Assuming the “Word”
Jumping to Revelation 19, UA tries to demonstrate his claim when he writes,
“Once more, the apostle John writes of the idea that God’s word was manifested or made known in Jesus when he says:
Revelation 19:13 He [Jesus] is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. (emphasis original)
“It doesn’t say “His name is God” or His name is “God the Word,” rather, His name is “the Word of God….”
Well, if we look at the context, UA is making an interpretational insertion by identifying the “he” as “Jesus”, when the identity of the person has already been established in the narrative of the vision that John is having.
Backing up to v11 of Revelation 19, the scene presents a rider on a white horse, identified as “Faithful and True” and his given name is Ὁ Λόγος τοῦ Θεοῦ (ho Logos tou Theou). Again, we have that all important identifier of a proper name in Greek: the use of the article ὁ (hō). This is further signaled to the reader by John’s use of the noun ὄνομα (onoma) which usually indicates that what follows is a proper, personal name.
Again, UA assumes that “God” is itself a name, rather than a title (eg 1 Corinthians 8:5) or an ontological state. It is this failure to distinguish between the identity of an individual and their titles that fuel this continuing error. Moreover, UA seems to ignore the fact that there is a unique title the Word of God has applied to him that has Old Testament significance: “King of kings, Lord of lords (Rev. 19:16)”
This title is found applied to Yahweh in Deuteronomy 10:17, Psalm 136:1-3, and Daniel 4:27, making it a divine title. Interestingly, it seems to imply a distinction of persons in Yahweh, where one is understood to be “God of gods” and the other “Lord of lords”, a distinction that does not divide Yahweh into two gods, rather it seems to evidence arguments that God can be manifested in at least two ways.
The Scholars Say…
Appealing to James D.G. Dunn’s book Christology in the Making, UA asserts,
“…the early Church did not see Jesus as having pre-existed in heaven as God-the-Word, rather, Jesus was seen as the embodiment of God’s wisdom, power and purpose.
UA seems to miss the fact that “Wisdom”, in pre-Christian Judaism, was perceived as having an independence from God that moved beyond some type of mythical personification. In fact, Dunn specifically uses a word that needs to be recognized in UA’s quotation and that word is “being”. And the word “being” is a word that must be held in sharp distinction to the term “person” when referring to God for failing to hold them in distinction from one another conceptually will steer one into error.
It must be recognized, however, that there was a nascent conception of God in Judaism that allowed for the title of “Son” to be applied to the Logos in distinction to “Father” as God, as a personal/impersonal distinction in their God, so much so that one might call it “binitarian”. This view that holds a distinction in God with relationship to persons existing within a larger Godhead, as something that is revealed in time and should not be considered outside of the lines drawn in God’s revelation of himself.
In summarizing the argument made so far in the first part of his series, UA writes,
““Word” or logos in John 1:1 does not refer to a pre-existent person, rather it speaks of the wisdom, ideas, thoughts, plans and purposes that were in the mind of God and were expressed or manifested in Jesus….Unfortunately, modern day translators have obscured the meaning from us by capitalizing the “w” in “word” causing us to believe that the “Word” of God was a pre-existing version of Jesus
Going back to the second part of the response, we noted that UA doesn’t understand the grammatical considerations that go into translating a text. What was argued by UA flowed from an argument based on how the translators clearly signaled what is evident to someone reading in the original language, a description of a named person, and that trying to substitute anything else into the passage as a translation renders the meaning of the text into an unintelligible, a-historic hash of words.
In that ellipses, UA continues,
“There are Biblical texts that support this understanding.
In fact, the opposite was true. Again, UA stumbled over the fact that in proper Greek grammar there are several features that have to agree, as it English, such as number and gender, and that when the translators properly render the Greek text, they render it with those features intact, and it was UA using circular reasoning to make his argument.
UA further contends,
“Indeed, scholars will attest to the fact that this is how John, who was Jewish, would have meant it and how his Jewish audience would have understood it.
This is a true statement. The problem is that the understanding that UA wants for John to have appears to be a later, rabbinic Jewish response to the Christians to whom John was writing. There is no discussion of how John, a Second Temple Jew who lived and learned from the very One he repeatedly identifies as deity in the very verses in question would have been justified to make such a claim.
The simple fact is that UA is playing on the ignorance of his audience and making claims about the text that violate any meaningful standards of exegesis or historical understandings of the authors themselves, even going so far to render their words unintelligible while ignoring the very assertions that they make.
For Part 2
- William D. Mounce. Basics of Biblical Greek Grammar, Second Edition. Zondervan Publishing. 2003. p.39
- “Entry 3386”. Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon. LOGOS Bible Software.1995.
- Trent C. Butler. “God”. The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Lexham Press. 2016
- Alan F. Segal. Two Powers in Heaven:Early Rabbinic Reports about Christianity and Gnosticism. Brill Academic Publishing. 1977. p.39
- James D.G. Dunn. Christology in the Making: An Inquiry into the Doctrine of the Incarnation, Second Edition. SCM Press. 1989. p. 262
- James R. White. The Forgotten Trinity: Recovering the Heart of Christian Belief. Bethany House Publishers. 1998. p.26-8
- Dunn, p. 263-4
- Oscar Cullman. The Christology of the New Testament, Revised Edition (Trans. S.C. Guthrie and C.A.M. Hall). Westminster Press.1963. p.325-6
- Segal, p.6-7