Nazarene Principles ©2000
#47. That the Father has a Name is revealed in the Lord’s Prayer, ‘Let your Name be sanctified.’ What is that Name? What Name did the Nazarene believe to be uniquely God’s? How is to be “sanctified”? The answer lies in the Second of the Nazarene Principles.
#48. As a Jew, the Nazarene knew quite well what God’s Name was.63 Even as a child he must have been familiar with the story of Moses and the burning bush. This is an account he later quotes against the Sadducees.64 This story in Exodus 3:13-15 records Moses’ question about God’s self designation: ‘Suppose the Israelites ask me, “What is His Name? What shall I tell them?” So God said to Moses, “I AM THE ONE WHO IS (Ehyeh asher ehyeh). This is what you are to say to Israel, Yahweh (YHWH) has sent me to you.’ This is my Name forever and this is my Memorial throughout all generations to come.”’ The God of Moses was The Absolute Being. God was not going to change His Name to another.
|63||JESUS AND THE “NAME”. The Nazarene professed a pre-existence with The God before he came to the earth. He would have firsthand knowledge about the Name of God and its correct pronunciation. (John 8:58; 17:5) There is a tradition that Jesus used the Name in his healings, learning the pronunciation by sneaking into the Temple on Passover and heard the high priest utter it.|
|64||SADDUCEES. See Matthew 22:23-33; Mark 12:18-27; Luke 20:27-40.|
#49. No one would have to tell Jesus that in Hebrew the four letters which stand for the Name of God are YHWH. (Yod He Waw He) Or, in English with north European roots (where Y is converted to J and W is converted to V) JHVH (Jehovah).65 There is no uniform agreement as to the original pronunciation66 of this and the various opinions run to dozens or more: Yehwah, Yehowah (Jehovah), Yahweh, etc., etc. Almost everyone admits the true pronunciation is lost.
|65||JEHOVAH. Jehovah is found in the KJV four times at Exodus 6:3, Psalm 83:18, Isaiah 12:2 and 26:4 and in some place names. The KJV changed YHWH in nearly 6,000 places to LORD or GOD in capitol letters. Since the KJV has dominated the Protestant Christian world, this lack of Jehovah explains the general unfamiliarity with it. Most Christians cannot answer the question Moses asked: “What is His Name?” (Exodus 3:13) The Catholic Douay version contains “Jehovah” once in a footnote on Exodus 6:3. The ASV and Rotherham were among 20th Century versions which restored YHWH. Since WW II several versions have used Jehovah or Yahweh throughout. (ASV, NJB, NWT, NKJV) If the original way to pronounce God’s Name was Yahweh or Yehowah a question arises if this Hebrew way of saying the Name ought to be carried over into other languages? Or, should it be transliterated. For example, in Spanish the Hebrew Yehowah is translated Jehova but in some regions in Spain this would be more like ehoba. Does this not deviate from the more accurate sound of Yehowah and would it be necessary to learn to say in that way, rather than deviate? Additionally, the Spanish Jehova does not preserve the four letters YHWH. Multiplying this by 2,000 lanugages and one would begin to see the great difficulty. Was it for this reason the exact pronunciation became less and less important?|
|66||PRONUNCIATION. Proper nouns or names in the Hebrew containing the Divine Name, such as Yehoshua (Joshua, Jesus), have the first two consonants with the vowels Yeho leaving open the possibility of Yehowah (Jehovah). TWOT, Vol 1, page 484: “If the word were spelled with four letters (YHWH) in Moses’ day, we would expect it to have had more than two syllables.” Thus Ye-ho-wah would be closer than Yah-weh.|
#50. How did this happen? Who is responsible for losing the true pronunciation of the Divine Name? According to the historian Josephus of the First Century, the Jews never pronounced YHWH but substituted LORD or GOD. The original Hebrew was a language which only used consonants and the vowel sounds were memorized just as they are today in Israel. This is something like “bldg” in English. If a word is no longer spoken it is only a matter of time before the vowel sounds are lost. They can only be preserved if someone stresses the need and passes on the secret vowel sounds. About the year 1,000 AD the Jewish scribes began to add vowel points to indicate pronunciation. These differ a bit when it comes to Yehwah (Genesis 2:4), Yehowah (Genesis 3:14), Yahweh, or, even Yehowih. (Ezekiel 2:4) Yahweh is the generally preferred pronunciation as it is used by the New Jerusalem Bible throughout. Some insist on “Jehovah” in English but the above is enough to demonstrate there is no clear-cut agreement on this whole matter.
#51. Who is responsible for this supposed loss of the pronunciation of the Divine Name, if it has, indeed, been lost? The Jewish scribes never removed the Name as the King James translators did. The Jewish Masoretic scribes tried to preserve the pronunciation in 1,000 AD with the introduction of vowel points. But, let us suppose for a moment that the Nazarene, realizing the importance of this pronunciation and knowing it perfectly from actual experience with his Father, told his Apostles in private the absolute, correct pronunciation. In addition suppose the Nazarene stressed the need to perpetuate this pronunciation. Then who is responsible for loosing it? Would it not be those apostolic successors who followed in the generations after the death of the original disciples? In other words the Christians67 themselves lost it! Unless… all of this is not as vital as some would claim.
|67||CHRISTIANS. Some view the body of Christians as a “little flock” (Luke 12:32) or a “faithful and discreet slave.” (Matthew 24:45) If the pronunciation was lost, the responsibility falls to them.|
#52. The Nazarene’s example, without contest, would be premier in this matter of the use of the Divine Name, YHWH. Even if one were to accept the interpretation of about a score of Hebrew translations of the Gospels where YHWH is used in quotations, Hebraisms, and occasionally in everyday speech (Luke ch 1, 2), it is unlikely Jesus ever used YHWH in common daily speech. What about in his prayers, public and private. We do not find YHWH in either the public example of the Lord’s Prayer nor in that private Passover prayer of John chapter seventeen. All the great men of the Hebrew Scriptures used YHWH in their prayers. Men such as Moses, Joshua, David, Elijah, Daniel, Nehemiah, and Jonah. (Numbers 14; Deuteronomy 32, 33; Joshua 7; Judges 5; 2 Samuel 22; 1 Kings 18; 2 Chronicles 6:41; Nehemiah 9:5; Daniel 9:9; Jonah 1:3) The expression, “O, Jehovah,” occurs many times in prayers and hymns and yet the Nazarene never does this. If one were to imitate the Lord Jesus in this matter, then it would not be necessary to make “Jehovah” a part of every prayer.
#53. This does not mean the Divine Name is unimportant. This Tetragram (Four Letters) occurs over 6,000 times in the Old Testament Hebrew Scriptures. In the Fourth Century BC when the Greek-speaking Jews under the rule of Alexander the Great began to translate the Hebrew text in what was becoming the international language of common Greek, they came upon some difficulty. There is no way to transliterate the Hebrew YHWH into Greek68 as it lacks the correct letters to make the translation complete. So, the seventy scribes who produced what is now called the Septuagint (LXX), and from which Jesus and Paul quoted, left the four letters YHWH untranslated. The Jewish Publication Society’s Tanakh does something similar at Exodus 6.3: ‘I did not make myself known to them by My name YHWH .’69 Thus, when reading such LXX editions, the Divine Name YHWH would have stuck out clearly when reading.
|68||GREEK. TWOT, Vol 1, page 484: “The pronunciation yahô would be favored by the later Greek form iao found in the Qumran Greek fragments. . . Theodoret in the fourth century A.D. states the Samaritans pronounced it iabe. Clement of Alexandria (early 3d century A.D.) vocalized it as iaoue.”|
|69||NOT. Or, possibly a rhetorical question: ‘also as respects my name Jehovah did I not make myself known to them?’ (NWT ftn) James Washington Watts (1977), ‘by my name Yahweh I had not made myself thoroughly understandable to them.’|
#54. For example, or by way of illustration, if the LXX were the edition at the little synagogue in Nazareth when Jesus stood up to read Isaiah chapter 61, verse 1, he would have before him: ‘Pneuma YHWH ep eme.’ Did he pronounce the YHWH or did he respect the Jewish custom and say ha-’A-dhohn’ (the [true] LORD) instead? If he had uttered YHWH in that crowded synagogue of Jews, what would have been the reactions to what they considered a violation of the Commandment, ‘Never abuse the Name’? (Exodus 20:7) The initial reaction is recorded in Luke 4:22, ‘There was a general stir of admiration; they were surprised that words of such grace should fall from his lips.’ (NEB) This does not seem the reaction of a people upset over a blasphemous use of YHWH. True, a bit later in reaction to further words (not using YHWH) they are ready to stone him, but this seems more for his criticism of them. (Luke 4:23-30)
#55. In addition to this, no where else in the Gospels do we ever find the Nazarene criticized, censored, cautioned or condemned for using YHWH either in quotations or everyday speech. Given the frequent and notorious complaints over violations of the Sabbath it seems unusual there were no similar condemnations for a more serious commandment. (Matthew 12:1-15) Unless, the Nazarene respected the Jewish conception of the Commandment and followed their custom.70 If one argues that this might be the case only in public, then we offer John chapters 13 to 17 as evidence that the Nazarene did not use the Divine Name even in a private, closed meetings with his Apostles in the upper-room.
|70||CUSTOM. In all his lengthy Sermon on the Mount to a mixed public, the Nazarene may have used YHWH in his allusion to Numbers 30:3 or Deuteronomy 23:23, ‘You must keep your oaths to YHWH.’ Judging from the above and any lack of criticism (Matthew 7:28) he may not have used it at all but uttered something more like ha-’A-dhohn’.|
#56. The Divine Name first appears in Genesis 2:4 as Yehwah. Abraham knew the Name as did the other Patriarchs. It is during the life of Moses when God first revealed the meaning of his personal Name. Exodus 3:13-15 records this in the account about the Burning Bush when Moses is on Mount Sinai. In this account God explains what YHWH means. In Hebrew this is Eh-yeh’ Asher’ Eh-yeh. It is understood to mean: ‘I AM THE ONE WHO IS.’ (Or, I Am the One Who Exists; I AM THE BEING) Other versions render this: Rotherham: “I-Will-Become-
Whatsoever-I-Please; Moffatt and Leeser: I-Will-Be-That-I-Will-Be; KJV: I-Am- What-I-Am.
#57. The Jewish Publication Society’s Tanakh has a footnote on this point: “The name YHWH (traditionally read Adonai “the LORD”) is here associated with the root hayah “to be.” And, so, The New Brown- Driver-Briggs-Gesenius Hebrew-English Lexicon states on page 218: “But most take it as… the one who is: i.e. the absolute and unchangeable one… the existing, ever-living.”
#58. However, when, over one thousand years later, the Greek-speaking Jews began to translated this from Hebrew they left the Tetragram (YHWH) in its original forms as YHWH in Hebrew. This can be seen in the LXXP of the First Century BC fragment and The Aleppo Codex of the Tenth Century AD in Hebrew. These Jewish translators of Alexander the Great’s period did translate the meaning of the Name. For the Hebrew71 they used ego eimi ho on which is usually translated: “the One who is.” Also, they rendered YHWH as ho On or “the One who is.” This same designation is used by the apostle John in Revelation72 1:4, 8; 11:17; 16:5, when he uses the formula for God Almighty: “the One who is and the One who was and the One who is coming.” So, in his own way John renders the meaning of the Divine Name (YHWH) in Greek even as the Septuagint (LXX) did at Exodus 3:14.
|71||HEBREW. Strongs # 1961.|
|72||REVELATION. Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament Vol 1, page 214 comments on this observation: “Most likely the name should be translated something like ‘I am he who is,’ or ‘I am he who exists’ as reflected by the LXX’s ego eimi ho on. The echo of this is found surely in the NT, Revelation 1:8.”|
#59. The Nazarene never used this designation ho On as a term for God according to the Greek Gospels. He preferred the title, or name, “The God” and “Father.” Overall there is a preference for “The God” (ho theos) with the exception of the Gospel of John where “Father” is the name of choice, 120 times to “God” 90 times. The Gospel of Luke is weighted in the other direction. The Gospels of Matthew and Mark favor “God” over “Father.” But, all things considered, “Father” is Jesus’ preferred designation for the Supreme Being, The Absolute God.
#60. There is another word used once by the Nazarene in Mark 14:36, a unique occurrence of a tender term for God the Father, Abba. It is an Aramaic loan word which was among the first learned by a child and translates roughly to the Latin Papa. It literally means “the Father” or, “my, Father.” The Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Vol 1, pages 614-15 makes these observations: “Abba… a word derived from baby-language… 2. No where in the entire wealth of devotional literature produced by ancient Judaism do we find Abba being used as a way of addressing God. The pious Jew knew too much of the great gap between God and man (Eccelsiastes 5:1) to be free to address God with the familiar word used in everyday family life… Jesus addressed God in his prayers as ‘My Father’. In doing so he made use of the warm, familiar term Abba used in the everyday life of the family… (Luke 11:2 ff.) This means that when Jesus gave his disciples the Lord’s Prayer, he gave them authority to follow him in addressing God as Abba, and so gave them a share in his status as Son… Accordingly, Paul uses in the invocation Abba, dear Father, clear evidence of our adoption through Christ as sons.” (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6) Thus those who pray the Lord’s Prayer, and address God as Father, must, of necessity, be His children.
#61. NAME SANCTIFIED. That the Divine Name was to be held holy, sanctified or treated with special respect is shown by the use of the word-group “sanctify” over 130 times in the Bible. This holiness is first stressed in the Ten Commandments, ‘You shall not misuse73 the name of Yahweh.’ It is this commandment which caused the Jews to refrain from uttering the noma sagrada.
|73||MISUSE. Or, abuse, treat as worthless, use in vain. If the NJB’s translation with “misuse” is close to the mark, then one can see why very religious Jews might have become wary of even the pronunciation.|
#62. One may wonder why the Name of God needs to be “sanctified”? There are two reasons for this. First, Satan, the Arch Enemy of God, raised an issue in the Garden of Eden (later highlighted in the book of Job) which called into question God’s honest dealings with humans. According to Job1:9-11 and Job 2:4, 5 Satan inferred that humans only worshipped God for what they could get out of it. This is still a contemporary charge against Christians: that heaven is their only motivation. This was, and still is, an accusation which reproached God and besmirched His name. The Bible is an account how God purposes to correct this deviation and thus ‘sanctify His great Name.’ (Isaiah 29:23; Ezekiel 36:23)
#63. Secondly, the very People of God, the Jews, had brought great reproach upon the Name of their God Yahweh, much the same as historical “Christians” have reproached the name of Christ during the last 19 centuries. About the Jews’ deviation, Paul writes when he quotes Isaiah, ‘The Name of God is blasphemed by the Gentiles because of you People.’ (Romans 2:24; Isaiah 52:5) It was as true in Isaiah’s day as it was in Paul’s, 700 years later. There was a monumental record of reproach which needed to be punished and corrected. It is very similar to the unholiness heaped on God’s Name and the name of Christ throughout the Dark Ages into the Twentieth Century. One cannot find an inquisition, a crusade, a slave trade, a false prophecy, or a war, which did not involve “Christians” or so-called worshippers of Jehovah. This very record is what turns most persons away from Christ and his God, Yahweh or Jehovah.
#64. The subject of the sanctification of God’s Name was not original with the Nazarene. It is a reoccurring theme throughout the Bible. In the Book of Ezekiel alone it is mentioned over six dozen times. Ezekiel 36:23 is an example: ‘I shall certainly sanctify my great Name, which has been profaned among the nations, which you (Israel) profaned in the midst of them (the Gentiles); and the nations will have to know that I am Yehowih.’74 With regard to the reason for judgment on Moses, Numbers 20:12 has Yehowah declaring: ‘Because you did not show faith in me to sanctify me before the eyes of the sons of Israel.’ And, again Yehowah warns Israel when He says, ‘Instruct Aaron and his sons to be scrupulous about the sacred donations that the Israelite people consecrate to Me, lest they profane My holy name.’ (Leviticus 22:2, JPS) From these verses it can be observed that lack of faith and questionable religious sacrifices are ways of failing to sanctify God’s Name.
|74||YEHOWIH. Strongs # 3069.|
#65. SUMMARY. In review, then, Jesus the Nazarene taught about God, who as the Father, is the same as Yahweh of the Hebrew Scriptures. Paul and the other disciples who wrote after Jesus do the same thing. There are well over one hundred quotations in the Christian Bible where the Name of God appears in original Hebrew sources. Thus, God the Father has a Name and the Nazarene stresses the need for all of God’s children to pray for its sanctification. Nothing in word or need must be done to make this Name to appear worthless or in any way abused so that others would spit on God. What we do and how we act reflects on the Name of God. Particularly, a major way to sanctify the Name of the Father is by faith.
#66. DOES GOD EXIST? “God exists,”75 is what is implied by the Greek of Exodus 3:14 and Revelation 1:4, ho On (the One who is). Jesus the Nazarene never indulges in any arguments about the existence of God. He simply states with complete conviction, ‘The One who sent me is real.’ (John 7:28 NW) One imagines the wry smile and penetrating gaze of the Nazarene if he were asked, “Does God exist?” To the Christ the existence of God is a given. It would almost seem absurd that Jesus would even consider such a query. However, given our times a few words on this subject of God’s existence seem in order.
|75||GOD IS. See Hebews 11:6.|
#67. Perhaps the very fact we can ask the question is the strongest proof God exists. Because, if God did not exist, then we could not conceive of such a thing, for we would stand as the absolute on this planet -- the top of the food chain -- and we would not think of anything greater than ourselves. One philosopher put it this way: “God is that of which there is nothing greater.”
#68. Some moderns deny the existence of God and yet insist there must be life elsewere in the Universe. For this conviction they have no proof whatsoever and therefore hold this belief based on faith. Another consideration is the probability of the existence of God as a 50/50 possibility. Since the only absolute in life is death, there is a 50/50 possibility that God is involved with any prospects of life after death. These are outstanding odds. Some find it extremely interesting that some scientists and philosophers will argue passionately that there is no evidence for the existence of God and they as scientists must stick to the evidence; and at the same time, these same thinkers adamantly assert that they has to be life on other planets somewhere in the vast universe, though they have no evidence at all for this belief. Is this their Faith?
#69. Belief in God or gods and spirits was completely natural in recorded history. Indeed, many see evidence which points to monotheism (worship of one God) to have preceded polytheism (worship of many gods) as the Bible has it. Lincoln Barnett wrote for Life magazine (Dec 12, 1955) in The Dawn of Religion: "Early man could only imagine some all-powerful and supernatural volition behind such ordered phenomena as the daily rising and setting of the sun, the cycle of the seasons and the nightly rotation of the starry celestial sphere. He could only tremble in fear and wonder at the unpredictable paroxysms of the natural world-the sudden rifting of the earth and the blinking scintillation of lightning in the opaque sky. Here surely lay the origin of his belief in the supernatural…
#70. "But early man must have been aware of equally mysterious and alarming occurrences that took place not in the exterior world but within himself. What, for example, could he think of sleep? The difference between sleep and consciousness suggested that there existed within him something which transcended his body, something which could go away and, in dreaming, lead an active life of its own, traveling wondrously through space and time. And finally, death confronted man with the ultimate mystery. When any individual died the vital attributes of his body disappeared-warmth, movement, speech, breath, volition. Where did they go? Since the flesh itself disintegrated, the body could only be a dwelling place for the spirit that inhabited it in life."
#71. There seems no period when God did not exist in the minds of people living on this planet. One estimate for the number of those who believe in God in 1997 is 95%. There has never been an atheistic people or nation in recorded history. Only in the last one hundred years has atheism been forced upon whole nations as a political ideology. Interestingly, in recent years when subjugated peoples had their freedom restored, millions openly returned to a public belief in God. Why is it that by nature, when given their freedom, people will normally want to believe in God? It is only when political tyranny (or moral choices) forbid open belief in God that a fearful national majority accept atheism publicly while privately holding to a belief in God.
#72. It is interesting to ask an atheist or agnostic, “In the last three hundred years who have been recognized among the greatest scientists?” Surely, it is not unfair to list Newton and Einstein as preeminent. Both great thinkers publicly expressed belief in God.76 What would an atheist say to set these two august gentlemen straight?
|76||NEWTON, EINSTEIN. Newton wrote one million words on theology and the Bible, as many as he penned on the sciences. Einstein said, “I do not believe God places dice with the cosmos”; and, “It is not beyond my comprehension to conceive a Supreme Intelligence perpetuating Himself throughout all eternity.” "I find more sure marks of authenticity in the Bible than in any profane history whatever." (Newton) Other comments by scientists include: New Scientist: "The lay view persists-of scientists having 'disproved' religion. It is a view that commonly expects scientists to be nonbelievers; that Darwin put the last nails in God's coffin; and that a succession of scientific and technological innovations since have ruled out the possibility of any resurrection. It is a view that is wildly wrong."-May 26, 1977, p. 478. "Natural order was not invented by the human mind or set up by certain perceptive powers. . . . The existence of order presupposes the existence of organizing intelligence. Such intelligence can be none other than God's."-Dieu existe? Oui (Paris, 1979), Christian Chabanis, quoting Pierre-Paul Grassé, p. 94. The Origin of Species (Charles Darwin): " . . . view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed by the Creator into a few forms or into one." Thomas Edison: "After years of watching the processes of nature, I cannot doubt the existence of a Supreme Intelligence." Pierre-Paul Grassé, a member of the French Academy of Science, states: "Natural order was not invented by the human mind or set up by certain perceptive powers. No, it is a reality that was comprehended perfectly by such physicists and mathematicians as Planck and Einstein. The existence of order presupposes the existence of organizing intelligence. Such intelligence can be none other than God's." Dr. Robert Jastrow, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, observed: "In the face of such evidence, the idea that there is a God who created the universe is as scientifically plausible as many other ideas." Science News observed: "Contemplation of these things disturbs cosmologists because it seems as if such particular and precise conditions could hardly have arisen at random. One way to deal with the question is to say the whole thing was contrived and lay it on Divine Providence." New York Journal-American. It stated: "For many years, scientists were generally believed to be atheists. Yet today, . . . when science is almost a way of life, this theory is no longer valid. This week, eight of the nation's outstanding men of science were asked by the N.Y. Journal-American to give their views on this question: 'Do scientists believe in God?' From their answers, one basic concept shows up clearly: Some Divine Power, beyond control of man, has shaped the universe. Most of these scientific men first stated their feelings on this subject years ago. None have since seen any reason to change their views." Wernher von Braun, rocket expert, and one of the eight referred to, replied: "Why do I believe in God? Simply stated, the main reason is this: Anything as well ordered and perfectly created as is our earth and universe must have a Maker, a master designer. Anything so orderly, so perfect, so precisely balanced, so majestic as this creation can only be the product of a Divine Idea. There must be a Maker; there can be no other way." Dr. William Swann, a noted authority on cosmic radiation: "The man of science likes to separate fact from speculation. Now viewing the universe as a whole, I cannot escape the fact that it is of intelligent design. By this I mean that the universe shows on a magnificent scale the same kind of interrelationship of its working and efficiency of planning as an engineer strives to achieve in his smaller undertakings." Dr. Warren Weaver, one of America's foremost mathematicians, once stated in a popular monthly magazine: "Every new discovery of science is a further revelation of the order that God has built into His universe. God gains in dignity and power through manifestations of His reason and order."|
#73. Those propositions which are inferred in the Scriptures for God’s existence are simple and straightforward arguments: ‘Raise your eyes heavenward and look. Who created all of this?’ (Isaiah 40:26) ‘Ever since the creation of the world God’s invisible nature, His eternal power and divine character, have been clearly perceived by what He has made.’ (Romans 1:20) ‘For every house has a builder and the Builder of the universe is God.’ (Hebrews 3:4)
#74. These are arguments based on design. If one finds a piece of stone in the dirt and upon examination it is obvious this is chipped precisely out of flint to form an arrowhead, it is not too difficult to see design was involved and not mere chance.77 Though one cannot see the maker of this arrowhead, is it too difficult to reason that it was attached to a shaft and this was propelled by a bow used by an archer who had purpose and will? Where there is design, there is purpose; and where there is purpose, there is intelligence; and where there is intelligence, there is a mind; and where there is a mind, there is a person.
|77||CHANCE. See the work on probabilities in the book Human Destiny by Lecomte du Nouy (1949).|
#75. The word “person” with regard to God does not mean a human or anything of the sort. What God is, well, that is an unknown.78 It is easier to say what God is not from a Scriptural view. He is not fleshly or human. The Nazarene put it simply: ‘God is a spirit (and)… a spirit does not have flesh and bones.’ (John 4:24; Luke 24:39)
|78||UNKNOWN. John 5:37, ‘You have never seen the Father’s form.’ (Or, “shape” KJV; “appearance” (LAM); “figure” (NWT)|
Was Jesus “God”?
#76. It is appropriate to raise this question here because many have come to believe Jesus taught he was God in the flesh. While respecting their view and recognizing them as our Christian brethren, we would politely suggest another view: Jesus was a complete man, the Son of God. At no time did Jesus ever say, “I am God,” though this phrase spoken by Yahweh is found in the Old Testament. (For details on this subject, including the Trinity, see the online publication De Trinitatis Erroribus© in Nazarene Commentary© CD-ROM, a complete discussion of the Biblical view, as well as commentaries by scholars and the early church fathers.)
#77. The Nazarene was well aware of what the Hebrew Scriptures said on the subject of this word, “God,” or “gods.” For example, he must have known Deuteronomy 10:17 said, ‘Yehowah your God is God of gods and Lord of lords.’ From this he would have known that there were other “gods” over whom Yehowah was The God, and other “lords” over whom Yehowah was The Lord. Jesus knew and quoted those texts which applied to him as the Messiah. For example, he would have known the Messiah would say to Yehowah: ‘You are my Father, my God.’ (Psalm 89:26) Also, that Messiah would call out at his death, ‘My God, my God!’ (Psalm 22:1; Matthew 27:46) He himself quoted Psalm 110:1, ‘Yehowah said to my lord,’ and applied the “my lord” to himself by inference as the son of David. (Matthew 22:43; Mark 12:36; Luke 20:42) Jesus could not be this “Father,” “Yehowah,” or “God.”
#78. Throughout the Gospels the Nazarene is seen praying to God: at his baptism, in public, at the Last Passover, in the garden of agony and at his execution. (Luke 3:21; John 12:27, 28; 17:1-26; Luke 22:40-46; Matthew 27:46. Compare Hebrews 5:7) Jesus used expressions which showed he considered himself lesser than God: as His servant, the Sent One. Jesus says, ‘The Father is greater than I.’ (John 14:28) The Nazarene exhibited limitations unknown to God: hunger, tiredness and lack of knowledge. (John 14:6 and Isaiah 40:28; Matthew 4:2; 21:18; 24:36; Mark 13:32) Also, he s shown being tempted, something that cannot happen to God. (Matthew 4:1 and James 1:13 KJV)
#79. Further, twice we have the Nazarene’s own answers to the questions of whether he was God or considered himself equal to God. Both, interestingly, in the Gospel of John. In John 5:18-47 there is a discussion between Christ and the Jews in which they desire to kill Jesus because, as John puts it, ‘(Jesus) called God his own Father, making himself equal to God.’ Jesus has full opportunity to clarify the matter. The answer Jesus gave makes it easy to understand he did not consider himself God or God’s equal: ‘The Son can do nothing from himself.’ May we suggest a paraphrase: “The Son is not the First Cause of anything.” It would be impossible to say, “God can do nothing of Himself,” otherwise the universe would have no beginning, for God would be incapable of being the First Cause. Jesus continues in verse 30, ‘I am unable to do anything from myself.’ Such words could never come from God. Jesus Christ is no Originator or Prime Mover.
#80. Again and again in this section, as well as the three chapters which follow in John, the Nazarene simply states: ‘I know nothing save what God the Father has taught me.’ (John 5:25, 42, 44; 6:27, 33, 46) Jesus made it clear that when he speaks of the Father he means God. In John 7:16, 17, he says: ‘My teaching is not mine but belongs to the One who sent me. If anyone wants to do His will, he will know whether this teaching of mine is from The God79 or from myself.’ The Nazarene’s answer to the Jews regarding any equality with God is, simply, “No.”
|79||THE GOD. The Greek is tou theou, of the god.|
#81. On another occasion, the secularized Jews accused Jesus, ‘We stone you, though being a man,80 you make yourself God.’81 (John 10:33) The Nazarene has another opportunity to make the truth clear: “Are you God?” He gives his answer in verses 34-36, ‘Is it not written (in Psalm 82:6), (Yehowah) said, “You are gods”? If He called those (Israelite judges) “gods”, do you say to me, whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, “You blaspheme,” because I said, “I am the Son of God?”’ What better way could Jesus choose in answering their false charge of being God, or a god, by effectively saying, “No!”
|80||A MAN. The Greek is anthropos (anthropod, anthropoid, a man) and is the same word Paul uses of Christ. (Romans 5:14, 15, 19; 1 Timothy 2:5)|
|81||GOD. This may be rendered “a god” as the theon lacks the article.|
#82. Some will ask about the Trinity but many scholars acknowledge: the Bible does not mention or teach a Trinity.82 The idea of the Trinity developed in the centuries following the death of Jesus’ apostles. The Dictionary of New Testament Theology, Volume 2, page 84 agrees with this statement: “The NT does not contained the developed doctrine of the Trinity. The Bible lacks the express declaration that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are of equal essence and therein an equal sense God himself… It also lacks such terms as trinity.” It is left to the reader to examine any secular or religious encyclopedia or commentary on this subject for the details. A rebuttal of the precise arguments and so called “proof texts” for a Trinitarian view of God similar to that held by the Egyptians and Greeks is left to another time. [See the online publication De Trinitatis Erroribus for a thorough discussion of the Trinity.]
|82|| TRINITY. Note the following statements regarding the Trinity.|
The New Encyclopædia Britannica: "Neither the word Trinity, nor the explicit doctrine as such, appears in the New Testament, nor did Jesus and his followers intend to contradict the Shema in the Old Testament: 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord' (Deut. 6:4). . . . The doctrine developed gradually over several centuries and through many controversies. . . . By the end of the 4th century . . . the doctrine of the Trinity took substantially the form it has maintained ever since."-(1976), Micropædia, Vol. X, p. 126.
The New Catholic Encyclopedia: "The formulation 'one God in three Persons' was not solidly established, certainly not fully assimilated into Christian life and its profession of faith, prior to the end of the 4th century. But it is precisely this formulation that has first claim to the title the Trinitarian dogma. Among the Apostolic Fathers, there had been nothing even remotely approaching such a mentality or perspective."-(1967), Vol. XIV, p. 299.
The Encyclopedia Americana: "Christianity derived from Judaism and Judaism was strictly Unitarian [believing that God is one person]. The road which led from Jerusalem to Nicea was scarcely a straight one. Fourth century Trinitarianism did not reflect accurately early Christian teaching regarding the nature of God; it was, on the contrary, a deviation from this teaching."-(1956), Vol. XXVII, p. 294L.
Nouveau Dictionnaire Universel, "The Platonic trinity, itself merely a rearrangement of older trinities dating back to earlier peoples, appears to be the rational philosophic trinity of attributes that gave birth to the three hypostases or divine persons taught by the Christian churches. . . . This Greek philosopher's [Plato, fourth century B.C.E.] conception of the divine trinity . . . can be found in all the ancient [pagan] religions."-(Paris, 1865-1870), edited by M. Lachâtre, Vol. 2, p. 1467.
John L. McKenzie, S.J., Dictionary of the Bible: "The trinity of persons within the unity of nature is defined in terms of 'person' and 'nature' which are G[ree]k philosophical terms; actually the terms do not appear in the Bible. The trinitarian definitions arose as the result of long controversies in which these terms and others such as 'essence' and 'substance' were erroneously applied to God by some theologians."-(New York, 1965), p. 899.
#83. The Pre-existent Logos. Simply put, who did he say he was? The Gospels have him, in one form or another, teaching he was the Son of God (Matthew 16:20, 23; 26:63, 64; John 4:25, 26; 10:36) or the Messiah (Psalm 2:1; Luke 22:67) or the Son of Man. (Daniel 7:13; John 6:62; Ephesians 4:9, 10) It is left to the last apostolic writer, John, to explain in Greek terms the details of the Nazarene’s pre-existence. In his Last Passover prayer, Jesus spoke to his God: ‘Father, I have glorified you on earth having finished the work you gave me to do. Now glorify me beside you with the glory I had before the world was.’ (John 17:4, 5; compare John 6:62)
#84. This is nearly identical to John’s own commentary in the Prologue to his Gospel: ‘In the beginning the Logos was, and the Logos was with The God,83 and the Logos was god.’84 This one85 was in the beginning with The God. All things came to be through86 this one and without this one not a single thing came to be. The world came to be through him.’ (John 1:1-3, 10) With the use of the Greek logos John addresses himself to that Platonic world of the Hellenists. A modern rendering of this designation, “the Logos,” might be “Spokesman” or “Mouthpiece.” It is similar in idea to the relationship between Moses and Aaron when before Pharaoh (Exodus 4:15; 7:1) where Moses became “god” and Aaron his “spokesman.” It is interesting to note in the Jewish Greek LXX the same pros ton theon of John 1:1 is used. That is, someone facing toward another, a superior, to receive instructions.
|83||THE GOD. In the Greek the definite article is present: ton theon, the god, or The God.|
|84||GOD. Without the article, theos. DNTT, Vol 2, page 81: “The fact there is no definite article before theos here has been taken to imply that the Word may be understood as being some kind of divine being but not in the fullest sense of the term.” Philip B. Harner: "with an anarthrous predicate preceding the verb, are primarily qualitative in meaning. They indicate that the logos has the nature of theos. . . Perhaps the clause could be translated, 'the Word had the same nature as God.'" (Journal of Biblical Literature, 1973, pp. 85, 87) John L. McKenzie, S.J., Dictionary of the Bible: "Jn 1:1 should rigorously be translated 'the word was with the God [= the Father], and the word was a divine being.'"-(Brackets are his. Published with nihil obstat and imprimatur.) (New York, 1965), p. 317. Various renderings are: AT: "the Word was divine"; Mo, "the Logos was divine"; NTIV, "the word was a god." Ludwig Thimme: "God of a sort the Word was." Also, “a god”: Wilson, Newcombe, Schultz, Scneider, Becker.|
|85||THIS ONE. Since the previous expression mentioned the Logos was “god” this could read: ‘This (god) was in the beginning with The God.’|
|86||THROUGH. The Greek di may mean “by the agency of.” Compare 1 Corinthians 8:6 and Hebrews 1:2.|
#85. Clearly, in John 1:1 the Logos was with The God (pros ton theon, Exodus 4:16) and John states the universe came into existence through (Greek, di, dia, 1 Corinthians 8:6) so it is impossible to conclude the Logos was God Almighty or the Father. What was the status of the Logos before his human existence? “God,” or we might say “god” or “divine” as it is literally in the Greek lower case. This is “god” either representationally as in the case of Moses with Aaron (Exodus 4:15; 7:1); or, “god” qualitatively, as in one of the “gods” of whom Jehovah is “God.” (Deuteronomy 10:17)
#86. This linguistic confusion is brought about because modern English uses the old Anglo-Saxon word “god” to first mean the Supreme Being. This is the proper result of over a 1,000 years of Christian monotheism in the English language. The word “god” in English literally comes from a root meaning “to call for help.”87 But, in Hebrew and Greek the words from which “god” is derived have degrees of meaning. The Greek theos is from a root for run or move for the Greeks thought the gods were from the moving stars. In Hebrew Scripture (as Jesus already taught in John 10:34) the word-group elohim (god) is applied to men, angels88 and idols. In its absolute and most heightened sense “God” means the Almighty Being, the prime Mover. And, Jesus Christ the Nazarene is His Son.
|87||HELP. As when a drowning person calls for “Help!” to a lifeguard. The lifeguard is “god” in the old English sense. In J Ayto’s, Dictionary of Word Origins: “ .. probably from an Indo-European ghut-. This may be related to Sanskrit havate & Old Church Slavonic zovetu, both meaning ‘call’; and if so the underlying etymological meaning of ‘god’ would be, ‘that which is invoked.’”|
|88||ANGELS. See Psalm 82:1, 6; Deuteronomy 32:43 LXX. Compare Acts 23:4 with Exodus 22:28 LXX. Note the NJB footnote on Psalm 45:7.|
#87. Paul makes it clear in his quotation of Psalm 8:5 at Hebrews 2:8, 9 that the Son was “less than god (elohim)” in the Hebrew, and “less than angels” in the Greek text when he walked to beaches of Galilee.
#88. THE GOD OF JESUS. Nearly two dozen times an expression indicating the glorified Lord Jesus has his own God appears in the Christian Scriptures in forms like “the God of our Lord” or “my God.” (Ephesians 1:3, 17; Revelation 3:12) This is never reversed where Jehovah or the Father addresses Jesus as his God.
#89. THE FIRST CREATION. In Revelation, or Apocalypse, the Risen Christ describes himself, ‘The beginning of the creation of The God.’ (Revelation 3:14) This is similar to Paul’s own view: ‘The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation, because in him were created all things heavenly and earthly, visible and invisible, everything was created through him and for him.’ (Colossians 1:15, 16) In Hebrews 1:1-4, Paul writes his own Prologue which John must have known when he penned his at John 1:1-3. However, unlike John, Paul addresses a Hebrew audience in describing this Agent of Creation: ‘In many times and in many ways The God spoke to the fathers by the prophets. In these last days The God speaks to us by a Son, whom He appointed heir of everything, through whom He made the Ages. This Son is the reflection of the glory of The God and the exact imprint of the substance of The God. The Son upholds all things by his dynamic word. After the Son made a cleansing of our sins he sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become so much better than the angels.’89
|89||BECOME BETTER. To “become better than” infers from a lower state to a higher one. How could God ever “become better than angels”?|
#90. All of these verses which describe the pre-existence of Jesus Christ as the creative Agent, the Word, agree with the Nazarene’s own prayer at John 17:5, ‘Father, glorify me beside You with the glory I had beside You before the world existed.’ They all either echo or are drawn from the words of Proverbs 8:22, 23, 27, 30: ‘Yehowah made me90 the beginning of His ways for His works. He established me before the Ages in the beginning,91 before He made the earth. When He prepared the heaven, I was present with Him.92 I was by Yehowah, arranging all things.’93 It is most likely this Logos (as the personification of Wisdom -- Colossians 2.3) was the one to whom The God spoke in Genesis 1.26, ‘Let us make man according to our image.’
|90||MADE ME. Some translate the LXX ektise (and even the Hebrew) as “create.” (JPS, NAB)|
|91||IN THE BEGINNING. As at John 1:1.|
|92||BESIDE HIM. Compare John 1:1 and 17:5.|
|93||ARRANGING ALL THINGS. See LXX Bagster footnote. (Hebrews 1:3)|
#91. When the glorified Jesus Christ appeared to Paul on the Damascus road he had full opportunity to declare himself God, but he does not, in the words: ‘I am Jesus the Nazarene and I am sending you to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light and from the authority of Satan to The God.’ (Acts 9:5; 26:15-18)
#92. THE ONLY-BEGOTTEN GOD. Finally, let us review a rendering of modern scholarship from one of the oldest preserved texts of John 1:18, ‘No one has ever seen The God. The only-begotten god, who is in the bosom of the Father, is the one who explains Him.’94 In this manuscript this verse in Greek is ho monogenes theos or “the only begotten god.”95 This is a way of saying in a modern paraphrase, “the only one genetically related to the Father.” So, in this verse, there are two “gods”: a) the invisible God; and, b) the only-begotten god. This is no contradiction to monotheism within the framework of the Hebrew and Greek understandings. Jesus the Nazarene and all other “true worshippers” worship only one true God. (John 4:22-24; 17:3; and compare 1 Corinthians 8:4, 5)
|94||EXPLAINS HIM. This may be the explanation to the Greek logos for The Only Begotten God acts as The Invisible God’s Exegete. The Greek is exegesato.|
|95||ONLY-BEGOTTEN GOD. Most versions stick to “only-begotten Son”; others paraphrase the Greek “God, only begotten” (MON) or “the divine One, the only Son.” (MOF)|
#93. SUMMARY. In the Second Nazarene Principle regarding the Name of God we have seen how the Nazarene prays for this Name to be sanctified. This “Name” is not only the self-designation of God, Yahweh or Jehovah, but also the character, reputation and attributes of the Father himself. Faith sanctifies the Name of God.
#94. We have also examined what the Bible says about the relationship between God the Father and His Son. The simple truth of the Scriptures: there is “one true God” (John 17:3) who has “a Son” (Hebrews 1:2) and this “only-begotten god” (John 1:1; 1:18) acted as the agent of creation (Hebrews 1:3; Colossians 1:15-17; John 1:3, 10); then came to earth to become a true “man” (Romans 5:14; Philippians 2:7, 8; John 1:14), Jesus Christ the Nazarene. While he walked the earth he was a perfect man who denied he was equal to God. (John 5:19-46; 10:30-33; 14:28) Upon his return to heaven, Jesus still had a God he served, the Father (Revelation 3:12) to whom he remains in subjection (1 Corinthians 11:3; 15:28) as his own Head.
Now on to the Third Principle.
Nazarene Commentary 2000©
Mark Heber Miller
©2000 All Rights Reserved