The Lord Jesus Christ – The Incomprehensible Son of Proverbs 30:3-4
Replying to the Objections of a Muslim Polemicist
This is a continuation of my refutation to Zaatari’s attempt of addressing my thorough response to his assault on the absolute Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. Here I will be addressing his reply to my comments concerning the witness of Proverbs 30:3-4 to God having a Divine Son.
What’s in a name anyway?
To start off, nowhere in the above passages does it say anything about the Son being God, nor equal with God, on the contrary if Shamoun wants to claim that this verse is referring to Jesus and that it proves that he is God, then all Shamoun has managed to do is provide further evidence for me and others that Jesus is not God.
Zaatari’s comments completely ignore what I stated concerning the Biblical use of “name,” and the importance it has in establishing my point. As any serious student of the Holy Bible knows, name is quite often used in the inspired Scriptures to signify the essence, nature, characteristics and/or authority of a person. Here are a few examples which illustrate this point:
“And the LORD descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. The LORD passed before him, and proclaimed, ‘The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation.’” Exodus 34:5-7
Yahweh proclaims his name by mentioning some of his many characteristics, thereby equating his name with his various attributes. And:
“For thus says the high and lofty One who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: ‘I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite.’” Isaiah 57:15
To say that that Yahweh’s name is holy is simply another way of saying that he is holy by nature, that his nature is holy.
In light of this, the writer Agur wasn’t making an inquiry concerning the actual name of God and his Son as if he were ignorant that God’s name is Yahweh, El etc. After all, the verses which immediately follow show that he knew of these names,
“Every word of God (Eloha) proves true; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, lest he rebuke you, and you be found a liar. Two things I ask of thee; deny them not to me before I die: Remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, ‘Who is the LORD (Yahweh)?’ or lest I be poor, and steal, and profane the NAME of my God (Elohay).” Proverbs 30:5-9
Rather, Agur was referring to the incomprehensible nature of God and his Son. In fact, the questions themselves serve the purpose of exposing Agur’s limitations as a finite creature to know and fully fathom God’s Being:
“Neither have I learned wisdom, Nor do I have the knowledge of the Holy Ones. Who has ascended into heaven and descended? Who has gathered the wind in His fists? Who has wrapped the waters in His garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is His name or His son's name? Surely you know!” Proverbs 30:3-4
These series of rhetorical questions also highlight God’s supremacy and sovereignty over all creation, singling him out as the One that has complete control over all the natural elements. This is similar to the rhetorical device used by other inspired authors:
“Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand and marked off the heavens with a span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance? Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD, or as his counselor has instructed him? Whom did he consult for his enlightenment, and who taught him the path of justice, and taught him knowledge, and showed him the way of understanding? Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are accounted as the dust on the scales; behold, he takes up the isles like fine dust. Lebanon would not suffice for fuel, nor are its beasts enough for a burnt offering. All the nations are as nothing before him, they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness. To whom then will you liken God, or what likeness compare with him? The idol! a workman casts it, and a goldsmith overlays it with gold, and casts for it silver chains. He who is impoverished chooses for an offering wood that will not rot; he seeks out a skilful craftsman to set up an image that will not move. Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth? It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in; who brings princes to nought, and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing. Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown, scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth, when he blows upon them, and they wither, and the tempest carries them off like stubble. To whom then will you compare me, that I should be like him? says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name; by the greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power not one is missing. Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, ‘My way is hid from the LORD, and my right is disregarded by my God’? Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary, his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.” Isaiah 40:12-29; cf. Job 38-41
Hence, the main point that Agur is making is that in light of Yahweh’s power over the created realm – a power that cannot be fully comprehended – is there anyone who can say that s/he truly understands this awe-inspiring and wonder-working God?
Like Father like Son!
This now brings us to Zaatari’s objections to the Divinity of the Son. After quoting the text of Proverbs Zaatari writes,
Notice what the passage says, it says who has gathered the winds, who has bound the waters, and who has established the earth, obviously this cannot be the son Jesus as the ending of the verse then asks AND WHO IS HIS SON?
Zaatari erroneously assumes that the Son does not perform these Divine functions since the verse distinguishes him from the One who is carrying them out.
Zaatari obviously doesn’t want to come to grips with the fact that Agur’s reference to the Son in the very same context which speaks of God’s sovereign acts and unfathomable essence shows that he saw an essential coequality between these two distinct entities. The context suggests that the inspired writer believed that God’s Son was capable of doing the very works which define and distinguish God from his creation and that his essence, much like God’s, is beyond human comprehension. Otherwise why mention him at all and why speak of his nature or name in the same way that God’s name or essence is spoken of?
And if we further take into consideration the NT witness concerning Christ then it is obvious that this Son actually can and does perform all of these same Divine functions. The NT implicitly identifies Jesus as this unique Divine Son of Proverbs 30:3-4 since it adopts similar language to describe Jesus’ relationship to the Father and his power over the natural elements. For the details please consult the following articles (1, 2, 3, 4).
This now brings me to Zaatari’s question concerning my use of John 3:13-16:
I ask Shamoun where in this passage does it say anything about the Son being divine? Again, since Shamoun already has a preconceived idea, he reads into texts.
The verse states that God sent his son, yet how does that make the son divine? How does that refute my claim that the term Son of God does not mean a prophet, and a messenger of God? Or does Shamoun want us to infer that in John 3:16 Jesus is God's literal own Son, which is the difference between this and others. It seems that Shamoun does believe that, because he sees something special and different with the fact that the verse states that God sent his son.
There are several problems with Zaatari’s assertions here. First, Zaatari ignores the reason why I cited this passage, apparently because he realized that he couldn’t provide a meaningful refutation. My purpose in quoting John 3:13-16 was to show how the words of the Lord Jesus echo the statements of Agur. It is obvious that I am going to have to quote both passages together, this time with some additional context and emphasis in order to prevent Zaatari from dodging the issues with his smoke and mirrors tactics:
“Who has ascended to heaven and come down? Who has gathered the wind in his fists? Who has wrapped up the waters in a garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is his name, and what is his Son's name? Surely you know!” Proverbs 30:4
“No one has ascended into heaven but he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.’ For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. He who believes in him is not condemned; he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”
The first point to notice here is that Jesus’ comments regarding ascending to and descending from heaven are virtually identical with the words of Agur in Proverbs 30:4. This is very persuasive evidence that Jesus is that very same Divine Son mentioned by Agur.
Secondly, by identifying himself as the Son of Man in the context of his descent from heaven Jesus is clearly affirming his heavenly preexistence. Christ is not simply claiming to be just any ordinary son of man or human being; Jesus is clearly making himself out to be that very same Son of Man whom the prophet Daniel saw and wrote of:
“I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a Son of Man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve/worship him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.” Daniel 7:13-14
This particular Son of Man is a preexistent Divine Being who appears in human form since he rides the clouds and rules forever, all of which are exclusively Divine functions. He even receives the same exact worship which God receives! (Cf. Numbers 10:34; Psalm 104:2-3; Isaiah 19:1; Daniel 3:16-18, 28; 4:34-37; 7:22, 27)
Hence, by claiming to be this very same Son of Man Jesus is basically saying that he is a preexistent Divine Being who came down from heaven.
Thirdly, Jesus also claims to be the Son whom God sent into the world, which again clearly alludes to his heavenly preexistence since this statement must be interpreted in light of his previous comments that he descended from heaven.
Hence, Jesus believed that he is the preexistent Son of God who came down out of heaven from the very presence of the Father.
A further problem that we have with Zaatari’s statements is that, not only does he continue to expose his blatant distortion and/or ignorance of basic Christian theology, he also has a tendency to be careless in the way he uses his terms. Zaatari further fails to clearly define his words so that his readers can understand what he means.
Take, for example, his statement concerning Jesus being God’s literal Son. What does Zaatari mean by literal? Does he mean that I believe that Jesus is God’s biological Son whom he acquired through a sexual union with a wife? If so then of course I don’t believe this. That’s what his prophet mistakenly and erroneously assumed that Christians believed (1, 2).
Does Zaatari mean that I believe Jesus is truly and actually God’s Son, albeit in an eternal, spiritual sense, without this involving any sexual intercourse whatsoever? If so then of course I believe this since this is the explicit testimony of God’s revealed Word, the Holy Bible.
Since I have I already refuted his assertion that the term Son of God means a prophet in the following articles (1, 2, 3), there will be no need to repeat myself again. I also refer the readers to the above links where I provide a more thorough analysis of Proverbs 30:3-4 in light of the teachings of the NT in order to prove that Jesus is the Divine Son of God whom Agur wrote of.
A Lesson in Honesty and Accuracy
Zaatari provides a further example for his desperation as well as his blatant ignorance of the issues at hand. Zaatari questions me concerning the fact that Proverbs 30:3 uses the plural form of qadosh, namely qadoshim. After quoting several translations to show that they all translate it as Holy One, not Holy Ones, Zaatari states:
Shamoun may reply back by saying well I don't need the translation, that we should just go to the Hebrew, and we will see the Hebrew says Holy ones (qadoshim) and not Holy One (Qadosh).
Well I'm afraid that will not work neither since Strong's lexicon of the Hebrew concerning this verse states that the Hebrew word that is used here is QADOSH singular and NOT Qadoshim in the plural, here is the link itself:
If one goes on the above link you will see that the 2nd passage referred to on the page is Proverbs 30:3, which is the verse in question. You will also notice there is a small number on the above right of the word Holy one, click on the number and you will be referred to another page, where the Hebrew word is given, and the Hebrew word is QADOSH in the singular.
Even though I would like to give him the benefit of the doubt and assume that this major blunder is due to his ignorance of the Biblical languages and his unfamiliarity with the way to properly use lexical sources and concordances, I am afraid that in light of his recent track record it is something far worse than that.
In his debates and articles Zaatari has shown a willingness to outright distort the statements of his opponents as well as to twist sources, be they Christian or Muslim. In this respect Zaatari is no different than Osama Abdallah (*) and Nadir Ahmed (*), “apologists” who often lie and pervert their references and opponent’s statements without shame.
In light of this I feel quite strongly that this is simply another example of Zaatari lying to his readers in order to win an argument. Zaatari has made it obvious that truth and honesty are not high priorities for him; winning at any cost seems to be his main goal in life.
This doesn’t come as a surprise when we consider that he serves a god who boasts that he is the greatest deceiver of them all (1, 2, 3, 4). It is often the case that the kind of god one serves will often impact the way one lives, i.e. if someone worships a god who is a liar and deceiver, as well as a bloodthirsty murderer, then chances are that this is the type of person one will eventually become.
Praise be to the living God that this is not always so since many people are ignorant of what their religious systems actually prescribe. This is especially true of Muslims, many of whom are simply in the dark concerning the violent and immoral teachings of their religious scriptures.
Now, as far as the word in Proverbs 30:3 is concerned it is qadoshim, not qadosh, as anyone who reads the Hebrew OT can attest. The question may be asked as to why the concordance lists qadosh in its entry. The answer is very simple to those who know how concordances work; the source is giving you the base word from whence the plural originates, that being singular qadosh. The concordance does not tell you whether a particular verse is using the singular or plural form of the word.
In fact, we invite the readers to go to Zaatari’s link and look up the following passages which use the plural qadoshim:
“Call now; is there any one who will answer you? To which of the holy ones (qadoshim) will you turn?” Job 5:1
“As for the saints (qadoshim) in the land, they are the noble, in whom is all my delight.” Psalm 16:3
“Let the heavens praise your wonders, O LORD, your faithfulness in the assembly of the holy ones (qadoshim)! For who in the skies can be compared to the LORD? Who among the sons of God is like the LORD, a God feared in the council of the holy ones (qadoshim), great and terrible above all that are round about him? … For our shield belongs to the LORD, our king to the Holy One (qadosh) of Israel.” Psalm 89:5-7, 18
“And the valley of my mountains shall be stopped up, for the valley of the mountains shall touch the side of it; and you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzzi'ah king of Judah. Then the LORD your God will come, and all the holy ones (qadoshim) with him.” Zechariah 14:5
By looking at the lexical entry for all of these occurrences one will discover that the word that is listed is qadosh, not qadoshim. Using Zaatari’s logic this means that these verses do not really use the plural since the lexicon only shows the singular form.
Hence, despite Zaatari’s desperate spins and futile attempts of trying to explain all of this away the preceding factors provide conclusive evidence that the inspired writer Agur was aware (because God had revealed it to him) and believed that there were two Holy Ones, namely God and his Son, and that both of them are equal essence and beyond human comprehension.(1)
So far Zaatari has failed to adequately address my arguments concerning Proverbs 30:3-4 being an explicit witness to God having a fully Divine Son who is coequal with him in nature.
Lord Jesus willing, there will be further rebuttals to Zaatari’s bluster that should appear soon.
(1) There are at least two other places where the plural qadoshim is used for God:
“But Joshua said to the people, ‘You are not able to serve the LORD, for he is a holy God (Elohim qadoshim hu- lit. ‘God(s), Holy Ones is he/ God(s) is Holy Ones’). He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins.’” Joshua 24:19
“The commencement of wisdom [is] the fear of Jehovah, And a knowledge of the Holy Ones (qadoshim) [is] understanding.” Proverbs 9:10 Young’s Literal Translation
What makes these examples rather interesting is that specific groups such as orthodox Christian believers used passages like Joshua 24:19 to prove to the Jews that their very own inspired Scriptures testify that God is a multi-personal Being.
One of the leading scholars in this field of study, Alan F. Segal, quotes and comments on the rabbinic traditions which mention these problematic texts:
Tanhuma Kadoshim 4 (Buber, 37a) 2
Another interpretation: Say to the whole congregation of the Children of Israel “You shall be holy for I am Holy”. (Lev. 19:2) The Holy One Blessed Be He told them “Be holy for I am Holy in every matter. Look at what is written: ‘For God is Holy (pl.)’” (Josh. 24:19). What is the meaning of “For God is Holy?” This verse gave an opportunity to the heretics for it appeared like two powers. The heretics asked R. Simlai about “For the Lord is Holy (pl.)” – “You yourselves don’t say that He is one power, rather there are two powers.” He said to them “What fools the world contains! Look at what is written: ‘For He is a Holy God.’ If it had said ‘They are Holy Gods,’ you might have thought there were two powers.”
This passage is recorded in Tanhuma, a later document which is sometimes believed to contain ancient traditions… These heretical arguments were seen to be of the same type by the rabbis, confirming what we already know–that “two powers” had become a conventional term for a variety of heresies whenever scripture could be interpreted to imply plural forms for divinity. Here the argument seems to be confined to grammatical plurals.
However, there is nothing in the traditions to indicate that the heretics themselves would have argued solely from plural grammar. Wherever we know that a scriptural passage was used by heretics, the arguments of the heretics were much more complicated.
The most complete version of this particular tradition is found in b. Sanhedrin 38b where almost all of this type of dangerous scriptural passages were brought together.
R. Yohanan said: in all the passages which the minim have taken (as grounds) for their heresy, their refutation is found near at hand. Thus: let us make man in our image (Gen. 1:26) – and God created (sing) man in His own image (ibid., 27); Come, let us go down their confound their language (Gen. 11:7) – and the Lord came down (sing) to see the city and tower (ibid., 5). Because there were revealed (Gen. 35:7) to him, God. Unto God who answers men in the day of my distress (ibid., 3); For what great nation is there that has God so nigh (pl.) unto it, as the Lord our God is (unto us) whenever we call upon Him (Dt. 4:7). And what one nation in the earth is like Thy people, like Israel whom God went (pl.) to redeem for a people unto Himself (sing.) (2 Sam. 7:23). ‘Til thrones were placed and [one that was] the ancient of days did sit (Dan. 7:9).
… A grammatical plural form in scripture is used by heretics to demonstrate duality or plurality in the deity. The rabbi suggests that the remedy to the heresy, always a grammatical singular, invariably occurs close to the plurals, proving the heretical doctrine wrong. Some of the dangerous scriptures must reflect real arguments between orthodox and heretical communities, but other passages may have been added purely by analogy, as the tradition grew. More importantly, we have no evidence that any actual heretical argument took the form in which it is reported. While the heretics might have used the passage, their beliefs were no doubt more sophisticated than the rabbis reported. (Segal, Two Powers in Heaven – Early Rabbinic Reports about Christianity and Gnosticism [Brill Academic Publishers, Inc., Boston – Leiden, 2002], Part Two. The Early Rabbinic Evidence, Chapter Eight. How Many Powers Created the World?, pp. 121-123; underline emphasis ours)