A review of The Restitution of Jesus Christ by Kermit Zarley*
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Anyone who thinks that the Bible claims that God is a Trinity, or that the Bible claims that Jesus Christ is God, should read this book. The Restitution of Jesus Christ is a comprehensive study of biblical Christology. What does the Bible say about who or what Christ (Messiah) is? For some 1700 years Christian churches have answered that question by saying that Jesus is God, or a God-Man. Former Trinitarian Zarley challenges that answer. He maintains that the biblical view is not “God is Christ”, but “God in Christ”. That is, the One God of the Bible, Yahweh, worked in and through His human Messiah, Jesus, to reveal Himself to mankind (John 1:18, Heb. 1:1), and to reconcile the world to Himself (2 Cor. 5:19).
In the first part of the book Zarley reviews the historical development of deity-of-Christ and trinitarian theology. The standard church narrative runs something like this: “Beginning in New Testament times and then for hundreds of years Christians believed that that Jesus is God and that God is a Trinity. Only in the 3-4th centuries did people begin suggesting that Jesus isn’t God, and the church rightly condemned such heretical views”. With careful research Zarley shows this narrative to be false.
The main part of the book is a step by step, well-researched study of biblical Christology. First is “Messianism in the Old Testament” where Zarley examines traditional Christianity’s claims of finding evidence for the Trinity or deity of Messiah in the Old Testament: the plural “Elohim”, appearances of the angel of the Lord acclaimed as pre-incarnate appearances of Jesus, and passages like Genesis 1:26, Isaiah 7:14, 9:6 are among those considered.
Then Christology in the New Testament, beginning with the synoptic Gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke. How do they present Jesus? What is the real answer to Jesus’ question: “Who do you say that I am?“ (Matt. 16:15, Mark 8:29, Luke 9:20). “Problem passages” which traditional Christianity has claimed show the deity of Christ or the Trinity, like Matthew 28:19, are investigated.
A major part of The Restitution is dedicated to a study of the Christology of the Gospel of John, since this New Testament book is considered by traditional Christianity to most clearly show the deity of Jesus. Therefore, Zarley considers his own analysis of John the most significant part of his book. John 1:1-18 John’s prologue, “making himself equal with God” (5:19), “before Abraham was, I am” (8:58), “I and the Father are one” (10:30), “my Lord and my God” (20:28 ) and other passages including a number from John’s epistles are examined and shown to be understood better as “God in Christ” and not “God is Christ”. Consistent with the Synoptic Gospels, John presents Jesus as God the Father’s chief agent or representative, through whom God the Father is working.
The Restitution continues with a thorough analysis of Paul’s Christology, then of the Book of Hebrews, of Peter and his epistles, and finally of the Apocalypse (Book of Revelation).
This reviewer agrees to a great degree with Zarley’s presentation of biblical Christology. My only real criticism concerns the book’s physical format. The edition I have has a spiral binding with a calendar triangular flip format. I found the format cumbersome and sometimes confusing. After a few pages of reading I decided it would be easier for me to read the book without the triangular backing. I understand there are plans to make the book available in an e-format. That would be a positive, but this book also needs to be made available in a traditional book format.
On the one hand the book is a scholarly work, well-documented with hundreds of footnotes. On the other hand, it is very readable and accessible to the lay reader. It may be a bit of a daunting read from cover to cover (546 pages not including bibliography) but I found the reading only tedious in a couple places. The book will serve well as a reference for future study. Even if they don’t agree with Zarley’s claims, Bible college and seminary students, teachers, pastors and lay persons should read this book so they can better understand what they do believe.
Along with a growing number of other books, podcasts, internet and social media channels, the publication of The Restitution of Jesus Christ is a needed appraisal of the Church’s long-standing ignorance and suppression of knowledge of Yahweh the God of Israel and His Messiah, Jesus. Zarley’s book plays a part in what some have called a 21st Century Reformation.
*Kermit Zarley is a retired professional golfer and Christian author. In 1965 he co-founded the PGA Tour Bible Study group which continues to this day. Limited editions of The Restitution of Jesus Christ are available for $30.00 on his website. The book was originally published in 2008 under the pseudonym Servetus the Evangelical. See here for additional information about the book.