Refutation of the Master’s University Bible Faculty Document on the Trinity and Divinity of Messiah – Part 8: Dealing With Objections

Here is the document. Please go to page 17.

5. Dealing with supposed objections

Regarding the first bullet point, the objection is not that “the language of ‘sent’ makes Jesus not to be God,” but rather that the language of ‘sent’ does not require that Jesus be God, as is proved by the fact that this language is used of both human and heavenly agents (a.k.a. angels) throughout Scripture {see Ex. 3:15; 4:28; Num. 16:28; Judg. 6:8; 1 Sam. 12:11; 2 Sam. 12:1; 1 Chron. 21:15; 2 Chron. 32:21; Isa. 6:8; Jer. 25:24; 26:12; Haggai 1:12; Zech. 4:9; Luke 1:26; Acts 12:11}. As I pointed out in Part 7 of this series, the language of sending and being sent need not imply anything more than that one has been commissioned as the agent of another in order to perform some given task on that one’s behalf. For the authors of this paper to insist that this sending language proves that Jesus pre-existed his birth from Mary, and that as deity, is in reality, proof that they have brought that presupposition to the text of Scripture.

They then proceed to present ‘evidence’ that they feel mitigates this objection. The first piece of Scriptural evidence that is marshaled against the objection is Numbers 20:16. Their claim is that this passage speaks of YHWH sending YHWH. This hearkens back to pp.1-2 of the document, where they present a rather weak case for YHWH sending YHWH, which I refute here. What I did not do there I will do here now – I will prove that Num. 20:16 is referring to Moses and not to either an angel or to a supposed second YHWH. Let’s look at the verse:

“Moses sent messengers (Heb. malakim) from Kadesh to the king of Edom saying: ‘This is what your brother Israel says: . . . Our forefathers went down to Egypt, and we lived there many years. The Egyptians mistreated us and our fathers, but when we cried to YHWH, he heard our cry and sent an agent (Heb. malak) and brought us out of Egypt.’ “

vv. 14-16

Now lets go back to Exodus 3 where Moses first received his call to go to Egypt:

“YHWH said, ‘I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians . . . And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me . . . So now go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.’ ”

vv. 7-10

Notice how the wording of these two passages coincide: The Israelites cry out to God because of their mistreatment by the Egyptians; YHWH hears their cries; YHWH sends an agent to bring them out of Egypt. Now it is explicit in the Exodus passage that Moses is the one YHWH is sending to bring the Israelites out of Egypt. So why should we assume in Num. 20:16, which is not explicit, that someone else besides Moses was sent to bring the Israelites out of Egypt? To drive this point even further let’s look at another passage:

“After Jacob entered Egypt, they cried to YHWH for help, and YHWH sent Moses and Aaron, who brought your forefathers out of Egypt.

1 Sam. 12:8

Why doesn’t Samuel tell about the ‘angel’ (the presumed second YHWH) whom YHWH is supposed to have sent to bring the Israelites out of Egypt? I think that any fair-minded person can see that the better exegesis of Num. 20:16 is that the malak whom YHWH sent was Moses rather than a second YHWH figure. I mean the text itself simply calls this one a malak, a Hebrew term used of prophets {2 Chron. 36:15-16; Is. 44:26; Hag. 1:13; Zech. 3:1}, which Moses certainly was. To read more than this into this passage is simply eisegesis.

The next line of ‘evidence’ brought forward are passages in the Hebrew Bible which speak of God sending his ‘word’. The authors admit that this is “personification language” but they seem ignorant of what ‘personification’ means. Personification is the attribution of personhood to an abstract or non-personal entity. So I agree that this kind of language is probably the background of John 1, i.e. the word is not literally a person but is being personified. But the authors seem to think it implies more than this. Once again, their presuppositions keep getting in the way of proper exegesis. In these OT passages God’s word i.e. his command, his promise, his expressed intention, is personified as an agent who goes forth to accomplish what God commanded or promised or intended {Is. 55:11}. But how all of this is supposed to answer the objection, that the sending language used of Jesus does not require him to be God, I don’t know.

They go on to cite several NT passages about Jesus being sent by the Father. This they say, “shows that Jesus is the emissary of God Himself.” But who is denying that. Of course Jesus is the emissary i.e. agent of God himself, but so was Moses, Joshua, Samuel and every other prophet. To be God’s emissary or representative does not require divinity, neither does it require the one sent to be the equal of the sender. In fact, in the ancient Semitic culture, it was more likely that an agent was of a lesser status than the one who sent him. But this did not impede his ability to carry out his assigned task, for as an agent he represented the one who sent him, with all of the authority and resources of his master at his disposal. Therefore, it was understood that, no matter how lowly an agent was, his reception or rejection by those to whom he was sent, was in fact the reception or rejection of the one who sent him. A persons duly appointed agent was to be regarded as the person himself. But again, this did not require equality between the sender and the sent. Jesus used the same language of his disciples that the authors are asserting proves Jesus to be equal to God:

“He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me . . .”

Luke 10:16

Somehow I don’t think the authors of this paper would say that Jesus’ disciples were on an equal footing with himself. They are misapplying a principle, claiming that it means something different when Jesus is concerned, not wanting to interpret the same language equally where the disciples are concerned. The principle is clear: how a person’s agent is regarded is how the person himself is regarded, by those to whom the agent is sent. To read more than this into this language is to be dishonest with the text.

Finally, the last line of evidence they present is that John the Baptist is said only to be sent by ‘God‘, whereas Jesus is said to be sent by the ‘Father.’ From this they deduce that Jesus must be divine because it denotes a relationship between Jesus and God that John did not have. There conclusion: “John is human; Jesus is divine. It is as simple as that.” Such a conclusion can only be reached by starting out with that presupposition. The actual biblical data does not lead to that conclusion. Of course John does not have the same relation to God that Jesus has, for he is not the promised Messiah from the line of David who is chosen to rule God’s kingdom forever. John is not Yahweh’ s anointed one, but Jesus is. YHWH’s anointed, the one he chose to rule on his behalf, has always enjoyed a special son to father relationship with God {see 1 Chron. 17:13; 22:9-10; 28:5-6; Ps. 2:6-7; 89:26-27; Jn. 1:49}. It is as simple as that.

The next bullet point deals with John 10:29-38. I give an exegesis of this passage and answer the argument of the document here.

The next bullet point deals with Jesus being ‘the image of God.’ Once again the document overstates the objection. It is not that being God’s image means that Jesus is a human, but that being God’s image does not necessitate him being more than human. They seek to refute this objection by focusing on the preposition in Gen. 1:27, where man is said to be created ‘in’ the image of God; whereas of Jesus it is said that he is the image of God. In the mind of the authors this makes all the difference, but does it really? First off, I fail to see how Jesus being the image of God means he is God. For one to be the image of another, immediately suggests that that one is not the one who’s image he is. The image must be distinct from the one whose image he is. If Paul wanted his readers to think Jesus just was God himself in Col. 1:15, then he could have written, “He is God.” But instead he wrote, “He is the image of the invisible God.” The two statements are not identical. Now, about the author’s contention that Jesus being the image of God” while man in general is simply made in the image of God,” means that there is an ontological difference between Jesus and humanity, this is simply a case of reading one’s theological presupposition into the text. The text does not explicitly say this or even necessarily imply it. And it is evident that Paul himself would not agree with this interpretation of his words, for he says in another place:

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

1 Cor. 11:7

This provides us with a good illustration of how trinitarians tend to read scripture. Many, perhaps not being aware of this passage in 1 Cor. 11, simply assume that the statement in Col. 1:15 must be referring to the deity of Jesus (since that is their presupposition) and so interpret the verse in that way. But if they came across this verse in 1 Cor. 11:7 one day, would they even think to interpret it as they do the Colossian verse? Would they think that 1 Cor.11:7 was attributing divinity to men? Of course not! But not only do the two verses say the same thing, one about Jesus, and one about man in general, but the 1 Cor. 11:7 passage is even fuller, calling man not only the image of God but also the glory of God.

They then try to equate the image of God in Col 1:15 (I don’t know what verse in Phil. 2 they are referring to) to the image of God in which man was created in Gen 1:27, as if to say that man was created in the image of God which is Jesus. They offer Rom 8:29 as a supposed proof of this. Wow! What a convoluted argument! No NT author ever makes such a connection as this; the two things are simply not the same. That man was created ‘in the image of God‘ means that man resembles God in some way, perhaps in his ability to rule over the rest of creation {see Gen 1:28}. That Jesus is ‘the image of the invisible God‘ means that he resembles God in some way, again, probably in that he rules over all creation, even over every other man {see Col 1:15b-18}. In Jesus’ case it is more specific. Paul had just stated how believers in Messiah have been “translated into the kingdom of the son of his love. This is a clear allusion to the Davidic king from 1 Chron 17:13 : “I will be to him a father, and he will be to me a son. My love I will never take away from him . . .” Jesus is the final, great son of David who will rule over God’s kingdom forever. In keeping with his predecessors, he is the visible representation of the invisible God who is the ultimate King {see 1 Chron. 28:5-7; Pss. 2, 45 and 72; Luke 1:32-33}. The truth of the matter is that being the image of God, for both Jesus and man in general, is not a matter of ontology but of function. Rom. 8:29 refers to the destiny of believers, i.e. conformity to the image of the Son. Here the word ‘image’ means ‘likeness’ rather than representation (the Gr. eikon can mean either), and refers to the eschatological promise that believers will be made like the son i.e. immortal {see 1 Cor. 15: 42-55; Phil. 3:21}.

The attempt to connect Ezek. 1:28 with Jesus being the image of God is laughable and reveals how trinitarians must resort to such wild stretches to support their theology. The mere coincidence of the English word ‘image’ appearing in both passages does not require that the one refers to the other. Ezekiel is having a vision, in which he sees a figure like that of a man. After a brief description of this human figure we are told:

“This was the appearance of the likeness (i.e. representation) of the glory of Yahweh.”

Ezek. 1:28

In other words, in the vision, Yahweh’s glory was represented by the figure of a man. Ezekiel was not really seeing Yahweh, he was having a vision. This passage has no connection whatsoever to Col. 1:15.

The next bullet point is a rather hard argument to follow. I am not familiar with the objection they are attempting to answer. It seems that what they are saying is that because God dwelt among his people in the tabernacle and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, this proves Jesus is God. Of course their whole argument here rest on the correctness of the traditional interpretation of John 1. For an alternative interpretation of that chapter see this article here. They seem to be making much of the Greek word skenoo which means to dwell in a tent. Since dwelling in a tent can suggest a temporary residing, perhaps what is being expressed in John 1:14 is the temporary nature of Jesus’ living among the Israelites, “for he was cut off from the land of the living.” Even after his resurrection he did not remain among them long, but was taken away. Whatever the case, it is obvious that the document authors are making more of this language than is warranted.

The next bullet point deals with the observation that in the NT Jesus is spoken of as having a God, just like all men. The document authors attempt to escape from the clear implications of this by first giving what they call “a more precise reading” of Eph. 1:3. But the reading they offer is unsubstantiated. They appeal to the Granville Sharp rule, but I can’t see how that applies to this verse. The fact is that every reputable English version translates this verse the same way:

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

But even if they could validate their “more precise reading of this text” they would still have to deal with Jn. 20:17; Rom.15:6; 2 Cor. 1:3; 11:31; Eph. 1:17; 1 Peter 1:3; Rev. 1:6; 3:2, 12. Are they going to claim that there is a more precise reading of all of these texts also? Every honest interpreter of scripture must let scripture speak for itself – there is one whom our Lord Jesus himself calls his God and whom the apostles call the God of Jesus, i.e. the Father.

What they say in the remainder of their answer literally sounds like they are just making it up as they go. The first statement, “Jesus has a ‘God’ in the sense that he has a Father in His relationship within the Godhead,” is plain nonsense. Why would the Father, within the trinitarian relationship, also be the God of the Son? Is he also the God of the Holy Spirit? The doctrine of the Trinity states that the three members of the Trinity are equal in every respect; none is greater or lesser than the others. So if the Son has a God, then so must the Father. But who is the God of the Father? Of course the question is as absurd as this argument.

Next they cite Jn. 20:17 and make the remarkable statement that, “Note that Jesus does not say OUR Father and OUR God.” But what does “my God and your God” mean if not “our God?” All of their subsequent statements are just pure conjecture and are born out of their presuppositional theology. “[Jesus} relates to God as Father differently than we do.” Where does scripture say this? In fact scripture says that we cry out ‘Abba Father‘ just as Jesus did {Mark 14:36}. “Jesus’ sonship and relationship with God is categorically different than us having a God.” Again, where is this stated in scripture? In fact, scripture speaks to the contrary:

“Both the one who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers”

Heb. 2:11

“Jesus ‘has a God’ relative to being within the Godhead versus us having a God being outside of the Godhead.” This is just plugging your doctrine into scripture wherever you think it might fit. This is not exegesis!

The next bullet point concerns 1 Tim 2:5. What we have here is a clear case of obfuscation. What the authors of this paper do here in order to lessen the force of the plain reading of the text is quite disturbing. While they are correct in pointing out that trinitarians do not deny the humanity of Christ, in reality, for most, it amounts to mere lip service. Have you ever noticed that when a trinitarian speaks about the humanity of Christ they are quick to add the clarification that he is also God. They do this with terms such as ‘God incarnate’, ‘the God-man’, ‘God in the flesh’ etc. It is a very rare thing to hear a trinitarian speak of Christ’s humanity and then just leave it at that. This shows that their profession of his humanity is only theoretical, needed to hold some other of their doctrines together coherently, but in practical effect has little bearing. But in scripture we see something completely different. Whenever, say Paul, speaks of Christ’s humanity he never once feels the need to qualify it with affirmations of his deity {see Rom. 5:17-19; 1 Cor. 15: 21-28; 1 Tim 2:5; see also Acts 17:31}. And this is especially true in 1 Tim 2:5, for if there ever was a place where we might expect Paul to make some kind of qualification on Christ’s humanity it would be this verse. But Paul is silent as to Christ being something more than merely human in this passage, and that is why it is necessary for the authors of this document to go to such a desperate length to turn this verse on it’s head.

Their claim that “the language of ‘mediator’ presumes an equality with God and man” is simply an unfounded assertion (I assume they mean an ontological equality). Where did they get this arbitrary definition of a mediator from? Scripture does not bear it out. Moses was the mediator between God and the people of Israel in the giving of God’s law {Gal. 3:19-20}. Aaron certainly acted as mediator between God and the people, as high priest {Lev. 16:17; Num. 16:46-48}. The idea that for one to be a mediator between God and men he must be ontologically equal to both is plainly false. Even the passage they cite as support for this idea fails to substantiate it. All Job 9:33 requires is that someone must be able to have direct access to both parties. They have overstated their case and the meaning of Job 9:33.

Next they move to Daniel 7 and they make a manifestly false statement regarding the ‘one like a son of man‘ {see vv.13-14}, saying, “. . . he claims the throne of the Ancient of Days. He is equal to the Ancient of Days (God himself).” I wonder what version they are reading, for the passage says nothing of the sort. Nowhere in the passage does it state that the ‘son of man’ claims the throne of the Ancient of Days or that he is equal to Him. Even if it did state that he claims God’s throne this still would not necessitate an ontological equality, for the Davidic king indeed shared God’s throne {see 1 Cron. 29:23; 2 Chron. 9:8; Ps. 45:6}. The ‘son of man‘ is clearly not on par ontologically with the one sitting on the throne for he must receive his dominion from God, who sits on the throne. Does one who is ontologically and eternally God need to receive his dominion and authority from someone else. If they are equal then from whom does the Ancient of Days receive his dominion? The authors are simply reading into the text their own predilections, which the text itself does not bear out.

Their next move is to the grammar of 1 Tim. 2:5. Wow! Where does one start to unravel the tangled mess they make of this passage. First they claim that the absence of ‘and‘ (Gr. kai) before the second occurrence of the word ‘one‘ indicates that the same person is being spoken of. What is amazing is that the kai immediately follows the second ‘one‘. This word order suggests emphasis not equality of subject. A literal rendering of the Greek would look like this:

“For one God, one also mediator of God and men, a man Christ Jesus.”

In order for the verse to say what they are claiming it is saying it would require the definite article before the second ‘one‘ and the word ‘man.’ It would then read:

“For one God, the one also mediator of God and men , the man Christ Jesus.”

This would tie the ‘one mediator’ to the ‘one God’ and then to the ‘man Christ Jesus,’ equating them. But there are no definite articles, so the ‘one God’ and the ‘one mediator’ are distinct from each other, regardless of the fact that the kai comes after the second ‘one‘ rather than before it. As I said before, that the word ‘one‘ comes before the kai simply suggests emphasis, i.e. there is only absolutely one mediator between God and men, not two or three, just one. I don’t know who the Marshall is that they mention, but his translation of the verse is simply untenable, for it would require the definite articles as I’ve already noted. Marshall does add the article, which does not appear in the Greek text, before the words ‘mediator’ and ‘man‘. He also adds the words “who is” which are also not in the Greek. This is a real mess and is hard to believe that men would go to this extreme to mitigate the force of a passage that clearly puts Jesus in the human category.

They next try to make the verse out to be a chiasm i.e. something like an A-B-B-A structure, in which God, at the beginning of the verse, and Jesus Christ, at the end of the verse, are synonymous. But I fail to see what the B-B would pertain to in the verse. If the whole verse is about one person, i.e. Jesus, as they have already maintained, then where is the chiastic structure? This is grasping at straws. Their statement that “this is an explicit declaration that Jesus is both God and man” is indeed laughable; do they even know what the word ‘explicit’ means? The simple and plain meaning of the text is that there are two individuals in view, the one God, who is not a man, and the one mediator who is a man, Jesus Christ.

Finally, they try to connect this strange interpretation to 1 Cor. 8:6, but it fails because 1 Cor. 8:6 is even more explicit (this is how the word should be used) as to who the ‘one God‘ actually is -it is the Father. How can it be spelled out any clearer than this:

“For us there is one God, the Father . . .”

Paul does not say that the one God of Christians is the Trinity, or the Father and the Son, or even Jesus himself, but unmistakably the Father. The authors’ statement that “Paul . . . identifies Jesus as the one God . . .” is a blatant twisting of what the text actually says. This is eisegesis at it’s worst. If you want to read a more thorough treatment of 1 Cor. 8:6 read this article here.

This brings this series to a close. Throughout this series I have often been reminded of the proverb:

“The first to present his case seems right, until another comes forward and questions him.” Prov. 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 Bible Faculty Document on the Trinity and Divinity of Messiah – Part 8: Dealing With Objections”

  1. Great points, especially:

    How the Scriptures are clear that Jesus has a God, the same God as ours, and how the document you are analyzing must twist or ignore the multiple Scriptures that declare so.

    Exposing the folly of the documents suggested interpretation of Daniel 7, and of being sent by God.

    How the document distorted 1 Timothy 2:5, which states explicitly that there is one God, and one mediator between God and humankind, the man Jesus the Messiah. And how both Moses and Aaron and other high priests were mediators between God and Israel. I fear for the authors of this paper who have produced such documentation to convict them before our God-appointed judge, the man Jesus Christ (Acts 17:31).

    Thanks again for going through these. I must disagree with you about one thing though. In this case, I never felt like the one who presented their case first seemed right. What the document tries to do to passages like Ephesians 1:3 (et al) and 1 Timothy 2:5 is shameful.

    Like

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