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A Critique of James D. G. Dunn’s Assessment of Paul’s Worship of Christ

Sam Shamoun

[This article is a supplement to Jesus and the Criteria for Deity.]

In this section we will be addressing liberal NT scholar James Dunn’s claim that the blessed and holy Apostle Paul did not worship the risen Lord Jesus.

After mentioning the ways in which Paul venerated Christ Dunn cautions that,

“At the same time an equivalent caution to that noted in (a) and (b) above must also be observed here. This is indicated in the care in which Paul seems to take in his use of the normal worship terms. His thanks (eucharistein, eucharistia) are always addressed to God and never to Christ or ‘the Lord.’ This is not simply because the traditional formula is being used, for Paul modifies the formulation on several occasions by adding ‘through Jesus Christ’ or ‘through him.’ The point, then, is that Christ is neither simply the content of the thanksgiving, nor its recipient. In his exalted state he is envisaged as somehow mediating the praise to God. It is equally notable that the normal prayer terms (deomai, deesis) are usually addressed to God, never to Christ. So, too, with the term doxazo, ‘glorify.’ For Paul, properly speaking, only God is to be glorified. The same is true of latreuo, ‘serve (religiously, cultically),’and latreia, ‘service, worship,’ and the one use of proskyneo, ‘worship, reverence’ in Paul (1 Cor. 14.25). It is equally noticeable that Christ is absent from the passage which speaks most explicitly about worship in the Pauline churches. In 1 Corinthians 14, the speaker in tongues speaks ‘to God’ (14.2, 28); thanks are given to God (14.18); the worship is due to God (14.25). Such uniformity in Paul’s usage should certainly make us hesitate before asserting that Paul worshiped Christ, since the evidence more clearly indicates otherwise.” (Dunn, pp. 258-259)

In his footnotes Dunn lists the places where these particular words appear in Paul’s letters:

129. Eucharisteo – Rom. 1:8; 7.25; 14.6; 1 Cor. 1.4 (and 14); 14.18; Phil. 1:3; Col. 1.3, 12; 3.17; 1 Thes. 1.2; 2.13; 2 Thes. 2.13; Phm. 4; eucharistia – 1 Cor. 14.16; 2 Cor. 4.15; 9.11, 12; Phil. 4.6; 1 Thes. 3.9; also 1 Tim. 2.1-3; 4.3-5…

132. deomai – Rom. 1.10; 1 Thes. 3.10; deesis – Rom. 10.1; 2 Cor. 1.11; 9.13-14; Phil. 1.4, 19; 4.6; also Eph. 6.18; 1 Tim. 2.1; 5.5; 2 Tim. 1.3. (P. 258)

134. As Beker points out (Paul 362-63) doxa in Paul refers overwhelmingly to the glory of God (Rom. 1.23; 3.23; 5.2; 6.4; 9.23; 15.7 etc.). The relatively fewer references to the ‘glory of Christ’ (1 Cor. 2.8; 2 Cor. 4.4; cf. 2 Cor. 3.18; 8.19, 23; 2 Thes. 2.14) are to be taken either as anticipation of the final glory of God or in terms of Christ manifesting what of God is perceptible to human sight (cf. Tit. 2.13 and n. 122 above). Note, e.g., 2 Cor. 1.20 – ‘we say the “Amen” through him [Jesus Christ] to the glory of God’; Phil. 1.11; and the addition of ‘through Jesus Christ’ in Rom. 16.27.

135. latreuo – Rom. 1.9; Phil. 3.3; 2 Tim. 1.3; latreia – Rom. 12.1. (P. 259)

There are a couple of problems with Dunn’s assertions that need to be addressed. In the first place, his analysis ignores the fact that the kind of veneration which the Apostle gives to Christ is the highest imaginable since it is worship which the OT consistently ascribes only to Yahweh.

For instance, according to the Hebrew Scriptures true believers are those who call upon the name of Yahweh:

“Exalt the LORD our God; worship at his footstool! Holy is he! Moses and Aaron were among his priests, Samuel also was among those who called upon his name. They called to the LORD, and he answered them. In the pillar of the cloud he spoke to them; they kept his testimonies and the statute that he gave them.” Psalm 99:5-7

I will offer to you the sacrifice of thanksgiving and call on the name of the LORD. I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people, in the courts of the house of the LORD, in your midst, O Jerusalem. Praise the LORD!” Psalm 116:17-19

However, Paul describes early Christians as those who call on the name of the Lord Jesus!

“To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours… so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 1:2, 7-8 – cf. 2 Timothy 2:22

“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.’ How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news! But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says, ‘Lord, who has believed our message?’ Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.” Romans 10:9-17

Not only does the Apostle mention the Christian practice of calling on the name of the Lord Jesus he actually quotes specific OT texts and takes particular OT themes and applies them to Christ!

“Blow a trumpet in Zion; sound an alarm on my holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, for the day of the LORD is coming; it is near, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness! Like blackness there is spread upon the mountains a great and powerful people; their like has never been before, nor will be again after them… The earth quakes before them; the heavens tremble. The sun and the moon are darkened, and the stars withdraw their shining. The LORD utters his voice before his army, for his camp is exceedingly great; he who executes his word is powerful. For the day of the LORD is great and very awesome; who can endure it? … And I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved. For in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the LORD has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the LORD calls.” Joel 2:1-2, 10-11, 30-32

According to the above reference the Day of Yahweh is a day of doom and destruction for the disbelievers whereas it shall be a day of great salvation for all who call on his name.

It is apparent that Paul has adapted the language of OT texts like Joel and applied them to the risen Lord!

Here is a breakdown which helps bring out what Paul has done with these particular OT Yahweh passages:

1. The OT often refers to the Day of Yahweh which is the time when Yahweh comes to judge the nations.

2. The OT also refers to believers calling on the name of Yahweh in the context of salvation and worship.

3. Paul, however, writes of the Day of the Lord Jesus which is the time when Jesus returns from heaven to judge the nations.

4. Paul also describes believers as those who call on the name of the Lord Jesus both for salvation and in the context of corporate worship.

5. This shows that Paul believed that calling on the name of the Lord Jesus was equivalent to calling on Yahweh’s name and that the eschatological Day of Yahweh was actually the day when Christ returns to judge everyone!

6. This also indicates that Paul truly believed that Jesus is Yahweh God of the Old Testament (even though he is not the Father or the Holy Spirit) since this is the only way he could take certain key OT texts and concepts regarding Yahweh and apply them to Christ.

As if it couldn’t get any more amazing the blessed Apostle writes that every creature will eventually bow down to Christ in acknowledgement of his exalted status as Lord over all creation, an honor that delights and glorifies the Father:

“Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Philippians 2:9-11

Biblical scholars have long noted that Paul has taken a rather explicit OT monotheistic text which speaks of the veneration and honor which the nations will render unto Yahweh in acknowledgement of his being the only righteous God who saves and applied it to the exalted Christ!

“Thus saith the Lord that made the heaven, this God that created the earth, and made it; he marked it out, he made it not in vain, but formed it to be inhabited: I am the Lord, and there is none beside. I have not spoken in secret, nor in a dark place of the earth: I said not to the seed of Jacob, Seek vanity: I, even I, am the Lord, speaking righteousness, and proclaiming truth. Assemble yourselves and come; take counsel together, ye that escape of the nations: they that set up wood, even their graven image, have no knowledge, nor they who pray to gods that do not save. If they will declare, let them draw nigh, that they may know together, who has caused these things to be heard from the beginning: then was it told you. I am God, and there is not another beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none but me. Turn ye to me, and ye shall be saved, ye that come from the end of the earth: I am God, and there is none other. By myself I swear, righteousness shall surely proceed out of my mouth; my words shall not be frustrated; that to me every knee shall bend, and every tongue shall swear by God, saying, Righteousness and glory shall come to him: and all that remove them from their borders shall be ashamed. By the Lord shall they be justified, and in God shall all the seed of the children of Israel be glorified.” Isaiah 45:18-25 LXX(1)

Now since bowing the knee is part and parcel of proskyneo wouldn’t this therefore prove that Paul would have no problem applying this specific word to the Lord Jesus Christ, thereby refuting Dunn?

Besides, if Paul’s statement that every created thing will honor Christ in the same way that the OT says Yahweh will be honored doesn’t provide a sufficient basis to establish that the blessed Apostle worshiped Christ as Divine then no amount of evidence will ever be deemed sufficient!

There’s more to Paul’s worship of Christ. The Apostle would actually pray to Jesus while worshiping in the Jerusalem Temple!

“About noon as I came near Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice say to me, ‘Saul! Saul! Why do you persecute me?’ ‘Who are you, Lord?’ I asked. ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting,’ he replied. My companions saw the light, but they did not understand the voice of him who was speaking to me. ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ I asked. ‘Get up,’ the Lord said, ‘and go into Damascus. There you will be told all that you have been assigned to do.’ My companions led me by the hand into Damascus, because the brilliance of the light had blinded me. A man named Ananias came to see me. He was a devout observer of the law and highly respected by all the Jews living there. He stood beside me and said, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight!’ And at that very moment I was able to see him. Then he said: ‘The God of our fathers has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from HIS mouth. You will be HIS witness to all men of what you have seen and heard. And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on HIS name.When I returned to Jerusalem and was praying (proseuchomenou) at the temple, I fell into a trance and saw the Lord speaking. ‘Quick!’ he said to me. ‘Leave Jerusalem immediately, because they will not accept your testimony about ME.’ ‘Lord,’ I replied, ‘these men know that I went from one synagogue to another to imprison and beat those who believe in YOU. And when the blood of YOUR martyr Stephen was shed, I stood there giving my approval and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him.’ Then the Lord said to me, ‘Go; I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’” Acts 22:6-21

The inspired Apostle also exhorted the faithful believers to sing to the Lord Jesus:

“addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,” Ephesians 5:19-20

Once again, the OT assigns such veneration to Yahweh:

“And you will say in that day: ‘Give thanks to the LORD, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted. Sing praises to the LORD, for he has done gloriously; let this be made known in all the earth. Shout, and sing for joy, O inhabitant of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.’” Isaiah 12:4-6

Paul himself would worship God through psalms, hymns, songs etc., and exhorted others to do likewise:

“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying (proseuchomenoi) and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them,” Acts 16:25

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” Colossians 3:16

Now in regards to glorifying Christ Dunn overlooked the following text:

“In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge… Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearingThe Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” 2 Timothy 4:1, 8, 18

In the context the Lord whom the blessed and holy Apostle glorifies is clearly the exalted Christ. Nor was Paul the only inspired author to offer such praise to the risen Lord of glory:

“But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity.” Amen. 2 Peter 3:18

“and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” Revelation 1:5-6

“And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, ‘To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!’” Revelation 5:13

It should be kept in mind that doxologies are ascriptions of praise or glory to God just as the following source confirms:

DOXOLOGIES (Gk. doxologia, “giving glory”). Ascription of glory or praise to God. (Merril F. Unger, The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary, R. K. Harrison editor [Moody Publishers, Chicago, Il., March 1, 2006], p. 317)

Another reference writes:

DOXOLOGY Brief formula for expressing praise or glory to God. Doxologies generally contain two elements, an ascription of praise to God (usually referred to in the third person) and an expression of His infinite nature. The term “doxology” (“word of glory”) itself is not found in the Bible, but the OT and NT contain many doxological passages using this formula. (Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary: Completely Revised, Updated and Expanded [B & H Publishing Group 2003], p. 441)

Therefore, since Paul offers a doxology to the exalted Christ this affirms that the Apostle did worship and glorify Jesus as God!(2) It also shows that Paul would have no problem using either doxa or doxazo for the exalted Christ.(3)

Furthermore, according to the fourth Evangelist the Father himself glorifies the Son:

“Jesus replied, ‘If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me.’” John 8:54

“When he was gone, Jesus said, ‘Now is the Son of Man glorified and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.’” John 13:31-32

Not only did the Father glorify the Son by raising him to himself he also glorified him while he was on earth through the miracles Christ did:

“Now a man named Lazarus was sick. He was from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. This Mary, whose brother Lazarus now lay sick, was the same one who poured perfume on the Lord and wiped his feet with her hair. So the sisters sent word to Jesus, ‘Lord, the one you love is sick.’ When he heard this, Jesus said, ‘This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God's glory so that God's Son may be glorified through it.’ … ‘Lord,’ Martha said to Jesus, ‘if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.’ Jesus said to her, ‘Your brother will rise again.’ Martha answered, ‘I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I am the Resurrection and the Life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ she told him, ‘I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.’ … Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. ‘Take away the stone,’ he said. ‘But, Lord,’ said Martha, the sister of the dead man, ‘by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.’ Then Jesus said, ‘Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?’ So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.’ When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come out!’ The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, ‘Take off the grave clothes and let him go.’” John 11:1-4, 21-27, 38-44

The Father continues to glorify his Son in the world through the work of the Holy Spirit sent from heaven:

“But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment: in regard to sin, because men do not believe in me; in regard to righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; and in regard to judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you.” John 16:7-15

In fact, the Son is said to have shared the same Divine glory with his Father even before the world was created!

“After Jesus said this, he looked toward heaven and prayed: ‘Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.” John 17:1-5

Peter also speaks of God glorifying Christ:

“The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that 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 3:13-15

Now seeing that both the Father and the Holy Spirit glorify the Son are we to assume that God’s holy Apostles like Paul and the rest of the faithful would hesitate to magnify the risen Lord of glory as well? Are we to really believe that Paul would somehow be reticent to glorify Christ just because he doesn’t use doxa or doxazo for Jesus as often as he does for the Father?

More importantly, how will Dunn address the fact that one of the epistles which he himself appeals to in trying to understand Paul’s theology actually contains a doxology to Christ? See 2 Tim. 4:18.

And in light of all of the data we presented are we not correct to assume that Paul would have no problem applying “his normal prayer terms (deomai, deesis)” to the risen Lord seeing that we have clear examples (as Dunn himself acknowledges) of the blessed Apostle praying to the exalted Christ, offering a doxology to him, and even exhorting believers to sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs to the Lord Jesus? Are we wrong to conclude that Paul did worship Jesus in the same way he worshiped the Father seeing that he identifies Christ as Yahweh and applies Yahweh texts to Jesus? As the following author noted:

“Paul uses the phrase ‘call upon the name of the Lord’ (from Joel 2:32 [LXX 3:5]) in Rom. 10.13 and 1 Cor. 1.2 where Paul characterizes the universal Christian community as those who ‘call on the name of our Lord Jesus’. The application of Joel 2:32 to Christ with its attendant cultic associations appears to imply the worship of Jesus by Paul and his churches. The christological appropriation of these texts and the veneration of Christ practised in Paul’s churches relate Jesus to God in surprising ways that move beyond a mere functional identity between them.” (David B. Capes, “YHWH Texts and Monotheism in Paul’s Christology,” in Early Jewish and Christian Monotheism, edited by Loren T. Stuckenbruck, Wendy E. Sproston North [T & T Clark International, New York, NY 2004], p. 128)


“Paul’s christological use of YHWH texts has significant christological implications. Indeed such an appropriation of scriptural language containing the divine name appears unprecedented. It implies that he considers Jesus the Messiah to be more than a man. By applying to Jesus the divine name through scriptural exegesis, Paul includes Jesus within the Name and dignity of God. In a crucial sense then he identifies Jesus with Yahweh himself. Given Paul’s view of scripture and the reverence he accorded the divine name, as demonstrated in Jewish religious manuscripts and liturgical practices, this conclusion seems warranted.

“The validity of any conclusion, of course, depends on how well it explains the data. To understand the risen Jesus as bearing the Name of God or as Yahweh manifest explains many aspects of early Christian faith and practice. It explains why early Christians offer prayers and worship Jesus. It provides a basis for the application of the title theos to Jesus (e.g., Rom. 9.5; Tit. 2.13). It clarifies why early Christians give the words of Jesus authoritative status equal to the Old Testament scripture. Furthermore, the conviction that Jesus occupies divine status accounts for other christological notions such as his pre-existence, his role in creation and his place as the coming eschatological Savior and Judge.

“If one acknowledges this construal of Paul’s Christology, it is important to note that, at the same time, the apostle never confuses Jesus with God. He continues to assert that Jesus is distinct from and even subordinate to the Father much as expressed in the Fourth Gospel (e.g. 1 Cor. 15:25-28; cf. Jn 1 and 5). Yet this subordination does not function to undermine thoughts of his equality with God, nor, more importantly, does it preclude invoking his name in prayer or composing a hymn of praise about him for use in worship. Thus Paul remains a monotheist, as he chooses his words carefully to avoid any charge of di-theism. Nevertheless, he wants to accord Jesus the highest honor and praise. Such honor, in turn, is understood to be [sic] enhance, not detract from, the glory of God (Phil. 2.5-11; cf. Eph. 1)… The present article calls into question any developmental scheme in which the earliest Christians, like Paul, held a ‘low Christology’, which evolves over time to ‘a high Christology’, represented by the Gospel of John. Paul’s use of YHWH texts suggests that he is already working from a high Christology, a Christology in which Jesus bears the divine name and full religious devotion to Christ is the will of God.” (Ibid., pp. 131-132; underline emphasis ours)

In fact, is Capes not absolutely correct when he makes the following observations concerning Dunn’s views?

“However, although Dunn has been quite influential in Christology, his conclusions here are not compelling. First, Dunn’s approach allows the formal language to distract from what the Pauline hymns have to say. Admittedly, Dunn is correct to note that, formally, the Pauline hymns (Phil. 2.6-11; Col. 1.15-20) are about and not to Christ. Not unlike many of the Psalms, they are written in the third person not second. But it is not insignificant that the second half of the Philippian hymn describes an eschatological scene in which all heavenly, earthly, and subterranean creatures bow the knee and confess Jesus to be Lord. The language of bowing and confessing, appropriated from the YHWH text of Isa. 45.23 and now applied to Jesus, clearly envisions a day when he will be worshipped by all creatures. If Paul regarded such worship as appropriate in the eschaton, would he not also have found it appropriate in the present for those who ‘call upon the name of the Lord Jesus Christ’ (1 Cor. 1.2)? Ironically, Dunn considers a similar scene in Rev. 5.8-12 as sufficient evidence that Jesus was being worshiped by the Christian communities who composed and read the Apocalypse. It should not be overlooked that Paul’s letters contain only christological (i.e. not patrological) hymns. Second, Dunn argues that Paul’s letters provide no evidence that his Jewish contemporaries were ever concerned with his violation of monotheism. This is no more than an argument from silence. The issues involved in mining Paul’s letters for evidence of the thinking of outsiders are problematic. The opposition faced by Paul recorded in the letters comes from believers who insist that Gentiles observe Torah. No sure evidence exists regarding what non-believing Jews may have thought about Paul’s Christology beyond Paul’s own statement that the preaching of a crucified Messiah was a stumbling block (1 Cor. 1.23). One cannot say for certain that the Philippian and Colossian hymns in the hands of a Jew would not have been deemed a violation of the uniqueness of God. In the end Paul’s letters are silent on these matters and so Dunn’s use of this criterion as a guiding principle in assessing other evidence should be rejected.” (Ibid., pp. 133-134; underline emphasis ours)

Coming to the other problem with Dunn’s comments we also do not find Paul ever mentioning Christians calling on the name of the Father; nor does he ever say that every created thing will someday bow the knee to or confess the Father as Lord. And since we have no clear example of the Apostle calling upon the name of the Father or asserting that creatures everywhere shall eventually bow down to him should we therefore assume that, per Dunn’s logic, the holy Apostle must not have venerated the Father in the same way he venerated the Son?

With that in mind it seems reasonably clear from our analysis that Dunn is arguing from silence, which is a logical fallacy that proves absolutely nothing. It is also clear that Dunn hasn’t adequately dealt with the implications which Paul’s veneration of Christ and his applying Yahweh texts to Jesus have in understanding what the blessed Apostle believed concerning the worship which is to be given to the risen Lord and Savior.


(1) Paul actually quotes from the Greek version of Isaiah 45:23 elsewhere in relation to judgment:

“For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; for it is written, ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.’ So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.” Romans 14:8-12

It seems reasonably certain that Paul believes that Isaiah 45:23 actually refers to two distinct Persons, namely the Lord Jesus who is speaking and God the Father. It is obvious from the context that the Lord who lives is none other than Christ whom Paul says died and came back to life again in order that he might become the Lord of both the living and the dead.

In light of this Paul seems to be saying that at the Day of Judgment everyone will stand before God the Father and Jesus his Son to give an account for their deeds and to worship Christ as Lord.

If this is Paul’s understanding then this is how the text should be rendered:

“As I live (by the resurrection), says the Lord (Jesus), every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God (the Father).”

Amazingly Paul states in another inspired letter that believers will actually stand before the judgment seat of Christ!

“So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. But what we are is known to God, and I hope it is known also to your conscience.” 2 Corinthians 5:6-11

Thus, what was the judgment seat of God in Romans becomes the judgment seat of Christ in 2 Corinthians!

The very fact that Paul can refer to the judgment seat of God and Christ further confirms that the blessed Apostle truly believed and worshiped Jesus as God.

(2) In fact Paul even applies the word theos (“God”) to Christ in two specific places:

“They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.” Romans 9:4-5

“waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.” Titus 2:13-14

In light of these clear examples of Christ being called God (one of which even ends in an exclamation of praise!) are we to really believe that Paul didn’t worship Jesus? If this blessed Apostle could call Jesus God then surely he would have no problem worshiping him as such.

For a more thorough analysis of these particular verses which show that they do refer to Christ as God or theos we recommend the following articles and discussions:θεός-god-textual-examination

(3) Someone may object to our quotation from 2 Timothy 4:18 on the grounds that this is part of the Pastoral Epistles (PE) which according to the consensus of critical Biblical scholarship were not written by the Apostle Paul. However, apart from the fact that there are good reasons to believe that these letters were authored by Paul, we only quoted from 2 Timothy because Dunn himself cites from the PE! Besides, even if one rejects Pauline authorship these letters are supposed to reflect the beliefs and practices of Paul and his churches, as even critical scholars assert. Thus, the very fact that the PE contain a doxology or an ascription of praise to the risen Lord demonstrates that Paul must have worshiped Christ and instructed his congregations to do the same.