I had the pleasure of listening to a 4 hour debate/discussion yesterday on trinitarian vs. unitarian issues. Many perspectives given, and much discussion and disagreement was involved in examining the different viewpoints.
I did notice though that it seemed those in the trinitarian camp always wished to pinpoint the non-trinitarians to a particular denomination. Of course, some of the non-trinitarians were members of the Jehovah Witnesses or inactive Jehovah's Witnesses at least. Generally, when those two words are mentioned together (Jehovah and Witnesses) people stop in their tracks and put up their sword and spear. I on the other hand always enjoy talking with Jehovah's Witnesses. They are very Biblically astute and quite cordial for the most part (I have found). At any rate, why did the trinitarians almost demand that a non-trinitarian place himself under the umbrella of a particular denomination?
I have found that people often ask me what denomination I belong to. When I explain to them that I do not belong to a denomination they almost always immediately reply, "Oh, you are non-denominational." It's as though the tital "non-denomination" has in effect turned into a denomination these days! I try my best to explain to them that I am just a follower of the Messiah, and I believe in the Sacred Scriptures. Sometimes people cannot get over the fact that you do not identify yourself with the Catholic, Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, Pentecostal, etc. denominations of today.
Where there any such things in Scripture? I don't think so. I only see those who profess to believe in the Scripture. I see those who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of the Son of God (Rev. 14). I see people called Saints, Christians, believers, etc. What I do not see is the label of a denomination, so I do not think it necessary to be involved in such in this day.
Mark 13:32 states the following (NASB):
"But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only."
This seems pretty straight forward to me. Not even the Son of the Father knows the day and hour of the coming that is predicted in Mark 13.
One of the attributes of Deity is that Elohim is omniscient - all knowing. There is absolutely zero that Yahweh Elohim does not know. There are too many passages in the Bible that make this clear. Isaiah 46:9-10 (KJV) will suffice for now:
"Remember the former things of old: for I am Elohim, and there is none else; I am Elohim, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure."
I have shown Mark 13:32 to many Trinitarians as well as Oneness believers and generally they usually explain to me that the Son really does know the day and the hour, exactly the opposite of what the passage blatantly says. The response goes something like this:
"Well, Matthew, he was talking about his human nature not knowing, but his divine nature really did know."
What this amounts to is someone saying, "I realize he said he did not know, but I believe that he really did know." Is this what Yeshua was trying to get across to his listeners when uttering these words? Was he trying to tell them that although he said he did not know he could at any point switch over to his divine nature and know all of a sudden? Do you honestly believe that is really what he meant?
Is is much easier to allow the passage to speak to us from its context. The Son of the Father doesn't know, right in line with the angels and me and you. This is what the Bible says, and there is nothing in the context of the passage that would lead us to believe otherwise. I'd much rather stay with what is actually said, rather than the exact opposite of what is said.
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?
Blog by Matthew Janzen. Lover of Yahweh, Yeshua, my wife and 5 children. All else is commentary.