Monday, 22 February 2016

A Case for the Deity of Christ in Light of Muslim Objections, Part IV

Continuing from Part III

while we wait for the blessed hope — the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, (Titus 2:13) Here we get a powerful statement pertaining to the Deity of Christ addressed to Titus. Christ is identified as “our great God and Savior.” This demonstrates that Paul believed Jesus was God Almighty.

Muslim Objection:
Muslims challenge this interpretation by claiming that this passage is talking about two beings, God and Jesus, and that Jesus is only said to be the glory of the Father. Zaatari quotes a heretical Unitarian interpretation: Of course, the glory will come at the appearing, but Scripture says clearly that both the glory of the Son and the glory of the Father will appear (Luke 9:26). God's Word also teaches that when Christ comes, he will come with his Father's glory: "For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father's glory" (Matt. 16:27). Keeping in mind that what is revealed in other places in the Bible about a certain event often clarifies what is being portrayed in any given verse, it becomes apparent from other scriptures referring to Christ's coming that the Bible is not trying to portray God and Christ as one God. In this case, the glory of God that we are waiting for is Jesus Christ.

It has been stated that the grammar of Titus 2:13 forces the interpretation that Jesus is God because of the Granville Sharp Rule of grammar. That is not the case, however. The Granville Sharp rule has been successfully challenged. The point is that when Scripture refers to "our Great God and Savior, Jesus Christ," it can mean two beings? both the "Great God," and the "Savior," Jesus Christ. The highly regarded Trinitarian Henry Alford gives a number of reasons as to why the grammar of the Greek does not force the interpretation of the passage to make Christ God. [36]

The context of the verse helps us to understand its meaning. The verse is talking about saying "no" to ungodliness while we wait for the appearing of Jesus Christ, who is the glory of God. Its purpose is not to expound the doctrine of the Trinity in any way, nor is there any reason to assume that Paul would be making a Trinitarian reference here. It makes perfect sense for Scripture to call Christ "the glory of God" and for the Bible to exhort us to say "no" to ungodliness in light of the coming of the Lord, which will be quickly followed by the Judgment (Matt. 25:31-33; Luke 21:36) … (38)

Christian Response:
Zaatari is taking the position that Christ is being called the glory of God and not God himself. There are three main interpretations of this passage among Biblical exegetes. In his work ‘Introduction to the New Testament Christology’ the late Dr. Raymond Brown assessed all three interpretations and then came to a conclusion based on the most logically sound exegetical position. We will examine the two relevant interpretations of the verse – position (b) which has Jesus as the glory of God and not God himself, and position (c) which has Jesus as our great God. We will not look at position (a). Brown comments: Titus 2:13: “... the appearance of the glory of (the) great God and Savior of us Jesus Christ.” Three interpretations of the Greek underlying the italicized words are possible: … (b) “the glory of our great God-and-Savior, which (glory) is Jesus Christ.” This interpretation follows the Greek in keeping together “God and Savior” but applies the compound title to the Father. Jesus Christ (grammatically in apposition to “glory”) is taken to represent the personification of the glory of God the Father. The objection to this interpretation is the same as that encountered under #9 in dealing with interpretation (c) of Col 2:2-3, namely, that we would expect in the Greek an explanatory “which is.” Otherwise, there is no real hindrance to applying the title “Savior” to the Father, for other passages in Titus (1:3; 2:10; 3:4) speak of “God our Savior” (as contrasted with 1:4 and 3:6 that speak of “Jesus Christ our Savior”). Nor can one object to the idea that Jesus is the glory of the Father, for other NT passages (John 1:14; 12:41; 17:24; Heb 1:3) identify Jesus as the bearer of divine glory. c) “the glory of our great God-and-Savior Jesus Christ.” Here the compound title “God-and-Savior” is given to Jesus Christ. This is the most obvious meaning of the Greek. It implies that the passage is speaking only of one glorious epiphany, namely, of Jesus Christ, in harmony with other references to the epiphany of Jesus Christ in the Pastoral Epistles (1 Tim 6:14-15; II Tim 4:1). The likelihood that “Savior” is applied to Jesus Christ rather than to God the Father is suggested by the next verse in Titus (2:14), which speaks of the redemption wrought by Jesus. Some would rule out this interpretation that gives Jesus the title “God” because elsewhere in the pastorals (1 Tim 2:5; see #4 above) a clear distinction is made between the one God (= the Father) and the man Jesus Christ. However, as we have noted, in the fourth Gospel there are passages that call Jesus God along with passages that distinguish between Jesus and the one true God. A decision is difficult. Some careful scholars (H. Conzelmann, J. Jeremias, J.N.D. Kelly) reject interpretation (c), while the majority261 (including O. Cullmann, J.D. Quinn, C. Spicq) argue for it, accepting the fact that here Jesus is called God. Personally, I am inclined to recognize interpretation (c) as the probable meaning of the passage. (39) In footnote 261 Brown notes that the consensus among scholars regarding Titus 2:13 is that Jesus is indeed being referred to as God and thus Zaatari’s interpretation is not only disputed by the Greek itself on many levels, as Brown shows, but Zaatari and the Unitarians are in the minority of thinking with their interpretation. Browns footnote states: “See the listing of scholars in Harris, Jesus 185, who points out that this is the virtually unanimous view of grammarians and lexicographers.” Moreover, even if we take position (b) as the correct view this would still prove the Deity of Christ since this view says that Jesus is the visible appearance of God himself. In other words, to say that Jesus is the manifestation of the glory of God is to say that God reveals himself as Christ – that Jesus is the visible revelation/appearance/manifestation of God himself. Compare this concept to Ezekiel 1:26-28 and 2:1-10. There you will see that Ezekiel sees a rather glorious human appearance, a figure of a man, which he identifies as the glory of Yahweh. As you continue to read in chapter 2 it turns out that this human appearance which is supposed to be the glory of Yahweh is none other than God himself who appeared to Ezekiel in the form of a man. So to say that Jesus is the glory of God is to say that Jesus is the human appearance of God himself. How, then, can Jesus being anything less than God when he is the visible manifestation of God? In fact it is ironic that Gordon Donald Fee, whom I mentioned in my discussion on 2 Timothy 1:9-10, holds to position (b) and yet he is a Trinitarian! In his work “Pauline Christology” he makes a defense of position (b). But then read Bowman and Komoszewski’s book “Putting Jesus in his Place” and Dr. Daniel B. Wallace’s masterful defense of the Granville Sharp rule titled “Granville Sharp's Canon and Its Kin: Semantics and Significance” for the refutation to Fee.
The grace of the Lord (kyrios) Jesus Christ be with your spirit. (Philemon 1:25) Here Christ is called Lord (Greek ‘kyrios’). Muslims may not think this is significant but it is very significant. The Greek Septuagint version of the Old Testament Hebrew scriptures would often translate Hebrew words for God such as יהוה (Yahweh) into the Greek word ‘kyrios’ (κύριος). So kyrios is the divine name of Yahweh in the Greek. This title is then applied to Christ by Paul and the other New Testament writers numerous times. This could very well mean that Paul thought of Jesus as Yahweh and applied the divine name to him. Of course there is no doubt that other people are called kyrios as well but context and exegesis is very important.

Muslim Objection:
Muslims will often say that other people are called Lord (kyrios) in the Bible and we don’t consider them God Almighty. Therefore we shouldn’t consider Jesus God.

Christian Response:
In his article ‘Preaching: The Lordship of Jesus Christ,’ Charles T. Carter notes some interesting facts about New Testament usage of the word kyrios: The term “lord” occurs over 600 times in the New Testament. It is true that sometimes it is merely a term of address or respect or affection. However, at least 150 of these times it is used of God Himself, and nearly 250 times it is used to describe Jesus. (40) In light of the fact that the word Lord is used nearly twice as many times for Jesus than it is for God there must be something more significant to this than merely affirming that Jesus is our Master. An examination of some of the references where Jesus is called Lord shows that the NT writers used this to identify Jesus with Yahweh God of the OT, a point which we documented above. Here are a few more examples where Jesus is called Lord in the sense of being Yahweh: “A man named Ananias came to see me. He was a devout observer of the law and highly respected by all the Jews living there. He stood beside me and said, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight!' And at that very moment I was able to see him. Then he said: 'The God of our fathers has chosen you to know his will and to see the Righteous One and to hear words from his mouth. You will be his witness to all men of what you have seen and heard. And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.’” (Acts 22:12-16 – cf. 9:14, 21) “To the church of God in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be holy, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ—their Lord and ours:” (1 Corinthians 1:2) True believers are those who call on the name of the Lord for salvation and in worship. However, the OT says that the faithful are those who call on the name of Yahweh! “From there he went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the LORD and called on the name of the LORD.” Genesis 12:8 – cf. 21:33
“Exalt the LORD our God and worship at his footstool; he is holy. Moses and Aaron were among his priests, Samuel was among those who called on his name; they called on the LORD and he answered them. He spoke to them from the pillar of cloud; they kept his statutes and the decrees he gave them.” Psalm 99:5-7
And everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved; for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there will be deliverance, as the LORD has said, among the survivors whom the LORD calls.” Joel 2:32
Amazingly, Paul quotes Joel 2:32 in reference to believers confessing that Jesus is Lord in order to be saved! That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. As the Scripture says, ‘Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame.’ For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’” Romans 10:9-13
Here, the Lord whom one is supposed to call on for salvation is the same Jesus that a person must confess in order to be saved. Thus, Paul identifies Jesus as the Yahweh spoken of in Joel 2:32! Moreover, many scholars are now holding to the view that when Jesus was referred to as Lord prior to his resurrection, many times, in this context, they were referring to him as master or teacher. However, after the resurrection they identified him as Lord with a new meaning in mind – namely Christ’s Deity. In his work ‘An Evangelical Christology: Ecumenic and Historic,’ Bernard L. Ramm states:
In common with other titles there could have been a pre-resurrection meaning of the term and a post-resurrection one. In the pre-resurrection period it would amount to calling Jesus master, teacher, or leader. In the post-resurrection meaning it could be a term on the way to ascribing deity to Christ. It is a title which God gave to Jesus after the resurrection (cf. Acts 2:36, Phil. 2:9-11). It is the name that people confess for salvation (Rom. 10:9-10, 1 Cor, 8:6, 12:3). It is also pre-eminently the name used in Christian worship … Because kyrios is such a common name for God in the Septuagint (Greek translation of the Old Testament) Cullmann (1959, 307) thinks that the confession of Jesus as Lord is an incipient confession of his deity. This contention is re-enforced in Trinitarian statements in which Jesus is identified as Lord (Eph. 4:4-6). (41) And finally in Islamic Tawheed, when Jesus is referred to as Lord that is a statement of Deity which violates Tawheed. Tawheed al-Rububiya Unity of Lordship) has it so that only Allah is Lord, thus when Jesus is being identified as kyrios it proves that he is God according to Islam. Hebrews
Hebrews 1 describes the Lord Jesus Christ as Yahweh, the creator of all things. Hebrews quotes Psalms 102’s account of God Almighty creating all things and applies it to the Lord Jesus Christ! Of the Lord Jesus Christ Hebrews 1:10-12 says: He also says, "In the beginning, O Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will allwear out like a garment. You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed. But you remain the same, and your years will never end.” Of God Psalm 102:25-27 says: Of old You founded the earth, And the heavens are the work of Your hands. "Even they will perish, but You endure; And all of them will wear out like a garment; Like clothing You will change them and they will be changed." But You are the same, And Your years will not come to an end. Here Jesus is explicitly identified as Yahweh the creator God. Commenting on this amazing scripture Dr. Richard Bauckham states: Psalm 102:25-27 expresses the sovereignty of God over the material universe; he made it and will outlive it. The author of Hebrews applies these verses to Christ, as “Lord.” The application makes the Son directly responsible for the establishment of the earth and the formation of the heavens … (42)

Muslim Objection:
Muslim apologist Osama Abdullah erroneously asserts that Hebrews 1:10-12 is talking about God the Father and not about Lord Jesus Christ. He states: The verses are talking about GOD Almighty's Creation and Him laying down the foundation of the earth, and the throne of Jesus on earth. (43)

Christian Response:
Abdullah concludes that because Hebrews 1:9 makes reference to the Father and describes him that therefore verses 10-12 must be speaking of the Father also. However this argument is easily refuted by simply reading from verses 5-12 and noting a consistent pattern: 5For to which of the angels did God ever say, "You are my Son; today I have become your Father"? Or again, "I will be his Father, and he will be my Son"? 6And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, "Let all God's angels worship him." 7In speaking of the angels he says, "He makes his angels winds, his servants flames of fire."8 But about the Son he says, "Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom. 9You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy."10 He also says, "In the beginning, O Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. 11They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. 12You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed. But you remain the same, and your years will never end." (Hebrews 1:5-12, NIV) Notice when you read the entire context the focus is what God the Father says about the Son and his uniqueness. The argument of Hebrews is that the Father has never said any of the angels are his sons and that he has become their Father. The Father says let all the angels worship Christ. The Father says the angels are servants. The Father says to the Son, “Your Throne, O God, will last forever.” Since the consistent pattern is the Father saying things about the Son glorifying him, when we get to verse 10 we should understand that when it says “He also says,” and then proceeds to talk about someone creating all things, this means the Father is saying this about the Son. The Greek word for “He also says” in verse 10 is kai which means (and, also, even, indeed, but) so it is obvious that this is the Father continuing with his words about the Son. The Father is describing the Son as the Lord who created all things and sustains all things. The context of the chapter makes that clear. Yes verse 9 speaks about God the Father anointing the Son but it then goes on to say that the Father “says,” (or also continues/ moreover states) showing a continuation of the Father describing things about the Son. Therefore the Son is described as the creator and sustainer in verses 10-12. Even the anti-Trinitarian heretical Unitarian website that Zaatari appeals to all of the time concedes that verses 10-12 are about Jesus, refuting Osama’s ignorance. However, they try to say that it is in reference to Jesus creating a new heavens and earth, not the present one. But even with this false heretical interpretation it still violates Islamic Tawheed – in that only Allah is supposed to be creator and sustainer. Their site concedes: This verse is quoted from the Old Testament (Ps. 102:25), where it applied to Yahweh, and the author of Hebrews is lifting it from the Psalms and applying it to Jesus Christ. (44)
My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. (James 2:1) Here James the brother of the Lord Jesus, who doubted him at first, identifies Jesus as the “Lord of Glory” or “our glorious Lord Jesus Christ,” as others render it. Most scholars regard the Christology of James as lower than other New Testament writings. This is incorrect and might only appear to be true because James’ letter was not primarily focused on Christological issues but rather church conduct, moral issues, living a pure life, having pure faith, and salvation. James 2:1 refers to Jesus as God based on the Aramaic language that James spoke and the parallel he makes to Old Testament references to Yahweh as the King of glory [cf. Ps. 24:7-10] and the Glory within Jerusalem [cf. Zech. 2:5]. As Benjamin B. Warfield notes: “James speaks of our Lord by name only twice, and on both occasions he gives Him the full title of reverence: ‘the (our) Lord Jesus Christ’ (1.1, 2.1) – coupling Him in the one case on equal terms with God, and in the other adding further epithets of divine dignity. Elsewhere he speaks of Him simply as ‘the Lord’ (5.7,8, [14] 15) in context which greatly enhance the significance of the term. The pregnant use of ‘the Name,’ absolutely, which we found current among the early Christians as reported in the Acts, recurs here; and James advises in the case of the sick people that they be prayed over, while they are anointed with oil “in the Name” (5.14). The “Name” intended is clearly that of Jesus, which is thus in Christian usage substituted for that of Jehovah. A unique epithet, equally implying the deity of the Lord, is applied to Him in the exhortation, “My brethren, hold not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Glory, with respect to persons” (2.1). ‘Glory’ seems to stand here in apposition to the name, “our Lord Jesus Christ,” further defining Him in His majesty. There is here something more than merely association of our Lord with glory, as when we are told that that He had glory with God before the world was (Jno 17.5), and after His humiliation on earth (though even on earth He manifested His glory to seeing eyes, Jno 1.14, 2.11, 17.22) entered again into His glory (Lk 24.26, Jno 17.24, 1 Tim 3.16, Heb 2.9, cf. Mt 19.28, 25.31, []Mk 10.37), and is to come again in this glory (Mt 16.27, 24.30, 25.31, Mk 8.38, 13.26, Lk 9.26, 21.27, Titus 2.13, 1 P 4.13). We come nearer to what is implied when we read of Jesus being ‘the Lord of glory’ (1 Cor 2.8), that is He to whom glory belongs as His characterizing quality; or when He is described to us as “the effulgence of the glory of God” (Heb 1.3). The thought of the writer seems to be fixed on those Old Testament passages in which Jehovah is described as “Glory”: e. g., “For I, saith Jehovah, will be unto her a wall of fire round about, and I will be the Glory in the midst of her” (Zech 2.5). In the Lord Jesus Christ, James sees the fulfillment of these promises: He is Jehovah come to be with His people; and, as He has tabernacled among them, they have seen His glory. He is, in a word, the glory of God, the Shekinah: God manifest to men. It is thus that James thought and spoke of his own brother who died a violent and shameful death while still in His first youth! Surely there is a phenomenon here which may well waken inquiry. (45)

Muslim Objection:
Zaatari states: Whether James believes Jesus is God or not, does not matter. Many people believe in pagan idols as being God, does that matter at all? No, it does not matter at all, if James believes Jesus is God, then that is his own mistake, one he has to live with. The fact remains that Satan would in no way tempt Jesus the way he did if Jesus was truly God …
So the fact James calls Jesus lord of glory doesn’t mean Jesus is God. It could be a title of honor. However so there are many titles in the bible given to others than Jesus, which were to honor, not to imply they were God. Jerusalem was called "The LORD our Righteousness".  "In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. This is the name by which it will be called: The LORD Our Righteousness (Yahweh tsidkenû).' (From the NIV Bible, Jeremiah 33:16)" Ezekiel means "Strong God". It also means "Yahweh is Strong God". Elijah. This name is short for EliJehovah or "Eli Yahweh". Eli means my GOD, and Yahweh is the name and title of GOD Almighty in the Bible. Israel means "Challenge God", "he struggles with God", or "fight with God". It also means "Defeat God". Gabriel also means "Strong God". (46) Here Zaatari finds it irrelevant if James the brother of Jesus thought of him as God. However, if it is true that James believed Jesus was God it means that we can add one more independent eyewitness attestation to the case for the historical case for the Deity of Christ. This is important to historians who look for early eyewitness testimony and multiple independent attestations. But it seems that Muslim apologists like Zaatari are not concerned with the historical method. The second claim is that Satan would never tempt Jesus if he is God. This off topic point is nothing more than a red herring and does not directly address James 2:1 but I will address it anyway. They are basing this argument off of James 1:13 which states: When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; If you actually examine the narratives where Satan attempts to tempt Jesus we read that Satan fails miserably and Jesus passes the test. In responding to Satan’s promises to him, as well as the trickery, what does Jesus do? Does he sit there and contemplate things, showing that he is actually considering Satan’s offer, or does he reject Satan quickly? In Mark 4:1-11 Jesus rejects Satan’s tricks and promises immediately, which shows that Jesus wasn’t ever considering listening to the devil or accepting his offers. This shows that although Satan tried to tempt Jesus, Jesus was not capable of falling into temptation because of his divine nature. How do we know? It is because Jesus didn’t fall for Satan’s deceptions. Jesus did not fall for temptation because there was no sin in Jesus (Hebrews 4:15; 1 Peter 2:22; 1 John 3:5); Satan had nothing to appeal to that would allow Jesus to actually fall into an effective temptation thereby causing him to stumble. Therefore, we affirm that there is no inconsistency with James 1:13 and Jesus being tempted by Satan because Jesus did not fall into temptation due to his divine nature. Leaving Zaatari’s first two errors aside, he then asserts that it doesn’t matter if Jesus was identified as “Glorious Lord” or “Lord of Glory” in James 2:1 since other people and other things were given similar titles of honor. Zaatari mentions Ezekiel’s name meaning “strong God,” Elijah meaning “my God,” Israel meaning “fights with God,” and Gabriel meaning “strong God.” However, although Jewish names such as Ezekiel, Elijah and Gabriel represented the God they serve, this is not analogous to James literally identifying Jesus as the “Lord of Glory” or “Glorious Lord” because the name “Jesus” doesn’t mean “Lord of Glory” but rather the title is being applied directly to the person of Jesus Christ by someone else. Titles like these were never actually applied to Ezekiel, Elijah or Gabriel. It is not Jesus’ name which represents the God he serves as is the case with Ezekiel, Elijah and Gabriel; this is a title that is actually describing Christ himself. Thus Zaatari’s analogies are meaningless and utterly fallacious.
1 Peter
… It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God's right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him. (1 Peter 3:21-22) Here the Apostle Peter explains that Jesus is at the right hand of God the Father. He also notes how angels, authorities and powers submit to Christ in present reality, i.e. that all creation is currently under Christ’s rule. This is something that no mere creature or prophet can do. According to Islamic scripture all creation is subject to Allah alone in heaven. However, Jesus Christ is sovereign over all creation according to the true inspired Scriptures, e.g. the Holy Bible. This separates the Lord Jesus Christ from all creation making him above all people, Prophets, Angels and powers. Jesus shares power, authority, and glory with the Father. He shares the divine throne of the Father. He shares sovereignty over all creation with the Father. Moreover, this again violates Islamic Tawheed al-Rububiya – Unity of Lordship in that only Allah is supposed to be sovereign Lord in heaven. This verse also violates Tawheed al-Uloohiya – Unity of Worship since all creation is submissive to him. This proves that Jesus is God according to Islam.

Muslim Objection:
I was unable to find a Muslim objection to this scripture. Continuing on Part V


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