Thanks for that tidbit on “Father”. That’s really fantastic. I love learning about the beautiful, illustrative, and powerful ways people have with words. An incredible amount of meaning, based on the human experience, is packed into that use of “father.”
Yes, I believe I’ve checked out all of the “deity” verses about Jesus. Here is a response to Isaiah 9:6…
Trinitarians should admit that this verse is translated improperly just from the fact that Jesus is never called the “Everlasting Father” anywhere else in Scripture. Indeed, Trinitarians correctly deny that Jesus is the “Everlasting Father.” It is a basic tenet of Trinitarian doctrine that Christians should “neither confound the Persons nor divide the Substance” (Athanasian Creed). Thus, if this verse is translated properly, then Trinitarian Christians have a real problem. However, the phrase is mistranslated. The word translated “everlasting” is actually “age,” and the correct translation is that Jesus will be called “father of the [coming] age.”
In the culture of the Bible, anyone who began anything or was very important to something was called its “father.” For example, because Jabal was the first one to live in a tent and raise livestock, the Bible says, “he was the father of those who live in tents and raise livestock” (Gen. 4:20). Furthermore, because Jubal was the first inventor of musical instruments, he is called, “the father of all who play the harp and flute” (Gen. 4:21). Scripture is not using “father” in the sense of literal father or ancestor in these verses, because both these men were descendants of Cain, and all their descendants died in the Flood. “Father” was being used in the cultural understanding of either one who was the first to do something or someone who was important in some way. Because the Messiah will be the one to establish the age to come, raise the dead into it, and rule over it, he is called “the father of the coming age.”
The phrase “Mighty God” can also be better translated. Although the word “God” in the Hebrew culture had a much wider range of application than it does in ours, the average reader does not know or understand that. Readers familiar with the Semitic languages know that a man who is acting with God’s authority can be called “god.” Although English makes a clear distinction between “God” and “god,” the Hebrew language, which has only capital letters, cannot. A better translation for the English reader would be “mighty hero,” or “divine hero.” Both Martin Luther and James Moffatt translated the phrase as “divine hero” in their Bibles. (For more on the flexible use of “God,” see the notes on Heb. 1:8).
A clear example that the word translated “God” in Isaiah 9:6 can be used of powerful earthly rulers is Ezekiel 31:11, referring to the Babylonian king. The Trinitarian bias of most translators can be clearly seen by comparing Isaiah 9:6 (el = “God”) with Ezekiel 31:11 (el = “ruler”). If calling the Messiah el made him God, then the Babylonian king would be God also. Isaiah is speaking of God’s Messiah and calling him a mighty ruler, which of course he will be.
The phrase translated “Mighty God” in Isaiah 9:6 in the NIV in the Hebrew, el gibbor. That very phrase, in the plural form, is used Ezekiel 32:21 where dead “heroes” and mighty men are said, by the figure of speech personification, to speak to others. The phrase in Ezekiel is translated “mighty leaders” in the NIV, and “the strong among the mighty” in the KJV and NASB. The Hebrew phrase, when used in the singular, can refer to one “mighty leader” just as when used in the plural it can refer to many “mighty leaders.”
The context illuminates great truth about the verse, and also shows that there is no justification for believing that it refers to the Trinity, but rather to God’s appointed ruler. The opening verse of the chapter foretells a time when “there will be no more gloom for those in distress.” All war and death will cease, and “every warrior’s boot…will be destined for burning” (v. 5). How will this come to pass? The chapter goes on: “for to us a child is born and to us a son is given” (v. 6). There is no hint that this child will be “God,” and reputable Trinitarian scholars will assert that the Jews of the Old Testament knew nothing of an “incarnation.” For them, the Messiah was going to be a man anointed by God. He would start as a child, which of course Yahweh, their eternal God, could never be. And what a great ruler this man would grow to be: “the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty Hero, Father of the Coming Age, Prince of Peace.” Furthermore, “he will reign on David’s throne (v. 7), which could never be said of God. God could never sit on David’s throne. But God’s Messiah, “the Son of David,” could (Matt. 9:27, et al). Thus, a study of the verse in its context reveals that it does not refer to the Trinity at all, but to the Messiah, the son of David and the Son of God.
Just wanted to clarify on something mentioned in Boxer’s post above as well as share some of my thoughts on this verse. The expression “father of the age to come” (pater melontos aionos) is from the Septuagint translation of Isaiah 9:6, as found in the Codex Alexandrinus. Calling Christ the “father of the age to come” (i.e., the father of the age of the Messianic reign) certainly makes sense in the context: “…and the government shall be on his shoulder…of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from this time forth forevermore” ('ad olam). But calling Christ (or even the Father) the “father of eternity” makes little sense to me. Isn’t “eternity” without beginning or end? How then can it be originated by God (who himself is without beginning or end)? If this expression is to be understood as “father of” something time-related (however you understand the Hebrew word 'ad), I’m more inclined to understand it to mean that the Messiah would be the one who originates and “exercises mastery and oversight” (as Tom said) of that indefinite duration of time which was to commence when the Messiah began to reign from the “throne of David” (i.e., the Messianic age).
Another way of understanding the expression translated “everlasting father” ('âb-'ad) is that it refers to Christ as the everlasting progenitor of a resurrected and restored human race. Paul tells us, “For as in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive” and that the “last Adam (Christ) became a life-giving spirit.” Calling Christ a “life-giving spirit” is a figurative way of describing him as the one who, after his resurrection, was given the power and authority to restore the dead to life just as God took Adam (who was formerly an inanimate organization of matter) and breathed into him the breath of life. The imagery Paul seems to be trying to convey is this: Just as God imparted life to the “first Adam” after creating him by breathing into him the “breath of life” (thereby making him a “living soul”) so Christ (the “last Adam”) will impart life (i.e., immortality) to the human race when he raises us from the dead with a glorious, spiritual body.
Or perhaps the prophecy simply alludes to the fact that Jesus would be “the image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15). If you’ve seen Jesus, you’ve seen the Father (John 14:9). In this sense Jesus may be given the title “everlasting father” without being ontologically equivalent to he who is the “only true God” (John 17:3).
Just my thoughts! (And as y’all may have guessed, I voted “No, definitely not” above )
*** But calling Christ (or even the Father) the “father of eternity” makes little sense to me. Isn’t “eternity” without beginning or end? How then can it be originated by God (who himself is without beginning or end)? If this expression is to be understood as “father of” something time-related ***
dirtboy: Sure it makes sense when you think of it as being spoken in a poetic way. No, it’s not trying to say Jesus literally gave birth to timelessness.
Or perhaps the prophecy simply alludes to the fact that Jesus would be “the image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15). If you’ve seen Jesus, you’ve seen the Father (John 14:9). In this sense Jesus may be given the title “everlasting father” without being ontologically equivalent to he who is the "only true God
dirtboy: I’ve always thought that over time this is a deity verse that has been dismissed too readily by those who don’t see the deity of Christ. In Isaiah YHWH said many times, “Who is like me?” with the obvious answer being “no one!” If Jesus were not YHWH there would be a gap between him and YHWH that would be HUGE. It would be infinite because no one could even come close (who is like me?). The fact that Jesus could say the words “if you have seen me you have seen the father” verifies his deity. He could NOT show the father if he didn’t have the essense of deity. He would only be able to show good characteristics.
Another way of understanding the expression translated “everlasting father” ('âb-'ad*) is that it refers to Christ as the everlasting progenitor of a resurrected and restored human race*
I can sort of see that except that Jesus portrayed himself as a brother and not a father, so it doesn’t work.
Notice the first-person pronoun in YHWH’s question: “Who is like me?” There is only one person in view here, not two or three. As seems evident from the multitude of first person singular pronouns used by God, God is an “I” not a “we.” I submit that the “me” in this question refers to the same person to whom Christ is praying in John 17:3: “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” IOW, I believe the “me” in YHWH’s question should be understood as referring to a different person than the “me” of John 14:1 (“Believe in God; believe also in me”).
Even those who believe in Jesus’ deity would, I think, have to admit that there are finite beings who are like YHWH in some sense (i.e., those beings made in his image), so we cannot understand YHWH to be saying that there is no sense in which any being can be “like” him. So what is the meaning of the rhetorical question, “Who is like me?” In the context of Isa 44:7 YHWH asks another question that I think explains the meaning: “Is there a God besides me?” IOW, YHWH is saying there is no other God like him. But Jesus doesn’t have to be God or “like God” in an ontological sense in order for him to be “the image of the invisible God.” Jesus can be “the image of the invisible God” and there still be an infinite gap of some kind between him and YHWH. Jesus doesn’t have to be “like God” in every sense in order for him to be God’s visible “image” in some sense that God’s other image-bearers aren’t. So when Jesus says, “If you’ve seen me you’ve seen the Father” I believe he can be understood as saying that he reveals to us God’s heart and mind in a way that no other human being presently does. It is Jesus’ morally superior (i.e., perfectly loving) character that allows him to make a claim that no other man could make. We do not perfectly bear God’s image now in the sense that we one day will, but Jesus does. So while you and I couldn’t be called “the image of the invisible God” in the sense of which Paul speaks (at least, not yet), I think Jesus can.
If you’re a Trinitarian, then not even you understand Jesus to have been claiming that he was identical to the Father in every sense when he declared, “If you have seen me you have seen the Father.” But to understand Jesus to be talking about anything less than full personal identity is, I believe, to impose a “limitation” onto Jesus’ words (e.g., he’s simply talking about his shared “essence” with the Father rather than saying he and the Father share the same personal identity). But if Jesus isn’t talking about full personal identity, why should I believe he is talking about his ontological essence rather than, say, his perfectly loving character? Why can’t Jesus be talking about the latter rather than the former here?
I’m not sure why Jesus can’t be considered both a “brother” in one sense and a “father” in another. Cannot Jesus be considered both the “brother” of believers (Matt 12:50; Rom 8:29; Heb 2:11) as well as the “father” of a new age or of a restored human race?
But the scriptures don’t say that he was somewhat like him. Hebrews 1:3 says that he is the exact representation of his very being. When Jesus said if you have seen me you have seen the father, he was talking about a lot more than simply having similarities. Anyhow, I’ve read some of your stuff and I know that you won’t be convinced by anything that I say, so I’m going to leave it at that. I just think it’s too easily dismissed.
I don’t think I’m “dismissing” the verses you’ve referred to; rather, I simply think they’ve been misunderstood and made to teach something that the authors never intended them to teach. I understand the word hupostasis in Heb 1:3 to denote the “subsistence” of God’s moral nature, or his foundational moral attribute (which, according to John, is “love”). And that which is the “express image,” “representation” or “impress” (charaktēr) of something else cannot, I don’t think, be at the same time the original. As Paul says, Christ is “the image (eikōn) of the invisible God” - and the individual person who is here referred to as the “invisible God” is undoubtedly the same divine Being referred to by Christ as “the only true God.” Scripture repeatedly refers to this divine Being simply as “God,” and the authors of Scripture often distinguish “God” from “Jesus Christ.” Consider, for example, 1 Corinthians 8:6: “Yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.” Or 1 Tim 2:5: “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” So while I don’t believe Scripture teaches that Jesus is the “one God” or the “one true God,” he does perfectly reflect God’s inherent moral nature (just as God is said to be “light” in whom “there is no darkness,” so Jesus is “the light of the world,” etc.) as well as exercise God’s divine authority, which God gave him after his resurrection (Matt 28:18). Christ is not, I don’t believe, the self-existent Being (YHWH), but he does perfectly manifest and reveal to us God’s hupostasis, since (like God) Jesus is both sinless and has “all authority in heaven and on earth” to accomplish God’s will and purpose.
I think eikon is a great way to see it. It is doubtless the word we get our modern English word icon from. And as we all know in the computer world, the Icon isn’t the program, it’s what you click on to open it…
Still, I believe that Jesus is God in the sense that he is divine in nature, and was “taken out” from God, in the same way that Eve was taken out of Adam (I think we have a picture there of what it means to be begotten as opposed to “created”).
I think trinitarianism has bigger problems in making the Holy Spirit of God into a distinct “person” that is separate from the Father.
I am a Trinitarian, but I think that exact understanding of doctrine is less important than our personal love for God and others, and that God will not greivously punish those whose main error is that they are mistaken, instead gently correcting them. People who have been make whole in love will be closer to God to start with and so will have a shorter path to be reconciled to God, in the end. God can always be trusted to act in love, and love alone.
i said i’m fairly sure. but i reserve the right to become less or more sure as i feel God leads me. but this to me is not a doctrine worth arguing over. talking about it politely and respectfully, yes, but given how bloody some doctrinal battles in the past have been over doctrinal issues, i can’t believe God requires us to be “right” at the expense of another person’s life or even self-esteem.
i have heard very good arguments for and against Trinitarianism. thankfully the issues i consider core (such as UR) do not hang on this one issue, though i can respect the importance it has for others.
I’m also definitely Trinitarian. I could go into a long explanation, but I don’t think I’d say anything I haven’t already said (or others haven’t said far better), so I’ll refrain. I don’t feel it necessary to persuade anyone else they’re wrong on this, and I figure if God is worried about it, He can do the convincing.
Fascinating! I’m new here, and I was under the impression that I would quickly connect with like-minded folks pretty much across the board because of the universal reconciliation perspective we share, only to discover, upon having voted “definitely not Trinitarian” (and my Assembly of God pastor & dad would probably writhe in agony for more than a mere moment if he were still among us in this shadowy earthly sphere), that I am in the minority. Lo and behold, I like a challenge, and I fail to see why being in the minority in this regard should hinder my participation. On the contrary, this might actually prove to be an enjoyable undertaking (preferably not by an undertaker).
Why do I get the feeling that I’m also in the minority politically? Hmmm…
I’m still searching, so I said “I’m really unsure either way”. But I am closer to Trinitarianism than I’ve ever been. But I’m not entirely done tossing out modalism, I’m still quite interested in binatarianism and I really need to think about Paidon’s view some more…