Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Did the Apostles believe in the Trinity?

Peter speaking to the Transfigured Christ
“Messianic Judaism” is a movement that accepts the authenticity of the Christian Scriptures but has been hoodwinked into believing that Trinitarianism is Biblical monotheism, when in fact it is a brazen misrepresentation of it. While there is much to sympathize with in their approach to the Bible in understanding the Christian Scriptures, and thus much to appreciate and learn from, their acceptance of Trinitarianism, which is utterly foreign to the pages the Bible, exposes a very human, imperfect face on the movement. Perhaps Messianic Judaism is merely unaware of the competing and superior interpretation of Patritheism, that only the Father is the almighty God and Creator.

Dr. Eli Lizorkin-Eyzenberg is one such Messianic Jew, and while there is much to appreciate from his hermeneutical approach, he has nonetheless presented a question-and-answer supporting Trinitarianism that I feel should be responded to.[1] In his presentation he made some revealing concessions that will be noted. At the outset however I will point out that when he says “Christian” or “traditional Christianity,” that he is falling victim to the typical and convenient preconceived bias that Trinitarianism is authentic Christianity.

With that said, Dr. Eli’s comments will be prefaced with his name and mine by ‘JS.’

Dr. Eli: It is no secret that the Christian doctrine of the Trinity as such is not found in the Bible. It is systematized from various Biblical texts by later Christians to present one coherent and accurate teaching that attempts to unify all true believers.

JS: I appreciate his concession that Trinitarianism is not found in the Bible and that it was instead borne out of the ecumenical movement, the desire to unify diverse believers and to anathematize dissidents. However, to describe it as “coherent” is inaccurate as it creates far more questions than what it attempts or proposes to answer. Additionally, it is far from “accurate” as one can possibly imagine, due to contradicting the very fiber of Jesus Christ’s teaching and mission.

Dr. Eli: Traditional Christianity holds that:
  • The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are One God (not three Gods).
  • The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are equal in power and glory (same in essence).
  • The Father functionally is superior to the Son and the Holy Spirit (both Son and the Spirit are obedient to the Father).
JS: I appreciate him stating the basic tenets of this theology so concisely. However, it is still diametrically opposed to Jesus’ lucid theology of John 17:1-5 that only the Father is God. Thus, Jesus’ God was not a multipersonal construct but was a real person, the Father, who was not only functionally superior but also ontologically as well in Jesus’ monotheistic theology.

Dr. Eli: As we think through this important topic, here are few things to keep in mind:
First, the original Christ-following movement was still very Jewish and as such was not very interested in doctrines per se. What really concerned first-century Jews was not so much the details of correct beliefs, but rather the details of holy living.

JS: This claim is certainly debatable. See for instance Galatians 3:1-5 where Paul is enraged over the doctrinal compromises being committed by them. While the doctrinal statements in the Christian Scriptures, as well as in Jewish works like Philo, 1 Enoch, and the Damascus Document for instance may not spell out all aspects of the Divine Court or monotheism-monolatry as well as we’d like them to, they definitely contain many statements of belief that appear to deflate this claim.

Dr. Eli: Second, some Jews even prior to Jesus thought of the relation between God and his Word in nearly identical terms as does John’s Gospel (John 1:1). Other pre-Jesus Jews, among many intriguing things, believed in the notion of “the Son of Man” as eternal heavenly being whom God will one day seat on the throne of His glory.

JS: If you’re downloading a file from the Internet, and it’s nearly downloaded, say 99%, is it completely downloaded? What if it stops at 99%, would you have the file? No and no. The exact same situation applies to “nearly identical terms.” “God and his Word” are, by the logical conclusion of his own admission, not the same. Thus, with John 1:1, the Word was with God, and therefore obviously cannot be that God he is in association with, and whose “god-ness” is contrasted with the “god-ness” of the God he is with. Thus, for ones who are objective without a Trinitarian agenda, it is extremely clear that the Word is not the God he is with, that God is the Father the Word is with together in the Divine Court. This is because the Bible presents monotheism as being monolatry—accommodating the existence of the Divine Court.

Regarding “the Son of Man” figure, he is referring to the “Parables of Enoch” in 1 Enoch that expands on the role of the “someone like a son of man” in Daniel 7:13-14, which presents him as sitting on the throne of God by divine appointment. (1 Enoch 51:3; 61:8) However, this privilege of sitting on God’s throne is seen in 1 Chronicles 29:23 with King Solomon, and he was not “God” in the Trinitarian sense. This usage provides the proper precedent for understanding the “placed on God’s throne” language also seen in Revelation 3:21 for Jesus. Again, “nearly identical” is “not the same.”

Dr. Eli: Third, while the Apostles did not think of the Holy Spirit as simply God’s power void of any kind of personality (as in Jehovah Witnesses’ theology) there is embarrassingly little about the divinity of the Holy Spirit in New Testament.

JS: If the holy spirit is a person, then we run into a problem with Jesus’ birth from Mary, who “was found with child of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 1:18 ASV) For if the holy spirit is a person, then it filled the role of an incubus. That the Apostles did not believe that Jesus’ birth was anything like that of an incubus or like the Watcher demons of 1 Enoch (Book of the Watchers) and Genesis 6:1-4 is seen in Luke 1:35, where the holy spirit is called the “power of the Most High.” Thus Mary became pregnant without any interaction with another person, but with an impersonal power. Therefore, it should be no surprise that “there is embarrassingly little about the divinity of the Holy Spirit in New Testament,” for it is not there—not even in Acts 5:3-4 or anywhere else for that matter.

Dr. Eli: I therefore conclude that if the Apostles were presented with the Christian doctrine of Trinity in its traditional form they would be deeply puzzled as to why such a systematization was necessary or considered essential. But then after being pressed for an answer they would have with some hesitation agreed that the basic ideas presented to them were correct.

JS: I agree that “they would be deeply puzzled as to why such a systematization was necessary or considered essential.” But “after being pressed for an answer,” I doubt there would be any hesitation on their part regarding the blasphemy the Trinitarian “solution” creates—and would have condemned it as a blasphemous misrepresentation of Biblical theology in danger of fulfilling their prophecies of apostasy in the Christian congregation.[2] The Apostles would then have been anathematized as heretics by those responsible for the Trinitarian creeds.

Apostles before the Sanhedrin (Acts 5:27-40)

[2] Acts 20:29-30; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4, 7-12; 1 Timothy 4:1; 2 Peter 2:1, 3; 1 John 2:18; 1 John 4:2, 3; 2 John 1:7, 8.

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