Dale Tuggy

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


  1. Jonathan Hili
    November 21, 2016 @ 8:17 pm

    Hi Dale, thanks for the intriguing thoughts. Have just been recommended your podcasts and they’ve been the source of some fruitful discussion at my workplace.

    There are a couple of issues I have with this argument. The first, is that premise one seems to equivocate on the term “God”, when it should read “Father”, and because of this equivocation, the argument begs the question (which appears evident, I believe, in premises 4-5). The examples cited from the NT to substantiate this premise work fine if the substitution in terms is made. The first example is interesting though: “God is triune; Jesus is not triune (therefore, Jesus is not God).” This seems to confuse an essential property of the whole with the essential property of one part or aspect (or, in a Trinitarian sense, Person), e.g. “Numbers are odd and even; 1, 3 and 5 are not even; therefore, 1, 3 and 5 are not numbers.” Nobody equates three individual numbers with the set of natural numbers, and likewise Jesus is not equivalent to the Triune God.

    The second, is with premise two and differing things not being numerically identical things.

    An alternative argument could be presented with the first premise reading:
    1. Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde differ (Jekyll is a professor, Hyde a criminal; Jekyll is friendly and sociable, Hyde is cruel; Jekyll is a robust, older man; Hyde is younger and short). These differences are real character distinctions, not just mistaken subjective perceptions (as in the case of Clark Kent and Superman).
    2. Things which differ are two (i.e. are not numerically identical).
    3. Therefore, Jekyll and Hyde are two (not numerically identical). (1, 2)

    The problem emerges that Jekyll and Hyde appear to be numerically identical in substance but not numerically identical in personhood. Jekyll is not Hyde in the sense that they do not share the same consciousness (Locke would say they are different people), but they do share the same substantial reality. Things that differ may be two in some respects but one in another respect, which makes premise 4 and conclusion 5 unsound. While Jekyll and Hyde are clearly not the same at the same time and in the same respect, I don’t think many people would say we have two different substances or beings.

    • David Kemball-Cook
      December 3, 2016 @ 3:27 pm

      Hi Jonathan, I don’t know if Dale has seen your post, because it relates to the podcast of 9 months ago. But I was just listening to it, saw your post and thought I would reply off my own bat as it were, if you don’t mind.
      1) You say there is equivocation in 1. Why? ‘God’ here refers to the Christian and Jewish God, YHWH. Jesus differs from YHWH in many respects. For instance God sent Jesus, Jesus did not send himself, Jesus is the son of God, Jesus is not his own son …
      So where is the equivocation?
      Why should you think that Dale means ‘Father’ here, and not ‘God’, and has put ‘God’ in by mistake?

      2) Re Jekyll and Hyde, it is a good point. But the whole thing about numerical identity is that it is not relative to anything, it is an absolute concept. And numerical identity is unfazed by your objection. The Jekyll/Hyde being is always identical to itself at any moment of time. True it differs in its Jekyll phases from its Hyde phases, but so what? We all go through mood swings, behave differently at different points in time … That does not stop us having numerical identity with ourselves.

      3) It seems you may want to go down the route of ‘Jesus is the same being as God but not the same person as God’. But for the trinitarian, God is not a person, so the statement is invalid. Maybe you would want to substitute ‘the Father’ for ‘God’ in the above, where ‘the Father’ refers to the First Person of the Trinity. OK, but that has no bearing on Dale’s argument, which is about the relationship between Jesus and God.

      4) I think that you might want to deny Premise 4, the premise which relative identity theorists would attack. This seems to me to be the weakest point in the argument.

      5) Or else maybe you would want to, as a trinitarian, reconstruct ‘Jesus is God’ to mean something else apart from identity, as Dale suggests at the end. For example, it means ‘Jesus has a divine nature’, or ‘Jesus is the Second Person in a Trinity’.

  2. Darrin Hunter
    June 3, 2016 @ 7:17 pm

    1. The Father and Son differ. The Father is unbegotten. The Son is begotten of the Father.
    2. Things which differ are not identical.
    3. Therefore, the Father and Jesus are two. But their only difference is in the Personal properties of number 1 above, not in their essence.
    4. The Father X, and the Son Y have the same divinity, which is the Father’s divinity unchangeably given by begetting. The same divinity of the Father is unchangeably given to the Spirit by procession. The Son and Spirit have their timeless origin in the Father alone. X and Y are the same divinity, the difference among the persons is the manner of their existence. Their origin, and therefore their mode of existence is different, but their divinity is one. Assumptions behind the term “god” here means your premise 4 seems to be wrong.
    5. God and Jesus have the same divinity.
    6.There is only one God. As the creed says, “I believe in one God, the Father almighty.” The Father has by Nature and without change given himself in love by begetting and procession. a three-sunned divinity.
    7. Therefore, the Father, Son and Spirit are equally divine.
    8. The Father is a god who exists in a loving communion of Persons which have their origin in Him.
    9. Jesus is divine with the same divinity as the Father.

  3. And the Word was God “Qualitatively”?: Torturing Language and Grammar to Preserve a Preconceived View (Part 4) – kazlandblog
    May 15, 2016 @ 8:44 pm

  4. Rivers and Steve Bruecker debate the trinity at Trinities.org | Badmanna's Blog
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  5. Steve Bruecker’s able defense of the trinity at trinities.org | Badmanna's Blog
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    […] Bruecker Guest • a day […]

  6. Steve Bruecker
    April 18, 2016 @ 8:20 am

    Dale I didn’t see a definition of the Trinity in your challenge. I will provide one to help in solving this issue. One God subsists in 3 persons Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; co-equal and co-eternal. In support of this definition the Bible teaches 3 key points:

    1. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are separate and distinct persons

    2. Each person is God

    3. There is only 1 God

    I can support all these premises with scriptures but it is getting late. If the above is true then something is wrong with your premises.

    Premise #1 says God and Jesus differ. Are you talking about the Father and Jesus differ? Yes they do differ but not in their divinity. They only differ in their personhood. Your first premise needs to make the distinction how the Father and Jesus differ. They are two different persons of the one God. As far as I can tell, none of your premises address the fact that God subsists in 3 persons.

    What is your definition of the Trinity? Where in your premises do you allude to the persons of the Trinity? When you use the term God, which of the premises are you talking about the Father?

    If the Bible supports my 3 key points (which I can support tomorrow) then the Trinity is a Biblical doctrine and your Jesus is God challenge fails.

    • Rivers
      April 18, 2016 @ 3:00 pm


      Simply “defining” your understanding of the Trinity is not sufficient to prove it.

      For example, you claim that “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are distinct persons.” However, not all Christians believe that “holy spirit” refers to a “person.” Biblical Unitarians recognize that “holy spirit” is associated with “persons”, but that it is not a “distinct person” or “being”
      and they can support it with many scriptures.

      You also claim that “each person is God”, but not all Christians think that the title of “God” can only be applied to one particular supreme being. Many Biblical Unitarians find no occasion in scripture where the title of “God” is specifically applied to Jesus Christ. Most Biblical Unitarians would also point out that your metaphysical assumption that “multiple persons = one being” is unwarranted by any evidence.

      When you claim there “is only 1 God”, most Christians would agree. However, there is no need to include Jesus Christ in a belief in “one God.” Biblical Unitarians have no difficulty believing in “one God” (as one unique being/person) without including Jesus Christ or an holy spirit “person.”

      • Steve Bruecker
        April 18, 2016 @ 3:50 pm


        I will support my Trinity claims with scriptures. All you’ve demonstrated is there are many heretical views of the Trinity. I have spent many hours with both Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses defending the doctrine of the Trinity.

        In order to prove the Trinity true 3 important facts have to be established by the scriptures.

        1. There is only one God

        2. The Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit are distinct persons.

        3. Each person is fully God.

        If all 3 can be shown to be scriptural then the only conclusion is the Bible teaches the Trinity.

        1. The Bible teaches only one God.

        This is actually very easy because of the many verses. I have included just a few of the scriptures that teach that God is one. Let’s just look at two of them:

        Deuteronomy 6:4, Hear (Shema) O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.

        Isaiah 45:5a, I am the Lord, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God.

        Clearly, the Bible teaches there is only 1 God. (Additional verses that teach only one God: Deut. 4:35, 4:39, Is. 45:14, 45:21, 45:22, 46:9, Joel 2:27, James 2:19, John 17:3). This is not controversial for most groups that believe the Bible.

        2. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are separate and distinct persons.

        It is easy to establish the personhood of the Father and the Son in the Bible. It is a little harder to show the Holy Spirit as a person but it can be done.

        In John we see Jesus speaking to the disciples during the last supper. John 14:25-26, “All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”

        Only a person can speak, teach, and remind others. These verses clearly teach the Holy Spirit is a person. In chapters 14-16, of the book of John, we see the actions of 3 persons being performed by the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

        Acts 13:2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”

        Here the Holy Spirit speaks and commands Barnabas and Saul to be set apart for the work He, the Holy Spirit, has called them. Speaking, commanding, and setting forth a plan can only be done by a person.

        3. Each person is God

        Father is God

        Gal. 1:1 Paul, an apostle–sent not from men nor by men, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead.

        Holy Spirit is God

        The Holy Spirit is God can be shown with the story of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5. They tried to deceive the Apostles, acting as if they gave all the money they received for the land they sold.

        Acts 5:3, 4 Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.” We see in verse 3 Ananias lied to the Holy Spirit and then in verse 4 Peter says you lied to God; establishing the fact that the Holy Spirit is God.

        In addition a powerful case for the deity of the Holy Spirit can be made by listing His Godlike powers, abilities, and actions. In Acts 13:2, where the Holy Spirit gives ministry commands to Barnabas and Paul that would only be given by God. The name “Holy” Spirit indicates He is God. Only God is holy.

        Jesus is God

        Many passages teach Jesus is God. I will begin my case by showing the Apostles believed Jesus was God. I start with…

        • Matthew believed Jesus was God: Matthew affirms Jesus is God when he writes about the birth of Jesus, Matt. 1:23 “. . . and they will call him Immanuel” — which means, “God with us.”

        • John believed Jesus was God: John 1:1, 14 The Apostle John writes, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” v14 “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.”

        • Thomas believed Jesus was God: The week before, we see Thomas doubting the resurrection of Jesus but now we see in John 20:28 “Thomas answered and said to Him, ‘My Lord and my God!’” Thomas actually says, “Lord of me and the God of me.” Saying “the God” in the Greek, ho theos, there is no question he is calling Jesus God. Plus in the verses that follow Jesus commends him.

        • Paul believed Jesus was God: Titus 2:13 The Apostle Paul writes to Titus, “. . . the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” No doubt Jesus is God and savior.

        • Jewish people believed Jesus claimed to be God: John 10:30-33 (NIV) [Jesus speaking] I and the Father are one.” 31 Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, 32 but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?” 33 “We are not stoning you for any of these,” replied the Jews, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.” Even the enemies of Jesus knew he claimed to be God!

        • Rivers
          April 19, 2016 @ 8:55 am


          Not all Christians agree with the conclusions that you draw from the scriptures you are citing in your defense of the Trinity doctrine. Let me give a couple of examples from your reply:

          1. You claim that “Thomas believed Jesus was God” because of the statement he made to Jesus in John 20:28. However, other Christians recognize that the context indicates that Thomas was probably referring to two different beings who were in different locations.

          We see in John 20:13 that “my lord” was used by Mary to refer specifically to Jesus Christ, who was with her on Earth, and that Jesus used “my God” to refer specifically to “the Father” who was in heaven (John 20:17).

          Since there’s no indication that the disciples ever used “my God” (or “the God”) to refer to Jesus Christ when they were with him, it’s reasonable to think that the writer intended us to understand that Thomas was following the usage of “my God” by Jesus earlier in the context (where it specifically refers to “the Father” who is in a different place).

          2. You also claim that the name “Immanuel” applied to Jesus Christ indicates that “Jesus is God” because the name means “God is with us.” However, other Christians recognize that this is nonsensical for a number of reasons.

          First, the name “Immanuel” was originally referred to one of Isaiah’s own human sons (Isaiah 7:14; Isaiah 8:3-8). It’s also evident in Isaiah 8:3 that Isaiah’s son had a different name (MHRSLLHSBZ) and in Matthew 1:25 that Mary’s son had a different name (Jesus). Thus, it’s likely that the reference to the name “Immanuel” is figurative in both contexts (since God was giving His people a sign of imminent salvation in both places).

          Second, there are many other Hebrews names in the Bible that mean “God (something)” Any Hebrew name that ends with -AH or -EL alludes to “God.” Thus, if you follow your own logic, then you should conclude that people like Daniel, Ezekiel, and Jeremiah were also incarnation of “God.”

          • Steve Bruecker
            April 21, 2016 @ 9:04 am


            1. First I must emphasize these Jewish disciples that followed Jesus, were monotheists. The Bible clearly teaches there is only one God (I can provide 28 verses that directly teach there is only one God). All other gods mentioned in the Bible are false gods whether referring to Satan, his demons, humans, or idols. There is only one Triune God. So Thomas when he met the risen Christ was a strict monotheist. Religious historical books name Judaism, Christianity, and Islam as monotheistic religions.

            John 20:28 “Thomas said to him [Jesus], “My Lord and my God!” Clearly Thomas is calling Jesus his Lord and his God. You are trying to say he was referring to two gods, which is a similar case Jehovah’s Witnesses do and fail. The verse itself tells it all: “Thomas said to him…” a singular pronoun. If you were right the verse should have read “Thomas said to them…” Thus he couldn’t have been referring to both the Father and the Son as separate beings (gods). The singular pronoun referred to Jesus. In addition if Jesus was not God, he should have rebuked Thomas for blasphemy. Instead we see him commending him for what he said.

            Thomas used the strongest expression possible in calling Jesus God. The Greek text actually says, “The Lord of me and the God of me.” [All interlinears I have seen supports this including the Watchtower’s own Kingdom Interlinear]. In calling Jesus God, Thomas is using “ho theos” = the God. A Jehovah Witness cannot add the article “a” here (a god) because in the Greek there already is the article “the.” Therefore, Jesus cannot be a second or lesser god. He is almighty God, second person of the Trinity. Thomas, the monotheist, called Jesus God and he was commended. Thomas believed Jesus was God.

            2. Here we must read the larger context of the passages in Isaiah from 7:1-9:7. By the time one reaches Isa 9:6, the prophet is speaking of a child, naturally taken as still referring to Immanuel, who is the “Mighty God.” Isaiah 9:6 (NASB) “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” In no sense can this prophecy be taken as less than messianic or as fulfilled in a merely human figure (like the son of Ahaz only). So when we look at Isaiah 7:1-9:7, it is best to see a partial fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy in his time, with the complete and more glorious fulfillment in Jesus’ own birth.

            Plus we have confirmation of this child reaching complete fulfillment in Jesus by Matthew who announces this Christ child by pointing back to the prophecy in Isaiah 7:14. Matthew writes: Matthew 1:21-23 (NASB) “She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” 22 Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23 “BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL,” which translated means, “GOD WITH US.”

            Jesus is given the title Immanuel which means God is with us. You said, “Second, there are many other ancient Hebrew names in the Bible that mean “God (something)” Just about any Hebrew name that ends with the suffixes -AH or -EL alludes to “God.” Thus, it isn’t reasonable to isolate the name “Immanuel” and conclude that it requires some special implication of an Incarnation or “divine nature.” I am guessing you are referring to prophets such as Jeremiah or Daniel. The name Jesus doesn’t have the suffixes you are referring to. However, Matthew gives him the title of Immanuel, God is with us. Please show me where individuals with their names ending in –AH or –EL are given a divine title such as Immanuel. Where are these individuals, with the divine endings to their names, ever called “Mighty God?” If you cannot show this, then my point still stands. Matthew believed Jesus was God.

            • Rivers
              April 21, 2016 @ 2:35 pm


              Thanks for the detailed reply. Here are my thoughts (in the order of our points).

              1. I don’t think it’s accurate to say that all those called “gods” in scripture (besides YHWH) are “false gods.” For example, the “judges” who are called “gods” (ALHYM) in Exodus 22:7 were not “false.” Rather, a text likes this shows that the term ALHYM could be applied to others (besides YHWH himself). I could cite a number of other examples of this.

              2. I wasn’t inferring that Thomas was speaking of “two gods” in John 20:28. I was pointing out that the term “my Lord” was used by the disciples to refer specifically to Jesus Christ in the context (John 20:13) and “my God” was used by Jesus to specifically refer to God the Father, who is in heaven, in the same context (John 20:17). Thus, I think it’s more likely that Thomas was following that precedent and using those two terms to refer to two different beings who were in different locations (i.e. Lord Jesus, God the Father).

              3. I see that Thomas used O QEOS (“the God”) in John 20:28. However, I don’t find any other uses of this term that ever apply specifically to Jesus Christ. Thus, I don’t think isolating John 20:28 and insisting that it must be a title given to Jesus is at all consistent with the apostolic usage. Based upon the evidence in the immediate context (that I cited in the previous paragraph), I think it’s more likely that Thomas is using “the God of me” to refer specifically to God the Father (who is in heaven).

              4. I don’t agree with you that “Immanuel” is a “divine title.” It is just an Hebrew name that is interpreted to mean “God with us.” Likewise, I would argue that other ancient Hebrew names (e.g. Jeremiah, Daniel) could also be interpreted as alluding to something about “God” (if taken literally).

              5. In Isaiah 9:6, what do you do with Jesus being called “eternal father”? Do you think that this suggests Jesus is the same person as God the Father? In what sense was Jesus a “father”?

              • Steve Bruecker
                April 22, 2016 @ 6:55 pm


                1. Were the judges human by nature or did they have a divine nature? The Bible teaches there is only one God by nature. If you don’t like “false gods,” how about “Persons or things that are not God by nature?” Humans, Satan, demons, and idols are not God by nature. Do you want me to send you the 28 verses that say there is only one God (by nature)?

                2. If you say the text teaches Thomas was addressing two beings, then why didn’t it record Thomas said the “them.” The text specifically says he said to HIM! It is obvious by the context Thomas spoke only to Jesus and called him Lord and God. You cannot agree to the fact the text used a singular pronoun because you presuppose Jesus is not God. You have to force your view on a rather obvious text of Scripture. Instead of doing exegesis, you are doing eisogesis (reading in your view). You don’t believe Jesus is God, so therefore Thomas couldn’t have called him God. However, the truth is Thomas agrees with the John who said, “And the word [Jesus] was God.” Thomas believed Jesus was God. If you don’t believe Jesus is God, then what is he?

                3. Simply because no apostle used the strongest expression in calling Jesus God doesn’t mean Thomas didn’t use it. We have to go with what Thomas said, not what you want him to say. As a monotheistic Jew, he was making the strongest statement possible in calling Jesus “The God.” We know he wasn’t speaking of the Father because he made this statement “to him.” Again you are reading your views into the passage and trying to make Thomas agree with you.

                4. Even for argument sake, if Immanuel is simply a Hebrew name (I don’t agree), it announces the fact that upon the birth of Jesus, he will be called “God is with us.” Again you have to presuppose Jesus is not God to avoid the fact Matthew believed he was. Matthew aligns with Paul who said this about Jesus: Titus 2:13 (NASB) “looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus.” Matthew believed Jesus was God and so did the Apostle Paul.

                5. The word Father is seldom used in the OT; whereas, it is used often in the NT. Jesus and the Father, as spoken of in the NT, are two separate and distinct persons of the one God. Keil and Delitzsch write, “The title Eternal Father designates Him, however, not only as the possessor of eternity, but as the tender, faithful, and wise trainer, guardian, and provider for His people even in eternity (Isaiah 22:21). He is eternal Father, as the eternal, loving King, according to the description in Ps 72.” [Commentary on the Old Testament – Volume 7: Isaiah.] Eternal father can also be expressed as a genitive phrase, “father of eternity.” Why is this prophesied child in Isaiah, that Matthew writes refers to Jesus, called “mighty God” (Isa. 9:6)?


                • Rivers
                  April 26, 2016 @ 10:47 am


                  Thanks for taking the time to continue the friendly dialogue. Here’s a brief response to your latest points.

                  1. I don’t think ALHYM (“God/s”) was a term used for “nature.” I think it was a title used of YHWH, angels, and human beings on account of their position of authority (regardless of “nature”). The biblical evidence doesn’t suggest that this Hebrew term was used exclusively for heavenly beings.

                  2. I agree with you that John 20:28 says that Jesus spoke to “him” (i.e. Jesus). However, this doesn’t preclude that “my God” could not be referring to someone else. The “him” is satisfied by the term “my Lord” (which was referring to Jesus to whom Thomas was speaking). Thomas would not have said “them” because God was not in the same location when he was speaking to Jesus (cf. John 20:17).

                  3. I agree that Thomas “could” have been using “my God” to refer specifically to Jesus Christ. However, all the other occurrences of “my God” in the apostolic writings refer specifically to God the Father. Jesus used it to refer specifically to God the Father in John 20:17 and five other times in Revelation 3:2-12 and Paul used it several times in his letters to refer to God the Father (Philippians 1:3, 4:19; Philemon 1:4). This makes it highly unlikely that your attempt to isolate the usage by Thomas in John 20:28 is the right approach.

                  4. I don’t agree with your punctuation of Titus 2:13. I think it’s likely that Paul was referring to two different beings in that context (i.e. “our great God” and “savior Jesus Christ”) in the same way that Thomas did in John 20:28. Unlike, “my God”, there is plenty of evidence that “savior” is a term the apostles used for both God the Father and the human Jesus. Thus, it isn’t reasonable to insist that both titles must be referring to Jesus Christ in this text.

                  5. Good point about the infrequent usage of “Father” to refer to God in the Hebrew scriptures. I think the reason that Father became much more frequent in the apostolic writings is because the human Jesus was “claiming that God was his own Father” (John 5:18) and the apostles understood that he received the “authority over all flesh” (John 17:2) in order to be able to give “those who received him the right to become the children of God” (John 1:12).

                  • Steve Bruecker
                    April 29, 2016 @ 10:28 pm


                    In today’s online debates, civility is a lost art. I appreciate the courteous back and forth we are engaging in.

                    1. My talking about nature was more in a theological sense then looking back to the Hebrew word. Judaism and Christianity are monotheistic religions for a reason. The Bible teaches there is only one divine being and many verses support this. I am not sure what you are arguing for. Do you think Judaism and Christianity teach polytheism?

                    2. If I said to Jim, “My friend and my colleague.” Who would take that to mean I was speaking to two different persons? No one! Everyone would say I was addressing a single person. The same goes for Thomas. After addressing Jesus, he commends Thomas for what he just said him. As I said previously your presuppositions, that Jesus is not God, preclude you from accepting the obvious. Thomas said to Jesus, my Lord and my God. As I said previously, Thomas agreed with the Apostle John when he wrote in John 1:1, “And the Word (Jesus) was God.”

                    3. I refer back to #2 on this point.

                    4. In context, Paul is writing about the hope of the second coming in Titus 2:13. “…looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus.” In the New Testament the word “appearing” is used exclusively of Jesus Christ (2 Thess. 2:8; 1 Tim. 6:14; 2 Tim. 1:10; 4:1,8; Titus 2:13). Appearing is never used of the Father. It is consistently tied to the second coming of Jesus. Thus “appearing of the glory of our great God” cannot refer to the Father. Therefore, both God and savior refer to one person Jesus.

                    Greek scholars contend Titus 2:13 is speaking of only one person. Bruce Metzger writes, “In support of this translation [“our great God and Savior”] there may be quoted such eminent grammarians of the Greek New Testament as P.W. Schmiedel, J.H. Moulton, A.T. Robertson, and Blass-Debrunner. All of these scholars concur in the judgment that one person is referred to in Titus 2:13 and that therefore, it must be rendered, “our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” (Bruce Metzger Facts on Jehovah’s Witnesses p. 24)

                    Greek scholars have come up with a guiding principle for interpreting such a construction: “When two nouns in the same case are connected by the Greek word ‘and,’ and the first noun is preceded by the article ‘the,’ and the second noun is not preceded by the article, the second noun refers to the same person or thing to which he first noun refers, and is a farther description of it.” (Bowman, Why you Should Believe in the Trinity) In Titus 2:13, two nouns “God” and “Savior” are joined together with the Greek word for “and,” and a definite article (“the”) is placed only in front of the first noun (“God”). The sentence literally reads: “the great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” As scholar Robert Reymond explains, “The two nouns [God and Savior] both stand under the regimen of the single definite article preceding ‘God,’ indicating that they are to a single referent.” (Robert Reymond, Jesus Divine Messiah)

                    5. In the doctrine of the Trinity the human nature of Jesus submitted and humbled himself before the Father. No problems with the second person of the Trinity (Jesus) addressing the person of the Father.

                    6. You never answered my previous question so I’ll ask it again… If you don’t believe Jesus is God, then what is he?


                    • Rivers
                      May 1, 2016 @ 11:20 am

                      Hi Steve,

                      Thanks again for the reply. Here are my thoughts on your latest points:

                      1. No, I don’t think the Israelites (or Christians) were polytheistic. I’m just pointing out that the Hebrew terms for “god/s” could be applied to beings other than God the Father. Sometimes even YHWH was applied to the angelic visitors (Genesis 18-19).

                      2. I don’t think John 20:28 is so “obvious.” That is why I’m pointing out the evidence that is contrary to the way you are interpreting it. Perhaps you are overlooking how “my God” is used all the other times in scripture because you want it to be referring Jesus in this particular passage.

                      3. I agree that “the word (Jesus) was God” in John 1:1c. However, we still have to interpret what that means. You think “the word” refers to a preexisting divine son, whereas I think “the word” refers to the resurrected human Jesus (as in John 1:14; Revelation 19:13). Other Christians think it refers to an “impersonal wisdom/plan” or some kind of angelic being.

                      4. You make a valid point that “appearing” isn’t associated with God the Father. However, you are assuming that “the glory of God” is referring to God himself. As I read the text of Titus 2:13, it seems to me that “the glory of our God” refers to the result of “the appearing” in the same way that you or I might do something for “the glory of God.” Thus, Paul was saying that the appearing of the savior was for the purpose of glorifying God (cf. Jude 1:25).

                      5. I’m aware that other scholars have different opinions about the Greek in Titus 2:13. I’m offering you another perspective. Every one should consider the evidence for himself and make up his own mind.

                      6. My understanding is that Jesus Christ was an ordinary Israelite (Hebrews 2:14-16) who had a miraculous conception (Luke 1:35). God the Father later annointed him with holy spirit power, raised him from the dead, and appointed him the judge of the world (Acts 10:39-44).

                    • Steve Bruecker
                      May 4, 2016 @ 9:17 am


                      1. We both agree Christianity teaches there is only one God.

                      2. Since you believe Jesus is not God, you have to cling to your interpretation that Thomas was addressing two persons when he said to Jesus (one person) “My Lord and my God.” 100% of the scholars I am aware of agree that Thomas called Jesus Lord and God. What noted Greek scholars can you come up with that agree Thomas is speaking to two persons?

                      I do realize Jesus addresses the Father and calls him my God in John 20:17: “Jesus said, ‘Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'” You are asking what the Jehovah’s Witnesses ask, how can the Father be Jesus’ God and he still be God?

                      In context the word “God” here in 20:17b is referring to the Father. The human Jesus is calling the Father his God, submitting himself to the Father. The Son took on a human nature and gave up certain divine prerogatives or privileges. Jesus was still fully God but chose not to utilize his divine abilities (Phil. 2:5-8). As Paul writes in Philippians 2, Jesus as a human submitted himself to death, something the Father cannot do. A difference in function does not indicate inferiority of nature.

                      In John 17 the focus is on the human aspect of Jesus’ identity. He identified himself with his “brothers” (Disciples). The human Jesus had “brothers” and the divine nature does not. Notice also he says “My Father and My God.” He taught others to say “Our Father.” My Father affirms he is the Son of God. By using “MY” he saying he is equal with the Father. In John 5:17-18 (NASB) “But He answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.” 18 For this reason therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.” Jesus calling God “My Father” was a way to proclaim equality with God the Father and the Jews knew this and wanted him dead.

                      3. John 1:1 says Jesus was God (theos). John 1:14 says Jesus, as God, took on human flesh. Jesus has two natures, fully God and fully man. In Revelations 19:13 the second Person of the Trinity, the incarnate Son of God is called The Word of God because He is the revelation of God. He is the full expression of the mind, will, and purpose of God, “the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature” (Heb. 1:3). Revelations 19:13 reaffirms the truth of John 1:1, that Jesus was God.

                      4. You said referring to Titus 2:13, “However, you are assuming that “the glory of God” is referring to God himself.” If God in your sentence means the Father, then that is not what I am assuming. The truth I am assuming nothing, I am going by what Paul writes. The text says the appearing refers to Jesus at his second coming. He is the great God and savior as all the scholars I quoted contend.

                      5. What NT Greek scholars agree with you that Paul is addressing two persons?

                      6. All you showed in Hebrews 2:12-14 is that Jesus had a human nature. I agree…where we disagree is believing he also had a divine nature. In Luke 1:35 “The angel answered and said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.’” What do you believe the Son of God means? The Jews believed in John 5:17-18 that the Son of God (called God my Father) meant he was equal with God.

                      I agree the Father raised Jesus from the dead. However, he said he raised himself. John 2:19-22 “Jesus answered them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ 20 The Jews then said, ‘It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?’ 21 But He was speaking of the temple of His body. 22 So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken.” Jesus clearly says he will raise himself from the dead. Thus he affirms he is fully God and fully man. As man he could die (God cannot die) and as the second person of the Trinity he had the power to raise himself from the dead.


                    • Rivers
                      May 5, 2016 @ 9:49 am

                      Hi Steve,

                      Thanks again for continuing the conversation.

                      1. Yes, we both agree that there is only one true God.

                      2. I’m not really concerned what other scholars think about John 20:28 because the interpretation that I offered is just as plausible as the other perspective that you are espousing. I only need to be able to offer a reasonable explanation based upon exegetical and contextual evidence that is consistent with other factors that suggest the apostles were not teaching that the human Jesus was the same being as God the Father. John 20:28 is not decisive either way.

                      3. For the sake of brevity, I would point out that my understanding of Philippians 2:6a is that the resurrected human Jesus was “existing in the form of God” at the time when Paul was writing the letter to the church. This is why the verb translated “existing” is a Present Participle (in contrast to the subsequent Aorist verbs which refer to the earthly ministry of Jesus in 2:6b-8).

                      4. Unlike most other Biblical Unitarians, I agree with you that John 5:18 is plainly saying that the disciples understood that the human Jesus was “making himself equal with God.” However, we still must interpret in what sense there was “equality” between the Father and the son. My understanding is that the “equality” was a matter of inheritance (co-ownership) and not an ontological issue. There are many different ways that two persons can be “equal” without sharing the same “being.”

                      5. For the sake of brevity, I’ll just say that I would also understand the “glory I had with you before the world was” (John 17:5) in the context of inheritance (co-ownership). The human Jesus was not talking about Preexistence in this context, but was merely referring to the possession of God’s glory to which he was always entitled. For example, my own father established his wealth long before I was born, and yet I can claim it was my own because I will inherit it someday.

                      6. For the sake of brevity, I’ll just mention that my understanding of John 1:1 is that it is a resurrection text and not a Preexistence text. However, unlike most Biblical Unitrarians, I do agree with you that John 1:1 is using “the word” (LOGOS) to refer to a person (i.e. the human Jesus, as in John 1:14; 1 John 1:1; Revelation 19:13).

                      7. My understanding of Hebrews 1:3 that it is referring to the glorified status that the human Jesus attained as a result of his resurrection and ascension. I think “exact representation of His nature” is an unlikely translation. The writer of Hebrews uses UPOSTASIS elsewhere to mean “assurance” (which has no ontological connotation). See Hebrews 3:14; Hebrews 11:1.

                      8. We simply differ on how we read Titus 2:13. I take “the glory of our great God” to be referring to something that God exemplifies, and not to the person of God himself. On the other hand, you read it as a reference to God himself. My understanding of the passage maintains a distinction between two different beings (God, Jesus) where “the glory” of one of them (i.e. God the Father) is attributed to the other one (i.e. Jesus Christ).

                      9. There are some Greek scholars who share the same perspective on Titus 2:13 that I do. However, selectively pitting some scholars against other scholars proves nothing. Thus, I would rather focus on the exegetical considerations the should be the determining factors. Ultimately, you and I have to consider the evidence for ourselves and make up our own minds.

                      10. As I noted earlier, I agree with you that John 5:18 indicates that Jesus was “making himself equal with God” on the basis of “claiming that God was his own Father.” In each case where the Jews wanted to stone Jesus, he was making this claim (cf. John 8:54; John 10:33-36). However, you are presuming that “equality” is an ontological term and I don’t think that is an accurate connotation of the word. I think a divine Father and an human son can be “equal” in the sense that any son who is the “heir” already owns everything that belongs to his father (Galatians 4:1-2).

                      11. I don’t think it logically follows that because both God the Father and the human Jesus assume the authority to raise the dead that it requires that we understand that they were both the same being. Keep in mind, Jesus attributed his authority to raise the dead to God the Father (John 5:21-26; John 17:2).

                    • Steve Bruecker
                      May 8, 2016 @ 4:30 pm


                      Thanks for some background info in your last post. I looked up Biblical Unitarians and on their web site I found some interesting information.

                      To help us refine our discussion, I’d like to focus on these scriptures; John 1:1 (1:14) and John 1:3. It is here I believe the Bible teaches Jesus is truly God and truly man. At another time we can return to some of the other Scriptures we have been discussing.

                      I noticed you part ways with the view on the web site concerning John 1:1. You believe the Word (LOGOS) is the human Jesus, after the resurrection. John 1:1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Important for our discussion, John 1:1c says Jesus was God. I am not sure how you navigate that verse. It seems obvious to me, from the beginning, Jesus was God. And then in John 1:14 “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Here we see God taking on human flesh and becoming a man and dwelling among us.

                      Jesus as the God/man works well with verse 3. John 1:3 “All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” This verse teaches Jesus is the creator of all things (similar to Colossians 1:16-18). It says that nothing has been created apart from the agency and authority of Jesus. Jesus is the uncreated creator since he has created all things and he cannot create himself. John 1:3 seems to perfectly support John 1:1 that Jesus is God.

                      John 1:3 also has implications for your view that John 1:1 is a resurrection text. If Jesus is the uncreated creator he obviously was creator before the resurrection.

                      Where does the Bible teach that John 1:1 is a resurrection text?


                    • Rivers
                      May 9, 2016 @ 11:16 am

                      I think refining the dialogue is a good idea. The replies get kind of long when we have to touch on so many different scriptures all at once.

                      1. I don’t have anything to do with the Biblical Unitarian website. Biblical Unitarians have different perspectives on the interpretation of the Prologue (and my understanding is not the most popular one).

                      2. That is correct. Unlike most Biblical Unitarians, I think the grammar and the context of the Prologue indicate that “the word” (LOGOS) in John 1:1 is referring to a person (i.e. Jesus Christ). The writer is drawing a contrast between “the one” (OUTOS) who was “in the beginning” (John 1:2) and “the one” (OUTOS) named John who “came to testify” about him (John 1:7). A few verses later, “the word” (LOGOS) is said to be “the one” (OUTOS) that John the baptizer told the disciples was coming after him (John 1:15). John the baptizer was talking about an adult “man” (ANHR, John 1:30).

                      3. In John 1:1c, my understanding is that “God” (QEOS) refers specifically to the Father, just like it does in John 1:1b (QEON) and John 1:2. Even though there is no definite article before QEOS in John 1:1c, the original word order in the Greek suggests that “God” refers to the same person in both clauses (who is distinct from the person called “the word”).

                      I think it’s unlikely that the writer would use “God” twice (separated by only the KAI conjunction) in John 1:1b-c, and follow it with another redundant use of “the God” (TON QEON) in John 1:2 if he was intending his readers to understand that the indefinite QEOS was someone (or something) else. Moreover, the other occurrences of the anarthrous QEOS later in context refer specifically to God the Father as well (John 1:6, 12, 13, 18).

                      4. I understand how you are reading John 1:14 from a Trinitarian perspective (and most Biblical Unitarians take it in a similar way). However, I don’t think the context warrants the notion that “the word” (LOGOS) somehow preexisted and then took on a different form. The verb usually translated “became” (EGENETO) in this text has a wide semantic range and merely connotes that something “happened” or that someone “appeared.” For example, it is used of John the baptizer who “appeared” as “a man” preaching in the wilderness (John 1:6; Mark 1:4).

                      5. Another consideration in John 1:14 is that “the word became flesh AND dwelt among us AND we beheld his [begotten] glory” should be taken together as one statement. Since the “us” and “we” pronouns would have to be referring to the disciples who witnessed these things after they came to know the human Jesus, I think it’s more likely that “the word became flesh and dwelt among us” had to be referring to something that took place during the public ministry of Jesus. There’s nothing in the grammar of John 1:14 that warrants putting a 30-year gap between “became flesh” AND “dwelt among us.”

                      6. With regard to John 1:3, it uses the same verb (EGENETO) that is used in John 1:6 and John 1:14. It is not the word for “create” (KITIZW) that Paul used in Colossians 1:15-16. As I noted before, EGENETO has a wide semantic range and can simply mean that something “happened” or “came about” as a result of “the word.” I would argue that there was a lot that happened as a result of the public ministry of Jesus.

                    • Steve Bruecker
                      May 9, 2016 @ 9:09 pm


                      I am trying to understand your view so bear with me as I work through your take on John 1:1. We both agree the Word is Jesus Christ. And we agree God is referring to the Father in 1:1b. So far so good. Here comes the part that has me scratching my head. If I understand you correctly we part company on 1:1c. Is this how you seem to interpret John 1:1 (I will remove the Word and God to identify the persons). “In the beginning was Jesus Christ and Jesus Christ was with the Father and Jesus Christ was Father.” Or clause 1:1c could read “and the Father was Jesus Christ.”

                      Did I understand you correctly?


                    • Rivers
                      May 10, 2016 @ 10:10 am

                      Hi Steve,

                      Thanks for trying to understand what I’m saying. I appreciate your interest and patience in our dialogue. Let me try to clarify what I think the writer of the 4th Gospel was saying in John 1:1.

                      1. Yes, we do agree that it is Jesus Christ that was called “the word” (figuratively, by Implication) in John 1:1. Of course, I’m reading it as a reference to the human Jesus (John 1:14), whereas a Trinitarian would read it as the “pre-incarnate Son”, an Arian would read it as a “pre-incarnate spirit being (or angel)”, and most other Biblical Unitarians would read it as the “personified wisdom” or “impersonal plan and purpose” of God.

                      2. I would not substitute “Father” for “God” (QEOS) in John 1:1 because I think it is confusing. I think we agree that PROS TON QEON (“toward God”) in John 1:1b was making a distinction between “the word” (LOGOS) and God [the Father]. Later in the 4th Gospel, it’s evident that Jesus understood that “God” [the Father] was in a different location “toward” which he was going after he accomplished his ministry (John 13:3; John 20:17).

                      3. It’s also interesting to consider that Moses was also told “to be the one toward God” (PROS TON QEON) on behalf of Israel (Exodus 4:16, LXX). Moses was a man who received the word (LOGOS) of God and told Aaron what to speak to the people. Likewise, Jesus Christ was the one who was “toward” God the Father (PROS TON PATERA, 1 John 1:2) and told the disciples what to speak to the people (1 John 1:3, 5).

                      The human Jesus also became the advocate “toward” God the Father (PROS TON PATERA, 1 John 2:1) in the same way that Moses was told to advocate on behalf of the tribes of Israel “toward God” (PROS TON QEON, Exodus 18:19, LXX). Perhaps this is why the writer of the 4th Gospel associated the ministries of Moses and Jesus later in the Prologue (John 1:17). This suggests to me that an human being (like Moses or Jesus) could be PROS TON QEON (without any implication of Preexistence).

                      4. In John 1:1c, I don’t think the writer was saying that “Jesus Christ is the Father.” The reason is because it’s evident later in the 4th Gospel that the writer understood that when Jesus was “claiming that God was his own Father” he was “making himself equal with God” (John 5:18). The Jews also understood that Jesus was “a man, making himself out to be God” (John 10:33) when he claimed to be “the son of God” (John 10:36). Later, they condemned him for “making [himself] out to be the son of God” (John 19:7).

                      In other words, the somewhat interchangeable use of “God” and “son of God” in the context of the unique Father-son relationship that the human Jesus had with God doesn’t require an absolute “equality of being.” Rather, it is predicated upon the Father-son familial identity which assumes a distinction of both “being” and “person.”

                      5. Thus, I think John 1:1-2 could be understood this way. The [paraphrasing] is for clarification and interpretation:

                      JOHN 1:1a … “In the beginning [of the gospel], was the word [Jesus Christ, the eternal life],

                      JOHN 1:1b … “and the word [Jesus Christ, the eternal life] was toward God [was above all others in relation to God],

                      JOHN 1:1c … “and the word [Jesus Christ, the eternal life] was God [was equal with God, his own Father]

                      JOHN 1:2 … “this one [the man, Jesus Christ] was in the beginning [of the gospel] toward God [was above all others in relation to God]

                    • Steve Bruecker
                      May 11, 2016 @ 8:00 pm


                      You seem to try to downplay 1:1c when John writes, “The word was God.” John did not say equal with God but was God. Here “theos” points to the fact Jesus had the nature of deity. To help support what I am saying in John 1:1, I am going to use scholar Phillip Harner and highlights from his article in the Journal Of Biblical Literature: Qualitative Anarthrous Predicate Nouns Mark 15:39 and John 1:1.

                      Harner found that 80% of anarthrous pre-verbal predicate nouns in Mark and John are qualitative and 20% are definite. None are exclusively indefinite, which supports Colwell’s conclusion as well. Harner notes that some qualitative nouns, such as HAMARTÔLOS (“sinner”) in John 9:16 (NASB) Therefore some of the Pharisees were saying, “This man is not from God, because He does not keep the Sabbath.” But others were saying, “How can a man who is a sinner perform such signs?” And there was a division among them.” Though best translated with the indefinite article due to English idiom, should actually be considered qualitative. Again the qualitative aspect of the predicate is most prominent; they [the Jews] thought Jesus had the nature or character of one who is a “sinner.” There is no basis for regarding the predicate as indefinite, although in this instance we would probably use the indefinite article in English translation.

                      Harner stresses that when considering whether a pre-verbal predicate noun is definite, indefinite, or qualitative, it is important to consider how the writer might have expressed his intentions using another, and possibly less ambiguous, syntax as well as what he actually wrote. Dr. Harner wrote: “As an aid in understanding the verse, it will be helpful to ask what John might have written as well as what he did write. In terms of the types of word-order and vocabulary available to him, it would appear that John could have written any of the following:

                      A. hO LOGOS ÊN hO THEOS – [The Word was the God]

                      B. THEOS ÊN hO LOGOS – [God was the Word]

                      C. hO LOGOS THEOS ÊN – [The Word God was]

                      D. hO LOGOS ÊN THEOS – [The Word was God (a god or divine)]

                      E. hO LOGOS ÊN THEIOS – [The Word was Divine]

                      Clause A, hO LOGOS ÊN hO THEOS – [The Word was the God] with an arthrous predicate, would mean that logos and theos are equivalent and interchangeable. There would be no ho theos which is not also ho logos. But this equation of the two would contradict the preceding clause of 1:1b, in which John writes the Word was with God. This clause suggests relationship, and thus some form of “personal” differentiation, between the two.

                      So, Harner, in agreement with Robertson, Dana & Mantey, and most other scholars notes that if both THEOS and LOGOS were arthrous, the two terms would be convertible. If John had employed the article before theos, he would have made the terms theos and logos interchangeable, amounting to Sabellianism [modelism]. Since John did not use this syntax, his intended meaning must be something else. Harner continues:

                      Clause D, hO LOGOS ÊN THEOS – [The Word was God (a god or divine)] with the verb preceding an anarthrous predicate, would probably mean that the logos was “a god” or a divine being of some kind, belonging to the general category of theos but as a distinct being from ho theos.

                      Clause E hO LOGOS ÊN THEIOS – [The Word was Divine (theios)] would be an attenuated form of D. It would mean that the logos was “divine,” without specifying further in what way or to what extent it was divine. It could also imply that the logos, being only theios, was subordinate to theos.

                      Thus, Harner notes that had John wished to express the idea that the LOGOS was “a god,” or a divine being distinct from hO THEOS, he had at least two unambiguous ways of doing so. Since he did not, we may conclude that John in all likelihood chose the syntax he did because he wished to express something else with regard to the LOGOS.

                      Clauses B THEOS ÊN hO LOGOS – [God was the Word] and Clause C hO LOGOS THEOS ÊN – [The Word God was] with an anarthrous predicate preceding the verb, are primarily qualitative in meaning. They indicate that the logos has the nature of theos. There is no basis for regarding the predicate theos as definite. This would make B and C equivalent to A, and like A they would then contradict the preceding clause of 1:1 (1:1b).

                      Harner continues: As John has just spoken in terms of relationship and differentiation between ho logos and ho theos, he would imply in B or C that they share the same nature as belonging to the reality theos. Clauses B and C are identical in meaning but differ slightly in emphasis. C would mean that the logos (rather than something else) had the nature of theos. B means that the logos had the nature of theos (rather than something else). In clause B (THEOS ÊN hO LOGOS – [God was the Word]), the form that John actually uses, the word theos is placed at the beginning for emphasis.

                      The meaning of 1:1c as Harner himself translates it: “The Word had the same nature as God” (p. 87).

                      Thus, Harner says that not only is John attributing the nature of THEOS to the LOGOS, but emphasizes that nature by placing THEOS at the head of the clause. The emphasis of THEOS would seem unaccountable if John intended an indefinite nuance, but is perfectly understandable if THEOS is qualitative, signifying that the Son’s nature is that of God.

                      If one is to assert that any anarthrous noun must be indefinite and translated with an indefinite article, one must be able to do the same with the 282 other times theos appears anarthrously. For an example of the chaos that would create, try translating the anarthrous theos at 2 Corinthians 5:19 (NASB) namely, that a God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.

                      So to sum up the article, Harner states that if John had wished to say that the Word was “a god” or “divine,” he had two ways, even a different word, by which he could have done so. But it is evident that he wished to say something even stronger about Jesus. He did not wish to say that Jesus and God are the same person, since he has already stated that they are two persons and there was a way in Greek for him to have done so if he had wished. What John does say is that Jesus and God share the same nature; that Jesus, no less than God, has the nature of deity. This is an extremely strong statement, since it rules out any interpretation that Jesus was merely acting in God’s place, but was not God Himself. Rather, Jesus was God in his very nature and essence. John’s words echo Paul’s in Colossians 2:9 when he says that in Jesus, “all the fullness [nothing excepted] of deity dwells.”


                    • Sean Garrigan
                      May 11, 2016 @ 9:48 pm

                      Hi Steve,

                      Harner’s argument is riddled with problems. Though I haven’t posted on Harner specifically yet on my blog, I do address the problems with the un-vetted notion of “qualitative” nouns, here:





                      Although Harner’s thesis was accepted with alacrity by over-eager folks seemingly desperate for a solution to a perceived problem (i.e. the misguided notion that a definite QEOS results in Sabellianism while an indefinite one results in polytheism), the fact is that Harner was no linguist, and his thesis never received the sort of vetting that scientific theories often receive. While Harner’s thesis is problematic in a number of ways, two points stand out very clearly:

                      1. His claim that if an indefinite QEOS were intended then it would have appeared after the verb rather than before it is just plain silliness, as any first year student of Greek can see for him/herself, and as I amply demonstrate on my blog.

                      2. As I recall, his argumentation in reference to the second verse in the title of the article (Mark 15:39) is laughable. Take a look at his argument there and let me know if you can spot what I have in mind.


                    • Steve Bruecker
                      May 13, 2016 @ 2:02 pm


                      I appreciate your insights from your blog posts. I am an apologist and not a grammarian (probably obvious from my writing).

                      The primary issues you bring up seem to do with how the authors Dixon and Harner arrive at their conclusion the noun QUES as qualitative. If I understand you correctly, the noun could be qualitative, as you didn’t seem to rule that out, but you sense their bias moves them to illicitly reject the indefinite and definite articles to make their conclusions. Did I get that right? Whether the noun is qualitative has to do with the process of interpretation according to the context and other hermeneutical rules.

                      The problem I find with the English “a god” is that it seems to have baggage. In a discussion with a Jehovah’s Witness years ago, I pointed out words with an “a” don’t automatically mean part of a group, it could point to nature. With the JW no matter what examples I gave he still clung to his Arian mentality; that “a god” meant Jesus was a lesser created god. That was the last time I tried that strategy.

                      I think “the God” also carries similar baggage but I don’t want to go into detail concerning it. John could have used “the God” but he didn’t. We probably would arrive at two different conclusions as why he didn’t but I am okay with agreeing to disagree here.

                      Do Dixon, Harner, and I have Trinitarian biases? Yes! But I would argue so do you. You have a horse in the race and you believe your anti-Trinitarian bias helps you to properly interpret the Bible. I would say all of us base our bias on a cumulative case concluding either for or against the Trinity. I don’t want to get hung up defending John 1:1 because it is only part of the larger picture.


                    • Rivers
                      May 14, 2016 @ 6:17 pm


                      I agree with you on the point about QEOS (“God”). There is no reason to translate it “a god” in John 1:1c.

                      Not only is QEON in the preceding verse referring to “God” as a proper noun, but so are all the other anarthrous occurences of QEOS throughout the immediate context of the Prologue (John 1:7, 12, 13, 18). Claiming that there is an exception in John 1:1 seems unnecessary (and unlikely).

                      It makes perfectly good sense to consider that “the word” (LOGOS) is related to the same “God” in both John 1:1b and John 1:1c, just as he is in John 1:18.

                    • Sean Garrigan
                      May 15, 2016 @ 1:48 am

                      Hi Steve,

                      You said:

                      “I appreciate your insights from your blog posts. I am an apologist and not a grammarian (probably obvious from my writing)….The primary issues you bring up seem to do with how the authors Dixon and Harner arrive at their conclusion the noun QUES as qualitative. If I understand you correctly, the noun could be qualitative, as you didn’t seem to rule that out, but you sense their bias moves them to illicitly reject the indefinite and definite articles to make their conclusions. Did I get that right? Whether the noun is qualitative has to do with the process of interpretation according to the context and other hermeneutical rules.”

                      I appreciate the fact that you took the time to consider my perspective. I actually have a number of issues with what I call the ‘Q hypothesis’ as it was formulated by Harner and later “refined” by Dixon, and I hope to elaborate more when I finally post on Harner on my blog (I’m a bit shy about posting an encyclopedic argument here!). I would say first of all, though, that neither of them “arrive[d] at their conclusion that the noun QEOS is ‘qualitative’”. I think that they both came to realize that Colwell’s Rule had been misapplied, which left them with a problem to solve. As they pondered a potential solution, they came to sincerely believe that a ‘qualitative’ QEOS was the only QEOS that could sit comfortably within their Christological worldview, and so they assumed it to be so before ever picking up pen and paper.

                      From my perspective, what Ken Ham does vis a vis modern science is what Harner and Dixon did vis a vis Greek. Don’t get me wrong, I like Ken Ham, but because he reads the creation accounts as speaking of a literal six day creation, he has to chuck a pretty large part of modern science, including Big Bang Theory (one of the most well established thoeries of our time), and come up with novel counter arguments to make YEC seem plausible. Most of us aren’t about to chuck Big Bang Theory, however, because of the YEC notion that moon dust tells us that the universe is young (as just one example of the sort of goofy counterargument that YEC’s have offered).

                      Harner was probably motivated by apologetic concerns, and Dixon certainly was, as one can infer when reading the introduction to his thesis. Not only did he explicitly state that both a definite and an indefinite QEOS were unacceptable (i.e. the two valid options, IMO), but he also presented his case as evidence specifically against the ‘a god’ rendering found in the Watchtower Society’s New World Translation. The folks at DTS, which is the Seminary Dixon attended when he wrote his thesis, have historically been a bit obsessed with the NWT. When I see the odd contortions that those folks have gone through to try and disqualify one of the two patently valid renderings, I find myself echoing Queen Gertrude by observing that “The lady doth protest too much”;-)

                      The Q hypotheses appears to be founded on assumptions about how language works that are confused, unsubstantiated, and rather easy to disconfirm if you’re willing to look at the data dispassionately. The following are what I consider the most conspicuous, critical problems:

                      a. The notion that if a noun is used in a context where nature is inferred, then it may be “technically” indefinite, but in some self-serving way that somehow renders use of the indefinite article as inappropriate.

                      b. The notion that ‘qualitative’ is a separate distinct category of noun, when one can easily demonstrate that the very ‘qualitativeness’ they infer — if it’s even really there in a given context — actually depends on a bounded noun’s definiteness or indefiniteness.

                      c. The confused conflation of ‘definiteness’ and ‘indefiniteness’ with meaning itself, when in reality these are more like syntactical tools that contribute to meaning, but aren’t meaning in and of themselves.

                      d. The ridiculous notion, seemingly born from utter desperation, that if John wanted readers to infer an indefinite QEOS then he would have placed it after the verb rather than before the verb. I suffered third degree burns from spilling my coffee in my lap the first time I read that nonsense, so bemused was I to see a professed ‘authority’ utter what any first year student of Greek can plainly see is not true. Indeed, statistically, it is more common for a pre-verbal anarthrous predicate bounded noun to be indefinite than anything else, and usually when they’re definite there are contextual factors that make this probable, even unavoidable in some cases. The reason the English translations of all those verses I posed on my blog make such good sense in context even with the indefinite article is because they accurately convey the sense of the underlying Greek, not merely because the use of the indefinite article conforms to English syntax, but because said English syntax captures the sense of the Greek.

                      e. In conjunction with ‘d’, the bizarre notion that merely placing a noun before a verb causes the noun to change meaning, when everyone who’s studied Greek at all knows how flexible the language is vis a vis word order. As far as I can tell, the most that is achieved by fronting may be a mild though useful shift in emphasis, similar to what occurs in English when we rearrange a sentence from the active to the passive voice. If we rearrange a sentence from the active to the passive voice, there is no shift in meaning at the word level; there is merely a shift in emphasis at the sentence level.

                      You continued:

                      “The problem I find with the English “a god” is that it seems to have baggage. In a discussion with a Jehovah’s Witness years ago, I pointed out words with an “a” don’t automatically mean part of a group, it could point to nature. With the JW no matter what examples I gave he still clung to his Arian mentality; that “a god” meant Jesus was a lesser created god. That was the last time I tried that strategy.”

                      Well, if the JW felt that the mere grammatical feature of an indefinite QEOS by itself meant that Jesus was a lesser god, then I’d say that he was clearly mistaken. One could say that the Father is “a God who is slow to anger”, or “a God of the living, not of the dead”, or “a God who designed us in a way that is fear-inspiring”, etc., without in any way suggesting that He is something other than the absolute Ruler of the universe. However, if the JW you conversed with was also considering context, not just the indefinite QEOS by itself, then I would have to agree with him. IMO, in the context of John 1:1 and the Bible as a whole, the LOGOS could only be a subordinate ‘G-god’. In arriving at this conclusion I obviously take different things for granted than you do. For example, I look at the Jewish worldview as expressed in pretty much every form of writing available at the time and note that in every case, without exception, whenever an agent of God has a divine title applied to him, the subordination of the agent to the principal is taken for granted. Most scholars today recognize how much the agency principal sheds light on the Son’s relationship to the Father and us, and while it’s quite striking to realize that his work as agent began with the act of original creation itself, it was still work performed ‘as agent’.

                      You concluded:

                      “I think ‘the God’ also carries similar baggage but I don’t want to go into detail concerning it. John could have used ‘the God’ but he didn’t. We probably would arrive at two different conclusions as why he didn’t but I am okay with agreeing to disagree here.”

                      I agree, though I’ll simply point out that QEOS wouldn’t need the article at John 1:1c to signify that it’s definite. Though Colwell’s Rule was misapplied for decades, the part that was misapplied actually appears to be valid (as stated, not as restated in the converse):

                      “Definite predicate nouns which precede the verb usually lack the article” (A Definite Rule…, p. 20)

                      In other words, since QEOS appears before the verb, it’s actually statistically more likely that it would not have the article.

                      It’s true that I too have an ax to grind, and theology can influence my judgement just as it can anyone else’s. But when it comes to John 1:1 I consider myself to be somewhat less biased than most people I’m familiar with who’ve used the text apologetically. I happily embrace both the traditional translation (‘the Word was God’) and the one that sticks in the craw of the folks at DTS (‘the Word was a god’) as legitimate possibilities, grammatically, contextually, and theologically. What disappoints me the most isn’t that Trinitarians favor the traditional rendering, or even some paraphrase that stresses ‘qualitativeness’, but that it’s virtually impossible to find a willingness on their part to honestly admit the real grammatical possibilities and express their preference in an evenhanded way.


                    • Rivers
                      May 12, 2016 @ 10:30 am

                      Hi Steve,

                      Thanks again for continuing our dialogue with a lengthy response. I’ll try to address the points without getting too long-winded.

                      1. My intention wasn’t to “down-play” the significance of “the word was God.” As with any other clause, we have to provide an interpretation of what the words mean. I don’t think it makes much difference to say “the word is God” or “the word equals God.” They can mean the same thing. For example, if I say “2+2 is 4” or “2+2 equals 4”, we all understand that it’s the same equation.

                      2. My understanding is that Jesus himself was “calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God” (John 5:18). The Jews understood that when Jesus said “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30), he was “a man, making himself out to be God” (John 10:33). This suggests that his claim to be “the son of God” (John 10:36; John 19:7) in some way constituted an equality with God. I think this relates to ownership (patrimony) since Jesus spoke many times about having been “given all things” by God the Father (e.g. John 3:35; John 13:3; John 16:15; John 17:2).

                      3. I understand what Harner is trying to do with John 1:1c. However, his interpretation of the grammar is not the only option. I don’t see any reason to think that “the God” in John 1:1b is referring to anything different than “God” in John 1:1c. Throughout the rest of the context of the Prologue, the anarthrous use of QEOS (John 1:7, 12, 13, 18) simply refers to God [the Father]. Moreover, I think the word order in the Greek in John 1:1b-c makes it unlikely that the original readers would have taken “God” to mean two different things when it is separated only by KAI (“and”) between the clauses.

                      4. As I noted earlier, the evidence later in the 4th Gospel shows that “a man” could be understood to be “making himself out to be God” (John 10:33) by saying he was “the son of God” (John 10:30, 36). When John the baptizer came to testify about the Christ, he understood that Jesus was “the son of God” (John 1:32-34). This may also be why the writer called him “the begotten God” in John 1:18 (as another way of saying “the son of God”).

                      5. From my perspective, the issue in John 1:1 is not the anarthrous QEOS in the third clause. Rather, it is the misunderstanding of “in the beginning” (EN ARXH) and “with [toward] God” (PROS TON QEON) in the first and second clauses that create the problem for scholars who have all been approaching the text with the same presuppositions about Preexistence and Incarnation.

                      6. As I noted before, “in the beginning” (John 1:1a) can be understood as referring to the time when Jesus began his public ministry with his disciples (cf. John 15:27; John 16:4) and “with [toward] God” (PROS TON QEON) was simply a directional clause used of human figures like Moses (Exodus 4:16) and the high priest (Hebrews 2:17; Hebrews 5:1) who were mediators between God and the Israelites. See also John 5:45.

                    • Steve Bruecker
                      May 16, 2016 @ 2:58 pm


                      I have never seen an interpretation of John 1:1-18 as you have presented, especially verses 1-3, which we have discussed. Red flags come up when a novel interpretation is presented. This doesn’t mean it is wrong but my mind asks, why didn’t anyone see this for the last 2,000 years? Now it is possible someone has interpreted these verses (1-3) the way you have and I am not aware of it. If you could, let me know who and when.

                      Here is what I believe is the most natural reading of John 1:1 –

                      JOHN 1:1a … “In the beginning [eternity past, before creation], was the word [Jesus Christ],

                      JOHN 1:1b … “and the word [Jesus Christ] was with [or toward] God [in relation to and interacting with the Father from eternity past – 1 John 1:2-4; John 17:5],

                      JOHN 1:1c … “and the word [Jesus Christ,] was God [Same essence or nature as the Father. The word is true Deity.]

                      I believe this interpretation not only fits naturally verse 1:1 but explains the flow of the verses to follow. Jesus as God is a cumulative case and not solely based on John 1:1c.

                      1. First there are the verses that directly affirm Jesus as God. We have discussed a few of them.

                      2. Then there are the passages where Jesus receives titles elsewhere in Scripture given to God.

                      3. Jesus possesses incommunicable attributes of God that are unique to him.

                      4. Jesus does things that only God can do (such as creates and sustains creation).

                      5. Jesus receives worship, even though he taught only God can receive worship.

                      6. Jesus receives prayer, which is only to be addressed to God.

                      When you say there isn’t much difference between saying Jesus was God or equal to God, I can say this is part of the definition of the Trinity. Theologian James White writes: Within the one being that is God, there exists eternally three coequal and coeternal persons, namely, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Jesus is coequal with the Father and is the second person of the Trinity.

                      Questions I have for you:

                      1. Is your view novel?

                      2. When you say, “In the beginning [of the gospel]”, what do you mean by gospel? How did you come to this conclusion?

                      3. You seem to take John 1:1 and place it after the resurrection. I asked you previously but I couldn’t find your answer as to how you came to that conclusion. Maybe I missed it.



                    • Rivers
                      May 16, 2016 @ 6:23 pm

                      Hi Steve,

                      Thanks again for the thoughtful replay and presenting your interpretive reading of John 1:1-3.

                      1. I can understand why you might think a seemingly “novel” perpective is a “red flag”, but keep in mind that most of what Jesus was teaching seemed like a “new approach” to his contemporaries, including the learned ones (John 7:46). I’m just trying to come up with the most coherent and comprehensive explanation of the apostolic testimony. Hence, there would be no reason for me to claim that anything is “new.”

                      2. The reason I think “in the beginning” (John 1:1a) refers to the time when John the baptizer and Jesus Christ came preaching about the Kingdom of God is because it fits the context of the Prologue (which is about John and Jesus), it fits the way “the beginning” is usually used throughout the 4th Gospel and the John letters (e.g. John 8:25; John 15:27; John 16:4; 1 John 2:24), and it is consistent with how some of the other Gospels use “the beginning” to refer to the time of the baptism of John (Mark 1:1; Luke 1:2-3; Acts 1:1-2, 21-22).

                      3. The reason that I think John 1:1b should be translated “the word was toward [or to] God” (and has resurrection implications) is because that is how PROS TON QEON (“to God”) and the synonymous PROS TON PATERA (“to the Father”) are translated everywhere else they occur in the 4th Gospel (e.g. John 13:1, 3; John 14:6; John 20:17). This language evidently referred to the proximity that the human Jesus would have with God the Father after he ascended into heaven (which occurred before the 4th Gospel was written).

                      One of the critical problems with taking John 1:1b to refer to pre-human fellowship between “the word” and God the Father is that the writer uses the preposition PROS about 90 times in the 4th Gospel and it always has a “directional” (and not “relational”) connotation. Even when PROS is occasionally used with a Stative verb (e.g. EIMI) it still carries the “directional” connotation. Thus, if “with God” is an acceptable translation, it would likely infer that “the word” moved in the direction of (i.e. “to” or “toward”) God the Father from a different location (as PROS TON QEON is used in John 13:3).

                      Whenever the writer of theh 4th Gospel expresses the idea that Jesus (or someone else) was “was with” another person, he always other prepositions (e.g. META). For examples, was Jesus “was with (META)” John the baptizer beyond the Jordan river (John 3:26), and Jesus “was with (META)” his disciples (John 16:4) and the people “were with (META)” Jesus when he raised Lazarus (John 12:17).

                    • Steve Bruecker
                      May 17, 2016 @ 10:36 pm


                      1. So for 2,000 years, scholars all over the world have missed your unique interpretation. This is a major problem with your view. You say you are trying to come up with the most consistent and comprehensive explanation. However, I think you are trying to reach that goal by denying the Trinity, which is the most consistent and comprehensive explanation of the scriptures. As I said in my previous email, the Trinity best explains… 1) Verses that directly affirms Jesus as God. 2) Passages where Jesus receives titles elsewhere in Scripture given to God. 3) Jesus possesses incommunicable attributes of God that are unique to him. 4) Jesus does things that only God can do (such as creates and sustains creation). 5) Jesus receives worship even though he taught only God can receive worship. 6) Jesus receives prayer, which is only to be addressed to God. I can and will provide scriptural support for all these points. Your view has to take into account all 6 major points that only the doctrine of the Trinity solves. Under #4 I will begin this process.

                      2. Where did you get the idea to expand the prologue to include all of chapter 1? Here again is a novel explanation. Based on my limited research, every scholar I’ve seen says the prologue consists of verses 1 – 18 and has nothing to do with John the Baptist. It forms the basis for our understanding that Jesus is fully God and fully man and the implications that flow from that truth. So your conclusions that include John the Baptist are not supported. You then said it fits the way “the beginning” is usually used throughout the 4th Gospel and the John letters (e.g. John 8:25; John 15:27; John 16:4; 1 John 2:24). This assertion doesn’t seem to follow the evidence. John 1:2 “He was in the beginning with God.” Here is using beginning in a similar fashion as John 1:1b. John 8:44 speaks of Satan lying from the beginning, likely referring to the time of Adam and Eve. However, the strongest evidence against your view comes from Revelation. Revelation 21:6 “Then He said to me, ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.’” God the Father is basically saying I am eternal, no beginning, and no end. Then in Revelation 22:13 “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” These are the words of Jesus. He is making the claim he is the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. Jesus makes a powerful claim to deity. His divine nature has no beginning and no end. I am comfortable with the interpretation of the beginning pointing to the creation of the universe (mirroring Genesis 1:1). Combined with John 1:1b & 1:1c we know Jesus existed before creation.

                      3. Your explanation of John 1:1b now doesn’t work. We know that the prologue has nothing to do with John the Baptist and the word beginning refers to creation. From the beginning the second person of the Trinity has been “with God” or shall I say with the Father. As I posted previously Jesus alludes to being with the Father before the creation of the world in John 17:4-5 “I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do. 5 Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.” Jesus was with the Father before creation, which fits nicely with John 1:1a.

                      4. Now for the verses the directly teach Jesus was God, as John 1:1c teaches. We have discussed some of these. John 1:1, “the Word [Jesus] was God.” In John’s gospel Jesus repeatedly assumed for Himself the divine name “I am” (cf. 4:26; 8:24, 28, 58; 13:19:18:5, 6, 8). In 10:30, He claimed to be one in nature and essence with the Father (that the unbelieving Jews recognized this as a claim to deity is clear from their reaction in v. 33; cf. 5:18). Nor did Jesus correct Thomas when he addressed Him as “My Lord and my God!” (20:28); in fact, He praised him for his faith (v. 29). Jesus’ reaction is inexplicable if He were not God.

                      To the Philippians Paul wrote,” [Jesus] existed in the form of God,” possessing absolute “equality with God” (Phil. 2:6). In Colossians 2:9 he declared, “For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form.” Romans 9:5 refers to Christ as “God blessed forever”; Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1 call Him “our God and Savior.” God the Father addressed the Son as God in Hebrews 1:8: “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, and the righteous scepter is the scepter of His kingdom.” In his first epistle John referred to Jesus Christ as “the true God” (1 John 5:20).

                      These verses support the Trinitarian view of God which supports the most consistent and comprehensive explanation of the scriptures.


                    • Rivers
                      May 18, 2016 @ 9:26 am

                      Hi Steve,

                      1. I don’t think the opinion of other scholars is the final authority on what Jesus and the apostles were teaching. Moreover, it’s presumptuous to think that any interpretation of scripture is “unique” or “novel.” History only represents a very small (and incomplete) record of what various people have thought throughout the ages. Jesus did many things that we aren’t aware of either (John 20:30).

                      2. I understand that many Christians think the the Trinity doctrine is the “best” way to explain the same evidence. However, this shouldn’t be the final determination either. Every one should consider the biblical testimony for himself and make up his own mind. These issues have been debated (and unresolved) for hundreds of years among sincere believers. I also think each generation should be willing to take a fresh look at the evidence.

                      3. I’m puzzled by your claim that “the Prologue has nothing to do with John the baptizer” when he’s explicitly mentioned in John 1:6-9, 15. I read a lot of scholarly books and articles and I can’t think of any that deny that John the baptizer is an important figure introduced in the Prologue along with Jesus Christ.

                      4. There is no word for “creation” in the Prologue and the word “beginning” is certainly not limited to the time of Genesis. The apostles understood that “the beginning of the gospel” was the time of John’s baptism (Mark 1:1; Acts 1:21-22). This “beginning” was the historical context in which Jesus Christ was revealed to Israel (John 1:7-8; John 1:29-34).

                      5. I agree that the writer of the 4th Gospel probably used “the beginning” to refer to things that happened before the apostolic era (John 9:32, and maybe John 8:44; 1 John 3:8). My point was only that this is the exception. The writer refers to “the beginning” as the time when Jesus was with his disciples much more often.

                      6. I see “Alpha and Omega, beginning and end” differently than you do because the apostles understood that “in Christ, there is a new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15) because Jesus was “the beginning of the creation of God” (Revelation 3:14) as “the firstborn of all creation … the firstborn from among the dead” (Colossians 1:15, 18). I don’t think this language was being applied to Jesus Christ on account of anything that happened in Genesis.

                      7. I understand how you are reading John 17:5, but I don’t think it’s the only possibility. Another plausible explanation of the “before the world began” language in John 17:5 is that Jesus was referring to is entitlement to inherit the world that God the Father had already established before Jesus was born (just like I will inherit everything that belongs to my own father even though much of his wealth was attained before I ever existed). I can claim that I “have” my father’s wealth on account of being his appointed heir and not by virtue any kind of preexistence. See Galatians 4:1-2.

                      8. I also agree that Jesus was “a MAN making himself out to be God” (John 10:33). This is because he was an human being “claiming that God was his own Father” (John 5:18). This was merely a claim to be “the son of God” (John 10:36; John 19:7) not God himself. The term “only begotten God” in John 1:18 expresses the same thing. It refers to an human being (“son of man”) who is given authority over God’s kingdom (Daniel 7:13-14).

                      9. My understanding of “existing [Present Participle] in the form of God” (Philippians 2:6) is that Paul was talking about the “glorified body” that Jesus had at the time he was writing the letter (Philippians 3:21) which was after the resurrection (Philippians 2:9-11).

                      10. My understanding of Colossians 2:9 is that Paul was speaking of the “church” being “the fulness of God” in “the body of Christ” (Ephesians 1:22-23; 1 Corinthians 12:13). I don’t think this text is speaking of Jesus Christ as an individual being.

                      I’m sorry for the long reply. I hope it helps to further clarify where we have similarities and differences.

                    • Steve Bruecker
                      May 22, 2016 @ 8:16 pm


                      1. You are right John the Baptist is mentioned in the prologue, but what is he doing. He is a witness to the light (Jesus). John later writes in 1 John 1:5 that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. God the Father is the light and so is Jesus. This makes sense if Jesus is God. Therefore my point still stands: The prologue forms the basis for our understanding that Jesus is fully God and fully man and the implications that flow from that truth.

                      2. I believe John 1:1a beautifully mirrors Genesis 1:1 (“In the beginning” in both). If John had wanted it to read “the beginning of the gospel” (Mark 1:1) he would have written it that way. Even though it doesn’t say the word creation, the flow beginning at John 1:1 says Jesus is God (1:1c) and he is the creator of all things (1:3) and he made the world (1:10). Jesus is the uncreated creator (Also Col. 1:16-18 & Heb. 1:2). Both verses 3 & 10 make reference to the creation event, which fits nicely with the word beginning, which I contend harkens back to Genesis 1:1.

                      3. Trying to dismiss my interpretation of John 17:5 looks to be a desperate effort to save your view. John 17:5 “Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.” You are taking a very plain sounding text and I contend you are reading your beliefs into it. John 17:5 teaches the second person of the Trinity was with the Father (John 1:1b) and asking for the glory he had before the world was created.

                      4. Concerning Colossians 2:9, in context there doesn’t seem to be any leeway for Paul to be speaking about the church. This entire section is about Jesus Christ. Colossians 2:8-12 “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. 9 For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, 10 and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority; 11 and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; 12 having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.” Jesus is central in verses 8-12. Verse 8 ends with “…rather than according to Christ.” Then verse 9 begins with, “For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form.” Jesus has the fullness of Deity dwelling in bodily form. The verses immediately before verse 9 are about Jesus and the verses that follow are all about Jesus.

                      5. Last post I presented the Bible affirms that Jesus is God. Now I will focus on how the Bible teaches Jesus Christ receives titles elsewhere in Scripture given to God. As noted in the direct statements, Jesus took for Himself the divine name “I am” (Rivers, I noticed you are in a discussion on this topic). In John 12:40 John quoted Isaiah 6:10, a passage which in Isaiah’s vision refers to God (cf. Isa. 6:5). Yet in verse 41 John declared, “These things Isaiah said because he saw His [Christ’s; cf. vv. 36, 37, 42] glory, and he spoke of Him.” Jeremiah prophesied that the Messiah would be called “The Lord [YHWH] our righteousness” (Jer. 23:6).

                      God and Jesus are both called Shepherd (Ps. 23:1-John 10:14); Judge (Gen. 18:25-2 Tim. 4:1, 8); Holy One (Isa. 10:20-Ps. 16:10; Acts 2:27; 3:14); First and Last (Isa. 44:6; 48:12-Rev. 1:17; 22:13); Light (Ps. 27:1-John 8:12); Lord of the Sabbath (Ex. 16:23, 29; Lev. 19:3-Matt. 12:8); Savior (Isa. 43:11-Acts 4:12; Titus 2:13); Pierced One (Zech. 12:10-John 19:37); Mighty God (Isa. 10:21-Isa. 9:6); Lord of lords (Deut. 10:17-Rev. 17:14); Alpha and Omega (Rev. 1:8-Rev. 22:13); Lord of Glory (Ps. 24:10-1 Cor. 2:8); and Redeemer (Isa. 41:14; 48:17; 63:16-Eph. 1:7; Heb. 9:12).


                    • Rivers
                      May 23, 2016 @ 7:59 pm

                      Hi Steve,

                      Thanks for continuing the friendly dialogue. I’ll try to keep my responses to your points as brief as possible.

                      1. I think the “God is light” (1 John 1:5) is better understood as a figurative reference (like “God is love”, 1 John 4:8, 16). I think it would be problematic to make this a basis for claiming that “Jesus = God” since ordinary believers are also said to be “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). Thus, the writer probably meant that Jesus was living by the grace and truth of God in the same way that his disciples were to live while they were left in the world.

                      2. I agree that “the beginning” and “light” and “darkness” allude to the Genesis creation language. However, when I look at how these terms are developed throughout the rest of the 4th Gospel, it’s evident that the writer uses them to refer to the circumstances of Jesus’ public ministry. This begins right in the Prologue where the writer said that John the baptizer was “sent to testify about the light” (John 1:7). This could not have happened in Genesis 1:1, but was referring to the time when Jesus was “the light of the world while in the world” with his disciples (John 9:4-5).

                      3. I don’t mean to “dismiss” your reading of John 17:5 (as it is certainly the most popular one). I’m just pointing out that there are other ways to interpret the same language. Based upon the rest of the things that Jesus said in the 4th Gospel, I just think it’s more likely that he was speaking of “inheriting” his Father’s “glory” (John 17:1-2) and not Preexistence. Any appointed “heir” would already be the “owner” of his father’s wealth even before actually receiving it (cf. Galatians 4:1-2).

                      4. When I read Colossians 2:8, I see “in Christ” being contrasted with “the tradition of men” (which is a group). Thus, I think “in Christ” should be taken to refer to a group (i.e. the church body of Christian believes). Moreover, the following verse refers to Jesus himself as the “head” (which makes no sense if “the fullness of God in a body” is referring to an individual person. I think if you read the parallel passage in Ephesians 1:22-23, you can see what Paul meant (using the same language) in Colossians 2:9-10.

                      5. We can certainly focus more specifically on “I am” (EGW EIMI) in John 8:58, but I don’t think it was the “divine name” at all. I think it was just the ordinary way that a Koine Greek writer or speaker would identify himself. The Hebrew reference to God’s name in Exodus 3:14 is different (translated “EGW EIMI O WN” in the LXX). I would also argue that the grammar in John 8:58 is likely referring to the resurrection of Abraham and not the Preexistence of Jesus.

                      6. I understand your application of Isaiah 6 to the language in John 12:40 but I don’t think that takes the context into consideration. Rather, I think John 12:37-38 indicates that the writer of the 4th Gospel meant that Isaiah predicted the “arm of the Lord” being revealed through the “signs” that Jesus was performing during his public ministry which revealed the “glory” of Jesus (cf. John 2:11).

                    • Steve Bruecker
                      May 26, 2016 @ 7:52 pm


                      As much as I have enjoyed our online conversation, it seems we have hit a wall based on our presuppositions. As I have demonstrated my explanations align with my Trinity viewpoint and your responses do not. Since my view is cumulative and I think is well supported by the Bible, I will conclude my defense of the Trinity with the last 4 points of why I believe Jesus is God.

                      1) Verses that directly affirms Jesus as God. (Previous post)

                      2) Passages where Jesus receives titles elsewhere in Scripture given to God. (Previous post)

                      3) Jesus Christ possesses the incommunicable attributes of God, those unique to Him. Scripture reveals Christ to be eternal (Mic. 5:2; Isa. 9:6), omnipresent (Matt. 18:20; 28:20), omniscient (Matt. 11:27; John 16:30; 21:17), omnipotent (Phil. 3:21), immutable (Heb. 13:8), sovereign (Matt. 28:18), and glorious (John 17:5; 1 Cor. 2:8; cf. Isa. 42:8; 48:11, where God states that He will not give His glory to another).

                      4) Jesus Christ does the works that only God can do. He created all things (John 1:3; Col. 1:16), sustains the creation (Col. 1:17; Heb. 1:3), raises the dead (John 5:21; 11:25-44), forgives sin (Mark 2:10; cf. v. 7), and His word stands forever (Matt. 24:35; cf. Isa. 40:8).

                      5) Jesus Christ received worship (Matt. 14:33; 28:9; John 9:38; Phil. 2:10; Heb. 1:6)—even though He taught that only God is to be worshiped (Matt. 4:10). Scripture also records that both holy men (Acts 10:25-26) and holy angels (Rev. 22:8-9) refused worship.

                      6) Jesus Christ received prayer, which is only to be addressed to God (John 14:13-14; Acts 7:59-60; 1 John 5:13-15).

                      It has been a pleasure interacting with you but this will be my last post. I will give you the last word in this conversation.


                    • Rivers
                      May 26, 2016 @ 9:22 pm

                      Hi Steve,

                      Yes, there is somewhat of a disconnect because Trinitarians and Biblical Unitarians sort out the biblical evidence differently. Hopefully, as a Biblical Unitarian, I’m approaching the reading of certain texts differently because it fits better into a coherent and comprehensive explanation of apostolic Christology.

                      Of course, I understand that Trinitarians believe that they are doing the same thing. The value of these dialogues is that every one can consider the different perspectives for himself and make up his own mind. I think the best theory should be able to stand up to the best criticism. Thus, I appreciate the opportunity to hear your critical input.

                      1. I agree that there are a couple of texts that indicate that Jesus was “making himself out to be God” (e.g. John 1:1; John 5:18; John 10:30). I have to account for those. I just think the sense in which Jesus was “making himself equal with God” has nothing to do with Preexistence, Incarnation, or ontological substance.

                      2. I would respond to each of those passages by pointing out that the same “titles” are given to other people besides Jesus. Thus, it doesn’t logically follow that a title shared by God the Father and Jesus Christ requires an absolute identity or unique substance.

                      3. I agree that the authority, power, and glory of God were all “given” to Jesus Christ. However, none of this was evident until after he was born and received holy spirit power. Thus, I think it’s reasonable to conclude that an human being could receive and utilize those attributes.

                      4. The significant difference between our perspectives on the relationship between Jesus and “creation” is that I understand the creative acts attributed to Jesus to be the result of his resurrection and glorification and not Preexistence. Again, I would simply argue that none of those things were attributed to Jesus until after he was glorified subsequent to his birth, death, and resurrection (John 7:39). Paul said “in Christ, there is a new creation” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

                      5. The “worship” issue is another one where I would simply point out that it was something not limited to YHWH himself in scripture. Even after the resurrection of Jesus, we find that John the Revelator had no hesitation to worship an angel (Revelation 22:8-9). The Mosaic order was a “religion of angels” (Colossians 2:18) since the Law was “mediated by angels” (Galatians 3:19). The angels were the “majestic authorities” (Jude 1:8) to whom the people were “subjected” before the coronation of Jesus (Hebrews 2:2-5).

                      6. Again, we only know that Jesus heard “prayer” after he was born, was raised, and glorified. There is no evidence that this was taking place at an earlier time. Thus, I think it’s reasonable to suggest that this is something that went along with his exalted position after the resurrection (Hebrews 1:2-4).

                      7. Thanks. It’s been a pleasure to dialogue with you here as well. 🙂

                    • Sean Garrigan
                      May 18, 2016 @ 8:08 pm

                      Hi Steve,

                      You raised a number of points, and I don’t want to hijack your conversation with Rivers, but I would like to offer a few brief comments about a few particulars.

                      1. Actually, taking “the beginning” as a reference to the beginning of the Gospel isn’t unique to Rivers. It was promulgated by Socinian-type Unitarians going at least as far back as the early 1800s. One finds the following footnote in “The New Testament in An Improved Version, Upon the Basis of Archbishop Newcome’s New Translation:

                      “+ in the beginning.] Or, from the first, i.e. from the commencement of the dispensation, or of the ministry of Christ. This is the usual sense of the word in the writings of the evangelist. John vi. 64, Jesus knew from the beginning, or from the first; ch. xv. 27, ye have been with me from the beginning. See ch. xvi. 14; ii. 24; iii. 11; also 1 John i. 1; ii. 7, 8; 2 John 6, 7. Nor is this sense of the word uncommon in other passages of the New Testament. 2 Thess. ii. 13; Phil. iv. 15; Luke i. 2.” (p. 200, footnote ad loc cit).

                      2. Compelling arguments have been offered to suggest that Jesus is not called the Alpha and Omega in Revelation. Have you encountered any of those in your dialogues? Here’s a very good one:


                      3. IMO, the Harner-Dixon-ion interpretation of John 1:1c is about the least likely understanding. Aside from their desperate butchering of language itself to try and secure their ‘Q hypothesis’, the context seems to speak much more loudly for a functional application of QEOS than it does for an ontological one. The LOGOS’s work _as an agent of God_ begins with original creation itself and extends into his life as a man, and after his resurrection.

                      Marianne Meye Thompson helps us to understand why “God” was applied to the LOGOS:

                      “The opening words of the Gospel raise the problem of Johannine Christology in acute form when they say both that the Word was with God, thereby implying a distinction between the Word and God, and that the Word was God…

                      …Here the category of agency sheds light…A common saying in the rabbis was ‘the one who is sent is like the one who sent him’ or ‘a man’s agent is equivalent to himself’ (m. Ber. 5:5;b. B. Mes. 96a; b. hag. 10b; b. Menah. 93b; b. Nazir 12b; b. Qidd. 42b, 43a). Because the saliah may act on behalf of the one who sent him, when one deals with the saliah it is as if one is dealing with the one who sent that person.

                      Jesus is presented in the Gospel against the backdrop of the Jewish concept of agency and, furthermore, against the understanding that there is one chief agent through whom God acts…. Clearly the Word is understood as God’s chief and exclusive agent in creation (1:3).” (Marianne Meye Thompson, in “Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels”, Intervarsity Press, 1992), pp. 376, 377

                      This understanding lines up very nicely with what James D.G. Dunn expressed:

                      “The fact that even when describing the Logos as god/god (1.1), John may distinguish two uses of the title from each other is often noted but too little appreciated. The distinction is possibly made by the use of the definite article with theos and the absence of the definite article in the same sentence… As we see in Philo, in his exposition of Genesis 31.13 (De Somniis 1.227-30)…John’s Gospel does not attempt similar clarification in his use of God/god for the Logos… But in possibly making (or allowing to be read) a distinction between God (ho theos) and the Logos (theos) the Evangelist may have had in mind a similar qualification in the divine status to be recognized for Christ. Jesus was God, in that he made God known, in that God made himself known in and through him, in that he was God’s effective outreach to his creation and to his people. But he was not God in himself.” (Did the First Christians Worship Jesus), pp. 134 & 135

                      I think it’s impossible to deny that what Dunn there describes, i.e. that Jesus “…made God known, in that God made himself known in and through him, in that he was God’s effective outreach to his creation and his people,” and this lines up beautifully with the agency paradigm.

                      5. You make much of the potential application of divine titles to Jesus, but during that time this was not that uncommon. Angels, Moses, judges, and kings had such titles applied to them in the OT, DSS, Philo, etc., without any suggestion that the writers meant to abandon monotheism, and the subordination of such individuals was taken for granted. As I’ve said before, this was common enough that it’s not only not surprising to find that divine titles were applied to Jesus, but it would be downright shocking if they weren’t!

                      About Philippians 2 and “Morphe”, you might enjoy this article by Hellerman:


                      Note this comment in particular:

                      “Given the meaning of [hARPAGMON] outlined above, it is somewhat difficult to discern how Christ could potentially have regarded his [OUSIA] or essential nature as ‘something to be exploited.’ How does one exploit one’s essence? The problem is immediately resolved by taking [EINAI ISA QEWi] (and, by extension, [MORFHi QEOU]) in a non-substantial sense, referring to rank or status. For it is quite easy to see how Christ could have regarded his position of power and prestige as ‘something to be exploited.’ And ‘position of power’ or ‘authority’ is precisely the way in which the idea ‘equality with God’ is used in several biblical and extrabiblical parallels” (ibid, p. 788)

                      The most extensive study of Morphe that I’m aware of is the one done by Daniel J. Fabricatore, entitled “Form of God, Form of a Servant: An Examination of the Greek Noun [MORPHE] in Philippians 2:6-7”. He concluded his study with these words:

                      “This study assumed a synchronic approach over a diachronic approach for determining word meaning…an exhaustive lexical examination of [MORPHE] was undertaken in various areas of Greek literature. The overwhelming majority of uses of [MORPHE] in all of Greek literature denoted the idea of the form or shape of someone or something, but even more critical, the uses expressed the fact that [MORPHE] denoted a form or shape that was observable by sight. The majority of uses then fell into the category of visible appearance. A SMALL MINORITY OF EXAMPLES WERE FOUND THAT DENOTED THE ESSENCE OR NATURE OF A PERSON OR THING [emphasis mine]. However, even in several of these uses, the [MORPHE] was referring to the visible appearance that described the underlying nature. This semantic range was stable and remained in place for over 600 years.”

                      Donald Macleod studied the usage of Morphe, and presented his findings in “Jesus is Lord, Christology Yesterday and Today”. Here’s a brief snippet:

                      “The clue to the meaning of [MORPHE] is probably to be found not in the classical philosophers but in the Septuagint…[MORPHE] is virtually synonymous with eidos and homoioma, the usual words for appearance. This can be seen from such passages as Job 4:16, Isaiah 44:13 and Daniel 3:19. Job 4:16, for example, reads: ‘It (a spirit) stood still, but I could not discern its appearance. A form was before my eyes; there was silence, then I heard a voice’ (RSV). The parallelism here makes clear that appearance and form (homoioma and [MORPHE]) are synonymous. [MORPHE] is the appearance appropriate to God.”

                      He goes on to point out that the appearance appropriate to God is his glory, and we know that man is the glory of God (1 Cor 11:7).

                      So Hellerman observed that understanding Morphe to suggest “nature” may be contextually problematic, and the other quoted studies eliminate the problem by showing that (a) that’s not what the word normally signifies in general usage and (b) it’s not what it signified in the Bible.

                      I would say that if MORPHE does suggest “nature” at Philippians 2, then the “nature” probably in view would be “spirit” (Jn 4:24), which could yield this paraphrase:

                      “Although he was a powerful spirit being like God (his heavenly ‘image’), he did not consider equality with God as something to be grasped for”


                    • Rivers
                      May 19, 2016 @ 9:14 am


                      Thanks for pointing out the footnote regarding the “usual” use of “the beginning” in the 4th Gospel.

                      Regardless of what people thought several hundred years ago, anyone today can quickly search how “the beginning” was used in the John books and see that the writer normally used it with reference to the time when the human Jesus was with his disciples. It’s hard to imagine that “Socinian-type Unitarians” were the first to figure it out.

                    • Sean Garrigan
                      May 19, 2016 @ 6:49 pm

                      “Thanks for pointing out the footnote regarding the “usual” use of “the beginning” in the 4th Gospel.”

                      Well, I was just trying to help Steve recognize that the view wasn’t idiosyncratic to you. Happy to help.

                      “Regardless of what people thought several hundred years ago, anyone today can quickly search how “the beginning” was used in the John books and see that the writer normally used it with reference to the time when the
                      human Jesus was with his disciples. It’s hard to imagine that “Socinian-type Unitarians” were the first to figure it out.”

                      I would put it differently, as I’m sure you probably realize. I wouldn’t say that Socinian-type Unitarians figured it out, but that they mistakenly assumed that those other usages inform John 1:1, where such an understanding doesn’t really seem to be a very good fit in my opinion and in the opinion of the vast majority of interpreters. It’s really quite striking how diverse the various perspectives can be.


                    • Rivers
                      May 19, 2016 @ 7:38 pm


                      You are right that “in the beginning” should ultimately be understood
                      correctly in the context of the Prologue when it is used in John 1:1. However, recognizing that the writer of the 4th Gospel used “the beginning” most often to refer to the time of the public ministry of Jesus means that one cannot assume that “in the beginning” was intended to be a quotation of Genesis 1:1.

                      Either “beginning” can be made to fit the context (based upon how one interprets other terms in the immediate context). The question remains as to which historical period the writer was referring to. We can also take into account that other Gospel writers used “the beginning” to refer to the time of the public ministry of Jesus as well (Mark 1:4; Acts 1:21-22) and explicitly associated “the word” (Luke 1:2-3, LOGOS) with “the beginning” of the public ministry of Jesus.

                    • Steve Bruecker
                      May 26, 2016 @ 9:01 am


                      Yes I am familiar with the JW answer to the Alpha and Omega issue. The resource you sent was very helpful and appreciated. Sorry for the length of my reply.

                      1. The Book of Revelations is all about Jesus Christ. Revelation 1:1-3 “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John, 2 who testified to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. 3 Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near.”

                      The question is, how was the information communicated in the book of Revelations? I would say in verses 1-3 there were four stages in the transmission: God the Father to Christ, Christ to his angel, the angel to John, and John to his servants. It seems we occasionally find direct quotes by the Father and other times Jesus.

                      Verses 1:6 & 7, leading into 1:8, are about Jesus. Revelation 1:6-7 “…and He [Jesus] has made us to be a kingdom, priests to His God and Father—to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. 7 BEHOLD, HE [JESUS] IS COMING WITH THE CLOUDS, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen.” Many scholars connect 7 with 8, and that Jesus is announcing he is the Alpha and Omega. I will not make that case. For sake of argument, I will allow you to say the Father speaking.

                      I am more interested beginning my argument in Revelation 1:17-18 “When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. And He placed His right hand on me, saying, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, 18 and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.”

                      Jesus identified Himself as the first and the last (cf. 2:8; 22:13), a title used of God in the Old Testament (Isa. 44:6; 48:12; cf. 41:4). When all false gods have come and gone, only He remains. He existed before them and will continue to exist eternally, long after they have been forgotten. Jesus’ application of that title to Himself is another powerful proof of His deity.

                      Another title of deity Jesus claimed is that of the living One (cf. John 1:4; 14:6). That also is a title used throughout Scripture to describe God (e.g., Josh. 3:10; 1 Sam. 17:26; Ps. 84:2; Hos. 1:10; Matt. 16:16; 26:63; Acts 14:15; Rom. 9:26; 2 Cor. 3:3; 6:16; 1 Thess. 1:9; 1 Tim. 3:15; 4:10; Heb. 3:12; 9:14; 10:31; Rev. 7:2). God is the eternal, uncaused, self-existent One. In John 5:26 Jesus said to His Jewish opponents, “Just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself,” thus claiming full equality with God the Father.

                      Now let’s examine the key verses, Revelation 22:12-13 “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”

                      Beginning in Revelations 22:1, we see John writing about what the angel has shown him. Then starting in verse 6 the angel speaks to John. In verse 7 the angel quotes Jesus. We know this because in v. 20 it says Jesus is coming quickly. I couldn’t find any verse that says the Father is coming quickly.

                      Back to Rev. 22:12-13, the first piece of evidence is the speaker claims to be the first and the last, a title for God in the OT. As I said previously, Revelation 1:17, 18 Jesus claims to be the first and the last. Second, who is coming quickly? We know Jesus is coming quickly because he says he is in Revelation 22:20 “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming quickly.’ Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.” Jesus says he is going to come suddenly in Revelation 3:3 “So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. Therefore if you do not wake up, I [Jesus] will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you.” Later Jesus says, Revelation 3:11 “I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown.” And as shown above Jesus is coming quickly in Rev. 22:12 and 22:20. When does the Father say he is coming quickly? In the booklet you sent me, the verses it listed did not show the Father coming quickly. The Father is to come (1:4) but not in this unique way. It is only Jesus who is said to be coming quickly and therefore identifies himself as the speaker. Next we know Jesus is going to render to every man according what he has done (Matt. 16:27 and Rev. 2:23).

                      In Rev. 22:16 we see Jesus summarizing all that was said in the Book of Revelations. He reiterates that he sent his angel to reveal this information to John (1:1), who made it known to others. Therefore, I conclude it is the words of Jesus in Revelations 22:12 & 13.

                      2. On the issue of Philippians 2, I contend it is best to translate the Greek word “morphe” as nature based on the context. You quoted a few scholars who disagree (I have no idea their background) and I could easily counter with my scholars who agree with me. In fact after reading your explanation, I quickly checked Vines Greek Dictionary (I’ve had JWs accept Vines) and here is what it said:

                      Denotes “the special or characteristic form or feature” of a person or thing; it is used with particular significance in the NT, only of Christ, in Phil. 2:6, 7, in the phrases “being in the form of God,” and “taking the form of a servant.” An excellent definition of the word is that of Gifford: “morph? is therefore properly the nature or essence, not in the abstract, but as actually subsisting in the individual, and retained as long as the individual itself exists. … Thus in the passage before us morph? Theou is the Divine nature actually and inseparably subsisting in the Person of Christ. … For the interpretation of ‘the form of God’ it is sufficient to say that (1) it includes the whole nature and essence of Deity, and is inseparable from them, since they could have no actual existence without it; and (2) that it does not include in itself anything ‘accidental’ or separable, such as particular modes of manifestation, or conditions of glory and majesty, which may at one time be attached to the ‘form,’ at another separated from it. …

                      The true meaning of morph? in the expression ‘form of God’ is confirmed by its recurrence in the corresponding phrase, ‘form of a servant.’ It is universally admitted that the two phrases are directly antithetical, and that ‘form’ must therefore have the same sense in both.” * [* From Gillford, “The Incarnation,” pp. 16,19,39.] Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Old Testament and New Testament Words

                      As Vine’s states, the expression ‘form of God,’ is confirmed by the phrase ‘form of a servant.’ I usually ask JWs was Jesus a human. They always say yes. I tell them this corresponds to what is said in Philippians 2:6-8. If he was in the form of a servant = fully human, then he must be fully divine as Jesus was in the form of God.

                      Also Jesus as God fits with what is said about him a few verses later in Philippians 2:9-11 “For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” These words support the deity of Christ, as they are found to be quoted about God in Isaiah 45:23 “I have sworn by Myself, The word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness And will not turn back, that to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance.” In Isaiah these words were spoken by God about himself and in Philippians, they are applied to Jesus. Jesus is truly God and truly man.


    • Dale Tuggy
      April 24, 2016 @ 10:27 pm

      Hi Steve. Thanks for the comment. I know that what you gave passes as a definition of “the Trinity” in some apologetics circles. But the first two claims are extremely ambiguous – so much so, that until one clears up what they mean, there is no point in hunting around for scriptures which allegedly support the claims – whatever they are! Here’s a place to start, regarding your 2: http://trinities.org/blog/10-steps-towards-getting-less-confused-about-the-trinity-6-same-ousia-part-1/

      • Steve Bruecker
        April 28, 2016 @ 8:47 pm


        As I read your two articles on the doctrine of the Trinity neither talked about the three persons of the Triune God. If you leave out any reference to persons, then it is easy to show the Trinity is a contradiction and you don’t need 10 premises to do so. One God in three gods is a contradiction.

        This is why as the early church fathers at the end of the second century in their descriptions of the Biblical God began to use the term “persons” to describe the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Person here refers to non-physical traits such as the ability to love, rationality, and will, to name a few. It was Tertullian’s wording, using persons, that was foundational for the church’s definition of the Trinity: God is one in essence or substance yet three in persons. This formula meant that the Father is fully God, the Son is fully God, and the Holy Spirit is fully God, and the three are distinct from each other; yet God is only one, inseparable in essence.

        Tertullian formulated the clearest doctrine of the Trinity that the church had developed until that time. Speaking of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit he writes… “All are of one, by unity…of substance; while the mystery of the economy is still guarded, which distributes the unity into a Trinity, placing in their order the three persons – the Father, the Son, and Holy Spirit. Three, however, not in condition but in degree; not in substance, but in form; not in power, but in appearance. Yet they are of one substance and one condition and of one power, inasmuch as he is one God from whom these degrees and forms and aspects are reckoned under the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Tertuallian, Against Praxeas, 2 in ANF, 3:621

        Writing around the same time as Tertullian, Hippolytus used person as he referred to John 1:1: “Yes, then, the Word was with God, and was also God, what follows? Would one say he speaks of two Gods? I shall not indeed speak of two Gods, but of one; of two persons, however, and that the third economy, viz., the grace of the Holy Spirit. The Father indeed is one, but there are two persons, because there is also the Son; and then there is a third, the Holy Spirit. The Father decrees, the Word executes, and the Son is manifested, through whom the Father is believed on. The economy of harmony is led back to one God; for God is one. It is the Father who commands, and the Son who will obeys, and the Holy Spirit who gives understanding: the Father who is above all, and the Son who is through all, and the Holy Spirit who is in all.” Hippolytus, Against the Heresy of One Noetus, 14, in ANF 5:228

        A solid definition of the Trinity: Within the one Being that is God, there exists eternally three coequal and coeternal persons, namely, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. James White, The Forgotten Trinity, p. 26. One God subsisting in three persons Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is not contradictory.

        What is your definition of the Trinity?


    • Miguel de Servet
      April 25, 2016 @ 12:53 pm


      allow me to comment on your comment. The problem is not with your definition of the Trinity, which is the traditional one, but with your claim that it is supported by the Bible.

      • Steve Bruecker
        April 25, 2016 @ 1:06 pm

        I supported each point with Bible verses. Which verses do you contend doesn’t support the point? How do you come to that conclusion?

  7. Steve Bruecker
    April 17, 2016 @ 9:57 am

    Your argument has issues with definitions. Here are two of the problems:

    1. You are mixing up the “Is” of identity and the “Is” of predication. Good articles can be found dealing with this issue at:



    2. The Greek word for God “Theos” can represent the Triune God or a member of the Trinity or the Father. Wayne Grudem writes in his book Systematic Theology: “When we realize that the New Testament authors generally use the name ‘God’ (Gk. theos) to refer to God the Father and the name ‘Lord’ (Gk. kyrios) to refer to God the Son, then it is clear that there is another Trinitarian expression in 1 Corinthians 12:4–6: ‘Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in every one.’ Similarly, the last verse of 2 Corinthians is Trinitarian in its expression: ‘The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all’ (2 Cor. 13:14) .’ In addition we see the three persons mentioned separately in Ephesians 4:4–6; 1 Peter 1:2, and Jude 20–21.”


  8. Robert Dryer
    March 24, 2016 @ 5:33 am

    Here’s my attempt to knock down premise 1 only because it sounds like a fun challenge. Let me know where I’m wrong:


    • Robert Dryer
      March 29, 2016 @ 5:22 pm

      And to be clear, the point is, if Jesus is a sufficient referent to the concept of God it is our philosophy of the identity of God that needs to change not the other way around, as saying “Jesus is God” is a referential problem not an identity problem. Furthermore, the traditional concept of God is abstract enough and transcendent enough to include an ontologically real, albeit subjective aspect of its identity. The condition of satisfaction to include such an ontoloigcally subjective category into the concept would be if we had an epistemically objective reason to say such a thing: which we do in Jesus and the Spirit. At least, if you’re an orthodox Christian that is. Tuggy’s argument ignores the sufficiency and the need to refer to God through and by Jesus, because the concept (Christian God) can’t be separated because Jesus is an onotologically subjective and essential aspect of whatever God is, biblically and revelatory speaking.

    • Dale Tuggy
      April 17, 2016 @ 3:28 pm

      Hi Robert – thanks for this. Have been buried under a busy semester – sorry for not replying sooner. I hope to include part of this in the follow up episode. Not sure when that’ll be. For now, briefly: Father, Son, and Spirit are subjective? I take it you mean that they are appearances or experiences? I think most trinitarians would deny that that’s what they mean. Also, Jesus is a real self – not a mere manifestation of some other self. But you said that “God” is an “It.” Oy. I have to go with the NT on that. Anyway, if you grant that Jesus is not tri-personal, and you affirm that God is tri-personal, then you agree with premise 1. If you think God is an ineffable Ultimate Reality, and Jesus is a subjective experience of such, then again, you agree with 1. But I thought you were denying, or at least casting doubt on 1. If, as you argue, I’m wrong about some of the differences, that’s OK. But if there’s only one difference, 1 is true. So, I guess I don’t quite understand what you think the problem with 1 is. 1 seems to be implied by both my views and yours.

      • Robert Dryer
        April 17, 2016 @ 7:54 pm

        Thanks Dale. You’re probably right I just thought I’d take a stab at takin down the whole argument if possible. 🙂 I really am not emotionally vested to what I said. Let give some background to my attempt:

        What comes to mind to your “self” (as faithful as it is to the Bible) is medieval Christianity and particularly platonic Christianity which posits God in completely transcendent terms, like “wholly other,” for example. Of course this is problematic because they want God to be incomprehensible yet have father, son and spirit language. So I was poorly attempting to bring this in, in an attempt to see if it would fly. But one has to be ok with the whole incompressible part.

        As to my own schema of doing this by interpreting this attempt through John Searle’s distinctions, that is, between the two senses both the ontological and epistemic have (they both have objective and subjective senses)…Well, I was assuming if the medievals are right then the incomprehensible otherness of God is salvageable, and defensible against your self definition of God, if we posit God as a unique ontological objective category and the three persons of the trinity as subjective aspects of that reality BUT (also) we say traditional trinitarian things about them in epistemically objective ways. So there is clearly father, son and spirit because of revelation but they’re aspects of something that is not a self.

        I think your dismissal of this idea via the Bible is pretty good! So I can take this video down if you want? Again, I was just trying cause it sounded like a fun challenge to take down the whole argument. Thanks for the reply. 🙂

  9. Nate
    March 18, 2016 @ 8:36 am

    What about Jesus as Emanuel? If you take a cutting from a rose bush and relocate it, is one thing now or two?

  10. Damien Spillane
    February 14, 2016 @ 6:54 pm

    Hi Dale many thanks for your insightful podcast. I’m a first time commenter. I’m undertaking a Phd in Philosophy atm and am proposing a unique solution to this.

    I’m a trinitarian and my response would be to say that I think your argument is sound but to say instead that Jesus and the Father are One – leaving aside the HS – with each member existing under something like different modes of presentation. Each of the first two members of the Trinity necessarily occupy a two place relationship with each other. So the Father is revealed through…….. And the Son is determined by……… In this sense they are two beings with seperate existence conditions but have being in the Fregean ‘unsaturated’ sense. So following Frege again, we can say both that God is One and God is Three. The numeral operator is relative in this sense.

    I’m not proposing a Geach/van Inwagen type relative identity thesis. But this also uniquely resolves the OT passages where single God is referred to as a personal being. If the Son is in the image of the Father (something like an isomorphism) which means the Son reveals the Father and the Father is in a determinative relationship with the Son (that is, the Father causes the Son in some way and dictates his ministry). This explains how precisely one God can be more than one and yet uniquely personal.

  11. Vexing Links (2/13/2016) | vexing questions
    February 13, 2016 @ 6:49 pm

    […] Tuggy poses his “Jesus is God” challenge.  Perhaps when I have time, I will offer a substantive critique, but I think there are issues with […]

  12. Benjamin Scott
    February 9, 2016 @ 1:52 am


    This is my first post. I really appreciate your podcast Sir. Thank-you so much for your hard work and dedication to this task over these years! I’ve listened from episode 1-121 now, time traveling through the last few years. I’ve almost caught up to the present and will surely engage more on the blog here now that I’m almost current.

    I’ve been engaging with a few people just on youtube discussions, all of whom have asserted that the trinity is easy for them to understand. One thing that is really popping out to me tonight as I have interacted with them, is the continuous appeal they give to “the trinity is spiritually discerned.” I got that from 3 separate people. The trinity is supposedly easy for them to understand because they are spiritually enlightened. Apparently I have a carnal mind because I think arguments like the one you made above are valid and sound.

    Discussion among philosophically bent people is important, but reaching out to people with truth, who aren’t philosophically bent, is a mission. I think these doctrines matter quite a bit. Not in the way that people who drop the “H” bombs, do, but because they are practical to the core message that the Messiah brought. I think the trinity obscures that message.

    At some point the question is both deeply philosophical and even comical, if when boiled down, the the whole thing ends with the majority view of those who believe in Jesus, do not believe that 1 = 1. Is there anything more simple? And can we get past such a thing to even begin to dialog afterwards?

    As a Christian who believes that Jesus truly is the Messiah, that is something that gives me a sober warning about how biased religious belief can be, and how irrational people can be for religious belief. I used to be trinitarian but only because I was told it was true and necessary to believe. Once I read the Bible a little for myself I immediately questioned the doctrine AND my salvation for doing so. I was a teenager. I never wanted to study the issue in depth because I knew it would make me irrelevant to anyone I knew. A non-Christian told me, “Let’s face it, the trinity is polytheism.” I couldn’t argue back.

    Your podcast has helped me to hone down on this issue.

  13. Idahodoc
    February 6, 2016 @ 4:59 pm

    Greetings. I do enjoy the podcast, even though there are so many times I find myself in disagreement with what has been said! This is a classic moment in that vein.

    I think the argument you present is correct from a classical logic perspective, but unsound on many levels. I think from the get-go we are facing a serious category error. You are using Boolean logic from our dimensionally limited perspective to disprove the deity of Jesus. Premise 4 presupposes our limited experience in which premise 4 is generally true, but not necessarily universally true. By universally I mean to include the dimensionality where God lives, as well as our limited spacetime where the Apostles encountered Jesus as a man. The argument against this exists as an analogy when comparing plane geometry to spherical geometry. In plane geometry the sum of angles cannot exceed 180 degrees. But a spherical triangle’s sum of angles can vary between pi and 3*pi radians. Yet, we are talking triangles.

    Likewise, the concept of identity would seem to vary according to the complexity of the object and the dimensional perspective of the viewer. Theologians are left with philosophically unsatisfying terms as the Father, Son and Spirit sharing an identical essence while being unique in personality. From the latter statement, premise 4 is valid. From the former statement, it is invalid. The argument and conclusion are unnecessarily reductionist. It is enough to prove that the members of the Godhead are not identical, but in one aspect that cannot be accounted in our minds, they are identical. If we insist on reducing Deity to terms which can neatly apportion and categorize we are bound to fail. The philosopher might counter that this constitutes sloppy and illogical thinking, but I must then counter that human philosophy itself is bound by the finite nature of our reality and is equipped in only a limited way to understand these realities of God.

    Along these lines, I think this whole endeavor you propose has been rendered somewhat moot by the work of Dr. Michael Heiser, the work that you briefly engaged when you interviewed him a few episodes back. In particular, the Trinitarian discussion must now seriously interact with the compelling evidence for Jewish Binatarianism. There is really significant, if not frankly inescapable, evidence that at least two persons were regularly identified as worshipful deity in the OT. At the heart of this discussion is the word/term “god.” Greek is insufficiently precise, as is evidenced by your own discussion. In the podcast, you at first declared your argument was primarily (if not exclusively) considered from the New Testament perspective. Yet, there you go, forced to invoke the term YHVH several times, a name which does not appear in the NT!

    When considering the binatarian data of the OT, one will have to content with Gideon’s encounter with the Angel of the Lord, and Daniel’s Son of Man passages. One will have to interact with the “Word of God” passages, and all the nuance in Hebrew.

    For example, in Judges 6:21, we see an angel (Malak of YHVH) accept worship. Normally, what angel accepts sacrifice? This person, who was embodied, received the sacrifice, caused fire to fully consume it (the standard way YHVH does these things) and then disappears! Clearly, this is Deity, YHVH it would seem. Yet, as soon as the Angel of the Lord departs, Gideon speaks what the reader should have concluded—that he had seen YHVH. And, as such, he should be a dead man. Yet, another voice suddenly comforts Gideon. who is it that addresses Gideon in Judges 6:23? And this person/entity is identified as YHVH. At this point one would think that there are two deities, but we understand that the Shema identifies as there being only one God.

    When taking these elements into account, the proof you present is in fact naïve to the point. Actually (and no offense is intended), sloppy. Your argument seems more tuned to making distinction between Jesus and the Father, both of whom are identified as God insofar as they receive worship, and divine prerogative. Who and what is god you are discussing? Or God? One can easily argue that the father, the Son, and the Spirit are all different, as it is the standard teaching that they are three persons. But as each is also identified as God, and God is one, there is unity, if not identity, in their position in the Godhead. In a different way, Heiser argues that The Lord (we shall say YHVH) is intentionally sloppy in revealing Himself because He is describing a reality that is beyond our comprehension. Our logic and mental circuits cannot contain categories for a being that can be simultaneously unity (the Shema), and distinct (two persons inhabiting the one God in the OT, further revealed as three persons in the NT). As such, the logical proof you present is not so much true or false, as it is irrelevant. It is like using plane geometry proofs to disprove a spherical geometry observation or proof. It is like arguing a triangle cannot have 3 angles that are 90 degrees. And you would be right, until you look at a globe and see that a quadrant of a sphere is in fact defined by three right angles.

    There are more problems, but they follow the same reasoning. Premise 1 may well be faulty. Jesus is identified as Deity, as God, but is not numerically identical, as God is more complex than just Jesus. I suppose one could see Jesus as God, but a subset of God at the same time. I think the error is in the repeated statement of numerical identity. I don’t think you can apply Boolean identities to transcendent deity, along the lines of my geometry arguments above.

    At this point, I think there will be great divergence in this discussion. I doubt my arguments will be persuasive to the had core logician. These appeals to transcendence would seem soft to the average philosopher. The difference at this point lies in the amount of literal or deterministic thinking one has been a priori committed to embracing. If one is quite rigid, and “numeric” then this Trinitarian stuff is nonsense. But, if one is willing to admit that there are things that are correct from an evidentiary perspective, regardless of the rigid logical identity, then one can accept the uncertainty that is implicit in the classically Trinity.

    Perhaps it simply comes down to faith. Faith in the Bible, and its revelation. Based on these and other Biblical passages, there is a large amount of paradoxical declaration. If one strains too hard against it, one is in danger of disparaging the text itself. That is a place I would never want to go.

    • RonH
      February 8, 2016 @ 12:23 pm

      Thanks for this. I’ve been wanting to post an objection to the argument along these lines, but life hasn’t afforded me the time to do so.

      I remember Abbott’s “Flatland”, in which a three-dimensional shape interacts with a two-dimensional world. The 3D shape is perceived by the 2D objects as another 2D object, but one which is constantly changing size (as the shape moves through the 2D plane). To the 2D shapes, the 3D shape is another 2D shape, which they can perceive in its entirety, though only to the limits of their dimensionality. The shape produced by the intersection of the 2D world and the 3D object isn’t the 3D object, but in another sense it most definitely is (since, of course, it isn’t something distinct from the 3D object either).

      If God has intruded into our 4D frame of reference in Jesus, as the doctrine of the Incarnation holds, I don’t see how it is necessarily incorrect to say that Jesus is God. Jesus is 4D God, which both is and is not XD God (i.e. God not-in-4D).

      Now, Dale might reject this approach as “mysterianism”, but… well… when you’re talking about God I don’t see how “mysterianism” can be avoided. From a human perspective, omniscience and omnipresence don’t seem logically possible either.

      I grant Dale’s point about how “in the pew”, statements are made that reflect some sloppy logic (i.e. Jesus was God, God is omniscient, therefore Jesus was omniscient). However, I think the response being offered here is to clean up the logic without fully appreciating the limits of what we can actually capture in our propositions in the first place.

      • Idahodoc
        February 8, 2016 @ 12:49 pm

        Agreed! One also has to reconcile John Chapter 1 which is about as explicit as you can get with regard to Jesus = Logos = God (Theos) = Creator. What is even more fascinating is all the “Word of the Lord” texts in the OT, presaging John Ch 1, many of which clearly present an embodied entity identified as “the Word.” That means that John was not channeling some Greek philosopher, but was speaking from established tradition. It appears the Pharisees were aware of both the Binatarian issue and the “Word” issue. Rabbinic Judaism abandoned these concepts in the 2nd Century C.E. for the obvious reason that they form such a strong apologetic for Christ’s deity. In fact, the more attuned I have become to the absolute subtlety of the text, I realize that sometimes even the most oblique descriptors of Deity, like h’shem (The Name) also is presented in constructions that imply more than merely a name, but a person who literally is h’shem! The average Christian is not at all well versed on the OT, so these helpful nuances are lost. Dr. Heiser’s “Unseen Realm” is a must read for dealing with these issues. Or, must hear, as I grabbed the Audible version as well since I have so little reading time! He also has a website, http://www.drmsh.com. Shalom!

        • RonH
          February 8, 2016 @ 3:21 pm

          Yeah, I’ve read through a fair bit of Dr. Heiser’s “Naked Bible” blog. He’s got a very interesting perspective. His series on Romans 5:12 and original sin is quite thought-provoking.

          • Idahodoc
            February 8, 2016 @ 3:48 pm

            Yes, it is. Like this discussion, he makes one reexamine one’s theological position. His Romans 5 work is in the same vein as the overturning another sacred cow for me, that angels are/were “frozen” in righteousness (the good guys!). There is no verse for that. In fact, the ongoing vulnerability of angels better explains angelic panic attacks when humans accidentally worship them. If they really were frozen in righteousness, I suspect they would have less anxiety, and be a little more pedantic in the correction. Also explains the fall of the Watchers as they are judged in Psalm 82. And, Paul would not have to warn women about modesty regarding head coverings and angelic temptation.

        • Dale Tuggy
          February 13, 2016 @ 8:34 am

          “John Chapter 1 which is about as explicit as you can get with regard to Jesus = Logos = God (Theos) = Creator”

          John 1 admits of a more plausible, better reading, which makes more sense given previous Jewish literature. On this reading, we don’t have the absurdity that Jesus just is (is = to) the one God, and yet differs qualitatively from him. It’s explained by Burnap in this episode – but I hope, perhaps by the end of this year, to do a series of episodes on John 1. There are about three major readings of it, not one. http://trinities.org/blog/podcast-71-proverbs-8-jesus-part-1/

          All I can say, is don’t for get this wise saying: “The first to speak in court sounds right – until the cross-examination begins.” Proverbs 18:17

        • Rivers
          February 13, 2016 @ 12:13 pm


          I think it’s more likely that “the word” (LOGOS) represents the embodiment (John 1:14) of “the eternal life” in the human Jesus (John 1:4). The implications of Preexistence and Incarnation are not required to explain anything in the Prologue.

          It is also unnecessary to confuse the “word” (LOGOS) in John 1:1 with anything revealed in the Hebrew scriptures (or defined in extra-biblical Jewish sources). Throughout the John books, the term LOGOS is almost always simply referring to what the human Jesus revealed during the time of his public ministry (cf. John 14:24; John 17:17-20).

          The writer of the John books explained the relationship between the human Jesus and “the word (LOGOS) of life” in 1 John 1:1-2 where it was “what” they “heard” and “saw with their eyes” and “touched” and later “manifested” to them after the resurrection (cf. John 21:14).

    • Dale Tuggy
      February 13, 2016 @ 8:28 am

      Hi Idahodoc,

      Thanks for your comment! There’s a lot here – let me try to respond to some of it.

      “I think the argument you present is correct from a classical logic perspective, but unsound on many levels.”

      The argument is either sound or not. Your main point is that you think 4 is false. I honestly do not see what 4 has to do with “our limited experience.” I do think you’re correct in fingering 4 as really the one place where any speculation can get a fingerhold, to resist the argument. However, I think that in other contexts, you and I would both believe and apply 4 without hesitation. That’s the main point of this little yarn I wrote in response to Dr. Anderson, who was arguing that 4 should be doubted. It may try your patience, but it may help you to see the point. 🙂 http://trinities.org/blog/a-case-of-progressive-revelation/

      “Likewise, the concept of identity would seem to vary according to the complexity of the object and the dimensional perspective of the viewer.”

      This is in my view a serious mistake. Identity is a rock-bottom, unanalyzable concept that we have and use, and no, it does not vary, or come in kinds, or change with contexts or subject-matter. I think you’re not separating this idea of = from the idea of a whole, of a thing which in some sense has parts. This post, or the chapter I talk about there (Hawthorne), may help you to see this about =. http://trinities.org/blog/on-numerical-sameness-identity-absolute-identity/

      “It is enough to prove that the members of the Godhead are not identical, but in one aspect that cannot be accounted in our minds, they are identical. ”

      I think you must mean *qualitative* sameness here, and not numerical sameness. But that”s not to the point.

      “If we insist on reducing Deity to terms which can neatly apportion and categorize we are bound to fail.”

      Nothing in the argument presupposes that we can fully understand God. I suggest then that this point is not relevant.

      ” the Trinitarian discussion must now seriously interact with the compelling evidence for Jewish Binatarianism. There is really significant, if not frankly inescapable, evidence that at least two persons were regularly identified as worshipful deity in the OT.”

      Sigh. This is something i need to address more. I think there is a whole nest of problems in this.

      About the Judges 6 incident. Why not simply say that God was appearing through, by means of, an angel, as it explicitly says? Acting as God’s messenger, the angel speaks for God, receives worship (of God) on behalf of God, and then in a sense the man has “seen God” (via his angel). This seems much easier than thinking that the writer is hinting that there are two gods, or that there is one god who mysteriously contains multiple “Persons.” (That an obvious anachronism, right?) And of course, in Hebrew this messenger too may be called an “elohim.” But that doesn’t put him on a par with God. Dr. Heiser is reading passages like this as if they contain a sort of hidden trinitarian code – but it is far from clear that the passages are best read as sending out such hints.

      “But as each is also identified as God”

      This is the crucial spot in your reasoning where you’re unclear about identity. Different (non-identical) things can’t both be identical to one and the same thing, as identity is symmetrical and transitive. If you’re going to say that the Father and Son are both “identified as God” and this means that f = g and s = g, then it follows that f = s. And that is a theological disaster. And just as badly, it makes nonsense out of the texts. We are now attributing to the authors the nonsense that the Father and Son are numerically one, and also, they aren’t. Back to the interpretive drawing board then – that won’t stand! It’s just a confusion. The cure is to see that in the NT, God is identified with the Father only. (And yes, this is consistent with the Son being called or addressed as “God” occasionally.) And then we also see that the one true God of the OT is, according to the NT, this same one, the Father. But then, we know that Yahweh is not the Trinity.

      “God is more complex than just Jesus. I suppose one could see Jesus as God, but a subset of God at the same time. I think the error is in the repeated statement of numerical identity. I don’t think you can apply Boolean identities to transcendent deity”

      You are saying here that Jesus is a *part of* the Trinity. But that flies in the face of trinitarian tradition. I think here you also assume that identity means simplicity (partlessness). But that’s not so. We apply the concept of identity in the case of both simple and complex things. e.g. Suppose you think I’m a composite of body and soul. And yet, you think (correctly) that I’m numerically the same being who made this podcast we’re talking about.

      “Perhaps it simply comes down to faith. Faith in the Bible, and its revelation. Based on these and other Biblical passages, there is a large amount of paradoxical declaration. If one strains too hard against it, one is in danger of disparaging the text itself. That is a place I would never want to go.”

      This is a mistake, to imagine that there’s some big methodological difference which results in our different conclusions. I want you to know that disparaging the text is exactly what I’m trying to avoid. It is disparaging the texts to attribute demonstrable confusions to them, such as that Father and Son are and are not numerically identical. Paradoxes in the sense of resilient, clear, apparent contradictions, are our signpost that something has gone wrong in the process of interpretation. This is how we all proceed, Dr. Heiser included. Whether we’re forced to be happy with such, and convince ourselves that they are a good thing, a sign that we’re dealing with great realities – that’s something that needs further discussion. I do hope to dialogue more with Dr. Heiser, whom I like and respect, and I do hope to address this argument from “Jewish binitarianism” again in the future.

      Thanks again for the comment & God bless.

  14. David Kemball-Cook
    February 6, 2016 @ 2:05 pm

    Hi Dale

    Surely your premise 4 is exactly where the (sophisticated) trinitarian will disagree, is it not?

    They would say that the Father and the Son ARE the same god although they differ from each other.

    The (sophisticated) trinitarian might say eg that the Father and the Son ‘are the same god’ meaning that they share the divine substance, or that they are each realisations of the same divine ‘stuff’, or that they are each God but in different time intervals …

    In other words ‘god’ is not, for some trinitarians, a sortal term, for which it could be said that ‘X is the same god as Y’, but a proper name denoting the divine substance (or something like that).

    Or the trinitarian might adopt relative identity, and say baldly that X and Y can be the same god without being ‘identical’ (and there is no such thing as absolute identity anyway!)

    So your premise 4 could be dismissed as ill-formed.
    These possible trinitarians objections to 4 would likely affect 5-9 as well, because they would reject ‘X is a god’ language as ill-formed.

    Have I missed something?

  15. Dale Tuggy
    February 5, 2016 @ 9:02 am

    Steve Hays tries again, this time denying 6 (monotheism). It’s a fairly clear reply, but I still think that goes hard against the Bible. And I explain in a comment that he’s confusing monotheism (there’s only one god) with the idea that there’s only one property of divinity/godhood, which claim does’t have a name. http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2016/02/is-mankind-one-or-many.html Of course, some proponents of “divine simplicity” would say that God just is his divinity. But I don’t open that can of worms.

    • John Thomas
      February 5, 2016 @ 10:44 am

      I agree. If he is saying that God and Jesus are sharing in the divine nature as all human beings are sharing in the human nature, he is shooting in his feet (if he is defending monotheism).

  16. Dale Tuggy
    February 4, 2016 @ 9:27 am

    Here, our friend blogger Ben Nasmith agrees that the Challenge is a sound argument: https://bennasmith.wordpress.com/2016/02/02/what-does-jesus-is-god-mean/

    He quite rightly points out that there is functional sense that can be given to the claim that someone is god or divine. And yes, surely, Jesus is a god to us, as the exalted Lord over us, under God his Father. I wouldn’t go quite so far as saying that “Jesus is the final authority from a human perspective.” Our perspective does include the God who raised him, and to whom all the glory *ultimately* goes. (Philippians 2:11) Our fellowship is with both God and his Son (John 17:3, 1 John 1:3) and I think both NT and majority Christian practice support prayer to both, although we’re able to come as children to God because of the saving work of Jesus and his ongoing mediation.

    “He is our final authority because the one God has so authorized him to act in that capacity toward us. As with Moses and Pharaoh, so with Jesus and the world.”

    Final authority? I would say, direct and immediate authority. But yes, God has made him Lord over both church and world, and he’s coming to take charge.

    “I suspect that those who may bristle at Dale’s argument fear that unless we say “Jesus is God” we cannot take Jesus seriously. If we lose the confession “Jesus is God,” we lose the only name that can save. These fears are unfounded. Jesus is still our final authority, according to the New Testament, even if we distinguish Jesus from the one God–i.e. from the Father or from the Trinity. Jesus is God to us.”

    Yes, Ben has put his finger on something very important. There is a widespread fear that either we affirm the “deity of Christ” (understood to be a denial of 3) or else Jesus is “just a man,” as in, some guru or self-help expert with many peers. But that is plainly a false dilemma, and doesn’t do justice to either NT or church history. To take just the former for now: in the NT, it is no small thing to be God’s Messiah – that is in fact what all the fighting over Jesus is about in the 1st c. To be God’s Messiah, and to be risen and exalted, is a stupendous, unique, and important thing, and it is utterly silly to call a person like that “just a man” if he doesn’t “have a divine nature.” He’s “just a man” whom God has sent, empowered, endorsed, raised, exalted, and made into your boss!

    • Ben Nasmith
      February 4, 2016 @ 1:26 pm

      Thanks for replying Dale. Yes, good clarifications. I don’t mean to say that Jesus eclipses the authority or person of his Father from our perspective. In my analogy, even Moses appeals to Yahweh’s authority as he speaks to Pharaoh and never presents himself as Yahweh. I only mean to say that as God to us, Jesus enjoys an authority that is practically equivalent to his Father’s authority. We cannot appeal to the Father should we enter into a dispute with Jesus.

      • Dale Tuggy
        February 5, 2016 @ 9:52 am

        “as God to us, Jesus enjoys an authority that is practically equivalent to his Father’s authority”

        Well put.

        “We cannot appeal to the Father should we enter into a dispute with Jesus”

        Yes! That is absurd when Jesus is the faithful agent of God. If we tried it, God would just point to Jesus and say “What HE said” – because Jesus has already explained God’s will to us.

        Again, this shows how desperately wrongheaded the “just a man” objection really is. Imagine the Roman Emperor sends his general to demand the surrender of your little country. You blow him off – he’s no emperor! It blowing off this “mere man” you’ve just offended the emperor too. Your’e going to get invaded now! Bad move.

        • Idahodoc
          February 8, 2016 @ 12:54 pm

          The acid test would seem to be this: Is Jesus worthy of worship, the same worship we would afford YHVH? If yes, why?, and if not, why? If Jesus is not God, and not “merely man,” then what is he? Malak? Aggelos?

  17. Dale Tuggy
    February 4, 2016 @ 9:14 am

    Here blogger Steve Hays takes what is surely the least plausible way out: denying 2. Of course, it’s mixed with the usual abuse, misunderstanding, confused speculations, and irrelevant points. I explain what he’s misunderstanding in the first comment below his post. http://triablogue.blogspot.com/2016/02/tuggys-challenge_3.html

    Here are three lessons you can take from this face-plant. First, some Christians, influenced by recent apologetics, really do insist on the falsity of 3 – that Jesus and God are numerically identical. Steve is an illustration of this. Second, not even the most pugilistic Reformed brawler denies 1. 1 really is non-negotiable for the Christian. Third, some really will unashamedly choose tradition, even when it goes hard against reason, about as hard as anything can. This is a shameful misology – hatred of reason – that is quite out of place in the disciple’s life. As James says (ch 3): “the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield”. When this Wisdom is shown that its theory entails that 3+3=7, it says – “Oh, goodness! I need to fix something then.” And peaceful discussion proceeds. In contrast, “earthly, unspiritual, devilish” pseudo-Wisdom will attack you for your good deed, and tell you that you’re simply bad and stupid for not agreeing that 3+3=7.

  18. Dale Tuggy
    February 4, 2016 @ 8:20 am

    From Paul Manata on Facebook: “I’m copying the part between the slashes (//) from a paper I wrote:


    Both Lynne Baker and John Perry, provide us with this definition of

    “x is the Same F as y”:

    (Same-F) x and y are the same F at t =df

    ?F ?t{Either: (1) (i) F is an excluded property (i.e., F cannot be had derivatively)


    (ii) (x = y & Fxt);


    (2) (i) F is not an excluded property (i.e., F can be had derivatively)


    (ii) [(x = y or x stands in constitution relations to y at t) & Fxt]}.

    Ostensibly, then, (Same-F) tells us how x and y can be one and the same thing, and that is either because x = y or x and y are constitutionally related at t.


    It seems like p.4 of Tuggy’s argument denies both Baker and Parry’s definition of same F. Now, since p.9 is necessarily true if true at all, p.4 needs to be a necessary truth. This requires that Baker and Parry’s definition be necessarily false.”

    Yes, that’s right.

    [Paul continues:]

    “Here’s a fix, though: add a new premise that denies that Jesus and God stand in the constitution relation. Then even on Baker and Parry’s definition, x and y would have to be numerically identical. This move comes with some cost, though, namely this new premise needs to be necessarily true. Is it? Well I agree with it, but it’s a place to push.

    Or, another move, deny that Jesus is G derivatively.


    Let’s see, I wouldn’t want to put into the argument that Jesus isn’t divine derivatively, as trinitarians are split on that. In fact, this is a problem for the folks who believe that Jesus gets his deity via eternal generation, as part of full deity is aseity, and in principle you can’t have that because of another! I think, though, that it’s enough for this argument to focus on the sense of “deity” or “divinity” where it implies being a god.

    I don’t believe in “constitution” and never have. I’m about as unsympathetic as a philosopher can be to it. I just think it solves nothing and causes its own problems, and we’re better off without it. I’m also utterly hostile to “property borrowing.” Anyway, I’m willing to leave it here for the moment: if you’re some kind of relative identity theorist, you can deny 4. At least, perhaps, I’ve got you to concede 3. I’m happy to move any trinitarians I can to a relative identity reading of the tradition, because I think there are good objections against that, and also, this makes it incredibly hard to say with a straight face that the Trinity (in that sense, as understood by PVI or Rea) has always been believed by Christians, is clearly a teaching of the Bible, or is required for salvation. In other words, its firmly in the realm of theory, like say, Molinism. That is, in truth, how we need to think of Trinity theories – as theories. And this, I think, is a refutable theory, like Molinism. Some reasons here: http://trinities.org/dale/CT%20preprint%20-%20Tuggy.pdf But I now think that the NT is the biggest problem for rel. id. trinitarians. More on that to come.

  19. Rob Bjerk
    February 3, 2016 @ 3:57 pm

    It seems to me that Premise 1 (“God and Jesus differ”) assumes an interchange of the categories of “person” and “being” which is unconsciously arbitrary and ambivalent in (bi/tri)nitarian thinking, and little noticed in the discussion of differing approaches to the biblical revelation of God.

    (A) If Premise 1 means “God [the Father, one of multiple Persons in the (bi/tri)nitarian one Being of God] and Jesus differ”, all can agree.

    (B) If Premise 1 means “God [the entire (bi/tri)nity of Persons in the one Being of God–whether co-equal or subordinationist in some manner] and Jesus differ”, all can agree.

    (C) If Premise 1 means “God [the Father, the single Person and single Being of biblical unitarian thought] and Jesus differ”, all can agree it is valid, but (bi/tri)nitarians will claim it is not sound because it assumes God’s Being (essence, nature) consists of only a single Person. They, however, propose that the Bible reveals multiple Persons partaking of the one Being (Nature, Substance, Essence) of God. They acknowledge that this is not possible for a human being, but they believe it is not contrary to reason to posit a biblical revelation of multiple Persons sharing one Being (Nature, Substance, or Essence) of God. God, after all, is beyond the limitations and full comprehension of man. (Bi/tri)nitarians contend that biblical unitarians are unjustifiably assuming that the Being (essence, nature) of God consists of only one single Person.

    Notice that in (A) God is one Person (the Father) out of multiple Persons who share the one Being of God, compared with, arguably, one Person (the Son) out of multiple Persons who share the one Being of God. A (bi/tri)nitarian can hold this premise as valid and sound according to understanding (A). Biblical unitarians can hold this premise as valid with understanding (A), but would they consider it sound if the Father was considered merely the first Person of a multiple Person Being? Neither understanding (A) nor understanding (B) help the biblical unitarian argument because both understandings are valid and sound from a (bi/tri)nitarian perspective. Only understanding (C) supports the biblical unitarian reading of biblical texts, but in this case (bi/tri)nitarians charge that a single, unitary Person (the Father alone) in the one Being of God is being assumed, rather than being a necessary conclusion.

    Also, notice how easy it is for (bi/tri)nitarians and biblical unitarians to talk past each other because the first group assumes “the Father” refers to one Person of a multiple Person Being, while the biblical unitarians understand “the Father” as the sole Person in a one Person Being.

    To me it seems the philosophical and logical challenge is to isolate and evaluate the very significant, but subtle and ambivalent, interchangeability between the concepts of “person” and “being” in (bi/tri)nitarian thought. Those who see multiple Persons in the one Being of God “change gears” whenever it seems to support their position. This is done primarily through the mechanism of referring singular pronouns and verbs to the one Being of God in some cases (more often in the Old Testament), but referring singular pronouns and verbs to each of the multiple Persons of God in other cases (more often in the New Testament).

    Thus, when God, YHWH, the Father, etc., are referred to in the singular in the Old Testament, (bi/tri)nitarians can consider God or YHWH as one Being consisting of multiple Persons (when they deem it appropriate) or they can consider the Father as one Person of the multiple Person Being of God if this better fits their interpretative framework in a particular context.

    Because every single human being is also one person, it is only natural for us to subconsciously assume a one-to-one correspondence between being and person. Singular pronouns and verbs refer to singular human persons and singular human beings. But we have to put ourselves on alert to notice the subtle switch between singular Being as opposed to singular Persons within that singular Being which is necessary for the the (bi/tri)nitarian interpretive paradigm.

    Thus, when it is acknowledged that God (ho theos) almost(?) invariably means God the Father in the New Testament, we need to realize how easily we slip into the (bi/tri)nitarian mode of thinking of “the Father” as one Person out of multiple Persons in the one Being of God, rather than the biblical unitarian conception that both the Old and New Testament “Father” is the sole, only Person in the one Being of God–just like there is only one person in each human being. In other words, we need to be aware how easy it is to slip into understanding (A) rather than understanding (C) when talking about the Father. To put it perhaps crassly, is the Father 1/2 or 1/3 of God (one Person out of the multiple Persons in the one Being of God), or is the Father all of God (the only Person in the one Being of God)?

    If it seems necessary to incorporate the “pre-incarnate Word” or the Spirit of God as co-Creators of what is attributed to God in singular pronouns or verbs, then the singularity can be attributed to the one Being of God rather than the multiple Persons of God. But when the same Old Testament words for God (even quoted in the New Testament from Old Testament texts) are used to show differentiation from Jesus in the New Testament, then these words referring to God may be taken to refer to the single Person, the Father, out of the multiple Person Being of God that (bi/tri)nitarians find in the New Testament, particularly. Of course, verses like 1 Corinthians 15:24,28 may need to be an exception to taking “God” to mean “the Father”–understanding (A)–in the New Testament. Otherwise, Jesus eternally subordinates himself to the Father, which raises problems for co-equality of the multiple Persons in the one Being of God.

    Biblical unitarians find a satisfying and inspiring understanding of the biblical narrative by accepting a one-to-one correspondence between person and being on both the human and divine levels. The biblical unitarian approach makes sense of God’s ability to communicate with mankind made in the image of God. New Testament verses such as John 17:3 make clear sense without any interchange of person and being categories.

    How to describe and evaluate this phenomenon of person/being interchange in (bi/tri)nitarian interpretation, I do not know. But I think it plays a key role in preventing a productive dialogue about the biblical revelation of God in Messiah Jesus. If human language categories of singular and plural, person and being, do not establish thoughts about God accessible by the human mind and language, I doubt logical constructions will fare much better. They are merely more precise constructions of human thought and language.

    Perhaps our choice lies only between (bi/tri)nitarian mystery beyond human comprehension, or biblical unitarian interpretation based on God’s ability to communicate true, but not exhaustive, knowledge of himself through his word, and his word made flesh in the second Adam, Jesus Christ.

    P.S. The trinity is often described as “three Who’s in one What”–three Persons in one divine Nature, Substance, or Essence. I have chosen only to write in terms of multiple Persons in One Being because it seems more plausible to talk of a Being with “I”, “Me”, “He”, and “Him”, rather than a Nature, Substance or Essence (a “What”) being referred to by singular personal pronouns. It’s probably pretty much the same, but being seems to lend itself more readily to the person/being switch than an abstract nature, substance. or essence does.

    • Dale Tuggy
      February 4, 2016 @ 9:33 am

      Hi Rob,

      I’m not able to follow all of this. “Valid” and “Sound” apply only to arguments – it makes to sense to say that a single premise is valid or sound (or invalid, or unsound). Please see the links in the post for relevant definitions.

      The beauty of this argument, as I see it, is that it should be accepted as sound by those who take the one god to be the Father, and also by those who take the one god to be the Trinity. And if you hold to some Trinity theory, this is going to press you hard to be more specific – e.g. do you deny 2, 4, 6, or 8. For each of those – some trinitarians deny it! But there is not any widespread agreement about which should be denied. I of course don’t think that any should – and oddly enough, some trinitarians will agree.

      • Rob Bjerk
        February 4, 2016 @ 12:03 pm


        Thanks for trying to follow a non-philosopher’s attempt to follow logical arguments properly. I’ll try to boil my thoughts down into simpler language. My point is that trinitarians (and logically binitarians) easily slide back and forth between talking about the Being of God in the singular and one of the three trinitarian Persons in the singular. Thus all the O.T. references to God or YHWH can be considered references to the single Being of God. God is one Being (even if a “compound unity”), so they feel singular pronouns (he, him, I, me) and verbs can refer to God, the three-Person Being. However, in the N.T., where trinitarians are looking for distinctions between three Persons in the one Being of God, the singular pronouns and verbs are applied to the three Persons of God, rather than the one Being of God. So, “God” in the O.T. takes singular verbs and pronouns referring to a singular Being, but “God” in the N.T. refers “almost always” to the Father. But trinitarians are thinking “Father” as 1 or 3 Persons in the one Being of God. Thus, “God” in the O.T. can be the singular Being of God, but “God” in the N.T. can be thought of as the singular Person, the Father, who in trinitarian thinking is only one of the three co-equal Persons in the one Being of God. I’m talking in general here, as context and how it fits into the trinitarian paradigm are more important than whether it is Old or New Testament. In short, “God” in the O.T. can be thought of as one Being (3 of 3 Persons of God), while “God” in the N.T. can be thought of as one Person (1 of 3 Persons of God).

        Since in our human experience one human person = one human being, we naturally think in such categories. But trinitarians believe that since God’s Being is beyond human limitations or comprehension, God may have three Persons in one Being. They thus switch the use of singular pronouns between reference to Being and Person almost unnoticed and probably unconsciously.

        Biblical unitarians consider the Father to be the only Person in the Being of God.
        Trinitarians consider the Father to be one of three Persons in the Being of God.
        Unitarian: Father, God = 1/1 Trinitarian: Father = 1/3 God = 3/3 (O.T.) God = 1/3 (N.T.)

        Thus, my attempt was to say that using the three definitions of God (A) (B) and (C) that I listed, your whole argument would be therefore be valid and sound using definitions (A) and (B) -with unitarian reservations on the soundness (truth, reality?) of (B). However, with (C) the trinitarians could agree to the validity of the argument that God and Jesus differ, but they would deny the soundness of the argument because they deny God is just one Person, the Father alone.

        So my question was how can a logical evaluation be set up that can factor in and evaluate the subtle trinitarian shift in reference of singular pronouns and verbs between one single Person in the Being of God, and the one Being of God which they believe consists of three Persons, a “compound unity.”

        My thought was that trinitarian thought must necessarily appeal to mystery because the human brain does not easily, or naturally, conceive of beings with composed of multiple persons. However, the unitarian position works with categories natural to the human mind, which comports well with God’s ability to communicate with us truly, even if not exhaustively, even about himself.

        So I was not trying to say (A), (B), or (C), as I defined them, were themselves valid or sound; I was trying to say that, given definitions (A),(B), or (C) of God, I thought your whole argument would be valid or sound in the minds of trinitarians or biblical unitarians according to how they perceived the definition of God. But the switching of God between Being and Person needed to be brought out into the open before common ground could be reached on the whole discussion.

  20. John Thomas
    February 3, 2016 @ 10:06 am

    Hi Dr. Tuggy, I used your argument and rewrote in a different way (hope you don’t mind). I know that some Evangelicals (to my surprise) like Justin Bass denies premise 1. But I am along with Bart Ehrman in that they are different. That is what at least I understand reading Bible and church fathers. I wish to know what you think about it.

    1. Yahweh and Jesus differ.

    2. Things which differ are two (i.e. are not numerically identical)

    3. Therefore, Yahweh and Jesus are two (not numerically identical). (1, 2)

    4. For any x and y, x and y are the same entity only if x and y are not two (i.e. are numerically identical).

    5. Therefore, Yahweh and Jesus are not the same entity. (3,4)

    6. There is only one entity that can be called The God.

    7. Therefore, either Yahweh is not The God, or Jesus is not The God. (5, 6)

    8. Yahweh is the God.

    9. Therefore, Jesus is not The God. (7,8)

    • Dale Tuggy
      February 4, 2016 @ 9:40 am

      Hi John,

      So, you’ve substituted “Yahweh” for “God”? Yes, I think your 1-5 is a sound argument.

      Then, you’ve changed from being a god to being called “The God.” Yes, then if 6 means *truly* called, then I think 6-9 is sound too. So yes, in my view, your whole argument is sound. You’ve substituted necessarily co-referring expressions, basically. Only one entity can be truly called “the God” (that’s the Greek or Arabic style – English would be: “God”) – right, *because* there’s only one god – in the monotheistic sense of that term. *The* god signifies a unique status, though there be some who can be called “god” (elohim, theos, etc.) in lesser senses of the terms.

      About 1, Ehrman is just stating the obvious.

  21. Vladimir Šuši?
    February 2, 2016 @ 6:24 pm

    For statements of predication there is no numerical identity. For example A couch is white,yet a couch is not numerically identical to white. We are making a statement of Predication,using *IS OF PREDICATION*,Jesus is God,The person of Jesus possesses a property of being God. The person of Jesus is not IDENTICAL to God. You would be aware of this if you ever took a look at the refutation of the usage of Law of Identity (LoI) against The Trinity trying to force it into modalism. Now premise 4 You are saying that “For any x and y, x and y are the same god only if x and y are not two (i.e. are numerically identical).” Here you are comparing a property(attribute do be clear) to a person,if I am correct in understanding that x is Jesus and y is God. So A Person and a Property are the same property only if they are numerically identical. Problem is,A Person is (is of identity) not a Property or an attribute,a Person is a Mind. Let’s compare something else this way. Vladimir(my person,mind) and Body(my body) are the same body only if they are numerically identical. Well, My Mind is not my Body,they are not numerically identical, it is not the same as my body. Jesus,that is his person is not the same (identical) to his body. Rather His Body is his property,the same way My Body is The Property of my mind. So Jesus and god needn’t be numerically identical In order for God to be a property of his Person,that is For Jesus to Be God.

    Best wishes and with love,

    • John B
      February 3, 2016 @ 5:13 am

      Hi. If he possesses “a” property of being God (like you do actually!) then it is not sufficient. You have to have the full shebang of essential properties. One of those is being triune. It’s nuts isn’t it?!

      • Vladimir Šuši?
        February 3, 2016 @ 8:43 am

        Your argument goes like this:

        God is Triune
        Jesus is God
        Therefore Jesus is Triune

        We are stating that the Property of God is possessed by Jesus,Saying that God is Triune means that this property is possessed by Three Persons.

        So for example:

        Beautiful is Triune (Three persons are Beautiful)
        John is beautiful
        Therefore John is Triune (He is these 3 persons that are beautiful)

        Now does this argument make sense? Is one
        person 3 persons? Of course not,this is the same form of an argument as the argument you are making.

        You are making a mistake in saying that an attribute(Triune) of an attribute (God) has to in fact be identified as a Person (Jesus) when that sort of logic is clearly demonstrated as false through the previous example.

        We are making statements of predication,both God is Triune and Jesus is God are statements of predication,as such,law of identity cannot be used against our belief.

        You possess a property of being human,does that mean you are not fully human? Quite the opposite.

        Unitarian position is simply undefendable.

        With Love,

    • Dale Tuggy
      February 4, 2016 @ 9:43 am

      Hi Vladimir,

      Certainly you’re correct that many thoughtful Christians understand “Jesus is God” as predicating divinity of Jesus. But in the primary sense of “divinity” that implies being a god. Yes?

      You’re agreeing with 3, but denying 9. When then do you deny in between? Your choices are 4, 6, and 8.

      • Vladimir Šuši?
        February 4, 2016 @ 12:25 pm

        Hello Dale

        Indeed it is true that by saying “Jesus is God” in a predicative sense,I mean that Jesus is the almighty God.

        I deny that 4 can be used against us,because we are using statements of predication,as explained above.

        8 and 6 are Biblical facts and I am sure you agree with that.

        Thank you for your response,with Love

    • Servetus
      February 6, 2016 @ 9:01 pm

      Hey Vlad,

      It isn’t really clear to me what your objection is supposed to be. Dale spelled out his argument in pretty clear terms. Some of the propositions are using “god” as a proper noun (when capitalized) and some are using it as a generic count noun (when lowercase).
      Saying that when YOU use the phrase “Jesus is God” you mean the second sense is not really responding to the argument, and it’s also a misuse of English grammar.

      Secondly, we can derive identity statements from predications: If “Jesus has the divine nature” then he “is a god” (like Dale pointed out in his response) and that means there must be some god that he is identical with (Jesus=God X). So whether or not a given statement was phrased initially as a predication or identification isn’t really decisive. One is usually derivable from the other.

      You wrap up the post saying that you can grant that Jesus and God aren’t identical. If that’s the case then you just lost the whole argument. Jesus can’t have the property of “being God” if he and God are different things. He could be a DIFFERENT god, but proposition 6 prevents you from making that move.

      Your follow up comment suggests that you’re still confused about the difference between predication and identification. You say that “Jesus is God in a predicative sense” when, again, that’s simply not proper use of English. We don’t use proper nouns as predications, e.g. “Clark Kent is Superman” is an identification, not a predication.

      You go on to say that you are basically never making identity claims when you talk about the deity of Christ. But your reticence is pretty much like an ostrich putting its head in the sand. It doesn’t matter if you want to make identity statements or not. If they’re applicable either because of what the bible says or because they’re implied in your own statements then you have to deal with them.

      Let me try to summarize the issues here. You correctly said earlier we could plug in “Jesus” for “x” and “God” for “y” in Proposition 4. Doing so would mean that Jesus and God cannot be the same god since it was established earlier that they are numerically distinct. If you grant the following:

      1. that there is such a thing as “Jesus” and such a thing as “God” (duh)

      2. that the entities Jesus and God are numerically distinct (see the supplied examples)
      3. that the logic is sound (implied by your wanting to avoid the application of it rather than showing that it’s inherently flawed)

      then your desire to avoid identity statements in general is irrelevant. We’ve arrived at the conclusion all the same.

      – your buddy Serv from Paltalk

      • Vladimir Šuši?
        February 7, 2016 @ 11:44 am

        Hello Servetus,thanks for the reply my Unitarian buddy.

        Now you said that my statement “Jesus is God” is not grammatically correct if I use it in the second sense,Servetus,good luck trying to make that argument in Serbian,but for purposes of our conversation let’s say that a correct use would be “Jesus is a god”,Dale used “God is a god” for example,so sure,I agree as long as the meaning that I am stating it in (is of predication) is preserved.You aren’t really saying anything that would challenge our position in the first paragraph.

        Moving on.

        I honestly don’t get how you made that conclusion in the second paragraph,for example. “This wall has white paint on it.” Therefore “This wall is white.” Both are statements of predication,the same way “Jesus is a god” is a statement of predication. It doesn’t mean that Jesus is identical to God rather that he possesses a divine nature and thus is a god.

        In the third paragraph you say that “Jesus can’t have the property of “being God” if he and God are different things.” Well then,A wall cannot be white for color white and a piece of brick are different things. Simply a baseless argument,This wall has white color applied to it and thus has a property of being white,this wall IS NOT IDENTIFIED AS WHITE! The same way Jesus is not identified with “being God”,rather has a property of being one.

        Now the way I am refuting Dale’s argument is making him unable to arrive to the conclusion that Jesus is not God. This argument is supposedly a refutation to “Jesus is god apologists” when in reality it doesn’t achieve its intended goal,it simply does not refute our position,now if you want to attack strawman and say that our position is that Jesus is God (sense of identity) and use this argument then go for it,but that is absolutely and utterly absurd.

        So the use of Jesus is a god-sense of predication does not necesitate that Jesus and God be numerically identical,the same way that Wall is white does not necesitate Wall and White being numerically identical.

        Neither does the Jesus is God in the sense of identity follow from my statements,nor is such usage found in The Bible.

        With love,your buddy Vlad for Paltalk

        P.S. Give unitarianism up servy,you know it is impossible to eisegete it into the Bible.

  22. OddintheTruth
    February 2, 2016 @ 1:29 pm

    It looks like the only premise one can reasonably reject is premise 2. Granted, I have no idea what I am talking about.

    But, I suspect some presuppositions are in play that lead to an equivocation between who/what God is and who or what all the other objects in the universe are. In other words, there seems to be an assumption that what holds true for a tree or George Bush holds true for the uncreated Creator. It isn’t clear to me that what applies to the ontology of one applies to the ontology of the other.

    For example, God is a being that (many believe) can exist both past and future eternal and in time…George Bush, or a tree, or a blue whale can’t.

    It wouldn’t surprise me if there are philosophers who have written their doctorates on this and other vulnerabilities of the indiscernibility of identicals concept.

    Thanks for the thought experiment.

    • Dale Tuggy
      February 4, 2016 @ 9:50 am

      “It looks like the only premise one can reasonably reject is premise 2. Granted, I have no idea what I am talking about.”


      I think when you fully get your head around what 2 means, you’ll see that it is the least assailable of the premises. Perhaps this post will help you to see why I claim that 2 is self-evident: http://trinities.org/blog/a-formulation-of-leibnizs-law-the-indiscernibility-of-identicals/

      “But, I suspect some presuppositions are in play that lead to an equivocation between who/what God is and who or what all the other objects in the universe are. In other words, there seems to be an assumption that what holds true for a tree or George Bush holds true for the uncreated Creator. It isn’t clear to me that what applies to the ontology of one applies to the ontology of the other.”

      It is true, that those of us who are trained in logic think that it is subject-neutral. This doesn’t mean, of course, that our conceptual scheme is adequate to well understand all there is, God included. But follow through your thought: which premise would this incline you to doubt or deny?

      About 2, the only philosophers I’m aware of who deny it are those who follow Peter Geach in his bizarre claim that statements like “a and b are numerically one” are ill-formed, and don’t express any intelligible thought, because they don’t specify some “sortal” concept. It’s hard even for a philosopher to understand why he wanted to assert this – let’s just say that he had highly arcane reasons.

      Really, if you believe there are true identity-statements, you’re going to agree with the distinctness of differents (or the indiscernibility of identicals).

      • OddintheTruth
        February 4, 2016 @ 12:09 pm

        “LOL” – no doubt and thanks for responding!

        You said, “It is true, that those of us who are trained in logic think that is it subject-neutral”.

        I had to go look that up at plato.stanford.edu. They say there, “And, of course, logic does not tell us how we ought to reason or infer in all particular cases. Logic does not deal with the particular cases, but only with the most generally valid forms of reasoning or inference, ones that are valid no matter what one reasons about. In this sense logic is often seen to be topic neutral.”

        Since I couldn’t find a thing about “subject-neutral”, I assume you meant “topic neutral” as discussed above.

        So, to rephrase my point to sound all fancy:

        It isn’t clear to me how the logic you are using is applicable to the ontology of God given the topic-neutral assumptions of logic. As I said earlier, God exists in time and as past/future eternal – that itself demonstrates a massive ontological difference that should have bearing on the limits of logic’s topic neutral stance with respect to God.

        This would be a reasonable objection wouldn’t it?

        And when coupled with a theological exploration on the topic of the OT’s understanding of a divine plurality in Yahweh, it seems to me I can reasonably hold to, at the very least, a Binitarian position.

        My sense is you would answer, “yes” to my is it reasonable question. And if I understood your response correctly, it looks like you conceded that my point had some merit. Especially since your response was a little tentative. In other words, it seemed to imply that the topic of God “is not necessarily” outside of logic’s topic neutral stance. If I got the gist of that correctly, there appears to be a crack in the door.

      • OddintheTruth
        February 6, 2016 @ 10:59 pm

        In line with my reply to your reply, I just found something else that supported my position…directly from Leibniz himself.

        In “Leibniz on the Trinity and the Incarnation: Reason and Revelation in the Seventeenth Century”, I discovered that Leibniz himself accepted the Doctrine of the Trinity. He took it as a mystery. And he said this, “one of the basic equivocations of the Unitarians is to understand the Doctrine of the Trinity exclusively in the light of our natural experience”.

        That fits with what I first stated, “I suspect some presuppositions are in play that lead to an equivocation between who/what God is and who or what all the other objects in the universe are”.

        Pretty sweet!! But hey, I went to public school.

        So your argument may be sound and valid when applied to created objects. But with respect to God, there is no reason to believe it works. It contains an unproven presupposition.

        And in Remarques, Leibniz gives what some think is a kind-of, sort-of argument for the Trinity. I will check that out next.

  23. What does “Jesus is God” mean? – Meta-Theology Quarterly
    February 2, 2016 @ 12:11 pm

    […] Dale Tuggy offered an argument that Jesus is not God. He means to say that Jesus is not identical to the God of which there is one. His argument is […]

  24. Dale Tuggy
    February 2, 2016 @ 9:04 am

    A reply from social media. “The issue is with premise 1. The term “God” is used in a circular manner that stacks the conclusion.” A term can’t be circular; only an argument can. I don’t see any circularity here, though, and the objector doesn’t point out any. It is true that the term “God” here is deliberately vague, but I think that’s a virtue of the argument, not a problem with it. I’ll explain in another short post now…

  25. Micker
    February 2, 2016 @ 3:22 am

    Hi Dale, I think premise 4 may be doubtful as “x and y are the same god only if x and y are not two” ignores a probable premise that “x and y can be the same God provided that x is God and y is the subset of x”.

    • Dale Tuggy
      February 2, 2016 @ 8:56 am

      Hi Micker,

      I think what you mean to say is, can’t x and y be the same god in a case where x is a proper part of y. Is that right? If so, I think that is false. A proper part is by definition non-identical to the whole of which it is a part. e.g. my elbow is a part of my arm. But my elbow’s not the same arm as that arm. My elbow isn’t an arm at all, but rather a part of one. So, a proper part of a god would be just that, and needn’t be a god too, much less the same god as the whole. What do you think?

      • Micker
        February 2, 2016 @ 11:16 am

        Hi Dale, thanks for the response, I’m still meditating on this response at the moment……

        Meanwhile, just a question…. wouldn’t the conclusion of the above argument merely deny the statement that “only and solely Jesus (without / eliminating the Father and the Holy Spirit) is not God” – a belief normally attributable to Oneness Pentecostalism, since the comparison is made between one sole single person of the trinity against the entire trinity itself?

        • John Thomas
          February 2, 2016 @ 12:21 pm

          What Dale is arguing for (if you have listened to his podcasts) is that there is one God (who can be called The God (Ho Theos) which is described throughout the Old Testament and also as the God of Jesus Christ in New Testament and then Jesus himself who was a human being and was exalted to the status of divinity following his resurrection. But The God and Jesus and two different beings. Oneness Pentecostals consider Jesus only as The God (if I understand them correctly).

        • Dale Tuggy
          February 4, 2016 @ 8:02 am

          Hi Micker,

          I’m sorry – I don’t understand the question. Oneness folk ought to deny 3, I think, and certainly 9. But we have strong reasons to believe each.

  26. John B
    February 1, 2016 @ 5:17 pm

    Loooking forward to listening to this, but unfortunately a bit late over here in Western Europe so it’ll have to wait until tomorrow! I think Heiser needs a reference link to this episode. The dynastic household model he proposes I think needs ongoing consideration in this debate. I voted “no” to premise 6.

    • Dale Tuggy
      February 2, 2016 @ 8:59 am

      Hi John,

      I agree with Dr. Heiser that *in a sense* there are many gods – in the sense in which an angel or a redeemed human can count as one. I prefer the vaguer term “deity” for those. I also explicitly concede that more than one can be called “god” or addressed as “God.” But in this argument, by a “god” we mean the sort of being that only Yahweh is – as asserted in the scriptures quoted in the podcast here. Are you sure you really want to deny 6?

      • John B
        February 3, 2016 @ 5:21 am

        Hi Dale! If elohim = God, and we are searching for biblical reality so it is no good, I think elaborating an English *sense* of G O D, then no I cannot go back on denying 6 unless perhaps it is re-worded. Currently, “There is only one god” (especially lower-case g) simply cannot square with Psalm 82, and its prominence in Jesus’ own mind. Sorry!

        • Dale Tuggy
          February 4, 2016 @ 8:04 am

          6 can be paraphrased like this: there is only one being who is divine in the ways that Yahweh is, e.g. being the ultimate source of all else, being uniquely provident over history. If this is what we mean by “being a god” throughout the argument, do you think it is sound?

          • John B
            February 4, 2016 @ 8:56 am

            If that is how we must define God here, then we need to be consistent earlier too, right? As a result I modify 1 and 3. Premise 4 I personally don’t assert as a premise, because it immediately refutes the Triuners rather than arguing against their case (which I know you said in the podcast is not your goal). (I only voted premise 6 as problematic because I could only vote once).

            So now I have got up to 6 and would need your help beyond that:

            1. Yahweh/the most high God and Jesus differ.

            2. Things which differ are two (i.e. are not numerically identical)

            3. Therefore, Yahweh/the most high God and Jesus are two (not numerically identical). (1, 2)

            4. For any x and y, x and y are the same god only if x and y are not two (i.e.are numerically identical).

            5. Therefore, Yahweh/ the most high God and Jesus are not the same god. (3,4)

            6. There is only one being divine like Yahweh (Yahweh himself)

            7. Therefore….??

            Sorry to be awkward!