Does the Bible really say Jesus was God? (continued)


(Jon) #1

@Korvexius, here you are (it’s in three posts because of the length; the board won’t let me post it all at once). Sorry for the wait.

**Point one. Binitarianism.

One of the reasons for your recurring misreading of sources is your failure to understand that “binitarianism” is used in different ways in the literature. In Christian studies (especially studies of early Christianity), when used to describe Christian beliefs, it is typically (though not always), used in the sense of God as two persons. That’s the sense in which you keep using it.

However, this is not the only sense in which it is used in the broader literature. In the broader literature, especially on Second Temple Period Judaism and Gnostic studies, it is used to describe the belief in two separate divine beings; typically the one true God, and a lesser divine entity (ontologically and functionally inferior), who is not God. Here Culianu uses the term “binitarianism” in this sense.

"Graetz and his followers certainly were wrong in their demonstrations, because they confused two distinct concepts, namely ditheism (or binitarianism) and dualism. Some Jewish pre-Christian doctrines actually were acquainted with the idea of a second god, who was sometimes held responsible for the creation of the world. This second divine being was usually an angel of the Lord, who obeyed His orders and who by no means had any evil intent towards Him.

That’s very clear; a second divine being (usually an angel), obedient to God and the agent of creation, and that’s described as “binitarianism”. Culianu goes on to call this “ditheism”, while differentiating it from dualism.

“The earliest rabbinic evidence concerning the condemnation of this ditheistic heresy belongs to the IInd cent. A.D., but Philo of Alexandria had previously discussed the hypothesis of two Gods. Therefore, it is possible to state that the doctrine was pre-Christian. It is also possible to state, with absolute certainty, that the doctrine was not dualistic. Radical dualism involves the coeternity of two antagonistic principles, while mitigated dualism involves a discontinuity in the expanding of Being. Jewish binitarianism did not fit either the first or the second kinds of dualism. Nevertheless, some of the Jewish ditheists seem to have believed that the world had been created by an angel of the Lord.” [1]

Again, Culianu describes the idea of a second divine being who is an angel, as both “binitarianism” and “ditheism”. Culianu concludes thus.

“Jewish ditheism is certainly pre-Christian. In the 1st century A.D. or earlier, the binitarian doctrine undergoes the following transformations:” [2]

Note again that here Culianu is using “ditheism” as a synonym for “binitarianiism”. This is not the definition that you use.

You claim to agree with what Schafer says about Second Temple Period binitarianism, but that’s only because you don’t understand how he uses the term. He does not use it with the meaning you ascribe to it. He applies a very different meaning to it. Schafer himself uses “binitarianism” and “Trinitarianism” as speaking of two and three gods respectively (which Trinitarians vehemently reject).

“Many of the debates between the rabbis and the heretics betray a sharp and furious rejection of ideas about God that smack of polytheism in its pagan or Christian guise, the latter making do with just two or three gods—that is, developing a binitarian or trinitarian theology.” [3]

Note that Schafer forthrightly describes the Trinity as “polytheism” in a “Christian guse”. In Schafer’s view, the “two powers” heresy was the belief in “two more or less equal deities”, which he defines as “binitarianism”.

“Hence, a “two powers” heresy in the sense of a dualistic (gnostic) theology would not appear to be the most obvious option, as has often been proposed.10 The more likely option, therefore, is a “binitarian” theology, according to which two more or less equal deities are held jointly responsible for the creation of the world.” [4]

Of course you do not believe that “binitarianism” is the belief in “two more or less equal deities”; you define the word completely differently. However, the definition used by Schafer is found repeatedly in the literature.

You thought that Segal uses the word the way you do. He does not. Segal use the same definition as Schafer, in his classic work “Two Powers In Heaven”. In his view early Christianity was originally binitarian, but Segal describes this as “complementary instead of opposing deities”. Note the plural; you do not believe in plural deities, surely? That’s not binitarianism in your view. Segal notes the “two powers” heresy may have been binitarianism or ditheism.

“At its beginning, Christianity was rather more “binitarian” than trinitarian, emphasizing only Christ and the Father as God. Since Christianity has been suggested as a candidate for the heresy by scholars, we must be prepared to allow that the “two powers in heaven” were complementary instead of opposing deities as one normally expects. The heresy may have been “binitarianism” or “ditheism” depending on the perspective of the speaker, but not necessarily opposing dualism. Thus, propounding a strict definition of the heresy before looking at the evidence will be impossible.” [5]

Again, note that Segal defines early Christian binitarianism as “complementary instead of opposing deities”. This is not the definition you use. Later he notes that the reference to “two gods” in Rabbi Hiyya ben Abba can be equated with binitarianism, making ditheism and binitarianism equivalent in this case.

“Note that the term “two gods” (ditheism) can be equated with “two powers” (binitarianism) in this passage.” [6]

Importantly, Segal says the earliest rabbinic opposition to “two powers” was opposition to the view of a second divine figure who is ontologically and functionally subordinate to God, as an arch-angel, mediator, or principle agent. Note that this is not binitarianism in your definition; this is not opposition to the idea of a “complex Godhead” of God as two persons.

“The earliest isolatable rabbinic opposition to “two powers,” then, is not against ethical dualism, but against a principal angel or mediator” [7]

Segal says it is “apt” to refer to this idea of a subordinate secondary divine figure or mediator who is not God (who is an angel), as binitarianism or ditheism.

While it seems possible that the angelic or anthropomorphic creature has some relation to the problem of theodicy, the helping angel is in no way evil. The portrayal of the second figure does not explain the existence of evil so much as the appearance of a sublime divinity to men. Therefore it is apt to call such beliefs “binitarianism” or “ditheism” rather than “dualism.”" [8]

So Segal uses “binitarian” and “ditheism” as complementary and overlapping terms, to describe two separate divine beings (not a “complex Godhead” of God as two persons), where the second being is not God, and is ontologically and functionally subordinate to the one true God. He refers to this as “complementary binitarianism” to differentiate it from forms of binitarianism which are ditheism or even dualism. [9] This is clearly not what you mean by “binitarianism”. Segal goes on to show how the earliest Church Fathers (starting with Hermas and Justin Martyr), held to a “complementary binitarianism” of two separate divine figures; the Father as the one true God, and Jesus as a separate divine figure in the form of an angel, ontologically and functionally subordinate to God. Again, this is not what you mean when you say “binitarian”.

Confusion between these two definitions is one of the reasons Hurtado cites for his abandonment of the term. When he used the term “binitarian” people kept thinking he was speaking of the belief in God as two persons, but he was not. Hurtado denies that the New Testament teaches a “complex Godhead”, and has specifically opposed Bauckham’s claim that Jesus was seen as part of the “divine identity”. Hurtado does not say the first Christians believed this but just didn’t have the words to say it, he says they didn’t believe it. One of the reasons for this is that he does not believe “binitarianism” in the sense of a “complex Godhead” (one God who is two persons), existed in Second Temple Period Judaism. As I have said, Hurtado’s arguments can get you to ontological binitarianism, but only if you go beyond what Hurtado himself argues. You cannot get there with his arguments alone, because he does not argue for ontological binitarianism.

As we know, Hurtado does not even believe Jesus is worshiped as God in the New Testatment. Hurtado uses “binitarian” in the sense of two divine figures who are two separate beings. For Hurtado, the New Testament teaches there is one God (the Father), who is the creator and source of all things, and Jesus is the unique agent of God’s divine purposes (such as creation and redemption).

Significantly, Hurtado only uses “binitarian” in a functional sense (not an ontological sense), and regards Jesus in the New Testament as functionally divine (not ontologically divine). Consequently, Hurtado speaks of a “binitarian shape of worship” not a binitarian theology, and has stated explicitly “In short, I am not an exponent of “binitarianism””, and “I don’t recall ever referring to “binitarianism”, but instead to a “binitarian devotional pattern” (and similar phrasing)”. In direct contrast to you, Hurtado does not argue that the New Testament contains “binitarianism” as you define it (in fact he does not argue that the New Testament contains binitarianism at all). He doesn’t even think Thomas’ confession in John 20:28 is historically authentic; he views it as a theological inclusion by the “Johannine community” at the end of the first century.

Point two. Border Lines & Jewish Gospels.

Let’s look at your original reason for appealing to Boyarin. This was your argument.

The works of Segal and Boyarin collectively demonstrate that Judaic monotheism wasn’t as simple “one God one person one everything” – and that the multiplicity of the persons of God, not just the bodies, was known and not at all heretical in pre-Christian Judaism.

That’s very clear. You were appealing to Boyarin’s work to prove that “the multiplicity of the persons of God” was “known and not at all heretical in pre-Christian Judaism”. It is remarkable therefore that to date you have not cited Boyarin actually saying this at all. However, you have been claiming that Boyarin presents evidence for a Second Temple Period binitarianism which regarded God as two persons.

Now here’s the problem.

  1. You appealed to Boyarin’s argument for Second Temple Period Judaism.

  2. To date you have claimed that Boyarin does not make this argument in “Border Lines”.

  3. You have acknowledged that he does make this argument in “Jewish Gospels”.

  4. You have claimed that criticism of “Jewish Gospels” is irrelevant to this argument.

Since “Jewish Gospels” makes the very argument to which you appealed, then how can you claim that criticism of that specific argument in “Jewiish Gospels” is irrelevant to the point you are making? The criticisms of “Jewish Gospeles” I cited are all criticizing exactly the argument to which you appealed.

So let’s be clear on this. Are you still claiming that Boyarin’s work has proved that “the multiplicity of the persons of God” was “known and not at all heretical in pre-Christian Judaism”? If so, then which of his works do you claim makes this argument? Is it “Border Lines” or “Jewish Gospels” or both, or neither? If you say it’s “Jewish Gospels”, then all the criticisms of that argument in “Jewish Gospels” which I have cited, are relevant. If it’s “Border Lines”, then you’ve just contradicted what you say here.

In fact, now that I’ve read Border Lines, it is dead obvious that they do not make the same arguments whatsoever.

And here.

The argument of Border Lines is utterly different from that of The Jewish Gospels. Border Lines was written to examine how Christianity and Judaism originally separated from each other.

I’ll now summarize the arguments which are found in both “Border Lines” and “Jewish” Gospels. In fact, both of them examine how Christianity and Judaism originally separated from each other. This is explained in the very first page of both books. Here are the arguments common to both books.

  1. Judaism & Christianity were once one religion, which eventually became artificially differentiated.
  • Border Lines (1): “First of all, I will insist that the borders between Christianity and Judaism are as constructed and imposed, as artificial and political as any of the borders on earth. I shall propose in this book that just as the border between Mexico and the United States is a border that was imposed by strong people on weaker people, so too is the border between Christianity and Judaism.”

  • Jewish Gospels (1): “In this book, I’m going to tell a very different historical story, a story of a time when Jews and Christians were much more mixed up with each other than they are now, when there were many Jews who believed in something quite like the Father and the Son and even in something quite like the incarnation of the Son in the Messiah, and when followers of Jesus kept kosher as Jews, and accordingly a time in which the question of the difference between Judaism and Christianity just didn’t exist as it does now.”

  1. Many Second Temple Jews were expecting a divine messiah.

The claim that the Jews were expecting a divine messiah takes up three entire chapters in “Border Lines” (chapters 4-6). This is Boyarin’s argument for a binitarian strain of belief in Second Temple Period Judaism. So the argument which you claim is completely absent from “Border Lines”, actually takes up three entire chapters of the book (you can see this explained in detail here).

  • Border Lines (30-31): “Logos theology, in the sense in which I use it here, is constituted by several variations of a doctrine that between God and the world, there is a second divine entity, God’s Word (Logos) or God’s Wisdom, who mediates between the fully transcendent Godhead and the material world. This doctrine was widely held by Jews in the pre-Christian era and after the beginnings of Christianity was widely held and widely contested in Christian circles.”

  • Jewish Gospels (1-2): “Jesus, when he came,came in a form that many, many Jews were expecting: a second divine figure incarnated in a human.”

  1. The term “Son of Man” refers to a divine figure who can be called God.
  • Border Lines (141): “We end up with a clear indication of a second divine person, called the Youth (Son of Man), about whom it can be discussed whether he is identical in essence, similar in essence, similar (no essence), or dissimilar entirely with the first person.”

  • Jewish Gospels (26): In this chapter, I will show that almost the opposite was the case in the Gospel of Mark: “Son of God” referred to the king of Israel, the earthly king of David’s seat, while “Son of Man” referred to a heavenly figure and not a human being at all."

  1. The vision of Daniel 7 proves the Jews expected the messiah to be a divine figure.

This argument takes up 24 pages of Jewish Gospels.

  1. There are two divine figures in Daniel 7 (Border Lines 141, Jewish Gospels 39-40).
  2. The “son of man” in Daniel 7 is a title referring to God (Border Lines 141, Jewish Gospels 33).
  3. This use of “son of man” to refer to God, is also found in 1 Enoch (Border Lines 141, Jewish Gospels 52, 73, 77).
  4. A text attributed to Ravi Akiba (second century), shows he interpreted Daniel 7 as referring to “two powers in heaven”, which Boyarin presents as evidence that early Christians believed the “son of man” in Daniel 7 was one of two divine persons in a binitarian sense (Border Lines 140, Jewish Gospels 40-41).

Remember, you have claimed “Boyarin never argues for a divine Messiah in Border Lines”, But he does, explicitly.

  1. The visions in 1 Enoch & 4 Ezra (2 Esdras), prove the Jews expected the messiah to be a divine figure.

Once again, we find another argument in “Border Lines” that the Jews expected a divine messiah; he also links Daniel 7 to the Trinity by referring to the " two divine figures are portrayed in Daniel 7, whom we might be tempted to call the Father and the Son".

  • Border Lines (141): :We end up with a clear indication of a second divine person, called the Youth (Son of Man), about whom it can be discussed whether he is identical in essence, similar in essence, similar (no essence), or dissimilar entirely with the first person. When he is called or calls himself the “Son of Man” this is a citation of the Daniel text.79 He is called the “Youth,” that is, the “Son of Man,” in contrast to the “Ancient of Days.” These traditions all understand that two divine figures are portrayed in Daniel 7, whom we might be tempted to call the Father and the Son. Evidence for this concatenation of Enoch, Metatron, and the Son of Man can be adduced from 1 Enoch 71, in which Enoch is explicitly addressed as the Son of Man—and Enoch is, of course, Metatron before his apotheosis. Nonrabbinic and even antirabbinic ideas (that is, ideas that the Rabbis themselves."

  • Jewish Gospels (71-101): far too much to quote directly

So it is obviously untrue that the two books “do not make the same arguments whatsoever”, and it is also untrue that “The argument of Border Lines is utterly different from that of The Jewish Gospels”.

Now to your responses to specific scholarly critiques.

  1. You claimed NT Wright’s review “has zero to do with Border Lines”, when in fact it is critiquing an argument which is made explicitly in “Border Lines”; the claim that the Jews were expecting a divine messiah.

  2. You say that all Paget and Smith are saying is that Boyarin “hasn’t proven that logos theology was normative in Second Temple Judaism”. But that is very obviously not all they are saying. Paget says Boyarin’s thesis that binitarianism was common in the Second Temple Period, is “contentious”, and that the “The sources on which he bases his wide-ranging conclusions about Jewish binitarianism are problematic, as his reading of the prologue of John’s Gospel in terms of a kind of history of Jewish binitarianism”. He also says Boyarin’s effort to suggest that a high Christology would not have been out of place in Second Temple Period Judaism “remains unproven”. None of this is talking about Logos theology.

Smith likewise says Boyarin’s claim that binitarian views were normative in the Second Temple Period “is highly controversial” and “exceeds the available evidence”. Commenting on Boyarin’s thesis that Israel worshiped two gods until one of them was subsumed into the other, re-merging briefly as the “Son of Man” in Daniel 7, Smith comments “Boyarin’s view requires further evidence”. Once again, that’s not about logos theology.

Additionally, as I have pointed out, the “binitarianism” of which Paget and Smith speak is not a binitarianism of God being two persons, but of two divine figures, one of them being the one true God (who is one person), and one of them being subordinate divine figure (such as an angel, personification of one of God’s attributes, or an exalted human).

  1. You objected to Adriel Shremer’s criticism of Boyarin on the basis that you think he “wants to hold on to his own (highly) idiosyncratic explanation for the rise of binitarian theology”. You didn’t address any of his criticism of Boyarin’s arguments. That’s important, because the criticisms which Schremer makes are ths same criticisms made by other scholars, such as Paget, Smith, Schafer, DeCock, and Hurtado. Schremer extensively criticized Boyarin’s use of later rabbinic commentary, saying that Boyarin’s claim that specific rabbinic texts refer to early Christian views of Jesus as examples of the Two Powers heresy, are “has never been demonstrated”. He also disputes Boyarin’s tendency to read references to Christians into rabbinic texts where they do not exist, and that the dating of one of his key pieces of evidence “is difficult to accept”. Assessing similar rabbinic evidence presented by Boyarin, Schremer describes the reliability of the attributions as “extremely feeble “. Again, this is the same kind of criticism which has been made by other scholars, and you haven’t addressed any of it.

You ask this.

Schafer and DeCock never claim that it is wrong that Rabbi Akiva interpreted Daniel 7 as referring to two divine figures. Akiva, in the texts Boyarin cites, does make that claim. That’s clear. Schafer and DeCock never criticise that. Akiva makes this interpretation. So where is the relevance in this?

The relevance, as I made clear, is that both Schafer and DeCock point out that Akiva is not saying God is two persons. He is speaking of two divine figures. Boyarin presents Akiva’s quotation as evidence that early Christians believed the “son of man” in Daniel 7 was one of two divine persons both in one being in a binitarian sense (Border Lines 140, Jewish Gospels 40-41). Both Schafter and DeCock point out there is no evidence for this interpretation of Akiva.

You say this.

We must remember that I originally wrote that both Alan Segal and Daniel Boyarin’s work demonstrates binitarianism in Judaism by the first century and earlier. In fact, this is virtually consensus because of the two scholars. Both Schafer and DeCock agree with Boyarin that bintarianism existed among the Jews at this time – they just claim that Boyarin makes it seem like he invented this claim, even though he didn’t and that it is well known anyways in scholarship before The Jewish Gospels.

The problem here is that you’re not understanding what they mean. Both Schafer and DeCock use “binitarian” only in the sense of “two divine figures”, and not in the sense of “one God who is actually two persons”. Both of them say that the idea of two separate divine figures is well documented in Second Temple Period Judaism, but only in the sense of the one true God and a divine agent who is separate from Him. DeCock points this out explicitly.

Despite Boyarin’s controversial argument that the “germs” of Trinitarian theology were already present in Jewish thought at the time of Jesus, what he actually demonstrates to us is a Jewish binitarian theology, with which few would disagree. For example, many today are on board with Larry W. Hurtado’s work in One God, One Lord: Early Christian Devotion and Ancient Jewish Monotheism, in which he demonstrates that early Judaism provided early Christianity with the conceptual categories for accommodating the exaltation of Jesus to God’s right hand.

That’s a “binitarian theology” in which Jesus is not God, an “exaltation Christology” in which Jesus is a divine agent of God. DeCock agrees with Hurtado’s view of Jesus, in which Jesus is not one of the persons in a Godhead, and is not worshiped as God. Schafer likewise describes a “binitarian idea of two divine figures”, one of which is not God, but is either an exalted human (such as Enoch), or an angel, or the Word of God. Schafer says this.

It turns out, for example, that the old binitarian idea of two divine figures, presaged in Second Temple Judaism and adopted by the New Testament, lived on in certain circles in rabbinic Judaism, despite its ever more sophisticated formulation in Christian theology with its climax in the doctrine of Trinity. The most prominent example of rabbinic Judaism’s ongoing preoccupation with—and its struggle against—binitarian ideas within its own fold is** the elevation of the prediluvian patriarch Enoch to the highest angel Metatron**, enthroned in heaven next to God and granted the title “Lesser God.”

It is totally clear that when they refer to binitarianism in Second Temple Period Judaism, they are not speaking of one God who is two persons; they are not speaking of a “complex Godhead”.

You posted a lot of positive comments from reviewers of Boarin’s work. Strangely, you included commentary on “Jewish Gospels” even though you kept telling me that this book makes completely different arguments to “Border Lines” and is totally irrelevant to this discussion. I note you quoted only eight scholars, which was interesting. Surely if Boyarin has been as overwhelmingly convincing as you claim, and has overturned the entire scholarly consensus, you would be able to find some evidence for this; much more than only eight scholars.

But what’s even more interesting is that out of your eight scholars, only two of them think that Boyarin has provided evidence for pre-Christian Jewish “binitarianism” in the sense of a “complex Godhead”, in which God is more than one person. Joshua Kulp says this.

“Boyarin demonstrates that previous to these centuries the belief in a complex godhead was not a mark through which Jesus-followers were distinguished from those Jews who did not follow him.”

Joshua Brumbach says this.

“Boyarin provides a serious proposal for understanding complex unity, and how it developed in Early Judaism.”

That’s it. Those are the only two scholars on that list of yours which agree with the argument which is the whole reason why you cited Boyarin in the first place. None of the other scholars describe Boyarin making this argument at all, and none of them use “binitarian” in the sense of a “complex Godhead” in which God is at least two persons.

  • Boustan understands Boyarin as arguing for “the existence of a second divine power who mediates between an otherwise wholly transcendent deity and the material world”; he says nothing about Boyarin proving a case for a “complex Godhead” in Second Temple Period Judaism, and absolutely nothing about binitarinism of any kind

  • Wyrick understands Boyarin as arguing for “a Jewish worship of a helper divinity, variously referred to as Logos, Memra, and/or Sophia”; note that Wyrick’s definition of “binitarianism” is one true God, who is assisted by “a helper divinity” who is not God, and he says nothing about Boyarin proving a case for a “complex Godhead” in Second Temple Period Judaism

  • Miller says only "Boyarin devotes much attention to the notion that there is a divine power that was perceived as wisdom, or “the Word,” which he believes can be traced to first-century Judaism, and says Boyarin believes this belief was drawn on by the author of John’s gospel, and that’s all he says about the subject; he says nothing about Boyarin proving a case for a “complex Godhead” in Second Temple Period Judaism, and absolutely nothing about binitarinism of any kind

  • Miles says Boyarin “suggests that the view Rabbinic Judaism would eventually proscribe as “two powers in heaven” was once legitimately Jewish, while the view Christianity would eventually proscribe as “Judaizing” was once legitimately Christian”, and that’s all he says on the subject; he says nothing at all about a “complex Godhead” in Second Temple Period Judaism, and absolutely nothing about binitarianism of any kind (remember, this is the guy who wrote a blurb for the book)

  • Grypeou says “The succession in rabbinic authority was constructed on the invention of rabbinic orthodoxy as opposed to the heresy of “Two Powers in Heaven.”", and that is literally all she says about the subject; he says nothing about Boyarin proving a case for a “complex Godhead” in Second Temple Period Judaism, and absolutely nothing about binitarinism of any kind

  • Michael Carden understands Boyarin as arguing for “a Jewish worship of a helper divinity, variously referred to as Logos, Memra, and/or Sophia”; note that Carden’s definition of “binitarianism” is one true God, who is assisted by “a helper divinity” who is not God, and he says nothing about Boyarin proving a case for a “complex Godhead” in Second Temple Period Judaism

Remember, you said this.

The works of Segal and Boyarin collectively demonstrate that Judaic monotheism wasn’t as simple “one God one person one everything” – and that the multiplicity of the persons of God, not just the bodies, was known and not at all heretical in pre-Christian Judaism.

That’s very clear. You were appealing to Boyarin’s work to prove that “the multiplicity of the persons of God” was “known and not at all heretical in pre-Christian Judaism”. It is remarkable therefore that to date you have not cited Boyarin actually saying this at all. To save us both some time, please tell me which of Boyarin’s works makes this claim, and what evidence he cites in support of it.

So I say again, Boyarin has made extremely bold claims which have convinced very few people at all (so few that you could only find one person who agreed with his specific novel claim), and only highly qualified assent has been given to any of his claims. This is mainly because he did not present any actual evidence that God was viewed as a “duality of persons” at any time during the Second Temple Period. Hurtado states bluntly, “there is no indication of any duality in the worship practice of 2nd temple Jews”.

By the way, have you looked for all the references to Boyarin in the first volume of “Jesus Monotheism”? I have. He receives hardly a mention. The most significant reference to him is this complete rejection of his claim regarding the “son of man” in Enoch.

So D. Boyarin’s claim that the Enochic Son of Man is a “divine person,” and “a Son alongside the Ancient of Days, whom we might begin to think of as the Father” (Jewish Gospels, 77) is misguided.” [10]

The only mention of Boyarin in connection to binitarianism is this.

“Daniel Boyarin (in his Border Lines and Jewish Gospels) goes even further: there was a binitarian strand of Jewish theology already in pre-Christian Judaism (attested especially in Dan 7 and the Similitudes of Enoch).” [11]

But wait, you have told me that “Border Lines” and “Jewish Gospels” have completely different arguments, and “they do not make the same arguments whatsoever”. Yet here is Fletcher-Louis claiming that both books argue "there was a binitarian strand of Jewish theology already in pre-Christian Judaism ", and saying that both books appeal to Daniel 7 and the Similitudes of Enoch. How is it that Fletcher-Louis didn’t come to the same conclusion as you? How could he say that this same argument was made in both books, using the same passages, when you have insisted “they do not make the same arguments whatsoever”?

Fletcher-Louis does not comment on the precise nature of Boyarin’s “binitarianism” (nor does he say whether or not he agrees with it), but importantly there is no mention at all of Boyarin having convinced everyone of a doctrine of a “complex Godhead” in Second Temple Period Judaism, nor does Fletcher-Louis ever appeal to any such claim by Boyarin. Maybe Fletcher-Louis missed the memo that you received, about how all the scholars now believe that Second Temple Period Jews believed in a “complex Godhead” of God as more than one person?

Finally, yes I have already read Boyarin’s paper on the Memra, and it’s just an earlier version of the same arguments he recycles in “Border Lines” and “Jewish Gospels”.

Point three. Boyarin & binitarianism.

This is related to the descriptions of binitarianism at the beginning of this post. In a previous post I cited these phrases from Boyarin.

“two divine figures” (Jewish Gospels, 39)
“two divinities” (Jewish Gospels, 40)
“two divine figures in heaven” (Jewish Gospels, 40)
“a second divine figure” (Jewish Gospels, 43)
“a young God subordinated to an old God” (Jewish Gospels, 51)
“Son as a “Second God”” (Border Lines, 90)
“a second God” (Border Lines, 92)
“a “second” God” (Border Lines, 113)
“second god” (Border Lines, 116)
“second god” (Border Lines, 122)
“two divine powers” (Border Lines, 123)
“second god” (Border Lines, 125)
“second God” (Border Lines, 138)
“two divine figures” (Border Lines, 141)
“two divine figures” (Border Lines, 301)

Your very odd response was this.

So how can any of the quotations you provide be evidence of something like ditheism in Boyarin?

They are not evidence of something like ditheism in Boyarin. I did not present them as ditheism in Boyarin at all. If you had read the rest of what I wrote right after those words, you would have known that I stated repeatedly, very strongly, that this is not ditheism in Boyarin. Why did you even ask that question, when it was totally irrelevant to what I wrote? The point I made is that these are examples of Boyarin’s “binitarianism” which is not “a complex Godhead” of one God with two persons. Boyarin’s “binitarianism” is usually (but not always), two separate divine beings, only one of whom is the one true God, while the other is an ontologically and functionally subordinate divine being such as an exalted human, an arch-angel, or a hypostasis of one of God’s attributes. None of these is “binitarianism” in the sense of “a complex Godhead” of one God with two persons.

As I have pointed out, this is exactly how Boyarin’s description of Second Temple Period Jewish “binitarianism” is understood by scholars such as Schafer, Hurtado, DeCock, Boustan, Brumbach, Carden, Wyrick, and others.

The ambiguity of Boyarin’s use of the term “binitarian” is seen even more distinctly when he represents it as a synonym of ditheism, as he does here.

“Goshen-Gottstein has somehow misread my work to imply that the issue of “Two Powers in Heaven” “stands at the heart of the parting of the ways.” My argument is entirely opposite from such a notion, since I am suggesting strenuously that binitarian/ditheistic notions of godhead are a shared retention between later Jews and Christians of an earlier theological approach and not one formed in one of the later communities and either accepted or rejected by the other one.” [12]

In “Border Lines” he explains that when he uses the term “Logos theology” he is not speaking of one specific kind of theology, especially not one specific Christian belief in God as two persons. Instead he uses the term “Logos theology” in a very general sense, to cover various different theologies which he describes as “binitarian”.

“The Gospel of John, according to this view, when taken together with the Logos of Philo and with the Targum, provides further important evidence that Logos theology, used here as a general term for various closely related binitarian theologies, was the religious koine of Jews in Palestine and the Diaspora, their theological lingua franca, which is not, of course, to claim that it was a universally held position.” [13]

In “Border Lines” he uses “binitarianism” to describe the following.

  • The idea of one true God, who is accompanied by a personification or hypostasis of one of His attributes (such as His Word/Memra or Wisdom/Sophia), which acts as a mediator or agent of God (but is not God); this is not what you mean when you say “binitarianism”

“various second-God theologies of Jews, including Logos, Memra, Sophia, Metatron, and others” [14]

  • The idea of one true God, who is accompanied by a second divine figure (a separate entity who is not God), who is ontologically and functionally subordinate to God, such as an exalted human or an arch-angel; this is not what you mean when you say “binitarianism”

“a binitarian, who holds that the angelic viceregent, Metatron, is to be worshiped” [15]

  • The later Christian idea of one God who is two persons; this is what you mean when you say “binitarianism” (but he only uses this once)

“binitarianism (the ante-Nicene predecessor to trinitarianism)” [16]

So when he uses terms such as “Logos theology” and “binitarianism”, he isn’t even referring to the same thing each time. Meanwhile, you blithely assume that every time he uses “binitarian” and “binitarianism”. he means the belief that God is two persons. That is completely misguided.

I quoted a quotation from Boyarin and asked if you agreed with it. Your reply was very weird. You said this (I have highlighted the weird parts).

Wait, what is exactly controversial here? It’s a fact that some early Jews accused Christians of ditheism. This is obvious. It is so obvious that Boyarin doesn’t even find the need to provide a reference, even though he provided a reference for the sentence that comes directly before this. Jews accused bintarian Christians of ditheism. The entire quote is pretty and simply correct.

The problem with your answer is that it does not address anything in the quotation at all. The quotation from Boyarin said absolutely nothing about Jews accusing Christians of ditheism. This is another case of you just skim reading. Here is the quotation again. Please read it properly this time.

"In the first and second centuries, there were Jewish non-Christians who firmly held theological doctrines of a second God, variously called Logos, Memra, Sophia, Metatron, or Yahoel; indeed, perhaps most of the Jews did so at the time. There were also significant and powerful Christian voices who claimed that any distinction of persons within the godhead constituted ditheism.”

I have highlighted the key points to make it clearer for you. You’re saying that entire quotation is correct?

Finally, when I pointed out that Boyarin qualifies his use of “divine” by saying that when he refers to Jesus as divine he means functionally divine, not ontologically divine, you said that wasn’t relevant because he said that about his use of “divine” in “Jewish Gospels”. How is it not relevant? Are you claiming that in “Border Lines” he uses the word “divine” in relation to Jesus in a completely different sense? If so, where’s the evidence?

The fact is that “Jewish Gospels” was written in 2012, five years after “Border Lines”. It therefore represents his current thought about Jesus in the New Testament. So even if you’re going to argue that in “Border Lines” he used “divine” ontologically when referring to Jesus (which you will have to prove), in “Jewish Gospels” he explicitly does not. So you cannot claim Boyarin argues that Jesus is represented as ontologically divine in the New Testament, because Boyarin doesn’t believe this, and actually says the complete opposite. It’s clear that not reading “Jewish Gospels” has been very detrimental to your understanding of Boyarin’s views.

Point three. Hays & Hurtado.

This was one of the instances (and there have been a few), in which you claim to disagree with me, then say the same thing I actually said, but with different words. Let’s start with Hays’ statement.

“[Boyarin has] provocatively destabilized conventional beliefs about what first-century Jews could and could not have believed about the multiplicity within the divine identity.”

Do you think the phrase “provocatively destabilized” means “This is something he has said which people will agree with”, or “This is something which people will disagree with”? Something else? What does “provocatively destabilized” mean to you? On the same topic, what do you think “provocative” means in the sentence “In spite of some provocative ideas that would have deserved a more careful study”, written by another reviewer you quoted?

I gave an example of Hurtado using coded language to describe a book he was reviewing, and showed how a casual reader misunderstood Hurtado’s language as enthusiastic endorsement. I knew the reader was wrong, and had misread Hurtado, and Hurtado himself corrected the reader saying that his apparently enthusiastic language was not intended to be an endorsement. This was a clear example of Hurtado using coded language, which was misunderstood by a reader who was unfamiliar with the language scholars typically use when reviewing each others works.

You then described this in exactly the same way, saying “the person you cited who misunderstood Hurtado’s review simply does not understand the difference between a positive review, which scholars do all the time for books they disagree with if they consider it well-argued and scholarly, and actual endorsement, where one does not simply call a book “lively””. So you agreed with me, despite claiming you disagreed with me.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, after agreeing that the reader had misunderstood Hurtado, you claimed “It appears as if you also missed this distinction here”. That is a completely nonsensical statement, since I had explicitly made that distinction. This looks like another case of your skim reading habit.

Point four. John 1:1.

I will repeat what I said. Even if a Greek word appears in a text with one meaning 90% of the time, this does not tell us anything about what it must mean in the remaining number of instances. We only have grounds to conclude that it is most likely to mean the same thing if it is used in the same context, with the same syntax and grammar. In this case, we would need to compare John’s use of the anarthrous θεός in John 1:1 to all John’s other uses of the anarthrous θεός in the same context.

I have already quoted Murray saying there are 83 instances of θεός in John, and only two of them cannot refer to the Father.

“Of these 83 uses of θεός, the only places where the word could not refer to the Father are 1:1 (second occurrence, referring to the Logos); 1:18 (second occurrence, referring to μονογενὴς ;-see chapter III §§B-C); 10:34-35 (both plurals); and 20:28 (addressed to Jesus).” [17]

According to your reasoning, since 81 of them refer to Father then the other two must also refer to the Father, and not to Jesus. In fact you previously made exactly this claim. But they don’t refer to the Father; they refer to Jesus. So your statistical argument fails completely.

If you spend time with professional Greek translators, you will see that these statistical arguments are turn up from time to time and are regularly debunked. I spent years on the BGreek email list, and every now and then statistical arguments would come up. People would argue that since a Biblical writer used a word X number of times with the meaning Y, then it must mean Y in the place under discussion.

Every time these arguments would come up, professional translators would shoot them down. Here’s a quotation from a post by one of the email list members, criticizing this argument (note that this is exactly the argument you are making).

“Too often, statistical factors are called into play, even in traditional grammar. “The vast majority of the time X functions as Y, therefore in this context the evidence leans toward reading it as Y.” The exegesis of hOUTWS in John 3:16 is a good example of such argumentation.”

See here), a long review of a paper based on statistical analysis, helping to explain why “statistical frequency can be very misleading, if not totally unsystematic”. Grammarians still argue over the meaning of phrases in Paul, and they don’t use statistics to try and settle the issue because everyone recognizes there just isn’t a large enough Pauline corpus to make such determinations. The idea of applying that argument from statistics in a single book, especially heedless of syntax and context, is just ludicrous.

As I said, in this case, we would need to compare John’s use of the anarthrous θεός in John 1:1 to all John’s other uses of the anarthrous θεός in the same grammatical context. But this is the only passage in which John uses the anarthrous θεός to describe the Logos, so we can’t do that. Regardless, none of the grammarians who make judgments on this passage make this “statistical” argument that you make, and none of the standard theological commentaries or Bible translation guides make this “statistical” argument of yours either. You might want to think about why.

Meanwhile, in his commentary on 1 and 2 Thessalonians, Gordon Fee says this about the anarthrous θεός in 2 Thessalonians.

“The Ezekiel passage is a prophecy against the king of Tyre, who “in the pride of [his] heart” said, “I am a god; I sit on the throne of a god.” Using Ezekiel’s language and imagery, Paul thus reminds the Thessalonians that the evidence of the Rebel’s arrogance will be to “set himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.”” [18]

Fee points out that the anarthrous θεός actually indicates that Paul may actually mean “divine” here, rather than “God”.

“Gk. ὅτι ἐστὶν θεός; although the English translations have consistently rendered this as “God,” in light of the anarthrous θεός, it is possible that Paul intended simply that “he was a god,” or “divine.”” [19]

So in this passage Fee recognizes that the anarthrous θεός is not a reference to the one true God; it has a qualitative sense which suggests the meaning “divine”. He has absolutely no qualms making this suggestion in a context in which it doesn’t refer to Jesus.

On other matters, yes you previously did say that Jesus is the same person as the Father. Not only did you say “Jesus is the Father”, when I challenged you on this (pointing out that this is “confusing the persons”, and quoting Trinitarian theologians saying this), you doubled down, said it was not confusing the persons, and cited the Scutum Fidei in defense of the claim that Jesus is the Father, without realizing that the Scutum Fidei expressly denies that Jesus is the Father. I hope you agree now that Jesus is not the Father, and that the fact that 81 of the instances of θεός in John which do refer to the Father, does not indicate that the remaining two instances of θεός in John must also refer to the Father.

The point I made is that use of θεός in John 1:1c is not necessarily identifying Jesus as God. Not only can it be understood to mean “divine”, the grammar alone does not get you to “God”. [20] You even agreed with this (eventually), saying, “the grammar, on its own, does not get you to ‘God’ and leaves room for ‘divine’”. So that’s really the end of the matter.

We have evidence from Second Temple Period Judaism that the anarthrous θεός was used to differentiate between “the one true God”, and anything else which could be called θεός but was not actually God. Philo describes it this way.

There is one true God only: but they who are called Gods, by an abuse of language, are numerous; on which account the holy scripture on the present occasion indicates that it is the true God that is meant by the use of the article, the expression being, “I am the God (I);” but when the word is used incorrectly, it is put without the article, the expression being, “He who was seen by thee in the place,” not of the God (t**ou Theou), but simply “of God” (Theou**);” [21]

Philo spoke of the Logos being with God, and being θεός. But for Philo the Logos was not an independent being, nor a hypostasis of God, nor a person in a multiple-person God. So we have a first century witness to the fact that the anarthrous θεός was used in Second Temple Period Judaism (even in the first century), to refer to that which was not the one true God, but that which could be called “god” or “divine” in some sense.

This is even more significant given the fact that Philo used θεός to refer to God’s Word (which he of course wrote as Logos). Philo was perfectly happy calling the Logos θεός (without the article), because to Philo the Logos was divine; it was God’s reason, wisdom, thought, and word, the power with which God created the world.

“Indeed, Philo’s logos has many of the attributes of the Word in the Johannine prologue: e.g., (a) the logos is theos/divine (On Dreams 1.228–30); (b) the logos is the instrument of creation (On the Cherubim 125–27; cf. 1 Cor 8:6; Heb 1:2); © the logos is associated with light (On the Creation 31) and life (On the Creation 24, 30); (d) the logos makes God known (On Dreams 1.68–69; Allegorical Interpretation 3.169–78); (e) the logos enables humans to become sons of God (Confusion of Languages 1.146–47; Thomas H. Tobin, “The Prologue of John and Hellenistic Jewish Speculation,” CBQ 52 [1990]: 252–69).” [22]

So this is the socio-cultural background to John 1:1. This is literally evidence for how a first century Jewish audience of the text would have understood John’s description of the Logos. Remember, this background is the reason why even Boyarin doesn’t believe Jesus is referred to from John 1:1-13; he believes it’s only the logos up to that point. In order to argue that first century Jews would have actually understood John to mean something else (specifically a pre-existent Jesus who was part of a complex Godhead of two persons), then you must present evidence that a first century Jewish audience of the text would have understood it that way. Where is that evidence?

Point four. Staples paper.

This is Staples’ argument.

“But, as this study will demonstrate, the doubling in these passages is much more significant: the double κύριος formula would have been distinctly familiar to a first-century Greek-speaking Jewish audience as an unambiguous way to signal the presence of the Tetragram (as opposed to the more ambiguous single κύριος) in the first century Greek Bible, suggesting that through the use of the κύριε κύριε formula both Matthew and Luke represent Jesus as applying the name YHWH to himself.” 3

In my previous post, before I had read Staples’ paper, I wondered how he explained, in the context of the parable of the virgins, that it is the virgins who are calling the bridegroom “lord lord” (I am using “lord lord” throughout this section, to reflect Staples’ view not mine). Since Jesus is basing this parable on Jewish custom, and since “lord lord” is addressed by the bridesmaids to the bridegroom, are we really to believe that it was Jewish custom for the bridesmaids to refer to the bridegroom as “Yahweh”? Now I have read the paper, I find that Staples does not address this at all. He never explains what it would mean for bridesmaids to address the bridegroom as “lord lord”. This is a serious oversight.

I also expressed interest in what Staples said about this verse.

Luke 6:
46 “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and don’t do what I tell you?

Despite the fact that Jesus is apparently saying that the people to whom he is speaking were literally calling him “lord lord”, there is actually no record of anyone in any of the gospels ever calling Jesus “lord lord”. Not his followers, not his disciples (either before or after his resurrection), nor anyone else.

Once again, Staples does not address this at all. Note that this is not an argument from silence. This is not a matter of saying "There isn’t any record of anyone calling Jesus “lord lord”, therefore Staples’ argument is wrong. The point I am making is that if Staples’ interpretation of the passage is correct, then people really did address Jesus as “lord lord”, specifically to identify him as Yahweh. This being the case, we would expect to find evidence of people addressing Jesus as “lord lord” or speaking of him as “lord lord”, specifically to identify him as Yahweh, because that’s what Staples says they did. When you claim people did X, but there’s no evidence of them doing X, then you have some explaining to do. It doesn’t mean you’re necessarily wrong, but it does mean you need to explain why your claim accounts for the data more efficiently than other hypotheses.

However, there is no record of anyone in the New Testament addressing Jesus as “lord lord”, or speaking of him as “lord lord”. As Staples himself notes, there are only four uses of “lord lord” in the entire New Testament. This is a great contrast to the usage found outside the New Testament. Staples notes there are 84 instances in the LXX alone (Rahlfs’ edition), where it substitutes for adonai yahweh, and several more in the intertestamental literature. But in the New Testament we find this formula only four times. Not only that, but when the New Testament quotes Old Testament passages which used adonai yahweh, it doesn’t use the"lord lord" formula.

When we move on to the Apostolic Fathers, we don’t find any of them referring to Jesus as “lord lord” either. The only use of it in the Apostolic Fathers (just once), is 2 Clement 4.2’s quotation of Matthew 7:21. So there is literally no evidence whatsoever that anyone addressed or referred to Jesus as “lord lord” while he was on earth, or during the first century, or even to the end of the second century.

None of this is very surprising when we consider that all the pre-Christian evidence Staples presents for the use of the “lord lord” formula, is in the form of Greek texts translating from Hebrew or Aramaic source texts by Christians. So we know it was a scribal convention when rendering Hebrew/Aramaic texts into Greek texts. Consequently there is a serious disconnect between his source material and the conclusions he is drawing from it. Unless Matthew and Luke are quoting an earlier Aramaic or Hebrew text of Jesus’ words, and translating it into Greek, there’s no direct correspondence between the evidence for this scribal translation convention, and the instances of “lord lord” in Matthew and Luke.

But is there any evidence that it was an oral form of address for God? Could Matthew and Luke be reporting Jesus saying “lord lord” in Greek? This is possible, but there is no evidence that this was an oral form of address for God at any time in the Second Temple Period. Could Matthew and Luke be repeating an oral tradition of Jesus saying adonai Yahweh in Aramaic, and then translating it into Greek? This is possible, but once again there’s no evidence for it. Additionally, given the taboo against pronouncing the Tetragrammaton during the Second Temple Period, it is incredibly unlikely.

You make this claim.

Staples literally documents all of the uses of this phrase in the first place.

Actually he literally doesn’t. He doesn’t even give a complete list of all the uses of the phrase in Second Temple Period literature. He doesn’t even give a complete list of all the uses of the phrase in the LXX. He says this.

“In all, the double κύριος occurs eighty-four times in Rahlfs’ LXX, including eleven times in the Psalms and seven times in the Minor Prophets and Jeremiah. It appears an additional five times in Jewish pseudepigrapha, four in the Testament of Abraham (9.4; 10.6, 9, 11) and once in the Apocalypse of Moses (= Life of Adam and Eve) 25.3. Of these references, only 2 Macc 1.24, 3 Macc 2.2 and Esther C2 (13.9 = 4.17b) are from works originally written in Greek, and each of these is an invocation to the God of Israel clearly echoing the translation of אדני יהוה elsewhere in the Greek Bible.” [23]

Note that he doesn’t actually document each instance, nor does he assess each instance individually. He tells us how many times it appears in the LXX, and briefly describes the distribution pattern, but he does little more than that. One of the reasons why this post has taken me so long is the amount of time I had to spend fact checking Staples’ work, mainly because he didn’t document his findings.

In fact the translation of the divine name and titles in the LXX is wildly inconsistent even single books. Ezekiel contains the greatest number of inconsistencies, including using a single kyrios for adonai yaweh, instead of a double.

“Skehan surveys the evidence for the tetragram at Qumran, Masada, and in early Greek MSS. There is no need here to repeat in detail what he has written. In his final section, “Greek Texts of the Prophets,” the author calls the reader’s attention to the fact that in LXX Ezekiel adonai Yhwh is represented by a single kyrios, a rendering also encountered in other prophetic books, notably Isaiah and the Minor Prophets. In 15 instances, however, Pap. 967 reads kyrios ho theos, which is equivalent to the qere, adonai elohim. This same translation is found in 9 out of 23 occurrences of adonai Yhwh in the Minor Prophets.” [24]

As a whole, the LXX translates adonai yahweh in a range of different ways; a single kyrios, a double kyrios (or kyrie), and kyrios ho theos.

“Be it sufficient to note that for Hebrew adonai Yhwh single kyrios and kyrios ho theos as well as the vocative kyrie kyrie, are amply attested in the prophetic corpus as original LXX— precisely what we already know from the Pentateuch.” [25]

“A Hebrew original אֲדֹנָי יהוה could therefore have appeared in writing as κύριος יהוה (sometimes written in Old Hebrew script), and this would be pronounced sometimes as κύριος κύριος, sometimes as κύριος ὁ θεός and surely sometimes also simply as κύριος.” [26]

So it certainly isn’t true that adonai yahweh is consistently represented with a double kyrios/kyrie in the LXX. But what about the usage of the double kyriios/kyrie in the LXX and other Second Temple Period literature? Staples makes this claim (italics are his, annotation in square brackets is mine).

“The distinctiveness of this repetition is further reinforced by the fact that in every extant example in pre-Talmudic Jewish literature outside the Gospels, the double κύριος serves as a Greek rendering of אדני יה. [adonai yahweh]” [27]

So he claims that it in these texts, it always serves as a rendering of adonai Yahweh. However, this is not true either. In the literature to which Staples refers, the double kurios serves as a Greek rendering of the following Hebrew phrases.

  • adonai yahweh; Staples cites many instances of this, which is not in dispute
  • yahweh yahweh (Exodus 34:6); Staples does not mention this
  • yahweh elohim (Deuteronomy 10:17, Philo “On the Confusion of Tongues” 173:5); Staples cites the usage in Philo but does not mention that it is a quotation of a passage in which the double kyrios is being used to translate yahweh elohim, not adonai yahweh
  • yahweh (1 Chronicles 17:24, Jeremiah 28:62 LXX, which is 51:62 MT); Staples does not mention these

There are other cases in which it is not clear what the double kurios/kurie is translating, but it is clear that it is not translating adonai yahweh.

In Ezekiel 23:32 LXX there is the variant αδωναι κυριος κυριος (adonai kurios kurios), and whatever kurios kurios stands for here, it cannot stand for adonai yahweh since adonai is already transliterated in this place with the Greek αδωναι.

In Apocalypse of Moses 25:3, kurie kurie appears in the very obvious context of an impassioned plea for salvation.

Apocalypse of Moses 25:
3 κύριε κύριε, σῶσόν με, καὶ οὐ μὴ ἐπιστρέψω εἰς τὴν ἁμαρτίαν τῆς σαρκός.

Apocalypse of Moses 25:
3 But thou shalt confess and say: ‘Lord, Lord, save me, and I will turn no more to the sin of the flesh.’

Staples cites this usage, but does not mention that it is not a quotation of adonai yahweh from the Old Testament. Staples also cites Philo’s use of kurie kurie in “On the Confusion of Tongues”, saying “The double κύριος also occurs once in Philo, at Conf. 173, which suggests that Philo read the double formulation in his Torah”. Here’s the quotation from Philo.

Confusion of Tongues 173:
5 But Moses, perceiving their design, says, “O Lord, Lord, King of the gods,” in order to show the difference between the ruler and those subject to him,

However, Staples does not tell us that this is a quotation from Deuteronomy 10:17, which does not use adonai yahweh; it uses yahweh elohim. So Staples shows that the LXX and other Second Temple Period (and pre-Talmudic), Jewish literature uses the “lord lord” formula to translate adonai Yahweh in many places. However, he does not tell us that the LXX didn’t do this consistently, and he does not describe all the instances in which the double kyrios/kyrie is used to translate a Hebrew word or phrase which is not adonai yahweh.

Again, in the additions to Esther, we find kurie kurie in a passage in which it is not translating adonai yahweh; instead we find it in the context of an impassioned plea.

Esther C:
1 Καὶ ἐδεήθη κυρίου, μνημονεύων πάντα τὰ ἔργα κυρίου,
2 καὶ εἶπεν Κύριε, κύριε, βασιλεῦ πάντων κρατῶν, ὅτι ἐν ἐξουσίᾳ σου τὸ πᾶν ἐστιν, καὶ οὐκ ἔστιν ὁ ἀντιδοξῶν σοι ἐν τῷ θέλειν σε σῶσαι τὸν Ισραηλ·

The fact that we have kuriou twice in the genitive in the first two clauses, and then a doubled vocative in the third clause, indicates that kurie here is not being used in the third clause as part of a compound name; it is an impassioned repetition of the title used twice previously.

Staples actually mentions that the earliest Greek witnesses to the LXX show that kurios was not typically used to translate the Tetragrammaton.

“Discoveries of earlier Greek manuscripts, however, have shown that these older manuscripts tend not to include κύριος, instead employing other means of communicating the Tetragram.” [28]

He also acknowledges that both Origen and Jerome bear witness to this fact.

“In any case, these older manuscripts validate the witness of Origen and Jerome that the oldest and most reliable Greek manuscripts of their day represented the Tetragram in Hebrew characters rather than writing κύριος.” [29]

He also acknowledges that the single kurios/kyrie became the standard translation of adonai yahweh in the Old Greek, not the double.

“This use of the single κύριος eventually became the most common solution for rendering אדני יהוה and its variants elsewhere in the LXX (196 times in Rahlfs), though given the tendency of some early manuscripts to leave a space where the Tetragram appears (e.g. P.Ryl. III.458), one wonders whether many of these examples of a single κύριος were the result of such spaces (or perhaps dots or some other placeholder) eventually dropping out in the process of transmission.” [30]

However, although he acknowledges the single kyrios/kyrie became the standard for translating yahweh, he still argues that the double kyrios/kyrie was used distinctively in the Old Greek to translate adonai yahweh.

“In all, the double κύριος occurs eighty-four times in Rahlfs’ LXX, including eleven times in the Psalms and seven times in the Minor Prophets and Jeremiah. It appears an additional five times in Jewish pseudepigrapha, four in the Testament of Abraham (9.4; 10.6, 9, 11) and once in the Apocalypse of Moses (= Life of Adam and Eve) 25.3. Of these references, only 2 Macc 1.24, 3 Macc 2.2 and Esther C2 (13.9 = 4.17b) are from works originally written in Greek, and each of these is an invocation to the God of Israel clearly echoing the translation of אדני יהוה elsewhere in the Greek Bible.” [31]

Nevertheless, he does not show any evidence that the New Testament writers followed this convention. Staples’ study used Rahlfs’ LXX; he just ran a standard search query on the electronic text. That’s ok, but using a conservatively homogenized critical text published in 1935 does have its limitations. Staples acknowledges this, noting that Rahlfs’ “primarily relies on Codex Vacticanus”.

“‘Numbers based on Accordance Bible Software 10.2 (Orlando: Oak Tree Software, Inc., 2013) searches of Rahlfs’ critical edition, which primarily relies on Codex Vaticanus.” [32]

This is important, since Rahlfs’ doesn’t use P967 (since it wasn’t published at the time), which is one of the oldest and best witnesses to the Old Greek, and because P967 (dating to the third century), proves that the earliest form of the LXX overwhelmingly did not use the double kyrios/kyrie formula; it used the singular, almost without exception. This is particulalrly apparent in Ezekiel.

“Whatever may be the individual problems of this old tradition, G967 is able to make two things quite clear: 1) This oldest Greek evidence, known to us in these old witnesses and the Old Latin tradition which confirms it, seems predominantly to have read simply κύριος where M has the double form of the name. Those passages in which G967 also reads a double form, but which, seen as a whole, are infinitely few in number, are early signs of the secondary intrusion of the double form into the Greek tradition. 2) The reading of simple κύριος occurs initially in G967 also in chapters 40–48, where GB, [Codex Vaticanus 1209] with the exception of a single occurrence, consistently has the double form of the name.” [33]

Staples only acknowledges this in a footnote, quickly dismissing the signficance of P967.

“Interestingly, P.Beatty 967 lacks the double κύριος, employing only the single κύριος and fifteen instances of κύριος ὁ θεός, none of which occur in the later manuscript tradition; see Skehan, ‘Divine Name’, 35–7. However, J. Ziegler, ‘Die Bedeutung des Chester Beatty-Scheide Papyrus 967 für die Textüberlieferung der Ezechiel-Septuaginta’, ZAW 61 (1948) 76–94 argues that these examples represent secondary alterations in the process of transmission.” [34]

In case that’s not clear, Staples dismisses the oldest evidence for the standard practice of translating adonai yahweh in the Old Greek, on the basis of a single reference to a paper written in 1948. Modern scholarship however is very firmly against him.

“A major issue in assessing the homogeneity and unity of LXX Ezekiel concerns the variation of the Greek where the Hebrew has the double divine name (’“g’o’nay yhwh, e. g. 224). Many LXX manuscripts vary internally in their rendering of the divine name, but it is significant that the earliest text, P. 967, is largely consistent in its use of the single word kurios. This has important implications.” [35]

This indicates that the original practice in the Old Greek was to render adonai yahweh with a single kurios/kurie, rather than the double.

“On balance, it is likely that the double name usage is original to the Hebrew, and that the single word kurios was the original LXX practice, with a later, albeit uneven, tendency in the Greek to assimilate to the Hebrew’s double divine name.” [36]

This is highly influential on Staples’ case, since out of 84 instances of the double kurios/kurie in the Old Greek, 58 of them are in Ezekiel. Now we know that the double kurios/kurie, was originally not in Ezekiel LXX, and was not the original practice for the Old Greek either. Consequently, most of Staples’ alleged evidence for the claim that the double kurios/kurie was commonly used in Second Temple Period literature to translate adonai yahweh, turns out to be non-existent. in actual fact, we find that adonai yahweh was overwhelmingly translated with something else.

Is there an alternative explanation for the data which actually does have evidence? Yes there is, and Staples actually acknowledges it; “it is true that geminatio sometimes does function as a
pathos formula”. [37] However, he says this cannot explain all the evidence.

“Whereas the doubling in Matt 7.22 or 25.11 could be dismissed as merely signalling heightened emotion as suggested by Luz, there is no indication of heightened emotion or affection in the statement ‘not everyone who says to me κύριε κύριε’ (7.21)”. [38]

So he acknowledges the case or geminatio in Matthew 7:22; 25:11, and presents no evidence that there is “no indication of heightened emotion or affection” in the statements in Matthew 7:21. This is not a way to make a strong case.

Staples does not mention the fact that a double vocative is a typical feature of Luke/Acts.

  • Luke 8:24, “Master, Master”
  • Luke 10:41, "Martha, Martha:
  • Luke 13:34, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem”
  • Luke 22:31, “Simon, Simon”
  • Luke 23:21, “Crucify, crucify”
  • Acts 9:4, “Saul, Saul”
  • Acts 22:7, “Saul, Saul”
  • Acts 26:14, “Saul, Saul”

Consequently, there is a more efficient explanation of Matthew and Luke’s double kurie than the supposition that Jesus was referring to himself as Yahweh; rather, it’s a standard double vocative as an exclamatory formula. This is an explanation for which there is actual evidence.

Staples fails to present evidence for his core claims.

  1. He claims a first century audience would have understood the double kurios as a reference to Jesus as adonai yahweh, but fails to present evidence for this. He does not demonstrate that a first century Greek audience would have been thinking in both Hebrew and Greek, his appeal to Ezekiel LXX evaporates in light of the fact that Ezekiel LXX overwhelmingly did not use a double kurios for adonai yahweh, and his claim that the double kurios was only used for adonai yahweh in Second Temple Period literature is demonstrably untrue.

  2. He claims the double kurios was used as an exorcism formula, but fails to present any evidence of it being used in this way. In contrast, when we find Jesus invoked in healing or exorcism we find the name used is “Jesus” (Acts 3:6 “in the name of Jesus”, Acts 16:18 “in the name of Jesus Christ”, Acts 19:13, “by Jesus”), and kurios is not used.

  3. He claims that the double kurios amounts to calling Jesus God, but fails to provide any evidence that anyone in the first century or beyond understood the double kurios this way. He does not provide any instances of anyone in the New Testament addressing or referring to Jesus with the double kurios, nor does he note that no such reference occurs in any of the Apostolic Fathers either.


(Jon) #2

Part five. High & low Christology.

I cited Fletcher-Loius’ actual definition of high Christology.

"In particular, there has been a long-running debate about the phenomenon that scholars traditionally call a “high Christology” (the belief that Jesus was somehow divine and was treated as such by his followers).”

You claimed this was not his definition of high Christology, and that this is just what he “writes mid-sentence”. That is palpably false. He uses a term and then explains what he means by it, explicitly. That’s a complete sentence. For Fletcher-Louis, a high Christology simply means the belief that Jesus “was somehow divine”.

I also quoted Flecher-Louis’ definition of a low Christology.

“On this view, during his ministry in Galilee and Judea the disciples must have had either no Christology – no very strong beliefs specifically about Jesus – or a “low” one in which Jesus is simply a created being (a prophet, or even the long-awaited Jewish messiah).”

You skim read right over the definition, and said this.

So, according to Fletcher-Louis, the idea that Jesus is a “created being” (i.e. your view) is basically the idea that he uses to literally define low Christology. But of course, this idea of Jesus being created, and other low Christological ideas, are finally being done away with in scholarship. You literally quoted the passage above and missed the “created” part that is used to define low Christology. So you are not part of the emerging consensus.

Please read it carefully. Fletcher-Loius says that a “low Christology” is the belief that during his ministry in Galilee and Judea, JESUS’ OWN DISCIPLES either had no Christology, or a low Christology in which Jesus was simply a created being (sucha s a prophet or the messiah). I will say it again; this is the view JESUS’ OWN DISCIPLES believed Jesus was a created being such as a prophet or the messiah DURING HIS MINISTRY IN GALILEE AND JUDEA. That is the view held by Ehrman, and it is the view held by Hurtado. Of course, Ehman does not believe that Jesus himself thought he was divine, and he believes that the gospels represent views about Jesus which did not emerge until after Jesus’ resurrection.

The problem with this is that there are people who believe both views (such as Ehrman and Hurtado and myself). They believe that Jesus was divine “in some sense” (of course Ehrman doesn’t believe this personally, but he thinks that’s what some New Testament writers thought), but they also believe that Jesus’s own disciples, during his ministry, viewd him as either a prophet or the messiah, a human and not a divine being. This is one of the reasons why Fletcher-Louis’ definitions are inadequate. As I pointed out, he has watered down the definition of “high Christology” to the point that it now includes the views of people who do not believe the New Testament represents Jesus as God.

You cited Vouthon’s quotation of Ehrman.

Vouthon, for example, provides the following quote from Ehrman:

But you didn’t respond to my reply to Vouthon. You missed the fact that Ehrman says very clearly, in the passage you quoted from Ehrman, that Paul believed Jesus WAS AN ANGEL. Erhaman says it explicitly; “He was an angelic, divine being before coming into the world; he was the Angel of the Lord”. Ehrman believes that this angel of the Lord was eventually elevated to equality of God, while still not being God.

Not only that, but Ehman views the gospels as all representing Jesus as “divine” in a different way.

  • He thinks Mark thought Jesus did not exist before his birth, and started life as a mere mortal, who was then adopted by God at his baptism and became a divine being at this point; is this a “high Christology”?
  • He thinks Matthew and Luke thought Jesus did not exist before his birth, was a human being, and was “God’s son” only by virtue of being born through a miracle; is this a “high Christology”?
  • He thinks John thought Jesus did exist before his birth, as a divine being who was not God, and who became a human, then died, then was raised, then became a divine being again; is this a “high Christology”?

Note that this is not just what Ehrman thinks about each gospel, this is what he thinks the writer of each gospel actually believed about Jesus. Ehrman still holds the view that the earliest Christians did not believe Jesus was “a preexistent divine being who is equal with God”, and that a divine Christology did not emerge until after Paul and the Synoptics. He says this.

“Scholars have long held that the view of Christ in the Gospel of John was a later development in the Christian tradition. It was not something that Jesus himself actually taught, and it is not something that can be found in the other Gospels. In John, Jesus is a preexistent divine being who is equal with God. The earliest Christians—Jesus’s disciples, for example—did not believe this. And there are clear historical reasons for thinking they did not. The earliest Christians held exaltation Christologies in which the human being Jesus was made the Son of God—for example, at his resurrection or at his baptism—as we examined in the previous chapter. John has a different Christology.” [39]

He also says this about the Synoptics.

“I have already made the case that followers of Jesus were not calling him God during his lifetime and that he did not refer to himself as a divine being who had come from heaven. If they had done so, surely there would be a heavy dose of such views in our earliest records of his words—in the Synoptic Gospels and their sources (Mark, Q, M, and L).” [40]

And this.

“If Jesus really were equal with God from “the beginning,” before he came to earth, and he knew it, then surely the Synoptic Gospels would have mentioned this at some point. Wouldn’t that be the most important thing about him? But no, in Matthew, Mark, and Luke he does not talk about himself in this way—nor does he do so in their sources (Q, M, and L).” [41]

Now according to Fletcher-Louis, that is the “old paradigm”, and that is a “low Christology”. Not only that, but Ehrman’s view of the earliest “incarnational Christology” is this.

“Jesus was thought of as an angel, or an angel-like being, or even the Angel of the Lord—in any event, a superhuman divine being who existed before his birth and became human for the salvation of the human race. This, in a nutshell, is the incarnation Christology of several New Testament authors.” [42]

Is that your understanding of the earliest incarnational Christology? Ehrman argues that this view was later replaced with another view, which understood Jesus as God himself.

Later authors went even further and maintained that Jesus was not merely an angel—even the chief angel—but was a superior being: he was God himself come to earth.” [43]

The only change in Ehrman’s view is that he now believes that the view of Jesus as “a preexistent divine being who is equal with God” did not originate with John’s gospel. He believes it preceded John’s gospel, and that John was drawing on this tradition.

Nevertheless, Ehrman believes that this was not the original view of Jesus. He believes the view of Jesus found in the gospel of John was not the view of the original Christians (such as Paul), but a later development.

“It will become clear in the following chapters that Jesus was not originally considered to be God in any sense at all, and that he eventually became divine for his followers in some sense before he came to be thought of as equal with God Almighty in an absolute sense.” [44]

But there’s still more. Ehrman does not believe that the gospel of John depicts Jesus as existing before he was born.

The poem is decidedly not saying that Jesus preexisted his birth—and there is nothing about him being born of a virgin here. What preexisted was the Logos of God through whom God made the universe. It was only when the Logos became a human being that Jesus Christ came into existence. So Jesus Christ is the Logos that has become a human; but Jesus did not exist before that incarnation happened. It was the Logos that existed before.” [45]

He says it again here.

“As I intimated before, the Prologue is not saying that Jesus preexisted, that he created the universe, that he became flesh. Instead, it is saying that the Logos did all these things. Before all else existed, it was with God, and since it was God’s own Logos, in that sense it actually was God. It was through the Logos that the universe and all that was in it was created and given life.” [46]

Not only that, but Ehrman believes that John understood the logos as a being separate from God.

As in other Jewish texts, the Word is a being separate from God, and yet since it is God’s word, his own outward expression of himself, it fully represents who he is, and does nothing else, and in this sense it is itself God.” [47]

Ehrman believes that the earliest Christology was indeed a low Christology.

“To do that would take a very long book indeed, and my objective is something else—to explain the two dominant Christological options of the early Christian movement: the older Christology “from below,” which I am calling an exaltation Christology, arguably the very first Christological view of the very first followers of Jesus who came to believe he had been raised from the dead and exalted to heaven; and the somewhat later Christology “from above,” which I am calling an incarnation Christology.” [48]

Ehrman believes the view of Jesus found in the gospel of John was not the view of the original Christians (such as Paul), but a later development. Ehrman sees Paul’s view as transitional between the earliest view of Jesus and the latest first century view of Jesus.

There are two important differences between Paul’s view and John’s view, in Ehrman’s understanding.

  • Paul believed Jesus was a pre-existent divine angelic who was not originally God’s equal, but who became equal with God

  • Paul believed that Jesus was an angelic being, and not God Himself

Ehrman does not say Paul believed Jesus was a pre-existent divine being who was equal to God, Ehrman says Paul believed Jesus was a pre-existent angel who was originally not equal to God, who was then downgraded to being a human, and who, after his life of obedience, was upgraded to a divine being equal to God (but still separate from God). According to Ehrman, there was no “pre-existent divine being who is equal to God” in Paul’s theology, since (according to Ehrman), Paul did not believe Jesus was equal to God while he was in his “pre-existent” state, and was not equal to God until his post-resurrection exaltation.

Ehrman states repeatedly that Paul believed Jesus was an angel who was God’s divine representative.

  • “Christ as an Angel in Paul” (185)

  • “As the Angel of the Lord, Christ is a preexistent being who is divine; he can be called God; and he is God’s manifestation in human flesh.” (185)

  • “Jesus, for Paul, was the Angel of the Lord.” (196)

Again, according to Ehrman Paul did not believe that Jesus was God, or that he was equal to God until God exalted him.

  • “I want to stress that Christ appears to be portrayed here, in his preexiistent state, as a divine being, an angel - but not as God Almighty. He is not the Father himself, since it is the Father who exalts him. And he is not - most definitely not - “equal” with God before he becomes human.” (192)

  • “When it says, then, that he was “in the form of God,” it does not mean that he was the equal of God the Father. It means he was “Godlike,” or divine - like the chielf angel, the Angel of the Lord, as referred to in passages of the Hebrew Bible.” *(193)

  • “Paul clearly thought Jesus was God in a certain sense - but he does not think that he was the Father. He was an angelic, divine being before coming into the world; he was the Angel of the Lord; he was eventually exalted to be equal with God and worthy of God’s honor and worship.” (197)

This is why in this blog post Ehrman describes Jesus as an angel who was a pre-existent divinity not equal to God (he does not say Jesus was a pre-existent divine being equal to God).

“my view that the apostle Paul understood Christ, before coming into the world, to have been the great angel of God, a divine being who was absolutely a pre-existent divinity, but was not on a level equal with God. He then came into the world in order to fulfil God’s plan, died for sins, and was exalted, as a result, to a position of even greater power and authority as one actually equal with God.”

He does not say that Paul believed Jesus was a pre-existent being equal to God. He says Paul believed Jesus was a pre-existent being who was not equal to God, but who was later raised to equality with God after first being downgraded to a non-divine human being, and then being upgraded again later.

The only way that Ehrman is a part of the “emerging consensus”, is by defining the conclusions of the “emerging consensus” so loosely that they include people who don’t believe Jesus or his disciples or his earliest believers thought and spoke of him as God, and who argue that Jesus only “became God” at some point later in the first century, prior to the gospel of John. For Ehrman, the earliest Christology was a low Christology. The closest he comes to the actual emerging consensus is the fact that he believes a high Christology emerged sometime after Paul but before the gospel of John, dating it to around the latest third of the first century.

While we’re on the subject of high Christology, can you have a high Christology if you believe Jesus was wrong about who he was? Can you have a high Christology if you believe Jesus didn’t think of himself as God or represent himself as God?


(Jon) #3

Part six. Other matters.

You made a few arguments which were unintelligible despite my best efforts.

  1. You say “The Father will send the Holy Spirit in Jesus name” is “strangely Trinitarian”. To date you have not given any explanation as to why this is “strangely Trinitarian”. An evidence based explanation would be useful.

  2. You ask “Why is the Father doing things in the name of Jesus?”. The answer is “Because the Father is greater than Jesus”. The Father sends the Holy Spirit, which is neither “God” nor “the Father”. It’s the Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit proceeds from God, the Father, not from Jesus.

  3. I wrote this.

If you believe that differentiating X from Y means that X is necessarily a person, then you can tell me if you differentiate between your chair and you, and if this therefore means that your chair is a person.

As usual, you skim read it and said something which has no relation to what I wrote. You said this.

Wait, what? No one is claiming that I and my chair are the same being. This sounds like a total strawman.

I said nothing about you and your chair being the same being. Please read what I wrote properly, and answer the question.

  1. You said “The passage says that the Father will send the Holy Spirit – if these weren’t different persons, why the third person?”. The issue I am discussing is not the idea that the Father and the Holy Spirit are different persons. I am arguing that the Holy Spirit is not a person at all. The Holy Spirit is not the Father, and the Father is not the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit is not a person. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God.

  2. You said this.

If the Spirit was just the Father’s Spirit, the passage would obviously say “The Father will send His Spirit”, exactly your view, rather than something like “The Spirit will be sent by the Father”, which is what the passage actually says. These are clearly different persons.

The Holy Spirit is described as the Spirit of the Father, and is described as “His Spirit”.

  • Ephesians 3:16, “His Spirit”
  • 1 John 4:13, “His Spirit”
  • Matthew 3:16,“the Spirit of God”
  • Matthew 12:28,“the Spirit of God”
  • Romans 8:9,“the Spirit of God”
  • Romans 8: 14, “the Spirit of God”
  • Romans 15:19, “the Spirit of God”
  • 1 Corinthians 2:11, “the Spirit of God”
  • 1 Corinthians 2:14, “the Spirit of God”
  • 1 Corinthians 7:40, “the Spirit of God”
  • 1 Corinthians 12:3, “the Spirit of God”
  • Ephesians 4:30, “the Spirit of God”
  • Philippians 3:3, “the Spirit of God”
  • 1 Peter 4:14, “the Spirit of God”
  • 1 John 4:2, “the Spirit of God”

I don’t even need to start on all the Old Testament passasges. The problem is that you’re just assuming the Spirit is a person, without attempting to demonstrate it.

  1. Contrary to what you claim, the fact that the Spirit doesn’t have a name is absolutely relevant. Personal attributes or inanimate objects do not have names when they are personified.
  • When wisdom is personified, it’s just called wisdom
  • When satan is personified, it’s just called satan
  • When sin is personified, it’s just called sin
  • When God’s word/the logos is personified, it’s just called God’s word/the logos

The Holy Spirit matches this pattern perfectly; it is described exactly the same way that other attributes are described when they are personified. Just like other attributes and inanimate objects, it does not have a name. It doesn’t have conversations with people either.

  1. You complain that I focused mainly on the verse in Colossians which describes Jesus as the image of God. The reason for this is that it is the only verse in the entire chapter which remotely associates Jesus with the word for “God”. If you think there are any other verses in this chapter which call Jesus God, then why don’t you just identify them? Clearly you don’t believe there are any other verses in this chapter which identify Jesus as God. Even if Colossians says that he existed before hew as born (which I don’t think it does, and although you assert this you don’t explain how or where it is done), that would not make him God. Even if Colossians says that he was the creator (which I don’t think it does), that would not make him God.

Here’s your claim about what “the image of God” means.

The passage, it seems to me, is clearly just saying that when Jesus was born, His human nature was made in the image of God.

Significantly, you provide no evidence that this is what Paul actually meant, nor any evidence that anyone reading Paul in the first century would understand him to mean this. In contrast, I can provide clear evidence for my understanding of this kind of language, in the first century. Paul is using the same kind of language we find in Philo, for example.

In you case, you are making a completely unsubstantiated claim about what Paul means. You think when he says Jesus was made in the image of God, what it actually means is a human body that Jesus inhabited for a while was made in the image of God. But of course Paul does not say this, and there is no evidence that he was thinking it. This entire reasding is ad hoc argumentation, based on the pre-supposition that Jesus is God, existed before his birth and “incarnated” into a human body.

And this is another case in which your arguments contradict each other. You keep saying that the reason why the New Testament is so silent on the claim that Jesus is a person in a multi-person Godhead, is that the writers didn’t have the concepts or vocabulary to express this. Yet time and time again your interpretation of their words is predicated on the idea that these are the ideas that they are expressing. So you’re saying they didn’t have the concepts or vocabulary to express these ideas, while pointing to what they said and claiming that they are expressing these ideas.

Where is the evidence for your claim that they didn’t have the concepts or vocabulary to express these ideas? You’ve already claimed that there were first century Jews who believed God was two persons and the Christians just inherited this idea. This means the concepts and vocabularly did exist (though you haven’t yet given examples from any Jewish literature at all). And there were certainly plenty of ways they could have done this in perfectly simple Greek. They had pronouns. They could have said something like “Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God, the Lord ISN’T ONE, the Lord is actually THREE IN ONE, we’ve been wrong about this for 2,000 years or so!”. Perfectly simple. Additionally, such a massive revelation about the identify of God would have come as a huge surprise to many Jews, and would have been at least as dramatic as the apostolic teaching that the Law of Moses was now done away with. And yet there is a complete absence of any such controversy. Both Trinitarian and non-Trinitarian scholars have noted that if Jesus had said he was God, or if the apostles had taught God was more than one person, there would have been a very obviously dramatic response to such a teaching, which would have left a clear mark in the theological and historical record. Yet there is no such evidence.

Meanwhile, you haven’t addressed what I said about this phrase; the image of X is not X. The image of God is not God. Paul differentiates between God and Jesus, the way he differentiates between God and himself. Paul does not differentiate between “God the Father” and “God the Son”, as Trinitarians do. that would be a mere differentiation of persons. Paul differentiates between “God” and “Jesus” in the same manner that he differentiates between “God” and “I”. This demonstrates Paul does not believe Jesus is God.

You describer yourself as flabbergasted when I explain this section of Colossians in ways that a number of the (completely orthodox), early Christians did. From this chapter in Colossians, a number of early Christians understood that Jesus was a created being. They believed it was saying that Jesus was the “first created” being. Clement of Alexandria was one, and he was simplyfollowing the example of other respected Christians.

“If Clement considered the possibility of calling the divine Logos ‘the first-created’, it was not only because of Philo’s example or the authority of the Scriptural book of Wisdom, but also because some of the Christians that he respected as ‘orthodox’ sources, had already applied this notion to the Son of God.” [49]

Clement understood the word “firstborn” (prototokos), to mean “first created”.

“Secondly, if we accept that the passage quoted above expresses Clement’s view, it must be noted that this statement uses both terms, first-created (πρωτοκτίστος) and first-born (πρωτότοκος), synonymously.” [50]

This view was widespread and perfectly orthodox up to the third century, but was later rejected by post-Nicene Christians.

“I will also recall some evidence from Jewish-Christian sources, as they reveal that the notion of Christ as ‘the first-created’ was not a foreign one in early Christian theology. This examination highlights yet another understanding of the origin of the divine Logos in second-century theology. Later, in the post-Nicene period this specific understanding sounded highly controversial. Consequently early theologians such as Clement who investigated this specific model or used particular terminology to denote the origin of the divine Logos were either accused of heresy or viewed with suspicion.” [51]

The fact that the creation related to Christ is described as having been made in him, indicates that it is the new creation, not the original creation. Again, this was a view held by early Christians. Theodore of Mopsuestia made this distinction specifically.

“He did not say, “through him,” but “in him.” Thus Paul is not speaking of the first creation but rather of the repair of the creation in him, according to which what was once dissolved is now brought back into a harmonious whole.” [52]

Gregory of Nyssa held the same view.

“Of this new creation therefore in Christ, which He Himself began, He was called the first-born, being the first-fruits of all, both of those begotten into life, and of those quickened by resurrection of the dead, “that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living,” and might sanctify the whole lump by means of its first-fruits in Himself.” [53]

The fact that the New Testament consistently refers to the Father as the creator of all things, the fact that the New Testament never applies to Jesus the titles it uses when identifying the Father as the creator of all things, and the fact that Jesus explicitly identifies the creator as a person other than himself (Matthew 19:4), proves that the idea that Jesus himself was the creator is not what the apostles or Jesus himself actually believed.

“Then, when the excess of wickedness had overwhelmed nearly all the race, like a deep fit of drunkenness, beclouding and darkening the minds of men, the first-born and first-created wisdom of God, the pre-existent Word himself, induced by his exceeding love for man, appeared to his servants, now in the form of angels, and again to one and another of those ancients who enjoyed the favor of God, in his own person as the saving power of God, not otherwise, however, than in the shape of man, because it was impossible to appear in any other way.”

Eusebius of Caesaria, “The Church History of Eusebius,” in Eusebius: Church History, Life of Constantine the Great, and Oration in Praise of Constantine (ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace; trans. Arthur Cushman McGiffert; vol. 1; A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series; New York: Christian Literature Company, 1890), 184.


[1] Ioan P. Culianu, “The Angels of the Nations and the Origins of Gnostic Dualism,” in Studies in Gnosticism and Hellenistic Religions: Presented to Gilles Quispel on the Occasion of His 65th Birthday, ed. Gilles Quispel, R. van den Broek, and M. J Vermaseren, Etudes Préliminaires Aux Religions Orientales Dans l’Empire Romain 91 (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1981), 78-79.

[2] Ioan P. Culianu, “The Angels of the Nations and the Origins of Gnostic Dualism,” in Studies in Gnosticism and Hellenistic Religions: Presented to Gilles Quispel on the Occasion of His 65th Birthday, ed. Gilles Quispel, R. van den Broek, and M. J Vermaseren, Etudes Préliminaires Aux Religions Orientales Dans l’Empire Romain 91 (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1981), 91.

[3] Peter Schäfer, The Jewish Jesus: How Judaism and Christianity Shaped Each Other (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2014), 1.

[4] Peter Schäfer, The Jewish Jesus: How Judaism and Christianity Shaped Each Other (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2014), 26.

[5] Alan F Segal, Two Powers in Heaven: Early Rabbinic Reports about Christianity and Gnosticism, Studies in Judaism in Late Antiquity 25 (Leiden: Brill, 1977), 17.

[6] Alan F Segal, Two Powers in Heaven: Early Rabbinic Reports about Christianity and Gnosticism, Studies in Judaism in Late Antiquity 25 (Leiden: Brill, 1977), 42.

[7] Alan F Segal, Two Powers in Heaven: Early Rabbinic Reports about Christianity and Gnosticism, Studies in Judaism in Late Antiquity 25 (Leiden: Brill, 1977), 149.

[8] Alan F Segal, Two Powers in Heaven: Early Rabbinic Reports about Christianity and Gnosticism, Studies in Judaism in Late Antiquity 25 (Leiden: Brill, 1977), 149-150.

[9] Alan F Segal, Two Powers in Heaven: Early Rabbinic Reports about Christianity and Gnosticism, Studies in Judaism in Late Antiquity 25 (Leiden: Brill, 1977), 150.

[10] Crispin H. T Fletcher-Louis, Jesus Monotheism: Christological Origins. Vol. 1, Vol. 1, (Cambridge: James Clarke & Co Ltd, 2015), 129.

[11] Crispin H. T Fletcher-Louis, Jesus Monotheism: Christological Origins. Vol. 1, Vol. 1, (Cambridge: James Clarke & Co Ltd, 2015), 184.

[12] Daniel Boyarin, “Beyond Judaisms: Metatron and the Divine Polymorphy of Ancient Judaism,” Journal for the Study of Judaism 41.3 (2010): 362.

[13] Daniel Boyarin, Border Lines The Partition of Judaeo-Christianity (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010), 126-127.

[14] Daniel Boyarin, Border Lines The Partition of Judaeo-Christianity (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010), 122.

[15] Daniel Boyarin, Border Lines The Partition of Judaeo-Christianity (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010), 123.

[16] Daniel Boyarin, Border Lines The Partition of Judaeo-Christianity (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2010), 31.

[17] Murray J. Harris, Jesus as God: The New Testament Use of Theos in Reference to Jesus (Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2008). 69.

[18] Gordon D. Fee, The First and Second Letters to the Thessalonians (The New International Commentary on the New Testament; Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), 283.

[19] Gordon D. Fee, The First and Second Letters to the Thessalonians (The New International Commentary on the New Testament; Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009), 283.

[20] “On the basis of grammar alone v. 1 can be read as stating at the very least that the Word was divine. The further step of identifying the Word with God depends on contextual considerations. Evidence in this direction firstly comes from the expression μονογενὴς θεός, which is the most probable of the variant readings in vs. 18. Secondly, the identity of Jesus as God appears to be the presupposition of the Gospel as a whole.”, Stephen Voorwinde, Jesus’ Emotions in the Gospels (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2011), 158; Stephen Voorwinde, “John’s Prologue: Beyond Some Impasses of Twentieth-Century Scholarship,” Westminster Theological Journal 64, no. 1 (2002): 31; “While the divine identity of the Logos cannot be established simply on grammatical grounds in v. 1, there is nothing in the grammar of the prologue that would contradict this conclusion.”, “Whether or not the Word is also to be identified with God will depend on other than grammatical considerations. The immediate context would suggest that the Word, although in the most intimate fellowship with God, is yet distinct from God, i.e., Πρὸς τὸν θεόν (vv. 1–2). The wider context (1:18ff.), however, indicates identity.”, Stephen Voorwinde, “John’s Prologue: Beyond Some Impasses of Twentieth-Century Scholarship,” Westminster Theological Journal 64, no. 1 (2002): 30.

[21] Philo, “On Dreams” 1.229, Charles Duke Yonge with Philo of Alexandria, The Works of Philo: Complete and Unabridged (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1995), 385.

[22] Charles H. Talbert, Reading John: A Literary and Theological Commentary on the Fourth Gospel and the Johannine Epistles (Rev. ed.; Reading the New Testament Series; Macon, GA: Smyth & Helwys Publishing, 2005), 73–74.

[23] Jason A. Staples, “‘Lord, Lord’: Jesus as YHWH in Matthew and Luke,” New Testament Studies 64.1 (2018): 12.

[24] Albert Pietersma, “Kyrios or Tetragram: A Renewed Quest for the Original LXX,” in De Septuaginta: Studies in Honour of John William Wevers on His Sixty-Fifth Birthday, ed. Albert Pietersma, Claude E Cox, and John William Wevers (Mississauga, Ont., Canada: Benben Publications, 1984), 97.

[25] Albert Pietersma, “Kyrios or Tetragram: A Renewed Quest for the Original LXX,” in De Septuaginta: Studies in Honour of John William Wevers on His Sixty-Fifth Birthday, ed. Albert Pietersma, Claude E Cox, and John William Wevers (Mississauga, Ont., Canada: Benben Publications, 1984), 97.

[26] Walther Zimmerli, Frank Moore Cross, and Klaus Baltzer, Ezekiel: A Commentary on the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel (Hermeneia—a Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible; Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1979–), 560.

[27] Jason A. Staples, “‘Lord, Lord’: Jesus as YHWH in Matthew and Luke,” New Testament Studies 64.1 (2018): 12.

[28] Jason A. Staples, “‘Lord, Lord’: Jesus as YHWH in Matthew and Luke,” New Testament Studies 64.1 (2018): 3.

[29] Jason A. Staples, “‘Lord, Lord’: Jesus as YHWH in Matthew and Luke,” New Testament Studies 64.1 (2018): 5.

[30] Jason A. Staples, “‘Lord, Lord’: Jesus as YHWH in Matthew and Luke,” New Testament Studies 64.1 (2018): 10.

[31] Jason A. Staples, “‘Lord, Lord’: Jesus as YHWH in Matthew and Luke,” New Testament Studies 64.1 (2018): 14.

[32] Jason A. Staples, “‘Lord, Lord’: Jesus as YHWH in Matthew and Luke,” New Testament Studies 64.1 (2018): 13.

[33] Jason A. Staples, “‘Lord, Lord’: Jesus as YHWH in Matthew and Luke,” New Testament Studies 64.1 (2018): 13.

[33] Walther Zimmerli, Frank Moore Cross, and Klaus Baltzer, Ezekiel: A Commentary on the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel (Hermeneia—a Critical and Historical Commentary on the Bible; Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1979–), 560.

[34] Jason A. Staples, “‘Lord, Lord’: Jesus as YHWH in Matthew and Luke,” New Testament Studies 64.1 (2018): 13.

[35] Paul M. Joyce, Ezekiel: A Commentary (A&C Black, 2009), 46.

[36] Paul M. Joyce, Ezekiel: A Commentary (A&C Black, 2009), 47.

[37] Jason A. Staples, “‘Lord, Lord’: Jesus as YHWH in Matthew and Luke,” New Testament Studies 64.1 (2018): 9.

[38] Jason A. Staples, “‘Lord, Lord’: Jesus as YHWH in Matthew and Luke,” New Testament Studies 64.1 (2018): 14-15.

[39] Bart D Ehrman, How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee (New York, NY: HarperOne, 2014), 183.

[40] Bart D Ehrman, How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee (New York, NY: HarperOne, 2014), 184.

[41] Bart D Ehrman, How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee (New York, NY: HarperOne, 2014), 199.

[42] Bart D Ehrman, How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee (New York, NY: HarperOne, 2014), 185.

[43] Bart D Ehrman, How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee (New York, NY: HarperOne, 2014), 185.

[44] Bart D Ehrman, How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee (New York, NY: HarperOne, 2014), 39.

[45] Bart D Ehrman, How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee (New York, NY: HarperOne, 2014), 201-202.

[46] Bart D Ehrman, How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee (New York, NY: HarperOne, 2014), 202.

[47] Bart D Ehrman, How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee (New York, NY: HarperOne, 2014), 202.

[48] Bart D Ehrman, How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee (New York, NY: HarperOne, 2014), 202.

[49] Piotr Ashwin-Siejkowski, Clement of Alexandria on Trial: The Evidence of “Hersey” from Photius’ Bibliotheca (BRILL, 2010), 82.

[50] Piotr Ashwin-Siejkowski, Clement of Alexandria on Trial: The Evidence of “Hersey” from Photius’ Bibliotheca (BRILL, 2010), 85.

[51] Piotr Ashwin-Siejkowski, Clement of Alexandria on Trial: The Evidence of “Hersey” from Photius’ Bibliotheca (BRILL, 2010), 77.

[52] Theodore of Mopsuestia, “Commentary on Colossians”, Peter Gorday, Colossians, 1-2 Thessalonians, 1-2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon (Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture NT 9.; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 16.

[53] Gregory of Nyssa, “Gregory of Nyssa against Eunomius,” in Gregory of Nyssa: Dogmatic Treatises, Etc. (ed. Philip Schaff and Henry Wace; trans. William Moore et al.; vol. 5; A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, Second Series; New York: Christian Literature Company, 1893), 158.


(George Brooks) #4

@Jonathan_Burke,

Well, that was exilerating!

In a way, it’s a shame that it’s going to be lost on @Korvexius. He believes what he wants to believe, and throws caution to the wind when he denies whole categories of information. For example, despite the fact there are examples of pre-Christian structures (even Ireland has one) which were built to track the movement of the sun only during the Winter Solstice, he said that I was fabricating the idea that non-Christian societies anywhere gave any special religious notice to the behavior of the Sun in the Winter Solstice. To my knowledge, he has never reversed his opinion on that.

However, as a fellow Unitarian, I find your analysis here about two types of so-called “Binitarianism” to be most intriguing! It makes perfect sense that ancient thinkers might develop two different views on the nature of God: one way that God is a godhead of two persona’s (if I can legitimately use that word), in the sense of one god with two natures; the 2nd way being two separate divinities.

On the latter, I favor the idea of the Father, assisted by an exalted human. I think there is convincing evidence that Jesus, the son of Mary, was proving his credentials that he would be the awaited Exalted Man… maybe I can call the role “Saint Eretz” without doing too much violence to the way it was discussed in this ancient wing of sectarian Judaism.

If I were alive in those days, based on your discussions above, I believe I could have easily accepted the idea of an Exalted Man, at the right hand of the great Father.

Thank you for your introduction to these ideas.


(Reggie O'Donoghue) #5

As far as I’m concerned the information you gave was a rout, I accepted Boyarin’s position as fact until I saw this. However, I do have some reservations about whether or not Unitarianism can truly be found in the Christian scriptures, mainly down to the following verses:

Very truly I tell you," Jesus answered, "before Abraham was born, I am! (as in Ahayah Asher Ahayah)

Jesus answered: "Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

I and the Father are one."


(Jon) #6

Those verses need to be understood in the context of what the apostles actually taught. We have actual records of what they taught when they told Jews and gentiles about Jesus. In every case they preached Jesus was a man.

From my point of view the irony is that the Bible makes the humanity of Christ the test of orthodoxy, not his deity.

1 John 4:
3 but every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God, and this is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming, and now is already in the world.

The one predicate is ‘Did Jesus Christ come in the flesh?’. This is the opposite of what most Christians claim.

If we look at what the apostles taught, we find they taught that Jesus (even after his resurrection and going to heaven), is a man. In his speech to the Jews on the day of Pentecost, the apostle Peter tells them that Jesus is a man approved by God (note the distinction between Jesus and God).

When the apostles taught people about Jesus before baptizing them, they taught people he was a man. Whether or not we believe Jesus is God, we can’t insist that such a belief is a test of orthodoxy or who is a Christian, because the apostles obviously never did, and they should have known if anyone should.

Acts 2:
22 “Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man clearly attested to you by God with powerful deeds, wonders, and miraculous signs that God performed among you through him, just as you yourselves know -

The apostle Peter taught that Jesus is a man, not God, or even a God, or even on the same level as God. In his speech to the people after he had healed the lame man, the Peter tells them that Jesus was the fulfillment of the prophecy given by Moses, that God would send them a Messiah who was a man like them.

Acts 3:
22 Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your brothers. You must obey him in everything he tells you.

Here Moses says that the prophet God would send (the Messiah), would be ‘of your brethren, like unto me’; in other words, a man, a human being. Note again the distinction between God and this man.

In his speech to a law court, the apostle Stephen tells them that Jesus was the fulfillment of the prophecy given by Moses, that God would send them a Messiah who was a man like them.

Acts 7:
37 This is the Moses who said to the Israelites, ‘God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your brothers.’

He uses the same quote as the apostle Peter had used, telling them that the prophet God would send (the Messiah), would be ‘of your brethren, like unto me’; in other words, a man, a human being. Note again the distinction between God and this man.

When he was in Athens, the apostle Paul was speaking to some people about who Jesus was. In his speech, he told them clearly that Jesus was a man who received authority from God.

Acts 17:
30 Therefore, although God has overlooked such times of ignorance, he now commands all people everywhere to repent,
31 because he has set a day on which he is going to judge the world in righteousness, by a man whom he designated, having provided proof to everyone by raising him from the dead.”

Here Paul says that Jesus is a man appointed by God to judge the world. Note again the distinction between God and this man.

In his first letter to Timothy, the apostle Paul says that there is one God, and that there is one mediator between God and men, and that is Jesus Christ, who he says is a man.

1 Timothy 2:
5 For there is one God and one intermediary between God and humanity, Christ Jesus, himself human,
6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, revealing God’s purpose at his appointed time.

Note again the distinction between God and this man. We have God, and we have an intermediary between God and humanity, and the intermediary is part of humanity (not God).

It couldn’t be any clearer. The apostles all taught time and time and time again that Jesus was a man at his birth, and was still a man after his resurrection and going to the Father. So we can see that Jesus both was and still is a man. A human being. Nothing at all strange about that. It’s very clear. But we also know that he is a man with special power, and special authority, and special qualities, which he received from God. In that sense he is an exalted man, and in that sense he became divine.


(Reggie O'Donoghue) #7

It seems to me as though you’re just handwaving the trinitarian references to avoid contradiction. John 8:58 is probably the clearest reference to Jesus being God in the entire Bible, not because it mentions him as pre-existent (he ‘could’ conceivably be an angel, though this would also contradict 1 Timothy 2:5) but because he describes him self as ‘I am’, just as YHWH does.


(Jon) #8

No. Two points.

  1. They are not Trinitarian references. The overwhelming majority of scholars would agree they are not Trinitarian references. It is well recognized that the idea that God is three persons was absent from at least the first two centuries of Christianity. Even in the second century Jesus was understood to be an exalted man, or an angel, or even the Holy Spirit, but not definitively God.

  2. We have examples of this kind of language used in Second Temple Period literature, so we know what they mean. When we find them in their original socio-historical context they are not referring to God as more than one person. Even Trinitarian scholars recognize that “pre-existence” language in Second Temple Period Judaism was typically idealized rather than reified; in other words it was symbolic or metaphorical, rather than literal. Additionally, we know this “idealized” perspective was part of the apostles’ way of thinking, because we can find examples of it in the New Testament.

This is a common error. In the first century, Jews did not refer to God as “I am”. Additionally, the Greek translation of the Old Testament which translates the “I am” phrase in Exodus, uses a different phrase to the Greek used in John 8:58. If the Jews had understood Jesus to be referring to himself as Yahweh, they would have raised this at his trial. Most critical scholars (even if they are Trinitarian), agree that Jesus did not consider himself to be Yahweh, and did not refer to himself as Yahweh.


(Reggie O'Donoghue) #9

One more verse, from Jude 5 (I read this in The Unseen Realm):

Now I want to remind you, although you know everything once and for all, that
Jesus, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, the second time de-
stroyed those who did not believe.


(Jay Johnson) #10

Sorry, but this is almost certain to be my one and only contribution to the thread. Sorry, JB. Nothing against you.

@Reggie_O_Donoghue
The better comparison is not the Exodus passage, but the several passages in Isaiah where the Lord refers to himself as “I am he,” which is equivalent to the Greek of John 8:58.

You are my witnesses,” says the Lord,
“my servant whom I have chosen,
so that you may consider and believe in me,
and understand that I am he.
No god was formed before me,
and none will outlive me.
I, I am the Lord,
and there is no deliverer besides me.
I decreed and delivered and proclaimed,
and there was no other god among you.
You are my witnesses,” says the Lord, “that I am God.
From this day forward I am he;
no one can deliver from my power;
I will act, and who can prevent it?”

Isaiah 43:10-13


(Reggie O'Donoghue) #11

I’m actually playing Devil’s Advocate with these passages.


#12

Hello again Jonathan! It appears we can finally resume our dialogue. For practical purposes, I will provide a link to my last response to you here, since we’re starting a new thread as the last one was closed due to that no one posted something on it for 6 days.

You provided an admittedly gargantuan response, but I think I can straighten out this response a bit to be more concise. Here we go.

Definition of binitarianism and evolving scholarship

The first issue raised here is the definition of the word binitarianism. You contend that, based off of the words of Culianu (1981) and Segal (1977), the term binitarianism has a different meaning than the one I’m using, and I therefore got our discussion on binitarianism wrong. You therefore say;

In the broader literature, especially on Second Temple Period Judaism and Gnostic studies, it is used to describe the belief in two separate divine beings; typically the one true God, and a lesser divine entity (ontologically and functionally inferior), who is not God. Here Culianu uses the term “binitarianism” in this sense.

In fact, Culianu in your quote even exchanges almost synonymously the terms ditheism with binitarianism:

Graetz and his followers certainly were wrong in their demonstrations, because they confused two distinct concepts, namely ditheism (or binitarianism) and dualism.

And this is where I see the first problem begin. I think it’s quite clear that in older scholarship, these two words were used more or less synonymously. However, today, it couldn’t be more different. The evidence undoubtedly shows that in modern scholarship, the words binitarianism and ditheism are distinguished. The reason why they are distinguished is specifically because ditheism postulates two different gods where under binitarianism you still only have on God, regardless of the plurality of the persons. This could not be more clear. Earlier, I quoted Boyarin pointing out that historically, it was the rabbis who first tried to insist that binitarianism was just ditheism, which means Boyarin obviously uses them as different words with different meanings, in contrast to Culianu who uses them interchangeably.

We could, moreover, almost as easily desribe the developments in the opposite direction, namely, that Christianity insisted on separate persons and rejected Modalism as a response to the rabbinic insistence that binitarianism was equal to ditheism. (pg. 138)

C. Fletcher-Louis (in 2015) outright says the two words are different.

That would have entailed, in effect, a ditheism (rather than a “binitarianism”). (pg. 27, Jesus Monotheism)

And to finish it off, Larry Hurtado’s words will in effect take this point home. I admit I have not read Hurtado’s full book here (since your last month, I’ve been getting a bit addicted to quantum physics and have been spending a little too much time reading those books), but Hurtado also outright says that binitarianism and ditheism are two different things. Here, I will quote him:

This is why I have referred to this Jesus-devotion as a “binitarian” form of monotheism: there are two distinguishable figures (God and Jesus), but they are posited in a relation to each other that seems intended to avoid a ditheism of two gods, and the devotional practice shows a similar concern (e.g., prayer characteristically offered to God through/in the name of Jesus). (Lord Jesus Christ, pp. 52-3)

So, what’s the difference between Segal (1977) and Culianu (1981) and Hurtado (2003), Boyarin (2004) and Fletcher-Louis (2015)? Before I answer that question, I will point out a problem in your quotation of Segal that leads me to think he is not using the terms ditheism and binitarianism synonymously, rather even distinguishes them in your quote:

“At its beginning, Christianity was rather more “binitarian” than trinitarian, emphasizing only Christ and the Father as God. Since Christianity has been suggested as a candidate for the heresy by scholars, we must be prepared to allow that the “two powers in heaven” were complementary instead of opposing deities as one normally expects. The heresy may have been “binitarianism” or “ditheism” depending on the perspective of the speaker, but not necessarily opposing dualism. Thus, propounding a strict definition of the heresy before looking at the evidence will be impossible.” [5]

Here, he says that depending on the perspective of the speaker, this could be viewed as a ditheism or binitarianism, the word ‘or’ clearly meaning they are different (since he would have otherwise bracketed binitarianism into ditheism like Culianu did). You also provide this quote:

“Note that the term “two gods” (ditheism) can be equated with “two powers” (binitarianism) in this passage.” [6]

This is the full quotation though, which appears in a footnote.

Since God never directly says in scripture that He was at the Sea and at Sinai,one must conclude that R. Hiyya is referring to an earlier midrash which resembled the text in
MRSbY or MRI or even to targumic exegesis of Ex. 3 since R. Hiyyaquotes in Aramaic. Note that the term “two gods” (ditheism) can be equated with"two powers" (binitarianism) in this passage.

This is ambiguous though, since Segal qualifies his statement with “in this passage” which means that this equating only happens in the midrashic passage being discussed. I will however, for the sake of the argument on this particular point say that he did equate them as you claim, even though the evidence suggests to me he’s clearly distinguishing them here: an important point remains impedes using this scholarship of the time of Culianu and earlier to try to talk about how binitarianism is defined now.

The problem is of course, christology is vastly different from what it was in 1981 and before. The revolution in christology occurred after 1981 with the work of Hurtado and Bauckham (as well as Hengel and Wright), and since then, much more work has been produced on analyzing christology in the NT and defining terms in different ways than would have been familiar with previous generations of scholarship. Thus, it is very apparent why someone might see a different definition of binitarianisim in Culianu’s day between how the term is being used in modern scholarship, especially with all modern scholars clearly distinguishing binitarianism from ditheism (Fletcher-Louis, Boyarin, Hurtado, etc, it is very clear). Thus, trying to use a definition of binitarianism from 1981 and applying it to modern scholarship would be like a physicist in the 1940’s using the definition of ‘quantum mechanics’ from 1910. The field had changed so much that it is simply a mistake in trying to do so. Thus, it’s more than obvious that the definition of binitarianism is exactly in line with what I’m saying for every single person who has been quoted. The way I see it, you also misinterpreted Schafer.

Many of the debates between the rabbis and the heretics betray a sharp and furious rejection of ideas about God that smack of polytheism in its pagan or Christian guise, the latter making do with just two or three gods—that is, developing a binitarian or trinitarian theology.

Schafer is more than obviously saying that to the rabbis and heretics, the binitarians just looked like disguised polytheists to them. You really didn’t need to go to Schafer to figure this one out, since my quote of Boyarin above already says the exact same thing: rabbis were trying to insist that the binitarians were really just ditheists all along. I don’t see how any of this contradicts me. You also go on to say Hurtado thinks Jesus is not worshipped “as God”, though he does say worship is literally incomplete to God if it does not include Jesus. Anyhow, I think it’s more than obvious naming a disagreement between Hurtado and me is quite pointless, since you’re not any more orthodox views than I am, in fact I think I’m more in line with him. Hurtado sees the pre-existence of Jesus as pretty essential, especially since this is the only way Hurtado can see Jesus as the principle agent through which God created the universe, though this explosively contradicts your view. You don’t think Jesus is the Word, however Hurtado elsewhere outright says Jesus in the NT had many titles, one of them being “the Word of God”. In this paper of his he has recently promoted on his blog:

So, for example, Jesus is the one through whom all things were made (by God), and the one through whom the world is redeemed (for God, e.g., 2 Cor 5:19; Rev 1:5-6). Jesus is the “Son of
God,” “the Image of God,” “the Word of God,” shares “the ‘form’ of God,” and has been
appointed ruler on God’s behalf (e.g., 1 Cor 15:20-28). In short, it seems to me that Jesus is
included within the “divine identity” specifically as God’s unique chief-agent! (pg. 10)

You also mention he doesn’t think John 20:28 is historically authentic. But quite frankly, not only doesn’t that matter to me, that doesn’t matter to this debate either. We’re debating whether or not Jesus is thought of God in the NT. And someone would have to head-over-heels combust to try to argue against John 20:28 calling Jesus God. Though, at this point I wont invoke the passage, since it’s clear we have enough points do discuss as it is now.

Since “Jewish Gospels” makes the very argument to which you appealed, then how can you claim that criticism of that specific argument in “Jewiish Gospels” is irrelevant to the point you are making? The criticisms of “Jewish Gospeles” I cited are all criticizing exactly the argument to which you appealed.

Nope. Jewish Gospels does not make the argument I’m appealling to. At all. I’ve made it very clear that the only argument here is that Jesus is God in the NT. If I wanted to use Jewish Gospels, I would probably read it first. The argument I’m obviously quoting is Border Lines, which demonstrates binitarianism in Second Temple Judaism. That’s the entire point of quoting Boyarin’s work. I’ve already exhaustively analyzed the criticisms, and I’ve shown that 1) the ones of Schafer, DeCock and almost all of them in general agree with Boyarin that binitarianism existed in this period, just as he said, and 2) all their disagreements are on peripheral points, such as whether or not binitarianism was a majority or overall smaller, or some other small points. And, as is clear, Boyarin absolutely makes the argument that binitarianism only became heretical in the second century. This is pretty clear in his book. He exhaustively analyzes the changes in the definition of the term heresy (hairesis) that occurred between the time of the Book of Acts to Justin, where it went from meaning a simple viewpoint to an unacceptable view contradicting an orthodoxy, and furthermore, he argues that what distinguished Christianity from Judaism in the second century was Logos theology/binitarianism. The Christians made it a heresy not to accept this, and the Jews made it a heresy to accept this. This is all throughout his book. I have documented this and more in a blog post I wrote some time ago discussing Boyarin’s argument, including many quotations of the relevant pages here after I read his book.

Is it “Border Lines” or “Jewish Gospels” or both, or neither?

As seen earlier, Border Lines. The Jewish Gospels is interested in proving Trinitarianism and the divinity of the Holy Spirit, which is what it failed to do. As DeCock pointed out on The Jewish Gospels, and I quoted her in my previous response, Boyarin does not show any of this at all, all he did was prove binitarianism existed at this point, and it’s not as if there are any scholars disagreeing with that. See:

Despite Boyarin’s controversial argument that the “germs” of Trinitarian theology were already present in Jewish thought at the time of Jesus, what he actually demonstrates to us is a Jewish binitarian theology, with which few would disagree. (pg. 188)

This quote appeared in my previous response. I think you have misunderstood a number of my points on this. You also misunderstood Boyarin once more:

The claim that the Jews were expecting a divine messiah takes up three entire chapters in “Border Lines” (chapters 4-6).

Sorry Jonathan, not a single one of those chapters argues for a divine “messiah”. The only time a divine “messiah” ever appears or is discussed is in The Jewish Gospels, and the idea of a divine messiah does not appear once in Border Lines or any of the academic reviews of Border Lines. A divine messiah is different from a second divine entity from the Father included in His monotheism, which has nothing to do with messiahship whatsoever. In my previous comment, I exhaustively detailed the argument of Border Lines and the Jewish Gospels, and have contrasted the reviews of the two books to solidify this point. I needn’t requote DeCock explaining exactly what The Jewish Gospels is about. The books simply cannot, on any planet, be equated. One tries to discuss how Christianity and Judaism historically became separate religions, whereas the other is interested in showing Trinitarianism and a divine messiah during the Second Temple Period. You say one more thing here:

Remember, you have claimed “Boyarin never argues for a divine Messiah in Border Lines”, But he does, explicitly.
The visions in 1 Enoch & 4 Ezra (2 Esdras), prove the Jews expected the messiah to be a divine figure.

Huh? Please quote where Boyarin says, in Border Lines, where these passages reveal a divine messiah. I have read these texts and strangely have found no such thing.

You claimed NT Wright’s review “has zero to do with Border Lines”, when in fact it is critiquing an argument which is made explicitly in “Border Lines”; the claim that the Jews were expecting a divine messiah.

As we’ve seen, Boyarin literally never mentions any divine messiah in Border Lines. The closest thing is his mention in pg. 140 that Rabbi Akiva in some second century source (or something) that said that the Son of Man figure is a Messiah. And it’s not like that is a contentious point, since the source he quotes, the BT Hagiga, explicitly says that. But Boyarin has absolutely no discussion of a divine messiah here, he’s simply showing that the Daniel 7 in later centuries was interpreted as referring to a divine figure. And everyone agrees with that.

You say that all Paget and Smith are saying is that Boyarin “hasn’t proven that logos theology was normative in Second Temple Judaism”. But that is very obviously not all they are saying. Paget says Boyarin’s thesis that binitarianism was common in the Second Temple Period, is “contentious

Exactly. They are saying he hasn’t proven it was “normative”. That’s exactly what I pointed out. He did not prove it was normative in the Second Temple Period. That is identical to what I’ve been saying all along. For example, when I said earlier:

James Paget and Mark Smith. Both of these scholars basically claim that he hasn’t proven that logos theology was normative in Second Temple Judaism

And it is not as if I just highlighted the word normative here to draw your attention to it. I have this word bolded in my original response. That’s all Paget and Smith are saying. All your quotes repeat exactly this, it is problematic/not proven to say that this view was normative. You seem to be missing that word.

You objected to Adriel Shremer’s criticism of Boyarin on the basis that you think he “wants to hold on to his own (highly) idiosyncratic explanation for the rise of binitarian theology”. You didn’t address any of his criticism of Boyarin’s arguments. That’s important, because the criticisms which Schremer makes are ths same criticisms made by other scholars, such as Paget, Smith, Schafer, DeCock, and Hurtado.

I have already stated earlier in my previous response that Boyarin has in fact responded to Schremer (or however you spell his name), and that Schremer’s thesis is overall highly idiosyncratic, both in his disagreements with Boyarin and his proposal of how binitarianism actually originated in the Second Temple Period.

The relevance, as I made clear, is that both Schafer and DeCock point out that Akiva is not saying God is two persons. He is speaking of two divine figures. Boyarin presents Akiva’s quotation as evidence that early Christians believed the “son of man” in Daniel 7 was one of two divine persons both in one being in a binitarian sense (Border Lines 140, Jewish Gospels 40-41). Both Schafter and DeCock point out there is no evidence for this interpretation of Akiva.

Huh? That is just flatly wrong. Neither Schafer nor DeCock mention Akiva in their reviews. I have no idea where you’re getting this from.

It is totally clear that when they refer to binitarianism in Second Temple Period Judaism, they are not speaking of one God who is two persons; they are not speaking of a “complex Godhead”.

They are speaking of, that at the very least there are two divine beings included in a single monotheism. In this sense, it is possible for the two divine beings to equal or for one of the divine beings to be lesser and one to be higher. But it’s evident that your use isn’t working.

Reviews of Boyarin?

You say I mention eight reviews. In fact, I mention 10 overall: Michael Carden, Elaine Pagels, Jack Miles, Emmanouela Grypeou, Jed Wyrick, Joshua Kulp, Ra’anan Boustan, Joshua Brumbach, Stuart Miller, and of course Richard Hays who was discussed separately. You claim I included commentary on The Jewish Gospels in my ten reviews. Well, I didn’t, I don’t know why you think I did. All reviews were clearly about Border Lines and didn’t mention the other book (since it hadn’t been published when all those reviews were written, with the exception of Hays book, which doesn’t mention The Jewish Gospels anyways). You say that I should have been able to quote more than eight (ten) scholars if what I was saying is right. Huh? It’s not like anything more than a small minority of academic monographs get ten reviews to begin with. Ten positive reviews is a lot, and that’s not including the reviews of Jacob Neusner and James D.G. Dunn that, while they exist, I do not have access to them since they’re behind a paywall. And to establish this beyond a doubt, I’ve further shown that Boyarin’s book has won the 2006 Award for Excellence in the Historical Study of Religion from the American Academy of Religion, and that it is a classic in the field of NT scholarship with literally over 800 citations. I could go through many of these citations, one after the other showing their agreement with Boyarin, but that would be pointlessly exhaustive. All this shows beyond a reasonable doubt the standing of academia in relation to Boyarin’s book. Lastly, you only say two of the scholars I quote explicitly accept binitarianism in their short reviews. Again, this, to me, sounds like a red herring since the scholars I mentioned, almost all of which aren’t included in your “two”, say things like Boyarin’s book is “characteristically brilliant” (Boustan), that the book is “groundbreaking” (Jed Wyrick), and you don’t even include Hays who flatly says Boyarin’s book demonstrates a multiplicity of the divine person. The endorsements of these scholars is more than enough to show how solid the book is in academia. Just last response of yours, you were saying something alike to the notion that Boyarin’s work is almost entirely rejected and is fringe or something. How the tides have changed! In your analyzation of the reviews, you seem to misunderstand (and selectively quote) all the reviews to try to show they don’t really accept Boyarin’s point. They all do, as they explicitly state. None of those scholars has somehow misunderstood Boyarin’s argument, which is flatly obvious, and/or are operating under different definitions. You seem to strangely think so when you say things like this:

Boustan understands Boyarin as arguing for “the existence of a second divine power who mediates between an otherwise wholly transcendent deity and the material world”; he says nothing about Boyarin proving a case for a “complex Godhead” in Second Temple Period Judaism, and absolutely nothing about binitarinism of any kind

Again, we’ve seen over and over that Boyarin’s use of words like “second god” and “second divinity” are included within monotheism (you appear to repeatedly forget this and that this specific language comes from Philo), and that Boustan is saying exactly what Boyarin is saying here. You are simply confusing yourself by shifting between the terms binitarianism/second god as if either of them exist outside of the range of monotheism or as if the two scholars are mysteriously talking about something different without actually telling us they are. Boyarin contends with the divine multiplicity, and all scholars I quoted agree that Boyarin’s book is largely correct (outside peripheral details where debate exists) and so we only need to find out what Boyarin is saying to see what they agree with.

But wait, you have told me that “Border Lines” and “Jewish Gospels” have completely different arguments, and “they do not make the same arguments whatsoever”. Yet here is Fletcher-Louis claiming that both books argue "there was a binitarian strand of Jewish theology already in pre-Christian Judaism ", and saying that both books appeal to Daniel 7 and the Similitudes of Enoch. How is it that Fletcher-Louis didn’t come to the same conclusion as you? How could he say that this same argument was made in both books, using the same passages, when you have insisted “they do not make the same arguments whatsoever”?

You’re clearly holding on to small details to try to show a large correlation between the two books. None of the tiny similarities mentioned here at all refute the enormous and overarching differences, and the fact that it has been definitively shown that the criticism you cited of The Jewish Gospels can’t be extended to Border Lines.

They are not evidence of something like ditheism in Boyarin. I did not present them as ditheism in Boyarin at all. If you had read the rest of what I wrote right after those words, you would have known that I stated repeatedly, very strongly, that this is not ditheism in Boyarin. Why did you even ask that question, when it was totally irrelevant to what I wrote? The point I made is that these are examples of Boyarin’s “binitarianism” which is not “a complex Godhead” of one God with two persons. Boyarin’s “binitarianism” is usually (but not always), two separate divine beings, only one of whom is the one true God, while the other is an ontologically and functionally subordinate divine being such as an exalted human, an arch-angel, or a hypostasis of one of God’s attributes. None of these is “binitarianism” in the sense of “a complex Godhead” of one God with two persons.

Why do you keep using the term “complex Godhead”? This needn’t be called a ‘Godhead’ if that bothers you, nor need it be ‘complex’. Anyhow, Boyarin clearly contended that, just as all scholars says here, binitarianism is two divine beings as one person, in one monotheism. Again, I will quote Boyaryin explicitly saying that everything about the language of “second god” or “second divinity” between the Father and the Logos never precluded or got outside the range of monotheism.

It becomes apparent, therefore, that for one branch of pre-Christian Judaism there was nothing strange about a doctrine of a deuteros theos, a “second” God (although to be sure, Philo uses this “shocking” term only once), and nothing in that doctrine that precluded monotheism. (pg. 113)

Hays review makes it even more explicit, flatly pointing out that Boyarin is talking about a multiplicity of the divine persons. Again, not a single scholar has any problem understanding Boyarin’s definition. You are the only person I have seen making such a fuss over the definition of this word. It seems to confuse no one else, and no one but yourself has something to pick over Boyarin’s use or acceptance or argument with his binitarianisim (which is just the regular binitarianism). You go on to quote Boyarin saying binitarianism was the anti-Nicene predecessor of trinitarianism, which seems to make what I’m saying even more obvious. You then claim I misunderstood this quote:

"In the first and second centuries, there were Jewish non-Christians who firmly held theological doctrines of a second God, variously called Logos, Memra, Sophia, Metatron, or Yahoel; indeed, perhaps most of the Jews did so at the time. There were also significant and powerful Christian voices who claimed that any distinction of persons within the godhead constituted ditheism.”

I simply do not see which part is supposed to refute my argument(s) at all. Jewish non-Christians held to doctrines of a “second God” (again, the term comes from Philo, who does not mean it in a polytheistic way), and independently of this, Christians were saying you can’t separate the two persons of God otherwise you’re a ditheist, which is a heresy.

Finally, when I pointed out that Boyarin qualifies his use of “divine” by saying that when he refers to Jesus as divine he means functionally divine, not ontologically divine, you said that wasn’t relevant because he said that about his use of “divine” in “Jewish Gospels”. How is it not relevant? Are you claiming that in “Border Lines” he uses the word “divine” in relation to Jesus in a completely different sense? If so, where’s the evidence?

The proof is in the pudding. Why is there no such qualification of terms in Border Lines? Finally, Hays:

Do you think the phrase “provocatively destabilized” means “This is something he has said which people will agree with”, or “This is something which people will disagree with”? Something else?

I think it’s pretty obvious, especially in the context where Hays said it. First, scholarship was pretty astute over how they rigidly say the divine person as having no multiplicity in the views of first-century Jews. Then, Boyarin comes along, and this entire idea is destabilized. That Boyarin’s book has so destabilized and broken earlier views in scholarship is also obviously reflected by the overwhelming agreement of scholars with Boyarin’s thesis in the reviews, the academic award the book won in 2006 and it’s 800+ citations. You once again go to Hurtado’s non-coded review. Again, Hurtado never says anything coded in that review. He made positive statements about a book, but did not endorse it. That’s what he did. There’s nothing coded. Seriously. Hurtado was pretty clear, as was Hays. Quite frankly, if you think Hurtado’s review was coded, you have understood it just as much as the person Hurtado was replying to.

Other stuff

I will repeat what I said. Even if a Greek word appears in a text with one meaning 90% of the time, this does not tell us anything about what it must mean in the remaining number of instances. We only have grounds to conclude that it is most likely to mean the same thing if it is used in the same context, with the same syntax and grammar. In this case, we would need to compare John’s use of the anarthrous θεός in John 1:1 to all John’s other uses of the anarthrous θεός in the same context.

I must simply disagree on this point. If we have a word, and in its usage it overwhelmingly means the same defintiion (i.e. theos meaning God), and we come across an example that might appear slightly ambiguous and not outright clear, there is absolutely no reason for arguing that it must have a different meaning. Again, John even uses theos twice in John 1:1, in the exact same passage, context, syntax, grammar, and everything else you want, and we both agree that in the other use of theos in John 1:1, it means God. And in every other context, all of them with the exception of Jesus saying “you are gods” (which is ironically, out of all the uses of theos in John, the one that is most dissimilar to 1:1 in context and grammar) mean ‘God’. There is a clear consistency, and thus clear rational reasoning allowing us to translate it as God here. This does not compare with theos referring to the Father, since in the two instances where it is not used to mean the Father, it is outright clear. John literally tells us that these two uses of theos do not refer to the Father, just like how John outright tells us that theos in John 10:34 does not mean God. The context gives it away. On the other hand, you don’t have any context to fall back on in John 1:1 to contrast it with uses of theos elsewhere, like we have for contrasting theos with the Father in the examples you cited. And to conclude, I am not arguing that, as you claim, this means theos must mean God. I’m saying that means it probably means God. I’m simply showing my position has more evidence to support it. Thus, the argument from “statistical analysis isn’t always right” wont work, since I’m not implementing any certainty into this argument. It’s just that, another argument. And Paul possibly, ambiguously meaning ‘divine’ in some random passage in Paul is quite irrelevant and does not substantiate your position. Do you really want to go to the statistics of theos in Paul too and come to the same 99% figure we’ve seen in John? And lastly, you did not mention my other comments on translating it as God: the context! It is pretty clear. The Word is with God at the beginning, the medium of all creation, and that the Word has a relationship with God that no other being holds. Furthermore, another thing you did not address was this: you claimed that the Word created Jesus, and I responded that it could not be more clear that this is wrong and that the Word is Jesus, exactly as Hurtado, Ehrman and all the others all point out:

In fact, this is all wrong, since John 1 never says that the Logos created Jesus. Ever. It doesn’t say that. It says that the Logos, the Word, is Jesus. The Logos became flesh. What became flesh was the Logos. See that? Jesus is the Word in John 1. That’s exactly what it says, it couldn’t be more clear.

Anyways,

On other matters, yes you previously did say that Jesus is the same person as the Father. Not only did you say “Jesus is the Father”, when I challenged you on this (pointing out that this is “confusing the persons”, and quoting Trinitarian theologians saying this), you doubled down, said it was not confusing the persons, and cited the Scutum Fidei in defense of the claim that Jesus is the Father, without realizing that the Scutum Fidei expressly denies that Jesus is the Father. I hope you agree now that Jesus is not the Father, and that the fact that 81 of the instances of θεός in John which do refer to the Father, does not indicate that the remaining two instances of θεός in John must also refer to the Father.

I do not know why you are trying to insist I’m doubling down or changing my mind. I said Jesus is the Father, in the sense of being, not person. Quite frankly, at best you’ve shown I might have been ambiguous (although I think I said countless times earlier that they are not the same being). There’s no point debating this point. I’ve explained what I mean here. Insisting I did not have this meaning will not lead to one argument refuting another.

Anywho, regarding the anarthrous use of theos in John 1:1, you argue from Philo that this means “a god” rather than “God”. Maybe this was true for Philo’s grammar, but it is untenable when discussing the Gospel of John. Another anarthrous use of theos in John appears right there in 1:18:

John 1:18: No one has ever seen God. It is God the only Son,[a] who is close to the Father’s heart,[b] who has made him known.

Right there, “No one has ever seen God” without a definite article. I have also read elsewhere that using the definite article in 1:1 could have been seen with modalistic underlinings, and thus it’s not surprising to see an avoidance.

Since Jesus is basing this parable on Jewish custom, and since “lord lord” is addressed by the bridesmaids to the bridegroom, are we really to believe that it was Jewish custom for the bridesmaids to refer to the bridegroom as “Yahweh”? Now I have read the paper, I find that Staples does not address this at all. He never explains what it would mean for bridesmaids to address the bridegroom as “lord lord”. This is a serious oversight.

Woah, woah, woah, please send Jason Staples an email (he responds) or ask him about this on his blog (he responds). You have flatly misunderstood the text. It is not that the bridgegroom is YHWH, it is that Jesus is YHWH here. The bridgegroom, in this parable, happens to be Jesus. There is no oversight whatsoever. And to make it more obvious that it is Jesus who is “Lord Lord” and not the bridgegroom, Jesus is also called Lord Lord in two other verses in the Synoptics.

Despite the fact that Jesus is apparently saying that the people to whom he is speaking were literally calling him “lord lord”, there is actually no record of anyone in any of the gospels ever calling Jesus “lord lord”. Not his followers, not his disciples (either before or after his resurrection), nor anyone else. Once again, Staples does not address this at all. Note that this is not an argument from silence. This is not a matter of saying "There isn’t any record of anyone calling Jesus “lord lord”, therefore Staples’ argument is wrong. The point I am making is that if Staples’ interpretation of the passage is correct, then people really did address Jesus as “lord lord”, specifically to identify him as Yahweh. This being the case, we would expect to find evidence of people addressing Jesus as “lord lord” or speaking of him as “lord lord”, specifically to identify him as Yahweh, because that’s what Staples says they did.

How you don’t consider this as an argument from silence is beyond me. Staples isn’t saying Jesus was regularly called “Lord Lord” in His daily life or whatnot. He’s just saying that in these specific Synoptic verses, Jesus is given the title Lord Lord. That much is irrefutable. Indeed, your point literally entirely evades this. And what does it mean to be called ‘Lord Lord’ at all? It means you’re Adonai YHWH.

It doesn’t mean you’re necessarily wrong, but it does mean you need to explain why your claim accounts for the data more efficiently than other hypotheses.

Of course it doesn’t mean I’m wrong. It just means that Jesus only ever discussed being Lord Lord on few occasions. It’s also important to note that out of the three times Jesus is Lord Lord in the Synoptics (Matthew 7: 21-2, 25:11; Luke 6:46) two of them appear in apocalyptic contexts of what will be said to Jesus on the Day of Judgement (or something), which appears to show this is more of a divine title for the exalted Jesus at the end of the world (or something) rather than an everyday term used by His followers, which should further solve your problem. There are many odd things in the Synoptics, this one needn’t be a problem. And to add, Staples discusses the apocalyptic context of Lord Lord at length in his paper, which I think you should revisit. To end with, Staples paper simply discusses what Lord Lord would have meant in the Synoptics, given what it meant everywhere outside of the Synoptics. It’s pretty akin to your argument from outside of John (regarding anarthrous theos) to show what something in John would have obviously meant to any reader.

Anyways, you go on to say that every once in a while, Lord Lord is translated from something that isn’t Adonai YHWH (but all your examples still unambiguously refer to the one God of Israel), such as Exodus 34:6 and others. I don’t see the point. Are you arguing Lord Lord could have meant YHWH Elohim in the Synoptics rather than Adonai YHWH? I don’t see how that would be doing anything other than shooting yourself in the foot, but anyways, it’s pretty clear that Lord Lord almost unanimously comes from Adonai YHWH with a few exceptions, which is expected in every type of translation. I also don’t know the point of you mentioning the Adonai Lord Lord passage. By the way, you mention something that I simply do not see:

In Ezekiel 23:32 LXX there is the variant αδωναι κυριος κυριος (adonai kurios kurios), and whatever kurios kurios stands for here, it cannot stand for adonai yahweh since adonai is already transliterated in this place with the Greek αδωναι.

From this LXX website, Exodus 23:32 reads:

οὐ συγκαταθήσῃ αὐτοῖς καὶ τοῖς θεοῖς αὐτῶν διαθήκην

I don’t see the Adonai Kurios Kurios here. Especially since Adonai is Hebrew, whereas Kurious is Greek. What would the two words be doing together? Anyways, I don’t see it in Exodus 23:32.

So he acknowledges the case or geminatio in Matthew 7:22; 25:11, and presents no evidence that there is “no indication of heightened emotion or affection” in the statements in Matthew 7:21. This is not a way to make a strong case.

Huh? This is a strange statement, since Staples simply says there is no evidence for there being any heightened emotion in these passages. The burden of proof is obviously on the one who wants to claim that any of this is actually taking place, given there’s no such indication. Concerning P967, here we have another interesting situation. Firstly, even if we entirely exclude Ezekiel, we still have over 40+ uses, hardly breaking down Staples argument. Secondly, Staples refers to scholarship suggesting P967 actually has alterations. Though it is old, it doesn’t look like there’s anything refuting it, and that Staples agrees with it in 2018 means that it is an argument that must still be addressed in 2018. Otherwise, Staples could have argued the exact same thing in his paper without mentioning the 1948 paper. It’s much easier to just refer to someone who has already made the argument. Why would Staples arguments on the alterations be incorrect? Your response to “modern scholarship” disagreeing with Staples appears to be only one reference to someone who doesn’t discuss the possibility of alteration of P967. So, 1) There is scholarship that must be addressed on P967, and 2) Even with it, there is still a plentiful number of cases with Lord Lord being used, exactly in line with what Staples says, so not much changes.

  1. He claims the double kurios was used as an exorcism formula, but fails to present any evidence of it being used in this way.

Huh? This is the only discussion of exorcism/healing in his paper:

Verse 22 further underscores the connection of the double κύριος with the divine name, revealing that, as with the names of other deities or angels in the ancient world, the κύριος κύριος formula can be invoked to perform works of power (cf. the casting out of evil spirits by the ‘name of κύριος Jesus’ in Acts 19.13). Indeed, the condemned protest that they have performed cosmic acts of power (δυνάμεις) such as exorcism and prophecy ‘in your name’ (7.22), which might initially be assumed to be ‘Jesus’

This clearly concerns just a peripheral possibility to Staples argument that these verses show Lord Lord being used in a context for Jesus where it is used in an exorcism context. It is possible that the double formula is to be used in exorcism/similar contexts, or that the double formula only appears here in a context that just so happens to mention exorcism/healing/etc. It’s hardly relevant overall.

He claims that the double kurios amounts to calling Jesus God, but fails to provide any evidence that anyone in the first century or beyond understood the double kurios this way.

This appears to be a red herring, as he shows that almost all uses of Lord Lord in the ancient world come from Adonai YHWH, with perhaps the precious few exceptions you mentioned. A phrase has the meaning of what it was translated from. That is all that is needed to be shown to carry Staples argument. And to add on, you take the seeming perspective of this being simply an “exclamatory formula”, the heightened emotion interpretation, but you entirely sidestep Staples arguments revealing that this is actually not at all the intended use of the phrase on pg. 15, by pointing out that the context fits much better by understanding this title as an address/invocation to grant access to the kingdom. That is, in order to get into the kingdom, one must know and address Jesus as “Lord Lord”, or perhaps a similar title that yields the same theological significance. If it was simply intended of heightened emotion, it must be quite a coincidence that it only appears in apocalyptic context where the salvation of the listener is being discussed.

This is only the first comment, do not reply yet. Since your responses are incredibly long, I will post a second response later. I will send you a message when I am done sending my responses so that you can respond yourself. Until that time, this comment (and others) may be modified.


(George Brooks) #13

You know, @Korvexius, speaking as someone who has had Lotsa Lotsa Lotsa disputation with @Jonathan_Burke, trying to prove someone was right about an old idea, or that someone else was right about someone being wrong about an old idea - - these are losing propositions. You’ll never get anywhere with @Jonathan trying to get all the score cards to match.

Drop the old stuff. It’s old. It doesn’t matter who was right about being wrong about the old stuff.

Start new.

Accept that there are two kinds of Binitarians… and answer the question, which binitarian type do you think the New Testament is closest to - - if at all. … And move it along.

I’m not going to read any foolishness about who was wrong about being wrong.

You’ll lose your readers in a flash.

Move it forward… establish what you two Agree upon, and state why the parts you disagree should be considered in a new light.

Important Tip!: If you choose one piece of the dispute to comment upon, and keep it to a few paragraphs, usually the other side will follow along, and respond only to your few paragraphs.


#14

Continuation and a little more on Jason Staples

Thankfully, yesterday I posted a question on Staples’ blog regarding his paper (regarding one of the objections you brought up, the appearance of kurious kurious in translations that don’t come from Adonai YHWH) and he has already responded, at least by the time I checked this morning. So to begin with, I’ll post my question to Staples and his response. I asked:

Hello Dr. Staples. I would also just like to ask you some questions as your paper has come up in a discussion with someone else. Apparently, the term ‘Lord Lord’ is translated in the LXX, sometimes, from phrases in the Hebrew that do not come from Adoniah YHWH, but perhaps YHWH Elohim and others. For example, in the LXX, Exodus 34:6, Deuteronomy 10:17, and 1 Chronicles 17:24. What do you think is the significance of these passages on your paper? I’d love to hear your response. Also, I think kurios kurios is also used in the Apocalypse of Moses 25:3.

I appreciate your words and answers.

He responded:

Hi Jimmy, good question. LXX Exodus 34:6 and Deuteronomy 10:17 don’t have κύριος κύριος, so they’re not really relevant here. What matters is what underlies the double κύριος when it appears.

1 Chron 17:23 is a more interesting example. The Hebrew there has a string of various titles: “YHWH Sabaoth, the Elohe of Israel, Elohim to Israel,” which the LXX translates “kurie kurie pantokrator theos Israel” (Lord LORD, creator of all, God of Israel). The Hebrew doesn’t have Adonai YHWH, but κύριε κύριε there definitely translates YHWH, which is what really matters there—it’s another example of the double κύριος unambiguously marking the divine name YHWH.

And yes, Apoc. Mos. 25:3 has the double κύριος; the article addresses that and a couple other examples from Greek pseudepigrapha. The bottom line is that unless we have the underlying Hebrew for a text, we can’t be 100% sure what underlies the Greek, though based on the remaining evidence, it’s most likely that the underlying Hebrew was Adonai YHWH.

I guess that settles that. Besides my responses to your argument, I will say that you must also take your objections and post them on Staples’ blog (see link above) so we can both see your questions and read his answers. That will, undoubtedly, clear up more items and questions than we would be able to do together, going to the very person who knows this information the most and has published his paper (such as your sayings on P967).

Issues that have not been addressed

In my previous comment, I remember making at least two points that you did not respond to here.

Regarding debate on John 1:1 definitely claiming Jesus as God, you claim Daniel Wallace notes this has been debated somewhere by scholars sometime in the last century. Of course, I’ve shown Wallace prefers to ‘God’ translation, but his citation goes to Murrary. And then you write that also Murray prefers the ‘God’ translation, but cites others that don’t. This suddenly gets confusing. Which scholar does Murray cite that does not agree John 1:1 establishes Jesus as God, regardless of whether or not you translate it as ‘God’ or ‘divine’? You only seem to show him discussing different grammatical usage of theos in John 1:1. Let me more directly ask you. Which scholar does Murray cite who claims that John 1:1 does not show Jesus is God?

This almost sounds contradictory. I provide numerous references to new evidence as adduced by scholarship of the Synoptics understanding Jesus as God that wasn’t available beforehand, including the work of Hays, Staples, Loke, and now Ehrman whose mind has now finally changed just in 2014, which signifies real change in scholarship. Ehrman, a month after publishing his book How Jesus Became God, writes on his blog:

So yes, now I agree that Jesus is portrayed as a divine being, a God-man, in all the Gospels. But in very different ways, depending on which Gospel you read.

Do you agree that Jesus is portrayed as a divine God-man in all the Gospels? Ehrman’s change signifies real change. You claim the other authors I cite “always” believed this. That’s irrelevant. Probably, a significant minroity of scholars believe that Luke’s account of the census can be resolved, but almost 100% of published claims on this issue claim there is a big problem. What matters is the scholarly and published arguments, not the belief. The question is, does the scholarship now on Jesus being God in the Synoptics differ with scholarship before 2014? The answer is undoubtedly yes. With a big scholar, Ehrman now on the boat, much much more evidence has been described, significantly including Hays work and Staples work (at least as far as I know, there could be more). And both scholars specifically state that this new evidence must revise current beliefs on the Synoptics. Neither of their arguments have been refuted yet – in fact, Hays book, even though it has only been published for 4 years, has already had considerable influence and basically every word that has been said on it is very positive. I think Hays book is irrefutable, quite frankly, Reading Backwards is still the best scholarly book I’ve ever read in my opinion. It was really a paradigm shift (and it’s covers are filled with endorsements by Bauckham, N.T. Wright, etc).

Again: Can Jonathan be part of the new high christology?

No. This is what Fletcher-Louis said:

In particular, there has been a long-running debate about the phenomenon that scholars traditionally call a “high Christology” (the belief that Jesus was somehow divine and was treated as such by his followers).

And your response to me:

You claimed this was not his definition of high Christology, and that this is just what he “writes mid-sentence”. That is palpably false. He uses a term and then explains what he means by it, explicitly. That’s a complete sentence. For Fletcher-Louis, a high Christology simply means the belief that Jesus “was somehow divine”.

That is literally what he writes mid-sentence in brackets that runs slightly over a dozen words long. You can’t select a few words and ignore what Fletcher-Louis goes on to unambiguously say later, which qualifies his statement on what low christology is. You, without a doubt, fit under the category of a low christology since you do not accept the pre-existence of Jesus. It is the pre-existence of Jesus which distinguishes a low christology from a high christology. Again, this is what Fletcher-Louis said:

On this view, during his ministry in Galilee and Judea the disciples must have had either no Christology – no very strong beliefs specifically about Jesus – or a “low” one in which Jesus is simply a created being (a prophet, or even the long-awaited Jewish messiah)

And you comment:

Please read it carefully. Fletcher-Loius says that a “low Christology” is the belief that during his ministry in Galilee and Judea, JESUS’ OWN DISCIPLES either had no Christology, or a low Christology in which Jesus was simply a created being (sucha s a prophet or the messiah). I will say it again; this is the view JESUS’ OWN DISCIPLES believed Jesus was a created being such as a prophet or the messiah DURING HIS MINISTRY IN GALILEE AND JUDEA. That is the view held by Ehrman, and it is the view held by Hurtado. Of course, Ehman does not believe that Jesus himself thought he was divine, and he believes that the gospels represent views about Jesus which did not emerge until after Jesus’ resurrection.

You seem to totally misunderstand Fletcher-Louis’s words in an amazing way. Fletcher-Louis is discussing whether the disciples themselves had a high christology and a low christology. I quote, “On this view [of those who accept a low christology], during his ministry in Galilee and Judea the disciples must have had either no Christology – no very strong beliefs specifically about Jesus – or a “low” one in which Jesus is simply a created being”. A low christology is where we believe Jesus is a created being. That is, word for word, what Fletcher-Louis said. Did the disciples have a low christology or a high christology? Ehrman and Hurtado both indeed think that the disciples thought Jesus was a created being during His ministry. Then, they both say that right after the resurrection, they were immediately convinced by the post-mortem appearances that Jesus was in fact a pre-existent divine entity that must be worshipped, and that this is reflected all throughout the New Testament, especially Paul. What is important is that the disciples transition from a low christology – belief that Jesus is a created being – to a high christology – belief that Jesus is a pre-existent being. You, of course, belong an amazingly tiny minority who think that the entire Bible is low-christology by Fletcher-Louis’s definition. You also mention somewhere in your comments (I think) that Hurtado considers Jesus to be a principle agent by which creation happened. Exactly. This is predicated on the idea that Jesus is pre-existent. And it is explicitly stated, so slappingly clearly, many times in the NT, which I will get to once I resume discussion on Colossians 1. Fletcher-Louis and scholarship in general could not be more clear. I will provide on more example from Daniel Kirk’s recent 2016 monograph A Man Attested By God, where he argues against what he calls the large rising tide of scholars asserting that the Synoptics say Jesus is God. Here, he is responding to Richard Hays and Hays undermining of a low christology:

After rightly indicating that this speech demands that the reader reread both the Jesus story and Moses and the prophets, Hays asserts that this somehow undermines the notion of a “low” christology in which it is claimed that Luke presents Jesus as Spirit-anointed prophet, teacher of divine wisdom, and a righteous martyr. He further says that any scholar who denies the preexistence and incarnation or Jesus’s identification with God is continuing the very failed theology of the Emmaus travelers.

(Since I was using Google Books to get that quote and it doesn’t give me the page number, I must refer you to here where you can click on the second section to find the quote). Kirk’s discussion of how Hays attempts to undermine a low christology goes hand in hand with his identification of Hays arguments against low christology that include preexistence and incarnation (incarnation as a natural consequence if Jesus is in fact preexistent in order to become a human, obviously). I don’t think it’s ambiguous at all.

But you didn’t respond to my reply to Vouthon. You missed the fact that Ehrman says very clearly, in the passage you quoted from Ehrman, that Paul believed Jesus WAS AN ANGEL. Erhaman says it explicitly; “He was an angelic, divine being before coming into the world; he was the Angel of the Lord”. Ehrman believes that this angel of the Lord was eventually elevated to equality of God, while still not being God.

The caps is unnecessary. I actually read your entire response to Vouthon, and it appears as if the point I was making flew right over your head. Ehrman is part of a high christology, unlike you, because he says 1) That Paul and the earliest post-resurrection Christians thought Jesus was preexistent, and that 2) Jesus is a God-man in the Synoptics. That is why Ehrman is of a high christology and not a low christology. You go on to write an incredibly long harangue, explaining Ehrman’s position, and every detail you mentioned in your long speech about Ehrman, I already knew. I already know that Ehrman thinks Jesus was an angel in Paul (and I know that Hurtado has debunked this), I know that Ehrman thinks Jesus is reprsented as a God-man in different and perhaps contradictory ways throughout the Synoptics, etc, etc, etc. Not a single point you made changes what I said. Literally, none of it. Ehrman accepts the early high christology because of his acceptance of the preexistence, among other things, as the views among the earliest Christians after the resurrection and including Paul. There’s also at least one problem in your comment:

But there’s still more. Ehrman does not believe that the gospel of John depicts Jesus as existing before he was born.

This is a mistake. Ehrman does think that John represents Jesus as a pre-existent being, just that this isn’t specifically reflected in the prologue (which is an idiosyncratic view indeed). For example, in a blog post of Ehrman’s I’ve quoted before he says:

For John, Jesus was a pre-existent divine being – the Word of God who was both with God and was God at the beginning of all things – who became a human. Here he is not born of a virgin and he is not adopted by God at the baptism (neither event is narrated in John – and could not be, given, John’s Christology).

So here, Ehrman says that in John, Jesus is both a pre-existent divine being and that John identified Jesus with the Word. Anyhow:

The only way that Ehrman is a part of the “emerging consensus”, is by defining the conclusions of the “emerging consensus” so loosely that they include people who don’t believe Jesus or his disciples or his earliest believers thought and spoke of him as God, and who argue that Jesus only “became God” at some point later in the first century, prior to the gospel of John.

Actually, the only way that Ehrman is part of the emerging consensus is pretty simple: he thinks Jesus was considered a pre-existent being in the earliest days of Christianity. It’s very straight forward.

While we’re on the subject of high Christology, can you have a high Christology if you believe Jesus was wrong about who he was? Can you have a high Christology if you believe Jesus didn’t think of himself as God or represent himself as God?

You can. You could simply say “Jesus was believed to be a preexistent divine being on the Gospels, “emptied himself” of His divinity while on Earth and so only knew human things (which is why He, for example, did not know the hour), and during the exaltation was once again brought to the level of God and made this clear during the resurrection.” So, as long as you posit that Jesus simply lost this knowledge during His ministry, you can indeed hold a high christology while maintaining that.

I will combine two of the points you ask me:

You say “The Father will send the Holy Spirit in Jesus name” is “strangely Trinitarian”. To date you have not given any explanation as to why this is “strangely Trinitarian”. An evidence based explanation would be useful.

You ask “Why is the Father doing things in the name of Jesus?”. The answer is “Because the Father is greater than Jesus”. The Father sends the Holy Spirit, which is neither “God” nor “the Father”. It’s the Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit proceeds from God, the Father, not from Jesus.

So, why is the Father doing things in the name of Jesus? Because, says Jonathan, the Father is greater than Jesus. That is a non-sequitur. People do things in the name of God. One would not say “In Obama’s name I cast out this devil!” So here, not only do we have someone doing something in Jesus’ name, we have the Father Himself, who is sending the Holy Spirit in the name of Jesus. That is Trinitarian, because it makes Jesus God. And, it distinguishes the Holy Spirit from the Father in a way that is quite strange if one were to say that the Holy Spirit not only is a different person here, but not even a person. This is odd. But it makes perfect sense for the Holy Spirit to be sent by the Father if the Holy Spirit is a different person. But the Holy Spirit doesn’t have a personal name, you say:

Contrary to what you claim, the fact that the Spirit doesn’t have a name is absolutely relevant. Personal attributes or inanimate objects do not have names when they are personified.

I remain unconvinced. Not even the Father has a personal name in the New Testament. Why? Because ‘personal names’ are linguistic human inventions to be able to identify people and distinguish them from others. So, if everyone on Biologos has no personal name, it would be very confusing as it would be hard to speak directly to someone so that they knew you were addressing them in your comments and not someone else. So we invented personal names to identify people and distinguish them from others. But when the Holy Spirit is the subject, what on Earth could you be talking about else when you say “The Holy Spirit is in me!” You don’t need a personal name for everyone in the room to know exactly what you’re talking about (unless they were ignorant of Christian theology, where a personal name would be irrelevant anyways). You say a lack of a personal name fits the personification pattern. But it also perfectly fits the fact that no one would even try to give a personal name to something like the Spirit. And to top it all off, according to the NT, the Holy Spirit’s name is the ‘Holy Spirit’. See Matthew 28:19: “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”. Where is anyone ever baptized in the name of Sophia? Or Wisdom? Or Memra? And by the way, there is simply no personification of the Word/Logos anywhere in the NT, since the Word of God is just one of Jesus’ titles.

Colossians and a slam-dunk

This is what you say:

You complain that I focused mainly on the verse in Colossians which describes Jesus as the image of God. The reason for this is that it is the only verse in the entire chapter which remotely associates Jesus with the word for “God”. If you think there are any other verses in this chapter which call Jesus God, then why don’t you just identify them? Clearly you don’t believe there are any other verses in this chapter which identify Jesus as God. Even if Colossians says that he existed before hew as born (which I don’t think it does, and although you assert this you don’t explain how or where it is done), that would not make him God. Even if Colossians says that he was the creator (which I don’t think it does), that would not make him God.

Well, this is true, I don’t see anywhere in Colossians 1 where Jesus is identified with God. That is why I just quoted Colossians 1:15-20. Then, though, you say that I never say when the Colossians passage says He existed before He was born. Yes I did. I will say exactly what I said before.

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation,

16 for all things in heaven and on earth were created in him—all things, whether visible or invisible, whether thrones or dominions, whether principalities or powers—all things were created through him and for him.

17 He himself is before all things and all things are held together in him.

18 He is the head of the body, the church, as well as the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he himself may become first in all things.

19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in the Son

20 and through him to reconcile all things to himself by making peace through the blood of his cross—through him, whether things on earth or things in heaven.

Verse 17 literally begins with the words “He himself is before all things”. I mean, if that isn’t a slap in the face, I don’t know what is. It could not be more explicit and incompatible with Christadelphianism. The verse also says “all things are held together in him.” The passage then calls Jesus the “beginning”. The passage says that ALL THINGS ARE CREATED IN JESUS. I could not write it more straight forward myself. Here is v. 16:

16 for all things in heaven and on earth were created in him—all things, whether visible or invisible, whether thrones or dominions, whether principalities or powers—all things were created through him and for him.

FIREBREAK (eheh): Do you agree that all things were created in him?

This is not the only time this statement, almost identical to what it reads here, appears in the New Testament. It also appears in the prologue of John. And here:

Hebrews 1:2: but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds.

Through the Son, God created the worlds. This is why Hurtado and others say Jesus is the principle agent through whom all creation happened. It also appears in 1 Corinthians 8:6.

You also mention again that the image of X is not X. I pointed out that this is correct, it is the human nature of Jesus that is created in the image of God. The only thing that that can be created in God’s image is humans. You respond:

Significantly, you provide no evidence that this is what Paul actually meant, nor any evidence that anyone reading Paul in the first century would understand him to mean this. In contrast, I can provide clear evidence for my understanding of this kind of language, in the first century. Paul is using the same kind of language we find in Philo, for example.

What do you mean no evidence? It’s a straight forwards interpretation that necessarily follows from the fact that the exact same passage says Jesus is pre-existent and the medium of all creation (which excludes Jesus Himself from being created). It is logically impossible to interpret this any other way, including your own interpretation, since that would entail Jesus was in fact created when His human nature was born. My interpretation is the only one that logically follows from the text, as would be known to any first century reader, since any first century reader would know what “Jesus always existed and everything was created through Him” means, which is exactly what Colossians 1:15-20 says. Your interpretation necessitates you skim over the context of verse 15, which I criticized in my previous response when I said:

You literally ignored basically the entire passage, trying to focus on v. 15 and not the rest – the very beginning words of the next verse, which he refused to dip his toes in, say “for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created”, etc, etc, etc. The passage is much too much.

Anyways.

And this is another case in which your arguments contradict each other. You keep saying that the reason why the New Testament is so silent on the claim that Jesus is a person in a multi-person Godhead, is that the writers didn’t have the concepts or vocabulary to express this.

Not at all. I simply said that the Gospels couldn’t have used second century vocabulary you’re looking for, like “godhead” or “Trinity” because it is second century vocabulary. I specifically qualified that though the second century language obviously could not have been used, the NT does say things that clearly lead to my position. This is what I said earlier when answering your question:

That’s because you’re talking about 2nd century language that didn’t exist in the time of the NT. Obviously they couldn’t use such language. But do they use language that can allow us to conclude that Jesus is God? Ugh, yes. Pretty clearly in the way I see it.

So I do not contradict myself. My position from the start was that the NT can’t use second century christology language because they were written in the first century, though they did make their beliefs clear anyways disregarding their lack of usage of not-yet-invented language.

They could have said something like “Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God, the Lord ISN’T ONE, the Lord is actually THREE IN ONE, we’ve been wrong about this for 2,000 years or so!”. Perfectly simple.

Well, why didn’t the New Testament say “JESUS IS NOT GOD, DO NOT FLAGRANTLY MISINTERPRET THIS FOR THE NEXT SEVERAL THOUSAND YEARS!” ? Same argument from silence.

Additionally, such a massive revelation about the identify of God would have come as a huge surprise to many Jews, and would have been at least as dramatic as the apostolic teaching that the Law of Moses was now done away with. And yet there is a complete absence of any such controversy.

You mean disregarding when the Jews tried to stone Jesus for saying “I Am”?

Clement understood the word “firstborn” (prototokos), to mean “first created”.

I’ve already explained in my previous response why the interpretation of the term “firstborn” as “born as a human” fails (not to mention that Jesus wasn’t the firstborn human). Considering the argument here, would you be at all impressed if I showed an early Christian concluding Jesus was eternal based off of something that the NT said? If you’re going to dismiss thousands of years of NT interpretation from almost every major theologian in Christian history, you’d do yourself a favor not to contradict yourself by going to these interpretations when they suit you. We both know that the vast majority of early Christians hold to the preexistence, Godhood of Jesus, etc. Strangely, you go on to provide a quote from Eusebius which couples Jesus’ title as firstborn with the statement that Jesus is pre-existent. Wouldn’t that prove the titles clearly aren’t in conflict? Not to mention, Clement could easily be reading his presuppositions into the text, if not simply misunderstanding it which there is no doubt He did. I have refuted the argument from the term firstborn earlier:

The idea of Jesus being the firstborn has nothing to do with pre-existence of the birth, especially since the passage actually says Jesus is pre-existent. Nevermind when the passage says Jesus is the “firstborn of all creation” it can’t have anything to do with Jesus’ birth, since Jesus wasn’t the first human to be born, not even close. “Firstborn” is literally just a title. In the OT, God even declares he will make someone into the firstborn (probably a prophecy of Jesus of some sort): Psalm 89:27: “And I will make him the firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth.” So X person will be made into the firstborn, but of course, by the time the Psalms were written, the “firstborn” human or whatnot had already been long born. The phrase has nothing to do with actual birth, it’s a grand title.

This makes the position untenable. Again, it just astounds me that you would go to Colossians 1:15-20 out of all places to try to show Jesus isn’t pre-existent, a passage that literally says Jesus is pre-existent, that is, before all things. That’s literally what it says. Do you think Jesus is before all things and that Jesus is the beginning? Be careful here.

And that concludes my response. I will send you a message once I’ve finished furnishing and editing my responses. I also consider it good that I was able to make this response about half as long as yours, so as to push this discussion into something more bearable.


#15

Question:
Who is “the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End” according to Revelation?


(system) #16

This topic was automatically closed 6 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.