Sunday, December 07, 2008

Final Rebuttal by David (non-Trinitarian position) on the proposition: "What does the Bible mean when it calls Jesus 'G/god'?"

My opponent’s suggestion that Hebrews 1:3 articulates equality with God and Christ demands more attention be given this text. For the purpose of demonstrating my position and the soundness of it I will rely upon A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd edition (BDAG), for defining key terms, while examining a couple of cited parallels will offer further solidification.

Reading my opponent’s words I understand him to have confused ‘God’s being’ with God himself. He has apparently read “the exact representation of his being” to be “the exact representation of him.” There is a reason that the author of Hebrews chose the former over the latter.

The word hupostasis as it was originally understood in this context referred to “the essential or basic structure/nature of an entity, substantial nature, essence, actual being, reality” (p. 1040). I suspect confusion stems from the use of “nature” and “essence,” with my opponent perhaps connecting these with attributes (holiness, power, knowledge) that are aspects of God’s nature. What is here in view is more specifically “substantial nature,” which has nothing to do with such attributes. Instead we are looking at God’s “basic structure,” referring to whatever it is that he consists of. By way of comparison, the “basic structure” of man is flesh.

The meaning here intended is as cited by BDAG comparable to a text in the early Christian Letter to Diognetus. At 2:1 the passage refers to the “substance” (hupostasis) of idols, “whose basic reality is someth[ing] material like stone, metal etc” (ibid.). The notion of attributes such as knowledge, power, holiness or even age was entirely absent. In view was only what idols consisted of materially.

Regarding carakthr, my opponent may be overreaching in attempting to force “exact representation” to essentially mean “identical.” The former is not a necessary force of carakthr, as perhaps best seen when Clement spoke of man as the carakthr of God’s image (1Cle. 33:4). Far from meaning that man is identical to God or his image, or even that they were equal, man is the reproduction or that which was produced as a representation of God’s image and it is only to this extent that he is the “exact representation.”

There exists significant difficulty for the Trinitarian when one considers that Hebrews 1:3 refers to “someth[thing] produced as a representation, reproduction, representation” (p. 1078). As something “produced” or a “reproduction” Jesus is implicitly created. This is perhaps best seen when Beck’s New Testament translation renders carakthr “copy” (similarly, TestSim 5:4).

My opponent made use of a line and a line segment to illustrate what he felt was the trouble with my interpretation of Hebrews 1:3. The illustration only substantiates my position. What Hebrews 1:3 speaks of is not the line itself but what the line is made of. Were the line made of grape juice the language of Hebrews 1:3 would only mean that the line segment consisted of the same. While the line was infinite the segment was not, yet the segment still served as the carakthr of the line’s hupostasis.

The meaning behind this text might well be paralleled with Eve’s creation. Made of Adam’s rib she was produced from his substance. In such a way she was “the exact representation of his being,” having been made of the same material as he. What must be realized is that in her creation holiness, knowledge, power and wisdom were not directly transferred. Neither was age. She was newly created, but created from the substance of Adam. With Hebrews 1:3 we find Jesus as the carakthr to be a creation, but having been made so of God’s hupostasis he was made of the same substance as God. To be clear, this is not to say they share a substance in the Trinitarian sense, only that they are made of the same just as all men consist of flesh. Jesus is the very thing we would expect God’s only son to be.

I had mentioned 1 Corinthians 8:6 as a text defining a distinct difference between God and Christ. To this was given the following response:

This indicates another incorrect assumption on his part that “instrumentality (that Jesus was the agent used to create) indicates an inferiority in nature.”

What my opponent views as only an “incorrect assumption” is in fact accurate. God is by nature the source of all things. If only the Father is the source of all things I would argue that he is the only one who could be identified as God by nature. So the text refers not only to a functional difference but also an ontological one.

Finally my opponent comments on the matter of worship, but his argument repeats his earlier statements, to which I have responded. He is correct in that there were commands to only worship God, one of which Jesus himself repeated. Yet my opponent continues to ignore the full scope of my argument, which is that God came only after exalting Jesus and allowed him to be worshipped. The Bible expressly defines Jesus’ worship as based upon God’s decision and action. It is never said to be based upon Jesus’ identity or role as God Almighty. My opponent can continue appealing to passages that predate God’s exaltation of Jesus and the command to worship him, but these do not overturn what is repeatedly defined in the New Testament. I am reminded in many ways of those who argue similarly that we must today continue to observe the Sabbath.

1 comment:

Rich said...

You said, "God is by nature the source of all things. If only the Father is the source of all things..."

What you fail to recognize, as well as all JWs is that Jesus IS ALSO GOD! Read Colossians without all your preconceived Watchtower theology. Jesus IS THE SOURCE OF ALL THINGS. FOR BY HIM, NOTHING CAME INTO EXISTENCE. He is the "Prince of Peace". Prince in Isaiah 9 means "source". Why is it so hard for JWs to give Jehovah God the respect for who He is? He is our everything. He became flesh for us(in the person of the Logos, the Christ) in order that we could live with Him. Trinitarians don't believe there are three separate Gods within the Godhead. We believe that within the ONE Godhead, there exists 3 personalities, Father, Son and Holy Spirit; each separate in function and purpose, but each equal in nature, fully God. Yet there is but ONE GOD. Why else would Jesus have told his apostles that "if you have seen me, you have seen the Father"? Now we know that Jesus in not the Father, and the Holy Spirit is not Jesus, and the Father is not the Holy Spirit; so we conclude with what I stated above. One God, in 3 persons, yet but one God, Jehovah. (And by the way, Jehovah is admittedly a man-made interpretation of His name, but that is another argument)
My purpose is easily stated as this. IF just 1 JW reads this, and believes God's Word, in that Jesus is the Messiah, that He came in the flesh, died for our sins, rose again for our justification, and was exalted into Glory, that one person might come to know the real Truth; Jesus is the Truth. Jesus is our everything. Praise God.