Recently, I visited House of David Fellowship in Richmond and felt quite out of place because they teach there that Yeshua is not the G-d of Israel. Now think about the implications of this doctrinal position for a moment:
If a congregation teaches that Yeshua is not the G-d of Israel then that means that anyone who worships Yeshua as G-d, in the eyes of that community, is a heretic, unfit to be called an elder and probably a candidate for being kicked out of the community.
So for that reason alone, the question of the Divinity of Yeshua is a big deal. But it's also a big deal because the Bible claims that Yeshua is the G-d of Israel and so if He's not then we've got a big problem.
So yesterday Mr. Miller recommended Skip Moen's writings (LINK) on the topic of the Trinity. I say he recommended them because he said Skip had some insights on this topic. So I reviewed some of Skip's blog posts.
BRIEF REVIEW OF SKIP MOEN'S WRITINGS ON THE TRINITY
If I had to briefly summarize Skip's writings, he basically says that Trinitarians violate the "plain meaning rule" of exegesis when they interpret passages such as John 5:19 and especially Matthew 24:36. He focuses particularly on Matthew 24:36 because it seems to indicate, at face value, that Yeshua has no knowledge of a particular upcoming date. Lastly, Skip asserts that the concept of the Trinity (i.e. that Yeshua is the G-d of Israel) arose through the Council of Nicaea and that "Jewish sages and rabbis never came to this conclusion."
First, the plain meaning rule doesn't apply when the context indicates that the meaning is not plain. For example, if one applies the plain meaning rule in an exegesis of Peter's Dream where the sheet comes down from heaven or if one applies the plain meaning rule to various passages in Revelation then one will arrive at absurd conclusions. In the same way, given that any passage referring to aspects of the Deity must be considered mystical. There is no "surface" meaning when the entire passage deals exclusively with a deep, mystical subject.
Okay, now for the fun part. Skip asserted that Second Temple era Jews would never have accepted Yeshua as the G-d of Israel because this idea only arose in the fourth century or thereabouts. So the following excerpt provides a rather lengthy table of references that show Paul the Apostle had no problems whatsoever with identifying Yeshua with the unique Divinity of the G-d of Israel:
Richard Baukham, Paul's Christology of Divine Identity
"...the monotheism of Second Temple Judaism was indeed 'strict.' Most Jews in this period were highly self-consciously monotheistic, and had certain very familiar and well-defined ideas as to how the uniqueness of the one God should be understood. In other words, they drew the line of distinction between the one God and all other reality clearly, and were in the habit of distinguishing God from all other reality by means of certain clearly articulated criteria."
"In my view high Christology was possible within a Jewish monotheistic context, not by applying to Jesus a Jewish category of semi-divine intermediary status, but by identifying Jesus directly with the one God of Israel, including Jesus in the unique identity of this one God. I use the term 'unique identity' as the best way of speaking of the uniqueness of God as generally conceived in early Judaism."
"The one God of Second Temple Jewish belief was identifiable as unique by two kinds of identifying features. The first concerns his covenant relationship with Israel. He is the God of Israel, known from the recital of his acts in Israel's history and from the revelation of his character to Israel (Exod 34:6). He has revealed to Israel his name [Adonai], which was of great importance to Jews of the Second Temple period because it names precisely the unique identity of their God."
"...this God was also characterized as unique by his relationships to the whole of reality: especially that he is the only Creator of all things and that he is the sole sovereign Ruler of all things. Such identifications of [Adonai] are extremely common in Second Temple Jewish literature. Such identifications of [Adonai] are extremely common in Second Temple Jewish literature. They were the simplest and clearest way of answering the question: What distinguishes [Adonai], the only true God, from all other reality? In what does his uniqueness consist? These characteristics make a clear and absolute distinction between the true God and all other reality. God alone created all things; all other things, including beings worshipped as gods by Gentiles, are created by him....However diverse Judaism may have been in many other respects, this was common: only the God of Israel is worthy of worship because he is the sole Creator of all things and sole Ruler of all things. Other beings who might otherwise be thought divine are by these criteria God's creatures and subjects. (Thus so-called intermediary figures either belong to the unique identity of God or else were created by and remain subject to the one God, as his worshippers and servants, however exalted.)"
"My purpose in the rest of the present paper is to examine some of the evidence for this kind of Christology of divine identity in the letters of Paul."
"(1) [Adonai] texts with Jesus Christ as referent:
(1a) Five quotations including kurio
Rom 10:13-----Joel 2:32
1 Cor 1:31------Jer 9:24
1 Cor 2:16------Isa 40:13
1 Cor 10:26----Ps 23(24):1
2 Cor 10:17----Jer 9:24
(1b) One quotation to which Paul adds legei kurio
Rom 14:11----Isa 45:23
(1c) One quotation not including kurio
Rom 9:33----Isa 8:14
(1d) Nine allusions including kurio
1 Cor 8:6----Deut 6:4
1 Cor 10:22----Deut 32:21
2 Cor 8:21----Prov 3:4
Phil 2:10-11----Isa 45:23
1 Thes 3:13----Zech 14:5
2 Thes 1:7----Isa 66:15
2 Thes 1:9----Isa 2:10, 19, 21
2 Thes 1:12----Isa 66:5
2 Thes 3:16----Num 6:26
(1e) Six stereotyped OT phrases including kurio
'to call on the name of the Lord'
1 Cor 1:2 (cf. Rom 10:13)----Joel 2:23; Zeph 3:9; Zech 13:9; Jer 10:25 etc.
'the day of the Lord'
1 Cor 1:8; 5:5; 2 Cor 1:14; 1 Thes 5:2; 2 Thes 2:2 Joel 1:15; 2:1, 11, 31; Amos 5:18; Isa 13:6, 9 etc.
'to serve the Lord' Rom 12:11; 16:18 1 Kdms 12:20; Pss 2:11; 99(100):2; 101(102):22 etc.
'the word of the Lord' 1 Thes 1:8; 2 Thes 3:1 Isa 2:3 etc.
'the Lord be with you' 2 Thes 3:16 Ruth 2:4; 1 Kdms 17:37; 20:13 etc.
'the fear of the Lord' 2 Cor 5:11 Isa 2:10, 19, 21 etc.
(2) YHWH texts with God as referent:
(2a) Nine quotations including kurio"
Rom 4:7-8----Ps 31(32):1-2
Rom 9:27-28----Hos 2:1 + Isa 10:22-2316
Rom 9:29----Isa 1:9 (kuvrio" sabawvq)
Rom 10:16----Isa 53:1 (kuvrio" in LXX, no equivalent in MT)17 Rom 11:3 3----Kdms 19:10 (kuvrio" not in LXX, no equivalent in MT)
Rom 11:34----Isa 40:13
Rom 15:11----Ps 116(117):1
1 Cor 3:20----Ps 93(94):11
2 Cor 6:18 2----Kdms 7:14, 8 (kuvrio" pantokravtwr)
(2b) Three quotations to which Paul adds legei kurio"
Rom 12:1919----Deut 32:35
1 Cor 14:21----Isa 28:11-12
2 Cor 6:17----Isa 52:11 + Ezek 20:34
(2c) Twelve quotations in which the speaker ('I') is identified as YHWH in the OT context
Rom 4:17----Gen 17:5
Rom 9:9----Gen 18:14
Rom 9:13----Mal 1:2-3
Rom 9:14----Exod 33:19
Rom 9:17-----Exod 9:16
Rom 9:25----Hos 2:25
Rom 9:33-----Isa 28:16
Rom 10:19-----Deut 32:2120
Rom 10:20-----Isa 65:1
Rom 10:21-----Isa 65:2
Rom 11:26-27----Isa 59:20-21
2 Cor 6:2----- Isa 49:8"
As you can see, Paul had no problem identifying Yeshua with the G-d of Israel. This blows Skip Moen's case out of the water---and this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to evidence on the Divinity of Yeshua. But this can be an ongoing thing. I'd especially like to address the passage where Yeshua refers to Himself as "I AM" without even an implied predicate (see notes below). But the purpose of this particular post is to thoroughly and unequivocally destabilize Skip's assertion that the idea of Yeshua's Divinity is something that happened only after the fourth century C.E.
"In its predicative form...'I am' is a grammatically normal enough statement...When 'I am' lacks even an implied predicate, however, it becomes unintelligible except as an allusion to God's name..." Keener, The Gospel of John, pgs. 769-770
"Jesus uses the ego eimi formula in three different ways in the Fourth Gospel: (1) With a predicate....(2) With an implied predicate....(3) As an absolute...certainly in 8:58: 'before Abraham was born, I am!' The last of these uses needs furhter comment, for in this case ego eimi represents the divine name. In Exodus 3:14 God says to Moses, 'I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you.' The 'I AM WHO I AM' is translated as ego eimi ho on in the LXX. In Isaiah 43:25; 51:12 ego eimi on its own functions as the divine name. Thus when Jesus said to 'the Jews', 'before Abraham was born, I am', he was identifying himself with God. He was not only pronouncing the name of God...he was claiming to be God," Colin Kruse, The Gospel According to John, pg. 138