Refutation of the Master’s University Bible Faculty Document on the Trinity and Divinity of Messiah- Part 5: Hebrews and Jude

After nearly two years I am resuming my refutation series. Here is the document. Please open it and follow along starting on page 10:  The Trinity and Divinity of Messiah .

B. Hebrews

Jesus is the co-agent in creation with God

Hebrews 1:2 –  Trinitarians often make the case that they are just taking the scripture at face value  and letting it speak for itself, without bringing any presuppositions to the text. But this passage offers a good example of how this is just not true. If trinitarians did not have their presupposition that Jesus is divine then certainly they would not think that this verse is telling us that Jesus was a co-agent with God in the creation of all things. The only reason for thinking that this verse is saying that Jesus was a co-agent in the creation is the presuppositional belief that Jesus is God. A secondary reason why trinitarians are quick to see this verse as implicating Jesus in the act of creation is the bias of our English translations. Here are some examples:

  • NIV – “through whom he made the universe.”
  • ISV –  “through whom he also made the universe.”
  • CSB –  “and made the universe through him.”
  • NET –  “through whom he created the world.”
  • NASB –  “through whom also he made the world.”

So what is wrong with these versions? Well, the first thing is that the word which is translated as ‘universe’ and ‘world’ in these versions is actually plural in the Greek, which is not reflected in these translations. Why do they translate a plural word as singular? The word in question is aionas, the plural form of aion. This word denotes time, not material substance. It often denotes an indeterminate period of time and is best translated as ‘age.’ Hence, the correct translation here would be ‘ages,’ referring to more than one age or time period. Now the authors admit this fact in the paper but then ignore it.

The next thing that should be noted is that the subject of the sentence is not ‘the son’ but ‘he’ which refers to ‘God.’ God is the one who ‘made the ages’ in this verse, not the son. This immediately makes a distinction between God and this one called ‘son.’ Note that the distinction is not a trinitarian one i.e. a distinction between God the Father and God the Son, but between God and the son.

But what about the “through whom” in this verse, surely this means that the ‘son’ was the agent through whom God created, doesn’t it? Trinitarian apologists are quick to point out that the use of dia  (through) with the genitive pronoun (whom) denotes agency, i.e. it reflects an instrumental connotation. Thus ‘the son’ would be pictured here as the instrument or agent through whom God made the ages, which would imply this son’s existence at the time of the said action. This is how the authors of the document take the passage. But is this the only way dia used with a genitive can be understood? The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament lists five senses in which we can understand the use of dia with a genitive: spatial, temporal, modal, instrumental and causal. The causal sense denotes the reason why or for which something is done. With this causal sense, possible substitutions for “through” would be ‘in consequence of,’  ‘on account of,’  ‘on the basis of,’  ‘in view of,’ and ‘for the sake of.’  Now what reason would we have to take Heb. 1:2 in a causal, rather than an instrumental sense? Or the better question might be “Why should the instrumental sense be preferred over the causal sense?” Well, the evident reason why a trinitarian or modalist or arian would prefer the instrumental sense is that they already hold as a presupposition that Jesus was a divine person who existed before the creation. But as one who holds Jesus to be purely human and hence could not have existed before the creation, but had his beginning in the womb of his mother, I do not assume Jesus to have personally been an agent in the creation. Therefore, the causal sense makes more sense to me.

The final point pertains to the word “made” or as some versions say “created.” The word is poieo and has a wide semantic range: make, produce, construct, create, prepare, appoint, ordain, to do, accomplish, perform, institute. Now if the trinitarian wants to insist that the word should be taken in the sense of create or make then I will point them to Heb. 3:2, which says, “He (Jesus) was faithful to the one who poiesanti him.” Do they want to say that the word here means made or created? I don’t think so. Some versions translate it here as appointed. Possible renderings for our verse could be appointed, established, ordained, arranged, set up or constituted.

With this understanding the verse could be translated in the following ways:

  • “for whose sake he (God) established the ages”
  • “on account of whom he (God) arranged the ages”
  • “because of whom he (God) set up the ages.”

The idea would be that God, in view of his plan to bring the Messiah (the son) into the world, so arranged the ages of time to best accommodate that plan. This would make Messiah the central focus of history. So, to answer the question of the authors of the document, “Is a human involved in creation?” NO! Although Jesus is simply and purely human he was not involved in creation.

Hebrews 1:8-10

I think what the authors really wanted to focus on was the quotation from Ps. 102 in vv. 10-12 of Heb. 1. The author of Hebrews, in his argument for the superior status of the son in comparison to angels, quotes from Ps. 102:25-27. The trinitarians think that the object of the quote is to show that the son is the creator and is therefore God. I am going to show why this is fallacious, so please follow carefully my line of reasoning.

The author of Hebrews, in chapter 1, is presenting a series of quotations from the Hebrew scriptures to show that the ‘son’ is superior to angels, i.e. superior in status not in nature. The reason we know that it is about status and not nature is the fact that the quotations he presents, in their original context, are referencing human beings. Since we know that human beings are ontologically inferior to heavenly beings then we can assume that the superiority being asserted of the ‘son’ is that of status and role in God’s redemptive plan. The first passage he quotes {v.5} is from Ps. 2:7, which is a psalm about the Davidic king, YHWH’s anointed one. It is not about any specific Davidic king but would be potentially applicable to every king in David’s line; it is an ideal depiction of the anointed one of YHWH. The commentary notes on this psalm in both the 1985 NIV Study Bible and the Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible confirm what I am saying.

Next, he quotes from 2 Sam.7:14 {1 Chron. 17:13} which speaks of David’s descendants who are chosen by God to sit on the throne of His kingdom. The relationship between YHWH and his  anointed king is to be that of  father and son {see also 1 Chron. 28:5-6}.  This is why YHWH in Psalm 2 refers to the king as his son. This father/son relationship is in keeping with the common ANE practice of a great king and his chosen vassal who rules on his behalf. Of course, this relationship is not literal but figurative.

He then quotes a passage of which there is dispute as to where exactly he is quoting from. We will address this next after our present passage, but I do want to note that in v. 6 he prefaces that quote by referring to the ‘son’ as ‘the firstborn.’ This was a designation that YHWH himself ascribed to David, and to his descendants after him, in Ps. 89:27. I hope by this point you are seeing the obvious implication of what the author of Hebrews is saying. He is clearly equating ‘the son’ with the Davidic kingship. What he clearly is not doing is equating ‘the son’ with God the creator.

The next passage he quotes {vv. 8-9} is Ps. 45:6-7. Once again, he quotes a passage which in it’s original context is about the Davidic king. If you look at the psalm you will see in verse 1 that it is a hymn to the reigning king. Verses 2-7 are again an ideal depiction of YHWH’s anointed one and would therefore potentially apply to all of David’s descendants who sat on the throne of Israel. The rest of the psalm is more specific to a particular king, perhaps Solomon, and speaks of his wedding day. Note that vv. 6-7 are the highest ideal portrait of YHWH’s anointed king, and it is these verses that the author of Hebrews focuses on. We will deal with what these verses mean in their context shortly, but for now it will suffice to simply show that this quotation from Ps. 45 is in keeping with the way the author of Hebrews is portraying ‘the son‘ as the Davidic king.

So then we come to verses 10-12, in which the author quotes from Psalm 102:25-27. Having clearly seen this author’s line of reasoning, that he is equating ‘the son’ with the Davidic kingship, are we now to assume that he quotes this next passage to equate ‘the son’ with God himself. We have seen that he quotes three OT passages which pertain to the Davidic king and he alludes to another Davidic kingship passage in calling the ‘son’ the firstborn. The authors of the document would now have us believe that the author of Hebrews suddenly shifts his focus from the Davidic kingship to tell his readers that the ‘son’ is actually the creator, YHWH himself. To further drive home this point I should also point out that the author of Hebrews quotes from Ps. 110:1 in v. 15, which again is about the Davidic kingship, as The Cultural Backgrounds Bible and the 1985 NIV Study Bible both acknowledge in their comments on this Psalm. This fact strengthens my contention that the author’s quote of Ps. 102:25-27 is not meant to convey the idea that ‘the son’ is to be equated with the Creator. Such an interpretation of the passage is shallow and facile, not taking into account the context of the passage, the author’s line of reasoning or the original context of the OT passages he is quoting.

A further problem for this misguided interpretation is the fact that Ps. 102 has no direct mention of the Davidic king. While it may be argued that the psalm pertains to the Messianic age, and in fact I think it does, the Messiah is no where explicitly mentioned or alluded to in the psalm. So for the author of Hebrews to suddenly take a passage of scripture which speaks about God creating the heavens and earth, and simply apply that to a specific man, as a prooftext that this man is really God the creator, would be eisegesis of an extreme sort. Imagine yourself as a first century Jew, and you receive a letter from a fellow Jew telling you that another fellow Jew, that he was acquainted with, is the creator of the universe. Now to prove this to you he quotes Ps. 102:25-27. You would be left scratching your head, wondering if your friend should see a psychiatrist. How would this passage, in it’s original context, convince any clear thinking person that the Messiah is actually YHWH God, the creator? The passage simply addresses God as the creator, without any mention whatsoever of the Davidic king, YHWH’s Messiah. So if the quotation of Ps. 102:25-27 is not meant to tell us that the son is YHWH the creator, what was the author’s purpose in citing it.

Remember that the point being made in Hebrews 1 is that this one called ‘son’ has a superior status and role to that of the heavenly angels. Perhaps the congregation of Christians to whom this author was writing had come under the influence of the pervasive speculations among Jews of that time regarding the mediatorial role of these heavenly beings. It appears that perhaps in their thinking they had come to demote the status of the ‘son’ i.e. the Davidic king, and to elevate angels to a greater role in God’s plan. The author is writing in part to correct this error. Based on things said in chapter 2, it is even possible that some of these believers had come to view this ‘son,’ whom they knew to be Jesus of Nazareth, as a heavenly being himself, who had come and lived among the Jews in the form of a man. Whatever the case, the author is writing to show that God had not assigned the special role of ‘the son’ to any angel, but to one of David’s descendants, a Jew just like them, a man just like them. The ‘son‘ is that man chosen by God, his anointed one, who sits on the throne of YHWH and rules over YHWH’s kingdom on YHWH’s behalf. This position is given only to human beings, specifically those of David’s line {see 1 Chron. 28;5-7; 29:23; 2 Chron. 9:8; 13:8; Ps. 89:19-37}. God has never addressed any angel as ‘son’ in this regard. He has never invited any angel to take this position, for he has promised it to David and his descendants forever.

Now to further prove that this position of ‘son’ is of greater importance and status than that of any angel, the author quotes from Ps. 102:25-27. But how does this passage prove his point? The author’s point may have, for centuries, escaped the notice of Gentile Christians, even down to our day, but it certainly would have been readily grasped by his original Jewish readers. In vv. 5-6  of chapter one the author quotes passages about the role and status of the ‘son’. In v. 7 he quotes a passage about the role of angels. In vv. 8-9, about the ‘son’ again. Now skipping down to v. 13, he speaks about the status of the ‘son’ once again, and then says something about the role of angels in v. 14. This means that the quotation in vv. 10-12 is meant to say something about the status of angels. Now it seems to me that this quotation of Ps. 102:25-27 is set in opposition to the prior quotation of Ps. 45:6-7. In the Ps. 45 passage the throne of the king is said to endure forever. This is the main import of the author’s quoting of this passage i.e. that the throne, and hence the kingdom and rule, of this chosen son from David’s line, is an everlasting kingdom and rule. In contrast to this, Ps. 102:25-27 is quoted to show the temporary nature of the status of angelic beings. My contention is that any Jew reading this letter in the first century, following the author’s line of argument showing that the status and role of the ‘son’ is superior to that of the angels in God’s plan, would have immediately caught the import of the author’s quotation of Ps. 102:25-27. Having established, in his previous quote, the everlasting nature of the kingdom and throne of the ‘son’, he now shows the temporary nature of the role of angels, a role which will end with the establishment of the Messianic age. The quotation of Ps.102:25-27 was not meant to show who created the heavens and earth, for every Jew knew that already, but was meant to show that whatever role angels presently have in God’s system of rule, that role would come to an end.  First century Jews were very keen to the concept of angels ruling from the heavens or exercising a mediatorial role in some sense, as many Jewish writings from the 2nd Temple period and afterwards attest {see also Eph. 3:10; 6:12}. When these Jews read that the present heavens would wear out like a robe and be changed like a garment they most certainly would have understood that a change in the role and status of angelic beings was in view. Hence, the point is clear – the ‘son‘ has an everlasting role and a superior status compared to that of the angels, whose role in governing or influencing nations will some day end.

Jesus is brought into the world and worshiped

Hebrews 1:6

The presuppositions of the authors of the document really show forth in what they say about this passage. Because they believe Jesus to be God, then the only possible way for them to understand Jesus’ being brought into the world is that he must have pre-existed as something other than a man and was brought into the world from somewhere outside of the world. And the fact that he is worshiped by the angels is proof that he can’t be human. Once again, I must say that this is very shallow exegesis.

It appears that they are assuming that this refers to the supposed incarnation i.e. when  Jesus left heaven and took on flesh in the womb of Mary. But, of course, that is just an assumption. A more reasonable assumption would be that it refers to Messiah’s return to establish the kingdom of God upon the earth. The Greek says literally, “When then again he brings the firstborn into the world.” While some expositors see the ‘again’ here as simply introducing another quotation about the ‘son,’ the word order seems to favor the connection of palin (again) with the verb eisagage (bring in), which would give us the sense of “When he brings again the firstborn into the world.” This would also be in keeping with one of the the prominent themes of the book – the coming again of Messiah {see 2:5; 9:28; 10:37-39}. That the second coming of Messiah would be described as God once again bringing the firstborn into the world should not be controversial. If the authors of the document insist that the “language implies he be brought from somewhere” then the second coming answers this – he is brought into the world from where he is now. But really the language does not have to imply this at all. Even if it were referring to his first coming it would simply be speaking of his birth. All men are brought into the world in the same manner, i.e. by birth.

Now, as to the fact that the angels are enjoined to worship the ‘son’, the authors are incredulous as to how Jesus could be a mere human and receive such worship. This is due to their mistaken presupposition that worship can only rightly be given to God. The word for ‘worship’ is proskuneo which may mean nothing more than to show homage to a superior by prostrating oneself before him. The word does not denote only the worship of a deity but also the paying of homage to one who is a superior and is used of such homage being given to men throughout both testaments. One such passage which is of special note is 1 Chron. 29:20:

So they all praised Yahweh, the God of their fathers; they bowed low and paid homage to Yahweh and the king.

So in answer to the question of the document’s authors I would have to say a resounding “YES!”  A human can be given proskuneo!

There is one other thing I want to address regarding Heb. 1:6, which thankfully the document authors did not – from where was this quotation drawn? There are typically two passages that are suggested as the source – Deut. 32:43, which reads in the LXX, “Rejoice, you heavens, and let the angels of God worship him,” and Ps. 97:7, which reads in the LXX, “. . . worship him, all his angels.”  Some trinitarian apologists point out that the object of these two passages seems to be YHWH himself, and so they claim that, whichever passage is in view, the author of Hebrews is making the affirmation that the ‘son’ is YHWH. But this suffers from the same problem as we saw with the quotation of Ps. 102:25-27. Neither of these passages speak of the ‘son’ or the Messiah or the Davidic king or ‘the firstborn.’ So by what rules of sound exegesis could these passages be made to be saying anything about the ‘son.’ To arbitrarily assign a passage which speaks about YHWH, to another person other than YHWH, as a proof-text that this other person is to be regarded as YHWH, is simply eisegesis, and that of the worst kind. We should not be so ready to attribute such folly to the author of Hebrews.

A more reasonable proposal is that the quotation in Heb. 1:6 is from neither of these OT passages but rather from a now non-extant Jewish writing from the 2nd Temple period. The context of the passage from this writing would have been about the coming of the Messianic king, to whom the angels are commanded to pay homage. The text probably would have referred to this king as the firstborn, alluding to Ps 89:27. Now if someone wants to object that a canonical book would quote from a non-canonical book, then I would point them to the book of Jude, which quotes from both the Book of Enoch {vv. 14-15} and The Assumption of Moses {v. 9}. If either of those works had not survived down to our day, we would have two quotations from unknown works by a canonical NT book. So why couldn’t the author of Hebrews have quoted from a non-canonical work that is presently unknown to us?

Scriptures about the Father are Attributed to Jesus

Hebrews 1:8-9

The assertion made by the authors regarding this passage is just manifestly false; the passage is not “clearly speaking about God.” It is as if they did not even go to the passage {Ps. 45:6-7} to ascertain it’s original context. As I mentioned earlier, Ps. 45 is a hymn to a Davidic king. The quotation is found in the section of the psalm which presents an idealized depiction of the king and so would apply to any Davidic king. In this idealized portrait the king is called ‘god,’ not because he is ontologically so, but because as God’s vicegerent, sitting on God’s throne, he represents the invisible rule of God, Israel’s true king. Now for those whose preconceptions won’t allow them to accept what I have just said, let me quote from two trinitarian sources:

O God.  Possibly the king’s throne is called God’s throne because he is God’s appointed regent. But it is also possible that the king himself is addressed as “god.” The Davidic king (the “LORD’s anointed,” 2 Sa 19:21), because of his special relationship with God, was called at his enthronement the “son” of God (see 2:7; 2 Sa 7:14; 1 Ch 28:6; cf 89:27). In this psalm, which praises the king and especially extols his “splendor and majesty” (v.3), it is not unthinkable that he was called “god” as a title of honor (cf. Isa 9:6).     1985 NIV Study Bible commentary on Ps. 45:6

Your throne, O God  The NKJV capitalizes “God,” suggesting that the psalmist turns the address to God at this point. However, throughout the context,  the king is the addressee. In what sense can the king be called a “god”? Despite the NKJV capitalizations and the chapter heading, this psalm is likely not describing some future divine messiah. By virtue of his divine appointment, the king in the ancient Near East stood before his subjects as a representative of the divine realm . . . In Israel the king was “adopted” as God’s son (see note on 2:7).                                                 Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible comment on Ps. 45:6

It is also possible, as scholars have pointed out, that Ps. 45:6 could be translated as, “Your throne is God.” This would mean something like, God, as the true but invisible king of Israel, is the source and the true strength behind the throne of the Davidic king.

One other thought about this section of the document. The authors seem rather confused. The heading for this section says Scriptures about the Father are Attributed to Jesus, then after quoting Heb. 1:8-9 they say, “The author therefore believed the two were the same.” If this were true it would mean that the author of Hebrews was a modalist not a trinitarian. All of this shows up what is a major problem in much of popular evangelical teaching and apologetics – the exegesis is about an inch deep.

Jesus is brought into the world (= incarnation)

Hebrews 2:17

The authors make the assertion that this passage proves the incarnation, that Jesus existed as something else and then had to become human. But once again, what we see is that their presuppositions are driving their interpretation. Because they already think Jesus is God and so had to become a human, they impose that belief upon any text that might accommodate it. Again, if you follow the flow of thought in Hebrews 2 it doesn’t lead to their conclusion. The author of Hebrews is still, in chapter 2, starting at v. 5, showing a comparison between the ‘son’ and angels, specifically that the ‘son’ has a greater role in God’s plan than do angels. As I noted earlier, some of the recipients of the letter may have come to view Jesus as an angel who had taken human form, but the author will have none of it.  Chapter 2 specifically seems to be combatting this idea. He starts off stating that God has not subjected the world to come to angels.  He then quotes from Ps. 8:4-6, which speaks of how God has given dominion over his creation to man. This seems to imply that the ‘son,’ to whom all authority is given in the age to come, must be a man and cannot therefore be an angel. This identifies Jesus with humanity not with the heavenly beings.  In v. 9 he says that Jesus was “for a little while made lower than the angels.” This is what Ps. 8:5 says about man, thus again equating Jesus with humanity. In v. 10 he says that it was fitting for God to perfect the founder of Israel’s salvation by the suffering of death. The point being made is not that a divine being had to become human so that he could die, but that it was fitting that this divinely appointed king should first suffer death on behalf of his people before being crowned with the glory and honor that was his due as the “firstborn, the most exalted of the kings of the earth” {Ps. 89:27}. 

It was necessary that the founder of their salvation should die on their behalf, which an angel could not do { see Lk. 20:36}. It had to be a human being just like them. The author states plainly in v. 11 that the founder of salvation is of the same family as those he saves, once again asserting his full-fledged humanity. After quoting three passages of Scripture, in which the Messiah is identifying himself with his people Israel, as being one of them, he says:

v. 14 Therefore, because the children have shared in flesh and blood, he (i.e. the founder of their salvation) also, in the same way, shared in the same, so that by death he might destroy him who holds the power of death . . . v.16 For certainly nowhere (in scripture) is he laying claim to angels (as his family), but Abraham’s seed he lays claim to (as his family). v. 17 On account of this (i.e. what Scripture says) it was necessary for him (i.e. the founder of their salvation) to be like his brothers in every way . . .   (See endnote 1 for explanation)

The word homoioo can simply mean to be like and not necessarily to be made like. There is nothing in this passage that demands the reader understand Jesus to have been a divine being who then became a human being; there is no incarnation in this passage. The focus from v. 10 to v. 17 is not the supposed eternal Son, who had to become human to save us, but the founder of salvation {v.10}. Whoever this founder of salvation would be he had to be a member of the human race and in particular of the seed of Abraham. The author’s point is that the Messiah, i.e. the founder of salvation, had to be one from the same family as those he saves, thus eliminating the possibility of the Messiah being an angel or even God himself.

One other thing for trinitarians to think about. If it is true, as is claimed, that all of the first believers knew Jesus to be God in nature, then what was the point of the author of Hebrews presenting a case that Jesus is greater than the angels. If the author and his readers all believed Jesus was God, then by that fact alone they would have already regarded him as greater than the angels, making the whole line of reasoning in chapter 1 superfluous. Yet, if the recipients of the letter regarded Jesus as purely human then the argument of chapter one makes sense, for there would be reason to show his superiority to angels.

Jesus is active in Israel’s History

Jude 5

Here we run into a common problem with those proof-texts typically used to show the deity of Jesus – there is ambiguity in what the text actually says. In this case it is due to multiple variants of this verse in the Greek manuscripts, something the authors of the document fail to inform their readers about. The two most likely variants read Jesus and the Lord (Gr. o kyrios), both having good external evidence. There are other minor variants – God, God Christ and simply he – but these have no real weight. I will not get into the external evidence of the manuscripts or patristic witnesses or early versions, for there are plenty of resources one can find online which cover that information. Personally I don’t think the external evidence is conclusive; both the readings Jesus and the Lord are well attested. Trinitarians will most likely accept the reading Jesus and non-trinitarians will most likely accept the reading the Lord.

A better way to determine what is most likely the original reading is through a study of intertextual corroboration. How does the idea of Jesus being the one who led the Israelites out of Egypt hold up in other NT writings? Does any other NT author make the same proposition? I think that any unbiased mind would agree that the intertextual evidence, from the OT as well as from the NT, is decisively against the notion that Jesus was involved in bringing the Israelites out of Egypt. Now this does not prove conclusively that the original reading in Jude was not Jesus, but it sure does make that reading suspect.

It would not be feasible to go through all of the intertextual evidence in this article, but I want to look at a few passages which prove the point. In Acts 13:16-41 we have a message which the apostle Paul spoke to the Jews in the synagogue at Pisidian Antioch. Please read this passage, at least vv.16-37. In v. 17 he speaks of the God (Gr. ho theos) of the people of Israel, who led them out of Egypt with an uplifted arm. Throughout the passage he refers to the God and clearly distinguishes this one from Jesus {see vv. 23, 29-30,32-33, 37}. If Paul thought that the God who brought the Israelites out of Egypt was Jesus, then why is he distinguishing Jesus from this God. Another way to look at this would be to replace every occurrence of the God with Jesus, since here the God is the one who led the Israelites out of Egypt. So if Paul believed that Jesus was the one who accomplished this then Jesus and the God would be synonymous. So this is what we would end up with:

v. 16    . . . Men of Israel and you Gentiles who worship Jesus, Listen to me. v. 17 Jesus, the God of the people of Israel chose our fathers . . . with an uplifted arm he led them out of [Egypt]. . . v.20 . . . After this Jesus gave them judges . . . v. 21 Then the people asked for a king . . . v. 22 . . . Jesus made David their king . . . v. 23  From this man’s descendants Jesus has brought to Israel a Savoir, Jesus. . .  v.29  When they had carried out all that was written about him . . . they laid him in a tomb. v. 30  But Jesus raised him from the dead . . . v. 32  We tell you the good news: What Jesus promised our fathers  v.33 he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus. As it is written in the second Psalm: “You (Jesus) are my (Jesus’) son; today I (Jesus) have become your (Jesus’) father.”  v. 34  The fact that Jesus raised him from the dead, never to decay, is stated in these words: “I (Jesus) will give you (Jesus) the holy and sure blessings promised to David.”  v. 35 So it is stated elsewhere: “You (Jesus) will not let your holy one (Jesus) see decay.”  v. 37  But the one whom Jesus raised from the dead did not see decay.

Now this might seem silly, but if trinitarians want to insist that the apostles believed that Jesus was the one who led the Israelites out of Egypt, then this is the absurdity that results. Trinitarians do not seem at all bothered by the fact that this type of reasoning would result in a Oneness or Modalist conception of God rather than a trinitarian one.

Let’s look at some more intertextual evidence. Exodus 20:2, 1 Sam. 10:18 and many other passages in the Hebrew Bible plainly state that YHWH is the one who delivered the people of Israel out of Egypt. This is the same YHWH who earlier appeared to Moses through an angel in the burning bush {see Ex. 3}. Three times in Ex. 3 YHWH is identified as the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, {vv. 6, 15, 16}. Now the trinitarians would have us believe, based on their reading of Jude 5, that the YHWH who appeared to Moses and then delivered the people from Egypt is none other than Jesus. But if we turn to Acts 3:13 we find the apostle Peter says this:

v. 13  The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of your fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed . . .  v. 15  . . . but God raised him from the dead.

So I ask, how can Jesus be the servant of the one who delivered the people out of Egypt and at the same time be the one who delivered the people out of Egypt. This amounts to an absurdity and leads one to Modalism, which, according to orthodox trinitarianism, is heresy. Anyone with a modicum of reading comprehension skills can see that one cannot be both a specific person and the servant of that specific person. Scriptural logic should lead one to reject the Jesus reading in Jude 5. Therefore, the most likely original reading is the Lord, a common way of referring to YHWH in the Greek Scriptures. Besides this, the name Jesus refers to the man from Nazareth who was born of Mary {see Lk. 1:30-31 and Acts 2:22}. Do trinitarians really believe that the man Jesus delivered the people of Israel out of Egypt some 1500 yrs before he was born?

Endnotes

  1. The Greek of v. 16 reads like this: “Ou (not) gar (for) de (certainly) pou (somewhere) angelon (angels) epilambanetai (he lays hold of), alla (but) spermatos (seed) Abraam (of Abraham) epilambanetai (he lays hold of).” If you check most English versions you will see that they have nothing in their translations of this verse that corresponds to the word pou.  The only version I found that does is the Douay-Rheims, which reads: “For no where does he take hold of angels . . .” It is as if the translators didn’t know what to do with this word in this context, so they left it untranslated. But the word is key to rightly understanding the author’s point. The word pou is used two other times in Hebrews to denote somewhere in Scripture, at 2:6 and 4:4. The author had just quoted three passages from Scripture in vv. 12-13 to show the son’s identification with the people of Israel. His point in v. 16 is that nowhere in scripture is the Messiah identified with angels, but only with Abraham’s seed. As for the meaning of epilambanetai = to lay hold of, to take to oneself, the author could be using it in the figurative sense of identification, i.e. in OT Scripture the Messiah is depicted as claiming for himself the Israelite people as his people and never claiming for himself angels as his ontological identification. But it is also possible to take it in this sense: “For surely nowhere (in scripture) is he (depicted as) laying hold of angels (i.e. to deliver them from death) . . .”  The meaning would be the same – the founder of salvation had to be of the same family as those he saves, hence he must be of the human family not the angelic family.

Author: Troy Salinger

I am 60 yrs. old. I live with my wife of 37 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 41 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.

6 thoughts on “Refutation of the Master’s University Bible Faculty Document on the Trinity and Divinity of Messiah- Part 5: Hebrews and Jude”

  1. What do you think about this reading of Hebrews 2:16. For surely nowhere (in scripture) does it [I.e. The fear of death] take hold of the Angels but it does take hold of the seed of Abraham. I’m connecting the “take hold of” to fear of death and being subject to slavery because of that from verse 15.

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    1. I guess that is possible, but then it would loose what I think is a connection to vv. 12-13 where he quotes scripture to show the son’s identification with the people of Israel . V. 16 is saying that no such identification of Messiah with angels is found in scripture. If we did understand it that way I would translate it as: “For nowhere (in scripture) is (death) taking hold of angels, but of Abraham’s seed (death) takes hold.” Of course, either way still has the same result – the ‘son’ had to be of the same family as those he saves. Since angels don’t need saving from death then Messiah is not of their family.

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  2. Troy, Thanks for going over these “claims”.

    My memory is bad, but may God forgive me if I as a Trinitarian ever said something so biblically demonstrably false as “because Jesus is worshiped, he must be God”. I definitely don’t remember saying something like that, and it is a claim that now both bugs me and makes me laugh at the same time. OK, for an average Christian in the pew who has heard it and is just repeating something they’ve heard from an authority figure, I can understand. But for a pastor or a Bible teacher in a college to make that claim – it just makes me shake my head in wonder.

    For anyone interested, here are a few other notes I’ve made on Hebrews 1:1-7
    https://landandbible.blogspot.com/2020/04/hebrews-11-7-is-jesus-creator-or-god-in.html

    and on Hebrews 1:8-14:
    https://landandbible.blogspot.com/2020/04/hebrews-18-14-is-son-called-god-did.html

    Every effort to make Jesus into God is an attempt to rob the real human Jesus of who he is, what he has done, and what God has given to him.

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    1. Hey Bill, thanks for taking time to read the article and comment. I find that most people in the pews and probably some pastors just don’t go any deeper than the English version they read.

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  3. Troy – Good, better, best – May you never let it rest til your good is better and your better best ! My Dad’s credo. Thank you for this.

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