Bowman and “The Great Trinity Debate” Continues

Posted by David Barron May - 1 - 2010 - Saturday

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.

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