Tonight is the first session of a two night debate I'll be having. Whenever I engage in a debate it is very difficult to study about anything else except the subject matter of debate. In this case I've been entrenched in Christology for the past couple of months. I must say that I have again come to know my Almighty and His Son in a more intimate way.
One Scripture I've really been meditating on lately is John 17:3. In this chapter Yeshua prays what many theologians call the high priestly prayer; the prayer just before His betrayal and death. In this verse He speaks of eternal life, and states that eternal life is in knowing Him and His Father. What is astounding though is that He identifies His Father as the only true God and distinguishes Himself from that position in the very same verse.
"And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true [Elohim], and Yeshua [the] Christ whom you have sent." [ESV]
Notice here again that Yeshua is praying to His Father (vs. 1) and has already identified Himself as theSon of the Father (vs. 1), proving He is not the Father. He has also stated that it was the Father that gave him authority over all flesh so that He could give eternal life to those the Father gave Him (vs. 2). This proves that Yeshua is not the Almighty for He had to be given this authority. It is at this point that He expresses the knowledge people must have in order to have eternal life. To know His Father as the only true Mighty One, and to know Him (Yeshua) as being the one who was sent.
The common Trinitarian (or Deity of Christ) position is that the verse speaks of having a joint knowledge of the Father and the Son in order to have eternal life. Therefore, in their minds, if Yeshua is not God why would we have to believe in Him to have eternal life? This must mean that He somehow must be God, yet at the same time distinct from the Father He is in prayer to.
This point misses the argument I am making as well as dismisses the authority of Yahweh.
First, there is no disagreement from me that it takes a joint knowledge of the Father and Son to have eternal life, but that's not the point of identification I'm making. Our joint knowledge is in knowing (1) the only true Mighty One, and (2) the one sent by the only true Mighty One. In this verse it is obviously the Father that is the only true Mighty One, and Yeshua is the one commissioned by Him. Yeshua does not even identify Himself as the only true Mighty One.
Second, Yahweh has the authority to save His elect people by means that He chooses. If Yeshua is not the Almighty (which I am proposing) and Yahweh still chooses to save His people by His only begotten Son, commanding people to believe in the Son for eternal life that is not a problem. We must do what the Father tells us to do. If the Father begets a special Son, and commands us to believe in Him for eternal life, the He is the Father's means of salvation and we must not argue about such. Belief in the Son does not prove the Son is Yahweh Almighty, it only proves that Son is an important vehicle in the Father's ultimate salvation of His people.
When the dust settles, the passage is still emphatic that Yeshua called His Father the only true Mighty One, and distinguished Himself from that position in the very same verse. Why not believe what Yeshua believed?
I've been doing my best to read material by learned trinitarians lately. This coming up weekend I'm engaging in a debate with a Messianic Jewish Rabbi on the doctrine of the Deity of the Messiah. When dealing with Messianics you do at times encounter teachers who have no qualms with professing what classic trinitarianism already holds to. At other times the verbage Messianics use is somewhat hazy compared to modern scholarship in the area of defining just how "many" Yahweh really is.
I was talking to my oldest daughter yesterday (almost 10) about the Trinity. She was telling me that her school cirriculum has trinitarian teachings within it. I knew this of course, and my wife and I pretty much have the children skip right over this kind of "Biblical" teaching. I asked her if she understood anything she had read about the Trinity. "All I know Dad," she said, "is that they believe there is one God in three persons." I then asked her if she believed this contradicted the shema. She answered quickly and directly, "Yes Sir."
I teach my children to quote the shema at least twice daily. I want to engrain the teaching of Deuteronomy 6:4 into my children's minds. I want them to really believe in the Mighty One of Israel, Yahweh, and in doing so believe He is all alone; believe He is really one. To my children though, this is no great task. When they read Deuteronomy 6:4 they have no problem understanding the meaning of the verse. One really does mean one to them, but it seems that Christian theology today, one can sometimes really mean two or three. I have to ask that if one really means three, what does three really mean? Maybe a dozen?
It is nothing short of bizarre what theologians attempt to do with the Hebrew word for one: echad. In Hebrew this is the numeral one. Brown, Drivers, and Briggs Hebrew-English Lexicon (a standard authority for Bible study) defines the word as follows:
1) one (number)
1a) one (number)
1b) each, every
1c) a certain
1d) an (indefinite article)
1e) only, once, once for all
1f) one...another, the one...the other, one after another, one by one
1h) eleven (in combination), eleventh (ordinal)
According to this lexicon (and others I might add) the word echad means a numeral one. When small Jewish children learn to count today they are taught to begin counting by saying, echad.
There are several crystal clear examples in the Tanak (Old Testament) of the numeral oneness of the word echad. One of my favorite examples is Ecclesiastes 4:9-12.
"Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the onewill lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up. Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone? And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken."
Here we see the word echad being translated as "one" and "alone." Are people really going to argue about the word alone too?
Arguments for a "compound unity" about echad stem from somewhat of a "flim flam" by the presenters of the teaching. "One flock" to them indicates that the word echad somehow is speaking of a compound of sorts, a "uni-plural" in the verbage of certain teachers. However, it is the collective noun "flock" that is plural, while the word one retains its meaning of numeral oneness. "One flock" most certainly means one flock and not two flocks. "One cluster of grapes" doesn't mean "two clusters of grapes" and so on.
The Hebrew word echad functions pretty much like our English word one. The word "one" in English means a numerical one, but it can be used in certain contexts to denote a unity between persons. For instance Genesis 2:24 says that the husband and wife are "one flesh" (not two fleshes). This means that the husband and wife are unified in marriage. Nothing in this dismisses the numerical oneness of the word one, it only shows how the word one can be used in a different context. Our English versions of the Bible show forth this meaning in 1 Corinthians 3:8 (KJV) were both he that planteth (the spiritual seed) and he that watereth are one. They are united.
Trinitarian theology believes that God is one in being or essence but three in person or subsistence. Some trinitarian theologians are meticulously careful to define the word person in their declaration. They do this in a great attempt to maintain strict monotheism (belief in one sole God). However, the Bible just does not teach that Yahweh is three in "subsistence." Rather the teaching of Scripture is that God is one in being and one in person. What I mean can be somewhat illustrated by recognizing your "being" and your "person." I am a human being, that is "what" I am. Who I am is Matthew Janzen; I am one person. This illustrates to some degree what the Bible teaches about Yahweh. He is "God being" but at the same time He is one person - the Father. This is why passages such as 2 Kings 19:15a state: "O Yahweh God of Israel ... thou art the God, even thou alone..."
You know, theologians can argue "till the cows come home" about what "echad" means in Deuteronomy 6:4, but let us not forget that the Bible is its own best commentary. Many times we find the Scriptures stating a commandment and then later on in Scripture the commandments meaning or greater definition is given. Such is the case with the shema. Go and read Mark 12:28-32 where a Judahite (Jewish) scribe comes to Yeshua and asks him what is the most important commandment. Yeshua quotes the shemaand the scribe responds by saying, "Teacher, you've answered correctly, for there is one God, and there is none other but He." Notice that this Judahite scribe believed the shema gave a numerical oneness, an alone-ness, to Yahweh. Yeshua did not argue with the scribe, He rather complimented the scribe on his understanding. Deuteronomy 6:4 most assuredly doesn't have two or three persons being unified, it rather has Yahweh proclaiming to be one in number.
Take note that the scribe did not believe Yeshua was the Yahweh of the shema. The scribe believed the shema spoke of someone other than Yeshua. Yeshua agreed with the scribe. Yeshua thus did not believe that He was really Yahweh, the one God of Israel. Do you agree with Yeshua and the scribe?
It is often difficult to approach people about strong held beliefs you may have. People with such beliefs are generally people whose entire life is centered around Yahweh and thus Holy Scripture. We want to make sure and tell people about the beliefs we hold dear in our hearts, but at the same time do this without making others feel uneasy. This is a difficult harmony to achieve.
Now I'm not promoting anything like postmodernism where we have to walk on "eggshells" everytime we talk to a person about the Bible, but I am saying that we ought to make sure we are following the admonition of Paul in Second Timothy:
"But reject foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they breed quarrels. The Lord's slave must not quarrel, but must be gentle to everyone, able to teach, and patient, instructing his opponents with gentleness. Perhaps God will grant them repentance to know the truth. Then they may come to their senses and escape the Devil's trap, having been captured by himn to do his will." [2 Timothy 2:23-26]
When we witness to others who may vary from our position we hold passionately are we gentle, patient, and able to teach? I guarantee you that someone hearing a position in gentleness will be more apt to listen. We must realize this, and even realize that at times people are truly in the "Devil's trap" as Paul tells us, yet it is these type people that we must speak to in a gentle manner.
I would just make this suggestion: the next time you discuss Scripture with a person make the effort to be gentle and patient. Watch the effects of Yahweh's inspired word come to fruition as you do.
It often comes as a shock to people I meet when I tell them that I celebrate the time of the new moon. I recently heard a speaker explain how that a person should not consider the observance of the new moon as important in this day and time. I guess these two positions on the new moon are entirely different though. One simply is ignorant of the celebration, maybe they've never even heard of such a celebration. The other knows of the occurence but believes the New Covenant era is not concerned with such a practice.
I remember talking to a very friendly woman one time about the Biblical Calendar. I explained to her, by going to Genesis 1:14-18, that according to the Bible we should based time on the sun, moon, and stars. Here response was, "Sounds like astrology to me!" I'll never forget that response.
Of course astrology was the furthest thing from my mind as well as Yahweh's mind when He inspired this text to be written. Maybe the word astronomy would better explain (at least to some extent) what I am speaking of. Genesis 1:14-18, when compared with Psalm 104:19, 136:7-9 and Jeremiah 31:34-35 teach that the sun and the moon were appointed for signs, festivals, days, and years. Most Bibles have the word "seasons" at Genesis 1:14 but many will footnote the word explaining that a fuller meaning of the Hebrew word here (moedim) has the meaning of appointed times or festivals. Some Bibles (HCSB, Moffat) will actually translate this Hebrew word as festivals or something of such like. What this teaches us clearly is that time, according to Scripture, should be based upon the heavenly lights created by the heavenly Father.
One such period of time that is sacred on Yahweh's calendar is the time of the new moon. We read in Scripture of special banquets at this time (1 Samuel 20), of people inquiring of prophets (2 Kings 4:23), of worship at the temple of Yahweh (Ezekiel 46:1-3), of Israelites refraining from commerce (Amos 8:5), and of not letting any man judge us in regards to celebrating the time (Colossians 2:16-17).
One of my favorite texts in regards to the sanctity and relavence of the new moon is Isaiah 66:22-23.
"For as the new heavens and the new earth that I make shall remain before me, says Yahweh, so shall your offspring and your name remain. From new moon to new moon, and from Sabbath to Sabbath, all flesh shall come to worship before me, declares Yahweh." [ESV]
Here we have what I like to call a "kingdom text." Verses 18-24 of this chapter have the idea of the kingdom written all over them. What I mean is the kingdom of Yahweh that Yeshua was sent to preach about (Luke 4:43). That is a king and domain or dominion that will rule in righteousness and holiness on the earth. According to this text in Isaiah we see not only Sabbath worship going on in the kingdom, but also worship taking place on the new moon! Thus a new moon celebration will be held in the kingdom! If that's the case, shouldn't there be relevance for a celebration on the new moon taking place now in preparation for the coming kingdom? I would think that this would be an accurate assessment.
Why not look up all the places in Scripture that deal with the new moon. I truly believe you will be astounded at what the Bible has to say about it.
Blog by Matthew Janzen. Lover of Yahweh, Yeshua, my wife and 5 children. All else is commentary.