John 20:28 - "my lord and my god"

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dwight92070
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John 20:28 - "my lord and my god"

Post by dwight92070 » Tue Apr 27, 2021 5:39 pm

[moderator: trying really hard to keep topics on point. This comes up from time to time. Moved from Abrahamic Salvation to its own topic]
commonsense wrote:
Tue Apr 27, 2021 11:22 am


Teaching the word of God and sending them out to teach others doesn't make you God.

Dwight - Only God could send prophets, scribes, wise men, and apostles over a period of thousands of years, from creation through today. No mere human can do that. Luke 11:49-51 Jesus, who is the wisdom of God and God Himself, did this.

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dwight92070
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Re: Abrahamic Salvation?

Post by dwight92070 » Tue Apr 27, 2021 5:47 pm

John 20:28-29 The resurrected Jesus had just shown Thomas His hands and His side. Thomas' response is "My Lord and my God!" "Jesus said to him, 'Because you have seen Me, have you believed? ..."

What did Thomas believe? That Jesus was his Lord and his God.

"Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed." (that Jesus is both Lord and God)

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Paidion
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Re: Abrahamic Salvation?

Post by Paidion » Tue Apr 27, 2021 6:11 pm

Dwight wrote:John 20:28-29 The resurrected Jesus had just shown Thomas His hands and His side. Thomas' response is "My Lord and my God!" "Jesus said to him, 'Because you have seen Me, have you believed? ..."

What did Thomas believe? That Jesus was his Lord and his God.
This is no proof. Thomas was so amazed that Jesus was raised from the dead, He exclaimed, "My Lord and my God!" just as people today exclaim "My God!" when they are not talking about God at all.

On the other hand, the apostle Paul affirmed:

(1Timothy 2:5) For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,

Paul didn't write that God was the one mediator. He wrote that on one hand there is one God, and on the other there is one mediator—Jesus Christ. Clearly Paul wrote that there were TWO, namely God and the one mediator Jesus.
Paidion

Man judges a person by his past deeds, and administers penalties for his wrongdoing. God judges a person by his present character, and disciplines him that he may become righteous.

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dwight92070
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Re: Abrahamic Salvation?

Post by dwight92070 » Tue Apr 27, 2021 7:48 pm

So Thomas used the Lord's name in vain? In front of the Lord Himself? Highly unlikely! The Jews were very careful about using the Lord's name in a reverential way.

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Homer
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Re: Abrahamic Salvation?

Post by Homer » Tue Apr 27, 2021 8:46 pm

paidion,

You wrote:
This is no proof. Thomas was so amazed that Jesus was raised from the dead, He exclaimed, "My Lord and my God!" just as people today exclaim "My God!" when they are not talking about God at all.
And this is no proof. Sounds like an assertion and an unlikely one at that; where is your proof? Do you have any record of a Jew of Jesus' day exclaiming in that manner?

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darinhouston
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Re: Abrahamic Salvation?

Post by darinhouston » Tue Apr 27, 2021 10:30 pm

dwight92070 wrote:
Tue Apr 27, 2021 7:48 pm
So Thomas used the Lord's name in vain? In front of the Lord Himself? Highly unlikely! The Jews were very careful about using the Lord's name in a reverential way.
Let's please try and keep this on the topic at hand - salvation through Abraham and the need for Christ. (though incidentally, the word here is theos - not the divine name - they were not so careful with theos, but please let's stay on topic - this forum is soteriology).

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dwight92070
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Re: Abrahamic Salvation?

Post by dwight92070 » Wed Apr 28, 2021 6:11 am

Even I myself do not use the Lord's name in that way today. How much more a hand-chosen apostle of Jesus, who had just seen the holes in Jesus' hands and side? I learned very early that that use of the Lord's name was wrong. It's like cussing. It's a consciously chosen use of words.

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dwight92070
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Re: Abrahamic Salvation?

Post by dwight92070 » Wed Apr 28, 2021 6:20 am

Why did another apostle, Matthew, use the term "kingdom of heaven" so often, where the other gospels used "kingdom of God"? I think you know the answer. Out of respect for the Jews sensitivity to speaking the word "God".

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darinhouston
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Re: Abrahamic Salvation?

Post by darinhouston » Wed Apr 28, 2021 7:11 am

Dwight, please don't hijack this topic by these unrelated issues - but, take a look at these passages and note which word we're talking about - The term theos was a pretty generic term and context is key - Kingdom of God is a clear reference to the divine name of the Creator. "my God" is not in most usages. That said, I think there are a variety of ways that passage of Thomas can be taken.

Again, please move this to another topic if you want to continue on this discussion.

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John 20:28

Post by darinhouston » Wed Apr 28, 2021 9:14 am

From Revised English Bible Translation Notes/Commentary

Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my god.”

“my god.” Any good Greek-English lexicon will give examples of the Greek word theos, often translated “God,” also referring to a pagan “god” or “goddess” (Acts 19:37), the Devil or a demon (2 Cor. 4:4), or of people who represent God in some way (John 10:34). The fact that Thomas called Jesus “God” does not mean he thought Jesus was part of the Triune God, but he did think of him as God’s highest representative and worthy to be called “god.”

To understand what Thomas said there is some background information that we must understand. For one thing, Thomas was almost certainly speaking Hebrew or Aramaic, and thus the flexibility of the word “God” in those languages will be covered in some detail below. It is also important to know that the early manuscripts of the Bible were written in all capital letters. That means that technically, both Elohim in Hebrew and Theos in Greek should always be translated “GOD,” in all capital letters. Since the biblical languages used the word “GOD” to refer to God, lesser divinities such as the Devil, angels, and demons, and also to rulers, judges, and people who represented God in some way, Bible readers are forced to use the context and scope of Scripture to determine whether the modern English translation should be “God,” “god,” or “gods.” [For more information on this, see commentary on Hebrews 1:8].

The following few paragraphs are about the biblical, especially the Semitic, way of using the words for “God.” It is quite detailed, but in light of the huge Trinitarian bias to make Thomas say that Jesus is “God,” it seems necessary to quite fully show that in biblical language you could call someone Elohim or Theos without meaning they were the Most High God. It is helpful in understanding the Bible to know that the Hebrew word Elohim (“God”) is a plural form—Elohim is always plural. It is a uniplural noun like our English word “deer” or “fish,” and so it has to be translated according to the context and can mean “God,” “a god,” or “gods.” When we see the word “fish” we must determine from the context if it is singular or plural. In a sentence like, “Did you eat the fish?” there may not be enough context to determine whether the person ate one fish or more than one. This problem can occur in the Hebrew text as well, although we sometimes get help in the Hebrew from the accompanying verb.

Elohim is not the only uniplural noun in Hebrew. Two others are “water” and “heaven” (cp. Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar, 2nd edition by A. Cowley, pp. 244, 246). Trinitarians assert that the reason Elohim is plural is because it refers to the plurality in the Trinity, but even if there was a Trinity, and we do not believe there is, that would not be likely. For one thing, God gave the Hebrew language to the Jews, so they should be the experts in their own language, and they have never believed Elohim referred to any plurality in God. Just as “water” and “heaven” are plural in part because they are so vast, Elohim seems to be plural because of the vastness and greatness of God.

The majority of the times Elohim occurs in the Bible, it refers to the true God. However, even a brief glance through a Hebrew concordance will show that many times it refers to false gods. Dozens of verses could be cited as examples, but a few are: “have no other gods [Elohim] before me” (Exod. 20:3); “Do not bow down before their gods [Elohim]” (Exod. 23:24); “they chose new gods [Elohim]” (Judges 5:8); and, “[Solomon’s] wives turned his heart after other gods [Elohim]” (1 Kings 11:4).

There are times when Elohim is used to refer to a specific pagan god: for example, Dagon (Judges 16:23; 1 Samuel 5:7), Chemosh (Judges 11:24), and Baal (1 Kings 18:24-27).

Elohim, “God,” can also refer to angels or other spirit beings. One example is Psalm 8:5, which says God made mankind a little lower than Elohim. Given the flexible meaning of Elohim, the verse could be saying that God made mankind a little lower than He Himself, or it could be saying that He made mankind a little lower than his representatives in the spirit world, i.e., angels. Thankfully, the interpretation is not in doubt because the verse is quoted in Hebrews 2:7, which says “angels,” letting us know that in Psalm 8:5, Elohim refers to God’s representatives, the angels. Thus Psalm 8:5 is an excellent example of how the New Testament clarifies our understanding of the Old Testament. Another example is Judges 13:22, where Manoah and his wife saw an angel, but exclaimed, “We have seen God [Elohim].” Their statement made perfect sense in the biblical culture because they saw God’s representative.

There are times when God’s representatives are called “God” (Elohim and even Yahweh!) when they represent God and speak on His behalf. This is referred to as “agency.” The essence of the principle of agency is: “a person’s agent is regarded as the person himself” (Werblowsky and Wigoder, The Encyclopedia of the Jewish Religion, p. 15). The principle of agency is well attested by scholars and occurs quite a few times in the Bible. For example, in Genesis 16:13, even though Hagar was speaking to an angel, she referred to him as Yahweh and El (God). In Genesis 31:11 an angel speaks to Jacob, but in Gen. 31:13 he says, “I am the God [El] of Bethel.” In Genesis 32:28, 30 it seems Jacob is wrestling with God [Elohim], but we learn from Hosea 12:3-4 that it was an angel representing God. Another example is that Exodus 13:21 says “Yahweh” went before Israel in the pillar of fire, but Exodus 14:19 and 23:20-23 let us know it was an angel, a representative of God. So “Yahweh” did go in front of Israel as represented by his angel protector. Similarly, if you read Judges 2:1-4, an angel speaks to the Israelites, but his speech is in first person as if he were God Himself.

Elohim, “God,” can also refer to human rulers, kings, prophets, and people who represent God in some way. Thus Exodus 21:6; 22:8-9, almost certainly refer to God’s representatives as Elohim, “God” (Exod. 22:27 likely does too. In those verses the accompanying verb is plural, not singular, so the traditional teaching of the Rabbis, that the meaning is “judges,” which is also in the KJV, is almost certainly correct). Psalm 82:1 is noteworthy because it uses Elohim twice; at the beginning of the verse to refer to the true God, and at the end of the verse to refer to rulers and people who represent him. The verse says, “Elohim [“God”] stands in the congregation of the mighty; he judges among the “Elohim” [“gods”].” Furthermore, Ps. 82:6 says, “You are Elohim [“gods”]; and all of you are sons of the Most High.” As sons of the Most High, these rulers are qualified to be called Elohim, [“gods”]. Psalm 97:7 also calls rulers Elohim.

There are times when specific individuals are called Elohim, “God.” One example is Moses. In Exodus 7:1, God is speaking to Moses and says, “See, I have made you God [Elohim] to Pharaoh” (Darby). Given the uniplural nature of Elohim, another translation is, “See, I have made you a god [Elohim] to Pharaoh” (BBE, KJV), but the fact is that Moses, who represents Elohim (“God”) can legitimately be called Elohim (“God”) in the biblical culture. Another example is when King Saul wanted to speak to the dead prophet Samuel and went to a woman who was a medium and necromancer (1 Sam. 28:7-15). When she conjured up “Samuel” (actually a demon impersonating Samuel), the woman said, “I see Elohim coming up from the ground” (1 Samuel 28:13). This is a good example of a person being called Elohim, and we could translate it “God” and understand the custom of God’s representatives being called “God,” or a more easily understood translation for the English reader is simply, “a god;” the woman saw “a god” coming up who she thought was Samuel.

Given the language of the time, and given that Jesus did represent the Father and have divine authority, for Thomas to refer to Jesus as “god” is certainly understandable. In contrast, to assert that Thomas said that Jesus was “God,” and thus 1/3 of a triune God, seems incredible. As was noted above, in biblical times it was common to call God’s representatives “God,” and the Old Testament contains quite a few examples, such as when Jacob wrestled with “God” and it is clear that he was actually wrestling with an angel (Hosea 12:4).

It is common to read commentaries that assert that Thomas shifted from the depths of unbelief to the height of faith and called Jesus his “God.” But on what basis would Thomas do that? The commentators point out John 1:1, that the Gospel says “the Word was God.” First, there is solid evidence it does not actually say that (see commentary on John 1:1). More to the point, however, the Gospel of John was not written until decades after Thomas spoke, and there is no evidence that Jesus ever taught the Trinity or that he was “fully human and fully God.” Quite the opposite. He called God, “the true God” (John 17:3); he said the Father was greater than he was (John 14:28); and he referred to the Father as his God both before and after his resurrection (Matt. 27:46; John 20:17). Also, when he did have chances to “correct” people’s understanding about him or to teach the Trinity, such as with the woman at the well (John 4), or the Pharisee who asked him about the first and great commandment (Mark 12), he did not teach about the Trinity or say that he was man but also God. Very importantly, the few verses in the Gospels where Jesus said something that Trinitarians use to show Jesus is God can all be interpreted in a non-Trinitarian way. There is just no evidence that people at the time of Jesus knew about the Trinity or that Jesus was fully God and fully man—there was no teaching about it.

There are many Trinitarian authorities who admit that there was no knowledge of Trinitarian doctrine at the time Thomas spoke. For example, if the disciples believed that Jesus was “God” in the sense that many Christians do, they would not have “all fled” just a few days before when he was arrested. The confession of the two disciples walking along the road to Emmaus demonstrated the thoughts of Jesus’ followers at the time. Speaking to the resurrected Christ, whom they mistook as just a traveler, they talked about Jesus. They said Jesus “was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God…and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:19-21). The disciples thought Jesus was the Messiah, a “prophet,” and the Son of God, but not God Himself.

Even in realizing that Jesus was the Christ, they knew that according to the Old Testament prophecies, the Christ, the anointed of God, was to be a man: he was to be an offspring of Eve (Gen. 3:15) and through the line of Abraham and David, and “God” did not fit that description. He was to be anointed with holy spirit by God as foretold in Isaiah 61:1, a verse Jesus quoted about himself (Luke 4:18); whereas God does not need to be anointed with holy spirit. The Messiah was to be “one of their own” (Jer. 30:21), not God. We know how hard Jesus worked to teach the disciples that he would die and be resurrected—how many different times he taught it—and the disciples never did “get it.” Are we to believe that somehow Jesus taught the Trinity, something that went against everything the disciples were taught and believed, but there is no mention of Jesus ever teaching it anywhere and yet the disciples somehow “got” that teaching? That seems too incredible to believe. There is no evidence from the gospel accounts that Jesus’ disciples believed him to be God, and Thomas, upon seeing the resurrected Christ, was not birthing a new theology in a moment of surprise.

Besides the biblical use of the words for “God” being used for God’s representatives, there is a contributing cultural reason Thomas may have used the word “god” to refer to Jesus when Jesus appeared to him. In the Greco-Roman culture it was becoming customary to refer to the emperor as “god,” but usually only after he was dead. So, for example, after Julius Caesar was murdered in 44 BC, the Roman senate voted that he was a god. Elevating great people into the ranks of the gods is a process scholars refer to as “deification.” If dead Roman emperors were “gods,” it is reasonable that Thomas, knowing Jesus had been dead but now seeing him alive, referred to him as “god.”

The context of the verse shows that its subject is the fact that Jesus was alive. Only three verses earlier, Thomas had ignored the eyewitness testimony of the other apostles when they told him they had seen the Lord. The resurrection of Christ was such a disputed doctrine that Thomas did not believe it (the other apostles had not either), and thus Jesus’ death would have caused Thomas to doubt that Jesus was who he said he was—the Messiah. Thomas believed Jesus was dead. Thus, he was shocked and astonished when he saw—and was confronted by— Jesus himself. Thomas, upon being confronted by the living Christ, instantly believed in the resurrection, i.e., that God had raised the man Jesus from the dead, and, given the standard use of “God” in the culture as one with God’s authority, it certainly makes sense that Thomas would proclaim, “My Lord and my god.” There is no mention of the Trinity in the context, and there is no reason to believe that the disciples would have even been aware of such a doctrine. Thomas spoke what he would have known: that the man Jesus who he thought was dead was alive and had divine authority. [For more information on this verse and further references, see Graeser, Lynn, Schoenheit, One God & One Lord: Reconsidering the Cornerstone of the Christian Faith].

An alternate, but possible way to understand John 20:28 is that Thomas had realized the power of God working in Jesus and in saying “my Lord and my God” he was pointing out that Jesus did in fact reveal God in a unique and powerful way. Jesus always taught that he only did what God guided him to do, and stated that if you had seen Jesus you had seen the Father. It is quite possible that is what “doubting Thomas” was saying here: that in seeing Jesus he was also seeing the Father. The construction of the Greek text is “article, noun, pronoun; kai [and], article, noun, pronoun.” That construction is used many times when two different things are being referred to (cp. Matt. 12:47; Mark 3:33; Luke 8:20; John 4:12; and Acts 2:17). However, there are times when that construction is used when it is not clear that two separate things are being referred to (cp. Acts 10:4; 1 Cor. 2:4; Phil. 4:7; 2 Tim. 4:1; Heb. 10:17; and Rev. 6:11). In those cases, it is not clear if two distinct people or objects are meant. In some of the unclear examples it seems that the author may be simply amplifying the expression for emphasis.

What is clear is that if Thomas had meant to call Jesus God, there is a much clearer way to say it in Greek than is in the Greek text of John 20:28 and that is good evidence that he did not mean to call Jesus, “God” in a Trinitarian sense of the word.

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