NT SCHOLARSHIP ON JOHN 1:1 AND TITUS 2:13 PT. 2

I proceed from where I previously left off: NT SCHOLARSHIP ON JOHN 1:1 AND TITUS 2:13 PT. 1.

In this segment I will focus on what NT authorities have written in respect to Titus 2:13. I will also quote 2 Peter 1:1 and 11 since these verses are directly related to the text from Titus.

THE GREAT GOD THAT SAVES

“as we wait for the happy fulfillment of our hope in the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ (tou megalou Theou kai soteros hemon ‘Iesou Christou).He gave himself for us to set us free from every kind of lawlessness and to purify for himself a people who are truly his, who are eager to do good.” Titus 2:13-14 NET

“From Simeon Peter, a slave and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ (tou Theou hemon kai soteros ‘Iesou Christou), have been granted a faith just as precious as ours… For thus an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ (tou Kyriou hemon kai soteros ‘Iesou Christou), will be richly provided for you.” 2 Peter 1:1, 11 NET

Here are the comments of some of the many scholars who agree that the grammar and language employed in Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1 conclusively point to Christ as the Almighty God who saves:

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)

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)

“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,17 and invariably denoted one deity, not two.18 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.22

“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.

17. Dibellus and Conzelmann 100-102 (in an excursus on “Savior” in the Pastoral Epistles).

18. Theos and soter are two separate titles of one and the same deity. This is why the kai in the formula is not epexegetic (which would produce the sense “the appearing of the glory of the great God, our Savior Jesus Christ”). (Murray J. Harris, Jesus as God, pp. 178-179)

Elsewhere he writes:

“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 Jesus Christtheir readers would always understand it as referring to a single person, Jesus Christ. It would simply not occur to them that ‘God’ might mean the Father, with Jesus Christ as the ‘Savior.’”  (Harris, 3 Crucial Questions About Jesus [Baker Books; Grand Rapids, MI, 1994], 3. Is Jesus God?, III. The Divine Title “God” Used of Jesus, pp. 96-97)

Harris concludes:

“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)

There’s more:

The arguments for Paul’s identification of tou megalou theou  hemon, “our great God,” and ‘Iesou, “Jesus,” ARE IMPRESSIVE…

(1) theou, “God,” and soteros, “savior,” are both governed by the same article, and according to Granville Sharp’s rule they therefore refer to the same person (Robertson, Grammar, 785-89; Zerwick, Biblical Greek, 59-60; Harris, “Titus 2:13,” 267-69; Wallace, Greek Grammar, 270-90). For example, 2 Cor 1:2 speaks of ho theos kai pater, “the God and Father,” both terms referring to the same person. As Wallace clarifies Sharp’s own qualifiers, the rule applies “only with personal, singular, and non-proper nouns” (Greek Grammar, 272) and indicates some degree of unity between the two words, possibly equality or identity (270). When understood as Sharp intended, THERE ARE NO EXCEPTIONS IN THE NT TO THE RULE (although on theological grounds, NOT GRAMMATICAL, the rule has been questioned here and in 2 Pet 1:1; cf. Wallace, Greek Grammar, 273 n. 50, and further bibliography at 273 n. 50 and 276 n. 55). If soteros referred to a second person, it would have been preceded by the article. However, this is not to make the mistake of modalism, which sees only one God appearing in different modes (cf. Grudem, Systematic Theology, 242). God the Father and God the Son are not identical in orthodox theology; the Son is God, but he is not the Father. Wallace and Robertson (Exp 21 [1921] 185-87) both describe the force of G. B. Winer’s refusal (A Grammar of the Idiom of the New Testament [Andover, MA: Draper, 1869] 130) to accept Sharp’s rule FOR THEOLOGICAL AND NOT GRAMMATICAL REASONS. Speaking of the same construction in 2 Pet 1:1, 11, Robertson is direct in his critique: “The simple truth is that Winer’s anti-Trinitarian prejudice overruled his grammatical rectitude in his remarks about 2 Peter i. 1” (Exp 21 [1921] 185); and the influence that Winer exerted as a grammarian has influenced other grammarians and several generations of scholars.  

The grammatical counterargument is that soter, “savior,” like other technical terms and proper names, tends to be anarthrous; but “God” (Wallace, Greek Grammar, 272, n. 42), and soter (Harris, “Titus 2:13,” 268) are not proper names. theos is not a personal proper name because it can be made plural (theoi, “gods”; cf. Wallace, Greek Grammar, 272, n. 42). Proper nouns are usually anarthrous since they are inherently definite, but theos is almost always articular unless other grammatical rules require the article to be dropped in specific contexts. theos occurs frequently in the TSKS (article-substantive-kai-substantive) construction to which Sharp’s rule applies (Luke 20:37; John 20:27; Rom 15:6; 1 Cor 15:24; 2 Cor 1:3; 11:31; Gal 1:4; Eph 1:3; Phil 4:20; 1 Thess 1:3; 3:11, 13; Jas 1:27; 1 Pet 1:3; Rev 1:6), always in reference to one person (cf. Wallace, “Sharp Redivivus?” 46-47). In the PE soter occurs in eight other passages, seven of which are articular (1 Tim 2:3; 2 Tim 1:10; Titus 1:3, 4; 2:10; 3:4, 6). The only other anarthrous use of soter in the PE is in 1 Tim 1:1, where it is anarthrous in accordance with Apollonius’s Canon (Wallace, Greek Grammar, 250). In other words, in the PE the articular construction is the rule, suggesting that there is a specific reason for its anarthrous state here. If the question is the grammatical meaning of this text, Sharp’s rule is decisive. If Paul was speaking of two persons, it would have been easy to say so unambiguously (e.g., tou megalou theou kai ‘Iesou Christou tou soteros hemon, “the great God and Jesus Christ our savior,” or tou megalou theou hemon kai tou soteros ‘Iesou Christou, “our great God and the savior Jesus Christ” [Harris, 269]). Instead he chose a form that most naturally reads as one person, ‘Iesou Christou, “Jesus Christ,” which is in apposition to tou megalou theou kai soteros hemon, “our great God and savior.” To say it another way, if Paul did not believe that Jesus was God, it seems highly unlikely that he would have been so sloppy in making such a significant theological statement. If Paul did believe that Jesus was God, it is not a surprise to read this

(2) The flow of the discussion argues that theou kai soteros, “God and savior,” refers to one person and that the one person is Jesus Christ. (a) Paul begins by saying, “for the grace of God has appeared bringing salvation,” associating God with salvation. Two verses later, without a change of subject, he speaks of theou kai soteros hemon, “our God and savior.” The most natural reading is to continue the association between theou, “God,” and soteros, “savior.” However, since ‘Iesou Christou “Jesus Christ,” most likely stands in apposition to soteros, “savior,” because of their close proximity, Jesus is the God and Savior. (b) Since elpis, “hope,” is personified in the PE as Jesus (see above), Paul begins the verse speaking of Jesus not God the Father (“waiting for the blessed hope, which is the appearing of God, who is Jesus Christ”). (c) The following verse speaks of Jesus’ saving activity. This does not mean that v 13 must be speaking of one person; Paul often changes subjects by adding a relative clause (e.g. Eph 1:7). However, since v 14 does discuss salvation, it strongly suggests that Paul is thinking of Jesus as savior. (This argues against Hort’s position [below] that ‘Iesou Christou, “Jesus Christ,” refers back to tes doxes tou … theou, “the glory of God.”) If God and savior refer to one person (below), and if savior refers to Jesus Christ, then so must God. Lock (145) also points out that the idea of hina lytrosetai, “in order that he might redeem,” which occurs in v 14, is used in the OT of God but here of Christ, implying an equation between the two.    

(3) The phrase theos kai soter, “God and savior,” was a set phrase in Hellenistic language… AND ALWAYS REFERRED TO ONE PERSON, such as Ptolemy I (tou megalou theou euergetou kai soteros [epiphanouseucharistou, “the great god, benefactor, and savior [manifest one,] beneficent one”…; soter kai theos, “savior and god”…), Antiochus Epiphanes (theos epiphanes, “god manifest”…), and Julius Caesar (theos kai soter, “god and savior”…). Moulton comments, “Familiarity with the everlasting apotheosis that flaunts itself in the papyri and inscriptions of Ptolemaic and Imperial times, lends strong support to Wendland’s contention that Christians, from the latter part of i/A.D. onward, deliberately annexed for their Divine Master the phraseology that was impiously arrogated to themselves by some of the worst men” (Grammar 1:84). It was also used by Hellenistic and Palestinian Judaism in reference to God (Dibelius-Conzelmann, 143-46). Since in Hellenism it was a set phrase referring to one Person and Paul is using language that places his gospel in direct confrontation with emperor worship and Ephesian religion…, the phrase most likely refers to one person in this context, not two. This is how it would have been understood in Cretan society. Wallace points out how rare this expression is in the LXX (Esth 5:1; Ps 61:1, 5, without the article; cf. 2 Macc 6:32; Philo LegAll. 2.56; Praem. 163.5); the MT rarely has an analogous construction (singular-article-noun-waw-noun), and when it does, the LXX uses a different construction in translation (“Sharp Redivivus?” 43). He cites O. Cullmann (The Christology of the New Testament, rev. ed. [Philadelphia: Westminster, 1963] 241) in concluding that “Hellenism accounts for the form, Judaism for the context of the expression” (“Sharp Redivivus?” 44).

(4) When Paul speaks of the “appearing of the glory of our great God,” he ties “appearing” and “God” together. Yet epiphaneia, “appearing,” in Paul always refers to Jesus’ second coming and never to God. The appearance of God is therefore the appearance of Jesus (2 Thess 2:8; 1 Tim 6:14; 2 Tim 1:9-10; 4:1, 8; Titus 2:13). In fact 1 Tim 6:14 and 2 Tim 1:10 have much the same meaning as our passage and confirm this argument. Although God the Father is involved in the Son’s return, he is not as involved as this would indicate if it refers to two people (Lock 145; Fee, 196). There are two related arguments. (a) If kai, “and,” is epexegtical, epiphaneian, “appearing,” is a restatement of elpida, “hope,” and hope is a personification of Jesus, showing that the appearance is the appearance of Jesus. (b) epiphaneian, “appearing” (v 13), parallels epephane, “appearance,” in v 11, and since in v 11 Paul is speaking of Jesus’ appearance, it is most likely here that he is speaking of Jesus’ second appearance. The counterargument is that the cognate epiphaneian, “to appear,” occurs in Titus 2:11 and 3:4 as part of the description of God the Father; however, these verses speak of God sending Jesus the first time.

(5) Marshall (SNTU-A 13 [1988] 174-75) adds the following arguments: (a) Jesus, as Lord, is the judge, which is the sole prerogative of God (2 Tim 4:8); (b) Jesus and God are placed side by side (1 Tim 1:1-2; 5:21; 6:13; 2 Tim 4:1; Titus 1:1; 2:13); (c) both are given the title “savior” (1 Tim 1:15; 2 Tim 1:9; 4:18); (d) spiritual blessings come from both (2 Tim 1:3, 6, 18; 1 Tim 1:12, 14); and (e) both are “objects of the writer’s service” (God: 2 Tim 1:3; 2:15; Titus 1:7; Jesus: 2 Tim 2:3, 24). If Jesus has the position and function of God, then he can “probably” be called God.

There are other arguments that are of questionable validity. (1) The early Greek church fathers are nearly unanimous in seeing “God and savior” as referring to Jesus, and it can be assumed that they would know the Greek idiom (not Justin Martyr [1 Apol. 61] and Ambrosiaster; cf. Lock, 145; Harris, “Titus 2:13,” 271). The counterargument is that the early versions are nearly unanimous in seeing two persons in this passage (Latin, Syriac, Egyptian, Armenian, but not Ethiopic) and that the Greek church fathers tended to be controlled more by their theology than by the text itself. Bernard asserts, “The Fathers were far better theologians than critics. Their judgement on a point of doctrine may be trusted with much readier confidence than the arguments by which they support their judgement” (172). Moulton (Grammar 1:84) points out that this appears to be the interpretation of the seventh-century Christians as evidenced by the papyri (cf. en onomati tou kyriou kai despotou ‘Iesou Christou tou theou kai soteros hemon…, “in the name of the Lord and master, Jesus Christ, our God and savior etc.” [BGU 2:366, 367, 368, 371, 395]), but this is quite late. (2) The NT nowhere describes God as megas, “great,” and it is argued that it would be tautological to call God great (Ellicott, 188; Guthrie, 200). But the use of megas, “great,” distinguishes God from the pagan deities, and great is no more than a summary of what Paul says about him in 1 Tim 6:15-16. Harris lists other arguments that he feels are debatable (“Titus 2:13,” 270-71)…

Fortunately the doctrine of Christ’s divinity does not rest on this verse. But the question of what Paul is saying here is still important, and it seems that he is making a christological pronouncement on the divinity of Christ. This is the most natural reading of the text, is required by the grammar, concurs with Paul’s use of epiphaneia, “appearing,” accounts for the singular use of the phrase “God and savior” in secular thought, and fits the context well. (William D. Mounce, Word Biblical Commentary: Pastoral Epistles [Zondervan Academic, Grand Rapid, MI 2016], Volume 46, pp. 426-429, 431)

Finally:

Our God and Savior (Titus 2:13; 2 Peter 1:1)

Two of the shortest books of the New Testament contain similar—and very strong—affirmations of Jesus Christ as God. In his epistle to Titus, the apostle Paul44 states that Christians “wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). The equally short epistle of 2 Peter opens by describing its readers as “those who have received a faith as precious as ours through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ” (1:1). Both of these texts describe Jesus using the two titles God and Savior.

Not everyone agrees that these verses call Jesus “God.” Jehovah’s Witnesses, for example, translate Titus 2:13 “of the great God and of [the] Savior of us, Christ Jesus” and 2 Peter 1:1 “of our God and [the] Savior Jesus Christ” (NWT, brackets in the original). The bracketed insertions of the word the make a significant difference. Read these verses without the bracketed insertions—especially 2 Peter 1:1—and they sound like they are referring to Jesus as both God and Savior.45

Several factors, taken together, prove beyond reasonable doubt that both of these verses call Jesus “God.” One of these factors is the way the sentences use the article the in the construction or word arrangement that both sentences share.

tou megalou theou kai soteros hemon ‘iesou Christou

the great God and Savior our Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13)

tou theou hemon kai soteros ‘Iesou Christou

the God our and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:1)

Both of these texts use a construction that fits the following pattern:

Article + Noun + kai + Noun

the God and Savior

The most natural way of understanding this particular construction is that both nouns refer to the same person. (In this construction, it does not matter whether the phrase includes a pronoun or where the pronoun appears.) When this construction occurs in ancient Greek using singular personal nouns that are not proper names (that is, nouns like father, Lord, king, not Jesus, Peter, or Paul), the two nouns normally refer to the same person. The first writer to analyze this construction in a formal way did so in the late eighteenth century. He was an English Christian abolitionist named Granville Sharp; for that reason, the analysis of this construction is commonly known as Sharp’s rule.46

The New Testament contains plenty of examples supporting Sharp’s rule. The epistles of Paul, for example, refer to “our God and Father” (e.g., Gal. 1:4; Phil. 4:20; 1 Thess. 1:3; 3:11, 13) and “the God and Father” (Rom. 15:6; 1 Cor. 15:24), which certainly refer to one person by both titles God and Father. There are numerous additional examples, many of little or no theological concern (see table on Sharp’s rule).

EXAMPLES OF SHARP’S RULE47

Mark 6:3 “the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James”

Luke 20:37 “the Lord the God of Abraham and God of Isaac and God of Jacob”

John 20:17 “my Father and your Father and my God and your God

Acts 3:14 “the Holy and Righteous One

Eph. 6:21 “Tychicus, the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord”

Col. 4:7 “Tychicus, the beloved brother and faithful servant and fellowslave in the Lord”

1 Thess. 3:2 “Timothy, our brother and God’s servant”

1 Tim. 6:15 “the King of kings and Lord of lords

Philemon 1:1 “our dear friend and coworker”

Heb. 3:1 “the apostle and high priest of our confession, Jesus”

Heb. 12:2 “the author and finisher of faith”

James 3:9 “the Lord and Father

1 Peter 2:25 “the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls”

1 Peter 5:1 “as the fellow-elder and witness of Christ’s sufferings”

Rev. 1:6 “our [sic] God and Father

Rev. 1:9 “John, your brother and fellow-partaker

Gal. 1:4; Phil. 4:20; 1 Thess. 1:3; 3:11, 13 “our God and Father

Rom. 15:6; 1 Cor. 15:24; 2 Cor. 1:3a “the God and Father” (also Eph. 1:3; 5:20; James 1:27; 1 Peter 1:3)

2 Cor. 1:3b “the Father of mercies and God of all comfort”

2 Peter 1:11; 2:20; 3:18 “our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ”

2 Peter 3:2 “the Lord and Savior

Jude 4 “our only Master and Lord Jesus Christ”

The evidence that Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1 call Jesus God goes beyond Sharp’s rule.48 In Titus, the expression “our Savior” (soteros hemon) occurs six times. In five of those six occurrences, the article “the” (tou) immediately precedes “our Savior” (1:3, 4; 2:10; 3:4, 6); the one exception is Titus 2:13. The obvious and only good explanation for this variation is that “our Savior” is governed by the same article that governs “great God.”

Another piece of evidence in the context of Titus 2:13 is Paul’s use of the word epiphaneia (“manifestation” [NRSV], “appearing” [NASB]), from which we derive the word epiphany. In the Bible this word occurs only in Paul’s writings, mostly in the Pastoral Epistles (2 Thess. 2:8; 1 Tim. 6:14; 2 Tim. 1:10; 4:1, 8; Titus 2:13), and always referring to the manifestation or appearing of Jesus Christ, unless Titus 2:13 is the sole exception. The close parallel between Titus 2:13 and 2 Timothy 1:10 (“the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus”) effectively rules out the possibility that Titus 2:13 is an exception. So when Paul says that Christians are awaiting “the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13 NASB), we can be sure that the one who will be “appearing” will indeed be Jesus Christ.

An alternative understanding of Titus 2:13, recently defended by evangelical Pauline scholar Gordon Fee, merits some attention. Fee agrees that Sharp’s rule applies to Titus 2:13, so that “our great God and Savior” refers to one divine person. He argues, however, that the person called “our great God and Savior” is the Father, not Christ. His view is that Jesus Christ is called “the glory of our great God and Savior.” In other words, he understands Paul to be saying that Christians are “awaiting the blessed hope and manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, [which glory is] Jesus Christ.”49

If Fee is correct, what Paul says about Jesus Christ still implies his deity, since he would be affirming that the climactic, ultimate revelation of God’s glory will be the appearing of Jesus Christ at his second coming. There are, however, some strong reasons to dispute Fee’s interpretation. All of his arguments in support of that view boil down to the claim that it would be out of keeping with Paul’s way of speaking for him to call Jesus “God.” Yet it is clear that Paul departs from his usual terminology for Jesus in the epistle to Titus, since in this epistle alone he never refers to Jesus as “Lord” (kurios) and refers to Jesus at least twice as “Savior” (soter, Titus 1:4; 3:6), a term he rarely uses for Jesus.50 Murray Harris rightly warns against “an ever-present danger in literary research in making a writer’s ‘habitual usage’ so normative that he is disallowed the privilege of creating the exception that proves the rule.”51

At least eight factors cumulatively offer strong support for understanding “Jesus Christ” to be identifying “our great God and Savior,” not “the glory,” in Titus 2:13.

1. “Our great God and Savior” is immediately adjacent to “Jesus Christ.”52

2. It would be odd to speak of the manifestation of God’s glory and not mean that the one who is manifest is God.

3. Paul never refers to Jesus as God’s “glory” (although 2 Cor. 4:4, 6 comes close).

4. All other things being equal, a personal designation like “our great God and Savior” is more likely to be identified as a person (“Jesus Christ”) than is an abstraction (“the glory”).

5. Elsewhere in the Pastoral Epistles (1 and 2 Timothy, Titus), whenever Paul uses the word epiphaneia (“manifestation” or “appearing”), it refers to the manifestation of Jesus Christ (1 Tim. 6:14; 2 Tim. 1:10; 4:1, 8), not of an abstract quality related to God or Christ.53

6. In as many as twelve out of eighteen times in his epistles that Paul uses the term “the glory” in the genitive case (tes doxes), it likely functions as a descriptive modifier of the preceding noun (Rom. 8:21; 9:23; 1 Cor. 2:8; 2 Cor. 4:4; Eph. 1:17, 18; 3:16; Phil. 3:21; Col. 1:11, 27; 1 Tim. 1:11; Titus 2:13). English translations often express this usage by the rendering “glorious” (see especially the NET and NIV).54 Thus, Titus 2:13 may be better translated “the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (see, e.g., NKJV, NIV, NET).

7. Paul immediately follows his reference to Jesus Christ by speaking of his accomplishments for our salvation (Titus 2:14), confirming that in this context Jesus Christ is “our Savior.”

8. The pattern of Paul’s references to “our Savior” in Titus—three references to “God our Savior” each followed closely by a reference to Jesus Christ as “our Savior” (1:3, 4; 2:10, 13; 3:4, 6)—is disrupted if 2:13 does not refer to Jesus Christ as Savior.

A similar text—and one for which the exegetical issues are far simpler—is 2 Peter 1:1, which speaks of “our God and Savior Jesus Christ.” Some people argue that this text cannot call Jesus “God” because “God” is clearly distinguished from “Jesus our Lord” in the very next verse (v. 2). This objection, though, assumes that the New Testament cannot affirm both that Jesus is God and that he is distinct from God. To the contrary, in at least four other New Testament texts we find such allegedly “contradictory” statements side by side (John 1:1, 18; 20:17, 28, 31; Heb. 1:8–9). Rather than mistranslate the texts to make them seem unproblematic to our minds, we should consider the possibility that these texts are revealing a paradoxical truth about the very nature of God.

As we read along in 2 Peter, we find several more references to Jesus Christ that closely parallel the wording of the first verse (see table below).

Virtually everyone acknowledges that the “Lord” in these texts is the same person as the “Savior,” namely, Jesus Christ; we need offer no argument or defense of that understanding. Yet in at least two, and possibly three, of these texts the only difference between these descriptions of Christ and that in 2 Peter 1:1 is the use of kuriou (“Lord”) instead of theou (“God”). Since both Lord and God were common titles of deity in both biblical usage and in the broader culture, it is difficult to see any cogent reason to deny that Jesus is called God in 2 Peter 1:1. As Richard Bauckham points out in his commentary on 2 Peter, “There is no reason why variations on the stereotyped formula should not be used.”55

“OUR GOD/LORD AND SAVIOR JESUS CHRIST” IN 2 PETER

2 Peter

1:1

1:11

2:20

3:18

Greek Text

tou theou hemon kai soteros ‘Iesou Christou

the God our and Savior Jesus Christ

tou kuriou hemon kai soteros ‘Iesou Christou

the Lord our and Savior Jesus Christ

tou kuriou [hemon] kai soteros ‘Iesou Christou

the Lord [our]56 and Savior Jesus Christ

tou kuriou hemon kai soteros Iesou Christou

the Lord our and Savior Jesus Christ

English Translation

our God and Savior Jesus Christ

our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ

[our] Lord and Savior Jesus Christ

our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ

The epistle of 2 Peter, then, opens by affirming that Jesus Christ is “our God and Savior.” It closes, appropriately, with a doxology of praise to Jesus Christ: “But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen” (2 Peter 3:18). The verbal parallels in those opening and closing verses between “our God and Savior Jesus Christ” and “our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,” as well as the concluding doxology directing eternal glory to Jesus Christ, are stunningly clear affirmations that Jesus Christ is indeed our Lord and our God. Recognizing this is not merely an academic exercise; it is a summons to grow in our relationship with Jesus Christ and to begin living in such a way as to glorify him forever. (Robert M. Bowman Jr. & J. Ed Komoszewski, Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ [Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, MI 2007], Part 3: Name Above All Names: Jesus Shares the Names of God, 12. Immanuel: God with Us, pp. 150-156)

44. On the Pauline origin of Titus and the epistles to Timothy, see Philip H. Towner, The Letters to Timothy and Titus (Cambridge; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006), 9–88. The question has some indirect bearing on our subject, since one commonly given reason for denying that Romans 9:5 calls Jesus “God” is that it would be the only such instance in Paul’s writings. There are, in fact, potentially three statements by Paul that explicitly call Jesus “God”: Romans 9:5 (in a letter that everyone agrees came from Paul); Titus 2:13; and Acts 20:28 (in a speech of Paul as reported by Luke). Even those scholars who dispute that Paul wrote Titus or that Luke records what Paul actually said generally agree that Titus and Acts both represent a broadly “Pauline” understanding of Christ.

45. To see that only one person is actually meant in Titus 2:13, one should omit not only the bracketed the but also the word of that precedes it in the NWT; thus, “of the great God and Savior of us, Christ Jesus.” There is no separate Greek word translated “of”; rather, Greek inflects (spells differently) all of the nouns, adjectives, and articles that stand in the same grammatical position or relation in the sentence. Translators may, of course, use of where appropriate (as at the beginning of the phrase in question) but should not do so where it misleadingly implies a separate person. It would be incorrect, for example, to translate 2 Peter 1:11 (which is grammatically parallel to Titus 2:13) “the eternal kingdom of our Lord and of the Savior Jesus Christ.”

46. The explanation of the rule given here is not a formal, technical definition and does not delve into all of the details necessary to establish the validity of the rule. We also should point out that, like all “rules” in grammar or language, Sharp’s rule is a descriptive observation of what is normal or customary in ancient Greek, not a prescriptive rule that Greek writers consciously accepted or to which they invariably adhered. As a valid general observation, though, Sharp’s rule, along with other contextual factors, should be taken into consideration when interpreting the text. On Granville Sharp, see Daniel B. Wallace, “Granville Sharp: A Model of Evangelical Scholarship and Social Activism,” JETS 41 (1998): 591–613. For a defense of Sharp’s rule, see Robert M. Bowman Jr., “Sharp’s Rules and Antitrinitarian Theologies: A Defense of Granville Sharp’s Argument for the Deity of Christ,” at http://www.biblicalapologetics.net/NTStudies/ Sharps_Rule.pdf. See also Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, 270–90; and idem, Granville Sharp’s Canon and Its Kin: Semantics and Significance (New York: Peter Lang, 2007).

47. We have translated these phrases literally; the two nouns connected by kai are shown in italics.

48. We can touch on only some of the evidence here. See Bowman, “Sharp’s Rules and Antitrinitarian Theologies,” 27–41; Harris, Jesus as God, 173–85, 229–38; and I. Howard Marshall, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles, in collaboration with Philip H. Towner, ICC (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1999), 272–82.

49. Fee, Pauline Christology, 440–48.

50. No other epistle of Paul, not even the very short Philemon, uses kurios for Jesus less than five times. Paul uses soter for Jesus outside Titus only twice (Phil. 3:20; 2 Tim. 1:10).

51. Harris, Jesus as God, 177.

52. Fee acknowledges this to be an “obvious difficulty” for his view, but claims, mistakenly, that it “is the only difficulty” (Fee, Pauline Christology, 444n. 86).

53. When Paul speaks of God’s “grace” or his “goodness and love” appearing, he uses the related verb epephane (Titus 2:11; 3:4), not the noun epiphaneia.

54. Fee asserts that such a usage of “the glory” adjectivally to mean “glorious” is “out of sync with Paul’s usage elsewhere” (Fee, Pauline Christology, 443). In light of the dozen examples of this usage in Paul, Fee’s statement would seem to be mistaken.

55. Richard J. Bauckham, Jude, 2 Peter, WBC 50 (Waco, TX: Word, 1983), 168.

56. There is some uncertainty about whether “our” (hemon) appears in 2 Peter 2:20, and if so, where. This textual variant does not affect the argument. (Ibid., pp. 332-334)

FURTHER READING

The Truth of John 1:1

Biblical Monotheism Part 5

BIBLICAL TEXTS CALLING JESUS “GOD”

GRANVILLE SHARP AND THE DEITY OF CHRIST

MURRAY HARRIS ON TITUS 2:13

JESUS CHRIST: THE GOD-MAN WHO REDEEMS

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

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

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