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Jason Harris

Jason loves to communicate God's word both in the local church and at conferences and retreats. Jason has been involved with Worship Music since 1996 and InFocus since 2005. Jason has degrees in theology, music, accounting, and research and is currently a PhD candidate and lecturer in the College of Business, Law, and Governance at James Cook University, Cairns. Jason is also a pastor at CrossPoint Church. You can contact Jason at jason@teaminfocus.com.au.

98 Comments

  1. avatar

    Edward Andrews

    Jason:

    Jason wrote: The most controversial aspect of this book is not just BeDuhn’s decision to include the JW New World Bible in his analysis, but his conclusion that in many passages the NW translation is less biased than mainstream translations such as the NIV or NASB.

    Response: This comment within itself expresses a measure of bias. If you had simply worded it: ‘surprising,’ instead of “most controversial.”

    Jason wrote: However, he deals almost exclusively (seven out of nine chapters) with passages surrounding the deity of Jesus Christ. Is this the only doctrine which might be subject to bias in Scripture? Further, several of the passages he cites are passages which are consistent with the deity of Christ, but would not be used to prove the deity of Christ.

    Response: While bias is not entirely focus around verses that woulf be used for the Trinity, they are the ones that draw the most ferver. If you look at the doctrinal statement of most conservative seminaries, it is the Trinity that will disallow one from studying there. The Trinity is the only doctrine that brings heat on the Witnesses, leaving them out of the big boy’s club: Christianity. The rest of their doctrinal positions are held by one form of Christianity, or another. So, to make bias stand had quite readily, BeDuhn did quite well in focusing on this area. Also, you are quite mistaken about the texts that he chose, they are used widely to establish the Deity of Christ, and proof texts for the Trinity. I am not certain what you are reading?

    Jason Wrote: BeDuhn seems to operate under the impression that he has avoided all bias in his analysis. At no point in the book does he reveal his own personal theological biases (not even to the point where you could confidently nail him as an evangelical). Yet I would argue that it is impossible for him not to have theological biases. He could have engendered a much higher level of trust with his readership had he admitted his position and biases early on in the book. If I had to peg him based on what little he gives away about himself, I would suspect he is a theological Liberal.

    Response: I appreciated his conceealing his position. And I am certain that he is well aware that all are bias. Your selection of him as a liberal is based on his being honest in translation. I noticed that you failed to overturn his arguments, to deal criticially with the book, and have tried the character attack. Interesting.

    Jason Wrote: I felt that BeDuhn’s understanding and awareness of the modern debate on translations, at least within Christian Fundamentalism, was lacking. This revealed itself in a lot of ways, but once in particular where he made a statement which seemed to indicate that he hadn’t studied the preface of the 1611 publication of the Authorised Version though trying to make a point about that edition.

    Response: You write the above, and then you say the following about yourself: “I wouldn’t claim to have done significant in-depth consideration of this book, but I did want to record my impressions after a quick perusal.” Really?

    Truly,

    Edward Andrews

    Reply
  2. avatar

    Jason Harris

    Edward Andrews,

    Thanks for your response.

    1) True. I am biased. I believe the JW’s are a cult of Christianity and I believe the NWT, while having many good qualities as a translation, has been deliberately manipulated to defend the doctrinal deviance of the JW’s.

    2) You seem to equate the trinity with the deity of Jesus Christ. They are separate, though connected, doctrines. I disagree about the trinity being the main point of controversy between JW’s and Christianity. There are a range of Christian doctrines that the JW’s reject altogether. Still, the point is moot because BeDuhn does not claim to be addressing the differences between JW’s and Christianity. Instead, he presents himself as if he were a Christian theologian addressing matters of translation without bias. The trinity may be controversial for JW’s, but it is not controversial within Christianity.

    3) I was not debating his points. I was attempting to give an overview of the book and my points of concern. That said, I did not attack his character at all. I made a guess as to his theological position.

    4) I do not see any hypocrisy in my statement. The primary meaning of the word peruse is “to read or examine with care.” That is the sense in which I used it.

    I was just pointing out that he did not seem to have a good understanding of one of the significant debates touching the topic on which he published a book. Additionally, that he didn’t seem to have read a key historical document. That is something that concerned me and I felt the reader should be aware of.

    Reply
  3. avatar

    Chris

    I’ve read quite a lot of this book myself, and in fact Jehovah’s Witnesses directly quote from it in one of their publications (‘Bearing Thorough Witness About God’s Kingdom’, published in 2009, I believe) as proof that unbiased individuals consider JWs as ‘basing their beliefs on the Bible’.

    BeDuhn comments as much, yet paradoxically he spends an entire appendix demolishing the JWs’ justification for using the divine name JHVH in the New Testament. He says that they engaged in ‘conjectural emendation’ and did not obey the most basic rule of translation in remaining faithful to the original text. This is obvious in that they do not substitute ‘Jehovah’ for ‘Lord’ in all the cases where ‘Lord’ appears, even when Old Testament scriptures are being quoted by New Testament writers, because it would create problems for their personal beliefs. Not to mention that they substitute ‘Jehovah’ for ‘Lord’ in many cases where no Old Testament verse is being quoted at all, despite the original Greek text making no mention of ‘Jehovah’.

    Also, BeDuhn seems to express a complete ignorance of the origins of JWs–their connection to the Second Adventists and how much of the theological structure is (or was) at least influenced by them. But BeDuhn states that they approach the Bible ‘with a kind of innocence’ rather than putting their own preconceived ideas into it. How one arrives at Jesus’ invisible presence starting in the year 1914, or teaching that Jesus is only Mediator for 144,000 people, or how Matthew 24:45-47 refers to a group of men appointed by Jesus in 1919 to provide spiritual food to everyone else, without having a preconceived idea or two, is beyond me.

    The New World Translation cannot realistically be judged as superior simply on the basis of a handful of verses, even if they rendered them without bias (which would be a good thing, if it were true). JW literature is filled with numerous statements from scholars that are taken out of context and used to support their theology. That’s called dishonest scholarship. There are more subtle changes in the New World Translation that were definitely made to support their doctrine and that actually have no basis at all in the original languages. Revelation 20:4 (“Yes, I saw the souls of those” instead of “And I saw the souls of those”) and Jeremiah 29:10 (“at Babylon” instead of “for Babylon”) are good examples of where one word was changed and thus altered the whole meaning of the verse, but without legitimate basis in the original languages for doing so. Given their long record of dishonest statements and dubious reasoning, and the considerable lack of credentials amongst their ‘anonymous’ translation committee, it would be hard to conclude that the New World Translation is the best overall translation.

    Revealing my own bias, I am a former JW myself, but I have done considerable research and study on these matters and wouldn’t just say that to take a jab at Jehovah’s Witnesses, as I do agree with them on certain things, even the Trinity issue, for example. Still, there is considerable factual data to support my assertions. I just don’t think this work is sufficient to address the real problems in the New World Translation, so it has led a lot of people to accept BeDuhn’s conclusions without sufficient scrutiny.

    Reply
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  5. avatar

    Bruce Barnard

    Jason, you wrote:
    “BeDuhn develops a serious credibility leak in his dealing with several established Greek grammar rules. Particularly, he addresses Colwell’s Rule …… Instead of merely critiquing [it]and offering adjustments or developments to [it],…. he simply says [it is] wrong and should be ignored.”

    Dear Jason. Recent kione Greek scholarship is now of the opinion, and on sound grounds, that Colwell’s Rule 2b is indeed irelevant to deciding the definitness of the anarthrous QEOS of John 1.1 and indeed any anarthrous noun in the type of construct. I would refer you to Paul Dixon who stated “No longer
    should Colwell’s rule mislead us into thinking that an anarthrous
    predicate nominative preceding the verb is just as definite as the
    articular predicate nominative following the verb and that “there need be
    no doctrinal significance in the dropping of the article, for it is
    simply a matter of word-order…….Finally, we may conclude three things about John 1:1. First,
    Colwell’s rule cannot be applied to the verse as an argument for
    definiteness. Colwell’s rule says that definite predicate nominatives
    preceding the verb usually are anarthrous. The rule asserts nothing
    about definiteness. It does not say that anarthrous predicate
    nominatives preceding the verb usually are definite. This is the
    converse of the rule, and as such is not
    cessarily valid.” Some scholars in the past, such as Metzger and Barclay both misunderstood this rule and then miused used it to malign the NWT’s “a god” translation. In this they erred seriously. This then shows that this particular criticism of Beduhn’s work by you can now be retracted. Beduhn is right re Colwell!

    Reply
    1. avatar

      Jason Harris

      Bruce Barnard,

      Thanks for the comment. I would point out that you did not dismiss the rule. Nor did Dixon. To argue that the rule does not apply in John 1:1c is something different all together. Since I don’t have a copy of the book on hand, I can’t go back and verify what he said exactly, but your comment doesn’t seem to contradict anything I’ve said in the review.

      Best regards.

  6. avatar

    Doug C.

    Jason,

    Thank you for taking your time to express your thought on BeDuhn’s book. It can be enlightening to hear other people’s perspective. However, as an ardent student of the Bible, and one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, I thought it was a shame that you resorted to name calling i.e. “I believe J.W.’s are a cult of Christianity.” I do not follow any man but base my beliefs on what I see for myself in God’s Word. I believe that it is incumbent upon all of us to honestly and certainly prayerfully study the Scriptures. I may not agree with someone, but I do appreciate their opinions.

    You also made the statement that, “The trinity might be controversial for J.W.s but it is not among Christianity.” I have been actively involved in the ministry for over 40 yrs. And, from first hand experience, I can testify that many many people do not accept the concept of the trinity. For those that do, they tend to get defensive sometimes even angry. I will discuss the Bible, but I will not argue. Everyone is entitled to their opinions. However, I believe the answer is found in the Bible. Honest prayerful study is the only way to find the truth.

    Many seems to put much stock in the idea of ‘mainstream Christianity’. It seems as if the feeling is, “If everyone believes this, then it must be true!” ie. Perception is reality. Just because many teach something doesn’t make it true. Jesus took exceptions to the religeous leaders of the time that had been influenced by worldly ideals. How violent they became in attacking the first century congregation! The religeous leader’s perception of the truth was wrong. They did not have the truth. The Bible states in 1 Timothy 4:1 states that “some will drop out of the faith”. Byington Jesus also stated that by their fruits you will know them. What was the fruit of a lot of relgious leaders back then? Violence. Such is the case in many religions today. It is easy to get angry over debates, which the Bible discourages.

    As you take exception to Jehovah’s Witnesses, their being a cult, I wanted to share something with you. As a young boy, my parents went to the Baptist Church. Later, they studied with and became Jehovah’s Witnesses. When I got a little older I began to research its teachings. What I found touched me deeply. The Baptist Church along with the Catholic and most Protestant chuches, will go to war. They will do this even to the point of killing people of their own faith! Yet, what did Jesus say in John 13:34,34? He said that he was giving them a new commandment. That command was to love one another. It was to be the identifying mark of his disciplies. No matter what doctrinal points that we might discuss, how much will it matter if we break Jesus’ command by killing each other? How do we say we have the truth if we will be part of the world and kill one another? Jesus also said that his disciples would be not be part of the world in John 17:14. And yet, many ‘Christians’ will get involved in politics to change the world. The Kingdom that we pray for is the catalyst to bring peace to the earth. (Ps. 37:10,11,29) The Bible sanctifies our loving God, Jehovah and is a message of hope.

    I know of no other religion that invests as much time and effort in studying the Bible with individuals. Our lives are wrapped around preaching the good news of God’s Kingdom. Matt. 24:14. Jesus’ last command in Matt. 28:19,20 was to go forth and makes disciples, teaching them to observe the things he commanded. That has been and continues to be the main focus of my life.

    You might enjoy prayerfully considering the book, “What Does the Bible Really Teach?” with whatever Bible you are personally comfortable with.

    I wish you the best in your spiritual journey.

    With Sincerity,

    Douglas R. Crosby

    Reply
    1. avatar

      jackiehorner

      Douglas, thank you for that, and I see Jason Harris has nothing to refute, because how could he? You nailed it with your response. I too have been one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, second generation, for 30 years, and having once been Catholic, and having studied many religions and religious ideas, without a doubt, Jehovah’s witnesses not only display the love that Christ said true followers would have, but they also have picked up where Jesus left off in the proclaiming of his Father’s Kingdom as the only hope for mankind on earth. Teaching in all lands, in 700 languages. The trinity is a pagan, man-promoted teaching, whose concept is not even found in the Bible, and Jesus never alluded to it. The pharisees of the time accused Jesus of making himself “God”, and Jesus’ reply was “are you going to stone me because I said I am God’s Son”? Trinitarians’ actions today are very much the same as the pharisees of Jesus’ day in that they claim Jesus made himself out to be God, when in reality, he clearly said he is “God’s son”. It’s no doubt that most of so-called Christianity believes in the Trinity, because “broad and spacious is he road leading to destruction and it is cramped with people…but narrow is the road to life, and few are finding it…” I would expect the true religion to be small in comparison to the many on the broad road. Just something to think about.

    2. avatar

      Jason Harris

      Hey Doug, Thanks for the note.
      First, I don’t do name calling. The JWs are a cult. I’m not using that in the sense of a “compound” cult, but rather in the theological sense of the word which has an objective meaning. A cult of Christianity, in that sense, is a group that is based on the historic Christian faith, but does not accept the deity of the Christ after which Christianity is named. Which JWs don’t.
      Second, the doctrine of the Trinity is fundamental to the Christian faith and has been since the early church.
      Third, I’m not what I am because it is “mainstream.” I am what I am because it is biblical. The JWs teach a works gospel. Jesus Christ plus. That’s the problem. When JWs get off their side issues (e.g. pacifism) and start preaching salvation by grace through faith without works, it will be different.
      Fourth, I’ve been to my local “Kingdom Hall” for some of that “Bible study” you speak of. It’s not Bible study at all. It’s indoctrination. When I do Bible study, I don’t give the people a magazine that conditions them to see what I want them to see in the Bible. I tell them to open their Bible and then I take them through it word by word. That’s Bible study.

    3. avatar

      Robert

      Jason. Jehovah’s Witnesses do not preach salvation by works. A person cannot legitimately consider himself reasonable if he has to invent or interpret another person’s beliefs in a way that suits his own argument. Yes, you’re free to draw your own conclusions, but your premise needs to be accurate if you want anyone to take your conclusions seriously.

      However, we believe what the bible explicitly says at James 2:17 – that faith without works is dead. It seems to me that the context of that verse (14-26) doesn’t really leave much room for interpretative debate. In particular, it explains WHY it would be hypocritical to say you have faith but not have works.

      So let’s say I make the statement that “I accept Jesus as my Lord and Saviour.” What is it that I’m saying? Simply that I believe in him? Reading the verses I just mentioned should disavow you of that notion. I’m sure you know as well as I do that being a Christian means being a follower of Christ. If, in turn, you are a follower of Christ, that means that you seek to take seriously the things he took seriously, you try to view God as Jesus viewed Him and, rather obviously, you do your best to obey any instructions he has given you to follow. If you think that’s not correct, then can you really say you are a Christian?

      So where does that leave us on the works issue. Well that depends on whether Jesus has given us any work to do. Happily, we are not left in the dark about this. Matthew 28:19 tells us what that work is. And, in a parable in Matthew 25, Jesus speaks frankly about his feelings about those who do not want to do his work.

      So is it a contradiction to say faith is what saves you, but works are important? No. Let’s say you are homeless and penniless and Jesus has offered to buy you a house that is worth trillions of dollars. He says that you need to show appreciation be taking good care of it. All that remains to do is accept his offer.

      So you accept his offer and you start a routine of gardening and internal maintenance to keep the house in good condition. After a lifetime in that house would you argue that you earned it? Would you be able to calculate the hours you’d spent working on the house and apply an hourly rate and realistically say “I’ve paid for this now”? No, if you did you’d be showing a lack of appreciation for the gift.

      So it is with faith and works. I do not believe that I can come remotely close to earning my salvation. No Jehovah’s Witnesses do. But I think if I don’t work hard and do my best to obey my Lord and my God, then I’m showing a lack of appreciation for the gift he’s given me. And I would also be showing that my faith was not genuine.

    4. avatar

      Robert

      Jason, your use of the word “Pacifism” makes it easier for you to relegate the idea it conveys to a political side issue. But “not killing your brothers” is certainly not a minor point. And if you can’t see why Christendom’s approval of killing might raise a huge red flag to those who are searching for God, then I feel sorry for you. 1 John 4:20; Matthew 26:42

    5. avatar

      Jason Harris

      Robert,

      “Preach” might indeed be too strong a word. “Hold to” is not. The JW faith does not and cannot affirm the five solas. It typically takes some digging around to get to the point where a JW will admit it, but usually it comes out in discussion of the atonement and what the cross truly means or in questions about what one may do to lose his salvation, but it is there in the very DNA of JW doctrine. Salvation by works.

    6. avatar

      Robert

      Jason

      If you want to believe that you know better than me about what I think and believe, go ahead and believe it. There is only so much a person can do to try to help another understand.

      But, once more for the record: I believe that were it not for the ransom sacrifice of Christ I would be a condemned man. I believe Jesus paid the price for my sin, ultimately dying instead of me. I believe what Ephesians 2 says regarding faith: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast”. Salvation is not a RESULT of works. I believe that.

      I believe James 2:17: “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
      But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” So, if there are no works, that means your faith is dead. If your faith is dead then there is no salvation because salvation is through faith. Dead faith is not faith. I believe that too. There is no contradiction with the two scriptures. I believe that.

      These are my beliefs. You say they’re not. I guess there’s nothing more I can say on the matter.

      I wish you well, and trust you won’t be offended when I say I hope you take the time to listen more to Jehovah’s Witnesses about our beliefs rather than what others say about them. Then, I believe, you will find the Truth. I don’t mean it in a patronising way because I know that you would have the same wish for me.

      Take care and thanks for taking the time to reply.

    7. avatar

      Jason Harris

      Robert,

      Not letting this slip by. Of course I have no idea what YOU believe. But my comments were not about YOUR beliefs, but the JW beliefs. Try to pay attention.

      If you do not believe in salvation by works, then you can happily affirm the five solas. If you can’t, then explain to me exactly why and we’ll know where works comes into your gospel. As for the JWs, they do not affirm the five solas and for good reason.

      And btw, almost everything I know about JWs I learned from JWs. I don’t read anti-JW literature.

    8. avatar

      Robert

      Jason

      Regarding your false claim that you speak for Jehovah’s Witnesses, you are demonstrating publicly that you are not a reasonable man. Your readers will understand why I stated “my beliefs” as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses even if it escaped you. Of course, I’m sure it didn’t escape you, because you are not stupid—unreasonable and perhaps dishonest in this particular instance—but not stupid. So your “pay attention” comment, as though I was the one who misunderstood you, was childish.

      For the benefit of the readers of this site. I hope that this exchange demonstrates at least one thing: When people make claims about Jehovah’s Witnesses, sometimes those claims are false. That’s ok, because people make mistakes. But you have to start asking questions about motives when someone insists on telling falsehoods to the public even after he’s been corrected by a member of the religion he is libelling.

      I have read some of Jason’s other posts and he seems to be a thoughtful and intelligent man. But time and again, when church members turn their attention to Jehovah’s Witnesses they seem to take leave of their day-to-day personalities and engage in this puzzling form of intellectual dishonesty. I’m sure they sincerely believe that their own religion is true (as I believe mine is) so perhaps they feel any and all tactics are fair game if it results in tearing down the reputation of a ‘false religion’. But dishonesty is not a Christian trait (John 8:44)

      Jason’s OPINION may be that Jehovah’s Witnesses put too much emphasis on works. We say works are important because the Bible says they are. I’m sure if Jason were helping a fellow member of his religion rather than engaging with a Jehovah’s Witness he would have no problem agreeing with me. How could he not? If he follows the Bible he will not ignore 1 Corinthians 15:58, 2 Timothy 4:5, Matthew 7:21-27, Ephesians 2:10, James 1:27, James 4:4 etc. All these scriptures indicate that actions (or works) are important and are related to salvation in that they demonstrate that faith is alive in that person. But do those works “buy” your salvation? No! Salvation is a gift bestowed on those who demonstrate faith – James 2:24-26.

      Another thing: I will not try to justify my beliefs according to human requirements. If Jason can show the scriptural basis for the “five solas”, and explain why he thinks my explanation of the relationship between faith, works and salvation is in discord with these scriptures, fair enough. At least I’ll have an opportunity to answer.

      What he cannot continue to do is misrepresent our position in order to disprove it. It’s not fair, and it’s certainly not Christian behaviour.

      Jason claims that his understanding of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ beliefs comes from JWs themselves, and not from anti-JW literature. This is hard to believe – precisely because Witnesses DON’T believe what he says they do, whereas anti-JW literature often make this claim. I have my suspicions, but I cannot KNOW why Jason is saying what he’s saying. What I do KNOW is that he’s wrong.

      Ironically Jason has implied that I’m the one who has misrepresented the beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses (he said: “my comments were not about YOUR beliefs, but the JW beliefs.”) Perhaps the following quotes from our literature will help:

      *** it-2 p. 1205 Work ***
      Faith and Works.
      Works of the Mosaic Law, which included such things as sacrificial offerings, purifications, and circumcision, did not make a person righteous. (Ro 3:20; 4:1-10; Ga 3:2) Yet, the disciple James—who is not discussing works of Mosaic Law—says “a man is to be declared righteous by works, and not by faith alone” (Jas 2:24), for there must be practical works that demonstrate one’s faith, giving proof of it. (Compare Mt 7:21-27; Eph 2:8-10; Jas 1:27; 2:14-17; 4:4.)”

      *** gm chap. 7 pp. 91-92 pars. 11-14 Does the Bible Contradict Itself? ***
      …Our considering the context also helps us to understand what some have claimed is a disagreement between the apostle Paul and James. At Ephesians 2:8, 9, Paul says that Christians are saved by faith, not by works. He says: “You have been saved through faith . . . not owing to works.” James, however, insists on the importance of works. He writes: “As the body without spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.” (James 2:26) How can these two statements be reconciled?

      Considering the context of Paul’s words, we find that one statement complements the other. The apostle Paul is referring to the efforts of the Jews to keep the Mosaic Law. They believed that if they kept the Law in all its details, they would be righteous. Paul pointed out that this was impossible. We can never become righteous—and thus deserve salvation—by our own works, for we are inherently sinful. We can only be saved by faith in Jesus’ ransom sacrifice.—Romans 5:18.

      James, however, adds the vital point that faith in itself is valueless if not supported by actions. A person who claims to have faith in Jesus should prove it by what he does. An inactive faith is a dead faith and will not lead to salvation.

      The apostle Paul was in full agreement with this, and he often mentions the kinds of works that Christians should engage in to demonstrate their faith. For example, to the Romans he wrote: “With the heart one exercises faith for righteousness, but with the mouth one makes public declaration for salvation.” Making a “public declaration”—sharing our faith with others—is vital for salvation. (Romans 10:10; see also 1 Corinthians 15:58; Ephesians 5:15, 21-33; 6:15; 1 Timothy 4:16; 2 Timothy 4:5; Hebrews 10:23-25.) No work, however, that a Christian can do, and certainly no effort to fulfill the Law of Moses, will earn him the right to everlasting life. This is “the gift God gives” to those who exercise faith.—Romans 6:23; John 3:16″

      ***End of quotes***

      Sincerely

      Robert

  7. avatar

    Paul

    Jason you would probably be interested to know that DeBuhn is quoted by the Watchtower on their website JW.org in order to authenticate their NWT. I would suspect that if I begin digging into the other commentators I will find similar such concerns. You may want to go a little further into who DeBuhn actually is, if you can.

    Reply
    1. avatar

      Jason Harris

      Thanks for the comment Paul. Yes, I was originally introduced to the book by JWs. Of course this doesn’t invalidate anything, but it does highlight the need to think critically in reading the book.

  8. avatar

    Fred Hamlet

    Opportunity missed; sad.

    Reply
    1. avatar

      Michael Davenport

      Jason BeDuhn explains in the preface (iirc) that he is not associated with any church or religious organization. He is a professor of comparitive religions and his interest is not in promoting any particular theological position because he has none of his own. I don’t think he would identify himself as a Christian at all.

      While some would consider this as reason to dismiss everything he says, I’m inclined to see this as a positive thing, at least in regard to the nature of the book.

      BeDuhn is an excellent scholar and probably unaffected by the usual biases that most (all?) scholars are going to have.

      The book actually grew from discussions with his students who asked questions about their perceived errors in the New World Translation, expecting BeDuhn to agree with them. But, in most cases, he did not. Instead, he explained why he agreed with the NWT in disputed verses.

      I had a roommate who was in Beduhn’s class for nine months. He did not agree with BeDuhn on everything, but he did say that he is very smart and perceptive.
      I met him twice, the last time at Northern AZ University when he did a program on the restoration and translation of a very old Manichean papyrus document. He is a respect authority on Manichaeism as well as on Christian religion.

  9. avatar

    Robert

    In the book you are reviewing, Beduhn answers many of the concerns you raised in points 2-5 by saying

    “When there is no way to resolve rival possible meanings, we really can ‘t blame translators for following the one that corresponds with their beliefs. But they owe it to their readers to make a note of the uncertainty. In passing judgment on how well or poorly translators have done in avoiding bias, we have to give them the benefit of the doubt. If the translation given is at least within the realm of possibility for the meaning of the Greek, we must grant that fact and not be too hard on the translators for preferring one possible meaning over another. But if they stretch beyond that rather generous range and reach for the truly novel, rare, or unlikely sense of the Greek, we must be very suspicious of their motives. We have to wonder why they couldn’t let the Bible say what it has to say, why they had to put some other idea there in place of the more likely, obvious meaning of the original biblical text.”

    Regarding your fourth point you ask “But is it not also necessary to understand the overall interpretive/theological context as well?”. Debuhn addresses this point in certain online blogs and in the book (if my memory serves me well) His argument is that our theology must come from what the Bible says not the other way around. So it’s Bible first, theology second. Whilst theological bias might is bound to play a part sometimes, it should be avoided whenever and wherever possible in the translation work.

    Regarding point 7, I’m not entirely sure what you’re arguing for, so forgive me if I’ve got the wrong end of the stick here. You seem to be suggesting that it’s not fair to criticise a translation if a rendering is possible, the problem only arises if the chosen rendering tries to prove a theological point. If I’ve represented your argument correctly, I would argue that your chosen example falls into the latter category, and thus why it was chosen as an example of inappropriate bias. For example, humor me here and let’s just suppose that we Jehovah’s Witnesses are correct in our understanding of who Jesus is. That would mean the translation “did obeisance to” was correct in the contentious places. But “did obeisance to” does not put you into an awkward position as a trinitarian. However, rendering the word as “worship” could cause problems for Jehovah’s Witnesses. Now I appreciate that Bible Translators aren’t going about their tasks worrying that they might make life difficult for minority religions. But when you consider that Jehovah’s Witnesses are frequently accused of choosing renderings that suit our beliefs, it puts things into perspective. It’s perfectly acceptable when mainstream Bibles are translated according to religious biases, but heresy when Jehovah’s Witnesses do it.

    The fact is that when a Witness shows a verse that is rendered “did obeisance to” in the NWT but “worship” in the householder’s bible, the most common assumption is to assume that we bent the rules of Greek to fit our beliefs. Beduhn shows that “did obeisance to” is culturally, historically, and linguistically more likely the intended meaningful the word when it is used in reference to Jesus. Yet we will still be seen as the dishonest ones because people trust their translations.

    Regarding your 8th point I believe your assessment of Beduhn is inaccurate. You say he doesn’t critique Colwell’s rule but simply says it is wrong and should be ignored. But the discussion of Colwell’s rule begins on page 117. There are 5 pages devoted to how we know the rule is wrong, and how it has been misapplied in an attempt to prove that John 1:1c MUST be translated “the Word was God”. You say words to the effect of how silly it is to show exceptions to disprove a rule. But he explains why this is true in the case of Colwell’s rule.

    And again with Granville Sharp. His discussion of Sharp’s rule begins on page 92. He explains what the rule is, on p93 he explains how other scholars have demonstrated the flaw in Sharp’s conclusion and then attempts to explain how Sharp came to that wrong conclusion.
    Having said all of the above, I applaud you for leaving a positive review in spite of your misgivings, but, unless I misread all your comments, I felt your misgivings were not justified.

    Reply
  10. avatar

    Russell M

    I was really hoping that Jason would address the points made by Doug C. when he said the following:

    “Baptist Church along with the Catholic and most Protestant churches, will go to war. They will do this even to the point of killing people of their own faith! ”

    As someone who keeps searching for the truth, that question really concerns me since according to my KJV Jesus said at John 13:35 that “By this shall all men [that includes me] know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to the other”

    If indeed Jehovah’s Witnesses demonstrate that love then it would be worth it to investigate that religion. From what I’ve heard about them, they certainly are not loved by the majority of those professing ‘Christianity’. But most of the people who I have heard riled against them lead hypocritical and debauched lives. I would like to hear Jason’s response to the points made by Doug C. regarding ‘Christians’ killing ‘Christians’. Since Jesus said that love would be the identifying mark of his disciples I think the next time Jehovah’s Witnesses come knocking on my door I will be asking them regarding this matter of not killing fellow JWs. I think they should not only not kill fellow JWs but not kill people of any religion. From my standpoint all these mainstream religions ARE part of the world that Jesus said regarding his disciples:
    “I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are no part of the world, even as I am not of the world.” – John 17:14
    “They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” – John 17:16
    I will be asking my God to make the truth known to me, even if it comes via the unloved Jehovah’s Witnesses who may be the very ones that Jesus was talking about when he said: “the world hath hated them”. I hope I can keep an open mind and not let the rather negative portrayal of these people by the majority of ‘Christians’ cause me to have a veil when I speak with them. I wonder if they are upright like the apostles and other disciples of the dawn of Christianity were or are they hypocritical like the VAST majority of mainstream ‘Christians’. As Jesus said “wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them [the wolves is sheep’s covering]”.
    For those of you that are still searching for the truth, I hope that my comments herein will help you to keep searching for the truth and see if it’s the JWs or some other religion that demonstrates the love Jesus spoke about that should be evident among HIS disciples and not those who are part of the world.
    Jason how about addressing what Doug C. stated about obeying Jesus words at John 13:34, 35.

    Sincerely.
    Russell M

    Reply
    1. avatar

      Jason Harris

      Russell M,

      Thanks for the comment. Passivism is not a matter of doctrine for Christians since Scripture does not address it directly. Each Christian is free to follow his own conscience in such matters.

      Let me point out the two fallacies that many lean on in this question. First, the fallacy that killing is murder. Second, the fallacy that love is niceness.

      First, killing is not always murder. We know this because God authorises war on a number of occasions in Scripture as well as instituting capital punishment in ancient Israel. This doesn’t mean modern societies must do these things necessarily, but it does mean that killing is not always inherently wrong. You’ll find that most translations make this distinction in the giving of the Ten Commandments: “You shall do no murder.”

      Second, love is not always nice. When the choice is between protecting the innocent and killing, love for the former requires the practice of the latter. Obviously few scenarios are that black and white, but the point remains. Which means that John 13:34-35 doesn’t necessarily forbid killing in every circumstance. Nor is that what the context of Jesus’ statement addresses. Rather, it addresses the way Christians will generally be known within society. It is disingenuous to ignore the context and focus on what is clearly an exception to the normal interactions of society (i.e. war).

      If your primary test of a church is what you perceive to be love, you will never settle in a church because the church is, by definition, full of sinners. Failures of love are the norm in such bodies of sinners. The distinction is that Christians admit the failures (repent) and seek reconciliation and make things right. This gospel process of repenting and forgiving is the distinctive of the church. In short, we are to be known by the love that drives this gospel process.

  11. avatar

    Russell M

    Jason I have been a Bible reader and student for many many years (over 50 years). So cheap statements are not going to be influential to me or anyone who is an avid student of the Bible. First, your last statement “If your primary test of a church is what you perceive to be love, you will never settle in a church because the church is, by definition, full of sinners” is not scripturally logical. It was JESUS the founder of Christianity that said that others will be able to tell his disciples by the love they would have: “By this shall ALL men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to the other”. (John 13:35) Your statement is directly opposite to Jesus statement. It seems to assume that Jesus would not be able to have such a group of genuine disciples. I believe he does HAVE such a church and that it is my responsibility to find that church. Therefore, I will try to follow what my Lord and Savior stated as to what to look for in the church that would make up true Christians and not allow specious statements by ANYONE to sidetrack me from my quest to be among those to whom my Lord will say “Well done, good and faithful servant….enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.” (Matthew 25:23)

    Your statements fail to address the real issue that causes the conflicts among professed Christians. Jesus said that HIS followers will be no part of the world and THIS is the real issue that causes Baptists to kill fellow baptists, to kill Catholics, Adventists, Pentecostals, Methodists, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Taoists, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Lutherans, Episcopalians, Greek Orthodox, Russian Orthodox……. and the list goes on. So your statements do not hold water when Jesus standard for his followers is lined up against the practices of mainstream Christian religions. Why, it has been my experience that even locally they have feuds among themselves, racially, politically, economically…. Regarding these I think my Lord will say: “I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” Matthew 7:23

    I tell you if those Jehovah’s Witnesses can demonstrate to me that they are no part of the world as Jesus said regarding his follows as well demonstrate that they have genuine love among themselves, they will go a long, long way in showing me that they are teaching the truth from God’s Word the Bible. Your statements have served to provide me with a greater determination to hear out these maligned Jehovah’s Witnesses. If they could demonstrate to me that they follow those 2 statements by Jesus, namely: “they are no part of the world” and “ye have love one to the other” I will be most satisfied that I have found the genuine disciples of Jesus.

    Addressing the first point your made. I agree that killing is not always wrong. That is why the apostle Paul said with regard to the governmental authorities that it “beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to EXECUTE wrath upon him that doeth evil.” Romans 13:4.

    But I believe that there is a need to balance Paul’s statement (the State’s use for force) with the statements of Jesus. “But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). Also, after instructing his disciples to buy swords (Luke 22:36) he demonstrated that fighting for the greatest cause there ever could be, namely, ‘the protection of Jesus, himself’ was not allowed among HIS disciples: “Put up again thy sword into his place, for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword”. (Matthew 26:52) So Jesus thereby demonstrated that his disciples (who were to be “no part of the world”) were not to involve themselves in the conflicts of the world even if it were to adversely affect Christians, even the arrest and execution of their Lord, Jesus. There could be no greater cause than that. So the excuses propounded by those who ARE “part of the world” to try and show that it is okay for a Christian to take up arms against fellow Christians, even to defend local Christians ring real hollow. Why not be honest and admit that mainstream Christians have made themselves a part of the world that Jesus said he and his disciples were no part of?

    History tells us that early Christians refused to be involved in the secular conflicts and the army of the Romans; even when they were attacked. Note the following overwhelming historical statements regarding the first Christians:

    “The first Christians thought it was wrong to fight, and would not serve in the army even when the Empire needed soldiers.”—The New World’s Foundations in the Old, by R. and W. M. West

    “In the second century, Christianity . . . had affirmed the incompatibility of military service with Christianity.”—A Short History of Rome, by G. Ferrero and C. Barbagallo

    “The behavior of the Christians was very different from that of the Romans. ”
    “Since Christ had preached peace, they refused to become soldiers.”—Our World Through the Ages, by N. Platt and M. J. Drummond

    “It will be seen presently that the evidence for the existence of a single Christian soldier between 60 and about 165 A.D. is exceedingly slight.”
    “Up to the reign of Marcus Aurelius at least, no Christian would become a soldier after his baptism.”—The Early Church and the World, by C. J. Cadoux

    “While they inculcated the maxims of passive obedience, they refused to take any active part in the civil administration or the military defense of the empire. ”
    “It was impossible that the Christians, without renouncing a more sacred duty, could assume the character of soldiers, of magistrates, or of princes.”—The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, by Edward Gibbon

    Christ followers “refused to engage in [war]; whatever were the consequences, whether reproach, or imprisonment, or death.”—Jonathan Dymond

    “Until the time of Marcus Aurelius no Christian became a soldier; and no soldier, after becoming a Christian, remained in military service.”—The Rise of Christianity, by E. W. Barnes

    Reply
    1. avatar

      Jason Harris

      Russell,

      You’ve commented here under the pretense of being non-JW (e.g. “I think the next time Jehovah’s Witnesses come knocking on my door I will be asking them…”). In reality, you’re quoting the NWT and copy/pasting large sections from the Watchtower.

      I’m happy to debate a JW on the odd occasion, but you’ve been disingenuous from the get go so the benefits are almost certainly nil in this situation.

      My advice to you is this:

      First, stop obsessing over pet issues. Pacifism is one among a million minor issues you could obsess over. Get to the core doctrines of the Christian faith and if they are right, commit to the Christian faith no matter what smaller issues you might have with this or that group or person.

      Second, stop playing with conspiracy theories. Yes, one out of ten might have some basis in truth, but if you continue to obsess over them, you will feed the arrogance that is letting you explore a cult that denies basic Christian doctrines such as the Trinity and the deity of Jesus because they feed your unhealthy desire to be smarter than the people who are falling for these “conspiracies.” Walk away. This thinking will destroy your soul.

      Third, walk away from any group that has their own exclusive Bible translation. There is no legitimate form of Christianity that rejects the mainstream Christian translations of Scripture.

      Fourth, learn to think for yourself. Copy/paste is a sure sign that you’re not. When you go to the assemblies, do they speak directly from Scripture? Or does the magazine guide the study of Scripture? I know the answer in our local assembly. If it’s the same there, don’t kid yourself that that is Bible study.

      Fifth, stop confusing niceness with love.

      Sixth, focus on the centre or you will live on the peripheral. Your last comment actually categorises the people who will be accepted by God, based on their membership in a church with certain views on Pacifism! That is sad and lame and will damn your soul if you don’t get back to the centre. What is the centre? God. Through Jesus Christ. Crucified. In your place.

  12. avatar

    M. Reynoldson

    I accidently came across your website while looking for information on the New World translation. Stopped to read all the comments. Two things bothered me in your comments. You repeatedly supported the trinity but never shared any scriptures to prove it. You said Christians believe the trinity. However in the places I have lived and had businesses, i have known people in various religions that do not. In the comments you received, the people shared many scriptures why they believed….but you sidestepped their scriptures with some kind of philosophies. So what scriptures can you share with me to prove a trinity??? I am pretty familiar with the Bible so I would like to see your point of view. Also I bought the book “Truth and Bias in Translation” and I studied it carefully with the various 20 translations I have…and I think more research would benefit you. Secondly, you made the comment to those witnesses that war was a minor thing. Jesus didn’t agree with you. What makes it necessary to kill anyone. Self-defence? Then it would be stop them without killing them like police officers are supposed to do. If those Jehovah’s witnesses are right….and all people were their religion, there wouldn’t be any war would there be??? In Isaiah 2:2 it sets the time frame as “the final part of the days”. And in Isaiah 2:4 it tell us that the nations will beat their swords into plowshares and spears into pruning shears and they will learn war no more. And Jesus said at Matthew 26:52 that those living by sword will die by the sword. Now if you believe Jesus is part of a trinity making him a god, why do you disagree with him….saying its a minor thing. My last comment…… In Hebrews 5: 7-9 it says Jesus learned obedience from the things he suffered and after he had been made perfect, he became responsible for everlasting salvation. My question– if he was part of a trinity; a god….why he have to suffer and be made perfect? Thank you for your time

    Reply
    1. avatar

      Jason Harris

      M. Reynoldson,

      First, your attempt to get me to prove the Trinity from Scripture is a classic JW trope designed to make the Trinity look unbiblical. If you actually want to understand, walk into any Christian bookstore, pick up any mainstream systematic theology text and see the thorough and comprehensive explanation of this fundamental doctrine. Or pick up any of the dozens of books/articles/papers written on the topic all throughout church history. If you’re sincere and really do want to understand, I’m more than happy to talk via email. But in my experience, that’s not what JWs want to do.

      I’ve yet to meet a JW who understands what the Trinity is. You are no exception. There is no Christian/trinitarian anywhere on the planet who thinks that Jesus was “a god.” Christianity is monotheistic. Either Jesus is THE one and only God, or he is no god at all.

      The Trinity is simple: One God; three persons. Get this.

      Second, I didn’t say “war was a minor thing.” What I said was “Pacifism is one among a million minor issues you could obsess over. Get to the core doctrines of the Christian faith and if they are right, commit to the Christian faith no matter what smaller issues you might have with this or that group or person.”

      Jesus never taught against war. You just said he did and then couldn’t come up with a text that actually says that. War may be wrong. Participating in a war might be wrong. These points may be argued. But pacifism was never taught by Jesus as the means of ending war. What Jesus taught would end war is JESUS! And he said he’d do it by winning a war! So again, I’ll put it to you: Stop obsessing about minor things. Have your convictions, sure. But stop making them a test of faith for others.

      Third, there are various ways to understand that passage. My best guess is that it means that in order to be “the founder of their salvation,” he needed to be “for a little while… made lower than the angels” so he would be perfected for the work of redemption. If you’d look at Hebrews 2, you’ll see that these are the words immediately surrounding the phrase you’re trying to twist. In other words, Jesus’ incarnation was a necessary part of rescuing us. He came to earn our righteousness, and he did it by living our lives vicariously through his life. It’s basic Christian theology really. Again, you’ll find it in any mainstream systematic theology.

  13. avatar

    Rod

    http://www.jw.org explicitly teaches this: “Most people think that they are serving God acceptably, but the Bible says that Satan is ‘misleading the entire inhabited earth.’ Millions of people believe that they are worshiping God, but they are really serving Satan the Devil! People today face a choice: They must serve either Jehovah, “the God of truth,” or Satan, “the father of the lie.”

    So, let’s cut to the chase. JW’s believe they are the only true Christians and no one else is. And we don’t believe you are Christians, but are deceived yourselves, regarding the person of Christ. I have studied the NWT and it is dishonest when it wants to be. Also, JW’s minimize grace (it is mentioned) and emphasize faith or Christ plus works. Adding to Christ’s work is not grace. It is the Galatian heresy. It is another gospel and is not Christianity. It is hell-based, hell-bound cultic doctrine. If you do not believe that Jesus is God and that the Holy Spirit is a person (rather than a power like electricity), then you do not believe in the Trinity. You are Arian and a heretic. And if you do not believe in the deity of Christ, then you have no reason to believe that a human being (or a man, as wonderful as you might describe him) could provide an efficacious death for the sins of the world. One man (or “a god”) cannot provide the required sacrifice for the atonement of the world. His would not be a worthy sacrifice. Only an infinite sacrifice would have that worth (in order to appease an infinitely holy God.) He could not say, “It is finished.” You deny the hypostatic union, which is also not a word from the Bible, but is clearly displayed in Jesus’s works of deity and his life of humanity. He is the God-man and must be worshiped as such. John Owen, one of the premier scholarly, but very godly, Puritans writes, “Do you love him [Jesus] because he was, and is, so full of grace and so full of holiness because in him there was an all-fulness of the graces of the Spirit of God? You are often pressed to direct your love to the person of Christ… but this you cannot do without a distinct notion and knowledge of him. There are, therefore, three things in general that you are to consider for this purpose – 1. The blessed union of his two natures in the same person… 2. The uncreated glories of his divine nature, whence our love hath the same object with that which we owe unto God absolutely. 3. That perfection and fulness of grace which dwelleth in his human nature, as communicated unto him by the Holy Spirit…if we love the person of Christ, it must be upon these considerations.” (Owen, “Works: The Holy Spirit,” Banner of Truth reprint. Vol. III, 187-188).

    If you do not love Jesus as the eternal, uncreated God-man, you are not a Christ-follower and you do not honor the Son as you honor the Father (John 5:21-24). He is the fullness of God!

    Let’s face it – you “believe” in Jesus, but he’s not the same Jesus that historic, orthodox Christianity has claimed, honored and taught. We do not see Jesus not treat him as lowly as you do. Charles Taze Russell came up with a new doctrine to appease people’s fear of hell and to excite their “end times” curiosities and then much later an anonymous “translation team” created a Bible that affirms their position, one with many dishonest renderings, despite Beduhn’s endorsement (by the way, teaching comparative religions is a sure way to invoke the “bias of neutrality,” thus biasing your entire perspective, often while stroking your own ego. That is an observation, not an accusation. I don’t know the man.)

    “Born again” – there’s another false definition of the JW’s, along with the denial of personhood as being both body and soul. I’ve read the materials and heard the answers (and lack of answers.)

    Jesus is God and I worship all three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit! Enough said.

    May you cast your life before his eternal throne and praise the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit for the great things they have done!

    Reply
    1. avatar

      Rod

      “We do not see Jesus nor treat him as lowly as you do.”

  14. avatar

    Rod

    Clarification: “We do not see Jesus nor treat him as lowly as you do.”

    Reply
  15. avatar

    Bjorn Rasmussen

    If the trinity is mono-theistic belief, then why is it called a THREE-nity?

    Please take the following in the right spirit, just trying to stimulate thinking and at least take it on the chin with a smile.

    I wonder…?

    If John wanted to state a trinity in John 1:1, then he must have forgotten by the time he got to the part that we call Chapter 20 and verse 17.

    Jesus said [to Mary Magdelene], “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'” NIV

    So here Jesus has been resurrected. Mary thinks he is the gardener, until he calls her affectionately “Mary” as if he is saying “don’t you realise it is me.”

    What Jesus then says to her is so clear and obvious that no Bible translation can get it wrong:

    “Tell my brothers…”

    Jesus identifies himself as a “brother” having “brothers.

    Does the trinity have “brothers”?

    If Jesus is their “brother” and they are his “brothers” – would that not mean that the Father in Heaven is their common Father? We are not left in any doubt about that:

    “Tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father…”

    Oh dear!

    It gets better, or worse, if you know what I mean, as Jesus adds next:

    “I am ascending to… to my God and your God.”

    I mean, how can the trinity survive those words straight of the one who should know the truth, Jesus Christ!

    It is pretty clear that John thought of himself as a “brother” of Jesus. He wrote this himself.

    Hence in no way could John have believed in a THREE-nity.

    The Holy Spirit, hmmm. All those scriptures ‘proving’ the Trinity and the Holy Spirit gets left out. Hence those scriptures cannot be used as real proof re… ahem… any THREE-nity.

    And didn’t Jesus tell the Devil that he only worshipped God?

    Does God worship himself?

    “And he [the Devil] said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’ ”

    No surprises that Jesus worshipped his Father and his God, as any loving and REAL Son would.

    But then again the trinity denies that Jesus is a REAL Son.

    A Son who is not a Son? Is not a Son at all?

    Why would Jesus call himself a Son if he was not a son?

    A Father gives life. A Son receives life. Is that not unambiguous?

    Oh yeah, already explained that, because he called his disciples “brothers” and on several occasions.

    Yep, all covered. Jesus is the Son of God – as real as his “brothers” were!

    Job called the angels “sons of God” too. Ohhh?

    Paul called Satan the “God of this World.”

    Jesus called Jesus the “ruler of this world” and didn’t deny when the Devil claimed he ruled the world “because it is mine to give to anyone I please.”

    Wow! Please explain?

    God himself said to Moses that he would make him a God unto Pharaoh.

    So does that mean the greater Moses is also a God unto us and the unfaithful world that will suffer the same fate as Egypt?

    And why did God call the Israelites “gods” which Jesus quoted in John 10:35 and Psalm 82:1, 82

    “God takes his place in the divine assembly [of Israelites], In the middle of gods he judges.”

    “I have said “You are gods, All of you are sons of the Most High.”

    SO: It is possible to be both a “god” and a “son” – the Israelites were, the angels are, and why should not John say the same about his “brother” Jesus?

    He surely was!

    Hallelujah!

    Reply
    1. avatar

      Jason Harris

      @Bjorn Rasmussen,

      Your post is off topic entirely. But I’ll respond briefly.

      The Christian doctrine of the trinity is necessarily monotheistic. Without monotheism, there can be no trinity for the trinity is one God in three persons. ONE God. Three persons. Until you have understood this, you cannot possibly mount a coherent argument against it.

      Of all the places you might go to try to disprove the trinity, John’s gospel is the worst. John is very clear on who Jesus is. If you are surprised to see God the Son (Jesus) calling the disciples his brothers, you must not be familiar with the Christian doctrine of adoption introduced in John 1:12 “But as many as received Him [Jesus], to them He [God the Father] gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His [Jesus’] name.” Adopted sons of Jesus’ Father are by definition brothers of Jesus. This doctrine is taught explicitly in Galatians 4:5 and Romans 8:15-17 and in v. 29 where Paul says “…in order that he [Jesus] might be the firstborn among many brothers.” If you’ve missed this doctrine in Scripture, you’re missing a major Christian doctrine. But of course there is nothing about this doctrine which in any way undermines the doctrine of the trinity. Indeed, God the Father insists that Jesus is the only way to the Father thus indicating that God the Son is entirely other than us (the doctrine of God’s transcendence). So there is nothing in John 20:17 that in any way undermines the doctrine of the trinity.

      After that argument your arguments get thinner and less coherent. Is Jesus’ sonship real? Of course. Is sonship primarily about procreation? I pity your children if you think it is. Does God even have a body to procreate with? No. Is Jesus created? John could not have been more emphatic in saying no. “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3). Is the Holy Spirit spoken of consistently as a person in Scripture? Yes. Is there some sense in which angels/demons and humans can be referred to as gods? Of course. Is this the sense that Jesus means when he says in John 8:58 “Before Abraham was, I am”? Absolutely not.

      What you have been taught is absolute heresy. You blaspheme God when you deny the trinity. And you reject an essential doctrine of the Christian faith. Whatever you may be, your doctrine and any church that holds it is not Christian.

  16. avatar

    Michael R. Davenport

    Jason said: “You blaspheme God when you deny the trinity.” I’m sorry, but this is just ignorant rambling. The Trinity doctrine developed gradually in the early years of the Church, and it was not until the Council of Constantinople in 381 that the Roman Catholic Church finally issued a formal doctrinal statement on the Trinity, but it took another 500 years before the Church as a whole adopted it.

    The 1967 New Catholic Encyclopedia has much to say about the long battle to create the Trinity doctrine. Here’s a small sampling:

    “Question of Continuity and Elemental Trinitarianism.
    From what has been seen thus far, the impression could arise that the Trinitarian dogma Is in the last analysis a late 4th-century invention. In a sense, this is true; but it implies an extremely strict interpretation of the words, Trinitarian and dogma.”

    “Triadic Consciousness in the Primitive Revelation.
    The formulation, ‘one God in three persons’ was not solidly established, certainly not fully assimilated into Christian life and its profession of faith, prior to the end of the 4th century.

    Among the Apostolic Fathers, there had been nothing even remotely approaching such a mentality or perspective; among the 2d-century Apologists, little more than a focusing of the problem as that of plurality within the unique Godhead.”

    If you read the 2nd century church ‘fathers’ like Irenaeus and Justin Martyr, you will not find anything even remotely resembling the Trinity doctrine. What they taught was very much like what JWs teach today. But what the Protestant churches teach is warmed over Roman Catholicism. The Reformation didn’t go far enough!

    Reply
  17. avatar

    Michael R Davenport

    Jason asked: “Is this the sense that Jesus means when he says in John 8:58 “Before Abraham was, I am”?

    Interesting that you don’t capitalize the word ‘am.’ Yet you appeal to it as if it were a title. If it were a title, it would be capitalized.

    There was a lengthy on-line debate between Rob Bowman and Jason BeDuhn on John 8:58/Ex 3:14. I assume it’s still accessible online. Try searching “BeDuhn vs. Bowman.” It gets pretty intense, but Bowman struggles to deflect the damage inflicted by BeDuhn, who simply has a much better knowledge of the Greek.

    Historically, the earliest writer to connect John 8:58 with Ex. 3:14 was a Gnostic writer, Marcellus of Ancyrana, who lived in the 4th century*. He was known to Athanasius who argued that Jesus was homoousias to the Father at the Council of Nicea in 325 CE, but no one has ever shown that Athanasius used this argument to make his case. Marcellus was excommunicated from the Church for his apostasy, by the way, although he was, in his later years, accepted back, but never given and position of authority. Personally, I wonder if any Christian writer before the 1800s ever connected the two passages. The lack of capitalization of the word, ‘am’ in Jn 8:58 in the KJV would suggest that the KJV translators were ignorant of this argument for the Trinity. I’d be interested to see any evidence to the contrary.
    * See the Patristic Lexicon by Lampe.

    Reply
    1. avatar

      Jason Harris

      [1 of 2]

      @Michael R. Davenport,

      The notion that the trinity was invented centuries after Christ is a fundamental misunderstanding of what theology is and does. Jesus and the Apostles believed in the Trinity which the New Testament makes clear. No, it was not always perfectly clear exactly how that worked and yes, the church spent several centuries clarifying and formulising the precise demarcations of that doctrine, but it is entirely inaccurate to represent this process as you have.

      You do indeed blaspheme God when you deny the trinity. You are a false teacher.

    2. avatar

      Jason Harris

      [2 of 2]

      @Michael R. Davenport,

      Considering that Greek was written entirely in minuscules for several centuries, you will understand that the capitalisation of words in the new testament MSS contributes nothing to our interpretation of their meaning. This line of reasoning, therefore, collapses entirely.

      Historical theology notwithstanding, Jesus Christ is clearly, in context, arguing that before Abraham was, Jesus is. A present tense being verb makes no sense any other way. The awkwardness of that being the name of God as well is for you to explain away. Or you can accept the clear and decisive teaching of Scripture throughout as to the full deity of Jesus Christ. This is a simple matter of obedience for you. You will submit to Jesus Christ as God whether in glorification or damnation. May it be the former.

    3. avatar

      Michael R. Davenport

      Jason said: “you will understand that the capitalisation of words in the new testament MSS contributes nothing to our interpretation of their meaning.”

      Me: As far as I know, NT manuscripts were written either in all miniscules or all ‘capitals’ (Is that magiscules?), but I was referring to the use of capitals in our English translations – not in the Greek texts. It is noteworthy, I think, that the KJV translators did not capitalize the words ‘I am” at John 8:58, as many more modern versions do. I suspect that they didn’t capitalize the word ‘am’ because the argument for Jesus’ words being a claim to be Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh from Ex 3:14 had not been proposed yet in 1611 when the KJV was first published.

      You said: ” Jesus Christ is clearly, in context, arguing that before Abraham was, Jesus is.”

      Me: I don’t disagree. This is what is called a PPA in Greek grammar. It is the Present tense of Past Action. It describes action that begins at some point in the past and which continues up into the present. A perfect example of this may be found at Psalm 90:2″: “Before the mountains were brought forth . . . thou art God.” (KJV. I’d quote from the Septuagint if I had it here)

      The Pharisees had just asked Jesus how he could have seen Abraham, given that he was not even 50 years old. And his reply was that he had been in existence before Abraham was.

      You said: “The awkwardness of that being the name of God as well is for you to explain away.”

      Me: The problem here is that you appeal to your interpretation as proof of your interpretation. Your entire argument is based upon an unproven premise: You assume that the Greek words ‘ego eimi’ were recognized in 1st century Palestine as a divine title – the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh at Ex 3:14. Where in Jewish Greek literature contemporaneous to the first century do you find the words, ‘ego eimi’ being used as a divine title? Not in Josephus nor Philo, and not in the Septuagint. Realistically, the word, ‘eimi’ is exceedingly common. In the Septuagint, eimi is used 6,469 times, and in the NT: 2,462 times, for a total of 8,931 times. I doubt you could find a single example where eimi is used as a divine title. .

      Eimi has become a divine title only because the Pharisees wanted to kill Jesus for saying that he existed before Abraham.

      But the Hebrew word, ehyeh, which occurs 51 times in the Hebrew text of the Bible is an imperfect aspect verb which describes future action – which is why it is often translated as “I will be” in the KJV – 25 times iirc. It is so translated at Exodus 3:12 in the KJV, so why is it “I am” two verses later?

      You said: “Or you can accept the clear and decisive teaching of Scripture throughout as to the full deity of Jesus Christ.”

      Me: I have no issue with saying that Jesus is deity. But this is not a word that comes from the Greek of the Bible. It comes from the Latin deitas. You are appealing now to Roman Catholic doctrine. This does not make it true or false necessarily, but it is a doctrine that developed long after the NT was written. I’d prefer to stick with the NT writings, thank you.

      Jason said: “You will submit to Jesus Christ as God whether in glorification or damnation.”

      I have already submitted to the authority of Jesus Christ as the Son of God, my Messiah and Savior. It is sad that the KJV translators mistranslated the Greek word, ‘krisis’ in a small number of passages. Krisis does not mean ‘damnation.’ It means to make a decision, or, to take to trial. In many examples from the Septuagint, it is used for the restoration to people who have been victimized that which was taken from them unjustly. Yes, sometimes the decision will be condemnatory, but that does not mean eternal conscious torment. I can post my study on this word if you’d be interested.

    4. avatar

      Jason Harris

      @Michael R. Davenport,

      Re: Capitalisation. I don’t think it is noteworthy. None of the key translations capitalise the translation of ego eimi. Not the ESV, NIV, KJV, NASB, ASV, etc. The only reasonably formal translations that do are the NKJV, D-R, and NLT. And they shouldn’t. Capitalisation in this case is a matter of interpretation, not translation. And interpretation should be left to the reader as often as possible.

      Again, the fact that an argument was not made historically is not an argument for or against that argument.

      Re: Greek grammar. I’m no Greek grammarian, but I’m afraid you’re wrong on this. Greek does not have a present perfect tense per se. There is present and there is perfect, and a number of nuanced formed between, but not a straight up present perfect (cf. Wallace). In fact, eimi is a present tense verb. An incredibly common one at that.

      Re: ego eimi as a divine title. No, I don’t think it’s a divine title. I never said I did. And of course it’s not. It is, however, the exact Greek equivalent to the Hebrew “I Am” statement in Exodus 3:14 which the LXX translates as ego eimi.

      Re: the deity of Jesus. You’re playing dishonest word games when you say you accept the deity of Jesus Christ. There is one God. And Jesus is God. You do not affirm that. Be straight with me.

      Re: Submission to Jesus. No, Jesus is not your Saviour. A Jesus who is no more God than Zeus is has no power to save. And God the Son, Jesus Christ, will not save those who blaspheme him.

      Re: “Krisis.” To simplify a complex topic, Jesus will indeed both judge (krisis) AND condemn (katakrisis) those who reject him as you do.

    5. avatar

      Michael R. Davenport

      Jason said: “Greek does not have a present perfect tense per se.”

      Me: So you are disputing that there is a present tense of past action? Here’s what grammarians say: “A Grammar of the idiom of the New Testament” by G.B. Winer 7th ed. 1897, p.267

      “Sometimes the Present includes also a past tense, viz, when the verb expresses a state which commenced at an earlier period but still continues

      Dana & Mantey’s “Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament”

      Pg. 178 “The important element of tense in Greek is KIND of ACTION. The chief function of Greek tense is thus not to denote time, but progress . . . The character of an action may be defined of either of three points of view; it may be continuous, it may be complete; or it may be regarded simply as occurring without reference to the question of progress.”

      Page 183 “Sometimes the progressive present is retroactive in its application, denoting that which has begun in the past and continues into the present. For the want of a better name, we may call it the present of duration.”

      “ap arches met emou este – You HAVE BEEN with me from the beginning – John 15:27. See also Luke 13:7; 2 Cor. 12:9”

      (“For three years now, I HAVE COME in search of fruit on this fig tree and HAVE FOUND no fruit.” – Luke 13:7 NAB. I wasn’t sure about 2 Cor 12:9. Verse 8 seems more likely. It might have been a typo in D&M)

      D & M quote Moulton: “Here the present tense gathers up past and present time into one phase.”

      A Grammar of New Testament Greek by J.H. Moulton, Vol III, by Nigel Turner, 1963, p. 62

      “The Present which indicates the continuance of an action during the past and up to the moment of speaking is virtually the same as the Perfective, the only difference being that the action is conceived as still in progress. It is frequent in the NT: Lk 2:48; 13:7; 15:29, Jn 5:6; 8:58;15:27; Ac 15:21; 26:21; 2 Cor 12:19; 2 Ti 3:15; 2 Pt 3:4; 1 Jn 2:9; 3:8.”
      (Note that Moulton includes Jn 8:58 in his list)

  18. avatar

    Michael R. Davenport

    In John 8:58, we have eimi being used as a PPA. It describes existence that goes back before Abraham’s time, and continues to the present when Jesus spoke the words – and beyond, of course.. The presence of the phrase, ‘prin Abraam genesthai” (Before Abraham existed”) modifies the present tense of the verb, eimi by taking it back to an unspecified time before Abraham

    In the Greek Septuagint, we have a similar example of a PPA being used at Psalm 90:2

    It reads: “Before the mountains existed, and before the earth and the world were formed . . . thou art.”

    SO here is a present tense “Be” verb being used to indicate existence from before the mountains and the earth were formed. The Greek is “pro (a form of prin) tou (article) ore (mountains) genethenai (a form of genesthai – “came into existence.”) -. . . su (you), ei (a form of eimi, present tense – to exist)

    Obviously, God’s existence was from before the mountains came into existence, and obviously he was still in existence when the Psalm was written – and beyond.

    I think that this nicely demonstrates the syntax of John 8:58. The “be”–verb is a PPA because of the modifying phrase, “before the mountains existed” which takes the action of the present tense verb back into the past.

    Here are two more examples of PPAs from the Septuagint:

    Genesis 31:38 It is twenty years now that I HAVE BEEN (ego eimi) under you:

    Judges 16:17 “Then he [Samson] told her [Delilah] all his heart, and he said to her, A razor has not come upon my head because I HAVE BEEN a holy one of God from my mother’s womb

    Here are some more examples of present tense “Be”-verbs being used as PPAs: (“present tense of past action) from the Christian Greek Scriptures: (Citations from the Revised English Bible)

    Luke 2:48 (This is the account where 12-year-old Jesus was accidentally left behind in Jerusalem, and Mary asked: “My Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I HAVE BEEN anxiously searching for you?
    (ho pater sou kai ego dunomenoi zetoumen)

    Luke 13:7 “So he said to the vine-dresser, ‘For the last three years I HAVE come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any.”
    (erchomai zeton)

    Luke 15:29 From the parable of the Prodigal Son: “You know how I HAVE slaved for you all these years . . . “
    (douleuo –present tense)

    John 5:6 “Jesus saw him lying there, and knowing that he HAD BEEN ill a long time he asked him, ‘Do you want to get well?’”
    (gnous hoti polun edechronon ekei)

    John 14:9: “Jesus answered, HAVE I BEEN all this time with you, Phillip, and still you do not know me?”
    (tosouton chronon meth humon eimi)

    John 15:27 “And you also are my witnesses, because you HAVE BEEN with me from the first.”
    (ap arches met emou este)

    Acts 15:21 “For Moses HAS BEEN preached in every city from the earliest times” (NIV)

    Acts 26:22 “I HAVE HAD God’s help to this very day.”

    2 Corinthians 12:19 “Perhaps you HAVE BEEN thinking all this time that it is to you we are addressing our defence.”
    (palai dokeite – “from long ago” – “you are thinking” present tense )

    2 Timothy 3:15 “Remember that from early childhood you HAVE BEEN familiar with the sacred writings.”

    2 Peter 3:4 “Our fathers HAVE BEEN laid to rest, but still everything goes on exactly as it always has done since the world began.”
    (panta houtos diamenai ap arches ktiseos)

    1 John 3:8 “For the devil HAS BEEN a sinner from the first . . .”
    (ap arches . . . diabolos hamartonei – present tense)

    Here’s another example of a PPA that parallels John 8:58 , this time from a non-biblical writer:

    Menander Dyscolus 516

    “I have been (eimi) a friend to you before (prin) I knew you.”

    Reply
  19. avatar

    Michael R. Davenport

    Jason said: “ego eimi as a divine title. No, I don’t think it’s a divine title. I never said I did. And of course it’s not. It is, however, the exact Greek equivalent to the Hebrew “I Am” statement in Exodus 3:14 which the LXX translates as ego eimi.”

    Me: It appears that you haven’t actually looked at the Septuagint. It does NOT use ego eimi to translate the Hebrew, ‘ehyeh asher eimi.’ used at Ex 3:14 When Moses asked God who he should say had sent him, “God spoke to Moses, saying, I am THE BEING (ho on); and he said, Thus shall ye say to the children of Israel, THE BEING (ho on) has sent me to you.” (Capitalization as per Bagster’s LXX)

    If Jesus had been claiming to be the One speaking in Exodus 3:14 in the Septuagint, he would have said, “Before Abraham was, I was THE BEING.” or “I was Ho On.”

    Maybe Jesus was quoting from the King James Version?

    Another big issue is that the Hebrew word ehyeh is usually translated as “I will be.” Look at Ex 3:12 – just two verses before, where God says, “I will be (ehyeh) with thee.”

    Ehyeh is used in the Hebrew text of the Bible only 51 times, and only 6 times as “I am”

    Here are the verses: Ehyeh in the JPS Tanakh
    Categorized by translation, sorted according to frequency of rendering

    “Will Be” – 26 times
    Gen 26:3 “I WILL BE with thee”
    Gen 31:3 “I WILL BE with thee”
    Exod 3:12 “I WILL BE with thee”
    Exod 4:12 Now therefore go, and I WILL BE with thy mouth and teach ye what thou shalt say
    Exod 4:15 and I WILL BE with thy mouth
    Deut 31:23 I sware unto them: and I WILL BE with them
    Joshua 1:5 as I was with Moses, so I WILL BE with thee
    Joshua 3:7 as I was with Moses, so I WILL BE with thee
    Judges 6:16 surely I WILL BE with thee [Gideon], and thou shalt smite the Midianites as one man.”
    2 Sam 7:14 I WILL BE a father to him, and he shall be a son to Me. When he does wrong, I will chastise him with the rod of men and the affliction of mortals;
    2 Sam 15:34 But if you go back to the city and say to Absalom, `I WILL BE your servant, O king; I was your father’s servant formerly, and now I will be yours,’ then you can nullify Ahithophel’s counsel for me.
    2 Sam 16:19 Furthermore, whom should I serve, if not David’s son? As I was in your father’s service, so I WILL BE in yours.”
    Isa 3:7 The other will thereupon protest, “I WILL not be a dresser of wounds, With no food or clothing in my own house. You shall not make me chief of a people!”
    Jer 24:7 And I will give them the understanding to acknowledge Me, for I am the LORD. And they shall be My people and I WILL BE their God, when they turn back to Me with all their heart.
    Jer 30:22 You shall be My people, And I WILL BE your God.
    Jer 31:1 At that time – declares the LORD – I WILL BE God to all the clans of Israel, and they SHALL BE My people.
    Jer 32:38 They shall be My people, and I WILL BE their God.
    Ezek 11:20 that they may follow My laws and faithfully observe My rules. Then they shall be My people and I WILL BE their God.
    Ezek 14:11 so that the House of Israel may never again stray from Me and defile itself with all its transgressions. Then they shall be My people and I WILL BE their God – declares the Lord GOD.
    Ezek 36:28 Then you shall dwell in the land which I gave to your fathers, and you shall be My people and I WILL BE your God.
    Ezek 37:23 Nor shall they ever again defile themselves by their fetishes and their abhorrent things, and by their other transgressions. I will save them in all their settlements where they sinned, and I will cleanse them. Then they shall be My people, and I WILL BE their God.
    Hos 1:9 Then He said, “Name him Lo-ammi; for you are not My people, and I WILL not BE your God.”
    Hos 14:6 I WILL BE to Israel like dew; He shall blossom like the lily, He shall strike root like a Lebanon tree.
    Zech 2:9 And I Myself – declares the LORD – WILL BE a wall of fire all around it, and I WILL BE a glory inside it.
    Zech 8:8 and I will bring them home to dwell in Jerusalem. They shall be My people, and I WILL BE their God – in truth and sincerity.
    1 Chr 28:6 He said to me, `It will be your son Solomon who will build My House and My courts, for I have chosen him to be a son to Me, and I WILL BE a father to him.

    ”I am” – 6 times
    Exod 3:14 And God said unto Moses, “I AM THAT I AM: and he said, thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.” (Ehyeh used 3 times in this verse).
    Ps 102:8 I lie awake; I AM like a lone bird upon a roof. (This is verse 7 in the KJV)
    Ruth 2:13 She answered, “You are most kind, my lord, to comfort me and to speak gently to your maidservant – though I AM not so much as one of your maidservants.”
    2 Sam 16:18 “Not at all!” Hushai replied. “I AM for the one whom the LORD and this people and all the men of Israel have chosen, and I will stay with him. (The KJV translates here as “WILL I BE”)

    “Shall be” – 5 times
    Judges 11:9 Jephthah, to the elders of Gilead: “if ye bring me home again to fight against the children of Ammon and the LORD deliver them before me, SHALL I BE your head?.”
    1 Samuel 23:17 and thou shalt be king over Israel and I SHALL BE next unto thee.
    Isa 47:7 You thought, “I SHALL always BE The mistress still.” You did not take these things to heart, You gave no thought to the end of it.
    Ezek 34:24 I the LORD will be their God, and My servant David SHALL BE a ruler among them – I the LORD have spoken.
    1 Chr 17:13 I will be a father to him, and he SHALL BE a son to Me, but I will never withdraw My favor from him as I withdrew it from your predecessor.

    ”Have been” – 4 times
    2 Sam 22:24 I HAVE BEEN blameless before Him, And have guarded myself against sinning –
    Job 10:19 Had I been as though I never was, Had I BEEN carried from the womb to the grave. (KJV: “I SHOULD HAVE BEEN.”)
    Job 12:4 I HAVE BECOME a laughingstock to my friend – “One who calls to God and
    Job 17:6 He made me a byword among people; I HAVE BECOME like Tophet of old.
    1 Chr 17:8 and I HAVE BEEN with you wherever you went, and have cut down all your enemies before you. Moreover, I will give you renown like that of the greatest men on earth.

    ”I was” – 3 times
    Ps 50:21 If I failed to act when you did these things, you would fancy that I WAS like you; so I censure you and confront you with charges. (KJV: “I WAS”)
    Job 3:16 Or why WAS I not like a buried stillbirth, Like babies who never saw the light?
    Prov 8:30 I WAS with Him as a confidant, A source of delight every day, Rejoicing before Him at all times. (There are two occurrences of ehyeh in the passage. The second is more apparent in the KJV: “I WAS daily his delight.”

    “I have” – 3 times
    2 Samuel 7:6 Whereas I HAVE not dwelt in any house since the time that I brought up the children of Israel”
    2 Sam 7:9 I HAVE made thee a great name. like unto the name of the great men
    Isa 3:7 The other will thereupon protest, “I Will not be a dresser of wounds, With no food or clothing in my own house. You SHALL not make me chief of a people!”
    1 Chr 17:5 From the day that I brought out Israel to this day, I HAVE not dwelt in a house, but have gone from tent to tent and from one Tabernacle to another.

    ”be”
    Song of Solomon 1:7 Tell me, you whom I love so well; Where do you pasture your sheep? Where do you rest them at noon? Let me not BE as one who strays Beside the flocks of your fellows. (KJV: “Why SHOULD I BE?”)

    “I Should be”
    1 Samuel 18:18 David, to Saul, “Who am I . . . that I SHOULD BE son-in-law to the king?”

    ”I May be”
    Jer 11:4 which I enjoined upon your fathers when I freed them from the land of Egypt, the iron crucible, saying, `Obey Me and observe them, just as I command you, that you may be My people and I MAY BE your God’ –

    ”I Seemed [to be]”
    Hos 11:4 I drew them with human ties, With cords of love; But I SEEMED to them as one Who imposed a yoke on their jaws, Though I was offering them food. (KJV: “I WAS”)

    Untranslated
    Job 7:20 If I have sinned, what have I done to You, Watcher of men? Why make of me Your target, And a burden to myself? (The Tanakh does not render ehyeh into the English text. Compare the KJV: “I AM a burden to myself.”)

    “Will Be” – 26 times
    ”I am” – 6 times (3 in Ex. 3:14)
    “Shall be” – 5 times
    ”Have been” – 4 times
    ”I was” – 3 times
    “I have” – 2 times
    ”be” – 1 time
    “I Should be ” – 1 time
    ”I May be” – 1 time
    ”I Seemed [to be]” – 1 Time

    Reply
  20. avatar

    Michael R. Davenport

    Jason said: “Re: the deity of Jesus. You’re playing dishonest word games when you say you accept the deity of Jesus Christ. There is one God. And Jesus is God. You do not affirm that. Be straight with me.”

    Me: I said I have no issue with saying that Jesus is deity, but I go by the definition in Webster’s. You go by Roman Catholic definition. That’s ok if you’re Roman Catholic, but I’m not. The word, ‘deity’ is not limited to Almighty God alone. And the Bible says that there are many gods. Even the angels are called ‘gods’ in Scripture.

    See Young’s Concordance under “Hints and Helps to Bible Interpretation,” a two-page section found at the front of earlier editions of Young’s Concordance.

    Heading: “God”

    “God – is used of anyone (professedly) mighty, whether truly so or not, and is applied not only to the true God, but to false gods, magistrates, judges, angels, prophets, and c., e.g. – Exodus 7:1; 15:11; 21:6; 22:8,9; 32:8, 22, 31; Deuteronomy 10:17; Judges 8:33; 9:9. 13; 13:21,22; 16:23; 1 Sam 2:25 (23?); 28:13; 1 Kings 11:33; 2 Kings 1:2,3; 19:37; Psalm 8:5; 45:6; 82:1, 6; 97:7, 9; 136:2; Matthew 1:21; John1:1; 10:33-35; 20:28; Acts 7:40, 43, 59; 12:22; 14:11; 17:18, 23; 19:26; 20:28; 28:6; Romans 9:5; 1 Corinthians 8:5; Philippians 3:19; 2 Thessalonians 2:4; 1 Timothy 3:10; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 1:8; 2 Peter 1:1; 1 John 3:16; 5:20.”

    Reply
  21. avatar

    Michael R. Davenport

    (Oops – accidental duplication. No way to edit.)

    Not sure when I’ll get back here. Heading to Phoenix today and not sure if I’ll have computer access down there.

    Reply
  22. avatar

    Jason Harris

    @Michael R. Davenport,

    Re: The LXX reading at Exodus 3:14. Actually, I looked it up in Swete’s LXX and it does indeed have the “ego eimi ho on” reading there. I’ve now also looked at the Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft 1979 LXX and it is “ego eimi ho on” there as well. So I’m not sure what LXX you’re (mis?)reading but “ego eimi” is definitely how the Hebrew is translated in the LXX.

    But I think I understand your argument more clearly now. It seems you’re arguing that I AM is not the name God gives himself in Exodus 3:14 based on the LXX. I think you’ll find that the Hebrew is clear on the point. God is indeed calling himself I AM in the Hebrew and as the LXX shows, “ego eimi” is an appropriate translation of the Hebrew for I AM. You can’t use a translation (the LXX) to correct the original (the Hebrew). So for Jesus to use ego eimi in so stark a syntactical setting is indeed a solid reference to the OT name of God. And the context being about Abraham only makes this point stronger.

    Re: the Hebrew translation of Exodus 3:14. “Biblical Hebrew does not have tense like English or Greek (time of action is conveyed by context)” (Heiser, Glossary of Morpho-Syntactic Database Terminology). Your argument here seems to be that the way it was translated in one place somehow affects how it should be translated in another place. Which suggests that you don’t understand how language works. Or perhaps more accurately, your church-approved sources don’t understand how language works (or are counting on their readers not knowing). But you’re accidentally right that the tense is unspecified and therefore this name I AM involves the full spectrum of past, present, and future and is sometimes, to make this point, translated “I always will be what I always have been” or similarly.

    Bottom line is you don’t seem to know what you’re talking about when you address language issues. But you speak with confidence. Which makes me wonder who/what your sources are. And why they are misleading you. And why you trust them.

    Reply
    1. avatar

      Michael Davenport

      Is Jesus deity?

      I believe that he is deity, but what does this word mean? Many people assume that there is only one deity: God Himself, but is this true? How about if we use a dictionary to define the word, ‘deity’?

      Deity according to Funk and Wagnalls:

      “Deity 1. A god, goddess, or divine person. 2. Divine nature or status; Godhead: divinity.”

      “Divinity 1. The state or quality of being divine; especially the state or quality of being God or a god: Godhead 2. A godlike character or attribute, especially extreme excellence. 3. A god or goddess; deity.”

      “Divine 1. Of or pertaining to God or a god; 2 given by or derived from God or a god, a divine vision 3. Directed by or devoted to God, or a god. Sacred; religious, divine worship. 4. Reflecting the attributes or suggestive of God or a god: godlike. 5. Extraordinarily perfect. Excellent to the highest degree.”

      Obviously, the word, ‘deity’ is a description not reserved for God alone.

      Technically, the word, ‘deity’ is not found in the Greek New Testament because it comes from the Latin word, deitas, which is used in the Latin Vulgate to translate the Greek word, theotetos at Colossians 2:9, The Latin Vulgate, of course, is a Roman Catholic translation.

    2. avatar

      Michael Davenport

      The Gospel of John – Volume 1, Daily Bible Study Series, pg. 39
      William Barclay

      “Finally, John says that the Word was God. This is a difficult saying for us to understand, and it is difficult because Greek, in which John wrote, had a different way of saying things from the way in which English speaks. When Greek uses a noun it almost always uses the definite article with it. The Greek for God is theos and the definite article is ho. When Greek speaks about God it does not simply say theos; it says ho theos. Now when Greek does not use the definite article with a noun, that noun becomes much more like an adjective.. John does not say that the Word was ho theos; that would have been to say that the Word was identical with God. He said that the Word was theos – without the definite article – which means that the Word was, we might say, of the very same character and quality and essence and being as God. When John said that the Word was God he was not saying that the Word was identical with God; he was saying that Jesus was so perfectly the same as God in mind, in heart, in being, that in him we perfectly see what God is like.”

  23. avatar

    Jason Harris

    @Michael R. Davenport,

    Re: The deity of Jesus. Why obfuscate about the word deity? Jesus is the one true God, YHWH. That is my claim.

    Re: The present perfect tense. No I’m not disputing that there is a present tense that involves past action. What I said is “Greek does not have a present perfect tense per se.” Which is true. And which leads me to question the competence of whatever source you are relying on. And to question your integrity for apparently rehashing/relaying arguments you don’t actually understand. How can I take you seriously if you refer to a tense that doesn’t actually exist per se in Greek?

    As far as the translation itself, there is no present tense in Greek that satisfies non-JW scholars as being a possible use in this case. In other words, scholars (Moulton included according to your own quotation) accept that this is a present tense verb and should be translated as such. Attempts to twist it otherwise are contrived and imposed upon the context.

    The bottom line here is that you have nothing to gain by this point. If Jesus began in the past and continues to the present, the only possible theological benefit you could get would be the notion of Jesus having a beginning (vs. being eternal), which would be a misunderstanding of the meaning of a present tense verb which involved past time.

    It’s really bizarre that you are trying to demonstrate points of Greek grammar based on the Greek translation of the Hebrew text. You’re clearly conflating the authority of the Hebrew text with the non-authority of the translation to justify imposing Hebrew grammar on Greek phrases.

    And again, you don’t seem to actually understand the arguments you’re making. Do you know Greek? Do you know Hebrew? What is the source of your arguments?

    Reply
    1. avatar

      Michael Davenport

      Hello, Jason. I just recently got my personal computer back up and running, although I’m not sure for how long.

      You asked who my sources were for the information I’ve posted. The JW Org has not published anything of depth on these doctrinal issues in many decades. Most of my info comes from my own personal research with lexicons and concordances, and occasionally, from some of the Greek grammars I own.
      I learned a lot from reading BeDuhn’s online debate with Bowman, but that was focused primarily on Jn 8:58.
      But my theology comes mostly from the Bible.
      Back in 1981, I studied with a man who had been a staunch Trinitarian – Foursquare Pentecostal – but he began to question his own beliefs after he put away his Pentecostal literature and simply read the Bible. He highlighted in yellow every verse that had something to say about Jesus and his relationship with the Father, and by the time he finished reading the NT, he had serious doubts about the Trinity. He had questions on a few verses – like John 1:1 and 8:58, and Hebrews 1:6, and we both did some research on them and found the answers. It was he who found in his own personal library a commentary on the Book of John by William Barclay. After he read just one paragraph in Barclay on Jn 1:1, he said, “OK, now I understand.” That was one of the things that motivated me to start digging deeper into the Greek – including the Bagster’s LXX. In the 38 years since then, I’ve spent thousands of hours researching the usage and meaning of Greek words in the LXX and NT. I know a lot, but I’ll have to admit that there’s a lot I don’t know. And no one knows everything.

      On John 8:58/Ex 3:14, I challenge you to produce any comments from any Christian writer who appeals to your argument from up to the time the KJV was written. I’m not aware of any, but if you can find any such source, I’d love to see it.

  24. avatar

    Michael R. Davenport

    Rotherham’s Emphasized Bible on Exodus 3:14:

    In verse 12, God tells Moses, “I will be [ehyeh] with thee, and this to thee [shall be] the sign that I have sent thee, – when thou bringest forth the people out of Egypt ye shall do service unto God, upon this mountain.”

    13. And Moses said unto God –
    Lo! as surely as I go in unto the sons of Israel, and say unto them, The God of your forefathers hath sent me unto you, so surely will they say unto me, What is his name? What shall I say to them?
    14 And God said unto Moses –
    I Will Become (ehyeh] whatsoever I please
    And he said –
    Thus shalt thou say to the sons of Israel,
    I Will Become [Ehyeh] hath sent me unto you
    15 And God said further unto Moses –
    Thus shalt thou say unto the sons of Israel,
    Yahweh, God of your fathers, God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob hath sent me unto you.”
    This is my name to times age-abiding
    And this my memorial to generation after generation.”

    Footnote, Quoting the Hastings Bible Dictionary: “To follow the weighty explanation subjoined, it should be borne in mind that the Hebrew in verse 14 is, second line, ehyeh asher ehyeh, then in the fifth line ;ehyeh’ only ; then that Yahweh takes up the strain in verse ver. 15. ‘Hayah [the word rendered above ‘become’ does not mean ‘to be’ essentially or ontologically, but phenomenally, . . . it seems evident that in the view of the writer ‘ehyeh’ and ‘Yahweh’ are the same ; that God is ‘ehyeh, ‘I will be,’ when speaking of Himself, and Yahweh, ‘He will be,’ when spoken of by others. What he will be is left unexpressed – He will be with them, helper, strengthener, deliverer.”

    – Professor A.B. Davidson, in Hastings Bible Dictionary, Vol II., 199.
    [It will be seen by the discriminating that the above brief exposition of the meaning of the Divine Name [Yahweh] is in essential accord with that offered in chapter IV,. In the introduction to this Bible.”

    Reply
  25. avatar

    Michael Davenport

    It’s not surprising that people confuse Jesus with Jehovah – given that most Bibles have removed the divine Name from their pages. In Messianic prophecy, however, there is a clear distinction made between Jehovah, and the Messiah whom Jehovah sent. Consider this example:

    Isaiah 53:1 “Who hath believed our message? and to whom hath the arm of Jehovah been revealed? 2. For he [the Messiah] grew up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness: and when we see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. 3. He was despised, and rejected of men. . . 6. and Jehovah hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. . . 10. Yet it pleased Jehovah to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days and the pleasure of Jehovah shall prosper in his hand. 11. By the knowledge of himself shall my righteous servant justify many. ”And he shall bear their iniquities. 12. Therefore, I will divide him a portion with the great.” (Isa 52:13–53:12 – selected verses)

    There are several more examples like this one.

    Reply
  26. avatar

    Michael Davenport

    Today’s Trinitarians maintain that Jesus and the Apostles were also Trinitarians. They assume that their beliefs were revealed by Jesus and accepted by his followers in the first century, and that there was an unbroken line of Trinitarian believers from the first century down until today. The facts of history, however, do not support this conclusion.

    Consider the comments by the Church Fathers on relationship between Jesus and the Father

    Theophilus (116-181 C.E)
    “But when God wished to make all that he determined to do, he begat this Word, uttered, “the firstborn of all creation.” – Ante-Nicene Fathers 2, p.103

    “God, then, having his own Logos internal within His own bowels, begot Him, emitting Him along with His own wisdom before all things. He had the Word as a helper in the things that were created by Him.” – ANF 1, p.98

    Tertullian (160-230 C.E.)
    “He [God the Father] has not always been Father and judge, merely on the ground of His having always been God. For He could not have been the Father previous to the Son, nor a judge previous to sin. There was, however, a time when neither sin existed with Him, nor the Son.” – Against Hermogenes ch 3.

    Justin Martyr
    “The Scripture has declared that this Offspring was begotten by the Father before all things created; and that that which is begotten is numerically distinct from that which begets, any one will admit.” – ANF 1. p.264

    “I say that there is, and is said to be, another God and Lord, subject to the Maker of all things, who is also called an Angel, because he announces to men whatsoever the Maker of all things – above whom there is no other God – wishes to announce to them. . . . He who is said to have appeared to Abraham, and to Jacob, and to Moses, and who is called God, is distinct from him who made all things – numerically I mean, not in will.” – ANF 1, p.223

    Irenaeus of Lyon (Born ca. 130)
    “There is one God Almighty who created all things by His Word. . . “Then, referring to the Word, Irenaeus cites John 1:3: “’All things were made by Him, and without Him was nothing made’. Yea, not one of all was excepted, but the Father made all by him’ . . . He who molded man, He is the God of Abraham. . . Isaac . . . Jacob, above whom is no other God. . . He is the Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ.” – Iren. Bk 1 ch 22. para 11

    In the above reference, we see that the Father is called the Creator, and the language Irenaeus uses indicates that the Father used Jesus to make all things. This does not suggest that Jesus was a co-creator, but rather, an instrument used by God to carry out His work. This thought is reinforced in the following quote:

    “He being the only Lord, the only God and the only Creator and the only Father and alone upholding all things, and Himself giving to all things their existence.” – Iren. Bk 2 ch 1.1.

    “But the one only God is our Creator. He who is above all principality, and power and dominion, and virtue: He is the Father, He God. He Founder, He Maker, and His Wisdom. He is the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, His Word, Who is His Son. – Bk 2.ch 30.9

    “One God, Maker of Heaven and Earth, announced by the Law and Prophets; and one Christ, the Son of God,; – Iren. Bk 3, ch 1.2.

    “Which tradition proclaims, One God Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth,’ and goes on, ‘That he is set forth by the Churches as the Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ.” – Bk 3 ch 3.3.

    “I therefore call on Thee, O Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Who art the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ; . . . Who hast made heaven and earth, Who art Lord of all, who art the Only and True God, over Whom there is no other God: – by our Lord Jesus Christ do Thou bestow the command.” –Bk 3 Ch. 6.4

    “That neither the prophets, nor the apostles, nor the Lord Christ in His own person, confessed any other God, but him Who in the primary sense is God and Lord; the prophets first and the apostles confessing the Father and the Son, but naming no other as God, nor confessing Him as Lord; and the Lord Himself afterwards delivering to the disciples the Father only as God and Lord, Him alone is God and Sovereign of all.” – Bk 3 ch 8.3

    “One God, the Maker of the Universe. . . as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” – Bk 3 ch11.7

    “Their maker, Who is God alone, and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” – Bk 3 ch 25.7

    “In respect of His greatness, then, one cannot know God, for it is impossible to measure the Father.” – Bk4. ch 20.1

    “There is, therefore, One God, Who by his Word and Wisdom made and arranged all things; and this is the Creator.” Bk 4 ch 20.4

    “Man. . . comes to be in the image and likeness of the unoriginate God: the Father, approving and commanding, the Son performing and creating.” – Bk 4.38.3

    “There is one God, the Father. . . Who in the last days sent His Son.” – Bk 4 ch 41.4

    “No one by the apostles in their own person is called God, but Him who is truly God, the Father of our Lord. –Bk 5 ch 25..2

    In second-century orthodoxy, we see Jesus assigned a subordinate position in relation to the Father – the one “who is truly God.” We see the title, ‘Creator’ applied to the Father’, but not to the Son, although the Father used the Son in the work of creation. And we see that Christ confessed the Father alone as God.

    These excerpts are not inspired Scripture, but they do give us a clear picture of the thinking of the second century ‘fathers’ in regard to the relationship between Jesus and the father.

    Reply
  27. avatar

    Jason Harris

    Hello again Michael Davenport,

    I’m glad you’ve sought to pursue these things by some independent study, but the bottom line is that your understanding of the languages you’re working with doesn’t seem strong enough to build to solid conclusions in either direction.

    As far as Barclay, he clearly affirms the deity of Jesus in the very comment you posted so I’m not sure how you and your friend took support for your views from that.

    Re: John 8:58/Ex 3:14, I’ve never asserted that pre-KJV writers drew the connection so I see no reason I’d need to defend such a position. It’s not a significant point. The issue is what Scripture teaches.

    I note that you haven’t responded regarding your inaccuracy about the phrase “ego eimi” being used in the LXX.

    Re: Jesus’ deity, I take you back to my statement that Jesus is the one true God, YHWH. That is the Christian doctrine of the deity of Jesus. When you play word games by claiming you believe in the deity of Jesus but actually denying that Jesus is YHWH, you obfuscate at best, mislead at worst.

    Re: the divine name. No one “confuse[s] Jesus with Jehovah.” Scripture does not allow such a careless thing to happen. The OT emphatically states that there is ONE God. So this is not something that’s easily confused. And of course the OT doesn’t refer to YHWH as the same as the Christ. Because while the Christ, Jesus, is YHWH, YHWH is not Jesus. If that’s not clear to you, you don’t understand the trinity. At all.

    You said “Trinitarians maintain that Jesus and the Apostles were also Trinitarians. They assume that their beliefs were revealed by Jesus and accepted by his followers in the first century, and that there was an unbroken line of Trinitarian believers from the first century down until today.”

    That is a very simplistic view of trinitarianism as well as history and theology. But Jesus absolutely knew he was God and said so on numerous occasions. The Apostles also knew Jesus was God and said so on numerous occasions. Clearly some in the early church at some stage got this wrong, which led over time to the councils that addressed these issues. But prima facie, few if any of your quotations say anything that precludes a trinitarian view. So you’re asking me to trust you that you’ve covered everything they said about Jesus (their Christology). Which would mean you’ve read all of each of these guys studiously. I doubt that’s the case.

    I am no expert on the church fathers, but I do know a bit about historical theology and the fact is that it’s terribly simplistic to think that all of the believers spoke in terms of the formulas of the councils in every letter/writing extant—BEFORE the councils. In other words, until the church had clarified the details carefully, people stumbled along with an imperfect understanding and an insufficient vocabulary to express their understanding. It would be inaccurate to take this as the early church not having held broadly to trinitarian theology.

    But I’ve found a rule in speaking to JWs that when they cite outside sources, in a disturbingly high percentage of cases, the citations are badly misunderstood or blatantly misrepresented. So I’ve randomly chosen one of your quotations to audit. I chose Irenaeus (AH 2.1.1). I’ve written this so far not knowing how this will turn out. So I’m using the Roberts & Rambaut translation which says:

    “God the Creator… He created all things, since He is the only God, the only Lord, the only Creator, the only Father, alone containing all things, and Himself commanding all things into existence.”

    So first, I note that there is nothing in this quote that is inconsistent with trinitarianism. At all.

    Irenaeus is clear that, notwithstanding the above quote, “All things were made through him [Jesus], and without him was not any thing made that was made.” This statement is itself a statement that Jesus is uncreated because there is nothing “that was made” which was not “made through [Jesus].” Jesus is neither co-creator nor an instrument of creation. John 1:3 explicitly states that he is the SOLE creator. Irenaeus agrees in AH 1.15.5:

    “The Word of God, [is] the Founder, and Framer, and Maker of all things” (see also 1.22.1).

    Understanding Irenaeus’ view cited twice here in book 1, when we get to book 2 and see your quote, it is clear that Irenaeus is actually asserting the deity of Jesus in this quote! He is actually referring to Jesus when he says “God the Creator… He created all things, since He is the only God, the only Lord.” And if there is any doubt that Irenaeus believed this, we’ve only to look a few pages past your quote to 2.13.8 where he says:

    “And in what respect will the Word of God—yea, rather God Himself, since He is the Word—differ from the word of men, if He follows the same order and process of generation?”

    In short, Irenaeus clearly sees the Word as God himself. He does state it in ways which are not consistent with the later formulations of trinitarianism (we would say the Word is God, but that God is not the Word per se). But we cannot throw stones too quickly for a lack of precision on an issue that hasn’t been systematically addressed by the church yet. Still, it is very clear that Irenaeus views Jesus as YHWH.

    And again, a random audit of your sources demonstrates the pattern I’ve experienced to hold true. JWs chronically misrepresent sources. It’s dishonest and in perfect keeping with the tactics Scripture warns false teachers will use.

    Reply
    1. avatar

      Michael Davenport

      Hi Jason. Glad to see you back. I thought maybe you moved on.
      I have to go to work, but I will respond later.

      But just a brief comment for now: At Jn 8.58, you say that Jesus claimed the title used by God at Ex 3.14 in the LXX: “Ego Eimi.” The problem is, the title used in the LXX is not ‘ego eimi’ – it’s Ho On – “The Being” – or, ‘The Existing One.’
      If you want to convince me that Ego Eimi was a recognized divine title in the first century, then substantiate your claim with some hard evidence. Your argument is based upon an unproven premise. And, sadly, by your interpretation, you have Jesus speaking in a quite ungrammatical sentence.
      So where are all the verses you appeal to where Jesus said, “I am God”?

    2. avatar

      Michael Davenport

      Posted by Michael Davenport:

      From: tslawson1@yahoo.com
      Date: February 28, 2019 at 11:53:26 AM PST
      To: jason@teaminfocus.com.au
      Subject: RE: Your discussion with Mike Davenport

      Dear Jason,

      I’m Scott Lawson and Mike Davenport pointed me to your blog review of Dr BeDuhn’s book Truth in Translation.

      I’ve attempted a few times to post a response to some of your points to Mike but it seems my missives aren’t getting through. Whatever the case I’m going to send my comments to you here in hopes they reach you and that you might be interested in dialoguing with me.

      A little about me:

      First, I’m one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. I was raised a JW and baptized on May 5th 1984 at age 15. Compressing much of my history I ended up at Northern Arizona University in 2010-11. I was for a short time a Religious Studies Major there where I had an opportunity to take Intro to OT with Dr BeDuhn. Prior to that I had some brief contact with him about certain Greek texts I was studying to which he kindly replied. Since his class I’ve had some contact with him but I pushed back against him so much in class that he hasn’t become a fast friend but that said, I do believe I have a fair understanding of the purpose for his book on bias in Bible translation and perhaps we might be able to start a discussion on Bible translation or whatever other topic may be of interest.

      Best regards,

      T. Scott Lawson

    3. avatar

      Michael Davenport

      Jason said: “As far as Barclay, he clearly affirms the deity of Jesus in the very comment you posted so I’m not sure how you and your friend took support for your views from that.”

      Me: Wm Barclay, in his Spiritual Autobiography, brought up the subject of the Trinity – probably because people used to ask him if he was Trinitarian. His reply was that he did not feel that the biblical evidence supported this teaching. For this reason, he rejected it as being unscriptural.

      And here again, you appeal to the non-biblical word, ‘deity,’ as support for your Roman Catholic doctrine. Perhaps we should switch from using the KJV here, and use the Douay Rheims instead. I believe the Douay uses the word, ‘deity.’

      Here’s another comment on John 1:1 From the book, “Jesus As They Saw Him”, pp. 21, 22, by William Barclay:

      “In the AV John 1:1 reads: ‘in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.’ For long the newer translations continued this rendering, with the exception of Moffatt and Goodspeed, who both render: ‘The Word was divine.’ If the translation of the AV is too much, the translation of Moffatt and Goodspeed is too little. In a case like this we cannot do other than go to the Greek, which is theos en ho logos. Ho is the definite article, the, and it can be seen that there is a definite article with logos, but not with theos. When in Greek two nouns are joined by the verb to be and when both have the definite article, it becomes more an adjective than a noun, and describes rather the class or the sphere to which the other belongs.

      An illustration from English will make this clear. If I say, ‘The preacher is the man,’ I use the definite article before both preacher and man, and I thereby identify the preacher with some quite definite individual man whom I have in mind. But if I say, ‘The preacher is man, I have omitted the definite article before man, and what I mean is that the preacher must be classified as a man, he is in the sphere of manhood, he is a human being.”

      John has no definite article before theos, God. The Logos, therefore is not identified as God or with God; the word theos has become adjectival and describes the sphere to which the Logos belongs. We would, therefore, have to say that this means that the Logos belongs to the same sphere as God; without being identified with God the Logos has the same kind of life and being as God. Here the NEB finds the perfect translation: ‘What God was, the Word was.”

      This passage then does not identify the Logos and God; It does not say that Jesus was God, nor does it call him God; but it does say that in his nature and being he belongs to the same class as God, and is in the same sphere of life as God.

    4. avatar

      Michael Davenport

      Jason said: “John 1:3 explicitly states that he [Jesus] is the SOLE creator.”

      Me: You are overstating your case. John 1:3 is like all the other passages that describe Jesus’ role in creation; it uses the preposition, ‘dia,’ which means ‘through.’

      There are four verses in the NT that speak of Christ’s role in creation:

      John 1:3 “Through (dia) him [Jesus] God made all things; not one thing in all creation was made without him.” – Today’s English Version

      Colossians 1:16 “In him everything in heaven and on earth was created . . . all were created through (dia) him and for him.” – New American Bible

      Hebrews 1:2 God has in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by (dia) whom he also made the worlds.” – KJV

      I Corinthians 8:6 “For us there is one God, the Father, from (ek) whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through (dia) whom are all things, and through (dia) whom we exist.” – English Standard Version

      1 Corinthians 8:6, cited above, helps us to see the distinction between the Father’s role in creation, and that of the son. It shows that the creation came FROM the Father. The preposition here: ‘ek,’ means, ‘to come out of,’ in contrast to ‘dia,’ which is ‘to pass through.’ This indicates that the Father is the originator of the creation or ‘primary agent,’ and Jesus is the ‘secondary agent’ in the creation of all things.

      1 Peter 5:12 gives us a parallel example of the use of dia in another context. Peter said: “Through Silvanus (dia Silvanou)…. I have written to you.” (NASB). In this case, Peter composed the letter bearing his name, but Silvanus actually wrote down the words. Whether Peter dictated his letter word for word, or if he gave Silvanus a general outline and allowed him some latitude to express things in his own words, we do not know, but in any case, Silvanus helped in the process under Peter’s direction.

      A Translator’s Handbook to the Gospel of John, (Page 10, Newman & Nida) explains, “The Greek text indicates clearly that the Word [Jesus] was the instrument or agency used by God in the creation. God is the primary agent – Jesus is the secondary agent.”

      One could nit-pick and say that, if not even one thing came into existence apart from Jesus, then Jesus could not have been created, but this would depend on the prevailing belief of believers at the time John wrote. And, the Bible nowhere states that Jesus created, although it does say he was ‘begotten of God,’ which would suggest another process of origination. Here are comments from two second century Church ‘fathers’ on this:

      Theophilus (116-181 C.E)
      “But when God wished to make all that he determined to do, he begat this Word, uttered, “the firstborn of all creation.” – Ante-Nicene Fathers 2, p.103

      “God, then, having his own Logos internal within His own bowels, begot Him, emitting Him along with His own wisdom before all things. He had the Word as a helper in the things that were created by Him.” – ANF 1, p.98

      Tertullian (160-230 C.E.)
      “He [God the Father] has not always been Father and judge, merely on the ground of His having always been God. For He could not have been the Father previous to the Son, nor a judge previous to sin. There was, however, a time when neither sin existed with Him, nor the Son.” – Against Hermogenes ch 3.

    5. avatar

      Michael Davenport

      Jesus’ Role in Creation

      Jason said: “John 1:3 explicitly states that he [Jesus] is the SOLE creator.”

      Me: You are overstating your case. John 1:3 is like all the other passages that describe Jesus’ role in creation; it uses the preposition, ‘dia,’ which means ‘through.’

      There are four verses in the NT that speak of Christ’s role in creation:

      John 1:3 “Through (dia) him [Jesus] God made all things; not one thing in all creation was made without him.” – Today’s English Version

      Colossians 1:16 “In him everything in heaven and on earth was created . . . all were created through (dia) him and for him.” – New American Bible.

      Hebrews 1:2 God has in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by (dia) whom he also made the worlds.” – KJV

      I Corinthians 8:6 “For us there is one God, the Father, from (ek) whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through (dia) whom are all things, and through (dia) whom we exist.” – English Standard Version

      1 Corinthians 8:6, cited above, helps us to see the distinction between the Father’s role in creation, and that of the son. It shows that the creation came FROM the Father. The preposition here: ‘ek,’ means, ‘to come out of,’ in contrast to ‘dia,’ which is ‘to pass through.’ This indicates that the Father is the originator of the creation or ‘primary agent,’ and Jesus is the ‘secondary agent’ in the creation of all things.

      1 Peter 5:12 gives us a parallel example of the use of dia in another context. Peter said: “Through Silvanus (dia Silvanou) I have written to you.” (NASB). In this case, Peter composed the letter bearing his name, but Silvanus actually wrote down the words. Whether Peter dictated his letter word for word, or if he gave Silvanus a general outline and allowed him some latitude to express things in his own words, we do not know, but in any case, Silvanus helped in the process under Peter’s direction.

      A Translator’s Handbook to the Gospel of John, (Page 10, Newman & Nida) explains, “The Greek text indicates clearly that the Word [Jesus] was the instrument or agency used by God in the creation. God is the primary agent – Jesus is the secondary agent.”

      One could nit-pick and say that, if not even one thing came into existence apart from Jesus, then Jesus could not have been created, but this would depend on the prevailing belief of believers at the time John wrote. And, the Bible nowhere states that Jesus was created, although it does say he was ‘begotten of God,’ which would suggest another process of origination. Here are comments from two second century Church ‘fathers’ on this:

      Theophilus (116-181 C.E)
      “But when God wished to make all that he determined to do, he begat this Word, uttered, “the firstborn of all creation.” – Ante-Nicene Fathers 2, p.103

      “God, then, having his own Logos internal within His own bowels, begot Him, emitting Him along with His own wisdom before all things. He had the Word as a helper in the things that were created by Him.” – ANF 1, p.98

      (I find this example to be particularly interesting. It uses the imagery of a child being formed inside the womb of its mother, to eventually be born into the world. The child, of course, would share DNA with both parents. In this case, it would suggest that Jesus was formed of the same substance as the Father, which fits with Hebrews 1:3 which says that Jesus is the “impress image of his person.” The NWT calls it “the exact image of his very being.” The Greek word, hupostasis here may be understood to mean ‘substance.’)

      Tertullian (160-230 C.E.)
      “He [God the Father] has not always been Father and judge, merely on the ground of His having always been God. For He could not have been the Father previous to the Son, nor a judge previous to sin. There was, however, a time when neither sin existed with Him, nor the Son.” – Against Hermogenes ch 3

  28. avatar

    Michael Davenport

    Jason – A friend of mine has tried more than once to post on this forum, but for some reason, his posts have not appeared. I’m not sure if you are the administrator, but this is someone who has intimate knowledge of the Greek language, and he also knows Jason BeDuhn personally. My friend’s name is Scott Lawson. May I assume that you’ve seen the posts he has written?

    Reply
  29. avatar

    Michael Davenport

    Jason stated in his last post: “As far as Barclay, he clearly affirms the deity of Jesus in the very comment you posted.”

    Me: Perhaps, but Barclay uses the dictionary definition of ‘deity’ – not the theologically biased Fundamentalist definition.

    Further explanation may be drawn from: ‘A Commentary on the Gospel of John’ by Ernst Haenchen
    Translated from German by Robert W. Funk
    Fortress Press, 1984

    Excerpts from Volume 1, pg. 109

    In order to avoid misunderstanding, it may be inserted here that ‘Theos’ and ‘ho Theos’ (‘god, divine’ and ‘the God’) were not the same thing in this period. Philo has therefore written: the logos means only Theos (‘divine’) and not ho Theos (‘God’) since the logos is not God in the strict sense.” (De Somn 1.229f) Philo was not thinking of giving up Jewish monotheism. In a similar fashion, Origen, too, interprets: the Evangelist does not say that the logos was ‘God,’ but only that the logos is divine.” (Origen. Comm in Joh 2.2.13-15). In fact, for the author of the hymn, as for the Evangelist, only the Father was ‘God’ (ho Theos; cf 17.3; ‘the son was subordinate to him (cf. 14:28).”

    “Bultmann objects to this interpretation: one cannot speak of God (in the Christian sense) in the plural. On the contrary, in the period in which the hymn* took its rise, it was quite possible in Jewish and Christian monotheism to speak of divine beings that existed alongside and under God but were not identical with him.”

    * (Haenchen calls John 1:1 and following verses a ‘hymn’ because it is believed that the passage was taken from an early song of praise sung to Jesus as a god. It was Pliny the Younger who reported that the early Christians sang hymns to Jesus as to “a god.” Some scholars believe that John chapter 1 may have been that hymn)

    Reply
  30. avatar

    Michael Davenport

    Jason said: “Re: John 8:58/Ex 3:14, I’ve never asserted that pre-KJV writers drew the connection so I see no reason I’d need to defend such a position. It’s not a significant point. The issue is what Scripture teaches.

    Me: In John 8:56, Jesus tells the Pharisees: “Your Father Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it, and was glad.” In response, the Pharisees asked him: “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?”

    This was a logical question: Abraham had been dead well over a thousand years, so how could Jesus have seen Abraham, since Jesus was not even fifty years old?

    Jesus’ answer was very simple. He said, “Before Abraham was [born] I am.”

    But many interpret the passage to say, “Before Abraham was born, I was the I AM.” Unfortunately, this is not what the Greek says.

    In context, Jesus was claiming pre-existence. The verse neither states that his existence had a beginning, nor that he was YHWH, as so many claim.

    Reply
  31. avatar

    Michael Davenport

    Jason said: “I note that you haven’t responded regarding your inaccuracy about the phrase “ego eimi” being used in the LXX.”

    Me: Problem is, in the LXX of Ex 3:14, ego eimi is not used as a divine title; It is the words, ‘Ho On’ that make up the title. When Moses asked God, “Who should I say sent me, He replied, “Tell them Ho On sent you,” – not Ego Eimi.”

    Reply
  32. avatar

    Michael Davenport

    Jason said: “Re: Jesus’ deity, I take you back to my statement that Jesus is the one true God, YHWH. That is the Christian doctrine of the deity of Jesus. When you play word games by claiming you believe in the deity of Jesus but actually denying that Jesus is YHWH, you obfuscate at best, mislead at worst.”

    Me: In Bible prophecy, we see a clear distinction between YHWH and the Messiah. Take, for example, Psalm 2, verse2: “The kings of the earth take their stand against the LORD (YHWH) and against his Anointed (Messiah)” So, if YHWH here is Jesus, who is the Messiah?

    In verse 7, YHWH says to his Messiah: “You are my Son, Today I have begotten you.”
    At John 10:36, Jesus asked, “Do you say of Him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?

    Jesus claimed to be the Messiah, the one who was the Son of YHWH, and who was sent by YHWH.

    Reply
  33. avatar

    Michael Davenport

    Jason said: “And of course the OT doesn’t refer to YHWH as the same as the Christ. Because while the Christ, Jesus, is YHWH, YHWH is not Jesus. If that’s not clear to you, you don’t understand the trinity. At all.”

    Me: Hmmm. “while the Christ, Jesus, is YHWH, YHWH is not Jesus.” Really?

    Psalm 110:1 says, “Jehovah said unto my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand until I place your enemies as a stool for your feet.”

    The problem with your claims is that they are in conflict with Scripture. I understand what Trinitarian theology claims about Jesus and his relationship with the Father, but, unfortunately, it is a theology that is nowhere explained or illustrated in Scripture. It goes way beyond Scripture and is in conflict with Scripture.

    You should read the book, “When Jesus Became God” by Rubenstein. It tells about how the Catholic Church argued and fought for a very long time over the Trinity doctrine until finally the Church united on it in the 9th century. I’ll stick with the Bible, thank you.

    Reply
  34. avatar

    Michael Davenport

    Jason said: “John 1:3 explicitly states that he [Jesus] is the SOLE creator.”

    Me: Sloppy argumentation. You overstate your case.

    I agree that Jesus was involved in the creation, but we must examine the Scriptures carefully to determine exactly what his role was in the creation. First off, the Scriptures NEVER call Jesus `Ktistes’ – the “Creator.” That title is reserved only for the Father.

    Secondly, wherever the NT describes his role, it ALWAYS says that the creation was THROUGH Jesus. There are a handful of passages:

    John 1:3 “THROUGH him [Jesus] God made all things; not one thing in all creation was made without him.” – Today’s English Version

    1 Corinthians 8:6 Yet there is for us only one God, the Father, who is the Creator of all things and for whom we live; and there is only one Lord, Jesus Christ, THROUGH whom all things were created and through whom we live.”
    Interesting that only God the Father is called “the Creator of all things.”

    Colossians 1:16 “For THROUGH him God created every thing in heaven and on earth. . . God created the whole universe through him and for him.”

    Hebrews 1:2 “He is the one THROUGH whom God created the universe.”

    The Greek word, a common preposition translated `through’ in all these passages, is `dia.’. We see this word in our English word, `diameter’, which is the distance through something. Though it is a small word, its significance can be great. Many translations of the above passage read, “in him”, or “by him”, but these readings tend to obscure the fact that God made all things THROUGH Jesus. But, what exactly, does that mean?

    1 Peter 5:12 gives us a parallel example. It reads, “Through Silvanus (dia Silvanou)…. I have written to you.” (NASB). In this case, Peter composed the letter bearing his name, but Silvanus actually wrote down the words. Whether Peter dictated his letter word for word, or if he gave Silvanus a general outline and allowed him some latitude to express things in his own words, we do not know, but in any case, Silvanus helped in the process under Peter’s direction.

    “A Translator’s Handbook to the Gospel of John”, (Page 10, Newman & Nida) explains, “The Greek text indicates clearly that the Word [Jesus] was the instrument or agency used by God in the creation. God is the primary agent – Jesus is the secondary agent.”

    The distinction between the Father and Jesus in the 1 Corinthians passage cited above reinforces this conclusion. The TEV actually paraphrases this verse and loses the precision of the Greek. The Greek literally says that the creation came “out from” the Father. In this case, the preposition is `ek,’ (as in our word, `exit’). This word indicates origin. Based on the linguistics of this passage, we are compelled to conclude that the creation came OUT FROM the Father, and it was accomplished THROUGH his Son.

    So what does that mean? The “Church Fathers” frequently applied Proverbs 8:22-31 to Jesus. Verse 30 in particular is important. It has been translated in a variety of ways: TEV: “I was beside him like an architect;” Jerusalem Bible: “I was by his side, a master craftsman;” The Tanakh: “I was with Him as a confidant”

    I would compare it to the role of a property owner and the contractor he hires to build his house. The property owner decides the overall design of the house, and he lays out his general plan for the contractor and leaves it up to him to work out the details, and to construct the home. And, I must add, the contractor does not create the materials from nothing; they are provided by the property owner.

    But Proverbs 8:22 also indicates that God first created the “contractor”: “The LORD created me at the beginning of his course.”

    Jesus was involved in the creation of all things, but he is not the Creator.

    Reply
  35. avatar

    Michael Davenport

    Jason said: “the bottom line is that your understanding of the languages you’re working with doesn’t seem strong enough to build to solid conclusions in either direction.”

    Me: If your posted picture is current, I must conclude that you are probably still in your 20s. My study of the Greek language started back around 1980, quite some time before you were even born, I’d guess. I have not spent a lot of time studying Greek grammar and syntax, but my interest is more in word meanings and usage. I research word usage in the Septuagint, the Apocrypha, the NT, and sometimes in Greek Classical literature. I’ve amassed quite a collection of my Greek word studies that reveal the depth of meaning behind many of the Greek words. You have no idea my qualifications. You come across as arrogant and condescending – as one might expect from a young “doctoral candidate.” I’m not terribly impressed with your level of knowledge nor your sloppy arguments. A little tapeinosophrune is in order here.

    Reply
  36. avatar

    Michael Davenport

    The Messiah – Servant of Jehovah

    The question I sought to answer in the following study is whether the OT prophecies about the Messiah indicate that the Messiah was expected to be a manifestation of Jehovah himself, or if he was merely a servant of Jehovah. Whether he could be both Jehovah, and a servant of Jehovah, at the same time is unlikely, but I’ll leave that up to the reader to decide.

    My list of passages is far from complete. Scripture references are taken from the American Standard Version of 1901, which I have chosen to use here because of its consistent use of the name, ‘Jehovah’ wherever the Tetragrammaton appears in the Hebrew text. The reader may substitute the name, ‘Yahweh’ if they wish.

    Alfred Edersheim located 456 passages to which the “ancient Synagogue referred as Messianic,” and there were 558 references in the most ancient rabbinic writings supporting such applications. (The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, 1906, Vol. I, p. 163; Vol. II, pp. 710-737) As an example, Genesis 49:10 prophesied that the ruling scepter would belong to the tribe of Judah and that Shiloh would come through that line. The Targum of Onkelos, the Jerusalem Targums, and the Midrash all recognize the expression “Shiloh” as applying to the Messiah.

    The following passages are samples from the 456 accepted by the Synagogue as Messianic. In the interest of brevity, I have not quoted all the passages in full, but only selected verses in some, but I have cited the entire passage for those who may want to examine the full context of those passages:

    “Jehovah thy God will raise up unto thee a prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him shall ye hearken. . . I [Jehovah] will raise them up a prophet. . . and I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him.” (De 18:15, 18, 19)

    “And there shall come forth a shoot out of the stock of Jesse, and a branch out of his roots shall bear fruit. 2. And the Spirit of Jehovah shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of Jehovah. 3. And his delight shall be in the fear of Jehovah (Isa 11:1-10 – selected verses)

    “Behold, my servant, whom I uphold; my chosen, in whom my soul delighteth: I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the Gentiles. He will not cry, nor lift up his voice, nor cause it to be heard in the street.” (Isa 42:1-4)

    “I, Jehovah, have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thy hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles; to open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison-house.” (Isa 42:6, 7)

    (Isa 49:1-13 – ASV, selected verses)

    1. “Jehovah hath called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother hath he made mention of my name;
    2. and he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword. . .
    3. he said unto me, ‘Thou art my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified,
    4. But I said, I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nought and vanity; yet surely the justice due to me is with Jehovah, and my recompense with my God.
    5 And now saith Jehovah that formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob again to him, and that Israel be gathered unto him (for I am honorable in the eyes of Jehovah, and my God is become my strength);
    6. yea, he saith. . . I will also give thee for a light to the gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth.
    7. Thus saith Jehovah, the Redeemer of Israel, and his Holy One, to him whom man despiseth, to him whom the nations abhorreth, to a servant of rulers.”

    53:1 “Who hath believed our message? and to whom hath the arm of Jehovah been revealed?
    2. For he grew up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness: and when we see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.
    3. He was despised, and rejected of men. . .
    6. and Jehovah hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. . .
    10. Yet it pleased Jehovah to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days and the pleasure of Jehovah shall prosper in his hand.
    11. By the knowledge of himself shall my righteous servant justify many and he shall bear their iniquities.
    12. Therefore, I will divide him a portion with the great.” (Isa 52:13–53:12 – selected verses)

    (Isa 49:1-13 – ASV, selected verses)

    1. “Jehovah hath called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother hath he made mention of my name;
    2. and he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword. . .
    3. he said unto me, ‘Thou art my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified,
    4. But I said, I have labored in vain, I have spent my strength for nought and vanity; yet surely the justice due to me is with Jehovah, and my recompense with my God.
    5 And now saith Jehovah that formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob again to him, and that Israel be gathered unto him (for I am honorable in the eyes of Jehovah, and my God is become my strength);
    6. yea, he saith. . . I will also give thee for a light to the gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth.
    7. Thus saith Jehovah, the Redeemer of Israel, and his Holy One, to him whom man despiseth, to him whom the nations abhorreth, to a servant of rulers.”

    Reply
  37. avatar

    Michael Davenport

    From: tslawson1@yahoo.com
    Date: February 28, 2019 at 11:53:26 AM PST
    To: jason@teaminfocus.com.au
    Subject: RE: Your discussion with Mike Davenport

    Dear Jason,

    I’m Scott Lawson and Mike Davenport pointed me to your blog review of Dr BeDuhn’s book Truth in Translation.

    I’ve attempted a few times to post a response to some of your points to Mike but it seems my missives aren’t getting through. Whatever the case I’m going to send my comments to you here in hopes they reach you and that you might be interested in dialoguing with me.

    A little about me:

    First, I’m one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. I was raised a JW and baptized on May 5th 1984 at age 15. Compressing much of my history I ended up at Northern Arizona University in 2010-11. I was for a short time a Religious Studies Major there where I had an opportunity to take Intro to OT with Dr BeDuhn. Prior to that I had some brief contact with him about certain Greek texts I was studying to which he kindly replied. Since his class I’ve had some contact with him but I pushed back against him so much in class that he hasn’t become a fast friend but that said, I do believe I have a fair understanding of the purpose for his book on bias in Bible translation and perhaps we might be able to start a discussion on Bible translation or whatever other topic may be of interest.

    Best regards,

    T. Scott Lawson

    Jason,

    I believe the point Mike Davenport was making is that if John was quoting from the Old Greek of Exodus 3:14 and applying the title Jehovah gives himself there it would be ? ?? not the predicate ??? ????.

    Exodus 3:14 ??? ????? ? ???? ???? ?????? ??? ???? ? ??? ??? ????? ????? ????? ???? ????? ?????? ? ?? ?????????? ?? ???? ????.??? ????? ? ???? ???? ?????? ??? ???? ? ??? ??? ????? ????? ????? ???? ????? ?????? ? ?? ?????????? ?? ???? ????.

    ????????? ????????? ?????????? ????????? ?????? ????????? ????????? ???? ??????? ???????? ?????????? ????????? ?????????? ??????????
    (Ex. 3:14 HMT-W4)

    John 8:58 ????? ?????? ??????? ???? ???? ???? ????, ???? ?????? ???????? ??? ????.

    If we take the sentence as you seem to understand it it would be ???? ?????? ???????? ??? ???? ? ??.

    But your claim seems to be that ??? ???? is equal to God’s name Jehovah. The syntax would then would result in …before Abraham was born — Jehovah. This is a nonsense sentence of course.

    Since there is not a full verbal system for the Greek “to be” verb (there is no aorist or perfect and as you noted Greek has no verb form for a present perfect) John’s use of the present tense of the “to be” verb to express a present perfect is not surprising or unusual so that we should be seeking a deeper meaning in it. The result is that Jesus was here answering the question put to him about his age. His interlocutors weren’t asking about his identity at this point. They had already done so at 8:25 and he responded to them with the difficult ??? ????? ? ?? ??? ???? ????; which as you see the NA-28 punctuates as a question…though it could also be taken as a statement. Seems to reflect John’s affinity for using paranomasia.

    Reply
  38. avatar

    Michael Davenport

    Whatever the case I’m going to send my comments to you here in hopes they reach you and that you might be interested in dialoguing with me.

    The God of Jesus Christ

    Perhaps the most powerful evidence that Jesus is not the Almighty God is the fact that he has a God. We are often reminded of this in Scripture, both in the words of Jesus himself, while on earth as a man and after his return to heaven; and in the words of the Apostles Peter and Paul.
    The fourteen times this occurs in the “New Testament” are listed in the nine verses below: (Scripture citations are all from the KJV)

    Matthew 27:46 “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?, that is to say, MY GOD, MY GOD, why hast thou forsaken me?”

    Mark 15:34 “And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? Which is, being interpreted, MY GOD, MY GOD, why hast thou forsaken me?

    John 20:17 “Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to MY GOD, and to your God.”

    2 Corinthians 11:31 “The GOD AND FATHER OF OUR LORD, Jesus Christ, which is blessed forevermore, knoweth that I lie not.”

    Ephesians 1:2, 3 “Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be the GOD AND FATHER OF OUR LORD Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.”

    Ephesians 1:17 “That the GOD OF OUR LORD JESUS Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him.”

    Hebrews 1:9 “Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore GOD, EVEN THY GOD, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.”

    1 Peter 1:1 “Blessed be the GOD AND FATHER OF OUR LORD Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”

    Revelation 3:12 “Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of MY GOD, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of MY GOD, and the name of the city of MY GOD, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from MY GOD.”

    An examination of Messianic prophecy will reveal to us the identity of Jesus’ God. The passage is found in the Book of Micah, chapter 5. It is clearly Messianic because it identifies Bethlehem as the place where the Messiah would come from: Note verse 2:

    “And thou, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.”

    Now that we have established the context of the passage, notice verse 4:

    “And he shall stand and feed in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God.”

    The King James II – Jay Green Interlinear puts it: And he shall stand and feed in the strength of Jehovah, in the majesty of the name of Jehovah his God.”

    Reply
  39. avatar

    Michael Davenport

    Trinity – 1967 New Catholic Encyclopedia

    Pg. 295
    “Trinity, Holy.
    It is difficult, in the second half of the 20th century, to offer a clear, objective, and straightforward account of the revelation, doctrinal evolution, and theological elaboration of the mystery of the Trinity. Trinitarian discussion, Roman Catholic, as well as other, presents a somewhat unsteady silhouette.

    Two things have happened. There is the recognition on the part of the exegetes and Biblical theologians, including a constantly growing number of Roman Catholics that one should not speak of Trinitarianism in the New Testament without serious qualification. There is also the closely parallel recognition on the part of historians of dogma and systematic theologians that when one does speak of an unqualified Trinitarianism, one has to move from the period of Christian origins to, say, the last quadrant of the fourth century. It was only then that what might be called the definitive Trinitarian dogma ‘one God in three Persons’ became thoroughly assimilated into Christian life and thought.”

    Pg. 299
    “The homoousion formula, in any event, and carrying the intention of at least specific identity, encountered so much opposition that more than once in the half century prior to its final reassertion at Constantinople I, in 381, it appeared close to being abandoned. To not a few even among even the fiercest anti-Arians, introduction into the confession of faith of a non-Biblical device, albeit to articulate a Biblically inescapable conclusion, was for a long time unacceptable.

    In the ensuing debacle, fortunes alternated, more often as a consequence of political shifts and civil patronage than theological argument.”

    “Question of Continuity and Elemental Trinitarianism.
    From what has been seen thus far, the impression could arise that the Trinitarian dogma Is in the last analysis a late 4th-century invention. In a sense, this is true; but it implies an extremely strict interpretation of the words, Trinitarian and dogma.”

    “Triadic Consciousness in the Primitive Revelation.
    The formulation, ‘one God in three persons’ was not solidly established, certainly not fully assimilated into Christian life and its profession of faith, prior to the end of the 4th century.

    Among the Apostolic Fathers, there had been nothing even remotely approaching such a mentality or perspective; among the 2d-century Apologists, little more than a focusing of the problem as that of plurality within the unique Godhead.”

    Pg. 304
    “The Pastoral Question. There are few teachers of Trinitarian theology in Roman Catholic seminaries who have not been badgered by the question, ‘But how does one preach the Trinity?’ And if the question is symptomatic of confusion on the part of the students, perhaps it is no less symptomatic of similar confusion on the part of their professors.

    “If ‘the Trinity’ here means Trinitarian theology, the best answer would be that one does not preach it at all – not, it should be added, because the audience is insufficiently prepared, but because the sermon, and especially the Biblical homily, is the place for the word of God, not its theological elaboration

    “If the ‘Trinity’ means, however, as more often it will, Trinitarian doctrine, particularly the fundamental dogma ‘one God in three persons,’ what should be said in reply has not always been too clear. The 4th-century articulation of the triadic mystery is at least implicitly the word of God, hence part of the Christian credo. On the other hand, it is not, as already seen, directly and immediately the word of God “

    Pg 306
    “TRINITY, HOLY, DEVOTION TO.
    There are few signs of devotion to the Trinity in the early Church, aside from the ritual use of the Trinitarian formula in the administration of the sacraments. . . A number of early carvings, representing the Trinity or praising it, are dated as of the 4th century.”

    “Devotion to the Trinity as it is known today seems to have begun in monasteries at Aniane and Tours, in the 8th century. St. Benedict of Aniane, who spread the devotion through his monastic reform, dedicated his abbey church to the Trinity in 872.”

    Reply
  40. avatar

    Timothy Lawson

    Jason,

    You may find this little write-up of some of my research of interest:

    The Hebrew Bible presents two Jehovahs, one visible and one invisible.

    Jewish sages have long recognized that two Jehovahs are presented in the Bible. One visible and one invisible. In Judges 6 both Jehovahs are involved. The angel of the Lord who is called Jehovah and then the invisible Jehovah who speaks to Gideon.

    So, the angel of the Lord acts as Jehovah’s shaliah (representative) and there is evidence that he was also known as the word of Jehovah (dbr) and therefore the preincarnate Jesus. When Thomas calls the resurrected Jesus lord and God it is not out of line with the OT. Certainly Jesus became the preeminent representative for God during his earthly course and thereafter.

    Genesis 18 Afterward, Jehovah appeared to him among the big trees of Mam?re while he was sitting at the entrance of the tent during the hottest part of the day. 2 He looked up and saw three men standing some distance from him. When he saw them, he ran from the entrance of the tent to meet them, and he bowed down to the ground. 3 Then he said: “Jehovah, if I have found favor in your eyes, please do not pass by your servant.

    Later at Genesis 19:24 the visible Jehovah calls down destruction from the invisible heavenly Jehovah:

    Then Jehovah made it rain sulphur and fire from Jehovah, from the heavens, upon Sod?om and upon Go·mor?rah.

    And lest we might think this wording is a euphemism or idiomatic phrase we have it supported in an astonishing way at Amos 4:11 where Jehovah himself is speaking and refers to God in the third person as

    ‘I caused an overthrow among YOU people, like God’s* overthrow of Sod?om and Go·mor?rah.+

    Significantly the Septuagint translators did not change either text to reflect some kind of euphemism or idiomatic saying.

    Continuing on in the Hebrew Bible we come to the account of Gideons encounter with Jehovah:

    Judges 6:11 Later Jehovah’s angel came and sat under the big tree that was in Oph?rah, which belonged to Jo?ash the Abi-ez?rite. His son Gid?e·on was beating out wheat in the winepress in order to hide it from Mid?i·an. 12 Jehovah’s angel appeared to him and said: “Jehovah is with you, you mighty warrior.” 13 At this Gid?e·on said to him: “Pardon me, my lord, but if Jehovah is with us, why has all of this come upon us? Where are all his wonderful acts that our fathers related to us, saying, ‘Did Jehovah not bring us up out of Egypt?’ Now Jehovah has deserted us and given us into Mid?i·an’s hand.” 14 JEHOVAH FACED HIM and said: “Go with the strength you have, and you will save Israel out of Mid?i·an’s hand. Is it not I who send you?” 15 Gid?e·on answered him: “Pardon me, Jehovah. How can I save Israel? Look! My clan is the least in Ma·nas?seh, and I am the most insignificant in my father’s house.” 17 Then he said to him: “If, now, I have found favor in your eyes, show me a sign that you are the one speaking with me. 18 Please do not depart from here until I return with my gift and set it before you.” So he said: “I will stay here until you return.” 19 And Gid?e·on went in and prepared a young goat and made unleavened bread from an e?phah of flour. He put the meat in the basket and the broth in the cooking pot; then he brought them out to him and served them under the big tree. 20 The angel of the true God now said to him: “Take the meat and the unleavened bread and place them on the big rock there, and pour out the broth.” And he did so. 21 Then Jehovah’s angel stretched out the tip of the staff that was in his hand and touched the meat and the unleavened bread, and fire flared up from the rock and consumed the meat and the unleavened bread. Jehovah’s angel then vanished from his sight. 22 Gid?e·on now realized that it was Jehovah’s angel. At once Gid?e·on said: “Alas, Sovereign Lord Jehovah, for I have seen Jehovah’s angel face-to-face!” 23 But Jehovah said to him: “Peace be with you. Have no fear; you will not die.” ….25 That night Jehovah said to him: “Take the young bull that belongs to your father, the second young bull that is seven years old, and tear down the altar of Ba?al that belongs to your father, and cut down the sacred pole next to it.

    Note that until verse 14 it is the angel of Jehovah that is speaking to Gideon and then suddenly Jehovah turns to face Gideon to speak to him! The angel is the one who is in the scene and who is in no uncertain terms identified as Jehovah!

    Also, note that in verse 21 Jehovah’s angel accepts a gift offering and then vanishes from sight! Then in verse 23 the invisible Jehovah speaks to Gideon to calm his fears! We see both a visible Jehovah and an invisible Jehovah! One who is clearly a materialized angel and one who is….well…incorporeal and who speaks out of thin air.

    So, thinking about the interesting fact that the angel who was addressed as Jehovah and acted as a visible representative of Jehovah should it really be astonishing to read in Gospel of John (20:28) that Thomas called Jesus God? Really it shouldn’t be.

    Again continuing our walk in the Hebrew Bible we come to Samuel’s encounter with Jehovah by means of the angel known as the Word of Jehovah:

    1 Samuel3:7 (As regards Samuel, he had not yet come to know Jehovah, and the word of Jehovah had not yet begun to be revealed to him.)

    Here it states that “the word of Jehovah” had not been revealed to him. The Hebrew phrase can be understood to be a title for a figure. In that we see a word (revealed) that indicates sight/vision it is not a far leap understand that the word of God is an angelic spokesman who takes on the name Jehovah. We see this in verse 10. Note that Jehovah stands before Young Samuel, the NWT says that Jehovah took his position when Samuel answered Jehovah.

    10 Then Jehovah came and took his position and called as at the other times: “Samuel, Samuel!” At this Samuel said: “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

    Finishing up chapter 3 we see that Jehovah appears again to Samuel (this is a visible phenomenon!) and revealed himself (again another visible experience!) and he did so by means of the word of Jehovah! A word is not a visible phenomenon so the text strongly suggests that the word of God/Jehovah is a visible person. These are not the only scriptures that present this idea. Also, John in his prologue is not really saying anything new when he mentions that the Word existed, was with God and was a god. What was new was that the Word was born from a woman rather than just materializing flesh.

    21 And Jehovah proceeded to appear again in Shi?loh, because Jehovah revealed himself to Samuel in Shi?loh by the word of Jehovah.

    So why is there a need for a visible Jehovah? One reason is because the invisible God Jehovah who is spirit is beyond the ability of humans to see and comprehend, he is transcendent. So he chose to communicate with his prophets by manifesting himself through an angel who is representationally him, and has his name in him!

    So, in that sense Jesus who existed as the angel known as the Word of Jehovah and was even identified as Jehovah himself was as a human representationally Jehovah just as he had been as an angel. The Pharisees understood Jesus to be
    claiming that he had been the visible Jehovah. But because they couldn’t accept that he had a pre-existence they could only see him as a man. And he being a man and claiming to have been the angel of Jehovah who had Jehovah’s name in him and could even forgive sins (Exodus 23:20-21), claiming to be the angel known as the Word of Jehovah and who was the visible Jehovah they understandably accused of making himself equal to God. If he had appeared to them as an angel and spoken to them as Jehovah himself they wouldn’t have rejected him as messiah but as a man this was beyond their understanding of who the messiah was to be.

    To be sure we have evidence in the Talmud that some of the Jewish sages expected two messiahs; one human and one angelic. So perhaps they shouldn’t have been taken so aback by his claim.

    Reply
  41. avatar

    Timothy Lawson

    Jason,

    I believe the point Mike Davenport was making is that if John was quoting from the Old Greek of Exodus 3:14 and applying the title Jehovah gives himself there it would be hO WN not the predicate EGW EIMI.

    (I’m using the B-Greek email list’s method of writing Greek before it changed to a web forum that allows us to use the Greek font since it appears your blog messenger immediately rejects any message with a foreign language font.)

    Exodus 3:14
    KAI EIPEN hO QEOS PROS MWYSHN EGW EIMI hO WN…

    EIPEN AUTOIS IHSOUS, AMHN AMHN LEGW hYMIN, PRIN ABRAAM GENESQAI EGW EIMI

    If we take the sentence as you seem to understand it it would be PRIN ABRAAM GENESQAI EGW EIMI hO WN.

    But your claim seems to be that EGW EIMI is equal to God’s name Jehovah. The syntax would then would result in …before Abraham was born — Jehovah. This is a nonsense sentence of course.

    Since there is not a full verbal system for the Greek “to be” verb (there is no aorist or perfect and as you noted Greek has no verb form for a present perfect) John’s use of the present tense of the “to be” verb to express a present perfect is not surprising or unusual so that we should be seeking a deeper meaning in it. The result is that Jesus was here answering the question put to him about his age. His interlocutors weren’t asking about his identity at this point. They had already done so at 8:25 and he responded to them with the difficult THN ARXHN hO TI (or hOTI) MAI LALW hUMIN; which as you can see the NA-28 punctuates as a question, although it could also be taken as a statement. This seems to reflect John’s affinity for using paranomasia.

    Reply
  42. avatar

    Timothy Lawson

    The below comment, by someone named Chris in 2011, on the scholarship of the NWT in its translation of Rev 20:4 was offered:

    “There are more subtle changes in the New World Translation that were definitely made to support their doctrine and that actually have no basis at all in the original languages. Revelation 20:4 (“Yes, I saw the souls of those” instead of “And I saw the souls of those”)…”

    Here is my response:

    The explanation for the Greek particle ??? (KAI) which is most commonly used as a coordinating conjunction being rendered as “yes” at Rev 20:4 in the third clause is evidently it is viewed as explicative with an ascensive force. That is it explains what came before with emphasis.

    Interestingly we find that in the opening clause of Rev 20:4 the subject is not explicit and the clause beginning with KAI TAS YUXAS is in apposition to that unnamed subject, explaining it, identifying the “they” explicit in the finite verb EKAQISAN (they sat) as “TAS YUXAS…” (the souls…) as the ones sitting on the thrones. So KAI in this third clause may rightly be viewed as explicative and ascensive. – See the entry for KAI in BDAG

    —A Greek–English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, 3rd ed. (BDAG)

    Reply
  43. avatar

    Jason Harris

    @Michael Davenport,

    Thanks for your responses. You will have noticed by now that Timothy Lawson’s comment are finally getting through. =)

    Unfortunately I’m looking now at many pages of comments and have limited time to address them. Keep in mind also that BeDuhn’s book is the primary topic of the post, so I will have to avoid letting this become a discussion of just anything related to JW doctrine. That said, I’ll do my best to continue to answer the key points as best I can keep up. I’ll answer in the order they were posted.

    1) Re: John 8:58, ego eimi is not a title for God. It is, however, in this passage, a reference to God. It is how God asked Moses to describe him to the Isrealites in Egypt. Of course ego eimi is not and could never be an alternate spelling for God’s name as the consonants of God’s name are known to be YHWH. More on this later.

    2) Re: where Jesus is viewed as God in Scripture, it’s all over the place. Unfortunately, that discussion is too big to try to have here, especially considering that it is off topic.

    3) Re: Barclay, first, how do you know what definition of deity Barclay had in mind? Second, the doctrine that Jesus is YHWH is not a fundamentalist doctrine or notion. It is the mainstream position of Christianity through the ages. Third, you seem to think that dictionaries can’t be theologically biased… that’s an odd view that doesn’t seem likely to withstand scrutiny.

    As far as Philo and Origen, I can’t speak all that knowledgeably about their respective Christologies, but I wouldn’t be at all surprised if both were not trinitarians. I’ve made no argument that all the church fathers were trinitarians.

    As far as Jesus being “a god,” there is no question that he is. This seems, for you, to exclude the possibility that he is, and was broadly understood to be, THE God. Why?

    And of course Bultmann’s view, if reported accurately, would be nonsensical since no trinitarian can refer to God in the plural. The doctrine of the trinity is that there is one God in three persons. One God. One. Singular. In three persons. Plural. One God. One. Until the doctrine is grasped, it cannot be disproved.

    4) Back to John 8:58, I agree. Jesus WAS claiming his preexistence. True.

    He also chose to use the phrase “I am.” Which no Jewish person could possibly fail to have recognised as a reference to God’s description of himself to Moses.

    We are therefore very much justified in believing that Jesus was intentionally identifying himself with YHWH himself. Especially considering that preexistence is not something any other creature known to us has ever had. Add to this the fact that God, in Exodus 3:14, used a descriptor for himself (I AM THAT I AM) that identified him forcefully as being self-existent. God’s self-existence is perhaps the primary emphasis of the title I AM. So for Jesus to quote it in this context in a way that connected his preexistence with YHWH’s self-existence is strong. Very strong. So strong that the Jews viewed it as blasphemy and sough to kill him. There can be only two reasons they tried to kill him. First, they knew he was equating himself with YHWH. Or second, they didn’t see him as doing that and were therefore outraged that he dared to call himself preexistent. Which would mean that preexistence was not a normal thing in the Jewish mind. It was a massive claim. Others came claiming to be gods and were not killed and would not have offended the Jewish psyche, so again, even if they didn’t see the ego eimi as contecting him to YHWH, they certainly saw the claim to preexistence as a claim to be YHWH.

    5) Ok. I understand what you mean when you say “ego eimi is not used as a divine title; It is the words, ‘Ho On’ that make up the title. When Moses asked God, ‘Who should I say sent me, He replied, “Tell them Ho On sent you,” – not Ego Eimi.'”

    That is true. And not true.

    The “on” in ho on is actually just the participle form of eimi. So the LXX says “I am the being (one).” Or “I am being the being (one).” And then later in the verse, the ho on would be “The being (one) has sent me to you.” Or as the Hebrew has, “I AM has sent me to you.”

    So perhaps Jesus was simply quoting the LXX in the normal present tense instead of the present participle. Or perhaps he was simply translating in his head directly from the Hebrew (he did this on a number of occasions).

    We can’t know for sure. But the point is that for some reason, he chose not to say ego eimayn (I was) which would still have made him preexistent, but made no allusion to Exodus 3:14. And would have been natural and proper grammar. But he didn’t. He chose to say ego eimi (I am). And then the crowd erupted in rage…

    6) The JWs seem to have an obsession with the Roman Catholic Church (RCC). As if I, a mainstream evangelical, would have any allegiance at all to the RCC. I don’t.

    As far as historical theology, I generally don’t do conspiracy theories. For philosophical reasons. Namely that the primary evidence for conspiracy theories is that there is very little evidence for conspiracy theories.

    As far as your view that Jesus being YWHW is not in Scripture, I will again have to let that fall outside the scope of this discussion. The evidence is ample and easy to find (indeed, hard to miss). But it’s not a discussion that I can take on right now.

    7) Re: Jesus the sole creator.

    You said “You overstate your case.”

    John 1:3 says “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.”

    This leaves room for indirect involvement from elsewhere. But the immediate maker of all things is Jesus. John 1:3 leaves no room for debate that Jesus himself is the creator of ALL things.

    Your (1): The notion that he would need to be called creator for this to be true is non sequitur.

    Your (2): Yes, God the Father created through Jesus Christ. The Father’s role seems to have been more indirect. The Son is explicitly stated in John 1:3 to be the creator of all things that exist. ALL.

    It’s not just “interesting that only God the Father is called ‘the Creator of all things,'” it’s another instance of Jesus being equated directly to God.

    The rest of that comment seems like a really long way to agree that ALL things were created by Jesus Christ. You try to draw distinctions about agency, but even if all granted, nothing is changed. The point remains exactly as it stood. The only possible implication is your notion that the contractor doesn’t supply the goods. Which is a potential inference from a metaphor of a truth. Which is another way of saying a non-argument. Yes, an agent could be merely man. But in this case, the agent is Jesus and John 1:3 clearly affirms that Jesus is uncreated, ergo self-existent, ergo YWHW, the one and only true God.

    8) Notwithstanding your comments, I must maintain my view that “your understanding of the languages you’re working with doesn’t seem strong enough to build to solid conclusions in either direction.” It is actually quite common among smaller sects of heterodox theology (including, but not primarily JWs) to have men who are very focused on word studies. Word studies are very dangerous for the poorly informed because if we don’t understand use, we can go dangerously off track extremely quickly. This is why understanding the language itself is important for meaningful exegesis from the originals. Word meanings change over time. Use and context mean that we may have few options of how a word may be translated. And “depth” in a word can very easily refer to illegitimate methods of deriving meaning such as conflating definitions, assuming the root/s or origins provide the meaning, or attaching to familiar cognates. All that to say, you’ve made some egregious errors with Greek AND Hebrew in this discussion and it diminishes the strength of your arguments significantly.

    And I’m happy to cop the label of arrogant. I can be. But it is not arrogant to assert the truth and rebuke error. Remember, it is you that believes that the mainstream of Christianity has been wrong for thousands of years. It is you who claims to have found the knowledge that the great body of Christians through the ages has been ignorant of. There is an arrogance in that too. And the point is not the arrogance, but what is true. Which is why I’ll keep focusing on the arguments, not the persons.

    9) Re: Your study “The Messiah – Servant of Jehovah,” I’m afraid that’s something that I just can’t take the time to interact with. Too much material to address meaningfully in the time available.

    10) Re: Your quotations from “Trinity – 1967 New Catholic Encyclopedia.” Again, it’s a bunch of material but it’s not original and I don’t know what you think it means. I’m not Roman Catholic and have no sympathy at all with RCC theology so I can’t see value in trying to address it.

    11) Back to Barclay, again, I’m not RCC and have little interest in what they believe. If Barclay is not trinitarian, I’m not sure how he’s relevant to the discussion.

    12) Re: Irenaeus, it’s odd to me that you haven’t responded to that. I’m telling you that in my experience, a large portion of the citations used by the JWs’ official literature (particularly the old trinity booklet that was distributed for decades) misrepresent the sources. And then I do a simple one-sample audit of your citations and find what looks to be just such a case. It seems to me that the very intellectual integrity of your sect and yourself is on the line in a situation like this. It seems to me to demand a response of some sort…

    @Timothy Lawson,

    Thanks for your notes and comments. I look forward to having a look through them. Unfortunately I think I’m spent for tonight.

    Reply
  44. avatar

    Timothy Lawson

    Dear Jason,

    Regarding your claim concerning EGW EIMI as somehow telegraphing a connection to Yhwh the claim is not on solid linguistic grounds. As was mentioned earlier EGW EIMI at Genesis 3:14 functions as a predicate in a convertible proposition with the linking verb EIMI. The sentence complement is hO WN. This is not the structure of the sentence at John 8:58 so it’s an apples to oranges comparison.

    As to why John didn’t use the simple past to record Jesus’ response (likely in Aramaic) is that it wouldn’t have accurately conveyed Jesus’ intended meaning of past existence continuing until the time of his speaking.

    Please see the discussion on this topic from 2014 on the site B-Greek. All the participants in this discussion are Trinitarians. The group is run by accredited scholars, and many participants are well respected. The language of the NT is focussed on and theology is not allowed to be argued in the forum. This makes it an unbiased platform for examining the Greek of the NT.

    http://www.ibiblio.org/bgreek/forum/viewtopic.php?f=46&t=2469&p=15094&hilit=???+????#p15094

    Reply
  45. avatar

    Timothy Lawson

    Dear Jason,

    You may find this 2012 discussion of John 8:58 useful. It is initially about whether or not the structure of the sentence in Greek is ungrammatical. I have opined that it is not and that John was limited in his choices to express a progressive present of the “to be” verb” because it lacks a full system of tense forms. You will notice that Dr Stephen Carlson is in line with my opinion that it is not ungrammatical but the majority in this discussion do see it as ungrammatical but they are not accredited scholars.

    One other scholar to take note of is Dr Carl Conrad. His comment in the thread is offers food for thought.

    Also mentioned is the observation that you similarly made that if all Jesus was saying was that he existed before Abraham was born then why did the Jews want to stone him for such a seemingly benign statement?

    My response to that is that they understood Jesus to be claiming to be the angel of Yhwh, the very one called Yhwh who discoursed with Abraham at Genesis 18-19.

    During the second temple period the deutero theos, second power in heaven question was a hot topic. We know this from the Intertestamental Literature such as the book of Enoch, the wisdom literature, the t
    Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs et al. This controversy of the deutero theos was sparked in part by Daniel 7:13 as well as Ps 110:1-2. In Daniel 7:13 the enigmatic son of man figure appears and he is given authority over the nations and sits at the right hand of God. Of course Jesus claimed to be the son of man and as such the second power in heaven, the deutero theos. But in that the Jews believing he was just a man born of woman such a claim was blasphemy. It is for this reason they attempted to stone him.

    The clearest example of their objection to his being a man but claiming to be the lesser Yhwh is found at John 10:33-35 where I believe John has him claiming to be the Word of God.

    The scene is Jesus claiming to be one with the father and the Jews accuse him of making himself either God or a god. Since the text can be read either way I’m not going to be dogmatic. Jesus then appeals to Ps 82 in his defense. I don’t take the mortal view of Ps 82 (see Dr Michael Heisers doctoral thesis). This being the case Ps 82 then presents Yhwh standing in the middle of a divine council and reprimanding these gods for their unjust rule over the nations under their authority (see Heiser’s explanation of the Deuteronomy 32 world view devloped in his thesis as well as his book the Unseen Realm.

    So when Jesus says that the word of God came against these gods he means that Yhwh (it is unlikely that it is the transcendent Yhwh but rather the lesser Yhwh) the Yhwh who stood in their midst was the Word of God, and none other than he himself in his pre-existence.
    John 10:35 If he called ‘gods’ those against whom the word of God came—and yet the scripture cannot be nullified—

    Keep in mind that in the prologue John has already introduced Jesus as the Word of God and he didn’t just pull this idea out of thin air but likely he understood the event at John 10:33-35 as Jesus claiming to be the Word of God.

    This Word of Yhwh figure was known to them from accounts in their Bible but one striking one is found at 1Sam 3. I’d like

    There is much more to be said but my comments are already lengthy. Suffice it to say that I read John 8:25 as Jesus claiming to be the lesser Yhwh and the Jews got his point and attempts to stone him because to them it was blasphemy for a man, a human to claim such for himself.

    Therefore the use of EGW EIMI was not a reference to Gen 3:14 but to his pre-existence as the lesser Yhwh. The grammar of Genesis 3:14 cannot be linked with John 8:58.

    Reply
    1. avatar

      Michael Davenport

      Timothy –
      I think it would be good to point out that this concept of a greater and lesser Jehovah does not come from the JW Org. , nor was this ever published in any JW literature. It’s not a JW teaching.
      Personally, I see it as an example of a messenger who speaks as if he were the sender. We do have the example of Moses where he said, “I am Jehovah.” But obviously, Moses was not claiming to be YHWH. Uh

  46. avatar

    Timothy Lawson

    Oops! I forgot to include the link to the B-Greek discussion I alluded to. Here it is:

    http://www.ibiblio.org/bgreek/forum/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=1387&hilit=??????

    Enjoy!

    Reply
  47. avatar

    Timothy Lawson

    Mike,

    Yes. You are correct. Thanks for pointing that out.
    I don’t believe however that my comments are out of line with our published views.

    Reply
    1. avatar

      Michael Davenport

      My concern here is that Jason or some other reader might conclude that JWs believe that there are two Jehovahs: one greater, one lesser. I doubt that we could find any statement to that effect in any JW publication. Did you say this was a belief in certain Jewish rabbinical literature? I think the explanation in Youngs Concordance under Hebrew idioms makes better sense. The Rabbis often misunderstood things, or misinterpreted them.

  48. avatar

    Timothy Lawson

    Mike,

    Calling the angelic representative the “lesser Yhwh” ought not cause too much consternation. There are many examples of Jehovah’s angel being directly addressed as Jehovah and even being described without qualification as Jehovah so recognizing this figure as the “lesser Jehovah” who appears in human, visible form should assuage concerns that this one is ontologically Jehovah.

    Take for example Judges 6:11-15 where the angel of Jehovah appears to Gideon and then Jehovah actually is said to turns toward Gideon and faces him. Gideon then goes on to address the angel as Jehovah.

    I hope this addresses the concerns you have over my description of a “lesser Jehovah”.

    Judges 6:11 Later Jehovah’s angel came and sat under the big tree that was in Oph?rah, which belonged to Jo?ash the Abi-ez?rite. His son Gid?e·on was beating out wheat in the winepress in order to hide it from Mid?i·an. 12 Jehovah’s angel appeared to him and said: “Jehovah is with you, you mighty warrior.” 13 At this Gid?e·on said to him: “Pardon me, my lord, but if Jehovah is with us, why has all of this come upon us? Where are all his wonderful acts that our fathers related to us, saying, ‘Did Jehovah not bring us up out of Egypt?’ Now Jehovah has deserted us and given us into Mid?i·an’s hand.” 14 JEHOVAH FACED HIM and said: “Go with the strength you have, and you will save Israel out of Mid?i·an’s hand. Is it not I who send you?” 15 Gid?e·on answered him: “Pardon me, Jehovah. How can I save Israel? Look! My clan is the least in Ma·nas?seh, and I am the most insignificant in my father’s house.”

    Some works that I recommend on this topic are:

    Alan Segal: Two Powers in Heaven: Early Rabbinic Reports About Christianity and Gnosticism

    Daniel Boyarin’s paper The Gospel of the Memra (available free in pdf online).

    Michael Heiser’s book: The Unseen Realm

    Darrell Hannah’s book Michael And Christ: Michael Traditions and Angel Christology in Early Christianity

    Benjamin Sommer’s book The Bodies of God

    I hope this helps reassure you. Also, this is a great point for unitarians and Trinitarians to begin a discussion. It moves away from the old and tired apologetics of both sides. The main debate would be does the angel of Jehovah, the angel who has Jehovah’s name in him (Exodus 23:20-21) and can forgive sins, the lesser Jehovah (Yhwh Hakatan) share Jehovah’s essence.

    Reply
    1. avatar

      Michael Davenport

      In early editions of Young’s Concordance, there was a section called, “Helps and Hints to Bible Interpretation.” One of the “hints” listed was, “The language of the messenger drifts into that of the sender,” and several scriptures were given to illustrate.

      This method of delivering a message from a higher source bears directly on the issue of whether the “Angel of the LORD” was claiming to be God when he said, “I am Yahweh,” or “I am your God.”

      In the examples that I will show, you will see that it is not always easy to tell when the messenger is speaking for himself, and when he begins to speak for his sender. And we will see that even a human messenger will sometimes speak as if they were God himself.

      We begin with Exodus 15:24-26 “And the people grumbled against Moses, saying, ‘What shall we drink?’ “ Verse 26 continues with Moses admonishing the people: “If you heed the LORD your God diligently, doing what is upright in His sight, giving ear to his commandments and keeping all his laws, then I will not bring upon you any of the diseases that I brought upon the Egyptians, for I the LORD am your healer.” (Tanakh)

      This was no claim by Moses to be Yahweh. He simply began to speak as if he were God. – typical speech for a messenger sent by God.

      Our second example: Deuteronomy 11:11-14. Moses reminds Israel of all that the LORD had done for them and His promise to bring them into a land flowing with milk and honey. In verse 13, Moses begins to speak as Yahweh himself: “If then, you obey the commandments that I enjoin upon you this day, loving the LORD, your God and serving Him with all your heart and soul, I will grant the rain for your land and season. – JPS Tanakh

      In this example, Moses goes back and forth between speaking as himself and speaking as Yahweh.

      Then we have Deuteronomy 29 2-6: “And Moses called unto all Israel, and said unto them, Ye have seen all that the LORD did before your eyes in the land of Egypt unto pharaoh, and unto all his servants, and unto all his land. . .Yet the LORD hath not given you a heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear unto this day. And I have led you forty years in the wilderness. . . Ye have not eaten bread, neither have ye drunk wine or strong drink: that ye might know that I am the LORD your God.” – KJV

      Deuteronomy 31:23 appears to be another example: “And he [Moses] gave Joshua, the son of Nun a charge, and said, Be strong and of a good courage: for thou shalt bring the children of Israel into the land which I sware unto them: and I will be with thee.” – KJV

      It was also characteristic of such exchanges between the messenger and the receiver, that the receiver often responded by addressing the messenger as if he were the sender himself. You will find this at 2 Samuel 24:15-17, after David sinned against God by numbering the people: “So the LORD sent a pestilence upon Israel from the morning even to the time appointed : and there died of the people from Dan even to Beer-sheba seventy thousand men.
      And when the angel stretched out his hand upon Jerusalem to destroy it, the LORD repented him of the evil, and said to the angel that destroyed the people, It is enough: stay now thine hand. . .
      And David spake unto the LORD when he saw the angel that smote the people, and said, Lo, I have sinned, and I have done wickedly: but these sheep, what have they done?”

      See also 1 Kings 19:5-10. And there are many other examples in the Bible.

      The key to understanding these examples is that, when a messenger was sent out to deliver a message, he spoke as if he were the one who sent him, and when the person responded, he spoke to the messenger as if he were the sender.

      This is not as foreign as it sounds. For example, when a court interpreter speaks in the courtroom, he speaks as if he were the person whose testimony he is interpreting – or he speaks as if he was the attorney who is asking him the questions, or even as the judge himself. But he’s not usually allowed to speak for himself.

      So when an angel says, “I am the LORD,” we should not conclude that he personally is the LORD; and when people address him as the LORD, we must understand that he is there to receive and to convey the message back to the true LORD who is in heaven.

      This is an example of Hebrew idiom, which is quite foreign to Western thought, and perhaps even to ancient Jewish minds. This is how I see it, but there is not a great deal of biblical evidence nor examples that demonstrate this phenomenon.

  49. avatar

    Timothy Lawson

    Mike,

    Also I feel a freeness of expression where our publications haven’t spoken on a topic and as far as I know the two Jehovahs (one visible and in the form of a man and the other transcendent and invisible ) hasn’t been addressed in writing.

    The Shemah clearly states Jehovah is one Jehovah. There are two main thoughts on what this means:
    1.) This is speaking ontologically about Jehovah
    2.) It is oriented toward worshipping only Jehovah.

    I think the Shemah also is to weigh in on the fact that Jehovah presented himself visibly as well as being invisible and transcendent to his prophets to clarify that the visible Jehovah was his shaliah.

    Reply
    1. avatar

      Michael Davenport

      Timothy said: “I think the Shemah also is to weigh in on the fact that Jehovah presented himself visibly as well as being invisible and transcendent to his prophets to clarify that the visible Jehovah was his shaliah.”

      Me: Most folks don’t realize that Jesus is called an “apostle” in the Bible. Here’s the verse: “Therefore, holy brothers. . . consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of the faith we profess.” (Hebrews 3:1)

      The prefix is ‘apo’ – the preposition indicating movement away from something. The root is stolos, and is predominately a military or naval word. Stolos was sometimes the equipment used for the purpose of war. It was sometimes the commander of a naval force. Stolos was commonly used for a military expedition by land, but, more often, by sea. It was a single ship, or a fleet of vessels that was sent out on a specific mission. Whether the word is used in a military context or not, the focus is not so much on the journey, but it always has the thought of the fulfillment of a mission, or the attainment of a specific goal. It should be noted also that the word is passive, indicating that, for the one being sent on his mission, it is always at the command of a higher power or authority – never due directly to his own personal ambition or desire.

      In ancient Greece, the apostoleus was a magistrate who fitted out a squadron for its mission. It was a messenger, an envoy, or an ambassador who was sent out to make peace, or to deliver a warning. Herodotus used it for envoys sent to carry proposals from one government to another (1.21; 5.28). In later Greek it was used for any group of people who were sent out to establish an outpost or colony. With this background in mind, we begin to see why this was an appropriate word for the twelve men whom Jesus chose to begin his church.

      Our understanding of this Greek word will be further enhanced by considering the Hebrew background in regard to those “sent out” The corresponding word, in Hebrew, is shalakh (Strong’s Hebr # 7971), and the one sent out is the Shaliakh. During the “intertestamental” period (Circa 4th century B.C.E.) the role of the Shaliakh developed within the Hebrew culture. Often, individuals enlisted the services of a Shaliakh to arrange for a marriage or divorce; or to negotiate the terms of a legal contract. The Shaliakh acted as a representative or spokesman of the party that enlisted him, and he had full authority to make important decisions in behalf of that one. Obviously, any man chosen for this position would have been a man of fine reputation; a man carefully selected for his trustworthiness, experience and wisdom.

      The position of the Shaliakh became important also within the Jewish religious system. The Sanhedrin had become the supreme governing body of the Jews, and it exercised authority over Jerusalem and Palestine. When important decisions were made, when new instructions were given, or sometimes when there was a need to deliver a warning, it was the Shaliakh who was sent out to deliver them. Conversely, when these agents of the Sanhedrin returned home, they acted as advisors and counselors to the Sanhedrin.

      In both secular and religious settings, the Shaliakh acted as the spokesman and agent of the one who sent him. He was commissioned with full authority to make important decisions on behalf of the sender. Further, his presence was considered to be as the presence of the one who sent him. The Rabbis had sayings for this: “The one sent by a man is as the man himself;” or, “The emissary of the king is as the king himself.”

      One further use of the word Shaliakh will add to our understanding. In certain copies of the Jewish Mishnah and Talmud, there are four prophets who are given the title of Shaliakh: In each case, it is because of the miracles that God performed through them. Moses brought forth water out of a rock; Elijah brought forth rain in a time of drought and raised one who had died; Elisha also raised a dead person, and had “opened a barren womb”; and Ezekiel, it was believed according to Ezekiel 37, would receive the keys to the graves when the resurrection occurred. These men were viewed as being much more than just messengers. They had received the very power of God and were able to do the things that only God could do.

      Most of these features of the Shaliakh in the Jewish culture would have naturally transferred into the Christian faith and into the role of those who were called ‘apostles’, and Jewish converts to Christianity would have certainly understood the connection.

      It is in Jesus especially that we see so many of the functions of the Shaliakh, or apostle personified and brought to life. When viewed in the light of the above information, we begin to see more clearly the implication of many of Jesus’ statements: “I am come in my Father’s name” (John 5:43); “My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me” (John 7:16); “I am not come of myself” (John 7:28); “The servant is not greater than his lord, neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him” (John 13:16); “All power (more correctly, authority) has been given me” (Matthew 28:18). Like the four prophets who performed miracles in God’s power, Jesus also did so on many occasions, including performing some resurrections. To these features of apostleship, perhaps we could also include Christ’s role in arranging for the “legal contract” of the New Covenant, and possibly even his arranging for the “marriage of the Lamb”. The role of the Shaliakh or apostolos was the perfect picture of the work of Jesus Christ and of the others who were commissioned and who accepted the mission of bringing God’s message to mankind.

  50. avatar

    Timothy Lawson

    Mike,

    That was nicely written and fills in the gaps that I had assumed was a given. Thank you for that.

    Reply
  51. avatar

    Jason Harris

    @Timothy Lawson,

    Hello, thanks for stopping in. I appreciate hearing from someone who actually knows BeDuhn because I really want to ask, what is BeDuhn’s religious/denominational views? I’ve been unable to find any place that explains where he sits on the religious landscape.

    I’ll attempt to respond to your points.

    1) You said “Perhaps the most powerful evidence that Jesus is not the Almighty God is the fact that he has a God.”

    First, there is only one real and true God. No other god actually exists. Yes, we refer to fictitious gods (the Greek gods, the Norse gods, the Baals, etc.) as being gods, but no such gods actually exist.

    Second, that Jesus sees God as his God is in no way inconsistent with trinitarianism.

    2) Re: the study titled “The Hebrew Bible presents two Jehovahs, one visible and one invisible.” I’m not sure the relevance…

    3) Re: John 8/Exodus 3, I think your original comments were fairly well addressed in my response to Michael. But I’ll respond to your more recent comments here.

    You said: “Regarding your claim concerning EGW EIMI as somehow telegraphing a connection to Yhwh.” It’s not telegraphing. It’s allusion. It a very, very common rhetorical tool, especially in a primarily oral society such as the one in which Jesus spoke. The NT often alludes to the OT by using a small word or phrase that would trigger the connection in the common mind. That is the connection here. And it is very strong.

    You said: “EGW EIMI at Genesis 3:14 functions as a predicate in a convertible proposition with the linking verb EIMI…” Again, it is not safe to assume that Jesus was intending to quote the LXX. So attempts to draw strict grammatical parallels only hold so much weight. The point is that to the Jewish mind of the day, ego eimi (an oft repeated theme in Jesus’ descriptions of himself) was an allusion that every Sunday School (Synogogue School [?!]) child would have gotten immediately.

    You said: “As to why John didn’t use the simple past to record Jesus’ response (likely in Aramaic) is that it wouldn’t have accurately conveyed Jesus’ intended meaning of past existence continuing until the time of his speaking.” True. But hardly important in context since he’s standing in front of them in the flesh. What else could it mean? The past tense would have been the most natural choice.

    You said: “It [is] an unbiased platform for examining the Greek of the NT.” I don’t accept for a moment the notion that there is such a thing as an unbiased anything. Failure to recognise our biases only makes us more susceptible to them.

    4) You said: “they understood Jesus to be claiming to be the angel of Yhwh, the very one called Yhwh who discoursed with Abraham at Genesis 18-19.” Which supposes that someone who was not YHWH was called YHWH. Which would be an intolerable blasphemy to the Jewish mind and to mine. In reality, “the angel of God” WAS the preincarnate Jesus and yes, that is exactly who Jesus was claiming to be and yes, they did interpret it as a claim to be YHWH.

    5) You said: “During the second temple period the deutero theos, second power in heaven question was a hot topic…” What you’re indicating here is that even the intertestimental Jewish mind that had wandered so far from the true Jewish faith recognised the tension of the Christ being elevated to the place of God and wrestled with how to resolve the tension. This is setting the scene for a trinitarian view to emerge. From the OT.

    6) You said: “I read John 8:25 as Jesus claiming to be the lesser Yhwh.” The OT could not be more emphatic that there is ONE God, YHWH. Any talk of a “lesser YHWH” was blasphemous. And the truth is still clear in the NT. YHWH and “lesser YHWH” is polytheism and blasphemy. So when you say you think Jesus was claiming to be this, it is trinitarianism alone that could rescue you from blasphemy.

    Having read the back and forth between you two, the above is not cleared up. To call a messenger of YHWH the “lesser YHWH” is a serious problem at so many levels. And yes, I get that the Jews had this problem as well. They had lots of theological problems. It is denial of the trinity that makes these problems problems.

    7) You said: “The grammar of Genesis 3:14 cannot be linked with John 8:58.” Again, this assumes he was quoting verbatim from the LXX.

    Alright. I think that covers it. I think seeing the allusion as being to the Angel that spoke to Abraham moves the discussion forward somewhat, but doesn’t remove the other allusion (to the I AM), and doesn’t remove the strong trinitarian implications of Jesus claiming to be “The angel of God.”

    Reply
    1. avatar

      Michael Davenport

      Jason said: “7) You said: “The grammar of Genesis 3:14 cannot be linked with John 8:58.” Again, this assumes he was quoting verbatim from the LXX.”

      Not to be nit-picky, but that should be EXODUS 3:14. LOL. (Not sure who made this boo boo first, but not important).

      OK, so in regard to Jn 8:58, the claim is made that the words, ‘ego eimi’ were understood by the Pharisees to be a divine title taken from Exodus 3:14, although nothing in the passage actually states this. This is a modern conclusion – an interpretation – based entirely upon the reaction of Jesus’ enemies: they wanted to kill him. Walter Martin argued that the only legal basis they could have had to put Jesus to death was blasphemy. Then, it has been asserted, Jesus’ supposed blasphemy was his claim to be the “I AM.”

      There are several problems with this line of reasoning. From the beginning of his ministry, Jesus had been in confrontation with the Jewish religious leaders. After he drove the money-changers out of the temple, interrupting the lucrative business of the high priest and the Sadducees, they determined to kill Jesus. With the Pharisees, Jesus often exposed their hypocrisy and wickedness before their followers, and he was drawing their followers to himself. He exposed their errors before men. And these men were self-righteous to the extreme. So their determination to kill Jesus didn’t suddenly appear because he claimed to be God.

      The first time the Pharisees wanted to kill Jesus was in Mark chapter 4, where he went to the synagogue, read a Messianic prophesy from Isaiah and applied it to himself. The Jewish leaders were so outraged that they followed him out of the synagogue and wanted to push him over the cliff, but he eluded them. Jesus’ ‘blasphemy’ here was his claim to be the Messiah.

      Back to John 8, Jesus told the Pharisees that their father was Satan and that they were murderers like him – alluding to their murdering the prophets that had been sent to them.

      We have to understand that the Pharisees were self-righteous to the extreme. The pride of the Pharisees is demonstrated in a footnote in the Emphatic Diaglott at Luke 18:11:

      “Rabbi Simeon the son of Jochai, said: ‘The world is not worth thirty righteous persons such as our father, Abraham. If there were only thirty righteous persons in the world, I and my son should make two of them; and if there were but twenty I and my son would be of the number; and if there were ten, I and my son would be of the number; and if there were but five, I and my son would be of the five; and if there were but two, I and my son would be those two; And if there were but one, myself should be that one.” – from Bereshith Rabba,

      In John chapter 8, Jesus exposed the wickedness of the Pharisees before onlookers. I don’t know how they restrained themselves and not killed Jesus when he said their Father was Satan.

  52. avatar

    Michael Davenport

    On the English grammar of John 8:58:

    There are two things required to make a grammatical sentence: a noun and a verb. “I am” is exactly that – and one of the shortest sentences in the English language. (The longest sentence is “I do”)

    In a compound sentence, you need to have two nouns and two verbs. For example: “I walked and John drove.” Here’s the grammar: I (noun) walked (verb) and (conjunction) John (noun) drove (verb).

    John 8 is a compound sentence: “Before Abraham (noun) was (verb), I am”

    The question here is, how do we take the words, ‘I am’? If Jesus was claiming to be the “I AM” from Exodus, then it’s a proper noun, and we now have a compound sentence with a proper noun, but no verb in the second clause.

    On the other hand, if we take this as an ordinary compound sentence, there is no issue: “Before Abraham (noun) was (verb), I (noun) existed.”

    Yes, I know that eimi is not past tense, but the action of the verb, ‘to exist’, started before Abraham and continued into the present when Jesus spoke these words.

    For comparison, Psalm 90:2 in the LXX is a perfect example of similar action that begins in the past and continues into the present.

    Reply
  53. avatar

    Timothy Lawson

    Dear Jason,

    I’ve enjoyed your responses to my points.

    I liked your observation that the simple past connected with Jesus’ presence before them pretty much makes the same point. I can see the sense in that but if EIMI can be taken as a PPA (present of past action) then it would signal an unbroken existence from the time before Abraham until his time of speaking unlike the simple past which doesn’t reveal anything about his existence during the time period in between.

    Your correction of my use of the word “telegraph” for the technical term “allusion” reminded me to check the book Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament. Edited by G. K. Beale and D. A. Carson.

    The chapter on the Gospel of John is by Andreas J. Köstenberger and he says the following:

    Jesus’ statement in 8:56, “Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad,” refers to Abraham’s joyful anticipation of the coming of the Messiah. Jewish tradition took Abraham’s rejoicing to refer to his laughter at the prospect (or actual birth) of his son Isaac. This interpretation was based partly on Gen. 17:17 (seen as joy, not scorn, as in Philo, Names 154–169; see Moloney 1998: 286; Brown 1966–1970: 360) and partly on Gen. 21:6 (cf. Jub . 15:17; 16:19–29; see further references in Köstenberger 2004: 272n100). Hence what may be at work here is a typology that extends from Abraham’s son of promise, Isaac, to Jesus the Messiah (cf. Gal. 3; Rom. 4). The Jews’ objection does not arise from the notion of Abraham foreseeing the messianic age; rather, the point of contention is Jesus’ claim that the messianic age is “his day,” in direct spiritual lineage from Abraham (cf. Gal. 3:16). Yet, according to Jesus, Abraham did indeed understand, however imperfectly, that the covenant promise that in him all the nations of the earth would be blessed (e.g., Gen. 12:1–3) involved God’s future provision of a redeemer. The claim in 8:58, “Before Abraham came into being, I am” (cf. Ps. 90:2), contrasts an allusion to Abraham’s birth with a reference to Jesus’ eternal existence, focused on his incarnation (Ridderbos 1997: 322–23). Jesus’ language here echoes God’s self-identification to Moses in Exod. 3:14 (cf. Isa. 43:10, 13; see Ball 1996: 195–96; Schnackenburg 1990: 2:224; Burge 2000: 263). Thus Jesus claims not merely preexistence—in that case, he could have said, “before Abraham was born, I was”—but deity (note the reaction to Jesus’ claim in 8:59; see S. Motyer 1997: 159). The present instance of “I am” startlingly culminates earlier occurrences of this expression in this chapter (cf. 8:24, 28; see Freed 1983b). Upon hearing Jesus say this, they took up stones to throw at him (cf. 10:31–33; 11:8). Stoning was the prescribed punishment for blasphemy (cf. Lev. 24:16; cf. Deut. 13:6–11; m. Sanh . 7:4; see Carson 1991: 358). However, such punishment was to be the result of righteous judgment, not mob violence (cf. Deut. 17:2–7; see Daube 1956: 306). People in OT times considered stoning righteous men such as Moses (Exod. 17:4), Joshua and Caleb (Num. 14:10), and David (1 Sam. 30:6). Stephen, the church’s first martyr, was stoned on account of alleged blasphemy (Acts 7:57–60). Paul too was stoned, although he escaped with his life (Acts 14:19; 2 Cor. 11:25), as were other Christian saints (Heb. 11:37).

    Jason, obviously his comments support your stated view that EGW EIMI in John 8:58 is an allusion to Exodus 3:14. I fail to see this connection but I’m going to delve into it more to see why such great minds view it that way.

    The title for God at Rev 1:4 is what I would expect for an allusion to God as hO WN at Exodus 3:14:

    hO WN KAI hO HN KAI hO ERXOMENOS

    As to the question of polytheism I’ll direct you to Dr Michael Heiser’s work:

    https://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1276&context=lts_fac_pubs

    Now. your recognition that the angel of God was the pre-incarnate Jesus creates the difficulty of how an angel who is a created being can be God. If God is transcendent and invisible to humans how is it that he was seen by so many of the patriarchs and prophets? How do you explain Jesus’ statement that No one has seen God at any time when the angel of God has been seen? Since he can be seen he cannot ontologically be God; he has to be less than God.

    Now as to Dr BeDuhn’s religious views I do not know. I tried to figure that out myself. He keeps that pretty well hidden. In class I gave him our JW publication entitled ALL SCRIPTURE IS INSPIRED. His reaction was an unstiffled laugh. And in class he let his opinion be known that there are definite contradictions in the Bible. I wouldn’t be surprised if he were an agnostic.

    Reply
    1. avatar

      Michael Davenport

      My impression of BeDuhn is that, as a professor of compatitive religion, he has an in-depth knowledge of his subject of study from both a historic viewpoint as well as a scriptural viewpoint, but is like an outsider looking. I think he has a lot of respect for JWs – More than he has for mainstream groups.

      In his book, he comments that it is because he has no doctrinal bias to defend, that he is able to interpret passages simply on what the Greek says without adding any spin. (Not his exact words, just my imperfect memory from reading his book several years ago.)

  54. avatar

    Edenfantasys

    However, I believe BeDuhn has stumbled a bit on his own bias at this point. He has effectively pressed his point that there is frequent translation bias in Protestant New Testaments in which when speaking of God because he is divine, but that it would be inappropriate to apply it to Jesus because he is not? Bias is bias irrespective of which end of the theological spectrum an individual may be on. Neutrality demands that

    Reply
    1. avatar

      Mike Davenport

      There is no such thing as neutral theology. Anyone who believes in a doctrine is biased in favor of his belief.

    2. avatar

      Michael Davenport

      BeDuhn stated in his book something to the effect that he is theologically neutral, (which probably means that he is not associated with any religion) and thus he approaches the Scripture from a doctrinally unbiased position. What he points out is that translators often render passages according to their personal beliefs. The way that I would describe this would be “the tail that wags the God.”

      People find ‘proof’ for their doctrines in the Bible because translators have put that ‘proof’ into their versions. And they fabricate their own definitions for the words they use.

      I see this in the KJV, where, for example, three different Greek words are all translated as ‘hell’ (plus one Hebrew word, of course): Hades, Gehenna, and Tartarus. Yet, there are radical differences in meaning and application in these three words, but, of course, the average reader is ignorant of these issues. He trusts the translators to tell him the truth, but many translators prefer to uphold their human traditions.

  55. avatar

    Jason Harris

    Michael Davenport,

    Thanks for your responses and your patience with my (lack of) response.

    Re: John 8:58, Martin’s argument certainly is possible. Self-righteous people do feel the need to rationalise their evil before they do it. So it’s possible it required blasphemy in their minds before they could try to kill Jesus. It’s also possible they understood that the Christ/Messiah was “the Mighty God” (Isaiah 9:6) in Mark 4. Ultimately, whether the Pharisees understood Jesus’ statement that day or not, the text itself does include ego eimi with no direct object or contextual raison d’être. The fact that as a proper noun it wouldn’t have a verb is moot because the whole point is that it is a play on words. Taken as completing a compound sentence, it does have the verb but is abrupt. Which leads the mind to the other meaning which is the real substance of the statement, the proper noun. It’s exactly what a good play on words would do. And is not at all uncommon in the New Testament.

    If you want to compare this to Psalm 90:2 in the LXX, then you need to translate the verb as present tense, not past: “I am.” The eimi in Psalm 90:2 is present tense and is translated as such (even in the NWT). Indeed, Psalm 90:2 clearly teaches the self-existence of God. So I don’t see how the comparison helps distance John 8:58 from being a claim to self-existence even if he’s not alluding to the I AM of Exodus.

    Reply
  56. avatar

    Jason Harris

    Timothy Lawson,

    Thanks for your response and your patience with my response.

    Re: The Angel of God, I don’t think it means that an angel was God, but rather that “The Angel of God” is a title that was assigned to pre-incarnate appearances of God the Son. And that because the incorporeal God the Son took on a human-like form of some sort which humans viewed as angelic.

    As far as no one seeing God at any time, the same issue exists for Jesus in his incarnate form. But Jesus himself is the one who made the statement (John 1:18). And then proceeds to imply that he himself changes this. So whatever the angelic form was, I think it is not seen by Jesus in John 1:18 as a full visible expression of God. Which makes sense since others in the Old Testament did “see” God in various forms… a pillar of cloud/fire, the hand of God on the tablets of stone, the back of God from a cave, etc.

    Re: BeDuhn. Wow… that’s interesting… very interesting. Thanks.

    Reply
    1. avatar

      Timothy Lawson

      That no one can see God and live and no one has seen God at any time shows that there is an ontological difference between the angel of Jehovah, who is visible and immanent and the invisible, transcendent Jehovah who alone is to be worshipped and is the only Jehovah who is ontologically Jehovah. – Deuteronomy 6:4. The Shema is evidently is meant to be thought provoking making the reader consider the question whether “one Jehovah” is meant to convey that he alone is God and due exclusive devotion or whether it addresses essence as one in light of his dual manifestations. See The Bodies of God and the World of Ancient Israel by Benjamin D. Sommer pg 66 and especially footnote 52 on page 220.

      The question of how a physical manifestation of an angel as Jehovah can ontologically be God and be seen in light of the negating biblical statements is the point where JW’s and Trinitarians need to focus to move the discussion forward.

      Jason as to the possibility that EGW EIMI is a title used at J8:58 and early in GJohn, I think you’d agree that it needs to be supported not just claimed.

      Perhaps you would welcome taking our discussion to another forum more suitable for a debate on this in pursuit of the truth?

  57. avatar

    Jason Harris

    Timothy Lawson,

    “That no one can see God and live and no one has seen God at any time shows that there is an ontological difference between the angel of Jehovah, who is visible and immanent and the invisible, transcendent Jehovah who alone is to be worshipped and is the only Jehovah who is ontologically Jehovah.”

    I don’t think so at all. Unless you see this as an argument against the incarnation itself. In which case this isn’t the issue at all. A trinitarian view is that the Shema addresses both the exclusivity and essential unity of God. These matters only become difficult when we reject the clear teaching of Scripture regarding the incarnation and the trinity. Which I don’t. And you shouldn’t.

    Re: John 8:58, I think it is a mischaracterisation of my view to say “EGW EIMI is a title used at J8:58.” I’ve given a fair bit of clarification that I—and everyone I’m aware of who sees it as in any way related to the I AM title—view it, NOT as a title, but as a play on words. As a logical completion of the statement about Abraham which is in itself a claim to self-existence, and that it is also probably an intentional reference—NOT a title, but a reference—to the I AM statement of the Old Testament. The fact that he chose to use ego eimi in John 8 is not a claim to be supported, but a fact. That the LXX uses ego eimi for I AM is a fact. The notion that he intended it as part of a double meaning is clear enough and strong enough in my view that to say it isn’t related “needs to be supported not just claimed.” And so far what I’m seeing is not arguments against it but rather preconceptions against it.

    Reply
  58. avatar

    T

    Jason,

    I was raised a JW (dad remains an “elder” and mom is a “pioneer”), and I stuck with it until I was about 30. I didn’t get in trouble, I didn’t read “apostate” literature, and I didn’t just get too lazy to be active–I include this because these are the assumptions that will immediately spring to the minds of onlooking JWs, mystified that anyone like me exists.

    I deprogrammed myself by relentless investigation, ultimately settling on a worldview of humanistic atheism rooted in Darwinistic materialism. It was about five years ago that this process reached completion. Then, still seeking truth, I discovered the reality of the soul and man’s radical freedom of will. To make a boring biographical story short, I have since found my way back to Christian orthodoxy, rooted in tradition, from a truly and contentedly pagan starting point: as close as one will get to a religious “blank slate”.

    I say all this partly just to baffle the smug and overbearing JWs, with their dangerously partial knowledge and outsize confidence. But I am also posting it here by way of a thank you to you, Jason, and the others like you who continue to patiently defend orthodox Christianity. I have become a traditional Roman Catholic, so you and I maybe would not agree on much else, but you’ve done marvelous work here in this article and comment thread despite the avalanche of responses. BeDuhn’s book is very precious to JWs for obvious reasons, but as a traditionalist I find it very hard to imagine that our understanding of biblical languages here in the materialist, skeptical 21st century sheds more light on scripture than the interpretations provided by the ancient sources of tradition, formulated when these languages were still alive.

    Reply
    1. avatar

      T. Scott Lawson

      T,
      I know your missive was directed to Jason but since I get notifications of new comments I thought I’d tell you how interesting I think your arc of seeking God has been. It’s not a “boring biographical story” by any means!

      I’d be delighted to engage with you in conversation! You can email me at tslawson1@yahoo.com if you’re interested.

      My name is Timothy Scott Lawson….but I go by my middle name, Scott

  59. avatar

    T. Scott Lawson

    Jason,

    I have gotten busy and neglected to respond to your last response to me. Sorry for the delay.

    I apologize if I misunderstood your view of how EGW EIMI functions at J8:58 but it seems to be idiosyncratic to you. Perhaps you can direct me to some reading material that supports your view.

    If I’m understanding you correctly you see EGW EIMI as harkening back to Exodus 3:14 where the LXX is exegetes by translation what Eyah Asher Eyah means which is EGW EIMI hO WN. We might English that as “I am the Being” or “I am the Existing One”.

    The “I am” part of the sentence is not the appellation that God gives himself but rather it is the predicate of the sentence. Whereas the predicate nominative is “hO WN” (the Being) so it doesn’t make sense to me that Jesus (if he was speaking in Greek to his interlocutors at J8:58) intended them to see in that predicate a reference to the appellation of God.

    So, I can agree with you that EGW EIMI is not a name for God and that is good reason for why it wouldn’t even be an allusion by Jesus to Exodus 3:14.

    If as you say EGW EIMI is not a name for God at J8:58 what then is it’s grammatical function in that verse?

    Reply

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