The Evangelical Universalist Forum

The OT and the Trinity


VII. Did Only Angels Give the Law at Sinai?

Time for a lot of discussion about multiple angels giving the law (or not):

As long as we’re referring to Acts 7, Stephen not only calls the entity in the burning bush an angel (v.30, 35), he (and the entity, too!) treats the entity as actually being YHWH the God of the patriarchs (v.31-34). (But of course one hardly has to go to Acts 7 for this, since Exodus 3 and 4 are far more detailed about it. As I myself made a point of mentioning. :wink: )

Yet it must also be admitted, that Stephen goes on to say (by report at verse 35), “This Moses whom they disowned, saying ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge?’ is the one whom God has sent both a ruler and a deliverer with the hand of the angel who appeared to him in the thorn bush.”

So Stephen is clearly making some kind of personal distinction between the Angel of God’s Presence and God Who sends the angel. He also, just like Moses (and just like the entity!) treats this presence as being God’s real presence, with the entity speaking so as to claim the identity of YHWH.

With that in mind, Stephen may be rebuking the Sanhedrin for their taking the Jewish tradition that angels were involved at Sinai (as Moses states in Deut 33:2, although there it is YHWH Who comes from the “thousands of holiness”, or from thousands of angels as the Septuagint translates it–and thus it is still YHWH by identity Who is coming forth to give the Law at Sinai) and applying that tradition to downgrade the Angel of the Presence to someone less than YHWH Himself. There would be a significant irony in tagging them with the charge that in claiming the Law was ordained by angels, they have instantly ceased keeping that very same Law which begins with the insistence that “You shall have no other gods before/beside Me! You shall not worship them or serve them, for I, YHWH your God, am a jealous God.”

If God had sent an angel to say, “YHWH Elohim sends me to you, saying this, which you are in turn to tell the people: So says YHWH Elohim, ‘I am the Lord your God etc.’” that would not instantly abrogate the First Commandment–unless we were foolish enough to worship that angel as being God and as having himself ordained the Law. At which point, one would expect the angel (if he thought we were honestly mistaken) to say something like, “Do not worship me, for I am a servant like you; worship God alone!”

But if God sends a not-God angel to make claims and be worshiped as if this not-God angel was God Himself, then God Himself would be instantly invalidating the First Commandment: you shall not worship lesser lords or gods or serve them with religious service. Because God Himself would be setting up a not-God entity whom we are not only supposed to treat religiously as God Himself but who then busily and repeatedly makes statements identifying himself as being God Himself–claims which synch with the requirement that we worship that messenger as (not merely as if) God Most High.

Since you mention Heb 2:2, it goes on in verse 3 to say that our great salvation was first spoken through the Lord: a Lord Who-or-who is vastly greater than the angels (1:6-14). The Hebraist certainly is distinguishing personally between the Son and the Father (in chapter 1), and probably also personally between “the Lord” and “God” in 2:3-4 (with the Holy Spirit being mentioned, too!) But without yet getting into what EpistHeb has to say about Christ (including how the author treats OT scripture, and especially how he treats the use of the term “Lord” in relation to scripture), I can say that the distinction of persons in 2:3-4 is far from the end of that matter. :wink:

As to whether the Hebraist’s reference to the “logos” being spoken (or declared or proclaimed) through angels, might be a rebuke concerning a Jewish tradition of putting mere creatures in the place of God even at Sinai, there are two interesting contexts to note: the immediate context, v.1, warns–after having just spoken at length about how much greater the Son is than angels–“For this reason we must pay much closer attention to the things that have been heard, lest we drift away.” So the Hebraist thinks some Jewish traditions have gotten rather far off whack, which could be corrected by paying more attention. Which Jewish traditions? The larger context of EpistHebrews generally talks about the Jews having depended on this or those not-God mediators between them and God (with Jesus presented as being greatly superior to them and fulfilling their foreshadowings.) That notion of depending on not-God mediators, which the Hebraist is certainly critiquing Jewish theology about as insufficient in some regard, would sure seem to include the notion of mere angels having ordained the Law! And again, the Hebraist immediately continues with his negative comparison to mere angels: “For He did not subject to angels the inhabited world to come, concerning which we are speaking.” (Instead He subjects all things to Christ–who or Who was for a little while made lower than the angels, but who or Who also… well, more on that later when we actually get to the NT parts of the digest. :smiley: )

So there is some evidence that the Hebraist might very well be aiming at that Jewish tradition, too, as an ‘a fortiori’ tactic: if you think the law was given through angels, and yet is still inalterable in assigning just punishment, what is the point of hoping for salvation from that punishment by appeal to something or someone inherently less than those angels?!

(The Hebraist might also be saying that the Logos Himself, proclaimed by angels–as previously described back in chapter 1–proves inalterable in assigning a just recompense to every rebellion and disobedience–so if He does that, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation from Him?)

I think you meant Gal 4:4. And if God is a multi-personal being, then one of those persons could easily send another person (even as the highest possible agent of that one multi-personal being); so that is hardly a problem. (Not for a trinitarian system anyway. :wink: It’s a problem if trinitarianism is principly incoherent, but that’s a metaphysical complaint.)

Gal 3:19-20 looks tough on the face of it; but then, so is the Greek in those two verses. :wink: In fact they’re notorious for their difficulty in both translating and interpreting. (And not only for the purposes of our current topic; scribes have come up with several modifications of the first part of verse 19!–though the rest of the text of those verses seems stable enough in transmission.)

Ti == what or why or this
oun == then (?)
ho nomos == the law
ton parabaseon == of transgressions
charin == a grace (in accusative form?)
prosetethe == (it) was added
achris == until
hou elth(i)e == should (have come) come
to sperma == the seed (i.e. Christ, as per earlier in the chapter)
h(i)o == to whom
epe(n)geltai == it has been on-messaged (or it has been promised, or it has been announced)
diatageis == having been through-ordered (or having been thoroughly arranged)
di’ a(n)gelon == through messengers/angels
en cheiri == in (a/the) hand
mesitou == of (a/the) mediator

ho == the, this one, who
de == and, now, yet, but (minor conjunctive; placed postpositively after the direct article or pronoun)
mesites == (a?) mediator
enos == of one
ouk == not
estin == is (or exists?)
ho == the, this one, who
de == and, now, yet, but (minor conjunctive; placed postpositively after the direct article or pronoun)
theos == God
eis == one
estin == is

Not exactly the most straightforward set of Greek sentences in the Bible. :wink:

There’s a very good chance, based on parallel construction elsewhere in Galatians (including immediately afterward at verse 21), that the final clause should be read in English grammatic order {de ho theos estin eis}: and/yet/now/but the-God is one.

By parallel, the preceding clause would most probably be read in English grammatic order {de ho mesites estin ouk enos}: and/yet/now/but the mediator is not of one.

So: {de} the mediator is not of one, {de} the God is one.

The second clause looks enough like a Shema reference, to provisionally treat it as such; but it might also be a double-meaning, depending on whether the context suggests it. On the other hand, why bring in a reference to the Shema at this point? That ‘why’, if it can even be plausibly suggested by context, may make a huge difference to the overall interpretation of what Paul is trying to say here.

The “not”, considering the relatively parallel construction of the two clauses, probably indicates that the {de} conjunctives are a contrasting set. So, provisionally: Now/and the mediator is not of one, yet/but the God is one.

There is no reason to suppose that the direct article for {ho theos} means anything other or less than an emphatic name-use, as is common in Biblical Greek. (So I won’t keep saying “the God” after this point. :wink: ) This leads to the interesting question of whether “Mediator” is supposed to be a name-title, too. Or not. (I don’t know if it ends up making any difference one way or another, but I thought I should mention it just in case. :smiley: After this point I’ll split the difference and use “the Mediator” with a capital ‘M’ like it might be a name-title; but I don’t mean with a divine capitalization necessarily.)

What does it mean, to say that the Mediator “is not of one”? The typical interpretation, is that a mediator is not a mediator of only one person. If that’s the right interpretation here, then the final clause may not be the Shema at all (despite its appearance). It may only be saying that God is one of those persons. That may seem a little trivially obvious, but it’s better than going from a reminder that mediators mediate between at least two parties, to a declaration of the Shema for no apparent reason!

Could the reason be that Paul wants to remind his readers that God is only one single person? I’m not sure why he would bother to do that (assuming hypothetically that Paul believed this) at this point, especially if the multi-personal unity of God was not a significant danger of belief for his Jewish Galatian audience. What would such a reminder contribute to Paul’s discussion? It might be replied that pointing out that “God” is one of the persons whom “the Mediator” is mediating between, would tacitly imply “God” and “the Mediator” are not the same person; but this would not be exegetical evidence against a trinitarian understanding of the situation (though it would be evidence against modalism), if Paul routinely elsewhere (including in Galatians) uses “God” as a name for the Father and other name-titles (such as “the Lord”) for the Son. The Son would just be mediating between sinners and the person of the Father. (Moreover, if Paul elsewhere positively includes the Son in a Shema unity with the Father, then pointing up a distinction of persons here even with a reference to the Shema declaration is even less of a problem for ortho-trin. :mrgreen: But I’m trying not to get too much into a positive exegetical argument for ortho-trin from the NT yet.)

This of course assumes that the Mediator is supposed to be Christ (as in 1 Tim 2). But, maybe the mediator is not Christ?

Maybe more light can be shed by working further back through the verses. Right before declaring that the mediator is not of one (whatever that might mean), Paul writes that something is “in the hand of a/the mediator”. (There’s no direct article, and Biblical Greek doesn’t really have an indirect article, so the article could be either “a” or “the”; or “mediator” might be a name-title.)

So what’s in this mediator’s hand? It might be the angels/messengers! It’s hard to figure out who would have divine messengers in his hand except God Most High!–although maybe some super-angel could be delegated by God for that purpose, to have the angels in his hand, too.

The messengers are themselves either doing something or helping do something, though: something has been through-ordered or perhaps thoroughly arranged through messengers in a mediator’s hand–the mediator would be the one directing the troops concerning this to ensure it was brought about.

What has been so arranged? Something that has been on-messaged, which is another way of saying something that has been promised. So what has this mediator’s hand thoroughly arranged (including through his direction of angels) that was promised?

I don’t think verse 19 says what promise was so thoroughly arranged by this mediator in whose hand are messengers (and so also the promise and the arranging of the fulfillment of the promise). I think verse 19 does however say to whom the promise came: the Seed! And who is the seed? Verse 16 says the seed is Christ!–which I note also is talking about the promises declared, not only to Abraham but (typologically at least) to Christ as Abraham’s seed. (Though later toward the end of chp 3, Paul will emphasize that we are also Abraham’s seed, if we all are one in Christ Jesus. So, is that if we all are singularly one person in Christ Jesus? :wink: And since we’ll be talking about representative agency soon, when Paul came among the Galatians to preach the gospel, and they received him as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus, did they account Paul himself as having the deeds, attributes, names, throne and honor due to God Himself, being for all religious purposes to be worshiped as God Himself?–or as if Paul was God Himself, if you prefer? I’m thinking the answer is obviously “NO!!!” But we’ll get back to that later when discussing representative agency issues among Jews, and just how far that representative agency did and did not go.)

So what promises were arranged and disposed by this mediator (even through the direction of divine messengers) to Christ? A promise graciously granted by God: the enjoyment of the allotment. (v.18) Except that this gracious gift of “the inheritance” (which is how “enjoying the allotment” is typically translated in English, which is basically correct but not quite as detailed as the phrase in Greek and in Hebrew/Aramaic behind the Greek) is also “of the promise”. So the promise is of something that results in this.

So, wait: we’re talking about how many persons now!? There’s “God”, and there’s this “mediator” person, and ALSO apparently there’s “Christ”! And the mediator appears to be mediating between “God” and “Christ”! But Christ is the one mediator between God and man (as in 1 Tim 2), and it is through Christ that we are no longer a slave but a son (as in 4:7). Yet Christ is clearly a man (as again in 1 Tim 2, plus a massive number of other references, including here in Gal 3!) So if the one mediator between God and man is a man (leaving aside whether that one mediator between God and man would also be God as well as man), then why does Christ the man also need mediating?

But then, it doesn’t say in Galatians that the mediator mediated between “Christ” and “God”. The mediator arranged for promises to be fulfilled to Christ (including through divine messengers in this mediator’s hand–not literally “in the mediator’s hand”, perhaps, but metaphorically meaning ‘in the mediator’s authoritative power’). And, having authoritatively fulfilled those gracious promises of “God” to “Christ”, those promises are (and will be) fulfilled to us, too. The inheritance could be considered one of those promises, but in itself the inheritance is dependent on a promise.

Yet who the heck is this other person being talked about, who isn’t Christ (the Son) and apparently isn’t God (the Father) either?–but who has authority to be arranging the fulfillment of God’s promises even through divine messengers?–who is a mediator, but not necessarily a mediator between God and Christ? (Or if this other person does somehow mediate between God and Christ, it isn’t to reconcile them; for a mediator is not needed to reconcile persons already in unity.)

Maybe we’re missing a piece? (I’ve been dancing around it for a while now. :mrgreen: )

What was promised was “the spirit, through faith”. (v.14)

But I don’t want to turn this into a positive argument for Gal 3 (and related contexts in chp 4) being testimony to ortho-trin (including the two natures of Christ)–or not yet anyway, since after all this in the NT, and I’m supposed to be focusing on the OT first! :wink: So I’ll just conclude this disquisition on Gal 3:19-20 (and surrounding contexts) with the observation that the Greek there is a lot chunkier than interpreters routinely make it seem. :slight_smile: At the very least, it isn’t necessarily the Law that is being thoroughly arranged (or ordained) through/by angels here–the grammar, in the Greek, can (and maybe more) naturally be read another way.

(For what it’s worth, I would eventually get back to inferring the final clause as a Shema statement.)

Since I’ve tangentially referenced the Holy Spirit, though, in a suggestively trinitarian way, I’ll move along to commentary on Isaiah 48 and 63 where the HS seems to be referenced (in a suggestively trinitarian way). :mrgreen:



VIII. The Holy Spirit and Representative Agency (or not) in the OT

I will suppose Fortman means that they never conceived or presented this Spirit as a person distinctly identifiable in comparison to another Person of YHWH. Since after all, it would be weird for the Spirit to be constantly testified to as doing personal things (as Fortman more-or-less admits), and personal things which are typically the deeds of God no less, while the Spirit is not supposed to divinely personal in some way. (As to how the Holy Spirit is usually presented in the NT, we’ll get to that later.)

Incidentally, when I wrote out the list of examples of personal behavior of the Spirit in the OT, I did not mean that list to in itself constitute testimony that the Spirit is a Person in distinct union with the Father as a Person; only that the Spirit acts personally (and in a fashion consonant with God’s divinity).

But, leaving aside other criticisms involved in the interpretation of Isaiah 48:12-22 (already discussed at some length above), and supposing for purposes of argument that the Lord God is sending Cyrus (or anyway some not-God person) and also “His Spirit” (i.e. God’s Spirit) in verse 16, the parallelism still indicates that the Lord is sending two persons (or at least two things): the messiah (or maybe the prophet Isaiah) and the Spirit.

Now, if God is sending His Spirit in such a way that it can be distinguished along with the sending of a person other than the person of God Who is doing the sending (regardless of whether this sent person is also divinely YHWH or not), then is the Lord sending a Spirit Who is a person? Or not a person?

It will hardly escape notice that if the Spirit is supposed to be only a non-personal power or divine force, this handily avoids the problems of one person of God sending a personal spirit distinctly with another person: is that personal spirit also God or not? And if also God, then is He a distinct Person compared to the God Who sends the Spirit or not? Yet even Fortman agrees that the spirit of God is often described in personal terms. Which of course is why the Spirit of God is often considered to be at least a poetical way of talking about God Himself, even by non-trinitarians.

Then we get to Isaiah 63:8-10:

Except you didn’t arrive at this from an exegetical consideration; you arrived at it by a prior metaphysical argument. Be that argument right or wrong, you’re importing it into the exegesis of the verse. If metaphysically it happens that the highest possible messenger of YHWH can possibly be YHWH Himself, then Is 63 might end up testifying to such a thing, too, after all. Or not, depending on how the exegetical analysis goes.

On the other hand, what happens if factoring a constraint against trinitarianism into the exegetical analysis doesn’t arrive at a very clean result?

Now, you certainly consider “the messenger of YHWH” to be a Person distinctly not the Father (and so therefore, per the imported metaphysical constraint, distinctly not God.) This angel of the Presence is the same one that went before Israel during the Exodus. Yet not only is YHWH declared the Savior of the people, becoming their Savior (with the angel of His presence saving them in verse 9), but in verse 11 His people wan to know, after He (and His Holy Spirit) turned Himself to become their enemy and fought them (v.10), “Where is He Who brought them up out of the sea with the shepherd(s) of His flock? Where is He Who put His Holy Spirit in the midst of Him?” Are they not asking for the Angel of the Presence?–someone you consider a distinct person, though not God Himself? But they are asking for this angel; and are asking for the one who put his spirit in the midst of this angel (or possibly into the midst of the people, cf verse 14), thereby “causing His glorious arm to go at the right hand of Moses. Who divided the waters before them to make for Himself an everlasting name? Who led them through the depths?”

The people are crying out for the Spirit of YHWH, who gave someone rest and so “Thou lead Thy people, to make for Thyself a glorious name.”

However else this section is parsed, the people are not treating the Angel of the Presence as being less than YHWH Himself; but rather that what the Presence does is what YHWH Himself is doing in presence among them in a fashion distinct from a lesser not-God entity, like for example Moses–or the prophet Isaiah for that matter! (YHWH doesn’t tell Isaiah in answer to the plea from the people, ‘Very well, you can go among them as if you were Myself, to be worshiped religiously as though you are Me and to in fact speak as though you yourself are identifiably Me!’) The people want the real Presence of YHWH back.

Yet again, the Spirit is also regarded as the operative presence of YHWH. But if the Spirit is the operative presence of YHWH, and so actually is YHWH Himself, operating in and as the Angel of the Presence, then why is the Angel to be considered anything other than YHWH Himself present among them (the Angel of His Presence)?

Obviously, the only reason is that there is too much evidence that the Angel of the Presence is somehow personally not the person Who sends the Angel. But this leads to an exegetical conundrum. If the Angel is not to be considered YHWH, why is the Angel considered to be YHWH (and not only that but necessary to be considered YHWH)? But if the Angel is not to really be considered YHWH, why is the Spirit to be considered YHWH, when the Spirit operates as God’s presence among the people (just as the Angel of the Presence does)? But if the Spirit is not YHWH, what is it and why does it do the deeds and act as the presence of YHWH?–is it another created entity? (You seem to think it is not.) And again, if the Angel of the Presence is a person different from the person who sends the angel, why is the Spirit not a different person?–especially when it is operating here as YHWH doing these things through the Angel? Is the Spirit not at least a different Person (as YHWH Himself) compared to the Angel? But then, why have a not-God entity acting as YHWH’s Presence distinct from the Spirit of YHWH (Who actually is present and operating on the scene)?

The doctrine that the One Who sends is a Person, and the Angel and Spirit both are Persons, yet all three are one YHWH in actual identity (not three YHWHs), solves the exegetical problem without having to introduce a palpable useful fiction (the Angel isn’t really YHWH after all but must be treated as being YHWH) that isn’t necessary if the Spirit of God is on the scene doing those deeds as the real presence of YHWH (whether a distinct person thereof or not).

As to whether the Spirit is a distinct Person along with the Father, would that not depend on whether God sends His spirit in a fashion similar to His sending of a person? Such as in Isaiah 48:16? (But you have not yet discussed this parallel sending.)

If that is true, there should be no need for a mere created entity to be the functional (operative!) representative of God by which God puts His thoughts and purposes into action! The Spirit of God fulfills this role already. It can even create visible effects (as you agree). It might as well create a visual effect of appearance and save God a step!–more importantly, save God a step that amounts to a running falsehood: that the visible Presence is not in fact the presence of YHWH but rather the presence of a not-God creature which must be treated in totality as YHWH anyway including for religious trust and devotion. (While also being denied as being God, since that must be impossible and maybe also would be idolatry to treat a not-God entity as God. :wink: )

And this is as good a way as any to lead into a discussion of the larger-scale issues at stake (which I’ve been talking about already here and there). So, on to the final reply portion!



Time for the final reply category!

IX. The Shema and Largescale Problems of Representational Agency

On the other hand, if God was trying to reveal (over time) a multi-personal reality of Himself, to a culture so steeped in polytheism that it constantly keeps trending back into it, how well does that fit the existent data?–where the two most prevalent names of God are plural terms (one of which is reserved for God alone), and the third one looks rather plural compared to its briefer form (YH to YHWH), with singular but also sometimes plural grammar being used, too?

Yet why bother with plural grammar at all, even if only rarely? Even if the majestic plural is appealed to (which is anachronistic, as it happens, in the sense commonly understood–including in the examples you tried to provide), the use of such a majestic plural has to be explained in context of what God is trying to reveal about Himself. But it makes no obvious sense why a sheerly single-person God would insist on using majestic plurals while also being (almost literally) death on polytheism.

Again, if we’re hypothesizing about how God would go about inspiring the ancient Hebrews: leading them to think in terms of multiplicity as a way of poetically indicating supreme grandeur would seem more than a little counterproductive if He was also concerned to emphasize that there was only one of Him and no other equal to Him–unless it happened that there was one of Him in multiple distinct Persons, and He was setting them up to learn that difficult and complex doctrine while still herding them away from polytheism.

Pretty much!–but then, that would mean I actually am taking that data into account, wouldn’t it? :mrgreen:

If I am however taking that data into account, yet still coming out with more than unitarianism, then maybe there’s more data to take into account than your limited set. :wink: (And it might also be a question of how cogently we’re each assessing that same data.)

It is at least interesting. I mean, why would there be debates or needless confusion among Jewish brethren who already know what AeCHaD means, if it was obvious that trinitarians were mangling the Hebrew there? (“Mangling” implies the error would be pretty obvious as an error. :wink: ) And it’s pretty danged daring for even a great rabbi to alter the Shema itself.

(But then, I can hardly complain about great rabbis being pretty danged daring about how they interpret Jewish theology, can i? :laughing: )

A significantly large number of Jews, including Jewish scholars, would disagree with that. But now they’re considered “Christians”. :slight_smile: However, neither did they base their case entirely on Hebrew Biblical grammar. As I have mentioned somewhere else, though not in the digest, if the grammar was all we had to go by, it would be far from clinching and might only amount to “weird old foreign language”. :smiley: Nevertheless, it is still there, and its existence is seriously contraventive to a strategy of teaching a people with notorious polytheistic tendencies, living among (and coming from) many extremely polytheistic cultures, that there is only one highest God compared to Whom any lesser lords or gods which exist are not worthy to be worshiped.

This connects back to our previous discussion of how often single personal entities are spoken of with majestic plurals in the OT. Which turns out on closer examination to be ‘few if any’!–insofar as your examples go anyway. What was demonstrated instead is that the religious use of plurals for gods, even for multiple instances of a single lesser god, is heavily linked to the idolatrous polytheism which God expects the Jews to be rejecting.

So if the One Single God Most High was not a real singularity of multiple persons, why would such a God insist in inspiration that He should be most commonly regarded as being like those multiple false idols?

This could be put in a more religiously neutral socio-cultural fashion, too: why are the Israelites, forbidding themselves to make idols of the One God, always talking about this One God in ways they deplore when it comes to polytheism?

Either way, there is a very weird tension here, which is not explained very well by appealing to majestic plurals as a harmless magnification of personal greatness or fullness: because this kind of singular-plurality is routinely despised as the worst kind of false idolatry! So, why is it okay to do so with Allah? (As Muslims might say when evangelizing against trinitarian Christians. Or, even more pertinently, as Christian evangelists often do say when angling along the line that the Koran retains a true witness to God that it borrowed from Judaism but neglected to omit when opposing trinitarian Christianity with Islam’s sheer monotheism.)

Put it another way: God is the God Who really, and in the fullest sense of the word, is God fully God–compared to those other false gods which can be spoken of in both singular and plural terms because there are multiple idols of them around. So, what kind of comparative fullness and truth is being illustrated by God Most High being spoken of in such a grossly idolatrous way (when that manner of speaking is used about other deities)?

Again, since you yourself bring up the example: what kind of comparative fullness and truth is being illustrated by the fact that the gods in Exodus 23:24, which can be overthrown and broken into pieces (in the part you elided past), are most properly translated as “gods” in Greek, yet the “gods” as divine title in verse 25 are most properly translated as singular “god”?

For that matter, what kind of comparative fullness and truth is being illustrated by the fact that in these exact same verses, plus 23 as the lead-in, this same singular God (properly also called “Gods” in distinction from those false multiple gods who are not to be worshiped) states that He will send “My angel before you and bring you into the [pagan polytheist peoples] and I will completely destroy [those pagan polytheist peoples]… But you shall serve YHWH your God(s) that He may bless your bread and your water, and I (same speaker) will remove sickness from your midst.” Nor is this any merely human ‘messenger’ as the context makes clear; but some supernatural agent that must be served and regarded as their Elohim YHWH–if they rebel against Him, He will not pardon their rebellion, since “My name is in him.” So Who is this God(s) YHWH that YHWH their God(s) says they must serve with religious service, in contrast to serving the gods of the polytheists, Who has appeared to them as the pillar of fire and smoke in leading them out of Egypt?–and why does this not count as detestable polytheism?

Granted, the authorities you quoted (so far as you quoted them) do not seem to account for the polytheistic problem of God being constantly spoken of in terms derided when applied to polytheistic idols (as false idols)–even when they themselves are nominally trinitarians. But maybe they should. :wink: (And maybe they do, elsewhere.)

This problem is not going to be helped by substituting a merely human man (who was never anything more or other than a merely human man) for the supernatural entity to be worshiped like-and-as God.

Trinitarians obviously agree! But now we’re back to an implied metaphysical critique which involves constraining against ortho-trin before going to the texts to see what they may add up to: God could not possibly also become a human being while remaining in identity God (and so could not possibly become a human being without ceasing to exist as God); also, God could not possibly be multiple persons yet one God.

Yet Jews also had an expectation that an ultimately supernatural entity, to be identified as God Most High, would return to them to save them as God Most High. No Jew thought the return of real presence of God as the Shekinah (and in the OT they treat the Shekinah as the real presence, not as a useful legal fiction of presence) would be fulfilled by any mere (not-God) man! Even if this is whiffled away by appeal to representative agency in a sense that a not-God creature is supposed to be treated as being God in identity and characteristics (including especially for religious purposes)–a type of representative agency utterly unique to the Angel of the Presence and/or the Shekinah/Glory in the OT, unless the Son also fills that role as per the religious exhortation of Psalm 2–the not-God creature expected by the Jews (who by all appearances were identifying that presence with the reality of God among them) would have to be more than a human messiah.

But this points back to the great riddle again. Because you are entirely correct in your list, that they should have been expecting a human Messiah. But they also were expecting the real presence of God. (Contradictorily not really the real presence of God, or not. :wink: ) Jews didn’t always put those two roles together, as testified by various Jewish religious works (before, during and after the 1st century.)

But I think there is strong evidence that some Jews did, at least in the 1st century.

In fact, there is evidence some Jews did in OT times as well!–or at least were inspired in ways which add up to this. At the very least, we are to put our religious trust and faith for salvation (a trust that ought to be reserved for God alone) in the Son (Ps 2) just as elsewhere we are exhorted to put that religious trust (reserved for God alone) in the Angel of the Presence. The Messiah is to be regarded with the name of God and to sit on the everlasting throne of God as God (Ps 45), just as the Angel of the Presence might do (and in effect does do when residing in the Holy of Holies of the Temple–occupying a place that no not-God entity may be without the most serious blasphemy). The Messiah is to sit at (or even in, as the power of) the right hand of God (Psalm 110) and judge all people, as the Angel of the Presence is the living power of God and judge of the people. The Messiah is to be called by divine names (Isaiah 9) as the Angel of the Presence is also called by divine names (not least at Ex 3). If Isaiah 7 is a prophecy of the Messiah, he shall be called by a name practically identical to the function (at least!) of the Angel of the Presence, “God With Us”. He will slay the wicked with the breath (or spirit) of his mouth (Psalm 132) as the Angel of the Presence does. He shall be served with religious service unique to God alone (Dan 7:14), as was the Angel of the Presence. He shall rule from the throne of the temple (Zech 6:12-13) as the Angel of the Presence sat upon the throne of the Holy of Holies. He goes forth and shall go forth for God from long ago from the days of eternity, as the Angel of the Presence goes forth for God, and like the Angel shepherding Israel before and behind (during the Exodus) he shall arise and shepherd in the strength of YHWH in the majesty of the name of YHWH his Elohim. (Micha 5:2-4).

Who knows?–when the Messiah comes (the first time?), perhaps he and his followers will even connect him back to the actions of YHWH, including (if not restricted to!) the actions of the Angel of the Presence. :smiley:

Identified and yet not identified, as in Psalm 2:1-12. This Son is at the very least fulfilling the role of the Angel of the Presence; who at the very least is supposed to be treated, including worshiped, as if God in identity. So how many not-God persons are we supposed to worship as God while attributing to them not only the honor but the deeds, characteristics and names properly unique to God Most High? Two? More? (Apparently more, if you think there were multiple not-God angels assigned to that role!) Did Jesus take over from the Angel of the Presence when he was born? Or from the Angels of the Presence, if there was some (unknown but multiple) number of them?

Yet we are supposed to treat the Angel of the Presence as personally identical to YHWH, including for our religious worship and hope of salvation. The same is true with trusting in the Son for our refuge in Psalm 2. There is a massively huge glaring exception to the principle, OT and NT both, that we are not to put our ultimate trust, hope or love in men or angels but only in YHWH alone: and that exception happens to be, in the OT, the Angel of the Presence Whom (or whom if he is not in fact YHWH) we are to treat for absolutely all practical purposes as being YHWH, such that giving this mere not-God angel our religious devotion counts not as idolatry but as giving YHWH Most High our religious devotion. And the same is true, as noted in Psalm 2, for the Son of YHWH.

Again, just how many not-God creatures are we supposed to worship as YHWH instead of YHWH?! Or along with YHWH as if the not-God creature was on par with YHWH except not? But the practical result will be that we end up worshiping this not-YHWH entity instead of directing our worship to YHWH; because if we could actually worship YHWH, this entity or these entities wouldn’t have to be sent to receive worship as-if YHWH, in the place of YHWH: thus we would be worshiping not-YHWH as YHWH instead of worshiping YHWH.

The practical upshot to your position is that no one can ever worship YHWH; we can only worship some mere creature designated like an idol to ‘be’ YHWH for us, a literal idolatry which the real YHWH is willing to accept since we cannot worship Him directly. So much for worshiping in spirit and in truth!–our worship, on this theological plan, must be fundamentally based in a useful legal fiction.


Perhaps you haven’t really read that list closely enough. Previously you seemed willing to treat the Isaiah 6 theophany really as YHWH, for example; He was supposed to be the divine person YHWH, sitting on the throne of YHWH Most High, receiving the honor and worship and titles of YHWH Most High, in contrast to entities less than YHWH (like the Messiah, in your estimation). Isaiah even marvels like any of these other examples that he is seeing YHWH and yet lives. Yet here you are, saying the theophany of Isaiah 6 counts only as another example of some not-YHWH entity claiming all these things with YHWH’s permission in mere representative agency.

So, what did you mean before?? At what point will we be worshiping YHWH Himself in spirit and in truth?!

As previously noted, Exodus 3 and 4 (the burning bush scene) is on that list, too: the scene that directly inspired the “Shema Israel” declaration later. Time to return to that topic, in context with the largescale problem.

You might disagree that this entity was (and is) in very nature and identity God; but surely you don’t disagree that Moses constantly treats this entity as being in very nature and identity God, do you? (Even ‘skimming’ through Exodus 20, and its chapters before and after, especially before–since chps 21ff are mostly details about the law for a while–highlights this repeatedly and emphatically. Reading them more closely doesn’t seem to help clarify that Moses wasn’t really talking with YHWH and passing on revelation from talking with YHWH. Reading the JPS Tanakh doesn’t help clarify this either, by the way. :wink: )

I could quote those chapters extensively if you wanted (particularly 19 and 20). The skimmy answer is: Moses spoke to YHWH Elohim, and Moses received the law from YHWH Elohim. Or, at the very least, at all times Moses constantly treats this entity as being in very nature and identity God (as I put it before). And Moses expects the people to do the same. So does this entity, by report!

(At this point, maybe I should encourage you to take the time to skim through Exodus chapters 19 and 20! :mrgreen: )

This entity not only speaks as YHWH, without prophetic or angelic distinction in relaying a message, but acts as YHWH in commissioning Moses and Aaron to be sent to Pharaoh as “elohim”. True, in narrative detail…

…but so what? Your insistence that Aaron must have been sent as only a prophet to Moses (comparatively speaking) and not as elohim, puts a very peculiar limit on how far the (plural) elohimnosity would properly go (if I may coin the term!) I mean a very peculiar limit, considering how you’ve been elsewhere appealing to representational agency.

Why exactly would God limit the representative function of Elohim to Moses, if the representative function of Elohim can be granted to the mouthpiece of the real Elohim? For that matter, who would you say is granting this to Moses here? The real Elohim, or a not-God functional representative of YHWH? Apparently you would say the latter!

So, just to make sure we have the agency theory straight: YHWH Elohim delegated the like-Elohim authority to a not-Elohim entity to delegate the authority to be (like) Elohim to a not-Elohim entity; but only to that second not-really-Elohim entity (Moses), not to that other not-really-Elohim entity (Aaron) who is only supposed to serve as the mouthpiece of the mouthpiece of the mouthpiece of the real Elohim. Because… why? I mean why stop with Moses?–what’s the principle there? Considering how you’ve been maintaining religious representational agency is supposed to work in Judaism, Aaron would seem to need to be Elohim, too, in order to be the mouthpiece of Moses, the mouthpiece of the Angel of Elohim, the mouthpiece of the real Elohim!–Who needs a not-Elohim mouthpiece in order to relate religiously to not-Elohim persons. Like Moses and Aaron. And Pharaoh. (But not to whichever not-YHWH entity is currently pretending to be YHWH, apparently, for the sake of commissioning Moses as Elohim but not Aaron, too.)

This is a good place to ask why you keep bringing up “7:15”. I suspect you mean some other verse (maybe 7:1-5?), as verse 15 has nothing specifically to do with Moses being sent to Pharaoh as Elohim. Verses 16 and afterward, though, show Moses acting as a regular prophet, not as someone given permission to speak as though he actually is (and was and ever shall be!) Elohim Most High.

The Moses example continues to be problematic because it is still the exception that proves the rule. You didn’t comment about how Moses, clearly a not-God entity, was not in fact expected to behave just like God with declarations as God and honor due uniquely to God, despite being sent in merely functional representative way. (But I sure did previously. At length. :wink: )

This problem would only be multiplied if the merely representative function of Elohim to a not-God entity could be extended beyond Moses (and his representatively functional mouthpiece!) to examples other than the Angel of the Presence and/or the Messiah (especially if the Messiah turns out to be identified with the Angel of the Presence): where else are clearly not-God entities given permission to make those kinds of claims as if about that entity himself? Moses certainly isn’t!–do you have some other example??

The tactic is rather like that of sceptical comparative religion (there are kinds which are not inherently sceptical), which puts Jesus in a group with Mohammad, Buddha, Confucius, Moses, Zoroaster and other people who started a ‘religion’. There are various superficial similarities, but the kinds of claims being made are radically different. The radical differences, however, are smoothed over (or just ignored) so that the sceptic can say that Jesus was only like those other guys, not really any different, and not any more important. There are wildly huge differences between the rare and fitful use of the description ‘elohim’, and the use of mere ‘representational agency’ (for ambassadorial purposes) in the scriptures; compared to what the Angel of the Presence does and claims (in the OT, along with what people claim about him) and what the Messiah does and claims (in the NT, along with what people claim about him). Calling attention to the superficial similarities without noting how superficial they are compared to the radical differences, is not dealing with the data.

But you’re saying that this was only a representative agent and not (as you put it) the “real-deal ontological YHWH”. (Which you pretty much have to, since if the real-deal ontological YHWH’s chief representative agent was the real-deal ontological YHWH Himself, then you’d either be at modalism or binitarianism!–most likely the latter, since you obviously recognize a distinction of the persons.)

Put another way: if the representative agent here is also the real-deal ontological YHWH, then (unless the distinction of persons is supposed to be false) we’re at least at binitarianism. (Two persons of one YHWH, neither confounding the persons nor dividing the substance.) But if the representative agent here is not the real-deal ontological YHWH, then how were those examples not “representative agency” vs. “real-deal ontological YHWH”? (Since your whole point of reply would seem to be that this distinct person is only a representative agent and not the real-deal ontological YHWH.)



And now I’m off to try to catch up on actually paying ‘work’ work. :smiley:

While I can easily imagine making more comments on particular examples, I doubt I would expand comments on the broad problems much further. So if (after your own next replies perhaps) you want to move on to the NT parts of the digest–which will be referring back to particular examples in the OT with some frequency, too–that’s okay with me: my goal in the OT part of the digest was to give an idea of the theological and devotional conundrums which 1st century authors, kicking off Judeo-Christianity (following the lead of Jesus of Nazareth), would be dealing with themselves (one way or another). (Also Jesus’ religious opponents, by report!)



Whew! Thanks for putting so much thought into your reply, Jason. I definitely have my work cut out for me! :slight_smile: I’m not sure what will prove to be the greater challenge: meeting your arguments and ably defending my view, or keeping my response under 6 pages. Whatever it turns out to be, you probably shouldn’t expect a response from me any earlier than, say, June or July. :laughing:



Well, you don’t have to keep it under six pages. :smiley:

I debated putting up the whole thing in comments, but then I thought it might be better for ‘topic searching’ (where people use the forum’s search engine for hunting up discussion on scripture refs etc.)

For ease of reading, though, I’ll also attach it as a doc file to this comment. :slight_smile:

I still stand by what I said earlier, btw, that I don’t consider the doctrine to be developed in the OT. Strictly speaking, I don’t believe it’s unreasonable (or not entirely so :wink: ) to interpret the OT material in one or more ‘unitarian’ fashions. (Obviously it can’t be entirely unreasonable to do so, or the attempt wouldn’t be so prevalent and culturally successful over the millennia.) I don’t think any unitarian position holds up under direct and particular scrutiny, but that might admittedly be a result of being overly picky about details (especially since after all the texts aren’t a systematic theology in genre!) The larger scale issues, I believe, are more difficult to waive past on grounds amounting to “Don’t overthink ancient near middle eastern poetry, family saga, royal chronicle, etc.” But the larger scale issues are just as subtle and not-overly-obvious, in their own way, so I don’t blame people for missing them.

I think the NT is where the main concentration of the biblical material on this topic is. But they’re dealing with some extremely important OT issues, and I wanted to give an idea of what’s at stake–especially as a practical religious matter. In some places I was certainly too brief in my OT notes for the digest, but I was trying to cover a lot of ground very quickly in order to provide a contextual reference for things going on in the NT (including how the authors refer back to the OT).

Anyway, no rush. :slight_smile: It took me many hours of brain-hemorrhaging work to get all that done, and I’m still not altogether satisfied with parts of it; and I have another project to be working on until next Wednesday night (at least–more on that in another post). Also, ‘work’ work that I’ve put off at the office while composing and compositing (or maybe composting :mrgreen: ) all that.

As my teacher CS Lewis used to say: if it’s helpful, great. If not, drop it! But you’re certainly a fine sparring partner, who brings up lots of nifty points to play with (and duel about), and I’m glad you’ve hung with it so far. :smiley: {bow!}
Reply to criticisms from Aaron.doc (214 KB)



It is ironic. Of course, Aaron, will make his appeal that venerating the Lord of the Universe is not idolatry, nor is venerating the Mother of the Lord of the Universe to (and often) the functional exclusion of God as the only true object of worship as a pantheon of representatives and titles opens up for veneration including the Vicar of Christ himself. Veneration, after all, is all about DEGREES of worship.

So at every step of the way, and in every teaching moment, Aaron will defending the proper degree of veneration due Christ, the representative against other representatives, without breaking the first commandment. Talk about egg-shells! Not even the Catholics have THAT problem!

Justifying religious ‘veneration’ is a minefield best left to the sophists, who pretend to know how far and how wide one can go without making God angry. With Aaron, the worship of Christ means always having a foot on the break pedal - and pulling up just short of the brink. Beyond which lies disaster, in which case, it might be better not to worship Christ at all - discretion being the better part of wisdom.

“No, no,” says Aaron, “God demands that we worship this man!” But that’s a demand we can safely ignore in worshiping the one true God and HIM ALONE.



I think I’ll wait and see what his actual strategy (and tactics) will be, without trying to make guesses about it beforehand. :wink: But the OT (and NT) language of religious faith and service and worship for the Presence (in the OT) and the Son (in the NT, but also the OT) is extremely strong. I’m sympathetic to degrees of veneration and adoration–I would gladly adore my wife, if I could, for example. :slight_smile: (And will someday God willing.) I would even do so in a numinously religious fashion (under God). But absolutely not the way that the Presence and/or the Son is exhorted for our worship and adoration in the scriptures. There’s a massively huge categorical difference, and it isn’t like the Judeo-Christian scriptures are subtle about just how far that worship is supposed to go.

(Ditto for the Spirit, while we’re at it, which brings up the issue of essential identity again in a comparative way from another angle. If not from another angel. :mrgreen: )



That’s not a guess. :mrgreen: He’s already made the appeal to veneration being the ‘proper’ worship of the Lord of the Universe. I’m just wondering what the line looks like as one crosses from the functionally god-like-not-god to God.

Should the sign on the cross be changed from ‘King of the Jews’ to “Not God” - just to remind us and keep us safe?



That was before the Flood (of reply material) though. :wink: Whether and/or how he stays the course with Christ and/or angels receiving a lesser degree of veneration than YHWH Most High, remains yet to be seen. I’m content to wait and find out.

(And besides, there is something to be said in favor of hierarchical superiority in worship, even if the worship is qualitatively similar concerning the relevant persons: the Son, after all, worships the Father, not Himself personally.)



Hi Jason,

As I formulate my response, I was just wondering if you could clarify something for me: is it your position that when the OT makes mention of the “angel of YHWH” in the OT (i.e., when a supernatural being is in view) it is in every instance an example of a “Christophany?” Or do you hold to a more nuanced view in regards to this entity (or entities)?



What does worship have to do with it? That’s our response. WE don’t define the object of worship by our worship - the object is defined to us before worship. We approach it on trembling knees. It is God or man? WHAT are we to worship?




I was just pointing out that when people say ‘but Jesus worships God’, they’re hardly pulling things out of their butts. The Son does worship the Father, so there’s some kind of hierarchy of worship. I (obviously) don’t think that’s the whole story, much less the end of the matter, but the Truth is served by acknowledging when opponents have good points. I would rather do that self-critically, than dodge around them; it helps keep me from being primarily in favor of whatever my ideology happens to be at the moment.

(Which is why I’ll be correcting and clarifying some things in the digest–thanks to Aaron! :smiley: Though I already knew that there’s some kind of hierarchy of worship. :wink: I mention that in the digest almost the first thing when I start talking about NT data about Jesus in relation to ‘God’.)



Yes, good question: my position is more nuanced than probably comes across in my replies. I think I say somewhere in the digest, that while “angel of YHWH” doesn’t always have to refer to YHWH Himself (somehow–and there are theories for that which aren’t necessarily ortho-trin in character), “angel of the Presence/Face” always does.

So, no, the mere fact that an entity is called “messenger of YHWH” isn’t what I’m going by. Nor do I consider an angel that stands in the presence to be the same as the angel of the presence (and/or the angel of the face)–not because there’s some special meaning in the phrases, but because sometimes there are angels who are described in terms which involve ‘presence’ or ‘face’ who aren’t also being positively described in terms that ought (in monotheism) to be unique to YHWH.

Put another way: what I’m looking at (and for) are indications that we’re supposed to be treating this or that entity as being God Most High. There are many times when an angel of the Lord shows up in the OT who seems to be identified, not only as an angel delivering a message, but as YHWH Himself; it’s those contextual details I’m looking at (and for). As far as I recall (the OT being pretty large :wink: ) those contextual details always show up when the angel is called “the angel of the Presence” or “the angel of the Face”. But they don’t always show up when the angel is only called “the angel of YHWH”.

Since the examples we were talking about in the replies (so far) have involved times when an entity called “the angel of YHWH” has a significant number of contextual details pointing to YHWH Himself being on the scene, I ended up talking as if that phrase always indicated such an incident. But no, I don’t believe it always necessarily does.

I do in fact understand how representative agency works in ancient Near Middle Eastern cultures (and elsewhere in world history, too, with various nuances). So I’m sympathetic for why it seems like a good solution at first. But it’s because I understand how it works, that I have both particular and largescale problems with appealing to representative agency as a way of resolving peculiar divine identity claims in the OT (and NT) within monotheism.

I’m supposed to be working along with YHWH, and I’m even supposed to be an ambassador for YHWH–aren’t I? (If anyone thinks not, I can produce NT testimony affirming so!) In effect I myself am supposed to be a representative agent of YHWH! But I sure don’t think that this representative agency gives me license to speak as YHWH, much less to expect other people to treat me (especially for religious worship) as though I am YHWH. Not even merely “as if” I am YHWH. Am I greater than Paul and Barnabas?!–who tore their robes crying, “Men, why are you doing these things? We are also men of the same nature as you, and preach the gospel to you in order that you should turn from these vain things * to the living God ‘Who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them!’” Was the problem that the idols weren’t alive? But Paul and Barnabas were alive and not lifeless images. Were Paul and Barnabas not ambassadors and so representative agents of He Who made the heavens and the earth and the sea (i.e. hell in Jewish typology) and all that is in them? If they were, then why not receive religious worship and sacrifices due their status as representative agents of God (correcting the pagans only as to exactly who they were agents for)? What could be possibly idolatrous or wrong with that?

The answer is: because they were not in identity the God Who is worthy alone to be worshiped. They were not the living God Who is creator and sustainer of all, and did not treat their representative agency as meaning that other people should treat them (even) as if they were. But who was it they were exhorting the Lyconians to worship? And was that only a ‘who’, or rather a Who?–did they expect the Lyconians to worship someone who was only as-if the creator and sustainer of all? Was their message that the Lyconians had only mistakenly worshiped the wrong not-God entities, but that there was another not-God entity (or even some unknown number of them!) whom they should treat for all practical purposes as being the one through whom all things were made, and for whom all things were made and by whom all things continue existing?*



Worship is the wrong word to describe the relationship. ‘Love’ is probably a better word. I really don’t think the Trinity worships itself - at least, not in the way we think of worship. I think you were too quick to give away a point to Aaron - who wants to make this about the ‘ultimate’ object of worship.

Christ loves His Father and the Father loves Him. What Jesus taught us about worship was for our benefit, not His - nor was His teaching an attempt to define the relationships within the Trinity - as if that could be done adequately for our understanding.

The image we are left with is Christ sitting on a throne as the object of worship and accepting that worship, not turning His back to the people and worshiping something greater than He. The figurative placing of His throne on the ‘right hand’ of His Father is the indication that both are to worshiped. I say figurative because, though resurrected, we will still be men and not-Gods and may never see the Father except through the Son. The white-haired God of the Mormons was about the silliest thing I ever saw while visiting their ‘Vatican.’ Michelangelo had more talent for sure - but how does one paint GOD mostly naked and not have that become an idol because of the representation - I think it’s because we ‘see’ Christ in every vision of God and Himself, i.e. the express image of God is sufficient for us, which is to say, Christ. The Mormons can’t enjoy that.



Thanks for the very helpful response, Jason; I’ll plan on incorporating it into my “rebuttal” (for lack of a better word!) when I’m able to spend more time working on it :slight_smile:



Well, there’s something to be said for a hierarchy of love, too. :slight_smile: Call it worship or call it submission; but Christ submits Himself to the Father as all things are submitted in themselves to Himself, thus giving back to the Father all things.

Despite agreeing with the first part of your sentence (certainly so as a proponent of the canonicity of RevJohn :mrgreen: ), I’m not sure various testimonies don’t add up to an affirmation of worshiping someone greater than Himself. “The Father is greater than I” is still in the Bible, too.

Not only do I agree, I would actually go further and point out that (despite ‘two thrones’ being mentioned briefly in Daniel) we only ever see one throne (not two figures sitting on separate thrones, even in Daniel), and in the Biblical languages the phrase actually seems to be that the Son sits in (figuratively ‘on’ in a literal sense) the right hand of the Father. Which fits very well with the Logos being the living action of God.

I like your point about worshiping that which is seen, being idolatry if that which is seen is not in itself inherently God. Which is exactly why Protestants, or most Prots, don’t worship the Host, while RCCs and EOx–and any Prots who agree with the doctrine of transubstantiation–do. There are also variations of that doctrine where the real presence is agreed to be bestowed on the elements but not in an incarnational way, so that the elements themselves are not to be worshiped though the real presence is using the elements as a directional locus; but that isn’t RCC/EOx transubstantiation because the ‘substance’ of the elements isn’t regarded as being changed.

This is why some unitarians are keen (and rightly so if they’re correct) to get away from the notion of worshiping Christ himself personally with religious service proper to God–at best God (the Father) localizes in Christ, with Christ giving us somewhere to direct our worship. But why that would be foundationally important I don’t know; those who worship in spirit and in truth have no need to worship “either at the Temple or on this mountain”, and apparently there shall be no Temple in the day of the Lord except the Lord God Almighty Himself (and His Lambkin).

The scriptural problem is that, as you rightly point out, the Lambkin Himself, not only “God” but both persons in some kind of unity, receive the offering of service-as-to-a-deity: thus the unity must be a substantial one, or else it would be wrong to give the Lambkin such an offering of devotion.

While I tend to agree, the Mormons do have the vision of the Ancient of Days on their side–they take that way hugely too far (such that the Father is only a human man who attained up to a limited godhood, not the all-eternal original self-existence Who never had to ‘become’ what He is from something less than what He is), but artistically at least the vision itself isn’t silly. (Unless Daniel’s vision itself is silly. And also the experience of Moses at the second giving of the commandments, when YHWH descended to stand by him in smoke as YHWH passed in front of Moses, hiding Moses with the palm of His hand so that Moses would not see the face of YHWH but only His back.)

Then again, the Son is described in ways poetically similar (if not identical!?) to the Ancient of Days. So, despite what I wrote in the digest, I’m a little iffy about whether Daniel saw the Father even in a dream-vision. In a trinitarian sense, Daniel may have seen Christ returning (in one sense) to a seat of power and authority that (in another sense) He never left. (Though the brief mention of two thrones being brought out would seem to indicate at least two distinct persons involved, too.)

By the way: Michelangelo’s famous painting of God creating Adam? There’s a great visual ‘Easter egg’ in that painting I only recently learned about: Mich made God (and the cloud of His glory, and all the little angels and Eve–or maybe Lilith–He’s bringing with Him) into an anatomically correct brain. :open_mouth: :sunglasses:

There’s a pretty good chance Mich was joking that man (also?!) creates God in his own image. Which might count as figuratively flipping off the Pope.



I’ve been meaning to put up a clarification (or even a correction!) here for a while, but got distracted doing other things. Now that I’ve recuperated a bit…!

I later quoted Rabbi Tzvi Nassi (via Morey, by the way, so it’s possible there was misquotation or quotation out of context) as saying that “the majestic plural was a thing unknown to Moses and the prophets. Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, David and all the other kings, throughout [the Law, the Prophets and the Hagiographa], speak in the singular, and not as modern kings in the plural. They do not say we, but I command.”

However!–the Jewish Christian (and quite trinitarian) evangelist Michael L. Brown (whose fascinating series of apologetics written to fellow Jews in favor of ortho-trin Christianity I’ve been recently going through) writes in his 3.1 article (in Vol 2, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus, p 9) that it is relatively common, even in the OT, for a subordinate to speak of an owner or master in emphatic plural.

I knew that this happened, but I thought it was pretty rare; Rabbi Brown (if I may call him that) corrects my understanding on this, and provides examples–some of which could be noted rather more interestingly than he bothers to do himself, by the way! (But I want to do some more research before I go into detail here, to see if my suspicion in this regard is accurate or not.)

What he does not do, is provide any examples in OT usage of rulers speaking in majestic plural in regard to themselves (apart from God, perhaps. :wink: ) So this clarification and correction doesn’t run against R. Nassi’s statement regarding a lack of (human self-applied) majestic plurals in the OT; and certainly doesn’t count against my counter-critiques of supposed examples provided (so far) by Aaron.

He also, curiously, does not bother to consider the underlying rationale for sometimes speaking of pagan gods in terms that would otherwise suggest compound plurality–namely that because there were in fact multiple idols of those gods, each of which was considered personally identifiable as those gods, those gods, though ‘single’ entities themselves in some overarching sense could also legitimately be spoken of in plural instantiation. (Well, ‘legitimately’ except insofar as they were false gods! :wink: ) He merely allows, in passing, that even pagan gods could be spoken of in plural terms; with the suggestion that this is to be explained by reference to a habit of using plural emphasis for one’s master. I think the cultural contexts (including Biblical narrative contexts) suggest a different reason; one that may explain where the habit of using plural emphases for one’s master came from.

What he does do (in more places than I can easily reference) is give an idea of the inter-rabbinic disputes over how the OT’s habits of referencing God should be interpreted. Representative agency was one solution, but not the only one; or rather, the rabbis were quite aware (or some of them were, in critique of each other) that such representative agency without identity led to functional idolatry. Consequently, many tactics of varying subtlety were tried for combining the notion of representative agency (since God could not be seen, etc.) with the notion of real identity and presence (since otherwise idolatry would be the result at best), while still maintaining ontological monotheism. The earliest of these, not incidentally, appears to be the targumic interlocution of referring to God’s Memra, or Word, as being in essential identity God Himself, not an effectively idolatrous substitute, yet without being the person of the unseen God–a resolving tactic important both in its early adaptation before-or-during the early 1st century and in its later abandonment, represented in different ways in the Jerusalem Talmud (which tends to go the direction of ever-multiplying distinctions and or agencies away from God) and in the Babylonian Talmud (which tends to go back in the direction of simply identifying those incidents as being one and only one person of God, disregarding representative agency at all.)

An interpretative comment by the obviously-counter-Christian Rabbi Eliezer (one of many R. Eliezers, at least one of whom was suspected of Christian sympathies by the way) illustrates some of the difficulties:

The (later) Babylonian Talmud would tend to go the former way; the (earlier) Jerusalem Talmud (and obviously some of the Targums preceding it) would tend to go the latter way. Both ways are non-Christian Jewish strategies for dealing with the data; and they are both critiqued by a non-Christian rabbi–in very curious ways.

I don’t have more time this morning to go into R. Brown’s OT examples of plural lordship over servants (applied to non-God entities); but I hope to do so later today. :slight_smile:




Just wanted to let you know that I’m starting back working on my response this afternoon. I’d decided to take an indefinite break from the topic of this thread (as can perhaps be seen from the discussions I’ve been having with Christine lately!) in order to clear my mind a bit and hopefully regain my focus. I don’t know about others, but my interest in certain topics - even somewhat weighty ones, with the exception of the Gospel itself - kind of fades in and out (maybe depending on the weather? :slight_smile: ), and since this is not a formal debate or anything, I though it would be ok if I just put it on the backburner for a little while and focus my attention elsewhere. And even when my interest in something doesn’t wane, I’ve found that if I don’t change my focus every now and then, I can get easily consumed by whatever it is - be it theology or things of a much more trivial nature! Anyway, just wanted you to know I hadn’t abandoned this thread. I’ll try to plan on posting my response either this weekend or early next week.

Other examples of this that I’ve been able to find (other than Gen 42:30) are Gen. 24:9-10, Gen 40:1, Exodus 21:28-32, Judges 19:26, Isaiah 19:4, and Mal 1:6 (all of which I plan on incorporating into my response), but I’m curious as to any other additional examples Brown might have.



To that list you can add Gen 39 (Joseph speaking of Potiphar in the plural);
1 King 1:11 (David the king spoken of as lords);
Exodus 21 (where the law speaks of a slave’s relation to the master with the master in plural);
Isaiah 1:3 (a donkey knows the feeding trough of its master(s)).

He also lists some of your examples.

There is a pretty notable difference between at least some of his examples and Gen 42:30 (as well as plural lordship titles in regard to God); but I haven’t checked all his examples yet, so I don’t want to point this out unless I discover the pattern holds. (Though given the number of examples compared to what he calls a “very common” motif, I would have to be wary about drawing any kind of absolute usage distinction based on a possibly-too-limited selection even then.) I’ll certainly be adding your examples to that checklist, too. :wink: