A Response to Hiram Diaz’s Article: The Logical Necessity of the Deity of Christ Jesus—Whose Glory Did Isaiah See?

http://www.grassrootsapologetics.org/2011/10/logical-necessity-of-deity-of-christ.html

Contributed by Patrick Navas

(10/24/11)

 

When Michael Burgos informed me that someone from his ministry[1] was producing a “rebuttal/refutation” of my paper on John 12:41[2] (an alleged ‘proof-text’ for the ‘deity of Christ’), I was eager to see what kind of response he would give to the evidence I presented. Unfortunately, as it turned out, the article hardly met the criteria of a “refutation,” given that the lines of evidence I used to support my interpretation (over against the common Trinitarian one) were simply ignored.

 

Like most Trinitarian apologists, Hiram Diaz believes that when John said “Isaiah said these things because he saw [the Messiah’s] glory” (John 12:41), that John was referring to the “glory” associated with Isaiah’s vision of Jehovah in Isaiah chapter 6, and, therefore, we must conclude, John is identifying Jesus Christ as Jehovah God. According to Diaz, this interpretation is not just probable but a “logical necessity.”

 

If I understand Diaz’s argument correctly, he is essentially saying:


The Bible says that “no one has ever seen God” (Jn. 1:18; Compare 6:46; 1 Tim. 6:16; Ex. 33:20), yet Isaiah said that he “saw the LORD/Jehovah” (Isaiah 6:1). Since the Bible does not contradict itself, logically, in Isaiah’s temple vision, the prophet must have actually ‘seen’ Jesus Christ, the Son (as opposed to ‘the Father’), in a pre-incarnate state, or else there would be a discrepancy—as Diaz says: “if the Unitarian is interpreting the passage in John in that manner in order to deny that John identifies Christ as Yahweh, then there is a contradiction. Since it is clear that John 1:18 (‘no one has ever seen God’) is a reference to the Father (understood as, and assumed to be, the ‘first person of the Trinity’), Isaiah could not have ‘seen’ the Father but, instead, saw the “Son” (the ‘second person of the Trinity’).


I’m not quite sure, however, what exactly Diaz’s proposal does to resolve the perceived dilemma (‘no one has ever seen God’ yet ‘[Isaiah] saw Jehovah’), because, in the Trinitarian system, the “Son” is just as much “God/Jehovah” as the Father is. That is to say, if Isaiah actually saw the Trinitarian “Son” in a pre-incarnate state (as opposed to the Trinitarian ‘God the Father’), he still ‘saw God’ or “saw Jehovah,” and the alleged “contradiction,” as far as I can see, still remains. It is also important to keep in mind that in John 12:41 (the actual text in question) John did not actually say that Isaiah “saw Jesus” or “saw the Messiah” but that he “saw [the Messiah’s] glory”—a significant difference, just as Jesus did not say that Abraham “saw [the Messiah]” but “saw [the Messiah’s] day” (John 8:56).


…suppose a Unitarian proposes that John 12:41 does not refer to Isaiah 6:1-5, but to the course of the Messiah’s ministry as recorded in Isaiah 53. Would such an interpretation be logically consistent with the rest of the Scriptures?


“Unitarians”[3]—those who believe God is ‘one’ (Mk. 12:29; Deut. 6:4; Rom. 3:30; Gal. 3:20; James 2:19; Zech. 14:9) not ‘three-in-one’ (Scripture?)—are only ‘proposing’ that John 12:41 does not refer to Isaiah 6:1-5 in response to the Trinitarian argument that says it does. And, to be clear (as I was in my paper), John 12:41 says that “Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke about him.” Since “these things” is a plural reference (referring to more than one ‘thing’), John is most definitely referring to the “things” Isaiah “said” in Isaiah 53:1 and Isaiah 6:10, the texts he quotes from. The question is, what does John mean by saying that “he saw his glory and spoke about him”? What “glory” did the prophet ‘see’?


If Jesus is not God the Son, then how can He assert that “the Son can do nothing of His own accord, but only what He sees the Father doing”?


First, from a biblical perspective, we know for sure that Jesus is not “God the Son” because he’s never identified as such in the Scriptures. The expression “God the Son” is foreign to the Bible, so why is it even brought into the discussion as somehow relevant, or as a premise to build a question on? Though essentially “canonized” by orthodoxy through centuries of official usage, “God the Son” is an unnecessary term (why do we need the mysterious/non-sensical ‘God the Son’ language if the Bible already gives us the ‘Son of God’ language?) that is, really, nothing more than a theological invention. Therefore, the “argument” (or line of questioning) presented by Diaz in this case simply builds on a theological premise that isn’t even found in the Bible to begin with.

 

Secondly, the chain of reasoning Diaz presents is completely unintelligible: “If Jesus is not God the Son, how can he assert that he can do nothing of his own accord? This is a non-sensical argument. Of course, the Almighty God of the Bible would never rightly say that He “can do nothing of his own accord” (more lit., ‘nothing of himself’). Why? Because, simply put, He’s the Almighty God! And, as the Almighty God, He can do anything “of his own accord” (unless it is something like ‘lying’ or ‘sinning,’ etc.), and, in fact, does “all that he pleases” (Psalm 115:3)—“Whatever Jehovah pleases, he does” (Psalm 135:6).

 

Jesus, of course, is never identified as the God who does “all that he pleases” but as the “Son” and “servant” of this God—who only does what his Father ‘pleases’—and, as such, “can do nothing of himself” (Jn. 8:29; Isaiah 52:13; Acts 3:13, 26; 4:27, 30). This is, in fact, anything but evidence that Jesus is “God” but another confirmation that he really is God’ Son and sure proof that he is entirely dependent on his God.

 

Diaz, however, simply bypasses the “can-do-nothing-on-his-own” statement and places emphasis—through his use of italicized letters—on the expression “only-what-he-sees-the-Father-doing,” as if this somehow logically supported the notion that Jesus is himself “God” or “God the Son.” Contrary to what Diaz is apparently suggesting, however, Jesus’ statement about his ability to do “only- what-he-sees-the-Father-doing” has nothing to do with an implication that he is somehow “God” himself (how does such a notion come to mind to begin with based on such an statement?), but everything to do with showing that he truly is God’s Son and wholly God’s imitator.

 

The Scriptures, in fact, plainly present a connection between being a true “son” of someone else (in the most important sense) and the principle of imitating, or following the example of, one who came first. For instance, notice how Jesus told the Jews who claimed Abraham as their Father in John chapter 8:


If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works of Abraham, but now you are seeking to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do this. You are doing the works of your father…”


Then he tells them:


You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning…” (John 8:39-44)


In other words, since the Jews here claimed that they were the children of Abraham (which they were in a fleshly sense), they showed by their actions that they were really not his children in the sense that mattered to God. Why not? Because, they did not do what Abraham did. Rather, by doing—or trying to do—what the devil had done (being a ‘murder’ and a ‘liar,’ Jn. 8:44, 55), they thereby proved themselves to be his children, not the children of Abraham or God. In the same way (only perfectly), Jesus only does what he sees God doing (works of righteousness), and always pleases God as a result, thus fully establishing the authenticity of his divine sonship. Notice how the principle is made clear or implied in other texts:


“[The Father] has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.” (John 8:29)

“…just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.” (John 15:10)

This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17)

If you know that [God] is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.” (1 John 2:29)

Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning...By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God…” (1 John 3:8, 10)


The same principle applies to Christians in reference to our relationship to Abraham. Whether we are physical descendants of Abraham or not, if we live by faith, as Abraham did, then we are the true children/sons of Abraham, in the eyes of God. He is, in this way, “the Father of all those having faith” (Rom. 4:11, 16)—“Know then that it is those who have faith who are the sons of Abraham” (Gal. 3:7). Why? Because “those who have faith” follow the example of Abraham who came before them, whether they are Jews or not. Which is all to say that when Jesus speaks of his imitation of the Father in John 5:19, the implication that comes through is not that he is somehow “God,” but that, as a true Son, he can only do what he sees his Father doing—deeds of righteousness.


Jehovah our God is righteous in all the works that he has done” (Daniel 9:14).


This, it must be remembered, is stated within the same context where Christ contrasts His own experience to that of the Pharisees by telling them: “His form you have never seen.” If Christ Jesus has seen what the Father does and, by implication, has seen the Father’s form (i.e. the Father as He truly is, seeing as God is Spirit and not a creature), then He cannot be a mere man, for that would be a clear contradiction of John 1:18.


No one is arguing that Jesus is a “mere man,” so the point is really irrelevant. According to the Scriptures, Jesus is the sinless, born-of-a-virgin Messiah, the Son of the living God, ‘the word made flesh,’ through whom God performed many signs and wonders, and who was ultimately exalted to God’s right hand and given “all authority in heaven and on earth”—hardly a “mere man” (Heb. 4:15; Matt. 1:23; 16:16; Acts 2:22, 33; Matt. 28:18). Thus, the dilemmas Diaz tries to force on us are entirely contrived. Diaz also tries to argue that since Jesus saw the Father he cannot be a “creature,” as if the Bible itself proposed such a standard (i.e., ‘created beings cannot see God’). Jesus himself, in fact, shows the alleged standard to be false when he said that there are “angels” (‘creatures’) who “always see the face of my Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 18:10). Or are these angels members of the “Godhead” too, since they can “see” the Father’s face?


“Not only would Christ’s Words contradict John 1:18, John 1:18 would contradict Isaiah 6:1 which declares: “In the year that king Uzziah died I saw the Lord…” Now, it is either the case that men can see God or it is not the case that men can see God.”


It is true that the Scriptures teach that men cannot see God. But consider how Jesus also said,


Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8).


Is Jesus’ statement here a contradiction of the Scriptures? Or will the “pure in heart” drop dead as soon as they “see” God? Or will they no longer be “men” when they see him? Or, is it possible that what men cannot do is see God’s “face,” that is, see God directly, particularly in their current sinful and impure condition? The Scriptures seem to bear this understanding out.


But,” [Jehovah] said [to Moses], “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” (Exodus 33:20)


No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him.” (1 John 3:6)


If “no one has ever seen God,” then who did Isaiah see?


Although Isaiah does not explicitly tell us, it is likely—based on the aforementioned texts—that Isaiah actually “saw” God in a vision (as opposed to literally or directly), or that Isaiah saw God in a way that did not include seeing God’s “face” (‘you cannot see my face’; compare Exodus 33:19-23). Or perhaps it is possible that God simply made an exception in Isaiah’s case and preserved him alive somehow in spite of his having seen Him. Given the reasonableness, logical coherence, and biblically-based nature of these alternative explanations, I fail to see how Diaz’s proposal is a “logical necessity.”


A Unitarian Christology, i.e. a Christology that identifies Christ as being merely a man and nothing more, therefore, would be an affirmation of a contradiction in God’s Word and, therefore, a denial of the absolute veracity of the Scriptures in every part and as a whole. The contradiction cannot remain, then, if we are to maintain our belief in the proposition “God’s Word is Truth.”


The problem Diaz proposes is an entirely non-existent one, a false dilemma. And, as indicated, my “Christology”—and the “Christology” of the Scriptures—does not identify Christ as “merely a man and nothing more,” but as “the Son of the living God” who was entirely “without sin,” and as the one “in/through” whom God created “the ages/worlds” and “all things” (Matt. 16:16; Heb. 4:15; Heb. 1:2; Col. 1:16).


…if no one has ever seen God, then it follows that Christ is necessarily Divine (for He has seen the Father, i.e. seen the Father immediately in His eternal and boundless and glorious form),


Of course by “Divine” Diaz means that Christ is God, or a “member” of the “Godhead.” If we adopt this logic then why not also conclude that the “pure in heart” are “Divine” (‘members’ of the ‘Godhead’) since, according to Jesus, they will “see God.” Or why don’t we say, using Diaz’s logic, “If no one has ever seen God, then it follows that the angels are necessarily Divine [members of the Godhead] (for they have seen the Father, i.e. seen the Father immediately in His eternal and boundless and glorious form)—since Jesus said that they “always see the face of my Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 18:10)?


…and if no one has ever seen God, then it follows that Isaiah must have seen Him who alone in eternity past was face-to-face with the Father, namely the Lord Yahweh Jesus Christ, the King of Israel…If it is not the case that Isaiah saw Christ, God the Son who has seen the Father face-to-face, then Scripture contains a contradiction while affirming of itself that it is Truth – and this would prove that God’s Word is not Truth.


“The Lord Yahweh Jesus Christ”? Where does the Bible speak of such a figure?

 

Again, Diaz thinks that if Isaiah saw Jesus Christ (instead of the Father) that this somehow resolves the dilemma, but it doesn’t. In his view Jesus Christ is the Almighty God, Jehovah, whom no man can see. So how exactly does this resolve the purported dilemma to say that Isaiah actually saw the Son (who is Jehovah God) as opposed to the Father (who is Jehovah God)?


Therefore, the Unitarian is left with a decision to make: He can (a.) deny that Christ is God…


Since Jesus is God’s Son we (‘Christians’ actually) do—in response to Trinitarians—deny that Jesus is “God,” or else he wouldn’t be “God’s Son”!


Although the Christological heresy of the Unitarians has been adequately refuted…


When? Where?


Note that Paul not only refers to Christ as being in the form of God and then becoming nothing, He also alludes to Isaiah by referring to Christ as a servant, and by attributing to Christ the very words of Yahweh who says: “By Myself I have sworn; From My mouth has gone out in righteousness A Word that shall not return: ‘To Me every knee shall bow, Every tongue shall swear allegiance.’”


It is true that Paul takes the same language elements of “every knee” bowing and “every tongue” (‘shall swear allegiance/shall confess’) that originally applied to God in Isaiah 45:23 and applies them to Christ in Philippians 2:10. But Paul does not present Christ as God but as the Lord Jesus Christ who was highly exalted by God, and, likewise, as the one who was graciously given the name that is above every name by that same God. The text expands upon the Isaiah text in the sense that it shows that, in order to give true allegiance to God, we must bow to the authority of God’s Son and confess his Lordship, the Lordship that God gave to him. In other words, in God’s eyes, you cannot genuinely “swear allegiance” to Jehovah while not submitting to the Son He gave authority to (‘no one comes to the Father but through me’ ‘whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him,’ ‘God has made Jesus both Lord and Messiah,’ ‘I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth’). To bow down to Jesus and confess him as Lord, however, is not to acknowledge him as the Almighty God, but as the messianic (anointed) Lord whom the Almighty God decrees that we bow down to, unto his glory.


In addition to this, Isaiah identifies the LORD, Yahweh, as the source of “righteousness” and “strength” and “justification” and “glory.” In the epistle to the Philippians Paul identifies righteousness as coming through Christ, strength coming through Christ, justification coming through Christ, and glory coming through Christ.


This is exactly right, but it does not result in the notion that Jesus is himself “Yahweh.” According to Paul, “all things” come “from” or “out of” God/Yahweh—the ‘source’—while “all things” come through Christ (1 Cor. 8:6). Therefore, Christ is not God, the source, but God’s Son, the one through whom God, the source, gives “all things,” including “righteousness” and “strength” and “justification” and “glory.”


Another presupposition undergirding the Unitarian’s belief that John 12:41 is not identifying Christ as Yahweh is an example of question begging. You see, the Unitarian will argue that the Messiah is mentioned throughout Isaiah only as a man who is being sent by Yahweh to do His will. However, this assumes the very thing it is supposed to prove, viz. that Jesus is not Yahweh.


Unfortunately, this is another non-sensical/unintelligible statement on Diaz’s part. To point out that the Messiah is portrayed in the book of Isaiah as Yahweh’s “servant” who was “sent” by Yahweh in response to those who claim that Jesus is “Yahweh” is hardly a case of “question begging” or “assuming the very thing” one is trying to prove. If the Messiah is the “servant of Yahweh,” then, logically, he is not “Yahweh” but “the servant of Yahweh.” This is not some kind of unwarranted “assumption” or “presupposition” on my part, but simply a case of calling attention to common sense and ordinary, every-day logic—on the same level as 1 + 1 = 2.

 

Consider: If someone went around claiming that Abraham is God (an obviously false claim), the only thing we can really do to “prove” this wrong scripturally is to show that Abraham is always portrayed as a distinct figure from God in the Bible. Since God called Abraham, spoke to him, made promises to him, etc., it is simply self-evident that he is not God. Since Abraham is the “friend of God” (James 2:23) he is not “God” but the “friend of God.” We do not deny that Abraham is God because the Scriptures make a specific point to deny such (why would they have to?), but because Abraham is, in every instance, presented as someone who is distinguishable from (as someone who interacts with and exists in relationship to) God. Precisely the same point is true of the Messiah. In the book of Isaiah particularly, the Messiah is simply never portrayed or identified as “Yahweh” but as Yahweh’s “chosen one” and “servant” whom Yahweh “sent,” “crushed,” ‘laid iniquity upon’, etc. Likewise, in the book of Isaiah, Yahweh himself is never identified as the Messiah but as the Messiah’s God (Isaiah 49:5)! This not a case of “question begging.” It is simply a case of pointing out a clearly-revealed truth (the Messiah is Yahweh’s servant) in response to a claim that flies in the face of it (the Messiah is Yahweh).


For if Jesus Christ is not Yahweh, then it follows that whenever He is referred to in Isaiah He is mentioned as being only a man–since, on the basis of this assumption, He is only a man! However, if Jesus is Theanthropos, i.e. the God-Man, then it follows that passages in Isaiah that refer to Yahweh, as well the Suffering Servant passages of Isaiah can both refer to Christ.


No such figure—“theanthropos” (the ‘God-man’)—exists in the Bible. “Theanthropos,” like “God the Son,” does not appear in Scripture but only in the proclamations, creeds, and theology books of the “orthodox.”


Answering the Question: Whose Glory Did Isaiah See?


The matter is clear. Isaiah “saw” the “glory” of the promised Messiah. The question is in what sense did Isaiah “see” the Messiah’s “glory”? Was Isaiah’s temple vision the occasion when Isaiah “saw” the Messiah’s glory as a pre-existent being, as Jehovah God himself?

 

Unfortunately, Diaz totally ignored the point made in my paper that Isaiah could have ‘seen’ the Messiah’s glory in the sense that he prophetically “saw” the future “glory” of the Messiah, just as Abraham “saw”—prophetically, not literally—the Messiah’s “day.” Compare:


Abraham rejoiced to see [the Messiah’s] day. He saw [the Messiah’s day] and was glad.” (John 8:56)


Isaiah said these things because he saw [the Messiah’s] glory.” (John 12:41)


Now no one can argue that an Old Testament prophet could not “see” things in a prophetic sense (i.e., prophetically envisioned a future event, with the ‘eyes of faith,’ based on God’s promise), because that’s exactly what Abraham did in reference to the Messiah’s “day,” a point made by Jesus himself in the very same Gospel account. So, yes, it is entirely possible, and likely, that Isaiah “saw” (not the glory of a pre-existent being, but) the “glory” of the Messiah in the sense that he prophetically envisioned/anticipated (‘saw’ not with literal eyes but with the ‘eyes’ of faith) the glory that the Messiah would manifest in his earthly life and perhaps beyond, based on God’s revelation.

 

Diaz likewise ignores (or trivializes) the point that the Messiah’s “glory” is explicitly depicted/envisioned in Isaiah 52:13 where the prophet “spoke about” the Messiah explicitly and at great length. Nowhere in Isaiah 6 does this happen. Unfortunately, in their efforts to prove the “deity-of-Christ,” and the traditional interpretation of John 12:41, Trinitarian apologists focus exclusively on the “glory” depicted in Isaiah’s temple vision of Jehovah and, as a result, simply bypass the “glory” of the Messiah depicted in the “suffering servant” passage (52-53) and in the writings of the prophet as a whole.[4]


The answer to the question which serves as the title of this article is simple: Isaiah saw the Glory of Yahweh the Son of God, Jesus Christ in His Preincarnate Glory.


One major problem with this statement is that there is no such figure as “Yahweh the Son of God” in the Bible. Not only is such language foreign to Scripture, but Yahweh, the Almighty God, could never properly be said to be the “Son” of anyone.


We’ve established the reasons for this in a thorough enough fashion by proving that if God’s Word is Truth, then Christ must be Yahweh whose glory fills the Temple and the entire cosmos, for Isaiah sees Yahweh, but John tells us that no one has ever seen the Father. Moreover, we have proven that on the basis of Christ’s own Words to the Pharisees He must be Yahweh, for no one has seen the Father – but the only begotten God, who is at the Father’s side, He has made Him known,[18] for Christ alone has seen the Father’s form. Lastly, we have proved that the entire article that attempts to deny the Deity of Christ on the basis of its interpretation of John 12:41, Isaiah 6, and Isaiah 52-53 commits the logical fallacy of begging the question and is, therefore, neither logically valid nor logically sound.


The fallacy of “begging the question” occurs when the proposition that one is trying to prove is already assumed to be true in the premise of one’s argument. This fallacy does not appear in my paper or in my argument on John 12:41. On the other hand, Hiram Diaz’s “rebuttal” is literally riddled with the “question-begging-fallacy,” because, for Diaz, Jesus is already “God the Son,” the “God-man (theanthropos),” “Yahweh the Son of God,” “The Lord Yahweh Jesus Christ,” and “God the Son, the Eternal Second Person of the Blessed Trinity.” Not only are every one of these highly distinctive, theologically-loaded terms entirely unheard of as far as the Bible is concerned, none of the concepts they represent are articulated anywhere in the teachings of the prophets, of Jesus, or that of the apostles. They are simply assumed true from the outset in Diaz’s paper.


Jesus Christ is the Lord whose Glory Isaiah saw in these two senses: (i.) Isaiah saw Christ high and lifted up, the majesty of His glory filling the earth,


The text does not say that Isaiah saw “Christ” high and lifted up but that he “saw the Lord/Jehovah high and lifted up.”


and (ii.) Isaiah saw Christ as the Servant of the Lord, God the Son, the Eternal Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, who for the sake of all who would believe in Him humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death.


There is, from a biblical perspective, no such thing as “God the Son, the Eternal Second Person of the Blessed Trinity” (language that is utterly alien to the biblical record), and Jesus is certainly not portrayed as such in Isaiah 52/53 (the ‘suffering servant’ texts), but is plainly portrayed as a distinct figure from Jehovah—that is, as someone who is not Jehovah but Jehovah’s “chosen one” and “servant.”


In conclusion, I appreciate the time that Hiram Diaz took to write a response to my paper, but it was not a rebuttal in the sense that it actually overturned or even dealt with the evidence I presented in any meaningful sense.

 

To reiterate, my argument is that when John said that Isaiah “saw” the Messiah’s “glory,” it was in the sense that he prophetically saw the future glory the Messiah would manifest, not that he literally saw the Messiah or that he saw the Messiah as Jehovah in a pre-existent state. My argument is supported by the fact that…


  1. The context of John 12 shows that John is talking about the Messiah, not Jehovah, when he said, “[Isaiah] saw his glory and spoke about him.”
  2. Isaiah does not teach that the Messiah and Jehovah are the same individual but portrays them as two distinct figures, in every case (Isaiah 4:2; 11:2-3; 42:1; 49:5; 52:13; 53:2, 6, 10; 61:1).
  3. John does not only refer to Isaiah 6 but to Isaiah 53 (‘Isaiah said these things…’)
  4. Isaiah 52:13-15 in the Septuagint speaks explicitly of the “glory” of the Messiah in a context where the prophet goes on to “speak about him” in much detail—“…my servant shall understand, and be exalted, and glorified exceedingly…and your glory shall not be honored by the sons of men.”
  5. The context of John 12 overwhelmingly favors a connection more with Isaiah 52/53 than it does with Isaiah 6. For example, John 12:37 says that in spite of the “signs” Jesus performed the people still did not believe in him (Jn. 12:37).[5] This parallels Isaiah 52:14 (LXX) which says that “his glory [which, in John’s Gospel, is manifested in the ‘signs’ Jesus performed, Jn. 2:11] would not be honored by the sons of men.” And, as D.A. Carson observed: “[John] may well be thinking of the Suffering Servant who was exalted…what makes it very likely is the dozen or so overtones of Isaiah 52:13-53:12 found within John 12 that show the Evangelist had the Servant Song in mind when he composed this chapter.”[6] The New International Biblical Commentary likewise points out: “John’s Gospel has been using the same verbs ‘lifted up’ (v. 32; cf. 3:14; 8:28) and ‘glorified’ (vv. 16, 23; cf. 11:4) in reference to Jesus and his approaching death; it is likely that his choice of these words presupposes (as do many other NT passages) the identification of Jesus with the suffering servant whose career is prophetically sketched in Isaiah 52:13-53:12.”[7]
  6. The Gospel of John, and Jesus himself, proves that an Old Testament prophet/patriarch could have ‘seen’ a future event or future phenomena in a prophetic sense. Just as Abraham “saw” (prophetically envisioned) the future “day” of the Messiah, so Isaiah “saw” (prophetically envisioned) the future “glory” of the Messiah.
  7. John 12:41 does not say “Isaiah saw Jesus as Jehovah God in the temple” or the like; nor does it even say “Isaiah saw Jesus,” but “Isaiah saw [Jesus’] glory and spoke about him,” a statement that can easily be accounted for based on the “glory” of the Messiah portrayed in Isaiah 52-53 and throughout the rest of the prophet’s writings (4:2; 9:6-7; 11:1-10; 16:5; 32:1; 33:17; 42:1-4; 49:1-6; 52:13-15; 61:1-3), in harmony with the same manner Abraham “saw” the Messiah’s future “day.”
  8. The overall conclusion I present (that John 12:41 does not refer to the ‘glory’ associated with the Isaiah-6-temple-vision of Jehovah but to the Messiahs’ future glory that Isaiah prophetically ‘saw’ or envisioned) is supported by several Trinitarian/Evangelical Bible scholars[8] themselves, showing that John 12:41 is hardly the solid “deity-of-Christ-proof-text” it is so often purported to be.



1 The ministry is called Gras Roots Apologetics: www.grassrootsapologetics.org


2 The material is actually from my book Divine Truth or Human Tradition? (Bloomington: Authorhouse, 2011), pgs. 399-413


3 Personally, I don’t like the term “Unitarian” and do not use it as a label to describe myself or my beliefs. I want to be a “Christian” only and believe, with Jesus, Paul, and the rest of the scriptural writers, that the “one God” of the Bible is “the Father” and that God is “one.”


4 Although Diaz apparently allows for the incorporation of Isaiah 52/53 now, since he says, “Jesus Christ is the Lord whose Glory Isaiah saw in these two senses: (i.) Isaiah saw Christ high and lifted up, the majesty of His glory filling the earth, and (ii.) Isaiah saw Christ as the Servant of the Lord, God the Son, the Eternal Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, who for the sake of all who would believe in Him humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death.”


5 As I pointed out in my paper: “That the ‘glory’ of Jesus was made manifest through the powerful ‘signs’ he performed is made clear in John 2:11 where the apostle reports: ‘Jesus did this [changed water into wine] as the beginning of his signs in Cana in Galilee and so revealed his glory, and his disciples began to believe in him’ (John 2:11, NAB). In stark contrast to this, the apostle says of the Jews in John chapter 12:37: ‘Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him.’”


6 The Pillar New Testament Commentary, The Gospel According to John (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991), pp. 449-450. Greg Stafford further points out: “Throughout John 12 John ‘speaks about him’ in the same way that Isaiah did in Isaiah 52/53, by describing or narrating the description of Jesus’ being ‘lifted up’ and ‘glorified’ through his death and suffering, which ‘glory’ Isaiah ‘saw’ and ‘spoke about’ from Isaiah 52:9 (possibly 52:7) through the end of Chapter 53, part of which is quoted by John in John 12:38... Isaiah saw the ‘glory’ of the Christ’s humanity, suffering, and death for our sins while being dishonored among men, which John develops throughout John 12 and specifically from verse 16 onward (see John 12:16, 23, 32-34, 37-41), using the same verbs (doxazo, hypso’o, pistueo, and horao) and the same substantive (doxa) as we find in the LXX of Isaiah 52:10, 13, 14, 15 and Isaiah 53:1, 2, and 4. John notes that, like the ‘Suffering Servant’ of Isaiah 52/53 (specifically 53:1 which he quotes in John 12:38), the crowd did not ‘put faith in him [Jesus]’ (John 12:36, 37 [where, again, in both texts and in verse 38 we find forms of pistueo]), which is exactly the same language Isaiah used when speaking of the Messiah: ‘Jehovah, who has believed [LXX: epistuese (form of pistueo) our report? And to whom has the arm of Jehovah been revealed?’” —Isaiah 53:1; John 12:38. Stafford, Response to Dr. James White Part Two: “He Saw His Glory, and He Spoke About Him.”


7 New International Biblical Commentary, John, J. Ramsey Michaels, p. 222


8 See: Barclay M. Newman and Eugene A. Nida, A Handbook on The Gospel of John (New York: UBS Handbook Series, 1980), pp. 419-420; The College Press NIV Commentary, John, Beuford H. Bryant & Mark S. Krause (College Press Publishing Co., 1998), p. 279; Andreas Köstenberger, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Baker Academic: Grand Rapids, 2004), pp. 390-392; D. Moody Smith, John, Abingdon New Testament Commentaries (Nashville: Abingdon, 1999), p. 243; Bruce Mine, The Message of John, Here is your King!, with Study Guide (Downer Grove: Inter-Varsity, 1993), p. 194.