Paul Believed That Jesus is not God: Or So Shabir Thinks

Sam Shamoun

Shabir:

Many people use Paul's writings as proof that Jesus is God. But this is not fair to Paul, because Paul clearly believed that Jesus is not God.

Response:

The only thing that is not fair is Shabir's presuppositional approach to NT exegesis. Instead of allowing Paul to tell us what he believes, Shabir enforces his presuppositions into Paul's writings.

Shabir:

In his first letter to Timothy, Paul wrote:

"I charge you in the sight of God, and Christ Jesus, and the elect angels, to keep these instructions..." (ch. 5, v. 21).

It is clear from this that the title God applies not to Christ Jesus, but to someone else. In the following chapter, he again differentiates between God and Jesus when he says:

"In the sight of God who gives life to everything, and of Christ Jesus . . ." (ch. 6, v. 13).

Paul then went on to speak of

"the second appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ which God will bring about in his own time" (vv. 14-15).

Again, the title God is deliberately turned away from Jesus. Incidentally, many people think that when Jesus is called "Lord" in the Bible that means "God". But in the Bible this title means master or teacher, and it can be used for addressing humans (see 1 Peter ch. 3, v. 6).

Response:

Shabir evidently has not studied NT exegesis and theology. The reason being is that Shabir is apparently unaware of the way the NT uses the term "God." The term "God" appears over 1300 times in the NT. In the majority of instances, the term is used frequently to refer to the Father. In fact the term "God" almost functions as a personal name for the Father. Robert M. Bowman Jr. in response to Jehovah's Witnesses explains:

"... The use of words translated 'God, god' and 'gods.' When the Scripture uses words for God in a singular form, it almost always refers to Jehovah, the Lord God. The unqualified singular 'God' (Hebrew el or elohim; Greek theos) is always, or virtually always, used of the Almighty God. For example, the singular theos is used of God about 1,400 times in the New Testament, and of a false god only six times, always clearly so from the context (Acts 7:43; 12:22; 28:6; 2 Cor. 4:4; Phil. 3:19; 2 Thess. 2:7). Given this almost uniform usage of the singular theos for 'God' by all the New Testament writers, we ought to assume that this usage applies in all cases where context does not rule it out. The Bible says repeatedly that there is only God, and specifically only one true God (e.g., Isa. 43:10; 44:6-8; Jer. 10:10; John 17:3; 1 Tim. 2:5; James 2:19; 1 John 5:20). It also repeatedly states that all other so-called gods (1 Cor. 8:5) are false gods (cf. Deut. 32:31; Ps. 96:5; Isa. 41:23-24). Creatures are on occasion called 'gods' in the plural, usually taken to mean they are representatives of God (most notably Pss. 8:5; 82:1,6) - and even these are debated in meaning... The burden of proof is on the Jehovah's Witness to show that in such passages as John 1:1 and John 20:28 where they admit the singular theos is used of Jesus Christ, the word does not have its customary denotation of 'God.'" (Bowman, Jehovah's Witnesses - Zondervan Guide to Cults and Religious Movements [Zondervan Publishing House; Grand Rapids MI, 1995], pp. 23-24 bold emphasis ours)

Bowman's observation points to the inescapable conclusion that for any writer to call Jesus "God" is to include Christ in the identity of the one true God. This is due to the fact that the term "God" is consistently used to refer to the only true God, Yahweh. Hence, for Jesus to be classified as God implies that the writers of the NT believed that Jesus was in fact Yahweh God Almighty!

Bowman also comments on why the frequent usage of a title for a specific person does not rule out the fact that it can also be used of others:

"Then there are texts that simply refer to 'God' alongside Christ in such a way as to distinguish them. For instance, 1 Timothy 5:21 speaks of 'God and Christ Jesus,' and 1 Corinthians 8:6 distinguishes between 'one God, the Father,' and 'one Lord, Jesus Christ.' But trinitarians have a simple answer: These texts refer to the Father as 'God' not because Jesus Christ is less than God, but simply because the title God was normally used of the Father.

"... That these texts cannot mean that Jesus is not God can be proved from some of the very texts themselves. As we have said, 1 Corinthians 8:6 distinguishes between 'one God, the Father,' and 'one Lord, Jesus Christ.' The JWs conclude from this verse that since the Father is the 'one God,' Jesus cannot be God. But by that reasoning, since Jesus is the 'one Lord,' the Father cannot be Lord! Yet we know that the Father is Lord (Matt. 11:25). Therefore, there must be something wrong with this reasoning. What is wrong with it, as has been explained, is that it assumes that the use of a title for one person rules out its application to another. This cannot be assumed but must be determined by considering all of the relevant biblical teaching." (Bowman, Why You Should Believe The Trinity [Baker Book House; Grand Rapids Michigan 1989], pp. 72, 73)

Murray J. Harris also explains why the term "God" was used infrequently for Christ, while being frequently applied to the Father:

"First, in all strands of the NT, theos generally signifies the Father... When we find the expression theos pater we may legitimately deduce that ho theos estin ho pater. And since pater refers to a particular person (not an attribute), the identity between ho theos and ho pater as proper names referring to persons must be numerical. 'God' must be equated with 'the Father.' If Jesus were everywhere called theos so that in reference to him the term ceased to be a title and became a proper noun like 'Iesous, linguistic ambiguity would be everywhere present.

"Another reason why theos regularly denotes the Father and rarely the Son is that such a usage is suited to protect the personal distinction between the Son and Father... which is preserved everywhere in the NT, but nowhere more dramatically than where the Father is called 'the God of our Lord Jesus Christ' (Eph. 1:17) or 'his God and Father' (Rev. 1:6) and where Jesus speaks of 'My God' (Matt. 27:46; Mark 15:34; John 20:17; cf. Rev. 3:2, 12), or, in an address to Jesus reference is made to 'your God' (Heb. 1:9). God was the one to whom Jesus prayed, the one he called his Father (e.g., Matt. 11:25). It was ho logos, not ho theos, of whom John said sarx egeneto (John 1:14).

"Clearly related to this second reason is a third. The element of 'subordinationism' that finds expression not only in the four authors who use theos as a christological appellation but also elsewhere in the NT may have checked any impulse to use theos regularly of Jesus. By customarily reserving the term theos for the Father, NT writers were highlighting the fact, whether consciously or unconsciously, that while the Son is 'subordinate' to the Father, the Father is not 'subordinate' to the Son. One finds the expression 'the Son of God' where God is the Father, but never 'the Father of God' where God is the Son.

"A fourth reason that may be suggested for the comparatively rare use of theos as a christological ascription was the danger recognized by the early church that if theos were applied to Jesus as regularly as to the Father, Jews would have tended to regard Christianity as incurably deuterotheological and Gentiles would probably have viewed it as polytheistic. If theos were the personal name of the Father and the Son, Christians would have been hard pressed to defend the faith against charges of ditheism, if not polytheism, however adamant their insistence on their retention of monotheism.

"Fifth, behind the impulse generally to reserve the term theos for the Father lay the need to safeguard the real humanity of Jesus against docetic or monophysitic sentiment in its embryonic form. In the early years of the church there was a greater danger that the integrity of the human 'nature' of Jesus should be denied than that his divinity should be called into question, witness the fact that docetism not Arianism was the first christological deviation.

"Finally, the relative infrequency of the use of theos for Jesus corresponds to the relatively infrequent use of ontological categories in NT Christology which is functional in emphasis ..." (Harris Jesus As God - The New Testament Use of Theos in Reference to Jesus [Baker Books; Grand Rapids, MI 1998], pp. 282-283 bold emphasis ours)

Catholic Scholar Raymond E. Brown adds:

"The question concerns Jesus a Galilean Jew of the first third of the first century, for whom 'God' would have a meaning specified by his background and the theological language of the time. By way of simplification (and perhaps oversimplification) let me say that I think by a Jew of that period `God' would have been thought of as One dwelling in the heavens - among many attributes. Therefore, a question posed to Jesus on earth, `Do you think you are God?' would mean did he think he was the One dwelling in heaven. And you can see that would have been an inappropriate question, since Jesus was visibly on earth. As a matter of fact the question was never asked of him; at most he was asked about his relationship to God." (Brown, Responses to 101 Questions on the Bible [Paulist Press; Mahwah, N.J. 1990], p. 98)

Brown goes on to say:

"... I would say that by that time (i.e. the last decade of the first century), under the impact of their quest to understand Jesus, Christians had in a certain sense expanded the meaning of the word 'God.' It no longer for them simply covered the Father in heaven; it covered the Son on earth. They had come to realize that Jesus was so intimately related to God, so filled with God's presence, that the term God was applicable to him as it was to the Father in heaven. May I emphasis that this does not involve a change in Jesus; it involves a change and growth in the Christian perception of who he was." (Ibid.)

And,

"Did Jesus have an identity which his followers later came to understand in terms of his being God? If he was God (and most Christians do agree on that), did he know who he was? I think the simplest answer to that question is yes." (Ibid. p. 99)

Hence, Shabir's argument on Paul making a distinction between "God" and Jesus holds no weight. We must examine all the instances where the term "God" appears in Paul's writings in order to know whether Paul believed in the full deity of Christ. Once this is done it will become crystal clear to the readers that the apostle fully believed in the absolute deity of the Lord Jesus.

Shabir also equivocates on the term Lord and assumes that it has but one meaning when used of Christ, namely Master or Teacher. He also implies that Christians are wrong for understanding the title "Lord" as referring to the deity of Christ. Yet, it seems to have never dawned on him that in certain contexts the term Lord carries the same meaning when used of Christ as it does when used for God. We have already documented elsewhere that Lord when used of Christ refers to his deity.

Yet, for the sake of response we provide just one example here for our readers:

"yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live." 1 Corinthians 8:6

Paul uses the terms "God" and "Lord" interchangeably in affirming that both the Father and Son are the one God, Yahweh. This is evident in light of the fact that the Old Testament states that Yahweh alone created all things:

"This is what the LORD says - your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb: I am the LORD, who has made all things, who ALONE stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by MYSELF..." Isaiah 44:24

Furthermore, Paul claims that our existence and life come from the Father through the Son, implying equality in essence and nature. Hence, Lord here can only mean that Jesus is Yahweh God. Incidentally, this establishes the case that Paul did believe in the absolute and perfect deity of Christ!

Shabir:

What is more important, however, it to notice what Paul says next, for this will demolish any supposition that Paul took Jesus for God.

What he says about God in the following passage clearly shows that Jesus is not God. Paul says:

"God the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and the Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see" (1 Timothy ch. 6, vv. 15-16).

Paul says that God alone is immortal. Immortal means he does not die. Check any dictionary. Now, anyone who believes that Jesus died cannot believe that Jesus is God. Such a belief would contradict what Paul said here. Furthermore, to say that God died is a blasphemy against God. Who would run the world if God died? Paul believed that God does not die.

Response:

Shabir commits several errors here. He first must assume that for Paul to say God alone is immortal implies that Christ cannot be God. Yet, Shabir is reading his own understanding of God into the text. To Paul "God" is not just the Father. To Paul the identity of the one God includes the persons of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit:

"Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners - of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen." 1 Timothy 1:15-17

The only referent in this passage is the Lord Jesus Christ. This affirms that Paul is directing his doxology to Christ as the only God who is immortal and who now remains invisible to those on earth. That Christ is the referent in this passage is solidified elsewhere by the Apostle when he claims that it is Jesus Christ who has ushered in immortality:

"So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life - not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel." 2 Timothy 1:8-10

For Jesus to be the source of life and immortality implies that he is in fact the immortal, eternal God since a finite creature cannot usher in immortality and life. Only God can do so.

Secondly, Shabir thinks that Jesus dying disproves his immortality. Shabir presumes that dying implies non-existence.

According to Scriptures death does not necessarily refer to non-existence, but rather refers to separation or broken communion with God. The Scriptures tell us that as a result of man's sin two types of separation have occurred. The first is spiritual "death" where a person is severed from having fellowship with God, being separated from God's holy presence. Hence, instead of God's love abiding upon an individual, it is the divine wrath that rests upon him:

"The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. And the LORD God commanded the man, 'You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.'" Genesis 2:15-17

After disobeying God by eating from the forbidden tree, the man and his wife were then banished from the presence of God in Eden:

"And the LORD God said, 'The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever.' So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life." Genesis 3:22-24

Scripture continues to elaborate on this spiritual separation that has occurred as a result of sin:

"For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil will not sojourn with you. The boastful will not stand before your eyes; you hate evildoers. You destroy those who speak lies; the LORD abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful." Psalm 5:4-6 NRSV

"If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear." Psalm 66:18

"Rather, your iniquities have been barriers between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear." Isaiah 59:2 NRSV

"Then they will cry to the LORD, but He will not hear them; He will even hide His face from them at that time, because they have been evil in their deeds." Micah 3:4

"Your eyes are too pure to behold evil, and you cannot look on wrongdoing ..." Habakkuk 1:13 NRSV

"But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed ... But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger." Romans 2:5, 8

This does not mean that God is not spiritually present since God is present everywhere. Rather, it implies that God is not present in mercy and fellowship, but is present in wrath and judgment.

The greatest separation between God and man occurs in hell, where sinners are forever severed from fellowship with God:

"Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. THE LAKE OF FIRE IS THE SECOND DEATH. If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire." Revelation 20:11-15

This is the type of "death" Christ experienced while on the cross, broken fellowship and intimacy. The Father severed his intimate communion with the Son temporarily in order that his wrath would abide upon Christ on behalf of the people he had come to redeem:

"And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, 'Eli, eli, lama sabachthani?', that is, 'My God, my God, why have You forsaken Me?'" Matthew 27:46

"God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished-" Romans 3:25

According to the NIV translators, the Greek phrase for "a sacrifice of atonement" means that Christ was presented "as the one who would turn aside his wrath, taking away sin." Hence, Jesus curbed the Father's wrath by taking it upon himself while on the cross.

The second type of "death" which the Holy Bible refers to is physical death. This is where the soul departs from the body and the body returns to the ground from which it came:

"And to the man he said, 'Because you have listened to the voice of your wife, and have eaten of the tree about which I commanded you, "You shall not eat of it," cursed it is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat the bread until you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return'." Genesis 3:17-19 NRSV

"Remember him - before the silver cord is severed, or the golden bowl is broken; before the pitcher is shattered at the spring, or the wheel broken at the well, and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it." Ecclesiastes 12:6-7

At the moment of death, Christ's eternal Spirit and human soul departed from his physical body. On the third day the eternal Spirit of Christ, along with his human soul, reunited with his body when he arose in immortal glory:

"And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, 'Father, into Your hands I commit My Spirit.' Having said this, He breathed His last." Luke 23:46

"Jesus answered them, 'Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.' The Jews replied, 'It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?' But the temple he had spoken of was his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken." John 2:19-22

"The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life-only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father." John 10:17-18

For Christ to raise himself from the dead implies that he was still consciously existing during the time his body lay in the tomb.

Interestingly, in our recent debate Shabir tried to nullify the force of these verses by stating that John is the only Gospel where Christ claimed to be able to raise himself from the tomb. First, Shabir is arguing from silence. Second, it is not true that John alone records these statements since the other Gospel writers also allude to Jesus' claims of raising his body (i.e. "temple") in three days:

"Many testified falsely against him, but their statements did not agree. Then some stood up and gave this false testimony against him: 'We heard him say, "I will destroy this man-made temple and in three days will build another, not made by man."' Yet even then their testimony did not agree." Mark 14:56-59

"Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, 'So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself!'" Mark 15:29-30

Hence, in light of these passages Shabir has no argument against John. When we allow Scripture to define death we find absolutely no problems with the divine Son of God dying on behalf of the elect.

Finally, not only is Shabir's definition of death unbiblical it is also contrary to the Quran:

"Think not of those, who are slain in the way of Allah, as dead. Nay, they are living. With their Lord they have provision." S. 3:169

This echoes the words of the Lord Jesus Christ:

"But in the account of the bush, even Moses showed that the dead rise, for he calls the Lord 'the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.' He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive." Luke 20:37-38

Shabir:

Paul also said in that passage that God dwells in unapproachable light that no one has seen God or can see him. Paul knew that many thousands of people had seen Jesus. Yet Paul can say that no one has seen God because Paul was sure that Jesus is not God.

Response:

First, the text that Shabir alludes to is ambiguous. Scholars are divided over whether 1 Timothy 6:15-16 refers to the Father or to the Son. If referring to the Son, then what no man has seen is Christ's essential divine nature. While on earth, men did not see Christ's divine nature since his Deity was veiled by his human nature. Even during Christ's transfiguration, the disciples did not see the full-unveiled essence of Christ. They saw but a veiled expression of his divine glory being manifested through his physical body.

If referring to the Father, then there is no problem. What Paul would be saying is that God the Father has never been seen since he remains invisible. Yet, God the Son became flesh in order to reveal the invisible God to mankind:

"No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's bosom, has made him known." John 1:18

"The god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God... For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness' made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ." 2 Corinthians 4:4,6

"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn overall creation." Colossians 1:15

Shabir:

This is why Paul went about teaching not that Jesus was God, but that he was God's Messiah (see Acts 9:22; 16:3; 18:5)

Response:

Yet, Paul would also preach that Jesus Christ is God's Son, the very Lord who sanctifies men and imparts salvation to others:

"Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, 'Brother Saul, the Lord - Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here - has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.' Immediately, something like scales fell from Saul's eyes, and he could see again. He got up and was baptized, and after taking some food, he regained his strength. Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God." Acts 9:17-20

"From this man's descendants God has brought to Israel the Savior Jesus, as he promised... Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses." Acts 13:23, 38-39

"On one of these journeys I was going to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests. About noon, O king, as I was on the road, I saw a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, blazing around me and my companions. We all fell to the ground, and I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, 'Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.' Then I asked, 'Who are you, Lord?' 'I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,' the Lord replied. 'Now get up and stand on your feet. I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen of me and what I will show you. I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.' So then, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the vision from heaven." Acts 26:12-19

Shabir:

When he was in Athens, Paul spoke of God as "the God who made the world and everything in it," then he identified Jesus as "the man whom God appointed" (Acts 17:24-31).

Response:

Paul also taught that the Lord Jesus created all things for his own divine pleasure and is the very One who now sustains the entire universe:

"For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together." Colossians 1:16-17

When we take all of Paul's writings into consideration we end up with the fact that to Paul Jesus was the God-man, two natures united in one Person:

"For in Christ all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form..." Colossians 2:9

The fullness of Deity, that which makes God what he is, resides in Jesus Christ's body. In other words, Jesus is fully God and fully man at the same time.

Shabir:

Clearly, for Paul, Jesus was not God, and he would be shocked to see his writings used for proving the opposite of what he believed.

Response:

Clearly, for Paul, Jesus was God, and he would be shocked to see Shabir using his writings to prove the opposite of what he believed.

Shabir:

Paul even testified in court saying:

"I admit that I worship the God of our fathers ... " (Acts 24:14).

Response:

Precisely, and the God whom Paul proclaimed as the God of the Patriarchs is the Triune God of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Shabir:

And Jesus is the Servant of that God, for we read in Acts,

"The God of our fathers has glorified his servant Jesus" (ch. 3, v. 13).

Response:

Not surprisingly, Shabir twists this passage out of its immediate context:

"You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked a murderer be released to you. You killed the author of life but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this." Acts 3:14-15

The Apostle Peter calls Jesus the Author of Life, the same One that was both crucified and raised from the dead. If anything Acts 3:13-15 affirms the Deity, humanity, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Shabir:

For Paul, the Father alone is God. Paul said that there is "one God and Father of all" (Ephesians ch. 4, v. 6). Paul said again,

"For us there is but one God, the Father . . . and one Lord, Jesus Christ" (1 Corinthians 8:6).

Response:

Paul's statement that the Father is the one God no more proves that Jesus cannot be God than Paul's statement that Jesus Christ is the one Lord proves that the Father cannot be Lord as well. Paul is using two different Divine titles, "God" and "Lord", to affirm the absolute deity of both the Father and the Son.

Shabir:

Paul's letter to the Philippians ch. 2, vv. 6-11 is often quoted as proof that Jesus is God. But the very passage shows that Jesus is not God.

This passage has to agree with Isaiah 45:22-24 where God (Yahweh) said that every knee should bow to Yahweh, and every tongue should confess that righteousness and strength are in Yahweh alone. Paul was aware of this passage, for he quoted it in Romans 14:11. Knowing this,

Paul declared,

"I kneel before the Father" (Ephesians 3:14).

Response:

We agree with Shabir that Philippians 2:6-11 must agree with Isaiah 45:22-24. This is why Christians conclude that Jesus is Yahweh God since the bowing of the knee to Yahweh in the OT is something that is applied to Christ in the NT. Shabir imagines that there is a dilemma here since he cannot allow for the fact that Jesus Christ is also Yahweh God. Yet, the NT writers had no difficulty in applying OT passages of Yahweh to Jesus since they believed that what was true of Yahweh is also true of Christ. The problem then is not with the NT but with Shabir's own false dilemma that he imposes upon inspired Scripture since Shabir cannot allow for Jesus to be identified as Yahweh God.

Finally, the fact that Paul can say that all should bow the knee to Jesus and that he also kneeled before the Father affirms that to the Apostle both the Father and the Son are the one God Yahweh.

Shabir:

The letter to the Hebrews ( ch. 1, v. 6) says that the angels of God should worship the Son. But this passage depends on Deuteronomy, ch. 32, v. 43, in the Septuagint version of the Old Testament. This phrase cannot be found in the Old Testament used by Christians today, and the Septuagint version is no longer considered valid by Christians.

Response:

First, we challenge Shabir to provide evidence for his claim that Christians no longer consider the Septuagint version valid today. The fact is that the Septuagint, along with the Dead Sea Scrolls, is very important in the study of OT exegesis and textual transmission.

Secondly, it is not just the Septuagint that retains the reading found in Hebrews, but the Dead Sea Scrolls also has a similar reading:

"Rejoice, O heavens, together with him; and bow down to him all you gods, for he will avenge the blood of his sons, and will render vengeance to his enemies, and will recompense those who hate him, and will atone for the land of his people." Deuteronomy 32:43 (The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible - The Oldest Known Bible Translated For the First Time Into English, translated with commentary by Martin Abegg Jr., Peter Flint & Eugene Ulrich [Harper San Francisco - A Division of Harper Collins Publishers 1999], p. 193 bold emphasis ours)

Thirdly, some scholars are of the opinion that Hebrews is not quoting Deuteronomy 32:43, but rather Psalm 97:7. This verse is found in both the Septuagint and the traditional Hebrew Masoretic text:

"All who worship images are out to shame, those who boast in idols - worship him, all you gods!" Masoretic

"Worship him, all you his angels." Septuagint

The reason why the Septuagint renders the Hebrew term elohim as angels as opposed to gods is due to the fact that the Septuagint is an interpretative translation. The Septuagint often preserves the sense of the text as opposed to giving a literal word-for-word translation.

Shabir:

However, even the Septuagint version, does not say worship the Son. It says let the Angels of God worship God (Yahweh).

Response:

Nor does the Septuagint need to mention the Son specifically since the author's whole point is to identify Jesus as Yahweh God. This affirms that the early Christians had no difficulty in applying OT passages of Yahweh to Jesus since to them Jesus, along with the Father and the Holy Spirit, is Yahweh God!

Shabir:

The Bible insists that Yahweh alone is to be worshipped. In Deuteronomy ch. 6, v. 16, we read,

"Worship Yahweh your God and serve him only."

Response:

Shabir begs the question since to him Jesus cannot receive worship since worship is reserved for Yahweh God alone. Shabir assumes that Jesus is not Yahweh and therefore the passages cannot be teaching believers to worship Jesus. Yet, this is precisely the point the author of Hebrews is making, namely that Jesus is Yahweh God and is therefore deserving the worship due to God.

Shabir:

Jesus, on whom be peace, believed in this, for he also stressed it in Luke ch. 4, v. 8. And Jesus too fell on his face and worshipped God (see Matthew 26:39).

Response:

Yet, Jesus also expected believers to give him the same honor and worship that the Father receives:

"Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him." John 5:22-23

We are to honor the Son in the same way we honor the Father.

"But when the chief priests and the teachers of the law saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple area, 'Hosanna to the Son of David,' they were indignant. 'Do you hear what these children are saying?' they asked him. 'Yes,' replied Jesus, 'have you never read, "From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise?"'" Matthew 21:15-16

Amazingly, Jesus applies to himself Psalm 8:2 where Yahweh is seen as receiving the praise of infants and children!:

"O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger." Psalm 8:1-2

Jesus is therefore claiming that to praise him is to praise Yahweh God! The only way for this quotation from Psalms to count as valid justification for Jesus not to forbid, but to confirm and encourage the praise of his own person from those children, is the assumption of his identity with Yahweh God.

Shabir:

Paul knew that Jesus worshipped God (see Hebrews 5:7), and Paul taught that Jesus will remain forever subservient to God (see 1 Corinthians, ch. 15, v. 28)

Response:

Paul also knew that Jesus himself is worshiped and is the eternal Creator:

"but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven." Hebrews 1:2-3

"And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, 'Let all God's angels worship him.'" Hebrews 1:6

Secondly, Paul affirms that the early Christians prayed to Jesus:

"To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ - their Lord and ours..." 1 Corinthians 1:2

Paul mentions that Christians everywhere call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, affirming that believers directly addressed Jesus in their prayers.

"If anyone does not love the Lord-a curse be on him. Come, O Lord!" 1 Corinthians 16:22

In Aramaic the expression Come, O Lord is Marana tha. This indicates that the early Christians would cry out to the Lord Jesus in prayer, beseeching him to come again.

"To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." 2 Corinthians 12:7-10

Paul addresses Jesus in prayer, beseeching Christ for deliverance from the thorn in his flesh. These verses clearly establish that the early Christians such as Paul directed their prayers to the Lord Jesus Christ. This establishes that Jesus is omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient since only an all-powerful and all-knowing Being is able to answer the prayers of believers.

Thirdly, Shabir confuses two categories here. He confuses position with nature. Jesus can be subservient to the Father while remaining equal in nature. In fact the historic Christian position has always been that Jesus is equal with the Father in relation to his divinity, while being inferior in position.

Finally, although Trinitarians can fathom the fact that a triune God can have interpersonal communion, it is beyond understanding how an uni-personal Being can pray as Allah does in the Quran:

He it is who sends prayers on you (Arabic- yusallii alaykum), as do His angels... S. 33:43

Allah and His angels pray for the Prophet (Arabic- yasalluuna alan-Nabiyy): O ye that believe pray for him (salluu `alayhi), and salute him with all respect. S. 33:56

Due to the fact that a Being who is a singularity-within-unity cannot pray (since if he did who would he be addressing when praying?), many translations obscure the meaning of the Arabic by inserting the word 'blessing' as opposed to saying 'pray'. Yet the term for blessing is derived from 'baraka' which does not appear in the above citations.

In fact, Sura 33:56 is interpreted by the Muslim scholar Al-Najjary as:

"The prayers of Allah are His praises for Muhammad among the angels, and the prayers of the angels are their prayers for Muhammad, and the [angels] praying is their blessings. The prayers of Allah are mercy, and the prayers of the angels is to ask forgiveness [for Muhammad]"

Ibn Abbas says:

"The tribe of Israel said to Moses: `Does your God pray?' God called upon him and said: 'Yes, I do pray, and my angels [pray] upon my prophets', and Allah then sent down this verse: Allah and His angels pray...'" [quoted by Ibn Kathir on Surat Al-Ahzaab 33:56]

Perhaps Shabir can explain this for us.

 

Pauline Christology

In the following section, we will briefly highlight key Pauline passages demonstrating that Paul believed in the absolute deity of Christ.

Jesus Is the Judge of All

Paul states that we all must stand before God's judgment seat:

"For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living. You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God's judgment seat." Romans 14:9-10

Yet elsewhere, Paul claims that we will all stand before Christ's judgment seat:

"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad." 2 Corinthians 5:10

For Paul, standing before the judgment seat of Christ is the same as standing before God.

Jesus is the Preexistent Rock

"For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ." 1 Corinthians 10:1-4

According to the OT the Rock that followed Israel was Yahweh God:

"He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God, who does no wrong, upright and just is he." Deuteronomy 32:4

"Jeshurun grew fat and kicked; filled with food, he became heavy and sleek. He abandoned the God who made him and rejected the Rock his Savior." Deuteronomy 32:15

"You deserted the Rock, who fathered you; you forgot the God who gave you birth." Deuteronomy 32:18

"How could one man chase a thousand, or two put ten thousand to flight, unless their Rock had sold them, unless the LORD had given them up? For their rock is not like our Rock, as even our enemies concede." Deuteronomy 32:30-31

"Do not tremble, do not be afraid. Did I not proclaim this and foretell it long ago? You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides me? No, there is no other Rock; I know not one. Isaiah 44:8

Jesus' Omni-Attributes

Paul affirms both Jesus' omniscience and his omnipotence:

"Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God... It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God - that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption." 1 Corinthians 1:22-24, 30

God's power and wisdom are unlimited and eternal. Since Christ is the power and wisdom of God this then implies that Christ is unlimited and eternal. Paul reiterates this basic point in another letter:

"My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden ALL the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." Colossians 2:2-3

It is impossible for a finite creature to retain within himself all of God's wisdom and knowledge. For Paul to say that God's entire wisdom and knowledge are hidden in Christ affirms that Christ is omniscient and therefore God.

OT Passages of Yahweh Applied to Christ

Paul attributes several OT passages of Yahweh to Jesus Christ:

"And everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as the LORD has said, among the survivors whom the LORD calls." Joel 2:32

Compare:

"That if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, 'Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.' For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile - the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, 'Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.'" Romans 10:9-13

Paul claims that Jesus is the Lord whom every person needs to call upon for salvation since Christ is Lord of all.

"... 'but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,' declares the LORD." Jeremiah 9:24

Compare:

"Therefore, as it is written: 'Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.'" 1 Corinthians 1:31

"But, 'Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.' For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends." 2 Corinthians 10:17-18

Paul identifies the Lord whom Christians boast in:

"... yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live." 1 Corinthians 8:6

"When you ascended on high, you led captives in your train; you received gifts from men, even from the rebellious - that you, O LORD God, might dwell there." Psalm 68:18

Compare:

"But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. This is why it says: 'When he ascended on high, he led captives in his train and gave gifts to men.' (What does 'he ascended' mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.)" Ephesians 4:7-10

Finally:

"In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. Like clothing you will change them and they will be discarded. But you remain the same, and your years will never end." Psalm 102:25-27

Seeing that Shabir believes Paul authored Hebrews, compare what Paul says about Christ:

"But about the Son he says, 'Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy.' He also says, 'In the beginning, O Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed. But you remain the same, and your years will never end.'" Hebrews 1:8-12

Hence, to Paul Jesus is the eternal, immutable Creator.

Jesus is the Great God

"awaiting our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ," Titus 2:13 RSV

Some translators try to obscure the fact that Jesus is the one referred to as the Great God and Savior. They do this by inserting words into the text to give the impression that there are two referents in the passage, namely the Father ("Great God") and the Son ("Savior").

Murray J. Harris explains why this passage does not have two persons in mind:

"The expression theos kai soter was a stereotyped formula common in first-century religious terminology (see Wendland), was (apparently) used by both Diaspora and Palestinian Jews in reference to Yahweh, and invariably denoted one deity, not two. If the name 'Iesous Christos did not follow the expression, undoubtedly it would be taken to refer to one person; yet 'Iesous Christos is simply added in epexegesis."

"... it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that, whatever the date of Titus, one impulse behind this particular verse was the desire to combat the extravagant titular endowment that had been accorded to human rulers such as Antiochus Epiphanes (theos epiphanes), Ptolemy I (soter kai theos), or Julius Caesar (theos kai soter), or to claim exclusively for the Christians' Lord the divine honors freely granted to goddesses such as Aphrodite and Artemis or to gods such as Asclepius and Zeus.

"Consequently, if one reason for the use of the phrase theos kai soter was polemical, it is unlikely that two elements of the phrase should be divorced, with theos denoting God the Father and soter Jesus Christ." (Harris, Jesus as God, pp. 178-179)

Harris continues, this time including 2 Peter 1:1 into the discussion:

"Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1 may be considered together, since both use a stereotyped formula, 'God and Savior,' in reference to Jesus. This was a common formula in first-century religious terminology, used by both Palestinian and Diaspora Jews in reference to Yahweh, the one true God, and by Gentiles when they spoke of an individual god or a deified ruler. In all of these uses the expression God and Savior invariably denotes one deity, not two, so that when Paul and Peter employ this formula and follow it with the name of Jesus Christ, their readers would always understand it as referring to a single person, Jesus Christ. It would simply not have occurred to them that 'God' might men the Father, with Jesus Christ as the 'Savior.'" (Harris, 3 Crucial Questions About Jesus [Baker Books; Grand Rapids, MI 1994], pp. 96-97)

Harris concludes:

"In the light of the foregoing evidence, it seems highly probable that in Titus 2:13 Jesus Christ is called 'our great God and Savior,' a verdict shared, with varying degrees of assurance, by almost all grammarians and lexicographers, many commentators, and many writers on NT theology or Christology, although there are some dissenting voices." (Jesus as God, p. 185)

One such scholar who agrees with Harris is the late Raymond E. Brown:

"© 'the glory of our great God-and-Savior Jesus Christ.' Here the compound title 'God-and-Savior' is given to Jesus Christ. This is the most obvious meaning of the Greek. It implies that the passage is speaking only of one glorious epiphany, namely, of Jesus Christ, in harmony with other references to the epiphany of Jesus Christ in the Pastoral Epistles (1 Tim. 6:14-15; II Tim. 4:1). The likelihood that 'Savior' is speaking of Jesus Christ rather than to God the Father is suggested by the next verse in Titus (2:14), which speaks of the redemption wrought by Jesus. Some would rule out this interpretation that gives Jesus the title 'God' because elsewhere in the Pastorals (1 Tim. 2:5; see #4 above) a clear distinction is made between the one God (= the Father) and the man Jesus Christ. However, as we have noted, in the Fourth Gospel there are passages that call Jesus God along with passages that distinguish between Jesus and the one true God.

"A decision is difficult. Some careful scholars (H. Conzelmann, J. Jeremias, J.N.D. Kelly) reject interpretation ©, while the majority (including O. Cullman, J.D. Quinn, C. Spicq) argue for it, accepting the fact that here Jesus is called God. Personally, I am inclined to recognize the interpretation © as the probable meaning of the passage. It is unfortunate that no certainty can be attained, for it seems that this passage helped shape the confession of the World Council of Churches in 'Jesus Christ as God and Savior' (p. 171 above)." (Brown, An Introduction to New Testament Christology [Paulist Press; New York/Mahwah, 1994] pp. 181-182)

NT Scholar William Barclay, a favorite of Shabir, also believes that Titus 2:13 refers to Jesus as the great God and Savior of us all:

"while all the time we are waiting for the for our blessed hope to be realized, when the splendour of our Great God and Savior Jesus Christ burst upon the world." (The New Testament - A Translation by William Barclay [Westminster John Knox Press; Louisville Kentucky, 1999], p. 461)

Jesus is Co-equal with the Father

The apostle Paul often begins and ends his letters with a benediction. The interesting part about this is that Paul often invokes both the Father and the Son in blessing Christian believers:

"To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ." Romans 1:7

"The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you." Romans 16:20

"Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." 1 Corinthians 1:3

"The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you." 1 Corinthians 16:23

"Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." 2 Corinthians 1:2

"May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all." 2 Corinthians 13:14

"Paul, an apostle - sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead - and all the brothers with me, To the churches in Galatia: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ," Galatians 1:1-3

"The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen." Galatians 6:18

"Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." Ephesians 1:2

"Peace to the brothers, and love with faith from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." Ephesians 6:23

"Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." Philippians 1:2

"The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen." Philippians 4:23

"The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you." 1 Thessalonians 5:28

"Paul, Silas and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace and peace to you from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ." 2 Thessalonians 1:1-2

"The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all." 2 Thessalonians 3:18

"To Timothy my true son in the faith: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord." 1 Timothy 1:2

"To Timothy, my dear son: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord." 2 Timothy 1:2

"To Titus, my true son in our common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior." Titus 1:4

"Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ... The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit." Philemon 3, 25

This indicates that Paul believed that the Father and Son were co-equal. Paul claims that grace, peace and blessings come from both the Father and the Son equally. Hence, Jesus is shown to be omnipotent and omnipresent since the only way for Christ to be able to grace and bless all believers everywhere is if he were all-powerful and ever present. Murray J. Harris states it best:

"At the beginning of each of Paul's letters is a salutation that ends with a standardized formula: 'Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ' (1 Cor. 1:3 and elsewhere). The apostle is not saying that there are two distinct sources of grace and peace, one divine and one human; significantly the preposition from (in Greek) is not repeated before 'the Lord Jesus Christ.' Rather, Father and Son jointly form a single source of divine grace and peace. Of no mere human being could it be said that, together with God, he was a font of spiritual blessing. Only if Paul had regarded Jesus as fully divine could he have spoken this way." (Harris, 3 Crucial Questions, p. 77)

Dr. Robert A. Morey concurs:

"Grammatically, the authors are looking equally to the Father and the Son for grace, mercy, and peace. They could do this only if they assumed that the Father and Son were equal in nature.

"... The apostles prayed to the Father and to the Son that they might grant the saints grace, mercy, and peace. The apostles looked up to heaven to both of them equally. The ontological relationship between the Father and the Son is clearly the assumption which underlies their prayers to them. The deity of the Son is seen from the fact that He has to be omniscient to hear their prayers and eternal, omnipresent, and omnipotent to answer them.

"The objection that the Father and the Son are only functioning as equals in all these passages misses the point. They can function as equals only because they are equal. The apostles assumed that the Father and the Son were ontologically one nature and equality. Thus, they could function as one." (Morey, Trinity - Evidence and Issues [World Publishing; Grand Rapids, MI 1996], p. 444)

Paul also states that Jesus is joint-possessor of the kingdom of heaven, indicating that Christ fully shares the Father's divine sovereign rule equally:

"For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person - such a man is an idolater - has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God." Ephesians 5:5

The preceding passages should sufficiently put to rest Shabir's false claim that the Apostle Paul did not believe that Jesus is God.


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