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.

To begin with, 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)

Moreover, even if one were to 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 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 to Jesus, in order to emphasize the necessity of confessing the risen Christ 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, adjectives 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/adjective/participle, then both nouns/adjectives/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 corroborate 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, joining 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

4 thoughts on “Paul’s Divine Christology Pt. 3

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