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.

The Angel of Jehovah, not Jehovah

Posted by David Barron June - 30 - 2011 - Thursday ADD COMMENTS

Many confuse the Angel of Jehovah with Jehovah himself, failing to understand divine agency. Such ones see this angel identified as Jehovah directly, hence the confusion.

The confusion is easily resolved upon recognizing this angel lacks omniscience. While Trinitarians may dismiss this fact with Jesus as a man due to his humanity, such is not possible with the angel. The only possible conclusion is that this angel is not Jehovah ontologically, only representationally.

Zech. 1:12 Then the angel of the Lord said, “O Lord of hosts, how long will You have no compassion for Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, with which You have been indignant these seventy years?”

A Response to “General Passages Affirming Jesus’ Deity”

Posted by David Barron June - 27 - 2011 - Monday ADD COMMENTS

The following is my response to an article found at http://www.gospelway.com/god/deity-jesus-passages.php.   This was originally sent to a personal friend and he requested I respond.   As the work had not been credited in the email containing it, I was able to locate the source through Google.   Having taken the time to respond I felt it worth providing for all.

Article:  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The “Word” refers to Jesus (v17), the only begotten of the Father who became flesh and dwelt among us (v14). This affirms that Jesus is a separate individual from the Father (He was with God), and yet He Himself possesses Deity (He was God). Note that the context affirms both Jesus’ Deity and His humanity: God became flesh and dwelt among us.

Some argue that the Greek “was God” has no definite article before “God,” whereas there is a definite article in “with God.” Hence, it is claimed that Jesus is god is a lesser sense, different from the Father. Hence, the “New World Translation” says, “the word was a god.”

Response: This is a bit of a strawman as it does not properly articulate the argument.  Lacking the article is not a reason to say John 1:1c should be translated “a god,” it only allows for the possibility.   The argument is significantly more extensive and requires a detailed study of Greek grammar and linguistics. 

Article:  (1) All major standard translations say, “the Word was God.” None say “a god.” Hence they contradict the NWT. (See NKJV, KJV, ASV, NASB, RSV, NIV, etc.).

Response:  This is a fallacious argument as it only begs the question.  Modern Bibles are almost exclusively (if not absolutely) translated by Trinitarians, so theology absolutely impacts their translation.  Accuracy can be determined only by analzying the passage in light of linguistics and history.  

Article:  (2) If Jesus is “god” in a lesser sense than the Father, then we would have two different true gods! Clearly Jesus is not a false god; hence He is true God. But if He is “god” in a different sense than the Father, that would violate the passages saying there is one true God!

Response:  I discuss points related to this extensively in my book (God and Christ: Examining the Evidence for a Biblical Doctrine), but consider the following:  “Moderns are often unaware that qeo,j had a much broader semantic range than is allowed for G/god in contemporary Western European languages.” – Carl Mosser, “The Earliest Patristic Interpretations of Psalms 82, Jewish Antecedents, and The Origin of Christian Deification”, Journal of Theological Studies 56 (April, 2005), 22.

The Jews had no problem calling others god/gods from the earliest times, if they were so properly and derivatively from Jehovah.   So Moses was god/a god to Pharaoh (Ex. 7:1.  I would here note some translations add “as,” and of these some properly place it in italics as it is not based in the original text), the angels also (Psa. 8:5, cf. LXX) and the judges of Israel (Psa. 82:6).  So even the Davidic king (Psa. 45:6).    This extended well into Second Temple Judaism, demonstrated in texts as 11QMelchizedek, 4QSongs of the Sabbath, and Joseph and Aseneth (17:9). Even Philo, a 1st century monotheistic, Hellenistic Jew recorded how Moses had well been called “god and king of the whole nation” (On Moses 1:158).

Article: (3) Many Scriptures use “God” (Gk. theos) without an article to refer to the true God. See Matthew 5:9; 6:24; Luke 1:35,78; John 1:6,12,13,18; Romans 17:17; and many others.
(4) Many Scriptures use “God” both with and without an article in the same context, yet both uses clearly refer to the true God. See Matthew 4:3,4; 12:28; Luke 20:37,38; John 3:2; 13:3; Acts 5:29,30; Romans 1:7,8,17-19; 2:16,17; 3:5,22,23; 4:2,3; etc.

Response:  Indeed, but this does not relate the argument for John 1:1c’s indefinite rendering.  The specific construction in view is a preverbal anarthrous predicate nominative, and this construction is quite regularly indefinite throughout John’s Gospel.  Consider several examples: 

4:19 – A prophet
6:70 – A devil
8:44 – A murderer
8:44 – A liar
8:48 – A Samaritan
9:17 – A prophet
10:1 – A thief
10:13 – A hired hand
10:33 – A man
12:6 – A thief

Article: (5) The context of John 1:1-3 shows that Jesus is eternal and created all things. (See our later discussion on the character and works of Jesus). To call Him “God” in such a context must surely mean He is God in the same exalted sense as the Father.

Response: This is a loaded statement without specific, exegetical argumentation, but I will offer a few points for consideration.  First, it is necessary to be clear the text does not present Jesus as the source of creation,  a role reserved exclusively for the Father in scripture (cf. 1Co. 8:6).  Second, the specific use of di autou most always denotes intermediate agency [Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, Revised by F. W. Danker and F. W. Gingrich, Translated into English by W. F. Arndt and F. W. Gingrich, Third Edition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 225. Further from Marvin Vincent: “The preposition dia,, is generally used to denote the working of God through some secondary agency, as dia,, tou/ profh,tou, through the prophet (Matt. i. 22, on which see note).” (Marvin Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament, 4 Volumes [Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers], 2:37)], which is to say one acting through another.   This is exactly what the New Testament teaches regarding Jesus’ role in creation, namely that the Father created through Jesus (cf. Heb. 1:2).  

While I have much to say on John 1:3 exegetically, it perhaps provides more detail than necessary.  I will quote only this portion of my book to show that the argument does not carry enough weight to by itself serve as convincing proof.  Consider:  “Trinitarian apologetics often highlight the negative in John 1:3b to prove not only that Jesus is the creator but that he must also be uncreated: ‘Apart from him not one thing came into being.’ It is thought that by ‘not one thing’ being created ‘apart from’ him, he must be uncreated. Were the verse in a vacuum without context or christological background such an interpretation might seem appropriate. Those looking to respond to such a Trinitarian suggestion could note how John’s seemingly absolute language might parallel several other passages, one being Hebrews 2:8. Stated here is that God subjected all things to Jesus and ‘left nothing that is not subject to him.’ This would perhaps demand that God also subjected himself to Jesus, for ‘nothing’ was ‘not subject to him.’ Yet from the entire corpus of New Testament writings it is apparent that this is not the case. In 1 Corinthians 15:27 this thought is repeated but with Paul’s explicit exception of the Father. Thus the ‘nothing’ of Hebrews 2:8 excludes one not expressly identified.”  – God and Christ, 30.

Article: (6) We will soon see other passages referring to Jesus as “God” using the definite article. If the NWT distinction is valid, then these passages must prove conclusively that Jesus is God in the same sense as the Father.

Response:  This does not follow.   Using the definite article is not significant in itself, because it depends upon the specific use.  For example, the article when used with a Greek nominative as a vocative when followed by a genitive pronoun requires the article (So Moule, Idiom Book). 

Article: So John 1:1 refers to both Jesus and the Father as “God” in a context that affirms the eternal existence of Jesus and that He is the Creator of all (v1-3). This would be blasphemy if He does not possess Deity as the Father does.

[Marshall, Vine, Vincent, Lenski, Robertson, and other Greek scholars contend that the article is absent from “was God” in John 1:1, not to imply that Jesus was a “lesser god,” but simply to identify “God” as the predicate nominative despite the fact it precedes the verb for emphasis (Colwell’s Rule). If it had the definite article, that would imply that “the Word” and the Father are the same person. In any case, the Scriptures listed above clearly show that the lack of the article does not prove Jesus is God in a lesser sense than the Father.]

Response:  While a specific argument is not made from Colwell, I must begin by pointing out the rule has absolutely nothing to do with how we translate John 1:1c.  Most grammarians today recognize this.  It is indeed correct that if the article had been used it would have identified Jesus with the Father, having made the Word all that God is.   Nevertheless, even without the article if theos is definite (a point historically made when citing Colwell, though through the misuse of his work) the problem remains.  Consider just a couple of references:

“Further, calling qeo,j in John 1:1c definite is the same as saying that if it had followed the verb it would have had the article. Thus it would be a convertible proposition with lo,goj (i.e., ‘the Word’ = ‘God’ and ‘God’ = ‘the Word’). The problem of this argument is that the qeo,j in 1:1b is the Father. Thus to say that the qeo,j in 1:1c is the same person is to say that ‘the Word was the Father.’” – Daniel Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 268.

“There is no basis for regarding the predicate theos [in John 1:1c] as definite. This would make [qeo,j h=n o` lo,goj] and [o` lo,goj qeo,j h=n] equivalent to [o` lo,goj h=n o` qeo,j], and like [o` lo,goj h=n o` qeo,j] they would then contradict the preceding clause of 1:1.” – Phillip B. Harner, “Qualitative Anarthrous Predicate Nouns: Mark 15:39 and John 1:1,” Journal of Biblical Literature 92, 85.

With this in mind, it is important to consider the historical context John wrote within.  From my book:  The notion of a heavenly Logos was established well before John took to penning his Gospel. Thomas Tobin explains that it was “in the works of Philo of Alexandria (ca. 20 B.C.E – 50 C.E) and his immediate predecessors that logos found its full flowering in Hellenistic Jewish literature.” – Thomas H. Tobin, “The Prologue of John and Hellenistic Jewish Speculation,” Catholic Biblical Quarterly, 52 (1990), 256.  To what extent this preexisting tradition impacted John’s Gospel is often disputed, but it is hard to imagine that there was not an influence based upon the evidence. So Tobin explains: “While one cannot argue that the author of the hymn in the Prologue [of John] had read Philo, it is difficult to imagine that the two are not part of the same Hellenistic Jewish tradition of interpretation and speculation.” – Ibid., 262.  A sampling of the similarities between both John and Paul (cf. Col. 1:15-17) that Philo shares brings this to the fore:

“Philo calls the Logos the ‘Son of God,’ ‘the eldest son,’ ‘the first-begotten’… He describes the Logos as ‘the image of God, through whom the whole world was framed’… ‘the instrument through which the world was built…’” Ezra Abbot, “On the Construction of Romans IX. 5,” The Authorship of the Fourth Gospel and other Critical Essays (Boston: Geo. H. Ellis, 1888), 369-70. 

With only the above there are immediately recognizable similarities between the Logos as spoken of by Philo and then by John. Where they differed fundamentally was in that John equated the Logos with Jesus Christ while it is commonly accepted that Philo viewed the Logos impersonally. Though this be the case, Philo’s anthropomorphic language closely paralleled John (and Paul), bringing Tobin to acknowledge that “the similarities [between Philo and John] of both conceptual framework and vocabulary are nevertheless remarkable.”- Tobin, 262.  On reviewing the evidence Raymond Brown is forced to a similar conclusion:

“Personally, we believe that the evidence points rather toward a common background shared by both Philo and John.” – Raymond Brown, “The Gospel According to John I-XIII: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary,” Anchor Bible, lvii. 

If John 1:1c is understood to be indefinite the apostle would likely have presented the Logos as a second god, distinct from Jehovah. It is this very language that Philo used to describe the Logos, calling him a “second god” (QG 2:62). With numerous parallels between the language of Philo and that found in the New Testament for Christ, it is not difficult to imagine John identifying the Logos as a “second god” by saying that “the Word was a god.” Contrary to the objections of many this confession fit firmly within the Jewish concept of monotheism where others could properly be called gods, as were even the angels (Psa. 8:5).

Article: Colossians 2:9
“For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (NKJV, KJV, ASV). Or: “For in Him all the fulness of Deity dwells in bodily form” (NASB, RSV, NIV is similar).

“Fulness” (plerooma) means ” … that which is brought to fulness or completion … sum total, fulness, even (super) abundance … of something … the full measure of deity … Colossians 2:9″ – Bauer-Arndt-Gingrich.

“Godhead” or “Deity” (theotes) means: ” … the state of being God, Godhead …” – Grimm-Wilke-Thayer. Trench says the language here means Jesus “was, and is, absolute and perfect God” (quoted in Vine, Vol. I, pp. 328f).

So the passage says that, in Jesus dwelt bodily “the full measure of” “the state of being God.”

[Some claim that Jesus possesses only the characteristics of God, not His essence or substance. This confuses the language. The word used here for “Deity” (theotes) means the essence or state of being God. A different word (theiotes) means “divinity” or the characteristics of God. (See the definitions.) Nevertheless, how could Jesus possess “all the full measure of the characteristics of God in a bodily form” without being God? Even if the mistaken definition were accurate, the passage would still prove Jesus is God.]

Response:  The question is not if Jesus possesses the fullness of deity, but how.  For the Trinitarian it is ontologically, which is to say Jesus has possessed it of himself from all eternity.  On the other hand, for Paul this fullness was possessed by Jesus because of God’s choice.   Referring back to Colossians 1:19 we find this same term pleroma used for that which dwells within Christ, but it is specifically by God’s choosing.  This is seen with the word eudokeo in 1:19, which specifically denotes “to consider someth[ing] as good and therefore worthy of choice, consent, determine, resolve.” – BDAG, 404.  On the connection between 1:19 and 2:9, Marvin Vincent relates:  “Paul does not add of the Godhead to the fullness, as in ch. ii. 9, since the word occurs in direct connection with those which describe Christ’s essential nature, and it would seem not to have occurred to the apostle that it could be understood in any other sense than as an expression of the plenitude of the divine attributes and powers.” – Marvin R. Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament, 4 Volumes (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers), 3:473. 

Article:  Hebrews 1:3
Jesus was “the express image of His [the Father’s] person” (NKJV, KJV) or “the very image of his substance” (ASV), “the exact representation of His nature” (NASB), “the exact representation of his being” (NIV). The context describes Jesus as the Creator, far above the angels so that He deserves to be worshipped (as will be considered in more detail later.)

“Express image” (charachter) means “the exact expression … of any person or thing, marked likeness, precise reproduction in every respect (cf. facsimile) …” – Grimm-Wilke-Thayer (cf. Bauer-Arndt-Gingrich).

“Person” (hupostasis) mean “the substantial quality, nature, of any person or thing …” – Grimm-Wilke-Thayer. Or “…substantial nature, essence, actual being, reality … a(n exact) representation of his (= God’s) real being Hebrews 1:3…” – Bauer-Arndt-Gingrich.

Hence, Jesus is “the precise reproduction in every respect” of the “essence, actual being, reality” of God. How can Jesus be an exact expression of the real being of the Father without Himself possessing true Deity?

We will see that God possesses certain characteristics that are so unique that no one but God can possess them (eternal, all-powerful, etc.). If no one but God possesses these, yet Jesus is the exact reproduction of the essence of God’s nature, then He must possess these qualities. But if Jesus possesses all qualities that are unique to God, He must be God, He must possess Deity.

Response:  This text is particularly interesting, especiallywhen viewed as by credible scholars include George W. Buchanan who hold to a legal interpretation.  However, as the ontological view is discussed above let us focus there.   This is exceedingly difficult for Trinitarians.    The following are my comments from a debate I participated in where this text was presented.  It is admittedly a bit long, but I hope worth consideration.

The word hupostasis as it was originally understood in this context referred to “the essential or basic structure/nature of an entity, substantial nature, essence, actual being, reality” (BDAG, 1040). I suspect confusion stems from the use of “nature” and “essence,” with my opponent perhaps connecting these with attributes (holiness, power, knowledge) that are aspects of God’s nature. What is here in view is more specifically “substantial nature,” which has nothing to do with such attributes. Instead we are looking at God’s “basic structure,” referring to whatever it is that he consists of. By way of comparison, the “basic structure” of man is flesh.

The meaning here intended is as cited by BDAG comparable to a text in the early Christian Letter to Diognetus. At 2:1 the passage refers to the “substance” (hupostasis) of idols, “whose basic reality is someth[ing] material like stone, metal etc” (ibid.). The notion of attributes such as knowledge, power, holiness or even age was entirely absent. In view was only what idols consisted of materially.

Regarding carakthr, my opponent may be overreaching in attempting to force “exact representation” to essentially mean “identical.” The former is not a necessary force of carakthr, as perhaps best seen when Clement spoke of man as the carakthr of God’s image (1Cle. 33:4). Far from meaning that man is identical to God or his image, or even that they were equal, man is the reproduction or that which was produced as a representation of God’s image and it is only to this extent that he is the “exact representation.”

There exists significant difficulty for the Trinitarian when one considers that Hebrews 1:3 refers to “someth[thing] produced as a representation, reproduction, representation” (p. 1078). As something “produced” or a “reproduction” Jesus is implicitly created. This is perhaps best seen when Beck’s New Testament translation renders carakthr “copy” (similarly, TestSim 5:4).

My opponent made use of a line and a line segment to illustrate what he felt was the trouble with my interpretation of Hebrews 1:3. The illustration only substantiates my position. What Hebrews 1:3 speaks of is not the line itself but what the line is made of. Were the line made of grape juice the language of Hebrews 1:3 would only mean that the line segment consisted of the same. While the line was infinite the segment was not, yet the segment still served as the carakthr of the line’s hupostasis.

The meaning behind this text might well be paralleled with Eve’s creation. Made of Adam’s rib she was produced from his substance. In such a way she was “the exact representation of his being,” having been made of the same material as he. What must be realized is that in her creation holiness, knowledge, power and wisdom were not directly transferred. Neither was age. She was newly created, but created from the substance of Adam. With Hebrews 1:3 we find Jesus as the carakthr to be a creation, but having been made so of God’s hupostasis he was made of the same substance as God. To be clear, this is not to say they share a substance in the Trinitarian sense, only that they are made of the same just as all men consist of flesh. Jesus is the very thing we would expect God’s only son to be.

Article: Philippians 2:6-8
Christ existed in the form of God, but did not consider it robbery (a thing to be grasped – ASV) to be equal with God. He made Himself of no reputation (emptied himself – ASV), took the form of a servant and came in likeness of a man, He was found in appearance as a man, and humbled Himself even to the death on the cross. The teaches the following:

Before coming to earth, Jesus existed in the form of God (v6).

This is so translated in KJV, NKJV, ASV, NASB, RSV. NIV says: “being in very nature God.”

“Form” (morphe) – “the special or characteristic form or feature of a person or thing…” – Vine.

This must mean that Jesus truly possessed Deity before He came to earth. V7 uses the same word to say that He took the form (morphe) of a servant. Was Jesus really a servant on earth? Of course He was (Matthew 20:28; John 13:1-6; 2 Corinthians 8:9; Acts 4:27,30 ASV). It follows that, before He came to earth, He really possessed the nature of God.

Response:  I must first take issue with the translation provided, for it far from accurately articulates the common sense of morphe.  In his masterful study of morphe, Daniel Fabricatore concludes: “The overwhelming majority of uses of morfh in all of Greek literature denoted the idea of a form or shape of someone or something, but even more critical, the use expresses the fact that morfh denoted a form or shape that was observable by sight.  The majority of uses then fell in to the category of visible appearance… The conclusion reached in Philippians 2:6 was that morfh denoted the visible appearance of God, which manifests itself as his doxa.”  Daniel J. Fabricatore, Form of God, Form of a Servant: An Examination of the Greek Noun MORFH in Philippians 2:6-7, 213-4, Emphasis Original.   As “form of a servant” could not refer to nature as a servant can be of various natures, included human and angelic, neither does “form of God” refer to nature.  Rather, Jesus appeared as a servant and functioned as one, so as God cannot be seen Jesus represented him and appeared as him in times past.   This well accords with the Jewish view of agency.  Throughout the Bible and Second Temple literature we find God’s agents appeared as him and even bore his very name, so too with Christ as the preexistent Logos. 

Article: We have already learned that God cannot lose the characteristics of God. Hence, if Jesus ever possessed those characteristics, then He always possessed them, including while He was on earth. He could never exist without possessing those qualities, and nothing here or elsewhere says otherwise.

Response:  Indeed, God is eternal and unchanging, so he cannot lose qualities, but this statement only begs the question if Jesus is God Almighty.  If he is not we find that those qualities Jesus possessed and possesses were given to him by God.  

Article: He did not consider it robbery to be equal with God (v6).

KJV & NKJV so translate. Others say he did not count the being on equality with God a thing to be grasped (ASV, NASB, RSV, NIV). Some claim these latter translations mean He was not equal with God and did not exalt Himself to try to become equal with God. Such a view would contradict the context and all other passages we will study.

Response:  Since having already referenced one masterful study, I shall appeal to another.  Dennis Burk for his thesis at Dallas Theological Seminary presented The Meaning of HARPAGMOS in Philippians 2:6.  This term harpagmos is that which is translated “robbery” in the KJV.   From this thesis he has written other papers, including one, The Meaning Of Harpagmos In Philippians 2:6 – An Overlooked Datum For Functional Inequality Within The Godhead.  He concludes:  “If aJrpagmov be understood according to the above analysis, then Christ is said not to have snatched at or grasped for equality with God. Though he was himself true deity existing in the form of God, he did not try to grasp for this other aspect which he himself did not possess—namely, equality with God.”  I would certainly agree with an articulation of functional inequality, but the problem for this comes if Christ has always possessed such inequality.  If this be the case, Kevin Giles argues it would ultimately demand ontological inequality as well (Kevin Giles, Jesus and the Father: Modern Evangelicals Reinvent the Doctrine of the Trinity [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006]).

Article: As already shown, v6 and many other passages say that Jesus really existed in the form of God. Hence, Paul has already said Jesus was equal with God.

V7 shows that Jesus made Himself of no reputation or emptied Himself by becoming a man. The context is not discussing whether or not Jesus wanted to exalt Himself to become greater than He had been. It is showing that He already had an exalted position but was willing to humble Himself and take a lower status and reputation than what He had. Hence, v6 is discussing a position Jesus already possessed (Deity) but was willing to also accept a lower position (humanity). It is not discussing whether He sought to achieve some higher position.

The meaning then is that Jesus was equal to God, but He did not consider that as something He had to jealously hold to or retain (a thing to be grasped). He was not like a robber, taking something that did not belong to Him and then clinging to it with determination. He “did not look upon equality with God as above all things to be clung to” (TCNT). He was by right equal with God from the beginning, then willingly humbled Himself to the position of a servant.

He made Himself of no reputation or emptied Himself (v7).

KJV & NKJV say He made Himself of no reputation. Others say He emptied Himself (ASV, NASB, RSV), or made himself nothing (NIV). What does this mean?

“Empty” (kenoo) – “…1. to empty, make empty … Philippians 2:7 … 2. to make void i.e. deprive of force, render vain, useless, of no effect … 3. to make void i.e. cause a thing to be seen to be empty, hollow, false …” – Grimm-Wilke-Thayer.

In what sense did Jesus make Himself empty? Some say He gave up, lost, and no longer possessed some characteristics of Deity. But that is impossible, as already discussed. God cannot lose the qualities of God (Hebrews 13:8). Where does the verse say He emptied Himself of the characteristics of God? Neither this nor any other passage so states.

Just keep reading! The context proceeds to explain that He emptied himself by “taking the for of a servant,” and coming as a man He “humbled himself becoming obedient” even to die on the cross (v7,8). He emptied Himself by humbling himself as an obedient human servant. That is the explanation the passage gives. To argue anything else is to argue against the passage!

Jesus did not lose the characteristics of Deity but added the characteristics of a servant, a man. He lived a life of obedience and service. In so doing, He humbled Himself. What He sacrificed was His reputation, privileges, glory, honor, and status in the eyes of men. He did not “appear” on earth before men in the glory He had in heaven, but He “appeared” as a man, a servant.

So He “emptied Himself of His privileges” (NKJV footnote). He “laid aside His privileges” (NASB). Hence, the KJV & NKJV are right: He “made Himself of no reputation.” It was His reputation and glory He lost, not His Divine powers and characteristics.

Response:  So much of the above presupposes the passage teaches Jesus is Almighty God, therefore the argumentation is largely circular.   There is a specific antithesis between “form of God” and “form of a servant” that the emptying falls between, giving strong indication that kenoo refers to giving up one before/while taking the other.  The text does not say he “added” the form of a servant, but that upon emptying himself he took that form.  Similarly, Jesus “became flesh” (John 1:14), he did not merely add it to himself.  If I become a kangaroo I do not add kangaroo to myself, but I cease to be what I am and actually become that very thing. So too Christ ceased to be what he was and became a human being.  Had Jesus been God Almighty he might have masked his glory and privilages, but he could not have ceased to possess them so to be exalted.   Ceasing to act upon them and actually giving them up are vastly different, and as God cannot change he could not have done the latter, which the text speaks of.

Debate on the Christian Hope

Posted by David Barron March - 5 - 2011 - Saturday ADD COMMENTS

An interesting debate on this topic had started between Ivan Monroy and a person going by Standfirm. Whereas Ivan is taking the view of an exclusively earth-bound hope, Standfirm believes some will go to heaven while others stay on earth. The first portion of the debate can be found here .

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.

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.

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.

Robert Bowman in “The Great Trinity Debate”

Posted by David Barron April - 26 - 2010 - Monday ADD COMMENTS

Reviewing the opening of “The Great Trinity Debate” I opted not to take the time to comment. The material is certainly worthy of consideration, but the amount of time I have available for reviewing this debate has proven more limited than anticipated, so I must select the material most valuable in reviewing.

This post will consider some of Robert Bowman’s comments in the 2nd portion of the debate as they pertain to the interpretation of specific passages (found at http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2010/04/the-great-trinity-debate-part-2-rob-bowman-on-jesus-christ/). Thus, I will not be reviewing his comments outside of what he argues for these texts to mean or where he references a specific view view with which I would not agree. Without considering my comments most will likely observe how much of Bowman’s presentation is based not upon exegesis and historical or contextual arguments, but his own opinion. This is perhaps most apparent in the first passage he considered:

Matthew 28:16-20:

Jesus’ eleven apostles met Jesus after his resurrection on a mountain. “And when they saw him they worshipped him, but some doubted” (Matt. 28:17). Nothing in the context suggests that what some doubted was that Jesus had risen or that it was Jesus whom they saw. Rather, it seems that some doubted the propriety of worshipping Jesus. Their doubt makes no sense if this act was comparable to bowing before a human dignitary, as many anti-Trinitarians assert. Surely, Jesus’ disciples would have had no doubts about showing Jesus such courtesy and respect. No, apparently some doubted that Jesus was the proper object of religious worship, the act of humbling oneself toward a supernatural figure. Their doubt presupposes the biblical and conventional Jewish belief that the Lord God was the only proper recipient of such acts of religious devotion.

Bowman expresses his opinion that “some doubted” refers to doubts about worshipping him, but he utterly fails to present even the most basi evidence in support of this view. This is readily apparent in his appeal to weasel words, stating that “apparently” their doubt was in the acceptability to worship Jesus. While Bowman is correct in that the immediate context within Matthew does not present doubt on the part of the disciples respecting Jesus’ resurrection and identification, such is readily apparent within the other Gospels, removing doubt as to the meaning (Mark 16:11; Luke 24:10-11; John 20:25-29).

In the context of Matthew, the scene recalls the Temptation narrative that immediately precedes Jesus’ ministry (4:1-11). In the third, climactic temptation, the devil takes Jesus to a high mountain, shows him all the kingdoms of the world, and offers them to Jesus if he will worship him (4:8-9). Jesus rebuffs the temptation, quoting Deuteronomy 6:13, “You shall worship the Lord your God and serve only him” (4:10). Now, after Jesus? resurrection, he meets his disciples on a mountain and receives their act of worshipping him. The contrasting parallel is made complete by Jesus’ assurance to those who doubted that worshipping him was indeed appropriate: “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth” (28:18). This is the authority that the devil claimed he could give to Jesus if Jesus would worship him. Now Jesus has that authority, not from the devil, but from God the Father. No higher validation of Jesus’ authority was possible. The evident parallels between Matthew 4:8-10 and 28:16-18 confirm that “worshipped” in 28:17 denotes the act of religious devotion that Jesus himself had stated should go to God alone.

Once again we find Bowman’s opinion, but his argument falls flat. His submission is that the authority given in Matthew 28:18 ‘is the authority that the devil claimed he could give to Jesus if Jesus would worship him,’ yet this is far from the case. The authority promised by the devil was entirely earthly, limited to the kingdoms of the earth (Mat. 4:8-9), while the authority given by God was found throughout all of heaven and earth. This was vastly superior to anything offered or that could be offered by the devil.

Further, whereas Satan, as the giver of authority, asked to be worshipped, here Jesus, as the receiver of authority is given it. Any parallelism would find the Father as the object of worship. With this said, we can consider the matter of worshipping Jesus and the lack of significance to the Trinitarian case. Considering the following from my debate with Mike Felker on why Jesus is given what he is given:

?The Bible defines more than once that what Jesus is given is based upon the Father’s will. So in John 5:22-23 when Jesus relates how he will be honored as the Father is, he does so with a Greek purpose clause. Jehovah has given Jesus judgment “so that” meaning, ‘for the purpose of,’ being honored just as him. Similarly in Philippians 2:5-11 Jesus is exalted because of his obedience and faithfulness as God’s son and this is done “so that” or ‘for the purpose of’ having every knee bow to him.?

Those who deny that Christ is God raise the objection that Jesus said his authority was “given” to him, and ask how anyone could give God authority (or why God would need to give God authority). They argue that this is a derived and therefore inferior authority to that of God. This objection ignores the orthodox explanation that the Lord Jesus, by choosing to come into the world “not to be served, but to serve” (Matt. 20:28), had placed himself in a position in which he depended on the Father to exalt him.

For the above to be true Jesus would have necessarily stopped being God. All authority is God’s by nature, so for Jesus not to have it would mean he lacked the authority. Similarly, he could not be omniscient, for if he had all power he would not be dependent upon anyone to grant him authority. The Bible plainly reveals that Jesus lacked authority so to be given it. As God possess such by nature this is a powerful attestation to the fact that Jesus is not ontologically God.

Jesus then commands his disciples to go make more disciples from people of all nations, “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (28:19). Jesus, the Son, identifies himself alongside the Father and the Holy Spirit as the Deity to whom each new disciple is to commit himself in the covenant rite of baptism. The Father clearly is God, and as we shall see in week 5, the Holy Spirit in this text must also be God; it follows that the Son in this text is also God. If we exclude the idea that these are three Gods, as we should, the conclusion that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one God follows. In any case, Jesus is here explicitly making himself, as the Son, one of the persons toward whom disciples perform a religious act of devotion and covenant commitment. There is no precedent in biblical religion for performing such religious acts in devotion to a mere man, no matter how great a man.

The text demands little of what Bowman here argues. Provided above is assertion of what the text must mean, but not a demonstration. Much as the Israelites were baptized “into Moses” (and certainly into God, for they could not follow Moses without following God), we can well be baptized “into the name” of the Son? as our mediator, while also being baptized into “the Father” as our God and source of all things and “the Holy Spirit” as the deliverer of direction and teaching, which we are to accept.

After instructing his disciples to teach new disciples to observe everything he commanded them, Jesus concludes: “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (28:20). Here Jesus promises to be with all of his disciples, wherever they are in the world, as they make disciples of all nations, in every generation until the end of the age. Such a promise implies that Jesus has the capacity to be present in any and all parts of the world simultaneously. The statement recalls God’s promise to Jacob, “Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go” (Gen. 28:15). In short, Jesus’ promise presupposes that he possesses the divine attribute of omnipresence. Nor is this an isolated statement in the Gospel. Prior to his death, Jesus told his followers, “Where two or three have gathered together in my name, there I am in their midst” (18:20). Only someone who is omnipresent could deliver on a promise to be present in the midst of every gathering of believers anywhere in the world. Jewish rabbis taught that where two Jews sat together to hear the Torah, the Shekinah–the manifest glorious presence of God–would be with them. Jesus claims that his divine presence will be with any two disciples who meet together to honor him (see Putting Jesus in His Place, 117-18).

Bowman presupposes Jesus’ physical presence with his disciples. This is certainly possible and should not be presupposed as ruled out, but it is by no means demanded. Similar language is used elsewhere, such as by the apostle Paul (1Co. 5:4). I would not suggest Jesus’ meaning here parallels Paul’s, but there are other equally valuable interpretations. This is one I would suggest we can answer only upon understanding the biblical teaching on Jesus, though even this would not make the matter conclusive.

More on John 8:58 with Barry Hofstetter

Posted by David Barron April - 11 - 2010 - Sunday 1 COMMENT

Barry Hofstetter has taken the opportunity to respond to my previous blog post concerning his comments on the “have been” reading of John 8:58. The response can be found at http://my.opera.com/BarryHofstetter/blog/2010/04/07/response-to-david-barron

Consider the key portions of this:

This was, of course, part of a continuing discussion, so that taking it out of the context of that discussion eliminates the points and counterpoints that were being made.

Hofstetter is correct in that his comments were part of a larger discussion, but this hardly excuses his error.  Any who care to review the discussion will find the person with whom he was having it even corrected him, so it is most surprising (or, perhaps not) that he continues to maintain it.  Hofstetter has simply misrepresented the position he was arguing against by providing a rendering that unambiguously failed to articulate what was argued for.

I have been involved with these discussions for a long time, and I would ask David what evidence I was ignoring? He seems to conflate disagreement with “not listening,” unaware of the fact that a person may know and understand, but still not agree. I staunchly disagree that ἐγὼ εἰμί is a “present of past action,” and I believe that if John had wanted to express what the JW’s claim, the Greek constructions that I suggested would be a good way of doing so.

The evidence Hofstetter has ignored is the interpretive, which is to say the meaning argued for by those who maintain the “have been” translation.  He is free to disagree with the translation, he is not free to suggest those who maintain it mean something contrary to what they articulate the meaning to be.

With this consider what he wrote for which the original response was made:

… 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…

The above does not come close to how JWs and those of us who maintain the “have been” rendering ‘want to read the text.’  This relates simple existence prior to Abraham, while we maintain eimi is durative, finding the action of existing, beginning in the past,  expressed as ongoing from commencement until Jesus spoke the words recorded at John 8:58.

I invite Hofstetter to explain how any alternate rendering he has provided expresses this notion.  In fact, duration is not expressed by any alternative rendering I have found Hofstetter suggest as ‘more precise’ to those holding the “have been” rendering with the notion of durative existence in view.