory that "overshadowed" (LXX, epeskiazen, the same verb as in Luke 1:35) the tabernacle when God's glory filled it (Ex. 40:35; note also Luke 9:34).


    Well Rob, you're just helpfully reinforcing what I already agree with. The parallelism is grounded completely in the Old Testament concept of the Holy Spirit as God's empowering presence, and this shows us that the meaning of "Holy Spirit" here is indeed God's empowering presence, the "power of God"', not a person within the Trinity.

    Thus:

    • "The Holy Spirit is identified with God's power in a way that anticipates Acts 1:8." (Green, J. B. (1997), The Gospel of Luke, The New International Commentary on the New Testament p.90)
    • "The Holy Spirit, here equated in poetic parallelism with the power of God (1:17 note; W. Grundmann, TDNT II, 300), is to be the agent, as is appropriate in the new creation (Ps. 104:30; cf. Mt. 1:18, 20; Ellis, 74)." Marshall, I. H. (1978), The Gospel of Luke: A commentary on the Greek text, The New international Greek testament commentary, p.70)
    • "The parallelism with "power of the Most High" (δύναμις ὑψίστου, dynamis hypsistou) and Luke's general portrait of the Spirit suggest a reference to the creative power of God, God's active Holy Spirit (24:49).40 To make a distinction is too subtle in light of the major role that Luke gives to the Holy Spirit." (Bock, D. L. (1994), Luke Volume 1: 1:1-9:50, Baker exegetical commentary on the New Testament, p.121)
    • "dunamis hupsistou 'the power of the Most High'; for dunamis cp. on v. 17 and for hupsistou on v. 32. The expression is almost synonymous with pneuma hagion, the difference being that pneuma has in view the character of divine action and dunamis its effectiveness." (Reiling, J., & Swellengrebel, J. L. (1993), A handbook on the Gospel of Luke. UBS handbook series; Helps for translators, p.59)
    • "QUESTION—How are the Holy Spirit and 'the power of the Most High' related? The clause 'the Holy Spirit will come upon you' is in synonymous parallelism with 'the power of the Most High will overshadow you' [AB, NAC, NICNT, NIGTC, NTC, TH]" (Blight, R. C. (2008), An Exegetical Summary of Luke 1-11 (2nd ed.), p. 45)

    That makes eight commentaries identifying the clause as a parallelism, at least six of them saying explicitly that the purpose of the parallelism here is to identify the Holy Spirit as the power of God. They don't just say it's a parallelism; they say the purpose is to identify the Holy Spirit as the power of God. This is the standard scholarly view. Clearly it is not your view.
    'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

    Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

    Credo.

    #20 Evangelion

    Evangelion

      Administrator

    • Admin
    • 24,344 posts
    • LocationAdelaide, South Australia

    Posted 13 June 2010 - 03:17 AM

    The Holy Spirit (III)
    Rob,

    "I agree that 'spirit' is used as a term for a supernatural entity in the NT (this is consistent with Second Temple usage), but the metaphysics of your examples (angels, demons, departed believers, etc.) are not consistent with the way you wish to apply this word to the Holy Spirit. In every case pneuma denotes a type of being, not a person. Since you do not believe the Holy Spirit to be a separate being from God, there is no clear parallel for your theology here. If we used your examples we could make a good case for the Holy Spirit being the Angel of the Presence, but not for the Holy Spirit as a third person within a triune being."

    This is so awful an objection it leaves me almost speechless. By this reasoning, no term in any ancient language would be suitable to use in reference to any of the three persons, including the Greek and Hebrew words for Father and Son, because of course those terms in regular use denoted beings, not "persons" in the later special theological usage of the Trinity. In short, no ancient writer could even have gotten started talking about the persons of the Trinity, because supposedly no words existed that they could use


    For all your bluster, you haven't addressed my point. The fact is that the word pnuema, when used of a supernatural entity in the NT, speaks of a type of being, not as a person. You want to using it for something else completely, a meaning which is not contained in its lexical range, and you say that my objection to this is "awful"? How would you like it if I defined "Christ" as "mortal Messiah who came into existence only at his birth and who is definitely not God"? Would you say it was "awful" to object to that? You're making up your own meaning for the word pnuema and complaining that I object?

    Frankly, I'm the one who should be speechless at your attempt to avoid my argument and the nature of your unsubstantiated assertions. I would be perfectly happy to post your claim for this word to the professional Biblical Greek email list and ask them what they think of it. How about we do that? You could list for them all the Greek words which you believe refer to a person who is not a being, starting with pnuema. I am sure they would be interested.

    You helpfully recognise that there were no words in Greek which defined a person other than as a being, and the fact that this is typically true of other languages is a difficulty with which Trinitarians still struggle. An ancient writer could certainly have described the persons of the Trinity despite this limitation, and we know the later Christian writers had no difficulty in doing so using various formulas and phrases rather than a specific word which wasn't in the available vocabulary.

    In a previous week I alluded to Humpty Dumpty from Alice Through the Looking Glass ("'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less'"). That's fine for Humpty Dumpty, but you are claiming that when someone else uses a specific word, it means just what you chose it to mean, neither more or less. If you want to claim that the NT writers used the word pnuema to refer to a person, rather than to a being, then you need to provide evidence that they did so. All you're doing here is proposing an ad hoc argument without any evidence whatsoever. The fact is that pnuema does not mean "person as distinct from a being." Where it refers to a person at all, it means a type of being, namely "a spirit" such as an "evil spirit" or an 'unclean spirit."

    Claiming without evidence that the NT writers used it with a completely different found in no standard lexicon, is not persuasive.
    'Abba Antony said, "A time is coming when men will go mad, and when they see someone who is not mad, they will attack him saying, 'You are mad, you are not like us.'"'

    Ward, Benedicta. The Sayings of the Desert Fathers (2006), Antony 25, p. 5.

    Credo.




    0 user(s) are reading this topic

    0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users