Aseity and the Trinity

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Aseity and the Trinity

Edgar Foster

The doctrine of God's aseity is one of Christian theology's primary
tenets. In the theological paradigm of most Christians, God is the
self-existent, self-caused One: "It is to this very property of
absolute independence, or self-existence by nature that we give the
name aseity" (Sauvage).

Anselm of Canterbury was evidently the first theologian to employ the
term aseity: He used it to describe the self-existence of God. Other
thinkers also employed this word and consequently defined God as "the
Absolute, the innominable Self-caused [AUTOPATOR et Causa sui], in
whose transcendent 'I Am,' as the ground, is whatever verily is." Yes,
these theologians viewed God as the One who uniquely enjoys: "eternity,
self-existence, necessary existence, [and] spirituality" (Pelikan
5:189-190). Similarly, the fourth century bishop Athanasius claimed
that it was "an admitted truth about God that he stands in need of
nothing, but is self-sufficient and filled with himself" (1:52-54).

>From this brief perusal of the theological tradition, it is difficult
to see how we can think of God in any other way than self-existent and
necessary. In fact, Professor Jerome Adler reminds us that if "God's
existence were not thought of as independent, unconditioned, and
uncaused existence . . . we would not be thinking of God as the supreme
being" (89). Adler's comments adequately delineate the traditional
Christian view of aseity. Moreover, a cursory historical survey of the
theological terrain reveals that God's necessary existence and His
aseity are also associative attributes. In this regard, Adler
emphatically states that to describe God as independent in His
existence "is just another way of saying that God has a necessary
existence" (89). We can therefore declare that God is self-caused since
He derives His Being from no one. As Owen Thomas writes:

God is revealed as sovereign, free, independent and self-sufficient . .
. Since God's lordship means the divine freedom in relation to the
world, the divine self-sufficiency and independence of the world, many
theologians, beginning with Anselm, have used the philosophical term a
se, by or from the divine self, that God is self-derived. There is no
matter or fate prior to God which conditions the divine freedom. It is
in this case that the term absolute is applied to God (Thomas
"Theology" 82).

Anselm of Canterbury himself writes in a famed passage from his work
Monologium: "Whatever things there are else, then, exist through
something other than themselves, and this alone through itself. But
whatever exists through another is less than that, through which all
things are, and which alone exists through itself. Therefore, that
which exists through itself exists in the greatest degree of all
things" (Deane 88).

These statements go to the very heart of aseity. If God is necessary,
then it seems that from a Trinitarian point of view, the Godhead in its
entirety must also be necessary (since the Godhead is supposed to be
immanently triune). Therefore, it appears that each "person" in the
Godhead must possess esse a se. Thus, if the Godhead in its entirety is
self-existent and necessary, if each divine Person possesses the
quality of aseity, this fact indicates that Trinitarians have seemingly
postulated three self-existent metaphysical entities that collectively
form one God. Indeed, if the premises stated hitherto are valid, then
the specter of tritheism appears to hover over the triune teaching of
God. The ontological dogma of the Trinity once again seems to produce
irresolvable and problematic antinomies!

The Ante-Nicene Fathers and Aseity

A brief look at the Ante-Nicene Fathers demonstrates their affirmation
of God's inimitable self-existent nature. One patristic who elucidated
the notion of God's aseity was Athenagoras. In his writings,
Athenagoras affirms a God who is "uncreated, eternal, invisible,
impassible, incomprehensible, and infinite," one "who created and
now rules the world through the Logos who issues from him" (Embassy For
the Christians 10.1). Further showing that God is esse a se,
Athenagoras transcendently proclaims that "God is in himself all things
to himself: inaccessible light, a complete world, spirit, power,
reason" (Embassy 16.1). True, Athenagoras' words are tinged with
Platonic concepts. Yet they beautifully delineate the self-existent
character of God.

At this point, however, certain readers will probably disagree
vehemently with the conclusion that I extract from the words of
Athenagoras. 'Athenagoras was a Trinitarian,' some will ardently
insist. Are these sentiments true, however?

In the theological model espoused by Athenagoras, the Logos is not on
par with the Father: The Logos is God's "ideal form" and "energizing
power" that gives shape and order to the kosmos. The Logos is not fully
divine (or fully Deity) in Athenagoras' eyes (neither is the Holy
Spirit a third "Person" in Athenagorean theology). To the contrary,
Athenagoras regarded the Holy Spirit as "an effluence of God which
flows forth from him and returns like a ray of the sun." Of course, we
cannot deny that Athenagoras spoke of God the Father, the Logos, and
the Holy Spirit subsisting in simultaneous unity and diversity.
Athenagoras, however, not only worshiped God and His Logos; he also
included "angels" in his theologia as beings worthy of worship (Embassy
10.1ff). This fact suggests that Athenagoras undoubtedly had a very
broad view of what constitutes a "god" (as did Justin Martyr).

With the foregoing in mind, what are we to conclude about Athenagoras'
theologia? In the book Gods and the one God, Robert Grant writes that
Athenagoras constructed his theological concepts from Platonic and
Aristotelian philosophy (Athenagoras also incorporated Stoic thought
when systematizing the nature of God). Grant provides compelling
evidence that Athenagoras' ideas are Trinitarian concepts in utero that
simultaneously employ Platonic and Pythagorean philosophical notions to
explain Christian theology (Grant 158). The bottom line, however, is
that Athenagoras was not a Trinitarian: He subordinated the Logos to
the Father. What is more, we must point out that Athenagoras'
Christology and angelology were tainted and impure. Nevertheless, his
theology does assist us in gaining a proper understanding of
Christianity's traditional view of God's transcendence and aseity
(158).[39]

Is The Trinity Compatible With God's Aseity?

The Patristics did not originate the idea of God's self-existence.
The Bible itself unequivocally teaches that God is self-existent (John
5:26). This peerless book overwhelmingly demonstrates that God alone is
inherently and by His very nature self-existent (self-sufficient). The
concept of God deriving self-existence from a fons divinitatis seems
logically incompatible with the notion of aseity. Theoretically, a
derived kind of divinity or a consequential form of self-existence
appears to be inferior to an underived one as Tertullian implies in
Adversus Hermogenem. How can the Supreme Being receive Godhood? Is this
idea either rational or scriptural? Summing up the problem, Brunner
aptly observes: "In the New Testament the Son, or Jesus Christ, is
never called the Creator. This title is given to the Father alone. It
is He who 'granted unto the Son to have life in Himself' " (Brunner
232). Brunner thus concludes that the Bible raises the "problem" of the
Trinity perhaps, but it does not teach that God is tres personae in una
substantia.

Interestingly, the Amplified Bible renders John 5:26: "For even as the
Father has life in Himself and is self-existent, so he has given to the
Son to have life in Himself and be self-existent." Not only are the
Father and the Son self-existent, Holy Writ also reveals that God will
reward resurrected anointed Christians with the gift of self-existence
(1 John 3:1-3). The charism of aseity will not make such ones equal to
God. Nevertheless, they will perpetually enjoy an uninterrupted state
of deathlessness akin to the very life of God (cf. 1 Cor. 15:51, 52).

Robert Knopp tries to deal with the difficulties produced from John
5:26, when he relates the following: "It is obviously contradictory to
say that the Father gives the Son life in himself . . . How then can
the Son have life in himself if he has been given it by the Father?
John is trying to make human language do what it cannot do--express the
infinite-and of course his human language breaks down in the attempt,
as must all theological language that tries to express divine mystery"
(Knopp 274).

It would appear that at this point Knopp finds himself enclosed in a
cognitive labyrinth from which he must try to extricate himself through
linguistic and metaphysical acrobatics. He is hard pressed to explain
how Jesus can be Almighty God and possess self-existence while at the
same time look to his Father to supply the aforesaid self-existent life
(John 5:26; 6:57).

Knopp appeals to the failure of human language to adequately express
the "infinite." Such appeals--although well intentioned--are decidedly
erroneous. Contra Knopp, we think we can safely contend that God has
provided humans with language so that we might efficaciously express
the infinite, though we cannot articulate the infinite exhaustively. As
Carl Henry astutely noted, using human language to convey divine
meaning and authorial intent is essential if we would understand God's
self-disclosure transmitted through the pages of the holy Bible (White
100). In the final analysis, Knopp concludes that the apostle John "is
saying that by generation the Son derives his life from the Father and
that, nevertheless, this divinely generated life is the very life of
God, the very being of God, absolute equality with the Father" (Knopp
274).

Seemingly, this author has successfully delivered himself from the pit
of contradiction, but in actuality, he has done nothing more than stay
the inevitable since he merely asserts the Son's equal essential
standing with God the Father without really providing evidence that
correlates with John 5:26. (The apostle John does not teach what Knopp
asseverates!) Simply put, the idea of derived Deity or aseity is highly
problematic. Therefore, certain theologians reject both the notion of
the eternal begettal of the Son and the eternal spiration of the Spirit
(Zodhiates 306). Hence, the problem of derived aseity still looms in
the horizon.

Despite the foregoing, some thinkers have tried to solve the problems
presented in this essay by positing the Father's dependence on the Son
and the Holy Spirit. That is, some theologues contend that each Person
in the Godhead is dependent on the other two divine Persons.
Nevertheless, theologians in Eastern Christendom have traditionally
viewed the idea of the Father being dependent upon the Son or Holy
Spirit with repugnance and I am not so sure Western theologians
generally accept this stance either. Rightly (mutatis mutandis), Greek
Orthodox theologians have generally viewed the Father as the pele
[source], the arche [principle], and the aitia [cause] of the Godhead.
In the eyes of these eminent authorities:

The Trinity [is] a unity only if "both the Son and the Spirit are led
forth from one cause, the Father"; any other theory [is] "blasphemy"
and a resurgence of the godlessness of polytheism . . . in the guise of
Christianity." Although the Son and Spirit, as well as the Father, were
without beginning, they did nevertheless have a single cause within the
Godhead, namely, the Father, who had no cause distinct from Himself.
Dionysius the Areopagite had taught that "the Father is the only source
of the supersubstantial Godhead; The Trinity could be compared to a
balance scale, in which there was a single operation and center (the
Father), upon which the other two arms (Son and Holy Spirit) both
depended. (Pelikan 2:197)

Eastern theologians have generally not been able to tolerate the
position that contends the Father has vital need of the Son or Holy
Spirit since the Father is considered to be the singular principle in
the Godhead (Burgess 2:50-51). What is more, John 5:26 indicates that
the Father has life in himself independent of any other Person.
Consequently, while the Grecian view of the Godhead eradicates some of
the problems that plague the Western Trinity, it still fails to explain
the concept of derived aseity in the Godhead in a satisfactory manner.

Aseity Does Not Harmonize with the Trinity

The Scriptural testimony seems to reveal that God is indisputably a se
esse. He is Self Caused. This means that He is neither dependent upon
nor derived from anyone. If Trinitarians postulate three personae that
consubstantially possess the property of aseity individually, then they
are positing three gods. If these same believers argue that the Son or
the Holy Spirit is dependent upon the Father, then the said parties
face the dilemma of arguing that neither Christ nor the Holy Spirit are
vere deus. Either way Trinitarians evidently produce an ineluctable
conundrum that they cannot easily expunge. It seems that the concept of
God's aseity conflicts with the Trinity doctrine. Which point of view
will we accept then? Will the reader believe that God is three-in-one
and self-existent or unipersonal and self-existent? The choice is
yours.

Excursus A: John 5:26 and Aseity

The Johannine phrase "life in himself" (zwen en heauto) and its
variant forms is a very interesting and significant formula since John
writes in verse 5:26 of his Gospel: "For just as the Father has life
in himself, so he has granted also to the Son to have life in
himself" (NWT). This dominical passage provides a number of important
details that should influence our view of Biblical Christology.

First, John informs us that the Father has "life in himself." Jesus
makes this observation in a context discussing the resurrection of the
dead, which is an ancient Jewish topic, to be sure. The enfleshed Son
of God reports that the Father has life in Himself to show the role
that the Father plays in the resurrection. The dead come to life when
they hear the Son of God's voice (Jn 5:26-29). Nevertheless, the Son
is able to resurrect those in the memorial tombs (mnemeiois) because
the Father, who has life in Himself, "has granted to the Son to have
life in himself" (Jn 5:26).

What exactly does John mean when he employs the formula "life in
himself" in this particular Bible verse? In what sense can we say the
Father and Son have life in themselves?

Before reviewing the semantics of the text, we need to explore another
passage in which similar language appears. The germane text here is
John 6:53:

"Accordingly Jesus said to them: 'Most truly I say to you, Unless
you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no
life in yourselves'" (ouk exete zoen en heautois).

We will not address the Eucharistic controversy surrounding this text.
It is sufficient to note that while certain exegetes contend that
John's words have a bearing on the transubstantiation doctrine of
Roman Catholicism, Paul Anderson has proffered a recent explanation of
John 6:53ff that seems to have refuted the Roman Catholic reading of
this passage (Anderson 139-140). However one may choose to treat the
sacramental issue this text evokes, we now want to concentrate on the
clause: "you have no life in yourselves."

While it is tempting to equate the formula in John 6:53 with the one in
5:26, there is most certainly a difference in view of the context.
While the phrase in 5:26 most surely is a statement about the Father
and Son's ability to impart life to others, John 6:53 evidently does
not predicate such a notion of those who "eat the flesh of the Son of
man and drink his blood." In context, all that 6:53 teaches is that
those subsisting off of the blood and flesh of Christ in a symbolic
manner will have everlasting life and subsequently be resurrected "at
the last day" (note the parallelism in 6:54). The "life"
mentioned in connection with the Father and the Son at John 5:26,
however, is "life" in a unique qualitative sense. J.R. Michaels
recognizes this fact in his commentary on John's Gospel: "In
itself, the phrase does not include the notion that one has the power
to confer that life on others, but such translations as 'source of
life' (both GNB and Jerusalem Bible) can be defended on the basis of
the context, especially the parallelism with v. 21" (93).

We are thus faced with the question as to what type of life is
mentioned by John in John 5:26? What is the point that John is
communicating?

In view of the cotext, it seems that we can rightly infer John is
telling his readers that the Father is self-existent and possesses the
power to both sustain His own life and grant the same ability to
others, namely, the Son. But even the Son depends on the Father to
sustain his life (6:57). Trinitarian commentator Michaels even writes:
"Jesus lives because of the Father both in his life on earth and in
resurrection from the dead, while the disciple lives because of Jesus
in both senses as well" (119). Robertson adds: "The Living God
possesses life wholly in himself and so he has bestowed this power of
life to the Son" (206).

>From the foregoing, it seems that we can set out the following
proposition, to wit, the Father is self-existent and does not depend on
anyone or anything for His continued existence. On the other hand, the
Son has been granted life in himself by the Father. The four Gospels
demonstrate this fact as they detail the earthly sojourn of the Son. We
also witness the truthfulness of John's account as we take note of
the other NT writings that deal with the resurrected Christ, who is a
life-giving spirit (1 Cor 15:45). John 5:26 is another passage that
makes us wonder how Trinitarians can harmonize aseity and the Trinity.
How can the "second Person" of the Trinity derive his own personal
form of self-existence from God the Father? The evidence indicates that
the Son is not Almighty God. He is rather comparable to the Son of Man
in 1 Enoch. In that famed pseudepigraphal book, YHWH makes Enoch the
eschatological Judge, granting him an exalted position in heaven. The
Son of Man in John's Gospel also seems to be a high-ranking godlike
figure: The Judge of the eschaton. Jn 5:26 clearly delineates the
subordinate position of the Christ. He depends upon the Father to
possess the type of life mentioned in the aforesaid Bible verse.

Does Hebrews 1:1-8 Teach that Christ is Almighty God?

Among the many "proof texts" that Trinitarians use to buttress their
belief in Jesus' Deity, Heb 1:8 is considered to be one of the most
striking and explicit examples. In Greek, the verse reads as follows:
pros de ton huion ho thronos sou ho theos eis ton aiona tou aionos kai
he rhabdos tes euthutetos rhabdos tes basileias autou (Westcott-Hort).
TEV translates the passage in a way that would seem to uphold the
notion that Christ is God on some level. It says: "About the Son,
however, God said: "Your kingdom, O God, will last forever and ever!
You rule over your people with justice," whereas Byington's Bible in
Living English renders Heb 1:8 thus: "but as to the Son 'God is your
throne forever and ever, and the scepter of integrity is the scepter of
his reign.'

>From a comparison of the two Bible versions cited above, translational
and theological questions immediately come to the fore. Heb 1:8 makes
us wonder how we are to understand what the book of Hebrews teaches
concerning the ontological status of our Lord and Savior. Does Hebrews
show that Jesus is Almighty God? Alternatively, does it ontologically
subordinate him to the Father?

This essay will try to establish a more moderate claim than the
Christological teaching of Hebrews as a whole. In this chapter, I will
focus on what Heb 1:8 and its cotext has to declare about the Deity
(deity) of Jesus Christ. In order to show the first century writer's
seeming intent and meaning, I will approach Heb 1:8 from three primary
perspectives: (1) From an Old Testament perspective, looking to see
what we can learn from Ps 45:6ff, (2) From a cotextual perspective.
That is, I will examine the word proskuneo in Heb 1:6 and try to
discern how its meaning bears on one's understanding of theos and
thronos in Heb 1:8. (3) Lastly, I will consider the syntax of Heb 1:8
and attempt to determine how one either should or might construe the
word order in the said passage. This paper will argue that we should
interpret Heb 1:8 as a royal account that religiously delineates the
kingly status of the risen and exalted Christ without attributing to
him full Deity. We will therefore begin by outlining the structure of
Heb 1:1-8 and discussing verse by verse how each unit of the text
contributes to understanding Heb 1:8.

The Structure and Cotext of Hebrews 1:1-8

Hebrews 1:1-4 constitutes the exordium of the treatise written to the
first century Christians living in Jerusalem and Judea. It is a
monumental accomplishment, not only religiously and theologically, but
rhetorically as well. Professor Harold W. Attridge interestingly points
out that "the rhetorical artistry of this exordium surpasses that of
any other portion of the New Testament" (Attridge 36). George H.
Guthrie adds: "With its majestic style and high concentration of
programmatic topics, which the author will elaborate throughout the
book, Heb 1:1-4 may be identified as the 'introduction' of the
discourse" (Guthrie 119). Indeed, Heb 1:1-4 will serve as the ab initio
of this discussion.

Hebrews 1:1, 2 initiates the Christological discussion that permeates
the Epistle addressed to certain first century Jewish believers in a
peerless rhetorical fashion. The writer liberally employs the literary
device of alliteration as he writes: polumeros kai polutropos palai ho
theos lalesas tois patrasin en tois prophetais ep' eschatou ton hemeron
touton elalesen hemin en huios (UBS4).

Admittedly this Biblical passage is filled with dynamic and skillful
examples of alliteration that instantly grab the reader's attention. It
is imperative, however, not to overlook the vital Christological
message contained in the passage because of its literary features. The
writer of Hebrews makes it clear that in the pre-Messianic age, God (ho
theos) communicated to humankind via numerous and diverse means and
ways through such prophets as Isaiah, Jeremiah, Obadiah as well as
Daniel. A.T. Robertson also explains: "The Old Testament revelation
came at different times and in various stages, and ways, as a
progressive revelation of God to men. God spoke by dream, by direct
voice, by signs, in different ways to different men (Abraham, Jacob,
Moses, Elijah, Isaiah, etc.). The two uses of 'many' are a literary
device meaning 'variously' " (Robertson 557).

While we surely cannot label what Robertson calls, "the Old Testament
revelation," inferior--Heb 1:1, 2 definitely tells us that the divine
revelation recorded in the Old Testament was only a faint adumbration
of the things that were to come (Heb 9:11). For in the last days
(eschatou ton hemeron) of the Jewish system of things, God decided to
speak through "a Son" (NRSV). Before we explore the Epistle's
delineation of God's revelatory activity manifested through the Son,
two points relating to Greek articles and anarthrous constructions now
deserve our attention at this point.

First, we note that the writer of Hebrews utilizes the articular
construction ho theos in Heb 1:1. The article, writes A.T. Robertson,
"is never meaningless in Greek" (Qt. in Young 55). This observation
does not mean that we always understand why a particular writer decided
to use or not to use the article at a particular point in a treatise,
however. For in Philo, we read that the God of the Old Testament (YHWH)
is properly called ho theos (De. Som. 1.229ff). But Philo specifically
remarks that Greek writers call the Logos theos (without the article).
Origen supports this understanding of Greek grammar in Commentary on
John as he too indicates that there is significance in including or
omitting the article.

The use or non-use of the article is a complex issue and we do not want
to suggest that it is a problem one can easily resolve by arbitrarily
differentiating between nouns that have the article and nouns that do
not: "It is very difficult to set forth exact rules [for the article]
that will cover every case" (Young 55). The truthfulness of this
contention can be seen when we note that Ignatius of Antioch clearly
has no trouble describing Jesus of Nazareth as ho theos in his writings
(Eph. 18:2) and John 20:28 prima facie depicts Thomas addressing Jesus
as: ho theos mou kai ho kurios mou. Furthermore, Satan the Devil is
seemingly described as ho theos tou aionos in 2 Cor 4:4, though certain
scholars have suggested (based on the LXX reading of Dan 5:4) that
Jehovah is actually the God alluded to in 2 Cor 4:4 who blinds the
minds of the unbelievers (Scott 85). That is, God allows the minds of
unbelievers to be unreceptive to divine enlightenment (Rom 11:8; 2
Thess 2:11, 12). The position taken in this work, however, is that ha
Satan is the referent delineated by the signifiers ho theos tou aionos
in 2 Cor 4:4.

Regardless of how writers employ the article elsewhere in the New
Testament, it appears that Murray J. Harris is correct as he observes:
"When (ho) theos is used, we are to assume that the NT writers have ho
pater in mind unless the context makes this sense of (ho) theos
impossible" (Harris 47). Indeed, Harris' observation is both astute and
germane to our discussion when we return to Heb 1:1, 2 and note that it
is ho theos, whom the writer of Hebrews argues actually spoke through
the prophets of antiquity. Fittingly, the author of Hebrews employs the
article when speaking of God the Father, for Heb 1:1, 2 definitively
shows that ho theos spoke to humans through a Son (elalesen hemin en
huios). Thus, ho theos in Heb 1:1 must be synonymous with ho pater.
This point additionally means that YHWH spoken of in the Old Testament
(the One also called Alpha and Omega and the Most High God in Ps 83:18)
must be ho pater (not ho huios tou theou). While this fact does not
seem to bother him, Murray Harris does acknowledge: "For the author of
Hebrews (as for all NT writers, one may suggest) 'the God of our
fathers,' Yahweh, was no other than 'the God and Father of our Lord
Jesus Christ' " (Harris 47). This comment in no way implies that Harris
disavows the supposed Deity of Jesus Christ or that of the Holy Spirit.
Nevertheless, Harris' observations serve to make the pivotal point that
the God (ho theos) of Heb 1:1 is none other than the God and Father of
Jesus Christ. In my view, the writer of Hebrews seems to maintain a
crucial ontological distinction between the Most High God and His
anointed Messiah. With that point established, we must move on to the
second issue involving articular and anarthrous constructions in Heb
1:1-2.

As mentioned earlier, while he recounts God's activity carried out
through the Son of God, the writer of Hebrews tells us that God
ultimately and definitively spoke through (instrumental en + the dative
of person) "a Son" (NRSV). Richard A. Young thinks that the anarthrous
construction in Heb 1:2 focuses on "the nature rather than the
personality of the Son." Young thus concludes: "the character of the
Son is contrasted with that of the prophets" (68). He subsequently
points to the anarthrous construction in Heb 5:8 as proof of this
contention, where Hebrews reports that although the man Jesus Christ
was a Son of God, "he learned obedience from the things he suffered."
Young again notes that the focus in Heb 5:8 is on "the character of the
Son rather than his specific identity" (68).

Daniel B. Wallace basically echoes the sentiments of Richard Young,
averring that "a Son" is probably the way Heb 1:2 should be rendered.
Yet overall Wallace thinks that there is no satisfactory way to
compactly and succinctly communicate the writer's intent in Heb 1:2.
Nevertheless, Wallace does decide that the anarthrous construction in
this passage "is clearly qualitative," but closer to the indefinite
category on the continuum (of definite, indefinite and qualitative
forces) than the definite one (Wallace 245). Ultimately, Wallace writes
that Heb 1:2 speaks of the Son in a way that greatly sets him apart
from both angels and men. Should one read this much into the anarthrous
construction in Heb 5:8, however?

As we analyze Heb 1:2, we must note that the expression concerning
Christ could be definite, indefinite, or qualitative. More than likely,
it actually overlaps on the continuum of these three "forces"
(definite, indefinite, and qualitative). Since while the phrase in Heb
5:8 could be either definite, indefinite or qualitative, an indefinite
sense alone (while possible) does not seem likely in Heb 1:2. En huios
could well be definite here (as suggested by Ryrie). However, in view
of the context and the manner in which the writer employs the
anarthrous construction when delineating the exalted position of the
Son throughout the rest of the letter, a qualitative or indefinite
reading is the most likely one in Heb 1:2. Although I tend to concur
with Wallace and Young in viewing Heb 1:2 and 5:8 as qualitative, I
think that they read too much into the anarthrous construction in Heb
1:2. (The present writer actually tends to favor the overlapping notion
advanced by Wallace.)

The character or quality of sonship may be emphasized in Heb 1:2, and
the writer may also stress the Son's superiority to the angels and Old
Testament prophets. These facts, however, do not indicate in and of
themselves that the Son God spoke through was ontologically superior to
or is ontologically better than the holy angels or prophets of God.
That is, the inarticular usage by the author of Hebrews does not mean
the Son is Deity in the writer's eyes (Heb 7:28). He became better than
the angels when he received a new name from God (Heb 1:4).
Nevertheless, when God spoke through this human Son, he was actually
lower than the angels were and on par with his human brothers and
sisters, being like unto them in all respects (excepting sin). We do
well to remember that Heb 1:2 deals with Jesus of Nazareth and his
activity in the sphere of humanity. Therefore, it could very well teach
that Christ was a continuation of the divine prophetic tradition
initiated in times of antiquity. But he was greater than Moses and the
other prophets since he existed before the prophets (Heb 3:1-6). He was
also preeminent since Jehovah God created all things through him as the
preexistent wisdom of God (cf. Heb 1:3; 2:6-16; 4:15).

Hebrews 1:3-4

In Heb 1:3, we come to yet another thorny problem in the exordium of
Hebrews. Writing in delightfully pictorial terms, the author of Hebrews
points out that the Son of God, through whom God made all things
(panton), is the apaugasma tes doxes [tou theou] and the character tes
hupostaseos autou [i.e., theos].

BAGD indicates that we cannot always discern the meaning of apaugasma.
Its active sense is "radiance" or "effulgence"; the passive sense is
"reflection" (BAGD 82). This reference work goes on to demonstrate that
Origen, Gregory of Nyssa, Theodoret and Chrysostom all accepted the
active meaning of apaugasma. F.F. Bruce also suggests construing
apaugasma as active in Heb 1:3 as does A.T. Robertson (Bruce 5;
Robertson 557).

Harold Attridge offers a perspicuous observation regarding this issue,
when he informs us that "the context of Hebrews itself, where apaugasma
is paralleled with 'imprint' (character), may support a passive
understanding of apaugasma, although that second term [character] is
not entirely free from ambiguity" (Attridge 43). In the final analysis,
after discussing Philo and the deuterocanonical book of Wisdom,
Attridge has to admit that the meaning of apaugasma is not easy to pin
down. He seems to think, however, that the passive sense is more
preferable in Heb 1:3 than the active sense. While the precise meaning
of apaugasma and even character may be somewhat ambiguous, the overall
thrust of the words in the text are clear enough.

In Heb 1:3, the Son is manifestly identified as the apaugasma
(reflection or radiance) of God. The expression is similar to Paul's
use of eikon tou theou in Col 1:15 and, furthermore, the phrase informs
us that as the image of God, Christ starkly resembles God and perfectly
reflects his Father's matchless characteristics. He is not, however,
equal to his Father (Buchanan 7). The apostle John pointedly writes
that the One who sends is greater than the one sent (Jn 13:16). Heb 7:7
also communicates the principle that the One who blesses is greater
than the one blessed (Lk 1:42). As the apostle, priest, prophet,
coworker and reflection of God the Father, the Son aptly mirrors God.
Yet, he is not in the same category of being as his Father.

We could make the same point about the Greek word character. The word
indicates that the character is a faithful reproduction of the original
(Lev 13:28). The character bears the form of the original without being
identical to the original (2 Macc 4:10). The Son thus externally
resembles God without being God himself. Time and space do not permit
us to dwell any longer on Heb 1:1-4, however. We must move on to the
next section of Hebrews chapter 1. For more information on character,
consult Abbott-Smith 479.

Hebrews 1:5-8

Guthrie views Heb 1:5-14 as an expositional unit that highlights the
Son's superiority to the angels (145). In this regard, he is followed
by Attridge and William L. Lane. Nevertheless, while these passages
evidently form a literary unit filled with scriptural proofs, it is
outside the scope of this essay to deal with Heb 1:10-14 at this time.
I will consider those passages in volume II of Christology. Now we will
discuss Heb 1:5-8 and its Christological significance.

Hebrews 1:5-8 continues to present an argument a fortiori for the
superiority of the Son over the angels. However, the line of reasoning
employed in this Biblical book does not mean that the writer thinks the
Son of God is Deity. It is in the context of the Son having become
better than the angels and consequently inheriting a name better than
God's holy and heavenly spirit creatures that the words of Heb 1:5
are penned: "For to which of the angels did he ever say, 'Thou art my
Son, today I have begotten thee?' And again, 'I will be to him for a
Father, and he shall be to me for a Son' " (Heb 1:5 ED).

Admittedly, the presupposed answer to the rhetorical questions in Heb
1:5 is an emphatic, "None!" In the Hebrew Scriptures, to be sure, the
angels are called "sons" of God. Indeed they are sons of the Majesty
(the Father) and Bible writers even attribute the appellative elohim to
them (Gen. 6:1-6; Job 1:6-12; 38:1-7; Ps 8:5). Never has God addressed
an angel with the words "my Son," however. After God resurrected the
Son, he took his place at the right hand of the Majesty, and became
head of all government and authority (Eph 1:19-23; Col 2:10; 1 Pet
3:22). He subsequently inherited a name more excellent than the angels
and was in this way deemed the royal and priestly Son of God: "In the
same way, it was not Christ who glorified himself in becoming high
priest, but rather the one who said to him: 'You are my son; this day I
have begotten you" (Heb 5:5, 6 NAB). The catena of passages cited in
Heb 1:5-8 indicate that the royal-priestly status of the Son is being
stressed in Heb 1:5. Conversely, Hebrews chapter one does not
necessarilyteach that the Son is Almighty God.

Buchanan picks up on this important and indispensable detail, when he
declares: "Both quotations in [Heb] 1:5 are related to kings who are
called God's sons . . . The first quotation (Ps 2:7) is from an
enthronement Psalm. It pictures the kings of surrounding nations
plotting against the Lord and his anointed one, meaning his anointed
king" (13). Buchanan goes on to add: "It is such a powerful king as
this who is called God's Son and his anointed one" (13). In this
capacity, the Son of God is empowered by his Father to sit at the right
hand of the Majesty (a term for God). Appropriately, Buchanan therefore
reminds us that Rabbi Yudan (in the Midrashim) remarked that God would
fulfill the promises contained in Ps 2 for the Messiah: "This means
that the rabbis considered the Messiah to be a king, Son of God, and
Son of man" (14). The first citation included in Heb 1:5 thus points to
a royal interpretation of the passage and it demonstrates why Heb 1:5
does not negate the filial status of angels (See Robertson 558). We
also better understand the Messiah's role in God's purposes as
well.

((( s.r.c.b-s is a moderated group. All posts are approved by a moderator. )))
((( Read http://srcbs.org for details about this group BEFORE you post. )))

lsen...@hotmail.com

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Mar 26, 2005, 2:22:12 PM3/26/05
to

basicallyblues wrote:
> Aseity and the Trinity
>
> Edgar Foster
>
> The doctrine of God's aseity is one of Christian theology's primary
> tenets. In the theological paradigm of most Christians, God is the
> self-existent, self-caused One: "It is to this very property of
> absolute independence, or self-existence by nature that we give the
> name aseity" (Sauvage).
>

The word (aseity) does perform a valuable service in pointing out that
the existence of God is in no way derived from or dependent upon what
is outside of himself.

Who can reply to this post? It is so long that the window will not
even scroll it all. If you're going to post something this long, break
it up into segments.

lsen...@hotmail.com

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Mar 26, 2005, 2:22:14 PM3/26/05
to

basicallyblues wrote:
> Aseity and the Trinity
>
> Edgar Foster
>

> These statements go to the very heart of aseity. If God is necessary,
> then it seems that from a Trinitarian point of view, the Godhead in
its
> entirety must also be necessary (since the Godhead is supposed to be
> immanently triune). Therefore, it appears that each "person" in the
> Godhead must possess esse a se. Thus, if the Godhead in its entirety
is
> self-existent and necessary, if each divine Person possesses the
> quality of aseity, this fact indicates that Trinitarians have
seemingly
> postulated three self-existent metaphysical entities that
collectively
> form one God. Indeed, if the premises stated hitherto are valid, then
> the specter of tritheism appears to hover over the triune teaching of
> God. The ontological dogma of the Trinity once again seems to produce
> irresolvable and problematic antinomies!
>

And what has already been written about tension in theology? As far as
being irresolvable antinomies, how could it be otherwise? He is
totally other. His thoughts and His ways are not anthropomorphic. We
must accept Him as He has revealed Himself. In the Hebrew scriptures
He wasn't so much revealed as a singularity only as One. Again, the
inspired usage of echad and not yachid in the Hebrew.

As for being problematic, again, how could it be otherwise. There will
always be problems this side of curtained revelation. The question how
ever, which system answers the most problems and best conforms to that
which is?

I know I keep coming back to it, but unity and diversity is the whole
bent of modern physics, modern science and though for the most part
unrecognized, man since the fall. That man seeks unification as a holy
quest is without debate. He has done this in myriad ways. The first
city attests to this fact and facet of man. Yet there is that problem
of diversity. So much diversity and yet so much relation. What is its
basis? Where did it come from? What is the archtype? It's Rom 1:20.
Either you have an answer or you don't. There is no fence sitting on
this one issue. Trinitarianism has an answer and it is found in the
scriptures.

lsen...@hotmail.com

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Mar 26, 2005, 2:22:16 PM3/26/05
to

basicallyblues wrote:

much snipping
>
> Edgar Foster
>
> Hebrews 1:3-4

In Heb 1:3, we come to yet another thorny problem in the exordium of

Hebrews. .......Harold Attridge offers a perspicuous observation


regarding this issue, when he informs us that "the context of Hebrews

itself, where apaugasma is paralleled with 'imprint' (character), MAY


support a passive understanding of apaugasma, although that second
term [character] is not entirely free from ambiguity" (Attridge 43).

>In Heb 1:3, the Son is manifestly identified as the apaugasma
>(reflection or radiance) of God. The expression is similar to Paul's
>use of eikon tou theou in Col 1:15 and, furthermore, the phrase
informs
>us that as the image of God, Christ starkly resembles God

oh how subtly he slips in his editorial comment "starkly."

>and perfectly reflects his Father's matchless characteristics. He is
not,
> however, equal to his Father (Buchanan 7).

But where is the contextual exegesis to draw such a conclusion? In
point of fact Heb 1:1-4 is a single poetic unit and cannot be taken
apart piece meal to draw conclusion. There are point and counter
points that crescendo to "He is the radiance of His glory and the exact
representation of His nature." It then decrescendoes with contrasting
point opposite to those on the other side of the crescendo. If you
don't know Hebrew poetry and style, you would miss this. But after
all, this epistle is titled, "Hebrews." It must be interpreted via the
Hebraic mindset.

Again, there is no development of the word charaktEr: Christ is the
eikwn of God (Col 1: 15 ). Eikwn ("image") means more than mere
likeness or similarity. It includes the ideas of representation and
manifestation. [read Fritz Rienecker and Cleon Rogers, "A Linguistic
Key to the Greek New Testament", p. 567] This echoes Christ's own
words found in Jn 14:9, "He who has seen Me has seen the Father."
In Mt 22:20, eikwn refers to a ruler's image on the face of a coin.
Christ is described as the "radiance of [God's] glory and the exact
representation of His nature" (Heb 1:3), the image [eikwn] of God (2
Cor 4:4), and the One who existed in the very form of God (Phil 2:6).
As the "image" of God, Christ is the "great and final
theophany." [S. Lewis Johnson Jr., "Christ Preeminent," p. 13]
As the personal revelation of the living God, Christ is"the
'projection' of God on the canvas of our humanity and the
embodiment of the divine in the world of men.

Here is John's Logos. Not some Platonic synthesis. He took that which
was familar and used it in its true form even as Paul later did on Mars
Hill in reference to the "unknown God." We will never see God except
as He expresses Himself through the Logos. The Logos is God's "spoken
sentence." He is the light prior to creation. He is the light to and
for creation.

>The apostle John pointedly writes that the One who sends is greater
than
>the one sent (Jn 13:16).

In what context? In the context of His advent where He did "grow in
stature and wisdom" as explained by the Kenosis.

> Heb 7:7 also communicates the principle that the One who blesses is
greater than the one blessed (Lk 1:42).

Ibid adding -again- that office does not detract from personhood.

>As the apostle, priest, prophet, coworker and reflection of God the
Father, >the Son aptly mirrors God.

He is more than a mirror. Again, the "I AM" statements will not allow
such a simplistic reductionism. Nor will John's prologue nor Paul's
kenosis. That His Deity did not have to be "grasped" stands in
complete contrast to Isa 14:13 & 14. He IS the Alpha & the Omega.
Only God can be this. It goes back to aseity, doesn't it! ;-)

>Yet, he is not in the same category of being as his Father.

Not in office. However, in Person, He is "exact."

>We could make the same point about the Greek word character. The word
>indicates that the character is a faithful reproduction of the
original (Lev >13:28).

But again there is much more to this issue. How can the finite be
thought of as exactly representing the infinite. It is impossible.
Finitude can never come close in its representation of the Infinite.
Add to this that God is a person and you once again are faced with a
brick wall that cannot be scaled. Only God, the Logos, through whom
"all that came into being that came into being" can adequately
represent the unrepresentable.

>The Son thus externally resembles God without being God himself.

No support. Sheer proposition. It is undefended and undefendable.
The whole theory of knowledge is being overlooked as to representing
that which is fundamentally other than all creation. A chair
represents its designer and the craftsman who made it, but it is not
exactly representative. A child may look or even act like one of its
parents, but it's parent an entity of its own. How can the
declaration, "I and My Father are One" and "You who have seen Me have
seen the Father" be reduced to such comparisons? How can the
"fullness" of God indwell the finite?

Again, unitarianism only creates questions, it does not answer them.
I'm sorry, but you have to admit to either not understanding the issue
of exact representation or you have to acknowledge that this particular
exposition of Heb 1:3 which you have quoted at length has not provided
an answer to the question.

BTW, moderator, did "Basically blues" provide a permission to quote?

basicallyblues

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Mar 26, 2005, 5:59:40 PM3/26/05
to

>BTW, moderator, did "Basically blues" provide a permission to quote?

lol...like a tattle-tale you are. "permission to quote"? You have
quoted. Matthew has quoted. What difference does it make?

Matthew Johnson

unread,
Mar 27, 2005, 7:36:16 AM3/27/05
to

In article <085.59.16.0...@srcbs.org>, basicallyblues says...


>
>
>
>>BTW, moderator, did "Basically blues" provide a permission to quote?
>
>lol...like a tattle-tale you are.

Only in the broken ethics of schoolboys on the playground is being a
'tattle-tale' wrong.

> "permission to quote"? You have
>quoted. Matthew has quoted. What difference does it make?

The difference is that our quotes were with attribution, and covered by
fair-use. Yours were much too long to have a plausible claim to fair-use, and
without any clear attribution.

What is more, some of us could tell from the style of the language that you
could not possibly have written it. So yes, you are a plagiarist.

>
>((( Read http://srcbs.org for details about this group BEFORE you post. )))


--
---------------------------
Subudcat se sibi ut haereat Deo
quidquid boni habet, tribuat illi a quo factus est.
(St. Augustine, Ser. 96)

basicallyblues

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Mar 27, 2005, 6:48:52 PM3/27/05
to

>What is more, some of us could tell from the style of the language
that you
>could not possibly have written it.

What a weak assumption. You don't know me. But you would recognize my
name if I revealed it as you have most certainly read some of my
publications.

>So yes, you are a plagiarist.

If I am than you certainly are. Your posts are connect-the-dots when it
comes to trinitarian propaganda. You are a hypocrit for pretending you
haven't plagiarized. Frankly, I care very little as God is watching and
you will not get away with it anyway.

lsen...@hotmail.com

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Mar 29, 2005, 6:18:24 AM3/29/05
to

basicallyblues wrote:
> >What is more, some of us could tell from the style of the language
> that you
> >could not possibly have written it.
>
> What a weak assumption. You don't know me. But you would recognize my
> name if I revealed it as you have most certainly read some of my
> publications.
>

This is so weak to be almost laughable if it didn't involve a real
human being at the other end. This is truly sad. I mean that.
Perhaps you are not attuned to distinguishing text. It really isn't
that hard. Vocabulary, understanding, sentence construction, thought
progression and coherence. Each and everyone of these separate you
from what you have written. Surely there is leniency in writing style,
when writing technical vs just a casual NG reply, but that does not
allow for the differences between your replies and these last lengthy
posts. Even before, it was clear to distinguish the difference between
where you are writing and where you are quoting. Do you really think
we are as naive as you appear to be? Do you think others cannot
observe the distinction? Do you never have a twinge, a spiritual goad
while doing such things? If not, then it only reveals that you have
not the Spirit.

No one here is discouraging some one who is less educated commenting or
even arguing a point here within the NG. However, after time, those
who use the works of others as if they were their own need to stop.
"Thou shall not steal." Do you not adhere to this principle?


>
> >So yes, you are a plagiarist.
>
> If I am than you certainly are. Your posts are connect-the-dots when
it
> comes to trinitarian propaganda. You are a hypocrit for pretending
you
> haven't plagiarized. Frankly, I care very little as God is watching
and
> you will not get away with it anyway.
>

Again, no one is finding fault here for refering to the work of others.
That is part of the area of discussion. That is part of
substantiating corroborative support for your point. However, when you
do such, it is only proper to give credit to the one you are quoting.
Also, giving the reference allows for contextual verification.

BTW, you should care. James 3:1

Matthew Johnson

unread,
Mar 29, 2005, 6:18:29 AM3/29/05
to

In article <086.48.17.0...@srcbs.org>, basicallyblues says...


>
>
>
>>What is more, some of us could tell from the style of the language
>that you
>>could not possibly have written it.
>
>What a weak assumption.

Weak assumption, you say? Compared to the assumptions you and your sources make,
it is very strong indeed.

> You don't know me.

You don't know how much ugliness you reveal about yourself with your fanatical
hatred of the Trinity.

> But you would recognize my
>name if I revealed it as you have most certainly read some of my
>publications.
>
>>So yes, you are a plagiarist.
>
>If I am than you certainly are.

Nonsense. That does not follow at all. You are acting like a brat on the
playground who can think of no better retort than "If I am one, then so are
you".

> Your posts are connect-the-dots when it
>comes to trinitarian propaganda.

"Connect-the-dots", you say? Well, at least I _can_ connect the dots. But you
seem to have trouble doing this, which would explain why you have so often
resorted to the most blatant fallacies instead, including the false dilemma, the
straw-man and a great many red herrings.

>You are a hypocrit for pretending you
>haven't plagiarized.

Nonsense. For I gave credit for all quotes that have not been in the public
domain for years. I even gave credit for most of these. This is one of the
advantages of using sources that have been in the public domain for centuries;)

>Frankly, I care very little as God is watching and
>you will not get away with it anyway.

Yes, God is watching. Which should make you tremble, since you are the one who
slandered so many of His saints, calling them 'idolators', even calling the
dogma He revealed to us 'demonic'.

Yes, it is you who should be trembling, not me. I stand with a clear conscience.


--
---------------------------
Subudcat se sibi ut haereat Deo
quidquid boni habet, tribuat illi a quo factus est.
(St. Augustine, Ser. 96)

((( s.r.c.b-s is a moderated group. All posts are approved by a moderator. )))

lsen...@hotmail.com

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Mar 29, 2005, 6:18:22 AM3/29/05
to

basicallyblues wrote:
> >BTW, moderator, did "Basically blues" provide a permission to quote?
>

> lol...like a tattle-tale you are. "permission to quote"? You have


> quoted. Matthew has quoted. What difference does it make?
>

You ARE unschooled. Both Matthew and I give credit to our references.
And each time I quote more than just a paragraph or two, I contact
either the author or the publisher to gain permission to quote at
length and publish that quote. Don't you ever read the copywrite
rules?

You honestly don't understand the difference? Wow!

Bart Goddard

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Mar 29, 2005, 11:05:30 AM3/29/05
to

lsen...@hotmail.com wrote:


> basicallyblues wrote:
>> >What is more, some of us could tell from the style of the language
>> that you
>> >could not possibly have written it.
>>
>> What a weak assumption. You don't know me. But you would recognize my
>> name if I revealed it as you have most certainly read some of my
>> publications.
>>
> This is so weak to be almost laughable if it didn't involve a real
> human being at the other end.

I have to admit that I laughed. The first thought through my
head was "The only famous JW I know is Michael Jackson." And
while I've never read any of his work, one night on 60 minutes
about a decade ago, Andy Rooney read the lyrics to "I'm bad".
(I laughed then too.)


So you're both right. 1. We certainly would recognize his
name if he revealed it. (And now we understand why he's
hiding it.) 2. It is laughable.

Bart

Matthew Johnson

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Mar 29, 2005, 12:49:30 PM3/29/05
to

In article <088.17.05.0...@srcbs.org>, lsen...@hotmail.com says...


>
>
>
>basicallyblues wrote:
>> >BTW, moderator, did "Basically blues" provide a permission to quote?
>>
>> lol...like a tattle-tale you are. "permission to quote"? You have
>> quoted. Matthew has quoted. What difference does it make?
>>
>You ARE unschooled. Both Matthew and I give credit to our references.
>And each time I quote more than just a paragraph or two, I contact
>either the author or the publisher to gain permission to quote at
>length and publish that quote. Don't you ever read the copywrite
>rules?
>
>You honestly don't understand the difference? Wow!

I think he does understand it -- and deliberately violates the laws on
intellectual property. After all, one of the evil deceptions to come out of
JWism is the false belief that they are above the law. They toss aside
everything Paul said about the need to honor God by obeying the civil
authorities, giving themselves the false and weak excuse that they alone are
ruled by "God'd Kingdom".

>
>((( Read http://srcbs.org for details about this group BEFORE you post. )))

--
---------------------------
Subudcat se sibi ut haereat Deo
quidquid boni habet, tribuat illi a quo factus est.
(St. Augustine, Ser. 96)

((( s.r.c.b-s is a moderated group. All posts are approved by a moderator. )))

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