Friday, July 12, 2019

The Trinity and Deity of Christ in the Book of Genesis

Dear friend who believes in the “Deity of Christ”,

I was once like you. I took it on authority, and thought that the Bible presented Jesus as a God-man. I knew Jesus was a human, but I thought there were a handful of biblical verses that also showed that Jesus is God, a Second Person of a Godhead that took on flesh.

I now see that those handful of verses that I thought showed the deity of Jesus, don’t. To interpret those handful of Scriptures as evidence that Jesus is God does injustice to the Scriptures, and brings only confusion and contradiction. There are better ways to understand those handful of Scriptures.

Over the last year a number of biblical texts have been presented to me to show that Jesus is God, and that God is a Trinity. I have translated some of those biblical texts, starting with a few texts from the Book of Genesis, in the way that my Trinitarian (or Deity of Christ) friends are reading them.

In later articles I plan to post translations from other books of the Bible. My translations and explanations are made tongue-in-cheek, although many of the comments are explanations I’ve heard from friends. For instance, I'll use the title "God the Son", even though this never occurs in the Bible, because many friends use the title. I do this to hopefully help people see the inconsistencies, contradictions and sometimes absurdities of the Trinitarian and deity of Christ interpretations.

If Jesus is God, or if God is a Trinity, we should expect the Scriptures to read something like I’ve translated below.  I recommend comparing the translations below with real translations. God’s word is sharper than a two-edged sword. Blessings in Messiah Jesus, the firstborn from the dead.
_ _ _ _ _ _ _

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning the Trinity** created the heavens and the earth.
The word for “God” in Hebrew, “Elohim”, is plural, so the Trinity is at least hinted at, if not outright presented here in Genesis 1:1 and in other occurrences of Elohim. The ancient Israelites only got a clue of the multiplicity of persons in Elohim. Later it would be shown that God is three persons. Neither Jesus nor anyone else in the New Testament explained that the plural Elohim means a multiplicity of persons (specifically three, the Trinity) but if we take into account all of Scripture - the Trinity is everywhere in the Bible.

Gen 1:26 And God the Father** said to God the Son and to God the Spirit, “Let us make man in our image”.
**There is almost no need to comment on this text since as almost every pastor knows, this verse is an obvious reference to the Trinity. There is one little problem because although we know that the plural Elohim is the Trinity (Gen. 1:1), we understand here that Elohim must be referring only to one member of the Trinity (apparently the First Person, God the Father).  But we can ignore the contradiction. The plural Elohim means the Trinity when we want it to mean the Trinity, but only one member of the Godhead when we want it to mean that.

 Since Elohim said, “Let us (plural) make”, He (the Father?) must be speaking to one or both of the other persons of the Trinity. That He spoke “to God the Son and to God the Spirit” is not in the original text, but this is what it means. It is a mystery that only God the Father thought of creating man in their image, and then proposed the idea to the other members of the Godhead, who didn’t seem to consider the idea originally. We can be thankful that God the Father suggested creating mankind, and that the other persons of the Trinity agreed, otherwise we wouldn't be here.

One other comment. It doesn't matter that the vast majority of Trinitarian academic scholars in our day think the plural "Elohim" and "Let us make man" have absolutely nothing to do with God being a tri-personal being. These Trinitarian scholars think there are better ways to understand "Elohim" and Genesis 1:26. But we don't care. We are sticking with this interpretation and will keep it in our translation.

Genesis 1:27 So the Trinity** created*** man in Its image. In the image of the Trinity They created him. Male and female They created them.
**Since one member of the Trinity was speaking to other members before creating man, Elohim here must be the Trinity again, unlike in the previous verse where Elohim was only God the Father. Elohim (the generic word for God) is a flexible term. We can interpret Elohim as singular or plural, changing from one verse to the next if needed.

***The singular verb “created” is problematic as are the thousands of other masculine singular verbs, pronouns and adjectives used with God (Elohim). Since God is three persons, it must be because God is one essence, not one person, that the ancient biblical languages used thousands of masculine singular verbs, pronouns and adjectives with Elohim. Since God is an essence we are justified in translating "created man in Its image".

Genesis 2:2 And on the seventh day the Trinity finished His** work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had done.
See comment on Gen. 1:27 above. Elohim here must be the Trinity since all three persons were involved in creation. All the verbs and pronouns relating to God (the Trinity) in this verse are masculine singular. Perhaps we should have been consistent with our translation of Genesis 1:27, “They, the Trinity made man in its image” since the singular-ness of God is an essence, not a person. But the plural pronoun (They) sounds polytheistic and the neuter "Its" sounds a bit impersonal, so, for the rest of the Bible we will use masculine singular pronouns (I, you [singular] and he/his) when referring to the Trinity, not forgetting that God is really three persons.

After all, just like we should call a boy "her" if that's what he/she wants, we should call God "Him", even though God the Trinity is really three persons.  

Genesis 18:1 And the Pre-incarnate Second Person of the Trinity** appeared to him (Abraham) in the plains of Mamre.
**This is the personal name of Israel’s God, Yahweh/Yehovah. The reference here can’t be to the First Person of the Trinity, because the First Person of the Trinity can’t be seen (Exodus 33:20). The Third Person of the Trinity is also unseen. The church “father” Justyn Martyr, ca AD 160, was the first commentator to suggest this is a pre-incarnate appearance of the Logos (“The Word” of John 1:1), a second “god”. Later church fathers clarified for us that this must be the Second Person of the Trinity, the Eternal God the Son. 

For some reason the writers of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, and the Book of Acts do not mention these important pre-existent appearances of the Eternal God the Son. Neither did the apostles Peter or Paul say anything about these pre-incarnate appearances of God the Son. Jesus only hinted at it in the Gospel of John. See later our translation of Exodus 3:14 and John 8:58 (forthcoming). The writer of the Book of Hebrews forgot about the pre-existent appearances of the Eternal God the Son (Hebrews 1:1).

Genesis 18:2-5 And he (Abraham) said, “Oh 2nd Person of the Trinity…let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under a tree…while I bring a morsel of bread, that you may refresh yourselves…”
See above Gen. 18:1. Justin Martyr (ca. AD 160) tells us that this is a Pre-incarnate Logos appearing to Abraham. However, even Justin didn’t realize this was actually the Second Person of the Trinity.

Genesis 18:13 And Yahweh**, the Pre-Incarnate Second Person of the Trinity, said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh?”
**Just like with Elohim, the generic title for God, it is not always easy to determine which person of the Trinity is intended by the name Yahweh (His name may have been pronounced Yehowah). But God’s personal name, Yahweh/Yehowah, also has flexibility in number. Yahweh must be here the singular Second Person of the Trinity, the Eternal God the Son, since, as noted above in Gen. 18:1, the First Person cannot be seen by man. Other times the name Yahweh can refer to the First Person, or even to all three of the Trinity persons together (e.g., Genesis 2:4). See our comments (forthcoming) on Deuteronomy 6:4 which says that Yahweh is only one.

Genesis 18:22 So the men turned from there and went toward Sodom, but Abraham still stood before the Pre-incarnate Second Person of the Trinity.
This translation is warranted to make it clear that Abraham was with the Second Person of the Trinity, the Eternal God the Son, appearing as a man, but still pre-Incarnate. Moses was only given clues, and therefor only passed on those clues when he wrote Genesis. But now that we understand the clues, we can make it clear in translation. 

We aren’t sure why the Trinity only gave Moses clues. Maybe Moses was primitive and God the Trinity didn’t want to reveal everything about His Tri-personality so early. Moses would not have had the capacity to understand that there are really three persons of God. Or maybe Moses did know that God is a Trinity, but he didn’t want to spell it out in black and white because he knew the Israelites weren’t ready to understand. He only gave clues so that later people, especially Gentiles, would see those clues and understand.

“…you have perverted the words of the living God, the LORD of hosts, our God” (Jeremiah 23:36).

Saturday, July 6, 2019

The Bible Tells me so. Jesus has a God

The Bible is clear that there is only one God
(Deuteronomy 6:4, Mark 12:29, Isaiah 44:24, John 17:3).

The Bible is also clear that the Lord Jesus Christ has a God.

The only God is Jesus Christ’s God, so Jesus Christ is not God.

I think most Christians understand that there is only one God. But it seems to me that fewer Christians know that Jesus Christ has a God. Here are a few Scriptures that show that Jesus Christ has a God.

Jesus said:
“…you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God” (John 8:40).

"My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (Matthew 27:46, Mark 15:34).

After his resurrection, Jesus said:
“…go to my brothers and say to them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God'” (John 20:17).

After his glorification and ascension to heaven to the right hand of God, Jesus said:

“Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God” (Revelation 3:2)

“The one who conquers, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God. Never shall he go out of it, and I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down from my God out of heaven, and my own new name” (Revelation 3:12).

That’s four times in one verse that the glorified Jesus in heaven mentions “my God”.

The very first verse of the Book of Revelation mentions the God of Jesus:
“The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John…”

So does Revelation 1:6
“…and (Jesus) made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father...”

The apostles Peter and Paul knew that Jesus has a God:

“…that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 15:6)

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort…” (2 Corinthians 1:3).

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…” (Ephesians 1:3).

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!” (1 Peter 1:3).  

In addition to clear statements in the Bible that Jesus has a God, every single book of the New Testament differentiates between God and Jesus Christ (the Lord Messiah). This statement by the Apostle Peter is typical of the differentiation between God and Jesus: “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst…” (Acts 2:22).

All of Paul’s 13 epistles start out with a differentiation between God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ (Messiah):  “Peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus the Messiah” (Romans 1:7, See also 1 Cor. 1:3, 2 Cor. 1:2, Gal. 1:3, Eph. 1:2, Philippians 1:2, Col. 1:2, 1 Thess. 1:1, 2 Thess. 1:2, 1 Tim. 1:2, 2 Tim. 1:2, Titus 1:4, Philemon 1:3). 

There seem to be two possible (but different) explanations by Trinitarians as to why Jesus has a God. 1) Only the human Jesus has a God, or 2) Within the “economy of the Trinity…God the Son calls God the Father ‘my God’”. But neither of these claims is biblical. The Bible never says anything about a difference between a "human Jesus and a divine Jesus". Neither does the Bible ever discuss relations of one member of the "Trinity godhead" to another. “God the Son” does not appear in the Bible.
The New Testament never speaks of a triune God. In the New Testament there is only one God, also known as the Father, the God of Jesus Christ.

Do we worship the God of Jesus Christ? “The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him” (John 4:23).

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

If Jesus pre-existed, he wasn’t a human, John 17:5

Many trinitarians believe that Jesus’ prayer in the Gospel of John 17:5 shows that Jesus pre-existed:
“and now, Father, glorify thou me in thy own presence with the glory which I had with thee before the world was made” (RSV).

As with any difficult biblical passage, we must consider the context of Jesus statement in this prayer to God (the Father). Just two sentences before, as recorded in John 17:3, Jesus prayed to God: “Father (17:1) …this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus the Messiah whom you have sent.” In John 17:5, two sentences after Jesus said that the Father is the only true God, it would be very strange for Jesus to imply that he too, Jesus himself, is also God.

Father = God
Jesus’ prayer in John 17 is directed to the “Father”. In the New Testament, Jesus’ Father is synonymous with “God”. When Jesus says, "Father", he means "God". Bringing presuppositions to the text, trinitarians look at this prayer and see “God the Son” making an appeal to God the Father to give back glory that he, “God the Son” had before in a pre-human existence. But this interpretation misunderstands the Fatherhood of God in the Bible. In the Bible the Fatherhood of God is a metaphor which describes the relation of God to mankind (Exo. 4:22, Isa. 63:16, Hos. 11:1, Matt. 5:45, 6:9, John 20:17). Biblically, the Fatherhood of God does not describe a metaphysical relation of one person of the “godhead” to another.

Also, the Bible does not describe the glory destined for the Messiah at the right hand of the Almighty God as something that the Messiah once had, that he gave up, and was given back. Rather, the exaltation and glory of Messiah was predicted in the Old Testament and then fulfilled in Jesus. Jesus said: "O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!  Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and enter into his glory?" (Luke 24:25-26).  

Speaking of things that don’t yet exist, as though they exist

The trinitarian interpretation of John 17:5 fails to understand that both God, and God through His prophets, speak of predestined things (and people) as if they already exist. Note Jesus’s words in this same John 17 prayer just 15 verses later:

"I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one” (John 17:20-22).
  1. Here Jesus said he already had been given the glory intended for him. But his glory had not literally been given since Jesus had not yet died, been raised and exalted to the right hand of Almighty God (Luke 24:25-26). Jesus used past tense language in his prayer because he knew that God had promised the glory. The granting of the glory is as “good as done” so Jesus could speak of it as if it he already possessed it.
  2. And Jesus could also speak of glory that he had given to people that were not yet believers in him. Some of those people that Jesus already gave glory to did not even exist when Jesus spoke these words. Just as God gave the Messiah glory before the Messiah literally existed, here Jesus speaks of glory he had given to people before they literally existed.
A basic principle of interpreting Scripture is to take the words in their historical and grammatical context. In this case we only need to listen to 15 more sentences in Jesus prayer to get a better understanding of what Jesus meant in 17:5. In John 17:20-22 Jesus used again the language of “giving glory” and “having glory” before literal existence.

The glory that God planned for Messiah, Jesus spoke of in past tense, just as he spoke in past tense of the glory that he would give to future believers. Predestined things are spoken of as already existing because they are “as good as done” in God’s eyes.

Another way to say this is that in the Bible, a person can “have” something before they literally have it or even before they literally exist. Jesus said the poor in spirit and those persecuted for righteousness sake have “the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3, 10).  Even though these people weren’t in possession of the kingdom of heaven yet (they were poor and persecuted) they had it.

Paul said that believers in the One true God and His Messiah Jesus had salvation and a holy calling even before they existed. “(God) who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Messiah Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested…” (2 Timothy 1:9-10). For Paul, being “fully convinced that God is able to do what He promised” is saving faith (Romans 4:21).

Another example, Isaiah 53
Most Christians would agree that Isaiah 53 is Messianic, that is, in some way it tells us about the coming Messiah (John 12:37-38, 1 Pet. 2:24-25). Isaiah 53 was written hundreds of years before Jesus was born. Yet Isaiah 53 is all in past tense. “He grew up before him…he was despised and rejected by men…he has born our griefs…we deemed him stricken…he was wounded…Yahweh has laid on him the iniquity of us all…” and on and on, all past tense. Did Yahweh lay on Jesus the iniquity of us all before 700 BC? Obviously not, but it is spoken of 700 years before it happened, as if it already happened.

Some call this language the “prophetic perfect tense” because the prophets’ words deal with something yet to come, but the words are spoken as if it already happened, already existed. If God predestines it, it is as good as done.

Another example, Abram
When Abram was old and childless, God said to him “I have made you the father of many nations”. Really? Abram, old and childless, was already the father of many nations? This is because God speaks of things that don’t yet exist as if they already exist (Romans 4:17).

More problems with the Trinitarian interpretation
Trinitarians create huge problems for their own theology by saying that Jesus is recalling his own literal pre-existence and glory in John 17:5. Let’s be clear: Jesus makes no claim to deity in John 17:5, let alone to be a part of a three-personed godhead.  Neither did Jesus say he had glory with God from eternity past, only from before the world was, which is a strange way to describe a shared glory of two eternally existing godhead persons.

In trinitarian doctrine, “God the Son” did not give up his divine-nature when he took on human-nature at the incarnation, i.e, when he became “fully God and fully man”. The human-nature of Jesus did not have divine glory “before the world existed” so this must be the divine-nature of “God the Son” speaking in John 17:5. But can “God the Son” be fully God without His glory? Did “God the Son” cease to be God by giving up his divine glory, or did he not cease to be God and keep his glory? If he kept his glory and continued to be God, why is he asking for his glory back? If he didn’t keep his glory and is asking for it back, he ceased to be God and gave up his divine-nature. The trinitarian interpretation of John 17:5 ends up being a tangled web of contradiction.

If trinitarians want to say that John 17:5 shows Jesus literally pre-existed, then they should be followers of AD 4th century Arius who believed that the Logos (Word), a lesser god or angel who pre-existed took on human nature. Anyone that had glory “with” God, then didn’t have glory “with” God, but then gets glory back again “with” God, is not God. Just like anyone who “goes to God” is not God.

A Warning
If Jesus pre-existed as God, he is not a human. He would be some other kind of creature, but not a human person. Trinitarian doctrine in the end leads to a denial of the humanity of Jesus. Trinitarians can insist as much as they want that they don’t deny Jesus' humanity. Just like people today can insist as much as they want and say “I’m a girl” when they are really a boy. They are living in a fantasy world.

Did Adam pre-exist other than in the plan and purpose of God? Did any other human being pre-exist other than in the plan and purpose of God? (Apparently Mormons believe that humans pre-existed, but this is unbiblical). If Jesus pre-existed literally, then he is not a human being, he is something else. He is not like you or me in what makes us essentially human. The dual-natured Jesus of the catholic creeds is a Clark Kent Superman, a science fiction, a fairy tale, a fantasy. If Jesus is God who took on flesh, he is not a human person and we don't have a sin offering (Romans 5:15, 17; 1 Tim. 2:5; 2 Cor. 5:21).

Only in fantasy can a person be more than one gender and decide which gender they want to be when they want. Only in fantasy can a person say "that's the human Jesus”, but “that's the God Jesus". Neither God nor Jesus has deity dysphoria. A dual-natured Jesus is deceptive flick-of-the-wrist philosophical speculation. It's like me telling you I can be a girl if I want to. I can tell you that, but I'd be living in a fantasy world. The death of the human (not dual-natured) Jesus on the cross, the resurrection of the human Jesus from the dead, the exaltation of the human Jesus to the right hand of Almighty God in heaven, is not a fantasy.

For more information see here.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Gehenna was not a continual burning fire in the Hinnom Valley

The word Gehenna is a Greek transliteration of the Hebrew “Gei–Hinnom”, the “Valley of Hinnom” which defines Jerusalem’s western and southern sides. Although the “burning refuse” description is a favorite for tour guides and pastors, Gehenna has nothing to do with a continual burning of garbage in the Valley of Hinnom during the time of Jesus. This idea of continual garbage burning appears first from a medieval Jewish commentator, David Kimchi (ca. AD 1200), but it is wrong. Here is why:

1.       As mentioned above, there is no evidence in contemporaneous Second Temple Period sources (the time of Jesus) of a refuse fire constantly burning in the Hinnom Valley. The idea apparently originates from Rabbi David Kimchi’s commentary on Psalm 27:13 which dates to over 1000 years after Jesus (ca. AD 1200). Kimchi wrote: “Gehenna is a repugnant place, into which filth and cadavers are thrown, and in which fires perpetually burn in order to consume the filth and bones; on which account, by analogy, the judgment of the wicked is called ‘Gehenna.’”

Note however, that even Kimchi’s quote relates predominately to fire used for the elimination of “cadavers…filth and bones”. For a Jew, respectful burial is a necessary and high honor. Disposal by fire is dishonorable. Kimchi is commenting on those who will not “see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living” (Psalm 27:13) as opposed to those who will.

2.       There is no archaeological evidence of a continually burning refuse fire from the 2nd Temple Period, or any other period, in the Hinnom Valley.

3.       Garbage that burns is a relatively recent phenomenon. One look in a modern trash can shows that our garbage sure would make a nice fire as it is made up mostly of paper and plastic. But it is almost all recent “junk”. Most garbage in the Second Temple Period would not have the same flammable character: broken pot shards, some food scraps, etc., and many of these items would be used secondarily, e.g., food scraps for animal feed and flammable objects for  controlled heating.

4.       Jerusalem receives an average of more than 20 inches of rainfall a year, and it all comes in a period of about four months (Dec-March). During these months the rain can come down in sheets for days at a time. Nothing outside would keep burning.

5.       During the long dry summer, if a fire started in the Hinnom Valley or anywhere else in the land of Israel, people would immediately put it out, as there would be a danger of a spreading brush fire. Southern California has a similar climate to Israel. Just as in California, there is a reason fires are not left burning.

6.       The Hinnom Valley defines the southern and western sides of the ancient city of Jerusalem. The prevailing westerly winds would push any acrid smoke from such a fire right into the city.

These seven reasons are enough to show that the “continual burning in the Hinnom Valley” as an illustration of “hell” is a myth. For a couple articles that agree, see here and here.

We need to look no further than the Bible for why Gai-Hinnom (Gehenna) came to be the perfect example of how God will judge and purge sin from this earth with a relatively quick, but devastating, judgment. The people of Israel were sacrificing their children by fire to a pagan god in this valley. This activity is the epitome of how far man can stray from God. God said – “I will destroy it…This sin will be stopped…I will make it a valley of slaughter…and their dead bodies will be food for the birds of the air” (Jeremiah 7:31-33, 19:4-7).

There may also be a connection to the last verse in the book of Isaiah (66:24), although this verse probably fits better the devastation of the Assyrian troops of Sennecharib by the angel of Yahweh (Isa. 37:36, "behold, they were all dead corpses"). In any case the decimation of the Assyrian army serves as another illustration of a quick devastating judgment of warfare or plague from Yahweh which leaves multiple dead bodies that require disposal by fire, where “their worm doesn’t die and their fire is not quenched”. Isaiah also had the perfect object lesson for Judeans. Don’t rebel against Yahweh. You’ll end up like them!

Monday, May 6, 2019

The Fatherhood of God: Biblical vs. Trinitarian understanding

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus the Messiah" (Ephesians 1:3, 1 Peter 1:3, 2 Corinthians 1:3).

To the biblical mind, the Fatherhood of God is metaphorical, representing God’s role as the giver of life, and all that is encapsulated in the father-child relationship: intimacy, concern, discipline, protection, care, representation, and not the least of which, inheritance. The son inherits the father’s property. In comparison, to the Hellenist or Greek mind the fatherhood of God is metaphysical, having to do with substance and essence. Dionysus, for instance, since he is the son of Zeus , is divine in essence. It was in this Hellenistic way that the church fathers of later centuries incorrectly interpreted the fatherhood of God in relation to Jesus. To the trinitarian, “God the Father” is a title used to differentiate between persons of the “godhead”. To the trinitarian mind, God the Father is not “God the Son” or “God the Spirit.” But this is not biblical. The biblical Fatherhood of God, the reason God is called the Father, is to describe the relationship of God to mankind.

Here's more description in a 4.5 minute video.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

We Need the Jews

Today is Holocaust Rememberance day in Israel. The nations of the world tried again to destroy the Jewish people. Ironically, the Jews are exactly what the world needs as God’s channel of blessing to the world. In short, we need the Jews. "And as for me, this is my covenant with them," says the Yahweh: "My Spirit that is upon you, and my words that I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, or out of the mouth of your offspring, or out of the mouth of your children's offspring," says Yahweh, "from this time forth and forevermore" (Isaiah 59:21).

Yahweh has chosen to reveal Himself by inspired words given through Israel. “Salvation is of the Jews” said Jesus, and “to them belong the oracles of God” said Paul (both Jews by the way). We Gentiles, languishing in the darkness and fog of our imaginations and speculations, need a light beam of revelation truth that comes from Yahweh through Israel, his prophet(s). As was said of Abraham, “he is a prophet” (Gen. 20:7), so with Abraham’s descendants. The revelation of truth comes through the Jews, the ultimate expression of truth being in Abraham’s descendant, Jesus the Messiah, who makes Yahweh known, and who bears the name the Word of God.

Once again, as in the Day of Pentecost described in Acts 2, the world needs the breath of Yahweh channeled through the descendants of Abraham to declare what is true. When Yahweh, through Jesus (Acts 2:33) pours out His spirit again upon the Jews, all of these Gentile speculations, including three-persons-in-one-god, will disappear like chaff blown away in the wind. Now darkness covers the earth, and a fog the nations. But Israel will rise and shine in the glory of Yahweh and His Messiah, and the Gentiles will see it, and come (Isa. 60:1-3).

Saturday, March 16, 2019

The Restitution of Jesus Christ - signs of a 21st Century Reformation?

A review of The Restitution of Jesus Christ by Kermit Zarley*
_ _ _ _ _

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 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.