I would like to thank David Burke for taking so much time from his busy life to participate in this debate. His efforts have given all of us an opportunity to learn a great deal from the contrasting arguments for our two theological positions.

Trinitarianism versus Unitarianism: Defining the Issues

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. Biblical Unitarianism affirms #1, #2, and #5; Jehovah’s Witnesses affirm #2 and #5; Mormonism affirms #3 and #5, #6, and #7; and Oneness Pentecostalism affirms #1, #2, #3, and #4. Since each of these propositions has some non-Trinitarian theologies that affirm them, none of these propositions presupposes the doctrine of the Trinity. The doctrine of the Trinity just happens to be the one theological position that can and does affirm all of the propositions.

Partisans for these different theologies claim that the Bible clearly teaches the propositions they affirm out of the seven listed above. Biblical Unitarians and Oneness Pentecostals think it is obvious from the Bible that the LORD God alone created all things; Oneness Pentecostals think it is obvious from the Bible that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one God; Mormons think it is obvious from the Bible that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are personally distinct. I agree with them! The Bible does clearly teach all seven of the above propositions.

Yet, when Trinitarians appeal to the Bible in defense of these same propositions, non-Trinitarians claim that Trinitarians approach the Bible from a biased Trinitarian perspective. Admittedly, a Trinitarian may be biased, just as anyone may be, but adherence to any one of these propositions is not in and of itself evidence of Trinitarian bias, since there are anti-Trinitarians who also agree in each case that the proposition is clearly taught in the Bible.

What really drives criticism of the doctrine of the Trinity is the perception that it is illogical, unreasonable, and irrational. Critics of the doctrine universally argue that it is logically impossible to affirm all seven of the above propositions at the same time. This is an important issue in its own right, but it is not the question we are addressing in this debate. The question here is which doctrine—Unitarianism or Trinitarianism—is most faithful to all that the Bible teaches. If the Bible teaches all seven propositions, then Trinitarianism is the correct answer to that question. I do not think the doctrine of the Trinity is illogical, but I do think that it may be that this is one aspect of God’s being that is beyond our comprehension. As I argued in Part 1 of this debate, the Bible does teach that God is incomprehensible, and so we ought not to reject a doctrine such as the Trinity merely because we find it logically puzzling. For those who are interested in the philosophical question of how the doctrine of the Trinity can be coherent—that is, how one can affirm all seven propositions—I recommend a new book by Thomas H. McCall, Which Trinity? Whose Monotheism? Philosophical and Systematic Theologians on the Metaphysics of Trinitarian Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010).

Since Unitarians and Trinitarians agree that the LORD God alone created the world (#1), that the Father is the LORD God (#2), and that the Father and the Son are personally distinct (#5), I have no obligation in this debate to defend these propositions. If I were debating a Mormon, a Jehovah’s Witness, or a Oneness Pentecostal, the debate would look very different, because I would be spending much of my time defending propositions that Dave and I both affirm!

Setting aside the three propositions to which both Unitarians and Trinitarians agree, this leaves four propositions for me to defend. However, the task can be simplified considerably. Basically, Trinitarians and Unitarians have two key differences. First, Trinitarianism affirms that Jesus Christ, the Son, is the LORD God; Unitarianism denies this claim. Second, Trinitarianism affirms that the Holy Spirit is a person; Unitarianism, particularly as Dave and other Christadelphians espouse it, does not. If the Holy Spirit is a person, Christadelphians will have to concede that he is distinct from the Father (who sent him) and the Son. Thus, in this debate I have focused on defending two claims: (1) that Jesus Christ is the LORD God, and (2) that the Holy Spirit is a distinct person.

In what follows, I will do little more than review the discussion that Dave and I had in the first five rounds of this debate. The rest of this post contains numerous hyperlinks that will take the reader to the specific posts or comments to which I refer. This will hopefully make this concluding post a useful point of departure for those wishing to follow and understand the back-and-forth discussions that we have had.

ONE GOD = THE FATHER: A REVIEW OF DAVE’S ARGUMENT

Most of Dave’s argumentation has focused on defending the claim that the Father alone is the LORD God to the exclusion of Jesus Christ. Dave’s main arguments for this claim were as follows:

  • The Bible says that God is one (Deut. 6:4, the Shema), and the Jews have always understood this to mean that God is unipersonal. Since Jesus and the apostles, who were all Jewish, affirmed the biblical teaching that God is one (e.g., Mark 12:29), they must also have believed that God is unipersonal.
  • The pervasive use of singular pronouns for God throughout the Bible proves that God is unipersonal, whereas the plural pronouns in Genesis 1:26 can refer to angelic members of the heavenly court.
  • Jesus identified the Father as the only true God and excluded himself as that God (John 17:3), and elsewhere denied claiming to be God (John 10:34-36).
  • Paul explicitly identified the “one God” as the Father and in that context distinguished him from Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 8:6).
  • The Bible consistently teaches that Jesus Christ is a human being and that he needed to be a human being in order to redeem us; and he cannot be both a human being and God.
  • The NT’s explicit teaching that Jesus is the Son of God is incompatible with identifying him as the LORD God.

Therefore, Dave concludes, God is a unipersonal being and is the Father alone, whereas Jesus Christ is not and cannot be God. Here is how I have responded to these arguments.

Jesus and the Shema. The Shema affirms that the LORD (Yahweh, Jehovah) is “our God” and is “one,” but, as I pointed out it in Part 1, it does not address the nature of God’s oneness. If we are to determine how Jesus and the apostles understood the Shema, we must let them speak for themselves in the NT. In fact, Jesus included himself with the Father in the identity of the “one” (John 10:30), and Paul referred to Jesus as the “one Lord” (1 Cor. 8:6; 12:4; Eph. 4:5).

Pronouns. The pervasive use of singular pronouns for God is perfectly consistent with Trinitarianism, which views the LORD God as one indivisible, infinite, and personal Being. In a comment on the issue of pronouns, I showed that singular personal pronouns do not always refer to a single person (e.g., Psa. 25:22; 130:8) and gave several reasons why the plural pronouns in Genesis 1:26 cannot refer to angelic members of the heavenly court.

Jesus never denied that he was God. In John 17:3, Jesus affirmed that the Father is the only true God. In Part 2, I explained that since Trinitarianism affirms that there is only one true God and that the Father is God, Jesus’ statement here actually agrees with Trinitarianism. The disjunction in that verse is not between Jesus Christ and God, but between Jesus Christ and the Father. At most, one might claim that John 17:3 implicitly excludes Jesus from being “true God,” but it does not do so explicitly. Thus, John 17:3 must be correlated with the rest of what John says about Jesus Christ, not used to deny what other texts explicitly say. Likewise, in John 10:34-36 Jesus did not deny that he was God, as I explained in a comment on John 10:31-39.

1 Corinthians 8:6—Jesus is the “one Lord.” A good deal of our debate focused on 1 Corinthians 8:4-6. In Part 3, I argued that Paul’s reference to that Father as the “one God” and Jesus as the “one Lord” both clearly allude to the Shema, so that the text identifies Jesus as the LORD himself. Against Dave’s objection that Paul’s use of the words “one God” exclusively for the Father disproves the Trinitarian claim that Jesus is God, I explained in an important rebuttal comment that this objection confuses vocabulary with meaning. 1 Corinthians 8:6 no more denies that Jesus is God than it denies that the Father is Lord. In a follow-up comment, I replied to some other objections from Dave and pointed out that Erik Waaler’s dissertation The Shema and the First Commandment in First Corinthians, which he had cited, thoroughly supports my conclusion. In another follow-up comment, I responded to James McGrath’s recent attempt to refute the same conclusion.

Jesus is a man. Unfortunately, throughout the debate Dave has insisted on treating the fact that Jesus was a real man as a key difference between Unitarianism and Trinitarianism. He claims, despite the emphasis with which Trinitarians throughout church history have affirmed that Jesus was a man, that they cannot really mean it. For example, after ticking off various aspects of Christ’s humanity, including his virgin birth, growth as a child, temptation, sinlessness, death, and resurrection, Dave claimed: “None of this is true of the Trinitarian Jesus.” As I pointed out in my rebuttal comment, this is a slanderously false criticism. There is nothing intrinsic to the nature or experience of being human that orthodox Christians do not regard as true about Jesus. This truth is absolutely essential to orthodox doctrine. Dave claims that I as a Trinitarian cannot affirm that Jesus is a man “without qualification.” However, not only is this not so, but it is Dave who must qualify and equivocate much of what the NT says about Christ. Thus, Dave doesn’t think the NT means it when it calls Jesus God, says that all things were created through him, or says that he came down from heaven.

Jesus is the Son of God. Dave also made the interesting—and bizarre—claim that Biblical Unitarians believe that Jesus is the “literal” Son of God. But as I pointed out in response, Unitarians do not believe that Jesus is God’s “literal” Son because they do not believe that God procreated Jesus or that Jesus is the same kind of being as God. In another comment, I showed that even though “Son of God” in Jewish parlance might be used simply as a synonym for “Messiah,” Jesus’ claim to be the Son of God was repeatedly understood by the Jews as claiming equality with God (John 5:17-18; 10:30-33; 19:7).

MY LORD AND MY GOD: THE CASE FOR THE ETERNAL DEITY OF CHRIST

As a Unitarian, Dave affirms that Jesus Christ is an exalted man in heaven, deputized by God to perform divine functions on his behalf. Thus, Jesus Christ is not really God at all. However, because he performs divine functions on God’s behalf, the Bible occasionally refers to Jesus as “God” in the sense of acknowledging him as God’s agent. Dave claims that the Bible speaks of other creatures as God’s agent in this way as well.

My case for believing that Jesus Christ is God, over against this Unitarian construct, rests on three main points: Christ’s preexistence, honors, and names.

Christ’s Divine Preexistence

The NT teaches in a variety of contexts that Jesus Christ preexisted his human life, especially in John (1:1-3, 9-10, 14-18; 8:56-59; 13:3; 16:28; 17:5), Paul (Rom. 8:3; 1 Cor. 10:4, 9; 2 Cor. 8:9; Gal. 4:4-6; Phil. 2:3-8; Col. 1:12-17), and Hebrews (1:1-3, 10-12; 2:17; 7:3; 10:5). We had the opportunity to discuss some of these passages in detail.

Galatians 4:4-6. Paul’s statement that in the fullness of time “God sent his Son, coming to be of a woman, coming to be under the Law” (Gal. 4:4) speaks of God’s Son as someone who already existed and then became a Jewish human being. In a comment on Galatians 4:4 responding to Dave, I pointed out four exegetical details in the passage that converge to show that this is the correct understanding of Paul’s statement.

Philippians 2:3-8. In Part 3, I made three key points in my brief discussion of Philippians 2 that support the conclusion that Paul there teaches the preexistence of Christ and that Dave completely side-stepped. (1) Paul uses Christ’s deference to God the Father as the ultimate illustration of a person treating an equal as someone more important than himself (vv. 3-5). This makes perfect sense if Christ was by rights equal with God but makes no sense if Christ is by rights not equal with God. (2) Christ existed in God’s form but took the form of a servant (vv. 6-7). I explained why this means that Christ existed in heaven in the glorious appearance of God but graciously took on the humble appearance of God’s servant. (3) Christ “emptied himself,” that is, humbly gave of himself, by “becoming in the likeness of human beings,” and he found himself in outward appearance as a man (v. 7). As I put it, “A human being cannot humble himself to become a human being because that is what he already and originally is. What Paul says here, then, must refer to Christ’s decision before the Incarnation to become a human being.” Dave failed to engage any of these arguments, and instead rather outrageously claimed that I “didn’t present any” evidence for my view. I reiterated these points and responded to Dave’s other criticisms in a detailed comment on Philippians 2.

All things created through Christ (John 1:3, 10; 1 Cor. 8:6; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:2). John, Paul, and Hebrews all teach that “all things” were created “through” the preexistent Jesus Christ (whom John calls the Logos and Paul and Hebrews call the Son and Lord). Dave’s strategy for handling the Pauline and Hebrews texts is to argue that “all things” (or “the ages” in Heb. 1:2) refers to the new creation that comes through Christ’s redemptive acts, not the original creation. I explained in a comment why this interpretive strategy will not work, comparing the language used for Christ’s role in creation to the language used for God’s role. In a comment on Hebrews 1:1-4, I also discussed the meaning of tous aiōnas (“the ages”) in Hebrews 1:2 and showed why it must also refer to the totality of creation. Dave had argued that when Hebrews 1:10-12 quotes Psalm 102:25-27 concerning the Lord creating the universe, it is referring to the Father rather than the Son. In my comment on Hebrews 1:5-13, I showed why that will not hold up exegetically and why Hebrews does apply that Psalm text to the Son.

Jesus is the Logos, who is God, incarnate (John 1:1-18). In Part 2, I laid out in summary form a Trinitarian understanding of this passage: the Logos, who was personally distinct from God and yet was God, became flesh as the human being Jesus Christ. Dave argued that John 1:1 means not that the Logos was “God” but that it was “divine,” and that the subject of John 1:1-3 is not Jesus (who is not mentioned there), but the impersonal Logos. Dave also proposed that John 1:10 should be exegeted to mean that the world “was split” or divided by Christ’s life and mission on earth.

In my first comment on John 1 in response, I pointed out that the omission of the name “Jesus” from John 1:1-3 is no more significant than its omission in Colossians 1:15-20 or Hebrews 1. In another comment on John 1, I showed that the Logos is a preexistent person and explained why John 1:10 must mean that the world “came into existence,” not “was split,” by Christ (a truly unprecedented and indefensible exegesis as far as I can tell). In a long comment on “God” in John 1:1c, I explained why the translation “the Word was divine” is simply untenable. As I showed in that comment, no major Bible version ever translates the nominative theos as “divine” in any other verse (LXX or NT), because it simply is not used with that adjectival meaning. The data overwhelmingly proves that “God” is the correct rendering.

Confusing preexistence with predestination? Dave argued that any NT passage that seems to describe Christ as preexistent is actually using language familiar in Judaism to speak of God foreknowing or predetermining his plans for human beings. According to Dave, this use of “preexistence” language is reflected in the Talmud and in texts that refer to God calling or preparing his prophets before they existed (e.g., Assumption of Moses 1:14; Jer. 1:5). Dave also quoted at length from Sigmund Mowinckel’s book He That Cometh to prove that in Jewish thought the Messiah was described as preexistent only in this predestinarian sense.

In my comment on preexistence in Talmudic Judaism, I showed that in general when the rabbis said that something existed or was created before the world, they meant it literally (e.g., Eden, Gehenna, the Torah). When they did not mean it literally, they typically said so (“Some of them were created, and some of them arose in the thought of God to be created”). The rabbis did not say that the Messiah preexisted but only that his name preexisted—a distinction that Dave’s argument overlooked. In my comment on prophetic calling texts, I pointed out that in such texts as Assumption of Moses 1:14 and Jeremiah 1:5 attribute no existence or activity to the prophet; they simply state that God prepared, designed, or predetermined that the prophet would serve in that calling. Finally, I showed in another comment that Dave had quoted Mowinckel out of context. Mowinckel shows that the Jewish “Son of Man” was a really (not ideally) pre-existent, heavenly, divine being. Thus, careful study of the Jewish background to the NT actually turns Dave’s argument on its head and shows that the NT preexistence language for Christ refers to him as a really preexistent divine person.

John 13:1-3 and 16:28. In John 13:1-3, John tells us that Jesus knew he had come from God and was going back to God. In John 16:28, Jesus asserts that he came from the Father into the world and was about to leave the world and go to the Father. As I explained in Part 4, since Biblical Unitarians agree that Jesus literally left the world and went to the Father, they cannot plausibly deny that these verses mean that Jesus literally left the Father to come into the world. Furthermore, the disciples acknowledge immediately after Jesus’ statement that he was not speaking figuratively (John 16:29)! These statements prove that Christ literally preexisted his human life.

Christ’s Divine Honors

The NT reveals that the Son is the proper recipient or object of worship, prayer, spiritual singing, fear (reverence), absolute love, and other honors that in a religious context all belong only to God (e.g., Matt. 9:28; 10:37; 14:33; 28:17; John 5:23; 8:24; 14:1, 14-15; Acts 1:24-25; 7:59-60; 16:31; Rom. 10:11-13; 1 Cor. 1:2; 10:16-22; 16:22; 2 Cor. 5:10-11; 12:7-9; Eph. 5:19-21; 6:24; Phil. 2:10-11; Col. 3:22-25; Heb. 1:6; 1 Peter 2:6; 3:14-16; 1 John 5:13-15; Rev. 5:9-14; 22:1-3, 20-21). The hypothetical construct that he is God’s human agent simply does not account for this unreserved showering of divine honors on Christ.

The divine honors that Dave and I discussed were prayer to and worship of Christ. In a comment on Romans 10:9-13, I showed, contrary to Dave’s objection, that “calling upon the name of the Lord” does mean praying, and that the NT instructs us to direct this activity toward Jesus Christ. I also argued that in order for Jesus to attend to any and all prayers directed his way, he must know what is in the hearts of all people at all times. This means that he needs to have the divine nature commensurate to the task.

Regarding the worship of Christ, Dave argued that the Greek word for worship (proskuneō) need not imply that Christ is God, since human beings in the Bible sometimes “bow down” (proskuneō) to other human beings. The problem is that the contexts in which the exalted Christ receives worship are clearly religious contexts. The disciples worship the risen Christ on the mountain (Matt. 28:17); if Christ was only an exalted man, would this not be like the Israelites worshipping Moses when they should have been worshipping God? In Part 2, I argued that the surrounding context of this worship makes it a religious act, and in a follow-up comment I defended this interpretation. In that same comment, I also responded to the argument from silence that the Bible never refers to Christ as the object of actions described using the latreuō or sebomai word groups. Hebrews 1:6 reveals that the angels also worship Christ, quoting an OT text (probably Deut. 32:43) in which God was the object of their worship. (In my follow-up comment on Hebrews 1:5-13, I briefly discussed some problems with Dave’s claim that Israel, not God, was the object of angelic worship in Deuteronomy 32:43.) In a later comment on Revelation 4-5, I gave four reasons why the worship that the Lamb receives in Revelation 5 must be regarded as the highest act of religious worship.

Christ’s Divine Names

The third major line of evidence for the eternal deity of Christ that I discussed in this debate is his divine names or titles.

While the Greek word kurios could mean simply “master,” in religious contexts quoting from or alluding to OT texts and motifs the term stands for the Hebrew name Yahweh (“Jehovah” or “the LORD”), which was the distinctive name of God in the OT. Examples of the NT calling Jesus “Lord” where this clearly means the LORD Jehovah are too numerous to dismiss. In addition to 1 Corinthians 8:6, I drew special attention to Romans 10:9-13 and Philippians 2:9-11 as examples in Part 3 of this debate (see also the follow-up comments on Romans 10:9-13 and Philippians 2:3-11). My treatment of 1 Corinthians 8:6 included a paragraph summarizing the evidence that Paul referred to Jesus as the LORD Jehovah repeatedly in 1 Corinthians. For example, Paul uses the expressions “calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ” and “the day of the Lord Jesus Christ,” two allusions to Joel 2:31-32, in the same context (1 Cor. 1:2, 8).

Although the number of texts that call Jesus “God” is comparatively few, they are potent in theological significance. I have already explained why John 1:1c (“and the Logos was God”) refers to the preincarnate Christ and identifies him as “God” (not describe an impersonal “logos” as “divine”). Dave acknowledges that Hebrews 1:8 refers to Jesus as “God,” and I explained (again in Part 3) why this reference cannot be explained away as meaning only that Jesus was God’s agent. Most difficult for the Unitarian position, however, is John 20:28, where Thomas confessed Jesus as “my Lord and my God!” Dave admitted that Thomas called Jesus “God” but supposed it was sufficient to point out that the Bible occasionally calls angels or people theoi. However, as I pointed out in a follow-up comment on John 20:28, Thomas did not simply refer to Jesus as “God” (or “god”); he called him “my God.” That is something no faithful Jew would ever call any creature. I documented in that comment that the OT is filled with over a thousand parallel expressions (“my God,” “our God,” “your God,” etc.), and in none of them is anyone or anything approvingly given such a designation. This is compelling evidence that John 20:28 refers to Jesus Christ as the LORD God.

Jesus has other divine titles, including “Savior” as a divine title and the parallel, exclusive divine titles “the First and the Last” and “the Alpha and the Omega” in Revelation. The cumulative weight of all this evidence is just too much to explain it all away.

Jesus: Super Agent Man?

In order to make sense of the divine names, honors, position, and works of the exalted Christ, Unitarianism postulates a principle of agency according to which Jesus bears those names, receives those honors, holds that position, and performs those works simply as God’s exalted human agent. Jesus’ statement, “He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives not me but the one who sent me” (Matt. 10:40), is the primary proof text for this supposedly “Jewish” principle or law of agency. It supposedly proves, as Dave quoted James McGrath as asserting, that the agent was “functionally equal or equivalent to the one who sent him” (Only True God, 62).

As I explained in a comment on the principle of agency, neither Matthew 10:40 nor the rabbinical literature attests to such a principle in the broad way that Dave and McGrath seek to employ it. The actual principle was a simple matter of receiving a messenger’s message as coming from the one who sent him. Neither Jews nor Christians employed this principle, for example, to mean that humans might worship, serve, or pray to angels. The very Christian text Dave quoted, Didache 11.4, illustrates the limited focus of the agency principle, as it instructs Christians to welcome apostles for one or two days as they would the Lord—and after that to regard them as false prophets seeking to exploit Christian hospitality! In the same comment, I responded to Dave’s list of biblical examples of the agency principle, showing that they do not exemplify the assignment of divine powers or privileges to creatures as God’s agents.

The theological construct that Christ bears the divine names “God” and “Lord” merely as God’s agent falls to pieces when we recognize that Christ was “God” before creation (John 1:1) and was performing divine functions before anyone else existed—and therefore before there was anyone to whom he might come as God’s agent. We should therefore take the NT at its word when it affirms that Jesus is our God, the LORD himself.

WITNESS OF THE PARACLETE: THE CASE FOR THE PERSONHOOD OF THE HOLY SPIRIT

Due to space limitations, I will have to be much briefer in reviewing the case for the personhood of the Holy Spirit. In general, my argument in Part 4 for the personhood of the Holy Spirit anticipated and refuted in advance Dave’s main arguments against this aspect of the doctrine of the Trinity. The simplistic argument that Luke 1:35 defines the Holy Spirit as the power of God is fallacious, as a comparison with such texts as Luke 22:69 (in the same book!) or 1 Corinthians 1:24, where the Father and the Son are also both called “the power of God,” makes clear.

There is some basis in the OT for viewing the Spirit of the LORD as a divine person. However, the fact that the Holy Spirit was a person distinct from the Father and the Son could not be and was not revealed explicitly until the Son had come to reveal the Father (Matt. 11:27; John 1:18) and was preparing to leave the disciples in the custody of the Holy Spirit. Such explicit revelation of the distinct person of the Holy Spirit is a major theme in the Upper Room Discourse (John 13-16). Jesus introduces the figure of the Paraclete (“Comforter,” “Advocate,” etc.) in the context of his leaving the disciples to return to the Father (John 13:1-3; 16:5-7, 28). When he leaves them, Jesus says, he will send “another Paraclete,” the Holy Spirit, to them—who will be someone like Jesus himself (cf. 1 John 2:1). The narrative context in which Jesus says these things as he prepares them for his departure rules out the notion that this is mere personification.

The Book of Acts confirms this conclusion. The Holy Spirit appears in the narrative at the very beginning and end of the book (1:2; 28:25-26) to mark him as the book’s primary witness, just as Luke had mentioned Simon Peter as the first and last named disciple in his Gospel (Luke 4:38; 24:34) because that book derived primarily from Peter’s eyewitness testimony. Acts also presents the Holy Spirit as a participant at key points throughout the book. The “personal” language in Acts about the Spirit speaking, being lied to, thinking, testifying, etc., is not personification, because it is integrated into a historical narrative account in which the Holy Spirit is a major participant and witness.

By contrast, the personification of Wisdom in Proverbs 8 takes place in the literary context of a poetic book of wisdom literature, not a historical narrative. Dave’s attempt to argue that if we don’t view wisdom as a person neither should we view the Holy Spirit as one ignores these genre and contextual differences, as I explained in a comment on personification.

The evidence for the personhood of the Holy Spirit, already quite substantial from John and Acts, is augmented and broadened when we look at the many instances of triadic statements about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the NT. I looked at a dozen major examples of these triadic statements in Part 5. These triadic statements provide further confirmation of the distinct person of the Holy Spirit, and testify to a threefoldness of Christian piety woven throughout the NT.

CONCLUSION: THE DOCTRINE OF THE TRINITY IS BIBLICALLY GROUNDED

I have argued that the Son truly is the LORD God and that the Holy Spirit is a person distinct from the Father and the Son. I conclude, then, that the evidence presented here shows that the Trinity is biblically grounded in a way that Unitarianism is not.

Ironically, if the apostles did teach Unitarianism, their understanding of Christianity completely and suddenly disappeared after the passing of the apostles. As I pointed out to Dave in a comment on early Trinitarianism, historians find no trace of any religious movement even remotely akin to Unitarianism in the second or third centuries. On the other hand, the ante-Nicene Fathers were roughly or rudely trinitarian in their theology. This historical evidence provides significant confirmation that the Trinitarian reading of the NT is correct.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. He can be contacted at [email protected]

    166 replies to "The Great Trinity Debate, Part 6: Rob Bowman’s Closing Statement"

    • James F. McGrath

      I would have expected the claim that worship is never directed to God’s agent to have included a discussion of 1 Chronicles 29:20, where the people are said to worship (i.e. prostrate themselves to) God and the king – one verb, two objects.

    • Nick Norelli

      What happened to Burke’s closing statement? It seems to be gone from the blog.

    • admin

      It’s up now. Our apologies for the technical error.

    • James F. McGrath

      I think 1 Chronicles 29:20 suggests that there is evidence within the Bible (never mind outside it) that you are neglecting. If that isn’t an example of an agent (the king) being worshipped alongside God, then what is it?

    • Rob Bowman

      By the way, folks, feel free to ask Dave or me any questions that you like. The floor is now open to discussion.

    • Patrick Navas

      Rob,

      Assuming the doctrine of the Trinity is true and central to the Christian religion (that Jesus and his apostles believed it), why do you think they “held back” from teaching it to us in a clear/straightfoward/explicit way, as they did so many other doctrines they believed to be important?

      Examples of clear/straightforward/explicit teachings: God is one. God is holy. God is light. God is love. YHWH is God’s name. God created heaven and earth. Jesus died for our sins. God raised Jesus from the dead. Jesus sits at the right hand of God. Jesus was given all authority in heaven and on earth. God exalted Jesus. God made Jesus Lord and Messiah. Jesus is the Christ/Messiah and Son of God. The Father is greater than Jesus. Greatest commandments: Love God and love neighbor.

      What I mean is, do you ever wonder why Paul didn’t say something like, “To us there is one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, three persons, one essence.” If that is what Paul believed (and wanted us to believe), why do you think he said something different? Why did he speak of the Lord Jesus in this text as someone other than (or distinct from) the “one God” (in a similar way that Jesus presented himself plainly as someone other than ‘the only true God’ in John 17:3)?

      Or how about… “You have heard it was said, “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.’ But I say to you, “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God is one being yet three persons” or something to that effect?,

      Have you ever thought about how if Scripture actually taught the Trinity (in the same straightforward way it teaches other important doctrines), that this debate would probably not exist among Bible believers?

      Patrick Navas

    • Patrick Navas

      Forgive me. I meant to also ask, do you not find it surprising/odd (on any level) that the alleged “central” doctrine of Christianity was not plainly and continuously taught by its founder (Jesus) or the founder’s representatives (the apostles)?

      Thanks again,

      Patrick

    • Nick Norelli

      Patrick: I’m curious—since you brought up the “clear/straightforward/explicit teaching” that “God is love”—how does that work out? What I mean is to ask is how do you know that God actually is love? And I’d also be curious to know whether or not you’d consider “love” to be an essential property or attribute of God. Thanks.

    • Rob Bowman

      Patrick,

      I think the Bible is very clear on the substantive issues:

      “My Lord and my God.”
      “I came down from heaven.”
      “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Paraclete.”
      “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
      “But of the Son [he says]…’You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of your hands.'”

      Instead of addressing what the Bible does say, you want me to explain to you what the Bible does not say. There’s a term for this logical fallacy. I’m guessing you know what it is.

      Your question ignores the fact that there are so-called “Bible believers” who dispute or redefine away every doctrine of the Bible while professing to accept the Bible.

    • Rob Bowman

      James,

      You must think your argument from 1 Chronicles 29:20 is a powerful one, since you posted it twice. I have several points to make in response.

      1. Where did I say that “worship is never directed to God’s agent”? I agreed that “human beings in the Bible sometimes ‘bow down’ (proskuneō) to other human beings.” Would it make any sense for me to make that statement but exclude human beings who function as God’s agents? Of course not. I did say, “Neither Jews nor Christians employed this principle [of agency], for example, to mean that humans might worship, serve, or pray to angels.” Here, of course, I am using the term “worship” in a religious context in reference to human beings bowing down before angels or other supernatural beings as an act of religious devotion. My point is clear: the so-called principle of agency is not the broad principle that Dave claimed (or that you claim in your book).

      2. Nothing in the context of 1 Chronicles 29:20 supports understanding the act of bowing before David as an act of religious worship. Obviously, your point is that the one verb is used in reference to two objects, God and the king, and you think this somehow undermines all of the evidence for Christ’s deity from the multitudinous honors that the NT directs toward him. But please: David is by all accounts in this passage a mortal, ordinary man, possessing no divine traits; the passage gives him no divine names or titles (the text does not call him God, for example); and it does not credit him with performing such divine works as making the universe. Since people in that culture bowed before kings as an act of respect and performed the outwardly same action when they bowed toward God as an act of religious devotion, the one verb can do “double duty” in this context without anyone getting “confused.” By contrast, it is the context in which such NT texts as Matthew 28:17, Hebrews 1:6, and Revelation 5:13-14 speak of Jesus as the object of worship that leads orthodox Christians to view this worship as religious devotion.

      3. In the context of 1 Chronicles 29, David himself addresses the LORD God and praises him in the most exalted terms:

      “Blessed are You, O LORD God of Israel our father, forever and ever. Yours, O LORD, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, indeed everything that is in the heavens and the earth; Yours is the dominion, O LORD, and You exalt Yourself as head over all. Both riches and honor come from You, and You rule over all, and in Your hand is power and might; and it lies in Your hand to make great and to strengthen everyone. Now therefore, our God, we thank You, and praise Your glorious name. But who am I and who are my people that we should be able to offer as generously as this? For all things come from You, and from Your hand we have given You. For we are sojourners before You, and tenants, as all our fathers were; our days on the earth are like a shadow, and there is no hope” (1 Chron. 29:10-15 NASB).

      Not only does David direct all of this religious honor to the LORD alone, but David also puts himself down as insignificant by comparison: “But who am I and who are my people…?” “Our days on the earth are like a shadow, and there is no hope.” David here expresses that he and his fellow Israelites are nothing without God, that he personally should receive no credit for anything, and that he is as much without hope as the rest of the people apart from God.

      4.In the very verse that you quote, a clear distinction in honor is made between the honor given to God and that given to David:

      “Then David said to all the assembly, ‘Now bless the LORD your God.’ And all the assembly blessed the LORD, the God of their fathers, and bowed low and did homage to the LORD and to the king” (1 Chron. 29:20 NASB; “and bending their knees, they bowed low before the Lord and the king,” LXX).

      The act of “blessing the LORD their God” is in this context an act of religious devotion (the word “bless” has already been used in this sense in verse 10), and it is used in reference to the LORD alone.

      5.The Book of Revelation uses the doxological language of this passage (which Chronicles uses exclusively for the LORD God) and applies it equally to both “God and the Lamb” (cf. 1 Chron. 29:11-12 with Rev. 5:12-13). I discuss this point at some length in Putting Jesus in His Place (32-35).

      All in all, this passage in 1 Chronicles 29 shows the clear limits within which a merely human king might receive honor in the same context as God, limits that the NT bursts in its honor of the Lord Jesus Christ.

    • andrewneileen

      Hello Rob,
      I will begin at the end, the last paragraph. My first question is: Is this true? Rabbinical Judaism was a religious movement alive in the 1c and 2c, and it is somewhat akin to Biblical Unitarianism. Isn’t the “separation of the ways” indicative of the church moving away from its Jewish roots and thereby, according to Jewish thinking, becoming apostate in relation to its doctrine of God? Isn’t Biblical Unitarianism an attempt to repair the breech with a “Jewish Christianity”? My second question is: Is this true? Unitarianism pertains to the doctrine of God and is not co-terminus with “Christianity”: if the apostles taught Unitarianism, and the church became Trinitarian, this doesn’t amount to the complete and sudden disappearance of Christianity. Isn’t “complete and sudden” an exaggeration? And couldn’t the church have continued to teach other apostolic doctrines, as in the case of, say, Justin Martyr? My third question is: Is this true? I have some historians’ works on my bookshelf and they have chapters on the ‘sub-apostolic age’ and the era of ‘The Apologists’ which document non-Trinitarian views in the church about Christ. For example, see J. Danielou, “The Theology of Jewish Christianity” and chap.2, pp. 55-87, which he entitles ‘Heterodox Jewish Christianity’ or W. Bauer, “Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity” and the Appendix entitled, ‘The Problem of Jewish Christianity’ pp. 247-285; (Bauer’s seminal thesis was that heresy was primary for large areas of the Near East in the earliest period of Christianity). These views dubbed “Jewish Christian” are somewhat akin to assert they are not remotely akin looks like hyperbole on your part. My fourth question is: Is this true? Are the ante-Nicene fathers all treatable as a group characterizable as rudely or roughly Trinitarian? For instance, given the minimal reference to the Spirit in the Nicene Creed, and the fluctuation of the Eastern…

    • andrewneileen

      …For instance, given the minimal reference to the Spirit in the Nicene Creed, and the fluctuation of the Eastern Church fathers between Trinitarianism and Arianism in the 4c., up until 381, can we be so sweeping in our judgment that the ante-Nicene fathers even had a Trinitarian conception of the Spirit, rude or rough, all of them? Finally, to sum up, if your statements in just your last paragraph are not true, how can we on the “floor” of the debate work our way backwards and even begin to ask the right questions when you have written so much that is questionable? What in your view is your strongest argument? Perhaps we could start there?

      3000 characters is not much.

    • Charles

      Man was created in the image of God, trinitarians have created God in the image of man.(angels too)

      Who was it that put Moses in the cleft of the rock and passed by while putting his hand over the slit so Moses could not see his face but only his back parts?

      That was YHVH, the God of Israel. The one in whose image Jesus, his son, was made. The One whom no man has seen nor can see.

      There would be no need for debates amongst Christians about who the One True God is if they would understand that God is spirit, as are the angels, as is the resurrected Christ, and as the resurrected saints shall be.

      News Flash! they all have bodies

    • Thomas Gaston

      We must be cautious of an argument from history for two reasons. Firstly, we must acknowledge that the extant sources are biased towards the Trinitarian understanding. Why is it that figures like Justin, Irenaeus and Tertullian had their works preserved for posterity but their contemporaries did not? Because their writings could be reconciled easiest by later Trinitarians with their own understanding. Secondly, human beings have a dangerous habit of reading back into history modern views and attitudes. In this case, any reference to “three” or just a conjunction of Father-Son-Spirit is taken as proof of primitive Trinitarianism, often without much analysis as to what it is these thinkers actually believers.

      For example, though Justin enumerates God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit as three things, he uses ordinals (first, second, third). A clear hierarchy. Irenaeus does treat God-Jesus-Spirit as three articles of faith but he never calls the Spirit “Lord”. Tertullian did argue that God was one “substantia” but three “persona” but many scholars now believe that “substantia” was used in its legal, and not in an ontological, sense.

      Writers before Justin do not enumerate God, or give any particular hint of a formalised Trinitarian belief but since they don’t argue against that belief either they are accepted as “orthodox”. Yet a Biblical Unitarian can read Clement of Rome, or Polycarp, or Aristides and agree whole-heartedly. So when asking for evidence of historical biblical unitarianism, what is really being asked for? It seems like we’re being asked to provide evidence that historical figures wrote against a doctrine that didn’t exist at that time for them to write against. In this sense the “historical” argument is self-defeating.

    • Thomas Gaston

      The more interesting historical question is why does Justin in the mid-second century start enumerating God-Jesus-Spirit into a divine hierarchy? Why does he identify Jesus as a necessary metaphysical intermediary between a transcendent God and the world?

      Is it just possible that he may have taken these ideas from contemporary Platonists, like Numenius of Apamea, who were enumerating three gods, with a transcendent first diety, a metaphysical intermediary, and a third psychical god?

      And if it is the case that this “triadic” language emerged in Christian writings in direct consequence to Platonic speculations then what does that tell you about the Christian doctrine of God in writers post-Justin?

    • Pär Stenberg

      First of all I would like to thank you the both of you for a wonderful debate. I must say that the interaction between the two of you in the comment-sections has been exciting to say the least. 🙂

      You won this debate by far, Bowman. And since I myself am a Trinitarian I can not possible be biased. 😉

      Anyway, I have a question for you Bowman: You argue that kurios = adonai = YHWH, so when the title kurios is applied to Jesus it is used as the substitute for the tetragrammaton, am I correct? But if so, how do you explain the attachment of possessive pronouns to kurios? Never in the LXX is YHWH referred to as “our Lord” or “my Lord”, but simply kurios. Would you say that the reason for the “our Lord”-language of Jesus is because the YHWH substitute has evolved “completely” into a title? But if so is it not interesting that the NT authors never applies kurios to the Father using possessive pronouns (For example Luk 1-2, and Luke uses “my Lord” of Jesus) . Perhaps this is to distinguish between the two? Or is this a evidence for that “our/my Lord” should be read solely in the light of ‘adoni from Psalm 110? (even then explain away texts such as Rom 10:9-13 as mere texts of agency)… I’m having a hard time formulating my question, so I’ll just shut up now. 😉

      Blessings from Sweden
      Your brother in the Lord Jesus, our God and Savior.
      Pär

    • Patrick Navas

      Rob,

      I had a feeling you would not answer my question. I’m asking honestly, and I’ll ask again. For the sake of argument, let’s say the Trinity is true. From your perspective, why didn’t Jesus or the apostles simply teach/proclaim the doctrine clearly and directly. Did they deliberately avoid teaching it directly, for some reason? If so, why? Perhaps another Trinitarian apologist could answer this if Rob wont.

      Nick,

      You asked:

      “I’m curious—since you brought up the “clear/straightforward/explicit teaching” that “God is love”—how does that work out? What I mean is to ask is how do you know that God actually is love?”

      Scripturally speaking, I know that God actually “is love” because the apostle John explicitly taught this doctrine in 1 John 4:8 and 1 John 4:16.

      You also asked, “how does this work out”? Well, scripturally speaking, I don’t need to explain it to accept that the Scripture explicitly teach it. But, to me, it means that God is loving, and that his loving nature is such a dominant aspect of his being, that the apostle John went as far as to say that God is love. John sheds light on this when he says, “In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9).

      And I’d also be curious to know whether or not you’d consider “love” to be an essential property or attribute of God.

      Yes. I believe that God created the world out of love and sent his Son Jesus because of it as well.

      Patrick

    • Nick Norelli

      Patrick: Thanks for the response. So if I understand you, you’re saying that you know God is love (1) because John said so, and (2) because that love is expressed in God creating the world and sending his Son to save it. Is this an accurate understanding of your belief?

      So if I could boil down #2, would it be fair to say that love is known through its expression?

    • James F. McGrath

      Rob, the first comment did not appear at first, and so I thought it had been lost in cyberspace. I didn’t think it deserved more than a single mention from me – but I did think it deserved some mention from you!

      I really am not clear on what your point is. Since I think a point we can agree on is that Jesus was a human being (whatever else some of us may wish to say about him), I don’t see how objections to worship of angels, but acceptance of worship before a human agent of God, has any relevance.

      As for your second point, I’d appreciate a clarification as to what distinguishes “religious worship” from other sorts of worship. If it is thinking of the one so revered as God, then surely it is a circular argument to claim divinity on the basis of worship and distinguish relevant worship on the basis of belief in divinity!

      It seems to me that “religious worship” could be defined as first and foremost sacrificial worship in an ancient context. That is offered to YHWH alone in the passage in Chronicles. But is Jesus the recipient of sacrificial worship in the New Testament?

      We may perhaps want to talk more about Revelation, but the idea of a human king sharing YHWH’s throne certainly seems to have a major point of overlap or connection with the passage in Chronicles, where Solomon sits on the throne of YHWH.

      Let me just add that, although I disagree with some of your points of interpretation, I do appreciate your taking the time to engage in this conversation publicly. Thank you!

    • Patrick Navas

      Nick,

      Thanks for the response. You wrote: “if I understand you, you’re saying that you know God is love (1) because John said so…”

      Yes, from a scriptural perspective, and because I accept the teaching authority of Jesus’ apostes, I “know” that the Scriptures teach that “God is love” because that is what Scripture explicitly teaches.

      “(2) because that love is expressed in God creating the world and sending his Son to save it. Is this an accurate understanding of your belief?”

      Yes, but these are just two outstanding examples of God’s love. But, of course, I believe that God’s love is manifested in so many other ways that Scripture makes clear and which reason confirms.

      “So if I could boil down #2, would it be fair to say that love is known through its expression?”

      Certainly. Again, from a scriptural perspective, we can be sure that “God is love” because Scripture clearly tells us this in plain language more than once. Not only that, but Scripture also shows this is true by revealing Jehovah as a God who lovingly gave us life and who lovingly sent his Son to rescue us from condemnation. So we have an explicit scriptural teaching backed up by God’s actions and everything else the Scripture reveals about God.

      The problem with the “God-is-three-persons” doctrine is that Scripture never plainly states this. But why would they not do this if that’s what the writers of Scripture believed and wanted us to believe? I don’t know if Rob will actually try to answer my question, so perhaps you could. It’s not a trick question but a real one.

      Assuming the doctrine of the Trinity is true (that Jesus and his apostles believed it), why do you think they held back or refrained from plainly teaching it to us as they did with every other important/essential/salvific doctrine? Did they do this on purpose in your view? If so, why?

      Best wishes,

      Patrick Nava

    • […] over at Parchment & Pen. The sixth installment of Bowman, the Trinitarian, can be read here and Burke’s, the Unitarian, can be found here. Or, if you would like to find all articles at […]

    • James F. McGrath

      Rob, the first comment did not appear at first, and so I thought it had been lost in cyberspace. I didn’t think it deserved more than a single mention from me – but I did think it deserved some mention from you!

      I really am not clear on what your point is. Since I think a point we can agree on is that Jesus was a human being (whatever else some of us may wish to say about him), I don’t see how objections to worship of angels, but acceptance of worship before a human agent of God, has any relevance.

      As for your second point, I’d appreciate a clarification as to what distinguishes “religious worship” from other sorts of worship. If it is thinking of the one so revered as God, then surely it is a circular argument to claim that belief in Jesus’ divinity is demonstrated by worship worship and distinguish relevant worship on the basis of belief in divinity!

      It seems to me that “religious worship” could be defined as first and foremost _sacrificial_ worship in an ancient context. That is offered to YHWH alone in the passage in Chronicles. But is Jesus the _recipient_ of sacrificial worship in the New Testament?

      We may perhaps want to talk more about Revelation, but the idea of a human king sharing YHWH’s throne certainly seems to have a major point of overlap or connection with the passage in Chronicles, where Solomon sits on the throne of YHWH.

      Let me just add that, although I disagree with some of your points of interpretation, I do appreciate your taking the time to engage in this conversation publicly. Thank you!

    • Nick Norelli

      Patrick: Okay, so it seems that we both agree on the following:

      (1) God is love.
      (2) Love is (I would say has to be; would you agree?) expressed
      (3) Love is essential to who God is.

      I think it would be safe to add a fourth point of agreement, but please, correct me if I’m wrong:

      (4) God is eternal.

      If we are in agreement on these points, as I believe we are, then my question would be: how can a Unitarian God account for this? It would seem that on a Unitarian understanding of God we’d have a God who is dependent upon his creation in order to be loving since love has to be expressed. But then wouldn’t God become love at a point in time? How can God be essentially love/loving with no one to love?

      As to your first question: I think Rob has made a successful case for the writers of Scripture plainly stating exactly what you’re asking for, i.e., that there are three persons who are God and that there is one God. As I see it, your real objection is that they don’t state it in either (a) language that you would personally like to see, or (b) the language of later Christian creeds. I think that (a) is answered in that the writers of the NT weren’t thinking about you or any future Unitarian when they wrote, and (b) is answered in the fact that Sabellians, Arians, Socinians and a whole host of other groups hadn’t yet created problems that needed addressing.

      As to your second question: I think it’s important to distinguish between teaching a formal doctrine of the Trinity and teaching about the Trinity. Again, I think Rob has done an excellent job of showing just how the NT writers spoke about the Trinity. That this teaching isn’t the later formal articulations of it only tells us that the NT is not the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed; that the NT is chronologically prior to the N-C Creed; but then none of this is news or cause for alarm.

    • Helez

      Nick, I think Patrick’s objection is that Jesus and his apostles didn’t state it in language that would (and should?) in reasonableness be expected if it were true. Like the language used by them to express other important or central teachings. This asks for an explanation, especially because the philosophy of God being three distinct persons in one being is such a major shift from what God’s people had understood for thousands of years up to then.

    • rayner markley

      Nick: ‘How can God be essentially love/loving with no one to love?’

      A trinitarian might say the Father always had the Son to love. It doesn’t make much sense to me; real love is expressed to someone outside of oneself. Love is creative by nature, and God’s love impulse may have been the reason for creation.

    • Nick Norelli

      Helez: “[L]anguage that would (and should?) in reasonableness be expected” seems quite subjective to be honest. What exactly would this language look like? I think it looks like what we find in the NT. I think Rob has done an admirable job of showing just that. It seems that Unitarians think it looks like what we find in later Christian creeds. I think that’s taking a backward approach to the issue.

      I also find it curious the way that people interpret certain statements or propositions in the Bible as “teachings” or “doctrines.” For example, when Moses penned Deut. 6:4 or Paul penned 1Cor. 8:6 they weren’t articulating any kind of advanced doctrines. yet somehow Unitarians read these statements (both of which are calls to faithfulness to God alone over and against idols) and see Moses and Paul as articulating some sort of Unitarian doctrine in which God is one and only one person. Now the Trinitarian could object and say, “why don’t we find language that would (and should?) in reasonableness be expected if this one-personed-God doctrine were true?” I mean no passage of Scripture explicitly teaches that God is “one person.” Many teach that God is “one God” but that’s something both Unitarians and Trinitarians agree on. Unitarians read and quote the same passages that Trinitarians do but both groups have to offer interpretations of what they’re reading and quoting and these interpretations go beyond what the passages merely state. Sadly, it seems to me that Unitarians of varying stripes don’t like to acknowledge this simple fact.

      Comment to be continued…

    • Nick Norelli

      …comment continued:

      Helez: Major shifts shouldn’t be a problem seeing as how a suffering and dying Messiah was a major shift from the conquering king Messiah that Jews had expected for more than a thousand years. In Matthew 16/Mark 8 Jesus tells the disciples that he must suffer and be killed yet Peter doesn’t want to accept this; but why? Because the Messiah he was expecting wasn’t supposed to suffer and die according to what Jews had traditionally believed. Jesus’ teaching was a radical shift. Doctrine develops; beliefs shift; articulations become more precise. Such is life.

      And let me add at this point that the Incarnation of the Son and the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit necessitated a major shift in the Jewish view of God. Both events had God entering his creation in a more intimate and personal way than ever before. And it’s not inconceivable that Judaism had a conceptual framework that allowed for a doctrine of the Trinity. For example, Alan F. Segal says:

      Even the trinity can be shown to have some precedents in Judaism because, although the Christian notion of the Trinity is precisely formulated to fit Christian experience, it is possible to find Jewish writers who propounded that God could be perceived in many different forms, even at once. In fact, there were several important Jewish philosophical or mystical thinkers who speculated about the differences between the descriptions of God as a young warrior as opposed to an old man (e.g. Dan. 7: 9-13). So it is at least possible to find a clear precedent of hypostases within the Hebrew Godhead. (“The Incarnation: The Jewish Milieu” in The Incarnation: An Interdisciplinary Symposium on the Incarnation [Oxford: OUP, 2002], 116; cf. Michael L. Brown, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, Vol. 2: Theological Objections [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2000], 3-48; J. C. O’Neill, Who Did Jesus Think He Was? [Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1995], 94-114, although I think O’Neill presses the evidence a bit too far when stating his conclusions.)

    • Nick Norelli

      Rayner: Why must real love be expressed to someone outside of oneself? It seems to me that love must only be expressed, period. But even on your reading you still come up with a God who is dependent upon his creation for an essential attribute. How could this “love impulse” have existed if it only exists in expression to one outside of oneself? As I see it, the Unitarian God is not essentially loving from all eternity, but rather undergoes some kind of change once it creates the universe and all that’s in it. The Unitarian God relies on its creation for one of its essential properties. This doesn’t seem compatible with Scripture.

    • Patrick Navas

      Nick,
      You wrote:
      “If we are in agreement on these points, as I believe we are, then my question would be: how can a Unitarian God account for this? It would seem that on a Unitarian understanding of God we’d have a God who is dependent upon his creation in order to be loving since love has to be expressed. But then wouldn’t God become love at a point in time? How can God be essentially love/loving with no one to love?”
      The “one God,” the “Father” can be “love” and “loving” because there has always been someone for God to love (Himself). The Scriptures tell us that we should love our neighbor as we would ourselves. That is to say, scripturally speaking, there is a legitimate place for “self love” (Luke 10:27; Romans 13:9). We are to love our neighbor as we rightly “love ourselves.” Therefore, God, in whose image we are made, like us, can legitimately have self love. I also think that love was the motivating force behind God creating and giving life to others that could be the objects of his loving-kindness. In other words, God could have self love but his love is so abundant that he willingly created other beings and gave them life so that he could share his great love with them.
      The text I cited is not the only place in Scripture that speaks of self love. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul wrote
      “In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the congregation (Ephesians 5:28-29).”
      So the fairly common Trinitarian/philosophical argument that “for the eternal God to be love there must be personal distinctions within the Godhead to be objects of each others’ love” is not necessary from a Scriptural perspective, since God could still be love and be loving without having a “multi-personal” nature.
      “As to your first question: I think Rob has made a successful case for…

    • rayner markley

      We love God; we love others. Self-love is unseemly. But that’s for us humans; maybe God is different.
      Do you deny that love is creative by nature?

    • Patrick Navas

      the writers of Scripture plainly stating exactly what you’re asking for, i.e., that there are three persons who are God and that there is one God. “
      What you’re saying here, unfortunately, misses the point and does not answer my question. As I clearly stated, let us assume, for argument’s sake, that the Trinity is true and was believed by Jesus and his apostles. Again, in your view (or in the view of any Trinitarian who would like to address this question), why did Jesus and the writers of Scripture hold back/refrain from teaching us the doctrine of the Trinity plainly and directly as they did with other important/salvific doctrines? Why did they hold back from plainly/straightforwardly telling us that the “one God” was a “Trinity (one being in three persons)”? Did they believe this yet refrain from teaching it directly for a reason?

      “As I see it, your real objection is that they don’t state it in either (a) language that you would personally like to see, or (b) the language of later Christian creeds.”
      That was not the issue I raised. The real question I am asking is that if Jesus and his apostles believed that the one God was “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (three persons, one God),” why, for example, did Paul not teach this when he had the opportunity to do so, as in 1 Cor. 8:6? If Jesus wanted us to believe in the Trinity or that he himself was “the only true God,” why did he speak in such a way that would make one think that he was someone other than (or distinct from) “the only true God” in John 17:3?
      “I think that (a) is answered in that the writers of the NT weren’t thinking about you or any future Unitarian when they wrote, and (b) is answered in the fact that Sabellians, Arians, Socinians and a whole host of other groups hadn’t yet created problems that needed addressing.”
      They didn’t have to think about the people you mentioned to positively teach a doctrine they believed. Nor did they have to merely…

    • Patrick Navas

      Nor did they have to merely respond to “problems” in order to clearly state doctrines they considered essential.
      Is there any Trinitarian following these discussions that’s willing to answer my question?
      Best wishes,
      Patrick Navas

    • Nick Norelli

      Patrick: I find it interesting that you reason from man to God, but then again, I think that’s one of the fatal flaws of Unitarianism in general. I think you’re interpretation is off however. Love for others as for ourselves is already grounded in our love for God. The “second” commandment is “like” the “first.” I also find it interesting how you freely use the adjective “Scriptural” to describe your belief that God is “self-loving” (although as a Trinitarian I actually affirm this since Father, Son, and Spirit are the same God) in spite of the fact that Scripture doesn’t actually articulate this. It seems that you take issue with Trinitarians doing things along these lines; why is that?

      And to repeat something I said to another commentator in one of these other posts: not receiving the answer you’d like is not the same thing as not receiving an answer. If you’d like to answer your own question to your satisfaction then you’re probably better off posing it to yourself. As it stands I was willing to answer it and I did exactly that. Also, as I mentioned to another commentator, I find it a bit peculiar how folks are willing to take bare statements or propositions and attribute full fledged doctrines to them. For example, you think that Paul is articulating some kind of doctrine in 1Cor. 8 when in context all he is doing is calling for faithfulness to God over and against idols (just as the Shema does). Yet for some reason Unitarians read these passages and see fully articulated expressions of Unitarianism where there’s is only one unipersonal God even though no such thing is explicitly stated. I could ask why Paul didn’t just come out and say that God is only one person in 1Cor. 8:6 when he had the opportunity to do so, but I don’t, since I don’t find that line of questioning very helpful.

      To be continued…

    • Nick Norelli

      …comment continued:

      When I read passages like 1Cor. 8:6 or John 17:3 I don’t read them in isolation. For example, I read 1Cor. 8:6 in the context of 1Cor. 8:1-10:22. I note that the overall argument that Paul is making concerns the Corinthians’ relation to God over and against idols and when he speaks of Christ’s relationship to believers he does it by drawing from OT concepts concerning Israel’s relationship to YHWH. So in 1Cor. 8:6 Paul identifies Jesus as YHWH by including him in the Shema and in 1Cor. 10:14-21 Jesus is contrasted with the pagan deities to whom sacrifice is offered, hence he functions in Paul’s mind as an object of worship in the same manner that the pagan deities do to the pagans. In John 17:3 I see something affirmed about the Father yet nothing denied of the Son. I also see that in context Jesus says that salvation is predicated on knowing both himself and the Father so that the understanding that we’re left with is that the Father alone is not enough for eternal life. I also see Jesus recounting the preexistent relationship that he had with the Father when he commands him to glorify him with the glory that they shared before the world existed. And finally, I don’t ask questions of the text that aren’t addressed by the text, such as “why didn’t Paul say something here that I think would have been the ideal place for him to say it?” I wonder, why didn’t Moses mention whether or not Adam and Eve had belly buttons when surely Genesis 2 would have been the perfect place for him to do so? 😉

      To be continued…

    • Nick Norelli

      …comment continued:

      I think where the real problem lies is in your equation of your interpretation of Scripture with Scripture itself. Quoting passages of Scripture gets us nowhere. We all read and quote the same passages but we interpret them differently. What I find with many Unitarians is that they seem to deny this fact and act as if Trinitarians interpret and Unitarians just believe them for what they say. I happen to find Unitarian interpretations to be lacking and unconvincing. You obviously feel the same way about Trinitarian interpretations. I think the difference is that I, as a Trinitarian, can point out the shortcomings in the positive case presented by the Unitarian. From my reading of this debate and my interaction with Unitarians of various groups over the years it seems that they tend to rely on arguments from silence (as you do when you ask why Paul or anyone else didn’t say what you think should be said at an opportune time) rather than dealing with the positive case presented by the Trinitarian. Rob presented plenty of material in this debate for you to interact with and yet you chose a line of questioning in which you wanted him (or any other takers) to explain something that you think should be in the Bible but isn’t.

    • MarkE

      Rob,
      Thanks for this debate, including your time (goes for Dave as well). It helped me understand how an orthodox Christian reads the Bible, and explains the Trinity.
      Dave mentioned “Hellenistic” a few times. I am sure you are aware the influence the Greek philosophers had after the apostles, hence their prominent place in the Vatican and making them equal to e.g. Abraham. Any child taught that “mummy is in heaven” is learning Plato’s view of an immortal spirit locked in the prison of the body. But the point I notice is not so much the ideas, but the thought process. Our western culture is based on Greek philosophy. The way we deduce and rationalise is based on that logic. When I solve mathematical equations I am using their logic. However, the Old Testament was written through Jews, and the way of thinking differs. In the next section I use Hellenistic as a Greek way of reasoning and Greek as a language. I therefore believe that Paul, John and the writer to the Hebrews were Jews, wrote Greek, but not based on Hellenistic concepts. The Jews typically present a whole picture, and they use pictures (rabbi’s still do), so parables, symbols, personification and types are typically something from Jewish thinking. Jewish thinking tends to be based on the purpose whereas Hellenistic thinking tends to describe the process. I understand a debate follows Hellenistic principles, but the subject matter (for me) is based on a Jewish way of thinking. I would like to give three examples from the verses used in your statements.

      Examples in next post

    • MarkE

      Example 1

      The firstborn of creation (Col. 1:15). Dave assumes (if applied to the first creation) that would mean Jesus was created first. I am sure that is what the Greek word means. But in the Bible the picture is something else. Jacob wants to be firstborn (and God has planned it that way), Esau was indifferent. This is talking about heir to the promises. Have you noticed:
      Abraham’s firstborn was Isaac, his eldest Ishmael.
      Isaac’s firstborn was Jacob, his eldest was Esau.
      Jacob’s firstborn was Joseph, his eldest was Ruben (1 Chron 5:1)
      Joseph’s firstborn was Ephraim, his eldest was Manasseh.
      Four consecutive generations, just to make sure we notice the point.
      Under the law the Jews were not allowed to choose to avoid favouritism, but God chooses. If I look at Col. 1:15 I read “Christ as firstborn” with a Jewish view of the word. And yes, I agree it is talking about the first creation, but that is not limited to Genesis 1 as you pointed out with the use of thrones, dominions, authorities etc. Creation is ongoing. And of course not created by the firstborn (as Dave showed in post 8 of your week 3). But you use this verse regularly to prove Christ’s pre-existence.

    • MarkE

      Example 2
      The rock in the wilderness (1 Cor. 10:4). You use this regularly as a proof that Christ was there. Paul says: “They drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ”. I can just picture the Israelites looking around in amazement at this rock trundling behind them, and Moses telling them: the cloud in front is God the Father and that rock is God the Son. In a Hellenistic concept that might well be correct, but what is the Jew Paul seeing. He sees two cases of a rock providing water, one at the beginning of the journey and one at the end, and draws the picture of a rock as if it were following them. He is using the entire Exodus as a picture of the life of a believer, so he also compares the cloud and sea to baptism (but in reality only the Egyptians got covered in water Rob). So, yes, as the Jews had (as a figure) a rock following them providing water, so we have Christ. But I am sure you prefer the Hellenistic approach.

    • MarkE

      Example 3
      Then John 1. Yes, the Hellenistic approach is to solve it the way I solve equations. If a = b, then I can replace a by b and solve it. So I can also replace “word” by “Christ” throughout the chapter and read it again to see if that solves it, and yes, that fits my explanation. I also realise the Greek connections to Logos. But I think John was a Jew without that Hellenistic logic. So “in the beginning” points immediately to Genesis 1 (the same first three words). In Genesis, I see the world created by a nine fold “Then God said”, and the statement about the word links clearly to that. Peter also uses it as a Jew (2 Pet. 3:5) like that. The biggest difference with other religions is that God wants to communicate with His creation. He calls us, and wants us to listen. Speaking and hearing is a major part of the Old Testament. His judgement is that the nation was deaf and blind. Gods word is a picture of His activity (thinking as a Jew) and as a Communicator. That is shown in Isaiah 55:11. Maybe with the Hellenistic thought process you also replace word by Christ in this verse, but I prefer the Jewish thought and that is what John is also doing. The first words in Genesis is the creation of light. Light is used as a picture throughout the Bible. It shows a knowledge of God where a world without God is in darkness (to walk in the light or walk in darkness). It is a picture used consistently. So I agree when you state that Dave cannot reject the “equation method” to understand “word”, but can use it for “light”. I use the “equation method” for neither, but see the Biblical picture of light. David could write that God’s word was a lamp for him to provide light. But of course Christ is the ultimate light, but also the word made flesh.

      These are three examples, but for me they show you want to read the OT with Hellenistic glasses. I prefer to start with Genesis and finish in Revelation.

    • Nick Norelli

      Mark: Re: #36 — I know you addressed your comments to Rob but I just wanted to note a couple of things. While discussing the distinction between the terms “Judaism” and “Hellenism” Martin Hengel said:

      This unavoidable distinction does, of course, pass too lightly over the fact that by the time of Jesus, Palestine had already been under ‘Hellenistic’ rule and its resultant cultural influence for some 360 years. Thus, even in Jewish Palestine, in the New Testament period Hellenistic civilization had a long and eventful history behind it. (Judaism and Hellenism, 1. 1)

      I think you’re probably making a sharper distinction between Jewish and Greek concepts than is actually warranted. This isn’t to say that there weren’t differences—of course there were—but Rob’s exegesis is closer to Paul, John, and the author of Hebrews than it is to Plato or Aristotle.

      Re: #37 — No, “firstborn” (πρωτότοκος) does not mean “created first.” πρωτότοκον in Heb. 1:6 and πρωτότοκος in Col. 1:15, 18 is a term of preeminence as can be seen from the context of both passages. In Hebrews the author established the Son’s superiority to angels and in Colossians Paul establishes Christ’s preeminence over the entire created order in all things. And this kind of use of πρωτότοκος is not unique to the NT. In the LXX (a Jewish translation of the Hebrew Scriptures) Manasseh is called Israel’s πρωτότοκος (Gen. 48:18) because he was physically born before Ephraim, but Jeremiah 31:9 (38:9 in the LXX) says that Ephraim is the πρωτότοκος because of his place of preeminence.

      Re: #38 & #39 — Interestingly enough, you seem to be employing a very allegorical method of interpretation in these comments, and as we know well, allegorical interpretations enjoyed great prominence in Greek thought.

    • MarkE

      Nick,
      I am aware of the Helenistic influences, but I was referring to the Jewish thinking in Scripture which is not Helenistic, and the way Scripture is quoted.
      #37. Yes, you have made a good case for the Biblical usage of firstborn (as opposed to Helenistic), just in case my post was not clear. It fully supports my understanding of that verse. My point was that Dave was trying to say it meant first in time and Rob was using it to prove pre-existence. Do we agree that neither idea has much to do with what Paul is writing about?

    • Patrick Navas

      Nick,

      You wrote:

      “I also find it interesting how you freely use the adjective “Scriptural” to describe your belief that God is “self-loving” (although as a Trinitarian I actually affirm this since Father, Son, and Spirit are the same God) in spite of the fact that Scripture doesn’t actually articulate this. It seems that you take issue with Trinitarians doing things along these lines; why is that?”

      I used the term “scriptural” to refer to the general scriptural concept/principle of “self-love” (‘…as you love yourself…’ Luke 10:27; Romans 13:9; ‘husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it…’ Ephesians 5:28-29).

      This principle demonstrates that the common philosophical-trinitarian argument that says that in order for love to exist there must be, of necessity, another person/object to love. Therefore, since God is “eternal” and “is love,” God, logically speaking, must be “multi-personal” or else he would be dependent on creating someone in order to be “love” and loving, yet he has “eternally” been such. Therefore, Trinitarians tell us, since God is and always has been “love,” there must have been “personal distinctions” within the “Godhead” from all eternity, i.e., the three “persons” of the Trinity “eternally loved one another.”

      In response to your argument, I was not “reasoning-from-God-to-man” as much I was calling attention to the legitimate concept of “self-love” revealed in Scripture which shows that the common philosophical-trinitarian argument is not a logical necessity. Trinitarians are the ones who make this argument. I describe the argument as “philopshpical” because Scripture, of course, never presents us with this type of reasoning (nor does it, as you yourself acknowledge, articulate the notion that the ‘one God’ is a ‘Trinity’)…

    • Patrick Navas

      The point I made about “self-love” is simply a response to the common philosophical-trinitarian argument. And it just so happens to be that—if we are going to take this kind of philosophical approach—that the only position that actually has some basis in Scripture is the one I presented, in response to the Trinitarian. A person can rightly love one’s self (this is not to say, of course, that Scripture advocates selfishness or self-pleasure at the expense of others). This is a scriptural principle because Scripture speaks of this more than once. It is also a quite valid and logical principle that we all know to be true based on our own personal experience in life. It is right that we “love ourselves.” We do it every day by feeding ourselves, giving ourselves rest, good hygiene, etc.

      Trinitarians have often argued that love must have another object/person in order for love to exist. Yet Scripture does not say this. The point being, I do not hold to some kind of formal doctrine of God’s “self-love” nor am I setting it up as some kind of essential doctrine in reference to God’s nature, as Trinitarians do regarding the “three persons of the Godhead.” It just happens to be that, on philosophical grounds, the point I’m making in response to the Trinitarian argument is the one that actually has a supporting principle in Scripture. The Trinitarian argument does not. It’s a simple point.

    • Patrick Navas

      “And to repeat something I said to another commentator in one of these other posts: not receiving the answer you’d like is not the same thing as not receiving an answer.”

      You and Rob responded to my post but neither of you actually answered my simple/personal question. If the Trinity is true, why do you think the writers of Scripture didn’t present it to us in a formal statement of faith, as they did with every other important doctrine they believed and wanted us to believe? Why do you think they refrained from doing this in the case of the Trinity doctrine but did not do so with other important teachings? That’s all I’m asking.

      “I find it a bit peculiar how folks are willing to take bare statements or propositions and attribute full fledged doctrines to them.”

      With all due respect, this is an extremely bizarre statement. When I and others cite texts like John 17:3 or 1 Corinthians 8:6 (or any plain teaching of Scripture), we are not “attributing-full-fledged-doctrines-to them,” in the sense that we are somehow making something out of them that they are not. These doctrinal statements (and other statements like ‘Jesus is the Christ,’ ‘God raised Jesus from the dead,’ ‘God is love,’ etc.) are examples of the writers of Scripture themselves presenting to us “full fledged doctrines.” They are plain/formal statements of faith. All we are doing is calling attention to their plain and self-evident meaning. And it happens to be that none of the formal statements of Christian faith found in Scripture are actually Trinitarian (statements that teach that the one or only true God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit) but reveal that the one and only true God is the Father and that Jesus the Son is a distinct figure from “the only true God.”

    • Patrick Navas

      “For example, you think that Paul is articulating some kind of doctrine in 1Cor. 8”

      The word “doctrine” simply means “teaching.” Contrary to what you say, Paul is most definitely articulating (reminding and calling attention to) the true Christian “doctrine” or “teaching” that although there may be many that are called “gods” and “lords” out the in the world, for Christians (‘to us’) there is “one God.” In this case, Paul formally teaches/reminds us that the “one God” is “the Father”—an example of authentic Christian doctrine. You (Trinitarians) say that the “one God” is “the Father, Son and Holy Spirit,” something Paul did not ever say. We say that the “one God” is “the Father” because that is what Paul said. So it is definitely a problem for you when we actually have verses in Scripture that explicitly teach what we are defending when it comes to the identity/nature of the “one God,” yet you (Trinitarians) do not. Yet people are supposed to believe that your doctrine (something the Scripture never articulates) is more biblical than ours (something the Scripture explicitly articulates on more than one occasion), namely, that the one God is “the Father” and that Jesus is a distinct figure from this “one/only true God.”

      The other problem for Trinitarianism is that when Paul speaks about Jesus as our “one Lord” in 1 Cor 8:6, Paul is no longer speaking about the “one God” but a figure distinct from the “one God,” namely, our “one Lord” Jesus the Messiah. Somehow this fact is glossed over by Trinitarian apologists when they strangely try to merge Jesus and the Father into one single entity, in spite of the fact that Paul plainly speaks of two (‘one God’ and ‘one Lord’).

    • Patrick Navas

      “when in context all he is doing is calling for faithfulness to God over and against idols (just as the Shema does). Yet for some reason Unitarians read these passages and see fully articulated expressions of Unitarianism where there’s is only one unipersonal God even though no such thing is explicitly stated.”

      Another bizarre and baffling statement. Christians rightly read this text and others like it as “fully articulated expressions” of the Christian doctrine of the one God’s identity. He is, for us, “the Father, out of whom are all things.” Paul explicitly states that the “one God” is “the Father” (one person, what Christians believe). He does not say that the “one God” is “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” (three persons, what Trinitarians believe). And, for Paul, Jesus, our “one Lord,” was a distinct figure from this “one God.” Not because I say so but because Paul himself explicitly presented matters in this way.

      “I could ask why Paul didn’t just come out and say that God is only one person in 1Cor. 8:6 when he had the opportunity to do so, but I don’t, since I don’t find that line of questioning very helpful.”

      “…to us there is one God, the Father…” What else needs to be said?

      “When I read passages like 1Cor. 8:6 or John 17:3 I don’t read them in isolation.”

      Neither do I. In fact, that is why I know that calling Jesus “Lord” in 1 Cor. 8:6 does not mean or imply that he is himself “Jehovah,” the “one God.” Jesus is “Lord” because, as Scripture explicitly tells us, God (someone whom Jesus is not) “made” him to be such (Acts 2:36), and the authority intrinsic to Jesus’ “Lordship” is that which his God and Father has given to him, not something Scripture says he has eternally possessed as “God the Son, the second person of the Trinity.” All we need to do is let Scripture itself inform us regarding the sense in which Jesus is our “Lord.” Scripture is…

    • Patrick Navas

      Scripture is not silent on this matter, but explicit. In addition, the Father (Jehovah) is specifically described in Scripture as “the God of our Lord Jesus…” (Ephesians 1:17). Are you and Rob going to argue that the Father is the “God of our Jehovah”? Is that what Trinitarianism teaches? Is that what the Bible teaches?

      “So in 1Cor. 8:6 Paul identifies Jesus as YHWH by including him in the Shema”

      Paul does not identify Jesus as YHWH by including him in the Shema in 1 Cor. 8:6. Paul could have very easily done so by saying, “God is one, and to us, there is one God, the Father, from whom all things are, and Jesus Christ, through whom all things are.” But Paul didn’t say anything like this. He never merged the identities of the Father and Son into one identity as “one God,” but unmistakably presented the “one God” as “the Father” (not the Trinity) and “Jesus Christ” as a distinct figure from the “one God,” in harmony with every other Scriptural statement.

      Not only does Paul not formally cite the Shema in this case (although he very well have been alluding to it in the preceding statement when he said that ‘God is one’), Paul explicitly identifies Jesus as our “one Lord” yet clearly portrays him as a “Lord” that is distinct from the “one God” (the God of the Shema who is ‘one’). “To us there is one God, the Father…and one Lord, Jesus Christ…”

    • Patrick Navas

      When Paul uses the word “and” after his reference to the “one God,” this means (as if it really required explanation) he is going on to speak about someone distinct from, or in addition to, this “one God” (not someone who is also the ‘one God’), just as Jesus does in John 17:3 by presenting “the only true God” as a distinct figure from himself (‘their knowing you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent’). Did Jesus not do this?

      In reference to 1 Cor. 8:6 you simply repeat the fallacious and bizarre argument of Rob Bowman:

      “Jesus is the “one Lord.” …I argued that Paul’s reference to that Father as the “one God” and Jesus as the “one Lord” both clearly allude to the Shema, so that the text identifies Jesus as the LORD himself.”

      Unfortunately, for Robert Bowman, Paul is not identifying Jesus as “the LORD/Jehovah” himself in this text. How do we know this? Because, as I already pointed out, when Paul speaks about Jesus as our “one Lord,” he is no longer talking about the “one God (= Jehovah).” The “one God” has already been identified. He is, for Paul, and “to us,” “the Father.” If we were to accept Bowman’s claim that Paul’s statement that Jesus is our “one Lord” means “one Jehovah,” then we have Paul telling us the baffling, unscriptural, non-monotheistic, unintelligible, and non-trinitarian statement: “To us there is one God, the Father…and one Jehovah, Jesus Christ.”

      How can Christian “monotheists” have a “one Jehovah” in addition to their “one God,” or a “one Jehovah” that is distinct from the “one God”? The God of the shema was not a “one Lord” or “one Jehovah” that was distinct from the “one God.”

    • Patrick Navas

      So the meaning that Rob wants to give the term “Lord” in this case is (1) not even an intelligible statement; (2) does not even come close to articulating a Trinitarian doctrine of the “one God”, and (3) it is clearly not what Paul means since, in the context, Paul is talking about many “gods” and many “lords” not many “gods” and many “jehovahs” and contrasting this with the Christian belief that there is only one God and one Lord.

      The point, for Paul at least, is that even though the surrounding world recognizes a multitude of “gods” and “lords,” Christians only recognize one “God” and one “Lord,” not “one God” and “one Jehovah.”

      That is, Paul clearly contrasts the belief of the surrounding world with Christian belief in reference to two specific categories: (1) “gods,” and (2) “lords.” Whereas the world has many “gods” and many “lords,” Christians only have one God (the Father) and one Lord (Jesus).

      Scripturally speaking, Christians recognize Jesus as our “one Lord” because he’s the only one (the long-awaited Messiah) whom God has appointed to that status over us. He is the only one to whom the “one God” has given “all authority in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18), the only one whom “the only true God” has given “authority over all flesh” (John 17:2), and the only one God has made to be the “head” of the “congregation” (Ephesians 1:22; 5:23). That is to say, Jesus is “Lord” because the one “God” made him to be such (Acts 2:36), not because I say so but because Scripture explicitly tells us so. Jesus has his authoritative/honorific status (‘Lord of all’) because he has been appointed to that authoritative/honorific status by the one God, his Father, because of his faithfulness to God as God’s “beloved Son” with whom God is “well pleased” (Matthew 3:17) since he “always” did the things that were pleasing to him (John 8:29).

    • Patrick Navas

      Rob also tries to argue:

      “Against Dave’s objection that Paul’s use of the words “one God” exclusively for the Father disproves the Trinitarian claim that Jesus is God, I explained in an important rebuttal comment that this objection confuses vocabulary with meaning. 1 Corinthians 8:6 no more denies that Jesus is God than it denies that the Father is Lord.”

      Rob’s argument is utterly fallacious. Why? Because the point is that Paul explicitly teaches what we are teaching. Actually, it is the other way around, we teach that the one God is “the Father” because we learned it from Paul and from Jesus, the Father’s Son. The Father, Jehovah, is the sovereign “Lord” because he created all things and rules over all. But he is, in fact, not the “one Lord” of 1 Cor. 8:6 who was “made Lord” by someone who is “greater” than himself, as Jesus was. Jesus is our “one Lord” in that specific sense. The Father is not. Jesus’ status as “Lord” in Scripture does not mean he is “ontologically Jehovah.” How do we know this? For many reasons: First, Jesus is “Lord” because he was made to be such. It is a status that was given to him by God. Secondly, the Father is described as “the God of our Lord Jesus…” The Father cannot be “the God of our Jehovah” because it is impossible for “Jehovah” to have one who is God to him, since he is the “Most High God.” If I remember correctly, a while back in one of my discussions with Bowman, he actually tried to argue that the reference to Jesus as our “one Lord” in 1 Cor. 8:6 meant that he was somehow “Lord” in a different way than he is “Lord” in Acts 2:37 where he is explicitly said to have been “made Lord” by God, simply because the term “Lord” in this case was not accompanied by the modifier “one.” That is like arguing that the word “God” in this text has a different meaning or referent in mind than 1 Cor. 8:6 because it is not prefaced by the…

    • Patrick Navas

      because it is not prefaced by the modifier “one.” But the “one God” of 1 Cor. 8:6 is clearly the same “God” of Acts 2:36 who made Jesus “Lord,” just as the “one Lord” of 1 Cor. 8:6 is the same “Lord” of Acts 2:36, namely, Jesus, the one who was “made” Lord by the one God.

      “In John 17:3 I see something affirmed about the Father yet nothing denied of the Son.”

      That is comparable to reading the following statement…

      “To truly experience what our government represents, you must meet the President of the United States, Barack Obama, and you must meet the one he sent, the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.”

      …and then arguing, “In the above sentence, I see something affirmed about Barack Obama (namely, that he is ‘the President of the United States’), yet nothing denied of Hillary Clinton (that is, that she is not ‘the President of the United States’).”

      In the above sentence the speaker does not have to make it a point to deny that Hillary Clinton is “the President of the United States” because it is self-evident and intrinsic to the language used—a logical necessity. The logic could not be more basic. Hillary Clinton cannot be the “President of the United States” because she is the “Secretary of State” who is distinct from “the President of the United States” (Barack Obama) and was “sent” by “the President of the United States.” It simply goes without saying that she is not “the President of the United States.”

    • Patrick Navas

      The same is true when Scripture describes Abraham as “the friend of God.” Does Scripture make a special point to tell us that Abraham is not God? Why would it? It is logically necessary that Abraham is not “God.” If you are the “friend of God” you are not “God” because you are “the friend of God.” Common sense that really needs no elaboration.

      The same common-sense point applies to texts like John 17:3 and other texts like it. Jesus is not presented as “the only true God” but as a distinct figure from “the only true God” that was “sent” by “the only true God.” Jesus did not have to “deny” that he was “the only true God” just as the above sentence does not have to “deny” that Hillary Clinton is not “the President of the United States.” This is already a foregone conclusion by virtue of the fact that she is “the Secretary of State” that was “sent” by “the President of the United States” who is a distinct figure from herself. Likewise, Jesus does not have to go out of his way to “deny” that he is “the only true God” because his purpose is not to prove who he is “not” but who is “is,” namely, the one that was sent by “the only true God,” a figure Jesus himself presented as someone other than himself.

      “I also see that in context Jesus says that salvation is predicated on knowing both himself and the Father so that the understanding that we’re left with is that the Father alone is not enough for eternal life. I also see Jesus recounting the preexistent relationship that he had with the Father when he commands him to glorify him with the glory that they shared before the world existed.”

      I agree that salvation is tied to knowing the only true God and the one he sent, Jesus, but I accept Jesus as he presents himself here, as the one sent by the only true God, the “Christ.” Jesus “commands” the Father to give him glory? Does the Psalmist “command” God to “incline…

    • Patrick Navas

      “And finally, I don’t ask questions of the text that aren’t addressed by the text, such as “why didn’t Paul say something here that I think would have been the ideal place for him to say it?” I wonder, why didn’t Moses mention whether or not Adam and Eve had belly buttons when surely Genesis 2 would have been the perfect place for him to do so?”

      Once again, a bizarre and completely irrelevant statement. Your argument would have merit if I was arguing that the notion that “Adam and Eve had belly buttons” is the central doctrine of Christianity and that our very salvation depends upon acceptance of this. Your comparison is utterly without substance. Trinitarians are not positing an aribitrary, non-religious point that has no relevance to the tenets of the Christian faith. They are positing a doctrine about the very identify of the one God that they say you must accept in order to be a true Christian, in spite of the fact that neither Jesus nor his apostles ever taught it. The Trinitarian claim fittingly begs the obvious question. If the Trinity is true, why didn’t Jesus or his aposltes teach it?

      “I think the difference is that I, as a Trinitarian, can point out the shortcomings in the positive case presented by the Unitarian. From my reading of this debate and my interaction with Unitarians of various groups over the years it seems that they tend to rely on arguments from silence (as you do when you ask why Paul or anyone else didn’t say what you think should be said at an opportune time) rather than dealing with the positive case presented by the Trinitarian.”

      I cannot speak to your past experiences or in regard to your assessment of Dave Burke’s performance in this debate. But I have published a nearly 600 page book (Divine Truth or Human Tradition?) in which I do in fact address essentially every relevant text and positive argument Trinitarians make. I quote Trinitarians directly and represent their arguments accurately, and…

    • Patrick Navas

      and then proceed to show why I believe their arguments fail, from a scriptural perspective.

      Best wishes,

      Patrick Navas

    • cherylu

      Ummm, I have found myself wondering over the last few days if anyone is reading the blog rules here? Particularly # 5? You know the one that says something like, “Please don’t spam comments–don’t make one post right after another.

    • Patrick Navas

      Sorry if I flooded the posts everyone. I didn’t read the rules.

      Patrick

    • MarkE

      Rob,
      May I ask a question?
      If I interpret what you said in my own words (please correct if wrong):
      Christ could sin in theory as otherwise temptation is not real.
      Christ could not sin morally as otherwise one small mistake would have meant that God’s plan of redemption would have failed, and the risk was so high.
      I realise this is a very short summary, but that is what it seems to boil down to.
      So then what was the struggle in Gethsemane about?
      Do you see it as a human “fear of dying”? But we see that Paul had lost that. The average terrorist has lost that (and not because they believe death will be quick and painless). Not only that, but a fear of dying is a human reaction and not a sin yet Hebrews compares our struggle against sin with this struggle in Gethsemane (“You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood” Hebr. 12:2 – maybe not the best translation as that means killing).
      Or do you see it as a fear of failing, but then you think he could not?
      So what are your views on this?
      (@cherylu – sorry, I’ll stick to the rules)

    • Phil McCheddar

      Some suggestions as to why the NT does not teach the Trinity in a nice tidy formula similar to the Nicean Creed:
      (1) Referring to Jesus as God would sometimes create a linguistic ambiguity, eg. it may lead to the absurd idea that: “The Father was in God, reconciling the world to himself” (cf. 2 Cor.5:19).
      (2) There was a risk believers would fall into the trap of thinking there are 3 Gods.
      (3) A formal statement of the Trinity may have misled some people into not accepting the truth of Jesus’ humanity. Jesus’ humanity was an aspect of his nature that was essential for him to become an effective High Priest for us.
      (4) The statement “Jesus is God” may have implied to some people that “God is Jesus” – which is not true.
      (5) It may have misled and confused monotheists into thinking that Jesus is the Father.
      (6) Instead of spoon-feeding people with explicit doctrine, the apostles could communicate some truths more effectively by making allusions and hints and then leaving people to join the dots together for themselves to form the right conclusion (cf. Matthew 11:2-6). This method forces people to think through the ramifications and significance of the issue instead of learning a formal statement of a doctrine but not having any depth of understanding.

      I’m not sure of any of the above – I just throw them into the arena to see if any of these ideas withstand your keen scrutiny!

    • Patrick Navas

      Phil,

      Thanks for attempting to answer my question directly.

      If there was “risk” that believers might fall into the trap of thinking there were “three gods,” could not the apostles have avoided all these “errors” (assuming they believed in the Trinity) by simply explaining all the necessary nuances and qualifications of Trinitarian doctrine so that people would not fall into error? Did they not have this ability? If the statement “Jesus is God” might imply that Jesus is the Father or “God is Jesus” why do Trinitarians say it that way today? And why would it have been misleading for first-century believers but not misleading or confusing now? To me it sounds like you are essentially saying that the explicit doctrine of the Trinity (and associated concepts) would have confused people in NT times. That’s why they refrained from presenting it in that way?

      (6) Instead of spoon-feeding people with explicit doctrine, the apostles could communicate some truths more effectively by making allusions and hints and then leaving people to join the dots together for themselves to form the right conclusion (cf. Matthew 11:2-6). This method forces people to think through the ramifications and significance of the issue instead of learning a formal statement of a doctrine but not having any depth of understanding.

      I agree that the Bible at times uses parables, poetry, symbols, hyperboles, and figures of speech to communicate truths, but, when it comes to essential Christian teaching, I noticed that Jesus and the writers of Scripture always directly and explicitly “spoon fed” essential truths to us. “God raised Jesus from the dead.” “This is eternal life, their knowing you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you sent,” “He that confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him and he in God.” “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son.” “God is one.” “These things were written so that you may…

    • Rob Bowman

      Mark E,

      As I understand it, Jesus was not afraid of dying, nor was he afraid of failing. He dreaded taking on himself the crushing weight of our sin. He knew that in the ordeal of his crucifixion he would feel the weight of our guilt and shame and the pain of feeling abandoned or forsaken by the Father. It was perfectly right for him to express candidly in prayer that he would have rather avoided that experience.

      Does that answer your question?

      By the way, I don’t understand Hebrews 12:4 (not 12:2) to be referring to Jesus’ ordeal in Gethsemane. It means that the readers had not yet had to face martyrdom.

    • Rob Bowman

      Andrew,

      Here are my answers to your questions and comments.

      1. Rabbinical Judaism is not akin to Biblical Unitarianism. Unitarianism is not merely belief in a unipersonal deity. By that standard, Judaism, Islam, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Oneness Pentecostals, and even the ancient pagan worshippers of Zeus, were “Unitarians.” That is not a constructive or informative use of the term. Unitarians believe in a unipersonal God and in Jesus Christ as his created, exalted human agent.

      2. Our aim should not be to accommodate Christian theology to some “Jewish Christianity” that once existed, but to be faithful to the teachings of the apostles. Would you want to accommodate Christian theology to satisfy Paul’s opponents in Galatia?

      3. I didn’t say that Dave’s view entails the sudden disappearance of “Christianity,” but the sudden disappearance of the Unitarianism he claims the apostles taught.

      4. I’m sorry, but you don’t seem to have followed my argument very closely. I didn’t say that there were no non-Trinitarian theologies in the second century. Go back and read what I wrote again, please.

      5. Dave himself made the sweeping observation that the church fathers of the second and third centuries were generally subordinationists, and in that respect deviated from Trinitarianism as formally articulated in the fourth century creeds. If this was the most important way in which they differed from later, explicit Trinitarianism, then they were much more like Trinitarians than they were like Unitarians.

      6. Church history formed no part of my case for the doctrine of the Trinity. I was simply responding to Dave’s argument and showing that it backfired on him. Church history, if anything, supports Trinitarianism. But I have been clear throughout the debate, have I not, that the issue must be decided on the basis of the Bible?

    • Rob Bowman

      Dear Pär,

      You are obviously a very discerning person. 😉

      First, I don’t claim that every use of kurios for Jesus in the NT represents the divine name Yahweh. I look at each occurrence on a case by case basis and attempt to make a determination exegetically as to whether such is the case or not.

      Second, yes, once the Jews routinely used “Lord” (in whatever language) as a surrogate for the name Yahweh, it would be a natural development to attach possessive pronouns to “Lord” even when using it in place of Yahweh.

      Third, Revelation 11:15 is an unambiguous example (“the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ”) of a text that calls the Father “Lord” with a possessive pronoun. Assuming Revelation 4:11 (“our Lord and God”) refers to the Father, that text would probably be another example. I say “probably” because I suppose it is barely possible to construe “our” with “God” only, but I think this is exegetically tough to defend. There are other texts that call the Father “Lord” where this cannot be glossed as “Yahweh” (e.g., Matt. 11:25; James 3:9).

      Fourth, there are several NT texts that call Jesus Lord and allude to or quote from Psalm 110:1, but most do not, and hermeneutically it would be unjustifiable to try to shoehorn all NT references to Jesus as Lord into a narrow understanding of Psalm 110:1.

      Fifth, I don’t see how Psalm 110:1 plausibly helps to avoid the conclusion that such texts as Romans 10:9-13 identify Jesus as Yahweh. Paul tells us explicitly what OT text he has in mind, and it isn’t Psalm 110:1, it’s Joel 2:32.

    • Rob Bowman

      Thomas Gaston,

      Thanks for your comments. Let me repeat what I told Andrew: Church history formed no part of my case for the doctrine of the Trinity. I was simply responding to Dave’s argument and showing that it backfired on him.

      You are correct that the writings of Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian, et. al., have survived because Trinitarian Christians in later centuries found them compatible, by and large, with their own beliefs—or at least in sufficient continuity with orthodoxy that they were worth preserving. I don’t think this observation does anything but support my contention that these second-century and early third-century Christian writers were in general on a trajectory toward Trinitarian theology.

      Now it’s true that writings of Christians whose theological views were well out of that mainstream were not preserved. But the orthodox church fathers’ writings contain a great deal of information about the alternative theologies of their day, and none of those alternative theologies were anything reasonably close to Unitarianism.

      I also agree that some elements of Justin’s theology derived from Hellenistic philosophy, not from the Bible. The trick is to figure out which was which. Where Justin produces numerous biblical proof texts for his position, especially where those proof texts show up in the writings of other early Christian writers, I take it that he was drawing on the Bible for his views, probably as other Christians had taught him. Where Justin’s biblical support is weak or nonexistent, or where his reasoning is evidently drawn from Hellenistic philosophy, I take it that his ideas did not derive from the Bible. Based on this distinction, I conclude that Justin’s belief that Christians were to worship Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and that the Son was himself the LORD God, derived from the Bible, and his subordinationist interpretation of the Son’s relationship to the Father derived from extrabiblical Hellenistic philosophy.

      Finally, I am surprised that you would claim that Unitarians can “agree whole-heartedly” with Aristides. Did he not write the following? “And it is said that God came down from heaven, and from a Hebrew virgin assumed and clothed himself with flesh; and the Son of God lived in a daughter of man” (Apology 2). Is this statement not wholly incompatible with Unitarianism?

    • cherylu

      Hi Rob,

      As a fellow Trinitarian, I find myself wondering what your response would be to Dale’s last post on the “Trinities” blog. He argues there that he believes there is evidence that there was a form of Unitarianism believed in the first century. He does leave this article with an “if I am correct about this” that would be the case kind of statement.

      Here is the link if you have time to read it: http://trinities.org/blog/archives/1981#more-1981

      Thanks ahead of time for any answer you may have time to give. And thanks for all of the time and effort that you have put into this debate.

    • sam shamoun

      This is directed to brother Rob Bowman. I think that both you and Dave have made your case and that there really is no need to continue responding to comments since this will be never ending. This is especially so in light of the fact that most of the questions and comments are all from unitarians and I am afraid that this puts you in a disadvantageous position of being bombarded with objections. I know that you have a lot more to do with your life than to sit behind a computer spending hours responding to for hours.

      Anyway, may the Triune God richly bless you for all you have done and continue to do and for the fantastic job of proving beyond any reasonable doubt that the Holy Bible does affirm the Trinity. I am sure that I speak for all the Trinitarians that we were immensely blessed reading your six part defense of this gloriously revealed truth.

    • Rob Bowman

      Patrick,

      In reply to comment #17 above, you wrote:

      “I had a feeling you would not answer my question. I’m asking honestly, and I’ll ask again. For the sake of argument, let’s say the Trinity is true. From your perspective, why didn’t Jesus or the apostles simply teach/proclaim the doctrine clearly and directly. Did they deliberately avoid teaching it directly, for some reason?”

      Patrick, your question assumes that I think the apostles were holding something back in their teaching. I don’t think any such thing. They taught what they taught in the words they chose under divine inspiration to use. They did not articulate explicitly, “clearly and directly” as you put it, any of the systematic theologies that later developed. That is, they do not teach in explicit form Unitarianism, Arianism, Modalism/Monarchianism, or Trinitarianism. So the exact same hypothetical question that you asked could be posed to a Christadelphian, a Jehovah’s Witness, or a Oneness Pentecostal.

      One could also ask, hypothetically, other questions, such as the following: If it is true that the Scriptures consist of 66 books — 39 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament — and assuming this is important for Christians to know, why didn’t the apostles ever provide a list of the books that belong in the Bible? Why don’t they ever deal “clearly and directly” with the issue of the canon of Scripture?

      Asking such questions, in the end, is a diversion from the task of dealing with what the biblical writers do say.

    • Rob Bowman

      James,

      In the ancient world, bowing before an earthly king was not an act of religious devotion. It was a traditional custom of the culture that carried no religious overtones or implications. The act did not signify that the earthly king was a god. (Of course, in some cases earthly kings claimed to be gods, but the act of bowing before an earthly king was not in and of itself an act that accorded divine honor to the king.)

      On the other hand, bowing before a divinity (real or imagined) or its image, on the other hand, was an act of religious devotion. The LORD forbade the Israelites to bow down to or serve any other gods or any idol, or any of the heavenly bodies such as the sun, moon, or stars (Ex. 20:3-5; 23:24; 34:14; Lev. 26:1; Deut. 4:19; 5:7-9; 8:19; 11:16; 17:3; 30:17; Josh. 23:7, 16; 2 Kings 17:35-36). These texts do not simply prohibit sacrifice to anything other than the LORD (although that is occasionally mentioned, as in 2 Kings 17:36); they prohibit acts of devotion or subservience toward any supposed deity other than the LORD. You seem to think this is a circular argument, but I don’t see why it is. If anyone claims to be a deity, we should not bow to him; if anyone or anything is presented to us as a deity for us to acknowledge, we should not bow before that supposed deity. If anyone other than the LORD claims to occupy his place in the cosmos, we should not acknowledge that claim by bowing before him or by doing anything that would constitute an acceptance of his claim.

      I am not aware of a single text in the OT or the NT describing a figure as the object of proskuneō where the figure functions as an agent of God, unless you count as examples texts in which Christ is the object (which would be circular). The passage you cited, 1 Chronicles 29:20, is no such example. The so-called agency principle is that the agent supposedly receives the same treatment or response as the one whom the agent represents. This principle presupposes a situation in which the sender is not present or visible, but sends an agent in his stead. Supposedly, this would mean that the people would “worship” God’s agent because the agent is there representing God. But in such a situation, the people would not be directing worship to the agent as well as to God, but rather directing the worship to the agent in loco Deus. Yet 1 Chronicles 29:20 states that the people assembled “bowed themselves to the LORD and to the king.” The people do not bow to the king as God’s agent, but as the king, as the people always did toward any human king.

      In the case of Matthew 28:17, the act of bowing before Christ in that context connotes an acknowledgment of him as divine for several reasons. (1) The event has an obvious religious physical setting on a mountain where, if Jesus is just God’s human agent, his place is comparable to that of Moses. Yet the disciples worship Christ. (2) The Gospel of Matthew sets up this narrative in the Temptation narrative, where the devil offers the authority that Christ eventually received if Christ would worship him, to which Christ says that only the LORD is to be the object of worship (Matt. 4). With this narrative framing, the worship of Christ on the mountain in Matthew 28 is evidently the worship that Christ had earlier stated belonged only to the LORD God. (3) Christ claims to have universal authority, i.e., he claims to occupy the place of God in the cosmos. (4) Christ includes himself as the Son alongside the Father and the Holy Spirit as the objects of confession in baptism. (5) Christ promises his continued presence with his people wherever they go in terms that echo similar claims in the OT by God (e.g., Gen. 28:15).

      In other places in this debate, I have explained why proskuneō directed toward Christ in Hebrews 1:6 and Revelation 5:13-14 in those contexts also connotes religious devotion.

      I do not think Jesus is the object of sacrifice in the NT. In your book, you make much of this point. But James, surely you know the reason why: in the NT, Jesus himself is the sacrifice (1 Cor. 5:7; Eph. 5:2; Heb. 7:27; 9:26; 10:10-14). By his death on the cross, Jesus accomplished redemption for all time and made the sacrifices and offerings of the old covenant passé. Why would Christians offer animal sacrifices to the One who was himself the ultimate and final sacrifice, the Lamb of God? Indeed, the practice of offering sacrifices in the temple seems to have been exceptional rather than routine even among the Jewish Christians prior to the temple’s destruction (Acts 21:20-26 seems to be our only recorded example, and the circumstances suggest that it was an exceptional occurrence). So this is hardly a convincing basis on which to argue that the NT writers do not view Jesus as God.

      You make a worthy point regarding Solomon sitting “on the throne of the LORD” (1 Chron. 29:23). I address this point in Putting Jesus in His Place:

      In 1 Chronicles, David stated that God had chosen his “son Solomon to sit upon the throne of the kingdom of the LORD over Israel” (1 Chron. 28:5). As Martin Hengel points out, David’s statement falls short of what the New Testament says about Christ. “Here it is not a question of the heavenly throne of God itself, but of the ideal kingdom of the house of David, that Yahweh as the true king of Israel established, a motif that can be traced back to 2 Sam. 7:14 in connection with 1 Sam. 8:7 and 16:1” (Studies in Early Christology, 180). At the end of 1 Chronicles the author states, “Then Solomon sat on the throne of the LORD, succeeding his father David as king” (1 Chron. 29:23). In light of the previously quoted statement of David, the meaning here is that the Lord is the true king of Israel (1 Sam. 8:6-7); David and his sons are simply ruling on his behalf, subject to his continued support (cf. 1 Chron. 29:25). These statements do not speak of the king ruling from God’s heavenly throne, but they do suggest that in some sense the king rules in God’s place. [248]

      So I agree that in a limited sense, the Israelite king (David or Solomon especially) functioned as God’s “agent” in that they ruled Israel on his behalf. I even agree that this motif establishes some precedent for the NT teaching that Christ rules from God’s throne. In the NT, however, what was a very limited, circumscribed agency with regard to the Israelite king is expanded to include Jesus Christ in the very identity of God. OT texts referring to Yahweh are applied to Christ. He is given divine titles such as God, Alpha and Omega, and Savior, in contexts where the divine status these convey is unmistakable. He is credited with making the universe and sustaining it. He is the object of the fear of the LORD, the love that Israel was to have toward the LORD, the doxological praises that David gave to the LORD, the singing of hymns to the LORD, and the worship that Jesus himself said belonged only to the LORD. At some point, I would think, the “agency” principle just breaks down as an explanatory filter.

    • MarkE

      Rob,
      Re #60. Yes it’s an answer. Thanks, I now understand your point of view.

    • James F. McGrath

      Thank you, Rob, for your detailed reply.

      I’ll post about other details on a later occasion if it still seems worthwhile, but for now let me focus on two major substantive points whichprobably undergird many of the details on which we differ.

      First, why should we be surprised if a worldview that allowed the divine name Yahweh to be bestowed upon agents, also applied texts about Yahweh to such agents. The transfer or sharing of the name seems to encourage such use of Yahweh texts – without necessarily implying eternal inclusion in the divine identity.

      Second, belief in an omnipresent God either requires distinctive thinking about agency, or eliminates the possibility of agency altogether. As the Gospel of John puts it, “The one who sent me is with me.”

    • Kaz

      Rob,

      You said:

      “The passage you cited, 1 Chronicles 29:20, is no such example. The so-called agency principle is that the agent supposedly receives the same treatment or response as the one whom the agent represents. This principle presupposes a situation in which the sender is not present or visible, but sends an agent in his stead. Supposedly, this would mean that the people would “worship” God’s agent because the agent is there representing God. But in such a situation, the people would not be directing worship to the agent as well as to God, but rather directing the worship to the agent in loco Deus. Yet 1 Chronicles 29:20 states that the people assembled “bowed themselves to the LORD and to the king.” The people do not bow to the king as God’s agent, but as the king, as the people always did toward any human king.”

      First, the act of proskuneo offered at 1 Chron 29:20 was a sort of physically expressed “Amen!” that came at the end of a long worshipful prayer to Jehovah. The context is clearly that of worship and the proskuneo offered was therefore a physical gesture offered as part of that worship. This was more than the standard bowing a person would offer to a king in a purely secular context.

      Second, the king sat on God’s throne and was therefore a sort of physical expression of God’s ruling authority. He therefore _was_ an agent of God. Note how the Amplified Bible captures this:

      “And David said to all the assembly, Now adore (praise and thank) the Lord your God! And all the assembly blessed the Lord, the God of their fathers, and bowed down and did obeisance to the Lord and to the king [as His earthly representative].”

      The king was considered God’s earthly representative and this made him an agent. There is no reason to think that an agent couldn’t be given proskuneo along with God, esp. in the context of a coronation, where the representational authority of the king is in view.

      ~Kaz

    • Tom McCall

      For discussion of the coherence of the doctrine of the Trinity, you might also want to see *Philosophical and Theological Essays on the Trinity,* eds. Thomas McCall and Michael Rea (OUP, 2009).

    • Sam Shamoun

      Kaz, since you think that an agent can receive worship or pruskyneo alongside God can you please explain to me why the angel in Revelation 19:10 and 22:8-9 refused to recieve it even though he was clearly the agent of God and Christ according to Rev. 22:6 and 16? And further explain to me why Peter in Acts 10:25-26 refused it even though he too was an agent of God and Christ whom God had exalted in the heavenly places to sit with Christ on his throne and who would some day judge the nation of Israel in the kingdom which Christ promised to confer upon him and the other eleven disciples? See Matthew 19:28; Luke 22:28-30; Ephesisnas 2:6; Reve. 2:26-28; 3:21.

    • Kaz

      Hi Sam,

      Thank you for your questions.

      First, that proskuneo could be offered to the king alongside God isn’t really something I “think”; it’s something that seems to be presented to us rather clearly at 1 Chron 29:20. I consider it essentially impossible that the proskuneo the Jews offered in the “Amen!” gesture did not involve worship. Indeed, it’s hard for me to imagine any context in which the Jewish nation would prostrate themselves before Jehovah in recognition of his sovereignty where that act did not involve worship. Yet this single act of proskuneo was offered to both God and the king. This doesn’t mean that I think the Jews were in the habit of worshiping their kings indiscriminately, but 1 Chron 29 is a scene involving the coronation of one who would occupy God’s throne. As I said on James McGrath’s blog, there could scarcely be a clearer example of the application of the agency paradigm. You have the principal, God, who is appealed to for his blessing; you have an agent, the king, whose coronation involved the investment of divine authority as one who sat on God’s throne; and you have a nation of subjects who offer a gesture that seems to constitute their recognition of this relationship. The agency paradigm is fairly broad in its application and this is one example of that paradigm/concept at work.

      The question about the angel in Rev is addressed briefly by James McGrath here:

      http://www.jrdkirk.com/?p=727#comment-2899

      See my response directly below his post.

      As for Peter, there are probably a number of possible explanations. While he would eventually rule with Christ, he didn’t yet occupy a throne (whether one takes that literally or figuratively), nor did he sit on God’s throne, specifically, the way that David and Solomon did, as that throne was reserved for Christ.

      ~Kaz

    • Kaz

      Hi Sam,

      For another striking example where a king receives proskuneo with God’s blessing, see Isa. 45. In this account Cyrus is referred to as “Messiah”; God gives Cyrus a “name” (though unstated) that signifies conferred authority; and Cyrus is “worshiped/given obeisance” (he receives προσκυνήσουσί). Notice the correspondence between verses 14-17 and verses 22-25, which clearly seems to suggest that it was by bowing before Cyrus that “every knee” was made to bend and “every tongue” made to swear to Jehovah! The account is clearly Messianic, which is why Paul alluded to it at Philippians 2.

      ~Kaz

    • Sam Shamoun

      Kaz, thanks for your comments but you really didn’t adrress my question.

      In the first place, my comments concerning what you think wasn’t directed to your point regarding the king receiving worship alongside God. I was commetning on your claim concerning agency.

      Second, your reply regarding Peter won’t do since Jesus recieved proskyneo while on earth before he ascended to the throne and began to rule so why didn’t Peter? And Peter does in fact sit on God’s throne since according to Rev. 3:21 alll who overcome will sit on Christ’s throne who happens to sit on the Father’s throne. Thus, Peter being seated on the throne of Christ means that by extension he is also sitting on the throne of God. So I don’t see how your comments address my question here.

      Finally, McGrath’s comments do not explain why the angel refused worship. If an agent can receive proskyneo then why not this angel? To say he is a servant doesn’t address it since all Christian believers, including the apostles, were/are servants of God and Christ.

      This leads me to my next point. If as McGrath says that the angel is a servant like the human Christians then why are human Christians permitted to receive proskyneo in Revelation 3:9 whereas the angel is not? If all he is is a servant and on that grounds should not be rendered proskyeno then this surely must apply to all the other servants as well. So this leaves you with another problem, namely why are human Christians allowed to receive proskyneo but not God’s heavenly agents?

      Finally, doesn’t Peter’s refusal to receive proskyneo and the angel’s censoring of John actually prove that being agent, even one who shares in God’s rule and the exaltation of Christ, doesn’t qualify you for or give you the right to receive proskyneo?

      So I am left with the conclusion that your definition of agency is simply defective in light of the Biblical examples I provided. The Bible seems to contradict your understanding of agency.

    • Sam Shamoun

      continued

      So in light of this could you please reconcile 1 Chronicles 29:20 and Revelation 3:9 with what I said concerning Acts 10:25-26, Revelation 19:10 and 22:8-9? That would be much appreciated.

    • Sam Shamoun

      Kaz, I have to take issue with your interpretation of Isaiah 45:13-17 since you assume that vv. 14-15 necessarily apply to Cyrus. I disagree. However, we can discuss that some other time.

    • Kaz

      Hi Sam,

      It certainly could be quite interesting to get into an extended dialogue about the various instances in which proskuneo was offered to various individuals, what was signified by this elastic gesture in each individual context, why some received it with apparent approval and others without it, etc, but that’s really not my objective here. It’s an involved subject and I’m afraid that it would involve a greater time commitment than I am in a position to offer you right now. Perhaps we can take this up again at some point in the future.

      My twofold point here is that (i) kingship was a form of agency, and (ii) that kings were permitted to receive proskuneo alongside God and with his blessing in contexts where worship was apparently involved. My point is not and has never been that merely being an agent is itself a necessary basis upon which one becomes the rightful recipient of proskuneo, certainly not proskuneo that involves worship. The context and the form of agency must be carefully considered, and we should approach the subject with a degree of humility, recognizing that we are too far removed historically to expect to apprehend the absolutely definitive answer to every question.

      ~Kaz

    • MarkE

      Rob,
      As there are not a large list of outstanding questions for you, I would like to ask something else.

      In week 1 you started by listing the characteristics of God. As I understood the intention, it was to prove that if Christ showed these characteristics it is proof he is God (in the following weeks). As such I do not completely agree with the way it was worked out, as I agree that man in a mortal state does not have these characteristics, but that does not imply that man cannot be given some of these characteristics when raised in a new and glorious body, but I’ll leave that aside.

      A characteristic not mentioned, but in the Bible, is the complete unchangeableness of God. He can be completely relied on as He does not change. He is not human to change His mind. The limited number of words allowed here hampers also a complete description of this in Isaiah 40 – 48. There is also James 1:17, but maybe you only apply that to God the Father (not linked to Psalm 136?).
      So how does this link to Jesus, where a number of attributes contrary to God are visible:
      He is mortal, he is not omniscient, he can be tempted, and these are but a few. By taking on human nature, God has therefore shown He can change and destroyed the argument that He does not.
      I notice that Christ’s omniscience is defined by what happens to suit particular verses. He can remember the glory with the Father, but not remember when things will happen. He does remember the outcome of his suffering etc.
      So how do you link God’s unchanging nature (linked to promises) with a complete change taking on human nature? I would like to hear your view.

    • Antioch

      Rob (or any Trinitarian),

      If an individual who did not believe the doctrine of the trinity nevertheless received salvation, would this not mean that the doctrine is not essential to Christian belief?

    • sam shamoun

      Kaz,

      Since this is an involved subject which requires more time than you currently have we will leave it at that. If the Lord wills we can discuss it in the future when we both have more time. Thanks for your thoughts and taking the time to answer some of my questions.

    • Dave

      The entire exchange is collected conveniently on the following page:

      http://crande.blogspot.com/2010/04/great-trinity-debate-bowman-burke.html

    • […] his sixth and final installment of the debate, Bowman turns in his finest performance, making a number of interesting moves, and […]

    • trinities

      SCORING THE BURKE – BOWMAN DEBATE – Final Reflections (DALE)…

      Congratulations to both debaters on a fight well fought. (Here’s all the commentary.) Plenty of punches, thrown hard, relatively few low blows – two worthy opponents. Certainly, the fight must be decided on points, as there was no decisive …

    • MarkE

      A quote from someone who has written various books combining a scholarly approach and a readable style:

      It is also now recognized that the background of much of John’s Gospel is Jewish, and not exclusively Greek. Early traditions place the origin of this gospel in Ephesus, which made it inevitable that scholars should look for an exclusively Hellenistic background, especially in view of the prologue (1:1–18) which explains the incarnation in terms of the word or logos. Apart from the fact that Hellenism is now known to have been all-pervasive throughout the Roman empire, even in Palestine, it is interesting to note that if the prologue is removed from John there is little in the rest of it that demands a Greek background. Not only is there an emphasis throughout the gospel on the fulfilment of the Old Testament, but the evangelist states his purpose in a very Jewish form: ‘these things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ [Messiah], the Son of God’ (20:31).

      (Introducing the New Testament , John Drane, 2000, p.213).

      So why not try to read that last section, the prologue, against a Jewish background as well, even is that does go against tradition?

    • Dave Burke

      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.

    • Dave Burke

      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:

      1. I claimed that Mowinckel “insisted the Jewish conception of predestination and prefiguration must inform our understanding of passages appearing to speak of pre-existence”
      2. Mowinckel does indeed insist that the Jewish conception of predestination and prefiguration must inform our understanding of passages appearing to speak of pre-existence
      3. 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.

    • Dave Burke

      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 foonote 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.

    • Dave Burke

      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.

    • Dave Burke

      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, 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?

    • Dave Burke

      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?

    • Dave Burke

      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:

      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): NoArnold, 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.

    • Dave Burke

      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.

    • Dave Burke

      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:

      1. As the name for the Trinity as a concept (ie. the concept of three persons in one being)
      2. 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.

    • Dave Burke

      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.”

    • Dave Burke

      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.

    • Dave Burke

      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).

    • Dave Burke

      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.

    • Dave Burke

      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.

    • Dave Burke

      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?

    • Dave Burke

      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).

    • Dave Burke

      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.

    • Dave Burke

      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.

    • Dave Burke

      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.

    • Dave Burke

      The Holy Spirit (IV)
      Rob,

      “You say that the term ‘Paraclete’ confirms the Holy Spirit was someone, not just something; but what exactly is the reasoning here? I can refer to my daughter’s ‘comfort blanket’ without suggesting that the blanket itself is a literal person with the ability to encourage, comfort, support, help, defend, etc.”
      Again, I have to say that I am embarrassed for you when you make such statements, because they show that you simply cannot handle the evidence that confronts you. The Holy Spirit is not called “comfort” but rather “the Comforter”; not “help” but “the Helper”; not “defense” but “the Defender” (pick your translation of paraklētos). The word paraklētos is a personal noun, just as much as “savior” or “ruler” or “teacher.” And that the term refers to an actual person is evident from the context, as I explained and have explained again.

      But your objection is still invalid; it seems clear that you’re either avoiding the issue or failing to understand it. Something can be a “comforter”, “helper”, or “defender” without being a person; this is a fait accompli. The onus is on you to demonstrate that the word here is a personal noun. The comforter (or counsellor, as you will), is also referred to by Christ as the “spirit of truth”, which is certainly not a personal noun and is a term which was used in Second Temple Judaism as an impersonal force or inclination (as in Testament of Judah 20:1, 3, 5, 1QS 3:18-21, Hermas 3:4).

      You have failed to explain or demonstrate the use of a specifically impersonal term, to describe what you claim is a person.

    • Dave Burke

      The Holy Spirit (V)
      Rob,

      The LXX uses ekcheō several times of human persons (“and pouring out my soul before the Lord,” 1 Sam. 1:15; “I am poured out like water,” Ps. 22:14 [21:15], “I poured out my soul upon me,” Ps. 42:4 [41:5]; “pour out your hearts before him,” Ps. 62:8 [61:9]; “and now my soul is poured out upon me,” Job 30:16). Jude 11 uses it in an unusual context, of wicked people who “poured themselves out to the error of Balaam.” The verb spendomai denotes the pouring out of a drink offering and so is irrelevant to the Holy Spirit. The same Hebrew verb translated “poured out” in Isaiah 32:15, ‘ārāh (“Until the Spirit is poured out upon us”) is also used in Isaiah 53:12 in reference to the Suffering Servant’s death (“he poured out himself to death”).

      Once again you’re not addressing the issue. We have here a soul poured out before the Lord (meaning inner thoughts exposed), a person poured out like water (meaning fatigue or total exhaustion), people who poured themselves out to the error of Balaam (meaning people who gave themselves over to it), someone’s soul poured out on themselves (actually ‘within me’, meaning they are wasting away or grieving, NET footnote), someone who poured out themselves to death (meaning they willingly submitted to death), but in none of these passages do we have the phrases used of the Holy Spirit:

      • None of them say that person X is poured on, into, or over person Y
      • None of them say that person X pours out person Y onto person or persons Z
      • Nor do any of them say that person X is filled with person Y

      You need proper parallels. All you’re doing is showing that this language just isn’t used of people.

    • Dave Burke

      The Holy Spirit (VI)
      Rob,

      The Bible never refers to the Holy Spirit being “divided.” I can only guess at what text or texts you might have in mind, since you don’t cite any. Acts 2:3 says that tongues as of fire appeared to be distributed or divided and to rest on each of the disciples. This doesn’t say that the Holy Spirit was divided, but that a manifestation of the Holy Spirit was divided or distributed. I cannot even think of another text that you might have in mind.

      I don’t mind rephrasing for the sake of the argument, though I note you didn’t address the actual point that the Holy Spirit was shared among people (if this didn’t involve division, what did it involve?) What do you make of the Old Testament reference to a ‘double portion’ of the Spirit in II Kings 2:9? If that’s not the language of division into parts, what is?

      By the way, the NET translates “May I receive a double portion of the prophetic spirit that energizes you”, though the Hebrew is literally “your spirit.” Surely you’ll agree that “your spirit” in this case does not really mean “you”, and you will agree that it’s possible for the spirit possessed by one person to be given to another person, without either of them being that spirit or that spirit being them? Thus the “spirit of the Lord,” and the “spirit of Christ”, and the “spirit of God” does not mean that all these referents are in fact one and the same being.

      So why didn’t you address my point? (Let me guess: “I don’t know and I can’t answer your question”).

      I have seen this technique enough times now to recognise it as part of your regular strategy; you attempt to distract the reader with an attack on the argument presented, then quickly move on without answering the question or dealing with the substance of the argument. I don’t know how you think it looks, but from where I’m standing it gives the strong impression of someone who can’t answer the challenges presented to him.

      This does not assist your credibility.

    • Dave Burke

      The Holy Spirit (VII)
      Rob,

      The use of the possessive pronoun is hardly decisive or definitive in support of your conclusion. In order to make the argument work, you must also show that “Holy Spirit” actually denotes something impersonal. Otherwise, “my Holy Spirit” or the like is no more indicative of a non-person than “my Son” or “my Servant.”
      By the way, the expression “my Holy Spirit” never occurs in Scripture. You will find “his Holy Spirit” occurring in two passages (Isa. 63:10-11; 1 Thess. 4:8) and “your Holy Spirit” in just one passage (Ps. 51:10). The Spirit is called “my Spirit” 12 times in the OT and never in the NT except in two quotations from the OT. The Spirit is called “his [God’s] Spirit” or “your Spirit” 9 times in the OT and 3 times in the NT.

      Once again you evade the issue and fail to address my argument. The argument I am making is that the Holy Spirit is described as a property of God. I note you have not denied this point. If you want to explain how a person can be a property of God, please do so. Meanwhile, you need to address the fact that the Holy Spirit is repeatedly referred to as a property of God, “My Spirit” (“My Holy Spirit” in some of the looser translations, e.g. TLB), “My Spirit”, “Your Holy Spirit”, “His Holy Spirit”, “the Spirit of God”, etc.

      You helpfully acknowledge the reference is analogous to references to God’s word, and that these can be understood as abstractions or circumlocutions for God Himself, and that this OT usage carries over to some extent to the New Testament. Thank you, that’s precisely what I am arguing. Attributes and properties of God can be understood as occasionally circumlocutions for God Himself, but this does not change the fact that they are attributes and properties of God, they are not God Himself.

      You return to the ad hoc “new revelation” argument. As I’ve stated before, I agree that progressive revelation is possible. What you need to show me is that in this specific case it actually took place. Where is it? I don’t see if. If you see it, where do you see it? I’m looking at the NT right now, and I’m seeing not a difference, but a continuity, not a new revelation that the Holy Spirit is a person who comprises part of a triunity within the Godhead. I see “Spirit of God”, “Spirit of your Father”, “Spirit of Him”, “Spirit of the Lord”, and “His Spirit”, “His Holy Spirit” in the NT.

      What you are doing is characteristic of distinctive Trinitarian word gymnastics, whereby “Spirit of God” means “God the Holy Spirit” and “son of God” means “God the Son.” This is demonstrably insupportable unless you think eisegesis is an ideal way to approach Scripture.

      Of course you reserve this word re-interpretation for references to the Spirit and the Son; you don’t do it anywhere else. The “spirit of infirmity” isn’t re-interpreted as “Infirmity the Spirit”, nor “spirit of man” re-interpreted as “Man the Spirit.” You reserve this peculiar re-interpretation for the Holy Spirit and Christ, which is special pleading at its finest. Everywhere else the possessive pronoun is used you interpret it as such, but not in these cases.

      Why not go one step further and claim the “name of God” really means “God the Name”?

    • Dave Burke

      The Holy Spirit (VIII)
      Rob,

      Of course the Holy Spirit has a name. Jesus said he did (Matt. 28:19). The name distinctively designating him is “Holy Spirit.” Is he Yahweh? Yes, he is the LORD (see 2 Cor. 3:16-18; cf. Acts 5:3-9). Remember, your own view concedes that the Holy Spirit is at least an aspect of God, not something separate from God. So, if the Holy Spirit is a person, he must be the LORD God.

      Thanks, that’s exactly what I was waiting to hear. Now all you need to do is show me evidence that “Holy Spirit” is a name. Surely you’re aware that “in the name of” (not “in the names of”), in Matthew 28:19 is a complete phrase meaning “with the authority of”? Whether expressed with “en“, “epi“, or “eis“, the phrase “in the name of” has this meaning. We went through this in Week 5, remember? Let’s review some standard commentaries:

      • Newman, B. M., & Stine, P. C. (1992), A handbook on the Gospel of Matthew, UBS helps for translators; UBS handbook series, p.886, “In the name of means ‘by the authority of'”
      • Bibliotheca Sacra (1996), “The expression, ‘in the name of the Lord Jesus,’ means under the authority and approval of Him”
      • Bibliotheca Sacra Volume 157. 2000 (625) (22), “‘in the name of Jesus’ (i.e., under His authority and will)”
      • Moo, D. J. (2008), The letters to the Colossians and to Philemon, The Pillar New Testament commentary, p.291, “When believers are baptized ‘in the name of Jesus’ they come under his authority and are called to conform to his character”
      • Friberg, T., Friberg, B., & Miller, N. F. (2000), Vol. 4: Analytical lexicon of the Greek New Testament, Baker’s Greek New Testament library, p.282, “ἐν (τῷ) ὀνόματι used to claim authority for something in the name of”
      • Theological dictionary of the New Testament (1964-), G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley & G. Friedrich, Ed. (electronic ed.), p.245, “the documents of authorisation are always deposited in the ‘names’ of those concerned”
      • Theological dictionary of the New Testament (1964-), G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley & G. Friedrich, Ed. (electronic ed.), p. 245, “διάστειλον εἰς ὄνομα τοῦ δεῖνα ἀρτάβας18 (2nd cent. A.D.); σύμβολον εἰς τοῦ Κλεομάχου ὄνομα P. Hibeh, 74, 3; permit in the name of Kleomachos (3rd cent. B.C.)”
      • Balz, H. R., & Schneider, G. (1990-), Vol. 2: Exegetical dictionary of the New Testament, p.521, “In the LXX, ἐπὶ τῷ ὀνόματι is used interchangeably with ἐν τῷ ὀνόματι with the same meaning, esp. with ‘by commission of / on the authority of.'”

      On what grounds do you split this phrase up, give it a completely different meaning, and argue from it that “Holy Spirit” is a personal name? If I go to the B-Greek email list and ask them if “Holy Spirit” is a personal name, what do you think they’ll tell me? If I look up the relevant words in the standard lexicons, will I be told that “Holy Spirit” is a personal name? If I search for “Holy Spirit” in standard Bible dictionaries and encyclopaedias, will I be told that “Holy Spirit” is a person name? Remember, it appears in the Old Testament as well. Was it a personal name back then? I don’t mind you making these claims, but you have to understand that they’re completely irrelevant without evidence.

      Incidentally:

      • II Corinthians 3:16-18 says “the Lord is the Spirit” and “the Lord, who is the Spirit”; it doesn’t say “The Holy Spirit is the LORD”
      • Acts 5:3-9 doesn’t say that the Holy Spirit is God, nor does it say that the Holy Spirit is “the LORD” (this was covered in Week 4)
    • Dave Burke

      The Holy Spirit (IX)
      Rob,

      “Where in the book of Acts do we find the apostles preaching that the Holy Spirit is a person, and where do we find the Jewish reaction to this novel theology?”
      There you go again, Dave, with yet another argument from silence. The focus of their preaching was on Christ, not the Holy Spirit, in keeping with the Holy Spirit’s mission (as Christ himself had stated in advance) of testifying to and glorifying the Son, not himself (John 15:26-27; 16:13-14; Acts 1:8). The Jews who opposed the Christian movement had plenty to keep them upset even if they never noticed that Christians viewed the Holy Spirit a bit differently than they did.

      You’re either still confused about what constitutes an argument from silence, or deliberately repeating a false claim in the hope that our readers won’t realise what you’re doing.

      An argument from silence is the argument that since there’s no evidence for claim X, claim X must be false. I did not do this. I asked why there is negative evidence which is contra-indicatory to claim X. Negative evidence against claim X means the absence of evidence which would reasonably be expected if claim X was true. Positive evidence against claim X means the presence of evidence which contradicts claim X. A robust case against claim X will include negative and positive evidence.

      In this case I’m asking you to explain the negative evidence against claim X. One of your two answers is that the Holy Spirit wasn’t the focus of their preaching. This is incredible given that it is centre stage in their preaching from Acts 2 onwards, and repeatedly identified as a critical aspect of their preaching in Acts 10, to the extent that it is identified as necessary pre-baptismal teaching in Acts 19. Your other answer is that the Jews simply had too much to keep them upset to notice (!), if they ever did notice (!!)

      These are ad hoc arguments, the fact of which is exposed easily by the fact that you don’t supply any evidence for either of them, the fact that there is evidence to the contrary, and the fact that they simply generate more questions. Your entire paragraph can be summarised in the words “I don’t know and I can’t answer your question.”

      The most important point is that you acknowledge there is no evidence whatever that the apostles preached the Holy Spirit is a person. Thank you. This is negative evidence in favour of the Unitarian case.

    • Dave Burke

      Father, Son & Holy Spirit (I)
      Rob,

      My Week 5 argument opened with a large body of Scriptural evidence demonstrating the Biblically defined relationship between Father, Son and Holy Spirit. At ~1,400 words it is too long to repeat here, but if you follow the hotlink I’ve provided, you will find it easily. It begins with the words “For Biblical Unitarians, the relationship between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit begins with the Father as head of a divine hierarchy” and ends with a quote from Hebrews 2:4.

      I mention this because you did not address any of it in your rebuttal. Either you agreed with it (unlikely) or you didn’t want to deal with it (more likely). Most of our readers probably arrived at the latter of these conclusions, as do I.

      You say:

      The deliberate parallelism of these three lines practically speaks for itself. If a Jew unfamiliar with Christianity read these lines alone, he would certainly understand “the same Spirit”, “the same Lord”, and “the same God” to be three synonymous expressions for the same Creator.

      Would he really? Why? I have to ask because you merely make the assertion; you offer no evidence to support it. It looks like a typical non sequitur to me.

      Levinson (The Spirit In First Century Judaism, 2002) identifies the range of understanding of “the spirit” (not just “the Holy Spirit”), in 1st century Jewish theology as follows:

      • The prophetic spirit of Balaam was in fact the inspiration of the angel who talked with him (Philo and Josephus)
      • Life itself (Pseudo-Philo, Numbers 22-24)
      • A manifestation of the divine presence (Josephus)
      • Divine inspiration in the form of wisdom or prophetic revelation (Philo, LXX, ‘the divine spirit of wisdom’, Psalms of Solomon, Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs)
      • The breath of life (Philo)

      See also McGrath, An Introduction to Christianity (1997), p.209:

      However, patristic writers were hesitant to speak openly of the Spirit as “God,” in that this practice was not sanctioned by Scripture – a point discussed at some length by Basil of Caesarea in his treatise on the Holy Spirit (374-5). Even as late as 380, Gregory of Nazianzen conceded that many orthodox Christian theologians were uncertain as to whether to treat the Holy Spirit “as an activity, as a creator, or as God.”‘

      Even Basil himself was strongly averse to referring to the Holy Spirit as “God”:

      It is therefore notable that, while adopting formulae and language whihc plainly imply the substantial Trinity, Basil does not write of the Holy Spirit as “God” or as “consubstantial with the Father.” So in a letter asserting the one essence, he concludes “God the Father” and ‘God the Son” (Gk theon huion), but “the divine Holy Spirit” (Gk to theion pneuma to hagion). He does not want to expose his case to the retort that it adds unbiblical titles to the Spirit, though there can be no doubt about what he believes.

      (Hall, Stuart G, Doctrine and Practice in the Early Church, SPCK, 1991, pp.158-59).

      Kessler & Wenborn, A Dictionary of Jewish-Christian Relations (2005), p.196:

      Paul’s comment, in Acts 28:25, that the Holy Spirit “spoke to the fathers through Isaiah” mirrors the traditional understanding of Holy Spirit, based on the Hebrew term ruah ha-kodesh, which indicates a force emanating from God that impels prophecy and other forms of divine inspiration.

      You say:

      Orthodox Christians have always understood that our views of the nature of God and of the person of Jesus Christ as both God and man are paradoxical. In his Dialogue with Trypho, Justin Martyr, writing in the middle of the second century, represented his Jewish interlocutor Trypho as raising such objections to the Christian belief in the deity of Jesus Christ:

      However, as Martyr demonstrates, this is a paradox which the Jews would not accept. How, then, could it possibly have arisen from the first-century Jewish milieu? After all, that is the theological context in which Christianity emerges.

      The “paradox” itself requires closer scrutiny (more on this later).

    • Dave Burke

      Father, Son & Holy Spirit (II)
      Rob,

      You take the view that Christ was incapable of sin, whilst claiming he could still be tempted. The contradiction here is obvious, but you claim that any attempt to reject it is merely a “rationalistic assumption.” Jonathan Edwards, Wayne Grudem, William G. T. Shedd and other Trinitarian scholars beg to differ (as do I). They cannot be easily dismissed by waving the “rationalistic assumption” flag.

      The entire sum of your attempt to defend the contradiction of temptation without the possibility of sin boils down to little more than “There’s no evidence for the non-Trinitarian view that Jesus was guarded against sin by the Holy Spirit, so that leaves the Trinitarian view that he was God.” Not only is this a false dilemma, it ignores completely the fact that we are told at least twice that Jesus was ministered to by angels, once after the temptation and the second time most notably in Gethsemane, where he was specifically “strengthened” by an angel. Of course if he was God there would be no need for this.

      You acknowledge that being filled with the Spirit may have been a necessary condition of Christ’s sinless life, but you have only your opinion to go on when you say it “does not seem to be a sufficient condition or explanation.” This skirts dangerously close to the argument from incredulity (“It is invalid because I find it difficult to believe”). I do not actually argue that the Holy Spirit prevented Jesus from sinning; I merely offer the suggestion that its presence assisted his resistance to temptation and sin (possibly by heightening his awareness of the Father’s own presence via His Spirit).

      Your claim that Jesus as the divine son of God “simply could not sin” renders Jesus’ temptation a farce and comprises a blatant ad hoc argument, since you never actually provide any passages of Scripture which say this. Nor do you explain how someone can be tempted to do X, but morally incapable of doing X. To be tempted to do X means that there is sufficient will to do X, regardless of finer moral sentiments within the conscience. You provide no evidence whatsoever for your claim that someone can be tempted to do X without being morally capable of doing it, and of course Scripture never describes temptation in this way.

      You say that I am confusing “capability with moral capacity”, and make some attempt to explain what you mean by this. But the explanation fails to demonstrate how Jesus could be tempted without the possibility of sinning. Ultimately, all you can do is re-assert the contradiction that it is possible to be tempted without the possibility of sin. If someone is incapable of experiencing any inclination to perform an act, there can be no temptation to perform it. Temptation requires the capacity to sin; without that capacity, there is no temptation. This is the crux of the issue.

      Let’s compare your argument with the evidence of Scripture:

      Scripture says Jesus was tempted (Matthew 1:4, Mark 1:13, Luke 4:2) without any qualification: you want to qualify this with the ad hoc statement “Of course this means he was tempted to do something he was unable to do”

      Scripture says Jesus was tempted in every way that we are but did not sin (Hebrews 4:15), identifying the process of his temptation as identical to ours, a process which can result in sin: you want to say that Jesus was <i<not tempted as we are, and that the process of his temptation was utterly different to ours because he could not sin

      Scripture showing us that Christ prayed to God as he agonized over temptation in Gethsemane, and was strengthened by an angel: you want to tell us that despite all this it was actually impossible for him to sin and that since he was God there was no need for assistance

      Christ himself saying that he could have called on an angelic army to save himself: yet you say he could not have done anything contrary to the will of his Father

      Your argument from James is lengthy but shallow. We both agree God cannot be tempted in the sense that God cannot be carried away and enticed by lust. Humans can. That is how our temptation works. Does Scripture say Christ was tempted in a very different way to ourselves? No, it says that he was tempted in every way just as we are, yet he did not sin (Hebrews 4:15). Not only that, we are told Christ had to be in every way like his brothers and sisters, in order that he could be a faithful High Priest, and this is followed specifically by the statement that since he suffered when he was tempted he is able to help those who are tempted (Hebrews 2:17-18). The two temptations are necessarily identical.

      You would have us read “Since he suffered when he was ‘tempted'” in a way we will never experience, and was never actually able to sin, he is able to help those who were tempted in a completely different way, and who can and do sin.”

      As is so often the case, we find Scripture repeatedly identifying Christ as the same as those he came to save, whilst Trinitarians repeatedly identify Christ as different from those he came to save. When it comes to the specific ways in which Scripture identifies Christ as identical to those he came to save, the Trinitarian claims he was different in those very ways.

    • Dave Burke

      Father, Son & Holy Spirit (III)
      Rob,

      With regard to Galatians 4:4, I certainly won’t disagree that ginomai necessarily means something was brought into existence. You’ve spent around a page and a half on this passage, but I can cut through your digression by pointing out that context indicates which meaning of ginomai is intended, and in this case the key contexualising phrase is “of a woman.” You will know of course that ginomai used with “of a woman” is a specific reference to birth (LXX Job 14:1; 15:14; 25:4), and we both know that to be born is to come into existence. This governs the use of ginomai in the next phrase, which is precisely why standard modern English Bibles translate ginomai “born” in this phrase as they do in the first phrase.

      I agree with you that “becoming of a woman” is certainly your translation (I’ve never seen it in any standard modern English Bible). You don’t explain what this is supposed to mean, but since it’s so completely idiosyncratic. I can safely ignore it. I’ll go with the professional translators on this; ginomai here means “born” in both places, and to be born is to come into existence. All you can do is make the typical Trinitarian claim that when “born” is used of Jesus it doesn’t mean what it means when it’s used of everyone else. Special pleading is the first and last resort of the Trinitarian case, and in this instance we both know the burden of evidence is on you to prove that the Greek phrase in question really means “becoming of a woman”, and that being born of a woman doesn’t mean coming into existence. I can’t see that working out for you.

      Later you deny that the Holy Spirit could be bestowed by the apostles at their own discretion, rejecting the various places in Scripture where this occurs (e.g Acts 8:17, 9:17 19:6). Furthermore, Luke tells us in Acts 8:18-19 that the Spirit was given by the laying on of the apostles’ hands, and that when Simon saw this he asked for this power also. Peter’s response demonstrates that he understood he had the choice of whether or not to grant Simon’s request.

      Showing that the Spirit was given in other ways at other times does not change the fact that there is clear evidence that the apostles could and did bestow it. To say it was “never at their discretion” is manifestly overstating the case. Where is the evidence that it was never at their discretion? By the way, I did not say that the Holy Spirit is God in action; I said that it operates as God-in-action. This makes perfect sense when we view the apostles as authorised channels of the power of God.

      Regardless, none of this even starts to address the key issue in my argument, which is that you have to explain how a person can be “bestowed” on others, especially at the hands of mortals who have the choice to bestow that person on whomsoever they will. You don’t explain what that is supposed to mean.

    • Dave Burke

      Father, Son & Holy Spirit (IV)
      Rob,

      I do of course take issue with your claim that no non-Trinitarian theology is present in the first two centuries of the church. I can start with the Didache and move on to the Old Roman Symbol (140 AD at latest, itself a development of an earlier first-century confession), before I’ve even hit 150 AD. It is well recognized that these represent the earliest creedal confessions of the Christian community, and it is also well recognized that they were gradually abandoned as “orthodox” theology developed increasingly further away from them.

      We both know that the Unitarian reads these two confessions and finds nothing but distinctive Unitarian statements (“I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, creator… His son, Jesus Christ… the Holy Spirit”), whereas the Trinitarian finds nothing distinctive to their theology (“I believe in one God, who is the Father, Son and Holy Spirit”), and must either beg the question and surrender to logical fallacy.

      This leads to such “explanations” as: “They were Trinitarians, they just didn’t mention it; ‘One God, the Father, creator of heaven and earth’, actually means ‘One God, the Father Almighty, who created heaven and earth by the agency of God the Almighty Son’; when they said ‘I believe in one God, the Father’, they really meant ‘I believe in one God, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.'”

      Alternatively, Trinitarians can acknowledge that the distinctive understanding of God as more than one person simply did not exist at this early date, and was not developed until much later (as mainstream theologians agree).

      A comparison of the Apostles’ Creed and Didache to the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds shows all too clearly to what extent the earliest faith had been abandoned for new ideas which cannot be found in the creeds of the first two centuries.

      Wim van den Dungen, The DIDACHE or DUAE VIAE (25 November, 2005):

      … [in the Didache] Jesus is a mediator who serves the Holy Father and it is to God that all returns, not to Christ. Giving Jesus the title “Lord” does not justify the trinitarian identification of Jesus Christ with God (there is no Nicean trinitarian circularity here). During the eucharist, no mention is made of the paschal Jesus Christ, nor has his participation during thanksgiving to be understood as the mediation of the “logos” or “second God” (cf. Paul and Philo of Alexandria).

      More on this later.

      You say you would expect “some continuity with the theology of the NT writings”, which is odd since you don’t seem to expect any continuity between the OT and NT. But I do agree that this is what we would expect to see, and I find it between the NT confessions of faith, the confessions in the Didache, and the Old Roman Symbol. The confessions we find there are essentially the preaching speeches of Acts all over again.

      You mention Theophilus, Irenaeus, Tertullian and Origen (thanks Rob; none of them are Trinitarians, as we both know full well) and say that you would expect Unitarianism to be a participant in the theological discussions and disputes of their day. You further state that “Most heresies in the second and third centuries agreed that Christ was divine and that he preexisted his human conception—in fact, other than the Ebionites, this seems to have been almost universally accepted.”

      This is what we would expect of extended doctrinal development by people who didn’t stay with the NT teachings, people who departed from the simpler confessions of the Didache and the Old Roman Symbol.

      Of course we do find unitarian (lower case “u”; believers in a uni-personal God) commentary in the Fathers. Significantly, we find it recorded in the writings of those who were developing theology past the point of the NT statements and the earlier creedal confessions. In other words, as theology became Binitarian and finally Trinitarian, we find those who took part in this development recording consistent resistance to this development all the way along the line, which is exactly what we would expect if these were new ideas gradually being introduced to the Christian community.

      I find a coherent agreement on this point within the elderly commentary of Schaff, History of the Christian Church, 1910 (Schaff), and also modern commentaries such as Freedman, Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary, 1996 (ABD), Martin & Davids, Dictionary of the later New Testament and its developments, 2000 (DLNT), Freedman & Myers, Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, 2000 (EDB), Bromiley, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, 2002 (ISBE), Fahlbusch & Bromiley, Encyclopedia of Christianity, 1993-2003 (EoC), Ferguson & Packer, New Dictionary of Theology, 2004 (NDT), and Cross & Livingstone, Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 2005 (ODCC).

    • Dave Burke

      Father, Son & Holy Spirit (V)
      Rob,

      From the 1st century onwards (Bammel, 913; Daniélou, 63; Wright, “Ebionites”, DLNT) we have the Ebionites, who demonstrate continuity with the New Testament in exactly the manner and context in which we expect to find it. They were Jewish Christians, unitarian monotheists who believed God is the Father, and that Jesus is a man, though God’s son. The Christian historian Eusebius knew of two Ebionite groups (History, XXVII, 1-3):

      The ancients quite properly called these men Ebionites, because they held poor and mean opinions concerning Christ. For they considered him a plain and common man, who was justified only because of his superior virtue, and who was the fruit of the intercourse of a man with Mary. In their opinion the observance of the ceremonial law was altogether necessary, on the ground that they could not be saved by faith in Christ alone and by a corresponding life.

      There were others, however, besides them, that were of the same name, but avoided the strange and absurd beliefs of the former, and did not deny that the Lord was born of a virgin and of the Holy Spirit. But nevertheless, inasmuch as they also refused to acknowledge that he pre-existed, being God, Word, and Wisdom, they turned aside into the impiety of the former, especially when they, like them, endeavored to observe strictly the bodily worship of the law.

      In fact Jewish Christianity is a historical study itself, distinguished notably by unitarian monotheism:

      One may, on the other hand, establish certain positive criteria that are regarded as distinctive of Jewish Christianity. Daniélou found three such criteria, each representing a discrete group: a low christology that denied the deity of Christ; esteem for the Jerusalem church ruled by the relatives of Jesus; and an apocalyptic orientation.

      (Hagner, “Jewish Christianity”, DLNT).

      Significantly, the scholarly consensus is that “From the beginning, as we have seen, the only Christianity that existed was a Jewish Christianity” (Hagner, op. cit.). That’s the Christianity with the “low christology that denied the deity of Christ.”

      Also from the first century onwards, we find the Nazarenes (or Nazoreans); “H.-J. Schoeps’s influential interpretation accepts that both Ebionites and Nazoreans derive from the first community in Jerusalem” (NDT). Their apocryphal gospel (“The Gospel of the Nazorean”) is dated between 100 and 150 AD (EDB), and references to it are found as early as Hegesippus (110-180); EDB. Like the Ebionites (with whom some scholars identify them) their theology was unitarian; “They called Jesus the Son of God (→ Christological Titles 3.3), accepted his virgin birth, but rejected his preexistence as God” (EoC). See also Schaff, DLNT, ISBE, EDB, EoC.

      In the mid-2nd century we find Justin Martyr “acknowledges that some Jews who confess Jesus as the Christ hold him to be only a man among men” (Hagner, op. cit.).

      In the late second to early third century we find “orthodox” opposition to heresies “akin to Unitarianism” (to use your phrase). At the end of the 2nd century (Schaff tells us Victor excommunicated Theodotus in 192-202), we find opposition to the Theodotians of Theodotus the Cobbler, who believed Jesus was supernaturally begotten but a man nonetheless; see Schaff, NDT, ODCC.

      Around the same time we find opposition to the Artemonites of Artemon, “an erudite leather-merchant active in Rome about AD 19” (EDT), who with his followers “declared the doctrine of the divinity of Christ an innovation and a relapse to heathen polytheism” (Schaff); see EDT, ODCC, ABD.

      Soon after Artemon was Beryllus, supposedly re-converted to the faith in 244 by Origen (Schaff), but who earlier denied the divinity and pre-existence of Christ, holding instead that he was indwelt by God, the Father (Schaff).

      Paul of Samosata, appointed a bishop in 260, is referred to by Schaff as “the most famous of these rationalistic Unitarians”, who “taught, like the Socinians in later times, a gradual elevation of Christ, determined by his own moral development, to divine dignity.”

      In the beginning of the third century the Pseudo-Clementines display “a classic form of Jewish Christianity” (Hagner, op. cit.), in which once again “Christ is the only Savior”, yet “he is the Son of God, but not God” (Hagner, op. cit.); see EoC, ISBE.

      We have here a continuity of unitarian monotheism, reflected in opposition which starts no earlier than the mid-second century . Thus unitarian monotheism precedes the opposition which emerged as a result of the later doctrinal development which departed from the uni-personal view of original Jewish Christianity.

      I’ll leave you with a passage from Tertullan’s Adversus Praxean, courtesy of Dale Tuggy:

      The simple, indeed, (I will not call them unwise and unlearned,) who always constitute the majority of believers, are startled at the dispensation (of the Three in One), on the ground that their very rule of faith withdraws them from the world’s plurality of gods to the one only true God; not understanding that, although He is the one only God, He must yet be believed in with His own [economy]. The numerical order and distribution of the Trinity they assume to be a division of the Unity; whereas the Unity which derives the Trinity out of its own self is so far from being destroyed, that it is actually supported by it.

      They are constantly throwing out against us that we are preachers of two gods and three gods, while they take to themselves pre-eminently the credit of being worshipers of the One God; just as if the Unity itself with irrational deductions did not produce heresy, and the Trinity rationally considered constitute the truth. We, say they, maintain the Monarchy (or, sole government of God). And so, as far as the sound goes, do even Latins (and ignorant ones too) pronounce the word in such a way that you would suppose their understanding of the [Monarchy] was as complete as their pronunciation of the term.

      Clearly unitarianism was alive and kicking during Tertullian’s era, and its adherents were actively engaged in the current Christological debates.

    • Sam Shamoun

      Wow Dave! Why not just start another debate and post another six posts of 5,000 words! Didn’t you ask to shorten the original debate format from 10,000 words to 5,000? If so were you plannning on making up for the other 5,000 words in the comments section? Or should we see this for what it really is? An attempt of undoing all the major damage against your position since Bowman clearly schooled you? Shame on you, but that is to be expected from a person who failed to defen his heresy and distortion of Biblical truth.

    • mbaker

      I agree with comment #116. Burke’s point is totally lost in such a long reply.

    • Rob Bowman

      Dave,

      I am forced to agree with Sam’s complaint. Your 30 comments on this post add up to about 33,000 words, nearly the number of words (about 34,000, by my calculation) of my comments responding to you on all six of your posts in this debate COMBINED. Your 30 comments fill 68 pages of a Word document!

      I have not had a chance to read your comments, and I don’t know how soon I can do so. If they are fair-minded and make substantive contributions to the discussion, I will be inclined to be somewhat forgiving of the excessive volume. I won’t prejudge that question. However, I feel no obligation to respond to any, some, or all of your comments. If I do, I expect to have the last word, in the wake of such an excessive volume of material from you.

    • MarkE

      Sam,

      I tend to agree that the timing of the posts is not ideal, so answering everything in one go. It will probably mean that the majority of the points don’t get answered which is a shame for those following it.
      However, that is not the same as starting with 10,000 words. Or, as a trinitarian, are you redefining the word debate?

    • DSA

      Why is excessive volume an issue?
      Considering the seriousnes and the implications of the nature of the topic the only thing anyon should be interested in is the quality of the information – and it is begging a lot of answers from rob

    • mbaker

      ‘Why is excessive volume an issue?’

      Rob is well able to defend himself as far as the the quality of information. The quality on either side isn’t the issue, but the sheer wordiness of Burke’s replies, as Rob pointed out. As a former journalist,, I find that is an issue because excessive verbiage can get the reader so involved in details that the main point is often lost in the shuffle.

      In other words: You can’t see the forest for the trees.

      I respect Dave Burke’s willingness to hang in there, even though I have not been persuaded to change my mind by his arguments, I just think he loses a lot of reader’s interest, who might otherwise have their opinions changed, because they get tired of wading through so many overly long and detailed rebuttals.

      In other words: Too much information to comfortably absorb at one time.

    • sam shamoun

      Mark, my point is that if Burke felt he needed more than 5,000 words per post to adequately make his case or to address Bowman’s points then he should have accepted the initial format of 10,000 words per post. instead he posts 30 “replies” that tally over 30, 000 posts which means that Burke cranked out ANOTHER SIX PART 5,000 WORD POST!

      Anyway, it is really up to Bowman whether he wants to spend more time exposing more of Burke’s gross logical fallacies and distortions of the actual assertions being made by some of the scholars he misquotes and misrepresents.

    • Rob Bowman

      NEW WEEK; NEW FORMULA

      Dave,

      In your first comment (comment #86 above), you attempt to show that my “formula” is inadequate as a statement of the core affirmations of the doctrine of the Trinity. You also try to show that what I wrote in my closing statement has “essential differences” from what I wrote in the first week. Your argument begins from a false premise: what I presented was not a “formula.” It does not claim to be the only way or even the best way to state the core affirmations of the doctrine. Nor is it, as you claim later in your comment, a “definition” of the doctrine of the Trinity.

      It is true that I made explicit in my closing statement that Jesus is a man. Since we agree on this premise, as do all of the other major anti-Trinitarian Christologies, there really was no need to make it explicit. I did so only because of your straw-man criticism that Trinitarians really cannot mean it when they affirm that Jesus is a man. Thus, this is not an “essential difference” between my closing statement and what I wrote in the first week.

      You also claim that I made changes to my statement of the core affirmations because my “original formula was tacitly Modalistic.” This is simply false, since, in the original statement, I included the affirmation, “The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are each someone other than the other two.” No modalist could agree with that statement.

      Next, you claim that my new statement “could be safely confessed by Arians and other ontological subordinationists without hesitation.” Dave, this is ridiculous. My statement includes the affirmation that “The Son, who became the man Jesus Christ, is the LORD God.” No ontological subordinationist could affirm that proposition (without lying).

      You then claim that I am still supposedly “effectively treating the three separate persons as a single unipersonal being, which is logically inconsistent and results in Modalism.” Dave, you simply must make up your mind. What I wrote can’t be acceptable to both ontological subordinationists and modalists!

      Frankly, if this sort of sloppy, haphazard criticism characterizes the rest of your 33,000 words of comments, it won’t be worth my time reading and responding to them.

    • sam shamoun

      Nick Norelli hit it on the head and perfectly when describes the difference between Bowman’s approach and Burke’s:

      http://rdtwot.wordpress.com/2010/06/16/i-know-the-horse-is-dead-but-i-just-gotta-beat-it/

    • sam shamoun

      Brother Rob,

      It is obvious to us that Burke is trying to do everything he can to offset your utter destruction of his arguments in order to give the impression that he is actually refuting your arguments. But, as you just demonstrated, all Burke is doing is providing further evidence that he cannot accurately represent you or the sources he reads, is incapable of quoting the authors he cites accurately, and cannot help himself is from committing logical fallacies.

      Burke was clearly outclassed in this debate and demonstrated over and over again that he doesn’t have what it takes to do any serious exegesis which is why he constantly resorted to the fallacy of appealing to authorities even though, as you showed over and over again, he repeatedly misrepresented these very same authorities by either wrenching their words out of context or by not properly understanding the point being made.

    • Dave Burke

      Rob,

      My rebuttal to your Week 6 argument consists of just under 12,000 words, which is 2,500 less than my Week 3 rebuttal. I believe this is perfectly reasonable. Everything else is counter-rebuttal to your comments on the preceding weeks, as you can see from the titles I’ve used and the material I’ve quoted. (I have no intention of dragging this out for another month, but required closure on a few points from Weeks 1-5). I would have responded earlier, but my personal and pastoral commitments have been severely demanding.

      I could have posted the counter-rebuttals in their respective threads, but thought it simpler to keep everything on one place where it could be easily read and cross-referenced. If you check the length of my counter-rebuttals you will find they are no greater than anything posted by either of us in previous weeks; the only difference is that they’re all in one place instead of being spread throughout the blog. You might object to their location, but you cannot reasonably object to their length.

      Nevertheless, mbaker correctly observes that I risk fatiguing the reader and obscuring my arguments. This answers Shamoun’s question about my request for a 5k word limit instead of accepting the originally proposed 10k: shorter arguments are easier to read and follow than longer ones. But rebuttals are not the same as primary arguments; their structure is entirely different and they often require extended interaction with opposing material (if I’d agreed to the 10k word limit, our rebuttals could have been double their current size).

      This is also a consequence of the current debate format, which has seen us talking past each other on several occasions. If we’d been debating in classical style (e.g. positive argument vs. negative argument) we could have incorporated our rebuttals into our primary arguments and avoided this problem.

      I agree you are under no obligation to reply, and I did not expect you to; any questions I’ve posted are purely rhetorical, so from that perspective you lose nothing by leaving them unanswered. You can respond to as much or as little as you wish.

    • Frank Spinella

      Lest this wordy debate get wordier, I want to join mbaker in making a pitch for brevity. The debaters should agree to limit their posts, so as not to lose too many of us along the way. Otherwise, I think both Dave and Rob will end up battling to a draw in the effort to sway the majority of us who have been trying to follow their discussion. That’s really the end-game, isn’t it? I mean, neither of you really harbor hopes of persuading the other, do you?

      I’m happy to throw my $0.02 into the discussion by urging both sides to consider whether the meaning they ascribe to their proof texts is faithful to the context in which the author wrote. That would help us all get a better sense of the author’s meaning.

      In that vein, it might be less distracting if you both stopped treating every NT word as historically accurate in addition to being theologically significant. Example: Dave wrote “I agree Thomas called Jesus “My “kyrios” and my “theos” (unless he used Aramaic).” There’s no reason to posit that someone named Thomas actually spoke those words to Jesus, in any language; most theologians would simply say that John fashioned a story to make a point, and leave it at that. It’s the point, the meaning, that matters; let’s not saddle our notions of what it means for Scripture to be divinely inspired with more than that notion needs to bear. Historical accuracy is, thankfully, not an element of divine inspiration. Let’s keep our eye on the ball!

    • cherylu

      I would like to comment on the issue of brevity too. I have read, as far as I know, every post and every comment up to this point in this debate. But this long, drawn out group of very detailed comments lost me before I got a third of the way through them. I simply did not have the time or energy to wade through all of that material so I simply gave up.

      It certainly would of been easier to follow this debate more closely too if the rebuttals and counter rebuttals had been posted in the same week as each weeks subject matter was. It got rather confusing at times to have to back track a week or two to see what was being discussed.

      I realize both Rob and Dave are very busy people, so maybe that was simply not possible. But from my perspective, if any future dabates are held on this site, that would certainly be a huge improvement in format.

    • Fortigurn

      Rob,

      It is true that I made explicit in my closing statement that Jesus is a man. Since we agree on this premise, as do all of the other major anti-Trinitarian Christologies, there really was no need to make it explicit. I did so only because of your straw-man criticism that Trinitarians really cannot mean it when they affirm that Jesus is a man.

      Can you provide a direct quote from Burke which actually says ‘Trinitarians really cannot mean it when they affirm that Jesus is a man’? I note that previously you claimed Burke said ‘Trinitarians cannot mean it when they claim to affirm that Jesus is human’. Yet you never actually quoted him saying this.

      You also said:

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

      This gives the impression that Burke was claiming Trinitarians don’t believe in Jesus’ virgin birth, growth as a child, temptation, sinlessness, death, and resurrection. Yet you never quote Burke making this claim. Not only that, but a closer look at what Burke actually said in the material of his you critique here, demonstrates that he certainly did not make this claim. He addresses that here:

      http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2010/05/the-great-trinity-debate-part-6-rob-bowmans-closing-statement/comment-page-3/#comment-33881

      So when you say Burke claims ‘Trinitarians really cannot mean it when they affirm that Jesus is a man’, it would be helpful if you actually quoted him saying this.

    • DEK

      sam shamoun wrote: “Burke was clearly outclassed in this debate and demonstrated over and over again that he doesn’t have what it takes to do any serious exegesis…”

      “Clearly”? “Outclassed”? “Doesn’t have”? Alright. I’d only like to point out and remind you that this is YOUR view and you are surely welcome to it. Just please make an effort of keeping in mind that there are many others who see the whole situation in a diametrically opposite way, me being only one of them. You just take “Burke” and replace it with “Bowman” in the initial phrasing and what you get is almost exactly how the outcome of the debate is viewed by the other half of the audience. And I do not in the slightest expect you to doubt that those who choose to hold to the latter reading are in any way less welcome to their assessment than you are to yours.

    • andrewneileen

      Hello

      The debate has run its course. I agree on the value of brevity. But my complaint would be about the blog format and whether this handles an ‘opening to the floor’ stage very well at all. I was happy to read Burke versus Bowman but all the other mini-debates by others got in the way of finding the Bowman versus Burke material. I added two comments myself and Bowman replied but I didn’t counter-reply because there was no need. When you have said your piece you have said it and you don’t have to say something else to bolster it; let the reader just have a ‘one comment versus one comment’ package to take away. My advice would be if Bowman or Burke debate again, limit the word count on the posts and follow a classic debate style in any week: one proposal speech and one rebuttal speech and open to the floor after its all done on a different blog.

      Andrew

    • Fortigurn

      I agree with andrewneileen with regard to the format of the debate. It was unorthodox, and suboptimal for readers. I have foudn myself having to bookmark the various different pages and check them regularly for updates. I have followed both sides closely, and in my own posts I have criticized arguments by both Bowman and Burke at times (I found one argument by Burke on the meaning of AIWN in Hebrews 1 to be completely wrong, and I questioned his selective use of lexicons in making this argument). But this has been a time consuming process, not made any easier by the awkward format of the debate.

      A better format would have been the traditional style in which each debater takes turns affirming or denying a proposition each week, with an opportunity for Socratic style questioning of each other at the end of the week, before closing that section of the debate and moving on to a new section.

      At present it is difficult to know exactly when this debate willl ‘end’. I understood there was originally to be a vote on the debate, but I note nothing has been said of this recently. Will this still go ahead, and if so would it not be a good time to draw a line under further discussion, closing off these threads and inviting those interested to conntinue comment on the debate elsewhere?

    • Abel

      Many thanks to David Burke for all his obviously careful and diligent work.

      You have left the tripod without a leg to stand on!

    • Fortigurn

      Looking through Burke’s rebuttal, lengthy though it is, I find that in reality there’s not much for Bowman to reply to, still less to complain about.

      For example, Burke spends all of 2,800 words on Bowman’s claim that ‘something to be exploited’ is ‘the now dominant interpretation’ of ‘harpagmos’ in Philippians 2:6, but Bowman doesn’t have to even respond to 99% of it. The vast majority of this response to Bowman consists of quotes from Bible translations, lexicons, and commentaries. Although it’s a chore to read it (as I did), there’s no reason for Bowman to spend any real time here. He can either just ignore it, or simply acknowledge he has exaggerated the level of scholarly agreement on the point, and leave it there.

      Burke spends around 1,200 words describing scholarly commentary on the term ‘son of man’. But is there anything for Bowman to really disagree with here? I can’t see there’s any reason for Bowman to dispute any of this section, surely he agrees that the term ‘son of man’ is a reference to Jesus as a mortal, not as a divine being, so nothing need be said.

      Another 1,300 words are spent by Burke establishing the fact that the Trinity contains logical paradoxes and contradictions, such that mainstream Trinitarian theologians typically acknowledge it cannot be assessed by standard principles of logic. This is hardly controversial, so Bowman can simply just acknowledge it (‘Yes the Trinity is a paradox, no it can’t be validated using the law of non-contradiction, it’s a divine revelation nonetheless so we must believe it despite our finite limitations’), and move on.

      Yet another 1,500 words are spent by Burke arguing that singular pronouns refer to singular persons (a grammatical point which is demonstrably true in Hebrew, Greek, and English). Would Bowman really dispute this?

      That’s 6,800 words which Bowman doesn’t even have to bother answering.

    • Rob Bowman

      MISREPRESENTING MOWINCKEL

      Dave,

      For some reason, you chose to split your response to my criticism of your use of Mowinckel into two widely separate comments (#87 and #98 above). I will deal with the issue here.

      In comment #87, you point out that you had not claimed that Mowinckel held to the same Christology as you. True enough; but I didn’t claim that you had made such a claim. You say you “didn’t assert or imply that Mowinckel himself rejects the pre-existence or deity of Christ.” Fine; I didn’t assert or imply that you did. You emphasize the fact that you referred to him as a “reverend,” apparently as code for “Trinitarian minister.” If you say so, but I didn’t claim that you represented him to be non-Trinitarian. Why not talk about what I did say?

      By the way, many non-Trinitarian ministers use the title “Reverend.” Perhaps the most famous is the Rev. Sun Myung Moon. Ministers in the Unitarian-Universalist Association use the title (e.g., the president of the religion is the Rev. Peter Morales). So the use of this title is not code for “Trinitarian minister.”

      You say that “the only claim” you made about Mowinckel was in your sentence, “Reverend Sigmund Mowinckel insisted the Jewish conception of predestination and prefiguration must inform our understanding of passages appearing to speak of pre-existence.” Correct; but what did this sentence mean, in the context of your post? What did you mean by “inform[ing] our understanding of passages appearing to speak of pre-existence”? First, let’s define what you meant by “passages appearing to speak of pre-existence.” You meant, in context, New Testament passages that appear to speak of Jesus Christ as preexistent. Second, what did you mean by “inform our understanding”? In context, you meant informing us as to how we should understand what such language really meant in its original context. And what “inform[ation]” did you claim Mowinckel provided that we “must” allow to “inform” our understanding of these NT passages? Why, the information that Jews used preexistence language to express God’s predetermination, his “predestination” or prophetic “prefiguration” of what did not yet exist or what had not yet happened. Now let’s put it all together. What your sentence clearly meant, in the context of your post, was that Mowinckel insisted that we must understand New Testament passages that appear to speak of Christ as preexistent as using Jewish ways of expressing predestination or prefiguration and thus not as actually meaning that Christ was literally preexistent. That’s what you were arguing, Dave, in making that statement, and that’s what your quotation was supposedly supporting. The problem is, that is not what Mowinckel was saying, as I documented. Thus, you clearly did misrepresent Mowinckel.

      The truth is, Dave, that an honest scholar—strike that, an honest person—would acknowledge, when quoting Mowinckel to support the notion that NT preexistence language for Christ is ideal, that Mowinckel specifically argues to the contrary. An honest person would acknowledge that Mowinckel argues that Jewish preexistence language for the Messiah was understood literally in those circles that identified the Messiah and the Son of Man. An honest person would acknowledge that Mowinckel presents a cogent argument for understanding NT preexistence language about Jesus literally within the cultural and religious context of Second Temple Judaism. Such an honest person could quote the portion of Mowinckel that you did and then proceed to present an argument refuting Mowinckel’s arguments concerning the Son of Man and the NT Christological preexistence language. You didn’t do any of this. You didn’t engage Mowinckel’s position at all. Instead, you mined his book for a juicy-sounding quotation that you thought would help “prove your point” within the context of the debate.

      That you were not handling Mowinckel in an honest manner is already evident enough, but your excision of fifteen words from the middle of your lengthy quotation from Mowinckel confirms it. Apparently trying to disconnect these things, you addressed the excision in a separate comment (#98). You quoted only this much from my critique of your ellipsis in your quotation from Mowinckel:

      “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.”

      You then wrote:

      “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.’”

      Your die-hard partisans might buy this, Dave, but I don’t. It is obvious that you can’t mount a convincing defense on this point because you are not addressing fairly and squarely the basis for my criticism. As I pointed out, “You cut off the last seven words in a sentence that you quoted, and cut also a short eight-word sentence. Thus, you cut fifteen words from a quotation that runs over three hundred words.” Moreover, you cut these fifteen words from the middle of your quotation (not from the beginning or the end). Thus, you deliberately, intentionally, cut these words out; you had some purpose for cutting them. Since the quotation ran over three hundred words, it isn’t plausible that you cut these mere fifteen words from the middle of your quotation for the sake of your word count. What was your reason for deliberately excising those fifteen words? You have offered no explanation. Saying that you “quoted only what was necessary to prove [your] point” is not an explanation for why you cut these fifteen words from the middle of your lengthy quotation. If you truly have no problem “repeating Mowinckel’s phrase ‘in the platonic sense,’” why did you bother cutting the seven words from the end of his sentence, “as an ‘idea’ in the platonic sense”? The fact that you cut Mowinckel off mid-sentence and then resumed your lengthy quote a sentence later (quoting an additional 98 words) is damning evidence that you skipped these fifteen words because they didn’t fit your paradigm.

      You then tried to turn the tables and argue that I misrepresented Mowinckel:

      “It certainly doesn’t ruin my template in which the Unitarian reading of the NT is Jewish and the Trinitarian reading is Hellenistic…. 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.”

      I didn’t say anything about the Jews adopting a specific understanding of ideas directly from Plato. All I said was that according to Mowinckel “the Jews were thinking Platonically when they spoke about preexistence.” You later claim that my “all important capital letter” here reveals my supposed misrepresentation. I disagree. Anyone who has read widely about ancient philosophy (as I have) knows that the word Platonism is sometimes spelled with a capital letter and sometimes not; the meaning, when referring to ancient notions of “ideas,” is the same. When someone speaks of “an ‘idea’ in the platonic sense,” the word platonic here means characteristic of or similar to that notion found in the philosophy of Plato. It does not mean, necessarily, that the notion derives from Plato.

      That having been said, it is quite possible that Second Temple Jewish use of preexistence language was influenced by Platonism per se. Most scholars think that Jewish speculations about the preexistence of human souls derived from Platonism. James Kugel says that Jewish references to the earthly temple as corresponding to a preexistent heavenly sanctuary sometimes “is presented in terms reminiscent of the Platonic conception of ideal forms” (Traditions of the Bible: A Guide to the Bible as It Was at the Start of the Common Era [Harvard University Press, 1998], 58). Ancient Jewish and Christian intellectuals (like Philo and Aristobulus) thought (incorrectly) that Plato had borrowed his notions about ideal forms from Moses (Kugel, 63-65)!

      The larger issue here is that your attack on Trinitarianism presupposes a sharp divide between Second Temple Judaism and ancient Hellenistic philosophy. That presupposition is false. Scholarship in the past sixty years or so has thoroughly refuted that simplistic dichotomy. Second Temple Judaism engaged Hellenistic thought on a number of levels and reflected Hellenistic terminology and concepts on a wide array of issues. In some cases there was simply overlap because different cultures always have some overlapping concepts. In other cases Jews (such as Philo) openly embraced some aspects of Platonism or Stoicism and sought to articulate Jewish belief in ways that directly engaged these pagan Greek philosophies.

      In any case, my point was that the only reason I could see for your cutting those fifteen words from your lengthy quotation from Mowinckel is that it didn’t fit your simplistic paradigm that Unitarians interpret “Hebraically” while Trinitarians interpret the Bible “Hellenistically.” In making that point, I certainly did not misrepresent Mowinckel. You, however, clearly did.

    • Fortigurn

      Rob, could you provide a quote from Mowinckel which says ‘the Jews were thinking Platonically when they spoke about preexistence’? However Burke has used Mowinckel (and honestly, when I read ‘It is an ideal pre-existence that is meant’, I am led to believe an ideal pre-existence is meant), I do not see Mowinckel saying ‘the Jews were thinking Platonically when they spoke about preexistence’.

      What I see is Mowinckel describing the Jewish concept of ‘ideas’ as platonic. I don’t see this as having anything to do with Burke’s case that we should read the New Testament in the context of Second Temple Judaism, as opposed to the idea that we should read the New Testament in the context of 4th century Christian neo-Platonism.

      Would you mind (and I realise you may be as sick of this point as I am), explaining what you understand by Mowinckel’s statement ‘It is an ideal pre-existence that is meant’? Does it mean:

      * An ideal pre-existence is meant
      * An ideal pre-existence is not meant

      Furthermore, could you show where Mowinckel says that ‘the Jews were thinking Platonically when they spoke about preexistence’? That seems to be your interpretation of Mowinckel.

    • Rob Bowman

      HARPAGMOS IN PHILIPPIANS 2:6, I: INTRODUCTION

      It only takes one word to shout “Fire!” in a crowded theater; it can take considerably more words to convince the patrons that there is no fire. I am breaking up my response on harpagmos in Philippians 2:6 into seven comments to make the response slightly more tolerable to read. Anyone wishing to skip the tedious review of literature might wish to read this comment and then jump to Part VII for the conclusion.

      Dave and Fortigurn,

      I am addressing this comment to the two of you because it is now obvious that Fortigurn is Dave’s twin brother, whom Dave mentioned in his lengthy comment above (#92) on harpagmos in Philippians 2:6. Fortigurn has posted comments of his own that show some of the same methods of citation (and of several of the same specific works, especially the lexicons) as in that comment. Fortigurn, your suggestion that I either ignore Dave’s comment on Philippians 2:6 or “simply acknowledge” that I “exaggerated the level of scholarly agreement on the point” sounded a bit like a Jedi apprentice trying one of those mind tricks—“You don’t need to bother engaging that argument, just concede the point.”

      I don’t mind that the two of you are working together; frankly, Dave, you need all the help you can get. But what you need help doing is most decidedly not compiling busy work to try to wear me down. Instead, you need a biblical scholar, or perhaps just a librarian, to sit down with you and give you some guidance in how to use scholarly secondary literature in biblical studies. You need to learn how to engage the arguments of the secondary literature in a fruitful, fair-minded way, rather than treating them as mines from which you extract confessions or useful soundbites.

      Your comment is filled (padded) with irrelevant citations. The use of the word “exploit” in completely different contexts in scholarly literature is totally irrelevant to our issue. I do not need to know that Fortigurn has software packages with the “Early Church History Collection,” the “Gnostic and Apocryphal Studies Collection,” the “JPS Tanakh Commentary Collection,” the “Studies in Talmud and Midrash Collection,” and on and on and on. Must I remind you that Philippians 2:6 is in the New Testament, not the Old Testament, the Midrash or Talmud, the writings of the church fathers, or the Gnostic and apocryphal writings? I didn’t need your list of periodicals that Fortigurn has in his software program (the fact that your latest dates for most of the periodicals are 2005 and prior is a dead giveaway that the list came from a software package), particularly since most of them are not exegetically oriented periodicals. It’s nice that he has the money for such an extensive software library of theological literature. On the other hand, it’s a shame that he doesn’t know how to use it properly.

      Before I launch into a detailed response, let me remind everyone of the claim I made that you are disputing. I had written:

      “If you’re going to argue about the meaning of the word and cite scholarly reference works, you simply cannot do this adequately without at least mentioning the now dominant interpretation of harpagmon as ‘something to be exploited’ (Phil. 2:6 NRSV) and the work of such scholars as Wright and Roy W. Hoover (‘The HARPAGMOS Enigma: A Philological Solution,’ Harvard Theological Review 64 [1971]: 95-119). But you don’t do this, despite the fact that you cite scholars who mention these things.”

      Your comment is an attempt to show that I was incorrect in claiming that the Hoover/Wright view is “the now dominant interpretation.” To test who is right, we will need to look at literature published since 1986. This is because it really wasn’t until N. T. Wright’s 1986 article in the Journal of Theological Studies (later published in his book The Climax of the Covenant in 1991) that many scholars started taking the view that Hoover was probably right. Literature dating from before about 1960, when a precursor to the Hoover/Wright view began to circulate, is completely irrelevant. Literature dating between 1960 and 1986 that does not reflect that view is also not really significant evidence against my view. Again, my claim was and is that the Hoover/Wright view is “the now dominant interpretation.” I will therefore restrict my attention to works appearing since 1986.

    • Rob Bowman

      HARPAGMOS IN PHILIPPIANS 2:6, II: ENGLISH VERSIONS

      Dave and Fortigurn,

      Let’s start with the English Bible versions. At least five versions that were published after Wright’s article reflect his view of harpagmos: the NRSV (1989), the NCV (1991), the Inclusive Version (1995, essentially a revision of the NRSV), the TNIV (2002), and the HCSB (2004).

      Your list of translations that do not reflect this understanding was unfortunately very misleading. It included versions dating from before Hoover and Wright’s articles, notably the ASV (1901), the GNB/TEV (1966), and the NAB (1970), and a couple more that came after Hoover but before Wright, notably the NIV (1973, revised 1984) and the NJB (1985). For several of these you gave dates in the 1990s, probably referring to reprint dates or other “editions” in which the translation itself was not changed. You gave a date of 1995 for the ASV, which was particularly ignorant (to be blunt). Three more are fairly recent revisions of existing translations: The NT portion of the NASB was produced in 1963 and the “updated edition” in 1995; the 1994 NIrV is merely a simplified version of the NIV; and the 2001 ESV was a conservative revision of the 1971 RSV. This leaves only three new versions published after Wright’s article that do not reflect that understanding of harpagmos: the CEV (1991), the NLT (1996, 2004), and the NET (2005).

      To be fair, you could argue that the Hoover/Wright position is not quite “dominant” in the new versions published since Wright, though it does seem to be the majority view (five out of eight that I checked). The powerhouse new versions that represent serious academic scholarship are the NRSV and the HCSB on the Hoover/Wright side, and the NET on the other side. In any case, when we look at the secondary literature, what we find is that scholarly opinion on the matter is much more one-sided than the new English versions would suggest.

    • Rob Bowman

      HARPAGMOS IN PHILIPPIANS 2:6, III: LEXICAL REFERENCES

      Dave and Fortigurn,

      This is likely to be the most tedious of the seven comments.

      We must begin our examination of the “lexicons” by eliminating the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, which you misleadingly dated 1985. The first volume of TDNT (where the article on harpagmos is located) is a 1964 translation of a volume written in German in the 1930s! We must also drop the Liddell-Scott lexicon, since the 9th edition (revised by Jones) was produced in 1940. The 1996 date you gave for LSJ9 is the date the work was published with a “Supplement,” not a revision of the main lexical entries.

      Your list of “standard lexicons” is interesting. In his comments responding to my fifth-week post, Fortigurn claimed that Louw/Nida and Newman (the UBS dictionary) are “derivative” works. Yet here they are on your list. Apparently I convinced him that these were legitimate reference works. On the other hand, they are the only significant recent lexical reference works that do not reflect the Hoover/Wright view, so you had little choice. Neither of these reference works mentions or disagrees with that view; they simply don’t mention it.

      This leaves three lexical reference works that you cited: ANLEX (Friberg), EDNT, and BDAG. Maddeningly, you managed to misrepresent all three of them. Let’s take them one at a time. Regarding the Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament, you wrote:

      “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’).”

      Actually, theological reasons have nothing to do with it. It is widely recognized by biblical scholars that the sense “robbery” simply will not fit in Philippians 2:6, not because it disagrees with someone’s preferred theology, but because it simply makes little or no sense. For example, BDAG also states that this interpretation “is next to impossible” in Philippians 2:6. In support it cites the German lexicographer Winer: “W-S. [sect.] 28, 3: the state of being equal w. God cannot be equated w. the act of robbery.” (You quoted that last part from BDAG and claimed you agreed with it, but it is simply saying the same thing as EDNT.) Gordon Fee points out in his commentary that the meaning “robbery” is “a meaning that can hardly obtain here” because “it makes very little sense at all” (NICNT, 1995, p. 205 and n. 54). J. C. O’Neill, one of the very few critics of Hoover’s view, felt that although “robbery” was the correct meaning of the word, the result was “near nonsense”; to make the meaning “robbery” work, he had to speculate that the word “not” in Philippians 2:6 was a scribal mistake and should be omitted! These scholars all agree that it would make no sense for Paul to have said that Christ “did not consider equality with God robbery, but emptied himself.” This is an exegetical observation, not a theological a priori.

      Now, if you want to go to bat for the interpretation “robbery,” go ahead. If that interpretation is to have any meaning at all, it would have to mean that Christ was equal with God and did not consider it robbery for him to have that status. It doesn’t fit well in the context, but theologically I would have no problem with it!

      By the way, since you didn’t tell our readers, I will tell them: EDNT states that harpagmos “must be taken” to mean “take advantage of (or seek to take advantage of) something for oneself.”

      Next, here is what you said about Friberg’s Analytical Lexicon:

      “2000: ANLEX, ‘literally something seized and held, plunder’ (Philippians 2L6 [sic] is glossed as ‘figuratively in PH 2.6 of Jesus’ equality with God οὐχ ἁρπαγμόν’).”

      Here is the complete entry that you butchered:

      “(1) literally something seized and held, plunder; (2) figuratively in PH 2.6 of Jesus’ equality with God οὐχ ἁρπαγμόν; (a) possibly, as not forcefully grasping something one does not have something not to be seized, not a prize to be seized; (b) probably, as not forcefully retaining something for one’s own advantage something not to be held onto, not a piece of good fortune.”

      Everyone—and I do mean everyone—agrees that Paul uses harpagmos figuratively in Philippians 2:6. That is, no one thinks that Paul is referring to some physical thing that Jesus could or could not have considered seizing or plundering. The only issue debated is what that figurative use means. Friberg acknowledges (a) the alternative view and then states (b) what he considers the probable meaning of the word in Philippians 2:6.

      Then there is BDAG, which many anti-Trinitarians treat as the bible of lexicons except when it is inconvenient. You wrote:

      “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.”

      As I have already pointed out, you are here agreeing with a statement that makes the same point as the EDNT, which you dismissed as theologically motivated. Honestly, at this point I’m wondering whether either of you has a clue what these reference works are saying. Winer’s comment, with which BDAG agrees, does not show that the word is incompatible with the text meaning that Jesus is God. There are other meanings, notably the Hoover/Wright view, which are compatible with that understanding.

      Your quotation from BDAG is a pastiche of three snippets: (1) the first definition, then (2) the second definition, and then (3) a comment cited from another work under the first definition. The way you present these snippets gives the impression you don’t even understand that you have quoted two different definitions.

      BDAG actually reviews six proposed interpretations, four of which are treated under the second definition:

      (1) robbery (def. 1, “next to impossible”)
      (2) booty = holding on to something one already has (def. 2(a), first option)
      (3) booty = appropriating to oneself something that is sought after (def. 2(a), second option)
      (4) windfall = something already seized and waiting to be used (def. 2(b), first option)
      (5) windfall = something not already appropriated (def. 2(b), second option)
      (6) rapture = a mystical experience (def. 3, “less probable”)

      BDAG concludes in favor of interpretation (4), which is the Hoover/Wright view, and gives the following translation: “did not consider equality w. God a prize to be tenaciously grasped.” Although this translation does not use the words “exploit” or “take advantage,” it expresses using the word “grasped” the same view as Hoover and Wright. Equality with God is something that Christ already had but did not tenaciously grasp in order to use it. The first several bibliographic citations at the end of the BDAG entry (including a citation of Hoover’s article) all support this explanation.

      Finally, I should point out that although Ceslas Spicq’s Theological Lexicon of the New Testament (1994) does not have a separate entry on harpagmon, it does support the Hoover/Wright view of the word (2:229).

      In review, two of the lexical reference works published since Hoover ignores his view, while four such reference works—BDAG, EDNT, Friberg’s Analytical Lexicon, and Spicq’s Theological Lexicon—mention and endorse that view. The Hoover/Wright view, then, dominates the lexicons.

    • Rob Bowman

      HARPAGMOS IN PHILIPPIANS 2:6, IV: PERIODICAL ARTICLES

      Dave and Fortigurn,

      In your comment, you cited just four periodical articles, three of which you admitted agree with the “something to exploit” interpretation of harpagmos:

      • Hoover’s “The HARPAGMOS Enigma” in Harvard Theological Review (1971)
      • McClendon’s “Philippians 2:5-11” in Review & Expositor (1991)
      • McLeod’s “Imitating the Incarnation of Christ” in Bibliotheca Sacra (2001)

      The fourth article was Feinberg’s “Kenosis and Christology” in the Trinity Journal (1980), published before Wright’s article had convinced the majority of NT scholars that Hoover was correct. You did not cite a single article after 1986 that disagreed with Hoover and Wright! Even I can do better than that. I know of four English periodical articles that favored a different view:

      • Burk, “On the Articular Infinitive in Philippians 2:6,” in Tyndale Bulletin (2004)
      • Collins, “Psalms, Philippians 2:6-11, and the Origins of Christology,” in Biblical Interpretation (2003)
      • Wegener, “Philippians 2:6-11—Paul’s (Revised) Hymn to Jesus,” in Currents in Theology and Mission (1998)
      • O’Neill, “Hoover on Harpagmos Revisited,” in Harvard Theological Review (1988)

      On the other hand, you missed at least six more periodical articles that supported the Hoover/Wright view:

      • Jackson, “Jesus Christ as Humble Lord,” in Princeton Theological Review (2008)
      • Allen, “Philippians 2:1-11,” in Interpretation (2007)
      • Peterson, “Philippians 2:5-11,” in Interpretation (2004)
      • Hellerman, “The Humiliation of Christ in the Social World of Roman Philippi,” in Bibliotheca Sacra (2003)
      • Byrne, “Christ’s Pre-existence in Pauline Soteriology,” in Theological Studies (1997)
      • Seely, “The Background of the Philippian Hymn,” in Journal of Higher Criticism (1994)

      Thus, even counting four articles favorable to your argument that you missed, I count at least nine periodical articles since Hoover and Wright (that is, not counting those two articles) that favor their view and only four that do not. The Hoover/Wright view clearly dominates the periodical literature.

    • Rob Bowman

      HARPAGMOS IN PHILIPPIANS 2:6, V: BOOKS ON PHILIPPIANS 2

      Dave and Fortigurn,

      One category of literature you completely missed—understandably, since you were dependent on software packages of theological literature—is the category of academic books that focus on the passage in Philippians 2. Such books are especially significant because their focus requires more sustained attention to the passage and greater engagement with the exegetical issues than any other category of literature.

      Three academic books in English on Philippians 2 stand out from the past half-century or so. Ralph P. Martin practically built his career on Philippians 2. He first published his book Carmen Christi: Philippians ii.5-11 in Recent Interpretation and in the Setting of Early Christian Worship through Cambridge University Press in 1967. Eerdmans published a second edition in 1983, and InterVarsity Press published a third edition, retitled A Hymn of Christ (the meaning of the original Latin title), in 1997. Martin also co-edited a collection of essays on the passage entitled Where Christology Began: Essays on Philippians 2 (1998). (By the way, Martin was one of my New Testament professors at Fuller Seminary.) More recently, Joseph H. Hellerman (who happens to have been a close friend of mine during my college days!) has published a monograph on the passage entitled Reconstructing Honor in Roman Philippi: Carmen Christi as Cursus Pudorum (Cambridge University Press, 2005).

      Martin, in the 1967 edition of his book, endorsed an interpretation of harpagmos similar to the one that Hoover defended in 1971. “He had the equality with God as His Image, but refused to exploit it to His personal gain” (149). In the second and third editions, Martin cited Hoover’s article as confirming his own view of the meaning of harpagmos (xxii, lxviii). Among the essayists in Where Christology Began, Gerald Hawthorne endorses the Hoover/Wright view (102), as does Stephen Fowl (142). One essayist disagrees—James Dunn (77). Finally, Hellerman strongly affirms the Hoover/Wright view in his 2005 book Reconstructing Honor in Roman Philippi: (134).

      Clearly, the Hoover/Wright view dominates the academic books that focus exclusively on the Philippians 2 passage.

    • Rob Bowman

      HARPAGMOS IN PHILIPPIANS 2:6, VI: COMMENTARIES

      Dave and Fortigurn,

      Finally, we turn to the commentaries on Philippians. I have saved the worst, in terms of your handling of the literature, for last.

      I was able to track down all but two of the commentaries you cited: Max Anders’s commentary on Galatians through Colossians in the Holman NT Commentary series (1999), and Ellsworth’s book Opening Up Philippians (2004), which from the title and the description I found is clearly not an academic or scholarly commentary. My guess is that neither of these two works engages or even mentions the recent academic literature on harpagmos, or even mentions the Hoover/Wright view. It doesn’t matter, because we have a lot of other works to consult.

      I must once again disqualify several of the works that you listed with misleading dates in the 1990s and 2000s that actually date from much earlier. The Pulpit Commentary, which you cited with a date of 2004, was published in the nineteenth century! A. T. Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament was published in 1931. Kenneth Wuest’s work on Philippians that is included in his Word Studies from the Greek New Testament was first published in 1942; Wuest died in 1962. Hendriksen’s commentary on Philippians was published in 1962. None of these writers could possibly “take advantage of” Hoover’s article! The Bible Knowledge Commentary was published in 1983, after Hoover’s article but before Wright’s article in 1986.

      Then there are several works that you cited as saying “no” to the Hoover/Wright view but which offer no comment at all on the meaning of harpagmos. In this category belong Keener’s IVP Bible Background Commentary, Arnold’s Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary, and the Holman Concise Bible Commentary. It is outright skewing of the evidence to add these to the “no” side.

      This leaves two relevant commentaries that I could consult that you listed as saying “no” to the Hoover/Wright view: Bruce’s commentary in the NIBC series (1983, second edition 1989), and Ash’s commentary in the College Press NIV Commentary series (1994). You are wrong about both of these commentaries.

      Bruce, after rejecting the view that harpagmos means either something to be grasped or something to be retained by force, explains its meaning as follows. “The point is rather that he did not treat his equality with God as an excuse for self-assertion or self-aggrandizement; on the contrary, he treated it as an occasion for renouncing every advantage or privilege that might have accrued to him thereby, as an opportunity for self-impoverishment and unreserved self-sacrifice” (69). This is an elegant way of saying exactly what Hoover and Wright said: Christ did not view his equality with God as something that he should take advantage of for his own gain.

      Here is what Ash writes: “‘Grasp’ (from [hARPAZW], harpazō) means to snatch or seize, and in the passive sense indicates a prize; i.e., the thing seized. Christ did not use the equality to escape service and humiliation” (65). This is yet another way of making the same point.

      Thus, with the possible exception of Anders and Ellsworth, which are not accessible to me (and probably don’t discuss the matter), you failed to cite one commentary from the past 24 years that disagrees with the Hoover/Wright view. Not one!

      In your comment, you claimed to have found only 7 commentaries that interpreted harpagmos in a way equivalent to Hoover and Wright. That would be enough to establish dominance of the view, but the number is actually much higher. Here are 22 commentaries that endorse or accept that view (listing in reverse chronological order):

      • Charles Cousar (New Testament Library, 2009)
      • Walter Hansen (Pillar NT Commentary, 2009)
      • John Reumann (Anchor Bible, 2008)
      • David Garland (Expositor’s Bible Commentary, rev. ed, 2006)
      • Stephen Fowl (Two Horizons NT Commentary, 2005)
      • Moisés Silva (Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament, 2005)
      • Ralph Martin/Gerald Hawthorne (Word Biblical Commentary, 2004)
      • Bonnie Thurston/Judith Ryan (Sacra Pagina, 2003)
      • Charles Wanamaker (Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible, 2003)
      • Morna Hooker (New Interpreters Bible, 2000)
      • Carolyn Osiek (Abingdon NT Commentary, 2000)
      • Markus Bockmuehl (Black’s NT Commentaries, 1998)
      • Francis Foulkes (New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, 1994)
      • Frank Thielman (NIV Application Commentary, 1996)
      • Gordon Fee (New International Commentary on the New Testament, 1995)
      • I-Jin Loh/Eugene Nida (UBS Handbook, 1995)
      • Anthony Ash (College Press NIV Commentary, 1994)
      • Richard Melick (New American Commentary, 1991)
      • Peter O’Brien (New International Greek Testament Commentary, 1991)
      • Brendan Byrne (New Jerome Biblical Commentary, 1990)
      • F. F. Bruce (New International Biblical Commentary, 1989)
      • Ralph Martin (Tyndale NT Commentaries, 1987)

      Thus, with regard to commentaries in the past 24 years, the score is 22 commentaries in favor of the Hoover/Wright view, and zero against it—or perhaps one or two against it, in the highly unlikely event that Anders or Ellsworth even mention it. The above list includes every single major exegetical commentary series that has published a volume on Philippians in the past 24 years.

      My conclusion follows (scroll down a couple of posts).

    • Fortigurn

      Rob,

      The larger issue here is that your attack on Trinitarianism presupposes a sharp divide between Second Temple Judaism and ancient Hellenistic philosophy.

      Where? I have read Burke saying that there is a sharp divide between Second Temple Judaism and post-apostolic Christian neo-Platonism and Hellenistic philosophy. This is hardly controversial.

      He has made the point more than once that he approaches the New Testament from the context of Second Temple Judaism and the Old Testament, whereas you approach it from the well developed Trinitarianism of the 5th century, predicated on Christian theological adoptions of neo-Platonic and Hellenistic thought. You claim that these later Christians understood the Bible better than the Jews of the Second Temple era, including 1st first century.

      It is indeed significant that you have avoided almost any reference to Second Temple Judaism other than when Burke has raised it, and even then you’ve attempted to minimize its relevance to understanding the New Testament, which scholarship most certainly does not (see McGrath, Hoglund, Sacchi, Hurtado, Schniedewind, Horsley, Evans, etc).

      In all this wrangling about Mowinckel from both sides, I still don’t see you actually disagreeing with Burke’s point that the Jews held to an ‘ideal pre-existence’ as well as a literal pre-existence, so what’s the real issue here?

    • Rob Bowman

      HARPAGMOS IN PHILIPPIANS 2:6, VII: CONCLUSION

      Dave and Fortigurn,

      I must say that the data is even more lopsided than I imagined it would be. Clearly, the meaning of “something to be exploited or taken advantage of” for harpagmos is indeed now the dominant view in biblical scholarship. A majority of new English translations from the past 24 years favors this view. Twice as many of the standard lexical reference works favor it as those that do not mention it (and none disagrees with it). Twice as many periodical articles favor it as those that disagree with it. The two major monographs in English on Philippians 2 during the period both favor this view. Finally, 22 new commentaries published in the past 24 years favor it and none, so far as I know, disagree with it. Not only is my claim not “utterly false,” as you alleged in your comment, but my review of the literature shows that my claim is definitely true.

      I close my review of the scholarly literature with a few choice statements from recent authors on the state of the question in contemporary scholarship:

      “Hoover’s view…has been adopted as the correct understanding of harpagmos by the majority of recent interpreters of Philippians 2:6.” Gerald F. Hawthorne, “In the Form of God and Equal with God (Philippians 2:6).” In Where Christology Began: Essays on Philippians 2, ed. Ralph P. Martin and Brian J. Dodds (Westminster John Knox Press, 1998), 102.

      “Hoover’s view has not gone unchallenged…but it is fair to say that it now represents majority opinion in the scholarly community.” Joseph H. Hellerman, Reconstructing Honor in Roman Philippi: Carmen Christi as Cursus Pudorum, Society for New Testament Studies Monograph Series 132 (Cambridge University Press, 2005), 134.

      “Although the term has generated a long scholarly debate, it now appears that there is a consensus emerging, which is that in contexts such as this one we should understand the word indicating something that is used for one’s own advantage.” Stephen E. Fowl, Philippians, Two Horizons NT Commentary (Eerdmans, 2005), 54.

      I’m going to assume, out of charity, that your comment on harpagmos in Philippians 2:6 was for the most part sophomoric rather than willfully deceptive. It’s hard to believe that you didn’t know that many of the translations, commentaries, and other reference works you cited dated from long before the dates you were listing for them. On the other hand, your handling of the lexicons and some of the other resources was so inept that it seems you didn’t understand what you were quoting. I don’t know for sure what the two of you were thinking. What I do know for sure is that your handling of the literature was so bad that you have only made matters worse for yourselves.

      In case anyone has missed the significance of this argument in the larger context of this debate, the fact that New Testament scholars now generally agree that we should translate Philippians 2:6 “did not consider his equality with God something to be exploited” or the like has obvious theological implications. It confirms that the traditional understanding of Philippians 2:6 to mean that Christ was equal with God but chose to humble himself is correct.

    • Fortigurn

      Rob, do you understand the difference between a lexical definition and a gloss? Just saying.

    • Fortigurn

      Rob,

      We must also drop the Liddell-Scott lexicon, since the 9th edition (revised by Jones) was produced in 1940. The 1996 date you gave for LSJ9 is the date the work was published with a “Supplement,” not a revision of the main lexical entries.

      I suggest you familiarize yourself with the electronic edition. One out of every five main lexical entries has been updated by integrating the supplement. It’s a little misleading to say that the main lexical entries haven’t been revised. The entry for ἁρπάζω was one of the revised articles.

    • Frank Spinella

      Is the theological implication of ἁρπάζω that is under discussion this one: if the word connotes “to be grasped at” then Jesus didn’t have equality with God to begin with, whereas if it connotes “to be exploited” then Jesus did have it to begin with (but laid it aside)?

    • Rob Bowman

      Mr. Burke (Fortigurn),

      I have done more than enough homework for you and have spent far too much time responding to your diversionary comments. I am interested in seeing from you one of two things: (1) evidence refuting the overall cumulative argument I presented (not just scratching at a thread of the argument here or there) that the Hoover/Wright interpretation of harpagmos is now the dominant interpretation in New Testament scholarship, or (2) an acknowledgment that you and Dave were wrong on this point. I am satisfied that (1) is factually impossible, given the evidence I presented. Whether (2) is possible depends, of course, on your willingness to admit when you are wrong.

    • Rob Bowman

      Frank,

      The meaning of the word harpagmos (not the verb harpazo) has exegetical relevance in the context of the whole statement in Philippians 2:6-7, not simply in the abstract. If we interpret the word to mean “something to be seized,” then the exegetically natural interpretation of the statement as a whole would be that Christ did not possess equality with God and did not consider it something to be seized. If we interpret the word to mean “something to be exploited,” then the exegetically natural interpretation of the statement as a whole would be that Christ had equality with God but did not consider it something to be exploited. Admittedly there are all sorts of exegetical variations on these two ways of construing the word in context, e.g., Ralph Martin’s view that Christ possessed equality with God by rights (de jure) but did not try to seize de facto equality with God.

      If you go back to my third-week post and read my initial presentation on Philippians 2:3-11, you’ll see how I approach the interpretation of the passage as a whole. I don’t put all my eggs in the basket of one interpretation of harpagmon, even though the scholarship is now heavily supportive of the “something to be exploited” view.

    • Frank Spinella

      Thanks, Ron. The “something to be exploited” meaning is the one that makes most sense to me, given the “emptied himself” language that follows. Can’t empty something that wasn’t full to begin with.

    • Fortigurn

      Frank, what Rob is saying is that the translation of harpagmos is critical to the Trinitarian interpretation of this passage. That’s why he finds it awkward that none of the standard lexicons give ‘something to be exploited’ or ‘something to be taken advantage of’ as a definition of the word (instead he did a bait and switch, citing the glosses as if they were interpretations). He has also acknowledged that neither the 1995 edition of the NASB, nor the 1994 NIrV, nor the 2001 ESV, nor the 1991 CEV, nor the NLT (1996, 2004), nor the NET (2005), give this as a translation of the passage.

      Rob here explains why Trinitarians typically avoid glossing harpagmos in Philippians 2 with the lexical definition they’re happy using elsewhere in Greek literature:

      If we interpret the word to mean “something to be seized,” then the exegetically natural interpretation of the statement as a whole would be that Christ did not possess equality with God and did not consider it something to be seized.

      As Rob acknowledges openly, it’s a theologically motivated interpretation. And for your interest, here’s the New English Translation (2005):

      Philippians 2:
      610 who though he existed in the form of God
      did not regard equality with God
      as something to be grasped,

      That’s the translation which Rob says indicates that ‘the exegetically natural interpretation of the statement as a whole would be that Christ did not possess equality with God and did not consider it something to be seized’. As you can see, some Trinitarians are prepared to acknowledge this. As you can also see, some aren’t.

    • Fortigurn

      Frank, that statement ‘quoting the glosses as if they were interpretations’ should be ‘quoting the glosses as if they were definitions’ (glosses are interpretive).

    • Fortigurn

      Rob, I have given Dave with raw quotes of relevant literature at his request during this debate since he doesn’t have access to the kind of resources I do (I’m sure you could afford them too, it’s all about priorities).

      I’m responsible if he confused electronic publication dates with original publication dates, having sent him copy/pastes for him to use (he wouldn’t have known to check this).

      I have been completely evenhanded in supplying such literature, and in commenting on its use. When I was asked to supply lexicon definitions to ‘Sam Shamoun’ (please tell me that’s a humorous alliterative pseudonym like ‘Nick Norelli’?), because he didn’t have a lexicon, I cheerfully spent half an hour of my own time providing him with fully and complete definitions from half a dozen lexicons, just as I had provided to Dave (you will note I received no thanks for this from ‘Shamoun’).

      Furthermore, I checked your objection to Dave’s use of the lexical data for aiwn in Hebrews 1, and when I found that he had quoted selectively I upheld your objection and corrected him publicly, quoting the parts he had omitted.

      In this case I applaud your research into the scholarly interpretation of harpagmos in Philippians 2, and I acknowledge you have made an excellent case that Hooper’s is now the dominant interpretation in Philippian studies. I’m sorry this exchange so obviously made you angry and caused you to say things you’ll regret when you cool down, but I will take some time later to take issue with you on ‘dominance’ in the translations and lexicons, and other issues.

      You cited glosses in lexicons when the issue Dave raised was definitions (bait and switch), objected to a lexical source from 1930 as out of the relevant date range but cited approvingly a lexical source from 1867, claimed the main entries in LSJ9 hadn’t been revised (they have), and made a number of other wrong or questionable statements.

    • Frank Spinella

      Counting the number (or age) of translations that favor one interpretation over the other doesn’t do it for me — because for all I know, the translators might have agendas they wanted to push. My problem, I guess, is not knowing Greek. I want literal accuracy from my Bible. If a word is ambiguous or has multiple meanings, I want the translator to choose the one that conveys the usual and ordinary meaning of the word whenever doing so is not inconsistent with the rest of the passage.

      Maybe this is my legal training coming to the fore, but the words of a statute, for example, are given their usual and ordinary meaning wherever possible. If a word is ambiguous (i.e., if there are two or more plausible meanings), in general the common usage of the word wins out in the courtroom. It is what the words themselves mean, rather than what their author meant, that matters. As Justice Holmes put it, “We do not inquire what the legislature meant; we ask only what the statute means.”

      And so it is for me in seeking a translation from the Greek. I do not care to be told by the translator what Paul meant; I want to be told only what Paul said. Paul’s true meaning I will discern elsewhere, from all the available contextual and historical evidence. I do not want the translator’s personal beliefs to slant that meaning. Not being fluent in Greek, I am at his mercy, and he does me a disservice if he colors the language to conform to his own doctrinal views. It is, in the end, better to distill doctrine from scripture than to distill scripture from doctrine!

      How can someone like me know which translation to trust?

    • Rob Bowman

      Fortigurn,

      You wrote:

      “Frank, what Rob is saying is that the translation of harpagmos is critical to the Trinitarian interpretation of this passage.”

      Yet what I actually wrote was this:

      “I don’t put all my eggs in the basket of one interpretation of harpagmon, even though the scholarship is now heavily supportive of the ‘something to be exploited’ view.”

      And if you read my original exposition of the passage in the third week post, as I pointed out, you’ll see I do not depend on any particular translation of the word.

      I could respond point by point to the rest of your statements, but I refuse to waste any more time on you. Please stop posting comments now. I’m tired of your misrepresentations. You’ve had your say, and you’ve had more than enough responses from me.

    • Rob Bowman

      Frank,

      The question you pose is exactly why I favor an interpretation of the passage that works from the overall context and from there sorts out the details, rather than an interpretation that depends entirely on controversial judgment calls about one or two words. Again, go back and read my exposition of Philippians 2 in my third-week post to this debate and you’ll see what I mean.

      In the case of a word like harpagmos, which occurs only once in the Bible and is extremely rare even outside the Bible, there is no “usual and ordinary meaning of the word.” This means that scholars must discern its meaning by looking at related words and by viewing the passage in its context. It also means that interpretations of the passage as a whole should not be too dependent on how we construe that word.

    • Kaz

      Although I can’t claim to have read everything that’s been published about “The Harpagmos Enigma”, my impression is similar to Rob’s, i.e. that Hoover’s hypothesis has become more and more popular, and may now be (probably is) the dominant view.

      I’ve attempted to interact (within my own limitations) with everything I could get my hands on that discusses this hapax legomenon, and I’ve made an effort to keep my own theological presuppositions in check so that they wouldn’t alter any tentative conclusions I might reach vis a vis the grammar. The impression that resulted is that there is a very good reason for the growing popularity of Hoover’s view: It is a first-rate piece of philological research.

      Surely this is a case where counting heads is of limited value, though, for a number of reasons. One should always focus on the quality of the arguments presented. For example, O’Neill’s “Modest Proposal” [see the footnote] that the text at Phil 2 is corrupt has not gained wide acceptance (or any?), and rightfully so, IMO. There are good counterarguments to Hoover’s view, though, such as that which is offered by Deny Burke, which can be read here:

      http://preview.tinyurl.com/ydj9zam

      And here:

      http://preview.tinyurl.com/yd96ofo

      I believe that Burke’s teacher, Daniel Wallace, favors Burke’s understanding. I am divided, personally, but favor these two alternatives over others that I’ve considered.

      The primary thing that I want to point out is that neither Hoover’s nor Burke’s _grammatical understanding_ necessarily favors Trinitarianism, and so this text is of limited value vis a vis the larger question of this debate. They do seem to present a compelling challenge to Socianism, and are therefore useful for that purpose.

      ~Kaz

      Footnote: See “Hoover on Harpagmos Reviewed, with a Modest Proposal Concerning Philippians 2:6”, HTR 81:4 (1988), pp 445–49, where O’Neill argues that a second “not” was dropped from the text.

    • Fortigurn

      Kaz, Daniel Wallace is not ‘Burke’s teacher. But your comments are helpful nonetheless.

    • Fortigurn

      Rob, I am not disputing that you haven’t put all your eggs into the harpagmos basket. I wasn’t commenting on what you wrote earlier. I was commenting directly on what you wrote here:

      If we interpret the word to mean “something to be seized,” then the exegetically natural interpretation of the statement as a whole would be that Christ did not possess equality with God and did not consider it something to be seized.

      If we interpret the word to mean “something to be exploited,” then the exegetically natural interpretation of the statement as a whole would be that Christ had equality with God but did not consider it something to be exploited.

      You state here explicitly that the issue of whether or nor the passage should be understood naturally as saying Jesus was equal with God, turns on the interpretation of ‘harpagmos’.

      Having written this, are you really going to maintain the claim that the Trinitarian interpretation of this verse is independent of the translation or interpretation of ‘harpagmos’? If that were really the case, you wouldn’t have made such a point of Hoover’s study, and you certainly wouldn’t have written this.

    • Kaz

      Hi Fortigurn,

      Are you sure about that? See this link:

      http://www.dennyburk.com/daniel-wallace-in-the-dallas-morning-news/

      Doesn’t being someone’s intern make you that one’s student? I use “student” in a broad sense, by the way.

      ~Kaz

    • Fortigurn

      Sorry Kaz, I see you mean Wallace was Denny Burke’s teacher, not Dave Burke’s.

    • Nick Norelli

      Rob: Just to confirm your suspicion about Ellsworth, he doesn’t mention harpagmos at all in his booklet (it’s only 96 pages long). Here’s what he does say:

      We should not be able to read these words without a sense of awe and wonder stealing over our hearts. If anyone ever had the right to insist on his rights, it was the Lord Jesus. But his concern for others (those whom the Father had given him) was such that he refused to insist on his rights. He did not cling to his divine prerogatives, but willingly laid aside all the trappings of his glory and took our humanity.
      It is crucial for us to understand that in doing this he did not cease to be God. God cannot cease to be God! He rather laid aside the glories and riches of heaven and ‘the independent exercise of authority’ and added our humanity to his deity so he was at one and the same time fully God and fully man.
      Roger Ellsworth, Opening Up Philippians (Leominster: Day One Publications, 2004), 37.

    • Kaz

      Hi Fortigurn,

      Alright, I can see where the confusion arose;-) I thought about the similarity of names when I composed my post. FYI, I misspelled his name, it’s “Denny” not “Deny”. I just noticed tonight that he’s written a book (I assume it’s essentially a presentation of his thesis?) that can be purchased here:

      http://preview.tinyurl.com/2bbuxjb

      Incidentally, I was trying to convey my point within the restrictions of the word limit imposed here, and I had to delete a few paragraphs that would probably have made the post more coherent.

      In a nutshell, I’ve come to consider Hoover’s view to be a compelling one, from a grammatical standpoint. While there may be any number of alternative views and/or translations whose committees obviously favored an alternative understanding, it is ultimately the quality of the argument(s) that one should focus upon. However, as compelling as Hoover’s thesis is, a serious challenge has been offered by Wallace’s student, Denny Burke.

      So, I currently favor two _grammatical_ alternatives approximately equally, that of Hoover and that of Burke. What I don’t agree with is the manner in which theologians have chosen to interpret these translations (including Burke himself in reference to his own preferred translation, which interpretation seems anachronistic).

      ~Kaz

    • Kaz

      Fortigurn,

      I presented the wrong URL to where you can purchase Denny Burke’s book. The correct URL is (or better be) here:

      http://preview.tinyurl.com/28d89by

      ~Kaz

    • Kaz

      I am so sorry for the lack of precision; this is embarrassing! His name is Denny Burk, not Deny Burke or Denny Burke, but, again…

      …DENNY BURK or DENNIS RAY BURK, JR

      Humbly yours,
      ~Kaz

    • Rob Bowman

      Comments for this and the other posts in the Great Trinity Debate here on Parchment and Pen are now being closed. The debate over this subject, of course, will continue. Thanks to all for following this debate.

Comments are closed.