In this article I am going to be responding to the following post by Muslim polemicist Paul Williams:
The men in the Jewish Bible who play the role of God (sharing dominion, worship, and the throne of Yahweh) and are even called ‘God’ (Yahweh and Elohim)
BY PAUL WILLIAMS on MARCH 15, 2017 •
An interesting excerpt from the exciting new work A Man Attested By God: The Human Jesus of the Synoptic Gospels by Professor J.R. Daniel Kirk. Refuting recent work by scholars as Richard Bauckham, Simon Gathercole, and Richard Hays, Kirk demonstrates that Jesus was understood to be solely a human being by the synoptic Gospel writers whose language is rooted in the religious and literary context of early Judaism. There are a number of key passages in the Jewish Scriptures where men such as Moses, David & Solomon play the role of God (sharing dominion, worship, and the throne of Yahweh) and are even called ‘God’ (Yahweh and Elohim). A must read for Muslims. https://bloggingtheology.net/2017/03/15/31487/
In the first place, no human being in the entire Hebrew Bible is ever called or given the name Yahweh.
Second, even though the Jewish Scriptures depict David and his sons as occupying Yahweh’s EARTHLY throne which is located in Jerusalem,
“And of all my sons, for the Lord has given me many, he has chosen my son Solomon to sit upon the throne of the kingdom of the Lord over Israel.” 1 Chronicles 28:5
“Then Solomon sat on the throne of the Lord, succeeding his father David as king; he prospered, and all Israel obeyed him.” 1 Chronicles 29:23
“Blessed be the Lord your God, who has delighted in you and set you on his throne as king for the Lord your God. Because your God loved Israel and would establish them forever, he has made you king over them, that you may execute justice and righteousness.” 2 Chronicles 9:8
“And now you think that you can withstand the kingdom of the Lord in the hand of the sons of David, because you are a great multitude and have with you the golden calves that Jeroboam made as gods for you.” 2 Chronicles 13:8
No human being, not even a prophet, is ever portrayed as sitting upon the throne of God in heaven. The Hebrew Bible is emphatically clear that Yahweh alone reigns from heaven above with the entire angelic host standing before him in attention, ready to serve and obey his every command and desire:
“Then Micaiah said, ‘Therefore hear the word of the Lord: I saw the Lord sitting on his throne, with all the host of heaven standing to the right and to the left of him. And the Lord said, “Who will entice King Ahab of Israel, so that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?” Then one said one thing, and another said another, until a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord, saying, “I will entice him.” The Lord asked him, “How?” He replied, “I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.” Then the Lord said, “You are to entice him, and you shall succeed; go out and do it.” So you see, the Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouth of these your prophets; the Lord has decreed disaster for you.’” 2 Chronicles 18:18-22
“He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord has them in derision.” Psalm 2:4
“The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord’s throne is in heaven. His eyes behold, his gaze examines humankind.” Psalm 11:4
“The Lord has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all. Bless the Lord, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, obedient to his spoken word. Bless the Lord, all his hosts, his ministers that do his will.” Psalm 103:19-21
“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. Seraphs were in attendance above him; each had six wings: with two they covered their faces, and with two they covered their feet, and with two they flew. And one called to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory.’ The pivots on the thresholds shook at the voices of those who called, and the house filled with smoke. And I said: ‘Woe is me! I am lost, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!’” Isaiah 6:1-5
“As I watched, thrones were set in place, and an Ancient One took his throne, his clothing was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames, and its wheels were burning fire. A stream of fire issued and flowed out from his presence. A thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood attending him. The court sat in judgment, and the books were opened.” Daniel 7:9-10
Jesus, on the other hand, rules the entire creation from heaven itself:
“and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him 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 the age 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 fullness of him who fills all in all.” Ephesians 1:19-23
“But he was silent and did not answer. Again the high priest asked him, ‘Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?’ Jesus said, ‘I am; and “you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power,” and “coming with the clouds of heaven.”’” Mark 14:61-62
“So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and proclaimed the good news everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that accompanied.” Mark 16:19-20
“Fellow Israelites, I may say to you confidently of our ancestor David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Since he was a prophet, he knew that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would put one of his descendants on his throne. Foreseeing this, David spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah, saying, ‘He was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh experience corruption.’ This Jesus God raised up, and of that all of us are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you both see and hear. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”’ Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Acts 2:29-36
“And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you—not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.” 1 Peter 3:21-22
Third, no human being in the OT is ever worshiped by the angelic host, let alone by the entire creation. And yet the Lord Jesus is worshiped in the exact same way that Yahweh himself is worshiped by every created being in existence!
“Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and EVERY TONGUE should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:9-11
“And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, ‘Let all God’s angels worship him.’” Hebrews 1:6
“When he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell before the Lamb, each holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. They sing a new song: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slaughtered and by your blood you ransomed for God saints from every tribe and language and people and nation; you have made them to be a kingdom and priests serving our God, and they will reign on earth.’ Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels surrounding the throne and the living creatures and the elders; they numbered myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, singing with full voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!’ Then I heard EVERY CREATURE in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, AND ALL THAT IS IN THEM, singing, ‘To the one seated on the throne AND TO THE LAMB be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!’ And the four living creatures said, ‘Amen!’ And the elders fell down and worshiped.” Revelation 5:8-14
Now contrast this with the way Yahweh is worshiped in the Hebrew Scriptures:
“Praise, O heavens, his people, worship him, all you gods! For he will avenge the blood of his children, and take vengeance on his adversaries; he will repay those who hate him, and cleanse the land for his people.” Deuteronomy 32:43
“And Ezra said: ‘ You are the Lord, you alone; you have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. To all of them you give life, and the host of heaven worships you.’” Nehemiah 9:6
“All worshipers of images are put to shame, those who make their boast in worthless idols; all gods bow down before him.” Psalm 97:7
“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
Fourth, there are instances where certain human figures like Moses are called God in a functional and representational sense, but not in an ontological sense:
“What’s more, he will be your spokesman to the people, and he will be as a mouth for you, and you will be as God to him.” Exodus 4:16
“So the Lord said to Moses, ‘See, I have made you a god (elohim) to Pharaoh, and Aaron your brother will be your prophet. You shall speak all that I command you, and Aaron your brother shall tell Pharaoh to send the children of Israel out of his land.’” Exodus 7:1-2
These texts indicate that Moses was no more literally God in nature than Aaron was literally Moses’ mouth! The point of these verses is that Moses was to act in the place of God, speaking on his behalf, just as Aaron was to represent and speak for Moses. No more no less.
Christ, on the other hand, is not only identified as God in a functional, representational sense, but is said to be God in essence, which is why he does the very things that only God can do, such as create and sustain the entire creation:
“In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it… The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him… So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.” John 1:1-4, 9-10, 14 New Living Translation (NLT)
Noted Evangelical NT Scholar Murray J. Harris brings out the implication of John’s prologue:
“The first verse of the Prologue (1:1-18) to the Fourth Gospel is clearly triadic: each of the three clauses has the same subject (‘the Word’) and an identical verb (‘was’; Greek en). The Greek term translated ‘Word’ is logos, which includes the idea of reason as well as speech, so that, as one commentator puts it, ‘Christ is declared by the Apostle to be the Inward and Expressed Thought of the Eternal Mind.’
“The verse makes three separate affirmations about the Word: he already existed when creation and time began (v. 1a); he was always in active communion with God the Father (v. 1b); he was always a partaker of deity (v. 1c). The thought of the verse moves from eternal preexistence to personal intercommunion to intrinsic deity. In the third clause, ‘the Word was God,’ the word theos (‘God’) lacks the Greek definite article, which in this case indicates three things: that ‘God’ is predicative, not the subject; that the preposition is nonreciprocating, so that while it is true that ‘the Word was God,’ it is not true that God in his totality was the Word; that the term theos describes the nature of the Logos rather than identifying his person. Jesus as the Logos is personally distinct from the Father (v. 1b) yet is one with the Father in nature (v. 1c). (Murray J. Harris, 3 Questions about Jesus [Baker Books, Grand Rapids, MI 1994], 3. Is Jesus God?, pp. 92-93; bold emphasis ours)
Jesus is further described as the God who is eternally praised, being the object of doxologies or ascriptions of praise and glory:
“to them belong the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, comes the Messiah, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.” Romans 9:5
This isn’t the only passage which glorifies Christ for being God, and for doing the things which are typically ascribed to God Almighty:
“In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to JUDGE the living and the dead, and in view of HIS APPEARING and HIS KINGDOM, I solemnly urge you… From now on there is reserved for me the crown of righteousness, which THE LORD, the righteous JUDGE, will give me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for HIS APPEARING… At my first defense no one came to my support, but all deserted me. May it not be counted against them! But THE LORD stood by me and gave me strength, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. THE LORD will rescue me from every evil attack and save me for HIS HEAVENLY KINGDOM. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” 2 Timothy 4:1, 8, 16-18
“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.” 2 Peter 3:18
“and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and freed us from our sins by his blood, and made us to be a kingdom, priests serving his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” Revelation 1:5-6
Here is Harris again:
“A doxology is a formal ascription of praise, honor, glory, or blessing given to a divine person, but never to a merely human figure. New Testament doxologies are regularly addressed to God, sometimes ‘through Jesus Christ.’ But on at least four occasions a doxology is addressed directly to Christ… All of these New Testament passages leave us in no doubt that the early Christians believed that Jesus of Nazareth had parity of status with the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob…” (Harris, pp. 78-79; bold emphasis ours)
That’s not all. Jesus is said to be the God, in fact the great God, of all true believers:
“Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. And Thomas answered and said UNTO HIM (eipen AUTO), My Lord and my God (ho Kyrios mou kai ho Theos mou). Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yethave believed.” John 20:27-29 Authorized King James Version (ASV)
What makes this proclamation all the more amazing is that Thomas worships Jesus in the same way that David glorifies Yahweh!
“Wake up! Bestir yourself for my defense, for my cause, my God and my Lord (Gr. ho Theos mou kai ho Kyrios mou)!” Psalm 35:23
And note what Harris says in regards to Thomas’ confession:
“On occasion Thomas’s statement has been interpreted as an exclamation that expresses his praise to God for the miracle of the resurrection of Jesus: ‘Praise be to my Lord and my God!’ Fatal to this interpretation is the phrase said to (i.e., Jesus) (eipen auto), which is clearly parallel to the surrounding verses: ‘He [Jesus] said to Thomas’ (v. 27) and ‘Jesus said to him [Thomas]’ (v. 29). What we have in verse 28 is not an ejaculation made in the hearing of Jesus but an exclamation actually addressed to him. In effect Thomas is saying, ‘You are my Lord and my God.’ He recognized that Jesus, now alive from the dead, was supreme over all physical and spiritual life (‘Lord’) and who shared the divine nature (‘God’).
“Was Thomas’s cry an extravagant acclamation, spoken in a moment of ecstasy when his exuberance outstripped his theological sense? Not at all. John records no rebuke of Jesus to Thomas for his worship. Jesus’ silence is tantamount to consent, for Jews regarded the human acceptance of worship as blasphemous. Indeed, Jesus’ subsequent word to Thomas, ‘you have believed’ (v. 29a), implies that he accepted Thomas’s confession of faith, which he then indirectly commends to others (v. 29b). Moreover, John himself has endorsed Thomas’s confession, for it stands as his last and highest affirmation about Christ immediately before his statement of purpose in writing the Gospel (vv. 30-31).” (Harris, pp. 94-95; bold emphasis ours)
Other passages include:
“while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ (tou megalou Theou kai Soteros hemon ‘Iesou Christou). He it is who gave himself for us that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.” Titus 2:13-14
“Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have received a faith as precious as ours through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ (tou Theou hemon kai Soteros ‘Iesou Christou):” 2 Peter 1:1
Here is Harris one more time:
“Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1 may be considered together, since both use a stereotypical 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 Jesus Christ, their readers would always understand it as referring to a single person, Jesus Christ. It would simply not occur to them that ‘God’ might mean the Father, with Jesus Christ as the ‘Savior.’” (Harris, pp. 96-97)
In light of the foregoing, we challenge Williams and any other anti-Trinitarian to cite a single passage where doxologies are offered to someone other than Yahweh, and where the Israelites were permitted to confess somebody else as their Lord and their God or as their great God and Savior.
The fact is that Jesus isn’t merely described as God in the same way that some of the OT saints are said to be God in the Hebrew Bible. Rather, the inspired prophetic and NT witness is that Jesus Christ is God in an absolute sense, in the same sense and to the same degree that the Father is said to be God.
Unless noted otherwise, all Scriptural citations taken from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) of the Holy Bible.