Refutation of the Master’s University Bible Faculty Document on the Trinity and Divinity of Messiah (Part 4)

The Trinity and Divinity of Messiah-92b9c7Here is the TMU document. Please open and follow along. We pick up on page 8.

2. The NT thoroughly describes Jesus as divine and preexistent


Jesus is Active Prior to the Incarnation

  • Phil. 2:5-8 –  The authors use the ESV here, which gives a terrible rendering of the second part of verse 5 : “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.” No other version reads this way except the RSV. Most versions have something like, “which was also in Christ Jesus.” The problem is that in the Greek there is no verb : ho kai en Christo Iesou = literally “which also in Christ Jesus.” The verb must be supplied in English for the sentence to make sense. Because it seems like Paul is calling believers to have a certain frame of mind and then describes a frame of mind which Jesus had a some point, it is best to supply the word ‘was.’ So it is a call for believers to have the same frame of mind that Christ Jesus had at some point in the past. Why is this important? The reason it is important may also be the reason why the authors chose to present the passage from the ESV. Paul is exhorting believers to have the same frame of mind that Messiah Jesus had. Even from a Trinitarian perspective, Messiah Jesus can only be referring to the man {1 Tim. 2:5} from Nazareth, who was born of Mary, who “grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” {Lk. 2:52} What orthodox commentators and Trinitarian apologists want us to believe is that what Paul describes in vv. 6-8 is the frame of mind of God the Son, the Logos, as he was existing in heaven from all eternity. But what Paul describes is not the frame of mind of the pre-existing Logos, but of the man, Messiah Jesus. In other words, the traditional way of understanding this passage, that the eternal Logos up in heaven makes a decision to humble himself to become a man  and die for us, is false. The passage is describing the mind of the man Jesus, who in willing obedience to the Father gave himself for us. Therefore whatever Paul says in vv. 6-8 is being said of a man, specifically Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah. Paul is not saying that Jesus was in heaven existing as God, and that while in that state he decided that being God was not something he needed to hold on to, so he emptied himself and became a man. What Paul is saying is that the man Jesus, though he was born to be king {Matt.2:2; Mk. 15:2; Jhn. 18:37}, having been foreordained to that position, being the one from David’s line chosen to rule over God’s kingdom {1 Chron. 28:5-7}, did not consider this position of power as God’s representative and vice-regent (i.e. this positional equality with God), a thing to be selfishly seized for his own advantage. Instead of demanding his rights as the heir to the throne of his father David, he emptied himself, having been born like all other men, subject to the ruling power of the day. He lived an ordinary life among men, not as the king he was born to be. He knew that the path to his predestined glory was the path of suffering and death. At least twice in his life he could have bypassed the suffering and death and obtained a measure of the glory to which he was predestined {see Lk. 4:5-8 and Jn. 6:15}, but instead he humbled himself  and was obedient to the Father’s will, knowing that in God’s time and in God’s way (death and resurrection) he would be exalted beyond measure.

Now in what way was the man, Messiah Jesus, in the ‘form of God?’ This portion of Philippians, 2:6-11, is unanimously considered by scholars to be a hymn, and is therefore poetic in nature. Jesus being in the form of God is just a poetic way of saying that as the one chosen from David’s line he rules for God, on God’s behalf. This may be based on Psalm 45:6, where the reigning Davidic king is addressed as ‘God.’ You see, Yahweh is the true king of Israel, but he has chosen to rule through a human agent. This position was given only to the descendants of David by covenant {see Ps. 89:19-37; 2 Chron. 13:4-8}. So this effectively puts the king in the place of God, he even sits on Yahweh’s throne {1 Chron. 29:23}. This was the glorious position to which Jesus was preordained {Lk. 1:31-33}, but he did not seek to grasp it for himself apart from the will of the Father. Instead he lived a rather modest, unkingly life, waiting for the Father to glorify him in His time. This is the true meaning of the Philippians hymn. For more on Phil. 2:5-11 see my May 2018 post The Lordship of Jesus the Messiah (Part 2).

  • 2 Cor. 8:9 –  This passage is in effect a parallel to the Philippians hymn. Once again, this has been traditionally read that Jesus, as God, was rich in heaven, but then became poor by becoming a man on earth. But this is reading way to much into the passage. Once again, Paul is talking about the man Jesus, the Messiah, not God the son, or the Logos. So how was the man Jesus rich? And in what way was he made poor for us? From the moment of his birth he was the heir to David’s throne {Lk. 1:32-33; Matt. 2:2}. From his birth he was rich, in the same way that Abraham was  the father of many nations before he even had a child {Gen. 17:5}, i.e. in the foreordained purpose of God. The Greek says plousios on= being rich; this coincides with ‘being in the form of God’ in the Philippians passage. From his birth, he was predestined to glory, honor, and riches, as the rightful heir to Yahweh’s throne. The phrase ‘he became poor’ coincides with  ‘he emptied himself’ in the Philippians hymn. He made a conscious choice to submit to the poverty of life into which God had him born, not trying to seize for himself his kingly rights and honors, even to the point of allowing men to put him to death. This he did for our sakes, that we might one day reign with him in glory. I repeat, nothing in this passage requires the interpretation that a pre-existent divine being descended  from heaven and became man; that is pure eisegesis. The man Jesus was indeed rich, in that he was, in reality, as the chosen one, the heir of all things {Heb. 1:2}. Yet he never entered into the actual possession and experience of all that belonged to him, in his short time upon this earth. This parallels Abraham’s journey, who, along with Isaac and Jacob, were heirs of God’s promise {Heb. 11:9}. Yet he and they “were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised, they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance.” {Heb. 11:13} So it still remains for Jesus the Messiah to rule over the kingdoms of this world.

Jesus has descended from heaven

  • 1 Cor. 15:47 – Here is another case of reading one’s a priori theological beliefs into Scripture. It is imagined by Trinitarians that Paul is saying that the first man Adam came from the earth, but the second man Jesus came from heaven. But do Trinitarians really believe that the man Jesus came from heaven? No, they believe the eternal Son or the Logos came down from heaven and assumed humanity from Mary. But Paul is talking about the Man from heaven. Paul is not referring to an incarnation but to the risen and glorified man, Jesus the Messiah, who became a life-giving spirit” by his resurrection from the dead. This man is from heaven. Now ‘from heaven’ does not need to be taken literally, although that would still be acceptable, since the man Jesus is now in heaven and will come again from heaven to give those who believe in him immortality. But ‘from heaven’ can be understood as in Matt. 21:24-25:

Jesus replied , ” … John’s baptism — where did it come from? Was it from heaven, or from men.”

Now nobody believes that John’s baptism was up in heaven and then came down to earth. From heaven here clearly means that it was according to God’s will and foreordained purpose. In the same way, Jesus’ being from heaven denotes that the immortality and incorruptibility he possesses as a result of resurrection, is according to the foreordained purpose of God. The comparison in vv. 47-49, is not between how Adam came into the world and how Jesus came into the world. The comparison is between the fallen Adam, who was corruptible and mortal, and the risen Messiah, who is incorruptible and immortal. Those who are of the earth, i.e. in Adam, are like Adam, mortal and corruptible; while those who are of heaven, i.e. redeemed in Messiah, shall be like the man from heaven, immortal and incorruptible. This is clearly the import of Paul’s words, as the context shows {see vv. 50 -57}.

Note also v.48, which speaks of those who will be made immortal as hoi epouranioi , meaning literally ‘the heavenly ones.’ The author of the paper summarily dismisses the significance of this, saying: “Contrast is not simply that Jesus is “heavenly” just as we are “heavenly.” So say you. It is not a comparison so much, but an association with Jesus. As he is ‘the heavenly one,’ in the same way we shall be ‘heavenly ones.’ This rules out that Paul is talking about some supposed deity in Jesus.

Jesus is Creator

  • 1 Cor. 8:6  –  For a thorough explanation of this verse see my May 2018 post The Lordship of Jesus the Messiah (Part 2).
  • Col. 1:16  –  At first glance, on a superficial reading, this verse does seem to say that Jesus was involved in the creation of all things. Of course, those who already view Jesus as God will be especially susceptible to seeing this verse as confirmation of that view.  But does the text actually say this? The context, of course, must guide us in the proper understanding of Paul’s statements regarding Messiah here. The authors of the TMU paper want us to note v. 15, where Messiah is called “the image of the invisible God,” as if this statement is also asserting Messiah’s deity. It should be obvious to any unbiased reader that an image of something is to be distinctly differentiated from the thing of which it is an image. An image of a thing cannot logically be the thing itself. A picture of my wife is not my wife. A sculpture of Abraham Lincoln is not the man himself. The fact that Paul calls Jesus the ‘image of God‘ should immediately rule out, in any unbiased mind, that the son of God is here being declared to be God. Only a mind already biased by an a priori commitment to orthodox dogma, could read this in such a way as to make it say that an image is itself the thing it images. Further proof that ‘image of God’ does not and cannot denote deity is the fact that Adam (and so all humanity) was created in God’s image {Gen.1:27}. This being  in the image of God was directly related to the concept of rulership {see Gen. 1: 26 & 28}. Man was to represent God in his rule over the rest of creation, but man is clearly a part of the creation. Paul reiterates this concept in 1 Cor. 11:7 :

A man should not cover his head, because he is the image and glory of God.

Here the man (in distinction from woman), specifically, is the image of God in the marriage relationship, in that he is the head {v.3} and bears the rule in the relationship.

Now surely, Paul does not have in mind a totally different concept of the ‘image of God’ in reference to Messiah. Jesus, the son of God, as the ideal man, bears the first place of rule and dominion in God’s creation. The next clause in v. 15, “the firstborn of all creation” is certainly meant by Paul as an elaboration of what it means that Messiah is “the image of the invisible God.” The word ‘firstborn’ here does not denote the first one in time, as JW’s suppose, making Jesus the first created being. The Greek word prototokos can also denote the status of the firstborn, i.e. priority and supremacy over the others in the family. When Paul says that Jesus is the firstborn of all creation he means that of all created beings Jesus has the highest place, the supremacy. If Paul had wished to express the idea that Messiah was supreme over creation because he is deity, then he would not have used the concept of the firstborn, which surely connotes being in the same category as that of which he is the firstborn. This clearly puts Jesus on the creature side of the Creator/ creature divide. The rest of the context (vv.16-19) is a further elaboration on Messiah’s supremacy within the created order. In fact, the whole passage is not about a supposed pre-existent son of God creating the universe, but rather of the glorious status of the risen and exalted man, Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah.

So whatever Paul means in v.16 has to fit into his previous assessment of the person of Messiah. Again, an unprejudiced reading of v.15 yields a picture of Jesus as an exalted man, not as God. So can Paul really be saying in the next breath that Jesus is the Creator of the universe? Such an understanding strains credulity. V.16 must be telling us something about Messiah’s rule and dominion within the created order, for that is the import of this whole passage. Beginning in v.13 Paul tells how we have been brought into the kingdom of the son, by God, the Father. The rest of the passage, at least through v. 18, is about the authority that has been given to the son to rule on his Father’s behalf. So let’s take a close look at v.16 with this understanding in mind.

First, let’s establish what is being created in this passage. Is Paul speaking about the original creation of the universe? No! But doesn’t he say all things were created in him?  Surely ‘all things’ refers to the entire creation, right? Not necessarily. Actually when Paul says ‘all things’ he does not always mean all things that exist. Sometimes he means the all things pertaining to what he is talking about, in a certain context, e.g. Rom. 8:32; 1 Cor. 2:15; 3:21; Eph. 1:10; 1:22; Phil. 3:8. A relevant passage that may throw light upon Paul’s use of ‘the all things’ (Gr. ta panta) is 2 Cor. 5:17-18:

Therefore, if anyone is in Messiah, a new creation. The old things have passed away, behold, new things have come to be (or have been established). And the all things (ta panta) are from God …

Here ta panta, the all things, is clearly in reference to the new creation in Messiah and not to the originally created material universe. This helps us to understand Col.1:16, which I believe is referring to the new creation in Messiah. Furthermore, Paul does not seem to be speaking of the original creation of the material universe, because he mentions nothing that can be seen in the original creation story in Genesis. Paul uses a literary device here known as inclusio. This involves a word or phrase that occurs at the beginning of a section, being repeated at the end of the section. Here the phrase ‘the all things were created’ occurs at the beginning and end of the sentence. What is sandwiched between the two statements is descriptive of the bracketing phrase.

For in him were created the all things in the heavens and the earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones, or governments, or rulers, or authorities. The all things have been created through him and for him.

The bracketed material tells us what Paul is speaking of, and limits ‘the all things in the heavens and the earth’ to the power structures which exist in both of these realms. This makes sense, since Paul is developing the idea of the “kingdom of His son” spoken of in v.13. In this kingdom, which shall be made manifest in the age to come, Jesus, the son of God, is the supreme ruler under God. He holds the highest position of authority and the place of greatest honor and supremacy. All else will be subservient to him. This is a restoration and expansion of the dominion and rule given to the first Adam.

In this present age, in which we live, there are existing power structures, both in the heavenlies {see Eph. 6:12}, the invisible realm, and upon the earth, the visible realm. At the present time all of these ruling powers, whether in the visible or invisible realm, are in opposition to God, as well as to one another. But in the age to come Messiah will subdue these hostile rulers and reclaim the power structures in both realms, bringing them all under his authority {see Eph. 1:10, 20-23; Col. 1:19-20; Is. 24:21-22}. In this way, through Messiah’s reign, God will reconcile all these power structures to himself. The new power structures, which are a part of the new creation in Messiah, will be occupied by the saints of the Most High, with Messiah Jesus as the Head {see Dan. 7:13-14,18,27; Col. 2:10}. This is the meaning of vv. 17-18:

He is before all things, and in him the all things have been made to stand together. And he is the head of the body, the assembly (of the saints of the Most High). This one is the beginning (of the new creation), the firstborn from among the dead, in order that he should come to have the first place in all things.

The word ‘before’ (Gr. pro), though it has the meaning of before in time, i.e. prior to, can also have the meaning of priority in rank. This is the evident meaning here, because if Paul intended to say that Messiah existed before all things he would have used the imperfect tense verb ‘was‘, rather than the present tense ‘is.’ Messiah is given priority over all the authority structures in the heavens and the earth, and in him they will all one day stand together as one harmonious whole, subjected to and bringing glory to God. He is the head of the ecclesia, the congregation of the holy ones, who shall rule with Messiah, in both realms. He is the beginning of the new creation, being the first to be raised immortal from the dead. This connects the new creation with the resurrection/transformation of the body, which fits one to rule in the age to come. The text explicitly says that he is the firstborn from the dead in order that he should come to have the preeminent place in all things. It is inconceivable that one who is eternal God would have to become a man, die, and be raised to life, in order to have the first place in all things.

Now I want to examine why it is that Paul speaks of this new creation, which in actual experience is still future, as something already done (were created). In the ancient Hebrew worldview it was not uncommon to speak of things predestined to be as if they already were. This way of speaking of things which were certain to be as being already accomplished, was learned from the Hebrew Scriptures, from God’s very own declarations of future realities as presently existing. No doubt Paul’s thinking and language were shaped by this phenomenon to the point where he could say of God:

” … the one … calling the things not existing as if existing.”  Rom. 4:17

Paul gives the premier example in Abraham, who was told by God, while still childless, “I have made you a father of many nations.” Because Abraham was predestined to be such, God could speak to him and of him in this way. This must have had a profound impact on Paul’s thinking for we see him speak this way a number of times in his letters. For example in Romans 8:29-30 Paul speaks of the predestined glory to which believers are called, in the past tense, i.e. glorified. No believer actually enters into the experience of this glory until Messiah comes in glory (1 John 3:2), but in the mind and plan of God it is accomplished already. Similarly, in Eph. 2:6 Paul says that God has raised us believers up with Messiah and has seated us with him in the heavenly realms. This speaks of the fact that we will be made immortal and rule with Messiah in the age to come, yet Paul speaks as if it is already a fact. Why? Because it is our destiny, predetermined by God – it has been written in the plan. Again, in 2 Tim. 1:9 Paul says that God’s “grace was given to us in Messiah Jesus before the ages of time.” Now nobody actually, literally and personally was given God’s grace before the ages of time, for no one of us existed then. Paul means that it was then determined for those in Messiah to be given this grace, i.e. it was written in the plan from before the ages of time. One more example is in 2 Cor. 5:17 where Paul says that if one is in Messiah he is a new creation. Now I know that this is one of those special verses for evangelical Christians, but the truth of the matter is that we do not actually, literally, and experientially become new creations until the Lord Jesus “will transform the body of our low condition, conformed to the body of his glory” {Phil. 3:21}. If Jesus’ being the beginning (v.18) refers to the new creation, as even the NIV Study Bible comment on this passage says, then Paul connects the new creation to the resurrection of the body. Yet Paul can speak as if it is a present reality because it is already written in the plan and is simply awaiting manifestation in the real world.

So in this same way, when Paul speaks of the all things, i.e. the authority structures in the heavens and in the earth, as having been created in Messiah, he means that it has already been written in the plan; Messiah has already been exalted and seated above all of these ordered systems of authority and is awaiting the time when he will actually and literally rule over them. We know that he is not now reigning over them because they are still in opposition to God.

V. 19 is inaccurately translated in most versions, as something like “all of his fullness” or “all the fullness of God.” But the Greek reads like this,For he (God) deemed it good, in him (Messiah) all the fullness to settle.The fullness of which Paul speaks here must be the sum of all authority and rule in both the heavens and the earth, which God has determined to have it’s residence permanently in Messiah. This entails the ecclesia, Messiah’s body, the saints of the Most High, filling all of the positions of rule in the authority structures of the two realms.

This interpretation of vv. 13-19 is confirmed by v.20 which reads:

” … and through him (Messiah) to reconcile the all things to himself … whether the things on the earth or the things in the heavens.”

Is God reconciling to himself mountains and trees and fishes and birds? No, he is reconciling mankind, who has been at enmity with him, and the authority structures of the created order, which have also been at enmity with him.

Jesus is sent by God — this means pre-existence

  • Rom. 8:3  – The author of this paper, as well as most Trinitarians, think that in this verse they have a proof text for the pre-existence of Messiah. But I want you to see how this conclusion is based on circular reasoning. There are two things in this verse that they think is proof that Jesus pre-existed: first, that the son was sent and second, that he was in the likeness of sinful flesh.

We are in the section of this paper under the heading Paul’s View of Jesus and the author has presented the two references, in Paul’s letters, to the son being sent. Now the author, along with all Trinitarians, take this to mean that the son was in heaven and God sent him from there to earth, to be incarnated in the womb of Mary. Does Paul really believe that? He only mentions the son being sent, twice, in all his letters, and in neither mention does he say that the son was sent from heaven to earth. So why would anyone assume that this is what Paul means? We know that Paul thinks Jesus is a man {see Acts 13:23; 17:31; Rom. 5:15; 1 Cor. 15:45-47; 1 Tim. 2:5}, so why should we assume that when Paul refers to Jesus being sent, that he means he pre-existed in heaven, and was sent from there to earth? Again, Paul never says that. The only reason anyone would take Paul in that way is because they already believe that Jesus is God, and being God he pre-existed in heaven; so when Paul says he was sent, he must mean he was sent from heaven. This is why I say that this is a circular argument; it is based on the presupposition that Jesus is God. Without that presupposition there is no reason to think Paul means that Jesus was pre-existing in heaven and was sent from there to earth. So these two passages in Paul are not a proof of Jesus’ pre-existence, unless you already believe he pre-existed as God. So what could Paul have meant when he said that Jesus was sent by God? In Jewish parlance this simply means that Jesus was given a commission by God to carry out a certain task. While the word sent can certainly mean that one is sent from one place to another place, the literal meaning, it does not necessarily mean that. This is the language of agency — where one is commissioned by another to perform some task. The one commissioned could be spoken of as being sent even if he does not travel from one place to another. Take the prophet Isaiah for example, he was commissioned by God in ch. 6 of the book that bears his name:

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”  And I said, “Here am I, send me.” And he said , “Go and tell this people … ” vv.8-9

But Isaiah lived in Jerusalem and preached to the people in Jerusalem, so he wasn’t literally sent anywhere, but he was commissioned to be a prophet to the people of Jerusalem. Sometimes the idea of being sent denotes not so much a change of location, but of occupation. We are not told what Isaiah’s occupation was before God commissioned him to prophesy, but whatever it was he most certainly gave it up to become a prophet {see also Amos 7:14-15}.

John the Baptizer was sent from God {John 1:6}, but he didn’t really go anywhere. He lived with his parents in Judea, presumably until their deaths, and then, according to Luke 1:80, he lived in the desert until he appeared publicly as a prophet. When he did begin his ministry it was in the desert of Judea, according to Matt. 3:1. So he wasn’t sent from one location to another, but he was commissioned to preach and baptize.

It seems to me that the whole flavor of Paul’s statement in 8:3 is pertaining to the son’s sacrificial death. The words “for sin” are understood by many scholars as a Hebraism meaning  “as a sin offering.” So the sending of the son is in connection with his death on the cross and not to a supposed incarnation. Jesus, the son of God, was commissioned by the Father to offer himself as a sacrifice for sin.

Now in the paper it is stated that the phrase “in the likeness of sinful flesh” is Paul’s way of saying that “Jesus the Son took on a condition he had not previously possessed.” But the opposite is actually true. Clearly, “in the likeness of sinful flesh” is denoting the condition in which the son was when sent. Paul does not say, “God sending his own son to be made in (or to take on) the likeness of sinful flesh.” So the assertion of the author just does not prove true. So what does Paul mean by “in the likeness of sinful flesh?” The word ‘flesh’ is probably being used as a metonymy for man. Paul uses the word this way sometimes, e.g. Rom. 3:20; 1 Cor. 1:29; Gal. 2:16. The NIV takes it this way, translating, “in the likeness of sinful man.” The word ‘likeness’ could refer to Jesus being a representation of sinful man, yet without being sinful himself. This may be a parallel passage to 2 Cor. 5:21:

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us.

Here, again, scholars see the phrase “to be sin” as a Hebraism meaning “to be a sin offering. So the point of “in the likeness of sinful flesh (man)” is not to convey the idea that Jesus took on a condition which he previously did not possess, but to say that though sinless, he was a representation of sinful man and a sin offering when he died on the cross. And this was the task to which he was commissioned by God.

  • Gal. 4:4  –  You may read my comments on this passage in the January 2018 post Son of God (Part 4); what I said there I will not repeat here, so please read that first. What I said above concerning the son being sent applies here as well. The author of the paper sees a parallel meaning in the son being sent in v. 4, with the Spirit being sent in v. 6. The conclusion is that if  the Spirit was sent and he pre-existed then this means that the son also pre-existed before being sent. Well, all I can say to that is, that there are a whole lot of presuppositions that had to be read into the text to arrive at that conclusion. Notice that the author presupposes one aspect of the Trinity, namely the personal divinity of the Spirit, and then uses that presupposition as a basis for interpreting the passage in such a way that supposedly proves another aspect of the Trinity, namely the personal  divinity and pre-existence of the son. This is not exegesis but eisegesis.

In answer to this, I will first point out that it is not even clear that “spirit of his son” is referring to the Holy Spirit. I would ask Trinitarians a question – from your perspective, exactly who is the Holy Spirit? Is he a divine personage distinct from the Father and the Son, or is he the Spirit of the Son {see Rom. 8:9}, or is he the Spirit of the Father {see Matt. 10:20 compared to Lk.12:12; Rom. 8:11}. This seems like a difficult thing to grasp and I have never heard an explanation that clears it up.

Every time the word ‘spirit‘ appears in Scripture it is not necessarily referring to the Holy Spirit. We should not be fooled by the capital S, for that was not in the original but was added at the discretion of the translators. Scripture, and especially the apostle Paul, sometimes uses spirit to denote a dominating frame of mind which motivates or compels one to act or live a certain way. Here are some examples: Num. 5:14,30; 14:24; Lk.1:17; Rom. 8:15; 11:8; 1 Cor. 4:21; 2 Cor. 4:13; Eph. 4:23; Phil. 1:27; 2 Tim. 1:7; 1 Pet. 3:4. I believe that this is what Paul means in Gal.4:6 – God has given believers in Messiah the spirit of his son, i.e. the same dominating frame of mind as was in his son Jesus of Nazareth. And what is that frame of mind? The realization of sonship. The Lord Jesus, throughout his life, was motivated and compelled to live and act by the overarching realization of his personal sonship in relation to God. The constant reference to God as his Father shows this to be evident. Even from an early age we find him keenly cognizant of his sonship {Lk. 2:49}. The average Jew of Paul’s day did not have this awareness of personal sonship, but only of corporate sonship, i.e. Israel was God’s son. But the Jewish believer in Jesus the Messiah, as well as the Gentile believer, was given this awareness of personal sonship, what Paul here calls “the spirit of his son.”

The validity of this interpretation is found first in the fact that Paul says that God sent forth this spirit “into our hearts.” In Hebrew thought the heart is a way of putting in concrete terms an abstract concept. It denotes that which is interior as opposed to that which is exterior. It envelops the abstract concepts of the will, mind, intentions, motivations, affections, commitments, loyalties, etc. This can be seen in many passages, such as Prov.4:23; 13:12; Ps. 17:3; 24:4; 26:2; Rom. 2:29; 5:5; 10:9-10; 1 Pet. 3:15. The idea of God putting in our hearts a certain disposition or frame of mind works much better than God putting in our hearts a personal, divine entity. Second, it is this spirit which is said to be crying out “Abba, Father.” But surely Paul’s meaning is that we, as believers, are crying out under the dominating influence of this new frame of mind of personal sonship. This is extremely pertinent to the Jew, who, under the law, lacked this awareness. This becomes even clearer in the parallel passage in Rom. 8:15-17, where Paul pits the “spirit of bondage … to fear,” against the “spirit of adoption (sonship).”  In this context, ‘spirit’, as a frame of mind, fits better than ‘spirit’ as a personal being. Paul is speaking primarily of the Jew, who, under the law, was under the dominating frame of mind of fear, but who now, through faith in Jesus, has been given a new frame of mind that motivates him to live and act as Jesus did, i.e. the spirit of sonship {Rom. 7:6}. He then says of this spirit of sonship, ” … by which (Gr. neuter pronoun, not ‘by whom’) we cry out “Abba, Father.’ ” So it is better to understand Gal. 4:6 as saying that we, under the dominating influence of the spirit of sonship are crying out ‘Abba, Father,’ rather than that the Holy Spirit of God is crying out ‘Abba Father.’

This interpretation of the passage makes moot the first point made in the paper, since the ‘spirit’ which God has sent forth into our hearts is not a personal, divine, pre-existent entity, but simply a new dominating frame of mind. The second point is nullified also, on the same basis. Especially relevant to this is Luke 1:17 where we are told that John, the son of Zechariah, would perform his ministry “in the spirit … of Elijah.” Surely no Trinitarian would imagine that Elijah was more than human, yet the same spirit under which he ministered was also the dominating frame of mind under which John ministered.

One further note on Gal. 4:4. Trinitarians read the verse as if Paul said, “God sent his Son to be born of a woman … ” If that is what Paul meant to say he would have used the aorist infinitive form of the verb, rather than the aorist participle, which is better translated, “God sent his son, having been born of a woman …” Again, as we have seen throughout this paper, theological presuppositions (the belief in the doctrines of the Trinity and deity of Messiah) are the basis for interpreting the passages presented as ‘proof texts’ for the deity of Messiah. This circular argumentation in itself takes the ‘proof’ out of these texts.

Jesus Was Active in Israel’s History

  • 1 Cor. 10:4  –  Here we are supposed to believe that Jesus was with Israel in the desert when they came out of Egypt. The text says, ” … for they drank from the  spiritual rock, and that rock was Messiah.” What could Paul possibly mean by this? Well, the author of the paper admits it is “difficult to say.” But that does not stop him/her from assuring us that “the Israelites had Jesus the Messiah accompanying them in the desert.” This statement is astounding. Do Trinitarians really believe that Jesus the Messiah, the descendant of David, the one born of Mary, the man Jesus from Nazareth, was actually with the Israelites in the desert. I would have thought they might say that the pre-incarnate, eternal Son or God the Son, was with the Israelites, but that Jesus the Messiah was with them seems to be going to far.

Paul seems to be referring to the two incidents in Israel’s desert wanderings, where God supplied water to the community from a rock, once at the beginning and again toward the end of their wandering. Does Paul mean for us to believe that it was the same rock on both occasions, that the rock was actually following them around as they wandered? And does Paul further mean for us to believe that the rock was actually and literally, the Messiah? Although it may be “difficult to say” exactly what Paul means, I think we can rule out this ridiculous notion as unworthy of the apostle Paul. I think the simplest solution is to understand Paul as saying that the rock was meant to be a type of Messiah for us. As the Israelites received life-giving sustenance from the rock, so we receive life-giving sustenance from Messiah. This interpretation is bolstered by v.2 where Paul seems to see the Israelite’s passing through the Red Sea as a type of baptism, which believers in Messiah participate in. Further confirmation of this interpretation is found in v. 11:

These things happened to them as types (Gr. typikos), and were written for our admonition, on whom the ends of the ages has come.

The common objection to this interpretation is that if Paul had meant this he would have said, “the rock is Messiah” rather than “the rock was Messiah.” But I really do not think that is enough to overturn this interpretation, and to leave us with the alternative, which is just not feasible.

  • 1 Cor. 10:9  –  Here it appears as if the Israelites are said to have tested Messiah in the wilderness, and therefore Messiah must have been at work among them. I am quite surprised that under a section titled Jesus Was Active in Israel’s History the only ‘proof texts’ offered  are these two in 1 Cor., seeing how they are rather weak in proving what they are purported to prove. What the paper fails to make mention of is the fact that v.9 has variant readings in the Greek manuscripts, some reading Christ, some Lord, and one reading God. Some English versions follow the manuscripts that read Lord, e.g. the NIV, ASV, ISV and the NASB. Other’s follow the manuscripts which read Christ, e.g. the ESV, KJV, CSB, and the NET. If the original reading was ‘Lord,’ then this would simply be referring to God, as even Meyer agrees. Paul often uses ‘Lord‘ of Yahweh when quoting or referring to OT texts. If the original reading was ‘Christ,’ then the meaning is simply this – that we, professing Christians, should not put Messiah to the test in the same manner as the Israelites put God to the test. To read more than this into this text is to again assume what one is trying to prove. Why would anyone think that Paul is saying that a man who was born and lived in the first century C.E., was alive and active 1500 yrs. earlier, unless you are already convinced that man pre-existed.

Paul calls Jesus God

  • Rom.9:5  –  I have given an explanation of this verse in Part 3 of this series, so please read that if you haven’t already. I do want to address the author’s comments, which he presents after giving an alternate translation (kudos for that) which makes God, rather than Messiah, the object of the doxology. The author says, “Seems out of place to have ‘God blessed forever’ suddenly.” But does it really seem out of place for a Jew, after enumerating the special privileges and blessings bestowed upon Israel by God, culminating with the fact that Messiah has come through them, to suddenly burst forth in praise to God? Rather, this is just what one would expect from a devout Jew. The author then admits that “Paul doesn’t usually refer to Christ as God” (again kudos for that), but then states with absolute assurance that Paul “includes Jesus in the divine identity.” This refers to Richard Bauckham’s theory of the Christ being included in the identity of Yahweh. But this is just a man’s theory of how to explain the way in which Christ is presented in the NT, and he is approaching the subject with an a priori belief in the Trinity. This is hardly proof to such a degree that we can just talk about Paul including Jesus in the divine identity as a matter- of- fact. The verses given in the paper are easily explained as Yahweh working in and through His chief agent, Messiah, and/or Messiah acting on behalf of Yahweh as His chief agent.


None of the summary points have been proven by the supposed ‘proof texts’ offered. In every case, the interpretation of these texts is just assumed to coincide with orthodox dogma. The belief in the dogma has preceded the exegesis of the texts and is simply read into them. I have offered plausible, reasonable, and scriptural objections, as well as alternative interpretations, to the accepted orthodox interpretations. If you wish to push back on how I have interpreted these passages, please feel free to leave comments or contact me by email. I will be more than happy to interact with you. Shalom to all who love our Lord Jesus Messiah.


Addendum to John 8:58


In this post I want to deal with an issue I did not touch upon in my post on John 8:58. Some recent scholars and/or Trinitarian apologists have seemingly abandoned the idea that the use of ‘I am’ by Jesus in John 8:58 is a direct reference to Exodus 3:14. Why they do so I don’t know. James White , in his paper titled Purpose and Meaning of “Ego Eimi” in the Gospel of John In Reference to the Deity of Christ, says this under the section Old Testament Background of ego eimi:

Suffice it to say that the position taken by this writer reflects a consensus opinion of many scholars … that the closest and most logical connection between John’s usage of ego eimi and the Old Testament is to be found in the Septuagint rendering of the Hebrew phrase ani hu in the writings (primarily) of Isaiah. It is true that many go directly to Exodus 3:14 for the background, but it is felt that unless one first establishes the connection with the direct quotation of ego eimi in the Septuagint, the connection with Exodus 3:14 will be somewhat tenuous.

My contention in my post, that the connection between John 8:58 and Ex. 3:14 was tenuous at best and none existent at worst, was based on other considerations beside that which White mentions here, but the fact that he sees a “consensus of opinion of many scholars,” is itself confirmation of my conclusions in that post.

Later in the same paper, in the Conclusion, White says: “It could fairly be admitted that an immediate and unqualified jump from the ego eimi of John 8:58 to Exodus 3:14 is unwise.” Not withstanding this consensus among scholars, many lay-persons and lay- apologists will continue to think they have a solid case for Jesus’ deity in the supposed connection between the two passages.

But now White and other scholars think they have found a better way to view Jesus’ ‘I am‘ statements in John’s gospel. They now connect it with the Hebrew ani hu, which, in the LXX, is translated as ego eimi, the same Greek words in John’s gospel, translated as ‘I am‘ in English. The assertion is that in the OT ani hu becomes a way that God speaks of himself, a sort of code for his Godhood, a declaration of his absolute being. These passages then get translated into the LXX as ego eimi. Then the link is made to Jesus’ ego eimi statements in the gospel of John. And presto! Absolute proof that Jesus was claiming to be Yahweh. So let’s look at this OT phrase to see if this assertion holds water.

First of all, ani = I and hu = he, so the phrase is literally ‘I he’, but this is translated in most cases as “I am he.” From what I understand, in Hebrew the verb meaning to be is often not explicit in the text, and must be supplied. The relevant passages are Deut. 32:39; Is. 41:4; 43:10, 13, 25; 46:4; 48:12; 51:12; 52:6. In all of these passages God speaks these words concerning himself. But the simple fact is that these words are simply a way of self identifying. I do not think that any of these occurrences of the phrase demand the meaning of absolute being, though this is true of God, but rather God is identifying himself as the one who is doing a certain thing or fulfilling a certain role in relation to his covenant people Israel. The context must determine precisely what God is claiming. So let’s look at these verses.

Deut. 32:39   –  “See now that I, I am he! There is no God besides me.”

Here ‘I am he’ points to the next phrase, i.e. I am the one who alone is God

Is. 41:4  –  “Who has done this and carried it through, calling forth the generations from the beginning? I, Yahweh — with the first of them and with the last — I am he.”

Here ‘I am he’ points back to what was just said, i.e. Yahweh who calls forth the generations from the beginning.

Is. 43:10  –  “You are my witnesses,” declares Yahweh, “and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no God was formed, nor will there be after me.”

This one could be pointing back to v.3 where Yahweh declares to be Israel’s God, Holy One and Savior. Or it could be pointing forward to v.11 that he is Yahweh, Israel’s only Savior.

Is. 43:13  –  “Yes from ancient days I am he.”

This one is easy, just go back to the previous statement, “You are my witnesses that I am God. Yes from ancient days I am he.”

Is. 43:25  –  “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.”

Yahweh is saying he is the one who forgives Israel’s sins.

Is. 46:4  –  “Even to your old age and gray hairs I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.”

Again, the context makes it obvious. Yahweh is Israel’s sustainer.

Is. 48:12  –  “Listen to me , O Jacob, Israel, whom I have called: I am he, I am the first and I am the last.”

God is proclaiming himself to be the first and the last in relation to Israel {see 41:4}; he is the one who created the nation, he will be the one to carry them through to their ultimate destiny. As in 41:4 he was with the first generation and will be with the last.

Is. 51:12  –  “I, even I am he who comforts you.”

Yahweh is Israel’s comforter.

Is. 52:6  –  “Therefore my people will know my name; therefore in that same day, that I am he who has spoken. Behold, it is I.”

Yahweh is the one who has foretold of Israel’s redemption from their slavery to foreign powers.

Both Is. 43:25 and 51:12 have anoki hu instead of ani hu, though the two words seem to be parallel in usage, with anoki being perhaps more emphatic.

So it should be evident that in none of these passages does the phrase ani hu = I am he stand alone as an absolute statement of eternal self- existence, as scholars are asserting. In each case, the context tells us what Yahweh is pointing to about himself when he uses this phrase. Again these are not ontological statements of Yahweh’s essential nature, but God’s way of emphatically pointing to the covenant roles or functions he performs in relation to Israel. Scholars are simply making to much out of this phrase, overstating the case, I suspect, because having admitted the tenuous connection of Jesus’ ‘I am’ statements with Exodus 3:14, they have looked for some other connection that would support the assertion that Jesus was making a claim to deity. In other words, this theory is being driven not by a strict exegesis of the text, but by the theological presupposition that Jesus is God. In fact this whole theory is based upon circular reasoning, as I will show.

Ani hu, in all of the passages above, is translated into the Septuagint (LXX – the Greek version of the OT at use in Jesus’ time) by ego eimi. One thing that this clues us to is that the word ‘he’ or some other predicate such as ‘the one,’ is implicit in ego eimi. Therefore, the English versions that add a predicate to the occurrences of ego eimi  in the gospel of John, where  a predicate is lacking in the Greek, are correct to do so. Now we can assume that Jesus spoke in Hebrew and so the Hebrew behind John’s ego eimi is almost certainly ani hu. But as we saw in the case of the OT usage, the ego eimi on the lips of the Lord in the NT is also not being used as a stand alone statement of eternal self-existence, but in imitation of the OT usage, as an emphatic way of pointing to the role or function which Messiah bears in relation to Israel. Let’s go through the relevant passages in John, just as we did with the OT passages, to see if this assertion bears out. Taking ego eimi to be translating ani hu, I will add the word ‘he.’

John 4:25-26  –  The woman said, “I know that Messiah (called Christ) is coming. When he comes , he will explain everything to us.” Then Jesus said to her, “I am he, the one speaking to you.”

This should be obvious to everyone; “I am he” means I am the Messiah.

John 6:20  –  But he said to them, ” I am he, don’t be afraid.”

Here Jesus comes walking on the water to the disciples in a boat, and they were terrified. We are told by Trinitarian apologists that Jesus then tells them “Hey don’t be afraid, I am God.” How absurd! Almost all modern English versions give the true sense, as a simple statement of self identification, “It is I, don’t be afraid.”

John 8:24  –  “I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins.”

This is one of the verses that are taken by Trinitarian scholars as a stand alone, absolute claim to deity. Hence the claim is made that belief in the deity of Messiah is necessary for salvation. But this is merely an interpretation, and that based on the a priori belief that Jesus is God. The very next verse rules out that interpretation, for the Jews to whom he was speaking, and who certainly would have been familiar with the phrase ani hu, do not gasp in horror that Jesus is claiming to be God, but they simply ask, “Who are you.”  This shows that they understood ani hu as a simple “I am he” or “I am the one.” They are not sure to what he is referring. Jesus answers, “What I have been telling you from the beginning.” So what has he been telling these Jews (specifically the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem) ? In chapter 5 he claims, 6 times, to be the one sent by the Father, the son of the Father and the son of man. All of these should have been understood by the Jews as a claim to be the promised Messiah. The discourse in chapter 6 takes place in Capernaum, not in Jerusalem and so is not relevant. Chapter 7 finds him once again in Jerusalem, where again, 5 times he claims to be the one sent by God. The discourse of chapter 8 begins with Jesus saying, “I am the light of the world,” a clear reference to such Messianic passages like Is. 9:1-2; 42:6 and 49:6. He continues on, once again claiming to be the one sent by God, i.e. the Messiah. So clearly, Jesus’ “I am” in v.24 is not a claim to absolute eternal existence, but to being the promised Messiah.

John 8:28  –  “When you have lifted up the son of man, then you will know that I am he…”

They will know that he is who? The son of man.

John 13:19  –  “I am telling you before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe that I am he.”

In verse 18 Jesus quotes a passage from the OT (Ps. 41:9) in reference to his betrayal by one close to him. He then says that he is telling them before his betrayal happens so that  when it does happen, they will believe what? That he is God. That makes no sense at all. The ability to predict the future would not be seen by any Jew as a mark of deity. Many prophets of the past had predicted the future in great detail without anyone accusing them of thinking they were God. Surely in the disciple’s minds, Jesus would have been at least a prophet. No! He told them in advance so that when it happened they would believe he was the one of whom the prophecy spoke.

John 18:4-8  –  Jesus … went out and asked them, “Who is it that you seek?” “Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “I am he” Jesus said … When Jesus said “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. Again he asked them “Who is it you seek?” And they said “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus answered “I told you that I am he …”

According to Trinitarians, when the soldiers said “Jesus of Nazareth,” Jesus is supposed to have replied “I am the self-existent eternal God.” And further proof that this is what Jesus meant is that the power of those words knocked these men to the ground. Really! What absurd lengths some people go to find their favorite traditional beliefs in the Scriptures. Once again, this is a simple statement of self-identification. Jesus is simply saying “That’s me, I’m the guy.” But what about them falling to the ground? Note that the text does not say that they were knocked down to the ground, but that they moved back and fell down. Now if the words “I am” are so powerful that these men could not stand when Jesus uttered them, then why did some such phenomena not occur any of the other times Jesus uttered those words? This is simply much ado about nothing. These soldiers, probably from the temple guard, along with some officials from the chief priests, are coming to Jesus at night. Though they had torches the light was probably not very bright. They would be walking in a tightly knit group, staying close to those carrying the torches. These men knew who they were going to arrest, a man who had displayed a miraculous power like nothing any of them had ever seen, but had only heard of from the OT stories. Not long before this night he had raised a man to life who had been dead at least four days. No doubt there was some apprehension on the part of these soldiers, perhaps even fear, not knowing what they might be getting themselves into trying to arrest such a man as this. Jesus approached them, but they did not know he was Jesus, and when he told them who he was, the initial reaction of those in the front was to move backwards suddenly, pushing themselves into those behind them, creating a domino effect, causing them to fall down. It is not even necessary to assume that every single person fell. This is certainly a more reasonable explanation.

The only remaining verse is, of course, John 8:58, which may be the only occurrence of ego eimi that has an existential meaning. But it is not necessary to postulate a meaning of eternal self-existence, just some sort of prior existence. As I show in my post on John 8:58, this can be understood as pre-existence in the predetermined plan of Yahweh, rather than a literal, personal pre-existence.

I said earlier that I would prove that this theory, that Jesus was purposely using the ani hu phrase to declare himself God, is based  upon circular reasoning. First of all, the theory is based on the assumption that ani hu, as spoken by God in the OT, is a declaration of his eternal self-existence. This assumption is unproven, as I have shown. This is simply the opinion of some scholars who are committed to the false idea that Jesus just is Yahweh. But even if it were true that ani hu in the mouth of Yahweh was just such a statement of his eternal self-existence, that would not mean that if someone other than God said those words that they would be claiming eternal self-existence. The only reason these scholars think that Jesus’ “I am” statements are an absolute declaration of eternal self-existence is because they already believe Jesus is Yahweh. Are we to believe that no one else can utter the words ‘I am he’ without making a claim to deity. If we assume Jesus to be what he is unambiguously called in Scripture, i.e. a man, then there would be no need to take these ‘I am’ statements as anything more than an emphatic way of identifying himself as Israel’s promised Messiah, sent by God. It is the presuppositional belief in Jesus’ deity that then becomes the basis for interpreting Jesus’ words as a claim to deity. In other words, it is impossible to prove, from Jesus’ use of ani hu, that he is indeed Yahweh. But if one already accepts the belief that Jesus is Yahweh, he will see Jesus’ words as confirmation of that belief. That, my friends, is circular reasoning.




Refutation of the Master’s University Bible Faculty Document on the Trinity and Divinity of Messiah (Part 3)

The Trinity and Divinity of Messiah-92b9c7  Please click on the link to open the pdf of the document we are examining. We pick it up on page 5 at 3. Dealing with supposed objections …

3. Yes it is true, that a major objection to the orthodox tradition that the title ‘Son of God’ ,as it is applied to Jesus in the NT, carries the connotation of deity, is the indisputable fact that of all the uses of this designation in the OT, none of them carry that connotation. For a more thorough study on this topic see my December 2017 post Son of God (Part 1). But I will briefly sketch the OT usage here. There are four uses of the designation in the OT:

  1. heavenly beings (angels?) – Gen. 6:1-4; Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7; Ps. 29:1; 89:6
  2. the members of God’s covenant people – Deut. 14:1; 32:5,6,8,18-20; Hosea 1:10
  3. the covenant nation, Israel – Exodus 4:22,23; Hosea 11:1
  4. the reigning Davidic king – 2 Sam. 7:14; 1 Chron. 17:13; 28:5-6; Ps. 2

As can be seen, in none of these uses is the one or ones designated ‘son of God’ deity. They are all created beings. On top of this, there is no other usage anywhere else in the OT, of this designation. So I ask, what is the basis for the ‘orthodox’ meaning of ‘son of God’ applied to Jesus in the conciliar creeds? Why should we believe that a fundamental change occurred from the OT usage to the NT usage? Since the NT clearly portrays Jesus as the one who will sit on the throne of David and rule over God’s kingdom {see Lk. 1:32}, which coincides with 4. above, why do we need to import a foreign meaning into this biblical title? It was Gentile church fathers of the 2nd – 4th centuries, who were steeped in Greek metaphysics, who developed the ideas about a metaphysical son of God, eternally begotten, of the same substance as the Father etc. , concepts and language which cannot be found anywhere in the NT.

The reference to shepherds in the book of Jeremiah is irrelevant. Shepherds is a metaphor for rulers or leaders throughout Jeremiah, whether foreign leaders or those within Israel. The metaphor is not changing, just being applied to different people. Is the differing uses of the word shepherds in Jeremiah supposed to be justification for ignoring the OT usage of ‘son of God’ and importing into the title a meaning which clearly, historically comes from Greek philosophy? The insistence on the “flexibility of metaphors” is a rather strange defense for exchanging the truth of God for a lie.

I am glad to see that they recognize the “Messiah’s human kingship and fulfillment of that role” in Psalms 2 and 89, but they then insist on seeing things in these Scriptures that are not there. Where in these Psalms (or anywhere else in the Bible) is the Messiah referred to as “God-man.” This is reading orthodox creedal dogma into the OT text. Of course “the relationship between YHWH and his king/Son is put in very exclusive and unique terms” since there is only one person who ever fulfills that role at any given time. Jesus is the final and ideal fulfillment of that role. That role is a special role, placing the one who fills it in an exclusive and unique relationship with Yahweh, as his vice-regent, the one through whom God rules his people. The reference to Ps. 2:12 where the kings of the surrounding nations are warned to “kiss the son” i.e. to put themselves in subjection to God’s vice-regent who is reigning over God’s kingdom, does parallel the statement in v.11 to ” serve (not worship) Yahweh.” The Hebrew word is abad and means to serve as a subject. Now if one would serve God it is incumbent upon him to also be in subjection to God’s appointed ruler. Could anyone in the congregation of Israel, as they came out of Egypt, have served God without submitting to Moses leadership? Although this verse does not speak of worship, there is a verse where the normal Hebrew word for worship, shachah, is used to show the high honor God places on his appointed ruler and the honor that others are required to show him:

Then David said to the whole assembly, “Praise Yahweh your God.” So they all praised Yahweh, the God of their fathers; they bowed down and worshipped Yahweh and the king.   1 Chron. 29:20

Sorry, but there is no implication anywhere in the OT that the “sonship of the ultimate Davidic king is something far beyond human.” Psalm 110 is just another reference to the Davidic ruler which is ideally fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth.

For an explanation of Is. 9:6 see my December 2017 post A Christmas Myth.

John 5:18 – Here is a good example of how the orthodox Christian mind is bound to a certain way of thinking, inherited from the early Gentile church fathers; a way of thinking that is so ingrained, people are not even aware of it. This thought pattern sees everything through a Greek metaphysical perspective. Now most people reading this are completely unaware that they are doing this, but nonetheless this is what they are doing. You see, the Greek metaphysical mindset is just part of the orthodox Christian faith, inherited from 4th and 5th century church councils, which interpreted Scripture through the lens of Greek thought and fixed this mindset into the collective mind of the ‘orthodox’ church. So when an orthodox Christian reads this verse he just can’t help thinking in terms of Greek categories, such as ontology, nature, essence, being, etc. So they understand the statement that Jesus was “calling God his own Father, making himself equal to God,” to mean that Jesus was claiming to be of the same nature or essence as God. But there is another way to understand this statement, one which draws from a different mindset, from the Hebraic categories of status and function. First off, we must understand that this was an accusation from the Jewish leaders. They not only accused Jesus of making himself equal with God, but also of breaking the Sabbath. Were these accusations true? They accused him of breaking the Sabbath because he healed a man on the Sabbath. But is healing a man on the Sabbath really breaking the Sabbath? I think not, especially since it was God himself doing the work through Jesus, as vv.17 and 19 imply. And the accusation that he was making himself equal with God was based on the fact that Jesus was calling God his Father. But does this really mean that Jesus was claiming to be ontologically equal to God? No, and that is not what the Jewish leaders meant. They thought he was making himself equal with God in status and function, and as God’s visible representative he did indeed enjoy an equality with God which was unique to the one chosen to rule for God over His kingdom {see Ps. 45:6; 89:24-27; 110:1}. But the idea that he claimed equality with God based on innate deity is strongly denied in the very next words he spoke:

I tell you the truth, the son has no power from himself to do anything …  v.19

He repeats the same thought in v.30 “I have no power from myself to do anything.”

Matthew 4:3 – Here the author of the paper wants you to believe that Satan thinks Jesus is claiming to be God because he tempted him to turn stones into bread, something, presumably, only God can do. But there were two other temptations recorded. Do either of these other two temptations work with this argument? The second temptation was for Jesus to test God by throwing himself down from the pinnacle of the temple, for God had promised to protect and deliver from harm the one who trusts in him, in Psalm 91. Does that make sense if Satan was thinking Jesus was God. The third temptation was for Jesus to bow down and worship Satan, and if so, Satan would give him authority over all the kingdoms of the world {see Lk. 4:6}. If Jesus were God and Satan knew this, then this temptation would be absurd. How could one be tempted to do evil in order to obtain what is already his, for if Jesus were God then the kingdoms of the world would already be under his dominion. The authors of the paper picked the one temptation that seems to give credibility to the assertion that Satan understood Jesus to be God, while ignoring the other two temptations which do not fit that scheme. The temptations in the desert occurs immediately after Jesus’ baptism, where the Holy Spirit visibly came upon Jesus and the voice from heaven declared him to be God’s son. Though these manifestations were not perceived by the crowd, I believe Satan would have been able to observe them. And after doing so he followed Jesus out into the desert where he attempted to throw him off his predestined course. Now it is not necessary to assume that Jesus could have actually turned the stones into bread or that Satan even thought that he actually could. What Satan was doing in this temptation was trying to get Jesus, in his moment of weakness, to attempt to use his newly acquired power for his own benefit, apart from the will of God. This would have derailed Jesus’ destiny right from the start.

Matt. 14:28-32 – For a thorough treatment of this verse see my January 5th post Son of God (Part 2).

Matt. 28:19 – For this verse see my January 18th post Son of God (Part 3).

Matt. 11:27 – For this verse see once again Son of God (Part 3).

  • This next point seems self-refuting. If the Jews saw themselves as sons and daughters of God because of their special relationship to God, then why would they assume Jesus’ calling God his Father would be a claim to deity. If you say, “Well it was that coupled with the miracles he did.” But there had been others in Israel’s history who had performed mighty acts of power and no one assumed they were God in the flesh. This assertion, that the Jews understood Jesus to be claiming to be the God of their fathers in human flesh, is refuted by the fact that at Jesus’ trials, before both the Sanhedrin and before Pilate, this accusation was never made against him. The claim to be the son of God was understood by the Jews to be a claim to be the chosen one to sit on the throne of David and to rule God’s kingdom, i.e. the Messiah {see Matt. 26:59-66; Lk. 22:66-71; Jn. 19:6-12}.
  • No this is not helpful. No where in the NT is this kind of argument ever put forth. This is man’s reasoning replacing the Scriptural revelation of what ‘son of God’ means. This is silly and childish thinking.

4. Some conclusions from the OT discussion

  • I think I have adequately demonstrated that these supposed Trinitarian tensions are really only imaginary. In every case we have seen that a Trinitarian reading of these texts must be forced upon the texts and is in no sense derived from the texts.
  • I am not sure what is meant by “actual.” Again, we have seen that none of these texts attest to Messiah being divine. If the case for Messiah’s deity rests on the supposed proof texts given in this paper, it is a wonder how anyone could ever be convinced of this doctrine by Scripture alone. For every verse offered as a proof text has been easily refuted, and that by Scripture itself.
  • None of the assertions made in this bullet point were actually drawn out of the texts given as the proof of them. These are mere assertions which have not been proven by this document.


  1. The NT explicitly affirms this – are these the best verses they could come up with as proof texts.
  • 1John 5:20 – This verse has an ambiguity to it; does the phrase “This one is the true God and eternal life” refer to “the one who is true,” which would be God, the Father, or to “his son Jesus Christ.” The authors of this paper obviously take it to refer to Jesus, as do many other Trinitarians, but they withhold from their readers the vital information that the verse is ambiguous and can be interpreted the other way, as even many Trinitarians do. Among orthodox scholars and commentators who see the phrase as a reference to the Father and not to Jesus are Rickli, Lucke, de Wette, Neader, Gerlach, Frommann, Dusterdieck, Erdmann, Myrberg, Bruckner, Braun, Hofmann, Winer, Buttmann, E.W. Bullinger, Lange, L.M. Grant, Vincent, Alford, Zerr, Ellicott, and MacLaren. All agree that the case cannot be determined on grammatical considerations because grammatically it could go either way, so context must determine which is best. Those who favor Jesus as the object of the phrase point to the fact that “his son Jesus Christ” is the nearest antecedent and therefore “This one” must refer to Jesus. But it is not always the nearest antecedent to which a pronoun must refer. It may rather refer to the main subject of the thought, which in v. 20 is “that we may know him who is true (the Father) and we are in him who is true (the Father).” The phrase “in his son Jesus Christ” is simply a parenthetical statement telling us how we are “in him who is true,” i.e. we are in the Father by being in the son. As a parenthetical statement it is not the main thought and is therefore not the subject of what follows. Without the parenthesis the passage flows rather nicely: “… so that we may know the true one, and we are in the true one … this one is the true God and eternal life.” Beside this, John in his gospel records Jesus’ prayer to the Father, in which he says, ” … that they may know you, the only true God …” {John 17:3}. Now let’s give John the respect of not interpreting his words in such a way as to involve him in a contradiction. If he here records that Jesus himself declares the Father to be the only true God, we cannot then think that he would declare Jesus to be the true God, can we. The word only (Gr. monos = sole, alone, only) in John 17:3 surely eliminates anyone else beside the Father, from being the true God.
  • Romans 9:5 – This verse also is ambiguous in the Greek; it is capable of being translated multiple ways, some of which would designate Christ as God, and some which would not. The document appears to quote the NASV, which gives the impression that Christ is being called God. The NIV is the most blatant in this regard reading “… Christ, who is God over all, forever praised.” However, the NIV Study Bible gives two alternate readings in a footnote: ” … Christ, who is over all. God be forever praised.” and “… Christ. God who is over all be forever praised.” The ESV is nearly the same as the NIV but gives no alternate readings. The HCSB reads like the NIV and gives two alternate readings in a footnote, one which still designates Christ as God and one that does not. Needless to say, all modern versions translate the verse in a way that makes Christ God, but not all of them give alternative readings in a footnote, which to my mind is dishonest. The authors of this paper, as well as many apologists for orthodoxy, consider this verse to be a slam dunk proof text for the deity of Christ. Apologists, as well as this paper, rarely alert their hearers of the possible alternative translations of the verse. The verse, as it stands in the NIV, ESV, HCSB and others, is merely the result of the presuppositions (trinitarianism) and the imagination of the translators and editors of these Bibles. For those who may not be aware, in the Greek manuscripts there are no distinctions between small and capital letters and there are no punctuation marks. All of these features, as you see them in your English Bible, are put in solely at the discretion of the translators and/or editors; and you can believe that they will use that discretion to further their theological presuppositions whenever possible. At least some of these Bibles are honest enough to give the alternate readings in a footnote. I believe that after a delineation of the peculiar blessings bestowed upon the covenant people Israel, culminating in the appearance of the Messiah, it would only be natural for Paul, or any Jew for that matter, to break out in word of praise to God. The verse could read like this:… from whom is the Messiah, according to the flesh. God, who is over all be blessed forever.” or like this: ” … from whom is Messiah, according to the flesh. The one being over all, God, be blessed forever.” Here is a list of other doxologies in Paul’s letters, which always refer to God, i.e. the Father: Rom. 1:25; 11:33-36; 16:27; 2 Cor. 1:3; 11:31; Gal. 1:5; Eph. 1:3; 3:20-21; 1 Tim. 1:17; 6:15-16.  Not counting our text, there is no such doxology to Christ in Paul’s letters. Add to this the statement of Paul in Eph 4:6: ” … one God and Father of all, the one over all.” This makes it certain to my mind that the statement refers to God, as distinct from Christ.
  • Luke 24:51-53 – Because this verse (and others) says that the disciples worshipped Jesus it is assumed that they were ascribing deity to him, and since he did not correct them he was claiming deity for himself. But this is based on a fundamental misunderstanding within Christendom of the English word worship, as well as the Hebrew and Greek words behind it. The modern idea behind the word worship is that it is that which should be given to God alone. But this is a relatively recent idea. The modern word worship comes from the old English noun weorthscipe meaning the state of being worthy or honorable. For centuries, in Britain and Canada, it has been used as a title for magistrates and others of high rank, i.e. ‘Your Worship.’ At some point it began to be used as a verb with the meaning to show reverence and honor to one who is worthy. For example, in the Church of England’s wedding vows the man is to promise his wife, “with my body I thee worship.” It also began to be used with reference to God i.e. ascribing worthiness to God, but continued to be used, as it had always been, with reference to men. Once again, the idea that worship is something only to be given to God is a recent development in the evolution of the word. So when you are reading the NT and you come across a verse that says that someone worshipped Jesus, there is no basis for assuming that they are ascribing deity to him; it’s just not that simple, as you will see.

Now let’s look at the Biblical words which are sometimes translated by the word ‘worship’ in our English Bibles. The Hebrew word is shachah = to bow down, to prostrate oneself, to pay homage to a superior or to God. The word was used to express ones show of honor, reverence, or submission to another:

  • to God – Gen. 24:26  “Then the man bowed down and worshipped (shachah) Yahweh”
  • to Jacob –  Gen. 27:29  “May nations serve you and peoples bow down (shachah) to you. Be lord over your brothers and may the sons of your mother bow down (shachah) to you.”
  • to Joseph – Gen. 43:28  ” … And they bowed low to pay him honor (shachah).
  • to Jethro – Ex.18:7  “So Moses went out to meet his father-in-law and bowed down (shachah) and kissed him.”
  • to an angel – Joshua 5:14b  “… Then Joshua fell facedown to the ground and worshipped (shachah), and asked him, ‘What message does my lord have for his servant?’ “
  • to king Saul – 1 Sam.24:8   “Then David went out of the cave and called to Saul, ‘My lord the king!’ When Saul looked behind him, David, bowed down and prostrated himself (shachah) with his face to the ground.”   
  • to David – 1 Sam 25:41  “She bowed down (shachah) with her face to the ground and said, ‘Here is your maidservant, ready to serve you and wash the feet of my master’s servants.’ “
  • to Elisha – 2 Kings 4:37   “She came in, fell at his feet and bowed (shachah) to the ground … “

Shachah is used many times throughout 2 Samuel and 1 & 2 Kings of people paying homage to the king, and of course is used many other times of people worshipping God. Most English versions make a distinction between shachah when done toward God, usually translated as ‘worship,’ and when done toward men, usually translated as bow down to, prostrate oneself before, pay honor to. The English reader has no idea that the same Hebrew word is used in both cases, leaving the impression that in Scripture, only God is rightly worshipped. But if we understand worship to be showing honor and reverence to one who is worthy, such as a king, then we will have a better understanding of the biblical concept of worship.

In the NT the Greek equivalent of shachah is proskuneo, which is the word used in Luke 24:52. Proskuneo is the Greek word used in the LXX to translate shachah in all of the verses listed above except Joshua 5:14, where the LXX reads differently than the Hebrew text. In fact it is used to translate shachah consistently throughout the LXX. No distinction is made between shachah rendered to God and that rendered to men; both are translated by proskuneo.

So when we come to the NT and we see in our English versions, that people offer ‘worship’ to Jesus in the gospels, we must understand that the Greek word behind our English ‘worship’ is proskuneo. And the LXX has already set a precedent that proskuneo can rightly be offered to men, to show honor and reverence to those worthy of it. Now let me show you how theological bias has crept into our English versions. All English versions are consistent in translating proskuneo done to God by the word ‘worship.’ When proskuneo is given to men by other men, such as at Matt. 18:26, the English versions are consistent in rendering that as fell down on his knees, prostrated himself, bowed down before or something like that. I don’t have a problem with this necessarily, reserving the word ‘worship’ for God. Where the bias comes in is how the English versions translate proskuneo when it is given to Jesus. In most cases our English versions render it by the word ‘worship.’ Now what connotation is intended by this translation except that Jesus is being given honor as God, i.e. that the people who are giving proskuneo to Jesus are ascribing deity to him? Let’s take for example Matt.2:2,8 & 11, where the Magi come to Jerusalem with the express purpose of offering proskuneo to the child Jesus (v.2). Are we to believe that these foreigners understood Jesus to be God? That is highly unlikely. They came seeking “the one who has been born king of the Jews.” They did not say that they were seeking God incarnate or the God-man or God the son, but the king of the Jews. The proskuneo they wanted to give to Jesus was the same as we see in the LXX where proskuneo is given to the king on numerous occasions. It is clear that the word should have been rendered as to pay homage to or to pay honor to instead of to worship. This is where a theological presupposition has determined how a passage of Scripture would be translated. I believe that it is never the case, when proskuneo is given to Jesus in the gospels, that the ones offering it think that Jesus is God. What all of these people were doing was paying homage to Jesus as either a prophet, a great Rabbi, or as the promised Messiah from the line of David who would rule over Israel as king.

So our text in Luke 24:52 would better be rendered, “Having paid him homage they returned to Jerusalem with great joy.” The word ‘worship’ being put in this verse is the result of the theological presupposition that Jesus is God. This supposition is not derived from such verses, but imposed upon them.

Now regarding the footnote (6) at the bottom of page 8, it is confusing and I am not sure what is being said. Do they mean that the line about the disciples worshipping Jesus is parallel with the line about the disciples praising God continually in the temple? If so, that assertion is absurd on it’s face and reveals a rather strange way of reading Scripture. Why would anyone assume the two thoughts are parallel unless they are approaching the text with their presupposition in the forefront of their thinking. Then this comment is made, “God is the one who blesses as Jesus does.” What does this even mean? Because Jesus is said to have blessed his disciples this means he is God? Once again this is simply absurd. The exact same words used of Jesus here are used of Aaron in Lev. 9:22:

“Then Aaron lifted his hands toward the people and blessed them.”

Perhaps the church should hold another council to consider including Aaron in the Godhead.

Please click the comment link to leave a comment or question. Thankyou.








John 8:58

John 8:58  –   “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am.”

This verse is taken by many Christian teachers, apologists and Bible commentators as one of the clearest statements in the NT of the pre-existence and deity of Messiah. It appears that Jesus is saying 1) that he existed before Abraham, and 2) that he is himself  Yahweh, in accordance with Exodus 3:14. This has been the standard way of understanding this passage ever since the early church fathers from the middle of the second century forward. What I hope to show is that this interpretation of this text is merely superficial and was driven by a different mindset than what we find in the whole of Scripture.



The Exodus 3:14 Connection

There are two aspects of the Trinitarian interpretation of this text we need to look at. First is the claim that Jesus, in saying the words ‘I am’, is claiming the Divine name for himself in accordance with Exodus 3:14. This is a clear assertion that Jesus was claiming to be, in fact, Yahweh, the God of the OT. Exodus 3:14 reads as follows in most versions of the Bible:

God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites, ‘I am has sent me to you.’ “

Immediately one can see the verbal similarity between the statement of Yahweh and the statement of Jesus, as it stands in most English versions. This is what has led many to conclude a meaningful connection between the two statements. But I will show that this connection between the two statements is purely superficial.

The Hebrew behind the phrase ‘I am who I am’ is ehyeh asher ehyeh. The usual translation of ‘I am who I am’ is by no means certain. Many recent scholars have called into question this rendering of the Hebrew phrase, including many Jewish scholars, insisting on the translationI will be who I will be.’ As I understand, this is because ‘ehyeh’ is the first person singular imperfect form of hayah . According to the Brown-Driver-Briggs lexicon hayah has three predominate meanings I. fall out, happen, occur, take place, come about, come to pass. II. come into being, become, arise, appear, come on the scene. III. to be, exist, live. Now in Biblical Hebrew, the imperfect, as well as the perfect, does not have tense but denotes incomplete action, whether in the past, present or future. The tense or time factor of the verb is determined by context and syntax. Imperfects are usually expressed in English by the future tense, although they can express present and even past action; whereas Hebrew perfects are usually expressed by the present or past tense, although they can express future action. So we can see that it is not a simple matter to translate this phrase. It really seems to be a matter of what one thinks God is trying to convey in the answer to Moses’ question in v. 13:

“Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them.”

I must point out something which is usually not perceived when v. 14 is read in isolation from the context of the whole passage. What God says in v.14 is not the answer to the question of what is God’s name. The answer to that question comes in v. 15:

God said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites, ‘YHWH (not ehyeh), the God of your fathers… has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, the name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation.

What God says in v. 14 is not his name proper, but appears to be a play on words, in that ehyeh sounded like YHWH, at least in Moses’ time. We see this kind of playing off of words that sound similar a number of times in the OT, e.g. Gen. 2:7; 4:1; 5:29; 30:18; 41:51; 49:8; Ex. 2:10; 18:3; Josh. 5:9; Jdg. 15:16; Jer. 1:11-12; 19:1,7,10; 48:2; Micah 18-16. It may be, in this case, more than just a similarity of sound, it may involve a similar meaning. But the exact, definite meaning of YHWH is debated.

So how should the phrase ehyeh asher ehyeh be translated? As I said before this depends on what one thinks God’s answer to Moses to be communicating. If one is of the mind that he sees it as a declaration by God of his eternal self-existence, then he will probably translate it in the traditional way as ‘I am who I am.’ But, if one instead, sees this as a declaration by God of his faithfulness to Israel, to be with them and to deliver them, based on his covenant promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, then he will translate it as ‘I will be who (what) I will be’ or ‘I am who (what) I will be.’ This would have the meaning of  ‘I will be whatever I need to be to Israel to fulfill the covenant I made with their fathers.’

Now because the traditional way of translating this phrase as ‘I am who I am’ is so familiar ( and I might add sentimentally dear), whenever an alternate translation is offered many will just reject it out of hand as an attempt to ‘change the word of God.’ Therefore it is necessary to take some time to show the validity of the translation ‘I will be what (or who) I will be.”

First, the word ehyeh appears 43 times in the Hebrew Bible and in the majority of those occurrences nearly every modern or popular Bible version translates the word as “I will be,” including the LXX. I will not list every verse here; anyone can look up the word in a concordance and find the verses. But I will list a few, those in Exodus, Deut., Joshua and Judges:

  1. Ex. 3:12 –     Here just two verses before v. 14 we find God encouraging Moses with this promise, I certainly will be with you … ”  –  ISV
  2. Ex. 4:12 –      “Now therefore go, and I will be with your mouth … ”  –  ESV
  3. Ex. 4:15 –      ” … and I, even I, will be with your mouth … “  –   NASV
  4. Deut. 31:23 –   “The LORD (said) to Joshua … I myself will be with you.” –   NIV
  5. Joshua 1:5 –   ” I will be with you, just as I was with Moses … “  –    HCSB
  6. Joshua 3:7 –   “And the LORD said unto Joshua … know that, as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee.”  –   KJV
  7. Judges 6:16 –  “And the LORD said unto him: ‘Surely I will be with thee, and thou shall smite the Midianites … ”  –   JPS Tanakh
  8. Judges 11:9 –   “Jephthah said to the leaders of Gilead, “All right! If you take me back to fight with the Ammonites and the Lord gives them to me, I will be your leader.” – NET

So you can see that many Bible versions have no problem with translating ehyeh as ‘I will be’ rather than ‘I am.’ This is not to say that ‘I am’ would not work in some occurrences of the word, but only to show the legitimacy of  ‘I will be’ as a translation choice. There are a few of the 43 passages where ehyeh occurs where ‘I am’ does work better, like the four passages in Job at 3:16, 10:19, 12:4, 17:6. So we can see the flexibility of the imperfect Hebrew verb form and how context is necessary to help determine tense. Now the fact that all of the translations that translated ehyeh as ‘I will be’ in the majority of it’s occurrences, especially at Ex. 3:12 and 4:12,15, chose to translate it as ‘I am’ at 3:14, is suspicious. Could this be a simple case of Trinitarian bias in translation. One person in a recent Facebook discussion mocked this idea as conspiratorial, pointing out that some of the translators on these translating committees are not even Christians, much less Trinitarians. I don’t know if that is true, but even if it is it is irrelevant. The editors of the major Bible translations are Trinitarians and no doubt have the final say on any verse’s final wording. What is never known by the reading public is the various alternate translations which were offered by the translators. You can believe that, concerning an important verse like Ex. 3:14, committed Trinitarian editors do not want to lose the connection with John 8:58, even if it is a superficial connection, and so would choose ‘I am’ over the better ‘I will be.’ Many modern versions do however include a footnote with the alternate reading ‘I will be what (or who) I will be,’ such as the NIV, ESV, HCSB, and ISV.

Further evidence of the validity of this alternate reading are the Greek translations of Aquila  and of Theodotion. Both of these 2nd century Greek versions of the OT translate ehyeh asher ehyeh into Greek as esomai hos esomai. Esomai is the future indicative 1st person singular form of eimi and is translated into English as ‘I will be.’ It is true that the earlier LXX translates the passage into Greek as ego eimi ho on meaning ‘I am the one who is,’ but some  scholars feel that Aquila and Theodotion were assuming to correct what they felt was an inaccurate translation of the Hebrew into Greek. Could the translators of the LXX have been influenced by Greek metaphysics to translate this passage as a statement by God of his eternal self- existence rather than as a statement of his commitment to be to Israel whatever he would need to be in order to fulfill the covenant he made with their fathers? I think that is entirely possible.

The famed Rabbi Joseph Hertz, in his notable work The Pentateuch and Hoftorahs, said this in a footnote regarding Ex. 3:14:

“Most moderns follow Rashe in rendering ‘I will be what I will be’ i.e. no words can sum up all that he will be to his people, but his everlasting faithfulness and unchanging mercy will more and more manifest themselves in the guidance of Israel. The answer which Moses receives in these words is thus equivalent to, ‘I shall save in the way that I shall save.’ It is to assure the Israelites of the fact of deliverance, but does not disclose the manner.”

J. Washington Watts, professor of OT at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary from 1930-1968, in his 1977 work A Distinctive Translation of Exodus With An Interpretive Outline, said this:

“Such a translation as ‘I am what I am’ appears to be ruled out completely by the fact that the verbs here are imperfects. ‘I am’ is the normal translation of the Hebrew perfect, not an imperfect … The translation offered here relates this explanation of the name to covenants with the patriarchs. As such it was a basis of assurance concerning Yahweh’s presence and support. This thought is made explicit in the verse that follows, and the proper name Yahweh, the memorial name, is made synonymous with the description ‘I shall continue to be what I have always been.’ This makes the description a restatement of Yahweh’s faithfulness and assurance that he will fulfill the covenants with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”

So my point is this: It appears that the better translation of Ex. 3:14 is “I will be what I will be,” on both grammatical and contextual grounds, and so any verbal connection to John 8:58 is brought into serious doubt.

Another thing that needs to be considered is the LXX rendering of ehyeh asher ehyeh and how this corresponds with the ‘I am’ statement of Jesus. As noted above, the Greek of the LXX reads ego eimi ho on, which is translated into English as ‘I am he (the one) who is’ or ‘I am the being.’ My point here is not to argue for or against the validity of this translation of the Hebrew phrase into Greek, but merely to show the unlikely connection to John 8:58. Now when Jesus spoke the words recorded in John 8:58 it is highly certain, even indisputable, that he was not speaking in Greek. The context tells us he is addressing the Pharisees in Jerusalem and so would be speaking in Hebrew, or at least in Aramaic. The apostle John would most likely have been present when Jesus spoke those words. Now if John had heard Jesus speak the words ‘I am’ in Hebrew and understood him to be claiming to be the same one who spoke the words ehyeh asher ehyeh to Moses, what would be the best way for John to communicate that in the Greek language? If John wanted his readers to understand that Jesus was claiming eternal self-existence, how could John best get that point over in Greek? All he would have to do is put into Jesus’ mouth the  exact words of the popular and widely used LXX – ego eimi ho on – and any Jew in the dispersion and any Gentile proselyte or convert to Judaism would have immediately made the connection to Ex. 3:14. But this is not how John translated Jesus’ words; he simply has Jesus saying ego eimi. In the LXX the ego eimi is not the part of the statement that supposedly conveys the idea of eternal self-existence, but rather the ho on. In other words, why doesn’t John record Jesus as saying ‘ego eimi ho on’ i.e. ‘I am he who is.’ The ego eimi part of ego eimi ho on is nothing more than me saying ‘I am Troy’ or “I am a man.’ I contend then, that this also makes it extremely unlikely that Jesus’ ‘I am’ has any connection whatsoever to Ex. 3:14.

The Grammar of John 8:58

As in the case with Ex. 3:14, the traditional English translation of John 8:58 is not without dispute. The English “before Abraham was I am” seems like a rather straight-forward translation of the  Greek prin Abraam genesthai ego eimi. Here’s the breakdown on the grammar:

  • prin  –  adverb meaning before , prior to
  • Abraam  –  masculine singular noun in the accusative case, Abraham
  • genesthai  –  aorist infinitive verb in the middle voice meaning to become, come into a new state of being, to be born, to receive being, arise, come on the scene, come about
  • ego  –  1st person singular personal pronoun meaning ‘I’
  • eimi  –  1st Person singular present indicative verb meaning to be, to exist, to live

Now the word we need to look at closely is eimi. It seems to be a clear cut, foregone conclusion, taken with ego, that the only possible translation would be “I am” or “I exist”. But there may be more than meets the eye here. There is a use of the present indicative verb form in Greek that can be expressed by the perfect tense in English. It is known as the progressive present or the present of past action. The rule seems to be that when there is an indicator of past time the present indicative is best translated as a perfect tense in English. This Greek idiom expresses the idea of an action occurring in the past and continuing to the present. Biblical examples are:

1.) Luke 15:29  –  ” … Look, so many years (past time indicator) I serve (present indicative verb) you, and I have never disobeyed your commandment, and you never gave to me a young goat … ”   Literal translation from the Greek.

Here we see the present indicative verb used with a past time indicator.  Note how it doesn’t sound right in English. Now observe how modern versions translate the verb in English by a perfect tense:

  • NIV  –  “Look! All these years I have been slaving for you …”
  • ESV  –  “Look, these many years I have served you …”
  • HCSB  –  “Look, I have been slaving many years for you …”
  • ISV  –  “Listen! All these years I’ve worked like a slave for you …
  • NAS  –  “Look, for so many years I have been serving you …”

The implication of the present indicative in this case is that the son has been serving his father so many years and still is.

2.) John 15:27  –  “And you also are witnesses, because  from the beginning (past time indicator) you are (present indicative verb) with me.”

Again we note how this doesn’t sound right in English, and how modern versions translate it:

  • NET  –  “And you also will testify, because you have been with me from the beginning.”
  • ASV  –  ” and ye also bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning.”
  • CSB  –  “And you also will testify, because you have been with me from the beginning.”
  • NIV  –  “And you also must testify, for you have been with me from the beginning.”
  • ESV  –  “And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.

Again, the implication is that the disciples have been with Jesus from the beginning and still are.

3.) 1 John 3:8  –  ” from the beginning (past time indicator) the devil is sinning (present indicative) …”

  • NASB  –  ” … the devil has sinned from the beginning … “
  • ESV  –  ” … for the devil has been sinning from the beginning …”
  • ISV  –  ” … because the devil has been sinning from the beginning …”
  • NET  –  “ … because the devil has been sinning from the beginning … “
  • NASB  –  ” .. for the devil has sinned from the beginning … “

Other examples of this phenomenon in the NT are: Mark 9:21; Luke 13:7; John 5:6; 8:25; 14:9; Acts 15:21; and of course John 8:58. There are also examples of the ‘progressive present’ in the LXX and in extrabiblical and secular writings of the time.

In John 8:58 we find the same kind of past time indicator (before Abraham was) in conjunction with a present indicative verb (I am). But what we fail to find is any popular modern version translating this ‘progressive present’ in the same way they translated the other verses of similar construction, i.e. with a past or perfect tense verb. Why? Well I am sure the editors of these Bibles will have a ready excuse, but one has to be suspicious as to why John 8:58 is the only case of a progressive present, in these versions, that is not translated with a past or perfect tense. Could their choice to translate John 8:58 in this way have been theologically motivated? Indeed, I think it highly probable.

So how does this information affect our understanding of Jesus’ statement in John 8:58? It becomes possible and even probable that the present indicative ‘I am’ can be translated into English as a perfect tense, i.e. ‘I have been.’ This would even further detach this passage from any connection with Exodus 3:14, and nullify the claim that Jesus is here asserting self- existence. At best this verse could only be a support for the pre-existence of Jesus, but not for a self claim to deity.

Next, I want to deal with the absence of a predicate in Jesus’ statement. It seems that we have two options here: 1.) We can take eimi as copulative in function, in which case the predicate must be supplied by implication from the context; or 2.) we can take eimi in an existential sense, in which case no predicate would be needed. Let’s look at the first option. As stated above, if eimi is serving as a copula, then good English requires a predicate in order for the statement to make sense. This predicate, if not explicit in the Greek, is implicit and must be supplied by the English reader. Now before you go and accuse me of adding words to Scripture, I want you to see that this is the practice of all modern versions in all verses where eimi is clearly functioning as a copula but where the predicate is not explicit in the text. The construction ego eimi without a predicate occurs 18 times in the NT: Matt. 14:27; 26:22, 25; Mark 6:50; 13:6; 14:62; Luke 21:8; 22:70; John 4:26; 6:20; 8:24, 28; 8:58; 9:9; 13:19; 18: 5,6,8. I will not deal with every one of these verses but mainly with those in John’s gospel. But let’s look first at Mark 13:6 and Luke 21:8, which both read, strictly from the Greek, “Many will come in my name saying ‘I am’ …” As you can see, this makes no sense in English without a predicate, so modern versions supply the implied predicate, mostly with ‘he,’ hence ‘I am he.’ ‘I am he’ is found in the ASV, CSB, ESV, NET, NASB, NIV and HCSB, while the KJV has ‘I am Christ‘ in both places. The interesting thing is that Matthew, in his account in 24:5, supplies the predicate himself, reading in Greek, ego eimi ho christos, i.e. ‘I am the Christ.’ Matthew obviously understood Jesus’ ‘I am’ in this way.

Let’s look at the verses in John, excluding 6:20 and 8:58. In 4:26 ‘he’ is added as a predicate by the ASV, CSB, ESV, HCSB, ISV, NET, NIV, KJV and NASB. In 8:24, 28, 13:19  and 18: 5, 6 and 8 ‘he’ is added by the ASV, CSB, ESV, HCSB, NET, NIV, KJV and NASB. In 9:9 the ASV and KJV add ‘he‘, ESV and NIV add ‘the man‘, and the CSB, HCSB, NET and NASB add ‘the one.’

Why have all of these translations added these words that are not in the Greek text? Simply because in English a copula without a predicate doesn’t make sense. Anyone reading John’s Greek gospel in the first century would automatically mentally add the predicate implied by the context. Our English translations are correct to add the predicates in order to smooth out the sentence. But what about John 8:58? None of these versions has supplied a predicate at 8:58. Is this another case of translation bias? Perhaps, for you can be sure that the editors of these Bibles do not want to lose the connection of this verse with Exodus 3:14, as a proof text for Jesus’ deity, although, as we have shown, that connection is tenuous at best. But perhaps some of them see the ego eimi in 8:58 as an existential statement, i.e. “Before Abraham was, I exist.” Of course that does not work in English. This is where they would have to follow their pattern of translating the present indicative, when accompanied by a past time indicator, with a perfect tense verb, i.e. “Before Abraham was, I have been.” But as noted above, none of these versions followed their normal pattern for translating the progressive present at 8:58.

So based on the two grammatical options for eimi, and the fact that eimi is a progressive present, we could translate the verse in two ways. Based on option 1 above we could read:

“Before Abraham was, I have been the one.”

And based on option 2 above we could read:

“Before Abraham was, I have been.”

Immediate Context

Now the context must determine what ‘the one’ would mean. We know from the context of the whole book of John that ultimately ‘the one’ would refer to the promised one, the Messiah. The whole purpose of the book was to inculcate the belief that Jesus is the Messiah, the son of God, not that he is God.

“But these things are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.  John 20:31

The more immediate context would be the whole of chapter 8, for v.58 is still part of the discourse which began at v.12. In v. 12 Jesus claims to be the light of the world, perhaps with Messianic passages from Isaiah in mind, such as 9:2, 42:6 and 49:6. In vv.16 and 18 he claims to have been sent by the Father. This is the language of agency i.e. he is the appointed agent of the Father. In v. 24 he tells them, “you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am he,” meaning the one sent by the Father and the light foretold by Isaiah. In v.28 he says, “When you have lifted up the son of man, then you will know that I am he,” i.e. the son of man. In vv. 31-47 Jesus claims that his word, as the Father’s appointed agent i.e. the Son, is the truth of God, which must be believed and held fast in order for one to be considered a child of Abraham. In v. 51 he claims that his word must be held fast if one would have life. To this the Jews respond:

” … Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that if anyone keeps your word, he will never taste death Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you make yourself to be?   vv.52-53

In v. 56 Jesus says :

” Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day, and he saw and was glad.

It is often asserted by trinitarian apologists that Jesus was saying that Abraham actually saw him as the pre-incarnate Son, as the Angel of the Lord. But Jesus does not say that Abraham saw him personally, but that he foresaw the time of Messiah, in which Abraham rejoiced, knowing that, in that time, he would be raised from the dead to receive his inheritance {see Rom. 4:17 and Heb. 11:13 & 19}.

The Jews then retort, “You are not yet fifty years old and you have seen Abraham?” This is often understood as if these Jews really misunderstood what Jesus was saying. But were these Jews really that stupid? I do not think so. This is what people often do in debate when they cannot respond to an opponents argument — they twist their opponents words, mockingly, to make it seem like the opponent meant their words in some ridiculous way. But Jesus never said he saw Abraham. So Jesus, ignoring their attempt to make him look foolish, said “I tell you the truth, before Abraham was, I have been.” This would be the translation based on option 2 above. Without the connection to Ex. 3:14 there is no reason to read this as a claim to deity. At most it appears to be a claim to have existed before Abraham. Is Jesus claiming to have existed before Abraham was born? Yes, but only in a certain manner. If this is the way we should understand eimi, i.e. existentially, then we can understand Jesus to be claiming some kind of pre-existence, before the time of Abraham. I say some kind of pre-existence because in the Hebrew worldview pre-existence was not literal and personal, but only in the mind, plan and purpose of God.

Pre-existence in Jewish Thought

Some ancient Jewish writings help to give us insight in this matter. From the Genesis Rabbah, a midrash on the book of Genesis, at 1.4 we read:

Six things precede the creation of the world; some of them were actually created, while the creation of the others was already contemplated. The Torah and the Throne of Glory were created … The creation of the Patriarchs was contemplated … [The creation of] Israel was contemplated … [The creation of] the temple was contemplated … The name of Messiah was contemplated …

From the Babylonian Talmud, Peshaim 54a, we read:

Seven things were created before the world was made, and these are they: Torah, repentance, the Garden of Eden, Gehenna, the throne of glory, and the house of the sanctuary, and the name of the Messiah.

We see from these texts that in the Jewish mind these things had a sort of existence long before they were actually brought to pass in the real world. This existence was not viewed as actual but in the purpose and plan, the blueprint as it were, of that which God willed to bring about. Many scholars over many years have confirmed this Jewish perspective of pre-existence. Norwegian theologian and professor Sigmund Mowinckel, in his work titled, He That Cometh: The Messiah Concept in the Old Testament and Later Judaism, wrote this concerning pre-existence in Jewish thought:

Attribution of preexistence indicates religious importance of the highest order. Rabbinic theology speaks of the Law, of God’s throne of glory, of Israel … as things which were already present with [God] before the creation of the world. the same is also true of the Messiah … in Pesikta Rabbati 152b it is said that “from the beginning of the creation of the world the King Messiah was born, for he came up in the thought of God before the world was created.” This means that from all eternity it was the will of God that the Messiah should come into existence, and should do his work in the world to fulfill God’s eternal saving purpose.     p.334

E. G. Selwyn in his commentary on 1 Peter wrote: “When the Jew wished to designate something as predestined, he spoke of it as already ‘existing’ in heaven.”

Emil Schurer in The History of the Jewish People in the Age of Jesus Christ, Vol.2 p.522 wrote: “In Jewish thinking, everything truly valuable preexisted in heaven.”

Catholic theologian Karl-Josef Kuschel, on p. 218 of Born Before All Time?, wrote: ” … in the synagogue a particular kind of pre-existence was always associated with the Messiah, but it did not set him apart from other men. This is pre-existence in God’s thought, the ideal pre-existence of the Messiah.”

Reverend Maurice Wiles, Professor of Divinity at Oxford, wrote in The Remaking of Christian Doctrine:

Within the Christian tradition, the New Testament has long been read through the prism of the later conciliar creeds … Speaking of Jesus as the Son of God had a very different connotation in the first century from that which it has had ever since the Council of Nicaea (325 CE). Talk of his pre-existence ought probably in most, perhaps in all, cases to be understood on the analogy of the pre-existence of the Torah, to indicate the eternal divine purpose being achieved through him, rather than pre-existence of a fully personal kind.

Now this concept of things existing in the mind, will and plan of God before they have actual, real world existence can be seen in Scripture. One example is Rev. 4:11:

“Worthy are you, our Lord and our God … for you created (aorist indicative) all things, and on account of your will they existed (imperfect indicative) and were created (aorist indicative).”

Here we see that all things were existing because of God’s will and then were created. In Isaiah 37:26 the word of the LORD came against Sennacherib, “Have you not heard? Long ago I accomplished it. From ancient times I planned it; now I have brought it to pass, that you exist to turn fortified cities into ruinous heaps.”

The Apostle Paul tells us something interesting about God in Romans 4:17:

As it is written: “I have made you a father of many nations.” He (Abraham) is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed — the One who … calls things not existing as if existing.

Paul seems to be implying that this is a normal way for God to speak. But when God calls things which do not exist as if they did exist, is he lying? No, because they do exist in a particular way, i.e. in his purpose and plan. God said to Abram, before he even had a child, “I have made you a father of many nations.” The only sense in which this could be true is that in God’s plan He made Abram such.

So, though Jesus’ statement in John 8:58 implies a pre-existence before Abraham, this should not be understood as a literal, personal existence, but an ideal existence in God’s plan. His statement also asserts a priority over Abraham in the purpose of God. Remember the Jews’ question, “Are you greater than our father Abraham?” Indeed, Jesus is claiming a greater position in the plan and purpose of God than that of Abraham. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, as well as King David, all had important roles in God’s plan, but they were in a sense only means to the ultimate figure in God’s plan, Messiah. You see, the Messiah had to come from a certain people, through a certain family line. God chose Abraham, then Isaac, then Jacob. From Jacob he chose Judah, and from him David. All of these played an important role in bringing the Messiah into the world, but it is Messiah who is the focal point of God’s overall plan. Though Abraham could also be said to have pre-existed in the plan of God, Messiah’s pre-existence would be antecedent to Abrahams. God, as it were, wrote the plan concerning Messiah, and then wrote Abraham into the plan as the means through which he would bring Messiah into the world.

Now it is often claimed that because the Jews picked up stones to throw at Jesus, that this is proof that he was claiming to be God. This is supposed to be what blasphemy is — claiming to be God. But where does this idea come from? Nowhere in Scripture is blasphemy ever defined as ‘claiming to be God.’ It is not likely that anyone in the history of Israel was ever stoned for claiming to be God. If anyone had ever made such a claim he would have been pitied as deluded and out of his mind. Blasphemy was the sin of speaking about or against God in a derogatory way. Also, in the Jewish mind, one could also blaspheme against Moses, the temple and the law {see Acts 6:11-14}. The patriarchs were highly esteemed and for one to claim superiority over someone like Abraham would also be considered blasphemy, after all, he was the progenitor of their nation. It would also have been considered blasphemy to claim to be the Messiah {see Matt. 26:59-66; Mark 14:55-64; LK. 22:66-71}. Further proof that the Jews did not hear, in Jesus’ statement, a claim to be God, is the accusations brought against him at his trial before Pilate. In none of the gospel accounts is it said at Jesus’ trial that he had claimed to be God. Even in the Gospel of John, where Jesus is supposed to be making the clearest declaration of his deity, we do not find this being brought against him as an accusation. When the Jewish leaders brought Jesus to Pilate, in John 19, and Pilate was inclined to release him, they accused him saying, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the son of God.” (v.7) Pilate questioned Jesus further and again wanted to release him, but the Jews shouted, “If you let this man go you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.” (v.12) This coincides with the other gospels {see Matt.27:11-13; Mark 15:1-3; Lk. 23:1-3}.


So, when all the evidence is taken together, it appears that the interpretation of John 8:58 which purports that Jesus is making a claim to deity is indeed a superficial reading of the text. The only thing it seems to have in it’s favor is that it supports the orthodox tradition of Christ’s deity. But it ignores so much in arriving at it’s conclusion. It ignores the Hebraic context and worldview in which the Gospel of John is positioned. It ignores the grammatical considerations which work against it. It ignores the tenuousness of the connection to Ex. 3:14. It ignores the immediate context of John’s gospel, who’s stated purpose is that his readers might believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the son of God { 20:31}.

One Final Alternative

There is one other possible translation and interpretation of John 8:58. It hinges on the word genesthai. This is translated in all versions, as far as I know, with a past tense verb in English, i.e. “before Abraham was (or was born) …” The verb form in Greek is an aorist infinitive. The aorist form definitely denotes past action only in the indicative mood. Here the mood is the infinitive, and so there is no definite time implied. It could be speaking of a past, present or future action; only the context can determine which. When we look at this exact word in other places in the NT we see that it often is used to denote a future action, e.g.

  1. Matt. 20:26  –  ” … whoever wants to become great among you… “
  2. Mark 1:17  –  “ … I will make you to become fishers of men … “
  3. Mark 13:7  –  ” … such things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.”
  4. John 5:6  –  ” And Jesus seeing him … said, ‘Do you desire to be well.’
  5. Acts 26:29  –  “Paul said … “I wish to God … for all those hearing me today, to become as I am … “
  6. Acts 27:29  –  ” … they prayed for day to come.”

The reason that virtually all versions translate it as a past tense is because it is assumed that the context is referring to Abraham’s coming to be at his birth. But this is not the only possible way to understand the context. As we saw above, in the context of the passage, the Jews, in vv.52-53, mention the fact that Abraham died, yet Jesus claims that if anyone holds fast to his word they will never die. They want to know who he thinks he is claiming to be greater than Abraham. Then Jesus gives the answer about Abraham rejoicing that he would see Messiah’s day, presumably by resurrection. Then the Jews attempt to make Jesus look foolish, but he ignores them and states the phrase under consideration, which could be translated as “Before Abraham comes to be (in the resurrection) I am (to be).” If we take genesthai in a future tense then eimi would be copulative and the predicate implied from the context. Jesus would in this case be asserting that he would experience resurrection unto immortality apart from and prior to Abraham and all the righteous dead. This would, once again, mean that Jesus has the supremacy over Abraham and all others. This accords with Paul’s statement in Col. 1:17:

“… he is the beginning  and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he  might have the supremacy.”

And in Romans 14:9:

“For this very reason, Christ died and has come to life again so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living.”

This interpretation works well with both the grammar and the context and should be considered viable.






Refutation of the Master’s University Bible Faculty Document on the Trinity and Divinity of Messiah (Part 2)

The Trinity and Divinity of Messiah-92b9c7 Here is the pdf of the document we are examining. We pick up on page 2 at 2.

2. The assertion is that the Messiah is depicted as divine in the OT. As we shall see, the proof texts that are given in support of this assertion fail miserably to establish it as true. Once again we find the authors of this paper engaging in rather embarrassing attempts to find hints of the Trinity doctrine in Scripture.

What follows in the paper are 12 bullet points. I will take them one by one.

  • One can see the Messiah as deity in the storyline of the OT if one has already been indoctrinated to see that. Messiah is depicted as the One who will fulfill what no human Davidic king could ever be or do? Another mere assertion without any evidence to support it. They ask the reader to confer Pss.2 and 72, Isaiah chapters 7-11 and Micah chapters 3-5, as Scriptural proof that Messiah will be and do what no human could be or do. Now obviously we cannot go through each of these passages exhaustively, but I do ask my readers to stop here and to go read through these chapters and write down anything you come across that you feel would be an impossibility for a human king chosen by God, anointed by God, empowered by God, in whom and through whom God is working, to accomplish.

Okay you’re back. Now since the paper does not tell us what specific verses in these passages are pertinent to their assertion I will have to guess. The only thing I can possibly see in Ps. 2 that would cause them to include it, is verses 7-9 and 12. Psalm 2 is a coronation Psalm most likely written by David for Solomon’s coronation day, and probably recited at the coronations of subsequent kings. It is based on God’s promise to David as recorded in 1Chron. 17:11-14:

” … I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever. I will be his father and he will be my son … I will set him over my house and my kingdom forever; his throne will be established forever.

This was initially fulfilled in Solomon as David says in 1 Chron. 28:5-7:

“Of all my sons, and Yahweh has given me many, he has chosen my son Solomon to sit on the throne of the kingdom of Yahweh over Israel. He said to me, ‘Solomon your son is the one  … for I have chosen him to be my son, and I will be his father. I will establish his kingdom forever if he is unswerving in carrying out my commands and laws as is being done at this time.’ “

This shows that while the covenant with David was unconditional, that only those from his line would rule over God’s kingdom, it was conditional for each one chosen from David’s line as to whether their throne would continue.

Psalms 2, 45, and 72 are all idealized depictions of the Davidic king reigning on the throne of Yahweh. It is true that no descendant of David who ever ascended to the throne has ever lived up to the ideal, but Scripture never attributes that to the fact that they were mere men and not divine beings masquerading as men. These psalms (I include Ps. 45 even though they did not) describe, in poetic language, the exalted status of the Davidic king as well as the huge responsibility that was upon his shoulders. Yet I find nothing in these Psalms that a sinless, immortal man, imbued with God’s Spirit, could not accomplish.

Back to Ps. 2, at verse 7. The early church fathers, working from the categories of Greek metaphysics, had a heyday with this verse, speculating and postulating just how the Son was generated from the Father. What nonsense! The words speak of the chosen of the LORD taking his place as the ruler of God’s people on Yahweh’s throne, according to the word spoken to David, as we saw in 1Chron.28:5-7 {see also 1 Chron. 29:23}. This chosen son of David becomes God’s son when he ascends to the throne. Verses 8-9 speak of his universal rule over the nations. Is God not able to accomplish this through a man? Verse 12 speaks of the homage, the honor and respect that God requires all other kings to show to his vice-regent {see also Ps. 89:19-27}.

In Ps. 72, vv2-4 speak of the responsibility of the Davidic ruler to emulate God’s righteousness and justice. Vv. 5-7 , in the hyperbole common to Hebrew poetry, depicts a long reign of prosperity. Vv. 8-11 speak of the complete subjection of the surrounding nation’s kings to Yahweh’s representative. Vv. 12-14 once again show that the reign of Yahweh’s vice-regent is ideally characterized by justice in the protection of the weak and powerless in society. Vv. 15-17 is a prayer that the reign of the righteous king may be long and prosperous and bring universal blessing. And v.18 tells us that all that is done by this king is really God’s doing. The idea that if Messiah is not divine then we are dealing simply with a man trying to fulfill all of this in his own human wisdom and strength is a straw man.

As for Isaiah 7-11, in ch.7 we have the prophecy of the child born to a virgin who will be called Immanuel. For an explanation of this passage see my December post titled ‘A Christmas Myth,’ under the section on Matthew 1:22-23. I don’t know what in ch. 8 would be relevant to the deity of Messiah. Chapter 9, of course contains the well known passage, vv.6-7, which foretell of the coming king, Messiah. It speaks of an everlasting reign of peace and justice. What trips people up is the name or names by which this king is called, specifically ‘Mighty God.’ Once again see ‘A Christmas Myth’ for an exegesis of this verse. Chapter 10 is a word against Assyria and it’s king who were coming against Jerusalem. Chapter 11 is about the coming Messiah, upon whom the Spirit of Yahweh will rest. All that this anointed one will accomplish (vv.3-5, 10-13) is directly the result of  Yahweh’s Spirit being upon him.

Next on the list is Micah 3-5. Chapter 3 is a rebuke to Israel’s leaders, priests and prophets and has nothing to say about Messiah. Chapter 4 speaks of the kingdom age but does not mention Messiah specifically. It is presented from the standpoint of the real power behind Messiah’s reign — Yahweh. When it says in v.7, “Yahweh will rule over them in Mount Zion from that day and forever,” it is not saying that Messiah is Yahweh but rather that Yahweh reigns through Messiah. Here is where the concept of agency helps us. Whatever Yahweh’s appointed agents do can be spoken of as Yahweh doing it. Chapter 5 contains the prophecy of the Messiah’s coming from Bethlehem in Judea in v.2. Please see, once more, my December post ‘A Christmas Myth’ for an analysis of this passage. V. 5 tells us that the accomplishments of this ruler are the direct result of the fact that he stands in the strength and authority of Yahweh.

Next they want us to consult the books of 1 and 2 Kings. I am assuming that in these books we are to see the failure of those who sat on David’s throne and are to conclude that Messiah must be more than a man if he is to succeed. Yes it is true, every son of David who ascended to the throne failed to live up to the ideal laid out in all of these passages. And this is what makes the man, Messiah Jesus, stand out above all those who came before. Once again we have a mere assertion, without proof to back it up, that “if Messiah were just a man, the entire logic of this greater David would fall apart.” I don’t see the ‘logic’ they are talking about. In all of the passages given not one of them tells us that Messiah must be anything more than a real, true man, much less that he is Yahweh.

In Ps. 2 Yahweh and his anointed one (Messiah) are two distinct individuals and are never confused throughout the Psalm. In Ps. 72, which is titled ‘Of Solomon’, meaning not written by Solomon but for and about Solomon, probably by David, the idealized depiction of the Davidic king is not beyond the capability of a man empowered by God. If this is supposed to be a revelation that the Messiah is himself Yahweh, then why does verse 15 call for continuous prayer to be made on his behalf. Does Yahweh need our prayers? All that is detailed about the reign of this King is said to be accomplished by Yahweh. In Is.9 the reign of the Messiah is again said to be accomplished by the “zeal of Yahweh Almighty “{v. 7}. In chapter 11 the glorious picture of Messiah’s rule is begun with these words, The Spirit of Yahweh will rest on him.”  {v.2} In Micah 5, the Messiah coming out of Bethlehem, who shall rule over Israel for Yahweh, will do so “in the strength of Yahweh.” {v.4}

“If man is involved only sin and failure will ensue.” This is not proved by the above passages. Is this a denial that messiah is a man? Paul did not think that if ‘a man‘ was involved only sin and failure will result, for he said:

” … for if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift  by the grace of the one man Jesus Christ overflow to the many.”  Rom. 5:15


“For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Messiah Jesus.”  1Tim.2:5


“For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead also comes through a man. For in Adam all die, so in Messiah all will be made alive.”                     1 Cor.15:21-22


“For (God) has set a time in which he will rule the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given assurance of this to all men by raising him from the dead.”  Acts 17:31

No , God does not act “in spite of man” but God works through a man to fulfill his promises.

  • Job 9:33 says absolutely nothing about Job wishing for a mediator that is both human and divine. This is the imagination of the authors of this paper at work here. The mediation that they envision as only being possible by a human/divine hybrid can in fact be accomplished and only accomplished by a sinless man; one who is righteous before God and of our race. There is no OT perception that a divine Messiah mediator is necessary. This is pure fiction, certainly not proved by this verse.
  • I do not understand the logic of this statement. First of all, they seem to suggest that if someone is designated ‘holy’ this implies deity. Please tell me they didn’t say that. The same Hebrew word in verse 3 of Is. 6, used of God, is used of the nation of Israel {Ex. 19:6}, of the holy place in the sanctuary, of the priests who serve in the sanctuary {Lev. 21:6}, of anyone who takes a Nazirite vow {Num. 6:8}, of all true believers { Ps. 16:3; 34:9 – the word saint literally means holy ones}. The word simply refers to what has been set apart for God and certainly does not denote deity in the one who is so called. Also, they seem to be under the illusion that any mention of ‘seed’ in the OT must be a reference to the ‘seed’ of Gen. 3:15, which applies to Messiah. But this is patently false. The ‘seed’ in verse 13 of Is. 6 is not a reference to the Messiah but to the remnant of Israelites who are left in the land after the prophesied destruction, as almost any commentary will tell you.
  • Again, see my December post A Christmas Myth for an explanation of both Is. 7:14 and 9:6. I do want to note that they have the Is.9:6 passage saying “Almighty God.” This is incorrect and may have just been a mistake on their part. The correct translation of the Hebrew el gibbor is ‘Mighty God.‘ This is important because this designation is used one other time in Scripture, at Ezekiel 32:21, where it is used of men and is translated in various ways by modern Bible versions that do not entail these men being called ‘God.‘ Scripture never calls Messiah or any other man ‘Almighty God.’
  • This kind of argumentation just baffles me. The argument goes like this: 1. God claims to be the only Savior  2. Jesus the Messiah is called the Savior  3. Therefore Jesus must be God in human flesh. This reasoning is painfully shallow and once again shows the tendency of Trinitarian apologists to overstate their case. When Yahweh claims to be Israel’s only Savior this does not rule out the human agents, through whom He does the saving, from being called saviors. The following passages use the same word for ‘savior’ in Is. 43:11, in the same form, though most versions do not translate it as ‘savior‘ but as ‘deliverer’ :

“When they cried out to Yahweh, he raised up for them a savior, Othniel, son of Kenaz.”   Judges 3:9

“Again the Israelites cried out to Yahweh, and he gave them a savior, Ehud … son of Gera … ”    Judges 3:15

” … the king of Aram was oppressing Israel. Yahweh provided a savior for Israel and they escaped from the power of Aram.”    2 Kings 13:4-5

“… When they were oppressed they cried out to you. From heaven you heard them and in your great compassion you gave them saviors, who saved them … “ Neh.9:27

“Saviors will go up from Mount Zion to govern the mountains of Esau. And the kingdom will be Yahweh’s.”   Obadiah 1:21

Now let’s try this argument: 1. God claims to be Israel’s only Savior  2. Othniel, son of Kenaz is called savior  3. Therefore Othniel, son of Kenaz must have been God in human flesh. I am sure everyone can see how this kind of reasoning just doesn’t work. When God would raise up a savior, it was Yahweh himself saving his people through the human savior, yet the salvation could be recorded in Scripture as coming from the human agents or from Yahweh, as in Judges 2:16 & 18:

“Then Yahweh raised up judges, who saved them …”

“Whenever Yahweh raised up judges for them, He was with the judge and He saved them out of the hands of their enemies …”

This goes back to what I discussed in Part 1, the concept of agency. Whatever God’s appointed agents do by God’s will and power, it is actually God doing it through them. We can see this concept at work all throughout Scripture, e.g.

” … for Yahweh promised David, ‘By my servant David I will save my people …’ ”         2 Samuel 3:18

“And since Yahweh had not said he would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven, He saved them by the hand of Jeroboam, son of Jehoash.  2 Kings 14:27

Note in the first passage above, ‘my servant David.’ This is the same language used of Jesus by the apostles in Acts 3:13 and 4:27-30.

So what does Yahweh mean when he says “apart from me there is no savior?” It means he is the ultimate and supreme Savior, and that if any human agent ever accomplishes salvation on behalf of his people, it is his doing. Every ‘savior’ that ever saved Israel was not ‘apart’ from Yahweh, but raised up, appointed and sent by Him. How much more the final and ideal human savior, the Messiah, our Lord Jesus. Yahweh is the ultimate Savior behind Messiah Jesus; that is why the NT calls both God and Jesus, Savior.

“All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ … God was reconciling the world to himself by means of Christ … ”  2 Cor.5:18-19

  • Again, this is shallow reasoning. Because God is said to open blind eyes, and  Messiah is said to open blind eyes, it is inane to conclude Messiah is God. The principle of agency is evident here. What Messiah does is what God is doing through him. The apostle Peter says it rather nicely:

“Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited to you by God, by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him.”   Acts 2:22

  • Regarding Is. 42:8, the authors of this paper have failed to read the verse carefully. This is just sloppy exegesis. In this verse we have an example of  synonymous parallelism, where “my glory” parallels  “my praise“. God’s glory or praise here refers to the specific honor that belongs to him alone as God and Creator. God does not prohibit honor and glory from being given to others in accordance with their dignity and status, as the following verses show: Rom. 13:7; 1 Tim. 5:17; 1 Peter 2:17. What God does prohibit is the giving to another, the glory that is particularly his. Now Trinitarians usually accuse Unitarians of idolatry because we give worship to a man. But Unitarians do not worship Jesus as God, but they give him the honor that is peculiar to him as Messiah and Lord. It is the Trinitarians who, if Jesus is purely human, are guilty of giving to another the glory and praise which is God’s alone. For they call him God and attribute the creation of all things to him. Is. 49:3 simply says that Yahweh will display His glory through the servant, who, though called Israel here, is the Messiah. But this is the same thing said about the nation of Israel in Is. 44:23c – ” … for Yahweh has redeemed Jacob, he displays his glory in Israel.”  John 17:1-5 – In this passage Jesus is asking the Father to glorify him with that peculiar glory which was always his in the plan and purpose of God. God had, before the world began, planned a specific glory to be given to the Man who would rule over his kingdom forever. This glory is said, in good Hebrew fashion, to have been with God, i.e. in his mind and purpose for his Messiah, to be given him only after his suffering was completed {see 1 Peter 1:11}. Most commentators, because of the orthodox tradition of the Trinity, mistakenly read this verse as if Jesus is saying he personally was with the Father before the world began. But ”the glory I had with you” simply means “which was in your mind and will for me, the glory you had planned for me.” This is the same thing as 2 Tim. 1:9b, “ … This grace was given us in Christ before the ages of time.” Now nobody was literally, personally given this grace before the ages of time, it was only, in God’s intention and purpose, planned for those in Christ.
  • Is. 53 nowhere mentions the phrase ‘high and lifted up,’ so I assume they are referring to Is. 52:13. The same Hebrew words appear in Is. 6:1, but not as a title for Yahweh, but as adjectival verbs describing the throne upon which he is seated, i.e. “a high and exalted throne.” This is how Barnes, Keil and Delitzsch, and the Cambridge Bible Commentary take the words. Some Bible versions reflect this in their translation: the HCSB, NET and the LXX. The words do however, apply to Yahweh in Is.57:15, but should not necessarily be understood as a title. It could be translated, “This is what the one who is high and lifted up says.” What the authors of this paper are asserting is that this is a title used of Yahweh alone, and so when it is used of the ‘servant of Yahweh’ in 52:13, this is tantamount to calling him Yahweh. First of all, it is not proven that this is a title for Yahweh, rather than simply a description of his exalted position. Next, they engage in circular reasoning. If the descriptive words are applied to the ‘servant of Yahweh’ in 52:13, then it is not true that they apply to Yahweh alone, unless you already presuppose that the servant is Yahweh. What we have here is mere assertions and circular reasoning. Why can’t the words apply to Yahweh in one sense and to Messiah in another sense? The same Hebrew word for ‘high’ in Is. 6:1 is used of Jeroboam in 1 Kings 14:7, and of Jehu in 1 Kings 16:2. In both instances it is Yahweh who has exalted these men to be ruler over Israel. In the very important Psalm 89, the word is applied to David in vv. 19 and 24. I will also note that in verse 27, David (and every descendant of his who ascended to the throne, culminating with Jesus, the final and ideal son of David) is called the elyown i.e. the most high of the kings of the earth. This word elyown, i.e. Most High, is used as a title for God 31x in the OT, showing us that God is not afraid to share his titles with those he raises up to rule over his kingdom on his behalf.
  • In Daniel 7 Daniel has a dream in which he sees five kingdoms arise. The first kingdom was like a lion (v.4), the second was like a bear (v.5), the third was like a leopard (v.6).The fourth kingdom was like a terrifying beast with large iron teeth (v.7). That these beasts are symbols of kingdom is confirmed in v.17. After seeing  these kingdoms which were like beasts, he sees one like a son of man. To keep up the pattern we must interpret this as another kingdom, i.e.God’s kingdom, depicted as a man rather than as a beast. So technically it is not referring to Messiah, but to the kingdom over which Messiah will rule and of which he is the preeminent figure, under the Ancient of Days. This is confirmed in v.18. Next, they say that only God is worthy to receive honor and glory and service from all peoples. But this is false. For in Rev. 4 & 5 we see two distinct individuals who are given such honor. One is seen in 4:9-11, the one who sits on the throne, who is called “our Lord and God.” He is worthy to receive glory, honor and power because he is the Creator. The second one is seen in 5:6-12, the Lamb, who is worthy to receive honor, glory and praise because he was slain and purchased men for God with his blood. In verse 13 we see them together, yet distinct – him who sits on the throne and the Lamb – the two are never confused in the book of Revelation. They are both worthy, but for different reasons, to receive praise, honor, glory and power. Notice throughout this book that the Lamb is never confused with the one who sits on the throne. The reference to Dan. 3:4 has no relevance to their point about human kings being denied this kind of honor. The reference to Dan. 5:19 actually contradicts their point, for it says that, ” the Most High God gave … Nebuchadnezzar sovereignty and greatness and glory and splendor. Because of the high position he gave him, all the peoples and nations and men of every language dreaded and feared him. Those the king wanted to put to death, he put to death; those he wanted to spare, he spared; those he wanted to promote, he promoted; those he wanted to humble, he humbled.” {see also 2:37-38}.
  • Ezekiel 1:26-28       This is not a pre-incarnate appearance of the Son of God, as the authors suggest. Again, another example of reading Trinitarian ideas into Scripture. Verse 28b tells us plainly what Ezekiel saw:

“This was the vision of the representation of the glory of Yahweh.”

Ezekiel did not see God the Son, in fact he did not even see Yahweh at all. We have three witnesses in the NT that tell us that no one has ever seen God – John 1:18; 1John 4:12; 1 Tim. 6:15-16. If the authors of the NT did not believe that anyone had ever seen God, then how would they explain this passage? Easily! Ezekiel did not see the actual glory of Yahweh, he only saw, in a vision, a representation of Yahweh’s glory. What is so hard to understand about that? And this vision of Ezekiel has absolutely nothing at all to do with Jesus being referred to as “the image of God” in the NT. The authors’ attempt to make a connection here fails. Besides, an image is a representation of something, and is never the thing itself that it represents. A painting of a Victorian manor is not the manor itself. A photograph of a child is not the child itself. A wooden idol of a deity is not the deity itself, but only a representation of it. If you want to express the idea of true essential deity in a person you do not do it by calling him the image of that deity. In doing so you have just ruled out that one from being the deity whose image he is. This should be obvious to any clear thinking person, but if you are still being tripped up by your tradition then maybe this will help:

“A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God.”  1 Cor. 11:7 

Now I could, at this point, formulate a doctrine of how man should be viewed and worshipped as God because, after all, he is called here, not only the image of God, but also the glory of God. But that would be foolish. Jesus’ being called “the image of God” no more makes him God than man’s being called so makes man God.

  • Ezekiel 34        This is more of the same shallow exegesis we have encountered repeatedly in this paper. Yahweh says he himself will shepherd Israel; then he says that David (i.e. the Davidic king, Messiah) will shepherd them; hence the Davidic king must be Yahweh. I hope the readers of these posts are beginning to see the overly simplistic, even juvenile reasoning process of these arguments. As we have seen in prior passages the concept of agency is applicable here also. When Yahweh sends his agent to do something, it is Yahweh himself doing it through the agent. The agent would have no authority or power to do anything if God had not raised him up, appointed him, anointed him with power, and sent him in His name. Did not Jesus say this very thing about himself in John 5: 19, ” … the Son has no power to do anything from himself …” and in 5:30 “I have no power to do anything from myself.” ‘From himself’ means as a source, i.e. the source of Jesus’ ability was not himself but the Father. Now, after Jesus’ resurrection and glorification, God has invested everything in this one Man, so that all of his actions are God’s actions, his words are God’s words, etc. Yes, Yahweh himself will shepherd his people through the man he has appointed {see Acts 17:31}.
  • Jeremiah 23:6           Where does this verse say that the Messiah has Yahweh’s own righteousness? This name or designation given the Messiah is not saying something about him but about the God who appointed him, who he serves. Like the names of many of God’s servants reflect something about God, rather than about themselves, such as Isaiah = Yahweh is salvation; Jeremiah = Yahweh loosens; Ezekiel = God strengthens; Daniel = God is my judge; Nehemiah = Yahweh comforts; Zechariah = Yahweh has remembered. This verse simply does not give any support for the supposed divinity of the Messiah. As to the question “how can a human king ever have righteousness,” have you ever heard of imputed or credited righteousness, even the righteousness of God himself {see 2 Cor. 5:21}.
  • Zechariah 12:10        The statement that Yahweh calls the Messiah ‘Me’ is ridiculous on it’s face. First off, the Hebrew does not read “they will look on me” in spite of the fact that many versions have that, but rather “they will look to me.” The Hebrew word el connotes motion to or direction toward. The correct translation of ‘to’ is found in the ISV, ASV, JPS, NET, NHEB and YLT. The apostle John quotes this verse in John 19:37 as  “they will look to the one they have pierced.”  John’s text obviously read differently than does the Masoretic Hebrew text. Since the Masoretic text is much more recent than whatever text John had in his day, it is possible the text of John’s day became altered over time to read “to me” rather than “to the one.” The Dead Sea Scrolls do not help us, for the only scroll that contains Zech. 12, 4Q80, is fragmentary and missing this part of the text. But let us assume the Masoretic text is accurate at this point, and the correct reading is “to me,” what is actually being said here by Yahweh, who appears to be the speaker? Is Yahweh saying that he was the one actually, physically pierced? Of course not! It simply means that Yahweh takes it personal when his representatives are rejected and mistreated and persecuted. This, once again, involves the concept of agency, where the sent one is regarded as the sender. Jesus told his disciples when he sent them out to preach, “He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me; but he who rejects me rejects him who sent me {Lk. 10:16}. So the text is saying that when the Messiah was rejected and pierced, Yahweh was rejected and pierced through his agent, Messiah. But in the future those who pierced him i.e. the Jewish nation, will look to Yahweh, in repentance, for grace.
  • Psalm 110:1       I do not wish to be unkind when I say that this argument is one of the most absurd things I have seen in defense of the Trinity doctrine. It seems that what they are saying is that David never used the phrase “my _______ ” except of two categories, God and his enemies, so that whatever fills the blank can only fall into one of these two categories. They then say, “so linguistically we have a choice.” When David says “my lord” he can only be referring to either God or his enemy, and since enemy wouldn’t make since it must be God. This is simply an untenable conclusion. In fact, we know exactly what David means by “to my lord” (Hebrew ladoni) for he uses the same word in 1 Samuel 24:6:

“… Yahweh forbid that I should do such a thing to my lord (Heb. ladoni), Yahweh’s anointed (Heb. messiah, here referring to king Saul), or lift my hand against him, for he is the messiah of Yahweh.”

The ‘lord’ in Psalm 110:1 is Yahweh’s anointed one, the Davidic king. For an explanation of Matt. 22:41-46 see my April post The Lordship of Jesus the Messiah under the heading Messiah, David’s Lord.

  • Psalm 45:6-7     This is a psalm about the wedding of the Davidic king, probably Solomon. It is an idealized depiction of the one who sits on Yahweh’s throne and rules on his behalf {see 1Chron. 28:5 & 2 Chron. 9:8}. Yes he is called ‘God’ in verse 6, but the idea is of status and function, as God’s representative, and not about essential nature. The context of the whole psalm bears this out. In v.2 he is the most handsome of the sons of men; in v.7 his God anoints him; in v.9 he is married; in v.16 he has sons who will be princes in the land. This psalm is not exclusively referring to Jesus, for much of it does not apply to him. But the writer of the book of Hebrews employs the verses that do apply to Jesus, as God’s anointed representative, as proof of Messiah’s superior status to that of the angels. Vv. 6-7 would apply to any of the LORD’s anointed, descendants of David on the throne of Yahweh, and so applies all the more to the final and ideal anointed one, Jesus our Lord. The assertion of the authors of this paper that this verse “affirms multiple personhood in the godhead” is without foundation. It is simply reading Trinitarian doctrine into whatever verse they can find to lend credence to their presupposed theology.
  • Psalm 102:19-21      When I first read this verse and the first comment made on it in this paper I was incredulous of their interpretation (discerning their propensity to read Trinitarian ideas into the text). I looked again at the verse and after only a minute or so I saw their error. I then checked out other translations and my initial feeling was confirmed. Here is how other versions translate v.21: “that men may declare” – ASV; “so that they might declare” – CSB, ESV, HCSB; “so they would declare” – ISV; “that men may tell” – JPS, NASB; “so they may proclaim” – NET. So the purpose or result of Yahweh setting free those doomed to death is that they may declare the name of Yahweh in Zion. This affords us with a perfect illustration of how an eagerness to find ones theological presuppositions in Scripture can blind one to what the text is actually saying. The entire first bullet-point comment on this passage in the paper is simply unwarranted and meaningless. The second bullet-point comment on this verse is not much better. The psalm is about the kingdom age but does not speak of Messiah directly. The authors’ conclusion that “Messiah is cast as YHWH” is just begging the question.

I want to take a minute to address the author of Hebrew’s use of this psalm in chapter one of his letter. He quotes vv.25-27 from the LXX, which differs from the Masoretic text and DSS, but that is not what I want to discuss here. The traditional understanding of this passage in Hebrews, colored by the assumption that Jesus is God and hence the creator, is that the author of Hebrews is quoting this to prove that very assumption. But when you read the passage, either in the LXX or the Hebrew text, it says nothing about the Messiah. Is the author of Hebrews just pulling out a creation text from the OT and arbitrarily applying it to Messiah Jesus? What kind of proof would that be. And if, as we are told, all Christians from the beginning believed Jesus to be God, why is the author of Hebrews trying to demonstrate Messiah’s superior status to that of angels. If the writer and recipients of the letter knew Jesus to be God then ipso-facto he would be greater than angels; would that point even have to be made?

So what is the writer of Hebrews trying to establish by his quotation of Psalm 102:25-27? The whole context of Hebrews chapter one is to establish the superiority of status of the reigning Davidic ruler, who sits on Yahweh’s throne, ruling on Yahweh’s behalf, over Yahweh’s kingdom, to that of angelic mediators. It seems that the recipients of the letter had been misled by some Jewish sect to downplay the role of Yahweh’s anointed one in the ultimate plan of God, and to elevate angelic mediators in that plan. This of course was a mistake and the author of the letter is trying to correct it, by showing, from OT passages, the greater value placed by God on his chosen representative from the line of David, compared to the role of angels. He does this by a series of comparisons between the Son (as set forth in 1 Chron. 28:5-6 & Psalm 2) and angels. His main point is that no angel was ever given authority to rule over God’s kingdom, on God’s behalf, as the Davidic ruler was {see Heb. 2:5}. He then quotes Psalm 45:6-7, which we already discussed. But the point of that quotation is not really the part about the Davidic king being called ‘God,’ for that would not have been controversial to any Hebrew, who would have understood Psalm 45 to be about the human king reigning on the throne. The main point of that quotation is to show the enduring nature of that throne, it is an everlasting throne; that is to say that the role of the Davidic king ruling on Yahweh’s behalf is an everlasting decree and promise which God made to David {see Ps. 89:28-29, 34-37}.

Next, he quotes from Psalm 102:25-27. If we assume he is continuing the pattern up to this point, of saying something about the son and then saying something about the angels, then his use of this passage is to say something about the angels, not the son. But at first glance it doesn’t appear to be saying anything about angels. But that is because we are not in the head of the first century Jew. If, as I assert, the point of quoting the Ps. 45 passage was to show the enduring nature of the Davidic throne in God’s plan, then the point of this passage is to show the temporary nature of the role of angels in God’s plan. Now a first century Jew would have caught the authors intention even though we Gentile Christians have missed it. When a first century Jew thought or spoke of ‘the heavens,’ in his mind it meant more than just the material stuff, it also included the powers or angelic hierarchy that inhabited the heavens and exercised, to one degree or another, a measure of influence or authority over the kingdoms and affairs of earthly rulers {see Dan. 10:12-13; Eph. 6:12}. Based on Is.24:21-22 this arrangement in the heavenlies was seen to be temporary, to be terminated once the kingdom age dawned. Hence the writer of Hebrews is reminding his readers of this temporary role of angels in quoting this passage: ” … the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will role them up like a robe, like a garment they will be changed. … .” So when Jews read this passage they not only understood it to be speaking of a change in the material heavens but also of the angelic hierarchy that inhabited that realm. This passage in it’s original context is not about Messiah and the author of Hebrews is not applying it to Messiah.

  • Instead of this paper’s brief survey showing the OT to be “replete with indications of the Messiah’s divinity,” I think I have adequately demonstrated that once you look a little closer at these verses and not just on the surface, and you factor in the biblical concept of agency, these supposed ‘indications’ just do not seem so plausible.

Stay tuned for the next installment of this refutation.

Refutation of the Master’s University Bible Faculty Document on the Trinity and Divinity of Messiah (Part 1)

In March of this year Prof. Bill Schlegel, a teacher at the Master’s University’s Israel Bible Extension (IBEX) program since 1995, informed the IBEX Director that he could no longer affirm the doctrinal statement of the university, with regard to the Trinity and the deity of Jesus. If you wish to hear Prof. Schlegel’s story in his own words go to and go to podcast, then to interview 31. In response to this event the Bible faculty of the Master’s University put out a 22-page document on the Trinity and the Divinity of Christ for the students. When I first read this paper I was stunned at such a sophomoric attempt, by what I suppose are learned bible teachers, to defend the Trinity and deity of Christ.

The bulk of this defense is simply proof-texting with little exegesis, and when there is an attempt at exegesis, it reveals a profound ignorance of biblical theology and language. Scripture verses are given with little regard for immediate context, as well as the larger context of the Hebraic background of Scripture. The presupposition of Trinitarianism looms over the entire work and is forced into the provided proof texts as if no other possible interpretation exist. In some cases I was left scratching my head after reading the biblical text provided for a specific point – the passage just wasn’t saying what they were purporting.

I want to go through this paper point by point and offer a refutation. I presume this is the best Scriptural evidence for these doctrines that they could muster. So let’s see how well their presuppositions about the specific texts presented holds up under scrutiny. Please open the pdf file of the paper and go point by point between their paper and my answers to them: The Trinity and Divinity of Messiah-92b9c7.

The Trinity and Divinity of Messiah in the OT

  1. I am not quite sure what they mean by “Trinitarian tensions.” It seems like they are saying that although there is no direct statement in Scripture regarding multiple persons in God and a plain reading of Scripture would simply yield the unitarian monotheistic view held by the Hebrews, yet there are these hints of plurality in the Godhead, throughout Scripture, causing a tension with the simple plain reading.

Gen. 1:26 – This first example they offer, of Trinitarian tensions in the OT, is typical of what we will see in the rest of the paper, i.e. the authors making Trinitarian hay out of any and every verse that affords them the opportunity.

The assertion that the plural pronouns in the phrase “And God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness … ‘ ,” is a reference to multiple persons within God, i.e. a reference to the Trinity, is typical of many Christian apologists, bible commentators and lay people, as well as many of the early church fathers from the 2nd century on. And certainly, for anyone who already accepts the Trinity doctrine, this could be a confirmation of that belief. But it must be said first off that the Trinity doctrine is not taught by this passage. Of course it may accommodate that belief for the one who holds that doctrine; but it could also accommodate the belief in poly-theism, or Arianism, or Herbert W. Armstrong’s God-family, or Mormonism’s view of God. And why would the  plural pronouns suggest ‘three’ persons in God? Why not two or ten? The only reason it would suggest ‘three’ is because the Trinity concept, which came along at a much later time, is being read back into this text.

Is this verse a slam dunk for Trinitarians? While many popular commentators and apologists think so, and many church fathers thought so, modern scholarship is decidedly against the notion that Gen.1:26 implies a multiplicity of persons within God. This is true even among Trinitarian scholars. Gordon J. Wenham comments on this verse in the World Biblical Commentary on Genesis, saying:

Christians have traditionally seen [Gen. 1:26] as adumbrating the Trinity. It is now universally admitted that this was not what the plural meant to the original author.

Charles Ryrie, in the Ryrie Study Bible gave this brief comment on Gen. 1:26:

Us…Our. Plurals of majesty.

The Liberty Annotated Study Bible, published by Liberty University states regarding this verse:

The plural pronoun “Us” is most likely a majestic plural from the standpoint of Hebrew grammar and syntax.

The staunchly Trinitarian NIV Study Bible has this in it’s commentary note on this passage:

us… our…our. God speaks as the Creator-King, announcing his crowning work to the members of his heavenly court …

H. L. Ellison, in The International Bible Commentary, edited by F. F. Bruce, says regarding the traditional Christian view that the plural refers to the Trinity:

This should not be completely rejected, but in it’s setting it does not carry conviction. The rabbinic interpretation that God is speaking to the angels is more attractive, for mans creation affects them … But there is no suggestion of angelic cooperation. Probably the plural is intended above all to draw attention to the importance and solemnity of God’s decision.

The Cambridge Bible Commentary states on the passage:

i. Until recently, the traditional Christian interpretation has seen in the 1st pers. plur. a reference to the Three Persons of the Blessed Trinity. The requirements of a sound historical exegesis render this view untenable: for it would read into the book of Genesis the religious teaching which is based upon the Revelation of the New Testament.

Gleason Archer, in his Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties, while not commenting on Gen. 1:26, does comment on Gen. 3:22, where again God speaks in the plural ‘us’:

Who, then, constitutes the “us” referred to in verse 22? Conceivably the three persons of the Trinity might be involved here (as in Gen. 1:26), but more likely “us” refers to the angels surrounding God’s throne in heaven …

I want to note again that the above quotes are from Trinity-believing, traditional, orthodox scholars, honest ones I might add. One has to wonder why the authors of this paper did not think it worth while to inform their students of alternative ‘orthodox’ interpretations of this verse. As we saw from most of the quotes above, the most prominent alternative interpretation is that God is speaking to his heavenly court, the angelic beings surrounding his throne. Some object to this on the basis that angels could not have been active participants in the creation of man – this was God’s work alone. Yes, true, for the next verse reads literally, “So God, he created man in his own image … ” Here the verb is singular and so is the pronoun, showing that God alone performed the act of man’s creation. So if God was speaking to the angels it was not to include them in the act of creation, but perhaps to invite them to be observers of his crowning achievement. This was also the predominant rabbinic interpretation. It may also be that angels are also created in the image of God, and so the “us” and “our” is intended to include them in that regard only. As far as I  am aware, there is no verse in Scripture which says that man alone is created in the image of God. We should also note that if verse 26 is referring to multiple persons in God, then why does verse 27 not read, “So God, they created man in their own image?”

The authors then state that the plurality in the godhead is especially implied “since it is parallel and dealing with the plurality within humanity (male and female). It implies the relationality in the godhead is the basis for the relationality in humanity.” Are they trying to say that if God were a single person there would have been no basis for the male and female relationship in humanity? That is quite an assertion, I wonder how they can prove it. And if they are saying that the male/female relationship in humanity is “parallel” to that of the relationship of the persons in the godhead, then the Trinity is just a family of gods. This whole point is sheer speculation on their part.

Genesis 19:24 – This, again, is a verse typically used to show plurality in God. They only make a brief statement concerning it, without any exegesis. They seem to be implying that there are two Yahwehs in this text, one in heaven and one on earth. They do not attempt to explain how this can be, probably because it sounds ridiculous even to them. I have heard other apologists speak of this verse as presenting two Yahwehs. The impossibility that the Hebrew Scriptures would be presenting more than one Yahweh should be obvious to anyone familiar with the OT. Indeed, the fundamental creed of the Hebrew bible and of the Jewish people, the Shema, precludes any such notion:

Hear O Israel, Yahweh our God, Yahweh is one.   Deut. 6:4

Now the apologists will say, “Yes, one in essence and substance.” This is the same thing they point out to Oneness believers regarding John 10:30, where Jesus said:

I and the Father are one.

They will point out to the Oneness folk that the word ‘one’ in this verse, in the Greek, is neuter in gender, which they say rules out that Jesus and the Father are ‘one person.’ I agree. They also point out that the adjective would have to be masculine in gender to have the meaning ‘one person.’ Again I agree. But what they fail to point out is the fact that the word ‘one’ in Deut. 6:4 is a masculine singular adjective and hence means ‘one person.’ What the shema is saying is this:

Hear O Israel, Yahweh our God, Yahweh is one person.

This rules out the possibility that Gen. 19:24 is presenting us with two Yahwehs or two persons who are both Yahweh. So what does the verse mean? The answer is really quite simple, but because the Trinitarian interpretation has prevailed in the thinking of orthodox Christians since the time of the early church fathers, the simple answer has been kept hidden to most. This is one of the problems with prevailing traditions, they stifle further study and the search for other possible solutions to seemingly difficult passages. Just simply interpret the passage in line with the prevailing tradition (no matter how much you may have to distort the text to do so) and presto, a canned interpretation. Then this canned interpretation gets so embedded into the psyche of the Christian world, that when someone comes along and offers another, more plausible interpretation of the text, he is accused of trying to ‘explain away the Scriptures.’

The solution to the Gen. 19:24 text’s seeming contradiction to the Deut. 6:4 text is the biblical concept of agency. This concept is so prevalent in the Scriptures, both OT and NT, that the almost complete ignorance of it by most Christians is staggering. I was a Christian for 35 yrs. before I ever heard of this concept; I had never in those years heard it mentioned from the pulpit of any church I attended, or read of it in any book, or seen it explained in any bible commentary. I was completely ignorant of it although it was clearly there in the Scriptures. My traditional way of thinking blinded me from seeing it. Yet, so pervasive is the concept of agency in the Scriptures, that without a solid recognition of it, gross misunderstandings of much of Scripture will certainly dominate the Christian world.

The concept is quite easy. An agent is one who speaks and acts on behalf of or in place of another, by whom he has been authorized and sent. Simply put, an agent is a representative or emissary of another. The principal idea with agency is that the agent is as the one who sent him, so that whatever the agent says or does is to be understood as if the one who authorized and sent him is speaking and acting. A perfect illustration of this concept can be seen in the gospel narrative of the centurion who sought Jesus’ help for his sick and dying servant. This story can be found in Matt.8:5-13 and Luke 7:1-10. But as you read these two accounts of the same event you should notice what seems like a contradiction. In Matthew’s account the centurion is said to come himself to Jesus and ask for help, while in Luke’s telling the centurion sends a delegation of Jewish elders to  Jesus, to request his help. Is this a contradiction? Not if you understand the concept of agency. Matthew can speak of the centurion as if he had come to Jesus himself because the delegation of Jews he sent were speaking in his place and on his behalf. The Jewish delegation was as if they were the centurion. This concept will play an important role in answering many of the assertions made by the authors of the paper we are examining. Another example of this concept can be seen in Exodus 7:1-2, where Moses, God’s chosen agent, is told by Yahweh, “See, I have made you God to Pharaoh and your brother Aaron will be your prophet. You are to say everything I command you … “

So lets apply the concept of agency to Gen 19:24 and see if we can gain clarity. The context of this verse actually begins with 18:1-2 which reads:

Yahweh appeared to Abraham near the great trees of Mamre … Abraham looked up and saw three men standing nearby …

First we are told that Yahweh appeared to Abraham; then that he saw three men. Of course, the Trinitarian has a hay day here, for anytime ‘three’ is mentioned in the Bible he encourages himself in his belief. So some Trinitarians will say that God is appearing in the form of three men to signify that God is ‘three-in-one.’ This is, of course, eisegesis, as any responsible exegete will tell you.

Now there are many other times in the OT that it is said that God appeared to men or that men saw God, such as Gen. 12:7; 17:1; 26:2,24; 32:30; Exodus 4:5; 24:9-11; Is. 6:1, 5. Did these people literally see God? Did their eyes actually behold God himself in person? Let me ask you this question. Did the Jews of the 1st century think that these people actually, literally saw God? What about the authors of the NT, did they believe men actually saw God? How did they understand these OT passages? They tell us very plainly. The apostle John did not think these men actually saw God, for he says:

“No one has ever seen God … ”   John 1:18 and 1 John 4:12

The apostle Paul also did not think these men actually saw God:

“God, the blessed and only ruler, … whom no one has seen or can see.”  1 Tim.6:15-16

Trinitarians will usually say that these verses mean that no one has seen the Father, and so who these men saw was the pre-incarnate God the Son. But in their attempt to make the Trinity fit in the Scriptures where it doesn’t, they violate their own doctrine. Are not all three members of the Trinity supposed to be equal in deity, in glory, in honor, in majesty, and in every other aspect? Then how is it that God the Father cannot be seen but God the Son can? What is different about the pre-incarnate Son that allows him to be seen? There is no need to read back into an ancient document an idea that would not even enter anyone’s mind for another 2,000 yrs., when there is a perfectly good biblical concept which enables us to make sense of these passages.

So who or what were these people in the OT seeing? I believe the concept of agency gives us the answer — they were seeing an agent of Yahweh who was acting and speaking as Yahweh, on Yahweh’s behalf. Now the Trinitarian might protest that I am reading into the Bible my own ideas, but I think I can prove my assertion. Let’s look at one incident in Scripture which illustrates the concept of agency in relation to Yahweh appearing to men. In Exodus 3 we have the story of Moses and the burning bush. In verse 2 we read:

“There an agent of Yahweh appeared to him (Moses) in flames of fire from within a bush.”

I have translated the Hebrew word malak as agent instead of ‘angel’ because that is what the word means; one who is sent by another to convey the mind, will, purpose and action of the one who sent him; a representative. So agent is a good word to express the meaning of malak. Most versions have “the angel of the LORD” but as far as I can tell ( I am no Hebrew scholar) there is no definite article in the Hebrew here, and so “an angel” should be preferred. The LXX also has no definite article, and the YLT and CEV translate it as an angel.” Why do I point this out? Because Trinitarians are want to see the angel of the LORD’ as not just any angel but as a pre-incarnate appearance of the second person of the Trinity (without any warrant from the text itself). This desire to find support for the Trinity in the OT is probably the reason for the inclusion of the definite article at Ex. 3:2, by most major versions, in spite of it’s absence in the Hebrew text. That this idea about ‘the angel of the LORD’ being God the Son is untenable, is confirmed in the only passage in the NT which speaks specifically about this agent of Yahweh.

“After forty years had passed, an angel appeared to Moses in the flames of a burning bush … (Moses) whom God sent to be their ruler and deliverer , in association with the agency of the angel who appeared to him in the bush.   Acts 7:30, 35

Now, let those basic reading comprehension skills assist you here. When you read what Stephen said, does it sound like he thought the angel was a pre-incarnate appearance of the Son? If he believed that why did he not inform his audience of that all important truth? After all, Trinitarian apologists today think it important enough to tell their audiences. Stephen understood this like any Jew at that time would have – that the agent of Yahweh appeared in Yahweh’s stead and spoke as Yahweh, because that is the principal idea of agency – the agent is regarded as the one who sent him. Stephen uses the Greek word sun in Acts 7:35 which carries the idea of  ‘to accompany, to associate with.’ It is likely that this agent of Yahweh accompanied Moses the whole time, from when they left Egypt to when they entered the promised land, acting as God’s representative. Listen to what else the Scripture says concerning this agent of Yahweh:

“Then the agent of God, who had been traveling in front of the camp of Israel, withdrew and went behind them.”   Exodus 14:19

“See, I (God) am sending an agent ahead of you to guard you along the way and to bring you to the place I have prepared. Pay attention to him and obey what he says. Do not rebel against him; he will not forgive your rebellion, since my Name is in him. If you obey what he says and do all that I say, I will be an enemy to your enemies … My agent will go ahead of you and bring you into the land …”  Ex.23:20-23

In the second quote above, we gain an understanding of the close connection between God and his agent. The agent is speaking for God, carrying out God’s will, and has God’s name in him. So to rebel against the agent is to rebel against God himself. Note how the Lord says that Moses is to “obey what (the agent) says and do all that I say,” making the word of the agent synonymous with Yahweh’s own word.

Now back to Exodus 3. In verse one we saw that an agent of Yahweh is said to have appeared, but in verse 16 Moses is told to say to the elders of Israel:

“Yahweh, the God of your fathers – the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – appeared to me … “

And in 4:5

Yahweh said, “This is so that they may believe that Yahweh, the God of their fathers … has appeared to you.”

The solution to this is not to say that the agent of Yahweh is Yahweh, but that the agent of Yahweh acts and speaks as Yahweh. This is not a difficult concept to understand; it is really quite simple.

Back in our text, in chapter 18 of Genesis, after Abraham receives the three men and they sit down to eat, at verse 10 it says, “Then Yahweh said … .” This is repeated throughout the rest of the chapter. When God’s agents speak for him, what they say can be recorded as God himself speaking. This is true of heavenly agents and human agents, i.e. the prophets. What appears to be going on in this chapter is that one of the agents is speaking for Yahweh ( vv.10,13,17-21) while the other two seem to remain silent. Eventually two of the agents head off to Sodom (vv. 22 and 19:1) and the one is left there with Abraham, who speaks to the agent as though he were God (vv.23-33). The agent, acting as God’s mouthpiece, converses with Abraham and then leaves, presumably heading toward Sodom (v.33).

In 19:1 the two agents who had left first arrive in Sodom, where Lot greets them with typical Semitic hospitality, unaware of their true mission. Eventually the agents reveal their purpose for coming :

“Get … out of here, because we are going to destroy this place, for the outcry against it’s people has grown great before Yahweh; and Yahweh has sent us to destroy it.” v.13

The agents say that they are going to destroy Sodom, but in the next verse we read:

So Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law … “Hurry and get out of this place, because Yahweh is about to destroy the city.”

Lot understood that the agents were carrying out Yahweh’s orders, acting as His representatives. And this brings us to our original text at 19:24:

“Then Yahweh rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah, from  Yahweh, out of the heavens.”

There are two ways to understand this verse without resorting to the absurdity that there are two Yahwehs presented here. First, that the agent of Yahweh ( called Yahweh here) had the authority to bring the judgment on the cities, but did so by Yahweh’s will and power, not his own. In other words, the agent would have had no power or authority to destroy the cities if Yahweh had not authorized him as his agent and sent him to carry out His will. So the concept of agency explains the passage well without involving the text in a contradiction with Deut. 6:4, remembering that what the agent does can be recorded as Yahweh doing it.

But another solution is to translate the verse differently. The word in Hebrew that is represented by the English word ‘from‘ in the above quote, is eth, which has been commonly understood as an untranslatable mark of the accusative case. In  An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax by Bruce K. Waltke and M. O’Connor, on pp. 177-178, they state this concerning eth:

(1) … sign of the accusative … (2) More recent grammarians regard it as a marker of emphasis used most often with definite nouns in the accusative role … A.M. Wilson, late in the nineteenth century, concluded from his exhaustive study of all the occurrences of the debated particle that it had an intensive or reflexive force in some of it’s occurrences. Many grammarians have followed his lead. On such a view eth is a weakened emphatic particle corresponding to the English pronoun ‘self’… It resembles Greek ‘autos’ and Latin ‘ipse’, both sometimes used for emphasis…

So the verse could be saying something to the effect that it was Yahweh himself who caused the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, that it was Yahweh’s doing. It was not a natural occurrence nor was it the doing of the agents who carried it out. It was done by Yahweh’s will and power.

So I make an appeal to Trinitarian apologists who wish to truly be honest with the text of Scripture, to stop using this passage in this ridiculous way, as a proof text for the Trinity.

Deut. 4:37 – First off, the translation they quote from (appears to be the NASB) is a rather free translation, no doubt meant to bolster their claims. Most versions say something different, “in his sight” (KJV, WBT, Orthodox Jewish Bible, Jubilee Bible 2000); “with his presence” (ASV, ERV, ISR, NHEB, WEB, JPS Tanakh); “by his presence” (CSB, HCSB, NIV); “in his presence” (YLT); “accompanied by his presence” (ISV); “going before thee” (Douay-Rheims). Only the NASB and NET have “personally brought you out,” which is interpretive, not literal.

Their argument seems to be this – since this text says Yahweh personally brought them out of Egypt, and other texts say that Yahweh sent an agent to be with them, then the agent must be a manifestation of the pre-incarnate 2nd person of the Trinity. In fact they assert rather confidently that this is “the only way to harmonize these texts.” Then they conclude that “Yahweh sent Yahweh,” once again presenting us with two Yahwehs, which is an impossibility according to Deut. 4:6.

The only way to harmonize these text.” I hardly think so, unless you just completely dismiss the biblical concept of agency. This way of interpreting Scripture , i.e. ignoring the cultural background and philosophical mindset of the original writers and readers of Scripture, and then just reading a much later tradition into the text, is a rather facile and inept approach to Bible study.

They quote Jeffrey H. Tigay as support for this supposed Trinitarian tension between Yahweh and the agent of Yahweh, but I am sure he would quite disagree with their conclusion. I do not agree with some of what Dr. Tigay says in this quote. For example, he says of Numbers 20:16, that Midrashic interpretation sees the agent there as Moses , but then he downplays that understanding by saying that Moses is never referred to as a malak, although prophets are sometimes. But this is begging the question. Moses is certainly a prophet and this may be the one time he is designated a malak. Surely Moses’ role in relationship to God and Israel is as an agent of Yahweh. And the fact that Deuteronomy never mentions angelic agency in no way negates such a use of agents by God as recorded in Genesis, Exodus and Numbers. Every case of agency recorded in those books can be spoken of in Deut., as Yahweh’s direct involvement  because that’s just how the language of Scripture portrays God’s use of agents – he takes the credit for it because it’s his authority and power that accomplishes it through the agent. In Judges 2:16 it says that the judges who Yahweh raised up saved the Israelites. But in verse 18 it says that Yahweh was with the judge and He saved the Israelites. This kind of language is common in the Scripture.

So Deut. 4:37 is not saying that Yahweh alone, by himself, without the use of agency, brought Israel out of Egypt. I mean didn’t Moses have a role to play? Yes, and so did other agents. The verse may simply be speaking of the fact that God’s presence was with Israel, in the pillar of cloud. In Ex. 13:21 we read:

“Yahweh went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud by day … and by night in a pillar of fire …”

In Ex. 14:19-20 there is an interesting interplay between the agent of God and the pillar of cloud. They seem to be distinct yet they move together. If the pillar of cloud speaks of the manifestation of God’s presence, then here we see both God’s presence and his agent at work together. I think we can take the pillar of cloud as God’s presence going with them based on Ex. 32 and 33. In 32 the people commit idolatry while Moses is on the mountain and God wants to destroy them and start over with Moses. But Moses intercedes for the people and God relents (vv.1-14). In 33:1-3 Yahweh tells Moses to leave there and go to the land of promise and then says:

“I will send an agent before you …But I will not go with you because … I might destroy you on the way.”

Verses 7-11 are a parenthetical insertion, informing the reader of the usual practice of Moses of meeting with God at the ‘tent of meeting’. When Moses would go into the tent, the visible representation of God’s presence would descend as a pillar of cloud. God would then speak directly to Moses giving him direction and instructions. So why is this information given the reader at this time? Because this is what God meant when he said he would not go with Moses and the people, but would only send an agent. He was saying that his presence would not appear at the tent of meeting anymore and so basically they would be left without direction or instruction from God.

Moses does not like this and in vv.12-17 we find him pleading with God to not remove his presence from them but to continue to make known his will to them at the tent of meeting in the pillar of cloud, the manifestation of God’s presence. God relents and the appearances of the pillar of cloud continue for the rest of their journey to the promised land {see e.g. Numbers 11:16-30; 12:1-10; 14:10-12}.

So what does all of this tell us about Deut. 4:37? First, that the version used by the authors of this paper was chosen specifically for it’s wording, but that the translation is probably not accurate. The passage is not saying that Yahweh personally brought them out of Egypt, i.e. without the use of agency, whether human or angelic. More likely it is saying that Yahweh brought them out of Egypt (through the agency of Moses and angels), accompanied by his presence, i.e. in the pillar of cloud {see Num. 14:13-16}. And no, it is in no way necessary that the agent involved has to be Yahweh himself.

Isaiah 48:16b – This is one of a number of proof texts given in this paper, at which I was left scratching my head as to how this is in any way a support for the Trinity. It is clear that the speaker at this point is the prophet himself, Isaiah. He is announcing to the Israelites that he was indeed sent by the Lord Yahweh, accompanied by his spirit. This could, of course, be said by every prophet whom God sent to Israel. Any commentator or exegete who views this as the Messiah speaking is taking liberties with the text that are not warranted by the context. Nothing in the immediate context points to the speaker being the servant of Yahweh; it would be pure conjecture to conclude that. Most commentaries I consulted agree.

Now lets suppose this verse was presenting the servant of Yahweh, i.e. the Messiah, as speaking here. I still fail to see how that would make this a proof text for the Trinity. Of course the Messiah is sent by Yahweh and is accompanied with the Spirit of God. Any unitarian Christian believes that. This is just another example of seeing the Trinity in any and every verse that happens to mention God and the Messiah and the spirit, as if the mere mention of these three is positive proof for the doctrine. Can they not be three separate entities? Where is the verse that says these three are one substance or co-equal members of the Godhead? It doesn’t exist!

Isaiah 59:21 – Another head scratcher and example of reading Trinitarian doctrine into Scripture. The verse is not about the Father speaking to the Son about his Spirit. Such a view of this passage is pure eisegesis. The verse speaks of Yahweh’s covenant with Israel, the new covenant, to be fulfilled in the kingdom age, when the whole nation, from that time and forward, will be faithful to Yahweh. Notice the similarity with Jer. 31:31-34 and Ezek. 36:24-30.

Yet, once again, even if the verse was about the Father speaking to the Messiah concerning the spirit, what does that have to do with the 4th century doctrine of the Trinity? Nothing!

Isaiah 11:1-9 & 61:1-3

Where, O where, is the Trinitarian tension in these passages? I don’t want to be harsh but please, someone tell me how passages about Yahweh anointing his servant with his Spirit create a tension with the plain biblical teaching that Yahweh is one person. It seems that the authors of this paper are victims of a kind of cult-ish persuasion, where once someone has been thoroughly indoctrinated into a system of theology, they are unable to read Scripture and ascertain it’s true historical meaning, but are bound to see in it’s pages, only the theology into which they were indoctrinated. These passages have absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the Greek metaphysical concept that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob exists eternally in three hypostases.

Perhaps it is the list of things the servant of Yahweh is depicted as accomplishing in these passages that cause the authors of this paper to think that the servant of Yahweh must be Yahweh, for how can a mere man accomplish such feats. But this totally misses the point of these passages. It is not that Messiah is a mere man, but a man chosen {Is.42:1} and set apart {John 10:36} by Yahweh, anointed with Yahweh’s Spirit { Is. 11:2; 42:1; 61:1}, carrying out his tasks by Yahweh’s power {Micah 5:4}. He is the first immortal man {1 Cor. 15:20-23; Rom.14:9}, exalted to the highest place { Phil. 2:9} by Yahweh and given all authority {Matt. 28:18}. Yes, this man can and will accomplish the will of Yahweh {Is. 53:10b} for it is Yahweh doing it {Eph. 3:11}, in and through his chosen servant. Or do you think that the Almighty Yahweh cannot accomplish these things through a man?

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Please save the pdf file of the document to your computer, and follow along as we go point by point in upcoming posts, continuing in the refutation.




The Lordship of Jesus the Messiah (Part 2)

We will now examine key texts in the epistles regarding the nature of Jesus’ lordship. Does Jesus’ being called ‘Lord’ (Gr. kurios) identify him as Yahweh or is there another way to define his lordship? Did the NT authors mean for their readers to understand Jesus to be the Yahweh of the OT by their use of kurios? This is indeed the claim of many bible teachers, commentators, and Christian apologists. So common is this idea that it has even made it’s way into the commentary notes of popular Bibles. Take for example the 1985 edition of the NIV Study Bible. In the commentary notes for Romans 10:9 we read this:

In view of the fact that “Lord” (Greek kyrios) is used over 6,000 times in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the OT) to translate the name of Israel’s God (Yahweh), it is clear that Paul, when using this word of Jesus, is ascribing deity to him.

But is it really clear that that is what Paul is doing? Or is this just an assumption on the part of those who are desperate to find Scriptural support for a belief which really lacks such support. We have already seen, in the first part of this study, the wide range of use of the word kurios in both the LXX and the NT. This fact is hidden from the ordinary Bible reader because of the way the word is translated with reference to persons other than God and Jesus. But because of the wide range of use of kurios it is irresponsible to make such assertions as in the above quotation.

Distinguishing the Lord God from the Lord Messiah

We know that in the NT the word kurios is used of God (i.e. Yahweh) and of Jesus the Messiah. Does this mean they are the same person or the same being? The simple answer is no! There are ways in which the NT authors distinguish between the two. Now I am not speaking of a distinguishing between the Father and Jesus; this is accepted by all except oneness or Jesus only believers. I will show how the NT authors clearly distinguish these two (Yahweh and Jesus), primarily by defining who God is and who Jesus is.

In the beginning of Paul’s letters he includes a benediction. It is basically the same in every letter with only minor differences:

  • “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus the Messiah.”  Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:3; 2 Cor. 1:2; Gal. 1:3; Eph. 1:2; Phil. 1:2; Col. 1:2b; 1 Thess.1c; 2 Thess. 1:2; Philemon 1:3
  • Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Messiah Jesus our Lord.” 1 Tim.1:2b; 2 Tim.1:2b
  • “Grace and peace from God the Father and Messiah Jesus our savior.” Titus 1:4b

Basic reading comprehension skills enable us to understand that Paul is speaking of two distinct individuals in these benedictions. The Trinitarian says, “Yes, God the Father and God the Son.” But none of these text say such a thing as that; one must presuppose that in order to see it there. Again, if we employ basic reading comprehension skills it is clear that the distinction is not between Father and Son, persons within God, but between one who is called God and one who is called Lord and Messiah. The Trinitarian cannot just read the phrase ‘God our Father’ or ‘God the Father’ as Paul’s way of identifying the first person of the Trinity, for that would clearly be gross eisegesis. What Paul intends by these phrases is apparent to any unbiased reader; his meaning is ‘God, who is our Father’ or ‘God, who is the Father.’ In other words, by saying this Paul is identifying who God (i.e. the one true God, Yahweh) is — the Father. And in distinction to this God, Paul presents one who is ‘Lord’, i.e. the Messiah Jesus. By the way, as a side note, Trinitarianism teaches that the three persons within God are co-eternal, co-equal, and worthy of the same honor and worship. So why is the Holy Spirit never once included in Paul’s benedictions?

So how does Paul see the relationship between the one he designates as God, that is the Father, and the one he designates as Lord, that is Jesus the Messiah? Here is the answer to that question in Paul’s own words:

” … so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus the Messiah.”   Rom. 15:6

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus the Messiah, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort.”  2 Cor. 1:3

” The God and Father of our Lord Jesus, who is to be praised forever.”   2 Cor. 11:31

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus the Messiah, who has blessed us …”   Eph. 1:3

” … that the God of our Lord Jesus the Messiah, the Father of glory … ”   Eph. 1:17

Paul sees God our Father as the God and Father of the Lord Jesus. Anyone reading these texts without any presupposition would certainly come to that conclusion. So how does this help us to understand the sense in which Jesus is ‘Lord’ ? First of all, if Jesus is supposed to be a co-eval and co-equal member of the Godhead with the Father, doesn’t it seem strange that he has a God? How is one co-equal member of the Trinity the God of another co-equal member? Does the Holy Spirit also have a God? Does the Father have a God? The fact that Jesus has a God, who is the Father, the same God we have, certainly puts him in a different category than God. Now follow me carefully in this as I reason from the Scriptures.

In Micah chapter five there is a prophecy about the coming Messiah. We are all familiar with verse 2 which foretells of one coming out of Bethlehem who will be ruler for God over Israel, but verse four is what I want to focus on. It reads:

“He will stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of Yahweh, in the majesty of the name of Yahweh his God. And they shall inhabit their place, for then he shall be magnified unto the ends of the earth.”

Now if this is a Messianic prophecy, and I believe it is, then it is referring to the Lord Jesus. The verse tells us, not that this one is Yahweh, but that Yahweh is this one’s God. So when Paul says in Ephesians 1:17 that the God of our Lord Jesus is the Father, we can logically reason that the Father is Yahweh. Nothing controversial about that. But if trinitarianism is correct then Yahweh must be the Trinity. But the God of Jesus is the Father and not the Trinity. Now who is the God of believers? If you say the Triune God then you have a different God than our Lord Jesus. If you say Jesus then you also have a different God than our Lord Jesus. Can believers have as their God someone other than the God that Jesus has? Jesus himself did not think so, for he said to his disciples:

“I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God”  John 20:17

And Paul did not think so, for he told the believers in Jesus, in contradistinction to the many gods of the pagans:

” … but for us there is one God, the Father … ”  1Cor. 8:6

And John, the revelator did not think so, for he said concerning Jesus:

” … and he has made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father …”    Rev. 1:6

So what does all of this mean? It means that it is impossible that Paul intends, in designating Jesus as ‘Lord‘, that we should infer that Jesus is Yahweh himself.

1 Corinthians 8:6

Now let’s take a closer look at 1 Corinthians 8:6 to see just how Paul distinguishes God from the Lord Jesus. First, he says that we believers have one God, whom he identifies as the Father. Please note that Paul’s one God is the Father, not the ‘Father, Son and Holy Spirit.’ Paul could have said that if he believed it; after all isn’t that how orthodox Christians speak of God. Leaving aside the prepositional phrases, he then says:

” and (for us) there is one Lord, Jesus the Messiah …”

Now here is where the apologists’ arguments get really ridiculous, from “Paul is including Jesus in the one God” to “if the Father can be called ‘Lord’ even though Jesus is said to be the one Lord, then Jesus can be God even though the Father is said to be the one God.’ Really! Where are those basic reading comprehension skills when you need them? These arguments just seem like desperate attempts to validate with Scripture an unscriptural tradition.

Paul gives us here two different categories: 1.) the one God, presumably Yahweh, to which belongs the Father. Do I have to point out the obvious, that Paul includes no others in this category, not even Jesus. 2.) the one Lord, to which belongs Jesus the Messiah. The title ‘Lord’ here cannot be a reference to Yahweh because Paul has already dealt with that category and is now speaking of another category. If ‘Lord‘ here did refer to Yahweh then Paul would be  saying this:

” … but for us there is one Yahweh, the Father … and one Yahweh, Jesus the Messiah.”

This would make Paul incoherent and obtuse. The word ‘one’ here precludes that both categories are referring to the same being.

So Paul’s point is clear. Believers have one God, who is the Father, and one Lord, who is Jesus the Messiah. Now, does Jesus’ being the ‘one Lord’ preclude the Father from also bearing the title kurios? No! Why not? Because the Father is kurios by virtue of the fact that he is the one God and Creator of all things and therefore has authority over all, as is confirmed by Jesus himself,

“I praise you Father, Lord of heaven and earth … ”   Matt. 11:25

and by James,

“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father … ”   James 3:9

and by Paul,

“The God who made the world and everything in it, he is the Lord of heaven and earth … ”     Acts 17:24


The word kurios is attributed to the Father either as the Greek equivalent to adon, which is used of Yahweh many times in the OT, or as a substitute for adonai, which was itself a substitute for the Tetragrammaton. So the Father is given the title ‘Lord‘ for a totally different reason than Jesus is given the title.

Another reason Jesus’ being the ‘one Lord’ does not rule out that designation for the Father is that that would mean that Jesus is the Lord of the Father. But that would be total nonsense. Listen to what Paul told the Corinthians:

“For he (God, the Father) has put everything under his (Jesus) feet. Now when it says that ‘everything’ has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Messiah.”  1 Cor. 15:27

And Paul wrote to the congregation in Ephesus:

“There is one body and one Spirit … one hope … one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, the one over all … ”    Eph. 4:4-6

Here also Paul distinguishes between the one Lord, who is Jesus, and the one God, who is the Father of all. But note that Paul says of the Father, who is the one God, that he is the one who is over all, i.e. Lord of all, which must include the one Lord, who is Jesus the Messiah.

So what does Paul mean by ‘one Lord’ with reference to Jesus? Just what he said in these  passages. Jesus has been made the ‘one Lord’ by God, who has put everything under him. And this God himself is Lord over Jesus. This is in line with what Peter said of Jesus in Acts 2:36:

” … God has made this Jesus … both Lord and Messiah.”

Simply put, Jesus is the one from the line of David chosen to rule over God’s kingdom forever — that is, he is the one Lord among men. Once again, the Father is Lord of all because he is God the Creator. This is why Jesus can be appointed Lord over all by the God, the Creator, who is Lord of heaven and earth {Matt. 28:18}. How could God, the Father give Jesus this authority unless it was his to give. So then among all created beings Jesus the Messiah has the supremacy, the first place or rank, because the Lord of heaven and earth has given him that authority. Also his lordship is intrinsic to his Messiahship, as the angel told the shepherds of Bethlehem on the night of Jesus’ birth:

“Today in the city of David, a savior has been born to you who is Messiah ,the Lord.” Luke 2:11

As Yahweh’s anointed one he is given authority to rule on Yahweh’s behalf over Yahweh’s kingdom “and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.” {Gen. 49:10}

One other point that further shows the lordship of the Father over Jesus, the one Lord among created beings, is the concept of Jesus being at the right hand of God. This idea is found throughout the NT { see Acts 2:33-34; 5:31; Rom. 8:34; Eph. 1:20; Col. 3:1; Heb. 1:3; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2; 1 Peter 3:22}, as well as two passages in the OT {see Ps.80:17; 110:2}. What does it mean that Jesus is at the right hand of God? First, it is a position of subordination. The one who is at the right hand of another serves that one by carrying out that ones will and purpose. Second, it is a position to which one must be appointed. The Acts 5:31 and Eph. 1:20 passages clearly show that God put Jesus in this position, as does also the Ps 110:2 passage. It is the greater who appoints the lesser. What it means is that Jesus has been given authority to rule over God’s kingdom on God’s behalf. It should also be recognized that Scripture never says that Jesus is at the right hand of the Father, which could indicate a distinction within the Godhead between the person of the Father and the person of the son. But it is always “at the right hand of God,” indicating a distinction between the God, who in the NT is always only the Father, and the man Jesus the Messiah.

Now back to 1 Cor. 8:6. Paul further distinguishes between the ‘one God’ and the ‘one Lord’ by the prepositions that are applied to each. Of the ‘one God’ he writes, ek hos ta panta kai hemeis eis autos, which is literally translated, from whom the all things and we for him.” And of the ‘one Lord’ he writes, dia hos ta panta kai hemeis dia autos, which is literally translated, through whom the all things and we through him.” Now this is usually understood to be referring to the original creation and is therefore read something like this:

” … one God, the Father, who is the source of all creation and we were created for him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things were created and we were created through him.”

So then most exegetes take this as a statement that God the Father is the source of creation which he brought about by means of God the Son, hence making Jesus the actual, hands on, Creator of all things. Whether they realize it are not, this is a thoroughly Gnostic concept drawn from Platonic metaphysics. That aside, is this what Paul actually meant by these words? I would like to suggest another way of reading this passage.

I believe Paul is not speaking about the original creation of all things, but of the reconciliation of all things and the new creation in Messiah. Listen to what Paul says in 2 Cor. 5:17-19:

“Therefore, if anyone is in Messiah, a new creation; the old things have passed away. Look, the new things have come to be. Now the all things (are) from God, the one having reconciled us to himself through Messiah … how God was, by means of the Messiah, reconciling the world to himself … ”  Literal translation

Here we see the same exact wording found in 1 Cor.8:6, clearly in the context of the new creation in Messiah. In both passages there is no verb in the Greek, it simply says, “ from God the all things.” In 1 Cor. 8:6 most commentators supply the thought of , “from God the all things were created.” But in 2 Cor. 5:18-19, after saying “the all things from God,” Paul supplies the verbal thought himself, “from God the all things are reconciled.,” i.e. the all things of the new creation {see also Eph. 1:10; 2:10; and Col. 1:20}.

Paul then goes on to say that this reconciling, which is from God, has been accomplished through or by means of the Messiah, the one Lord . So then we could understand 1 Cor. 8:6 in this way:

“Yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom comes the new creation of all things having been reconciled and we are reconciled for him; and one Lord , Jesus the Messiah, through whom comes the new creation of all things having been reconciled and we are reconciled through him.



The Philippians Hymn

Philippians 2:5-11 – 5. “Let this mind be in you which was also in Messiah Jesus, 6. who, being the visible representation of God, did not consider this equality with God something to be seized for himself, 7. but deprived himself, taking the outward form of a subject, having arisen on the scene like other men. 8. And being found, in his external condition, as an ordinary man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to the point of death , even death of the cross. 9. For this very reason God exalted him to the highest place and graced him with the position of prominence above every title of distinction, 10. so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of heavenly things and of earthly things and of things under the earth; 11. and every tongue confess that Jesus the Messiah is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

This is my own translation, and though it is not word for word, but more of a thought for word translation, it is accurate to the original language, as I will demonstrate. Though it may be unlike any other translation you have seen before, I believe it can be justified.

The first thing we must remember is that this portion of Philippians is almost universally accepted by scholars to be an early Christian hymn. Whether Paul himself wrote the hymn or he just employed an already known hymn is not really important to this study. What we should keep in mind is the poetic flavor of the passage. Hymns and psalms are poetic in nature and the language must be understood in that sense. For example poetic language is not straight forward  language like a narrative or like Paul’s letters. That’s what makes this portion of this letter stand out as distinct from the rest of it. What I have done in the above translation is to put in a more straight forward way what is being said in a poetic fashion in the passage.

The nearly universal way of understanding this passage is that it is referring to the incarnation of the second person of the Trinity. I also accepted this view of the passage for some 35 yrs., but only because I had no reason to doubt the seemingly unanimous opinion of orthodox exegetes and commentators. But having been convinced of the fallaciousness of the Trinity doctrine I have now come to see this passage in a totally different light. So I want to explain the passage from a different perspective, i.e. that it is not speaking of a pre-existent divine being who condescends to come to earth as a human being. Rather the passage is about how a divinely destined human being humbled himself, on our behalf, and was obedient to God, even when that meant his own disgraceful death. So if you have always understood this passage as the majority do, I ask that you just open your mind to another possible understanding and weigh carefully the evidence I present for yourself.

The importance of this passage to our study of the Lordship of Jesus should be obvious — the last verse speaks of every tongue confessing that Jesus the Messiah is Lord. The whole passage throws light upon what it means for Jesus to be so designated. Does it mean, as the Trinitarian apologists affirm, that Jesus the Messiah is Yahweh? I categorically deny that assumption and, based on what we have already seen in this study, maintain that Jesus is Lord in a different sense.

v.5 – When Paul speaks of Christ(Messiah) Jesus or Jesus Christ we should assume him to be speaking of the historical man Jesus of Nazareth who is the Messiah, as in Rom. 5:15 and 1 Tim. 2:5. Hence, what follows is not about some pre-existing Son or Logos, but about the man Messiah Jesus.

V.6 – Again, it is the man Jesus who is in the form of God, not some divine being in heaven who then becomes man. Most versions have the correct translation of ‘form of God’ here, with two versions deviating from this . The CEV reads, “Christ was truly God” and the NIV reads, “being in very nature God.” These two translations are totally biased and are not translating here but interpreting. The Greek word is morphe. Strong lists as possible definitions: form, shape, outward appearance. Thayer defines it like this: the form by which a person or thing strikes the vision; the external appearance. Lidell-Scott-Jones has form, shape; also appearance, outward form. So the word speaks of the outward form, shape or appearance of a thing, not the inner or essential nature of a thing, as in the NIV. The word may have held the idea of essential nature among the philosophers of the Classical Greek period, but in the koine Greek period, from the 3rd century BC – 4th century AD, the word is used to denote external form and appearance. In the LXX it is used at Isaiah 44:13, where it describes the making of an idol “in the form of a man.” The only other use in the NT is at verse 7 in our text and at Mark 16:12, which reads:

“Afterward Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them while they were walking in the country.”

Surely these passages are referring to the outward shape and appearance of both the idol and of Jesus after his resurrection. Morphe is also used once  in the LXX at Job 4:16,  to translate the Hebrew word temunah, which according to Brown-Driver-Briggs means likeness, representation. This word temunah is found in Numbers 12:8 where Moses is said to “behold the form of Yahweh.” This is the closest OT parallel to “the form of God” found in our text. Now what did Moses see? Did he actually see Yahweh? No, for Paul says of God in 1 Tim. 6:16, “whom no one has seen or can see.” What Moses saw was a visible representation of Yahweh. This is why I opt for Jesus being the “visible representation of God.”

Now what does it mean that Jesus is the visible representation of God? Let me first state that if Paul wanted to say that Jesus was God he could have easily done so by simply saying, “who being the God.” If Paul had wanted his readers to understand Jesus to be God , saying that he is ” in the morphe of God” was the wrong way to express that idea. Now this hymn, as well as all the NT, is written from a Hebraic perspective, and is therefore not speaking in categories of Greek metaphysics, i.e. of  essence or ontology, but in Hebraic categories of status and function. When the Hebrew Scriptures speak of God it is never in terms of essential nature, or essence, or other metaphysical concepts, but always in relational terms with respect to Israel, his chosen covenant people. God is presented in his functions within his covenant with his people. God is Israel’s Father, Shepherd, Redeemer, Fortress, Rock, Refuge, Savior, Strength, etc. But all of these functions of God can be summed up in one – Yahweh is Israel’s King. Now there came a time when God chose to express his rule over Israel, his kingdom, through a human agent. He chose David and his descendants to be the visible representation of His invisible rule {see Psalm 2; 89:14-37; 2 Chron. 13:4-8}. This was an everlasting covenant God made with David. The NT depicts Jesus as the final and ideal descendant of David who shall rule for Yahweh over his kingdom {see Micah 5:2; Luke 1:31-33}. Jesus is therefore the chosen one from the line of David, destined to sit on the throne of Yahweh {1 Chron. 28:5-6], as the visible representation of Yahweh’s rule. This is what I believe it means when our text says of Jesus, “who, being in the form of God.”

Although Jesus was destined to this role from the moment of his conception, as Gabriel’s words to Mary indicate, he was not born in a king’s palace nor dressed in princely garb. For it was the will of his God and Father that the path to his glory, as the one who would rule over all on his Father’s behalf, would first involve rejection and the suffering of death. Though he was the rightful heir to the throne, the one foretold of in the Scriptures, he willingly submitted to the Father’s will and purpose regarding how it was that he must enter into that role. Therefore the hymn states that he “did not consider this equality with God something to be seized for himself.” Again, understanding this from a Hebraic mindset, equality with God is not speaking of equality of nature or essence but of status and function. This refers back to being in the form of God, i.e. God’s visible representative. There were at least two times when Jesus could have seized for himself this position which he knew he was destined to obtain. First, when he was tempted in the wilderness and offered by Satan all the authority and splendor of the kingdoms of the world {Lk.4:5}, and second, when after feeding the multitude from just a few loaves and fishes, the crowd intended to come and make him king by force. In both instances Jesus refused to seize for himself that which he knew he could only obtain by suffering and death, according to the will of God.

v.7 – Imagine Jesus at some point in his life (probably as a child) coming to understand that he is the one foretold who would be a great king, and have great glory and majesty. Yet as he grew older he did not try to gather an army together and make it happen. He willingly laid aside his kingly rights and privileges and lived as a virtual pauper. He lived not as the true king he was but as a subject in another’s kingdom {see 2 Cor. 8:9}. He assumed the outward form of a servant, as one under authority, not as a Lord. We also see this picture of the Messiah in the servant song of Isaiah 52:13-53:12, where at 53:2 we are told:

“He (Messiah) grew up before him (Yahweh) like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should regard him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.”

I used to think this was saying that Messiah would not have good looks, that he would be homely. But I now understand it to say that he would live his life just like any ordinary man; there would be nothing in his appearance and manner of living that would cause others to regard him as the Messiah. The Messiah was held to be a kingly figure, a man of royal lineage. Jesus’ humble life didn’t fit the bill.

The phrase “being made in the likeness of men” is not a reference to an incarnation of some heavenly, preexistent being, but a reference to the fact that he lived an ordinary life, as other men. The Greek for ‘being made’ is ginomai, which has a wide range of meaning, such as, to be born, to become, to come to pass, to happen, to appear or arise on the scene of history, to be made, to become as or like one. Now I agree that if one already holds to the concept of the incarnation, that this could accommodate that belief, but it in no way teaches that belief. Ginomai is used twice of John the baptizer {Mark 1:4; John 1:6}, translated as ‘came’ with reference to John’s coming on the scene, his coming out to the public in his ministry. In our text it probably has the meaning  that Jesus came on the scene of history like common men and not as a king.

v.8 – The phrase “being found in appearance as a man” is parallel to “being made in the likeness of men,” and so further illuminates it’s meaning. This is a common feature of Hebrew poetry called synonymous parallelism. The word ‘appearance’ here in the Greek is schema. Thayer defines it as “the habitus, as comprising everything in a person which strikes the senses; the figure, bearing, discourse, actions, manner of life, etc.” The only version I found that brings out this sense is the Catholic Douay-Rheims Bible, which has “and in habit found as a man.” Once again, this is not saying that God the Son appeared on earth as a man, but rather that Jesus of Nazareth, though of royal lineage and rightful heir to the throne of David, lived life like an ordinary man.

“He humbled himself” – this is the crux of the passage and of Paul’s admonition in verse 5 to have the same mind as Messiah. His humbling of himself did not stop at living a common life, but went even to the point of giving his life, and that in the most heinous and disgraceful manner, which was an act of obedience to his God and Father.

vv.9-11 – This section begins with the word dio in Greek, which means ‘for this reason, on account of this.’ This means that what follows is the direct result of what came before. The exaltation of the Messiah is the result of his humbling himself and being obedient to his Father. His exaltation is the reason he is to be addressed as ‘Lord’, and the basis for that exaltation is his humble obedience. This is telling us that Jesus’ lordship is not about him being Yahweh, but about his humble submission to the Father’s will, which was for him to die. The writer of Hebrews confirms this by saying:

“But we see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because he suffered death.”   Heb. 2:9

Paul says that God exalted him, which means that this exaltation was given to him by another, i.e. God, showing the distinction between God and Messiah and the subordinate status of Messiah to the God who exalted him. “To the highest place,” must mean the highest place under the God who exalted him {remember 1 Cor. 15:27}.

The word ‘name‘ here is onoma and can mean a personal name, a title, reputation, fame. When Paul says that God gave him a name, he is not talking about the name Jesus. I used to think it referred to the title Lord, but now I understand it to refer to his position and the honor and glory attached to it. This has been given to him by God, again, showing that it was not something intrinsic to him, i.e. it was not his by virtue of his being God. The Greek is charizomai meaning to extend grace to, show favor to. The exaltation of Jesus the Messiah, by God, was a gift of grace bestowed upon him.

Verse 10 refers to the age to come, for not all bow the knee at the name of Jesus in this age. When Jesus returns to reign on the throne of David then, at that time, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that the man, Messiah Jesus, is ‘Lord.’ Now Paul says that this is to the glory of God, the Father. To bow the knee and to acknowledge Jesus as Lord is to glorify and honor the God who made him Lord.

Is it not clear that Jesus’ being designated ‘Lord’ by the authors of the NT is in no way intended to identify him as Yahweh, but rather as the man through whom Yahweh will rule his kingdom?

In the next part we will continue to look at important passages in the epistles regarding the lordship of Jesus.