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Trinitarian or Henotheistic in Nature? Pt. 6

Sam Shamoun

We continue examining certain texts where Jesus is called God or is identified as God.

Fourth Example

“And they put in to shore in the country of the Ger´a·senes, which is on the side opposite Gal´i·lee. But as he got out onto land a certain man from the city who had demons met him. And for a considerable time he had not worn clothing, and he was staying, not at home, but among the tombs. At the sight of Jesus he cried aloud and fell down before him, and with a loud voice he said: ‘What have I to do with you, Jesus Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me.’ (For he had been ordering the unclean spirit to come out of the man. For over a long time it had held him fast, and he was repeatedly bound with chains and fetters under guard, but he would burst the bonds and be driven by the demon into the lonely places.) Jesus asked him: ‘What is your name?’ He said: ‘Legion,’ because many demons had entered into him. And they kept entreating him not to order them to go away into the abyss… However, the man from whom the demons had gone out kept begging to continue with him; but he (Jesus) dismissed the man, saying: ‘Be on your way back home, and keep on relating what things God (ho theos [THE God]) did for you.’ Accordingly he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city what things JESUS did for him.” Luke 8:26-31, 38-39 NWT – Cf. Mark 5:19

Remarkably, these unclean spirits knew that Jesus is the Son of God who could torture them, even though this was their first earthly encounter with Christ. This presupposes Christ’s prehuman existence, i.e. the reason why these wicked spirits already knew who Jesus was is because they remembered him from the heavenly realm.

What makes this all the more remarkable is that the inspired writer indicates that Jesus identified himself as the God. Notice how the man went about telling people what Jesus had done for him even though he was clearly told by Christ to proclaim what God had done. This strongly suggests that both Luke and the demoniac understood that Jesus was actually claiming to be the very merciful and compassionate God who had done these miraculous deeds.

In fact, the language used here is actually reminiscent of the words of the Psalmist, who wrote:

"Come, listen, all YOU who fear God, and I will relate What he has done for my soul." Psalm 66:16 NWT

The following Evangelical scholars state it best:

“One of Jesus’ best-known miracles was his casting out a ‘legion’ of demons from a violent demoniac (Mark 5:1-20; Luke 8:26-39). The demons immediately recognized Jesus as the Son of God (and called him by name!) and were ready to leave the man’s body without argument. After the demons left the man, Jesus told him, ‘Go home and to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and what mercy he has shown you’ (Mark 5:19). Luke reports the same instructions, with Jesus’ saying, ‘Declare how much God has done for you’ (Luke 8:39). Mark and Luke then state that the man went home and began telling people ‘how much Jesus had done for him’ (Mark 5:20; Luke 8:39b, emphasis added). Evidently, it’s essentially the same thing: what Jesus did for him, God did for him. What is remarkable and telling is that this is true about everything that Jesus did: he was God in action.” (Robert M. Bowman Jr. & J. Ed Komoszewski, Putting Jesus In His Place: The Case For The Deity Of Christ [Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, MI 2007], Part 4: Infinitely Qualified: Jesus Shares In the Deeds That God Does, 16. He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands, p. 204; bold emphasis ours)

Hence, this is another passage that identifies Jesus as THE God, not “a god” of JW theology.

Fifth Example

“For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity (theotetos) dwells (katoikei) in bodily form…” Colossians 2:9

The term for dwell, katoikei, is a present participle denoting continuous action or existence. Paul is therefore affirming that Jesus continues to exist as absolute and perfect Deity in bodily form.

As Reformed Christian author and apologist Dr. Robert A. Morey explains:

2. The verb katoikei ‘dwells’ is in the present tense and indicates that Christ was, is, and always shall be the embodiment of Deity.201 This is in opposition to those heretics who taught that Jesus became the divine Messiah at His baptism and then ceased to be so at His death. [J. B.] Lightfoot writes:

One class of early Gnostics separated the spiritual being Christ from the man Jesus; they supposed that the Christ entered Jesus at the time of His baptism and left Him at the moment of His crucifixion.202

3. It is, thus, a mistake to restrict this verse to the incarnation.203 If Paul had only the incarnation in mind, he would have written the verb in the aorist tense. But the present tense clearly indicates that absolute deity resides bodily in Christ permanently.

The ‘embodiment’ may have begun at the incarnation, but it is an ongoing reality in heaven where the glorified body of Jesus resides until His return to judge the living and the dead. The grammarians [Fritz] Rienecker and [Cleon] Rogers comment:

to settle down, to be at home (Col. 1:19). The pres. act. ind. tense indicates the continual state and points to the pres. reality.204

The same point is made by [William] Hendriksen:

Paul uses the present tense. He does not say that the Word became flesh but that the fullness of the godhead dwells or is dwelling in Christ. And surely that indwelling did not just begin with the incarnation. It is an eternal indwelling.205

4. The Old Testament significance of “dwelling” is not be overlooked. Just as Yahweh “dwelt” in the temple in the Old Testament, even so He now dwells bodily in Jesus Christ.206 This concept is also found in Matthew 23:21 where God is described as to katoikounti auton “the One who dwells in” the temple. (Dr. Robert Morey, The Trinity-Evidence and Issues [Grand Rapids, MI; World Publishing Inc., 1996], Part IV: The New Testament Evidence, Chap. 17. God the Son, pp. 359-360)


6. The word theotetos is only found here in the New Testament. It is derived from theos and means “absolute Deity.” All the lexicons, grammars, and commentaries define theotetos as “absolute Deity.” Thayer defines it as “diety, i.e. the state of being God.”210 Wuest states:

It is note merely divine attributes that are in mind now, but the possession of the essence of deity in an absolute sense.211

As Moule points out, Paul is referring to “the whole glorious total of what God is the supreme Name in its infinite entirety.”212 Trench comments:

St. Paul is declaring that in the Son there dwells all the fullness of absolute Godhead; they were no mere rays of divine glory which gilded Him, lighting up his person for a season and with a splendor not his own; but He was, and is, absolute and perfect God; and the Apostle uses theotetos to express this essential and personal Godhead of the Son.213 (Ibid., p. 361)

This demonstrates that Jesus’ physical body did not perish or decompose when he died, as JWs erroneously assume, since Paul indicates that Jesus continues to be fully God and fully man with a glorified body. This is precisely why Greek scholar Kenneth Wuest could translate Colossians 2:9 in the following manner:

“Because in Him there is continuously and permanently at home all the fullness of absolute deity in bodily fashion.” (Ibid., p. 358)

Or why renowned Evangelical scholar Murray J. Harris could say that,

“… The separation of katoikei from somatikos suggests that two distinct affirmations are being made (cf. Vincent 906): that the total plenitude of the Godhead dwells in Christ eternally and that this fullness now permanently resides in the incarnate Christ in bodily form. It is true that before the incarnation the pleroma did not reside in Christ somatikos; it is not true that before the incarnation the pleroma did not reside in him at all. Thus Paul implies both the eternal deity and the permanent humanity of Christ. Moreover, katoikeisomatikos implies that both before and after his resurrection Christ ‘possessed’ a soma (cf. 1:22; 1 Cor 15:44; Phil 3:21).” (Harris, Exegetical Guide To The Greek New Testament: Colossians And Philemon [William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI 2010], p. 89)

To try to then make this text speak to Jesus’ pre-incarnate state in order to prove that Christ was made into a god by the Father, as Stafford does, cannot be sustained in light of the Greek present tense. To do so would imply that Jesus had a body before the Incarnation since this verse clearly teaches that the entire fullness of Deity resides in the body of Christ permanently and perpetually.

Speaking of the Trinitarian interpretation of Colossians 2:9, Stafford states:

“The second point to note is that [Ron] Rhodes, and others, ignore the context of Colossians 2:9 in order to arrive at their interpretation of the passage.

“For example, in Colossians 1:19 we are told, according to the NIV, ‘For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him.’ The Greek word translated ‘pleased’ is eudokeo. In the Word Biblical Commentary we are told that ‘the verb "be pleased" which often appears in the Old Testament to denote the good pleasure of God (Ps. 44:3, 147:11, 149:4) is particularly used to denote divine election.’ Similarly, the Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament makes these observations:

NT use of eudokeo, a vb. Of the will, is shaped by the influence of the LXX. The meanings alternate between want, decide, and choose… In these examples the idea of the divine election predominates in view of the singular and transcendent designation of Christ, the only Son (the agapetos [‘beloved’]). The same christological view is seen in Col. 1:19 (cf. Ps. 67:17 LXX); according to the most probable interpretation the fullness (pleroma) of the saving riches that dwell in Christ (so that he may mediate them to humankind; cf. 2:9-11; Eph. 1:23) refers to the free and absolute decree of God.

“The Scriptures will not sustain the view that Almighty God’s powers and attributes are something contingent upon the ‘will’ or ‘decree’ of another. Such is the case, however, with the Lord Jesus Christ. God ‘chose’ (Goodspeed), ‘decided’ (Beck), ‘willed’ (Moffatt) to have all His attributes displayed in the person of His Son…” (Stafford, JWD, pp. 25-26)

Stafford erroneously assumes that Jesus cannot be God since it was the will of another, namely the Father, which allowed him to have the fullness of Deity. Several responses to these assertions are in order.

Firstly, Stafford’s own citations affirm that the term eudokeo refers to the Father’s divine election. This must be understood in terms of the Incarnation when Christ was sent to accomplish the redemption of creation, which is precisely what the blessed Apostle addresses in the immediate context:

“For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” Colossians 1:19-20

This explains why NT scholar J. B. Philips translated this text in the following manner:

“It was in him that the full nature of God chose to live, and through him God planned to reconcile in his own person, as it were, everything on earth and everything in Heaven by virtue of the sacrifice of the cross.” Phillip’s New Testament

In light of this, the passage is not speaking of Christ’s prehuman existence, but of his incarnate state, i.e. God was pleased to allow the Son to completely embody the entire fullness of Deity as a man. As the following Biblical expositors put it:

As the words, the Father are not in the text, some have translated the verse thus: For in him it seemed right that all fulness should dwell; that is, that the majesty, power, and goodness of God should be manifested in and by Christ Jesus, and thus by him the Father reconciles all things to himself. The πληρωμα, or fulness, must refer here to the Divine nature dwelling in the man Christ Jesus. (The Adam Clarke Commentary; bold emphasis ours)


“… The term [pleroma] may express simply ‘totality.’ As modified in 2:9, the term means ‘the full measure of deity,’ and 1:19 must bear the same meaning. Therefore, it expresses that Jesus was completely God. Everything that God is, Jesus isHere Paul stated that the Godhead determined that THE HUMAN JESUS would be God, sharing all the properties, characteristics, and prerogatives of God himself. Of course, the movement in the incarnation was that God took flesh, not that a human was elevated to deity. The statement actually means that God was pleased to take human form in Jesus. He was no less than God, and he continues to be fully divine (‘dwell’ is present tense stressing an ongoing reality).

“Another factor to consider in this statement is that Paul attributed everything to the Father. The context stresses the work of God the Father on behalf of Christians. The motif continues here. There is perfect harmony in the plan of salvation, for God the Father initiated the deliverance of his people (1:12-14), and God the Father delighted in the fact that Jesus was fully and completely God (1:19)…” (Richard R. Melick, Jr., The New American Commentary, Philippians–Colossians–Philemon, pp. 224-225; comments within brackets and bold and capital emphasis ours)

Paul says something similar in Philippians 2:5b-7:

“… who, being (hyperchon) in very nature God, did not consider equality something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” NIV

Jesus, in accordance with the Father’s will, did not cease being God, but retained his Deity completely while he sojourned on earth as a man, since it pleased the Father to have all his fullness indwell Christ in his incarnate state. This implies that Jesus continued to remain at the Incarnation what he already was prior to it, i.e. fully God in nature. The only difference being is that, prior to the Incarnation, Christ did not have a body.

This is made apparent by the term “being,” which is a present participle implying a continuous existence or abiding reality.

Dr. Robert Morey states,

1. The verb hyperchon is a present active participle and means that Jesus was the “essence of God” not only before His incarnation but after it as well. At no point before or after His incarnation did Jesus cease to be the essence of God. As Rienecker and Rogers point out, “The word [hyperchon] expresses continuance of an antecedent state or condition.”116 Hendriksen explains:

The present participle hyperchon stands in sharp contrast with all the aorists which follow it, and therefore points in the direction of continuance of being: Christ Jesus was and is eternally “in the form of God.”117 (Hendriksen, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Philippians [London; Banner, 1963] p. 103, n. 82)

Before His descent from heaven, Jesus Christ was the essence of God. During His time on earth, He was the essence of God. After His ascension back to heaven, He was the essence of God. And today Jesus is still the essence of God. As Wuest points out, “This is the impact of Paul’s use of the present participle.”118 (Morey, Trinity, pp. 336-337)

Therefore, Colossians 1:19 does not refer to Jesus’ pre-incarnate existence as God, but rather refers to the fact that it pleased the Father for Christ to remain what he already was prior to the Incarnation in order to bring about the salvation of God’s people and the reconciliation of all things to God.

Secondly, Trinitarians do not believe that there are three independent Beings who have conflict of purposes or ambitions. Jesus does nothing by himself, but perfectly fulfills all that the Father desires since they are perfectly united in all things. Likewise, the Holy Spirit does not act on his own accord, but in perfect harmony with the Father and the Son (Cf. John 5:19, 16:13).

Thirdly, the fact that Paul in Colossians 2:9 again uses the present participle in relation to Jesus continuing to exist bodily with the fullness of God, serves to reinforce the point that these passages must be understood in light of the Incarnation. In other words, Colossians 1:19 cannot be referring to Jesus’ preincarnate state since Scripture affirms that God is Spirit, i.e. an immaterial, bodiless being (cf. John 4:24).

That God doesn’t have a body of any kind can be also seen from the fact that God is not bound by space or place, but transcends all creation which is why he is able to oversee all things everywhere at the same time (Cf. John 4:24; 1 Kings 8:27; Psalm 139:7-12; Isaiah 66:1; Jeremiah 23:23-24; Amos 9:2-4; Acts 17:24-28; Ephesians 1:23, 4:10).

This, therefore, means that Jesus in his preincarnate state could not have had a body of any kind seeing that he was fully God in nature.

In light of these factors, Stafford’s point on eudokeo meaning divine election only serves to reinforce the Trinitarian understanding that the Son was sent by the Father to become the God-man in order to accomplish God’s will.

Stafford brings up another objection to refute the fact that Jesus has always been the eternal God:

“Another point to note in the context of Colossians 2:9 is what follows in verse 10. It reads, ‘And so YOU are possessed of a fullness by means of him’ (NWT); ‘and through union with Him you too are filled with it.’ (C. B. Williams New Testament) Yes, the Christians in union with Christ Jesus will also ‘be filled with the very fullness of God.’ (Eph. 3:19, Goodspeed) This, however, does not make them equal to God, the One who willed that they should possess such a fullness in union with His Son.” (Stafford, JWD, p. 27)

Stafford erroneously concludes that believers in Christ will also receive the fullness of Deity. Yet Stafford fails to quote the rest of the passage which explains the type of fullness Paul had in mind. The fullness which Paul is alluding to is the spiritual blessings which Christ has procured for us such as justification, that in Christ we have received the forgiveness of sins, as well as having been granted all the unsearchable riches of God’s such as everlasting glory and majesty.

Paul’s whole point is that God has given us every spiritual blessing imaginable because of Christ:

“I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness–the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." Colossians 1:25-27 NIV

“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 2:2-4 NIV – Cf. Ephesians 1:3-23

“… who is the head over every power and authority. In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done with the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead. When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.” Colossians 2:10b-14 NIV

This is similar to what the Apostle John wrote:

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth… From the fullness of HIS grace we have all received one blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” John 1:14, 16-17

It is time now to move on to the seventh part of our examination.