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.

THE NT AFFIRMS THE TRINITY AND DIVINITY OF THE MESSIAH

  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.

 

          

 

 

 

 

 

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Author: Troy Salinger

I am 55 yrs. old. I live with my wife of 32 yrs. in Picayune MS. I have been a believer in the Lord Jesus since August of 1981. I have no formal theological education, but have been an ardent student of Scripture for 36 yrs. I am a biblical Unitarian i.e. I believe the Father is the only true God (John 17:3) and Jesus is His human Son, the Messiah.

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