The following paper was submitted by Tom Roberts of the Church of God 7th Day (Meridian, Idaho)

 

 

The Mystery of Monotheism

 

By Tom Roberts, PhD

 

For centuries, the people of God had fought an uphill battle attempting to defend the One God concept. Monotheism is defined as the belief in one deity.  Amenhotep of Egypt believed the Great Monad was the sun god Ra.  The mountain god El, in Hebrew traditions, was known as Elohim. Until our time, much of the Middle Eastern understanding was unavailable to us to even begin to evaluate some of the statements contained in scripture about these other gods besides Yahweh that supposedly existed in other nations: Ashtoreth (1 Kings 11:33); Dagon (Judg 16:23-24, 1 Sam 5:7); Chemosh (Judg 11:24; 1 Kings 11:33); Milchom (1 Kings 11:33); and Nisroch (2 Kings 19:37).

 

Isaiah shows that there is no consort beside the God of Israel, Yahweh, contrary to pagan documents from Elephantine which asserted the existence of a “Mrs. Yahweh” for this would be a violation of the First Commandment. (Deut 5:7, Ex 20:3) The Hebraic equivalent of the Elephantine concept is Sophia or Lady Wisdom who was to convey God’s wisdom to the prophets via the Holy Spirit, Racah Kadesh, who was also feminine in Hebraic terms.  Scholarship is now united with the view that the plurality contained in the title Elohim is YHWH addressing His mighty counsel.  (Gen 3:22) 

 

The superlative use included the “royal ‘we,’” which has been mistakenly used by theologians to refer to the rest of God’s nature, contained in a compound unity. This is based on Deut 6:4 which was the national credo of Israel, “Hear O Israel, Our Lord is One”.  The terms echad and yahed, are two ways of saying “one” is Hebrew.  It is said that these two terms for a single designation include more than one part of a unit.  However, close grammatical scrutiny will show that where evening and morning become the first day, yom, (Gen 1:5) is part of a single designation.  Rabbis have pointed out that the term yahed may refer to a thistle of grapes.  The imagery still shows many grapes but one thistle as singular and both terms come from an Hebraic root system that shows one unit as a common root in both terms.  

 

In Gen 2:24, the concept of man and wife who share part of the total image of God are glued back together through marriage as one flesh to form a single entity which restores the total image of God.    As late as 1870, critical commentators such as Keil & Delitzsch (vol 1) and other Semitic scholars freely admitted that the term Elohim cannot be used to advance a Trinitarian formula.   (see also A Modern Commentary by W. Gunther Plaut)  During this address the Hebrew grammar vacillates from singular, when Yahweh speaks, to plural or superlative when the counsel answers Yahweh.  Notice the phrase, “man has become as one of us”.   With Yahweh’s divine command all subjects are summoned.  These mighty ones appear before the Mighty One who has complete authority over their activities.  This explains how Elohim can refer to the Great God Himself or refer to his subjects who range from judges, found in Psalm 82:6 who will die like men, to the Bene Elohim found in Gen. 6:2, who were the descendants of Seth and who were called the “mighty men of renown”.  (see the Jamison Fawcett and Brown One Volume Old Testament Commentary, 1930 edition) 

 

This concept also pertains to the “mighty men” in David’s army found in 2 Sam.  23:8-39.  The mighty counsel also sings praises to Yahweh with divine songs  (1 Kings 18:39, 2 Sam 7:28) whose words are true.  All of the exalted patriarchs share in the worship, shachah, and praises which were granted to Yahweh in His Divine Court (Ps 78).   This is not to say that the patriarchs like Moses who were called Elohim (Ex 7:1) or the great kings such as David (1 Chron 29:20) and Solomon were to be worshipped with the final exaltation granted only to Yahweh, but they shared in the type of worship given to the Kings of Kings in the expectation of His Messianic throne, that was yet to come, due to fact that they represented God to His people. (see BDB- Gesenius, 1979; p. 1005, Harkavy, 1914. pg. 707)

 

For example, Isaiah 7:6 applies locally to the King, son of Tabeel, then is widened to include Emanuel which means “God who is with us in the great battle” and, later, is applied to Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz, son of Isaiah.  The ultimate fulfillment would occur in Isaiah 9:6 with the Father of Eternity, the Exalted One, and the Mighty Counselor. (see The Jewish Study Bible and the Emphasized Bible by Rotherham)  The Exalted One in Daniel 7:6-7, is the Son of Man, ben adam, who lifts up nations and dominions as well as brings them down when a covenantal curse is issued from Heaven.  And with Michael, one who is like God, has complete authority from the Son of Man to execute his judgments in defense of the Lord’s people.  (Dan 12:1)  The effects of the divine action originate from Adonai who speaks to His son, Adonee, in Ps. 110 who is given authority from God but who speaks with the complete authority of God.  For centuries commentators misinterpreted this play on words and taught that Christ was Adonai because they misread the case ending for the designation Adonee.  Modern commentators now understand that this expression and play on words occurs more than 300 times throughout the Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible. 

 

The Son of Man and the Offspring of God

 

Peter stated “we are the offspring of God (2 Pet. 1:4) and Our Lord Jesus Christ; To his accusers in John 10:34,  Jesus quoted from the OT “ye are gods”, for you are “children of the Most High” (Psalm 82:6).  In light of present-day research, it is shown that ancient cultures including Israelite believed man was directly descended from his Maker in heaven and special rights and priestly blessings were passed to him through a sacerdotal system.  Although the name Yahweh is a causative Hebrew verb which is translated, “He caused to be”, it denotes in a few instances sons of God to be born either as offspring or by the New Covenant method of adoption.  “These are terms which indicate familial or blood relationships, such as father and brother – the name Abijah means – “YHWH is my father” ( 1 Kings 14:11) and Ahijah means “YHWH is my brother,” (1 Kings 11:29) – but they are not Israel’s primary way of referring to the deity.” (S. T. Kimbrough, Jr. Theological Table Talk, Theology Today, Vol. XLVI, No. 2, July, 1989, p. 195)

 

The primary methodology used in Israel’s relationship to Yahweh was through the initiation of blood covenants which brought the Israelite or the Gentile into a patriarchal and familial relationship with God.  The literal offspring concept was of general Semitic acceptance.  Later in salvation history, the father to son patriarchal blessings were broadened to included all the holy people whom God has consecrated for His purposes.  Over the centuries this theology has been weakened in the West by modern evangelicals.  Paul uses the term “adoption” to show that we are adopted into the family of God as Sons of God due to the re-establishment of our citizenship (Phil 3:20 politia, the condition or life of a citizen) rather than simply being Gentiles converted into the House of Faith.  Many theologians believe that Genesis 5:3 teaches that man lost his original image and sonship and the only hope of restoration that mankind has is in Christ with His plan of redemption. 

 

The Lifting Up of Our Messiah

 

The Hebraic concept of the Messiahship  is the Anointed One who is lifted up.  The Messiah even said “If I be lifted up, I will draw all men unto Myself” (Luke 3) The concept of One God who works through a Divine Messiah is found in both Testaments.  Even the Apostle James declares, “If you believe in One God, you do well”.  (James 2:19 ) (1 Tim 2:5) “Though there are so-called gods, in the heavens or one earth – and there are plenty of gods and plenty of lords – yet for us there is only on God.” (1 Cor 8:5-6)   In John 17:13, Jesus referred to the Father as the only true God and that He came in concert to represent all that the Father as a personification to His people. (see Luke 1:30-36)  No wonder Thomas exclaimed, “ My Lord and my God” kurios mou theos mou. (Ps 45:7, see also Heb 1:7-8)   

 

Dr. Scott Hahn explains the motif in John’s Gospel to be the Father teaching His Son His trade with phrases like, “I work and my Father works” are an amplification of this fact--for the time was coming when no man could work.  The Father in Ps 118 is progressively revealing the High Priest (see John 14-16) to the people.  So God and Christ are in complete union.  Dr. James E. Talmage explains:  “The revised version gives for John 10:30: “I and the Father are one” instead of “I and my Father are one.”  By “the Father”,  the Jews rightly understood the Eternal Father, God. In the original Greek “one” appears in the neuter gender, and therefore expresses oneness in attributes, power, or purpose, and not a oneness of personality which would have required the masculine form.” (p. 465. Jesus the Christ) 

 

In the high priestly prayer of Jesus, John uses the word “comforter”, that one; paraklesis, (J. Green, A Greek-English Lexicon to the New Testament) which is expressed in English in a masculine form even though the Greek text uses masculine verbal trains as a grammatical tool to establish neuter activity from a masculine being who is, in this case, God.  The same dynamic occurs when the word “spirit” (pneuma) which is neuter is used with masculine pronouns to illustrate the Spirit of the Father. (Rom 8:16) For the masculine use of these terms is not a reference to the Spirit’s personality. (see Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, Daniel B. Wallace, p. 332, note on relative pronouns)  He was sired by the Holy Spirit through the Virgin Mary.  Thus the nature of Christ was that of the New Adam for He would rewrite history and not fall as the first Adam did, but He was completely sinless in all He did and all He was. (Rom 5:12-21)  “It was by one’s man offense that death came to reign over all, but how much greater the reign in life of those who received the fullness of grace and the gift of saving justice, through the one man, Jesus Christ” (Rom 5:17)  He represented the perfect will of the Father. 

 

This Divine Man concept was constantly debated among the rabbis who wondered if the Messiah would be Daniel’s Son of Man of Dan 7:6-7 or whether the Greek concepts of the savior gods would describe deity’s activity in His Messiah.  (Esther 4:17 Septuagint)For in this concept, God was Savior, Lord and God.  This theme is amplified in Heb 1:8 and Titus 2:13.   Notice at the appearing of Jesus, it is accompanied with the Father’s glory, doxa.  Some commentators use 1 Tim 3:16 to prove an incarnation but that term is not in the majority of manuscripts.  This passage is a hymn or liturgical profession of faith (New Jerusalem, p. 1961, note 3e)  which shows that Christ “appeared in a body, was vindicated by the Spirit, was seen by angels, was preached among the nations, was believed in the world, was taken up in glory. (NIV)  So this verse is a summary of the Gospel message.    

 

Logos Theology and the Understanding of Christian Expositors

 

From the post exilic period (722 BCE) to the writing of the New Testament, many theological shifts took place during the dispersion of Judah into Babylon as well as the exiles who found their way to Egypt during Jeremiah’s ministry.  And with the cultures overlapping one another, terms like wisdom and logos  had international repercussions.  Philo, a Hebrew in Alexandria, Egypt, taught that the Logos was mere divine speech.  The ancients used over 80 definitions of these term.  The Christian church world debates about three of them. 

 

The first is that John 1:1, a Stoic hymn, where Jesus  replaces the former god, Zeus in the Johannine prologue.   (see Interpreter’s One Volume Bible Commentary on the Gospel of John) 

 

Second, due to the Greek concept of the pre-existence of all things, the Logos would have pre-existed eternally in the bosom of God’s internal image.  Then, after His birth, He would have been the express image of God.  (The One volume Bible Commentary, J. R. Dummelow)

 

And finally, the teaching of Athanasius would advocate the personal pre-existent Logos as fully God in whom heaven and earth could not be contained.  This tradition would prevail in the West and overcome the position of Origen on whom the Eastern Fathers would base their Logos concept.  The Son and the Spirit are not independent centers of divine being but unfoldings of the eternal spirit in an emerging purpose.  Tertullian would expand this Stoic philosophy by calling the Great Triad a trinitos.  The Capadocian Fathers of the East would follow this tradition with their interpretations of John’s Gospel.  (pp. 258-300, Essays on the Trinity and the Incarnation, A/E.J. Rawlinson, ed.)   

 

But how do we as modern day Christians evaluate this data when many of these concepts have so theologized?  It is difficult to unlayer to the original meaning.  Modern expositors such as Adam Clark, F. F. Bruce, Raymond Brown, and Professor James Dunn, are all advocating that the pre-existent Son Logos was of a later Christological development.  Dr. Dubenstein in his famous work, When Jesus Become God, asserts that the Logos became fully God after the theological wars took place between the Aryans with their Low Christology and the Trinitarians, with their High Christology, and caught in the middle were the Binitarians, who were considered Semi-Aryans.   The Binatarians tried to compromise between both extremes and argued for a dualistic personating of the One God in two persons concept and the Holy Spirit remained a neuter force while it was seen as a feminine force in Eastern Church traditions.  (see The Holy Spirit in Eastern Christian Traditions by Dr. Stanley Burgess)    

 

The Gospel of John tends to follow the tradition that Jesus’ origin was from heaven above to show His Sonship. (John 3:13)   Therefore, as critical commentators have pointed out, the pre-existence of the Son of God may have been in the Father’s bosom or mind just as J. R. Dummelow contends. But one might ask, “Weren’t all things created by Jesus?”  The instrumental case used here has been problematic for scholars for some time. 

 

Bart Ehrman has shown evidence to suggest a Christological tampering with the text in the early Latin period may have taken place. As an alternate reading this passage in question may be rendered, "all things were created because of Jesus," due to the fact that some of our translations use the term “by and for” Him creating an awkward tense structure that is very difficult to reconcile.  It is due to this problem that some scholars feel that the term “by Christ” was a later redaction.  (The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture by Bart Ehrman) Some might exclaim, “Didn’t Jesus say that He as returning to the Father proving that He once was there in eternity past?”  The Greek syntax in John’s Gospel doesn’t literally translate as return as often as it should be rendered “go to the Father”.  (John 16:28)  (see Zondervan Greek Interlinear, pp. 324-336)  These verses, according to Alfred, show us that the origin of Jesus in the form of Logos was with His Father.  In later Johanine Christology, in 1 John 4:2, The New Jerusalem version correctly renders the verse,” This is the proof of the spirit of God: any spirit which acknowledges Jesus Christ, come in human nature, is from God . . . “ (see Goodspeed)  Notice the term, “come in human nature", rather than “to come into eis”  would have been the term used in the Greek text had Christ pre-existed and His previous nature been brought into His bodily existence.

 

The prologue of the Gospel starts with en arche, in the beginning, when the Great Architect, uttered His divine speech and this Logos was God or theos.  How can a person be separated from their own speech, Adam Clark asks?  Others try to maintain John’s use of the nomitive predicate ho theos, “God” and the word pros for “with God”, pros ton theon, “with the God” as a separate entity, therefore, the Logos is an eternal entity and not just a speech or thought. Dr. Gene Scott and Wescott and Hort have argued that the term pros should be rendered “face to face with God” and should be used here to prove two personages, but many modern exegetes have not landed on this side of the issue. Some commentators espouse the concept of the direct object used in conjunction with the definite article proves the Logos was a separate and equal personification of the God and was with God.  However, one still has the use of God expressing Himself through His divine speech as one person with or without the use of the definite article.  Each side uses the passages in other texts to back up their theological position. 

 

The Origins of the Son of God

 

Another stumbling block is John 1:14 “and the Word became flesh”, gennomoi,  and tented or tabernacled among us.  The term gennomoi has traditionally been interpreted as “a change of state” motif, or to begin as the eternal Logos and to be transformed by His divine birth into a new physical entity.  Other lexical definitions render this term to mean “to generate a beginning”.   Hans Kung, one of the greatest 20th century theologians,  has recently reversed his position on Jesus being God to Jesus being God’s Son due to the fact that the theological changes were not based on exegetical studies but were based on the decisions of later creeds and councils. 

 

Come Let us Worship the King

 

The term worship is a derivative of five Greek words which range from a simple bow, to human dignitary, a divine monarch, or to God Himself: proskume, to reverence; kuneo, to kiss, (in Coptic, to impart knowledge), Rev 4:10, Heb 1:6, Jn 4:21-24, Mat 4:10; sebomai, to revere or to possess a feeling of awe or devotion to God, Mat 15:9, Mark 7:7, Acts 16:14; latreuo, to render religious service of homage; Phil 3:3, Acts 7:42, Heb 10:2; eusebeo, to act piously towards or to show piety; Acts 17.23.  Therefore, as biblical researchers, we need to be careful in how we apply the various terms.  Jesus is the object of the church’s worship because He is truly the Unique One of Rom 8:29.  He is Kings of Kings and no other monarch in history has had deity within His own nature.  Therefore, He and God alone are the only objects of our unbridled affection.   This teaching should bring unity to the Body of Christ as we seek to understand the concept of God in Sonship.  

 

The term homoousion developed during the creeds and attributed to the One God through the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is not a biblical term but is from the creeds alone.  So when we worship God, He is not of a “tritheistic” nature but truly is the God of true Monotheism.  The theology found in Colossians states, “In him, in bodily form, lives divinity in all its fullness (Col 2:9). . . . (New Jerusalem Bible)  “Because God wanted all fullness to be found in him and through him to reconcile all things to him.” (Col 1:19)  Only Christ in whom we worship can close this great chasm which divides us from the Father as well as separates creation. (v. 20)  For God was in Christ so we might be reconciled to God.  (For more information see the theological work entitled, Geloven Vandaag by E. Flessemann-van Leer, p. 101, “God-in-Christus”.) 

 

Church of God Pastor Dr. John Hoskins of Jubilee Ministries has completed extensive research in the God in Sonship concept.  His findings at Yale University concluded that most American seminaries held this view at the time of our colonial fathers.  As late as 1511-1533, when Michael Servetus met his fate at the hands of John Calvin, righteous scholars such as Servetus were still giving their lives for simply offering another explanation of God being in Christ.  We should all love and accept our Christian brethren regardless of what their Godhead theology dictates as long as they believe that deity was truly in Jesus in some form. 

 

Our theology in human terms cannot begin to capsulate or define the fullness of God’s revelation.  Let us praise and thank God for He is too magnificent to put into human terms but may the Church of God continue to struggle to worship our biblical God by using biblical theology to obtain biblical results.  And by the name of His dear Son, may we all grow in the Grace and Knowledge of His Great Salvation.