Paul’s Divine Christology Pt. 3

I proceed from where I previously left off (https://answeringislamblog.wordpress.com/2019/12/03/pauls-divine-christology-pt-2/).

THE USE OF THEOS IN REFERENCE TO CHRIST

I am going to examine all the places where God describes Jesus as God, starting with the following:

“Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God (ten ekklesian tou Theou), which he hath purchased with his own blood.” Acts 20:28

The above passage has been affected by variant readings since some of the Greek manuscripts read “Lord” instead of “God”:

“Take heed unto yourselves, and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit hath made you bishops, to feed the church of the Lord (ten ekklesian tou Kyriou) which he purchased with his own blood.” American Standard Version (ASV)

Interestingly, the majority of Greek witnesses (MT) actually combine both of the foregoing readings:

“Take heed, therefore, to yourselves, and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the assembly of the Lord and God (ten ekklesian tou Kyriou kai Theou) which he purchased with his own blood.” World English Bible (WEB)

In light of these variant readings, several comments are in order.

First, these variants actually provide an attestation that the original reading was, “the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” After all, it makes little sense for a scribe to change Lord to God, seeing that it is much more difficult to speak of God shedding his blood, especially when this could be easily misunderstood as referring to the Father dying on the cross, which would be the heresy of Patripassianism. As the following textual note explains:

tc The reading “of God” (τοῦ θεοῦ, tou theou) is found in א B 614 1175 1505 al vg sy; other witnesses have “of the Lord” (τοῦ κυρίου, tou kuriou) here (so P A C* D E Ψ 33 1739 al co), while the majority of the later minuscule mss conflate these two into “of the Lord and God” (τοῦ κυρίου καὶ [τοῦ] θεοῦ, tou kuriou kai [tou] theou). Although the evidence is evenly balanced between the first two readings, τοῦ θεοῦ is decidedly superior on internal grounds. The final prepositional phrase of this verse, διὰ τοῦ αἵματος τοῦ ἰδίου (dia tou haimatos tou idiou), could be rendered “through his own blood” or “through the blood of his own.” In the latter translation, the object that “own” modifies must be supplied (see tn below for discussion). But this would not be entirely clear to scribes; those who supposed that ἰδίου modified αἵματος would be prone to alter “God” to “Lord” to avoid the inference that God had blood. In a similar way, later scribes would be prone to conflate the two titles, thereby affirming the deity (with the construction τοῦ κυρίου καὶ θεοῦ following the Granville Sharp rule and referring to a single person [see ExSyn 272, 276-77, 290]) and substitutionary atonement of Christ. For these reasons, τοῦ θεοῦ best explains the rise of the other readings and should be considered authentic. (NET Bible https://netbible.org/bible/Acts+20; underline emphasis mine)

Evangelical Christian scholar Robert M. Bowman Jr. concurs:

“… ’the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.’ The variant readings (e.g. ‘the church of the Lord’) show that the original was understood to mean ‘His own blood,’ not ‘the blood of His own [Son]’ (since otherwise no one would have thought to change it). Thus all other renderings are attempts to evade the startling clarity and meaning of this passage.” (Robert Bowman, Jr., The Biblical Basis of the Doctrine of the Trinity, VI. Jesus Christ Is God https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/bowman_robert/trinity/trinity.cfm; bold emphasis mine)

Bowman further shows that “his own blood” was how the Church and scholars read it for the first eighteen centuries:

“Although most contemporary English versions render the last part of the verse in the same way as the NASB (ESV, NIV, NKJV, HCSB, and others), many scholars and commentators in recent decades have preferred the rendering found in the NRSV (and also in REB). There is no doubt as to the reason for this preference: those who dispute the conventional translation find the language, which expresses the idea of God’s having ‘blood,’ difficult if not impossible to entertain.

“A little lesson in grammar is unavoidable in order to understand the problem with the NRSV interpretation. The disputed words usually translated “his own blood” but translated ‘the blood of his own Son’ in the NRSV are tou haimatos tou idiou (word for word, ‘the blood, the his-own’). The word idiou (‘his own’) is an adjective, which normally we would understand as modifying the noun haimatos (‘blood’). The word order here, with the adjective following the noun with a second article between them, is perfectly normal and common in Greek. Another example of this construction appears in the very same verse: ‘the Holy Spirit’ (to pneuma to hagion, word for word, ‘the Spirit, the Holy’). It was not until the latter half of the nineteenth century, that anyone proposed that the words here in question did not mean ‘his own blood.’

“The basis for the alternate translation ‘the blood of his own Son’ is that Greek can use adjectives as if they were nouns (the technical term is substantivally). Many modern scholars argue that tou idiou is such a substantival use of the adjective, and therefore means ‘of his Own,’ comparable to the use of the adjective ‘the Beloved’ (Eph. 1:6) as a kind of term of endearment.

“This reinterpretation of the text is grammatically possible and difficult to disprove absolutely, but it is hardly the most natural understanding. As we mentioned, eighteen centuries went by before anyone came up with it. The New Testament nowhere calls Jesus ‘his Own’ (ho idios), nor was this term ever picked up in the early church as a designation for Jesus. The substantival use of ho idios (or any grammatical variation, such as ton idion) is, in fact, rare in the New Testament, and in the singular occurs only once–and even then not in reference to a specific person (John 15:19). On the other hand, ho idios functions as an adjective following the noun–just as in Acts 20:28–in several New Testament texts (John 1:41; 5:43; 7:18; Acts 1:25).

“We are inclined to agree with Nigel Turner, a twentieth-century scholar of Greek grammar, who called the alternate translation of Acts 20:28 ‘a theological expedient, foisting imaginary distinctions into a spontaneous affirmation, and is not the natural way to take the Greek.’ As the Catholic scholar Charles DeVine commented sixty years ago, it is nothing more than an attempt ‘to avoid at all costs the full force of the expression “God’s own blood.”’” (Bowman & J. Ed Komoszewski, Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case For The Deity of Christ [Kregel Publications, 2007], Part 3: Name Above All Names: Jesus Shares the Names of God, Chapter 12. Immanuel: God With Us, pp. 145-146; bold emphasis mine)

And:

30. The first scholars to propose the alternate translation “the blood of his own” appear to have been J. A. Bengel and F. J. A. Hort; see Harris, Jesus as God, 139; and Charles F. DeVine, “The ‘Blood of God’ in Acts 20:28,” CBQ 9 (1947): 405. (Ibid., pp. 330-331)

Secondly, even if one were adopt the reading “church of the Lord,” this would still be a clear cut affirmation of the Deity of Christ. The Greek phrase ekklesia ho Kyrios and its various cases were used to translate the Hebrew expression qahal YHVH, meaning the church/congregation/assembly of Jehovah: 

“He that is fractured or mutilated in his private parts shall not enter into the assembly of the Lord (ten ekklesian Kyriou [qahal YHVH]). [One born] of a harlot shall not enter into the assembly of the Lord (ekklesian Kyriou [qahal YHVH]). The Ammanite and Moabite shall not enter into the assembly of the Lord (ekklesian Kyriou [qahal YHVH]), even until the tenth generation he shall not enter into the assembly of the Lord (ten ekklesian Kyriou [qahal YHVH]), even for ever… If sons be born to them, in the third generation they shall enter into the assembly of the Lord (ekklesian Kyriou [qahal YHVH]).” Deuteronomy 23:2-4, 9 LXX

“And now [I charge you] before the whole assembly of the Lord (pases ekklesias Kyriou [qahal YHVH]), and in the audience of our God, keep and seek all the commandments of the Lord our God, that ye may inherit the good land, and leave it for your sons to inherit after you for ever.” 1 Chronicles 28:8 LXX

“Weep not with tears in the assembly of the Lord (ekklesia Kyriou [qahal YHVH]), neither let [any] weep for these things; for he shall not remove the reproaches,” Micah 2:5 LXX

Hence to speak of the Lord purchasing his church by his own blood is to identify Jesus Christ as Jehovah God Almighty in the flesh!

In fact, to describe the church as the assembly belonging to Christ,

“And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build MY church (mou ten ekklesian); and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Matthew 16:18

“Salute one another with an holy kiss. The churches of Christ (hai ekklesiai tou Christou) salute you.” Romans 16:16

“For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church: for we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.” Ephesians 5:23-32

Is to identify the risen Jesus as God, since both the OT passages cited above and the following NT verses clearly describe the church as belonging to the one true God:

“unto the church of God (te ekklesia tou Theou) which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:” 1 Corinthians 1:2

“But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the churches of God (hai ekklesiai tou Theou)… What? have ye not houses to eat and to drink in? or despise ye the church of God (tes ekklesias tou Theou), and shame them that have not? What shall I say to you? shall I praise you in this? I praise you not.” 1 Corinthians 11:16, 22

“but if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God (oiko Theou), which is the church of the living God (ekklesia The zontos), the pillar and ground of the truth. And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh (Theos ephanerothe en sarki), justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.” 1 Timothy 3:15-16

There’s more from Paul:

“whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.” Romans 9:5

Here’s another rendering of the foregoing passage:

“of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.” New King James Version (NKJV)

The reasons for taking this as another explicit testimony to the Deity of Christ, in fact to his being both God and Man at the same time, are manifold:

tn Or “the Christ, who is over all, God blessed forever,” or “the Messiah. God who is over all be blessed forever!” or “the Messiah who is over all. God be blessed forever!” The translational difficulty here is not text-critical in nature, but is a problem of punctuation. Since the genre of these opening verses of Romans 9 is a lament, it is probably best to take this as an affirmation of Christ’s deity (as the text renders it). Although the other renderings are possible, to see a note of praise to God at the end of this section seems strangely out of place. But for Paul to bring his lament to a crescendo (that is to say, his kinsmen had rejected God come in the flesh), thereby deepening his anguish, is wholly appropriate. This is also supported grammatically and stylistically: The phrase ὁ ὢν (ho ōn, “the one who is”) is most naturally taken as a phrase which modifies something in the preceding context, and Paul’s doxologies are always closely tied to the preceding context. For a detailed examination of this verse, see B. M. Metzger, “The Punctuation of Rom. 9:5, ” Christ and the Spirit in the New Testament, 95-112; and M. J. Harris, Jesus as God, 144-72. (NET Bible https://netbible.org/bible/Romans+9; underline emphasis mine)

“… (3) Treat all four lines as part of the same sentence (which may start in verse 3). This would mean that the verse says that Christ is ‘over all’ and also calls him God.38

“Two considerations lead most translators to choose the third option. First, grammatically, “who is over all” most naturally modifies ‘the Christ’ in the preceding part of the verse: ‘and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, the one who is over all’ (translating literally). In addition, ‘who is’ or ‘the one who is’ (ho on) agrees grammatically with ‘the Christ’ (ho Christos), leading the reader to understand that ‘who is over all’ is continuing to say something about the Christ. Paul’s wording here closely parallels a similar outburst of praise directed to God the Father in another of Paul’s epistles: ‘The God and Father of the Lord Jesus knows, the one who is [ho on] blessed forever, that I am not lying’ (2 Cor. 11:31, authors’ translation). This means that the third line of Romans 9:5 most likely is part of the sentence that begins in verse 3.

“The thought that the Messiah is ‘over all’ is certainly consistent with Paul’s teaching; in fact, the idea is repeated just one chapter later (Rom. 10:12). The second consideration is the position of the word for “blessed” (eulogetos), which in Greek follows the word for ‘God’ (theos). In biblical doxologies that stand as separate sentences and that use blessed, it always precedes the divine name or title (God, YHWH, etc.) in the sentence. Here are some typical examples.

Blessed be God . . . (Pss. 66:20; 68:35)

Blessed be the Lord . . . (Exod. 18:10; Ruth 4:14; Pss. 28:6; 31:21)

Blessed be the Lord forever. (Ps. 89:52)

Blessed be the Lord the God of Israel . . . (1 Sam. 25:32; Pss. 41:13; 106:48; cf. Luke 1:68)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . (2 Cor. 1:3; Eph. 1:3; 1 Peter 1:3)

“The fact that Romans 9:5 does not follow this standard biblical pattern for a doxology that stands as a separate sentence (which Paul himself uses elsewhere) makes it reasonably certain that ‘God blessed forever’ is part of the same sentence as the preceding lines. Paul uses this sentence structure in other places in his writings, including earlier in the same epistle.

They exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is [hos estin] blessed forever! Amen. (Rom. 1:25).

The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, He who is [ho on] blessed forever. . . . (2 Cor. 11:31 NASB)

“For these reasons, we can be quite confident that Romans 9:5 does, indeed, call Jesus ‘God.’39 This text is all the more significant when we consider that it is the earliest New Testament writing that calls Jesus “God” (dating to about A.D. 57, about a quarter-century after Jesus’ death and resurrection).40 Moreover, in Romans 9:5 we see three of the five elements we are discussing in this book pertaining to the deity of Jesus: he receives the divine honor of eternal praise; he has the divine name ‘God’; he shares God’s seat, holding the highest position of ruling over all creation.” (Bowman, Putting Jesus In His Place, pp. 147-148; bold emphasis mine)

38. The NASB, NIV, NRSV, NKJV, HCSB, and NET are among the many modern versions that translate Romans 9:5 as referring to Christ as “God.”

39. For more on Romans 9:5, see Harris, Jesus as God, 143–72; Bruce M. Metzger, “The Punctuation of Romans 9:5,” in Christ and the Spirit in the New Testament: Essays in Honour of Charles Francis Digby Moule, ed. Barnabas Lindars and Stephen S. Smalley (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1973), 95–112. For a recent dissent, see Gordon D. Fee, Pauline Christology: An Exegetical-Theological Study (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2007), 272–77. Fee’s primary objection to the view that Paul calls Jesus “God” in Romans 9:5 is his understanding that Paul consistently uses God for the Father and Lord for Jesus the Son. On this question, see below on Titus 2:13.

40. It may be worth noting that if Paul called Jesus “God” in Acts 20:28, as we have argued he did, that speech came just a few weeks after he would have finished writing the epistle to the Romans from Corinth (see Rom. 15:25–27; 16:1; Acts 20:2–3). (Ibid., pp. 331-332; bold emphasis mine)

Keep in mind that the Apostle will go on in the very next chapter to equate Jesus with Jehovah:

“that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved… For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Romans 10:9, 12-13

The Apostle has quoted this OT text, where all are to call upon the name of Jehovah,

“And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD (YHVH) shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the LORD (YHVH) hath said, and in the remnant whom the LORD (YHVH) shall call.” Joel 2:32

And has applied it Jesus in order to emphasize the necessity of confessing Jesus as Lord for salvation:

The verb “call on” (epikaleo) is apparently the trigger that leads Paul to yet another Old Testament text that underscores the universality of God’s offer in the gospel (Joel 2:32): “Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.” The “LORD” in Joel is Yahweh, the covenant name of God. But Paul identifies this “Lord” with Jesus (See Rom. 10:9, 12), the “stone” of Isaiah 28:16 (Rom. 10:11). Verse 13, then, is important evidence that the early Christians identified Jesus with God. (Douglas J. Moo, Romans: The NIV Application Commentary [Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI 2000], p. 333; bold emphasis mine)

(c) A significant term is epikaleisthai, ‘to call upon’. It could be regarded as primarily a term for prayer (and so treated more appropriately in Chapter 2). But in its wide usage it signifies in effect worship as ‘calling upon God’. In the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) qara’ is regularly used ‘to denote the establishment of a relation between a human individual and God… it is the verbal appeal for the deity’s presence that is foundational to all acts of prayer and worship’.30 In common Greek too epikaleisthai is regularly used of calling upon a deity.31 So, it is not surprising that the Septuagint uses the phrase frequently, epikaleisthai to onoma kyriou (‘to call upon the name of the Lord’), that is in prayer.32 The same usage naturally reappears in the New Testament, where invocation of God is in view.33 More striking, however, is the fact that it is the Lord Jesus who is ‘called upon’ on several occasions.34 And even more striking is the fact that believers can be denoted simply as ‘those who call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ’ (1 Cor. 1.2.).35 The defining feature of these early Christians (‘those who call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ’ is almost a definition, equivalent to ‘Christians’) marked them out from others who ‘called upon (the name of)’ some other deity or heavenly being.36 Moreover, in a still more striking passage, Paul refers Joel 3.5 (in the Septuagint) to Jesus: ‘everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved’ (Rom. 10.13), where it is clear from the context that ‘the Lord’ is the Lord Jesus (10.9).37 We will have to return to this passage in Chapter 4. Here we need simply note that the same language, calling upon a deity, calling upon the Lord God, is used of Christ, and as a distinguishing characteristic of the earliest believers. (Dunn, Did the First Christians Worship Jesus? The New Testament Evidence [Westminster John Knox Press, 2010], 2. The practice of worship, 2.1. prayer, pp. 15-16; bold emphasis mine)

33 Acts 2.21; 1 Pet. 1.17; cf. 2 Cor. 1.23.

34 Acts 7.59 (Stephen); Rom. 10.12, 14; 2 Tim. 2.22.

35 Also Acts 9.14, 21; 22.16; 2 Tim. 2.22. 

36 Both Hurtado (Origins 78-9; Lord Jesus Christ 198-9) and Bauckham (Jesus and the God of Israel 129-30) see these texts (1 Cor. 1.2; etc.) as evidence of ‘cultic devotion’ rendered to Jesus from ‘very early moments of the Christian movement’. In contrast, P. M. Causey, ‘Monotheism, Worship and Christological Development in the Pauline Churches’, in Newman, et. al. (eds), Jewish Roots 214-33, infers that what Paul had in mind was ‘primarily the use of acclamations and confessions such as maranatha and kyrios Iesous’ (225). Hurtado adds the use of Jesus’ name in baptism and healings/exorcisms as supporting evidence for his proposal ‘that the early Christian use of Jesus’ name represents a novel adaptation of [the] Jewish monotheistic concern [to maintain the uniqueness of the one God]’ (200-6; here 204). He comments similarly on 1 Cor. 5.1-5, that the disciplinary action referred to there ‘likely included a ritual invocation of Jesus’ name and power to effect it. Jesus’ cultic presence and power clearly operate here in the manner we otherwise associate with a god’ (Origins 80). 

37 Similarly it can be argued that since in the Pentecost speech of Acts 2 Jesus has been made Lord (2.36), the calling on the name of the Lord 2.17 refers also to cultic reverence/acclamation/invocation of the exalted Jesus (Hurtado, Lord Jesus Christ, 179, 181). (Ibid., p. 16; bold emphasis mine)  

Hence, a man that had no problem identifying Jesus as the Jehovah whose name all true believers are to call upon, would surely have no problem also describing him as the eternally blessed God.

Elsewhere, Paul would write that Christ exists in the form of God, which is simply another way of affirming that Jesus possesses the essential nature of God:

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God (en morphe Theou hyperchon), thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” Philippians 2:5-8

Compare how the following versions render this key text:

“Who, although being essentially one with God and in the form of God [possessing the fullness of the attributes which make God God], did not think this equality with God was a thing to be eagerly grasped or retained,” Amplified Bible, Classic Edition (AMPC)

“Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;” New International Version (NIV)

“[This is the mind] which is also in Christ Jesus, who has always been and at present continues to subsist in that mode of being in which He gives outward expression of His essential nature, that of absolute deity, which expression comes from and is truly representative of His inner being [that of absolute deity], and who did not after weighing the facts, consider it a treasure to be clutched and retained at all hazards, this being on an equality with deity [in the expression of the divine essence]…” Philippians 2:5-6 (Kenneth S. Wuest, The New Testament: An Expanded Translation [William B. Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MI; Reprint edition 1994)], p. 462; bold and italicized emphasis mine)

According to liberal NT textual critic and scholar Bart D. Ehrman, Paul may have been quoting a poem composed in the early forties:

“Some scholars have had a real difficulty imagining that a poem existing before Paul’s letter to the Philippians – a poem whose composition must therefore date AS EARLY AS THE 40s CE – could already celebrate AN INCARNATIONAL UNDERSTANDING OF JESUS…” (Ehrman, How Jesus Became God: The Exaltation of a Jewish Preacher from Galilee [HarperOne, First edition 2014], 7. Jesus as God on Earth: Early Incarnation Christologies, p. 259; bold and capital emphasis mine)

Ehrman even thinks that the early followers of Christ were worshiping Jesus as the incarnation of the Angel of Jehovah, whom the Hebrew Bible depicts as the visible manifestation of Jehovah God:

“But this means that in Galatians 4:14 Paul is not contrasting Christ with an angel; he is equating him with an angel. Garrett goes a step further and argues that Galatians 4:14 indicates that Paul ‘identifies [Jesus Christ] with God’s chief angel.’

“If this is the case, then virtually everything Paul says about Christ throughout his letters makes perfect sense. As the Angel of the Lord, Christ is a preexistent being who is divine; he can be called God, AND HE IS GOD’S MANIFESTATION ON EARTH IN HUMAN FLESH. Paul says all these things about Christ, and in no passage more strikingly than in Philippians 2:6-11, a passage that scholars often call the ‘Philippians Hymn’ or the ‘Christ Hymn of Philippians,’ since it is widely thought to embody an early hymn or poem devoted to celebrating Christ AND HIS INCARNATION.” (Ibid., p. 253; bold and capital emphasis mine)

This means that already within the thirties AD, shortly after Jesus’ ascension into heaven, his very own disciples were already professing that the risen Christ was/is the physical enfleshment and embodiment of Jehovah God Almighty!

And here’s the final passage from Paul:

“looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ (tou megalou Theou kai Soteros hemon, ‘Iesou Christou), who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.” Titus 2:13-14 NKJV

Jesus is said to be the Great and Savior who came to redeem a people for himself.

The expression, “of our great God and Savior,” is what is commonly referred to as a Granville Sharp construction. Sharp was an 18th-century Christian abolitionist and philanthropist who produced a monograph in 1798 on the NT use of the Greek definite article as it relates to the Deity of our Lord Jesus Christ.

According to Sharp’s first rule, when two nouns or participles that are singular and refer to persons, are connected by the conjunction kai (“the”), with the definite article appearing before the first noun/participle, then both nouns/participles refer to one and the same individual.

Since this is what we have in the foregoing passage, e.g., two singular nouns connected by kai with the definite article appearing before the first noun, this means that both nouns are descriptions of Christ: 

tn The terms “God and Savior” both refer to the same person, Jesus Christ. This is one of the clearest statements in the NT concerning the deity of Christ. The construction in Greek is known as the Granville Sharp rule, named after the English philanthropist-linguist who first clearly articulated the rule in 1798. Sharp pointed out that in the construction article-noun-καί-noun (where καί [kai] = “and”), when two nouns are singular, personal, and common (i.e., not proper names), they always had the same referent. Illustrations such as “the friend and brother,” “the God and Father,” etc. abound in the NT to prove Sharp’s point. The only issue is whether terms such as “God” and “Savior” could be considered common nouns as opposed to proper names. Sharp and others who followed (such as T. F. Middleton in his masterful The Doctrine of the Greek Article) demonstrated that a proper name in Greek was one that could not be pluralized. Since both “God” (θεός, theos) and “savior” (σωτήρ, sōtēr) were occasionally found in the plural, they did not constitute proper names, and hence, do fit Sharp’s rule. Although there have been 200 years of attempts to dislodge Sharp’s rule, all attempts have been futile. Sharp’s rule stands vindicated after all the dust has settled. For more information on Sharp’s rule see ExSyn 270-78, esp. 276. See also 2 Pet 1:1 and Jude 4. (NET Bible https://netbible.org/bible/Titus+2; underline emphasis mine)

Noted Evangelical NT scholar Murray J. Harris further explains:

“Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1 may be considered together, since both use a stereotyped formula, ‘God and Savior,’ in reference to Jesus. This was a common formula in first-century religious terminology, used by both Palestinian and Diaspora Jews in reference to Yahweh, the one true God, and by Gentiles when they spoke of an individual god or a deified ruler. In all of these uses the expression God and Savior invariably denotes one deity, not two, so that when Paul and Peter employ this formula and follow it with the name of Jesus Christ, their readers would always understand it as referring to a single person, Jesus ChristIt would simply not have occurred to them that ‘God’ might mean the Father, with Jesus Christ as the ‘Savior.’” (Harris, 3 Crucial Questions About Jesus [Baker Books; Grand Rapids, MI 1994], pp. 96-97; bold emphasis mine)

And:

The expression theos kai soter was a stereotyped formula common in first-century religious terminology (see Wendland), was (apparently) used by both Diaspora and Palestinian Jews in reference to Yahweh, and invariably denoted one deity, not two. If the name ‘Iesous Christos did not follow the expression, undoubtedly it would be taken to refer to one person; yet ‘Iesous Christos is simply added in epexegesis. (Jesus as God: The New Testament Use of Theos in Reference to Jesus [Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI 1992], p. 178-179; bold emphasis mine)

“In the light of the foregoing evidence, it seems highly probable that in Titus 2:13 Jesus Christ is called ‘our great God and Savior,’ a verdict shared, with varying degrees of assurance, by almost all grammarians and lexicographers, many commentators, and many writers on NT theology or Christology, although there are some dissenting voices.” (Ibid., p. 185; bold emphasis mine)

Now since the OT identifies Jehovah as the great God,

“For you are great (megas), and do wonders: you are the only great God (ho Theos monos ho megas).” Palm 85:10 LXX

And describes him as the One that redeemed a people from their sins for the express purpose of making them his possession,

“Now therefore, if you will faithfully obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My special possession out of all the nations, for all the earth is Mine.” Exodus 19:5

“Nor shall they defile themselves anymore with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions. But I will save them out of all their dwelling places in which they have sinned and will cleanse them. So they shall be My people, and I will be their God.” Ezekiel 37:23

“Let Israel hope in the LORD: for with the LORD there is mercy, and with him is plenteous redemption. And he shall redeem Israel from all his iniquities.” Psalm 130:7-8

This simply further confirms that the blessed Apostle believed that Jesus Christ is Jehovah Almighty in the flesh.

I have more to say with respect to Paul’s Christology in the next installment.

Endnotes

(1) There are two additional lines of evidence, which corroborates that Christ is the One being called the Great God and Savior.

First, every other time the word “Savior” appears in the epistle, Paul places the definite article before it:

“and has in due time revealed His word through preaching, with which I was entrusted according to the command of God our Savior (tou Soteros hemon, Theou), To Titus, my own son in the common faith: Grace, mercy, and peace, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ our Savior (Kyriou ‘Iesou Christou, tou Soteros hemon).” Titus 1:3-4

“or stealing, but showing complete fidelity, so that they may exemplify the doctrine of God our Savior (tou Soteros hemon, Theou) in all things.” Titus 2:10

“But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior (tou Soteros hemon, Theou) toward mankind appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of rebirth and the renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior (‘Iesou Christou, tou Soteros hemon),” Titus 3:4-6

Titus 2:13 happens to be the sole exception.

This is easily explained by the fact that the definite article before the term “God” is meant to govern both nouns, i.e., the blessed Apostle intended to join the terms “God” and “Savior” together under the same article, since both expressions refer to one and the same Person, namely, Christ.     

Second, the foregoing citations show the ease in which Paul applies the title Savior to both God and Jesus Christ, something that the inspired Apostle doesn’t do for anyone else. This again highlights Paul’s very high Christology, equating the risen Christ with God the Father in the work of salvation, despite the fact that the Hebrew Bible is emphatically clear that Jehovah alone is the Savior who saves mankind from their sins: 

“I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.” Isaiah 43:25

“Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath declared this from ancient time? who hath told it from that time? have not I the LORD? and there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me. Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.” Isaiah 45:21-22

“Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy. He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.” Micah 7:18-19

“Yet I am the LORD thy God from the land of Egypt, and thou shalt know no god but me: for there is no saviour beside meI will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction: repentance shall be hid from mine eyes.” Hosea 13:4, 14

Paul’s Divine Christology Pt. 2

I continue from where I left off (https://answeringislamblog.wordpress.com/2019/11/27/pauls-divine-christology-pt-1/).

ISRAEL’S ONE LORD

At the heart of the Hebrew Bible is the affirmation that Jehovah is one, meaning the only God whom the Israelites were to look to and worship:

“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD (YHVH Eloheinu YHVH echad): And you shall love the LORD your God (YHVH Eloheka) with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might… You shall fear the LORD your God (YHVH Eloheka) and serve Him and shall swear by His name.” Deuteronomy 6:4-5, 13

“For all the peoples may walk, each in the name of his God, but we will walk in the name of the LORD our God (YHVH Eloheinu) forever and ever.” Micah 4:5

“And the LORD shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one LORD (YHVH echad), and his name one (ushamo echad).” Zechariah 14:9

What makes this interesting is that Greek-speaking Jews substituted the divine name with the word Kyrios and rendered the phrase YHVH echad as Kyrios heis:

“For all [other] nations shall walk everyone in his own way, but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God (Κyriou Theou hemon) for ever and ever.” Micah 4:5 LXX

“And the Lord (Kyrios) shall be king over all the earth: in that day there shall be one Lord (Kyrios heis), and his name one,” Zechariah 14:9 LXX

“And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord (Kyrios ho These hemon Kyrios heis estin): You shall love the Lord your God (Kyrion ton Theon sou) with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment.” Mark 12:29-30

Hence, to a Greek-speaking Jew the words Kyrios heis/heis Kyrios would be a clear reference to Jehovah being their God since the phrase was equivalent to saying YHVH echad

Remarkably, the blessed Apostle identifies Jesus as that one Lord whom all believers must turn to and worship:

“Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord (Kyrios ‘Iesous), but by the Holy Ghost… And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord (kai ho autos Kyrios).” 1 Corinthians 12:3, 5

one Lord (heis Kyrios), one faith, one baptism,” Ephesians 4:5

“As concerning therefore the eating of those things that are offered in sacrifice unto idols, we know that an idol is nothing in the world, and that there is none other God but one (oudeis Theos, ei me heis). For though there be that are called gods, whether in heaven or in earth, (as there be gods many, and lords many,) but to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things (ek hou ta panta), and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ and one Lord Jesus Christ (kai heis Kyrios, ‘Iesous Christos), by whom are all things (di’ hou ta panta), and we by him.” 1 Corinthians 8:4-6

To say Paul’s words are astonishing would be a wild understatement!

Not only has he described Jesus as heis Kyrios, which is the Greek way of saying Jehovah is one, he has also placed Christ alongside the Father as the eternal Creator and Sustainer of all creation!   

The Apostle has expressly stated that all things are from (ek) God the Father and through (di’) Jesus Christ, meaning that the Father brought all creation into being through the creative agency of his Son. This being the case the Father and the Son must both be uncreated since they were both there together before the entire creation ever existed.

And yet according to the Hebrew Bible, the only Lord who existed before creation came into being, and who was responsible for creating all things, was Jehovah God Almighty:

“You alone are the LORD (Kyrios monos). You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all (panta) that is on it, the seas and all (panta) that is in them; and You preserve them all (ta panta). And the host of heaven worships You.” Nehemiah 9:6

“Thus says the LORD (Kyrios), your Redeemer, and He who formed you from the womb: I am the LORD (Kyrios) who makes all things (panta), who stretches out the heavens ALONE, who spreads abroad the earth BY MYSELF,” Isaiah 44:24

But the LORD is the true God; He is the living God and an everlasting King. At His wrath the earth trembles, and the nations cannot endure His indignation. Thus you shall say to them: The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth, even they shall perish from the earth and from under these heavens. He has made the earth by His power. He has established the world by His wisdom and has stretched out the heavens by His discretion.” Jeremiah 10:10-12

Since Paul describes Jesus as the God who created the heavens and earth, both in the above passage from Corinthians and elsewhere,

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, BEING IN THE FORM OF GOD, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” Philippians 2:5-8

“who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: for BY HIM were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created BY HIM, and FOR HIM: and HE IS before all things, and BY HIM all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that IN HIM should all fulness dwell;” Colossians 1:15-19

“Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For IN HIM dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” Colossians 2:8-9

This means that Christ must be the true and living God. There’s simply no way around this revealed truth.

And since the blessed Apostle has clearly identified the risen Christ as the one Lord of the Hebrew Bible, it should, therefore, come as no surprise that Paul warns of failing to love and fear the Lord Jesus, before whose judgment seat all creation must stand and give an account:

“For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living. But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is writtenAs I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” Romans 14:8-12

“If anyone does not love the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accursed. Come, O Lord! The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.” 1 Corinthians 16:22-23

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive his recompense in the body, according to what he has done, whether it was good or bad. Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men. But we are revealed to God, and I trust we are also revealed in your consciences.” 2 Corinthians 5:10-11

The inspired Apostle has clearly taken the exhortation of Deuteronomy 6:4-5, 13 to love and fear Jehovah and applied it to Christ. He has further applied Isaiah 45:23,

“By myself I swear, righteousness shall surely proceed out of my mouth; my words shall not be frustrated; that to me every knee shall bend, and every tongue shall swear by God, ” LXX

To the Lord Jesus, stating that this will be fulfilled on the day when every creature will appear before Christ in judgment and bow the knee to him and confess him as Lord to the glory of God the Father:

“Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:9-11

All of this simply reinforces the point that, for Paul, Jesus is none other than Jehovah God Almighty in the flesh (even though he is not the Father or the Holy Spirit).

This brings me to the next section of my discussion (https://answeringislamblog.wordpress.com/2019/12/08/pauls-divine-christology-pt-3/).

The Church Fathers on Jesus as the God-Man

According to the God-breathed Scriptures our Lord had asked his Jewish interlocutors how could the Messiah be the Son of David when the latter worshiped him as his very own Lord by revelation from the Holy Spirit:

“While the Pharisees were assembled, Jesus asked them, ‘What do you think of the Christ? Whose Son is He?’ They said to Him, ‘The Son of David.’ He said to them, ‘How then does David in the Spirit call Him “Lord,” saying: “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand, until I make Your enemies Your footstool’”? If David then calls Him “Lord,” how is He his Son?’ No one was able to answer Him a word, nor from that day on did anyone dare to ask Him any more questions.” Matthew 22:41-46 – Cf. Mark 12:35-37; Luke 20:41-44

Here are some excerpts some of Christianity’s greatest minds which answer the question posed by our risen Lord, which the Jews did not know how to answer:

CHRIST IS DAVID’S LORD AS WELL AS DAVID’S SON. CYRIL OF ALEXANDRIA: How, therefore, is the Son of David David’s Lord and seated also at the right hand of God the Father, and on the throne of Deity? Or is it not altogether according to the unerring word of the mystery, that the Word, being God, and sprung from the very substance of God the Father and being in his likeness and on an equality with him, became flesh, that is, man, perfectly so, and yet without departing from the incomparable excellence of the divine dignities, continuing rather in that estate in which he had ever been and still being God, though he had become flesh and “in the form like to us”? He is David Lord’s, therefore, according to that which belongs to his divine glory and nature and sovereignty, but David’s son according to the flesh. HOMILIES ON THE GOSPEL OF LUKE 137. (We Believe in One Lord Jesus Christ, edited by John Anthony McGuckin [InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL 2009], Volume 2, p. 65 https://books.google.com/books?id=5axjCgAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false; italicized and underline emphasis mine)

THE FORM OF GOD AND THE FORM OF A SERVANT. THEODORE OF MOPSUESTIA: He is not merely God, nor is he merely man, but in truth he is both by nature, God and man. He is God the Word, the one who assumed; and he is the man who was assumed. He who is “in the form God” assumed “the form of a servant,” and the form of a servant is not the form of God. In the form of God, he is one who is God by nature and one who assumed the form of a servant, while the form of a servant is one who is man by nature and who was assumed for our salvation. He who assumed is not the same as he who was assumed. The one who assumed is God, while the one who was assumed is man. The one who assumed is by nature the same as God the Father, for he is God with God…. But he who was assumed is by nature the same as David and Abraham, whose son he is and from whom he is descended. Hence he is both the Lord of David and his son. ON THE NICENE CREED 8.1. (Ibid., p. 103; italicized and underline emphasis mine)

5. If then thou hear the Gospel saying, The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham Matthew 1:1, understand “according to the flesh.” For He is the Son of David at the end of the ages Hebrews 9:26, but the Son of God Before All Ages, without beginning. The one, which before He had not, He received; but the other, which He has, He has eternally as begotten of the Father. Two fathers He has: one, David, according to the flesh, and one, God, His Father in a Divine manner. As the Son of David, He is subject to time, and to handling, and to genealogical descent: but as Son according to the Godhead , He is subject neither to time nor to place, nor to genealogical descent: for His generation who shall declare ? God is a Spirit John 4:24; He who is a Spirit has spiritually begotten, as being incorporeal, an inscrutable and incomprehensible generation. The Son Himself says of the Father, The Lord said to Me, You are My Son, today have I begotten You. Now this today is not recent, but eternal: a timeless today, before all agesFrom the womb, before the morning star, have I begotten You. (Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lecture 11 http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/310111.htm; bold emphasis mine)

How Allah Stumped Muhammad and His Followers

The Quran expressly testifies that Jesus is the Word of Allah, who proceeded from him as a Spirit and was sent down into Mary, obviously for the express purpose of becoming a flesh and blood human being:

When the angels said, ‘Mary, God gives thee good tidings of a Word from Him (Kalimatin minhu) whose name is Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary; high honoured shall he be in this world and the next, near stationed to God. S. 3:45 Artery

People of the Book! do not go to excess in your deen. Say nothing but the truth about Allah. The Messiah, ´Isa son of Maryam, was only the Messenger of Allah and His Word (Kalimatuhu), which He cast into Maryam, and a Spirit from Him (Ruhun minhu). So have iman in Allah and His Messengers. Do not say, ´Three.´ It is better that you stop. Allah is only One God. He is too Glorious to have a son! Everything in the heavens and in the earth belongs to Him. Allah suffices as a Guardian. S. 4:171 (Aisha Bewley https://www.islamawakened.com/quran/4/st6.htm; bold and italicized emphasis mine)

This is why Muslim tradition calls Jesus the Word of Allah (Kalimatullah) and the Spirit of Allah (Ruhullah):

“… They will go to ‘Isa and say, ‘O ‘Isa! You are the Messenger of Allah and His Word which He cast to Maryam and a spirit from Him. You spoke to people while in the cradle. Intercede with your Lord on our behalf. Do you not see what we are suffering?’ ‘Isa will say, ‘My Lord is angry today with such anger as has never existed before nor will again,’ AND HE DID NOT MENTION A SIN. ‘O my soul! My soul! My soul! Go to someone else. Go to Muhammad.’ (Aisha Bewley, The Sahih Collection of al-BukhariChapter 68. Book of Tafsir; bold, capital and underline emphasis ours)

It is narrated on the authority of Ubadah b. Samit that the messenger of Allah observed: HE WHO SAID: “There is no god but Allah, He is One and there is no associate with Him, that Muhammad is his servant and His messenger, that Christ is servant and the son of His slave-girl and he (Christ) HIS WORD which He communicated to Mary and is HIS SPIRIT, that Paradise is a fact and Hell is a fact,” Allah would make him (he who affirms these truths enter Paradise through any one of its eight doors which he would like. (Sahih Muslim, Book 1, Number 0043)

And here are some Islamic fairytales about Jesus where he is expressly called the Spirit of Allah:

“Jesus continued his mission, aided by divine miracles. Some Qur’anic commentators said that Jesus brought four people back from the dead: a friend of his named Al-‘Azam, an old woman’s son, and a woman’s only daughter. These three had died during his lifetime. When the Jews saw this they said: ‘You only resurrect those who have died recently; perhaps they only fainted.’ They asked him to bring back to life Sam the [sic] Ibn Noah. 

“When he asked them to show him his grave, the people accompanied him there. Jesus invoked Allah the Exalted to bring him back to life and behold, Sam the [sic] Ibn Noah came out from the grave gray-haired. Jesus asked: ‘How did you get gray hair, when there was no aging in your time?’ He answered: ‘O, Spirit of Allah, I thought that the Day of Resurrection had come; from the fear of that day my hair turned gray.’” (Ibn Kathir, Stories of the Prophets, pp. 347-348; bold emphasis mine)

And:

“Jesus suddenly prostrated and his disciples with him. They sensed a fragrance which they had never smelled before. Jesus said: ‘The one who is the most devout and most righteous may uncover the table, that we might eat of it to thank Allah for it.’ They said: ‘O Spirit of Allah you are the most deserving.’

“Jesus stood up, then performed ablution and prayed before uncovering the table, and behold, there was a roasted fish. The disciples said: ‘O Spirit of Allah, is that the food of this world or of Paradise? Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Did not Allah forbid you to ask questions?’ It is the divine power of Allah the Almighty Who said: “Be,” and it was. It is a sign from Almighty Allah warning of great punishment for unbelieving mortals of the world. This is the kernel of the matter.’ 

“It is said that thousands of people partook of it, and yet they never exhausted it. A further miracle was that the blind and lepers were cured.

“The Day of the Table became one of the holy days for the disciples and followers of Jesus. Later on, the disciples and followers forgot the real essence of the miracles, and so they worshiped Jesus as a god.” (Ibid., p. 351; bold emphasis mine)  

Finally:

“While they were on their way, suddenly they came to a huge lion in the middle of the road; and they were alarmed. But Jesus said to them, ‘Put me before him.’ When they sat him in front of the lion, he took hold of the lion’s ear and said, ‘What made you sit here?’

“The lion said, ‘O Spirit of God, I am waiting for an ox to come to me so that I can eat it.’

“‘The ox might belong to poor people,’ said Jesus. ‘Go to such-and-such place, where you will find a camel. Eat it and leave the ox to its owners.’ So the lion went off in the direction of the mountain.” (Muhammad ibn ‘abd Allah al-Kisa’i, Tales of the Prophets (Qisas al-anbiya’), translated by Wheeler M. Thackson Jr. [Great Books of the Islamic World, Inc., 1997], 86. Jesus son of Mary, p. 330; bold emphasis mine)

It is obvious that Jesus is called the Spirit of Allah precisely because of the Quran’s teaching that Christ already existed as a Spirit alongside Allah when he was then sent forth from Allah’s own presence into Mary in order to become a man.

Here’s where the problem lay for Muslims. According to the Islamic expositors, these verses that describe Jesus as Allah’s Word and Spirit are among the unclear, ambiguous passages that no one knows their precise meanings besides Allah:

It is He who has sent down to you (Muhammad) the book (this Qur’an). In it are Verses absolutely clear, they are the basis of the book; and others are not entirely clear. As for those in whose hearts there is deviation (from the truth), they follow what is unclear thereof, seeking mischief, and seeking for its hidden meanings, but no one knows its hidden meanings except Allah. And those who are firmly rooted in knowledge say: “We believe in it, all from our Lord.” None will heed except the people of understanding. S. 3:7 (Abdul Hye https://www.islamawakened.com/quran/3/st75.htm)

It is He who has sent down to you the Book. Some of its verses are precise in meaning they are the foundation of the Book and others obscure. Those whose hearts are swerving with disbelief, follow the obscure desiring sedition and desiring its interpretation, but no one knows its interpretation except Allah. Those who are wellgrounded in knowledge say: ‘We believe in it, it is all from our Lord. And none remember except those who are possessed of minds. (Hasan al-Fatih Qaribullah https://www.islamawakened.com/quran/3/st16.htm)

Note, for instance, what renowned Muslim scholar and historian al-Tabari wrote:

OPINION: Some of them said: This verse referred to the Christian delegation from Najran, which came to the Messenger of God to debate with him over what they debated and argue with him, saying, “Do you not claim that Jesus is the Spirit of God and His Word?”1 They interpreted [these words] in a manner consistent with their statement of disbelief.

An account of those who said that:

Al-Muthanna – Ibn Ishaq – Ibn Abi Ja’far – his father – al-Rabi’: “They were resolute-meaning the Christian delegation from Najran that came to the Messenger of God-and they argued with the Prophet, saying, ‘Do you not claim that [Jesus] is the Word of God and a Spirit from Him?’ [The Prophet said] replied, ‘BUT, OF COURSE!’ They said, ‘This is sufficient for us!’ Then God (Mighty and Majesty is He) sent down, But those in whose hearts is doubt pursue that which is ambiguous of it, seeking (to cause) dissension. Then God (Majestic is His praise) sent down the verse [beginning with] Truly the likeness of Jesus with respect to God is as the likeness of Adam (Q. 3:59).”2

1 Jesus is described as His Word and a Spirit from Him in Q. 4:171.

2 According to Suyuti, this mursal hadith from al-Rabi’ is found elsewhere only in the Qur’anic commentary of Ibn Abi Hatim; al-Durr al-manthur, 2:10. (Tabari: Selections from The Comprehensive Exposition of the Interpretation of the Verses of the Qur’an, translated by Scott C. Lucas [The Royal Aal Al-Bayt Institute For Islamic Thought and The Islamic Texts Society, 2017], Volume 1, p. 229; capital emphasis mine)   

And here’s what another leading Muslim expositor and scholar stated in respect to this verse:

(they follow that which is not entirely clear thereof) meaning, they refer to the Mutashabih, because they are able to alter its meanings to conform with their false interpretation since the wordings of the Mutashabihat encompass such a wide area of meanings. As for the Muhkam Ayat, they cannot be altered because they are clear and, thus, constitute unequivocal proof against the misguided people. This is why Allah said…

(seeking Al-Fitnah) meaning, they seek to misguide their following by pretending to prove their innovation by relying on the Qur’an — the Mutashabih of it — but, this is proof against and not for them. For instance, Christians might claim that (`Isa is divine because) the Qur’an states that he is Ruhullah and His Word, which He gave to Mary, all the while ignoring Allah’s statements…

(He (`Isa) was not more than a servant. We granted Our favor to him.) (43:59), and…

(Verily, the likeness of `Isa before Allah is the likeness of Adam. He created him from dust, then (He) said to him: “Be!” and he was.) (3:59).

There are other Ayat that clearly assert that `Isa is but one of Allah’s creatures and that he is the servant and Messenger of Allah, among other Messengers. (Tafsir Ibn Kathir http://www.alim.org/library/quran/AlQuran-tafsir/TIK/3/7; bold emphasis mine)

What this shows is that no Muslim can ever explain what it means for Jesus to be the Word and Spirit of Allah, since no one, not even Muhammad, can ever know the interpretation of these titles seeing that they are a part of those obscure and unclear passages whose exact meanings are known only to Allah.

Seeing that the Quran fails to explain what these titles mean, with Muhammadans being forbidden by their deity to interpret their meanings, their interpretation is therefore left up to God’s Word, the Holy Bible. After all, the Muslims are expressly commanded to ask the Jews and Christians if they are in doubt about anything concerning biblical figures and/or stories:

And if thou (Muhammad) art in doubt concerning that which We reveal unto thee, then question those who read the Scripture (that was) before thee. Verily the Truth from thy Lord hath come unto thee. So be not thou of the waverers. S. 10:94 Pickthall

And verily We gave unto Moses nine tokens, clear proofs (of Allah’s Sovereignty). Do but ask the Children of Israel how he came unto them, then Pharaoh said unto him: Lo! I deem thee one bewitched, O Moses. S. 17:101 Pickthall

And We sent not before you (O Muhammad) but men to whom We inspired, so ask the people of the Reminder [Scriptures – the Taurat (Torah), the Injeel (Gospel)] if you do not know. S. 21:7 Hilali-Khan

With that said, here’s how God’s Word explains these titles:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were created through Him, and without Him nothing was created that was created. In Him was life, and the life was the light of mankind. The light shines in darkness, but the darkness has not overcome it. There was a man sent from God whose name was John. This man came as a witness in order to testify concerning the Light, that all men through Him might believe. He was not this Light, but was sent in order to testify concerning the Light. The true Light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was created through Him, yet the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him. Yet to all who received Him, He gave the power to become sons of God, to those who believed in His name, who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, the glory as the only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth. John bore witness of Him and cried out, ‘This was He of whom I said, “He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.”’ We have all received from His fullness grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has seen God at any time. The only Son, who is at the Father’s side, has made Him known.” John 1:1-18

“So it is written, ‘The first man Adam was made a living soul.’ The last Adam was made a life-giving spirit. However, that which is spiritual is not first, but the natural, and then the spiritual. The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second man was the Lord from heaven. As was the man of dust, so are those who are of dust; and as is the man of heaven, so are those who are of heaven. 49 As we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.” 1 Corinthians 15:45-49

The reason why Jesus is called the Word of God and a life-giving Spirit is that he is the Father’s perfect Revelation and Agent of creation that brought all created things into existence and who gives life to all creatures.

In other words, he is the Word because he perfectly reveals what God is like since he himself is God by nature. He is Spirit because, being God, he has eternally existed as an immaterial, incorporeal, bodiless Being who came down from heaven for the express purpose of becoming flesh, e.g. human, in order to redeem fallen creation from the power of Satan, sin, and death by offering his soul on the cross as an atoning sacrifice:

“The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.’” John 1:29

“I am the good shepherd. I know My sheep and am known by My own. Even as the Father knows Me, so I know the Father. And I lay down My life for the sheep. I have other sheep who are not of this fold. I must also bring them, and they will hear My voice. There will be one flock and one shepherd. Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I received this command from My Father.” John 10:14-18

“This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. The bread which I shall give for the life of the world is My flesh.” John 6:50-51

“Now, brothers, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which you have received, and in which you stand. Through it you are saved, if you keep in memory what I preached to you, unless you have believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: how Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, was buried, rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and was seen by Cephas, and then by the twelve. Then He was seen by over five hundred brothers at once, of whom the greater part remain to this present time, though some have passed away. Then He was seen by James and then by all the apostles. Last of all, He was seen by me also, as by one born at the wrong time. For I am the least of the apostles and am not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am`. And His grace toward me was not in vain. I labored more abundantly than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.” 1 Corinthians 15:1-10

“that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their sins against them, and has entrusted to us the message of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us. We implore you in Christ’s stead: Be reconciled to God. God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” 2 Corinthians 5:19-21

Ironically, the Quran actually agrees with God’s inspired Word that Jesus is the Life-giver since it testifies that Christ creates and gives life to the dead in the same way that God does:

And [he will be] a messenger to the Children of Israel, “Truly I have brought you a sign from your Lord. I will create for you out of clay the shape of a bird. Then I will breathe into it, and it will be a bird by God’s Leave. And I will heal the blind and the leper and give life to the dead by God’s Leave. And I will inform you about what you eat and what you store up in your houses. Truly in that is a sign for you, if you are believers. (The Study Quran https://www.islamawakened.com/quran/3/st70.htm)

When He shall say: O Jesus! Son of Mary! call to mind my favour upon thee and upon thy mother, when I strengthened thee with the Holy Spirit, that thou shouldest speak to men alike in the cradle, and when grown up; – And when I taught thee the Scripture, and Wisdom, and the Law, and the Evangel: and thou didst create of clay, as it were, the figure of a bird, by my leave, and didst breathe into it, and by my leave it became a bird; and thou didst heal the blind and the leper, by my leave; and when, by my leave, thou didst bring forth the dead; and when I withheld the children of Israel from thee, when thou hadst come to them with clear tokens: and such of them as believed not said, “This is nought but plain sorcery;” S. 5:110 Rodwell

We thus have Allah stumping Muhammad-in fact, embarrassing him-by having him affirm specific titles of Christ that clearly point to Jesus’ eternal prehuman existence, which Christians employed against him to prove that Christ is God in the flesh. Allah then had Muhammad come up with the rather pathetic excuse that such verses, which plainly testify to Jesus’ divinity, are unclear whose interpretation is known only to Allah.   

One wonders why did Allah even bother “sending down” such ambiguous, vague, incoherent, unintelligible texts when he supposedly knew that they would be used against Muhammad to embarrass him and to expose contradictions within his so called revelation?

After all, the Muslim deity is supposed to be omniscient, and an omniscient being would know better than to “reveal” passages that would be used to expose both himself and his supposed prophet. Therefore, why not just send down the clear texts whose meanings are apparent to everyone and save Muhammad from such humiliation?

Be that as it may, one thing remains certain. NO Muslim can tell us what the titles “the Word of Allah” and “the Spirit of Allah” actually mean in regards to Christ since their own prophet expressly taught that no one knows their interpretation except Allah.

So much for the Quran being the revelation of God and for Jesus being nothing more than a human messenger.

Another Quranic Dilemma Pt. 1

In this series we will be revisiting (https://answeringislam.net/Quran/Contra/jesus_unlike_adam.html) the Quran’s assertion that Jesus is similar to Adam in the sight of the Muslim deity:

Verily, in the sight of God, the nature of Jesus is as the nature of Adam, whom He created out of dust and then said unto him, “Be” – and he is. S. 3:59 Muhammad Asad

We will see how this comparison ends up proving way too much, and once again shows that Muhammad could not have been a true prophet sent by the true God.

We Have Contradictions Galore!

But before we do so we will begin by showing how the Quran actually contradicts itself at this point, since Jesus and Adam are quite unlike each other.

1. Allah did not create Adam by his word.

The first problem with the Quranic assertion is that both the Quran and ahadith deny that Adam was made by Allah’s creative word “Be.”

According to these Islamic sources Adam was actually created by Allah‘s very own hands, and then had Allah’s spirit breathed into him for the obvious purpose of making him a living, animated creature:

Your Lord said to the angels: ‘I am creating man from clay. When I have fashioned him and breathed My spirit into him, kneel-down and prostrate yourselves before him.’ The angels all prostrated themselves except Satan, who was too proud, for he was an unbeliever. ‘Satan,’ said He, ‘why do you not bow to him whom MY OWN HANDS have made? Are you too proud, or do you deem yourself superior?’ S. 38:71-75 N. J. Dawood

“Abu Huraira reported Allah’s Messenger as saying: There was an argument between Adam and Moses in the presence of their Lord. Adam came the better of Moses. Moses said: Are you that Adam whom Allah created with HIS HAND and breathed into him HIS SPIRIT, and commanded angels to fall in prostration before him and He made you live in Paradise with comfort and ease…” (Sahih Muslim, Book 033, Number 6411 https://www.searchtruth.com/book_display.php?book=033&translator=2&start=0&number=6411)

In fact, the allegedly sound narrations proclaim that Adam happens to be only one of four things, which Allah made directly with his own hand. The rest of creation was made by the command “Be”:

On the authority of al Haarith ibn Nawfal:

“Allaah created three things with His Hand:

    1. He created Adam with His Hand
    2. He wrote the Tawraah with His Hand and
    3. He planted Firdaus with His Hand.”

[Collected by ad Daylami. It was collected by ad Daraqutni in ‘As Sifaat’ P. 26 #28 and Abu Ash Shailkh in ‘Al ‘Udhmah’: 5/1555]

In another Hadeeth narrated by ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr:

“Indeed Allah – the Mighty and Majestic – created three things with His Hand; He created Adam with His Hand, He wrote the Torah with His Hand and He planted Firdaws with His Hand.”

[Collected by ad Daraqutni in ‘As Sifaat’ P.45 and al Bayhaqi in ‘Al Asma was Sifat’: P. 403 on the authority of al Harith ibn Nawfal.]

It was authentically reported that ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar said:

“Allaah created four things with His Hand:

    1. The Throne
    2. The Pen
    3. Aadam and
    4. The paradise of ‘Adn.

He then said to the rest of the creation ‘Kun’ [Be] and it was.”

Adh Dhahabi stated in ‘l ‘Uluw’: ‘It’s chain is good.’

Al Albaani stated in ‘Mukhtasar al ‘Uluw’ P.105: ‘The chain is authentic according to the conditions of Muslim.’ (“The Four Things Allah Created with His Hand” http://subulassalaam.com/articles/article.cfm?article_id=128; bold emphasis mine)

And;

Allah singled out Adam to create him with His hands, as He has told us, and He did not create any other animate being with His hands…

Imam ad-Daarimi said: Allah created Adam with His hand directly; He did not create any other animate being with His hands. Thus He singled him out, favoured him and honoured him with that renown.

End quote from Naqd ad-Daarimi ‘ala al-Mureesi, p. 64

Ad-Daarimi narrated with a hasan isnad from Maysarah Abu Saalih, the freed slave of Kindah, one of the Taabi‘een, that he said: Allah did not directly handle anything of His creation except in three cases: He created Adam with His hand, he wrote the Torah with His hand, and He planted the Garden of Eden (Jannat ‘Adan) with His hand.

Naqd ad-Daarimi, p. 99. The commentator, Shaykh Mansoor as-Samaari, said in his introduction to the book: It was narrated from other Taabi‘een, such as Hakeem ibn Jaabir and Muhammad ibn Ka‘b al-Qurazi, with a saheeh isnad, which I have quoted in my comment on the report where it appears in the book.

These are the four things that Allah created with His hand: the Throne, the Pen, the garden of Eden, and Adam. As for all other created beings, they were created by the word “Be,” and they were. (Islam Q&A, “Allah created four things with His hands” https://islamqa.info/en/answers/89966/allah-created-four-things-with-his-hands; bold emphasis mine)

We, therefore, have a clear-cut contradiction since Adam WAS NOT created by Allah’s creative word.

2. Jesus was not created like Adam.

The problem is far worse when we consider that the Quran itself denies that Jesus was brought into existence through the word “Be.” Rather, the Muslim scripture testifies that Allah actually sent his very own spirit in the likeness of a man in order to cause Mary to conceive miraculously without any male intervention:

And you shall recount in the Book the story of Mary: how she left her people and betook herself to a solitary place to the east. We sent to her Our spirit in the semblance of a full-grown man. And when she saw him she said: ‘May the Merciful defend me from you! If you fear the Lord, [leave me and go your way].’ ‘I am but your Lord’s emissary,’ he replied, ‘and have come TO GIVE YOU a holy son.’ ‘How shall I bear a child,’ she answered, ‘when I have neither been touched by any man nor ever been unchaste?’ ‘Thus did your Lord speak,’ he replied. “‘That is easy enough for Me. He shall be a sign to mankind and a blessing from Ourself. Our decree shall come to pass.”‘ S. 19:16-21 Dawood

Therefore, Jesus was neither created from dust nor by the command “Be.”

This brings us to the other problem with this comparison.

3. The Spirit of God Incarnate

Whereas the Quran states that Allah breathed his spirit into Adam, and mankind in general,

Then He fashioned him and breathed into him of His Spirit; and appointed for you hearing and sight and hearts. Small thanks give ye! S. 32:9 Pickthall

Jesus, on the other hand, is said to be Allah’s very own Word and a Spirit sent forth from him into Mary:

People of the Book, go not beyond the bounds in your religion, and say not as to God but the truth. The Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, was only a Messenger of God, and His Word that He committed to Mary, and a Spirit from Him. So believe in God and His Messengers, and say not, ‘Three.’ Refrain; better is it for you. God is only One God. Glory be to Him – That He should have a son! To Him belongs all that is in the heavens and in the earth; God suffices for a guardian. S. 4:171 Arberry

This explains why Jesus is identified as the Word and Spirit of Allah all throughout the Islamic literature, phrases which are never ascribed to Adam:

4435. It is related that Abu Hurayra said, “The Messenger of Allah was given some meat and was offered the leg, which he liked, and ate some of it. Then he said, ‘I will be the master of people on the Day of Rising. Do you know what that will entail? Allah will gather people, the first and the last on the same plain so that an observer will be able to see them and a speaker make them hear. The sun will be brought near to them and people will experience such sorrow and distress that they will not be able to bear or endure it. The people will say, ‘Do you not see what has come to you? Why do you not look for someone to intercede with your Lord on your behalf?’ People will say to one another, ‘You must have Adam!’ They will come to Adam, peace be upon him, and say, ‘You are the father of mankind. Allah created you with His hand and breathed some of His spirit into you and He ordered the angels to prostrate to you. He made you dwell in the Garden. Will you not intercede with your Lord on our behalf? Do you not see what we are suffering?’ Adam will say, ‘My Lord is angry today with such anger as has never existed before nor will again. He forbade me the Tree and I disobeyed. O my soul! My soul! My soul! Go to someone else. Go to Nuh.’… They will go to ‘Isa and say, ‘O ‘Isa! You are the Messenger of Allah and HIS WORD which He cast to Maryam and a spirit from Him. You spoke to people while in the cradle. Intercede with your Lord on our behalf. Do you not see what we are suffering?’ ‘Isa will say, ‘My Lord is angry today with such anger as has never existed before nor will again,’ and he did not mention a sin. ‘O my soul! My soul! My soul! Go to someone else. Go to Muhammad.’ (Bewley, The Sahih Collection of al-Bukhari, Chapter 68. Book of Tafsir http://bewley.virtualave.net/bukhari31.html; bold, capital and underline emphasis mine)

Anas b Malik reported: The Messenger of Allah said: Allah would gather people on the Day of Resurrection and they would be concerned about it, and Ibn Ubaid said. They would get a Divine inspiration about it, and would say: If we could seek intercession with our Lord, we may be relieved from this predicament of ours. He (the Holy Prophet) said: They would come to Adam and say, Thou art Adam, the father of mankind. Allah created thee with His own hand and breathed unto thee of His Spirit and commanded the angels and they prostrated before thee. So intercede for us with thy Lord, that He may relieve us from this position of ours. He would say: I am not in a position to do this, and would recall his error, and would feel shy of his Lord on account of that… You better go to Jesus, THE SPIRIT OF ALLAH and His word… (Sahih Muslim, Book 001, Number 0373 https://www.searchtruth.com/book_display.php?book=001&translator=2&start=0&number=0373)

Jami` at-Tirmidhi

Chapters on Virtues

Narrated Ibn ‘Abbas:

that a group of people from the Companions of the Messenger of Allah sat waiting for him. He said: “Then he came out, such that when he came close to them, he heard them talking, and he heard what they were saying. So some of them said: ‘It’s amazing that Allah, the Mighty and Sublime, has taken a Khalil (close friend) from His creation. He took Ibrahim as a Khalil.’ And some of them said: ‘That is not more amazing than speaking to Musa, He spoke to him with real speech.’ And some said: ‘And ‘Eisa is the word of Allah and HIS SPIRIT.’ And some said: ‘Adam was chosen by Allah.’ So he came out upon them and said his Salam, and said: ‘I have heard your words, and your amazement that Ibrahim is the Khalil of Allah, and he is such, and that Musa is the one spoken to by Allah, and he is such, and that ‘Eisa is THE SPIRIT OF ALLAH and His Word, and he is such, and that Adam was chosen by Allah, and he is such…

Grade: Da’if (Darussalam)

English reference: Vol. 1, Book 46, Hadith 3616

Arabic reference: Book 49, Hadith 3976 (Sunnah.com https://sunnah.com/urn/634780; capital, italic and underline emphasis mine)

In fact, besides the title Kalimatullah (“the Word of Allah”) Jesus is also given the name Ruhullah (“Spirit of Allah”), as in the following examples:

“Jesus continued his mission, aided by divine miracles. Some Qur’anic commentators said that Jesus brought four people back from the dead: a friend of his named Al-‘Azam, an old woman’s son, and a woman’s only daughter. These three had died during his lifetime. When the Jews saw this they said: ‘You only resurrect those who have died recently; perhaps they only fainted.’ They asked him to bring back to life Sam the [sic] Ibn Noah.

“When he asked them to show him his grave, the people accompanied him there. Jesus invoked Allah the Exalted to bring him back to life and behold, Sam the [sic] Ibn Noah came out from the grave gray-haired. Jesus asked: ‘How did you get gray hair, when there was no aging in your time?’ He answered: ‘O, Spirit of Allah, I thought that the Day of Resurrection had come; from the fear of that day my hair turned gray.’” (Ibn Kathir, Stories of the Prophets, pp. 347-348; bold and underline emphasis mine)

“Jesus suddenly prostrated and his disciples with him. They sensed a fragrance which they had never smelled before. Jesus said: ‘The one who is the most devout and most righteous may uncover the table, that we might eat of it to thank Allah for it.’ They said: ‘O Spirit of Allah you are the most deserving.’

“Jesus stood up, then performed ablution and prayed before uncovering the table, and behold, there was a roasted fish. The disciples said: ‘O Spirit of Allah, is that the food of this world or of Paradise? Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Did not Allah forbid you to ask questions?’ It is the divine power of Allah the Almighty Who said: “Be,” and it was. It is a sign from Almighty Allah warning of great punishment for unbelieving mortals of the world. This is the kernel of the matter.’

“It is said that thousands of people partook of it, and yet they never exhausted it. A further miracle was that the blind and lepers were cured.

The Day of the Table became one of the holy days for the disciples and followers of Jesus. Later on, the disciples and followers forgot the real essence of the miracles, and so they worshiped Jesus as a god.” (Ibid., p. 351; bold and underline emphasis mine)

“While they were on their way, suddenly they came to a huge lion in the middle of the road; and they were alarmed. But Jesus said to them, ‘Put me before him.’ When they sat him in front of the lion, he took hold of the lion’s ear and said, ‘What made you sit here?’

“The lion said, ‘O Spirit of God, I am waiting for an ox to come to me so that I can eat it.’

“‘The ox might belong to poor people,’ said Jesus. ‘’Go to such-and-such place, where you will find a camel. Eat it and leave the ox to its owners.’ So the lion went off in the direction of the mountain.” (Muhammad ibn ‘abd Allah al-Kisa’i, Tales of the Prophets (Qisas al-anbiya’), translated by Wheeler M. Thackson Jr. [Great Books of the Islamic World, Inc., 1997], 86. Jesus son of Mary, p. 330; bold and underline emphasis ours)

It is obvious that Jesus is called the Spirit of Allah precisely because of the Quran’s teaching that Christ already existed as a Spirit alongside Allah when he was then sent forth from Allah’s own presence into Mary in order to become a man.

This is further brought out by the following verse:

And in Mary, ‘Imran’s daughter, who preserved her chastity and into whose womb We breathed Our spirit; who put her trust in the words of her Lord and His scriptures, and was truly devout. S. 66:12 Dawood – cf. Q. 21:91

In light of Q. 4:171, where Jesus is said to be the Word and Spirit that Allah cast down into Mary,

“… The Messiah, ´Isa son of Maryam, was only the Messenger of Allah and His Word, which He cast INTO Maryam, and a Spirit from Him…” (Aisha Bewley https://www.islamawakened.com/quran/4/st6.htm)

It seems plausible that the Spirit of Allah that was breathed into Mary was actually Jesus himself.

In other words, Christ was the very Spirit which Allah breathed, i.e., sent forth, into Mary so that he could become a human being.

This interpretation becomes even more likely in light of the following texts, which depict Jesus as creating a bird from clay and breathing life into it:

As a messenger to the Children of Israel: “I have come to you with a sign from your Lord; that I CREATE for you FROM CLAY the form of a bird, then I BLOW INTO IT and it becomes a bird by God ‘s leave, and I heal the blind and the lepers, and give life to the dead by God ‘s leave, and I can tell you what you have eaten, and what you have stored in your homes. In that is a sign for you if you have acknowledged.” S. 3:49 Quran: A Reformist Translation (QRT)

God said, “O Jesus son of Mary, recall My blessings upon you and your mother that I supported you with the Holy Spirit; you spoke to the people in the cradle and in old age; and I taught you the book and the wisdom, and the Torah, and the Injeel; and YOU WOULD CREATE FROM CLAY the shape of a bird, then BLOW INTO IT and it becomes a bird by My leave; and you heal the blind and the leper by My leave; and you brought out the dead by My leave. I have restrained the Children of Israel from you, that you came to them with proofs; but those who rejected amongst them said, “This is an obvious magic!” S. 5:110 QRT

Astonishingly, Christ creates in the exact same way that Allah created and animated Adam!

WE CREATED man FROM DRY CLAY, from black moulded loam, and before him Satan from smokeless fire. Your Lord said to the angels: ‘I am creating man from dry clay, from black moulded loam. When I have fashioned him and breathed of My spirit into him, kneel down and prostrate yourselves before him.’ The angels, one and all, prostrated themselves, except Satan. He refused to prostrate himself as the others did. ‘Satan,’ said God, ‘why do you not prostrate yourself?’ He replied: ‘I will not bow to a mortal whom YOU CREATED OF DRY CLAY, of black moulded loam.’ ‘Get you hence,’ said God, ‘you are accursed. The curse shall be on you till Judgement-day.’ S. 15:27-35 Dawood

This passage indicates that Jesus must have breathed the life-animating Spirit into the clay bird, much like Allah did for Adam. And the reason why Christ could do so is that he happens to be the very Spirit of Allah, and therefore has the power to give life. In the words of the blessed Apostle Paul:

“So it is written, ‘The first man Adam was made a living soul.’ The last Adam was made a life-giving spirit.” 1 Corinthians 15:45 Modern English Version (MEV)

Hence, whatever it means for Christ to be like Adam it obviously cannot refer to the manner of their creation since, unlike the first man, Jesus did not come into being in his mother’s womb. Rather, Christ was already alive with Allah long before his blessed mother conceived his physical body and human nature.

Nor is the creation of Adam actually unique, since there have been many things that were created in a similar fashion. As the following scholar of Islam explains:

“In reality, this verse contains two ideas: one, the affirmation of a likeness between Christ and Adam (mathala ‘Is‘indallah; yet of what this likeness consists the Qur’an does not say); and two, a report concerning Adam, that God created him from dust and his word.

“One can assume nevertheless that the likeness between the two, according to the Qur’an, is that like Jesus Adam was created without a father. This point is rather frequently mentioned in Muslim tradition until the present day. Muslim apologists of the Middle Ages, as those of the modern era (e.g. Shaykh Rashid Rida in his commentary on the Qur’an) emphasize even that Adam was superior to Jesus because he was born without a mother. Christian theologians (notably Elijah of Nisibis [d. 1056]) respond that in this Adam is not different than the first donkey or bull, since he is the first of his jins. But Jesus was born without a father when there were an infinity of possible fathers. According to them the eminence of Christ above Adam is thereby demonstrated.” (Samir Khalil Samir, “6. The Theological Christian Influence on the Qur’an – A Reflection,” The Qur’an in its Historical Context, edited by Gabriel Said Reynolds [Routledge Studies in the Qur’an, 2008], p. 147; bold emphasis mine)

Therefore, we must look elsewhere if we are going to discover what makes Adam and Jesus so similar.

This is what we intend to do in the next part of our discussion

Paul’s Divine Christology Pt. 1

In this series, I am going to go through the inspired letters of Paul to show how this beloved Apostle proclaimed the absolute, essential Deity of Christ. I will point to texts where Paul clearly describes the risen Jesus as the God of Israel who became flesh.

There are various ways in which the Apostle Paul identifies Jesus as the physical enfleshment of Jehovah God Almighty, such as describing Christ as the one Lord in the same context where specific Old Testament [OT] texts that speak of Jehovah are ascribed to him. Case in point:

one Lord (heis Kyrios), one faith, one baptism… But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth? He that descended is the same also that ascended up FAR ABOVE all heavens, that he might fill all things.) Ephesians 4:7-10

In this passage, the blessed Apostle has directly quoted the following Psalm,

Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the LORD God might dwell among them.” Psalm 68:18

And taken the language of this particular OT text,

“Am I a God at hand, saith the LORD, and not a God afar off? Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the LORD. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the LORD.” Jeremiah 23:23-24

And applied them to the risen Christ, and does so within the same chapter where Jesus is expressly said to be the one Lord. More on this last point later.

That Christ is the very Jehovah who has ascended far above the heavens to reign supreme over all creation is reiterated elsewhere by Paul,

“and what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, FAR ABOVE all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.” Ephesians 1:19-23

“For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens;” Hebrews 7:26

And confirmed by some of the other inspired New Testament [NT] writers:

“And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heavenHe that cometh from above is ABOVE ALL: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth: he that cometh from heaven is ABOVE ALL.” John 3:13, 31

“The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ: who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.” 1 Peter 3:21-22

Now since the Hebrew Scriptures attest that Jehovah alone is exalted far above all creation,

“that men may know that thou, whose name alone is JEHOVAH, art the most high over all the earth.” Psalm 83:18

“For thou, LORD, art high ABOVE all the earth: thou art exalted FAR ABOVE all gods.” Psalm 97:9

And that he alone sits enthroned on high,

“Who is like unto the LORD our God, who dwelleth on high,” Psalm 113:5

It is, therefore, evident that the inspired NT writings do emphatically affirm that Jesus Christ is Jehovah God Almighty who became flesh (even though he is neither the Father nor the Holy Spirit).

This isn’t the only instance where Paul applies OT passages about Jehovah to the risen Christ:

“that if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Romans 10:9-13

The Apostle has cited two OT passages,

“Therefore thus saith the Lord, [even] the Lord, Behold, I lay for the foundations of Sion a costly stone, a choice, a corner-stone, a precious [stone], for its foundations; and he that believes [on him] shall by no means be ashamed.” Isaiah 28:16 LXX – Cf. 8:14

One of which is expressly about needing to call upon the name of Jehovah for salvation:

“And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the Lord hath said, and in the remnant whom the LORD shall call.” Joel 2:32

In proclaiming that salvation comes from confessing Jesus Christ as Lord whom God raised from the dead. 

What this shows is that Paul has basically described Christ as the Jehovah whom everyone must call upon in order to be saved!

In fact, the blessed Apostle attests that Christians were characterized by their practice of calling on the name of the Lord Jesus:

“unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:” 1 Corinthians 1:2

To say that this is remarkable would be putting it mildly since the Hebrew Scriptures are emphatic that true believers are those who call on the name of Jehovah alone:

“And Abraham planted a grove in Beer-sheba, and called there on the name of the LORD, the everlasting God.” Genesis 21:33

“Exalt ye the LORD our God, and worship at his footstool; for he is holy. Moses and Aaron among his priests, and Samuel among them that call upon his name; they called upon the LORD, and he answered them.” Psalm 99:5-6

“Because he hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I liveThen called I upon the name of the LORD; O LORD, I beseech thee, deliver my soul… I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the LORD… I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the LORD.” Psalm 116:2, 4, 13, 17

“The LORD is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth.” Psalm 145:18

As if Paul couldn’t shock his readers any further, he states that Jesus is the Lord of the living and the dead before whose judgment-seat everyone must stand and give an account:

“For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living. But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” Romans 14:9-12

The blessed Apostle cites the following OT passage as being fulfilled on the day when Christ will judge all creation: 

“I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.” Isaiah 45:23

That Christ shall be the Judge on the day in which every knee will bow and swear allegiance to the Lord is made explicitly clear by these next verses:

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad. Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are made manifest unto God; and I trust also are made manifest in your consciences.” 2 Corinthians 5:10-11

“Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:9-11

Paul has once again taken an OT citation, which speaks of the whole inhabited earth worshiping Jehovah, and attributed to Jesus, thereby identifying the risen Christ as that very Jehovah whom all creation must and shall eventually confess and worship!

The Apostle wasn’t alone in this proclamation since other inspired NT writers concur with him that Jesus is the Lord of all creation who shall judge the living and the dead:

“The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all:)… And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead.” Acts 10:36, 42

In light of the foregoing, what more does the NT need to say in order to convince a person that the first generation of Jesus’ followers, many of whom were monotheist Jews, all worshiped Jesus as Jehovah God in the flesh? 

I’ll have more to say in regards to Paul’s Christology in the next installment (https://answeringislamblog.wordpress.com/2019/12/03/pauls-divine-christology-pt-2/).

Hear O JWs! Jehovah is Jesus, Jehovah is He!

Another way in which the New Testament writers identify Jesus Christ as the human enfleshment/embodiment of Jehovah God is by their taking what is basically the creedal statement of the Hebrew Bible and Christianizing it.

The following is considered by many to be the one command that defines the very heart and essence of the Old Testament:

“Listen, O Israel (Shema): Jehovah our God is one Jehovah (YHVH echad).” Deuteronomy 6:4 New World Translation (NWT https://www.jw.org/en/library/bible/nwt/books/deuteronomy/6/#v5006004)

The foregoing is commonly referred to as the Shema, which is the word translated as “Listen, O Israel.”

Here’s the English translation of the Greek rendering of this text:

“Hear, O Israel, The Lord our God is one Lord (Kyrios heis).” LXX

This confession or creed is basically repeated in the book of Zechariah:

“And Jehovah will be King over all the earth. In that day Jehovah will be one (YHVH echad), and his name one (echad).” Zechariah 14:9 (NWT https://www.jw.org/en/library/bible/nwt/books/zechariah/14/#v38014009

Note, once again, the English translation of the Greek rendering for this verse:

“And the Lord shall be king over all the earth: in that day there shall be one Lord (Kyrios heis), and his name one (to onoma autou hen), ” LXX

Pay close attention to the fact that the Greek translates YHVH echad (“Jehovah is one”) as Kyrios heis (“[the] Lord is one”).

Hence, a Greek-speaking Jew would immediately interpret the phrase Kyrios heis and its equivalents, e.g., heis Kyrios (“one Lord”) or monos Kyrios/Kyrios monos, as a reference to the Shema, and therefore as the Greek way of saying YHVH echad.

This is where it gets rather remarkable. The inspired New Testament writings identify that one Lord as Jesus Christ!

“there is actually to us one God, the Father, from whom all things (ta panta) are and we for him; and there is one Lord (heis Kyrios), Jesus Christ, through whom all things (ta panta) are and we through him.” 1 Corinthians 8:6 (NWT https://www.jw.org/en/library/bible/nwt/books/1-corinthians/8/#v46008006)

Paul not only identifies Christ as the one Lord professed in the Shema, he also describes the risen Lord as the eternal Creator and Sustainer by attributing the work of creation to both the Father and the Son.

Note the logical implications of the blessed Apostle’s inspired statements:

  1. God the Father caused all things to come into being.
  2. All things refer to the entire creation.
  3. This means that the Father existed before the entire creation came into being.
  4. The Father must, therefore, be eternal by nature.
  5. Christ is the One whom the Father appointed to bring all things into being.
  6. Since all things refer to the entire creation, this means that Christ existed before the entire creation came into being.
  7. Christ must, therefore, be eternal by nature.
  8. This means that the Father and the Son are two eternal divine Persons that share the same uncreated essence completely and equally.
  9. This further means that the one true God of Israel is a multi-Personal Being.

The Hebrew Bible is emphatically clear that Jehovah is the one and only Lord that is eternal by nature and who brought all things into existence:

“He spreads out the heavens by himself, And he treads upon the high waves of the sea.” Job 9:8 (NWT https://www.jw.org/en/library/bible/nwt/books/job/9/#v18009008)

This is what Jehovah says, your Repurchaser, Who formed you since you were in the womb: ‘I am Jehovah, who made everythingI stretched out the heavens by myselfAnd I spread out the earth. Who was with me?‘” Isaiah 44:24 (NWT https://www.jw.org/en/library/bible/nwt/books/isaiah/44/#v23044024)

“Thus saith the Lord (Kyrios) that redeems thee, and who formed thee from the womb, I am the Lord (Kyrios) that performs all things (panta): I stretched out the heaven alone (monos), and established the earth.” LXX

The following is most interesting:

You alone are Jehovah; you made the heavens, yes, the heaven of the heavens and all their army, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. And you preserve all of them alive, and the army of the heavens are bowing down to you.” Nehemiah 9:6

“And Esdras said, Thou art the only true Lord (Kyrios monos); thou madest the heaven, and the heaven of heavens, and all their array, the earth, and all things (panta) that are in it, the seas, and all things (panta) in them; and thou quickenest all things (ta panta), and the hosts of heaven worship thee.” LXX

Compare this with this next NT passage:

“My reason is that certain men have slipped in among you who were long ago appointed to this judgment by the Scriptures; they are ungodly men who turn the undeserved kindness of our God into an excuse for brazen conduct and who prove false to our only owner and Lord, Jesus Christ (ton monon Despoten kai Kyrion hemon ‘Iesoun Christon).” Jude 1:4 (NWT https://www.jw.org/en/library/bible/nwt/books/jude/1/#v65001004)

Once again, we find the NT writers attributing to Jesus the very language which the Hebrew Bible ascribes to Jehovah!

The foregoing makes it absolutely certain that the inspired Christian authors have identified Jesus as the YHVH echad of the Shema, just as the following commentators realize:

Given the theological and confessional weight of the Shema, it is remarkable how faint are its echoes in the Old Testament. Indeed we hear the only certain echo at the very end, in Zechariah 14:9, where the enigmatic verbless clause is transformed into a verbal declaration: “The LORD [Yahweh], will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one LORD [Yahweh], and his name the only name.” As in the original Shema, the issue here is not the unification of God in one deity, but expanding the boundaries of those who claim only Yahweh as their God to the ends of earth.

References and allusions to the Shema in the New Testament are both fascinating and exciting. While Jesus cites it as a sort of creedal statement in connection with the Supreme Command (Mark 12:30), it falls to Paul to draw out its christological significance. He does so most pointedly in 1 Corinthians 8:1-6, where he roots his polemic against idolatry in Deuteronomy 6:4-5 and beyond. Like Moses, Paul declares the uniqueness and exclusive existence of Yahweh in contrast to the nothingness of idols. Reflecting a thorough understanding of the Shema in its original context, in 1 Corinthians 8:5-6, Paul declares hypothetically that even if one concedes the existence of other gods (which, in the light of v. 4, he will not do), “for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live, and there is but one Lord [i.e., Yahweh], Jesus Christ, through whom all things come and through whom we live.” The christological effect of inserting the name “Jesus Christ” after “Lord” is extraordinary, in that Paul identifies Jesus unequivocally with Yahweh, the one and only God to whom the Israelites declared allegiance (cf. Rom. 3:29-30; 10:13). What the Old Testament has said about Yahweh may now be said about the Christ. (Daniel L. Block, The NIV Application Commentary: Deuteronomy [Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI 2012], p. 187; bold emphasis mine)

The wordplay (regularly missed in translations) in “not one god except one [God]” stresses the falsity of polytheism (compare Deuteronomy 6:4, which Paul appears to split by distinguishing between God, whom he calls “the Father,” and “the Lord,” whom he calls “Jesus Christ”). “For” introduces an explanation of what Paul means in view of the pervasiveness of polytheism in the Roman Empire. ”Even if” and two occurrences of “indeed” highlight his recognition of that pervasiveness. “In heaven” as well as “on earth” recognizes that though idols are confined to “the world,” polytheists located some of their gods in heaven, though representing them on earth with idols. But Paul’s “so-called” denies the gods’ true existence both in heaven and on earth, and “many gods” contrasts with “one [God].” Because of Jesus Christ’s identity as the Lord, Paul adds “many [so-called] lords” for a contrast with Jesus Christ as the “one Lord” (“L/lord” being another designation of a deity, though it has other applications too). “For us,” which occurs twice, means “for us Christians in accordance with our knowledge (not merely in accordance with our opinion).” “Nonetheless” underscores the contrast between the falsity of polytheism and the truth of “one God, the Father… and one Lord, Jesus Christ.” “The Father” implies that the Lord, Jesus Christ, is God’s Son and therefore shares deity with his Father. “From whom all things [have their existence]” describes God as the source of all that exists. “And we [exist] for him” means that human beings, especially Christians, not only owe their existence to God but also fealty and homage to him. “Through whom all things [came into existence]” describes Jesus Christ as God the Father’s agent in the creation of all things. “And we [exist] through him” means that Jesus Christ sustains human beings, especially Christians in their existence. (Robert H. Gundry, Commentary on First Corinthians (Commentary on the New Testament Book #7) https://books.google.com/books?id=0_iz6QPBuC0C&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false; bold emphasis mine)

Similarly ‘There is also only one true Jesus Christ’ (8:6c). Just as the supreme God created all things, the true Lord Jesus created all things, including the Corinthians (8:6d). (‘Although Paul does not here call Christ God, the formula is so constructed that only the most obdurate would deny its Trinitarian implications. In the same breath that he can assert that there is only one God, he equally asserts that the designation “Lord,” which in the OT belongs to the one God, is the proper designation of the divine Son. One should note especially that Paul feels no tension between the affirmation of monotheism and the clear distinction between the two persons of Father and Jesus Christ.’)233 The creative power of the Christians’ God and Lord established them as superior God and Lord over all so-called gods and lords. Even the emperor gods were not creators. Thus, while there were many gods and many lords, there was only one supreme God (Adonai) and one supreme Lord (Kyrios), the Lord Jesus Christ. (Andrew Spurgeon, 1 Corinthians: An Exegetical and Contextual Commentary [Fortress Press, 2017], p. 105; bold emphasis mine)

“Fourth, ‘they have denied our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.’ Since ‘Master’ or ‘Sovereign’ is used elsewhere primarily of God, Jesus’ divinity is again being emphasized (as in 2 Pet 1:1; 2:1; so Bauckham, Schreiner)…” (Cornerstone Biblical Commentary: James, 1-2 Peter, Jude, Revelation, by Grant R. Osborne, M. Robert Mulholland, Jr. [Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, IL], p. 370; bold emphasis mine)

This explains why Jesus can be identified as the one Lord in the same context,

one Lord (heis Kyrios), one faith, one baptism… Now undeserved kindness was given to each one of us according to how the Christ measured out the free gift. For it says: ‘When he ascended on high he carried away captives; he gave gifts in men.’ Now what does the expression ‘he ascended’ mean but that he also descended into the lower regions, that is, the earth? The very one who descended is also the one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might give fullness to all things.” Ephesians 4:5, 7-10 (NWT https://www.jw.org/en/library/bible/nwt/books/ephesians/4/)

Where the following Psalm, which speaks of Jehovah’s ascension into heaven,

You ascended on high; You carried away captives; You took gifts in the form of men, Yes, even stubborn ones, to reside among them, O Jah God.” Psalm 68:18 (NWT https://www.jw.org/en/library/bible/nwt/books/psalms/68/)

Is applied to the Lord Jesus, or why the Father glorifies the Son by describing him,

“But about the Son, he [the Father] says: ‘God is your throne forever and ever, and the scepter of your Kingdom is the scepter of uprightness’… And: ‘At the beginning, O Lord [the Son], you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the works of your hands. They will perish, but you will remain; and just like a garment, they will all wear out, and you will wrap them up just as a cloak, as a garment, and they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will never come to an end.’” Hebrews 1:8, 10-12

As the Jehovah God whom the Psalmist praises as the unchanging Creator and Sustainer of all creation!

“O Jehovah, hear my prayer; Let my cry for help reach you… But you remain forever, O Jehovah… I said: ‘O my God, Do not do away with me in the middle of my life, You whose years span all generations. Long ago you laid the foundations of the earth And the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you will remain; Just like a garment they will all wear out. Just like clothing you will replace them, and they will pass away. But you are the same, and your years will never end.” Psalm 102:1, 12, 24-27 (NWT https://www.jw.org/en/library/bible/nwt/books/psalms/102/)

In light of the foregoing, what more does the Holy Bible need to say before a Jehovah’s Witness finally admits that Jesus is described as Jehovah God Almighty who became flesh?