Some church fathers reckoned Jesus as a “God-man,” and Christians have been doing so ever since. Emil Brunner repeatedly does so in his classic defense of traditional Christology in his book, The Mediator: A Study of the Central Doctrine of the Christian Faith.
Those who call Jesus “the God-man” mean that God literally came down to earth and became the man, Jesus Christ, called “the incarnation.” They often cite 1 Timothy 2.5 as their sole means of biblical support. Paul writes therein, “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”
Many scholars think that in 1 Timothy 2.5, the Apostle Paul cites a liturgy commonly used in churches of that time just as he does in 1 Corinthians 8.6, wherein he says, “there is but one God, the Father.” If 1 Timothy 2.5 is a liturgy, it explains why Paul did not explain its meaning since Timothy would have known it.
Accordingly, this liturgical saying in 1 Timothy 2.5 establishes the first precept of all truth about God, apart from the fact that he exists, which is that he is numerically “one.” This alludes to the Shema–the Jews’ brief creed. It reads, “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!” (Deuteronomy 6.4).
The “one God” in 1 Timothy 2.5 also refers back in this letter to “God the Father,” who is “invisible” and “the only God” (1.2, 17). Thus, Paul says to Timothy, his ministry associate, that the Father is the only God, meaning there is numerically only one God.
Trinitarians argue that “one” in the Shema does not designate God numerically but is a unity, thus allowing for their doctrine of God as a unity of three Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. But Paul’s juxtaposition of “one God” and “one mediator” in 1 Timothy 2.5 distinguishes two Persons. In other words, if “the one mediator” identifies one Person, who is Christ Jesus, then, to be consistent the parallel expression “one God” must identify numerically one Person—God the Father. So, rather than this verse indicating that Jesus is a “God-man,” it distinguishes Jesus from the one God.
What is a mediator? In the Greek New Testament (NT), the word translated “mediator” in 1 Timothy 2.5 is mesites. It means “one who stands in the middle,” that is, a “middleman.” Bible textual critic B. F. Westcott defines mesites as “one who, standing between the contracting parties, shall bring them into fellowship.”
So, a mediator is a third party who attempts to reconcile two parties at variance. The two parties, in 1 Timothy 2.5, are God and sinful humanity. Jesus was not a member of sinful humanity because he was “without sin” and therefore “separate from sinners” (Hebrews 4.15; 7.26; cf. 2 Corinthians 5.21). This mediator—Jesus Christ—attempts to bring these two parties together. Rather than 1 Timothy 2.5 indicating Jesus is God, it does the opposite by necessitating that the mediator, as the middleman, is neither God nor a member of sinful humanity alienated from God. That is the whole point of being a mediator, in which that individual is unique by being neither of the disputing parties.
Jesus is described as “mediator” three other times in the Bible, all in the book of Hebrews (Hebrews 8.6; 9.15; 12.24). These passages, as well as their contexts, contribute to the view that Jesus was uniquely qualified to mediate between God and humankind. As a man and the perfectly righteous Son of God, Jesus was intimately associated with both parties at variance.
So, God is the ultimate source of reconciliation. He plans and accomplishes it through Jesus as his agent, sending him as the Redeemer. Paul further informs the believing Corinthians, “God … has reconciled us to Himself through Christ” (2 Corinthians 5.18).
Some past scholars rightly objected to applying the ascription “God-man” to Jesus. German Friedrich Schleiermacher, a non-Trinitarian and the most celebrated Christian theologian of the early 19th century, was one who did. He and many others pointed out that the term “God-man” neither appears in this 1 Timothy 2.5 text nor anywhere else in the Bible. Schleiermacher cautioned that this term requires scrutinizing.
Indeed it does. The concept of a God-man parallels the pagan notion of mythological demigods who are both god and man. In fact, proto-Gnostics of the 1st century CE could describe such a mythological redeemer figure as a “God man.”
Actually, Paul may have had proto-Gnostics in mind when he penned 1 Timothy 2.5. Perhaps he was contrasting Jesus as the one mediator with the proto-Gnostic belief in a pleroma of many aeons as a chain of mediators linking God and humankind.
It is strange that Christians would identify Jesus as “the God-man” based only on a single biblical text, it being 1 Timothy 2.5. Instead, this passage suggests that Jesus is not a dual being. For it clearly (1) distinguishes God and Christ Jesus, (2) affirms that God is a single Person, (3) calls Christ Jesus only a “man,” and (4) therefore neither calls him “God” nor a “God-man.”
It should be concluded that it is incorrect to identify Jesus either as “God” or a “God-man” based merely on 1 Timothy 2.5. Logically, Jesus Christ as a third party cannot reconcile us to God and at the same time be God. Finally, Today’s English Version well paraphrases Paul’s intended meaning in this verse as follows: “For there is one God, and there is one who brings God and mankind together, the man Christ Jesus.”
To see a list of titles of 130+ posts (2-3 pages) that are about Jesus not being God in the Bible, with a few about God not being a Trinity, at Kermit Zarley Blog click “Chistology” in the header bar. Most are condensations of my book, The Restitution of Jesus Christ. See my website servetustheevangelical.com, which is all about this book, with reviews, etc. Learn about my books and purchase them at kermitzarley.com. I was a Trinitarian for 22 years before reading myself out of it in the Bible.