The following offers accounts of two encounters with Unitarians.
The first: I received mail from a defender of Anthony Buzzard and Charles Hunting's The Doctrine of the Trinity: Christianity's Self-Inflicted Wound. Our writer overall was pleasant to deal with and also raised some arguments we'd like to submit for the reader's consideration, along with our rebuttals. Accompanying this update as well, we have presented some more detailed rebuttals of individual arguments by Buzzard and Hunting below.
Our writer-in first presented this argument:
This is where I have one of my biggest problems with the Trinity: As pointed out by Buzzard and Hunting, the Bible uses personal pronouns for God some 25,000 times! If "He" means "They," why doesn't it just come right out and say so? Why would God play games with us to an extent that approaches "nausea" (your word)? If this is His subtle way to get us to do more digging in order to arrive at His true identity in the Trinity, how do we know that anything else in the Bible is not also such a riddle?
The answer: These are the words of a modern, Western person with gender and pronoun concerns on the mind. There is no reason to use "they" over "he" -- let us keep in mind that the big danger in early Israel was polytheism; a plural pronoun could all too easily be misunderstood.
We should not wonder that the Trinity was not fully revealed until polytheism was erased as a danger in the mind of the Jews -- after the machinations of Antiochus and the Romans closed the door to that temptation more or less permanently.
As it is, however, a believer in the Trinity would still see "He" as the appropos pronoun. Our writer-in had a problem (as did Buzzard and Hunting) understanding that the Trinity involved a concept of ontological equality, but functional subordination. Jesus said that the Father was greater than he was, and showed himself an obedient servant of the Father. The Spirit is also clearly under God's command, under any perspective. Unitarians often fail to recognize this very important aspect of Trinitarian theology, and make serious errors as a result.
We agree that "He" is the best pronoun to use -- because the Son and the Spirit are properly subsumed under the functional identity of the Father. And let me just add here that the supposition of "riddles" is in the eye of the beholder. As I recently told a Mormon who insisted that the Bible was written for the "average, reasonable person," and such a person would easily get the Mormon view from the Scriptures, it is first of all necessary to prove that a certain understanding is "average" rather than actually "way below average" and not merely a case of us moving the goalposts to make "way below average" into "average".
Second, it is clear that while one may come to Christ as a child, numerous passages encouraging Christian growth indicate that we are not to remain as a child.
Personally, I would very much like to see you refer us to a scholar or two who have successfully refuted Buzzard and Hunting's contention with regard to Psalm 110:1, the most quoted and most controlling christological text utilized within the NT. As they clearly show, the two words for "lord" in that text are significantly different. The first "Lord" (adonai) is Yahweh, the Father, the one God of Israel, as it is in some 6,700 other OT occurrences. But the second word for "lord" - really, "my lord" - is adoni, which was never used of God but was intended for the king of Israel or other humans of high rank.
Since the NT expressly and frequently identifies Jesus as that second "lord" - for example, at Acts 2:34-36 - it should be rather obvious that in the early church Jesus was viewed as the non-deity lord (adoni, not adonai)! That one challenge alone illustrates that Buzzard and Hunting have done more than "a little digging in the relevant Biblical scholarship." Unless someone has or can come up with a significant refutation, they've presented what I think is a devastating challenge to the teaching of the Trinity.
Our subject and I had some discussion over how Ps. 110:1 worked out in terms of vowel placement, but it really doesn't matter. Once again, the answer is the same: this is exactly what we would expect under a functional subordination paradigm.
Just as saying "Jesus is God" is correct, but not complete (for it does not imply the opposite, "God is Jesus"), so it is that saying "Jesus is Adonai" would not be specific enough, whereas "Jesus is Adoni" would be fine -- but would reflect the function of Jesus while saying nothing about his divinity, which is worked out on other grounds.
Further on our writer insists (as do Buzzard and Hunting) that monotheism was so controlling an idea that a Trinity would have been impossible for Jews to embrace. Well, the sacrifice of a human being for sins and the corresponding abandonment of the sacrifices would have been no easier to swallow; the communion would have been thought, on the surface, to be a cannibalistic abomination; and even the process of a Unitarian-safe Jesus exalted to God's right hand would have earned a sneer or two. Not that such sneers would have stopped Christians (they didn't elsewhere), but the bottom line is the controlling ideas in Judaism would not have stopped Christian innovation where the revelation factor was enough of an impetus.
If Christians toed the line on all (or enough) Jewish controlling ideas, why did Paul persecute them, and why were Paul and others persecuted by Jews later on?
I discovered, for example, that Job 13:8 in the KJV asks: "Will ye speak wickedly for God? and talk deceitfully for him? Will ye accept his person? will ye contend for God?" The Hebrew word here is paniym, translated as "person" another 20 times in the OT. God is referred to as one person in the NT as well. At Hebrews 1:3, Christ is said to be "the brightness of His [God's] glory and the express image of His person."
Our answers above cover this, though here we can add, that "person" in both cases is not the same conceptual term as "person" in the typical Nicene exposition. In Job it is actually "face" (Gen. 1:2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep." -- those 20 times in the KJV are countered by over 1900 places where it is not translated thusly) and neither that nor the KJV word "person" reflects a modern psychological category of a unified and single personality.
In Hebrews it is also obviously not a modern psychological term; it is the rare word hupostasis and it loosely parallels the Hebrew paniym.
God is described for our understanding as having only one face. See Gen. 32:30; 33:10; De. 31:16, 17; 2 Ch. 30:9; Job 33:26; Ps. 10:11; 27:9; 67:1; 80:3, 7, 19; Isa. 59:2; Jer. 44:11; Eze. 39:29; Da. 9:17; Mt. 18:10; Ac. 2:28; Heb. 9:24; and 1 Pe. 3:12. God has only one head (Da. 7:9), one mouth (Ps. 33:6), one tongue (Hab. 1:13), one mind (Job 23:13; 1 Co. 2:16), and one heart (Gen. 6:6; Ps. 33:11).
Interesting, of course, but as I pointed out (and to which our writer had no reply) this doesn't hold much water unless Mormons are right about God having a physical, human body. Add this to what we have already said above about the polytheism temptation and you have an answer.
From Gen. 49:24 to Luke 1:49 He is called "THE Mighty ONE" 12 times. As if to remind us that we must never forget that all-important fact, we are told "The Mighty One, God, the LORD, the Mighty One, God, the LORD! He knows, and may Israel itself know." (Jos. 22:22) At De. 6:4; Mr. 12:29 and Ga. 3:20, we are told that "God is ONE."
But of course -- even under a Trinitarian view this is utterly appropos, for the reasons stated. The key remains, "one what"? The evidence of the NT suggests, "one being".
We leave our writer with his comments upon my use of intertestamental sources for my item on Wisdom:
I think it is therefore no wonder that you confessed to valuing the comments of noncanonical writers more than the view implicit in the words of Jesus and the inspired NT writers! I was taken aback by your statement, "in many ways, the intertestament lit is much more relevant."
Sadly, this reminds me too much of Skeptics who insist we cannot use Jewish sources to define a "sabbath's day journey" and my Mormon correspondent who insists that the Bible does not need commentaries and councils for us to understand it -- it is unfortunate that this sort of viewpount is found even among professed believers. One may as well ask how we could value a Greek-English lexicon. (Our writer has not replied since this latest correspondence, but left on good terms.)
Next we'll be taking a closer look at some key cites from Buzzard and Hunting.
John's Prologue: As noted in our review, Buzzard and Hunting interpret the prologue as saying that the logos only became personal at verse 1:14, where it is said to have "become flesh," and they call upon Dunn for support. If this is true, one wonders why John used the word logos without qualification earlier in the prologue. John does not say at any point that the logos "became personal" -- saying that it "became flesh" doesn't qualify.
"Flesh" (sarx) is associated with the human body and weakness, but it was not considered the seat of what we would call consciousness -- that was the "heart" (kardia). If John wanted to say that the logos obtained personality, kardia was the word to use, not just sarx by itself, since it is clear from the existence of beings of spirit (God and the angels) that sarx isn't a requirement for personhood.
An impersonal entity that "became flesh" would just sit around doing nothing -- the Tin Man did have a heart, he just didn't know it.
Elsewhere Buzzard quotes others of the opinion that the Trinitarian views "destroy all coherence in the essential Christian claim that Jesus was truly a human being..." One fails to see how this is so, and it is not explained, much less outlined in terms of specific psychological issues or the relationship between mind and body, or in terms of the meaning of the kenotic emptying.
Buzzard and Hunting confuse the issue and beg the question by arguing  that if "the Word is the Son in a pre-human condition, then both Father and Son are equally entitled to be thought of as the supreme Deity," but this cannot be the case because it would counter monotheism. As before, Buzzard and Hunting assume that such ideas could not be overturned (or in this case, it is better to say, fine-tuned) by any means, and fail to distinguish between ontological and functional equality. Ontologically, the Word (and Spirit) would be so equally entitled, but functionally, they would not be.
This is why Jesus' divine titles are so carefully qualified: Son of God (not "God" expect in rare cases), Son of Man (the heir, not the king), the one who sits at the Father's right (and subservient) hand, indeed the "logos" designation itself.
Because of the nature of God, and His inability to share His glory with others, they show ontological equality and the inclusion of Son and Spirit in the Godhead; yet they also stress subordination functionally.
Buzzard and Hunting further quote the opinion of a scholar who says that our mistake has been to read John's prologue in light of Philo. It is claimed that the text should be read in terms of a Hebrew background, not "the Alexandrian and Philonic sense as an intermediary between God and man."  It can be read, this person says, and understood without reference to Philo.
If this is the case, then one wonders about the amazing coincidence of terminology between the NT and Philo, as well as the other literature which taught an intermediary figure in Wisdom. Was this just an accident?
Buzzard on his own website adds an argument: After arguing that "logos" does not mean anywhere else a personal being (which is not argued by Trinitarians anyway), Buzzard notes that English translations before the KJV referred to the Logos as an "it" rather than a "he" in John's prologue.
Why they did this is not explained and is beyond our ability to unearth, but one may note that Buzzard, who knows the Greek text, is certainly not wanting us to know what that Greek text says. The word used is autos and it is a self-referent word that elsewhere is translated "him" or "he" where a male is referenced.
This does not mean that the word means "he" exclusively. It is a self-referent with content determined by context. One can only read the Logos as an "it" by assuming the Logos to be an "it" (and also by assuming that be "it" the translators meant to teach an idea of a non-person, when all that can be said is that it offers a person that transcends gender). That Buzzard sees a need to appeal to medieval English texts for any purpose tells us enough of how weak his case is.
Buzzard and Hunting make a point about the Temptation of Jesus that is mirrored by Skeptics . See my response here.
John 17:5: And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.
Buzzard and Hunting have difficulty explaining this one. It clearly indicates Jesus was pre-existent and personal "before the world was" since it is a little hard to experience glory when one is not personal.
However, the question is begged and we are told that we will have to "adjust our understanding"  (i.e., assume their view is correct) to really get the point. They go all the way over to 2 Cor. 5:1, "For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens." It is said that since here (and in Mark 10:21) we are said to "have" that which is to come in the future, Jesus is "merely asking for the glory which he knew was prepared for him by God from the beginning. That glory existed in God's plan, and in that sense Jesus already 'had' it. We note that Jesus did not say, 'Give me back' or 'restore to me the glory which I had when I was alive with you before my birth.'"
That Buzzard and Hunting know this is semantic gymnastics is clear in that they immediately thereafter resort to the "completely foreign to Judaism" argument (false, as noted). The reference to the past foundation of the world clearly makes this a "give me back" matter, though expressed in far more respectful terms. It also matches far better with the kenotic emptying (Phil. 2:5-11).
Finally, in the cases cited by Buzzard and Hunting, there is an accompanying condition: "if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, [then] we have a building of God"; "[if you] go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, [then] thou shalt have treasure in heaven". No such conditional exists in John 17:5.
John 8:58: Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.
We are told that Abraham's rejoicing to see the day of the Messiah doesn't mean that Jesus knew of Abraham's reaction in the heavenlies, but that "Abraham by faith saw Messiah's coming in advance of its actual arrival." 
If this is the case, one wonders where this is to be found. It isn't in the OT, and Buzzard and Hunting in a footnote appeal to "rabbinic traditions" that Abraham saw a vision of his descendants and of the end times, but this hardly constitutes seeing the day of the Messiah, which in any event, does not match (as we now know) what actually happened when Jesus came; indeed the late traditions may as well be reactions to Christian assertions. 8:58 is taken to be a reference to Jesus' "preeminince in God's plan," and the ego eimi ("I am") is taken to mean, "I am the Messiah," not the "I am" of Yahweh in the burning bush, though why Jesus did not then add the modifying object or specification about the "plan" is something Buzzard and Hunting can only guess at.
It is argued that in other places John uses "I am" to certify that "Messiah" is merely in view, but this begs their own assumption that the Messiah was not and could not be a divine figure.
It is also argued that even in I AM was meant in a divine sense, this would not justify Trinitarianism, since under the Jewish principle of agency, Jesus perfectly represents his Father and earns the divine title. We have noted that this fits the Wisdom paradigm perfectly -- and that no created being could perfectly represent the Father without somehow being part of the Father. This is simply "God can make a stone so heavy He can't lift it" illogic.
Next it is said that Jesus did not use the full phrase from Exodus, which is "I AM WHO I AM" or ego eimi ho hown . This is a strange objection since the Exodus phrase is made in answer to Moses' inquiry and necessarily includes the extra words of description. That said, it is more likely that "I am" phrases allude to Isaiah.
It is then suggested that Jesus could have merely meant he pre-existed ideally, in the eternal counsels of God, not actually. But again Buzzard and Hunting must insert the implied words "the one" at the end of 8:58 to show this, because the text as it stands does not support their view and must be supplemented to fit it.
Finally we may note the reaction of the crowd, to stone Jesus; Buzzard and Hunting circumvent this problem by insisting that Jesus was misunderstood. It's odd how the "controlling idea" of monotheism in Judaism was so strong, yet managed to allow such a gross misunderstanding that could have been easily prevented with a simple modifying object-noun.
A last suggestion is that Jesus actually meant, "Before Abraham comes to be [i.e., returns in the resurrection], I am [i.e., I will be resurrected myself]." This is based on the grammatical rule that allows the reference to be to either events in the past or future.
Of course we are once again missing of qualifying words that Buzzard and Hunting have to insert to put this passage into line, and they try to read the same verb the same way in Job 14:14 (LXX) as a reference to resurrection ("If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come."), which indeed is held by a few evangelical scholars, but most regard Job 14:14 as a reference to the change of death, and parallel the term used to relief from military service.
The Holy Spirit [215ff]: If The Holy Spirit was a person without an incarnation, as we showed here, then there is a substantial problem with Buzzard and Hunting claiming that the word "becoming flesh" was also the start of his personhood, since clearly the Spirit didn't need incarnation to become personal. Buzzard and Hunting have a chapter trying to divest the Spirit of personhood, making the Spirit merely God's "energy" (which we agree that it is), but otherwise merely quote other people's erroneous opinions on the matter, irrelevantly quote objections from Luther and Calvin that they didn't like the sound of the word "Trinity" (never mind that they fully endorsed the concept), and engage in selective quotation. For example, Acts 8:26-29:
And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert. And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship, Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet. Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot.
We are told that the angel and the Spirit are the same, and one might be correct (since the Spirit does clearly have a "messagerial" role as the inspirer of prophecy), but this is no way detracts from a Trinitarian view. Once again Buzzard and Hunting just don't account for functional subordination.
Further objections are posed: "...the Holy Spirit has no personal name."
"Holy Spirit" isn't enough? Most personal names in this age were descriptive in some way, and still are even if we don't know it; "Philip" means "fond of horses". God has names like Creator and Father; are those personal names?
"Why is it that in no text of Scripture is the Holy Spirit worshipped or prayed to?"
Because the Spirit's role is to help us with our prayers; he does not make the decisions, but follows the Father's wishes.
"Not once does the Holy Spirit send greetings to the churches."
Of course not: It indwells the church and its members: "Greetings from inside you?"
Romans 8:26: Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
They actually do not quote it but note that in v. 27 Christ is the intercessor, and conclude from here and elsewhere (on verses we also cite) that this is merely Christ's Spirit and not a separate person.
But 8:27 makes it fairly clearly that we have a team effort: And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. If Buzzard and Hunting are right, Paul is saying Christ knows his own mind because of his own intercession, which would be a fruitless point to make, right along the lines of "Jesus is Jesus because he is Jesus."
It is noted as well that the Spirit's title of Comforter "hardly suggests a person." One may wonder how it is that a non-person can be known and teach and remind (John 14:15-18, 26); any person who speaks of their tape recorder as "teaching" them would be locked in the pokey with the coats with the long arms. Since the word parakletos (Comforter) has the meaning of an actual person who advocates for another in court, this would be like calling an impersonal force an Attorney.
Acts 5:3: But Peter said, Ananias, why hath Satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land?...Then Peter said unto her, How is it that ye have agreed together to tempt the Spirit of the Lord? behold, the feet of them which have buried thy husband are at the door, and shall carry thee out.
Buzzard and Hunting dismiss this one with the expediency of referring to the Spirit as "the power and authority invested by God in Peter." How one can "lie to" power and authority is not explained, and the parallel drawn to Moses and Aaron and God (Ex. 16:2, 8) only strengthens the idea that the Spirit possesses personality, since both parties did as well in Exodus.
Finally a few other ideas that beg the question:
Acts 2:17, which refers to the "pouring out" of the Spirit, is used to say, "Persons, surely, are not poured out." Human persons are not, but this says nothing about persons that are of other types of beings, and at any rate, you can't literally pour wrath either (Rev. 16:1). This is a figure of speech however you cut it; though one may playfully point out that in the realm of science fiction there are living persons in liquid form.
Our challenge in the above linked article re verses like Matt. 28:19 is not met.
Colossians 1:15ff: As noted in the review Buzzard and Hunting dispense with this rich passage in less than 3 pages, and their keystone is to quote Dunn's overcautious comment that Paul was not "arguing that Jesus was a particular preexistent being" but was rather saying that wisdom was "now most fully expressed in Jesus..." versus previous manifestations.
If this is so then it seems odd that the language does not express that Jesus became these things -- the image of God, etc. -- versus that he is, was, and always was, as the language implies. It is hard to swallow that Paul (or the creed he quotes) made these numerous allusions to pre-existent Wisdom and yet did not make this very important distinction clear.
Furthermore, what "fuller expression" could there be than actuality? Dunn accuses Christians of "ransacking" the language in such cases, but this merely assumes that to borrow the language was not intended to transmit a truth about the identity of Jesus. In the end Dunn's argument only assumes what Buzzard and Hunting want to prove, and fails to explain how otherwise Paul could have written in order to directly equate Jesus with Wisdom.
Beyond this it is stated that the term "firstborn" cannot refer to an uncreated being (a point we show in our Wisdom article to be false), and an attempt is made to limit "all things" to the thrones, dominions and such, though the stress on "all things" (twice) and allusion to Wisdom of Solomon 1:16 suggests rather that these are merely relevant examples for addressing the Colossian heresy.
It is not the least strange for it to be said that Jesus created all things for himself, and Buzzard and Hunting do not explain why it would be strange, they merely assert that it is.
And now we offer some material compiled from our debate with a Unitarian. These are mini-essays that are summary responses to primary arguments used by our opponent.
Argument 1: When John says "the Word became flesh" (1:14) he means the Logos became a full human being, which includes personality. The word "flesh" means a whole person.
A word study of "flesh" in the NT shows this to be false. As I noted above, this does not say that the logos obtained a heart, a center of conscious thought; it only says "flesh." We will see that the vast majority of cites show "flesh" to mean no more than a body itself, in distinct difference from a spirit or a rational faculty.
There are a few cites of "flesh" that have another meaning -- but it won't help.
Matt. 16:17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.
"Flesh and blood" is a widely recognized idiom for human weakness. Similar use of the phrase "flesh and blood" is found in Sir. 14:18 and 17:31, Wisdom 12:5, and in the works of Philo, as well as elsewhere in the NT, and in rabbinical literature.
We'll see some examples further below that make it more clear that the rational part of the being is NOT in view here -- merely our weakness as creatures (which is not what "flesh" by itself means).
Matt. 19:5 And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? (Mark 10:8)
Do married people become one rational being? No, they do become "one flesh" as married persons, and we don't have a union of rational faculties -- and this will be made more clear in another cite below.
Matt. 24:22 And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened. (Mark 13:20)
No flesh should be saved? Does the rational part of a being die?
Matt. 26:41 Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. (Mark 14:38)
Here the "flesh" and the "spirit" are held in complete distinction. The word for "spirit" is pneuma.
Luke 3:6 And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.
"All flesh" -- humanity, right? Yes. But this is a differing use of "flesh" and it does mean "humanity" (as in Genesis and Isaiah, for example) -- but it means the whole of humanity, everybody at once. It is a collective noun, so does it help to say the "logos became flesh" in this sense? The logos became ALL humanity at once?
Luke 24:39 Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.
"Flesh and bones" is a synecdoche for human physicality. But how will they "handle" the non-tangible rational being of Jesus?
John 6:51, 55 I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world....For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.
How does one eat someone's full humanity?
John 17:2 As thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him.
It's that "collective" meaning again.
Acts 2:17 And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams:
Also that collective meaning.
Acts 2:26 Therefore did my heart rejoice, and my tongue was glad; moreover also my flesh shall rest in hope:
A distinction is made between "heart" and "flesh" -- "heart" is kardia.
Acts 2:30-31 Therefore being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption.
Rom. 1:3 Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh...
Of course you cannot be descended from David through your intangible rational parts.
Rom. 2:28-29 For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.
There's that flesh-heart/spirit distinction again.
Rom. 3:20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
The collective meaning again.
Rom. 8:3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:
In the likeness or form of flesh? What is the form or likeness of a heart, mind, or spirit?
Rom. 13:14 But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.
Can our rational component have concupiscence, desire, or lust?
1 Cor. 1:29 That no flesh should glory in his presence.
Also the collective.
1 Cor. 5:5 To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.
Another distinction between flesh and spirit.
1 Cor. 6:16 What? know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh.
Add this to the parallel above, and not that "body" is in parallelism with "flesh". That body is "soma" -- a word which Gundry in his classic study showed meant the "thingness" part of the person, not the complete person (versus Bultmann, who wanted to argue that it was the whole kit and kaboodle so he could argue for a "spiritual resurrection").
1 Cor. 15:50 Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.
Here again, this phrase means "human weakness". One more cite of this sort below.
2 Cor. 4:11 For we which live are alway delivered unto death for Jesus' sake, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our mortal flesh.
The rational part of us is not mortal?
2 Cor. 7:1 Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
Flesh-spirit dichotomy again.
2 Cor. 7:5 For, when we were come into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest, but we were troubled on every side; without were fightings, within were fears.
Does our intangible, rational part get tired and need rest?
Gal. 4:13 Ye know how through infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you at the first.
An infirm spirit?
Gal. 6:13 For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law; but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh.
Physical circumcision -- of a spirit and mind?
Eph. 2:3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
A flesh-mind dichotomy again.
Eph. 5:30 For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.
Here again, soma is in parallelism with "flesh".
Eph. 6:5 Servants, be obedient to them that are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in singleness of your heart, as unto Christ...
Do slavemasters own your mind and spirit, too?
Eph. 6:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
Flesh and blood, versus principalities, powers, etc. Who not being flesh, have no rational parts.
Phil. 1:22, 24 But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not...Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.
Abide in the flesh? No more mind or heart after we die?
Phil. 3:4 Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more:
A list of personal credits, and deeds Paul has done in life, follows this. No praise for his mind's deeds are included.
James 5:3 Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days.
Can you eat your own mind?
Rev. 19:18 That ye may eat the flesh of kings, and the flesh of captains, and the flesh of mighty men, and the flesh of horses, and of them that sit on them, and the flesh of all men, both free and bond, both small and great.
Now the birds get to eat your rational faculties? So, let's review:
- "Flesh" is usually an outer aspect held in distinction to inner aspects of mind and spirit. They are referred to as ontologically distinct, ALWAYS.
- It sometimes can refer to a large group of people, usually all of humanity.
- Sometimes (in association with "blood") it refers to human weakness or inadequacy. It also sometimes refers to the sin nature, but no one wants John 1:14 to read that way. John only uses "flesh" and pairs nothing with it.
- John 1:14 says that the Logos "became flesh". Since this obviously cannot mean that the Logos turned into flesh with no remainder, it must mean that the Logos "took on" flesh. Note that the word "dwelt" is the same as is used to refer to setting up a tent or tabernacle.
- John 1:14 does not say anything about the Logos being given a mind, spirit, or any "inner aspect" that makes something a personal being. Therefore it is logical to assume that the Logos already possessed these faculties when it became flesh.
Argument 2: Proverbs and other cites say Wisdom was "created". That means it had a beginning and was not eternal. Our opponent made much of this (for a partial reply see here), but moreover, there is a certain semantic limitation involved, and that is that there is no such thing as verb of production that, taken by itself, could not be twisted, argued, or mashed into some implication of a beginning at a point in time rather than eternality.
Even "generated," used by the Nicean creed, could be twisted so. Doesn't generation imply that what was generated was "turned on" at some point? No surprise that the Arians kept playing games and the Athanasians needed to narrow things. Heretics have to have.
So then, there is no reason to see the use of words like "begotten" or "born" or "created" in Prov. 8, Sirach, etc. as excluding eternality. There is simply no verb available that can express, by itself, eternality, and that is why time markers for eternality ("eternally begotten") must be added to express what is being described.
Argument 3: John uses the word "logos" like he does everywhere else -- to refer to the mundane "word" spoken by God, as spoken by people, not to a metaphysical logos. What this runs down to is:
- There are obviously two possible uses of logos at issue -- one mundane, the other metaphysical.
- The rampant "mundane" use of logos (and dabar in the OT) is used to "prove" that the use of logos in John 1:14 is also "mundane" rather than metaphysical.
Of course, the obvious glitch here is that Philo also uses "logos" in a variety of mundane ways, so how do we know that his use of logos is ever metaphysical? The obvious answer is that the context does not allow us to regard his metaphysical uses of logos as mundane ones, and that (viz. the parallels in John to Wisdom literature) show that his use of logos is indeed metaphysical.
In response to recent inquiries we are now proceeding with a more detailed refutation of Anthony's Buzzard's Doctrine of the Trinity. In the interest of brevity we will not address most attempts to argue Trinitarianism from the OT (and also not thereby concede, necessarily, to any of Buzzard's arguments on the OT; notably on Ps. 110:1).
Chapter 1 -- In my review of Buzzard and Hunting'sDoctrine of the Trinity (DT) I made this observation:
The argument Buzzard and Hunting repeat time and time again -- literally a hundred times, if I may make an underestimate -- is as follows: 1) The Scriptures say God is One. 2) Therefore, God is one person, and Jesus could only be "a human being vested with extraordinary powers as God's legal agent."  It won't take a logician to see a certain premise missing from the middle: 1.5) "One" equals to "one person" -- not one something else (as in, "one Being of composite nature"), and our authors never succeed in making this connection in spite of repeating the other two points to the threshold of nausea.
Chapter 1 of DT introduces this argument guilty of the Fallacy of the Excluded Middle without once proving it. It is argued and assumed, again and again throughout DT, that "monotheism" is the same as unitarianism, when it is not even by an English definition -- monotheism is merely the recognition of one God, making no statements about the nature of that God -- though I might add from research into Mormonism that many scholars, even Jewish and Evangelical ones (like Tigay and Hurtado), are questioning exactly what value the modern word "monotheism" has in light of Jewish belief in intermediate beings such as angels, and hypostases.
A better word for Jewish belief may have been "monolatry," the worship of one God. Unitarianism is "monotheism" (modern definition) plus the idea that the one God is but one center of consciousness. Buzzard and Hunting profess to be finding unitarianism in statements of "monotheism" like the Shema by taking the texts at "face value" and "according to the ordinary rules of language" (which language? English?), but in fact, it is Buzzard and Hunting (and those modern Jews they quote, like Lapide and Gillet) who invest statements like the Shema with unitarian semantic content, based on the false equation of "monotheism" with unitarianism and without any explanation or defense.
It is ironic that (as shown in Smith's Origins of Biblical Monotheism, 153) as often as Buzzard and Hunting use the Shema and say "montheism", other scholars like Hurtado (an Evangelical) and Tigay (who is Jewish) are making the point that the Shema is not clearly monotheistic as we have defined the term; it contains no statement of exclusivism (i.e., the Lord your God is one Lord, but it does not, other than by possible interpretation, say, "the only one"). Tigay points out that it would read well as a proper statement of the relationship between God and Israel: He alone is Israel's God, and no other.
What this all means in our context is: The existence of other, lesser beings (perhaps demonic, or perhaps falsely recognized by others as legitimate deities in their own rights) is open here. However, it is enough for this context to state that the Shema does not offer the safety of anti-Trinitarians that Buzzard and Hunting continually suppose it does.
Some germane points:
- Under this rubric, it is stated that Israel "knew nothing about a duality or Trinity of persons in the Godhead."
While not conceding this necessarily, we would make the point that Israel also knew nothing of a Lord's Supper, atonement via what amounts to human sacrifice, the resurrection of one particular person prior to the final resurrection, or creation ex nihilo, to name four examples of Christian principles that Buzzard and Hunting presumably accept. New or progressive revelation is far from problematic as a concept. The key is whether anything held by the OT or NT contradicts the idea of a Trinity -- and in that respect...
- ...Buzzard and Hunting quote passages that say that God is "one Lord" (Deut. 6:4), there is "none other" (Deut. 4:39), of God creating all things by Himself (Is. 44:8; 24; 45:18), of being the "only God" (John 17:3, Jude 25) and so on.
A proper regard for what Trinitarianism actually teaches, however, refutes these applications in favor of a Unitarian position. By Trinitarian understanding, the Word and Spirit are by nature attributes of God which proceed from the Father. They are inclusive of the "one Lord" of whom there is "none other" -- they are not separate Lords or Gods, but are part of the divine identity of the one God. In our Wisdom article we explained the ancient concept of the hypostasis, a quasi-personification of attributes proper to a deity, occupying an intermediate position between personalities and abstract beings (though whether they are indeed personalities may be debated). (Moreover, we will see that Paul in 1 Cor. 8:4, 6 specifically reformulates the Shema to include Jesus in the divine identity.)
Our questions to Buzzard and Hunting would be as follows:
- Are hypostases in any sense incompatible with "monotheism"?
Some have said so; Hurtado notes Bousset as an example. So we now ask Buzzard and Hunting: If the God of the Bible did have hypostases, does that in any way compromise "monotheism"? If the answer is yes, then Buzzard and Hunting will need to explain why this is so, and explain why Prov. 8, Sirach, Wisdom of Solomon, and Philo are not monotheistic, or else why they are not actually describing hypostases of God.
If the answer is no, then our next question comes into play:
- If hypostases are not incompatible with monotheism, why is Trinitarianism incompatible with monotheism?
We perceive that this is more likely what Buzzard and Hunting would say, since they seem to agree (Ch. 7) that Wisdom, a hypostasis and attribute of God, did preexist with God. The likely answer now to our question is, "Because Trinitarianism attributes actual personhood to the hypostases of Word and Spirit."
But then we are led to ask, "How does the attribution of personhood to the hypostases create a compromise in this respect?" Buzzard and Hunting provide nothing that answers this question. Indeed their constant insistence that verses like John 17:3 (referring to the Father as the "only true God") are inconsistent with Trinitarianism indicates that they have no answer, other than the original assumption that "monotheism" is the same as unitarianism, a conclusion they seem to have drawn not from actual definitions of the word, but uncritically from modern Jewish commentators reacting to Trinitarianism who have impregnated the word with their own definitions and understanding.
One must show that attributing personhood to a hypostasis violates "monotheism" (or actually, violates statements like the Shema), not merely assume that it does, and Buzzard and Hunting never do this at all.
- Are hypostases in any sense incompatible with "monotheism"?
In closing on this chapter, and as analogy, Buzzard and Hunting might consider the misuse of the word elohim by both atheists and Mormons (see here as an attempt to refute their version of monotheism. The attempt is made by loading the "freight" of the modern word God (with a capital G) into the ancient word elohim, which obviously had a much broader scope of meaning. It is our contention that Buzzard and Hunting make the same mistake with the word monotheism.
Chapter 2 -- This chapter adds little to the major premise of Ch. 1, continuing to use the words "monotheism" and "unitarianism" as though interchangeable (though at one point referring to "unitary monotheism" which is as much an admission that they are not the same ideas) and noting particular professions of Jesus that God is "one" (Mark 12:29, etc). These points are worth highlighting:
- It is asked, "Could there have been lurking in the consciousness of Jesus the idea that he himself was another, coequal person in the Godhead, and therefore also fully God?"
We ask in reply: What of an idea that Jesus was a hypostasis, an attribute of God, and thereby also fully God by nature (without exhausting the Godhead)? Note well that we say that Jesus speaks of himself this way, and acts this way, in the present tense. He does not say, "I am the end result of God's Wisdom" -- there is no intermediary premise, which is what writers like Buzzard and Hunting (and far too cautious evangelicals like Dunn) must do in order to make their Jesus compatible with their version of "monotheism".
Jesus makes statements and does things that indicate that he is Wisdom in a one to one correspondence. Once again we draw from our previous work:
Matthew 8:20//Luke 9:58 Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.
Witherington notes that the image of this saying "had been used earlier of Wisdom having no place to dwell until God assigned her such a place (cf. Sir. 24:6-7 to 1 Enoch 42:2), with Enoch speaking of the rejection of Wisdom ('but she found no dwelling place')." Witherington also notes the parallel to Sirach 36:31, "So who can trust a man that has no nest, but lodges wherever night overtakes him?" The use of these allusions "suggests that Jesus envisions and articulates his experience in light of sapiential traditions..." (Jesus Quest, 188)
Matthew 11:16-19//Luke 7:31-2 To what, then, can I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to each other: "'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not cry.'"For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, 'He has a demon. 'The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, 'Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and "sinners."' But wisdom is proved right by all her children."
Proverbs 1:24-28 Wisdom calls aloud in the street, she raises her voice in the public squares; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out, in the gateways of the city she makes her speech: "How long will you simple ones love your simple ways? How long will mockers delight in mockery and fools hate knowledge? If you had responded to my rebuke, I would have poured out my heart to you and made my thoughts known to you. But since you rejected me when I called and no one gave heed when I stretched out my hand, since you ignored all my advice and would not accept my rebuke, I in turn will laugh at your disaster; I will mock when calamity overtakes you-- when calamity overtakes you like a storm, when disaster sweeps over you like a whirlwind, when distress and trouble overwhelm you. "Then they will call to me but I will not answer; they will look for me but will not find me.
This passage provides some important clues once we have the social data in hand, and add in the factor of Jesus' communal meals with the dregs of society. Witherington notes passages like Proverbs 9:1-6, "which speaks of a feast set by Wisdom herself where she invites very unlikely guests to the table" for the sake of helping them acquire wisdom. Witherington therefore argues that Jesus dined with sinners and tax collectors because he was "acting out the part of Wisdom." (187-8)
Matthew 11:29-30 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
Sirach 6:19-31 Come to (Wisdom) like one who plows and sows. Put your neck into her collar. Bind your shoulders and carry her...Come unto her with all your soul, and keep her ways with all your might...For at last you will find the rest she gives...Then her fetters will become for you a strong defense, and her collar a glorious robe. Her yoke is a golden ornament, and her bonds a purple cord.
Sirach 51:26 Put your neck under the yoke, and let your soul receive instruction: she is hard at hand to find.
Jesus is clearly alluding to the passages in the very popular work of Sirach. His listeners would have recognized that he was associating himself with Wisdom.
Matthew 12:42//Luke 11:31 The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon's wisdom, and now one greater than Solomon is here.
Noting the association of Solomon with the Wisdom literature, Witherington writes (186, 192):
If it is true that Jesus made a claim that something greater than Solomon was present in and through his ministry, one must ask what it could be...Surely the most straightforward answer would be that Wisdom had come in person.
Matthew 23:34//Luke 11:49 Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city... Therefore also said the wisdom of God, I will send them prophets and apostles, and some of them they shall slay and persecute...
In Matthew's version, Jesus says, "I will send them prophets..." Luke specifically identified Jesus with Wisdom.
The Gospel of John identifies Jesus with Wisdom in a number of ways. Jesus speaks in long discourses characteristic of Wisdom (Prov. 8, Sir. 24, Wisdom of Solomon 1-11). John's emphasis on "signs" mirrors that of the Wisdom of Solomon, and John uses the same Greek word for them (semeion). Finally, John's overwhelming use of the term "Father" (115 times) matches the emphasis on that title in the late Wisdom literature. Consider also:
- John 6:27 Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.
- Wisdom of Solomon 16:26 On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval. So that your children, whom you loved, O Lord, might learn that it is not the production of crops that feeds humankind but that your word sustains those who trust in you.
- John 14:15 If you love me, you will obey what I command.
- Wisdom of Solomon 16:18 And love of Wisdom is the keeping of her laws, and giving heed to her laws is assurance of immortality.
- Christ is the bread of life (John 6:35)
- Wisdom is the bread or substance of life (Prov. 9:5, Sir. 15:3, 24:21, 29:21; Wis. 11:4)
- Christ is the light of the world (John 8:12)
- Wisdom is light (Wis. 7:26-30, 18:3-4)
- Christ is the door of the sheep and the good shepherd (John 10:7, 11, 14)
- Wisdom is the door and the good shepherd (Prov. 8:34-5, Wis. 7:25-7, 8:2-16; Sir. 24:19-22)
- Christ is life (John 11:25)
- Wisdom brings life (Prov. 3:16, 8:35, 9:11; Wis. 8:13)
- Christ is the way to truth (John 14:6)
- Wisdom is the way (Prov. 3:17, 8:32-34; Sir. 6:26)
We would put on Buzzard and Hunting's plate their own words: if language is stable and has any meaning, these indicate nothing other than that Jesus considered himself to be Wisdom, a hypostasis of God the Father.
- Buzzard and Hunting wonder of the "newness" of Trinitarian doctrine and make two statements that demonstrate a lack of familiarity with the ancient world:
- It is said, "If [Jesus] were to introduce a shattering, radical change in Judaism's understanding about God, this would have been an obvious opportunity."
As noted above this is not as "shattering" or as "radical" as Buzzard and Hunting suppose. Judaism knew of and accepted the idea of hypostases with relation to the true God. The only "radical" aspect was the ascription of personality (versus, perhaps only personification) to the hypostases.
Is this a truly "radical, shattering" step? Radical, perhaps, for it would be new; but "shattering" is a step too far.
But even so Buzzard and Hunting are neglectful in knowledge of what any "new" religious revelation would mean. As we have noted in another context and on another subject:
Roman literature tells us that "(t)he primary test of truth in religious matters was custom and tradition, the practices of the ancients." (62) In other words, if your beliefs had the right sort of background and a decent lineage, you had the respect of the Romans. Old was good. Innovation was bad.
This was a big sticking point for Christianity, because it could only trace its roots back to a recent founder. Christians were regarded as "arrogant innovators" (63) whose religion was the new kid on the block, but yet had the nerve to insist that it was the only way to go! As noted above, Christianity argued that the "powers that be" which judged Jesus worthy of the worst and most shameful sort of death were 180 degrees off, and God Himself said so.
Malina and Neyrey  explain the matter further. Reverence was given to ancestors, who were considered greater "by the fact of birth." Romans "were culturally constrained to attempt the impossible task of living up to the traditions of those necessarily greater personages of their shared past." What had been handed down was "presumed valid and normative. Forceful arguments might be phrased as: 'We have always done it this way!'" Semper, ubique, ab omnibus -- "Always, everywhere, by everyone!"
It contrast, Christianity said, "Not now, not here, and not you!" Of course this explains why Paul appeals to that which was handed on to him by others (1 Cor. 11:2) -- but that is within a church context and where the handing on occurred in the last 20 years. Pilch and Malina add [Handbook of Biblical Social Values, 19] that change or novelty in religious doctrine or practice met with an especially violent reaction; change or novelty was "a means value which serves to innovate or subvert core and secondary values."
Even Christian eschatology and theology stood against this perception. The idea of sanctification, of an ultimate cleansing and perfecting of the world and each person, stood in opposition to the view that the past was the best of times, and things have gotten worse since then.
The Jews, on the other hand, traced their roots back much further, and although some Roman critics did make an effort to "uproot" those roots, others (including Tacitus) accorded the Jews a degree of respect because of the antiquity of their beliefs. In light of this we can understand efforts by Christian writers to link Christianity to Judaism as much as possible, and thus attain the same "antiquity" that the Jews were sometimes granted. (Of course we would agree that the Christians were right to do this, but that is not how the Romans saw it!)
Any novelty Jesus or any Christian taught -- and Buzzard and Hunting can surely not deny that Christianity taught some "novel" ideas in opposition to Judaism -- would have had to be carefully insinuated and linked to older ideas (like the Wisdom tradition). We see Jesus doing exactly what we would expect if he had something "new" like the Trinity idea to speak of.
- It is noted that in Acts, it is reported that a conference was held to decide on matters like Gentile circumcision and behavior. "If these physical matters were considered worthy of formal discussion, how much more would a conference be necessary to discuss the explosive change from belief in a single-person God to that of a Triune God, among these fiercely monotheistic Jews, leaders of the Christian community?"
We once again remind the reader that in light of the idea of hypostases, the "change" to a Triune perception would not have been anywhere near as "explosive" as Buzzard and Hunting suppose and that they still define "monotheistic" in their own way.
Yet they also fundamentally misapply the point about the Acts conference. This conference was an assembly of the people, a standard means of listening to and considering differing points of view and overcome discord and lack of unity. Such a meeting would only be called on a subject if there was disagreement between members on a broad scale. If all of the assembly agreed that Jesus (and the Spirit) was God's hypostasis, and a person as well, then there is no need for such an assembly. They would only be in disagreement with non-Christian Jews, who are not a part of their kinship group.
No such discussion would be needed if all accepted the premise in question, which is the very point at issue. Bottom line: Appeal to the lack of an "Acts 15 meeting" on Trinitarianism is a non-argument in context.
- It is said, "If [Jesus] were to introduce a shattering, radical change in Judaism's understanding about God, this would have been an obvious opportunity."
- It is said that the doctrine of the Trinity was not defended in the NT. With this we may disagree, noting Alan Segal's work Two Powers in Heaven which shows that there was a dialogue on this issue between Jews and Christians.
- We find it notable that Buzzard and Hunting, one of whom is a Biblical scholar, rely on sources like commonplace encyclopedias for any purpose whatsoever.
- Buzzard and Hunting continue to confuse the definitions of monotheism and unitarianism when they write: "Jesus is a person separate and distinct from the Father, the only true God. Jesus has not been incorporated into the Godhead."
The idea of a "distinct" person is a "-tarian" question. The idea of "incorporation" is a "-theism" question. The two are separate and should not be illicitly mixed.
- Buzzard and Hunting also fail to grasp Trinitarianism in this analogy, of comparison to John 17:3's "only true God" profession: "We would be suspicious of anyone who claims that he has 'only one wife' if his household consisted of three separate women, each of whom he claimed was his one wife."
The analogy is multiply flawed. Trinitarianism would say the man has one wife, who has two attributes that are separate centers of consciousness: her thoughts and words, and her ability to act. The latter two, which would be hypostatic entities, would not be called "his one wife" because they do not exhaust the properties of his one wife; they are attributes of his own wife.
Only the "source" wife could be called "his one wife" and the hypostatic "wives" would not be called a "wife" by themselves (unless informally) but would be given titles indicating derivation ("word of wife", "finger of wife," etc.)
If Buzzard and Hunting do not grasp these distinctions, they are not refuting or arguing with Trinitarianism but with a straw-man version of Trinitarianism.
- It is notable that Buzzard and Hunting offer a similar misunderstanding of Ps. 82:6 to that of the Mormons, as discussed in my book The Mormon Defenders. However, it does not affect our arguments here.
As before we will not engage OT hermeneutical arguments (while also not conceding Buzzard and Hunting's exegesis). However, we will agree that Jesus as Messiah was indeed God's agent and representative. This squares with Jesus' function within the Trinity and does not address his ontological relationship with the Father.
Chapter 3 -- The focus of this chapter is the question, "Did Jesus' followers think he was God?" if we mean, "did they think he was God (the Father - keeping in mind the personal name "God" was not yet used) in a one to one correspondence," the answer is NO. If we ask, "did they think he was a hypostasis or attribute of God, ontologically equal with yet functionally subordinate to God" (as the Nicean creed also states), then the answer is YES.
For reference we again refer the reader to our essay here. Without conceding Buzzard and Hunting's arguments, we will not argue the points about John 20:28 as it does not establish the fundamental differentiation of Trinitarianism even if Jesus is being called "God" (it could just as well be used to support modalism).
Other points of note:
- It is objected that in the Gospels, certain persons (the Nazarene townspeople, Jesus' immediate family) "thought that Jesus had made a claim to be God."
This and other objections in this chapter rest on a fundamental misapprehension of the purpose of the Gospels as biographies of Jesus -- they are not intended to be theological treatises, and therefore, the comparison of such things missing as being akin to a history of America failing to mention the Civil War is illicit (as well as once again assuming that a Trinitarian view was more radical than it really was; see above).
The Gospels also say practically nothing about atonement by the blood of Christ (a few words at the Last Supper is all there is to it), but presumably Buzzard and Hunting do not deny this doctrine on that basis.
Much of the rest of the chapter focuses on the "silence" of the Gospels on this "radical" notion, and our answer is the same as above. Do we expect Gabriel to expound on theological concerns, especially before a humble Galileean peasant whose main concern is "where is my next meal coming from"? Surely such expectations are anachronistic. We may also inform Buzzard and Hunting that the same "logic" is used by atheists to doubt such events as Matthew's resurrected saints and various miracles reported in one Gospel but not in others.
- Points such as "Did they believe God was washing their feet at the Last Supper?" are in one sense merely fallacious arguments from personal incredulity; but they do raise the question of how much Jesus' disciples during his ministry may have understood his identity as Wisdom.
The simple answer is that we do not know, and that it makes no difference, and it is an argument from silence to make an issue of it as Buzzard and Hunting do. Since the disciples also did not expect a resurrection (see here) or an atoning death, it would be far from the only thing they misunderstood (to say nothing of how many times Jesus had to rebuke them for failure to understand something). Appealing to the apparent ignorance of the disciples is fallacious and irrelevant.
- It is suggested that "human curiosity at least would have caused [the disciples] to see what was going to happen to their read 'God'."
This begs the same question as above, but it is also worth noting that Buzzard and Hunting are misinformed about ancient personality: as we note elsewhere:
"Jesus' apparent defeat on the cross would have been viewed in the ancient world as a killing blow to his ambitions, and incapable of reversal. As Pilch and Malina note in the Handbook of Biblical Social Values , the Western world holds that defeat is only temporary, until such time as the 'next round' comes along and the loser has a fair chance to improve and try again. No such stratification or mobility was known to the ancients, who regarded defeat as crushing and ultimate. Peter was behaving exactly as an ancient would in the face of what clearly appeared to be desperate odds..."
Buzzard and Hunting's lack of familiarity with these basic principles of ancient sociology may lead us to ask how familiar they could possibly be with what ancient Jewish "monotheism" (as they term it) could bear.
- The overcautious conclusions of Dunn are used as a battering ram; on Hebrews it is said, "It would certainly go beyond our evidence to conclude that the author has attained to the understanding of God's Son as having had a real personal existence."
Dunn prefers to think of Hebrews' pre-existence of the Son in terms of "an idea and purpose in the mind of God." In so doing he merely commits the same error that Buzzard and Hunting do. If, as Dunn acknowledges, the view of Christ in Hebrews parallels that of the Alexadrian logos-concept and of Wisdom, then Christ is identified with a hypostatic personification of God and one of God's attributes. Does God ever lack one of His attributes?
At best Dunn (and Buzzard and Hunting) can only claim that there is no evidence of this hypostasis having been a person prior to the Incarnation, and we shall see how they arrive at that later on.
- And again, Buzzard and Hunting clearly do not grasp Trinitarianism, or else have no proper idea how to describe it: "Why did the author [of Hebrews] not state plainly that Jesus was the One God?"
The phraseology as stated indicates "was the One God" in a one to one correspondence, which, yet again, is not Trinitarinism. However, Hebrews does identify Jesus as a hypostasis of the One God, which does square with Trinitarianism. (Again see link above.)
- Like our previous Unitarian opponent, Buzzard and Hunting bring up Heb. 2:14, 17, which says of Jesus, "in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren." It is assumed that this excludes any chance of Jesus being a "God-man" as Trinitarianism states. My reply to our earlier opponent suffices:
What does it mean when Jesus is said to have expounded "all things" to his disciples? Does that include the mating habits of sea slugs? Ye say: "If he's actually a hypostatisised "God-man" of "Spirit and flesh", then he is not made like his brethren in every way." Here you assume that "every way"/"all things" covers the category of nature to an atomizing, sea-slugs extent. Taken so, was Jesus "like his brethren in every way" in terms of eye color? (Hardly possible, or did he have a little bit of each color somewhere?) Body hair? Height? Weight? Female organs, maybe?
The shared properties implied by "every way" clearly are not all-inclusive. So you can hardly use this passage for any purpose of your own. "Every way" refers to a general category distinction in a way quite typical of Hebrew exclusive language. You can hardly claim that it excludes God-manhood; the category distinction level is most likely in the area of "spirit-flesh composite".
At the same time, one may ask (and my opponent never answered) how a non-person can be "behooved" in any way to do anything. "Behooving" denotes an obligation. A non-person cannot be obligated. One may as well say that a rock could be "behooved" to fall.
In short, Buzzard and Hunting commit the same fallacy of imposing modern anthropological categories on the text without any justification. It must be shown what the NT writers defined as "human being" or "man" -- it cannot be assumed that the modern definitions apply and that a (hypostasis of) God-man composite would be excluded.
- Here also Buzzard and Hunting commit the error noted in our review:
Must not Jesus have been in some sense God (infinite) to pay the infinite price needed for our sins? No, they say: First, that would imply that God could die, and God can't die, so Jesus could not be God. (What if He takes on a human body?!? No good, they tell us: they use the Semitic Totality Concept to say that if a body dies, so it is with the whole man; the dualism between body and soul is said to be "unbiblical" -- they are misrepresenting what Semitic Totality means; it does not mean that body and spirit (not "soul" actually -- see here) cannot exist separately [2. Cor. 5], just that they belong together properly.)
Chapter 4 -- This chapter focuses specifically on Paul. Once again we see the same arguments addressed above: the alleged unitary monotheism of Judaism (with 1 Cor. 8:4-6, 1 Tim. 2:5, and Eph. 1:17 noted as cites above are -- but see the end of this section on 1 Cor. 8:4-6) and an assumption that "monotheism" and unitarianism are the same thing; the alleged "novelty" of Trinitarian thought.
Again we refer to our linked item showing that Paul identified Jesus with the hypostasic Wisdom of God. Here are the three passages dealt with:
Phil. 2:5-8 -- Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
Approximately half of Buzzard and Hunting's section devoted to the heading of Phil. 2 is consumed by reminding the reader of previous passages under which it has been assumed that "monotheism" is the same thing as unitarianism and with warnings against reading into texts what is not there. Actual counter-arguments to drawing Trinitarian doctrine from this passage amount to the following:
- Noting that Paul's lesson to his readers has to do with humility, it is pointed out, "It has been asked whether it is in any way probable that Paul would enforce this simple lesson by asking his readers to adopt the frame of mind of one who, having been eternally God, made the decision to become man? Is that sort of comparison in any way relevant to our human condition?"
Buzzard and Hunting's argument is flawed in two ways. First, within an ancient collectivist society, Jesus, as leader of the body of Christ kinship grouping, would indeed be the example to draw from in any relevant scenario. The implied "problem" of lack of relevance is, ironic in light of Buzzard and Hunting's later arguments about Hellenism infecting the church, a product of a Western mindset that sees a vast gulf between the human and the divine.
Second, as Witherington notes [commentary on Philippians, 64-5], there is a similar argument that we cannot imitate Christ by becoming incarnate and dying on a cross, etc. that is "an overreaction" and a "caricature". Buzzard and Hunting's argument is also an overreaction and a caricature, but in the opposite direction. As Witherington replies, "An analogy involves points of similarity in the midst of obvious differences; in this case a similar attitude and similarly self-sacrificial behavior are being commanded to produce unity in the Philippian congregation."
It is a far better argument that the humility of of the emptied Christ is an example which serves to shame the Philippian believers into giving up their petty squabbles.
- It is said that it seems "strange for Paul to refer to the preexistent Jesus as Jesus, the Messiah, thus reading back into eternity the name and office he received at birth."
The passage says no such thing about the name and office being eternal. "Christ" is Jesus' present title from Paul's point of view; this is no different than someone saying, "President Clinton was born in Arkansas."
- In light of the presuppositions, Buzzard and Hunting render this passage as saying that Jesus went down in rank from God's commissioner to the rank of a servant. No effort is made to explain the passage in detail, especially with reference to the key word "form" (morphe) which has the figurative connotation of "nature" (and is so used to refer to Jesus as being in the "form" of a servant; obviously, Jesus did not look outwardly like a slave).
The word here connotes that Christ "manifested a form that truly represented the nature and very being of God." This fits precisely with a hypostasis, but is a stretch to apply to one who was merely a "commissioner." It should be noted as well that the phrases "made himself" and "took upon him" indicates a conscious choice made by the preexistent Christ.
In addition, Buzzard and Hunting do not deal with Phil. 2:9-11: "Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name. That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
The "name which is above every name" is a clear reference to the name of Yahweh, and is also a clear allusion to Is. 45:23 ("I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear." -- a verse not far after one of Buzzard and Hunting's "unitarianism is monotheism" verses, Is. 45:21) which thereby include Jesus Christ within the divine identity.
- Finally, it is most shocking that Buzzard and Hunting dispose of this rich passage (of which Witherington says, entire monographs have been written) with a few sentences and using only two footnotes, both from Dunn's work (which has been criticized heavily by Witherington, who also shows [Jesus the Sage, 260ff] that this passage has clear links to the Wisdom tradition).
Colossians 1:15-18-- I have already critiqued this above.
1 Cor. 10:4And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.
I have not previously seen this verse used to argue for preexistence of Christ; Buzzard and Hunting read it in terms of as a figure of speech, as in "this cup is my blood". They also state that "obviously, a literal rock did not accompany Israel through the wilderness" and say this is an OT typology.
They are apparently unaware of the use of the Sinai story in later Jewish sapiential literature, as in Philo, who equates the rock with Wisdom and does say that Wisdom guided the Israelites. Philo's intention is allegorical, but nevertheless, Buzzard and Hunting's connection is non-existent, whereas there is a clear reference to the Wisdom hypostasis, and Paul therefore now states that Christ, as Wisdom and as a person, did indeed guide Israel through the desert. (Their use of 10:11 to dismiss all of these as "types" ignores the clear historical references in 10:6-10 which are called "types".)
And in closing, about 1 Cor. 8:4, 6. Buzzard and Hunting use this as an example of the supposedly pristine unitary monotheism promulgated by Paul, but they are unaware that this passage is essentially a rewrite of the Shema which includes Jesus in the divine identity. Let's see that passage:
As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one...But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.
Verse 4 clearly alludes to the Shema, as all agree; but recall the Shema again for v. 6: "Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD." Paul has used the key phrase "one Lord" and applied it to Jesus Christ, thus including Jesus in the divine identity! And there is more: phrases like "of" or "by whom all things" are parallel to Jewish formulations that express God's relationship to Creation. This is in line with the Jewish concept of Wisdom, God's attribute, as God's tool for creation. Monolatry is maintained by including Jesus within the divine identity.
Finally we may note another equivalence Buzzard and Hunting quietly do not deal with -- Rev. 1:8 and 21:6 has God saying of Himself, "I am the Alpha and the Omega" and "the beginning and the end." Rev. 1:17 and 22:13 have Christ saying of himself that he is the "first and the last", "the Alpha and the Omega," and "the beginning and the end." One would like to see Buzzard and Hunting explain this anomaly within a Unitarian viewpoint, but they do not.
Chapter 5 -- The primary theme of ths chapter is that Greek philosophy and thinking corrupted the early church and that the Trinity is one of the damages. In this light we might note this from Richard Bauckham [God Crucified, 78]:
...(I)t was actually not Jewish but Greek philosophical categories which made it difficult to attribute true and full divinity to Jesus. A Jewish understanding of divine identity was open to the inclusion of Jesus in the divine identity. But Greek philosophical -- Platonic -- definitions of divine substance or nature and Platonic understanding of the relationship of God to the world made it extremely difficult to see Jesus as more than a semi-divine being...In the context of the Arian controversies, Nicene theology was essentially an attempt to resist the implications of Greek philosophical understandings of divinity and to re-appropriate in a new conceptual context the New Testament's inclusion of Jesus in the unique divine identity.
Thus if anything, Greek thinking would produce unitarianism -- not Trinitarianism.
The rest of the chapter contains issues we have either covered above ("flesh" in John 1:14), the same insufficient reasoning used to understand the Trinity: "If the Word is the Son in a pre-human condition, then both Father and Son are equally entitled to be thought of as the supreme Deity." -- this is only true in an ontological sense; in a functional sense, the Word is subordinate, not supreme, and as a whole cannot be given the title of supreme because the Word does not exhaust the Godhead.
It is also claimed, without justification, that personal preexistence attributed to the Son causes "the idea of the unity of God [to be] lost", which is simply false, for a hypostasis is an attribute of God, and ascribing personality to an attribute in no way lessens its nature as an attribute.
There is the same confusion of "monotheism" and unitarianism as synonyms; also the claim that the Trinitarian Jesus could not be a real human being (once again assuming modern anthropological categories illicitly) and could not meaningfully suffer temptation. This rests on an assumption that the Temptations of Jesus were a matter of testing weakness; I disagree. Here is my take on that matter:
...."Could Jesus have failed the Temptations?"...No, I don't think Jesus could have failed -- not in the least. Someone will say, "Well, so what did the temptations prove, then?" I'll explain what they proved with an analogy. Let us recall the story of the Sphinx: Persons approaching this creature were required to answer a riddle posed by it in order to pass. Losers were summarily dispatched. The only way to get past it was to answer the riddle -- right?
Well, let's say that rather than answer the riddle, one of these Greek fellows stopped by the time travel surplus store, and instead of answering the riddle, blew the Sphinx away with a howitzer. So did he defeat the Sphinx? Of course he did. And he did so by rendering the Sphinx's challenge irrelevant.
As I see it, this is what the purpose of the Temptation of Jesus was -- it was to prove Satan to be irrelevant in context. Jesus experienced temptation firsthand (Hebrews 4:15) and knew what it was like, but this is not the same thing as saying that he could have fallen for it (and as Hebrews goes on to say, he didn't fall for it -- cf. Hebrews 2:17-18: "Wherefore in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted." ).
A Greek could hear the Sphinx's riddle, and say, "Yeah, so what?" before blowing the beast to smithereens. In the same way, Jesus was tested, and was guaranteed a 100%. The Temptation was a glorious demonstration of what the Incarnation had accomplished.
Chapter 6 -- this chapter looks at the patristic-era controversy over the Trinity and as such does not interest us here.
Chapter 7 -- The subject here is preexistence in the NT. Buzzard and Hunting discuss the difference between actual preexistence and ideal preexistence (existing only in God's foreknowledge). Their conclusions here are very close to our own in Chapter 3 of The Mormon Defenders where we addressed the Mormon doctrine of preexistence of souls. (There is also a quick endorsement of "soul sleep" doctrine, which we look at here.)
At any rate Buzzard and Hunting claim that that Jesus only had "ideal" preexistence, and we have refuted their explanations of John 17:5 and 8:58 above. They acknowledge that Wisdom did preexist, but not as a person; it only became a person when Jesus was born, which as we have shown above (re John 1:14, Phil. 2:5-8, etc.) is false. Hamerton-Kelly's work on preexistence (with which we do not entirely agree, notably with his implied endorsement of Q/Marcan priority theories) in Judaism and the NT -- a source notably missing from Buzzard and Hunting's bibliography -- offers the following relevant points:
- Among the things considered actually preexistent in Judaism was the "Son of Man" figure in Daniel 7 (1 Enoch 46:1-3, 48:1-7). The Son of Man "came into being before the creation and now exists in heaven, waiting to be revealed in the last times." [17-18] If, as we have shown, Jesus claimed to be the Son of Man, he was making a claim to be what was regarded as a preexistent being.
- In the Jewish Wisdom tradition, the Son of Man is regarded as being the possessor of divine wisdom "in the highest degree" .
- Matthew identifies Jesus with Wisdom and the Torah -- both actually preexistent entities in Judaism .
The "Son of Man" references are particularly important, and we shall see how Buzzard and Hunting dispense with them in the next chapter.
Chapter 8 -- This, Buzzard and Hunting's longest chapter, deals with the work of John. It begins with a note (which we have also discussed here) that singular pronouns are used to refer to God in the OT "tens of thousands of times."
This is very true, and not at all relevant, for it does not at all establish that God is "a single individual, not a plurality of persons," as we have noted far above with our first Unitarian writer.
Buzzard and Hunting also once again offer the "meaningfulness" argument, yet again assuming modern anthropological definitions of "what it means to be human" upon the Trinitarian Christ, then objecting that such a Christ would not fit the modern definition.
Many pages are spent recapitulating the idea (proven false above) that the Synoptics do not portray Jesus as preexistent; therefore, it is assumed that there must be "another way to read John [i.e., passages that point to preexistence) which brings his testimony into harmony with the other Gospels".
What follows is the wrangling of John 1:1-14 ("flesh"; "word") of the sort we have already addressed above. It is noted that John does not use the word para of the Word and God's relationship, which is the word he uses of the "proximity of one person to another" (John 1:39, They came and saw where he dwelt, and abode with him that day: for it was about the tenth hour.) This shows yet again that Buzzard and Hunting have no understanding of Trinitarianism.
It is, first of all, hardly meaningful to speak of any person of thing being "with" a timeless, eternal Father who is not to be "located" at any place one can be "with" Him in.
Second, to use such a preposition would suggest two entirely separate beings, which would be fine with Mormon subordinational tritheism, but not with Trinitarianism. Eternal, conscious Wisdom could never be "with" God in this sense.
A section is then devoted to the idea that John is refuting Gnostic dualism, which affirmed that God was "remote and distant from his creation, was mediated to His world by lesser divine figures" -- apparently Buzzard and Hunting are unaware that they have described Judaism (see Hurtado's One God, One Lord) with its tiers of intermediate figures, through whom God, who was not that distant, but involved with the world via these figures, acted.
After repeating arguments already refuted above, Buzzard and Hunting next try to mitigate John's description of Jesus as "coming forth from the Father" (16:28) by comparing it to places where others like John the Baptist are "sent from God." (1:6) The word in 16:28 is exerchomai and means to issue or proceed out of (or into). Here is how John uses the word elsewhere:
The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow me. (1:43) Then they went out of the city, and came unto him. (4:30) And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go. (11:44)
In contrast, 1:6 speaks of John being apostello, one sent on a mission.
Buzzard and Hunting can find no example of any other person who is said to exerchomai from God. They try to find parallels: By noting places where both Jesus and his disciples are "from God" (which does not dispel the specificity of 16:28); by noting false prophets who have "come forth" (1 John 4:1, though these come forth into the world, a very sensible geographic reference as those above, not out of the Father); by comparison to Mark 1:38 where Jesus says he "came forth" to preach (which is true even under Trinitarianism, and says zero about who or what he "came forth" from).
In other words, they again deny preexistence by semantic equivocation.
After spending some time refuting a concept of preexistence in John 1:15, in which John speaks of Jesus being "before" him (and which no advocate of Trinitarianism uses that Buzzard and Hunting cite), we step to John 3:13 and 6:62, where Jesus identifies himself as the Son of Man. As noted above, this Son of Man was regarded in Judaism as an actually preexistent entity.
Buzzard and Hunting dispense with this problem by first making the same objection that skeptics do about 3:13 (see here) and offering a different and entirely misplaced answer which tries to take the final phrase as "well-attested" (though from a textual-critical viewpoint, it is not to be included) and which sees Jesus as speaking in terms of his ascension having been already happened in terms of what was determined by the divine council, a concept significantly missing from the entire section of John 3, and which finds no support from commentators who came up with their own idea that the language was proleptic (because they had no better or less creative solution to offer).
6:62 is force-interpreted the same way. Most tellingly, Son of Man references are interpreted in light of the human Jesus alone; it is claimed that Trinitarians "do not claim that the Son of Man, the human Jesus, existed prior to his conception." As the link above shows, "Son of Man" is NOT a title of the human Jesus alone; it is a title of the divine heir of God -- and Judaism knew well enough that the Son of Man was no mere human.
We have addressed John 17:5 and 8:58 above.
Chapter 9 -- This is Buzzard and Hunting's attempt to "depersonalize" the Holy Spirit. Our response to those who engage this view is found here and Buzzard and Hunting offer nothing that responds to any of the data offered there.
It is rather hypocritical of them to observe that Trinitarians "seem unable to define the word [Person] with any confidence" when they have yet to define "human" in anything but modern anthropological terms, and do not provide or address any Trinitarian definitions of "person" at all. As it is, other than arguments already addressed in the link above and in our notes above, the best they can do is a) cite discussion over the matter of the Spirit's personality in the later church (even as they have just gotten through telling us how confused the later church was); b) define the Spirit as God's creative power, as "God in action and an extension of His personality" (the former of which we agree with).
Chapter 10 -- Here Buzzard and Hunting make much over later church debates over the Trinity, and the views of a tiny handful of modern writers. As such we have no comment to offer.
Chapter 11 -- This chapter is titled "The Challenge facing Trinitarianism Today." Buzzard and Hunting point out that anti-Trinitarianism have "long presented its case by showing that various orthodox Trinitarians have explained key Trinitarian verses in a unitarian way," which doesn't mean much, since Mormons and JWs have also presented their case for various doctrines by showing that orthodox opponents explain key verses in different ways. Lack of certainty by others less informed, is not positive evidence for your own case.
They also discuss some disputed texts that are said to call Jesus God (Titus 2:13, 2 Peter 1:1), but which we will not argue (while not also endorsing Buzzard and Hunting's counters) since to say "Jesus = God" is not the sum of the case in the first place.
They also mishandle Mark 13:32 as the atheists do. As a whole, however, this chapter contains material we see no need to address in light of what has proceeded above.
Chapters 12, 13, 14 -- These chapters contain no new arguments and merely admonish for a return to the true "Biblical" view of Unitarianism.
We now have a look at an attempt to wrest John 1 from the Trinitarian focus. This analysis was posted on a forum by a Christadelphian opponent of a reader of ours. The Unitarian began with a repetition of Argument 3 above: John uses the word "logos" like he does everywhere else -- to refer to the mundane "word" spoken by God, as spoken by people, not to a metaphysical logos.
Our answer above offers sufficient reply; the Unitarian spends a good quarter or more of his effort quoting OT passages that refer to the "word" of the LORD (Yahweh -- whom, actually, most Trinitarians identify with Jesus) and asking how Jesus fits in with these. Our answer above, again, is sufficient: There is no bar to the "word" of the Lord being a "mundane" entity in certain contexts, and being a different, metaphysical entity in other contexts where it is demanded (as in, obviously, Philo, the Wisdom of Solomon, Sirach, etc.). Appealing to mundane uses of "word" in the OT is irrelevant.
The Unitarian thus argues, in line with what we have noted above, that "Christ is the agent of the Divine word, and the embodiment of its message. He was the word made flesh in this way." Our reader noted that Rev. 19:13, however, states: "And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God." The Unitarian said that this appeal was "clearly specious" -- why?
- In their words, "The name of Jesus Christ is 'Jesus', not 'logos', and you know it."
Yes, that's a reason. The actual line of "reasoning" is here:
- "The application of the word 'logos' to Jesus is clearly an appellation [sic], just as 'Wonderful' and 'Immanuel' and 'Christ' are apellations [sic] - I have never heard you argue that Jesus' name was 'Wonderful', or 'Immanuel', even though the passage in Isaiah is constructed in an identical manner to the passage in Revelation which you quote. Nor have I ever heard you answer the question 'Why is the appellation [sic] 'logos' applied to Christ?'."
This is the same Greek word combination used in Matthew 1:21: "And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins."
An appellation? Yes, and an appellation bespeaks identity, and Jesus may be identified WITH all of those appellations. He IS Immanuel, not an agent of Immanuel; he IS Wonderful, not an agent of Wonderful; and he IS the Word -- as to "why" it is because Jesus is identified with the pre-incarnate Word/Wisdom, as we have shown.
- "You present John's use of the logos apellation [sic] as if it was written in the context of the quote from Revelation to which you appeal. This is very poor exposition, considering that the two books were written as many as 40 years apart. You are essentially claiming that the audience would interpret the logos of John 1 in the context of a book which had not been written."
The evidence, to begin, shows that John and Rev were both written before 70 AD; but even if they were not, the time makes no difference whatsoever, and our Unitarian opponent is trying to make a phrase used by the SAME author mean two different things -- while in essence admitting it means something contrary to what he wants it to in Revelation.
Moreover, what keeps us from extending it elsewhere? Maybe when John means in Rev. about the one they "pierced" (Rev. 1:7) he is not referring to the Crucifixion, but to a "piercing" gaze given to Jesus by a Roman solider?
Next our opponent works on John 1 directly, saying that there is an "obvious parallel" between John 1:3-5 and John 1:10 "which makes perfect sense in our theology, but which is redundant confusion in yours." He sees it thus: "The word of God and its operation is described, and then an excursus follows which represents Christ as the embodiment of the word. Everything which the logos had done previously, Christ was to reflect in his own work."
With this so far there is no disagreement or problem in Trinitarianism; if Christ is the Logos, then of course he would reflect his own earlier work. So whence the alleged "confusion"? Here is how it is framed:
Christ came to do, in the world, everything which the Logos had done before the world:
9 That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.
Parallel: 4 In him was life; and the life was the light of men
10 He was in the world, and the world was made by him...
Parallel: 3 All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made
10-11...and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not.
Parallel: 5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not
This is apparently the "redundant confusion" we are supposed to be worried about, but it is only a worry if I am a pedantic literalist. The parallels make perfect sense (if valid, which we will assume they are) within a chiastic structure, and if anything, emphasize the identity of Jesus with the Logos. Our Unitarian is as misguided as Skeptics who find similar "confusion" in the chiastic structure of the account of David and Goliath.
Our Unitarian offers this statement analyzing John 1: "Christ was in the world, and the world was made by him - the Logos preceded the world, but the world into which Christ came preceded Christ."
If Christ made the world, then he obviously had to precede the world. Our Unitarian contradicts himself openly in this single sentence.
Then: "He came unto his own, and his own received him not - if Christ was God, how could he be said to come unto his own?"
The answer: 1) "God" is being treated as a proper noun, as it is today, when it is actually a common noun ("the god of Israel") and to say "Christ is God" as in the Nicean Creed means that Christ shares the attributes and nature of deity, not that he "is the person named God"; 2) "his own" means not "his own kind" but "those he created" -- i.e., "his own created creatures" (per the context of v. 10 speaking of Christ creating the world).
Next out Unitarian tries to reinterpret v. 14. We have answered this sort of misuse above, in Argument 1. Our Unitarian insists, "If the logos became flesh, then it was no longer logos." Comparisons are then made to a seed becoming a tree, and therefore no longer a seed, as Jesus states in his mustard seed parable.
This of course commits a category fallacy, since the seed to tree progression is a biological relationship of growth, whereas under any interpretation the logos becoming flesh would never be such a thing. The spirit-body relationship makes it clear that to "become flesh" for a being of spirit means to take on the fleshly envelope. As Witherington says, this can hardly mean it "became flesh" with no remainder. To say that the meaning requires a "complete alteration" begs the question and commits a category fallacy. I can "become" a police officer, but does that change my entire identity?
Our Unitarian says, "The trinitarian attempts to interpret 'the logos was made flesh' as 'the logos added flesh nature to his current Divine nature', but this not only wrests the text beyond belief, it is impossible to sustain grammatically (not to mention logically)."
It is not explained how either of these things is the case; instead he moves to say:
The result of this is the curious doctrine that Christ was '100% Divine', whilst being at the same time '100% man'. Not only does this require a unique definition of '100%' (a definition which defies imagination and beggars sanity), it cannot be applied consistently. Are we to believe that the mustard seed was '100% mustard seed' whilst being at the same time '100% tree'? Can we possibly claim that the mustard seed was '100% less than all the seeds' whilst being '100% greater than all herbs'? This is madness.
The analogy, again, is false, since seed to tree is a biological relationship of growth that no one (except Mormons?) thinks might be applied to logos and Christ. The analogy would be better suited to an idea that a mustard seed "became" a person, acquiring a conscious ego, that of a man; it would then be "fully mustard seed" and also "fully a person" (meaning, having the essential qualities of both; it is somewhat misleading to use numbers and percentages, for these imply a divisible remainder; one cannot be "50% God" anymore than one can be "50% pregnant").
Our Unitarian next uses an argument noting that "world" in John 1:10, used 3 times, though they are the same Greek word, actually means something different at different times within the same verse. This is actually correct; the word "world" is often used in the NT both to refer to a) the physical creation; or, b) the social order that is hostile to God, with the "a" definition being inclusive of the "b" definition. But he next tries to sway 1:10 to his purposes. Obviously here is how we view things, and how exegetes and scholars have always understood it:
He was in the world (a and b), and the world (a and b) was made by him, and the world (b) knew him not.
After showing how absurd it would be for all cases of "world" to mean the "a" meaning alone, the Unitarian comments, "The main problem for you, of course, is that the Bible tells us that the literal physical creation was the work of the Father, whilst you ignore this and say it was the work of the son (whilst refusing to provide any evidence of this)."
Hardly: The Wisdom template sees indeed the physical creation as the work of the Father, and the son (Logos/Wisdom), as well as the Spirit, are the Father's tools in creation. This is manifest 1:10 which understands "by him" in terms of "by his agency" -- as in the Wisdom theology of pre-NT Judaism, as also in Col. 1:16.
By analogy, if you put a penny in one of those tourist machines to turn it into a little stamp, who makes the result? You do, but the machine does. It is created "by" the machine even though you press the buttons and insert the coin.
Our Unitarian next interprets "world" across the board as "the human race" and "believers" (!) and "the established order of things" before finally getting to the idea that "world" must have variable meanings within the text.
With this we agree; and we agree that the first means our A and B (he agrees to an equivalent, "either the literal creation or the established order of things") and the third with B the same as ours. For the second, however, he comes up with a completely false answer that "world" means "making of a new order of things". This is a completely unjustified exegesis that finds no parallel usage anywhere in the NT. It is a makeshift attempt to escape the obvious implications of John 1:10, as well as ignoring the clear Wisdom parallels we have shown in other contexts.