This post is intended to supplement my response to Shabir Ally found here: https://answeringislam.net/Responses/Shabir-Ally/paul_on_jesus.htm.
Here’s what Ally wrote in relation to the Christology of Paul and Hebrews:
Paul, believed to be the author of some thirteen or fourteen letters in the Bible, also believed that Jesus is not God. For Paul, God first created Jesus, then used Jesus as the agent by which to create the rest of creation (see Colossians 1:15 and 1 Corinthians 8:6). Similar ideas are found in the letter to the Hebrews, and also in the Gospel and Letters of John composed some seventy years after Jesus. In all of these writings, however, Jesus is still a creature of God and is therefore forever subservient to God (see 1 Corinthians 15:28).
Now, because Paul, John, and the author of Hebrews believed that Jesus was God’s first creature, some of what they wrote clearly show that Jesus was a pre-existent powerful being. This is often misunderstood to mean that he must have been God. But to say that Jesus was God is to go against what these very authors wrote. Although these authors had this later belief that Jesus is greater than all creatures, they also believed that he was still lesser than God… (The Bible Denies the Divinity of Jesus https://www.islam-guide.com/ch3-10-1.htm#s1)
And this is what we find stated in a footnote:
(1) All of the quoted verses in this article have been taken from The NIV Study Bible, New International Version. (Ibid. https://www.islam-guide.com/ch3-10-1.htm#footnote1)
Since Ally employed the NIV Bible in his booklet, I am going to reference this particular version to show how this very translation exposes Ally’s shameful manhandling of God’s Word.
Contrary to Ally’s claim, the blessed Apostle proclaimed the absolute Deity of Christ, testifying to the fact of Jesus’ being God that became man. This is readily seen in the following passages:
“From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church… ‘Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood.’” Acts 20:17, 28
Paul not only describes Jesus in the same way that the Psalms depict the God of Israel,
“O God, why have you rejected us forever? Why does your anger smolder against the sheep of your pasture? Remember the nation you purchased long ago, the people of your inheritance, whom you redeemed—Mount Zion, where you dwelt.” Psalm 74:1-2
He further identifies Jesus as the God-Man, e.g., Christ is the God who shed his human blood, i.e., gave up his human life/soul unto death, for the salvation of his flock.
This isn’t the only time where the blessed Apostle affirms the Hypostatic Union, e.g., that Christ possesses two distinct natures, being an eternal divine Person who took on human nature:
“Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.” Romans 9:5
“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” Philippians 2:5-8
“For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form,” Colossians 2:9
Yet Paul is clear. Jesus is not the Father that became flesh. Rather he is God’s preexistent Son who was sent forth to be born of a woman in order to become a human being:
“For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.” Romans 8:3
“But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’ So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.” Galatians 4:4-7
Perhaps the clearest witness to Christ being the God-Man is what the Apostle writes to his protege Titus:
“while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” Titus 2:13-14
Note what the translators to New English Bible (NET) write in regards to this passage:
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. (Ibid. https://netbible.org/bible/Titus+2; bold emphasis mine)
Paul, who was a monotheistic Jew and a Pharisee that was well trained in the Hebrew Bible, has attributed to Christ the very characteristics and functions, which the OT ascribes to Jehovah alone.
For instance, it is Jehovah who is the only great God:
“For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes.” Deuteronomy 10:17
“How great you are, Sovereign LORD! There is no one like you, and there is no God but you, as we have heard with our own ears.” 2 Samuel 7:22
“How great is God—beyond our understanding! The number of his years is past finding out.”Job 36:26
“Your ways, God, are holy. What god is as great as our God?” Psalm 77:13
“Among the gods there is none like you, Lord; no deeds can compare with yours. All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, Lord; they will bring glory to your name. For you are great and do marvelous deeds; you alone are God.” Psalm 86:8-10
“For the LORD is the great God, the great King above all gods.” Psalm 95:3
And Jehovah is the One who redeems a people to be his very own treasured possession:
“‘Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.” Exodus 19:5-6
“If you, LORD, kept a record of sins, Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you… Israel, put your hope in the LORD, for with the LORD is unfailing love and with him is full redemption. He himself will redeem Israel from all their sins.” Psalm 130:3-4, 7-8
The Eternal Creator and Sustainer of All Creation
Contrary to Ally’s distortion of Paul’s Christology, the Apostle depicts Christ as the Creator and Sustainer of the whole entire creation, the One for Whom all things exist:
“For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” Colossians 1:13-20
Yet according to the OT writings, Jehovah created and sustains the entire creation all by himself, and all things exist only for his glory:
“He ALONE stretches out the heavens and treads on the waves of the sea.” Job 9:8
“I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’ Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth—everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made… The wild animals honor me, the jackals and the owls, because I provide water in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen, the people I formed for myself that they may proclaim my praise.” Isaiah 43:6-7, 20-21
“This is what the LORD says— your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb: I am the LORD, the Maker of all things, who stretches out the heavens, who spreads out the earth BY MYSELF,” Isaiah 44:24
“It is I who made the earth and created mankind on it. My own hands stretched out the heavens; I marshaled their starry hosts… For this is what the LORD says— he who created the heavens, he is God; he who fashioned and made the earth, he founded it; he did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited— he says: ‘I am the LORD, and there is no other.’” Isaiah 45:12, 18
For Paul to then attribute these roles and functions to Christ means that he believed that Jesus is Jehovah God Incarnate. Note the logic:
- Jehovah created and sustains all things by and for himself.
- All things were created and are sustained by and for Jesus.
- Jesus must, therefore, be Jehovah God Almighty.
This brings me to my next point.
Furthermore, the inspired Apostle differentiates the Father from the Son in the roles they assumed in creating all things, and in their work of sustaining all believers:
“yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.” 1 Corinthians 8:6
Paul basically applies two distinct divine titles/names to the Father and Jesus Christ, namely God and Lord, in order to identify both as the one Lord God of all. This is further brought out by his depiction of Jesus as personally existing alongside the Father from before the creation of all things.
Once again, note the logical implication of the Apostle’s inspired proclamation:
- All creation came into existence by God the Father.
- This shows that God the Father was already existing before all creation came into being.
- God the Father must, therefore, be uncreated by nature.
- All creation came into existence through the agency of the Lord Jesus.
- This shows that Jesus was also already in existence before all creation came into being.
- Therefore, like God the Father, Jesus must also be uncreated by nature. There’s simply no way around this.
This brings me to the next section.
The Human Embodiment of Jehovah Almighty
Pay close attention to Paul’s proclamation of Jesus as the one Lord:
“… and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ (heis Kyrios Iesous Christos), through whom all things came and through whom we live.” 1 Corinthians 8:6b
What makes this a rather remarkable confession is that a Greek-speaking Jew would have taken the Greek phrase for one Lord, i.e. heis Kyrios, to be a reference to Deuteronomy 6:4 where Jehovah is said to be one:
“Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one (YHVH echad).” Deuteronomy 6:4
Contrast this with its Greek formulation as found in Mark’s Gospel:
“‘The most important one,’ answered Jesus, ‘is this: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one (Kyrios heis estin).”’” Mark 12:29
Therefore, a Jewish Greek reader would have taken Paul’s confession as a testimony to Jesus’s being the one Jehovah proclaimed in Deuteronomy 6:4, a fact that is confirmed by what the Apostle writes elsewhere:
“one Lord (heis Kyrios), one faith, one baptism… But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says: ‘When HE ascended on high, HE took many captives and gave gifts to HIS people.’ (What does ‘he ascended’ mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.)” Ephesians 4:5, 7-10
Paul proclaims Jesus as the one Lord in the same context where he attributes the following Psalm about Jehovah,
“When you ascended on high, you took many captives; you received gifts from people, even from the rebellious—that you, LORD God, might dwell there.” Psalm 68:18
And applies the following description of Jehovah,
“‘Am I only a God nearby,’ declares the LORD, ‘and not a God far away Who can hide in secret places so that I cannot see them?’ declares the Lord. ‘Do not I fill heaven and earth?’ declares the LORD.” Jeremiah 23:23-24
To the risen Christ!
That’s not all the Apostle did.
The Old Testament writings refer to the practice of calling upon the name of Jehovah, which is an exclusive act of devotion to be given only to him. The Hebrew Scriptures further speak of the day of Jehovah, which is the day Jehovah comes to judge the nations, and also mention a day in which Jehovah will pour out his own Spirit upon his servants:
“Abraham planted a tamarisk tree in Beersheba, and there he called on the name of the LORD, the Eternal God.” Genesis 21:33
“Exalt the LORD our God and worship at his footstool; he is holy. Moses and Aaron were among his priests, Samuel was among those who called on his name; they called on the LORD and he answered them. He spoke to them from the pillar of cloud; they kept his statutes and the decrees he gave them.” Psalm 99:5-7
“The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” Psalm 145:18
“Then you will know that I am in Israel, that I am the LORD your God, and that there is no other; never again will my people be shamed. And afterward, I will pour out MY Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out MY Spirit in those days. I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. And everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as the Lord has said, even among the survivors whom the LORD calls.” Joel 2:27-32
“Be silent before the Sovereign LORD, for the day of the LORD is near. The LORD has prepared a sacrifice; he has consecrated those he has invited. On the day of the LORD’s sacrifice I will punish the officials and the king’s sons and all those clad in foreign clothes. On that day I will punish all who avoid stepping on the threshold, who fill the temple of their gods with violence and deceit… The great day of the LORD is near—near and coming quickly. The cry on the day of the LORD is bitter; the Mighty Warrior shouts his battle cry. That day will be a day of wrath— a day of distress and anguish, a day of trouble and ruin, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness—a day of trumpet and battle cry against the fortified cities and against the corner towers. I will bring such distress on all people that they will grope about like those who are blind, because they have sinned against the LORD. Their blood will be poured out like dust and their entrails like dung.” Zephaniah 1:7-9, 14-17
Astonishingly, Paul applied all of this OT imagery and devotion to the Lord Jesus!
For instance, it is Jesus whom believers call upon, and the day of Jehovah is now declared to be the day of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jehovah’s Spirit is also said to be the Spirit of both God and of Jesus Christ his beloved Son!
“To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours: Grace and peace to you FROM God our Father AND the Lord Jesus Christ… Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gift as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. He will also keep you firm to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 1:2-3, 7-8
“being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus… so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ… for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.” Philippians 1:6, 10, 19
“You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you. Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” Romans 8:9-16
“But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’” Galatians 4:4-6
In light of the foregoing, what more could this beloved Apostle have written to convince someone like Ally that this inspired servant of Christ did not think for a moment that Jesus was a semi-divine being whom Jehovah created?
In other words, could Paul be any clearer that he truly believed and preached that Christ is none other than Jehovah God Almighty in the flesh, who is personally distinct from both the Father and the Holy Spirit?
The answer is obvious to those who have eyes to see and ears to hear.
I now come to the final section.
Despite what Ally wrote, Hebrews does not portray Jesus as the first creature of God. Rather, much like we find in Paul’s writings, the inspired writer actually identifies Jesus as Jehovah God Almighty who is personally distinct from the Father.
Pay close attention to what Hebrews 1 states in respect to Christ:
“In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven… But about the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God (ho Theos), will last for ever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom.’… He also says, ‘In the beginning, Lord [the Son], YOU laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of YOUR hands. They will perish, but YOU remain; they will all wear out like a garment. YOU will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed. But YOU remain the same, and YOUR years will never end.’” Hebrews 1:1-3, 8, 10-12
The writer describes the Son as the exact representation of God’s infinite, uncreated being, something which the Hebrew Bible emphatically states is impossible for any creature:
“The heavens praise your wonders, LORD, your faithfulness too, in the assembly of the holy ones. For who in the skies above can compare with the LORD? Who is like the LORD among the heavenly beings? In the council of the holy ones God is greatly feared; he is more awesome than all who surround him. Who is like you, LORD God Almighty? You, LORD, are mighty, and your faithfulness surrounds you.” Psalm 89:5-8
“Before him all the nations are as nothing; they are regarded by him as worthless and less than nothing. With whom, then, will you compare God? To what image will you liken him?… ‘To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?’ says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.” Isaiah 40:17-18, 25-26
“No one is like you, LORD; you are great,” Jeremiah 10:6
This explains why Hebrews not only refers to God praising his Son as the God who reigns forever but even has him citing the following Psalm, which describes Jehovah as the unchanging Creator and Sustainer of all things,
“A prayer of an afflicted person who has grown weak and pours out a lament before the LORD. Hear my prayer, LORD; let my cry for help come to you… But you, LORD, sit enthroned forever; your renown endures through all generations… In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. Like clothing you will change them and they will be discarded. But you remain the same, and your years will never end.” Psalm 102:1, 12, 25-27
And ascribing it to the Lord Jesus!
In other words, it is God himself who is glorifying Christ as the very Jehovah God that the Psalmist praised for being the immutable Creator and Sustainer of all creation!
Therefore, contrary to Ally’s distortion of the Holy Bible, it doesn’t get any plainer that neither Paul nor Hebrews portrays Christ as the first of God’s creation. Rather, both of these inspired witnesses boldly proclaim that Jesus is the incarnation of Jehovah God Almighty, who is personally distinct from the Father and the Holy Spirit.