OriginalChristianity

Not Traditional, Original

Scripture on Determining which Writings are Scripture

If there is a theme verse to this website it may be this:

So then, brothers, stand firm, and hold the traditions which you were taught by us, whether by word, or by letter. (2Th 2:15 WEB)

This website is focused on original Christianity and the standards that were set there.  Specifically, the apostles charged the church to keep the traditions that they themselves started.

And we know that these traditions were not just for the time of the apostles because of prophecy by the apostles to that effect:

Take heed, therefore, to yourselves, and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the assembly of the Lord and God which he purchased with his own blood. For I know that after my departure, vicious wolves will enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Men will arise from among your own selves, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. (Act 20:28-30 WEB)

If what the apostles taught was only for their time on earth, then no one would be concerned if others after the apostles taught different things. These verses shows that that is not the case.

There are other prophecies like this, for example, 1 Timothy Chapter 4.

But the Spirit says expressly that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons, through the hypocrisy of men who speak lies, branded in their own conscience as with a hot iron; forbidding marriage and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it is received with thanksgiving. For it is sanctified through the word of God and prayer. If you instruct the brothers of these things, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, nourished in the words of the faith, and of the good doctrine which you have followed.  (1Ti 4:1-6 WEB)

This section ominously talks of great deviations from the faith of the apostles that will happen after the passing of the apostles, confirming again that the traditions of the apostles were not to end with the apostles.  “Of the good doctrine which you have followed” refers to the truth that the teaching of the apostles, especially Paul, is the standard of the church age, even beyond the life spans of the apostles themselves.

And the church is to continue following the apostles’ traditions until the return of Christ:

For from you the word of the Lord has been declared, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith toward God has gone out; so that we need not to say anything. For they themselves report concerning us what kind of a reception we had from you; and how you turned to God from idols, to serve a living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come. (1Th 1:8-10 WEB)

There it is, the church that the apostles set up is to continue as such until the return of Christ, and that hasn’t happened yet, so we are still under the charge of the apostles’ directives.  And again, here we read how we are to wait for the return of Christ.

For our citizenship is in heaven, from where we also wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will change the body of our humiliation to be conformed to the body of his glory, according to the working by which he is able even to subject all things to himself. (Php 3:20-21 WEB)

Our topic today is on scripture, specifically, what scripture says about itself being authentic.  Not what tradition says about what is scripture because tradition says that we have a canon of scripture that establishes what books are scripture.  Is the canon of scripture really part of the apostle’s tradition?  It would be awesome if scripture itself listed the canon of scripture, but unfortunately, it does not.

(The text of the actual canon of scripture is listed at the very bottom of this article.)

In other parts of this website, I have pointed out how worldly philosophy has crept into the church and been used to make assumptions and extrabiblical assertions about the teachings of our faith. If extra-biblical assumptions are not allowed elsewhere as in the development of the Trinity with the term homoousias (See T 1.10 Tradition in Original Christianity, Part 10, The Apostles taught the Father alone was God, one of the Most Hidden Truths in Christianity Today), the doctrine of Dyothelitism (Jesus had not one but two wills, something never found in scripture), crucial to the coherence of the Trinitarian logic, then we must be careful of them everywhere.  As I discuss in Philosophy in Christianity – Welcome Addition or Intrusion of Worldly Reasoning? it is only the allowance of extrabiblical reasoning that enables the Trinitarian to present an argument of any coherence.  And this is acknowledged!  As I wrote there, “Gonzalez here, as do others,  acknowledges that these decrees go outside the pure framework of Scripture. The Deity of Christ, the Trinity, and Mary as God’s mother were generated with extra-biblical patterns of thought, mainly philosophy, and were the result of many years of intellectual, theological debate.”

“But, given the manner in which the issue was posed, it is difficult to see what else the bishops gathered at Chalcedon could have done in order to safeguard the reality of the incarnation.”[1]

Gonzalez is saying here that the deeply held conviction that the word of God made flesh is literal as opposed to the figure of speech personification is an overriding factor to them and allows for arguments outside of the bible to be used to proclaim not only that doctrine, but that Jesus has two wills (to counter the argument that if Jesus is God how could Scripture say he was tempted in all thing as we are yet without sin while Scripture teaches that God cannot be tempted), and other arguments in orthodoxy.

When you start with preconceived beliefs beyond the limits of what is spelled out in Scripture the only way to prove these extrabiblical beliefs is to abandon strict adherence to Scripture and use assumptions and extrabiblical “proofs” to teach these extrabiblical doctrines.

So Gonzalez and others freely admit that doctrines like the incarnation and the Trinity are so important to them that they are justified in using extrabiblical arguments to prove their case.

At this point, it is important to identify the issue here. And it is a precise one.  The issue is proclaiming the Canon of Scripture divinely inspired as opposed to a collective decision of people, albeit believers, over time.  We are not throwing away all the Scriptures! We are attempting to clarify which books are the word of God, and which books, though inspiring, don’t meet the test of being divine inspiration.

All through this website, you will see references to writings of the Law, the Prophets, the Apostles, and even other writings.  And they are presented as being authoritative, they are presented as the word of God. When Jesus or Paul quotes a verse that legitimizes it as scripture if anything does.

It is a subtle distinction. I believe in the Word of God. But, like others, namely, Luther, Calvin, and other reformers, I really don’t know about some books being the Word of God, specifically books like Jude, Ecclesiastes, or even Revelation.

So, instead of accepting the proclamation that the 66 books of Protestant Bibles like the King James are divinely inspired and without error in their original form, I am looking for proof from the scriptures themselves to tell me which writings are sacred, i.e., “the Word of God”.

Jesus and the apostles quoted from the law, the prophets, and the writings, although what “writings” means is part of the issue.  So, writings from Moses, Isaiah, David, and the other prophets are unquestionably the word of God in its original form!

But the book of Esther is not written by a prophet and has no mention of the Savior. No one knows the author of the book of Job, and, again, although it is an inspiring book, it doesn’t mention the Savior. (Countering this argument about Job, however, is that Paul quotes Job in 1 Cor 3:9 with the classic “It is written” phrase giving credence to the book.) Those are a couple of examples from the Old Testament. In the New Testament, the epistles state that the doctrine they receive is by revelation from God. That makes them the word of God! And, as second Thessalonians 2:15 states, we are charged by the apostles to follow what they say.

But the Gospels make no claim of divine inspiration themselves, rather they present themselves as reliable eyewitness accounts by the apostles or their agents as to what happened in the life of Christ and the apostles.  That makes them believable while not having the precision of every jot and tittle being exact.

This is not a new issue.  It is well documented that there were widespread disputes over a number of books in the New Testament like second Peter and revelation. See Early Christians disputed Hebrews, James, 2nd Peter, 2 John, 3rd John, Jude, and Revelation. Gospels were Called Memoirs in the Second Century, Proof That There Was Refutation of The Book of Revelation for more.

So, As much as I would like to proclaim the 66 books in the Protestant Bible as the complete and inerrant Word of God, there is a red flag that pops up in my head every time I look at the Bible in those terms.  The flag has this question on it, “What do the verses that people use to prove the authenticity and inerrancy of those 66 books say exactly?  That is what we are talking about here.

Still, this is not an easy issue for many in the Protestant churches. In fact, over the years I have asked more than one person about the surety of whether all the books in the bible should be there. And I got responses like the canon of scripture is like, honestly – this analogy was used, a sacred cow, and no one wants to mess with the canon of scripture because to many people the theological structure of their beliefs falls apart without it.

However, if you know how coherent systems of logic[2] work you will know that that premise is not true.  In fact, it is available to stick with precisely the truths presented in the known scriptures to see a coherent set of beliefs of the Christian faith.

The canon of scripture is an extra-biblical statement. Extrabiblical statements like the canon of scripture and others are not required to establish a coherent set of beliefs that falls entirely within scriptural statements. In fact, they are not even allowed.

It’s not that there aren’t persuasive arguments for accepting the canon of scripture as being divinely inspired. Bible.org has, I believe, as good a presentation as any justifying the canon of Scripture as Christian doctrine.[3]  However, the same site allows for the worldly philosophical tools that are used to construct the Trinity and other doctrines that allow for countless divisions in the church.[4]

“philosophy serves as the handmaid of theology by bringing clarity and precision to the formulation of Christian doctrine. “For example, philosophers help to clarify the different attributes of God; they can show that the doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation are not contradictory; they can shed light on the nature of human freedom, and so on.”[5]

Those 66 books in the cannon were ratified as the bible three centuries after the apostles.  Didn’t we just read the warning that bad things were going to happen after the passing of the apostles that we need to keep in mind about anything that happened after the apostles?

I rarely use all caps but I’m going to make an exception this time. Acts 20:28 is Paul is speaking by revelation i.e. prophesying, that we are to TAKE HEED! We are to take heed because after the apostles passing, there are going to be men rising from both outside the church and inside the church twisting the truth. Paul warned us to watch out for that.

The canonization of the 66 books of our Bible happened long after the passing of the apostles. The canonization happened at the same time a number of unscriptural things were also happening and had happened. By this time, worldly philosophical methods had long been embraced as the church abandoned the original Unitarianism of the original Christian church and the Jews before them and was in the process of refining the newly proclaimed doctrine of the Trinity.  The church had been nationalized and part of a world government.   The new doctrine of sacraments (rites that imparted grace from God) was being developed and included baptism, confirmation, and the eucharist. The priesthood of all believers was abandoned to the class structure of clergy and laity.  Capital punishment for heresy was now part of this nationalized Christian religion. The radical change from beliefs and happenings in the New Testament books to the beliefs and practices of Christianity in Constantine’s Roman Empire should be obvious!  The absence of the leadership of the holy spirit in these human decisions is the first thing to be seen.

Many of the decisions and practices discussed in Constantine’s Christianity are simply not the traditions of the original apostles. That is not to say that believers in the pews couldn’t be saved by recognizing that Jesus died to pay for their sins and calling him Lord. But a lot of Catholic practices are unscriptural.

The Roman Catholic Church canonized the 66 books of the Protestant Bible in 382 AD at the Council of Rome.  They later changed that to include apocryphal books after the Reformation.  Martin Luther actually added the apocryphal books to his bible in the sixteenth century which shows that there is usefulness in reading these writings without proclaiming them as sacred scriptures defined, as a unit, as the word of God in its entirety.  The Council of Trent (1545-15630) canonized the addition of the apocryphal section for the Roman Catholics.

Despite the claim of the Catholic Church that it has apostolic authority by succession, these are all the actions of very intelligent men using all the intellectual tools of the ages especially worldly philosophies in contrast to the original apostles following the leading of the spirit.  What does Scripture say about who can determine whether something is the word of God or not? First of all, it says that we got the word of God from prophets, spokespeople for God. And in first Corinthians 14 we read:

Let the prophets speak, two or three, and let the others discern. (1Co 14:29 WEB)

This verse tells us a few things. First, it tells us that the church to which you and I belong is still supposed to have prophets. Next, it tells us that when believers get together two or three should prophesy. And, last but not least, it says that one of the jobs of these prophets is to discern, i.e., judge, the authenticity of the message.

I know this looks like a scary proposition. I know there have been many instances in Christian history where so-called prophets misspoke and prophesied all kinds of things that never happened. Nevertheless, Paul himself says this about the things he wrote concerning the administration of God’s church:

If any man thinks himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him recognize the things which I write to you, that they are the commandment of the Lord. (1Co 14:37 WEB)

That statement declares that what Paul is writing is of God, it is putting what he wrote in the category of holy men speaking as they are moved by the holy spirit.

Surely the Lord Yahweh will do nothing, unless he reveals his secret to his servants the prophets. (Amo 3:7 WEB)

So then, let’s look at this process that was used to canonize Scripture. Bishops in councils debated about the merits of individual books based on the b­­­­est opinions of scholars that they could find.  I am not saying that this wasn’t a valiant or well-intentioned effort.  The problem is that those were not proclamations of the word of God by prophets no matter how much the Roman church argues for its apostolic status and their doctrine of apostolic succession that says that they have replaced the Apostles to the point where what they say is the same as if the original apostles said it.   And, again, the Roman Church canonized those books at the same time it was incorporating numerous non-scriptural elements into the church including the firm establishment of clergy and laity classes, the integration of church and state in numerous ways, the promotion of Mary as Theotokos (the mother of God), capital punishment for heresy, and other things.  In fact, the entire Roman Catholic canonization process is unscriptural.  These proclamations of church councils are not now, nor were they ever the succession of the original apostles on earth.  They do not nor did they ever continue to write words that are on a par with the original apostles because they were not prophets, and they did not speak words given to them by divine inspiration.

Yet, much of Protestantism has incorporated Roman Catholicism and its accompanying orthodoxy into its doctrines including its tradition of Orthodoxy, council decisions, and doctrines developed over long periods of time.

With that, the canon of scripture has grown beyond being a canon proclamation of the Catholic church to just a canon of the church in general.

So, specifically, what is the canon of Scripture?

“The biblical canon is the collection of scriptural books that God has given his corporate people, which are distinguished by their divine qualities, reception by the collective body, and their apostolic connection, either by authorship or association.”[6]

The above quote is a commonly accepted view in Christian theology. Notice what is emphasized and what is missing. What is emphasized is that God has given these with the implication that he has authorized them. What is emphasized is what are labeled “divine qualities”. These divine qualities are; one, reception by the collective body, and two, apostolic connection, either by authorship or association.

The apostolic connection above does line up with the charge for us to follow the traditions of the apostles.

So then, brothers, stand firm, and hold the traditions which you were taught by us, whether by word, or by letter.  (2Th 2:15 WEB)

The letters of the apostles would certainly qualify here.

However, the first term, reception by the collective body is not a scriptural standard. There are too many times in Scripture where the body of believers would have received something that was definitely not what God wanted. Think of the children of Israel having Aaron make the golden calf and think of Israel getting tired of pheasant and manna. Think of the whole body of Israel at the time that Christ arrived. They had developed the Talmud, a body of laws that were supposed to augment the Law given in the Torah. No collective reception by any body of people is ever something that can qualify whether or not something is of God or not. It simply lists what the people have decided they think should be or that they want to be of God.

Now, what is missing? What is missing is God speaking about whether something is or is not the word of God. And, as we just read above, God has a system in place for doing just that. That system is called prophecy. Now it doesn’t matter whether or not you and I want to believe in prophets. It doesn’t matter whether or not people in the past have erred and given false prophecy. What matters is that the very books that we consider the word of God tell us that prophets are the ones that both give the word of God and discern whether or not something is the word of God.

Again, the actual words of the canon of scripture are at the very bottom of the page.  It does not cite the Spirit as the authority for its proclamation, rather it cites the “universal Catholic Church” as the authority, and then lists the books that the Catholic Church says are acceptable.

Even though there was a Septuagint version of the Old Testament available in Jesus’ time it is not mentioned because it was really relegated to Greek-speaking areas rather that the nation of Israel.  Although it could be argued that since it was extant at the time of original Christianity the fact that it is not mentioned as the word of God works against establishing the 39 books of the Old Testament (although the Septuagint compiles our 39 books into 24 books) as all being scriptural.

So, in the scriptures, references to OT writings are never to a collective Bible, rather they are always to individual scrolls or books.  For example,

The book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. He opened the book, and found the place where it was written, (Luk 4:17 WEB)

It doesn’t say someone handed a bible to Jesus and he found some verses in Isaiah, it says the book of Isaiah was handed to him and he found some verses.

The scriptural model is that books are accepted as scriptural on an individual basis. THat is the standard that we too should follow.

There are some incredible claims made about the bible, but there is no scriptural basis for some of them.  Look at this.  For example, Andrew Wommack is a popular minister with a large ministry including television, and he writes:

“The Bible, on the other hand, has been supernaturally preserved by God in all the evidence we have supports it was written by the inspiration of God.”[7]

And, on his website, Womack writes, “We believe the Bible is inspired and empowered by God, infallible, and authoritative.” Implicit in this statement is that the Bible is the 66 books of the Protestant Bible.

Other leaders and churches make similar claims. The Church of Christ says this on its website:

“God’s providence gave us the 27 book New Testament Canon, not the church. God, not men decided the canon. This providence does not mean that church leaders were inspired in their selecting the canon, only that God had his eye on the scriptures the whole time and brought about His will to form the Bible we see today!”[8]

This is a doctrinal statement about which books are Scripture. The statement says “God, not men decided the canon.”  What a stretch! We read in history how the canon of scripture was changing over decades and decided by men in councils arguing the merits of different books.

In contrast, we read above that God speaks through prophets!  Who is the prophet that said that about God decided the canon? Is the source of that statement a prophet or is it somehow scriptural in any manner?  None that I could find

On the same page as the above quote,  The Church of Christ acknowledges that the New Testament has no references to Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon, but still calls them inspired.

I talked with a Rabbi that said that the Jews did not consider all the books in the Septuagint to be true, but rather they were a Jewish term “truer than true”.  While the Torah was absolutely inspired by God some books like Job were poetry and stories that held valuable spiritual lessons. They were not however considered literally true, for example, Job did not actually exist in real life. However, since Job is referenced as “It is written” in 1 Cor 3:9, I am not ready to say it is not scripture.

First of all, I agree that there is an abundance of evidence to help reconstruct the books of scripture. But there are issues with Wommack’s statement that the bible is supernaturally preserved.  First, for example, Jude quotes from the book of Enoch.  Either Enoch was not preserved or it is apocryphal, not really the word of God.  Second, there are undisputed discrepancies.  For example, the Johannine comma refers to the fact that 1 John 5:7-8 are added verses. Another example is the great commission text, Matthew 28:19 which includes the trinitarian phraseology that was never carried out in scripture. This is either like the Johannine comma in that it was added by translators, which I believe happened, or the apostles really blew it, not carrying out a command of Jesus, which I do not believe.  I was taught in Catholic High School that Matt 28:19 was probably changed because the Catholic Church centuries after the Apostles decided that it was important to change it to reflect the importance of the Trinity. Numerous believers believe that the Catholic Church changed Matt 28:19 and I am one of them.

There are too many errors like this to make the claim that God preserved the scriptures intact.  Are we grading God on a curve, crediting him for doing something pretty well?  I think that is offensive to Yahweh. Much more likely is that our understanding of the status of the books of the Protestant bible is at fault.

Another case for the 66 books of the Bible to be the sum and substance of divine revelation is made on the Answers in Genesis website. There they have a page that discusses how you can be sure that these are books of God’s revelation.[9]  They make citations and statements such as these:

  1. “The church inherited the Old Testament, and Jesus defended, encouraged and exemplified faithful submission to these writings as an inspired canon.”[10]
  2. “Jesus verified that the Old Testament writings were always Scripture when He quoted from the Old Testament and claimed, “It is written” and “Scripture cannot be broken”
  3. Several statements in the Bible indicate that the New Testament would be written by apostles or approved by them. Peter called Paul’s writings “scripture” (2 Peter 3:16), and Paul said he and other apostles spoke “the word of God””
  4. “Even though no one church or leader had authority to dictate to the others, it is amazing that close to AD 150 the Muratorian Canon could list all but four of our New Testament books.”

The problem is that these statements are not completely accurate. Regarding points 1 and 2 Jesus did make statements saying like “It is written” and spoke of the Law, the Prophets, and even the writings, but he in no way specified that all the books in the Septuagint were in those writings.  His famous quote about searching the scripture, in fact, does not endorse all the books, but rather distinguishes the books to be valued as the ones that testify of him.

You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and these are they which testify about me. (Joh 5:39 WEB)

At face value, this verse may appear to some to have Jesus endorsing the Old Testament. The fly in the ointment is the “and”, kai in Greek.  Kai is translated “and”, “also”, “but”, “both”, “even”, “indeed”, “moreover”, “yea” and other ways in the KJV. Look at this:

He declared, and didn’t deny, but he declared, “I am not the Christ.”  (Joh 1:20 WEB)

The word “but” above is the Greek word kai used in refuting the idea that John the Baptist was the Christ.  It sets a contrast between who he was and who Christ was.  This illustrates that kai can be used to set up a contrast.

So, John 5:39 is not a blanket endorsement of the Septuagint. The phrase “these are they that testify about me” is a qualifier. Jesus is pointing to specific scriptures and defining the scriptures as those that testify about him.  A better translation is:

You search the Scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; but these [the scriptures] are those that testify about me.

Jesus did not blankly endorse the whole Old Testament.  He only referred to 24 of the 39 books in the OT.[11]

Furthermore, some of the OT books have real problems as part of God’s plan of salvation.  While a wonderful and inspiring story that I have particularly enjoyed, the book of Esther has been challenged because it has no mention of God and it has a bloody resolution that some have questioned as godly.[12]  My issue is that I have to admit it doesn’t directly testify of Jesus Christ, which is the issue Jesus brings up in John 5:39.

Point 3 is legitimate in that Peter did call Paul’s writings “scripture”, and Paul said he and other apostles spoke “the word of God.

But to us, God revealed them through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For who among men knows the things of a man, except the spirit of the man, which is in him? Even so, no one knows the things of God, except God’s Spirit. But we received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is from God, that we might know the things that were freely given to us by God. Which things also we speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches, but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual things. (1Co 2:10-13 WEB)

This verse testifies that the apostles spoke what the Holy Spirit taught them.  The next verses do come from a book that has been questioned since early times but it does call Paul’s writings “scripture”.  This is significant to our discussion here because it is a reference that calls the apostle Paul’s writing scripture while there has long been debate over whether 2 Peter itself is actually written by the apostle Peter.  It has a couple of problems.  One is that it appears not to have been written until the 2nd century, long after the apostle’s death yet it states that when it was written Peter knew that his death was near.

An article on Bible.org says this about 2 Peter:

As stated at the outset, 2 Peter is commonly held to be pseudepigraphal in nature. Pseudonymity is the practice of writing under someone else’s name; this is not simply a “pen name,” as we have today, but it is the deliberate taking of a real person’s name for the purpose of influence in publication. [13]

Considering all that, 2nd Peter has one verse that calls Paul’s writing scripture when he says:

Regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also, according to the wisdom given to him, wrote to you; as also in all of his letters, speaking in them of these things. In those, there are some things that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unsettled twist, as they also do to the other Scriptures, to their own destruction. (2Pe 3:15-16 WEB)

Paul’s writing here is clearly labeled as part of scripture.

In fact, a major point of this website is that we are charged to follow the apostles’ traditions, what they taught whether by word or by letter.  Since we only have their letters now that is what we use to look for the traditions to follow.  However, not all the books in the NT have known authorship and there is some question about the authenticity of, for example, 2 Peter. I have to admit I have an affinity for Hebrews, especially chapter 12, but no one knows who wrote it. The book of James is attributed to the brother of Jesus and “brother” is a term in James 1:1 but it is used in other places in the epistle to refer to our Christian brothers, not familial, so that argument is not conclusive. Martin Luther referred to James as an epistle of straw, especially had problems with the faith vs works discussion and said he did not “hold it to be of apostolic authorship”[14]  Additionally, according to the same article, Luther, our heroic Reformer, also had problems with Revelation. While I have heard preachers extol the wonders of the Book of Revelation I have also heard some preach admit openly that they just don’t know about the prophetic book.

Point 4 was discussed in Early Christians disputed Hebrews, James, 2nd Peter, 2 John, 3rd John, Jude, and Revelation

The issue is that if we are going to make the statement that scripture is our absolute standard for truth, then we need to use scripture exclusively and not allow assumptions, a priori statements, and traditions to define what our beliefs are. And assuming the canon of scripture to be true is making it an a priori assumption.

Now, as you will see, I am not saying at this point that any of the books declared scripture are not scripture.  So, yes, Martin Luther called James an “epistle of straw” even though he did include it in his bible.[15]  I have no spiritual insight to say it is not scripture at this point.  But it looks suspicious.  It is not like Acts, the Pauline epistles, the 1st Epistle of Peter, and so forth which are on much firmer ground when saying they are the writings of the Apostles.

This article has been an exercise in looking at scripture to determine what is scripture.

Why? As much as it may seem that the bible you have in your hand is the actual word of God, it’s not that simple.  Our bibles are translations of copies of texts that, yes, the Roman Catholic Church first “canonized”, made officially biblical, three hundred years after the apostles.  Again, this is the same Catholic Church that instituted clergy and laity, that instituted severe and even unbiblical capital punishment for anybody that disagreed with it, that merged the hierarchy of bishops with its civil leadership, that went on to send armies to kill the unbelievers in the holy land, sent armies after reformers like the Waldenses, and not only started the inquisition but still talks about it like it was a good thing, necessary for the times!  All the while the papacy grew in world power and wealth.  The Roman Catholic Church is one if not the largest landowner in the world.[16]

Luther, Calvin, and other reformers called the papacy and the Roman Catholic Church the antichrist. Martin Luther “denounced the pope as antichrist, refer to the Roman hierarchy as the “whore – church of the devil”, and burned the whole corpus of canon law as well as the papal bull that had excommunicated him.”[17] Calvin called the Roman church a perpetrator of superstitions. John Calvin said, “so obstinately addicted to the superstitions of the papacy did I remain that it would’ve been hard indeed to have pulled me out of so deep a quagmire, I did nothing, the word did it all.”[18]

Some of what this powerful church did traces back to right after the time of the apostles.  I’ve told people that there are no clergy and laity in original Christianity and gotten blank looks or questions like “how could that work?”

In T 0.1 Introduction to Tradition in the Church, we discussed that a tradition is a set of beliefs and customs that gets passed from one generation to another. We also looked at the verses that charged believers to follow the tradition that was handed down by the Apostles:

So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter. (2Th 2:15 ESV)

Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us.
(2Th 3:6 ESV)

These verses elevate the importance of the Apostles’ writings.  That makes at the very least the church epistles. Romans through Thessalonians to be scripture written for us as a church.

So, what do we end up with if we recognize the challenges to some books like Ruth, Esther, Jude, Revelation, and more?

As I wrote in LP0.1 Only The Law and the Prophets Had Divine Status,  the Law and the Prophets are what both Jesus and Paul referred to as the writings that should be believed. Jesus and the apostles directly quote from a lot of these books.

The epistles themselves proclaim themselves as having the revelation messages from God himself.

Then there are the Gospels.  As written in The Gospels as Eyewitness Accounts, the gospels proclaim that they are eye-witness accounts written by the apostles or their agents so they are a valuable and reliable testimony by men who were under Christ’s tutelage.

With that, we have most of the books in what we call the bible providing reliable information on the movements of God and the tenets of our faith.

Yes, there still are questions concerning some of the books in what we call the Old and New testaments.  In the Old Testament, we are not sure about Song of Solomon, Esther, Ruth, and a couple of others as to their status as God’s revelation before Christ.  In the same vein, books like 2nd Peter, James, Hebrews, Jude, Revelation, and a few others have doubts about their status as being revelations from Yahweh also.

Paul, writing to the church, made this one of the things we are to follow as a tradition:

prove all things; hold fast that which is good; (1Th 5:21 ASV)

Proving all things includes even proving which scriptures are really scriptures.  By doing that we are evaluating scripture by scripture’s own terms, not the proclamations of church leaders hundreds of years after the apostles who had already deviated far from the apostle’s traditions in many areas.

[1]The Story of Christianity, Justo L Gonzalez, Harper Collins, New York, 2010, p. 301-302

[2] Coherentism in Epistemology, https://iep.utm.edu/coherentism-in-epistemology/#SH3a

[3]7. The Bible: The Holy Canon of Scripture, https://bible.org/seriespage/7-bible-holy-canon-scripture

[4] https://bible.org/article/why-we-shouldnt-hate-philosophy

[5] ibid

[6] The Biblical Canon, https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/essay/the-biblical-canon/

[7] Christian Philosophy, Andrew Womack, Harrison House publishers, 2012, P. 57

[8] https://www.bible.ca/b-canon-old-testament-quoted-by-jesus-and-apostles.htm

[9] https://answersingenesis.org/the-word-of-god/why-66/  

[10] Carl F. H. Henry, God, Revelation and Authority, Vol. 4 (Carlisle: Paternoster, 1999), p. 407.

[11] https://www.bible.ca/b-canon-old-testament-quoted-by-jesus-and-apostles.htm

[12] https://www.massbible.org/exploring-the-bible/ask-a-prof/answers/concerns-book-esther

[13] https://bible.org/article/2-peter-peter%E2%80%99s

[14] Martin Luther’s Problem With the “Epistle of Straw”, see next note

[15] The “Epistle of Straw”: Reflections on Luther and the Epistle of James, Martin Foord, https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/themelios/article/the-epistle-of-straw-reflections-on-luther-and-the-epistle-of-james/

[16] Mapping one of the world’s largest landowners, https://archive.curbed.com/2017/10/18/16483194/catholic-church-gis-goodlands-esri-molly-burhans

[17] Theology of the Reformers, Timothy George, B&H publishing, Nashville, 2013, P. 56

[18] Theology of the Reformers, Timothy George, B&H publishing, Nashville, 2013, P. 181

______________________________________________________

The Canon of Sacred Scripture *
[From the same decree and the acts of the same Roman Synod]
84 Likewise it has been said: Now indeed we must treat of the divine Scriptures, what the universal Catholic Church accepts and what she ought to shun.
The order of the Old Testament begins here: Genesis one book, Exodus one book, Leviticus one book, Numbers one book, Deuteronomy one book, Joshua Nave one book, judges one book, Ruth one book, Kings four books, Paralipomenon two books, Psalms one book, Solomon three books, Proverbs one book, Ecclesiastes one book, Canticle of Canticles one book, likewise Wisdom one book, Ecclesiasticus one book.
Likewise the order of the Prophets. Isaias one book, Jeremias one book, with Ginoth, that is, with his lamentations, Ezechiel one book, Daniel one book, Osee one book, Micheas one book, Joel one book, Abdias one book, Jonas one book, Nahum one book, Habacuc one book, Sophonias one book, Aggeus one book, Zacharias one book, Malachias one book.
Likewise the order of the histories. Job one book, Tobias one book, Esdras two books, Esther one book, Judith one book, Machabees two books.
Likewise the order of the writings of the New and eternal Testament, which the holy and Catholic Church supports. Of the Gospels, according to Matthew one book, according to Mark one book, according to Luke one book, according to John one book.
The Epistles of Paul [the apostle] in number fourteen. To the Romans one, to the Corinthians two, to the Ephesians one, to the Thessalonians two, to the Galatians one, to the Philippians one, to the Colossians one, to Timothy two, to Titus one, to Philemon one, to the Hebrews one.
Likewise the Apocalypse of John, one book. And the Acts of the Apostles one book.
Likewise the canonical epistles in number seven. Of Peter the Apostle two epistles, of James the Apostle one epistle, of John the Apostle one epistle, of another John, the presbyter, two epistles, of Jude the Zealot, the Apostle one epistle, see n. 162 ff. * The canon of the New Testament ends here.

(from https://sensusfidelium.com/the-sources-of-catholic-dogma-the-denzinger/council-of-rome-382-the-canon-of-sacred-scripture/)

last revised 5/28/2022

May 26th, 2022 Posted by | Biblical Translation And Interpretation | no comments

A Review of Biblical Interpretation

I have written a number of articles that talk about different rules and principles important to Scriptural Interpretation and I am putting them together here.  This will highlight the major points that have been discussed in articles and you can go to the referenced article for more insight.

Those rules include:

  • sticking to what God reveals in his word, avoiding opinions, assumptions, speculations and private interpretation so that we rightly divide the scripture,
  • examining scripture in both the local and larger contexts,
  • using translations that accurately reflect the meaning of the text,
  • doing word studies where necessary to get to the precise meanings of the original words used,
  • comparing texts with texts and other writings to find and eliminate changes that have crept into the texts,
  • recognizing figures of speech where applicable,
  • differentiating between the verses addressed to us and those that are for our learning,
  • being aware that the apostles prophesied that there would be teachers rise up and teach twisted scriptures, misinterpreted scriptures to lead people astray, and more.
  • watching punctuation. There is no punctuation in the texts that we translate our Scriptures from. And as there is not a one-to-one correlation between languages the theology of the translators affects the translation to show the theology of the translator.
  • watching capitalization. The originals are in the same case.  English and other languages have rules for what is capitalized and this affects the meaning.

Let’s talk more about what all this means. First, in The Not Enough Information Rule – Sticking to What is Revealed we see that part of the word of God is that only some things about God and the spiritual world are revealed. Other things are secret.

The secret things belong to Yahweh our God; but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law. (Deu 29:29 WEB)

And the things of God that are not revealed are unsearchable!

Great is Yahweh, and greatly to be praised! His greatness is unsearchable. (Psa 145:3 WEB)

We can’t think like God. Unsearchable means that there is no place that we can look to find out what we want to know about the hidden things of God. God says we can’t figure him out, we don’t even think like him:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not my ways,” says Yahweh. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isa 55:8-9 WEB)

As I said in that article, “The trick is to stick to the text of the word of God, as original as can be found, not adding or subtracting from it. And sticking to what is revealed. Especially remember the downfall of inductive reasoning, that we will never in our current form have enough information to inductively conclude things on God’s plane.

So don’t be afraid to say that there isn’t enough information to know something.  It’s a basic rule in understanding the word of God.”  This also applies to philosophy.  Using words and terms not in scripture is not properly handling the word of God.  Using inductive logic to guesstimate things about God violates the Not Enough Information rule because humans are incapable of understanding God like all other things on the earth. Beyond what has been revealed in scripture we can’t understand his ways because he said his ways are unsearchable.  That’s either true or it’s not.  Scripture says it so I believe it. Beyond what scripture says we can’t understand his thinking because he revealed to us that his thoughts are not our thoughts, that they are beyond us.

Also in that article are comments on the importance of context.  Taking something out of context is a recognized principle in communications of any sort. In the article, I talk about the word all and how all has several meanings, all that there is and all that is available.  You have to look at the context to see which meaning it has.  And it’s not okay to speculate on what Jesus’ words meant, the example of the sower and the seed shows a time when a parable meaning is revealed in the context.

In T 1 Tradition in Original Christianity, Part 1, Rightly Dividing the Word of God we see some of those rules about rightly dividing the word of God and staying away from private interpretations, personal opinions, and impressions of what you and I might think the scriptures mean.  That includes going to the scriptures with preconceived ideas instead of looking at what the scriptures actually say and believing that.  Everyone seems to have an opinion, but I want to know what God meant, what his interpretation is.  And, as Daniel said:

 “Do not interpretations belong to God?” (Gen 40:8b ESV)

Both the words of God and the interpretation of them belong to God.  I want to discuss a particularly strongly worded section of scripture:

I will raise them up a prophet from among their brothers, like you. I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I shall command him. It shall happen, that whoever will not listen to my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him. But the prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.” You may say in your heart, “How shall we know the word which Yahweh has not spoken?” When a prophet speaks in Yahweh’s name, if the thing doesn’t follow, nor happen, that is the thing which Yahweh has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You shall not be afraid of him. (Deu 18:18-22 WEB)

God is explaining how he works with prophets here. We are talking about people with the office of a prophet, the gift ministry. There are some examples of personal prophecy in the Old Testament but mainly in the New Testament where God through the Spirit gives words of edification and comfort for individual spirit-filled believers to deliver to the ones around them. That’s not the office of a prophet. The office of the prophet predicts famines, wars, and other calamities. The office of a prophet goes to Kings and gives them messages of what the enemy is doing and saying in their bedrooms. The office of the prophet is given visions and words to deliver to the body at large. That’s the kind of prophet we’re talking about here. “I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I shall command him.” Right here we have the prophecy model. God gives the prophet words to say and the prophet says them. Period. End of story. That’s how prophecy works. There are no committees. There are no councils of bishops. “I will raise them up a prophet from among their brothers…”  God selects an individual from the believers and “raises” them up. God works with an individual to be his spokesperson.  In the previous article, we talked about how we got the word of God through the prophets.

The Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 was not a council to develop doctrine.  It was a council to resolve a simple issue, and the spirit was involved as it is written in verse 28, “For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit…”

What does God’s word say about how we are to treat the words of the prophet, the things revealed by the prophets?

“Whoever will not listen to my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him” says if you don’t listen to God’s word given by the prophet, it’s on you. We are charged to follow the words of the prophet because they are God’s word.

“But the prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.” This is the most strongly worded part of this section. This is part of the law. (In the New Testament believers are warned to avoid false prophets and false teachers with no mention of the death penalty as under the law.) There is some further explanation on how to tell whether somebody speaks presumptuously, and that is the last part of the section. “You may say in your heart, “How shall we know the word which Yahweh has not spoken?” When a prophet speaks in Yahweh’s name, if the thing doesn’t follow, nor happen, that is the thing which Yahweh has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You shall not be afraid of him.”

Let’s take a minute and talk about the word “presumptuously”. It comes from the Hebrew zood or zeed (H2102 in Strong’s) and it has to do with being proud, haughty or presuming.  This points to pride as a cause for someone to speak for God when God hasn’t given them that gift. Look at this:

… We know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. But if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he doesn’t yet know as he ought to know. (1Co 8:1-2 WEB)

The above verse says that knowledge puffs up. The Greek word is phusio (G5448), which means to blow up, but figuratively means to make proud or haughty.  The above verse is a warning against becoming proud or haughty the more you know. “If anyone thinks he knows anything, he doesn’t yet know as he ought to know” means that no matter how much you know, don’t get proud because we really don’t know that much.

So, looking at that in context with prophets speaking presumptuously we can see that the temptation for the prophet who has been blessed with knowledge from God is to get proud and to speak more than what God has revealed. But the warning against knowledge puffing up doesn’t just apply to prophets. The warning in first Corinthians is to all of us not to get proud and think we know more than we really do. A Ph.D. from University does not imbue us with revelation knowledge about God. 30 years of pastoring or teaching people in the world gives us a lot of experience, but don’t get proud and presume you know more than you know.

Whether or not something comes to pass is the standard for evaluating a prophet.  Now all kinds of people think that things, certain things, are going to happen all the time and they don’t. A while back people were talking about how long the covid pandemic was going to last. Different people offered different opinions. When people asked me, I thought about it, even prayed about it, and was pretty certain that the government would come up with a plan to vaccinate people by a certain time which was the end of summer in 2021. So, I told people I thought that things would be getting back to normal around that time. However, I did not have any clue about the resistance against vaccination not only here in the United States but in different places around the world. I was shocked to see the extent of vaccination resistance that would prolong the length of this pandemic although I did have an inclination that normal might be different even after people started getting vaccinated. Long story short, we are way past the end of the summer 2021 and the pandemic is still affecting people’s lives. I was wrong, as were a lot of other people. But we weren’t claiming that we had gotten the word of the Lord on it. My thinking was to try to be as upbeat and optimistic as possible and help people look for a light at the end of the tunnel.

However, there were people who proclaimed that they knew from God when things would happen.  For example, “29 February 2020 T.B Joshua of the Synagogue Church of All Nations in Nigeria prophesied that Covid-19 will vanish on 27 March 2020.”[1]  It did not.  There are articles on the damage that false prophets did not only in Africa but other places as well.[2]

The church of grace to which you and I belong is not charged to kill false prophets, but we are warned of them and advised to steer clear of them.

Nevertheless, we got the word of God, the scriptures, from prophets, and we are charged to heed what they say. Christian philosophy is the wisdom that we get from the word of God and we are charged to treat it just like we are charged to rightly divide without private interpretation of all of God’s word.

And as far as the situation with prophets and the sin of presumption goes, the same goes for teachers.  Knowledge can puff them up too.  And combine a teaching institution that combines scripture with the worldly methods and tenets of philosophy and you have a recipe for producing false teachers.

The problem with errors in some translated verses is discussed in Examples of Scribal Forgeries in the Bible, There are Numerous Variations in the Texts From Which We Get The Bible; Using an Interlinear Text To See Them, and Trinitarian Forgeries in the New Testament.
For example,

And he said unto them, This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting. (Mark 9:29 KJV)

“and fasting” is not in some texts.  And fasting appears to be added by zealous scribes emphasizing the fasting and asceticism movements that became popular in the centuries after Christ.

Or the Johannine Comma example. The words “ in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.  And there are three that bear witness in earth” are added to 1 John 5:7-8. You can ignore these words. This is generally accepted.[3]

Or the woman caught in adultery, John 7:53 to 8:11, is missing from many texts.  As touching as it is, you can ignore it.

Filtering out changed and added verses is part of rightly dividing scripture.  Interlinear texts can help you see the variations in manuscripts.

In The Importance Of Each Word, More on Word Studies we again see the importance in rightly dividing scripture of studying the terms in the scriptures in the original language and then doing word studies of the underlying Hebrew and Greek words to determine whether the translation accurate represents the meaning of the author.

For example, in H3 Four kinds of love in the Bible, When Love is not Love we see that the word “love” can actually come from four different Greek words

The four words are:

  • Agape – unselfish, unconditional love
  • Phileo – friendship
  • Eros – sexual, romantic love
  • Storge – familial affection

This teaching talks about how God’s love is not sexual love which is not family affection which is not the friendship of good friends. The different Greek words really change the meaning of the text and the teaching derived from it.

Or, even prepositions, can have different meanings. For example, en in Greek means a number of things, often “in”, but also “for the sake of” and other meanings.  In “We are created in Christ” in Ephesians 2:10 “in” is the Greek preposition en. It shows we have our eternal purpose in Christ. So, the verse:

For by him all things were created, in the heavens and on the earth, things visible and things invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things have been created through him, and for him. (Col 1:16 WEB)

“By” is the Greek word en.  It doesn’t mean that Jesus is the agent of creation, which translating it as “by” implies.  “By” is a mistranslation. Neither does the section “through him and for him” make him the agent of the original creation any more than the verse that says we are created in him make us literally in his Christ’s person, yet we are created in Christ.

The context of this section of scripture actually describes the creation of the new Church in Christ that started on Pentecost.  Colossian 1:13 “who delivered us out of the power of darkness, and translated us into the Kingdom of the Son of his love” describes just that.  Colossians 1:15-23 describes Jesus Christ in action as head of the Church setting things up.  Jesus is the firstborn, we are people born after him.  He is the most important, though, before anything else (v. 17). and he holds everything together in the body.  The context of this section is the workings of the body of Christ of which Jesus is the head. That’s what it says right here:

He is the head of the body, the assembly, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. (Col 1:18 WEB)

Now everything was created with Christ in mind.  Jesus Christ was the end game from the beginning.  But it’s easy to take things out of context and just read words like creation, heaven and earth, change “in” to “by” and say this verse is saying Jesus is God almighty, but that is twisting this scripture.

Nevertheless, this verse isn’t an easy translation.  The rule is that more difficult verses have to be translated in light of more clear verses.  As we will see below, all power and authority rest in God the Father alone. Verses like John 17:3 and 1 Cor 15:24-28 explain that below and translating  Colossians 1:16 as Jesus is God Almighty contradicts those verses and others. Jesus, as mighty as God the Father has made him is God’s agent who was elevated to his current level of power when he accomplished our salvation by dying on the cross for all of us.  That is when he was seated on the right hand of the Father. But the whole plan of creation centers around Jesus Christ, his only begotten son.

We need to watch prepositions when we look for the meanings of verses.  Prepositions can have different meanings depending on the context.

We especially don’t want to substitute synonyms for words in a translation based on their modern English meanings.  That goes for other languages as well because it is a well-known fact that languages are always changing and the meanings of words can change.  Did you know that leech originally meant doctor, and flux originally meant diarrhea?[4] Or that nice used to mean foolish or simple while hussy comes from the word housewife?[5] Its important to get to the meaning of the words and terms at the time they were written.

In John 1 – The meaning of the Logos; The Slippery Slope of Applying Mathematical Precision to Language Expressions we look at the importance of understanding figures of speech and not taking sections of text that use, for example in Proverbs 8 and  John 1, personification to be literal.  Both those sections of scripture speak of wisdom and the Logos as if they were persons when they are not, they are attributes of godliness and the spirit.  Figures of speech are used in scripture and in life to emphasize certain points but it is a huge mistake to take them literally.  For example, Napoleon was a giant in history.  This statement emphasizes that Napoleon had a huge impact on history, not that he was physically a giant.  In fact, Napoleon was a short man and there was not physically anything giant about him at all. While God’s wisdom and logos are huge parts of how God works, they are not actually equal to God. Still, we want God’s wisdom and logos in our lives because they are so dynamic.  That is why they are emphasized in scripture. There are numerous figures of speech besides personification.

Also, the same rules apply to rightly-dividing godly wisdom and philosophy as to rightly dividing God’s word because God’s wisdom comes from God’s word.

In All Scripture is for our Learning But All Scripture is not Addressed to Everyone: Administrations we see that we can learn from all scripture but only part of it is addressed to us. Adam and Eve only had one law, to not eat of one tree in the midst of the garden, but they did and the rules changed.  The patriarchs after Adam had a laxer set of rules in that administration.  The Law brought a rich but strict administration full of pageantry and ritual with numerous specific laws that were to be followed diligently.  It had an assortment of feasts and offerings but also the stiff penalty system of the eye for an eye and the death penalty for a number of offenses. Christ fulfilled the Law and brought us to the administration of the church of Grace.  The letters of the Apostles are written to the church of grace and we are charged to follow the traditions in those letters, the epistles.  As we are told not to follow the Law we don’t circumcise or follow the dietary laws etc.

We need to be wary of the possibility of scriptures being twisted in the different denominations and traditions. In T 1.3.2, The Apostles Prophesied That Misinterpreted Things Would Be Taught, While They Were There, After They Passed, And In Later Times we look at how the apostles prophesied that scripture would be twisted by people both in and outside the church and the importance of avoiding twisted scripture.  This is very prevalent these days as there are many, many disagreements on what the scriptures say. God hasn’t told some believers that the manifestations of the spirit ceased while he tells others that manifestations of the spirit are available to all during the church of grace administration.  It is twisting scripture to say the manifestations ceased. T 18.1 The Prohibition Tradition in Some Modern Churches and T 19.1 Modern Christian Traditions – The In Essentials Unity Doctrine show examples of traditions developed based on twisted meanings of scriptures as well other errors in rightly dividing scripture.

We need to be aware of how punctuation affects translation and meaning. In T 1.31 More on Paul’s Decision To Go To Jerusalem, How Tradition Can Affect Translation And Meaning, Accepting Deliverance When Available we see the example of Acts 24:14, which says,

When he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, “The Lord’s will be done.” (Act 21:14 WEB)

But there is no punctuation in Koine Greek, just letters all running together.  The translated words just are:

When he would not be persuaded we ceased saying the will of the Lord be done.

Rearranging the words as translated just to make read like it was written in Greek, Acts 21:14 reads “And since he was not being persuaded we stopped saying the will of the Lord be done.” In other words, the prophets and believers stopped telling Paul to do the will of the Lord.  So this is where it gets tricky.  Tradition evidently had grown to the point where the translators believed Paul followed the will of the Lord here so a straightforward translation of 21:14 doesn’t fit with that.   So, by adding commas, you can change the meaning of this verse.  Look at this verse:

“And since he would not be persuaded, we ceased, saying, the will of the Lord be done.”  That could mean that they reversed their position, or that they were saying that the will of the Lord is going to happen here even though Paul was warned.

This is an example where the punctuation completely changes whether “the will of the Lord be done” was said or not, and if it was what it meant.  It’s also an example that shows that the theology of the translators may override the true meaning of the text.

We need to be aware of changes in meaning by the use of capitalization. The original texts are in the same case.  English and other languages have rules for what is capitalized and it affects the meaning.  In T 1.10.1 Tradition in Original Christianity, Not Only Is Jesus Called God In Scripture, But So are Moses, Judges, Magistrates, The Adversary, And Devil Spirits, But All Are Subject to the Father we see how the theology of the translator determines the use of capitalization.  In English God refers to the Supreme Deity, God the Father, the Creator. Small “g”, god, can mean people like judges, magistrates, the Adversary, devil spirits, Lords, Kings including the Lord of Lords and King of Kings.  The point of that article is to show that the term “god” in scripture applies to a number of entities so just because someone is called god doesn’t make them God the Father. As I wrote in the above mentioned post, it may be confusing to some when they read that Jesus is rightfully called god in some scriptures but not part of a Trinity, but only until it is understood that many beings subordinate to God including judges, prophets, idols, the adversary, and devil spirits are also called god.  But all are subject, subordinate to God the Father, even his son.

This is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and him whom you sent, Jesus Christ. (Joh 17:3 WEB)

Jesus himself delineates between God the Father who he declares is the only true God, and himself who he declares is the sent one, God’s agent, the Christ, the Messiah. God the Father is God over all.  Jesus Christ is his agent.

Jesus himself tells us that his power is totally dependent on the Father:

Jesus therefore answered them, “Most certainly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing of himself, but what he sees the Father doing. For whatever things he does, these the Son also does likewise. (Joh 5:19 WEB)

And in 1st Corinthians, we see that even though it reads that everything is subject to Christ, Christ is still subject to God the father.

Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all. (1Co 15:24-28 ESV)

It is the verse above that sets the pecking order in the spiritual realm for men and gods.

Still, this area is an example that shows where the use of the capital G in God and other words referring to Jesus infers that Jesus is God over all when scriture says Jesus is and always will be subject to God the Father.  To properly understand the scriptures you have to watch out for capitalization errors.

We can reduce the thousands of denominations and myriad disagreements over what scripture says by sticking to these principles of rightly dividing the word of God.

[1] Science Direct, https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2590051X21000332

[2] Realistic Hope, Not False Hope: Prophecy and COVID-19, PAULINE WANJIRU NJIRU,
JUNE 8, 2020, https://jpcp.org/realistic-hope-not-false-hope-prophecy-and-covid-19/

[3] http://www.bible-researcher.com/comma.html is one site that points this out.

[4] Five words that have changed meaning over time, https://www.bbc.co.uk/bitesize/articles/znbct39

[5] 20 words that once meant something very different, https://ideas.ted.com/20-words-that-once-meant-something-very-different/

Revised 2/21/2022

February 3rd, 2022 Posted by | Biblical Translation And Interpretation | no comments

All Scripture is for our Learning But All Scripture is not Addressed to Everyone: Administrations

Every Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness, (2Ti 3:16 WEB)

Scripture is the Greek word graphe (Strong’s G1124) which just means writing. Of course, this verse is not saying that everything that has been written in the world is God-breathed. That would be ridiculous, everything in the local library is not God-breathed. Every here just means every writing that is part of the word of God. But look what this verse says about those writings. It uses the figure of speech “God-breathed” to emphasize these words emanated from God even though they had human writers. And it lists three different uses or profits. The first is to teach us. Some versions use the word doctrine, but doctrine just means teaching. The second is reproof which is to tell us when we’re doing something wrong. And the third is correction, which is what to do instead of what we are doing wrong.

The biggest point above is that God is the source of his word which can teach us, reprove us, and correct us. Next, we’ll start to see that everything written, even though we can learn from it, is not written to us.

For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that through perseverance and through encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. (Rom 15:4 WEB)

This verse says that the things written before, before meaning before Christ died and paid the price for our sins, were for our learning. They were not written to us, even though there’s a lot of things we can learn from them, and even some things that are universal principles of God. But we shall see that, specifically, things like the law were written only to the children of Israel, and not to us.

Let’s look at another example:

Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” (Mat 19:21 WEB)

This is not a command for everyone to sell everything they have and give what money they receive to the poor!  Jesus gave this instruction to a young ruler who had great possessions.  How do I know that? Because we read it in the following verse.

But when the young man heard the saying, he went away sad, for he was one who had great possessions. (Mat 19:22 WEB)

Jesus was teaching here that it is difficult for people with earthly riches to be part of the kingdom of God. How do I know that? Because of these verses.

Jesus said to his disciples, “Most certainly I say to you, a rich man will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven with difficulty. Again, I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into God’s Kingdom.” When the disciples heard it, they were exceedingly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” Looking at them, Jesus said, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Mat 19:23-26 WEB)

Jesus taught here that it’s hard for someone with wealth to enter into God’s kingdom. But he didn’t say it was impossible, in fact, here is where he says that with God all things are possible. Now I’m not saying that Jesus only said that this one person has to sell what he has and give to the poor. That message has probably been given to people via the spirit to people on a regular basis who have great wealth and are not able to enter the kingdom of God because their wealth is controlling them. But here Jesus is just not saying it to everyone.  He just said it to that one man although others might profit from following suit.  The point is it’s not written to everyone.  All Christians are not called to give everything away.

Here’s an important concept in Scripture; the Law and who it was given to.

who are Israelites; whose is the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service, and the promises; (Rom 9:4 WEB)

The above verse says that the law was given to the children of Israel.

Now, Israel, listen to the statutes and to the ordinances, which I teach you, to do them; that you may live, and go in and possess the land which Yahweh, the God of your fathers, gives you. (Deu 4:1 WEB)

“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel. After those days,” says the Lord; “I will put my laws into their mind, I will also write them on their heart. I will be their God, and they will be my people. (Heb 8:10 WEB)

The above verse refers to the fact that God gave the Law as a start, afterward he would put a law in the hearts of his people.  But first, the children of Israel were given the Law.

The children of Israel were bound to all the penalties, and rituals specified in the law.  It is important to remember that much of the law was the civil law of a sovereign nation in the world. Whether or not we agree with some of the strict penalties today we have civil authorities that inflict punishment for crimes but the children of Israel were a theocracy, a nation-state where priests rule the state in the name of God with the laws given by him. Our laws of retribution, lex talionis, are founded on the eye for an eye component of the Law. As barbaric as some of the law may seem modern legal education teaches that lex talionis as outlined in the Law actually changed the practice of lawful punishment in the world.  It introduced a policy of proportional restraint in punishment.[1]

The Law had civil, ceremonial, and moral components. The civil law had that eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth, lex talionis, basis.  The ceremonial law included circumcision, as well as offerings and feasts. The moral law included the 10 Commandments, you shall not murder, lie, steal, covet, etc. And while the law is fulfilled, it’s impossible to walk by the spirit of God today, and not honor the moral law of God even though we are no longer bound to the Law of Moses.

But the Law was imperfect, just a shadow of the things to come.

For the law, having a shadow of the good to come, not the very image of the things, can never with the same sacrifices year by year, which they offer continually, make perfect those who draw near. (Heb 10:1 WEB)

But Christ fulfilled the law and ushered in the administration of grace.

For Christ is the fulfillment of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. (Rom 10:4 WEB)

if it is so that you have heard of the administration of that grace of God which was given me toward you; (Eph 3:2 WEB)

For sin will not have dominion over you. For you are not under law, but under grace. (Rom 6:14 WEB)

What we have here are verses that show that the law is fulfilled and has been replaced with a grace administration. Note that it is called an administration in scripture (Eph3:2). The grace administration, which replaced the Law administration, is the administration we are in. Adam and Eve had their own administration which ended when they were cast out, and the Patriarchal administration, the time of the patriarchs with their lax rules, began.  Whenever the rules change for believers, that marks the change of administration.

Grace is divine favor.  Even though we don’t deserve it we have been saved.  We got forgiveness for the sins in our past when we accepted the Lord.  And we can get forgiveness for our sins by acknowledging them to the Lord.  We aren’t subject to the penalties of the Law anymore.  That’s amazing.  We still are charged, commanded to do things, but we are not bound to the rituals, precepts, and penalties of the law.

Of, course, that doesn’t mean we can do anything we please although seeing some of the people in different churches it may look like it.  That’s why Paul wrote this:

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? May it never be! We who died to sin, how could we live in it any longer? (Rom 6:1-2 WEB)

And later Paul expands on the spiritual reality of the freedom we have in Christ.

What then? Shall we sin, because we are not under law, but under grace? May it never be! Don’t you know that when you present yourselves as servants and obey someone, you are the servants of whomever you obey; whether of sin to death, or of obedience to righteousness?  (Rom 6:15-16 WEB)

Now there’s a lot more to this. But, at the very least you can see that there’s an old covenant and a new covenant. And our administration is marked by grace, but that is not a license to sin. But, even more than that, there have been different administrations throughout the Scriptures. For example, in the garden of Eden there was only one rule. The rule was that you could eat out of anything in the garden except for the tree of life in the middle of the garden. That was the rule. That rule no longer exists, that passed with the garden of Eden. After the garden of Eden, we have the time of the patriarchs, from Adam to Moses. The Law was not given yet, so this time period or administration had a different set of rules which were fairly loose.

Right now, we are in the age, the administration, of grace as we read above in Ephesians 3:2. But that time will pass and we will enter into administrations that see the tribulation, the return of Christ, and the age to come.

The important concept is that each time period, each administration has different sets of rules.  But righteous living is living godly in every time period.  This set of laws span the different administrations.

Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. A second likewise is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” (Mat 22:37-40 WEB)

Loving God with all of our hearts, souls, and minds along with loving our neighbors as ourselves is right living, righteousness, no matter what the administration is.

Let’s look at more examples of things written to certain people in the Scripture. Who are the Corinthian letters to? Just the Corinthians?  Let’s read.

Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes, to the assembly of God which is at Corinth; those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called saints, with all who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place, both theirs and ours: (1Co 1:1-2 WEB)

There is a salutation in this letter. It says it is written to the assembly of the saints of God at Corinth, right?  But, is that all it says? No, it says that it also is written to “all who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place”.  Whoa, that means that it is written not just to Corinth, it is written to all of us.  Look at some other salutations.

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God, to the saints who are at Ephesus, and the faithful in Christ Jesus: (Eph 1:1 WEB)

Paul specifies Ephesus here, but adds “the faithful in Christ Jesus”.

Of all the writings in the Scriptures, the church epistles are the ones that are actually written to us. Not only that but we are commanded to follow the traditions of the apostles, as contained in their letters, also called epistles.

So then, brothers, stand firm, and hold the traditions which you were taught by us, whether by word, or by letter. (2Th 2:15 WEB)

The above verse emphasizes the importance of the apostles’ letters as the church is charged to follow what they say.  And here we see the same thing.

Now I praise you, brothers, that you remember me in all things, and hold firm the traditions, even as I delivered them to you. (1Co 11:2 WEB)

The salutation in 1 Corinthians affirms that these words are written to all of us.

Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes, to the assembly of God which is at Corinth; those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called saints, with all who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place, both theirs and ours: (1Co 1:1-2 WEB)

All who call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ in every place are charged to follow the apostles’ traditions, the beliefs and practices they set up. They will give us the greatest insight into our life here and now as it pertains to life and godliness.

The point of emphasis here is that not everything in the Scriptures is written to every person. That’s an important part of understanding how to interpret the word of God. It’s also important in explaining what looks like at first glance as contradictions.  Does God forbid people from eating pork? Jews were not allowed to eat pork, Christians are. Are men supposed to be circumcised?  Circumcision was a sign of agreement to the Old Covenant. So, Jews had to be circumcised, but Christians don’t, these are examples of different administrations.

Circumcision is a classic example of to whom it is addressed is important.  Only the children of Israel were told to circumcise.

This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you. Every male among you shall be circumcised. (Gen 17:10 WEB)

The new believers in the church were not to be circumcised.

Behold, I, Paul, tell you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will profit you nothing. (Gal 5:2 WEB)

Another example is dietary restrictions

Leviticus chapter 11 lists the dietary restrictions.

“Speak to the children of Israel, saying, ‘These are the living things which you may eat among all the animals that are on the earth. Whatever parts the hoof, and is cloven-footed, and chews the cud among the animals, that you may eat. “‘Nevertheless these you shall not eat of those that chew the cud, or of those who part the hoof: the camel, because he chews the cud but doesn’t have a parted hoof, he is unclean to you. The cony, because he chews the cud but doesn’t have a parted hoof, he is unclean to you. The hare, because she chews the cud but doesn’t part the hoof, she is unclean to you. The pig, because he has a split hoof, and is cloven-footed, but doesn’t chew the cud, he is unclean to you. Of their meat you shall not eat, and their carcasses you shall not touch; they are unclean to you. “‘These you may eat of all that are in the waters: whatever has fins and scales in the waters, in the seas, and in the rivers, that you may eat. All that don’t have fins and scales in the seas, and in the rivers, of all that move in the waters, and of all the living creatures that are in the waters, they are an abomination to you, and you shall detest them. You shall not eat of their meat, and you shall detest their carcasses. Whatever has no fins nor scales in the waters, that is an abomination to you. “‘These you shall detest among the birds; they shall not be eaten, they are an abomination: the eagle, and the vulture, and the black vulture, and the red kite, any kind of black kite, any kind of raven, the horned owl, the screech owl, and the gull, any kind of hawk, the little owl, the cormorant, the great owl, the white owl, the desert owl, the osprey, the stork, any kind of heron, the hoopoe, and the bat. “‘All flying insects that walk on all fours are an abomination to you. Yet you may eat these: of all winged creeping things that go on all fours, which have legs above their feet, with which to hop on the earth. Even of these you may eat: any kind of locust, any kind of katydid, any kind of cricket, and any kind of grasshopper. (Lev 11:2-22 WEB)

There is more but you get the point.  Compare that to:

Now on the next day as they were on their journey, and got close to the city, Peter went up on the housetop to pray at about noon. He became hungry and desired to eat, but while they were preparing, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and a certain container descending to him, like a great sheet let down by four corners on the earth, in which were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild animals, reptiles, and birds of the sky. A voice came to him, “Rise, Peter, kill and eat!” But Peter said, “Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” A voice came to him again the second time, “What God has cleansed, you must not call unclean.” This was done three times, and immediately the vessel was received up into heaven. (Act 10:9-16 WEB)

So, we see that under the Law males were circumcised but that was done away after Pentecost.  Likewise, under the Law, there were many strict dietary laws that were done away within the church of Grace.

When we read scripture, we need to ask to whom the verses are addressed, and if not to us, what can we learn from them. And, before we say the Scriptures contradict themselves, we need to ascertain whether we have correctly interpreted the scriptures including this principle of to whom the scripture is addressed understanding that part of the word of God is that different people were given different directions individually at times and also as groups in the different administrations.

[1] An Eye for an Eye: Proportionality as a Moral Principle of Punishment, Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, Vol. 28, No. 1 (Spring, 2008), pp. 57-71, https://www.jstor.org/stable/20185360

Last revised 2/3/2022

February 2nd, 2022 Posted by | Biblical Translation And Interpretation | no comments

T 1.10.1 Tradition in Original Christianity, Not Only Is Jesus Called God In Scripture, But So are Moses, Judges, Magistrates, The Adversary, And Devil Spirits, But All Are Subject to the Father

Previous posts have declared that Unitarianism was the belief in Original Christianity including the last post, T 1.10 Tradition in Original Christianity, Part 10, The Apostles taught the Father alone was God, one of the Most Hidden Truths in Christianity Today. We have looked at references that admit that Unitarianism predated Trinitarianisn.  We looked at quotes that cite that unlike the apostles in scripture theologians after the apostles say philosophy is essential. And we looked at the reasons why. For example, look at this:

“Much contemporary Christianity is in essence adoptionistic. Early in the 19th century Frederick Schleiermacher conceived of Jesus as the man with the most sublime God consciousness, while Albrecht Ritschl saw him as endowed with the most perfect sense of duty. For the 20th century Anglican John A. T. Robinson, Jesus was “the man for others,” perfectly transparent to God. Adoptionistic ideas always arrive arise wherever Christians are reluctant to use the language and tools of philosophy [emphasis added] to grapple with the apparent conflict between the unity of God and the deity of Christ.[1]

I have underlined “reluctant to use the language and tools of philosophy”. This is talking about using world philosophy tools such as a priori claims and inductive logic. The need for philosophy is given again here.  Without philosophy, the conflict between the unity of God and the deity of Christ is too great. Brown says that without these worldly philosophical tools the natural result is adoptionism, which is a form of Unitarianism. When you just let the scriptures speak you get Unitarianism, God as a single entity.  With the Trinity, God as three persons,  you have to make a priori assumptions, add terms not found in scripture, and change the meanings of verses from the way they naturally should be interpreted. And even then, Trinitarianism remains uncomprehensible whereas Unitarianism is not.

I have known some people that seemed to accept Unitarianism easily.  The Trinity was always so confusing to them. Unitarianism is easier by far and all of it is scriptural.  But, if you are like me at all, you may take a lot to be convinced on so important a topic.   I don’t change my mind that easily, some things can take years for me to be persuaded otherwise.  So, I don’t blame you if you are still unsure or skeptical.  What I will say is to keep at it.  Really consider what is said.  Have you really tried to prove the Trinity?  Or, are you like me, I heard it mentioned as the truth so often for so many years that it was like second nature to accept it.  And this was in spite of the fact that when confronted I had to admit that I had never seen a proof of the Trinity. All I had heard were verses here and there that were used to support the Trinitarian argument. Even though it was confusing it was just so widespread and generally accepted for so long that I had a hard time believing that there was a chance that it might not be right.  But when I really looked at it, I said, oh my Lord, how could that have happened?  And likewise for many people throughout the millennia. And I came to the conclusion like so many before me; the Trinity is a man-made doctrine; only God the Father is God of all.  Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the King of Kings, but he is subject to God and not equal to him.

Today we’re going to look at more points of emphasis in the Trinitarian argument. The first is that Jesus is called God in places in scripture.  The second is the Trinitarian argument that says that Jesus admitted he was God.

I mean, after all, if the Bible clearly calls Jesus God and he also admits it, doesn’t that make the case for both the deity of Jesus and the Trinity?

It may be confusing to some when they read that Jesus is rightfully called God in some scriptures but not part of a Trinity, but only until it is understood that many beings subordinate to God including judges, prophets, idols, the adversary, and devil spirits are also called god.  But all are subject, subordinate to God the Father, even his son.

What adds to the confusion is when Bible translators capitalize God.  Capitalizing God is the custom in English when it is God the creator, the supreme being.  The Trinitarian tradition that includes the Son and Holy Spirit as part of God almighty adds to this confusion.  The theology of the translator is clearly evident here.

In numerous posts, we have looked at varied verses that are used in support of the Trinity, and in each case shown that those verses did not prove the Trinity.  As stated in Philosophy in Christianity – Welcome Addition or Intrusion of Worldly Reasoning? scholars admit that scripture does not directly teach the Trinity.  What they say is that the “elements” are there to construct the doctrine of the Trinity.  Here’s the New Bible Dictionary on the subject:

“As already indicated, Scripture does not give us a fully formulated doctrine of the Trinity, but it contains all the elements out of which theology has constructed the doctrine.”[2]

I think that is being generous but at least they admit that scripture does not directly teach the Trinity. It’s true that many elements of the trinity are taken from scripture. This definition fails to add that there are also elements not in scripture that required for the Trinity to work such as the word homousias (of the same substance) and the doctrine that Jesus had two wills when there is no scripture to support it.

So, let’s look at where Jesus is called God in scripture.  For clarification, elohim is one of the Hebrew words translated God, and theos is the Greek word translated God. God the Father’s name is Yahweh.

The biggest lesson here is that just because something says “God” it does not necessarily refer to God the Father, creator of heaven and earth.

Now, the overwhelming majority of times God is referred to in scripture it is talking about God the Father, but there are times when the text says God, but it is not God the Father. It is true that Jesus is called god, but so are the divine council, judges, prophets (Moses especially), kings, and even the devil.  And God the Father is over all of them.

Here’s the first. Moses is called Elohim, God.

Yahweh said to Moses, “Behold, I have made you as God to Pharaoh; and Aaron your brother shall be your prophet. (Exo 7:1 WEB)

Moses is certainly not God. But he was called God, Elohim, because he represented God and the power of God flowed through him. Notice the capitalization. Because he represented the Supreme Being it is correct.

In the New Testament, the Greek word theos corresponds to the Hebrew word Elohim.  This word is used of our adversary, the devil.

in whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that the light of the Good News of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should not dawn on them. (2Co 4:4 WEB)

The adversary is clearly called god (theos) here. And no one disputes that he is not God Almighty, the creator of heaven and earth, the father in heaven.  The lack of capitalization is correct.

The same goes for false gods like Dagon, the fish god of the Philistines.

The lords of the Philistines gathered them together to offer a great sacrifice to Dagon their god, and to rejoice; for they said, “Our god has delivered Samson our enemy into our hand.” (Jdg 16:23 WEB)

The Hebrew word for god here is, guess what, elohimElohim just means god.  The name of the elohim here is Dagon. The lower case g is correct.

(Of note, too, is that elohim is a plural noun but Dagon is a single god.  This is proof that the use of elohim does not automatically indicate a plurality. In other words, elohim refers to a single person or god. Just like Dagon is not a trinity, the use of elohim does not mean a trinity when it refers to Yahweh, God the Father.)

Likewise, the commandment not to worship false gods is the Hebrew word elohim.

“You shall have no other gods before me. (Exo 20:3 WEB)

Look at this one:

The king said to her, “Don’t be afraid! What do you see?” The woman said to Saul, “I see a god coming up out of the earth.”  (1Sa 28:13 WEB)

This is Saul with the medium of Endor.  Saul had inquired of Yahweh but Yahweh had stopped talking with Saul.  Saul made a major mistake and consulted a medium.  She said she saw a god (elohim) coming up out of the earth. That spirit was elohim.

The lack of capitalization in the last two verses is correct.

Next, we are going to see a place where the translators understood that elohim could refer to even men. In this next verse that we are going to look at the text says Elohim (God), but it really means judges.

then his master shall bring him to God, and shall bring him to the door or to the doorpost, and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl, and he shall serve him forever. (Exo 21:6 WEB)

This verse is talking about a slave that decides he wants to remain a slave because of how good the human master is, and so there’s a procedure for that. The slave goes before the judges, but in the text, it’s the word Elohim, and on earth the judges represent Elohim, God the Father. The capitalization is correct.

This is a case where people, in this case, judges, are called God because of representation. We use representation to refer to people all the time. Here’s an example, a couple of weeks ago my wife called me and asked me if Amazon had delivered her package. I told her, yes, I got it and put it by her desk. Now, Amazon is a huge global company. It did not take the huge global enterprise with all of its many thousands of employees to deliver that package. One sole driver drove it to our house. But what my wife said in my conversation with her was not incorrect. Amazon had delivered the package. The driver is Amazon’s representative just like the judge in Exodus 21 is God’s representative.

Next, look at a section where the king is referred to as god (elohim). These verses are important because later in the New Testament we will see that they are used in reference to Christ.

My heart overflows with a noble theme. I recite my verses for the king. My tongue is like the pen of a skillful writer. You are the most excellent of the sons of men. Grace has anointed your lips, therefore God has blessed you forever. Strap your sword on your thigh, mighty one: your splendor and your majesty. In your majesty ride on victoriously on behalf of truth, humility, and righteousness. Let your right hand display awesome deeds. Your arrows are sharp. The nations fall under you, with arrows in the heart of the king’s enemies. Your throne, God, is forever and ever. A scepter of equity is the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness, and hated wickedness. Therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness above your fellows. (Psa 45:1-7 WEB)

It is very important to realize that the subject of these verses is the king as it says in verse one, “I recite my verses for the king”. Look at the pronouns. “You are the most excellent of the sons of men” starts a list of things talking about this king. Now, surprise!  In verse six, this king is called God (Elohim)! God is capitalized here but it shouldn’t be because it’s not talking about God the Father. But this god in verse five is under God the Father as it says in verse seven where it says “therefore God, your God, has anointed you…”.  In Psalm 45 the king is referred to as god because kings were appointed by divine right. Kings were God’s representative on earth. We are going to take a look at this quote again when we come to discussing our Lord, Jesus Christ.

So, we have clearly established that just because the text reads elohim or theos, it does not mean God the Father.

By the way, I haven’t discovered that elohim and theos don’t always refer to God Almight on my own, in fact, this is pretty well known. It’s listed in dictionaries.[3]  And it is well understood by many bible students, whether they are Unitarian or Trinitarian

Next, we are going to look at a verse with our Lord Jesus Christ. And this is a verse that is used to supposedly support the Trinitarian doctrine that includes that Jesus is God. In this text, Jesus is accused of claiming he is God.

Therefore, Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from my Father. For which of those works do you stone me?” The Jews answered him, “We don’t stone you for a good work, but for blasphemy: because you, being a man, make yourself God.” Jesus answered them, “Isn’t it written in your law, ‘I said, you are gods?’ If he called them gods, to whom the word of God came (and the Scripture can’t be broken), do you say of him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You blaspheme,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God?’ If I don’t do the works of my Father, don’t believe me. But if I do them, though you don’t believe me, believe the works; that you may know and believe that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.” They sought again to seize him, and he went out of their hand. (Joh 10:31-39 WEB)

Yes, these Jews accused Jesus of claiming that he was God the Father. I have sat in a pew and heard it taught that Jesus was claiming to be God here! That is twisting the Scripture. Instead of acknowledging that he did say he was God, on the contrary, Jesus refutes their argument. You see, Jesus had just said, “I and my Father are one”. And he also made the connection to the divine council where God the Father called subordinate rulers gods.  But he also has said that he did his mighty works in the Father’s name. He has also said that the Father was greater than all, and “all” includes him even though he is the Christ. Jesus here does make the claim that he is the son of God. But he is the son of God because God is his Father. That doesn’t make him God like God the Father. It just makes him the son of God. Jesus is actually teaching here that it is a mistake to equate saying that you are the son of God is the same as saying that you are God like the Father.

Just because someone is accused of saying something does not mean that they said it.  It may be that someone’s words are being twisted to say that someone is saying something that they did not say.  That is what is being done here. Jesus says as much.  The Jews took “I and my Father are one (in purpose)” and twisted it to “I and my Father are the same (in substance)”!

To see that this oneness is in purpose compare “I and my Father are one” to “…that they may be one, even as we are one” later in John 17:22.

So, this verse does not say Jesus is claiming to be God. Rather, he is explaining his unique relationship with the Father.   But this scripture has been used to make the claim that Jesus said he was God.

Jesus, in John 10 above, makes the point of saying scripture calls some gods (small g) as we are talking about in this article.  Look at Psalms 82 here:

God presides in the great assembly. He judges among the gods. “How long will you judge unjustly, and show partiality to the wicked?” Selah. “Defend the weak, the poor, and the fatherless. Maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy. Deliver them out of the hand of the wicked.” They don’t know, neither do they understand. They walk back and forth in darkness. All the foundations of the earth are shaken. I said, “You are gods, all of you are sons of the Most High. Nevertheless you shall die like men, and fall like one of the rulers.” Arise, God, judge the earth, for you inherit all of the nations. (Psa 82:1-8 WEB)

Psalm 82 refers to what some call a divine council, a group of subordinates (angels, men?) to God where all of the subordinates are called gods (elohim). The job of these subordinate gods is to defend the weak, the poor, and the needy.  It is to maintain the rights of the poor and the oppressed.  It’s to deliver these from the wicked. They were put in charge to do things but they weren’t getting results.  They aren’t doing so well, and they are told they will die like men!  Yet they are elohim!

Now, let’s look in the book of Hebrews at another place where some have said Jesus is called god, and in this case, rightfully so.  But is it saying that he is God like God the Father? No.

God, having in the past spoken to the fathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, has at the end of these days spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom also he made the worlds. His Son is the radiance of his glory, the very image of his substance, and upholding all things by the word of his power, who, when he had by himself purified us of our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; having become so much better than the angels, as he has inherited a more excellent name than they have. For to which of the angels did he say at any time, “You are my Son. Today I have become your father?” and again, “I will be to him a Father, and he will be to me a Son?” When he again brings in the firstborn into the world he says, “Let all the angels of God worship him.” Of the angels he says, “Who makes his angels winds, and his servants a flame of fire.” But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever. The scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your Kingdom. (Heb 1:1-8 WEB)

First, the “through” in “through whom he also made the worlds” is the Greek word en (Strongs G1223)En can mean the channel or cause that something is done, but it can also mean the reason something is done.  The translation “through” would be better translated “on account of” or “because of”.  This shows the Trinitarian theology of the translator.

Jesus is called God here (although it should be “god” instead of “God”). This verse in Hebrews is a quotation from Psalm 45 that we looked at earlier. However, this time it’s not talking about the current king. It is talking about Jesus Christ. However, the same thing that applied to the king in Psalm 45 applies the Jesus here. Just like the King was called “God” in Psalms, Jesus is called “God” in Hebrews. But then, we see the verse, following “therefore God, your God…  So, just like the king was subject to God the Father so Jesus Christ is subject to God the Father.  Again, the capitalization is misleading in the translations.

Therefore, Jesus Christ is referred to as god but he is still subordinate to God the Father.

I want to look at more verses that call Jesus God. Remember that when we are reading these verses in English they are just translations of mainly Greek texts. In T 1.31 More on Paul’s Decision To Go To Jerusalem, How Tradition Can Affect Translation And Meaning, Accepting Deliverance When Available I look at how translation is often not a simple, straightforward process. It can get complicated, and produce misleading results.

Here are some things involved in translating from Koine Greek to English. In translation the order of words in Greek sentences is different than that of English sentences. In English a noun is made plural usually by adding an “s”.  In Greek to make a noun plural you have to know both its gender and the letters in which it ends in order to attach the right ending to the noun. In Greek, nouns are masculine, feminine, and neuter. But that does not mean that the item that the noun represents is masculine, feminine, or neuter. Whether or not a noun has an article attached can change its meaning. For example, hos theos, is “God” (theos) with the article, “the”, hos.  That combination is the one that can indicate the supreme Deity, God the Father.  By itself, theos without the article means less, like god (small g), magistrate, or even godly.

And there is no punctuation! The words just run together.  There are other issues as well. Here’s a picture of a manuscript in Greek that shows no punctuation and words just running on and on.

How do you divide those Greek letters above into words that form sentences and whole thoughts? In the article mentioned above, I talk about Acts 21:14 where a problem like that was explored. Here are the text and translated words.

The use of a comma here dramatically changes the meaning of this verse.  A lot of translators translate this, “We stopped,  saying the will of the Lord be done.”  But without the comma, it is, “we stopped saying the will of the Lord be done.” A single comma there makes a difference as to whether or not something was even said. And it certainly dramatically changes the meaning. That’s how important the translator is. And it shows how impactful his theology (and the theology of his “school”) is in translation.

An example of that ambiguity is found in some verses that call Jesus “God”, and maybe not just god, but appear to at least imply God over all.

looking for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ; (Tit 2:13 WEB)

Once again, the Greek text does have these words; God, and, Savior, Jesus Christ. To see the difference that punctuation makes look at the same verse in Webster’s version.

Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God, and our Savior Jesus Christ; (Tit 2:13 Webster)

Do you see the difference? The WEB version says “our great God and Savior” as if it’s one and the same person. The Webster version says “great God, and our Savior Jesus Christ”, recognizing two different beings.

Let’s compare how these two versions translate second Peter 1:1 which is another example of the same thing.

Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have obtained a like precious faith with us in the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ: (2Pe 1:1 WEB)

Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Savior Jesus Christ: (2Pe 1:1 Webster)

This one is a little less conspicuous, but is still there. The WEB version says “God and Savior, Jesus Christ”, making Jesus both God and Savior. In contrast, Webster’s version says “God and our Savior Jesus Christ”. It doesn’t put the comma after Savior thereby lumping God and Savior as the descriptor for Jesus Christ. And, you can see here, hopefully, that the translators could have just as easily written, “God, and our Savior Jesus Christ”, clearly distinguishing between God, and Savior as two different entities.

The lesson here is that Trinitarian doctrine has influenced the translation as there is absolutely nothing in the Greek text that requires “God and Savior”.  And “God and Savior” contradicts verses like Eph 4:4-6 and 1 Cor 15 below. With the ambiguity these verses have they certainly don’t prove the  Trinity.

Compare the above two verses above with:

There is one body, and one Spirit, even as you also were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, and through all, and in us all. (Eph 4:4-6 WEB)

Lord and God are both in this verse but they are not next to each other. The separation alone between “Lord”, and “one God and Father of all” indicates that they are not the same entity. Also, it is itemized here that the “one God and Father” is of all, over all, through all, and in us all. God alone is over all. It is clear here that Jesus Christ is the Lord while God the Father is the one who is over all.

We have discussed this next one in Philosophy in Christianity – Welcome Addition or Intrusion of Worldly Reasoning?.

Without controversy, the mystery of godliness is great: God was revealed in the flesh, justified in the spirit, seen by angels, preached among the nations, believed on in the world, and received up in glory. (1Ti 3:16 WEB)

How can “God was revealed in the flesh” not prove the Incarnation and thus the Trinity? It must, right? The truth is that there is a problem with the word God there. Instead of Theos in Greek, the Greek word used in texts other than the Alexandrian family is hos which simply means which or who. The verse actually talks about the mystery of godliness which was manifest in the flesh.  Every being with the holy spirit, which includes all true Christians, manifests godliness whenever they walk in the spirit. Every time someone speaks in tongues or hears from God or heals someone, they are manifesting godliness. This verse is talking about the mystery of godliness and how that works.  It is not a declaration of Jesus as part of a trinity.  No, this verse does not prove the Trinity.

Here is a translation that says “which” instead of God.

And evidently great is the mystery of godliness, which was manifested in the flesh, was justified in the spirit, appeared unto angels, hath been preached unto the Gentiles, is believed in the world, is taken up in glory. (1Ti 3:16 DRB)

This next verse is talking about Jesus Christ as the greatest example of godliness on earth. That is something we are charged to seek

For bodily exercise has some value, but godliness has value in all things, having the promise of the life which is now, and of that which is to come. (1Ti 4:8 WEB)

So we see that despite having a number of verses that look like what the Trinitarians say are clearly teaching both that Jesus Christ is God, and even God the father, it is not that simple.

Who, again is Jesus in relation to the Father? Remember Jesus’ words as he talked about who he was in relation to God:

This is eternal life, that they should know you, the only true God, and him whom you sent, Jesus Christ. (Joh 17:3 WEB)

Jesus delineates between God the Father who he declares is the only true God, and himself who he declares is the sent one, God’s agent, the Christ, the Messiah. God the Father is God over all.  Jesus Christ is his agent.

Again, these are Jesus’ words! He calls God the Father the only true God!  Jesus says the only God (with a Capital G) is God the Father.  Jesus tells us that he is the one sent by the Father.

Jesus tells us that his power is totally dependent on the Father:

Jesus therefore answered them, “Most certainly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing of himself, but what he sees the Father doing. For whatever things he does, these the Son also does likewise. (Joh 5:19 WEB)

And next, in 1st Corinthians, we see that even though it reads that everything is subject to Christ, Christ is still subject to God the father.

Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all. (1Co 15:24-28 ESV)

God, whether from elohim in Hebrew or theos in Greek, may refer to God the Father, Jesus, prophets, angels, priests, judges, kings, the adversary, devil spirits, and false gods. But it is the verse above that sets the pecking order in the spiritual realm for men and gods.  Part of the Trinity doctrine is that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are co-equal and co-eternal.  But these verses above as well as other verses mentioned all put Jesus as not co-equal, but subject to the Father.  Jesus is not an equal partner in a trinity, Jesus is an underling.  Albeit, he is the Lord, he is the savior, he is second in command, he is still an underling who carries out what the Father directs.

That is Unitarianism.  God is one. There are other entities called god in scripture, angels, devils, judges, prophets, kings, even Jesus, but there is only one God who is over all, and through all, and in us all, and that is the Father.

Further Reading on Christian Unitarianism (including links to resources available online)

Encyclopedia Americana, 1920 Edition, Vol XXVII, p. O301 available online at https://ia800305.us.archive.org/33/items/encyclopediaame23unkngoog/encyclopediaame23unkngoog.pdf. This article in this century old Encyclopedia Americana is the better part of 10 pages long and reflects that Unitarianism was more known then. Find the topic Unitarianism

Statement of Reasons For Not Believing The Doctrines of the Trinitarians, Andrews Norton, London, 1846

The Doctrine of the Trinity, Anthony F. Buzzard and Charles F. Hunting, Atlanta Bible College and Restoration Fellowship, 1990

The Elements of Unitarianism, George Chryssides, Element Books, Dorset, 1998

The Epic of Unitarianism, David B. Parke, Skinner House Books, Boston, 1957

The History of The Doctrine of the Trinity The True Scriptural Picture, http://www.antipas.org/books/trinity/trinity1.html  

The Trinity: True Or False? Peter J. Southgate, Dawn Book Supply, 1995, A Christadelphian book available at https://www.the1way.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/THE-TRINITY-true-or-false-2nd-edition.pdf

The Racovian Catechism, available at http://thehumanjesus.org/media/pdf/The_Racovian_Catechism.pdf

The Two Treatises of Servetus on the Trinity, Michael Serveto, Translated by Earl Morse Wilbur, Wipf & Stock, Eugene, Published 2013

One God & One Lord : Reconsidering the Cornerstone of Christian Faith, Mark H Graeser, John A. Lynn, John W Schoenheit, Christian Educational Services, 2000

One God Over All (Class), Living Hope International Ministries, available at https://lhim.org/lhim-class/?id=84

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy; Trinity, at https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/trinity/ (Completely from a purely philosophical point of view – shows the debate about the philosophical merits and flaws in Trinitarian arguments)

Further Reading Pro – Trinitarian Sources including Philosophy, and Heresies

The New Bible Dictionary, Eerdman’s, Grand Rapids, 1962, Reprinted 1974, p. 1298-1300

The Trinity, Evidence & Issues, Dr. Robert A Morey, Xulon Press, 1996

The Trinity, The Classic Study of Biblical Unitarianism, Edward Henry Bickersteth, Kregal, Grand Rapids

The Doctrine of the Trinity, Leonard Hodgson, Nisbit, Digswell Place, Seventh Printing  1964

Delighting in the Trinity, An Introduction to the Christian Faith, IVP Academic, Downers Grove, 2012

Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem, Zondervan, Grand Rapids,1994, p. 226-261

Lectures in Systematic Theology, Henry C Theissen, Erdman’s, Grand Rapids, revised 1979, P. 89-99

Systematic Theology, Volume 3, Paul Tillich, the University of Chicago press, Chicago 1950 1P. 289-294

Heresies, Harold O. J. Brown, Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody Massachusetts, 1984, P. 96, see index

Introduction to Philosophy, A Christian Perspective, Norman L Geisler and Paul D Feinberg, Baker books, Grand Rapids, 1980, P. 75, 174-177

The Blessed Trinity, New Advent (a Catholic organization)  at  https://www.newadvent.org/cathen/15047a.htm

Early Christian Doctrines, J N D Kelly, Harper Collins, 1978

A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs, David Bercot, Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, Seventh Printing, 2008, p. 651-657

Catechism of the Catholic Church, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 18th Printing 2007, sections 232-260, see Index

The Code of Canon Law, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, Published 1983

________________________________________________________

[1] Heresies, Harold O. J. Brown, Hendrickson publishers, Peabody Massachusetts, 1984, P. 96

[2] New Bible Dictionary, Erdman’s, Grand Rapids, 1962, P. 1299

[3] For ex., Strong’s definition is: el-o-heem’, Plural of H433; gods in the ordinary sense; but specifically used (in the plural thus, especially with the article) of the supreme God; occasionally applied by way of deference to magistrates; and sometimes as a superlative: – angels, X exceeding, God (gods) (-dess, -ly), X (very) great, judges, X mighty. In Strong’s definition, see how Elohim is defined as the supreme God or just gods, also magistrates, angels judges, or even godly or mighty.  Clearly, Elohim doesn’t just mean God the Father. Thayer says that besides God,  theos can also mean God’s representative or viceregent,  including magistrates and judges

last edited 1/5/2022

November 8th, 2021 Posted by | Biblical Translation And Interpretation, Tradition | no comments

John 1 – The meaning of the Logos; The Slippery Slope of Applying Mathematical Precision to Language Expressions

This is a rewrite of an article published a dozen or so years ago with more insight hopefully to make clearer what the beginning of the Gospel of John actually says.  As John 1:1-14 is not literal the original article focused on how languages are imprecise and could be misleading if someone tried to take the section literally,  In this rewrite, I have added more on the actual meaning of John chapter one, and that is where I want to start.

As always on this website, our goal is to discover what the original Christians believed in order to see how we got from what the scriptures actually say to the myriad denominations and traditions that disagree on so many things today, no matter how different it may be from what we think right now.

First, thinking that the first chapter of John is the first place that the concept of the logos, the word of God, in operation and as part of creation is discussed in the manner it is presented is a mistake. More likely it is God’s response to a topic already prevalent in the culture. As we will see later the concept of logos had developed in the culture at that time to take on a meaning that was very similar to and integrated with how wisdom was presented in Old Testament scripture.  This concept is recognized by writers from different denominational backgrounds today. I found an interesting article explaining just this by a Catholic priest.[1]

Part of the problem in this topic is that many people today don’t understand the concept of personification, Or, if they do, they don’t recognize it at times, like we are going to be looking at in scripture.  Look at these examples:

Let the sea roar with its fullness; the world, and those who dwell therein. Let the rivers clap their hands. Let the mountains sing for joy together. Let them sing before Yahweh, for he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with equity. (Psa 98:7-9 WEB)

These verses say that there are rivers that clap their hands and mountains that sing. What vivid imagery! What a powerful way to communicate. These nonhuman things, rivers, and mountains are talked about as people. That’s personification.

The waters saw you, God. The waters saw you, and they writhed. The depths also convulsed. (Psa 77:16 WEB)

Here’s another example. People writhe and convulse, waters really don’t. That’s personification. But what powerful imagery.

Yahweh said, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood cries to me from the ground. (Gen 4:10 WEB)

Or how about this one? Blood may be part of a human, but it’s not a person. Yet this blood is “crying from the ground”. What a powerful impact these words make. That’s personification.

Look at how wisdom is personified in places in the Old Testament

Doesn’t wisdom cry out? Doesn’t understanding raise her voice? On the top of high places by the way, where the paths meet, she stands. Beside the gates, at the entry of the city, at the entry doors, she cries aloud: “To you men, I call! I send my voice to the sons of mankind…Yahweh possessed me in the beginning of his work, before his deeds of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, before the earth existed. When there were no depths, I was born, when there were no springs abounding with water. Before the mountains were settled in place, before the hills, I was born; while as yet he had not made the earth, nor the fields, nor the beginning of the dust of the world. When he established the heavens, I was there; when he set a circle on the surface of the deep, when he established the clouds above, when the springs of the deep became strong, when he gave to the sea its boundary, that the waters should not violate his commandment, when he marked out the foundations of the earth; then I was the craftsman by his side. I was a delight day by day, always rejoicing before him, rejoicing in his whole world. My delight was with the sons of men.  (Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31 WEB) [bolded emphasis added]

In the very first verse above wisdom and understanding are described as a person. “Doesn’t understanding raise her voice?” “She stands.”  “She cries out.” These are all sentences talking about a nonhuman thing as if it were a person. Personification is the figure of speech used here.

Personification is a figure of speech in which an idea or thing is given human attributes and/or feelings or is spoken of as if it were human. Personification is a common form of metaphor in that human characteristics are attributed to nonhuman things.[2]

In the above verses from Proverbs, we see that one of the ways that Jews thought about wisdom was to describe it as a wondrous lady. This wondrous lady, wisdom, was there from the beginning before the earth existed. She is described as the craftsman by Yahweh’s side. She’s described as of delight of the Lord. But wisdom is not a person. Wisdom is a quality that is extremely valuable. Wisdom is the capacity to understand and act accordingly. Wisdom is such an awesome thing, but it is not a person. Yet the Old Testament talks about it as if it were, this is one of the ways that the Jews thought about things.

Next, in verses 24 and 25 of Proverbs 8, it says this “I was born.”  Since wisdom was born, it is a created thing, it had a beginning.

Solomon is credited as the author of Proverbs. One source lists Solomon’s life as from 989 to 931 BC.[3] When Solomon wrote proverbs the Logos was not the concept that it would become later. Proverbs’ discussion of wisdom predates the promotion of the concept of the Logos especially the Stoic philosophy that was influential in the world at the time of the Apostles and which started around the fourth century BC.  The Stoics believed in the Logos as the animating, intelligent principle of the universe. The Stoics promoted seeking God’s wisdom in people’s lives by tapping into God’s powerful intelligence, i.e., the Logos.

“The Stoics believed that to achieve freedom, happiness, and meaning one should attune one’s life to the wisdom of God’s will, manifest in the second distinction (above) of Logos.”[4]

In the above statement we have a correlation between wisdom and the Logos that was part of contemporary thinking at the time of the apostles.

Having explained all this I make this claim, trying to take John 1:1-14 literally and mathematically analyze the wording to equate God, Jesus, and the Logos in the prologue of John’s gospel is a mistake and doesn’t reflect the meaning of the concept of Logos at all.  John 1:1-14 is not literal.  Just as wisdom is presented with the figure of speech personification, so is the Logos in John chapter one.

Just as today there are topics that are discussed around the world like evolution, Islamic Jihadism, communism, and so forth, there were concepts that were just as heavily discussed 2000 years ago.  We have already discussed the Stoic emphasis on the Logos but they were not alone in discussing the Logos in their writings.  Philosophers, religious writers, and others, one after another, identified the Logos in their scheme of reasoning as a divine principle in the grand scheme of life. Before the Stoics began incorporating the idea of the Logos there was Heraclitus centuries before them. And not only was the Logos part of Greek philosophical discussion it was in Indian, Egyptian, and Persian thinking, in their discussions of both philosophy and theology.[5]

In the previous article on stoicism, we discussed the stoic view of God, whom they defined as the Logos:

“… the universe is a single ordered whole, a perfect organism that unites within itself all that exists in the world. It is ruled by a supreme cosmic power, a fiery substance that the Stoics called Logos, Divine Reason, or God.  The Logos is the organizing, integrating, and energizing principle of the whole universe.  As a perfect entity, the universe combines within itself the Logos or Divine Reason, which is its soul, and matter, which serves as its body. Since everything is derived from God, everything is a part of God, but not separated or cut from the whole.  Each individual soul is a fragment of the universal Logos or God.”[6]

An individual who lived around the time of the writer of the gospel of John was the Jewish philosopher Philo. Philo wrote about the Logos.  Philo was familiar with the stoic interpretation of the Logos, but attempted to bring it closer to his understanding of the Old Testament.

“For the Stoics, logos was equally reason (individual and universal), nature, and God, while for Philo, logos is not ultimate reality but merely what we can see and understand of God, who is Himself very far from human comprehension. In Stoicism, logos is God; in Philo it corresponds to his specific doctrine of the dunameis, the powers of God who created the world and governs it.”[7]

These explanations of stoic and Philo’s interpretation of the Logos illustrate that the Logos was a concept people were talking about at the time that the gospel of John was written.  They also illustrate that there was debate about what it was.

Philo’s concept of the Logos as the dunameis, the power of God in action, is much closer to the explanation given in the prologue of the Gospel of John than any kind of quick mathematical analysis perfectly equating the Logos to both God and his Son.

More closely to the language of the times the prologue of John says that the Word of God is the powerful energized plan of God. It is God’s wisdom with dunamis power, This powerful energized plan of God has been with him from the beginning and is what we know about God the Father.

We see that energy in the Word of God (Logos) in Isaiah 55.

So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. (Isa 55:11 KJV)

While man’s word may be powerless, as we see in the verse above, there is power in the word (the Logos) of God.

In reality, as tiny, short-lived, finite beings we can only understand that part of God that he reveals to us. This Word of God, this plan of redemption that God set in motion, revealed through the law and the prophets, and experienced through our spiritual connection with him is God to us.  But also in reality, the little bit of God that has been revealed to us cannot in any way fully express to our tiny minds who God is.  We will see more of this when we look at the translation of John 1:1 especially.

Now, onto the topic of trying to apply mathematical precision to language expressions because that is what a lot of people studying the Bible attempt to do with John chapter one. In a previous article, Grammar and Logic – Boring But Invaluable, I wrote “Another mistake is to substitute the logic of one discipline for another. An area where I have seen this kind of mistake is in the fields of mathematics and languages. For example, some people read the word “is” and ascribe to that word the mathematical definition of “equals”.”

One comment on the previous article was that a common-sense reading of John 1 is that the Word is someone and that someone is Jesus. This comment is taking the verses literally instead of recognizing that personification is being used here. That comment is saying that the Logos, the Word, is a person.  Then that person is equated to Jesus Christ.  That is taking the section literally and analyzing it mathematically.  The problem is that languages aren’t that precise, especially here which we shall see when we look at the Greek.

Greek, grammar, syntax, and mathematical notation are all boring, but they are the only way to know what something means. So, if you want to understand why it is important, you need to get through this more tedious part of the article

First of all, there is a mathematical language in the world that is used because it allows mathematicians to say things precisely.  There may be some English or other spoken language in Math but mainly it uses precise mathematical symbols.  For example, the following allows someone to express something precisely, in this case, part of Taylor’s Theorem:

I know, it looks like gibberish to a lot of people.  But, it’s not important what the above math says. What’s important is that this statement is free from the ambiguity of English and other languages.  It’s precise.

On the other hand, you can’t just apply mathematical precision to English or other language expressions. For example, in mathematics, we have the axiom that two things that are both equal to a third thing are equal to each other. Or, as it is written mathematically, if a equals b, and b equals c, then a equals c. You can use this axiom ad infinitum. If c equals d also, then a would equal d, and so forth.

It is written like this:

If a = b and b = c, then a = c.

The difference is that the “=” symbol means equals. The word “is” may or may not mean “equals”.

This applies universally to expressions people use to communicate. Still, the temptation is to say that anywhere someone uses the word “is”, you can substitute the word “equals” and that is a slippery slope.

First, sometimes the logic does work, and here is an example:

Minerals are inanimate.  Quartz is a mineral.  Therefore, Quartz is inanimate.

The above is a syllogism, a concept introduced by Aristotle.

However, there are numerous examples where the word “is” doesn’t mean “equals”.  For example, US President Barack Obama (A) is a man (B). Nelson Mandela (C) is a man (B). Would anybody try to apply the above mathematical logic and say that Nelson Mandela is the U.S. president? Or that Nelson Mandela is Barack Obama?

Barack Obama (A) = a man (B) = Nelson Mandela (C)
Therefore Barack Obama (A) = Nelson Mandela (C).

That obviously doesn’t make sense! Nelson Mandela was at one time the President of South Africa and was a terrific world leader. Whether or not you agree with his politics Barack Obama held the power of the U.S. presidency, a position of great honor and power. Yet, trying to substitute “equals” for “is” equates Nelson Mandela and Barack Obama as the same man. These two both are men, but they do not equal each other; in fact, they are very different men. And in fact, there are no examples where one man would “equal” another. John McCain, Kobe Bryant, Lebron James, Peyton Manning, and James Earl Jones are all men. But we all agree John McCain is NOT Kobe Bryant who is NOT Lebron James who is NOT Peyton Manning who is NOT James Earl Jones.

Yet the application of mathematical precision to the word “is” as “equals” is exactly what many bible students do in the prologue of the gospel of John. The gospel of John says that the Logos is God.  It also says this same Logos was in the beginning with God.  A little further down the page, it says that the Logos became flesh and dwelt among men.  So, we have mathematically inclined students teaching that this is a mathematical expression. They say that the Logos equals God, that the Logos was in the beginning with God, and that the Logos was made flesh and dwelt among us. So, to them. we have a mathematical proof that Jesus is God, the God-man.

More specifically, defining “is” as “equals” to John 1 gives us this series of equations:

The Word = God

The  Word = Jesus Christ

Using the transitive property of mathematical precision we get:

The Word = God = Jesus Christ.

However, if you are going to apply mathematical precision defining “is” as “equals” to this statement then you need to apply it fully to all elements. The principle says that things equal to the same thing are equal to each other.  Why aren’t people saying that the Word is God and part of the Trinity?  There are three elements here all supposedly equal to each other, the Word, God (the Father), and Jesus (the word made flesh).  There is a trinity here, but there is no Holy Spirit.  The trinity here is God the Father, the Son, and the Word.  But no one is saying that the Word fully equates to God as part of the trinity (instead of the Son or Spirit), but if you apply their logic that would be a valid conclusion!

Here is more about how imprecise this language is. Take a look at John 1:1 in Greek. When the Greek refers to God the Father it uses the article “the”.  If it doesn’t include the article then it’s not referring to God the Father. Rather, it’s used to describe a “god” or even a magistrate, also used as a modifier like godly or godward.

Here’s is what Strong’s Greek Dictionary says about the word theos in Greek Texts:

Strong’s: 2316: theos: a deity, espec him. (with #3588, (the definite article “Ho”)): the supreme Divinity figuratively, a magistrate; by Heb. very:- exceeding, God, god [-ly, ward].

It is a little cryptic, but in Strong’s definition above, it says that the word theos with the definite article refers to the supreme Divinity. The supreme Divinity is God the Father. Otherwise, theos alone, without the definite article (ho), can refer to a god, or mean godly or godward.

Here’s the interlinear text:

Do you see how the Greek has “the God” the first place theos is used, but not the second? The first place theos is used it is literally referring to the God Almighty.  But, the second place doesn’t say “the God” which is the Greek that refers to God Almighty. So, the second usage of theos is descriptive rather than literal. Instead of saying the logos is God Almighty, it is saying that the logos is godly.  This is more accurate:

In this translation, I have used “godlike”.  As Strong’s says, I could have used godly.  When you don’t have the article, the meaning changes to “god” (small g) or becomes descriptive. In this verse “god” (small g) doesn’t work. So it is saying that the Logos is godlike.  The Logos is godly.  That phrase is absolutely not saying that the Logos is equal to “the God”.

The Greek text above does not support the translation, “the Word was God”.  In order to be accurately saying “the Word was God”, you really need an article before the word” God” in Greek.

However, most versions of the Bible have something like:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (Joh 1:1 WEB)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (Joh 1:1 ASV)

Again, in order for this verse to be saying that the Logos is actually God, it needs an article before God in Greek. These translations are imprecise, and as such, are misleading without the proper understanding.

John 1:1-14 personifies the Logos just like Proverbs chapter 8. Remember personification is treating a thing as if it were a person.  Wisdom in Proverbs was treated like a person, the Logos referred to here is treated like a person.  But neither is actually a person.  Yet the pronouns of she, he, him, and her in these verses refer to these non-human things, wisdom, and Logos (word).  I have added [wisdom] and [Logos] to the verses to emphasize that.

The prologue of John says that the Word of God, the Logos is wisdom with dunamis (a Greek word for dynamic power). This powerful energized plan of God has been with him from the beginning and is what we know about God the Father.

The same was in the beginning with God. (Joh 1:2 WEB)

This Logos, this Wisdom with dunamis power was there with him in the beginning just like it says in Prov 8:22.

“Yahweh possessed me [wisdom] in the beginning of his work, before his deeds of old. I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, before the earth existed.
(Pro 8:22-23 WEB)

Both Logos and wisdom were there when things were being made.

All things were made through him [Logos]. Without him [Logos] was not anything made that has been made. (Joh 1:3 WEB)

Compare this to Proverbs chapter 8.

When he established the heavens, I [wisdom] was there; when he set a circle on the surface of the deep, when he established the clouds above, when the springs of the deep became strong, when he gave to the sea its boundary, that the waters should not violate his commandment, when he marked out the foundations of the earth; then I [wisdom] was the craftsman by his side. I [wisdom] was a delight day by day, always rejoicing before him, (Pro 8:27-30 WEB)

The Old Testament says wisdom, the Gospel of John says the Logos.  They are talking about the same thing, God’s power enabled wisdom, his energized plan.

In him [Logos] was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness hasn’t overcome it. (Joh 1:4-5 WEB)

Compare that to:

For whoever finds me [wisdom], finds life, and will obtain favor from Yahweh. But he who sins against me [wisdom] wrongs his own soul. All those who hate me [wisdom] love death.” (Pro 8:35-36 WEB)

John 1:4 says the Logos is life, Proverbs 8:35 says wisdom is life. They are talking about the same thing.  The “him” in John 1 and the “me” in Proverbs 8 are the Logos, the wisdom. Again, this is the figure of speech, personification, calling an inhuman thing human.

Next, we have,

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness hasn’t overcome it. There came a man, sent from God, whose name was John. The same came as a witness, that he might testify about the light, that all might believe through him [Logos]. He was not the light, but was sent that he might testify about the light. (Joh 1:5-8 WEB)

This is the first time a real man is mentioned, John the Baptist.  He is part of this Wisdom, this Logos, and was sent to bear witness to the Light.  John wasn’t the light, John wasn’t the Logos, but was sent that all might believe through him (the Logos spoken of as a person).

Next, look at:

The true light that enlightens everyone was coming into the world. He [Logos] was in the world, and the world was made through him [Logos], and the world didn’t recognize him [Logos]. He [Logos] came to his own, and those who were his own didn’t receive him [logos]. But as many as received him, to them he gave the right to become God’s children, to those who believe in his name: who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. The Word [Logos] became flesh, and lived among us. We saw his [Logos’] glory, such glory as of the one and only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth. (Joh 1:9-14 WEB)

These verses have no parallel in Proverbs 8 because John is announcing that the Wisdom of Proverbs 8, this Logos, has generated a solution in the flesh.  The Word became flesh.  It wasn’t flesh before, but Wisdom, the Logos had been working toward it all along. Part of this plan was to produce a man that was capable of redeeming mankind.  Here’s how that happened.

The angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore also the holy one who is born from you will be called the Son of God. (Luk 1:35 WEB)

This act allowed the Word of God, Wisdom in Proverbs 8, the Logos in John 1 to become flesh and enter the world in the person of Jesus Christ. This was God’s plan all along.  This was the seed promised to Eve. This was Savior promised by the prophets. This man was created to become the embodiment of this plan.  And as such, he was a man called to be the living Word of God. He was called to carry out God’s plan for redemption.

Jesus Christ, our Lord, is that human fulfillment of God’s energized wisdom, the logos. Just as the logos is God to us, but less than the total of all that God is, Jesus is that part of God’s plan that works to provide a human savior for mankind. As such, Jesus is the embodiment, the wisdom for that energized plan.  He is the living Word of God.  That is in no ways a small feat, but that does not make the living Logos equal to the creator

In original Christianity, the Logos, which is wisdom in Proverbs 8, had a beginning.  It was before the creation of the earth, but it was not co-eternal.  All of this is important because this first chapter in John in the third century was misconstrued to say that this Logos is co-eternal with God, a foundational piece of fourth-century theology.  However, this was not the belief of the original Apostles. To see that we read Justin Martyr who around 150 AD wrote that Jesus Christ existed, before his birth, but it was only in the mind of God.  Justin wrote of the Logos and the Son as subordinate to the Father.

“Justin’s emphasis is on the divine Logos, subordinate to God the father , yet his Son,  His agent, and one with Him in some true, though rather indefinite, sense.”[8]

No matter what people believe now, this is documentation of what original Christianity believed.  In original Christianity, the Logos had a beginning,  Jesus Christ had a beginning.

It wasn’t until Kallistos in the middle of the third century that the logos Christology taught that Jesus Christ was coeternal with God. And after him, Novation started using the terminology that Jesus Christ shared a “communion of substance”.[9] But this is hundreds of years after Pentecost and perhaps a hundred and fifty years after the passing of the apostles.

So, what we see is that the Trinitarianism that has been dominant since the fourth century didn’t even exist in the time of the original apostles. With the advent of incorporating philosophy with the apologists, we see concepts such as the Logos changing over time. But the original apostles and other Christian believers believed that the Logos, the wisdom of God, had a beginning and understood that it was a personification of something that God created because that is part of how they communicated. Yes, these concepts changed over time, but as it says in Encyclopedia Britannica, even going into the third century, Unitarianism (God as one person) was the dominant belief of Christianity. The Logos as a creation of God was still dominant even though it was changing from its original meaning in the church as the church embraced philosophy.

“Even after the elimination of Gnosticism the church remained without any uniform Christology; the Trinitarians and the Unitarians continue to confront each other, the latter at the beginning of the third century still forming the large majority.”[10]

As it says above, Unitarians still formed a large majority at the beginning of the third century, indicating the Original Christian church started out Unitarian.

I have to admit I was shocked the first time I saw this (and other reputable references pointing to the same outcome) in print.   I had read a lot of things about how the Trinity was developed over time and wasn’t in place originally but I had never read that while there was debate early on, it was Unitarianism that was in place originally, that it was still the dominant belief going into the third century. What an eye-opener!

So, not only is the wording insufficient to establish the Logos is actually God, we have the historical record that shows that the original Christians didn’t believe the Logos was God the Father but subordinate to the Father. They believed that God the Father alone is God. They believed that both the son and the Logos were inferior and subordinate to the Father.  The first chapter of John personifies the Logos as a person just as wisdom is personified in the Old Testament but neither makes Wisdom or the Logos actually God. They are god-like, they represent the best we can understand of who God is.

John chapter one is an insight both into Jewish thinking and an explanation of how God works. God knew what would happen before creation so part of creation is a plan to redeem man whom God knew would sin.  God made a plan and energized it.  Proverbs 8 calls that plan wisdom, John 1 calls that plan the Logos. Part of that plan was to make produce a seed of Eve that would step on the head of the adversary, and redeem us from sin. The Logos is still working and will work until the final victory.

[1] Logos as Fulfilment of Wisdom in Israel, https://www.faith.org.uk/article/september-october-2009-logos-as-fulfilment-of-wisdom-in-israel

[2] https://literarydevices.net/personification/

[3] http://timeline.biblehistory.com/event/solomon

[4] Logos, https://www.pbs.org/faithandreason/theogloss/logos-body.html

[5] Logos philosophy and theology, https://www.britannica.com/topic/logos

[6] The Story of Philosophy, Will Durant, Touchstone, Simon & Schuster New York, 1961. p.51

[7] https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/philo/

[8] A History of The Christian Church, Williston Walker, Scribner, New York, 1959, p. 47

[9] A History of the Christian church, P. 70

[10]  The Encyclopaedia Britannica Vol.23 :  Internet Archive p.963

last edited 1/18/2022

September 30th, 2021 Posted by | Biblical Translation And Interpretation, Grammar and Logic | no comments