Monday, June 11, 2012

One God, three Persons

One God, Three Persons.

God the Father is not superior or better than God the Son or God the Holy Spirt.  They all existed and share the same essence, characteristics, in complete Love and Harmony. 

Yesterday, Bob taught on the seven times God the Father speaks to God the Son in the Scripture and the Greek and Hebrew and parts of language issues.  It was like pulling a rock off a spot of ground and revealing the light of day to errors in thinking.  Some in the class revealed their hazy view of God as just manifestations of father, son, spirit...  Some revealed their problems with authority as in thinking subordinate infers inferior. 

It was and is a very complicated concept, and I am still wrapping my head around it, but I wanted to capture part and park it here to mull over it some more.  To think that Jesus is less than or not as smart or powerful or something as God the Father is error.  Jesus submitted to His Father's authority, but each had a role, each had a job to execute.

Bob put it more eloquently, and I am paraphrasing here, but to think Jesus was less than is Satan's thinking. 

The salesmen in the room, some very rich men, had trouble with the concept of Jesus equal with the Father.  They see themselves superior to everyone around them in the area of finance, deals, competition.  They probably see themselves superior to their wives.  sad.  God's example of "...wives submit" is the marriage covenant---where a man and woman are one before God.  Only God can empower us to love, honor, respect, submit to our husband.  And as a wife, I do so acknowledging God is over my husband and will be a much bigger, harsher, powerful judge.  I do not submit to illegal behavior---that would be criminal.  I submit because we each have roles, and my husband answers to God. 

Bob is smarter, especially in the area of math, grammar, etc.  I have been given gifts and talents, too. I am a very inferior example, as sometimes my obedience is not given joyfully.  But, it is a choice.  God tells us to submit because it is hard for us to do.  Our desire is to rule over our husbands, but there we are not happy, but tyrants. 

Jesus came to serve.  Jesus encouraged us to serve one another.  You cannot serve and entertain satanic thinking of superiority. 

I do not have permission to share Bob's lesson---but for any who would rather read it themselves--I will load it here.  Like I said, this journal is selfishly for me to remember and wrap my head around some deep truths.  Jesus willingly set aside His diety to show us how to live leaning on the Holy Spirit.  Jesus submitted to the Father's plan, humbled Himself, as He was the only one qualified to be the Lamb, the Sacrifice, go to the cross and take our place.   Here is Bob's lesson:

Lesson 2: Jesus is God Almighty

June 10, 2012

Studying the Bible as preparation for teaching it is both good and bad.  On the good side: Putting together a lesson forces you to be prepared with something that’s worth the time investment of your listeners.  When you’re teaching the Bible, coming unprepared dishonors God and does injury to the body of Christ.

But there’s also a down side to studying the Bible solely to teach it: When you’re preparing a lesson, you have to stay focused on the needs of the class.  You’re forced to filter out technical material that doesn’t contribute to the message.  If coming unprepared is a Bible teacher’s worst sin, then coming prepared with tons of extraneous detail is his second worst sin.  But (because so many people are at camp and I don’t want them to miss the flow of this series) today I’m going to commit that second worst sin; I’m going to tell you more than you ever wanted to know about verses eight and nine of Hebrews chapter one.

First, let me explain why I’ve focused on these two particular verses.

Q: We believe that there is only one God and that Jesus is God incarnate.  And we believe in the deity of Jesus Christ because the Bible says so.  So where in the Bible do we find the statement: “Jesus is God”?

A: There are at least seven passages in the New Testament that clearly state that Jesus is God (John 1:1; 1:18; 20:28; Romans 9:5; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 1:8; 2 Peter 1:1).  One of those passages is right here in Hebrews chapter one.  Hebrews 1:8-9 states:



Hebrews 1:8-9 is a direct quote from Psalm 45:6-7.  Thus, the task before us is to consider the equivalent Greek and Hebrew texts and, if the two texts are in accord, to determine an equivalent English translation of both.  Where either the Old Testament or New Testament text is ambiguous, we may use the other to clarify.  If the New Testament writer has intentionally modified the meaning of the sentence, we have to consider this as new revelation and give precedence the Greek text of Hebrews 1:8-9.  Fortunately, the Greek does not present us with this dilemma; the Greek of Hebrews 1:8-9 is lifted almost word for word from the primitive Septuagint text of Psalm 45:6-7.[1]  But unfortunately, the Greek of Hebrews 1:8,9 reproduces the ambiguities of the Psalm 45:6-7 Hebrew text.

The New American Standard Bible translates Psalm 45:6-7:

Psalm 45:6-7 Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; a scepter of uprightness is the scepter of Your kingdom.

v7 You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of joy above Your fellows.

Psalm 45:6a – The opening phrase: “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever” is literally just the words: Your throne God perpetual and eternal.

There are five possible ways to translate the Hebrew text:

“Your divine throne is forever and ever”

“Your throne is God [or ‘God is your throne’] forever and ever”

“Your throne is God’s throne forever and ever”

“Your throne is like God’s throne forever and ever”

“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever”

The first possible translation: “Your divine throne is forever and ever,” has been popularized by the Revised Standard Version.  This translation takes the word “God” ELOHIM as genitive ¾that is, “your throne of God is forever and ever.”  If ELOHIM here is understood as a genitive, then this is a double genitive: “throne” being the possession of both “you” (the Israelite king) and “God”.  Such a construction is found nowhere else in the Old Testament.  So, it’s very unlikely that ELOHIM here is a genitive, and so this is an improbable translation.

The second possible translation: “Your throne is God [or ‘God is your throne’] forever and ever” (which is adopted by the New World Translation published by Jehovah’s Witnesses) views ELOHIM as either the subject or a predicate nominative.  Grammatically no objection can be raised to this interpretation, but conceptually, this understanding is very difficult.  The concepts of “God” and “throne” are too dissimilar for a direct analogy.  A human king (as in Isaiah 22:23) might be called a throne, i.e., the preeminent monarch of a dynasty.  But we can hardly say that God Almighty is a preeminent monarch of a human dynasty―unless, of course, we’re saying that the preeminent monarch of David’s dynasty [Jesus Christ] is in fact God Almighty.

The only Old Testament parallels to such a statement would be: “You are my Rock and my Fortress” (Psalm 71:3; 91:2; Isaiah 26:4) and “You have been our dwelling place in all generations” (Deuteronomy 33:27; Psalm 90:1).  Since according to 1 Corinthians 10:4 Jesus Christ is “the Rock”, and since Matthew 1:23 says Jesus Christ is “Immanuel” (the God with whom the people of Israel dwelt), unless ELOHIM in Psalm 45:6 is Jesus Christ whose dynasty is forever and ever, then the metaphor just doesn’t work.

So, the translation “God is your throne forever and ever” is possible only if we understand it to mean “God [Jesus Christ as the eternal Davidic king] is your throne forever and ever.”

The third possible translation: “Your throne is God’s throne forever and ever” is a smoother rendering of the grammatical interpretation “Your throne, namely God, is forever and ever”, which (if taken literally) means God is a throne, specifically the throne belonging to the Israelite king who is being addressed in the 45th Psalm.

This interpretation takes “God” and “throne” as equivalent terms.  There’s no grammatical reason to argue with this, but conceptually this is even more difficult than the second possible translation.  Rather than saying there is a similarity between “God” and “the throne of the king” this rendering asserts that “throne” and “God” are the same thing.  Parallels to such a grammatical construction may be found in:

            Genesis 11:1                           “The whole earth [was] one language”

            Exodus 9:31                            “The barley [was] ear and the flax [was] flower”

            Deuteronomy 33:25                “Your bars [shall be] iron and bronze”

            Ezra 10:13                              “The season [is] heavy showers”

            Psalm 45:8                              “All your robes [are] myrrh and aloes and cassia”

            Song of Solomon 2:15            “Our vineyards [are] blossom”

            Jeremiah 24:2                         “One basket [was] very good figs”

            Jeremiah 49:23                       “Hamath and Arpad [are] confusion”

            Ezekiel 41:22                          “Its walls [were] wood”

But note that in each of these appositional phrases, the ellipsis is better supplied with phrases such as “consists of,” “is made of,” “contains,” “is filled with,” or “is characterized by”.

But “God” is neither the material out of which a throne is made, nor a characteristic quality which a throne might possess.  “God” and a “throne” might share characteristics (e.g., both can be said to be eternal), but “God” and “the throne” cannot be said to be identical to the throne of an Israelite king.

The fourth possible translation: “Your throne is like God’s throne” presupposes that the comparative Hebrew preposition, the letter qoph (which is translated as “like”) was omitted and that the repetition of the word “throne” is implied.  A parallel for an omitted qoph is found in Song of Solomon 1:15 and 4:1 in the phrase “your eyes are [like] doves.”  The implied repetition of a word can be found in Psalm 80:10 “... And the boughs thereof were like [the boughs of] cedars of God.”  So there are Old Testament examples of an omitted qoph and there are also examples of the implied repetition of a noun, the combination of both within the same sentence is unprecedented (or at least without unambiguous parallel) in the Old Testament.  So it is extremely unlikely that this is the meaning which the writer of Psalm 45:6 intended.

The fifth possible translation: “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever” is the most common one [KJV, RV, ASV, Berkeley, NASB, JB, NAB, NIV, NRSV].  This translation considers ELOHIM to be a vocative.  ELOHIM then is addressed to the Israelite king in Psalm 45 whose marriage is being celebrated.  The implication of this phrase being quoted in Hebrews 1:8-9 is that Psalm 45 is a messianic psalm addressed to Jesus Christ.

The translators of the Septuagint clearly interpreted ELOHIM in Psalm 45:6 as a vocative, accepting ELOHIM as a title addressed to the human king.  Thus, the most common translation of Psalm 45:6 is the best one.

Translation of Hebrews 1:8-9: Now that we’ve looked at all possible translations of the Hebrew text (Psalm 45:6) that’s being quoted in Hebrews 1:8, let’s look at the Greek of Hebrews 1:8.

There are two textual variants of Hebrews 1:8.  The last word of Hebrews 1:8 is either “AUTOU” (“his”) or “SOU” (“your”).  The supporting texts for “SOU” are both more ancient and more widely distributed geographically.  Further, it agrees with both the Masoretic Text (Hebrew) and with the Septuagint (Greek) text which is being quoted.  The reading “The righteous scepter is the scepter of his kingdom” presents us with an interpretational problem; it’s unclear who is the antecedent of AUTOU (“his”).

Hebrews 1:8 directly quotes the Septuagint of Psalm 45:6, only adding the words, KAI HE (“and the”) to connect the first and second phrases of the Septuagint rendering.

Psalm 45:6a       HO  THRONOS  SOU      HO  THEOS  EIS  TON  AIONA      TOU  AIONOS

Hebrews 1:8a     HO  THRONOS  SOU      HO  THEOS  EIS  TON  AIONA      TOU  AIONOS

Translation -      The     throne       of you     the   God        into the      age          of the  ages

Psalm 45:6b                     RABDOS          EUTHUTETOS  RABDOS  TES  BASILEIAS  SOU


Translation -      and  the   scepter   of the       rectitude       scepter    of the    kingdom    of you

There are only two ways to interpret the Greek of Hebrews 1:8, both of which are equally acceptable grammatically:

“Your throne is God forever, and the scepter of your kingdom is the scepter of rectitude” (which has been adopted by the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ New World Translation), or

“Your throne, O God, is forever, and the scepter of your kingdom is the scepter of rectitude” (which has been adopted by virtually all other translations).

The first translation: “Your throne is God forever” considers HO THEOS (“the God”) a nominative, either as the subject of the sentence or as a predicate noun.  Whether one renders the translation as “Your throne is God” or “God is your throne” the sentence equates HO THEOS (“the God”) with HO THRONOS SOU (“your throne”).  There is very little to recommend this translation over the interpretation of HO THEOS as a vocative.  Calling “God” the throne of a human monarch seems odd to say the least.  The concepts of “God” and “throne” are just too discordant to be equated.

The second translation: “Your throne, O God, is forever” considers, the words HO THEOS (“the God”) a vocative which refers to “the Son”.  The arguments in favor of this translation are:

     1)    The Septuagint translators clearly interpreted ELOHIM (“God”) in Psalm 45:6 as a vocative.  The use of the Septuagint translation by the writer of Hebrews supports this interpretation.

     2)    If one considered HO THEOS the subject of the sentence, the translation “God is your throne,” would have been better expressed by the word order: HO THEOS HO THRONOS SOU (“God [is] your throne forever”).  Alternatively, if one considers HO THEOS the predicate nominative (“Your throne [is] God forever”), then it would be better expressed by omitting the definite article for “God”.  But for a vocative the word order is perfectly consistent.

     3)    The opening words of verse 8, PROS DE TON HUION should be translated as: “But to the Son [He (God the Father) says]…”.  If God the Father is speaking to the Son, then why would He say: God is your throne” instead of “I am your throne”?

     4)    Finally, the context itself argues for a superlative title for Jesus Christ.  In the first chapter of Hebrews, the writer is making the point that Jesus is superior to all the angels.  God’s calling Himself the throne of a mere creature denigrates God.  Whereas God’s calling His Son “God” glorifies the Son.

Thus, we are forced to conclude that the correct translation of Hebrews 1:8 is:

But to the Son [He says], “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever,” and “the scepter of your kingdom is the scepter of rectitude.”

Hebrews 1:9 

In Hebrews 1:9 the first occurrence of HO THEOS might be considered a vocative, and would thus be translated: “Therefore, O God (the Son), your God (the Father) has appointed you ...”  Although that interpretation raises no theological issues for us who believe in the deity of Christ, the first occurrence of HO THEOS should probably be considered appositional and rendered as, “Therefore God, your God, has anointed you ...”  Then the second occurrence of HO THEOS is merely a clarification, a further specification of “the God” as “Your God”, the God of the Son.

Note verse nine asserts:

1.     That God the Father is the God of the Son, and

2.     That God the Father has anointed the Son (“Therefore God, your God, has anointed you ...”).

So the Son (whom God the Father called “God” in verse eight) is both subordinate to and commissioned by God [the Father].

Q: So does this imply that Jesus Christ (the one whom God the Father calls “God” in verse eight) is inferior to God the Father?

A: No!  It means the Son is subordinate to the Father―subordination is not the same thing as inferiority.

However, subordination does indicate distinctiveness; you can’t be subordinate to yourself.  The fact that God the Son was commissioned by and has obeyed God the Father implies that the Son is not the same person as the Father.

In the New Testament wherever writers refer to Jesus Christ as “God”, they’re always very careful to distinguish Jesus Christ from His Father. 

Q: Why?  Why did all the New Testament writers always mention God the Father wherever they call Jesus “God”?

A: To make sure that we don’t come away with the misimpression that they’re saying that Jesus is the same person as “God the Father”.  In every passage where Jesus is called “God”, God the Son is always clearly distinct from and subordinate to God the Father.  But the Son is never said to be inferior to God the Father.

In John 1:1-18 (as in Hebrews 1:8-9) the Apostle John juxtaposed “God” (whom the Word was with) and “God” (who the Word was).  The point John was making in the prologue of his Gospel is: Jesus Christ is uniquely qualified to be the mediator between God and man.  And that’s a major theme in the Book of Hebrews: Jesus Christ is uniquely qualified to be great high priest of a new covenant (Hebrews 2:17-3:1; 4:14-16; 5:1‑10; 6:20; 7:1‑28; 8:1‑13; 9:11; 10:21).

So just as did the Apostle John in the fourth Gospel, so the writer of Hebrews begins his dissertation on Jesus Christ’s qualification to mediate between God and man by affirming that Jesus Christ is fully divine, superior to Moses, the prophets and even the angels in every respect.  (Corollary: If Jesus Christ is superior to all angels, including the archangel Michael, then He is not the same person as the archangel Michael as Jehovah’s Witnesses wrongly teach.)

Then (just a John did in Gospel) the writer of Hebrews also proves that Jesus is fully human ¾ “He entered ... with his own blood, once for all time into the holy place ...” (Hebrews 9:12).  Jesus, as the mediator between God and man, is equal to both parties of the covenant: He is both God and man.

Every week in Jewish synagogues the congregation recites the words of Deuteronomy 6:4: ADONAI ELOHENU; ADONAI ECHAD! ― which they translate as: “The LORD is our God; the LORD is one.”  But the better rendering is: “The LORD is our God; the LORD is the unique ― the LORD Jehovah is the unique God-man!”

If there’s time remaining, continue with Hebrews 1:10:


(which is a direct quotation from the Septuagint translation of Psalm 102:25)

Psalm 102:24-27 I say, “O, my God, do not take me away in the midst of my days, Your years are throughout all generations.

v25 “Of old, You founded the earth, and the heavens are the work of Your hands.

v26 “Even they will perish, but You endure; and all of them will wear out like a garment; like clothing You will change them and they will be changed.

v27 “But You are the same, and Your years will not come to an end.”

Q: When the writer of Hebrews says that God the Father was addressing the Son as the Lord of Psalm 102, who is God the Father saying Jesus is?

A: The “Lord” in Psalm 102 is the LORD, Jehovah.  So the writer of Hebrews doesn’t merely call our Lord Jesus Christ “God” in Hebrews 1:8; he calls Him “God Almighty”, “Jehovah Himself”, in Hebrews 1:10.

[1]Due to the variation in the ordering of the Psalms and the numbering of the verses, the pertinent verses are Psalm 44:7-8 of the LXX.


joyce said...

bottom line: in the Trinity, subordinate does not mean inferior. Jesus is not inferior to the Father nor the HS.

joyce said...

this study unflowers the idea of God's Love, God's choice---going to the cross. This was not a cruel Father ordering His Son to endure torture. This was a Loving Son choosing to lay down His Life as it was the only Way to satisfy Justice and Righteousness. Jesus was Victorious. Jesus will come back Ruler. But, now, Jesus showed us how to serve. What cross does He desire we pick up and follow Him?

joyce said...

I googled the words, submit and subordinate---and their second word or second definition is inferior. But, Jesus is not inferior to the Father. God the Father, Son and HS are equal in essence, characteristics, power.

joyce said...

if we mistakenly treat those that serve us as inferior---we miss so much. Jesus served us by going to the cross in our place, and we are definitely not superior to Him. In fact, He gives us all He has, so that God sees us as saved, redeemed, purchased, positionally united with Him.