Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Judgment Day

The traditional Christian dogma of human beings having been made with an immortal soul is fraught with all kinds of false beliefs and practices. This includes “praying” to dead relatives, friends or religious leaders. Some people do this thinking that when the “mortal” dies the “immortal” escapes either to heaven or hell. Yet, nowhere in scripture are we taught to either pray to the dead or that when we die, our disembodied, immortal soul has nowhere to go but “up or down”.

Early on in the book of Genesis we learn that one of the reasons for our expulsion from the “Garden of Eden” [apart from the obvious: disobeying God’s commandments] was so that we would not stretch out our hand, “and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever [aka. Become immortal]" [Gen 3.22]. And in the NT we learn that, amongst other things, our Creator God is the only One Who is immortal [1Tim 1.17; 6.16; cp. Ex 3.14; James 1.17].

Apart from these and many other false teachings that come to mind is the way in which this system of belief takes away from the whole idea of a resurrection of the dead. Because, like the Apostle Paul explains to the Corinthians [who might’ve held this concept of an immortal soul], “if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised [also]…and those who have died [believing in Christ and his resurrection] have perished forever [never to be raised up again]” [1Cor 15.16-18]. Paul goes on to explain, in meticulous detail and culminating in one of the longest chapters in the whole of the NT, the how, where, when and why process by which the dead will be raised up according to God’s plan.

So, apart from taking away from the true scheme of things, as the Bible knows it to be, the “immortal soul” belief has totally bypassed the future judgment that awaits all people, the unrighteous and the “righteous”[1], something otherwise ignored by mainstream Christianity. For if we are truly already made immortal, hence no bodily resurrection from the dead, will there even be a judgment?

But, as usual, we have to ask the question, what does the Bible mean by a universal judgment of all people, including the righteous?

“Why do you judge your brother? Why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat [bema] of God [v. Christ[2]].” Rom 14.10 [ESV]

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat [bema] of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” 2Cor 5.10 [ESV]

Mainstream scholars agree that the type of judgment Christians will undergo here is not one of separation from God [life or death] but a tribunal of sorts, where rewards [“crowns”][3] will be distributed amongst Christians according to their service.

“Christ at his coming will judge his people (Mat. 25:14–30, 31–46; Lu 19:12–28; 1 Cor. 3:12–15; 2 Cor. 5:10; 1 Pet. 1:17; Rev. 20:12f.). Christians will be judged by their Lord in respect of their stewardship of the talents, gifts, opportunities and responsibilities granted to them during the course of their lives. The reference to this judgment in 1 Pet. 1:17 is particularly significant in conveying its character. The divine judgment of the people of God will be a fatherly judgment. It will not be such as to place in peril the Christian’s standing within the family of God; it will have all of a father’s understanding and compassion; and yet it is not therefore to be lightly or carelessly regarded. This fatherly judgment will be exercised by Christ at his coming.”[4]

“Salvation is not the issue here. One’s eternal destiny will not be determined at the judgment seat of Christ. Salvation is by faith (Eph 2.8-9), but deeds issuing from that faith (1 Thess. 1.3) will be evaluated.”[5]

The word commonly translated “judgment seat” in Rom 14.10 and 2Cor 5.10 is the Greek bema. In the NT the word is used for the judgment seat not only of the Roman Emperor (Acts 25:10) but also of the governors: Pilate (Mat 27:19; John 19:13), Gallio (Acts 18:12, 16f), Festus (Acts 25:6, 17). The Roman magistrate and jury were seated together on a raised tribunal or bench [bema], a custom that extended to all the Roman provinces like Palestine. This meant that the bema served more as a tribunal, where the judge or magistrate would determine legal matters (Mat 27:19; John 19:13).

“The word is used as a platform for a public speaker and, in legal contexts, it denotes the place where litigants stood for trial….The word is used frequently in the NT of the platform or dais on which was placed a seat for an official…as well as the place where civil officials held session to hear certain legal cases and render judgment in such cases.”[6]

This distinction becomes important when assessing the nature both resurrection judgments will have, as described in the book of Rev 5.4-6, 11-15:

“…I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power… Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it…And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged [krino] by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged [krino], each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”

It is clear from the context of this passage that the dead “in Christ” will be resurrected first and reign with Christ for a thousand years over the rest of humanity. It’s also understood that “the rest of the dead”, who were not “raptured” with Christ in the first resurrection at his parousia [cp. 1Cor 15.51-57; 1Thess 4.15-17], will be raised in the second resurrection [Rev 21]. The word translated “judged” here is the Greek accusative krino, which means to determine or decree, highlighting the fact that this particular judgment will be a “life or death” affair.

This is the judgment of the great day of God[7], where He will judge the world through His Son (John 5:22; 8:50; Acts 17:31; Rom 3:6; “the secret things”, Rom 2:16; cp. 1Co 5:13; Jam 2:12; 1Pe 1:17; 2:23; Rev 11:18; 20:12-13; of Jesus as the Messiah and Judge, John 5:30; 2Ti 4:1; of Jesus Christ who will judge the living and the dead, 1Pe 4:5; Rev 19:11)[8].

In classical Greek literature, the verb krino (“to judge”) and the nouns krima and krisis (“judgment”) have the basic meaning “to separate, sift” which in turn acquired other meanings, including “to judge, pronounce judgment”. In the NT, these words are used with the same complex meanings as in Greek literature and in the Septuagint. The Greek words can mean a judicial condemnation if the context so indicates. There is no linguistic reason to think the NT’s different language brings a different view of judgment.[9]

“The judgment involves a division between two kinds of people—“sons of the kingdom” and “sons of the evil one” (Mt 13:38), “wise” and “foolish” (Mt 7:24–27), “sheep” and “goats” (Mt 25:31–46), those who “enter into life” and those who are “thrown into hell” (Mk 9:42–48). This reflects the radical distinction between “the righteous” and “the wicked” found in much apocalyptic literature and in the Dead Sea Scrolls.”[10]

This final condemnation judgment [krino] of the wicked, which includes the idea of punishment as a certain consequence [where God shall enact His vengeance, Deu 32.35; Psa 94.1; Rom 12.19; Heb 10.30][11] is in stark contrast to the judgment seat [bema] the first resurrection people shall undergo.

By: Carlos Xavier

[1] These are those who have died “in Christ” with the “hope in faith" [Heb 11.1] of attaining the aforementioned promise of “conditional immortality”, eternal life, freely given by the only immortal being, God [Col 3.3-4].

[2] The variant reading of “judgment seat of Christ”, attested by a number of early witnesses, can be attributed to the sense in which the Greek oftentimes has God or man as subject and the word represented either by a Roman official or the magistrate himself. Throughout the NT God and Christ are said to serve as judge, where the One is the Supreme Judge seated on a white throne [Rev 20-22] and the other His divinely appointed agent, through whom God will judge the secrets of all men [Rom 2.16].

This is in reference to Ehrman’s comments that “scribes have done far more than effect a harmonization to another Pauline epistle…Now there is little ambiguity: Christ himself is God” [The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, p 90-91, Oxford Press, 1993].

[3] The various crowns are described in 2 Tim 2:5; 4:8; James 1:12; 1 Pe 5:4; Rev 2:10.

[4] Wood, D. R. W. (1996, c1982, c1962). New Bible Dictionary (633). InterVarsity Press.

[5] A Biblical Theology of the Church, Mal Couch, Thomas Figart, Arnold Fruchtenbaum, Thomas Ice, Russell L. Penney, Kregel, p 148, 1999.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Described throughout scripture as the “day of wrath, the Lord, God” or “Christ” [Joel 1.15; 2:1, 11, 31; 3:14; Isa 13:6; 13:9; Jer 46:10; Ezekiel 30:3; Amos 5:18; Obadiah 1:15; Zeph 1.7 etc.].

[8] Figuratively of the Apostles and saints (Mat 19:28; Lu 22:30; 1Co 6:2, "And if the world shall be judged by you").

[9] W. Scneider, “Judgment” (Krima), in Dictionary of New Testament Theology, ed. Colin Brown (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1976), 2:362-67.

[10] Green, J. B., McKnight, S., & Marshall, I. H. (1992). Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (409). Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press.

[11] Spoken of God as judge (Acts 7:7 quoted from Gen 15:14; Rom 2:12; 2Th 2:12; Heb 13:4; Rev 6:10; 18:8, 20; 19:2); of Jesus (John 3:17-18; 12:47-48; Jam 5:9; Sept.: Isa 66:16; Eze 38:22).

Monday, March 23, 2009

Splitting the Shema: A 'How Not To' guide

"Thus he [Paul] starts from the common ground of the basic monotheistic faith (‘There is one God, the Father’);66 first he adds ‘from whom (come) all things’, an assertion with which the Corinthians would have been familiar and with which they would no doubt have agreed; but then he also adds ‘and we to him’ or ‘for whom we exist’ (RSV). Next he appends to this the basic confession of Hellenistic or Gentile Christianity, ‘Jesus Christ is Lord’. But with this he does three striking things. First he asserts that Christ the Lord also is one; thereby he splits the Shema (Deut. 6.4), the Jewish confession of monotheism,67 between God the Father and Christ the Lord in a way that has no earlier parallel. Second he adds ‘through whom (came) all things’; thereby he splits the more regular Stoic formulation also between the one God (‘from him’, ‘to him’) and the one Lord (‘through him’; contrast Rom. 11:36) in a way that is best paralleled in Jewish Wisdom tradition (as we have seen). Third, he again adds a reference to himself and his readers – ‘and we (exist) through him’ – using the same preposition as in the preceding phrase.

66 Gentiles would have been as familiar with the belief that Zeus is the ‘Father of men and gods’ as Jews with the belief that Yahweh is the Father of Israel…
67 Deut 6.4 – Lord our God the Lord is one; 1 Cor. 8.6 – to us one God the Father…and one Lord Jesus Christ." James Dunn, Christology in the Making (1980), p. 180.

“…Paul’s ascription of kurios to Jesus, especially in passages like Phil 2.10-11; 1Cor 8.6, which equate him with Yahweh, must have sounded to Jewish ears very much like a repudiation of the [Shema] confession of Israel.” The Obedience of Faith: A Pauline Phrase in Historical Context, Don B. Garlington, Mohr Siebeck, p. 249, n.79, 1991.

“… [Col 1.15-20] is not the only example in the NT of an explicitly monotheistic statement of the Jewish variety (i.e. creational/covenantal monotheism, as opposed to pantheism or Deism), in which we find Christ set within the monotheistic statement itself. The best example of this is 1 Cor 8.6…in which the Shema is actually expanded so as to contain Jesus within it…Paul has modified Jewish monotheism so as to place Jesus Christ within the description, almost the definition of the one God…[a] radical redefinition of monotheism…What then is here being said about the one to whom the poem [Col 1.15-20] refers?... the complete humanness of Jesus, and his complete identification with a being who, though not to be thought of over against the one God of Jewish monotheism, can be spoken of in ways which imply that within the full description of this one God there must be room for (at least) bipolarity

…the allegiance of local paganism [in the Corinthian church] to his or that ‘god’ and ‘lord’ must be met with nothing short of the Christian version of Jewish-style, Shema-style, monotheism. It is this that Paul now states [in 1Cor 8]…v.6 resonates thoroughly with echoes of the far more ancient and widespread formulae from Deut 6.4[1]…[Paul] has expanded the formula, in a way quite unprecedented in any other texts known to us, so as to include a gloss on theos and another on kyrios…Paul, in other words, has glossed ‘God’ with ‘the Father’, and ‘Lord’ with ‘Jesus Christ’…There can be no mistake: just as in Phil 2 and Col 1, Paul has placed Jesus within an explicit statement, drawn from OT’s quarry of emphatically monotheistic texts, of the doctrine that Israel’s God is the one and only God, the creator of the world…Paul has redefined [the Shema] christoligically, producing what we can only call a sort of Christological monotheism. What we do with it at the level of a further analysis of Paul’s Christology, however, is as yet uncertain

…Jesus; in this newly coined formula (newly coined, that is, either by Paul or by someone not long before) takes the place of kyrios within the Shema…[Why] has Paul produced a formula in which there is an implicit distinction between theos and kyrios?...He is going back to the foundations, and laying the claim that the people defined by this formula of belief form a new family with a new code of family behavior…This Christology therefore stands firmly beside that which we have found in Phil 2 and Col 1. Here, as there, we find a statement of the highest possible Christology—that is, of Jesus placed within the very monotheistic confession itself—set within an argument which itself is precisely and profoundly monotheistic. One of the strange things, in fact, about the history of the exegesis of this passage is that no-one so far as I know has commented on this fact…

…In relation to theology, too, we see the emergence of a strikingly new phenomenon: Christological monotheism…probably the first chronologically, [which] must rank as one of the greatest pioneering moments in the entire history of Christology…Continuity with Judaism of course remains: it was, after all, ‘our fathers’ who experienced the Exodus (10.1). But the Jewish worldview by itself stands in need of redefinition, a redefinition provided in the gospel. That is to say, the worldview whose boundary-marker was Torah has been challenged, even though Torah itself, in which the Shema formed the basic confession of faith, is reaffirmed.” NT Wright, The Climax of the Covenant Christ and the Law in Pauline Theology: Ch. 6, Monotheism, Christology and Ethics: 1 Corinthians 8, Publishing, p 114-118; 128-132, 136, 1993.

“[In 1Cor 8.6] Paul bases his argument against his opponent’s position upon the Jewish monotheistic confession, the shema (cf. Deut 6.4), which distinguishes and marks the Jewish way of life. As Paul A. Rainbow has indicated…"Jews never applied this type of formula to their intermediaries, but reserved them very stringently for God alone”[2]. What is most astonishing here is that Paul, a Pharisee who will never relinquish his inherited monotheism, has split the shema in an unprecedented manner:[3] by glossing God with the Father and Lord with Jesus Christ, Paul aligns Jesus with the kurios of the OT (LXX) and places Jesus within the explicit Jewish monotheistic framework. He therefore has modified the Jewish religion at its most essential point and redefined the shema christoligically, indicating a dual referent in theos and kurios as well as acknowledging Christ’s sharing of the Father’s status and functions[4]…The fact that Paul does not consider eis kurios to be an addition to the confession but a constituent part of a “Christianized” shema indicates ‘a sort of Christological monotheism’”[5]. Manifest in flesh: the epiphany Christology of the Pastoral Epistles, Andrew Y. Lau, Mohr Siebeck, p 73-74, 1996.

“…D. R. de Lacey has made a plausible plea for the possibility that in [1Cor 8.6] Paul presents a ‘Christianizing’ of the Shema…Just as his contemporaries saw a dual function in the confession, so Paul sees a dual referent in kurios and theos, glossing the latter with [‘father’] and the former with Jesous Christos.”[6] The Corinthian Correspondence, Reimund Bieringer, Peeters, p 604. 1996.

“[in 1Cor 8.6] Paul refashions, in the light of Christ, the traditional portrait of the one, sovereign, and covenant God. The Shema is reconfigured according to Christian convictions about the centrality of Christ. Thus ‘Jesus Christ’ appears at the heart of an axiomatic Jewish affirmation concerning God…Before his conversion, Paul would have prayed the Shema every day and understood ‘God’ and ‘Lord’ as two terms referring to Israel’s sovereign and covenant God. At some point after his conversion, however, Paul began to understand all this differently, taking ‘God’ as referring to ‘the Father’ and ‘Lord’ as referring to ‘Jesus Christ’ (cf. esp. Phil 2:9-11; so also throughout the Pauline corpus).

In effect, then, the Shema was split into two parts, with the second of those parts focusing on Jesus Christ…Paul’s revised and ‘Christianized’ form of that most distinctive Jewish confession has the effect of transforming one’s awareness of God and his people, with Jesus Christ as the focal point of the whole theological and corporate enterprise. Likewise, these same kinds of transformation is evident in other contexts in Paul’s writings—as, for example; in Rom 3.29-30 where he again cites the Shema in a way that displaces Jewish ethnocentrism (cf. also Gal 3.20). Much more could be said about 1Cor 8.6 [requiring] greater articulation and more careful nuancing (see further Wright, Climax of the Covenant, 120-36; also more broadly Hurtado, One God, One Lord). The point here is simply that in this passage there appears a dramatic revision of a cardinal tenet in the traditional Jewish understanding of the God of the covenant—with the essence of that revision being that Jesus of Nazareth, a Judean itinerant teacher of humble origin and means, who died a humiliating and disgraceful death, is referred to, in a text written only 25 years (or so) after his crucifixion, in a fashion that puts him at the centre of rational Jewish devotion to the sovereign God of the covenant.” The Road from Damascus: The Impact of Paul's Conversion on His Life, Thought, and Ministry, Richard N. Longenecker, Eerdmans, p 127-128, 1997.

“In an astonishing adaptation of the Shema[7] [1Cor 8.5-6], Paul attributes the lordship of the one God to Jesus Christ. And yet his confession of God as one is still affirmed. Evidently the lordship of Christ was not thought of as any usurpation or replacement of God’s authority, but expressive of it…Paul’s readers [in 1Cor 8.6] could have little doubt that Paul was attributing a role in creation to the ‘one Lord Jesus Christ[8]. What is notable here is that the sequence of prepositions has been divided between the one God and the one Lord. Just as Paul in effect split the Shema between the one God and the one Lord, so the same formula has split God’s role as Creator between the Father and Jesus Christ. The ‘one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things’, clearly existed before the creation of the ‘all things (ta panta)’.” The Theology of Paul the Apostle, James D. G. Dunn, Eerdmans, p. 253, 267-268, 1998.

“My argument is that the exaltation of Jesus to the heavenly throne of God [in Psa 110.1] could only mean, for the early Christians who were Jewish monotheists, his inclusion in the unique identity of God, and that furthermore the texts show their full awareness of that and quite deliberately use the rhetoric and conceptuality of Jewish monotheism to make this inclusion unequivocal…The statement [in 1Cor 8.6] has been composed from two sources…one is the Shema…[and] it is now commonly recognized that Paul has here adapted the Shema and produced, as it were, a Christian version of it[9].” God crucified: monotheism and Christology in the New Testament, Richard Bauckham, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, p 31, 37, 1999.

“That Paul’s resurrection faith entailed Trinitarian, or at least binitarian, belief also emerged clearly when he split the confession of monotheism expressed in that central Jewish prayer, the Shema (Dt 6.4-5). The apostle glossed God with Father and Lord with Jesus Christ to put Jesus as risen and exalted Lord alongside God the Father… (1Cor 8.6) Here the title one Lord expanded the Shema to contain Jesus. Using the classic monotheistic text of Judaism, Paul recast his perception of God by introducing Jesus as Lord and redefining Jewish monotheism to acknowledge a personal distinction within the godhead and produce a Christological monotheism. Interestingly, the apostle did not need to argue for this redefinition of monotheism. He assumed that his Corinthian readers and hearers would agree with him. By and large, Paul reserved God for the Father, whereas he used Lord (or Son of God) for Jesus.” The tripersonal God: understanding and interpreting the Trinity, Gerald O'Collins, Paulist Press, p. 55-56, 1999.

“Paul…goes back to first principles, drawing on the Jewish Shema and putting Jesus right in the midst of the most fundamental assertion in early Judaism of its monotheistic faith.[10]…here he is reading the Shema through the later sapiental reflections on monotheism, Wisdom, and idolatry. The quote from Philo (Quod Det. 54, 84) is especially relevant at this point. Paul is taking what was formerly said of God the Father and Sophia, and now saying the same of the Father and Jesus Christ. But there is even more to this because Paul is also willing to use the term Lord of Christ, which in the Shema refers to Yahweh[11] …Thus [NT] Wright is correct that this new Christian Shema is exactly what Paul needed at this juncture of his argument to reassert a proper Christian monotheism…when a crucified Christ who took on the form of a slave for the world’s redemption becomes part of the definition of deity…” Jesus the Sage: The Pilgrimage of Wisdom, Ben Witherington, III, Fortress, p 316-317,

“In this astonishing bold association of Jesus with God [1Cor 8.5-6], Paul adapts wording from the traditional Jewish confession of God’s uniqueness, known as the Shema, from Deut 6.4… (Kyrios heis estin [LXX], translating Heb. Yahweh ‘echad). The adaptation of the Shema may be Paul’s own creative formulation here, but, as we have seen, the acclamation of Jesus as “Lord” obviously had long been a traditional feature of Christian devotional practice in Pauline Christianity and in other Christian circles as well, in both Greek and Aramaic.” Hurtado, Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity, Eerdmans, p 114, 2003.
There is a concerted effort by some biblical scholars to change [“gloss over, modify, redefine” or “split”, as they like to call it] the clear monotheistic creed of the one God of Israel, the Jewish Shema from Deut 6.4. What people like NT Wright and his disciples seem to miss is the fact that Jesus himself lived by this creed. In other words this was his religious belief. We know this by the answer he gave to a test given by a “teacher of the law” [Mar 12.28-34], done to see if this man [anthropos] was in line with normative Jewish beliefs and not some kind of demon or false prophet/rabbi [as many others claimed]. The passages supporting this erroneous Trinitarian understanding [1Cor 8.4-6, Phil 2.6-10 and Col 1.15-18] are based on a simple misunderstanding of Jesus’ ‘Lordship’ in relation to His God and Father[12].

In Acts 2.36 Peter explains to the astonished Pentecostal crowd that “God has made” this Jesus of Nazareth, whom people thought a prophet/rabbi/son of God, “Lord Messiah”. Therefore, according to Peter, he has been “lifted high [exalted, vindicated] by and to the right hand of God” [v. 33]. Peter goes on to cite the most quoted verse in the whole of the NT, Psalm 110.1:

“The LORD (God) says to my lord (the Messiah), sit at my right hand, until I make your adversaries your footstool.” Amplified Bible Version
This verse is used by NT writers as a sort of Messianic prototype time and time again to explain, not only to their contemporaries but also to us, where this Lord Messiah is placed in relation to his Lord and God [2 ‘Lords’ indeed but each distinct, separate and each his own person]. David describes the prophetic [future] vision of this figure as my lord [adoni]. The Hebrew translated here as my lord is not referring to another who is also ‘LORD’ [adonay, YHWH] God, since the original Hebrew word is always used for those who are not God but human beings or angelic representatives [adoni]. This tells us that the relationship between God and Jesus is that of Deity and non-Deity. The Messiah is called adoni (my lord) and in every one of its 195 occurrences, adoni means a superior who is not God. Adonai, on the other hand, refers exclusively to the One God in all of its 449 occurrences. Adonai [YHWH] is the title of Deity and adoni never designates Deity.

If the second lord of Ps 110.1 were to be described as Adonai [YHWH] it would introduce “2 YHWHs” into the Bible. This would inevitably change the clear monotheistic Jewish-Christian belief into polytheism. Therefore, Ps 110:1 serves to guard us all against supposing that there are 2 who are YHWH. In fact, this adoni is the supreme human representative and agent of the One Adonai [YHWH], God. This makes the verse the Bible’s master text for defining the Son of God in relation to the One God and Father, which would explain its frequent use by the NT authors.

Yet why is it that a number of commentaries misstate the facts about Ps 110:1? They assert that the second lord is Adonai. He is not. These commentaries seem to obscure a classic text defining God in relation to His Son. The Hebrew text assigns to the Messiah the title adoni which invariably distinguishes the one addressed from the Deity. So it is clear that the second lord figure is made a supreme human lord, who is seen by David as subject to the first LORD, YHWH and not another who is also Lord God (cp. 1 Tim. 2:5; 1 Cor. 8:4-6; Mark 12:28ff)[13]. There are many lexicons and commentaries that support the correct translation of this Davidic-Messianic Psalm. This highlights the otherwise clear negligence on the part of those who misguide and mislead honest Christian seekers of truth.

“The form ADONI (‘my lord’), a royal title (I Sam. 29:8), is to be carefully distinguished from the divine title ADONAI (‘my Lord’) used of Yahweh.” “ADONAI — the special plural form [the divine title] distinguishes it from Adonai [with short vowel] = my lords” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, “Lord,” p. 157.

“The Hebrew Adonai exclusively denotes the God of Israel. It is attested about 450 times in the OT…Adoni [is] addressed to human beings (Gen. 44:7, Num. 32:25, II Kings 2:19 [etc.]). We have to assume that the word Adonai received its special form to distinguish it from the secular use of adon [singular of adoni, my lord]. The reason why [God is addressed] as Adonai, [with long vowel] instead of the normal adon, adoni or Adonai [with short vowel] may have been to distinguish Yahweh from other gods and from human lords” Dictionary of Deities and Demons in the Bible, p. 531.

“The form ‘to my lord,’ l’adoni, is never used in the OT as a divine reference…the generally accepted fact [is] that the Masoretic pointing distinguishes divine references (adonai) from human references (adoni)” Wigram, The Englishman’s Hebrew and Chaldee Concordance of the OT, p. 22, Herbert Bateman, “Psalm 110:1 and the NT,” Bibliothecra Sacra, Oct.-Dec., 1992, p. 438.

“Sarah used [adoni] in reference to her husband ([Abraham] Gen 18.12), Abraham used it in addressing the angelic visitors (Gen 19:2, [whom he thought were human beings]). Abraham's servant repeatedly called his master by it in Gen 24. The pharaoh of Egypt was called by this title (Gen 40:1), as well as Joseph his "vizier" (Gen 42:10). Ruth used it of Boaz before they were married (Gen 2:13). Hannah addressed Eli the priest by this term (1Sam 1:15). Saul's servants called him by the title as well (1Sam 16:16). Likewise, officers less than the king, such as Joab, had this appellation (2Sam 11:9).” Harris, et. als, Theological Wordbook of the OT, Ref. Ps 110.1.

“The Jews fully accepted the Messianic interpretation of this Psalm. Rabbi Joden said, ‘In the time to come the Holy and Blessed God will place King Messiah at His right hand, according to Ps 110.1’” The One Volume Bible Commentary, p. 699.

“In most of the instances where the title [adon] belongs to Yahweh it appears in the unique and grammatically anomalous form of Adonai; this is probably a vocalization of uncertain date and origin to distinguish the divine title from the usual adoni, ‘my lord,’ addressed to human beings.” Dictionary of the Bible, John L. McKenzie, S.J., p. 516.

“The main form of ‘Adonai’ has a different vowel point under the ‘n’ to distinguish it
from the second much less common form of the word. (The second form of ‘Adonai’ is used in the plural, of men, very occasionally.)…the two words ‘adonai’ and ‘adoni’ are both formed from the root word ‘adon.’ The difference is in the vowel pointing: ‘adonai’ is formed by placing the points ‘quamets’ under nun. ‘adoni’ is formed by placing the point ‘hireq’ under nun. (Just one tiny letter different, but an enormous difference in meaning!)…One sometimes encounters people whose determination to retain Psalm 110:1 as a Trinitarian ‘proof text’ leads them to (selectively) discount the reliability of the Massoretic vowel pointing system, in favor of some otherpersonal preference, especially when it suits their particular theological bias. However unless there is compelling documented evidence for changes of this kind, they are seldom helpful. We must be very cautious about introducing arbitrary changes of this kind, lest we leave ourselves open to accusations of ‘intellectual dishonesty.” Sit Thou at my right hand (Psalm 110:1), Bible Digest, Number 86, Sept. 1998.

“We may note that there is an ambiguity in the English use of the word ‘Lord’ which is not present in the Hebrew Psalm where the first word translated ‘Lord’ is YHWH, the name of God, and the second word is ’adon which can be used of lords and masters. In both cases the Greek text has kyrios, and this facilitated the transfer to Jesus of other Old Testament texts which referred to Yahweh. Here, however, it is simply the attribute of lordship which is given to Jesus; he is not equated with Yahweh.” The Acts of the Apostles, An Introduction and Commentary, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1980, pp. 79, 80.

“The Lord of Psalm 110.1 is understood absolutely of God, while my Lord is used of the Promised Messiah. If David then refers to the Messiah (who is also his ‘son’) as my Lord, this automatically reveals that the Messiah is superior to David [and not YHWH]. Matthew is not so much concerned to prove the Davidic origin of Jesus (this is assumed in the structure of his Gospel), but rather to demonstrate that Jesus, who is both descendant of David and Messiah, is superior to David.” A Handbook On The Gospel of Matthew, by Barclay M. Newman and Philip
C. Stine (New York: United Bible Societies,
1988), p. 699.

“The citation is Ps 110.1…Jesus assumes that this second Lord is the Messiah. ‘The Lord said to my Lord’ meant ‘God said to my king’…In Hebrew the phrase says, ‘Yahweh said to adoni’ (neum YHWH la’adoni). Adoni means ‘my master’ or ‘my lord’. The devout Jew would read this phrase by covering ‘YHWH’ (Yahweh), saying instead, ‘Adonai said to Adoni’. Adonai (in distinction from adoni) means Yahweh, the God revealed to Israel. The Greek translation of the Hebrew text wrote simply here, ‘The kyrios to my kyrios’ (Eipen ho kyrios to kyrio mou), using the same word—kyrios—for both Hebrew terms. In the Greek translation, too, the first kyrios is assumed to be Yahweh-God [the second] human ‘lord’ in the Psalm’s second noun is distinguished from the deity of the first ‘LORD’, as strict exegesis suggests…adon in Hebrew means ‘master’ (BDB, 11), a term of superiority…this is all Jesus seeks to establish…(cf. Briggs in McNeile, 327; Green, 186; Taylor, 492, emphasis added, who comments: ‘The value of the saying is not thereby destroyed, since its main importance is the light it throws on the manner in which Jesus interpreted Messiahship’)…If David, then, called the…second kyrios [my lord], whom specifically was David’s first kyrios addressing? The only other person deserving any such title of majesty, to Jewish consciousness, is the Messiah…

Calvin, 3:43, raises the honest historical question: ‘Might not God have raised up someone of the human race as Redeemer to be David’s Lord and Son at the same time? For it is not God’s most essential name that is used [here], but only Adonai [Adoni] (Lord), which [name] in fact is often applied to men’…” Matthew: The Churchbook, Matthew 13-28, Frederick Dale Bruner, Eerdmans, p 243-244, 2007.
In this last quote the author refers to Jesus’ godhood and double nature [Catholic doctrines to be sure]. Nevertheless, it is amongst the most incisive studies I have found thus far, tackling the oft times misapplied meaning of the word adoni by some scholars and linguists, failing to recognize the distinction made by the Psalmist. In the Calvin quote the author actually corrects Adonai with Adoni. Even so, this did not stop Calvin’s correct interpretation of who the second lord was, even though he seems to be reading the verse as: ‘YHWH said to Adonai [YHWH]’.

It is understood from a proper exegetical study of the verse that the title kyrios [lord] is given to Jesus as the response of God to his obedient servant. Whereby the Son now exercises the lordship of God the Father in order to subject all things to Him:

“…for God has put all things in subjection under [Christ]. But when it says, ‘all things are put in subjection [to Christ]’, it is evident that God [Himself] is exempted whosubjected all things to [Christ]. However, when everything is subjected to [Christ], then the Son Himself will also subject Himself to [God the Father] who put all things under [Christ], so that God may be all in all” 1Cor 15.27-28 [my translation using the Amplified Bible version, emphasis added].
Thus, in Mar 12.28ff we not only learn that the Shema is the faith of Jesus but it is also “the greatest [most important] commandment of all” [v. 28]. This is the understanding that is most prevalent in mainstream, modern scholarly works regarding the Jewish Shema of Israel:

“The Shema was repeated daily by the Jews. It was the foundation text of their monotheism, which was not a speculative theory but a practical conviction… in this Jesus stood in complete agreement with Pharisaism.” Peake’s Bible Dictionary, p 696.

“We must never forget that Christianity was built on the foundation of Jewish monotheism. A long providential discipline had secured to the Jewish people their splendid heritage of faith in the One and only true God [Deut 6.4]…. This was the corner stone of the religion of Israel. These were perhaps the most familiar of all sacred words to the ears of the pious Jew. They were recited continually. Our Lord himself had them frequently in his mind (Mat 22:37; Mark 12:29, 30; Luke 10:27). That he thought of God always as the Supreme One is unquestionable.” Dictionary of Christ and Gospels, Vol. II Trinity.

“Jesus taught no new doctrine of God…The God of whom Jesus speaks is the One God of Israel (Mark 12:29), the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Jesus has based his view on the OT revelation of God and the knowledge of the nature of God, as derived from this revelation, he accepted as valid. Nowhere do we find him stating and teaching anything as the nature of God which was impossible on the basis of the OT religion…. When he affirmed that none were good but God only (Mark 10:18)… he sought to unfold no new view of God, which would have required a special explanation and basis for the Jewish mind. But he appealed to those features of the Divine character whose recognition he could take for granted [employing] the name of Father to designate God.” Wendt, Teaching of Jesus, p 184-185, 1906.

“Jesus’ affirmation of the Shema is neither remarkable nor specifically Christian. Exalting the law is hardly what one would expect an early Christian prophet to do…The affirmation that ‘the Lord our God is one Lord’ is implicitly an injunction to recognize and obey the only God. The only God is identified as YHVH. The commandment proper which follows presupposes this identity. A comment in Josephus (Ag, Ap. 2.22 sec 190) reflects similar thinking. ‘The first that leads all of the commandments concerns God…Jesus affirmation of Deut. 6:4b, 5 is thoroughly Jewish and is unremarkable…Jesus’ double commandment summary of the Law places him squarely in the center of Jewish piety… Jesus is not presenting Israel withsome new strange doctrine.” Word Bible Commentary on Mark 12:28ff.

“It is possible to translate: ‘Yahweh, our God, is one Yahweh’ — in which case the Shema affirms that Yahweh cannot be divided into several Yahweh manifestations (poly-Yahwism), like the Baals of different sanctuaries [or the Trinity of later Nicene Christianity]. Or we may translate: ‘Yahweh is our God, Yahweh alone’ — in which case the Shema affirms that Yahweh is the only and the unique God [Jesus reaffirms this in John 17:3].” The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible: An Illustrated Encyclopedia, New York: Abingdon Press, 1962, vol. 2, p. 427.

“The Jewish confession of faith, the Shema of Deut 6:4 will become the universal creed [cp. Zach 14.9].” The Interpreter's Bible, VI, p. 1112.

“What God is in-and-of-God self is beyond human comprehension and, therefore, not
subject to revelation: no words exist to reveal God’s literal Being beyond the fundamental Israelite confession of faith: ‘Yahweh our God, Yahweh is one’ (Deut. 6:4; Mark 12:29). Beyond this, any attempt to describe God’s Being in literal terms can only amount to theological nonsense, such as the incomprehensible inclusion of three Persons within one Being, the second Person of which being 100% God and 100% man [=200% & not 100%]. God only knows how many intelligent people have been led to reject Christian faith due to the ecclesiastical misrepresentation of God as
a theological absurdity.” Robert Hach, in his paper “The Biblical Concept of Mediation,” presented at Atlanta Bible College Theological Conference, 2005.

“Yahweh is the individual personal name of God (Vol. 1, 67). Elohim, though plural
in form, is seldom used in the OT as such. Even a single heathen God can be designated with the plural Elohim (Jud 1:24; I Kings 11:15; 2 Kings 1:2). In Israel the plural is understood as the plural of fullness. The One God theos is the most frequent designation of God in the NT. Belief in the one, only and unique God (Mat. 23:9; Rom 3:30; I Cor 8:4, 6; Gal 3:20 I Tim. 2:5; James 2:19) is an established part of primitive Christian tradition. Jesus himself made the fundamental confession of Judaism his own and expressly quoted the Shema (Deut 6:4; Mark 12:28ff. Mat 22:37; Luke 10:27). This guaranteed continuity between the Old and the New Covenant. For the God whom Christians worship is God the Father (Acts 3:13; 5:30; 22:14; the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob). The confession of the One God appears in an expanded form in Eph 4:6… Jesus Christ does not usurp the place of God. His oneness with the Father does not mean absolute identity of being…. After the completion of his work on earth he has indeed been raised to the right hand of God,but he is still not made equal to God. Although completely co-ordinate with God he remains subordinate to him (I Cor 15:28). He represents us before God, but this is not to say that Christ is equal with God. In Revelation a distinction is always made between God and the Lamb.” New International Dictionary of NT Theology: GOD, Ed Colin Brown,
p 80.

“It is believed by some that the Hebrew word ‘one’ (echad) that is used in Deut 6:4 and other verses indicates a ‘compound unity’. This is just not true. Anthony Buzzard writes:

‘It is untrue to say that the Hebrew word echad (one) in Deut. 6:4 points to a compound unity. A recent defense of the Trinity argues that when “one” modifies a collective noun like “cluster” or “herd,” a plurality is implied in echad. The argument is fallacious. The sense of plurality is derived from the collective noun, not from the word “one.” Echad in Hebrew is the numeral “one.” Isa. 51:2 describes Abraham as “one” (echad), where there is no possible misunderstanding about the meaning of this simple word.’ p. 15.

Deut 6:4 is one of the strongest texts against the Trinity. God is ‘one’, not three-in-one’ or some other plurality. This has been the rallying cry of Jews down through the ages that have stood aggressively against any form of polytheism or pantheism. Jesus quoted this verse as part of the first and great commandment (Mar 12:29-30).

It is quite inconceivable that Christ would be promoting some form of the doctrine of the Trinity while at the same time quoting Deuteronomy that God is ‘one’ to a Jewish audience who would be sure to misunderstand him. It is much more reasonable to believe that Jesus was simply affirming that if we are to love God with all our heart we must be certain who He is—the one God of Israel.” Graeser, Lynn, Shoenheit, One God & One Lord, p 442-443, 2003.
In conclusion I offer another quote by NT Wright, who not long after his surprising exegetical discoveries of 1Cor 8.6 [Climax of the Covenant, 1993], seems to retract his previous findings. This is an often found phenomenon amongst Trinitarian scholars whose beliefs fluctuate between binitarianism, tritheism or modalism:

“The answer Jesus gave [to the question about which is the greatest commandment of all] was thoroughly non-controversial, quoting the most famous Jewish prayers [Deut 6.4]…The Shema…was central to Judaism [and Jesus] then as it is now...” Jesus and the Victory of God, p 305, 1996.
[1] It is extraordinary that Nestle-Aland have no marginal reference to Deut 6.4 beside v.6, but only with v.4. Even so detailed a study as Willis [1985] does not mention the Shema. Dunn 1980, 179 f. and n.67, sees the same phenomenon as I do here, but draws different conclusions. See, similarly, Grasser 1981, 199 f.

[2] Paul A. Rainbow, “Jewish Monotheism as the Matrix for New Testament Christology: A Review Article”, NovT 33/1 (1991) 83; cf. idem, “Monotheism and Christology in 1 Corinthians 8.4-6”, unpublished D. Phil. Thesis, Oxford, 1987, pp. 66-100.

[3] L. Hurtado, One God, One Lord, Phaladelphia, 1988, pp. 97-98. Hurtado contends that Paul, having thus described Christ in 1Cor 8.6, has expressed a profound Christian adaptation of a contemporary Jewish “divine agency category” which is intended to give Christ universal superiority, “but at the same time he is the unique agent of the ‘one God’”. In this way, Christ is granted “a position of enormous importance while still protecting the uniqueness of God”. Christ is understood as an object of religious veneration: he is thought of as superior to pagan gods and the title ‘Lord’ places him alongside God the Father. Cf. idem, “The origins of the worship of Christ”, Themolios 19:2 (1994) 4-8.

[4] D. R. Lacey, “’One Lord’ in Pauline Christology”, in Christ the Lord, p. 200. He has persuasively argued that Paul, by transferring the phrase eis kurios to Jesus, “was perhaps doing no more than systematizing what was already expressed by his Christian predecessors: that Jesus was worth of divine honor…In Christ he found one who was equal with God but who was not simply the totality of deity” (pp. 191-203, 202.).

[5] N. T. Wright, The Climax of the Covenant, Edingburgh, 1991, p. 129.

[6] Cf. DE LACEY, One Lord (n.1), p. 200. On p. 196 he refers to the linking of Dt. 6,4 with Zech 14,9 which was seen as the eschatological fulfillment of the second reference “the Lord (is) one”: “At an early stage the rabbis put these two passages together, so that ‘The Lord our God’ referred to the present relationship between God and his people Israel, while the second part of the affirmation, ‘the Lord (is) one’, referred to the coming universal rule of God over all the nations”.

[7] Dunn, Christology 180; also Partings 180, 182; Wright, Climax 121, 128-32 (“Christological monotheism”—fullest statement in 114-18). Rainbow, “Jewish Monotheism” 83, notes the remarkable step of Jews using a “one” formula for any other than God. But is it correct to say that “to Paul, Jesus’ lordship can almost threaten the Father’s godship” (de Lacey, “One Lord” 200-201)?

[8] Pace Murphy-O’Connor, “1Cor 8.6”, followed by Kuschel, Born 285-91, who see only a reference to the new creation. The fact that the confession is made of Jesus Christ as the exalted Lord does not alter the content of the confession.

[9] F.F. Bruce, 1 and 2 Corinthians (NCB; London: Oliphants, 1971) 80; D.R. de Lacey, ‘”One Lord” in Pauline Christology’, in H.H.

[10] Rightly, Wright, Climax of the Covenant, 129.

[11] Paul it appears also does not flinch from calling Christ God as well, for instance, in Rom. 9.5 on which, cf. Wright, Climax of the Covenant, 237-38.

[12] If verses like Mat 27.46; John 20.17; Eph 1.17; Rev. 3.2, 12 are not clear enough in communicating to the reader that Jesus has a God, whom he calls Father, I am at a loss to know what is.

[13] Most of the following quotes are taken from The Doctrine of the Trinity, Sir Anthony Buzzard, Charles Hunting, 1993; Jesus was not a Trinitarian, Buzzard, Restoration Fellowship, 2007.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Anthony Buzzard

Theological Conference, May 1996, edited 2002

Friday, May l7th, 1527. Rottenburg, Germany.

The judges returned with a verdict of guilty and a sentence of horrifying and unmitigated savagery. “Michael Sattler shall be committed to the executioner, who shall convey him to the square and first cut out his tongue. Then he shall forge him fast to a wagon and thereon with glowing iron tongs twice tear pieces from his body, then on the way to the site of execution five times more in the same manner, and then burn his body to powder as an arch-heretic.”

There was a moment of emotion. The prisoner’s wife turned to her husband and, drawing him to her, embraced him in the sight of the entire crowd. It moved at least one member of the audience.

Sattler was remanded in custody for a further three days. Said a friend in a letter: “What fear, what conflict and struggle flesh and spirit must have undergone cannot be imagined.”
There is a spot on the Tübingen road, about a mile out of Rottenburg, where men, following such dim light as they had, in the name of perverted justice, removed from their midst one more worthy than themselves. The cutting out of the tongue was bungled, allowing Michael to pray for his persecutors. As he was lashed to the ladder he spoke with concern to Halbmayer, urging him to have no part in the deed lest he also be condemned. The mayor answered defiantly that Sattler should concern himself only with God.

His last public words, uttered with difficulty, were a prayer for God’s help to testify to the truth. The ladder was thrown on to the fire. As the fire burned through the ropes that bound his hands, he raised two fingers of his hand in a victory sign, a pre-arranged signal to his friends that he had been steadfast. He was thirty-seven. Eight days later his wife was thrown in the River Neckar and drowned.[1]

· John Biddle (1615-1662) was a distinguished British academic, graduate of Oxford, and at the age of 26 elected headmaster of Crypt Grammar School, in Gloucester, England. Since he was asked to teach Scripture, he began a painstaking examination of the Bible. He was supposed to teach his students according to the catechism of the Church of England but soon found this impossible. His relentless search for Truth in Scripture produced in him an encyclopedic knowledge of the Bible. He knew the whole of the New Testament by heart in English and in Greek. He admitted that he had some difficulty in remembering the Greek text after Revelation 4!

He spoke against the spurious Trinitarian verse in 1 John 5:7 and explained the oneness of Jesus and the Father as a “union in concert and agreement, but never a union in essence.” He produced a pamphlet entitled “Twelve Arguments against the Deity of the Holy Spirit.” Someone gave a copy to the magistrates and he was committed to jail — he later debated with Bishop Ussher (of the Ussher’s chronology) and outwitted him, asserting that the Father is the Only True God!

In 1646 Biddle was summoned to London and confined in the Gatehouse at Westminster while his trial dragged on. He remained in prison for 5 years, mostly for his questioning of the Trinity. He spoke of the early church fathers as those “who put on Christ without putting off Plato.” He alluded to Matthew 19:14 where he maintained that Jesus, in referring to “Him that made them in the beginning,” attributed the creation to a Being other than himself. Deserted by his friends, he spent most of the rest of his life in prison. In the 1670’s the British houses of Parliament passed the following law:

Any who shall by preaching, printing, or writing contradict the deity of the Son or the equality of Christ with the Father, shall suffer the pains of death, as in the case of felony, without benefit of clergy. Any who shall maintain that man has by nature free will to turn to God; that the soul dies after the body is dead; . . . that baptizing of infants is void and that such persons ought to be baptized again; that the use of arms is unlawful; that the Churches of England are no more churches nor their ministers and ordinances true ministers and ordinances shall be imprisoned!
(What hope for the Abrahamic Faith?!)

Biddle had single-handedly recovered central Truths of the Bible. He claimed that he had read none of the Polish Brethren’s literature (more of this later) before coming to his own conclusions.

On Feb. 10, 1652 Biddle was released. He remained in London addressing small groups on Sundays, but he was never officially ordained. He produced a large number of tracts on different biblical topics, but principally his “Twofold Catechism,” consisting almost entirely of Scripture verses: In his preface he says: “. . . all catechisms generally being so stuffed with supposals and traditions of men that the least part of them is derived from the Word of God, not one quotation amongst many being a whit to the purpose” (i.e. having any point at all).

From his catechism he banned all phrases like “eternal generation of the Son, God dying, God made man, Mother of God.” The catechism, which reads in most respects like a statement of the Abrahamic Faith was ordered to be burnt and he was again imprisoned along with his publisher, Richard Moore. Two days later some brethren from Poland arrived in London with tracts translated into English by Biddle and printed by Moore! Biddle was charged with blasphemy and heresy. He escaped a capital sentence but remained in confinement. Some influential persons were bold enough to ask parliament “whether Biddle does not in fact, profess faith in God by Jesus Christ. Is he not like Apollos, mighty in the Scriptures? Is his crime that he believes the Scriptures according to their most obvious signification, and not according to the remote and mystical interpretations?” A typical argument of Biddle’s is this: ‘He that saith Christ died, says that Christ was not God, for God could not die. But every Christian saith that Christ died; therefore every Christian saith that Christ was not God.’ His last days were spent writing on “the personal reign of Jesus Christ on the earth.”

In 1658 he was released once more. He maintained a steady contact with the Polish brethren. An observer remarked that “there is little or nothing blameworthy in him, except his opinions.” Government agents pursued Biddle frequently but many were forced to admire his “strict, exemplary life, full of modesty, sobriety and forbearance, no way contentious, altogether taken up with the great things of God revealed in the Scriptures.”

On June 1, 1662, he was holding a Bible Study in his own home. An armed party entered the room and carried him off and imprisoned him before a Judge Brown. Five weeks later, sick with jail fever, he died, confident of his hope in the resurrection at the second coming. He had been unable to pay the £100 demanded as a fine. He is the Father of British unitarianism.

I began with these brief sketches from the lives (and deaths) of two of the most interesting examples of dissidents to show the extraordinary antagonism which awaits any who question orthodoxy’s view of the Godhead or, in the case of Sattler, other traditional doctrines.

To count God as one rather than three-in-one is a risky business. The denial of popular Trinitarian notions, though less dangerous in our day, is an invitation to be labeled “cult”, and to be included in the late Walter Martin’s of the ever-growing Kingdom of the Cults. Our own denomination, the Church of God Abrahamic Faith, has not escaped mention in a recent public meeting of the Cult Awareness organization in Atlanta.

It is essential for our health and growth that we be well-informed about the doctrine of the one God. We must be experts in that teaching if we are ever to convince anyone but the biblically uninstructed of its Truth. There is now for the first time a body of literature emerging from England which confirms in a most scholarly manner what the Church of God has taught for 150 years. More of that, later.

The Mennonites have been quick to see that converts should be given a detailed course of instruction in the history of their movement. This sense of heritage builds confidence and stability. There is a highly significant, vociferous, if often tragic heritage in the field of belief in one God, the Father which ought to make us deeply grateful for our brethren, and conscious of their tremendous devotion to truth, often to the point of martyrdom.

For this reason the Radical Reformation by George H. Williams (Philadelphia, Westminster Press) should, I believe, be central in the libraries of ministers of the Church of God. This book will make you proud as well as humbled, to be part of such a galaxy of dedicated Christians: those who struggled against terrible odds to preach a doctrine of God which has a firm basis in Scrip­ture; but which is anathema to the mainstream. In many cases attempts to recover the Truth did not go the whole way. It is all the more remarkable, therefore, that the Church of God (Abra­hamic Faith) has preserved in tact a simple definition of the Godhead which does away with the whole fearfully complex Trinitarian “problem” (as theologians often like to call it). A recent lecture on “Tough Questions on the Trinity” by a leading proponent of Trinitarianism battles bravely with the so-called paradoxes of the Trinity, but does not, I think, deal with even the fundamental difficulty of explaining how Jesus, as Deity, could die.

We will devote our time to surveying the history of Anti-trinitarianism, a movement which has no single form. As I am sure you appreciate, we are Socinian (after Faustus Socinus, 1539-1604) in our view of Jesus as not literally preexistent, but “ideally” or “notionally” preexistent in the counsels of God. (We are not Socininian, however, in our view of the atonement. We insist with evangelicals on the substitutionary death of Jesus for the sins of the world.) The other principal form of Anti-trinitarianism is represented by the Arian position (after Bishop Arius, 250-336) which sees Jesus as preexistent but created (“There was a time when the Son was not” — Bishop Arius).[2] Modern Socinians, with ourselves, would be some of the older Church of God Seventh Day members as well as some Advent Christians; also the late V.P. Wierwille of The Way International movement. Modern Arians are the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

· Michael Servetus (1511-1553) is perhaps the most celebrated Anti-trinitarian. A native of Spain, anabaptist (“rebaptizer”), “soul-sleeper,” his doctrines were a constant red flag to the bull, in this case Calvin, who spent much of his time trying to silence millenarians, soul-sleepers and Anti-trinitarians. (A little known fact is that Luther preached a sermon in 1524 upholding soul-sleep!)[3] Servetus is of less interest to us in that he did not give up belief in literal as opposed to “ideal” preexistence; though he saw Jesus as subordinate to the Father. It appears that forgotten Truth was rediscovered in the Reformation period, by stages. First Servetus, later the Polish and Italian brethren led by Faustus Socinus, who arrived at a purely unitarian view (not, of course, Unitarian — capital “U” — in the contemporary sense of that word).[4] However, the Spaniard Servetus’ deviation from orthodoxy on the Godhead was enough to cause his martyrdom at the hands of Calvin. His effigy was burned before he finally succumbed to the same fate in 1553. The theology which resulted in death for Servetus is summarized by E.M. Wilbur (Our Unitarian Heritage, pp. 61, 62). I am grateful to Kent Ross for this reference:

What now was the teaching of these books, that they should have so shocked the reformers? Let us glance at them in the briefest and clearest summary of them possible. Taking the teaching of the Bible as absolute and final authority, Servetus held that the nature of God can not be divided, as by a doctrine of one being in three persons, inasmuch as no such doctrine is taught in the Bible, to which indeed the very terms Trinity, essence, substance, and the like as used in the Creeds are foreign, being mere inventions of men. The earlier Fathers of the Church also knew nothing of them, and they were simply foisted upon the Church by the Greeks, who cared more to make men philosophers than to have them be true Christians. Equally unscriptural is the doctrine of the two natures of Christ. He pours unmeasured scorn and satire on these doctrines, calling them illogical, unreasonable, contradictory, imaginary; and he ridicules the received doctrine of the Holy Spirit. The doctrine of one God in three persons he says cannot be proved, nor even really imagined; and it raises questions which can not be answered, and leads to countless heresies. Those that believe in it are fools and blind: they become in effect atheists, since they are left with no real God at all; while the doctrine of the Trinity really involves a Quarternity of four divine beings. It is the insuperable obstacle to the conversion of Jews and Mohammedans to Christianity; and such blasphemous teachings ought to be utterly uprooted from men’s minds.

In place of these artificial doctrines of the Creeds, Servetus draws from the Bible the following simple doctrines, and quotes many texts to prove them. Firstly, the man Jesus, of whom the Gospels tell, is the Christ, anointed of God. Secondly, this man Jesus the Christ is proved by his miraculous powers and by the statements of Scripture to be literally the human Son of God, be­cause (he was) miraculously begotten by him. Thirdly, this man is also God, since he is filled with the divinity which God had granted him; Hence he is divine not by nature, as the Creeds teach, but solely by God’s gift. God himself is incomprehensible, and we can know him only through Christ, who is thus all in all to us. The Holy Spirit is a power of God, sent in the form of an angel or spirit to make us holy. And the only kind of Trinity in which we may rightly believe is this: that God reveals himself to man under three different aspects (dispositiones); for the same divinity which is manifested in the Father is also shared with his Son Jesus, and with the Spirit which dwells in us, making our bodies, as St. Paul says, “the temple of God.”

Anti-trinitarianism found its fullest expression not in Spain but in Polish Socinianism[5] and Hungarian unitarianism. Many of the leaders of these movements were Italians, notably the Sozzini’s, Faustus and his uncle Laelius (from whom the label “Socinian” came). Earlier and less-known pioneers who had set the scene for radical questioning of orthodoxy were Lorenzo Valla, an Italian philologist who in the 1400’s raised questions about the Trinity; and a priest, and Platonist, Marsilio Ficino (d. 1499) who suggested that the Logos of John 1:1 should be rendered not Word, but as “sermo” (from which our word “sermon” is derived). He thus began a whole trend of thought which would equate the word with the prophetic voice of God in the Old Testament, not with an eternal Second Person. He began thus to undermine the whole concept of the Logos=Son as consubstantial with the Father. Where the “Fathers” had spoken of the Word as an eternal Son,[6] the Anti-trinitarians of the Radical Reformation following Ficino spoke of Christ as wholly human, as the fullest and final form of the prophetic voices which had preceded Him (cp. Heb. 1:1). (Erasmus was also part of the anti-trinitarian camp, and wanted to have the spurious text, 1 John 5:7 removed).

In England, we can single out (in addition to John Biddle mentioned earlier) a surgeon, Dr. George Van Parwis, a Fleming by birth, burned at Smithfield in London, 25th April, 1557 because “he believeth that God the Father is only God, and that Christ is not very God.” The widespread unitarianism produced a spate of “helpful” literature from Calvin including “A Short Instruction for to arme all-good Christian people” (i.e. against the heretics) and from Bullinger “An wholesome Antidotus or Counterpoyson” (London l545) and “a most necessary and frutefull dialogue between ye seditious Libertin or rebel anabaptist and the true obedient Christian” (Worcester, 1551). Had you lived at this time, the local clergy would have reported on you as follows: “We found at the beginning of the reign of Elizabeth a large and inauspicious crop of Arians, Anabaptists and other pests, which I know not how but as mushrooms spring up in the night.” There followed under Elizabeth I’s reign the burning of two anti-trinitarian Anabaptists, Henry Terwoort, a 35 year old goldsmith, and John Pieters, 50, father of nine children. Such merciful measures as strangling, suffocation or gunpowder around the neck were omitted and the two men died in unrelieved agony amidst the flames.

We must now make reference to Adam Pastor, one of the clearest exponents of the Abrahamic Faith view of the Godhead. He had been a Roman Catholic priest before joining the Anabaptists in 1533 in Minister, Germany. Pastor held (against Menno Simons of the Mennonites) that Christ was human only, though the bearer of God’s Word. Adam Pastor and a Frisian elder Francis de Cuiper stated at a conference in 1547 that Christ did not exist as the Son of God previous to his coming into the world; and was divine after his birth only in the sense that God dwelt in him. Adam Pastor was excommunicated even by some of his anabaptist colleagues, but gained a large following calling themselves Adamites. Pastor wrote tracts on 13 topics including incarnation and the Kingdom of God. The section on God is a listing of unitarian texts of the Old and New Testaments with a minimum of comment. Pastor insisted that no text showed that the Son existed before the incarnation, as a member of a tri-Personal Godhead. Adam Pastor was described as earnest and critical, but mild and reverent in his debates. He was to influence the Polish Unitarians who later established one of the most significant centers of Abrahamic Faith Unitarianism ever to be organized in the present evil age (a challenge to our own denomination).

· Faustus Socinus was born on December 5, 1539. His father and grandfather had been famous lawyers. His first theological essay was an explanation of John’s prologue to the Gospel. He maintained that Jesus was divine by office rather than Deity by nature. He wrote also on the mortality of man.[7] It was his perception of the meaning of the logos which led him to the Truth. The word or will of God appeared in the form of flesh — a man. After his death and resurrection, Christ ascended to take his place at the right hand of God, sharing henceforth in God’s power. In that sense only could Jesus be called God, as representing God, but always distinct from the One True God (John 17:3; 5:44). God, said Socinus, assigned to Christ at the ascension an adoptive deity as co-regent in the government of the world. Socinus considered Jesus to be entitled to divine adoration, in opposition to the chief spokesman for unitarianism in Transylvania, Francis David, who did not think Jesus should be worshipped.

It was this same Faustus Socinus, perhaps the most refined theologian of the Radical Reformation, who moved to Poland and helped to establish a college and printing press at Racow, as well as farms and craft industries. This organization became an institution of international repute. Many of the faculty were scholars of unquestioned learning, some of them having been originally schooled in Hebrew and Greek before becoming Anabaptists. The school drew 1,000 students from all over Europe, including 300 from families of European nobility. A Scot who visited the campus remarked:

“For whereas elsewhere all was full of wars and tumult, there was all quiet, men were calm and moderate in behaviour, although they were spirited in debate and expert in language.” The famous Racow confession of faith makes this statement:

Jesus, our mediator before the throne of God is a man, who was formerly promised to the Fathers by the prophets and in later days was born of the seed of David, and whom God his Father ‘has made Lord and Christ,’ by whom he created the New World, to the end that, after the supreme God, we should believe in him, adore and invoke him, hear his voice, imitate his example, and find in him rest to our souls.” In many countries this confession was banned and its owners punished, often by death. The confession contains the doc­trines of adult baptism, soul-sleep, and the hope of the second coming. Many passages in John’s Gospel are dealt with. Typical is the following:

“That a person may have had something, and consequently may have had glory, with the Father before the world was, without its being concluded that he actually existed, is evident from 2 Timothy 1:9 where the apostle says of believers that grace was given to them before the world began. Besides it is here (in John 17) stated that Christ prayed for this glory. Christ beseeches God to give him, in actual possession, with Himself, the glory which he had with Him in purpose and decrees, before the world was. For it is often said that a person has something with any one, when it is promised, or is destined for him. On this account believers are frequently said by this evangelist to have eternal life. Hence it happens that Christ does not. say absolutely that he had had that glory, but that he had had it with the Father; as if he had said that he now prayed to have actually conferred upon him that glory which had been laid up for him with the Father of old and before the creation of the world.”

Having concentrated largely on the Reformation period and the century following (in which we noted John Biddle, the schoolmaster), we should now turn our attention to the earliest period of church history. Holding as a fundamental conviction (with the 15th edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica) that Jesus did not in any way propose to alter the strictly monotheistic faith of Israel, we are naturally keen to know how the unitarianism of the New Testament (Mark 10:18; John 5:44, 17:3; 1 Cor. 8:4-6; Eph. 4:6; 1 Tim. 1:17, 2:5; James 2:19, 4:12, etc.) could have been disturbed.

Church history shows that the development of the “Three in One” notion was a process extending over centuries, culminating in the Nicene and Chalcedonian Councils (325 AD, 451 AD). It is very far from the truth to suggest that the doctrine of the Trinity gained universal acceptance from the beginning of the post-New Testa­ment era. As the Harvard theologian, F. Auer, says so well: “Fourth century Trinitarianism did not reflect accurately early Christian teaching regarding the nature” of God; it was, on. the contrary a deviation from this teaching.. It developed against constant unitarian opposition and was never wholly victorious. The dogma of the Trinity owes its existence to abstract speculation on the part of a small minority of scholars” (Lowell Institute Lectures, Boston, 1933).

The crux of the whole Trinitarian problem lies in the logos doc­trine and its development. The “orthodox” position was based upon the understanding of logos as a second “divine Person in the eternal Godhead.” The point is obscured for contemporary readers of the Bible by the simple fact that the grammatically masculine word “logos” in Greek is referred to as “he,” “him” (John 1).[8] If however “logos” were rendered “God’s utterance,” and “it,” a quite different impression would be gained. Thus the impersonal logos of the prologue, i.e. God’s word, wisdom and mind, becomes embodied in Jesus, the man. “Jesus is the incarnate Logos, not the logos as such.” So says, correctly, a helpful contemporary German theologian (Leonard Goppelt, Theologie II, 1976, p. 634).

In theology’s most gripping detective story “How the Logos became a Person, before it became a person (!),” we are astonished to find that Justin Martyr, writing in 150 AD contends against a Jew, Trypho, with whom he held a lengthy debate, that Jesus preexisted his birth quite literally and was in fact the Angel of Yahweh mentioned frequently in the Old Testament. Trypho the Jew protested against the inherent contradiction involved in saying that Jesus was a man, but not really a man. Thus he says to Justin, “When you say that this Christ existed as God before all the ages, then that He submitted to be born and become man, yet that He is not man of man, this assertion appears to me to be not merely paradoxical, but also foolish” (Dialogue with Trypho, p. 48).

The astonishing fact is that, had the Jewish argument prevailed against the philosopher Justin Martyr (supposedly representing Christianity) the Trinitarian “problem” might never have arisen.[9] Once the idea is floated that Jesus was “around” before his birth, he must be “found” in the Old Testament. Without a shred of biblical proof, the Angel of Yahweh was said to be the pre-existent Jesus, and many evangelicals as well as Jehovah’s Witnesses have ever since accepted the theory. It is wise to consult the New Testament on the point. In Acts 7 Stephen summarizes the history of Israel and makes specific mention of “an” (not the) angel of the Lord (Acts 7:30, 38), who represents the Lord God (Exod. 23:20, 21). What an opportunity for Stephen to say that the angel was Jesus, pre-existing! That equation he does not make; and the writer to the Hebrews took two chapters to explain that Jesus was superior to all angels. He never had been and never will be an angel! Furthermore God did not speak through a Son until New Testament times (Heb. 1:1, 2).

With Justin the “logos as second divine Person” became entrenched. In the ensuing centuries isolated individuals arose to challenge orthodoxy. Notable are the “Dynamic Monarchians.” The first of these, Theodotus of Byzantium, was a man of learning. He came to Rome in 190 AD and taught that Jesus was fully a man, born of the virgin, upon whom the Spirit came at His birth. Theodotus held that Jesus became to a greater degree divine at His resurrection. Theodotus was promptly excommunicated by Bishop Victor of Rome (189-198). He was followed in his thinking by another Theodotus, and by Asclepiodorus and also by Artemon, but Dynamic Monarchianism was dying in the West.

In the East Paul of Samosata was the chief exponent of a non-preexistent Jesus. Paul was Bishop of Antioch from c. 260-272. He considered the logos to be an impersonal attribute of the Father. Jesus in uniquely inspired man. Paul’s Christology is like the primitive Jewish-Christian idea of the person of Christ. So say the Church history books, notably Henry Chadwick in The Early Church, p. 114. Three councils considered Paul’s view and the third ex­communicated him. Be kept his place until driven out by the Emperor Aurelian. Of Bishop Arius (Father of Arianism, as opposed to Socinianism) much more is known. He contended that Jesus was pre-existent but created (“There was a time when He was not”). This view was thought to be unsatisfactory since it made Jesus neither God nor man. But could not exactly the same be said of the “orthodox” view which has prevailed to this day? A leading contemporary New Testament scholar, John Knox seems to think so when he says: “We can have the humanity without the pre-existence and we can have the pre-existence without the humanity. There is absolutely no way of having both” (quoted by J.A.T. Robinson, The Human Face of God, p. 144).

Before leaving the early period we should mention as represen­tative of a Socinian School of Christology Bishop Photinus (d. 376) whom the Catholic Encyclopedia (Vol. 12, p. 43) labels “heretic.” Photinian became a term to describe anyone who held Christ to be a man, who is not, until his birth at Nazareth. Photinus’ writings are lost, but he is known to us mostly through the 27 anathemas of the council in 351 which condemned him. Much later in the 600’s our Christology is perhaps represented by the Paulicians (possibly named after Paul of Samosata) whose leader Constantine was executed for his heretical views of the Trinity.

Of the greatest significance for the Abrahamic Faith was the publishing in 1977 of the Myth of God Incarnate in England. Though we would not subscribe to the general theological position of these scholars (i.e. in eschatology, particularly), we must welcome their refreshing analysis of the doctrine of God. They seldom use the terms Trinitarian, and non-Trinitarian, but they do question whether Incarnation, in the traditional sense can be found in the Bible. That is just the question asked by the pioneers of the Abrahamic Faith in the last century. It is exciting and most en­couraging to hear scholars say that the Trinitarian dogma “was determined neither by Scripture nor by experience but by the Arian controversy on the doctrine of the Trinity” (J.A.T. Robinson, The Human Face of God, p. 102) A Cambridge scholar, Maurice Wiles writes that the church has “not usually in practice (whatever it may have claimed to be doing in theory) based its Christology ex­clusively on the writings of the New Testament” (The Remaking of Christian Doctrine, p. 54).

It is interesting to find a school-mate of mine, now a well-known television theologian and Cambridge professor writing: “God’s Son is not a second co-equal person alongside God the Father but simply man ‘filled’ with. God, united with God.” (Don Cupitt, The Debate About Christ).

The current debate in theological circles world-wide concerns eschatology and Christology. Our desire is to lead the way back to the true Jesus, and to the Gospel about the Kingdom. John A.T. Robinson, one of Britain’s best known New Testament scholars, has adopted a view of Jesus which the Abrahamic Faith has preached for 150 years. When I told him that I had gone to teach in a Bible College, his immediate reaction was: “You won’t last more than a few days there; a non-Trinitarian Jesus will be quite unacceptable in an American Bible College.” He is beginning to under­stand that his own “heretical” views have been orthodox in the Abrahamic Faith since the beginnings. We might present the debate about Christology dramatically, as below.

Some “modern” theologians: How can we present Jesus to the People today? No one will believe in a pre-existent being arriving on earth, at His birth.

J.A.T. Robinson: But wait! Did anyone in the New Testament believe that anyway? No, but the early church fathers influenced by Gnosticism misunderstood the book of John, neglected the evidence of the rest of the N.T. and O.T., relied on a handful of difficult Pauline verses. and presented a Jesus who was literally pre-existent. But this is not the Jesus of the Bible.

Abrahamic Faith But didn’t we tell you so! But for 2,000 years you would not listen and burned us to death for questioning your dogma. Nevertheless our task is to present to the world the true Jesus, who was never a second member of an eternal Trinity. Paul, in II Cor. 4, warned that Satan’s most diabolical trick would be to replace the real Jesus with a counterfeit Jesus, and John warned in I John 4:2, II John 7 that the confession of a Jesus who is not the fully human historical Messiah signals the spirit of antichrist.

Orthodoxy (disbelievingly) No one is going to tell me the Church could have been wrong for nearly 2,000 years on a basic doctrine.

Abrahamic Faith The arrival of Jesus as a divine being on earth will occur at the
(answering the “modern” second coming. Jesus is “pre-existent” to that event because
theologian) he lives!

In view of Paul’s much neglected warnings in 2 Corinthians 11:4, it would seem to be of great importance for us to distinguish clearly between the pre-existent non-fully-human Jesus of the Churches and the Jesus of the Bible. Not to define clearly who Jesus is, when we are founding new churches, seems to me to invite the traditional understanding of the “God/Man” into our midst. And this is bound to dilute the Abrahamic Faith. John has stated clearly that Jesus was “flesh” (i.e. fully human) and that to deny this is the spirit of antichrist (I John 4:2, II John 7). This simple truth is the crowning glory of the NT documents. It honors God as the only true God (John 17:3), and enables us to worship Him in “spirit and in truth,” without the unnecessary complexities created by transposing the Bible into the thought forms of the Greek world. It would, I believe, be an illusion for us to suppose that we are doing the Lord’s work faithfully, if we were to be unfaithful to the Bible’s teaching about “the one who alone is God” (John 5:44) who is to be approached through His Son the Messiah, our Lord Jesus Christ. Ultimately the confusion of Jesus with the Creator seems to come perilously close to idolatry, and we may well wonder if the Living Bible is not encouraging just that in its extravagantly inaccurate paraphrase of John 11:3, 10:

Before anything else existed, there was Christ with God. He has always been alive and is Himself God. He created everything there is — nothing exists that He didn’t make. But although He made the world, the world didn’t recognize Him when He came.

Meanwhile Walter Martin says:

Many individuals and all cults steadfastly deny the equality of Jesus Christ with God the Father, and hence the Triune Deity. However, the testimony of the Scripture standeth (sic) sure and the above mentioned references (his ‘proof’ texts, especially 1 John 5:20) alone put to silence forever this blasphemous heresy, which in the power of Satan himself deceives many with its deceitful handling of the Word of God (Kingdom of the Cults, p. 73).

Unless we value the ongoing process of restoration, of which we are a part, and contend for the faith quite deliberately we shall not encourage that “love of the Truth” about which Paul spoke three times in 2 Thessalonians (chapter 2:10, 12, 13). It is, according to Paul, reception and love of the truth (v. 10), belief in the truth (v. 12), and faith in the truth (v. 13) which leads to salvation. An easy-going tolerance of a contrary teaching leads in the opposite direction. It is of the essence of the Abrahamic Faith, for which tens of thousands have given their lives, that we teach men not just to “believe in Jesus,” but to believe what Jesus believed and taught. Nothing was more central to His message than the kingdom of God and John 17:3. History shows that the Messiahship and Lordship of Jesus was early replaced by His “Godship,” and by “Godship” was meant coeternal, coequal “God-ship” (as distinct from a biblical, Heb. 1:8; John 20:28). Just who is this “other Jesus,” against whom Paul warned so urgently in II Cor. 11:4? Might he not be the antichrist’s non-human Jesus of 1 John 4:2?

Our salvation lies in the worship of the Father, the only one who is truly God (John 17:3), through His Son, the man Jesus, the Messiah (1 Tim. 2:5; Matt. 16:16), exalted Human Lord (Psalm 110:1) and King of the Coming Age. We can be encouraged by the words of a distinguished contemporary systematic theologian, Professor Colin Brown, general editor of the New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, who says, “The crux of the matter lies in how we understand the term Son of God…The title Son of God is not in itself an expression of personal Deity or the expression of metaphysical distinctions within the Godhead. Indeed, to be a ‘Son of God’ one has to be a being who is not God! It is a designation for a creature indicating a special relationship with God. In particular, it denotes God’s representative, God’s vice-regent. It is a designation of kingship, identifying the king as God’s Son…In my view the term ‘Son of God’ ultimately converges on the term ‘image of God’ which is to be understood as God’s representative, the one in whom God’s spirit dwells, and who is given stewardship and authority to act on God’s behalf…It seems to me to be a fundamental mistake to treat statements in the Fourth Gospel about the Son and his relationship with the Father as expressions of inner-Trinitarian relationships. But this kind of systematic misreading of the Fourth Gospel seems to underlie much of social Trinitarian thinking…It is a common but patent misreading of the opening of John’s Gospel to read it as if it said, ‘In the beginning was the Son, and the Son was with God, and the Son was God’ (John 1:1). What has happened here is the substitution of Son for Word (Gk. logos) and thereby the Son is made a member of the Godhead which existed from the beginning.” (Ex Auditu, 7, 1991)

Source Materials:

Catholic Encyclopedia
Cupitt, Don. The Debate About Christ. London: SCM Press, 1979.
Dunn, James D.G. Christology in the Making. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1980.
Eyre, Alan. The Protesters. The Christadelphians, 404 Shaftmoor Ln., Birmingham, B28 8SZ, UK
Hick, John, ed. The Myth of God Incarnate. London: SCM Press, 1977.
Martin, Walter R. The Kingdom of the Cults. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Press, 1965.
Robinson, J.A.T. The Human Face of God, SCM Press, 1973.
Theology magazine, Sept. 1982.
Williams, G.H. The Radical Reformation. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1962.

[1] Alan Eyre, The Protesters, p. 69.

[2] Little advertised by Trinitarians is the fact that Tertullian, supposedly a stalwart supporter of Orthodoxy, also stated that there was a time when the Son did not exist (Ad Hermogenes, ch. 3).

[3] I.e. the teaching that man is unconscious in death until the resurrection.

[4] I.e. Universalist Unitarianism.

[5] A noted leader was Gregory Paulus.

[6] “Son” and “eternal” are really mutually contradictory terms since one who is begotten, i.e. brought into existence, cannot be eternal!

[7] I.e. the doctrine that at death man sleeps until the resurrection and that the final punishment of the wicked is annihilation, not everlasting torture.

[8] Eight English translations of the Bible prior to the KJV spoke of the Logos as “it,” not “him.”

[9] See appendix 2.

Yates: VINDICATION OF UNITARIANISM, Boston, 1816, p.p. 66-68.

“The unity of God, as one individual person, is denoted throughout the Bible by the almost constant use of singular pronouns, whenever any thought, action, attribute, or condition, is ascribed to the Supreme Being. In all languages the personal pronouns of the singular number are understood to apply only to one person.

Thus, if I were writing a letter, by employing the pronouns of the first person and singular number, I, Me, My, I should confine my assertions to myself as one individual person. By using the pronouns of the second person and singular number, Thou, Thee, Thy, I should indicate that my assertions were addressed to my correspondent as one individual person. By introducing the pronouns of the third person and singular number, He, Him, His, I should denote that it was one person only I was speaking of. If on the contrary, I were writing a letter in conjunction with any other intelligent being, we should use the pronouns We, Us, Our; and if I were writing anything of more than one person, I should say They, Them, Their. Such being the universal application of pronouns, it is evident, not only to those who have studied Greek and Hebrew, but to all who know the use and meaning of human speech, that throughout the whole Bible God is almost uniformly mentioned as one Person, this being implied in the almost constant use of singular pronouns

“The doctrine of the Unity of God is implied in every passage in which the personal pronouns of the singular number are used to denote the Supreme, Deity.... Thousands and tens of thousands of passages imply, by the use of the singular pronouns, that God is one person....” (pp. 66, 153)

Examples: God appears to Abraham: “I am the Almighty God; walk before Me, and be thou perfect, and I will make My Covenant between Me and thee” (Gen. 17:1-2). (Not, “We are Almighty God, walk before Us and be thou perfect, etc.”)

Levites address God: “Thou, even Thou, art Lord alone; Thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all things that are therein, and Thou preservest them all; and the host of heaven worship Thee” (Neh. 9:6).

The Book of Hebrews in the New Testament: “But without faith it is impossible to please Him; for He that comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Heb. 11:6).

The other passages which assert the Deity to be one Person by applying to him singular pronouns extend from the first chapter of Genesis to the last of Revelation. Like the sands on the seashore they cannot be numbered for multitude. The testimony of Scripture is therefore consonant to the voice of reason that there is but one Supreme and Infinite Mind, the uncreated Yahweh, the God of Abraham, and of Isaac and of Jacob, who is alone the Eternal, Independent, and Immutable, the sole originator of all Life in the universe, the fountain of Life, perfection and happiness.”

Furthermore, thousands and thousands of similar passages throughout the Bible. Singular pronouns prove that God is a single Person. In three passages, God says “Let us...” These passages tell us that He was speaking to someone other than Himself, just as when we say “let us...” we are referring to someone other than ourselves.