Refutation of the Master’s University’s Bible Faculty Document on the Trinity and Divinity Of Messiah- Part 7: The Worship and Pre-existence of Jesus

Here is the document:  The Trinity and Divinity of Messiah-92b9c7 Please open it and follow along starting at the bottom of page 13.

Jesus is worshiped

  • Matt 14:28-32
  • Matt 28:17
  • Luke 5:12; 17:16; 24:52-53

Now this issue of worship given to Jesus being a supposed proof of his deity really roils me, mainly because those promoting this lie (e.g. members of the Bible Faculty at a Christian University) ought to know better. To present passages from the gospels in which Jesus is worshiped by someone and then to present the conclusion that he must therefore be God, seems particularly superficial to me. It completely ignores the complexities of the issue, such as the first century Semitic mindset toward ‘worship‘, the cultural context in which the events of the gospel narratives took place, and the semantic range of the Greek word for ‘worship‘ used in the cited passages. Instead, the authors of the document have simply assumed the modern Western Christian meaning of worship onto the words and actions of first century Jews, as if that were the way to do proper exegesis of an ancient and culturally foreign text.

As noted in the paper, the Greek word behind our English word “worship” in these texts is proskuneo. The basic meaning of proskuneo, according to Thayers Greek Lexicon, is “by kneeling or prostration to do homage (to one) or make obeisance, whether in order to express respect or make supplication. It is used a. of homage shown to men of superior rank . . . b. of homage rendered to God . . .”  This word is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word shachah, which, according to the Brown-Driver-Briggs lexicon, means to 1. bow down, prostrate oneself, before a monarch or superior, in homage etc. 2. before God, in worship, etc. Proskuneo translates the word shachah consistently throughout the LXX.

Now let’s see what the difference is between a first century Semitic perspective and a modern day Western or American Christian perspective. For many centuries before the time of Jesus it was a customary practice among Semitic peoples to bow down and show homage to a person of authority or superior position, and this was still the accepted practice of first century Jews. There are biblical examples of such homage being shown from children to their parents, wives to their husbands, servants to their masters, and subjects to their king. This kind of homage was also given on occasion to prophets, tribal leaders, city elders and even angels. Bowing down with one’s face to the ground was a way of expressing one’s submission and of saying that you were the servant of the one bowed to. Of course, this kind of reverence was also expressed toward God.

So how does that perspective differ from the modern American Christian mindset? First of all, as Americans we do not bow to anyone. Our culture has lost the concept of expressing respect and honor of superiors by such outward expressions as bowing down, though even in our modern day this is still practiced in other cultures, particularly in the Middle East and in Asian countries. Second, American Christianity believes that such homage can only rightly be given to God, and this is what our word ‘worship’ has come to mean. Hence, modern Western Christianity, especially in America, sees ‘worship’ as legitimately belonging to God alone, and to express homage to anyone else is simply taboo. Now this is all fine, except that, what Modern Western Christians tend to do is read this perspective back into the Bible, which was written from a totally different perspective, to a people of a totally different cultural background. Really, they only do to this when they see such homage being given to Jesus in the NT. When they read the OT and see men giving other men such homage they may think it is odd but they seem to understand that that was just the way things were back then. But when they see men giving such homage to Jesus they suddenly revert to their own cultural taboo and insist that Jesus is being portrayed as God. This happens for two reasons: 1. because they have been indoctrinated to view Jesus as God, so that when the NT presents someone bowing down to Jesus, it never crosses their mind that it could be for any other reason than because they recognize him as God  2. because most of our English versions play a trick on us – when men are seen giving homage to other men they translate shachah and proskuneo as bowed down or prostrated themself, yet when men are seen giving homage to God and Jesus they translate these terms as ‘worship‘ . This gives the reader the impression that scripture is making a distinction between homage given to humans and homage given to Jesus, since the same English word is used when homage is given to Jesus as when homage is given to God. But none of this is proof that when people payed homage to Jesus in the gospels that they did so because they thought he was God, although this is what the authors of the document are asserting. It is simply a matter of reading one’s presupposed beliefs back into the scripture.

It can not be stressed enough that when one reads the Bible they must endeavor to understand what it says from the perspective of those who wrote it and those to whom it was written. It is incumbent on us to not read back into scripture our own cultural context but to strive to understand what is being said from the cultural context in which it was written.

So let’s take another look at the verses presented in the paper and view them from within their own cultural milieu. I will give two translations of each passage, the first one as viewed from the perspective of orthodox modern American Christianity and the second from the perspective of a first century Jewish reader.

Matt. 14:33 

  1.  Then those in the boat worshiped him saying, “Truly you are the (eternally begotten) Son of God, (the second person of the Trinity).”
  2. Then those in the boat paid him homage saying, “Truly you are the son of God, (the long awaited son of David, the ruler of God’s kingdom).”

Matt. 28:17

  1. When they saw him (i.e. God the Son), they worshiped him (accordingly).
  2. When they saw him (i.e. the resurrected and immortalized man who will rule God’s kingdom forever), they paid him homage (accordingly).

Luke 5:12

  1. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground (to worship him as God) and begged him, “Lord (God), if you are willing, you can make me clean.”
  2. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground (to pay him homage as God’s prophet) and begged him, “Sir, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”

Luke 17:16

  1. He fell on his face at Jesus’ feet (to worship him as God) and thanked him – and he was a Samaritan.
  2. He fell on his face at Jesus’ feet (to honor him as God’s prophet) and thanked him – and he was a Samaritan.

Luke 24:52-53

  1. Then they worshiped him (as God the Son) and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.
  2. Then they paid homage to him (as the resurrected Lord Messiah) and returned to Jerusalem with great joy.

The authors then give a mere lip service to the idea that these passages “could simply be human devotion,” but give no explanation of why that could be. Instead they offer one passage from Acts in an attempt to show that when Luke uses the word proskuneo he means “genuine worship.” This seems to imply that proskuneo, when given to men, is not genuine or legitimate; only when the person receiving the ‘worship’ is “more than a man” is such homage legitimate. But this is refuted by numerous passages where such homage is rightly given to men. The passage they cite is Acts 10:25-26, where the apostle Peter refuses Cornelius’ display of homage toward him saying, “Rise up, for I myself am also a man.”  So it seems like Peter is saying that such an act of homage as Cornelius showed should never be given to any man, and the authors assume this is Peter’s thought process because they are reading the text through the lens of their own presuppositions.  But knowing the cultural context in which Peter lived, is this really a reasonable way to understand Peter’s words? Could Peter have really thought that it was never proper for one human to bow down before another human? I think the answer to that question should be obvious by now. Certainly Peter knew of passages in the Hebrew scriptures where men legitimately displayed this kind of homage to other men, such as Gen. 42:6; Ex. 18:7; Ruth 2:10; 1 Sam. 20:41; 24:8; 25:23; 2 Sam. 1:2; 9:6; 14:4; 2 Kings 2:15; 4:37; 1 Chron. 29:20 and many more. So it is simply unthinkable that Peter’s thought was what the authors of the document are assuming.

Something else that we should consider is what was Cornelius’ thought process when he bowed down to Peter. Did Cornelius think Peter was a god or even the God of Israel? That is completely out of the question! Cornelius was not a polytheist pagan but a Gentile who feared the God of Israel and prayed regularly to him. It is highly improbable that he would have thought of any man as the God. Cornelius probably bowed down before Peter as an act of homage to someone who he regarded as more important than himself, closer to God than himself, a prophet or spokesman for God. If this is true then there would have been nothing wrong with his display of homage. So why Peter’s response? He simply misread Cornelius’ action, for two likely reasons. First, Peter, as a Jew, probably regarded most, if not all, Gentiles as pagans who were wont to worship men as gods. Second, it is not likely that Peter had ever before had anyone show him this kind of reverence, and so he certainly would never have expected anyone to regard him so highly as to bow down before him. Peter was taken by surprise by Cornelius’ act of homage and reacted accordingly.

One last comment on this section. The authors state, based on Acts 10:25-26, that “in Luke the proskuneo is genuine worship that is appropriate for Jesus since he’s more than a man.”  First off, they failed to show how that passage proves that assertion and second, this is a circular argument. The passages cited are supposed to show that Jesus received worship and only God can legitimately be worshiped, therefore proving Jesus must be God. But then they say that we can know it was genuine worship that was given to Jesus “since he is more than a man.”  It seems the only reason they have for thinking Jesus was worshiped as a deity is their presupposition that Jesus is God.

Jesus is preexistent – “I have come . . .”

What we have here is more of the same – the making of dogmatic statements based on presuppositions. Because the authors of the document have been indoctrinated to believe Jesus is God they can see no other possible meaning for the fact that Jesus is spoken of as ‘having come’ except that he was pre-existent. This is a case where too much is being read into these words based on presuppositions brought to the text. Even if it were true that “this formula (I have come) [was] used over twenty times in early Judaism for a heavenly figure (angel) descending from heaven to earth for a purpose,” that fact has no relevance to Jesus’ ‘coming’, which must be understood in it’s own context. The statement that “Jesus came from somewhere” is rather juvenile and lacks serious thought.

The Greek word in all of the verses cited in the paper is erchomai. It’s most basic meaning is to come ; in the most literal sense to come from one place into another. But this is not the only sense it bears; there is the less literal sense of to make one’s appearance on the scene, to come before the public. Now it can be easily shown that it is in this second, less literal sense, that the NT statements about Jesus ‘coming’ are to be understood. The first line of evidence is the fact that among the Jews of the first century and prior, one of the ways that the promised Messiah was spoken of was as ‘the coming one’ or ‘the one who is to come’. We can see this in the NT itself: Matt. 11:3; Lk. 3:16; 7:19-20; Jn. 4:25; 7:27, 31; 11:27. So the Jews were waiting for the Messiah ‘to come’ i.e. to make his appearance on the scene. But does this mean they expected him to come from outside of this world? I do not think such a thing can be substantiated. We know that they expected him to be a lineal descendant of king David {Matt. 12:23; 21:19; 22:42; Mk. 12:35; Lk. 20:41; Jn. 7:42}. Some did not think the scriptures foretold exactly where the Messiah would come from {Jn. 7:27,} but this only referred to what place in Israel he would come from, for they said that they knew where Jesus was from i.e. Galilee.

More evidence is found in the way others spoke of Jesus’ or the Messiah’s ‘coming’. For example, in John 3:1-2 Nicodemus comes to Jesus and says:

Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God, for no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.

Are we to understand from this that Nicodemus and other members of the Sanhedrin believed that Jesus had pre-existed as a heavenly being who then came from heaven to earth. Obviously not. This kind of language could be used without anyone drawing such a conclusion.

The even fuller expression “come into the world” found in Jn. 6:14; 9:39; 11:27; 12:46; 18:37, would seem at first glance to give support to the assertion of the document, but upon closer examination fails to do so. Take Jn. 6:14, for example, did the people expect the Prophet, a reference to Deut. 18:17-19, to be a pre-existent being from heaven? Not likely, since the text itself from which they derived their expectation states that the prophet would be raised up “from among their own brothers.” Yet they could speak of this Prophet as “com[ing] into the world.” In Semitic parlance, to ‘come into the world‘ simply means to be born or even more specifically, to be born at a certain time in human history. We see this demonstrated in Hebraic fashion in John 18:37, where the phrases “I was born” and “I came into the world” are parallel statements. In John 11:27 Martha says to Jesus, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the son of God, who was to come into the world.It is highly unlikely that Martha, a 1st century Jewess, would have been saying that she believed Jesus to have come into the world from heaven rather than that she was simply saying that he was the Messiah that was to be born into the world {see Jn. 16:21}. It is more reasonable to suppose that she held the belief that the Messiah would be raised up from among the Israelites, specifically from the lineage of David, than that she believed that he would be a pre-existent divine being who would come to earth from heaven.

Futhermore, others are said to have come, like John the Baptizer {see Jn. 1:7, 31; Lk.7:33; Matt. 3:1 (paraginomai instead of erchomai); 21:32}. But from where did John come? The question is moot, because John’s ‘coming’ is not about him coming from one place into another place but about him making his appearance on the scene of human history. Of course, John was born of a woman like every other man, and even like Jesus himself.

So then, the “I have come” statements of Jesus do not at all entail the implication that he pre-existed or even that he came from somewhere. They are simple statements of his purpose in having come on the scene of human history at that point in time.

  • Mark 1:24/Luke 4:34

That Jesus is called the holy one of God is made by the authors to imply that he is a heavenly being. The passages cited do all refer to heavenly beings, but again, what are the authors trying to say here? Since these heavenly beings are all created beings, as the authors themselves would likely admit, are they trying to say that Jesus was a created, albeit a pre-existent heavenly being? Pre-existence is simply not enough to prove what the authors of this document are trying to prove i.e. the deity of Jesus. The fact of the matter is that human beings are also called holy ones. The Deut. 33:2 passage is surely about heavenly beings, but the very next verse calls the Israelites “his holy ones.” Other passages which refer to humans as ‘holy ones’ are Ps. 16:3; 34:9; 106:16; Dan. 7:18, 22, 25, 27. The Ps. 106:16 passage actually refers to either Moses or Aaron (the Hebrew is ambiguous) as “the holy one of Yahweh.” In the NT, believers in Messiah are called “saints” which means “holy ones.”

  • Mark 2:17/Matt 9:13/Luke 5:32

The authors point out that “there is deliberate action” being expressed in this statement of Jesus. Sure, but that does not logically lead to their further conclusion that “this implies preexistence.” If they mean by ‘deliberate action’ to point to the fact that the verb ‘came’ is in the active voice, so what! So is the word ‘came’ in Jn. 1:7 which refers to John the baptizer. How does this prove pre-existence?

  • Luke 12:49

What the authors say regarding this verse is so ridiculous that it needs no refutation from me.

  • Luke 19:10 and Matt 20:28

Of course, there was purpose in Jesus’ coming, but how this would require us to believe he pre-existed or that he had to ‘come from somewhere’ I cannot see. Jesus had to freely cooperate with the will of God in beginning and carrying out his mission as the Messiah.

Jesus is preexistent – “I have been sent . . .”

This idea of Jesus’ being sent implying his pre-existence was encountered earlier in the document (pg. 9), where two other passages were presented as proofs. See my article Refutation of the Master’s University Bible Faculty Document on the Trinity and Divinity of Messiah (Part 4) for my answers and a fuller treatment of this supposed proof.

  • Mark 9:37/Luke 9:48

As I have shown that the “I have come” statements of Jesus fail to have any value in supporting the notion of his pre-existence, so too do the “I have been sent” statements fail in this regard. As I have demonstrated in the article linked above, to be ‘sent‘ need not imply anything more, in Jewish parlance, than to be commissioned to carry out a specific task. The only way one can see pre-existence in this text is to bring that presupposition to the text.

  • Mark 12:1-12

I am almost embarrassed to refute the claim of the authors on this passage, for their statements actually disprove their thesis. They write, Servants sen[t], they’re killed. Finally, the son is sent and he is killed . . . Jesus was sent by the father. He was preexistent.” I am dumbfounded by the inanity of the reasoning here. In the parable the vineyard owner represents God, who sends servants (= the prophets) to the tenants, who then mistreat and even kill the servants. The man then sends his son (= the Messiah) whom the tenants then kill. There is no distinction made in the parable between the sending of the servants, i.e. the prophets, and the sending of the son, i.e. the Messiah. The same Greek word in the same form is used for both. Yet the authors want you to believe that the son was pre-existent, based on his being sent, but that the servants, also having been sent by the Father, were not pre-existent. The parable actually disproves what they intended it to show.

  • Matt 10:40 and Luke 10:16

Here again the comments on these verses is embarrassing; they disprove the claims of the paper. “Both Jesus and the disciples have been sent from one place to another. This implies preexistence.”  Are they insinuating the pre-existence of the disciples along with Jesus? I will give them the benefit of the doubt that the statements made here were not expressed accurately in accord with their actual belief. But the point about the disciples being sent is apropos to disproving the supposition that the language of being sent implies pre-existence. Jesus’ words in John 17:18 are most pertinent to this purpose:

Just as you [Father] sent me into the world, I in like manner have sent them [my disciples] into the world

If Jesus’ being sent into the world implies that he pre-existed and was sent here from outside our world, then why wouldn’t the same implication apply to Jesus’ disciples? The only reason one would not think so is the presupposition that Jesus is ontologically different from his disciples, unless, of course, one simply denies the divinity of Jesus. In other words, this verse could be used to support the idea that both Jesus and his disciples were pre-existent beings sent to earth from somewhere else, or that Jesus and his disciples were ordinary human beings who were commissioned to perform a task. But this verse cannot be made to say that only Jesus, and not his disciples, qualifies as a pre-existent being based on the fact of his being sent into the world.

Jesus was active throughout Israel’s history

  • Matt 23:37-24:1

I understand how someone who already holds the belief that Jesus is divine could see in this passage what the authors here claim. Yet the passage itself, without that presupposition, does not in any way make the authors’ claim a necessary implication of the passage.

The crux of their argument is 1. that Jesus says he will send prophets to the Jewish leadership in the future and 2. that Jesus speaks of having longed to gather Israel together at some past time. From this evidence they conclude, “[Jesus] is active throughout all of Israel’s history. This means preexistence – certainly more than can be said about a human.” I hope that you can see how grand of a conclusion can be built upon so little substance. This once again shows that the authors’ presuppositions are driving their exegesis. When a passage of scripture can be so easily taken in another sense, that does not involve Jesus pre-existing, how can it be a proof text for that belief.

So Jesus says that in the future he will send prophets to Jerusalem. This statement is surely consonant with the belief that Jesus was no more than human. As the resurrected Messiah he would in the future send prophets to Jerusalem; no problem there. But what of Jesus saying that he had often longed to gather Jerusalem’s children together? Does this refer to the distant past of Israel? Was Jesus existing throughout the centuries of Israel’s history? This is certainly what the authors of the paper want you to conclude, but is it the necessary conclusion that must be drawn from the passage? Now they rightly point out that the synoptic gospels do not record any visits of Jesus to Jerusalem before the final week of his life (except for Lk. 2:41-52), for they focus primarily on his Galilean ministry. So they imply that it might be out of context for Matthew to have Jesus refer to any of his past visits to Jerusalem during his life. But is this reasonable? We know from John’s gospel that Jesus did indeed visit Jerusalem at various times throughout his public ministry, as well as when he was 14 yrs. old. Also I think it is a safe bet to assume that Jesus, as a faithful Jew, had visited Jerusalem many times in his life prior to his public ministry, as every male was required to appear in Jerusalem on certain feast days. We should also consider that Jesus was aware of his Messianic mission at a very early age (at least 14). One of the Messiah’s mission tasks was to gather together the faithful remnant of Israel and Jesus would have been anxious to fulfill this task in the Father’s time. At a certain point in his ministry he came to realize that he would not at that time fulfill this aspect of his Messianic role due to the rejection of him by Israel’s leaders. But certainly Jesus could say that he had often, through the years of his life, desired to fulfill that part of his mission. The statement, in and of itself, does not need pre-existence to make sense.

Another alternative view is to take Matt. 23:13-39 as Jesus speaking as a prophet for God in the first person, as the prophets of old often did. In that case what Jesus said in v. 37 would be from God’s perspective, not his own. Now someone might object, pointing out that v. 39 must be spoken from Jesus’ perspective. Not necessarily! From God’s perspective it would mean “You will not experience another visitation {see Lk. 1:68; 7:16; 19:44} until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’ ” 

As for the statement of the final bullet point in this section, I do not have a clue what they are talking about.

3. The NT’s use of the OT affirms this

Much of what is asserted in this section I have answered in this article here: Do OT Yahweh Texts Applied To Jesus Prove Jesus Is Yahweh? , but I would still like to address some of the points made by the authors.

They try to make a connection between Jesus calling himself the ‘good shepherd’ in John 10 with Ezek. 34, where God is presented as Israel’s shepherd. They imply in their statement that YHWH and he alone is called the ‘good shepherd’ in Ezek. just like Jesus is in John 10. Therefore their conclusion is that Jesus is YHWH. First of all, the passage in Ezek. 34  never refers to YHWH as the ‘good shepherd‘ but simply as the one who will shepherd Israel. Next, the passage itself includes the statement that YHWH will place someone other than himself in the position of shepherd over Israel {v.23}. This is because the shepherd motif is applied in the Hebrew Bible to both YHWH and the king whom YHWH choses to rule on his behalf over His kingdom {2 Sam. 5:2; 7:7; 24:17; 1 Chron. 11:2; Ps. 78:71-72; Micah 5:2-4; Matt. 2:6}. YHWH is Israel’s ultimate shepherd, but he enacts that function of the covenant through human agency, i.e. the Davidic king. Therefore the claim of the document is blatantly false.

For an examination of Hebrews 1:10 see this article Refutation of the Master’s University Bible Faculty Document on the Trinity and Divinity of Messiah (Part 5)

The point about Jesus being the image of God and the supposed connection with Ezek. 1:28 is another example of a desperation to find proof texts for the deity of Jesus. First off, there is absolutely no resemblance between the use of the word ‘image’ in Ezek. 1:28 and it’s application to Jesus as ‘the image of God.’ The Hebrew word in Ezek. is demuth which means likeness and is probably synonymous with image. It refers to something resembling something else. Ezek. 1 is describing a vision in which he sees a representative image of the glory of YHWH in the form of a man. Now this is not really YHWH that he is seeing but visual images which represent YHWH. This has nothing whatsoever to do with Jesus being called ‘the image of God.’ For something to be the image of something else means that it is not the thing which it is the image of. An image of a man is not a man but only a representation of what a man looks like. An image of a horse is not a horse but only a representation of a horse. That Messiah is the ‘image of the God’ definitively means he is not the God. Mankind was created in the ‘image of God’ and  this clearly marks us out as being other than God. Now someone will object that the Bible says man was created ‘in the image of God’ , but of Jesus it says that he is ‘the image of God’ , as if there is a real difference. To prove that there is no real difference, and that man, in general, is the image of God, I point you to 1 Cor. 11:7:

A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God.

Therefore, the statement in the document fails to adequately support it’s main thesis.

Regarding the statement about “Paul view[ing] Jesus as the YHWH mentioned in Hosea 13,” the statement is absurd on it’s face. I fail to see the problem here. YHWH says that he will redeem his people from death and the grave, in Hosea 13:14, and then in the NT we find out he does this through the man Jesus the Messiah {1 Cor. 15:21-22}. Paul, after citing Hosea 13:14 sums up his view in 15:57:

But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory (i.e. over death) through our Lord Jesus Christ.

This whole exercise of finding things said about YHWH in the OT and then finding the same kind of thing said about Jesus in the NT, and deducing from this that Jesus is YHWH, just comes across as rather rudimentary. So in Ex. 34 YHWH is said to be “abounding in love and faithfulness” and in John 1:14 Messiah is said to be “full of grace and truth.” So what! How does that prove Messiah is more than human? Of course the man whom God has raised up, chosen and anointed to serve his purposes is going to have qualities that reflect those of God. Did not God say of David, “I have found David . . .  a man resembling my own heart.”  As the Father’s supreme agent and representative, we should expect Jesus to resemble God in various ways. In Psalm 89:14 we read of the characteristics of God’s rule:

Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you.

These same qualities are to be reflected in the reign of God’s human representative:

In love a throne will be established, and one in the house of David will sit on it in faithfulness, judging and seeking justice and speeding the cause of righteousness.       Isaiah 16:5

The final bullet point in this section deals with the fact that both YHWH, in the OT, and Jesus, in the NT, are called the first and the last. For my explanation of this see this article:  God And Jesus In Revelation (Part 1).

4. The Rest of the NT

In the second bullet point the authors make two unfounded assertions: 1. that James 4:5 speaks of the Spirit as God, and 2. that James 2:1 and 2:23 make faith in Jesus and faith in God synonymous. James 4:5 speaks of the “the spirit that He (i.e. God) caused to dwell in us . . .” clearly differentiating between God and the spirit he caused to dwell in us. The second assertion is simply absurd. Why would anyone think that these two statements by James indicates that Jesus is God? Jesus said in John 14:1 – “You believe in God; believe also in me.There are two who are the object of our faith – God and his son, the man Jesus.

2 Peter 1:1 may seem at first glance to be saying that Jesus is our God and Savior, but is that really something that Peter would have said? If you look at the rest of this letter, all of 1 Peter, the four messages of Peter in the Acts and the confession of Peter in Matt. 16:15-16, it becomes rather unlikely that Peter would refer to Jesus as ‘our God’. Everywhere else in these sources Peter always distinguishes Jesus from God. In fact, in the very next verse he does so:

Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

These facts should caution one against thinking that Peter is referring to Jesus as God in 1:1. But trinitarians basically ignore all of the evidence and insist that, based on the Granville Sharp rule ¹, the Greek grammar requires us to take “our God and Savior” as referring to one person i.e. Jesus Christ. It is true that the grammar allows for that translation but it also allows for this translation: “. . . the righteousness of our God and of the Savior Jesus Christ.” {see the KJV, the ASV and the Weymouth NT}. The ambiguity in the Greek does not allow the issue to be settled on the grammar alone, thus making the evidence of how Peter normally speaks of Jesus and God most significant. Needless to say, the issue is not so simple as trinitarian apologists make it out to be. For further study see this article here.

The next bullet point focuses on 1 John and what is asserted is wrong on many different levels. 1 John 5:20 is often cited by trinitarian apologists as a proof text for the deity of Jesus, but this is just wishful thinking on their part. While the text could, on a purely grammatical level, be referring to Jesus as the true God, it is by no means the requisite way to understand the verse. The phrase “in his Son Jesus Christ” is a parenthetical statement telling us how it is that “we are in Him who is true.” If you remove the parenthesis the passage has a natural flow to it:

Now we know that the son of God has come and has given us understanding so that we may know him (i.e. the Father) who is true; and we are in him (i.e. the Father)  who is true. He (i.e. the Father) is the true God and eternal life.

This keeps the author consistent with himself, assuming this is the same author as the gospel of John. In John 17:3 John records Jesus’ prayer to the Father, in which Jesus refers to the Father as “the one alone true God.”

It is often asserted that the Greek word houtos, which is the first word in the final clause of v. 20, must refer to the nearest antecedent, which in this case would be ‘Jesus Christ.’  But this is demonstrably false as the following verses show – Acts 4:10-11; 7:18-19; 1 John 2:22; 2 John 1:7. In all of these verses houtos clearly does not refer to the nearest antecedent, and if it did, would lead to some rather odd conclusions.

That the term ‘coming’ does not require the understanding that Jesus pre-existed his birth nor the concept of incarnation, has already been shown above. What John is writing against in his letter is not the denial that a pre-existent divine being became incarnated, but the early Gnostic denial that the man Jesus was synonymous with the Christ. These early Gnostics believed that the pre-existent ‘Christ spirit’ joined himself to the man Jesus, so that ‘the Christ’ and Jesus were not the same entity. The Christ then left the man Jesus before he died on the cross. Another early belief among gnostics was that Jesus was not truly a man but only seemed to have a real body of flesh. John’s denunciations {1 Jn. 2:22; 4:2; 2 Jn. 7} are against these beliefs, not against a denial that he was God incarnate. For the authors of the document to make it about that is sheerly an anachronism. So John is not denouncing those who held that Jesus was purely or simply a human being, but rather those who held that there was something more to him than what he appeared to be – a man. So it was foretold in the prophets that Messiah would come and John is saying that if anyone believes that the Messiah has come but denies that he is the same as the human person Jesus of Nazareth, then such a one is an antichrist, who is not only denying the true son, but by virtue of that fact, denies the Father who raised him up and appointed him. It must be pointed out again that on the interpretation that John is implying pre-existence and incarnation the  “full divinity” of Jesus is not at all established, for even Arian Christians would interpret these passages in the same way yet deny full deity to Jesus.

On the next bullet point the document authors contend that certain aspects of the Book of Revelation “affirm[s] the truth of the Trinity and the deity of Christ.” I answer all of their specific points in this article here: God And Jesus In Revelation (Part 2)  I will only note here that the statement that the “depiction of the Godhead (in Rev. 4-5) mirrors that of the OT,” referring specifically to Is. 11:1-9 and 48:16, is simply ludicrous, if by that they mean that the Godhead is being depicted as a Trinity. How does one possibly derive a Trinitarian depiction of God from Is. 11:1-9, which is about the future Messianic king from David’s line being anointed with the spirit of Yahweh. Is. 48:16 is a favorite but misunderstood passage of trinitarian apologists. As often in the prophetic writings, the prophet here stops speaking as Yahweh in the first person and speaks in the first person as himself, i.e. it is Isaiah whom the Lord Yahweh sent, as even the Cambridge Bible commentary on this verse affirms. Not only is there no Trinity to be found in these passages from Isaiah, but neither is there in Rev. 4 and 5, where God is worshiped as Creator and Jesus the Messiah is worshiped as the one who died to redeem men. Where is the worship of the Holy Spirit in these chapters? It is conspicuously absent there as well as everywhere else in Scripture.

The final bullet point boldly asserts that they have “shown that every NT writer affirms the deity of Christ and the Trinity.”  I deny that they have done any such thing but I leave it to the reader to judge whether they have done so or not. They also assert that the support for these doctrines is overwhelming, but I assert that this is merely an illusion. It is true that trinitarian apologists marshal an impressive array of proof-texts to support these doctrines, but when each one of these so called proof-texts is examined separately, on it’s own, it fails to be the solid support the apologists hope for. Now if each individual proof-text, on it’s own merit, fails to give real support for these doctrines, I fail to see how the accumulation of such weak supports can add up to a proven case.

The first to present his case seems right, until another comes forward to question him” 
Proverb 18:17

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.

One thought on “Refutation of the Master’s University’s Bible Faculty Document on the Trinity and Divinity Of Messiah- Part 7: The Worship and Pre-existence of Jesus”

  1. Thanks again for having the patience to look through these claims, which really are representative of so much trinitarian and deity of Christ theology/Christology.

    Like you, the claim that “Jesus is worshiped, so he must be God” is a claim that particularly bothers me, especially when made by people who take the Bible as authoritative. The claim is so easily demonstrated to be a lie, that it is obviously agenda driven. God is worshiped/honored/acknowledge as God. Jesus is worshiped/honored/acknowledged as God’s Messiah, who died and was raised to life for us.

    The same with this kind of claim: “because Jesus is called the good shepherd, and God is called a shepherd, Jesus must be God”. Such claims really show the desperation of their theology, and that they have to make such a claim is proof that the Bible neither describes Jesus as God, or that God is a Trinity. Somehow these “great truths” need to be teased out and inferred from the text. But the Bible says that Jesus, the unique Son of God, explained/revealed the Father”. To the Trinitarian, Jesus didn’t do a very good job of it.

    When I hear the “deity of Christ” explanation of 2 Peter 1:1, I think of them appearing before God’s designated judge Jesus, and exclaiming: “But Jesus, the Granville Sharp rule!”

    Your explanation of 1 John 5:20 is excellent, and this statement is so true: “So John is not denouncing those who held that Jesus was purely or simply a human being, but rather those who held that there was something more to him than what he appeared to be – a man.”

    In the end, all “deity of Christ” claims deny that Jesus Christ is a human person.

    Liked by 1 person

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