The Trinity No Longer Makes Sense
by Greg Deuble
Slightly edited ...
A pastor who for many years vigorously promoted the orthodox view of God as Three now sees things in a completely new light. Some of his close colleagues do not share his change of heart (others are intrigued with his new insights). He replied to one fellow pastor as follows:
I now give some initial responses to your last e-mail and its 2 attachments. To do it justice I will attempt to be careful and thorough. We are dealing after all with the Truth of God as He has revealed it to us, and we are all held accountable for what we teach (James 3:1).
Let us take your “authority’s” assertion that the Being in Exodus 3 who spoke to Moses from the burning bush was Jesus in a preexistent, pre-human state. Your consultant links this episode with the Being who spoke on Mt. Sinai. He talks about “the angel of the covenant” and “the angel of YAHWEH” and “the captain of YAHWEH’s host” in this connection, also, and he makes the assumption that this must be Jesus, the Son of God in his pre-existent condition, because “no man has seen God at any time,” and this could not therefore be the Father.
I put it to you that this is a case of pure speculation on your “authority’s” part. I would go further indeed, and put it to you that your “authority” is proposing a view which is at odds with his Bible.
I know it appears to our western minds that the one in the bush who says, “I am what I am” is YAHWEH Himself. However, Stephen in Acts 7:30 identifies the speaker as “an angel.” And in verse 35 Stephen again speaks of “the angel who appeared to him [Moses] in the thorn bush.”
Thus we have the inspired interpretation of these OT passages from one who was filled with the Holy Spirit and with wisdom and faith. His understanding was that the Being who confronted Moses was not YAHWEH Himself, nor the Son of God existing before his birth.
The same is true of Moses’ experience on Mount Sinai. Stephen says it was “the angel who was speaking to him on Mount Sinai” (v. 38). Yet again, when we read the Old Testament account the impression given is quite clearly that God Himself was the speaker. Hebrews confirms the presence of a divine agency when it states categorically that Israel received the Law through “angels” (Heb. 2:2).
These are classic instances of the principle of Jewish “agency.” When God commissions and sends a subordinate to speak and act for Himself, the subordinate is treated as though he is in fact God Himself. To oppose the “sent one,” God’s commissioner, is truly to oppose God Himself.
I was reading Acts 12 the other day — the passage where Peter is in prison. Suddenly the jail fills with light, and in verse 7 “an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared.” The angel speaks to Peter, slips off his chains and leads him to freedom.
Now when Peter recounts the details of his miraculous escape to the unbelieving saints in verse 17, who does he say brought him out? “He described to them how the Lord had led him out of the prison.” Who led him out? An angel or the Lord?
At this point, if you are going to be consistent with your previous correspondence such as in Acts 9, you will have to say that “the Lord” here means YAHWEH and that Peter confessed a mere angel as YAHWEH! But you know the answer. An angel led Peter out, but he was commissioned by the Lord, and thus the work was truly attributed to the Lord Himself.
Biblical agency! When are we going to submit to the Scriptures and recognize this simple fact of agency. There is no reason for us to remain blind.
Another matter. Your “authority” quotes 4 verses from the Old Testament to prove that “direct Biblical statements” tell us of the Deity of Christ: Micah 5:2; Isaiah 9:6; John 1:1-3 and Hebrews 7:3.
Is his assertion correct? Let’s look at the first one in Micah 5:2. He is correct to say this was taken by the Jews as a remarkable prophecy of the coming birth of their Messiah. But his asseveration that it provides evidence for an eternally conscious and preexistent Jesus because it says “his goings forth have been from long ago, from the days of eternity” is most unfortunate.
The Hebrew phrase is y’may olam. It occurs later in Micah 7:14 and the same prophet does not mean here “from the days of eternity.” Deuteronomy 32:7, Amos 9:11, Isaiah 45:21, 63:9, 11 show that the phrase merely means “from remote antiquity.”
Take the expression as found in Deuteronomy 32:7: “Remember the days of old, consider the years of all generations, ask your father and he will inform you, your elders, and they will tell you.” This clearly does not mean “remember the days of eternity,” for it refers to days that can be recalled by the elders and the fathers. And this is the meaning in the other verses that I have cited.
In other words, what Micah 5:2 states is that the promise of the Messiah could be traced “to the distant past,” or “remote antiquity.” The KJV translation “days of eternity” quite misleadingly suggests the eternal personal preexistence of the Messiah, when all the prophet said was that the promise of the Messiah’s emergence in Bethlehem is from “the days of old.”
I do not need to go again into Isaiah 9:6 having already dealt with that in previous correspondence. The same for Hebrews 7:3 and Melchizedek. I will say this only of John’s prologue that the correct translation would go a long way to giving John Hebrew thinking, rather than imposing on him a western mind. Why not translate like this: “In the beginning was the word (lower case ‘w’) and the word was with God and the word was God. All things were made through it...” As I have pointed out, seven English translations before the KJV rendered the words as “by it” and not “by him.”
By putting a capital on “word” the KJV reveals the translator’s bias in favor of the Trinity, rather than a translation of what John wrote. John had no cause to think that the Son was alive before his begetting in the womb of Mary (Matt. 1:20; Luke 1:35).
We have already dealt with the question of whether Christ personally played a role in the creation of the heavens and the earth. In particular we have seen that Colossians 1:16-17 does not say “By him all things were created.” Rather, it reads, “In him...” which allows a completely different sense, namely, that all things were created with a view to him, for him, with him in mind. Christians were also “in Christ” before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4). Paul in this passage in Colossians is anyway focusing on the new creation and the authority of Jesus over that creation.
I like your “authority’s” differentiation between protoktistos and prototokos. The first means “first created” which does not appear in the NT and the second word means “firstborn.” This is true. However the meaning of prototokos is given for us in the context and from the OT background in Psalm 89 which your “authority” does not treat. He simply reads into it his own preconceived Trinitarian bias again. Let me show you.
Psalm 89:27 says concerning Christ, “I also shall make him my firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth.” This is the Hebrew understanding of “firstborn,” and the context makes it clear that it refers to status, to position, to rank. The firstborn is “the highest of the kings of the earth.”
And the Colossians context is faithful to this understanding. The firstborn is the one for whom all things were created (v. 16). “And he is before all things...” That Greek word pro does not necessarily mean “before” in the sense of time, but “before” as in “above” or “superior” or “over.”
And I would suggest that it is this second understanding which is true to the OT meaning and Paul’s total context here, for he goes on to explain his meaning in verse 18. Here he says that Jesus is “the head of the body, the church.” He is talking all the way through about superiority of rank and position, not literal preexistence in time.
Verse 18 confirms this interpretation again: “And he is the firstborn from the dead, so that he himself might come to have first place in everything.” There it is again. First place! Rank, honor, position, superiority, or as per KJV “preeminence.” This idea that prototokos means priority in time and therefore relates to Christ’s preexistence (other than in the Divine Plan) is unwarranted and is read into the passage, not from it. Note, too, the reason for Jesus’ preeminence. It is because of his resurrection, “so that” he may come to have first place. It would be meaningless to say this, if in fact first place is due to Jesus because he has always been “Deity.”
I will tackle one more area your “authority” raises as proof of the conscious
preexistence of Jesus —
John 8:58. To start with, it is important to notice that Jesus did not use the phrase revealing God's name to Moses from Exodus 3. At the burning bush God declared His name as “I am who I am,” “I am the Self-existent One.”
The Greek phrase in the LXX reads ego eimi ho
hown, which is not the title clamed by Jesus. Further, this
simple phrase ego eimi
is everywhere else rendered “I am
he.” What Jesus had just claimed here was that
Messiah’s day was a reality to Abraham through the eyes of
faith. But Messiah “existed” as the supreme subject of God’s plan long before
the birth of Abraham.
“Before Abraham came to be, I am he” is a profound statement about God’s original plan for the world centered in Jesus, whom John can also describe as “crucified before the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8). If Jesus was “crucified before Abraham” he himself may be said to have “existed” in the eternal counsels of God, for he was appointed as Savior of the world before the birth of Abraham.
Jesus has not ruined the cardinal tenet of Judaism by introducing himself as “coequal God.” Jesus was loyal to his Jewish heritage and its strict monotheism when he declared that the Father “is the only one who is truly God” (John 17:3). Words could not be more decisive.
In fact, the majority of the translations since the KJV recognize this as the simple meaning of what Jesus said and meant by supplying in italics the word “he.” “I am he.” This is the correct sense, just as in the next chapter when the blind man is asked whether he is the one who used to sit and beg. He says ego eimi, and it means, “I am he” or “I am the one you are talking about.” Nobody would dare suggest that he too was claiming to be the “I am what I am” of Exodus. Yet that is the very forced understanding your “authority” would have us adopt. To confirm this as the true meaning, have a look at John 4. The woman at the well in verse 25 says to Jesus, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called the Christ); when that one comes, he will declare all things to us.” In verse 26, “Jesus said to her, ‘I who speak to you am [then even the KJV supplies in italics the obvious meaning] he’” (i.e., the Messiah, not God!). Really, this is elementary to any “authority,” and to teach otherwise seems quite reprehensible.
I have written enough for the time being. I submit the above, as you say, for your “enjoyment.”
Yours through faith
in the One
who was promised from remote antiquity
to be our Savior and the Lord of all creation,
our Lord Jesus Messiah.