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Exploration of the Trinity – Part 7 – The Christianized Shema Background

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.

 

 

Introduction:

Before we dig into this verse we need to clear up two things.

 

(1) Paul is not denying the existence of other gods (theos/elohim).

  • The ESV puts quotes around “gods” and it could mislead.

 

Paul understands that there exist “cosmic powers” (Ephesians 6:12) in the spiritual realm.

  • He understands the implications of the Divine Council and a Deuteronomy 32 worldview.
  • After all, Paul affirms the OT repeatedly, speaks of demons, and “the prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2), etc.

 

For example, later in 1 Corinthians he says this:

  • 1 Corinthians 10:21–22 (ESV) — 21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. 22 Shall we provoke the Lord to jealousy? Are we stronger than he?
  • Demons” are elohim/theos.

 

The ASV is much clearer in its translation:

  • For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or on earth; as there are gods many, and lords many

 

(2) Consequently, when Paul says, “there is no God but one” it is an affirmation of the ancient Jewish monotheism we discussed a few weeks ago, not a denial of other elohim.

  • In other words, Paul is saying that YHWH is the unique, incomparable God of Israel.
  • The only God worthy of worship.
  • The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob who called Israel out of Egypt.
  • The uncreated Creator God.

 

Or to put another way – Paul is affirming the Shema:

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

 

Larry Hurtado sums up both of these points:

“In short, though Paul (with a good many other ancients) thought that there were multiple ‘divine’ beings of various sorts, he seems also to have held the one God of Jewish tradition as in something of a category of one apart from all others” – Larry Hurtado.

 

And this leads us back to 1 Corinthians 8:6.

  • A text where Paul distinguishes the “one God, the Father” and the “one Lord, Jesus Christ” from all other elohim/theos.

 

We are not exploring Paul’s primary concern in this passage – eating food offered to idols.

  • But we will concern ourselves with a particular idea he uses to deal with his primary concern.
  • Specifically, what he says about the Father and Jesus in 8:6.

 

Before we do, we need to look at some OT background.

  • It is deeply embedded in Paul’s messaging about the Father and Jesus.
  • It will be something we need down the road as we unpack 8:6.

 

 

OT Background:

Just like Mark’s Gospel, Paul is deeply indebted to Isaiah for his understanding of the Father and Jesus.

  • Scholar Trent Rogers tells us that in our text Paul is…
  • “drawing on the idol polemic in Isaiah 40-44”.

 

Interestingly, Douglas Oss says the template for Paul’s use of Isaiah probably came from Jesus Himself:

“There is no doubt…that it was Christ himself who originated the approach to Isaiah that was followed by Paul. It was Christ himself who first cited Isa 61:1-2 and then proclaimed, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing’ (Luke 4:18-21); and it was Christ himself who first taught the church that all the scriptures spoke of him (Luke 24:25-27, 44-45).”

 

 

Idol Worship:

Isaiah 40-44 shows us an Israel that was faltering in its allegiance to YHWH.

  • They whored after other gods and fashioned idols of those gods.

 

It might be helpful here to clear up something about ancient idol worship.

  • “Ancient people did not believe that their gods were actually images of stone or wood. We misread the biblical writers if we think that” – Michael Heiser.

 

What is idol worship?

“What ancient idol worshippers believed was that the objects they made were inhabited by their gods. This is why they performed ceremonies to ‘open the mouth’ of the statue. The mouth (and nostrils) had to be ritually opened for the spirit of the deity to move in and occupy, a notion inspired by the idea that one needs to breathe to live. The idol first had to be animated with the very real spiritual presence of the deity. Once that was done, the entity was localized for worship and bargaining” – Michael Heiser.

 

Paul Rainbow puts it this way:

  • “It was generally believed in the ancient world that a divinity and its physical image interpenetrated one another and thus formed a sort of unity. The god, of course, transcended the physical object, but it was embodied in it in such a way that it could be contacted through the object.”

 

Much of Isaiah 40-44 is YHWH’s response, His polemic, against this behavior.

  • YHWH points out the absurdity and futility of worshipping other gods and making idols.
  • Something, BTW, that was declared over and over in the OT (see Deut. 4:1-40).

 

 

Isaiah’s YHWH:

Generally, Isaiah 40-44 speaks of three reasons whoring after other gods was absurd and futile.

  • (1) YHWH is unique and incomparable.
  • (2) YHWH alone was Creator of all things (including Israel).
  • (3) YHWH alone was Savior and Redeemer of Israel (and eventually the nations).

 

YWHW speaks of His incomparability:

  • Isaiah 40:12–14 (ESV) — 12 Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand and marked off the heavens with a span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance? 13 Who has measured the Spirit of the Lord, or what man shows him his counsel? 14 Whom did he consult, and who made him understand? Who taught him the path of justice, and taught him knowledge, and showed him the way of understanding?
  • Isaiah 40:18–20 (ESV) — 18 To whom then will you liken God, or what likeness compare with him? 19 An idol! A craftsman casts it, and a goldsmith overlays it with gold and casts for it silver chains. 20 He who is too impoverished for an offering chooses wood that will not rot; he seeks out a skillful craftsman to set up an idol that will not move.

 

YHWH declares He alone is Creator:

  • Isaiah 40:25–26 (ESV) — 25 To whom then will you compare me, that I should be like him? says the Holy One. 26 Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name, by the greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power not one is missing.
  • Isaiah 40:28 (ESV) — 28 Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.
  • Isaiah 44:24 (ESV) — 24 Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, who formed you from the womb: “I am the Lord, who made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself,

 

YHWH declares He alone is Savior:

  • Isaiah 41:14 (ESV) — 14 Fear not, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel! I am the one who helps you, declares the Lord; your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.
  • Isaiah 43:1 (ESV) — 1 But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.
  • Isaiah 43:12 (ESV) — 12 I declared and saved and proclaimed, when there was no strange god among you; and you are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and I am God.
  • Isaiah 44:22 (ESV) — 22 I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you.

 

So who is Israel’s God?

  • He alone is the unique and incomparable Elohim.
  • He alone is the Creator of all things – including Israel.
  • He alone is Redeemer of Israel (and the nations).
  • He alone is to have Israel’s loyalty.

 

All of the above is woven into 1 Corinthians 8:4-6 in some surprising ways.

  • Let’s begin to explore how.

 

 

Paul’s God and Lord:

1 Corinthians 8:5–6 (ESV) — 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 most obvious feature of verse 6 is its relationship to verse 5.

  • It serves as a stark “Isaiah-ish” contrast between gods and the one true God of Israel.
  • Or as Paul puts it, between the “many ‘gods’ and many ‘lords’” (vs. 5) vs. “one God, the Father…one Lord, Jesus Christ” (vs. 6).

 

To properly unpack this contrast we need to recognize yet another OT allusion.

  • We have already noted Paul’s allusion in 1 Cor. 8:6 to the Shema found in Deut. 6:4.
  • Deuteronomy 6:4 (ESV) — 4 “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.

 

But in 1 Corinthians 8:5, there is also an allusion to, “an echo” of, Deuteronomy 10:17 (G.K. Beale).

  • 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.
  • Interestingly, “[Deut. 10:17] is the only text in the Hebrew Bible where ‘gods’ and ‘lords’ appear in the same sentence as in 1 Cor. 8:5” – G.K. Beale.

 

Why is all this significant?

 

Deuteronomy 10:17 is contrasting two wildly different species of “elohim” – beings who reside in the spiritual realm.

  • The two species of elohim parsed out here are:
  • (1) “LORD your God” – YHWH the God of Israel.
  • (2) “gods” and “lords.

 

This basic understanding of Paul’s starting point – his contrast – is where the fun begins!

 

Why?

  • In 1 Corinthians 8:6, Paul modifies the contrast of Deut. 10:17 and the affirmation of Deut. 6:4 to include Jesus Christ.

 

In other words, Paul does two remarkable things:

  • (1) He inserts Jesus into the ancient Jewish monotheistic formula affirmed in verse 4 – “there is no God but one”.
  • (2) He places Jesus Christ on the “LORD your God” side of the Deuteronomy 10:17 contrast.

 

This mutation of the Shema to now include Jesus is called the “Christianized Shema”.

  • There is much to be gleaned this handling of Jesus.
  • Especially when we understand his Corinthian converts.

 

 

Accounting for Christ at Corinth:

The Church at Corinth presented Paul with a challenge.

  • (1) It existed in the midst of open worship of various gods and their idols.
  • (2) Its pagan Christian converts formerly worshipped various gods and their idols.
  • (3) Its pagan Christian converts switched to the worship of the Father and Jesus…
  • (4) While simultaneously affirming that “there is no God but one” – the Christianized Shema.

 

Larry Hurtado describes the situation:

  • “There was a veritable cafeteria of divine beings of various orders, attributes, and functions…peoples were rather richly supplied with deities” – Larry Hurtado.
  • And the “residents of any given city were expected to participate in the worship of the civic deities, who were typically seen as protectors of the city” – Larry Hurtado.
  • But, “Early Christians…typically departed from these religious customs and defined ‘God’ in a very exclusive manner in beliefs and also in religious practice. For them, there was really…only one deity worthy of worship, as Paul affirms in 1 Corinthians 8:4-6” – Larry Hurtado.

 

So given this info we need to setup an important question:

  • The ex-pagan now worshipped the Father.
  • The ex-pagan now worshipped the exalted Jesus Christ.
  • In their pagan life, this would obviously have been the worship of two gods.

 

The problem Paul faced at Corinth was how to reduce a pantheon of gods down to one God.

  • And do so while calling the Corinthian ex-pagan to worship both the Father and the Son.

 

So how is it that the ex-pagan can see the worship of the Father and Jesus as the worship/affirmation of the one God of Israel?

 

 

Unitarian Answer:

Unitarian John Schoenheit thinks he has the answer to this question:

  • “This verse, when properly understood, is actually strong evidence that Jesus Christ is not God.”
  • In other words, Christ isn’t God so there is no problem.
  • He is the human-only “one Lord” – an exalted divine agent – and worship is given him at the Father’s pleasure not as “a god”.

 

He goes on to say:

“Polytheism was rampant in Corinth, and Scripture is clear that ‘…there is no God but one’ (1 Cor. 8:4)…[and that] there may be many gods and lords, [but] for Christians there is but one God, the Father, and one Lord, Jesus Christ. If the doctrine of the Trinity is correct, then this text can only be construed as confusing. Here was the perfect opportunity to say, ‘for us there is only one God made up of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost,’ or something similar, but, instead, Scripture tells us that only the Father is God. That should stand as conclusive evidence that Jesus is not God” – John Schoenheit.

 

There are a number of problems with this approach.

 

(1) The obvious one is the question begging – “Scripture tells us that only the Father is God”.

  • As we have seen, Scripture affirms both explicitly and implicitly that Jesus participates in the uniqueness of YHWH, shares the divine name, and is “my Lord and my God”.
    • Suggesting that these claims are better understood as only agency is one thing.
    • Denying their existence all together is bogus.

 

Moreover, this idea that only the Father is God is not in the Bible.

  • This is an idea that finds life only in a misrepresentation of ancient Jewish monotheism.
  • And in the philosophical Unitarian presuppositions we discussed a few weeks ago.

 

(2) The second problem is that this Unitarian approach is no less “confusing” and does nothing to solve the question we raised.

  • The ex-pagan worshipped Jesus Christ and the Father.
  • In their context, to worship a being is to acknowledge it as god or a god.
    • Something the pagan did with all kinds of “gods”.
  • Simply calling one “Lord” and one “God” does nothing to alleviate the predicament of worshipping two “entities” and thus having two “gods”.
  • Actually, the Trinitarian approach is the only one that makes sense of this practice.

 

(3) But even more of a problem than these two is:

  • (A) The suggestion that when Paul uses “Lord” and “God”, only one rightly refers to YHWH.
  • (B) And…that Paul’s silence on a Trinity means Jesus is not God.

 

Both of these ignore the fact that Paul did say, in Schoenheit’s own words, “something similar” about Jesus’ and the Father’s identity.

  • And the way Paul implicitly identified Jesus with the divinity of YHWH is not obtuse.

 

The problem for many, it seems, is that Paul did this in the style of a 2nd Temple Jew steeped in the messaging of a high context culture.

  • He didn’t do this as a 4th century Greek or Latin philosopher or 21st century analytic philosopher.

 

So where does Paul say “something similar” about Jesus’ and the Father’s identity?

  • (1) Paul’s OT allusions in 1 Corinthians 8:4-6.
  • (2) The meaning behind the Greek prepositions used in verse 6.

 

We will unpack both of these.

  • And in so doing, provide the Trinitarians answer to our question.
  • So how is it that the ex-pagan can see the worship of the Father and Jesus as the worship/affirmation of the one God of Israel?

 

 

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

Introduction:

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.

 

First:

  • 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.

 

 

Wrap-Up:

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.

 

 

John 20:24-29 – Biblical Belief

John 20:24–29 (ESV) — 24 Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” 26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

 

 

Introduction:

not with them” (vs. 24)

  • When Jesus first appeared to the disciples, Thomas was absent.
  • We don’t know why.
  • But that makes little difference to an important principle revealed here.
  • Whether for good reason or bad, when we are absent from the fellowship of our Church, we will miss out on the blessings of fellowship.

 

We have seen the Lord” (vs. 25)

  • When Thomas got the report from the other disciples his response is hardly surprising.
  • Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe” (vs. 25).
  • We need to remember that as a second-Temple Jew, Thomas had no category of a risen Messiah or one person rising ahead of everyone else.
  • The other disciples and Mary Magdalene were no better.
  • They “got it” when they saw the risen Jesus just like Thomas did.

 

Interestingly, his statement sounds a lot like the post-modern skeptics of our day.

  • “If God exists, why is He hidden?”
  • “Surely, if He wanted me to believe in Him, He need only show Himself”
  • But, does seeing a resurrected Jesus mean you will trust in Him as Savior?

 

John then tells us that “eight days later” Jesus made His second appearance to the disciples (vs. 26).

  • This time, “Thomas was with them” (vs. 26).
  • And as before, “although the doors were locked” (vs. 26), Jesus just sort of appeared.
  • And as before, He said “Peace be with you” (vs. 26).
  • A dead, buried and risen Messiah says, “Peace be with you”.
  • You got think this is loaded with all sorts of meaning!

 

John then brings us to the moment that was set up in verse 24 – an encounter between Thomas and Jesus.

  • Jesus, as He did with Nathanael in John 1, reveals He knows what the disciples thought and said even when He wasn’t there.
  • And he doesn’t scold Thomas.
  • In fact, we need to keep in mind that, “but for the fact that Thomas and the other apostles saw the incarnate Christ there would have been no Christian faith at all” – D.A. Carson.
  • So, Jesus lovingly says to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe” (vs. 27).

 

John doesn’t make clear if Thomas actually did touch Jesus.

  • But John does make clear what Thomas said.
  • In response to Jesus’ words Thomas said, “My Lord and my God!” (vs. 28).
  • This is well known as the strongest confession of Jesus’ identity in the Gospels.
  • Even more so than Peter’s, Matthew 16:16 (ESV) — 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
  • And to this response Jesus replied, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (vs. 29).

 

It is this last exchange into which we will dive deeper.

 

 

1) MY LORD AND MY GOD

 

At a minimum, before Easter, the disciples believed at least two things about Jesus’ identity.

  • (1) The disciples believed Jesus to be “a prophet mighty in deed” (Luke 24:19).
  • (2) They also believed Jesus to be the Messiah, the “King of the Jews”, “the Lord’s anointed, the promised redeemer” – N.T. Wright.

 

With Jesus’ resurrection these two views would have been solidified.

“The first and most obvious conclusion which the disciples would have drawn, as soon as they came to believe that Jesus of Nazareth had been bodily raised from the dead, was that he was indeed the prophet mighty in word and deed, and that he was, more particularly, Israel’s Messiah. This would not be because they had already believed that the Messiah, when he came, would be raised from the dead, but because the Jesus they knew had been tried and executed as Messiah, and this extraordinary and unexpected event (as it seemed to them) had apparently reversed the verdicts of both the Jewish and the Roman courts” – N.T. Wright.

 

But, from this, how did Thomas arrive at the fact that Jesus was “Kyrios” and “Theos” – Lord and God?

 

Kyrios:

“Kyrios” carries with it the idea of being Master or King over a particular realm.

  • “The concept of lordship combines the two elements of power and authority” – TDNT.
  • It also carries with it the idea of ownership.
  • And it is worth noting that the LXX uses “Kyrios” for the Hebrew “Yahweh”.

 

The realm that is in view here, it must be noted, is all of creation.

  • This includes those creatures who claim to be lord themselves.
  • In other words, to call Jesus “Kyrios” means He is “the world’s true lord” – N.T. Wright.

 

Importantly, identifying Jesus as “Kyrios” is more than the radical theological claim that He is “Yahweh”, the God of the OT, the God of Israel.

  • It is also an “in your face” political statement to all those who think they are in power.
  • Jesus is “Kyrios” of the Jews and the Romans!

 

So how did Thomas arrive at this conclusion?

 

The Jews and the Romans crucified Him as the Messiah, the King of the Jews.

  • Jesus’ words, signs and self title, “Son of Man”, all indicated that He did see Himself as the Messiah.
  • His disciples saw Him as Messiah.
  • And by His resurrection, the Father exalted Him to the throne where He, in fact, assumed His place as the Messiah, the King of the Jews and the Romans.

 

This was His vindication.

  • He was mocked by creation, but the Creator had the last word.
  • This is why the most quoted or alluded to OT verse in the NT is Psalm 110:1.
  • Psalm 110:1 (ESV) — 1 The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”
  • Colossians 3:1 (ESV) — 1 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.

 

Speaking on how Jesus’ resurrection and exaltation confirmed Jesus’ identity, N.T. Wright says:

“The New Testament writers draw on all these to express the point that…they had reached by other means: that Jesus was the Messiah; that he was therefore the world’s true lord; that the creator God had exalted him as such, sharing with him his own throne and unique sovereignty; and that he was therefore to be seen as kyrios. And kyrios meant not only ‘lord of the world’, in the sense that he was the human being now at the helm of the universe, the one to whom every knee, including that of Caesar, must bow, but also ‘the one who makes present and visible what the Old Testament said about YHWH himself” – N.T. Wright.

 

I think John captures Thomas revelation in his opening chapter.

  • John 1:18 (ESV) — 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

 

Theos:

“Theos” is Greek for “God”.

  • The Hebrew equivalent is usually “El”.
  • This proclamation of Thomas goes “hand in glove” with “Kyrios”.
  • The “whats” and “whys” from above apply here.

 

But, importantly, it profoundly links Jesus’ identity to God in the flesh.

  • It is a proclamation that Jesus is God incarnate.
  • And even better, that the Jesus standing before Thomas is the risen God incarnate.
  • John 1:1 (ESV) — 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
  • John 1:14 (ESV) — 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

 

One other significant thing to consider here is:

  • In Thomas, we have a second-Temple, monotheistic Jew claiming that the person, Jesus, is God.
  • In other words, as a result of resurrection, we have a Jew speaking in Trinitarian language.
  • We can add this to all the resurrection mutations that must be accounted for by historians.

 

 

2) SEEING AND BELIEVING

 

We mentioned that Jesus said to Thomas, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (vs. 29).

  • I want to be sure we understand what Jesus is NOT saying.

 

First, as we stated earlier, the reason we have Christianity and all its Jewish mutations is because the disciples and Paul actually saw the risen Jesus Christ in person.

  • Remember, 1 Corinthians 15 begins with the early Christian resurrection creed that cites the list of eyewitnesses that saw the risen Jesus Christ.
  • So, yes, they believed Jesus was “Kyrios” and “Theos” because they saw Him bodily standing in front of them after He had been crucified and buried.
    • Not discounting, of course, that the Holy Spirit had provided them with new hearts to “hear” and “see” this truth.
  • This physically seeing Jesus is necessary and fundamental to the birth of Christianity.

 

But, seeing the risen Jesus is a one-off event.

  • So what about the rest of us?
  • Our belief is based upon the historical testimony of the eyewitnesses (Thomas, Peter, Paul, etc.) as revealed in Scripture.
    • Not discounting, of course, that the Holy Spirit has regenerated our hearts thereby enabling us to respond with belief to this testimony.

 

So Jesus is not saying that a “seeing” belief, in this case, is not as real as a “non-seeing” belief.

  • And Jesus is not saying that because we haven’t seen, our belief has no object.
  • In other words, He is not saying that our faith is a blind faith.

 

Blind Faith – A Common Mistake:

A blind faith is just wishful thinking.

  • It is, as Greg Koukl says, irrationally hoping that thin ice will support your weight.
  • It is a faith that pretends it can exist when contrary to the facts.
  • This is not the faith Jesus is describing.
  • This is not the faith of the Bible.

 

Too many people think the opposite of faith is knowledge – such as Thomas’ need to see Jesus for himself.

  • They think that this type of belief does not require faith and so it is not as “good”.
  • This is false, false, false.
  • The opposite of faith is unbelief, not knowledge.

 

Can we have more faith?

 

And to speak of having “more” faith makes no sense unless your faith is a blind faith.

  • I fell through the ice because I just didn’t have enough faith that thin ice would hold me up.
  • I just need to have more faith that something that is not true will be true.

 

The NT never speaks of faith in this way (that I could find).

  • You will not find the command to have “more” faith.
  • A Biblical faith is qualitative not quantitative.
  • A Biblical faith is milk or meat not less or more.

 

Biblical Faith – Just the Facts:

A Biblical faith is traditionally described as consisting of knowledge, assent and trust.

  • We can rationally determine that a Biblical claim is legit – we can know it.
  • We can then assent or accept this knowledge in our minds as the truth, and thus authoritative over the pretenders to the truth and over our own lives.
  • And then we can trust in it with full assurance that it will deliver what it says it will.

 

Another way to look at Biblical faith is that “to have an object of our faith” is Biblical faith.

  • And, of course, the object of our faith is Jesus Christ and all the things we can learn about Him.
  • And the quality of our faith is related to the truth of the object of our faith and what we know about this object.
  • So, if the object of our faith is found to be false, our faith is false.
  • Remember, Paul said that if Jesus did not rise from the dead, we need to move on.

 

But a blind faith will continue on in ignorant bliss, completely detached from the truth.

 

A text from John gives us a beautiful picture of Biblical faith.

  • John 2:23–25 (ESV) — 23 Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. 24 But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25 and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.

 

We need to know here that “entrust” is actually the exact same word translated as “believed” in verse 23.

  • In fact, it is the exact same word used for “believed” in our John 20:29 text.

 

So in this text, Jesus demonstrates a belief/trust (pisteuo) that is firmly based on knowledge, assent and trust.

  • The object of Jesus’ belief/trust would be the “many” who “believed in his name”.
  • However, Jesus knows something of this object.
  • He knows this because He, “knew all people”.
  • And the thing that He knows is “what was in man”.
  • So because Jesus knows something of the object that is problematic, He cannot assent to it.
  • He therefore will not trust in the object – the “many”.
  • No matter how much Jesus may love them, He cannot blindly “entrust himself to them” – or literally, He cannot “believe in them”.

 

Our faith, Biblical faith, is the very same!

 

BTW – Hebrews 11:1 makes clear that our faith is also wrapped up in what will happen, not just what has happened.

  • We can trust in the future promises made by the object of our faith – Jesus!
  • This is related to why Paul connects the resurrection of Jesus with ours.
  • If ours doesn’t happen, then Jesus’ didn’t happen.