What Happened to Us?
by Bob & Suzanne Hamrick
NOTE: We use the Creator’s original Self-given Hebrew Name, YHVH, and the original Hebrew name given by Him through the angel Gabriel (Matthew 1:21) to be the Messiah’s name, Yeshua (Strong’s H3442 – “he will save”). We also refer to what Christianity calls the “Old Testament” with the Hebrew name for it, the Tanakh; to “the Law” as Torah; and to the “New Testament” as the Renewed Covenant Scriptures. Details on request.
In January of 2009, a dear friend asked us point-blank why we believed that Yeshua (“Jesus”) and the Holy Spirit were God. We were quite taken aback by the question, as this individual had known us for quite some time. We had written and published a well-received book [See note at end of this letter] exposing the fallacy of the “Pre-Trib” & “Mid-Trib” rapture theories in 2001, and this person was one we had met through that effort. So we thought it a strange question to be coming from a fellow evangelical Christian, someone who knew us well, and whom we thought we knew well, at least from a doctrinal standpoint. Apparently not.
Once we were convinced that the question was serious, we started examining our own beliefs. The sequence went something like this: We believe that Yeshua and the Holy Spirit are God because:
We are Bible-believing Christians, and all Bible-believing Christians believe that Yeshua and the Holy Spirit are God, co-equal with the Father;
John 1:1-18 states- “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” This obviously refers to Yeshua and to no one else.
Thomas declared him to be God in John 20:28.
Yeshua stated that he existed before Abraham in John 8:58.
He is described throughout Scripture as the Son of God, which is the same thing as God the Son.
- In Genesis 1:1 the Hebrew word for God, elohim, is a plural form, indicating a multiplicity in the Godhead.
- In the Shema, the uniquely Hebrew declaration of the one-ness of God found in Deuteronomy 6:4 and elsewhere throughout the Hebrew Tanakh (“Old Testament”), and repeated by Yeshua as the most important commandment of all (Mark 12:29), God is described as “echad” which in Hebrew can denote a compound unity.
Yeshua had to be deity, because the death of a mere human being, no matter how qualified otherwise, would not be sufficient to atone for the sins of all mankind.
Psalm 45:6, referring to the Promised One, states that “Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom.”
- Psalm 110:1 ascribes a title reserved for God alone in the Hebrew texts, Adonai (Lord), to the Messiah, and Yeshua claimed that this Messianic reference applied to him (Matthew 22:41-45).
- Isaiah 7:14 states that “YHVH Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child, and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel (God with us).”
Isaiah 9:6 states that: “And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Prince of Peace.”
Jeremiah 23:6 states that: “And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘YHVH our righteousness.’”
Micah 5:2 states that: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from old, from ancient times.”
In Matthew 28:19 Yeshua commands us to “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
In Mark 2:7 the Pharisees accused Yeshua of blaspheming because he forgave sins, which only God can do.
In Luke 8:39, Yeshua tells the cured man, “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.”
In John 5:18, it states that the Jews sought to kill Yeshua because “He (Yeshua) was even calling God his own father, making himself equal with God.”
In John 6:33, Yeshua describes himself as “the Bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
In John 6:38, Yeshua states that “I have come down from heaven not to do my will, but to do the will of Him who sent me.”
In John 6:62, Yeshua asks, “What if you should see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before?”
In John 6:64, it states that “Yeshua had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him”, indicating omniscience, a characteristic of deity.
In John 10:30, Yeshua states that he and the Father are One.
In John 17:5, Yeshua prays of the Father “And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.”
Philippians 2:6-8 states of Yeshua, “Who, although he existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a bondservant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
Colossians 1:15-20 states of Yeshua, “Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.”
Colossians 2:9 states of Yeshua that, “in Christ all the fulness of the Deity lives in bodily form.”
Titus 2:13 states that we are to “While we wait for the blessed hope, the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.”
Hebrews 1:2 states that “But in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, and through whom He made the universe.”
Having thus established beyond all doubt exactly why we believed that Yeshua and the Holy Spirit were God, in addition to the Father Himself, we fired these responses back to our well-intentioned, but obviously misguided friend.
Who replied, “Believe it or not, every one of these things which you accept as facts are directly contradicted by all of the original texts of Scripture, were never believed or taught by Yeshua or by any of his disciples, but were added in by men from the third and fourth centuries AD, and down to our day through corrupted translations of the Bible, including the King James Versions, the New American Standard Bible (NASB), the New International Version (NIV), and especially the Scofield and Ryrie ‘Study’ Bibles.
“These errors have been known by independent Bible scholars since the writing of the New Testament, and had already begun to creep into the Church, even as it was being written. They are part and parcel of the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church, and were never challenged by the so-called ‘Protestant reformers’, whose ‘reforms’ never went any further back in time than the Councils of Constantinople, Chalcedon, Nicæa, Laodicæa, etc., when the errors were originally promulgated, redefining what was ‘orthodox’ (accepted) belief, and punishing others with death.” He went on, but you should get the picture.
Since the consequences of continuing in what we believed would obviously constitute idolatry (worshipping Yeshua as God if he were really not God, i.e., a false God) according to the literal commandments of God the Father and our Lord Yeshua, he then went on to suggest that we read a certain book, which he claimed would validate all of his assertions beyond any shred of doubt. Which we did.
He was right, and we were wrong. Dead wrong. As is most of “Christianity” today, apparently the “many”, about whom our Lord Yeshua warns his disciples in Matthew 7:13-23:
13 Enter in (to eternity) at the strait (hard to find) gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leads to destruction, and many (Greek: polus, a great majority) there be who go in that way:
14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leads to life, and few (Greek: oligos, a tiny number) there be that find it.
15 Beware of false teachers, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
16 You shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorns, or figs from thistles?
17 Even so every good tree brings forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree brings forth evil fruit.
18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
19 Every tree that does not bring forth good fruit is cut down, and cast into the fire.
20 Wherefore by their fruits you shall know them.
21 Not every one that merely calls me Lord shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
22 Many will say to me in that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name? and in your name cast out demons? and in your name done many wonderful works?”
23 And then will I declare to them, “I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity.”
[ This word translated here as “iniquity” is the Greek word anomia, which actually means “lawlessness”. Yeshua was speaking in Hebrew or Aramaic to a Jewish audience, and he would almost certainly have used the Hebrew/ Aramaic word equivalent to Torahlessness here. Torah is generally synonymous with “the written Law of Moses”, which surely includes the Ten Commandments, but also includes all the rest of the commandments of Father YHVH as well as the additional commandments of Yeshua as recorded in the Gospels, etc. There being no word in Greek which is exactly equivalent to Torah, this word anomia could well be translated here as Torahlessness. ]
The book to which our friend referred is “The Doctrine of the Trinity – Christianity’s Self-Inflicted Wound”, by Anthony Buzzard and Charles Hunting. Another of Anthony’s books which covers the same material in a slightly different way is “The Amazing Aims and Claims of Jesus – What you didn’t learn in church”.
We have attached Chapter 12 from “Doctrine of the Trinity” (with the author’s permission) and an 8½ x 11 version of another of Anthony’s booklets, “Who Is Jesus?”, for your consideration. These books are available from Anthony’s website, via Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, etc.
We pray that you will get copies, and spread the word, as we are doing. At least one of the issues is salvational, for the entire Bible affirms that it is idolatry for anyone to worship anyone else AS God, except YHVH Elohim (“the LORD”), the single, unitary God of the Hebrew scriptures. To regard the MAN Yeshua/“Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5), or the holy Spirit of YHVH AS a separate “Person” who is also GOD, is therefore indisputably a violation of the First Commandment. And, ignorance of the Law is no excuse, as our Lord Yeshua makes chillingly clear in Matthew 7:21-23, above:
21 Not every one that says to me, “Lord, Lord”, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father who is in heaven.
22 Many will say to me in that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name? and in your name have cast out demons? and in your name done many wonderful works?”
23 And then will I profess unto them, “I never knew you. Depart from me, you who practice iniquity (Greek anomia – LAWlessness or Torahlessness).”
The Father had previously established the principle in Leviticus 5:17:
“Now if a person sins and does any of the things which YHVH has commanded not to be done, though he was unaware, still he is guilty and shall bear his punishment.”
As previously mentioned, the word rendered above as “iniquity” by the King James translators is the Greek word anomia, which means “lawlessness”. In the Old Testament (Hebrew: Tanakh) the Hebrew word Torah is rendered as “law” 219 times, but there is no precise word in Greek for it. We suggest that what our Lord is faulting “the many” for in Matthew 7:21-23 above is their failure to obey the written Torah, that is, not keeping the Commandments (Leviticus 26; Numbers 15:40; Deuteronomy 5:29; 1 Kings 6:12), both the Father’s and his. He states that the consequence of their behavior is eternal separation from him and from the Father.
This is but one part, although a hugely important one, of the greater worldwide network of Satanic deceptions which Satan has injected into the Body of Christ (Genesis 3:15), called “Mystery Babylon” (Revelation 17:5) in the Bible. This body of false beliefs is symbolized as a whore, since those who have anything to do with “her” are violating their covenant with the Creator, just as a faithless husband consorts with prostitutes. Yeshua calls to us, his Torah-obedient disciples, to “come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.” (Revelation 18:4.
We pray that you will investigate these matters with all due haste, repent, and tell the world what you have discovered, even as we are doing.
In Our Lord Yeshua’s Blessed Service,
Bob & Suzanne Hamrick
The Doctrine of the Trinity – Christianity’s Self-Inficted Wound
by Anthony Buzzard & Charles Hunting [reproduced with permission of the authors]
Chapter XII. HAVE WE BARTERED FOR ANOTHER GOD?
“In earliest Christianity, orthodoxy and heresy do not stand in relation to one another as primary to secondary, but in many regions heresy is the original manifestation of Christianity.” – George Strecker
If Jesus were God, then he must always have existed, and further discussion about his origin would be irrelevant. At Nicæa, argument about the origin of Jesus was officially settled. Under the leadership of Constantine and the Greek theologians of the fourth century, belief in the consubstantial Deity of Jesus became a main plank in the doctrinal system of the Church, and so it has remained. But the emerging Trinitarian theory presented a considerable problem for the theologians. How were they to explain a Deity of two (and later three) persons and at the same time maintain that there was only one God? The unity which Constantine’s council tried to foster became mired in endless debates about the nature of Christ. If Christ were God, and his Father were God, did not that make two Gods?
The point was a continuing source of irritation. The docetists advanced one solution. God was one, appearing as Jesus in another mode of being. Jesus, therefore, was not really a distinct person but God in another form. “As Christ’s human body was phantasm, his suffering and death were mere appearance: ‘If he suffered he was not God. If he was God, he did not suffer.”‘1
Others reasoned that if the Father begat a Son, there had to be a time when the Son did not exist. The decision at Nicæa in 325 AD, and later at the Council of Chalcedon in 451, was to declare Jesus both “very God of very God” and completely man at the same time. The technical term for this combination of natures was the “hypostatic union,” the doctrine of the union of the divine and human natures in Christ, the two natures constituting a single person. The idea that Christ was both fully God and fully man, however, was self-contradictory to many.
God, they objected, is by His very nature an infinite being, while man is finite. One person cannot at once be both infinite and finite. Moreover, the Jesus presented by the Gospels, especially in the records of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, is obviously a fully human person distinct from God, his Father. Not a word is said by these authors about his being God, nor of his having pre-existed his conception. The tortuous details of the dispute over the identity of Christ can be examined in any standard textbook of church history. The battle raged over the nature of the Messiah. How could his humanity be reconciled with the now deeply entrenched notion that he was also God? And how, since the Jesus of the Gospels was clearly a different person from his Father, could a charge of polytheism be avoided? The debate, although dogmatically resolved by church councils, has never been laid to rest. Both laymen and scholars across the Christian world have continued to be troubled by the apparently contradictory terms of these conciliar decisions, not to mention the jumble of confusing terms involved in the discussion. How can two separate individuals (as they obviously are throughout the New Testament records), Father and Son, both fully Deity, constitute in reality only one Deity? It has normally been safer to accept that it just is so, a “mystery”.
Dissent from orthodoxy was met with an unaccountable harshness. Established religion apparently saw nothing unchristian about venting its wrath on objectors. One of many later opponents of Trinitarianism was “a Unitarian surgeon, Dr. George van Parris… [who] refused to abjure his faith. It was said of him at his trial before the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Cranmer: “that he believes, that God, the Father is only God, and that Christ is not very God.” He was burned to death by leaders of the Church of England at Smithfield in England on April 25, 1551. 2
1 Paul Johnson, A History of Christianity, 90.
2 G.H. Williams, The Radical Reformation,779,780.
Two hundred and fifty years later a British nonconformist minister, Joseph Priestley, saw a lifetime of scholarly work go up in flames at the hands of a mob in Birmingham, England. Priestley was the victim of the fire that had been ignited by the decision of the Nicene Council to suppress all objectors. He believed God to be only one person and Jesus to be mortal man, contrary to the Constantinian council’s orthodox decision. This brilliant scientist and minister of religion, a Greek and Hebrew teacher, had come to the conclusion that much of what was taught as Christianity could not be supported by the Bible. His views brought him under attack.
His home, library, laboratory, papers and chapel were destroyed by a rioting mob. Although a firm defender of the Bible against the attacks of critics and detractors, his deviation from the accepted beliefs of his clerical colleagues made him anathema.
What did these men, and many others who paid with their lives, find in the Bible which caused them to arrive at a different conviction about the nature of God? Why was this persuasion so powerful that they were willing to surrender everything for it? Why did religious leadership feel so threatened that they punished their opponents by putting them to death? Why even today, in many circles, does any questioning of the Trinity provoke such extraordinary alarm?
If there were even one unambiguous biblical statement to support the extraordinary idea that the previously existing Son of God, himself actually God, became man and was himself the creator of all that exists, would not those who believe in such an idea feel a quiet confidence accompanied by a sense of pity and charity for the ignorant unbeliever? Why does history record so much violence and intense anger roused in the Trinitarian believer in defense of what even he admits is largely a baffling mystery?
It is hard to believe that assent to a proposition so impossibly difficult is the one great criterion for salvation. A seventeenth-century orthodox bishop of the Church of England seems to be caught in a trap against his own better judgment:
“We are to consider the order of those persons in the Trinity described in the words before us in Matthew 28:19. First the Father and then the Son and then the Holy Ghost; everyone one of which is truly God. This is a mystery which we are all bound to believe, but yet must exercise great care in how we speak of it, it being both easy and dangerous to err in expressing so great a truth as this is. If we think of it, how hard it is to imagine one numerically divine nature in more than one and the same divine person. Or three divine persons in no more than one and the same divine nature. If we speak of it, how hard it is to find out words to express it. If I say, the Father, Son and Holy Ghost be three, and every one distinctly God, it is true. But if I say, they be three, and everyone a distinct God, it is false. I may say, God the Father is one God, and the Son is one God, and the Holy Ghost is one God, but I cannot say that the Father is one God and the Son is another God and the Holy Ghost is a third God. I may say that the Father begat another who is God; yet I cannot say that He begat another God. I may say that from the Father and Son there proceeds another who is God; yet I cannot say that from the Father and Son there proceeds another God. For though their nature be the same their persons are distinct; and though their persons be distinct, yet still their nature is the same. So that, though the Father be the first person in the Godhead, the Son the second and the Holy Ghost the third, yet the Father is not the first, the Son the second and the Holy Ghost a third God. So hard a thing is it to word so great a mystery aright; or to fit so high a truth with expressions suitable and proper to it, without going one way or another from it.3 ”
3 Bishop Beverage, Private Thoughts,Part 2, 48, 49, cited by Charles Morgridge, The True Believer’s Defence Against Charges Preferred by Trinitarians for Not Believing in the Deity of Christ (Boston: B. Greene, 1837),16.
If we confine ourselves to the plain statements of the Christian documents, what is the hard biblical evidence about the origin of Jesus? Is it not obvious that Jesus did not think that he was the Creator, when he referred to “God made them male and female” (Mark 10:6)? In Hebrews 4:4 we learn that God rested at creation. The writer to the Hebrews means the Father when he refers to God (the term “god” is used, in a secondary sense, of Jesus in Heb. 1:8). Jesus is reported as saying that he was not God (Mark 10:18, John 17:3). Even a cursory reading of Matthew and Luke leads us to conclude that it was at his birth from the virgin Mary that Jesus came into being (Luke 1:35). This would also appear to be just what the Old Testament expected about the Messiah, unless we read back into the Hebrew Scriptures the idea of preexistence and mistakenly attribute it to the authors of the Bible.
Paul’s short summary of the history of Jesus is not a Trinitarian statement: “And by common confession, great is the mystery of godliness; he who was revealed in the flesh [i.e., as a human being]…was taken up in glory” (1 Tim. 3:16). Paul holds that Jesus was revealed in the flesh – a plain statement of the way the Savior first appeared to man. It was as a human person. No hint of preexistence, as angel or as God, is implied in this concentrated picture of the Messiah. Some manuscripts have inserted the word “God” for the words “he who.” The alteration is admitted by modern translators to be unwarranted. “God” is most unlikely to have been part of the older manuscripts. Such interpolations, like the famous spurious Trinitarian addition in 1 John 5:7 [ For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.], which is omitted by modern translations, suggest that someone was trying to force a new idea on the original text.
Exactly the same violence to Scripture appears in the Vulgate (Latin) translation of the Bible when it alters a prediction of the Messiah from “He is your lord” to “He is the Lord your God” (Ps. 45:11). The change symbolizes a fatal loss of Jesus’ identity as Messiah.
Statements by theologians and historians who have recognized the tragedy that befell Christianity in the fourth and fifth centuries could fill an entire volume. A former professor of the history of philosophy at the University of Vienna wrote:
“Christianity today is like a tree, or a forest if you will, on a mountain top: uprooted by a storm, one suddenly sees how little soil it had to hold it up…The reason for this alarming fact is that Christianity is not rooted in the soil from which it stems – from Jewish piety, the Jewish fear of God, love of humanity, love of earthly pleasures, joy in the present and hope for the future. Christianity got itself into a dangerous position through its identification with the religio-political state of Constantine. Since Pope John XXIII, some real opportunities have arisen to break free of the Constantine influence.4 ”
Unfortunately, this Constantinian influence, unopposed except by a few dissenting voices, has proved to be the graveyard of true Christian unity. Can we call a body rallied around a synthesis of biblical truth and alien Greek philosophy, amalgamated with Gentile political systems, pagan customs and beliefs, truly Christian?
Since the time when Constantine sponsored the church councils of the fourth century, history witnesses to the long agony of a divided Christianity, torn by sectarian strife, with lands shamed by some of the bloodiest struggles recorded in the annals of man. There is a deep irony in the fact that such warfare should have claimed the name of Christ. The baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger, was introduced to the world with an announcement by the heavenly host praising God, saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is well pleased [His chosen people]” (Luke 2:14). And yet the Christian community, which should have been an example to the world of peace among men, has failed miserably, even in its own house, to demonstrate that peace.
4 Frederich Heer, God’s First Love (Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1970), xiv, xv.
Jesus himself announced that he “did not come to bring peace but a sword” (Matt. 10:34). He was fully aware that his Gospel of the coming Kingdom, designed to instill in believers a love of peace, truth and respect for the one creator God, and to free our minds from the entrapment of fear and superstition, would not be integrated peacefully into a system rife with suppression and the control of human beings by fellow human beings. Under the banner of the prince of peace, some of the most vicious wars have been waged. The spectacle of Christian killing Christian and the Church supporting torture and violence against those deemed to be heretics gives point to Christ’s prediction that “the time is coming for everyone who kills you [true believers] to think that he is offering service to God” (John 16:2). A heavy responsibility must lie on the shoulders of all those who have used the name of Christ to perpetuate systems of violence. Jesus’ absolute ethic of love should have prevented believers from entering the machinery of warfare, which so often involved the slaughter of those whom they claimed as brethren in the faith. There is, after all, nothing complex about Jesus’ message of reverence for the One God, his Father, and of love to all, even the enemy:
“The Gospel was addressed to plain and honest minds, and plain and honest minds can understand its important and practical lessons. The great principles of natural religion are so simple that our Savior thought men could gather them from the birds of the air, the flowers of the field, and the clouds of heaven; and he demanded of those who stood around him, why they did not of themselves judge what is right. The Gospel was addressed to the poor, the uneducated; and it was committed to unlettered men to teach it to others. It would be most strange, therefore, if only the learned could understand or explain it. In truth, its great and practical principles and character are most simple, as those will find it, who study it in the teachings and example of Jesus, rather than amidst the confusion of tongues, hypercriticisms, the presumptuous, or the frivolous conceits of uncompromising, prejudiced, bigoted, infuriate polemics; and enveloped in all the mystery and metaphysical abstruseness of theological controversy. ..5 ”
Historians would be hard pressed to find a more striking example of confusion and bitter ecclesiastical struggle than the battles over what and who God and Jesus are, questions which formally surfaced in the centuries following the writing of the New Testament and which led to the tragic decisions made at the time of the Nicene Council. Today we refrain from killing dissenters. The law protects them. Nevertheless they may be punished in other ways. Those who disagree with accepted dogma are often ostracized and branded as heretics by others claiming to be the watchdogs of orthodoxy. Ears and minds are closed to what dissenters have to say, as though somehow a Satanic plot is unleashed when a contrary opinion is voiced. Few Christians can conceive the possibility that they may have embraced long-standing error. We have been well schooled by our teachers to wrap a protective armor round our imagined truth, even though it may be indefensible error.
We are prone to give unquestioning assent to hallowed church tradition. We are often overawed by authority and title. Seldom do we pause to consider that religious leadership is in the hands of those who have conformed to a prevailing pattern or acceptable thinking and were rewarded for their orthodoxy. But can our present denominational systems, among which there exists serious conflict and disagreement, all faithfully represent God and truth?
A British biblical scholar and author of journal articles on Christology admitted in correspondence that “my experience has been that Christology is a subject on which some are not as frank as they should be, especially if as churchmen they are formally committed to the traditional creeds.”
Theology’s insistence that we must believe an unproved theory that three is one and one is three – a
5 Valedictory, from sermons by Henry Colman (n.p., 1820), 322,323.
theory which it admits it cannot explain or understand – has imposed an intolerable burden on Christianity and has taxed the common sense of anyone who attempts to worship God with all the soundness that the mind can muster, as he is instructed to do. To impose an aura of sanctity on an unprovable and unbiblical concept because fourth-century theologians in league with a “Christian” emperor dictated the terms of the creed, elevates blind acceptance of dogma over the honest quest for biblical truth.
Christianity has rightly pointed a corrective finger at a secular world for its attempt to impose the unproven theory of evolution on mankind. Christians have with remarkable incisiveness exposed and warned fellow believers of the Oriental origins of the contemporary New Age movement. Yet Christianity has not recognized that it has harbored in its own doctrinal system a theory about God which alienates it from its roots in Hebrew theology and from Jesus, whose understanding of who God is was formed by the prophets of Israel, not by philosophy or church councils.
Christians have been told that Constantine, who is linked to the council which established Trinitarian belief, was converted to Christianity. What happened in fact was quite the opposite. This shrewd political giant took Christianity under his wing to further his own political aims. A vast number of Christians eventually sheltered under the protection of Constantine’s system and have ever since enjoyed a working relationship with the political powers. Christianity became converted to Constantine and wedded to a religio-political coalition whose sponsor continued to have coins minted in honor of his God – Sol Invictus, the sun god, not the God of the early Christians. These are the verifiable facts of history, notwithstanding the attempts of apologists to reinterpret the facts in a way which enhances Constantine’s Christian image. Few seem to be aware of the Church’s accommodation to paganism and the compromise of true reverence for the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The resurrected Son of God has had to compete with the invincible sun god, Sol Invictus, the god of Constantine.
Christianity closed its eyes to biblical reality and simplicity when it decided that two or three persons compose the one God. The promotion of this multiple Deity has been one of the greatest ideological successes ever accomplished. It was achieved with the help of coercion, the sword, torture and the massive weight of pressure from a coalition of clergy and the state joined in an unholy alliance, and benefiting from a mysterious concept. Calling itself the Holy Roman Empire, however, scarcely reflected its real nature.
At the Council of Nicæa, not only did Constantine excommunicate and exile anyone who refused to conform, he took the precaution of burning any letters of complaint and dispute. This was a tragic suppression of unwanted facts, and history is filled with parallel examples. Promoting Jesus as God – another, in addition to the Father – Christianity indeed “bartered for another God” (Ps. 16:4, NASV). It was to its shame and sorrow that it traded in the historical man, Jesus Messiah, whose desire, as God’s unique human agent [Hebrew: shaliach], was to lead men to the One God; in his stead it elevated the God-man. Greek mythology triumphed over Hebrew theology. Thus Christianity sold its birthright.
Established religion had failed to accept Christ or his message during his brief sojourn on earth. Nor has his Gospel message of the Kingdom of God found wide acceptance among the clergy since that time. Jesus has been transmuted into the God-man, a figure less than human, a metaphysical construct of the Greek speculative genius, not the man Messiah, King of Israel, described by the Christian documents. Lost in the theological confusion was the reality of the human Messiah who really died and was resurrected to immortality as an example to mankind, blazing the trail for others who might follow him on the path to immortality through resurrection into the Kingdom of God on earth to be inaugurated at Jesus’ return.
When Christianity adopted a Godhead of more than one person, it unwittingly flirted with idolatry. It embarked on a course of lawlessness by embracing “another God”, besides the only true God, the Father.
Christianity thus broke the first commandment and has continued on the same troubled path, unaware of the source of its intractable problems. It could be argued that the sheer weight of numbers agreeing on the Trinitarian concept is sufficient evidence for the correctness of the belief. How could all these people be wrong?
In reply it can be asked, when has the majority mentality been the judge of right and wrong? Is the earth flat or the center of our universe? Protestants allow that the whole Church had gone wrong for a thousand years before Luther called it back to Scripture. There is reason to believe that the Reformation needs to continue.
Luther’s adopting the doctrine of the sleep of the dead points to an element in the process of restoration that his followers found to be too radical for the times. Surely the doctrine of the Trinity is due for a thorough inspection to see if it might not be part of our heritage from the Fathers and councils rather than from the Bible.
Even the suggestion that Jesus is not God in the same sense as the Father appears to some as an unpardonable attack on Scripture. Yet Jesus himself made it clear that there is only one true God, and he named that one God as the Father (John 17:3). He always distinguished himself from God by claiming to be His messenger. He protested that he was not God but the Son of God (John 10:34-36) [which is a specific title reserved for the Messiah.-BH] . Jesus was continually referred to as a man by New Testament writers even after his resurrection. Not one writer ever refers to Jesus as “the one true God” or includes him in the phrase “one true God.” Jesus and God are expressly distinguished whenever they are mentioned together. They are two separate and distinct persons. There are some 1350 unitarian texts in the New Testament, besides the thousands in the Old Testament. These occur every time the Father is called God.
Jesus is called god (but in a different sense) for certain, only twice (John 20:28; Heb. 1:8). John 1:1, 14 state that the “word”, which (not who) was fully expressive of God – theos – became a man, the man Jesus. The constant use of “God” for the Father hardly suggests that He and Jesus are to be thought of as “coequally God.” In the Old Testament references to God with personal pronouns in the singular occur some 11,000 times, informing us that God is a single individual.
The Chalcedonian formula which declares Jesus to be “true God from true God, begotten not made, of one substance with the Father” and “the selfsame perfect in Godhead, the selfsame perfect in manhood, truly God and truly man,” is so vulnerable to attack that a Roman Catholic scholar claims that “the demand for a complete reappraisal of the Church’s belief in Christ right up to the present day is an urgent one.”6
Baillie admitted “that a great many thoughtful people who feel themselves drawn to the Gospel in these days are completely mystified by the doctrine of the Incarnation – the idea that God merely appeared in Jesus in another form – far more than we theologians realize.”7 One of the leading spokesmen for fundamental Christian evangelism remarked on a nationwide television broadcast that no theologian had ever been able successfully to explain to him the doctrine of the Trinity. This seems to imply that one must simply place one’s confidence in the decrees of fourth- and fifth-century “Church Fathers” that it is so. But we may ask the question: Who gave those Greek theologians the right to decide Christian theology for all time? Who invested them with the power to declare infallibly that the Godhead consists of three eternal persons?
6 Aloys Grillmeier, S.J., Christ in Christian Tradition (Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1975), 1:557 .
7 God Was in Christ,29.
Once belief in God as a single person was denied, speculation became rife. The single supreme God of the Hebrews no longer ruled without rival in the minds of believers. Paul documents the persistent tendency of the human mind to exchange the true God for other deities: For since the creation of the world…His eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made……For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God…but became futile in their speculations…They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator (Rom. 1:20, 21, 25).
We now talk about how great Mother Nature is. We have removed Father God, the Creator, from our thinking. If some have their way it will no longer be acceptable to speak of God as Father, lest we appear sexist.
The loss of a clear perception of the One God has opened the floodgates of so-called New Age thinking; every man declares himself god awaiting self-discovery. This philosophy is not really new. It is an ancient Oriental concept first introduced to Adam and Eve with the words, “For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God” (Gen. 3:5). The pursuit of knowledge is proper, but it must be the true knowledge of the true God. All else is vain.
The drift into polytheism was inevitable, once the God of the Jews was rejected. Christianity has fulfilled the prediction of the Psalmist David when he said, “The sorrows of those who have bartered for ‘another God’ will be multiplied” (Ps. 16:4). As the Apostle Paul warned the first-century Church, “If one comes preaching another Jesus whom we have not preached…you bear this beautifully” (2 Cor. 11:4). It is impossible to find in Paul’s writings a preexisting God/Son except by neglecting his primary creedal statements concerning the Son of God, “who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh” (Rom. 1:3; cp. Gal. 4:4). [Note: cp. is an abbreviation for “compare”.]
The verb used by Paul simply means “coming to be,” “coming into existence”, i.e., from a woman (Gal.4:4), herself a descendant of David (Rom. 1:3). Paul holds firmly to his unrestricted Jewish monotheism, a creed which declares in the simplest terms that “there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5) and that there is no God but the Father (1 Cor. 8:4,6).
When Christianity proclaimed “another Jesus” who was “very God,” it automatically preached “another God” who became part of a divine triangle. The God of the Old Testament who said through Isaiah, “Understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, and there will be none after Me…and I will not give My glory to another” (Isa. 43:10; 42:8) was a single being in the mind of the Jews and the first-century Church.
Christianity began to worship as God one who was actually created. The faith thus fell into idolatry. Readers of the Bible neglected to note that Christ was called the Son of God because of his supernatural conception (Luke 1:35). Jesus came into existence in his mother’s womb and was thus part of the creation, not the Creator. The official creeds sanctioned belief in “another Jesus” and in “another God.” On the flimsiest of evidence as, for example, Paul’s belief that God sent His Son, the idea was propagated that Jesus existed before his birth. James Dunn puts his finger on the problem:
“It is possible that in the two passages where he speaks of God sending His Son (Rom. 8:3 and Gal. 4:4) he means to imply that the Son of God was preexistent and had become incarnate as Jesus; but it is as likely, indeed probably more likely, that Paul’s meaning did not stretch so far and at these points he and his readers though simply of Jesus as one commissioned by God as one who shared wholly in man’s frailty, bondage and sin, and whose death achieved God’s liberating and transforming purpose for man.”8
8 Christology in the Making, 46, emphasis added.
It is clear that Trinitarians place considerable strain upon certain “proof texts” offered as evidence of the preexistence of Christ. Elohim gives no evidence of plurality in the Hebrew Godhead. “Sent from God” does not prove that you have enjoyed a life in heaven before coming to earth. In Scripture the prophets and John the Baptist were also “sent.” Jeremiah was foreknown but not preexistent.9 Jesus was first brought into being and then sent (Acts 3:26). This is commissioning after his birth, not arriving from a pre-human existence.
An Entrenched Distortion of Monotheism
The hidden problem which faces the Church today is the error in its understanding of God which invaded it from Gentile philosophies. The early Church fought and lost the battle for belief in the unipersonal God. But with a determination to take an objective, fresh look at the hard evidence of the Bible we may find that the Triune God concept becomes little more than an adult theological myth. Trinitarians are at a loss to produce a single passage in the Bible in which the doctrine of the Trinity is clearly stated. If we accept the words of the founder of Christianity at face value, belief in the Trinity challenges his teaching about the most important law and the focal point of all true religion – belief in the God who is a single, undivided being. Before all other considerations comes the matter of “the foremost of all commandments”, [The Shema – BH] to “hear” and “believe” in the God of Israel who is “the one Lord” (Mark 12:29, New Jerusalem Bible). Paul follows Jesus when he states that there is no God but the Father (1 Corinthians 8:4,6).
This leads us to the important question: Does it really make any difference what we believe? One of the most devastating concepts to invade the modern Church is that a person’s beliefs are insignificant as long as he loves God and his neighbor. After all, do not all versions of religion promote worship of the same God? The plain biblical fact is that Scripture insists on truth, as distinct from error, as the basis of worship and salvation itself (John 17:3).
Paul expressly linked salvation to a correct understanding of the identity of God and Jesus: “This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Messiah Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:3-5). The connection between correct, i.e., biblically orthodox belief and salvation is inescapable here, as also in Paul’s statements in which “belief in the truth” is starkly contrasted with being wicked (i.e., lawless), and where salvation depends on receiving “the love of the truth” (2 Thess. 2:10-13).
The prophet Jeremiah was under no illusion about the importance of knowing the God of Israel when he said: “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might…but let him who boasts, boast in this, that he understands and knows Me…” (Jer. 9:23,24). He continued by stating that “The Lord is the true God” (10:10), a truth which was echoed by Jesus centuries later when he said: “This is eternal life, that they might know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You sent” (John 17:3).
With remarkable consistency the Bible insists on the unique personality of the One God, creator and Father, and the necessity of knowing this One God, the Father, and His Son, the Messiah. These strictly monotheistic texts dispel any idea that there can be more than one who is truly God. Scripture opposes the idea that we are at liberty to accommodate our conception of God to cultural environment, however well-meaning our intentions. To do so is to court paganism and inevitable polytheism, which is the ruin of true faith.
Christians throughout the world are challenged to face the age-old question, “What is truth?” Where two conflicting points of view present themselves, it is the truth-seeker’s responsibility to determine
9 Cp. Jer. 1:5 with 1 Pet. 1:20 and see Jer. 1:7; 7:25; John 1:6.
which, if either of them, is true. We dare not escape the force of the challenge by asserting that truth is elusive or unobtainable. This would be to embrace the familiar approach of Pilate at Christ’s trial when he asked Jesus, “What is truth?” (John 18:38). More than a genuine question, this was a philosophy, rejecting the belief that absolute truth is attainable. It implied, in true post-enlightenment style, that one opinion is as valid as another.
It disregarded the claim Jesus had just made that he had come into the world for the very purpose of bearing witness to truth (John 18:37). To say that “all truth is relative” negates Jesus’ promise that “you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32).
The Apostle Paul never for one moment conceded that someone else’s error carried the same value as his truth. His somber warning to the church at Thessalonica about a great deception coming upon the world, which would cause the ruin of those who did not love truth, should not go unheeded. He clearly states that it is God Himself who will send upon them a strong delusion to make them believe a lie “because they did not welcome the love of the truth in order to be saved” (2 Thess. 2:10,11). He repeated his warning to Timothy that there would “come a time when people will not endure sound teaching” but would listen only to those who pandered to human desires. As a result, they would turn away from listening to truth and wander into myths (2 Tim. 4:3-5). He was not talking about minor theological points, but about serious errors and myths leading to spiritual blindness, false goals, false gods, disobedience to God, and death.
Nineteen hundred years later, a shrewd observer of the contemporary Church will want to know why there is such fragmentation over the major question of the identity of the One God and Jesus. We can trace the source of the problem to a fracturing of the most precious of all beliefs that there is one God, the Father and no other besides Him (1 Cor. 8:4, 6). John Locke thought traditional theology worthless because it was not primarily concerned with truth. He put the point powerfully in his essay Concerning Human Understanding, written in 1661:
“He that would seriously set upon the search for truth ought, in the first place, to prepare his mind with a love of it. For he that loves it not, will not take much pains to get it; nor be much concerned when he misses it. There is nobody in the commonwealth who does not profess himself a lover of truth; and there is not a rational creature that would not take it amiss to be thought otherwise of. And yet, for all this, one may truly say, there are very few lovers of truth for truth’s sake, even among those who persuade themselves that they are so.10 ”
Following Christianity’s perceptive analysis and exposure of the dangerous New Age theology of our time, it is now the moment to direct the focus of its examination to its own camp and consider the invasion of paganism which dates from the second century. The influence of Greek philosophy which Canon Goudge described as a “disaster from which the Church has never recovered”11 continues to go largely unnoticed by the majority of sincere Christians. Yet it affects the faith at its very heart. It is naïve to suppose that we can translate the biblical, Hebraic concept of Deity, held as the foundation of true faith by Jesus, into Greek thought without the risk of disastrous damage.
It is fanciful to think that the Trinitarian and Binitarian systems, which claim to have roots in the Bible, can really be harmonized with the strict unitarianism of Jesus and the Scriptures. The persistent objection of the Jews that Christianity has betrayed its origins by corrupting the cardinal doctrine of God must be acknowledged.
Nor should the penetrating observations of contemporary historians be ignored. Historians have a way of seeing truth clearly, where theologians are prone to have their vision blurred by tradition. Ian Wilson is witness against the unreasonable way in which the Trinity still rules, despite Jesus’ own
10 Cited by Paul Johnson in A History of Christianity, 355.
11 “The Calling of the Jews,” in the collected essays on Judaism and Christianity.
ignorance of any such teaching. He wrote:
“If Jesus had wanted to institute a formula for the religion he taught, there is one moment, described in Mark’s Gospel, when he had the perfect opportunity to do so. A scribe is reported as having asked him: “Which is the first of all the commandments?” It was an occasion to which Jesus could have imparted one of those characteristic twists, bringing in something new, something involving himself, if he wished us to believe that he was a member of a Trinity, on an equal footing with God the Father. Instead he looked unhesitatingly to his traditional Jewish roots.12 ”
By quoting the “Shema” – “Hear O Israel” – Jesus was affirming with the greatest possible emphasis the bedrock tenet of true belief. We are asked only to believe that the creed of Christ is the Christian creed, binding therefore on all Christian churches. If the Shema is incompatible with Trinitarianism, the creed of Jesus will not match our orthodox creed.
Many churchgoers act as if Jesus (to parody the Sermon on the Mount) somewhere said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘the Lord your God is one Lord,’ but I say to you, ‘He is three in one’”. The first step towards the recovery of biblical Christianity would be an honest recognition that Jesus was a Jew, and that as such he confirmed the theology of the prophets of Israel. The story of Israel’s failure to know God lay precisely in their inability to cling to the unipersonal God, the Creator of heaven and earth. Whereas Israel fell into the hands of Assyria and Babylon, the Christian Church was captured by the alluring world of Greek philosophy. It abandoned the God of Israel. The “Israel of God” (Gal. 6:16; cp. Phil. 3:3), the new Christian people, most unreasonably forsook the creed of Israel.
When Christianity modified its original creed and adopted belief in a God composed of three persons, it bartered for another God – to its multiplied grief. From that disaster, only a wholehearted recovery of biblical belief in One God, the Father, in Jesus as the Lord Messiah, and in his Gospel message about the coming Kingdom of God13 can lead it to the glories of a new day.
—————————– end of Chapter 12 ——————————
Submitted by Bob & Suzanne Hamrick email@example.com
Authors of Exposing Satan’s ‘Left Behind’
a 400-page Handbook for Surviving the Tribulation
Available at http://torahkingdomliving.com
We pray that you will be encouraged by this excerpt from “The Doctrine of the Trinity – Christianity’s Self-Inflicted Wound”, and continue to pursue the truth with every fiber of your being. If we have been deceived, it is surely not by our Creator, but by the lies of the evil one which we have chosen to believe.
12 Jesus, The Evidence, 176, 177.
13 Matt. 4:17,23; 9:35; 13:19; 24:14; Mark 1:14, 15; Luke 4:43; 8:1,12; 9:2,6, 11; Acts 8:12; 19:8; 20:25; 28:23, 31; 2 Tim. 4: 1, 2. For an examination of the Christian Gospel about the Kingdom of God, see Anthony Buzzard, The Coming Kingdom of the Messiah: A Solution to the Riddle of the New Testament (Restoration Fellowship, 1988).
Who Is Jesus?
“And this is life eternal, that they might know You (Father), the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent. (John 17:3)
One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. (Ephesians 4:6)
“There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” ( 1 Timothy 2:5)
Belief in the Biblical Jesus, the Messiah, Is the Only Key to Eternal Life
Old Testament Monotheism Confirmed by Jesus and Paul…… 16
Whoever Said the Messiah Was God? ………………………………… 17
The Son of God ………………………………………………………………… 19
The Son of Man, the Lord at God’s Right Hand ………………….. 20
Jesus Claimed NOT to Be God …………………………………………. 20
John’s Jewish Language…………………………………………………… 21
Glory Before Abraham.. …………………………………………………… 22
The Logos in John 1:1 ……………………………………………………… 23
The “Divinity” of Jesus ……………………………………………………. 24
In the Form of God …………………………………………………………. 25
Head of the New Creation………………………………………………… 27
“The Inhabited Earth to Come of Which We Speak”……………. 28
The Hebrew Background to the New Testament…………………. 29
From ‘Son of God’ to ‘God the Son’……………………………………. 30
The Man and the Message Obscured ………………………………… 30
What the Scholars Admit …………………………………………………. 32
Jesus, the Man and Mediator……………………………………………. 34
The Church’s Confession …………………………………………………. 34
NOTE : The abbreviation “Cp.” throughout is to ask the reader to “compare” the citation with other listed references.]
The suggestion that Jesus is not, according to the Bible, “very God of very God” is likely to prove startling to those accustomed to the widely held views of the major denominations. It is not generally known that many students of the Bible throughout the ages, including a considerable number of contemporary scholars, have concluded that Scripture does not describe Jesus as “God”, at least not with a capital “G.”
A difference of opinion on such a fundamental issue should challenge all of us to an examination of the important question of Jesus’ identity. If our worship is to be, as the Bible demands, “in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24), it is clear that we will want to understand what the Bible discloses about Jesus and his relationship to his Father. Scripture warns us that it is possible to fall into the trap of believing in “another Jesus” (2 Cor. 11:4) – a “Jesus” other than the one revealed in the Bible as God’s Son, the Messiah promised by the prophets of the Old Testament.
It is a striking fact that Jesus never referred to himself as “God.” Equally remarkable is the New Testament’s use of the word “God” – in Greek ho theos – to refer to the Father alone, some 1,325 times. In sharp contrast, Jesus is called “god” in a handful of texts only – perhaps no more than two1. Why this impressive difference in New Testament usage, when so many seem to think that Jesus is no less “God” than his Father?
Old Testament Monotheism Confirmed by Jesus and Paul
Readers of Scripture in the 21st century may not easily appreciate the strength of the unitary monotheism – belief in one God – which was the first principle of all Old Testament teaching about God. The Jews were prepared to die for their conviction that the true God was a single Person. Any idea of plurality in the Godhead was rejected as dangerous idolatry. The Torah and the Prophets had repeatedly insisted that only one was truly God, and no one could have envisaged “distinctions” within the Godhead once he had committed to memory texts like the following (quoted from the New American Standard Bible):
“Hear, O Israel! The LORD our God is one LORD!” (Deut. 6:4).
“Do we not all have one Father? Has not one God created us?” ( Mal. 2: 10).
“Before Me there was no God formed. and there will be none after Me” (Isa. 43: 10).
“I am God, and there is no other” (Isa. 45:22).
“I am God, and there is no one like Me” (Isa. 46:9).
Examples of strictly monotheistic statements can be multiplied from the Old Testament. The important fact to observe is that Jesus, as the founder of Christianity, confirmed and reinforced the Old Testament insistence that God is one. According to the records of his teaching compiled by Matthew, Mark, and Luke, Jesus said nothing at all to disturb belief in the absolute oneness of God. When a scribe (a theologian) quoted the famous words, “God is one, and there is none else besides him,” Jesus commended him because he had “spoken intelligently” and was “not far from the kingdom of God” (Mark 12:29-34).
In John’s account of Jesus’ ministry, Jesus equally confirmed the unrestricted monotheism of his Jewish heritage in words which cannot be misunderstood. He spoke of God his Father, as “the one who alone is God” (John 5:44) and “the only true God” (John 17:3). Throughout his recorded discourses he referred the word “God” to the Father only. Not once did he ever say that he was God, a notion which would have sounded both absurd and blasphemous to his Jewish audience. Jesus’ unitary monotheistic phrases in John 5:44 and 17:3 are echoes of the Old Testament view of God as one unique Person. We can easily discern the Jewish and Old Testament orthodoxy of Paul who spoke of his Christian belief in “one God, the Father” ( I Cor. 8:6) and the “one God” as distinct from the “one mediator between God and man, Messiah Jesus, himself man” (I Tim. 2:5). For both Jesus and Paul, God was a single uncreated Being, “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Eph. 1:3).
Even after Jesus had been exalted to the right hand of the Father, the Father is still, in Jesus’ own words, his God (Rev. 3: 12). We may summarize our discussion so far by quoting the words of L.L. Paine, at one time Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Bangor Theological Seminary:
“The Old Testament is strictly monotheistic. God is a single personal being. The idea that a Trinity is to be found there or even in any way shadowed forth, is an assumption that has long
1 Bultmann, for example, in Essays Philosophical and Theological, p. 276, claims that John 20:28 is the only sure instance in the New Testament of the title “god” being applied to Jesus. Most would agree that Hebrews 1:8 is a second clear instance. Note the careful translation of the New American Bible: “Your throne, O god, stands forever.”
held sway in theology, but is utterly without foundation. The Jews, as a people, under its teachings became stern opponents of all polytheistic tendencies and they have remained unflinching monotheists to this day. On this point there is no break between the Old Testament and the New. The monotheistic tradition is continued. Jesus was a Jew, trained by Jewish parents in the Old Testament Scriptures. His teaching was Jewish to the core; a new Gospel indeed, but not a new theology. He declared that He came ‘not to destroy the Law and the Prophets, but to fulfill’ them, and he accepted as his own belief the great text of Jewish monotheism: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one God.’ His proclamation concerning himself was in line with Old Testament prophecy. He was the ‘Messiah’ of the promised Kingdom, the ‘son of Man’ of Jewish hope… If he sometimes asked ‘Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?’ He gave no answer beyond the implied assertion of Messiahship” (A Critical History of the Evolution of Trinitarianism, 1900, pp.4, 5).
The strength of Jewish feeling about monotheism is well illustrated by the following quotations: “The belief that God is made up of several personalities such as the Christian belief in the Trinity is a departure from the pure conception of the unity of God. Israel has throughout the ages rejected everything that marred or obscured the conception of pure monotheism it has given the world, and rather than admit any weakening of it, Jews are prepared to wander, to suffer, to die” (Rabbi J.H. Hurtz).
Ezra D. Gifford, in The True God, the True Christ, and the True Holy Spirit, says: “The Jews themselves sincerely resent the implication that their Scriptures contain any proof, or any intimation of the doctrine of the orthodox Trinity, and Jesus and the Jews never differed on this subject, both maintaining that God is One only, and that this is the greatest truth revealed to man.”
If we examine the recorded teachings of Jesus in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, remembering that these documents represent the understanding of the apostolic church in the 60s-80s A.D., we will find not a hint that Jesus believed himself to be an uncreated being who had existed from eternity.
Matthew and Luke trace the origin of Jesus to a special act of creation by God when the Messiah’s conception took place in the womb of Mary. It was this miraculous event which marked the beginning – the genesis, or origin – of Jesus of Nazareth (Matt. 1:18, 20). Nothing at all is said of an “eternal Sonship”2 implying that Jesus had been alive as a Son before his conception. That idea was introduced into Christian circles after the New Testament documents had been completed. It does not belong to the thought world of the biblical writers.
Whoever Said the Messiah Was God?
Most readers of Scripture approach the divine records with a well-established set of assumptions.
They are unaware of the fact that much of what they understand about Jesus is derived from
2 The phrase “eternal generation of the Son,” which is the linchpin of orthodox Trinitarianism, has no meaning, since to generate means to bring into existence, while eternity lies outside time. Cp. the protest of Dr. Adam Clarke: “I trust I may be permitted to say, with all due respect for those who differ from me, that the doctrine of the eternal Sonship of Christ is, in my opinion, antiscriptural and highly dangerous… To say that he was begotten from all eternity is, in my opinion, absurd; and the phrase ‘eternal Son’ is a positive self-contradiction. ‘Eternity’ is that which has had no beginning, nor stands in any reference to time. ‘Son’ supposes time, generation, and father, and time also antecedent to such generation. Therefore the conjunction of these two terms, ‘son’ and ‘eternity,’ is absolutely impossible, as they imply essentially different and opposite ideas.” (Commentary on Luke 1:35). Dr. J.O. Buswell writes. “We can say with confidence that the Bible has nothing whatsoever to say about ‘begetting’ as an eternal relationship between the Father and the Son” (A Systematic Theology of the Christian Religion, Zondervan, 1962, p.111).
theological systems devised by writers outside the Bible. In this way they readily accept a large dose of tradition, while simultaneously claiming and believing that the Bible is their sole authority.3
The crucial question we must answer is this: On what basis did Jesus and the early church claim that Jesus was indeed the promised Messiah? The answer is plain. It was by contending that he perfectly fulfilled the role which the Old Testament had predicted of him. It had to be demonstrated that he fit the “specifications” laid out for the Messiah in Hebrew prophecy. Matthew, particularly, delights in quoting the Old Testament as it was fulfilled in the facts of Jesus’ life and experience (Matt. 1:23; 2:6,15, etc). But Mark, Luke, and John and Peter (in the early chapters of Acts) equally insist that Jesus exactly fits the Old Testament description of the Messiah. Paul spent much of his ministry demonstrating from the Hebrew Scriptures that Jesus was the promised Christ (Acts 28:23).
Unless Jesus’ identity could be matched with the Old Testament description of him, there would be no good reason to believe that his claim to Messiahship was true! It is essential to ask, therefore, whether the Old Testament anywhere suggests that the Messiah was to be “coequal God,” a second uncreated being who abandons an eternal existence in heaven in order to become man. If it does not say anything like this (and remembering that the Old Testament is concerned even with the minutest details about the coming Messiah) we will have to treat as suspicious the claims of anyone saying that Jesus is both Messiah and an uncreated, second eternal person of the Godhead, claiming the title “God” in the full sense.
What portrait of the Messiah is drawn by the Hebrew Scriptures? When the New Testament Christians seek to substantiate Jesus’ claim to Messiahship they are fond of quoting Deuteronomy 18:18: “I will raise up a Prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put my words into his mouth, and he will speak to them all that I command him.”
Both Peter (Acts 3:22) and Stephen (Acts 7:37) used this primary text to show that Jesus was “that promised prophet” (John 6:14), whose origin would be in an Israelite family and whose function would be similar to that of Moses. In Jesus, God had raised up the Messiah, the long-promised divine spokesman, the Savior of Israel and the world. In Peter’s words, “God raised up his servant and sent him to bless you by turning every one of you from your wicked ways” (Acts 3:26).
Other classic Messianic texts promised that “a son will be born to Israel” (Isa. 9:6), the “seed of a woman” (Gen. 3:15), a descendant of Abraham (Gal. 3:16), and a descendant of David’s royal house (2 Sam. 7:14-16; Isa. 11:1). He would be a ruler born in Bethlehem (Matt. 2:6; Micah 5:2). Of his several titles one would be “mighty god” and another, “everlasting father” (Isa. 9:6). It is this single text in Isaiah 9:6 which might appear to put the Messiah into a category of uncreated beings, though this would of course provoke a crisis for monotheism.
However, the sensitive reader of Scripture will be aware that a single text should not be allowed to overthrow the Old Testament’s insistence that only one person is truly God. It should not be forgotten that the sacred oracles were committed to the Jews, none of whom thought that a divine title given to the Messianic King meant that he was a member of an eternal Godhead, now composed suddenly and mysteriously of two Persons in contradiction of all that the heritage of Israel had stood for. The “mighty god” [Hebrew el gibbor] of Isaiah 9:6 is defined by the leading Hebrew lexicon as “divine hero, reflecting the divine majesty.”
3 I am indebted to F.F. Bruce for the following keen observation: “People who adhere to sola scriptura (as they believe) often adhere in fact to a traditional school of interpretation of sola scriptura. Evangelical protestants can be as much servants of tradition as Roman Catholics or Greek Orthodox Christians; only they don’t realize that it is ‘tradition’ ”. [From our correspondence.]
The same authority records that the word “god” used by Isaiah is applied elsewhere in Scripture to “men of might and rank,” as well as to angels. As for “eternal father,” this title was understood by the Jews as “father of the coming age.”4 It was widely recognized that a human figure could be “father to the inhabitants of Judah and Jerusalem” (Isa. 22:21).
In Psalm 45 the “ideal” Messianic King is addressed as “god,” but there is no need whatever to assume that Jewish monotheism has therefore been compromised. The word (in this case elohim) was applied not only to the one God but “to divine representatives at sacred places or as reflecting divine majesty and power” (Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, by Brown, Driver, and Briggs, pp. 42, 43). The Psalmist, and the writer to the Hebrews who quoted him (Heb. 1:8) were conscious of their specialized use of the word “god” to describe the Messianic King and quickly added that the Messiah’s God had granted him his royal privileges (Ps. 45:7).
Even the frequently quoted text in Micah 5:2 about the origins of Messiah does not necessitate any kind of literal, eternal preexistence. In the same book a similar expression dates the promises made to Jacob from “days of old” (Micah 7:20).5 Certainly the promises of Messiah had been given at an early moment in the history of man (Gen.3:15; cp. Gen.49:10; Num. 24:17-19).
Approaching the question of Jesus’ Messiahship as he and the apostles do, we find nothing at all in the Old Testament predictions about the Christ which suggests that an eternal, immortal being was to become human as the promised King of Israel. That King was to be born in Israel, a descendant of David, and conceived by a virgin (2 Sam. 7:13-16; Isa. 7:14; Matt. 1:23). And so, during the reign of Emperor Augustus, the Messiah arrived on the scene.
The Son of God
The source of much longstanding confusion about Jesus’ identity is the assumption drawn from years of traditional thinking that the title “Son of God” must mean in the Scriptures an uncreated being, the member of an eternal Godhead. That notion cannot possibly be traced to the Scriptures. It is a testimony to the power of theological indoctrination that this idea persists so stubbornly. In the Bible “the Son of God” is an alternative and virtually synonymous title for the Messiah. Thus John dedicates his whole gospel to one dominant theme, that we must believe and understand “that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God” (John 20:31). The basis for equating these titles is found in a favorite Old Testament passage in Psalm 2; “The rulers take counsel together against the LORD and against His Messiah whom He has installed as King in Jerusalem (v. 6), and of whom He says: “Thou art My Son, today I have begotten thee. Ask of Me and I will give you the nations as your inheritance” (vv. 7. 8). Jesus does not hesitate to apply the whole Psalm to himself, and sees in it a prediction of his and his followers’ future rulership over the nations (Rev. 2:26,27).6
Peter makes the same equation of Messiah and the Son of God, when by divine revelation he affirms his belief in Jesus: “Thou art the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16). The high priest asks Jesus: “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the blessed One?” (Mark 14:61 ). Nathaniel understands that the Son of God is none other than the King of Israel (John 1 :49), the Messiah (v. 41), “him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote” (v. 45; cp Deut. 18:15-18).
4 Thus the Jews rendered the Hebrew expression when they translated their Scriptures into Greek.
5 Cp. the remark of E. Kautzsch: “The reference in Micah 5:2 is to remote antiquity…Deut. 32:7 shows that this is the meaning of ‘days of old’ (not ‘days of eternity,’ as if what were spoken of were the eternal-pre-existence of the Messiah)” (Hastings Dictionary of the Bible, extra vol., p 696).
6 A weakness of most theological systems is the refusal to see in the statements attributed to Jesus in Revelation the very words of the Master. When the Christology of the Revelation is set aside, thc claims of Jesus in the book (1:1) are denied and a distorted Christology results.
But the generic title “son of God” (without the definite article) is applied also in Scripture to angels (Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7; Gen. 6:2, 4; Ps. 29:1; 89:6; Dan. 3:25), to Adam (Luke 3:38), to the nation of Israel (Exod. 4:22), to kings of Israel as representing God, and in the New Testament to Christians (John 1:12). We would search in vain to find any application of this title to an uncreated being, a member of the eternal Godhead. This idea is simply absent from the biblical idea of divine Sonship.
Luke knows very well that Jesus’ divine Sonship is derived from his conception in the womb of a virgin; he knows nothing at all of any eternal origin: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you: for that reason the holy thing which is begotten will be called THE Son of God”. (Luke 1:35) The psalmist had ascribed the Messiah’s Sonship to a definite moment of time — “today” (Ps. 2:7). The Messiah was begotten around 3 BC (Matt. 1:20; Luke 1:35). His begetting is thus related to his appearance in history (Acts 13:33, not KJV), when God became his Father (Heb. 1:5; 1 John 5:18, not KJV).
Here, clearly presented by the Scriptures which Jesus recognized as God’s word, are the biblical ideas of Jesus’ Sonship. It is to be dated from Jesus’ conception, his resurrection, or from his appointment to kingship. Luke’s view of Sonship agrees exactly with the hope for the birth of the Messiah from the woman, a descendant of Adam, Abraham, and David (Matt. 1:1; Luke 3:38). The texts we have examined contain no information about a personal preexistence for the Son in eternity.
The Son of Man, the Lord at God’s Right Hand
The title “Son of Man” was frequently used by Jesus to refer to himself. Like “Son of God” it is closely associated with Messiahship; so much so that when Jesus solemnly affirms that he is the Messiah, the Son of God, he adds in the same breath that the high priest will see “the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power and coming with the clouds of heaven” (Mark 14:61,62). The title “Son of Man” is most fully described in Daniel 7:13, 14, where a human figure (a “Son of Man”) receives the right to world dominion from the Father. The parallel with Psalm 2 is obvious, as well as the close connection with Psalm 110, where David refers to his “Lord” (the Messiah, adoni, a term always used of non-deity) who is to sit at the Lord’s (YHVH’s/the Father’s) right hand until he takes up his office as world governor and “rules in the midst of his enemies” (Ps. 110:2; cp. Matt.22:42-45). The Son of Man has an equally clear Messianic connection in Psalm 80:17: “Let your hand be upon your right-hand man, upon the Son of Man whom you made strong for yourself.”
It is significant that the New Testament writers lay the greatest stress on Psalm 110, citing it some 23 times and applying it to Jesus, who by that time had been exalted to immortality as Messianic Lord at the right hand of the Father just as the Psalmist had foreseen. Once again we must recognize that eternal Sonship is alien to all the descriptive titles of the Messiah. This startling fact should lead Bible students everywhere to compare what they have been taught about Jesus with the Jesus presented by Scripture. The concept of an eternal Son simply does not match the Bible’s account of the Messiah. In opting for a Jesus who is an eternal being passing through a temporary life on earth, many seem, so to speak, to have “got the wrong man.”
Jesus Claimed to NOT Be God
In the Gospel of John the identity of Jesus is a principal theme. John wrote, as he tells us, with one primary purpose: to convince his readers that Jesus is “the Messiah, the Son of God” (20:31). According to John, Jesus carefully distinguished himself from the Father who is “the only true God” (John 17:3; cp. 5:44: 6:21). If we are to find in John’s record a proof that Jesus is “coequal” God, in the Trinitarian sense, we would be “discovering” something which John did not intend and, in view of his Jewish heritage, would not have understood! Additionally, John would be introducing a brand new picture of Messiahship which contradicts the Old Testament and overthrows John’s (and Jesus’s) own insistence that only the Father is truly God (John 5:44; 17:3). Such a glaring self-contradiction is hardly probable.7
It is high time that we allow Jesus to set the record straight. In Matthew’s, Mark’s, and Luke’s accounts we are told that Jesus explicitly subscribed to the strict monotheism of the Old Testament (Mark 12:28-34). Did he then, according to John, confuse the issue by claiming after all to be God?
The answer is given plainly in John 10:34-36 where Jesus defined his status in terms of the human representatives of God in the Old Testament. Jesus gave this account of himself in explanation of what it means to be “one with the Father” (10:30). It is a oneness of function and purpose by which the Son perfectly represents the Father. That is exactly the Old Testament ideal of sonship, which had been imperfectly realized in the rulers of Israel, but would find perfect fulfillment in the Messiah, God’s chosen King.
The argument in John 10:29-38 is as follows: Jesus began by claiming that he and the Father were “one.” It was a oneness of fellowship and function which on another occasion he desired also for his disciples’ relationship with him and the Father (John 17:11, 22). The Jews understood him to be claiming equality with God. This gave Jesus an opportunity to explain himself. What he was actually claiming, so he says, was to be “the Son of God” (v. 36), a recognized synonym for Messiah. The claim to sonship was not unreasonable, Jesus argued, in view of the well-known fact that even imperfect representatives of God had been addressed by Him in the Old Testament as “gods” (Ps. 82:6).
Far from establishing any claim to eternal Sonship, he compared his office and function to that of the judges. He considered himself God’s representative par excellence since he was uniquely God’s Son, the one and only Messiah, supernaturally conceived, and the object of all Old Testament prophecy. There is absolutely nothing, however, in Jesus’ account of himself which interferes with Old Testament monotheism or requires a rewriting of the Shema sacred text in Deuteronomy 6:4.
Jesus’ self-understanding is strictly within the limits laid down by God’s authoritative revelation in Scripture. Otherwise his claim to be the Messiah would have been invalid. The Scriptures would have been broken.
John’s Jewish Language
Since Jesus expressly denies that he is God in John 17:3 & 10:34-36, it will be most unwise to expect that he contradicted himself elsewhere. John’s Gospel should be examined with certain axiomatic principles firmly in mind. Jesus distinguishes himself from the Father, who alone is “the only true God” (John 17:3). The Father alone is God (5:44). John wishes his readers to understand that all that he writes contributes to the one great truth that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God (20:31). Jesus himself says, as we have seen, that the term “god” was used in the Hebrew Bible for a human being representing God, but that certainly does not imply “coequal Godship.” Jesus’ own self-designation is plainly “the Son of God” (John 10:36). In John 10:24-25, Jesus told them “plainly” that he was the Messiah, but they did not believe him.
Jesus states often that he has been “sent by God.” What the average reader hears in that phrase is not at all what John implies. John the Baptist was also “sent from God,” which does not mean that he pre-existed his own birth (John 1:6). Prophets in general are “sent” from God (Judges 6:8; Micah 6:4), and the disciples themselves are to be “sent” as Jesus was “sent” (John 17:18). “Coming down from heaven” need not mean descent from a previous life any more than Jesus’ “flesh, which is the bread
7 “It should bc noted that John is as undeviating a witness as any in the New Testament to the fundamental tenet of Judaism, of unitary monotheism (cp. Rom. 3:30; James 2:19). There is the one, true and only God (John 5:44; 17:3)” (J.A.T. Robinson, Twelve More New Testament Studies, SCM Press, 1984, p. 175). Jesus referred to the Father as “the only one who is truly God” (John 17:3). Such statements should end all argument about his nature.
which came down from heaven,” literally descended from the sky (John 6:50, 51). Nicodemus recognized that Jesus had “come from God” (John 3:2), but did not think of him as pre-existent. Nor did the Jewish people, when they spoke of the prophet “who was to come into the world” (John 6:14; cp. Deut. 18:15-18) mean that he was alive before his birth. James can say that “every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father” (James 1:17). “Coming down from heaven” is Jesus’ and the Jews’ graphic way of describing divine origin, which certainly belonged to Jesus through the virgin birth.
The “preexistence” statements in John (John 3:138; 6:62) are connected with the Son of Man, which means human being. The most that could be proved from these verses is that Jesus was a human being alive in heaven before he was born on earth! This sort of explanation is unnecessary, however, once it is noted that Daniel had 600 years earlier seen the Son of Man in a vision seated at the right hand of the Father, a position which the New Testament says Jesus only attained by his later resurrection and ascension. As Messiah, Jesus saw himself in the role of the one who was later to be exalted to heaven, since this, according to Daniel’s inspired vision, was the destiny of the Messiah prior to his second coming in glory. Jesus does indeed “preexist” his future return to the earth in this sense. All this had been seen in advance by Daniel before the birth of the Messiah. Thus Jesus expected to ascend to the right hand of the Father where he had been seen before in vision as an exalted human being – Son of Man (John 6:62). To say that Jesus was actually at the Father’s throne in heaven as a human being before his birth in Bethlehem is to misunderstand the thoroughly consistent Hebraic language of both John and Daniel. Jesus had to first be born before anything predicted of him in the Old Testament could take place!
Glory Before Abraham
Jesus found his own history written in the Hebrew Scriptures (Luke 24:27). The role of the Messiah was clearly outlined there. Nothing in the divine record had suggested that Old Testament monotheism would be changed at all, much less radically disturbed by the appearance of the Messiah.
A mass of evidence will support the proposition that the apostles never for one moment questioned the absolute oneness of God, or that the appearance of Jesus created any theoretical problem about monotheism. It is therefore destructive of the rigid monotheism and unity of the Bible to suggest that in one or two texts in John, Jesus overturned his own creedal statement that the Father was “the only true God” (17:3), or that he took himself far outside the category of human being by speaking of his own conscious existence from eternity. Certainly his prayer for the glory which he had had before the world began (17:5) can be easily understood as the desire for the glory which had been prepared for him in the Father’s plan (logos). The glory which Jesus intended for the disciples had also been “given” (John 17:22), but they had not yet received it either, at that time.9
It was typical of Jewish thinking that anything of supreme importance in God’s purpose – Moses, the Law, repentance, the Kingdom of God and the Messiah – had “existed” with God from eternity. In this vein John can speak of the crucifixion having “happened” before the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8, KJV). Peter, writing late in the first century, still knows of Jesus’ “preexistence” only as an existence in the foreknowledge of God (1 Peter 1:20). His sermons in the early chapters of Acts reflect exactly the same view.
8 Alternatively Jesus’ “ascension” may be a reference to his knowledge of divine secrets (cp. Prov. 30:3. 4).
9 “In some Jewish writings a conceptual preexistence is attributed to the expected Messiah, but only in common with other venerable things and persons, such as the Tabernacle, the Law, the city of Jerusalem, the lawgiver Moses himself, the people of Israel” (Ottley, Doctrine of Incarnation, p. 59).
But what of the favorite proof text in John 8:58 that Jesus existed before Abraham? Does Jesus after all confuse everything by saying on the one hand that the Father alone is the “only true God” (17:3, 5:44) – and that he himself is not God, but the Son of God (John 10:36) – and on the other hand that he, Jesus, is also an uncreated being? Does he define his status within the recognizable categories of the Old Testament (John 10:36; Ps. 82:6; 2:7) only to pose an insoluble riddle by saying that he had been alive before the birth of Abraham? Is “the Trinitarian problem”, which has never been satisfactorily resolved after almost 1,700 years, to be allowed to persist because of a single text in John? Would it not be wiser to read John 8:58 in the light of Jesus’ later statement in 10:36, and all the rest of Scripture?
In the thoroughly Jewish atmosphere which pervades the Gospel of John it is most natural to think that Jesus spoke in terms that were current amongst those trained in the rabbinical tradition. In a Jewish context, asserting “preexistence” does not mean that one is claiming to be an uncreated being!It does, however, imply that one has absolute significance in the divine plan. Jesus is certainly the central reason for creation. But the one God’s creative activity and his plan for salvation were not manifested in a unique created being, the Son, until Jesus’ birth. The person of Jesus originated when God’s self-expression, the “word”/logos, took form in a human being (John 1 :14)10
It is a well-recognized fact that the conversations between Jesus and the Jews were often at cross purposes. In John 8:57 Jesus had not in fact said, as the Jews seemed to think, that he had seen Abraham, but that Abraham had rejoiced to see Messiah’s day (v. 56). The patriarch was expecting to arise in the resurrection at the last day (John 11:24; Matt. 8:11) and take part in the Messianic Kingdom. Jesus was claiming superiority to Abraham, but in what sense?
As the “Lamb of God” he had been “crucified before the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8, KJV; 1 Pet. 1:20) – not, of course, literally, but in God’s plan. In this way also Jesus “was” before Abraham. Thus Abraham could look forward to the coming of the Messiah and his Kingdom. The Messiah and the Kingdom therefore “preexisted” in the sense that they were “seen” by Abraham through the eyes of faith.11
The expression “I am” in John 8:58 positively does not mean “I am God.” It is not, as so often alleged, the divine name of Exodus 3:14, where YHVH declared: “I am the Self-Existent One”. Jesus nowhere claimed that title. The proper translation of ego eimi in John 8:24 is “I am he,” i.e., the promised Christ (cp. the same expression in John 4:26, “I who speak to you am he [the Christ]”).12 In John 8:58 Jesus is stating that before Abraham was born Jesus had been “foreknown” (cp. 1 Pet. 1:20) in the plan and purpose (logos) of the Father. Jesus here makes the stupendous claim to absolute significance in God’s purpose.
The Word/Logos in John 1:1
There is no reason, other than force of habit, to understand that “word”/logos in John 1:1 means a second divine person before the birth of Jesus.13 A similar personification of Wisdom in Proverbs 8:22-30 and Luke 11:49 does not mean that “she” (Wisdom) is a second person. There is no possible way of
10 Compare G.B. Caird, The Development of the Doctrine of Christ in the New Testament, p. 79: “The Jews had believed only in the preexistence of a personification; wisdom was a personification, either of a divine attribute or of a divine purpose. but never a person. Neither the fourth Gospel nor Hebrews ever speaks of the eternal Word or Wisdom of God in terms which compel us to regard it as a person.”
11 H.H. Wendt, D.D., commenting on John 8:58. says: “Jesus’ earthly life was predetermined and foreseen by God before the time of Abraham” (The Teaching of Jesus – Vol. II. p. 176).
12 Edwin Freed in JTS, 33, 1982” p. 163: “In John 8:24 ‘ego eimi’ is to be understood as a reference to Jesus’ Messiahship…‘If you do not believe that I am he, you will die in your sins.’”
13 See Note 10.
accommodating a “second divine Person” in the revealed Godhead as John and Jesus understood it. The Father remains, as He always has been, “the only true God” (17:3), “the one who alone is God” (5:44). Reading the term logos (“word”) from an Old Testament perspective, we will understand it to be God’s activity in creation, His plan, His powerful life-giving command by which all things came into existence (Ps.33:6-12). God’s word is the power by which His purposes are furthered (Isa. 55:11). If we borrow from elsewhere in the New Testament we will equate “the word” with the creative salvation message, the gospel. This is the meaning throughout the New Testament (Matt. 13:19; Gal. 6:6, etc.).
It is this complex of ideas which go to make up the significance of logos, the “word”. Five Bibles which were published before the King James Bible of 1611 all rendered the pronoun referring to “the word” of John 1 in the third person singular neuter, “it”. “Through it all things were made and nothing was made without it” (John 1:3). In John 1:14 the word materializes in a real human being having a divine origin in his supernatural conception.14 From this moment, in “the fullness of time” (Gal. 4:4), the one God expresses Himself in a new creation, the counterpart of the original creation in Adam. Jesus’ conception and birth mark a new unprecedented phase of God’s purpose in history. As the second Adam, Jesus sets the scene for the whole program of salvation. He pioneers the way to immortality. In him God’s purpose is finally revealed in a human being (Heb. 1:1).
All this does not mean, however, that Jesus gave up one life for another. That would seriously disturb the parallel with Adam who was also “Son of God” by direct creation (Luke 3:38). It would also interfere with the pure monotheism revealed throughout the Scriptures which “cannot be broken” (John 10:35). Rather, God begins to speak to us in the first century A.D. in a new Son, His last word to the world (Heb. 1:1). It is the notion of an eternally existing Son which so violently disrupts the biblical scheme, challenging monotheism and threatening the real humanity of Jesus (1 John 4:2;2 John 7).
This understanding of Jesus in John’s Gospel will bring John into harmony with his fellow apostles and the monotheism of the Old Testament will be preserved intact. The facts of church history show that the unrestricted monotheism of the Hebrew Scriptures was abandoned soon after New Testament times under the influence of alien Greek/Gentile ideas. At the same time the predetermined framework for Messiahhood was forgotten, and with it the reality of the future Messianic Kingdom. The result was years of conflict, still unresolved, over how it was even possible for an already-existing second divine Person to be combined with a separate, fully-human being as required by all of Old Testament prophecy, in a single individual. The concept of literal preexistence for the Messiah is the intruding idea, the part of the Christological puzzle which will not fit. Without it a clear picture of Jesus emerges within the terms of the Hebrew revelation and the teachings of the apostles. God, the Father, remains indeed the only true God, the one who alone is God (John 17:3; 5:44) and the oneness of Jesus with his Father is found in a unity of function and purpose performed by one who is truly the Son, as the Bible everywhere else understands that term (John 10:36). If true Biblical Christianity is to be resuscitated and unified it will have to be on the basis of belief in the real Jesus, the Messiah of the Bible, unspoiled by the deceptive philosophical constructions of the Greeks who displayed very little sympathy for the Hebrew world into which Christ and Christianity were born.
The “Divinity” of Jesus
To say that Jesus is not God is not to deny that he is uniquely invested with the divine nature. Divinity
14 Compare James Dunn, Christology in the Making, p. 243, discussing John 1:1-14: “The conclusion which seems to emerge from our analysis is that it is only with v. 14 that we can begin to speak of the personal logos…The point is obscured by the fact that we have to translate the masculine logos as ‘he’…But if we translated logos as ‘God’s utterance’ instead, it would become clearer that the poem did not necessarily intend the Logos in verses 1-13 to be thought of as a personal divine being.”
is, so to speak, “built in” to him by virtue of his unique conception under the influence of the Holy Spirit, as well as by the Spirit which dwelt in him in full measure (John 3:34). Paul recognizes that the “fullness of the Godhead dwells in him” (Col. 1:19; 2:9). In seeing the man Jesus we see the glory of his Father (John 1:14). We perceive that God Himself was “in the Messiah reconciling the world to Himself” (2 Cor. 5:19). The Son of God is therefore the pinnacle of God’s creation, the full expression of the divine character in a human being. Although the glory of the Father had been manifested, to a much less degree, in Adam (Ps. 8:5; cp. Gen. 1:26), in Jesus the Father’s will is fully explained (John 1:18, NASB).
None of what Paul says about Jesus takes him out of the category of human being. The presence of God which dwelt in the temple did not turn the temple into God! It is seldom observed that a high degree of “divinity” is ascribed by Paul also to the Christian15 who has the spirit of Messiah dwelling in him (Eph. 3:19). As “God was in Christ” (2 Cor.5:19), so Christ was “in Paul” (Gal. 2:20), and he prays that the Christians may be “filled up to all the fullness of God” (Eph. 1:23; 3:19). Peter speaks of the faithful having the “divine nature” (2 Pet 1:4). What is true of the Christian is true to a much higher degree of Jesus who is “the pioneer” leading others through the process of salvation after successfully “completing the course” himself (Heb . 2:10).
In the Form of God
Despite the massive evidence from the New Testament showing that the apostles always distinguished Jesus from the “one God, the Father” (1 Cor. 8:6), many confidently find the traditional view of Jesus as a second uncreated being, fully God, in Philippians 2:5-11 . It is something of a paradox that the writer on Christology in the Dictionary of the Apostolic Church can say that “Paul never gives to Christ the name or description of ‘God,” but nevertheless finds in Philippians 2 a description of Christ’s eternal “pre-life” in heaven!16
A recent and widely acclaimed study of the biblical view of Jesus – Christology in the Making, by James Dunn – alerts us to the danger of reading into Paul’s words the conclusions of a later generation of theologians, the “fathers” of the Greek church in the centuries following the completion of the New Testament writings. Our natural tendency is to find in Scripture what we already believe, since none of us can easily face the threatening possibility that our “received” understanding does not coincide with the Bible. (The problem is even more acute if we are involved in teaching or preaching the Bible.)
However, are we not demanding of Paul more than he could possibly give by asking him to present us, in a few brief phrases, with an eternal being other than the Father? This would so obviously threaten the strict monotheism which he everywhere else expresses so clearly (1 Cor.8:6; Eph.4:6; 1 Tim. 2:5). It would also raise the whole Trinitarian problem of which Paul, brilliant theologian as he was, is quite unaware.
Looking afresh at Philippians 2, we must ask the question whether Paul in these verses has really made what would be his only reference to Jesus having been alive before his birth. The context of his remarks shows him urging the saints to be humble. It has often been asked whether it is in any way probable that he would enforce this lesson by asking his readers to adopt the frame of mind of one
15 Supposing him to be properly baptized, fully instructed, and active according to the Truth of Scripture. The reader should be aware that contemporary ideas of what it is to be a Christian may not correspond to a biblical definition. Matthew 7:21 provides the New Testament’s most uncomfortable warning.
16 Vol. 1, p. 194.
who, having been eternally God, made the decision to become man. It might also be strange for Paul to refer to the pre-existent Jesus as Jesus the Messiah, thus reading back into eternity the name and office he had only received at birth, according to Scripture.
Paul can be readily understood in Philippians 2 in terms of a favorite theme: Adamic Christology. It was Adam who was in the image of God as God’s son (Gen. 1:26; Luke 3:38), while Jesus, the second Adam (1 Cor. 15:45) was also in the form of God (the two words “image” and “form” can be interchanged;17 However, whereas Adam, under the influence of Satan, grasped at equality with God (“You will be as God,” Gen.3:5), Jesus did not.
Though he had every right to divine office, since he was the Messiah reflecting the divine Presence, he did not consider equality with God something to be “clutched at.” Instead he gave up all privileges, refusing Satan’s offer of power over the world’s kingdoms (Matt 4:8-10), and behaved throughout his life as a servant, even to the point of going to a criminal’s death on the cross.
In response to this life of humility God has now exalted Jesus to the status of Messianic Lord at the right hand of the Father, as Psalm 110 predicted. Paul does not say that Jesus was regaining a position which he had temporarily given up. He appears rather to have gained his exalted office for the first time following his resurrection. Although he had been the prophesied Messiah all of his life, his position was not publicly confirmed until he was “made both Lord and Messiah” by being raised from the dead (Acts 2:36; Rom. 1:4). If we read Paul’s account of Jesus’ life in this way as a description of the Lord’s continuous self-denial, a close parallel will be seen with another of his commentaries on Jesus’ career. “Though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor” (2 Cor. 8:9). While Adam had fallen, Jesus voluntarily “stepped down.”
The traditional reading of the Philippians 2 passage depends almost entirely on understanding Jesus’ condition “in the form of God” as a reference to a preexistent life in heaven. Bad Bible translations have done much to bolster this view. The verb “was” in the phrase “was in the form of God” occurs frequently in the New Testament and by no means carries the sense of “existing in eternity,” though some versions try to force that meaning into it. In 1 Corinthians 11:7, Paul says that a man ought not to cover his head since he is in the image and glory of God. The verb here is no different from the “was” describing Jesus as in the form of God. If ordinary man is in God’s glory and image, how much more Jesus, who is the perfect human representative of God in whom all the attributes of the divine nature dwelt (Col. 2:9). Paul’s intention in Philippians 2 is not to introduce the vast subject of an eternal divine being who became man, but to teach a simple lesson in humility.
We are to have the same attitude as Jesus, to think as he did. We are not being asked to imagine ourselves as eternal divine beings about to surrender Godhood in order to come to the earth as men. It is not widely known that many have had serious reservations about reading Philippians 2 as a statement about preexistence. A former Regius Professor of Divinity wrote in 1923: “Paul is begging the Philippians to cease from dissensions, and to act with humility towards each other. In 2 Corinthians 8:9 he is exhorting his readers to be liberal in almsgiving. It is asked whether it would be quite natural for him to enforce these two simple moral lessons by incidental references (and the only reference that he ever makes) to the vast problem of the mode of the incarnation. And it is thought by many that his homely appeals would have more effect if he pointed to the inspiring example of Christ’s humility and self-sacrifice in his human life, as in 2 Corinthians 10:1: “I exhort you by the meekness and forbearance of Christ.” The author of these comments, A.H. McNeile, suggests the following paraphrase: “Though Jesus was throughout the whole of his life divine, yet he did not think it a
17 See particularly C.H. Talbert, “The Problem of Preexistence in Philippians 2:6-11,” JBL 86 (1967), pp. 141-53. Also G. Howard, “Philippians 2:6-11 and the Human Christ.” CBQ 40 ( 1978), pp. 368-87.
privilege to be maintained at all costs to be treated as on an equality with God but of his own accord emptied himself (of all self-assertion or divine honor) by adopting the nature of a slave.”18
Paul is pointing to the fact that Jesus appeared on the human scene as any other man (“in the likeness of men”). His life, looked at as a whole, was a continuous process of self-humbling, culminating in his death on the cross. The second Adam, unlike the first, submits himself entirely to the will of God and in consequence receives the highest exaltation.
Head of the New Creation
The parallel between Adam and Jesus forms the basis of Paul’s thinking about the Messiah. Christ bears the same relationship to the new creation, the church, as Adam did to the creation begun in Genesis. Beginning with Jesus, humanity makes a new start. In Jesus as representative man, the new Adam, society begins all over again. This correspondence is seriously disturbed if Jesus after all did not originate as a man. As Adam is created a “Son of God” (Luke 3:38), so Jesus’ conception constitutes him “the Son of God” (Luke 1:35). Certainly Adam is of the earth (1 Cor. 15:47) while Jesus is the “man from heaven” not, according to Paul, coming from heaven at his birth, but at his second coming to raise the faithful dead (1 Cor. 15:45). At this point we see the fatal flaw in the traditional, orthodox Christian ideas about preexistence. The movement of Christ from heaven to earth centers in Paul’s mind on the future Parousia (second coming). In post-Biblical thinking the center of interest was transferred backward in time to his birth. Thus, curiously, the traditional Christian scheme looks backwards into history, while the Bible orients us primarily towards the Messiah’s future coming in glory.
It is as head of the new creation and the center of God’s cosmic purpose that Paul describes Jesus in Colossians 1. His intention is to show the supreme position which Jesus has won through resurrection and his preeminence in the new order, as against the claims of rival systems of religion by which the Colossians were being threatened. All authorities were created “in Christ” (Col. 1:16). So Jesus had claimed also: “All power in heaven and earth is mine” (Matt.28:18). “All things” here means for Paul the intelligent, animate creation consisting of “thrones, dominion, rulers or authorities,” which were created “in Christ,” “through Christ” (not “by”) and “for Christ.” It is his Kingdom which Paul has in mind (Col. 1:13). Jesus is the firstborn of every creature as well as the firstborn from the dead. (vv. 15, 18)19 The term “firstborn” designates him the leading member of the new created order as well as its source, a position which he attained by being the first to receive immortality through resurrection. John, in Revelation 3:14, similarly calls Jesus “the beginning of the creation of God,” which unequivocally declares that he himself was part of that created creation. The fact that, in the Bible, “firstborn” designates the one who holds the supreme office can be shown from Psalm 89:27 where the “firstborn,” the Messiah, is the “highest of the kings of the earth,” one chosen like David from the people and exalted (Ps. 89:19). Again Paul has developed the Messianic concepts already well-established by the Hebrew Scriptures.
18 New Testament Teaching in the Light of St Paul’s, pp. 65, 66.
19 At Colossians 1:17, many translations are less cautious than the NASB which wisely relegates to the margin the implication that Jesus “existed prior to” all things. It is sufficient to say, with Paul, that he is “before” all things, meaning that he is supreme in the created world, not that he is literally the first in time to be created, or that he existed eternally. In John 1:15, 30 a similar enthusiasm for preexistence is shown by those translations which do not allow us to see that the verse may very well be rendered: “He who comes after me has taken up a position in front of me, because he had absolute priority over me” (see commentaries by Raymond Brown in the Anchor Bible series, and by Westcott). The NIV is deliberately misleading when it describes Jesus as “returning” or “going back” to the Father. He was “going” or “ascending” (see John 13:3; 16:28: 20:17).
In none of Paul’s statements are we compelled to find a “second, eternal divine being.” He presents us rather with the glorified second Adam, now raised to the divine office for which man was originally created (Gen. 1:26; Ps.8). Jesus now represents the human race as the head of the new order of humanity. He intercedes for us as supreme High Priest in the heavenly temple (Heb. 8:1). In ascribing such elevated titles to the risen Lord, there is no reason to think that Paul has infringed his own clear monotheism expressed in 1 Corinthians 8:6: “To us Christians. there is one God, the Father, and one Lord, Jesus Christ.” Nothing in Colossians 1 forces us to believe that Paul, without warning, has parted company with Matthew, Mark, Luke, Peter, and John, and deviated from the absolute monotheism which he states so carefully and clearly elsewhere (1 Tim. 2:5; Eph 4:6), and which was deeply embedded in his whole theological background.
“The Inhabited Earth to Come of Which We Speak”
The writer to the Hebrews lays particular emphasis on the humanity of Jesus. He was tempted in all points as we are and yet was without sin (Heb.4:15). God originally made the ages through (not “by”) the Son, with his destiny as Messiah in view (Heb. 1 :2). After communicating with us in different ways and at different times through spokesmen in the past, God has now finally spoken to us in one who is truly Son (Heb. 1:2). The writer does not mean to tell us (what Jesus did not know, Mark 10:6) that Jesus had been the active agent in the Genesis creation. It was God who had rested on the seventh day, after completing his work (Heb.4:4, 10).20 It is God, also, who will yet introduce the Son into the “inhabitable earth of the future”: “When He again brings the Son into the world” (Heb. 1:6, NASB).21 When the Messiah is reintroduced into the earth, a number of important statements about him will become history. Firstly, Messiah’s throne will be established (Heb. 1:8). (Compare, “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, then he will sit on his throne of glory,” Matt. 25:31).22 As representing the divine majesty of the Father, the Messianic title “god” will be applied to Jesus, as it once was to the judges of Israel who foreshadowed the supreme Judge of lsrael, the Messiah (Ps. 82:6). Another prophecy from Psalm 102:25 will also be realized in the coming kingdom of Messiah. The foundations of a new earth and a new heaven will be laid as Isaiah 51:16 and 65:17 foresee. Hebrews 1:10 can easily be misread to mean that the Lord Messiah was responsible for the creation in Genesis. However, this overlooks the author’s quotation from the LXX (the Septuagint – Greek Old Testament) of the thoroughly Messianic Psalm 102. Moreover, he specifically states that his series of truths about the Son refers to the time when he is “brought again” into the earth (Heb. 1:6). And in Hebrews 2:5 he tells us once again that it is the “inhabited earth of the future” of which he is speaking in Chapter One.
20 The New Testament is quite clear about God the Father being the creator in Gen. 1:1; Acts 7:50, 14:15, 17:24; Rev. 4:11, 10:6, 14:7; Mark 10:6, 13:19. Heb. 1:1-2 describes the God of the Hebrew Bible as the Father of Jesus and excludes any possibility that “God” could mean a Triune God. See also Murray Harris, Jesus as God (Baker, 1992), p. 47: “For the author of Hebrews (as for all New Testament writers, one may suggest) the ‘God of our fathers,’ YHVH, was no other than ‘the God and Father of ‘our lord Jesus Christ’ (cp. Acts 2:30, 33; 3:13; 18,25, 26)…It would be inappropriate for Elohim or YHVH ever to refer to the Trinity in the Old Testament when in the New Testament theos regularly refers to the Father alone and apparently never to the Trinity.” On p. 273, Harris admits that “God” never refers to both the Father and the Son together.
21 Compare Tyndale Commentary on Hebrews by Thomas Hewitt (1960) p. 56: “The translation is therefore ‘And when he again bringeth the firstborn into the world.’”
22 See also Matt. 19:28: Luke 22:28-30: and Rev. 2:26, 3:21, and 5:10 which with many other texts foresee the establishment on earth of the Messianic Kingdom when Jesus returns.
The writer must be allowed to provide his own commentary. His concern is with the Messianic Kingdom, not the creation in Genesis. Because we do not share the Messianic vision of the New Testament as we ought, our tendency is to look back rather than forward. We must attune ourselves to the thoroughly Messianic outlook of the entire Bible.23
The Hebrew Background to the New Testament
It will be useful by way of summary and to orient ourselves to the thought world of the authors of the New Testament to lay out the principal passages of the Hebrew Scriptures from which they derived their unified understanding of the person of Christ. Nowhere can it be shown that the Messiah was to be an uncreated being, a fact which should cause us to look outside the Bible for the source of such a revolutionary concept.
The original purpose for man, made in the image and glory of God, was to exercise dominion over the earth (Gen. 1;26; Ps. 8). That ideal is never lost beyond our recovery, for the Psalmist speaks of the “glory” with which man has been (potentially) crowned so that “all things are to be subjected under his feet” (Ps. 8:5, 6). As the divine plan unfolds it becomes clear that the promised “seed of the woman” who is to reverse the disaster caused by Satan (Gen. 3:15) will be a descendant of David (2 Sam. 7:13-16). He will call God his Father (2 Sam. 7:14) and be appointed as God’s Son, the Messiah, to whom God entrusts rulership of the earth (Ps. 2). Prior to taking up his royal office, however, the Messiah is to sit at the right hand of the Father and bear the title “Lord/adoni” (Ps. 110:1).24 As Son of Man, representative man, he will take his place in heaven prior to receiving from God authority to administer a universal empire (Dan.2:44; 7:14; Acts 3:20,21). Having suffered at his first coming for the sins of the people (Isa. 53; Ps. 22), he is to come again as God’s firstborn, the ruler of the kings of the earth (Ps. 89:27), foreshadowed by David who was also chosen from the people (Ps. 89:19.20).
As the second Moses, the Messiah was to arise in Israel (Deut. 18:18), deriving his divine Sonship from a supernatural birth from a virgin (Isa. 7:14; Luke 1:35), and being confirmed as God’s Son through his resurrection from the dead (Rom. 1:4). As High Priest, the Messiah now serves his people from heaven (Heb. 8:1) and awaits the time of the restoration of all things (Acts 3:21), when he is destined to be reintroduced into the earth as King of Kings, the divine figure of Psalm 45 (Heb. 1:6-8).
At that time, in the new age of the Kingdom, he will rule with his disciples (Matt. 19:28; Luke 22:28-30;1 Cor.6:2; 2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 2:26; 3:21; 20:4). As Adam headed the original creation of human beings on earth, so Jesus is the created Head of the New Order of humanity, in whom the ideals of the human race will be fulfilled (Heb.2:7).
Within this Messianic framework the person and work of Jesus can be explained in terms understood by the apostles. Their purpose even when presenting the most “advanced” Christology is to proclaim belief in Jesus as Messiah and Son of God (John 20:31), who is the center of God’s whole purpose in history (John 1:14). Though Jesus is obviously coordinated in a most intimate way with his Father, the latter remains the “only true God” of biblical monotheism (John 17:3). Jesus thus represents the presence of the
23 For further information on how the writer to the Hebrews uses Psalm 102 in Hebrews 1:10, see F.F. Bruce, Epistle to the Hebrews, pp.21-23.
24 Thc Hebrew word “lord” (adoni, my lord) is never, in all of its 195 occurrences, the title of Deity. The Lord God, by contrast, is Adonai 449 times. This critically important text proves that no writer of the Bible thought that the Messiah was God Himself. See Appendix.
one God, his Father. In the man Jesus, Immanuel, the one God is truly present with us (John 14:9).25
From “Son of God” to “God the Son”
We have searched out the Jesus of the Bible by assembling the various strands of the data revealed in the inspired records. The picture that emerges is different from the picture presented by traditional Christianity in that the person of Christ we have described does not complicate the first principle of biblical faith, namely belief in One who alone is truly and absolutely God (John 17:3;5:44).
It is easy to see how the biblical Messiah became “God the Son” of the post-biblical theologians. It was possible only when the essential Messianism of the Bible was gradually suppressed. The term “the Son of God,” which in Scripture is a purely Messianic title describing the glory of man in intimate fellowship with the Father, was from the second century A.D. misunderstood and reapplied to the divine nature of a God/Man. At the same time, the designation “the Son of Man,” no less a title of the Messiah as representative man, was made to refer solely to his “human nature”. In this way both titles, Son of God and Son of Man, were emptied of their original Messianic significance and their biblical meaning was lost. While the evidence of the Old Testament was largely rejected – as well as the evidence of the synoptic Gospels, Acts, Peter, James, and John in the book of Revelation – a series of verses in John’s Gospel and two or three in Paul’s epistles were reinterpreted to accommodate the new idea that Jesus was the second member of an eternal Trinity, coequally and coessentially God. That Jesus, however, is not the Jesus of the biblical documents. He is, in fact, another Jesus (2 Cor. 11:4).
The Man and the Message Obscured
With the loss of the biblical meaning of Messiah went a parallel loss of the meaning of the Messianic Kingdom which is the center of all Jesus’ teaching and the heart of the gospel (Luke 4:43: Acts 8:12; 28:23, 31). The hope for the establishment of the Messiah’s kingdom in a renewed earth, the theme of all Old Testament prophecy which Jesus came to confirm (Rom. 15:8), was replaced by the hope of “heaven when you die”, “going to be with Jesus”, etc.; and a massive piece of propaganda convinced (and continues to convince) a mis-instructed public that Jesus never “really” believed in anything so “earthly,” political, or “unspiritual” as the Kingdom of God on earth.
The result of the radical changes which gradually overcame the original world view of the church (beginning as early as the second century) has been a loss of the central message of Jesus – the gospel about the Kingdom of God (Luke 4:43; Acts 8:12; 28:23,31) as well as a misunderstanding about who he was and is. Churches are left in some embarrassment to explain how on the one hand Jesus was the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah, while he is supposed to have rejected the Old Testament promises that the Messiah is coming to rule on the earth! The theory usually advanced is that Jesus upheld the Old Testament as far as it taught an ethical ideal of love, but rejected the prophets’ vision of a catastrophic divine intervention in history leading to a renewal of society on earth under the Kingdom of God.26 In short, Jesus is supposed to have claimed to be the Messiah, but at the same time to have eliminated all hope for the restoration of the theocracy for which his contemporaries longed.
25 John 20:28 describes an address to Jesus as “my Lord and my God.” Both titles are ascribed to the Messiah in the Old Testament (Ps. 45:6, 11; 110:1). John’s sole purpose is to present Jesus as the Messiah (John 20:31). But there is a special significance in Thomas’ words. In John 14:7 Jesus had said to Thomas: “If you had known me you would have known my Father. From now on you both know Him and have seen Him.” Finally, after the resurrection, Thomas sees that God the Father was indeed in Christ and that to see Christ was to recognize the God Who commissioned him. John 20:28 is the sequel to Jesus’ earlier conversation with Thomas and Philip (John 14:4-11).
26 Jesus never denied that the predicted theocracy would one day be established by him as Messiah.
Theology’s loss of the truth of the future Messianic Kingdom involved also the loss of the future co-rule of Jesus and the faithful church. Thus Christianity’s primary objective was obscured by pagan philosophy.
There is no doubt at all that the faithful in Israel were indeed looking forward to the arrival of Messiah to rule on earth, but Jesus, so it has long been maintained, parted company with such “crude” expectations.27 The question as to why the Jews expected a concrete Messianic empire on earth is silently bypassed. If the question were ever asked, the answer would obviously have to be that the Old Testament Scriptures had predicted it in every detail.
Churches will some day have to account to the God of the Bible and His future earthly Supreme Regent, our Lord Jesus, for the fact that they deliberately corrupted the Bible by allowing only the first act of the divine drama – the part which concerns the suffering and dying Messiah – while dismissing the second act, the future arrival of the Messiah as triumphant King, God’s envoy for creating an effective and lasting peace on earth, which is the Gospel of Jesus Messiah. Jesus’ resurrection and ascension and his present situation at the right hand of the Father are only part of the triumph of God’s Son, as the New Testament understands it.
A serious and fundamental misconception underlies the traditional ways of thinking about Jesus’ role in history. It has to do with the Messiah’s overt political-theocratic function which is the principal ingredient of Messiahship. Until now, every effort has been made to sustain the belief, contrary to the most straightforward statements of Scripture, that Jesus’ promises to the church that it is to rule with him in the future Messianic Kingdom (Matt 19:28; Luke 22:28-30) are to be applied to the present era, a position which is ruled out by the words of Jesus himself.
What continues to be overlooked is that it is “when Jesus comes in his glory” at the end of the present age (Matt. 25:31), “in the new age when he takes up his office as King” (Matt 19:28), that the church is to rule with him. Lest there should be the slightest doubt, the chorus of divine beings sings of the church, drawn from every nation, whom God has constituted a line of kings and priests destined to “reign on the earth” (Rev. 5:10). The pure Messianism of Psalm 2 remains as strong as ever in Revelation 2:26 and 3:21. and these are Jesus’ very own words to the church (Rev. 1:1; 22:16).
The Jesus of the Scriptures is identical, in concept and person, to the Messiah of Old Testament prophecy and apocalyptic literature. There is an urgent need for churchgoers of all so-called “denominations” to break off the shackles of orthodox pagan philosophies which have bound them for all these centuries, and to involve themselves in a personal investigation of the Scriptures unshackled by this or that creed at present so willingly accepted “on faith.” We will have to be honest enough to admit that majority opinions are not automatically the correct ones and that tradition, uncritically accepted, may have gone far in burying the original faith as Jesus and the apostles taught it.
It may be that we should take seriously the observation of Canon H.L. Goudge when he wrote of the disaster which occurred “when the Greek and Roman rather than the Hebrew mind came to dominate the church.” lt was “a disaster in doctrine and practice,” according to Canon Goudge, “from which the Church has never recovered.”28
26 Jesus never denied that the predicted theocracy would one day be established by him as Messiah. Theology’s loss of the truth of the future Messianic Kingdom involved also the loss of the future co-rule of Jesus and the faithful church. Thus Christianity’s primary objective was obscured by pagan philosophy.
27 Found as much in the Psalms of Solomon as in the Old Testament. Psalm 2, etc.
28 The Calling of the Jews, in the collected essays on Judaism and Christianity.
Recovery can only begin when due notice is taken of John’s solemn warning that “there is no falsehood so great as the denial of the Messiahship of Jesus” (1 John 2:22).29 Jesus must be proclaimed as Messiah, with all that that highly colored term means in its biblical setting.
What the Scholars Admit
In an article on “Preaching Christ” (Dictionary of Christ and the Apostles, Vol. II, p. 394), James Denny says: “It is idle to say that Jesus is the Christ, if we do not know who or what Jesus really is. It has no meaning to say that an unknown person is at God’s right hand, exalted and sovereign; the more ardently men believed that God had given them a Prince and Savior in this exaltation, the more eager would they be to know all that could possibly be known about him.”
This fine statement is followed by another valuable observation that “there is no preaching of Christ that does not rest on the basis on which the apostles’ preaching rested.” What then did Jesus and the apostles preach? “One of the ways in which Jesus represented his absolute significance for true religion was this: he regarded himself as the Messiah. The Messianic role was one which could be filled by only one person, and he himself was the person in question; he and no other was the Christ.”
All this is excellent, but the thoughts which follow begin to reveal an uneasiness about the Messiahship of Christ, despite protestations to the contrary. “But is the Christ a conception which we in another age can make use of for some purpose? Only, it must be answered, if we employ the term with much latitude.” James Denny does not seem to be aware that he is about to undermine the biblical Messiahship of Yeshua, and, since Jesus cannot be separated from his Messianic office, to obscure the identity of Jesus. He goes on: “It is certain that for those who first came to believe in Jesus as the Christ the name was much more definite than it is for us; it had a shape and color which it has no longer.” But this must imply that we have lost sight of what it means to believe that Jesus is the Messiah. Denny gives the impression that we are now at liberty to make up our own idea of Messiahship, disregarding the biblical definition of it.
It was, however, precisely this tendency which brought disaster to the church soon after the death of the apostles. The church began to create its own conception of the Messiah, and in so doing lost touch with the Jesus of the Bible. Denny says that the term Messiah “had expectations connected with it which for us have lost the vitality which they once possessed.” Exactly; but why have they lost their meaning, if not because we have ceased to believe what the Bible tells us about the Messiah? “In particular,” says Denny, “the eschatological30 associations of the term Messiah have not for us the importance which they had for the first believers. In the teaching of Jesus these associations cluster round the title Son of Man…which is used as synonymous with the Christ…Nothing was more characteristic of primitive Christianity than the second coming of Jesus in the character of Christ. It was the very essence of what the early church meant by hope…our outlook on the future is different from theirs.”
On what authority is it “different”? Surely one cannot lay aside one of the most characteristic features of the Christianity of the Bible and continue to call what remains the same faith.31 It is this subtle departure from the characteristic hope of the early church which should signal for us the perilous difference between what is called “Christianity” today, and what the apostles understood by that name. It makes no sense whatsoever to claim to be “Christians” if we have abandoned the
29 New Testament Letters, paraphrased by J.W.C. Wand, D.D.
30 I.e., having to do with events to occur at the end of the age.
31 In the same way that Christian doctrines of God and man and salvation are “utterly untenable without the existence of Satan” (Michael Green, I Believe in the Downfall of Satan, Eerdman’s. 1981, p.20).
essential characteristic of the New Testament conception of the very Messiah in whom we claim to believe.
Denny is rightly suspicious of a tendency among scholars to “assume tacitly that it is a mistake to believe in Christ as those who first preached him believed. Such criticism makes it its business to make Jesus’ personality exactly like our own and his consciousness exactly what our own may be” (emphasis mine). This is precisely the problem, but it is also Denny’s, who strangely confesses that “our outlook on the future is different from the apostles’.” But their outlook on the future was based upon their central understanding of Jesus as the promised Messiah, the prophesied ruler of the future Kingdom of God on earth, whose power was manifested in advance in Jesus’ ministry as proof of those very beliefs. By what possible logic can we simply surrender the hope which was “the essential characteristic of apostolic Christianity” and still claim to be Christians? In this self-contradiction lies the great failure of churches to remain faithful to Jesus as Messiah. We have preferred our own orthodox ideas and our own view of Messiahship; and we have felt it appropriate to attach to our own idea the name of Jesus. Have we not thus created “another Jesus” after the image of our unconverted pagan Gentile hearts?
A perusal of standard works on Christology reveals some remarkable admissions which may encourage the reader to conduct a personal quest for the truth about Jesus. In an article on the Son of God, William Sanday, once professor of divinity at Oxford, asks the question whether there are any texts in the four Gospels which might lead us to the idea of Jesus as the “preexistent Son of God.” He concludes that all the statements about Jesus in Matthew, Mark, and Luke refer to the life of Christ on earth. There is not a single reference to his having been the Son of God before his birth. If we examine John’s Gospel “we have to look about somewhat for expressions that are free from ambiguity. Perhaps there are not any.” (Hastings Dictionary of the Bible, Vol. IV, p. 576, emphasis mine.)
Here, then, is the statement of a leading expert to the effect that there may not be a single reference in all four Gospels to Jesus being the Son of God before his birth. Yet it remains a fact that the churches teach the “eternal Sonship” of Jesus as a non-negotiable requirement and indispensable tenet of the Christian faith. Professor Sanday is left guessing as to why Matthew, Mark, and Luke know nothing about Jesus’ preexistence: “It is probable that the writers had not reflected upon the subject at all, and did not reproduce a portion of our Lord’s teaching upon it” (Ibid., p. 571). [We are not making this up!] When he comes to the epistles, Sanday can only conjecture that there might be a reference to a preexistent Son in Hebrews 1:1-3, but by no means necessarily. On Colossians 1:15 he says that “the leading idea in ‘firstborn’ is that of the legal rights of the firstborn, his precedence over all who are born after him.”
But he adds that “it seems wrong to exclude the idea of priority [in time] as well.” He concludes his remarks by quoting a German theologian as saying that “from the Old Testament and Rabbinism there is no road to the doctrine of the divinity of Christ” (i.e., that he is God). Professor Wernle maintained that “the title ‘Son of God’ is strictly Jewish and that the further step from ‘Son of God’ to ‘God the Son’ was taken upon Gentile ground through lax ideas brought in by the converts from paganism.” (Ibid., p.577)
Statements of this kind show on what shaky ground the whole edifice of “preexistent Sonship” is built. The possibility must be squarely faced that the dogmatic statements about Jesus which date from post-biblical times rely on their own authority rather than that of the apostles. The wisest course for anyone interested in living according to the actual teachings of the Bible is to take our stand upon the dogmatic statements of the Scripture itself and to recognize with Jesus that “eternal life consists in this: that we may come to know the Father as the only true God and Jesus, the Messiah whom He sent” (John 17:3).
Jesus, the Man and the Mediator
The Jesus presented by the apostles is surely not “God the Son.” This title appears nowhere in the Bible. Jesus is the Son of God, the Messiah, whose origin in time is to be traced to his miraculous conception (Luke 1:35). The one God of the Scriptures remains in the New Testament the one Person revealed in the Old Testament as the Creator God of Israel, YHVH Elohim. Jesus, “himself man”, (1 Tim. 2:5), mediates between the one God, the Father, and mankind. This Jesus can save “to the uttermost” (Heb. 7:25). Any other Jesus must be avoided as a deceptive counterfeit [a.k.a., an AntiChrist! – BH] — and it is all too easy to be “taken in” (2 Cor. 11:4).
The Church’s Confession
The church which Jesus founded is based upon the central confession that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God (Matt. 16:16). This confession is seriously distorted when a new unbiblical meaning is applied to the term “Son of God”. That such a distortion has occurred should be evident to any serious students of the history of theology. Its effects are with us to this day. What is urgently needed is a return to the rock-confession of Peter, who, in the presence of Jesus (Matt. 16:16), the Jews (Acts 2; 3), and at the end of his ministry, declared that Jesus is the Messiah of Israel, the Savior of the world, foreknown in the counsels of God but physically manifested only in these last times (1 Peter 1:20). The stupendous fact of Jesus’ Messiahship is understood only by divine revelation (Matt. 16:17).
Christianity’s founding figure must be presented within the Hebrew-biblical framework. It is there that we discover the real, historical Jesus who is also the Jesus of faith. Outside that framework we invent “another Jesus” because his biblical descriptive titles have lost their original meanings (cp. 2 Cor. 11:4).
When Jesus’ titles are invested with a new unscriptural meaning, it is clear that they no longer convey his identity truthfully. When this happens the Christian faith itself is brought to ruin. Our task, therefore, must be to proclaim Jesus as the Messiah of the prophets’ vision, and we must mean by Messiah and Son of God what Jesus and the New Testament mean by these terms. The church can claim to be the custodian of authentic Christianity only when it speaks in harmony with the apostles and tells the world who Jesus really is.
One of the most striking facts predicted of the Messiah is that he is definitely not God, but the Son of God. Psalm 110:1 is the New Testament’s master Christological proof text, alluded to some 23 times. The relationship between God and the Messiah is precisely indicated by the title given to the Messiah – adoni (Ps. 110:1). This form of the word “Lord” invariably (all 195 occurrences) designates non-Deity figures in the Old Testament. Adoni is to be carefully distinguished from adonai. Adonai in all of its 449 occurrences invariably and without exception means the Deity.
Adonai is not the word which appears in Psalm 110:1. This important distinction between God and man is a vital part of the sacred text, and is confirmed by Jesus himself in Matthew 22:41 ff. It places the Messiah solely in the category of man, however elevated. Psalm 110:1 appears throughout the New Testament as a key text describing the status of the Messiah in relation to the One God (see Acts 2:34-36).
Adonai and Adoni (Psalm 110:1)
The NT’s Favorite Old Testament Proof-text
Why is the Messiah always called adoni (my Lord) and never Adonai? (my Lord God) “Adonai and adoni are variations of Masoretic vowel pointing to distinguish divine reference from human. Adonai is referred only to God but Adoni only to human or angelic superiors.
Adoni-ref. to men: my lord, my master [see Ps. 110:1]
Adonai-ref. to God…Lord” (Brown, Driver, Briggs, Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament, under adon [= lord], pp. 10, 11).
“The form ADONI (‘my lord’), a royal title (1 Sam. 29:8), is to be carefully distinguished from the divine title ADONAI (‘my Lord’) used of Yahweh.” “ADONAI-the special plural form [the divine title] distinguishes it from adonai [with short vowel] = my lords [found in Gen. 19:2]” (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, “Lord,” p. 1 57 ).
“Lord in the OT is used to translate ADONAI when applied to the Divine Being. The [Hebrew] word…has a suffix [with special pointing] presumably for the sake of distinction. Sometimes it is uncertain whether it is a divine or human appellative…The Masoretic Text sometimes decides this by a note distinguishing between the word when ‘holy’ or only ‘excellent,’ sometimes by a variation in the [vowel] pointing – adoni, adonai [short vowel] and adonai [long vowel]” (Hastings Dictionary of the Bible, “Lord,” Vol. 3, p.137).
“Hebrew Adonai exclusively denotes the God of lsrael. It is attested about 450 times in the OT…Adoni [is] addressed to human beings (Gen. 44:7, Num. 32:25, II Kings 2:19 [etc.]). We have to assume that the word adonai received its special form to distinguish it from the secular use of adon [i.e., adoni]. The reason why [God is addressed] as adonai, [with long vowel] instead of the normal adon, adoni or adonai [with short vowel] may have been to distinguish Yahweh from other gods and from human lords” (Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible, p. 531).
“The lengthening of the a on Adonai [the Lord God] may be traced to the concern of the Masoretes to mark the word as sacred by a small external sign” (Theological Dictionary of the OT, “Adon,” p. 63 and Theological Dictionary of the NT III, 1060 ff, n. 109).
“The form ‘to my lord’ l’adoni, is never used in the OT as a divine reference…the generally accepted fact [is] that the Masoretic pointing distinguishes divine references (adonai) from human references (adoni) (Wigram, The Englishman’s Hebrew and Chaldee Concordance of the OT, p. 22)” (Herbert Bateman, “Ps 110:1 and the NT,” Bibliothecra Sacra, Oct.-Dec.,1992, p. 438).
Professor Larry Hurtado of the University of Edinburgh, celebrated author of a modern classic on Christology: “There is no question but that the terms Adonai and adoni function differently: the one a reverent way of avoiding pronouncing the word YHVH and the other the use of the same word for non-divine figures” (from correspondence, June 24th,2000).
How Jesus Was Turned into God
The NT presents Jesus as the Christ, the Messianic Son of God. He functions as the agent and representative of YHVH, his Father, the God of Israel. Jesus founded his church on the revelation that he is “the Messiah, Son of the Living God.” (Matt. 16:16). As the Son of God he was supernaturally created or begotten (Matt. 1:20; Luke 1:35; Acts 13:33, not KJV; 1 John 5:18) in the womb of his mother. This constitutes him as uniquely the Son of God, the “only begotten,” or “uniquely begotten Son of God” (John 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18; 1 John 4:9) and the Lord Messiah (Luke 2:11), not the Lord God. Because he was begotten – brought into existence – he cannot by definition be eternal. Therefore the term “eternal Son” is an oxymoron, an obvious nonsensical expression. “Eternal” means you have no beginning. To be begotten means you have a beginning. All sons are begotten and therefore “God the Son” is a misleading title for Jesus, the Messiah. You cannot be the eternal God and the Son of God at the same time!
The church fathers of the second century onwards, beginning probably with Justin Martyr, began to shift the history of the Son of God back into pre-history, thus distorting and eclipsing his true identity. They removed him from his status as the Head of the new human creation, the Second Adam. They minimized his real history and invented a cosmic pre-history for him. This destroyed his identity as the “man Messiah Jesus.” Later Origen invented a new meaning for the word “begotten” or “generated.” He called Jesus the “eternally generated” Son – a concept without meaning which contradicted the NT account of the actual “generation” or “begetting” of the Son around 2 BC.
This fundamental paradigm shift which gave rise to the awful “problem of the Trinity” is rightly traced by “restorationists” to those pre-Nicene Council “Church fathers” who, using a middle-Platonic model, began to project the historical Jesus, the Messianic Son of God, back into pre-historical, premundane times. They produced a metaphysical Son who replaced the Messianic Son/King described in the Bible – the Messianic Son whose existence was yet still future when he was predicted as the promised King by the covenant made with David (II Sam. 7:14, “he will be My [God’s] Son”). Hebrews 1 : 1-2 expressly says that God did not speak through a Son in Old Testament times. That is because there was as yet no Messianic Son of God.
Professor Loofs described the process of the early corruption of biblical Christianity: “The Apologists [‘church fathers’ like Justin Martyr, mid-2nd century A.D.] laid the foundation for the perversion/ corruption (Verkehrung) of Christianity into a revealed [philosophical] teaching.
Specifically, their Christology affected the later development disastrously. By taking for granted the transfer of the concept of Son of God onto the preexisting Christ, they were the cause of the Christological problem of the fourth century. They caused a shift in the point of departure of Christological thinking – away from the historical Christ and onto the issue of preexistence. They thus shifted attention away from the historical life of Jesus, putting it into the shadow and promoting instead the incarnation [i.e., of a preexistent Son]. They tied Christology to cosmology [study of the origins of the universe] and could not tie it to soteriology [theological study of salvation]. The Logos teaching is not a ‘higher’ Christology than the customary one. It lags in fact far behind the genuine appreciation of Christ. According to their teaching it is no longer God who reveals Himself in Christ, but the Logos, the inferior God, a God who as God is subordinated to the Highest God (inferiorism or subordinationism).
“In addition, the suppression of economic-trinitarian ideas by metaphysical-pluralistic concepts of the divine triad (trias) can be traced to the Apologists” (Friedrich Loofs, Leitfaden zum Studium des Dogmertgeschichte [Manual for the Study of the History of Dogma], 1890, Part 1 Ch. 2, Section 18: “Christianity as a Revealed Philosophy. The Greek Apologists,” Niemeyer Verlag, 1951, p. 97, translation mine).
Those who are dedicated to restoring the identity of the Biblical Jesus, son of God, may take heart from the incisive words of a leading systematic theologian of our times. He restores the biblical meaning of the crucial title “Son of God,” rescuing it from the millennia-long obscurity it has suffered from Platonically-minded church fathers and theologians.
Professor Colin Brown, general editor of the New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, writes:
“The crux of the matter lies in how we understand the term ‘the Son of God’…The title ‘the Son of God’ is not in itself an expression of personal Deity or the expression of metaphysical distinctions within the Godhead. Indeed, to be a ‘son of God’ one has to be a being who is not God! It is a designation for a creature indicating a special relationship with God. In particular, it denotes God’s representative, God’s vice-regent. It is a designation of kingship, identifying the king as God’s Son… In my view the term ‘the son of God’ ultimately converges on the term ‘image of God’ which is to be understood as God’s representative [Hebrew: shaliach], the one in whom God’s spirit dwells, and who is given stewardship and authority to act on God’s behalf…It seems to me to be a fundamental mistake to treat statements in the Fourth Gospel about the Son and his relationship with the Father as expressions of inner-Trinitarian relationships. But this kind of systematic misreading of the Fourth Gospel seems to underlie much of social Trinitarian thinking…It is a common but patent misreading of the opening of John’s Gospel to read it as if it said, ‘In the beginning was the Son, and the Son was with God, and the Son was God’ (John 1:1). What has happened here is the substitution of Son for Word (Greek logos) and thereby the Son is made a member of the “Godhead” which existed from the beginning” (“Trinity and Incarnation: Towards a Contemporary Orthodoxy,” Ex Auditu,7, 1991, pp. 87-89). ~~~~~~~~~~~~ End ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
The preceding was optically scanned and reformatted for 8½x11 from the original booklet, “Who Is Jesus”, A study booklet to further the restoration of biblical faith, by Anthony F. Buzzard, M.A. (Oxon.), M.A.Th.
Further copies of this booklet may be obtained from:
Atlanta Bible College firstname.lastname@example.org
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We must further point out that our Lord Yeshua’s most scathing recorded denunciations were reserved for the religious leaders of his day who had substituted their own man-made traditions (the “oral Law”, etc.) for obedience to the literal words of Scripture (the Hebrew Torah/ Tanakh, what Christians disparagingly call the “Old Testament”). In this, the leaders of almost ALL of the so-called “Christian” denominations are far worse transgressors of the expressed will of Father YHVH and His Messiah, in that the denominations claim to be obedient to the will of God, but are not, according to Scripture. In this they are leading the sheep of His flock astray, and equally deserve the epithet Yeshua hung on the scribes, Sadducees and Pharisees:
For more information, and a point-by-point rebuttal of our own 29 previously erroneous beliefs about the “deity” of Yeshua/“Jesus”, see the following pages, or please contact us at:
Bob & Suzanne Hamrick email@example.com
Authors of: Exposing Satan’s ‘Left Behind’
A 400-page exposé of the Pre-Trib Rapture myth and a handbook on how to escape the Great Tribulation.
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What Hapened to Us – Summary
Bob & Suzanne Hamrick
In our prior article, “What Happened to Us”, in which we describe how we went from being lifelong (from birth to retirement age) believers in the deity of Jesus Christ, to discovering the Biblical truth of the matter, we listed the following 29 reasons why we believed as we did.
Herein, we rebut our own previously erroneous beliefs, so that the concerned reader may understand the issues involved, and the depths of the deceptions to which we and the rest of the “Christian” Church have been subjected for almost 2,000 years, and continuing!
We previously believed that Yeshua (“Jesus Christ”) and the Holy Spirit are God because:
1. We are Bible-believing Christians, and all Bible-believing Christians believe that Yeshua and the Holy Spirit are God, co-equal and co-eternal with the Father;
Rebuttal: This is simply not true. The deity of anyone but the Father, YHVH Elohim, is expressly denied by all of Scripture. So ALL Bible-believing Christians do NOT believe that Yeshua &/or the Holy Spirit are both “Persons” in a “Godhead”, along with the Father, YHVH Elohim. Many individuals and denominations do not, and have not, since the very beginnings of Christianity, as we have discovered. In fact, untold numbers have died horrible deaths at the hands of other “Christians”, rather than deny what they saw with their own eyes in Scripture.
2. John 1:1-18 states- “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.” This obviously refers to “Jesus” and to no one else.
Rebuttal: There are several English language Bibles which were published BEFORE the first King James Version (1611): Wycliffe’s (1382); Tyndale (1526); Matthew’s (Coverdale) Bible (1537); Great Bible (1539); Bishop’s Bible (1568); and the Geneva Bible (1587). In ALL of those, the word “word” was NOT capitalized, and ALL of the pronouns referring to “word” were third person singular impersonal (“it”). The Greek word translated here as “word” (logoς logos) is legitimate, but logos has no aspects of personality attached to it in any known (non-Christian) Greek dictionary. In the context of John 1, it refers to the eternal plan and purpose of God, YHVH Elohim, Who alone is the the Creator, according to Him. (Isaiah 44:24; 43:10; 45:5; Micah 3:6)
3. Thomas declared him to be God in John 20:28.
Rebuttal: First, there were no capital letters in ancient Hebrew or Aramaic. This wholly unwarranted capitalization is just one more technique of Trinitarian translators to convey the IMPRESSION that the subject is deity. John 20:28 is but one of many instances of men and angels being addressed as “gods” (Hebrew: elohim) throughout the Bible. Unfortunately for us in the English-speaking nations, it is not generally known that this was a common Hebraic figure of speech, used when referring respectfully to one who is being acknowledged as one’s great superior. But even fallen angels are referred to as “gods” by “the LORD” (YHVH Elohim), as in Psalm 82:6! And, speaking to Moses, YHVH also says: “See, I have made thee a god to Pharaoh: and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet.” (Exodus 7:1) The Greek word “theos”, translated as “god” in the New Testament, may or may not refer to the one true God, YHVH Elohim, as explicitly clarified for us by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 8:5-6:
“For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Yeshua Messiah, through (Greek: dia – “through”, not “by”) whom are all things, and we through him.”
4. Yeshua stated that he existed before Abraham in John 8:58.
Rebuttal: In Hebrew thought, everything that has ever existed or will ever exist has been in the MIND of YHVH from eternity past. This not only includes Yeshua of Nazareth, but you and us, and all others who will be found righteous in him, as attested by 1 Peter 1:20, et al. To be consistent with ALL of the rest of Scripture, it is ONLY in this sense that Yeshua existed prior to his conception in Miryam’s womb as her firstborn, as part of the Logos/Plan of YHVH Elohim, as confirmed in Matthew 1:1: “The book of the generation (Strong’s G1078: Greek genesis – origin, beginning) of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.”; and in Luke 1:35, which states that Yeshua was to be called THE Son of God (a title reserved for the Messiah) SOLELY BECAUSE of his conception in Miryam’s womb by the power (holy Spirit) of the Father.
5. He is described throughout Scripture as the Son of God, which is the same thing as God the Son.
Rebuttal: This is a wholly baseless assertion commonly made by Trinitarians and others who teach the deity of “Jesus Christ”, but it has ZERO basis in Scripture, the phrase “God the Son” being found NOWHERE in either the “Old” or “New” Testaments.
6. In Genesis 1:1 the Hebrew word for God, elohim, is a plural form, indicating a multiplicity in the Godhead.
Rebuttal: Elohim is indeed a plural form but its sense can be either singular or plural, depending entirely on the context. In EVERY case where it refers to the Father/YHVH, the pronouns which modify it are ALWAYS singular.
7. In the Shema, the uniquely Hebrew declaration of the one-ness of God found in Deuteronomy 6:4 and elsewhere throughout the Hebrew Tanakh (“Old Testament”), and repeated by Yeshua as the most important commandment of all (Mark 12:29), God is described as “echad” which in Hebrew can denote a compound unity.
Rebuttal: This is another Trinitarian assertion with ZERO basis in Scripture. True, echad can refer to groups of things, as one herd of cattle, etc., but the plurality of the expression involved is ALWAYS in the word being modified (“cattle”, etc.) and the echad ALWAYS indicates the NUMBER ONE and nothing more.
8. Yeshua had to be God (deity), because the death of a mere human being, no matter how qualified otherwise, would not be sufficient to atone for the sins of all mankind.
Rebuttal: First, God is eternal and immortal. God, being God, cannot die. Second, according to the entire Bible, it is YHVH Elohim, the Father alone, Who determines the acceptability of any sacrifice. Thus, this supposed “basis” for the deity of “Jesus Christ” is seen as the purely pagan impossibility that it is. If Yeshua really were God, we would all yet be dead in our sins, without hope, and the entirety of Creation meaningless.
9. Psalm 45:6, referring to the Promised One, states that “Your throne, O God (elohim), will last for ever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom.”
Rebuttal: This is another example of the use of elohim to indicate non-deity individuals, as previously mentioned. There are NO CAPITAL LETTERS in the original Hebrew text, and this one was inserted by those seeking to promote the idea of the “deity” of “Jesus Christ”.
10. Psalm 110:1 ascribes a title reserved for God alone in the Hebrew texts, Adonai (Lord), to the Messiah, and Yeshua claimed that this Messianic reference applied to him (Matthew 22:41-45).
Rebuttal: This is a flat-out misstatement of fact, i.e., a lie. In Psalm 110:1, the Hebrew word there for “my Lord” is “adoni”, which in all of its 195 occurrences in the Hebrew Scriptures NEVER ONCE refers to God/deity. It is surely NOT “Adonai”, which occurs 449 times and ALWAYS refers to YHVH Elohim, the Father.
11. Isaiah 7:14 states that “YHVH Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child, and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel (God with us).”
Rebuttal: Since our Lord Yeshua IS the Shaliach (Sent One) of the Father, YHVH Elohim, he is the Father’s emissary and fully empowered representative. Note that Immanuel does NOT mean “I am God”, as those promoting the deity of “Jesus Christ” would have us believe.
12. Isaiah 9:6 states that: “And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Prince of Peace.”
Rebuttal: The phrase rendered as “Mighty God” is el gibbor in Hebrew (again, no capitals!). This word gibbor occurs in several other places in the Hebrew Scriptures (158 times), and generally refers to men. El is the shortened (singular) form of elohim, and, as is also the case with elohim, can be used to refer either to God/YHVH or non-deity individuals.
13. Jeremiah 23:6 states that: “And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘YHVH our righteousness.’”
Rebuttal: Again, there are MANY Hebrew names which refer to YHVH in one way or another (Nathaniel, Isaiah, Nehemiah, etc.), but in NONE of those did the Hebrews themselves believe that such a name indicated that the bearer WAS GOD.
14. Micah 5:2 states that: “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from old, from ancient times.”
Rebuttal: As previously indicated, the conceptual “origin” of Yeshua HaMashiach was in the mind of his Father, YHVH Elohim, God Almighty, before time began, as a key part of the Father’s Logos/Plan of creation. Luke 1:35 absolutely establishes that Yeshua is to be called “THE Son of God” (a Messianic title reserved for him) SOLELY BECAUSE of his miraculous engenderment/conception in his mother’s womb, and for NO OTHER reason!
15. In Matthew 28:19 Yeshua commands us to “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”
Rebuttal: The 4th century AD “Church father” Eusebius of Cæsaræa quoted Matthew 28:19 at least 17 times in his writings, and in most of those, he cited it as “baptizing them in my name.” The few that cite the trinitarian format are suspected of having been “improved” by them much later, as is their habit. This is why many truth-seeking Bible students, ourselves included, regard the trinitarian format as another of their attempts to “clarify” Scripture for our “benefit”. Unfortunately for TRUTH, the imposture remains in most modern Bibles.
16. In Mark 2:7 the Pharisees accused Yeshua of blaspheming because he forgave sins, which only God can do.
Rebuttal: This statement reveals a fundamental lack of understanding of a legal principal well-established in the Hebrew Scriptures (the Tanakh): that of the shaliach (one sent) by another person. Such an agent has all the authority of the shaliach’s principal to act in that person’s place as if he/she were that person himself. The prototypical example of this in the Tanakh is that of Eliezer, servant to Abraham, who was sent by Abraham to find a wife for his son Isaac. Eliezer had the same authority to bind his principals Abraham and Isaac to a marriage covenant as if he were they themselves. In this case, if his Father gave Yeshua the authority to forgive sin, and He did, then the Pharisees’ accusations are without merit.
17. In Luke 8:39, Yeshua tells the cured man, “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.”
Rebuttal: Again, as the Shaliach of his Father, YHVH Elohim, God Almighty, he was acting as His agent. In Luke 8:39, Yeshua is simply giving the credit for the healing that happened through him to his Father, as he should have.
18. In John 5:18, it states that the Jews sought to kill Yeshua because “He (Yeshua) was even calling God his own father, making himself equal with God.”
Rebuttal: This accusation was based on the Pharisees’ denial that Yeshua was, in fact, the Promised One, HaMashiach. If he were not the Messiah as he claimed, then they would have been correct. But because he was and is the Messiah, he was simply speaking the truth, whether the Pharisees allowed it or not.
19. In John 6:33, Yeshua describes himself as “the Bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”
Rebuttal: This is another example of a figure of speech common to Hebraic thought being improperly used as an attempt to infer Yeshua’s “deity”. As YHVH Elohim was his actual Father, and Yeshua knew full well that he had been part of the Father’s logos/plan from all eternity, and because no human being has any hope of attaining life eternal in his coming kingdom without him, he metaphorically compared himself to the manna that miraculously fed the children of Israel in the desert, also provided by the power of the holy Spirit of YHVH.
20. In John 6:38, Yeshua states that “I have come down from heaven not to do my will, but to do the will of Him who sent me.”
Rebuttal: Yeshua’s statement here, as the 100% HUMAN manifestation of the Father’s eternal plan and purpose (logos), which surely was and is “in heaven”, is a simple statement of facts about which he was absolutely certain. It in no way demands a conscious, personal “pre-existence” prior to his engenderment/conception in Miryam’s womb, which is explicitly contradicted by Luke 1:35, q.v.
21. In John 6:62, Yeshua asks, “What if you should see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before?”
Rebuttal: “Where he was before” was in heaven, then in the mind of the Father, but now in his glorified immortal body.
22. In John 6:64, it states that “Yeshua had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him”, indicating omniscience, a characteristic of deity.
Rebuttal: All it “indicates” that the holy Spirit of YHVH was supernaturally providing him with information which would allow him to avoid the traps which were being set for him, but which were not part of the plan and purpose of the Father.
23. In John 10:30, Yeshua states that he and the Father are One.
Rebuttal: In John 17:11 & 22, Yeshua is praying to his Father, and asks that his disciples might be “one” as Yeshua and the Father are “one”. How could this be possible if Yeshua and the Father were both God? We suggest that the “one” in this and other similar instances, refers to a oneness of purpose, in which the disciples share mutually agreed upon goals, values, and attitudes “as” our Lord Yeshua and his Father surely did and do.
24. In John 17:5, Yeshua prays of the Father “And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.”
Rebuttal: Similar to #20, above. Yeshua is asking here that his Father fulfill the next step in Yeshua’s rôle as HaMashiach, which surely was to be with the Father “in heaven”, as the glorified, 100% HUMAN manifestation of the Father’s eternal plan and purpose (logos). He is simply claiming the Father’s promise, to which he was then entitled, having done all that he was required to do. It in no way demands a conscious, personal “pre-existence” of any kind prior to his conception in Miryam’s womb, which would be explicitly contradicted by Luke 1:35, q.v. A more accurate understanding of this concept may be found in 1 Peter 1:20: “Who (Yeshua) verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you.” And this is confirmed by Luke 1:35, wherein the angel announces to Joseph and Mary that it is BECAUSE of Yeshua’s miraculous conception in Mary’s womb that her firstborn is to be called THE Son of God, which is a Messianic TITLE reserved for the Promised One. It is applied to Yeshua 44 times in the Renewed Covenant Scriptures.
And the angel answered her, “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 called holy – the Son of God.”
So in the verse 1 Peter 1:20 above, Peter contrasts Yeshua’s conceptual existence in the mind of YHVH Elohim (foreordained) from all eternity past, with his manifestation in Mary’s womb as the 100% HUMAN Messiah prophesied in the Hebrew Scriptures. THIS is “the glory Yeshua had with the Father before the world began”, and nothing more.
25. Philippians 2:6-8 states of Yeshua, “Who, although he existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a bondservant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
Rebuttal: The word translated as “form” here is the Greek morphe (Strong’s G3444), which can mean form, or shape, or appearance, or image. But Adam and Eve were also created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). And in Romans 8:29, we are told that we who believe are predestined to be conformed to the image of Yeshua. And the same thought is echoed in 2 Corinthians 3:18: “But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.” And still again, in Colossians 3:9-10: “Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him:” From this we should see that existing in the form/shape/image of God is a figure of speech, and in no way makes one God/deity, neither Yeshua nor us.
26. Colossians 1:15-20 states of Yeshua, “Who is the image(1) of the invisible God, the firstborn(2) of every creature: For by(3) him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by(3) him, and for him: And he is before(2) all things, and by(3) him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning(2), the firstborn(4) from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in him should all fulness dwell; And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto Himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.”
Rebuttal: Word (1) image above has been dealt with in #25 above. Word (2), firstborn, may mean chronologically first, but it may also mean first in importance, depending on the context. The same comment may be made for before, as in preeminent, and before is used in that exact sense in several places in the Renewed Covenant Scriptures (“New Testament”) – John 1:15,27,30. Word (3) is the Greek en (Strong’s G1722), defined first as, “A primary preposition denoting (fixed) position (in place, time or state)”, corresponding to the similar English word in. Whoever insists that this word be translated as by, thereby making Yeshua into the active principle of creation, errs greatly, for this is explicitly denied by the Father in the Hebrew Scriptures (Isaiah 44:24):
Thus says YHVH, your Redeemer, and He that formed you from the womb, I am YHVH Who makes all things; Who stretches forth the heavens alone; Who spreads abroad the earth by Myself;
So we see that ALL of the characteristics of deity which have been attributed to Yeshua with verses from the Renewed Covenant Scriptures depend entirely on NON-contextual interpretations, outright errors, or insertions.
27. Colossians 2:9 states of Yeshua that, “in Christ all the fulness of the Deity lives in bodily form.”
Rebuttal: This is an accurate description of one who is the Shaliach of Almighty God. It is NOT a statement that Yeshua IS God.
28. Titus 2:13 states that we are to “While we wait for the blessed hope, the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.”
Rebuttal: This is but another instance of men being addressed as “god” throughout the Bible. As previously mentioned, there were no capital letters in ancient Hebrew or Aramaic. This wholly unwarranted capitalization is just one more technique of Trinitarian translators to convey the IMPRESSION that the subject is deity.
29. Hebrews 1:2 states that “But in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, and through whom He made the universe.”
Rebuttal: This is true in one sense, that if Yeshua had not done everything that was required of him by YHVH Elohim, the entirety of the creation would have been pointless, since no human being could be saved. In this sense, and in this sense alone, was the universe made “through” Yeshua.
This concludes the summary of rebuttals of our own previously erroneous beliefs (until 2009). We pray that you will take our analysis to heart, and apply it to your own beliefs, because the issues are salvational.
Speaking to the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:24), Yeshua tells her (and us) that “God is spirit, and and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” This is surely a commandment, and necessarily makes the worship of anyone as God who is not God as He is described in the Bible the sin of idolatry.
Shalom aleichem! (Peace be unto you!)
Bob & Suzanne Hamrick
Authors of: Exposing Satan’s ‘Left Behind’ – A Handbook for Surviving the Tribulation
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