Kurt Gödel's Incompleteness Theorem says (i) all closed systems are unprovable within themselves and, that (ii) all open systems are rightly understood as incomplete. - R.E. Slater

The God among us is the God who refuses to be God without us, so great is God's Love. – Tripp Fuller

According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater

Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - R.E. Slater

Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger

Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton

I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – Anon

Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII

Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut

Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest

People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – Anon

Certainly, God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater

An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater

Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann

Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner

“Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh” means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14) or, conversely, “I AM who I AM Becoming.”

Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton

The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens, we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – Anon

The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul

The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah

If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – Anon

Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord

Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another, so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater

To promote societal transition to sustainable ways of living and a global society founded on a shared ethical framework which includes respect and care for the community of life, ecological integrity, universal human rights, respect for diversity, economic justice, democracy, and a culture of peace. - The Earth Charter Mission Statement

Christian humanism is the belief that human freedom, individual conscience, and unencumbered rational inquiry are compatible with the practice of Christianity or even intrinsic in its doctrine. It represents a philosophical union of Christian faith and classical humanist principles. - Scott Postma

It is never wise to have a self-appointed religious institution determine a nation's moral code. The opportunities for moral compromise and failure are high; the moral codes and creeds assuredly racist, discriminatory, or subjectively and religiously defined; and the pronouncement of inhumanitarian political objectives quite predictable. - R.E. Slater

God's love must both center and define the Christian faith and all religious or human faiths seeking human and ecological balance in worlds of subtraction, harm, tragedy, and evil. - R.E. Slater

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Bart Ehrman - Nope. Jesus is Not Yahweh.




Nope. Jesus is Not Yahweh.

by Bart Ehrman
April 17, 2021

In my last post I pointed out that some conservative evangelical Christians (maybe others? These are the ones I know about) claim that Jesus, in the Bible, is actually to be understood as Yahweh. I think that’s completely wrong, and in this post I want to explain why.

Again, if someone knows better than I do, let me know. But I’ve never even heard the claim (let alone a discussion of it) until very recently. I wonder if there are any early Christian theologians who have this view? Or even later ones, prior to recent times?

It is not the view of traditional Christian theology, at least as I learned it once upon a time. It was certainly not the view of the earliest Christians; and is not a view set forth in the Bible. The Bible, of course, does not have the Trinity, but when Christianity formulated the doctrine of the trinity, the Father was Yahweh, and Christ was his son. At least that’s what Christians who read their Old Testament said.

Of course the name Yahweh is not found in the NT at all, since it is a Hebrew word and the NT is written in Greek. The NT does not give God a personal name.

When Christians wanted to find another divine being in the OT to identify as Christ, they went to passages like Psalm 110: “The LORD said to my Lord, sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.” Based on what I said in my previous post, you can reconstruct who is talking to whom here (notice the first LORD is in caps and the second not): “YHWH said to Adonai….”

In interpreting that passage, Christians asked: who is it that elevated Christ (“our Lord”) to his right hand? Obviously God the Father. And so God the Father is YHWH, and the one elevated to his right hand is “the Lord Jesus.” Christians appealed to this verse in reference to Christ a good deal — it is is one of the most common OT verses found in the NT, quoted six times (see Matt. 22:4) and referred to more indirectly possibly nine (e.g. Eph. 1:20). These Christians were not seeing Jesus as Yahweh but as his son whom he exalted to his right hand.

Christians such as the second century Justin Martyr also found references to the pre-incarnate Christ in Old Testament traditions of the “Angel of the LORD” who was God’s (Yahweh’s) chief representative on earth delivering God’s message with God’s full authority in the stories of the Patriarchs, e.g., in Genesis and Exodus. Who was this mysterious angel? For Christians he was Christ before he was born of the virgin Mary.

I wonder if the confusion among some evangelicals about the Christian understanding of Christ (when they say he is Yahweh) is because the “Angel” of the LORD is so fully representative of YHWH himself that he is sometimes called YHWH after he is clearly identified NOT as YHWH but his angel. Why would he be called YHWH if he was YHWH’s messenger? It would be kind of like if a messenger of the king comes to you and orders you to do something, you tell your neighbors that the “king” has told you to do something. Well, actually, his messenger did, but he was so fully representative of the king that his words were the king’s.

This happens when the Angel of the LORD speaks to Moses from the burning bush in the famous passage of Exodus 3, as you can see. But the early Christians, so far as I know, were clear on the matter: this was Christ, coming in his pre-incarnate state as God’s chief representative, the Angel of the LORD, who was given such authority that he could be considered as having the full status of the LORD even though he was merely his angel – the view that Christians took of Christ.

Some modern Christians may misinterpret the Christ poem in Philippians 2 this way; I talked about the poem at length a month or so ago on the blog (just do a word search for it). When Christ is exalted after his death, God gives him “the name that is above every name” so that all creation will worship and confess him. That is a reference to Isaiah 45 where Yahweh alone has the name above every name so that all worship and confess him alone.

Possibly these modern Christians are thinking that Christ therefore must have been given the name YHWH, and therefore he *is* YHWH. But the passage doesn’t seem to mean that. The ultimate LORD of all, YHWH, is the one who *gives* Jesus the name that is above all others. It’s worth noting that in this very passage, when God gives Jesus his “name,” it does not mean that he’s made a name switch for Jesus. On the contrary, the passage says that the name to which everyone will bow in worship and confess is *Jesus*! (Not YHWH): “That at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow and every tongue confess.” Jesus’ own name is exalted.

Then how did YHWH give him a name above *all* others? Surely that would be YHWH’s own name, right? Well, yes and no. He did give him the name, but not in the literal sense of “now you are YHWH” but in the biblical sense I’ve been describing (“you now have the full authority of YHWH; what you say and do is equal to the authority of YHWH saying and doing it.”). Jesus now, at his exaltation (not before!) is given equal authority as the LORD himself. He now has the highest name/authority, equal with God. But that does not mean he *is* God/YHWH. Being equal is different from being identical.

Another analogy: When someone says to you, “Open up, in the name of the King” or “in the name of the Law” – the “name” means the “authority.” And that must be what it means in Philippians 2, since the literal name is still Jesus, but the authority the name has is now the authority of God Almighty, Yahweh himself.

And so I simply don’t think it’s right that Christian theology understands Jesus as Yahweh. Well, I guess some Christians do, since that appears to be what they think! I wonder when they started thinking it….