Jesus Was Not a Trinitarian: A Call to Return to the Creed of Jesus

JWNT.jpgBuzzard, Anthony F.

Jesus Was Not a Trinitarian: A Call to Return to the Creed of Jesus

Morrow, GA: Restoration Fellowship, 2007. Pp. x + 465. Paper. $18.00.

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With thanks to Anthony Buzzard for this review copy!

Anthony Buzzard is the founder/director of Restoration Fellowship, co-editor of A Journal from the Radical Reformation as well as the Focus on the Kingdom magazine, and a retired professor of the Atlanta Bible College where he taught for 24 years. Anthony is also an unabashed Unitarian who views the doctrine of the Trinity as a false doctrine that has done much to harm Christianity over the centuries. I first became aware of him and his work more than 5 years ago after coming across the volume he co-authored with Charles F. Hunting entitled The Doctrine of the Trinity: Christianity’s Self-Inflicted Wound. At the time I found myself less than impressed with the arguments presented in that work but I started to follow Buzzard’s work more closely, first by frequenting his website, second by subscribing to his Focus on the Kingdom magazine, and finally by contacting him directly and requesting a review copy of his most recent volume, Jesus Was Not a Trinitarian: A Call to Return to the Creed of Jesus.

Buzzard’s central thesis is quite straightforward and simple: the Father alone is God, Jesus is not now nor was he ever God, and the doctrines of the deity of Christ and the Trinity are nowhere taught in Scripture. In other words, he believes all the things that a Unitarian is supposed to believe, but in arguing for these things he has failed to convince me of his position. The bedrock of Buzzard’s presentation is the Shema (Deut. 6:4) and Jesus’ quotation of it in Mark 12:29. His contention is that the Shema bears witness to a God who is but one single person and that a Trinitarian interpretation of the passage is untenable (see e.g., pp. 27-8 where Buzzard describes the Shema as “the Jewish unitary monotheistic creed,” and claims that “[t]he Shema proclaimed that God is one Person.”). Of course he focuses on the fact that the Shema says that God is ‘one’ (Heb. echad) and this cannot allow for a three-personed God. In my estimation Buzzard’s Unitarian presuppositions color his reading of this passage, which was never intended as a statement concerning how many Gods there were, or whether or not God was a single person, but rather it’s a declaration that Yahweh was Israel’s God alone. It was a call to faithfulness on the part of Israel to Yahweh over and against all of the gods of the nations, which becomes clear when one doesn’t read Deuteronomy 6:4 apart from its immediate context. If one accepts any interpretation of the Shema other than the one Buzzard proffers then they will not find the majority of this work terribly convincing.

I’d summarize Buzzard’s reasoning and arguments throughout the book as weak and forced at best. Another foundational verse for Buzzard is John 17:3 in which Jesus says that the Father is the “only true God.” For Buzzard this is the proverbial nail in the coffin, not allowing any possibility that Jesus could also be God. When he mentions the possibility of Jesus being called the “true God” in 1 John 5:20 he dismisses it by appealing selectively to certain commentaries that agree with him (of course none that do not) and claiming that if Jesus were called “the true God” it would “overthrow the Unitarian creed of Jesus.” (258) Of course if Buzzard’s reading of the Shema is wrong, which I believe that it is, then his conclusions do not follow. There’s also the matter of reading John 17:3 as if by Jesus affirming that the Father is the only true God that he was denying as much about himself. Such is not the case and more than a few apologists have pointed out that the manner in which Unitarians read this verse amounts to the logical fallacy of denying the antecedent.

There’s also Buzzard’s less than compelling argument concerning singular personal pronouns. In sum, he argues that singular personal pronouns in reference to God can only be understood to mean that God is a single person. But he wouldn’t follow this train of thought in the other directions it leads, e.g., that masculine pronouns refer to males, hence God must then be male. Nor does he recognize that singular pronouns can be used in reference to groups, e.g., Judges 1:2-3 where the entire tribe of Judah is in view yet is referred to by singular masculine pronouns.

The final verse to receive an extraordinary amount of attention is Psalm 110:1 which Buzzard argues can in no way indicate that the Messiah is divine. One of his major arguments is that the Hebrew adoni (not to be confused with adonai) never has reference to God but always means “someone who is a non-Deity superior.” (85) Buzzard cites some less than impressive arguments from various Trinitarian authors in which they assert that the second Lord of the psalm is clearly the second person of the Trinity, but he fails completely to interact with more serious scholarship on the matter. Bauckham gets a brief mention where Buzzard chides that he didn’t make any mention about the meaning of the Hebrew adoni and that “[o]ne would expect an analysis of the critically important title ‘lord’ for Jesus.” (181) But Bauckham’s major contention is that early Christians read this passage in a way that no one else had in reference to the Messiah, namely that the enthroned king was participating in the unique divine sovereignty of the one God over all things. Buzzard seems to think that such is possible without the participant actually being God or to use Bauckham’s phraseology, ‘participating in the divine identity.’ This is how he can say with a straight face that Jesus’ “‘equality’ with his Father does not make him God.” (50)

I found his argument against a Pauline christological reading of the Shema in 1 Corinthians 8:6 to be ridiculous, showing once again the manner in which his Unitarian presuppositions skew his reading of the texts. His argument is that if Paul were somehow including Jesus in the Shema then God is no longer ‘one Lord’ but is now two. He mentions Bauckham again, but only to say that he’s wrong. No interaction with Hengel, Hurtado, or any of a number of other scholars who have drawn the same conclusions. And that’s the really sad thing about this volume, it boasts a decent bibliography, and when I originally received my copy I immediately went to the bibliography to see what works he had consulted. I was pleased to see the names of Bauckham and Hurtado, but unfortunately, they only get sound bites in the text itself. Hurtado isn’t interacted with at all and Bauckham minimally at best. Where he does interact with serious scholars, e.g., Murray Harris, his representation of their position is not entirely accurate, or to give Buzzard the benefit of the doubt, he draws faulty conclusions from their work (conclusions that they have not drawn themselves). To give but one example with regard to Harris; Harris claims that the words elohim and theos have reference to the Father and never the Trinity as whole, and also that it’s inappropriate to render ho theos as ‘divine essence,’ yet he affirms a clear Trinitarianism in the NT. But Buzzard reads this and concludes, “This is astonishing. No New Testament writer ever once put in writing the concept of God as three!” (106) Harris would disagree with that as he’s not arguing concepts but grammar!

I could continue to criticize Buzzard’s handling of other important issues such as pre-existence and incarnation (he’s one of the few people that doesn’t see pre-existence anywhere in the NT, even in John’s Gospel!) but that would make this review exponentially longer than it already is. Suffice it to say that I didn’t find this book particularly well-argued. It was unnecessarily repetitive (at times annoyingly so) even if written in an easy-to-understand manner. There were some typographical errors such as the quotations of Harris’ work on pp. 103-5. For some reason Harris’ Greek and Hebrew characters were transliterated, and wrongly at that. E.g., Ιησους is transliterated as Yesous. I’ve not seen an iota transliterated with Y in any Greek, Koine or Modern. Likewise, the h is dropped from the transliteration of υιο & υιος. I suspect that this might be the fault of the editor or at least the word processing software used because Buzzard uses Hebrew and Greek characters throughout the book with no problems. The good features of this work were the use of footnotes, the bibliography, and the Scripture and subject indices. But in the end I find it difficult to recommend this on any level other than to say it’s always good to read what those who disagree with you think.

B”H

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104 thoughts on “Jesus Was Not a Trinitarian: A Call to Return to the Creed of Jesus

  1. Sounds like Buzzard has nothing much new to say. I’ve been reading Hilary of Poitiers lately, and he is critiquing exactly the same arguments, from exactly the same verses, from the Arians of his day.

  2. As with Seumus, I don’t think anyone can do anything but rehearse the same arguments that have already been made since Arius.

    I am surprised this guy mentions Bauckham. Normally, I find they don’t read anyone but just believe that their own interpretation of scripture will suffice.

  3. Buzzard, unlike Arius, denies the deity and the prehuman existence of Jesus. While I do not like the labeling of “Arian”, Buzzard could hardly be called an “Arian”.

    So far, however, I have not found any thing in the Bible about the God of Jesus as being three persons, and that Jesus is a person of his God. The idea has to be imagined, assumed with assumptions on top of other assumptions, and then based on the imagined assumptions, the idea then has to be added to, and read into, each and every scripture that is presented to allegedly support the added-on assumptions. I agree with Buzzard that Jesus was not a trinitarian, but I also agree with Arius who believed that Jesus did have a prehuman existence with his God and Father before the world was made (John 17:3,5), and although divine — a mighty one — in that existence with the only true God (John 1:1,2; 17:3,5), that there was time when Jesus did not exist. — Colossians 1:15.

    So far, in all the arguments I have seen presented against the “Arian” view in favor the trinitarian dogma are actually based on what has to be imagined, assumed, added to, and read into the scriptures, rather than what the scriptures actually say. The scriptures are completely harmonious within themselves without adding the imaginations and assumptions that are necessary to add the story of three persons in the God of Jesus, and making Jesus a person of his God.

  4. Seumas: Yeah, Ecclesiastes 1:9 always proves true, there’s nothing new under the sun.

    Will: A mention is all Bauckham gets! Unfortunately there’s no interaction with his work.

    Ronald: You’re right, Buzzard can’t be called an Arian. He can be called a Socinian because that’s what he is, but I don’t think anyone here actually called him an Arian so much as they said it appears that his arguments haven’t advanced past Arius’.

    That being said, I find a lot of flaws in your comment with respect to the Trinity. I don’t really feel like getting into a lengthy debate over this but I’ll list them briefly.

    (1) A Trinitarian would never say that the God of Jesus is three persons for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that Jesus (the Son) is the second person of the Trinity!

    (2) What are these assumptions you speak of, when did they come into play, who originally used them, and why they are invalid to begin with? Without answering these questions your assertion is without foundation.

    (3) When you say Jesus was not a Trinitarian what do you mean? And why is that important? Would you say that Jesus was an Arian? Or a Socinian? A Unitarian of some other sort (perhaps like a Muslim or Oneness Pentecostal)? What was he? And if he wasn’t what you are then are your beliefs about him and God invalid?

    (4) Colossians 1:15-18 bears witness to the Son’s preeminence and his being the creator of all things that were created. I’m assuming that you think ‘prototokos’ (firstborn) makes your case but I’ve also got to assume that you’re aware of the arguments against that.

    (5) So in all the arguments I’ve seen against the Trinitarian view I’ve noticed that the people making them don’t generally understand what it is that Trinitarians believe, that they handle Scripture in a suspect manner, and that they generally can’t articulate a better alternative.

  5. Nick,
    Regarding your conclusion that all those that argue against the Trinitarian view don’t generally understand what it is that Trinitarians believe has some validity.
    If you were to have a dozen assorted Trinitarians “explain” the doctrine, it would consist of not a comprehensive analysis of scripture, but a recitation of the viewpoints of favored “church fathers” and lists of “proof texts,’ all presented as being beyond the ken of man.
    Not much for a serious scholar to respond to.
    What DO Trinitarians believe?

  6. Three: I think you’ll find that your average Trinitarian is much more familiar with Scripture than they are the church fathers; at least that’s been my experience.

    That being said, even if one appeals solely to the church fathers they wouldn’t be able to do so without reference to Scripture since it is from Scripture that the Church articulated its doctrine of the Trinity. Remember, the argument was always over what the Bible said. It just so happens that both sides were using the Bible to support their arguments so they inevitably had to go outside the Bible for language to better explain their positions.

    Regarding what serious scholars are to respond to, I’d expect them to respond to the strongest arguments of their opponents. I’d expect them to address the work of other scholars. So when you say that there’s not much for a scholar to respond to, I’d say that given the position you’ve laid out that doesn’t seem like much at all, but then again, the scholar shouldn’t be worried about the types of Trinitarians you mention, they should be worried about their peers.

  7. Thanks for introducing your readers to Buzzard’s latest tome.
    I agree wholeheartedly that, “it’s always good to read what those who disagree with you think.”
    Regarding your response to my previous post, it’s an oft repeated fable that Trinitarians were driven to extra-Biblical terminology by Bible quoting heretics.
    It seems for the most part, however, that your Trinitarian peers seek not revelation but accommodation in scripture.

  8. Three: It’s a matter of demonstrable fact that from very early on there was a need for extra-Biblical language, and that by both the heretics and the orthodox. If the dispute was over what Proverbs 8:22-31 meant then it could never have been solved by simply quoting what it said. Everyone quoted what it said! Like I said to Ronald, I’m not interested in any lengthy debates here, but if you do choose to continue commenting then please offer something a bit more substantive than simply calling something a ‘fable’ or making baseless assertions about ‘accommodation’ rather than ‘revelation.’ Thanks.

  9. The purpose of doctrine and creedal statements should be to clarify and make more understandable principles found in scripture.
    I see the introduction of uncommon extra-Biblical terminology to support extra-Biblical concepts leading to confusion, not enlightenment.
    Does the introduction of terms like unbegotten and eternally begotten really help anyone?

  10. Three: Yes, terms like unbegotten and eternally begotten extremely helpful when the debate is over whether or not the Son has existed with the Father from all eternity.

  11. It seems that any and all persons of the trinity would be “unbegotten.”
    One must go beyond the common English lexicon to construct the imaginative definitions that give credence to your beliefs.

  12. Three: How and why does it seem like that? I find it funny that the specific terms you chose to take issue with aren’t even extra-Biblical. Without Hebrews 1:5; 5:5 (cf. Ps. 2:7) I doubt that the early church would have worried anything about the Son’s being begotten before the ages. But at this point I’m going to ask you to stop commenting because 1) I already asked you to offer something more substantive than the little complaints you’ve been registering and you’ve failed to do that in your comments since then, and 2) this was a book review, so the comments to this post are not the place to debate the Trinity. If you’ve read the book and would like to offer your thoughts on it then I welcome them; past that I think we’re done. Thanks.

  13. My purpose was not to debate the trinity, but to address Buzzard’s approach to determining the nature of God.
    It’s one of accepting the meaning of the Hebrew and Greek found in the Bible without the appropriation of extra-Biblical terminology to construct an extra-Biblical view of God.
    If you have found “unbegotten” in the Bible and find it uniquely applied to the Father. then please share the reference.
    I appreciate the quality of your blog, and as you request, will try to stay more on topic in the future.

  14. Three: Then please, address Buzzard’s approach. As I see it, his approach in this volume (indeed, in all of his writings) has been to focus on a few proof texts that he believes bolster his position; to ignore the vast amount of scholarship contrary to his position; and to rely on simplistic arguments without acknowledging that they can be countered. If you’ve noticed something different then please share.

    Out of curiosity, have you read this book? If so then you must have noticed that Buzzard resorts to using extra-Biblical lnaguage all throughout. Language that represents extra-Biblical concepts. But what’s worse is that these extra-Biblical concepts are also unBiblical.

    And I’m confused, are you saying that the Father is begotten?

  15. Can’t a trinitarian ever acknowledge that someone on the other side has a point? It certainly sounds like calling the Father “the only true God” means that the Father is the only true God. (What part of “only” is so hard to grasp?)

    Many of the commenters here scoff at Buzzard’s arguments. But most of those arguments — such as “only the Father is God” — are straightforward and have many supporting texts (apparent supports, at least) in the Bible. On the other hand, the trinitarian must rely on complex, ad hoc explanations of theology that are anything but obvious. And they are largely inferential … explanations of necessity crafted to make the system work. The difference is that the trinitarian is comfortable with them, based on such a longstanding familiarity. And that (rather than the Bible itself) is the bottom line.

  16. SteveJ: Sure, and when someone on the other side makes a valid point I acknowledge it. Unfortunately, Buzzard’s points are less than impressive. I suspect that you aren’t very familiar with what Trinitarians believe or how we interpret John 17:3. No one objects to the Father being the “only true God;” we simply object to saying that this equates to Unitarianism.

    And if you can show how Unitarian explanations make better sense of Scripture, are less ad hoc, and are not inferential then I welcome such a display. It’s very easy to sit there and carry on about how Trinitarians infer meaning into Scripture and don’t rely on the Bible itself (whatever that might mean), but it’s not so easy to show that Unitarians don’t do this or that they do it to a lesser degree with better results. And that is the bottom line.

  17. Nick, I think you’re kidding yourself. Can’t you even admit to “apparent” evidences of unitarianism present in the Bible? I would think intellectual honesty would drive you at least that far. Throughout the New Testament, there is abundant testimony that:

    1. Jesus is a being distinct from God. (“God and the Lord Jesus Christ …”)
    2. God is our Father (not “God the Father is our Father” … just “God is our Father”) and the Father of Jesus.
    3. The Father is “the only true God,” and “the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” who “sent His Son.”
    4. Jesus was subordinate to and dependent on God, and could do nothing of himself.
    5. Jesus had all the limitations of a human being, including not knowing the day of his return (inexplicable from your perspective).
    6. Jesus has titles that contain the words “of God,” making him someone other than God … Lamb of God, Son of God, Word of God, Image of the invisible God, etc.

    On the other hand, trinitarians rely on the same four or five texts over and over and over again, starting with John 1. Then they fill in the huge gaps with arguments of theology that are anything but obvious from Scripture. Honestly, doesn’t it even bother you that the arguments of Nicene christology sound more like Greek speculative philosophy than Scripture?

    And please explain how a phrase like “the only true God” is broad enough to admit someone else as God. No statement could be more limiting. How could it even be theoretically possible to express unitarianism if this phrase doesn’t do the job?

    Anyway, thanks for letting me sound off.

  18. SteveJ: Without Unitarian presuppositions such ‘evidences’ aren’t ‘apparent.’ Intellectual honesty drives me so far as to say that Unitarians have their proof texts, but all of these texts can be understood within a Trinitarian framework, and to my mind more clearly.

    1. When you say “being” what do you mean? That sounds a lot like “Greek speculative philosophy” doesn’t it? If not, why not? And if another “being” then that raises a whole host of other problems, not the least of which is the idolatry of early Jewish Christians.

    2. As a Trinitarian I don’t take issue with the fact that “God” generally has reference to “the Father” in the NT so I wouldn’t object to saying that “God is out Father” but in saying that “God is our Father” I recognize that “God the Father is our Father.” You do as well unless you want to claim that “God” is not “the Father.”

    3. I agree. But like I said in this post, saying that the Father is “the only true God” affirms something about the Father, it doesn’t deny anything about the Son.

    4. Again, I agree. You might be interested in something I wrote last year: “Sent from the Father: A Case for Pre-Temporal Obedience.”

    5. I’d suggest reading more Trinitarian authors. That has been explained from a Trinitarian perspective since the patristic period. The simple answer is to make reference to the Hypostic Union and point out that the Son assumed humanity with all of its limitations.

    6. Jesus is also called “God” (“our great God and Savior;” “my Lord and my God;” “thy throne o God;” “the Word was God;” “the true God”) making him God, right?

    I’d again suggest reading more Trinitarian authors (I can recommend some if you’d like) because we rely on much more than a handful of prooftexts. I’d say that the most scholarly of Unitarians (of which I consider Buzzard) are generally more guilty of this than scholarly Trinitarians. What would bother me would be if someone could do more than shout “Greek philosophy” and move on to showing how or why said Greek philosophy is wrong and incompatible with Scripture. I’d also love to see the brand of Unitarianism that is free from the same charge (couldn’t be Arianism or Socinianism).

    I address your last question in this post from a couple of years ago.

  19. Gentlemen, thanks for your spirited dialogue. I am honored that you entered the conversation. I am also surprised that none of you apparently knows of the work of my cousin JAT Robinson (Priority of John, the section on preexistence) whose Socinian christology is clear (apart from his regrettable denial of the Virgin Birth), and what about Kuschel and Ohlig and Haight in our time? And Raymond Brown on the Birth Narratives? And what about Dr. Colin Brown’s article in Ex Auditu, of 1971? He raises the same issues as I. Why is it that Hans Kung and others write me approving letters?
    As some of you say, my position is a socinian one, not Arian. I am inventing nothing new. Jesus was a human being and the synoptic christology is very clear. Luke 1:35 simply explains what Son of God signifies!
    I have provided all these sources (above) in both books.
    The opening critique of Jesus Was Not A Trinitarian, on this blog actually did not answer my points. It was more a matter of feelings and reactions. But the author did not explain why so many scholars tell us that Ps. 110:1 speaks of God addressing ADONAI, which is false. Or they make no attempt to point out the meaning of lord in that crucial passage. That verse is an umbrella over NT Christology. Everyone knows that.
    It is not a presupposition to suppose that the pronoun I, Me, and He mean a single Person!
    It is futile to quote one collective usage in Judges.
    God’s singularity is buttressed by every possible form of language available. He is One Father.
    The Shema as translated in the Greek Scripture of the NT defines Yahweh as a single (One) Yahweh. That is what Jews have always known. As to transliteration I choose to follow a method which reflects our tradition of teaching NT Greek with a modern Greek pronunciation. I know about huios, but I drop the h, as modern Greeks do.
    I will check the alleged typo in a reference to Harrison. Thanks for pointing this out.
    May I suggest that someone show us an occurrence of GOD which means God in three Persons? Can you do it? James White in his defence of the Trinity tells us that “God” sometimes means all three Persons together, but he quotes no example.
    Thanks in anticipation. I ask only that you not treat me as some innovator! Read widely and especially Kuschel and Dunn. One final point. Trinitarians are now driven to say that Paul “split the shema” referring to Jesus as Lord God! (I Cor 8:4-6) That is amazing when Jesus is called the Lord Christ over and over. Ps. 110:1 still awaits its day of glory and will stop all arguments, just as Jesus used it as his final word.
    Anthony Buzzard, Atlanta Bible College

  20. Anthony: Thanks for stopping by. As I see it, you make a couple of points/statements that aren’t related to either my review of your book or the ensuing discussion in the comments. In particular I’m curious as to why you think that none of us are familiar with the works you mention. In a discussion about your book I can’t see why those works would be brought up. Rest assured, if I were reviewing any of the authors or works you’ve mentioned I would make criticisms about their works as well.

    I also don’t know why you’d mention a correspondance with Hans Küng, especially one that you don’t give details about. I can’t tell you why Küng has written you approving letters. What exactly is it that he’s approving of? I simply don’t know.

    When you say that the “synoptic christology is very clear” I would agree, but then I’m sure that we’d disagree on exactly what it is. I see a very high Christology in the synoptics and find the works of guys like Simon Gathercole and C. Kavin Rowe to be very persuasive in this area. Obviously you see something different.

    I’m sorry to hear that you’ve viewed my criticisms as “feelings and reactions.” I think I’ve been very fair in my treatment of your work. As I see it, you have a fundamentally flawed understanding of the Shema and you read that flawed understanding into your entire study. I also believe that you rely too heavily on a handful of proof texts that are certainly capable of being understood within a Trinitarian framework, a framework that I believe makes more sense of the material.

    Rather than wonder why I haven’t addressed why other scholars misrepresent Psalm 110 (although I readily admit in the review that the evidence you’ve presented from those scholars is ‘less than impressive’) I think you should respond to my pointing out the fact that you haven’t interacted with serious scholarship on the issue.

    Why exactly is it futile to cite evidence against your position concerning pronouns? And why do you not follow your reasoning to its logical end, i.e., that God is a single male person. And can you show an occurence where “God” means “God in one person”? The fact of the matter is that God means God, and it has all kinds of applications in Scripture.

    And I don’t think that anyone who has commented here thinks that you’re an innovator, quite the contrary actually, as in the early comments your arguments were being compared to those of 4th century heretics. And I’d suggest the same to you about reading widely, so my recommendations would be Fee and Gathercole in response to Dunn and McCready in response to Kuschel. Amazingly, you criticize the reading of Paul’s modified Shema, but you don’t interact with any of the scholarship on the matter in your book! I kept wondering why you didn’t engage with Hengel, Bauckham, and Hurtado on this point. In any event, thanks again for stopping by, and thanks again for a review copy of your book. It was a pleasure to read and review it.

    Oh, and just for the record, I generally don’t allow such long comments on my blog but since you’re the book’s author I think it’s appropriate for you to be able to offer your response. Past this lengthy comment of my own I don’t plan to engage in any lengthy or sustained debate on the subject. I will offer you the final word if you have anything else to add. All the best…

  21. “…you have a fundamentally flawed understanding of the Shema and you read that flawed understanding into your entire study.”

    So Nick, what is the Shema REALLY teaching us? That God is a triune person/being??

    And if so, where is this EXPLICITLY taught by the NT writers??

  22. Carlos: I’ve explained that in the review itself. I don’t know if you’ve read it or not, but if not then give it a read. If so and you missed it then give it a re-read.

  23. “…it’s a declaration that Yahweh was Israel’s God alone.”

    Nick, does’t your own conclusion prove that there is only ONE WHO is YHWH? or are there 2 WHO are YHWH??

  24. Carlos: Very simply, the Shema isn’t making any kind of ontological statements about YHWH. That YHWH is alone Israel’s God says nothing of how many persons of God there are.

    And past our interaction in the comments to this post, no, I’m not interested in a debate with Anthony. A couple of years ago I would have jumped at the opportunity but I’m too busy these days.

  25. Nick, I don’t know how you put up with such comments! But I guess the internet would be full of deniers of the trinity trotting out arguments put to rest in the 4th century. Good work engaging fairly and courteously with them.

  26. Thanks for more interaction. I like brevity. Trinitarians propose that two persons are YHVH. The Shema counts up to one, defining YHVH. There is only one. Trinitarians propose that the Father is YHVH and Jesus is YVHVH. That makes two, and is not monotheism. Jesus’ monotheism is quite clear. He says that the Father is the only (monos) true God (theos). (John 17:3). Paul said that there is no God but the one God, the Father (I Cor 8:4-6). Jesus is the Lord Messiah as per Ps. 110:1 where the second lord is not God.
    As for interacting with “serious scholarship”, would Howard Marshall and FF Bruce be good witnesses? Marshall knows what so many commentators appear not to, that adoni is not GOD (Ps. 110:1)
    You would be surprised to know what Bruce said to me privately in correspondence!
    The Bible never says that God is an essence. That “essence” language is to haul the whole discussion into an alien world of thought and vocabulary. The Bible says that God is a single Person, alone and unrivalled. Jesus is his unique agent. He is Son of God because of his virginal begetting and for that reason only and preciesly (Luke 1:35).
    Hans Kung agrees with this unitary monotheism.
    So did John Robinson. Gathercole is the innovator contradicting a mass of evangelical scholarship, and Raymond Brown, who do not think that the Trinity gets off the ground in the synoptics.

  27. Mr. Buzzard, have you read “How Many Is God? An Investigation into the Meaning of Deuteronomy 6:4-5.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 47 (2004): 193-212?

  28. About 3 years ago, I briefly debated this subject with Mr. Buzzard in The Journal, published by Dixon Cartwright. It was clear to me then, that since Mr.Buzzard had repudiated much of what he once believed to be true, that he didn’t know what he was talking about. At that time, his argument was, “Jesus was not God.” When I quoted the following: “God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory”(1 Tim.3:16), he replied that the text had been corrupted in translation. What folly!

    In addition, there are many other scriptural texts that support the doctrine of the trinity, even though the term is not employed in the bible. But Mr. Buzzard has either conveniently choose to ignore these texts or are unaware of their existence, which is more likely.

    So, Mr Buzzard’s latest book is another addition to the widespread ignorance and confusion that abounds about the nature of God, which the bible describes as a mystery.

  29. How does he explain Acts 13:2 where the Holy Spirit speaks and in speaking He refers to Himself as ‘I’ and ‘me’? Who are the ‘I’ and ‘me’?

  30. Tom: It’s not so much that 1Tim. 3:16 has been corrupted in translation as it is that the Greek manuscripts underlying the passage have differences. There’s a significant textual variant there and some manuscripts read ‘hos’ (who) while others read ‘theos’ (God). The ‘hos’ reading is more likely the original reading, but the point is still made in the passage concerning Christ’s preexistence and incarnation. That being said, I agree with you that there are many texts that support the doctrine of the Trinity. If there weren’t I’d be hard pressed to think of how the doctrine ever came to be.

    Lyle: So far as I can remember, he doesn’t! His position is that “For Paul and the other New Testament writers the spirit of God was not a different Person from God Himself any more than ‘the spirit of Elijah’ meant a person other than Elijah. The spirit of God was the operational presence and power of God or, after the ascension, of Jesus operating in the world in various ways.” (p. 152) Sadly after making such statements he doesn’t interact with the works of Gordon Fee (esp. God’s Empowering Presence) which show the opposite.

  31. Gentlemen, may I suggest we try to stay with facts? Everyone engaging this topic should know that 1 Tim. 3:16 was corrupted in some of the Greek manuscripts. It is not “folly” to know a little about the history of the Greek text.

    The major facts to be dealt with are that God in the Bible is represented thousands and thousands of times as a singular Divine Individual. The hundreds of occurrences of the word “God” never mean the Triune God and thus the Triune God never gets mentioned as such once in the Bible. Jesus declared himself to be a monotheist in the Jewish sense understood by the scribe who had questioned him. Psalm 110:1, which as Professor Biggs of the International Critical Commentary on 1 Peter says, “prevented the apostles from identifying Jesus as Yahweh,” should be taken as the gold standard in our discussions.

  32. Anthony: Can I ask you to address specific individuals when responding to specific points? I’ve already stated that ‘hos’ (who) is the preferred reading in 1Tim. 3:16.

    That being said, I’ve already told you why your pronoun argument is simply not persuasive. Counting pronouns doesn’t somehow make it more persuasive. You acknowledge that there is evidence to the contrary of your assertion concerning pronouns, but you call such evidence “futile” and you won’t carry your reasoning to its logical end and say that God is a single male person, so I don’t understand why you keep repeating yourself. Your argument concerning the ‘meaning’ of the word ‘God’ is also unpersuasive. ‘God’ means ‘God’ and has reference in the Bible to the Father, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, idols, angels, Satan, and men. It is just as easy to say, “the word God never means the Unitary God [of the Arians, Socinians, or Sabellians] and as thus the Unitary God never gets mentioned as such once in the Bible.” It’s a non-argument. BTW, didn’t Biggs write at the beginning of the 20th century? I don’t suppose he was around to interact with the work of Bauckham, Hurtado, Fee, et al. The argument from Psalm 110:1 doesn’t come from the Messiah being identified as YHWH in the psalm, it comes from his sharing unique divine prerogatives that YHWH alone possesses. To say that your understanding (and that of course is what you mean) of the passage should be taken as the gold standard is ridiculous!

  33. Biblical unitarians fully agree that Jesus shares “divine prerogatives” with Yahweh. Hymns are sung to him and if the heavenly beings bow before him he is the recipient of “divine prerogatives” but this does not mean that he is Yahweh. Only one person is Yahweh. Jesus deliberately distinguishes himself from the one God constantly, though he claims to be acting as that one God’s agent. It must be significant that Augustine was forced to restructure the words of Scripture to fit his Trinitarian understanding, in John 17:3. In that text the Father is defined as “the only one who is truly God.” Language has no other way of describing an exclusive position. As my cousin J.A.T. Robinson observes, “John’s Jesus clearly believed in unitary monotheism.”

    Psalm 110:1 is in fact one of those controlling texts in the NT. Peter in Acts 2:34-36 defines the sense in which Jesus has been made lord. He is the ‘adoni’ of Psalm 110:1 and that Psalm clearly defines the Messiah as one who is non-Deity – adoni not Adonai. What has been achieved in Jesus is the exaltation of an immortalized man – the first-born among many brothers.

    What text would you propose containing the word God or equivalent which denotes a triune God? And what text states that God is a tri-fold essence?

    I’m so glad that we agree that 1 Timothy 3:16 omits the word ‘theos.’ I appreciate the opportunity afforded by your blog.

  34. Hi Nick,

    I’m grappling with your argument on the John 17 passage–the one where Jesus calls the Father “the only true God.” You say that the phrase doesn’t exclude the possibility that the Son is the “only true God” as well. But how can there be two “only true God”s? Doesn’t the word “only” indicate that there can be just one?

    To clarify: I’m not upholding Buzzard’s position in asking this, since I’m sure one would have to STRETCH to deny Jesus’ pre-existence, or the passages where Jesus is called God.

  35. James,
    To understand Trinitarianism you must understand that God is not a person.
    God is stuff.
    The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are God stuff.
    Nick, you and I are flesh stuff.
    The Son has become both God and flesh stuffs.
    Personal pronouns as used in the Bible can be confusing.

  36. Yeah, but there are three persons in one being, and all three are composed of the same stuff (or essence). That’s how trinitarianism was always presented to me.

  37. Anthony: ‘Biblical’ Unitarians might agree that Jesus shares divine prerogatives but they obviously don’t hold to the logical conclusion of believing such, i.e., that Jesus is God. I’d recommend Maurice Casey’s critique of your cousin [in Is John’s Gospel True?] if you haven’t read it. Casey is certainly no Trinitarian and even he’s willing to admit that John’s Christology is ‘high’ or ‘divine’ and that Jesus presents himself as God in John’s Gospel (see also his From Jewish Prophet to Gentile God).

    Psalm 110:1 does not define the Mesisah as one who is non-deity. Such a question is far from the thought of the text! It doesn’t address the issue of the Messiah’s deity or non-deity at all! The fact of the matter is that the early Christians read the text in such as a way as to include Jesus in the “unique divine identity” to steal Bauckham’s phrase. You seem to want to acknowledge that without allowing for it to be what it is, i.e., that they recognized Jesus as God.

    And I’m not the one making arguments that “God” means anything other than “God” so why ask for a text supporting an argument I’m not making? I can point to texts where “God” is applied to Father, Son, or Spirit.

    James: I address that question in some detail in this post. In short, the Unitarian reading of the verse commits the formal fallacy of denying the antecedent. Unless one understands God to be a Unitarian (i.e., ‘one personed’) God rather than a Trinitarian (i.e., ‘three personed’) God then no, “only” does not exclude another person from being the “only true God.”

    Three: Actually, you have to understand that all three Persons share the same stuff (i.e. deity). James seems to get that.

  38. Nick Norelli said…

    “It’s not so much that 1Tim. 3:16 has been corrupted in translation as it is that the Greek manuscripts underlying the passage have differences.”

    The theos translation in 1 Tim.3:16 is supported by by John 1:1 and verse 14, in particular, where it says, “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us…” Here the Word is described as God. Also, in Hebrews 10, Paul quoted from Psalms 40 thus: “Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body has thou prepared me”Hebs.10:5). The text in Hebrews clearly supports John 1:1 and verse 14, which says that the Word, which is God and was God became Jesus Christ.

    In addition, sometimes the Christian is told, “Christ dwells in you,” and other times, “your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit,” and finally, God says, “I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” So here we have a summary of the trinity, which is the one true God.

    Yet Mr. Buzzard continues to stubbornly argue that Jesus was not God, and that the doctrine of the trinity denies the doctrine of one God. Well, if Mr. Buzzard is right, the Apostle was insane.

  39. Tom: I think you might be misunderstanding. Let me try to explain it better. There are Greek manuscripts that English New Testaments are translated from (I’m sure you know this), but no two manuscripts are exactly alike. Certain manuscripts say “theos” which is Greek for “God” in 1Timothy 3:16. Other manuscripts say “hos” which is Greek for “who.” Now there are two things to take note of here:

    (1) Some manuscripts (called uncials) were written in all capital letters.

    (2) In many ancient Greek manuscripts they used to use abbreviations for certain special words called a “nomen sacrum.”

    The word “hos” in all capitals looks a lot like the nomina sacra for “theos” (I can’t reproduce them here but if you google it I’m sure you’ll find an example of what I’m talking about). Textual critics are fairly confident that the reading “hos” (who) was the earlier and probably original reading.

    So it’s not a matter of comparing the theology of 1Timothy with that of John (or Hebrews). I believe they both bear witness to a divine Christology. This is a matter of textual evidence which doesn’t give the best support to the reading of “theos” (God) in 1Tim. 3:16.

  40. Hi Nick,

    I read your post–at least the part where you discussed John 17:3. I understood your definition of an argument from an antecedent (the felony example was excellent), but I wasn’t entirely clear how you were applying it to John 17:3.

    I still wonder how there can be two “only true God”s, since “only” implies one. Is it because the Father and Son are both parts of the “only true God”?

  41. James: Simply because “God” ≠ “One Person.” So there’s not two only true Gods, there’s only one, but the one God exists as three Persons. I believe that the Father is the only true God, but I also believe that the Son (and the Spirit) is the only true God, because they’re the same God (not the same Person). It’s not that each Person is a part of God, but rather that each Person (Father, Son, and Spirit) share fully in all that makes God God.

  42. Nick said…

    “I think you might be misunderstanding.”

    Thanks for the explanation, but I believe I understood you the first time. I know that scholars, for whom I have very little time, say that “theos” is not in the “best” Greek manuscripts. Yet, the 1611 translators of the King James version of the bible choose “theos” over the relative pronoun “hos.” I believe their reason, though I can’t prove it, for choosing “theos,” is because it fits in with other biblical passages that say, “the Word was made flesh.” So they were making a logical choice, and was driven to the inescapable conclusion that “hos,” was a relative pronoun for the Word or God.

    However, there is a deeper problem with Mr.Buzzard and his enthusiastic admirers. The problem is this. When referring to genuine Christians, the Apostle Paul was inspired to write: “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God”(I Cor.2:12). Now since Mr. Buzzard has repudiated most of what he once believed, and has teamed up with Ken Westby, Charles Hunting and others, who were disfellowshipped from The Worldwide Church of God, it is clear that he doesn’t have the spirit God. And therefore cannot understand the things that are revealed by the spirit of God.

  43. Tom: The KJV was translated from the Textus Receptus which was a Greek text composed from a handful of late Greek manuscripts. The Textus Receptus has “theos” in 1Tim. 3:16, so the translators’ choice wasn’t logical or theological, but rather based on the material they had to work with.

    I’ll refrain from commenting on Mr. Buzzard’s former or present affiliations and his spiritual state.

  44. Nick, thanks for helping to sort out the theos issue in I Tim 3. It is hard to know what is going on if one is not aware of the world of MSS differences, or if one has not read say any standard commentary or even Barth Ehrman’s Orthdox Corruption of Scripture. You have answerd my one correspondent who seemed to think that the KJV is the Bible and only the Bible.

    The unitarians, many, many over the centuries, are impressed with the fact that God in the Bible is called “one Lord.” This is the creed of Jesus as affirmed in Mark 12:29. “The Lord our God is one Lord.” (That is what the Greek quoting LXX says). The word “one” is a counting word. It counts up Lords (I am not saying that this is all the creed does!), and “one Lord” is not two Lords, or three.
    There cannot be two YHVH’s (LORDS). So we are baffled to hear binitarians assert “Father is YHVH and Jesus is YVHV,” and that makes one YHVH.”
    What is going on here, since echad (one) and one in Greek mean “one single.” If God is one single YHVH, how is He really three or two?
    Briefly what are you proposing? (this helps a dialogue, so I ask).
    Using the biblical language for “one” and “Lord,” Jesus cannot be the one YHVH, who is the Father.
    Or are there two YVHV”s?
    I have found that in the various debates this is where the conversation gets clarified.
    Thanks for your blog

  45. Anthony: Just out of curiosity, do you believe that Jesus was quoting the LXX?

    I know that you’re aware of the distinction that Trinitarians make between being and person so while you might disagree with Trinitarians (I don’t know any actual binitarians and although I appreciate the word’s explanatory power in describing the early Christian view of Jesus, I’ll stick to talking about Trinitarians) I’m sure that you aren’t quite as baffled as you claim. If you could set aside the presupposition of Unitarianism which says that “One God” = “One Person” = “One Yahweh” then can you see how Trinitarians assert that two Persons can be the same (one) God/Yahweh? Of course you can. Just as I can see how and why you believe what you believe although I disagree with it.

    So now let me ask, do you believe that Paul is referencing the Shema in 1Corinthians 8:6? If not, why not? If so, then in Deuteronomy 6:4 (LXX) who is ‘kyrios heis’ referring to? In 1Corinthians 8:6 who is ‘heis kyrios’ referring to?

  46. Three asked..

    >>Tom,

    Did you recieve the spirit of God as a binitarian with the Worldwide Church of God?<<

    As a Christian, I always believe in the trinity.

    I think it is better to pose this question to Anthony Buzzard, who has repudiated much of what he once believed to be true.

  47. Tom,
    There certainly seems to be a disconnect in your praise of Herbert W. Armstrong as a hero and his founding of the Worldwide Church of God and his binitarian teaching.
    Perhaps you have joined Anthony Buzzard in repudiating HWA’s teachings about the nature of God.

  48. Sorry, Nick.
    I know there are other, more appropriate venues available for me to tweak Tom.
    I don’t want to dilute your or others interaction with Anthony Buzzard on the topic.
    I am interested in those of differing opinions calling him to task on some of the points he makes in his book.
    Thanks for your review of the book and providing a forum for discussion.

  49. Nick, the NT in Mark 12:29, giving us the words of Jesus, recites the Shema as found in the LXX. The proposition is: “YHWH our God is one YHWH.” Echad (eis), one, is the numerical adjective of course. YHWH is defined as a single YHWH. In Gal. 3:20 “God is only one Person” (Amplified Version). This is no different from the many places where God is said to be one. “Abraham was one person” — same language — God is “one Person.” That proposition cannot be laid aside since these are the words of Jesus affirming Israel’s Shema.

    As to 1 Cor. 8:6, Paul says “there is no God except one…There is one God, the Father.” The Father is of course a single Person. The Father is God. Paul then goes on to associate with Him the one Lord Messiah Jesus. There are two Lords here — one is the Lord God and the other is the Lord Messiah. And that distinction of course goes back to Psalm 110:1 where YHWH, the one Lord God, addresses David’s lord, adoni — a title that never describes Deity, but always a non-Deity superior. This association of God and Jesus is precisely the point in John 17:3 where Jesus says that belief in his Father as “the only one who is truly God” is to be coupled with belief in himself as Messiah.

    I do understand the Trinitarian point that 3 items can share a common essence, but such language has nothing to do with the Bible. God is never called an essence, but always a single Divine Person, the Father. Why introduce a whole new vocabulary and impose it on Scripture? Scripture is self-explanatory within its own unitarian terms.

    None of us wants to set aside this proposition of Jesus: YHWH our God is one YHWH.

  50. Anthony: Thanks for pointing me to that travesty of a ‘translation’ in Galatians 3:20 in the Amplified Bible. I find it incredible that they didn’t include the word ‘person’ in brackets! This is just another reason for me to detest this Bible.

    That being said, “God is one” does not mean “God is one person.” One God? Yes. One Person? No.

    It would be an understatement for me to say that I find your treatment of 1Corinthians 8:6 tendentious, but I also find it completely unpersuasive and counterintuitive. Paul clearly quotes the Shema but he ‘splits’ it (to use a term you yourself used). Where Deuteronomy 6:4 (LXX) says: ‘kyrios [=YHWH] heis estin’ (‘the Lord is one’), Paul applies that part to Jesus in 1Corinthians 8:6. There are not two Lords (by your reasoning are there also two Gods?) in view any more than there are two Gods or YHWHs in view in Deuteronomy 6:4! The context of 1Corinthians 8 also comports with that of Deuteronomy 6 in terms of absolute allegiance/devotion to the one God/Lord alone.

    Regarding the introduction of new vocabulary, how can you deny its necessity when you and I are both reading the same words and coming to different conclusions? We can’t keep quoting the same passages to one another and expect that we see each other’s points of view unless we introduce some other kind of explanatory language, can we?

  51. Howdy Nick, I’m glad to see you and Anthony discussing this very important subject! As always, Anthony is such the gentlemen.

  52. Nick,
    How many YHVH’s are you proposing? In other words does the YHVH word correspond with the Greek “essence” of the Trinity or does it correspond with the 3 “hypostases”?

    The article “How Many is God?” has been mentioned in this discussion. The author whom I met points out that the proposition in the LXX and NT is “the Lord our God is one Lord” — that is, one YHVH. Jesus and the Father cannot both be YHVH.

    In 1 Cor. 8:6 Paul defines Jesus as the Lord Messiah, certainly not the Lord God. He has called Jesus the Messiah over and over again. The Church is built on the rock foundation of Jesus as Messiah, and Acts 2:34-36 provides the sense in which he is now the exalted lord. Peter provides, as I do, Psalm 110:1 as his proof text, as Messiah Jesus is now the exalted lord at the right hand of the one God. Here the relationship between them is specified, and Jesus is the adoni, my lord, which as you know is never the title of Deity. In Greek of course adoni corresponds to ‘kyrios mou’ so the NT gives us a precise confirmation of the adoni non-Deity word.

    As to language, I am simply repeating Paul’s definition of who God is. There is one God the Father and no one besides Him. This truth of course is stated in the Hebrew Bible also. Jesus of course is everywhere said to be Lord Messiah, and Psalm 110:1 is the reference point.

    As the New Bible Dictionary states, “No one would have taken the OT to affirm anything but the exclusive, i.e. unipersonal monotheism that is the hallmark of Judaism and Islam.” They say that “only a titanic disclosure” in the NT could possibly alter that situation. But Jesus of course agreed with the OT-trained scribe about the OT affirmation which as these top evangelicals admit gives us unipersonal monotheism. This was the hallmark of Judaism, Islam and of course Jesus in Mark 12.

    Are you proposing that the Trinity is revealed only after the ascension? And once again, how many YHVH’s are there? It sounds like 2.

    As A.H. Newman said well, “the Trinity is a contradiction and not merely a verbal contradiction. We can scarcely make a nearer approach to an exact enunciation of it than of saying that one thing is two things.” I hear you saying this too. Have I misunderstood?

  53. Anthony,

    With respect, you continually use YHVH as if it were a proper noun of some kind. It certainly isn’t used like that, but as a name for God. Your continued misuse of it in questions like “how many YHVH’s are there?” misrepresents the question and presupposes your answer.

    As for your Newman quotation, no-one says that one thing is two things, in the same respect. That is precisely the Trinitarian point – we consider God to be One, with respect to being, and Three, with respect to Persons.

    Thirdly, your continued appeal to authors whom you have met, and authorities who have written to you, smacks of an appeal to authority, not to argument or scholarship.

  54. Anthony: I’ve already said that there is only one YHWH. And you know well that Trinitarians believe in only one YHWH. You constantly repeat that Jesus and the Father cannot both be YHWH but that’s only true if one accepts the premise of Unitarianism. Trinitarians obviously do not! Thus we’re at an impasse. All of your proof texts can be explained in a Trinitarian context, and as I’ve said a few times already, much more satisfactorily. Paul defines Jesus as the ‘kyrios’ = ‘YHWH’ of the Shema in 1Corinthians 8:6. As Gordon Fee said, “the formula is so constructed that only the most obdurate would deny its Trinitarian implications.” (First Epistle to the Corinthians, 375)

    Have you not noticed that Peter (as Luke reports) makes several appeals to YHWH texts in the Hebrew Bible and applies them to Jesus in Acts 2? E.g., Acts 2:17-21 references Joel 2:28-32. The “great and terrible day of YHWH” in Joel becomes the “the Lord’s [i.e., Jesus’] great and glorious day” in Acts 2:20. “Call[ing] on the name of YHWH” in Joel 2:32 becomes “call[ing] on the name of the Lord [Jesus]” in Acts 2:21. Acts 2:25 cites Psalm 16:8 and Peter applies “kyrios” = “YHWH” to Jesus. When you say that “Acts 2:34-36 provides the sense in which he is now the exalted lord,” what do you mean exactly? If you mean that he went from non-lord to lord then I’d disagree. C. Kavin Rowe persuasively argues that Luke’s narrative Christology is one that depicts Jesus as “kyrios” from the womb (Lk. 1:43) and only in death does it cease (for a time) to speak of Jesus as “kyrios.” Thus:

    Acts 2.36 confirms the already-established identity of Jesus as κύριος in the face of his rejection and death. The verse is, in other words, a vivid abbreviation of the movement of the entire Gospel story in which the identity of Jesus who was κύριος from the womb was threatened by his rejection and crucifixion but reaffirmed by his resurrection. (C. Kavin Rowe, “Acts 2:36 and the Continuity of Lukan Christology,” NTS 53 [2007]: 37-56, here 54.)

    For the record, I don’t ‘know’ that adoni only has reference to “non-deity superiors,” that’s your assertion and it’s based on an understanding that the Messiah (i.e., Jesus) is not deity. I don’t share that understanding with you. I also notice that you’ve left out some of the quotation from the article on the Trinity, namely that the author(s) explain what that “titanic disclosure” was, namely the “revelation of God in the Son.” Your reasoning seems to be that if something isn’t revealed in full from the beginning then it is false, or unbiblical, or untrue. If that’s the case then there’s no hope for any doctrine. I’d also add that even “top evangelicals” are not above reproach. One can certainly disagree with the proposition that the OT presents a “unipersonal monotheism.”

    I’d propose that the Trinity is revealed in the Christian experience of salvation as described in Acts 2 which involved God [the Father] raising up Jesus [the Son] with the resulting gift/promise of the Holy Spirit. But even before that in John 14-16 Jesus sketches out everything necessary for a robust Trinitarian theology. I won’t continue to repeat myself concerning how many YHWHs there are. And as Suemas has noted, no one is saying that one thing is two things. Your continued caricature of Trinitarian theology only reveals either your inability or unwillingness to deal with the position as it truly is. And because of this fact I highly doubt that we’re going to advance in this discussion.

  55. Nick, Some definitions, if I may. A proper noun is the name of a person, designating an individual. “Nick” is a proper noun. Yahweh is God’s personal name. Does not everyone report this fact? God is a Person in Scripture, “one Father.” He is never called an Essence. (I won’t clutter the message with quotations from standard works). God defines himself in exclusive terms using every known way of doing this. Alone, by Myself, no one besides Me, unaccompanied and solo at creation (Isa 44:24) etc. Jesus defined the Father as the “only one who is truly God”: This is pure monotheism, and both monos and theos are in Jesus definition, there in John 17:3. That is Jesus’ statement of monotheism, and he is not included in it, but of course uniquely associated with the One God. Why did Augustine find that verse impossible for the Trinity? He had to change the order of the words! Does everyone know he did this?

    “Abraham was only one person” (Ezek 33:24) gives you no trouble, but when you come to the same statement exactly describing God (Gal. 3:20), you say He is not one Person.
    What you are doing is asking us to apply a competely new level of language for God, but the Bible (thus God) does not do this: He speaks to us in intelligible terms, calling Himself “one single Person, one single YHVH” “One single Father”) (echad means “one single”). He has a unique Son whom Gabriel said is Son of God based on the one reason, that God was his Father by miracle. Luke 1:35)

    Adoni (Ps 110:1) is never the title of God and one has to ask why so many “authorities” tell us that the second lord in Ps. 110:1 is Adonai, the title of God? Why do others speak of God speaking to God? It is just untrue. You can simply read the Hebrew. Adoni is never God.
    You can research the adoni point easily and you will find there the key text for the sense in which Jesus is Lord (Acts 2:34-36). Peter quotes his proof text in Ps. 110:1. I am doing the same. If you had not noticed this distinction between adoni and adonai, you will find it instructive.

    Paul did not say that Jesus is Yahweh in I Cor 8:4-6. He said that Jesus is the one Lord Messiah! A huge difference. The shepherds knew that the Lord Messiah was born “that day” and they did not think God the Son was born. They knew that God could not have a beginning, ie be begotten.

    There are two lords and one is the Lord God and the other the Lord Messiah– exactly Ps. 110:1 used across the whole NT.

    You appear now to say that YHVH is the triune essence, the Triune God. Yet you also say that the three Persons are each YHVH. That is 3X’s = 1X. Have I misreported you here? Where in the Bible can we see YHVH and say “this is the Triune God.” Which verse?

    “My assertion” about adoni? It is based on just reading the word adoni, in all its occasions. But you say you don’t know about this. That is fine. One can search it out.

    I certainly do not think that a new truth cannot be revealed in the progress of Scripture but the Shema is not a new truth! It is a unipersonal creed from the start, as many, many affirm. Is Jesus agreeing with a new interpretation of the Shema, when he speaks to a Jewish scribe?
    Jesus is the unique agent of the one God of the unipersonal creed of Israel (or do you say that that the Jews were wrong about unipersonality in the Shema?). Are Howard Marshall, etc wrong in asserting that the Shema gives us a unipersonal God?
    What I am trying to understand in your thinking is how you match YHVH with the tripersonal God.
    As to authorities, I believe that none of us stands alone, and having a few like Kung and Kuschel and Robinson and hundreds of others echo our views does not hurt. I am nothing, but FF Bruce and others are giants in their fields, and some died maintaining belief in the unipersonal God. FF Bruce was uncertain as to whether John 1:1 should be the word (who? or which?). And he doubted that Paul believed in a preexisting Son. He thought John probably did.
    Is that of interest to you?
    Thanks for the opportunity to talk about all this.

  56. I really don’t understand why Anthony is fixated on the passage in Duet.6:4, to exclusion of all the other biblical texts that clearly state, there is only one God, consisting, for what a better term, of the The Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as revealed in Scripture.

    For it should be evident, that before the creation of the world, the one we now refer to as Jesus existed as the Word, and was not then the son of God. So God, who is now referred to as the Father, was not a father, as he had no children.

    Also, another thought that is worth considering is, are our words separate from us, or are they an identical reflection of who we are? If the answer is, they are an identical reflection of us, then God’s Word, which was made flesh, must also be an identical reflection of himself. In fact this truth is found in Hebs.3:1-3. And is not a fact, that just as God creates all things by his Word, we also create all things that we are capable of by our words.

  57. Anthony: Again, I’ll ask that you address specific points to specific individuals. I don’t mind your definitions, but the manner in which you present them makes it seem as if I made certain statements which I did not. I’ll leave it to you and Suemas to discuss the issue of proper names.

    Since you mentioned that YHWH created alone (Is. 44:24) you’ve drawn attention to a serious problem for your position, namely that the Son is identified as Creator throughout the NT (Jo. 1:3; 1Cor. 8:6; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:2; Rev. 3:14). If you say (as a recent commenter has said on another post of mine) that God the Father only created through the Son then that doesn’t solve your problem. For unless the Son is YHWH then YHWH was not alone!

    Funnily enough, you are the one who keeps bringing up extra-biblical language and new vocabulary in this discussion. I only have to resort to discussing that topic when you bring it up. Now just to be clear, I have no problem with clarifying language, but I’ve been sticking to Scripture. I could charge you with new vocabulary when you assert that the word “God” means something other than simply “God.” You assert that it means “one single person.” Never once does YHWH/God refer to himself as “one single person” — you read your Unitarianism into the text! And what do I care what Augustine did with John 17:3 when I don’t do it?

    Who said that the insertion of the word “person” into Ezekiel 33:24 gives me no problem? As I see it, that is implied, but not necessary. The (N)KJV, 1917 JPS, ASV, et al. all do well to simply say “Abraham was one.” The passage can just as easily read “Abraham was alone” (NJB cf. YLT) and still make sense. But there is no contextual indication in Galatians 3:20 that God is one “person” and why insert “person” rather than “party”?

    Anthony, if I may, I think that at this point you’re somewhat frustrated and are just throwing out random things to obfuscate the issue. Who said that “God had a beginning”? Certainly not me. Who made any claims regarding YHWH being the triune essence? Certainly not me.

    Your assertion about “adoni” rests on an assumption that the Messiah is not and cannot be divine. Perhaps Psalm 110:1 is the exception to your alleged rule. I won’t keep rehashing the point from 1Cor. 8:6 which you simply deny without argument.

    I say that you’re wrong about the unipersonality of the Shema. I don’t believe that Jews understood it the way you do. Paul certainly did not! Jews understood the Shema as a call to exclusive devotion to YHWH alone! And as much as you might like to deny this, you understand it according to Greek philosophical categories. The problem isn’t with the categories per se, just with your particular view of how the Shema fits those categories. And yes, Marshall is wrong in asserting that the Shema is unipersonal.

    And I think you need to re-read Bruce. In his commentary on Philippians in the NIBC series he says:

    Who, being in very nature God: literally, “being already in the form of God.” Possession of the form implies participation in the essence. It seems fruitless to argue that these words do not assume the pre-existence of Christ. In another passage where Paul points to Christ’s self-denial as an example for his people—“though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9)—his pre-existence is similarly assumed (although Paul makes his own choice of language, whereas here he uses a form of words that lay ready to hand). (F. F. Bruce, Philippians [NIBC 11; Peabody, MA: Hendickson, 1989], 68.)

    Tom: I’m going to have to disagree that the Father only became Father once the Word became incarnate. That was an essential argument of the Arians in the 4th century and it’s one I reject. In John 17:5 Jesus prays to his Father and describes a glory that they shared before the world existed. There’s no indication that their relationship as Father and Son was not the same before the world existed as it was at the point when Jesus prayed that prayer.

  58. Nick, you do not have what I have from Bruce later in his life. But he was able to change his mind, too. As to God not ever saying He is a single Person, He says it all the time. “I am Yahweh,” “I am who I am,” means that Yahweh is a single “I ” and “one single Yahweh” in the creed. “I am Gabriel” is quite clear and so is “I am Yahweh.” “Yahweh echad” and “kurios eis estin” are simply stated. I take it you we agree that one means one?

    What you don’t seem to like is the Greek: “The Lord our God is one Yahweh.” One is a counting word. Yet, you ask us to think that Yahweh is a triune Essence! You are starting all the time with the assumption that Jesus and the church fathers agreed. “One single Yahweh” and “one single Abraham” (Ezek 33:24) You have “one single teacher,” Jesus said, and no one misunderstands.
    In no verse out of thousands is God ever said to be an essence made up of hypostases.
    As to creation, Jesus never said he was the Creator and referred to God who made them male and female. He did not do it.
    All things through Jesus (in Colossians “in and through Jesus”) conveys nothing about him being the active Creator. Paul is talking about Jesus’ elevation to Lordship and headship, which is pointless if had always been the Lord God.
    And God “did not speak through his Son” in the OT times; the Son had not yet come into existence (Heb 1:1-2)
    Since the Son came into existence in Mary (Luke 1:35), most readers would understand that he was not in existence (before he came into existence). The Son did not undergo a transformation from one existence to another. He was begotten, began to exist. “Eternal begetting” is a language muddle, giving us no intelligible sense at all, as many have complained.

    I find it amazing that the Jews positively reject the Trinity, and they are the custodians of the Hebrew Bible. Yes, you can have secondary beings next to God, but that never disturbs unitary monotheism. It is desperation to say that 449 occurrences of adonai mean the Lord God and 194 occurrences of adoni never mean God, but that the one exception, adoni Ps. 110:1 means God!

    These sorts of points actually persuade people to rethink, and note the new unitarian trained at London Bible College and London University and a large book The Only True God, by H. H. Chang.

    Now here is Bruce to me privately: “On the preexistence question, one can at least accept the preexistence of the eternal Word or Wisdom of God, which (who?) became incarnate in Jesus. But whether any New Testament writer believed in his separate conscious existence as a “second Divine Person” before his incarnation is not so clear. On balance, I think the Fourth Evangelist did so believe; I am not nearly so sure about Paul.”

  59. Anthony: This conversation is going nowhere so this will be my last response. Thank you for your time and interaction.

    You’re right, I don’t have any unpublished correspondance with Bruce so you’ll understand if I don’t treat your report as being on par with his published works. I don’t know the context in which he made his statements to you, or honestly, whether or not he made them at all.

    We’ve been over why your pronoun argument isn’t convincing. You just happen to think that evidence to the contrary of your understanding is “futile.” The bottom line is that apart from your presuppositions “One God/YHWH” does not equal “One Person.”

    You keep mentioning Triune essence, eternal begetting, and the like, but you’re only doing it to dodge my points. I’m not the one who keeps talking about essence, and eternal begetting, you are! This is why I can’t continue to discuss this with you; you just don’t seem very interested in actually discussing what I’m actually saying! I don’t believe that you’ve seriously dealt with any of my arguments past re-stating the points of yours that I’ve objected to (and given reasons for objecting to).

    I find it amazing that you can’t see (or at least admit) that you start with Unitarianism and read it into everything, e.g., what you said about Hebrews 1:1-2! The text plainly says that God created the universe/world/ages through his Son, does it not? Again, who has been talking about eternal begetting? Not me! The text however says something that doesn’t square with your theology, so you’ve reinterpreted to fit your Unitarianism.

    I also find it amazing that you speak of “Jews” as if there is some monolithic Jewish belief that all Jews adhere to; there isn’t (not even in the Bible). Which “Jews” exactly are you referring to? It can’t be the Jews of the NT period because then you’d have to admit that the Trinity is present in the NT in order for the Jews to reject it. Secondly, some (notice how I don’t make generalized statements regarding “Jews”) Jews also positively reject that Jesus is the Messiah; so what? You haven’t jumped on that bandwagon, have you?

    In closing, I don’t find Unitarianism in any of its forms consistent with Scripture’s witness. I’ve found your arguments here and in your book as well as in your other publications unconvincing. Again, I thank you for your time but I won’t be devoting any more of my time to these lengthy exchanges. We appear to be going in circles and it’s not proving to be fruitful.

  60. No one has I think managed to explain how the phrase “only one who is truly God,” said of the Father as distinct from the Son (John 17:3), allows for the Son also to be “the only true God”!
    I think that Trinitarians suppress their own sense of language at this point. Steve used the adjective “limiting” to describe “only.” He is of course right. If the Father is, as Jesus said, “the only one who is truly God,” then no one else is!
    Bring on the language experts and ordinary speakers of English!

  61. Anthony: I addressed that in the review itself and in the post to which I referred Steve. To affirm something about the Father is not to deny something about the Son. Your presupposition of unitarianism reads “God” as “one single person, the Father” and as I’ve stated above I simply don’t share your presupposition. John likewise refers to Jesus as the “true God” in 1John 5:20. You have to deny this reading because it conflicts with your presupposition of Unitarianism. I can accept it because when I read “God” I don’t read “one single person, the Father.” And I find your translation of τὸν μόνον ἀληθινὸν θεόν to be quite peculiar. Where are you deriving “one who is” from? I’m also curious as to how you managed to turn an adjective (ἀληθινὸν = true) into an adverb (truly = ἀληθῶς). Perhaps we should bring in some language experts!

  62. Nick: Who is “the one God” being referred to in the following statements:

    “…for us there is but one God, the Father…” 1Cor 8.6

    “…the God and Father of our lord Jesus Christ…” Rom 15.6; cp. Jn 20.17; 2Cor 1.3; Eph 1.3, 17; 1Pe 1.3; Rev 1.6.

  63. Ben: Well, of the passages you cited, 1Cor. 8:6 refers to the Father as “one God.” The same passage also refers to Jesus as “one Lord” and very clearly works him into the Shema. You can read the comments above for some discussion on this. Also, I’d recommend a recent book by Suzanne Nicholson entitled Dynamic Oneness: The Significance and Flexibility of Paul’s One-God Language, in which she examines 1Corinthians 8:6, Galatians 3:20, and Romans 3:30 and argues that none of these “one God” verses are concerned with numerical oneness.

  64. I fail to see how Jesus is “worked into the Shema” simply because he is called the lord Messiah; and NOT “the one LORD [YHWH] God”.

    Apart from the clear “numerical oneness” the words used designate, my question to you is, according to the NT writers, Who is this “one God”?

  65. Ben: Your failure is not something I can do anything about, sorry. And I reject your statement that “numerical oneness” is “clear.” For all the decrying of Greek metaphysics and philosophy that non-Trinitarians do I find it amazing that they read the Bible according to these very metaphysics and philosophy. And I’ve answered your question. Of the passages you cited, 1Cor. 8:6 refers to the Father as “one God.” If you ask again I will ban you from commenting. I hate repeating myself.

  66. Hey Nick, so we agree that “the one God” is “the Father” and not Jesus.

    You are not far from the kingdom of God my friend [Mar 12.34]. :)

  67. Nick: At least we agree on the first and greatest of the commandments. I am sure we can come to agree in all things as long as we speak the truth in love friend.

  68. Nick,
    The proposition that the Father is the only who is truly God not only represents the sense of the Greek precisely but is in fact a unitarian statement. Nothing is presupposed. The adverb “only” or the adjective “alone” function in language as all know as precise limiters. The designation “one and only true God” limits that description to the Father and thus denies that description to anyone else. You and I have been making such exclusive statements all our lives, and you argued with none of them until you came to John 17:3!

  69. Anthony: We can continue to repeat ourselves or we can purpose to do something more constructive with our time. I choose the latter. I’ve addressed your objections and I have nothing to add. It seems that you don’t either but you’re content to keep repeating yourself. Good day to you sir.

  70. Hey Nick why are you so rude? You seek debate yet you cannot handle the heat. Don’t take out your frustrations at not being able to counter scripture on people.

    Remember what the scripture says, “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” [Eph 6.12]

    If people like Anthony are wrong, why don’t you instead seek to persuade [and not force] them, gently instructing them “in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth” [2Tim 2.25].

  71. Ben: You must be losing something in translation. I haven’t been rude. I’ve simply stated my desire to not repeat myself. I believe I stated the same desire to you earlier, right? You’re new to my blog so you don’t know much about me. Had you been a regular reader then you’d know that someone repeating himself or forcing me to to repeat myself is a sure way to end a conversation with me (see here).

    I’ve discussed this with Anthony at length as you can see by simply reading the exchange above. We’ve made no progress. Neither of us will convince the other. I do pray for his salvation and yours as well since it is my sincere belief that everyone who denies the truth of the Triune God is lost.

    But I find your accusation of “frustration” on my part and “not being able to counter scripture” to be a bit on the rude side, or, at the very least disingenuous. I’ve certainly made no attempts to “counter scripture” but I have countered the arguments made by Anthony and others. Whether or not you find my counters persuasive is beyond my control. And any perceived frustration is due to my hating repetition. So on that note, if you’d like to carry on a dialogue about Anthony’s book then this is the place to do so. If all you’d like to do is psychoanalyze me and offer unsolicited advice then I’d ask you to not comment. Thanks.

  72. As a speaker of the English language, I understand the proposition “Obama is the only one who is President of the USA” to be beyond any misunderstanding. Several posters (including journalist Steve J) made my point on John 17:3. The Father is “the only one who is true God.” This is a unitary monotheistic statement. Nick replied by saying that stating something about the Father does not deny something about the Son. But then does not the proposition “Obama is the only one who is truly President of the USA” make it impossible for anyone else to be the President of the USA?
    I find John 17:3, with many others, to be a plain statement excluding Jesus from the postion of “only true God.” How else can language express the fact that the Father alone is true God?
    Perhaps we all need to think about language and what “only” means..

  73. “Perhaps we all need to think about language and what “only” means..”

    Anthony has a profound point here. In logic class, this is how you learn to analyze, e.g. Obama is the only President: (there are two logically equivalent ways)

    Po & (x)(Px -> x = o))
    OR
    Po & -Ex(Px & -(x=o))

    This reads: Obama is president, and for any y, y is president only if it is numerically identical to Obama. Or more colloquially: Obama is president, and any president there is just is Obama. Or: Obama’s the only president.
    OR the second, logically equivalent version: Obama is president, and it’s not the case that there’s some x which is both president and non-identical to Obama. Or more colloquially, Obama is president and it’s not the case that there’s some other thing which is president.

    This is just beginning logic, taught in any college class on “formal” logic; exercising the muscles, so to speak, that God put into our minds, and that we use every day. It’s like Math in most ways. Note that “=” occurs in both.

    So yes, we all do understand this sort of statement – every logic student learns it, and it’s in every textbook under the heading of “quantification” (i.e. all, some, none statements), and in so doing, we show that we possess a concept of numerical identity, symbolized above as “=”. Thus, obfuscation about what sort of sameness/identity is without grounds.

    If the texts says that the Father is the only true God, this is predicating, of the Father, that he’s “true God” (Norelli agrees thus far), and it is also saying that he’s the only one. Thus, any “other” true God would turn out to just be (=) him. Norelli certainly does understand “only” statements, and that he does so, shows that he grasps the concept of =, though his love for this theory may cause him to obfuscate about numerical sameness, as if it were unclear. Really, it’s about as clear as any concept we have.

    Point, Buzzard.

    On another note: I’ve read a ton of Bauckham, and I can’t blame Anthony for not delving much into him. As best I can tell, he’s quite confused on the topic of identity, i.e. personal identity, being the same self as. The same confusions are always mirrored in the people who follow him, e.g. Fee, Bowman. I’m working on a paper on precisely this – what does he mean by “divine identity” and “being included in the divine identity.”

  74. Dale: Bauckham’s case is predicated on an inductive study of what second temple era Jews believed about identity. It’s only confused if he was working according to the categories you suggest, but he wasn’t, so on his own terms his argument is quite cogent. In terms of the rest of your comment, I can’t see myself adding much to what Steve Hays has said to you on the topic, so I won’t try.

  75. I don’t find the “Obama is only true president” or whatever argument to be convincing. If we take the entirety of scripture into account, you can’t arrive at a unitarian conclusion. The Son and the Father are both called the “true God” in scripture, I don’t see how we can truly make sense of this (and many other passages) outside of a trinitarian framework.

    The thing that stands out most to me in this debate is how the Unitarian never seems to realize his own unitarian presuppositions that he carries into every text. It’s amazing.

  76. Sure, EDH. If x is F, that doesn’t mean there isn’t also a y such that not-(x=y) and y is also F. (Pardon the logic-talk – I’m just trying to be clear.) Sure, even if the predicate F is “true God”.

    But when someone asserts that x is the ONLY F. Well, anything (in that domain we’re assuming) which isn’t x can’t also be F, right?

    This is no anachronism. I’m not projecting any theory whatever onto the texts. Logic merely uncovers the structure inherent in statements, in thoughts, really. This is what my comment above presupposes about ancient people: they know what “only” means.

    What I do in my paper is try really hard to charitably interpret Bauckham, as putting forth a self-consistent view. On the face of it, he seems to argue that Jesus and God are one self, and also that they are not, and it is no easy thing to formulate some other interpretation. It amazes me how many evangelicals, smart ones, uncritically rely on his claims.

  77. PS – You should agree on the Obama example! There’s nothing contentious there whatever. The only place you can get off the bus is: in the texts in question, do the authors’ claims have that same structure, or not? If they do, Buzzard is correct.

  78. Gentlemen, I think we are finally beginning to see that the proposition, “Obama is the only one who is President of the USA”, is not so difficult! That sort of easy communication compared with exactly the same proposition for the Father spells the demise of Trinitarianism. We gather the following from Jesus’ well-chosen words:

    You, Father (that is One Person) are the only one who is true God. John 17.3

    It is a sad commentary on our efforts to bow to the words of Scripture that this statement is not immediately appreciated!

    Now note the smoking gun. When Augustine arrived at this painfully obvious unitary monotheistic statement, rather than waffle, he simply ordered a change in word order to help himself out.
    Augustine wrote (Homilies on John).

    The real order of the words is… ‘You, and Jesus Christ whom you sent, the Only True God.’

    There are many in my circle, professionals and others, who change their minds under the stress of Jn 17:3. It is wise, I think, to admit to the meaning of the word “only.”

    I am grateful to Dale for making the point in tight language and logic terms. If X is only F, then nothing else is F. If the Father is “the only one who is true God,” then no one else can possibly be.
    Now work the rest of the texts around that fixed point. First allow Jesus his creedal declaration.

    In I Cor. 8:4-6, has no one noticed that Paul speaks of Jesus as “the one lord MESSIAH”?

    If attention had been paid to Ps. 110:1 (which has not been the case) it would have been clear that Jesus is not the LORD/Lord God (there is only one of them) but the lord MESSIAH, Jesus, so called some 600 times in the NT! Ps. 110:1 gives us ADONI as the second lord and this “my lord” is never a title of Deity. So the one Deity (YHVH = LORD) spoke in oracle to the one, non-GOD lord Messiah (adoni = mylord, all 195 occs. NOT God).

    Please note that my huge presupposition is that “only” means “only.” As JAT Robinson noted too:

    John is as undeviating a witness as any in the New Testament to the fundamental tenet of Judaism, of unitary monotheism (cp. Rom. 3:30; James 2:19). There is one true and only God (John 5:44; 17:3). Everything else is idols (1 John 5:20)…Jesus refuses the claim to be God (John 17:3).

  79. Sir Anthony: I don’t know if you remember me – we had a fairly extended dialogue over at Dr. Michael Brown’s forum following your debate with him and James White last fall; I go by “Tom” over there. I really appreciate your time then in helping me to better understand the Unitarian position as held by yourself and other like-minded individuals; can’t thank you enough, actually.

    In any case, since our last interaction I have started a series on my blog called “Answering Unitarians”, based in good part on objections to the Trinity raised by yourself and “Chuck/Xavier” from that time. It is at the following URL, if you are so inclined to stop by and offer any response: http://thechifiles.com/answering-unitarians-hq/

    Again, thanks so much for your vigorous interaction then (and here at Nick’s place) – I think we can both agree that if theology isn’t challenged thoroughly from time-to-time we risk arrogance, at best, and spiritual inbreeding (or, “bobble-head theology”) at worst.

    Take care.

  80. Anthony: No need to rehash things we’ve already been through, but I’ll point out two obvious things that I’m sure you’ll agree with: (1) John 17:3 doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It needs to be read in light of its surrounding context in the chapter (esp. vs. 5), and the Gospel as a whole, and then viewed in light of the entire Johannine corpus, and then the entire NT, and finally the entire Bible. (2) John 17:3 is not some interpretive grid through which the entirety of Scripture must be filtered. To suggest that it’s a “fixed point” because it happens to be one of your favorite proof texts seems a bit unreasonable.

    Tom: I’d love for Anthony to dialogue with you on your blog. I can’t imagine that he and I have much more to discuss at this point.

  81. Nick: That makes two of us. That past dialogue I mentioned is where I really cut my teeth re: this whole debate, and I’ve been eager to interact with Sir Anthony again ever since.

    (spent a lot of time on your blog in those days, now that I think of it…)

  82. The proposition in John 17:3 is a purely unitarian statement. There is no way that language can confine Deity to the Father, except by saying (which it says also with thousands of singular personal pronouns for God) that “the Father is the only one who is truly God.” Jesus is then set outside that definition, and he is that one the One God has sent.

    No amount of juggling will get rid of John 17:3, and Augustine realized this: He thought nothing of rephrasing to avoid the obvious difficulty. He restructured the sentence to make it include Jesus in “the only one who is true God.”

    If contributors to this discussion would work first on Matthew and Luke things would be much easier.

    Luke has provided a clear definition of Son of God. Not many verses in the Bible are as transparent as Luke 1:35.

    “Precisely because of the biological miracle in Mary” Jesus “will be called, ie will be, the Son of God.”

    That is very easy. God is his Father by miracle. He is begotten in Mary (Matt. 1:20) and in consequence Jesus is uniqely the Son of God. If you come into existence in the womb you don’t also come into existence outside the womb! And eternal begetting is out of the question, since it means nothing.

    The simple realism of Gabriel to Mary is refreshing.

    Luke and Matthew are heroic apologists for the true faith.

    It is amazing that in I Cor. 8:4-6 some readers do not hear that Paul defines Jesus as the one Lord MESSIAH!

    After the NT calls Jesus the Messiah 600 times, that should have been learned well by the time I Cor. 8:4-6 is approached. After all. who was it who was born in Bethlehem? The lord Messiah! Lk 2:11) NOT the Lord/LORD [YHWH] God.

  83. Sir Anthony: I’ve given a more full response on my blog, but as you’ve posted this both here and there, I wanted to make one point here and then sign off from continuing the topic on Nick’s blog (though you are still welcome at the Chi Files) so as not to bog this thread down and take advantage of Nick’s hospitality.

    I need to press you on something you said above. I want to walk something through to its logical conclusion, and I’m going to do it strictly on your terms.

    1) You make the following citation of Luke 1:35: “Precisely because of the biological miracle in Mary” Jesus “will be called, ie will be, the Son of God.”

    2) From your words, it is clear that you equate being called something with being that thing. Specifically I refer you to your statement “will be called, ie will be, the Son of God.” In other words, Christ is called the Son of God, therefore he is the Son of God. This statement of yours makes clear that you fully accept, at least in this case, that in scripture what someone is called = what someone is; or maybe more specifically, that when scripture says “he will be called” of someone, what they are called = what they are.

    3) Further, I note that you are quite happy with referencing the synoptic Gospels, particularly Luke and Matthew, to draw theological conclusions from.

    Very well, then, let’s apply this standard (that you have apparently set forth) evenly and consistently and see what turns up. I will mirror the above points in reverse order and we will reach some conclusions.

    3) We turn to the Gospel according to Matthew the first chapter, verse 23, which reads:

    “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
    and they shall call his name Immanuel”
    (which means, God with us).

    2) To apply the same logic you exhibited, that when scripture says “he will be called [blank]” then he must BE [blank]…

    1) Then we must conclude that (to use your language) Jesus “will be called, ie will be, Immanuel.” That is, Jesus is GOD with us.

    I think it safe to conclude, then, that if we are to adopt your method of reasoning exhibited in passing in your post above, we must be logical and consistent and give these words in Matthew the same weight as those you cited in Luke. In the end, we find what I have already maintained in every dialogue with you I’ve yet had: Jesus Christ is God incarnate, as the scriptures testify.

  84. foxlemke,

    You’d get some really interesting theology treating Hebrew names incorporating God-words in this way!

    In any case, it can be translated “God IS with us”. (e.g. NLT – http://bible.cc/matthew/1-23.htm) But even if it’s best rendered “God with us”, they would give a name like that without thinking that the bearer had to be God himself. Spose I really, really love Obama, and name my firstborn Barryrules or Barakiswithus. That doesn’t mean I think the boy is Barak!

    If you think Jesus is God himself (that the two are numerically identical), and you’re consistent, then you must think there’s nothing true of Jesus that isn’t also true of God, and vice-versa. I’m willing to be you do not think that.

    Probably, you want to spell out “God incarnate” along classical catholic lines: eternal logos unites, somehow, so as to make one self with “a complete human nature” – something which if it hadn’t been “assumed,” would have been a human self like you or me. But the eternal logos that “assumes” it isn’t “God himself”… it’s… well, it depends on your theory. We’re hip-deep in speculation, I’m afraid, when we go down this track.

  85. Dale: A few things:

    A) I’m simply applying Sir Anthony’s logic evenly – if you have a problem, take it up with him.

    B) You’re bringing up points of contention with certain issues of doctrine that I myself have not raised nor voiced my opinion on – that’s what I call hip-deep in speculation.

    C) I’m simply affirming what scripture says, no big, complex lines of ontological “speculation”, as you call it, involved. You might enjoy http://thechifiles.com/2011/02/06/au3/ on the topic.

    D) I’ll not be responding further in this comments-section – Nick’s stated purpose of these comments is to discuss the very specific issue of Sir Anthony’s book. I’m afraid we’ve wandered a bit far afield, so either follow this discussion back to my blog, or at the very least, don’t expect my further participation here.

  86. foxlemke,

    A) No, sorry – you haven’t shown that Buzzard is committed to Jesus = God. The points about names, I think, he would agree with. To think that Jesus being called “Immanuel” implies that… well, a trinitarian should disagree as much as a unitarian.

    B) Why all the classical stuff? Just thinking: surely, he doesn’t want to interpret the Bible as contradictory. (j=g but they differ) Perhaps too charitable?

    C) Yes, I see that you attempt to deduce “the three foundations of the Trinity” from the Bible. It’s not clear from your link there, though, whether you have in mind any consistent Trinity doctrine.

    D) Fair enough. God bless.

  87. Nick: How would you define “God” in John 17:3? You would not say it is simply “the divine nature” or even “the Triune God”; the former would be very odd and the latter would go against the Trinitarian understanding of God since the Father is not the Triune God (or am I confused?)

    I’m not trying to trap you; I’m just curious.

  88. Foxlemke and Dale Thank you for your points.

    Raymond Brown (Birth Narratives) and Matthew and Luke deal with your point. To be the Son of God is not in any way different from being called the Son of God.

    One has merely to search it out in Matt. 5:9 the same statement in Luke 6:35. “be called” = “be”.

    This may not be so in your English, but you are not reading (or should not be reading) your English in the Greek (often very Hebrew influenced) NT.

    Jesus is indeed Immanuel, “God with us”. Jerusalem, Jeremiah says, will be “the Lord our righteousness” and the Messiah has the same name in Jeremiah. He is the Lord our Righteousness.

    A person’s function is revealed in his name. Jesus functions for God because GOD has not only brought him into existence (Luke 1:35) but has used and will use him as a perfect agent.

    The fixed point in this age-old discussion is the logical one to which Dale nicely referred. The Father is the referent for “you, the Only One who is true God.” It is available to no one to then say that this makes a statement about the Father, but does not deny that same title to the Son! The easy fact is that the word “only” (as we all agree) limits the statement to the person in question.

    Augustine “the Trinitarian” knew that, and had to restructure the whole Greek sentence to make his Trinity fit! The Father “is the Only ONE who is true God” is exactly parallel to “Obama is the only one who is now currently President of the USA.” This is not difficult and in Jn 17: 3 the sense is just as obvious. The problem is when people import their own misunderstandings of other verses in John and create a contradiction! Trying to resolve the contradiction they arrive at “God is stuff” (essence) and in the Bible He never is. He is One divine Father, One Person.

    If we work the texts around the creedal statement about the unique Father, all is well. Mark 12:29 does the same job since there the “LORD [YHVH] GOD is one LORD [YHVH]” (so the Greek citing the LXX).

    We have equally easy parallels in Jude 25. “The Only One who is God…” Monos limits and excludes, as we all know. It is therefore false to say that Jn 17:3 does not deny to the Son the status of “Only true God.” It does just that. It restricts the one referent to One Person, the Father. All this fits very well in the Jewish environment of the NT. We can as you know show other Jews making the same unitary monotheistic claims.

    Bauckham is hard to engage because his “sharing the divine identity” is too vague to be interacted with. We all know that “if you have seen me you have seen God.” We all know that Jesus and God are one (thing, cp. John 10.30). We all know that they are not One Person. The Greek for the word “one” in “One Person” is eis, as a disputant in the debate of God in 1849 remarked. “en is one thing and eis is one Person.”

    The failure of much of our discussion is the failure to pay attention to the semantic distinction adoni (NEVER in reference to God) and adonai (ALWAYS a reference to Deity/God). Ps. 110: 1 rules. It is really tragic to speak of two YHVHs when the distinction of Lord-LORD/lord is so central from that Psalm. So far no one has taken on the facts here. Nor have they celebrated the obvious and central fact that Jesus is the Messiah, 600 times, while the FATHER Is God, 1300 times.

    God is never called the Messiah and Jesus is called the Messiah all the time. In the Bible there are some 11,000 occs. of various words for GOD, I would simply ask anyone to name a single one of these in which the writer, saying GOD, ever meant the Triune God.

    If you cannot find one, then let us all admit that writers of the Bible never spoke of the Triune God, as God! Yes, the church has persecuted those who conscientiously could not find “GOD in three Persons’ mentioned as such anywhere in Scripture.

    Now a question to readers. IN VIEW of Luke 1:35 how would you react to an orthodox writer saying in a tome on Bible theology:

    When the title Son of God is used of Christ it has nothing to do with his birth to Mary. As the Son of God he was not born.

    Reactions..?

    One other thing. You mention Luke and “theological conclusions” drawn from him. I draw all my theology from the witness of Scripture, Luke no more nor less than any other book.

  89. Alright folks, thanks for all the discussion, but the comments are getting too long for me to want to bother reading them anymore, and Anthony is only repeating1 what he said in years past in previous comments (and begging all the same questions). I will be closing the comments to this post down now. Again, thanks for the cordial interaction. If you’d like to shift the discussion to Foxlemke’s blog then please do. I’m sure others have much more to say; I however do not.

    I’ll just leave with this note about Anthony’s reference to Bauckham being too vague to engage: Nonsense! James McGrath, who strongly disagrees with Bauckham, had no problem critically interacting with him in his book The Only True God. Larry Hurtado, who arrives at the same place as Bauckham, had no problem criticizing Bauckham’s view of divine identity in his Lord Jesus Christ (see p. 47, n. 66). The point is that the concept is quite clear, and whether or not one agrees with it, it can be engaged.

    Pär: I don’t feel trapped. I would take the entire phrase “only true God” altogether (rather than “God” on its own) and interpret it in the sense that phrases like “true God” (Isa. 65:16; Jer. 10:10; cf. 1 John 5:20) or “only God” (Isa. 37:20; Jude 25) are used elsewhere in Scripture, i.e., to demarcate Israel’s God from idols. I don’t read John 17:3 and think in terms of “divine nature” since I don’t see that in view in this passage or any other like it (meaning that I don’t think the biblical writers were concerned with metaphysical/ontological questions as later Christian writers were). Since I’m closing the comments to this post you can feel free to email me if you’d like to discuss this more.

    All the best guys!

    1 N.B. my commenting policy on repetition.

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