The Mystery of Monotheism – Tom Roberts

This is an interesting magazine from an ‘Eastern’ point of view. I am posting this for discussion, perhaps, as we have a wide range of views concerning the Godhead which visit this blog. The first few centuries of doctrinal discussion centered around the Godhead – fighting attempts against Arians and Gnostics, as well as Trinitarians and Modalists. The great theologians made their mark not by evangelism, which was being done, but by lining the doctrines of the Church up. Recently, ancient heresy’s have returned – with Mormons bringing the Gnosticism back to life, and the Jehovah’s Witnesses resurrecting Arius in all his ill-glory –  so again, the doctrine of the Godhead is being examined. Some Trinitarians examine it and find that for those that are steeped in sola scriptura, using extra-biblical words and Councils might not be exactly sola scriptura. Modalists examine them to figure out why everyone else is wrong. I examine the Godhead to establish myself. I found this article recently and thought that I would share:

via The Mystery of Monotheism – Tom Roberts – Theandros – An Online journal of Orthodox Christian Theology and Philosophy

Dr. Tom Roberts is the Ministry Coordinator of the General Council of Churches of God 7th Day. Below is an except from a doctrinal FAQ on Christ,

The return of power

There are those who say Christ is God (El Elyon) in the flesh, they say when the plan of salvation is complete, he (Christ) will return to being God (El Elyon) again. The scripture tells another story; “And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.” 1Co 15:28. Let’s break it down, when all things shall be subdued unto him (Christ), then shall the son (Christ) also himself be subject unto Him (YHWH) that put all things under him (Christ), that God (YHWH) may be all in all. There is no trinity, the bible says, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD:” Deu 6:4. 1 Corinthian 15:24 may enlighten us in this matter. “Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power.” This couldn’t have been made any clearer. At the end of the thousand year reign of Christ, after all the wicked have been destroyed, Christ is going to put down all power and authority, and he himself shall become subjected to YHWH. There will be no longer a son acting in the seat of his father, only YHWH (El Elyon) the pre-eminence of all life.

Of course, it could be this Church of God, Seventh Day but for sure here.

At any rate, here are the excerpts.

For centuries, the people of God had fought an uphill battle attempting to defend the one God concept. Monotheism is defined as the belief in one deity. Amenhotep of Egypt believed the Great Monad was the sun god Ra. The mountain god El, in Hebrew traditions, was known as Elohim. Until our time, much of the Middle Eastern understanding was unavailable to us to evaluate some of the statements contained in Scripture about these other gods besides Yahweh that supposedly existed in other nations, Ashtoreth (1 Kings 11:33); Dagon (Judges 16:23-24; 1 Samuel 5:7); Chemosh (Judges 11:24; 1 Kings 11:33); Milchom (1 Kings 11:33); and Nisroch (2 Kings 19:37). Isaiah shows that there is no consort beside this God contrary to pagan documents from Elephantine, which asserted the existence of a “Mrs. Yahweh,” violating the First Commandment (Deuteronomy 5:7; Exodus 20:3). The Hebraic equivalent of the Elephantine concept is Sophia, or Lady Wisdom, who was to convey God’s wisdom to the prophets via the Holy Spirit, Racah Kadesh, who was also feminine in Hebraic terms.

The BAR had an article a few months ago about the royal consort of Yahweh, which was interesting to read. One thing we must remember is that all though Judaism is a monotheistic religion, people fell away from time to time, and introduced other gods which are not gods to Israel.

Many scholars are now united with the view that the plurality contained in the title Elohim is YHWH addressing His mighty counsel (See Genesis 3:22). The superlative use included the royal “we” has been mistakenly used by theologians to refer to the rest of God’s nature contained in a compound unity. This is based on Deuteronomy 6:4, which was the national credo of Israel—“Hear O Israel, Our Lord is one.” The terms echad and yahed are two ways of saying “one” in Hebrew. It is said that these two terms for a single designation include more than one part of a unit. However, close grammatical scrutiny will show that where evening and morning become the first day, yom, (Genesis 1:5) is part of a single designation. Rabbis have pointed out that the term yahed may refer to a thistle of grapes. The imagery still shows many grapes but one thistle as singular, and both terms come from a Hebraic root system that shows one unit as a common root in both terms. In Genesis 2:24, the concept of man and wife who share part of the total image of God are glued back together through marriage as one flesh to form a single entity, thus restoring the total image of God.

Let me just add the when Christ quoted the Shema in Mark, He used the Greek word for numerical one. It is also helpful to read the writings of the generation immediately following the Apostles – Ignatius and Polycarp – the generation before the philosophers, to determine the understand of Christology that they learned directly from the Apostles, by oral tradition.

As late as 1870, critical commentators such as Keil & Delitzsch (Vol 1, article, Genesis) and other Semitic scholars freely admitted that the term Elohim cannot be used to advance a Trinitarian formula. (See also Torah, A Modern Commentary by W. Gunther Plaut, article on Genesis, note on Elohim.) During this address, the Hebrew grammar changes from singular when Yahweh speaks to plural or superlative when the counsel answers Yahweh. Notice the phrase, “man has become as one of us.” With Yahweh’s divine command, all subjects are summoned. These mighty ones appear before the Mighty One who has complete authority over their activities. This explains how Elohim can refer to the Great God Himself or refer to His subjects who range from judges found in Psalm 82:6 who will die like men or the Bene Elohim, “sons of God,” found in Genesis 6:2 who were the descendents of Seth called the “mighty men of renown.” (See the Jamison Fawcett and Brown One Volume Old Testament Commentary, 1930 edition, article on Genesis 6.)

The Hebraic concept of messiahship is the annointed one who is lifted up. The Messiah even said, “If I be lifted up, I will draw all men unto Myself” (Luke 3). The concept of one God who works through a Divine Messiah is found in both Testaments. Even the Apostle James declares, “If you believe in One God, you do well” (James 2:19; See 1 Timothy 2:5). “Though there are so-called gods, in the heavens or one earth – and there are plenty of gods and plenty of lords – yet for us there is only on God.” (1 Corinthians 8:5-6). In John 17:13, Jesus referred to the Father as the only true God and that He came in concert to represent all that the Father as a personification to His people (See Luke 1:30-36). No wonder Thomas exclaimed, “My Lord and my God”, or kurios mou theos mou in Greek. (See Psalm 45:7; Hebrews 1:7-8). Dr. Scott Hahn explains the motif in John’s Gospel to be the Father teaching His Son His trade with phrases like “I work and my Father works” amplifying this fact, for the time was coming when no man could work. The Father in Psalm 118 is progressively revealing the High Priest in John 14-16 to the people. So God and Christ are in complete union.

Dr. James E. Talmage explains: “The revised version gives for John 10:30: ‘I and the Father are one’ instead of ‘I and my Father are one.’ By “the Father.” the Jews rightly understood the Eternal Father, God. In the original Greek “one” appears in the neuter gender, and therefore expresses oneness in attributes, power, or purpose, and not a oneness of personality which would have required the masculine form” (Jesus the Christ, p. 465). In the high priestly prayer of Jesus, John uses the word “comforter,” that one; parakletos (J. Green, A Greek-English Lexicon to the New Testament), which is expressed in English in a masculine form even though the Greek text uses masculine verbal trains as a grammatical tool to establish neuter activity from a masculine being who is, in this case, God. The same dynamic occurs when the word “spirit” (pneuma), which is neuter and used with masculine pronouns to illustrate the Spirit of the Father (Romans 8:16). The masculine use of these terms is not a reference to the Spirit’s personality (See Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, Daniel B. Wallace, p. 332, note on relative pronouns). Jesus was sired by the Holy Spirit through the Virgin Mary. Thus, the nature of Christ was that of the New Adam for He would rewrite history and not fall as the first Adam did, but He was completely sinless in all He did and all He was (Romans 5:12-21). “It was by one’s man offense that death came to reign over all, but how much greater the reign in life of those who received the fullness of grace and the gift of saving justice, through the one man, Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:17). He represented the perfect will of the Father.

How can the Logos be any different from the Speaker?

This Divine-Man concept was constantly debated among the rabbis who wondered if the Messiah would be Daniel’s Man of Daniel 7:6-7 or whether the Greek concepts of the savior gods, theioiandres (divine men), would describe deity’s activity in His Messiah (Esther 4:17 Septuagint). According to many New Testament scholars, the concept of divine men as saviors did influence the writers of the Gospels about this Messianic figure of Daniel. The vertical apocalyptic parallelism of Daniel 6:6-7 is believed by many commentators to show that there are at least two persons of deity mentioned. However, with close examination, these timeless poetic prophecies do not tell us when the appearing of the Great Messiah will become evident. The Hebraic concept of deity was God, Savior and Lord. This theme is amplified in Hebrews 1:8 and Titus 2:13. Notice at the appearing of Jesus, it is accompanied with the Father’s glory, doxa. Some commentators use 1 Timothy 3:16 to prove an incarnation but that term in not in the majority of manuscripts. This passage is a hymn or liturgical profession of faith (New Jerusalem Bible, p. 1961, note 3e), which shows that Christ “appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed in the world, was taken up in glory (NIV). So this verse is a summary of the Gospel message.

1st Timothy 3.16 is plainly Incarnational, with or without the textual variant…it’s a matter of grammar. The He in 1st Timothy 3.16 (Critical Text) can refer to God from the previous few verses.

Logos Theology and the Understanding of Christian Expositors

From the post-exilic period (586 BCE) to the writing of the New Testament, many theological shifts took place during the dispersion of Judah into Babylon as well as the exiles who found their way to Egypt during Jeremiah’s ministry. And with the cultures overlapping one another, terms like wisdom and logos had international repercussions. The ancients had numerous definitions of this term. The Christian church debates three of them.

I am not sure as to the theological shifts, as any shifts from the Law would create a different religion. Christianity was not a theological shift. Logos and Sophia, the two hands of God, came by the Greek as the Hebrew died. Of course, they carry with the philosophical baggage of a few centuries of Greek use.

The first is that John 1:1, a Stoic hymn where Jesus replaces the god Zeus, in the Johannine prologue (See Interpreter’s One Volume Bible Commentary on the Gospel of John, p. 710).

Also, check out the Anchor Bible Dictionary which draws some comparisons between Sirach, Wisdom, and Proverbs and John’s prologue (Logos replaces Sophia).

Second, due to the Greek concept of the pre-existence of all things, the logos would have pre-existed eternally in the bosom of God’s internal image. Then, after His birth, He would have been the express image of God (The One Volume Bible Commentary, J. R. Dummelow, p. civ).

Yeah, I can buy that.

And finally, the teaching of Athanasius would advocate the personal pre-existent Logos as fully God in whom heaven and earth could not be contained. This tradition would prevail in the West and overcome the position of Origen, whom the Eastern Fathers would base their logos concept. The Son and the Spirit are not independent centers of divine being but unfoldings of the eternal spirit in an emerging purpose. Tertullian would expand this Stoic philosophy by calling the Great Triad a trinitos. The Capadocian Fathers of the East would follow this tradition with their interpretations of John’s Gospel (pp. 258-300, Essays on the Trinity and the Incarnation, A.E.J. Rawlinson, ed.).

He skips a great deal from Zeus to Athanasius, especially Justin and his fleshing out of the Logos not to mention Irenaeus and Athenagoras with their seemingly emantaionist, or economic, approach to the Godhead. I am not totally convinced that Logos had any real (or deep) theological meaning for the Apostle John, but if it did, it would have been the same use as found in Wisdom 18.

But how do we as modern-day Christians evaluate this data when so many of these concepts have been so theologized? It is difficult to decipher the original meaning. Nineteenth-century expositor Adam Clarke and modern expositors F. F. Bruce and Raymond Brown maintain that the pre-existent Son logos was of a later Christological development (Jesus, God and Man, pp. 15-18, see also, The Birth of the Messiah, p. 432) and Professor James D. G. Dunn, (Christology in the Making, p. 150, 163-176). Dr. R. E. Rubenstein in his famous work, When Jesus Became God, asserts that the logos became fully God after the theological wars took place between the Arians with their Low Christology and the Trinitarians, with their High Christology and, caught in the middle, where the Binitarians, who were considered Semi-Arians. The Binitarians tried to compromise between both extremes and argued for two persons in the one God concept and the Holy Spirit remained a neuter force, though it was seen as a feminine force in Eastern Church traditions (See The Holy Spirit in Eastern Christian Traditions by Dr. Stanley Burgess, Odes of Solomon, pp. 172-182).

Read this article.

The Gospel of John tends to follow the tradition that Jesus’ origin was from heaven above to show His Sonship (John 3:13). Therefore, as critical commentators have pointed out, the pre-existence of the Son of God may have been in the Father’s bosom or mind as J. R. Dummelow contends. But one might ask, “Weren’t all things created by Jesus?” The instrumental case used here has been problematic for scholars for some time. Bart Ehrman has show evidence to suggest a Christological tampering with the text in the early Latin period may have taken place and as an alternate reading, this may be rendered, “all things were created because of Jesus” due to the fact that some of our translations use the term “by and for” Him creating an awkward tense structure that is very difficult to reconcile. It is due to this problem that some scholars feel that the term “by Christ” was a later redaction (The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture by Bart Ehrman, note on Colossians 1:16). Some might exclaim, “Didn’t Jesus say that He was returning to the Father and does that prove that He was there in eternity past?” The Greek grammar in John’s Gospel doesn’t literally translate “return” as often as it should be rendered “go to the Father” (See John 16:28; Zondervan Greek Interlinear, pp. 324-336). These verses, according to Alford, show us that the origin of Jesus in the form of logos was with His Father (Alford’s Greek Testament, An Exegetical and Critical Commentary, Henry Alford, note on John 16:28).

I would not quote Bart Ehrman as a textual critic…

In later Johanine Christology, specially in 1 John 4:2, the New Jerusalem Bible correctly renders the verse, “This is the proof of the spirit of God: any spirit which acknowledges Jesus Christ, come in human nature, is from God . . . “ (See Goodspeed). Notice “come in human nature” rather than “to come into eis”; this would have been the term used in the Greek text had Christ pre-existed and His previous nature been brought into His bodily existence.

The issue is solved when you realize that the Logos pre-existed, but the Son of God did not. Only in the human nature did the Logos become the Son of God.

The prologue of the Gospel starts with en arche, or “in the beginning,” when the Great Architect uttered His divine speech and this logos was God. Adam Clarke asks, How can a person be separated from his own speech? Others try to maintain John’s use of the nomitive predicate ho theos, “God” and the word pros for “with God”, pros ton theon, “with the God” as a separate entity, therefore, the logos is an eternal entity and not just a speech or thought. Dr. Gene Scott and Wescott and Hort have argued that the term pros should be rendered “face to face with God” and should be used here to prove two personages, but many modern exegetes have not landed on this side of the issue. Some commentators espouse the concept of the direct object used in conjunction with the definite article proves the logos was a separate and equal personification of the God and was with God. However, one still has the use of God expressing Himself through His divine speech as one person with or without the use of the definite article. Each side uses the passages in other texts to back up their theological position.

We should all love and accept our Christian brethren regardless of what their Godhead theology dictates as long as they believe that deity was truly in Jesus in some form. Our theology in human terms cannot begin to capsulate or define the fullness of God’s revelation. Let us praise and thank God for He is to magnificent to put into human terms, but may the Church of God continue to struggle to worship our biblical God by using biblical theology to obtain biblical results. And by the name of His dear Son, may we all grow in the Grace and Knowledge of His Great Salvation.

I can picture a whole bunch of people, on each and every side of the issue, rolling in their graves. The nature of the Godhead was the central focus of the doctrinal controversies in the first few centuries after Christ.

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4 Replies to “The Mystery of Monotheism – Tom Roberts”

  1. I enjoyed your article. Your second to last paragraph is absolutly accurate in letter and spirit. May God bless christianity with this love.
    I have found similar information and ascribe to monotheistic beliefs.
    Is there any other links or information you could direct me towards?
    Thanks

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