Friday, August 26, 2016

Identifying Jesus

The Transfiguration

As introduced here previously,[1] Dr. Hugh Ross works tirelessly to show the harmony between science and Genesis. While I am moved to applaud these efforts, I must also address his occasional Trinitarian apologetics. His latest such effort, “If Jesus is God, Why Did He Call Himself the Son of Man?”[2] will now be appraised in the usual fashion, in the spirit of Proverbs 27:6 and 17, with his comments being prefaced by HR and mine by JS.

HR: I have met a lot of skeptics and cultists who assert that Jesus never claimed to be God.

JS: Denigrating your opponents like Jehovah’s Witnesses as “cultists” is frankly unprofessional and does nothing to reflect the love and respect that Christians are admonished to show others. (1 Peter 3:15) Calling them non-Trinitarians would have clearly sufficed, but no, that term lacks the biting force that the pejorative “cultist” has. Additionally, it is extremely unlikely that any non-Trinitarians will be attracted to Trinitarianism after being insulted with an inappropriate rebuke.

HR: Rather, they say he referred to himself as the son of man. It is not just skeptics and cultists [Here we go again!] who are troubled by this issue. I have met just as many Christians [Trinitarians] who ask, “If Jesus is the Son of God, why did he so consistently refer to himself as the son of man?” The common follow-up question is how can I be certain that Jesus is really God and that the Trinity is a correct doctrine? [emphasis original]

Whole books have been written answering these questions.

JS: The goal then would be to read the right books!—Ecclesiastes 12:12.

HR: My goal here is to provide three brief yet adequate answers that you can quickly share with people expressing these kinds of challenges, concerns, and doubts.

JS: I strive to remain completely objective and not be emotionally invested into any paradigm or position, no matter how long it’s been held or how near and dear it has been to my heart. If HR thus fulfills his word and provides “adequate answers” demolishing opposition to Trinitarianism, then I will seek the true God with him. If not, then I must express why they are inadequate in clear, respectful, and heartfelt terms. These three “adequate answers” he provides have to do with:
  1. The outdated Trinitarian handling of John 8:58 and Exodus 3:14.
  2. Jeremiah 23:6 but ignoring Jeremiah 33:16.
  3. Failing to include Revelation 1:13, 14:14 and other relevant scriptures.
Thus, I am very disappointed and feel behooved to offer responses to these arguments that quite frankly strike me as unprofessional and invalid.

HR: First, while Jesus in the gospels almost always referred to himself as the “son of man,” there is at least one occasion where he explicitly claims to be God. The gospel text is John 8:58, where Jesus declares to the Jewish religious leaders, “Before Abraham was born, I AM!” Here, Jesus assumes the name God had assigned to himself in Exodus 3:14, “I AM who I AM. This what you are to say to the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you.” The Jewish religious leaders clearly understood that Jesus was claiming to be God, and it is evidenced by the fact that they attempted to stone him to death for his act of “blasphemy.”

JS: Yes, Jesus frequently referred to himself as the “son of man” across the four Gospels. Also, I am very glad to see HR posit “at least one occasion” where Trinitarianism teaches that Jesus “explicitly claims to be God.” Thus, a close examination of this only “one” Jesus=God proof text is in order, John 8:58.[3][4] If it can be clearly demonstrated that John 8:58 is not a proof text, that Jesus was in-fact not explicitly claiming to be God, then that would mean that nowhere in the Gospels does Jesus ever claim to be God. The stakes are high indeed, so let’s proceed:

Taking for granted that “I AM” (‘ego eimi’) is the divine name in John 8:58, let’s run a simple test. This claim that Jesus is assuming the name of God from Exodus 3:14 can be easily tested by replacing “I AM” with another divine name or designation, like “God,” and observing the results.
“Before Abraham was, God.”
[end of test]
This declaration as it stands is nonsensical. To make sense, it needs the words “I existed as” or “I was,” or something similar: “Before Abraham was, I was God.”

The same is true with “Before Abraham was, I AM.” It needs more words to be complete, like “Before Abraham was, I was I AM.” But, the Greek text does not say that, for it would have to be emended from πρὶν ᾿Αβραὰμ γενέσθαι ἐγὼ εἰμί to πρὶν ᾿Αβραὰμ γενέσθαι ἦμην ὁ ἐγὼ εἰμί, where ἦμην means “I was” and ὁ signifies that ἐγὼ εἰμί (‘ego eimi’) is a name.

What John 8:58 says (1) as opposed to how Trinitarianism reads it (2):
  1. πρὶν ᾿Αβραὰμ γενέσθαι ἐγὼ εἰμί
  2. πρὶν ᾿Αβραὰμ γενέσθαι ἦμην ὁ ἐγὼ εἰμί
Therefore the Greek words ‘ego eimi’, translated according to many translations as “I am,” are part of the sentence and should be translated likewise. “I am” is an interlinear translation or a hyper-literal translation, therefore not completing the translation process. If a Bible says something like “I have been,” it shows an attempt to do just that, complete the translation process into a literal translation. In fact, the 1996 edition of the New Living Translation has “Jesus answered, ‘The truth is, I existed before Abraham was even born!’” It places “I am” in a footnote.[5] Also, the 1960-1973 editions of the NASB have “I have been” as a variant reading in the margin. See Figure 1:

Figure 1
Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

The NASB Editorial Board explained that the reason for the marginal notations are for “assisting the reader's comprehension of the terms used by the original author,” and gave this reason for the above marginal note: “the translation “I have been” was originally given simply as a smoother, more grammatically correct (in English) rendering.”[6]

Therefore, the Trinitarian translation not only has Jesus failing at proper communication, but it also has Jesus not following a simple conversation. True, the Pharisees he was conversing with were being unreasonable, but Jesus was attempting to answer their last question in a sensible way, not changing the subject. Indeed, they were asking him, “You are not yet 50 years old, and still you have seen Abraham?” As Jesus began his reply with Abraham, it is clear that his intent was to answer their question—if he existed before Abraham or not, which he answered affirmatively. But if that is the extent of it, then why did they want to stone him? The answer is in paying close attention to the context. First, John 8:20 provides the setting: the Temple compound in the treasury area which would locate him in the Court of Women where four massive menorah lamps are reported to have stood that illuminated this Temple courtyard,[7] and doubtlessly symbolized spiritual illumination for the world. It was before these sacred lamps then that Jesus declared in verse 12: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (NIV)
Thus, his opponents who had a murderous disposition could judge Jesus as unworthy of being in the Temple based on both blaspheming it (in their view) and existing prior to, and therefore being greater than, Abraham. They also charged him with demon-possession in verses 48 and 52, which would at the very least call for his expulsion from the Temple. (While they did revile him as a Samaritan in verse 48, it is interesting that they did not call him a Gentile violating the Soreg wall, which would have been punishable by death.) Therefore their response in verse 59 of driving him away with stones is compatible with Jesus declaring that he, not he Temple, was the light of the world, and as the final straw, that he existed before Abraham, injuring Abraham’s sacred genealogical prestige. (See Appendix B.) This interpretation takes the context and language into account, unlike the Trinitarian handling.

To recap: at the minimum the Pharisees wanted to stone Jesus for:
  • Blaspheming the Temple (saying he’s the “light of the world,” brighter than the Temple lamps)
  • Injuring Abraham’s sacred genealogical prestige for existing prior to him and thus being greater than him.
Accordingly, it is high-time for Trinitarians to terminate their clear and obvious misuse and abuse of John 8:58.

HR: Second, the Old Testament in Jeremiah 23:6 assigns the name YHWH (I AM) to the righteous Branch, the King, who will come from the lineage of David. Jesus in several places in the gospel claims to be this righteous Branch and King.

JS: Ignoring the “YHWH (I AM)” statement, there are some responses in order. First, in both Exodus 23:21 and Zechariah 3:1-2 the angel of the Exodus and the angel of YHWH (in this case arguably the same person) are called by the divine name YHWH. This is shown in the NET Bible footnotes. The Exodus 23:21 footnote for “name” says in part: “Driver quotes McNeile as saying, ‘The “angel” is Jehovah Himself “in a temporary descent to visibility for a special purpose.”’” For Zechariah 3:1-2 a footnote informs us that: “The juxtaposition of the messenger of the LORD in v. 1 and the LORD in v. 2 shows that here, at least, they are one and the same.” Thus, there is a scriptural precedent for representing God and bearing his name in a representational sense. So all Jeremiah 23:6 could be saying then is that Jesus represents YHWH, Jehovah God. Regarding Jeremiah 23:6, HR and his colleagues would do well to notice that Jeremiah 33:16 also “assigns the name YHWH” to Jerusalem—the exact phrase in both scriptures being “Jehovah Is Our Righteousness.” Thus Jerusalem would also represent Jehovah, but obviously not be Jehovah. Thus one scripture in Jeremiah helps us to properly understand another scripture in Jeremiah.[8] This is accepted and valid hermeneutic.

HR: Third, Jesus is making a special theological point about his deity in calling himself the son of man in the gospels. This point becomes clear in examining the New Testament. For every New Testament passage referring to Jesus Christ that happened chronologically after the first day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1–41), Jesus is always referred to as the Son of God and never as the son of man. Conversely, in the gospels, Jesus consistently calls himself the son of man and never the Son of God.

JS: Jesus called himself the “Son of Man” as a reference to Daniel 7:13-14, of the enigmatic, messianic and apocalyptic human figure, “someone like a son of man,” who was exalted to God’s throne to rule in his name. This figure was enigmatic until Jesus identified him as himself. Following the Pentecost event as seen in Revelation 1:13 and 14:14, this figure “someone like a son of man” that Jesus identified as himself is seen again as a reigning king. Thus, HR’s first claim that following Pentecost “Jesus is always referred to as the Son of God and never as the son of man” is invalidated. Secondly, regarding HR’s second claim, Jesus called himself “Son of God” in John 10:36 where he said: “I am God’s Son.” Additionally, Jesus on earth was called God’s son by God Himself without any objection by Jesus—at his baptism: Matthew 3:17; Mark 1:11, Luke 3:22, see also John 1:34, and at his Transfiguration: Matthew 17:5, Mark 9:7 and Luke 9:35. Thus, HR’s second claim that while on earth he never called himself the Son of God is also invalidated.[9]

HR then uses this invalid dichotomy to base his next point on, that “the same kind of demarcation for the human followers of Jesus Christ,” that prior to Pentecost Christians “are always called sons of men or children of men and never as sons of God,” but following Pentecost Christians “are always called sons of God and never as sons of men.” And while it is true that Daniel was “highly esteemed” (Daniel 10:11, 19) yet was called a “son of man” (Daniel 8:17), this is another way of saying “human” and does not have the messianic, apocalyptic significance of Jesus’ identification based on Daniel 7:13-14. Similarly, the great prophet Ezekiel who had the rare privilege to behold the “visions of God” (Ezekiel 1:1) was himself called “son of man” 93 times. This too is a reference to his humanity and is distinct from the meaning of Daniel 7:13-14.

In closing, I believe that Dr. Hugh Ross has been a powerful witness for God and Christ regarding the validity of creation. However, as he is an Evangelical Trinitarian, I can also identify where God and Christ have been misrepresented, and where authentic witnesses for God and Christ have been denigrated.

To err is easy and takes but a few words. To correct the error though demands wordiness proportionate to the magnitude of damage the error has inflicted.


[3] One apologetic Trinitarian explained the great importance of John 8:58 for Trinitarianism this way: “This is a very important verse to Trinitarians because it is one of the places we use to show that Jesus is God. We maintain that Jesus attributed the divine name of God (“I AM” from Exodus 3:14), to Himself.” (Slick, Matt. John 8:58 and 10:30-33, “I am.”

[4] As seen in the Kingdom Interlinear Translation:

[6] First graphic presented in “A Reply to Matt Slick/CARM and the use of EGW EIMI at John 8:58.” Second graphic and correspondence presented in “The New American Standard Version and its alternative rendering in its marginal note to John 8:58’s “EGW EIMI,” 1963-1971. The implications.”

[7] Mishnah Sukkah 5:2. This says regarding the “women’s court”: “four golden candelabras were there, and four golden basins at their heads, and four ladders to each one, and [upon them were] four of the rising youth of the priesthood, and in their hands were jars of oil holding one hundred and twenty logim [a liquid measure], which they would pour into each of the basins.” See also: The Treasury of the Temple in Jerusalem by Leen Ritmeyer.
[8] This is a known interpretation and I have elaborated on this further under the Excursus here: Trinitarian Samples

[9] See also Matthew 14:33, 27:43, Luke 1:35 and John 19:7. Matthew 27:43 and John 19:7 appear to be recollections from Jesus’ enemies of his statement at John 10:36.

Related blog entries:

From Dr. Edgar Foster:

Related articles by Solomon Landers (1942-2013) on Coptic John 8:58:

YouTube videos from Ask an Apologist:
  • Hugh Ross accuses the NWT of changing the text at John 8:58
  • Hugh Ross accuses the NWT of changing the text at John 8:58 and Jeremiah 23:6
    The last video gives a more detailed explanation for Jeremiah 23:6.

From Insights on the Bible:

Pictures are from the book Jesus: The Way, The Truth, The Life (seen here Transfiguration scene is from chapter 60. Jesus teaching before the menorah lamp scene is from chapter 68. The John 8:59 scene is from chapter 69.

  1. Podcast with Rabbi Tovia Singer
  2. More background regarding John 8:58-59 and blasphemy

Podcast with Rabbi Tovia Singer
If the Trinitarian handling of John 8:58 is correct, then all Jewish rabbis should wholeheartedly agree. But this is not the case. One such rabbi is Tovia Singer, who expressed himself on the following podcast:
Torah Pearls – Season 2 – Shemot
Why do Christian bibles translate and capitalize Exodus 3:14 as “I AM”? Find out the answer to this and many other questions in this week’s Torah Pearls!
When downloaded, the minute marker is specifically 58:40-1:04:50. Rabbi Tovia Singer humorously says he needs “Dramamine” when listening to the Trinitarian explanation for Exodus 3:14 and John 8:58, which he caustically adds gives him “acid reflux.” He outright says that it “doesn’t match at all,” and uses this to lampoon Christianity!

See also: Does The Trinity Make Sense?

More background regarding John 8:58-59 and blasphemy
One source[B1] provides the following background information to help us have greater insight into the thematic mechanics involved with Jesus’ conversation with the Pharisees in John 8. After comparing the adversarial scene in John 8 with the one in Mark 14:60-64,[B2] where Jesus was condemned as a blasphemer by the high priest for stating that he was the Christ, and after noting that Jesus stated that he was a witness to Abraham rejoicing at seeing his arrival as the Christ (John 8:56),[B3] he writes:

When they realized the implications of Jesus’ claim to have existed before Abraham, as the Christ whose “day” Abraham “saw,” the Jews took up stones to stone him. They rejected his claim to be the Christ, as well as any suggestion that he was superior to their “father,” Abraham.133

Several references to “blasphemy” in the writings of Josephus help further illustrate how the Jews of Jesus’ day could have interpreted his words as blasphemous without associating them in any sense with a claim to be God. For example, in his Antiquities of the Jews 3.180 Josephus refers to “blasphemous charges” that are made against the Jews which are “really seen as an attack against the lawgiver Moses, who is seen as speaking for God.”134 In Antiquities 12.406 a connection is made “between blasphemy and attacking the people of God, especially the leadership.”135 Finally, in Antiquities 20.115 a soldier “seized the Laws of Moses, that lay in one of those villages, and brought them out before the eyes of all present, and tore them to pieces; and this was done with reproachful language [Greek: epiblasphemon, ‘blasphemies’], and much scurrility” (Whiston’s translation). It is clear, then, that disrespect for God’s law and for his leadership was, for the Jews, tantamount to disrespecting God himself.

(P. 298)
Additionally, in the Qumran scrolls “blasphemy” is used for how God’s servants are treated (1QpHab 10.13) and of those who ‘open their mouth against the statutes of God’s covenant by saying, “They are not right”’ (CD-A 5.12; compare 5.21).136 In the OT Apocrypha, “blasphemy” is used to characterize actions against God’s name, against his people, and against their holy places, such as the temple and its sanctuary (1 Maccabees 2:6-14; 2 Maccabees 8:2-4; compare 2 Maccabees 12:14; 15:24). In Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 3:16 the one who forsakes his father is “like a blasphemer” (hos blasphemos). This understanding is perhaps because of the position and the responsibility God is said to have given fathers according to Sirach 3:2.

When I consider the high priest’s declaration of “blasphemy” against Jesus upon hearing him affirm that he is the “Christ,” “the Son of the Blessed,” and the “Son of man,” [Mark 14:60-64] together with the general understanding of blasphemy found in Jewish literature during this time, it is easy to understand why the Jews attempted to stone Jesus according to John 8:59: He claimed to be the Christ whose “day” Abraham “saw.” He also claimed to have “seen Abraham” by existing “before” him, showing his superiority137 to the one whom the Jews believed Jesus was ‘not greater than.’—John 8:39, 53.138

133 Consider, too, this Midrash (a rabbinical investigation into the meaning of a particular text completed sometime after 200 CE) on the book of Psalms:
R. Yudan said in the name of R. Hama: In the time-to-come, when the Holy One, blessed be He, seats the lord Messiah at His right hand, as is said The Lord saith unto my lord: “Sit at my right hand” (Ps. 110:1), and seats Abraham at His left. Abraham’s face will pale, and he will say to the Lord: “My son’s son sits at the right, and I at the left!” [The Midrash on Psalms, William G. Braude, trans. (New Haven: Yale, 1959), page 261.]
Here Abraham is presented as upset over the Messiah’s place at God’s right hand! It should be no surprise, then, that those who viewed Abraham as their “father” (Joh 8:39) were also upset when Jesus claimed to have existed “before Abraham was born.”

134 Darrell L. Bock, Blasphemy and Exaltation in Judaism and the Final Examination of Jesus (Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr, 1998), page 54.

135 Bock, Blasphemy and Exaltation, page 57.

136 James Charlesworth, ed., The Dead Sea Scrolls: Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek Texts with English Translations, vol. 2, Damascus Document, War Scroll, and Related Documents (Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr, 1995), page 21.

137 Interesting in this connection is Satan’s statement to Michael the Archangel in the Life of Adam and Eve 14.3. After being told to “worship the image of God” (namely, “Adam”), Satan responds (with underlining added): “I will not worship one inferior and subsequent to me. I am prior to him in creation; before he was made, I was already made. He ought to worship me” (M.D. Johnson, “Life of Adam and Eve,” in The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha, vol. 2, James H. Charlesworth, ed. [New York, NY: Doubleday, 1985], page 262). This shows that there was a definite sense of superiority associated with one who existed before another. Johnson (“Life of Adam and Eve,” page 252) dates the original composition of this work from between 100 BCE to 200 CE, most probably “toward the end of the first Christian century,” with the Greek and Latin texts produced between that time and 400 CE.

138 Other ancient Jewish references that speak of Abraham in exalted or elevated terms can be found in Philo (see Allegorical Interpretation 3.9, 83, 203 [compare 244]; On the Cheribum 18; Sacrifices of Abel and Cain 5; The Worse Attacks the Better 159; Posterity and Exile of Cain 27, 174; On the Giants 62, 64; On Sobriety 17; On the Change of Names 69, 88, 152; On Dreams 1.70; 2.244; On the Life of Moses 1.76), in the Apocalypse of Abraham (10.5-17; 14.2), and in the Testament of Abraham ([Recension A] 1.2, 5-6; 2.3; 4.6; 10.5-11, 13; 15.14-15; 16.9; 17.7; [Recension B] 13.9-10). Compare also Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews 1.225, 256.

[End of quotation.]

What I found particularly noteworthy was this:
  1. How it was possible to blaspheme the Temple.
  2. The Midrash on Psalms that preserved the ancient Jewish concern to protect Abraham from the notion that the Messiah should enjoy priority over him.
  3. The similar complaint voiced in Life of Adam and Eve which preserves “that there was a definite sense of superiority associated with one who existed before another.”
Thus, regarding the last two points, for Jesus to have declared that he existed prior to Abraham would have hit both nerves, and stresses the severity of injuring Abraham’s sacred genealogical prestige.

Appendix endnotes:
[B1] Jehovah’s Witnesses Defended: An Answer to Scholars and Critics, third edition by Greg Stafford, chapter 3 “Jesus of Nazareth—The Christ from Heaven” pages 297-8. (Elihu Books. 2009, digital version 2012)

[B2] Pages 296-7.

[B3] Pages 223-5.

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Monday, August 15, 2016

A Problem of Papal Proportions

Pope Francis in one of his homilies said regarding Jesus:
He is the intercessor, the One who prays and prays to God with us and before us. Jesus has saved us, He gave us this great prayer, His sacrifice, His life, to save us, to justify us: we are righteous through Him. Now He's gone, but He still prays. Some ask, is Jesus a spirit? Jesus is not a spirit! Jesus is a person, a man, with flesh like ours, but full of glory. Jesus has the wounds on His hands, feet, sides, and when He prays to the Father He shows the price of justification, praying for us, as if to say: But, Father, let this not be lost!

Thus he believes in the standard teaching that Jesus never sacrificed his body in that he got it back, and that he still has his original stigmata.

However, both the Pope and everyone else who agrees with him on this would do well to take seriously the Atonement Day drama where the High Priest passed though the curtain from the Holy to the Most Holy on Atonement Day with only the blood and not the body of the sacrificed animal. Also, the High Priest did not have to sprinkle the sacrificial blood continuously, but only 7 times. (Leviticus 16:14) Thus, Jesus would not need to be continuously suffering with gaping wounds showing them to his Father and God.

Also, it’s interesting that he says Jesus is praying now to his Father, and yet sees no contradiction to Trinitarianism where they are supposed to be equals.

Lastly, how in the world can Jesus now be a man “with flesh like ours” yet simultaneously have flesh that is ‘glorified’ which is not like ours? (Is it like a “force field” preventing his flesh from disintegrating in outer space?) Why is that obvious contradiction not addressed?

Sticking to the Bible would have prevented these problems of Gordian knot proportions.

Please see the following concise and engaging Bible-based articles:

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Friday, August 05, 2016

Skeptical About Trinitarianism

A “Q” from Star Trek

It is not only the old who are wise, not only the aged who understand what is right. Therefore I say: Listen to me; I too will tell you what I know.
~ Elihu (Job 32:9, 10 NIV)

“I get a lot of questions about science and the Trinity. My own mother resisted Christianity for several decades because for her the Trinity was a contradiction. Today, in my blog I show why science and the universe we live in only makes sense if God is triune.”—Hugh Ross on Facebook July 13, 2016

I really admire the overall mission of Astronomer Hugh Ross and the Old-Earth Creationist organization he founded and administers, Reasons to Believe (RTB), to demonstrate the harmony between science and scripture (the Bible).

However, from time to time he reminds us that he is a devout Trinitarian. He has recently done just that in a short essay on his website, emblazoned with a large red and yellow Triquetra (see Appendix A), and confidently entitled: “How to Persuade a Skeptic That God Must Be Triune.”[1]

In it, he rightly eschews physical analogies to the Trinity, like the (in)famous one for water, as unavoidably falling into the trap of Modalism.[2] Therefore, he uses what he calls ‘extra-dimensional and trans-dimensional analogies’ that avoid the Modalistic trap of the physical analogies. However, with these he acknowledges that “even the analogies I offer do not fully illustrate all the known features of the Trinity, let alone the unknown ones.”[3] This humble admission however does nothing to strengthen this presentation for Trinitarianism, especially since the Bible remains a closed book when using it—as I have not seen the scriptures I believe are relevant to the subject being referenced, as in the transcendence description in John 8:21, 23 and the passages presenting initial nonrecognition of Jesus’ resurrection body until an identifying mannerism.—Luke 24:15, 16, 30, 31 and John 20:14, 16.

By way of comparison, science fiction also employs the “extra-dimensional” genre when introducing new and exotic extraterrestrials. For example, in the Star Trek universe, there are extraterrestrial beings known as “the Q” who dwell in the “Q Continuum,” which is defined as “an extra-dimensional plane of existence.”[4] The Q person who introduced this realm to Star Trek even appeared once as a resplendent three-headed cobra orb—as seen in the opening graphic. While not attempting to illustrate Trinitarianism, it is easy to see how this unintentionally does so, for Trinitarian apologists like the esteemed Dr. William Lane Craig employ the three-headed dog Cerberus of Greek mythology.[5]
It is argued that if this “Hound of Hades” had an immortal soul (which by definition is immaterial and transcendent), then we would have an entity analogous to the Trinity, “a single tri-personal soul.” Thus the extra-dimensional person Q manifesting himself as tri-personal would also be analogous to the Trinity.

With the above prolegomena presented, I will now begin appraising “How to Persuade a Skeptic That God Must Be Triune” point-by-point, with Hugh Ross’ comments being prefaced with HR and mine by JS.

HR: In my book and DVD Beyond the Cosmos, I appeal to extra dimensions to offer better analogies for the Trinity, analogies that do not fall into a modalistic trap. Modalism is the heretical doctrine that avows that God is sometimes the Father but not the Son or Holy Spirit, at other times the Son but not the Father or the Holy Spirit, and at still other times the Holy Spirit but not the Father or the Son. The doctrine of the Trinity states that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit always exist and are always fully functional as God and yet there is but one God. (underline added)

JS: When he says “always exist” he means forever into the past as well as future. However, as I stated in my rejoinder to his colleague Keneth Samples in “Trinitarian Samples,”[6] there are three overlooked fatal flaws in that underlined statement. The first has to do with the problem of the Holy Spirit being a person involved like an incubus in Mary’s impregnation and retaining her virginity, as well as the problem of becoming Jesus’ father when Jesus said “I live because of the Father” and not the Holy Spirit at John 6:57. The second deals with Jesus’ emphatic declarations in the Passion Narratives that he would be killed and resurrected, and condemned as a satanic lie that he would not really be dead. The third deals with Jesus’ own theology where he believed that the Father was God, and never once included his divine nature or the Holy Spirit into God. Thus, one can offer all the “extra dimensions” they want to escape the trap of Modalism and still fall into another trap of disagreeing with Jesus’ own teachings that he wholeheartedly believed in. Indeed, there does not seem to be any space here “between Scylla and Charybdis” for safe navigation.

Scylla and Charybdis

HR: The analogies I offer, however, are still only analogies. They illustrate some but not all the characteristics and attributes of the Trinity. Because God transcends the space-time dimensions of our universe and is fully functional independent of the cosmic space-time dimensions and because our human powers of conception and imagination are limited by the space-time dimensions, it is impossible for us to gain more than a partial description and understanding of the Triune God.

JS: I appreciate his humility and concession that his recourse to extra- and trans-dimensions are analogies as opposed to explanations that they look and sound like, as well as being imperfect. As he also said: “In my book, Beyond the Cosmos, I offer some extra-dimensional analogies … but even the analogies I offer do not fully illustrate all the known features of the Trinity, let alone the unknown ones.” (See footnote 3.) This is a confusing admission. It appears to me though that we’re approaching God’s existence the same way, of locating him in another, nonmaterial realm, but then diverging in application—his being a Trinitarian application oblivious to how it contradicts Jesus. Lastly, I find it contradictory that he says that “our human powers of conception and imagination are limited by the space-time dimensions,” but then confidently discusses extra- and trans-dimensions.

HR: As to how we can better argue for and establish the existence of the Triune God, I have found by experience that one of the best ways is to show people how science makes sense only if God is Triune. (underline added)

JS: Therefore, all scientists who do not embrace Trinitarianism fail to make sense of science. This is a very bold and sweeping claim which he attempts to demonstrate. This bold claim also reminds one of a similar bold claim made popular by Theodosius Dobzhansky, that “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.” While HR rejects this claim, he as a Trinitarian promotes another one that we will see is of equal persuasive power.

HR: One example would be to point out that love is not possible unless there are at least two persons to express and receive love. The problem with strictly monotheistic religions like Islam and Judaism is that a non-loving entity supposedly created beings that give and receive love. How can the lesser create the greater?

JS: There are a number of problems with this set of claims:
  1. The first is that a person can love something and that love is not restricted to loving someone, and that a person can have the potential for expressing love—as in God before creation. Thus, HR’s claim that “love is not possible unless there are at least two persons to express and receive love” is an artificial Trinitarian constraint operating on his mind, preventing him from appreciating that a person:
    1. Can love something.
    2. Can have the potential for expressing love, which applies to God before creation began.
  2. The second problem here is that HR is interpreting the God of Judaism through the Trinitarian filter that God can only be love (1 John 4:8) if he is not a person but an impersonal construct housing distinct (not separate) persons. Thus he has his own preconceived Trinitarian bias built into his perception of the God of Judaism—that is, in his mind constrained by Trinitarianism, a single person cannot be love. However, what he is failing to take into account is that the God of Judaism, named Jehovah, is a person and is not presented as “a non-loving entity” in the Bible. Thus Jehovah can still be love and be a single person simultaneously. HR and his fellow Trinitarian colleagues would do well to ponder how Jehovah described himself to Moses at Exodus 34:6-7:
    Jehovah was passing before him and declaring: “Jehovah, Jehovah, a God merciful and compassionate, slow to anger and abundant in loyal love and truth, showing loyal love to thousands, pardoning error and transgression and sin.”
    Alternately, the NET Bible has Jehovah describing himself as “slow to anger, and abounding in loyal love and faithfulness, keeping loyal love for thousands.” So clearly then HR has misrepresented the God of Judaism who has presented himself as the gold-standard of expressing love and with the greatest potential of expressing love. But HR explains further:
HR: To put it another way, in strict monotheism, God must create in order to have any possibility of giving or receiving love. If God is a single person, he is unfulfilled until he creates. For the Trinitarian God, creation is an option. It is not a need.

JS: The fallacy here is that Jehovah God is “unfulfilled until he creates,” for He did not create to be fulfilled, but for others to enjoy living. As Acts 17:25 says, He does not need anything from us, and therefore certainly does not need love from us to feel fulfilled. Thus creation was not a need for Jehovah. Consequently, the Trinitarian claim about love is refuted by Acts 17:25.

At this point, a response could be: ‘What was a unipersonal God doing before creation?’ The direct answer is that divine revelation begins accounting for God’s activities starting with creation. That our human minds may not be able to comprehend what a unipersonal God may have been doing prior to that is irrelevant. Indeed, Jehovah even declared at Isaiah 55:9: “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Thus, it is perfectly harmonious with divine revelation that before creation God was loving because he had the greatest potential to express love, which was expressed when he commenced creating.

HR: The problem with polytheistic faiths is that the multiple gods possess different creation plans and goals. Thus, in polytheistic religions like Hinduism, there is the expectation that the natural realm will be inharmonious and filled with inconsistencies and unresolvable anomalies. However, centuries of scientific research reveal the opposite. The more we study the record of nature the greater level of harmony and consistency we see and the longer the list becomes of resolved anomalies.

Science, therefore, establishes why God in some sense must be uniplural, as the Hebrew word for God (Elohim) used in Genesis 1, implies. The uniplurality of God also explains why both singular and plural pronouns are used for God in Genesis 1:26-27.

JS: That is truly fascinating how “centuries of scientific research” reveal a “harmony and consistency” in nature indicating a common designer behind it. Thus, contrary to his opening claim that “science makes sense only if God is Triune,” he just argued that ‘science makes sense only if God is a person.’ Going any further than that is going beyond science—and into theology. His use of the non-Biblical term “uniplural” was not gleaned from science but from the Trinitarian handling of both Elohim and Genesis 1:26-27 as he subtly revealed. These two handlings however are plagued with problems:
  1. First, Elohim never implies “uniplurality.” Strong’s dictionary defines it as “gods in the ordinary sense” and adds that it may also mean “the supreme God,” as a plural of excellence. The later way is how it appears in the Genesis creation account.
  2. Second, Genesis 1:26-27 has God saying “Let us make” in verse 26 but then has God alone creating in the following verse. However, the NET Bible explains what is happening here using the Bible and not human reasoning:
    In its ancient Israelite context the plural is most naturally understood as referring to God and his heavenly court (see 1 Kgs 22:19-22; Job 1:6-12; 2:1-6; Isa 6:1-8). ... If this is the case, God invites the heavenly court to participate in the creation of humankind (perhaps in the role of offering praise, see Job 38:7), but he himself is the one who does the actual creative work (v. 27).
Thus the Trinitarian handling of both Elohim and Genesis 1:26-27 are clear mishandlings, and the Trinitarian misuse of Genesis 1:26-27 fails to take other scriptures into account. These two Trinitarian failures constitute scholastic absenteeism for keeping both Hebrew and Biblical scholarship absent from discussion.

HR: One question that remains is why three Persons and not two, four, or more. Both creation and the redemption of billions of humans reveals a division of labor that points to three Persons.

JS: First, creation does not reveal “a division of labor that points to three Persons.” Instead, at a minimum it reveals a common designer as he revealed above, and scripturally Jehovah is the creator who used his Son Jesus in creation with the power of God’s holy spirit. (Genesis 1:2; John 1:3; Colossians 1:17)[7] Second, the scriptural case for redemption also does not reveal a Trinitarian division of labor, for God sent his Son Jesus to earth into Mary’s womb (Galatians 4:4) by the impersonal power of the holy spirit (Matthew 1:18; Luke 1:35)[8] for Jesus to die and be raised out of death by Him, by Jehovah God.—Matthew 12:40, 16:21, 17:22-23, 20:18-19, 26:2; Mark 8:31, 9:31, 10:33-34; Luke 18:31-33; Acts 2:32; 3:15; Galatians 1:1.[9]

HR: Also, John in his first epistle explains that God’s spiritual light in the world has three components: life, love, and truth, wherein the Son takes responsibility for bestowing life, the Father takes responsibility for bestowing love, and the Holy Spirit takes responsibility for bestowing truth.

JS: 1 John does not present “three components” in that Trinitarian manner—that is just his interpretation filtered through his Trinitarian theology. Demonstrating this is the very holy spirit. Regarding that, I think he has in mind 1 John 5:6-8, which says in part: “And the spirit is bearing witness, because the spirit is the truth.” However, this passage includes Jesus’ (baptismal) water and (sacrificial) blood with the spirit in bearing witness to the truth, which obviously are not included in the Godhead. Thus, his apparent reference to this passage ironically supports the interpretation that the holy spirit is not a person.

HR: Psychologists point out that when two people isolate themselves from the rest of humanity, they frequently become codependent in their relationship. A third person breaks the codependency. This need for three persons is illustrated in marriage. The bride and groom unite to become one where the bride and groom become an ezer (essential military ally) for one another. However, for this alliance to truly build an increasingly loving relationship and an increasingly productive ministry, the married couple must completely embrace God as their ezer. (italics original)

JS: In God’s rebuke of idolatry, he declared: “To whom will you liken me or make me equal or compare me, so that we should resemble each other?” (Isaiah 46:5) This demonstrates that the comparison to a human couple needing a third party is irrelevant.

HR: In conclusion, the universe, its life, and God’s plan revealed both in nature and Scripture for the redemption of billions of human beings reveals the work of three supernatural Persons who are one in essence, character, purpose, and plan.

JS: In conclusion, the universe, its life, and God’s plan revealed both in nature and Scripture for the redemption of billions of human beings reveals the work of Jehovah God and his celestial court, as exemplified by our Lord Jesus Christ who surrendered his life in our behalf to furnish the ransom sacrifice, and who are one in essence, character, purpose, and plan.

Even though skeptical, I started out as honest-hearted and objective over Trinitarianism, for I need to know the truth about God. I honestly believe that if RTB can convince me that Trinitarianism is true, that I’ll change my mind. But after reading and studying “How to Persuade a Skeptic That God Must Be Triune,” my skepticism remains as strong as ever, and this article has even convinced me further that Trinitarianism is a fallacious theology that constrains the minds of its adherents.

While devout Trinitarians can speak of trans- and extra-dimensional manifolds to explain God’s transcendence in being triune, I will be satisfied with Jesus’ own explanation found at John 8:21, 23:
“I am going away … Where I am going, you cannot come. … You are from the realms below; I am from the realms above. You are from this world; I am not from this world.”
Here Jesus spoke in terms agreeable to the intent of HR, that God dwells in a “higher” transcendent realm. As one source explains regarding Jesus’ ascension to heaven:
Jesus’ ascension, while beginning with an upward movement, from the viewpoint of his disciples, may have thereafter taken any direction required to bring him into his Father’s heavenly presence. It was an ascension not only as to direction but, more important, as to the sphere of activity and level of existence in the spirit realm and in the lofty presence of the Most High God, a realm not governed by human dimensions or directions. (underscore added)[10]
The upward movement was an illustration of the transcendence of the spirit realm, operating on a trans-dimensional level. Digressing from Jesus’ explanation and including him as a distinct (not separate) person within the Trinitarian Godhead creates analogical problems seen in the outset, for instance, of using an immortal soul of a mythological three-headed dog when Jesus stated quite clearly and forcefully on multiple occasions in his Passion Narratives that belief in an immortal soul is satanic.[11] Therefore, all attempts to explain or rationalize Trinitarianism become explorations in blasphemy. They all may even be reduced to what the Apostle Paul warned Christians of in Colossians 2:4 (NET Bible): “I say this so that no one will deceive you through arguments that sound reasonable.” Here the NET Bible footnote explains:
Paul’s point is that even though the arguments seem to make sense (sound reasonable), they are in the end false. Paul is not here arguing against the study of philosophy or serious thinking per se, but is arguing against the uncritical adoption of a philosophy that is at odds with a proper view of Christ and the ethics of the Christian life.
Thus all honest truth seekers need to be careful to not be deceived by slick reasoning but instead keep all relevant scriptures in mind as our theological guide. The alternative is falling prey to the “doctrines of demons.” (1 Timothy 4:1) The Apostle Paul repeated this danger in his warning in 2 Corinthians 11:3 (NET Bible):
“But I am afraid that just as the serpent deceived Eve by his treachery, your minds may be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.”
This is a clear, clarion call to be alert to doctrinal deception about the identity of God and Jesus Christ. As a result, just as the serpent is a symbol for deception, so the Q seen and discussed at the outset is ironically also a closer match to the Trinity due to appearing as serpentine.

  1. The Trinitarian Symbol of the Triquetra
  2. Good advice from Hugh Ross
The Trinitarian Symbol of the Triquetra
One source says under “Germanic paganism” that:
The triquetra has been found on runestones in Northern Europe and on early Germanic coins. It presumably had pagan religious meaning and it bears a resemblance to the valknut, a symbol associated with Odin.
Consequently, I really don’t think it’s appropriate to associate the Christian God with a pagan symbol potentially derived from the pagan god Odin—as this could indicate that theological derailment has occurred somewhere. ( and

Good advice from Hugh Ross
In the RTB Weekly Digest dated February 14, 2017, Hugh Ross provided an excellent piece of advice on detecting deception. He said:
Pay attention to context. Many of the most convincing-sounding, anti-God arguments you find online are cherry-picked verses or data from just one narrow scientific discipline. It’s easy to make an argument sound like the right one by ignoring all of the facts that contradict it.
This is so true, for he has correctly identified the most common culprit of deception. May we apply this principle also with theological considerations.

[1] Found here: and

[2] See: Popular Arguments some Trinitarians use that are on a Trinitarian "Never Use" List

[3] Facebook July 14, 2016

[4] “Q Continuum.” Memory Alpha.

[5] The Trinity and Siamese Twins. Here he explained that: “If the alien being is a tri-personal soul in one body, and the body dies, then, yes, we’d have a trinity. The difference is that it would be disembodied, whereas God is unembodied.” (italics original) Since Q was manifesting himself as an immaterial, transcendent three-headed cobra orb (as a being with “semi-transparent cobra-like heads extending from a brilliantly glowing sphere hovering above the ground, surrounded by lights”), then he is an even closer match to the Trinity than Cerberus. (“Aldebaran serpent.” Memory Alpha.


[7] Regarding Colossians 1:17, a NET Bible footnote notes that “BDAG 973 s.v. συνίστημι B.3 suggests ‘continue, endure, exist, hold together’ here.” Reflecting this scholarship, the NWT has: “by means of [Jesus] all other things were made to exist.” John 1:3 concurs where it states that “through [Jesus] all things were made; without him nothing was made.” (NIV) Notice though the word “through” (from the Greek word dia). Thus it is harmonious with divine revelation that Jehovah the almighty creator created Jesus (John 6:57; Revelation 3:14) then everything else through him (1 Corinthians 8:6). Accordingly, Jehovah was the source of creation. This is also the position found in the BDAG lexicon, page 225, where we are told that dia refers to Christ “as intermediary in the creation of the world” at John 1:3.

[8] See this point explained further here: Holy Spirit and the Virgin Birth

[9] Regarding the Trinitarian division of labor in salvation, see “Trinitarian Samples” under “The Trinity and Salvation” here: For additional reading regarding those events in the Gospel accounts which are called the Passion Narratives, see: “A Lesson from Jesus’ Rebuke” here: For additional reading regarding how God alone resurrected Jesus, see the “Excursus: Who resurrected Jesus?” in “Hebrews 5:7 and Trinitarianism: A Compatibility Crisis” here:

[10] Insight on the Scriptures under “Ascension (Correctness of the Term),” page 187.

[11] Jesus did this as seen in his second and most impassioned Passion Narrative recorded in Matthew 16:21-23 and Mark 8:31-33. Here, he identified any contradiction as ultimately originating with Satan. Thereafter, his disciples were afraid to respond when he repeated his Passion Narrative, as seen in Mark 9:31-32 and Luke 9:44-45. Thus, each time he repeated his Passion Narrative it was understood that questioning its truthfulness had its origin with Satan. As the point of these sobering narratives was that Jesus was going to be killed and resurrected, Jesus clearly did not believe in the immortal soul or in Trinitarianism, and viewed any contradiction—however well-intentioned—as originating with Satan. See: “A Lesson from Jesus’ Rebuke” here:

Additional reading:
See also:

Presentations by Professor Dale Tuggy:

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