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. OddintheTruth
    March 8, 2016 @ 8:22 am

    Something just doesn’t seem right about your general method of interpretation of the Gospels as it concerns Jesus’ identity. I am trying to put my finger on it…

    Quick thoughts for now.

    Your interpretations presuppose that the Yahweh of the OT is one person. Or if using “one person” is too dangerous, we could say that you assume there is no “plurality” in the Yahweh of the OT. I think a number of scholars have shown that there very well could be such in OT Jewish thought.

    You, I think, rightly point out that the Gospel writers declare Jesus to be the Messiah. And you suggest that is the most generous way to read them – whereas Bird’s approach would be forced readings. Maybe…maybe not.

    But with this, I am speculating, you may be leaving something out. For example, N.T. Wright shows us that there was no Jewish stream of thought in 2nd Temple Judaism that connected the Messiah with resurrection. The connection wasn’t made by Jews until Jesus’ resurrection.

    It seems to me a natural reading of the Gospels could be that another connection is being made (tentatively at first for fairly obvious reasons) for the first time between the Messiah and his followers understanding of the plurality in Yahweh. Jesus is not only the Messiah, he is Yahweh’s divine agent. But not just a divine agent like Moses or the Angel Michael. They are coming to see that Jesus is one quite different; one they would have associated with the plurality of Yahweh himself.

    And it also sounded like you assumed Jesus’ reading of Psalm 82 was taking the “elohim” there to be human kings and not the “elohim” in the way that Michael Heiser understands the passage.

    Anyway…my quick thoughts. Might need to flesh them out more. Time to get back to work!


    • Roman
      March 9, 2016 @ 8:45 am

      Why shouldn’t one presuppose that Yahweh of the OT is one person? The OT uses “he” over and over and over again when talking about Yahweh. Why would plurality in Yahweh even be an option or a question?

      As far as scholars showing that there could have been such in OT Jewish thought, what are their arguments? I haven’t seen any that are good arguments or even plausable. Some arguments rely on purposefully missreading Philo, and ignoring agency theology, but if you have any arugments for that it would be Nice to see.
      Jesus ressurection and Messiahship, and the Connection between the two are explicitly laid out in the New Testament, clearly and explicitly, one cannot read the NT and reasonably come to a different position.
      You could argue that a Natural Reading of the Gospels forces one into a position that Jesus is InFact one person within a multi-personal Yahweh, but that claim is a Whole lot more outlandish, bizzare and contradictory to Jewish theology so one would have to argue that this Reading is pretty obvious and Clear. So far I haven’t hear arguments that make such a Reading even plausable or even possible.


      • OddintheTruth
        March 9, 2016 @ 9:41 am

        Thanks for the response…good questions. I am just a Sunday School teacher – who does some reading…so be easy on me!

        I am not sure the fact that the OT uses “he” over and over and over again can be used to establish Ancient Jewish thought on the identity of Yahweh…that is a bit of a stretch. I could just as easily suggest that the “Name” of Yahweh makes it clear that multiple persons can share in that name.

        It seems to me that there is a tendency to come at this issue backwards. Too many theologians and philosophers start at the creeds and read back into the NT – either to show support or opposition against creedal claims.

        I really don’t see how this helps us understand Ancient Jewish thought on Yahweh and his ontology. One, I think, really has to come from the other direction…an ancient Near Eastern context (this would exclude Philo).

        The OT’s many parallels with, and polemics against Ugarit, Canaanite and Babylonian concepts of God have a great bearing on this discussion. One example is the Cloud Rider imagery.

        In pagan uses, the cloud rider is their god (a real, although created being). It seems unlikely that Jews would adopt the imagery as a polemic in Daniel with the understanding that the polemic would be successful if the cloud rider was not their God. The contrast is, after all, between the reality and power of the God of Israel vs. the God of Whoever. And though you could imagine an agent performing the same function – that is beside the point. The point is what they intended.

        I love listening to your podcast – I really do. But when you are flying solo, your presuppositions come across as sacrosanct. For example, in your response to me, you sound as if you have soundly dispatched specialists in ancient Near Eastern studies and have moved on. And when you speak of the Gospels, you easily dispatch 40 years of modern scholarship on those books.

        I am sure it gets frustrating to hear theologians/NT scholars say things that are – to your mind – philosophical nonsense. But, this cuts both ways.

        You usually don’t do this, by the way, when you interview those who disagree with you!! Only when you are flying solo, it seems.

        Thanks again!


        • John Thomas
          March 9, 2016 @ 10:30 am

          First, I have to inform you that Roman is not Dr. Dale Tuggy. Dr. Tuggy might reply to your post later if he has time and feel the need to. Both Roman and Rivers are regular commenters in this forum. They both agree with Dr. Tuggy’s position (like me) that a plain reading of NT does not lead us to conclude that there is a plurality of persons in the being of Yahweh (whatever that means). Now you can throw away all our basic understanding of logic (and call it mystery) and read the NT from the interpretive framework of fourth century creeds and say that it makes sense to read NT from that interpretive framework. That is a whole different issue.

          Second, I would like to hear from you which are the verses from NT that make you think that Yahweh is a multipersonal being.


          • OddintheTruth
            March 9, 2016 @ 11:12 am

            Dohp! Sorry about that Roman…and Dale! And thanks, John, for pointing that out!

            Now, the question you just asked is the complete opposite of what I said in response to Roman (Dale 🙂 ). I actually said it is a mistake to read the NT’s concept of Yahweh filtered through the assumptions of the creeds.

            I said the better way to do it is from the ancient Near East perspective. So any “plain reading” of the NT is done w/presuppositions. Your plain reading may involve a reading that comports it to modern takes on logic – analytic philosophy. I think a better plain reading is through the Ancient Jewish understandings of Yahweh that were influenced from surrounding cultures. This may not be conclusive, but it can provide access to different conclusions.


            • Rivers
              March 9, 2016 @ 12:05 pm


              For the record, my understanding of LOGOS in the Prologue is derived from the intertextual evidence for the usage of the term within the literary context of the 4th Gospel and the John letters. I don’t find any reason to appeal to external sources or restrict the meaning to anything outside of the context of the apostolic peaching of the gospel.

              I would argue that LOGOS in John 1:1 is referring to the human Jesus (just like in John 1:14), and that the writer was merely applying the Genesis language (e.g. beginning, word, light, darkness, world) to the circumstances of the public ministry of Jesus during the time when the apostles were with him. Hence, there is no implication of any kind of Preexistence or Incarnation necessary to understand the meaning of the Prologue.


              • OddintheTruth
                March 9, 2016 @ 12:57 pm

                So the “way” John uses LOGOS, is as I understand it, always a great point of contention. In other words, to what extent is his use Greek. Or to what extent is his use traced back to Ancient Judaism’s use of the “Word” and “Wisdom” of God. I take the second view.

                Now this doesn’t answer the question as to who exactly the Word or Wisdom of God is. Do they refer to a mere agent of God in the OT and 2nd Temple Literature? Are they just an anthropomorphism of Yahweh’s attributes? Do they refer to Yahweh Himself? I agree with the scholars that say they refer to Yahweh.

                Now, I am just a dude that sells safety equipment and teaches Sunday School, so I am not sophisticated enough to write a drawn out defense. But, at the end of the day, I go with grounding Jesus’ identity in an Ancient Jewish context informed by ANE influences and concepts. And that context is not philosophically neat and tidy. This makes the most sense to me. And this is an admitted presupposition.


                • Rivers
                  March 9, 2016 @ 4:13 pm


                  I don’t think there is any need to trace the meaning of “the word” (LOGOS) back into the Wisdom literature of the Hebrew scriptures because the context of the Prologue has nothing to do with it. The context of the Prologue is about the time when John the baptizer and Jesus Christ were baptizing and making disciples (John 1:7-8; 14-15; cf. John 3:22-28).

                  The writer of the 4th Gospel uses the noun LOGOS (“word”) over 40 times and it always refers to a “saying” or “message” spoken by an human being and heard by other human beings. There’s no reason to redefine the term in the Prologue since “the word” (LOGOS) is plainly identified with the human Jesus (John 1:14) whom the disciples “heard” and “saw” and “touched” (1 John 1:1).

                  Don’t be concerned about debating the issue. I’m just offering a different perspective on the meaning of LOGOS in the Prologue for you to consider (from a Biblical Unitarian viewpoint). There are a number of people on the forum here who have different perspectives as well.


            • John Thomas
              March 9, 2016 @ 12:13 pm

              First, I agree with you that any reading needs an interpretive framework. When I said, plain reading I meant using usual principles of human logic that we derive from day to day experience and that we use to interpret any works of literature. Sorry about that and thanks for correcting me there.

              Second, I wish to know which Ancient Near East perspectives are you using to conclude that there are multiple persons in the being of Yahweh? Any specific situations you have in mind?


              • OddintheTruth
                March 9, 2016 @ 12:41 pm

                As I said to Rivers, ideas like god as cloud rider and god as the one who has power of the water are just a couple of examples of concepts Judaism borrowed from its neighbors and used polemically to exemplify who Yahweh is.


                • John Thomas
                  March 9, 2016 @ 12:42 pm

                  But that doesn’t show that there are multiplicity of persons in the being of Yahweh. It only shows that how variously people understood the concept of God during the time.


                  • OddintheTruth
                    March 9, 2016 @ 1:27 pm

                    I agree with you – it “doesn’t show that there are multiplicity of persons in the being of Yahweh”.

                    But, at the very least, my point is that it is a leap to then say – so because of the indiscernibility of identicals it must be that the Yahweh of the OT is one person.

                    This is a sort of anachronistic way to interpret Ancient Jewish concepts of Yahweh. It’s like bulldozing a beautiful and extravagant forest. It might “tidy” things up, but the guys who planted the forest wouldn’t recognize at all what is left.


                    • John Thomas
                      March 9, 2016 @ 2:45 pm

                      I agree with you that we could approach the text of NT assuming Yahweh is one person or Yahweh is multipersonal. But you don’t have to justify yourself in coming with an assumption that there is only one person in a being. That is from our direct experience. All sentient beings we experience has single personhood within them. So when OT describes Yahweh in terms of He, we assume that it is talking about a person in a being. Now you could approach in terms of assumption of multiple persons within the being of Yahweh as the current Trinitarians do. But you should have a stronger justification (from the texts) for assuming that because it is counterintuitive to whatever we experience in terms of person and being. You could call it a mystery or say that God is beyond our comprehension to escape it, but the problem (that we have to shun all our logic for that) just doesn’t go away.

                    • OddintheTruth
                      March 9, 2016 @ 3:25 pm

                      “don’t have to justify yourself in coming with an assumption that there is only one person in a being”. Maybe so. It doesn’t sound unreasonable to appeal to experience in understanding persons and numerical identity. I am sympathetic with that.

                      But, again, the experience of Yahweh by Ancient Judaism might challenge this assumption. To me, their experience/understanding of Yahweh is the only relevant one. And it might be an experience at odds with ours – or much stranger that ours. Ours could be an anachronistic imposition.

                    • John Thomas
                      March 9, 2016 @ 3:34 pm

                      But you didn’t give me any reason to assume that Yahweh is a multipersonal being from the two examples you gave me. I don’t understand how you concluded Yahweh is a multipersonal being from that two examples.

                    • OddintheTruth
                      March 9, 2016 @ 8:28 pm

                      Hi John,

                      As Larry Hurtado has demonstrated, the mutation that happened to Judaism in the NT involved devotion practices toward Jesus that previously were only given to Yahweh.

                      The categories in place for this to happen, he said, were the OT/2nd Temple divine agency concepts – wisdom of Yahweh, name of Yahweh, Angel of Yahweh, Coregent of Yahweh, etc.

                      Heiser and others take this a step further. They argue that, in fact, OT Judaism included not only the above concepts, but also included the concept of the two-powers of Yahweh. Some of the above divine agents were understood to be preincarnations of Yahweh.

                      I think Alan Segal has an old, but very well respected book on the topic.

                      My knowledge on this issue is very limited.

                      But the point is this…the belief that Yahweh lacked plurality in ancient Jewish thought is a presupposition. It is not, as some scholarship seeks to argue, a brute fact.

                    • John Thomas
                      March 9, 2016 @ 8:57 pm

                      But actually Larry Hurtado himself said in the trinities podcasts that he believe that Yahweh exalted Jesus to the same level of divinity as himself and ordered to give to Jesus the same worship as to Yahweh. So the apostles worshiped Jesus as divine because Yahweh required that amount of worship towards him following his exaltation in spite of the fact that Jews were monotheists. From what he said, it is obvious that he does not believe that NT writers imply that Yahweh and Jesus are persons within same being but two different entities.

                    • OddintheTruth
                      March 9, 2016 @ 9:23 pm

                      You need to read his One Lord One God. As a historian he clearly points out that the NT authors saw Jesus in Divine Agency categories. It was Jesus devotion that came from the Fathers exaltation of Jesus. The two are not mutually exclusive for Hurtado. Do read the book. It is awesome.

                      So associating Jesus with OT divine agents is the first step.

                      Hurtado just doesn’t take the next step…that some of the divine agents were one of the two powers of Yahweh. I am not sure he even has an opinion on this.

                      But this second step is done by guys like Segal (Hurtado’s old friend) and Heiser.

                      So my main point stands. It is a presupposition that Yahweh lacked plurality in the OT. It is not a basic or brute fact.

                    • John Thomas
                      March 9, 2016 @ 10:35 pm

                      And how does Segal and Heiser show divine agent is same as the being of Yahweh (texts that they use)? And what is the basis for the presupposition that Yahweh is a multi personal being? So far whatever you have given (regarding ANE perspectives) have not convinced me.

                    • Rivers
                      March 10, 2016 @ 8:45 am

                      John Thomas,

                      I agree.

                      The Hebrew term ALHYM (“God/s”) can be taken as a collective reference to the multiple beings who rule the world (inclusive of YHWH) but not as an indication that the ancient Hebrews believed in a “multi-personal being.”

                    • John Thomas
                      March 10, 2016 @ 11:05 am

                      Yeah, “elohim” is a term that is explained in different ways by Trinitarian Christians, Jews and secular scholars. Trinitarian Christians would say it refers to Trinity when the Bible says in reference to elohim, “let us create man in our own image” Jewish theologians will say it is because of the respect given to the God that it is addressed in plural. Secular scholars will say that current Hebrew text in many parts was originally a polytheistic or henotheistic text that was redacted in the post-exilic period to look like a monotheistic narrative but many remnants of the original text still remains. So in their view, elohim refers to gods (term similar to what Plato used to address their gods in the Dialogues). If it is the case that Judaism was a henotheistic religion rather than a monotheistic religion i.e. Yahweh as the God along with other divine beings who even though are gods are subordinate to Yahweh, it favors Exaltation Christology more since it becomes okay to consider Jesus as divine being in the same status as Yahweh following exaltation. We don’t have to stick to a monotheistic understanding so as to put Jesus as a person within the being of Yahweh. Yahweh and Jesus are two beings, one Yahweh and other Jesus who was exalted to the same status as Yahweh. Even in the Shema, it only says, “Lord our God, Lord is one. You shall have no gods before me.” But as Larry Hurtado argues, Yahweh can change that status and exalt Jesus to his level and require worship to Jesus same as himself.

                    • Rivers
                      March 10, 2016 @ 12:12 pm

                      John Thomas,

                      Why would anyone consider Jesus “exalted to the same status as YHWH” when the apostles understood that he always remained “subject” to God the Father (1 Corinthians 15:24-28) and they used terminology indicating that the human Jesus was “at the right hand of God” (Acts 2:33; Hebrews 1:4).

                      Moreoever, we still have the apostles using “Father” and “son” to distinguish between God and the human Jesus after he is exalted. This kind of language seems to limit the context in which they can be understood as “equal.”

                    • OddintheTruth
                      March 10, 2016 @ 1:17 pm

                      See the reply I just made to John Thomas.

                    • John Thomas
                      March 10, 2016 @ 1:40 pm

                      Usually, Philippians 2:5-11 is used to defend Jesus was exalted to a status with Yahweh by Yahweh. Especially where it says, “the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord”. The name that is above every name and the name before every knee should bow in heaven and earth and every tongue acknowledges is an epithet that is attributed to Yahweh in Isaiah 45:23. Now since Jesus receives it, it is understood as Jesus being exalted to same status as Yahweh and worship that was originally due to Yahweh is now received through Jesus.

                    • Rivers
                      March 10, 2016 @ 3:50 pm

                      John Thomas,

                      Doesn’t Philippians 2:10-11 explicitly say that “the name” is “Jesus”? I read the text to be saying that people are to bow to “the name of Jesus Christ” (and not to YHWH, which is a different “name”).

                      Another consideration in the context of Philippians 2:5-11 is that the “name above every name” can be taken to be relative only to other creatures. This is the way the apostles normally use “the name” of Jesus to distinguish him the “angels” (Hebrews 1:4) and other human beings (Acts 4:12) who had “names.”

                    • John Thomas
                      March 10, 2016 @ 3:54 pm

                      That is the interpretation that Bart Ehrman and Larry Hurtado seem to give to the passage. It seems right to me. Because there are verses in Paul (I forgot the exact verses) where something that is ascribed to Yahweh in OT is being ascribed to Jesus (like Lord returning to Zion is ascribed to Jesus, for example; there are others too). Those who argue Jesus is Yahweh himself, will use those verses to mean that both Jesus and Yahweh are the same being. That is one way to look at it. But a more plausible way to look at it would be Jesus was exalted to the status of Yahweh so that those verses which were originally ascribed to Yahweh now is being ascribed to exalted Jesus.

                    • Rivers
                      March 11, 2016 @ 9:02 am

                      John Thomas,

                      I don’t think we even need to go that far. Even though there are some texts that use YHWH language from the Hebrew scriptures and apply it to the human Jesus, the rest of the evidence shows that this was done in the context of the apostolic understanding that Jesus Christ was always to be “subject” to God the Father (1 Corinthians 15:24-28).

                      As you would agree, context is always crucial. For example, Jesus was “making himself EQUAL with God” (John 5:18) and yet he was saying that “the Father is greater than me” (John 14:28). It’s reasonable to assume that the writer of the 4th Gospel wouldn’t have Jesus contradicting himself.

                      Thus, as interpreters, we need to look for a coherent and comprehensive explanation of all the evidence that can account for an “equality with God” that does not require the “unseen” Father (John 1:18) and the human Jesus (John 1:14) to maintain the same “status” (1 Corinthians 15:24-28).

                    • OddintheTruth
                      March 10, 2016 @ 1:16 pm

                      Rivers, John, Roman:

                      This is it for me, but I will finish up by correcting some mistaken attributions about my comments and with a quick summary.

                      I never said “elohim” can be taken to be Trinitarian. In a comment to Rivers, I stated my agreement with Heiser on the meaning of this word. It is a “place” or “address” word. It is not Trinitarian.

                      “have not convinced me” – John.

                      It has never been my intent to convince any of you. It has been my intent to demonstrate that the Unitarian handling of the complexity of Yahweh in the OT and its relevance and importance in understanding Jesus is full of presuppositions.

                      The fundamental presupposition is that OT/NT understandings of Yahweh are to be interpreted through a modern philosophical grid. I think this flattens out the range and strangeness of how Jews thought of Yahweh – and how they came to think of Jesus.

                      As I said, it makes more sense to me to start with ANE concepts of God; their influence on Judaism; and then understand Jesus in light of all that. This is my admitted presupposition.

                      So we need to start with things like:
                      1) Yahweh was not worshipped because he was numerically one god.
                      2) Yahweh was worshipped because he was unique among the gods.
                      3) Judaism has a divine agency stream – coregent, word, wisdom, etc.
                      4) Judaism has a two-powers view of Yahweh stream – unseen and seen (preincarnate).
                      5) Yahweh is the cloud rider (almost 70 times in OT).
                      6) Son of man is cloud rider
                      8) Jews did not have cultic worship of divine agents (Hurtado)
                      9) Jesus is associated with divine agents (Hurtado, et al.)
                      10) Jesus is worshipped in cultic patterns (Hurtado).
                      11) The divine agents Jesus is linked to existed before the incarnation.
                      12) Jesus is given devotion only given to Yahweh (Hurtado says, from a historians perspective, in this act we see, ” two distinguishable but uniquely linked figures”.
                      12) Jesus is included in the Shema (Hurtado).
                      13) The Shema is an expression of point 2.
                      14) Jesus is thus seen as “part” of the uniqueness of Yahweh.
                      15) Jews worshipped Jesus w/o violating their exclusive Yahweh devotion (Hurtado).

                      These are just a few off the top of my head. They aren’t meant to be an argument. They are features of the landscape.

                      Now, the question is how would a 1st century Jew take all this in? How did they understand all this in context of Jesus? My contention is that they didn’t wade through this stuff with Leibniz’s “InId” in mind (Leibnez was a Trinitarian, btw).

                      So, none of this proves anything. But it demonstrates that the stream of interpretation Unitarians give to this data is not a (or certainly, the only) “plain” reading. It is – in my mind – an anachronistic reading. Why, because it is a flattening of this landscape.

                      I will leave it to the Social Trinitarians and Composition Trinitarians to hash out the philosophy of Trinitarian thought. But given all the aforementioned data – and much more – I think they are trying to express a plain reading that better accords with ancient views of Yahweh and the varied landscape it offers.

                      If I knew more about this stuff, I might be able to offer all of you a more robust conversation. But I enjoy having to think through some things. And that is the beauty of Dales’ podcast. It makes one do that.

                      BTW – I will be teaching a series on this topic in my Sunday School class. I will definitely bring up your Unitarian perspective.

                    • Rivers
                      March 10, 2016 @ 2:46 pm


                      Thank you for the clarification.

                      I’m glad you understand the your preference to put “other ANE sources” before the authority and primary context of the biblical testimony itself is also a presuppositional approach. Although it is popular among published scholars today, it results in numerous exegetical and logical fallacies that are also prevalent in the same academic material.

                      I’m coming from a different perspective because I think the primary authority for understanding what the ancient Hebrews believed about God should be derived from the usage of their own (unique) Hebrew language in the context of their own unique understanding of their genealogical origin.

                      If somebody 4,000 years from now wanted to know what Biblical Unitarians believed, I wouldn’t recommend that they appeal to “other Trinitarian sources” as the filter through which to interpret our Christology. That would lead to a lot of misunderstanding.

                    • Rivers
                      March 10, 2016 @ 8:38 am


                      I don’t think the “divine agency” idea is sufficient to explain equality with God or the worship of Jesus. Any common “slave” or angelic “messenger” can be “sent” as a divine agent. Thus, the agency concept wouldn’t essentially make the human Jesus different from anyone else.

                      It’s evident that Jesus distinguished himself from others who were “sent” by virtue of the fact that he was God’s own “son” and the owner of the “inheritance” of God’s kingdom (Matthew 21:31-39). This is why the Jews wanted to stone Jesus every time he was “claiming that God was his OWN Father, making himself EQUAL with God” (John 5:18; cf. John 10:30-36; John 8:54). This “equality” is a matter of ownership (cf. John 1:12; Galatians 4:1-2).

                      The apostles spoke of Jesus Christ as the “one and only” (MONOGENES, John 1:18; John 3:16-18) because, like Abraham’s son, Isaac, the human Jesus was brought back from the dead (Hebrews 11:17-19; Romans 4:17-19) in order to uniquely qualify for the inheritance of the promises.

        • Roman
          March 9, 2016 @ 11:33 am

          I’m not Dale, he does the podcast, I’m just a dude that comments :), he is definately more gracious and careful in what he says than I am, to my discredit.

          In what way does the name of Yahweh imply multiple persons?
          The “He” thing just tells us that our starting point should be that God is something which can be addressed as “he” i.e. a person. when you hear “he” you think “one person” naturally.

          I would include Philo in the context (Alexandria is part of the near eastern world) because the language is influential, I would argue, in Johns writings. We would also need to include other Jewish writings of the time.

          But about the could rider, it is true that yahweh is described as one who rides on the clouds. But if you look at Daniel 7 the one who comes on the clouds is not Yahweh, he meets Yahweh and is presented with power and glory and rulership. the Book of Enoch gives an interpretation of the Son of Man from Daniel and that Son of Man is the exaulted Enoch, not Yahweh.

          The argument in Daniel is not comparing the God of Israel to the God’s of the nations, rather it’s the Rulerships of the nations and the Rulership of God. The Polemic is that God’s rulership is superior, and will be eternal, it’s eschatological, the Son of Man is the one God appoints as ruler.

          I talk a bit more about the son of man claims here if you’re interested:

          I’m not dispaching scholarship on ancient near eastern studies or the gospels, I take individual arguments on their own merits, I don’t dismiss anything out of hand. On the arguments for supposed multiple persons within God in Ancient Jewish thought, I have read some of the arguments and I find them very very lacking, and it’s not like the idea that the Jews worshiped a multiple person God is the mainstream in Ancient Near Eastern Scholarship. But of course i haven’t read all the arguments, and there may be some that are convincing, I just have yet to come across one (one the multiple persons in one God pre-Christianity claim).

          My point was not to be flippant, I’m sorry if I came across that way, it was just to say that arguments need to be examined individually on their merit. The fact that scholars argue for something in itself doesn’t say much, unless the arguments themselves are good arguments. So if you say a natural reading of the New Testament would lead one to say that Jesus is Yahweh, we would have to see an argument for that. We both agree that the natural reading would lead one to see that Jesus was the messiah, and that involved Jesus’ resurrection. But we don’t agree on the Jesus is Yahweh claim.

          The connection between Jesus messiahship and the ressurection was not made from Exegesis of the Old Testament alone, it was that along with the experience of the apostles, which was then recorded for us in the New Testament, which we can plainly read in it. If there was a connection made from Jesus to Yahweh in that they were ontologically one God, we would need to be able to exegete that from the New Testament, and do so in a way that is more plausable than other interpretations of the New Testament.

          Anyway, again, I’m not Dale, and I’m sorry if I came off as Flippant.


          • OddintheTruth
            March 9, 2016 @ 2:24 pm

            Hi Roman,

            Again, it was my bad! And thanks for this response. Some good stuff here.

            So when you say this:
            “The argument in Daniel is not comparing the God of Israel to the God’s of the nations, rather it’s the Rulerships of the nations and the Rulership of God. The Polemic is that God’s rulership is superior, and will be eternal, it’s eschatological, the Son of Man is the one God appoints as ruler.”

            I have to concede you guys are probably right about that as a valid and consistent interpretation in its context.

            I think it is on “us” to demonstrate how Daniel 7 connects the cloud rider to anything more than the Messiah. Say, for example the eternal and divine coregent of Yahweh.

            Michael Heiser makes some of these connections convincingly – to me – and others might look a little forced from a modern philosophical standpoint.

            It raises questions about the identity of the Messiah as anything more than just an exalted human. Again, Heiser addresses these questions.

            I would very much like to see Dale have Heiser on again. I would like to see them talk specifically about Yahweh, the coregent, two powers, divine plurality, etc.


            • Roman
              March 10, 2016 @ 3:33 am

              I’ve read some of Michale Heisers work before, I’ve even written about his attempt to decouple the ending of Acts 2 and 4 from any political or social implications (which I of course dissagreed With). I’ll have to look into his specific arguments on Daniel 7.


          • OddintheTruth
            March 9, 2016 @ 3:16 pm

            Hi Roman,

            To follow up my last post about the Cloud Rider and Yahweh, here is a link to one of Heiser’s papers on the subject. He discusses how an Canaanite understanding of Cloud Rider to Baal and El, etc. fleshes out in its Jewish use.



            • Roman
              March 10, 2016 @ 3:42 am

              Very interesting paper, thanks for sharing that With me, I’ll have to look more into it, I’m not so familiar With Canaanite Texts or religion as I should be, so I’d have to look up more into that before I can say anything.

              one quick point. I absolutely agree that Daniel 7 refers to a Divine being, the problem is what does that mean? There are all sorts of Divine beings in the OT, Angels, the accuser, in Jewish theology Moses is sometimes depicted as a Divine being, Enoch, Elijah, and so on. But the question is what does that imply? That doesn’t get you one iota closer to a “binitarian” theology, binitarian isn’t there are more Divine beings than Yahweh, but rather than Yahweh has 2 Divine beings within himself.

              Here’s where I feel Heiser goes slightly wrong. Philo’s Logos theology is not that Yahweh has a Co-Regent, it is in a sense, but the Logos is alwasy subservient to God, he is created, he is in fact the son of God, image of God, the agent and tool of God.

              This is not Binitarianism, it’s classical agency theology that goes back to the begining back to Genesis, it’s not a Development of more and more plurality in Yahweh, rather it’s Yahweh being the transcendant absolute God working through various agencies.

              That being said, I have to read more about the Baal Connections, I’m afraid I can’t say much on that, without potentially sounding like an idiot :P.


            • Dale Tuggy
              March 10, 2016 @ 5:21 pm

              “divine being”
              This is a major source of mischief – the ambiguity of “divine being,” “divine figure” and such. On the one hand, we have an older, more flexible usage, or usages, on which clearly angels and men can be divine beings, e.g. the glorified one like a son of a man in Daniel, etc.

              On the other hand, catholic tradition demands that Jesus is a “divine being” in a way that makes him equal with the Father, so that they are “true God from true God” etc., coessential and eternal Persons of the Trinity. And any latter-day trinitarian insists that the Persons are equally divine, and in the same sense.

              Now, if a being is “divine” in first sense, this does not imply, or even hint or suggest that he’s “divine” in this later sense. In fact, if he (anyone) was ever *promoted to* divine status, that *rules out* his being divine in the way that Yahweh is divine, as his divinity is eternal, essential, and underived.

              I’m completely fine with talking about NT Jesus as divine in the first sense, particularly after he’s raised, exalted, and made immortal. But I put my foot down when people try to get trinitarian wine out of the OT and NT water, i.e. out their more flexible, older god-talk.

              Another problem is people seizing *any kind of* plurality within or around or somehow involving God in Jewish thought and then saying, “see, Trinity!” But I must cease this rant for now.


              • Rivers
                March 11, 2016 @ 9:12 am


                Good points.

                To be fair, I think some Biblical Unitarians (and Arians) also need to be careful not to be cherry-picking “Jewish thought” and then saying “see, there is notional preexistence” or “see, there is divine agency” or “see, there are creatures being called, God” and then claiming that this is what the apostles believed about Jesus Christ.


        • Roman
          March 11, 2016 @ 2:39 am

          One little thing you might be interested in, something I wrote recently on the supposed openess to binitarianism of first Century Judaism:


      • OddintheTruth
        March 9, 2016 @ 11:12 am

        Sorry Roman! I thought you were Dale…my bad!!


    • Rivers
      March 9, 2016 @ 10:11 am


      One thing to consider with respect to YHWH being one “person” is that neither ancient Hebrew nor biblical Greek had any vocabulary to distinguish between “being” and/or “person.” Thus, any discussion of this concept must be imported into scripture. Even Trinitarians cannot produce any explicit reference to any kind of “multi-personal being” described in scripture.

      It’s evident throughout the Hebrew scriptures that ALHYM (God/gods) is a plural term because it can represent one or more beings or persons who rule the world (e.g. YHWH, angels, demons, human judges). However, ALHYM doesn’t connote that these different rulers (persons) are part of one “being.” Rather, it seems to be used to speak of different beings sharing a similar status.


      • OddintheTruth
        March 9, 2016 @ 11:22 am

        Hi Rivers,

        No doubt. Anyone who has done any reading on the issue knows that the plural “elohim” is not Trinity language or plural god language. Michael Heiser (a Trinitarian) has done a great job on this word. Elohim is more of a place or residence word – the unseen realm (to use his phrase).

        Can’t comment on the being/person distinction…take your word for it (I am inclined to agree, given what I have read).

        However, views of divine plurality in Ancient Judaism do not come from words. They come from concepts about “god” borrowed from Ugarit, Canaanite, and other cultures. Ancient Jews recast the concepts around Yahweh and used them as a polemic against “whoevers” god. Yahweh (in whatever form) was the protagonist in the polemics.

        See my response to Roman (which for some dumb reason, I thought was Dale).


        • Rivers
          March 9, 2016 @ 11:46 am


          I’ve read Heiser’s material and he makes a number of good points about ALHYM. I think he even goes so far as to say that there is no distinction between “soul” and “spirit” in the Hebrew scriptures (which might be little bit of an overstatement).

          I’m skeptical of Heiser’s conclusion that “divine plurality” was “borrowed from other ancient cultures” because the ancient Hebrews not only spoke a unique language, but they understood that the origin of their culture was by a direct act of creation by YHWH (Genesis 1-2). There are more differences than similarities, so I think some of the similarities are probably coincidental.

          Another thing to think about with regard to ancient cultures is that they all observed the same astronomical phenomenon occurring in the skies throughout the world (since they were avid astronomers). This has been shown to account for the similarity among the mythological stories of the ancient world even when the various civilizations had no contact with one another.


          • OddintheTruth
            March 9, 2016 @ 12:38 pm

            Hi Rivers,

            I am definitely not skeptical. I think Heiser and others are sound in these observations. Things like the water as chaos, and that the powerful god is the one who can control the water, and gods as cloud riders, etc. were all prior to Judaism. They borrowed them and used them polemically. Or so it seems to me.


            • Rivers
              March 9, 2016 @ 3:48 pm


              Actually, the archetypes go back further than the ANE cultures and those themes can be found in civilizations throughout the world. The reason is because the “gods” of the most ancient civilizations were the “planets” that they observed in the heavens (as astronomers). The archetypal themes are universal because the same astronomical observations were made all over the Earth.


    • Dale Tuggy
      March 10, 2016 @ 5:09 pm

      “Your interpretations presuppose that the Yahweh of the OT is one person.
      Or if using “one person” is too dangerous, we could say that you assume
      there is no “plurality” in the Yahweh of the OT.”

      Hi – thanks for the comment. I am only presupposing that Yahweh is a god, and indeed, The God. YHWH is explicitly one of the and the greatest of the elohim in the OT, and YHWH is his personal name. I don’t assume that there’s no plurality of any sort in him.

      “forced readings” It’s not a case of natural vs. unnatural readings, but rather of seemingly coherent vs. seemingly incoherent readings. The latter are uncharitable, and should be a last resort. But Dr. Bird jumps straight for them, making some pretty bold inferences from what Mark says, and seemingly against what Mark explicitly says.

      “not just a divine agent like Moses or the Angel Michael”
      Sure, the Messiah job description or role is different than that of a mere prophet, and being a human agent is different than being an angel. But I think you’re gesturing at the later catholic two-natures speculations. I say: nope! Not in Mark. There’s nothing there that even hints that this is a God-man, a single person with two natures, operations, and wills.

      “one they would have associated with the plurality of Yahweh himself”
      I see no trace of this whatever in Mark. I’m not sure if you’re taking the Ehrman view, which is pretty mainstream, that the gospels are inconsistent on how Jesus relates to God, with John finally saying that Jesus is (in some sense) God. I want to say: didn’t the apostles, all taught by Jesus in some sense, have a consistent message on this score?


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