The Great Trinity Debate

Posted by David Barron June - 21 - 2010 - Monday ADD COMMENTS

The debate ended several weeks back with my failure to provide further commentary.  It was interesting to read to the extent that both sides were able to present their own perspectives, but little new came from it.  Perhaps the most interesting points were in the rebuttals, especially with Burke’s extensive and proper use of agency in opposing Bowman’s arguments.  I walked away thinking as I had before, that Bowman does not understand how Jewish authors/readers viewed agency texts. 

From my own discussions elsewhere with a few individuals it is apparent that Trinitarians are struggling to address and even understand agency and the christological implications.  More than anything, I have found an attempt to dismiss the evidence as not inspired.  Such arguments fail to understand the point.  The issue is not whether the specific texts are inspired or whether the teachings they contain are accurate, but it is a matter of Jewish thinking and their use of scripture for exalted agents.  That this is significant to the Bible is evident in the parallels between Jewish literature and the Bible.  There are repeated parallelisms between the Bible and other Jewish literature in the language used of Christ and that of other exalted agents, respectively.  There are even clear examples of agency in the New Testament that lack christological significance.   As this information becomes more commonly available many will undoubtedly have their eyes opened to the truth.

Richard Bauckham and the angel Yahoel

Posted by David Barron September - 13 - 2009 - Sunday 7 COMMENTS

I have been reading Richard Bauckham’s Jesus and the God of Israel: God Crucified and Other Studies on the New Testament Christology of Divine Identity. Within this material, as far as I have progressed through it, Bauckham presents a number of points worthy of consideration, yet I have noted a tendency for him to be almost dismissive of evidence contrary to his position.

One clear example of Bauckham’s dismissiveness is when discussing the angel Yahoel (Jaoel).  From the Apocalypse of Abraham (a monotheistic Jewish text, contemporary to the apostles from the mid-late first century AD), this angel has God’s ‘ineffable Name dwelling in him.’  This is at the least an allusion to Exodus 23:21 where the angel is said to have God’s name in him, though Buackham goes a step further, suggesting the text “is clearly intended to represent him [Yahoel] as the angel of Exodus 23:21” (Bauckham, 224).

The name Yahoel is a combination of YHWH (Jehovah) and EL (God), with scholars such as Hurtado and McGrath, among others, recognizing this as God’s name within this angel.   Bauckham rejects this, arguing for a meaning parallel to Elijah, meaning ‘YHWH is God’ (ibid., 226).  In support of this he cites Sefar ha-Razim where an angel by this name is cited, having a relatively low rank.  Yet this source is from the late third or early fourth century, too far removed to carry certain weight.

Bauckham seems to largely overturn his own case from Sefar ha-Razim.  Far from a low ranking angel in the Apocalypse of Abraham, “there are also indications that he leads or supervises the worship of God in heaven (12:4; 17:2-6; 18:11),” (ibid., 225) while also “the author of the Apocalypse of Abraham… has concluded that the angel in question is the heavenly high priest” (ibid.).   Yet most damaging to Bauckham’s claims (a fact he mentions but fails to engage) is that God’s name is also called Yahoel within this text:

“Eli, that is, My God-
Eternal, might holy Sabaoth,
very glorious El, El, El, El, Jaoel!”

There is good likelihood that Yahoel was used in place of the divine name, viewed as too sacred have written entirely (G.H. Box, The Apocalypse of Abraham [New York, The Macmillan Company, 1919]).   This being the case, Bauckham’s objection that Yahoel is used “rather than yhwh itself” is without merit (Bauckham, 225-6).  That the name is shared by God and the angel does not identify the angel as Jehovah God himself, a point that Bauckham seems to miss.  The angel is God’s agent, given the name and appointed to a certain task as God’s representative.

If this angel is viewed as the same one in Exodus 23:21, the notion that the angel of Jehovah is Jehovah ontologically can be dismissed within this first century Jewish interpretation.  If Yahoel is not the angel of Exodus 23:21, that the indwelling of God’s name is done for another to use his name as their own demonstrates the same point.

The christological implications of this are significant, which Bauckham seeks to avoid.  This early Jewish monothesitic outlook would find Jesus-indwelt with the divine name-identifiable with Jehovah without equating the two ontologically.   Many, as Bauckham, suggest kurios, when in application to Christ, often serves to identify him with Jehovah ontologically.  Yet if the name of God has been given to him (Phi. 2:9-11), it would serve to do no more than identify Jesus as Jehovah’s agent, the one indwelt with the name and given divine authority and prerogatives.  Indeed, this would serve as evidence that Jesus is not Jehovah ontologically.