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.

211 Comments

  1. Xavier
    January 3, 2013 @ 9:39 am

    MdS

    Nevermind bud.

    Happy New Year.

    Reply

  2. villanovanus
    January 3, 2013 @ 8:29 am

    @ Xavier (January 3, 2013 at 6:24 am)

    So we agree that BEFORE v.10 auton is not used.

    Is that all? 🙁

    That was a moot point all along, and that proves exactly … what, anyway?

    MdS

    Reply

  3. Xavier
    January 3, 2013 @ 6:24 am

    MdS

    ¿Lo que no está aún claro para usted?

    Stick to your native English bro…you’re murdering my language. 😛

    So we agree that BEFORE v.10 auton is not used.

    Thanks.

    Reply

  4. Xavier
    January 3, 2013 @ 6:22 am

    Marg

    regardless of whether the pre-incarnate logos was personal or impersonal

    I’m confused…if you don’t seem to care either way why do you continue to debate this matter?

    Reply

  5. villanovanus
    January 3, 2013 @ 12:25 am

    @ Marg (January 2, 2013 at 11:09 pm)

    regardless of whether the pre-incarnate logos was personal or impersonal, the part played by the logos in creation is part of the resume of Jesus, in/as whom the Word became flesh.

    We seem to agree on SOMETHING, eventually 🙂

    MdS

    P.S. While I agree that “the part played by the logos in creation is part of the resume of Jesus”, I OBVIOUSLY do NOT agree that the pre-incarnated logos is exactly “the same subject” as Jesus. An impersonal entity is NOT identical to a person. Once again, the key word (verb) is “became” (egeneto)

    Reply

  6. villanovanus
    January 3, 2013 @ 12:02 am

    @ Xavier (January 2, 2013 at 7:24 am)

    I asked a simple question at #48. You didn’t even answer and instead went into a long diatribe about other things.

    This was the question …

    [Xavier, #48 of January 1, 2013 at 4:45 pm] “Is phos OR logos, for that matter, described as auton before v.10?”

    … and this was the answer …

    [villanovanus, #49 of January 1, 2013 at 5:39 pm] “There are thee occurrences of the Accusative Singular Masculine auton (respectively at v.10-11-12), and they ALL refer to the logos, and/or to Jesus in/as whom the logos ‘became flesh’.”

    ¿Lo que no está aún claro para usted?

    MdS

    (I have spoken the truth, and I will never go back on my word – Isaiah 45:23)

    P.S. What was the point and/or relevance of the question, BTW?

    Reply

  7. Marg
    January 2, 2013 @ 11:09 pm

    Actually, Xavier, MdS said something quite amazing in his answer to your question. He said:

    There are thee occurrences of the Accusative Singular Masculine auton (respectively at v.10-11-12), and they ALL refer to the logos, and/or to Jesus in/as whom the logos “became flesh”.

    Exactly so. ALL of them – beginning at verse 10 – refer to the same subject.

    So if the words of verse 12 [“as many as received him, to them he gave the power to become the sons of God”] are best understood as referring to “Jesus, in/as whom the logos became flesh,” then the same applies to verse 10.
    Therefore, regardless of whether the pre-incarnate logos was personal or impersonal, the part played by the logos in creation is part of the resume of Jesus, in/as whom the Word became flesh.
    Just as 1 Cor. 8:6 would lead you to expect.

    But there is a logic problem still outstanding. So I have been listening again to Dale’s three videos on logic, and will state the problem there, as a syllogism.

    Reply

  8. Xavier
    January 2, 2013 @ 7:24 am

    MdS

    I asked a simple question at #48. You didn’t even answer and instead went into a long diatribe about other things. So what is your problem really? Especially when we agree on the main thing?

    Just a nickel’s worth of advice villanovanus, Pro 16.18. :/

    Reply

  9. villanovanus
    January 2, 2013 @ 12:08 am

    Xavier,

    thank you for confirming your incapacity of “seeing” #32, then … 😉

    (If you have nothing to say, say nothing …)

    MdS

    Reply

  10. Xavier
    January 1, 2013 @ 10:33 pm

    villanovanus

    Please see comment 31.

    Reply

  11. villanovanus
    January 1, 2013 @ 10:08 pm

    Xavier,

    and what, pray tell, is your “point”? Do entertan me … 🙂

    MdS

    Reply

  12. Xavier
    January 1, 2013 @ 6:43 pm

    MdS

    Thanks for helping me make my point. 😉

    Reply

  13. villanovanus
    January 1, 2013 @ 5:39 pm

    @ Xavier (January 1, 2013 at 4:45 pm)

    Is phos OR logos, for that matter, described as auton before v.10?

    There are 15 occurrences, altogether, of the pronoun autos with various cases (Genitive, Dative, Accusative), numbers (Singular and Plural), genders (Masculine and Neuter) and referents (logos, phôs, iôannês [John the Baptist], “those who received” the logos [and/or Jesus in/as whom the logos “became flesh”]).

    There are thee occurrences of the Accusative Singular Masculine auton (respectively at v.10-11-12), and they ALL refer to the logos, and/or to Jesus in/as whom the logos “became flesh”.

    MdS

    Reply

  14. Xavier
    January 1, 2013 @ 4:45 pm

    MdS

    Is phos OR logos, for that matter, described as auton before v.10?

    If it is then I stand corrected on the simple point I made above [comment #31].

    Reply

  15. villanovanus
    January 1, 2013 @ 1:33 pm

    @ Xavier (January 1, 2013 at 12:44 pm)

    I find it (mildly) amusing that you think you can get away with your claims of “misreading” and of “bias” on my part, yet my pointing out of your misunderstanding, would be “flippancy”.

    It is evident that you are not familiar enough with ancient/koine Greek, and, in particular, with NT Greek. You should be sensible enough to leave that bone alone … 😉

    MdS

    Reply

  16. Xavier
    January 1, 2013 @ 12:44 pm

    MdS

    it is your invoation of some imaginary “change” of grammatical gender between v.5 and v.10 that is grammatically and logically untenable.

    I think we have noted down our slight disagreement concerning the subject of v.10. No need for any flippancy.

    Reply

  17. villanovanus
    January 1, 2013 @ 12:42 pm

    @ Marg (January 1, 2013 at 10:03 am)

    You have already commented on my comment #32 with your #33. In turn I have replied to your objections with my comment #35. Your returning on the same point, over an over again, is your peculiarity.

    And may I remind you that it was you who affirmed that “It may be that John is personifying the Word in the first five verses of his gospel” (Marg #4 of December 20, 2012 at 9:21 am).

    MdS

    Reply

  18. villanovanus
    January 1, 2013 @ 12:39 pm

    @ Xavier (January 1, 2013 at 7:50 am)

    I don’t think it has to do with any theological conspiracy but a simple misreading of the text on your part. Maybe based on your own bias.

    Who ever spoke of “conspiracy”? Certainly of bias, on the part of the English translators, as has been amply illustrated. Once again, it is your invoation of some imaginary “change” of grammatical gender between v.5 and v.10 that is grammatically and logically untenable.

    I find your objections to my straightforward explanation of John 1:4-9 as an “interlude” a curious form of rejection. Seems like you have “invested” on your “theory” of the “change”.

    Anyway, whatever makes you happy. 😉

    MdS

    Reply

  19. Marg
    January 1, 2013 @ 10:03 am

    From Comment #32:

    (The use of the three images, word/life/light, BTW, should be enough to dispense once and for with the idea of a “personal pre-incarnated word”.)

    This suggests that the three images of word, light, and life could not possibly be used of a person.

    But those three images CAN be used of a person. In fact, all three ARE used of the person of Jesus (John 8:12; John 11:25; Revelation 19:13).

    So your logic is flawed. The use of those images does not settle the issue of whether the pre-incarnate Word was personal or impersonal. That question remains open.

    Reply

  20. Xavier
    January 1, 2013 @ 7:50 am

    villanovus

    I don’t think it has to do with any theological conspiracy but a simple misreading of the text on your part. Maybe based on your own bias.

    Reply

  21. John
    January 1, 2013 @ 6:11 am

    Villanovanus / Anthony
    Thanks for a most useful paper!
    Happy New Year!
    Blessings
    John

    Reply

  22. villanovanus
    January 1, 2013 @ 5:41 am

    @ John (December 30, 2012 at 12:42 am)

    I looked at this some time ago and found that ALL Protestant Bibles published before the Catholic Douay-Rheims Bible in 1582 read ” IT was with God in the beginning.”
    With the publication of the Douay-Rheims Bible most protestant Bibles rendered the scripture “HE was with God in the beginning”.

    Actually, that still applies in 1607, that is before the publication of the KJV (begun in 1604 and completed in 1611):

    “In the beginning was that Word, and that Word was with God, and that Word was God. This same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by it, and without it was made nothing that was made. In itwas life, and that life was the light of men. And that light shineth in the darknes, and the darknesse comprehended it not.” (Lawrence Tomson, The New Testament of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Translated out of Greeke by Theod. Beza, London: Robert Barker, 1607).

    See “A Chronological Conspectus of the Opening Verses of the Gospel of John in Various Editions of the English Bible” (http://www.focusonthekingdom.org/610.htm).

    MdS

    Reply

  23. villanovanus
    January 1, 2013 @ 1:07 am

    @ Xavier (December 31, 2012 at 1:53 pm)

    I can’t find anyone who reads it [John 1:10] that way.

    That’s hardly surprising, bearing in mind (as Anthony has already said), that, thoughout the Prologue, “orthodoxy forced its way into the text, inadmissibly, with HE and HIM”.

    MdS

    Reply

  24. Anthony Buzzard
    December 31, 2012 @ 4:33 pm

    John

    Yes, we published this good info in our Focus on the Kingdom magazine years ago: http://www.focusonthekingdom.org/magazine.htm

    We found about 50 translations with “IT”. Nothing remarkable in the sense that orthodoxy forced its way into the text, inadmissably, with HE and HIM.

    Reply

  25. Xavier
    December 31, 2012 @ 1:53 pm

    MdS

    And any other explanation would be unsupported and therefore arbitrary.

    Really? I can’t find anyone who reads it that way. But at least we agree on the fundamentals.

    Reply

  26. villanovanus
    December 31, 2012 @ 1:34 pm

    @ Xavier (December 31, 2012 at 6:54 am)

    So you believe it [John 1:10] goes back to speaking about logos, even though the subject has been changed to the “light” since v.4, because of the masculine pronoun “him” [auton]?

    Correct. And any other explanation would be unsupported and therefore arbitrary.

    And yes this hymn/poem shouldn’t be picked to death but we have sort of been bullied into it by many errant Christologies that have been thrown at it. Same with the similar hymns/poems of Col 1; Phil 2.

    I agree. All the more so, it is necessary to be sober in examining it.

    MdS

    Reply

  27. villanovanus
    December 31, 2012 @ 1:29 pm

    [Marg (December 31, 2012 at 4:20 am)]

    John begins the section on the Word IN THE WORLD in v. 10. There is no textual basis for making the “turning point” come AFTER v. 10.

    The Word was in the world (according to John’s Prologue, that is) since v.3 when, with cosmic creation, the Word became immanent in creation itself.

    As for the “turning point” (between pre-incarnated and incarnated), once again, it certainly happens by v.14, when we find the expression “the Word became flesh”, but, maybe, it is hinted at after v.9, where it is said that “true light … was coming into the world”. I am not dogmatic about it. You manifestly are …

    … but then again, for you there is “no doubt” … 😉

    Even when the Word was IN THE WORLD, it is still true that the world came into being through HIM. [uh?] There is no reason to believe that when the Word became flesh, all the history of the pre-incarnate Word was automatically obliterated. [uh?]

    I have read this paragraph repeatedly, and it simply makes no sense … as it is formulated, anyway …

    … Jesus made the following statements:
    I am the light of the world. [John 8:12]
    I am the resurrection and the life. [John 11:25]
    So “light” and “life” – true of the pre-incarnate Word (John 1:4) – are also true of the Word made flesh (John 8:12; John 11:25).

    And that is precisely my point: the three images, word/life/light are true of the pre-incarnated Word as they are of the Word incarnated in/as Jesus. Does this imply that the word/life/light was personal before the Incarnation in/as Jesus?

    This is a claim that has no scriptural foundation.

    MdS

    Reply

  28. Xavier
    December 31, 2012 @ 6:54 am

    MdS

    So you believe it goes back to speaking about logos, even though the subject has been changed to the “light” since v.4, because of the masculine pronoun “him” [auton]?

    And yes this hymn/poem shouldn’t be picked to death but we have sort of been bullied into it by many errant Christologies that have been thrown at it. Same with the similar hymns/poems of Col 1; Phil 2.

    Reply

  29. Marg
    December 31, 2012 @ 4:20 am

    John 1:14 unquestionably speaks of Jesus, the Incarnated Word of God. So, the “turning point” between impersonal and personal is located somewhere between John 1:10 and John 1:14. Personally, I consider John 1:11 the turning point, without being dogmatic about it. [villanovanus #6 of December 20, 2012 at 10:30 am]

    John begins the section on the Word IN THE WORLD in v. 10. There is no textual basis for making the “turning point” come AFTER v. 10.

    Even when the Word was IN THE WORLD, it is still true that the world came into being through HIM. There is no reason to believe that when the Word became flesh, all the history of the pre-incarnate Word was automatically obliterated.

    (The use of the three images, word/life/light, BTW, should be enough to dispense once and for with the idea of a “personal pre-incarnated word”.)

    Not quite. Jesus made the following statements:

    I am the light of the world.
    I am the resurrection and the life.

    So “light” and “life” – true of the pre-incarnate Word (John 1:4) – are also true of the Word made flesh (John 8:12; John 11:25).

    Reply

  30. villanovanus
    December 30, 2012 @ 11:42 pm

    @ Xavier (December 30, 2012 at 7:53 pm)

    I think we’re misunderstanding each other here.

    I think the “misunderstanding” is entirely yours. 🙂

    The point I am trying to make is that the “light coming into the world” in v. 10 is described as “him” (auton) when previously in v. 5 the light was “it” (auto).

    Try to see it this way. The group of 6 verses John 1:4-9 is an “interlude“, that presents the “word” (logos, masculine) as “life” (zôê, feminine) and, in turn, as “light” (phôs, neuter), with a sub-interlude (John 1:6-8) on John the Baptist being the “witness to the light”.

    The ONLY “change between v. 10 and v. 5” is that v. 10 goes back to speak about the “word” (logos, masculine).

    ¿Está claro para usted? 🙂

    (One of the greatest scholars on John, Raymond E. Brown, described somewhere the Prologue to the Gospel of John as something like a “grammatical nightmare” …)

    (The use of the three images, word/life/light, BTW, should be enough to dispense once and for with the idea of a “personal pre-incarnated word”.)

    MdS

    Reply

  31. Xavier
    December 30, 2012 @ 7:53 pm

    MdS

    I think we’re misunderstanding each other here.

    The point I am trying to make is that the “light coming into the world” in v. 10 is described as “him” (auton) when previously in v. 5 the light was “it” (auto).

    Reply

  32. villanovanus
    December 30, 2012 @ 5:51 pm

    @ Xavier (December 30, 2012 at 10:23 am)

    It [the ALLEGED change of auto to auton in v.10] is a grammatical change not an alteration or corruption if that is what you think I meant.

    Who, pray tell, would have operated that “change”, and why?

    And what “mistake” are we making?

    Who is “we”? Anyway, the mistake of assuming that some “change” needs to be invoked, of course.

    MdS

    Reply

  33. Xavier
    December 30, 2012 @ 10:23 am

    MdS

    It is simply wrong (at least unsupported and therefore arbitrary) to affirm that John the Evangelist would have “changed auto to auton in v.10 ”

    It is a grammatical change not an alteration or corruption if that is what you think I meant.

    And what “mistake” are we making?

    Reply

  34. villanovanus
    December 30, 2012 @ 8:29 am

    Anthony Buzzard (December 29, 2012 at 12:45 pm)

    Thanks, but everyone knows that logos is masculine gender, grammatically. But everyone should know too that sexual gender and grammatical gender do not necessarily correspond!

    Logos is an IT and a HE or HIM, before IT (the word) becomes Jesus. Thus, 50 or so translations which unconfusingly and correctly read “all things were made by IT,” not “him”.

    I think you are confusing grammatical and sexual gender. The fact that logos is masculine in Greek does not require in anyway that it should be rendered as HE, HIM rather than “it.”

    You are simply spinning your own yarn.

    Let me confirm what I have already affirmed: the “the ONLY unquestionable reason for using the Greek masculine pronoun autos [of course in its nominative case, as well as in the other cases, autou genitive and auton accusative] to refer to the Word/Logos (at John 1:10 as at John 1:3 and John 1:4) is that, in Greek, the word Logos happens to be of masculine gender.”

    To any discerning reader this means that logos (and the pronoun that refers to it, autos) is masculine ONLY in grammatical gender, NOT in sexual gender, and therefore, a fortiori, it is abusive to refer to the pre-incarnated logos as though it was personal.

    MdS

    Reply

  35. villanovanus
    December 30, 2012 @ 8:29 am

    @ Xavier (December 29, 2012 at 10:54 am)

    To be specific the auton [acc. case and NOT nominative case, autos] of v.10 is a reference to the “light” [phos] and not the “word”, although they are both closely related in the prologue.

    The important thing to note is that unlike “word”, “light” in Greek is a neuter noun and not masculine. This is why the change of auto to auton in v.10 should be emphasized. In other words, the writer seems to go out of his way to make an added point about “the light that was COMING INTO the world”, i.e., a person is being introduced [see v.14] and not before!!

    It is simply wrong (at least unsupported and therefore arbitrary) to affirm that John the Evangelist would have “changed auto to auton in v.10 ”

    And it is rather disconcerting that you are repeating the very same mistake committed by Marg (#42 of December 23, 2012 at 8:29 pm), that she corrected (#48 of December 24, 2012 at 11:54 am) even “gladly” (#5 of December 27, 2012 at 11:19 pm).

    For the umpteenth time …

    The ONLY unquestionable reason for using the Greek masculine pronoun autos [of course in its nominative case, as well as in the other cases, autou genitive and auton accusative] to refer to the Word/Logos (at John 1:10 as at John 1:3 and John 1:4) is that, in Greek, the word Logos happens to be of masculine gender. [villanovanus #20 of December 28, 2012 at 11:59 pm]

    Once again …

    John 1:14 unquestionably speaks of Jesus, the Incarnated Word of God. So, the “turning point” between impersonal and personal is located somewhere between John 1:10 and John 1:14. Personally, I consider John 1:11 the turning point, without being dogmatic about it. [villanovanus #6 of December 20, 2012 at 10:30 am]

    Once again …

    All we can say, objectively, is that “the word has become flesh”, when the verb “to become” (Greek.ginomai) is first used, that is at v.14. The rest is opinion. Your guess [Xavier] is as good as mine or Marg‘s [or Anthony’s] or anybody’s. . [villanovanus #20 of December 28, 2012 at 11:59 pm]

    MdS

    Reply

  36. John
    December 30, 2012 @ 1:14 am

    All,
    Contributors to this blog have done a very workmanlike job on the subject of “The Word”.

    You may consider adding to the Wikipedia paper styled “John 1:1″.

    Of particular interest was the paragraph titled ” John 1:1 in English versions”.
    I must warn that many editors of Wikipedia have a definite Trinitarian bias, and will delete papers submitted due to what they claim are ‘generalised’ comments, or comments without ( what they say ) are adequate cross references.

    Every blessing for 2013!

    John

    Reply

  37. John
    December 30, 2012 @ 12:42 am

    Anthony,
    I looked at this some time ago and found that ALL Protestant Bibles published before the Catholic Douay-Rheims Bible in 1582 read ” IT was with God in the beginning.”
    With the publication of the Douay-Rheims Bible most protestant Bibles rendered the scripture “HE was with God in the beginning”
    Very strange!
    Interestingly the following Bibles used the word “IT”
    Tyndales Bible 1534
    Great Bible 1539
    Geneva Bible 1560
    Bishops’ Bible 1568.

    Every Blessing

    John

    Reply

  38. Anthony Buzzard
    December 29, 2012 @ 12:45 pm

    villanovanus

    Thanks, but everyone knows that logos is masculine gender, grammatically. But everyone should know too that sexual gender and grammatical gender do not necessarily correspond!

    Logos is an IT and a HE or HIM, before IT (the word) becomes Jesus. Thus, 50 or so translations which unconfusingly and correctly read “all things were made by IT,” not “him”.

    I think you are confusing grammatical and sexual gender. The fact that logos is masculine in Greek does not require in anyway that it should be rendered as HE, HIM rather than “it.”

    Reply

  39. Xavier
    December 29, 2012 @ 10:54 am

    MdS

    The ONLY unquestionable reason for using the Greek masculine pronoun autos to refer to the Word/Logos (at John 1:10 as at John 1:3 and John 1:4) is that, in Greek, the word Logos happens to be of masculine gender.

    To be specific the auton [acc. case and NOT nominative case, autos] of v.10 is a reference to the “light” [phos] and not the “word”, although they are both closely related in the prologue.

    The important thing to note is that unlike “word”, “light” in Greek is a neuter noun and not masculine. This is why the change of auto to auton in v.10 should be emphasized. In other words, the writer seems to go out of his way to make an added point about “the light that was COMING INTO the world”, i.e., a person is being introduced [see v.14] and not before!!

    Furthemore, “in Jewish idiom: coming into the world (John 6.14; 9.39; 11.27; 18.37)…means merely to be born; to be in the world is TO EXIST…” [H. Sasse, TDNT 3:888; see also 1Jn. 4.1,17; 2Jn7; Heb 10.5; 1Tim 1.15].” G.E. Ladd, A Theology of the NT, 1993, p. 261.

    We also must remember that grammatical gender has nothing to do with sexual gender, i.e., if a noun is masculine in Greek [in this case logos-“word”] it doesnt mean “the word” is a “male” or a person. As many preachers/scholars would like us believe.

    As you know, in the English language, unlike my native Spanish, you don’t have grammatical gender, this is why so many English speakers are unfamiliar with this concept. For example, “table” in Spanish is a feminine noun [“LA mesa”] but that obviously would not mean it is a female person.

    Reply

  40. villanovanus
    December 29, 2012 @ 9:53 am

    @ Marg

    As easily foreseen, Anthony has just made room for your obfuscation … :/

    The question, as many times as needs to be repeated is: was the pre-incarnated Word a person?

    If you want to put it more dierctly: did Jesus pre-exist as a person the Incarnation of the Word of God.

    Enjoy your “search”.

    MdS

    Reply

  41. Marg
    December 29, 2012 @ 8:31 am

    I think verse 12 supports Anthony’s view of verse 10.

    … as many as received HIM, to them [he] gave the authority to become children of God, to those believing in the name of HIM.

    This is the Word who was in the world (v. 10), giving this authority to those who received HIM.

    Reply

  42. villanovanus
    December 28, 2012 @ 11:59 pm

    Anthony Buzzard (December 28, 2012 at 7:22 pm)

    Yes v.14 repeats what is IMPLIED by v.10. The word has become flesh when the word is a masculine person, auton. None of these is meant to be so complicated.

    You repeatedly use the adjective “complicated”, but (at least in this case) the “complication” is ONLY in the eye of the beholder.

    The ONLY unquestionable reason for using the Greek masculine pronoun autos to refer to the Word/Logos (at John 1:10 as at John 1:3 and John 1:4) is that, in Greek, the word Logos happens to be of masculine gender. No need to make this … er … complicated with dubious “implications”.

    All we can say, objectively, is that “the word has become flesh”, when the verb “to become” (Greek. ginomai) is first used, that is at v.14. The rest is opinion. Your guess is as good as mine or Marg‘s or anybody’s.

    Caird’s statement about John 1.1 implies an undermining of the Trinity. Whatever he might have expressed in public.

    I don’t know what you mean by the expression “in public”. What Caird says about the “trinity”, in the rest of his book, is just as “public” as what he says at p.332.

    MdS

    Reply

  43. Anthony Buzzard
    December 28, 2012 @ 7:22 pm

    villanovus

    Yes v.14 repeats what is IMPLIED by v.10. The word has become flesh when the word is a masculine person, auton. None of these is meant to be so complicated.

    Caird’s statement about John 1.1 implies an undermining of the Trinity. Whatever he might have expressed in public.

    Reply

  44. Anthony Buzzard
    December 28, 2012 @ 7:18 pm

    Marg

    The issue is the creed of Jesus. Because if you have a person other than the Father you automatically have a non-human Jesus. No need to make this complicated.

    Reply

  45. Xavier
    December 28, 2012 @ 3:19 pm

    MdS

    I like you too. 😉

    Reply

  46. villanovanus
    December 28, 2012 @ 1:53 pm

    Xavier

    Sounds familiar :p

    MdS

    Reply

  47. Xavier
    December 28, 2012 @ 12:22 pm

    MdS

    I did.

    Reply

  48. villanovanus
    December 28, 2012 @ 12:12 pm

    Xavier

    Read again … read better …

    MdS

    Reply

  49. Xavier
    December 28, 2012 @ 12:09 pm

    MdS

    What?

    Reply

  50. villanovanus
    December 28, 2012 @ 11:57 am

    @ Xavier (December 28, 2012 at 11:06 am)

    [1] … whether the pre-incarnate Word was impersonal or personal has not yet been established … [Marg]

    [2] Of course it has been established! [presumably: that the pre-incarnate Word was impersonal – Xavier]

    [3] It cannot be proved that the author of the prologue thought of the word as a real person. Wendt, Hans (1907), System der Christlichen Lehre.

    As I believe we agree in the main, I feel entitled to asking you the question: are you aware that #3 is closer to #1 than to #2?

    MdS

    Reply

  51. Xavier
    December 28, 2012 @ 11:06 am

    Marg

    whether the pre-incarnate Word was impersonal or personal has not yet been established, and if it CAN’T be established, then it doesn’t matter.

    Of course it has been established!

    Dabar – from the Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew Lexicon: Speech, word, speaking, THING.

    Logos – from the Liddell-Scott-James Greek Lexicon: comprising both senses of Thought and Word. (New Testament.)

    Many scholars understand this clearly:

    …we should not argue from Philo’s meaning of “word” as a hypostasis that John also meant by “word” a pre-existing personality. In the remainder of the Gospel and in 1 John, “word” is never to be understood in a personal sense…The slightly personifying way in which the word is spoken of as into the world (1:9-14) is typical of the personifying style of the Old Testament references to the word (Isa. 55:11; Psa. 107:20; 147:15. cp. 2 Thess. 3:1.) It cannot be proved that the author of the prologue thought of the word as a real person. Wendt, Hans (1907), System der Christlichen Lehre.

    Reply

  52. villanovanus
    December 28, 2012 @ 10:28 am

    [Marg (December 28, 2012 at 9:14 am)]

    … in the case of John 1:10, the Word was IN THE WORLD, and that Word IN THE WORLD is the man, Jesus. … the pronoun “him” is DOUBLY appropriate. It indicates the masculine gender of the word logos, and it ALSO stands as the personal pronoun referring to the man, Jesus.

    Gasp! “Desperate, But Not Serious” …

    … whether the pre-incarnate Word was impersonal or personal has not yet been established, and if it CAN’T be established, then it doesn’t matter.

    Of course it obviously DOES matter and, as already evidenced, you seem to have … “no doubt” … as to the answer …

    MdS

    Reply

  53. villanovanus
    December 28, 2012 @ 10:02 am

    @ Anthony Buzzard (December 28, 2012 at 8:29 am)

    [1] In John 1.10, as you [Marg] say, the “word/light” has BECOME a person, for the first time. [2] If one begins “in the beginning was the SON and the SON was with the Father and the Son was the Father” — one gets into nonsense.

    [3] … Caird at Oxford got it right: “How is John 1:1 to be translated?…The solution is that logos for John primarily means ‘purpose.’ ‘In the beginning was the purpose, the purpose in the mind of God, the purpose which was God’s own being.’ It is surely a conceivable thought that God is wholly identified with His purpose of love and that this purpose took human form in Jesus of Nazareth. (Caird, New Testament Theology, p. 332)

    [1] This is not quite correct: the first time that the Evangelist John uses the verb “to become”, with reference to the Word of God, is at verse 14 (kai ho logos sarx egeneto – “and the Word became flesh”)

    [2] It is so obviously evident that it is abusive to refer to the pre-incarnated Word as though it read “Son” that only through powerful, systematic obfuscation, that began well before the traditional, “orthodox” doctrine of the “trinity (in fact, at least as early as Justin Martyr) this has been possible. In the 4th century, Marcellus of Ancyra explicitly accused the Gnostic Valentinus of inventing the “trinity”.

    [3] George Bradford Caird (1917 – 1984) was a respectable and respected Congregationalist/United Reformed theologian. It is not evident to me that he ever rejected the traditional, “orthodox” doctrine of the “trinity. As for “purpose”, it is one of many attempts to interpret what the Evangelist John wanted to express with the word logos.

    Unless someone has the chutzpah to argue that the Evangelist John chose logos because, unlike feminine sophia and zôê, unlike the neuter phôs it had the advantage of hinting proleptically at the male person, Jesus, in/as whom it would become incarnated, I affirm that the Evangelist John used the word logos because it best expresses the Hebrew word dabar, especially in the expression dabar Yahweh.

    MdS

    Reply

  54. Marg
    December 28, 2012 @ 9:14 am

    Autos does not have to mean a PERSON! It agrees with whatever it refers to, in gender and number. In this case the reference is to “the word” not “Word”.

    That’s true, Anthony. But in the case of John 1:10, the Word was IN THE WORLD, and that Word IN THE WORLD is the man, Jesus.

    So the pronoun “him” is DOUBLY appropriate. It indicates the masculine gender of the word logos, and it ALSO stands as the personal pronoun referring to the man, Jesus.

    None of this demands that the pre-incarnate Word be a person. But it DOES indicate that the activity of the pre-incarnate Word is here being applied to the Word IN THE WORLD. And the rest of the section (vv. 11-13) reinforces the fact that the Word in the world is Jesus.
    This Word came to his own (v. 13), and his own rejected him.
    BUT (v. 12) –

    As many as received HIM, to them [he] gave authority to become children of God …”

    And then John changes to the present tense, which goes beyond the eyewitnesses and allows us to include ourselves in the company of those who receive him:
    [even] to those who believe on the name of HIM

    I repeat: whether the pre-incarnate Word was impersonal or personal has not yet been established, and if it CAN’T be established, then it doesn’t matter.
    But I intend to keep looking at the evidence, because reading the Scriptures alone is nourishing.

    Reply

  55. Anthony Buzzard
    December 28, 2012 @ 8:29 am

    Marg

    Autos does not have to mean a PERSON! It agrees with whatever it refers to, in gender and number. In this case the reference is to “the word” not “Word”.

    If people would believe Matthew and Luke all would be easy and well! A PRE-HUMAN person is not a human being!

    In John 1.10, as you say, the “word/light” has BECOME a person, for the first time. If one begins “in the beginning was the SON and the SON was with the Father and the Son was the Father” — one gets into nonsense. Caird at Oxford got it right:

    How is John 1:1 to be translated?…The solution is that logos for John primarily means ‘purpose.’ ‘In the beginning was the purpose, the purpose in the mind of God, the purpose which was God’s own being.’ It is surely a conceivable thought that God is wholly identified with His purpose of love and that this purpose took human form in Jesus of Nazareth. (Caird, New Testament Theology, p. 332)

    Reply

  56. villanovanus
    December 28, 2012 @ 3:19 am

    @ Marg (December 27, 2012 at 11:19 pm)]

    One thing that has not been mentioned is that the pronouns autou and auton can properly be translated with the personal pronoun him, [ummm …] because the Word was already “IN THE WORLD”.

    The Word was indeed “in the world”, for the simple reason that …

    All things were created by the Word [di’autou], and apart from the Word [chôris autou] not one thing was created that has been created. (John 1:3 – NET)

    Does this imply that the Word that was in the world as God’s own agent of cosmic creation was personal before the Incarnation? You have written …

    “It may be that John is personifying the Word in the first five verses [John 1:1-5] of his gospel.” [Marg #4 (December 20, 2012 at 9:21 am)]]

    … and, unless you were using the verb “to personify” improperly, it means some thing like “to think of or represent (an inanimate object or abstraction) as having personality or the qualities, thoughts, or movements of a living being”. Very much like for Wisdom at Proverbs 8 …

    Whether the preincarnate Word was personal or impersonal, the ACTIVITY of the preincarnate Word is here credited to Jesus, who was the Word IN THE WORLD.

    You are simply wrong: the ONLY reason for using the Greek masculine pronoun autos to refer to the Word/Logos (at John 1:10 as at John 1:3 and John 1:4) is that, in Greek, the word Logos happens to be of masculine gender.

    MdS

    Reply

  57. Marg
    December 27, 2012 @ 11:19 pm

    I have already acknowledged my mistake in making “the light” the subject of John 1:10, and have GLADLY replaced it with “the Word”.

    One thing that has not been mentioned is that the pronouns autou and auton can properly be translated with the personal pronoun him, because the Word was already “IN THE WORLD”.

    The first and basic meaning of the Greek pronoun autos is:
    self, intensive, setting the individual off from everything else. (BAG)

    So verse 10 (with emphasis added to indicate the intensive quality of the Greek pronouns) can be translated this way:

    [The Word] was in the world; and the world came into being through HIM; and the world did not know HIM.

    Whether the preincarnate Word was personal or impersonal, the ACTIVITY of the preincarnate Word is here credited to Jesus, who was the Word IN THE WORLD.

    I have no more to say on this particular passage. There are other passages that need to be examined.

    Reply

  58. villanovanus
    December 26, 2012 @ 1:17 pm

    @ Greg [December 24, 2012 at 3:03 pm]

    At #47 (December 24, 2012 at 4:30 am) commenting on your post #43 (December 23, 2012 at 10:49 pm), I made perfectly normal remarks and asked perfectly normal questions.

    It is your choice to stop where you prefer to stop … 🙂

    MdS

    Reply

  59. villanovanus
    December 26, 2012 @ 12:50 pm

    [Marg (December 24, 2012 at 1:46 pm)] …you are unwilling EVER to admit that you made a mistake – even when the mistake is too obvious to be denied.

    # My dear lady, this is a list #
    (# of the relevant comments between us #)

    [villanovanus #6 (December 20, 2012 at 10:30 am)]
    “As for John 1:9 [NET], it is another “bridge verse”, announcing that “The true light, that gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.” So, if it was coming, it had not come, yet …”
    “If you look at the Greek text [of John 1:10], there simply is no equivalent of the English “he” at the beginning of the verse (en tô kosmô ên, “was in the world”), and “through him” is a biased and misleading translation of the Greek di’autou where autou is the Genitive Singular of the pronoun autos (“the same”), so the phrase simply means “through the same [Word]“, referring back to the very same Word of the beginning, NOT to any “he”. ”

    ” John 1:14 unquestionably speaks of Jesus, the Incarnated Word of God. So, the “turning point” between impersonal and personal is located somewhere between John 1:10 and John 1:14. Personally, I consider John 1:11 the turning point, WITHOUT BEING DOGMATIC ABOUT IT.” [CAPITALIZATION and BOLDING added here]

    [Marg #29 (December 22, 2012 at 8:13 am)]
    “([John 1:]9) The true light [which John witnessed] ENLIGHTENS every man coming into the world.

    ([John 1:]10) That light was IN THE WORLD [where John was a witness].
    The world it was in was brought into being THROUGH “the same” [light].
    Yet the world did not know “the same” [light that was in the world, even though the world was brought into existence through that same light].”

    [Marg #41 (December 23, 2012 at 7:18 pm)]
    “By verse 10, the light was not COMING. The language is clear. The light “WAS IN THE WORLD“. It had already COME. So verse 11 is not the turning point. The light was ALREADY in the world in verse 10. And that light was Jesus.”

    [Marg #42 (December 23, 2012 at 8:29 pm)]
    “… the adjective phrase “coming into the world” (from verse 9) is NOT the predicate of the sentence in verse 10.
    In v. 10, the unstated subject is obviously “the light”. [ummm …] What is said about the light is, “WAS IN THE WORLD”. [ummm …] So, clearly, the light is not now COMING. It has already COME.
    The whole sentence is:
    [The light] was in the world, and the world was brought into existence through [the light], and the world did not know [the light]. [ummm …]
    I have no doubt about the personal identity of that light.”

    [villanovanus #46 (December 24, 2012 at 4:27 am)]
    “The question is NOT at what verse of the Prologue to the Gospelof John was the word/light/life incarnated in/as Jesus. The question is: was that word/light/life personal (in the OBVIOUS sense of the word person: “self-conscious being, endowed with reason, freedom and will”) before it “became flesh” in/as Jesus? ”
    [Marg #48 (December 24, 2012 at 11:54 am) after quickly sweeping under the carpet her blunder about John 1:10 with the words “I have been reminded that in John 1:10 …” and “just for the sake of accuracy” …]
    “Comment #6 (December 20) includes the following:
    The true light, that gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.” So, if it was coming, it had not come, yet …
    …So, the “turning point” between impersonal and personal is located somewhere between John 1:10 and John 1:14.

    This is wrong. The Word was ALREADY in the world in verse 10, and was not just COMING INTO it.
    That mistake needs to be corrected.”
    # END OF THE LIST #

    I had (charitably …) omitted to remark on your blunder about John 1:10 …

    … (that you assumed to speak of “the Light” whereas it speaks of “the Word”).

    At post #49 I have tried to make you see that the interpretation of John 1:9 depends on whether “coming into the world” (erchomenon eis ton kosmon) is to be referred to “the true light” OR to “everyone”. The latter is adopted by an absolute minority of translations…

    All the above being premised, can you please indicate precisely to whose “mistake” you are referring, and in what it would consist?

    BTW, perhaps you are –as you keep claiming– “searching for an answer” to the question of the (personal or) impersonal character of the pre-incarnated Word, BUT you seem to have too few doubts

    [Marg #42 (December 18, 2012 at 10:56 am)]
    “… we at least have established the fact that Jesus DID exist before Abraham, as the preincarnate Word of God. There is no longer any doubt about that. ”

    [Marg #29 (December 22, 2012 at 8:13 am)]
    ” … verse [John 1:]12 leaves no doubt about the IDENTITY of the true light and his mission in the world.”
    “… there is no doubt about who the Word – the living Word (4) whose life is the light of men – became.”

    [Marg #42 (December 23, 2012 at 8:29 pm)]
    “I have no doubt about the personal identity of that light.”

    … so you make me (you make us all?) suspect that you have already made up your mind … 😉

    MdS

    Reply

  60. Greg
    December 24, 2012 @ 3:03 pm

    MdS,

    The emphasis in the passage I quoted is not upon the symbols (as if they themselves were meant to become central objects of our faith), rather it is upon the idea that the (later) creeds should not be read as descriptions of metaphysical reality. If humanitarian Unitarians approached it in this manner, there would be nothing for them to object to because in it they would see simply a declaration of the importance of Jesus in God’s plan of redemption, as well as a statement about God and Christ’s unity in purpose. And if Trinitarians would cease and desist from their tyrannical insistence upon taking these creeds literally, they wouldn’t alienate other Christians whose consciences won’t allow them to recite them.

    Now you keep accusing me of being vague in my attempt to describe the divinity of Jesus, but I think that it’s precisely the desire to be more specific that gets us into trouble. The writers of the New Testament (even John) were not writing philosophical treatises on the metaphysical relationship of Christ to God. They were explaining the importance of the man Jesus of Nazareth in God’s plan of salvation for mankind. I don’t see anything inadequate at all in the statement that God was “revealing himself fully through Jesus’ humanity, and in that sense the Word was made flesh.” I think what John wants us to understand is that Jesus is no ordinary man whom God chose to be the Messiah because of his righteousness; he’s more central than that: Jesus’ action/purpose in the world is God’s action and purpose. As John A.T. Robinson has suggested, Jesus is the human face of God.

    This is why I see the truth resting somewhere between Unitarianism and Trinitarianism. From Unitarianism we take the all-important doctrine of Jesus’ true and uncompromised humanity. From Trinitarianism, we take the essential fact that Jesus is no ordinary human being, that he is indeed God acting in the world.

    Now, I think I’ve said all that I want to or can say about this issue, so I will let you and others have the last word. It is my goal and desire to contribute to Christian unity, not division, and I think that too much verbiage all too often leads to unnecessary division in the body of Christ. My efforts here are to help Christians of all types see that, as impossible as it may seem, there are ways that we can come together. We just have to exercise a little humility, and refrain from dogmatism in areas that we really have no business making definitive statements.

    Reply

  61. Xavier
    December 24, 2012 @ 2:12 pm

    Marg

    What seems apparent by now is that you are unwilling EVER to admit that you made a mistake – even when the mistake is too obvious to be denied.

    Sounds familiar :p

    Reply

  62. Marg
    December 24, 2012 @ 1:46 pm

    I understand the question, MdS. That is the question some of us are searching for an answer to.

    What seems apparent by now is that you are unwilling EVER to admit that you made a mistake – even when the mistake is too obvious to be denied.

    That does not inspire confidence in your “assertions”.

    Reply

  63. villanovanus
    December 24, 2012 @ 12:51 pm

    @ Marg (December 24, 2012 at 11:54 am)

    Actually, I didn’t mention it, but it is not even entirely clear if that “coming into the world” (erchomenon eis ton kosmon) at John 1:9 is to be referred to “the true light” OR to “everyone”. IOW it is not even sure if we should read/understand …

    [a] “The true light, that illuminates everyone, was coming into the world”

    OR

    [b] “[The word] was the true light, that illuminates everyone coming into the world.”

    But this is NOT the question.

    For the umpteenth time …

    “The question is NOT at what verse of the Prologue to the Gospel of John the word/light/life “became flesh” in/as Jesus. The question is: was that word/light/life personal (in the OBVIOUS sense of the word person: “self-conscious being, endowed with reason, freedom and will”) before that word/light/life “became flesh” in/as Jesus?”

    … this is, indeed, the last time that I raise this question with you … /:

    MdS

    Reply

  64. Marg
    December 24, 2012 @ 11:54 am

    I have been reminded that in John 1:10, the gender of both autou and auton is MASCULINE, and not NEUTER (as in v. 5).
    This indicates that those two words refer to the Word (which is masculine in gender), rather than the light (which is neuter).

    So – just for the sake of accuracy – John 10 should be understood as:

    [The Word] was in the world, and the world was brought into existence by [the Word], and the world did not know [the Word].

    The language is perfectly clear: the Word (including its light) was already IN THE WORLD in verse 10.

    Comment #6 (December 20) includes the following:

    “The true light, that gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.” So, if it was coming, it had not come, yet …
    …So, the “turning point” between impersonal and personal is located somewhere between John 1:10 and John 1:14.

    This is wrong. The Word was ALREADY in the world in verse 10, and was not just COMING INTO it.

    That mistake needs to be corrected.

    Reply

  65. villanovanus
    December 24, 2012 @ 4:30 am

    @ Greg

    [December 23, 2012 at 10:49 pm] “… [Christians will be united creedally] only if these creeds are recognized to be the symbols of God’s revealing and saving action, not metaphysically accurate descriptions of the nature of his agent. Christ is ‘of one substance with the Father’; but the utmost, and inmost, it is given us to know of God’s ‘substance’ is that he is love — as such he is revealed in Christ — and love is not a metaphysical essence but personal moral will and action.” [from On the Meaning of Christ, by John Knox]

    … and yet the Old Roman Symbol (? Apostles’ Creed) clearly and unambiguously says that “Christ Jesus His only Son, our Lord … was born from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary”, which is nothing but what Luke 1:35 says. I would be careful talking about “symbols”, if I were you, lest everything gets obscured in “mysterian haze” …

    [December 24, 2012 at 12:25 am] [1] … I agree with many [theologians] that in Jesus’ humanity, God was revealing himself fully — and it is in that sense that the Word was made flesh.

    [2] … I think that once you start talking about more than one self-conscious entity eternally existing, you are in the realm of polytheism.

    [3] I don’t have a problem with Irenaeus’ view that God has “two hands” (the Son and the Spirit) by which he interacts with creation, but neither the Son nor the Spirit are the one true God; rather, the one true God is the Father alone, and the Son and the Spirit derive from that one God.

    [1] Isn’t this a tad vague and overly metaphoric/symbolic? The language of both the Apostles’ Creed and of Luke 1:35 is so much simpler and clearer … have you ever considered that the Virgin Conception is NOT a mere miracle (a “metaphor”, if you don’t read it literally …), but also (mainly?) God’s way of conveying the mystery to us? Or are you afraid that this sounds too “magical” and “heathen”? What?

    [2] Why do you have to? Seeing the pre-incarnated Word as an attribute (an eternal, “structural” attribute of God) entirely eliminates the problem. (Same for the Holy Spirit, BTW)

    [3] But this (coupled with some un-biblical “personality” attributed to the pre-incarnated Word – and Spirit) is precisely the Emanationist/Subordinationist mistake. You have two arms, right? Would you say that they are not (part of) the “one true Greg”? Conversely, would anybody consider your two arms as two “persons, distinct from Greg”?

    Any comments?

    MdS

    Reply

  66. villanovanus
    December 24, 2012 @ 4:27 am

    @ Marg

    [December 23, 2012 at 7:18 pm]… By verse 10, the light was not COMING. The language is clear. The light “WAS IN THE WORLD“. It had already COME. … So verse 11 is not the turning point. The light was ALREADY in the world in verse 10. … And that light was Jesus.

    [December 23, 2012 at 8:29 pm] … The whole sentence is:

    [The light] was in the world, and the world was brought into existence through [the light], and the world did not know [the light]. [John 1:10]

    I have no doubt about the personal identity of that light.

    Jesus is a specific historical man, who was born in a specific time (ca. 6 BCE) and place (Bethlehem, Judea). (And who, so Christians believe, was mysteriously/miraculously conceived by God’s Holy Spirit from the Virgin Mary, announced God’s Gospel of the Kingdom supporting his announcement with miraculous signs, was tried, killed by the Romans thanks to the PTBs of the Jews, raised by God and taken up to Heaven, where God bestowed upon him the power, honor and glory of “sitting at His right” as Lord).

    It is something entirely different to affirm that the word/light/life that “was in the beginning with God”, that even “was God”, through which “everything was created” was indeed incarnated in/as Jesus Christ.

    The question is NOT at what verse of the Prologue to the Gospel of John was the word/light/life incarnated in/as Jesus. The question is: was that word/light/life personal (in the OBVIOUS sense of the word person: “self-conscious being, endowed with reason, freedom and will”) before it “became flesh” in/as Jesus?

    All those who affirm that the word/light/life was personal before the word/light/life “became flesh” in/as Jesus (once again, whether Subordinationists [like Samuel Clarke …], whether Arians or whether full-fledged Nicene-Constantinopolitan “trinitarians”) project their doctrinal prejudice on the Scripture. The distortion began very early, at least as early as Justin Martyr.

    Does it mean to say that we should not ask ourselves questions about the “what or who” of the pre-incarnated word/light/life?

    I affirm that we cannot dismiss those questions.

    AFAIAC, Anthony‘ answer is reductive, because it doesn’t adequately account for the divinity of Jesus. In his case the risk, nay the consequence, is that of mere humanitarian unitarianism.

    Greg‘ s answer, OTOH, is vague, and, ultimately legitimates (however he insists that he reject its Greek-philosophical-metaphysical understanding) the traditional “orthodox” phrasing of the “trinity”, invented by the Cappadocian scoundrels (Basil of Caesarea, his brother Gregory of Nyssa and their friend Gregory of Nazianzus). In his case, the risk is that of modalism.

    Once again, the “common denominator” on which Christians can (and should) agree, IMO is the Old Roman Symbol (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Roman_Symbol), while leaving the mystery to remain a mystery.

    MdS

    Reply

  67. Greg
    December 24, 2012 @ 12:25 am

    Interesting thoughts, Marg. I think the importance of Knox’s remarks (and you would have to read the entire work to fully appreciate it) is in his distinction between the soteriological/eschatological and the metaphysical with regards to the identity of Christ. We in the west have inherited a Greek mindset which places emphasis upon the essence, or nature, of a thing. The Hebrew mind did not have the same concern. So whereas the Greek mind asks, What is the nature of Christ?, the Hebrew mind asks, What is the role of Christ? The distinction is important; the former leads to divisive philosophical speculation, whereas the latter leads to a proclamation of the gospel.

    I agree wholeheartedly with you that Jesus was/is “more than a man”, but I don’t think we can take that to mean that some conscious person/individual became a man. To me, and to many theologians, such a view completely undermines the true humanity of Jesus. Rather, I agree with many of them that in Jesus’ humanity, God was revealing himself fully — and it is in that sense that the Word was made flesh.

    This may seem like simplistic reasoning to some, but I think that once you start talking about more than one self-conscious entity eternally existing, you are in the realm of polytheism. Just today I read on Ben Witherington’s blog something about the three divine persons, and how they related to each other throughout eternity, etc. To me, that is just dead wrong. It paints a picture of God as a committee, sitting around deciding which of the three will come to earth as a human being to die for man’s sins. If that doesn’t smack of some ancient Middle Eastern pantheon of gods in council with each other, I don’t know what does.

    I don’t have a problem with Irenaeus’ view that God has “two hands” (the Son and the Spirit) by which he interacts with creation, but neither the Son nor the Spirit are the one true God; rather, the one true God is the Father alone, and the Son and the Spirit derive from that one God. It’s interesting and important, I think, that in the ancient Tabernacle there was the 7-candle Menorah, and the table of showbread, outside of the Holy of Holies, representing the Son and the Holy Spirit. God, though, properly speaking, was inside, seated between the cherubim on the Ark of the Covenant. We are finite creatures, and have to approach the eternal, immortal, invisible God who dwells in unapproachable light through symbols/entities which we can perceive/conceive of. There is simply no other way for us to approach the Almighty.

    Reply

  68. Marg
    December 23, 2012 @ 11:21 pm

    Knox is probably right historically, Greg, but the biblical evidence is different.

    For example: although “God the Father” is a title used by several of the NT authors, “God the Son” is simply not there. That title was manufactured by theologians.

    Altogether, the titles GOD the Father, Son OF GOD, and Spirit OF GOD are found about a hundred times in the NT.
    That kind of consistency cannot be attributed to chance.

    The New Catholic Encyclopedia (1967 edition, Volume XIV, p. 299) says (regarding the formulation ‘one God in three persons’) that:
    “… Among the Apostolic Fathers [the writers of the NT] there had been nothing even remotely approaching such a mentality or perspective.”

    That is a frank admission, which I admire.

    On the other hand, there is ample evidence that the Messiah was more than a man. He is the “radiance of [God’s] glory and the express image of God’s essence” (Hebrews 1:2).
    “In him dwells all the fullness of deity – the divine nature- in a body” (Colossians 2:9).

    I take this to be the body that God prepared for him (Hebrews 10:5), so that he could make one sacrifice for sins for ever, and put an end to the OT sacrifices in which God could get no satisfaction.

    You stated one of the reasons for the various extreme doctines that emerged throughout history when you noted that they seemed like over-compensations for some error in the other extreme.

    That’s what we have to try to avoid.

    Reply

  69. Greg
    December 23, 2012 @ 10:49 pm

    Here are some relevant excerpts from a book entitled On the Meaning of Christ, by John Knox.

    “Thus the revelation in Christ, at first received as an act of God in and through an event of which Jesus was the heart and center, tends more and more to be interpreted as God himself become a man. The Christological question, which was originally a question about the eschatological and soteriological significance of an event, has become a question about the metaphysical nature of a person. This process reaches its culmination in the fourth and fifth centuries, when the attention of theologians was focused almost entirely upon the question of the nature of the person. Was he co-eternal with the Father and of the same substance? Or was he only of ‘like substance’ and ‘was there a time when the Son was not’? Just how were the human and the divine elements in his personality related to each other? Did Christ have two natures? Such questions threatened for a while to divide the church. For the great majority of Christians they were answered satisfactorily at Nicaea and Chalcedon in the adoption of the doctrine of the Trinity with its assertion of Christ’s co-eternity and co-substantiality with the Father and with the doctrine of his nature as being the perfect and indissoluble union of two quite distinct but complete and authentic natures…[but] these answers are true not because they are metaphysically accurate descriptions of the nature of a person…but because they are authentic and effective representations of the nature of an event…. These ancient answers, I repeat, are authentic symbols of God’s uniquely and supremely revelatory act in Christ…. [Christians will be united creedally] only if these creeds are recognized to be the symbols of God’s revealing and saving action, not metaphysically accurate descriptions of the nature of his agent. Christ is ‘of one substance with the Father’; but the utmost, and inmost, it is given us to know of God’s ‘substance’ is that he is love — as such he is revealed in Christ — and love is not a metaphysical essence but personal moral will and action.”

    Reply

  70. Marg
    December 23, 2012 @ 8:29 pm

    Oops. I mangled the formatting again.

    I imagine everyone will recognize that not ALL of the “quotation” above is actually a quotation. The last two paragraphs are my own comments.

    But it may be worth repeating: the adjective phrase “coming into the world” (from verse 9) is NOT the predicate of the sentence in verse 10.
    In v. 10, the unstated subject is obviously “the light”. What is said about the light is, “WAS IN THE WORLD”.

    So, clearly, the light is not now COMING. It has already COME.

    The whole sentence is:

    [The light] was in the world, and the world was brought into existence through [the light], and the world did not know [the light].

    I have no doubt about the personal identity of that light.

    Reply

  71. Marg
    December 23, 2012 @ 7:18 pm

    “The true light, that gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.” So, if it was coming, it had not come, yet …
    …So, the “turning point” between impersonal and personal is located somewhere between John 1:10 and John 1:14. Personally, I consider John 1:11 the turning point [MdS – Comment #6]
    By verse 10, the light was not COMING. The language is clear. The light “WAS IN THE WORLD“. It had already COME.

    So verse 11 is not the turning point. The light was ALREADY in the world in verse 10.
    And that light was Jesus.

    Reply

  72. villanovanus
    December 23, 2012 @ 5:14 pm

    @ Greg (December 23, 2012 at 12:26 pm)

    [1] … when I read much of the material from the Early Church Fathers, I see emphasis placed upon 1) The Father as the only true God, 2) Jesus as God’s only son, the Word made flesh, and 3) The Holy Spirit…in other words, the essentials, without extra baggage.

    [2] There is a certain tension inherent in the notions that 1) There is only one true God, and that is the Father, and 2) Jesus is the one Lord to whom every tongue will confess and every knee bow. The human mind naturally asks, “How can these things be?” and, “What do they mean?” Especially in light of the Old Testament’s insistence upon the uniqueness and sole Lordship of YHWH.

    [3] I think that the later Church creeds were divisive and speculative, but at the same time I don’t believe they were spawned without good reason, nor do I believe that they were necessarily inventing anything the Church hadn’t always believed. Do I think they went too far? Yes, but I believe this was largely overcompensation in their attempt to deal with certain false teachings — things which the historic Church had never believed.

    [4] We now profess one God and one Lord. They stand together, and you cannot have one without the other.

    [1]Interestingly enough NONE of the creeds (none of those that have become traditional, anyway), not the Apostles’ Creed, nor the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, nor even the s.c. “Athanasian Creed” makes any reference to the “Word made flesh”. We only have the Prologue of John’s Gospel, on one side, and the (more or less Platonizing) speculations of the Fathers of the Church of the other.

    [2] I have already suggested that these difficulties do not issue from the “strict monotheism” of the OT and, more in general, of the well established Israelite faith.

    All difficulties with this passage, for instance …

    9 As a result God exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow – in heaven and on earth and under the earth –11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. (Phil 2:9-11)

    … IMO disappear IF we are ready to abandon (at least) two “dogmas” of classical theism: the “simplicity” of God and the “immutability” of God. I have no problem with abandoning either, but many Christians, while they are ill at ease with the (traditional and “orthodox”) doctrine of the “trinity” (“co-equal, co-eternal and tri-personal”), are at a disadvantage, because they tacitly (even unwittingly) accept both “dogmas” of classical theism.

    [3] There sure was “overcompensation”. For anyone who knows anything about the History of Christian Doctrines, there is no question that (albeit introduced very early, as early as Justin Martyr), the belief that Jesus was the Incarnation of a pre-existing “personal entity” is NOT the faith of Apostolic Christianity. So, the answer to the question, “is the pre-incarnated Word a person?” (in the obvious sense of “self-conscious entity endowed with reason, freedom and will”) can only be answered in the negative. That is why Arius’ “solution”, apparently so “rational”, was, in fact, so devastatingly disastrous: to “compensate” for it, the Cappadocian scoundrels, ultimately had to artificially split the meaning of ousia and hypostasis, and then put them together again in the same bowl with the recipe “one ousia in three hypostases. Sheer verbal obfuscation, nay, a verbal idol to be accurate: the verbal equivalent of this visual idol (see http://www.biblewheel.com/images/trinityshield_300.jpg)

    [4] So, who does “one God” refer to? And who does “one Lord” refer to?

    MdS

    Reply

  73. Anthony Buzzard
    December 23, 2012 @ 5:01 pm

    Greg

    Yes, I am well acquainted with what you say.

    The issue is the creed of Jesus in Mark 12:29. This really does not give us a Trinity does it?
    Your points are well stated.

    The Man Messiah is really much clearer than “the humanity” of Jesus! Luke 1:35 was meant to define, I think, and it is simple.

    Reply

  74. villanovanus
    December 23, 2012 @ 1:42 pm

    @ Anthony Buzzard (December 23, 2012 at 7:37 am)

    I think we are losing the simplicity of the faith.

    The reason for the Son of God is reported by an angel to a young jewess. Why is this difficult?

    Are you suggesting that even to ask whether the Virgin Conception is “a mere fact of a fact-with-meaning” is “losing the simplicity of the faith”?

    These are the words of the angel Gabriel, BTW …

    “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. [Greek: dio kai to gennômenon agion klêthêsertai yios theou ] (Luke 1:35)

    … and (contrary to what gradually became the traditional “orthodoxy”) they establish a direct causal connection between the Virgin Conception and the Divine Sonship of Jesus.

    This is what the Catholic theologian Raymond E. Brown wrote:

    “I cannot follow those theologians who try to avoid the causal connotation in the ‘therefore’ which begins this line, by arguing that for Luke the conception of the child does not bring the Son of God into being.” (The birth of the Messiah: a commentary on the infancy narratives in Matthew and Luke, 1977, p. 291)

    Any comments?

    MdS

    Reply

  75. Greg
    December 23, 2012 @ 12:26 pm

    MdS,

    I don’t have a problem with the Old Roman Symbol (I should have been more clear — it’s the 4th century creeds I have problems with). I think it is representative of the faith when the faith was simpler, before it had been complicated by philosophical speculation. Likewise, when I read much of the material from the Early Church Fathers, I see emphasis placed upon 1) The Father as the only true God, 2) Jesus as God’s only son, the Word made flesh, and 3) The Holy Spirit…in other words, the essentials, without extra baggage.

    I do readily admit, however, that the New Testament revelation almost begs for elaboration, so I’m not surprised by the developments in the Church, however divisive I think they may have been. There is a certain tension inherent in the notions that 1) There is only one true God, and that is the Father, and 2) Jesus is the one Lord to whom every tongue will confess and every knee bow. The human mind naturally asks, “How can these things be?” and, “What do they mean?” Especially in light of the Old Testament’s insistence upon the uniqueness and sole Lordship of YHWH.

    Anthony believes that unitarian monotheism should be the clear teaching of the Church, as it is, in his view, the clear teaching of both Old and New Testaments. But I don’t quite agree. While it is, of course, extremely clear that the Father is the one true God, it is not at all crystal clear what Jesus’ relation to him is. If things are as simple as Anthony suggests, then I don’t think there would be so much disagreement within Christianity, nor would there be such Jewish hostility to the New Testament revelation. Again, I think that the later Church creeds were divisive and speculative, but at the same time I don’t believe they were spawned without good reason, nor do I believe that they were necessarily inventing anything the Church hadn’t always believed. Do I think they went too far? Yes, but I believe this was largely overcompensation in their attempt to deal with certain false teachings — things which the historic Church had never believed.

    I would eagerly subscribe to Anthony’s view — the idea that Jesus is simply God’s supreme agent, acting on behalf of the one true God — if it weren’t for the powerful emphasis in the New Testament on the PERSON of Jesus. Jesus is not portrayed as just a prophet speaking God’s words, he is portrayed as one in whom we are to have faith, love with all our hearts, and even pray to. This, alongside of the fact that there is a unity between God and Christ such that we cannot conceive of one without the other, renders the Old Testament revelation of God’s identity as incomplete. Reciting the Shema is no longer enough. We now profess one God and one Lord. They stand together, and you cannot have one without the other.

    Reply

  76. Anthony Buzzard
    December 23, 2012 @ 7:37 am

    villanovus

    I think we are losing the simplicity of the faith.

    The reason for the Son of God is reported by an angel to a young jewess. Why is this difficult?

    Reply

  77. villanovanus
    December 23, 2012 @ 4:06 am

    @ Greg (December 22, 2012 at 6:40 pm)

    Forgive me, once again, for commenting on your comment for Anthony, but …

    You might not like the language of the creeds that came later (and quite frankly, I have problems with them myself), but I think it’s inaccurate to suggest that the Church was inventing something new; rather, they were trying to clarify what had been the Church’s position all along, in response to perceived heresies.

    Can you please explain what problems (if any) would you have yourself with this?

    I believe in God the Father almighty;
    and in Christ Jesus His only Son, our Lord,
    Who was born from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary,
    Who under Pontius Pilate was crucified and buried,

    on the third day rose again from the dead,
    ascended to heaven,
    sits at the right hand of the Father,
    whence He will come to judge the living and the dead;

    and in the Holy Spirit,
    the holy Church,
    the remission of sins,
    the resurrection of the flesh
    (the life everlasting).

    I think Unitarians and Trinitarians should come together and acknowledge their common beliefs while allowing the mystery of the union of God and man in Christ to remain a mystery if necessary.

    Isn’t the ” union of God and man in Christ ” adequately expressed in the (2nd century) the Old Roman Symbol (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Roman_Symbol), while leaving the mystery to remain a mystery?

    MdS

    Reply

  78. Greg
    December 22, 2012 @ 6:40 pm

    Anthony,

    Trinitarians are as adamant as you are that Jesus Christ was a true, flesh and blood human being. The humanity of Christ has always been stressed by true Christians, and this is evident if you read the works of the early church fathers such as Ignatius or Irenaeus who fought against the heresy of docetism.

    But the Church has also always had the faith that Jesus was no mere man, that in him something special and remarkable took place — the uniting of God and man. You might not like the language of the creeds that came later (and quite frankly, I have problems with them myself), but I think it’s inaccurate to suggest that the Church was inventing something new; rather, they were trying to clarify what had been the Church’s position all along, in response to perceived heresies.

    So, as far as the humanity of Jesus is concerned, Trinitarians and Unitarians are in 100% agreement. It’s the divinity in/of Jesus that is in dispute. And this is where we all get into trouble, because we are trying to use human language, which is grossly inadequate, to describe a profound truth — God coming near to his creation in Jesus Christ.

    Jesus is called the Holy One of God, he is the Word made flesh, he was born of a virgin, he never sinned, he was the unique (one and only) Son who alone knows God completely and who reveals God to us in full. These facts warrant him being called divine. But I completely understand the Unitarian desire not to obscure or diminish the true humanity of Jesus, hence they react against this concept. But what they seem to forget is that there’s an infinite gulf between God and his creation, so the notion that Jesus is just a very good man who is and can do all these things is absurd. Maybe the Christian Church hasn’t always described this divinity/humanity balance in the right way, and have perhaps even done so in ways that minimize Jesus’ true humanity, but one thing is for certain: the historic faith has always held Jesus to be more than just a man. Now what that means exactly, or how it is to be properly described, I don’t know. But I think Unitarians and Trinitarians should come together and acknowledge their common beliefs while allowing the mystery of the union of God and man in Christ to remain a mystery if necessary.

    Reply

  79. villanovanus
    December 22, 2012 @ 12:52 pm

    [Marg (December 22, 2012 at 8:13 am)] … there is no doubt about who the Word – the living Word ([John 1:]4) whose life is the light of men – became.

    There is no doubt for me either who the living word became.

    The issue is about the identity of the word before the “the word became flesh”.

    Are you still in the process of squeezing and sieving the Bible for that … er … juice? 😉

    [Xavier (December 22, 2012 at 9:05 am)] SIGH!

    Why sigh? 😉

    MdS

    Reply

  80. villanovanus
    December 22, 2012 @ 12:49 pm

    @ Anthony Buzzard (December 22, 2012 at 6:43 am)

    Luke 4:43-5:1 and then the parallels in the parable of the sower: word = word of God = word of the Kingdom [Acts 8:4, 5, 8].

    Once again, I consider your understanding reductive, but thank you.

    You have affirmed that “Luke 1:35 is an explicit statement for us of Jesus as Son of God”. Care to unpack that? For instance, do you consider the Virgin Conception a mere fact of a fact-with-meaning?

    Thanks,

    MdS

    Reply

  81. villanovanus
    December 22, 2012 @ 12:47 pm

    [Xavier (December 21, 2012 at 3:25 pm)] John says nothing about “nature, essence” or “attributes”.

    True. John only speaks, repeatedly of some word/logos that “was in the beginning”, that was “with God”, and that “was God” and that, eventually “became flesh and took up residence among us”. John also says that “all things were created through that same word/logos, and apart from that same word/logos not one thing was created that has been created”. John also says that “in that same word/logos was lifezôê, and the lifezôê was the light/phôs of mankind” and “the light/phôs shines on in the darkness, but the darkness has not mastered it.

    John also says that, when that that same word/logos “became flesh and took up residence among us” (presumably in/as Jesus of Nazareth – would you agree?), humans “saw his glory – the glory of the one and only (monogenês), full of grace and truth, who came from the Father”.

    John also says that John the Baptist “gave witness to the true light/phôs that was coming in the world”, and openly testified that Jesus “was the one about whom he had said that ‘He who comes after me has passed in front of me, because he was higher in rank (prôtos) than me.’”

    John compared Jesus to Moses, saying that, while “the law was given through Moses, … grace and truth came about through Jesus Christ”.

    Finally John proclaimed that, though “no one has ever seen God”, nevertheless ” the one and only (monogenês), himself divine, who is in closest fellowship with the Father, has made God known”.

    Of course, though, if to affirm that “Jesus embodies ALL the qualities of God” and/or “the divine was present in Jesus in an unprecedented manner” is good enough for you … 😉

    MdS

    Reply

  82. Xavier
    December 22, 2012 @ 9:05 am

    SIGH! :/

    Reply

  83. Marg
    December 22, 2012 @ 8:13 am

    It’s interesting to read (and study) the section in John 1 that deals with the light (4-13).

    (4) In the Word was LIFE, and the life was the LIGHT OF MEN.

    Verses 6-8 then introduce us to John (the Baptizer), who was sent to be a WITNESS of the light. [John’s witness was about Jesus, the light of the world.]

    (9) The true light [which John witnessed] ENLIGHTENS every man coming into the world.

    (10) That light was IN THE WORLD [where John was a witness].
    The world it was in was brought into being THROUGH “the same” [light].
    Yet the world did not know “the same” [light that was in the world, even though the world was brought into existence through that same light].

    The subject of the light continues; and verse 12 leaves no doubt about the IDENTITY of the true light and his mission in the world.

    Verse 14 tells us how the light came to be “in the world” in verse 10:
    “The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us.”

    Again, there is no doubt about who the Word – the living Word (4) whose life is the light of men – became.

    Reply

  84. Anthony Buzzard
    December 22, 2012 @ 6:43 am

    villanovanus

    Any Bible dictionary will point this out. Luke 4:43- 5:1 and then the parallels in the parable of the sower: word = word of God = word of the Kingdom [Acts 8:4, 5, 8].

    The point is obvious.

    Reply

  85. villanovanus
    December 21, 2012 @ 5:19 pm

    @ Anthony Buzzard (December 21, 2012 at 12:30 pm)

    The logos is the immortality plan IN Christ and THROUGH this all things came into existence. It is the blueprint for the whole creation.

    I find your reply limiting, but definitely clearer than any previous comment of yours. I am sure you will consider me as bothersome as a fly, but please allow another question on this: did God HAVE to create? More, did God HAVE to create according to this “plan”, to this “blueprint”? Or was he free, even free not to create anything at all?

    Logos is the creative activity of God in general and PARALLEL to spirit [punctuation missing?] very often word is the Gospel in the NT and that Gospel of the Kingdom was in the mind of God from the beginning.

    AFAIK the Greek for “Gospel” is euaggelion, a composite word meaning, literally, “good news”. Can you please provide textual evidence supporting your claim that “very often word is the Gospel in the NT”?

    MdS

    Reply

  86. Xavier
    December 21, 2012 @ 3:25 pm

    MdS

    John says nothing about “nature, essence” or “attributes”.

    But knock yourself out. 😉

    Reply

  87. Marg
    December 21, 2012 @ 3:16 pm

    I greatly appreciate your comment (#14), Greg, and particularly the last paragraph:

    The finite mind will never comprehend the infinite Creator of all that is. It is folly to think that we can. We are mortal creatures using language symbols to convey thoughts about that which is beyond all comprehension. The Trinity doctrine and the Unitarian insistence upon a non-divine Jesus are equally flawed. I think there’s a way to reconcile Trinitarian and Unitarian beliefs, but this will take both sides acting in humility and admitting their limitations. Speculation is not knowledge, and there is far too much speculation masquerading as knowledge in Christendom.

    To add to the problem, the “speculation” is too often stated dogmatically and repeatedly, and with none of the humility that marked the perfect teacher, Jesus. When he invited us to LEARN from him (Mt. 11:28-29), he gave as a reason, “Because I am humble and lowly in heart.” It’s easy to learn from someone like that.

    Jesus did not need (as we do) to admit his limitations. His words were from God.

    That makes his gentleness and humility a powerful condemnation of arrogance and contempt on the part of anyone who wants to be his disciple.

    Reply

  88. villanovanus
    December 21, 2012 @ 1:09 pm

    [Xavier (December 21, 2012 at 10:41 am)] It [“Jesus embodies ALL the qualities of God” is just as vague as Greg‘s “the divine was present in Jesus in an unprecedented manner”] [i]s clear and good enough for me.

    The trouble is, once again, that it is NOT what the Prologue to the Gospel of John says …

    … but you’re free to continue diluting to “metaphor mix” what the Bible says … 🙂

    MdS

    Reply

  89. Anthony Buzzard
    December 21, 2012 @ 12:55 pm

    Greg

    Thanks, but it is not quite so simple as this!

    The Trinity undermines the human Jesus and is unnecessary! Luke 1:35 DEFINES the status of the Son and Ps 110:1 shows that God has non-Deity next to HIm.

    Servetus did not die in vain, I think. Calvin murdered him on this issue, alas.

    The Creed of Jesus is a unitarian one and that should never have been disturbed.

    I agree that the label heretic just flames fires!

    The text in 1 Tim 3 is corrupt as you know “He who,” not “God”.

    It must be admitted by everyone who has the rudiments of an historical sense that the doctrine of the Trinity formed no part of the original message. St. Paul did not know it, and would have been unable to understand the meaning of the terms used in the theological formula on which the Church ultimately agreed” (Dr. Matthews, D.D. D. Litt. God in Christian Experience, p. 180).

    It is a contradiction, indeed, and not merely a verbal contradiction, but an incompatibility in the human ideas conveyed. We can scarcely make a nearer approach to an exact enunciation of it, than of saying that one thing is two things. (Sadler’s Gloria Patri, p. 39, A. H. Newman).

    Reply

  90. Anthony Buzzard
    December 21, 2012 @ 12:30 pm

    villanovanus

    Thanks, your style is very combative.

    In the light of the misunderstanding of “Word” as a ‘pre-Son’, it is much more instructive to say “word”. Through IT and NOT “him”. The logos is the immortality plan IN Christ and THROUGH this all things came into existence. It is the blueprint for the whole creation.

    The “word”, not “Word”, is there with the One God as HIS “word/wisdom”.

    Hope this is clear.

    Logos is the creative activity of God in general and PARALLEL to spirit very often word is the Gospel in the NT and that Gospel of the Kingdom was in the mind of God from the beginning.

    Reply

  91. Xavier
    December 21, 2012 @ 10:41 am

    MdS

    Jesus embodies ALL the qualities of God” is just as vague as Greg‘s “the divine was present in Jesus in an unprecedented manner”.

    Its clear and good enough for me.

    But your free to continue delving into questions that the Bible doesnt really delve into.

    Reply

  92. villanovanus
    December 21, 2012 @ 10:21 am

    @ Xavier (December 21, 2012 at 7:56 am)

    You seem to see this [the question of what does “word” in the Prologue of John’s Gospel refer to] more literally than me. I simply see it as it is sometimes suggested that Jesus embodies ALL the qualities of God [note: skenoo, “dwell/tabernacled”].

    The question we are confronting, before it has to do with “Western glasses” or “Hebrew glasses”, is a question of accepting the Biblical text for what it says, NOT for what we would like to water it down to. In this respect, your “Jesus embodies ALL the qualities of God” is just as vague as Greg‘s “the divine was present in Jesus in an unprecedented manner”.

    The Gospel of John says, very precisely:

    1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was fully God. 2 The Word was with God in the beginning. (…) 14 Now the Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We saw his glory – the glory of the one and only, full of grace and truth, who came from the Father. (John 1:1-2, 14 – NET)

    NOT God’s Goodness, or Justice, or Mercy, or Truth, or Spirit, or Glory (although we may want to affirm that they are all implied), NOT ” ALL the qualities of God”, NOT “the divine”, BUT the Word or (if, like Anthony, you object to the capitalization) the word.

    Or do you really believe that Jesus is one to one equal to the “church” when it says he is the “body”?

    As far as I can think, Jesus ONLY referred to his own body during the institution of the Eucharist at the last supper (Matthew 26: 26, Mark 14: 12, Luke 22:19); before that, in anticipation of his death, also in Matthew 26:12, and Mark 14:8, which are two parallel allusions to his anointing after his death. Finally, as the Evangelist says, Jesus alluded to his body as “temple” in John 2:21.

    Only Paul (again as far as I can think) uses the image/metaphor of the “body of Christ” to refer to the Church (1 Cor 12:12-14).

    MdS

    Reply

  93. villanovanus
    December 21, 2012 @ 9:34 am

    @ Anthony Buzzard (December 21, 2012 at 7:46 am)

    It is perfectly normal, in English (even in “our English” …) to capitalize words like “Justice” or “Mercy”, when they are referred to God, in sign of honour, without implying for a moment that they are persons.

    Pity that you never answered my question on the role of God’s word (the word spoken of in John 1:1, 14, that is) in creation: cosmic creation. To be precise, here:

    All things were created by him [Greek: di’autou], and apart from him [chôris autou] not one thing was created [egeneto], that has been created. [gegonen] (John 1:3 – NET)

    It is evident, by now, that you can’t/won’t answer … :/

    Thanks, anyway.

    MdS

    Reply

  94. Xavier
    December 21, 2012 @ 7:56 am

    MdS

    …the problem is NOT whether God’s Word and Spirits are “distinct persons”, but whether they can become distinct persons.

    You seem to see this more literally than me. I simply see it as it is sometimes suggested that Jesus embodies ALL the qualities of God [note: skenoo, “dwell/tabernacled”]. Or do you really believe that Jesus is one to one equal to the “church” when it says he is the “body”?

    Again, I think its a matter of taking our Western glasses off and looking at it through Hebrew ones.

    Reply

  95. Anthony Buzzard
    December 21, 2012 @ 7:46 am

    MdS

    Thanks. The word of God is God in His self-expression and purpose. It is misleading in English to put a capital on it, since this denotes a second Person.

    Bruce was able to leave “who” and go with “which” ie not Word but word.

    Capitalizing an attribute of God is a bit odd, and conveys the wrong idea in our English.

    Reply

  96. villanovanus
    December 21, 2012 @ 5:00 am

    @ Greg (December 20, 2012 at 11:48 pm)

    Forgive me for commenting on your comment for Anthony, but I believe there are a few clarifications needed.

    [1] I once read a Christadelphian publication that embraced the Textus Receptus reading of I Timothy 3:16, which says, “God was manifest in the flesh.”

    [2] Unitarians … do indeed believe that the divine was present in Jesus in an unprecedented manner.

    [3] We attempt to rationally explain the infinite, Almighty God, and we alienate each other in the process.

    [4] The Trinity doctrine and the Unitarian insistence upon a non-divine Jesus are equally flawed. I think there’s a way to reconcile Trinitarian and Unitarian beliefs, but this will take both sides acting in humility and admitting their limitations. Speculation is not knowledge, and there is far too much speculation masquerading as knowledge in Christendom.

    [1] The Textus Receptus, as you certainly know, is the “first printed Greek New Testament, published in 1516—a work undertaken in Basel by the Dutch Catholic scholar and humanist Desiderius Erasmus”. It was obtained by selecting, from the many MSS available, the “most probable” textual variant, but, of course, the criterion of probability remains rather subjective, so the critical editions of the Greek NT retain all those variants (at least as footnotes). Why do I make this long text-critical premise? Because it is far from obvious that “God” (theos) was the first word of the a.q. phrase from 1 Timothy 3:16. In several MSS there is (among others) the variant reading hos (“who”), obviously referred to Jesus. For an ample exposition of this problem see NET Note 3 tc appended to 1 Timothy 3:16 (NET – http://classic.net.bible.org/verse.php?book=1Ti&chapter=3&verse=16)

    [2] The expression “unprecedented manner” is too vague and will remain a permanent source of disputes (as it has historically been, BTW …). Unless a more precise expression is agreed upon, so as replace not only the “full trinitarian” one (“co-equal, co-eternal person”), but also the Subordinationist and even Arian notions of “personal pre-existence”, any solution will remain “unstable”. THE problem is how to do away, in a satisfactory, scriptural manner, with the “personal pre-existence”.

    [3] This is true. I suggest that a good criterion would be to resort to a formulation that makes the monotheism of the two other great “Abrahamic faiths” incomplete, NOT wrong. For instance, these two passages from the Quran …

    When the angels said: O Marium, surely Allah gives you good news with a Word from Him(of one) whose name is the Messiah, Isa son of Marium, worthy of regard in this world and the hereafter and of those who are made near (to Allah). [Quran, 003.045 – Shakir translation]

    O followers of the Book! do not exceed the limits in your religion, and do not speak (lies) against Allah, but (speak) the truth; the Messiah, Isa son of Marium is only a messenger of Allah and His Word which He communicated to Marium and a spirit from Him; believe therefore in Allah and His messengers, and say not, Three. Desist, it is better for you; Allah is only one Allah; far be It from His glory that He should have a son, whatever is in the heavens and whatever is in the earth is His, and Allah is sufficient for a Protector. [Quran, 004.171 – Shakir translation]

    … show an incredible nearness to the Christian notion of Virgin Birth and even of Word, but they also show the limits that make Islam (for the time being) not fully harmonizable with Christianity.

    [4] This is all very true, but, once again, there is the risk that any “intermediate formula” is intrinsically unstable, and the source for further bitter disagreement. What happened between Nicea 325 and Constantinople 381 is enough (for anyone who is familiar with the history of Christian doctrines) to affirm that we need some “fence”, beyond which it is simply forbidden to carry any dispute.

    My modest proposal is to do away, not only with the “Athanasian Creed”, but also with the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed.

    The Church should eventually agree that Christians should not go, in their “dogmatic disputes” beyond the very basic limit set by the Apostles’ Creed, or to be more accurate (as its textus receptus is as late as the 8th century), its ancient version (2nd century): the Old Roman Symbol. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Roman_Symbol)

    MdS

    Reply

  97. villanovanus
    December 21, 2012 @ 3:45 am

    [Xavier (December 20, 2012 at 6:35 pm)] If we agree I don’t understand why you keep asking questions related to that.

    If we agree that, in spite of the awkward Greek expression, the notion that God’s Word (Greek: Logos; Hebrew: Dabar ) and God’s Spirit (Greek: Pneuma; Hebrew: Ruwach) are indeed His two “essential attributes” (“structural” attributes, so to speak), in the sense that all this does NOT reflect Hellenistic and/or Christian Greek-philosophical speculation, BUT expresses some deep Biblical truth, then the problem is NOT whether God’s Word and Spirits are “distinct persons”, but whether they can become distinct persons.

    Now, God’s Word became a distinct person (John 1:14) in/as/with Jesus of Nazareth.

    Likewise, I believe, we can say that God’s Spirit will become a distinct person (actually persons) in the end …

    And when all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will be subjected to the one who subjected everything to him, so that God may be all in all. (1 Cor 15:28 – bolding by MdS)

    I sum up the above by affirming that the Trinity is NOT a protological, BUT an eschatological truth.

    Of course, as I have already argued, the above requires to abandon (at least) two “dogmas” of classical theism: the “simplicity” of God and the “immutability” of God. I have no problem with abandoning either, but many Christians, while they are ill at ease with the (traditional and “orthodox”) doctrine of the “trinity” (“co-equal, co-eternal and tri-personal”) are at a disadvantage, because they tacitly accept both “dogmas” of classical theism.

    I hope everything is clearer, now. 🙂

    MdS

    Reply

  98. Greg
    December 20, 2012 @ 11:48 pm

    Anthony,

    If you paid close attention to my post, I did not say that you and James White are saying the same things. I said that I thought you were TRYING to say the same things. Here’s what I mean, quite simply: both of you affirm the true humanity of Jesus, and both affirm that in Jesus, God was/is acting in the world, in such a way as to merit calling Jesus “God in the flesh.” I once read a Christadelphian publication that embraced the Textus Receptus reading of I Timothy 3:16, which says, “God was manifest in the flesh.” They went on to explain that they endorsed this idea completely, because God was acting in and through Jesus, and thus it was therefore perfectly legitimate to call Jesus God in the flesh. Trinitarians argue that Jesus has a divine nature and a human nature, whereas Unitarians argue that Jesus does not have a divine nature but a human nature only. Yet, if one qualifies the Trinitarian declaration regarding a divine nature, one can find common ground with Unitarians who do indeed believe that the divine was present in Jesus in an unprecedented manner.

    What I am suggesting is the division in Christendom doesn’t have to exist, and that we don’t have to call each other heretics just because we do not use the same language to describe certain phenomena. Human beings are so incredibly frustrating…such that they erect barriers where there should be none. I think we do so by having too high an opinion of our intellectual capabilities. We attempt to rationally explain the infinite, Almighty God, and we alienate each other in the process.

    The finite mind will never comprehend the infinite Creator of all that is. It is folly to think that we can. We are mortal creatures using language symbols to convey thoughts about that which is beyond all comprehension. The Trinity doctrine and the Unitarian insistence upon a non-divine Jesus are equally flawed. I think there’s a way to reconcile Trinitarian and Unitarian beliefs, but this will take both sides acting in humility and admitting their limitations. Speculation is not knowledge, and there is far too much speculation masquerading as knowledge in Christendom.

    Reply

  99. Xavier
    December 20, 2012 @ 6:35 pm

    MdS

    Yes. But we know the Hebrews did not belief these were seperate, distinct Persons apart from the Person of YHWH, the Father.

    If we agree I dont understand why you keep asking questions related to that.

    Reply

  100. villanovanus
    December 20, 2012 @ 4:17 pm

    @ Xavier (December 20, 2012 at 3:24 pm)

    It may seem so, because I use expressions like “essential attribute”. But, as I have already argued, you can see God’s Word (Greek: Logos; Hebrew: Dabar) and God’s Spirit (Greek: Pneuma; Hebrew: Ruwach) explicitly named as instruments of God’s creative activity in Psalm 33:6, and, I believe, alluded to as God’s “everlasting arms” in Deut 33:27. Irenaeus of Lyons (without any reference to Greek philosophy) understands both verses in this sense.

    MdS

    Reply

  101. Xavier
    December 20, 2012 @ 3:24 pm

    MdS

    Agreed. But your questioning begs the Greek philosophical questions.

    Reply

  102. villanovanus
    December 20, 2012 @ 2:33 pm

    [Xavier (December 20, 2012 at 12:09 pm)] You should be [interested … in a dispute on “worldviews … Western vs Hebraic”] since its like asking what kind of computer software did the Apostles use.

    I do no know how familiar you are with Intertestamental Hebrew Literature, Aramaic Targumim and Dead Sea Scrolls, but, if you were, you (should) know perfectly well that the Logos of John’s Gospel has ALL to do with the Hebrew dabar and the Aramaic membra, and NOTHING to do with the Hellenistic Logos other than in the sense that God’s revelation certainly doesn’t need to find its source in Greek philosophy.

    MdS

    Reply

  103. villanovanus
    December 20, 2012 @ 2:21 pm

    @ Anthony Buzzard (December 20, 2012 at 12:05 pm)

    [1] … we all do think of logos as “the essential attribute of GOD”! Which (not who) became flesh.

    [2] FF Bruce agreed with me in correspondence that we can all believe in “the word which (who?)…” (his quote).

    [3] It is misleading for westerners to read “Word” instead of “word”. “The word” is not confined to regeneration.

    [4] The problem arose only when Justin Martyr and others read the SON back onto “the word”. Hence all the confusion.

    [1] Thanks for answering my second question. Now, perhaps, you will be so kind as to clarify what is, in your view, the role of God’s Word (the Word spoken of in John 1:1, 14) in creation: cosmic creation, to be precise.

    [2] It seems to me that FF Bruce “agreement” hangs on a (rather critical) question mark …

    [3] The reason why I capitalize God’s “Word” is to make it clear that I refer to His “essential attribute”, which was NOT ONLY expressed in the Bible (or in ” regeneration “) BUT ALSO in creation, not to any word, not even any word from God, like when we read “the word of God came to …”.

    [4] I fully agree, but then Justin Martyr simply followed the heathen-philosophical abuse of Philo, who referred to God’s Word/Logos as deutheros theos. The “original sin” of what you call “Christianity’s Self Inflicted Would” began there …

    MdS

    Reply

  104. Xavier
    December 20, 2012 @ 12:09 pm

    MdS

    I am much more interested in those questions and (hopefully) answers, than I am in a dispute on “worldviews … Western vs Hebraic”.

    You should be since its like asking what kind of computer software did the Apostles use.

    Think about it.

    Reply

  105. Anthony Buzzard
    December 20, 2012 @ 12:05 pm

    MdS

    Thanks, we all do think of logos as “the essential attribute of GOD”! Which (not who) became flesh.

    FF Bruce agreed with me in correspondence that we can all believe in “the word which (who?)…” (his quote).

    It is misleading for westerners to read “Word” instead of “word”. “The word” is not confined to regeneration.

    The problem arose only when Justin Martyr and others read the SON back onto “the word”. Hence all the confusion.
    The German historian F. Loofs got it right:

    The Apologists [‘church fathers’ like Justin Martyr, mid-2nd century] laid the foundation for the perversion/corruption (Verkehrung) of Christianity into a revealed [philosophical] teaching. Specifically, their Christology affected the later development disastrously. By taking for granted the transfer of the concept of Son of God onto the preexisting Christ, they were the cause of the Christological problem of the fourth century. They caused a shift in the point of departure of Christological thinking—away from the historical Christ and onto the issue of preexistence.

    They thus shifted attention away from the historical life of Jesus, putting it into the shadow and promoting instead the Incarnation [i.e., of a preexistent Son]. They tied Christology to cosmology and could not tie it to soteriology. The Logos teaching is not a ‘higher’ Christology than the customary one. It lags in fact far behind the genuine appreciation of Christ. According to their teaching it is no longer God who reveals Himself in Christ, but the Logos, the inferior God, a God who as God is subordinated to the Highest God (inferiorism or subordinationism).

    In addition, the suppression of economic-trinitarian ideas by metaphysical-pluralistic concepts of the divine triad (trias) can be traced to the Apologists” (Friedrich Loofs, Leitfaden zum Studium des Dogmengeschichte [Manual for the Study of the History of Dogma], 1890, part 1 ch. 2, section 18: “Christianity as a Revealed Philosophy. The Greek Apologists,” Niemeyer Verlag, 1951, p. 97, translation mine).

    Hope this answers your point.

    Reply

  106. villanovanus
    December 20, 2012 @ 10:30 am

    @ Marg (December 20, 2012 at 9:21 am)

    It may be that John is personifying the Word in the first five verses of his gospel.

    Make it 9 (verses), then, because John 1:6-8 refers entirely to John the Baptist (who “himself was not the light”) As for John 1:9, it is another “bridge verse”, announcing that “The true light, that gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.” So, if it was coming, it had not come, yet …

    However, there is no personification in verse 10. The subject of the sentence is a real person, the man that the Word (with the light of life) became. HE (Jesus) was in the world, and the world was brought into existence through HIM (Jesus).

    If you look at the Greek text, there simply is no equivalent of the English “he” at the beginning of the verse (en tô kosmô ên, “was in the world”), and “through him” is a biased and misleading translation of the Greek di’autou where autou is the Genitive Singular of the pronoun autos (“the same”), so the phrase simply means “through the same [Word]”, referring back to the very same Word of the beginning, NOT to any “he”.

    John 1:14 unquestionably speaks of Jesus, the Incarnated Word of God. So, the “turning point” between impersonal and personal is located somewhere between John 1:10 and John 1:14. Personally, I consider John 1:11 the turning point, without being dogmatic about it.

    What is important, though, and for the umpteenth time, is the key verb “became” (Greek egeneto): God’s impersonal Word became the divine-human person Jesus of Nazaret, God’s Messiah, God’s Son.

    MdS

    Reply

  107. villanovanus
    December 20, 2012 @ 10:28 am

    @ Xavier (December 20, 2012 at 8:10 am)

    I still hope that Anthony will reply my latest (very clear, very specific) questions. I am much more interested in those questions and (hopefully) answers, than I am in a dispute on “worldviews … Western vs Hebraic”.

    Thank you, anyway. 🙂

    MdS

    Reply

  108. Marg
    December 20, 2012 @ 9:21 am

    I appreciate the reference to Genesis 1. The similarities between that and John 1:1-3 are striking.

    Genesis 1:1 – In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
    The rest of the story shows God SPEAKING; and his words brought into existence all things – beginning with LIGHT and ending with LIFE.

    John 1:1-4 – In the beginning the Word … was with God. All things came into existence through the WORD. In the Word was LIFE, and the life was the LIGHT of men.

    It may be that John is personifying the Word in the first five verses of his gospel.
    However, there is no personification in verse 10. The subject of the sentence is a real person, the man that the Word (with the light of life) became. HE (Jesus) was in the world, and the world was brought into existence through HIM (Jesus).

    That clearly did not happen during his short life as a mortal man. It must have happened during his existence BEFORE the Word became flesh, as v. 3 indicates.

    John does not say that the Word became ALIVE. The Word was “God” (fully divine), having the attribute of divine life. But the Word became FLESH – the man, Jesus.

    Reply

  109. Xavier
    December 20, 2012 @ 8:10 am

    MdS

    Scripture says that by the word/wisdom of God everything was created. Genesis puts it this way, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth…God said…” and there it was.

    I’m afraid that your many questions will find no answer apart from the ones already stated. 2 different worldviews here: Western vs Hebraic.

    Reply

  110. villanovanus
    December 20, 2012 @ 6:20 am

    @ Anthony Buzzard (December 19, 2012 at 6:50 pm)

    Thank you for your reply. I see that you consider Word (logos), Light (phôs) and Wisdom (sophia) virtually equivalent and interchangeable, even if, as already remarked, sophia is never used in the Gospel of John. Fine.

    OTOH, you have completely ignored my quotation (“The passages from St. John which present the Word as the medium of creation were explained by Socinus of REGENERATION ONLY.“) and question on the role of God’s Word (the Word spoken of in John 1:1, 14) in creation: cosmic creation, to be precise. Can you please clarify?

    Also, can you please explain what prevented Socinus (and, perhaps, prevents you …) from considering God’s Word an essential attribute of God (NOT personal) that as such was fully deployed (also) at cosmic creation and that became a person (John 1:14) ONLY with/as/in Jesus?

    Thanks

    MdS

    Reply

  111. Anthony Buzzard
    December 19, 2012 @ 6:50 pm

    MdS

    Thanks, our view is Socinian, but we certainly find ‘worship’ of Jesus in the NT (but not worship as the One God).
    We think of the word as wisdom with God (John 1:1) from the beginning. No need to avoid that, I think.

    Luke 1:35 is an explicit statement for us of Jesus as Son of God.

    We disagree with Socinus in denying the substitutionary death of Jesus, ie we do think of substitution, he died in our place.

    Does his help?

    The word “adored” is too vague unless defined.

    John 1:5 the word is neuter as PHOS, light but in v. 10 the light is now masculine ad sensum, because Jesus is then on the scene.

    The basis of our view is the very clear Creed of Jesus in Mark 12:29, which the churches bypass!

    Reply

  112. villanovanus
    December 19, 2012 @ 2:21 pm

    @ Anthony Buzzard (December 19, 2012 at 9:44 am)

    Thank you for your reply. You say …

    We are Socinians in Christology.

    … and this is what we read in the “Christology” section of the Catholic Encyclopedia’s article on “Socinianism” (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14113a.htm):

    “For Socinus, Christ was the Logos, but he denied His [personal] pre-existence; He was the Word of God as being His interpreter (interpres divinae voluntatis). The passages from St. John which present the Word as the medium of creation were explained by Socinus of REGENERATION ONLY. At the same time Christ was miraculously begotten: He was a perfect man, He was the appointed mediator, but He was not God, only deified man. In this sense He was to be adored; and it is here precisely that we have the dividing line between Socinianism and Unitarianism, for the latter system denied the miraculous birth of Christ and refused Him adoration.” [bolding and CAPITALIZATION by MdS]

    Can you please comment on the above? In particular the bolded sentence and more in particular the CAPITALIZED BIT? If you fully agree that it is an appropriate account of Socinianism’s Christology, can you please explain what prevented Socinus (and, most of all, what prevents you …) from considering God’s Word an essential attribute of God (NOT personal) that as such was fully deployed (also) at cosmic creation and that became a person (John 1:14) ONLY with/as/in Jesus?

    Thanks,

    MdS

    Reply

  113. Anthony Buzzard
    December 19, 2012 @ 9:44 am

    MdS

    Luke 1:35 is the explanation of the term Son of God. We are Socinians in Christology.

    To write Incarnation today impies Trinity for most. Incarnation of the word is fine; Jesus is what the word/wisdom became.

    There is no God the Son.

    Reply

  114. villanovanus
    December 18, 2012 @ 1:44 pm

    Xavier (December 18, 2012 at 11:01 am)

    [villanovanus, December 18, 2012 at 8:18 am] … now even a fan of Samuel Clarke has admitted that the personal pre-existence of Jesus Christ is not evident, from the Scripture.

    What “fan”?

    Marg, of course, who greatly admires Samuel Clarke (perhaps without fully realizing the implications of his subordinationism).

    MdS

    Reply

  115. villanovanus
    December 18, 2012 @ 1:42 pm

    @ Anthony Buzzard (December 18, 2012 at 10:58 am)

    The ORIGIN of Jesus is perfectly clear in Matthew and Luke which were intended to BLOCK any sort of LITERAL preexistence.

    If one were to make the claim of priority in a temporal sense for Jesus, one would be claiming that Jesus of Nazareth, born of Mary, had existed with God before the creation of the world. That claim would be worse than unintelligible; it would destroy all coherence in the essential Christian claim that Jesus was truly a human being, that the word became flesh. The humanity of Jesus could hardly be eternal in that sense and still be “like us in all things, excepting sin” (Council of Chalcedon; Hebrews 2:17).

    Jesus of Nazareth began his life that is, began to exist at a definite time in history: the word became flesh.

    I agree, but let me ask you a question to see if we there is something that we don’t see quite the same way. We agree that there is no “personal pre-existence” of Jesus (or of the Word, or of “god-the-son”). I presume we also agree that the personal existence of the Son of God begins with the Virgin Conception. (Do we?) What is still unclear to me is if you keep (at least conceptually) distinct the mystery of the Incarnation of God’s Word and the miracle of the Virgin Conception. Care to clarify?

    Thanks,

    MdS

    Reply

  116. villanovanus
    December 18, 2012 @ 1:41 pm

    [Marg (December 18, 2012 at 10:56 am)] Perhaps that question [whether the preincarnate Word was a who or a what] can never be answered in an absolutely foolproof way.

    … the Evangelist John consciously and deliberately equates God’s Wisdom and God’s Word:

    22 The Lord created [LXX; or, “possessed”, “fathered”] me [Wisdom] as the beginning of his works [or “way”], before his deeds of long ago. 23 From eternity I was appointed, from the beginning, from before the world existed. (Prov 8:22-23 NET)

    1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was [fully] God. 2 The Word [Grk. “This”] was with God in the beginning. (John 1:1-2 NET)

    … and as you correctly remarked, Wisdom (Heb. chokmah; Grk. sophia) is a personification (a rhetoric personal image), NOT a person.

    MdS

    Reply

  117. Xavier
    December 18, 2012 @ 11:02 am

    Marg

    …we at least have established the fact that Jesus DID exist before Abraham, as the preincarnate Word of God. There is no longer any doubt about that.

    Whose “we”?! 😛

    Reply

  118. Xavier
    December 18, 2012 @ 11:01 am

    MdS

    now even a fan of Samuel Clarke has admitted that the personal pre-existence of Jesus Christ is not evident, from the Scripture.

    What “fan”?

    Reply

  119. Anthony Buzzard
    December 18, 2012 @ 10:58 am

    Greg

    James White is not saying what I am saying: He has God as 3 Whos in 1 What! I say God is 1 Person, 1 divine Self and this is the Father of Jesus.

    The ORIGIN of Jesus is perfectly clear in Matthew and Luke which were intended to BLOCK any sort of LITERAL preexistence. Van Buren gave fair warning:

    God’s word, Torah, and wisdom are all one, the creative, purposeful and supremely good activity of the one God. The author of the prologue of the fourth Gospel could therefore say that the word “came to his own place,” for the world and also Israel, belonged to him by right of creation. But, the prologue continues “his own did not accept him” John 1:11. And then, following immediately, “any who did accept him he empowered them to become children of God” (1:12).

    Did not accept,” and then “did accept.” How are we to understand this contradiction? Clearly it reflects the conflict which the early Jesus movement came to produce within the people of Israel. Some, even multitudes, heard him gladly, and some, at least some of the Jerusalem establishment, rejected him, possibly for fear of how the Roman occupying forces would react to this movement. In any case after-the-fact, we can certainly say of this positive and negative that God’s word came once more to his created possession, and that his created own people received him in sufficient numbers to make it possible for many others to be able to accept him too.

    “Him” means, in these versus, Jesus Christ. Does this mean the Jew Jesus of Nazareth? Is it proper to say of this Jew that he was in some sense “preexistent?” Here we must do some sorting out.

    The term “preexistent” occurs nowhere in either the Scriptures or the apostolic writing, but there is no reason why the concept, properly defined, could not be used to refer to the opening words of the prologue of the fourth Gospel and the verses cited from the eighth chapter of Proverbs. The idea certainly appears in the opening of Genesis and Rabbah, where, commenting on these verses from Proverbs, the rabbis argued, in their own inimitable way, that Torah was with God when he began to create the world. The thrust of their claim however appears to be not so much temporal as evaluative: Torah has a higher value even then creation. It is as if the rabbis could have said that creation is a product of Torah but would never have said the opposite that Torah is a product creation. We could put it in our own words by saying that “Torah produced history” is a claim prior in value and in reality to “history produced Torah.” The second claim is obviously but trivially true; theologically, however, it comes second. In like manner, although the prologue of John claims that “the Word was made flesh” (verse 14) it gives priority to the claim that the word made all flesh (verse three). The word egeneto is identical in both verses, and I cannot demean the craftsmanship of the author by thinking that this is accidental. The term “preexistent,” however leads one to think primarily and very misleadingly in temporal terms. The concept of “priority” is therefore preferable because it subsumes the temporal under the metaphysical and evaluative categories that seem to us to be more faithful to the scriptural, rabbinic and apostolic texts.

    This Jewish notion of the priority in value and in reality of God’s word parenthesis or Torah or wisdom to all else, appears in other apostolic texts as well, referring to “our Lord Jesus Christ,” or simply “Christ” (Ephesians 1:3 ff), or “Christ Jesus” (Phil 2:5ff,) or “a Son” who is clearly Jesus (Hebrews 1:2). Especially interesting is the Adam Christ argument of Romans five, in which Christ is assigned a clear priority over Adam and yet there is no clear indication that this priority was intended in a temporal sense we may conclude that for the earliest church, Jesus was accorded the priority in reality the rabbis assigned to Torah.

    If one were to make the claim of priority in a temporal sense for Jesus, one would be claiming that Jesus of Nazareth, born of Mary, had existed with God before the creation of the world. That claim would be worse than unintelligible; it would destroy all coherence in the essential Christian claim that Jesus was truly a human being, that the word became flesh. The humanity of Jesus could hardly be eternal in that sense and still be “like us in all things, excepting sin” (Council of Chalcedon; Hebrews 2:17).

    Jesus of Nazareth began his life that is, began to exist at a definite time in history: the word became flesh.

    Reply

  120. Marg
    December 18, 2012 @ 10:56 am

    Greg, we at least have established the fact that Jesus DID exist before Abraham, as the preincarnate Word of God. There is no longer any doubt about that.

    What’s more, in John 1:1, the activity of the preincarnate Word is viewed as the activity of the man whom the Word became. Through the Word, all things came into existence (v. 3). After the incarnation, HE (the man) was in the world, and the world was made by HIM – Jesus. We don’t have to suppose that the man preceded his birth; but his existence as the preincarnate Word explains the paradox.

    In other words, after the incarnation, the name of Jesus is used, not ONLY of the man who was born of a virgin, but ALSO as a shortcut for referring to his exixtence as the preincarnate Word.

    1 Co. 8:6 is a good example. When Paul said that all things come from the one God, through the one Lord, he meant ALL things – past, present and future. The past creation came through him as the preincarnate Word.
    Present salvation comes through his life and death as a mortal man.
    And all of God’s future plans will find their fulfilment in the resurrected, immortal Lord, when God has put all things under his feet.

    I realize this doesn’t answer your question about whether the preincarnate Word was a who or a what. Perhaps that question can never be answered in an absolutely foolproof way. But searching the scriptures is never a waste of time, whether we find exactly what we are looking for or not.

    I appreciate all the comments you make, Greg. I copied recently the comment you made on the thread THE EVOLUTION OF MY VIEWS ON THE TRINITY – PART 8 (DALE) (Comment #44, November 2, 2012) because I think you have caught the important things that we CAN and MUST know.

    And maybe, even yet, we can make some progress on learning how the preincarnate Word is portrayed in the Bible.

    Reply

  121. villanovanus
    December 18, 2012 @ 8:28 am

    @ Greg (December 18, 2012 at 1:20 am)

    Few quotes and relative comments.

    … sometimes I think Anthony Buzzard and James White are ultimately trying to say the same things, they’ve just erected these artificial barriers (word constructions) between themselves in an attempt to comprehend the incomprehensible.

    I believe you are simply wrong. Most certainly Anthony Buzzard rejects practically everything that we read, for instance, in James White “A Brief Definition of the Trinity” (see http://vintage.aomin.org/trinitydef.html).

    OTOH, what, IMO, Anthony Buzzard lacks is the notion that the Logos is an essential attribute of God that truly became incarnated in the God-man Jesus. Could this position be described as “Chalcedonian without the trinity”? Yes indeed!

    We can’t ever hope to fully comprehend God, but it does seem reasonable that we can arrive at a basic definition of who this being is.

    The real problem is not so much the “trinity” (which is just the mysterian obfuscation invented by the Cappadocian scoundrels), but HOW the divinity of Jesus is reconcilable with the aseity (self-existence) of YHWH God, the Father Almighty.

    Jews were fierce monotheists, and I think a lot of Trinitarians forget this in their often careless exegesis of Scripture in defense of their position.

    As I have already argued, the real problem, for “strict monotheists” (like Jews and Muslims), but even, paradoxically, for “trinitarians” is that they are ALL so imbued with classical theismthat they refuse a priori the idea of change, of becoming in God. Now the change of God’s Word from impersonal attribute to full-fledged person certainly IS a major, dramatic change in God.

    There’s a principle in biblical hermeneutics that says we must interpret difficult passages in light of the clear passages. (…) It seems folly to me to read that the Word was with God and was God and became flesh, and “before Abraham was, I am,” and conclude that these somehow nullify or override the simpler, more basic statements.

    I couldn’t agree more.

    Another example is that the overwhelming majority of the NT passages about the Resurrection affirm that God, the Father Almighty, “raised Jesus from the dead”. Only a couple of passages (both in John, John 2:19-21, 10:17-18) seem to suggests that Jesus rose from the dead of his own power. Of course the two versions cannot both stand. In my Journal Post “Did Jesus ‘rise’ or did God, the Father ‘raise him from the dead’?” at Beliefnet (http://community.beliefnet.com/miguel_de_servet/blog/2011/01/30/did_jesus_rise_or_did_god,_the_father_raise_him_from_the_dead), I propose a solution.

    Did an eternal/immortal who become a finite/mortal who, who in turn became an eternal/immortal who?

    See above: God’s Word, before the Incarnation was an impersonal attribute of God that, with the Incarnation, became a full-fledged person (Jesus Christ). In turn, with the Resurrection ad the Ascension, this distinct, full-fledged person was made by God, the Father Almighty, equal to Himself in Dignity, Power and Glory (see Acts 2:36 and Philippians 2:9-11).

    Does all this sound to naïve and “simple”? I couldn’t care less!

    MdS

    Reply

  122. villanovanus
    December 18, 2012 @ 8:18 am

    [Xavier (December 17, 2012 at 6:51 pm)] Was it really worth it?

    I think so: now even a fan of Samuel Clarke has admitted that the personal pre-existence of Jesus Christ is not evident, from the Scripture.

    A small step for a Christian, a great step for Christianity 🙂

    MdS

    Reply

  123. villanovanus
    December 18, 2012 @ 3:38 am

    @ Marg (December 17, 2012 at 4:07 pm)

    LOL! It is simply laughable to affirm that that my “revised version” would have “changed the parameters entirely”.

    I will also leave the leave the readers to judge for themselves whether stoning Jesus would have been an adequate (not to mention legal/legitimate) reaction to “envy”, or “fear”, or some generic “insult” at the perceived claim, on the part of Jesus, that he was “greater than Abraham”, because he “somehow pre-existed Abraham”.

    I am quite happy to leave you to find the light that you are still looking for regarding the kind of existence that Jesus would have enjoyed prior to the Incarnation.

    AFAIAC, there is already enough evidence … that there is no evidence of any pre-incarnated personal existence.

    MdS

    Reply

  124. Greg
    December 18, 2012 @ 1:20 am

    Marg and MdS,

    This has been an interesting discussion to follow, but — and maybe it’s just me — I am having a hard time understanding just what has been accomplished here. There seems to be agreement on at least one point: Jesus preexisted his birth in Bethlehem in SOME form or fashion. But with the options ranging from Jesus being an idea in the mind of God to him being a fully conscious person, even God himself, that’s not really much of an accomplishment as far as I’m concerned.

    I asked a question in a previous post which seemed to resonate with some, and it’s this: When the Word/word became flesh, did a what become a who, or did a who become a who? Now I’ve argued that so much of the division in Christianity over this issue may merely be a matter of semantics. Honestly, sometimes I think Anthony Buzzard and James White are ultimately trying to say the same things, they’ve just erected these artificial barriers (word constructions) between themselves in an attempt to comprehend the incomprehensible. It’s silly really, when you think about: the infinite God being dissected by his creatures! But at the same time, I do think this is a point that has to be settled, because it impacts God’s very identity, and of course the identity of Jesus. We can’t ever hope to fully comprehend God, but it does seem reasonable that we can arrive at a basic definition of who this being is.

    When asked what the most important commandment of all is, Jesus, like any good religious Jew, said that it’s to love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. But first he cited the Shema — YHWH our God, YHWH is one — in what I think was an effort to define God. I think this is confirmed by the fact that the scribe agreed that God is one, and there is none other but he. Now it seems to me that it’s impossible that this scribe had a multi-personal God in mind, since Jews have never believed in such, and it seems equally if not more impossible that even if he did have a multi-personal God in mind (which, to be fair, we might redefine as a being complex in his unity), he certainly didn’t think that a fellow Israelite could belong to that Godhead. Jews were fierce monotheists, and I think a lot of Trinitarians forget this in their often careless exegesis of Scripture in defense of their position.

    There’s a principal in biblical hermeneutics that says we must interpret difficult passages in light of the clear passages. We know for a fact that for all its hints of preexistence, Scripture is emphatic that Jesus was a genuine flesh-and-blood human being just like us. We also know that for all their unity, God and Jesus are clearly defined as two distinct persons/beings. God says in Isaiah that he was alone when he created all things. Peter in Acts says that the being known as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, glorified HIS servant Jesus. I could go on, but the point is this: indeed there are clear passages that define God as one person, and Jesus as someone other than this one person. Clear passages also define Jesus as one who began his existence at a specific point in time, as one born of a woman. So shouldn’t we accept these clear, simple statements at face value, and interpret passages such as those in John in light of these? It seems folly to me to read that the Word was with God and was God and became flesh, and “before Abraham was, I am,” and conclude that these somehow nullify or override the simpler, more basic statements.

    I leave you with I Corinthians 15:45: “So also it is written, The first man Adam became a living soul. The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.” (ASV) Did an eternal/immortal who become a finite/mortal who, who in turn became an eternal/immortal who?

    Reply

  125. Xavier
    December 17, 2012 @ 6:51 pm

    MdS

    Was it really worth it? :/

    Reply

  126. Marg
    December 17, 2012 @ 4:07 pm

    The questions regarding John 8:58 have been answered, including the “revised version” which changed the parameters entirely. I leave the readers to judge for themselves whether the answers fit the biblical evidence.

    We agree that John 8:58 establishes the FACT of Christ’s existence prior to that of Abraham. That is enough to explain why the Jews tried to stone him.

    It doesn’t establish the KIND of existence Jesus was referring to. But there are other passages of the Bible that may shed some light on that question, and I plan to look at them. I am not prepared to state a dogmatic conclusion, and THEN look at the evidence.

    Reply

  127. villanovanus
    December 17, 2012 @ 3:17 pm

    @ Marg (December 17, 2012 at 12:45 pm)

    It is entirely evident that my “bottom line” question at comment #33 is REVISED from the one at comment #31, and it is revised for the very simple reason that, while the motivation for the attempted stoning (blasphemy) is entirely transparent to me, you had raised no objections when I asked the question at comment #29. (You simply tried to dismiss it with some excuse, and with a “thank you for asking it” …).

    BTW, your several examples of stoning from the OT and NT (that I have already amply and critically commented on for their limitedness and inadequacy), far from “proving” that it would be “sheer nonsense” that Jesus words (“… before Abraham came into existence, I am!” – John 8:58) were perceived by “the Jews” as blasphemy, confirm that, other than that proper crime, there was nothing that “the Jews” could have against him, other then something as petty as “envy” or as irrational as “fear”. (Which, anyway, as in the case of the attempted stoning of Paul, they would have had to rationalize away as “legal stoning” …)

    BBTW, in case you find the charge of blasphemy against Jesus (however misplaced and improper) surprising, you would do well to meditate on these verses: Matt 9:3 (cp. Mark 2:7; Luke 5:21); Matt 26:65.

    Most of all, just to remain in a “Johannine environment” …

    31 The Jewish leaders picked up rocks again to stone him to death. 32 Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many good deeds from the Father. For which one of them are you going to stone me?” 33 The Jewish leaders replied, “We are not going to stone you for a good deed but for blasphemy, because you, a man, are claiming to be God.”
    34 Jesus answered, “Is it not written in your law, ‘I said, you are gods’? 35 If those people to whom the word of God came were called ‘gods’ (and the scripture cannot be broken), 36 do you say about the one whom the Father set apart and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? (John 10:31-36)

    … which (I believe) should end all disputes …

    What KIND of existence he [Jesus] referred to [in John 8:58] is not here important. He was claiming an existence of SOME kind, before the existence of Abraham.

    That Jesus, before the existence of Abraham, had “an existence of SOME kind” is not in dispute with me as you (should) well know by now.

    What you seem to fail to appreciate is that your answer (“he was claiming an existence of SOME kind”) is very vague and broad. So vague and broad, in fact, that NOT ONLY (most of) the Fathers of the Church up to Arius would have fully subscribed to it, BUT EVEN Arius himself would have subscribed to it.

    So, once again, far from being unimportant, the question of ” what KIND of existence he referred to” makes ALL the difference.

    Once again, whether God’s Word, before the Incarnation was an impersonal attribute of God or a full-fledged personal entity makes a huge difference, in particular to how we read and understand the Scripture.

    Sorry, Marg, you cannot avoid answering the question. (If you don’t know what to answer, simply say so …)

    The rest, including why “the Jews” would want to stone Jesus, is a consequence.

    MdS

    Reply

  128. Marg
    December 17, 2012 @ 12:45 pm

    Your original question was NOT

    “What, other than a (misplaced, improper) charge of blasphemy would be (or would be perceived) in Jesus’ words (“… before Abraham came into existence, I am!” – John 8:58), so that “the Jews” would “pick up stones to throw at him” (John 8:59)?

    Your original question was

    what, precisely, would be (or would be perceived as) blasphemous in Jesus’ words …

    … as if ONLY blasphemy would be punished by stoning, and therefore what he said had to be perceived as being blasphemous. That is sheer nonsense, as the passages that deal with stoning prove.

    Now I will answer your REVISED question, which allows for a reason OTHER THAN something that could be perceived as blasphemous.

    That reason is not hard to find. What he said was

    Before Abraham was born, I am.

    That was his answer to the faulty premise, “You are not yet 50 years old.”
    Before Abrahm ever existed, he already “is”.

    What KIND of existence he referred to is not here important. He was claiming an existence of SOME kind, before the existence of Abraham.
    That claim made him GREATER THAN OUR FATHER ABRAHAM.

    If the Jews were likely to stone someone who said that the baptism of John was from men, they would have no problem agreeing that someone who claimed to be greater than their father Abraham should be stoned.

    Reply

  129. villanovanus
    December 17, 2012 @ 10:35 am

    @ Marg (December 17, 2012 at 6:49 am)

    I have now looked up every passage I can find that mentions stoning. In the OT, crimes that were to be punished by stoning INCLUDE:
    1. Acting as a “medium” or spiritist (Leviticus 20:27)
    2. Gathering sticks on the Sabbath day (Numbers 15:32-36)
    3. Being a stubborn and rebellious son (Deuteronomy 21:[18]-21)
    4. Certain types of sexual immorality (Deuteronomy 22:13-21, 23-27)
    5. Covetousness (Joshua 7:19-23[26])
    (There were also cases of gross injustice – such as the case of Naboth in 1 Kings 21:10-14.)

    There are others, and, interestingly enough, you have left out some of the most serious:
    a. Molech worship, accompanied by children sacrifice (Lev 20:2);
    b. False prophecy, accompanied by enticement to apostasy (Deut 13:6-11);
    c. Worship of “foreign gods” (Deut 17:2-7).

    And, of course, you have completely omitted a true case of blasphemy (that of the son of the Israelite woman Shelomith – Lev 24:10-12), and the consequent and general sentence of stoning for blasphemers, delivered by YHWH God Himself (Lev 24:13-16).

    The NT also mentions stoning a few times.
    1. In Matthew 23:37, Jesus mourned over Jerusalem, guilty of killing the prophets and stoning the ones God sent to them. [One outstanding example is Zechariah, son of Jehoiada, who was stoned by King Joash and his Jewish officials for telling them the truth – 2 Chronicles 24:21-22.]

    2. Luke 20:1-6 describes an encounter between Jesus and Jewish religious leaders, in which Jesus asked them: “The baptism of John: Was it from heaven or from men?”
    And they were stuck. If they said from heaven, he would ask them why they didn’t believe him. BUT –
    If we say from men, all the people will stone us …
    Apparently the Jewish people were quite ready to stone anyone who didn’t show proper respect for a prophet.

    3. Acts 5:17-26 records a similar motive for stoning. The apostles had been imprisoned by the Sadducees, but had been miraculously released. They were found in the temple, teaching the people – the very thing they had been imprisoned for doing. So the commander and officers went and brought them to the Sanhedrin; but they did it without using force, because they were afraid the people would stone them.

    4. Acts 6:8-10 tells of certain men who were “not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which [Stephen] spoke” (6:10). They finally stoned Stephen for saying something that, in all fairness, their own scriptures should have led them to expect (Acts 7:54-59).

    5. And in Acts 14:19, Jews from Antioch (in Pisidia) and Iconium stoned Paul and took him out of the city, supposing him to be dead. Why? Because they were “filled with envy” (see ch. 13:45).

    Quick comments on the above points from the NT.

    [1.] This OT example [in spite of the confusion generated by some scribe at Matt 23:35 with his spurious addition “son of Barachiah”] is in fact the very one to which Jesus refers at Matt 23:34-36. Of course, BTW, this stoning has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do with the legal prescriptions for stoning in the OT.

    [2.] This “conclusion” of yours is manifestly in contrast with Matthew 23:37, that you have just mentioned. It is quite obvious that Luke 20:1-6 has nothing to do with any alleged “respect for a prophet” on the part of the “Jewish religious leaders”. On the contrary, they were purely and simply motivated by fear to be stoned by “the people”, who obviously greatly appreciated the way in which John the Baptist (inspired by God), lambasted the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, [saying to them], “You offspring of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?” (Matthew 3:7)

    [3.] See above. Again, unless the Apostles were formally accused of some capital crime, there was no ground for stoning them. Whereas the “chiefs of the Jews” were simply afraid of the reaction of “the people”.

    [4.] What would be that, “in all fairness, their own scriptures should have led them to expect”? Aren’t you forgetting something? (Hint: Saul/Paul was fully abetting their “quick sentence” of stoning against Stephen). Oh, BTW, if it wasn’t of blasphemy that they were accusing Stephen, do you have any suggestion as to what else would the capital charge be?

    [5.] So you adduce the motive of “envy”. Fine. Still you would concur (I hope …) that nobody would openly declare “envy” as a legal/legitimate reason for stoning someone? So, do you have any idea what would the “official reason” have been (at Antioch of Pisidia, at Iconium, at Lystra) for attempting to stone Paul and Barnabas? Any suggestion?

    So – MdS – what makes you think that blasphemy is the only thing that would cause the Jewish leaders to pick up stones to throw at Jesus?

    This is a generic and misleading question.

    The proper question –which I return once again to you– is, “What, other than a (misplaced, improper) charge of blasphemy would be (or would be perceived) in Jesus’ words (“… before Abraham came into existence, I am!” – John 8:58), so that “the Jews” would “pick up stones to throw at him” (John 8:59)?

    Please, don’t divagate any longer. If you don’t know what to answer, simply say so.

    MdS

    Reply

  130. Marg
    December 17, 2012 @ 6:49 am

    what, precisely, would be (or would be perceived as) blasphemous in Jesus’ words (“… before Abraham came into existence, I am!” – John 8:58), so that “the Jews” would “pick up stones to throw at him” (John 8:59)?

    I have now looked up every passage I can find that mentions stoning. In the OT, crimes that were to be punished by stoning INCLUDE:
    1. Acting as a “medium” or spiritist (Leviticus 20:27)
    2. Gathering sticks on the Sabbath day (Numbers 15:32-36)
    3. Being a stubborn and rebellious son (Deuteronomy 21:21)
    4. Certain types of sexual immorality (Deuteronomy 22:13-21, 23-27)
    5. Covetousness (Joshua 7:19-23)
    (There were also cases of gross injustice – such as the case of Naboth in 1 Kings 21:10-14.)

    The NT also mentions stoning a few times.
    1. In Matthew 23:37, Jesus mourned over Jerusalem, guilty of killing the prophets and stoning the ones God sent to them. [One outstanding example is Zechariah, son of Jehoiada, who was stoned by King Joash and his Jewish officials for telling them the truth – 2 Chronicles 24:21-22.]

    2. Luke 20:1-6 describes an encounter between Jesus and Jewish religious leaders, in which Jesus asked them: “The baptism of John: Was it from heaven or from men?”
    And they were stuck. If they said from heaven, he would ask them why they didn’t believe him. BUT –
    If we say from men, all the people will stone us …
    Apparently the Jewish people were quite ready to stone anyone who didn’t show proper respect for a prophet.

    3. Acts 5:17-26 records a similar motive for stoning. The apostles had been imprisoned by the Sadducees, but had been miraculously released. They were found in the temple, teaching the people – the very thing they had been imprisoned for doing. So the commander and officers went and brought them to the Sanhedrin; but they did it without using force, because they were afraid the people would stone them.

    4. Acts 6:8-10 tells of certain men who were “not able to resist the wisdom and the spirit by which [Stephen] spoke” (6:10). They finally stoned Stephen for saying something that, in all fairness, their own scriptures should have led them to expect (Acts 7:54-59).

    5. And in Acts 14:19, Jews from Antioch (in Pisidia) and Iconium stoned Paul and took him out of the city, supposing him to be dead. Why? Because they were “filled with envy” (see ch. 13:45).

    So – MdS – what makes you think that blasphemy is the only thing that would cause the Jewish leaders to pick up stones to throw at Jesus?

    Reply

  131. villanovanus
    December 17, 2012 @ 5:32 am

    @ Marg (December 16, 2012 at 7:46 pm)

    The words of Jesus himself show that his use of “I am” had NOTHING to do with Exodus, and he NEVER claimed to be God. That issue has already been settled several times.

    The “issue” may have been “settled several times”, but, nevertheless … hallelujah for clarifying this point for good! ?

    The PREMISE of the Jews was, “You are not yet 50 years old“. It was a faulty premise, and Jesus’ answer corrects it.

    I have clarified in what sense it was indeed a faulty premise (in fact, the very reversal of what Jesus had affirmed). Can you please explain in what sense you affirm that it was a faulty premise? IF, for instance, with his reply, “… before Abraham came into existence, I am!” (John 8:58), Jesus was affirming his personal pre-existence, then how would their premise be faulty?

    Could you give a biblical reference to support this statement [“Wisdom is equated to the Hebrew equivalent of Logos, Dabar”]?

    Sorry for the lack of clarity. I wasn’t affirming that Wisdom (Heb. chokmah, Strong’s H2451) is equated to God’s Word (Heb. dabar, Strong’s H 1697) in any specific passage of the OT. I affirm, though, that the Evangelist John consciously and deliberately equates God’s Wisdom and God’s Word:

    22 The Lord created [LXX; or, “possessed”, “fathered”] me [Wisdom] as the beginning of his works [or “way”], before his deeds of long ago. 23 From eternity I was appointed, from the beginning, from before the world existed. (Prov 8:22-23 NET)

    1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was [fully] God. 2 The Word [Grk. “This”] was with God in the beginning. (John 1:1-2 NET)

    [The question re stoning requires some study, but thank you for asking it.]

    “Some study”? On whose part? Yours? Certainly NOT mine! Your systematic avoidance of this key question, even after you have kept us in suspense with your hint (“He told them, ‘I know where I came from’ (8:14). ‘I am from above’ (23). None of this precipitated a stoning. Not yet.” – Marg, December 11, 2012 at 11:31 pm) is, by now, totally without justification.

    Once again, what, precisely, would be (or would be perceived as) blasphemous in Jesus’ words (“… before Abraham came into existence, I am!” – John 8:58), so that “the Jews” would “pick up stones to throw at him” (John 8:59)?

    Speak, Marg, speak!

    (Otherwise, everybody here, me included, will become convinced that you do not have any answer …)

    MdS

    Reply

  132. Marg
    December 16, 2012 @ 7:46 pm

    The words of Jesus himself show that his use of “I am” had NOTHING to do with Exodus, and he NEVER claimed to be God. That issue has already been settled several times.

    MdS – The PREMISE of the Jews was, “You are not yet 50 years old“. It was a faulty premise, and Jesus’ answer corrects it.

    … Wisdom is equated to the Hebrew equivalent of Logos, Dabar

    Could you give a biblical reference to support this statement?

    The two words are really not similar, and – so far as I am aware – are never used synonymously. In Proverbs, Wisdom (personified) SPEAKS, but her words are not synonymous with Wisdom itself.

    I understand “Wisdom” to be an ATTRIBUTE of God, while “word” has to do with EXPRESSION – the revealing of his will and/or character.

    [The question re stoning requires some study, but thank you for asking it.]

    Reply

  133. villanovanus
    December 15, 2012 @ 3:02 pm

    @ Marg ( December 15, 2012 at 7:25 am)

    Jesus did not correct their question. He corrected their faulty PREMISE. Jesus was “THE WORD” in flesh. They were not allowing for the existence of the PRE-INCARNATE Word. The Jews were either not aware of that concept, or chose to ignore it.

    Why should they have been “aware of that concept”? While there is ample evidence that the Jews went as far as speaking of God’s Wisdom in personalized (NOT personal) terms (in particular, Proverbs 8), while Wisdom is equated to the Hebrew equivalent of Logos, Dabar, NOBODY in Judaism ever affirmed that the Messiah would be the incarnation of Yahweh’s Dabar.

    So Jesus corrected their faulty premise:

    Truly, truly I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am. [John 8:58]

    That correction did at least two serious things:
    1. It meant that the Pharisees were WRONG. [Pharisees can’t stand being wrong.]
    2. It meant that Jesus was, indeed, GREATER THAN OUR FATHER ABRAHAM. That could not be tolerated.

    Assuming this is the real issue (I don’t think it is), what, precisely, would be (or would be perceived as) blasphemous in Jesus’ words, so that “the Jews” would “pick up stones to throw at him” (John 8:59)?

    MdS

    Reply

  134. Xavier
    December 15, 2012 @ 9:27 am

    “The identification of Jesus’ I am statements with the ‘I am’ of Exodus I believe to be a misreading of the text…indeed the latter two [8:28; 13:19] there is a contrast with the Father who sent him…Even the Jews do not accuse him of this — only of calling God His Father, and thereby implying equality with God or as H. Oldberg interprets this from Rabbinic parallels, rebellious independence being ‘as good as God’ (5:18). What they take to be the blasphemy of making himself ‘a god’ in 10:33 is again made clear to be a misunderstanding of Jesus calling Himself ‘God’s son’…. The worst than can be said of Him at the trial is that He claimed to be ‘God’s Son”’ J. A. T. Robinson, Priority of John, 385-387.

    “It is simply intolerable that Jesus should be made to say, ‘I am God, the supreme God of the OT, and being God I do as I am told,’ and in 13:19, ‘I am God, and I am here because someone sent me.”’ “Jesus’ Ego Eimi is not a claim to divinity.” Barrett, Comm. on John, p. 342, cf. p. 98.

    “‘I am He’ means a claim to be the Messiah and implies neither divinity nor preexistence…Before Abraham’s coming, I am He, that is, the promised Messiah. The simple phrase ‘I am He’ is used by Jesus 15 times, but in every case but the present it is rendered in the Common Version, ‘I am He’ or ‘It is I.’ See Mat. 14:27, Mk 6:50, 14:62, Luke 21:8, 22:70, 24:39, John 4:26, 6:20, 8:24, 28, 13:19, 18:5. 6, 8.” Robert Young, LLD of Young’s Concordance, Concise Commentary on John 8:58.

    Reply

  135. Marg
    December 15, 2012 @ 7:25 am

    What the Jews said was, “You are not yet fifty years old; and have you seen Abraham?”

    PREMISE: You are not yet fifty years old.
    CONCLUSION: You cannot possibly have seen Abraham. [They expressed it as a question, but their conclusion is obvious.]

    Jesus did not correct their question. He corrected their faulty PREMISE. Jesus was “THE WORD” in flesh. They were not allowing for the existence of the PRE-INCARNATE Word.

    John 1:10 shows that when the Word became flesh, the existence of the pre-incarnate Word was not obliterated. Instead, the activities of the pre-incarnate Word were considered to be the activities of the person (Jesus) that the Word became. So HE was in the world, and the world was made by HIM, but the world did not know HIM.
    The Jews were either not aware of that concept, or chose to ignore it.

    So Jesus corrected their faulty premise:

    Truly, truly I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.

    That correction did at least two serious things:
    1. It meant that the Pharisees were WRONG. [Pharisees can’t stand being wrong.]
    2. It meant that Jesus was, indeed, GREATER THAN OUR FATHER ABRAHAM. That could not be tolerated.

    Reply

  136. villanovanus
    December 14, 2012 @ 5:00 pm

    @ Marg

    [( December 14, 2012 at 1:02 pm)] He answered their question by correcting their inadequate premise:

    Truly, truly I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am. [John 8:58]

    And they picked up stones to stone him. [John 8:59]

    The “premise” of “the Jews” was NOT “inadequate”: it was wrong, the very reverse of what Jesus had affirmed: Jesus was NOT affirming that he had –even literally – seen Abraham, BUT that Abraham had “seen” Jesus in prophetic vision.

    Anyway, I had already explained everything in my posts #14 (November 26, 2012 at 12:36 pm), #34 (November 29, 2012 at 5:30 pm), etc.

    The point, though, is that, in spite of my advice to take off your “personal preexistence glasses”, you insist in keeping them on your nose, when you read John 8:58.

    And, once again, even admitting (NOT conceding) that John 8:58 implies personal pre-existence, it was you who insisted on the “Heavenly Preexistence” of the Messiah, quoting extensively from the Jewish Encyclopedia (http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/10729-messiah#anchor14 – see thread ” God and his Son: the Logic of the New Testament”, Marg‘s comment #29 of November 22, 2012 at 1:18 pm). There is NO mention of blasphemy there … so why would “the Jews” have tried to stone Jesus for a mere claim of “Heavenly Preexistence” as the Messiah?

    You still haven’t replied …

    [( December 14, 2012 at 1:10 pm)] I hate it when I mess up the formatting. Oh, well.

    I hate it too!

    I wonder if the S/W platform adopted by Dale allows for later editing of comments after they’ve been submitted. Maybe even friendly formatting? That would be marvellous.

    Please, Dale, Be Friendly!

    MdS

    Reply

  137. Marg
    December 14, 2012 @ 1:10 pm

    I hate it when I mess up the formatting. Oh, well.

    Reply

  138. Marg
    December 14, 2012 @ 1:02 pm

    I think you’re right, MdS. The phrase “for eternity” probably modifies the noun death, rather than the verb see or taste. The death that anyone who keeps his word will in no way see is eternal death.

    In any case, the Jews were obviously concentrating on physical dying. So they challenged Jesus (52,53): “Abraham died. … Are you greater than our father Abraham? … Who are you making yourself out to be?”

    Jesus answered the second question first. He wasn’t making himself out to be anything. Any glory that was his was given to him by his Father.
    Nevertheless, he WAS greater than Abraham (56): “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he should see my day, and he saw it, and was glad.”

    The Pharisees were very familiar with God’s covenant with Abraham. Genesis 15 tells part of it. God there gave Abraham a preview of what would happen to his offspring in the future. They would be in bondage in the land of Egypt; but they would be delivered and the land would eventually be theirs. Abraham “saw” the future, by believing what God said.

    Another part of God’s covenant with Abraham is recorded in ch. 26:3-4: “in your seed all the nations of the earth will be blessed.” The Pharisees probably understood this promise to be prophetic of the Messiah, just as Peter did (see Acts 3:25-26). But how could Jesus be so sure that it was HIS day Abraham saw?
    So they changed the person doing the “seeing” from Abraham to Jesus. They said, “You are not yet fifty years old; and have you seen Abraham?

    He answered their question by correcting their inadequate premise:

    Truly, truly I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.

    And they picked up stones to stone him.

    Reply

  139. villanovanus
    December 14, 2012 @ 6:31 am

    [Marg (December 13, 2012 at 9:56 pm)] Before going on with the argument, it’s worth noticing the change from “SEE DEATH” to “TASTE OF DEATH”.

    While it is certainly perceptive of you to compare the “taste of death” at John 8:52 with the same expression at Hebrews 2:9, I wouldn’t make too much of the difference between the expression used by Jesus, “seeing death” (John 8:51) and the expression used by “the Jews” in their rejoinder, “tasting death” (John 8:52).

    Funnily enough, ALL the English translations that I am aware of do not translate at all the phrase appended at the end of both verses in the Greek text, which is eis ton aiôna, that is, literally “for eternity”, or, as an adjective, “eternal”, BUT, conflating it with the (“not”) preceding the verb, render it with a weak and misleading “never”.

    I surmise that, when both expressions are fully and properly translated, there is ONLY stylistic difference between “will not see eternal death” (John 8:51) and “will not taste [viz. experience] eternal death” (John 8:52).

    MdS

    Reply

  140. Marg
    December 13, 2012 @ 9:56 pm

    So far, Jesus had not given the Pharisees any good reason for something as drastic as stoning. His claim to be the “light of the world” identified him with prophecies concerning the Messiah (as well as linking him with the Word – ho logos); but there was nothing they could do to discredit his claims.

    For one thing, the miracles he was doing were evidence that he was truly “sent by God.” For another thing, no one had been able to convict him of any sin.

    His repeated warnings to them about their sin, about their spurning of the truth, about their rejection of God, must have infuriated them; but the people knew that the prophets of the OT spoke in a similar way to the “leaders” of their day. In fact, many of the ordinary people thought his claim to be the Messiah was valid.
    So there had to be something specific and serious to justify stoning.

    Then Jesus made another claim:

    I tell you truly, if anyone keeps my word, he will in no way see death forever.

    The Jews surely knew he wasn’t talking about physical death. We “see” death around us all the time, and can expect to experience it ourselves. That’s obvious.
    Instead, he was talking about the spiritual death implicit in his warning, “If you do not believe that I am [the one I claim to be], you will die in your sins.” If they continued to rebel against God, they could not escape that death.
    But there is a way of escape, said Jesus. “Anyone who keeps my word (logon) will in no way see [THAT kind of] death, forever.”

    The Jews preferred to talk about physical death. They said, “Abraham and the prophets died, yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will in no way taste of death forever.’ Are you greater than our father Abraham? Who are you making yourself out to be?”

    Before going on with the argument, it’s worth noticing the change from “SEE DEATH” to “TASTE OF DEATH”.

    Those same words are found in Hebrews 2:9. There we read that Jesus, for the suffering of death, “was made for a little while lower than the angels …” Why? “… so that … he might TASTE OF DEATH.

    Here, too, “tasting death” had to do with dying on account of sin.

    Jesus had no sins of his own; but he died for sins that were NOT his own. God “laid on him the iniquity of us all”. He “bore our sins in his own body on the tree”. He “tasted of death” – the death that we deserved – so that we might become “righteousness of God in him”. That’s wonderful news.

    But that is not what the Jews had in mind.

    Reply

  141. Marg
    December 11, 2012 @ 11:31 pm

    I think I am not alone in preferring scriptural evidence to that which is “historical, logical and more generally philosophical”. So – unless Dale requests otherwise – I intend to continue with the context that should help us to understand what Jesus meant when he said, “Before Abraham was born, I am.”

    In v. 21 he said something the Jews didn’t understand, and he explained WHY they didn’t understand:

    You are from beneath; I am from above. You are from this world; I am not from this world. Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am, you will die in your sins.

    They asked, “Who are you?” And he replied, “Just what I have been telling you.”

    He had been telling them, over and over , that he was sent by God.

    He told them, “I am the light of the world.” [An attribute of the Word.]
    Light exposes what the darkness hides. So they preferred the darkness, because their deeds were evil (3:19).
    Therefore, if they continued to refuse the light, if they refused to believe that he was what he claimed to be, they would die in their sins – the sins they were determined to hide.

    He told them, “I know where I came from” (8:14). “I am from above” (23).

    None of this precipitated a stoning. Not yet.

    Reply

  142. villanovanus
    December 11, 2012 @ 2:27 pm

    Errata – Corrige

    Dale Tuggy’s article on the “Trinity” and the relative supplement on “Unitarianism” is NOT in IEP (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy), BUT in SEP (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

    Reply

  143. villanovanus
    December 11, 2012 @ 11:09 am

    @ Marg (December 11, 2012 at 7:38 am)

    My only conclusion SO FAR is that only SCRIPTURAL evidence has any value to me. And that, as you have made clear, is not so in your case. We differ in that respect, and I can understand your reluctance to continue.

    As you obviously have a strong propensity for drawing conclusions on your own terms, without even admitting it, here are a few of clarifications.

    Possibly without realizing it, you treat Samuel Clarke’s The Scripture Doctrine of the Trinity (almost?) as though it was the … Bible.

    Once again, the conclusions that Samuel Clarke (1675 – 1729) drew from his reading of the Bible (and you, obviously, with him), while they were not “orthodox trinitarian”, certainly amounted to Subordinationist trinitarianism.

    But, as Dale Tuggy has written in his “Unitarianism” supplement to his IEP article on the “Trinity” …

    “… Priestley [Joseph Priestley (1733–1804)] and others held that former subordinationist and prolific scholar Nathaniel Lardner (1684–1768) had made a powerful scriptural case against Clarkean subordinationism. (…) Lardner undercut a christology favored by subordinationists, in which the eternal Word or Logos unites with a human body in the man Jesus (as opposed to the mainstream view that the Word united with both a human body and a human soul). Lardner argues that the New Testament doesn’t teach that either Jesus or an element within him pre-existed Mary’s pregnancy. The logos (English: Word, Reason) of the first chapter of the Gospel of John is best understood as a divine attribute, which metaphorically “became flesh” in the man Jesus, and other traditional pre-existence proof texts are interpreted in ways consistent with Christ not existing before his conception. Lardner analyzes the use of “spirit” in the Bible and concludes that it refers to God, or to various of God’s properties, actions, or gifts (Lardner 1793a-b).”

    As for your “I plan to continue exploring [scriptural] evidence”, you have done that ad nauseam: I frankly doubt there is anything left for you to “continue exploring” …

    Reply

  144. Xavier
    December 11, 2012 @ 10:27 am

    MdS

    Knock yourself out friend.

    PS: Mat 7.6 😉

    Reply

  145. Marg
    December 11, 2012 @ 7:38 am

    Fair enough, MdS.

    My only conclusion SO FAR is that only SCRIPTURAL evidence has any value to me. And that, as you have made clear, is not so in your case. We differ in that respect, and I can understand your reluctance to continue.

    Nevertheless, I believe there are some readers who have the same desire for scriptural evidence that I have, so I plan to continue exploring that evidence, unless Dale asks me to stop.

    Thank you, though, for the term “pre-incarnated Word”. I appreciate the precise nature of that term.

    As for those who consider further discussion a waste of time, I can only repeat (in slightly different words) what Xavier said to someone else: There is no need to read it.

    At the same time, this is Dale’s blog, not mine. If he requests that the subject be dropped, I will drop it.

    Reply

  146. villanovanus
    December 11, 2012 @ 3:43 am

    @ Xavier (December 10, 2012 at 1:07 pm)

    … there is only so much time and argumentation we can involve ourselves in before it becomes perfunctory don’t you think?

    I agree: as I believe that I have provided more than enough evidence (scriptural, historical, logical and more generally philosophical) to make a decision, I will drastically “tone down” my arguing on the question “Did a what become a who, or did a who become a who?” …

    … lest I may become suspect along the lines of 1 Tim 6:3-5 … 😉

    @ Marg (December 10, 2012 at 2:39 pm)

    I agree with you, MdS, that the cumulative misinterpretations of “orthodox” theologians have created what Anthony correctly calls “Christianity’s Self Inflicted Wound”. (….) But I am looking for biblical evidence, because I am convinced (as Samuel Clarke was) that all the doctrine we need can be found in the Bible itself. Therefore, until all such evidence has been explored, I am not committed to ANY conclusion.

    Oh, but Samuel Clarke drew his conclusions all right and, sorry to inform you, while they were not “orthodox trinitarian”, they certainly amounted to Subordinationist trinitarianism. IOW they were essentially the same as those shared by most pre-Nicean Fathers, epitomized by Origen, with his infamous “eternal generation of the son”.

    So even if you are reluctant to admit it, you HAVE (at least implicitly) drawn your conclusions. I believe there is nothing else to be discussed, in this respect.

    MdS

    Reply

  147. Marg
    December 10, 2012 @ 7:18 pm

    Hi, MdS.
    When I read the article you gave a link to, I realized that I had already read it.

    It all sounds perfectly reasonable, but – does any if it have a bearing on the question we are discussing?

    Reply

  148. Marg
    December 10, 2012 @ 2:39 pm

    I agree with you, MdS, that the cumulative misinterpretations of “orthodox” theologians have created what Anthony correctly calls “Christianity’s Self Inflicted Wound”. The Athanasian Creed is a perfect example of wrong beliefs, stated dogmatically, and then made mandatory for salvation.
    (According to that Creed, we are both eternally damned.)

    I also agree with you that “the question about the personal nature of the pre-incarnated Word/Logos” is not senseless, and probably not unanswerable. But I am looking for biblical evidence, because I am convinced (as Samuel Clarke was) that all the doctrine we need can be found in the Bible itself.

    Therefore, until all such evidence has been explored, I am not committed to ANY conclusion. I have a fondness for the scientific method, which demands a testing of ALL the available evidence before a conclusion is drawn.

    One thing, though, seems clear. Words have the purpose of REVEALING something.
    For example, God is infinitely wise. Wisdom is an attribute of his. But his words (and his Word) REVEAL his wisdom, as well as his other attributes.

    A similar idea is found in Heb. 1:3. God’s Son is “the out-shining of [God’s] glory, and the exact image of his essence” (Heb. 1:3). The Son reveals what God is like (as anyone would expect a true son to do).

    And now, I will take a close look at the site you provided a link to, and see what evidence it provides.

    Reply

  149. Xavier
    December 10, 2012 @ 1:07 pm

    MdS

    I am not quite sure what you’re complaining about. You have spent no less than 18 posts at thread “God and his Son: the Logic of the New Testament…

    Not so much a complaint but an observation to someone who I thought might agree. I mean, there is only so much time and argumentation we can involve ourselves in before it becomes prefunctory don’t you think?

    See 1 Tim 6.4-5. 😉

    Reply

  150. villanovanus
    December 10, 2012 @ 12:16 pm

    @ Marg

    In my previous comment addressed to you I made a remark on classical theism (and provided a link, http://www.theism.info). This was probably a bit too quick. So from the same website this is a more specific link: “Divine Immutability” (www.theism.info/immutability.html) that confronts two classical arguments, that from “perfection” and that from “eternity”. Enjoy, while remaining aware that this has very little (nothing, AFAIAC) to do with Scripture.

    There is also a more philosophical link available. Let me quote the relevant passage from it:

    The Incarnation is an especially knotty problem for DDI [Doctrine of Divine Immutability]’s Christian friends. In general, these argue that all change it involved occurred in the human nature God the Son assumed rather than in God; God was eternally ready to be incarnate, and eternally had those experiences of the earthly Christ which the Incarnation makes part of his life. Through changes in Mary and the infant she bore, what was eternally in God eventually took place on earth. (SEP > Immutability > 4. Arguments Against Immutability)

    Is any of the above even remotely entailed in the Bible?

    Of course not!

    This is how the God of the Scripture gets disfigured through heathen-philosophical treatment …

    [Marg, December 10, 2012 at 10:48 am] I think Greg is right: a lot of the misunderstandings of the past were due to “semantics”. I don’t want misunderstandings to hinder what could be a valuable learning experience for me, as well as anyone else who is willing to follow it.

    Greg (and I with him) also asked a very clear question that you keep avoiding:

    Did a what become a who, or did a who become a who?” (“God and his Son: the Logic of the New Testament – conference presentation”, Greg’s comment # 109, November 20, 2012 at 12:49 am)

    I believe it is by now only a matter of intellectual honesty, on your part, to simply give your own answer, without any further dithering, without any further ado.

    [Marg, December 10, 2012 at 10:48 am ] I can find no suggestion in the New Testament that the word logos ever refers to an attribute. Can you give an example?

    For that matter, you find no suggestion in the whole Scripture (OT + NT) that the word “God” (Hebrew: elohim; Greek: theos) is ever associated to the notion of “person”.

    The Scripture (and the OT more so than the NT) refrains from the adoption of philosophical terminology and abstractions.

    Does it mean that questions about the personal nature of God are senseless or anyway unanswerable? I don’t think so: there is enough evidence in the Scripture that God is self–conscious, reasons, makes choices and wills events to happen or not to happen. That is, that God has all the requirements of personality in the jointly agreed definition.

    Likewise, is the question about the personal nature of the pre-incarnated Word/Logos senseless or anyway unanswerable? I don’t think so: it is only through a cumulative misunderstanding that (at least since Justin Martyr who, in turn, took his cue from Philo) the pre-incarnated Logos, of which we read both in the Gospel of John and the First Epistle of John, got to be understood as a “self-conscious entity, endowed with reason, freedom and will”. In the hope to “cure” this cumulative misunderstanding (that Anthony Buzzard refers to as “Christianity’s Self Inflicted Wound”), in the end, a “cure” was devised that was worse than the “wound” itself.

    First the idea of the Logos as “second god” (deutheros theos – with Justin), then the verbal invention of the “eternal generation of the son” (Origen), then the abracadabra of the “one ousia in three hypostases” (the Cappadocian scoundrels, alias Basil of Caesarea, his younger brother Gregory of Nyssa and the close friend Gregory of Nazianzus).

    MdS

    Reply

  151. Marg
    December 10, 2012 @ 10:48 am

    Thank you for answering, MdS. I think Greg is right: a lot of the misunderstandings of the past were due to “semantics”. I don’t want misunderstandings to hinder what could be a valuable learning experience for me, as well as anyone else who is willing to follow it.

    So we agree that it was not necessary for the Word to become a human being in order to become a person. But it WAS necessary for the Word to become flesh in order to reveal to humans what God is like. It was only when “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” that “we [the witnesses] beheld his glory.”

    That, in fact, is the purpose of words. The purpose is to reveal something about yhe source of those words. And what the Word revealed was “… the glory as of an only-begotten of a father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

    The same idea is repeated in v. 18. “No one has seen God at any time. The only-begotten [Son], who is in the bosom of the Father, he revealed him.”

    I can find no suggestion in the New Testament that the word logos ever refers to an attribute. Can you give an example?

    Reply

  152. villanovanus
    December 10, 2012 @ 9:55 am

    Xavier

    I am not quite sure what you’re complaining about.

    You have spent no less than 18 posts at thread “God and his Son: the Logic of the New Testament – conference presentation (Dale)” (these are the ones I have marked: 2 7 9 13 18 25 26 30 33 37 42 44 91 107 111 115 122 127) to ask Marg always the same question and variants thereof.

    In fact, at post #115 (Xavier, November 20, 2012 at 1:39 pm) you even wrote to me: “Maybe Marg can respond to you and finally settle for all of us what type of Christology she holds to.”

    What obviously Marg needs is to be gradually led to imagine, understand and (perhaps) accept that, before the Incarnation, God’s Word was an attribute of >God yet NOT a distinct person (that is NOT a distinct “self-conscious entity, endowed with reason, freedom and will”).

    MdS

    Reply

  153. Xavier
    December 10, 2012 @ 8:43 am

    MdS

    Why are you giving this silly argument the time of day?

    What’s next, a looong diatribe on whether or not mountains and trees are “persons” [Isa 55.12]? : /

    Reply

  154. villanovanus
    December 10, 2012 @ 8:28 am

    @ Marg

    [# 55 December 9, 2012 at 6:36 pm] The one thing that I find confusing is the differentiation you make between “what” and “thing”. Given the definition of person which we have agreed to accept, I understand a “who” to be a “person,” and a “what” to be a “thing”.

    I can sympathise with your “confusion”, but there is no contradiction. Once we have accepted the general definition of person as “self-conscious entity, endowed with reason, freedom and will” the question becomes precisely this:

    Does the Scriptural evidence about God’s Word (essentially from the Prologue to the Gospel of John – John 1:1-18 and also from the Prologue to the First Letter of John – see the “word of life” in 1 John 1:1-4) affirm (or imply) that before the incarnation in/as Jesus of Nazareth, God’s Word was a person (that is a “self-conscious entity, endowed with reason, freedom and will”) distinct from the One and Only self-existent God the Father Almighty?

    I affirm that (in spite of secular strata of traditional interpretation) it does NOT.

    I affirm that it is for those who accept the traditional interpretations (whether Subordinationist, Arian, or Nicene-Constantinopolitan “trinitarian”) to prove otherwise.

    [# 55, December 9, 2012 at 6:36 pm] Is there some definition of a “thing” that makes it different from a “what”?

    This is not the point. The point is: can you imagine, understand and (perhaps) accept that, before the Incarnation, God’s Word was an attribute of >God yet NOT a distinct person (that is NOT a distinct “self-conscious entity, endowed with reason, freedom and will”)?

    If it can help, remember the scriptural image of God’s Word and Spirit as God’s “arms” (or “hands” – Deut 33:27; Psalm 33:6).

    [# 56, December 9, 2012 at 11:04 pm] Are you suggesting that in order to become a person the Word had to become flesh? Does this mean that only a human being can be a person?

    [# 57, December 9, 2012 at 11:12 pm] Did the Word have to become flesh in order to become a person? If so, what happened to the expanded definition of “person” that we agreed to accept?

    I can understand your perplexity but, once again, there is no contradiction in my statements.

    As you are well aware, the definition of person that I have proposed, and that you accept, was formulated in such a way that it applies not only to human beings but even to pure spirits like angels (and demons …) and even to God.

    So NO, the Word DID NOT have to become flesh in order to become a person. For instance, certainly this is NOT the case with Subordinationism, Arianism, or Nicene-Constantinopolitan trinitarianism: all of which, in various ways, understand God’s Word/Son as a “person”, in its state pre-existing the Incarnation.

    What I insist on is that the Scripture affirms otherwise: it is a not a logically necessary fact, but nevertheless a fact, that the Scripture does NOT affirm that the pre-incarnated Word was a person.

    What I insist on is precisely the emphasis on the verb “to become”. Why? Because the Christian doctrine is so imbued with classical theism (see e.g. http://www.theism.info) that (perhaps tacitly) it abhors the idea that anything in God may change. Now the change of God’s Word from impersonal attribute to full-fledged person certainly IS a major, dramatic change in God.

    Still this is precisely what the Scripture affirms:

    1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was fully God. 2 The Word was with God in the beginning. (…) 14 Now the Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We saw his glory – the glory of the one and only, full of grace and truth, who came from the Father. ” (John 1:1-2,14)

    How did God’s Word “became flesh”? By being born as the person Jesus of Nazareth.

    Or would you rather affirm that a perfectly pre-existing “person” merely “put on flesh”, as some sort of garment?

    This (apart from all other conisderations for instance those of Anthony Buzzard) would obviously be docetism …

    MdS

    Reply

  155. Marg
    December 9, 2012 @ 11:12 pm

    I don’t know how I made such a mess of quoting your words, MdS, but here is the whole paragraph, without any attempt to copy your emphasis on the word “became”:

    My answer (founded on Scripture) is: God’s Eternal Word (NEITHER a person, NOR a thing, BUT an eternal attribute of the One and Only Eternal God, the Father Almighty) with the Incarnation became (this is the exact translation of the Greek verbal form egeneto in John 1:14, “the Word became flesh “) a person, Jesus, the Son of God and God’s Messiah.

    My question remains the same, though. Did the Word have to become flesh in order to become a person?
    If so, what happened to the expanded definition of “person” that we agreed to accept?

    Reply

  156. Marg
    December 9, 2012 @ 11:04 pm

    Forgive me for adding one more question, MdS, but I am anxious to understand what you are saying. Your last paragraph says (in part):

    … God’s Eternal Word … with the Incarnation became (… “the Word became flesh”) a person …

    Are you suggesting that in order to become a person the Word had to become flesh? Does this mean that only a human being can be a person?

    Or have I misunderstood the paragraph?

    Reply

  157. Marg
    December 9, 2012 @ 6:36 pm

    Sorry about the backlog.

    My reason for liking the term “pre-incarnated Word” is that the Word certainly existed PRIOR TO the incarnation. If “pre-existent” is understood in the same way (as being PRIOR TO existence) then it makes no sense.
    But as long as the word is defined as the speaker intends, I have no problem with it. I just don’t intend to use it.

    The one thing that I find confusing is the differentiation you make between “what” and “thing”. Given the definition of person which we have agreed to accept, I understand a “who” to be a “person,” and a “what” to be a “thing”.

    Is there some definition of a “thing” that makes it different from a “what”?

    Reply

  158. villanovanus
    December 9, 2012 @ 5:14 pm

    @ Marg

    I’m back, and see I’ve accumulated quite a backlog, in the meantime.

    (#48, December 5, 2012 at 4:24 pm) I can cheerfully agree with this one [definition of person as “self-conscious entity, endowed with reason, freedom and will”].

    I am very glad we agree on this definition because now the problem is much more precisely defined.

    As for the rest, I am sorry to disappoint you but, as I deny that the pre-incarnated Word is a person (in the above sense), nay, I deny that the Scripture provides any support for this claim, it is for you to prove otherwise.

    (#48, December 5, 2012 at 4:24 pm) As for John 14:11, I agree with you that those words are “straightforward and convincing”. However, in John 8:17-18, Jesus was answering a specific charge; and the fact remains that the Pharisees did not dispute the validity of his argument, obscure though it may be to you and me.

    Your argument is very weak, because all we can say is that the reaction of the Pharisees to Jesus’ argument (based on Deut 17:6) is not recorded in John’s Gospel. This does not change the fact that Jesus’ argument remains rather strained and far less convincing than John 14:11. As the argument at Chapter 14 comes after the one at Chapter, I am inclined to concluding that Jesus had, in the meantime, abandoned his previous rather artificially legalistic, “rabbinic” argument.

    (#50, December 8, 2012 at 7:59 am) Was the pre-incarnated Word a PERSON, or an inanimate THING?

    First, I am glad that you appreciate the accuracy of the expression “pre-incarnated Word”, although I don’t agree that “pre-existent” is meaningless, but, rather, clumsy: it obviously refers, in a shorthand manner, to the nature of the Word that pre-existed the person Jesus in/as whom it was incarnated.

    Second, I believe that the “dilemma” that you propose (PERSON, or THING) is a false dilemma. The Word (Greek: Logos; Hebrew: Dabar), before the Incarnation in/as Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God and God’s Messiah, was NEITHER a person distinct from the One and Only Eternal God, the Father Almighty, NOR a “thing”, BUT an eternal attribute of God.

    In fact as I have already argued with Jaco (before he sulked off in a huff) one of the two eternal, essential attributes of God, the other being God’s Eternal Spirit (Greek: Pneuma; Hebrew: Ruwach).

    You can see them explicitly named as instruments of God’s creative activity in Psalm 33:6, and, I believe, alluded to as God’s “everlasting arms” in Deut 33:27. Irenaeus of Lyons understands both verses in this sense.

    (#52, December 8, 2012 at 4:35 pm) … I think you are right, MdS, in saying that the Word is eternal, as well as divine. (…) Were they [LIFE, LIGHT, GLORY, GRACE, TRUTH] also true of the Word prior to the incarnation? I don’t see why not.

    Nothing of the above even slightly touches upon what Greg (and I with him) considers as the essential question: “did a what become a who, or did a who become a who?” (see “God and his Son: the Logic of the New Testament – conference presentation (Dale)” Greg’s comment # 109, November 20, 2012 at 12:49 am)

    My answer (founded on Scripture) is: God’s Eternal Word (NEITHER a person, NOR a thing, BUT an eternal attribute of the One and Only Eternal God, the Father Almighty) with the Incarnation became (this is the exact translation of the Greek verbal form egeneto in John 1:14, “the Word became flesh “) a person, Jesus, the Son of God and God’s Messiah.

    MdS

    Reply

  159. Xavier
    December 8, 2012 @ 10:33 pm

    Love how am being ignored. :p

    How can you be said to be foreknown if you’re already in existence (1 Pe 1.20)?

    Reply

  160. Marg
    December 8, 2012 @ 4:35 pm

    So – prior to the incarnation, the Word existed. We all seem to agree on that. And I think you are right, MdS, in saying that the Word is eternal, as well as divine.

    That makes sense. I have looked at all the passages where the word logos is used, and it seems to have the same basic meanings as our English word. In every case, its purpose is to REVEAL something about the speaker.

    So the Word revealed God’s will in creation, and we have no idea how much that takes in. It also revealed God’s attributes.

    We are told explicitly that “in the Word was LIFE”. That is an attribute of God. So is LIGHT.

    Then when the Word became flesh, the disciples “saw his GLORY, the glory as of an only-begotten of the Father, full of GRACE and TRUTH.” All attributes of God, true of the Word incarnate.

    Were they also true of the Word prior to the incarnation? I don’t see why not.

    Reply

  161. Xavier
    December 8, 2012 @ 9:09 am

    Marg

    …the question Greg asked (and that I am asking) has nothing to do with a “pre-existent” anything. Instead, the question is – Was the pre-incarnated Word a PERSON, or an inanimate THING?

    Of course its a question to do with preexistence: i.e., What or Who was the Word before He/It became flesh. 😛

    Reply

  162. Marg
    December 8, 2012 @ 7:59 am

    MdS – I want to thank you for the term “pre-incarnated Word”. I had never heard that term before, and I greatly appreciate its accuracy.

    “Pre-existent” is a meaningless word that theologians have manufactured. How can anything exist before it exists?

    But the question Greg asked (and that I am asking) has nothing to do with a “pre-existent” anything.
    Instead, the question is – Was the pre-incarnated Word a PERSON, or an inanimate THING?

    I am very grateful for that precise term, MdS. It is so obvious – but I never thought of it. And it clarifies what we are looking for as we continue to look at John 8.

    Reply

  163. Xavier
    December 8, 2012 @ 7:19 am

    “If anyone asserts the fabulous pre-existence of souls, and shall assert the monstrous restoration which follows from it: let him be anathema.” Council of Constantinople, AD. 553

    Reply

  164. Marg
    December 5, 2012 @ 4:24 pm

    Not all dictionaries agree on the definition of person, MdS. However, all we need to do is agree on one. And I can cheerfully agree with this one.

    Given this interpretation, whether the pre-incarnated Word is a “person” is exactly the CONCLUSION towards which I hope we are moving. I don’t think I have ever stated a conclusion, one way or the other, and I am not prepared to do so – YET.

    You see, I was taught in high school – very forcibly – that NO conclusion should be stated until ALL of the evidence has been explored. We haven’t finished exploring the evidence that is familiar to me, and yours is still to come.

    As for John 14:11, I agree with you that those words are “straightforward and convincing”. However, in John 8:17-18, Jesus was answering a specific charge; and the fact remains that the Pharisees did not dispute the validity of his argument, obscure though it may be to you and me.

    Getting back to the narrative, when the Jews asked, “Where is your father?” Jesus answered, “You do not know me or my Father. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also.”
    The words of John 14:11 fit here perfectly: “I am in the Father, and the Father is in me.” So “If you knew me, you would know the Father also.”

    Reply

  165. Villanovanus
    December 5, 2012 @ 1:34 pm

    @ Marg

    I haven’t got much time, so this is just a quick post.

    You say –conditionally– that “[i]f the word [presumably: “person”] is defined as ‘self-conscious entity, endowed with reason, freedom and will’, then it can certainly be used of ANY being – human or otherwise – that fits that definition. Including God.”

    So my first question back to you is: why the IF? Why the conditional reply? What prevents you (or anybody, for that matter) from adopting that definition of “person”?

    My immediately second question to you is: assuming you adopt the above definition of person, is the pre-incarnated Word, according to you, a person? If you answer yes, whence do you get the unquestionable evidence from the Scripture?

    As for the question of witness, in spite of your apology, Jesus’ attempt to resort to Deut 17:6 to give authority to his own self-witness remains an unconvincing argument.

    I find these words of Jesus much more straightforward, frank and convincing:

    “Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father is in me, but if you do not believe me, believe because of the miraculous deeds themselves.” (John 14:11)

    MdS

    Reply

  166. Marg
    December 4, 2012 @ 10:36 pm

    According to Eidersheim, Jesus’ answer regarding the two witnesses was a valid argument, and the Jews (obviously) did not dispute it.

    Perhaps the clue is in the description of the second witness as “the Father who SENT me.” Jesus uses that phrase over and over. He never claimed to be on his own. He was the agent of another.
    The miracles he did were evidence that he was what he claimed to be: sent by God. So his testimony was the testimony given to him by his God. It wasn’t his own, and he wasn’t testifying alone.

    Whatever the reason, the Pharisees did not dispute the validity of his argument. Instead, they asked an insulting question: “Where is your father?”

    To which he answered, “You do not know me or my Father. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also.” (v. 19)

    This is the second time that he told them, “You do not know …” In v 14 he said,
    “Even if I witness concerning myself, my witness is true, because I know where I came from and where I go, but you do not know where I came from or where I go.
    You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one
    [that day is still future]. And even if I judge, my judgment is true, because I am not alone, but I and the Father who sent me.”

    They didn’t know where he came from or where he was going. They judged according to the flesh. In the words of Paul (1 Corinthians 15:47) they were from the earth, and therefore earthy. He was the Lord from heaven, and therefore heavenly. He KNEW where he came from and where he was going.

    Reply

  167. Xavier
    December 4, 2012 @ 5:17 pm

    :/

    Reply

  168. Marg
    December 4, 2012 @ 1:52 pm

    I’m glad you had the chance to post your comment, MdS.

    Our use of the word “person,” then, depends on the definition we adopt. If the word is defined as

    person: self-conscious entity, endowed with reason, freedom and will

    then it can certainly be used of ANY being – human or otherwise – that fits that definition. Including God.

    I like the definition, and will understand it that way when you use it.

    In any case, whatever you may think I imply, I am glad you agree that I have said nothing SO FAR that cannot be supported by the text. I hope that continues.

    One thing I want to clarify is that when I say, ‘I think I know what Jesus actually said’ (in v. 58), I am talking about the literal words. He said (if John’s record is accurate)
    Truly, truly I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.”/cite>

    What he MEANT by that is the subject of this discussion.
    And I want to add that my mind is open to evidence in any direction. It just has to be TESTED – that’s all.

    Reply

  169. Xavier
    December 4, 2012 @ 8:40 am

    Marg

    So what type of “self” was Jesus before he was a “person”? 😛

    Reply

  170. Villanovanus
    December 3, 2012 @ 4:23 pm

    @ Marg

    I managed to post this.

    [ November 30, 2012 at 9:32 pm] Before I go on, have I said anything so far that the text does not support?

    You haven’t said “anything so far that the text does not support”, but I suspect you keep implying something that the text does NOT support (NOT obviously, anyway): that the pre-incarnated Word was a person. OR, if for various reasons, you prefer, at least for the moment, to avoid the word “person”, a self, or a subject. If, OTOH, you said that you do not consider the pre-incarnated Word person (or a self, or a subject), then I really wouldn’t know what we are discussing.

    [ December 1, 2012 at 9:35 pm] Jesus answered the Pharisees’ objection [“You witnessed about yourself. Your witness is not true.” – John 8:13] by pointing out that their law accepted the testimony of two men. He had definitely testified about himself, and his Father had also testified on his behalf. So their objection was not valid.

    Jesus was here referring, at the same time, to his previous statement (“If I testify about myself, my testimony is not true” – John 5:31), and, with his later statement (“It is written in your law that the testimony of two men is true” – John 8:17) at this principle from Deuteronomy:

    At the testimony of two or three witnesses they must be executed. They cannot be put to death on the testimony of only one witness. (Deut 17:6)

    I must admit that I have never understood Jesus’ “logic”, here, because it is not at all obvious that the testimony about himself would count as one of the “two or three witnesses” required by the Law. I fact, it would clearly count as self-witness. So, ultimately, his miracles (supportd by Gof, the Father Almighty) would be all that would “witness” for his claim of being the Son of God.

    [ December 1, 2012 at 9:35 pm] Nicodemus said to Jesus, “We know that you are a teacher come from God, because no man can do the signs that you do unless God is with him.”
    Both the fact that he was doing “signs,” as well as the meaning of those signs, were known to the Pharisees.

    Nicodemus had clearly become (like, Joseph of Arimathea) a secret disciple of Jesus (see John 19:38-39). So, it is entirely exorbitant to deduce from Nicodemus’ belief and behaviour what ALL the Pharisees were supposed to believe.

    [ December 1, 2012 at 9:35 pm] I am inclined to agree with you that these men [“the Jews”] were only APPARENTLY (and deliberately) obtuse.

    I am glad to see that we agree on this.

    OTOH, and once again, nothing of what you’ve presented so far supports (NOT obviously, anyway) that the pre-incarnated Word was a person (or a self, or a subject).

    [ December 2, 2012 at 7:26 pm] … I have been looking at my dictionary’s definition(s) of the word “person”. It seems to me that the word is naturally associated with humankind, in one way or another. The only major exception is the theological (and artificial) use of the word in connection with tri-unity.

    I totally disagree. If, for instance, you adopt this definition …

    person: self-conscious entity, endowed with reason, freedom and will [#]

    … then there is no reason why it should not apply (not only to humans, but also) to purely spiritual beings like angels, demons and, yes, even God Himself. This, incidentally (albeit slightly expanded), is the definition of person adopted by Severinus Boethius (ca. 480–524 AD) and by Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274 AD)

    [ December 2, 2012 at 7:26 pm] Since I consider the idea of “one God in three persons” to be both unbiblical and irrational, I would like to avoid using the word “person” of anything except a human being.

    I believe that, by doing that, you are “throwing away the baby with the bath-water”, because you make it impossible to discuss whether the pre-incarnated Word was a person (or a self, or a subject).

    [ December 2, 2012 at 7:26 pm] Dale posted an article once describing God as a “self”. God speaks of himself as “I myself,” so that designation seems appropriate.

    Can “self” be used to describe other animate (but non-human) entities? For example, Satan is not a “person” (i.e. human), but is he a “self”?

    And THAT is the question!

    If you DO agree with the above definition [#] of person, then ask yourself if it would apply also to “purely spiritual beings like angels, demons and, yes, even God Himself”.

    If you NO NOT agree with the above definition, please explain why you don’t. 🙂

    MdS

    Reply

  171. Marg
    December 2, 2012 @ 7:26 pm

    Have a good trip, MdS.

    In the meantime, I have been looking at my dictionary’s definition(s) of the word “person”. It seems to me that the word is naturally associated with humankind, in one way or another. The only major exception is the theological (and artificial) use of the word in connection with tri-unity.

    Since I consider the idea of “one God in three persons” to be both unbiblical and irrational, I would like to avoid using the word “person” of anything except a human being.

    Dale posted an article once describing God as a “self”. God speaks of himself as “I myself,” so that designation seems appropriate.

    Can “self” be used to describe other animate (but non-human) entities? For example, Satan is not a “person” (i.e. human), but is he a “self”?

    Just a question of semantics, but it suddenly seems worth answering.

    Reply

  172. Villanovanus
    December 2, 2012 @ 3:57 pm

    @ Marg

    I’m travelling this week, with very limited access to computer. Will com back to you next week. 🙂

    MdS

    Reply

  173. Marg
    December 1, 2012 @ 9:35 pm

    I’ll continue with the context then, MdS, and if you see something you don’t agree with, I will expect you to point it out.

    Jesus answered the Pharisees’ objection by pointing out that their law accepted the testimony of two men. He had definitely testified about himself, and his Father had also testified on his behalf. So their objection was not valid.

    Peter tells us in Acts 2:22 HOW the Father had shown his approval of Jesus. It was by the miracles and wonders and signs that God did THROUGH him in their midst. And there is evidence in John 3 that the Pharisees were already well aware of this.

    Nicodemus said to Jesus, “We know that you are a teacher come from God, because no man can do the signs that you do unless God is with him.”
    Both the fact that he was doing “signs,” as well as the meaning of those signs, were known to the Pharisees.

    But the Lord’s words to Nicodemus include something that helps us to understand their apparent blindness in chapter 8. After telling Nicodemus about the love of God, so great that he gave his only-begotten Son in order that men might be saved through him (vv. 16-18), Jesus said this:

    He who believes on him is not condemned; but he who does not believe has already been condemned, because he has not believed on the name of the only-begotten Son of God.
    And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness better than the light, because their deeds were evil.

    The connection is clear: those who did not believe in the name of God’s only-begotten Son were rejecting the light.

    In John 8:12, Jesus once again faced those men with the declaration, “I am the light of the world.” But they had already rejected that light. They were well aware of the miracles that showed him to be what he claoimed to be – the “sent one of God” – but they were determined to kill him anyway.

    So I am inclined to agree with you that these men were only APPARENTLY (and deliberately) obtuse.

    Reply

  174. Xavier
    December 1, 2012 @ 3:02 pm

    So “the light” was a preexisting “person” also? : /

    Reply

  175. Marg
    November 30, 2012 @ 9:32 pm

    Let’s go on then.

    The confrontation begins with the words “I am” (the same words with which it ends). This is what Jesus says:

    I am the light of the world; anyone who follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.

    That is a stupendous claim. I never noticed before how closely it parallels the description of the Logos in ch. 1:4 –

    In [the Word] was life, and the life was the light of men; and the light shines in the darkness …

    The similarity is startling:
    (Ch. 1) In [the Logos] was LIFE, and the LIFE was the LIGHT of men.
    (Ch. 8) I am the LIGHT of the world [of men]; anyone who follows me will have the LIGHT of LIFE.

    He is not only claiming to be the LIGHT, he is claiming that those who follow him will have the light of LIFE.
    And that harmonizes with the statement of 1:12 – “As many as received him [the Logos in the world], to them he gave the authority to become the children of God.”

    It seems so obvious to me, but the Pharisees were oblivious to it. They were occupied with their laws. All they said was, “You witnessed about yourself. Your witness is not true.”

    Before I go on, have I said anything so far that the text does not support?

    Reply

  176. villanovanus
    November 30, 2012 @ 4:48 pm

    @ Marg (November 30, 2012 at 12:29 pm)

    Are we in agreement so far? Or have I misunderstood you?

    We seem to agree on this, that Jesus, in his exchanges with “the Jews” (or Judeans – even “those … who had believed him” – John 8:31) opposed his spiritual and figurative words to their material, and literal understanding.

    But let’s not forget the starting point, which is this claim of yours …

    [Marg, #7] “I am also sure (at the moment) of what Jesus actually SAID in John 8:58.”

    … so whether we agree on the interpretation of this verse or not depends entirely on whether I have managed to persuade you that to interpret it as a literal claim, on the part of Jesus, to his “personal pre-existence”, would mean to fall exactly in the same material, and literal understanding of “the Jews”.

    So my question to you is: do you still read John 8:58 through “personal pre-existence glasses” …

    … or have I eventually persuaded you to do away with them? 🙂

    MdS

    Reply

  177. Marg
    November 30, 2012 @ 12:29 pm

    I am glad we agree on one important thing, MdS. The evangelist does not deliberately falsify the record, just to make a point. Nor do any of the evangelists. They may differ in remembering certain insignificant details, but they are not dishonest.

    I also agree that the CONTEXT is critical in understanding what is meant by a sentence. I have read again the confrontation described in John 8:12-59, and I can see that throughout, Jesus is talking about spiritual things, while the Jewish leaders are talking about temporal things.

    For example, when they claim to be the children of Abraham, they are talking about physical descent, which gives them a privileged position, nationally.

    But when Jesus talks about the children of Abraham, he is talking about moral likeness. If Abraham were really their father, they would resemble him. But they don’t. They resemble the devil, who is a liar. That makes them children of the devil, morally.

    Are we in agreement so far? Or have I misunderstood you?

    Reply

  178. villanovanus
    November 29, 2012 @ 5:30 pm

    @ Marg (November 29, 2012 at 4:03 pm)

    I agree with much of what you say, Villanovanus, but before I take too much for granted, there are two sentences in comment #14 that seem to be contradictory:

    [MdS #1] First, you seem to disregard completely the fact that John the Evangelist attributes obtuse questions to Jesus’ interlocutors …

    [MdS #2] So, while it is true that “the Jews” asked Jesus, “You are not yet 50 years old, and have you seen Abraham?” (John 8:57) …

    The first sentence seems to suggest that the Jews did not really ask the question John attributes to them. The second says, quite clearly, that they really did ask the question. Could you clarify?

    Your question is perfectly legitimate, and I need to unpack a bit more what I meant.

    Perhaps, also, as I am not a native English speaker (I am Italian), I may have used improperly the phrase “the Evangelist attributes obtuse questions to …”. It was NOT meant to imply (not in my intention, anyway) that it was a mere literary device by the Evangelist John. Rather it was meant to imply that the (apparently obtuse) question of “the Jews” at John 8:57 backfired on them, very much like the (apparently obtuse) question of Nicodemus at John 3:4 was an opportunity for Jesus to correct his misconception.

    See the following parallel.

    The question of Nicodemus at John 3:4 (“How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter his mother’s womb and be born a second time, can he?”) was ONLY APPARENTLY obtuse, BUT, in fact –by being over-literalistic– grotesque and (perhaps, even slightly) sarcastic: everybody knows perfectly well that NOBODY can literally re-enter one’s mother’s womb. This gives to Jesus the opportunity of correcting Nicodemus’ (fake?) obtusity, explaining the deep, meaning of his previous claim (“I tell you the solemn truth, unless a person is born from above [Greek: anôthen, which can also mean “again”], he cannot see the kingdom of God.” – John 3:3), that Nicodemus had responded to so obtusely (sarcastically?), in a deeply spiritual and theological sense (“I tell you the solemn truth, unless a person is born of water and spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. …” – John 3:5).

    Similarly (but with an added element of aggression and polemic), the question of “the Jews” at John 8:57 (“You are not yet 50 years old, and have you seen Abraham?”) was ONLY APPARENTLY obtuse, BUT, in fact –by being over-literalistic– deliberately grotesque and mockingly sarcastic: everybody knows perfectly well that NOBODY can have literally seen someone who had lived possibly 1,800 years before. This gives to Jesus the opportunity of defeating their fake obtusity, explaining the deep, prophetic meaning of his previous claim (“Your father Abraham was overjoyed to see my day, and he saw it and was glad.” – John 8:56), that “the Jews” had responded to obtusely/sarcastically, in a deeply spiritual and theological sense (“I tell you the solemn truth, before Abraham came into existence, I am!” – John 8:56).

    I hope that my parallel is clearer, and hopefully also more convincing, now. 🙂

    MdS

    Reply

  179. Marg
    November 29, 2012 @ 4:03 pm

    It’s probably my age; but by the time I have thoroughly digested what is said in a comment, I’m away behind.

    I agree with much of what you say, Villanovanus, but before I take too much for granted, there are two sentences in comment #14 that seem to be contradictory:

    First, you seem to disregard completely the fact that John the Evangelist attributes obtuse questions to Jesus’ interlocutors …

    So, while it is true that “the Jews” asked Jesus, “You are not yet 50 years old, and have you seen Abraham?” (John 8:57) …

    The first sentence seems to suggest that the Jews did not really ask the question John attributes to them. The second says, quite clearly, that they really did ask the question. Could you clarify?

    Reply

  180. villanovanus
    November 29, 2012 @ 3:59 pm

    Xavier,

    You didn’t need to disturb James. And, if you don’t like Aesop, I suggest you consider (in case you haven’t yet) the notion of passive-aggressive behaviour … 🙂

    MdS

    Reply

  181. Xavier
    November 29, 2012 @ 1:52 pm

    MdS

    Guess you didn’t read James 4. : (

    Reply

  182. villanovanus
    November 29, 2012 @ 10:23 am

    @ Xavier

    You seem to approve of an half-harted, half-sactimonious apology …

    … I suggest you look at “The Fox and the Grapes,” one of Aesop’s Fables … 😉

    MdS

    Reply

  183. Xavier
    November 29, 2012 @ 10:05 am

    Jaco

    Good.

    James 4.

    Reply

  184. Jaco
    November 28, 2012 @ 11:59 pm

    I shouldn’t have replied the way I did. I should have left the discussion once I saw I wouldn’t go anywhere. I apologise for my behaviour.

    Reply

  185. Xavier
    November 28, 2012 @ 3:11 pm

    Jaco & MdS

    Christian brotherhood at its best.

    Great job guys. :/

    Reply

  186. Jaco
    November 28, 2012 @ 2:11 pm

    Enjoy your island…

    Reply

  187. villanovanus
    November 28, 2012 @ 2:07 pm

    @ Jaco (November 28, 2012 at 12:59 pm)

    A rather swift change of tone and style from the initial “sorry for chipping in” …

    It is entirely obvious that you have chosen to resort to personal insult so that our exchange gets discontinued.

    Fine by me.

    Enjoy your pompous Philonian delusions … in the company of your McGrath, Dalman, Heine, Dunn, and Klausner, Drummond etc etc.

    MdS

    Reply

  188. Jaco
    November 28, 2012 @ 12:59 pm

    Vilanovanus

    First of all, I take good note that you have studiously skirted around both of my comments on the scriptural support (at least Deut 33:27 and Psalm 33:6) for BOTH God’s Logos/Dabar and Pneuma/Ruwach as God’s “everlasting arms”, which, AFAIAC, gives also full support to the legitimacy of considering them essential attributes of God: that is, to be clear (and however I try to avoid metaphysical language), integral to God’s essence.

    I think you’re a bit paranoid. I have not skirted around your comments. I merely decided not belabour a point we probably agree on. I dared to mention hypostatisation of the logos, adding that you are not the one arguing for hypostatisation and there you go running wild with it… You’re a bit of a hair-splitter I see…

    See above. Once again, I affirm that the pre-incarnated Logos is referred to, in the Prologue to the Gospel of John, as an essential attribute of God, somehow distinct in God (pros ton theon), BUT fully God (theos).

    OTOH, if words mean anything at all, to refer to the preexistence of God’s Logos as “notional” suggests (to me, at least) that the distinction of the Logos in God is, for you, Jaco, “not evident in reality; hypothetical or imaginary” (see Collins English Dictionary, def. no. 2 of ” notional “). If you mean something different, it is now for you to clarify …

    You default to ontological identity. I never said logos notionally preexisted. I said the use of logos was a way to describe WHAT notionally preexisted. God’s idea, purpose and plan – whether for repentance, salvation, Messiah or paradise – notionally or ideally preexisted. “Logos” was a way to articulate what notionally preexisted.

    Your comment is so steeped with obscurity and ambiguity as to be unmanageable. I pass …

    Good grief, you’re impossible to even have a decent dialogue with… I’d say Asperger’s…

    I can be just as good at throwing names, if I want to: I suggest that you seriously consider Marian Hillar’s online article, “The Logos and Its Function in the Writings of Philo of Alexandria: Greek Interpretation of the Hebrew Myth and Foundations of Christianity” (http://www.socinian.org/philo.html).

    Marian Hillar is not an expert on Philo. James Drummond spent 50 years working ONLY on Philo. Do your math. I’ve read Hillar’s superficial study and he doesn’t add anything new to what other non-experts have written on Philo.

    You claim that, “of course”, you also take seriously Phil 2:9-11, Acts 2:36 and Acts 7:56, but then treat the Resurrected, Ascended Jesus Christ as no more than a mega-angel (of course, unless even this is merely … er … “notional” …). But Jesus is the Incarnation of God’s Logos (John 1:14 – where the Incarnated Word is crystal-clearly distinct from the Father) and, therefore God himself. If you suggest that the Lord (kyrios) Yehoshwah, after Resurrection and Ascension, remains somehow “inferior” to the Lord (kyrios) Yehowah, it is for you to say and justify.

    False dilemma – as if Jesus can either be your sterile proposal or “a mega-angel.” There is a third option, sorry, and that is the one YOU chose to tip-toe around above. If you care, consider what I wrote earlier. You’ve also ignored the texts CLEARLY showing Jesus to be inferior to Yahweh. So it’s your ball…

    You use so many obscure and vague words … let me try to put it in cleared and simpler words: are you suggesting that what irked “the Jews” was not so much the “song” (the claim to Messiahship, even –as they understood Jesus’ words – of personal pre-existence as Messiah) but the “singer”, “someone as detested by the Jews as Jesus”?

    YOUR Wernicke’s and YOUR Broca’s… NOT my language… 😉

    I am not sure what you mean by “additional”. Here is the Talmudic passage about the “seven preexistent entities”, anyway:

    There were more – I’m not going to do your homework for you…

    In the continuation of the quoted Pesachim passage, they are all explained in terms of “deep” understanding of the TaNaKh, but I see no mention of Dabar. Why? Simple, because Dabar is NOT “created before the world was created”, BUT is God Himself or, to be accurate (and, inevitably resorting to ontological lingo), an essential attribute of God, or, better, with the figurative language of the Bible, one of His “eternal arms”.

    According to Philo, logos was neither created nor uncreated…now get your mind around that one…

    I don’t think you’re the kind of character one can have a mature dialogue with. You’re petty and temperamental. Depending on your reply, I’ll decide whether you’re worth communicating with…

    Reply

  189. villanovanus
    November 28, 2012 @ 10:46 am

    @ Jaco (November 27, 2012 at 4:29 pm)

    First of all, I take good note that you have studiously skirted around both of my comments on the scriptural support (at least Deut 33:27 and Psalm 33:6) for BOTH God’s Logos/Dabar and Pneuma/Ruwach as God’s “everlasting arms”, which, AFAIAC, gives also full support to the legitimacy of considering them essential attributes of God: that is, to be clear (and however I try to avoid metaphysical language), integral to God’s essence.

    [Jaco] Maybe you can elaborate what you disagree with re. notional preexistence [of God’s Logos]. You don’t believe that the Garden of Eden literally existed before its own creation, do you? Or even the patriarchs or Israel, do you? According to Philo, God’s logos was operational on all these preexistent entities before creation. Hence my insistence that logos was one way of formulating/expressing this concept.

    See above. Once again, I affirm that the pre-incarnated Logos is referred to, in the Prologue to the Gospel of John, as an essential attribute of God, somehow distinct in God (pros ton theon), BUT fully God (theos).

    OTOH, if words mean anything at all, to refer to the preexistence of God’s Logos as “notional” suggests (to me, at least) that the distinction of the Logos in God is, for you, Jaco, “not evident in reality; hypothetical or imaginary” (see Collins English Dictionary, def. no. 2 of ” notional “). If you mean something different, it is now for you to clarify …

    BTW, re. Garden of Eden etc. I presume we both consider Genesis 1-11 largely mythical. OTOH, I see no reason for discarding a priori the historicity of the patriarchs or Israel.

    [Jaco] I see where you make the connections [applying the concept of “prolepsis” to Paul’s references to “Jesus Christ” in creation], yes. Paul does use a different, yet similar, scheme. [that is?] It is similar precisely since the Philonic duality we see in Hebrews is present in both John and Paul. [um …] That is where the two schemes agree. [um …] Logos was God by reference – in activity and plan. The rabbis appreciated the preexisted plan even before they realised in activity.

    Your comment is so steeped with obscurity and ambiguity as to be unmanageable. I pass …

    [Jaco] Philo use[s] so much metaphor and figure of speech that one needs to use his own explanations to determine what he thought of logos. [um …] James Drummond’s Philo Judaeus is a great resource. [uh hu …] As Dunn and Caird also insist, Philo’s logos was not a literal hypostatised person. [um …] It only approximates such a notion in figurative language, nothing more. [um …]

    I can be just as good at throwing names, if I want to: I suggest that you seriously consider Marian Hillar’s online article, “The Logos and Its Function in the Writings of Philo of Alexandria: Greek Interpretation of the Hebrew Myth and Foundations of Christianity” (http://www.socinian.org/philo.html). You may want to get straight to the chase, viz. the Summary of Philo’s Concept of the Logos, where you can read: “Philo’s … Logos is clearly the second individual in one God as hypostatization of God’s Creative Power – Wisdom”.

    [Jaco] Of course I do too [take seriously Phil 2:9-11, Acts 2:36 and Acts 7:56]. I just think your idea of logos could dangerously tilt the wrong way. [how so? which “way”?] Maybe you can explain where I’m watering down the status of the “pre-incarnated Logos AND the Lordship of the Resurrected, Ascended Jesus.” If I think of the Almighty and the Most High, I think of One, and that is Yahweh. Jesus executes according to what the Almighty bestows upon him. And as in pre-christian times when angels acted in Yahweh’s stead, even bearing Yahweh’s name without threatening Yahweh’s sole position as Almighty, in similar way Yahweh’s superiority is maintained even after Jesus ultimate exaltation (2 Cor. 1:3; 1 Cor. 11:2; Php 2:11). Position vs. function. That is the Jewish principle.

    You claim that, “of course”, you also take seriously Phil 2:9-11, Acts 2:36 and Acts 7:56, but then treat the Resurrected, Ascended Jesus Christ as no more than a mega-angel (of course, unless even this is merely … er … “notional” …). But Jesus is the Incarnation of God’s Logos (John 1:14 – where the Incarnated Word is crystal-clearly distinct from the Father) and, therefore God himself. If you suggest that the Lord (kyrios) Yehoshwah, after Resurrection and Ascension, remains somehow “inferior” to the Lord (kyrios) Yehowah, it is for you to say and justify.

    [Jaco] Taking the highest acceptable Christology assigned to this could be the functional status of Yahweh bestowed upon Jesus. I’m convinced that it is a reference to Jesus claiming to be the one intended since from before Abraham (even creation, namely the intended Messiah). Neither the concept of bearing Yahweh’s name nor the concept of the pre-intended Messiah is blasphemous per se. But the fact that someone as detested by the Jews as Jesus claiming to be the one, THAT is what made them play the blasphemy card.

    You use so many obscure and vague words … let me try to put it in cleared and simpler words: are you suggesting that what irked “the Jews” was not so much the “song” (the claim to Messiahship, even –as they understood Jesus’ words – of personal pre-existence as Messiah) but the “singer”, “someone as detested by the Jews as Jesus”?

    [Jaco] What God expressed had already been determined. Both expression and plan/purpose were understood as God’s logos, as the one implies and eventually result in the other. [um …] Joseph Klausner in The Messianic Idea in Israel shows that the idea of notional preexistence [not again!] was present and pervasive by the First Century. It was not as late as many would want it to be. All seven and additional preexistent entities are mentioned and focused on in the Book of Revelation.

    I am not sure what you mean by “additional”. Here is the Talmudic passage about theseven preexistent entities”, anyway:

    “Seven things were created before the world was created, and these are they: the Torah, repentance, the Garden of Eden, Gehenna, the Throne of Glory, the Temple, and the Name of the Messiah.” (Babylonian Talmud, Pesachim, 54a)

    In the continuation of the quoted Pesachim passage, they are all explained in terms of “deep” understanding of the TaNaKh, but I see no mention of Dabar. Why? Simple, because Dabar is NOT “created before the world was created”, BUT is God Himself or, to be accurate (and, inevitably resorting to ontological lingo), an essential attribute of God, or, better, with the figurative language of the Bible, one of His “eternal arms”.

    [Jaco] I don’t think it’s a matter of disagreement between us – more like a fine-tuning of our positions…

    However much I hate to resort to Greek-philosophical lingo, the real (albeit NOT personal) subsistence of God’s Logos is non-negotiable … 😉

    MdS

    Reply

  190. Jaco
    November 27, 2012 @ 4:29 pm

    Hi there

    Are you familiar with Robert Hach’s The Prophetic Pre-existence of the Messiah paper in Navas’ book?

    Hey, bro. I’ve read about the author, but haven’t read the book. I’ll surely look for it, thanks!

    [b] I totally disagree that a mere “notional pre-existence” is attributed to God’s Logos, anyway, certainly NOT in John 1:1,14: while it would be unfounded, exorbitant and arbitrary to affirm that the pre-incarnated Logos is referred to, in the Prologue to the Gospel of John, as a distinct person, it (it …) is certainly referred to as an essential attribute of God, somehow distinct in God (pros ton theon), BUT fully God (theos).

    Maybe you can elaborate what you disagree with re. notional preexistence. You don’t believe that the Garden of Eden literally existed before its own creation, do you? Or even the patriarchs or Israel, do you? According to Philo, God’s logos was operational on all these preexistent entities before creation. Hence my insistence that logos was one way of formulating/expressing this concept.

    [c] My use of the concept of prolepsis, applied to Paul, means that Paul (who “unlike the Evangelist John, … did not have –anyway didn’t resort to– the notion of Logos”) referred to the pre-incarnated Logos in Creation (e.g. 1 Cor 8:6; Col 1:16) with the name of Jesus Christ, that is proleptically (=“in anticipation of the circumstances [the Incarnation] that would make [the reference to Jesus Christ] applicable”).

    I see where you make the connections, yes. Paul does use a different, yet similar, scheme. It is similar precisely since the Philonic duality we see in Hebrews is present in both John and Paul. That is where the two schemes agree. Logos was God by reference – in activity and plan. The rabbis appreciated the preexisted plan even before they realised in activity.

    As for Philo, he did far worse than “hypostatise the Logos“: he more than bordered on bitheism when he spoke of the Logos as “second god” (deutheros theos – see Philo, Questions and Answers on Genesis 2:62)

    Philo use so much metaphor and figure of speech that one needs to use his own explanations to determine what he thought of logos. James Drummond’s Philo Judaeus is a great resource. As Dunn and Caird also insist, Philo’s logos was not a literal hypostatised person. It only approximates such a notion in figurative language, nothing more.

    I think that you, Jaco, OTOH, are watering down the status of the pre-incarnated Logos AND the Lordship of the Resurrected, Ascended Jesus.

    No “ontological identity” whatsoever. Once again, equality of Majesty, Power and Glory, that Yehowah, in His omnipotence, bestowed on His Son Yehoshwah.

    I take seriously –actually at face value–Phil 2:9-11, Acts 2:36 and Acts 7:56.

    Of course I do too. I just think your idea of logos could dangerously tilt the wrong way. Maybe you can explain where I’m watering down the status of the “pre-incarnated Logos AND the Lordship of the Resurrected, Ascended Jesus.” If I think of the Almighty and the Most High, I think of One, and that is Yahweh. Jesus executes according to what the Almighty bestows upon him. And as in pre-christian times when angels acted in Yahweh’s stead, even bearing Yahweh’s name without threatening Yahweh’s sole position as Almighty, in similar way Yahweh’s superiority is maintained even after Jesus ultimate exaltation (2 Cor. 1:3; 1 Cor. 11:2; Php 2:11). Position vs. function. That is the Jewish principle.

    I am not sure what you mean by “[i]t wasn’t the claim itself that upset them, but the one claiming what he did.”

    Presumably, by “the claim itself “, you mean, as I do, the claim of being eternally associated with God (as God’s Word).

    But what do you allude to by “[what upset them was] the one claiming what he did”?

    Taking the highest acceptible Christology assigned to this could be the functional status of Yahweh bestowed upon Jesus. I’m convinced that it is a reference to Jesus claiming to be the one intended since from before Abraham (even creation, namely the intended Messiah). Neither the concept of bearing Yahweh’s name nor the concept of the pre-intended Messiah is blasphemous per se. But the fact that someone as detested by the Jews as Jesus claiming to be the one, THAT is what made them play the blasphemy card.

    Again, while the “preexistence of the Messiah” is only late Jewish spin, to reduce the status of the pre-incarnated Logos to mere “notional pre-existence” is to commit an error specularly opposite (and equally wrong …) to the spin on the “co-equal, co-eternal, tri-personal tri-unity” of the Cappadocian scoundrels (Basil of Caesarea, his younger brother Gregory of Nyssa and the close friend Gregory of Nazianzus).

    What God expressed had already been determined. Both expression and plan/purpose were understood as God’s logos, as the one implies and eventually result in the other. Joseph Klausner in The Messianic Idea in Israel shows that the idea of notional preexistence was present and pervasive by the First Century. It was not as late as many would want it to be. All seven and additional preexistent entities are mentioned and focused on in the Book of Revelation.

    I don’t think it’s a matter of disagreement between us – more like a fine-tuning of our positions…:-)

    Jaco

    Reply

  191. villanovanus
    November 27, 2012 @ 3:32 pm

    @ Xavier (November 27, 2012 at 12:55 pm)

    … Jesus’ … ULTIMATE prophecy regarding the KOG [Kingdom of God] come, at his parousia, is YET to happen. Hence why so many Jews still see him as a false prophet/Messiah.

    I agree.

    I ALSO believe that Jesus’ “Olivet discourse” (Mark 13, Matthew 24, Luke 21) are the authentic and prophetic words of Jesus (not some pseudepigraphic passages cleverly retrofitted by some “early Christians” after the Fall of Jerusalem in 70 CE), and that they refer partly to what actually happened to Jerusalem (not only in 70 CE, but also in 135 CE), but mostly to the end times, and to the tribulation and persecution before Jesus’ Second Coming (parousia), and the ultimate triumph of the Kingdom of God.

    MdS

    Reply

  192. villanovanus
    November 27, 2012 @ 1:56 pm

    @ Jaco (November 27, 2012 at 4:33 am)

    No reason to feel sorry for “chipping in”: this is a public discussion, NOT a private debate … 🙂

    Herebelow, I quotate your comments, with my own counter-comments.

    [Jaco] [a]Logos theology was but one formulation of God’s activity in OT times seen in retrospect. It was particularly popular in Alexandria, Egypt with its champion, Philo. [b] But it was only one way of formulating what notionally “preexisted.” Paul, who studied at the rabbinical schools, appears to have had a more purely rabbinical take on preexistence. His was more in line with “preexistent” Torah, Israel, repentance, Messiah, etc. [c] Prolepsis is future reality experienced now from a human perspective, while notional preexistence is from God’s perspective. Logos theology and Jewish preexistence theology should not be polarised as you seem to do above.

    [a] The Logos (Hbr. Dabar) is not the only activity/attribute of God that is repeatedly referred to in the OT. The other one is God’s Pneuma (Hbr. Ruwach). You can see them explicitly named as instruments of God’s creative activity in Psalm 33:6, and, I believe, alluded to as God’s “everlasting arms” in Deut 33:27 (see also ahead).

    [b] I totally disagree that a mere “notional pre-existence” is attributed to God’s Logos, anyway, certainly NOT in John 1:1,14: while it would be unfounded, exorbitant and arbitrary to affirm that the pre-incarnated Logos is referred to, in the Prologue to the Gospel of John, as a distinct person, it (it …) is certainly referred to as an essential attribute of God, somehow distinct in God (pros ton theon), BUT fully God (theos).

    [c] My use of the concept of prolepsis, applied to Paul, means that Paul (who “unlike the Evangelist John, … did not have –anyway didn’t resort to– the notion of Logos”) referred to the pre-incarnated Logos in Creation (e.g. 1 Cor 8:6; Col 1:16) with the name of Jesus Christ, that is proleptically (=“in anticipation of the circumstances [the Incarnation] that would make [the reference to Jesus Christ] applicable”).

    [Jaco] [Logos] does describe God’s activity. That activity is also a description of God’s plan and purpose. So I think the definition of “logos of God” should be extended beyond merely an attribute of God. I’d say the logos of God is God-by-reference. Whether that be God’s activity, his plan, his purposes, etc., eventually all we can say is, “We discerned God.” To hypostatise logos is going way beyond what Philo intended, precisely since he described human logoi in similar language. (I know you’re not doing that, Villanovanus).

    I disagree that to refer to God’s Logos (NOT as a person BUT) as an attribute of God is to “hypostatise logos”. In fact, if you consider the a.m. biblical images of God’s Logos/Dabar and Pneuma /Ruwach as God’s “everlasting arms” (BTW Irenaeus understood Deut 33:27 and Psalm 33:6 precisely this way – see his Against Heresies and his Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching), to speak of them as “attributes” of God is no more to “hypostatise” them than to speak of a man’s arms as his “attributes”.

    As for Philo, he did far worse than “hypostatise the Logos“: he more than bordered on bitheism when he spoke of the Logos as “second god” (deutheros theos – see Philo, Questions and Answers on Genesis 2:62)

    [Jaco] I think you’re taking the “[Yehowah made His Son Yehoshwah LORD] on par with Himself” too far. You’re giving too much weight to ontological identity instead of pointing out the prominent notion of functional identity in John. John is misunderstood immediately if two central interpretive principles are ignored: Philo’s understanding of logos and secondly, the shaluach principle (John ch 5-7). Jesus is LORD in function and reference, not in himself.

    I think that you, Jaco, OTOH, are watering down the status of the pre-incarnated Logos AND the Lordship of the Resurrected, Ascended Jesus.

    No “ontological identity” whatsoever. Once again, equality of Majesty, Power and Glory, that Yehowah, in His omnipotence, bestowed on His Son Yehoshwah.

    I take seriously –actually at face value–Phil 2:9-11, Acts 2:36 and Acts 7:56.

    Why? Don’t you?

    [Jaco] Their judgment [of “the Jews”] was wicked anyway. It wasn’t the claim itself that upset them, but the one claiming what he did. That was their issue (Thanks to James McGrath nicely pointing that out).

    I am not sure what you mean by “[i]t wasn’t the claim itself that upset them, but the one claiming what he did.”

    Presumably, by “the claim itself “, you mean, as I do, the claim of being eternally associated with God (as God’s Word).

    But what do you allude to by “[what upset them was] the one claiming what he did”?

    [Jaco] Dalman, Heine, Dunn and Kausner, among others, agree that Messiah preexisted in mind and purpose, not in reality.

    Again, while the “preexistence of the Messiah” is only late Jewish spin, to reduce the status of the pre-incarnated Logos to mere “notional pre-existence” is to commit an error specularly opposite (and equally wrong …) to the spin on the “co-equal, co-eternal, tri-personal tri-unity” of the Cappadocian scoundrels (Basil of Caesarea, his younger brother Gregory of Nyssa and the close friend Gregory of Nazianzus).

    MdS

    Reply

  193. Xavier
    November 27, 2012 @ 12:55 pm

    villanovanus

    Those specific people may not have been killed initially but LATER proved to have been false.

    Same with Jesus, his ULTIMATE prophecy regarding the KOG come, at his parousia, is YET to happen. Hence why so many Jews still see him as a false prophet/Messiah.

    Reply

  194. villanovanus
    November 27, 2012 @ 11:56 am

    @ Xavier (November 26, 2012 at 2:31 pm)

    I think it [claim to be the Messiah] was seen on the level of being a false prophet, since Messiah was believed to be THE prophet and sole mouthpiece of YHWV (Deu 18). That’s why all those claimants were killed, especially when they did not restore/establish the Kingdom.

    Neither Simon of Peraea nor Simon bar Kokhba (nor, more in general, any of the many Jewish Messiah claimants – see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jewish_Messiah_claimants) were accused, while living, of being “false Messiah” and/or “false prophet”. Only in hindsight they were disqualified, when, by being defeated, they proved –according to the Jewish expectations, that is– that they were not THE Messiah.

    But you are right in seeing the claim to Messiahship as closer to the claim of being a prophet.

    BTW, Deuteronomy provided two perfecly clear tests for self-proclaimed prophets (see Deut 13:1-4 and Deut 18:21-22), both of which, BTW, Jesus passed …

    Reply

  195. Xavier
    November 27, 2012 @ 10:21 am

    Jaco

    Are you familiar with Robert Hach’s The Prophetic Pre-existence of the Messiah paper in Navas’ book?

    Reply

  196. Jaco
    November 27, 2012 @ 4:33 am

    Good discussion and sorry for chipping in…

    The problem with Paul is that, unlike the Evangelist John, he did not have (anyway didn’t resort to) the notion of Logos (which –which– before the Incarnation, is an eternal attribute of God, while it is NOT –NOT yet– a person), so, I believe, he refers with a prolepsis (= “anticipation of the … circumstances that would make it applicable”) to the “what” of the pre-incarnated Jesus Christ.

    Logos theology was but one formulation of God’s activity in OT times seen in retrospect. It was particularly popular in Alexandria, Egypt with its champion, Philo. But it was only one way of formulating wat notionally “preexisted.” Paul, who studied at the rabbinical schools, appears to have had a more purely rabbinical take on preexistence. His was more in line with “preexistent” Torah, Israel, repentance, Messiah, etc. Prolepsis is future reality experienced now from a human perspective, while notional preexistence is from God’s perspective. Logos theology and Jewish preexistence theology should not be polarised as you seem to do above.

    No objections here: once again, the Logos, before the Incarnation, is an attribute of God, while it is NOT –NOT yet– a person.

    Yes and no, I think. It does describe God’s activity. That activity is also a description of God’s plan and purpose. So I think the definition of “logos of God” should be extended beyond merely an attribute of God. I’d say the logos of God is God-by-reference. Whether that be God’s activity, his plan, his purposes, etc., eventually all we can say is, “We discerned God.” To hypostatise logos is going way beyond what Philo intended, precisely since he described human logoi in similar language. (I know you’re not doing that, Vilanovanus).

    Again, no objections here, BUT, after the Resurrection and the Ascension, the Eternal Father Yehowah made His Son Yehoshwah LORD, on a par with Himself, giving Yehoshwah equal Majesty, Power and Glory.

    I think you’re taking the “on par with Himself” too far. You’re giving too much weight to ontological identity instead of pointing out the prominent notion of functional identity in John. John is misunderstood immediately if two central interpretive principles are ignored: Philo’s understanding of logos and secondly, the shaluach principle (John ch 5-7). Jesus is LORD in function and reference, not in himself.

    And they understood dead well that for Jesus to imply that he was eternally associated with God (as God’s Word), was far more serious claim than to hint at some form of “pre-existence”.

    Yes. Their judgment was wicked anyway. It wasn’t the claim itself that upset them, but the one claiming what he did. That was their issue (Thanks to James McGrath nicely pointing that out).

    Dalman, Heine, Dunn and Kausner, among others, agree that Messiah preexisted in mind and purpose, not in reality.

    Jaco

    Reply

  197. Xavier
    November 26, 2012 @ 2:31 pm

    MdS

    To claim to be the Messiah was NOT considered a blasphemy: many, before and after Jesus, claimed to be the Messiah, without being considered blasphemous. Just think of Simon of Peraea (c. 4 BCE) and of Simon bar Kokhba (died c. 135).

    I think it was seen on the level of being a false prophet, since Messiah was believed to be THE prophet and sole mouthpiece of YHWV (Deu 18). That’s why all those claimants were killed, especially when they did not restore/establish the Kingdom.

    Reply

  198. villanovanus
    November 26, 2012 @ 12:36 pm

    @ Marg (November 26, 2012 at 11:28 am)

    The Lord’s words in John 8:58 answer a specific question of the Jews: “You are not yet 50 years old, and have you seen Abraham?” They were not asking about what Abraham had seen. They were questioning the age of Jesus. How could Jesus have seen Abraham if he was less than fifty years old?

    First, you seem to disregard completely the fact that John the Evangelist attributes obtuse questions to Jesus’ interlocutors (just think of Nicodemus’ question to Jesus, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter his mother’s womb and be born a second time, can he?” – John 3:4).

    Second, you simply cannot quote snippets, ignoring the context. So, while it is true that “the Jews” asked Jesus, “You are not yet 50 years old, and have you seen Abraham?” (John 8:57), BUT Jesus had NEVER claimed that he had seen Abraham, INSTEAD he had affirmed, “Abraham saw my day in vision, and was overjoyed” (John 8:56). OBVIOUSLY Jesus was speaking of a prophetic vision of Abraham.

    [Marg] His answer to their question was, “Before Abraham was born, I [already] am.” And they tried to stone him.
    Obviously, the Jews did not understand it as shorthand to mean what you say, or they would hardly have tried to kill him. After all, he said something far more serious in verse 24: “… if you do not believe that I am, you will die in your sins.”

    You seem to be unaware that, although John the Evangelist may seem to present “the Jews” as obtuse, in fact theirs was a deadly duel with Jesus, as they were bent on catching him out for blasphemy.

    And they understood dead well that for Jesus to imply that he was eternally associated with God (as God’s Word), was far more serious claim than to hint at some form of “pre-existence”.

    [Marg]… If they understood him to mean what you suggest, they didn’t think it was worth stoning him for.

    On the contrary! See above.

    [Marg]In verse 58, on the other hand, they tried to stone him because he was claiming pre-existence to Abraham. That fits the grammatical construction of the sentence, it answers the question they asked, and it was enough (in their eyes) to justify their violent response.

    First, why would have been Jesus’ personal pre-existence sufficient ground for “the Jews” to consider it blasphemy, IF Jesus was indeed implying/claiming to be the Messiah? To claim to be the Messiah was NOT considered a blasphemy: many, before and after Jesus, claimed to be the Messiah, without being considered blasphemous. Just think of Simon of Peraea (c. 4 BCE) and of Simon bar Kokhba (died c. 135).

    Also it was you who insisted on the “Heavenly Preexistence” of the Messiah, quoting extensively from the Jewish Encyclopedia (http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/10729-messiah#anchor14). No mention of blasphemy there …

    Second, my friendly advice is, try to read the verse taking off your “personal pre-existence prejudice glasses”.

    MdS

    Reply

  199. Anthony Buzzard
    November 26, 2012 @ 11:56 am

    Marg, thanks, and we (and others) have dealt with these verses extensively in our two books.

    I was just reading the WBC commentary on Colossians and the author points out that the “create” word is ALWAYS the activity of GOD and NOT Jesus [Rom 1:25 Eph 3:9 9 (NOT KJV) 1 Cor 11:9 Eph 2:10 4:24; 1 Tim 4:3 Mark 13:19 I Pet. 4:19 Rev 4:11; 10:6 ]

    God is the logical subject of the verbs ‘created’ and ‘have been and are being created’ in Col 1:16.

    The new creation is through Jesus of course and the Genesis creation was IN him, “because of him” [Col. 1:16].

    John 1:1 says nothing about the SON, but it speaks of the “word” NOT “Word” (an IT, which is neuter as light in v. 5 and a person in v.10). There you see the transition.

    Matthew and Luke give the amplest description of the ORIGIN of the Son of God [Mat 1.18, 20; Luke 1.35]. Would you talk about these too?

    Your Jesus is an angel before he becomes a man. I don’t think this is Messiah. Mary did not take in a person from outside, but this is what you KEEP proposing.

    Reply

  200. Marg
    November 26, 2012 @ 11:28 am

    Hello V. Thank you for answering here.

    The Lord’s words in John 8:58 answer a specific question of the Jews: “You are not yet 50 years old, and have you seen Abrahan?” They were not asking about what Abraham had seen. They were questioning the age of Jesus. How could Jesus have seen Abraham if he was less than fifty years old?

    His answer to their question was, “Before Abraham was born, I [already] am.” And they tried to stone him.
    Obviously, the Jews did not understand it as shorthand to mean what you say, or they would hardly have tried to kill him. After all, he said something far more serious in verse 24: “… if you do not believe that I am, you will die in your sins.”

    Their response was, “Who are you then?” If they understood him to mean what you suggest, they didn’t think it was worth stoning him for.

    In verse 58, on the other hand, they tried to stone him because he was claiming pre-existence to Abraham. That fits the grammatical construction of the sentence, it answers the question they asked, and it was enough (in their eyes) to justify their violent response.

    Reply

  201. Xavier
    November 26, 2012 @ 9:11 am

    Marg

    To those who are seeking to learn what the NT actually says, I suggest that the consistent evidence of lexicons and dictionaries (including the TDNT, which was recommended by Anthony) carries more weight than the opinion of those whose theories are threatened by it.

    Why should anyone care about your opinion then? 😛

    Reply

  202. villanovanus
    November 26, 2012 @ 8:14 am

    Marg (November 25, 2012 at 5:13 pm)

    Thank you for correcting my careless use of the term “earliest writers,” Vil. I should have stuck with my earlier, more cautious statement – which was based on Comments 3 and 4 of this (related) thread.

    I presume this is in reply to my comment of November 24, 2012 at 5:50 pm addressed to you at “God and his Son: the Logic of the New Testament (Dale)”. I don’t understand why you reply here

    [Marg] I can’t speak for others, V., but I agree with the TDNT (and at least 3 other lexicons/dictionaries) about what 1 Cor. 8:6 actually SAYS. It says that all things come FROM the one God, THROUGH (the agency of) the one Lord. And the creation is specifically cited.

    I do not have a written copy of the TDNT, and it is not fully accessible online, so I cannot check your quotation (see your comment of November 21, 2012 at 11:26 at “God and his Son: the Logic of the New Testament”).

    OTOH, I do not find entirely convincing the Unitarian explanation of 1 Corinthians 8:6 endorsed by Xavier (November 25, 2012 at 10:18 pm), whereby 1 Corinthians 8:6 when speaking of “one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live” would ONLY speak of the Church (see http://www.biblicalunitarian.com/verses/1-corinthians-8-6).

    The problem with Paul is that, unlike the Evangelist John, he did not have (anyway didn’t resort to) the notion of Logos (which –which– before the Incarnation, is an eternal attribute of God, while it is NOT –NOT yet– a person), so, I believe, he refers with a prolepsis (= “anticipation of the … circumstances that would make it applicable”) to the “what” of the pre-incarnated Jesus Christ.

    I am also sure (at the moment) of what Jesus actually SAID in John 8:58. That was dealt with at length in another thread, but I would be glad to hear your interpretation of it.

    Here I FULLY agree with the interpretation given at http://www.biblicalunitarian.com/verses/john-8-58b: If you put the phrase “Before Abraham was I am” (John 8:58b) in context, in particular if you consider the previous paragraph (John 8:52-56), Jesus’ reply to the Jewish leaders is clearly shorthand for, “Even before Abraham saw my day in vision, and was overjoyed, I was, I am IN God as His Logos, His future Son and His Messiah

    As for John 1:1, we are told that the Logos was God (no article; God as an adjective = divine). That does not give any reason to conclude that there are two Gods, or that the one God is two persons.

    No objections here: once again, the Logos, before the Incarnation, is an attribute of God, while it is NOT –NOT yet– a person.

    In fact, Jesus himself makes it clear that the ONLY true God is the Father (John 17:3). And he is the “faithful and true witness” (Rev. 1:5).

    Again, no objections here, BUT, after the Resurrection and the Ascension, the Eternal Father Yehowah made His Son Yehoshwah LORD, on a par with Himself, giving Yehoshwah equal Majesty, Power and Glory.

    MdS

    Reply

  203. Marg
    November 26, 2012 @ 7:24 am

    To those who are seeking to learn what the NT actually says, I suggest that the consistent evidence of lexicons and dictionaries (including the TDNT, which was recommended by Anthony) carries more weight than the opinion of those whose theories are threatened by it.

    Reply

  204. Xavier
    November 25, 2012 @ 10:18 pm

    There is no mention in either the immediate or the remote context about the creation of all things in the beginning. Therefore it would be unusual for this verse to mention God’s original creation of Genesis 1:1, which it is not. Rather, it is speaking of the Church. God provided all things for the Church via Jesus Christ. The whole of 1 Corinthians is taken up with Church issues, and Paul starts 8:6 with “for us,” i.e., for Christians. The very next two verses speak about the fact that, for the Church, there are no laws against eating food sacrificed to idols. Verse 8 says, “But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.” This revelation was new for the Church. The Old Testament believers did not have this freedom. They had dozens of food laws. The verse is powerful indeed, and states clearly that Christians have one God who is the ultimate source of all things, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, who is the way by which God provided all things to the Church.
    http://www.biblicalunitarian.com/verses/1-corinthians-8-6

    Reply

  205. Marg
    November 25, 2012 @ 5:13 pm

    Thank you for correcting my careless use of the term “earliest writers,” Vil. I should have stuck with my earlier, more cautious statement – which was based on Comments 3 and 4 of this (related) thread.

    I can’t speak for others, V., but I agree with the TDNT (and at least 3 other lexicons/dictionaries) about what 1 Cor. 8:6 actually SAYS. It says that all things come FROM the one God, THROUGH (the agency of) the one Lord. And the creation is specifically cited.
    That evidence carries more weight than the opinion of those whose particular theories are threatened by it.

    I am also sure (at the moment) of what Jesus actually SAID in John 8:58. That was dealt with at length in another thread, but I would be glad to hear your interpretation of it.

    As for John 1:1, we are told that the Logos was God (no article; God as an adjective = divine). That does not give any reason to conclude that there are two Gods, or that the one God is two persons.

    In fact, Jesus himself makes it clear that the ONLY true God is the Father (John 17:3). And he is the “faithful and true witness” (Rev. 1:5).

    Reply

  206. Marg
    July 10, 2012 @ 2:09 pm

    On the subject of “proof-texts,” Dale, one passage that has not been adequately dealt with can be summed up in this comment from Anthony:

    “God did not speak in a SON in the OT times, Heb.1. You are contradicting this statement.”

    So I have been looking carefully at the words of Hebrews 1:1; and if I have misunderstood it, I expect to be corrected.

    There are two parallel clauses:
    Of old God spoke to the fathers by (en) the prophets
    In these last days [God] spoke to us by (en) a son …

    The subject in both clauses is God. The verb is spoke. The object is people (the fathers/us). The messengers are men (prophets/a son).

    The verb has to do with oral speech, produced and understood by men. The frame of reference is clear: it has to do with MANKIND. That’s all.

    Does this negate the idea of a pre-existent son, as intimated in verse 2?

    Not really. God revealed himself long before there were any men to “speak” to. Notice Job 38:4-8.

    Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth … when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God sang for joy?

    Job wasn’t there, and neither were the fathers. There were no men to “speak” to. But there was an audience that could appreciate the expression of the mind of God as seen in creation.
    This fits perfectly with verse 2 of Hebrews 1.

    God has spoken to us in a son, whom he has made heir of all, through whom he made [past tense] the ages.

    And now, at the COMPLETION of those ages, “he has been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (ch. 9:26).

    It also fits perfectly with the word, through which all things came into existence (John 1:2), and through whom the world was caused to exist (v. 10). The creation was an expression of the thoughts of God, brought about by the agency of the word, even though the world did not know him when the word became a man.

    All of it is perfectly harmonious, it seems to me.

    Reply

  207. Marg
    June 29, 2012 @ 1:46 pm

    In Part 8 of your series on the evolution of your views on the Trinity (posted June 7, 2011) you said:

    While Clarke convinced me that the one God is the Father, I wasn’t sure that I was a subordinationist unitarian, as described above. There are another class of Christian unitarians, what I call “humanitarian” unitarians. That’s where I find myself. More on that next time.

    Some of us have been waiting (with varying degrees of patience) for that “next time” – as evidenced in several comments, both then and since.

    So your answer to Pär is troubling. I hope it doesn’t mean that we are waiting in vain.

    While I agree that the beliefs related to different classes of unitarians do not have any practical effect on our understanding of Christ’s status and role in God’s kingdom, the same can be said for trinitarian beliefs.

    Take Dallas Willard, for example. He is a strong trinitarian. And yet, in part 7 of your series you speak about his book as having had a profound influence on your life.
    I can say the same thing. I have never forgotten his definition of a disciple of Christ as “one who walks WITH him in order to learn FROM him how to be LIKE him.”

    Then why is it necessary to fight HIS theological beliefs, but not Clarke’s?

    The fact is, IF a “proof text” is used wrongly, it’s possible to refute the error. You have done that again and again. So why not treat the subordinationist “proof texts” the same way?

    At least give us the concluding chapter on the evolution of your views, as promised over a year ago. Please.

    Reply

  208. Dale
    June 26, 2012 @ 10:52 am

    Hi Par,

    No – not really. I think it came up a little bit in my review of Burke-Bowman debate.

    There are at least three difficult issues here:

    1. a handful of “pre-existence” proof-texts
    2. the metaphysical status of the Holy Spirit
    3. whether it is possible for a genuine human being to have existed even if God had never created anything in the physical cosmos – the church fathers, it seems to me, make some controversial assumptions about what it is to be a human being – they think that any being with the right parts or components counts – but this is far from clear.

    While I have somewhat settled my views on these things, I haven’t written about them (1) for lack of time, and (2) because I think this humanitarian vs. subordinationist dispute really matters less than the unitarian-trinitarian dispute. If Jesus isn’t God himself, and isn’t divine in exactly the same sense that the Father is, I don’t see that it makes a whole lot of practical (or theological) difference whether or not he existed before being a human being, or even whether he was God’s instrument of creation. His status and role in God’s Kingdom, and relationship to us, will be the same either way, or so it seems to me.

    I will have to at least briefly address these matters in the book I’m working on; can’t make any promises about when it’ll be done… *possibly* by the end of next summer??

    Reply

  209. Pär Stenberg
    June 25, 2012 @ 5:44 am

    Dale,

    Is there anywhere on this blogg or perhaps somewhere else where you discuss why you went from a subordinationist (a’la the early church fathers) view of Jesus to a unitarian human-Jesus christology?

    Reply

  210. Kingdom Ready Blog » Blog Archive » Dale Tuggy Interviewed by J. Dan Gill
    June 14, 2012 @ 8:06 am

    […] Here’s a brief interview with Dale Tuggy from the recent theological conference. Check out his website at trinities.org. […]

    Reply

  211. Andy
    June 7, 2012 @ 5:54 pm

    Dale

    Interesting interview! I couldn’t agree more that we need to get into the Bible writers’ mindset before we can appreciate what they mean.

    You may find this ‘Dilbert’ applicable. Replace Dilbert with say, John, and it seems to echo, in a tragi-comic way, what you were saying…

    http://dilbert.com/strips/comic/2007-11-21/

    Andy

    Reply

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