The Trinity: an unbiblical
concept? / Reply Wolfgang Schneider 02ff, 2002-06-19
Article anonymous 00-02, 2001-01-28
Part 1 - Discourse 26
Is belief in the Trinity necessary for
salvation? - Discourse 82
The denial of the Trinity, the false
Catholic teaching and the true Biblical Trinity. - Discourse 107
Is the Trinity only an activity of
God in three persons? - Discourse 1072
At the request of visitors to this site, the discussion with
Wolfgang Schneider of http://www.Bibelcenter.de
about the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus Christ will continue to be published
here. With a view to keeping the work involved to a minimum, we will just
directly reproduce the various e-mails that were exchanged.
(Schneider quotes Horak): At this point I would like to
ask you what the reason is why your community of believers endeavors - by all
possible and impossible means - to deny the divine nature of the Son of God, our
Savior and Redeemer. Just why is this a problem for you? (end of quote)
SCHNEIDER: To make matters clear: I cannot answer your question on behalf of the community of the "Primitive Christians" (Christadelphians), you will have to ask around. But as far as my own position goes, I would like - just to avoid the possibility of misunderstanding - first of all to inquire what you actually mean by “the divine nature of the Son of God” - what do you understand by this? What does "divine nature" mean, in this context? I absolutely do not deny that Jesus was the only begotten Son of God, that he proceeded from God, that he did the will of God at all times, that he was without sin and remained without sin, that he gave his life as an expiatory sacrifice for us, that God raised him up from the dead etc. … But I do deny the Trinitarian confessions of faith that were imposed by the soi-disant Christian councils of the church, which state that Jesus is himself God, that God consists of “one God in three Persons” and all the rest of this nonsense, which is nothing but a continuation of the Babylonian mystery religion.
You ask me why I have a problem with this. Do you not have a problem with following the mystery religion of Babylon in Christian dress, and even trying to proselytize for it?
(Schneider quotes Horak): All other Christian congregations apart from the Jehovah’s Witnesses are delighted about this and are happy that God sacrificed himself in his Son for the sins of the world and for their salvation (end of quote).
SCHNEIDER: Why did God have to sacrifice himself? Do you think that God had sinned? If all other Christian congregations are delighted about this, as you say, it only testifies to their absolute ignorance of Scripture… God did not sacrifice himself! God sacrificed his Son, the man Jesus, in that this man of his own free choice submitted himself to the plan and will of God and gave his life as a sacrifice!
(Schneider quotes Horak): And you deny this in the same way as the Pharisees did in Jesus’ own day. How can we possibly understand such a thing? (end of quote)
SCHNEIDER: “In the same way as the Pharisees did in Jesus’ own time” is completely beside the point here… Surely the person who fails to recognize the Messiah in Jesus, like the Pharisees, and makes something else out of him - namely “God” - is the one who resembles the Pharisees? PS: Just to obviate the risk that you may continue to impute beliefs to me which I do not hold, let me state here briefly that I do not belong to the community of believers who call themselves Jehovah’s Witnesses, and have never had any close links with them either in the past or in the present… just to prevent people getting the wrong ideas (or leading you to jump to conclusions in the same way as you did when you supposed a connection between me and the Primitive Christians).
You seem to be making the same mistake as the Jews of that time… they did not listen properly, and you do not read very carefully, seeing that Jesus said absolutely nothing about his having seen Abraham! He said that “Abraham was to see my day, and he saw it and was glad”… Just to make the point again, it all depends on the direction of the activity - who is seeing whom! Jesus did not say that he had seen Abraham (as the Jews, and you too, evidently suppose) - he said that Abraham had "seen my [sc. Jesus’] day". The astonished question of the Jews in response shows that they had not been listening properly, because their comment turns Jesus’ words back to front.
Whereupon Jesus makes it clear to them that before Abraham was (and he emphasizes it with his heavily loaded “I am [he]”), he (Jesus) is and has been the one - namely the promised Messiah - whose day Abraham had seen!
HORAK: Your argument that Jesus’ statement in Jn 8,56, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it and was glad”, is to be understood as if the Lord were here quoting the Old Testament, where “we find it reported that Abraham was given to understand that the Messiah would come from the line of Isaac”, is actually inaccurate, seeing that Abraham knew nothing at all about an “anointed one” or Messiah.
The promise that was given to Abraham was actually, as we are told in Gen 17,21, “But My covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you at this season next year”. And this bears no resemblance at all, surely, to the Lord Jesus’ words above.
SCHNEIDER: Hmm… interesting, what you say here… Above all in the light of Heb 11 and what is there stated about Abraham. We ought to try, as far as possible, to take into account all scriptural passages relating to the same theme, if we want to get a comprehensive view of the whole picture.
HORAK: The writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews says nothing else (and certainly does not claim more) other than what Moses tells us in Gen 17,21!
Abraham was offering up his only son to whom it was said, "in Isaac your descendents shall be called"
Hbr 11,17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested,
offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his
only begotten son; 1,18 it was he to whom it was said, "in Isaac
your descendents shall be called." 11,19 He considered that God is able
to raise people even from the dead, from which he also received him back as a
type. Heb 11,17-19;
And neither in the one passage nor in the other do we find any
suggestion that Abraham knew anything about a Messiah who was to come.
(Schneider quotes Horak): Here you make just the same mistake as you accused me of earlier - you are not reading with sufficient care. The Lord says here, "Before Abraham was, I am." Where does Jesus say here that Abraham was earlier? He says exactly the opposite, namely that he (Jesus) was before Abraham. Now that is not just a case of superficial reading, but a deliberate inversion of the meaning of the statement (end of quote).
SCHNEIDER: You are upset by this "earlier"… but how then do you understand the word "before"? Your claim that Jesus is saying that he was before Abraham, however, makes Jesus appear in a very bad light, as if he had suffered from an insufficient command of his own language and in consequence got grammatical tenses mixed up… :-) So then, if he wanted to say that he had lived at a time before Abraham, the text would quite simply have read "Before Abraham, I was", or “I was already in existence before Abraham”… But is that what Jesus said? Not at all! So who is turning statements back to front now, and reversing the simple sense?
HORAK: I am not getting upset by the term “earlier”. What upsets me is that it is written in Scripture, "Before Abraham was, I am", and you are trying to persuade people that what is written is “Abraham was before me, I am the one”. Such nonsense!
SCHNEIDER: I only find that the sentence “Before Abraham was, I am” is incomplete as it stands, and what is more it is grammatically incorrect… so I am of the opinion that the sentence cannot have been meant in this way. Seeing that, as you doubtless know, the original manuscripts did not include any punctuation such as we use today, this having been added only later by translators, we have to ask ourselves whether a different punctuation might not be the correct one that yields the true meaning of the statement.
HORAK: This sentence is neither incomplete, nor is it grammatically wrong. It consists in the Greek - in the earliest texts, as well - of just five words: "prin abraam genesthai ego eimi" (in that order). Here “prin” is to be translated as "earlier than" or "before". "genesthai is derived from "genea" (birth, generation) and is to be translated as “was born” or “existed” or "was". Then “ego eimi” means purely and simply "I am". Punctuation - of whatever kind - makes absolutely no difference to this state of affairs.
(Schneider quotes Horak): The words “I am” in Jn 8,58 are translated, in my 8 German and 5 English Bibles, in all cases as “I am” rather than “I am he”. And if you look at the original Greek text, where the actual words are “ego eimi”, this plainly translates as “I am” and nothing else. And here there is absolutely no call for a supplementary reading on the basis of so-called “analogy”. That is why the 15 international translation teams of all the Bibles I mentioned likewise added nothing to the sentence. Just by way of comparison, we find this “eimi” again in Jn 19,21: “Write… that he said ’I am the King of the Jews’”, with the same words in Jn 18,35. So don’t try to pull the wool over people’s eyes (end of quote).
SCHNEIDER: Who is trying to pull the wool over people’s eyes here? Surely you are not going to try to claim that the “I am” in Jesus’ words at Jn 19,21 implies an eternal existence? As for the translation of *egw eimi* as “I am he”, just take a look at Mt 14,27 (“But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, ’Take courage, IT IS I; do not be afraid’”), also Mk 6,50 (“for they all saw him and were frightened. But immediately he spoke with them and said to them, ’Take courage, IT IS I; do not be afraid’”) and again Mk 13,6 (“Many will come in My name, saying ’I am He’ and will mislead many”). And yes, all the translation teams you mentioned translate these passages on the basis of the assumption that God is “triune”… consequently they do all agree with one another, but unfortunately they none of them do justice to what Jesus actually said and meant. …
HORAK: For me this ends the discussion about the pre-existence of Jesus Christ.
SCHNEIDER: Oh … OK!
HORAK: In the course of this exchange with you and your two colleagues, anonymous and W. Hink, I have been endeavoring to show you in the light of Scripture that Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Israel’s Messiah, already existed as the Word of God with God and at the right hand of God since time immemorial, and will continue to do so for all eternity.
SCHNEIDER: Unfortunately you have not done so on the basis of Scripture, but rather on the basis of what you, in view of your Trinitarian beliefs, have read into the Scripture…
HORAK: That you do not recognize this testimony in Scripture has nothing to do with the quality of the testimony itself, but is exclusively the result of your hopeless attempt to maintain the false teaching of the “Christadelphians”.
SCHNEIDER: It has nothing to do with the deficient quality of the clear statements of Scripture, but it certainly does have to do with the deficient quality of your interpretations, which at a number of decisively important points are in contradiction with what we find stated in Scripture. I can only say again that I don’t have any "ax to grind" for the doctrine of the Christadelphians… I am not even acquainted with their doctrine, as such, in any detail - though of course I have picked up one or two of the essential points of their beliefs by now, as a result of the remarks of Mr anonymous and also Mr Hink here on this site, and I have also read another book on this same subject which was published by their church… All the same, it is quite possible that there may be differences between my understanding and their understanding of some scriptural passages. So let me ask you again - please do not put me into a compartment where I do not belong!
HORAK: I haven’t the time to grapple with problems which you and those who share your views have constructed - apparently in view of a certain psychological “character” with reference to some kind of Babylonian mystery religion.
SCHNEIDER: My object in this connection is to make known the truth about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ… especially to those who, as a result of the massive lie propagated by the Whore of Babylon since the time of Nicaea, not only do not even recognize it as a lie but actually try to serve it up as the truth to others…
HORAK: I would ask you therefore not to send me any more comments.
SCHNEIDER: OK… Then this ought to be the last… Unless of course you change your opinion as a result of what I have written here.
SCHNEIDER: In Discourse 26, fairly early on in your
observations, you state the following with reference to the doctrine of the
(Schneider quotes Horak): The doctrine of the Trinity. The Trinity is the doctrine of the Trinity of the divine Persons (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) in the unity of the divine nature (end of quote).
SCHNEIDER: Here let me put a few questions with a view to clarifying the terms of discourse: a) What is a "divine Person"? (b) What is the "divine nature"? (c) "God" is not mentioned here, but only the "Father", “Son” and “Holy Spirit”… If these three entities are to be termed "divine Persons", then what is "Go"”?
(Schneider quotes Horak): It (the doctrine of the Trinity) grew up in the first centuries of the Christian era on the basis of what the New Testament says about Jesus as the Son of God (e.g. Rom 1,3) and the eternal Word (Jn 1,1-18) and about the Spirit whom Jesus promises to send in Jn 14, with the clearest formulation occurring in the command to baptize all nations (Mt 28,19) (end of quote).
SCHNEIDER: This remark shows that even you acknowledge that this teaching is not an original Christian teaching (that is to say, it did not exist in the early congregations, nor was it taught either by Jesus or by the apostles)! I am happy to concur with your view that this doctrine “grew up” in the course of several centuries… which is remarkable, because this means that the doctrine stands in opposition to the doctrine that was taught by Jesus and his apostles and of which we find reports in the Bible… seeing that the latter did not “grow up over several centuries”! The scriptural passages you refer to, in any case, do not testify to any kind of divine Trinity… Yes, the New Testament tells us that Jesus is the Son of God, but it does not report that Jesus lived from all eternity. Yes again, the Bible also reports that Jesus spoke of the sending of the Spirit before it occurred. According to the testimony of some old manuscripts of the Fathers of the Church (e.g. Eusebius), however, this “clearest formulation” in the command to baptize the nations (Mt 28,19) seems not to have been included in the copies of the Gospel according to Matthew which Eusebius used and from which he quoted at the Council of Nicaea… seeing that it was only in his writings dating from the time after the Council of Nicaea that he quotes this passage, interestingly enough, with this formulation of the command to baptize the nations. So the oldest manuscripts that have come down to us today date from the time after the Council of Nicaea, they all include likewise this same phrasing with the reference to the command to baptize in the name of the Trinity, but other writings of Eusebius from an earlier date did not include these words even when he quotes Mt 28,19 directly… ! This shows clearly enough that the words were only inserted in copies of the Gospel according to Matthew after the time of the Council of Nicaea… ! (With reference to Eusebius’ manuscripts and their exact phrasing, see e.g. the critical apparatus of Nestle/Aland, 25th edition!)
(Schneider quotes Horak): According to this, the divine Persons are distinguished in such a way that the Son proceeds from the Father, and the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and from the Son. This Trinity in Unity was defined in the third century AD. The Trinity in Unity consists in the fact that the three Persons are a single God on the basis of their divine nature or substance; in their identity of nature they are likewise equally coeternal, in a mutually interpenetrating unity of being (end of quote).
SCHNEIDER: Well, that all sounds very elegant, but what are we to understand by it? What is “Trinity in Unity”… in what respect then are the “three” actually at the same time “one”? As for the “Unity in Trinity”… i.e. in what respect does this unity exist of three distinct “Persons”? What is “divine nature” or “divine substance”? What is meant by “the three Persons are a single God on the basis of their divine nature or substance”? Does this make “God” a term that describes a “nature” or “substance”? Can the word “God” really refer to a kind of “species” (or nature or breed) rather than to a living being, a living and spiritual “person”? What does it actually means to say that all three components (persons) are “likewise equally coeternal, in a mutually interpenetrating unity of being”? What is “unity of being”? What is “mutually interpenetrating” supposed to mean - as you use these terms so liberally, I am assuming that you can also explain them in words of one syllable… and would be very pleased if you would answer my questions with a clarification of your terminology.
HORAK: Did you not notice in your reading of this Discourse that I was here quoting the doctrine of the Trinity as taught by the Catholic church (“Catholic Trinitarian theology”), and I follow this up with an account of evangelical theology, just so as to give the reader an overview of the status quo? So you would have to address these questions to a Catholic theologian rather than to me.
SCHNEIDER: And what doctrine of the Trinity do you stand for - if at all? All the same, your whole argument seems to postulate a Trinity… or have I also “failed to recognize” something here?
HORAK: The Trinity as it is presented to us in the Bible. That, too, I have repeatedly stated in the course of this discussion. Or did you not notice this either?
(See also Discourse 107: The
denial of the Trinity, the false Catholic teaching and the true Biblical
SCHNEIDER: I did notice… and precisely this formulation
(“the Trinity as it is presented to us in the Bible”) strikes my ear both
with a Roman Catholic and with a Protestant accent. Where then does your own “doctrine
of the Trinity” differ from their Trinitarian doctrines?
HORAK: I don’t know where my view of the Trinity differs from the Trinitarian doctrine of the Catholics.
SCHNEIDER: Hmm… Well, that is interesting… You tell me that in the sections in question you are quoting first Catholic and then Protestant doctrine… Have you not even read these sections yourself? And you don’t know in what respects your view is different from the Catholic and Protestant doctrines that you quote?
HORAK: I am so little interested in this matter that I have never gone into it - in contrast, evidently, with you.
SCHNEIDER: So how do you know that I have “gone into it”, as you say?
HORAK: This is perhaps the different between the two of us - that you involve yourself with all kinds of different religions, while I am fundamentally only involved with the Bible.
SCHNEIDER: Ah… and although you then proceed to comment on this issue, you do not know or you cannot discern how your views, being based on the Bible, are different from the Catholic or Protestant views that you quote (the latter also being supposedly based on the Bible)?
HORAK: The matter I brought up as an introduction to my Discourse was a short summary of the Catholic dogma of the Trinity, so that uninformed readers would be given a rough overview. This was not the fruit of in-depth study. The fact that these fundamentals of Catholic doctrine are matters with which I am familiar follows obviously from the fact that I myself wrote them down.
SCHNEIDER: But a moment ago you seemed to be saying that you didn’t know all that much about Catholic doctrine….
HORAK: And to be perfectly honest, I am not in the least interested in what Catholic, Protestant or any other kinds of Fathers of the Church and theologians may have found to say about the Trinity. I am of the habit of forming my own opinions, on the basis of my own analysis, and the same was true in the present case.
SCHNEIDER: Fine… It’s interesting, though, that the opinion you come to, based on your own analysis, agrees in almost all respects with the Catholic and Protestant doctrines of the Trinity, as they are known to you. Or would you dispute that?
HORAK: And in your view this should be forbidden - or what do you mean to imply?!
SCHNEIDER: What do you suppose I am wanting to forbid?
HORAK: Well, it appears you regard it as forbidden to agree in even some points with Catholic or Protestant doctrine. I can understand it when someone examines human doctrinal opinions to see whether they conform with the Bible. But your way of proceeding seems to be rather lacking in objectivity. You condemn pretty well everything that agrees with Catholic teaching. You would probably make it a criticism of Moses himself that in 8 out of the 10 commandments he agrees with the Catholics.
Picking up on your phrase - a rather derogatory phrase, it seems to me - “the opinion you come to, based on your own analysis”, how do you actually form your own opinion?
SCHNEIDER: Not at all derogatory, I was just quoting your own words exactly, and setting them over against Catholic and Protestant doctrines (which you seemed to imply contradicted your opinion).
HORAK: What’s this? …… Am I now contradicting Catholic teaching or am I not? Just a moment ago you were criticizing me for agreeing with this doctrine in essentials.
(Schneider quotes Horak): Do you adopt it (an opinion) from others without examination? (end of quote).
SCHNEIDER: Obviously not, but what are you getting at?
HORAK: Well….. Then the question just suggests itself, who has been “borrowing” from whom, you from the Christadelphians, or them from you. Or both of you from the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Because otherwise this denial of the divinity of Jesus Christ is not widely disseminated worldwide.
(Schneider quotes Horak): I will say it again: it does not concern me to know what human doctrines I agree or disagree with. The one and only thing important for me is that I should be in agreement with the Bible (end of quote).
SCHNEIDER: That is just the way I see it…
HORAK: Well, then… finally we find a point of agreement.
(Schneider quotes Horak): And if Catholic teaching, or other doctrines, do agree with my views, that is quite OK with me. This would show that, surprisingly enough, the Catholic church is in conformity with the Bible, at least in some areas (end of quote).
HORAK: Wow, it gets better all the time! ………
SCHNEIDER: I would say just the same thing… and interestingly enough the result of this kind of approach in the last 25 and more years has been my discovery of considerable discrepancies between what the Bible teaches (namely, absolutely NOTHING resembling the “Divine Trinity”) and the doctrine propagated by far and away the greater part of the Christian churches about God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit (namely, a doctrine of the “Divine Trinity”). This is really and truly a contrast between biblical doctrine and the generally accepted teaching of the churches.
HORAK: I am 65 years old, and have now been studying the Bible for more than 30 years. If in your biblical studies you have failed to find the statements that relate to the divinity of Jesus Christ - since that is what it comes down to for you, as also for our friends the Christadelphians, when the Trinity is at issue - that is your problem, and I do not understand why you keep bringing me back to this point.
SCHNEIDER: Well… I am just exceedingly curious to know how someone can teach certain doctrines and claim that they are to be found in the Bible, when they are not written in the Bible at all in the way you suggest…
HORAK: Oh, really? I would be very interested in that as well. Could you just explain it to me?
SCHNEIDER: What is really going on in such a case?
HORAK: Just what is going on, exactly?
(Schneider quotes Horak): I compel no one to share my own views, of course I leave everyone absolute freedom to form his or her own opinion in the light of the Bible (end of quote).
SCHNEIDER: I see it in the same way… Of course one can also learn important things from others sometimes, or get suggestions that point you in the way of going into a particular biblical topic on your own - wouldn’t you agree?
HORAK: Of course! But definitely not from those who themselves are quite off the mark in relation to the issue at hand. You must agree with that?
SCHNEIDER: That is why I find it altogether peculiar how in this Discourse text you on the one hand indicate (at least in an indirect manner) that your explanations have no agreement whatever with the Catholic or Protestant doctrine of the Trinity, as you prefer to follow biblical teaching on this subject, while on the other hand your remarks seem to be agreeing up to the hilt with the Trinitarian doctrines of the churches… So where is there any difference at all between the doctrine of the Trinity that you have worked out for yourself, and the orthodox ecclesiastical view?
HORAK: I don’t suppose you do it intentionally, but it almost looks as if you want to be an advocate of the Catholic or Protestant churches, you mention them so often.
SCHNEIDER: Oh, really? Actually I just wanted to avoid any kind of unclarity as to what doctrine of the Trinity might be meant, when there appears to be a wide range of different teachings on this score…
HORAK: Well, with you at least I was aware that it was just one and the same Trinitarian doctrine that you were referring to. You have mentioned it, after all, quite enough times.
Which view is really based on the Bible is something you can only find out by reading the Bible itself - not with dogmatically tinted spectacles either, but without prejudice and leaving yourself open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
SCHNEIDER: Just in passing, how can we really determine on an objective basis which of two apparently contradictory doctrines is really based on the approach you propose above - “…reading the Bible itself - not with dogmatically tinted spectacles either, but without prejudice and leaving yourself open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit”?? This clearly is what you would claim that you do, and I agree with you about this principle and apply it likewise in my biblical studies, and yet all the same my understanding of the Bible, based on this approach, is opposed to your own… Which of us then has come to conclusions that are “without prejudice and open to the guidance of the Holy Spirit”? Which of us has a position that is really based on reading the Bible without “dogmatically tinted spectacles”? How can you explain the fact that the understanding you have arrived at in this way agrees in almost all respects with those same “dogmatic tints”?
HORAK: Just take it as read that even the Catholic church, like a blind chicken, can sometimes find a grain of truth.
SCHNEIDER: Yes, I have also noticed in the past that groups stigmatized as “sects” have sometimes arrived at conclusions that are actually more in harmony with the Bible than what is to be found the doctrines of the “official and established church”.
HORAK: That is why I also see the Catholic church as the biggest - and most powerful -sect in the world. But as you yourself acknowledge above, it may be in conformity with the Bible in certain areas.
Yes indeed, how can we make an objective distinction in such a case? I am still of the opinion that this is only possible on the basis of what is written in the Bible, in accordance with the principle that “Scripture is its own interpretation”.
SCHNEIDER: Interesting… I apply exactly the same principle, and come to a rather different result on this issue of the supposedly “biblical” Trinity…
HORAK: Well then… I would like to explain my position to you one more time. There is just one God, the Almighty. Jesus Christ is the Word of God, that is to say a part of him, a part that God separated from himself to allow him to become man. Consequently Jesus Christ is a part of God, equal to God and so is also himself God. Not however another, a second God, but still the same, one and only God - spatially separated from God, admittedly, but in spirit still connected with him as before. God was in him - because he himself was a part of God - and he was God - because God was in him.
As I have found that you evidently have not read certain parts of my argument, I will take the liberty of sending you in the attachment a page and a half from Discourse 26.
SCHNEIDER: Well, I will read them through again… and may perhaps have some questions, as in the past.
HORAK: This extract from Discourse 26 is my concluding argument in relation to the question of the divinity of Jesus Christ. I have also attempted here to point out the consequences that follow if this truth is denied.
SCHNEIDER: The consequences you point out relate to the presupposition you assume… but will be quite insignificant surely, if your premises are actually wrong?
HORAK: And what would follow if your premises were wrong? Does that question never occur to you?
If you have no further interest in the attached remarks, you can simply delete them. But if you do after all read them, I would beg you just to forget what the Catholic church, or any other church or even the Babylonian mystery religions have to say, and purely and exclusively focus on those statements that are derived from Holy Scripture and form your conclusions on this basis.
SCHNEIDER: That is what I always do, as far as I can… and I come to the conclusion that the scriptural passages you advance by no means teach the existence of a “Trinity” or the “divinity” of Jesus Christ. But perhaps this may result from the fact that by this term “divinity” you understand something specific that I am not acquainted with, and so am consequently unable to find it in the Bible? You go on about Jesus being God… but where do you get this idea from, when Jesus says repeatedly that it is not he who is God, but Another is, namely his Father? You want to interpret the Scripture on the basis of Scripture, and yet you seem not to have noticed that your understanding of the equation Jesus = God is not in agreement with the words of Jesus himself (e.g. in Jn 17,3)… What do you make of that?
As far as I am able to recall, you read Ph 2,5 ff and the two verses Jn 5,17-18 as implying that Jesus was identical with God… although these passages do not actually say any such thing… You also leave it completely unclear what you understand by “the form of God” in Ph 2, and do not give the least hint of what “being like to God” or “made in the likeness of God” can possibly mean… Just quoting a few verses in which certain words in the German translation happen to occur is not sufficient to “prove” an opinion… How was it, for instance, that Jesus was “in the form of God”? What form does God have? What form did Jesus have? In what respects was or is Jesus like to God? Were the Jews then right or wrong in the opinion they uttered?
HORAK: Hmm - I don’t know: I suppose we are actually communicating in our own language here? And when we find it written in Ph 2,5-6, “Christ Jesus, who… existed in the form of God” this is a perfectly clear English sentence… or is it not? - Just could you explain to me how you would interpret that? And when we find it written in Jn 5,18 that the Jews wanted to kill Jesus because he “made himself equal to God” - if it is the case, then, that Jesus Christ made himself equal to God - could you just explain to me how you can understand this passage to be saying that he did nothing of the kind? Or are you supposing that Jesus would have stated an untruth? Incidentally, I take your point - a few verses certainly are not sufficient to confute my opinion!
To give an answer to your questions:
”What form does God have?”
God is spirit - this is sufficiently evidenced in Scripture.
“What form did Jesus have?”
Jesus had human form, that is also clear.
“In what respects was or is Jesus like to God?”
Spiritually, Mr Schneider, spiritually!!
Finally you ask:
The physical, bodily and human part of the Lord came of a human line of descent, by way of his father and extending back to David. And that was what the Jews were able to grasp. The spiritual part, however, came of the Holy Spirit, who had begotten him - from God. Thus God was “in him”, and that is why he was equal to God. And when Paul says in Ph 2,5-6 that he was in the form of God, he means the “spiritual” form. But in as much as previously to this God had never shown himself to a human being - as Scripture tells us that any human who saw God face to face would be bound to die - the form of his Son Jesus Christ should absolutely be seen as the one and only form in which God has made himself visible to humanity.
”Were the Jews then right or wrong in the opinion
I take it from the way you put the question that in your opinion
the judgment of the Jews was correct. That is, after all, the only position you
can in consistency hold, in view of your belief that Jesus was not God.
Well, what is to be said to this? This means that you must also, of necessity, adopt the same view as the Jews - that Jesus was a blasphemer and so was deservedly condemned and crucified. Are these conclusions you come to as a result of your biblical studies?
(Schneider quotes Horak): You write here, “So anyone who denies that Jesus was God, and claims that he was only man, is accusing him of that same blasphemy which was the reason why the High Priest condemned him to death….” (end of quote).
SCHNEIDER: Jesus himself denies that he is identical with God… At all times he pointed to Another, namely his Father, as the one and only true God. … How come, in all your reading of the Bible, you have never noticed this?
HORAK: Really? And why then did Jesus say, in answer to the High Priest’s question whether he was the Son of God, “You have said it yourself”, so laying himself open to the charge of blasphemy, because he had made himself the equal of God? According to your interpretation he would have been well able to say, with a good conscience, that he was the Christ, but not God, and so avoided condemnation - as for the Jews at the time the promised Christ was not the Son of God but the Son of David, and so just a man, as you also argue.
(Schneider quotes Horak): You further write: He therefore condemns him once again, and strikes him in the face just as the Jews did at the time, and what is more brands the Lord as a cheat and confidence trickster (end of quote).
SCHNEIDER: The opposite seems to be the case…
HORAK: What opposite…? Could you just explain that to me in detail?
I would also be very much appreciative if you would just answer my questions. For instance, how it was that Caiaphas condemned Jesus because he pretended to be God, if according to your interpretation of Scripture Jesus did nothing of the sort and was not God at all. Why was it that Jesus at this juncture gave no hint that he did not see himself as God? Why was it that when Thomas hailed Jesus as “My Lord and my God”, Jesus gave his seal of approval to this confession of faith? How is it that Jesus can say, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” - God, that is - if he was not God in the first place? The logical conclusion in reverse would be that the Father is not God either. But I trust you would not be willing to go so far? Or would you?
SCHNEIDER 24-06-02 / 17:30:
(Schneider quotes Horak): …how it was that Caiaphas condemned Jesus because he pretended to be God, if according to your interpretation of Scripture Jesus did nothing of the sort and was not God at all. Why was it that Jesus at this juncture gave no hint that he did not see himself as God? (end of quote).
SCHNEIDER: Here we had better take a look to see what is actually written in the Bible in this connection. You say that Caiaphas condemned Jesus because he pretended to be God? Where did you find this in the Bible? I presume you are referring to the following passage in Mt 26? (…)
Well, verse 63 tells us that Caiaphas wanted to know whether Jesus was THE CHRIST, the SON OF GOD… or have I missed something here? Caiaphas says absolutely nothing about Jesus’ having described himself as God… Verse 64 gives us Jesus’ answer as “You have said it yourself”. In other words Jesus is confirming that he is the Christ, the Son of God… !! BUT however, Jesus says nowhere anything in support of your assertion! Jesus did not anywhere claim to be God, and Caiaphas did not condemn him for this reason.
Where then do you get this idea that Caiaphas condemned Jesus, because Jesus pretended to be God?
HORAK: Because I - clearly in contradistinction to you - have also studied the Gospel according to John, and there I find it written:
The Jews were seeking to kill Him because He was making Himself equal with God
Jn 5,17 But He answered them, "My Father is
working until now, and I Myself am working." 5,18 For this reason therefore
the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking
the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal
with God. Jn 5,17-18;
We stone You because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.
Jn 10,31 The Jews picked up stones again to stone
Him. 10,32 Jesus answered them, "I showed you many good works from the
Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?" 10,33 The Jews answered Him,
"For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because
You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God." Jn 10,31-33;
As you can see from this, the Jews at that time took the view -
just as you do now - that Jesus was only human. And his condemnation by Caiaphas
was based solely and simply on this very same reason. If this circumstance had
not been, in Jewish law Caiaphas would have had no grounds whatever for
condemning him to death. What kind of accusation would he have been able to
bring forward here? The fact that Jesus had said that he was the Son of God was
regarded by the Jews as equivalent to the claim that he himself was God. - You
really should study the Scriptures in rather more depth at this point!
(Schneider quotes Horak): Why was it that when Thomas hailed Jesus as “My Lord and my God”, Jesus gave his seal of approval to this confession of faith? (end of quote)
SCHNEIDER: Because Thomas quite plainly did not make the same mistake as would be made centuries later by trinitarians who read things into his words that Thomas was not in the least conscious of… and moreover, because Jesus did not misunderstand Thomas, as trinitarians of all stamps seem to do.
HORAK: Aha… So you actually know what Thomas was “conscious of” at the time. I have frequently been amazed by biblical commentators who have such confidence that they not only know what the Evangelists wrote, but even what the people of the time had in mind. And you even know what Jesus was thinking at the time! So he didn’t “misunderstand” Thomas. I will not reply to this point, as I think you are actually too intelligent not so see what a paralytic argument you are putting forward here.
(Schneider quotes Horak): How is it that Jesus can say, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” - God, that is - if he was not God in the first place? (end of quote)
SCHNEIDER: Oh well… I have frequently heard people talk about how when looking at a man’s son and his actions you can “see” the father in him… you must have heard of this kind of thing? So I would suggest that in reading this statement made by Jesus we should equally bear in mind that Jesus did after all say that God is spirit (in other words, a being invisible to the human eye). Had Jesus forgotten that, or did he mean to contradict it, when he said here “He who has seen Me has seen the Father”? Surely not… Jesus knew perfectly well that he was not God (spirit), otherwise after all no one would even have been able to see him…
HORAK: Good grief… You know, yet again, what Jesus was thinking of at the time. And you know too that we would not be able to see a spirit. So what is the situation with your spirit - the basis, I presume, of your devising this argument? Is it not visible? It is at any rate present on the page, as one may read. And in the same way, the Spirit of God was not “visible” (literally) in his Son Jesus Christ, but was present nonetheless.
Incidentally, the question of the divinity of Jesus Christ finds a perfectly unambiguous response in another statement made by Jesus. In Jn 17,5 the Lord says:
Father, glorify Me with the glory which I had with You before the world was.
Jn 17,5 "Now, Father, glorify Me together with
Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was. Jn
This is the proof - pronounced by the Lord himself - of the
preexistence of Jesus Christ. By this statement he confirms that he was with the
Father before the creation of the world, that he had glory with the Father. And
there you have automatically the proof of the divinity of Jesus Christ.
(Schneider quotes Horak): Hmm - I don’t know: I suppose we are actually communicating in our own language here? And when we find it written in Ph 2,5-6, “Christ Jesus, who… existed in the form of God” this is a perfectly clear English sentence… or is it not? (end of quote)
SCHNEIDER: Yes, it is an English sentence!
(Schneider quotes Horak): Just could you explain to me how you would interpret that? (end of quote)
SCHNEIDER: I understand this sentence in such a way that it is not in contradiction with other passages… For example with Jesus’ own statement that God is Spirit (and therefore does not have any “form” in that sense)… I am also aware of such facts as that someone who has the form of another, is not identical with this other! How do you interpret this passage then? On the basis of this statement you make out that Jesus and God are identical, and leave Jesus’ statement that God = Spirit quite out of account… Isn’t that true?
HORAK: Is that your only argument, that the Lord said that God is Spirit? Because you do keep harping on this point! I understand Ph 2,5-6 (“Christ Jesus… existed in the form of God”) entirely in the light of the Lord’s statement that God is Spirit. This Spirit of God was also in His Son Jesus Christ. What you appear to be unable to grasp, however, is the fact that God cannot be compared with a human being. By contrast with our human limitation, God can let his Spirit dwell in his Son. That is why the Lord says, in Jn 12,45, He who sees me sees the Father.
HORAK 27-06-02 / 21:30
Although I told you on 19 June that I was no longer interested
in continuing this discussion with you, and although you then informed me that
from now on you would not send me any further comments, it was then you - once
again - who visited me with page-long e-mails containing statements of your
position with which I am already more than enough acquainted.
In my reply I put a few questions to you, with the idea that your answers should be the determining factor for my deciding whether it might still make any kind of sense to keep up contacts with you in this intellectual exchange on the divinity of Jesus Christ and the nature of the Trinity
The answers I then received from you on 24 June, and which I have supplied above along with my comments, did however confirm me in the supposition that you are not really prepared to discuss these issues but are only looking for an occasion to publicize your unbiblical theories.
When I visited your website “Bibelcenter.de”, I also had the opportunity of reading that even the Hänssler publishing house, with whom you seem to have been in partnership, had terminated its agreement with you with immediate effect just two weeks ago, in view of “customer complaints about the theology publicized by you and on your web pages”, as it was no longer willing to lend support to your theological views.
So let me tell you here again for the last time: the view you advocate, that Jesus Christ was not God, contradicts all scriptural statements that are relevant to this point, and it is my deepest conviction that it is as wrongheaded as a theological view possibly can be. Your argument on this point is thus not only lacking any serious biblical support, it is also - and for this very reason - a proof of the fact that you are here promulgating a dogma, just as the Catholic church is wont to do.
I would like to back this up with a final scriptural demonstration. The apostle John, who hardly comes under suspicion of being either Catholic or Protestant and so a Trinitarian, and who thus even for you - as you have written above - as an apostle possesses full credibility, confirms in his first Epistle and without any beating about the bush that Jesus Christ is the true God:
We are in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.
1Jn 5,20 And we know that the Son of God has come,
and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are
in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal
life. 1Jn 5,20;
But of course I am thoroughly aware that in spite of the
argumentative straits to which you have been reduced, you will not - as an
Anti-Trinitarian - be able to give up this dogma. In spite of the Lord’s own
witness, you cannot believe in the pre-existence of Jesus Christ, as then you
would also have to acknowledge his divinity. And if you affirm his divinity,
then you would at least have to make room for a divine “duality”, and that
would bring the whole structure of your beliefs to the point of collapse.
I think that I have now given you, objectively speaking, quite enough opportunity and space at Immanuel.at to air your point of view, and from now on will not answer any further e-mails coming from you.
Article anonymous 00-03, 2001-01-28
Part 1 - Discourse 26