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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Who Died?

professions of faith
Generally speaking, Christians profess to believe in Jesus as the Son of God. This is an ancient profession of faith from as far back as the first century. But, it is a profession which seems to take on a low-grade form of acquiescence get-around to making a bold assertion that Jesus is God. This latter profession of the deity of Jesus is not only resisted and opposed by self-described Unitarians, but it also constitutes a conception of deity as both Son and God which is a source of much confusion and difficulty for the saints in Christ to believe much less to proclaim with confidence. Those who lead, teach and preach and others to whom the saints look to or hope to gain some insight and understanding reveal that they are no less confused and uncertain. The weak disclaimer that this subject is a mystery and can not to be understood may be a fitting response from an agnostic like Bart Ehrman, but not what the saints in Christ ought to expect from those who teach the word of God.

How is it that Christians have come to such a bog in their faith concerning God and man with respect to Jesus?
Is it that they have failed to understand and accept the teaching of the scriptures concerning God or the Son? Even worse, what recourse have Christians adopted for living in a faith bog where these things make little sense to them concerning Jesus; the very cornerstone of their faith? The practice involving the study of words and expressions such as son of God in isolation produces definitions in the original language, but little or nothing to enable the saints to understand the broader teaching of scripture. Saints resort to a breakdown theology (which is itself broken) to explain their belief in this way. There is the human Jesus, or the human part of Jesus, and the God Jesus or the God part of Jesus. Amazingly enough, the same explanation is very much a part of the discussions among scholars. The consequences of this mistaken notion, albeit a sincere effort to understand and and proclaim the Son who is God, stem from something as common as it is profound; the fear of death. This fear is diluted to minimize its impact on the saints through certain designations and references such as prophet, son of God, and man which are either mistakenly attributed or mistakenly explained about Jesus. The travesty for the saints, according to how they have been told, is that they find it easier to about the Jesus who died as prophet, son of God and man, but not God. Lets take a brief look at some designations and references of Jesus to himself, about Jesus and by the apostle Paul.

prophet
Jesus referred to himself as a prophet. This has led some saints, including scholars, to conclude that Jesus was a prophet. Furthermore, it is mistakenly assumed that Jesus was the prophet of Deuteronomy 18. ThFere are two reasons why this is an erroneous notion. First, a prophet, God said, is one with whom God communicates through visions and dreams. (Numbers 12) According to this criteria Moses was no more a prophet than Jesus was a prophet because God never communicated with either one through visions and dreams. Second, the reference to the prophet of Deuteronomy 18 is alluded to, quoted and cited in the New Testament. The Jews alluded to it and wondered whether Jesus might be that prophet. Jesus was keenly aware of the people's view of him as a prophet, but he did not take it as an urgent priority to correct their misunderstanding. It is quoted and cited twice in Acts 3 and Acts 7. In both instances in Acts the passage is enclosed with or associated with a reference in the plural form to the prophets. This seems very much in keeping with the prophecy of Deuteronomy 18, namely, that God would raise up a succession of prophets beginning with Samuel whom Israel was to heed and obey just as Israel was to heed and obey Moses.

son of God
This has been abundantly noted by scholars, namely, that the expression to son of God was a common reference to the prophets. This is quite true. However, this explanation when applied to Jesus is precluded by the mistaken notion of Jesus as a prophet. It also reflects a complete disregard of the fact that Jesus was not conceived or born like those sons of God; the prophets. Jesus confronted his hostile audience on his use and self-claim of the designation of the expression son of God as being an ancient one which was applied to the prophets. However, this was much more than a lesson in grammar history from the Tanakh. It was a stark admonition, which they appear to have missed and rejected, that they were being as ignorant and disobedient as their fathers had been towards the sons of God, that is, the prophets. Now, they were demonstrating the same ignorance and disobedience towards the Son of God.

There is a similar distinction as to that of the expression son of God as concerns the prophets which was made by Jesus about John the baptist. Jesus distinguished John the baptist as being more than a prophet. This may have been for two possible reasons, 1) John's mission and message was very limited and as such there was no communication with him through visions and dreams, 2)  John had the extraordinarily unique distinction of being the messenger of God, not just before Messiah, but to actually meet and baptize Messiah. A similar distinction is made between Moses and the prophets. (Deuteronomy 34:10)

man
Yes, Jesus referred to himself as a man. This declaration by Jesus sets off rush to conclude from this self-reference to himself as a man as the basis for denying and rejecting the deity of Jesus. It is a shortsighted conclusion to say the least. This rush to classify Jesus as nothing more than a man, albeit with special, extraordinary powers and a heavenly mission seems dismissive of the reality that men are not conceived or born as was Jesus. It also forgets that while the application of the expression son of God was true of men who were servants of God as prophets and with whom God communicated through visions and dreams it did not and can not include Jesus for the reasons above.

Paul and the man, Christ Jesus
Yes, Paul refers to Jesus as the man Christ Jesus. (I Timothy 2:5) This is much more in the ministry of Paul and is outside the scope of this article.  Nonetheless, Paul understood and was not reluctant to do what was expedient anymore than Jesus was reluctant to submit to the baptism of John.  They were both committed to proclaiming the kingdom of heaven. The broader scope of the apostle's ministry entailed dethroning and demolishing the cult of Artemis. The church, and scholars, have mostly ignored Artemis beyond a few and familiar Sunday morning Bible class borderline pornographic references to temple sex prostitutes and other immoralities. The truth is that Yahweh was to the Jews in Jerusalem and all Judea what Artemis was to the Gentiles in Ephesus and all Asia. The testimony of Demetrius in Acts 19 bears out the truthfulness of the latter part of this axiom.

What does Paul's reference to Jesus as a man have to do with Artemis and the misunderstanding which is carried over to Jesus so as to dismiss his deity? It is that the entire cult of Artemis was founded on the female goddess Artemis as savior, not of all mankind, but of women in their moment of giving birth. Jesus, the man, stood in sharp contrast to the female Artemis, not as a matter of gender, but as savior of all mankind; men and women alike. In this respect even the reference to Adam and Eve in I Timothy 2 is just as misunderstood as being nothing more than a reference by Paul to the order of creation. Paul had a much greater, relevant point in mind to make about Adam and Eve. They, unlike the claims of Artemis that she was born first before her twin brother Apollo, were not born. Adam and Eve were created by the one by whom, through whom and for whom all things were created, namely, Jesus. (Colossians 1:16)

the death of prophet, son of God and man
This is the acquiescence of the saints concerning Jesus that they declare Jesus to be both prophet, song of God, and man, but God, too. The problem with this weak all-satisfying, all-purpose response by the saints in Christ concerning the deity of Jesus is that it is a lie. The lie is that as long as the saints can mistakenly talk about and refer to Jesus as a prophet, a son of God, a man they are alright with his death. The misunderstanding of the saints concerning those designations and references to Jesus have the effect of nullifying the identity of Jesus as God. Instead, they explain, it was the human part of Jesus which died. This lie is the subtle, underlying belief that death is final and there is nothing beyond the grave. Oh, of course, the saints would never state that, but this is the lie and the grip of the same fear of death from which we have been set free! (Hebrews 2:14, 15) They declare that it was the God part of Jesus which did not die. Really?

I love it when so-called Jehovah's Witnesses realize what I am stating to them boldly and confidently concerning the deity of Jesus; Are you saying God died? YES! Precisely. I am glad you (even if they don't accept it) understand. The two greatest experiences humans, plants and animals share in common is life and death. We do not remember the moment of the birth of our life. So, what greater demonstration of love and power could God ever reveal to his creation than by coming into the world and asserting openly to friends and foes alike that he would lay down his life, then lay down his life and then take up his life again? God came into the world to demonstrate that death is in the palm of his hand and it has nothing on him. He lays down his life and he takes it up again. However, this work of God is suppressed when the saints (as scholars inform them) weakly assert that Jesus is nothing more than a prophet, a son of God and a man and therefore he, but not God, could die.

conclusion
Professions of faith by the saints of Jesus as man and God will continue to be a snarl of confusion to them until they understand, accept and assert that Jesus is God boldly and confidently. This is not an unfounded opinion and readers are encouraged to see this brief article. Even better, read and ponder Isaiah 6 and as it is alluded to and quoted in John 12. Jesus took on the form of a man. He looked like a man, but a simple reminder that men are conceived through the union of a man and a woman excludes Jesus from such a quaint classification. It is not only Christians, but Muslims, too, who parrot this saying which the saints ought to recognize as having no biblical basis: God cannot die. What this expression ignores is that Jesus/God did not remain or stay dead. He arose! So let us dispense with the euphemisms because while it is true that death is a separation from God to put it plainly and bluntly as Jesus did for his slow-to-understand disciples concerning Lazarus that he was dead, so too; God died. Believe it. Profess it. Proclaim it boldly and confidently.

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