Wonderment: Thanks for your response.
Since we are agree that context trumps grammatical permission I will like first correct your seeming misconception about Trinitarian view and subsequently review the same context as we view it.
1. We acknowledge that the Father is God (in the sense of nature) and that he is the God (in the sense of relational position) of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2. We do not confuse the person of Jesus with the Father who is commonly and popular identified as God, but not to the denying of Jesus' Godhood.
Based on the foregoing, none of the passages you have quoted from the context conflicts with our understanding of God as you think by flagging them up.
Your thinking is that it’s a matter of this or that but not both; that the positions are mutually exclusive or contradictory whereas we simply consider it as a paradox.
You are arguing that the Father being God and being one, by inference therefore excludes Jesus or any other from any possibility of being God presuming a position otherwise promotes polytheism. By simple arithmetic, yes, but we are exploring the very nature of God here which upon deeper examination, is higher than simple arithmetic but not contrary to it.
How? Simple arithmetic holds true only for quantities of a kind. For instance, by simple arithmetic, any quantity subtracted from itself gives you zero, hence 1 - 1, 100 - 100, 10²³ - 10²³, etc will always give you 0. But what if the quantity is infinity? Yes, infinity in the ultimate sense of it. Any sound maths mind knows those arithmetic rules will not apply here. Any quantity added to, subtracted from, multiplied to, etc. infinity will always leave you with the value of infinity. Thus even infinity minus infinity will leave you with infinity. Similarly, infinity plus infinity will not give you 2 times infinity but still one same infinity. Furthermore, infinity minus one value is exactly equally to infinty minus any and all other values. Why is this so? Infinity is the greatest quantity, nothing can be greater than it. It cannot be increased by itself or diminished by itself. If it could be increased or diminished then it is not infinity originally. Because by whatever you can increase or diminish a quantity so-called infinity, by the same you can measure it, then it is not infinity you had originally. It's such unique quantity that will not submit itself to the commonality of simple arithmetic manipulations.
How does this apply to God? Simple! God is of an order and class of being outside of the definitions of what we typically understand as being. While we are made like him, he is not exactly expressed by us. Hence we are made "in his image" but we are not His image. We are limited, he is not. We are defined by time, space and matter, he is not. It is not just that he is immeasurable in the sense that his dimensions are of such huge proportions that we have no mechanism to calculate them; it is rather that he exists outside of such.
Consider this challenge I gave a JW some years ago to help him understand this concept. I asked him if he believes that God dwells in heaven and he responded in the affirmative. Did he create heaven? He responded again in the affirmative. Where was he before he created heaven? He was stuck for a long while and then blurted out in self assurance that God was in the universal space. I simply confronted him with the inadequacy of that answer as it still leaves us with the question of who created that space or if it is eternal. He hurriedly said it always existed with God thinking he had escaped from answering my initial question. Then I said it means it's equal with God or probably greater and then reduces from God as it would be one thing God did not create and if you consider well it also makes God dependent on it and defines limits for God as God would only be able influential to the extent of the space. Then God would himself be subject to, confined, defined and measured by the space and consequently concede Godhood to that which defines him. He soon realized his error and owned up to the transcendence of God. I will later yet return to show by this logic how Jesus could not have been created as you argue.
God exists before all things, including all space. Whatever space there is was created by him. This leaves us with just one option; God was by himself in himself. He was container and content together in one. Consider then he who existed before length, breadth, width, height, depth and every measure or property of space, would he not be bigger, larger and beyond space? Would he not be the one defining space within his being? His being described as bigger and larger definitely would not be in the same sense as when describing space dimensions, because we are describing how he was before space was created, only that we, being defined by space, can only apprehend it in spatial terms. It is rather in a transcendent way.
Now, let’s try out some of these concepts and see their implications on the nature of God. Let's for the sake of argument assume that God were to replicate himself, which we should not see as impossible for God if we indeed believe that he is Almighty, would we have two Gods after the replication? Simple arithmetic says yes but higher maths helps us understand that because of his nature of infinitude, a million replicas of him, off him, will not give a million times of him. Each replica would be fully God, have separated and unique individuality that can relate with any other individually and with all others together but yet together with them not increase the count or size of God. Why? Simply because He transcends size and counting. By our perception of him in replicates we may say he is now subsisting in multiple persons but from the point of view of his essence all the persons are still the same God. One replica may defer to another depending on his will for replicating the particular replica but none of the replica is less than God or else it would not be a replica. Someone could ask, that which is replicated from off some other, is it not later and therefore younger? Yes, if you are dealing with quantities or an entity within the realm of time. However, in God's transcendent realm of existence, time does not exist, it is from our perception of the replication that we account for laterness and subsequency. Also, such replication would not be an act of creation or else it’s not a replication. To understand it better, imagine a flame burning on a candle. Call it say flame A. Bring in a fresh candle and light its wick off the first candle flame and you get flame B. From our perspective of acquiring the flame, we would think that flame B is a later derivative of flame A, but in reality, flame B is actually flame A replicated to candle B. Flame B is not later in existence to flame A, it’s been existing as long as Flame A but within it. Not as a part of flame A but as all of flame A. It somehow now burns independent of it and interacts with the environment separately, at least by our perception, as if unconnected to flame A. But in reality, flame B is still all, not just part, of flame A, expressing itself separate from itself. It simply replicated itself to candle B without loosing itself. The nature of fire is what makes that possible. It could be hard and almost impossible to perceive initially but if you consider it patiently it comes clear.
So if God the Father were to replicate himself in the Word this way, would we not have arithmetic and common logic of count and sequence messed up? Yes! Contradicted? No!
The next question therefore is do we have any indication of this in the scripture? Yes!
Let me start from the controversial John 1: 1
"In the beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God" NWT
I take the first two clauses for now and by them will show which of the renditions of the third clause – "and the Word was a god" or "and the Word was God," proves to be the logical and context consistent conclusion of thought.
"In the beginning the Word was," John asserts. Of all those who penned down the narrative of Jesus’ earthly sojourn and ministry, Apostle John is the only one who went beyond his human birth to explore his pre-existence before it. To do that he situates him within a period he calls the beginning. As this phrase qualifies everything later spoken of the Word in the verse, it is imperative we correctly decipher when or what period of existence the phrase refers to in order to make good sense of the things affirmed of him.
Many assume the phrase as used here to be referent of the same period it is used to convey in Gen. 1: 1 where it clearly refers to the time of the start of creation. I however have always refuted that based on the following:1.No
creative word or act is employed in this verse in association with the phrase. To say something was is simply to affirm the fact of the existence of that something. The word was simply means existed and does not imply or connote a start to the existence it affirms as words like made, began, commenced, etc. would clearly do.
2.The second verse says: "This one" (NWT) or "The same" (NKJV) "was in the beginning with God." On this surface, it appears a redundant reinforcement of the point of the second clause of verse 1. However, the use of the phrase here is immediately followed up with references to creative acts. This clearly establishes the usage of the phrase in this second verse as referent of the same beginning of Gen. 1: 1. The phrase "This one" or "The same" then proves to be a way of linking up or carrying over the person of the Word from the context of verse 1, and situating him within another context. So the phrase refers to different period contexts in the two verses. In other words, by the words “This one” John was saying even though I am talking of different periods I am referencing the same person.
Given that the beginning of verse 2 is definitively that same as referenced in Gen 1:1, the beginning of verse 1 proves to be before it. Now which beginning was before creative acts? The eternal beginning of course! It is not a beginning in the typical sense of the word as to suggest that it is referring to when everything began since everything did not begin, only created things did. It is only a beginning from the point of view of a creature trying to think back and relate things to one another in a sequence and must of necessity therefore identify a starting point for reasoning and logic.
Now what do these all mean? A beginning before creative beginning; one in which the Word is affirmed to have been existent? Surely, we know that only an uncreated being could have been existent before creative activity. And also that God is the established one and only uncreated being. Invariably then, John saying that in the beginning the Word was, must mean that the Word is God. See how the first clause of John 1: 1 already sets the tone for establishing the deity of Jesus.
But someone may still argue that the beginning of John 1: 1 is not the beginning predating the beginning of all creation but the beginning before the creation of all other things when or immediately after God had directly created the Word as the first created thing before he now engaged him to create other things.
My answer is a series of questions. Why would the apostle take us on a journey of exploration into the origins of the Word, the mystery of his existence and the nature of it before his human birth and then start from just after he was created as if he was not created, if indeed he was created? Imagine if Gen 1: 1 had said “In the beginning the heavens and the earth were.” Would that have given us a definite impression of creationhood for the heavens and earth? Why would he come so far only to then just grandstand?
Moreover, we are reliably informed that this Gospel was written after the book of Revelation. If so, one of Jesus statements there declaring his title is the beginning of the creation of God, which JWs say means he is the first creative work of God. Why would John then fail to nail down Jesus’ pre-creative existence with a creative word? Is it so difficult to say something like “In the beginning the Word came into existence?” Or “In the beginning the Word was made?” Is it that he thought it was obvious and so just skirted around it? But isn’t the creation of all other things more obvious? Yet he did not skirt around that but reaffirmed it, doubly as a matter of fact, by positive and negative language constructs. The plain truth is that he did not use creative words with the existence of the Word because he knew the Word was not created. The next clause will buttress this even further.
“…and the Word was with God” John continues. This clause is both a graduation of the thought sown in the first and a clarification of it. Imagine you are a Christian Jew reading this Gospel of John and having understood the first clause as earlier expounded, you have known only God to be pre-existent before creation and thus uncreated, but now are confronted with this statement asserting that the Word’s being is pre-existent before creation, you definitely will be contending in your heart as regards the implication on the oneness of God. For you will reason that if the Word is uncreated and only God is uncreated then the logical conclusion is that the Word is God. But then you will remember that Jesus always differentiated himself from God. You are then left with the choice of embracing one truth to the exclusion of the other. Since you are settled in God being one and different from Jesus, your logical resolution would be to hold on to your settled truth and throw this new but seemingly conflicting one away or subordinate it and beat it down to some comfortable form like JWs have done. But then you read John take the two thoughts and hold them together in one breath by saying “and the Word was with God”. He is thus affirming that though they seem mutually exclusive that they are not. On one hand he confirms that the Word is distinct from God but on the other he insists that the existence of the Word, as previously asserted was so in the company of God. Why is he bringing God into view? For confirmation of the thought earlier planted. For how better could you reinforce a suggestion of the Word being pre-existent to creation than to juxtapose him with someone whose pre-existence before creation is a closed fact? By juxtaposing the Word’s existence with that of God, as it relates to the beginning, and maintaining the two on the same level by saying that the Word was (existed) with (in the company of, alongside) God, instead of something like "and the Word was by God" or "and the Word was made by God" or "and the Word came into being after God," he was buttressing the previous thought that he had sowed implicitly. In other words, he was saying, you know for a fact that God was (existed) before creation, which implies that God is uncreated, now be informed also that the Word was (existed) alongside him then, which implies too that the Word is uncreated. Thus if you were in doubt before as to the implication of the first clause for the nature of the Word’s existence, you have it reinforced even further by classing and associating it with God’s existence without subordinating it to God’s.
I have always maintained, and still do, that if there was ever a perfectly opportune time for Jesus to be pointedly set forth as a created being, this is it here. None other comes close at all by a very wide margin. For every other supposed allusion to his being a created being is not found within the context of a purposeful discussion on his origins like this passage is explicitly involved with.
Imagine, John goes back in time, into a discussion of the origins of the Word, past his physical birth, which should logically have been the origin for him as is consistent with all humans. He goes past that and presents him as pre-existing it. He goes even further back in time up to the point of Gen 1: 1, which we all, with consensus, know as the origin of all things created and still puts him past it. And in putting him past this point he chooses to affirm the fact of his existence first, as if he had the existence of, by and in himself (starting out a discourse on the origins of the Word with an unqualified and untempered affirmation of it, independent of its relation to God is outrageously presumptuous and disregarding to God, to say the least, if indeed the Word was created by God. Can anyone imagine Genesis 1: 1 starting out by saying in the beginning the heavens and earth were?”), refraining from qualifying that existence by a definite creative verb. He then goes on to be even more daring and audacious by bringing that pre-affirmed no-creative-word-qualified existence of the Word into focus with and in relation to the existence of the being whose own existence we know as definitely uncreated and whose we accept as the original source point of all things created, but still fails to delineate or degrade its manner and class, even if implicitly, in comparison and contrast to God’s, someone now says the closing clause for all these grandstanding for the Word is “and the Word was a god” because it is grammatically permissible in the context. What an anticlimax! Even if, as you argue, it is for the contextual harmony of not equating him to God since it had been explicitly stated that he was with God; and we know that it is obvious that no one can be separately and distinctly, within time space continuum, with himself/herself, it is still an anticlimax.
If the first two clauses had been constructed something like “In the beginning the Word came into existence, and the Word came to be with God” or better still like, “In the beginning the Word was made, and the Word was made [personally and exclusively] by God,” which constructions would have been easier for a monotheist Jew such as John trying to reconcile and explain the existence of a created intermediate agent of creation with the established doctrine of God being the original, direct and exclusive creator of all things, without doing damage to the image of the Word as being the supposed first and exclusive direct creation of God, a conclusion of “and the Word was a god” would be natural and logical. The fact of the matter however is the opposite which recommends a conclusion of “and the Word was God.”
But does this not contradict the statement that he was with God as a distinct personality? By simple, creation shaped and bound logic, yes but not by divine infinitude and transcendence. God, by his manner and mode of existence, as I previously demonstrated, can be apart from himself, in so-called distinct personality forms without adding to himself or be increased thereby. The fact that our nature of being does not allow for such is not proof that God cannot. In fact, it only goes to confirm indeed that we are just in his image and not his image. Meaning that we are made an expression of his manner of being, not the exact expression of it.
Moreover, a conclusion of “and the Word was God” does not mean that the Word is the same personage as the one of whom it was stated that He was with, it simply means that he was of the same essence or substance as the personage. This is why in the passage, in its original Greek, the definite article is present to qualify the word translated God in the second clause but absent to qualify it in the third clause. Again, as I previously articulated, the word “god” in its unqualified and non-relational use is essentially a species-order, nature-class or being-kind descriptive word and not a person-specific word. It is because our experience of the being-kind described by the word and its revelation of itself to us consistently confirmed the being-kind as one that we respectably extend the use of the word as a proper noun for reference to him as a person and consequently capitalize the first letter of it in writing as it applies to him whether as a person or as a being kind. So John’s summation of the progression of the thoughts implied and graduated through the first two clauses by the third clause is not that the Word is the person we call God but that he is his exact replica in being-kind. One translation puts it as “and the Word was Godlike.” My own preferred rendition would be “and the Word was of the God-kind”
Lastly on this John 1: 1 passage, a reading down to verse 3 conclusively proves that the Word is not presumed or assumed created by John and neither does he expect us to infer so.
“All things came into existence through him” John asserts. Now, Wonderment, as you rightly pointed out, all things sometimes do not mean literally all things but depends on context. Supposing you made the above statement and knowing what you and I know that all things could be interpreted with limits by your reader/hearer, but you want them to understand your all things as without limits or exclusions, how would you do it? You will agree with me that one way is by way of emphasis and specificity. In other words, since all things collects the things together at a high level of generality which allows room for some exceptions, you could reinforce your words by addressing the all things in the specificity of each thing that makes up the collection. That is exactly what John does.
“…and apart from him not even one thing came into existence” he reinforces.
In others words, John was clearing up all questions as to the sense and scope of the all things. So in case you were still asking within you, are these all things really all things in the total sense of all things, or all things with one or more exceptions? “…and apart from him not even one thing came into existence” he replies emphatically. In other words, there is not one thing of the created class that escaped being created by the Word. If this does not foreclose all possibilities of the Word being a created being I wonder what will.
But could it not still be argued that if we should interpret the all things in the total sense of all things we would need to include God and the Word itself in the all things as they too are things, which clearly is not true and so proves still that all things is still all things with exceptions?
Firstly, the fact that he says “All things came into existence through him” already defines the scope of the all things as restricted to the scope of things that came into existence (were caused). In other words, the things that at some point were not in existence but came later into existence.
If that is not clear enough, consider the weight of evidence even further when the last clause of the verse is translated and read as one with the preceding parts rather than as a part of the statement continuing in verse 4 as NWT and a few other translations do, which is grammatically permitted though but context inconsistent. The verse would then read as follows:
“All things came into existence through him, and apart from him not even one thing came into existence that has come into existence”
This then clarifies conclusively the scope of the all things as all things that came into existence with the exception of none; which statement requires that the Word be uncreated in order to be true. Since if the Word were to be a created thing, he would of necessity have been created by someone other than himself and then be the one thing of the class of created things not created by the Word and void John’s specificity and reaffirmation of no exception.
How can I show that the NWT’s separation of the last clause of verse 3 from its preceding parts is wrong? Simple! As rendered by NWT, it is saying that the Word made himself, which they neither believe nor is possible. How does it say that? Consider that it reads “What has come into existence” (been caused or created) “by means of him” (the Word) “is life.” But reading further you find this life that NWT says came into existence by means of the Word being identified as the light of men and invariably the Word himself. So how could John have been saying that the Word came into existence by means of himself?
Clearly so, the preponderance of translations render the clause as one sentence with the preceding parts. Verse 4 would then read like as follows:
“In him was life,” (meaning he is life personified or life self-sourcing) “and the life was the light of men” (and as life personified or life self-sourcing he was the light of men)
Now in closing, as I said I will come back to show how the question of God being the pre-existent container and content combo who created the universal expanse of space, spiritual and material, where all things were then created to fill, how this shows that the Word could not have been created first if indeed he was created.
Let’s recede back to when only God was and nothing else had joined him. At this point you will agree with me that space and time is still non-existent. God then decides to commence creation and you say his first creative act is Jesus. Given that no container (heaven, space) yet exists where did he put him? From the accounts of creation found in the Scriptures we see that container is what God creates before content. Jesus being a person would be a content needing a container to exist. Does this make sense to you? Would God not have created Heaven before he creates Jesus? If yes, how would Jesus now be God’s first created thing and the one that then creates all other things? Clearly at the very least, that is if God chooses not to furnish Heaven but creates Jesus to see Heaven in its unfurnished state, Jesus would be the second thing not the first, and he would only be able to create all other things after him and not all other things apart from himself, for heaven would be something created that is not Jesus and not made by Jesus.
Take it from me, any how the logic fails.
Finally, if one were to concede that Jesus is uncreated, which by implication means he is God, how do I think a monotheistic Jew such as John and the early disciples, how did they reconcile it with the oneness of God?
I believe it is by accepting the transcendence of God as discussed earlier in this lengthy reply. They also probably reconciled God's oneness as a composite oneness rather than a singularity oneness. By conceding that within the nature of God modes of existence with multidimensional manifestations could exist without dividing the substance.
Do I think it was easy to resolve and settle? Absolutely not! See us here still debating, probing and poking at it thousands of years after.
Wonderment, probably unknown to you and your fellows who presume that the monotheistic culture of a Jew would have made it impossible for him to reconcile Jesus as God and still distinct from the Father, the same reasoning applies for a Jew to concede agency of any part of creation to someone other than God, more especially a created thing. Their theology was that God created all things personally and directly. Consider the following scriptures:
This is what Jehovah says, your Repurchaser, Who formed you since you were in the womb: “I am Jehovah, who made everything. I stretched out the heavens by myself, and I spread out the earth. Who was with me? Isa. 44: 24 (NWT)
For “who has come to know Jehovah’s mind, or who has become his adviser?” Or, “who has first given to him, so that it must be repaid to him?” Because from him and by him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen. Rom. 13: 34-36 (NWT)
The first reports Jehovah bragging that He stretched out the heavens by himself. There can be no accommodation of a created agent in that statement. It is absolute.
The second affirms Jehovah as source (from him), agent (by him), and goal (for him) of all things. So where would Jesus’ agency come in with regards to the same all things?
What about Jesus' claim in John that he will raise himself from the dead after he is crucified and killed, and John's subsequent confession that his disciples remembered that he said so after he resurrected and believed the claim? How do we reconcile that with God being the one who raised him? This question proves even more nutty if we process it through JW's teaching that at death a man's life force evaporates away and he ceases to exist. How then could Jesus, nonexistent in death, raise himself up from it? Yet John says that's what he and the other disciples believed happened after he resurrected because he said so.
What of the absolute assertion, first by the Lord Jesus himself and later echoed by John that no man has seen God at any time and even further extended by Paul when he says that no man can ever in fact see him? Yet the Hebrew scriptures explicitly records that people saw God, not only in visions, dreams or some trance experience but also in material form, casual and glorious variations.
The more acceptable and God-honoring way we Trinitarians see to reconcile these seemingly mutually exclusive statements is to look within the nature of God and not logic as we know it for us finite beings. If his nature can express itself perceptively to created beings as multiples of persons but with oneness of substance then we rest in it. We see that clearly in it and so find no contradiction in him being originator and agent in separate persons but same being-kind.
I rest for now.