Trinity

Did Paul Know Jesus was the Second Person in the Trinity?

First, a quote: “The Church cannot indefinitely continue to believe about Jesus what he did not know to be true about himself,” J. W. Bowman, The Intention of Jesus (London: SCM, 1945), p. 108.

This is not really a historical claim but a theological one, and it reflects a common assumption: The assumption that the theological/religious validity of claims about Jesus rest upon what Jesus believed and taught about himself. In my book, Lord Jesus Christ (pp. 5-9), I’ve noted the irony of how this assumption has been shared by critics and advocates of Christian faith, and also how it has worked mischief in the historical investigation of Christian origins.

-Dr. Larry Hurtado
“Questioning a Common Assumption,” May 13, 2014
Larry Hurtado’s Blog

Dr. Larry Hurtado has been prolifically writing on something rather compelling over the past few days. Did Jesus know he was Divine during his “earthly ministry?” Did Jesus know he was to be an object of worship?

I think most Evangelicals would assume the answer to those questions is a resounding “yes,” but here we have one of the most preeminent New Testament scholars in the world drawing that assumption into question. I think Hurtado’s comments deserve further scrutiny.

(NOTE: I should mention here that I have no intention of matching my meager brain power and limited knowledge of New Testament scholarship with Dr. Hurtado’s. I merely want to bring this issue to my readership in order to explore what he presents on his own blog and to see what responses his viewpoints elicit here.)

Looking at the evidence in the New Testament, Hurtado concludes that the “high” view of Jesus as Divine Messiah didn’t emerge until what he calls “post-Easter.”

But I’d like to make two observations. First, the earliest extant Christian texts themselves make it perfectly clear that the “high” notions about Jesus sharing in divine glory, exalted to heavenly status, worthy of worship, etc., all erupted after Jesus’ ministry, not during it, and that the crucial impetus for these notions was what earliest believers saw as God’s actions, particularly their belief that God had raised Jesus from death to heavenly glory. (See, e.g., Philippians 2:9-11; Acts 2:36).

To underscore the point, the remarkable escalation in the status/significance of Jesus to the “right hand” of God, to sharing the divine name and glory, and to the central and programmatic place he held in earliest Christian devotional practice all rested on the fundamental conviction that God has exalted him and now required that Jesus’ exalted status be recognized, and that he should be reverenced accordingly.

My second observation is this: Why should this be taken as some kind of threat to the theological legitimacy of traditional Christian faith?

-Hurtado, ibid

Larry Hurtado
Larry Hurtado

This sounds like it was only after the resurrection that it was known to anyone else including Jesus that he was indeed the Divine Son of God the Father.

I think a lot of people would find that startling, but as Hurtado says above, why should that be a threat? And yet on the aforementioned blog post and two others, many, many comments were generated, some of them rather “impassioned.”

Indeed, more explicitly than any of the other Gospels, GJohn makes it clear that the author saw and accepted a distinction between what he regarded as the level of understanding of Jesus among his followers during his earthly life and the subsequently enhanced level of understanding in the “post-Easter” period.

But my point here is that even GJohn doesn’t make the high Christological claims affirmed by the author rest simply (or even particularly) on demands and teaching of the earthly Jesus. Instead, the text fully affirms that the realization of Jesus’ glorified/glorious status came subsequently, through the revelations of the Spirit.

-Hurtado, Jesus and Christology: The Gospel of John as a Case Study, May 14, 2014

Hurtado wrote this as a follow-up to his prior missive, which continued to inspire passionate discourse, and based on those comments, he wrote a third blog post, Jesus, “Pre-existence,” etc: Responding to Questions on May 15th.

He breaks his response down into four points to which he comments on his blog at length:

  1. His response to his emphasis that the NT makes God’s actions (esp. in raising Jesus from death and giving him glory) the basis for the “high” Christological claims and the remarkable devotional practice in which Jesus was included with God.
  2. His position about texts such as John 1:1-2, where, of the “Logos” (here, the “pre-incarnate” identity/form of the incarnate Jesus), we read: “he was with God and he was God”.
  3. What we are supposed to make of statements ascribing “pre-existence” to Jesus (to use the typical theological buzzword). If you entertain these, how could Jesus not have known this and spoken of it?
  4. What about subsequent creedal controversies and formulations? E.g., the three “persons” (or “hypostases”) that comprise the “Trinity,” etc.?

I don’t want to re-create the full content from Hurtado’s blog and reader comments, but I do want to draw attention to one particular paragraph (for full context, please use the links I provided and read all three of Hurtado’s posts):

But I suspect that if Paul were asked whether Jesus was the “second person of the Trinity,” he would likely have responded with a quizzical look, and asked for some explanation of what it meant! Were the patristic texts and creedal statements saying something beyond or distinguishable from what the NT texts say? Certainly. Does that invalidate those later creedal discussions and formulations? Well, if you recognize the necessity of the continuing theological task (of intelligently attempting to articulate Christian faith meaningfully in terms appropriate and understandable in particular times and cultures), then probably you’ll see the classic creedal statements as an appropriate such effort. But that’s a historical judgement about that later period, and/or a theological judgement. And my emphasis is on the historical question of what the NT texts say and how to understand them in their own historical context.

-Hurtado, Jesus, “Pre-existence,” etc: Responding to Questions

This goes not only to what Jesus thought of himself prior to his crucifixion and resurrection, but what Paul and the Jesus-believing Jews (and Gentiles) believed about the nature of Christ relative to God during the Biblical period.

The Jewish PaulDid Paul believe in the Trinity? Again, an Evangelical wouldn’t miss a beat in saying, “Yes, of course,” but again, we have Hurtado, who we have every reason to believe is presenting a credible case from current NT research, saying that Paul wouldn’t have a clue about the Trinity.

I should mention that Derek Leman at Messianic Jewish Musings has been writing a great deal about the Divinity of Jesus lately, and a lot of his perspectives are based on Hurtado. His own research and conclusions will be presented in his forthcoming book Divine Messiah, which should be available for digital download from Amazon as early as May 23rd, so maybe Leman’s text will offer some insights.

In addition to my recent commentary on Zetterholm and the implications of his research on our view of the Church, I’ve recently read an article at Bible History Daily called The Origin of Christianity by Noah Wiener, which is a review of Geza Vermes’ work, From Jewish to Gentile: How the Jesus Movement Became Christianity (November/December 2012 issue of Biblical Archaeology Review).

By contrast, the early second century Epistle of Barnabas shows a distinctly gentile Christianity in its presentation of the Hebrew Bible as allegory instead of covenantal fact. The clearly divinized Jesus in this document is distanced from the Jewish Christians and the divide between the Christian communities continued to widen over time. Geza Vermes writes that after Hadrian’s suppression of the Second Jewish Revolt, the Jewish Christians quickly became a minority group in the newly established church. At this point we can see the origin of Christianity as a distinctly non-Jewish religion; late in the second century, the Jewish Christians either rejoined their Jewish peers or become part of the newly gentile Christian church.

-Wiener

The implication here, as I’m reading it, is that many of the Biblical truths we hold onto as Christians were conceptualized and codified after the Gentiles formed the Christian Church and left Jesus-worship within the Jewish context. In other words, the Jewish apostles and disciples wouldn’t have imagined many of the theologies developed later by the Gentiles in relation to their own understanding of scripture (the Tanakh/Old Testament) and of the teachings of Messiah. In fact, Jesus himself, even “post-Easter,” may not have seen/see himself as “the second person of the Trinity,” at least not using that particular language.

This isn’t to deny the Divine nature of Messiah, the profound mystery of him being “the visible image of the invisible God,” (Colossians 1:15) or his sitting at the right hand of the Father in all exalted honor and glory, but exactly how we see the nature of Jesus may be based more on Evangelical assumptions and long-cherished traditions than how the original authors of the Gospels and Epistles actually understood the nature and character of Messiah.

It seems clear then, that the origin and development of Christianity as a completely separate entity from the ekklesia we see recorded in the Bible, departed from the original theological and doctrinal template taught by the apostles, and I imagine Paul, witnessing the Evangelical Church of the twenty-first century CE, would find little if anything to relate to or even recognize as devotion to Messiah, Son of David.

Any thoughts?

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31 thoughts on “Did Paul Know Jesus was the Second Person in the Trinity?”

  1. It seems that the Christian movement required a finite explanation to an infinite scenario. Perhaps the early Greek philosopher mindset needed a clear definition to an immortal and supernatural concept.

    The idea that God is one should be rather simple. The complexity seems to be when we try to wrap our minds around omniscient and omnipotent simultaneously. Instead of accepting this as a supernatural, humans sought to define this concept into a single word or phrase, thus giving themselves a logical explanation.

  2. Man, I don’t know. There are many places in Jewish literature in which the Messiah appears to be divine or semi-divine. For instance the Memra.

    In one text I recall, the spirit that hovered over the waters at Creation is called the spirit of King Messiah.

  3. I wrote this more to stimulate conversation than to pronounce hard and fast facts or truths. Hurtado also addresses the pre-existence of Jesus relative to his incarnation in being born of Miriam (Mary). You’ll have to read through all three of his blog posts to get the full flavor.

    My perspective is that when the Gentiles pulled away from the Jewish Messianic movement and created Christianity as a totally Gentile religion with no Jewish connections (or just a paltry few), they “rewrote the book,” so to speak, reinterpreting the scriptures to favor Gentile populations via a Greek mindset, and a lot of information was refactored as a result.

    That tradition has come down to us today. Yes, a lot has changed in nearly two-thousand years, but only lately in the historic landscape (with a few exceptions), has Gentile Christianity gone all the way back to the beginning and attempted to recapture the original, Jewish nature and viewpoint on Messiah, God, and the covenants.

  4. Then you have passages from Paul like this:

    Phillipians 2:5Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant

    The notion looks like it was around PRIOR to Hadrian’s war.

  5. @Steve — Just to get us into the spirit of the subject, let me point out that the notion of “the spirit of king Messiah” is not the same thing as “the person of king Messiah” or the entire being of the king Messiah himself. It can be the mere notion or idea or motivation behind what would ultimately be realized in the form of the king Messiah. Similarly, the Memra or Logos or Word represents the characteristic or force with which HaShem created, as we see expressed in the first chapter of Genesis wherein HaShem creates by saying “Let there be thus-and-such”. When this same force or characteristic became incorporated by HaShem into the personality of the human Rav Yeshua, then the Word that was with G-d and was G-d (i.e., his very power of expression) became enfleshed and dwelt among us so that his life could enlighten mankind. You can see, I hope, how folks can too easily mistake HaShem’s ancient plans for the Messiah, and the ancient power with which he would imbue him (and the Jewish literary references to these concepts), as if the entire person or being of Messiah himself pre-existed his actual human origins (which he could not do).

    Moreover, just to confuse the matter even further, there is a Jewish notion that the neshamot (souls) of all humans were created together as an entire family of Adam at the same time as the first human Adam himself, and then distributed across space and time to be born into their assigned bodies (including, of course, Rav Yeshua). That notion would give all of us an ancient origin, despite our human origins at points much later in the time-stream. It also provides hints about what is to happen at the end of a human life when the neshamah must return to HaShem to account for the way it handled its human life assignment, ultimately to be resurrected in one of the two resurrections cited in Yohanan’s Revelation. However, the history of souls is hardly the topic currently under discussion; nor is the distinction between divinity and deity. I just wanted to point out that there are distinctions to be made between souls, spirits, and entire beings assembled from components that include both.

  6. Hurtado only says the understanding of the nature of Jesus as Divine didn’t emerge until after the resurrection, which obviously was still within the life time of Paul. I’m only suggesting that the more developed concept of a Trinitarian God was created after the Gentile Jesus-believers split from the Jewish Jesus-believers and formed Christianity.

  7. “The implication here, as I’m reading it, is that many of the Biblical truths we hold onto as Christians were conceptualized and codified after the Gentiles formed the Christian Church and left Jesus-worship within the Jewish context.”

    Certainly the crux of the issue. I’ve been reading your posts on Antioch (which I have been enjoying, by the way, thanks ;)) and concurrently have been doing my own study in the area of the schism (deliberate divorcing?) between the Gentile church and the Jewish cornerstone on which it all rested.

    One almost wonders in bewilderment how some things have gotten so distorted over time, but that befuddlement fades rather quickly when the deliberate separation of “all things Jewish” is uncovered in the history of the early church, thereby explaining much of our so-called “problems.” (IE; role of Torah, Heaven/Hell, the trinity, etc)

    When there is a deliberate divorcing from the context which gives clarity and true understanding to the subject material at hand, it’s only a matter of time (a couple thousand years will certainly do), before the portrait of Messiah has lost almost all of it’s original intent and mysterious splendor.

    It’s like a game of theological telephone. Throw in some Greek philosophy, antisemitism, and an overall apathy towards being found ignorant of the issues, and we find ourselves where we are today; trying to fit anachronistic (square) pegs into 1st Century Hebrew (round) holes.

    In my opinion, especially as regards the trinity, the answer is rather simple; of course we won’t find it in Yeshua’s consciousness, nor for that matter in Paul’s, or any of the apostles; and why? Because it was never really there to begin with.

    Anyways, just dropping in more than anything.

    A good Sabbath to you and yours.

  8. Any thoughts?

    Lots. Unfortunately I have a funeral to attend shortly so I’ll list my “thought” in the form of a complaint. 🙂

    You reminded me of how much I disliked reading his term “Post Easter” in those blog posts.

    Yuck!

    Since there was no such thing until the Church created it a few hundred years later in opposition to Jews, and Jesus never heard of that either, it sticks out like a sore thumb.

    Honestly, most Evangelical Christians already know there is no such word as “trinity” in their Bibles, and that it’s a word created to explain these 3 “persons”, and their relationship to each other etc. But most do NOT know the relationship of Jesus’ death to Passover, nor do they understand “Easter” is a movable feast set by our President (at least it used to be) and was created and manipulated to never coincide with the anniversary of the actual event, i.e, Passover, in the Nicene Council.

    Someone I used to attend Church with sent me an acrostic for each day during the week leading up to “Easter” this year (and every year). I was doing a family wide Bible study of my own at the same time so I replied with a few, basic topics that I thought would bless him, such as “yes, and by the way tomorrow is Nisan 14, the day the Passover lambs are slaughtered (and gave him verses) and also the literal anniversary of Jesus’ crucifixion.

    Thud.

    He wrote back a brief reply making it obvious I was a heretic and I was promptly removed from the list. 🙂

  9. It’s interesting because belief in the Trinity (or not) is a test for heresy. If you believe in the Trinity, you’re probably a Christian. If you question the Evangelical Churches concept of the Trinity but you say you believe in Jesus, you’re probably in a cult.

    Hurtado did say:

    Were the patristic texts and creedal statements saying something beyond or distinguishable from what the NT texts say? Certainly. Does that invalidate those later creedal discussions and formulations? Well, if you recognize the necessity of the continuing theological task (of intelligently attempting to articulate Christian faith meaningfully in terms appropriate and understandable in particular times and cultures), then probably you’ll see the classic creedal statements as an appropriate such effort.

    He doesn’t seem to think the later formulated creedal statements were necessarily inappropriate in that they were “intelligently attempting to articulate Christian faith meaningfully in terms appropriate and understandable in particular times and cultures.”

    I take that to mean something like the later Rabbinic sages use of midrash and Talmudic interpretation of the scriptures, attempting to articulate the Torah in terms appropriate and understandable in particular times and cultures.

  10. I just find it far too anachronistic and simplistic to say that, in a nutshell, the trinity, though the term may be foreign to the 1st Century, is an “appropriate” theological idea that conveys in modern terms what was understood by Jesus and the first apostles.

    As you pointed out, and rightly so, a concept like the trinity is a benchmark, so-to-speak, of Christian “orthodoxy.” If one proclaims it, you’re Kosher. If you don’t proclaim it, you are, as you said, painted as one who has fallen into heresy and need be seriously corrected.

    This dichotomy is tragic because I feel that it indirectly (or directly, rather) influences conclusions and interpretations to such a degree that, even if the evidence seems to be pointing in another direction (non-trinitarian), the conclusion is still made that the trinity holds as valid, under such circumstances as Hurtado, for example, cites.

    Now as an aside here, I am not going to speak for Mr. Hurtado’s motives for believing in the trinity (even if his is a more “nuanced” and educated view of the concept), but if a man of his stature and reputation were to one day, outright say something like, “due to my researching the historical/contextual matrix in which Jesus and the apostles operated, and examining scripture in light of a Jewish perspective, I do not find any reason to believe in the trinity,” that would be paramount to blasphemy and he would indeed, be labeled a heretic, and subsequently suffer greatly for the implications of such.

    Again, to be clear, I am not saying or implying that I believe Hurtado is hiding his “true” feelings about this issue, but rather demonstrating the very real implications of such a declaration, if it were to be made in today’s Evangelically dominated world.

  11. Nate said: Now as an aside here, I am not going to speak for Mr. Hurtado’s motives for believing in the trinity (even if his is a more “nuanced” and educated view of the concept), but if a man of his stature and reputation were to one day, outright say something like, “due to my researching the historical/contextual matrix in which Jesus and the apostles operated, and examining scripture in light of a Jewish perspective, I do not find any reason to believe in the trinity,”

    That’s an interesting question.

    Last year, I wrote a couple of commentaries about Christian Pastors and Jewish Rabbis who continued to “shepherd their flocks,” so to speak, while having lost their own faith and become atheists. You can read them here: When We’re Left Behind and Where Does Faith Go When It Is Lost?.

    Let me tweak that idea just a bit. What happens when/if a major NT scholar discovers he/she disagrees with age-old, established Christian doctrine? If they make such an admission, it could result in profound damage to their career (although losing his faith as a Christian and becoming secular hasn’t seemed to have hurt Bart Ehrman’s career as an NT scholar).

    I’m in no position to say what Dr. Hurtado does and doesn’t believe, but I suppose it’s quite possible for some or even most Biblical scholars not to lay all their cards on the table.

  12. Perhaps I’m missing something here, didn’t Jesus say, ‘Before Abraham was, I am’? Doesn’t that indicate he knew of his divinity? Certainly the Jews discuss this with Jesus appeared to think it did!

  13. It’s indeed interesting to ponder, as we all have certain things deep within us that we think about, make declarations about, and yet, might keep hidden for some reason or another.

    Agreed, and again, this is not to say Hurtado has scholarly “skeletons” in his closet so-to-speak (as we made clear), or any scholar who promotes trinitarian theology for that matter, but I would also agree that, part of me will always wonder, if they are indeed laying out all of their cards, as you said.

    Something to think about, I suppose. As you noted, certainly for a man like Ehrman, things in the scholarly world seemed to still “work out” for all intents and purposes, at least in terms of book sales. But in terms of being accepted in the wider Christian community, obviously it’s to the contrary.

    Though his “heresies” (textual criticism and the like) are different than that of non-trinitarian “heresies,” they are nonetheless, still unacceptable to the world of believing Protestantism.

    (Interestingly enough, Ehrman would probably still fall under the non-trinitarian heresy umbrella as well, noting for instance, his recently published book on the subject)

    Anyways, time to go in to work.

    A good Sabbath, James.

  14. @Nate: Yes, he said that. Not sure how Hurtado would answer that question, since this is primarily his point. All I’m saying is that how the second-century Church (and forward in time) conceptualized the Trinity may not be how Jesus or the apostles, including Paul, would have seen things.

    @Yeshua Adonai: All we can do is take people at their word and believe that they are honestly proceeding forward in their understanding of the Bible.

    Good Shabbos.

  15. I have recently been introduced to the idea that Jesus did not realize his divine status before his resurrection. And honestly I am trying to figure out how this is possible in light of HIS OWN WORDS where he states: “And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee BEFORE the world was.” (John 17:5) Even Moses never made such a statement. I get that the doctrine of “the trinity” may have been foreign to the first century believers. But according to Boyarin and others, the ideal of a divine Messiah wasn’t. So if this idea wasn’t foreign to first century Jews, they why would it be foreign to the disciples? And most especially why would it have been foreign to Yeshua. WILL SOMEONE PLEASE EXPLAIN??!!

  16. You might have to pop over to Larry Hurtado’s blog and ask him. I’m not saying Jesus didn’t know of his Divine status, just that a great deal about that status and his being worshiped as God was not revealed until after the resurrection. Much of our Christian theology and doctrine is built on the Epistles, not the Gospels.

  17. ProclaimLiberty I just want to let you know how much I appreciate your input. I’ve been following this blog for quite a while and I ALWAYS enjoy your comments. Would you mind letting me know what other online venues you visit and where you make comments? For example are you on Facebook, Google+ or Twitter or are there other blogs you follow? I know I’m being nosey but I hope you don’t mind. From your photo you look like you might be close to my age. But even if you aren’t, at my age I have come to really value people who can think like you can and respond with wisdom and grace. If you don’t want to do this publicly perhaps James could send you my e-mail address which I know he has. Blessings to you brother and Shabbat Shalom!

  18. Shavua Tov, Nate! — I’m afraid your reference to John 8:58 suffers from some mistaken assumptions made by the translator. The phrase “πρὶν Ἀβραὰμ γενέσθαι ἐγὼ εἰμί” (before Avraham was born, ‘I Am’) only says that HaShem was present before Avraham. Now we can’t place too much blame on the translator, because Rav Yeshua’s challengers also misinterpreted his statement. But if we revisit this statement in the context of Jewish views that some aspect of the Messiah or the notion of the Messiah existed in the mind and the plans of HaShem as far back as the spirit that hovered over the face of the deep in Genesis, and that this aspect was incorporated into the person of Rav Yeshua, then one could argue for a metaphorical messianic presence influencing history even before Avraham. However, in the larger context, starting in verse 56, we find Rav Yeshua saying that Avraham rejoiced to “see” (or look forward to) the “day” (era) in which the Messiah would redeem Israel. He did not say he himself was physically present. It was the challengers who jumped on this statement to ask sarcastically if Rav Yeshua as a human less than fifty years old was claiming to have been there to see Avraham do this thing. So we shouldn’t be too surprised to see Rav Yeshua’s answer invoke the notion that the Messiah was metaphorically present in HaShem’s interactions with his created order even before Avraham’s time. Nonetheless, this is a far cry from a claim to divinity or deity on Rav Yeshua’s part. When others actually did accuse him of claiming to be G-d or some sort of a god, he did not tell them that they were absolutely correct (which he could certainly have done if he thought it was true). When he offered any sort of answer to such foolish accusations, it was one that redirected the accuser to some other scriptural notion that should show them their error, which was not an uncommon way for a rabbi in that era to respond to someone so that they might be challenged to think about what was said.

  19. Shavua Tov, Merrill — I don’t know if my explanation will “find favor in your eyes”, but we don’t have any other examples in the Tenakh exactly like the conversation in which Rav Yeshua was engaged with HaShem just before his arrest. So it doesn’t make any sense to complain that Moshe never said anything like it. So the question remains about what was he referring to in Jn.17:5? What was that prior glory? Did Rav Yeshua perceive it as something unique to himself, as a reference to the fulfillment of the planned messianic destiny, or was he invoking a somewhat familiar Jewish notion that all neshamot were created with a divine glory that is generally not visible while residing in a human body? Even if he was considering his situation as uniquely messianic, the divinity of his human neshamah is nonetheless distinct from HaShem’s deity. Hence we might best understand this reference in the same context that Rav Shaul described in Phil.2:5-11. Thus we never have the divine Messiah Yeshua envisioning himself as deity, neither before nor after the resurrection. We do, however, need to come to grips with the distinctive notions of divinity and deity as separate characteristics. [We might find it easier to apprehend after we ourselves put off our current earthly tabernacles to become clothed in our glorified forms in the first resurrection or in the rapture that immediately follows.]

  20. Shavua Tov, wcmotalmid — Thanks for the compliment. I don’t do the whole social media thing, though I do also follow RPP and Derek Leman’s blogs. I get just as outrageously opinionated there, and occasionally also in response to other online articles I encounter. [:)]

  21. Daniel Boyarin writes in the Jewish Gospels: The Story of the Jewish Christ:

    “While by now almost everyone, Christian and non-Christian, is happy enough to refer to Jesus, the human, as a Jew, I want to go a step beyond that. I wish us to see that Christ too — the divine Messiah — is a Jew. Christology, or the early ideas about Christ, is also a Jewish discourse and not — until much later — an anti-Jewish discourse at all… Thus the basic underlying thoughts from which both the Trinity and the incarnation grew are there in the very world into which Jesus was born and in which he was first written about in the Gospels of Mark and John.” (pp.5-6).

    Any thoughts?

  22. Greetings, underdog.

    The best I can make of that off the top of my head is the “raw material” for the trinity existed, or rather, what could be interpreted later on as the trinity, but that doesn’t mean Jesus or Paul would have comprehended the concept.

    It’s difficult to always know what Jesus thought of himself. Before the “baptism of the Holy Spirit” at the Jordan river, who or what did Jesus think he was? Did the full outpouring of the Spirit change his understanding and perceptions? Also, after the resurrection, did anything change?

    We don’t know for sure. We have a lot of scripture that if we string it together, tells us Jesus thought he was more than a teacher and prophet and that he knew he was the Messiah, but just how far did that extend in his thoughts, especially since he was trying to hide as much about himself as possible out of concern that his followers would try to make him King immediately?

    I tend to agree with Hurtado. I don’t think Paul would grasp the concept of the trinity as we have it today. I think that was solidified after his death and perhaps in part to separate Gentile Christianity from Jewish Messianic faith.

  23. I would rather read Boyarin, though. He said that the concept of Trinity is not even foreign to the first century Judaism. Again, let me quote Boyarin:

    “I wish us to see that Christ too — the divine Messiah — is a Jew. Christology, or the early ideas about Christ, is also a Jewish discourse and not — until much later — an anti-Jewish discourse at all… Thus the basic underlying thoughts from which both the Trinity and the incarnation grew are there in the very world into which Jesus was born and in which he was first written about in the Gospels of Mark and John.”

    A review from Jay Michaelson from the Jewish Daily Forward entitled: “The Gospel According to Feuding Academics: No Winner in Debate About Jewish Origins of Christianity”

    Boyarin, in “The Jewish Gospels,” argues — backed up by impeccable research and readings of biblical and apocryphal literature — that Jewish texts before Jesus had notions of an incarnated Divine figure in human form (the “Son of Man”), and even a trifurcated or bifurcated Deity. The notion of a suffering and even dying messiah drew from both Isaiah and Daniel, Boyarin says. And by the way, Jesus kept kosher. Ultimately, Boyarin says, “the theology of the Gospels, far from being a radical innovation within Israelite religious tradition, is a highly conservative return to the very most ancient moments within that tradition.”

    I think the arguments of Boyarin are “actually standard academic fare: detailed, attentive, a bit dry and highly intellectual.”

  24. To quote further Michaelson’s review, this is what he can say from reading Peter Schafer’s book (comparing it with Boyarin’s):

    “At first, Schäfer would seem to agree, which, of course, is why he ultimately disagrees so strongly. Schäfer’s book (initially titled, according to the introduction, “The Birth of Judaism From the Spirit of Christianity”) shows — also with erudition and admirably excruciating attention to detail — that the rabbis of the Talmud, particularly the Babylonian Talmud, were quite aware that older Jewish traditions could give rise to binitarian notions of God and to Divine-human figures with supernal powers: Enoch, Metatron, David, the angels and even some notions of Adam fit this bill. And Christianizing Jews did indeed connect the dots, which is why the Babylonian rabbis responded to them so forcefully.”

  25. It is either you guys are influenced by these later reactions of Judaism to the oldest traditions of Biblical Judaism (which, ultimately, the Christians have adapted for themselves) or you are just uber “its-all-the-wrongdoings-of-Christianity” believers (an understandable sign of uber philo-Semitism and Shoah embarassment) with a dogmatic notion that Christianity is a purely Gentilish invention and you want to bring Christianity back to the post-reactive-Judaism-against-post-70CE-Christianity (which you think is the purest form of Judaism).

    These scholars have different views from your own hypotheses.

  26. SO not only did the translators get it wrong, but so did Jesus’ audience for wanting to stone him for making himself equal with God. Got it.

  27. Incidentally, Nate, lest you find yourself somewhat skeptical of my assertions about those who misunderstood, a very similar reaction occurs even in the present era when anti-missionaries confront evangelistic Jews. It is not uncommon for anti-missionaries to rephrase and mis-report statements that they believe were presented, because they feel themselves capable of “reading between the lines” and having a better knowledge of what was “really intended”, in place of the supposed “disingenuous” or “deceptive” statements actually presented. Anyone who has observed this phenomenon would not hesitate to infer a similar social interaction in the situations reported in the gospels. People really haven’t changed much since that time. The translators, of course, took their cue superficially from the challengers’ reaction, without analyzing the social dynamics. Regrettably, translators are influenced by the presuppositions intrinsic to their religious training, and sometimes by those of the financial sponsors who pay for a given translation to be completed. Exploration by Jews of the implications of the alternative religious paradigm that constitutes Messianic Judaism or Jewish Messianism provides different presuppositions and additional background material by which to interpret the texts. The expectation that these interpretations may be more accurate and true to the original is therefore justifiable.

  28. Did Paul “Know Jesus was the Second Person in the Trinity?”

    I’d say no. But he clearly did recognise Jesus as God.

    The question of “Trinity” and first, second and third persons within that trinity are concepts introduced later to try to describe the nature of a God who is One, but also has three distinct but separate identities: Father, Son and Spirit.

    The Father is God, The Son is God, the Spirit is God, but the Father is not the Son or the Spirit, and the Son is not the Father or the Spirit, and the Spirit is not the Father or the Son.

    God is ONE in relationship, not one in singualrity.

  29. @underdog: I think it’s safe to say that various scholars continue to debate this issue. I’m not pulling my opinion out of thin air. I primarily quoted Larry Hurtado (Google him if you are unfamiliar with his work) but I also find some corroboration in the writings of Mark Nanos, Magnus Zetterholm, and James Dunn. You don’t have to like what I say and we can agree to disagree.

    @Onesimus: I’ve stopped trying to comprehend the “mechanics” of God, at least in any real detail, and have settled (for the moment) on this being a profound mystery of His nature.

  30. @Onesimus — On another blog I’ve been discussing with “underdog” the notion of what characteristics prompt a response to challenge a notion as heresy, and whether such heresy is developed from older existing ideas by distorting or exaggerating or misrepresenting them in some manner that has stripped the original notion of its subtlety as an insight such that it has become entirely a falsehood, followed by the rejection of the falsehood as well as the original insight that has been distorted. I don’t believe you can actually find valid indications that either Rav Yeshua or Rav Shaul viewed Rav Yeshua as “G-d”. I say this after having analyzed the texts that some have interpreted in such fashion, and I conclude that there is a subtle distinction between the notions of divinity and deity that is commonly missed, which seems to me to be at the root of this misconception. Nonetheless, I’ll not start in again here to review them all.

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