Dale Tuggy

Dale Tuggy is Professor of Philosophy at the State University of New York at Fredonia, where he teaches courses in analytic theology, philosophy of religion, religious studies, and the history of philosophy.


  1. Paul
    February 23, 2015 @ 4:35 pm

    That is one massive rebuttal of Wright’s central theology of the Bible! Barclay is cool as a cucumber and devastating.


  2. Joseph Jedwab
    February 20, 2015 @ 8:51 pm

    1. To be fair, Wright has a book coming out entitled “Paul and his recent interpreters” where he will, so one expects, interact with many competing views.
    2. Do you want to know what Wright thinks or what Wright thinks Paul thinks when it comes to whether Jesus the messiah is God? I think perhaps one of the clearest statements is in the book he co-authored with Marcus Borg, called “Two Visions”. There’s a chapter there on the divinity of Jesus.
    3. I think the charitable reading is that Wright is deliberately vague here. He thinks if you just come out and say that Jesus is God, this is most likely to be misunderstood as it would have been in Paul’s time. Some truths can only be indirectly communicated.


    • John B
      April 2, 2015 @ 10:31 am

      I have gone through the first five chapters of Paul: In Fresh Perspective, have you seen it?

      Here is a chapter summary I have pinched from [my bold]: http://www.reformation21.org/shelf-life/paul-in-fresh-perspective.php, which I remember reflected a pretty clear picture of Wright’s understanding of Paul:

      In chapter 5 (“Rethinking God”), Wright explains how Jesus and the Spirit are two “poles around which [Paul] redefine[s] the traditional Jewish doctrine of the one God” (101). Wright subtly and masterfully shows through exegesis that Paul believes in one triune God. Jesus is the revelation of this one creating and covenant keeping God. Turning to Jesus as Lord (instead of to Caesar as lord) is the proper worship of the one true God. Likewise, it is through the Spirit that God dwells with believers, and the Spirit causes even idolatrous pagans to believe this “strange” gospel of the one God revealed in a crucified Jew. – See more at: http://www.reformation21.org/shelf-life/paul-in-fresh-perspective.php#sthash.cSvkNNGO.dpuf


      • Rivers
        April 2, 2015 @ 11:50 am

        John B.,

        I’m wondering where Wright gets “exegesis” to suggest that the issues in Romans had anything to do with the people confusing “Caesar as lord” with Jesus Christ? It seems that Paul understood that his Jewish and gentiles converts already knew the same God (Romans 3:29-30). Moreover, throughout the Acts, Paul is portrayed as having positive opinion of Caesar (e.g. Acts 25:8, 11-12; Acts 28:19).


        • John B
          April 2, 2015 @ 1:52 pm

          Hi Rivers.
          I for one do not think that Paul articulated the Jesus-God relationship in a way that would best please trinitarians, not even close. But the point is not so much exegesis here but trying to re-build the world-views of the time, much of which would never be expressed as the references might be so implicit. I think it is interesting that that we have this unique parallel with Caesar, whose son would also come to be known as Son of God, you can’t ignore it.
          Regarding the “positive opinion of Caesar”, I do not think you can arrive at that via exegesis either. Maybe neutral? Does not Bart Ehrman also concur on this Caesar parallel?


          • Rivers
            April 2, 2015 @ 2:45 pm

            Hi John B,
            I’m not big on taking the “world view” approach to interpreting scripture (as has been the trend in biblical scholarship during the past generation). I think it’s better to let the biblical writers speak for themselves.

            For example, it seems that understanding the meaning of “son of God” really doesn’t depend upon anything related to Caesar because there is evidence of “son of God” language (Genesis 6:1-4; Job 1-2, 38) in the Hebrew scriptures that came long before the Caesars.

            I also think the context in which Paul is making his arguments in the book of Romans is strictly a matter of things pertaining to the Israelites (both the Jewish ones and the ones who were called Greeks, Romans 3:9-20). Especially the struggle with circumcision would have been meaningless other than among the covenant people themselves (Genesis 17).


            • John B
              April 2, 2015 @ 3:19 pm

              I get what you are saying, and the emphases are strong. Good and valid points! Wright I think also places a lot of emphasis on the OT, but, well we are off-track. The point above from Joseph was Wright being purposefully ambiguous. My point was I felt there was sufficient clarity in the chapter I mentioned. It is unfortunate in my view that despite his epic work on Paul, Wright, like many others, seems willing to wrestle primarily with what I call “suggestive” Pauline texts and not the “dissuasive” texts and expressions.


    • Jaco van Zyl
      April 3, 2015 @ 6:53 am

      There is no vagueness re. whether Paul thought Jesus was God himself. There was sufficient OT material and theological thought patterns to say that Jesus was God in the representational/reflective/reenactment sense and THEREFORE NOT in the ontological sense. When you have sentimental commitment to an enculturated favorite doctrine, you hide behind “vagueness” and “suggestiveness.” Doctrinal integrity is hard to find even among otherwise moral NT scholars.


      • Rivers
        April 3, 2015 @ 10:13 pm


        What evidence is there in the Hebrews scriptures that Jesus Christ was “God in representative sense”? The “ontological” issue isn’t even a biblical matter either. Thus, I don’t think we even need to be concerned about it.

        The biblical testimony simply describes Jesus Christ as “a partaker of the same flesh and blood as all of his brethren” (Hebrews 2:14) who were “descendants of Abraham” (Hebrews 2:16) who was their “one father” (Hebrews 2:11). There was no debate about this going on in the apostolic churches.


        • Jaco van Zyl
          April 4, 2015 @ 3:23 am

          Rivers, as a reflector of God, as doer of Yahweh-stuff, of achieving what Yahweh intended, Jesus realized God in a representative sense. He was, after all, shaliach or apostle of God (Heb. 3:1). When people saw Jesus, they saw the One whose image he reflected. This theme is so overwhelming in the apocrypha, pseudepigrapha, OT and Qumran, it amounts to deliberate blindness that sentimental NT scholars refuse to give this fact greater attention.


          • Rivers
            April 4, 2015 @ 9:25 am


            I understand what you’re getting at. However, there is actually very little about Jesus Christ being a “representative” of God in the apostolic kerygma. For example, even in Hebrews 3:1-2, his “apostleship” is simply be compared to Moses.

            I think the apostles were emphasizing his unique existence as “the Christ and the son of God” (Matthew 16:16; Mark 1:1; Luke 4:41; John 20:31; Acts 8:37; because that is what set him apart from all others on account of his resurrection power (Romans 1:3-4). The apostles didn’t understand this until after it all happened (John 2:22).

            Even though we agree as biblical unitarians, I don’t think the “image” or “shiliach” argumentation is very strong. Rather, it arises out of the unfortunate concession that there was some kind of “preexistent word” or that Jesus was actually called “God” (neither of which is a necessary conclusion to be drawn from any particular text of scripture).


            • Jaco van Zyl
              April 7, 2015 @ 6:49 am

              Thanks, Rivers
              The image argument is indeed very strong, precisely since Jesus as second Adam and therefore second God-image reflects God’s glory. He is indeed the glory-of-our-God-and-Saviour (Tit. 2:13). Again from the first-century sources the High Priest as God-enacter and Adam as glory-bearer are clearly reflected in Paul (2 Cor. 4) and John (John 6, 7, 17, etc.). As Son, Jesus is imitator of the Father and applied in the normative sense (cp. John 8:44ff.). Just as seeing the angelic messenger in 4 Ezra meant seeing God, or Moses ruling meant God ruling (Ex. 7:1), etc., etc., similarly Jesus is God in the representative and reflective sense. I think the evidence is overwhelming.


              • Rivers
                April 7, 2015 @ 9:06 am


                I don’t agree. According to scripture, all human males are made “in the image and likeness of God” from the beginning (Genesis 1:26; Genesis 9:6; 1 Corinthians 11:7). Why would arguing that Jesus Christ is “the image of God” make him any different than any other man?

                I think you are also overlooking that the “glory” of Jesus Christ was ultimately related to his resurrection appearance (Philippians 3:21; Colossians 1:15) and the immortality (Romans 1:23; 2 Corinthians 4:4) that he received from God (Acts 2:29-36; Acts 13:33-34).

                Likewise, being a “messenger” from God doesn’t make Jesus Christ any different than the angels (Genesis 18-19) or Moses (Exodus 7:1). Thus, I don’t think it’s a meaningful argument. Even John the baptizer was “sent from God” (John 1:6).

                I think when the apostles testified that Jesus was “the Christ and the son of God” (John 20:31), it was different than merely claiming he was a “representative” of God. Being declared the “son of God” and “the firstborn of all creation” was the result of the resurrection (Romans 1:3-4; Colossians 1:15-20).


                • Jaco van Zyl
                  April 8, 2015 @ 12:50 am

                  Rivers, I hear you. But consider this, all humans are “Adam” and yet Jesus was considered to be the Second Adam; all human beings are images of God, and yet Jesus is seen as the “exact representation of his make-up” (Heb. 1:3), and as the one who truly exegeted God (Jn. 1:18). All humans are to rule over creation, yet Ps. 8 is applied to Jesus in the most exemplary way. So we have Jesus as one of us and nothing different on the one hand and Jesus as the exceptional one. I don’t think these two positions are in opposition to each other. I think both can be held simultaneously if the “difference” of Jesus is considered to be in degree, and not in kind. Seeing Jesus as the one who finally got it right restores the hope in humanity to ultimately reflect God. For humanity to achieve that, the Forerunner needs to be observed all the time. And what they see is someone who successfully achieved being God in the reflective/representative/imitative sense.


                  • Rivers
                    April 8, 2015 @ 8:51 am

                    Hi Jaco,

                    I agree. However, I don’t think the “last Adam” (1 Corinthians 15:43) and “exact representation” (Hebrews 1:3) language was applicable until after the resurrection. That is the context in which both of those things were said of Jesus Christ.

                    I’m also skeptical about the idea that the “image of God” language pertained to the character of Jesus during the time of his earthly ministry. There isn’t any “image” language about Jesus Christ until after the resurrection, and it isn’t talking about the way he lived his life.

                    Rather, if you consider the context of the handful of texts where Paul spoke of the “image” of Christ, they are talking about his glorified resurrection appearance (Romans 8:29; 1 Corinthians 15:49; 2 Corinthians 3:18; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Colossians 1:15). Paul had actually seen the glorified appearance of Jesus Christ when he appeared to him on the road (Acts 26:13-14).


                    • Jaco van Zyl
                      April 9, 2015 @ 2:06 am

                      Thanks Rivers. Again, the one who became a “life-giving spirit” was the same Second Adam who walked the roads of Galilee. Jesus as the exact representation is logos language (Philonic) applied to Jesus in parallel to what the ideal human being would do. If what Jesus achieved is limited to his resurrected state only, then we as humans now are just as disadvantaged in our reflecting God as we would be, had Jesus been God-in-the-flesh. Jesus’ resurrection vindicated his historical character. So I disagree with your limiting Jesus’ reflecting God only in his resurrected glory.
                      It is true that the account of Paul’s conversion involved his meeting Jesus while in ecstasy. But still, Paul presents the same Jesus as the one who walked the earth (Gal. 1). In his current resurrected glory, the same divine glory was retrospectively seen in the historical Jesus. The Philippian hymn alludes to it, as well as the whole Fourth Gospel. Seeing Jesus meant seeing his Father. In the Gospel of John the human Jesus was the memra and logos of God which has the notion of divine reflection implicit to them.

                    • Rivers
                      April 9, 2015 @ 9:31 am


                      I think you are getting some passages and contexts mixed up. Please consider these things:

                      1. Jesus wasn’t a “life-giving spirit” until after his resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:43). The apostles understood that Jesus did not have the authority to give holy spirit (or eternal life) to anyone until he was exalted and glorified (Acts 2:33; John 7:39). They didn’t refer to him as a life-giving spirit during the time of his public ministry.

                      2. Jesus was also not the “exact representation” until after his resurrection when he sat upon God’s throne (Hebrews 1:3). In this context, the “exact representation” language is speaking of the confidence (UPOSTASIS) and power he attained after he became the “heir” (Hebrews 1:2) and “inherited” the world (Hebrews 1:4).

                      3. The word LOGOS (“word”) does not have anything to do with “representation”. LOGOS was always used by the writer of the 4th Gospel simply to mean a “spoken saying or message”. LOGOS became a “name” for Jesus Christ himself (Revelation 19:13) because he embodied the message of eternal life that God sent him the proclaim (1 John 1:1-5). There’s no evidence that Philo had anything to do with the meaning of LOGOS in scripture, or that LOGOS had anything to do with moral character.

                      4. I don’t understand why you would think Philippians has anything to do with any earthly glory when Paul’s point is that Jesus had no glory during his public ministry (Philippians 2:7-8) but received it after he died and was exalted (Philippians 2:9-11). Paul also indicated that Jesus had a “glorified body” after he ascended into heaven (Philippians 3:21).

                      With these things in mind, I think you are trying to force things that were said about Jesus Christ in the post-resurrection context back into the time of Jesus’ public ministry. Thus, you are coming up with the wrong implications of “image” and “glory.”

                    • Jaco van Zyl
                      April 10, 2015 @ 7:28 am

                      Rivers, I’m trying to understand your perspective. Life-giving Spirit is what the Second Adam became. So Jesus was the Second Adam before dying so as to become the life-giving Spirit. In the Philippian hymn Jesus was in the form of God and gave up his rightful honor by living a course of humility. In Hebrews Philo is alluded to and the human Jesus is depicted as the one upon whom the imprint of God’s being was successfully made. And in John the logos/memra is typologically applied to Jesus while on earth as the one reflecting God’s glory. That’s my understanding of it.
                      My question to you is, how do you distinguish between the resurrected Jesus as reflector of God’s glory on the one hand and the resurrected Jesus whose resurrection is a vindication of the historical figure about whom glorious things can be said retrospectively?

                    • Rivers
                      April 10, 2015 @ 11:26 am

                      Hi Jaco,

                      OK, let me ask you some questions about what you’re saying:

                      1. Where do you see the “second Adam” language being applicable to Jesus Christ before the resurrection? Didn’t Paul speak of him as “the beginning, the firstborn from among the dead” (Colossians 1:18)? If Adam was the origin of natural life, wouldn’t Jesus be the “second Adam” in the sense that he is the one who gives “life from the dead” (1 Corinthians 15:43-45; Romans 11:15)?

                      2. In Philippians 2:6, why would the Present Active Participle (“existing” in the form of God) need to be taken as a past tense? Jesus was “existing” in a glorified body (Philippians 3:21) at the time Paul wrote the letter which was after he had been “exalted” (Philippians 2:9-11). A Present Participle usually refers to something that is happening at the moment (and not in the past).

                      3. Where do you find any exegetical evidence in Hebrews that Philo had any influence on the author or the content of the letter? That seems purely speculative on your part. Can you show any evidence that Jesus or the apostles even knew (or cared) who Philo was?

                      4. If you think LOGOS means “expression of glory”, can you please find one use of LOGOS in the 4th Gospel that requires that meaning? Can you show that LOGOS and DOXA (“glory”) are ever used synonymously by the writer of the 4th Gospel? I don’t see the connection you are trying to make.

                      To answer your question … I think all of the NT documents were written in retrospective (John 20:31). Thus, when the writer of the 4th Gospel speaks of “glory” related to Jesus Christ, I think he’s alluding to the fact that Jesus had the power of holy spirit (John 1:30-31) which enabled him to do miraculous signs and works (John 2:11; John 11:40) in anticipation of his glorification after the resurrection (John 7:39; John 1:14; John 17:24).

                    • Jaco van Zyl
                      April 16, 2015 @ 4:23 am

                      Thanks Rivers,

                      On your questions:

                      1. Jesus would be the ancestor of a new human creation, yes. But being such an ancestor is still linked to his being the historical Jesus. Resurrection and exaltation served as legitimation of this historical figure. We see God in the one who is now exalted at his right-hand. That one is the historical Jesus. The fourth Gospel in particular accomplishes this legitimation theme by retrospectively applying Jesus’ post-resurrection vindication to his historical existence.

                      2. The tense of hupanchon (Present Active Participle) is not necessarily reflective of the author’s own time-reference. A simple example is Ac. 2:30 where David is historically referred to as the one existing (hyparchon) as a prophet. Another is Gal. 1:14 where Paul refers to his previous course as being (hyparchon) more zealous on the Jewish traditions. So no, the present tense refers to point of reference the subject of the sentence is referring to, not in reference to the author of the sentence.

                      3. There are some disagreement on Philo in Hebrews, but the evidence is overwhelming. The writer gleaned from both Hellenistic Judaism and Philo. You can see the discussion in Dunn’s Christology in the Making. Also refer Heb. 1:1-3 with Ecclesiasticus 7:26 and Philo: Quis Rerum Divinarum Heres 181; Quis Rerum Divinarum Heres 38, 56, 57, 138; Legum Allegorae I.61; De Sacrificiis Abelis et Cain 60; Quod Deterius Potiori Insidiari Soleat 77, 83.
                      4. You cannot take the Fourth Gospel in isolation. The writer made huge presuppositional assumptions when writing it. His presuppositional pool is vast, and that’s the challenge. Rabbinical traditions, targumic references, and historical echoes are all presupposed at various places in the Gospel. God’s revealed glory was the understanding of memra, translated logos. So as to maintain God’s transcendence, memra (logos) was used in circumlocution, while being fully aware that the reference was to God, the real Origin of the glory memra/logos is reflecting.
                      Your explanation in your final paragraph stops short of what can logically be concluded, namely that Jesus displayed God’s glory in his words, actions and miracles – in fact, his full character. We know the post-resurrection Christ thanks to the historical Jesus. The reference is indeed to the same person. As such, people encountered God when they encountered the historical man. And we know it, since that man was vindicated at his resurrection and glorification.

                    • Rivers
                      April 17, 2015 @ 11:03 am

                      Hi Jaco,

                      Thanks for the detailed reply. Here are some thoughts:

                      1. I agree that Jesus was an historical figure and that his resurrection glory vindicated his faithful obedience to the purpose that God the Father gave him to do on earth (John 17:4-5).

                      2. I see your point about the historical usage of the Present Participles in Acts 2:30 and Galatians 1:14. However, those occurrences are within the context of the actions of the subjects in an historical account, whereas Philippians 2:6 is given in the context of what is expected of the Philippians in the present time(Philippians 2:5).

                      Moreover, if the Present Participle in Philippians 2:6 (“existing in the form of God”) is taken in an “historical” sense (as in Acts 2:30 and Galatians 1:14), then Jesus Christ would have to be in the form of God during the time of his earthly ministry (and not beforehand) because the “historical” Present Participle would have to be subject to the period of time in Philippians 2:7-8 (which is only during his earthly ministry).

                      3. Although I like Dunn’s work, everything he deduces about a supposed theological relationship between Hebrews and Philo/Hellenistic Judaism is only speculative. He merely assumes that similar expressions require interdependence and that isn’t necessarily a sound approach (even though it is typical of modern scholarship which tends to be skeptical about the reliability of scripture).

                      The writer of Hebrews explicitly said that he received his information from “the Lord” and the apostles (Hebrews 2:3-4). Thus, there isn’t any reason to think he was depending upon Philo or Hellenistic Judaism. From a forensic and logical standpoint, it’s more reasonable to allow a writer to speak for himself than to impose uncorroborated external influences.

                    • Jaco van Zyl
                      April 18, 2015 @ 10:50 am

                      Thanks for your reply, Rivers
                      What we do know for a fact is that ancient Judaism had a strong mystical component, and that the heavens were open for God to reveal and self-reveal at any moment. For that reason we have ancient traditions of Moses’ face glowing, the high-priest re-enacting creation in temple ceremony, Adam be considered as the divine glory-bearer and rulers being called “gods” (Ps. 82). These people stood for Someone else, namely Yahweh. The exact same pattern is seen with Jesus. It is for that reason that the highly theologised Fourth Gospel could speak of Jesus in such exalted language.
                      Regarding your reference to Philippians 2:6, I still find it unconvincing that urging Christians to apply the mind of Jesus in the present time necessary to have the reference to Jesus concurrent with that present time. Referring to the historical Jesus and (just like the writer of the Fourth Gospel did) seeing his exemplary life as worthy of imitation, the historical could by applied to the present. It is indeed my position that Jesus, like Adam, was in God’s form during his earthly ministry.
                      If the clear expressions in Hebrews are not taken from Philo, then even vaguer allusions to the OT would disappear. It is simply unthinkable that the Philonic/Platonic dualism and exact expressions (always in reference to Philo’s logos) are mere coincidences. To the ancient Jew, revelation from “the Lord” would still be considered as such if the heavens are considered to be open, and if the Jewish philosopher the writer gleans from is not considered to by anti-“the Lord.”
                      Those are just my thoughts.

                    • Rivers
                      April 19, 2015 @ 9:30 pm

                      Hi Jaco,

                      1. With regard to your comment on Judaism … I just don’t think it’s necessary to impose outside influences on the apostolic writings when the apostles claimed only to be following the teaching of Jesus Christ (Hebrews 2:3-4). The writer of the 4th Gospel was very explicit about the fact that what they were teaching was disclosed to them directly by holy spirit (John 14:21-22; John 16:13-15).

                      2. Let me try to clarify what I was saying about Philippians 2:5-11. Paul was using the example of Jesus Christ to exhort the Philippians (2:5). He mentions that Jesus Christ was presently “existing in the form of God” (2:6) because God had already exalted him (2:9-11) and he was already in a “glorified body” (Philippians 3:21) at that time.

                      This makes perfectly good sense because Paul later indicated that he understood that the “body of humiliation” precedes “the body of his glory” (Philippians 3:21). Thus, Jesus first appeared as a servant on earth (Philippians 2:7-8) and then was “exalted” (Philippians 2:9-11) and came to be “existing in the form of God” (Philippians 2:6) when he became equal with God after the resurrection (Hebrews 1:3-4).

                      3. I understand where you’re coming from with Hebrews and Philo but I just don’t see any explicit corroboration between the two writers. Thus, sound exegesis and logic prefers that we let the writer of Hebrews speak on his own terms. I’ve been studying Hebrews for many years and haven’t found it necessary to consult Philo’s opinion to illuminate any of it.

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