Thursday, January 31, 2008

Lords 'n' Gods.

"'Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is One; and you shall love the Lord your God ...' This is known as the Shema, from the Hebrew word for 'Hear' with which it opens. As so often in Paul, the text he alludes to one minute is the text he will then develop the next minute ...
... "We know, he says, that no idol has any real existence (Galations 4: 8-11), and that there is no God but one. That is Jewish-style monotheism, ranged classically against pagan polytheism ... In contrast, he says, to the many 'gods' and 'lords' of the pagan world, for us, he says, 'there is but one God - the Father, from who are all things and we unto Him - and one Lord - Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and we through him." To feel the full force of this, we need to set it out side by side with the text Paul has in mind:

The Lord Our God One God - the Father ...
The Lord is One One Lord - Jesus Christ ...
(Deut. 6:4) (1 Corinthians 8:6)

--N. T. Wright, in "What Saint Paul Really said: Was Paul of Tarsus the Real Founder of Christianity?"

As is evident by the quote, Wright sees 1 Corinthians 8:6 as a way of demonstrating that Jesus is God, and the Trinity is valid. He pulls from the Shema, with the concept of the Lord our God is One.

The interesting thing about the Corinthians chapter itself is that Paul seems to set up a distinction. He starts out that saying a false god has no existence, and there is only one God. There may be so-called gods, in heaven or on Earth. In fact, there are several 'gods and 'lords,' yet for Christians, there is one God, and one Lord. He doesn't really use the phrase, "the Lord our God."

To pull from some other Bibles:

"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, through whom we live." New King James Version.

"Yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist." English Standard Version.

"But we know that there is only one God, the Father, who created everything, and we live for him. And there is only one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom God made everything and through whom we have been given life." New Living Translation.

"There is only one God the Father, that everything comes from him, and that he wants us to live for him. Also, they say that there is only one Master -- Jesus the Messiah -- and that everything is for his sake, including us." The Message.

None of these verses combine the idea of God with Jesus. They specify that there is one God, one alone -- the Father. This is the God who created everything there is. The Creator Himself. There is also one Lord, Jesus Christ, who/which was the method as to how God created, and how God provides life. While the verses do make sure to show that there is only one of us, there is also a hierarchy set up here. God creates, and the tool is Jesus/the Logos. Jesus isn't made an independent creator, or even on equal standing here. Otherwise, why not just say, "the Lord our God is the Father and Jesus Christ, the one through whom all things came to be?" Or something along those lines. And this would make sense, if Jesus is seen as the incarnante Logos, and in Genesis, God created through speaking. Through words.

Or why not just leave it with there are many gods in the pagan world? Why say gods and lords? The use of the word 'lords' did not always indicate some sort of God. 'Lord' could also stand for Master or Superior in a human sense. Or of something more powerful than humans, but not as powerful as the Hebrew God.


Thoughts?

12 comments:

Andrew said...

I too have always seen that "hierarchy". It has made me hold any trinitarian theology VERY loosely. So many use God/Jesus interchangeably. I just don't see scripture presenting that. Jesus definitely seems to be Other... not human or angel... yet He is clearly "below" God. I do not see the equal footing being presented in scripture that so quickly flows from most Trinitarian theology.

At this point... I don't know.

Mystical Seeker said...

I think this example of N.T> Wright illustrates that a lot of Christian apologists don't approach the Bible with a modicum of objectivity, and project backwards into the Bible their own late-developed theology and then use those same passages to prove the legitimacy of the very theology they are using as an assumption. It's a clever sort of circular reasoning.

OneSmallStep said...

Andrew,

**So many use God/Jesus interchangeably.**

I agree. I was in an evangelical church a while back, and they were offering prayers to God and Jesus, and rapidly switching between the two (and yet not praying to the Holy Ghost).

I don't see that rapid interplay in the Bible. I see a rank system, with God on top, Jesus second, and then everything below. God works through Jesus to redeem. Every knee will bow at the name of Jesus *to* the glory of the Father. We are to pray to God *through* Jesus.

Yet many churches seem to stop at Jesus, and that's it. It's almost like Jesus has actually become first, and God the Father's almost an afterthought.

Mystical,

I agree. In thinking through this again, I'm also wondering that if Paul meant to use this as the 'Shema,' why not also mention the Shema in this statement? Especially if so many churches were Gentile churches?

HeIsSailing said...

The 'Shama' hopes to bring together two rival dieties into a single, monotheistic religion. In the evangelical sense, God is uniting himself under one name.

"The LORD our God is one LORD"

or

"YHWH Elohim is YHWH"

Going by a logical extension, does NT Wright then mean that in Old Testament passages, Elohim refers to God the Father, and YHWH refers to the Lord Jesus the Son? So that Jesus created the heavens and the earth in six days, but YHWH created Adam and Eve and ultimately banished them from the Garden?

OneSmallStep said...

HIS,

Now that's even more interesting. 'YHWH' was pronounced 'Adonai,' correct? I'm assuming the 'YHWH' was translated into 'Kurios' in Greek.

And if we follow your line of thought, then the two 'gods' start to become rather divorced from each other, each doing his own thing.

HeIsSailing said...

*'YHWH' was pronounced 'Adonai,' correct? I'm assuming the 'YHWH' was translated into 'Kurios' in Greek.*

Are you talking about the LXX version of Deuteromony 6:8? Blast, I have no idea, nor do I know how to find that information. But if so, it seems to me that extrapolating out NT Wright's line of reasoning will land one in some pretty nasty non-trinitarian heresy.

OneSmallStep said...

HIS,

**Are you talking about the LXX version of Deuteromony 6:8? **

Probably? From what I've heard, in Greek, Psalms 110 reads "Kurious said to my Kurious," which gives the impression of equality. But in the Hebrew, it says YWHY/Adonai says to Adon/Adoni, which are two very different types of lords.

**it seems to me that extrapolating out NT Wright's line of reasoning will land one in some pretty nasty non-trinitarian heresy.**

This seems to happen to me no matter what trinitarian line of thought I explore.

societyvs said...

The whole distinction between Father and Jesus is a debate that has raged for centuries - but it is always a good theological debate.

At this point in time, I see God as the Father (One God) and Jesus as the Messiah/Rabbi/Teacher of the way to God. For me everything surrounding Jesus hinged mainly upon his teachings and how this impacts one's life in connection with God (or even helps set up that connection). I have a very tough time seeing Jesus as God - since this kind of defeats the idea of 'One'.

That being said, I am open to a variety of ideas about Jesus and how all these writers saw him. I use Matthew as my main theological treatise but it seems written in the vein of Jesus as rabbi/messiah type person - and does not venture much further away from that line of thinking. Whereas John does call him 'Logos' - however - for me all is hinging upon his teachings anyways so 'logos' is a great descriptor for that also.

Then we get into the Sprit...and this gets real tricky. But for me 'spirit' is about the sense of the teachings - the intent of God - the purpose of the writings - the 'spirit' of God as seen in the ideas of Jesus as he pointed towards God. What is the spirit of the teachings? And I am not sure God's Spirit is all the exclusive - I think God is there for everyone and this spirit will help any who seek the ideas of God (it's kind of like having someone else backing your ideas). Again, I am not well versed in this aspect of theology - perhaps I should study it some more.

HeIsSailing said...

I just saw a bumper sticker today. In unadorned black letters, the sticker said, "Jesus is Adonai - Phil 2:11".

I muttered, "Nah, God the Father is Adonai, Jesus is Kurios", and thought of this article. See? I tell you that NT Wright has everybody all confused. ;-)

HeIsSailing said...

Society vs:
"Then we get into the Sprit...and this gets real tricky"

The Spirit seems to me to be a catch-all term. It does not quite apply to Father and son.. let's put it in this pile of miscellany called 'Holy Spirit'. I think the Spirit got included into the Trinity sort of as a default - I bet it could have just as easily have turned out to be Father Son and Word, with the Word containing the mystical 'catch-all' properties that the Spirit now has.

Adam Pastor said...

Amen!
Wonderful post, OneSmallStep!!

There is indeed solely ONE GOD.
Paul was simply confirming the early church belief that there is solely ONE GOD, the Father.
The Father is also the GOD and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
[2 Cor 1.3, 11.31, Eph 1.3, Col 1.3, 1 Pet 1.3]

Jesus the Messiah indeed called the Father,
THE ONLY TRUE GOD!
[John 17.3]

That statement as one meaning:
That there is solely ONE being
who is Almighty GOD, the Father!

The wonderful news is:
that because of the ultimate sacrifice and obedience of the ONE GOD's Son,
viz. Jesus of Nazareth;
the ONE GOD therefore resurrected & glorified this man,
made him both Lord and Christ,
and set him at His right hand.
[Acts 2.22,36; 10.36]

Therefore now, ...
(1 Tim 2:5) ... there is one God, and one mediator between [the ONE] God and men, the man Christ Jesus;

ONE GOD, the Father.
ONE man, Jesus of Nazareth whom the ONE GOD has made, Lord & Christ;

Hence to us, [Christians]
there is solely ONE GOD, the Father
there is solely ONE Lord,
the man Messiah Jesus.


And one day ...
(Phil 2:11) ... every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

PS check out the video at
The Human Jesus

OneSmallStep said...

Society,

**For me everything surrounding Jesus hinged mainly upon his teachings and how this impacts one's life in connection with God (or even helps set up that connection).**

I agree. Everything that I read in the gospels always points to God the Father, in the end. There are arrows going to Jesus, but in the sense that Jesus is showing a path to the ultimate goal, who is the Father. It's not supposed to stop at Jesus.

**I have a very tough time seeing Jesus as God - since this kind of defeats the idea of 'One'.**
What makes this even tougher is the whole idea that Jesus is sitting at the right hand of the Father. In any other setting, that's two seperate people/entities.

**Again, I am not well versed in this aspect of theology - perhaps I should study it some more.**

Well, whatever you do, don't rely on your memory only. ;)

HIS,

**I just saw a bumper sticker today. In unadorned black letters, the sticker said, "Jesus is Adonai - Phil 2:11". **

You know, I've never seen that as a confession that Jesus is God. The whole hymn is set up with Jesus as a subject of God. He doesn't try and be equal with God, he humbles himself, God raises him up, and then when the name of Jesus is uttered, everyone kneels and confesses that Jesus is Lord. But the ultimate goal there? For the glory of the Father.

Not only that, it's assuming that they didn't mean lord in the 'master' sense, or adon/adoni sense. A pity Paul didn't write in Hebrew. It might've cleared a few things up.

**I think the Spirit got included into the Trinity sort of as a default**

And yet, no one ever prays to the Holy Spirit.

Adam Pastor,

Wild guess here -- you're a unitarian? ;) I agree with your distinction between God and Jesus.