Rivers and Steve Bruecker debate the trinity at Trinities.org

Rivers

In today’s online debates, civility is a lost art. I appreciate the courteous back and forth we are engaging in.

1. My talking about nature was more in a theological sense then looking back to the Hebrew word. Judaism and Christianity are monotheistic religions for a reason. The Bible teaches there is only one divine being and many verses support this. I am not sure what you are arguing for. Do you think Judaism and Christianity teach polytheism?

2. If I said to Jim, “My friend and my colleague.” Who would take that to mean I was speaking to two different persons? No one! Everyone would say I was addressing a single person. The same goes for Thomas. After addressing Jesus, he commends Thomas for what he just said him. As I said previously your presuppositions, that Jesus is not God, preclude you from accepting the obvious. Thomas said to Jesus, my Lord and my God. As I said previously, Thomas agreed with the Apostle John when he wrote in John 1:1, “And the Word (Jesus) was God.”

3. I refer back to #2 on this point.

4. In context, Paul is writing about the hope of the second coming in Titus 2:13. “…looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus.” In the New Testament the word “appearing” is used exclusively of Jesus Christ (2 Thess. 2:8; 1 Tim. 6:14; 2 Tim. 1:10; 4:1,8; Titus 2:13). Appearing is never used of the Father. It is consistently tied to the second coming of Jesus. Thus “appearing of the glory of our great God” cannot refer to the Father. Therefore, both God and savior refer to one person Jesus.

Greek scholars contend Titus 2:13 is speaking of only one person. Bruce Metzger writes, “In support of this translation [“our great God and Savior”] there may be quoted such eminent grammarians of the Greek New Testament as P.W. Schmiedel, J.H. Moulton, A.T. Robertson, and Blass-Debrunner. All of these scholars concur in the judgment that one person is referred to in Titus 2:13 and that therefore, it must be rendered, “our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” (Bruce Metzger Facts on Jehovah’s Witnesses p. 24)

Greek scholars have come up with a guiding principle for interpreting such a construction: “When two nouns in the same case are connected by the Greek word ‘and,’ and the first noun is preceded by the article ‘the,’ and the second noun is not preceded by the article, the second noun refers to the same person or thing to which he first noun refers, and is a farther description of it.” (Bowman, Why you Should Believe in the Trinity) In Titus 2:13, two nouns “God” and “Savior” are joined together with the Greek word for “and,” and a definite article (“the”) is placed only in front of the first noun (“God”). The sentence literally reads: “the great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” As scholar Robert Reymond explains, “The two nouns [God and Savior] both stand under the regimen of the single definite article preceding ‘God,’ indicating that they are to a single referent.” (Robert Reymond, Jesus Divine Messiah)

5. In the doctrine of the Trinity the human nature of Jesus submitted and humbled himself before the Father. No problems with the second person of the Trinity (Jesus) addressing the person of the Father.

6. You never answered my previous question so I’ll ask it again… If you don’t believe Jesus is God, then what is he?

Steve


Hi Steve,

Thanks again for the reply. Here are my thoughts on your latest points:

1. No, I don’t think the Israelites (or Christians) were polytheistic. I’m just pointing out that the Hebrew terms for “god/s” could be applied to beings other than God the Father. Sometimes even YHWH was applied to the angelic visitors (Genesis 18-19).

2. I don’t think John 20:28 is so “obvious.” That is why I’m pointing out the evidence that is contrary to the way you are interpreting it. Perhaps you are overlooking how “my God” is used all the other times in scripture because you want it to be referring Jesus in this particular passage.

3. I agree that “the word (Jesus) was God” in John 1:1c. However, we still have to interpret what that means. You think “the word” refers to a preexisting divine son, whereas I think “the word” refers to the resurrected human Jesus (as in John 1:14; Revelation 19:13). Other Christians think it refers to an “impersonal wisdom/plan” or some kind of angelic being.

4. You make a valid point that “appearing” isn’t associated with God the Father. However, you are assuming that “the glory of God” is referring to God himself. As I read the text of Titus 2:13, it seems to me that “the glory of our God” refers to the result of “the appearing” in the same way that you or I might do something for “the glory of God.” Thus, Paul was saying that the appearing of the savior was for the purpose of glorifying God (cf. Jude 1:25).

5. I’m aware that other scholars have different opinions about the Greek in Titus 2:13. I’m offering you another perspective. Every one should consider the evidence for himself and make up his own mind.

6. My understanding is that Jesus Christ was an ordinary Israelite (Hebrews 2:14-16) who had a miraculous conception (Luke 1:35). God the Father later annointed him with holy spirit power, raised him from the dead, and appointed him the judge of the world (Acts 10:39-44).

Rivers,

1. We both agree Christianity teaches there is only one God.

2. Since you believe Jesus is not God, you have to cling to your interpretation that Thomas was addressing two persons when he said to Jesus (one person) “My Lord and my God.” 100% of the scholars I am aware of agree that Thomas called Jesus Lord and God. What noted Greek scholars can you come up with that agree Thomas is speaking to two persons?

I do realize Jesus addresses the Father and calls him my God in John 20:17: “Jesus said, ‘Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'” You are asking what the Jehovah’s Witnesses ask, how can the Father be Jesus’ God and he still be God?

In context the word “God” here in 20:17b is referring to the Father. The human Jesus is calling the Father his God, submitting himself to the Father. The Son took on a human nature and gave up certain divine prerogatives or privileges. Jesus was still fully God but chose not to utilize his divine abilities (Phil. 2:5-8). As Paul writes in Philippians 2, Jesus as a human submitted himself to death, something the Father cannot do. A difference in function does not indicate inferiority of nature.

In John 17 the focus is on the human aspect of Jesus’ identity. He identified himself with his “brothers” (Disciples). The human Jesus had “brothers” and the divine nature does not. Notice also he says “My Father and My God.” He taught others to say “Our Father.” My Father affirms he is the Son of God. By using “MY” he saying he is equal with the Father. In John 5:17-18 (NASB) “But He answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.” 18 For this reason therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.” Jesus calling God “My Father” was a way to proclaim equality with God the Father and the Jews knew this and wanted him dead.

3. John 1:1 says Jesus was God (theos). John 1:14 says Jesus, as God, took on human flesh. Jesus has two natures, fully God and fully man. In Revelations 19:13 the second Person of the Trinity, the incarnate Son of God is called The Word of God because He is the revelation of God. He is the full expression of the mind, will, and purpose of God, “the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature” (Heb. 1:3). Revelations 19:13 reaffirms the truth of John 1:1, that Jesus was God.

4. You said referring to Titus 2:13, “However, you are assuming that “the glory of God” is referring to God himself.” If God in your sentence means the Father, then that is not what I am assuming. The truth I am assuming nothing, I am going by what Paul writes. The text says the appearing refers to Jesus at his second coming. He is the great God and savior as all the scholars I quoted contend.

5. What NT Greek scholars agree with you that Paul is addressing two persons?

6. All you showed in Hebrews 2:12-14 is that Jesus had a human nature. I agree…where we disagree is believing he also had a divine nature. In Luke 1:35 “The angel answered and said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.’” What do you believe the Son of God means? The Jews believed in John 5:17-18 that the Son of God (called God my Father) meant he was equal with God.

I agree the Father raised Jesus from the dead. However, he said he raised himself. John 2:19-22 “Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ 20 The Jews then said, ‘It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?’ 21 But He was speaking of the temple of His body. 22 So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken.” Jesus clearly says he will raise himself from the dead. Thus he affirms he is fully God and fully man. As man he could die (God cannot die) and as the second person of the Trinity he had the power to raise himself from the dead.

Steve

Hi Steve,

Thanks again for continuing the conversation.

1. Yes, we both agree that there is only one true God.

2. I’m not really concerned what other scholars think about John 20:28 because the interpretation that I offered is just as plausible as the other perspective that you are espousing. I only need to be able to offer a reasonable explanation based upon exegetical and contextual evidence that is consistent with other factors that suggest the apostles were not teaching that the human Jesus was the same being as God the Father. John 20:28 is not decisive either way.

3. For the sake of brevity, I would point out that my understanding of Philippians 2:6a is that the resurrected human Jesus was “existing in the form of God” at the time when Paul was writing the letter to the church. This is why the verb translated “existing” is a Present Participle (in contrast to the subsequent Aorist verbs which refer to the earthly ministry of Jesus in 2:6b-8).

4. Unlike most other Biblical Unitarians, I agree with you that John 5:18 is plainly saying that the disciples understood that the human Jesus was “making himself equal with God.” However, we still must interpret in what sense there was “equality” between the Father and the son. My understanding is that the “equality” was a matter of inheritance (co-ownership) and not an ontological issue. There are many different ways that two persons can be “equal” without sharing the same “being.”

5. For the sake of brevity, I’ll just say that I would also understand the “glory I had with you before the world was” (John 17:5) in the context of inheritance (co-ownership). The human Jesus was not talking about Preexistence in this context, but was merely referring to the possession of God’s glory to which he was always entitled. For example, my own father established his wealth long before I was born, and yet I can claim it was my own because I will inherit it someday.

6. For the sake of brevity, I’ll just mention that my understanding of John 1:1 is that it is a resurrection text and not a Preexistence text. However, unlike most Biblical Unitrarians, I do agree with you that John 1:1 is using “the word” (LOGOS) to refer to a person (i.e. the human Jesus, as in John 1:14; 1 John 1:1; Revelation 19:13).

7. My understanding of Hebrews 1:3 that it is referring to the glorified status that the human Jesus attained as a result of his resurrection and ascension. I think “exact representation of His nature” is an unlikely translation. The writer of Hebrews uses UPOSTASIS elsewhere to mean “assurance” (which has no ontological connotation). See Hebrews 3:14; Hebrews 11:1.

8. We simply differ on how we read Titus 2:13. I take “the glory of our great God” to be referring to something that God exemplifies, and not to the person of God himself. On the other hand, you read it as a reference to God himself. My understanding of the passage maintains a distinction between two different beings (God, Jesus) where “the glory” of one of them (i.e. God the Father) is attributed to the other one (i.e. Jesus Christ).

9. There are some Greek scholars who share the same perspective on Titus 2:13 that I do. However, selectively pitting some scholars against other scholars proves nothing. Thus, I would rather focus on the exegetical considerations the should be the determining factors. Ultimately, you and I have to consider the evidence for ourselves and make up our own minds.

10. As I noted earlier, I agree with you that John 5:18 indicates that Jesus was “making himself equal with God” on the basis of “claiming that God was his own Father.” In each case where the Jews wanted to stone Jesus, he was making this claim (cf. John 8:54; John 10:33-36). However, you are presuming that “equality” is an ontological term and I don’t think that is an accurate connotation of the word. I think a divine Father and an human son can be “equal” in the sense that any son who is the “heir” already owns everything that belongs to his father (Galatians 4:1-2).

11. I don’t think it logically follows that because both God the Father and the human Jesus assume the authority to raise the dead that it requires that we understand that they were both the same being. Keep in mind, Jesus attributed his authority to raise the dead to God the Father (John 5:21-26; John 17:2).

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8 Responses to Rivers and Steve Bruecker debate the trinity at Trinities.org

  1. Anonymous says:

    Jesus was once one of the principalities of the beginners (Archei) of heaven above the rank of angels (Aggeloi). Other name of the principalities is the First-begotten. Both Principalities and angels are the passive vessel of creation before the world began.
    Unitarians believe Jesus was created, because he was foreordained before existing. Man is made in the image of the principalities, whereas woman is made in the image of angels.
    Rom 8:29
    For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.

    Woman is made in the image of angels, hence angels are also “Vessel” of creation.
    1Cor 11:10
    For this cause ought the woman to have power on her head because of the angels.

    Adam was made by dust, the ground.
    1Cor 15:49
    And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.

    Unitarians believe Jesus was created, because he was foreordained before existing. As Arius says, there’s a time or moment when Jesus was not.
    1Pet 1:20
    Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you,

    The Old Testament is made thru a vessel (disposition) of angels.
    One of angel appears to Jews at Bochim, taking the role as the “Word of God”, acting as a spokesperson of Jehovah to Jews by expressing his bitter regret of having promised the Canaan Land in his name to them.
    Acts 7:53
    Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it.
    Jud 2
    1 And an angel of the LORD came up from Gilgal to Bochim, and said, I made you to go up out of Egypt, and have brought you unto the land which I sware unto your fathers; and I said, I will never break my covenant with you.4 And it came to pass, when the angel of the LORD spake these words unto all the children of Israel, that the people lifted up their voice, and wept.

    Other angel appears to Zechariah, taking the role as the “Word of God”, acting as a spokesperson of Jehovah to him by expressing his sadness of receiving a cursed city of Jerusalem in his blessed name.
    Zech 1:14
    So the angel that communed with me said unto me, Cry thou, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with a great jealousy.

  2. madmanna says:

    I said no discussions about word meanings. This comment will be deleted.

    If you can’t find an english translation that supports your interpretation then hard cheese as they say. Otherwise I am not giving you the chance to pretend that you are a translator.

  3. Anonymous says:

    It is possible for Thomas to say the word of surprise and exclamation “my Lord and my God” to himself.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Some preexistent persons other than Jesus in the Bible:
    (i) Mary: Isaiah saw her to have the virgin birth, and since the time of Adam she has been prophesied to give birth for a man who shall defeat Satan.
    (ii) Judas, Jewish scribes, priests: Without naming them specifically, Judas was chosen to betray Jesus, and other Jewish leaders were chosen to harm him.
    (iii) John the Baptist: Malachi saw him to prepare the way of repentance from the wilderness.
    (iv) Joseph, Pharaoh and Moses: Without naming them specifically, Jehovah promised to Abraham several centuries the important events of migration, oppression and liberation of the descendants of Abraham in the foreign land.
    (v) Two unknown Messiahs: Zechariah saw them in heaven like the candlesticks.
    (vi) Two unnamed Prophets in the book of Revelation: They currently stay in the heaven like the candlesticks.
    (vii) Cyrus: He was specifically named by Isaiah, and was chosen as the anointed one some centuries before he was born.
    (viii) Levi: He was chosen in Abraham to become a founder of the Aaronite Priesthood thru the tithes to the High Priest Melchisedek.
    (ix) Jeroboam: Jehovah promised to tear apart Solomon’s kingdom by giving it to his servant. Jeroboam the son of Nebat, one of Solomon’s servants, splits the kingdom.
    (x) Alexander: Daniel saw his rise in the vision, as king of Grecia.
    (xi) Nebuchadnessar: Ezekiel saw his rise with vision as the king of Chaldea.
    (xii) Rahab: She was chosen to be ancestor of Christ. After marrying Salmon, she bore a son named Boaz, the grandfather of Jesse, the father of David.

  5. θ says:

    Ontology vs. Nature.
    Once upon a time, Adam’s rib was taken to create a new female in the image of angels, and she was named Eve. Is Eve co-equal by nature to Adam? No. Despite being made of his rib, Adam is still more higher than Eve as her head.

    How many persons are there to appear after one of Adam’s ribs was taken to make Eve? Two.
    Adam is human.
    Eve is human.

    How many agents are involved in the creation of Eve? Three.
    Adam.
    Angels, who are by nature a spirit, but whose act has given the female’s head the angelic glory.
    Human’s flesh that is made of dust or the earthy images.

    De facto, by nature both Adam and angels are two agents (vessel, mediums) in the creation of women. The Woman was made directly of a Man’s rib. But this doesn’t mean Adam is a god.

    From the ontological sense, the Woman’s head is made by the acts of angels, but this doesn’t mean that angels are gods.

  6. θ says:

    Addendum:
    Despite being one in nature (made of Adam’s rib), Eve is not counted as Adam’s daughter, but his wife.

  7. madmanna says:

    Pre-existent as thoughts in the mind of God but not self-conscious beings.

  8. θ says:

    “madmanna says: Pre-existent as thoughts in the mind of God but not self-conscious beings.”

    Since when has the man’s consciousness begun? John the Baptist leaps for joy when hearing a salutation by the pregnant Mary thru the ears of Elizabeth. The Sons of God shouted for joy before the world began.
    Lk 1:44
    For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.
    Job 38
    6 Whereupon are the foundations thereof fastened? or who laid the corner stone thereof;7 When the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy.

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