Sunday, June 08, 2014

Retreads On the Godhead

I have been bombarded of late by questions from an anonymous individual who thinks he has discovered the true Christian theology in the traditional doctrine of the Trinity.

There is sort of a natural arrogance in the exuberance of youth, so I am not offended that anonymous thinks I am up in the night.  I probably am about some stuff.  But I am pretty sure about most of the stuff here.

I have written extensively on this blog in the past about issues such as salvation and the nature of God and Jesus and the Spirit.  I have also written extensively about the nature of the Council of the Gods, and the historical fact that the Hebrew faith held as an orthodox view that there were many real gods, yet their God was the only one they worshipped.

This view is explained in great detail by the Evangelical scholar Michael Heiser at his website .  He also has some amazing Youtube videos where he explains issues of ancient Hebrew belief.  I also strongly recommend Mark Smith's The Origins of Biblical Monotheism, William Dever's Did God Have a Wife? (which the answer is "Yes"), Frank Moore Cross' seminal work Canaanite Myth and Hebrew Epic, the anthology by Becking, et al, Only One God?, Raphael Patai's The Hebrew Godess, Hess' Israelite Religions, or for some light reading on this subject, the excellent abbreviated account by David Penchansky Twilight of the Gods:  Polytheism in the Hebrew Bible.  I happen to own all of these titles and have read them.  None of them are LDS authors.  Their conclusions, which once for Patai and other pioneers were considered left field and perplexing, are now squarely in the mainstream of Biblical scholarship.  Coupled with the continuing archaeological finds and the various libraries of early writers from as long ago as 3,000 B.C., I can assert without fear that the Biblical narrative is far closer to an LDS document than an Evangelical tome.  Everything from the nature of creation, which is now understood to not have been an "ex Nihilo" event (matter out of nothing), but rather that creation occurred using pre-existing materials; to the plurality and existence of real divine beings besides Elohim or Jehova; to the ultimate destiny of man, the very purpose of humanity's creation, is to become like God.

These are Mormon themes, which turn out to be Biblical fundamentals.

The fact is anonymous is well meaning yet ignorant of the Bible's teachings.  When someone such as himself cites John 1:1 as proof that God and Jesus are one and the same being, I know he has neither studied the Biblical text in the original Greek language, nor has he sought out scholars who can correctly explain the text.  He cites Charles Ryrie, an excellent Biblical scholar, for his systematic theology.  Yet Ryrie's work fails to interact with both the historical issues of the Doctrine of the Trinity, or the textual problems of simple interpretations of passages like John 1:1, which he surely knew is not supportive of a Trinitarian view of scripture.

In November 2008 I went into detail on John 1:1.  You can find it here.  The verse describes the Word communing, in contact, in the presence of God, and having also the characteristics of God.  So there are two gods present.  I note there are dozens of translations which bear this out, and that scholars from Daniel Wallace, who teaches at Dallas Theological Seminary like Ryrie, and the Translators Handbook On the Gospel of John both affirm this idea.  Wallace attempts to soften the blow and explain God is the Father in John 1:1, but it still fails to explain why John would say the Word was with God if he really meant the Father, since, by logical deduction, the same nature he is describing of God as the Father would be conveyed to the Word.  You would be forced to conclude that the Word is the Father, if you are asserting God actually is intended to mean the Father.  Neither solution really solves any Trinitarian issues.

On the other hand, the excellent work by Jason BeDuhn, Truth in Translation, dedicates chapter 11, pages 113 to 134 to a thorough discussion of the grammar and theological prejudice found in most translations.  He demonstrates conclusively through examination of the use of "theos" (Gk: god) with both the definite article (ho theos, the god) and the far rarer use of the anarthrous (meaning without the definite article) nominative nouns.  He employs the survey of the topic by Phillip Harner in his 1973 article "Qualitative Anarthrous Predicate Nouns: Mark 15:39 and John 1:1" (Journal Of Biblical Literature, 1973, Vol 92 p. 85).  After summarizing the 53 instances where John uses a predicate nominative construction, he notes Harner's conclusion that 40 of them are "qualitative", and writes: "In most of these cases a translator will be forced to choose wheher to use "the" or "a."  It simply cannot be avoided.  Harner does his best not to directly challenge "Colwell's Rule," but in the final analysis one must do so in order to communicate the qualitative sense Harner argues for to an English-speaking audience." (BeDuhn, pg 121)

Earlier BeDuhn notes:  "In this subject ("nominative") form, the definite article is really indispensable for making the noun definite.  Its absence makes theos quite different than the definite ho theos.  This is fairly clear not only from the distinct forms the word takes, but also from the context in which those distinct forms are used.  John says on the one hand that the Word "was with" ho theos, "God," but on the other hand that the Word "was" theos, "a god."  It is striking, therefore, that most of the translations we are considering take no notice of this careful distinction, and translate the different words as if they were exactly the same." (BeDuhn, pg 115)

The quote from the Translator's Handbook On the Gospel of John, page 8, which is definitive in explaining this as well I just love:
He was the same as God appears in most translations as "the Word was God" (RSV, JB, NAB)  NEB renders by "what God was, the Word was" and Mft "the Logos was divine" [Goodspeed (Gdsp) "the Word was divine"].  Zurcher Bibel (Zur) has "the Word was God," with a footnote indicating that this means the Word possessed a divine nature.
These many differences in translation are due to the Greek sentence structure.  In this type of equation sentence in Greek (A=B) the subject can be distinguished from the predicate by the fact that the subject has the article before it and the predicate does not.  Since "God" does not have the article preceding it, "God" is clearly the predicate and "the Word" is the subject.  This means that "God" is clearly here the equivalent of an adjective, and this fact justifies the rendering he (the Word) was the same as God.  John is not saying that "the Word" was God the Father, but he is affirming that the same divine predication can be made of "the Word" as can be made of God the Father, and so "the Word can be spoken of as God in the same sense."(Underlining in the original, bolding mine.)
This is a stake through the heart of the Trinity.  In every instance where Trinitarians try to make a claim that "theos" is used without the definite article, it is not in the nominative position or it has a clear modifier.  Nothing like the fake, made up Colwell's rule trying to explain away the grammar of John 1:1c.

Here is a clear statement of God and the Word being both divine, having the same characteristics, and yet being totally separate.  The Word cannot be fully God as God is God, and be in association with him (kai theos en pros ton theon, and the word was with god) and there not be two beings present.  Since "theos" is used as an adjective describing the class of beings to which "the Word" belongs, the Mormons are right.

Got that.  The Mormons are right.  It's a scripture thing, not just an opinion thing.

So far from being uninformed or a novice about the true understanding of the doctrine of God in the Bible, I deeply understand it.  I came at it originally as a Trinitarian, btw, since I was raised as a Lutheran.  The doctrine of the Trinity is just wrong.

I will hit more of anonymous' points as time permit.  But I have put five or six hours into this post to make sure I have my documentation correct, and it is just easier for anonymous to spout off uninformed, poorly reasoned talking points he got from someone else than for me to answer them with an original post, when I have responded to most of his questions previously.  If he would take the time to read before he attacks we could have a more focused discussion.  But I don't want to leave the impression that these are somehow new or disturbing concepts.

He is so ignorant of the actual meaning of the text that he doesn't understand that the big sword he thinks he is wielding actually sliced off both of his arms and legs like a Monty Python script.

He can keep saying "It's just a flesh wound, come back I'll bite your legs off," but he has nothing.

The Mormons are right.  [Cue coconuts clapping as we ride off.]


Anonymous said...

Trinitarians choose to ignore the evidence. They accuse Mormons of ignoring evidence and doing mental gymnastics, yet Trinitarians are huge hypocrites, because they do the very thing they accuse Mormons of doing.

I read some of Michael Heiser's writings about there being many real gods but only one Supreme God is worshipped, yet he then does mental gymnastics to justify the Trinitarian belief is still correct. I do not understand how he can justify his defense of the Trinity. He goes to great lengths to defend the Trinity view, but does a poor job of it. How can he still believe in the false Trinity?
This was a good article.

Anonymous said...

My father was a convert to the LDS church. What got his attention was the Bible did not teach the Trinity but all the churches did, except the LDS church. The Trinity never made sense to him. He studied Christianity.

Anonymous said...


I have to admit, this is very entertaining. My first impression about your heretical thesis above is this:

1 Corinthians 2:11-16

"11 For who knows a person's thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. 14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.

15 The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, 16 for,
"Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct Him?"

But we have the mind of Christ."

As verse 14 says, you Bob are without the Spirit and do not understand these things, and I don't expect you to yet. But I will continue praying for you and know that I am planting the seed in your hard heart.

I am certainly glad I am worthy of a brand new post on your blog. This tells me that I am making you think and the more I make you think, the closer you get to the truth. At this point Bob, you should know what the truth will bring you.

Can't wait to see what you have to say next.

Bob said...

So, anonymous, you believe that the holy Spirit does provide revelation now? how do you have the mind of Christ if not by revelation? And if there is revelation, than the LDS position of having God speak with us is Biblical.
and he does. Nice evasion, as expected I might add, that you are unable to argue your point about the Trinity when we actually read the scriptures.

So a challenge, which I doubt you will accept, but what the heck. Pick your best scripture about the Trinity, I will pick mine. Then we present our case only for those two verses? Are you game?

As I wrote, I doubt it. Because, we both know, when it is down to the final analysis, you are only able to assert and not defend. Your beliefs are really on sand. I remember reading about those kinds of beliefs. It is because you have trusted the wrong people who have taught for you the traditions of man, but deny the power of God.