Jesus = God? What Did New Testament Writers Say?

Albrecht Durer, Public Domain

Albrecht Durer, Public Domain

The following is an excerpt from the journal article, “On the Construction of Romans ix. 5,” by Ezra Abbott (Journal of the Society of Biblical Literature and Exegesis, vol. 1 (1881):87-154), p. 114.  Theologically, equating the person of Christ with the person of God the Father (= Yahweh/Jehovah), without qualification, is erroneous and wrong-headed, confusing as it does the fundamental relationships of the Trinity, within which concept is couched God’s purposes regarding law versus grace, sin versus propitiation, judgment versus Justification, and condemnation versus Redemption.  God had his reasons for sending his Son, rather than himself, to declare the Father and die for forgiveness of sin.

It is important to observe, in general, that in respect to the application to Christ of the name “God,” there is a very wide difference between the usage not only of Paul, but of all the New Testament writers, and that which we find in Christian writers of the second and later centuries.  There is no clear instance, in which any New Testament writer, speaking in his own person, has called Christ God.  In John i. 18 the text is doubtful; and in I John v. 20 the [HOUTOS] more naturally refers to the leading subject in what precedes, namely, [TON ALETHINON], and is so understood by the best grammarians, as Winer and Buttmann, and by many eminent Trinitarian commentators (see above, p. 19). In John i. I [THEOS] is the predicate not of the historical Christ, but of the antemundane Logos.  The passages which have been alleged from the writings of Paul will be noticed presently.

But it may be said that even if there is no other passage in which Paul has called Christ God, there are many in which the works and the attributes of God are ascribed to him, and in which he is recognized as the object of divine worship; so that we ought to find no difficulty in supposing that he is here declared to be “God blessed for ever.”  It may be said in reply, that the passages referred to do not authorize the inference which has been drawn from them; and that if they are regarded as doing so, the unity of God would seem to be infringed.  A discussion of this subject would lead us out of the field of exegesis into the tangled thicket of dogmatic theology . . . .

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