Observations on life; particularly spiritual

Posts tagged “Trinity

Conversation on the Trinity

Here is a conversation on the Trinity that is an extract from the comments after a blogpost. Check the post for the complete discussion that took place over a period of more than three months.

Commentator 11 October

George I have to tread carefully here. My intent is not to say that Christianity is untrue or that the Bible itself is untrue. That would be disrespectful to you. I am only concerned with how you are evaluating other religions and your methodology. But you keep making statements about the Bibles accuracy that are based on your own faith and one particular interpretation not historical or scholarly fact. This is why when we started this conversation instead of attacking Christianity in any way I was pointing out that there were more than one interpretation of Christ, his teachings, and his relationship to God at the time of his death. What that means is that one particular group cannot really claim theirs as the only true understanding. To many historians, archaeologists and scholars the Bible has many contradictions. The Bible is interpreted by many groups differently. So saying that there is only one understanding or interpretation is just not accurate. So as a way to demonstrate I will go back to one of those differences I mentioned earlier, the Trinity. There were some groups of Christians (and still are) that view God, Christ, and the holy spirit as separate beings. If I am correct George you do not believe in this interpretation. So to kind of show that each individuals understanding of the Bible is based on their or their denominations interpretation of the Bible in reference to any particular topic. So here are several quotes from the Bible that if you read them and do not interpret them through your own denominations lens they clearly say that God the Father and his Son Jesus were separate. Jesus himself is referring to himself and God as being separate in each one of them. To say that is not what he is saying is in my opinion linguistically impossible. It would certainly twist reason. To show that this is a matter of interpretation I would like for you to explain how they do not say that they are separate without referencing other passages. The reason I am saying that is, is that I can list out three times as many of these that support the idea that they are separate. Because of space I did not want to list them all. So it really makes no logical sense that you can refute these by just listing a number of other quotes that you interpret as saying that God, Jesus, and the holy spirit are one. If you choose to give a list of quotes that support your interpretation then effectively all you have done is prove an inconsistency.

Mark 10:18 (KJV): “And Jesus said unto him, why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is God.”
Mark 13:32: “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.”
Mark 15:34: “And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? which is being interpreted, My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”
John 5:19: “The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do.”
John 5:26: “For the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself.”
John 7:16: “Jesus answered them, and said, my doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me.”
John 7:17: “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.”

George I am still not trying to say that you or your interpretation is wrong. What I am saying is there is room for more than one interpretation and only you through your faith can decide what is right. The truth is absolute but no ones interpretation of the Bible is absolute.

Well at least you can see that I do own a Bible and have read it.! Take care George!

George’s reply 14 October

Thanks for the comment. You say, “To many historians, archaeologists and scholars the Bible has many contradictions”. I am aware of this, but I understand that these apparent contradictions can be harmonized. If you know of any that are not able to be resolved, please let me know. By the way, different eyewitnesses will not give identical accounts of the same event unless there has been collusion.

You say “The Bible is interpreted by many groups differently. So saying that there is only one understanding or interpretation is just not accurate.” That is true and it’s why I rely on the Bible as an objective source of Christian belief. The main message of the Bible is clear and it is stated repetitively. It’s not ambiguous. Jesus came to reconcile humanity with God and to ultimately restore His creation. If we don’t personally accept that He took the penalty that we deserved, we face eternal punishment in hell. I don’t want you (or anyone) to face a future like that!

You say that some Christians believe that God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are “separate beings” and quote seven Bible verses that seem to support this. The answer is that they are separate (distinct) persons, but one essence (being). Each of the verses quoted refer to God the Father and Jesus Christ as separate persons.

Commentator 15 October

George said, “You say that some Christians believe that God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are “separate beings” and quotes seven Bible verses that seem to support this. The answer is that they are separate (distinct) persons, but one essence (being). Each of the verses quoted refer to God the Father and Jesus Christ as separate persons.”

So George you are saying that they are “but one essence (being)” in other words one “being”. “You say that some Christians believe that God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are “separate beings” and quotes seven Bible verses that seem to support this.” The distinction is that you say one being and others say three separate beings. And these verses do not “seem” to show this, they emphatically show this.

Definition of Trinity: the unity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as three persons in one Godhead according to Christian dogma.

Definition of godhead:
1 divine nature or essence
2 God

The definition above agrees with you George, Jesus , the holy ghost, and God are one being called God. The problem is that the Bible does not.

Mark 13:32: “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.”

If you take this sentence apart man, the son (Jesus), and the angels do not know the hour. Only the father knows the hour (they are separate otherwise they would both know). If they are the same being this is impossible. If they were the same being Jesus and the father would know what the angels and man do not. The Bible says that they are separate beings not one. Bible believing Christians want to take the Bible literally until they get to passages that cause them a problem. There is no amount of linguistic gymnastics that you can do to make this statement mean that god and Jesus are one being.

George’s reply 28 October

Thanks for the comment. With regard to the trinity you say, “you say one being and others say three separate beings”. It’s what the Bible says that counts, not what I or someone else may say. In exegesis, it’s dangerous to interpret a verse without considering its context and what the Bible says elsewhere on the topic. The Bible is an integrated book, not isolated verses.

The Bible says that Jesus is God (Rom. 9:5). He is the exact representation of God’s being (Jn. 14:9, Heb. 1:3).
“Anyone who has seen me [Jesus] has seen the Father” (Jn. 14:9NIV).
“The Son [Jesus] is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His [God’s] being, sustaining all things by His [Jesus’] powerful word” (Heb. 1:3NIV).
“The Son [Jesus] radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and He [Jesus] sustains everything by the mighty power of His [Jesus’] command” (Heb. 1:3NLT).

The Bible also says that Jesus is equal with God the Father:
“I [Jesus] and the Father are one” (Jn. 10:30).
“I [Jesus] am in the Father, and the Father is in me [Jesus]” (Jn. 10:38, 14:10-11).
“He [Jesus] was God” and so Jesus had “equality with God” (Phil. 2:6).

The God of the Bible is monotheistic, not tri-theistic. Trying to understand the trinity is like Job trying to understand God. God said that Job was speaking “ignorant words” or “words without knowledge” (Job 38:2). Job was ignorant about God. After a revelation of God’s wisdom, power, providence and sovereignty in nature (Job 39-41), Job repented of his pride and acknowledged “surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know” (Job. 42:1-6). When Job was trying to understand God, he was talking about things he knew nothing about. Likewise, when we are discussing the trinity, we are discussing things we know very little about. We don’t understand God’s power (it’s infinite). We don’t understand God’s goodness (it’s perfect). And we don’t understand God’s composition (one being but three persons).

Here’s a verse that shows that Jesus is both the same as God and separate from God in some way, “In the beginning [of time] the Word [Jesus] already existed. The Word [Jesus] was with God, and the Word [Jesus] was God” (Jn. 1:1). It’s perplexing to us because this mystery is beyond our human experience. As an ant is ignorant of the universe, we are ignorant of the unseen spiritual world (except for what is revealed in the Bible). After all, we can’t assume that the unseen spiritual world is like our physical world.

When Jesus said He didn’t know when He would return to earth to set up His kingdom (Mk. 13:32), it shows that He wasn’t always omniscient. Whereas, on another occasion He was omniscient (Jn. 1:48). This could be an example of a divine power that He gave up when He came to earth – “He gave up His divine privileges; He took the humble position of a slave” (Phil. 2:7NLT). Also, see my blogpost for another possible explanation of Matthew 24:36 and Mark 13:32.

Commentator 28 October

George, you still don’t get it. All you do is repeat bible quotes that if I really had the desire and the energy I could use the very same bible to refute them.

George’s reply 9 November

Thanks for the comment. You say you could use the Bible to refute bible quotes. You imply that the Bible is contradictory. But the only case presented in all your comments relates to the trinity, which I have answered in some detail. The main points were that the Bible is an integrated book, not isolated verses. And because we are finite, we don’t understand God’s composition (one being but three persons).

Commentator 10 November

George says: “You say you could use the Bible to refute bible quotes. You imply that the Bible is contradictory. But the only case presented in all your comments relates to the trinity, which I have answered in some detail. The main points were that the Bible is an integrated book, not isolated verses. And because we are finite, we don’t understand God’s composition (one being but three persons).”

As I have repeatedly stated I am refuting your methodology in attacking other religions not claiming your religion is false. I gave you 7 verses that anyone with a elementary school level education in the English language would say after reading them that they are referring to separate beings. Your answer is “And because we are finite, we don’t understand God’s composition (one being but three persons)”.

No George this has nothing to do with us not understanding God. We understand the English language just fine and understand what those verses say. You are giving these verses a meaning that they don’t say, one being but three persons. You can argue that these verses say “one being but three persons” all you want but it is just in your imagination because no where in them do those words appear.

This has been one of the problems with this discussion from the beginning. You like to make statements as fact that just are not fact at all. When you do not have an answer for what I give your answer is that you just do not answer.

Commentator 21 November

I gave you 7 bible verses where in plain English it says that the Father, son, and holy ghosts were separate. You ignore this fact and claim otherwise.

Commentator 22 November

You say that the bible is consistent. I brought up before the different views on the trinity and you, like usual, came back in an authoritative way proclaiming that the bible clear teaches the trinity but that I just did not understand it. Well here is a write up by a fellow Christian that uses the bible to disprove the notion of the trinity and gives 74 reasons why, oddly taken right from …………wait for it…………………the bible (see Appendix A)! His name is Michael A. Barber, in fact he has written a whole book on it! Funny George I thought that this argument was settled? I guess there is more than one interpretation of the Bible isn’t there.

George’s reply 26 November

Thanks for the previous three comments. You used seven verses about the trinity to claim that the trinity is comprised of three separate beings, which is different to the traditional explanation that the trinity is one being but three persons. Why the difference? You use a biased sample that leaves out verses that imply that the trinity is one being. A biased sample gives a biased interpretation. We can’t find the truth if we ignore some of the evidence.

The Bible teaches that there is only one God (monotheism) (Dt. 6:4; 1 Cor. 8:4; 1 Tim. 2:5). Nevertheless, it is clear in the Bible that the Father is God (e.g., 1 Cor. 1:3; 1 Cor. 8:6; Phil. 1:2), Jesus is God (e.g., Jn. 1:1-3; Col. 1:15-20; Tit. 2:13), and the Holy Spirit is God (e.g. Acts 5:3-4; 1 Cor 3:16). When these verses are considered along with the others, it’s clear that the trinity is one being but three persons. There is one God who exists as three persons. The Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit are different persons (or minds), but these three minds all exist as one being—God. And all three persons of the godhead are associated together on an equal basis in the Bible (Mt. 3:13-17; 28:19; Eph. 3:14-21; 1 Pt. 1:2; 2 Cor. 13:14; 2 Th. 2;13).

One of the principles of biblical hermeneutics is to use the Bible to help interpret itself (use Scripture to interpret Scripture). To interpret a passage without taking into account other passages that deal with the same topic can cause a poor interpretation. Ask, what other passages are related to the subject of this passage and how do they affect the understanding of this passage? We can practice this principle by using a Bible with cross-references in the margin.

Since the Bible is the Word of God and God cannot lie or contradict Himself (Num. 23:19; Heb. 6:18), then one passage will never contradict another passage. If we incorrectly interpret a given passage, by studying other passages on the same topic, we can recognize our error. Human beings are fallible, but our mistakes of interpretation do not mean that the Bible is flawed. Usually it is our flawed interpretation that is the problem.

Commentator 30 November

George said “He uses a biased sample that leaves out verses that imply that the trinity is one being.” In reference to the 7 verses that said that the trinity was not one being.

Well George you have claimed that there is no contradiction in the bible. If you have multiple verses that clearly say that the trinity is three separate beings and then you have multiple verses that say that the trinity is one being that is the epitome of contradiction! You can’t have it both ways George! Nice try!

George says “The Bible teaches that there is only one God”. This is why the Christians had to tie themselves in a knot trying to explain that God had a son. It is simple logic that if God had a Son he would also be a god. That doesn’t sound very monotheistic now does it? That is why they had to come up with the Trinity in the first place. The Jews of the time would not accept a polytheistic religion like Christianity. I do not have my Bible with me right now but we will get back to the concept of the bible teaching only one god when I do.

George’s reply 17 December

Thanks for the last three comments. You criticize the Bible because you can find some people who make different interpretations of it and you can find ancient books that make statements that differ from it. But by using this method, other religions like Buddhism could also be criticized for the same reasons.

Commentator 18 December

This is no longer a discussion. Sadly you do not answer any of the questions I ask you and take my words and turn them around to try and score some sort of points. It began as a good discussion and I hoped that it would continue. It is a sad day! Hopefully during our discussions god has opened your eyes to be more tolerant of other faiths and that you can see that attacking them bears nothing but bad fruit. My god give you wisdom George. Well I am finished here. Merry Christmas to you and your family! I hope you have a pleasant holiday celebrating the birth of your lord.

George’s reply 25 December

Thanks. May God also give you wisdom. And may you also have a happy festive season over Christmas and the New Year.

Appendix A: Is the Trinity Taught in the Bible?
Link provided by commentator to a web page by Michael A. Barber.

In 1550 AD, in England, Joan Bocher was sentenced and burned to death. Her crime? The Encyclopedia Britannica (1964) says: “She was condemned for open blasphemy in denying the Trinity, the one offence which all the church had regarded as unforgivable ever since the struggle with Arianism.”

On October 27th, 1553 AD, Michael Servetus, a medical practitioner, was burned at the stake at Geneva, Switzerland, for denying the doctrine of the Trinity.

In 1693 AD a pamphlet attacking the Trinity was burned by order of the House of Lords, and the following year its printer and author were prosecuted.

In 1697 AD Thomas Aikenhead, an 18 year old student, was charged with denying the Trinity and hanged at Edinburgh, Scotland.

In 1711 AD Sir Isaac Newton’s friend, William Whiston (translator of the works of Jewish historian Josephus), lost his professorship at Cambridge for denying the Trinity.

An Historical Account of Two Notable Corruptions of Scripture, detailing Sir Isaac Newton’s condemnation of the Trinity teaching, was first published in 1754, twenty-seven years after Newton’s death, due to the controversies surrounding the doctrine and the church’s treatment of those who denied it.

What is it about the doctrine of the Trinity that has created such extreme examples of religious intolerance? Moreover, what was it that the above people, and others like them, saw in this teaching that impelled them to deny it at such great cost?

The following questions help to identify clearly the issues involved in this article’s title. By examining these questions, and consulting the cited scriptures, the nature of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, as taught in the Bible, will become clear.

  1. Advocates of the Trinity doctrine believe that the words of Jesus at John 10:30, “I and the Father are one,” refer to the teaching that Jesus is God. But how does John 10:30 harmonize with John 17:22, where Jesus says, “in order that they [that is, the disciples] may be one just as we are one”?
  2. In what sense, then, are the Father and the Son “one”?
  3. The Greek language has three words that correspond to the English word “one” using three genders, (1) masculine, (2) feminine, and (3) neuter. If the oneness of the Father and the Son was a reference to the “persons of the godhead,” which gender would be used in this context: masculine, feminine, or neuter?
  4. Which gender is used for “one” at John 10:30 and at John 17:22 in the Greek text of the inspired scriptures?
  5. What did Jesus mean when he said, “He that has seen me has seen the Father”?—John 14:9.
  6. How does the above scripture harmonize with Hebrews 1:3, where Jesus is referred to as the “exact likeness” of his Father (Today’s English Version)?
  7. How do some believe that the following scriptures — as read from the Authorised (King James) Version — support the Trinity: Philippians 2:6; 1 Timothy 3:16; 1 John 5:7?
  8. Why do most other Bible versions not agree with the above renderings?
  9. The discovery of the Sinaitic manuscript (held at The British Library, but sometimes on view at the British Museum) shows how a “later hand” corrupted 1 Timothy 3:16 to read “he” rather than “who” — completely altering the sense of the verse. Would a sincere Bible student agree with the original, or with the corrupted version?
  10. Which version does the King James (AV)translation use?
  11. What did Jesus mean by his words “Abraham your father rejoiced greatly at the prospect of seeing my day”? — John 8:56.
  12. Why did the Jews then reply to Jesus, “You are not yet fifty years old, and still you have seen Abraham?” — John 8:57.
  13. What was the meaning of Jesus’ response in verse 58, “Before Abraham was, I am”? (King James)
  14. Is the expression translated “I am” in this verse the equivalent of the expression found at Exodus 3:14?
  15. Why do the following versions render John 8:58 thus:
    “I have existed before Abraham was born.”
       Moffatt, Schonfield, and An American Translation
    “Before Abraham came to be, I was.”
         Stage
    “Before there was an Abraham, I was already there!”
         Pfaefflin
    “Before Abraham was born, I was.”
         George M. Lansa, from the Syriac Peshitta
    “Before Abraham existed, I was existing.”
         ‘Sacred Bible’, Catholic Bible Center
  16. How does the authoritative work on Biblical Greek Moulton’s Grammar of New Testament Greek (Vol. III, page 62) explain the use of the Perfective Present (“I have been”) at John 8:58 where the Greek word EI.MI’ is used?
  17. When John the Baptist used the same Greek word (EI.MI’) at John 3:28, how does the context demonstrate that the Good News Translation rendering of “I have been sent ahead of him,” is superior to “I am sent before him” (Authorised Version)?
  18. Consequently, was Jesus not referring to the fact of his having existed since before the time of Abraham?
  19. Although Trinitarians claim there is a connection between what Jesus said at John 8:58 and what Jehovah said at Exodus 3:14, how does an examination of the original inspired language text reveal otherwise?
  20. Whilst the Hebrew term at Exodus 3:14 (EH.YEH’) is rendered “I am” in some translations, why is it that in every other instance of the rendering of this term in the Bible, these same Bible versions correctly translate it using the future tense: “I will be”?
  21. When Jehovah used the same expression, EH.YEH’, in Exodus 3:12, “certainly I will be with thee,” why do translations correctly use the future tense for verse 12, but choose the present tense when the same word is used in verse 14?
  22. Is it not clear that, in Exodus 3:14, Jehovah is referring to his future purposes, whereas at John 8:58, Jesus is referring to his past, his prehuman existence during the time of Abraham?
  23. In Daniel 7:13, 14, who is it that is referred to as the “Ancient of Days,” and also, who is the “son of man” who was given “dominion and glory”?
  24. Who granted the “son of man” this “dominion and glory”?
  25. Was the vision of an earthly, or a heavenly scene?
  26. Why was the Holy Spirit not mentioned?
  27. In Psalm 110:1, two “lords” are referred to (Authorised Version). What is the identify of each “lord”?
  28. How can God and Christ be “coequal” when Jesus said that his Father was greater than he is?—John 14:28.
  29. At Proverbs 8:22, 23, who is the “Creator” and who is the one “created” as the beginning of God’s works?
  30. Does the above scripture harmonise with Colossians 1:15, 16 and Revelation 3:14 concerning Jesus’ being the first of God’s creation?
  31. Mark 13:32 says that “no-one knows” the day or the hour of God’s coming judgement, not even the son “but only the Father.” How is this possible if Jesus is God?
  32. Further, why is it that the Holy Spirit does not know the day or hour?
  33. The 144,000 bear the name of the Father and the Son on their forehead, why not also the name of the Holy Spirit?—Revelation 14:1.
  34. Just before the disciple Stephen was stoned to death, he saw a vision of Christ standing at God’s right hand. Why didn’t he also see the Holy Spirit?—Acts 7:56.
  35. How did Jesus cause the disciples to receive Holy Spirit by blowing upon them?—John 20:22 (see Genesis 1:2).
  36. Does the use of a masculine pronoun (“he”) by itself prove that something is a person?—Joshua 24:27; Luke 7:35; Romans 5:14, 21; Revelation 16:7.
  37. Are Jesus, or his father Jehovah, ever referred to in the Bible by the impersonal pronoun “it”?—John 1:32; John 14:17; Romans 8:26.
  38. When the Bible uses the expression “the Holy Spirit said,” does this mean that the Holy Spirit is a person?
  39. Why, then, does Acts 4:25 say “the Holy Spirit, by the mouth of our father David thy servant, didst say…”?
  40. When someone uses the expression “look what it says here in the newspaper,” do we conclude that the newspaper is literally speaking?
  41. As God’s Word is produced by his Holy Spirit, is it not clear that the “speaking” is done whenever we read his Word?
  42. When the Bible uses the expression “the Holy Spirit said,” who else in fact sometimes does the actual speaking? — Acts 19:6; 21:4.
  43. Which scriptures show that Jesus Christ was subject to his Father before his coming to earth, upon his coming to earth and lastly, after returning to heaven?
  44. The Bible repeatedly says that Jehovah is one God. How is this possible if he consists of three persons?
  45. Is Jesus also this one God?
  46. Does this “one God” consist of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as the “three persons in one God”?
  47. Why, then, did Paul speak of the one who is one God as being “the Father”? — 1 Corinthians 8:5, 6.
  48. Also, why, in the above scripture, is the “one God” separate and distinct from the “one Lord,” Jesus Christ?
  49. Why does Jesus refer to the Father as “my God” even after his return to heaven, if Jesus is said to be God? — Revelation 3:2, 12.
  50. Why does the much-used expression “God the son” not occur even once throughout the Bible?
  51. Though some translations use John 1:1 to support the Trinity, why do the following versions render it thus:
    “The Logos [Word] was Divine.”
    James Moffatt
    “The Word was Divine.”
       Smith-Goodspeed
    “The Word was itself of Divine Being.”
         Stage
    “And God [=of Divine Being] the Word was.”
         Menge
    “And God of a sort the Word was.”
         Thimme
  52. From a biblical perspective, can a human be called a god? — Psalm 82:1, 6; Acts 28:6.
  53. Can an angel be called a god?— Psalm 8:5.
  54. Can Satan be called a god? — 2 Corinthians 4:4.
  55. If the Hebrew word for God (E.LO.HIM’) can be used to mean something less than a god (for example, “great,” “mighty”), why is it so unusual that Christ is referred to as an E.LO.HIM’ at John 1:1 (using the Greek THE.OS’)? — Genesis 23:6; 30:8; Deuteronomy 28:32; 1 Samuel 14:15; Job 41:25 (v.17 in the Masoretic Text); Psalm 29:1; 36:6; 50:1; 82:1; 89:6; Ezekiel 17:13.
  56. What reason does Bible Translator William Barclay give for the absence of the definite article [“the”] before the “Word” at John 1:1?
  57. How does John 1:1 harmonise with John 1:18, where “the only-begotten god,” Jesus, is described as being in the bosom position with the Father?
  58. How does the above understanding further harmonise with Jesus’ statements explaining that he has not originated anything, but speaks only what his Father taught him to speak? — John 5:19, 30; 8:28.
  59. If Jesus and his apostles had taught the Trinity, why did unbelieving Jews, who bitterly and passionately opposed Christianity, not attack a doctrine that to them would have been abhorrent?
  60. If the Father and the Son are both said to be co-eternal and co-equal, why are there many references to the subordination of the Son to the Father (John 5:19, 30; 7:28; 8:28, 42; 12:49; 14:28; Romans 15:6; 1 Corinthians 15:28; 2 Corinthians 1:3; Ephesians 1:3; Colossians 1:3; 1 Timothy 2:5; 1 Peter 1:3; Revelation 3:14, etc.) but no references to the subordination of the Father to the Son?
  61. Why, when a certain ruler called Jesus “Good Teacher,” did Jesus refuse the title, saying that “nobody is good, except one, God”? — Mark 10:17, 18.
  62. At Matthew 4:1, Jesus is spoken of as being “tempted by the Devil.” But how could Jesus be tempted to be disloyal to God if he was God?
  63. When the apostle Paul described Jesus’ sacrifice as a “ransom” at 1 Timothy 2:6, he used the Greek term anti’lutron for “ransom.” However, the word for ransom is simply lu’tron (for example, as used at Matthew 20:28).  What do Greek scholars say about the term anti’lutron?
  64. As Jesus’ sacrifice bought back (repurchased) what Adam had lost (for example, Jesus himself is referred to as the “last Adam” at 1 Corinthians 15:45), if Jesus was God, how could he be the equivalent of the man Adam?
  65. How can Jesus be “co-eternal” with the Father if he is at the same time referred to as the “only-begotten Son”? — John 1:14; 3:16, 18; 1 John 4:9.
  66. Why did the Roman soldier say of Jesus “certainly this was God’s Son” if the disciples had taught that Jesus was God? — Matthew 27:54.
  67. Who is the “one mediator between God and men”? — 1 Timothy 2:5.
  68. Trinitarians point to Isaiah 9:6 where Jesus is called “Mighty God” in support of their teaching. But, although the expression “Mighty God” is here applied to Jesus, inasmuch as he is certainly the powerful “only-begotten god” (John 1:18), why is it that the Father is the only one to whom the expression Almighty God is used? — Genesis 17:1; Exodus 6:3; Job 34:10; Ezekiel 10:5.
  69. If Jesus was God, to whom did he ascend according to his own words to Mary Magdalene: “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God”? — John 20:17, RS, Catholic edition.
  70. What reason did Jesus give for his “going to the Father” at John 14:28?
  71. If Jesus himself taught that “the Father is greater than” the Son, how can the Son be co-equal with the Father, as the Trinity doctrine teaches? — John 14:28.
  72. At John 5:18, the Jews (in this case, the Pharisees) accused Jesus of “making himself equal with God.” Did the Pharisees accuse Jesus of claiming to be God?
  73. Jesus made a reply to the above accusation when he said: “The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do” (Authorised Version). How does this statement completely refute the claim of Jesus being “equal with God”?
  74. As Trinitarians sometimes use John 5:18 in support of their teaching, which of the following should be more important to Christians: the accusation of the Pharisees, or the response of the Lord Jesus Christ?

This is an extract from “The Trinity – In Light of the Harmony of the Holy Scriptures”, Michael A Barber (2017).

George’s reply

Barber’s comment on Isaac Newton is deceptive. Newton only addressed two verses (1 Tim. 3:16 and 1 Jn. 5:7) and his textural findings have been adopted in the modern critical text of the New Testament. But they have no implications on the Trinity because the teaching of the Trinity is mentioned many times in Scripture and doesn’t just rely on a few verses. Since early times (over 1,200 years before Newton) Christians have understood that the Bible teaches a triune God (see Appendix B).

Appendix B: Early Christian Creeds

Extracts from early Christian Creeds that mention the Trinity. These creeds were developed to counter Arianism (the heresy of denying the divinity of Christ).

Apostles Creed (AD 200)

I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit …

Nicene Creed (AD 381)

We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds (æons), Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father; by whom all things were made;

And in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father, who with the Father and the Son together is worshiped and glorified, who spake by the prophets.

Athanasian creed (AD 500)

We worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; neither confounding the Persons, nor dividing the Essence. For there is one Person of the Father; another of the Son; and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one; the Glory equal, the Majesty coeternal. Such as the Father is; such is the Son; and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father uncreated; the Son uncreated; and the Holy Ghost uncreated. The Father unlimited; the Son unlimited; and the Holy Ghost unlimited. The Father eternal; the Son eternal; and the Holy Ghost eternal. And yet they are not three eternals; but one eternal. As also there are not three uncreated; nor three infinites, but one uncreated; and one infinite. So likewise the Father is Almighty; the Son Almighty; and the Holy Ghost Almighty. And yet they are not three Almighties; but one Almighty. So the Father is God; the Son is God; and the Holy Ghost is God. And yet they are not three Gods; but one God. So likewise the Father is Lord; the Son Lord; and the Holy Ghost Lord. And yet not three Lords; but one Lord. For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity; to acknowledge every Person by himself to be God and Lord; So are we forbidden by the catholic religion; to say, There are three Gods, or three Lords. The Father is made of none; neither created, nor begotten. The Son is of the Father alone; not made, nor created; but begotten. The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son; neither made, nor created, nor begotten; but proceeding. So there is one Father, not three Fathers; one Son, not three Sons; one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts. And in this Trinity none is before, or after another; none is greater, or less than another. But the whole three Persons are coeternal, and coequal. So that in all things, as aforesaid; the Unity in Trinity, and the Trinity in Unity, is to be worshipped. He therefore that will be saved, let him thus think of the Trinity.

Written, September 2019


God is great

God is great 5 400pxThe Islamic call to prayer begins with “Allahu akbar”, which means “God is great” or “God is greater”. This phrase is recited by Muslims in many different situations.

There are lots of ideas about God. Some think God’s like a harsh judge or policeman. Others think God’s like an indulgent grandfather. Is God close or distant? Is God involved in our world or disinterested? Is God separate from creation (nature) or a part of it? Is God fixed or changeable?

Job’s friends were rebuked for misrepresenting God (Job. 42:7). And the Israelites were commanded not to worship false gods (Ex. 20:3-5). God has revealed Himself to humanity in creation, the Bible and Jesus Christ. As all we know about Jesus is from the Bible, the Bible is the best way to know what God is like and what He is not like.

What does the Bible reveal about God’s attributes, characteristics, nature or qualities? In this case we are looking at who God is, not what He does. Erickson (2013) divides these attributes into two categories: God’s greatness, and God’s goodness. This blogpost summarizes eleven aspects of God’s greatness.

God is Spiritual

Jesus said, “God is spirit, and His worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth” (Jn. 4:24NIV). This means that God’s not part of our physical world. It’s like He is in a different dimension or realm of reality. He is not composed of physical matter and is not restricted by the limitations of our physical universe. So God is invisible (1 Tim. 1:17; 6:15-16). But Jesus did reveal some of God’s attributes when He took on a human form (Jn. 1:18; Col. 1:15). So, let’s study the Bible to find out more about the unseen God and how He wants us to live.

God is Alive

Jesus said, “as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son (Jesus) also to have life in Himself” (Jn. 5:26). God is self-existent and the source of all life (Acts 17:25). In contrast to dead idols, He is a living God (Jer.10:10; 1 Th. 1:9). Because God is alive, He can think, act, communicate, and answer our prayers. And He can give spiritual life to those who seek Him. So, let’s bring our cares and needs to the living God in prayer.

God is Personal

The Bible teaches that God is personal, with self-consciousness, intelligence to reason and design, a will, capable of feeling, and choosing and having a relationship with people. Personal names and pronouns are applied to God. In the beginning, God communicated with Adam and Eve. And later, Jesus visited earth as a human being. God is not an impersonal force. So, let’s interact with the personal God as we read the Bible.

God is Triune

It is evident from Scripture that there is one true God who is in the form of three persons. When dismissing idols as gods, Paul said that “There is no God but one” (1 Cor. 8:4). And in a discussion on faith and deeds James said “You believe that there is one God. Good!” (Jas. 2:19). So Christianity is monotheistic. But it is a different monotheism to that of Islam.

Jesus told His disciples, “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son (Jesus Christ) and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt. 28:19). Here the singular name of God is said to be “the Father … the Son and … the Holy Spirit”, which is three persons. Jesus was God (Jn. 1:1). He was “in very nature God” and equal with God (Phil. 2:6). Jesus was also “the exact representation of His (God’s) being” and called “God” and “Lord” (Heb. 1: 3, 8, 10). Also, the Bible uses the “Holy Spirit” and “God” as interchangeable expressions” (Acts. 5:3-4; 1 Cor. 3:16-17; 6:19). So let’s praise God for sending Jesus as part of His plan of salvation. And pray to Him in Jesus name because Jesus is our mediator (Jn. 16:23). And realize that the Holy Spirit is always available to help us because He lives within us.

God is Infinite

As God created everything, He can’t be limited by anything. This includes: time, space, knowledge, power, and anything else we can think of. He is outside time and space (or in a different dimension or realm of being). So He can’t be limited by any of the constraints in the universe. God’s greatness can’t be measured. So, let’s respond with awe to the infinite God. As this attribute is beyond our understanding, it is considered in more detail in the next four attributes.

God is Eternal

Because God existed before there was time, He isn’t limited in time. He’s not located at a particular time in history because He created time. This means that He doesn’t have a time clock like us. He always is, always was and always will be. God is eternal – He is “the eternal God” (Gen. 21:33; Dt., 33:27; Rom. 16:26). As God existed before anything else came into being (Gen. 1:1), He can continue to exist independently of everything else. Because He had no beginning (or cause), God has no birthday or age. He also has no end – He is immortal. Moses prayed, “from everlasting to everlasting you are God” (Ps. 90:2). This means that God is always present. He has access to creation at all times. Although God isn’t bound by time, He is aware of the succession of events within the history of the universe. And because God is eternal, He doesn’t get taken by surprise. So, let’s appreciate the eternal life we have though the eternal God.

God is Everywhere (omnipresent)

Because God existed before there was space, He isn’t limited in space. He’s not located at a particular point because He created space. This means that He doesn’t have any GPS coordinates like us. Conversely, there is no point in space where it can be said that God isn’t present. David wrote, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens (up), you are there; if I make my bed in the depths (down), you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn (east), if I settle on the far side of the sea (west), even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast” (Ps. 139:7-10). David couldn’t hide from God’s presence. This means that God is accessible at any point in His creation. And God can access all the universe. So God is omnipresent. But this doesn’t mean that He is everything. So, let’s be aware of God’s presence at all times.

God is All-knowing (omniscient)

Because God existed before knowledge came into being, He knows everything. David wrote, “You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely. You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain” (Ps. 139:2-6). And the writer of Hebrews says, “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him (God) to whom we must give account” (Heb. 4:13). God sees and knows everything! Nothing is hidden from Him. Nothing is a mystery to Him. So God is omniscient. Since He knows everything, His justice will always be administered fairly. So, let’s trust the all-knowing God to know what is best for us.

God is All-powerful (omnipotent)

Because God created and sustains everything, He has unlimited power. From Genesis to Revelation, He is referred to as “God Almighty”. God told Abram, “I am God Almighty” (Gen. 17:1). And John saw “the Lord God Almighty” in his vison of the heavenly city (Rev. 21:22). God’s power over nature is illustrated in the Bible by many miracles such as the birth of Isaac, the plagues in Egypt, the crossing of the Red Sea, and Christ’s miracles including the stilling of the storm. Of course God cannot act contrary to His nature or fail to fulfil His promises. So, let’s trust the all-powerful God to keep His promises.

God is Constant (unchanging)

God’s attributes don’t change with time. Although the Jews repeatedly broke their covenant with God, God kept His part of the covenant in accordance with the statement that “I the Lord do not change” (Mal. 3:6). And James says that God “does not change like shifting shadows” (Jas. 1:17). There is no reason for God to change because He is perfect. So He is constant, consistent, reliable and trustworthy. He’s perpetually the same. That’s why God is said to be like a rock (Dt. 32:4). This means that God is dependable and will fulfil His promises. So, let’s rely on the constant God.

God is All-sufficient (sustainer)

When Jacob blessed his son Joseph, he said that God Almighty blesses “with blessings of the skies above, blessings of the deep springs below, blessings of the breast and womb” (Gen. 49:25). So God nourishes and sustains His people like a mother breastfeeds her infant. Because God is self-sufficient, He needs nothing from anyone. He is able to supply all the needs of His people; “my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19). God has addressed all our problems, doubts and difficulties, in the gospel of His Son, Jesus Christ. So, let’s rely on the all-sufficient God to get through the trials of life.

God’s greatness in Scripture

The Bible refers repeatedly to God’s greatness. He is “the great God” (Dt. 10:17; Ezra 5:8; Neh. 8:6; 9:32; Ps. 95:3; Dan. 2:45) and “great and awesome” (Dt. 7:21; Dan. 9:4). Also, Jesus is said to be “our great God and Savior” (Titus 2:13). The Hebrew word is gadol (Strongs #1419), which in this context means great in importance (Brown-Driver-Briggs). The Greek word is megas (Strongs #3173), which in this context means a person of great rank because of their ability, virtue and power (Thayer’s Greek Lexion). In these passages, this greatness relates to the triune God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The magnitude of His greatness is described as:
– “God is greater than any mortal” (Job 33:12)
– “How great is God—beyond our understanding!” (Job 36:26)
– God is “very great” (Ps. 96:4)
– God is “greater than all” (Jn. 10:29)

God’s greatness demands a response:
– “praise the greatness of our God!” (Dt. 32:3)
– “great is the Lord and most worthy of praise” (1 Chron. 16:25; Ps. 104:1)
– “And they were all amazed at the greatness of God” (Lk. 9:43)

God and humanity

The only attributes listed above that are shared by humanity are spirit, life and personality. But there are also differences. While on earth, our spirits are linked with our bodies, whereas God the Father and the Holy Spirit are spirits without bodies and Jesus Christ is a spirit linked to a resurrected (heavenly) body. Although we are alive, we are not self-existent or the source of all life. And although we can know, feel, will and act, we can’t do this as three persons! But because we are both personal, we can have a relationship with God.

Lessons for us

Our God is great because He is an infinite, eternal, omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent, living and personal triune spirit, who is reliable (constant) and all-sufficient. God is mega! He is unique, being far above humanity and any other deity. He’s greater than Allah and all other gods. So He deserves our praise and worship!

References
Millard J. Erickson (2013) “Christian theology”. Third edition. Baker Academic, Grand Rapids, MI, USA.

Written, April 2017

Also see: God is good
What God does


Is the New Testament reliable?

website-evaluation-2-400pxA US assistant professor of communication and media has compiled a list of about 134 unreliable news sites. The list has four categories of truthfulness. Category one includes fake, false or regularly misleading websites, which use distorted headlines or dubious information. Category two covers websites that may circulate misleading and/or potentially unreliable information. Category three is used for websites that employ clickbait-headlines, while category four covers sites that are purposefully fake with the intent of satire/comedy, but have the potential to be shared as actual/literal news. The best thing to do to combat unreliable and untrustworthy web sites is to read/watch/listen widely and often, and to be critical of the sources we share and engage with on social media.

I have received the following comment.
“Explain 1 john 5:7-8 and why roman church admittedly added this idolatry to the koine Greek original scriptures? Why was Mark 16:9-20 and hundreds of other passages added into the bible by roman church fathers? Maybe James was belittled since he said to maintain all the laws as did Jesus.
Jesus says in Mathew 15:24 and 10:5-6 his movement was for Jews only…not for gentiles or Samaritans …Paul comes along and re invents the entire movement into “Paulianity” calling all laws of God a curse …Many people are now asking these questions.”

The commentator seems to be saying that the New Testament isn’t reliable. This post addresses the topics raised by the commentator and concludes that the New Testament is a reliable document.

Explanation of 1 John 5:7-8

6This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. 7For there are three that testify: 8the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement” (1 Jn. 5:6-8NIV).

The author, the apostle John wrote this letter in about 90 AD to combat Gnostic heresy whose central teaching was that the spirit is good and matter is evil. Gnostics believed that the human body (being matter) is evil and God (being spirit) is good. Salvation is the escape from the body, which is achieved not by faith in Christ but by special knowledge (gnosis is the Greek word for knowledge). They denied Christ’s humanity. Some believed that the divine Christ joined the man Jesus at baptism and left Him in the Garden of Gethsemane before He died. This means that it was only the man Jesus who died.

John opposed this heresy by stressing that Jesus was truly divine and truly human (1 Jn. 1:1; 2:22; 4:2-3; 5:1; 5:5). Then he says that Jesus “came by water and blood” (5:6). Water probably symbolizes Christ’s baptism and blood symbolizes His death. Jesus was just as much Christ when He died as when He was baptized.

In verses 7-8 John mentions three sources of testimony for believing the divinity of Christ. These are the Holy Spirit, Christ’s baptism and Christ’s death. The witness of the Holy Spirit is the message of the apostles recorded in the New Testament. The witness at His baptism was when God the Father said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased” (Mt. 3:17). The witness of Christ’s substitutionary death is that it fully paid the penalty for our sins. No one took His life from Him; He gave it up by Himself. If He was only a man, He couldn’t have done this. All of these witnesses are united in their testimony of the divinity and work of Christ.

Addition to 1 John 5:7

A few very late manuscripts of the (Vulgate) Bible add to the end of v.7 “in heaven—the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one. And there are three that testify on earth”. Erasmus added these words about the trinity to later editions of his Greek New Testament under pressure from the Pope (they occur in the official Roman Catholic Latin Bible, the Vulgate). These words are included in the Textus Receptus Greek text (e.g. NKJV), but not in the Critical (e.g. most modern translations) or Majority Greek Texts. But this passage isn’t found in any Greek manuscript before the fourteenth century AD (see Appendix A). Please note that the doctrine of the trinity does not rest upon this single passage because, as shown below, it is mentioned in many other Scriptures.

The commentator calls the late addition of the trinity to 1 John 5:7, “idolatry”. So is belief in the trinity of God the Father, God the Son (Jesus Christ) and the God Holy Spirit, Scripturally correct or heresy? Here’s what God says (2 Tim. 3:16) about this topic:
“As soon as Jesus was baptized, He went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he (John) saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on Him. And a voice (of God the Father) from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased” (Mt. 3:16-17).
“Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Mt. 28:18-20).
“God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. Exalted to the right hand of God, He has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear” (Acts 2:32-33).
“May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God (the Father), and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Cor. 13:14).
“I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better” (Eph. 1:17).
“How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal (Holy) Spirit offered Himself unblemished to God (the Father), cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” (Heb. 9:14).
“who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to be obedient to Jesus Christ” (1 Pt. 1:2).

As each of these seven Bible passages refer to the members of the trinity as being part of the triune God, the trinity is a fundamental belief of the Christian faith. So, it’s not idolatry to believe in the trinity. Instead, it’s heresy to claim to be a Christian and not believe in the trinity.

Other additions to the Bible

The commentator askes, “Why was Mark 16:9-20 and hundreds of other passages added into the bible by roman church fathers?” The original manuscripts of the Bible are no longer in existence. What we do have is tens of thousands of copies of the original New Testament manuscripts dating from the 1st to the 15th centuries A.D. There are many more manuscripts than for any other ancient document and the oldest manuscripts are closer in time to the original than for all other documents. This means that the Bible is the most accurate document we have from antiquity. Yet historians believe the account of other ancient documents, which are not as reliable as the New Testament.

In these manuscripts, there are many minor differences. Textual criticism is the linguistic study of these manuscripts in an attempt to determine what the original reading actually was. For example, see a discussion of Mark 16:9-20 in Appendix B. This is the only addition to the New testament that involves several verses. All the others only involve one or a few words. Consequently, the New Testament available to us today is a reliable reconstruction of the original manuscripts.

It is important to keep in mind that even though there are textual variations in the Bible manuscripts, they are all of minor significance. None of the discrepancies affect the Bible’s crucial teachings. No significant Christian doctrine is affected by any textual variants. Even if all the “additional” verses were completely removed, the Bible’s message would not be altered.

The King James Bible was translated over 400 years ago and many Biblical manuscripts have been discovered since then. Many of the more recent discoveries are older than anything the KJV translators had access to and are considered more accurate. So, today’s Bible translators have the benefit of greater knowledge and better manuscripts than the translators of the KJV had in the early 1600s.

Contradictory or consistent?

The commentator also says, “Maybe James was belittled since he said to maintain all the laws as did Jesus. Jesus says in Mathew 15:24 and 10:5-6 his movement was for Jews only…not for gentiles or Samaritans …Paul comes along and re invents the entire movement into “Paulianity” calling all laws of God a curse …” These comments relate to the Jews, the Jewish laws, and alleges contradictions between different characters and authors of the New Testament. The answer depends on an understanding of the old Jewish covenant and the new Christian one. The Old Mosaic covenant applied until the day of Pentecost, 50 days after Christ’s death. Jesus lived under this covenant and His ministry was to Jews, and not to Gentiles. So Jesus kept the old Mosaic covenant.

But the letter of James was written under the new covenant. James was a leader in the early church in Jerusalem. James mentions some of the ten commandments (Jas. 2:8-13). But Christians are not under the law of Moses. Believers are delivered from the law and its penalty through Christ’s death. However, 9 of the 10 commandments are repeated in letters written to the church. They are not given as laws but as instructions in right living. And they affect one’s reward, but not one’s salvation. So it’s wrong to claim that James urges Christians to follow the laws of Moses. There is no record of him doing this. This means that he wasn’t belittled by Judaizers.

Like James, Paul’s letters were also written under the new covenant. That’s why he condemned those who were trying to live under the old covenant.

The main differences between James and Paul relate to the place and time of their ministry. James ministered in Jerusalem where there were more Jews than Gentiles and Paul ministered in countries around the Mediterranean Sea where there were more Gentiles than Jews. And James wrote in about 50 AD, whereas Paul wrote in about 50-68 AD.

Conclusion

If “many people are now asking these questions”, then they need to read these answers. Because of linguistic studies of the numerous ancient New Testament manuscripts, the New Testament available to us today is a reliable reconstruction of the original manuscripts. This means that it’s reliable and can be trusted.

When reading the New Testament it’s important to realize that the Christian church commenced after Christ’s death. So the books of Acts to Revelation cover Christianity, whereas the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) describe a period when the Jews were the people of God. So, the gospels record events under the old covenant and the change of covenant needs to be taken into account before we can apply their principles to the church today. When this is taken into account, and there is competent exegesis (interpretation), the messages brought by different characters and authors of the New testament are consistent and not contradictory.

Appendix A: NET Translation notes on the late addition to 1 John 5:7-8

This passage is found only in nine late manuscripts (mss), four of which have the words in a marginal note. Most of these mss (221 2318 [18th century] {2473 [dated 1634]} and [with minor variations] 61 88 429 629 636 918) originate from the 16th century; the earliest ms, codex 221 (10th century) includes the reading in a marginal note, added sometime after the original composition. The oldest ms with the passage in its text is from the 14th century (629), but the wording here departs from all the other mss in several places. The next oldest mss, 88 (12th century) 429 (14th) 636 (15th), also have the reading only as a marginal note. The remaining mss are from the 16th to 18th centuries. Thus, there is no sure evidence of this reading in any Greek ms until the 14th century (629), and that ms deviates from all others in its wording; the wording that matches what is found in the Textus Receptus (TR) was apparently composed after Erasmus’ Greek NT was published in 1516. Indeed, the passage appears in no Greek witness of any kind (either ms, patristic, or Greek translation of some other version) until a.d. 1215 (in a Greek translation of the Acts of the Lateran Council, a work originally written in Latin). This is all the more significant since many a Greek Father would have loved such a reading, for it so succinctly affirms the doctrine of the Trinity. The reading seems to have arisen in a 4th century Latin sermon in which the text was allegorized to refer to members of the Trinity. From there, it made its way into copies of the Latin Vulgate, the text used by the Roman Catholic Church. The Trinitarian formula made its way into the third edition of Erasmus’ Greek NT (1522) because of pressure from the Catholic Church. After his first edition appeared, there arose such a furor over the absence of the passage that Erasmus needed to defend himself. He argued that he did not put in the passage because he found no Greek mss that included it. Once one was produced (codex 61, written in ca. 1520), Erasmus apparently felt obliged to include the reading. He became aware of this ms sometime between May of 1520 and September of 1521. In his annotations to his third edition he does not protest the rendering now in his text, as though it were made to order; but he does defend himself from the charge of indolence, noting that he had taken care to find whatever mss he could for the production of his text. In the final analysis, Erasmus probably altered the text because of politico-theologico-economic concerns: He did not want his reputation ruined, nor his Novum Instrumentum to go unsold. Modern advocates of the TR and KJV generally argue for the inclusion of the passage on the basis of heretical motivation by scribes who did not include it. But these same scribes elsewhere include thoroughly orthodox readings – even in places where the TR/Byzantine mss lack them. Further, these advocates argue theologically from the position of divine preservation: Since this verse is in the TR, it must be original. (Of course, this approach is circular, presupposing as it does that the TR = the original text.) In reality, the issue is history, not heresy: How can one argue that the passage goes back to the original text yet does not appear until the 14th century in any Greek mss (and that form is significantly different from what is printed in the TR; the wording of the TR is not found in any Greek mss until the 16th century)? Such a stance does not do justice to the gospel: Faith must be rooted in history. Significantly, the German translation of Luther was based on Erasmus’ second edition (1519) and lacked the passage. But the KJV translators, basing their work principally on Theodore Beza’s 10th edition of the Greek NT (1598), a work which itself was fundamentally based on Erasmus’ third and later editions (and Stephanus’ editions), popularized the passage for the English-speaking world.

Appendix B: NET Translation notes on the ending of the gospel of Mark

The Gospel of Mark ends at Mark 16:8 in some witnesses (א B 304 sys sams armmss Eus Eusmss Hiermss), including two of the most respected mss (א B). The following shorter ending is found in some manuscripts (mss): “They reported briefly to those around Peter all that they had been commanded. After these things Jesus himself sent out through them, from the east to the west, the holy and imperishable preaching of eternal salvation. Amen.” This shorter ending is usually included with the longer ending (L Ψ 083 099 0112 579 al); k, however, ends at this point. Most mss include the longer ending (vv. 9-20) immediately after v. 8 (A C D W [which has a different shorter ending between vv. 14 and 15] Θ Ë13 33 2427 Ï lat syc,p,h bo); however, Jerome and Eusebius knew of almost no Greek mss that had this ending. Several mss have marginal comments noting that earlier Greek mss lacked the verses, while others mark the text with asterisks or obeli (symbols that scribes used to indicate that the portion of text being copied was spurious). Internal evidence strongly suggests the secondary nature of both the short and the long endings. Their vocabulary and style are decidedly non-Markan (for further details, see TCGNT 102-6). All of this evidence strongly suggests that as time went on scribes added the longer ending, either for the richness of its material or because of the abruptness of the ending at v. 8. (Indeed, the strange variety of dissimilar endings attests to the probability that early copyists had a copy of Mark that ended at v. 8, and they filled out the text with what seemed to be an appropriate conclusion. All of the witnesses for alternative endings to vv. 9-20 thus indirectly confirm the Gospel as ending at v. 8.) Because of such problems regarding the authenticity of these alternative endings, 16:8 is usually regarded as the last verse of the Gospel of Mark. There are three possible explanations for Mark ending at 16:8: (1) The author intentionally ended the Gospel here in an open-ended fashion; (2) the Gospel was never finished; or (3) the last leaf of the ms was lost prior to copying. This first explanation is the most likely due to several factors, including (a) the probability that the Gospel was originally written on a scroll rather than a codex (only on a codex would the last leaf get lost prior to copying); (b) the unlikelihood of the ms not being completed; and (c) the literary power of ending the Gospel so abruptly that the readers are now drawn into the story itself. E. Best aptly states, “It is in keeping with other parts of his Gospel that Mark should not give an explicit account of a conclusion where this is already well known to his readers” (Mark, 73; note also his discussion of the ending of this Gospel on 132 and elsewhere). The readers must now ask themselves, “What will I do with Jesus? If I do not accept him in his suffering, I will not see him in his glory.”

Written, December 2016

Also see: Can we trust our Bibles? How the Bible came to us
Mind the gap
Do we have the right Bible?


What is the Trinity doing today for the believer?

God is three persons in one – Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Mt. 28:19; Acts 2:32-33; 2 Cor. 13:14; 1 Pet. 1:2). In a way that only He can understand, God is a trinity: three in one and one in three. The relationship between each member of the Godhead and the believer is outlined below.

First, God is their Father (Jn. 20:17; Rom. 8:14-17; Gal. 4:6-7) and they are His children (1 Jn. 3:1). He has a great inheritance for them. God hears their prayers and forgives them when they confess and repent (Acts 8:22, Eph. 3:14-19; Col. 1:3). In response, they should serve God the Father (Rev. 1:6).

Second, the Lord Jesus Christ (the Son) is now in heaven preparing a place for them (Mk. 16:19; Jn. 14:2). When they sin He defends them and pleads their case (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25; 1 Jn. 2:1). He also sustains the universe they live in (Col. 1:17; Heb. 1:3).

Third, Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would live in all His followers (Jn. 14:17; Acts 2:38-39). The Holy Spirit is their counselor, advocate, intercessor and comforter (Jn. 16:7). He teaches and reminds them (Jn. 14:26); testifies about Christ (Jn. 15:26); convicts of sin, righteousness and judgment (Jn. 16:8-11); guides them into truth and reveals the things of God to them (Jn. 16:13-15); calls them to specific ministries (Acts 13:2-4); forbids certain actions (Acts 16:6-7); intercedes for them in prayer (Rom. 8:26-27); guides their prayers (Jude 20); and changes their character to be more like Christ (Gal. 5:22-25).

It is good for the believer to know and understand what each member of the Triune Godhead is doing for those who are His.

Published, October 2007