Monday, June 19, 2017

Blasphemy and Jesus

The unitarian attempted another response:

I don’t really understand your point here, why then do the gospel writers constantly use the LXX in regards to scripture quotations? 

Montero keeps swinging and missing. Jesus isn't quoting the Shema in Jn 10:30. Go back and read what I actually said. Try responding to that for a change.

Did John NOT know that Jesus was referring to the Shema? If he didn’t then what are we even talking about? 

Indeed, what is Montero even talking about? 

If he did why didn’t he give some indication in the text that this is what Jesus was referring to? He certainly could have used the masculine form of “one”, he could have given some clues in the text. Jesus could have actually used words (other than one) that actually referred to the Shema.

Which tendentiously assumes there is no such indication. 

John wrote his gospel, presumably, to be understood by people. Had Jesus referred to the Shema in verse 30 and John wanted people to know it, he would have done something to let people know; he didn’t.

Based on what? A unitarian standard of comparison? 

Some readers do see an allusion to the Shema (e.g. Bauckham, Köstenberger).

I’m not disregarding the historical setting, what evidence is there that the Shema would be associated with the term “me and the Father”? I’m also not disregarding the fact that John wrote his gospel to be understood by people who read Greek and knew the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible.

As you said, Jesus didn’t speak in Greek, we don’t’ know the exact wording he used, all we know is what John wrote down for us, and John wasn’t an idiot, if Jesus referred to the Shema John would have made that clear in the text somehow, he didn’t.

i) John must be an idiot if he doesn't express himself to Montero's satisfaction. 

ii) Montero's objection is based on a distinction that, at best, only works in Greek, yet he's forced to admit that the original conversation didn't take place in Greek. 

Unless of course you just think anyone any form of the word “one” is used it’s a reference to the Shema, which I don’t think you do.

Try considering how words are used in context. 

Of course there isn’t just one LXX, but do you have ANY example of the Shema being written in Greek using ν? It can be in the New Testament as well … go ahead and show me, maybe I missed one.

Since I don't grant how Montero has framed the issue, that's a specious challenge. 

Now this is confusing. Ok, let’s break this down, The Shema refers to one individual, yes, (by the way the masculine form can also be used for abstract concepts For example 1 Thess. 5:11, ες τν να, refers to a corporate group…

i) That's an idiomatic phrase. It doesn't follow that if you detach a word from an idiomatic phrase, that it will perform the same function.

ii) Moreover, Montero is equivocating: ες τν να differentiates one individual from another ("one on one", "one to one") whereas Jn 10:30 combines two individuals. So it's not "corporate" in the same sense. 

and the feminine μία also often refers to concepts) but that’s the point? 

Of course, the feminine gender would be unsuitable in denoting male referents (father, son, Jesus). 

Now if Jesus changed it to the neuter to express and abstract idea, such as him and the father are one in some way (similar to the way the apostles are to be one in John 17), then we are no longer dealing with the Shema at all, the word “one” doesn’t mean the same thing—So then where is the connection to the Shema?

It reformulates the Shema like Paul's reformulates the Shema in 1 Cor 8:6. 

So what? A reference to the Shema is still a reference, in John 10:30 there was no context where the Shema should come up. 

The context is who Jesus is. If Jesus is Yahweh Incarnate, then that's quite germane to the context. We see similar debates in Jn 5 and Jn 8.

The Fourth Gospel records disputes between Jesus and Jewish opponents regarding his nature and mission. This is just one case in point. 

(the Shema isn’t a messianic verse)…

The Shema is germane to the nature of messiah. 

so if the language used by Jesus is a reference to the Shema (it isn’t), then why shouldn’t John 17 be?

Different context.

Montero then appeals to 17:11, but that segregates the Father and Son, on the one hand, from Christians, on the other. So it's not interchangeable.

How do you know? Blasphemy is not just “calling yourself Yahweh”, in fact I don’t think you can find precedent for that anywhere … 

Is Montero operating with the simplistic notion that blasphemy requires the speaker to explicitly call himself "Yahweh"? Is that the source of his confusion?

In the Gospels, the Jewish opponents of Jesus accuse him of blasphemy for exercising divine prerogatives or using divine appellations. That's tantamount to claiming to be Yahweh.

At the trial of Jesus, his accusers regard "son of God" as a divine title. And since they think Jesus is merely human, they regard the ascription of that title to Jesus as blasphemous (cf. Mt 26:63-65; Mk 14:61-64; Lk 22:67-71; Jn 19:7). That's not a Trinitarian understanding of the title, but a Jewish understanding of the title. 

It's not synonymous with the plural form, as a designation for angels, or a corporate, adoptive metaphor for Israel. 

There is NO indication that they are using Θεός (without the article mind you, had John wanted to make it clear that they were referring to Yahweh surely he would have included the article, especially given Jesus’s response) as a synonym for Yahweh. 

This is one of Montero's chronic confusions. He acts as though the only way to claim to be God is to use a proper name for God. He suffers from a mental block, as if a speaker can't imply that he's Yahweh by using divine titles or exercising divine prerogatives. 

Just because they say it’s Blasphemy doesn’t necessarily mean that at all, the charge could refer to any number of things.

The Jesus opponents of Jesus are clear on what they mean. They infer that he's "making himself God". Equivalent to "making himself equal with God" (5:18). 

You don’t know that it is a synonym for “Yahweh”, you’d have to argue for it. I don’t know why you write off, a priori, the idea that Jesus is setting himself up as “a god” and that, to them, is blasphemy.

Montero himself doesn't think it would be blasphemous to use "god" in a lesser sense.

The “word of God” also came to heavenly beings, that’s what Psalms 82 IS, it’s God’s word to these heavenly beings.

Within the parabolic scene in Ps 82. But that's a literary device. Ps 82 is the word of God to Israel. The Psalms are addressed to Israel. 

Yahweh isn't literally speaking to the nonexistent heathen deities. That's a theatrical depiction. Addressing an imaginary audience or interlocutor. 

So let’s break down your argument … When talking about verse 30 you insist that we have to think about the text as Jesus talking to his interlockers (which gets you out of the obvious linguistic problems with your claim about the Shema) … Now you are saying Jesus, in response to a charge, is referring to something which his interlockers never could have possibly heard of, the prologue to John, which was written decades after this encounter? So basically Jesus was talking complete gibberish, it was nonsense. So his argument was “if you read the prologue of a Book that will be written decades later about my life you’ll read that I am the Logos, so I made the divine beings talked about in Psalms 82” …. Where are you getting any of that in the text?

Montero is conflating two different things. The readers should remember the Prologue when they hear 10:35. The Prologue provides an interpretive grid for readers, by giving them advance notice regarding the nature of what will unfold in the course of the narrative. 

By contrast, figures within the historical narrative must discover the truth of the Prologue through the words and deeds of Jesus. 

I don’t reject prophesy, they refer to the historical kings as well as the future messiah … But a typology only works if there is some similarity between the type and anti-type in function or form or something like that. These passages refer to the historical kings in their role as agents of God, subservient and obedient creatures of God … If that isn’t the same reference to Jesus then what is the point of that typology? It wouldn’t make any sense to use those references for Jesus if Jesus was Yahweh in the flesh.

To the contrary, typology operates on the principle that the antitype is superior to the type. Like the relationship between shadow and sunlight. 

The Father/son succession is your point, but when it comes to “God’s Son” in the old testament, that isn’t how it’s used, it isn’t used for succession at all, no angels called “Sons of God” are spoken of as succeeding Yahweh, no Kings are either, nor is the nation of Israel; that isn’t how the term is used. 

Montero still hasn't figured out what I'm saying. He's obsessed with the occurrence of certain words. But that confuses words with concepts. 

"Father" and "son" don't have to be used in royal succession narratives or motifs. That's a given. As a rule, a prince is a son of the king. A father/son relation is already implicit in a king/prince relation. Moreover, kings and princes are typically the same kind of beings. 

It is used for people who rule oh behalf of God though, but that isn’t the same thing as succession.

i) Once again, Montero is befuddled. To begin with, I'm not discussing literal succession, but a theological metaphor. 

ii) In both OT and NT theology, you have the motif of a messianic figure who ascends to the throne of God, as coregent.  

How is “sonship” a divine title in the same way Yahweh is divine? It IS divine in the sense that the son is called “mighty god”, but it isn’t divine in the same that he is in the same camp as Yahweh; since this whole thing is accomplished by Yahweh himself (the giving of the son and the growing of his authority)—so no, it isn’t “divine” in the same way Yahweh is divine.

Many unitarians lack critical sympathy. That's the intellectual ability to assume the opposing viewpoint for the sake of argument, then assess the consistency of the opposing viewpoint on its own terms. Instead, unitarians raise objections that recast the issue in unitarian terms. 

But in Trinitarian, Incarnational theology, it is not inconsistent for the Son Incarnate to "grow in authority". That's not about the intrinsic authority of the Son qua Son, but the Son in union with a human nature, fulfilling the role of Adamic and Davidic kingship. 

Ok, here is the problem; Questioning whether or not he is the messiah is merely a question about whether or not his identity includes the position of Messiah. The question was not “are you the Messiah, oh and what else are you?” It was only about his messiahship. Had Jesus responded, “I am God”, or “I am a human”, or “I am an angel”, or “I am an extraterrestrial alien”, he would not have been answering the questions; all of those would be answers to a question about his true identity, but not answers to the actual question at hand. The question is related to his identity, at least part of his identity, but it is not a question about his “true identity” in the broad sense, it was a question about his identity as Messiah.”

Montero suffers from this blinkered notion of what's messianic. But the question at issue is the nature of the messiah. What does that category stand for? What are the characteristics of the messiah? 

Ok first of all, it isn’t a semantic fallacy. The concept of messiah (separate from the etymological or idiomatic meaning of the word) still includes the idea of the messiah being anointed by Yahweh for a special purpose.

Does Montero mean he thinks God must literally anoint the messiah with oil? "Messiah" is just a label. A placeholder. What it means to be the messiah is determined by multiple lines of evidence in the OT. There's an unfolding messianic expectation.  Emerging messianic motifs, embodied in a single individual, viz. second Adam, second David, second Solomon, prince, priest, conqueror, the coming of Yahweh. 

Second, If Jesus had a different concept of the messiah than his listeners did he would have made it clear, or there would be some indication.

Depends on the context. His accusers are right about what he's claiming to be. Where they err is to deny what he claims to be. Indeed, Montero's objection backfires, for if his accusers misinterpret his claims, Jesus often fails to correct them–leaving the impression that their charges were true. 

Not really, can you give an example of a concept of the Messiah that identifies the Messiah as Yahweh outside the New Testament in Judaism?

Does Montero think NT Messianic Judaism is deficient? 

Not really, since the Word was the agent of creation, not the greator, thus the use of the term διά. 

If the Word is the agent of creation rather than the Father, then the Word is the actual Creator. Yet the OT repeatedly views the act of making the world as something that differentiates the true God from false gods. 

This is a direct reference to the Logos theology of Philo and Platonism. Both of which have the Logos as the agent of creation.

No, it's a direct reference to creation by the spoken word of God in Gen 1. The creation account represents divine speech as  having creative power. Jn 1 is riffing off of that depiction. 

Right, it’s identifying God, the God, Yahweh. The second θες designates the type of being that the logos is, but it is not the same being as the God that the logos is with.

It would be extremely misleading and counterproductive for the narrator to use θες twice in the very same sentence, back-to-back, if the referent in the second occurrence is categorically different and inferior to the referent in the first occurrence.  

Why could the Philonic Logos never become incarnate? Where are you getting that from?

The whole point of that framework is to create a series of buffers. God can't create the world directly because contact with matter would be contaminating or unworthy of divine dignity. So that must be delegated to a Demiurge. And the Demiurge is an intermediate figure, above the world but below God.  

It’s actually not a concept alien to Biblical theism, because both the Pauline epistles and John use διά in reference to Jesus’s relationship to creation, things are created διά him.

This is one of the dilemmas for unitarians. When you point to how, according to the NT, Jesus embodies divine attributes, performs divine actions, and wields divine prerogatives, unitarians respond by saying that's just a creature acting on God's behalf, in his stead. As a result, Yahweh has no unique attributes, actions, or prerogatives. These are all transferred to messiah. Everything the OT says to distinguish God from mundane agents is delegated to messiah. 

Philo wrote a lot for non-Jews (much like Josephus), which is why he used platonic language (as did John).

Philo wrote for elite Gentiles in Alexandria, in sophisticated philosophical Greek. John's audience is far lower on the pecking order. 

He approaches Yahweh, and receives things from Yahweh, which kind of excludes him from being Yahweh.

i) Once again, this illustrates the chronic inability of unitarians to engage the Trinitarian position on its own terms. They act as though depictions that are inconsistent with a unitarian paradigm falsify the Trinitarian paradigm. 

ii) To begin with, passages like Dan 7 resort to anthropomorphic depictions, where heaven is like a throne room with a humanoid king and humanoid courtiers. If you take that literally, then the Ancient of Days and the Son of Man are physically separate individuals. 

But if we make allowance for picture language, that's consistent with Trinitarian theology. Yahweh Incarnate, in the person of the Son, appears before Yahweh, in the person of the Father. 

God is not a physical being. He doesn't occupy space and time. Trinitarian distinctions don't entail physical or spatial separation. 

iii) There's a distinction between the eternal status of the Son, and the evolving status of the Son as he condescends to assume a human nature, and play the role of a crown prince who will be enthroned after completing his mission. 

Unitarians don't believe that, but the immediate problem is that unitarians typically fail to understand the position they presume to critique. As such, their objections always miss the target.  


  1. Can we Actually do some exegesis of the John 10:24-39? Once we do that we can deal With the other issues. Here is my reply.

  2. Steve did do exegesis.

  3. I'm so stealing that term 'critical sympathy' explains my frustrations while dialoguing with Unitarians to the T.