Did the authors of Scripture believe that Jesus was "God"?

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Did the authors of Scripture believe that Jesus was "God"?

Postby ChristianHeretic » Fri Nov 20, 2009 5:25 pm

I've been a Southern Baptist my entire life until I set out to understand my belief in the trinity. In the beginning of my search to identify which verses in Scripture I could harness to prove my belief in the deity of Jesus, I was surprised to find that there were only nine original verses in our entire Protestant New Testament that are even argued by some modern English translators to be claiming that Jesus is called “God,” or the Greek word THEOS, by the authors of Scripture. And these verses were sprinkled among the over 1,300 times this title is reserved for the Father, the God of Israel. But then I learned that the King James translators actually disagreed with this modern interpretation in at least six of these nine verses, and only one of these is based on variant manuscripts. So which expert translators should I believe? And this was only after I learned of the handful of other vital “proof texts” found in the King James that were previously used unwittingly by those during the Protestant Reformation for the explicit purpose of proving the trinity, but we now know are corruptions. So I was unexpectly confronted with a personal dilemma. If in fact those that penned the words of our Bible refused to call Jesus “God” as these more modern English translations allege, was it appropriate for me to presume the right to assign this title to Jesus in spite of the fact that they explicitly chose not to? I now believe that it is not.
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Re: Did the authors of Scripture believe that Jesus was "God"?

Postby Pseudonym » Fri Nov 20, 2009 6:10 pm

ChristianHeretic wrote:In the beginning of my search to identify which verses in Scripture I could harness to prove my belief in the deity of Jesus, I was surprised to find that there were only nine original verses in our entire Protestant New Testament that are even argued by some modern English translators to be claiming that Jesus is called “God,” or the Greek word THEOS, by the authors of Scripture. And these verses were sprinkled among the over 1,300 times this title is reserved for the Father, the God of Israel.

I think that's misleading.

In the Hebrew scriptures, the actual name of God is the tetragrammaton, usually rendered "Yahweh" these days, but in the KJV and similar translations, translated as "LORD". This is partly because in the Septuagint (Greek version of the Old Testament, which is probably the version that most New Testament authors worked from), the tetragrammaton was translated as "lord".

The title "Lord Jesus Christ" is used 60-80 times in the New Testament, depending on whether you look at the critical or majority text. The Gospel of John is full of references, most famously the first verse, but see also 8:58 ("before Abraham was, I am"; this is a clear reference to the tetragrammaton). Also consider that Stephen is depicted as praying to Jesus in Acts 7:59.

There's also a quirk of Greek grammar known as Granville Sharp's rule, which indicates that Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1 are identifying Jesus with God.

ChristianHeretic wrote:But then I learned that the King James translators actually disagreed with this modern interpretation in at least six of these nine verses, and only one of these is based on variant manuscripts.

Could you give details, please?

ChristianHeretic wrote:And this was only after I learned of the handful of other vital “proof texts” found in the King James that were previously used unwittingly by those during the Protestant Reformation for the explicit purpose of proving the trinity, but we now know are corruptions.

I personally don't believe in "proof texts". The key thing for me about this is that there is plenty of evidence that most of the New Testament authors explicitly identified Jesus with God, and no evidence that they didn't.

Now, if you really want to do your head in, try to show that the Holy Spirit is God. It's not impossible, but much, much harder to do.
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Re: Did the authors of Scripture believe that Jesus was "God"?

Postby ChristianHeretic » Fri Nov 20, 2009 10:27 pm

Pseudonym wrote:In the Hebrew scriptures, the actual name of God is the tetragrammaton, usually rendered "Yahweh" these days, but in the KJV and similar translations, translated as "LORD". This is partly because in the Septuagint (Greek version of the Old Testament, which is probably the version that most New Testament authors worked from), the tetragrammaton was translated as "lord".

So your argument is that because the term 'kurios' is used for Jesus, the authors of Scripture also meant he was 'theos?' That would be an interesting theory if they didn't actually use the term 'theos' over 1300 times for the one they understand to be 'elohym' in the Hebrew text. They were very aware of the different Greek terms, and their different applications. Yes, the authors of the NT used 'kurios' for God, Jesus, Pilate, and many others. And the authors of the LXX used it for 'Yahweh', masters, etc. But the term 'theos' was used almost exclusively for the Father in both.

Pseudonym wrote:see also 8:58 ("before Abraham was, I am"; this is a clear reference to the tetragrammaton)

Glad you brought up that "most New Testament authors worked from" the Septuagint. First, check to make sure John did. Then, check to see whether Jesus also used the LXX. Then check again to see if Jn 8:58 is a quote of the Septuagint like is alleged by modern Christianity. (And I say modern Christianity because the "I am" argument is only a recent argument.)

Pseudonym wrote:There's also a quirk of Greek grammar known as Granville Sharp's rule, which indicates that Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1 are identifying Jesus with God.

Forget the argument that the translators of the KJV were ignorant of this "rule." Even modern Trinitarian scholars like Gordon Fee recognize that Titus 2:13 has been misinterpreted. He argues in his "Pauline Christology" that the KJV and NIV both miss the genetive form of "glory:"

“We may dismiss as most-highly unlikely the attempt by the translators of the KJV, followed by the NASB and NIV (and the NET Bible), to overcome some of the difficulty by viewing the genitive ‘of the glory’ as adjectival (‘the glorious appearing’). There is hardly a thing in favor of this view, and nearly everything against it. Not only is it out of sync with Paul’s usage elsewhere, but also it puts the present emphasis in the wrong place.”

He then goes on to show how the verse should be read because of this genetive noun as "the blessed hope and appearing of our great God and Savior’s glory, Jesus Christ." As I was reviewing his thoughts, and the context of Paul's words in Titus, I agreed with Fee.

Pseudonym wrote:Could you give details, please?

The NIV reinterprets the KJV translaton of Rom 9:5, Jn 1:18, 1 Jn 5:20, Tit 2:13, and 2 Pet 1:1 to be claiming that Jesus was "God." Oddly enough, this happened to coincide with the time that they were losing the "proof texts" of men like Calvin of 1 Jn 5:7, 1 Tim 3:16 and 1 Jn 3:16.

Pseudonym wrote:Now, if you really want to do your head in, try to show that the Holy Spirit is God. It's not impossible, but much, much harder to do.

Yah, that doesn't seem to be a very Scriptural concept either. The Spirit is God's Spirit. In the same way that we have a spirit, God has a Spirit. The only difference is we're not omnipresent.
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Re: Did the authors of Scripture believe that Jesus was "God"?

Postby Pseudonym » Sat Nov 21, 2009 5:41 pm

ChristianHeretic wrote:So your argument is that because the term 'kurios' is used for Jesus, the authors of Scripture also meant he was 'theos?'

My argument is that there are multiple, converging lines of evidence that most of the New Testament authors believed that Jesus was identifiable with "God". This is one of those lines of evidence.

ChristianHeretic wrote:That would be an interesting theory if they didn't actually use the term 'theos' over 1300 times for the one they understand to be 'elohym' in the Hebrew text.

The current best theory as to the authorship of the Pentateuch is the documentary hypothesis. There are several distinct narrative text traditions, one of which uses "elohim" (usually called "E" for "Elohist") and a different one which uses the tetragrammaton (usually called "J" for "Jahwist") as their name for God. Each source used their terms fairly consistently.

So whether God is referred to as YHVH or elohim depends mostly on who wrote that passage.

ChristianHeretic wrote:Glad you brought up that "most New Testament authors worked from" the Septuagint. First, check to make sure John did. Then, check to see whether Jesus also used the LXX.

I'd be shocked if the author of the Gospel of John didn't use the LXX. The Greek influence is all over the book.

As for Jesus, it's impossible to say. The author of the gospel probably believed that Jesus could read a Tanakh. There's no evidence as to whether or not Jesus could read Greek. When Jesus was depicted as reading in a synagogue, he read from a Tanakh, so if those stories are accurate, he could read Hebrew.

ChristianHeretic wrote:Then check again to see if Jn 8:58 is a quote of the Septuagint like is alleged by modern Christianity.

Sorry, who alleges this? (Honest question, by the way; I've never seen anything one way or the other written on this.)

If the statement by Jesus in John 8:58 is accurate, it was likely spoken in Aramaic, not Greek. And whether it is or it isn't, it reads to me more like a story about Jesus that was translated from Aramaic into Greek. But I'm no expert, of course.

Sorry, I don't have time right now to get into the rest of your post; I'll try to get to it later.
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Re: Did the authors of Scripture believe that Jesus was "God"?

Postby ChristianHeretic » Sat Nov 21, 2009 6:26 pm

Pseudonym wrote:My argument is that there are multiple, converging lines of evidence that most of the New Testament authors believed that Jesus was identifiable with "God". This is one of those lines of evidence.

I would say because of the many uses of 'kurios' and because of the consistent use of it in connection with "God" as well as a replacement for 'Yahweh', it's just as possible that the authors of Scripture used the term for both Jesus and God, not for Jesus AS God. The authors are obviously not using the terms interchangeably in these verses:

God, who has called you into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.
-1 Corinthians 1:9
'The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.“’
-Matthew 22:44
"Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ."
-Acts 2:36
By his power God raised the Lord from the dead, and he will raise us also.
-1 Corinthians 6:14
That if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
-Romans 10:9

Pseudonym wrote:I'd be shocked if the author of the Gospel of John didn't use the LXX. The Greek influence is all over the book.

Pseudonym wrote:If the statement by Jesus in John 8:58 is accurate, it was likely spoken in Aramaic, not Greek.

I agree on both points, however, the issue is, if in fact John was translating Jesus' words from Aramaic back into Greek, and John was using the LXX as his "Scripture," then his perception of Jesus' claim of "I am" or 'ego eimi' couldn't have been that he believed he was replicating Yahweh's self-assessed title in Ex 3:14, because the LXX version of the text reads "I am 'The Being'" or "I am 'the One Who Is'", with a different Greek phrase of 'ho on.' The point is, John didn't believe Jesus' claim was a claim to be the "God" of Ex 3:14 as most of Orthodoxy alleges.
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Re: Did the authors of Scripture believe that Jesus was "God"?

Postby Pseudonym » Sun Nov 22, 2009 7:15 pm

ChristianHeretic wrote:I would say because of the many uses of 'kurios' and because of the consistent use of it in connection with "God" as well as a replacement for 'Yahweh', it's just as possible that the authors of Scripture used the term for both Jesus and God, not for Jesus AS God.

This, of course, is the central issue. There is plenty of evidence that the New Testament authors believed that Jesus was identifiable as God, and plenty of evidence that they believed they were distinct in some way. Whatever you think of the Doctrine of the Trinity as it developed over time, the one thing that's clear is that it tries to do justice to the evidence as a whole, which is something that most of the historic anti-Trinitarian heresies did not do.

ChristianHeretic wrote:I agree on both points, however, the issue is, if in fact John was translating Jesus' words from Aramaic back into Greek, and John was using the LXX as his "Scripture," then his perception of Jesus' claim of "I am" or 'ego eimi' couldn't have been that he believed he was replicating Yahweh's self-assessed title in Ex 3:14, because the LXX version of the text reads "I am 'The Being'" or "I am 'the One Who Is'", with a different Greek phrase of 'ho on.'

Here's the text (taken from here), with the relevant parts highlighted:

Exodus 3:14 (LXX) wrote:καὶ εἶπεν ὁ θεὸς πρὸς *μωυσῆν ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ὤν καὶ εἶπεν οὕτως ἐρεῖς τοῖς υἱοῖς Iσραηλ ὁ ὢν ἀπέσταλκέν με πρὸς ὑμᾶς

The fragment "ego eimi" is definitely there, as the first part of the embedded sentence "ego eimi ho on". You're right that Jesus wasn't repeating the title from the LXX verbatim, but it certainly sounds like a quotation to me.

So let's try a thought experiment: Let's suppose for the sake of argument that you're right and that John 8:58 does not parallel Exodus 3:14. If you were the author of the fourth gospel, and you were trying to draw a parallel, how would you have phrased it?

I personally don't see how much more explicit it could be made apart from quoting chapter and verse. (Of course, the chapter and verse markings didn't exist at the time, but you know what I mean.) Jesus could have been quoted as saying "before Abraham was, I was", but this is not what we see. Most crucially, it seems pretty clear from the response in v59 that those present interpreted it as a claim to deity. The reader is supposed to notice the connection.

Final question: How do you interpret John 8:58?
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Re: Did the authors of Scripture believe that Jesus was "God"?

Postby ChristianHeretic » Sun Nov 22, 2009 8:52 pm

Pseudonym wrote:If you were the author of the fourth gospel, and you were trying to draw a parallel, how would you have phrased it?

If I was trying to claim/transcribe the same title as Yahweh in Ex 3:14, I probably would have actually used the same title and said/written, "Before Abraham was born, ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ὤν." Or "Before Abraham was born, I am the One Who is." See Rev 1:4-5 for John actually quoting this EXACT title Yahweh uses in Ex 3:14 explicitly for the Father, "..from Him Who Is..."

Pseudonym wrote:I personally don't see how much more explicit it could be made apart from quoting chapter and verse.
He could have at very least used the same title that Yahweh used? Obviously, Orthodoxy is not aware of the LXX when making this argument, all they see is the English translation of the MT. (This is most obvious when you realize that none of the early Church Fathers that used the LXX as Scripture made this argument. They acknowledged the verse as a claim of pre-existing His earthly form, but not as a "clear reference to the tetragrammaton.") And most aren't as educated as you to realize that John used the LXX as his version of Scripture, so the discussion is usually a fruitless one with most Christians.

Pseudonym wrote:it seems pretty clear from the response in v59 that those present interpreted it as a claim to deity. The reader is supposed to notice the connection.

What connection? Connection to what? It would have sounded the same as the phrases sound in English. If one person said "I am the Being," and then later someone else said "I am," surely you wouldn't argue that this second person was trying to quote the first. Also notice the part where the guy who just claimed to be the all-powerful God "hid Himself" to avoid the stoning? Now, I don't blame Him, I would do the same thing. But then again I didn't just claim to be God. They were stoning Him because they believed that He was claiming to pre-exist Abraham, not because they had any idea that He was claiming the title of "Yahweh" in Ex 3:14.

Pseudonym wrote:Final question: How do you interpret John 8:58?

In verse 56, Jesus claims that Abraham "saw His day?" What is he talking about? I believe He is claiming that Abraham was aware of His coming. Why, because it was planned from the beginning, therefore, Jesus pre-existed His earthly form. The Jews misunderstood in v. 57 and so Jesus responded that He did actually pre-exist Abraham in v. 58. In verse 59, the attempt to stone Him was because of this claim, not because of a claim to be the Yahweh of Ex 3:14.

Pseudonym wrote:There is plenty of evidence that the New Testament authors believed that Jesus was identifiable as God

Thus the purpose for the poll, what is your best evidence? Now that we've discussed Jn 8:58, which you previously believed was a "clear reference to the tetragrammaton." I have conveyed to you why I don't believe this is "clear," and actually not a claim of deity at all.
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Re: Did the authors of Scripture believe that Jesus was "God"?

Postby Pseudonym » Sun Nov 22, 2009 11:31 pm

ChristianHeretic wrote:If I was trying to claim/transcribe the same title as Yahweh in Ex 3:14, I probably would have actually used the same title and said/written, "Before Abraham was born, ἐγώ εἰμι ὁ ὤν." Or "Before Abraham was born, I am the One Who is." See Rev 1:4-5 for John actually quoting this EXACT title Yahweh uses in Ex 3:14 explicitly for the Father, "..from Him Who Is..."

First off, I disagree that the fourth gospel and Revelation were written by the same person. It's very unlikely.

I don't like your proposed wording on the grounds that it would completely lose the rhetorical antithesis so beloved of Rabbis everywhere. The word translated "born" means "to begin to be"; the phrase is "before Abraham began to be, I am". The parallelism between "began to be" and "am" is deliberately concise.

ChristianHeretic wrote:He could have at very least used the same title that Yahweh used?

If the story is accurate, then he probably did... in Aramaic. And I think this is where the main confusion is coming from.

Incidentally, I also notice that "ego eimi" is used in Deuteronomy 32:39, Isaiah 41:4 and 43:10. There are probably more; these are just the few I found in a quick search.

Isa 43:10 is a particularly interesting one, because it seems parallel to John 8:24. Your thoughts?

Incidentally, something that I previously didn't know is that the fourth gospel uses "ego eimi" more than any other books in the New Testament, by a factor of several. Given that the deity of Jesus is a preoccupation of this gospel (right from the first verse), this probably isn't a coincidence.

(Aside: For those who don't know Greek grammar, this requires an explanation. In Greek, personal pronouns which are the subjects of sentences can be omitted in many cases, so when you want to say "I am", you usually only need to say "am". The closest thing we have in English is the playground retort "Am too!" Using the full phrase "I am" is usually done for rhetorical effect, such as to strongly emphasise the "I".)

ChristianHeretic wrote:This is most obvious when you realize that none of the early Church Fathers that used the LXX as Scripture made this argument.

I don't know if he counts as "early", but a brief search turns up John Chrysostom's homily on John (using the Marriott translation here):

John Chrysostom wrote:But wherefore said He not, "Before Abraham was, I was," instead of "I Am"? As the Father uses this expression, "I Am," so also does Christ; for it signifies continuous Being, irrespective of all time. On which account the expression seemed to them to be blasphemous. Now if they could not bear the comparison with Abraham, although this was but a trifling one, had He continually made Himself equal to the Father, would they ever have ceased casting stones at Him?


I also discovered a reference in Novatian, but I think we won't count an excommunicated antipope.

ChristianHeretic wrote:What connection? Connection to what? It would have sounded the same as the phrases sound in English. If one person said "I am the Being," and then later someone else said "I am," surely you wouldn't argue that this second person was trying to quote the first.

It would depend. No utterance is made in a vacuum. In this case, the original phrase is very famous, and Jesus dropped plenty of hints, such as his allusion that he existed before Abraham.

ChristianHeretic wrote:Also notice the part where the guy who just claimed to be the all-powerful God "hid Himself" to avoid the stoning?

It wasn't his time yet.

ChristianHeretic wrote:They were stoning Him because they believed that He was claiming to pre-exist Abraham, not because they had any idea that He was claiming the title of "Yahweh" in Ex 3:14.

Was that a stoning offence in Hebrew law? Interestingly, the only other time in that gospel when the Jewish authorities tried to stone him was when they actually believed that he was saying that he was God (John 10:33).

ChristianHeretic wrote:Thus the purpose for the poll, what is your best evidence? Now that we've discussed Jn 8:58, which you previously believed was a "clear reference to the tetragrammaton." I have conveyed to you why I don't believe this is "clear," and actually not a claim of deity at all.

As previously noted, I don't believe in "proof texting". It's many lines of evidence, all of which support the proposition that most of the New Testament authors and all of the church fathers believed that Jesus is God, and none of which refute it.
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Re: Did the authors of Scripture believe that Jesus was "God"?

Postby ChristianHeretic » Mon Nov 23, 2009 1:19 am

First, thank you for the sorely needed intellectual discourse on this topic. Now, to address your points.

Pseudonym wrote:The word translated "born" means "to begin to be"

BDAG actually initially defines this word as "to come into being through process of birth or natural production." So it is possible that Jesus was claiming that "Before Abraham was 'born', I am."

Pseudonym wrote:The parallelism between "began to be" and "am" is deliberately concise.

I agree that Jesus is saying "I am" here. My only point was it is not a "clear reference to the tetragrammaton" as you have alleged.

Pseudonym wrote:
ChristianHeretic wrote:He could have at very least used the same title that Yahweh used?

If the story is accurate, then he probably did... in Aramaic. And I think this is where the main confusion is coming from.

So is your argument now that Jesus did in fact intend to quote Ex 3:14, but John just missed this intent and transcribed it wrong?

Pseudonym wrote:I also notice that "ego eimi" is used in Deuteronomy 32:39, Isaiah 41:4 and 43:10. There are probably more; these are just the few I found in a quick search.

Yes, there are more, like Jn 9:9, Isaiah 47:8 and 47:10. However, none of these times is it actually used by Jesus or Yahweh. So surely these times weren't an explicit claim to be God as well? The beggar making the same "claim of deity" 10 verses later is my favorite.

Pseudonym wrote:Isa 43:10 is a particularly interesting one, because it seems parallel to John 8:24. Your thoughts?

I would say yes, except obviously the Jews didn't recognize this statement as a claim to be the "I am" or deity for that matter. They rather recognized this statement, whether via tone, style or something else, to be a claim to be someone, "I am [he]." This is evident based on their response in v. 25, "Who are you?" ie Who are you claiming to be?

Pseudonym wrote:the fourth gospel uses "ego eimi" more than any other books in the New Testament

Yes, it does. But surely we have to remove those that have a predicate where he is obviously not claiming simply "I am," He's actually claiming to be something else or confirming identity. (ie Jn 10:9 "I am the door"; Jn 14:6 "I am the way"; Jn 4:25-26 "I am he [the Christ]"; Jn 18:7-8 "I am he [Jesus of Nazareth")

Pseudonym wrote:John Chrysostom's homily on John

I'm not saying that it wasn't argued, and I don't really care when it started, it has obviously become one of the favorite claims of the Church. My only point is that if you were using the LXX as your "Scripture," you wouldn't have made the "connection." Most of those surrounding and pre-Nicea used the LXX and therefore, didn't recognize the similarities. When you're looking, see all of the early fathers that quote the verse but leave the "I am" claim of deity out.

Pseudonym wrote:I also discovered a reference in Novatian

Case in point. Novation is a good example of what I was talking about pre-Nicea. In his treatise on the trinity, he recognizes Jesus' claim to have pre-existed Abraham, and even believes this claim was a claim to be God, but doesn't mention the similarities between the "I am" claim and the Father's claims of the OT:

If Christ was only man, how did He say, “Before Abraham was, I Am?” For no man can be before Him from whom he himself is; nor can it be that any one should have been prior to him of whom he himself has taken his origin. And yet Christ, although He is born of Abraham, says that He is before Abraham.


Pseudonym wrote:the original phrase is very famous

Again, what "original phrase?" Are we now talking about ὁ ὤν "The Being"? If ἐγώ εἰμι "I Am" was that famous, then surely those translating the LXX would have gotten it right in Ex 3:14?

Pseudonym wrote:
ChristianHeretic wrote:Also notice the part where the guy who just claimed to be the all-powerful God "hid Himself" to avoid the stoning?

It wasn't his time yet.

Ok, so He can claim to be God but not excercise any of his prerogatives as God? Like saving Himself from an inconvenient stoning. In my opinion, He was not claiming to be God here, just to have pre-existed Abraham.

Pseudonym wrote:Interestingly, the only other time in that gospel when the Jewish authorities tried to stone him was when they actually believed that he was saying that he was God

They were stoning Him for blasphemy, which yes, a "claim to be God" would be considered if that was in fact the claim that He was making. It was obviously not based on Jesus' "answer" to their accusations in Jn 10:34-36. Notice that they also accused Him of "blasphemy" for claiming to have authority to forgive sins (Mt 9:3) and claiming to be seated next to the Mighty One in Heaven (Mt 26:65). And apparently a claim to be the "Son of God" was also worthy of death in their opinion (Jn 19:7). So who knows what all they stoned for. It was obviously not only what was on the books!

Pseudonym wrote:It's many lines of evidence, all of which support the proposition that most of the New Testament authors and all of the church fathers believed that Jesus is God, and none of which refute it.

I'm fine if you don't rely on "proof texts," but surely you need to have some support texts for you opinions? It's not very helpful for the discussion to argue you have "many lines of evidence" without acknowledging what they are. For instance, the Jn 8:58 discussion is obviously one, and discussing it has helped me understand your views a little better.

For instance, I do not believe that Paul believed Jesus was "theos." Why? Because he uses the term over 540 times in his letters, and is only alleged to use it for Jesus in 3 grammatically ambiguous verses (Rom 9:5, Phil 2:6, Tit 2:13), all of which I believe are heavily favoring him using this title for the Father instead. He does, however, claim at least 4 times that there is only "one God," and each time he designates this "one God" as exclusively the Father (1 Cor 8:6; Rom 3:22,30; Eph 4:4-6; & 1 Tim 2:5). Your thoughts?
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Re: Did the authors of Scripture believe that Jesus was "God"?

Postby mitchellmckain » Mon Nov 23, 2009 2:46 am

As for me what I found most telling concerning the divinity of Christ in the gospel of John and the writings of Paul is that the creation of the world is attributed to Jesus.

The first chapter of the gospel of John is of course well known. Paraphrasing: "The Word was in the beginning with God, and the Word was God, and all things were made through the Word, and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us as the only Son from the Father, and John bore witness to him." This being an intoduction to the story of John the Baptist bearing witness that Jesus is the Son of God. In addition, it is in John 10:30-38, where Jesus says "I and My Father are one", in John 12:45, He says, "And he who sees Me sees Him who sent Me", and finally in John 14:7-10, He says, "If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him. Phillip said to Him, 'Lord show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.' Jesus said to him, 'Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Phillip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, Show us the Father? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you, I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works.'"

In Collossians 1:15-20 we have: "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross."

In Hebrews chapter 1 there is a collection of things that God has purportedly said to His Son Jesus. These include, "Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever", "therefore God, thy God has annointed thee...", "Thou, Lord, didst found the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of thy hands".

Thus it is clear to me that the writer of these certainly believed in the divinity of Jesus. I certainly think the case is pretty weak elsewhere such as in the three synoptic gospels. I have even argued that even Paul and the author of the gospel of John certainly did not seem to emphasize this belief and so I doubted its importance for quite a time. Even now I can certainly recognize that nature of Jesus as both fully man and fully God, and the relationship between him and the Father is full of puzzling features. I certainly recognize that the doctrine of the Trinity besides being a difficult one to see the logical consistency of, is not to be found in the Bible except by deductive reasoning at best. But those with a physics background like myself and John Polkinghorne actually see in these logical difficulties somethig that mirrors physicist's confrontation with quantum physics, and thus as something which validates the reality of the Biblical God because these are both ideas which we would not imagine if the evidence (of their respective kinds, one physical and the other scriptural) had not forced us to it.

However scripture lacking the objectivity of physical evidence means that dissention concerning these deductions would hardly be surprising. The atheist is most likely going to see this situation as simply a mass of contradictions in scripture that has given rise to doctrine that is full of contradictions. Others that see value in the scriptures but cannot bring themselves to swallow such a puzzling and seemingly contradictory idea of God will find numerous ways to read and understand the scrptures that avoid such a confusing understanding of Jesus and God. As a pluralist, both in regard to truth in general and in regards to Biblical Hermeneutics, I am hardly going to argue against the validity of these other points of view. But I do think that the historical agreement about what it means to Christian has put this Trinitarian understanding of Jesus and God first and formost as what defines historical Christian belief. Of course its a free country and people whether they be LDS, Hari Krishna or Scientologist is free to call themselves Christian if it pleases them, and I think it quite natural that thoughtful people are always finding their own meaning in words and this is legitimate as long as they are willing to explain it, but for the purpose of communication it is the consensus and the historical precedence which really determines what a word is first presumed to mean in a discussion between people of different beliefs.
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Re: Did the authors of Scripture believe that Jesus was "God"?

Postby ChristianHeretic » Mon Nov 23, 2009 10:12 am

Thank you for your input, it is helpful...

mitchellmckain wrote:As for me what I found most telling concerning the divinity of Christ in the gospel of John and the writings of Paul is that the creation of the world is attributed to Jesus.

And I would agree this is awkward the way they display it. They constantly say that all thing were created "through" ('dia') Christ. My big stumbling block with Paul's thought on this topic though was his explicit claim in 1 Cor 8:6:

yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.
-1 Corinthians 8:6

When using the same terminology regarding all things coming "from" the Father, and all things coming "through" Christ, Paul again exclusively designates the title of "God" for the Father.

mitchellmckain wrote:The first chapter of the gospel of John is of course well known

My problems with this verse started when I read Tyndale's and Calvin's Geneva Bible's original translation of this verse, claiming the "Word" was an "it" rather than a "Him." (because of the ambiguous Greek pronoun 'autos.') See Tyndale's Bible, Geneva Bible. Tyndale and Calvin obviously "interpreted" these verses the same as modern Orthodoxy outside of their translation, but the fact that Orthodoxy revised these translations to be more Orthodox was significant to me. Then in verse 14, recognizing the conjunction 'hos', "like or as," the typical use of the preposition 'en' as "in" rather than "among," and the consistent language that John uses that this 'logos' dwells "in" us rather than "among" us (Jn 5:38, Jn 8:37, 1 Jn 1:10, 1 Jn 2:14). Then the corruption of Jn 1:18 put me over the edge.

mitchellmckain wrote:John 10:30-38, where Jesus says "I and My Father are one"

I saw this but then I also saw Jesus' identical claim in Jn 17:20-23, "that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity." He was claiming to be unified with the Father, not the same being as the Father as Modalists argue.

mitchellmckain wrote:in John 12:45, He says, "And he who sees Me sees Him who sent Me", and finally in John 14:7-10, He says, "If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him. Phillip said to Him, 'Lord show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.' Jesus said to him, 'Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Phillip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father;

He's obviously not claiming to be the Father here, that's Sabellism/Modalism. (Even though that is what He actually says.) So again, when Jesus says above in Jn 17:21 that "just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us," he is not inviting us to become part of a trinity of persons. He is describing a unity through the Spirit.

But he who unites himself with the Lord is one with him in spirit.
-1 Corinthians 6:17

mitchellmckain wrote:For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.

This "by" is now an "in." It doesn't mean "by," See the TNIV's revised translation. "By" is never used regarding Jesus' "part" in Creation.

mitchellmckain wrote:For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell

Again, Eph 3:19 also says that all of God's fullness dwells in us?

mitchellmckain wrote:"Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever", "therefore God, thy God has annointed thee..."

Heb 1:8-9 is an interesting one, because it is actually a quote from Psalm. I wasn't ready to acknowledge that this "king" was also part of a trinity, ur quadrity, of persons, and so it looked to me like this was possibly a doxology to the Father prior to the address of the king/Messiah in v. 9.

mitchellmckain wrote:Others that see value in the scriptures but cannot bring themselves to swallow such a puzzling and seemingly contradictory idea of God will find numerous ways to read and understand the scrptures that avoid such a confusing understanding of Jesus and God.

The only reason I can't bring myself to accept this puzzling "truth" of Scripture is 1)as you pointed out, the authors of Scripture didn't feel it was appropriate to define this trinity in Scripture, it rather has to be deduced, or rather presumed. 2)The term 'theos' is used over 1300 times in NT, and at very most 9 for Jesus, 6 of which the KJV disagrees with, and 2 of the other 3 are discussed above. The point I came to is if this is a theory that has to be "deduced," I wasn't convinced that it was actually a theory of the apostles. And it was completely unnessary, and actually conflicting in some areas with my faith. (the cross for one area as it was for the Arians). And then researching the development of this theory through time, and the beliefs of those that created it, (most of which would be considered heretics today in one form or another), I lost faith in the historical accuracy of our modern version of this "truth."

I'll be off for a few days, but will be back to answer...Have a great Thanksgiving!
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Re: Did the authors of Scripture believe that Jesus was "God"?

Postby Pseudonym » Mon Nov 23, 2009 8:48 pm

ChristianHeretic wrote:BDAG actually initially defines this word as "to come into being through process of birth or natural production." So it is possible that Jesus was claiming that "Before Abraham was 'born', I am."

Given that Abraham was born and not created ex nihlio, it amounts to the same thing in this case. But the word genesthai has no literal connotation of birth; see John 3:9, for example.

One thing I'm noting here is that you seem to be a bit resistant to the possibility that Jesus or the author of John (or, let's face it, both) might have meant several things at the same time, which is a common rhetorical device which Jesus is depicted as using a lot. Another good example of this is Matthew 14:27, where Jesus could be saying "It is I; do not be afraid" or "I AM; do not be afraid". You would say he meant the former, many would say he meant the latter. Given that in Aramaic the two phrases are identical, he probably actually meant both.

The same thing is going on in John 8:58. Jesus is implying that he existed before Abraham, but is also implying "I AM".

ChristianHeretic wrote:So is your argument now that Jesus did in fact intend to quote Ex 3:14, but John just missed this intent and transcribed it wrong?

In Ex 3:14, of course, God is quoted saying as "I am that I am". In the Hebrew, the two "I am"s use the same word (ehyeh asher ehyeh). In the LXX, different phrases are used; the first "I am" is translated as ego eimi and the second one as ho on. (and that's leaving aside the practice of translating YHVH as kurios.) I don't consider any of these a "wrong" translation on the part of the LXX translators; I'm not enough of a Greek expert to be able to say if you could really translate this any better. Certainly, in English translations, it's considered sufficiently tricky that there's almost always a footnote attached to Ex 3:14 explaining what's going on.

Anyway, if Jesus said this in Aramaic, then the quibbling over ego eimi versus ho on is moot; Jesus almost certainly used the same phrase that you find in Ex 3:14 in Hebrew. Whoever translated this into Greek chose to render this using some of the phrasing from the LXX, but not all of it because it probably wouldn't have been an accurate representation of what Jesus is actually reported as saying. Your suggestion that Jesus could have been reported as saying "Before Abraham was born, I am the One Who is"... well, it would certainly have cleared up any confusion, but it would be a clumsy and inaccurate representation of a snappy phrase in Aramaic.

["ego eimi" is used in Deuteronomy 32:39, Isaiah 41:4 and 43:10]
ChristianHeretic wrote:Yes, there are more, like Jn 9:9, Isaiah 47:8 and 47:10. However, none of these times is it actually used by Jesus or Yahweh. So surely these times weren't an explicit claim to be God as well?

Huh?

Isaiah 43:10 wrote:"You are my witnesses," declares Yahweh,
"and my servant whom I have chosen,
so that you may know and believe me
and understand that I AM.
Before me there was no God formed,
and there will be none after me."

Technically, this was Isaiah speaking, but that's pretty obviously a claim to be God by Yahweh.

ChristianHeretic wrote:Yes, it does. But surely we have to remove those that have a predicate where he is obviously not claiming simply "I am," He's actually claiming to be something else or confirming identity.

Of course. I just found it really interesting, considering that the deity of Jesus is a major theme of the fourth gospel.

ChristianHeretic wrote:My only point is that if you were using the LXX as your "Scripture," you wouldn't have made the "connection." Most of those surrounding and pre-Nicea used the LXX and therefore, didn't recognize the similarities. When you're looking, see all of the early fathers that quote the verse but leave the "I am" claim of deity out.

All of the other references that I could find were church fathers speaking against specific heresies or misunderstandings. John Chrysostom was the closest thing to a "commentary" that I could find from the early church.

ChristianHeretic wrote:Ok, so He can claim to be God but not excercise any of his prerogatives as God? Like saving Himself from an inconvenient stoning.

He could also theoretically have saved himself from an inconvenient crucifixion. I think you're over-analysing this.

ChristianHeretic wrote:I'm fine if you don't rely on "proof texts," but surely you need to have some support texts for you opinions? It's not very helpful for the discussion to argue you have "many lines of evidence" without acknowledging what they are. For instance, the Jn 8:58 discussion is obviously one, and discussing it has helped me understand your views a little better.

It's true that we've been discussing John 8:58 more than others.

Since you understand my views, perhaps you could do me the same courtesy. Who do you say that Jesus is?

Once you've answered that, how about we pick some different verses to pick apart. How about John 1:1-14?

ChristianHeretic wrote:For instance, I do not believe that Paul believed Jesus was "theos."

I agree that the terms "God" and "Jesus" were somewhat distinct in Paul's thought. I realise that the authorship of Colossians is disputed (I'm unsure myself), but the first two chapters there seem to lay out a very Paul-like case, especially the "creation of the world" bits that Mitchell pointed out.

Also significant is Paul's use of the title kurios.
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Re: Did the authors of Scripture believe that Jesus was "God"?

Postby mikedsjr » Mon Nov 23, 2009 10:03 pm

To go along with John 8:58, the NET Study Bible notes say the following:
I am! is an explicit claim to deity. Although each occurrence of the phrase "I am" in the Fourth Gospel needs to be examined individually in context to see if an association with Exodus 3:14 is present, it seems clear in the case here (as the response in the following verses shows)


my ESV Study Bible says
If there had been any uncertainty about Jesus' identity in other passages where he said, "I am" (e.g., 6:35; 9:5; 11:25), there was no confusion here because Jesus is claiming to be the one who was alive before Abraham was, that is, more than 2,000 years earlier. Jesus does not simply say, "Before Abraham was, I was," which would simply mean that he is more than 2,000 years old. Rather, he uses the present tense "I am" in speaking of existence more than 2,000 years earlier, thus claiming a kind of transcendence over time that could only be true of God. The words "I am" in Greek use the same expression (Ego eimi) found in the sseptuagint in the first half of God's self-identification in Exodus 3:14, "I AM who I AM." Jesus is thus claiming not only to be eternal but also to be the God who appeared to Moses at the burning bush. His Jewish opponents understood his meaning immediately and they "picked up stones" to stone him to death for blasphemy (see John 8:59).


So let's break it down of the NET.
(Jesus is speaking in 56)
56a Your father Abraham
56b was overjoyed
56c to see my day,
56d and he saw it
56e and was glad

57a Then the Judeans replied,
57b "You are not fifty years old!
57c Have you seen Abraham?"

58a Jesus said to them,
58b "I tell you the solemn truth,
58c before Abraham came into existence,
58d I am".

59a Then [the Judeians] picked up stones
59b to stone him,
59c but Jesus hid himself
59d and went out from the temple area.
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Re: Did the authors of Scripture believe that Jesus was "God"?

Postby mikedsjr » Mon Nov 23, 2009 10:32 pm

Also, the bible tells us in John 6:46 (ESV)
not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father


Genesis 3:8
And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day

Gen 18:1 says (ESV)
And the Lord appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre...

in Gen 32, Jacob wrestles with God.

God the father has never been seen by anyone. So who is the Lord, but Jesus in these text. It so easy to see from the Christian perspective, but outside of the christian perspective, I imagine anything is possible just as long as you just throw out red herrings.
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Re: Did the authors of Scripture believe that Jesus was "God"?

Postby ChristianHeretic » Mon Nov 23, 2009 11:35 pm

Guys, this is bad scholarship. No where in Scripture is the title of 'ὁ ὤν', which is found in the LXX version of Ex 3:14, translated as "I am." Do a short search. Of course phrases stating "I am ________" are riduled throughout Scripture, but none of these are alleged to be quoted by Jesus in Jn 8:58, Ex 3:14 is!

Gen 17:1 - 'ego eimi' God Almighty
Gen 23:4 - 'ego eimi' a sojournor and foreigner
Ex 3:6 - 'ego eimi' the God of your Father
Ex 3:14 - 'ego eimi' the One Who is
Lk 1:18 - 'ego eimi' old
Lk 1:19 - 'ego eimi' Gabriel
Jn 1:27 - 'ego eimi' not worthy
Jn 9:9 - 'ego eimi' [him]
Ac 10:21 - 'ego eimi' the one (Peter)
Ac 23:6 - 'ego eimi' Pharisee (Paul)
I Cor 15:9 - 'ego eimi' the least of the apostles

Because of this, the ESV's explanation makes no sense:
ESV Study Bible wrote:The words "I am" in Greek use the same expression (Ego eimi) found in the septuagint in the first half of God's self-identification in Exodus 3:14, "I AM who I AM."

They have mistranslated the LXX to prove their preconceived theory. The verse does not say "I AM who I AM" in Greek. It says either "I am THE BEING" or "I am THE ONE WHO IS." Neither of which, per John, Jesus affirms in Jn 8:58. You can then go to the secondary proof texts mentioned by Pseud where Yahweh does actually say an isolated phrase of "I am" along with others, but because of John's almost undeniable use of the LXX as Scripture which we've already confirmed, at very least John does not believe that Jesus is quoting Yahweh in Ex 3:14.

NET wrote:each occurrence of the phrase "I am" in the Fourth Gospel needs to be examined individually in context to see if an association with Exodus 3:14 is present

Again, once we confirm that John used the LXX as Scripture, there is no 'association with Ex 3:14' here in Jn 8:58. They are just wrong on this one.

Pseudonym wrote:if Jesus said this in Aramaic, then the quibbling over ego eimi versus ho on is moot; Jesus almost certainly used the same phrase that you find in Ex 3:14 in Hebrew. Whoever translated this into Greek chose to render this using some of the phrasing from the LXX, but not all of it because it probably wouldn't have been an accurate representation of what Jesus is actually reported as saying.

Sure, it's moot as long as you throw out the alleged inerrancy of John's transcription of Jesus' Aramaic words. The point here is simple. John used the LXX, therefore, he was not aware that Yahweh was claiming to be the 'ego eimi' in Ex 3:14, he thought Yahweh was claiming to be the 'ho on.' So to argue that Jesus was 'obviously' quoting Ex 3:14 is just inaccurate, unless of course it was obvious to all but John?

Pseudonym wrote:How about John 1:1-14?

Read the previous post for my findings in John's prologue.

Off for Thanksgiving...have a good one...
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