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This post is the second of two that examines the John 20:28 in the light of the Shema. The focus of this post will be on whether the Jews pronounced the divine name Yahweh, what substitutes they may have used for it and also what was the importance placed on the Shema in the Jewish culture.
John 1:1c – a Grammatical Examination of the Jehovah’s Witness translation where Jesus is called “a god”
John 1:1 is passage that is traditionally used as a proof text of the deity of Christ. It appears in our English translations to make the remarkable claim that Jesus (as the word) is God. Despite this, some see a different claim in the Greek text underlying our English translations – Jesus is a god but not God.
At the root of the controversy is the lack of the word “the” in the Greek text before the word “God”. Without such a word (called the definite article) the noun in question is rendered indefinite rather than specific, a rather than the God, or at least this is what some such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses argue.
Are the Jehovah’s Witnesses correct in their understanding of the Greek grammar here? Arguably not.
The purpose of this short post will be to look at one possible interpretation that the Jews had of psalm 89:27. This verse is referenced by Jesus in John 10:35 when defending his claim to be equal to God and speaks of beings other than God as being called gods. Reference has been made to this verse to prove that being Jesus is not necessarily seen as God almighty in John 20:28 but is merely a god in the same sense as those referenced in psalm 89:27.
Colossians 1:15 – The Firstborn of Creation
The Bible clearly teaches that Christ is the firstborn of God’s creation. Groups such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses see this as vindication of their teaching that Jesus was the first created being. The question that will be discussed here is whether this interpretation stands up to scrutiny or whether firstborn has another meaning that is in line with Trinitarian theology. This post will not be as thorough as I would like, however hopefully serves as a useful primer on some of the issues.
The recent delivery of the book “Who is this Son of Man” edited by Larry W. Hurtado and Paul L. Owen has given me cause to further expand my studies in John 20:28. What got me thinking here was an instructive essay by Lukaszewski which examined the value of Aramaic reconstructions of the “son of man” phrase found in the Gospels.
This post will provide a few thoughts as to the applicability of Lukaszewski’s study when considering John 20:28.
ὑμεῖς δὲ τὸν ἅγιον καὶ δίκαιον ἠρνήσασθε καὶ ᾐτήσασθε ἄνδρα φονέα χαρισθῆναι ὑμῖν, 15 τὸν δὲ ἀρχηγὸν τῆς ζωῆς ἀπεκτείνατε ὃν ὁ θεὸς ἤγειρεν ἐκ νεκρῶν, οὗ ἡμεῖς μάρτυρές ἐσμεν.
“But you denied the holy and righteous one and requested that a murderer be given to you; and you put to death the (creator/source/preeminent one/initiator/guide /leader) of/into life whom God has raised from the dead, concerning which we are witnesses.”
I originally intended to examine this verse in the context of how Jesus is referred to as God in the Book of Acts. This verse was brought to my attention through the blog of TurretinFan whose article can be found at the following link: http://turretinfan.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/titles-of-jesus-archegon-of-life-and.html. The primary focus of TurretinFan’s post was an attempt to show the title “Holy one” as found in the Old Testament applying to God has been applied to Jesus in Acts 3:14. It was also asserted that verse15 is best translated as Author or Prince of life. In the course of my study I have had to reject the conclusion that Jesus is here referred to with divine titles.
Whilst I would of course agree that Jesus is viewed as God by the New Testament authors, I do not feel that verse14 can bear the weight that TurretinFan places on it. Similarly, whilst agreeing that author of life is the best rendering of verse 15, for both of these verses I would like to supplement what TurretinFan has written by looking at a couple of grammatical and contextual considerations here. Unless otherwise specified this post will not be directly responding to TurretinFan, instead his post has merely proved to be the impetus for an independent study.
John 20:28 and the Testimony of Luke/Acts – Part 1
I have been thinking recently about the aftermath of Thomas’ confession of Christ as Lord and God in John 20:28. This was truly a momentous moment in the development of Christian theology; despite this its impact seems to have grown slowly. We do not see the same clear statements of Jesus as God in Acts as we find in Thomas’ confession of Jesus. For some, this relative silence casts doubt on whether Thomas can have thought of Jesus as God in the traditional Christian sense of this term.
The problem outlined above may be termed in the following way: due to the incredible nature of the understanding that Jesus is God incarnate, surely the early Christians would not have been silent about this when preaching to the world. Furthermore, given this doctrine’s place in Christian theology as a fundamental tenet necessary for salvation how could it not have been loudly and clearly proclaimed.
This post will form the first of a multi-part series, the purpose of which will be to argue that the claimed silence of Acts does not impact the view that there is a high Christology in John 20:28. In the course of these posts I will also summarise an argument that Lord and God in John 20:28 were not intended as ontological statements, but as titles pointing to Jesus’s true identity. This focus on Jesus’ identity and not his ontology fits in well within the context of Acts.