Saturday, November 25, 2017

Yesterday, today, and forever

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever (Heb 13:8).

I'd like to comment on a neglected prooftext for the deity of Christ (Heb 13:8). In Hebrews, "today" is a leading word or word-motif (leitwort). A repeated key word is a literary technique linking material by a common verbal theme. In Hebrews, this clusters around Ps 2 and especially Ps 95:

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice,

But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”

again he appoints a certain day, “Today,” saying through David so long afterward, in the words already quoted, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”

To an attentive reader (or listener) of Hebrews, 13:8 would ring a bell. To say Jesus is the same "today" echoes the divine speaker in Ps 95. In that Psalm, Yahweh is addressing Israel. And by the leitwort technique, the author of Hebrews now connects that to Jesus. 

In Hebrews, the word of God is living (4:12) because it's the word of the living God. That dovetails with the stress in Hebrews on God's word as divine speech. The spoken word requires a living speaker.  

According to the author of Hebrews, the speaker in Ps 95 not only is addressing the original audience for that particular Psalm on that particular occasion, but God is still speaking that word–in this case, to the congregation to whom the letter is directed. That's because it's the word of the living God. He didn't cease to exist between Ps 95 and Hebrews. 

Not only is Jesus the same "today," but the same "yesterday and forever". Past and future as well as present. That, in turn, reverberates with Ps 102, which extols the preexistent and everlasting Creator:

But you are the same, and your years will have no end (1:12)

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever (13:8)

And the author of Hebrews assigns that description to the Son:

“You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning,
    and the heavens are the work of your hands;
11 they will perish, but you remain;
    they will all wear out like a garment,
12 like a robe you will roll them up,
    like a garment they will be changed.
But you are the same,
    and your years will have no end.”

Jesus is the same yesterday and forever because he has no beginning or ending, and he has no beginning or ending because he's the Creator God. That's a part of what makes God God, in contrast to creation. 

Like "today", the "same" is another leading-word: in this case connecting 1:12 to 13:8. Indeed, that forms an inclusio between the opening and the closing of the letter. 


  1. Great points. I think Heb. 7:3 might have some connection too.

    He is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever.- Heb. 7:3

    I don't think the author is saying that Melchizedek literally had no mother or father and never died. Rather that his genealogy both before and after aren't recorded or seemed important, unlike other priests (both Hebrew and pagan). The author seems to use that as typological of the beginninglessness and endlessness of Christ. By describing Melchizedek as "having neither beginning of days nor end of life", he's implying that that's actually and literally true in the case of Christ. Melchizedek can "resemble" the "Son of God" because it's only true of him in a manner of speaking. What's a figure of speech in the one case (Melchizedek) is literally true in the other case, anti-type (Christ). Just as in the earlier chapters. What's said of Davidic "sons of God" is literally true of THE Son of God (e.g. Heb. 1:8-9 quoting Ps. 45:6-7).

    I also find it extremely ad hoc for (some) Unitarians to interpret Heb. 1:10-12 as referring to the New Creation to get around the more likely interpretation that the author is applying the divine attributes of aseity, eternality, immutability and the divine prerogatives of creation and sovereignty to Christ.

    1. Annoyed Pinoy,

      I have a bunch of evidences supporting the Trinity on my blog. Check these, for example,

  2. I'm glad to see another blog in defense of the doctrine of the Trinity. I have one too: Trinity Notes.

    Regarding your first example of a blogpost, the text of Acts 20:28 has two issues that should be address IMO. I pointed them out in my blogpost HERE.

    I wrote:

    Regarding Acts 20:18 there are at least two issues that make it questionable as to whether it should be added as part of the list in this blogpost. The first is a textual issue, the second an issue of interpretation. The textual variants include "the church of the Lord" or "the church of God." It is not certain which variant is original. Secondly, the interpretation of the last phrase is uncertain. Should it be translated "His own blood" or "the blood of His own [Son]." The word "son" is not in the text, but it might be implied. James White summarized the three possible interpretations:

    (1) The passage is, in fact, a reference to the deity of Christ, and the phrase "with His own blood" would refer directly to the term "God," making Jesus God.

    (2) The passage is actually a Trinitarian passage, with all three divine Persons being mentioned: the Holy Spirit (who sets apart the overseers for their duties in the church), God the Father ("the church of God"), and Jesus Christ ("the blood of His own," or "His own Son").

    (3) If we read the passage as "church of the Lord," the phrase "with His own blood" would naturally refer to the blood Christ.

    [James White goes on to state] "I believe the evidence favors the second choice, though certainly the first choice remains a valid possibility. But in light of the possibilities, one cannot be dogmatic on the passage."- James White, The Forgotten Trinity, pp. 82-83

    1. Regarding your second blogpost, I think the text is consistent with Trinitarianism, but I don't think it actually teaches (positively and explicitly) the true deity of Christ. Unitarians have interpretations that can weaken the force of that passage when we used it in favor of Trinitarianism. I actually think verse 9 is a better verse in that passage that favors Trinitarianism. As I pointed out in my blogpost HERE, I wrote:

      A footnote in the NET Bible on verse 9 states:

      tc Χριστόν (Criston, “Christ”) is attested in the majority of mss, including many important witnesses of the Alexandrian (Ì46 1739 1881) and Western (D F G) texttypes, and other mss and versions (Ψ latt sy co). On the other hand, some of the important Alexandrian witnesses have κύριον (kurion, “Lord”; א B C P 33 104 1175 al). A few mss (A 81 pc) have θεόν (qeon, “God”). The nomina sacra for these readings are quite similar (cMn, kMn, and qMn respectively), so one might be able to account for the different readings by way of confusion. On closer examination, the variants appear to be intentional changes. Alexandrian scribes replaced the highly specific term “Christ” with the less specific terms “Lord” and “God” because in the context it seems to be anachronistic to speak of the exodus generation putting Christ to the test. If the original had been “Lord,” it seems unlikely that a scribe would have willingly created a difficulty by substituting the more specific “Christ.” Moreover, even if not motivated by a tendency to overcorrect, a scribe might be likely to assimilate the word “Christ” to “Lord” in conformity with Deut 6:16 or other passages. The evidence from the early church regarding the reading of this verse is rather compelling in favor of “Christ.” Marcion, a second-century, anti-Jewish heretic, would naturally have opposed any reference to Christ in historical involvement with Israel, because he thought of the Creator God of the OT as inherently evil. In spite of this strong prejudice, though, {Marcion} read a text with “Christ.” Other early church writers attest to the presence of the word “Christ,” including {Clement of Alexandria} and Origen. What is more, the synod of Antioch in a.d. 268 used the reading “Christ” as evidence of the preexistence of Christ when it condemned Paul of Samosata. (See G. Zuntz, The Text of the Epistles, 126-27; TCGNT 494; C. D. Osburn, “The Text of 1 Corinthians 10:9,” New Testament Textual Criticism: Its Significance for Exegesis, 201-11; contra A. Robertson and A. Plummer, First Corinthians [ICC], 205-6.) Since “Christ” is the more difficult reading on all accounts, it is almost certainly original. In addition, “Christ” is consistent with Paul’s style in this passage (cf. 10:4, a text in which {Marcion} also reads “Christ”). This text is also christologically significant, since the reading “Christ” makes an explicit claim to the preexistence of Christ. (The textual critic faces a similar dilemma in Jude 5. In a similar exodus context, some of the more important Alexandrian mss [A B 33 81 pc] and the Vulgate read “Jesus” in place of “Lord.” Two of those mss [A 81] are the same mss that have “Christ” instead of “God” in 1 Cor 10:9. See the tc notes on Jude 5 for more information.) In sum, “Christ” has all the earmarks of authenticity here and should be considered the original reading.

      In a previous blogpost I cited 1 Cor. 10:9 and the above NET Bible footnote as evidence of Christ's preexistence. But at that point I didn't realize (or had forgotten) it was also evidence for Christ's full deity because it parallels the Old Testament prohibitions against testing/tempting Jehovah/YHWH/adonai the God of Israel. END QUOTE

    2. when we used = when we use

    3. I don't mean to be pedantic, but historic Trinitarianism would have a problem with the statement I've reproduced below. The bolded parts is what I'm referring to.

      Quite simply, the trinitarian argument that can be derived from Acts 20:28 is that because the Son shed His blood by crucifixion for the remission of our sins, and that the text identifies His blood as belonging to the Father, it therefore follows that God offered Himself as an atonement sacrifice for our sins. According to the logic of this statement which was originally uttered by the Apostle Paul during his farewell speech at Miletus, Jesus Christ must be God because His blood is referred to as being one in the same with that of the Father who is a spirit.

      Trinitarianism teaches that only the Son was incarnated. Therefore, the blood that was shed was only Christ's. The Father doesn't have blood because He didn't take on human nature. If one takes the textual variant "God" as more viable than "Lord", and if one interprets "God" to refer to the Father instead of the Son, then the "blood of his own" refers to Christ being the Son of the Father. See the relevant pages in James White's book The Forgotten Trinity.

    4. Annoyed,

      "Trinitarianism teaches that only the Son was incarnated."

      I'm very well aware of that, and agree completely...Crud...I need a hand fixing that article...I'm just a youth who is new to apologetics, anyway...I've made a blatant error!

    5. I'll be sure to check out your blog on the Trinity/apologetics.