Christology of the Long Lines Creed reflects the general view of the first centuries.

The fourth-century saw a huge controversy about the nature of Christ.  The Arians proposed Him to be a created being.  Others believed that He was eternally begotten.  A flurry of councils and creeds followed, all trying to explain who Jesus is. The Fourth Century website lists 17 councils, from the Nicene Creed of 325 to the Constantinople creed of the year 381.  Some concluded that the Son is equal to the Father.  Others, particularly the councils in the eastern part of the empire (Antioch), made Him subordinate to the Father.  None of the creeds presents the Son as a created being, as the Arians proposed.

Christianity in the Fourth Century

The Creed of the Long Lines, also called the Macrostichs, is one of those creeds.  In response to the Nicene creed of 325, the Greek-speaking Bishops at Antioch formulated the creed in the year 344.  Their leading scholar was Eusebius of Caesarea; the famous church historian and philosophical grandchild of Origen (185/6–254).

The three main Christian centers in the Fourth Century

In the next year, the bishops in Antioch presented their creed to the Latin speaking Bishops in the western part of the empire.  Avoiding, as far as possible, controversial, non-biblical language, the eastern bishops hoped that their creed would be acceptable all around, even to partisans of the 325 creed at Nicaea.  This creed is informative as far as the school of thought at Antioch goes.

The Long Lines Creed is discussed here because it contains some very important and valid concepts and also reflects the views generally held in the church before the fourth century.  The creed proposes that the Son had a beginning and that He is subordinate to the Father, but still manages to conclude that He was begotten, rather than created, and always existed.

The Long Lines Creed can be found at Fourth Century.  Dr. Tuggy discusses it in podcast 172.

One God

The creed begins as follows:

We believe in one God the Father Almighty, the Creator and Maker of all things, from whom all fatherhood in heaven and on earth is named.

This is the standard opening of all creeds, including the Nicene and later creeds.  This formulation is found in the earliest known baptismal creeds of the second century.  It a remnant from the past (the centuries before the fourth) when the church generally still believed the Father to be the “one God.”  The Trinity theory, in which the monotheistic God of the Bible consists of three equal Persons, was only developed in the fourth century.  But even after the Church generally accepted the Trinity doctrine, this opening phrase was retained due to its strong traditional status.

The Son

The creed continues:

And in His Only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ, who before all ages was begotten from the Father, God from God, Light from Light, by whom all things were made, in heaven and on the earth

The phrases in bold are discussed below, using the explanations in the latter part of the creed.

Before all ages

Firstly, the Son was begotten “before all ages:

Later, in the anathemas, the creed reads:

Those who say, … that there was a time or age when He was not, the Catholic and Holy Church regards as aliens. … Yet we must not consider the Son to be co-unbegun … with the Father … we acknowledge that the Father who alone is Unbegun … and that the Son hath been generated before ages.

The Father “generated” the Son because He was “begotten from the Father.

It states that the Father had no beginning (is “unbegun”).  But the Son had a beginning (is not “co-unbegun”).

Arians claimed that the Son was created at a specific point in time, and consequently that there was a time when He did not exist (“was not“).  This creed rejects that notion, saying that “the Son hath been generated before ages.” In other words, the Son had a beginning, but that beginning was before time.  Therefore, there never was “a time or age when He was not,”

The creed later adds that “through Him, both times and ages came to be.”  The Bible teaches that the Father created “all things” through the Son.  In Eastern thinking “all things” include time, and God created time through the Son.

Conclusions

To add a personal perspective: Concerning time, the Son is like the universe, for the universe had a beginning but always existed, because time was created when the universe came into being (in my view) and because there is no such thing as time before time began.  There never was a time when the universe did not exist.

The creed avoids the well-known phrase “eternal generation” with respect to the Son, but the thought is clearly present.

The Nicene Creed was designed to refute the Arian view.  The Long Lines Creed objects to the Nicene creed, but its claim that there never was a time when the Son did not exist, shows that it also objects to Arianism.

In summary, the Son had a beginning but always existed, because God created time through Him.

Begotten from the Father

Secondly, the Son was “begotten from the Father:

From God

The creed denounces “those who say, that the Son was from nothing, or from other subsistence and not from God.”  The word “from” appears three times in this sentence.  Perhaps the Arians claimed that God created Jesus “from nothing, or from other subsistence.”  In contrast, the eastern bishops claim that Jesus is “from God,” which is another way of saying that He was “begotten from the Father.

Generated

Concerning the Father, the creed asserts:

The divine Word teaches that the Ingenerate and Unbegun, the Father of Christ, is One.
We acknowledge that the Father who alone is … Ingenerate, hath generated inconceivably and incomprehensibly to all

In other words, the Father was not brought into being by any other being (is “ingenerate”).  He, therefore, exists without cause.  He exists by Himself.  Concerning the Son the creed declares as follows:

We must not consider the Son to be … co-ingenerate with the Father … the Son hath been generated before ages, and in no wise to be ingenerate Himself like the Father, but to have the Father who generated Him as His beginning; for ‘the Head of Christ is God.

Therefore, in contrast to the Father, the Son has been generated, namely by the Father, when He was “begotten from the Father:

Not created

Later the creed says:

We do not understand Him (the Son) to have been originated like the creatures or works which through Him came to be, for it is irreligious … to compare the Creator with handiworks created by Him … For divine Scripture teaches us really and truly that the Only-begotten Son was uniquely generated.

The Son is here called “the Creator,” but notice the word “through.”  The opening phrase of the creed identifies the Father as “the Creator and Maker of all things.”  The Bible says that God created all things through the Son (John 1; Hebrews 1; Colossians 1).  The Father is the Force and Cause of creation.  The Son is the Means or Hand through which God created.

The Son Himself was not created, but was “uniquely generated.”  This means that the creed makes a distinction between created and generated, similar to people who create things but beget children.

Conclusions

The Nicene Creed uses the term ousios (substance or essence), claiming that Jesus is “of one substance with the Father,” and therefore that the Son is equal to the Father.  Although the Long Lines Creed says that He is “from God,” and “begotten,” it avoids the term ousios.  It does not use that term even once, probably because the Bible never says that the Father and Son have the same substance.  Since the Long Lines Creed presents the Son as subordinate to the Father, it does not use the ousios argument.

In summary, the Son was not created, but was begotten by the Father.

God From God

Thirdly, the Son is “God from God:

His Only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ, who before all ages was begotten from the Father, God from God

True God

The Nicene Creed describes the Son as “true God (the Son) from true God (the Father),” but the Long Lines Creed omits the word “true” in both instances.  It refers to Jesus only as “God from God.”  This is consistent with John 17:3, which declares the Father to be the only true God.

Only the Father is God

The creed defends itself as follows against an accusation of polytheism:

In confessing three realities and three Persons, of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost according to the Scriptures, (we do not) therefore make Gods three; since we acknowledge the Self-complete and Ingenerate and Unbegun and Invisible God to be one only, the God and Father of the Only-begotten, who alone has being from Himself, and alone gives this to all others generously.

In other words, we must not talk of three Gods because only the Father exists by Himself, without beginning or cause, and gives existence to all other things.  There cannot be two Ultimate Beings, for an Ultimate Being is the Cause of all else.

The Son is subordinate.

The quote above refers to “Gods three.”  The following similar statement in the creed interestingly refers to “two Gods” and to a Triad:

Believing then in the All-perfect Triad, the Most Holy, that is, in the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost, and calling the Father God, and the Son God, yet we confess in them, not two Gods, but one dignity of Godhead, and one exact harmony of dominion, the Father alone being Head over the whole universe wholly, and over the Son Himself, and the Son subordinated to the Father; but, excepting Him, ruling over all things after Him which through Himself have come to be, and granting the grace of the Holy Ghost unsparingly to the saints at the Father’s will. 

The Father alone, therefore, is “Head over the whole universe wholly.”  The Son is “subordinated to the Father.”  Only one monarchy or reign exists.  The Son rules over all things, but He is subordinate to the Father.  Partisans of the Trinity theory would argue that Jesus is functionally subordinate to the Father, but not ontologically (by nature of being).  However, this creed does not make that distinction.

God of the Old Testament

The ancients used the Greek word theos (god) for all gods.  Even exalted people are called gods; even in the Bible.  See the Meanings of the Word THEOS.  The Long Lines Creed explains as follows why it identifies the Son as theos:

In saying that the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is one only God, the only Ingenerate, do we (not) therefore deny that Christ also is God before ages … for He it is, to whom the Father said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness’ (Gen 1:26), who also was seen in His own Person by the patriarchs, gave the law, spoke by the prophets, and at last, became man …

The creed, therefore, refers to the Son as God because “He was in the beginning with God.  All things came into being through Him” (John 2-3).  Furthermore, the creed argues, whenever God appeared in the Old Testament, it was the Son who was seen.  For that reason, it is proper to refer to the Son as God, but we must not confuse Him with the Uncaused Cause, who is the Father alone.

Conclusions

In this context the translation “Triad” (see above) is appropriate.  A translation of “Trinity” would have been anachronistic, for this creed does not present God as three divine Persons of one divine Being.  Rather, it thinks of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as a hierarchical group of “three realities and three Persons,” where only the Father is the ingenerated Source of all else, who also generated the Son.

Origen, the philosophical father of the bishops in Antioch, once said that he does not hesitate to talk of God in different senses. He said that just like man and his wife are one in flesh, and Christ in His followers are one in spirit, so the Father and Son are one in God.  Both are God, but not in the same sense, for only the Father is the uncaused Cause of all else.

This explains how we should understand the statement “God from God.”  The easterners probably would have preferred to say “God from true God,” but they attempted to stay as close as possible to the wording of the Nicene Creed, which declared the Son to be of the same substance (homo-ousios) as the Father.  The Nicene Creeds used that term to present the Son as equal to the Father.  The Long Lines Creed, on the other hand, like many of the other creeds of that era, presents the Son as subordinate to the Father.

The famous statement (“Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness”) is quoted from Genesis 1:26.  Some dispute that God was talking to the Son, saying that God spoke to His angels, but others object and say that man was not created in the image of angels, but in the image of God.  The Son Himself “existed in the form of God” (Phil. 2:6).

Holy Ghost

The creed continues:

And we believe in the Holy Ghost, that is, the Paraclete, which, having promised to the Apostles, He sent forth after the ascension into heaven, to teach them and to remind of all things.

This creed has a very scanty treatment of the Holy Spirit.  Similar to the Bible, this creed never explicitly refers to the Holy Spirit as God, or as God from God.  To the contrary, the phrase “three Gods” in the following implies that the Holy Spirit is not God:

The Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost, and calling the Father God, and the Son God, yet we confess in them, not two Gods

The Same

The Long Lines Creed anathematizes those who say that Father and Son and Holy Ghost are the same.  This is aimed against Modalism, which is the theory that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are three modes of God and not three separate Beings.

The creed justifies this view by saying that, if the Three were the same, then the unlimited and impassible (incapable of suffering or feeling pain) Father has become limited and changeable when the Son became a man.  Rather, the Father, who sent the Son, remained unchangeable when Christ was incarnated.

By Choice

The Long Lines Creed anathematizes those who say that the Father had no choice but to beget the Son so that He begat the Son unwillingly.  It says that God is absolute and sovereign over Himself and generated the Son voluntarily and freely.  In saying this, the creed responded to some other voices from that era:

Those that view Jesus as equal to the Father sometimes propose that it was not the Father’s will to generate the Son, but that the Father ‘always’ was the Father and the Son ‘always’ was the Son.  (“Always’ is perhaps not the best term, if in our view God exists outside time.)  Perhaps the Long Lines Creed responds to this view and proposed that the Father begat the Son by will to emphasize that Jesus is subordinate to the Father.

Another possibility is that the view, that God made all things through the Son, and that the Son is the God of the Old Testament, may create the impression that the Father is an un-personal Force and not a separate Person with His own will.  Perhaps the Long Lines Creed reacted to such a view.

Inseparable

Who is Jesus?  This is the question in these creeds.  He is the Son of God, is worshiped with God, received from God to have life in Himself and to judge the world, and He identifies Himself as the First and the Last.  So, what is His relationship with God?  The church had to struggle with this question.  The Nicene Creed went to the one extreme by declaring the Son to be of the same substance as the Father.  It is not possible to postulate a higher level of unity between Father and Son.

Origen, Eusebius of Caesarea and the bishops in the Antioch—the focal point of Christianity in the eastern part of the empire—recognized the Son as generated by and subordinate to the Father.  They also identified the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit not as one Being, as in the Trinity theory, but as “three realities and three Persons.”  The Long Lines Creed, therefore, does not accept that they are one in substance.  In its place, they offered the following:

We do not … separate Him from the Father … For we believe that they are united with each other without mediation or distance, and that they exist inseparable; all the Father embosoming the Son, and all the Son clinging to the Father, and alone resting on the Father’s breast continually.

These words are probably true, and an interpretation of passages such as:

I and the Father are one” (John 10:29), and
No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him” (John 1:18).

On the other hand, similar to what the Bible consistently does, this creed identifies the Father alone as God, and the Son as subordinate to Him.  This is true even of the gospel of John and Paul’s writings, in which we find the highest Christology of the New Testament.

An Attempt at Reconciliation

The Christian church originated in Jerusalem, but in the first century, Antioch soon became the leading gentile church.  In the fourth century, however, after Christianity became the official Roman religion, the church in Italy became powerful in influence and authority.

In the closing section of the creed the bishops in Antioch state their purpose as “to clear away all unjust suspicion concerning our opinions, … and that all in the West may know, … the audacity of the slanders.”  This implies that the easterners were criticized before the powers in Rome, and through the creed, the bishops in Antioch attempted to reach out and clarify their position.  It is for that reason that it has these long-winded explanations and therefore is called the Long Lines Creed.

The Long Lines Creed attempts to remain as close as possible to the position of the bishops in the West, as reproduced in the Nicene Creed, to avoid to be seen as Arian and to be modest and to only use Scriptural language.  But the bishops in Italy rejected the creed.

Summary of the view of the Long Lines Creed

The Father had no beginning, while the Son had a beginning.  The Son, nevertheless, always existed, for the Father created all things through the Son.  Since “all things” include time, God also created time through the Son.  There, consequently, never was a time or age when the Son did not exist.

The Father was not brought into being by another being.  He alone exists without a cause and gives existence to all other things.  The Son, in contrast, exists because of the Father.  He was not created but was uniquely begotten from the Father.

The Son is God, for He existed in the form of God.  Whenever God appeared in the Old Testament, it actually was the Son who was seen.  But the Father is the only true God.

The Son rules over all things, but He is subordinate to the Father.  The Father is the ultimate Head over the whole universe.

They are two separate Beings, but the Father and Son exist inseparably.  As Jesus said, “I and the Father are one.”

Conclusion

As stated above, at least 17 creeds, with contradicting explanations of who Jesus is, were formulated in the fourth century.  Eventually, the Nicene Creed, as adjusted by the 381 creed, became generally accepted.  But we should not be persuaded by this consensus:

Firstly, this view of Christ differs from the view that was dominant in the earlier centuries.

Nicene Creed
Emperor standing behind the church fathers

Secondly, these creeds were produced after Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, after the power base in the Church shifted from Jerusalem and Antioch in the East to Rome in the West, and after the emperor became dominant in the formulation of doctrine by calling and chairing councils.  As can be seen in the anathemas that were attached to the fourth-century creeds, and by the aggressive and insulting tone of writings of Athanasius of Alexandria, the chief defender of Trinitarianism at the time, these creeds were produced with an air of dictatorship and intolerance.  (Listen to podcasts 169 to 171 on Trinities.)  These creeds made an end to religious freedom and shifted persecution from persecution of the church to persecution by the church.

The Apostle Paul lamented that the Corinthians would follow those who abused them and even slapped them in the face (2 Cor. 11:20).  Carnal people respond to carnal strength and carnal leadership.  By the biblical definition, the church in this era became carnal.  Christ Himself demonstrated Christian leadership when He went to the cross. In Revelation 3, He stands outside the door of His own church knocking to see if any will open to Him. He does not force Himself on us.  Our only leader must be Christ.  When leaders compel Christians to accept a doctrine, they are not leading people to Him. The Truth is a Person.

Jesus said, “I and the Father are one.” Does that mean that Jesus is God?

Summary

This article discusses three statements made by Jesus that are sometimes used to argue that the Father and the Son are a single divine Being, and therefore that Jesus is God.  These statements are:
 – The Father is in Me, and I in the Father. (John 10:38)
 – I and the Father are one. (John 10:30)
 – He who has seen Me has seen the Father. (John 14:9)

This article concludes that these statements must not be taken literally, but more or less have the same meaning, namely that the Father and Jesus are “perfected in unity” (John 17:23).

Purpose

This article continues the analysis of John’s gospel to determine what view John had of Jesus. The ultimate purpose is to provide information for the interpretation of the statement in John 1:1 that Jesus was theos, which may be translated “God” or “god” or “like God.”  The following are the articles in this series:

1.  Did John also refer to Jesus as theos in John 1:18?    
2.  Did Thomas call Jesus “my God” in John 20:28?  
3.  Is Jesus called God in John’s gospel? 
4.  Did Jesus claim to be God? (John 10:33)
5.   Jesus said, I and the Father are one.  Is Jesus God?  Current article
6.   Jesus is equal with God.  Next article
7.   Jesus is subordinate to the Father.
8.   Jesus always existed. In development
9.   
Jesus is the God of the Old Testament. In development

The Father is in Me, and I in the Father. 

This statement is found in John 10:38 and in 14:11.  That they are “in” one another is sometimes understood as proof that Jesus and the Father are a single divine Being.  However, in God’s kingdom everybody is “in” everybody.  Not only is the Father “in” Jesus and Jesus “in” the Father, but:

● Jesus is in His disciples (15:4, 5; 14:20).
His disciples are in Jesus (15:2, 4-7; 14:20). 
The “Spirit of truth … will be in you” (14:16-17).

What does it mean that Jesus is “in” His disciples?

Jesus explained this by means of the parable of the true vine (John 15).  Jesus is the true vine and His disciples are the branches (15:2-8).  Jesus said to His disciples, “abide in Me, and I in you” (15:4, 5).  In other words, these two concepts are equivalent: For His disciples to abide “in” Jesus, is the same as for Jesus to abide “in” them.  And that Jesus abides “in” them is explained as that His “words(15:7; cf. 14:23) and His “love(15:7, 9-10) will abide in them, and that they will keep His “commandments” (15:10).

What does it mean that the Father is “in” Jesus?

Just like Jesus’ words, love and commandments remain “in” His disciples, the Father’s words, love and commandments remain “in” Jesus:

In the parable of the true vine Jesus said, “I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love” (John 15:10).

He explained that “I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me?” because “the words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works” (John 14:10).

When Jesus astonished the Jews with His knowledge, they asked, “How has this man become learned, having never been educated?”  Jesus responded, “My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me” (John 7:15-16).  In other words, the Father’s words (teaching) remained in Jesus.

The Father’s words, love and commandments therefore remain “in” Jesus.  In this way Jesus remained “in” the Father and the Father “in” Jesus.  It does not mean that Jesus and the Father are literally one and the same Being or Person.

I and the Father are one.

Father and I are oneThis statement in John 10:30 is also often used to argue that Jesus is God.  However, Jesus prayed as follows for His disciples:

Keep them in Your name … that they may be one even as We are” (17:11).
“The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one” (17:22).

Just as the disciples must be “one,” but not literally one person, The Father and the Son are not literally one Person.

For beings to be “one” means that they are “in” one another.  This we see if we note how Jesus continued His prayer:

That they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us” (17:21).
That they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity” (17:22-23).

The expressions “one” and “in” should therefore not be taken literally, but as meaning to be “perfected in unity” (17:23).

He who has seen Me has seen the Father.

Jesus said,

14:9 He who has seen Me has seen the Father; … 10 “Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. (cf. 12:45)

Jesus’ words in 14:9 are also sometimes ignorantly used to argue that Jesus is God.  However, verse 10 indicates that we can see the Father in Jesus because “I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me” (14:10).  As argued above, for two beings to be “in” one another means to be “perfected in unity.”

Conclusion

The statements:
The Father is in Me, and I in the Father.

 – I and the Father are one.
 – He who has seen Me has seen the Father.
have the same meaning, namely to be perfected in unity.  It does not mean that they are literally one Being or one Person.

NEXT: Jesus is equal with God. 

 

Did Paul apply the title “Lord” from the Shema to Jesus in 1 Corinthians 8:6?

Summary

ShemaThe Shema, as stated in Deuteronomy 6:4, is the great monotheistic declaration that, in contrast to the many gods of the surrounding nations, Yahweh “is one!”

1 Corinthians 8:4 states that “there is no God but one.” Verse 6 identifies the “one God” as “the Father” and Jesus as “one Lord.”  This implies that only the Father is God, and that Jesus is not God.

Jesus is the Creator.

On the one hand, 1 Corinthians 8:6 describes both the Father and the Son as Creators of “all things.”  All things are “from” the Father, while all things are “by” the Lord Jesus Christ.  It is then concluded that Jesus therefore must be God.

On the other hand, except for a handful of disputed passages, the New Testament always refers to the Father alone as theos (god).  1 Corinthians 8:6 is a good example: “for us there is but one God, the Father.”  If we use the definition of “God” that is supplied by the New Testament, then Jesus is not God.

An alternative is to argue that Jesus is God—not because He is given the title “God”—but because He is described as divine.  Revelation, for example, refers to Jesus as the First and the Last and the One who judges the minds and hearts (2:23).  And in Revelation 5 He is worshiped with the Father.

Nevertheless, if the New Testament uses the title theos (god) only for the Father, we should do the same. We must attempt to present an explanation of Jesus that maintains the apparent contradicting information in the New Testament.

Jesus is the Lord of the Shema.

The second proof which people find in 1 Corinthians 8:6 for the claim that Jesus is God, is to argue that this verse distributes all the words of the description of YHWH in the Shema between the Father and the Son so as to include Jesus into the unique divine identity of the Yahweh of the Shema:
●   The “God” of the Shema becomes “One God, the Father.”
●   The “Lord” of the Shema becomes “One Lord, Jesus Christ.”

The question is therefore whether Paul, in 1 Corinthians 8:6, intentionally distributed the words of the Shema between the Father and Jesus, and therefore included Jesus into the Yahweh of the Old Testament.  Since 1 Corinthians 8:6 explicitly identifies God as the Father only, it is proposed that Paul did not.

1 Corinthians 8:6 emphasizes this distinction by describing God (the Father) as the ultimate Source of all things, while Jesus is the Means by which God works: “All things” are “from” the Father and “by” Jesus Christ.  Jesus is therefore not only distinct from God; He is also subordinate to the Father.

Jesus in Paul’s writings.

To argue against this conclusion, apologists argue that “one God” and “one Lord” are synonyms.  Both Jesus as God are therefore both “God” and “Lord.”  In response, this article shows, from Paul’s other writings, that:

(1) God is the Father only.
(2) Jesus is distinct from God.
(3) Jesus is subordinate to God, the Father.
(4) The Father appointed Jesus as Lord, and
(5) Even as Lord Jesus, the Father is His God.

The Shema-theory argues that Paul used the titles “God” and “Lord” to show that the Father and Jesus are the same, but this analysis shows that he used these titles to distinguishes Jesus from God.

Other arguments against the Shema-theory

Jesus repeated the Shema, but gave no indication that it must be reformulated.

Paul’s other “one God” passages do not redistribute the words of the Shema between the Father and Son.

The main point of the Shema is monotheism.  To understand 1 Corinthians 8:6 as saying that YHVH is actually two Persons would  be to contradict the Shema.

If 1 Corinthians 8:6 explains God, and if the Trinity includes the Holy Spirit, why does it not mention the Holy Spirit?

The word “Lord” is not found in the Shema.  The word in the Shema that is translated as “the LORD” is God’s personal name YHVH..

These points will not be discussed in more detail

Shema

ShemaThe Shema, as stated in Deuteronomy 6:4, is the best known verse in Judaism.  It is the great monotheistic declaration:

Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!” (NASB)

It is called the Shema because the first word (hear) is shema in Hebrew.

LORD” is in all capitals.  This means that it translates God’s personal name YHVH, pronounced as Yahweh or Jehovah.  (Modern translators seem to follow the ancient Jewish practice of not mentioning God’s name.)

In contrast to the surrounding nations with their many gods, the main point of the Shema is that YHVH is “one.”

Jesus affirmed the Shema as the first and greatest commandment when He said:

The foremost is, ‘Hear, o Israel! The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mark 12:29-30).

Paul, as Pharisee, was intimately familiar with the Shema.  He used the phrase “one God” three times in his writing.  It would be fair to assume that, with these statements, he applied the Shema within a Christian context.

1 Corinthians 8:6

This is one of Paul’s “one God” passages.  It reads:

1 Corinthians 8:61 Cor. 8:4 Therefore concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one. 5 For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords, 6 yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.

Verse 4 states that “there is no God but one.”  Verse 6 identifies the “one God” as “the Father” and Jesus as “one Lord.”  This was used over the centuries to argue that only the Father is God, and that Jesus is not God (in the way that the New Testament uses the title God).  More recently a theory has been developed that, in 1 Corinthians 8:6, Paul distributes the words of the Shema between the Father and the Son in such a way that Jesus is included in the Yahweh of the Old Testament.  This article evaluates this proposal.

Contrasts

To appreciate the structure of the passage, note that Paul sets up three contrasts:

1. Between the pagan gods and pagan lords (v5).
2. Between the many pagan gods and lords and the one Christian God and Lord.
3. Between the Father (God) and Son (Lord).

Father and SonPaul distinguishes between Father and Son by giving them different titles and different roles in creation and redemption:

Different titles:  
The Father is called “God,” while Jesus is called “Lord.”
The title “Lord” (kurios) has a wide range of meanings.  God can be described as kurios, but kurios may also simply mean “master.”  The purpose of this article is to determine in what sense kurios is used in 1 Corinthians 8:6.

Different roles in creation: 
All things” (the cosmos) are “from” the Father and “by” Jesus Christ.  The Father is portrayed as the Source of all things, while Jesus Christ has an intermediate role.

Different roles in redemption:
We” (the church) exist “for” the Father and “through” Jesus Christ.  He elsewhere similarly said, “no man comes to the Father, but by me” (John 14:6) and that He Himself was the Way, the Truth and the Life.

Jesus is God because He created.

One argument is that Paul amazingly describes both the Father and the Son as Creators.  It is then concluded that Jesus therefore must be God.  This section evaluates this argument.

John 1:3, Colossians 1:16 and Hebrews 1:2 also mention that Jesus was involved in the creation of “all things.”  Similar to 1 Corinthians 8:6, these verses ascribe to Jesus a passive role in creation.  For example, in Hebrews 1:1-3, “God” made the world “through” His Son.  In 1 Corinthians 8:6 all things are “from” the Father, while all things are “by” the Lord Jesus Christ.  The Father is the Source.  Jesus is the Father’s Means of creation.

But does that mean that Jesus is God?  That depends how we define the word “God.”  The word “God,” as such, does not appear in the original Hebrew and Greek text of the Bible, for the ancient languages did not have the differentiation between lower and uppercase.  The modern differentiation between cases allows us to create the word “God,” which we use as a personal name for the Supreme Deity.  In the original text of the Bible we find words that are equivalent to our word “god.”  These words, in themselves, did not differentiate, for instance, between the Most High and Baal.  When translators interpret the context as speaking of the Most High, they translate those words (theos in the Greek) with the modern “God.”  That is why we find the phrase “for us there is but one God, the Father.”  It should actually read “god.”  It means that other people have many other gods, but “for us there is but one god, the Father.”

Since “God” is a modern word—not known in ancient times—to ask whether Jesus is God, is an anachronism.  To make that a sensible question we need to define the word “God” carefully.  We have a number of options:

The Father alone is God.

Except for a handful of disputed passages, the New Testament always refers to the Father alone as theos (god).  1 Corinthians 8:6 is a good example there-of: “for us there is but one God, the Father.”  For a more detailed discussion, see The NT distinguishes between God and Jesus.  There are about seven examples where the New Testament applies the title theos to Jesus.  This website contains a number of posts on these examples:

The article series on the translation of John 1:1c concludes that that phrase must be translated as “the Word was God-like.”  Or, using the wording from Philippians 2, “the Word had equality with God and was in the form of God”.

The original text of John 1:18 is disputed. Many ancient manuscripts of this verse refer to Jesus as huios (son) and not as theos (god).

Thomas could not have called Jesus “my God” in John 20:28 because Jesus never taught that He is God and because the disciples afterwards did not teach that Jesus is God.

Romans everywhere makes a distinction between God and Jesus.  Whether Romans 9:5 indicates that Jesus is God is all a matter of punctuation, and all punctuation in the Bible is interpretation.

For an overview of these articles, see, Is Jesus called God?

In conclusion, if we use the definition of “God” that is supplied by the New Testament, then Jesus is not God.

All Beings with divine attributes are God.

We may also wish to define “God” without reference to titles such as “God” or “Lord.”  If we define “God” as all Beings that are involved in creation, that always existed, or that are worshiped, then Jesus is God.

in Revelation, for example, Jesus calls the Father “God” (3:12-13; cf. 1:6), which means that He Himself is not God.  But on the other hand, that same book refers to Jesus as the First and the Last (1:17) and the One who judges the minds and hearts (2:23).  (For more information, see Does the book of Revelation present Jesus as God?) These things cannot be said of a mere created being.  Almost everybody seems to go to one of the extremes of the possibilities, saying either that Jesus is fully God or that Jesus is nothing more than a man, as if a third middle option is not available.  The article Jesus in Philippians attempts to present an explanation of Jesus that maintains the apparent contradicting information in the New Testament.

The Trinity is God.

After Jesus ascended to heaven, He sent the Holy Spirit to teach His disciples in all truth.  Those teachings, as they relate to Jesus, we find particularly in John’s and Paul’s writings, have a very high Christology.  (The other gospels merely reflect what Jesus taught while He was on earth.)  This left the church to ponder about who Jesus really is.

There were many different views and well tolerated.  In the second century people like Tertullian and Origin had views very similar to the view offered by this website.  But when the Roman Empire took control of the church authorities in the fourth century, tolerance went out of the window.  The Caesar effectively became the head of the church and forced the church to formulate the Nicene and later creeds.  These creeds defined God as a Trinity, consisting of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit; three co-equal Persons of the same substance.

In the view of this website this definition of God is a grave sin, for it delves into what has not been revealed.  What has been revealed belongs to us, but “the secret things belong to the LORD our God” (Deut. 29:29).  Man is unable to understand God.  To make the sin worse, the Nicene Creed and later creeds cursed all who do not agree with the detailed stipulations of the creeds.  To quote: “they are condemned by the holy catholic and apostolic Church.”  This shows the non-Christian nature of the church hierarchy in those days.  Nevertheless, the definition of God as a Trinity triumphed and most people today read the Bible assuming that definition of God.  Using that definition of God, the Son is obviously God; it does not matter what the Bible says.

Conclusion

If the New Testament uses the title theos (god) only for the Father, we should do the same.  This website proposes that if we really want to understand who Jesus is, then we must simply ask what the Bible says about Jesus, and be contend with that.  We must not go beyond the text.  We should not try to fit Him into modern terminology, such as the word “God.”

Jesus is the Lord of the Shema.

A second proof which people find in 1 Corinthians 8:6, for the claim that Jesus is God, is to argue that this verse redistributes all the words of the description of YHWH in the Shema between the Father and the Son.  In this way:
●   The “God” of the Shema becomes “One God, the Father.”
●   The “Lord” of the Shema becomes “One Lord, Jesus Christ.”

The church originated as a sect of Judaism.  (See Jerusalem Phase of the Early Church.)  It is argued that, in first century Judaism the affirmation of “one God” and “one Lord” would have been understood as synonymous; both referring to the same divine being, namely Yahweh; the God of the patriarchs.  In other words, the Jews would have understood Paul to say that Jesus is God.

Therefore, Paul included the Lord Jesus Christ into the unique divine identity.  He did not present Jesus as a second God, but redefined monotheism as christological monotheism.  In other words, the unique identify of Yahweh of the Shema consists of both the “one God” and the “one Lord.

Jesus is not the Lord of the Shema.

The question is therefore whether Paul, in 1 Corinthians 8:6, really redistributed the words of the Shema between the Father and Jesus as to include Jesus into the Yahweh of the Old Testament.  More specifically, did Paul on purpose apply the title “Lord” from the Shema to Jesus?  For the following reasons it is proposed that Paul did not:

God is the Father only.

Firstly, 1 Corinthians 8:6 explicitly identifies God as the Father only.  Verse 4 restates the Shema in the words, “there is no God but one.”  Verse 6 then clarifies who that “God” is: “for us there is but one God, the Father.”  Since the Father is God, and since Jesus is not the Father, He is not God.

1 Corinthians 8:6 makes this distinction further clear in the description of their roles in creation and salvation:

Creation: “All things” (the cosmos) are “from” the “one God, the Father,” and “by” (or through) Jesus.

Salvation: “We” (the church) exist “for” the Father and “through” Jesus.

These show that Jesus is not only distinct from God; He is also functionally subordinate to the Father: The Father is the ultimate Source of creation and the ultimate Purpose of salvation, while Jesus is the means or channel through whom all things flow and through whom we exist.  This means that Jesus is not “co-equal” with the Father, as is often claimed.

Paul’s general message

To argue against this conclusion, apologists argue as follows:

(a) The Father is called “God,” but Paul also refers to Him as “Lord.”  He is both God and Lord.
(b) The titles “God” and “Lord” are therefore interchangeable, and although Jesus is called only “Lord,” He is also God.
(c) If we say that only the Father is God, then we must also say that only Jesus is Lord, which would be wrong.

We do not support this argument.  Of course the Father is both Lord and God.  He is called by both titles many times.  But this argument relies on Paul’s other writings, and if we analyse Paul’s writings, we find that:

(1) God is the Father only.
(2) Jesus is distinct from God.
(3) Jesus is subordinate to God, the Father.
(4) The Father appointed Jesus as Lord, and
(5) Even as Lord Jesus, the Father is His God.

(1) God is the Father only.

If Paul thought that Jesus was God, that would have been important information and he would have said that frequently and clearly in his writings.  However, except for two disputed passages, he never did.  Like Jesus in John 17:3, and everywhere in the New Testament, Paul consistently describes the Father as the only God.

For example, he opens every one of his letters with words such as, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 1:3). This distinguishes between God and Jesus and identifies God as the Father.

Elsewhere we find phrases such as “our God and Father” (Phil. 4:19-20) and “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory” (Eph. 1:17).

In addition to 1 Corinthians 8:6, Paul made other “one God” statements.  Paul knew the importance of the Shema for his many Jewish readers.  All these “one God” statements are therefore probably reformulations of the Shema.  But in all of them God is the Father, for example:  “There is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim 2:5).

(2) Jesus is distinct from God.

This is shown by the phrases quoted in the previous section from 1 Corinthians 1:3, Ephesians 1:17 and 1 Timothy 2:5.

1 Timothy 2:5 refers to Jesus as the “one mediator” between the “one God” and “men.”  This verse does not mention the Father explicitly, but in the New Testament God is always the Father.  (For a further discussion, see Jesus is not the same Person as God.)  Since the mediator mediates between humankind and the one God, He cannot be one of the parties between whom He is mediating.  He is not God and He is not man.  He became man to mediate between God and man.  (See Jesus always existed.)

Another example is 1 Timothy 6, where Paul wrote:

13 I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus … 15 … He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, 16 who alone possesses immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no man has seen or can see.”

Verse 13 makes a distinction between God and Jesus.  Similar to 1 Corinthian 8:6, this verse identifies God as the ultimate Source of “life to all things.”  Verse 16 elaborates on this distinction:

● The Father “alone possesses immortality,” while Jesus died.
● The Father cannot be seen, while Jesus was seen and heard and touched.

(3) Jesus is subordinate to God, the Father.

Jesus is not only distinct from God; He is also subordinate to God: Just as “You belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God” (1 Cor. 3:23).  “Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:3).

1 Corinthians 15:24-28 describes the end time events (v24).  It says that “the God and Father” will put “all things in subjection under his (Jesus’) feet.” However, “the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all” (v28).  In other words, God will also be “all” also in the Lord Jesus.

Jesus is not only subordinate to The Father; the Father is His God: Revelation 1:6 refers to “His God and Father.”  Jesus promised, “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God” (Rev. 3:12).  For a further discussion, see, Jesus is subordinate to God or Jesus is subordinate to the Father in John’s gospel.

(4) The Father appointed Jesus as Lord.

In 1 Corinthians 8:6 Jesus is identified as Lord.  In the view of some, this means that He is God or equal to God.  But is was already shown that Jesus is subordinate to the Father.  Furthermore, the consistent message of the Bible is that God appointed Jesus as Lord, for example:

● At Pentecost Peter said to the Jews, “God has made Him both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36).
● Just before His ascension, Jesus said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Mt. 28:18). In other words, He received the authority that made Him Lord.
● “God highly exalted Him … so that … every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (Phil. 2:9-11).
● “God … raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion … And He put all things in subjection under His feet“ (Eph. 1:17-22).

God appointed Jesus as Lord over all, but He will always remain subject to the Father.

(5) Even as Lord Jesus, the Father is His God.

Above it was shown that the Father is Jesus’ God (Rev. 3:2, 12).  Other examples are: Hanging on the cross, He cried, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me” (Mt. 27:46).  To Mary He said, “I ascend to My Father and your Father, and My God and your God” (John 20:17).

But even in His exalted state as Lord over all, the Father is Hid God.  Ephesians 1:17, quoted above, refers to “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Another example is, “blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:3).

The Shema-theory argues that Paul used the titles “God” and “Lord” to show that the Father and Jesus are the same, but this analysis shows that he used these titles to distinguishes Jesus from God.

Other arguments

Other supporting arguments, against the Shema-theory, are the following:

The Shema is not elsewhere reformulated.

Jesus repeated the Shema (Mark 12), but gave no indication that it must be reformulated.  Paul’s other “one God” passages are probably derived from the Shema, and these do not redistribute the words of the Shema between the Father and Son, but use words not found in the Shema:

There is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim 2:5).
One Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all” (Eph. 4:5-6);

Contradicts the Shema.

The main point of the Shema is monotheism, namely that “YHWH, our God, YHWH is one.”  To understand 1 Corinthians 8:6 as saying that YHVH is actually two Persons would, in reality, be to contradict the Shema.  Of course the Trinitarian response is that the Trinity is three Persons in One Being.  But it remains a significant deviation from the Shema.

Holy Spirit not mentioned

If 1 Corinthians 8:6 explains the Shema, and if the Trinity includes the Holy Spirit, why does it not mention the Holy Spirit?

The word “Lord” is not found in the Shema. 

The Shema-theory proposes that the words from the Shema, describing YHVH, are redistributed between the Father and the Son, identifying the Son as the “one Lord.”  However, the word “Lord” is not found in the Shema.  The word in the Shema that is translated as “the LORD” is God’s name YHVH.

The counter-argument would be that YHVH is translated as Kurios (Lord) in the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament), and that the Septuagint was the translation of the Old Testament generally used when Paul wrote.  However, HO KYRIOS (the lord) was never exactly synonymous with YHVH. It replaced YHVH when the Jews developed the practice of not mentioning the name of God.  Paul was a well educated man, and he would have known these things.

Agent or Means?

The words, “we exist through Him” means more than that He is the Creator:  It means that He is also the One who upholds all things (Col. 1:17; Heb. 1:3).  It does not mean that God had Jesus as Helper or an agent in creation and redemption.  The Father did and does it all, but in some mysterious way the Son is the Means through which the Father creates and redeems and do all other things.

This is necessarily beyond human comprehension because it deals with infinity, but to make it concrete in the mind of the reader, one way in which this can be formulated is as follows:

What God brought forth (begotten) is His Son.  His Son is the power, wisdom and intelligence that upholds the cosmos.  Jesus did not create the cosmos; He is the cosmos!  He is all that power that is converted to mass according to Einstein’s formula E=mc2.  He is the power that prevents the atoms from collapsing.  In some mysterious way this intelligence and power became like one of the angels, but existed in the form of God and had equality with God.  But He humiliated Himself even further, to become a human being (Philippians 2; John 1).

 

 

Jesus is equal with God. He answers prayers, performs miracles and knew things.

Summary

Jesus is equal with God:

Both the Son and the Father answer prayer.
Both are “in” believers: “We will come to him and make Our abode with him.”
Both keep believers: “No one will snatch them out of My handno one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”
Both own all things.  Jesus said, “All things that are Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine.”

Jesus did many miracles.  He changed water into wine, drove merchants out of the temple, healed sick, crippled and blind people, fed thousands from a few loaves and fish, walked on the sea and raised Lazarus after he was dead for four days.

Jesus had supernatural knowledge.  He knew about Nathanael “under the fig tree” and about the “five husbands” of the woman at the well.  He predicted His own death and knew who would betray Him.  “He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man.”

Jesus is equal with God.

Jesus is equal with GodBoth the Son and the Father answer prayer:

Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do“ (John 14:13-14).
Whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you” (John 15:16; cf. 16:23)

Both the Son and the Father live in believers:

If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him” (John 14:23).

Both the Son and the Father keep believers:

They will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My handMy Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand” (John 10:27-29).

Both the Son and the Father own all things:

All things that the Father has are Mine” (John 16:15; cf. 17:10)

Jesus send the Spirit:

When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father” (15:26).
If I go, I will send Him to you” (16:7; cf. 20:22).

Jesus did many miracles.

He changed water into wine (2:1-9) and drove the merchants out of the temple (2:13-17).  He healed the boy that was sick to the point of death (4:46-54), the invalid who was lying at Bethesda for 38 years (5:2-9) and the man that was blind from birth (9:11).  He fed the 5000 men from a five barley loaves and fish, so that the disciples filled twelve baskets with the fragments (6:10-13).  He walked on the sea, and after He got into the boat, the boat immediately arrived at land (6:19-21).  He raised Lazarus after he was dead for four days (11:4-44).

After He Himself was raised to life, the disciples were trying to catch fish, but failed.  Jesus shouted to the little boat, “Cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat and you will find a catch.”  They did so, and “they were not able to haul it in because of the great number of fish.”  “When they got out on the land, they saw a charcoal fire already laid and fish placed on it, and bread” (21:4-9).

The people were aware of His miracle working power.  Nicodemus said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.” (3:1-2).  Lazarus’ sister Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.  Even now I know that whatever You ask of God, God will give You.” (11:21-22).  The other sister Mary said to Him, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died” (11:32).

Jesus had supernatural knowledge.

He knew about Nathaniel “under the fig tree” (1:48) and about the “five husbands” of the woman at the well (4:17-18).  “He did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man” (2:25).  His disciples said, “we know that You know all things” (16:30).  “Jesus knew from the beginning … who it was that would betray Him” (6:64).

He predicted His own death: “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life” (3:14-15). “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up … He was speaking of the temple of His body” (2:19-21).

Articles in this series

Did John refer to Jesus as theos (god) in John 1:18?
Did Thomas call Jesus “my God” in John 20:28?
Is Jesus called God in John’s gospel?
Did Jesus claim to be God?
He and the Father are one.  Is Jesus God?
Jesus is equal with God.  Current article
Jesus is subordinate to the Father.   Next