The author of Matthew does not portray Jesus as God.
Affirming: Dietcoke Denying: starwelters
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Post by Dubious Disciple (xdc) on May 13, 2008 8:53:33 GMT -5
Before we start, please understand the scope of the argument. I am not claiming that Jesus was not God. I am not claiming that the doctrine of the Trinity or Godhead cannot be made to fit the book of Matthew; indeed, the later development of this flexible doctrine was pure genius. I am not projecting my own beliefs as regards the divinity of Jesus. I am not claiming that no other New Testament writers portrayed Jesus as God. I am claiming only that Matthew in his time did not share this understanding, or that if he did, he made a conscious (and quite successful) effort to mask his beliefs in mystery.
We cannot approach this debate with the assumptions that the scriptures are infallible, consistent, or inspired. Indeed, my argument rests upon the premise that they are not. I believe that our current understanding of Jesus as God evolved more slowly, certainly after the publication of the gospel of Matthew, which makes no such claim.
To anyone following this debate: My most useful hint is KEEP IT SIMPLE. For once, try not to let your own complex doctrines and mystic beliefs influence what you read in Matthew. If you KEEP IT SIMPLE, reading the words at face value, you’ll be able to understand what Matthew was saying about who Jesus was. To my opponent: If you do not believe in Occam’s razor, I trust you will explain why it is appropriate to discard the simple interpretation in favor of a more complex or more mysterious one.
Let me begin by setting the stage in which Matthew was written. I’ll present the setting that I understand from scholarly studies. If this scenario differs from my opponent’s understanding, and if he wishes to contest any of these points to strengthen his own argument, we can debate them.
1. Matthew was written anonymously, as were all of the gospels. The names given to the gospels were assigned by the church fathers in the second century. When I refer to “Matthew” or “Mark”, I am referring not to a particular disciple, but to the unknown author of those gospels, whoever they may be.
2. Scholars surmise that the book of Matthew was written by a Jew in the Diaspora, perhaps 10 or 15 years after the war of Jerusalem (which brings us to about 80-85 AD), probably by someone who fled that war. Matthew writes extensively about the war in Jerusalem as part of the end times.
3. The book of Matthew is a rewrite, or should we say an update, of the book of Mark. Of the 660 verses in Mark, 600 of them reappear in Matthew. Clearly, Matthew wrote with the book of Mark open in front of him.
4. As prerequisites to Matthew, we can thus accept the gospel of Mark (written probably about 70 AD), a sayings gospel known as “Q” that scholars assume was in circulation before Matthew and Luke were written, and the genuine writings of Paul. It is unknown how many of these Pauline writings were available to the gospel writers, but I have no problem assuming that they all were. Those books that virtually all scholars agree were authored by Paul include I and II Corinthians, Romans, Galatians, Philippians, and I Thessalonians. Of course, Matthew also had available the scriptures in our Old Testament, and the books of the apocrypha (mostly those Jewish writings between 200 BC and 80 AD).
With that setting established, there are probably three ways to approach the question of what Matthew portrays about the divinity of Jesus. I’ll discuss these three approaches.
1. We can review the places where Matthew describes the relationship between God and Jesus. 2. We can review the various titles that Matthew uses for Jesus, and their supposed meanings. 3. We can study Matthew’s particular contributions to theology; in other words, what Matthew brings to the table that differs from prior writings, to see if he has a more advanced understanding than his predecessors.
I. Verses in Matthew that describe the relationship between God and Jesus
The topic under consideration here is how Matthew portrayed Jesus. As God or as another being? I won’t delve into anything complicated in my opening argument: Let’s begin instead just by listing some simple verses that show how Jesus interacted with God. These verses are not meant to describe Matthew’s understanding, but just setting the scene, to see if Matthew elsewhere contradicts the obvious interpretation that Jesus and God are distinct and separate beings.
Mat 3:16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. Mat 3:17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” Interpreters argue about what exactly this means that the spirit descended upon Jesus. Was this the moment that a man was accepted into the Godhead? Not according to Matthew; the voice is God, simply stating that he loves his child. Note that throughout Matthew we repeatedly show “God” (not just “the Father”) in a physical location other than that of Jesus.
Mat 4:9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Mat 4:10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” Jesus declines to worship Satan, choosing instead to worship God. That’s all. Learn to ignore the wordplay you have been taught about this verse. KEEP IT SIMPLE.
Mat 5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. Jesus does not demand praise for himself, but for God (the Father). The Father is repeatedly shown as God, but the Son is not. It is a repeated theme throughout Matthew that all can be sons like Jesus; all can call God their Father.
Mat 9:6 But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins....” Then he said to the paralytic, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” Mat 9:7 And the man got up and went home. Mat 9:8 When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to men. What can be said about this? Clearly, Jesus claims authority given by God to him, a mere man, and the crowds agree. Again, the point is that God and Jesus are distinct, unless we allow ourselves to dream up some sort of mystic connection.
Mat 19:17 “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.” I’ve heard the desperate wordplay stating that Jesus was somehow telling this man that since he (Jesus) was good, he had to be God. Not a chance. KEEP IT SIMPLE. Taken at face value, in this verse Jesus was stating plainly that he did not deserve to be called “good” or even to be an authority on what was “good,” because only God was good. Let it be known that I am claiming this verse for my side, and will fight for it tooth and toenail. By the way, if it helps to understand verses like this, practice using a name other than Jesus to help you discard your preconceived ideas. Try this: “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Paul replied. “There is only One who is good.” What does the sentence, in its basic form, mean?
Mat 26:64 “Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Given Jesus’ words in Matthew 22:44, it is clear that “the Mighty One” is God. Jesus and God sit side by side. KEEP IT SIMPLE.
Mat 27:46 About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”–which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” This verse needs no interpretation. Unquestionably, Matthew portrays Jesus as someone who can be forsaken by God. That would be quite a trick if he was God.
II. The various titles that Matthew uses for Jesus
I’ll briefly introduce the three most common titles Matthew uses for Jesus:
Lord or Messiah: I have no problem with the statement that Matthew believed Jesus was the promised Messiah. However, the Jews certainly did not expect God Himself to be the coming Messiah. Rather, it was someone anointed by God, such as the “anointed one” in Daniel. I am prepared to argue this platform if my opponent does not agree.
Son of Man: This title came into vogue with Daniel and apocryphal books within the last three hundred years before Matthew wrote. Scholars argue about what exactly this title meant to the writers of those books—perhaps they meant the coming Messiah—but I think we can safely assume that nobody originally thought the title “Son of Man” meant God. I am prepared to argue this assumption if my opponent does not agree.
Son of God: Here is the crux of the matter. Matthew claims divinity in some form for Jesus with this title. What did it mean? Taken literally this title can mean just about anybody except God. A person’s son is not that person. If Matthew believes the Son of God means God the Son, he nowhere contradicts the more obvious interpretation of the phrase. Of course, neither does he demand we interpret “son” literally, but he shouldn’t have to demand this. I can safely argue from omission that Matthew did not mean Son of God to mean God the Son. Did the writer of Genesis find it necessary to specify that the son of Abraham was not Abraham? No. We naturally assume “son of ___” and “___” are distinct beings, no matter how you fill in the blank.
Matthew certainly had ample opportunity to portray Jesus as God if he wished. The disciples say, “Truly you are the Son of God.” Why so mysterious? Why not “Truly you are God?” Why not just once come clean, instead of hiding behind prophet-speak, if anybody believed Jesus was God?
This phrase Son of God is used in the Old Testament , but there it doesn’t give us much basis for argument. For example, the sons of God procreated with the daughters of men in Genesis, and the sons of God traversed the earth in Job, but I think the common interpretation of this phrase in the Old Testament is that these are minor deities or angels (the gods of other nations somehow appear to have transformed into just angels in Jewish writings since, of course, there is only one God.) In any case, however we interpret “son of God” in the Old Testament, it clearly is not God Himself…it is a lesser being. Does Matthew make any attempt to clarify that when he uses the phrase it somehow mystically means “God the Son?” No.
III. Matthew’s contributions to theology
Before we begin this section, let me be clear that “God” meant “Yahweh,” the god of the Jews in the Old Testament. Surely nobody makes the claim that any writers before the New Testament thought of Yahweh as a triune entity. The question, now, is does Matthew conclusively redefine the meaning of God, to some definition that encircles God the Son, or does he let the title stand the way prior writers defined it?
My premise is that no writers prior to Matthew portrayed Jesus as God, and therefore, we can study those new doctrines that Matthew brings to the table to determine whether or not Matthew disagrees with prior writers. If my opponent wishes to back up further, and discuss whether Mark or Paul taught Jesus was God, we can do so. We can even back up to the Old Testament for this discussion if wished. For example, the Jews expected a coming Messiah, but surely no Old Testament writer expected this coming Messiah to be God, Himself.
For now, I’d like to open this discussion with Matthew’s two most obvious contributions to Christian doctrine:
The birth of Jesus: Matthew quotes from the Septuagint, rather than the original Hebrew, to show that a “virgin” (instead of just a young maiden) will conceive and bear a son. Matthew’s particular contribution here is very important: he is dogmatic that Mary was impregnated not by Joseph, but by God Himself. She was found with child of the Holy Ghost, and that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. Aha! Now we are getting somewhere! When Matthew uses the phrase “Son of God,” he in no way is implying “God the Son.” He means, explicitly, that Jesus is the offspring of Mary and God. Part human, part God, as is common in legends of old (again, see Genesis 6 for an example). More importantly, there was no Jesus before Mary. Divine or not, Jesus is literally the offspring of God. It is quite natural, then, for Jesus to refer to God as his Father, throughout the book. It is my claim that the “God” and “the Father” are interchangeable throughout Matthew, losing no meaning except a certain intended intimacy. Try doing the same with “God” and “the Son of God” or “the Son of Man”, to see if it makes any sense at all. You’ll have the poor fellow talking to himself as if he’s gone mad.
The resurrection of Jesus: Matthew was also probably the first to write about the resurrection of Jesus. The book of Mark, in its original form, ends with the tomb being found empty, and the women who discovered it running away afraid. Matthew adds to this doctrine, making it clear that Jesus didn’t mystically disappear, or transform into a spirit of some sort, or merge with other parts of a godhead…he was resurrected in physical, human form. Someone even grabs him by the feet to prove his physicality. The book ends with Jesus promising that he will never go away again, he will remain until the end of the world (or the end of the age, or the day of the Lord, etc.) It is Luke, not Matthew, who has Jesus ascend up to heaven as if he were some kind of god. Remember, the Jewish understanding of the resurrection was everlasting, yet purely physical; the curse of Adam is lifted and believers will live forever in earthly bodies. Matthew in no wise contradicts the general Jewish expectation of physical resurrection. His picture of a risen Jesus is identical to the Jewish expectation of how every other believer will be resurrected, such as in Matthew 27:52, the graves were opened, and many bodies of the saints which slept arose. His portrayal is that the resurrection has begun, and the Messiah, the beloved offspring on earth of God, is part of it. You do not have to believe this to admit that Matthew portrays it.
I believe that these arguments show that Matthew did not mean to portray Jesus as God. Instead, he portrays the opposite. But I will go a step further: I see no attempt by Matthew to mask any of his own differing beliefs as some kind of mystery. It is clear to me that Matthew not only didn’t portray Jesus as God, he didn’t even believe it. Such wild imaginations never crossed his mind.
Post by Star Welters on May 15, 2008 3:58:54 GMT -5
It has been elsewhere stated by my (more-than-worthy) opponent, "it may take more drive space than the server has available" to refute the accusation that Jesus the Christ was not God. I would assert that in significantly less than that it will be apparent to any sound-functioning human being that Matthew saw Jesus for who he was, “God: with us.”
Since we do not have a definitive statement within The gospel according to Matthew to the effect "Jesus was not God," we are left with the dilemma of having to reconcile the opposite belief as solidified by the Nicaean counsel and affirmed by ages of Christian scholars. Although I have found it to be an arduous task it is neither an impossible one nor foolish to do so.
Trinity: Unlike my opponent, I do not see the doctrine of the Trinity as 'flexible' and 'developed' later and apart from the Gospels but implicit therein. So that the Trinitarian belief is not misrepresented, it is important to stress early in this debate that in The Father and The Son and The Spirit there is one God that consists of three equal, co-eternal, omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent and yet, distinct, persons.
Four-source hypothesis: My opponent has already mentioned the two main sources used in writing the synoptic Gospels. These, I accept. I would add the four-source hypothesis but for the purpose of discussing Matthew’s Gospel we will only use 3. They are: Mark, M (material unique to Matthew), L (material unique to Luke), and Q (Material common in M and L). Note: Papias in 135 named Matthew as an author of a “Hebrew document” but since there is no evidence in the manuscripts of his gospel to support him ever having written in the Hebrew, some scholars believe that the Q source may be what is being referred to here.
Method: One who chooses to hide behind the blinders of Occam's razor does not seek to find the deeper truths that were apparent to the original hearer's of the oral tradition or the readers of the original document. The term “simpler explanation” needs severe scrutiny when divining with Occam. Because a solution is ‘simple’ does not make it correct. Six hundred (or fewer) years ago, the simplest conclusion to the question of the solar system was that our planet was flat and the sun and the stars and the moon revolved around it in a celestial dance. Considering the information they had this was a reasonable conclusion, not a right one.
Jesus claimed to have authority over things that, to the Jews he was speaking to, only YHWH could claim. Jesus forgave sins. The sacrifice of Jesus was sufficient to cover the sins of all humanity. I ask my opponent or any who may read this to consider C.S. Lewis’ words when determining the “simplest” conclusion to the “Jesus problem.”
am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: 'I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God.' That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would be either a lunatic — on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.
Date and Authorship: Although, my intent is not to prove Matthew's authorship of the first Gospel, there is ample evidence to support the authenticity of the claim. Especially since no alternative claims to authorship have been suggested by the external witnesses of Ignatius, Origen, Augustine and their contemporaries. When I refer to "Matthew" I am referring to the apostle Matthew who was called by Jesus to leave his alliance to the Roman oppressors as a tax collector and follow Him.
Defense of Redaction criticism: In recent decades, the process of examining the specific syntax, structure, sources and social landscape of the audience to form a snapshot of the belief systems of the author have become widely acceptable. Great care must be taken when doing this, however, to ensure that it is exegesis (taking meaning from a text) and not eisegesis (putting meaning into a text) that has taken place. The term 'cautious redaction criticism' is used to describe this process. (Both myself and the affirmative argument are engaged in this. I do not mean to suppose that I am the only one here suggesting what Matthew’s beliefs were.)
Using the restrictions that have been placed on this argument and the unity of scripture, here are what I see as passages that suggest Matthew held the understanding that Jesus was God: (not at all exhaustive;))
From the O.T. Every Jew would be familiar with the following. This includes the author and his principle audience.
Deuteronomy 6:4 Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD:
Isaiah 44:6 Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God.
NB: Let us not forget that the Jews were strict in their monotheism.
The Messianic Prophecies
Malachi 3:1 Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the LORD, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts. (see Matt 11:10)
Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. (Matt adds “God is with us” 1:23)
Isaiah 9:6-7 6For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. 7Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this. (see Matt 28:18)
Micah 5:2 But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting. (see Matt 2:6)
These challenge the assertion that there are no verses supporting the possibility of the Messiah being of Divine origin. The Jews may not have expected a divine savior, but there is scripture to support that they would have been correct if they had. If the case was that they did not expect the messiah to be God among them, then they needed to get down to wednesday night bible study a little more frequently.
Daniel 7:13-14 13I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. 14And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed. (see Matt 24:30) (Bold: mine)
Matthew references this passage more than once. The title “Son of Man” is extremely important in the belief of the Messiah of divine origin because of the prophecy that is coupled with it. Who’s ‘dominion shall not pass away?” Who should “all people, nations, and languages serve?” Stressing again that the OT is extremely clear that there is but one God, why would it advocate for all creation to be subservient to anything less than YHWH.
It is with an understanding of these things that Matthew makes the point of including the following declarations of Jesus the Messiah about Himself:
Matthew 11:27 All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him.
Matthew 12:8 For the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath day.
Matthew 22: 41While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, 42Saying, What think ye of Christ? whose son is he? They say unto him, The son of David. 43He saith unto them, How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying, 44The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool? 45If David then call him Lord, how is he his son?
Matthew 24:35 Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.
Matthew 25:31-32 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:
Matthew 28:18-20 18And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 19Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
Are you paying attention? Every passage is Jesus speaking of Himself (save 22:41-45). Matthew is only the conveyor of the message.
I would suggest that Matthew also shows Jesus' equality with God in another and more indirect manner; the use of the term 'Lord' in a new testament setting, is extremely important to any discussion about the Deity of Christ and ours is no exception.
LXX are the three letters that those who deny Christ’s deny do not want to hear. The divine name was replace throughout the LXX with the Greek word for lord. They revered it even to the point where this Greek word was used by the first century Jews, exclusively in replacement of YHWH. (the word is Kurios but I’ve been chastized for confusing folks with Geek(sic)) Examples:
Matthew 4:7 Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.
Deuternonmy 6:16. Ye shall not tempt the LORD your God
Nb: LORD indicates the rendering of the Divine Name.
Matthew 3:3 For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
Isaiah 40:3 The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
There are scores of instances throughout Mark, M and Q where Jesus holds this title. While this does not independently prove those who sought Jesus understood that they were seeking YHWH. It does, however, give an immense challenge to those who would say, Matthew (a skilled Jew of amazing literary style, with an extensive knowledge of the Old Testament, and an intimate, personal relationship with Jesus) had no intention of suggesting Jesus had any claim to deity.
Monotheism: I close with this: the understanding of the original hearers and readers of Matthew’s Gospel was much different from ours. They understood the social references and idioms of the day effortlessly, while it takes the honest questioning mind to discover these understandings today. Matthew gives so many references to Jesus’ divine nature that there was no need for him to explicitly state a dogma about it. My argument, (if I have completely lost you by now) can be summed up thus:
THERE CAN BE NO OTHER GOD. THERE CAN BE NO OTHER LORD THAN THE LORD. ANYTHING LESS THAN YHWH THAT CLAIMS LORDSHIP IS AN ABOMINATION. This is what the Law and the Prophets teach. This is what the Jews of Jesus’ time were taught. For Jesus to: -embrace the title ‘LORD’ or, -to claim lordship over the Sabbath day or, -set himself onto the throne of judgement and ‘separate the sheep from the goats’ or, -declare himself and his kingdom as never ending or, -assume omnipresence or, -demand that He and He alone is the only one who knows the Father with such pervasive monotheism all about him is staggering. Jesus does all of these things and not only does Matthew record it but conveys that he believes Jesus as being entitled to it in doing so. Since only God is entitled to these things we must conclude that Matthew understood Jesus to be God.
**FINAL EDIT COMPLETED**
Corrected verse reference from Matthew 28:30-32 to 28:18-20 at request of SW. (Rob)
Post by Dubious Disciple (xdc) on May 16, 2008 11:13:27 GMT -5
This post is a bit rushed, as I’m heading out of town for a week. SW, take your time in reply if you wish, I don't know how much time I'll have to read and respond.
A great opening by Starwelters! This may be a fun debate, and a worthy opponent. It’s too bad he was given such a difficult point of view to argue. Let me go through his points, one by one showing that he is arguing not for his side of the debate, but for mine.
With apologies for “misrepresenting the Trinitarian belief,” I am compelled to shout it even more loudly: Starwelters is projecting a Trinitarian explanation back in time to the writings of Matthew. He hopes that your current complex understanding of God will confuse the simple words written in Matthew. But there is no mention of “trinity” or “God the Son” anywhere in the bible, let alone in Matthew’s time. If he wishes to show that Matthew or prior writers anywhere set a precedent for a three-fold God, we can debate this and then he can use such a concept in his argument. Until then, we must assume that “God” is merely “Yahweh,” the god of Israel in the Old Testament. Until this is otherwise established, to argue that Matthew portrays Jesus as God means that Matthew teaches God left heaven and came down to live on earth instead.
Please understand that I have already twice conceded this possibility. According to Matthew, God left heaven and came to earth to impregnate Mary. But we soon see Him back up in heaven. And according to many Jewish beliefs, after the anointed Messiah cleaned up the world and set the wrongs to right, God would return and dwell face-to-face with mankind as he did long ago in the Garden of Eden. But these beliefs do not at all indicate that God is a Trinity.
Starwelters seems to be enforcing his argument by quoting a baptismal creed that had developed: baptizing in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Can anyone give any reason why we should believe (based on the writings of Matthew) that these three are the same being? Let’s do a little exercise in absurdity.
Is Isaac the same as Abraham? No? Well, how about if we make them “one”, inventing a trinity of Abraham, Sarah, and Isaac. We’ll call all three Abraham! Better yet, I’ve noticed that Isaac sometimes calls Abraham “father.” Let us make up another title, “Abraham the Father,” to help us differentiate between Abraham and, um, ABRAHAM. Then we can mystically claim the Son of Abraham is Abraham. An ingenious, irrefutable argument! How ‘bout we call Isaac “Abraham the Son!”
I’m not trying to ridicule anyone’s theology. But try this. Read the book of Matthew, substituting Abraham for God, Sarah for the Spirit or Holy Spirit, and Isaac for Jesus. If you can get past the kinkiness of the resulting first chapter (minds out of the gutter, guys!) it is all quite readable. The point? There is no need to invent a trinity (one-ness) to make sense of Matthew. It reads just fine without one, thank you very much. Matthew does not project a trinity, anymore than Genesis does. Matthew does not portray Jesus as God anymore than Genesis portrays Isaac as Abraham. We have merely been taught to read it that way.
Another exercise to try: Find the book of Matthew online, cut-and-paste the names of pagan heroes and gods (Matthew’s readers were much more familiar with this sort of story than some mystic trinity teaching) and have someone read it. God can be Zeus, Jesus can be Apollo, Mary can be Queen Elizabeth if you like. Now ask your subject if Apollo is the same being as Zeus, or totally confuse him by asking what sort of mystical relationship exists between the two. You’ll get only blank stares and finger-pointing at chapter one, where clearly, Apollo is the son of Zeus. Nothing more or less.
I agree 100% with starwelters about this topic, as far as how the Jews felt. Here are his words: THERE CAN BE NO OTHER GOD. THERE CAN BE NO OTHER LORD THAN THE LORD. ANYTHING LESS THAN YHWH THAT CLAIMS LORDSHIP IS AN ABOMINATION.
In this we see the great burden placed upon Matthew. Oh, how much easier it would have been for poor Matthew if he could have just admitted that Jesus was God! All of his concerns to show how and why Jesus had such authority would fall away like a great weight lifted from his shoulders! Instead, Matthew desperately insists over and over that we recognize and accept that God really did give Jesus that authority! This we see even in the verses quoted by starwelters: “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.”, “The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand,” and Matthew’s source material in Daniel, “And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him.”
Give Matthew credit for portraying Jesus exactly the way he did…as the offspring of God. It takes great courage to make such claims.
LORD and Lord:
I think Starwelters argues that since Matthew quotes Old Testament scripture replacing the word LORD with Lord, that we should be safe in replacing Lord with LORD throughout the book of Matthew. In other words, where Matthew refers to Jesus as Lord (denoting kingship or a ruler) that we should read LORD (the title used for Yahweh). He means, I think, that when David said, “The LORD said unto my Lord,” (Matt 22:44) we can safely read “God said unto God, sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool.” Hmmm.
Starwelters pleads his case that we should look deeply into the scriptures for some mystic meaning—such as the Trinity—to explain this confusing syntax, so that we can preserve our precious theology that the scripture is everywhere consistent. I might let him get away with this sort of esoteric spiritualism if we were discussing Johannian writings; not the book of Matthew. Matthew writes simply, giving us Jesus’ life story in detail, even if it means telling us the explicit details of how God impregnated Mary so that He could have a Son.
I see that I have one more post before closing, and that Starwelters has a rebuttal after that. For brevity, and because at this point it seems unnecessary, I won’t dig deeper into this “LORD vs Lord” topic now…I will do so in the next post if I feel it’s helpful, and Starwelters will still have his chance to rebut my rebuttal
Son of Man:
Starwelters chooses the book of Daniel to portray this title as God. Behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, etc. Another very unfortunate choice. The “Ancient of days,” of course, is God. Here we have someone riding the clouds up to heaven (clouds were commonly seen as a mode of transport to and from heaven), being brought before God. As the story goes on, God grants to this person the authority to rule. Soon, we see him leaving God and hopping on his clouds to ride back down to earth.
I am feeling a little confused. How can we possibly read into this that the Son of Man is God? Starwelters, please pardon me if this is too personal: Is it possible like other N.T. authors that you are projecting your own desire, that God would not grant such authority to anyone less (even a beloved son), because it offends your beliefs?
Authorship of Matthew:
Starwelters says, When I refer to "Matthew" I am referring to the apostle Matthew. Sigh. I must object, of course. It is unfair tactics to link, in the minds of our readers, an apostle of Jesus with the author of the Gospel. Starwelters does not use this link in his argument, but if he later attempts to, I retain the right to quickly smother him with a stack of scholarly evidence that the gospel was written anonymously, and written after the date that his early church-father sources say “Matthew the Apostle” died! The matter is far from settled.
Starwelters ridicules my simple interpretation by saying, Six hundred (or fewer) years ago, the simplest conclusion to the question of the solar system was that our planet was flat and the sun and the stars and the moon revolved around it in a celestial dance. Considering the information they had this was a reasonable conclusion, not a right one.
He’s right. I am no more capable of arguing that our world is flat than I am capable of arguing…well…that Jesus is not God. However, if my opponent wishes to debate about whether or not writers 600 years ago portrayed the world as flat, I’d be happy to oblige. Our understanding of the world changed, as did our understanding of God.
Expecting to have to counter this theme, I looked in a baby name book to see what Emmanuel means. It means “God with us,” like Matthew says. One wonders how many people chose that name for their child. Yikes! How many gods are there out there? Are all of these kids God? Or must we admit that a good many people don’t think “God with us” means “my name is God.”
Please note that more than any other Gospel, Matthew carried to ridiculous extremes his effort to show fulfillment of scripture. If Isaiah had said, “his name will be called Fred Flintstone,” you can bet your bottom dollar that Matthew would have repeated this. Matthew is not quoting us this verse to display the divinity of Jesus; he is quoting this verse because he desperately wants us to believe Jesus is the fulfillment of scripture. It makes no difference to Matthew that Isaiah’s prophecy seemed to fail, since so far as we know, Jesus never once went by the name “Emmanuel.”
So, let’s not get carried away by one verse that can be twisted to contradict the rest of the teachings of Matthew. Let’s logically look for meanings that are consistent with the rest of the book. Does the name “God with us” mean “one who will bring God to us?” Does it mean “God is with me?” Imagine if Isaac were given the name “Abraham with us.” What would you believe the name meant? Certainly it wouldn’t mean Abraham, or he would have been named, well, Abraham. Probably it would mean, “One who bears the spirit of Abraham.”
Starwelters then quotes Isaiah 9:6 to give us some background: For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. This is a unique and powerful verse, but it has a serious problem. Matthew, who repeatedly quotes scripture to bolster his argument, wants nothing to do with it! Matthew pointedly ignores a golden opportunity to proclaim Jesus as God, and instead chooses for his birth story the biteless “Emmanuel” prophecy. Whatever strange doctrine Isaiah was insinuating in 9:6, Matthew didn’t want it to confuse the truth about Jesus. Starwelters presents Matthew 28:18 as a reference to Isaiah 9:6-7, but it is no such thing. If anything, Matthew in 28:18 is quoting Daniel, which was generally believed to speak of the coming Messiah, the one anointed by God.
Finally, let’s look at what Matthew does say about the child:
And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.
Here, Matthew tells us exactly what “Emmanuel” means to him. To Matthew, it means, he shall save his people from their sins. This is precisely what Matthew taught that Jesus did; this is precisely what Matthew portrayed as the role of the Messiah. And this was done without God, who forsook him on the cross. Bluntly put: to Matthew, Emmanuel could be pretty much anybody except God.
I repeat that I am not arguing that Jesus was not God. Later writings, even canonical scriptures within our own bible, portray Jesus as God. But Matthew did not. Matthew shows us that Jesus was the Son of God, anointed by God, given authority by God, beloved of God…but it seems to have never crossed his mind that Jesus was God.
Post by Star Welters on May 21, 2008 18:34:27 GMT -5
Housekeeping: I’m going to respond only to DC’s introduction and leave the defense of my introduction for my second rebuttal.
There is one thing that is really bothering my about my introduction. When I quoted Matthew 28:18-20, I wrote “30-32” or something stupid. I’d like the chance to go back and fix it as long as it is okay with the moderator and my opponent.
Portions of this have been rebuilt since the power went out part of the way through.
-------------------------------------- To my opponent: Your arguments are shipwrecked. You claim that the apostle Matthew could not have been the author to the first gospel. You claim that the author of Matthew did not hold the understanding that Jesus had any part of the God-head and yet you will accept that other authors of the N.T. did. Were these later authors who meant to contravene Matthew? Are the synoptic gospels an anomaly? Were there earlier authors who Matthew meant to discredit with his contradictory view of who Jesus was? I don’t mean to turn this into a ‘unity of scripture’ debate but there are some serious problems from a historical standpoint that you seem to be overlooking:
(1) If Matthew was written prior to the Gospel of John and the letters of Peter and Paul, then it was written during the life time of Matthew the apostle. Furthermore, Peter, Paul and John would have written with an understanding of the (written or oral) tradition of Matthew. It is this concept of Jesus as God that John expounds upon and Paul explains building on the foundation of Mark, M and Q. To say that later writers meant to introduce and entirely new aspect to the personality of Jesus is preposterous.
(2)The other possibility we must consider is that Matthew was written after and in opposition to John’s gospel. However, by the middle of the second century, there was a pervasive notion among the apostolic fathers and the polemists after them that Jesus was, in fact God. Had Matthew’s intent been to deconstruct the notion of Jesus’ Deity, it would never have survived the onslaught of opposition, especially as it became regarded, for much of early Church history as the foremost Gospel account.
I, in turn, assert the following alternative: Matthew, being written some time between 75 and 85 AD (with the earlier date being well within the lifetime of the apostle Matthew) to a Judeo-Christian audience, upheld the view of Christ’s deity to the degree that it would be unambiguous to those who were familiar with the O.T. The later writers whose principle audience was made up of gentiles, unaccustomed to the teachings of the Law and Prophets, had to expound upon the concept.
This may seem like backwards thinking to those who share your views on the subject. I can appreciate that it seems like grasping at straws. Allow me this: the teaching of the multiple aspects of God (the three-ness or trinity) and the unity of God (one-ness or ‘moninity’ as Bert would put it) fit into the Hebrew mindset but come across as contradictory in the Greco-Roman world. The creation of the word ‘Trinity’ and the creeds that expand upon it were an effort to reconcile the two. I accept whole-heartedly that this concept is not stated clearly in Scripture but is completely consistent within it.
My reply to the Scriptures you have cited are in the sequence you presented them.
I.[/b] Matt 3 16As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. 17And a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased." DC has stressed through this passage that we see here that the Son and the Father are in two physical locations at the same time and therefore they cannot be the same entity. There are a few problems with this ‘simple’ assumption: (1) The Father is everywhere. That this passage limits the Father to being only in the sky is foolishness and; (2) I know that my opponent does not wish to redefine Trinitarianism by saying that it teaches the Father and Son are the exact same entity occupying the exact same space at the exact same time for all eternity. We know this is simply not the case while Jesus was in human form and; (3) when we begin to restrict God to the limitations of space and time we are reversing what we know about God. He is the creator of space and time and not contained within it. (This would be a good time for the “Can-God-create-an-object-he-can’t-lift?” debate but it would only derail the rest of the argument.) The staggering assertion that Matthew’s account presents is that God called a ‘man’ “my Son.” No one, prior to Jesus could claim this title.
II.[/b] Matt 4 9"All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me." 10Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'" I have no problem with this verse. Jesus here quotes from Deuteronomy 6: 13 Fear the LORD your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name. 14 Do not follow other gods, the gods of the peoples around you; 15 for the LORD your God, who is among you, is a jealous God and his anger will burn against you, and he will destroy you from the face of the land. 16 Do not test the LORD your God as you did at Massah. 17 Be sure to keep the commands of the LORD your God and the stipulations and decrees he has given you. 18 Do what is right and good in the LORD's sight, so that it may go well with you and you may go in and take over the good land that the LORD promised on oath to your forefathers, 19 thrusting out all your enemies before you, as the LORD said.(bold:mine) It immediately struck me reading this that Matthew record Jesus on the Mountain offering the largest addendum to the Law since the time of Moses: Matt 5 17"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus, as a man adhered completely to the “Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.” Simultaneously, Jesus’ words, “you have heard it said…but I tell you” seem to indicate the same authority over the law that only God held.
III. Matt 9: 6-8 and Matt 19:17[/b] In the former verse, my opponent stresses once again that Jesus and God were distinct. Here the title “Son of man” is applied to Jesus. I will directly address the passage in Daniel 7:13 that this title references in the defense of my introduction. The latter, however, is destructive to DC’s argument. Jesus answers a question with a question. He does not state that he is unworthy to be asked such a question. His purpose is to make the rich young ruler think about what he had proposed. This is a tactic that Jesus frequently. He directs our thinking beyond what we would assume to be true and He reveals Himself as “the One who is good” in answering the query by quoting from the Lay then redirecting him further; a different spin on the “you have heard it said…but I tell you” line of thinking. DC, you say that Jesus “did not deserve…to be an authority on what was ‘good’, because only God was good.” But by proposing an answer to the question outside of ‘the Law’ does he not claim that authority? I am perfectly willing to let you ‘claim this verse for [your] side’ since it is poison for your argument.
Matt 26:64[/b] Once again, my opponent wishes to assert that since, Jesus and The mighty one are seen side by side that they cannot be the same entity. I would not presume that they are the same persons, rather that they are One God, depicted here, equal and distinct.
Matt 27:46[/b] Herein lies my Waterloo and I readily admit it. I’m sure my opponent, if he is wise, will twist this knife. Without having read extensively on what scholars have said in regards to this verse I justify it with the rest of my argument thus: Jesus was in the throes of His humanity at this one point more than any other in Matthew’s gospel. If it is the one point that stands out against the mountain of evidence to the contrary that Jesus Deity be utterly deniable then there truly is but ‘one truth’ for those who would read some passages of scripture and turn their head in ignorance to the rest.
Son of God[/b] D.C.- "Taken literally this title can mean just about anybody except God." It has been said elsewhere by more articulate writers than myself that one who is the "Son of God" must have likeness to God in His very make up. The word that is used in the Greek to convey this message could be amplified to "eldest son who inherits" meaning, everything that is of the Father is also true of this Son. He has the Father's authority, kingship, lordship and worship as inate in his being. Taken literally this title means Jesus was the essence of everything that God was.
The Divine Name (YHWH)[/b]-you are all gonna be sick of hearing me talking about this by the time this is done. DC: “…let me be clear that “God” meant “Yahweh,” the god of the Jews in the Old Testament. Surely nobody makes the claim that any writers before the N.T. as a triune entity, The question, now, is does Matthew conclusively redefine the meaning of God, to some definition that encircles God the Son, or does he let the title stand the way prior writers defined it?”
The proper name “YHWH” as it appears in the Old Testament Scriptures was so holy that the people felt it was blasphemy even to speak it. They would replace it with “Adonai.” (Lord) In the Septuagint, Jewish scholars translated the Hebrew scripture in to Greek and when they had finished, Aristeas records in his letter to his brother Philocrates “the translation was read in presence of the Jewish priests, princes, and people assembled at Alexandria, who all recognized and praised its perfect conformity with the Hebrew original.”www.newadvent.org/cathen/13722a.htm
I alluded to this concept in my introduction but it is important to note that these translators brought a heap of new meaning to the word for the Greek-speaking Jews of that era. Matthew “redefines” who was appropriately referred to as “the Lord” in the following passages. (I'd encourage you to find your nearest exhaustive concordance and verify this yourself, noting that the ones I've left out obviously are reference to the Father)
Mat 7:21, Mat 8:8, Mat 8:25, Mat 9:28, Mat 12:8 *, Mat 14:28, Mat 14:30, Mat 15:25, Mat 15:27, Mat 17:15, Mat 20:30**, Mat 20:31**, Mat 21:3***, Mat 22:44, Mat 25:37***, Mat 26:22, Mat 27:10. *“Lord of the Sabbath” ** accompanied with “Son of David” ***Jesus calls himself “Lord”
No one else in the Gospel of Matthew is worthy to hold this title save The Father and The Son. (Mat 20:25 ‘lord’ is used as a verb.) I do not mean to suggest by this that Matthew uses this title to suggest they are the same entity but rather that The Son held the same authority as the Father and was to be considered equal to Him.
Prior to the advent of the Christ, it was blasphemy to refer to anyone other than God as "Lord." In doing so Matthew is either: (1)speaking heresy and acts as a proponent to the lunacy of Jesus' claims or; (2) dealing an earth shattering blow to the conventional understanding of who God was and laid the ground work for the apostle John to pen the words, "and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us."
After devoting this amount it time to supporting this assertion, I am more convinced than ever that it is the latter conclusion Matthew wishes us to come to.
*** FINAL EDIT ***
(Rob) - corrected formatting code that was displaying in error. I have adjusted your reference Mt.28:18-20 in your first post.
Post by Dubious Disciple (xdc) on May 24, 2008 19:36:34 GMT -5
Let me start again by responding to a few of my opponent’s statements. His comments are in green. He still appears determined to argue about whether or not Jesus really is God, but we are not here to argue theology. I continue to refuse to get sucked into that conversation. We are arguing only about what Matthew portrays.
Your arguments are shipwrecked. You claim that the author of Matthew did not hold the understanding that Jesus had any part of the God-head and yet you will accept that other authors of the N.T. did. Were these later authors who meant to contravene Matthew?
OK, let’s nail this down, then. Here is the generally-accepted current scholarship: Paul wrote his genuine epistles (listed in my first post) in the 50s and 60s. Mark was written just before or just after the destruction of the Temple, around year 70. Matthew was written about ten years later, and Luke another five years after that. John, the most theologically advanced gospel—by this time, Jesus has merged with God Himself, for crying out loud—could not have been written before the 90s. Most of the rest of the books are written in the latter couple decades of the first century, though some were clearly written in the second century, and relate specifically to conditions of the church in the second century, such as Timothy and Titus. We do not know the authors of any of the books in our bible except those few genuine letters of Paul. All the rest are anonymous or pseudonymous (written in the name of an earlier respected person.)
The point of all this scholarly discussion is not to argue against one’s faith, because I am aware many of you disagree. It is to point out that we cannot assume any relationship between “Matthew” and any of the other writers, because there is no such consensus. We cannot assume Matthew knew Jesus, or even knew anybody who knew anybody who knew anybody who knew Jesus. We can only assume relationships of which there is no argument: Matthew had read the anonymous book of “Mark” and seems to have read Paul’s writings. That’s all.
Your arguments are shipwrecked. You claim that the apostle Matthew could not have been the author to the first gospel.
Technically, I claim only that the church fathers that assigned the name “Matthew” to this anonymous gospel also tell us that Matthew the apostle died before the time period in which it is now calculated to have been written.
“The Father is everywhere” and “when we begin to restrict God to the limitations of space and time we are reversing what we know about God.”
Again, I am not going to get sucked into arguments about “what we know about God.” What matters is what Matthew knew. Matthew does nothing to contradict the traditional understanding of God as somebody who hangs out up above the sky. In fact, Matthew makes it clear that for God to interact, he first has to come down out of the sky, as he did at the baptism of his Son.
The staggering assertion that Matthew’s account presents is that God called a ‘man’ “my Son.” No one, prior to Jesus could claim this title.
I agree, of course. It goes without saying that Jesus was a very, very special person in Matthew’s estimation.
DC, you say that Jesus “did not deserve…to be an authority on what was ‘good’, because only God was good.” But by proposing an answer to the question outside of ‘the Law’ does he not claim that authority? I am perfectly willing to let you ‘claim this verse for [your] side’ since it is poison for your argument.
Here, I am missing your point. It was not me that first said this, it was Matthew. It was also Matthew that insisted, many times, that God gave Jesus that authority, so we better respect it. Like it or lump it, God made him Lord. Remember, Matthew paints Jesus as the Son of Man (literally, “son of Adam,” or as we would say “a human being”) in the tradition of the book of Daniel…and in that book, the Son of Man is very clearly someone other than God…he comes up to God, is given authority over the whole world, and then goes back to earth with this newfound authority to rule.
The Divine Name (YHWH)-you are all gonna be sick of hearing me talking about this by the time this is done
Well, I should hope so! I honestly think you have no other argument, period. The only hope for showing that Matthew portrayed Jesus as God is to redefine the meaning of Lord in Matthew to mean LORD. Starwelters tries hard to do this, even hinting at the silly argument that since Matthew on occasion demotes God to merely “Lord” we can safely call Jesus LORD. But let’s be clear: all arguments along this line require that we make big jumps of logic and big assumptions, because Matthew carefully avoids calling Jesus God, LORD, or anything more divine than God’s offspring.
I have carefully read all of the references Starwelters refers to, and they are helpful. I, too, come to the same conclusion: No one else in the Gospel of Matthew is worthy to hold this title save The Father and The Son. But then Starwelters makes a huge jump in logic, stipulating that therefore The Son must be “God” just as The Father is: The Son held the same authority as the Father and was to be considered equal to Him. Hogwash, but so what if he did? Starwelters forgets again how Matthew insists that Jesus’ Lordship was not his to start with, but first had to be granted him by God. On this, Matthew is firm. God gave Jesus his great authority, just like in the book of Daniel, and just like every good Jew expected of the coming Messiah. Matthew’s great revelation was that Jesus was even more than just a Messiah, he was—gasp—the very offspring of God!
A plea for perspective
I have gathered from the posts of others in different threads that I somehow carry the onus of proof in this argument…as if I need to prove that Matthew portrays Jesus as a non-God. Even Starwelters seems to be insinuating that I am making outlandish claims, by stating that Jesus is not God.
Starwelters even insinuates in his opening argument that I must overturn the Nicaea council to win this debate! Absolutely not! I am not asking you to go back 1600 years to Nicaea…that event is totally and inarguably irrelevant. I am asking you to go back 1900 years all the way to Matthew. Matthew is not responsible for the direction Christianity took, after later books and later believers came along and expanded upon his foundation. Because of this, the onus of convincing proof rests squarely on the shoulders of Starwelters in this debate. I guess I need to re-emphasize the absurdity of thinking otherwise.
The topic at hand is does Matthew portray Jesus as God. Here is how easy it would be if Matthew wanted to do this: “Hey, guys. Jesus is God.” Not by placing some hints here and there; hints that are often too subtle to be recognized by my overworked brain. Not by demoting God to “Lord” and then calling Jesus by the same title. I mean, if Matthew wanted to portray Jesus as God, he could have settled the entire argument with three words: Jesus is God. Try it yourself, to see how easy it is. Jesus is God. Why doesn’t Matthew say this? Starwelters fails to provide any answer to this question.
Starwelters even suggests that because Matthew doesn’t specifically say “Hey guys, Jesus is not God” that we are “left on our own” to figure out the answer. Yikes! Must I repeat how absurd this assumption is? Must I repeat that Matthew had no prior basis for Trinitarian teachings to build on? Must the author of Genesis state, “In case later writers try to convince you that Isaac is Abraham, I want to make it clear that he isn’t?”
Yet Starwelters ignores the obvious: Mathew DID tell us that Jesus wasn’t God. Over and over and over. “Jesus is God’s son,” Matthew repeatedly says. He repeatedly shows Jesus and God (not just Jesus and the Father) interacting, as if they are two different beings. How much more clear does he have to be, for readers and hearers who had never before imagined a Trinitarian God? Dear readers, if this is not crystal clear, you are falling into Starwelters’ trap, by projecting current-day Trinitarian beliefs backwards in time to the book of Matthew.
It is not I who is claiming the incredible in this debate; it is my opponent. Can you not for a moment put yourself back to before the Johannian writings to realize how jaw-droppingly, fantastically, impossible-to-imagine-ly wild this thing is that we now believe, that God is made up of three separate beings, one of which was a human for a while? Can you really pretend that Matthew believed you would come to this conclusion on your own by reading his book?
I’ve shown multiple places in the book of Matthew where he had a golden opportunity to claim that Jesus is God. He could have even hidden behind scripture while doing this (the Isaiah verse Starwelters pointed out, which Matthew pointedly ignores.) Instead, if Matthew believes that Jesus is God, he carefully cloaks this belief in mystery. In other words, he either consciously declines to portray Jesus as God or it never crossed his mind. Which is it? Either way, the debate is moot.
At the risk of putting words in my opponent’s mouth, he probably wants us to assume that the reason Matthew doesn’t speak openly is that the answer is so complex and esoteric that a proper understanding can only be revealed by God. Sigh. For once, can we please just remove our religious blinders and read the book the way it’s written?
I fully realize the utter impossibility of convincing someone of something that is against their religion. It is becoming clear to me that it is against the religion of most readers to believe that Matthew had a mind of his own…that he could possibly have an opinion that differed from later writings. If not for our religious teachings, there would be no argument at all: there has never been any other field of study where knowledge did not grow over time. It’s absurd to imagine that all biblical writers shared an identical understanding of who Jesus was. Our understanding of Jesus grew, by building on top of the understandings of prior contributors, just like our understanding of the cosmos, of medicine, of mathematics, of everything else we know.
So, I have repeatedly requested that readers try to read Matthew in a different context. Put the names of pagan gods in there instead of Christian gods. Pretend the author of Matthew is a heretic. Give the book to a Hindu to read. Anything, to help discard those religious blinders, so you can read the book with a fresh mind. I promise, if you read simply and don’t cheat, the last thing the story will portray is that Jesus is God. Then, you may take a deep breath, shake off the evils of primitive thinkers like Matthew, and return to your more spiritual Johannian writings.
The Day of Atonement
I realize it’s difficult for us to forget later writers such as John, Hebrews, and Revelation so that the gospel of Matthew can be read in perspective. So let me go at this in a different direction, which may help to show by example how religious beliefs progressed through the New Testament writings. Here is another exercise that you may try, when you have a few days to take your bible to the beach and just read the New Testament. First put the books in chronological order, and then read them through, paying especially close attention to the Day of Atonement.
The New Testament can really only be properly understood through the lens of the Day of Atonement. Because that is how it was written. On this special once-a-year day, the most important day of the year to the Jews, two animals were chosen.
Traditionally, one was usually a lamb, and the other was usually a goat. The lamb was killed, and his blood put upon the mercy seat in the holy of holies; this is the one day of the year anyone was allowed into that most holy place. And only the high priest could do this; no one else entered the room, ever. Sometimes, the blood was also sprinkled on others. This was the atonement, at-one-ment, which brought the Jews back into favor with God.
Then the second animal, the goat, was symbolically burdened with all of the sins of the people, and a suitable person was chosen to lead it away into the wilderness. This animal took their sins away, forever.
From the beginning of the New Testament writings to the end, this theme is replayed, so it makes for a perfect study of this matter of the growth of theological understanding. What you will see in this exercise is that the N.T. writers, in the retelling of this story, began to comprehend, slowly, with each dawning insight, just exactly who Jesus was, what role he played, and what great act was done by Him for us. The need for brevity prevents all but a bare-bones introduction to this topic, but here we go:
• We begin with the most confusing day in the history of religion: the day Jesus, the hoped-for Messiah, died brutally and humiliatingly on the cross, and the Messiah dreams were crushed. Yet Jesus had made a tremendous impact, and his influence would not go away. His survivors struggled to understand, and find meaning. • Paul, our first N.T. writer, started the ball rolling. He understood completely that Jesus was sacrificed for our sins. That he was the lamb of God. • You’ll see this theme expanded in the passion story of the gospels, where the “goat” role is first played by Barabbas (literally, bar-abba, Son of-God, like Jesus) who is released. The tomb is found empty; God accepted the sacrifice. • Soon, the Messiah idea is revived: you’ll see this “lamb” role merging with the Jewish expectation of a Messiah. Jesus is even resurrected bodily so that he can fulfill this role. In Luke, Jesus even rises into the air, just like Daniel told of the Son of Man riding clouds up to God; presumably, he’ll be coming back soon the same way. • Next, you’ll see that Jesus also assumes the role of the high priest. • Then the “goat” role is transferred to Satan, who is banished for a thousand years, which elevates by association his counterpart Jesus to the realm of heaven. (By the way, Revelation is a very interesting book, in the way it replays the Day of Atonement from beginning to end…from the presenting of the High Priest, to the incense, to the blowing of the trumpets, to the final feast, and every step in between.) • Soon, Jesus isn’t just the lamb, he is also “taking away the sins of the world.” He has become the scapegoat! He has grown from Paul’s lamb to a lamb/messiah/scapegoat/high priest. • Yet he continues to grow. He soon becomes eternal, all in all, alpha and omega, sitting on the throne of God, and finally God himself.
It is no coincidence that my opponent is able to uncover little hidden pointers in Matthew and even in earlier books (Mark and the genuine Pauline writings) that Jesus was God. The New Testament is like a mystery novel unraveling, with no author really fully comprehending the final ending, but each contributing a chapter to the novel…each understanding only in part, even admitting that they see as through a glass darkly…each author adding a few more clues, until the final picture came together.
Can we, in retrospect, look backward with our complete understanding and see bits and pieces, little clues, in these books to led to today’s doctrine? Of course we can. This is only common sense. Without these little direction-giving signs throughout the earlier books, today’s Christology would have evolved in an entirely different direction. But this ability to project backward is proof only of the direction Christianity took, certainly not proof of a perfect understanding of our foundation-builders.
The book of Matthew is chronologically only midway through the mystery novel. It is totally unfair of us to demand of Matthew a perfect understanding. Indeed he did not have this; the best way Matthew could put the pieces together, explaining the great authority God gave to Jesus, making him worthy of worship and even somewhat divine, was to make Jesus the offspring of God. So, he takes the title “Son of God” and interprets it literally. This revelation Matthew repeats over and over, drilling into our heads that Jesus is in a different class than the rest of us. But he has not yet become God.
Post by Star Welters on May 30, 2008 11:46:18 GMT -5
Redaction Criticism Revisited [/u] While my opponent is shouting that I am ‘projecting a Trinitarian explanation’ I feel it is prudent to go over the concept of redaction criticism again. The process does not begin with the concept (i.e. the deity of Christ) but rather the context. When we have at least a (albeit elementary) understanding of the author, the audience and the social ideologies of the time, it helps us to better grasp the theology of the gospel. It is with this understanding that I have asserted the use of the term “Lord” and its implications to how the evangelist has portrayed Jesus time on Earth. DC has done nothing to dispute the perception that Matthew, in calling Jesus “Lord” made implication that He was equal to the Father in authority and title. There are significant ramifications to that assertion.
Contrary to the claim of my opponent, I do not hope that you, the reader, will let the “complex understanding of God [to] confuse the simple words written in Matthew.” Conversely, I would that each of the observers of this debate may be propelled into inductive study of their own. Since I have cited very few sources here and there are copious amounts of material in support of both sides of the debate, I would encourage all to find what others have said and what the Bible has to say on this topic.
There is a wealth of Theology on every page of the Bible. For even if it is not ‘inspired’ of the Holy Spirit, as my opponent would contend, and even if it is not pertinent to today, it is a record of individuals who sought for God. Taken properly in context, every word is meaningful. Even #7 on the all time worst ever life-verses:
Psalm 137:8-9 "O Daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy is he who repays you for what you have done to us—he who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks."
Names and Titles I appreciate, DC, that you are advocating the practice changing the names in a given circumstance to others (i.e. Pagan gods, Abraham, etc.) because it shows the desperation that you are obliged to use in order to impose your understanding of scripture upon yourself, myself and the reader. Let us recognize this exercise for the foolishness that it is.
The passages have been written, in large part, using names and titles that play a specific and meaningful role. If I were to insert your name, for example, in place of any given name throughout the entire Bible or any given passage, would one not assume that you were the person to whom the events took place and the characteristics of that person could also then be attributed to you? There maybe some inconsistency in certain places between names. (Luke 3:23-38 vs. Matt 1:1-16 or 2 Sam 24:1 vs. 1 Cor 21:1.) However, the story of the “Good New” was neither about Apollo nor Zeus nor Abraham. It is about Jesus and His person. To those who call themselves Christian, it is also about the implications that Jesus’ life and death have on their lives.
Furthermore, in your example of Abraham you seem to press the point that the early church fathers sought to make the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit “one” and did so by calling them the same name. This assumption, a tributary issue in this debate, is ignorant to the fact that those who coined the term “Trinity” did so, not to create a term that they could then define, but rather, found a teaching held by scripture that had no term to describe it.
History tells us that exactly the opposite of what DC is asserting took place. Many Apostolic Fathers portray an understanding of the divinity of Jesus, 200 years (!) prior to the invention on the word that would later attempt to explain it. I submit these two posts in my defense.
Matthew cannot “project a trinity” for there was no such term in his day. However, the conclusions that must be drawn from Matthew are consistent with the modern day definition of “Trinity.”
Appropriate Conclusions to Matthew O.T. References [/b] DC, you have responded to some of the passages that I cited in my introduction that Matthew quotes. Unfortunately you have not done the arduous task of tackling them all as a whole neither have you engaged the aspects of those passages which are most pertinent to this discussion.
Daniel 7:13-14 13I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. 14And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.
Why did you chose to ignore that “all shall serve him” bit? How is suggesting that God would not grant authority to anyone less than someone His equal offensive to my beliefs? It is appropriate to assume from this passage that the Son’s “dominion is an everlasting dominion.” You would suggest that it is logistic pole-vault to get from there to “Jesus is equal to God.” I disagree completely. Consistent with the Old Testament is the philosophy that all nations and languages and people ought to serve YHWH alone. (Isaiah 44:6) Matthew intentionally uses the 'Son of Man' title to recall this authority and Lordship to the minds of his Hebrew audience.
Isaiah 9:6-7 6For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. 7Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.
My opponent ridiculed my use of this passage and I would like to point out that my literary style is completely open to critics. I don’t claim to be well-written or good at being able to communicate with any superior efficiency. By all means, DC, you are welcome to scoff my bumbling prose but in no way is the gravity of claims of scripture diluted. Simply because Matthew does not reference this verse does not mean he is ignorant to it. At the on set it was you, DC, who suggested that the O.T. would have been available in its entirety to the evangelist. Nonetheless I pointedly added the note to see Matt 28:18 where Jesus says: “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” This is congruent with Isaiah 9:6-7. Moreover, that Jesus acknowledges that the power has been given to him, rather than Him needing to take it by force, is a testament to the humbleness of the Messiah. Like Paul says:
Philippians 2: 5Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. 9Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: 10That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. .
Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
DC, I agree with you completely that merely calling Jesus ‘Immanuel’, regardless of the meaning of the name, does not mean that He is God. ‘Jesus’ or ‘Joshua’ means ‘God saves’, and if we are to interpret that name literally, there are many ‘gods saving’ south of the US border and all around the world in Hispanic countries. However, you quickly forget the words of Malachi 3:1 that suggest it is YHWH who will come after the messenger, to the temple and will be the ‘delight’ of His people. Matthew claims these prophecies. He does not shy away from them.
 This is not so much a defense of the "Waterloo" that I dealt with in a resigned fashion in my last response.
Psalm 22:1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning?
DC uses Jesus quoting this from the cross to assert that, “this (Jesus saving people from their sins) was done without God, who forsook him on the cross.” First of all, how in the name of heaven and earth and all that is good in the world does one suggest that the saving of the world could possibly be accomplished apart from God?!? This seems counter-Biblical. Second, nowhere does the evangelist say that “God forsook” Jesus at the cross. Jesus quotes here from a Psalm that contains a very poignant Messianic prophecy. The passage that Matthew records Jesus as quoting is followed by a description of David feeling persecuted by men.
Psalm 22: 6 But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people. 7 All who see me mock me; they hurl insults, shaking their heads: 8 "He trusts in the LORD; let the LORD rescue him. Let him deliver him, since he delights in him."
Note that Matthew prefaces Jesus’ statement with:
Matt 24 41Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said,42He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him. 43He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God. 44The thieves also, which were crucified with him, cast the same in his teeth.
The parallel to the account in Psalm 22 is evident and immediately following Jesus’ saying “My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?” Matthew records the confession of the Roman Centurion:
Matt 27: 54Now when the centurion, and they that were with him, watching Jesus, saw the earthquake, and those things that were done, they feared greatly, saying, Truly this was the Son of God.
This is a poignant declaration of Jesus’ God-like nature. “Eloi Eloi lama sabachthani” then beckons to the Jewish audience the words of the Psalmist:
23Ye that fear the LORD, praise him; all ye the seed of Jacob, glorify him; and fear him, all ye the seed of Israel. 24For he hath not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; neither hath he hid his face from him; but when he cried unto him, he heard.
Conclusion[/b] The doctrine of Jesus' Deity has not been "made to fit" into the N.T. but, is rather, inherent in it. God became a Man and felt as we feel and knew as we know. This defies our comprehension of the grandiose substance of who God is. It is not, though, contrary to the Matthean view of who Jesus was. The formation of this doctrine was a result of the attempt to crystallize the implicit teaching of scripture. Incidentally, it is consistent with Matthew's theology.
Post by Dubious Disciple (xdc) on May 30, 2008 14:03:28 GMT -5
First, let me say that I’ve enjoyed the debate, and I have learned a lot about the “other side.” Thanks, starwelters, for your concise approach.
I confess, however, that the debate only solidified my own opinion, that it never crossed Matthew’s mind that Jesus was God. Here, in summary form, is where the “pro” side rests:
• A simple reading of Matthew as a stand-alone document leads one to the inescapable conclusion that Jesus was God’s offspring and the promised Messiah. Not God. It is only by making assumptions about Matthew’s religion and relationships—by what SW calls “redaction”—that we can possibly think otherwise.
• SW claims equality for the Father and the Son in Matthew’s writings, and as such pretends that they are equal parts of God. Matthew portrays otherwise. All through the book of Matthew, “the Father” is interchangeable with “God”, but “the Son” is not. You cannot replace “the Son” with “God” or vice versa without introducing syntactical tongue twisters that leave the poor fellow talking to himself, sitting beside himself, praying to himself, forsaking himself. Clearly, to Matthew, “the Father” is considered of a different essence—a different relationship to God—than is “the Son.”
• Matthew does, however, very clearly explain who Jesus is. He notices how Jesus called God “Father,” and he latches on to the phrase “Son of God” used by prior authors, and he literalizes this concept. Matthew is the first to provide us with a story of the birth of Jesus: He gives us the details of how God came down out of heaven and impregnated Mary, forming for himself an earthly Son. This is Matthew’s great contribution to theology: Jesus is literally God’s offspring.
• Matthew often shows God and Jesus in differing locations. God has to come down out of heaven to form a Son. God has to come down out of heaven to bless this Son at his baptism. God departs from his Son at the cross. And God sits beside his Son when they rule. The God of Matthew is not “everywhere,” as SW claims, and Jesus most certainly is not, either. They are separate beings, in separate physicalities, separate locations.
• Matthew also retains the title “Son of Man,” which in the tradition of Daniel, was to be become the highly-anticipated Lord or Messiah for the Jews. As we have seen, the “Son of Man” in Daniel was most definitely not God. He was a human who left earth to go up to God, like many of the prophets of old, who was given authority by God, and who returned to earth to rule.
• Matthew shows us also the other side of Jesus: his humility before God. Jesus makes a conscious decision to worship God. He prays to God for help. He declines to be called “good,” stating that only God is good. He redirects any praise for him to God.
• Matthew is also the first author to provide any details of the resurrection. In this, he explicitly shows Jesus resurrected in body, in physical form like every other human, promising never to leave again. This, because this time he would live forever. (see below *)
• SW falls back on that old standby, the divine name of God, Lord vs LORD, desperately playing his lone ace to try to reconcile Matthew with the opinions of later authors. This falls flat, when the necessary leap in logic is exposed. Sorry, SW.
• Instead, throughout his book, Matthew never once refers to Jesus as God, LORD, or anything greater or more divine than the offspring of God. Not once. I have shown multiple places in the text of Matthew where it would have been appropriate and convenient to claim Jesus was God. Why doesn’t he? Because it never crossed his mind.
Starwelters insists that because God gave Jesus great authority, and because this seems inconsistent with the jealous God of the Old Testament, that we are to understand that Jesus is God. I applaud his deduction; this is the same conclusion that some of the later biblical authors would come to, as they pored over the gospels of Matthew and Mark, and the writings of Paul. We see several of the New Testament writings veering in this direction, and many of the post-biblical writings as well. It is clear, however, that Matthew had not reached this conclusion.
I have discussed the absurdity of thinking that earlier biblical authors shared as advanced an understanding as later authors. This simply is not how knowledge evolves in any field of study. I even gave a detailed example of the evolution of Christology as it relates to the Day of Atonement throughout the N.T. In this, we can clearly see how biblical ideas evolve through baby steps. Matthew was among the earliest writers, and his primitive portrayal of Jesus is consistent with this common sense approach. We are asking too much of this down-to-earth author, to expect him to understand Jesus on our terms.
Jesus is God? Sorry. It never crossed Matthew’s mind.
* Although this is not part of the debate, some of you may wonder exactly what Matthew DID believe about the resurrected Jesus. Well, I’ll tell you, so that after my final debate post (which I am aware agrees with hardly anyone here) you can discredit me as loony-bin material.
Here are the facts as Matthew sees them: Jesus died and rose again, initiating the general bodily resurrection as the “first fruit,” after which he would live forever. This was the teaching of Paul, so Matthew relates stories of lots of other people resurrected at this time (quit looking for where in Matthew these people wander back to their graves…it doesn’t happen. ) Matthew, for all his eschatological warnings, gives us only one precondition to the Day of the Lord: That the gospel is preached in every land. This world mission was evidently accomplished in the opinions of many of the N.T. writers; Paul himself makes this claim. So Matthew knew already before he sat down to write that the time had come. Matthew had lived through the war of 70 AD, was probably a refugee from the war with other Jewish Christians (he writes about this escape in his gospel), and this horrible war in his mind fulfilled all of the OT prophecies about the covenantal destruction coming upon the Jews. Anyone who studies the writings of Josephus will understand what I mean: This tragic war initiated ALL of the New Testament writings after Paul’s letters. As such, Matthew fully expected the Messiah (Jesus) to make his reappearance on the clouds any moment, certainly within his “generation,” carrying the authority of God, and finally setting things right with the world, because the scriptures were fulfilled.
I present all this without evidence, because the topic could fill a book. But I’d be happy to discuss with anyone.
Post by Star Welters on May 30, 2008 23:00:00 GMT -5
Conclusion:[/b] I have enjoyed this opportunity to debate this with you DC. It is evident to me today that the Bible can be taken as a "stand-alone" document. When this is done, it does have value as a written work. In conceding this point for the sake of this debate, I'm afraid that I have been unable to wholly ignore what surrounds Matthew’s Gospel. Treating Matthew as an island does little justice to the reality that it was surrounded by similar sentiments.
I have stated it in my second post in this thread. The ideas that are explicit in Johannian writings must be inherent in Matthean writings simply because of the relationship that they developed from when they were written to today. Matthew’s gospel, held as the foremost of the Gospel accounts and consider to be written the earliest well into the twentieth century, would not have been so had the later writers meant to discredit him and correct his “erroneous” views.
Simply because it is difficult to wrap our linear-thinking heads around this idea of Jesus Christ being both God and Man, having both mortality and immortality, flesh and ultimate heavenly authority, does not mean that it cannot be illogical to believe such things. Or, rather say, instead of ‘illogical’, ‘unbiblical’ for I would rather defy logic than scripture.
“So what’s the difference?”[/b] In this case we have sought to find an answer in Matthew. It basically comes down to, IMHO, is Jesus worthy of praise or not? If He is worthy of praise and glory, then He must be the God who ought to be worshipped. If He is not worthy, then He is just another being subservient to God. And, does Matthew favor one view over the other?
Let each person decide for themselves what side Matthew comes down on.
I look to the last time we see Matthew in the N.T.:
Revelations 4: 4And round about the throne were four and twenty seats: and upon the seats I saw four and twenty elders sitting, clothed in white raiment; and they had on their heads crowns of gold.
10The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, 11Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.
Revelations 5 13And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever. 14And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four and twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever.
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