The Deity of Jesus and the Trinity

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How clear is the biblical witness to the deity of Jesus and God’s triune nature? And is it essential for someone to believe in these doctrines in order to be saved? Listen live here 2-4 pm EST, and call into the show at (866) 348 7884 with your questions and comments.

 

Hour 1:

Dr. Brown’s Bottom Line: We must exalt Jesus to His full stature as the eternal divine Son of God if we are to rightly relate to God Himself.

 

Hour 2:

Dr. Brown’s Bottom Line: Never ever be afraid of the truth, because all truth is ultimately God’s truth and there is no fear in the truth of God.

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Other Resources:

Memra’, Logos, and the Divine Messiah

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117 Comments
  1. I don’t know too much about Michael Heiser, but I’ve seen a few of his youtube presentations and have found much of what he says to be very informative. Though I believe I have also found a few things I think he strayed on, so Im not blanket endorsing his talks. But I found a talk of his called: Two Powers of the Godhead, where he speaks about the Jewish concept of the Two Powers in Heaven, and then takes it further to show a third.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CUkhWBKCuXc

  2. Benjamin,

    He’s a great teacher, especially of the trinity and the Two Powers in Heaven presentation that he does is really informative. I’ve been studying his youtube videos for over a year now.

    Thanks for that!

  3. Benjamin,

    Have you read any of Daniel Boyarin’s books or essays? He’s not Messianic but I get the feeling he’s not Orthodox either, maybe a reformed Jew, but he tackles the issue of the divine Messiah and how that it is an ancient Jewish idea, in place before the birth of Christianity! You might want to read, “The Jewish Gospels.” It’s not near as weighty as “Two Powers in Heaven” by Alan Segal but is invaluable as a quick read.

  4. That’s odd, the links aren’t working for me. I’ve read about a dozen of his articles from my bookmarked pages. Let me see if I can fix it.

  5. Just for reference in the Youtube link I posted. Michael Heiser discusses “begotten” in regards to Jesus just after the 49 minute mark.

  6. Well, all I can see is that mine don’t have the http:// in front of them. You may want to try that. Or I just googled “The Gospel of the Memra by Daniel Boyarin” and then “Jewish Binitarianism by Daniel Boyarin.” But I would just leave off the http:// and start with “nes.”

    Hope it works for you.

  7. Oh, “begotten” as in “unique and only one of it’s kind.” That makes perfectly good sense! So, good information to spring on the Jehovah’s Witnesses!! And, not forgetting, the Unitarians, who may be along shortly… 🙂

    Really though, I wish Heiser had given reference to where in the Greek writings they found the usage of “begotten” as other than usual. You know, I’ve always understood it as being different than we think of the word used because of all the other Scriptural evidence that explains in what way He was begotten. Couldn’t possibly mean in the usual manner.

  8. Some people are like old wine skins that remind me of the lady on the Hanes underwear commercials of years ago, who would be seen stretching the underwear and she would say that “It doesn’t say Hanes, until I say it says Hanes.”

    Just substitute the word deity for the word Hanes.

    I only wish they were a bit more flexible and would allow for a little stretching. Sometimes we need to be stretched a bit.

    I do not necessarily believe that one wine skin is for all people all the time. Some people don’t want anything to do at all with anything that could even remotely resemble a wineskin.

    Let it breathe, I say. We have to breathe.

  9. When I state that the Father begets the Son in eternity, I mean to establish that the Father is the origin of the Godhead, that the Son is begotten of the Father in an eternal relationship, one which depends upon the origin being in the Father, and that the Holy Spirit comes forth in an eternal procession from the Father and the Son.

    John’s term “monogenes Theos” is usually rendered “only begotten” or “only begotten God,” and from it we derive the statement about Christ in the Nicene Creed, “God of God, Light of Light, True God of True God, of the same substance as the Father.” Obviously, we are speaking of a spiritual begetting. We use the term “begotten” out of convenience, since we can never truly comprehend the precise manner in which the Father begets the Son in their divine relationship. In any case, there is an eternal relationship between the one who begets and the one who is begotten. But the begetting does not cease, even at the incarnation. Such is the unity of the Trinity.

  10. Nicholas,

    I’m trying to wrap my mind around the eternal begetting of the Son. I think it’s maybe along the lines of that the Lord is “a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec.”

    I’ve never thought of the trinity as an ongoing interplay between Father and Son in that respect before–that of the one who begets and the one who is begotten.

    I do understand that the relationship of the Father and Son will change or revert to what it was before we were created after the Millennium when Scripture says that “1Co 15:27 For “He has put all things under His feet.” But when He says “all things are put under Him,” it is evident that He who put all things under Him is excepted. 28 Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all.”

    Sometimes the idea of the trinity trips people up because we can’t imagine how One could be Three individually but to me it’s not meant to be difficult. I believe it because Scripture (in my mind) certainly tells us that’s how it is. Why dwell on it other than to be able to bring others to the knowledge of the truth? Some people make a living out of debating it endlessly. There’s only so much that the Bible says about it and the rest is borne out by the truth of the totality of Scripture. What I mean is that unless there is such an idea as a trinity much of what’s spoken in Scripture would be false and contradictory.

  11. Sheila,

    It’s certainly true that the doctrine of the Trinity is crucial to understanding the meaning of much in the Scriptures.

    I just thought of something: it would be wonderful if Dr. Brown and Dr. James White wrote a book together on the subject. Their debate on Jewish Voice with Sir Anthony Buzzard and the fellow with the yarmulke just goes to show that the Unitarian argument is hardly convincing in light of the totality of the scriptural witness.

  12. Nicholas,

    I heartily agree with you. A book would be great! I’ve watched that debate several time and I, too, thought the Unitarian argument to be very weak and easily refuted. What they do is harp on a half dozen key verses that at first seem contradictory to the trinity and say “See, this is what it says” when if they’d taken the ones that say the opposite they’d be forced to defend the trinity. It can go around and around and until you force yourself to see there’s something much broader going on with the Lord as being “one with the Father.” If you can’t see that God alone saves, you’re left with an insufficient savior, in my mind.

  13. Nicholas,

    Another thing is that Unitarians and Jehovah Witnesses have to re-write the First Testament too. All the places where Angel-YHWH is deliberately interchangeable with God has to be reinterpreted to be a “messenger” only. I understand the instances where “angel” means “messenger” but that’s not the case with Angel-YHWH. He is said to be the “presence” or “the face” of God, which is how presence is translated in the Hebrew.

    Even Genesis 18, which clearly shows the LORD as walking, talking, eating and communing with Abraham, has to be severely damaged in order to hold to that opinion. Orthodox Rabbi’s have now admitted that there was an Angel running around with God’s Sacred Name. Of course, that’s as far as they go with it. I can’t imagine the same Angel being retired like a used suit once he gets back to Heaven. That makes no sense. Do we then have an Angel with no name after he’s served his purpose? It just doesn’t ring true.

    In fact, I’m working right now on the significance of the Angel with God’s Name for another blog. I’m talking to one of the Rabbi’s students about it. I’m afraid I’ve been negligent in finishing it. I’ve only worked on my reply off and on this Spring as I spend so much time working in my garden this time of year. It’s getting quite hot out there so I’ve time to get busy again!! I really need to!

    There’s also much wear and tear done to Psalm 110 too, by the Unitarians and Witnesses that is. Well, the Orthodox have a problem with the clear meaning of it too. I’m surprised we haven’t heard from Sir Anthony Buzzard lately. Maybe because no one’s attended this particular thread in over a year before we picked it up again. Do you know of him? Oh, you do, as you mentioned the debate you watched with him. In fact, I think I’ll go watch it again and brush up on the terminology and verses they use. Although I think we need to advance a different approach concerning the Divinity of Messiah, Jesus. That’s what I’m wanting to do. Those in opposition know the standard format arguments and have well prepared answers. We need to come at it from a different angle in order to interest and challenge them.

    That’s exactly what I’m thinking on…how to do that! 🙂

  14. Nicholas,

    “one which depends upon the origin being in the Father” -Are you saying that the Son has His beginning from the Father?

  15. Benjamin,

    I think my mind is slipping because I thought I posed that same question to him but I don’t see it. I had worded it almost the same way… Maybe it’s early senility? Lord help me if it is! I think I’ll leave off the sinus meds for a couple of days and see if it clears up…hopefully. 🙂

  16. From Psalm 110 it seems we should understand that David’s Lord sat on the right hand of the Lord God at the time of David’s writing this, but some seem to think Jesus did not yet exist at this time, (that being their Belief System) and so this is….”simply a prophecy of something future….blah, blah, ” I think that’s about how they do it.

    But in the praises of David is the rod of truth, which shall reign over God’s people, and unto the truth shall the people come. And this truth was with God in the beginning.

  17. Luke 1:42,43
    And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of they womb.
    And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?

    Not sure what they all do with this, about Elisabeth speaking about the mother of her Lord, as to whether or not this is yet future, or happening right then.

    I suppose it depends on how pro-life they are or something like that.

    I suppose most believe Jesus was Elisabeth’s Lord as soon as he was conceived in the womb of Mary, though some of us can imagine such a thing as further back than that.

  18. Nicholas,

    I heard in the Youtube debate we talked about that Dr. James White has already written a book on the Trinity, entitled, “The Forgotten Trinity.” It’s available as an ebook too.

  19. This is what Dr. White says in the sample:

    “A true and accurate knowledge of the Trinity is a blessing in and of itself. Any revelation of God’s truth is an act of grace, of course, but the Trinity brings to us a blessing far beyond the worth normally assigned by believers today. Why? Because, upon reflection, we discover that the Trinity is the highest revelation God has made of Himself to His people. It is the capstone, the summit, the brightest star in the firmament of divine truths. As I will assert more than once in this work, God revealed this truth about Himself most clearly, and most irrefutably, in the incarnation itself, when Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, took on human flesh and walked among us. That one act revealed the Trinity to us in a way that no amount of verbal revelation could ever communicate.”

  20. I have a thought I’d like to put out to anyone. If the Holy Spirit is merely an “emanation” from God, as I believe that’s what the Unitarians believe, why are we not allowed to speak against him, either in this life, or the next? It sounds very personal to me. Why wasn’t the directive to not speak against God if that’s what they meant? Also, how could anyone “lie” to an emanation as we hear in this verse:

    Act 5:3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself?

    If it was understood that He was merely an emanation from God we would have the text read that he was lying to God, not another entity. Does that make sense?

  21. Here’s a good statement by Dr. White from the debate:

    “Proving monotheism is not proving Unitarianism.”

    As a Trinitarian, I, too, believe there is only One God.

  22. Sheila,

    I have Dr. White’s book. It is excellent, very clear and easy to follow.

    Personally, my favorite book on the Trinity is Fulton Sheen’s “The Divine Romance” (Bishop Sheen had a Protestant following, as well, so it’s certainly not a book for Catholics only).

  23. Benjamin,

    The Father begets the Son, and the Son is begotten of the Father, thus the Son’s origin is in the Father, but eternally. Their relationship of Father to Son is an eternal one, hence they are co-equal and co-eternal.

  24. Thanks, Nicholas! I’ll see about reading that book as I’m in a lull right now with nothing of interest to read.

    Post #75 sounds really clear to me, and, it makes sense.

  25. Thanks Nicholas,

    I just wanted to find out if you were using the word to imply Jesus had a beginning.

  26. Sure, Benjamin.

    No, of course, Jesus did not come into existence at a point in time. Ontologically, the Father and Christ are co-equal and co-eternal. However, I believe that we can feel free to assert that there is a hierarchy within the Trinity. I believe that the Father has always been “Father” and that the Son has always been “Son,” especially in light of the fact that it is the Father who begets and the Son who is begotten.

    Actually, I have one point of contention with James White. In his book, he talks about the “Eternal Covenant of Redemption,” which, I think, is a Calvinist concept, which he seems to take for granted. He explains that the persons of the Trinity chose the roles that they would take in the redemption of mankind. He says that the Father chose to be Father and that the Son chose to be Son, implying that their Father-Son relationship did not always exist (not implying that they are not by nature co-equal and co-eternal, only that their relationship as Father and Son was not always the case). I have to disagree with Dr. White on this point. I think that it is quite clear that the Father has always been Father in relation to his only Son, and that Christ has always done the will of his Father, even before the incarnation.

  27. Nicholas,

    You said a lot of things of interest in that paragraph above and I’ll be working up my thoughts here shortly.

  28. I haven’t read either book yet but it seems to me that there “was” a time when God was simply God without the need for a Trinity or any other division of power, so to speak. It appears from the reading of some verses that God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, will revert back to the same substance at the end of the Millennium.

    What I’m thinking is that before Genesis 1:1, God was. He didn’t need to create in order to have existence, He just was. After He created our known world He created, at the same time, our redemption. I don’t see how it could be any other way. So, then, the Father is God.; Jesus is God; the Holy Spirit is God, yet for eternity they are simply God. There was no need to enter our plane of existence before there was a need for us to be redeemed. Do you follow me? I can see how at one time there was nothing but the Spirit, who is God. Perhaps it’s the Spirit who designed everything and divided up the powers between that of a Trinity. The Bible says God is Spirit. If God (the Father) is Spirit and the Holy Spirit is Spirit, that seems like one too many Spirits. You know? I’m probably speaking like a heretic because I haven’t fleshed all these things out yet.

    That’s why I’m here…

  29. Nicholas,

    Then again, that Christ was subject to the Father is evident in Scripture but I think it’s only so far as because He took on the flesh that we wear and for that reason God in heaven was, for a time, higher than He was. He literally did take on His own creation. Scripture says He emptied Himself of His perrogatives when He was incarnated on earth. The same earth He created…..no wonder people have trouble with this! But it does seem to be that He must “willingly” be “made” subject to the Father only so that God may again be “all in all.” Otherwise God would be divided against Himself.

    1Co 15:28 And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.

    And what does this mean? 1Co 15:29 Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?

    How could anyone be baptized for someone else? I don’t get it.

    What are your thoughts on those things?

  30. Okay, I just looked up the commentary on 1 Cor 15:29 and A. R. Fausset of Jamieson, Fausset and Brown has this to say:

    29. Else–if there be no resurrection.
    what shall they do?–How wretched is their lot!
    they. . . which are baptized for the dead–third person; a class distinct from that in which the apostle places himself, “we” ( 1Cr 15:30 ); first person. ALFORD thinks there is an allusion to a practice at Corinth of baptizing a living person in behalf of a friend who died unbaptized; thus Paul, without giving the least sanction to the practice, uses an ad hominem argument from it against its practicers, some of whom, though using it, denied the resurrection: “What account can they give of their practice; why are they at the trouble of it, if the dead rise not?” [So Jesus used an ad hominem argument, Mat 12:27 ]. But if so, it is strange there is no direct censure of it. Some Marcionites adopted the practice at a later period, probably from taking this passage, as ALFORD does; but, generally, it was unknown in the Church. BENGEL translates, “over (immediately upon) the dead,” that is, who will be gathered to the dead immediately after baptism. Compare Job 17:1, “the graves are ready for me.” The price they get for their trouble is, that they should be gathered to the dead for ever ( 1Cr 15:13, 16 ). Many in the ancient Church put off baptism till near death. This seems the better view; though there may have been some rites of symbolical baptism at Corinth, now unknown, perhaps grounded on Jesus’ words ( Mat 20:22, 23 ), which Paul here alludes to. The best punctuation is, “If the dead rise not at all, why are they then baptized for them” (so the oldest manuscripts read the last words, instead of “for the dead”)?

    Maybe it’s one of those customs such as wearing head coverings in church? 🙂 By the way, Nicholas, do women in the Catholic Church still wear scarves on their heads?

  31. Hi Sheila,

    The explanation about Paul’s reference to baptism for the dead which holds that he is using an ad hominem argument seems to be the most logical. I know that Mormons practice proxy baptism but whether or not this is similar to the custom which Paul is describing I don’t know.

    Catholic Answers has a tract on their website refuting the Mormon practice: (http://www.catholic.com/tracts/mormonisms-baptism-for-the-dead)

    Some women do still wear veils or scarves in church, mostly in more traditional parishes, especially those which offer the old Latin mass, but usually it’s a rare occurrence nowadays. As a matter of fact, today you might find girls wearing like miniskirts and tube tops to mass–guys, too, for that matter, but that’s a different story. 🙂

    I’ll pick up on the Trinity again tomorrow.

  32. Hi Sheila,

    Regarding the Trinity, I think your understanding is actually quite similar to Tertullian’s. Although I think he would be considered at least semi-heretical by today’s standards. Essentially, he does not question that the Son and the Spirit are eternal, but rather that their personalities came into being at a point in time. In his model, the Father was not called Father until he begat his Son. He begat his Son of his own essence, and then the Son in a similar way produced the Spirit. I suppose, then, God is like an ice cube, and drops of water coming from the ice cube are like the Son and the Spirit. These three persons are one in their nature, then. However, this does not comport with the more developed understanding of the Catholic Church, which holds that God the Father has never been solitary (i.e, without the Son or without his Spirit, and in their distinct personalities). Therefore, we might say that the “ice cube” of God has always been dripping, and continues to drip. And thus the Father begets the Son in eternity. The Father, therefore, has always been father, and the Son has always been the son of his father. And the Spirit proceeds from both.

    Paul seems to allude to a transferring of power among the persons of the Trinity in his statement, which ends, “so that God may be all in all.” This is a deeper mystery, I suppose. One far beyond our understanding.

    Ultimately, the precise “doctrine” of the Trinity is not found in the Bible. The three persons are identified, but their precise relationship is not explicitly described, only intimated. The prologue of John only identifies the Father and the Son, and the Holy Spirit’s personality is not explicitly manifested. You might disagree but I think this is the case. Of course, I would argue that, once again, it falls upon the Church to establish dogmatic terms. Tertullian lived about a century or so before the formal definitions of the Council of Constantinople in 381, which issued the version of the Nicene Creed in use today. The Council clarified once and for all that the persons of God are co-equal and co-eternal and that they have always existed as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Incidentally, Tertullian was never proclaimed a saint by the Church, even though he is considered one of the most influential Church Fathers.

  33. Shelia, (Ref#42)

    You said, “Concerning the deity of Jesus, being the One who is the second YHWH, I don’t see how we can get around the fact that an actual “person” who is said to be “the LORD (YHWH) wrote the commandments engraved on stone and “handed” them to Moses. That would require that person to be in possession of hands, I would think. Any rational person would think the same.”

    “Can you think of any good arguments against my reasoning?”

    Actually your reasoning is very understandable. Some Jewish theologians believed that the individual was the Angel of the Lord – who appeared to Moses in the burning bush, who also went before and traveled with Israel through their wilderness journey – who was the one who wrote the words down.

    In any case, we do know that the divine presence of the Lord overshadowed Moses wherein he could fast for 40 days.

    Shalom

  34. Brian,

    Thanks for that. I’m aware that it’s the Angel of the LORD and I’m going to develop the significance of the Angel-YHWH in carrying God’s Sacred Name for some on another blog. Of course, the Orthodox Rabbi’s have now relented and said that there was an Angel who had God’s Name but that He acted as an “agent,” which I’m sure you’ve heard before. They’re all too familiar with the well-worn arguments of High Christology and have the standard answers at the ready. I’m thinking on another approach that I’ve not heard before, that of exactly what it means for any “created” being to be running around with God’s Name. Hopefully I’ll be able to interject some new ways of seeing things into the conversation. That’s my hope anyway!

    It would be a strange situation for that particular Angel once He returned to heaven and was no longer needed; would He cease to be YHWH and then hung up like a used suit? That makes no sense to me. Also, when we look at the verses in Zechariah we see a really interesting exchange taking place, something akin to YHWH raining down fire and brimstone from YHWH out of heaven:

    Zec 3:2 And the LORD said to Satan, “The LORD rebuke you, Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?”

    In answer to my hypothetical question, no, the Angel does not cease being YHWH even in heaven, so either God is maintaining this “agent” when He’s not interacting with us here on earth or there’s more to this “agent” than they can explain. Why would God need an agent in heaven?!

    In my mind, one’s interpretation of Scripture should always make good sense and it should be able to unify seemingly contradictory ideas as God is not the author of confusion. He does, however, sometimes require us to dig deep to find the solution.

    Thanks.

  35. Shelia,

    Your ratonale in thinking is spot on. The rule of “Logic” is a fundamental principle of hermaneutics – that the author means what he says. Preconceived ideas are often a driving point to one’s conclusion of Scripture. Hence, a powerful rule of thumb comes from the understanding that exegesis is supposed to be the foundation to one’s theological perspective, as opposed to one beginning with a theology and seeking to establish certain passages as a fence around that doctrine.

  36. I think you have pretty much wrapped it up over in the Law thread Brian due to hostility. I’m disappointed to see it have gone that way. I almost called it myself. If you decided to pop back in, know that I looked forward to seeing your posts and appreciated them.

  37. Benjamin,

    Yeah, Brian was pretty hostile and would not even answer very simple questions because they would show his double standard.

  38. I do. But before that, you would not answer his question regarding hellfire. And he wished you peace, which you refrained from offering him.

    But lets take this back to the other topic.

  39. Ladies and Gentlemen, Here are the facts:

    ADONAI is the LORD God and adoni, my lord, is NEVER once the title of Deity.

    You cannot have Deity talking to Deity! i.e., “YHWH said to YHWH, Sit at My right Hand.”

    The sceond lord of Ps 110.1 is adoni and adoni all 195 times means NOT God.

    Why is this difficult?

  40. I take deity to be (as my English dictionary seems to be teaching it) divine nature, the state of being a god, godhood, (by the 1st definition given) and therefore I have no problem with Jesus speaking unto God the Father (The Deity, the authority over Jesus) by his (Jesus’) divine nature, his state of being a god, his godhood, even.

    Anthony, do you see anything difficult about that?

  41. Anthony, Do people need to read Psalm 110:1 in the following manner in order to be a Trinitarian?

    Psalm 110
    The Lord (God the Father) said unto my Lord (again, God the Father), Sit down on my right hand…..

    And how many Trinitarians do you honestly believe do in fact read Psalm 110:1 in that manner?

  42. Its a metamorphic by sitting on the right hand of God. David, Jesus and many prophet are on the right hand of God.

    TRIUNE: when this happened? If this is true.. Why Jesus didn’t teach tjis thing while he was on earth..

    GOD IN HEAVEN IS GOD ALONE (jesus teachings)

    JESUS IS A MAN check II TIMOTHY 2:8.. Its was CLEARLY STATED IT IN BIBLE. jesus never said that he is a GOD

    HOLY SPIRIT
    check this out..
    JOHN 1:18 the HOLY SPIRIT visit mary
    LUKE 1:26 ANGEL GABRIEL visit mary
    now.. The HOLY SPIRIT is ANGEL GABRIEL..
    Holy spirit is GOD or ANGEL?

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