Jesus’ Thinking and Theology

Jesus’ Thinking and Theology December 6, 2014

While they may have genuinely thought they were being skeptical and critical, from our later vantage point, it seems that those who felt that we cannot say anything about Jesus’ own statements and views, but only those of the later church, were rather giving expression to their reverence for Jesus as a figure who still had at least some overtones of divinity for them. Having all one’s conclusions be about the fallible humans who came after Jesus, and who may have misunderstood him drastically, leaves Jesus unscathed by historical inquiry.

We need to cross the moat that some have sought to dig, out of a desire to protect Jesus, and to ask historical questions about Jesus using the same terms which we use of other human beings. What did Jesus think about this subject or that? What was his theology?

When you carry the baggage of Jesus having been viewed as himself divine, it becomes difficult – and perhaps even nonsensical – to speak of his “theology.” But if we are to investigate him as a figure in history, then we need to ask precisely those sorts of questions, in precisely those sorts of terms.

I am not suggesting that this has never been attempted – it has, and quite often. But I’ve seen a waning of this kind of approach, and recent approaches which focus on memory seem to me to have the same faith-driven interest – to limit investigation to those who came after Jesus, leaving Jesus himself implicitly shielded from historical inquiry – and perhaps more importantly, leaving modern believers free to view Jesus as they always have.

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  • So did Jesus consider himself God? And what does this question say about C.S. Lewis? I just made this point on another recent post of yours:

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2014/12/just-another-kind-of-gullibility.html

    But it seems more appropriate here.

    C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity presented his famous liar, lunatic, or Lord trilemma. He basically told his readers that they couldn’t just claim that Jesus was a good teacher, because Jesus claimed to be God. And a man who claims to be God can only be a “liar, lunatic, or Lord”.

    The problem is that long before Lewis wrote this, NT scholarship was well aware that the gospel of John presented a higher (and later) Christology than the synoptic gospels and many scholars (even in Lewis’s day) believed that the historical Jesus may never have claimed to be God. Indeed, if such scholars had never made this proposal, the “common man” that Lewis was addressing in Mere Christianity might never have considered the option of Jesus as just a good teacher.

    So Lewis’s famous trilemma leaves out one of the most important and relevant options – that Jesus was misquoted, and never claimed to be God in the first place. It is certainly a more credible option than Jesus being a total lunatic or liar. Or as Lewis more colorfully puts it “He would either be a lunatic–on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg–or else he would be the Devil of Hell”. When he puts it that way, being misquoted by later editors sounds like a completely dull option – and far more believable!

    I’ve always been disturbed by what this says about C.S. Lewis. You can easily surmise from his other writings that Lewis was not ridiculously ignorant of New Testament Scholarship. And that leaves only one conclusion:

    Whatever you think Jesus was – C.S. Lewis was liar.

    • Gakusei Don

      As a CS Lewis fan, I hate this common misrepresentation of Lewis’ “trilemma”. Lewis’ argument here was addressed to those who thought that “Jesus was a great moral teacher” based on what he said in the Gospels, but didn’t think that Jesus was God. Lewis’ point was: IF Jesus said the things he said in the Gospels, then L, L or L. So the premise is that the Gospels accurately portrayed Jesus’ words. You may consider that naive, but remember his audience — the premise was already granted for the sake of argument.

      Like you, I don’t believe the Gospels accurately reflect what Jesus said. So for me the Trilemma is irrelevant. But that doesn’t make Lewis a liar. Any more than someone who grants a position that they don’t hold **for sake of the argument** is “lying”.

      • No, Don, the notion that Jesus was a great moral teacher is hardly incompatible with the notion that he is elevated to God in the later gospel of John. Many of the very scholars (both now and in Lewis’s day) who argue that the historical Jesus did not claim to be God, still recognise that major themes and sayings of Jesus are still authentic and of moral value.

        Lewis knew this scholarship. He may have rejected it, but that doesn’t excuse his pretending it didn’t exist.

        • test

          Beau Quilter, John does have high Christology. But the notion of Jesus as God (or at least very significant compared to man) is present in the Gospel of Mark:

          -Jesus describes himself as “the bridegroom,” which in context would have referred to God. God was regarded as Israel’s bridegroom (also in OT literature).
          -Jesus mentions himself in a progression of man, angels, Son, and finally Father in Mk13. This suggests at the very least Jesus is viewed above the angels and someone of divine importance
          -Jesus implies he’s God’s only Son in the parable of the vineyard
          -The authority to forgive sins when “only God” can forgive sins

          …and so on. That doesn’t refute that the gospels are fallible, but the Jesus divine connection comes long before John

          • Certainly, the low Christology of Jesus is still “high”. But believing that Jesus is important, even believing that Jesus is the son of God or the Messiah, was not the same as believing that Jesus was God (there were other men referred to as “son of God” and “Messiah” in Jewish history).

            Of course, even this is moot, when you consider that most of Lewis’s contemporary biblical scholars would not even consider the synoptic gospels as inerrant records of Jesus’s words.

    • Gakusei Don

      Just further on this: Lewis actually tells us the audience at the start of the Trilemma passage: “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God.”

      In other words, Lewis is NOT addressing those who are not ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher. I see lots of criticisms even include those words in their Lewis quote without including the implications. I suspect that the problem is that when Strobel popularized the idea, he didn’t use the same context.

      • The statement you’ve quoted simply does not imply the innerrancy of Jesus’ biblical words. How could it? Lewis already suggested the options that Jesus is a lunatic or liar, in which cases one could hardly expect the bible to be authoritatively inerrant.

        No , Don, assuming your audience accepts Jesus as a great moral teacher, in no way assumes that they find the bible an innerrant record of Jesus words. That certainly isn’t the case with scholars, now, nor in Lewis’s day – there are numerous scholars who see Jesus as a great moral teacher while rejecting his claims of divinity as a shift in the final gospel of John. This view of Jesus as a fully human but great moral teacher is one that eventually passed from scholars to Lewis’s lay readers, though the layman may not have been familiar with the scholarship.

        By addressing readers who might have seen Jesus as a great moral teacher, Lewis was not in any way “granting” anything on the ground of NT innerrancy. He was lying about the options.

        I frankly find it bizarre that you think Lewis was only addressing some odd subset of his audience who believed in the absolute innerrancy of his words, but rejected his divinity.

        • Gakusei Don

          Nothing to do with “inerrancy.” In the paragraph before the Trilemma passage, Lewis writes about “the most shocking thing that has ever been uttered by human lips… I mean the claim to forgive sins: any sins. Now unless the speaker is God, this is really so preposterous as to be comic.” So the assumption is that Jesus claimed to be God, which clearly Lewis believed to be the case.

          I take your point that Lewis could have discussed the scholarship of his time which denied that Jesus claimed this. But it’s clear that his argument is directed towards those people who think that Jesus claimed to be God but only considers him as a great moral teacher. That’s the subset of his audience, AFAICT. Who do you think he was addressing as his audience?

          • He was addressing those people who say, “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God.”

            Then Lewis says:

            “That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. … Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God.”

            I’m sorry, but your insistence that Lewis’s trilemma is only meant to be framed within a small context seems silly in face of statements like:

            “You must make your choice.” or “let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us.”

            These are not the words one uses when one is considering a mere subset of options predicated on this or that presumption about what the historical Jesus said.

            Lewis is addressing a broad audience, he has presented three options of how to consider Jesus, and has proclaimed that “you must make your choice”, conveniently leaving out the most plausible historical alternative option to be considered, one vetted and supported by many of his contemporary scholars.

          • Gakusei Don

            His audience was those who are “ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher”, but not his “claim to be God.” Those were to whom people Lewis said “you must make your choice”. It excluded those Christians who thought Jesus was Son of God. So yes, it was to a mere subset of his audience.

            I agree with you that he left out those who think Jesus didn’t claim to be God. I just don’t think he had them in mind when he constructed that speech. His audience was predominantly your standard Anglican radio listener of the WW2 period. He wasn’t addressing atheists and Hindus. As an argument for a historical Son of God it certainly falls flat; as rhetoric to get the average Anglican church goer who already accepted as true some of the Gospels but who still thought that Jesus was simply a great moral teacher it would have had more punch.

          • Those average Anglican church goers “ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher”, but not his “claim to be God” would not have even existed if the biblical scholarship of high and low christology had not made the concept acceptable in Christian society. The very position he was addressing (whether or not the lay church goer was aware of it) was a direct result of the very scholarship he left out of his formula.

            Lewis was fully aware of this. He deliberately left out the scholarly option that made the position “ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher” possible in the first place.

            I completely agree that he wanted to land a rhetorical “punch”; and he didn’t mind lying to do so.

  • Neko

    I get the impression Jesus may have thought of himself as divinely favored, but certainly not co-equal with “the only true God”! (No, I haven’t read McGrath’s book yet.)

  • Tim Widowfield is currently writing a series (at a scholarly level, by the way) of a critique of memory theory as a tool to study Jesus and Christian origins. He examines its methodological foundations and contemporary application and shows that as applied to Jesus it is actually based on an oversimplification of sociologist Halbwach’s theory of collective memory.

    His first post is at Memory Mavens, 1: Brief Intro to Memory Theory and second at Memory Mavens, 2: Case Study at Ellis Island.

    (While agreeing with McGrath’s reservations about memory theory as a tool I am not sure Tim would concur on the motives implied here.)

  • Jerdna Friedemann

    The NT contains the writings about Jesus Christ that are the best preserved, oldest and most authentic. In this NT, Jesus is said to be God by identifying Him as the Son of God. Not “a” Son of God, not “a god”, but THE Son of God – THE GOD.

    There is no NT writing that does not declare Jesus to be YHWH God Almighty. All Gospels do it, Acts does it, all the Epistles do it, and Revelation does so as well.

    The Christology of all the writings are exactly the same (Jesus is YHWH Himself who came in the flesh and was glorified in the highest heaven, i.e. above all heavens), none is higher or lower than any other. There are simply different focuses. Yes, John focuses on theology more than the other Gospels. Not sure how that is a discrepancy, as John’s Gospel had a different purpose than the others (theology, see John 20:31).

    That was exactly Jesus’ Christology as well, it’s just that the LORD Jesus Christ used many parables so that people [act as if they] don’t understand what He is saying.

    • There is no emphatic “the” in Greek. And “son of God” did not mean something like “God the Son” in the time when our earliest Christian sources were written. You are reading later doctrinal formulations back into these early sources from which they are absent. Try reading Mark or Luke on its own terms. You will find that there is nothing that even hints at Jesus being a divine being or pre-existent, much less anything explicitly stating that.

      • Jerdna Friedemann

        Hello James,

        thank you for your reply. i disagree with your implication that it is impossible to make emphatic statements concerning Christ’s Sonship, as language does not depend on grammar alone. However, it is quite unlikely the majority of the NT was written in Greek. The Gospel was to the Jews first (Matthew to the Jews – in Greek?, James to the Jews all over the world – in Greek? Epistle to the Hebrews – in Greek?). It is possible we may not agree on that (and many other things), but to me the Gospel is simple, and evident. All Gospels make many claims concerning Christ’s divinity. However, it makes only limited sense to isolate one NT writing from the others, as they diverge in purpose. This is why for example in the Gospels, Jesus is almost always called “Jesus”, whereas in the Epistles, He is almost always called either Lord Jesus, Jesus Christ, or similar. The Gospels, while making clear statements concerning Christ’s divinity, mostly deal with His life on earth, before the glorification.

        To cover all of Mark and Luke would be way too much, so i’ll stick with a few basics, and leave out the meat (and a lot of Luke, a it’s simply a lot).

        All Gospels share a few claims. John came to prepare the way of Yahweh (Matthew 3:3, Luke 3:4, John 1:23, cf. Mark 1:1-3, Luke 1:76, 7:27), and John testifies of Jesus: He is the one that baptizes with the Holy Spirit [and with Fire] (Mark 1:8, Luke 3:16, Matthew 3:11, John 1:33, 20:22) that was supposed to come after Him. Jesus comes in the Name of Yahweh (Mark 11:9-10, Luke 19:18, Matthew 21:9, John 12:13, cf. Matthew 23:39, Luke 13:35) etc.

        At least in Mark and Luke, Jesus is Messiah (Mark 8:29, Luke 2:11), Son of God (Mark 1:1, 3:11, 15:39, Luke 1:35, 4:41), Son of the Most High (Luke 1:32), Son of the most high God (Mark 5:7, Luke 8:28), the Holy one (Luke 1:35, cf. Acts 2:27, 3:14, 13:35, 1 Pet. 1:15, 1 John 2:20, Rev. 3:7, 6:10, 15:4, 16:5), the Holy One of God (Mark 1:24, John 6:69), Lord and LORD (Mark 5:19-20, 16:19-20, Luke 2:11, cf. Acts 2:36), David’s Lord (Mark 12:35-37, Luke 20:41-44) etc.

        As you can see, *this* Son of God is the Son of Man, the Son of the Most High, the Son of the Most High God, the Holy One and the Holy One of God, Lord. No other Son of God bears these unambigious titles. i don’t think the Greek language is able to make statments more emphatic than these. According to the Gospels, the Son of Man is the Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:28, Luke 6:5, Matthew 12:8). Jesus says this right after being accused of blasphemy. Given the sanctity of the Sabbath, this is clearly a divine title – to them that serve the Lord of the Sabbath.

        Mark also speaks of God’s glory, and His right Hand:
        “when he [the Son of Man] cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
        Mark 8:38

        “Again the high priest asked him, and said unto him,
        Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?

        And Jesus said,
        I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. [cf. Psalm 110, Daniel 7:13-14]

        Then the high priest rent his clothes, and saith,
        What need we any further witnesses? Ye have heard the blasphemy: what think ye?
        And they all condemned him to be guilty of death.”
        Mark 14:61-64

        “So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.”
        Mark 16:19

        For this to make any sense, Jesus must have claimed something clearly blasphemous. As you surely know, the Jewish law at that time reserved the death sentence only for the very worst of blsphemies. Do you think they wanted to kill Him for non-emphatically claiming to be “a Son of God”? But if you do want to know what Jesus said and what the Jews understood, read:

        “But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God,
        And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.”
        Acts 7:55-56

        “Who [the Son] being the brightness of his [God’s] glory, and the express image of his [God’s] person, (…)”
        Hebrews 1:3

        All in all, Mark may focus on the deeds of Jesus, but certainly finds space to declare that He is Yahweh. A few more elaborate claims, in the scriptural context:

        The Way of Yahweh:
        Mark in his introduction:
        “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God;
        As it is written in the prophets,
        Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. [Malachi 3:1]
        The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of Yahweh, make his paths straight. [Isaiah 40:3]”
        Mark 1:1-3

        The Angel to Zechariah:
        “And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to Yahweh their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for Yahweh. [Malachi 4:5-6]”
        Luke 1:16-17

        Zechariah about John the baptist:
        “And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of Yahweh →to prepare his ways←; [Malachi 3:1, Isaiah 40:3]”
        Luke 1:76

        Jesus about John the baptist:
        “This is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger →before thy face←, which shall →prepare thy way← before thee. [Malachi 3:1]”
        Luke 7:27

        So far, the text is pretty clear: John goes before Jesus to prepare His way.

        “Behold, I [Yahweh] will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way →before me← [Yahweh]: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to →his temple←, even the messenger [=Angel] of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith Yahweh of hosts.”
        Malachi 3:1

        The “way before me” is a clear reference to the way of Yahweh, the speaker (“saith Yahweh of hosts”). The temple is the temple of Yahweh, to which Yahweh came.

        “The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye →the way of Yahweh←, make straight in the desert →a highway for our God←.”
        Isaiah 40:3

        This is also directly applied to Jesus by John the baptist (Luke 3:4, Matthew 3:3, John 1:23). Now we are told that the way of Jesus that John prepared is in fact the way of Yahweh our God. If we read it “as is”, we are told that the way of Yahweh our God will be prepared, and Yahweh will come on the way. There is nothing to indicate it would not be Yahweh that would come on this way. This simply displays John as the emissary of the coming King, Yahweh our God.

        As we can see, Jesus is Yahweh for whom John prepared the way (cf. Acts 18:25-26, 19:9+23). After declaring that John prepares the way of Yahweh, we are told about John’s witness of Jesus:
        “I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
        Mark 1:8

        “John answered them all, saying, I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
        Luke 3:16

        see Matthew 3:11, John 1:33, 20:22. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of God and only God can baptize anyone with the Holy Spirit.

        Yahweh Jesus Christ, the Precious Chief Corner Stone, the Sure Foundation, and the Stone of stumbling which the builders rejected:
        “And he beheld them, and said, What is this then that is written,
        The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner? [Psalm 118:22]
        Whosoever shall fall upon that stone shall be broken; [Isaiah 8:15]
        but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder. [cf. Daniel 2:34-35+44-45]”
        Luke 20:17-18

        “And have ye not read this scripture;
        The stone which the builders rejected is become the head of the corner:
        This was the Yahweh’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?” [Psalm 118:19-23]
        Mark 12:10-11

        “Sanctify Yahweh of hosts himself;
        and let him [Yahweh] be your fear, and let him [Yahweh] be your dread.
        And he [Yahweh] shall be for a sanctuary;
        →but [Yahweh shall be] for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence← to both the houses of Israel,
        for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And many among them shall stumble, and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken.”
        Isaiah 8:13-15

        “Open to me the gates of righteousness:
        I will go into them, and I will praise Yahweh:
        This gate of Yahweh, into which the righteous shall enter.
        I will praise thee:
        for thou [Yahweh] hast heard me, and art become my salvation [li’yeshua].
        The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.
        This is Yahweh’s doing; it is marvellous in our eyes.”
        Psalm 118:19-23

        These tie together again here:
        “Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture,
        Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious:
        and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. [Isaiah 28:16]
        Unto you therefore which believe he is precious:
        but unto them which be disobedient,
        the stone which the builders disallowed,
        the same is made the head of the corner, [Psalm 118:22]
        And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, [Isaiah 8:14]
        even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient:
        whereunto also they were appointed.”
        1 Peter 2:6-8

        (cf. Acts 4:10-12, Eph. 2:20, also Romans 9:32-33, 10:11, 1 Corinthians 1:23)

        Christ the LORD:
        “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour,
        which is Christ the LORD.”
        Luke 2:11

        “And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost,
        and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. [cf. Matthew 3:11, Mark 1:8, Luke 3:16, John 1:33, 20:22] (…)

        For these are not drunken, as ye suppose,
        seeing it is but the third hour of the day.
        But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel;
        And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God,
        I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: (…)

        And it shall come to pass,
        that whosoever shall call on the name of Yahweh shall be saved. [Joel 2:28-32] (…)

        For David speaketh concerning him [Jesus],
        I foresaw the Lord [Yahweh] always before my face,
        for he is on my right hand, that I should not be moved: [Psalm 16:8] (…)

        For David is not ascended into the heavens:
        but he saith himself, Yahweh said unto my Lord,
        Sit thou on my right hand,
        Until I make thy foes thy footstool. [Psalm 110:1]
        Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly,
        that God hath made that same Jesus,
        whom ye have crucified, both Yahweh and Christ.”
        Acts 2:4+15-17+21+34-36

        “I have set Yahweh always before me:
        because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.”
        Psalm 16:8

        “Neither is there salvation in any other [name but Jesus Christ]:
        for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”
        Acts 4:12

        Concerning Ps. 110, there is one important thing to consider, the dynamic between v.1 and v.5. v.5 reads “Adonai” in the MT, (which is Yahweh anyways), but originally read Yahweh:
        “Yahweh said unto my Lord,
        Sit thou at my right hand,
        until I make thine enemies thy footstool. (…)
        Yahweh at thy right hand shall strike through kings in the day of his wrath.”
        Psalm 110:1+5

        As you can see, the Lord at the right Hand is the LORD (cf. Matt. 22:42-46 where Jesus is telling the Pharisees that He is Yahweh).
        “And said unto the woman,
        Now we believe, not because of thy saying:
        for we have heard him ourselves,
        and know that this is indeed the Christ,
        the Saviour of the world.”

        cf. John 4:42, cf. Isaiah 43:11, 45:21, Hosea 13:4, Psalm 62:2+6

        “For so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.”
        2 Peter 1:11
        __________________________________________________

        “And the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom.”
        Mark 15:38

        “And he said unto them,
        How is it that ye do not understand?”
        Mark 8:21

        • First of all, the texts that you refer to were indeed written in Greek – but even if you were to posit that everything in the New Testament had an Aramaic original, it would not provide a way for you to say what you were saying in English. Obviously one can always say “one and only” or “unique,” and New Testament authors do precisely that. But that is not the point – the NT authors view Jesus as one who is indeed unique, but nonetheless still the unique son of God in a sense that did not yet involve a complete redefinition of what that phrase meant in a Jewish context. And hence Paul makes clear that it is God who exalts Jesus to a place of universal sovereignty second only to God’s, and hence in the end the Son hands the kingdom over to the Father so that God may be all in all. And even in the Gospel of John, reference is made to the Father as “the only true God.”

          The rendering of those places where Jesus is called “lord” as though it said “Yahweh” is unjustified.

          You could obviously have saved yourself a lot of time copying and pasting in passages. I hope that my book on the New Testament depictions of Jesus in their monotheistic Jewish context makes clear that I am fully aware of them. But quoting selectively, so that you mention that Jesus bears the divine name or forgives sin, without quoting the contexts that indicate that the authority he has is given to him by God, may not be deliberate misrepresentation, but neither is it taking completely seriously what the NT authors wrote in its entirety.

          • Jerdna Friedemann

            Hello James,

            thank you for your reply.

            “the texts that you refer to were indeed written in Greek”
            i understand that is the opinion of the academic consensus, as well as yours. It is not mine, though. However, much of what i believe is considered “fringe” among academic circles, just as anything that is academic consensus would have been considered fringe a few decades ago (and it won’t be long until everybody will know that the NT is Aramaic). i believe all the NT was written before ~75AD, that most of it was written by the traditionally attributed Authors, that it was crafted very purposefully by the Apostles, in all meticulous detail, under divine inspiration (which is why the Bible reveals many interesting structural features), and that many Apostles knew most of its writings, and accepted them as scripture. i also believe about everything written in the NT actually happened. i am also not a trinitarian and never have been one either (after going through a lot of data, i am sure my theology has no official designation, so that’s especially “fringe” [pls note i am not a modalist or related either]), and am convinced that “being trinitarian” is one of the biggest obstacles to understanding biblical theology, as it essentially messes it all up.

            Since no exegesis is ever free of assumptions, i have only one assumption, that it is possible to obtain Truth through the righteous search for Truth in all things, and one belief, that is that Jesus actually is *the* Son of God (whch in turn implies my sole religious belief, that the Lord Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of the One True God). i understand my “ignorance” may make you unwilling to engage in any further conversation with me. i totally understand your position though, it is all too familiar, as everybody knows what everybody knows. i don’t think discussing our differences would help, though, as your knowledge depends upon so many generally accepted “facts”, it would take way too long to go through all our differences.

            “but even if you were to posit that everything in the New Testament had an Aramaic original, it would not provide a way for you to say what you were saying in English.”
            Imho, the Authors themselves wrote in Aramaic (or possibly Hebrew) and had their writings translated into Greek (sometimes it may have been the other way around, e.g. Philemon). They always wrote to communities that had many Jews in them, and according to Jesus the Gospel is first to the Jews. i also believe Luke and Acts was conceived in both Greek and Aramaic from the beginning, it is a “bilingual” work. You surely know the many claims to Mark being written in Latin, which, if correct, would mean it was translated into Aramaic and Greek while it was being written. However, the original language is of marginal importance, the only problem with the Greek text is its ambiguity, which is expected, given that it is a translation.

            “Obviously one can always say “one and only” or “unique,” and New Testament authors do precisely that.”
            Yes, but we have no reason to assume that the Author of Mark felt it neccessary to distinguish *the* Son of God from other sons of God even more than he already did. After all, he did a whole lot to make it clear: That’s the one, that’s the guy, this is the ultimate Son of the most High God, the Holy one of God. Mark is giving us superlative after another, and because there is another somewhere else, you’ll tell me it all means nothing? Are you saying that there is only exactly your way to express Jesus’ unique Sonship and that’s it? Why, because you want to believe Mark’s Gospel contains a low Christology, after unambiguously calling Him Yahweh several times (Mark 1:1-3, 12:10-11 and the others you do not accept because they do not fit your perception)? That makes no sense.

            “But that is not the point – the NT authors view Jesus as one who is indeed unique, but nonetheless still the unique son of God in a sense that did not yet involve a complete redefinition of what that phrase meant in a Jewish context.”
            i believe your and my understanding of what “Son of God” means in a pre-Christian Jewish context is quite different. Just like the Word “God”, it has divine and human definitions. As we saw, divinity is impied in all the NT writings from the beginning. The NT and its message of the Son of God were specifically designed to not give the phrase any predefined meaning, but rather let the reader come to a knowledge of what that means, though supreme divinity is always implied.

            Of course we need to look at the NT writings in their own context more than the Jewish context. When the Roman centurion said “Truly this man was the Son of God”, he did not have or need a Jewish definition. That guy was probably smart enough to know that Ceasar is not really the son of any god, but he realized Jesus was different – the real deal. The demons may not have adhered to any definition that was common in rabbinical Judaism either. Nathanael *did* understand what it meant, though the context leaves us room to consider that he may have had special insight (being called righteous by Jesus). When a Jew heard that Jesus is the Son of God, his definition may have been as off as the Roman’s, but that is of secondary importance. You are supposed to gradually grow in the knowledge of the Son of God (Eph. 4:13, cf. Mark 4:21-23). However, the OT actually contains a reference to the “final NT definition” of the Son of God, in a prophecy found in Proverbs 30:4, which is answered in John 3:13.

            “And hence Paul makes clear that it is God who exalts Jesus to a place of universal sovereignty second only to God’s, and hence in the end the Son hands the kingdom over to the Father so that God may be all in all. And even in the Gospel of John, reference is made to the Father as “the only true God.”
            … all the while Christ is already the All and in All (Col. 3:11). And yes, the Son of Man is that Eternal Father which is in the Highest Heaven (John 3:13+31, Eph. 4:10, 1 Cor. 15:47 etc.), but that’s a very different issue, and one far removed from out current issue (In what sense was Jesus considered “Son of God” at the beginning).

            “The rendering of those places where Jesus is called “lord” as though it said “Yahweh” is unjustified.”
            One could argue just as well that to render it any other way is unjustified. Of the ~700 “kurios” in the Greek text, ~160 are unambiguously Yahweh, no matter if Greek or any other version (OT quotes, common OT phrases where “Lord” is always Yahweh (“Angel of the LORD”, “Way(s) of the LORD”, “Spirit of the LORD”, “Hand of the LORD”, “Lord GOD”, “LORD God” etc), and sometimes context e.g. Rom. 10:12-13). However, it would be short sighted to assume that it was never implied or intended any other time. For example, the phrase “Lord of All” in Acts 10:36 may very well be a proper translation of “Yahweh Zebaoth”, into Aramaic, and then Greek. So, to say that any occurence of “kurios” does or does not mean Yahweh requires evidence, and lack of evidence would mean it is entirely up to interpretation. So, it is assumed you are reading your theoretical theology into it, which says Jesus is not really God, and thereby you judge it “unjustified”.

            Personally, though, i follow the less ambigious Syriac Peshitta, which i consider more original (if not completely so) than the Greek NT, and which is my personal textual authority pertaining to my faith. The Peshitta, as you may know, uses the masculine singular emphatic “Marya”. As you are surely aware, in the OT, this form is used *only* in replacement of “Yahweh”, and never for any other purpose, and in the NT it is *only* applied to Jesus “and” God, and we find it *exactly* where we know with certainty “Yahweh” should be (OT quotes etc), in addition to several times where it “simply appears” in the text (~215 total). When you saw me “unjustifiably” use “Yahweh”, i was following that model. However, any point i feel like making can be made with the 160 unambigious “Yahweh”s in the NT. i am sure all my “fringe positions” are making your hairs stand by now.

            “I hope that my book on the New Testament depictions of Jesus in their monotheistic Jewish context makes clear that I am fully aware of them.”
            i didn’t read your book, sorry. i love reading, but have limited funds and time to put into that habit. i certainly put it on my list, as i love reading stuff from people i talk(ed) to, but that list is long, and usually only gets longer. :v

            “But quoting selectively, so that you mention that Jesus bears the divine name or forgives sin, without quoting the contexts that indicate that the authority he has is given to him by God, may not be deliberate misrepresentation, but neither is it taking completely seriously what the NT authors wrote in its entirety.”
            Not at all. It was you that asked for limited context. You expressed a selective interest in Mark and Luke, disregarding the rest. Of course presenting and explaining NT theology works best if you read the whole thing as was intended by the Authors, and then the whole thing can make sense. Yes, Jesus forgiving sins implies divinity (at least to the Jewish context (which you implied has primacy), as is evident from the narrative), yet the Apostles, being partakers in Christ’s divinity (through the Spirit that proceeds from the Father, Jesus Christ) had that responsibility as well (John 20:21-23). Only God bears the divine Name in full, as Messiah does (Jer. 23:5-6, Ps. 110 etc.), as there is and can only be One Yahweh (Deut. 6:4 etc.), but i’m sure you think to disagree. Oh well, so many issues…

            Bible theology is actually very simple. It is eclectic natural theology, fully revealed and understood through the Son of God. It is the strictest monotheism possible while allowing for a logical maximum range of meaning for its individual concepts (i.e. rather than just saying “God is One”, you are going into all the details of that One God). If you know ancient Jewish execetical arguments, you surely know its extremely logical and level-headed approach to scripture. Such an approach is needed to understand scripture, together with the “fear of Yahweh”, which may be understood as the ability to reserve judgment unntil all factors have been considered, if your character is sincere and longs for Truth more than life itself. However, the NT also implies you must accept Jesus Christ to understand theology (Matt. 11:27, Luke 10:22 etc).

            If we take the OT by itself, apart from (but not ignorant of) Jewish exegetical studies, we can gather all the keys needed to understand NT theology. An important one is scriptural self-definition of theological terms. When Moses spoke to Yahweh face to face (Ex. 33:11), we are told that Moses cannot see His face (Ex. 33:20-23). This is an obvious and purposeful “contradiction”, it is meant to tell you that proper definitions of “face” must be sought. The best way to do this is of course to seek His face. A similar “contradiction is (obviously purposefully) found in Prov. 26:4-5.

            In Gen. 17, Yahweh introduces Himself as “the Almighty God”, yet in Gen. 18:21, we see Yahweh expressing the desire to see Sodom for Himself – all the while Yahweh fills heaven and earth (Jer. 23:23-24, Psalm 139:7-8). In the next chapter, we see Yahweh calling fire from Yahweh out of Heaven (Gen. 19:24) – yet, no Jewish interpretation ever suggested “two separate Yahwehs”. Just as we do not find “two Yahwehs” in Psalm 110:1+5. We are also told that the Angel of Yahweh is Yahweh Himself (1 Chr. 21:16-17, 2 Chr. 3:1 etc.), and when Jacob wrestled with God, and saw Him face to face (Gen. 32:24-32), he wrestles with an Angel (Hosea 12:3-4).

            In this bulding of contrast, OT theology goes so far as to tell us that Yahweh, being good, created both light and darkness, both good and evil (Is. 45:7). We are even told that Yahweh tempted David (2 Samuel 24:1), although it was actually satan (1 Chronicles 21:1). And of course a logically strict monotheism presupposes one ultimate Origin for all things, whether good or bad, and this is what we are supposed to learn, that all things ultimately come from God. However, while the Angel of Yahweh is Yahweh, satan is not Yahweh (cf. James 1:13). All things exist in and from God, but not all things are God.

            NT theology is no different, it only has a different focus (the Son of God as Messiah, cf. John 20:31, 1 Cor. 2:2, 2 Cor. 4:6, Col. 2:3, Eph. 2:20, Heb. 1:3 etc.). Yet, from the beginning, we are told that Jesus’ Words are mostly parables and mysteries that were hidden to prior generations (Mark 4:10-12+21-23, Matthew 10:26-27, 13:10-17+35 (Ps. 78:2), Col. 1:26, Rom. 16:25, Eph. 3:3-4+9 etc.). In this revelation of new things, terms get redefined.

            In the OT, no one ever said God would be invisible, but only that seeing Him can cause death, and hence some have seen Him. The elders of Israel “saw the God of Israel”, which of course is Yahweh Himself (Ex. 24:10, Deut. 6:4). Yahweh is visible and has been seen. In the NT, we are told that God is invisible (1 Tim. 1:17), cannot be seen (1 Tim. 6:16), and absolutely no one has seen God at any time, but instead He is declared by the only begotten God (John 1:18), who is the only begotten Son of God (John 3:18, Heb. 1:2-3+10-12). As you can see, the Word “God” gained another quality in the NT not found in the OT. It still retained the old, though (cf. 3 John 11). The same is true for many other words, such as Heaven John 3:13 (cf. Gen. 5:24, 2 Ki. 2:11, Prov. 30:4) [the Highest Heaven Jesus speaks of is God Himself, but that’s another issue (for starters cf. Jer. 33:16)].

            We are told of this Son of God that He is Christ the Lord at birth (Luke 2:11), and yet He was made both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36) through glorification. We are told that the God raised the Son (Acts 2:24), yet the Son said He will raise Himself (John 2:19-21, 10:17-18), and the Father does *all* things by the Son (John 5:19-20). We are told no one has seen the Father (John 1:18, 5:37, 6:46, 1 Tim. 1:17, 6:16, Col. 1:15), and yet they have seen Him (John 1:18, 12:45, 14:7-9+17, 15:24, Col. 1:15, Heb. 1:3, 2 Cor. 4:4-6, 3 John 11).

            This is the “Son of God” all the NT speaks of: The Son of God is not just the Son of Yahweh, He IS Yahweh. It is His own title reserved for His appearance among His own, in all lowliness (Isaiah 53:2). Moses spoke to *the* Son of God. Jacob fought with *the* Son of God. The Elders of Israel saw *the* Son of God. Isaiah saw *the* Son of God (John 12:37-41). The Son of God is simply all that emanates from God into creation in any way or form. The infinite God Himself made manifest in finite creation, to lead us to Eternal Life in God.

            The NT contains so much more to declare the Son to be Yahweh than it contains to declare the Father to be Yahweh (though of course Jesus, who is Yahweh, is Father and Son). Never in the NT – not even once – is Jesus called the Son of the Lord/LORD (As He is the LORD). Only once is the Father called Lord (Matt. 11:25, Luke 10:21), and that seems to be a quote from Genesis 14:19+22, where the equivalent of “kurios” is “posessor” (qanah). Nowhere else does “Father” and “Lord” ever come together in the NT, as the understanding that the Father is LORD comes by understanding that the LORD Jesus Christ is the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit (for example cf. Matt. 28:19, Luke 24:47, Acts 2:38).

            Of course this is not even a general overview, more of an introduction. If you accept that Jesus is Yahweh, there is no discrepancy in NT theology, and it all adds up from the first to the last. If you reject the Stone that the builders have rejected, how do you expect to make sense of life at all?

            May God bless you with the Truth of His Son.

          • Pointing out that views that were once fringe subsequently became mainstream does not justify simply asserting things that do not fit the evidence. The Letter to the Hebrews, for instance, is in impeccable Greek, and shows no evidence of being a translation. If you wish to simply assert things which have no evidence to support them, that is bad enough and makes discussion pointless. And that is what you do in much of your comment. But you are, in claiming that the Peshitta is a precursor of the Greek New Testament rather than a translation, or that texts like Hebrews were composed in Aramaic, asserting things that are contrary to the evidence. That isn’t adopting a fringe but nonetheless plausible view. It is choosing to disregard evidence and believe whatever you choose.

            Ending it with an appeal which makes a false claim – namely that viewing Jesus as Yahweh makes sense of, rather than creates severe problems for, an attempt to make sense of the New Testament texts in contextual ways – is obviously not going to be persuasive.

            Perhaps you can focus on one detail and actually give it the attention it deserves? In Philippians 2, the divine name is not something Jesus possesses, but something bestowed upon him when God exalts him. By the time we get to John, the name is given to the Son at some earlier point, but it is still “the name you gave me.” How does the view that Jesus simply is Yahweh fit with the New Testament texts which indicate that this name was given to him – to say nothing of the many other texts which do not simply distinguish between the Father and the Son, but between God and Jesus?

          • Jerdna Friedemann

            Hello James,

            please excuse the delay, i didn’t have time for a proper answer before now. i will answer your theological question first.

            “In Philippians 2, the divine name is not something Jesus possesses, but something bestowed upon him when God exalts him. By the time we get to John, the name is given to the Son at some earlier point, but it is still “the name you gave me.” How does the view that Jesus simply is Yahweh fit with the New Testament texts which indicate that this name was given to him – to say nothing of the many other texts which do not simply distinguish between the Father and the Son, but between God and Jesus?”

            i understand your concern, though it is not easy to answer this concisely not knowing your theological theories.

            Surely you are aware of the implications of Name, will/law/character/personality/mind (Matt. 12:21+Is. 42:4), then authority/power (Matt. 28:18-19, Acts 4:7-12, Col. 3:17), then the spoken Name itself (Acts 2:38). Hence, “Name” in scripture is a multi-faceted Word.

            Actually, i partially addressed this in my previous posts. Luke tells us that Jesus is “Christ and LORD (Yahweh)” at birth (Luke 2:11), yet later Luke tells us that Peter says that He was “made Christ and LORD (Yahweh)” after the crucifixion (Acts 2:36). Therefore, technically it would not have been wrong for Jesus to say “You gave me your Name” at any point in time. However, the giving Paul and Peter refer to is the same giving Jesus refers to in Matthew 28:18-19, when He received all authority (=the highest Name) in heaven and earth. Of course this all is the glorification.

            The real issue is which name John meant. Interestingly, the prayer in John 17 is spoken *after* John 13, in which Jesus said that the glorification had already begun (John 13:31). So, the exaltation was already in progress when He spoke the prophetic prayer. In Rev. 3:12, we are told that Jesus has a “new” Name. Of course it is a matter of interpretation, but if Jesus Christ is Yahweh, then the new name would be Jesus. This matches Peter’s words that the Name that is *given* to us for salvation is Jesus Christ (Acts 4:10-12), though of course he was making a reference to Joel 2:32. Remember that with God’s Son, we receive all things (Rom. 8:32), so we are given what He has.

            Basically, we are dealing with two perspectives here. Jesus was the seed that came out from God, but to bear fruit He had to be lifted up above all heavens, so that He may be the all in all. This is the glorification, when Jesus was “made Yahweh”. However before He was glorified, He first descended (1 Cor. 15:47, Phil. 2:6, Heb. 2:9). This is when the root of David, who is God (Luke 3:38), became the offspring of David, who is God (Rom. 9:5) (Rev. 22:16). This is the incarnation, when the Word became flesh (John 1:14), when Yahweh laid down His majesty and came into humanity.

            In the end, all of the Name issues are summed up in this: The Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit is Yahweh Jesus Christ (Matt. 28:18-19, Luke 24:47, Acts 2:38 etc).

            Now to textual issues.

            “The Letter to the Hebrews, for instance, is in impeccable Greek, and shows no evidence of being a translation.”

            Agreed, it is good Greek. i suppose that means that except for Hebrews, Luke and Acts, the NT was not written in Greek, as at times it is better Aramaic than Greek. In the Peshitta, all NT books are impeccable Aramaic, and show no signs of being a translation, but rather exhibit the free and poetic usage of the language. Is that evidence? Guess so.

            “If you wish to simply assert things which have no evidence to support them, that is bad enough and makes discussion pointless.”

            i didn’t see a point in providing evidence for my fringe positions, as they are contrary to the prevalent academic confirmation bias, which contains so many things falsely called evidence. i understand you want evidence, though, and will give you some. i hope you will be able to perceive it.

            “But you are, in claiming that the Peshitta is a precursor of the Greek New Testament rather than a translation, or that texts like Hebrews were composed in Aramaic, asserting things that are contrary to the evidence.”

            Not at all. It is merely contrary to the common interpretation of the evidence you are aware of. i am aware of it as well, but i cannot ignore any piece of evidence.

            “That isn’t adopting a fringe but nonetheless plausible view. It is choosing to disregard evidence and believe whatever you choose.”

            Not at all. i follow Truth in all things. Consequently, i am not easily persuaded by anything, especially what people make up when they don’t know what to do with their time (i.e. academic consensus in some sciences, with an overbalance in historical sciences, and the center of gravity around Jesus, the Bible and Christianity.). At any time in history, half of science is pseudoscience. In short, i like my evidence ripe, properly seated in its context. Most of my life i had no opinions on anything, i waited for more insight and evidence and understanding. i don’t work sloppy, i take as many decades as it takes to answer any one question.

            Of course, the little evidence i have may ultimately disappoint you, but that is how it is with historical issues. If there was a Hebrew NT in 1st century Palestine, and we simply don’t have it anymore, that’s pretty hard to prove. Concerning the language of the NT and its evidence, i will give historical before linguistic, though.

            1) A Syriac NT Manuscript supposedly from 78CE is in the Vatican Archive, unfortunately unreleased:

            JS Assemane, Biblioteca apostolica vaticana. Bibliothecae Apostolicae Vaticanae codicum manuscriptorum catalogus in tres partes distributus: in quarum prima Orientales, in altera Graeci in tertia Latini Italici aliorumque Europaeorum idiomatum codices. vol. 2-3. (Paris: Maisonneuve, 1926)

            Part 1, Vol 2, Codex XC, Page 492, §48, Translation from Latin and Syriac:

            “On this old Gospel upon the altar of the Holy Church that is in the temple of the Romans from the city of Baghdad. There was an Old Edessan Gospel that was clear with no missing letters, and was said to be better than any new Books. Only the first section was lost from it from that time period and at the end was written:

            This Holy Book was finished on the 5th day in the week, the 18th in December of the year 389 of the Greeks (i.e. 78 AD). Handwriting by the hand of the apostle AHay friend of Mor Mori the student of Mor Aday (Thaddaeus) the Apostle; his prayer be with us Amen!”

            http://contentdm.lib.byu.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/CUA/id/101968

            2) A 1st/2nd c. Jewish tradition concerning the handling of texts containing the sacred Name in case of fire speaks of the Christian Gospels containing references to the Name:

            “The books of the Evangelists and the books of the minim they do not save from a fire [on the Sabbath]. They are allowed to burn up where they are, they and [even] the references to the Divine Name that are in them.”

            Rabbi Tarfon (~70-135CE), Tosfeta, Shabbat 13:5-A, cf. Babylonian Talmud Shabbath 116a, Jerusalem Talmud Shabbat 15c

            3) It is well-known that Tatian developed the Syriac Diatessaron (Gospel harmony) ca. 175CE. Of course many today assume he translated them from the Greek, which of course makes little sense, as in 175CE a Semitic NT would have been readily available for the vast part of Christianity in and eastward of Israel. Tatian did not use Greek Gospels and both translated and rearranged them at once, he simply used his Syriac Gospels and made a harmony, which is why textually the Diatessaron and the Peshitta agree with each other (but of course that is my opinion).

            4) Epiphanius of Salamis tells us the story of Josephus of Tiberias, who apparently opened a sealed treasury, in which he “found no money, but books money could not buy”, among them the Gospels of Matthew and John, and the Acts of the Apostles, all in Hebrew. Epiphanus says John and Acts are translations, but it seems he is giving his opinion, as the story makes no hint to the origin of the texts. He doesn’t say what else was in the treasury, but seems to imply his readers may already know of these Hebrew texts.

            The Panarion of Epiphanius of Salamis, 374–377CE, Part 30 (“Epiphanius Against the Ebionites”) 3:7-9, 5:4, 6:7-9, 12:10

            5) Statements concerning the language of the NT writings from the Church Fathers:

            Please note that these people mostly know “Hebrew” and the Hebrews from their Christian faith. Like the NT, many of them make no distinction between Aramaic and Hebrew in name.

            Concerning the language of Paul’s letters:

            “He [Paul] being a Hebrew wrote in Hebrew, that is, his own tongue and most fluently while things which were eloquently written in Hebrew were more eloquently turned into Greek.”
            Jerome (~380CE), Lives of Illustrious Men, Book V

            Concerning the language (and authorship) of “Hebrews”:

            “The epistle to the Hebrews he asserts was written by Paul, to the Hebrews, in the Hebrew tongue; but that it was carefully translated by Luke, and published among the Greeks.”
            Clement of Alexandria, Hypotyposes (~198-203CE), referred to by Eusebius in Eccl. Hist.6:14:2

            “For as Paul had addressed the Hebrews in the language of his country; some say that the evangelist Luke, others that Clement, translated the epistle.”
            Eusebius, ~315CE, Eccl. Hist. 3:38:2-3

            Concerning the language of Matthew:

            “Matthew composed the words in the Hebrew dialect, and each translated as he was able.”
            Papias, ~150-170 CE, quoted by Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. 3:39

            “Matthew also issued a written gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect.”
            Ireneus, 170 CE, Against Heresies 3:1

            “The first is written according to Matthew, the same that was once a tax collector, but afterwards an emissary of Jesus Christ, who having published it for the Jewish believers, wrote it in Hebrew.”
            Origen, ~210 CE, quoted by Eusebius, Eccl. Hist. 6:25

            “Matthew also, having first proclaimed the Gospel in Hebrew, when on the point of going also to the other nations, committed it to writing in his native tongue, and thus supplied the want of his presence to them by his writings.”
            Eusebius, ~315 CE, Eccl. Hist. 3:24

            “Pantaenus (…) penetrated as far as India, where it is reported that he found the Gospel according to Matthew, which had been delivered before his arrival to some who had the knowledge of Christ, to whom Bartholomew, one of the emissaries, as it is said, had proclaimed, and left them the writing of Matthew in Hebrew letters.”
            Eusebius, ~315 CE, Eccl. Hist. 5:10

            “They [the Nazarenes] have the Gospel according to Matthew quite complete in Hebrew, for this Gospel is certainly still preserved among them as it was first written, in Hebrew letters.”
            Epiphanius, ~370CE, Panarion 29:9:4

            “Matthew, who is also Levi, and from a tax collector came to be an emissary first of all evangelists composed a Gospel of Christ in Judea in the Hebrew language and letters, for the benefit of those of the circumcision who had believed, who translated it into Greek is not sufficiently ascertained.

            Furthermore, the Hebrew itself is preserved to this day in the library at Caesarea, which the martyr Pamphilus so diligently collected. I also was allowed by the Nazarenes who use this volume in the Syrian city of Borea to copy it. In which is to be remarked that, wherever the evangelist (…) makes use of the testimonies of the Old Scripture, he does not follow the authority of the seventy translators [The LXX], but that of the Hebrew.”
            Jerome, ~380 C.E., Of Illustrious Men 3

            “Pantaenus found that Bartholomew, one of the twelve emissaries, had there [India] preached the advent of our Lord Jesus Christ according to the Gospel of Matthew, which was written in Hebrew letters, and which, on returning to Alexandria, he brought with him.”
            Jerome, ~380 C.E., De Vir. 3:36

            6) There is also the “Jerusalem Colophon”, a statement found in a number of Greek Manuscripts (Λ, 20, 164, 215, 262, 300, 376, 428, 565, 686, 78, and 1071) that they were copied and corrected “from ancient manuscripts at Jerusalem”. It is possible that “ancient manuscripts at Jerusalem” was supposed to imply Hebrew / Aramaic texts.

            7) Now to a few linguistic observations. Although the Peshitta follows the Greek text closely, much of it is poetic, which would be nearly impossible if it were a translation. See “Ruach Qadim: Aramaic Origins of the New Testament” (2005) by Andrew Gabriel Roth. There are also a number of Greek variants that can be explained by an underlying Aramaic original text. This free book lists a number of them (please note that i do not agree with everything in the book, some arguments are poor!):

            https://web.archive.org/web/20090206163407/http://aramaicpeshitta.com/Was%20the%20New%20Testament%20Really%20Written%20in%20Greek%20-%20Edition%201b.pdf

            Many NT scholars have observed that the Gospels, Acts and Revelation seem to have an Aramaic original. Often times, the Greek NT speaks better Aramaic than Greek, following Aramaic grammar, using Aramaic idioms and more. Some scholars have observed that the Peshitta does not read like a translation. A full listing would use too much space here, but if you desire some, say so.

            Several times in the NT, Hebrew and/or Aramaic is identified as the language of the people (Acts 1:19, 21:40 etc). Imho, the NT authors were Aramaic speaking Jews (except possibly Luke and Mark), and they all attested that the Gospel is “to the Jews first”, and that Jesus taught this as well. Many NT writings indicate they were written to Jews and mixed congregations.

          • I find it very amusing that you have linked to something by Raphael Lataster – he used to hold to Peshitta primacy, abandoned it, and now thinks Jesus never existed.

            The Vatican has it but hasn’t released the manuscript, but there is just enough information on the internet for you, genius that you are, to realize what they have, but not enough for scholars to be persuaded by. Right…

            If you replace the references to Jesus as lord in the New Testament with “Yahweh” then of course you are going to think Jesus is Yahweh!

            If you are willing to believe whatever you wish to in a credulous manner, that is up to you. But I hope you can see that you are being gullible, choosing to believe things that no one knowledgeable about the subjects in question finds persuasive.

          • Jerdna Friedemann

            Hello James,

            thank you for your reply. Yes, i know Lataster’s story. So what? His books is 50% good info, and 50% junk. It was just the quickest reference i could give you. You wanted evidence. i already knew that was actually a lie, but i was willing to give you the benefit of the doubt.

            My evidence so far trumps yours my several orders of magnitude. Greek Hebrews is good Greek. Aramaic Hebrews is impeccable Aramaic.

            Concerning the manuscript, it exists. Why you haven’t heard of it, that is another story. i would say you simply don’t know as much as you think.

            As i wrote before, there is no need to follow the Peshitta on the Yahweh issue. The references to Yahweh that can be extracted from the Greek NT by certain inference is totally enough. Jesus is Yahweh, always has been, always will be, and all the NT writings state this, as all the Apostles and first Christians believed it. You simply chose to ignore it, as your trade commonly does that.

            i thank you for informing me of my gullibility. i never knew that my positions are so fringe. You rocked my world. Unfortunately, you are wrong.

            As i said some time before, in a few years this will not be an open question anymore. Evidence is being revealed as we speak, adding up to something you can’t hope to deny. The proof is in the pudding, and anyone that wills may eat it.

          • Jerdna Friedemann

            Totally forgot to underline the Bible’s point (sticking to the Greek version for your sake).

            Jesus is identified as Yahweh:
            Isaiah 40:3 + Matthew 3:3, Mark 1:2-3, Luke 1:76+3:4, John 1:23, Acts 18:25-26
            Isaiah 45:23 + Phil. 2:9-11, Rom. 14:11
            Zechaiah 12:10 + John 19:37, Rev. 1:7
            Isaiah 6 + John 12:37-41
            Joel 2:31-32 + Acts 2:20-21, 22:16, 1 Cor. 6:11, Rom. 10:13, 2 Tim. 2:19
            Psalm 118:26 + Matthew 21:9, Mark 11:9, Luke 19:38, John 12:13
            Psalm 118:26 + Matthew 23:39, Luke 13:35
            Psalm 118:22, Isaiah 8:13-15, 44:6-8 + Luke 20:19, Acts 4:11, Eph. 2:20, 1 Peter 2:6-8, 1 Cor. 10:4+9, Matt. 16.18
            Isaiah 53:1 + John 12:38
            Psalm 117:1 + Romans 15:11
            Psalm 34:2 + 1 Cor. 1:30-31
            Isaiah 40:13 + 1 Cor. 2:16, Rom. 11:34
            Jeremiah 31:31-34 + Heb. 8:8-11
            Deuteronomy 32:36 + Heb. 10:30 + John 5:22
            Joshua 1:5 + Heb. 13:5-6
            Psalm 34:15-16 + 1 Peter 3:12
            Psalm 102:25-27 + Heb. 1:10-12
            Isaiah 44:24, Psalm 102:25-27 + Heb. 1:2-3+10-12, 2:10, Col. 1:16-17, John 1:3+10, 5:19-20, 1 Cor. 8:6 [, Eph. 3:9]
            Joel 2:31-32, Isaiah 43:10-13 + Acts 2:21+38, 4:12, 22:16, Rom. 10:12-13, 1 Cor. 1:2+6:11, 1 Pet. 1:1+11, Tit. 2:13
            Isaiah 42:8, 48:11 + Heb.1:2-3, 2 Cor. 4:3-6
            Psalm 24:1 + 1 Cor. 10:26
            Psalm 110:1+5 + Matt. 22:42-46
            Jeremiah 23:5-6

            Jesus is called God (directly or by direct inference):
            John 1:1, 20:28, Tit. 2:13, 2 Pet. 1:1, Matt. 1:23, Luke 7:16, John 1:18, Acts 20:28, Rom. 8:9, 9:5, 1 John 5:20, Heb. 1:8, Col. 2:9

            Also compare:
            Tit. 2:13, Jude 4, 2 Thess. 1:12, 2 Pet. 1:1+11, 2:20, 3:18, 1 Cor. 12:3

          • I am aware of every verse you have mentioned in the above comment. I do not think that they mean what you think they mean. It is clear that, as one who exercises authority on behalf of God, language related to God’s rule and even praise are transferred to Jesus. But it is always done in a manner that makes clear that that is what is happening. So, for instance, the use of Isaiah 45 in Romans indicates that Paul understood that passage monotheistically (and it really cannot be understood any other way), and so when it is applied to Jesus in Philippians, it is as the one whom the one God exalted, upon whom the one God bestowed the divine name Yahweh to rule on his behalf, and when he receives universal acclaim, it is to the glory of the one God.

          • Denialists and conspiracy theorists are always positive that in a few years their viewpoint will be proven decisively. But when the best evidence you can offer is a book that you consider half junk, and which its own author has repudiated, that serves as counterevidence to your unjustifiably confident claims.

          • Jerdna Friedemann

            Hello James,

            thank you for your reply. i am a bit disheartened that you continuously attempt to antagonize me. In my initial responses, i made my positions clear, and i also made clear that i am aware that in the current academic mind, that is more or less completely opposite to what is “correct”. i know all about the academic positions, i studied them and their history well.

            i agree with your self-description as a “denialist”. Not sure where anyone saw a conspiracy, though, but i can’t really know what’s in your head. i think it is more a problem of ignorance, and i suppose you agree :v . Historically speaking, the only thing that would be discontinuous would be for Biblical sciences to not undergo major changes in the next few decades. i understand you knew most of the evidence i provided for my positions. i also understand that you only accept any evidence if it supports your position.

            For example i could ask you if the Gospels always had the names of their Authors attached to them. Your answer would depend on less evidence than i gave, and none of it would be of another kind. i could ask you if the Epistles quote or clearly allude to the Gospels. Your answer would either be in contradiction to the academic narrative, or deny the evidence found in the Epistles. The same it true for thousands of the things you think you know. You are the victim of hundreds of years of accumulation of errors. Just read a few books of German 19th century Bible criticism, you will see that while almost 100% of their arguments are not made today (and in fact are considered completely fallacious), their conclusions are still “correct”. Do you believe that by accident they simply drew the right conclusions, although they misinterpreted and twisted the evidence, or that maybe they were simply (consciously or subconsciously) seeking a particular narrative?

            Of course you are aware of scripture, and of course you are essentially claiming that it is 100% impossible for the Greek New Testament to state that Jesus is Yahweh in *any* way, because you do not like that (or can you tell me how such a statement should be made, so that you would consider it agreeable? :v ). Not really sure how that works out with passages as John 12:37-41, Heb. 1:10-12, but i’m sure you can come up with an “explanation”.

            If you are a scientist, you would be aware that your narrative is built on more assumptions than you can count. You cannot hope to understand True theology, that actually requires knowledge and understanding of scripture, and/or a firm grasp on reality. However, maybe you can try the “secular” approach. Read the Tao Te King, study Physics, learn Greek philosophy, meditate a few months, humbly seek God’s face, take a few decades to get it all straightened up in your mind, and then maybe you will understand the Bible and its theology. If you actually believe in God, ask yourself if this God is the Origin of all things, if He is Love, and if He was Love before He created Love. If you can answer that properly, you would know the Father, and the Son.

            Until then, so long, and thanks for the conversation. i hoped to learn something, but not all our hopes in fallible humans are nurtured. All your reactions were entirely predictable and boring. No offence intended by anything i said, i hope you will learn to properly question what you have been led to believe.

          • Saying that you were hoping to learn something is mere rhetorical posturing, when you came here spouting nonsense, misquoting texts, citing sources that you yourself think are unreliable as often as you think they are reliable, and copying and pasting lists of texts but never being willing to discuss the reasons why they are unlikely to mean what you assume they do, and never at any point offering evidence (unless one counts your appeal to a manuscript which you wrongly believe to be in the Vatican archive and which you have never seen and could not read even if you did see it).

            Telling people to change their assumptions is easy. Providing evidence and coherent arguments for why they should do so is more difficult. If you are ever willing to do the latter, then at that point we might have something to talk about, and at that point you might actually learn something.

          • Jerdna Friedemann

            i understand. Of course you are wrong about a number of things. i do not converse with someone i know will not accept what i say so that i would simply learn how to disagree. My aim is Truth, to which you did not contribute anything new. You are extremely quick to draw false conclusions. Don’t be so careless to judge people, just because you have designated drawers for some of the things they say. Your drawers don’t provide enough room for my God and His servant.

            If you are willing, can you tell me how you know with absolute certainty that the manuscript does not exist? i ask because you are the first person i met that claims to know anything about it, and i asked a lot of scholars. That would interest me a lot, and would help me a lot. What interest does the author have in manufacturing an entry speaking of a 1st c. Syriac Gospel / NT?

            Concerning evidence, no worries, it will be provided, in its time.

          • It is not so much that the manuscript does not exist, but that there is no reason to believe that its assertions about when the text was composed are reliable. We have many ancient texts claiming to reveal truths, or represent the views of famous people. Such claims cannot be embraced uncritically.

            I will not worry, and at such point as evidence requires it, I will change my mind. But asking someone to be as gullible as you have been, because you promise that evidence will eventually be provided, is really rather ridiculous. Surely you can see that what you have written above is in essence a confession that your stance is unjustified, can’t you?

          • Jerdna Friedemann

            Hello James,

            Thank you for your reply. i understand, and suspected as much.

            Yes, i can see how someone with your perspective would think so. i can see that the evidence i have provided would not change the mind of someone that firmly believed something else their entire life, and believes in truth by academic authority alone (as you do). i can see (and suspected as much) that you consider me a fool for my positions, which is how the academic bias is kept alive and strong. i can see how even as you read what i wrote, your mind worked hard in drawing false conclusions as to what i believe that all means. i do not need a 1st c. manuscript to know the NT was at least mostly originally Aramaic and/or Hebrew (as the Greek screams it out), and never claimed it certainly existed. i do not need the Peshitta to know that Jesus is Yahweh, as i knew so a decade before i examined it. i merely provided you an overall look at what could be considered evidence, and could still fit into one post. None of it is proof of course, nor did i bring all the evidence there is.

            Of course this is why i gave you these anecdotes about what is considered evidence, as what the ancient Christians say *is* considered evidence if it fits the narrative, such as the Titles of the Gospels.

            As someone that knows the evidence found on “both sides” (i know, to you it’s not a both sides issue – neither is it to me, but i approach it as such, because after all scholars may eventually acknowledge the Truth, no matter how long it takes them to get there), i have to say that all the arguments for Greek primacy are far less convincing.

            Yet, i cannot see how someone could approach the issue impartially, patiently and diligently, and come up with the conclusions you and most other scholars hold. Most of what you believe comes from a skewed sense of what argument is proper and what isn’t, born in the historical intense fights over these issues. You should watch Ehrman’s NT video series, any real scientist can only hide in shame watching that. No other science makes as many unfounded (and simply false) claims as the primitive “science” of NT scholarship.

            In regards to the question of Aramaic primacy, the issue is simple: Only a gullible person would fall for that, case closed. No examination needed (nor was any ever really done).

            Still no reason to disrespect you of course, and i am very thankful you were willing to speak to me as long as you did (minus the insults and false conclusions). i did not expect we would agree, but hoped for respect. Of course i can not give you much more than you first gave me. Please excuse if my words seem foolish to you.

          • You have not offered evidence. You have offered assertions, sometimes linking to others who have made the assertions. You have illogically pretended that the evidence that Jesus and his earliest followers spoke Aramaic, and thus the early church transmitted material in that language, proves that the Gospels were not written in Greek, which would still not mean Peshitta primacy.

            Why not start by familiarizing yourself with scholarship on this subject? What about perhaps Casey’s work on Aramaic sources of the Gospels?

            But at any rate, presumably you can realize (1) that you cannot overturn a scholarly consensus on this topic without first being familiar with the scholarship, and (2) without knowledge of Greek, Syriac, and Palestinian Aramaic you cannot discuss the evidence in any meaningful way.

          • Jerdna Friedemann

            Hello James,

            thank you for your reply. According to the common definition of “evidence”, i have given at least some. But as i said i agree it does not constitute proof.

            “You have illogically pretended that the evidence that Jesus and his earliest followers spoke Aramaic, and thus the early church transmitted material in that language, proves that the Gospels were not written in Greek, which would still not mean Peshitta primacy.”

            Your assertions of my positions are false.

            If, for example, Revelation exhibits Aramaic grammar in its Greek text, although it is (as “must be assumed”) a fictional account created in Greek, that hints to a Semitic original, no matter how you put it.

            You also seem to easily forget what i said before. i believe the NT was written in a Semitic language, and that the Peshitta is more original than the Greek. So, imho the relation of the Peshitta to the original writings is closer than that of the Greek to the originals (which of course does not exclude the possibility of the Peshitta being the original). So, 1) there is a Semitic original to the NT, and 2) the Peshitta is closer to it than the Greek.

            Yes, Jesus and His followers spoke Aramaic, though Syriac was likely not their everyday language. Syriac as wide range NT language was chosen for other reasons.

            i am familiar with much scholarship on these issues. i read many academic publications. i have not read Casey’s works, though.

            “you can realize that you cannot overturn a scholarly consensus on this topic without first being familiar with the scholarship”

            i am mostly familiar with it. i do not plan to overturn the scholarly consensus by the means you seem to assume. My interest in scholarly consensus and its correction is secondary to my interest in Truth and its spread. However, eventually, scholars will catch on. It is not necessary to go into all the details of the current consensus if instead your present a narrative much more coherent and in alignment with all known evidence of any kind.

            “without knowledge of Greek, Syriac, and Palestinian Aramaic you cannot discuss the evidence in any meaningful way.”

            i disagree. Knowledge of languages is not the primary qualification one needs to reconstruct anything. While my knowledge of Greek and the relevant Semitic languages may lack a lot compared to your formal education, i learn almost every day, and have been learning since quite a long time. i have only little formal education in the English language (not my first language), yet i’m not too bad at it i think. i aim for the same in other languages.

            Where i also disagree is the sentiment that knowledge of languages can really help you figure out all the issues. The knowledge of languages is not the problem, the problem is the “logic” of the arguments that are made. As i said, i am familiar with many academic works. i wouldn’t dream of assuming i know more about languages than them. But logic (and other things), that’s another story.

            My main qualification is my high respect and strong desire for Truth, to which i have devoted my life since my youth. Any ability or knowledge is entirely meaningless if your perception and conduct is skewed and lacking. Simply put, the common methodology is way too assumptive, and way too sloppy. i cannot endorse such errors to enter my own mind.

            “Most people say that it is the intellect which makes a great scientist. They are wrong: it is character.”
            -Albert Einstein

            .. but of course i assume that disqualifies me in your presumably impeccable perception.

            Personally, i am currently working on a comparison between the Syriac and the Greek, with all known variants, examining the assumption that the original Greek text was very close to the Peshitta (i am of course aware that that is mostly contrary to the extremely assumptive “results” of NT textual criticism). Somehow, the things i know of the languages are mostly enough, apart of grammatical issues. My lack of knowledge is not hindering me as severely as you may think.

            i thank you for your input.