Paul's Flawed Christology of Jesus
Introduction: Five Points That Should Make Both Trinitarians & Unitarians Aghast At Paul
I do not believe Paul is inspired. I wish now to prove to those who are either Trinitarian or Unitarian, that you cannot believe Paul is inspired and hold on to your beliefs. Either you must give up Trinitarianism or Unitarianism, or you must give up Paul. It is an "either/or" decision for you. While you may believe you can explain away one or two dilemmas, it is an impossible strain to explain all five points raised herein.
Paul represents a third view neither compatible with Trinitarianism nor Unitarianism: that Jesus was the highest created being (Col. 1:15, ASV) who was not God (1 Corinthians 15:27-28) but had divinity abiding in Himself prior to birth. When He came to earth He emptied himself of an equality with God. Phil. 2:6- 2:7. However, at some point that apparently was the point of crucifixion, Jesus was indwelled by the Father. Paul wrote: “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.” (2 Cor. 5:19 YLT). See also Col. 1:19 "because in him it did please all the fulness [of God] to tabernacle [i.e., dwell]." Cf. NIV: "For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him." (Col. 1:19).) See also "God in Christ" in Ephesians 4.32 & 1 Thessalonians 2.14.
While Jesus too said the Father dwelled in Himself (John 14:10), Paul apparently intended this dwelling activity of the God of Sinai expired at the conclusion of the crucifixion. For Paul taught Jesus' death represents the "death of the husband" of Israel -- the God of Sinai -- and this effectuated the final dissolution of the Law given Moses per Paul in Romans 7:1-7. (See our page on Romans 7:1-7). The Law supposedly does not revive when Jesus resurrects because now the Father and Jesus are distinct. Paul teaches we now marry Jesus as our new husband but Jesus no longer intends the Law continue while Jesus is also now "our Great God and Savior, Jesus Christ." (Titus 2:13 ASB; NIV.) (This is the modern pro-Trinitarian translation using the disputed Sharpe's rule of Greek grammar. Non-trinitarian Christians as Dr. Buzzard provide a critique at this link. See also Burke's critique at this link. I take no position. Frankly, Titus 2:13 in the Sharpe rule translation makes Paul's Christology appear even more bizarre because of the incongruous additional pieces to his Christology.)
Per Paul, the resurrected Jesus therefore no longer represents God-the-Father or otherwise the Law's bonds would revive, and marrying Jesus would be the same as remarrying God-the-Father, thereby reconnecting us to the Law given Moses. But instead, Paul teaches that is not the effect of marrying Jesus; instead, it represents the dissolution of the Law. Then Jesus will one day put "all things" under "God" except Jesus will not put "God Himself" under God -- these are Paul's very own words. See 1 Cor. 15:27-28.
Thus, Paul teaches someone who begins not as God, who had an equality with God, and is indwelled by the Father, ends up as "our great God" but is also not God because Jesus will put everything under God except God himself. The latter is Paul's clear teaching in I Cor 15:27-28. It appears Paul believes Jesus replaces the role of God, and becomes thereby a God Himself even though Jesus did not begin as God but as "first-born of creation."
This is extremely convoluted reasoning.
Angel of the Lord Spoken Of In The Septuagint?
Clearly, Paul has made a bizarre reference to Jesus as a created-being who is not God but ends up as a God who will put everything under God. How can this be resolved? The solution for some is to adopt the Septuagint mistranslation of Isaiah 9:6. We should supposedly realize Jesus was an "Angel of the Lord," and was "God" in that sense.
Thus, some evangelical Christians who are otherwise orthodox in belief actually defend that Jesus was an "Angel of the Lord" prior to His apparent transformation into God. ChristianAnswers. (This is partially justified on the flawed translation in the Septuagint of Isaiah 9:6 where a child will be born who is “The Angel of Great Counsel.”) But such a view is neither Trinitarian nor Unitarian. If you believe in either view as doctrinally correct, you must abandon Paul as inspired, which is my point of raising these issues this way.
Paul Does Partially Express Accurate Christology Had He Said Nothing Else
In fairness to Paul, sometimes Paul did speak correctly on Jesus' true relationship to God -- an indwelling by the Father -- although Paul apparently meant it first existed only at the moment of Jesus' crucifixion. This is how 1st century gnostics enamored with Paul reconciled all his passages long ago. Thus, Paul correctly wrote: “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.” (2 Cor. 5:19 YLT). See also Col. 1:19; Ephesians 4.32 & 1 Thessalonians 2.14.
Early gnostics reconciled these accurate statements by Paul about God fully indwelling Jesus with Paul's view of kenosis -- the emptying of Jesus of any God-hood when a pre-existent Jesus supposedly came to earth. The gnostics did so by claiming Jesus was emptied of God until the moment of crucifixion when God supposedly first fully dwelled in Jesus. Then when Jesus died, the creator-God died, and Jesus supposedly took his place as God.
Status of This Issue in Christendom
Commentators know the problem, and thus never isolate Paul just to study only his views on Christ's nature. The reason why will become obvious on this page. For when you do so, then both Trinitarians and Unitarians should be shocked at Paul's views on the nature of Christ. There are five statements by Paul that are at total odds with various parts of these two leading explanations of Jesus's nature (i.e., their Christology).
This means Paul's views might coincide with some Unitarian beliefs and some Trinitarian beliefs. But in the end, Paul's views cannot be fully reconciled to either. Which proves Paul cannot be inspired (due to his self-contradictions), and anyone believing in either Trinitarianism or Unitarianism cannot regard Paul as fully inspired.
Synopsis of Detailed Discussion Below of Paul's Five Controversial Statements
First, Paul imagines a non-eternal nature to Jesus which should shock trinitarians. Paul says Jesus was the "First-Born of creation." (Col. 1:15, ASV.) Paul at the same time says after God created Jesus that then Jesus created everything else (Col. 1:16). This should shock both trinitarians and unitarians if everyone assumed Paul was correct in saying Jesus was non-eternal in the first place. How could a created being himself be the Creator? How could He be God? A Puzzle, to say the least. (The truth is what John explains - the Word in Jesus was God and it was the means of Creation. See our link on the correct Christology. See also the next point.)
Second, Paul then says in Phil. 2:6- 2:7 when Jesus' being came to earth, he divested himself of a pre-existing quality that made him have an "equality with God," which should shock trinitarians and unitarians who maintain Jesus on Earth was fully indwelled by the Word and Father (John 1:1, 14; John 14:10.)
Third, Trinitarians should be shocked that Paul clearly denies Jesus is God in 1 Corinthians 15:27-28 - in particular in verse 27. First, in verse 28, we read: "And when all things shall be subdued unto him [i.e., Jesus], then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him [i.e., God the Father] that put all things under him, that God may be all in all." This is in accord with 1 Cor. 15:24: "Then the end will come, when he [i.e., Jesus] hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power." (NIV) But it is verse 27 which slams the point that Paul says Jesus is NOT God: "Now when it says that 'everything' has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ." (NIV) Cf. Biblos, 1 Cor. 15:27.
For a trinitarian who accepts Paul, the trinitarian would also have to accept that Paul just said in verse 27 that Jesus is NOT presently God. For Paul said Jesus is "subject" to God the Father, but when Paul says "everything" is put under Jesus, Paul clarifies that he does not mean "God" is also "under Christ." Logically, Christ cannot be God if you trust Paul's words as INSPIRED. It is also impossible for Oneness Christians to believe Jesus is "one" in a personal indwelling sense with God when Paul talks this way.
Fourth, both trinitarians and unitarians believe Jesus had real human flesh, avoiding thereby the heresy of docetism. That heresy taught Jesus only came in the "likeness of men." In 144 A.D. Marcion -- the Paul-only advocate -- taught docetism, claiming that Jesus "appeared to be a man" but was not truly a man of human flesh and instead was God alone. This doctrine was later understood to imply that Jesus did not truly suffer on the cross. Marcion's docetism was called heresy by everyone in the earliest church (see Marcionism) prior to Roman Catholicism's adoption of docetism in the late 380s. (See Marcionite Influence on RCC.)
But Marcion's inspiration for docetism is easy to find. Paul says in Phil. 2:7 Jesus only appeared in the "likeness of men." Oops! Paul errs again! And this is more serious than any of Paul's other errors about Christ's nature, as we shall see.
Finally, in Romans 7, Paul believes that when Jesus died, the husband of Israel -- the God of the Original Testament -- literally died. This supposedly freed God's people -- his wife -- from the Law, and thus His people were free to marry a new husband who does not require further obedience to the Law of Moses. Paul says we marry Christ in the NT, and this does not perpetuate the Law that only applied when the first husband was alive. (For full discussion, see Paul in Romans 7 Claims the God of Sinai is Dead.)
Thus, this implies that when Jesus resurrected, a different God emerged or otherwise Paul's conclusion that the Law of Moses died when the husband died makes no sense if the resurrected Jesus still represented the same God as the God of the OT. Again, Paul's greatest advocate -- Marcion -- in 144 A.D. deciphered Paul to exactly be saying the very same thing --- there was a God of the OT (the Creator) and another for the NT (the Father who dwelled in Jesus). See Marcionism. This explains how Paul could now assert in Titus 2:13 that "our savior and great God" is Jesus Christ. Jesus was our new God to replace the old God, so it seems Paul is saying.
Paul's bizarre statements in Romans 7 which Marcion no doubt relied upon are discussed at length at this separate webpage - Paul in Romans 7 Claims the God of Sinai is Dead.
Let's now review the other four of these five points in more depth here below. It should demonstrate to both trinitarians and unitarians alike that they should be shocked by Paul's highly flawed Christology, and hence Paul should be regarded as a noninspired source of NT doctrine.
1. Paul Says A Non-Eternal Being Was Creator
Paul imagines a second person who had an "equality with God" prior to the Incarnation (Philippians 2:6, 2:7). This teaching derives from Paul conceiving of a being distinct from the Father who had an "equality with God" who then "empties himself" (KENOSIS in Greek) of divine attributes to enter this world as one who had the "appearance of men." Id.
However, Paul taught that this second being who pre-existed the Incarnation and became Jesus was not eternal. In Col. 1:15, Paul said Jesus "is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation." (NASB)
In Col. 1:16, Paul then says this created being of v. 15 turned around and "created all things."
In C. Anderson Scott's article "Christ, Christology" in Dictionary of the Apostolic Church (Ed. Hastings)(1915) at 1:185, Scott says Paul's words in Col. 1:15 means "He Himself [i.e., Jesus] was part of creation." Indeed, this is the only conceivable understanding of Paul's words.
The one church that continues in Paul's doctrine is the Jehovah Witnesses. "They teach that the pre-existent Christ is God's First-begotten Son....They say that the Son was the Father's only direct creation, before all ages." ("God the Father," Wikipedia.)
A. Paul's Source of A Son of God / Angel As Creator
The likely cause for Paul's belief Jesus was a creature (of an angelic level) was due to the Septuagint mistranslation of Isaiah 9:6. It reads:
For a child is born to us, and a son is given to us, whose government is upon his shoulder: and his name is called the Angel (Aggelos) of great counsel: for I will bring peace upon the princes, and health to him. (See our article "Isaiah 9:6: The Hebrew, DSS & Septuagint Versions.")
And the likely cause for Paul's belief Jesus was the creator yet not God was the Septuagint mistranslation of Psalm 102:22-34 which has God saying to another -- an annointed one: "Thou, Lord, at the beginning you founded the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands." (Ps. 102:25 LXX/Septuagint.) In the original Hebrew, the annointed one says this instead about God -- God was the Creator. See our article "Begotten Son as Creator."
Paul often relied upon erroneous renderings in the Septuagint translation from 257 BC over against the original Hebrew from ca. 1000 BC, and hence Paul's flawed Christology is partly due to this fact.
B. First Trinitarian Formula Relies On Jesus As Non-Eternal And Created Being
As a result of Paul's words, the first Trinitarian proponent structured the Trinity so that Jesus was not eternal but instead was a created being. In 205 A.D., Tertullian -- the first to explain a trinity doctrine -- saw the LOGOS/Word as an eternal quality of God which begins apart from Jesus. Relying evidently upon Paul, Tertullian then saw the Son did not exist eternally as a separate person and instead was first begotten by the Father to then accomplish the creation of the world, just as Paul said in Col. 1:15-16. Tertullian then specifically said "the son is not from eternity." (B.B. Warfield, "Historical Theology," Princeton Theological Review (1908) at 152.) Tertullian also wrote: "There was a time when neither sin existed with [God], nor the Son." (Tertullian, Against Hermogenes ch. 3; Ante-Nicene Fathers (2007) at 478.)(For discussion of the latter, see Ante-Nicene Fathers at this link.)
For similar reasons, in Against Marcion, Tertullian quotes Paul and then explains: "If Christ is the Creator’s Son, it was with justice that He loved His own (creature)." (See link.)
Hence, Paul's words solidified the notion that Jesus was a created being who pre-existed the creation of everything but Himself.
2. What Significance Is It That Paul Says Jesus Was A Creator Of The Heavens/Earth?
But do Paul's words in Col.1:15-16 mean that Jesus is God because Paul says that the created-Jesus was then the creator of the heavens and earth? No.
For Paul's words in Colossians precisely match up with Paul's denial of Jesus being God in 1 Cor. 8:6. There Paul says only the Father is God, even though it then says God-the-Father and Jesus both created all things. Paul says 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" (NIV). Cf. 1 Tim. 2:5 ("there is one God, and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.")
These passages signify that Jesus could be co-creator with God-the-Father yet still there is "but one God, the Father" / "one God" which Paul clearly distinguishes from the "one Lord, Jesus Christ" / "the man Christ Jesus." Hence, Paul understood Jesus could be a creating agency yet still not be God, as Paul insists in the very same verse that there is "but one God, the Father" and "one God" in contradistinction to the "man Christ Jesus."
A Trinitarian should be aghast at such statements in 1 Cor. 8:6 and 1 Tim. 2:5 from Paul. Paul clearly denies Jesus's role as creator implies Jesus is God. 'Only the Father is God,' Paul says. Jesus was distinct and the Lord. This means Paul believed despite Jesus being a creator of the heavens and world that Jesus was not God at that point. If you believe Paul is infallible (I do not), then Paul just blew a hole in the ship of Trinitarianism.
But a Unitarian cannot claim triumph. Paul claims here that Jesus is a pre-existing creator of everything, yet he himself is distinct from the "one God, the Father." However, a favorite verse of unitarians is that God in Isaiah 44:24 denies there was any distinct person with Him involved in the creation of the heavens and the earth.
3. Paul's 'First-born' Doctrine Blocked Trinitarianism For A Long Time
Due to the Septuagint version of Isaiah 9:6 where Messiah is an Angel of Great Counsel, and Paul's evident reliance on that in Col. 1:15, many early church leaders did not imagine Jesus could be God. In the book by Martin Werner, The Formation of Christian Dogma (1957), Werner explains the importance placed on Isaiah 9:6 in the Septuagint translation and Paul's conception of Jesus as a created being from the angelic realm prior to incarnation. Both Isaiah 9:6 in the Septuagint mistranslation and Paul's teaching blocked any modern Trinitarian concept of Jesus being God alongside the Father:
In the Primitive Christian era there was no sign of any Trinitarian problem or controversy...The reason for this undoubtedly lay in the fact that for primitive Christianity, Christ was a being of a high-celestial angel-world, who was created and chosen by God for the task of bringing in, at the end of the ages, of the Kingdom of God. (Id., at 122, 125, quoted in Barber: 31.)
When in the 305 AD period some in the church claimed Jesus was not merely indwelled by the Father, but identical to God, Bishop Arius in 306 A.D. rejected this, citing Paul's words that Jesus was the "first begotten of creation." As William Wachtel summarizes in his article "Col. 1:15 Pre-Existence or Pre-Eminence," the "Arians [based upon Col. 1:15] thought he (Jesus) had a beginning and was the first creature whom God made; while the Athanasians thought he had no beginning and was himself 'co-equal, co-eternal, and consubstantial' with the Father."
Christian scholar Grudem concurs: "support for the Arian view was found in Colossians 1:15." (Wayne A. Grudem, Systematic theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Zondervan, 1994) at 243.)
Based on this, the Arians held, precisely as Paul teaches in Col. 1:15-16, that "Christ is a creature of the Father, though existing before the world," which interpretation was revived later by "Socinians, Unitarians and Rationalists." (J.P. Lange, Commentary on the Holy Scriptures (Scribner, 1871) Vol. 3 at 447.)
While no orthodox scholar wishes to plainly say what this means, it is clear enough. Hugh Schonfield, a Nazarene Jew who believed Jesus was Messiah and who was critical of most tenets of orthodox Christianity, forcefully exploited Paul's words in Col. 1:15-16 to prove modern trinitarianism and the eternal-Son doctrine are invalidiated by Paul:
"Paul's Christ is not God, he is God's first creation, and there is no room for the trinitarian formula of the Athanasian Creed nor for its doctrine that the Son was 'not made, nor created, but begotten.'" (Schonfield, Those Incredible Christians (1968) at 249.)
How did the church cope with the Arian view of 306 A.D. based upon Paul's clear words in Col. 1:15 which directly justified Arius' position? We will see that the Roman church never truly addressed this, but made up a ridiculous self-contradictory new tradition of an 'eternal Son' to erase the clear meaning of Paul's words in Col. 1:15 but then blasted a hole in monotheism at the same time.
A. Solution #1: 4th Century View Is To Ignore Paul and Affirm Jesus is the 'Eternal Son of God
The Roman church of 306 A.D. abhorred Arius doctrine even though it stemmed directly from Col. 1:15. One of the most vigorous defenders of the Trinity doctrine -- Bishop Gregory of Nyssa in 380 A.D. -- in the Great Catechism explained why in his attack on Arius (i.e., Paul without naming Paul) as follows:
"To believe that the Son [is a] created being...is to make man's salvation dependent on something which is imperfect and needs itself redemption." (Saint Gregory (of Nyssa), The Catechetical oration of Gregory of Nyssa (1903) at xxxvi.)
This concept of a non-eternal son who was also Creator of "all things" (other than himself) in Paul's mind thus led to unsolvable contradictions.
Thus, the most common claim when the Roman church was first confronted with Paul's bizarre ideas -- known as the Arian heresy of 306 A.D. -- was to claim this created being was the "eternal" Son of God (although Paul says not). This was accomplished by stretching the 'begetting' of Jesus as supposedly such a continual repetitive act of God in the past that it became meaningless to distinguish when it happened from eternity. Pope Alexander of Alexandria said the son exists "independently of God (the Father), continually begotten in a state of unbegottenness." (Martin Werner, Formation of Christian Dogma (Harper 1957) at 223.) From this self-contradictory explanation came the idea Jesus was "begotten not made" which appears in the Nicene Creed of 325 A.D. (Alexander was the leader of the opposition to the Arian heresy at the council of Nicea. See Wikipedia.) This is often called the Athanasian solution even if Athanasius was not demonstrably involved.
(For more background on the Nicene Council, and that its rulings deliberately adopted Constantine's change in the church's view of Jesus to match the pagan concept of Sol Invictus, a pagan god who was a son of a father-god -- giving paganism a Christian veneer, see our webpage discussion.)
This first solution thus essentially ignored Paul. It found a way to stretch "first begotten" from Paul's mouth into a begottenness so many times repeated in the past that one might then say it was 'eternal.'
But this 325 AD solution to Paul's claim that Jesus was the "first-begotten of creation" in Col. 1:15 led inexorably to the claim for the first time that Jesus was a co-substantial and co-eternal being separate and apart from the Father rather than a man indwelled by the Father. (Jesus claimed the latter. See John ch. 14.) This change blasted a hole in monotheism. As Wendt, Professor of Systematic Theology at Jena, wrote in 1907:
When not only a heavenly personal pre-existence but an eternal, co-essential existence with the Father was attributed to the Son, the idea of the unity of God was lost. This was the important complaint of all Monarchians [i.e., strict supporters of the unity of God.] (Hans Wendt, System der Christlichen Lehre (Gottingen: Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht, 1907) at 359, translated by Anthony Buzzard in The Doctrine of The Trinity (Oxford: International Scholars Publication, 1998) at 134.)
Thus, Paul's flawed words led to a view of Christ under the influence of a pagan ruler (Constantine) where Jesus was no longer one with the Father by an indwelling presence of the Father (John ch. 14), but instead was a distinct person who independently was God-the-Son apart from God-the-Father. In this way, the Trinity of 207 AD of Tertullian which accepted a non-eternal Son with a divine presence was materially altered in 325 AD. It was done in a manner that destroyed Monotheism.
Indeed, Gregory of Nyssa, the leader of the Council of Constantinople of 381 AD said the new version of the Trinity was specifically designed to prove the monotheism of Jews was a heresy. This was part of the Roman government's campaign to distance Christianity from Judaism. If you doubt this, take a look at our webpage on Exaltation that Turned Idolatrous where we cite and link to the ancient records of Gregory's writings which expressly affirm the reformulated trinity doctrine of 381 AD was designed to refute monotheism.
Moreover, this Athanasian solution of 325 AD also taught that the "eternal son" was given the honor of creating everything (Kinlaw, Let's Start With Jesus (2005)) but this ran up against Isaiah 44:24. Whether Jesus was the "eternal son" as the Athanasians claimed or instead was the "firstborn of creation," as Paul teaches, either way this violates Isaiah 44:24. There God says no one but Himself created everything, which would rule out, by necessity, a being who himself was created per Paul -- part of "everything" that God says He created -- also being creator of all things. It also rules out an "independent" eternal son who is continually begotten in a state of unbegottenness, employed in the Nicene conception of Christ, as an "independent" creator from God the Father.
The truth was that if instead the LOGOS indwells Jesus (John 1:14, "became flesh"), as Jesus Himself says -- but the "Logos is not mine but my Father's who sent me" (John 14:24), then indeed the LOGOS that came to indwell Jesus created all things. This is because the "Logos/ Word," John tells us, "was God." (John 1:1.) Professor Hans Wendt taught this was the solution that reconciles all the texts. Loofs, citing Wendt, says this "justifies our finding God in Christ when we pray to him." (Friedrich Loofs, What Is The Truth About Christ: Problems in Christology (Scribner's 1913) at 239.)
But if Paul is correct on the "first-begotten" nature of Christ or the "eternal son" solution were correct, then the creator was not the Logos/Word but a being created by God which would violate Isaiah 44:24. In Isaiah 44:24 we read:
Thus said Jehovah, thy redeemer, And thy framer from the womb: `I [am] Jehovah, doing all things, Stretching out the heavens by Myself, Spreading out the earth -- who [is] with Me? (Isaiah 44:24, Young's Literal)
Paul is thus the primary cause of all the early wreckage that has marred the true Christology taught by Jesus Himself. Paul's words in the mouth of Arius led to the bizarre counter-defense which invented the deformed 'eternal son' concept which was never spoken about in Scripture and which is wholly self-contradictory. (Only the LOGOS/Word in Jesus pre-existed and came down from heaven to mankind, indwelling Jesus. See John 1:14; John ch. 14. Hence Jesus' pre-existence is linked to the nature of the Logos dwelling in Him.)
The Nicene notion of an "eternal son" made no sense. How can a begotten son be an eternal son? The Nicene solution was the only way the church could accept Paul's notion in Col. 1:15 (Jesus was the "first begotten") and yet insist Jesus was eternal and thus approximately divine. In the end, the correct trinitarianism of Tertullian was tossed out, and a new version of trinitarianism employed after 325 AD which was deliberately employed to destroy monotheism, just as Gregory of Nyssa said was his intention at the 381 AD Council that first adopted the Trinity. See Exaltation That Turned Idolatrous.
B. Solution #2 for Some Christians To Col. 1:15-16
How do contemporary Trinitarians solve Paul's Col. 1:15-17? Some Christians believe Jesus is an Angel equal to God. For Christians who believe this, see ChristianAnswers. Specifically, to save the Trinity and accept Paul's claim that God could be less than eternal and Jesus be a created being, Christian Answers contends all is reconciled if we conclude Jesus was an "Angel of the Lord" mentioned at Gen. 18:2 and Joshua 5:13,15. Id. But an angel is not the same as God, and this is not a proper Trinitarian defense. Incidentally, the Septuagint translation from 257 BC of Isaiah 9:6 identifies the Messiah as an Angel of the Lord, and thus would help Christian Answers. However, this was a Septuagint mistranslation of the Hebrew into Greek. See our page on that issue.
C. Solution #3: Try To Ignore The Greek Word Means 'First-Born'
Finally, there are Trinitarians today when faced with Col. 1:15 who are unable to stomach the Angel-solution or the self-delusion that an "eternal Son" is consistent with a "begotten" son. So they respond that no one can believe Paul means what he says in Col. 1:15. Mr. Wachtel, in the article previously cited, says: "This writer questions seriously, however, whether any such ideas were in Paul’s mind or in God’s inspiration through the Spirit upon Paul’s writing of Scripture." (Wachtel, id.)
In this, you hear the primary reasoning: such an idea heretical to Trinitarianism cannot truly be the words of an inspired man, and thus, presupposing Paul is inspired, Paul then cannot possibly mean what (a) Tertullian, the first Trinitarian thought Paul meant in 205 A.D.; or (b) what Arius said Paul meant in 306 A.D. but was not competently refuted at Nicea in 325 A.D.
Then Mr. Wachtel hunts for wiggle room to escape Paul being a rank heretic to trinitarianians. But he admits the Greek ordinarily does mean 'first born' in the word at issue in Col. 1:15:
Let us begin by examining the word translated “firstborn”- prototokos. This word is used a number of times in Scripture, often to designate the child born first in a family. When Esau came to his father Isaac to receive the blessing that was due him, he pleaded the fact that he was Isaac’s firstborn — his prototokos (Gen. 27:32 LXX). Jacob, the second born son, had already deceived his father and received the blessing intended for Esau. The custom of conferring special privileges or a major inheritance on the firstborn son is not only seen in the Bible, but also in the later laws of “primogeniture” in England and other countries, awarding the family inheritance to the eldest son.
Mr. Wachtel makes an argument that prototokos has a figurative meaning "first" or "chief position." To this end he cites as proof that protos means first. However, he omits that tokos means "childbirth." Hence, to read the word prototokos by severing its prefix from its second half -- "childbirth" -- is clearly dilution. Then Wachtel cites two verses where protokos is translated as "first born" but he contends should mean "first" or "chief position" because (a) Israel (a nation which did not experience 'childbirth') is called protokos in Ex. 4:22 and (b) Ephraim is called protokos even though Manasseh is the older son. Jer. 31:9.
But neither claim has merit in context. In Ex. 4:22, we read: “This is what YHWH says: Israel is my firstborn son. . . . Let my son go, so he may worship me.” This means Israel is a figurative firstborn, but it does not mean Israel is only in "chief" position or "first" position. (In fact, if Israel is God's "firstborn son," and Paul teaches Jesus is God's "firstborn son," then we have another contradiction of Paul and an inspired prophet. Another oops!) And Manasseh sold his birthright, and hence Ephraim was now legally first-born. Thus, these examples do not help salvage Paul.
No, the truth is Paul depicted Jesus as the "first-born of all creation," and hence as a non-eternal being. By definition, Paul's usage means Jesus could not be actually God in contravention of Trinitarian belief. Jesus would have to be another being from God -- perhaps one that God made His "equal" in God's prerogative. (Paul indeed had this view, as Phil. 2:6 and 2:7 proves. See infra.) This is why Paul unquestionably is the direct progenitor of Arius' similar view of 306 A.D. which was condemned ultimately by the victorious Bi-deity party of 325 A.D.
Thus, from a 381 AD-Trinitarian perspective, if you are one, then you must reject Paul had inspiration in these remarks. However, if you are a Unitarian, you too must reject Paul as inspired as Paul imagines a non-eternal "first born" of God who was the "creator of all things" (except himself) when you believe God alone was the creator based upon Isaiah 44:24. There God says that no one but Himself created everything. (Again, because I don't believe Paul is inspired at all, I have no such problem.)
The next verse from Paul which we discuss involves Paul again repeating Jesus is a separate but equal being from God, but this time with even stranger ideas about Jesus.
4. Philippians Chapter Two: A Being With Equality to God Emptying Himself
In Philippians, Paul depicts Jesus as in heaven before incarnation and is equal to God, but then empties himself of Godhood to come to Earth in the "likeness of men." What the King James translates "made himself of no reputation" is the Greek word for "emptied." It is derived from the Greek word kenosis, meaning "to empty."
Many translations obscure Paul's words because they know the literal text is so problematical -- even pagan in concept. However, we must restore the original meaning for kenosis by a proper translation as a means of weighing Paul's validity. Here is the King James but with the correction of the erroneous translation placed in brackets:
5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
7 But made himself of no reputation [i.e.,“emptied” (Greek ekeno-sen) himself], and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:
10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;
11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philipians ch. 2 KJV.)
Even the KJV is embarassed at what it is reading in the underlying original Greek. It tries a deliberate gloss to save our modern ears from being aware what Paul is truly saying. The KJV glosses over the true language, claiming Paul said Jesus "made himself of no reputation" -- a complete and utter distortion in place of the single word in Greek which simply means "emptied."
The Greek word kenoo literally means “to empty; to make empty; or to make vain or void.” Jesus did not make himself vain or void. When you compare verse 6 against verse 7, the only meaning that makes sense is he "emptied himself." Verse 6 says Jesus began as one "equal with God." Verse 7 says he ended up in the "form of a servant and made in the likeness of men." The transitional activity is the Greek verb "kenoo" -- and must mean "emptied himself." This accomplished the transition from one "equal with God" in heaven to one who was now made in the "likeness of men."
Calvin in the 1500s saw Paul's words exactly the same way as I read them -- as signifying a pre-existent Being who was God (or God's equal, to hew closer to Paul's words) who then "emptied himself," and changed into a servant. Calvin wrote:
In order to exhort us to submission by His example, he shows, that when as God he might have displayed to the world the brightness of His glory, he gave up His right, and voluntarily emptied Himself; that he assumed the form of a servant .... (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book 2, Chapter 13, pt.2.)
We will now show how this contradicts the Bible's claim of the complete indwelling of Jesus by the Word and the Father. (See below Analysis of Paul's Doctrine of Kenosis.) Jesus was not a mere empty shell after the Word entered Him.
A. Analysis of Paul's Doctrine of Kenosis
What we explored so far about a pre-existent being emptying himself of godhood is known in theological discussions as Paul's doctrine of kenosis.
In Greek, kenos means empty, and kenosis means emptying. Paul's words in Philippians 2:7 are altered in some translations so as to obscure what he truly is saying. The NIV has Paul say Jesus "made himself nothing." But the NRSV correctly has it "he emptied himself." The correct wording was around alot longer than the modern efforts to obscure it. This doctrine in Christian theology goes back a long time, and is aptly summarized in this Wikipedia article entitled Kenosis:
The doctrine of Kenosis attempts to explain what the Son of God chose to give up in terms of his divine attributes, in order to assume human nature. Since the incarnate Jesus is simultaneously fully human and fully divine, Kenosis holds that these changes were temporarily assumed by God in his incarnation, and that when Jesus ascended back into heaven following the resurrection, he fully reassumed all of his original attributes and divinity.
This means that those literally reading Paul assume Paul referred to the Son of God in a pre-existent form distinct from God-the-Father. Yet, this Son of God was supposedly still God while distinct from God-the-Father. The Arians in 306 AD were claiming Jesus was "begotten," and thus not eternal, and hence he could not be God. To counter this, the embattled Roman Catholic church deduced Paul meant Jesus was an "eternal Son of God." (As demonstrated above, they used the specious notion of 'continual begetting' to ignore Col. 1:15 which incongruously said Jesus was the "first born of creation" which supported Arianism.) This explains why the Athanasian Creed in the 800s required Christians to affirm Jesus was the "eternal Son of God". (DCMS at 369.) This "eternal" sonhood claim first arose in 306 A.D. to battle the Arian heresy that held Christ was not an eternal being. Id., at 221.
Clearly, any logical analysis proves Paul conceived that prior to the Incarnation there were two beings distinct from one another. One was God and then God created a second being who was "equal to God." Paul did not expressly say Jesus was the pre-existent Son of God, but this is HOW theologians tried to identify later who Paul was describing as a pre-existent being distinct from the Father and created by the Father. It is Colossians 1:15-16 that helps confirm this interpretation. Paul says Jesus was God's first creation, and then Jesus in turn created everything else. Hence, Paul probably meant in Phil. 2:7 that Jesus was Son of God before his human birth and had an "equality with God," but then emptied himself of those attributes that made Him have an "equality with God" so as to take on the "likeness" of human flesh.
B. RCC Recently Confessed This Christological Error in Paul's Kenosis Doctrine
While we Protestants skirted the kenosis doctrine of Paul by changing the translation, Roman Catholics never did and thus had to live with it. Until 1951, it was a firm rubric of their doctrine. But in 1951, they shook off Paul by claiming the prior interpretation "of Paul" was wrong.
Thus, the Roman Catholic Church since 1951 now affirms that John 1:1 is true, and that Paul's kenosis conception in Philippians 2:7, as previously traditionally understood, is now to be rejected as a "rash and false understanding." In other words, the RCC now realizes Paul's words contradict John 1:1, and the "Word was God...and the Word was made flesh," but they try to avoid saying Paul was wrong. Instead, those who thought Paul taught kenosis are supposedly now wrong in so interpreting Paul as teaching kenosis. (This avoids a direct attack on Paul himself.) So in 1951, Pope Pius XII wrote Sempiternus Rex Christus in which he said some 'misunderstand' Paul in Philippians 2:7, and we cannot allow that to destroy the message of John 1:1.
There is another enemy of the faith of Chalcedon, widely diffused outside the fold of the Catholic religion. This is an opinion for which a rashly and falsely understood sentence of St. Paul's Epistle to the Philippians (ii, 7), supplies a basis and a shape. This is called the kenotic doctrine, and according to it, they imagine that the divinity was taken away from the Word in Christ. It is a wicked invention, equally to be condemned with...Docetism....(Ep. xxviii, 3. PL. Liv, 763. Cf. Serm. xxiii, 2. PL. lvi, 201)(Wikipedia)
But saying it is not so does not make it not so. The pope's insistence does not change the facts. Paul does mean that the "first born of creation" (Col. 1:15) who in turn created everything then "emptied himself," not counting "equality with God" to be a thing to be held onto and came to Earth (Phil.2:6, 2:7.) The pope is right that this contradicts John 1:1 and thus is a "wicked invention." But it is not the fault of those reading Paul. It is the fault of Paul himself.
Further Reading on Kenosis Doctrine
For more on Kenotic Christology, see Exploring Kenotic Christology: The Self-Emptying of God (ed. C. Stephen Evans) (Oxford University Press, 2006). Interestingly, Ronald Feenstra's article in Evans' work exposes that Paul's kenosis doctrine led Aquinas to conclude "Man is God," because it follows from Paul's kenosis doctrine that "God is man," i.e., Jesus the Man was God with no attributes of God due to an inseperable hypostatic union. Id., at 145 (citing Summa Theologiae, IIIa 16.2.) Later astute atheists in the Enlightenment exploited Aquinas' dictum "Man is God," and tried to start a humanist religion on that premise. See Appendices de la Seconde Edition de l'Esprit des Religions (Cercle Social 1792) at 97 (says "Man is all" and "Man is God" -- the latter words lifted directly from Aquinas.) Needless to say, such a logical deduction proves the terrible danger of taking Paul as an inspired voice.
5. Another Dilemma For Trinitarians and Oneness Christians: 1 Cor. 15:28
Jason Dulle, a oneness Pentecostal, in "Heavenly or Earthly Bodies" (accessed 7/11/2010) writes:
The exact meaning of I Corinthians 15:28 which speaks of a time when the Son is subject to the Father so that God may be all in all is a very tough verse indeed; a verse which is difficult for both Trinitarian and Oneness theology alike.
If you are a oneness / unitarian Christian or trinitarian and believe Paul is inspired, this is another verse that will throw you for a loop. You would have to face the fact that Paul says that despite the Ascension Jesus remains in an inferior position to God the Father forever, and Paul expressly says "God" is not subject to Jesus, clearly signifying that Paul did not regard Jesus as God. Trinitarians' beliefs are smashed by Paul. Likewise, for oneness parties, God therefore could not fully indwell Jesus and be "one" with Him if an inequality persists even now in heaven.
Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:28: "And when all things shall be subdued unto him [i.e., Jesus], then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him [i.e., God the Father] that put all things under him, that God may be all in all." This is in accord with 1 Cor. 15:24: "Then the end will come, when he [i.e., Jesus] hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power." (NIV) And verse 28 is led into by this clarifying verse: "Now when it says that "everything" has been put under him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ." (1 Cor. 15:27.)
a) First, Paul Says The Ascended Jesus Is Not God
Thus, for a trinitarian who accepts Paul, Paul just said Jesus is NOT God. For Paul said Jesus is "subject" to God the Father, but when Paul says "everything" is put under Jesus, Paul clarifies that he does not mean "God" is also "under Christ." Paul's precise words were "this does not include God himself who put everything under Christ." Then in verse 28 Paul clearly says, in effect, Jesus will never resume an equality with God after the Ascension although when Jesus supposedly left heaven, Jesus had it. Jesus will be forever the Son subject to God the Father in heaven.
Highly authoritative mainstream Protestant sources have faced up to 1 Cor. 15:28. They have seen Paul's implication is necessarily that Jesus is not God and these same authoritative sources clearly imply Paul's lessons prove trinitarianism is false.
James D.G. Dunn says this. He is without question one of the most significant New Testament scholars of the last 50 years. In 2010, Dunn says 1 Cor. 15:24-28 proves Paul did not view Jesus as God. Dunn explains that in 1 Corinthians 15:24-28 Paul is particularly clear that "the kyrios title [rendered as 'Lord'] is not so much a way of identifying Jesus with God, as a way of distinguishing Jesus from God." (Dunn, Did the First Christians Worship Jesus?: The New Testament Evidence (SPCK/Westminster John Knox, 2010) at 110); James Dunn, Unity and Diversity (SCM Press, 1990) at 53 (same words).
Similarly, Colin Brown, DD, University of Nottingham; PhD, University of Bristol and Professor of Systematic Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary, edited a translation of the classic Protestant text abbreviated as DNTT. Zondervan markets it currently under the title The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (Colin Brown, ed.)(Paternoster Press, 1976) (first released 1932). This famous and highly authoritative text comments on the meaning of 1 Cor. 15:28, saying -- as clear as can be tolerated by the Trinitarian mainstream -- that the Trinity doctrine of 381 AD is contradicted by Paul:
Jesus Christ does not usurp the place of God. His oneness with the Father does not mean absolute identity. After his completion of his work on earth he has indeed been raised to the right hand of God and invested with the honor of the heavenly Lord. But he is still not made equal to God. Although completely coordinated with God, he remains subordinate to Him (cf. 1 Cor. 15:28.). Id., Vol. 2 at 80. [See paraphrasing in this source .]
This classic Protestant treatise, while not expressly disavowing the Trinity (as explained in 381 AD), then comments on the historical short-comings of the 381 AD-Trinity doctrine: "Primitive Christianity did not have an explicit doctrine of the Trinity such as was subsequently elaborated in the creeds." In other words, Paul did not share a Trinitarian conception as later arose.
Obviously, the DNTT realized that Paul's views in 1 Cor. 15:28 were at odds with the later Trinity doctrine, thus suggesting that to those who accept Paul as inspired, the Trinity doctrine must be regarded as an unwarranted later claim.
So there you have it -- the famous DNTT based upon Paul says Jesus does not have an "absolute identity" with God, and is "not made equal to God" and "remains subordinated" to God. But Trinitarians of the 381 AD mold insist "He was in the form of God and equal to God." (Christopher Wordsworth The New Testament of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ (1859) Volume 3 at 341.)
Who is right, Trinity doctrine from 381 AD or Paul in 1 Cor. 15:28 (or some other view)?
b) Paul Also Says The Ascended Jesus Is Subordinate To God, Not An Equal
Similarly, Paul also violates the Trinitarian doctrine of 381 AD that says Jesus in heaven is equal to God, and not subordinate. (Kevin Giles, Jesus and the Father: modern evangelicals reinvent the doctrine of the Trinity (2006) at 160.)
For Paul instead clearly says in the end God will "subject" Jesus to Himself, and if we are subject to Jesus, then God will thereby have put all things under Himself though Jesus. Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:28 then clearly says Jesus is eternally subordinate to the Father: "And when all things shall be subdued unto him [i.e., Jesus], then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him [i.e., God the Father] that put all things under him, that God may be all in all."
Calvin who otherwise tried to say Jesus and the Father are equal in heaven (Giles, id. at 164) admitted Paul's words clearly speak otherwise in 1 Corinthians 15 as the final eternal state of the Kingdom. Calvin wrote: "the Father has given all things into the hands of his Son in such a way to retain the principal right in his own hands." When the end comes, and Jesus has "subjected all things to himself, then shall the Son subject himself to the Father." (Calvin, Bible Commentaries, Corinthians (1847) at 20.) Jesus will act as the Father's "Vice-regent." (Id., at 21.)
But in the Institutes, Calvin clearly says the very same teaching he found in Paul (without mentioning Paul) of a begotten divine essence in Jesus would be a "detestable figment," as though the Father were the "author of the Deity of the Son." Calvin then states: "If they admit that the Son is God, but inferior to the Father, then in him the essence must be begotten and created, which in the Father is unbegotten and uncreated." — John Calvin : Institutes of the Christian Religion, book i. chap. xiii. 23, 24. In other words, if Jesus were truly begotten by God rather than an eternal Son (as Calvin contended in his battle with Servetus) and Jesus were truly inferior to God, then Jesus could not be God because God is unbegotten and uncreated.
Hence, Calvin said if Jesus is truly inferior to the Father and begotten, Jesus cannot be God.
Yet, didn't Calvin say Paul spoke this way about Jesus Christ in 1 Cor. 15:27-28 in the quote we gave above from Calvin's commentary on Corinthians? Where the Father retains His "principal right" and makes Jesus "subject" to the Father forever? Of course, that is precisely what Calvin saw in 1 Cor. 15:28 but in the Institutes Calvin admits this view (which we proved Calvin said belongs to Paul) is a contradiction of an equality of Deity between the Son and Father.
So we must ask: where is the supposed equality and non-subordination and consequent divinity of Christ in standard Trinitarian beliefs (from 381 AD) if you regard Paul as inspired? Paul completely controverts standard Trinitarian doctrine.
c) Coping Mechanisms With Paul's Heresy From These Standard Views
How can any of these two beliefs -- Trinitarianism of the 381 AD mold and Oneness-Unitarianism -- survive the words of Paul in 1 Cor. 15? I don't know but I do not take Paul as inspired, so I have no such problem! I trust whatever Jesus said about His nature, and I rely upon no one else's opinion. (On what Jesus says about His divine nature, see this link.)
The only way to cope that traditional Trinitarians have tried is to engage in obscuring the problem of Paul. They do this by distancing Paul as the source of any problem. For example Douglas Webster in A Passion for Christ: An Evangelical Christology (Regent College, 2001) at 84 says of Bishop Arius of 306 A.D.:
His teaching [that the Son was ontologically inferior to the Father] was a product of Greek rationalism, combined with the teachings of Origen.
No, that is false. Arius cited directly the words of Paul in 1 Cor. 15:27-28 and Col. 1:15 which says precisely this. Webster is deluding himself to avoid the fact that Paul is Arius's source and is properly being read by Arius. The fact Origen read Paul the same way does not make Origen the source of the idea.
Others simply affirm a self-contradiction, and pretend there is not one. The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge says: "The subordination of the Son...to the Father is a voluntary though evidently permanent relationship that does not detract or deny the equal deity of the Son...."
But saying it is so does not make it so. As Calvin said, if God has two modes of being, they cannot be unequal to each other; one cannot be superior to the other because they are the same. To accept subordination of Jesus to God, as Paul expresses the relationship (not Jesus to the Father), destroys any notion of Jesus's deity as Trinitarianism asserts.
To repeat, the better solution for a Trinitarian is my solution. Stop viewing Paul as inspired. Then look for what Jesus says about Himself to properly understand Jesus's Divinity. (On my view of a correct Christology, see this link.)
6. Docetic Aspect of Paul's Statement in Philippians 2:7
Paul in Philippians 2:7 says Jesus was "made in the likeness of men" (homoiomati anthropon). This is similar to Paul's statement in Romans 8:3 that Jesus was "sent in the likeness of the flesh of sin" (homoiomati sarkos hamartias). Yet, Philippians 2:7 is more blunt that Jesus was made to look like men, clearly implying Jesus was not a true man.
While Romans 8:3 is a problem for Paul defenders, some claim Paul is not denying Jesus had true human flesh like you and me. However, those arguments dissipate when Philippians 2:7 is examined; it is too blunt, and cannot be similarly explained away. In Philippians, Paul does not say Jesus had human flesh, but only that Jesus appeared that way. MacFarland amplifies this, commenting on the passage: "However, it is important to note that Jesus 'was made' in the likeness of men; the LORD God actively made Jesus to resemble human beings." (MacFarland, Becker Bible Studies Application.)
Why is a comment on this part of Philippians 2:7 so important? Because this is another incongruous Christological statement by Paul. John is clear that the "Word became flesh;." Jesus was fully human, and did not merely appear to have human flesh as Paul states.
In sum, Paul has a view of Jesus's pre-existent "equality with God" which Jesus gave up to come to Earth and while here, Paul says Jesus only appeared to be human because Paul believes Jesus was a pre-existent being equal to God who now existed without Godhood on Earth.
A. Danger of Docetism
Why is docetism so dangerous? Because it undermines the gospel. The truth is Jesus had no special flesh that prevented him from sinning or suffering. Jesus could "feel our infirmities" and thus was "tempted in the same way we are." (Hebrews 4:15.) (Barnabas is the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews. See this link.)
Jesus thus had to resist sin the same way we all have to, including the temptation not to go to the Cross. His advantage was He had the Word indwelling Him which gave Him perfect knowledge how to avoid sin. Thus Jesus's triumph over sin is an example that encourages us to follow if we can incorporate the Word Jesus shared with us, and we abide in Jesus as He abided in the Father. (John ch. 14.)
To say Jesus only appeared to have human flesh undermines the importance of making Jesus's words "abiding in us and we abide in" Jesus (John 14). This abiding is one key to us replicating Jesus' righteous behavior. We are supposed to follow His example of righteousness by His having the Word in himself. By our adopting Jesus's teachings (which came from the unique Word's presence in Him), then this gives us the "power" to "become sons of God" (John ch. 1). The notion that Jesus passed all tests because He had a flesh that could not be tempted or suffer is what docetism fosters, and makes it so inimical to accepting the true principles of salvation. Actual righteousness is not just for Jesus, as so many Christians believe today.
The great harm from Paul's ideas first manifested itself in the 300s and beyond. They developed clearly docetic views of Jesus' flesh, i.e., its mere appearance of looking human but not truly being human. Jerome from the 400s commented on Matthew 26 that it was ridiculous to think Jesus "was afraid of death" or "spoke in terror about the passion" (Jerome, In Matthaeum Bk. IV ch. 26:39.) Likewise, Hilary in On The Trinity (386 AD) said "No more in the passion did the flesh of Christ feel pain than if you were to wound fire or water with a sword." (Hilary, De Trinitate Bk. 9: 56 and Bk. 10:23.) This creates a false sense that Jesus never had a hard time resisting sin, or was never concerned about the pain of the Cross. Without Paul weighing us in the opposite direction that Jesus merely had the "likeness of men," the Gospels are clear that the contrary is true. The Word was "made flesh." (John 1:14.) Sweet and simple.
Freightening Summary Of What Paul Taught
In sum, Paul gave us a conception of two beings in Heaven before Christ came --- one was God and the other had an "equality with God." Paul says Jesus had an "equality with God" but himself was created by God as the "first born of creation." (Col. 1:15.) This non-eternal Son while "equal to God" (although not eternal) supposedly also was the creator of everything else. (Col. 1:16.) Hence, a non-eternal being, as Paul depicts Christ, was the Creator of the heavens and earth including Man. After doing so, this Son then emptied himself of godhood, and supposedly came to Earth in the "likeness of men." (Phil.2:7.)
According to Paul, the emptied shallowed-out previously equal-to-God Son --- Jesus --- only became equal to the God-of-Sinai again at some point prior to His death. His death then symbolized the death of the husband to Israel (i.e., Yahweh), thus dissolving the Law between the husband-God and his wife. (Romans 7:1-7.) Then when Jesus resurrected, Jesus was a different husband than the husband-God at Sinai (i.e., Yahweh) and no longer required obedience to the Law given Moses. (See Romans 7, discussed at this link.)
Was Marcion so wrong to infer from Paul that the resurrected Jesus represented a new loving God-the-Father of the NT in place of the creator but supposedly uniquely harsh God of the OT? (For more on Marcionism, see our webpage on that movement.)
Further, Paul's ideas that Jesus only came in the appearance of men in Phil. 2:7 spawned Marcion in 144 A.D. to teach docetism. Apostle John in the Epistle of 2nd John condemned docetism as from the anti-Christ (i.e., Satan, in my view).
"Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in human flesh [Greek, sarx, human flesh], have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist." (2 John 1:7.)
Hence, Paul's teachings that Jesus only came in the "likeness of men" and not true flesh spawned the most dangerous doctrines in the church.
"I found your article about Paul to be very interesting and thought-provoking." (May 24, 2011, Sea Hawk Fan.)
A. Buzzard, The Doctrine of the Trinity (1998) has several comments that prove a unitarian has hard-going due to Paul's words at odds with monotheism, properly understood as a single-creator. I have a webpage where I collect his struggling comments. This minister essentially comes down to the view that Jesus' words have a priority over the 'difficult-to-understand'' and thereby seemingly 'self-contradictory' Christological views one finds in Paul's letters.
Servetus (a modern individual) has an article entitled the "Christology of Paul" which is interesting. See this link: http://servetustheevangelical.com/doc/What_Was_the_Paul's_Christology.pdf
The Jewish Encyclopedia's article on Paul criticizes Paul's Christology because it goes beyond what Jesus says -- which "Judeao-Christians" can accept -- namely Jesus atoned for sin. Paul goes further, and says Jesus was the "world's artificer," taking from God an attribute monotheism gives only to God. And then says Paul interjects the pagan concepts of a divinity emptying itself to become earthbound and die for its creation to reconcile it to himself. For further discussion, see our Page "Jewish View of Paul."
Does Paul Call Jesus God in Titus 2:13?
The NIV translates Titus 2:13 as:
While we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. (NIV)
This is troubling for Unitarians. Again, I have no such problems because Paul is not the arbiter of Christ's nature. Jesus is, and Jesus never says this.
Most other translations than the NIV and KJV render this verse differently, which is important for Unitarians to rely upon to explain away Paul's statement:
“…looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus.” (NASB)
The article "Titus 2:13" in Biblical Unitarianism offers grammatical possibilities that Paul really means to say when Jesus returns, we will see the "glory" of God and of our savior, Jesus Christ, wherein the former - "glory of God" -- Jesus in Matt 16:7 Jesus equates with the "Glory of the Father," that is, the Son of Man comes "with the glory of the Father."
While this is perfectly sensible, one can see the counter-argument based upon Titus 2:13. To which I say, how does the Pauline Trinitarian explain Titus 2:13 in light of Colossians 1:15-17 where Jesus is created by someone other than Himself? How can "God" be created by another God, and there not be more than one God? If Jesus is truly equated with God in Titus 2:13, then how do Pauline Trinitarians explain Paul says that all things will be put under Christ by God, and all things be subject to Jesus except "God"? For if Jesus is God, how can God put all things under God (Jesus) with the exception that God will not put Himself under Jesus? Would God speak of His relationship to Himself in this inconguous way?
Obviously, the Unitarian explanation of Titus 2:13 is the only one that fits. (I take no position on this). It alone removes such incongruities. But then these incongruities still destroy unitarianism and trinitarianism. Only Jesus' teaching that that Father indwells Himself resolves all controversies raised by Paul's incoherent and self-contradictory expressions.
Jehovah Witnesses Share Paul's Flawed Christology
In an article entitled "Deity of Jesus" Christ, we read of the Jehovah Witnesses:
They teach that Jesus was created by God just prior to creation. Jesus then created everything else. (Col 1:16,17 NWT inserts "other" before "things" to make the text read, "By Him all OTHER things were created". The word "other" inserted throughout the text is not in the original Greek.) Jesus is not considered to be equal to God at all but a lesser being.
The fact the JW insert "other" does not change the fact Paul indeed says Jesus was created by God, and then Jesus created "all things" -- obviously other than himself. (Col. 1:16-17.) Thus, "other" is implied in the original words of Paul. And this is flawed because God in Isaiah says He created all things, and God was an eternal being, not a created one.
And this article said the Jehovah Witnesses believe Jesus is not equal to God. This too is Paul's claim. However, Jesus says He was indwelled by the Father, and thus in that sense, the Divinity in Him was equal to God for it was God Himself abiding in Jesus, just like God did so at the Temple at Jerusalem. Hence, the Jehovah Witnesses have adopted two of the five flawed ideas of Paul listed in the main article above.