In this post I will be sharing some of the beliefs of the Samaritans to show this was another group that sprung forth from Israel which held/holds to a belief in two divine Powers. The specific Samaritan work I will be citing from shall be John MacDonald’s English translation of the Memar Marqah.
DATE OF COMPOSITION AND THE EXTANT MS COPIES
Here’s what MacDonald states in respect to the provenance and earliest surviving manuscripts (MSS) of the Marqah. All emphasis will be mine:
As far as dating the Memar is concerned therefore, we have several factors that indicate the 2nd–4th centuries A.D. — The use of Greek words, the Aramaized Roman names of Marqah’s family, the ideological outlook, the midrashic material, the philosophical and scientific passages, the language and style, and, as we shall see below, the long textual tradition. All this is in addition to the inescapable fact that Marqah does not betray any definite signs of the Islamic influences so prominent in later Samaritanism. The Samaritan chronicles themselves,17 especially from the 11th century, place Marqah and Nanah at about that time. In addition there is the fact that of all the hundreds of Samaritan family names known to us, only Marqah, Nanah and Tota are Roman.
Perhaps in the future it will be possible to trace the history of Christianity in Samaria more exactly, so that we may discover why Marqah shows some knowledge of St. John’s Gospel, while later writers use it in such a way as to prove actual dependence, at times verbatim, on it.
We now turn to the history of the text in general terms before examining the available MSS in chapter 3 of this Introduction. The oldest text announced belongs to the late 14th century, the next oldest to over a century later, followed by two of nearly two centuries later still, and a few modern MSS.
When one compares Memar MSS with, e.g., those of any one Festival Liturgy, it is transparent that the Memar has not been copied so often and that it has a longer history. Liturgical MSS abound in variants of every kind, but the basic text is not changed very much in the course of time. Such changes as there are by way of additions and omissions are only those to be expected during the development of a liturgical text. As a result of the years of research into liturgical MSS in the University of Leeds under the leadership of Professor J. B o w m a n (now of the University of Melbourne), it is possible to see how the Liturgy developed and how the available MSS interrelate.
While investigating some nine MSS (from the 14th century on) for Yom ha-Kippur as part of the work for a doctoral dissertation,18 the present writer discovered that manuscriptural variants are to be related to scribal families. Thus scribes of the Levitical family will agree on choice of words, forms, orthography and synonyms as against those of the Danafi or Marhibi families. This proved to be the case beyond all doubt.
The same discovery applies in the investigation of the MSS used for the text of Memar Marqah. It is abundantly clear from the content and the variants that there are two main types of fixed text, and these belong respectively to the Danafi and Levitical families. This will be illustrated in detail below.
There is, however, the special problem of the oldest (14th century) MS, called herein K. This MS differs considerably in content and exact wording from the Danafi and Levitical text-types. As will be shown, this is a text possibly dictated from someone’s memory and not copied from an earlier text. That such a process should have been necessary in that century illustrates the truth that it was in the 14th century that the greatest revival in MS reproduction took place.19 It appears to be true that in the 14th century the Samaritan literary resources were in desperate straits. This may have been due to the devastating inroads of the savage conqueror Timur Lane (1336–1405) and other unhappy events such as perhaps the Bubonic Plagues of 1348 and 1360 which were rife in Syria. But the process of devastation may have been at its worst during the Roman period; certainly under Justinian the Samaritans (particularly in 529) suffered greatly.20
It seems that it was only after the migration of some Damascene Samaritans to Palestine in the 14th century that MSS copying as well as literary production revived. We do not know yet if the Syrian and Palestinian Samaritans experienced a period of internal conflict in literary, liturgical and theological matters, but it is possible that sectarian controversy was active at that time. What we can be sure about is that from that time (a) MSS have a ‘family’ flavour: (b) MSS were copied in great quantity: (c) Syrian liturgical orders are contained in some copies:21 (d) Eastern Aramaic forms find a place in MSS copied in Nablus.
Thus the problems arising from the MSS consulted for the present work must be related to the question of to which family a particular scribe belonged. In addition, it must be noted that the MSS consulted have been allowed to speak for themselves, and that it has nowhere been taken for granted that all MSS by, e.g., a Levitical scribe must agree in orthography, synonyms or content. (Memar Marqah: The Teaching of the Marqah, edited and translated by John MacDonald [Verlag Alfred Topelmann, Berlin 1963], Volume 1: The Text, pp. XX-XXII)
To sum up the points of MacDonald, Marqah is a work composed anywhere between the 2nd–4th centuries AD, with the oldest extant copy being from the 14th century. As such, it is not a pre-Christian work but a document composed after the completion of the [N]ew [T]estament writings. This explains why MacDonald notes that there are allusions to John’s Gospel in the Marqah, showing that post-NT Samaritan religion was influenced by Christian theological beliefs, not the other way around.
Keep these facts in perspective since they will be important later on when I quote from the late liberal atheist NT scholar Michael Goulder.
I now quote the relevant portions of the Marqah, which highlight the Samaritan belief in two heavenly Powers:
A question now. Give ear and apply your mind. Listen to it. When God wrote the Ten Words (Ex. xx) He first of all wrote twenty-two letters which are the basic elements of the words of the law. When the Glory proclaimed the Ten Words before him, which He magnified, He proclaimed them in the beginning and you will find that they are not defective, except for the letter Tit27 alone.
The Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children, to the third and fourth generation (Ex. xxxiv. 6-7).28
When the True One proclaimed the first Ten before him, the Glory repeated them before him. He responded and also proclaimed ten. When the True One proclaimed, he was not permitted to proclaim, but when the Glory proclaimed he was permitted to do so. The first of the Ten which the Glory proclaimed was LORD (YHWH) and the last of them the word FAITHFULNESS (’EMET). The first of the Ten which Moses proclaimed was THE LORD, SLOW TO ANGER and the last of them the expression FOURTH GENERATION.29
Where is there the like of Moses and who can compare with Moses, a prophet to whom there is no like among all mankind? When God appeared to him in the Bush, he found twenty-two letters written before him with devouring fire; by means of these Moses expounded the law. They are the elements of the words of Hebrew speech.
Let us picture him as he wrote the law and divided up its sections as God had commanded him.
From the first version30 he left out TIT and from the second version he left out six letters; they are NUN,’ SIMCAT, PHI, SADI, QOPH, TAV.
Moses only expounded the holy Scripture when God commanded it. The Glory and the assembly of all the heavenly angels and the Pristine God were gathered together when He wrote with His own hand, while these stood by and magnified the commandments and commanded what must be done.
The Divine One appeared and established the covenant.
The Glory appeared and magnified what was good.
The angels came to magnify what was glorious and they were all assembled for Adam.
The Divine One formed him and the breath of life was breathed into him.
The Glory made him complete with a great spirit; the TWO OF THEM were clad in two crowns of great light.
The Divine One put in him a perfect mind and the Glory gave him powerful illumination.
The Divine One also glorified him with speech and the Glory glorified him with perfect knowledge.
The angels were witnesses to him of what he would do and they are all gathered in every place where God is mentioned in truth.
We turn from this to matters that involve ourselves. Let us enquire of the origins of wisdom, why the sections of the law were not written with all of the twenty-two letters, but were in fact written with the absence of seven. I have already revealed them to you, that you may understand. A s for there being seven, no more, nor less, it is good for us to enquire into this mystery. (Ibid., pp. 220-221)
The aforementioned quotes show that the Samaritans believed that there are two divine Beings or Persons, the first they named the True/Divine One as well as the Pristine God, with the second being called the Glory. These two heavenly Powers are said to have worked together in creating the first human being.
Such a view implies that the Samaritans viewed the Pristine God and the Glory as Co-Creators, and therefore fully and equally divine. After all, the explicit Scriptural teaching is that God alone created all things:
“This is the book of the generations of Adam. When God created man, he made him in the likeness of God.Male and female he created them, and he blessed them and named them Man when they were created.” Genesis 5:1-2
“These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created. In the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens, when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up—for the LORD God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no man to till the ground; but a mist went up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground—then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.” Genesis 2:4-7
“Thus says God, the LORD, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread forth the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people upon it and spirit to those who walk in it:” Isaiah 42:5
“I will say to the north, Give up, and to the south, Do not withhold; bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, every one who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made… The wild beasts will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches; for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself that they might declare my praise.” Isaiah 43:6-7, 20-21
“Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, who formed you from the womb: ‘I am the Lord, who made all things, who stretched out the heavens ALONE, who spread out the earth—Who was with me?—’” Isaiah 44:24
At the same time these sacred writings describe God as a plural Creator/Maker:
“Then God said, ‘Let US make man in our image, after OUR likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.’ So God created man in HIS own image, in the image of God HE created him; male and female HE created them.” Genesis 1:26-27
“But no one says, ‘Where is God my MAKERS (‘osay), who gives songs in the night,” Job 35:10
‘Osay is the plural masculine participle of ‘asa.
“Let Israel rejoice in their MAKERS (be’osaw); Let Zion’s children rejoice in their King.” Psalm 149:2
‘Osa is the plural masculine participle form of ‘asa.
“Remember also thy Creators (boreka) in days of thy youth, While that the evil days come not, Nor the years have arrived, that thou sayest, `I have no pleasure in them.’” Ecclesiastes 12:1 Young’s Literal Translation (YLT)
Bore is the plural masculine participle form of bara.
“For your MAKERS (‘osayik) is your HUSBANDS (bo’alayik); YHWH of hosts is his name. The Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer. He will be called the God of the whole earth.” Isaiah 54:5
Bo’alay and ‘osay is the plural masculine forms of baal and ‘asa respectively.
This is where the inspired Christian Scriptures come in.
According to the sacred writings of the ancient Church, Jesus is identified as that second divine Power who was with God the Father from the beginning, from before creation, being the One by and through whom the entire creation was brought into existence:
“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 made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.In him was life, and the life was the light of men.The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it… The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world.He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world knew him not… And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father.(John bore witness to him, and cried, ‘This was he of whom I said, “He who comes after me ranks before me, for he was before me.”’) And from his fulness have we all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known.” John 1:1-5, 9-10, 14-18
“Hence, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that ‘an idol has no real existence,’ and that ‘there is no God but one.’ For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many ‘gods’ and many ‘lords’—yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.” 1 Corinthians 8:4-6
“He has delivered us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation; for in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the first-born from the dead, that in everything he might be pre-eminent. For in him all the fulness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.” Colossians 1:13-20
“In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature, upholding the universe by his word of power. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high… And again, when he brings the first-born into the world, he says, ‘Let all God’s angels worship him.’… But of the Son he says, ‘Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever, the righteous scepter is the scepter of thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; therefore God, thy God, has anointed thee with the oil of gladness beyond thy comrades.’ And, ‘Thou, Lord [the Son], didst found the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of thy hands; they will perish, but thou remainest; they will all grow old like a garment, like a mantle thou wilt roll them up, and they will be changed. But thou art the same, and thy years will never end.” Hebrews 1:1-3, 6, 8-12 – Cf. 13:8
What makes the passage from Hebrews so remarkable is that the writer has the Father attributing the following OT texts, where the whole angelic host are commanded to worship YHWH their God,
“Rejoice, ye heavens, with him, and let all the angels of God worship him; rejoice ye Gentiles, with his people, and let all the sons of God strengthen themselves in him; for he will avenge the blood of his sons, and he will render vengeance, and recompense justice to his enemies, and will reward them that hate him; and the Lord shall purge the land of his people.” Deuteronomy 32:43 LXX
“Let all that worship graven images be ashamed, who boast of their idols; worship him, all ye his angels.” Psalm 96:7 LXX
And in which YHWH is glorified for being the unchangeable Creator and Sustainer of all creation,
“A prayer of one afflicted, when he is faint and pours out his complaint before the LORD. Hear my prayer, O LORD; let my cry come to thee!… But thou, O LORD, art enthroned for ever; thy name endures to all generations… Of old thou didst lay the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of thy hands. They will perish, but thou dost endure; they will all wear out like a garment. Thou changest them like raiment, and they pass away; but thou art the same, and thy years have no end.” Psalm 102:1, 12, 25-27
To his beloved Son, thereby identifying Christ as that very YHWH God whom all the angelic beings worship and who personally created and sustains the entire creation!
The NT also teaches that Jesus voluntarily set aside his glorious status and heavenly riches by descending from heaven to be born from a woman in order to assume the status of a slave for the express purpose of dying on the cross for sinners:
“For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh,” Romans 8:3
“Thus it is written, ‘The first man Adam became a living being’; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not the spiritual which is first but the physical, and then the spiritual. The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so are those who are of the dust; and as is the man of heaven, so are those who are of heaven. Just 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
“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.” 2 Corinthians 8:9 – Cf. Ephesians 3:8
“But when the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law,” Galatians 4:4
“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.” Philippians 2:5-8
Christ is even described as that very God whose glory the OT prophets beheld:
“Though HE had done so many signs before them, yet they did not believe in HIM; it was that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: ‘Lord, who has believed our report, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?’ Therefore they could not believe. For Isaiah again said, ‘He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they should see with their eyes and perceive with their heart, and turn for me to heal them.’ Isaiah said this because he saw HIS glory and spoke of HIM.” John 12:37-41
The Evangelist states that Jesus’ rejection by his contemporaries was already foretold by the prophet Isaiah since he had been allowed to see Christ’s glory for the express purpose of speaking about him to Israel.
The following translation helps to bring out the point that the glory that Isaiah beheld was that of the Son in his prehuman existence:
“Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him.” John 12:41 New International Version (NIV)
What makes this a remarkable claim is that John cites Isaiah 6:10, which happens to be the time when Isaiah saw YHWH Almighty visibly seated upon his throne:
“In the year that King Uzzi′ah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and his train filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim; each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.’ And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: ‘Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!’… And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for US?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I! Send me.’ And he said, ‘Go, and say to this people: “Hear and hear, but do not understand; see and see, but do not perceive.” Make the heart of this people fat, and their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.’” Isaiah 6:1-5, 8-10
The point of the inspired Apostle is crystal clear.
The prophet was actually looking at Jesus in his prehuman existence when the Son manifested himself in a visible bodily shape.
As the following study note puts it:
“Isaiah said these things because he saw Christ’s glory, and spoke about him.”
tn Grk “his”; the referent (Christ) has been specified in the translation for clarity. The referent supplied here is “Christ” rather than “Jesus” because it involves what Isaiah saw. It is clear that the author presents Isaiah as having seen the preincarnate glory of Christ, which was the very revelation of the Father (see John 1:18; John 14:9).
sn Because he saw Christ’s glory. The glory which Isaiah saw in Isa 6:3 was the glory of Yahweh (typically rendered as “Lord” in the OT). Here John speaks of the prophet seeing the glory of Christ since in the next clause and spoke about him, “him” can hardly refer to Yahweh, but must refer to Christ. On the basis of statements like 1:14 in the prologue, the author probably put no great distinction between the two. Since the author presents Jesus as fully God (cf. John 1:1), it presents no problem to him to take words originally spoken by Isaiah of Yahweh himself and apply them to Jesus. New English Translation (NET https://netbible.org/bible/John+12; bold emphasis mine)
That John believed it was Jesus whom the prophet saw, and by extension whom all the OT saints beheld when they encountered God, is confirmed by what the inspired Evangelist wrote in his prologue,
“No one has seen God [His essence, His divine nature] at any time; the [One and] only begotten God [that is, the unique Son] who is in the intimate presence of the Father, He has explained Him [and interpreted and revealed the awesome wonder of the Father].” John 1:18 Amplified Bible (AMP)
“No man has EVER seen God at any time; the only unique Son, or the only begotten God, Who is in the bosom [in the intimate presence] of the Father, He has declared Him [He has revealed Him and brought Him out where He can be seen; He has interpreted Him and He has made Him known].” Amplified Bible, Classic Edition (AMPC)
And what the Lord himself stated:
“Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; it is Moses who accuses you, on whom you set your hope. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” John 5:45-47
“‘Your father Abraham rejoiced that he was to see my day; he saw it and was glad.’ The Jews then said to him, ‘You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.’ So they took up stones to throw at him; but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple.” John 8:56-59
“‘If you had known me, you would have known my Father also; henceforth you know him and have seen him.’ Philip said to him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and we shall be satisfied.’Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you do not know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father; how can you say, “Show us the Father”?Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority; but the Father who dwells in me does his works.Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father in me; or else believe me for the sake of the works themselves.’” John 14:7-11
John wasn’t the only inspired writer to speak of Christ’s prehuman appearances to the people of Israel:
“I want you to know, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same supernatural food and all drank the same supernatural drink. For they drank from the supernatural Rock which followed them, and the Rock was Christ.” 1 Corinthians 10:1-10
“By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to share ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. By faith he kept the Passover and sprinkled the blood, so that the Destroyer of the first-born might not touch them.” Hebrews 11:24-28 NIV
Astonishingly, both Paul and Hebrews claim that it was Christ himself that visibly appeared to Moses and who personally led Israel out of Egypt in the cloudy pillar where he supernaturally provided for them in the wilderness!
Christ is further described as dwelling in the same glory alongside the Father from before the creation of the world,
“and now, Father, glorify thou me in thy own presence with the glory which I had with thee before the world was made… Father, I desire that they also, whom thou hast given me, may be with me where I am, to behold my glory which thou hast given me in thy love for me before the foundation of the world.” John 17:5, 24
Being that very Lord of glory or glorious Lord whom the rulers of this age crucified,
“None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” 1 Corinthians 2:8
“My brethren, show no partiality as you hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory.” James 2:1
Who has been exalted far above every creature,
“and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power in us who believe, according to the working of his great mightwhich he accomplished in Christ when he raised him from the dead and made him sit at his right hand in the heavenly places,FAR ABOVE ALL rule and authority and power and dominion, and ABOVE EVERY NAME that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come;and he has put ALL THINGS under his feet and has made him the head OVER ALL THINGS for the church, which is his body, the fulness of him who fills all in all.” Ephesians 1:19-23
And at whose name every created being must bow down and acknowledge as Lord:
“Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above EVERY NAME, that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and EVERY TONGUE confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:9-11
And since the OT describes YHWH as the glorious Lord whose name alone is exalted and whom every creature must confess,
“Lift up your heads, O gates! and be lifted up, O ancient doors! that the King of glory may come in. Who is the King of glory? The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord, mighty in battle! Lift up your heads, O gates! and be lifted up, O ancient doors! that the King of glory may come in. Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, he is the King of glory! Selah” Psalm 24:7-10
“Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name ALONE is exalted; his glory is above earth and heaven.” Psalm 148:13
“By myself I have sworn, from my mouth has gone forth in righteousness a word that shall not return: ‘To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.’” Isaiah 45:23
It becomes, therefore, clear that the Christian Scriptures equate Jesus with, and identify him as, YHWH God Almighty.
At the same, the inspired writings personally distinguish Christ from the God that he reigns with, and whose beloved Son he happens to be:
“And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens opened and the Spirit descending upon him like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, ‘Thou art my beloved Son; with thee I am well pleased.’” Mark 1:10-11
“And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, ‘This is my beloved Son; listen to him.’” Mark 9:7
“When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven and said, ‘Father, the hour has come; glorify thy Son that the Son may glorify thee, since thou hast given him power over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom thou hast given him.’” John 17:1-2
Hence, the preceding NT data shows that the Son is being presented as the second heavenly Power that became a flesh and blood human being.
WHO INFLUENCED WHOM?
The evidence from both the NT documents and the Samaritan writing simply confirms what has been commonly known among scholars, namely, the notion that Jews were a monolithic group that held to a strictly unitarian view of God is simply erroneous.
The documentation actually shows that a large segment of Jewry before, during and after the time of Christ believed in at least two distinct divine Powers (or what later Christians would call Hypostases/Persons). And they derived this from their reading of the Hebrew Bible!
What the preceding data shows is that Christianity did not invent the idea of two coexistent divine Persons or pervert the OT proclamation of the nature and existence of God. Rather, the followers of Christ and their disciples were being faithful to the evidence that even other Jewish sects found within the sacred writings of Israel.
As a result, liberal, atheistic scholars have longed sought after a naturalistic explanation for this Christian belief having been influenced by some sect that existed during the time of Jesus and his followers. This is because these authorities do not believe in divine revelation and therefore do not accept that Jesus was truly God in the flesh or that the writers of the NT were guided by the Holy Spirit.
Some of these so-called experts posit the idea that the Christian authors of the NT actually derived this notion of the two Powers from groups such as the Samaritans whom the followers of Jesus came into contact with early on!
One such scholar was the late Michael Goulder, who wrote:
Jesus’ human ancestry does not feature in Col. 1 and Phil. 2: where does the developing incarnation come from? It begins, again, in I Corinthians. In I Cor. 8:6: ‘There is … one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.’ Jesus was divine, and participated in creation. I Cor. 10:4: ‘The Rock (in the wilderness) was Christ’–Jesus was divine, and was God’s agent in the desert. I Cor. 15:47: ‘the first man was of the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven.’ Adam was made from clay and came from this world; Jesus was divine and came to the world from heaven. II Cor. 8:9: ‘you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.’ Romans and Galatians were probably written between the two Corinthian letters, and both testify to a landing, Son-incarnate christology, as well as to a take-off resurrected Messiah christology. Rom. 8:2[sic]: ‘God, sending his Son in the likeness of sinful flesh …’: Gal.4:4: ‘Whom the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman.’ If Jesus was sent it looks as though he was there to be sent (though cf. Mark 12:2)… Even in Philippians, Paul’s last letter, there seems to be a wavering in the logic. Christ Jesus was in the form of God and emptied himself, being born; and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross; therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name. But if he was in the form of God, did he not have the name which is above every name from the beginning? It looks as if a landing Christology has been prefixed to, and not quite assimilated to, a take-off christology. But there is no reference to Jesus’ human paternity in the captivity epistles; the more obvious dissonances have been put away.
All the evidence [sic] would seem to be explained by Samaritan hypothesis: Paul appropriated the idea of Jesus’ incarnation in the course of dialectic with the Samaritan missionaries in Corinth and Ephesus between 50 and 55…
John, by about the year 100, with his Samaritan church-membership, goes the whole way. He puts together the two central Samaritan texts, Gen. I and Ex. 34: ‘In the beginning was the Word … we beheld his glory.’ There is no word of Jewish Wisdom. We have the full doctrine of the Samaritan binity, the Pristine God and the Glory. In Exodus the Glory proclaimed, ‘The LORD, the Lord … abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness (rabh-hesedh we’emeth)’: Moses did not see God (33:20f.), and what came of the vision was the Law and the Tabernacle. The Word became flesh and tabernacled among us, full of grace and truth; we beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son of the Father. Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known, proclaimed him. The same duality is expressed by God and the Word from the Gen. I context in a manner too obvious to need explanation. It is John I which has fixed Christian orthodoxy, and has given the incarnation in its substance form the status of revealed truth these two millennia. (Goulder, “The Two Roots of the Christian Myth”, in The Myth of God Incarnate, edited by John Hick [SCM Press Ltd, 1977], pp. 78-81; bold emphasis mine)
It is good to see Goulder acknowledging that this portrayal of the Father and the Son as the two heavenly Powers is found in the writings of Paul, particularly in 1 & 2 Corinthians, Romans, and Galatians, which leads him to place this belief around the early to mid 50s AD.
This affirms that this doctrine wasn’t a development which sprung up long after the original followers of Jesus had left the scene. Goulder’s position actually confirms that this teaching was already in place within the first generation of Jesus’ disciples, during a time when many of the eyewitnesses of Christ such as Peter and John were still alive and ministering.
However, contrary to Goulder’s claim, the evidence shows that if anyone influenced anyone it was Christ’s followers that did so, not the Samaritans. This is due primarily to the fact that the Marqah, from which Goulder based his hypothesis, is a post-NT document written anywhere between the 2nd-4th centuries, long after the writings of the NT, which even Goulder recognized were composed during the middle to late 1st century AD. And as I showed previously, MacDonald who translated the Marqah noted that the document shows affinities and familiarity with John’s Gospel.
Now unless there is evidence of a Samaritan writing that is contemporary with the NT documents, or even earlier, then it is clear as to what grouped influenced whom.
But even that isn’t a necessary position to hold since one can argue that both the early Christians and Samaritans derived their belief in two heavenly Powers from the clear, explicit witness of the Hebrew Bible, even though later Samaritans became aware of and were even influenced by the language and theology of the Christian writings.
Moreover, the coming of Christ in the flesh, and his subsequent resurrection from the dead, confirmed the OT witness to the existence of two divine Powers reigning in heaven to be of divine origin, a revelation which the true God had given to his covenant people through his holy prophets.
Unless indicated otherwise, scriptural citations taken from the Revised Standard Version (RSV).
ISRAEL’S MULTIPERSONAL GOD
THE TRINITY IN TARGUM NEOFITI
GOD’S SON IN TARGUM NEOFITI REVISITED
TWO POWERS IN HEAVEN: REVEALING ISRAEL’S SECOND GOD
METATRON: ISRAEL’S SECOND GOD REVISITED
THE ANGEL METATRON: JUDAISMS’ SECOND YHWH