An Exaltation That Went Too Far
The first one to formulate the trinity, Tertullian, did so in a proper manner. Tertullian warned that Marcion in 144 AD frighteningly viewed Jesus as God apart from the Father. Marcion thus argued his God-Jesus could not take on true human flesh. (Marcion said it only supposedly looked human). Tertullian said this deduction of Marcion had developed an idolatrous version of Jesus's divinity. Instead of an indwelling of Jesus by God, Marcion made Jesus a separate and distinct God from the Creator-God. To this idea of Marcion, Tertullian in 207 AD leveled the charge of idolatry -- the violation of the first commandment:
“They either pretend that there is another god in opposition to the Creator, or, even if they acknowledge that the Creator is the one and only God, they treat him as a different being from what he is in truth. The consequence is that every lie which they speak of God is in a certain sense a sort of idolatry.” (On Prescription Against Heretics, 40, quoted in Ante-Nicene Fathers (2007) at 263.)
At the same time, against another heretic named Praxeas, Tertullian mocked any idea that Jesus as the Son was simultaneously also God. Here is cogent reasoning so easily forgotten:
I bid you also observe, that on my side I advance the passage where the Father said to the Son, 'Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten Thee.' If you want me to believe Him to be both the Father and the Son [i.e., simultaneously two persons but each is God] show me some other passage where it is declared, 'The Lord said unto Himself, I am my own Son, to-day have I begotten myself;' or again, 'Before the morning did I beget myself;' and likewise, 'I the Lord possessed Myself in the beginning of my ways for my own works; before all the hills, too, did I beget myself;' and whatever other passages are to the same effect. Why, moreover, could God the Lord of all things, have hesitated to speak thus of Himself, if the fact had been so? (Tertullian, Latin Christianity (Scaff ed.) Ch. XI.)
This is under the heading The Identity of the Father and the Son, as Praxeas Held It, Shown to Be Full of Perplexity and Absurdity.
Nothing could be clearer than to make both Jesus (the Son) and Yahweh (the Father) identically be God would be a violation of all Scripture. God never speaks to Himself as a begotten Son of Himself. Tertullian also took it as obvious you could never have two independent beings who are both God without violating the Scripture that there is only ONE God. This is why Tertullian defended a trinity represented by Jesus simply being indwelled fully by God the Father. Jesus had DIVINITY, not DEITY, Tertullian taught. Any other view, Tertullian said was IDOLATRY -- putting another god before God.
The True Exalted Status of Jesus
By contrast to Marcion and Praxeas, the way Apostle John and Jesus invite us to see Jesus' nature -- a unique indwelling of God's Shekinah ("Divinity") in the man Jesus -- comports completely with that First Commandment. The same substance of God is in Jesus, a distinct and separate human being. 'The Word became flesh." (For our view of the correct Christology, see this webpage.)
John made it clear what Jesus's relationship was to God. After the crucifixion Jesus said: "Go instead to my brothers and tell them, I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God" (John 20:17 NIV).
Tertullian, even though he invented the first Trinity doctrine around 200 AD, saw things in a similar way. Tertullian did not have our modern trinitarian conception where Jesus, the Son, was eternal God apart from the Father-God and before His incarnation. Such a view was idolatry, as Tertullian said in the quote above.
Over one hundred years after Tertullian's death, the term "Trinity" was turned around and defined exactly in the manner Tertullian warned against! Tertullian believed Jesus was a man of true human flesh occupied by God including His Word -- the personified agency of His creation. Tertullian did not mean each member of the Trinity was an eternal God operating as one. A major difference.
Tertullian said at conception from Mary, Jesus was "born man mixed with God," as Osborn summarizes Adversus Praexas by Tertullian. (Eric Osborn, Tertullian, First Theologian of the West (Cambridge University Press, 2003) at 122-23.) The "father and son are no more identical than night and day" (Prax. 10). (Id., at 127.) Tertullian argues that "God's Son is also called Son from unity of substance." Id., at 122. This substance came from the indwelling of the Father.
This matches Numbers 23:19 which says "God is not a man." God can indwell a man but a man does not thereby himself become God.
As a result, no Christians abandoned Christianity in the 200-320 AD period because of Tertullian's conception of the trinity. It completely comported with Scripture. (One must realize Tertullian was trying to use the term "trinity" from Plato in an updated way, changing its pagan form into a monotheistic form. With Plato, it meant there was Zeus, a superior God, who was above inferior secondary and tertiary deities. Tertullian borrowed this concept to explain that Jesus served as God's subordinate agent, that is Jesus, a man, was indwelled fully by God. For the earlier pagan version of the Trinity, see Aristotle's discussion of the Trinity in Aristotle On the Heavens, Book I, 1 )
However, somehow later Tertullian's Trinitarian doctrine was turned backwards towards it original pagan meaning. It was turned on its head to say the Trinity is God composed of three distinct eternal persons each with individual free will and the right of each to be called by us "God." Hence, by 381 AD, it was held that the Word (or Spirit) was a distinct being/person from the Father, and the Father was a distinct being/person from the Son, and the Son was not the Spirit or the Father but also was God, so that there were three co-equal persons of independent free-will who each have the right to call themselves, and to be called by us, "God." To this Tertullian, the first explicit Trinitarian, would have said 'Pure idolatry!'
Example of Modern Non-Monotheistic Consequence of Abandoning Correct Trinity Doctrine
This idolatry is best seen in a post-Tertullian trinitarian argument by a Protestant in our modern day. The most notorious example is Dennis F. Kinlaw, Let's Start With Jesus: A New Way of Doing Theology (Zondervan: 2005). Kinlaw, former president of Asbury College, claims that Christianity is "monotheistic" (id., at 18), but if words have meaning, Kinlaw demonstrates an idolatrous view of Jesus - of another God distinct from the Creator God-the-Father.
Kinlaw admits at one point that "Understanding God as a Trinity of free persons gives us one of the most striking differences between the monotheism [?] of Christianity and the other monotheistic religions" which believe God "is a single being." In Christianity, God's will is "conditioned on the interrelatedness of love of the three persons who constitute the Godhead." (Kinlaw, at 33-34.) Kinlaw continues: "When Christians say that God is one, the oneness of which we speak is not the same as the oneness of which Jews and Muslims speak. It is not the unicity of a divine monad, of a single divine being who is simple in nature. Christians believe that within this oneness are personal differentiations." Id., 19. And Kinlaw sees multiple persons like the Father and Son each have the right to say they are God because they talk to one another as God: "the inner life of God [is] one person speaking to another...there are different persons in the Godhead. (Id., 32.) Early on he says that salvation is designed to bring each of us "into participation in the very communion that the three persons of the triune Godhead know between themselves." (Id., at 13.)
Hence, if each of the three persons has the right to say He is God, then how is God a single being any longer? Kinlaw admits he is contending that they are each different persons of free-will, yet he can somehow insist they are 'one' in some sense. But we are not to have any other gods before God!
Kinlaw's defense of the modern trinity reflects an abandonment of the first usage of the term trinity by Tertullian. Kinlaw's version represents restructuring Jesus's identity as a God apart from the Father who is supposedly one with the Father by coordinated action. You can pretend you are saying there is one God because you say so. But saying it is so does not make it so.
But Jesus taught something totally different. Jesus taught He had an indwelling presence of God.
Kinlaw went too far, and gives us a conception of Jesus that transgresses the First Commandment of God. We are all in favor of exalting Jesus as Son of Man, for God in Daniel 7:13-14 said the Son of Man coming with the Shekinah presence on clouds of glory is entitled to worship / homage as a coming king to rule the earth. But to try to exalt Jesus individually and in his being/person to be God apart from merely the Father's abiding presence in Him violates the First Commandment. We can believe in the Trinity as it was first defined by Tertullian, but not in the horrifying way that Kinlaw proposes a de facto polytheistic trinity.
Why A Non-Monotheistic Version of 'Trinity' Replaced Tertullian's Monotheistic Version
The trinity doctrine which Tertullian advanced in 200 AD was reformulated in about 381 AD at the Council of Constantinople to specifically refute monotheism.
Gregory of Nyssa (born 335 A.D., died 385 A.D.) in 372 A.D. was appointed by his brother Basil as the Catholic Bishop of Nyssa. After losing that post, Emperor Gratian reinstituted Gregory as bishop in 378. ("St. Gregory of Nyssa," Catholic Encylopedia.) In 379 A.D., Gregory was suddenly elevated to assist at the Council of Antioch. In 381, Gregory again assisted at the Council of Constantinople convened by Emperor Theodosius to "assert the faith of Nicea...to put an end to Arianism...." (Id.) Once again this Council "accepted the Nicene teaching." (George Herbert Dryer, History of the Christian church (1896) at 155.)
But the Council of Constantinople did more than that. What Gregory did at the Council of Constantinople is take the Nicean Creed that does not mention a trinity and this time the church would affirm three persons are each God separate and apart from another. Gregory explained in a treatise at the same time that his intent was to destroy the supposed myth of monotheism. These details are rarely recounted, so here they are from the most scholarly sources.
Gregory wrote the Catechismal Treatise which was retitled by his empirical benefactors as The Great Catechism. It was "the most significant dogmatic work of the fourth century." (George Herbert Dryer, History of the Christian church (1896) at 155.)
Gregory in the first chapter of his book The Great Catechism, according to Schaff, teaches the "absurdity of Jewish monotheism." (A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church (edited by Philip Schaff, Henry Wace)(1893) at 471.) Gregory in the text alludes to monotheism as "the beliefs of the Jews" and then castigates that view as an "absurdity." Id., at 476 col. 2. Schaff explains Gregory's text in a footnote snipes at monotheism again when Gregory says in effect "an argument against Dualism would only confirm the Jew in his stern monotheism." (Id., at 474 fn. 7.)
In chapter 3, Gregory acknowledged that "neither does the statement [of the Trinity] harmonize with the Jewish dogma" nor endorse multiple gods as it proposes a 'unity' instead. Yet, Gregory continues by saying that as a result of the Trinity doctrine as he formulated it, Jewish monotheism is ended: "the Jewish dogma is destroyed by the acceptance of the Word and by belief in the Spirit." He pointedly said "the number of the triad [i.e., three] [is] a remedy in the case of those who are in error as to the One." (Gregory of Nyssa, The Great Catechism, ch. 3.)
The full context makes clear that Gregory calls monotheism a heresy and is destroyed by the Trinity doctrine. Yet, Gregory insists incoherently that a trinity as he formulated it is not polytheistic. He imagines an in-between realm where you can have more than one being who is God (i.e., you must reject monotheism) -- where some "others" who are "God" by nature are yet subservient to a "First cause" --- and yet somehow you still do not have polytheism. The truth is there is no third position between "one" and "many" despite these fine-sounding words -- clearly filched from Platonic philosophy and not the Bible. Gregory wrote:
And so one who severely studies the depths of the mystery, receives secretly in his spirit, indeed, a moderate amount of apprehension of the doctrine of God's nature, yet he is unable to explain clearly in words the ineffable depth of this mystery. As, for instance, how the same thing is capable of being numbered and yet rejects numeration, how it is observed with distinctions yet is apprehended as a monad, how it is separate as to personality yet is not divided as to subject matter. For, in personality, the Spirit is one thing and the Word another, and yet again that from which the Word and Spirit is, another. But when you have gained the conception of what the distinction is in these, the oneness, again, of the nature admits not division, so that the supremacy of the one First Cause is not split and cut up into differing Godships, neither does the statement harmonize with the Jewish dogma [i.e., NOTE: He means Monotheism] but the truth passes in the mean between these two conceptions, destroying each heresy, and yet accepting what is useful to it from each. The Jewish dogma is destroyed by the acceptance of the Word, and by the belief in the Spirit; while the polytheistic error of the Greek school is made to vanish by the unity of the Nature abrogating this imagination of plurality. While yet again, of the Jewish conception, let the unity of the Nature stand; and of the Hellenistic, only the distinction as to persons; the remedy against a profane view being thus applied, as required, on either side. For it is as if the number of the triad were a remedy in the case of those who are in error as to the One, and the assertion of the unity for those whose beliefs are dispersed among a number of divinities. (Gregory of Nyssa, The Great Catechism ch. 3 in Schaff, Ante-Nicene, supra, at 477.)
What did Gregory mean by a "First Cause" and others who are God by nature in this unity? Could Gregory really imagine created beings who are independent from the First Cause and are still each God?
The "Word" As A Distinct Being To Cement Refutation of Monotheism
The editor of Gregory's Great Catechism in Greek ackowledges that when the Trinity prevents a "lapse into Judaism," Gregory means a "barren monotheism." (Saint Gregory (of Nyssa), The Catechetical oration of Gregory of Nyssa (1903) at 7 fn. 3.) Instead of the Word being identical to God, Gregory taught "We cannot understand the Word without reference to some other Being." (Id., at 11 fn.9.) "The Word...is not the mere utterance of a voice. [It exists] after the manner of a real being." Id., at 14 fn. 14. "The Word and Spirit [are] personal self-subsistent powers." Id., at 18 fn. Scripture "teach[es] us to speak of a Word in actual being...." Id., at 19 fn. 14. In Schaff, the heretical dualism of Gregory is clear: "the Word of God by its own self-subsistence is distinct from Him from whom it has subsistence." A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church (edited by Philip Schaff, Henry Wace)(1893) at 476.
Hence, according to Gregory, not only was the Word God but the Word was not identical to the Father. It was supposedly a distinct being separate and apart from the Father. (Jesus differs, saying the "Logos is not of myself...the Logos (Word) is not mine, but the Father's who sent me." John 14:10, 24.)
Again, all these conceptions were added to Tertullian's trinity doctrine, exploding Tertullian's idea into a completely idolatrous version which Tertullian warned against. And this was done with the deliberate scheme in mind of advancing an attack on monotheism. That is not conjecture, but a direct admission by the leader at the Council of Constantinople of 381 AD -- Gregory of Nyssa -- who first advanced the modern trinity doctrine in 381 AD.
Shema ("God is One") Banned In Reign of Justinian
Because monotheism was explicitly called a heresy by the leading voice from the Roman Church since 381 AD, it should come as no surprise that by 534 AD the Roman Empire under Justinian banned Jews reciting "The Lord Our God is One." (Deut. 6:4-9.) This is known as the Shema -- the most important prayer in Judaism.
But Jesus in Mark 12:29 quoted the Shema as the most important precept ("entolas") in all of Scripture. Jesus said it was the "first of all entolas." The highest command.
As explained in the Cambridge History of Judaism, the Justinian Codex of 534 A.D., in the interpretation of its section known as the Novella, issued in 538 A.D., the “Shema Yisrael, sometimes considered the most important prayer in Judaism (‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord is one), was banned, as a denial of the Trinity." (“Corpus Juris Civilis,” Wikipedia. See also, Hyam Maccoby, Antisemitism and Modernity (Routledge, 2006) at 20 (“Justinian... bann[ed] the Shema ...”)
Jewish historians relate that records from the Byzantine period (viz., Justinian) reveal that “guards were sent to the synagogue to prevent recitation of the Shema because its proclamation of God’s unity [sic, oneness] was thought to impugn, if only implicitly, the Christian notion of the Trinity." See The Cambridge History of Judaism (contributors W. D. Davies, Louis Finkelstein) (Cambridge University Press, 1984) at 17. Incidentally, the authors then note an unreliable myth developed that once the guards left, then the Shema would be recited at a point never done before (i.e., in the Musaf Kedusha portion of the service)—obviously because Gentiles would not expect it there. But these authors think it is doubtful that this heroic subversion of the police’s oversight really took place.
Hence, within two centuries from 381 AD, when the Trinity was explicitly refashioned to refute the "heresy of monotheism," the Roman government actually made it illegal to say "the Lord Our God is One" even though Jesus said this was the "most important precept" in all the Bible! (Mark 12:29.)
True Exalted Position of Jesus
We have pointed out that Daniel 7:13 shows the Son of Man returning on clouds of glory--signifying the presence of God is with Him. Divinity resides upon the Son of Man.
Similarly, Moses told us God's directions about a special prophet to come who indubitably is the same as the Son of Man in Daniel's prophecy:
17 The LORD said to me: “What they say is good. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him. 19 I myself will call to account anyone who does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name. (Deut. 18:17-19.)
We can also worship Jesus as a King. 1 Chron. 29:20 says in the King James, "And David said to all the congregation, now bless the LORD your God. And all the congregation blessed the LORD God of their fathers, and bowed down their heads, and worshipped the LORD, and the king," (KJV).
How Exaggerated Exaltation Denigrates God
By taking the truly exalted status of Jesus and exalting it idolatrously to compete with Yahweh, we see how in Jewish eyes we have placed God-the-Father in the background compared with our beloved Jesus. Hear the angst in this quote from a Jewish writer, Professor Louis Baeck, about what Christianity became, particularly at the hands of Paul (and our later purposeful anti-monotheism of 381 AD):
A turning point in the history of religion, of monotheism, is seen here [in 1 Cor. 1:4.] The old theocentric faith of Judaism is superseded by the new Christ-centered faith. The belief in God, the One, has receded before the belief in the Christ. Here is a parting of the ways in religion. It is true, the faithful would not think of the Messiah without being conscious of God; they would not lift up their minds toward the Son without at the same time being aware of the Father. But the human mind is such that an older belief is impaired by a new one, and the new belief commands the way of the future....God, as it were, was removed into the background....The bright light, the broad glory shines now around Christ. ("The Faith of Paul" by Prof. Louis Baeck, Journal of Jewish Studies (1952) Vol 3 Issue 3 at 93, 97.)
Thus, the reason why Jews do not "listen to my words that the prophet [Jesus] speaks in my name," per Deut. 18:17-19, is because since 381 AD, we exalted Jesus to an independent godhood distinct from God-the-Father rather than teach what Christ Himself said: the Father "dwelled" in Jesus (John 14:10); the "Logos is not mine, but the Father's who sent me." (John 14:24.)
Hence, we Christians are to blame for laying a snare that caused those who believed in Yahweh not to trust Yahshua as their Messiah, and "listen to" Yahweh's "words" (Logos) dwelling in Yahshua / Yeshua/ Jesus. We hold the greater sin due to our idolatry blocking the Jew from hearing the Words that have life in them.
Tertullian was correct. One's effort to exalt Christ by a Christology that goes too far can lead to idolatry. Idolatry means placing another god before God, the Father of Jesus. Tertullian's original view of the trinity is correct although the term "trinity" may now dangerously carry the explicit anti-monotheistic baggage of Gregory of Nyssa. It is shocking to consider but no less true that Gregory of Nyssa actually had an idolatrous goal -- the refutation of monotheism -- when he reformulated the trinity doctrine in 381 AD. By 538 AD, this purpose bore fruit because Roman law then even banned Jews saying 'God is One.'
Instead, the truth is that Jesus/Yahshua was indwelled by the Shechinah/Shekinah presence of God. Jesus said so in John 14:10 and 14:24. The Shechinah presence is also known as "Divinity Abiding." This is the presence on the "clouds of glory" that Daniel in 7:13-14 prophesied the Son of Man (a human being) would arrive with when the Son of Man comes in triumph to become the ruler of all peoples.
There is nothing wrong worshipping at the feet of a man fully indwelled by God. When the Son of God comes with the glory of God, Daniel 7:13 says the world will worship Him. But is worshipping the man Himself apart from God's glory in Him -- treating the man as God Himself -- idolatry?
For the analysis of others on this important question, read this page where we collected various thoughts on this issue.
Is Grudem Correct Jesus Could Not Atone Unless He Was God Himself?
Wayne Grudem in a silly and heretical argument says if Jesus was a created being and not fully God (in contrast to what Jesus actually says -- He was the unique begotten Son of Man indwelled fully by God the Father), then Jesus supposedly could not pay for atonement. Grudem argues:
"If Jesus is merely a created being, and not fully God, then it is hard to see how he, a creature, could bear the full wrath of God against all our sins. Could any creature, no matter how great, really save us....Could we really depend on any creature fully for our salvation." (Wayne A. Grudem, Jeff Purswell, Bible Doctrine: Essential Teachings of the Christian Faith (Zondervan, 1999) at 115.)
What is wrong with that analysis? Why is it also extraordinarily heretical?
First, notice there is no biblical analysis by Grudem, unless Grudem is alluding to Paul's doctrine of original sin would taint Jesus if Jesus were truly a man .... a true creature.
Second, in the Bible, atonement is always by the blood of a living creature, whether a lamb or other living creature. It never says anything but blood can atone. In Leviticus 17:11 it clearly states:
For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one's life.
But Grudem above says this is impossible. No creature can atone. But the Bible says the opposite.
The truth is Jesus was a man indwelled by God, as Jesus Himself says. Then His blood can fulfill the atonement. His act of sacrifice saves us by means of God's operative principle that an innocent lamb can pay for sins. Hence, Jesus is our Savior while God indwelling Him saves us and makes God our ultimate Savior by the agency of Jesus.
If Grudem is saying, as he seems to say, that Jesus only appeared to be a man, but was not, then Grudem's words fit Apostle John's warning that the message of the Anti-Christ is that Jesus did not truly come in the flesh.
Any way you look at it, Grudem's argument is highly unbiblical. In fact it clearly contradicts the Bible.
When the Trinity doctrine is formulated correctly as Tertullian did there is no problem. But the way Grudem reformulates it, so that no creature's fleshly experience plays any role in our salvation, it feeds the docetic principle which John said was the message of the anti-Christ. John said the Word was "made flesh," but the false teachers say Jesus never came in "the flesh." The enemy says Jesus supposedly only appeared to be human.
Docetism is the doctrine which the Roman Catholic Church adopted in conjunction with the modern Trinity doctrine in the 300s to affirm Jesus and God were of one "substance." This principle that Jesus only appeared human is expressed in the writings of Hilary in the 390s, Jerome in the 400s and Aquinas in the 1200s. They each claim Jesus's flesh and blood only appeared to be human but were not truly human, and therefore Jesus suffered no pain at all on the cross. See our article "Marcion's Influence over Roman Catholic Church."
Hence, Grudem is an example of an exaggerated level of exaltation of Jesus that is grounded on contradictions of the Bible.
Where Did The Attitude of Exalting Jesus Over Yahweh Come From? Jesus? Or Paul?
In Philippians 2: 9-11, Paul said, “God…bestowed on Him (Jesus) the Name which is above every name, that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth, and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Thus, Paul implicitly says Jesus's Name is above the Name of God, i.e., Yahweh.
Contrast how Jesus says He lifted up Yahweh's name (not His own name apart from Yahweh):
—“I have manifested Your Name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world….” John 17: 6
—“…Holy Father, keep them in Your Name, the Name which you have given Me, that they may be one even as We are. While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your Name which you have given Me.” John 17: 11-12.
—“I have made Your Name known to them, and will make it known….” John 17: 26
What name is Jesus exalting? His own or Yahweh's name? Here is the Name Jesus referenced:
“Say to the Israelites, ‘Yahweh, the God of your fathers—the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob—has sent me to you.’ This (Yahweh) is My Name forever, the Name by which I am to be remembered from generation to generation.” (Exodus 3:14.)
In the Our Father, Jesus prayed "Your Name" should be "hallowed" / "sanctified" i.e., kept holy.
Do we keep God's Name Holy and in the position Jesus placed it if we follow Paul who put Jesus's name "above every name,' implicitly even the name of Yahweh?
Tampering with Scripture to Elevate Jesus Further
Jesus said "all things are possible through God." Paul in Philippians 4:13 says in the oldest manuscripts, "I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." Wouldn't you naturally think this is talking about God? Besides, Jesus told us to pray to the Father in Jesus' name, but Jesus did not say we could do all things through Jesus who strengthens us. Jesus spoke of the Holy Spirit and the Father who strengthens us.
But to avoid that result, Jesus is given God's role in Paul's words by a late alteration which the KJV chose to follow:
I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. (Philippians 4:13 KJV)
Many versions follow the KJV. But the NIV reads:
I can do all this through him who gives me strength. NIV.
But transcribers after Nicea - where Jesus was changed from son of God to God, the son, added "Christ" in place of "him."
through Christ which strengtheneth me — The oldest manuscripts omit “Christ”; then translate, “In Himwho giveth me power,” that is, by virtue of my living union and identification with Him, who is my strength (Galatians 2:20). Compare 1 Timothy 1:12, whence probably, “Christ” was inserted here by transcribers. (StudyLight.org.)
So be aware that anything you read that appears to elevate Jesus to God may be tampered with. Then consider that all copies of the NT were systematically corrected after Nicea. The only way to prove the original text is to find gaps in that systematic correction barrier after 325 AD, and find it in a text that can actually be dated reliably prior to 325 AD.
'Ye Are gods' Statement by Jesus
Some claim Jesus said He was God in John 10:34. He did not. Rather, He was accused of saying that, to which in reply, Jesus said He was "God's Son." Then Jesus quotes Psalm 82:6 where the word Elohim is spoken which in that context does not mean "God." However, the Greek text renders this word inaccurately as "God." In full context, the dialogue went at follows:
33 “We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”
34 Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are “gods”’[d]? 35 If he called them ‘gods,’ to whom the word of God came—and Scripture cannot be set aside— 36 what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? 37 Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father. 38But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.” 39 Again they tried to seize him, but he escaped their grasp. (John 10:33-39, NIV.)
Thus, Jesus says here that all He previously said was "I am God's Son." This they understood to be claiming to be God if you listen to the Greek. But the word that the Jews used must have been the word "Elohim" because Jesus quotes a passage back saying "Elohim" from the Psalms. The Greek translator chose "gods" and "God" to convey the thought, but it mismatches the Scripture being quoted by Jesus.
Hence, more accurately, the Jews said "you claim to be Elohim" in verse 33, to which Jesus quotes back Psalm 82:6 'You are Elohim" to defend Himself. So was "Theos" the right translation of John's words? Was Jesus calling each member of His audience, including Himself, God? No.
So to understand, let's go study the word Elohim which is in the original Psalm Jesus is quoting, and is being translated as God and "gods" in Greek.
Elohim Word Study
The word "Elohim" can sometimes refer to the true God, sometimes to Mighty men who act as God's agent and can also refer to gods, plural, who are not Yahweh and are false. Here is an example of both:
Deu 6:13 Thou shalt fear YAHWEH
[which KJV translated as "God"], and serve him, and shalt swear by his name.
Deu 6:14 Ye shall not go after other
people which are round about you;
This acknowledges others are "elohim" too.
In one verse, Abraham is called an elohim.
Gen 23:5 And the sons of ??th answered Abraham, saying to him, 6“Hear us, my master [adonai also translated LORD in KJV]: You are
[translated mighty in KJV but in other versions as GOD] prince among us. Bury your dead in the choicest of our burial places. None of us withholds from you his burial site, from burying your dead.”
Moses in another passage is called by God an Elohim to Aaron and Pharoah.
Exo 4:16 “And he shall speak for you to the people. And it shall be that he shall be a mouth for you, and you shall be an
for him.Exo 7:1 And YAHWEH said unto Moses, See, I have made thee
To Pharoah and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet.
God also promises to send us a Savior and an elohim:
Isa 19:20 And it shall be for a sign and for a witness to Yahweh of hosts in the land of Mitsrayim. When they cry to Yahweh because of the oppressors,
He sends them a Savior and an Elohim
, and shall deliver them.
Finally, God addresses men as also elohim in this passage which we shall see our Lord quotes:
Psa 82:6 I have said, Ye are
; and all of you are children of the most High.
Jesus references this passage which in Greek renders "elohim" spoken by Jesus as "gods."
Joh 10:34 Yahushua answered them, Is it not written in your law, Isaid, Ye are Theos.
being the Greek word translated as “God”.
We know that this is a quote of Psalm 82:6 and we know the Hebrew word was Elohim.
So was Jesus claiming to be God Almighty, or elohim in the sense used in Psalm 82:6 -- mighty men acting as God's agents, children of the most High?
It seems clear Jesus quoted Psalm 82:6 to make the latter point about Himself. As Isaiah 19:20 says, Yahweh will send a "Savior and an Elohim" to us. But it remains God acting in Jesus that makes Jesus an Elohim -- God's agent, just as was Moses and Abraham who were also Elohim.
And because Jesus was answering their charge, we must conclude the accusation was that Jesus claimed to be ELOHIM -- a Mighty Agent of God. Jesus answered by saying in effect 'you are elohim' was spoken to the "children of the Most High" in Ps 82:6, and thus Elohim, if applied to Himself, would be true per Psalm 82:6. Thus 'why challenge me for saying 'I am the Son of God.'" Now it makes perfect sense. And Jesus did not say He was God, but He said "I am the Son of God" and as a "child of the Most High" the label Elohim is proper.
What About Imagery of Jesus To Those Who Insist Jesus is God apart from the Father?
Another proof that we have exalted Jesus improperly, and mistaken His divinity (i.e., the Shekinah presence in Him) with Jesus being God Himself, is our use of images of Jesus would therefore violate the second commandment had the early church understood Jesus in this way.
Instead, as demonstrated here and elsewhere, Jesus, John and the early church viewed Jesus as divinely indwelled. An image of Jesus posed no violation of the second commandment against images of living beings to depict God. We read:
“You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them” (Ex. 20:4-5).
However, when in 381AD this changed, deliberately to refute monotheism, as Gregory said, we now had Jesus depicted as God, and lots of icons around which means the decision in 381 AD now implied that the church had sinfully been depicting God as a man. What about that?
This incongruity was faced during the Reformation. Rather than reconsider the modern trinity doctrine, the divines at Westminster said that Exodus 20:4-5 means we must stop making pictures of Jesus. Specifically, the Westminster Larger Catechism (Q. 109) includes the following among the things forbidden in the second commandment: “the making any representation of God, of all or of any of the three persons, either inwardly in our mind, or outwardly in any kind of image or likeness of any creature whatsoever.” (David VanDrunen, "Celebrating Christ's Birthday -- Without His Picture," Dec. 2006.)
Even so, we have never stopped making many pictures of Jesus. Why? Probably because we are reading the Scripture, and we do really understand Jesus in John 14 says He is INDWELLED by God, not that He Himself is God. A big difference!
Thus, if you are not convinced I am correct, then you better get rid of all those pictures, because you are committing idolatry in that way if what you believe about Jesus is true.
The correct solution is to follow Jesus's teachings about Himself, and no church doctrine.
Quotes Questioning Whether Proper to Make Jesus God Distinct from Father
Hooker (1593): 'Our belief in the Trinity, the co-eternity of the Son of God with his Father, the proceeding of the Spirit from the Father and the Son, these with such other principal points are in Scripture nowhere to be found by express literal mention; only deduced they are out of Scripture by collection.' Hooker, Richard, Ecclesiastical Polity, Bk. i, para 14.
John Milton (1608-1674): 'For my part I adhere to the Holy Scriptures alone, I follow no other heresy or sect. If, therefore, the Father be the God of Christ, and the same be our God, and if there be none other God but one, there can be no God beside the Father.' Quoted in Hugh Stannus, History of the Origin of the Doctrine of the Triinity (1899) at 29.
Dr. Neander (1850): 'The Doctrine of the Trinity does not, it appears to me, belong strictly to the fundamentals of the Christian faith; as it appears from the fact that it is explicitly set forth in no one particular passage of the New Testament; for the only one in which this is done, the passage relating to the three that bear record (1 John 5) is undoubtedly spurious, and in its ungenuine shape testifies to the fact, how foreign such a collection is from the style of the New Testament writings. We find in the New Testament no other fundamental article besides that of which the apostle Paul says that other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, the preaching of Jesus Christ as the Messiah; and the foundation of His religion is designated by Christ himself as the faith in the only true God and in Jesus Christ whom He hath sent'. Neander, History of Christian Religion, vol. ii, p286
More Study Notes
Hippolytus was the first to distinguish the Logos from the Father, as a distinct being. “Hippolytus championed the Logos doctrine of the Greek Apologists, which distinguished the Father from the Logos (‘Word’).” “Hippolytus of Rome,” Wikipedia (2011)
But Apostle John had said the one God sent Himself as the Word (“the Word/Logos was God”) to “become flesh” (John 1:14). Jesus made it very clear not to confuse Himself with the Logos. Jesus said: “the Logos is not of myself...the Logos (Word) is not mine, but the Father’s who sent me.” John 14:10, 24. Jesus said it was the “Father who dwells in me.” John 14:10. Hence, the Father and the Word are identical! It is the Shekinah glory/presence of God that came into Jesus at His baptism. This is why Jesus is properly regarded as Divine.
However, Hippolytus introduced the heretical view that the Word (God) could be non-identical to the Father (God) dwelling in Jesus. That makes Hippolytus a major cause of departure from monotheism in his failure to understand correctly the source of the divinity of Jesus: the Father dwelling in Jesus as Jesus Himself said and as Apostle John meant by saying the “Word became flesh.” (John 1:14; 14:10,24.)
Isaiah 48:6 - Yahweh Has Sent Me With His Spirit
Isaiah 48:6 (NIV) says:
"Come near me and listen to this: "From the first announcement I have not spoken in secret; at the time it happens, I am there." And now the Sovereign LORD [Yahweh] has sent me, with his Spirit."
Origen from the 200 AD period interprets this passage to apply to Jesus while others claim it speaks solely of Isaiah himself or of Cyrus. (If the latter, the Bible contains dual prophecies of Cyrus and Jesus where the words apply to both identically.) Origen writes ( quoted in Clarke's commentary):
"Who is it that saith in Isaiah, And now the Lord hath sent me and his Spirit? in which, as the expression is ambiguous, is it the Father and the Holy Spirit who have sent Jesus; or the Father, who hath sent both Christ and the Holy Spirit. The latter is the true interpretation." - Origen cont. Cels. lib. 1.
What appears the correct reading is God / Yahweh sent "me" (Messiah) "with His spirit," i.e., by giving the Spirit to Yahshua, God was sending forth Yashua / Jesus.
Some Theodosian-trinitarians cited Isaiah 48:6 as support for their views. (Stannus: 32.) But it stands against their view. Because clearly Isaiah disconnects Yahweh from "me" and connects only via the Spirit that was sent upon "me" Messiah. If Yahweh is identical to "me" then this is an incongruous way for Yahweh to speak about Himself.
Stannus On Lack of Proof Texts of Theodosian-Trinity
Stannus in 1899 wrote:
We are not aware of any texts, except the above, which have been used as Bible proofs of the Trinity. Again we challenge anyone to find us one passage in the whole compass of the Bible where the doctrine of three persons in one God is stated or even hinted at. It is only "by inference" says one, "by collection" says another, "by the authority of the Church," says another, that we derive the doctrine of the Trinity. (Stannus, supra, at 35.)
Fore more quotes see, John Wilson, Concessions of Trinitarians (1845).
John 8:40 - Jesus Says He Is A Man in Communication with God
But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham. John 8:40 KJV
"As it is, you are looking for a way to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things." (John 8:40 NIV)
Son of God Terminology
Adam is called “Son of God”: Luke 3 :38 (KJV)…Adam, who was son of God.
The Israelites are called “Sons of God”: Deuteronomy 14 :1 (YLT) "Sons ye [are] to Jehovah your God; ye do not cut yourselves, nor make baldness between your eyes for the dead;"
The simple fact that Jesus / Yahshua / Yeshua is called “the Savior” and that in the Bible, God is also called “the Savior of Israel” (Isaiah 60:16), is presented as an evidence that Jesus is God. But in Judges, men who were anointed by the Lord Yahweh to save Israel are also called “saviors.” Read for instance Judges 3:9 where the Hebrew term “moshi'a”=savior is applied to Otniel. The truth is Yahweh is Lord & Savior, and he appoints men – Yahshua, the Judges etc. - who are (also) called saviors.
Buzzard's Claim The Current Trinity of the Church Represents Idolatry
Anthony Buzzard, a Unitarian Minister, wrote an excellent critique of modern Trinity doctrine. His work The Doctrine of the Trinity (1998) -- available from Amazon at this link -- is an excellent resource for Unitarian explanations of various passages used to defend the modern Trinity doctrine. In this work, Buzzard claims the current Trinity doctrine represents idolatry -- a violation of the First Commandment of the Ten with these words:
When Christianity adopted a godhead of more than one person, it unwittingly flirted with idolatry. It embarked on a course of lawlessness by embracing "another God" beside the only true God, the Father. Christianity thus broke the first commandment, and has continued on the same troubled path, unaware of the source of its intractable problems. Id., at 308-309.
[At one point] Christianity began to worship as God one who was created. The faith thus fell into idolatry. Id., at page 312.
More Study Notes
Gregory of Nyssa, The Great Catechism -- online in a series of html pages.
Gregory of Nyssa lived from 330-395 AD.
Schaff, Gregory of Nyssa - Dogmatic Treatises -- online ebook available for $2.51 from books.google.com