Tag Archives: christology

Dale Tuggy’s Trilemma – The Tip of the Iceberg



Jesus died.

Jesus was fully divine.

No fully divine being has ever died.


Can an orthodox, creedal affirming Christian (what I call a Creedonian) deny anyone of these? No. All three would have to be affirmed.


So what? What’s the problem? All this God stuff is a mystery anyway.


The problem is that we’re left with a contradiction. The problem is we have to explain how a fully divine being – who is essentially and necessarily immortal – can die. I suppose we can ignore the problem, but Scripture elevates knowing. It doesn’t favor blind allegiance.


We can, of course, avoid the contradiction by denying one of the statements. But then we would lose our Creedonian membership card.


So what are we to do?


We’ll start with the easy bit. The Bible is clear that God can’t die. God’s divine nature renders Him incapable of death. Call it a perk of the job.


How about the “Jesus is fully divine” bit? For sake of brevity, we’ll go with the customary interpretations of all the relevant Biblical passages. Give a nod to Athanasius, the Cappadocians, Augustine, Karl Barth. Affirm this one without the benefit of argument, and move on.


So that leaves us with, “Jesus died”.


Now we have a problem. Based on what we just affirmed, we’re in a pickle. How do we get out?


There are only two ways, as far as I can see. Appeal to mystery, using all the intellectual vigor we can muster. Or, employ the language and concepts of the creeds.


We’ll avoid the mystery card and take the second approach. Doing so means we’ll have to make some adjustments to the trilemma. Specifically, we’ll have to rephrase the “Jesus died” statement to accommodate our Creedonian beliefs.


This changing of the statement means, obviously, that the trilemma as given will be ignored.


So the “right” statement might look something like this – the “One-God’s-eternal-modality-that-is-the-so-distinguished-hypostatic-act-Son’s-assumed-human-nature” died.


Now, we can talk about how the hypostatic union both unifies and distinguishes the “hypostatic-act-Son’s” divine and human nature. We can talk about how the concept of communicatio idiomatum demonstrates how the two natures of Christ communicate properties with each other.


We can talk about the difference between concrete and abstract natures. We can make “qua” distinctions between human and divine natures. We can talk about the difference between a person in the modern sense and a person in the “hypostatic-act-Son” sense.


Now, when I say “we”, I mean somebody else. I’ve been reading on these things for two years and I still can’t explain them.


So when the “we” have finished explaining all of this, does it solve our problem? I’ll leave that for you to discern.


But I will say this. Each road taken to answer this trilemma seems to always dead end with more questions. And eventually, like-mindedness between scholars evaporates, as we travel further into the weeds. Ultimately…the mystery card comes out.


So where does this leave us?


Personally, I think the doctrine of the Trinity is in crisis. I lay the blame at the feet of Trinitarian scholars.


The disconnect between a plain reading of the Bible, and the language and concepts employed by Trinitarian scholarship is massive. As lay folk, like me, are compelled to dive deeper and deeper into a Biblical search for the presence and coherent formulation of the Trinity, the disconnect becomes more and more obvious. Trinitarian language is not Biblical language.


Only the Trinitarian scholar has the chops to find a better way – to find better and more compelling language – to bridge the divide. But too many spend their energy on defending the continued use of this disconnected language. Too many opt for Latin over lucidity. Too many pride themselves on loyalty to Patristics over pastoring the flock.


No doubt, they think this is a false dilemma. They would see their loyalty as a form of pastoring the flock. But this misses the point.


Language and concepts like “communicatio idiomatum” are not inspired. They are not, in any Biblical sense, sanctifying. The truth they contain manifests not within a Biblical context, but within a specific historical setting.


It might help to illustrate my point. I’m not denying the engine. I’m pointing out that language like “carburetor” is becoming obsolete. Fuel injection is not heresy.


I’m suggesting it’s time to employ language and concepts that are more effective at communicating and defending the Doctrine of the Trinity at this time in Church history. This is…after all…what the Church Fathers did so well. They spoke into their historical setting with the tools their setting provided. To honor the work of the Church Fathers, is to do precisely what they did.


But sadly, in fact, when some new field does come along to try and do this very thing – like analytic theology – it’s ostracized by many of those in the systematics and patristics fields. It’s smugly labeled as being “novel”.


Dale Tuggy’s trilemma is the least of the Trinitarian’s concerns. It’s merely the tip of the iceberg.




Exploration of the Trinity – Part 8 – The Christianized Shema – Jesus, One God, and Polytheism

After setting up some foundations last week we left off with this question:

  • How is it that the ex-pagan can understand the worship of both the Father and Jesus as the worship/affirmation of the one God of Israel?
  • We explored how the Unitarian might answer this question.
  • Now we need to explore how the Trinitarian might answer the question.


BTW – The same question can be posed about Paul’s Jewish monotheism.

  • Interestingly, the ex-pagan was “subtracting”, Paul was “adding” (Trent Rogers).



Pagan Polytheism:

There is one more piece of information we need.

  • It concerns the nature of pagan polytheism.


The pagan had no qualms with a fluid and varied pantheon of gods.

  • For the pagan, “a god need not always be a god, some gods are not complete gods, other gods are supercomplete gods, hence some gods are more god that others” – Henk Versnel (Coping with the Gods).
  • Thus the Father and Jesus could each have easily been added to the pantheon as being two more of one of the above gods.


So what would be required to bring a pagan from this polytheism into ancient Jewish monotheism?


Henk Versnel helps us here – the pagan’s pantheon of gods would need to be:

  • Relegated to a position, “beyond the political or cultic horizon of the community”.
    • The pagan would have to give exclusive worship to just one God – YHWH in our case.
  • Cast as being, “powerless, wicked or demonic…without any real significance”.
    • The pagan would need their gods be marginalized.


Given that this obviously occurred among the ex-pagans of the Corinthian church…

  • We can deduce from the above observations two things accomplished by Paul’s words in 1 Cor. 8:4-6.
  • (1) Distinguished Jesus and the Father from all other gods – relegating the other gods to inferior status.
  • (2) United Jesus and the Father in a way that Jesus was not seen as a “not complete god” to the Father’s “supercomplete” god.


BTW – And one would think that each of these would have to involve not just function (what they did), but also their nature (what they were – ontology).

  • Something we will briefly consider at the end of this lesson.



Paul’s Christology:

This brings us back to our text:

  • 1 Corinthians 8:4–6 (ESV) — 4 Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “an idol has no real existence,” and that “there is no God but one.” 5 For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”— 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.


The above text contains at least six truths that accomplished the two things just mentioned.

  • (1) Distinguished Jesus and Father from other gods.
  • (2) United Jesus and Father.
  • We will take the time to unpack all six (they come from Paul Rainbow).



(1) Divine Name:

The first thing Paul does is associate Jesus with the divine name of YHWH.

  • He does this using Deuteronomy 10:17.
  • Deuteronomy 10:17 (ESV) — 17 For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe.


We see that Moses told us something quite specific about YHWH in Deut. 10:17.

  • For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords
  • In other words, in Moses’ text (LXX), YHWH is both God (ho theos) and Lord (ho kyrios).


And then we see Paul tell us something rather peculiar in 1 Cor. 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.


Paul (or someone, and Paul endorsed it) split Moses’ declaration about YHWH into two.

  • He assigned the Father to Moses’ “God”.
  • He assigned Jesus Christ to his “Lord”.
  • Paul has “glossed ‘God’ with ‘the Father,’ and ‘Lord’ with ‘Jesus Christ’” – N.T. Wright.


In other words:

  • The Father is identified with YHWH by filling the “ho theos” slot.
  • Jesus is identified with YHWH by filling the “ho kyrios” slot.
  • (1 Corinthians 8:4-6 does this with both Deut. 10:17 and Deut. 6:4).


Does our “Divine Name” section…

  • (1) Distinguish Jesus and the Father from all other gods – relegating the other gods to inferior status.
  • (2) Unite Jesus and the Father in a way that Jesus was not seen as a “not complete god” to the Father’s “supercomplete” god.
  • Or both?


It seems to do both and establishes Jesus’ identity in two directions.

  • (1) As it relates to the pagan lords and gods, Jesus is the incomparable “one Lord”.
  • (2) As it relates to the Father, Jesus is the YHWH “ho kyrios” to the Father’s YHWH “ho theos”.


Jesus is cast as the incomparable “ho kyrios” of Deut. 10:17.

  • A title that connotes Jesus’ participation in the unique “divine status” of YHWH – DPL.
  • Something that sets him soundly on the god-side of the “god” and “non-god” divide.



(2) Prepositions United:

In verse 6, Paul tells us that:

  • 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.”


In this verse, Paul distributes three prepositions between the Father and Jesus.

  • Father – “from” and “for”.
  • Jesus – “through” and “through”.


And, importantly, what comes “from”, “for” and “through” the one God and one Lord?

  • Creation – the creation of the universe.
  • Redemption – the “making/saving” of the body of believers.
    • What Fitzmeyer calls the “means through whom Christians attain the goal of their existence”.
    • This includes eschatology.


To elaborate just a bit:

“The universe comes from God through the Lord Jesus Christ and those whom he has redeemed return to God through the Lord Jesus Christ” – Paul Rainbow.


Creation and Redemption are two things attributed over and over throughout the OT to YHWH alone.

  • Something we saw so clearly in our survey of Isaiah 40-44 last week.


This means that Paul unites Father and Jesus in the OT YHWH functions of Creation and Redemption.

Paul …designates the unique functions of the one true Godhead within which God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ are co-workers” – Andrey Romanov.


But wait, there is more!


Attributing Creation and Redemption “through” Jesus has huge implications for His identity.

Christ is an “indispensable participant in the act of creation and the co-worker of God the Father. And therefore not just through Jesus Christ did all things come into being from God but only through him” – Andrey Romanov.

  • So Christ is “a unique and indispensable participant” in creation and redemption – Andrey Romanov.


Why is this hugely significant?

“This makes I Cor. 8. 6 perhaps the earliest documentary evidence for the Christian belief in the personal pre-cosmic existence of Christ” – Paul Rainbow.

  • So the Son of God, “was present with the Father before the world came into being” – Paul Rainbow.
  • Jesus is “the pre-existent mediator of creation” (Fitzmeyer)!


The NT speaks of this elsewhere:

  • John 1:3 (ESV) — 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.
  • Colossians 1:16 (ESV) — 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.
  • Hebrews 1:2 (ESV) — 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.


This has an important implication for our pagans.

  • The Father and Jesus stand over and above all that has been made.
  • They have a transcendent or universal relation to all of creation – Paul Rainbow.


This is a huge contrast to the gods of pagan polytheism.

  • The pagan polytheist, “assigned to each lord [and god] a city, nation, sphere of human life, or part of nature” – Paul Rainbow.
  • But, “Paul sees his one Lord in relation to the whole” – Paul Rainbow.


So when the pagan gods are contrasted with Jesus, the “one Lord”:

  • We find that “they dwell ‘either in heaven or on earth’ (v 5), that is, inside the boundary of all things. As such they are from God through the Lord; they are created beings” – Paul Rainbow.
  • This, “makes God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ unique in comparison with other ‘gods’ and ‘lords’” – Andrey Romanov.


Does our “Prepositions United” section…

  • (1) Distinguish Jesus and the Father from all other gods – relegating the other gods to inferior status.
  • (2) Unite Jesus and the Father in a way that Jesus was not seen as a “not complete god” to the Father’s “supercomplete” god.
  • Or both?


The answer is both.

  • The pagan gods are cast as inferior by virtue of the fact that the One Lord and One God created them.
    • They are “able neither to create, nor to save” – Andrey Romanov.
  • Jesus and Father are united as the pre-existent Creators of creation and Redeemers of God’s people.



(3) One:

The textual parallel of 1 Corinthians 8:6 is a Pauline confession of unity.

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.


Buy virtue of the parallel, both the Father and Jesus Christ are given equal billing.

  • The parallel unites them in function against the “lords and gods”.
  • It sets them apart in status from the other “lords and gods”.


And, the textual parallel, along with their shared functions, unites them together as the “one” God and Lord:

  • “Each is confessed to be one” – Paul Rainbow.


The extent of their shared “one” is startling:

“Both bear titles of divinity, and the titles have equal dignity. Both were active in creation. Both are active in redemption. Thus they both participate in a unified way in uniquely divine titles and operations” – Paul Rainbow.

  • So both are “one” – one Lord and one God.


And in ancient Jewish monotheism what does one mean?

  • “unique, incomparable, wholly other” – Paul Rainbow.
  • Deuteronomy 6:4 (ESV) — 4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.


So Jesus and the Father share in the same functions of the one YHWH of Moses and Isaiah.

  • And each possesses what we might call the “one-characteristic”.
    • “unique, incomparable, wholly other”.
  • What makes more sense of this – Trinitarian or Unitarian approaches?


And even more interesting – is Paul raising the idea of a shared, divine nature?

  • Not directly, but Paul Rainbow thinks Paul does think in the category of ontology (nature).
  • Paul is clearly making a distinction between everything and the one God and one Lord.
  • “Implicit in the distinction is the insight that the creator is qualitatively superior to his work” – Paul Rainbow.
  • Again, we will hit this again at the end of this lesson.


Does our “One” section…

  • (1) Distinguish Jesus and the Father from all other gods – relegating the other gods to inferior status.
  • (2) Unite Jesus and the Father in a way that Jesus was not seen as a “not complete god” to the Father’s “supercomplete” god.
  • Or both?



(4) Identical Relations:

The simplest way to unpack this is to make some needed distinctions.

  • 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.”
  • Looking at verse 6 we can pull out the following distinctions.


In one corner “X” we have the following:

  • gods” and “lords” – the powers and principalities, whether of the supernatural or natural variety.
  • all things” – as in creation
  • we exist” – as in Christians and Christian redemption and hope.


In corner “Y” we have:

  • one God, the Father
  • one Lord, Jesus Christ


The corner “Y” observation is simple enough, but very important.

  • There aren’t three corners in this text – corner “X”, corner “Y” the Father and corner “Z” Jesus.
  • The textual parallel we discussed last week unites the Father and Jesus in the same corner.
    • Though Jesus is subordinate functionally to the Father as it pertains to the work described.
  • So, “Paul does not have two foci of divinity, but two foci of divine unity” – Paul Rainbow.


Now, as we saw in Prepositions United (point 2):

  • Everything in corner “X” is “from”, “for” and “through” either the Father or Jesus – the divine unity of corner “Y”.
  • “Neither…has unique responsibility for either creation or redemption. To each is assigned a phrase in v 6 having to do with cosmology and also a phrase having to do with soteriology” – Paul Rainbow.
  • They are co-workers (as we said earlier).


This means that the Father and Christ participate together on the same side of the divide.

  • They are united in their position as both superior to, and the source of everything in corner “X”.
  • This position is their “identical relations” vis-a-vis everything else.


Paul Rainbow sums this up for it:

“A comparison of the relations which God and the Lord each have to the many gods and lords, to the world, and to the people of God, shows that these two figures have identical relations. Even as God is exclusively divine over against the many gods of polytheistic belief, so also the Lord is exclusively divine over against the many lords. Even as God is uniquely transcendent to ‘all things’, so also the Lord is uniquely transcendent to ‘all things’. Both stand together on the side of the creator rather than the creation. Even as God is the unique object of Christian hope, so also is the Lord the unique object of Christian hope” – Paul Rainbow.


Does our “Shared Relation” section…

  • (1) Distinguish Jesus and the Father from all other gods – relegating the other gods to inferior status.
  • (2) Unite Jesus and the Father in a way that Jesus was not seen as a “not complete god” to the Father’s “supercomplete” god.
  • Or both?



(5) Jesus and “one God”:

We can start this point with an observation.

  • Remember, verse 4 affirms, “there is no God but one”.
    • One meaning “unique, incomparable, wholly other”.
  • So, “The basic structure of [verses 4-6] corresponds…to that of Jewish texts which contrast pagan polytheism with the Jewish belief in one God” – Paul Rainbow.


This means that:

“Paul the Jewish-Christian monotheist has no intention of setting over against pagan polytheism a belief in two Gods rather than one. He wishes to define Jewish-Christian faith, in continuity with Old Testament faith, as belief in a divine unity” – Paul Rainbow.


So how does Paul handle Jesus “in continuity with Old Testament faith, as belief in a divine unity”?

  • Paul as already set Jesus in the same corner as the Father.
  • But now what to do with Jesus?


This is an especially pressing question given what we have seen thus far.

  • Jesus and the Father share identical relations to everything.
  • They are co-workers in creation and redemption.
  • Jesus pre-exists creation.
  • Each posses what we called the “one-characteristic”.
  • They both share in the divine name from Deut. 10:17.


To see how Paul answers our question, to see what he does with Jesus…

  • It will help us here to revisit the choices Paul has available to him.


It seems there are at least three choices.

  • (1) Jesus is a divine agent in the Jewish tradition.
  • (2) Jesus is an incomplete god or demigod in the pagan tradition – a “god” or “lord”.
  • (3) Jesus is a full participant in the uniqueness/unity of YHWH.


The pagan god explanation with Jesus as just a “god” or “lord” is ruled out straight away.

  • “Paul plainly means to affirm a divine unity in contrast to pagan polytheism”– Paul Rainbow.


The divine agent explanation has some explanatory power.

  • But, its drawbacks are that it doesn’t fully account for everything we have already learned.
  • Learned not only in our dealing with 1 Corinthians 8:4-6 but in our previous lessons as well.


Jesus is repeatedly explicitly or implicitly (through contextual messaging) called or cast as God.

  • He does what only the YHWH of the OT does – such as pre-exist creation.


Moreover, there was never a time when a divine agent received YHWH-like cultic devotion.

  • Jesus, in huge contrast, received the same cultic devotion as YHWH.
  • (More on this next week).


But even more devastating to the divine agent explanation is Corinth’s pagan context.

  • It is hard to see how the ex-pagan of Corinth would not see an exalted divine agent as just another incomplete god or demigod – a “god” or “lord”.
  • This possibility is too often overlooked.


Remember, Paul is dealing with nations here – not the Israelites.

  • And the pagan Corinthian does not have the category of Jewish divine agency.
  • They have the category of a pantheon of gods.
  • Gods that come in all shapes and flavors.


Travelers into Corinth, like Paul, would have immediately encountered statues of…

  • “…Artemis Ephesia, Dionysos, Poseidon, Apollo Klarios, Aphrodite, Hermes, Zeus, and Athena with some Muses [poetry, music, etc.]” – Paul Rainbow.
  • Not to mention, “in the agora [market] were temples dedicated to Tyche, All the Gods, and Octavia the sister of Julius Caesar, who re-founded the city” – Paul Rainbow.


If the sister of Julius Caesar was venerated as a kind of god, how much more would Jesus be so?

  • “Hey guys, lets slap up another temple to YHWH and make a statue to venerate His Son, Jesus.”


Paul Rainbow gets this when he says:

“The application of the language of monotheism to a man whom Paul did not suppose to be in some way united to God would be a departure from Jewish monotheism of the most radical kind, a virtual assimilation to the pagan environment which [ranked as god] heroes and ascribed titles of divinity to emperors” – Paul Rainbow.


So, the only way for Paul to handle Jesus “in continuity with Old Testament faith, as belief in a divine unity”…

  • Is to assign Jesus to the divine unity and uniqueness of YHWH.


And this is exactly what 1 Corinthians 8:6 does.

In it, Paul “puts God and the Lord together in v 6 where the structure of traditional Jewish monotheistic statements would demand one deity” – Paul Rainbow.

  • “In Paul’s confession, God and the Lord together take the place which belongs to God alone in Jewish confessions. Paul is unconscious of anything in this Christian confession which might threaten or compromise the divine unity” – Paul Rainbow.


In other words, the Father and Jesus share in the “one deity”, the divine unity, and the uniqueness of YHWH.

  • Jesus is “regarded together” with the Father as demonstrating this unity without violating it – Paul Rainbow.


Paul Rainbow sums this section up for us:

“The juxtaposition of this one, divine Lord Jesus Christ with the one God on that side of the antithesis which stresses the divine unity is felt to be a further affirmation of God’s unity and not a surrender of it. How can this be, unless Paul presupposes that the Lord Jesus Christ is in some undefined sense what the one God is?” – Paul Rainbow.


Does our “Jesus and One God” section…

  • (1) Distinguish Jesus and the Father from all other gods – relegating the other gods to inferior status.
  • (2) Unite Jesus and the Father in a way that Jesus was not seen as a “not complete god” to the Father’s “supercomplete” god.
  • Or both?



6) Language of Jewish Monotheism:

It is important to know that Jewish “monotheism was for Paul…a primary tenet” – Paul Rainbow.

  • Romans 3:30 (ESV) — 30 since God is one—who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.
  • Galatians 3:20 (ESV) — 20 Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one.


And yet in 1 Corinthians 8:6, “Christ is included in a revised proclamation of God’s uniqueness [the Shema]” – DPL.

  • Deuteronomy 6:4 (ESV) — 4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.
  • 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.”


The revision stipulates that both the Father and Jesus share in the “one-characteristic”.

  • Both are one – “unique, incomparable, wholly other”.


Yet, how can two be unique, incomparable and wholly other in a Jewish monotheistic way?

“The exclusive language of monotheism is inherently bound to one referent. To distribute it to more than one referent would be by that very act to empty it of meaning… the two referents must be in some sense one” – Paul Rainbow.


Moreover, as we alluded to in our dealings with Isaiah 40-44 a few weeks ago…

  • There are some very specific attributions made about the one God of ancient Jewish monotheism.


Paul Rainbow sums these attributions up this way:

  • Ancient Jewish monotheism had, for its one God, a specific list of attributions: “a negative attitude towards idolatry and polytheism, the belief in one creator of all things, in one Lord of all the earth, whose will determines the course of history from beginning to end, and who stands in a special relationship to the one people of Israel with one temple in Jerusalem” – Paul Rainbow.


The mind-blowing thing about 1 Cor. 8:4-6 – the Christianized Shema – is that…

  • Every single one of these fundamental Jewish monotheistic attributions is applied to Jesus Christ.
  • Let’s look at each attribution and confirm this claim.


(1) “Negative attitude towards idolatry and polytheism”:

  • We have seen over and over, Jesus is on the side of the Father in opposition to Corinth’s “gods” and “lords” and their idols.
  • Jesus, like the Father, is on the positive side of the attitude expressed in 1 Cor. 8:4-6.


(2) “Belief in one creator of all things”:

  • We saw last week that 1 Cor. 8:4-6 tells us that “all things” – as in creation – came “through” Jesus.
  • He was a pre-existent co-worker with the Father in creation.


(3) “One Lord…determines the course of history…stands in a special relationship to the one people of Israel”:

  • Here as well we saw what Paul means when he says it is Jesus Christ “through whom we exist”.
  • This is salvation and redemption language – now and not yet.
  • Something that involves both God’s people and history.


In other words, the consummation of the Kingdom of God is wholly the domain of Jesus Christ.

  • It is Jesus’ return that will finally put all things right and usher in the new heaven and earth.
  • This is “the course of history”.


So Jesus Christ is firmly situated within ancient Jewish monotheistic attributions of the one God.

  • He is included in fundamental Jewish monotheistic language.
  • This is without precedent in ancient Judaism (Paul Rainbow).


And it leaves us with two possibilities:

“Either Paul is using monotheistic language with reference to a glorified human being in a way unacceptable to Judaism, or he presupposes that the Father and Jesus Christ share some point of identity” – Paul Rainbow.


And given the fact that:

  • Paul embraced ancient Jewish monotheism…
  • And that, “there is a complete absence in Paul’s letters of any controversy with Judaism or Jewish Christians over the matter of monotheism” – Paul Rainbow.
  • And that we have (today and in past lessons) uncovered many problems with the divine-agency-only approach…
  • We can say the best explanation for what Paul is doing with Jesus is to be found in a Trinitarian understanding of the NT.


Does our “Jesus and One God” section…

  • (1) Distinguish Jesus and the Father from all other gods – relegating the other gods to inferior status.
  • (2) Unite Jesus and the Father in a way that Jesus was not seen as a “not complete god” to the Father’s “supercomplete” god.
  • Or both?




There is no doubt that Paul sees “the gods of polytheism as deficient” as it relates to the Father and Jesus – Paul Rainbow.

  • There is no need to enumerate the reasons here – we have just seen a bunch.


Importantly, however, we do need to know that their deficiencies are functional in nature.

  • The gods can’t do the things Jesus does.
  • Jesus does things that the gods can’t do and that only YHWH is supposed to do.


But, is there anything about Paul’s handling of Jesus that indicates that Paul sees the gods as deficient in nature or essence?


To answer, we need to add a couple more observations of Paul found elsewhere.

  • Galatians 4:8 (ESV) — 8 Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods.
  • 1 Thessalonians 1:9 (ESV) — 9 For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God,


Paul Rainbow argues that in these two texts we see:

  • A distinction of nature or essence between the one true God and the gods.
  • This means that “[the gods] lack the divine essence [or nature] by virtue of which God alone can be and act as God” – Paul Rainbow.
  • So the gods are deficient by their very nature.
  • They do not possess the divine nature of God.


In contrast:

  • “The living and true God of monotheism, who alone is God…is uniquely divine by virtue of his essence [or nature]” – Paul Rainbow.


What’s the point?

“When we place the high Christology of 1 Cor. 8:4–6 alongside of the concept of the unique divine essence from Gal. 4:8 and I Thess. 1:9, we see that all the necessary elements are present for concluding that Paul’s Christ is ontologically divine” – Paul Rainbow.

  • In other words, Jesus possesses God’s divine nature in contrast to the gods and lords who do not.


The simplest way to put this is as follows:

  • The gods can’t do because they AREN’T.
  • Jesus can do because he IS.


We can get at this another way as well.

  • If the function is – just to make a point – flying…
  • Something the Bible says only YHWH can do…
  • And we are told that the gods and lords can’t fly…
  • We have to ask why the gods and lords can’t fly.


If we suggest that they could learn to fly, or be given the power to fly…

  • Then we could argue that they could function as YHWH.
  • But what Paul (and the OT and NT generally) implies is that gods and lords can’t fly because…
  • By their very nature, they aren’t birds – they don’t possess bird-essence.
  • They are something all together different – they have a different essence or nature.
  • The Father and Jesus, on the other hand, “have” or “are” the nature that flies – YHWH-nature.
  • (Not the best analogy, but it might bring some clarity.)


All of these essence implications are things the ex-pagan at Corinth would have understood.

  • And so this, in tandem with everything else we have discussed the past few weeks…
  • Explains why the ex-pagan could worship the Father and the Son, affirm the Shema, and yet…
  • Not see Jesus as a demigod or a “not complete” god.
  • Jesus was altogether something different.



Exploration of the Trinity – Part 6 – Mark’s Jesus and the Uniqueness of YHWH


Last week, among other things, we began to examine how the NT writers saw Jesus.

  • Specifically, how they saw him within a specific Biblical landscape.
  • A landscape that blurs the lines between a visible and invisible YHWH.
  • A landscape that rabbis identified as a threat to the authority and uniqueness of YHWH.


It is within this Biblical landscape that the NT writers:

  • (1) Identified Jesus as God explicitly.
    • For example, John 20:28 – “My Lord and My God”.
  • (2) Identified Jesus as God implicitly – through their messaging.


Today, we explore the implicit messaging of the NT writers.

  • Messaging that identifies Jesus with God.


And as we anticipated last week:

  • This type of identification will prove to be every bit as explicit as John 20:28.


In fact, our examples will demonstrate something of great importance to our study.

  • How Jesus is identified with, and as participating in, the uniqueness of YHWH.



Gospel of Mark:

All of today’s examples will come from the Gospel of Mark.

  • We will deal with some very important “others” next week.


Why Mark?

  • Mark’s Christology is generally considered to possess a “low” Christology.
  • In other words, Unitarians use Mark to support their case that Jesus, early on, was portrayed as “a mere human being, even if a highly exalted prophet or messianic figure” – Daniel Johansson.
  • This is the divinely appointed human agency we talked about last week.
    • Exemplified by Moses.


Scholar Daniel Johansson takes issue with this view.

“The common opinion that the Gospel of Mark espouses a ‘low’ Christology and presents Jesus as a merely human being needs to be reassessed” – Daniel Johansson.


Why reassessed?

  • The “low” view overlooks the implicit messaging that pervades the Gospel of Mark.
  • Messaging that identifies Jesus with the uniqueness of God.


Johansson says that “for Mark, Jesus is considerably more than” an exalted human prophet and Messiah.

  • Jesus is identified “with the God of Israel” – Daniel Johansson.
  • And, more than that, the Markan view of Jesus overlaps “with that of YHWH”.


To put this within the ancient Jewish monotheism framework we have been working under:

  • Mark provides us with an ever-growing number of Biblical landscape features.
  • And Mark’s “landscape features” identify Jesus with a uniqueness that belongs to YHWH alone.
    • All of which is best explained by the Trinity.


BTW – The source of this study is Daniel Johansson’s doctoral thesis.

  • Its title – “Jesus and God in the Gospel of Mark: Unity and Distinction”
  • Larry Hurtado supervised the thesis at the University of Edinburgh.
  • I am only presenting Johansson’s conclusions.
  • For his in depth exegesis, I refer you to his thesis.



Mark 1:1-3 – The Divine Name:

Mark 1:1–3 (ESV) — 1 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 2 As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, “Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, 3 the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’ ”


Mark’s opening verses are crucial for understanding his Christology for three reasons.

  • (1) They are “important indicators of [Mark’s] own understanding of Jesus” – Johansson.
  • (2) This in turn is “significant for how the audience will interpret the story that unfolds” – Johansson.
  • (3) They establish at the onset “a close linking of Jesus to Israel’s God” – Johansson.


Mark begins by telling us immediately about whom he is speaking.

  • Jesus Christ, the Son of God”.
  • In other words, Marks opening is about who Jesus is.


Mark then tells us, “as it is written in Isaiah”, and quotes the OT.

  • Interestingly, Mark actually draws from a number of OT texts.
  • This is not unusual and citing Isaiah indicates that it takes priority in Mark’s messaging.
  • “He sees the Isaiah text as the most important one in this context” – Johansson.


The OT texts that Mark draws from are:

  • Isaiah 40:3 (ESV) — 3 A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
  • Malachi 3:1a (ESV) — 1a “Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me.”


In their OT context these verses are anticipating a time when:

  • A messenger prepares the way for YHWH’s coming.


So what is the point Mark is making by citing these texts?


For Mark, the messenger – the “one crying in the wilderness” – is John the Baptist.

  • There really isn’t any disagreement about this.
  • After all, verse 4 tells us, “John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness…
  • “There is no doubt that Mark identifies the messenger and voice of the wilderness with John the Baptist” – Johansson.


And “the Lord” from verse 1:3 – whom John the Baptist is preparing the way for – is clearly Jesus.

  • Mark 1:9 (ESV) — 9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.


It is a straight-forward observation, and not a controversial one, that:

  • The OT “biblical texts, which in their original contexts refer to YHWH, are applied to Jesus” – Johansson.
  • “The promises of God’s own coming in Mal. 3:1 and Isa 40:3 are now being fulfilled in Jesus” – Johansson.


The million-dollar question is does Mark intend to make a closer connection between Jesus as Lord and Isaiah’s Lord of the OT…YHWH?


Rikki Watts thinks so:

“The application of these texts to Jesus suggests that he is to be identified in some way…with none other than the ‘Lord’ and ‘YHWH’ of Malachi, and, in terms of Isaiah 40:3, the presence of Yahweh himself.”


Johansson agrees.

  • “The significance of Mark’s explicit identification in 1.2 of the original context of his citation [Isaiah’s YHWH/Lord] must not be overlooked here” – Johansson.


One reason has to do with the fact that Mark cites the LXX version of the OT.

  • The LXX translates “YHWH” as “kyrios”.
  • This means that, contextually, Mark 1:3 links Jesus directly to the divine name of “kyrios”.
    • Prepare the way of the Lord [kyrios]” – who is Jesus.
  • Yet, “kyrios” is also the Isaiah LXX’s YHWH.


Knowing this, (and other observations from Johansson) the messaging of Mark is fairly clear.

  • “‘Kyrios’ refers to both God and Jesus and, consequently, links Jesus to the God of Israel” – Johansson.

“Mark explicitly cites passages about YHWH with reference to Jesus, seeing the fulfilment of these in Jesus and applying the divine name [kyrios] to Jesus. The application of the ‘kyrios’ of Isa. 40:3 to Jesus, in particular, suggests more than a mere functional overlap between Jesus and God. In a unique way, and unparalleled in the early Jewish literature, Mark associates Jesus with Israel’s God and the presence of YHWH himself” – Johansson.

  • Was there any figure in the OT to whom the divine name was applied?


What about agency?

  • Mark’s messaging is certainly consistent with divine agency.
  • But, like we saw last week, this truth is irrelevant to Jesus’ divinity.
  • And the language of Mark goes well beyond divine agency.


Remember, Moses was never identified with the divine name “YHWH”.

  • He was called an “elohim” not “YHWH”.


And more than that:

  • “Elohim” was a statement of Moses’ function (what), not his identity (who).
  • Just as God gave words to Moses, Moses would give words to Aaron.


Mark, on the other hand, is telling us who Jesus is.

  • He is telling us why we need to pay attention to what he is saying about Jesus.
  • Jesus is the “Son of God” (1:1) and the visible “kyrios” from Isaiah 40:3.



Markan Implication:

There is one final implication of Mark’s connection of Jesus to the divine name of YHWH (kyrios).

  • Mark does this at the very beginning of his Gospel.
  • Immediately, Mark “links Jesus in the closest possible way to the God of Israel” – Johansson.
  • Therefore this, “…identification of Jesus with ‘kyrios’ in Isa. 40:3 and Mal. 3:1 provides the reader with a hermeneutical key to the Christology of Mark” – Johansson.


And we are about to see that Mark has much more to say.

  • Throughout his Gospel, he regularly portrays Jesus as participating in the uniqueness of YHWH.
  • And sharing in the divine name of YHWH (no time to cover these examples but there are quite a few).



Mark 1:13 – With the Animals:

Mark 1:13 (ESV) — 13 And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him.


What does this have to do with identifying Jesus with the uniqueness of YHWH?


Johansson says we need only look at Isaiah 43 again – as we did with the verses 1-3.

  • Isaiah 43:19–20 (ESV) — 19 Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. 20 The wild beasts will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches, for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people,


Johansson makes this observation.

  • 43:19 alludes to Isa. 40:3 via the use of the “make a way in the wilderness” language.
  • 40:3, as we just saw, is the text Mark used in 1:1-3 to link Jesus to the divine name, Lord (YHWH).


Moreover, it seems fairly obvious that Jesus is doing what is attributed to YHWH in Isaiah 43.

  • Jesus is certainly bringing “water” to His chosen people.


But, Isaiah goes on to say of YHWH that:

  • the wild beasts will honor” him (43:20).


Mark 1:13 actually alludes to this part of the Isaiah passage:

  • And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him” (1:13).


What is the significance?


The idea here is that “the animals are aligned with the angels in their honoring service of Jesus” – Johansson.

  • The “wild animals” are, like the angels, on the side of Jesus.


So, as with Mark’s opening verses, this event is yet another that identifies Jesus with the uniqueness of YHWH.

  • In Isaiah – It is YHWH that is bringing water to the wilderness.
  • And only YHWH is worthy to be honored as Creator by His creatures (animals).


In Mark – Jesus is inserted into the place of YHWH.

  • It is only Jesus bringing water to the wilderness.
    • Bringing water to the wilderness is creation language – an allusion to Genesis.
  • Therefore, it is only Jesus who is worthy to be acknowledged by the animals and angels.


Johansson sums it up this way:

“This may…be Mark’s way of saying that the wild beasts recognize Jesus’ true identity, just as the demons will do later in the narrative (1:24; 3:11; 5:7). If this is correct, then Jesus is…acting in the capacity of the creator himself.”



Mark 2:5-7 – Forgives Sins:

Mark 2:5–12 (ESV) — 5 And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” 6 Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, 7 “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 8 And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, “Why do you question these things in your hearts? 9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk’? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— 11 “I say to you, rise, pick up your bed, and go home.” 12 And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”


The question here is by whose authority does Jesus forgive sins.

  • Unitarians have an opinion.
  • Trinitarians have an opinion.
  • We will deal with the Trinitarian view first.


The Trinitarian view is simple enough.

  • “The Markan Jesus does not claim that he has been given authority (cf. Matt 28:18) to forgive sins, but that he, as does God, has this authority.” – Johansson.


And more than this:

  • “Jesus forgives the paralytic’s sins, not merely announces God’s forgiveness” – Johansson.
    • Your sins are forgiven” (vs. 9)
  • These words, “ascribe to Jesus himself power to forgive sins in an absolute sense” – Johansson.


Johansson supports these claims in numerous ways…one way is as follows:

“…the parallel between the healing, effectuated by a word of Jesus, and the absolution of the man implies that Jesus personally has forgiven the man. The word of forgiveness (2:5) and the word of healing (2:11) must both be understood as creative words accomplishing what they say” – Johansson.


In other words…Jesus healed and Jesus forgave.

  • He didn’t announce healing – He healed.
  • He didn’t announce forgiveness – He forgave.


And finally:

“The Markan text states unambiguously that only God can forgive sins (2:7)…There is thus no reason to believe that the first readers would qualify what the Markan scribes say. On the contrary, they would agree with them: Only God can forgive sins. It seems clear, then, that Jesus is assuming a role which belonged to Israel’s God alone” – Daniel Johansson.


This is yet another Markan example of Jesus being identified with the uniqueness of YHWH.



Unitarian Objections:

It has been pointed out by Unitarians that “human agents” can forgive sins if given the authority to do so.

  • Such as 2 Samuel 12:13 and when Jesus sent out the disciples.


They suggest this is the simple explanation for what Jesus did in Mark 2:5.

  • Jesus as an agent of God – as non-God – was given the authority to forgive sins.
  • Jesus is simply announcing the forgiveness that comes from the Father.


Given this, Unitarian Dale Tuggy says this about Mark 2:

  • “Note that at the end of the Mark passage, the people glorify God for what he’s [God] done [forgave sins – agency action] through Jesus. This is the norm through Mark – God is someone other than Jesus.”


Three things must be noted.



  • William Hasker argues that there are three things a Trinitarian can mean by “God”.
  • The most common usage (for the Bible and us) is that “God” is a referent to the Father.


So…yes, God (The Father) “is someone other than Jesus” (Tuggy).

  • So…yes, the people glorified the Father because of the Son.
  • Trinitarians do this as well.


Second, we already established two shortcomings of the agency argument last week:

  • (1) Assigning Jesus to the “divinely appointed human agent” category does not preclude His sharing in the divine nature.
    • Agency is a neutral claim.
  • (2) The force of the “agency only” critique is grounded in the “Jewish law of agency”.
    • This has nothing to do with the agency in the Bible and is 200 years later than the NT.


Third, even Jewish scholar Alan Segal…

  • Concedes that Jesus was claiming to have authority within Himself to forgive sins.
  • “One of the things which, according to the NT, most upsets the Jews about Jesus is precisely that he does claim the power to forgive sins” – Alan Segal.


And then Segal notes the rabbis’ “Two Power” aversion to Jesus’ authority/power to do so:

  • “The forgiving of sins…was enough for the rabbis to conclude that the principal figure of the heretics was supposed to be more than an angel. Or it might have involved the belief that the angel participated in God’s divinity by appropriating one of His names” – Alan Segal.


For Jesus’ critics, Jesus was a competitor to YHWH’s uniqueness not His agent.

  • This is precisely the “two authority/two power” idea that the rabbis fought against.


This makes perfect sense.

  • Because the blasphemy Jesus was accused of means, “arrogation of divine prerogatives for oneself” – Johansson.
  • So by their charge of blasphemy, Jesus’ critics understood, “…that Jesus in various ways claimed a divine status. In their view, these claims were blasphemous and threatening God’s uniqueness” – Johansson.




Mark’s messaging says far more than Jesus was just a divinely appointed human agent forgiving sins on the Father’s authority.

  • As Johansson already pointed out, Mark has already set the tone for his Gospel.
  • He has identified Jesus with the divine name of God – “kyrios/YHWH”.
  • And by forgiving sins, Mark, once again, identifies Jesus with the uniqueness of YHWH.



Mark 4:35-41 – Calms the Storm:

Mark 4:35–41 (ESV) — 35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”


Only 4 chapters in, we have Jesus doing something remarkable – calming a storm.

  • Once again, the question is, “is Jesus, in Mark’s view, acting in the role of Israel’s God, perhaps even being his visible manifestation on earth, or is he merely portraying Jesus as man uniquely endowed with divine power?” – Johansson.


The answer is found in the answer to this question, “Who can calm storms?”


“The OT is unambiguous. There is only one whom sea and wind obey: the God of Israel” – Daniel Johansson.

  • Psalm 89:8–10 (ESV) — 8 O Lord God of hosts, who is mighty as you are, O Lord, with your faithfulness all around you? 9 You rule the raging of the sea; when its waves rise, you still them. 10 You crushed Rahab like a carcass; you scattered your enemies with your mighty arm.
  • Psalm 147:18 (ESV) — 18 He sends out his word, and melts them; he makes his wind blow and the waters flow.


God made it; God controls it.

  • “…according to the Hebrew Bible, it is a prerogative of the God of Israel to control the wind and the sea” – Johansson.



Small Rabbit Trail:

Our study of Joshua some time ago provides us with an ancient Near Eastern context for this story in Mark.

  • In other words, the cultural context that really drives home what is happening in Mark 4.


As we saw then, water:

  • Played “an important role in the cosmogony [how the world came to be] of the ancient Near East” – John Currid.
  • “Water [was] the stuff and material of creation” in just about all the major ANE cultures – John Currid.


Specifically, at the beginning of creation, the waters were seen “as chaotic” in ANE cosmogony.

  • They “represented a hostile power” – Joseph Lam.


Creation was therefore the act of overcoming the “hostile power”.

  • It was the act of bringing order to its chaos – John Currid.
  • Something done only by God/gods.


We see this play out in the OT.

  • Psalm 74:12–17 (ESV) — 12 Yet God my King is from of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth. 13 You divided the sea by your might; you broke the heads of the sea monsters on the waters. 14 You crushed the heads of Leviathan; you gave him as food for the creatures of the wilderness. 15 You split open springs and brooks; you dried up ever-flowing streams. 16 Yours is the day, yours also the night; you have established the heavenly lights and the sun. 17 You have fixed all the boundaries of the earth; you have made summer and winter.



The Point:

Mark presents us with a scene containing chaotic waters and a great windstorm.

  • And the water’s waves were “breaking into the boat” filling it with water.


So Mark is describing for us a scene of aNE water chaos.

  • Order is under attack by chaos.
  • And this chaos can only be defeated by the creative power of god – YHWH.


Knowing all of this, Mark drops this bomb:

  • And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm” (verse 39).


The disciples then asked a question with only one answer.

  • Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” (verse 41)
  • Answer – the Markan Jesus that has already been identified with the divine name and uniqueness of YHWH.


Johansson sums up the significance of this story:

“The disciples’ question can just have one answer: there is only one whom sea and wind obey in the OT and the early Jewish literature, the God of Israel. This would suggest that Jesus somehow is the visible presence of YHWH on earth. It is simply not sufficient to say that Jesus possesses the power of God. There are no parallels of humans being given this power, at least not in the Jewish tradition. Furthermore, authority over stormy waters is not just any divine power. It is precisely this power which at numerous places and in different contexts demonstrates that the God of Israel is the only true God” – Daniel Johansson.



Mark 9:2-13 – Transfiguration:

Mark 9:2–4 (ESV) — 2 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, 3 and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. 4 And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus.


The transfiguration is a weird and tantalizing passage.

  • The question for us is, “What is ‘the message it communicates to its audience’ about Jesus identity”? – Johansson.


A typical approach is that Jesus is being seen as fulfilling a Moses typology.

  • But, for many reasons, Johansson argues that, “…the evidence points in another direction, namely that Mark more than anything else presents Jesus as acting in God’s role in the Exodus accounts” – Johansson.


Johansson makes his case as follows:

  • The key to understanding Jesus’ identity is the presence of both Elijah and Moses.
  • And specifically, the link they share in the transfiguration story.


A couple of OT texts will show us what they had in common – their link.

  • Exodus 24:15–18 (ESV) — 15 Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. 16 The glory of the Lord dwelt on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days. And on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud. 17 Now the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel. 18 Moses entered the cloud and went up on the mountain. And Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights.
  • 1 Kings 19:8–11 (ESV) — 8 And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God. 9 There he came to a cave and lodged in it. And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 10 He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” 11 And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake.


So what is the link?

  • Both Moses and Elijah, “encountered God on a high mountain, Moses on his two ascents of Mt. Sinai and Elijah on Horeb…” – Johansson.


How does this identify Jesus with the uniqueness of YHWH?


We need to see that, “Jesus is not acting in a role similar to [Moses or Elijah] or being compared to them” – Johansson.

  • (1) Jesus does not speak with God like Moses and Elijah did.
  • (2) The glory of God didn’t surround Jesus; it was Jesus.
    • And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them” (vs. 3-4).


This means Jesus is cast in a different role!

  • The two points above help us uncover it.


The importance of point (1) is that it exposes a parallel Mark is making with these words:

  • And there appeared to them, Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus” (vs. 4).


Elijah and Moses were on the new Sinai.

  • But instead of Moses and Elijah speaking to God the Father (as they were in the OT), they were speaking with…Jesus.


Johansson explains the significance of this scene:

“[Mark’s] point is precisely that Moses and Elijah now speak to Jesus as they spoke to God in the past. For Mark, then, Jesus is acting in the place of God in this ‘new Sinai’ theophany. What once took place on Sinai and Horeb is now repeated, but with some significant variations” – Daniel Johansson.


The importance of point (2) is that it reveals another point Mark is making about Jesus:

  • “Jesus’ glorious appearance is neither limited to the face nor the result of an encounter with God. Jesus is transfigured before God appears on the scene. Thus…Jesus’ glory is ‘intrinsic to himself’” – Johansson.


The point here is that Jesus shares in “the divine glory” His Father.

  • Mark has already told us that Jesus shares the divine name – YHWH/kyrios.
  • Now, he is showing us that Jesus shares in divine glory.
  • John 17:5 (ESV) — 5 And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.


What about when the Father makes his “appearance”?

  • Mark 9:7 (ESV) — 7 And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.”


This gives us a significant and important difference between this scene and the Sinai/Horeb scenes.

“What is said of the God of Israel alone in the Exodus accounts is split between Jesus and God in the present narrative: God appears in the cloud and speaks from the cloud (Exod 24:16-17); at the same time Jesus manifests the glory of YHWH, and Moses and Elijah see and speak to him (Exod 33-34; 1 Kgs 19:8-18).


In other words, at the transfiguration:

  • The Father is the invisible YHWH.
  • Jesus is the visible YHWH.


Johansson suggests that this “splitting” of YHWH’s uniqueness between Jesus and the Father is exactly what Paul does in 1 Corinthians 8:6.

  • A text that inserts Jesus into the Shema.
  • A text we will deal with next week.



Mark Conclusion:

The Biblical landscape that Mark presents us with concerning the identity of Jesus is dense.

  • Jesus is identified as sharing the divine name – YHWH/kyrios – from Isaiah.


Jesus is associated with the uniqueness of YHWH who alone:

  • The wild beasts honor.
  • Has the authority to forgive sins.
  • Has the power to control nature.
  • Appears on Sinai to his chosen agents.


BTW – There are many more examples in which Mark identifies Jesus with the uniqueness of YHWH:

  • Jesus’ power over death.
  • Jesus’ walk on water.
  • Jesus’ healing miracles.
  • Jesus’ role in Mark’s parables.
  • , etc., etc.


Mark’s identification of Jesus is clear.

  • He has articulated, “Jesus’ unique and intimate association with YHWH” – Johansson.
  • An association that “…is communicated within an OT/Jewish framework of a maintained Jewish monotheism, and with the language of the OT and Jewish concepts and categories” – Johansson.
  • The implicit messaging and identification we talked about last week.


The question is this:

  • How is Mark’s messaging about Jesus best understood?


Given the divine plurality that runs throughout the Biblical landscape we have uncovered…

  • And the context it provides for the Gospel of Mark…
  • It certainly makes sense to see Jesus’ identity on the God side of the God/Non-God divide.
  • Mark’s Jesus is not presented as just a creaturely agent.


For one to see Jesus as a mere creaturely agent on the non-God side of things would require:

  • (1) An appeal to the two Unitarian presuppositions we discussed last week.
  • (2) A subsequent flattening of the Biblical landscape and messaging we have learned about thus far.