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.

23 Comments

  1. MdS
    November 29, 2016 @ 2:11 pm

    Jesus is referred to (by others, NEVER by himself) as “God”; as for “the God” (with the article, arthrous, in Greek ho theos), this rule applies:

    In the Scriptures (NT and also LXX) the Greek expression ho theos, when used absolutely, without complements and/or qualifiers, is ONLY referred to God, the Father Almighty.

    When it is referred to other than God the Father Almighty, it is invariably accompanied by a qualifier/complement. For instance, in John 20:28 (? ?????? ??? ??? ? ???? ???, ho kurios mou kai ho theos mou, “my Lord and my God”) the qualifier/complement is the genitive ???, mou, “of me”.

    Let my provide two more examples which confirm the rule.

    In Titus 2:13 (??? ??????? ???? ??? ??????? ???? ??????? ?????, tou megalou theou kai sôtêros êmôn christou iêsou, “of our great God and Savior Christ Jesus”) the qualifier/complement is the genitive ????, êmôn, “our” (lit. “of ours”).

    In 2 Peter 1:1 (?? ?????????? ??? ???? ???? ??? ??????? ????? ???????, en dikaiosunê tou theou êmôn kai sôtêros iêsou christou, “through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ”) the qualifier/complement is, again, the genitive ????, êmôn, “our” (lit. “of ours”).

    But there is another example that is, IMO, conclusive …

    3 But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing, 4 among whom the god of this age [? ???? ??? ?????? ??????, ho theos tou aiônos toutou] has blinded the minds of those who do not believe so they would not see the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of [the] God [??? ????, tou theou]. (2 Cor 4:3-4)

    … because it confirms, at the same time, that the qualified expression ? ???? (ho theos) is NOT necessarily referred to [the] God [??? ????, tou theou] —in fact it is referred, in this case, even to God’s enemy, Satan!— BUT, when it is un-qualified, absolute, it certainly refers to [the] God [??? ????, tou theou]: THE One and Only God.

    • Rivers
      November 30, 2016 @ 8:48 am

      MdS,

      I’m not convinced that the grammatical “qualifiers” you mention are the determining factor in any passage where O QEOS occurs. There are significant contextual factors that should be given priority and seem to suggest that O QEOS was used exclusively of God the Father.

      For sake of brevity, I’ll only address your remarks about John 20:28 (but would be happy to offer an explanation of Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1 if you want to continue the conversation). Please consider a different perspective:

      In the preceding context of John 20:28, the writer has already established that “my Lord” and “my God” were two separate titles for two different beings in two different locations. The “my Lord” was used to explicilty identify Jesus (i.e. the man on earth, John 20:13) and “my God” referred explicitly to the Father of Jesus (i.e. someone else in heaven, John 20:17).

      Another consideration is that “Lord” is a title used by the disciples explicitly to refer to Jesus elsewhere throughout the 4th Gospel (e.g. John 11:21, John 13:6-9) whereas all other uses of the term “my God” throughout the apostolic writings pertained exclusively to God the Father (e.g. Mark 15:34; Romans 1:8).

      Thus, the two occurrences of the Genitive MOU (“of me”) can simply be taken to refer to the two different beings respectively (Jesus, God the Father) who were in the two different locations (Jesus with Thomas, God the Father in heaven) at the time when Thomas spoke.

      There is no “rule” that requires that the Genitive related to O QEOS meant that it was referring to a “God” other than the Father. It also seems unreasonable to isolate the grammar in John 20:28 and insist that it “confirms” an unnecessary inference.

      • Sean Garrigan
        December 1, 2016 @ 3:24 pm

        I think that AUTWi presents a challenge to your view of John 20:28, Rivers.

        Are there any parallel statements in the known Greek corpus where we find the same structure and naturally understand that the two titles are to be applied to two different persons? In other words, plug in whatever pronoun and titles you’d like, and tell me if you find a sentence with this structure where the second title applies to anyone other than the antecedent to the personal pronoun:

        APEKRIQH [answered] QWMAS [replace Thomas with any name of
        your choosing] KAI [and] EIPEN [said] AUTWi [to him/her] hO [the] KURIOS
        [replace Lord with any title of your choosing] MOU [of me] KAI [and] hO
        [the] QEOS [replace God with any title of your choosing] MOU [of me].

        • Aaron
          December 1, 2016 @ 10:27 pm

          I feel like it’s more of a point of that John wanted to make. Jesus told Thomas earlier in GJohn, “In that day, you will know…that I am in my Father and you in me, and I in you.”

          And on that day, Thomas knew.

          Much simpler approach than using the grammar but I know we could go back and forth about the grammar for days.

          • Sean Garrigan
            December 2, 2016 @ 7:16 am

            “I feel like it’s more of a point that John wanted to make. Jesus told
            Thomas earlier in GJohn, “In that day, you will know…that I am in my
            Father and you in me, and I in you.”…And on that day, Thomas knew…
            Much simpler approach than using the grammar but I know we could go back and forth about the grammar for days.”

            I think that there’s a reluctance on the part of some (not necessarily Rivers) to simply grant that Jesus is called QEOS in Scripture. I’m not sure why this is, but it may have something to do with the faulty impression that has been created by so many apologists who have used such applications as supposed proof that Jesus is in fact the one God of the Bible.

            Walter Martin was a perfect example of this sort of shallow reasoning. I once heard one of his lectures on tape in which he argued that “If there are three persons who are all called God, then those three persons must be the one God.”

            Sorry Walter, but that just doesn’t work. The ancient Jewish monothesitic literature is riddled with instances where agents of God are called ELOHIM/QEOS/QEOI with no suggestion that such agents are part of the Godhead. We need to try and get into the ancient mindset as much as possible to avoid allowing our modern misconceptions to color our understanding of the texts.

            ~Sean

            • Aaron
              December 2, 2016 @ 9:37 pm

              I would have to agree with that. If we just read the works of Christians and Jews from 1700-2200 years ago we quickly see that our “proofs,” indeed our entire mindset is radically different and foreign from that of the antients and their entire mental framework.

              I used to think that such an argument as is used by Martin would be obvious proof of an intended Trinitarian agenda by New Testament writers. Now I think that even a Trinitarian should recognize that there are bad arguments which they should never use. Martin’s argument in reality is just evidence of 20th/21st century Western thinking. Words continue to be used and retain sometimes only in part what they may have meant in previous eras (or at times take on completely new meanings). There was obviously wider semanic range for words such as “God” and “worship” in previous ages…even in English the meanings have narrowed since the KJV was made.

              Rivers, I am not really familiar with Greek in any way academically (or really at all). I have heard that it would be possible to have written the equivalent of “My Lord and God” (i.e. “the Lord and God of me”) instead of “My Lord and my God” (the Lord of me and the God of me) in Greek. If John wanted to signify 2 persons as being addressed, then from my understanding the way it is written *could* be a way to do that. However, Sean seems to disagree.

              It is notable, whatever one thinks, that all (almost all?) of the NT passages which call Jesus “God” either stand with a qualifier (Such as Hebrews 1), have a variant (Such as 2nd Peter 1:1 where a very early manuscript calls him “Lord” instead of “God”), or have difficulty in terms of syntax (such as Romans 9:5).

              • Sean Garrigan
                December 3, 2016 @ 9:56 am

                Hi Aaron,

                “If John wanted to signify 2 persons as being addressed, then from my
                understanding the way it is written *could* be a way to do that.
                However, Sean seems to disagree.”

                Just to clarify, I’m not saying that I necessarily disagree that two people are referenced in Thomas’ declaration as presented by the Evangelist, or even, with Theodore of Mopsuestia (if my recollection is correct), that both KURIOS and QEOS could refer to the Father; rather, I’m pointing out what clearly seems to be a difficulty with either of those understandings.

                If AUTWi were omitted then such arguments would have more going for them, i.e. if Thomas had said the following:

                APEKRIQH QWMAS KAI EIPEN hO KURIOS MOU KAI hO QEOS MOU

                But it seems rather odd to suggest that Thomas said “AUTWi/to him” (=Jesus) “My Lord and my God”, but had someone other than Jesus in mind as the one referenced by one or both of those terms. I’m not saying that it’s impossible, but it just strikes me as a rather odd way to understand those words in context. Then add to that the flexibility in the application of divine titles to agents of God in ancient Judaism, and one starts to wonder why anyone would even bother resisting the possibility that Jesus is called “Lord and God”.

                Jesus was certainly greater than Melchizedek, yet Melchizedek was probably called “your God” where “your” referred to monotheistic Jews who belonged to a hyper-strict sect (the Essenes), so it isn’t obviously problematic to allow that Jesus could also be so described, while it does at least seem problematic to suggest that KURIOS and/or QEOS refer to someone other than Jesus in light of AUTWi.

                I’m open to be convinced of any possibility that can be put forth in a compelling way, however, just as I am with other texts where Jesus may be called QEOS. In many cases there are good arguments for and against such applications, but since I think the application of divine titles to Jesus as God’s agent par excellence should be expected in light of the flexibility of such applications in ancient Judaism, I would actually be surprised to find that NT authors did NOT make such applications when it comes to Jesus.

                ~Sean

            • Rivers
              December 3, 2016 @ 9:57 am

              Sean,

              Good points.

              I think even many Biblical Unitarians (including Buzzard) are too quick to concede that passages like John 20:28 and Hebrews 1:8 must be using O QEOS (“the G/god”) to refer explicitly to Jesus Christ.

              • Sean Garrigan
                December 4, 2016 @ 9:11 am

                “Good points…I think even many Biblical Unitarians (including
                Buzzard) are too quick to concede that passages like John 20:28 and
                Hebrews 1:8 must be using O QEOS (“the G/god”) to refer explicitly to
                Jesus Christ.”

                You seem to have misunderstood me, Rivers. I was actually rejecting the reluctance many seem to have to grant that Jesus is called O QEOS because of the faulty assumption that such applications would support Trinitarianism. I wasn’t criticizing those who grant that Jesus may be called O QEOS, because I don’t see a problem with such applications.

                • Rivers
                  December 5, 2016 @ 10:23 am

                  Sean,

                  Sorry if I misunderstood your previous comment. Thanks for the clarification.

                  From my perspective, rejecting the notion that O QEOS (“the God”) was ever used to refer explicitly to Jesus Christ has nothing to do with the Trinity doctrine. I think the problem with taking O QEOS to be a title for Jesus Christ is that it lacks exegetical merit in every context.

          • Rivers
            December 2, 2016 @ 10:58 am

            Aaron,

            Good point.

            I think where the grammar becomes an issue in John 20:28 is where some Christians take the title “my God” to be referring explicitly to Jesus himself (i.e. as if Thomas was calling him, “the God”) and other Christians who read “my God” as a title that refers explicitly to God the Father (i.e. Thomas was using the two different titles assuming the usual reference to two different persons).

            The text you cited from John 14:20 is another good example of where Jesus spoke of a unique relationship between the Father, the disciples, and himself, and yet nobody interprets “my Father” in that passage as a title referring to Jesus himself. This is because we all understand (based upon usage everywhere else in the 4th Gospel) that “the Father” was a title always used to refer to someone other than Jesus.

            Likewise, it’s simple to see throughout the 4th Gospel that “God” was a title exclusively used of the one called “the Father”, even when it was associated with the unique relationship that Jesus and the disciples had with Him.

        • Rivers
          December 2, 2016 @ 10:11 am

          Sean,

          It doesn’t really matter if we can find another parallel to the grammar in John 20:28 because it is the context of the writer’s own use of the language in the 4th Gospel that would ultimately take priority in determining the meaning. That is why I addressed the contextual factors.

          I don’t think your “replacement” request will work with any other combination of beings because of the fact that “God” is one of the objects in John 20:28. In John 14:5-7, Jesus had explained to Thomas earlier that “if you [Thomas] have known me [Jesus] … you [Thomas] know and have seen the Father [God].”

          What I think is important in John 20:28 is to understand from the context that the title “my God” doesn’t refer to Jesus himself (just as the title “the Father” didn’t refer to Jesus himself in the context of John 14:7). Most interpreters understand that Jesus is not referring to himself with the title “the Father” in John 14:7 because we know from all other usage that this title meant a different being (who is in heaven, John 17:1).

          • Sean Garrigan
            December 2, 2016 @ 7:37 pm

            Rivers,

            “It doesn’t really matter if we can find another parallel to the grammar
            in John 20:28 because it is the context of the writer’s own use of the
            language in the 4th Gospel that would ultimately take priority in
            determining the meaning. That is why I addressed the contextual
            factors.”

            I disagree, as word-usage patterns don’t necessarily override meaning at the sentence level.

            So let’s say, just for the sake of argument, that Thomas had said this:

            APEKRIQH QWMAS KAI EIPEN AUTWi hO QEOS MOU.

            How would you interpret those words?

            ~Sean

            • Rivers
              December 3, 2016 @ 9:51 am

              Sean,

              Why speculate about what Thomas didn’t say? This suggests to me that you are trying to isolate a particular sentence in order to force an interpretation at the sentence level that doesn’t take the context into consideration.

              I agree that word usage is not the only consideration, but it cannot be ignored when it is part of the immediate context. Thomas used two different titles when he spoke to Jesus in John 20:28 which find referred to two different beings in two different locations in the immediate context (John 20:13, 17).

              • Sean Garrigan
                December 3, 2016 @ 10:55 am

                “Why speculate about what Thomas didn’t say?”

                Sorry, but I don’t recognize my position in that description.

                ~Sean

  2. Rivers
    November 10, 2016 @ 10:22 am

    Dale,

    In one of your answers in this podcast, you suggested the “the God” (O QEOS) in 2 Corinthians 4:4 refers to “Satan” (i.e. as “the god of this world”). You said that this was because of “something in the context” making it “obvious” that it is not referring to God the Father.

    Here are some things to consider that seem to mitigate against the conclusion you are drawing:

    1. There is no mention of any “Satan” or “devil” anywhere in the context of 2 Corinthians 4:4.

    2. All 60+ other uses of “God” by Paul in 2 Corinthians refer to God the Father, including the ones in the immediate context (2 Corinthians 4:2, 6, 7) and the one at the end of the same verse (2 Corinthians 4:4c).

    3. If “the God” in 2 Corinthians 4:4a is taken to refer to “satan”, then Christ could be taken as “the image of [the God = Satan]” at the end of the same verse (2 Corinthians 4:4c).

    4. It is indicated elsewhere that God the Father is the One who “blinded” the minds of the ones who could not believe or see the glory of Christ (John 12:40-41).

    • Dale Tuggy
      November 12, 2016 @ 9:19 am

      It seems the translators all agree with my reading. http://biblehub.com/2_corinthians/4-4.htm I think the reason is that they take “the god of this world” or “of this age” to be idiomatic for Satan, “the world” here be used similarly to how John uses it, for this evil system which is going to eventually be done away with. Also see 1 Corinthians 1:20.

      This is consistent with it being God who blinds the undeserving in some cases; perhaps he accomplishes this through the agency of Satan. It’s hard to see why Paul would throw in the qualifying phrase “of this world/age” here, if not to signal that it’s someone other than God that he means. I think your reading would have to explain the strange occurrence of this phrase.

      I don’t see that anything theologically important depends on this, but I don’t think your 1-4 are sufficient to cast significant doubt on the standard reading of this passage.

      • Rivers
        November 14, 2016 @ 9:35 am

        Dale,

        Thanks for the reply. I agree that “of this world (age)” is a “strange occurrence” and that Satan was empowered by God to test people (John 1:12; Job 2:6).

        However, there doesn’t seem to be anything to support the notion that “the G/god of this world (age)” is “idiomatic for Satan” in the context of 2 Corinthians 4:4. If your appeal to the lower case “g” for O QEOS in 2 Corinthians 4:4 is a reasonable argument, then why not accept the capital “W” for O LOGOS in John 1:1 that those same translators use to affirm the deity of Christ?

        Wouldn’t your reading (regardless of its popularity) require you to produce some evidence that “someone other than God” is required by the “strange occurrence” of the prepositional phrase? Shouldn’t your reading also be able to account for the rest of the evidence that mitigates against it?

        • Dale Tuggy
          November 14, 2016 @ 8:03 pm

          “appeal to the lower case “g”” I think we both know that there was no capital-lowercase distinction in the original manuscripts. ho theos is normally “God” i.e. the Father himself, but this isn’t a normal case of that, due to the qualifying “of this world/age”.

          Sorry, I just don’t see any significant evidence against my reading. Nor, it would seem, to the translators.

          But Rivers – who cares? What hangs on this point, theologically or practically?

          • Rivers
            November 15, 2016 @ 8:38 am

            Dale,

            I think it’s theologically important because the idea that the definite O QEOS (“the G/god”) would be used by the apostles to refer to “Satan” (as you infer) is contrary to all the other evidence of usage throughout the Greek scriptures.

            As Biblical Unitarians, I think we need to be careful about isolating the usage of words (and drawing exceptional conclusions) when we often criticize the Trinitarians and Arians for doing the same thing in other passages. 🙂

  3. Aaron
    November 7, 2016 @ 10:14 pm

    Thanks very much for answering all of that, Dale. I also appreciate all of the quick links you’ve posted as well.

    To the point about the incarnation of Jesus not involving a human soul…I wasn’t aware of Clarke’s view about this and I do agree with you as it seems similar to Apollinarianism. Did he propose a form of kenosis theory which could logically preserve the incarnation or do you think it could somehow address his concern of having 2 selves?

    • Dale Tuggy
      November 12, 2016 @ 9:24 am

      I can’t remember how he treats the Son not knowing the day or the hour. In general, the earlier ancient fathers just accepted this, as they didn’t think Jesus had to be so divine as to be omniscient, while the later ones insisted that yes he really does know that, and they labor to explain away what he said. I don’t think that Clarke anticipates kenosis theorizing – I that first appears in the 1800s. Maybe I’ll look this up when I’m back in my office…

      Does kenosis address the worry about two selves? Well, it’s taking the divine self, the eternal Logos, and trying to whittle down its knowledge and power so as to fit what we see in the NT. So this should take away the need to posit a second, finite self. So I would say yes. BUT, I would argue that it simply lacks any textual support; it’s a clever later hypothesis, engineered to square the fully divine Christ with what we actually see in the NT.

  4. Aaron
    November 7, 2016 @ 8:13 pm

    Thanks very much for answering all of that, Dale. I also appreciate all of the quick links you’ve posted as well.

    To the point about the incarnation of Jesus not involving a human soul…I wasn’t aware of Clarke’s view about this and I do agree with you as it seems similar to Apollinarianism. Did he propose a form of kenosis theory which could logically preserve the incarnation or do you think it could somehow address his concern of having 2 selves?