RSS

Is Jesus Truly God?

13 Oct

Perhaps John 1:1 is the most controversial verse in the entire Bible. It is particularly significant in the theology of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Biblical Unitarians. Not only so, it is of great interest to many who do not claim to be Christian. John’s Prologue is certainly a portion of Scripture that attracts the attention of many people, and for good reason. Its meaning gives definition to the Deity and presents a worldview that is inconsistent with all other worldviews. I recently offered a study on John’s Prologue, which can be found in the HERE . I wrote it with a bent toward answering the objections of the Biblical Unitarians. This time I wish to simply read through it for what I see there.

Let’s look at the first three verses of John’s Gospel:

John 1:1-3 In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God  (2) The same was in the beginning with God  (3) All things were made by him and without him was not any thing made that was made.

The context of the beginning is the time of creation. What the text tells us is that whoever the Word is, everything that came into existence did so through him. He participated in bringing all things into existence. In Genesis 1:1 we are told that in the beginning God created… everything in existence. What does this mean?

First of all, what I see here in John’s Gospel is that the Creator is taking responsibility for all that is. Notice that John refers to the Creator as God. What does it mean to be God of anything? Psalm 82 seems to be saying that god (small “g”) can be a ruler of any kind. God calls mere men who rule gods. Jesus, himself, refers to this Scripture later in the book of John. If we apply this idea to John 1:1, what is the implication? It seems to me that John in referring to the Creator as God is saying he is the Ruler, but the Ruler of what? There was, as yet, nothing in existence! What I see occurring is that the Creator instituted first his office as Ruler – God, if you will – over what he is about to do. So, before anything is brought into existence, the Player is defined. The office of God or Ruler (LORD) comes into existence at the moment of the first creative act. It is like the moment my first daughter was born. I wasn’t a father until she came into existence. Whatever I was before that moment, I was not a father. However, at the precise moment my daughter was born, I became her father—I was responsible. I initiated her coming into existence.

So, in the beginning (of creation) was the Word. That is, whoever the Word is, he was at the beginning. He preceded whatever the beginning might be. John continues to say that this Word was “with” (the) God [i.e. the article “the” is present in the Greek, which is at the heart of controversy among those who deny the deity of Jesus]. The Greek then reads: “the Word was with the God.” The only point I perceive being made here is that whoever the Word is, he was there in the beginning – before anything was created – together “with” the God. A distinction between the two is being made, but we must not be too quick to read anything into this distinction. On the contrary, we need to let the text, itself, tell us what it has to say.

Next, John writes that “the Word was God.” The article is absent before the word God, and this, viewed with the previous clause where the article is present with God, proves to be very controversial within the doctrine, teaching Jesus is truly God. The argument is: “God cannot be with God. This would be illogical.” Well, I believe there is more to all this than what some are trying to read into this verse. For example, what if the article were present in both clauses, wouldn’t this be an error saying God is beside himself? How, then, should John have expressed the idea that would show the Word is truly God, if this is what he meant?

I believe John’s choice to use the term, the Word, to describe Jesus, before he became man, expresses emphatically that Jesus was truly God come in the flesh. John was working with a Hebrew tradition, but most folks like to say he is drawing upon the Greek philosophical tradition of the Logos – the Greek for the Word. In the Jewish Targums, the writers often replace the name YHWH in the Hebrew with Memra, which is Aramaic for the Word, when the targumist interprets that YHWH in the text takes on a personal form. I believe that John brought this Jewish tradition into the New Testament. In fact, the targumist translates Genesis 1:27 into:

“And the Word of the Lord created man in His likeness, in the likeness of the presence of the Lord He created him, the male and his yoke-fellow He created them” (Jerusalem Targum).

Another writes:

“And the Word of YHWH created man in his likeness, in the likeness of YHWH, YHWH created, male and female created He them (Targum Jonathan, Genesis 1:27).

What does this mean? It seems to me that John sought to bring into the New Testament the Jewish idea of God. He is ONE, but God is more complex than what we would term a singularity. In fact, it takes two—male and female—to express God’s image properly for our understanding. I could say that I brought my daughter into this world through my wife, and without my wife no child of mine had been brought into this world. This, in a sense, would reflect what we see in John 1:1-3 and Genesis, chapter 1. God, the Father, spoke or willed the creative act and the Word brought the will of the Father into physical existence. I don’t mean to imply that God is male or female. He has no gender, but humanity, as male and female, is the image God created to point to himself. So, just as in my analogy above, my wife is no less a parent than I am and no less human than I am, so too the Word is GOD just like the God (the Father) in the third clause of John 1:1. John is saying that the Word is no less GOD than the Father is. Both share equal responsibility for and authority over creation.

Advertisements
 
27 Comments

Posted by on October 13, 2010 in Christianity, Godhead, Religion

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

27 responses to “Is Jesus Truly God?

  1. Once4all

    October 21, 2010 at 20:44

    Thanks for understanding, Eddie. And I’m retired, too! A year and a half now, and loving it. Naturally, it’s not only your blog that distracts me. There’s Facebook and discussion forums and … . You get the idea. I wish I knew someone locally with your interest in Bible study, who liked to talk about these things, Bibles open and without animosity because of believing differently. God bless you, brother.

     
  2. Once4all

    October 21, 2010 at 19:33

    The apostles performed miracles, too, but I don’t hear many people saying they are God.

    Jesus and the Father being “one” is in purpose, intent, mind. Jesus prayed that the disciples be one “even as we (Jesus and the Father) are one.”

    I’ve enjoyed our discussion, Eddie. It is relaxed and non-confrontational. I wouldn’t mind continuing it if we could keep it down to very small chunks. I have some neglected tasks demanding my attention. I have family and friends waiting to see photos from my vacation (I was gone the whole month of September), and I’ve just barely started processing the RAW images from the trip. I find it too easy to get pulled away by discussions like ours, which I find fun and interesting. But the deeper they get, the more time they take, and the louder my neglected tasks call out.

     
    • Eddie

      October 21, 2010 at 19:48

      Beverly, I’ve enjoyed out little discussion as well, but please don’t think you “must” continue or even that you “must” reply every day. You can end it whenever you wish or continue at whatever interval that your active life permits. I am retired, so I would naturally have more time for such fun things like this discussion with you. So, by all means tend to the important things like family and friends. I’ll be here when the pace gets so slow that your interest is peaked on another blog–or back to this one. :-)

      I’ll tell you what, I’ll refrain from responding to your latest comment beyond this short note. If you wish to resume later, I’ll include my response to your latest comment here, but only if you return to this particular discussion. This should make it easier for you to resume normal activity at home.
      Lord bless,
      Eddie

       
  3. Once4all

    October 20, 2010 at 23:06

    But, Eddie, Jesus does correct them in John 10. I posted about that in my second post on the 19th.

    Getting back to Psalm 82:8. You wrote: “Since the verb is in the “Qal Imperfect Active”, I don’t see how this could refer to God’s ownership of the nations in the sense that they are and always have been his. If this were the sense, why not use the “Qal Perfect Active”, and there would have been no question. Nevertheless, the imperfect tense is used in the Hebrew to express the future tense, because the subject’s (God) possession is not yet complete.”

    My source for my comments that follow is the BlueLetterBible. BLB’s first definition for the Imperfect tense or aspect is:

    “It is used to describe a single (as opposed to a repeated) action in the past; it differs from the perfect in being more vivid and pictorial. The perfect expresses the “fact”, the imperfect adds colour and movement by suggesting the “process” preliminary to its completion.”

    Using the NASB (my preferred, in most instances) this time:
    (Psalms 82:8 NASB) Arise, O God, judge the earth! For it is You who possesses all the nations.

    I will suggest that the imperfect was used because of the process implied by the call to God to judge the earth.

    A look at Strong’s definition of H5157:

    nâchal
    naw-khal’
    A primitive root; to inherit (as a (figurative) mode of descent), or (generally) to occupy; causatively to bequeath, or (generally) distribute, instate: – divide, have ([inheritance]), take as an heritage, (cause to, give to, make to) inherit, (distribute for, divide [for, for an, by], give for, have, leave for, take [for]) inheritance, (have in, cause to be made to) possess (-ion).

    A call to God to judge because He is the only one who can; they are His inheritance, His possession.

    Compare:
    (1 Kings 8:53 NASB) “For You have separated them from all the peoples of the earth as Your inheritance, as You spoke through Moses Your servant, when You brought our fathers forth from Egypt, O Lord GOD.”

     
    • Eddie

      October 21, 2010 at 09:04

      Hi Beverly. You said:
      But, Eddie, Jesus does correct them in John 10. I posted about that in my second post on the 19th.

      This is correct, and you took the position that “Son of God” meant he was claiming to be the Messiah. I responded in agreement that this term is indeed used to show the Messiah, but not always. For example, in Jesus’ fourth open claim to Deity (found HERE), he agreed to the high priest’s charge that he was the Son of God. When he agreed, the high priest tore his clothes and declared Jesus’ statement was blasphemous. Problem is, it is not blasphemous to claim to be the Messiah, so Jesus’ claim to be the Son of God means something else or something more than just to be the Messiah.

      Here in John 10, Jesus claimed that the Father and he are ONE, but the authorities took up stones to kill him. Jesus asked if they intended to kill him for the good works he did. They said no, but because he had committed blasphemy by claiming to be God. Jesus did not say they were wrong in their estimation of his claim, neither does John say so in an editorial. Instead, Jesus points to Psalm 82 and claims he is the Son of God—but not in the sense that they assume they are (John 8:41), because they again try to seize him, presumably in an effort to kill him for what he said (John 10:39). The Jews would not have tried to seize him or to stone him, if they didn’t believe they had the right to do so, according to the Law of Moses, and neither Jesus nor John (in editorial) attempt to say the Jews misunderstood Jesus’ claims. Elsewhere, as you have pointed out in an earlier comment, both John and Jesus make sure the reader knows the Jews’ claims are false and that they misunderstood what was saidbut not here. Why?
      Concerning the Qal Imperfect, I quoted several linguistic authorities that would show a future tense in English is demanded of the translation of Psalm 82:8. You have used other authorities to counter the ones I proposed. I don’t know, but probably neither you nor I are qualified to judge which authority is correct, so I will attempt to drop the linguistic argument.

      The bottom line is, as I see it, Jesus referred to Psalm 82 in his defense and claimed he was the Son of God, but this is out of place, if Psalm 82:8 does not refer to the Son of God—but I’ll continue from the proposition that Jesus merely pulled it out of the air and began a new argument (not so—but I don’t wish to argue about whose authorities are correct or who is using those authorities correctly). The end result is after Jesus claimed both he and the Father are ONE and the Jews considered it blasphemous, Jesus’ defense that he was claiming to be God’s Son didn’t change anything. Why? The Jews may have been prejudiced against Jesus, but they weren’t stupid. They may have misunderstood spiritual language, but even then, if Jesus repeated himself enough, they eventually caught on as a comparison of John 2:19-21 and Matthew 27:62-64 will show.

      Now, Jesus could not mean he is the Son of God by virtue of being a Jew—all Jews believed they were a child of God in this sense (John 8:41). So this was not considered blasphemy. Neither was it considered blasphemy to claim that, as the Messiah, he would be the Son of God, because every king of Judah was considered the son of God, in that Psalm 2 was their coronation hymn. So, why is Jesus taking to himself the title “Son of God” considered blasphemous? It is not because he is a Jew, and it is not because he is the Messiah. Neither claim was blasphemous according to the Jews.

      In John 10:36 Jesus equated the term “Son of God” with his earlier claim that he and the Father were “ONE” (John 10:30). The Jews wished to stone Jesus for blasphemy pointing to his statement in John 10:30. Jesus asked why they wished to stone him for blasphemy when he was claiming to be God’s Son (John 10:36)? So, both of Jesus’ remarks mean the same thing, i.e. Father and Jesus being ONE = Jesus is the Son of God.

      In John 10:37 Jesus tells the Jews—Look, don’t believe me if I am not doing the works of my Father. Then he adds—But, if I am doing the works of my Father (God), i.e. miracles that no man can do—then believe me (that I am the Son of God—truly God in the flesh) for the very works sake. In other words, how can any man do the miracles Jesus is doing without God backing him up? This is his argument and, if true, Jesus dwells in God and God dwells in Jesus (John 10:38), which is something no mere man can claim.

      The result is that the Jews tried to seize him, showing they didn’t wish to listen to reason. After all, “God is not a man and man cannot be God.”

       
  4. Once4all

    October 20, 2010 at 19:13

    Eddie, what part of John 8 are you referring to?

    Thanks.

     
    • Eddie

      October 20, 2010 at 20:34

      Sorry Beverly, I meant to say John 10, where Jesus quoted Psalm 82. John 8, however, does contain Jesus’ 2nd open claim to Deity. My blog is found HERE.

       
  5. Once4all

    October 20, 2010 at 16:55

    Hi Eddie. You wrote: “Moreover, we still cannot get passed the fact that the Jewish authorities understood Jesus’ remark to be a claim that he was God in the flesh.”

    The Jews don’t have a very good track record for being right about any of their conclusions about Jesus or what he said. Examples:

    (These are just a small sample of those collected from the Gospel of John)

    John 2:19-20
    Jews think: he means the literal temple in Jerusalem.
    Reality: his body rising from the dead

    John 5:17-30
    Jews think: he’s a sabbath-breaker and claiming equality with God
    Reality: the accusations are false. He’s fulfilling the principles of the sabbath and only doing what God told him and gave him power to do.

    John 6:51-52
    Jews think: he means eating his literal flesh
    Reality: Uniting with him in his death and resurrection

    John 7:33-36
    Jews think: he’s literally going somewhere else in the world
    Reality: He is going to his Father in heaven

    John 8:18-19
    Jews think: a human father
    Reality: God is his father

    John 8:21-22
    Jews think: he will kill himself
    Reality: They will have him killed

    John 8:24-27
    Jews think: They are baffled
    Reality: Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God

    John 8:31-33
    Jews think: literal slavery
    Reality: Slavery to sin

    John 8:38-41
    Jews think: Abraham is our father
    Reality: The devil is their father

    John 8:47-48
    Jews think: he is demon-possessed
    Reality: Jesus is of God; the Spirit of God dwells in him.

    John 8:49-53
    Jews think: will never experience literal physical death
    Reality: will never experience eternal death

    John 10:1-6
    Jews think: (clueless)
    Reality: Jesus’ followers follow him as sheep follow a shepherd

    John 10:18-20
    Jews think: (clueless)
    Reality: Jesus has been commanded by his Father to lay down his life

    John 10:30-39
    Jews think: Jesus is claiming to be God
    Reality: Jesus is claiming to be the Son of God

    That’s why I have a problem with using any claims or beliefs of the Jews about Jesus as a basis for argument. They were pretty much always wrong!

     
    • Eddie

      October 20, 2010 at 18:55

      Hi Beverly. Perhaps I didn’t state my point clearly, because you seem to be making my point for me here. In nearly all of your Scripture references above, you say the Jews misunderstand. I agree and so does either John (the writer of the Gospel) or Jesus. This is the point I am making for John 8. The Jews claim Jesus is making himself God, but, if this isn’t Jesus’ point, he doesn’t correct them; neither does John say they are wrong. The Jews’ accusation stands as though it were approved by both Jesus and John who records what is said. Elsewhere, either Jesus or John is quick to point out that the Jews are mistaken.
      Another point to consider is that most of the Scriptures you are using to make your point are Scriptures we have a different opinion upon–just like you pointed out for my pointing to Philippians 2:6-7. John 5 represents Jesus first claim to Deity. My blog on this is found HERE. John 10 represents Jesus third open claim to Deity–found HERE.
      Have a nice evening.

       
  6. Once4all

    October 20, 2010 at 01:43

    Hiya Eddie. You wrote: “I agree it would not be blasphemy for Jesus to claim he was the Son of God–literally or spiritually.” I’m confused because in your post previous to the one where I took this quote, I thought you were attempting to make a case for Jesus’ deity based on the high priest’s accusation of blasphemy: “If none of these are blasphemous, then in what sense did the high priest take Jesus remark that he considered the claim Son of God to be blasphemous?”

    I think you may be assuming that Psalm 82:8 refers to the Son, but nothing in the psalm indicates that. I don’t usually like to appeal to other sources, but it’s my bedtime, so for expediency, I’ll refer to the NET Bible translation and to Albert Barnes commentary:

    (Psalms 82:8 NET) Rise up, O God, and execute judgment on the earth! For you own all the nations.

    (Albert Barnes; emphasis added) For thou shalt inherit all nations – Or rather, All nations belong to thee as thine inheritance; that is, as thine own. The word “inherit” is used here, as it often is, merely to denote possession or proprietorship, without reference to the question how the possession is obtained. The word strictly refers to what has been received from parents, or what people are heirs to; and, in this sense, it is commonly applied to the land of Palestine, either as what was derived by the Jewish people from their ancestors the patriarchs, or as what they had received from God as a Father. Exo_32:13; Deu_1:38; Deu_12:10. It is here used simply in the sense of possessing it. That is, the whole earth belonged to God, and the administration of its affairs pertained to him. As those had failed who had been appointed under him to the office of judges – as they had not been faithful to their trust – as no confidence could be reposed in them, – the psalmist calls upon God to interfere, either by appointing other magistrates; or by leading those who were in office to just views of their duty; or by his own direct judgments, punishing the wicked, and rewarding the righteous, by the interpositions of his providence.

    Hope you have a good night!

     
    • Eddie

      October 20, 2010 at 10:42

      Hi Beverly, I did have a good night thank you. Up early to take my wife to a Bible study class she leads, and now I am home again. I hope your night and morning were enjoyable.
      You said:

      I think you may be assuming that Psalm 82:8 refers to the Son, but nothing in the psalm indicates that. I don’t usually like to appeal to other sources, but it’s my bedtime, so for expediency, I’ll refer to the NET Bible translation and to Albert Barnes commentary:

      (Psalms 82:8 NET) Rise up, O God, and execute judgment on the earth! For you own all the nations.

      While I do believe Psalm 82:8 refers to the Son of God, I believe it is more than mere assumption, but we’ll see how you address your argument. I, too, prefer to let Scripture interpret Scripture, but at times one must refer to authorities. For example, when emphasizing the use of language, I must refer to scholarly input, because I am neither proficient in ancient Hebrew or Greek (sorry to say). Here you refer to the NET translation. I do like the NET Bible for a modern translation. I especially like its abundance of notes. I usually use the KJV not because I am a KJ only person, but because it is the bible I used when I first learned the word of God. It is my preferred study and reading Bible—I like how it flow. However, I often refer to the NET and the NASB for help and for reading from time to time. Concerning the translation above, the scholars also have a note pointing to the verb. It admits to what is probably the preferred translation that it is future. That can be seen in a note HERE.
      Concerning the Hebrew it is not like the English, having a past, present and a future. It has two tenses: perfect and imperfect. The perfect tense refers to a completed action, while the imperfect refers to an action that is incomplete. You can verify this HERE.
      Since the verb is in the “Qal Imperfect Active”, I don’t see how this could refer to God’s ownership of the nations in the sense that they are and always have been his. If this were the sense, why not use the “Qal Perfect Active”, and there would have been no question. Nevertheless, the imperfect tense is used in the Hebrew to express the future tense, because the subject’s (God) possession is not yet complete. Therefore, I believe the NET should have chosen its alternate option of translation—which, remember, the scholars admit there is.
      You added a comment by Barnes. I have found Barnes to be very instructive. I really like his point of view for most instances, but not this one. Your emphasis above is: “The word “inherit” is used here, as it often is, merely to denote possession or proprietorship, without reference to the question how the possession is obtained.”
      I looked up nachal (H5157) and found it occurs 60 times in the Old Testament. Of those times only 5 are not translated with “inheritance” in mind in the KJV (to which my bible helps are keyed). They are: Job 7:3, Isaiah 14:2, 57:13, Zephaniah 2:9, Zechariah 8:12. Perhaps the some of the more modern translations would contain more than 5, but in Barns’ day I don’t think that would have been the case. I don’t know why he concludes the above.
      Another point of emphasis was: “It is here used simply in the sense of possessing it. That is, the whole earth belonged to God, and the administration of its affairs pertained to him.”
      As I said above, I don’t know why Barnes would draw such a conclusion. Clearly, the word is usually translated with “inheritance” in view, but not only so, the Qal Imperfect would be used to express an incomplete action which is often translated into the future tense in the English. If the nations ARE the possession of God in Psalm 82:8, why would this be expressed in a manner that shows his “possessing” them is incomplete.
      I referred to Psalm 2 to shed light upon who “inherits” the nations, and that would be the Son of God, called God in Psalm 82:8. I still stand by that conclusion, and I don’t believe Barnes has proven his case. The scholars of the NET translation admit to the alternate future translation, so this authority is moot. Moreover, we still cannot get passed the fact that the Jewish authorities understood Jesus’ remark to be a claim that he was God in the flesh. The text doesn’t show Jesus contradicting their understanding, as he did on other occasions (Matthew 22:29).

       
  7. Once4all

    October 19, 2010 at 12:00

    Good morning, Eddie. Hope you are having a good day.

    John 10:33-36 NASB
    (33) The Jews answered Him, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.”
    (34) Jesus answered them, “Has it not been written in your Law, ‘I SAID, YOU ARE GODS’?
    (35) “If he called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture cannot be broken),
    (36) do you say of Him, whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?

    Everything between verses 33 and 36 is Jesus justifying why it is not blasphemy for him to say he is the Son of God; that justification being that even the scriptures (which cannot be broken) acknowledges that there are other gods that are not God.

     
    • Eddie

      October 19, 2010 at 12:44

      Hi Beverly! It was a good morning, thank you. I hope you had the same.
      I agree it would not be blasphemy for Jesus to claim he was the Son of God–literally or spiritually. As man and a son of Abraham, he would be considered a child of God (John 8:41). If he meant the term literally, neither could it be blasphemy, if it were true–which is what I believe. Jesus based his claim upon Psalm 82 which he quotes here in John 10:34. Those who ruled Israel were called gods, because they shared in the power or authority of God. However, it says in Psalm 82:8 (KJV) “Arise, O God, judge the earth: for thou shalt inherit all nations.” To whom does this refer? He who inherits the nations according to Psalm 2:7-12 is there referred to as the Son of God, but here in Psalm 82:8 he is called God. The point in John is that Jesus’ adversaries believed Jesus made himself out to be God, and Jesus didn’t contradict them. He merely claimed he had the right because of who he was.

       
  8. Once4all

    October 19, 2010 at 00:33

    Are you referring to the Luke 22 “Son of God” passage? “Son of God” is equivalent to “Christ”:

    (Matthew 16:16 NASB) Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

    (Matthew 26:63 NASB) But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest said to Him, “I adjure You by the living God, that You tell us whether You are the Christ, the Son of God.”

    (Mark 1:1 NASB) The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

    (Luke 4:41 NASB) Demons also were coming out of many, shouting, “You are the Son of God!” But rebuking them, He would not allow them to speak, because they knew Him to be the Christ.

    (John 11:27 NASB) She *said to Him, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.”

    (John 20:31 NASB) but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.

    Also, according to Luke 1:34-35, Jesus would be called the Son of God because of his miraculous birth from the womb of a virgin. That’s the only reason given that I can see, and would warrant being called the “only begotten” son of God.

    The designation “son of God” is applied to a person whom God has raised up for His purpose, whether it be as king, messiah, or deliverer? I would suggest even prophet and priest might apply. Even the first Adam (called son of God in Luke 3:38) was a king and a priest; he was given “dominion.”

    Question: For this blog, to use HTML in my posts, do I use angle brackets or square brackets?

     
    • Eddie

      October 19, 2010 at 05:56

      Hi Beverly! to use the HTML for your comments you need to use the angle brackets to make it work.
      Yes, I am referring to the Luke 22 Son of God passage. I also agree with you that it is a term used to identify the Messiah, so some passages carry only that meaning. However, during his trial, Jesus was accused of “blasphemy” for saying he was the Son of Man who would sit at the right hand of power, come in the clouds of heaven and judge his people, Israel. This Son of Man is not only the Messiah, the term, as used by Jesus sitting upon the throne of God, was understood to literally be the Son of God. The high priest’s own reply shows this is how he took it; otherwise how could Jesus be accused of blasphemy? To simply claim one is the Messiah was never considered blasphemous, even if one was wrong. Neither would it have been wrong for Jesus to claim he was the Son of God by virtue of his being a son of Abraham–all Jews saw themselves as God’s children in this sense (John 8:41). Neither was it blasphemous to claim to be the Son of God if one were the King of Israel. Psalm 2, a coronation hymn, was used in the ceremony of every new king of Judah. If none of these are blasphemous, then in what sense did the high priest take Jesus remark that he considered the claim Son of God to be blasphemous? Jesus was crucified under the accusation of blasphemy–admitting to being the Son of God–a charge the centurion admitted was not false, after witnessing the things that occurred during Jesus’ crucifixion (Matthew 27:54).

       
  9. Once4all

    October 18, 2010 at 14:35

    Eddie, I love discussing this, but we are running into what often happens in such discussions… we are both bringing in other scriptures that we disagree on, thus expanding the scope of the discussion beyond the original disagreement. For example, Philippians 2:6. We have different views of that verse (I discuss it in my blog), so unless we are in agreement of *its* meaning, using it doesn’t help either one of us. It is a whole other discussion in itself!

    You wrote that Jesus refers to himself as God. I’m certain that is yet another area we disagree regarding the meaning of the text, but which verse or verses do you cite for that claim?

     
    • Eddie

      October 18, 2010 at 15:13

      Hi Beverly, I agree that it makes no sense to use Scripture we both disagree upon to try to prove a point of contention in an argument. So, we’ll set Philippians 2:6 aside until such a time we can agree to discuss it. However, I don’t believe my argument depends entirely upon Philippians 2:6. The tense of the verbs have not been addressed.

      Concerning which Scripture(s) I have in mind that point to Jesus claiming he is God, there are four outright claims to Deity. Three Scriptures you may have already heard about, but I believe I present a stronger argument than is usually found on the discussion boards. At least I haven’t found anyone who is able to contradict them, or present a reasonable alternative. The fourth you probably have not heard of. I was challenged by a Jew to come up with a claim to Deity made by Jesus outside of the Gospel of John. The fourth argument is the result. They are all found HERE.

      I have had to really question this doctrine, because of its numerous opponents, not that numbers mean anything. Nevertheless, within a great number, one is more apt to find some challenging statements. I’ve had to keep reinventing the wheel, so the basics are all there, but I’ve also had to come up with something more, not only for the sake of standing against my opponent, but to reassure myself that what I believe is not built upon a shaky foundation. In any event, at the end of the day, if nothing else came out of those debates, I came away with a new respect for the opposing argument. Not that I believe it “might” be true, but I have come to understand how difficult it is to get beyond some points of contention. Therein lay my thinking that this doctrine could not possibly be a litmus test of one’s Christianity. Many will believe either side, but few could prove or build an argument in an effort to support what side they take.

       
  10. Once4all

    October 17, 2010 at 00:41

    Eddie, it finally clicked what you mean by John not explaining what the “beginning” is. However, I think that supports either view (or neither). There are places in the NT where “the beginning” is explained as “of creation” and as “of the gospel.” And there are places where “the beginning” is not explicitly explained, such as in Luke 1:2. Therefore, I don’t believe that John not explaining it is a very strong argument for either of us.

    In Mark 13:19, Jesus states that “God” (as someone other than himself) created. And in Matthew 19:4-6, Jesus states that God “who created them from the beginning made them male and female.” He never refers to himself as the Genesis Creator. And Jesus, in John 17:3, identifies the Father as the “only true God.” Such plain statements should make it clear that, even if John 1:3 was speaking about the Genesis creation, it does not refer to Jesus as that creator.

    Also, the Word existing before the “beginning” is true in any respect, since God spoke heaven and earth into existence. So no matter what “beginning” we’re talking about, the Logos already existed with God because the Logos (THAT logos; since logos is not a word limited to use only with God) is His thought, His reasoning, His word.

     
    • Eddie

      October 17, 2010 at 07:12

      Eddie, it finally clicked what you mean by John not explaining what the “beginning” is.

      Hi Beverly! I’m sorry, I probably could have been clearer. I know I have a problem with assuming folks know what I am talking about. Before I say more, let me thank you for this discussion. I don’t remember when I’ve enjoyed just speaking about God with someone other than my wife and folks in my Sunday school class. You are just about the most pleasant person I’ve ever disagreed with! :-)

      However, I think that supports either view (or neither). There are places in the NT where “the beginning” is explained as “of creation” and as “of the gospel.” And there are places where “the beginning” is not explicitly explained, such as in Luke 1:2. Therefore, I don’t believe that John not explaining it is a very strong argument for either of us.

      Well, if it is as vague as you claim here, John has a problem. Why would he begin his Gospel, which he later claims is to show Jesus is the Christ, in a manner that causes his reader to question what he means? I believe Luke’s “beginning” is quite clear: “Even as they delivered them unto us, which from the beginning were eyewitnesses, and ministers of the word;” The context puts this “beginning” with the apostles witnessing the ministry of Jesus. I don’t think we can get away from the fact that John 1:3 is out of place in John’s Prologue, if the “beginning” is not creation. Why does John refer to the Word as bringing all things into existence, if he isn’t referring to the creation? Everything must fit, if we are to discover the proper meaning. Wouldn’t you agree?

      In Mark 13:19, Jesus states that “God” (as someone other than himself) created. And in Matthew 19:4-6, Jesus states that God “who created them from the beginning made them male and female.” He never refers to himself as the Genesis Creator.

      Speaking of God in the third person is not proof that Jesus couldn’t also be including himself, when he was in the form of God (Philippians 2:6). Just a quick check of the context of Mark 13 has Jesus warning the disciples not to believe it, if someone says Christ is present here or there (v. 21). In v. 26 he tells them of his coming judgment upon Jerusalem, but he refers to himself as the “Son of man” in the third person. This is just a way of speaking. We all do it from time to time.
      Concerning Jesus never referring to himself as the Genesis Creator, if Jesus refers to himself as God at any time in his ministry (and he does), then it can be assumed he sees himself as the Genesis Creator.

      And Jesus, in John 17:3, identifies the Father as the “only true God.” Such plain statements should make it clear that, even if John 1:3 was speaking about the Genesis creation, it does not refer to Jesus as that creator.

      This is one of those “yes and no” statements in Scripture. If we understand that Jesus, as man, is no longer “equal” to God, as he had been before he became man (Philippians 2:6), then we can see Jesus’ meaning. Jesus, in his present form is no longer omniscient, omnipresent or omnipotent. That’s the “I agree with your statement” part. But Jesus also claims in this very verse that eternal life is obtained by having a relationship—not only with the Father (the only true God)—but also with Jesus whom the Father sent. That is quite arrogant, if Jesus is not equal in essence with the Father. Furthermore, two verses later in v.5, Jesus asks God to glorify him (Jesus) with himself (the Father)—the glory he once had before the world was (cp. 1Timothy 6:16)! Now we are back to John 1:1 and creation!

      Also, the Word existing before the “beginning” is true in any respect, since God spoke heaven and earth into existence. So no matter what “beginning” we’re talking about, the Logos already existed with God because the Logos (THAT logos; since logos is not a word limited to use only with God) is His thought, His reasoning, His word.

      Yes, this is the sense in which many people put the Logos or the Word of John’s Prologue. This comes from the Greek philosophers. However, this is clearly wrong. Why would John borrow from the Greek philosophers—never mentioning it, mind you—when he could draw from his own Jewish background in the Jewish Targums. They are Aramaic translations / paraphrases of the Old Testament Scriptures. The Word—Memra in the Aramaic—was indeed the Creator. He was the one who spoke with Abraham and Moses. It was in his Name which Abraham trusted—so says the Targum.

       
  11. Once4all

    October 16, 2010 at 00:03

    The beginning marking an event in the past is one of the reasons I had also mentioned the beginning of Jesus’ life (i.e., his birth), because he was fulfilling the Law and the Prophets even at his birth.

    The pattern used in the other texts which include the “beginning,” the “word,” and the “baptism’ (or John the Baptist), two of which are other gospel records, weighs heavily (to me, anyway) that the opening verses of John’s gospel should be viewed in light of those scriptures.

    We can disagree; I’m fine with that.

     
    • Eddie

      October 16, 2010 at 07:11

      Greetings Beverly,
      The problem with this interpretation, as I see it, is that it does not agree with the tense of the verb in John 1:1 where the Word is said to be existing before the “beginning”. Moreover, John 1:3 would have to be contrived to mean what Jesus was fulfilling rather than what he created or brought into being. The verb in this verse as well points to an occurrence in the past that needs no repeating, but Jesus kept fulfilling prophecy throughout his ministry. Finally, since John does not explain what the “beginning” is, it is implied that it is obvious. The most obvious context of the “beginning” in John 1:1 would be creation, which is the most obvious meaning of John 1:3.

      “We can disagree; I’m fine with that.”

      Of course, this is merely a discussion between a brother and sister in Christ. There is no arm-twisting on your part or mine. We can both walk away unchanged personally, but with a greater knowledge of what the other believes, and no hard feelings. I am not here to “evangelize” you, and I haven’t felt that from you. We are okay here. :-)

       
  12. Once4all

    October 14, 2010 at 19:44

    Hi Eddie. I don’t see why you think John 1:3 must refer to the Genesis creation. It speaks of creation, yes, but you stated yourself that the “beginning” can refer to the new creation of God. All things of that new creation indeed came (and continue to come) into being through Jesus. For example, “I go to prepare a place for you … I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (John 14:2b,6).

    All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. (John 1:3 NASB)

    Sorry about the closed comments on my blog. Actually, comments are never open. I don’t have time to properly respond as anyone posting a comment would deserve, so rather than be rushed or incomplete, I keep comments turned off. I welcome email comments, however.

    I don’t label myself a biblical unitarian, as they hold other beliefs under that label that I don’t agree with; however, I am in general agreement with their Christology.

     
    • Eddie

      October 14, 2010 at 20:02

      Hello again,
      I am so glad you haven’t taken offense with my disagreement with you. Some do.
      Concerning John 1:3, it decides the context of “the beginning”, and it mentions creating or bringing all things into existence. Would you at least agree to the idea that it must refer to either Genesis 1:1 or the new creation, and if so, would you also agree that it defines “in the beginning” in John 1:1 and 1:2?
      Concerning email, I would rather discuss these things publicly, especially since your first comment was public. If it must be private, I would do that, but that would not be my first choice. I hope you understand.

       
      • Once4all

        October 15, 2010 at 12:46

        I don’t mind at all discussing it publicly. I was only explaining that my lack of time to address many comments is why comments are turned off at my site.

        I will agree that “beginning” indicates the commencement of something. As far as “creating or bringing all things into existence,” I would not put a narrow “creation” definition to that. Another meaning of ‘ginomai’ is “come to pass.” The beginning may be the new creation, or even the beginning of Jesus’ life. Through Jesus, all things written in the Scriptures came to pass. As he himself taught, he came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 5:17, Luke 24:27, Luke 24:44).

        John 1:5 speaks of the Light that shines in the darkness, of which John the Baptist came to testify. Remember the words of Simeon when he took the child Jesus in his arms in the temple (Luke 2:29-32), “… for my eyes have seen your salvation … a light of revelation to the Gentiles …” and Paul’s words in Acts 26:23, “… by reason of His resurrection from the dead He would be the first to proclaim light both to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.”

         
        • Eddie

          October 15, 2010 at 15:57

          I will agree that “beginning” indicates the commencement of something. As far as “creating or bringing all things into existence,” I would not put a narrow “creation” definition to that.

          I, too, would agree that the “beginning” would have to be the commencement of something. Such is the meaning of the word. John seems to state it in a “matter of fact” sort of way, as though everyone who reads should be able to understand. I, therefore, would not look far and wide for what this “beginning” refers to—it must be something obvious.

          If we permit the Scriptures to interpret themselves as much as possible, wouldn’t that put a “narrow” interpretation of the text? Letting someone or something tell us what the meaning is keeps us from using any meaning willy-nilly. If John 1:3 does not put John 1:1-2 in the context of creation, why is verse-3 there? If John doesn’t elaborate about the beginning, implying that we should know what it is, wouldn’t verse-3 be out of place if “creation” is not the context of the “beginning”?

          Another meaning of ‘ginomai’ is “come to pass.” The beginning may be the new creation, or even the beginning of Jesus’ life. Through Jesus, all things written in the Scriptures came to pass. As he himself taught, he came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 5:17, Luke 24:27, Luke 24:44).

          The tense of the verb would be wrong for the “new creation”. What was made (ginomai-G.1096) was completed once and for all sometime in the past and does not have to be repeated. The verb tense is the same for Jesus saying “It is finished” from the Cross. What Jesus did, does not have to be repeated.

          Concerning “through Jesus, all things written in the Scriptures came to pass”, this sounds a lot like the “plan” of the Biblical Unitarians. Again, one runs into verb tense problems in verse one, if this line of interpretation is perused.

          John 1:5 speaks of the Light that shines in the darkness, of which John the Baptist came to testify.

          John was sent to testify of the one who is the Light—that he was coming into the world. The one, through whom all things were made, was coming into the world. John’s message implied the coming of someone who was already in existence.

          Remember the words of Simeon when he took the child Jesus in his arms in the temple (Luke 2:29-32), “… for my eyes have seen your salvation … a light of revelation to the Gentiles …”

          The Holy Spirit had revealed to Simeon that he wouldn’t die without seeing the Messiah (Luke 2:26). The coming of the Messiah was thought to mean salvation from Israel’s enemies (cp. John 12:34), but the prophet included the Gentiles (Isaiah 42:6). To see the Messiah was to see the salvation of God, because he was the Savior who was sent into the world. Nevertheless, all this was to be accomplished at the cross, not at his coming into the world. The tense of the verbs in the first three verses of John point to the Word existing before the “beginning” and that the “beginning” marked an event in the past that didn’t have to be repeated—it wasn’t continually occurring. John 1:3 declares this event was creation. It cannot refer to the “new creation” because its “beginning” didn’t occur until the resurrection of Jesus.

          and Paul’s words in Acts 26:23, “… by reason of His resurrection from the dead He would be the first to proclaim light both to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.”

          Yes, Paul is referring to the “new creation” that began in and through Jesus’ resurrection. We become “new creatures” (born again) through faith in his death and resurrection. The problem is that John is speaking of a past event in the first chapter of his Gospel. In the timeline of the Gospel, the crucifixion and resurrection had yet to occur.

           
  13. Once4all

    October 13, 2010 at 17:13

    Hi Eddie. I’d like to suggest another way to look at John 1:1’s “In the beginning.” Letting other New Testament scriptures help interpret John’s meaning for us, we see another possible “beginning,” which does not refer to the Genesis creation. Rather than copy and paste my whole blog entry here (though it’s not very long), I will simply link to it:
    http://web.cloudbow.com/blog/?p=59

     
    • Eddie

      October 13, 2010 at 19:39

      Beverly, hello again,
      I would have responded at your site, but comments were “closed” for the link you offered above. In any event, what you claim there is that John’s “in the beginning” is actually the beginning of the Gospel preached by Jesus, or perhaps the beginning of the ministry of John the Baptist. If either of these scenarios were true, John 1:3 would seem to be out of place. I believe context is important to understanding what is said, and context reveals “in the beginning” refers to the time of creation.
      Your argument is similar to that of the Biblical Unitarians, with whom after browsing your site, I have just discovered you are at least connected, if not a member. I don’t wish to put down anyone’s religious convictions, and I would be among the last to accuse you that—because you don’t believe like I do, that you couldn’t be Christian. I don’t believe the Deity of Jesus is the litmus test of who a Christian is. I believe such a view is false teaching, but believing in what is false does not automatically keep one from being a child of God. In any event I have already made an effort to respond to the Biblical Unitarian argument as it pertains to the “beginning” HERE. I hope in disagreeing with you, I have not shown myself to be “disagreeable.”
      As an aside, “beginning” can refer to many things. Jesus says it refers to the creative event in Matthew 19:4, but in Matthew 24:8 he speaks of the “beginning” of sorrows. On the other hand, John also uses the word to refer to Cana where the “beginning” of Jesus’ miracles took place. In Philippians 4:15 Paul refers to those in Macedonia as representing the “beginning” of the Gospel going to Europe. Paul also refers to Jesus as the “beginning” in Colossians 1:18 where he shows that he is the Firstborn from the dead—or the “beginning” of the new creation of God.
      The term “beginning” can refer to many things, but if we adhere to context and allow our interpretation to be governed by it, great parameters would be placed upon how we interpret a given Scripture. I understand your point, and you made a beautiful study of the “beginning” of Jesus’ ministry, but I believe it is contextually wrong for John 1:1.

       

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

 
%d bloggers like this: