The Trinity (IIIe2)
The NT Witness: Literary Responses to Jesus (the writings of the NT)--con't
First Timothy and Titus--early Pauline Pastorals (c. 57-59)
- The first thing to note is the description "our Savior" (in v 1). In these two epistles, Paul uses this description of BOTH the Father and of Christ. The Father is designated "savior" in I Tim 1.1; 2.3; 4.10; Titus 1.3; 2.10; 3.4. Jesus is called "savior" in Titus 1.4; 2.13; 3.6. This is a very close linkage of the Father and Son.
Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. (I Tim 1.2)--Note the dual-agent benediction.
- Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners (I Tim 1.15)--Note the pre-existence and divine mission of Christ.
Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great: He appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed on in the world, was taken up in glory. (I Tim 3.16)--Note that the referent of 'he' is God (vs. 15) and that 'he' appeared in a body--a explicit claim to deity of Christ. (In fact, some of the better ancient mss. have the reading "God appeared in a body"--strengthening the case--as does the OLDEST fragment of this epistle--7Q4 pre-68ad! [see TRKW]).
Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior. (Titus 1.4)--Note the dual-agent benediction.
- while we wait for the blessed hope -- the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, (Titus 2.13)--Jesus Christ is called "God" and "Savior" in this passage (the Greek construction is VERY clear that this is ONE person, not two).
- SUMMARY: The early Pauline Pastorals witness to the pre-existence of Christ, ascribe the divine title of "Savior" to Him, use dual-agent benedictions, explicitly call Jesus "God"(!) and affirm that "God appeared in a body"--an obvious reference to Jesus. VERY STRONG DATA for the deity of Jesus Christ.
Paul's Prison Writings--Eph, Col, Philm. (c. 60)
- Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Eph 1.2)--the traditional dual-agent benediction.
- And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge (Eph 3.16ff)--Notice that Christ's love is incredibly super-human!
- (What does "he ascended" mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? 10 He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) (Eph 4.9)--Jesus is said to have 'descended' to the earth--normally understood as referring to the incarnation (as opposed to the classical "descent into Hades"). This amounts to a pre-existence claim.
- Ephesians has the same phenomena of the usage of the title "Lord"--we cannot tell if Paul means Jesus or the Father or simply the "Unity" of the two. He uses some form of the word 20+ times. It is typically used as the title of Jesus (e.g. 1.2,3), but in some passages it MIGHT refer to the Father (e.g. 2.21; 4.17; 6.1,4,8,10).
- A rather explicit reference to the deity of Christ is given in the quote from Psalm 68, which occurs in Eph 4.8. The NT passage applies it to Christ; the OT passage was explicitly about YHWH!
- The overall usage of the phrase 'in Christ' throughout Ephesians paints a picture of a supremely super-creaturely Christ, who somehow has the skillset to subdue and rule the entire universe(!)--cf. 1.10, 22; 4.10; 6.8.
- Peace to the brothers, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Eph 6.23)--The dual-agent benediction again.
- He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. 16 For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Col 1.15ff)--Notice the very HIGH Christology here. Pre-existence, creator of angels(!), reason for creation, sustainer of all things--can these descriptions ever be made of a mere creature?!
- But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death ( Col 1.22)--Notice the comment about Christ's 'physical body', implying an additional nature as well?
- in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, 3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Col 2.2ff)--Notice this high claim for Christ--"ALL" the treasures--a rather obvious statement of post-resurrection omniscience! Such exalted claims for Jesus.
- For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, (Col 2.9)--This is generally considered a strong witness to the deity of Christ (even using the abstract noun 'deity').
- Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Philm 3)--Notice the dual-agent benediction.
- The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. (Philm 25)--Notice the Jesus-only benediction/prayer.
- SUMMARY: In addition to dual-agent benedictions and single-agent prayers, Jesus is described in super-creaturely form often. His pre-existence in glory is affirmed and He is specifically identified with the YHWH of the OT (via citation). He is said to be the Creator of the universe, even creator of the angels, to be the sustainer of the universe, and to be the very REASON for the universe (i.e. we were created 'for Him'). He is said to have ALL the fullness of the Godhead in His body! Very strong data, again, for the deity of Jesus Christ.
Philippians and 2nd Timothy (c. 60-61)
- Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. (Phil 1.2)--The dual-benediction.
- for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, (Phil 1.19)--Notice, the "Spirit of Jesus" is VERY similar to the "Spirit of God"!
- now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. (1.20)--Notice, the exaltation/worship of Jesus--only supposed to be for GOD!
- Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, (2.6)--We have already looked at this explicit statement of the full deity of Jesus Christ.
- The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen. (Phil 4.23)--A simple, but effective benediction.
Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord. (2 Tim 1.2)--The dual-benediction again.
- This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, (2 Tim 1.9)--Notice, the pre-existence of Christ--even before the beginning of time itself!
- May the Lord show mercy ... May the Lord grant that he will find mercy from the Lord (2 Tim 1.16,18)--Notice, a benediction/prayer is addressed to the "Lord". WHICHEVER "Lord" it is--Father or Son--they are apparently BOTH called "Lord" in the 18th verse (cf. the Angel of YHWH passages in the OT)!
- The phenomena of the word "Lord" occurs here as well. It is unequivocally used predominantly of Christ (1.1,2,8,16?,18; 2.19, 2.24, 4.8), probably of the Father in 1.18, and the usage in 2.22; 3.11; 4.14 is indeterminate from the immediate context. But, given Paul's usual pattern of using "Lord" for Jesus, and "God" or "Father" for the Father, it is probably safe to assign the indeterminate passages to Christ. ["God" is used 19 times; "Lord" is used 14 times.] If this is indeed the case, then the passage in 2.19 (Nevertheless, God's solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: "The Lord knows those who are his,"), citing Num 16.5 (LXX) is an identification of Christ with YHWH of the OT.
- The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen. (2 Tim 4.18)--That final phrase, of worship and glorification, is patently blasphemous if Jesus Christ is not fully God.
- The Lord be with your spirit. Grace be with you. (2 Tim 4.22)--Notice the single agent benediction.
- SUMMARY: The later Pauline writings of Philippians and 2 Timothy evidence a high Christology. The dual/Christ-only benedictions, the calls to glorify/worship Jesus, the explicit 'the nature of God' passage, the pre-existence of Christ, the equation of Christ with the YHWH of the OT (via OT scripture citation) all are indicative of Paul's understanding of Jesus of Nazareth as the divine and unique Son of God.
Epistles of the 60's--I Peter, II Peter, Hebrews
- trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. (I Pet 1.11)--The Spirit of Christ is identified with the OT Spirit of God!
- Peter affirms the sinlessness of this Jesus Christ in I Pet 2.22 ("He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth."--a citation from Is 53.9) and in I Pet 3.18 ( For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous,).
To those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours: (2 Pet 1.1)--This is one of the 10+ explicit ascriptions of deity to Jesus in the NT. The Greek construction is quite clear (identical constructions occurs in 1.11; 2.20; 3.18).
- Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. (2 Pet 1.2)--Note the dual-agent, coordinate benediction.
- But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! (2 Pet 3.18)--Notice that the dual-agent knowledge of God+Jesus in 1.2 is changed to a single-agent formula, not to mention the fact that 'glory' is ascribed in worship to this Jesus here!
- Hebrews (c. 69) is filled to the brim with super-creaturely descriptions of Jesus--and even a few in which He is called "God."
- but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. (1.2)--Note that this Son existed BEFORE creation, and was the agent of creation!
- The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. (1.3)--Somehow, this Son sustains the universe by speaking! (does this remind you of Gen 1, in which YHWH 'spoke' the universe into existence?!)
- And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, "Let all God's angels worship him." (1.6)--The angels are told to worship this Son! (Remember, worship is ONLY for God!)
- But about the Son he says, "Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom. 9 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy." (1.8ff)--Wow! In this passage, the Son is both called "GOD" explicitly (v.8), differentiated from "God" (v.9), and is equated (via the citation of Psalm 45) with YHWH of the OT! Can anything be clearer than this?
- He also says, "In the beginning, O Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. 11 They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. 12 You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed. But you remain the same, and your years will never end." (1.10ff)--In this passage, Jesus is again equated with the OT YHWH (via citation of Psalm 102.25-27) and is credited with being eternal and changeless.
- Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity (2.14)--This statement about Jesus makes no sense whatsoever if He did not have a non-human nature as well. The subsequent verses point out that He did NOT take on an 'angelic' nature!
- But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. 13 Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, 14 because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. (10.12ff)--Notice that the universal power and reach of this one person's sacrifice SO FAR EXCEEDS what would be expected of even a PERFECT SINLESS Human!
- He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. (11.26)--Notice, somehow Christ was present at the time of Moses.
- SUMMARY: In the 60's, Jesus was equated with the God of the OT, EXPLICITLY called "GOD", offered universal glory, called the Creator, pre-existent, sustainer of the universe by His word, the required object of worship by the angels(!), eternal, outside of the universe of change, in existence during the career of Moses, and able to take on a human nature. Pretty misleading if Jesus is just a creature!!!
Writings of the 70's and 80's--Jude, John's material
- The mere 25 verses of Jude do not span a lot of doctrinal areas, and are mostly on the subject of eschatology. There is vs.1, however, in which you have a statement of co-ordinate relationship between the Father and the Lord, but this is inconclusive.
- John's contributions in the Gospel of John. We have treated most of the material in the Gospel of John in other sections (e.g. Jesus' self-understanding or Responses to His claims). What I wish to examine here are those passages in the Gospel that are generally thought to be the words of John himself--as prologue, explanation, or summary. Remember, John's Gospel is the only gospel account to claim to have been written by an eyewitness of Jesus--cf. John 21.24. [Also, I have placed the Gospel in the 70-80's time frame, although some historians have dated it before the Fall of Jerusalem, based on the present tense verb usage in passages such as John 5.2--Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades.]
- The Prologue (1.1-18) has some very significant statements. First is 1.1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. --Notice this explicit statement of plurality-within-unity in the Godhead. Jesus WAS God and WAS WITH God--identity AND distinction. This is a very strong passage, and, notwithstanding the various arguments of the professional cultists, the Greek is VERY CLEAR about this!
- He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. (1.2-3)--Note: Jesus was preexistent, the Agent of creation (see also 1.10) of the ENTIRE universe!
- The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (1.14)--The Word was Jesus, and He came from the Father (preexistence in Heaven).
- No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known. (1.18)--This incredible statement--"God the One and Only" (translated "the only begotten God" in some versions!) is another explicit ascription of "God" to Jesus, that differentiates Him from the Father!
- John 3.16-21 are often understood to be John's words (instead of Jesus'). In this passage John describes Jesus as the unique Son of God (v. 16) and as having been pre-existent and sent into the world by the Father (v. 17, 19).
- John 3.31-36 are often understood to be John's words (instead of the Baptist's). In this passage John describes Jesus as "from above" (v. 31), "above all" (v. 31,32), "comes from Heaven" (v.31), and the one to whom God gives the Spirit "without limit" (v. 34).
- The Epistles of John continue the pattern of calling Jesus by the appellation "THE Son of God"--a term that was considered blasphemous by the historical figures in John's Gospel (cf. 5.18 For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.). He is called "The Son" 25+ times in these 3 letters from John.
- The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. (I Jn 1.2)--Notice: Jesus is life, is eternal life, was with the Father, and appeared to us--all strong statements of exaltation and pre-existence.
- He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. (I Jn 2.2)--This is another of those strange passages that assert that the life of the One Jesus Christ was adequate to pay for the sins of the ENTIRE WORLD! Could this ever be said of a mere creature?
- No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also. (I Jn 2.23)--Notice that the Son and the Father are so closely united, that to accept or deny one EQUATES TO accepting or denying the other.
- The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work. (I Jn 3.8)--This statement makes sense if Jesus is the pre-existent divine Son of God; it makes almost NO sense if he is simply a creature.
- This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God (I Jn 4.2)--John makes the fact of the pre-existence and appearing of Christ--IN HUMAN FORM(!)--the criterion for truth. The 'in the flesh' phrase is nonsensical if Jesus were not ALSO super-human (at the least).
- This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. (I Jn 4.9)--Notice, Jesus is the "one and only Son" of God, and He was pre-existent (and sent by the Father "into the world").
- And we are in him who is true -- even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. (I Jn 5.20)--Notice that Jesus (who elsewhere is called the 'eternal life' --I Jn 1.2) is called the "true God" here!
- Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ, the Father's Son, will be with us in truth and love. (2 Jn 3)--A coordinate statement and semi-blessing.
- Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, (2 Jn 7)--Notice the reference to Jesus Christ as "coming in the flesh"--a statement of preexistence and a super-"fleshly" nature.
- The Book of the Revelation (ca. 85-95ad) contains many striking apocalyptic images of Christ, and many statements of His exalted character, pre-existence, status. Due to the interpretive difficulties with some of these, I want to only advance some of the more clear datapoints from this work.
- In a loud voice they sang: "Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!"
13 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!" 14 The four living creatures said, "Amen," and the elders fell down and worshipped. (Rev 5.12ff)--Notice that the Lamb (Jesus) is given 'glory and praise', is praised co-jointly with the Father(!), and is explicitly "worshipped"--descriptions of deity only.
- They were purchased from among men and offered as firstfruits to God and the Lamb. (Rev 14.4)--Notice that the Lamb is offered a sacrifice in the passage!!!
- Then the angel said to me, "Write: `Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!'" And he added, "These are the true words of God."
10 At this I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, "Do not do it! I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! (19.9ff, also in 22.8)--Notice that worship, even of a high exalted creature is wrong! This sheds light on those several passages in which Jesus accepts worship (documented in the "Responses to Jesus" sections).
- By putting together 1.1 (The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John) with 22.6 (The angel said to me, "These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that must soon take place.") and 22.16 ("I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches.), it becomes apparent that Jesus is the "God of the spirits of the prophets"--an explicit claim to deity.
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God's people. Amen. (22.21-22)--We have a single-agent benediction and an actual prayer to Jesus.
- SUMMARY: The writings of John, largely AFTER the destruction of the Temple, portray the same High Christology we have seen throughout the NT writings. Jesus is portrayed as pre-existent in glory, creator of the entire universe, absolutely unique in His relationship to the Father, possessing the Holy Spirit in unlimited measure, eternal life, adequate to atone for the sins of billions and billions of people, sinless, so linked with the Father that what happened to one--also happened to the other, and as having 'taken on' a human nature. He is worshipped, universally praised, sacrificed to, and explicitly called "God" a few times. What could be clearer?!
Christian ThinkTank Homepage...[http://www.christian-thinktank.com]