Trinity pamphlet, - a response & research

by Kristofer 51 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • Death to the Pixies
    Death to the Pixies

    Hey LT,

    W-out getting to much into a Biblical Trinity debate I do not believe Paul got it wrong, I believe he was most careful in the prepositions he used of Christ when describing Creation. I agree with BDAG which has the Father as the Ultimate agent, and the Son the passive intermediate in this verse. . "all things" came in (RSV) the Son but *from* the Father, as in 1 Cor. 8:6

    BDAG places DIA in Colossians 1:16 as intermediate agent and EN as "in association with" whic would prevent the interpretation that the Son was the ultimate agent and Creator in that verse. . I know Daniel Wallace of Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics fame, holds this view too, but does not see any conflict with his Trinitarian beliefs, even using the phrase "hands on creator" with regards to the Son., So you are free to disagree, and come to your own conclusions.

    Justin wrote in Greek I Believe, and was seemingly ignorant of the Divine name YHWH.

  • Leolaia
    The WT believs the 1st Century Church taught the Divinity of Christ, as we acknowledge it as well. So, the inclusion of these ideas would have done no harm to the WT attack on the Trinity. I agree, it would have been nice to been more thorough, but this does not convict them.

    It would have harmed their characterization of the development of the Trinity. Yes, it is easy to show that the fourth and fifth century post-Nicene Trinity is not found in the NT. But that is not all the Society does. They also try to describe the evolution of the Trinity doctrine, and they basically start with the Nicene creed in the fourth century and then trace it through to the Athanasian creed which dates more than a century later. All of this is centuries removed from the NT. And the Society fills in the gap with characterizations of the beliefs of church fathers, which are consistently skewed to make them seem like they merely continued the kind of the theology that the Society regards as biblical. This creates the false impression that the Trinity came out of nowhere in the fourth century. Thus Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, etc. are portrayed as maintaining "biblical" views and ignorant of the "Trinity", tho they each had a trinitarian theology, believed that Jesus Christ was fully God, or both God and man, united with the Holy Spirit and the Father as three persons of one substance, etc. This is hardly an insignificant omission! The Trinity broshure, for instance, represents Tertullian as saying that "the Father is different from the Son, as he is greater, as he who begets is different from him who is begotten; he who sends, different from him who is sent". In the context of a discussion of the Trinity, this suggests that Tertullian did not believe that the Father and Son were united in a Trinity....that the distinction between the Father and Son were not as between persons in a Trinity but between seperate beings. But this actually was the opposite of what he believed...he was very clear that the Father and Son were not divided by substance but that all three persons were united as one trinity:

    "All are of one (ex uno omnia), that is through unity of substance (per substantiae unitatem); while this still safeguards the mystery of the economy, which disposes the unity into a Trinity (trinitas), arranging in order the three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit....How they admit of plurality without division (numerum sine divisione) the following discussion will show... We have never given vent to the phrases 'two Gods,' or 'two Lords'; not that it is untrue that the Father is God, the Son is God, the Spirit is God; each is God... So the close series of the Father in the Son and the Son in the Paraclete makes three who cohere (tres cohaerentes), the one attached to the other. And these three are one thing, not one person, in the sense in which it is said 'I and the Father are one' in respect of unity of substance, not singularity of number" (Adversus Praxaeas, 2, 13, 25)

    It is true that Tertullian did not teach an ontological trinity but conceived of the Son and Holy Spirit as economically derived from the Father (and thus subordinate), but this difference is not enough to make such views irrelevant to a discussion of the development of the Trinity doctrine. Tertullian conceived of a trinity of three persons united in one substance, and thus I have no idea how the Society could cite him in support of the argument that "the Trinity was unknown throughout Biblical times and for several centuries thereafter". The later Athanasian and Nicean trinity doctrines of course were not yet formulated, but Tertullian's trinity was a direct forerunner of them....

    You are forgetting the importance of what the Trinity is in its ultimate, final state. Merely having SOME of the building blocks there for a formal doctrine is not enough, it is the One-God, in 3 co-equal persons which is important. This idea did spring up after "many centuries".

    Indeed. But earlier writers conceived of "One-God in 3 non-equal persons" which is a kind of trinity doctrine, and one that goes back to the second century. The earlier existence of these "building blocks" or earlier versions of trinitarian theology is important because they show that the fully-formed Trinity of the fourth and fifth century was not some new thing entirely that came out of pagan philosophy or what not, but built on earlier views that have continuity with the first and second centuries. So why is the Society completely silent on these earlier trinity theologies or earlier statements on the full Deity of Christ? My point is that the Society purports to describe the history and origin of the doctrine but they neglect to describe the entire early history of the doctrine, while they refer to the very people who played a big role in its early development as ignorant of the Trinity. Technically true if they mean the late Nicene-Athanasian trinity, but ignoring the fact that Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, Hippolytus, etc. all were trinitarians themselves.

    I briefly touched on Justin's belief in the Divinity of christ, and to some extent you seem to agree in your ackowledgment of his belief in a Second God. This gets to the core, or lackthereof, of Justins' theology. This "Lord God" "The God of Abraham Isaac and Jacob" is *a distinct God*, from the God that is the "Maker of all things". This does not help an Orthodox view of "God".

    Justin Martyr was not "orthodox", he was pre-orthodox...just like Hermas of Rome, Ignatius, and other early second century writers. Had he written in the third century or later, he would have been rejected as heretical. Yes, he had some form of the deuteros theos theology characteristic of Philo of Alexandria, but my point was that the Society still misrepresents him. He did not conceive of the Son as a "created angel". He described the Son as "Angel" in role and function, rather than nature, and thus "Angel" is a "title" or something he is "called" (cf. Dialogue 34, 60-61, 76, 128, 1 Apology 62-63), and when he discusses the Son's origin, he specifically denies that Jesus was a created angel:

    "I do not consider that teaching true which is asserted by what you call a heretical sect of your religion, nor can the proponents of that heresy (hairesis dogmatizei) prove that he spoke those words [i.e., 'Let us make man in our image'] to angels (aggelois elegen), or that the human body was the result of an angel's work (aggelon poiéma én to sóma to anthrópeion). But this Offspring (gennéma), who was truly begotten of the Father (tói onti apo tou patros probléthen), was with the Father and the Father talked with Him before all creation (pro panton ton poiématon), as the scripture through Solomon clearly showed us, saying that this Son, who is called Wisdom by Solomon, was begotten (egegennéto) both as a beginning before all his works (arkhé pro panton tón poiématón), and as his Offspring (gennéma)" (Dialogue 62).

    Here the Son is not an "angel" like the created angels, in fact such a view is rejected as a Jewish heresy. Instead, he characterizes the Son as an "Offspring" (gennéma) who was "generated" or "begotten" (egegennéto) instead of "created" (epoiésan), and his generation was "before all creation" and "before all his works", i.e. the Son was not created. In the previous section, Justin went further into detail on what he meant by the "begetting" of the Son:

    "God had begotten of himself a certain rational Power (gegennéke dunamin tina ex heautou logikén) as a beginning before all creatures (arkhén pro pantón tón ktismatón)....When we utter a word, it can be said that we beget the word (logon gennómen), but not by cutting it off (ou kata apotomén), in the sense that our power of uttering words thereby be diminished. We can observe a similar example in nature when one fire kindles another (hopoion epi puros horómen allo ginomenon), without losing anything (ouk elattoumenou ekeinou), but remaining the same; yet the enkindled fire seems to exist of itself (to ex autou anaphthen) and to shine without lessening the brilliancy of the first fire" (Dialogue 61).

    These are analogies of generation, and tho the word "substance" is not used, Justin suggests that the Son was begotten from the Father like a fire is enkindled from another fire without lessening it...sharing the same "fire" stuff as the source fire, and which can burn with its own brilliance and glory beside the first fire. The analogy of words being begotten by thought is similar, and Justin notes that similarly the ability to utter words is not diminished by any individual word, and words are also not "cut off" from the source through dividing it. Later, Justin does use the word "substance" to describe the begetting of the Son:

    "For I stated that this power was generated from the Father (tén dunamin tautén gegennésthai apo tou patros), by his power and will, but not by abscission (ou kata apotomen), as if the substance of the Father were divided (hós apomerizomenés tés tou patros ousias); as all other things, once they are divided and severed (merizomena kai temnomena), are not the same as they were before the division. To illustrate this point, I cited the example of fires kindled from a fire; the enkindled fires are indeed distinct from the original fire (paraléphein ta apo puros anaptomena) which, though it ignites many other fires, still remains the same undiminished fire" (Dialogue 128).

    The Son is begotten from the Father's "substance", generated from it like a fire lit from fire...the substance is not itself divided. This is far closer to Tertullian's notion of the Son and Holy Spirit as derived from the Father than the idea of the Son as a "creation", for the Son is clearly described as produced from the ousia of the Father. And like Tertullian, Justin also emphasized the numerical distinction of the Son from the Father. In the preceding paragraph, he took issue with the Jewish "Two Powers in Heaven" theology that treated the Word as a mere hypostasis of God, i.e. that the Word is a springing forth of the power of God "and when he [God] chooses, he makes it return to himself" "indivisible and inseparable from himself," reducing the power to the form out of which it sprang. Tertullian similarly was engaged in a polemic against Praxeas who endorsed a modalist theology. But what Justin lacked was Tertullian's concept of a persona (i.e. Person) that can maintain this distinction within one God. Hence, Justin had two Gods....the Son being derived from the Father, of the same substance of the Father, but not explicitly united as one Deity. Thus, Justin's theology was closer to ditheism than binitarianism, but he also may not have been very clear in his thinking.

    At this point, the Deity of Jesus was being explained contrary to a God-head of 3 persons. Between the Father and Son, we Have Two Gods, one the Almighty Maker of all things", and the other that gets to be called "God" because The Almighty said it was OK.

    Yes, it was the will of the Father to beget the Son, but I don't think Justin viewed the Son's status as God as only a title; rather the Son was God because he was uniquely begotten by the Father, of the same substance and power and glory like a fire lit from another fire, "who was God even before the creation of the world (pro poiéseós kosmou onta theon)" (Dialogue 58), who "being the first-begotten Word of God (logos prótotokos tou theou), is indeed God (kai theos huparkhei)" (1 Apology 63)....note the word huparkhonta used to indicate the Word's existence or substantial being as theos (cf. Philippians 2:6). Moreover, the Father was also given titles such as "Father," "God," "Creator," "Lord," "Master" as "terms of address derived from his beneficient deeds" (2 Apology 6).

    the implication being that Jesus is an Angel , like the "other good Angels". (CHAP. VI.--CHARGE OF ATHEISM REFUTED From Justin's First Apology)

    1 Apology 6 does use allos "other" (tón allón agathón aggelón "the other good angels") in a way that seems to imply that the Son is here regarded as an angel. But Justin elsewhere contrasted the Son with the aggeloi in Dialogue 62, indicating clearly that Jesus is not classed with the ordinary angels. So Justin is here either being sloppy in his use of allos, or more likely is here construing the Son's status as Angel by his function as a "messenger" like the other angels (cf. elthonta kai didaxanta hémas tauta "came forth and taught us these things" in the same sentence). Elsewhere in 1 Apology, Justin stated that the Son in his prior manifestations to men may appear "in the likeness of disembodied beings" (en eikóni asómatói), or later in the flesh of men in his incarnation, but he also "exists as God" (theos huparkhei) (1 Apology 63). Looking beyond the paranthetical comment about the angels, 1 Apology 6 is making the statement that the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit (= Prophetic Spirit) are together "worshipped" and "adored" (sebometha kai proskunoumen), which clearly sets the Son apart from the angels in terms of Godship. I doubt Justin means that the angels are also worshipped along with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The argumentation he uses to explain why the Son must be worshipped emphasizes his unique status (Dialogue 63-68), and he later described the pagan "gods" worshipped by the nations as evil angels improperly being worshipped (Dialogue 79).

    Justin also sees the Son being generated as a "beginning", by an act of the Father. IMO, if we do not see an explicit "eternal generaration" argument from Justin, we should lean toward Justin believeing in the temporality of the Son.

    I agree. Justin does not construe the Son as "co-eternal" with the Father, like any other second-century apologists.

    It cannot be said that he was mis-represented in the SYBTB.

    As I said, Justin did not call Jesus a created angel. That is the misrepresentation in this case. The misrepresentation is more serious when we come down to Tertullian and other later writers who were more clearly trinitarian (tho of course antedating the specific formulation of the Trinity in the creeds).

Share this