Response to James White

Posted by David Barron December - 1 - 2011 - Thursday ADD COMMENTS

I have responded to James White on the Trinity and his debate with Patrick Navas. The observer can well the judge the merits of each argument.

James White Responds

Posted by David Barron November - 30 - 2011 - Wednesday ADD COMMENTS

James White decided to take two hours responding to my video commenting on his debate with Patrick Navas on the Trinity. White repeatedly miss characterized my views and ignored my actual argument, so I will be responding soon. My notes are complete, I need only get before a camera, so you can anticipate an extensive response very soon…but I won’t take up two hours, I promise that.

John 1:18 and Monogenes Theos

Posted by David Barron November - 1 - 2011 - Tuesday ADD COMMENTS

Grassroots Apologetics has challenged Patrick Navas on the translation and meaning of monogenes theos in John 1:18.. Patrick is currently working on a response that will include (tentatively) some of my own unpublished research, which should prove to be a worthwhile read.

At the core of Grassroots’ argument is the claim that Daniel Wallace has “proven” Patrick wrong. This is a most ill-informed statement to make, and seems to come from a failure to carefully examine the evidence. On this, Greg Stafford has taken Dr. Wallace to task on some rather poor argumentation.

Navas and Diaz on John 12

Posted by David Barron October - 29 - 2011 - Saturday ADD COMMENTS

Patrick Navas has been interacting with Hiram Diaz from Grassroots Apologetics, a blog I recently became aware of, on the topic of John 12:41. Patrick provided a nice response to Diaz and Diaz has subsequently responded (a link to Diaz’s initial response is within Patrick’s response). Having observed the interaction thus far I wanted to provide several comments.

In both responses Diaz has displayed an apparent ignorance of Patrick’s theology, arguing as if Patrick denies Jesus preexisted. This, of course, is not the case, and Patrick has argued extensively in favor of this truth, though he has acknowledge some Socinian arguments he views having potential merit.

Diaz has twice ignored the arguments Patrick presents from the text itself, engaging only side points and not the exegesis of John 12 and Isaiah 52/53. This is extremely telling, for an actual exegesis of John 12:38-41 is most damaging to the Trinitarian interpretation, as I’ve detailed before and will highlight here again.

John quotes from both Isaiah 6 and Isaiah 53, with the latter presented first. John says, as accepted in the critical texts, “Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke about him.” Trinitarians must ignore this “because” as nothing quoted from Isaiah 6 was done because of seeing glory and speaking about him. They argue as if the text says “when,” a later variant that is well rejected. Isaiah said what he said from Isaiah 6 because of a command to do so, and while he did behold God’s glory, there is absolutely no evidence to support this sight serving as a basis for what he said.

Isaiah 53:1 presents two distinct questions, and serves as the focus of John’s argument. Isaiah 6 is cited to further expand upon this. Therefore, unless the text of Isaiah 6 found itself used by Isaiah in a tradition we no longer possess today, John 12:41 would refer back only to John’s primary argument from Isaiah 53:1.

Having said this, I do believe it was likely Jesus who was beheld at Isaiah 6, though it may have only been a vision. In Diaz’s latest response he argues from texts such as Genesis 19 that God is polypersonal, but he seems entirely ignorant of divine agency and how Second Temple Judaism had already accounted for these things by the time Jesus walked the earth. Examples such as in Numbers 12 when compared to Hebrews 3:3-5 make it unambiguously clear that the earliest Christians understood Old Testament theophanies in view of such agency.

D.A. Carson on Psalm 102 and Hebrews 1

Posted by David Barron September - 11 - 2011 - Sunday 3 COMMENTS

D.A Carson is among those who argue that the Septuagint rendering of Psalm 102 serves as a basis for the application of it to Christ within Hebrews. Here are some of his remarks:

But here I shall focus attention on the final verses of the psalm. Regular Bible readers will recognize that verses 25-27 are quoted in Hebrews 1:10-12, with God addressing the Messiah, in effect giving him divine status. One may well ask how the writer of Hebrews construed the Old Testament in this way.

The answer turns in part on the fact that the original Hebrew of the Old Testament was composed with what today we call consonants. Vowels were not included. They were added much later—indeed, the most common vowel system was added to the Hebrew text about one thousand years into the Christian era. Usually this presents no problems. Once in a while, however, it is possible to read the Old Testament consonantal text with a slightly different vowel choice, yielding a different meaning. In this instance there is no question at all about the consonants. But the ancient Greek translation of the Old Testament, the Septuagint, shows how those translators understood the Hebrew—and in this passage they understood it exactly as the Epistle to the Hebrews takes it. The traditional vowel placement, preserved in our English versions, understands verses 23-24 much as in the NIV. The thought is parallel to verses 11-12. But the LXX and Hebrews read it as follows: “He answered him in the way of his strength, ‘Declare to me the fewness of my days. Do not bring me up [i.e., summon me to action] in the middle of my days; your years are for generations on end. In the beginning you, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth. . . .’” The implication of this rendering is that God is addressing the psalmist, whom God addresses as Lord and Creator. That is how Hebrews takes it. On this view, the entire psalm is messianic, an oracular psalm like Psalm 110 (see vol. 1, meditation on June 17). Try rereading Psalm 102 that way; it makes sense. Compare the use of Psalm 45 in Hebrews 1 (see meditation for September 4): the Davidic king is addressed as God, and this too is cited in Hebrews 1. But even if the traditional Hebrew vowel assignments are correct, the inferences drawn by Hebrews 1 are not far away, though they must be drawn on quite different grounds.

– D.A. Carson, For the Love of God: A Daily Companion for Discovering the Riches of God’s Word, Volume 2 (Wheaton, IL., Crossway Books, 1999), October 13.

It is of interest that early unitarian Jews could concieve of another whom God would identify as having been involved in creation. This speaks strongly against Trinitarian proof-texting of Isaiah 44:24, especially when not considered in parallel with passages such as Job 9:8 and Psalm 72:18.

A Couple of Comments on Colossian 1:15ff

Posted by David Barron March - 3 - 2011 - Thursday ADD COMMENTS

The Socinian view of Colossians 1:15ff holds, with some variation, Christ to have had “all things” created in him and through him with strict reference to the new creation.   Though Paul says “all things” and leaves no ambiguity from his absolute reference to those “in the heavens and on earth,” this is denied.  A significant objection is based upon v. 20, where God has “through him reconciled all things to himself.”   This reconciliation is thought to bring “all things” in good standing before God, meaning it could not be “all things” but only the new creation.  F.F. Bruce’s explaination addresses this concern (F.F. Bruce, “Colossian Problems Part 4: Christ as Conqueror and Reconciler”, Bibliotheca Sacra, Oct. 1, 1984, 292-3) :

But the reconciliation in view in Colossians 1:20, at the end of the Christ hymn, cannot be equated simply with the reconciliation of the world in 2 Corinthians 5:19 or Romans 11:15, nor yet with the liberating of creation in Romans 8:21. Too much should not be made of the fact that the reconciliation of Colossians 1:20 is expressed by means of the double compound [apokatalasso]. The same compound is used of the reconciliation of believers to God in Colossians 1:22 and of the reconciliation of believing Jews and Gentiles in one body in Ephesians 2:16.

The statement at the end of the Christ hymn is that God, who was pleased in all His fullness to dwell in Christ, was pleased also “through Him to reconcile all things to Himself whether on earth or in heaven, making peace through the blood of His cross” (Col. 1:20). The “all things” which are thus to be reconciled embrace things on earth and things in heaven, just as the “all things” which were created through Christ embrace “things in heaven and on earth” (Col. 1:16). The parallelism between these two references to “all things” leaves no doubt that the same totality is intended in reconciliation as in creation. The “all things” which are to be reconciled to God through Christ include “things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers,” all of which are said to “have been created through Him” in the first place (Col. 1:16). But if we have regard to the portrayal of principalities and powers later in this letter (and in Ephesians too, for that matter), it is not easy to think of them as “reconciled” in the same sense as believers.

In fact the verb in the Christ hymn has a rather different sense from what Paul normally gives it. If the Christ hymn is an independent composition which Paul incorporates into his argument, then the situation is intelligible. Paul leaves the word as it is; there was no need to change it, for it spoke of the peace effected by Christ through the shedding of His blood on the cross. Indeed he goes on immediately to speak of the reconciliation of believers through that same death — a reconciliation necessary because they had formerly been “alienated and hostile in mind,” practicing evil works (Col. 1:21). The principalities and powers have also been hostile, malignantly so, but there is no hint that in their case reconciliation replaces hostility with friendship. As was stated in the second article in the series, reconciliation applied to them means more of what is understood as pacification, the imposing of peace, something brought about by conquest. There is thus a close association between the portrayal of Christ as Reconciler in the Christ hymn and the portrayal of Christ as Conqueror elsewhere in the letter. Perhaps Paul left the verb “to reconcile” unaltered in the Christ hymn (Col. 1:20) because he was about to make it plain in the following exposition that the reconciliation of the hostile powers involved their defeat.

Paul sees “rulers and authorities” negatively in 2:15.  If these indeed are understood negatively, how could these refer to the new creation in 1:16?

A significant question might be asked of Trinitarians:  In what way did Jesus require reconciliation?  If “all things” refers, without contextual exception, to everything created, Christ’s own human body is necessarily among those things requiring reconciliation.

Bowman and “The Great Trinity Debate” Continues

Posted by David Barron May - 1 - 2010 - Saturday ADD COMMENTS

Robert Bowman has posted his third portion of “The Great Trinity Debate.” The same issues I noted regarding his ignoring or ignorance of agency and the use of language generally in early Jewish literature fully besets this latest section. Due to the length of his post I will not make a point-by-point response, but instead provide some general comments on the basis of each argument. His post is available at http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2010/04/the-great-trinity-debate-part-3-rob-bowman-on-jesus-christ-continued/ for review.

Romans 10:8-13
Bowman must overlook how Lord in v. 12 cannot be understood as the divine name, either disconnecting it from the final instance wherein Lord is used as such, or indicating that the final instance should not be understood as the divine name (cf. 1Co. 1:2). Quite similarly, the Melchizedek scroll (11Q13) cites Psalm 7:7-8 wherein the divine name originally stood, with el used in its place, applied to Melchizedek. Regardless of the force in Paul’s words, the parallel with the Melchizedek scroll demonstrates how exalted agents could be assigned even divine name texts without equating them ontologically with Jehovah, or including them within the divine identity.

I will not get into whether or not Jesus should be prayed to, but Bowman presupposes limitations on Jesus’ exalted resurrection body which are baseless. Were Jesus prayed to, there is no reason to believe that through the Holy Spirit and his exalted nature he would be unable to manage as much. Bowman suggests prayer to Jesus would result in him being “functionally a second God,” though the result would at most find him to be functionally the same God, as Jehovah’s exalted agent, representing him, or simply one exalted so to be capable of and due to receive prayer.

1 Corinthians 8:4-6
Apparently missed by Bowman is the antithesis between the “many” and the “one.” While there are many lords, there is to us but “one Lord, Jesus Christ.” Paul does not present Lord in place of the divine name, but the use is titular so to be antithetical to the “many lords.” Paul may well have had the Shema in mind, but due to the allusion to Wisdom language (Pro. 3:19) with reference to the one God created by, there is every reason to see this as a modification of the Shema to include the one God exalted to being Lord (Acts 2:36).

Bowman craftily attempts connecting Jesus with God by identifying them both as “the instrumental cause” of creation, yet the contexts of the two cited passages (Rom. 11:36 and 1Co. 8:6) are vastly different. The cause (God) in Romans 11:36 works through his own agency, while in 1 Corinthians 8:6 the cause (the Father) works through another (the Son). These are not mutually exclusive, for working through your own agency does not preclude also working through the agency of another. That the Son was not the cause but the intermediate agent can be no more clearly attested to than in Hebrews 1:1-2 wherein ‘the God who spoke by the prophets’—Jehovah in the Old Testament—created through Jesus Christ.

Philippians 2:3-11
Bowman presupposes Paul is addressing Christ ontologically, when the text indicates just the opposite. The humility displayed by the Philippians was to be displayed in their behavior, and Christ displayed his quite similarly. Does “the form of God” refer to God’s nature as the NIV? Certainly not, for there is nothing that is “the form of a servant,” where servant is purely a functional expression. A servant can be a man, but also an angel (Rev. 22:9). Here “form” (morphe) must refer what it most literally does, outward appearance.

As God’s agent, Jesus appeared as God in Jehovah’s stead. He was as Jehovah himself in his perfect representation of him. This is traditional Jewish agency. Similarly, though God’s Son, he appeared “in the form of a servant,” no longer as God himself but “in the likeness of man,” he was outwardly a servant, functionally, what he was not (Gal. 4:7).  

The implications of Bowman’s comments on “the name above every name” are addressed in my post at http://www.scripturaltruths.com/blog/?p=36, so there is no need to reproduce the serious issues besetting his interpretation.

Hebrews 1:1-10
Bowman begins by arguing how Jesus must be called “god” in some way other than the angels, for the things said of Jesus were not said of the angels. The argument completely lacks merit, for when writing that the things are not said of angels the writer is addressing the specific quotations, including the wherein Christ is addressed as God (Heb. 1:8), not the manner in which a specific appellation is presented within one of the statements.

Bowman next argues: “Not one of the proof texts in the catena in Hebrews 1 applied in reality to the Davidic king.” This, again, completely lacks merit, for Bowman has plainly overlooked 2 Samuel 7:14, a text within the catena. Bowman denies certain passages had fulfillment in the kings, but goes on to argue that these were types of the Messiah. Yet, if the texts did not have some type of fulfillment in those kings there would have been no typification. I am not suggesting that none were purely Messianic (e.g. Psalm 110), but this is not the case across the board.

Bowman argues from Psalm 45 that none of the Davidic kings prior to Christ “ruled forever,” yet this ignores that it was the throne that was forever, so that the Davidic throne would endure for all time, not the individual king. This is ultimately fulfilled in Christ through eternity, but the text itself refers not to the king’s existence, only the throne’s. A consideration of this psalm reveals a straightforward application to an original human king.

With reference to texts that originally referred to God, Bowman misses this as an articulation of Jesus as God’s agent, as evident, for example, in the Melchizedek scroll. Further, in reference to Psalm 102, a variant in the LXX (which the author of Hebrews quotes) presents what is actually God’s response to another, not addressed to him.

Bowman makes a number of other comments worthy of addressing, but for which time will not allow. Significantly, Bowman entirely disregards Hebrews 1:1-2a, and instead focuses on what follows. This is not entirely surprising, however, as to consider this text would result in overturning his entire position, for such demands that it was the Father alone who was the God in the Old Testament as the one who spoke by the prophets, not the Son.

John 8:58 – Not Listening, Not Understanding

Posted by David Barron February - 23 - 2010 - Tuesday 2 COMMENTS

Reading the following I was shocked, and yet perhaps in another respect not so much.  I often wonder why some fail to realize the error in certain arguments, and it is perhaps because they do not listen to the points made against them.  Instead, it would seem as if they sometimes assume they know the counterpoint, assume they know the answer, but really have only created a straw man in their own mind.    Consider the following posted on one Yahoo group by Trinitarian Barry Hofstetter (ellipsis removes the Greek text as he also provided the transliteration):

Now, if John, as the author rendering Jesus semitic language into Greek, had wanted to express, “Before Abraham was born, I existed,” he could have written… PRIN ABRAHAM GENESQAI, EGW HMHN, (Before Abraham was born, I was) which would express much more precisely what the way the JW wants to read the text, and also accord much better with the usual sequence of tenses. Better yet, considering the JW theology that Jesus is the first created being.. PRIN ABRAHAM GENESQAI EGENOMHN, GEGONA, “Before Abraham was born, I came into existence…” These would be perfectly natural and expected ways of  saying it, but that’s not what we get. Instead we get that pesky present tense first person singular, used in an absolute way with no predicate.

I won’t bother to explain the error here, as it is well documented on this site and elsewhere, but being that I know Barry has been presented with the correct meaning, held by JWs and others, it is readily apparent that he simply does not listen.  Not only has he ignored those making the point in discussion, but also the Greek grammars and commentaries that have made the point as well.  One has to wonder if people only paid more attention how quickly many errors could be done away with.