Sunday, June 18, 2017

On God, gods, and God's son

This is a sequel to my prior post:

Unitarian apologist Roman Montero has attempted to rehabilitate his original response to me:

It actually is explicitly whether or not Jesus is the Christ in verse 24 they say “if you are the messiah tell us plainly.” They didn’t ask for his identity they asked whether or not he was the messiah.

False dichotomy. Questioning whether he's the messiah is a question about his true identity. 

But it does preclude it for all intents and purposes since messiah means “anointed one” and the assumption is that he is anointed by God, to do God’s will. God doesn’t need to be anointed by anyone. 

i) That commits a semantic fallacy. The conceptual meaning of "messiah" is a different issue from the etymological or idiomatic meaning of the word "messiah". The concept of messiahship isn't confined to occurrences of the word "messiah". Rather, that's a theological construct based on many OT motifs. For instance, many "messianic prophecies" don't use the word "messiah". But they contribute to the overall concept of messiahship. 

ii) Moreover, the concept of messiahship will vary according to the speaker. The Jewish opponents of Christ may have a different idea of messiahship than Jesus or NT writers. They may fail to recognize the messianic significance of certain OT motifs or oracles.

Also there is no precedent on Judaism for a messiah who is Yahweh himself.

Begs the question.

Whatever word Jesus used in Aramaic is irrelevant, John wrote the gospel of John and had he intended his readers to recall the Shema he would have used words that actually reflected the Shema. 

That commits a genre confusion. If the writing in question was an epistle, then that observation would have some purchase, but in historical accounts, it is necessary to distinguish between the audience within the narrative and the audience for the book. The statements of Jesus in Jn 10 (and elsewhere) aren't directed at the audience for John's Gospel. Montero is confusing the reception history of the Gospel with the historical incident that John records. In the narrative, the Jewish opponents of Jesus constitute the original audience for this exchange. 

It's deeply confused for Montero to say Jn 10:30 wouldn't trigger an association with the Shema because the narrator doesn't use the wording of the LXX. For the frame of reference is the audience Jesus is addressing at that particular time and place, and not a reader outside that setting. 

Montero is making the same blunder as people who discern sacramental references in Jn 3 & Jn 6. They disregard the historical setting for those statements, and act as though Jesus is speaking directly to a later reader who's conditioned by subsequent developments in church history. 

John used the LXX (as did all the NT writers and early Church) if he wanted to evoke he shema he would have actually done so.

NT writers frequently deviate from the LXX. 

Why couldn’t John have used the masculine form, had he wanted to cite the Shema there’s no reason he wouldn’t have.

Jesus isn't quoting the Shema. Rather, Jesus is alluding to the Shema, but incorporating himself into the Shema. He reformulates the Shema. 

The Bible typically uses the masculine gender when referring to God. But due to a shift from singular to plural in Jn 10:30, it's natural to use the neuter gender instead since one function of the neuter gender is to express abstract ideas. Deut 6:4 refers to a concrete individual whereas two individuals as one ("I and the Father are one") conveys an abstract concept. 

If you look at 24-29, Jesus never actually uses “son of God” as a title in that conversation. So they aren’t reacting to “son of God” as a title.

There's a cumulative reaction to Jesus. They've been on his case for some time. The allegation that he "makes himself God" isn't based on any particular word or phrase, but a range of words deeds and by Christ. 

Also there is no reason we should favor a capital G God over a small g god, since θεόν is without the article.

They accuse him of blasphemy. So they're using "God" as a synonym for "Yahweh".

They were wrong because there are plenty of beings in the Bible called gods.

They rightly sense that he's not describing himself in that lesser sense. 

(had the Jews been claiming that Jesus was calling himself Yahweh citing psalms 82 would make no sense, since those beings are call gods in the lesser non-Yahweh sense), so him being called god or a god is not blasphemy. 

It makes sense as an a fortiori argument. 

Also he didn’t call himself god or a god, but rather God’s son and is thus NOT making himself a god.

They didn't accuse him of making himself "a god". So his accusers are using "God" as a synonym for "Yahweh". 

The same noun can have different meanings, viz. abstract noun, concrete noun, common noun, proper noun. I've discussed that before.

Where did he make the equivalence between God and gods son, they accusing him of making himself god (or a god).

Once more, they didn't accuse him of making himself "a god". So his accusers are using "God" as a synonym for "Yahweh".

he replied that he called himself Gods son, it was a reply to the charge.

Actually, he did more than that. In v35, he mentions those whom the "word of God" came. Now if the "gods" in Ps 82 refer to human Jewish judges, the "word of God" would have reference to God's verbal revelations to Israel. 

However, many scholars think it's either a sarcastic reference to heathen deities or else a reference to angels. But what event involving the "word of God" would correspond to that identification? On that identification, this is probably a flashback to the Prologue, where the divine Logos is the Creator God of Genesis. He made the angels. 

Let me ask you though, in your exegesis, what is Jesus’s actual reply? How does it answer the charge? What was the point of citing psalms 82?

I already explained that. Follow the bouncing ball. 

Right but in these cases, in the OT, Gods son is always referring to a human son or an angelic son or Israel as a nation, a ontologically lesser entity than Yahweh. Psalms 2 was to David, 2 Samuel 7:14 and 1 chronicles 27:6 refer to Solomon. Genesis 6:2-4, Job 1:6; 38:4-7 and Psalms 89:6 refer to angels. Exodus 4:22-23 refers to Israel, and so on and so forth.

i) To begin with, does Montero reject messianic prophecy? Does he think these passages only refer to historical kings of Israel? 

ii) In addition, Montero misses the point. The identification isn't confined to the use of the word "father" or "son", but related concepts of king and prince in royal succession. At the level of human analogies, the king/prince relation is typically a father/son relation. So there's that specific equivalence, in that particular context. A prince/son who succeeds the king/father. 

Montero suffers from an atomistic approach, where he's fixated on isolated words rather than Biblical concepts, motifs, and evolving theological constructs in progressive revelation. 

So yes it can mean a “divine” son, in the sense that created angelic creatures are “divine”, but there is an infinite gap between that “divine” and the kind of divinity that applies to Yahweh.

Not how I'm using the term. 

I don’t know what you mean by “truly divine”. Do you mean figures that can be rightly called divine? In that case sure, angels and humans are “truly” divine, do you mean divine in the sense that Yahweh is divine?

"Divine" in the same sense that Yahweh is divine. 

The thing is this is you equivocating. Define “divine” and then stick to it. 

Montero is a Johnny-come-lately to this discussion. I've defined my terminology on many occasions in multiple exchanges with Dale Tuggy. 

If “sons of God” is a divine title, and by divine you mean something that can include human kings and angels, then yeah, sure it’s a divine title; but that doesn’t get you a millimeter closer to a trinitarian Christology. 

Notice that Montero is imputing his examples and interpretations to me, then accusing me of "equivocation". His accusation is muddleheaded. I don't grant his frame of reference or his interpretations. 

If you mean divine in the sense of only referring to Yahweh, then no, it’s never used as a divine title.

"Sonship" is used as a divine title in Isa 9:6, and it's frequently used as a divine title in the NT.

Again, you need to define deity, in one sense so is Satan, so are angels and so on. In another sense only Yahweh is.

Deity as in Yahweh. Deity as in possessing incommunicable divine attributes or incommunicable divine prerogatives. 

Except it doesn’t say the Word was with the Father, it says the Word was with “God” 

I'm sorry, but that's obtuse. You need to interpret the designations in light of the Prologue as a whole, where the narrator alternates between the "Father" and "God" as a synonymous proper name for the Father. 

and the Word was deity. And Deity can be used of angels as well.

Montero is oblivious to context. Jn 1:1-5 is a studied allusion to the creation account in Gen 1. The Word was deity in the same sense that the Creator God in Gen 1 was deity. That's the frame of reference. 

But the Word was not τν θεόν, it was θες. Now you’re right that it implies Deity, but again, it’s not the same kind of Deity as the God who he is with.

Once again, that's confused. In Jn 1:1, the second clause uses the articular rather than anarthrous construction because one function of the Greek definite article is to denote a proper name, and the narrator is using "God" in the second clause as a proper name for the Father. 

By the way he prologue is paralleling Philo’s logos theology. For Philo the logos is a secondary, created being through whome the god Yahweh creates. So John doesn’t identity Jesus as he creator, but the one through whome all things are created; echoing Philo’s language. Whether or not John drew from Philo or Plato himself or was simply using common language is besides the point, he point is John knew how his prologue would be read by his intended audience (non Jewish Christians).

i) The Philonic Logos could never become Incarnate, pace the Johannine Logos (Jn 1:14).

ii) In addition, that involves a Platonized Judaism which denies that God creates directly. There must be intermediaries between God and the world. So the Philonic Logos is a Demiurge to shield the transcendence of God. But that's moves in a conceptual world quite alien to Biblical theism. 

iii) Assuming that "non-Jewish Christians" are John's intended audience, there's no reason to think they'd be familiar with Philonic Judaism, or take an interest in Philonic Judaism. At best, that would only resonate with some Diaspora Jews. 

Why wouldn’t he include himself in divine beings such as angels or the “sons of god” of Job and Psalms?

He's not including himself, but contrasting himself. Does Montero not know what an a fortiori argument is? 

The most quoted scriptures in relation to Christ in the NT are psalms 110:1 where Jesus is the non-Yahweh “lord”, and Daniel 7:13-14 where Jesus is the non-Yahweh “son of man”. Both those scriptures, used countless of times for Christ, exclude the possibility of him being Yahweh.

I recently discussed Ps 110:

Montero doesn't bother to explain how Dan 7 excludes the possibility that messiah is Yahweh. 

Yeah, but there is nothing distinguishing the way they are “one”. In fact Jesus makes it clear that they are “one” in the same way Jesus and the Father are “one”; 

Where does Jn 17 say that? 

Isn’t John 17 talking about them using the same language as John 10:30?

Different context.


  1. "Also there is no precedent on Judaism for a messiah who is Yahweh himself."

    There's no precedent before Abraham for God contracting himself to a single nation. Like God needed to get the 2nd Temple seal of approval before revealing the NT.

    "So yes it can mean a “divine” son, in the sense that created angelic creatures are “divine”, but there is an infinite gap between that “divine” and the kind of divinity that applies to Yahweh."

    There's an infinite gap between the God who creates and the gods who don't. Philo doesn't help with this as John's "Word" and Philo's "Word" don't even belong in the same stadium as one another.

    "Except it doesn’t say the Word was with the Father, it says the Word was with “God”"

    That's about the right level of stupid you'd expect from a unitarian.

    "and the Word was deity. And Deity can be used of angels as well."

    So... you think the carefully crafted prologue, that obsesses over Jesus' uniqueness, says nothing more than Jesus is another divine being like Baal or Milcom?

    1. You say these Things but you don't argue for them. The fact that there is no precedant for God contracting himself to a single nation is irrelevant, because he explicitly did so, he said he was making a covenant, and he didn't use Language that contradicted that. It's a Whole different issue.

      Who says John's Word and Philo's Word don't belong in the same stadium? It's the same Language, it's the same kind of writing, so why not? If you want to say they don't then you must argue for it. You can't assume it.

      Jesus being absolutely Unique is not an argument that he is Yahweh, not at all. The difference between Jesus and any other Divine Being (real or fake, deamon or angel) is that he is God's annointed Messiah send to the world to rescue mankind. And, according to John, the Firstborn of God through which all creation came into being, Yahweh's agent of Creation.

      That's rather unique, but uniqueness is not evidence of being Yahweh himself.

  2. If this is Your exegesis of John 10:34-36 then you're in trouble.
    Here is my reply: