2 Thessalonians 1:12 and Christ’s Deity: Sharp’s Rule Triumphs Again!

In this post I will cite another example of Granville Sharp’s first rule in respect to texts that deal with the Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Sharp’s First Rule states that,

“When the copulative kai connects two nouns of the same case, [viz. nouns (either substantive or adjective, or participles) of personal description, respecting office, dignity, affinity, or connexion, and attributes, properties, or qualities, good or ill], if the article ho, or any of its cases, precedes the first of the said nouns or participles, and is not repeated before the second noun or participle, the latter always relates to the same person that is expressed or described by the first noun or participle” (Sharp, Remarks on the Uses of the Definitive Article, 3).

In other words, when two singular personal nouns, adjectives or participles, which are not proper names, are connected by the conjunction kai (“and”), with the definite article appearing only before the first noun/adjective/participle, then both nouns/adjectives/participles refer to the same person.

This is precisely what we find in the following case:

“That way the name of our Lord Yeshua will be honored among you. Then, because of the good will of Yeshua Christ, our God and Lord (tou Theou hemon kai Kyriou ‘Iesou Christou), you will be honored by him.” 2 Thessalonians 1:12 Names of God Bible (NOG)

The Greek literally reads, “the God of us and Lord Jesus Christ.”

Note how various translations render this particular text:

“so that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you and you in him, in keeping with the grace of our God and Lord Jesus Christ.” Evangelical Heritage Version (EHV)

“that the name of our Adonay Yah Shua Messiah be glorified in you – and you in him, according to the charism of our Elohim and Adonay Yah Shua Messiah.” exeGeses Companion Bible (ECB)

“That way the name of our Lord Jesus will be honored among you. Then, because of the good will of Jesus Christ, our God and Lord, you will be honored by him.” GOD’s WORD Translation (GW)

“that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, in accord with the grace of our God and Lord Jesus Christ.” New American Bible Revised Edition (NABRE)

“Then the name of our Lord Jesus will be honored because of the way you live, and you will be honored along with him. This is all made possible because of the grace of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ.” New Living Translation (NLT)

“so that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ.” Wilber Pickering New Testament (WPNT)

“that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our God and Lord Jesus Christ.” Young’s Literal Translation (YLT)

CONTEXTUAL EVIDENCE

The immediate context affirms that the blessed and inspired Apostle is indeed identifying Christ as our Lord God:

“This is evidence of God’s righteous judgment and is intended to make you worthy of God’s kingdom, for which you are suffering.Certainly it is right for God to pay back those who afflict you with affliction,and to give us who are afflicted relief when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angelsin blazing fire (en puri phlogos). He will take revenge on those who do not know God and on those who refuse to obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.Such people will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction by being separated from the Lord’s presence and from his glorious power (kai apo tes doxes tes ischyos autou) when he comes to be glorified by his saints and to be regarded with wonder on that day by all who have believed—including you, because you believed our testimony. With this in mind, we always pray for you, asking that our God might make you worthy of his calling and that through his power he might help you accomplish every good desire and faithful action.That way the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified by you, and you by him, according to the grace of our God and Lord, Jesus, the Messiah.” 2 Thessalonians 1:5-12 International Standard Version (ISV)

Here, Paul attributes to the risen Christ the very language which the Old Testament employs to describe YHVH coming to judge the earth and consume the wicked with fire:

“For, behold, the Lord will come as fire, and his chariots as a storm, to render his vengeance with wrath, and his rebuke with a flame of fire (en phlogi puris). For with the fire of the Lord all the earth shall be judged, and all flesh with his sword: many shall be slain by the Lord.” Isaiah 66:15-16 LXX

“Now therefore enter ye into the rocks, and hide yourselves in the earth, for fear of the Lord, and by reason of the glory of his might (kai apo tes doxes tes ischyos autou), when he shall arise to strike terribly the earth. For the eyes of the Lord are high, but man is low; and the haughtiness of men shall be brought low, and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day. For the day of the Lord of hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and haughty, and upon every one that is high and towering, and they shall be brought down; and upon every cedar of Libanus, of them that are high and towering, and upon every oak of Basan, and upon every high mountain, and upon every high hill, and upon every high tower, and upon every high wall, and upon every ship of the sea, and upon every display of fine ships. And every man shall be brought low, and the pride of men shall fall: and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day.” Isaiah 2:10-17 LXX

The Apostle is essentially indicating that Jesus is that YHVH God who comes in the glory of his might to take vengeance upon the wicked of the earth by consuming them with flaming fire.  

Hence, if Paul has no qualms in identifying Jesus as YHVH then he surely would have no problem describing him as the Lord God of all believers.

At this point, Paul is doing nothing more than echoing the words of doubting Thomas after he saw the risen Christ standing before him in his resurrected and glorified physical body of flesh:   

“Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said to him, ‘We have seen the Lord. So he said to them, ‘Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.’ And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, ‘Peace to you!’ Then He said to Thomas, ‘Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.’ And Thomas answered and said to Him, ‘My Lord and my God (ho Kyrios mou kai ho Theos mou)!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’” John 20:24-29

SUPPORTING TEXTS

If the text from 2 Thessalonians were an isolated case, then one may have reason to doubt whether Paul was in fact describing Jesus as God. However, this isn’t the only instance where the Holy Spirit filled apostle magnified Christ as God in the flesh:

“Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” Acts 20:28 New King James Version (NKJV)

“of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.” Romans 9:5 NKJV

“For the entire fullness of God’s nature dwells bodily in Christ,” Colossians 2:9 Christian Standard Bible (CSB)

“looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ (tou megalou Theou kai Soteros hemon ‘Iesou Christou),” Titus 2:13 NKJV

Interestingly, the aforementioned text and the following,

“Simon Peter, a bondservant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained like precious faith with us by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ (tou Theou hemon kai Soteros ‘Iesou Christou)” 2 Peter 1:1 NKJV

Are both cases of Sharp’s construction, and invariably identify Christ as the true God:

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; bold emphasis mine)

And:

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. In fact, the construction occurs elsewhere in 2 Peter, strongly suggesting that the author’s idiom was the same as the rest of the NT authors’ (cf., e.g., 1:11 [“the Lord and Savior”], 2:20 [“the Lord and Savior”]). 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 the application of Sharp’s rule to 2 Pet 1:1, see ExSyn 272, 276-77, 290. See also Titus 2:13 and Jude 4. (Ibid. https://netbible.org/bible/2+Peter+1; bold emphasis mine)

That’s not all.

Paul even went as far as to describe Christ as the eternal, uncreated Son of God who created and sustains the entire creation:

“yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live.” 1 Corinthians 8:6 NKJV

“He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He IS before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.” Colossians 1:13-20 NKJV

Since the Hebrew Bible clearly attests that YHVH alone created all things and sustains all creation by himself,

“And the Levites, Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabniah, Sherebiah, Hodijah, Shebaniah, and Pethahiah, said: ‘Stand up and bless the LORD your God Forever and ever! Blessed be Your glorious name, Which is exalted above all blessing and praise! You alone are the LORD; You have made heaven, The heaven of heavens, with all their host, The earth and everything on it, The seas and all that is in them, And You preserve them all. The host of heaven worships You.’” Nehemiah 9:5-6 NKJV

“I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ And to the south, ‘Do not keep 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 have created for My glory; I have formed him, yes, I have made him… The beast of the field will honor Me, The jackals and the ostriches, Because I give waters in the wilderness And rivers in the desert, To give drink to My people, My chosen. This people I have formed for Myself; They shall declare My praise.” Isaiah 43:6-7, 20-21 NKJV

“Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, And He who formed you from the womb: ‘I am the LORD, who makes all things, Who stretches out the heavens all ALONE, Who spreads abroad the earth by MYSELF;’” Isaiah 44:24 NKJV

This again illustrates that for this blessed Apostle, Christ is no mere creature or semidivine Being. Rather, Jesus is the incarnation of YHVH God Almighty, even though he is not the Father or the Holy Spirit.

Therefore, why should it be hard to believe that the grammar of 2 Thessalonians 1:12 clearly points to Paul describing Jesus as the God and Lord of all believers?

This brings me to my next section.

EXPOSITORS/GRAMMARIANS/THEOLOGIANS

I now cite the views of various theologians, grammarians and exegetes who all agree that the syntax and grammar of 2 Thessalonians 1:12 strongly affirms that Jesus is being called both God and Lord.

All emphasis will be mine.

Of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ (του θεου ημων κα κυριου Ιησου Χριστου). Here STRICT syntax requires, since there is only one article with θεου and κυριου that one person be meant, Jesus Christ, as is certainly true in Titus 2:132 Peter 1:1 (Robertson, Grammar, p.786). This otherwise conclusive syntactical argument, admitted by Schmiedel, is weakened a bit by the fact that Κυριος is often employed as a proper name without the article, a thing not true of σωτηρ in Titus 2:132 Peter 1:1. So in Ephesians 5:5 εν τη βασιλεια του Χριστου κα θεου the natural meaning is in the Kingdom of Christ and God regarded as one, but here again θεος, like Κυριος, often occurs as a proper name without the article. So it has to be admitted that here Paul may mean “according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ,” though he may also mean “according to the grace of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ.” (Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament (A.T. Robertson), 2 Thessalonians)

Of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ (του μεγαλου θεου κα σωτηρος Ιησου Χριστου). This is the necessary meaning of the one article with θεου and σωτηρος just as in 2 Peter 1:12 Peter 1:11. See Robertson, Grammar, p. 786. Westcott and Hort read Χριστου Ιησου. (Ibid., Titus)

Of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ (του θεου ημων κα σωτηρος Ιησου Χριστου). So the one article (του) with θεου and σωτηρος requires precisely as with του κυριου ημων κα σωτηρος Ιησου Χριστου (of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ), one person, not two, in 2 Peter 1:11 as in 2 Peter 2:202 Peter 3:22 Peter 3:18. So in 1 Peter 1:3 we have ο θεος κα πατηρ (the God and Father), one person, not two. The grammar is uniform and inevitable (Robertson, Grammar, p. 786), as even Schmiedel (Winer-Schmiedel, Grammatik, p. 158) admits: “Grammar demands that one person be meant.” Moulton (Prol., p. 84) cites papyri examples of like usage of θεος for the Roman emperors. See the same idiom in Titus 2:13. The use of θεος by Peter as a predicate with Jesus Christ no more disproves the Petrine authorship of this Epistle than a like use in John 1:1 disproves the Johannine authorship of the Fourth Gospel and the same use in Titus 2:13 disproves the genuineness of Titus. Peter had heard Thomas call Jesus God (John 20:28) and he himself had called him the Son of God (Matthew 16:16). (Ibid., 2 Peter)

Since the article stands before θεοῦ, and not before κυρίου, it is altogether most natural, with Hofmann, to refer θεο also to Christ [but see Critical Note 13.—J. L.], without this being, as Hilgenfeld supposes (p. 264), a mark of spuriousness; for not merely Titus 2:13, but also Romans 9:5 speaks of Christ in loftier terms than are agreeable to our modern critics (comp. Joh 20:28; 2 Peter 1:12 Peter 1:11). The distinction between God and Christ is not to be sustained by an appeal to texts like 2 Thessalonians 1:1-2, since there the article is wanting also before θε and θεο. (Johann Peter Lange’s Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and Homiletical, 2 Thessalonians)

The only question is, whether, in the next clause, τοῦ μεγάλου θεοῦ καὶ σωτῆρος ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ , one independent subject is to be understood [so that it shall read, of our great Gad and Saviour Jesus Christ.—D.], or whether, with most [or rather several—they hardly appear to be the majority.—D.] recent interpreters, it should be rendered, “the appearing of the glory of the great God, and of our Saviour Jesus Christ.” For our part, we decide in favor of the first, and believe the words may, should, and must be understood as giving the name “great God” not to the Father, but to the Saviour Jesus Christ. On purely philological grounds, the position of Bengel will hardly be questioned: “It may be referred to Christ.” Even Winer, § 11, does not deny that σωτρος μν may be regarded, consistently with grammar, as a second predicate depending upon the article το. The only ground on which he feels obliged to prefer the other view, adopted by De Wette, Huther, and others, is the doctrinal opinion, derived from the writings of Paul, that this Apostle could not have styled Christ the great God. But in view of 1 Timothy 3:15-16Romans 9:5Colossians 1:15-20, and other passages, we cannot regard this objection as valid. Equally arbitrary with the position that Paul regarded Christ as a mere man, and nothing more, is the Arian view, that Paul did not recognize Christ as God, yea, as μέγας θεός. Whoever will simply read and translate the words without doctrinal prejudice, will have as little hesitation in referring them to one and the same subject, as in understanding, e.g., in 2 Peter 1:11, the words βασιλείαν τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν καὶ σωτῆρος Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, as relating to the same subject. He, who is there called κύριος (Lord), is here called μέγας θεός (the great God); as is clear also from the fact that Paul ascribes an “appearing” to the Son (comp. 1 Timothy 6:142 Timothy 4:12 Timothy 4:8), but not to the Father, who is “invisible.” Taking all things into the account, we believe that the sense of the words, and the connection, speak decidedly in favor of one and the same subject (Christ). We cannot, therefore, but regard the use which the Church fathers very early made of this passage as a weapon against the Arians as entirely legitimate. [Ellicott has come to the same result with Dr. Van Oosterzee, which is that also of Calvin, Matthies, Usteri, Wiesinger, Tholuck, and Ebrard. He says:

“It must be candidly avowed that it is very doubtful whether, on the grammatical principle last alluded to (in respect to two substantives closely united, and under the vinculum of a common article), the interpretation of this passage can be fully settled; see Winer, § 18, 5 Obs., p. 148. There is a presumption in favor of the adopted interpretation, but, on account of the (defining) genitive ἡμῶν (Winer, p. 142), nothing more. When, however, we turn to exegetical considerations, and remember (1.) that ἐπιφανεία is a term specially and peculiarly applied to the Son, and never to the Father; (2.) that the immediate context so specially relates to our Lord; (3.) that the following mention of Christ’s giving Himself up for us—of His abasement—does fairly account for St. Paul’s ascription of a title, otherwise unusual, that specifically and antithetically marks His glory; (4.) that μεγάλου would be uncalled for, if applied to the Father; and (5.) lastly, observe that apparently two of the ante-Nicene (Clem. Alex. and Hippolytus), and the great bulk of the post-Nicene writers, concurred in this interpretation—when we candidly weigh all this evidence, it does seem difficult to resist the conviction that this text is a direct, definite, and even studied declaration of the divinity of the Eternal Son. It ought not to be suppressed that some of the best versions (Vulg., Syr., et al., not, however, apparently Æth.), and some fathers of undoubted orthodoxy, adopted the other interpretation.” So also Erasmus, Grotius, De Wette, and Huther.—D.]

Even if, however, a difference of subjects should be assumed, this passage bears testimony, not directly, indeed, but indirectly, as Huther, among others, admits. [This view is strongly expressed by Alford, who, without considering the question closed, prefers to regard “the great God” as describing the Father; but adds: “Whichsoever way taken, the passage is just as important a testimony to the divinity of our Saviour: according to one way, by asserting His possession of Deity; according to the other, even more strikingly, asserting His equality in glory with the Father, in a way which would be blasphemy if predicated of any of the sons of men.”—D.] So Calvin: “But we may refute the Arians briefly and solidly: for Paul, having spoken of the revelation of the glory of ‘the great God,’ immediately added ‘Christ,’ that we might know that the revelation of glory will be in His person; as if he had said that, when Christ shall appear, the greatness of the Divine glory shall then be revealed to us.” (Ibid., Titus)

We should not pass without notice that it is in the passages from II Thessalonians that ho kurios is given relative prominence. In the two passages from I Thessalonians ho theos comes forward, while in those from II Thessalonians it is ho kurios. That is in accordance with the general character of II Thessalonians, which is distinctively a kurios epistle. Proportionately to the lengths of the two epistles, while theos occurs about equally often in each, kurios occurs about twice as often in the second as in the first. We do not pause to inquire into the causes of this superior prominence of kurios in II Thessalonians, although it may be worth remarking in passing that in both epistles it is relatively prominent in the hortatory portions. Whatever, however, may have been the particular causes which brought about the result in this case, the result is in itself one which could not have been brought about if theos and kurios had not stood in the consciousness of Paul in virtual equality as designations of Deity. For the phenomenon amounts at its apex, – as we see in the four passages more particularly before us – to the simple replacement of theos by kurios as the designation of Deity. And that means at bottom that Paul knows no difference between theos and kurios in point of rank; they are both to him designations of Deity and the discrimination by which the one is applied to the Father and the other to Christ is (so far) merely a convention by which two that are God are supplied with differentiating appellations by means of which they may be intelligibly spoken of severally. With respect to the substance of the matter there seems no reason why the Father might not just as well be called kurios and Christ theos.

Whether the convention by which the two appellations are assigned respectively to the Father as theos and to Christ as kurios is ever broken by Paul, is a question of little intrinsic importance, but nevertheless of some natural interest. It is probable that Paul never, not only in these epistles to the Thessalonians, but throughout his epistles, – employs kurios of the Father. The term seems to appear uniformly in his writings, except in a few (not all) quotations from the Old Testament, as a designation of Christ. Thus the Old Testament divine name kurios (Jehovah) is appropriated exclusively to Christ; and that in repeated instances even when the language of the Old Testament is adduced, – which Paul carries over to and applies to Christ as the Lord there spoken of. The question whether Paul ever applies the term theos to Christ is brought sharply before us by the form in which the formula, the use of which we are particularly investigating, occurs in II Thess. i. 12. There we read of Paul’s constant prayer that “our God” should count his readers worthy of their calling and fulfil with reference to them every good pleasure of goodness and work of faith with power, to the end that “the name of our Lord Jesus” might be glorified in them, and they in Him, kata ten charin tou theou hemon kai kuriou Iesou Christou.

It will probably be allowed that in strictness of grammatical rule, rigidly applied, this should mean, “according to the grace of our God and Lord Jesus Christ,” or, if we choose so to phrase it, “according to the grace of our God, even the Lord Jesus Christ.” All sorts of reasons are advanced, however, why the strict grammatical rule should not be rigidly applied here. Most of them are ineffective enough and testify only to the reluctance of expositors to acknowledge that Paul can speak of Christ as “God.” This reluctance is ordinarily given expression either in the simple empirical remark that it is not in accordance with the usage of Paul to call Christ God, or in the more far-reaching assertion that it is contrary to Paul’s doctrinal system to represent Christ as God. Thus, for example, W. Bornemann comments briefly: “In themselves, these words might be so taken as to call Jesus here both God and Lord. That is, however, improbable, according to the Pauline usage elsewhere.” This mild statement is particularly interesting as a recession from the strong ground taken by G. Lünemann, whose commentary on the Thessalonian epistles in the Meyer series Bornemann’s superseded. Lünemann argues the question at some length and one might almost say with some heat. “According to Hofmann and Riggenbach,” he writes, “Christ is here named both our God and our Lord, – an interpretation which, indeed, grammatically is no less allowable than the interpretation of the doxology ho on epi panton theos eulogetos eis tou aionas, Rom. ix. 5, as an apposition to Christos; but is equally inadmissible as it would contain an un-Pauline thought: on account of which also Hilgenfeld, “Zeitschr.f.d. wiss. Theol.,” Halle, 1862, p. 264, in the interest of the supposed spuriousness of the Epistle, has forthwith appropriated to himself this discovery of Hofmann.” Ernst von Dobschütz, who has superseded Bornemann as Bornemann superseded Lünemann, is as sure as Lünemann that it is un-Pauline to call Christ God; but as he is equally sure that this passage does call Christ God, he has no alternative but to deny the passage to Paul, – though he prefers to deny to him only this passage and not, like Hilgenfeld, the whole Epistle. “But an entirely unPauline trait meets us here,” he writes, “that to tou theou hemon there is added kai kuriou Iesou Christou. Not that the combination, God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, is not original-Pauline (see on I Thess. i. 1), but that what stands here must be translated, ‘Of our God and Lord Jesus Christ’ as Hofmann and Wohlenberg rightly maintain. This, however, is in very fact in the highest degree un-Pauline (Lünemann) in spite of Rom. ix. 5, and has its parallel only in Tit. ii. 13, ‘Of our Great God and Saviour, Christ Jesus,’ or II Pet. i. 1, 11, ‘Of our God (Lord) and Saviour, Jesus Christ.”‘ H. J. Holtzmann, as is his wont, sums up the whole contention crisply: “In the entire compass of the Pauline literature, only II Thess. i. 12 and Tit. ii. 13 supply two equally exegetically uncertain parallels” to Rom. ix. 5 “while, in Eph. iv. 6, God the Father is ho epi panton.”

It is manifest that reasoning of this sort runs great risk of merely begging the question. The precise point under discussion is whether Paul does ever, or could ever, speak of Christ as God. This passage is offered in evidence that he both can and does. It is admitted that there are other passages which may be adduced in the same sense. There is Rom. ix. 5 which everybody allows to be Paul’s own. There is Tit. ii. 13 which occurs in confessedly distinctively “Pauline literature.” There is Acts xx. 28, credibly attributed to Paul by one of his pupils. There is II Pet. i. 1 to show that the usage was not unknown to other of the New Testament letterwriters. It is scarcely satisfactory to say that all these passages are as “exegetically uncertain” as II Thess. i. 12 itself. This “exegetical uncertainty” is in each case imposed upon the passage by reluctance to take it in the sense which it most naturally bears, and which is exegetically immediately given. It is as exegetically certain, for example, as any thing can be purely exegetically certain, that in Rom. ix. 5 Paul calls Christ roundly “God over all.” It is scarcely to be doubted that this would be universally recognized if Romans could with any plausibility be denied to Paul, or even could be assigned to a date subsequent to that of, say, Colossians. The equivalent may be said of each of the other passages mutatis mutandis. The reasoning is distinctly circular which denies to each of these passages in turn its natural meaning on the ground of lack of supporting usage, when this lack of supporting usage is created by a similar denial on the same ground of its natural meaning to each of the other passages. The ground of the denial in each case is merely the denial in the other cases. Meanwhile the usage is there, and is not thus to be denied away. If it may be, any usage whatever may be destroyed in the same manner.

In these circumstances there seems no reason why the ordinary laws of grammar should not determine our understanding of II Thess. i. 12. We may set it down here, therefore, with its parallels in Tit. ii. 13 and II Pet. i. 1 in which the same general phrasing even more clearly carries this sense.

II Thess. i. 12: ten cha’rin tou theou hemon kai kuriou Iesou Christou.

Tit. ii. 13: kai epiphaneian tes doxes tou megalou theou kai soteros hemon Christou Iesou.

II Pet. i. 1: pistin en dikaiosune tou theou hemon kai soteros Iesou Christou.

In these passages the conjunction, in which God and Christ are brought together in the general formula which we are investigating, reaches its culmination in an express identification of them. (Benjamin Brickeridge Warfield, Biblical Doctrines

, pp. 186-190; bold emphasis mine)

In regards to Titus 2:13, which is another example of a Sharp construction, Evangelical scholar and commentator Murray J. Harris explains why this verse does not have two persons in view:

“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 Yahwehand 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.”

“… it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that, whatever the date of Titus, one impulse behind this particular verse was the desire to combat the extravagant titular endowment that had been accorded to human rulers such as Antiochus Epiphanes (theos epiphanes), Ptolemy I (soter kai theos), or Julius Caesar (theos kai soter), or to claim exclusively for the Christians’ Lord the divine honors freely granted to goddesses such as Aphrodite and Artemis or to gods such as Asclepius and Zeus.

“Consequently, if one reason for the use of the phrase theos kai soter was polemical, it is unlikely that two elements of the phrase should be divorced, with theos denoting God the Father and soter Jesus Christ.” (Harris, Jesus As God: The New Testament Use of Theos in Reference to Jesus [Baker Books; Grand Rapids, MI 1998], pp. 178-179; bold emphasis mine)

And here is what this scholar wrote in regards to both Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1:

“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 men 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)

Harris concludes his analysis:

“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.” (Jesus as God, p. 185; bold emphasis mine)

FURTHER READING

Ephesians 5:5: Another Example of Granville Sharp’s First Rule?

GRANVILLE SHARP AND THE DEITY OF CHRIST

THE NT USE OF THEOS SOTER AND THE DEITY OF CHRIST

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s