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Chapter 11. Further Reflections on Trinitarianism

Chapter 11

Further Reflections on Trinitarianism

 

My earlier book, The Only True God, dealt with the subject of biblical monotheism, and for the most part in contradistinct­ion to trinitar­ian­ism. Much of what I have to say about trinita­rian­ism has already been covered in that book and in the earlier chapters of the present book, not­ably those on the four pillars of trinitarianism. In this chapter, I re­flect on a few more things about trinitarian teaching.

How long did it take for the church to move from true monotheism to pagan polytheism?

Scholars speak of the “parting of the ways” between the church and Juda­ism as being around A.D.135, that is, around the time of Bar Kochba’s failed revolt against Roman rule, a tragic uprising that had received the blessing of the famous rabbi Akiba. But this “part­ing of the ways” is basi­cally a historically conven­ient way of referring to the separa­tion of the church from Juda­ism, the tragic result of which was that the church would soon lose its con­nection to its Jewish roots, notably the Jewish commit­ment to mono­theism.

But well before that separation, pagan polytheism had already begun to influence the message of the gospel almost as soon as the gospel had landed on pagan soil. Early signs of this process are seen in the book of Acts. In the early stages of their gospel ministry, Paul and Barnabas were adhering to the principle of “to the Jews first”. But when the Jews rejected their message, they declared to them that from then on, they will pro­claim the gospel to the Gentiles (13:46). Yet in 14:1 we find them preach­ing to the Jews again, this time in a synagogue in Iconium. Their preach­ing elicited such hostility from both Jews and Gentiles that Paul and Barnabas had to flee to Lystra (14:5-6). There in Lystra, Paul healed a man who had been lame from birth (v.10). The healing drew the attention of the people but not of the kind that Paul wel­comed, for the people were soon rushing out to worship Barna­bas as Zeus and Paul as Hermes (v.12).

Zeus is no minor god. The Greeks revered him as the father of gods where­as Hermes was believed to have healing powers. [1] Barnabas was evi­dently the older looking of the two and probably wore a full beard that made him look like the Zeus portrayed on coins and statues. Hermes, on the other hand, was usually pictured as beard­less, and this evid­ently matched Paul’s appear­ance. Even the priest of the tem­ple of Zeus believed that Barnabas was Zeus, and came out to offer him a sacrifice (v.13)!

The point is this: The Gentiles of the city of Lystra, located in modern-day south­ern Turkey, were more than willing to dei­fy Barna­bas and Paul, and to worship them as gods. We can now see why Gentiles would later in history so readily deify Jesus and believe in him as God. The events in Lystra took place even before the council of the apostles (Acts 15) held in Jeru­salem around the year 60, some 30 years after Jesus’ earthly ministry. It there­fore comes as no surprise that by the end of the second century, the leaders of the western church were already proclaiming Jesus as God.[2]

The official deification of Jesus did not come until the fourth century, probably because for a long time the Jews were still a consi­der­able force in the churches of the major cities such as Rome, and were still a strong voice for mono­theism. They were a declining maj­or­ity and later minority in the churches, yet they could not be ignored. By the end of the third or the start of the fourth cen­tury, the Jews were no longer a voice for mono­theism in the western churches, hence the bold assertions of Christian pagan polytheism as repre­sented in the Nicene creed of 325 and the Niceno-Constantinopo­litan creed of 381. While holding to a token and nominal monotheism, these creeds were in reality pro­mulgating a dis­tortion of Biblical monotheism.

Anachronistic use of “God the Son”

It was not until the Council of Nicaea of 325 that Jesus was officially de­clared to be coequal with God the Father. Hence it was only after Nicaea that Jesus could be spoken formally as “God the Son,” a rever­sal of the bibli­cal “Son of God”. Therefore applying the term “God the Son” to any period before Nicaea would be anachronistic. Further­more, it was not until half a century later, in 381, that the Holy Spirit was declared to be coequal with the Father and the Son by the bishops at the First Council of Constant­inople sum­moned by another Roman emper­or, Theodosius I, who in addition de­creed that trinita­rian Christianity be the sole religion of the Roman Empire. Since trinitarianism was not formally and officially established until 381, applying the term “trinity” to the New Testament is likewise anachronistic.

What does this mean for our study of the New Testament Jesus? Any attempt to do a comparative study of the biblical Christ vis-à-vis the trinitar­ian Christ who wasn’t even heard of in the time of the New Testament, having come into official exist­ence some 300 years later, would be an absurd exercise in anachronism. What is the basis for com­paring the Christ of the NT with the deified Christ of the western Hellen­istic church some 300 years later? How can a Christ who was fabricated centuries after the NT be legit­imately compared with the wonderful and unique Christ revealed in the NT?

What we did as trinitarians, including myself for many de­cades, was to search for some legitimation or justification for the trin­itarian Christ of a later century, in the New Testa­ment. But the New Testament “evidence” that we pressed into service for supporting the much later trinitarian model of Christ proved to be so meager and exegetically untenable that I now feel con­science-bound to declare publicly that the trinitarian Christ is biblically false. Trinitarians constantly harp on the same few proof texts such as John 1:1-18, Philip­pians 2:6-11, and what little else in the New Testa­ment they can fall back on.

It is time that we recognize, though this may be hard for those of us who have zealously promoted trinitarian­ism for much of our lives, that trinitar­ian doctrine is sim­ply false and, even worse, has concealed the glory of the biblical Christ in such a way that it could put our salvation at risk.

Another injurious effect of trinitarian dogma is that it has side­lined, marginalized, and practically eliminated the one true God of the Bible to the extent that most Christians don’t know who Yahweh is. By con­trast, when a Jew speaks of God as Adonai, he is aware that he is refer­ring to YHWH. He may be unsure of the exact pronunciat­ion of YHWH but he knows that the four letters of the Tetragram­maton repres­ent the name of the one true God. But the Christian has no idea of who the Father is, for in trini­tarianism, God the Father is not the one and only God, but is one of three persons in the God­head, and therefore has a vague and largely unknown identity.

Why a triplicate God?

What sense does it make to have God in triplicate? The God revealed in the Bible is omniscient, omni­present, omnipo­tent, and eternal. Then trinit­ar­ians came along and declared that there are three such persons. No, they declared two, then three. This took place early in church his­tory because of the poly­theistic influence of the Greeks and Romans who wor­shipped many gods. By their poly­theistic stand­ards, Jesus is emi­nent­ly qual­ified to be a god. So in Nicaea in 325, they officially deified him. Up to that point in time, the church as a whole had managed with having one divine person—God—but now they had two. A few decades later, they realized that they had omitted “God the Spirit,” so at Con­stant­inople they included the Spirit as a third divine person. Notice that it was a decision made by a coun­cil! So we are talking about man-made gods who are not gods in Scripture.

What is the point of deifying the one called “the man Christ Jesus” (1Tim.2:5)? If God is omnipo­tent, omni­scient, omnipresent, and eternal, what difference does it make to have two such per­sons, much less three? If one is omnipo­tent, God is already om­nipotent. If one is omniscient, the other two won’t know any­thing beyond what the first al­ready knows. If one is omnipresent, the other two cannot be at a place where the first is not. As for omni­potence, what differ­ence does it make to have one or two or three? Mul­tiplying om­nipo­tence by three equals omnipo­tence; multiplying infinity by three equals infinity.

That the church had managed without an official second or third person until the 4th century raises a few quest­ions. If the church had been managing without the two additional persons, why were they added in the first place? And if the church could add a person to the Godhead as it wishes by decree, what in principle would pre­vent an­other from being added in the future? The one who comes to mind is the Virgin Mary who in Catho­licism is worshipped by many and is known as the Mediatrix just as Christ is the Mediator. [3] With the rising status of women in modern society, the clam­or­ing for the inclus­ion of a woman in the Godhead might not be far­fetched.

The theological basis for adding a female divine person might be found in James D.G. Dunn’s comment (NIGTC, Col.1:16) that Sophia (wisdom) is a principle equivalent to Logos (word) insofar as they are the means by which the universe came into being (cf. Proverbs 8 and Philo’s De Cherubim). If the Logos could be deified, and indeed has been deified, why not Sophia? Could she not also be of the substance of God? If trinit­arians see no problems with having two gods and later three gods called persons, why should there be a pro­blem with having a fourth? In any case, many Catholics already worship Mary. Already since ancient times, churches have been built for her. If she is de facto an object of worship, the next “logical” step would be to deify her, which is in fact what many Catholics have done even if official Cath­olic doc­trine has not gone that far. Thus trinitarianism moves inexo­rably from one error to another. It has elimin­ated the one true God, Yahweh, and replaced Him in stages by other gods who are called “persons”.

The trinitarian brand of “monotheism” has one God in triplicate. But if the one and the three are coequal, there would be no real difference be­tween them except in name and funct­ion. To have one is to have all. Giving a different name to each person changes nothing in reality. What advan­tage do trinitarians have with their three gods, or three who are each fully God, over the one true God of the Bible? None whatsoever! Worse, they have mis­represented the glorious God as revealed in the Scriptures. What they teach is a lie about the living God, the creator of all things, and they will have to answer for it on the day of judgment.

But the situation is even more dire for man­kind’s salva­tion. Trinitarian­ism has three persons in one God who are coequal, coeter­nal, and im­mortal. How then can “God the Son” die for our sins if he is immortal? In trinitar­ian dogma, God the Son took on Jesus’ human body by incarn­ation, yet in the teaching that pre­vailed at early trinitar­ian coun­cils, the human spirit of Jesus was effectively that of God the Son (even if it is said to be “human”), supposedly resulting in one who is true God and true man. But a true man cannot simply be a human body without a true and independent human spi­rit. The trin­ita­rian reason for rejecting an independent human spirit in Jesus is that if it existed, there would be two persons in Jesus, a notion that even trini­tarians agree would be un­tenable. (It is also an admission that Jesus’ body alone or his human na­ture alone does not make a person, otherwise the two natures would mean two persons in Christ.) Hence trinitar­ianism does not allow the human part of Jesus to have a true human spirit. But a human body without a true human spirit can­not atone for our sins. Adam and Eve’s sin was not com­mitted prim­arily by the body but by the heart and mind.

Since the trinitarian Jesus is not a true man but is “God the Son” who, being God, is immortal, how could he die for man’s sins? Thus trinita­rian­ism leaves man without salvation, without the forgiveness of sin, without the hope of eternal life. This is the wretched truth about trinita­rianism. The is­sue that confronts us is not just a debate over doctrine but a matter of eternal life and eternal death.

If there is any trinity in the New Testament, it would be the unholy trin­ity of the dragon (Satan), the beast, and the false prophet (Rev.16:13; 20:10). Coming out of the mouths of the un­holy trinity are three unclean spirits (Rev.16:13) who form their own unholy trinity; these spirits are des­cribed as “demonic spirits” who have the pow­er to perform im­press­ive signs. Their power is so great that they are able to convince the world leaders to fight the Almighty God at Armaged­don (16:14,16). United in force and pur­pose, they wage war against the one true God Yahweh. The fact that the only trinity in the Bible is the unholy trinity, reveals the depth and scale of the trinitarian deception.

Trinitarians constantly search for any scrap of evidence for the deity of Christ, yet all they really need is one or preferably two incon­trovertible and unam­biguous statements from the Bible such as “Jesus Christ is God from ever­lasting to ever­lasting” or “Jesus is the only true God” or “Jesus is the eternal God of Israel” or “Jesus is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” or “Christ Jesus is Yahweh God” or “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the second divine person of the triune God­head,” and that would have set­tled the matter. But the solid fact is that there are no such state­ments about Jesus, yet there are hundreds and hun­dreds of such state­ments about Yahweh God (except, of course, the last statement about the triune Godhead). Why don’t we see this fact? If facts don’t matter, then something else must be motivat­ing trini­tarian doctrine. What is it that causes us to reject the plain teaching of Scripture? Perhaps it is spirit­ual blindness, or a blind loyalty to a tradition which we have been taught and which we uphold even at the cost of nullify­ing God’s word (cf. Mt.15:3,6; Mk.7:9,13).

Trinitarian errors in regard to the Holy Spirit

From what Father John L. McKenzie, a trinitarian, admits about trinitar­ian­ism—namely, that the trinitarian terms used of God are Greek philoso­phical terms rather than biblical terms, and that terms such as “essence” and “sub­stance” were “erron­eously” applied to God by the early theo­logians—it is clear that the God of trinitarianism is not the God of the Bible. When trinit­a­rians speak of God, they are not talking about the one true God of the Bible but a trinity of three coequal persons whose exist­ence cannot be found in the Old or New Testament except by twisting a few Scripture verses.

In trinitarianism, God the Father is the first person of the Trinity whereas in the Bible, He is the one and only God whose name is Yahweh (ren­dered Lord in most Bibles). The only person in the Trinity who has a name is the second person, Jesus Christ, also called “God the Son” (an inver­sion of the biblical “Son of God”). The name “Jesus” in Hebrew means “Yahweh saves” or “Yahweh is salvation,” yet the biblical Yahweh has no place in trinitarian­ism! Who is Yah­weh? Some have gone so far as to say that Jesus is Yahweh. But this would mean that Jesus is God to the exclusion of the Father, for there is no God besides Yahweh: “I am Yahweh, and there is no other, be­sides me there is no God” (Isa.45:5).

The trinitarian distortion of words extends to the word “spirit”. In trin­itarianism, the Holy Spirit is the third person. But since “God is spirit” (John 4:24), where is the necessity of positing a third person called “God the Spirit” (yet another title not found in Scripture)? Paul doesn’t think of the Spirit of God as a separ­ate divine person but as the very spirit of God Himself:

For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one compre­hends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. (1Cor.2:11, ESV)

Paul is saying that “the Spirit of God” relates to the person of God in the same way that the hu­man spirit relates to the human person. For this verse, most Bibles (ESV, NASB, NIV, NJB, HCSB) capitalize “Spirit” in “Spirit of God,” in­dicating that they take this as a reference to the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity. If this is the case, then, according to Paul, God’s thoughts would be hidden from the other two persons in the Trinity—God the Father and God the Son—for Paul specifically says that no one knows God’s thoughts except the Spirit of God! But the problem disap­pears once we understand that the Holy Spirit is the very spirit of God, just as the human spirit is the very spirit of a human being.

We need to be aware that the Bible uses the word “spirit” in several related senses. But when por­trayed in personal terms, the Holy Spirit is not a third per­son distinct from God the Father, but is the Spirit of the Father, as seen in the following para­llel which is highlighted in boldface:

… do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say what­ever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. (Mk.13:11, ESV)

… do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. (Mt.10:19-20, ESV)

This vital connection between the Father and the Spirit is also brought out in an important verse, John 15:26, in which Jesus speaks of “the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father” (or “goes out from the Father,” NIV). In the Greek, “pro­ceeds” is in the present continuous tense, a nuance that is captured in the Complete Jewish Bible (“the Spirit of Truth, who keeps going out from the Father”). Hence the Father is the constant source of the Spirit much like a fount­ain is a con­stant source of water (cf. Jn.7:38-39, a passage which speaks of the Spirit as “rivers of living water”). It means that the Spirit has no indepen­dent existence apart from the Father who is con­stantly send­ing forth the Spirit. Jesus doesn’t say that the Spirit goes out from “God” but from “the Father”. Hence there is no biblical basis for the trin­itarian assert­ion that “God the Spirit” is ontologically a separate person from God the Father.

The Old Testament often depicts the Spirit as God’s power in action, e.g., Zech.4:6 (“not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, says Yahweh of hosts”) and Micah 3:8 (“I am filled with power, with the Spirit of Yahweh”). This fact is known to many trinitarian scholars.[4] The New Testament often portrays the Holy Spirit in terms of God’s power.[5] Jesus himself functioned “in the power of the Spirit” (Lk.4:14).

The trinitarian Jesus is “another Jesus”

Trinitarianism distorts biblical terms (e.g., by inverting the biblical “Son of God” into the unbiblical “God the Son”) and borrows terms from philoso­phy and theo­sophy (e.g., homo­ousios, a term from Gnostic­ism). It is not sur­prising, therefore, that trini­tarian teach­ing is of a different spirit from Biblical teach­ing, and that the trinitarian Jesus is of a differ­ent spirit from the New Testament Jesus.

Having a “different spirit” is something that the Bible attaches great im­portance to, and it can be a good thing or a bad thing. It is a good thing if the different spirit is different from the ways of the world, and a bad thing if different from the ways of God. In the positive sense of the term, Yahweh says, “But my servant Caleb… has a different spirit and has followed me fully” (Num.14:24). In the negative sense, Paul speaks of a “different spirit” in connection with “a different gospel” and “another Jesus”:

For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we pro­claimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you re­ceived, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough. (2Cor.11:4, ESV)

Why were the Corinthians so susceptible to accepting “another Jesus” that they would put up with the deception so “readily”? Here the Greek for “another” means “different in kind” (BDAG, allos).

We see an even worse situation in the Galatian church—worse be­cause what was dangerously imminent among the Corin­thians had already become a reality among the Galatians (Gal.1:6-9). They were desert­ing God and turn­ing to a differ­ent gospel: “I am aston­ished that you are so quickly desert­ing him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turn­ing to a diff­erent gospel” (v.6). Evidently this hadn’t yet hap­pened in Corinth but only in Galatia, hence the triple if in 2 Corinthians 11:4. But Paul foresaw that if and when a differ­ent Christ is preached among the Corin­thians, they would accept him as readily as had the Galatians. It is something that could happen to any church over time. Paul’s con­cern over this is expressed in the word “afraid” in verse 3:

2 Corinthians 11:2-3 2 For I feel a divine jealousy for you, since I betrothed you to one husband, to present you as a pure virgin to Christ. 3 But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.” (ESV)

Paul sees the Corinthians as a church betrothed to Christ that is on the brink of turning away from him. It is a warning that applies not only to the church in Corinth but to the universal church of God, for it too is betrothed to Christ. The church in Corinth, like the seven churches in Revelation, is a repres­ent­ative church in the Bible. In Paul’s analogy, Eve is parallel to the church, the bride of Christ, and Adam is parallel to Jesus, whom Paul calls the last Adam a few chapters later (1Cor.15:45).

Paul’s dire statement about the church in Corinth was event­ually ful­filled in Christendom as a whole. As might be foreseen in the statement, “you put up with it easily,” the serpent’s deception event­ually became a real­ity among the Gentile believers in Christendom. Paul’s fear that what had hap­pened to Eve might also happen to the church at large was prophetic. The final out­come was ines­capa­ble given that the Corinthians were so inclined to put up with a differ­ent Christ, a different spirit, and a diff­erent gospel. If that was already true in Paul’s time, how much more so a century later when Gentile believers be­gan to out­number Jewish believers (the true monothe­ists), reducing them to a small minor­ity?

Why did the Corinthians and the Galatians so readily accept a different Christ, a different gospel, and a different spirit (that is, different from the Spirit of Yahweh) from those Paul had preached to them? Was it not because they, like Eve, had allowed themselves to be deceived by the cun­ning of “the serpent” (Satan) and to be led “astray” (v.3)?

Something must have convinced them that the dif­f­erent Jesus was better than the one Paul had preached to them. Given the pagan back­ground of most Gentile believers (who, in Paul’s time, were a sizable min­ority in the churches outside Palest­ine, e.g., Corinth in Greece and Galatia in Asia), this could prove to be easier than expected. As for the Galatians, Paul was “as­ton­ished” at how quickly they were deserting God who had called them, and were turning to another gospel—a gospel that, like the different Jesus, is different in essence. Paul saw that the Galatians had apos­tatized and that the Corinthians were going the same way. Apostasy is princi­pally a sign of the last days, yet it was a reality as early as 30 years after Jesus’ earthly life (cf. Hebrews 6:4-6; 10:26-31).

Many equate the act of deserting God with abandoning the Christ­ian faith to become an atheist or agnostic, but that is not what we see here. In Galatians 1:6, “deserting him who called you” is defined as “turning to a dif­ferent gos­pel” and accepting “another Jesus” (2Cor.11:4). It shows that those who desert God would usually remain religious and not be­come atheists.

We don’t know the specifics of this different Jesus apart from his being the central figure of a different gospel. Since the Galatians had turned to this other Jesus, they would have some idea of what he was. The same could be said of the Corinthians who found this differ­ent Jesus more appealing than the one Paul had preached to them. In the case of the Corinthians, we can, from hindsight and from looking back at church history, surmise that this different Jesus, in contrast to the biblical Jesus, was probably a divine being because the divin­ity of persons was something that appealed strongly to the Gentile mind­set. If the Roman em­perors could be worshipped as gods, why not Jesus? In fact, with­in a hun­dred years after Paul, a divine Jesus was being boldly preached in the Gentile world.

Putting one’s faith in a different Jesus means a change of alleg­iance, com­mitment, and loyalty. Paul was aston­ished that the Gala­tians were “desert­ing” God who had called them in the grace of Christ (Gal.1:6). The Greek word for “desert­ing,” metatithēmi, is defined by BDAG as “to have a change of mind in allegiance, change one’s mind, turn away, desert”.

Paul feared that just as Eve was deceived by Satan, so the church will be led away from a pure and sincere devotion to Christ. To grasp the deception, we need to see its content. What is the nature of the decept­ion of Eve by Satan the “serpent”? To answer this question, we look at the Genesis account of the tempt­ation. Here is Yahweh’s command to Adam:

And Yahweh God commanded the man, saying, “You are free to eat of every tree in the garden, but of the tree of the know­ledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:16-17)

In the next chapter is Eve’s recounting of what God had said about the fruit of the tree, and the serpent’s reply to her:

And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.” (Genesis 3:2-4, ESV)

Satan flatly contradicted God’s declaration “you will surely die” with the counter-declaration “you will not surely die,” for­cing Eve to choose between two conflicting statements, and between belie­ving God and be­lieving Satan. In the end she chose to believe Satan!

More than that, in choosing to believe Satan, Eve was implying that God was withholding something good from her that Satan wanted her to have. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen.3:5). The serpent switched between the physical and the spiritual, knowing that Adam and Eve will not die physically, at least not right away.

What was Satan’s bait? “You will be like God”. But weren’t Adam and Eve already created in God’s image? Yes, but Eve wanted to “grasp” for some­thing greater: equality with God. By contrast, it is said of Jesus in Philippians 2:6 that he did not consider equality with God a thing to be “grasped,” an action word that might des­cribe the plucking of fruit from a tree. Equality with God is much more than having the “form of God” (Jesus) or being created in the “image of God” (Adam). Adam and Eve wanted to gain the knowledge (“the tree of the know­ledge of good and evil”) that would make them “like God” at a deeper level. Hence the fundamental allure of the temp­t­ation is the deifi­cation of man, and this gives us some idea of the nature of “another Jesus”.

Adam, unlike Eve, was not deceived (1Tim.2:14). What could this mean but that Adam deliberately grasped for equality with God? In con­trast to this rebellious act is Christ’s attitude des­cribed in Phil.2:6 (“did not regard equal­ity with God a thing to be grasped”), which means that Philip­pians 2 can­not be understood in isolation from the events in Genesis 2 and 3. But whether deceived or not, Adam and Eve had taken a signi­ficant step to­wards deifying them­selves by dis­obedience. God Himself says that they had indeed acquired the knowledge of good and evil (Gen.3:22).

Barabbas at the trial of Jesus

When Paul told the Galatians that they were deserting God, he didn’t mean that they had stopped believing in God to become atheists or agnos­tics, but that they were follow­ing a different Jesus and believing a different gos­pel. In the case of the Corinthians, this gospel was preached by “false apos­tles” who were not appointed by God (2Cor.11:13). Apostasy is seldom the outright rejection of religion and belief, but is often a reject­ion of the biblical Jesus.

Something of a similar nature took place at Jesus’ trial at which the Roman gov­ernor Pontius Pilate did not find Jesus guilty of any indictable off­ence, much less an offence worthy of crucifixion. Barabbas, a violent crim­inal, was also at the trial (Mt.27:16). The crowds, stirred up by the rel­ig­ious lead­ers, demanded that Jesus be crucified even if it meant the re­lease of Barabbas.

It is note­worthy that Barabbas is called “Jesus Barabbas” ac­cord­ing to an an­cient textual trad­ition of Mt.27:16,17, as noted in ISBE.[6] Attribut­ing the words “Jesus Bar­abbas” to scribal or copying error is unconvincing. It is more likely that the word “Jesus” was struck out.

The textual evidence for “Jesus Barabbas” in Mt.27:16 is strong en­ough for the name to be included in a few modern Bibles such as NRSV (“Jesus Barabbas”), NET (“Jesus Barab­bas”), Complete Jewish Bible (“Yeshua Bar-Abba”), and NIV 2011 (“Jesus Barabbas,” but not NIV 1984).

When Jesus was put on trial before Pontius Pilate, the Jews had cho­sen “another Jesus” though for reasons different from those for the Gentile choice of another Jesus. It seems that everyone, Jew or Gentile, wants a Jesus other than the one Yahweh God has provided. The reject­ion of Jesus in favor of Barabbas is recorded in all four gospels, indi­cating its spirit­ual import­ance, and is condemned by Peter (Acts 3:14).

But the comparison doesn’t stop there. “Barabbas” comes from Aramaic “Bar-abba” which means “son of the father”. Irrespective of who the “father” may be in the case of “Barab­bas” (the aforementioned ISBE article suggests “master or teach­er”), the parallel between “son of the father” and Jesus “Son of God” is unmistakable. Is this pure coincidence? There are no coinci­dences in God’s word. Through Jesus’ trial at which the Jews chose another “son of the father” over the one divinely ap­pointed, Yahweh God had fore­told that the church will one day choose a different Jesus from the one He had chosen to be His Christ, the Savior-King of the world.

Antichrists in John’s letters; the Gnosticism factor

It is not only in Paul’s letters that we see references to enem­ies of the church who operate within the church such as those who teach another Jesus or a diff­erent gospel. John too had to confront a different Christ who functioned as “anti­christ,” a term that also includes those who pro­claim the antichrist and his differ­ent gos­pel (all verses from ESV):

1 John 2:18 Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that anti­christ is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour.

1 John 2:22 Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son.

1 John 4:2-3 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that con­fesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the anti­christ, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.

2 John 1:7 For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.

A generation ago, some scholars believed that these “deceivers” came from the ranks of Jewish and non-Jewish Gnostics who were active before, during, and after the time of the apostolic church. Gnosti­cism—which is theosophi­cal speculat­ion driven by Greek philo­so­phy, and teaches a gospel based on secret “knowledge” (gnōsis)—attracted a large following and be­came a threat to the church.

The so-called “super apostles” at Corinth (2Cor.11:5; 12:11) were chal­lenging the authority of the apostle Paul, and gained the support of many. The German scholar Walter Schmithals wrote, “There can be hardly any doubt that the Gnos­tic oppo­nents and the ‘superlative apostles’ are ident­i­cal” (The Office of Apostle in the Early Church, p.178). But scholars today are less confident about the exact nature of Gnosticism dur­ing the time of the apos­tolic church.

Many commentators say that those who deny that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh (1Jn.4:2-3) are the “docetists,” that is, those who teach that Jesus only had the appearance of being a hu­man but was not human. But the word “docetist” is just a descriptive term that does not name or identify any specific group. Who exactly were these alleged “docetists” in John’s day? The Gnos­tics? Who was John describing with such strong words as “deceivers” and “anti­christ”?

But did the Jesus of trinitarian dogma really “come in the flesh”? In other words, is he a true human being? How can he be a true man if he is “God the Son” who is coequal with God the Father? How can a preexist­ent Christ be a true human being? That is possible only by reincarn­a­tion. The only fun­da­mental diff­erence between preexistence in reincarnat­ion and pre­existence in trinita­rianism is that of hope and pur­pose: In the case of rein­carna­tion, one hopes to go from low­er to higher in the ladder of existence; in the case of trinita­rianism, the purpose is to go from higher to lower in order to be a servant.

Gnosticism’s later connection with trinitarian­ism lies not only in the fact that the originally Gnostic term homoousios (one in sub­stance) had become the pivotal word of Nicaea over the object­ions of some bishops, but also in the Gnostic denial that Christ is a true human being who had come “in the flesh”. Gnosti­cism, like what is called docet­ism, teaches that Jesus’ body had the illusion of being flesh, but was not flesh. For this reason, Gnosticism had little use for the teach­ing of the cross.

But Paul says, “We preach Christ crucified, a stum­bling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles” (1Cor.1:23), indi­cating that those who preach a “diff­erent gospel” do not preach the message of the cross, in contrast to Paul’s empha­tic teaching on the cross: “God forbid that I should glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal.6:14).

Gnosticism’s appeal in the early church lies in the fact that although its teaching is fundamentally in conflict with New Testament teaching, it uses terms which come directly from the voca­bulary of the New Testament: knowledge (gnōsis, 1Cor.8:1,7), wis­dom (sophia, 1Cor.2:7), fullness (plērō­ma, Eph.1:23), philosophy (phil­o­sophia, Col.2:8, a verse that ac­cord­ing to ISBE article Philo­sophy indicates “the first begin­nings of Gnosticism in the Christ­ian church”; cf. 1Tim.1:4).

The infamous name of Simon Magus is historically asso­ciated with Gnosticism. A Bible encyclopedia says, “The name of Simon Magus occurs frequently in the early history of ‘Christian’ Gnosticism, and there has been much de­bate as to whether the Simoniani, a sect that lasted well into the 3rd century, had its origins in the magic­ian of Acts 8.” [7] Simon Magus, who associated himself with the apostolic church and even got baptized in it, was a miracle worker or “magic­ian” who is mentioned in early extra-biblical documents. His prom­i­nence in his day can be seen in the book of Acts:

9 Now there was a man named Simon, who form­erly was practicing magic in the city and astonishing the people of Samaria, claiming to be someone great; 10 and they all, from smallest to great­est, were giving attention to him, saying, “This man is what is called the Great Power of God.” 11 And they were giving him attention be­cause he had for a long time astonished them with his magic arts. 12 But when they believed Philip preach­ing the good news about the king­dom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being bap­tized, men and women alike. 13 Even Simon himself believed; and af­ter being baptized, he con­tinued on with Philip, and as he ob­served signs and great miracles taking place, he was con­stantly amazed. (Acts 8:9-13, NASB)

Here Simon is called the “Power of God” (v.10) which in Luke 22:69 is a metonym of God. This is probably because of the signs and wonders that Simon performed through “magic” (v.9) and “magic arts” (v.11), by which he was regarded as a manifest­ation of God. This shows how easily a human being can be deified or seen as an epiphany of a god.

The trinitarian Jesus is different from the biblical Jesus

Nicaea, the crowning triumph of Gentile polytheism, was a radi­cal departure from the spirit and character of the New Testament, and cul­minated in the deification of Christ. In stark contrast, the Jesus of the New Testament does not seek equality with God. But the Gentiles, in defiance of the mind of Christ, trium­phantly declared him to be coequal with God. It was a direct defiance of the spirit of the biblical Jesus, who at no time ever claimed equal­ity with his Father, but said to the contrary that “the Father is greater than I” (Jn.14:28). This is a state­ment that I, in my trini­tarian days, was anxious to explain away despite several other NT passages that ex­press the same truth. But because the Gentile Christ­ians were so keen to make Jesus the central object of worship, they were driven in their idolatrous zeal to exalt “the man Christ Jesus” (1Tim.2:5) to the level of deity.

Jesus even rejected for himself any attribution of good: “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” (Mk.10:18; Lk.18:19; cf. Mt. 19:17). Jesus bluntly told the rich young ruler that “good” is an attribut­e that belongs only to God, and can be used of others only in a derivative and non-absolute sense. From this we see that Jesus would not accept an attrib­ute that rightly belongs to God alone (“No one is good except God alone”).

Trinitarians cannot and do not deny that Jesus is a man, so what is their pro­blem? Their problem is that they want to say that Jesus is “not just” a man but is “God the Son,” the second person of the God­head who became incar­nate in Jesus. That is because in trinita­rianism, the real person funct­ioning in Jesus is “God the Son” (the reversal of “Son of God”) whereas the man Jesus is just the human nature that was attached to God the Son by in­carnation. This is one of the reasons why, as trinitarians, we didn’t really care much about Jesus as man. To our minds, God the Son—the real person in Jesus—is everything that we needed or wanted Jesus to be.

But we overlooked something fundamentally important: a God who can die is not the God of the Bible, for Yahweh God is im­mortal and can never die. This means that the God of trini­tarianism can­not possibly be Yahweh, the God of the Bible. A God who dies and rises again has more in common with the dying-and-rising gods of the pagan beliefs that were prevalent in the world of the early church.

Nicaean formulations such as “God of God, Light of Light” and other lofty descriptions are nothing more than direct echoes of Greek philoso­phy and religion. A central concept in Gnostic­ism is the eman­ation of divine beings, usually of the lesser from the greater. Yet at Nicaea it was decreed on pain of ana­thema that the Second Person eman­ates from the First Person, much as light emanates from a source of light. This teaching comes directly from Greek philosophy.

If “God the Son” of trinitarianism is to have a plausible connection to “God the Father” within the framework of eternity, we cannot avoid the con­clus­ion that the Son derives his exist­ence from the Father in some way or else there would be no rea­son for him to be called the Son. This genuine difficulty, acknow­ledged by some trinitarians, has led to the con­cept of eter­nal generation, by which the Son eternally pro­ceeds from the Father, much as light is emitted continuously by the sun. But this philoso­phical concept doesn’t solve the problem because it still doesn’t ex­plain the use of the word “son”. The fact remains that the Son derives his exist­ence from the Father in some signi­ficant way, and this is true even if we bring in eternal generation. Therefore, in this import­ant sense, the Son is not equal to the Father.

According to scientific cosmology, in the distant future the sun will col­lapse and no longer emit light as it does now. Hence it is possi­ble for the sun to exist as a singularity [8] without emitting light. In view of the finite life of the sun, the analogy of the sun is inadequate to establish the doctrine of “eternal genera­tion” or the con­cept of Jesus as “Light of Light” especially in this age of scientific know­ledge but also in the time of the early church (in view of 2Pet.3:10, “the heavenly bod­ies will be burned up and dis­solved”). God is certainly light, but that is principally in terms of moral purity and spiritual enlighten­ment. God’s moral char­acter is not something that can be pro­perly com­pared to the light that radiates from a burning object such as the sun. But in the end, what really matters is that the doctrine of eternal gener­ation is based on concepts that are foreign to Scripture.

Christ’s subjection to God

Jesus says, “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all” (John 10:29). Here he specifically says that God the Father is “great­er than all” (cf. “greater than all gods,” Ps.95:3). This would mean that the Father is greater than Jesus, for the word “all” would include Jesus who is a dis­tinct person from the Father even in trinitarianism (cf. Athanasian Creed). This is not an isolated statement but is con­firmed by other state­ments such as “the Father is greater than I” (Jn.14:28). God is greater than Jesus for the fundamental reason that God is greater than man.

“A slave is not greater than his master, nor is the one who is sent great­er than the one who sent him” (Jn.13:16). In speaking of himself as slave and mess­enger, Jesus is explain­ing how he functions in relation to the Father, for he repeat­edly speaks of himself as his Father’s slave (doulos) but also as the one sent by the Father. [9] Jesus uses the word “greater” to explain both con­nections to the Father.

What does Jesus mean when he says, “the Father is greater than I”? That statement cannot possibly be true in trinitar­ian­ism in which “God the Son” is coequal in every respect with God the Father. Jesus’ state­ment, toget­her with similar state­ments such as “the head of Christ is God” (1Cor.11:3), was an embarrassment to me as a trinitarian because it directly con­tradicts the central tenet of trinitar­ianism: the coequality of the Son with the Father. But the doctrine of coequality is patently false according to the statement, “the Father is greater than I”. Jesus refused to grasp at or seize equality with God (Phil.2:6), yet we trinita­rians are spiritually deaf in our determin­ation to crown Jesus as Almighty God.[10]

Elihu’s reminder to Job that “God is greater than man” (Job 33:12) is so obvious that it is just a platitude. Yet this plati­tude seems to be the only reasonable way of understand­ing Jesus’ statement, “the Father is greater than I”. It amounts to an assert­ion that Jesus is man and not God. The trinit­arian argu­ment that Jesus’ divine side is greater than Jesus’ human side en­tirely misses the point because the comparison is not between the alleged “two natures” of Jesus but between Jesus and “the Father”!

The statement “the Father is greater than I” is a clear rejection of the co­equality of the Son and the Father. Against the trinitarian claim that Christ is God and coequal with the Father, the New Testa­ment affirms that the head of the post-resurrection Christ is God: “the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her hus­band, and the head of Christ is God” (1Cor. 11:3, ESV). There is no mention whatsoever of any coequality of the three persons of the Trinity. Paul says that Christ is subject to God (Yahweh) just as belie­vers are subject to Christ. Paul doesn’t simply say that the head of Christ is “God the Father” but that the head of Christ is “God”.

In saying that Christ is subject to God, we are not denying Christ’s supreme and universal authority. Indeed he himself says, “All auth­ority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Mt.28:18). But note the tiny but mighty word “given”. Someone had given him his supreme auth­ority in the first place. Hence there is one except­ion to his supreme auth­ority, and it lies in the fact that Christ has no authority over God:

For he has put everything in subjection under his feet. But when it says “everything” has been put in subjection, it is clear that this does not include the one who put everything in sub­jection to him. (1Cor.15:27, NET)

Trinitarians and non-trinitarians agree on what Paul is saying here, that God is the exception to Christ’s authority over all things. This is not de­bated and is even made explicit by NIV’s translation of this verse, “it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ”.

From the immediate context of this verse, we know that Paul is speaking of two per­sons: “God the Father” (v.24) and “the Son” (v.28). Hence it is specifically God the Father who has put everything (except God himself) under the feet of the Son.

We note three things from this verse (15:27). Firstly, Christ’s auth­ority is not an innate authority but is something that was con­ferred on him, that is, “given” to him by God (Mt.28:18). Secondly, Paul uses language that makes a clear distinction of persons, God on the one hand and Christ on the other, indicating that God and Christ are two diff­erent persons. Thirdly, the word “everything” which occurs twice in this verse, 1Cor.15:27, goes a long way towards explaining the meaning of the word “all” in “all author­ity in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Mt.28:18), namely, by qual­ify­ing that the “all authority” given to Jesus does not include auth­ority over God. In other words, what is impli­cit in Matthew 28:18—that Christ is subject to the Father because of the word “given”—is made explicit in 1Cor.15:27, as also made explicit by the risen Jesus in Rev.2:27: “I myself have received authority from my Father”.

In the next verse, Paul says again that Christ will be subject to God:

When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him (God) who put all things in sub­jection under him, that God may be all in all. (1Cor.15:28, ESV)

Paul is not merely saying that Christ has no authority over God (a state­ment that could theoretically allow for coequa­lity), but more force­fully that Christ will be subject to God, which is a clear reject­ion of the supposed coequality of Jesus and his Father.

Finally, a striking conclusion can be derived from verse 24:

Then comes the end, when he delivers the king­dom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every author­ity and power. (1Cor.15:24)

Here “the end” is an eschatological reference to a future point in time. When in the future? The context (vv.21-23) makes it clear that “the end” (v.24) will come only after “the resurrect­ion of the dead” (v.21), a glorious event that has not yet taken place in our time. But when the end comes, Christ will hand the kingdom over to his God and Father (v.24), to be fol­lowed by the subjection of the Son to the Father (v.27). The chronology is crucial because it tells us that the end will inau­gur­ate a permanent state of affairs in which the subject­ion of the Son to God (v.27) will continue for all eternity! Even the fervently trin­it­arian ESV Study Bible concedes that “this verse (1Cor.15:28) shows that his subjection to the Father will continue for all eternity.”

Frédéric Louis Godet, Swiss theologian and trinitarian, re­bukes those who use “ingenious methods” to evade Paul’s plain teaching of the sub­ject­ion of the Son to the Father. Some readers may wish to skip the following:

“Then shall the Son also himself be subject,” etc. The words can on­ly be taken as they stand. The attempts to explain them have usually been nothing but ingenious methods of explain­ing them away. Of these the one usually adopted by the Fathers is limiting the state­ment to Christ’s human nature (Jn.5:26,27,30) and mediatorial kingdom (1Cor.11:3, “the head of Christ is God”). In dealing with this subject, we can easily “darken coun­sel by words without know­ledge,” and hide an absolute ignorance under a sem­blance of knowledge; but everything we can say in “expla­na­tion” of this self subject­ion of the Son to the Father is simply involved in the words that follow, “that God may be all in all”. All things … shall be sub­ordinated to the Son, and the Son to the Father. (Corin­thians, vol.1, on 1Cor.15:28, from the French).

The rise of trinitarianism and the confusion in “Lord”

In New Testament times, the Jews living in Palestine spoke mainly Aramaic along with Hebrew. There were also Jews who spoke mostly or even exclus­ively Greek; these Greek-speaking Jews are called “Hellenists” in Acts 6:1; 9:29; 11:20. Many of them used the Septuagint (LXX), the Greek translat­ion of the Hebrew Bible. Most of the quotations of the Old Testament in the New Testament are taken from the LXX, the main Script­ure of the Greek-speaking believers of the early church. A result of this deve­lop­ment, along with the LXX’s suppress­ion of the name Yahweh, is the eventual disappear­ance of Yahweh’s name in the church.

Fortunately, the Aramaic-speaking and Hebrew-speaking Jews who were acquainted with the Hebrew Bible were aware of the name YHWH. But this was not necessarily the case with the Greek-speaking belie­vers. Even so, this was not yet a serious problem because the church was still rooted in biblical mon­o­theism, notwithstanding the re­placement of “Yahweh” with “the Lord” in the LXX. Most Jewish believers, whether they were Aramaic-speaking or Greek-speak­ing, knew that “the Lord” in the New Testa­ment writ­ings would some­times refer to Yahweh, notably in quotations from the Old Testament, but also in many other contexts. They also knew that Jesus was “Lord” in a different sense after he had been raised from the dead by God’s power. Peter proclaimed in his Pentecost message: “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:36). Since it was God who made Jesus “Lord,” Jesus is Lord indeed.

A serious problem arose in the mid-second century when the deifica­tion of Jesus began to take root in the Gentile churches, as re­flected in state­ments by Melito of Sardis, and not long afterwards in the better known figure of Tertullian from the start of the 3rd century. Once Jesus had been deif­ied, some Gentile believers started putting their faith in two Gods (dithe­ism) or two divine persons in one God (binitar­ianism), these being intrinsically the same. This created much con­fusion in the use of the word “Lord,” which was applied indiscriminately to Yahweh and to Jesus. Ironically, later trinit­arians would use the title “Lord” as applied to Jesus to prove that he is God! By circular reason­ing, trini­tarians are using the trinitarian error they created in the first place to prove the same trinitarian error.

The Gentile church elimi­nated the name “Yahweh” because the name does not fit into the trinita­rian scheme of things. In trinitarian­ism, God the Father is one of three persons whereas in the Bible there is no God be­sides Yahweh (Isa.45:5). The trinitarian elevation of Jesus to Almighty God has elimi­nated any practical need for a God other than Jesus. Moreover, Jesus has a name, but God the Father and God the Spirit do not. God the Father is simply the Father of Jesus Christ, and His role is defined by his relation­ship to God the Son. And since the Son is said to be coequal with the Father in every res­pect, if we already have the Son why do we need the Father? As trinitarians, we paid our respects to the Father but did not really need Him, for Jesus is all-sufficient. In English-lan­guage Bibles, with a few exceptions such as NJB and HCSB, Yahweh’s name has disap­peared altoget­her.

Given the confusion in the church over the conflating use of “Lord,” it is best to return to speaking of God as Yahweh instead of sim­ply Lord. There is no prohibition in the Bible against speaking of the one true God as Yahweh.

That Jesus has a Father already rules him out as God

The New Testament speaks of Yahweh as the Lord, the God, and the Father of believers. Significantly, Yahweh is all of these things to Jesus, e.g., “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God” (John 20:17). There is no biblical problem in referring to Yahweh by these three titles (Lord, God, Father) even in relation to Jesus.

Paul likewise speaks of “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom.15:6; 2Cor.1:3; 11:31; Eph.1:3; cf. 1Pet.1:3). If Jesus is really God, then God would be the God of God.

The very fact that Jesus has a Father already rules him out as God. That is because Paul speaks of “one God and Father of all” (Eph.4:6). In other words, there is only one God, and that God is the Father of all. Therefore anyone who is not the Father of all is not God. But Jesus is certainly not the Father (not even in trinitarianism), much less the Father of all. God’s people are not called “sons of Jesus” or “children of Christ,” nor do they cry out, “Abba Christ!” On the contrary, 1John 5:18 says that we are “born of God” and that Jesus was “born of God”—in the same sentence!

Melito of Sardis, early precursor of trinitarianism

Only a hundred years after Barnabas and Paul were wor­shipped as gods in Gentile country (Acts 14:12), Melito of Sardis was already halfway to trinit­arianism. Given the pagan polytheistic culture in which he grew up, Melito could talk of “God put to death” without the slightest realiz­a­tion that to speak of the death of the one true God is to com­mit blas­phemy.

Melito of Sardis was not a trinitarian but a binitarian (one who bel­ieves that there are two persons in one God), for he did not view the Holy Spirit as a third person. Melito also taught that there are two “natures” in Jesus, the human and the divine. This makes Melito one of the early forerun­ners of the trinita­rian creeds of the 4th and 5th centuries.

Melito lived around mid-second century and died c.190. He was the bis­hop of Sardis in the Greek-speaking province of Asia, located in today’s Turkey. His voluminous writ­ings, most of them lost, are clear evidence that the deification of Jesus had already started by the 2nd cen­tury, indeed only slightly more than a hundred years after the death of Christ, and cer­tainly well before the Council of Nicaea in 325.

The following two excerpts from the writings of Melito, as compiled at http://www.cogwriter.com/melito.htm, are taken from Ante-Nicene Fathers (vol.8). In the following excerpt, Melito teaches the deity of Christ, and that Christ was God put to death:

God who is from God; the Son who is from the Father; Jesus Christ the King for evermore… He that bore up the earth was borne up on a tree. The Lord was subjected to ignominy with naked body—God put to death, the King of Israel slain! (The Discourse on the Cross, verses IV, VI)

In the next excerpt, Melito says that Jesus is true God, that Jesus is at once God and perfect man, and that his deity is hid­den in his flesh of human­ity:

For the deeds done by Christ after His baptism, and espe­cially His mir­acles, gave indication and assurance to the world of the Deity hidden in His flesh. For, being at once both God and perfect man likewise, He gave us sure indications of His two natures: of His Deity, by His mira­cles during the three years that elapsed after His baptism; of His hu­manity, during the thirty similar periods which preceded His baptism, in which, by reason of His low estate as regards the flesh, He concealed the signs of His Deity, although He was the true God existing before all ages. (The Nature of Christ, 760)

Bob Theil, the one who compiled the above information, says:

Melito was not a unitarian. He considered that Jesus was God (though a God who hid some signs of His deity) and the Father was God—this is a binitarian view. It should be noted that Melito never referred to the Holy Spirit as God … Since all legitimate scholars re­cognize that early Christ­ian leaders did not support modern trinita­rianism, those inter­ested in the faith that was once for all delivered for the saints, would not accept the idea of that the true faith was grad­ually revealed. (italics Theil’s)

Bart Ehrman, in the eighth of his Great Courses lectures, refers to Melito of Sardis and his Easter homily. The deifica­tion of Christ was fully established in Melito’s teaching, indi­cat­ing that by the mid-se­cond century, the deified Jesus had become entrenched in the Gen­tile church. Thus “the parting of the ways” must have begun earlier than had previously been sup­posed.



[1] See Wikipedia articles “Zeus” and “Hermes” for masterly dis­cussions on these two well-known Greek gods.

[2] Examples of the early deification of Jesus in the second cen­tury: “Yet, never­theless, He is God, in that He is the First-Begotten of all creat­ures” (Justin Martyr, c.160); “God was put to death” (Melito, c.170); “He is God, for the name Emman­uel indicates this” (Iren­aeus, c.180). A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs, pp.94,95, ed. David W. Bercot.

[3] Most non-Catholics are unaware of the high status of the title Mediatrix. It is com­petently explained in the Wikipedia article “Mediatrix”: “The title Mediatrix is used in Roman Catholic Mario­logy to refer to the intercess­ory role of the Virgin Mary as a mediator in the salvific redemption by her son Jesus Christ, and that he be­stows graces through her.” The same article cites a statement on the “Mediatrix of Mercy” made by Pope John Paul II: “Thus there is a mediation: Mary places herself between her Son and man­kind in the reality of their wants, needs and suf­ferings. She puts herself in the middle, that is to say she acts as a mediatrix, not as an outsider, but in her position as mother.”

[4] Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (1984), article Holy Spirit, says: “In the OT the spirit of the Lord (ruach yhwh; LXX, to pneuma kyriou) is generally an express­ion for God’s power, the extension of himself whereby he carries out many of his mighty deeds.”

[5] Lk.1:35; 4:14; Acts 1:8; 10:38; Rom.15:13,19; 1Cor.2:4; Eph.3:16; 1Th.1:5.

[6] ISBE, article “Bara­bbas,” says: “Origen [the greatest textual critic of the early church] knew and does not absolutely condemn a reading of Mt 27:16,17, which gave the name ‘Jesus Barabbas’ … it is also found in a few cursives and in the Aramaic and the Jerusalem Syriac versions.”

[7] Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible, “Simon Magus”. For Simon Magus as a prominent Gnostic in early church tradition, see Wiki­pedia articles “Simon Magus” and “Gnosticism and the New Testament”.

[8] Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time (p.66) and The Uni­verse in a Nut­shell (pp.23-23), two-in-one edition, Bantam Books, New York, 2010.

[9] The declaration “he who sent me” occurs many times in John’s gospel, inclu­ding 10 times in chapters 6 to 8 alone: 6:38,39,44; 7:16,28,33; 8:16,18,26,29.

[10] Compare John 6:15, “perceiv­ing that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mount­ain”.

 

 

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