Christianity · Christology · Jesus Christ

Is this the original Christian concept of God?

My Facebook friend and good acquaintance, Rudolph Boshoff, recently wrote an article on the concept of God from a Christian perspective.  The article is rather interestingly titled, Contemplating the Christian God: Being and Person. Several scholars have contributed greatly to the vast knowledge base of ancient Christianity, including Adolph von Harnack, Albert Schweizer, E.P. Sanders, Geza Vermes, Maurice Casey and others.  Their approach to the question of the identity of God from a Christian perspective, speaks of meticulous commitment to understanding the earliest writings, and to convey the information in a way that reflects the understanding and perspective of the time as accurately as possible.

Rudolph starts his article by quoting a section from one of John Calvin’s writings, in which God is described as “unimaginable,” that “the mind of fallen man remains a perpetual factory of idols and false imaginations of God” and “constantly tempted to corrupt the knowledge of the truth” through his own imaginations.  He seems to be quoting this piece, not to discourage an undertaking to understand God, but to appreciate our own limitations.  He appeals to mystery as something essential and even credible to theologian and devotee, and he bases his understanding of God reportedly on “revealed scripture and the revelation of Jesus Christ.”  What follows is a critique of Rudolph’s main claims and ultimately a scrutiny of whether his depiction of the “Christian concept of God” is the original or (proximally, á la Calvin) accurate depiction thereof.

Firstly, mystery or the unknowable should never be offered as justification for any or all claims about God.  It should never provide the theologian carte blanche to develop any theory about God and, when criticised, resorted to as a kind of trump card.  Furthermore, who decides that the formulation be regarded as a mystery? And where in the formula does the mystery start?  How far is rationality acceptable and integrated into the matrix of theological theorizing, and where does it end? Is it for the formulator to decide? These are crucial questions to ask.  To the critical mind, these questions spell serious concern, as it should be obvious that confirmation bias and circularity (and add to it institutional authority) can easily steer the formulation process.

Secondly, a fundamental principle of historical inquiry is historical perspective.  Historical perspective refers to the “social, cultural intellectual, and emotional settings that shaped people’s lives and actions in the past.[1] For one to make claims about the Christian conception of God, and base their claims on “revealed scripture and the revelation of Jesus Christ,” one needs to make sense of primary sources within their historical context, including the culture and worldview of the day.  Culturally hybridised reconceptualisation of the original constructs – however adapted to somehow fit the original, decontextualized sources (because hybridisation involves decontextualisation) – cannot be considered historically accurate, or presented as original.

Rudolph continues with what “Orthodoxy” demands about Christians’ claims about God, namely, that He is not three beings who are one God, but according to “Biblical revelation of God,” the one being is revealed in three persons (Father, Son and Holy Spirit).  He mentions that God is one ousia or living substance, who self-reveals in three persona, and quotes one of the Cappadocian Brothers, Gregory of Nazianzus, who allegorizes the three persons as three suns joint to each other.

Rudolph refers to the “procession” of the Spirit from the Father and the Son, and then distinguishes between function and ontology – something “Unitarian systems of theology” tend to confuse.  Claiming to be “evident in Scripture,” God’s ‘essence’ and ‘function’ are clearly differentiated.  After elaborating on the Threeness and Oneness of God (and assuming these distinctions to be true), he elaborates on the difference between function and ontology.

“[D]ifference in function (persona) does not negate inferiority in essential nature (being),” he says.  In God’s dynamic unity, he exists in “perichoretic circularity and wholeness.”  According to Rudolph, there furthermore exists a “clear line between the Creator/creature distinction” as well as divine immanence or nearness of God in personal self-revelation.  He concludes by saying that the Christian understanding of God can be logically explained and the reason for the Trinity visibly affirmed.  This he elsewhere calls the “biblical Trinity.”

In this brief analysis, the following two assumptions were followed:

  1. The historical method of inquiry has been followed, in particular the principle of historical perspective; and
  2. Early Christianity emerged within mainstream Judaism, affirming its central tenets and Scripture

In his description of “Christian God,” based on “revealed scripture and the revelation of Jesus Christ,” Rudolph immediately describes this God in terms of ousia and persona, in terms of hypostatic activities and perichoretic indwelling.  But how original are these highly sophisticated and philosophically developed terms and concepts?  Would the Jewish apostle Peter, or James the brother of Jesus, or even Paul the Jew, have explained the biblical concept of God in these complex and philosophical terms? And why start with what Church Councils have concluded to be “Orthodoxy” and proceed axiomatically from their conclusions as premises for one’s description?

To those honest and serious about exploring the Christian understanding of God, a much more disciplined approach will be needed, in which the historical method of inquiry should be closely followed. In exploring the first Christians’ phenomenology or subjective experiences and understanding of God, personal doctrinal biases should be “bracketed[2]” so as to prevent the kind of contamination and unwarranted interference of personal presuppositions in one’s inquiry.

Christianity within the Hebraic understanding of God

Jesus of Nazareth was a Jew and his first followers were Jews who spoke the Hebrew language, held a Hebraic worldview and practiced Judaism.  To any Jew, the ultimate answer to who God was, was expressed in the Torah, in visionary appearances, revelations through prophets, and temple rituals. In the Jewish confession, the Shema, God is depicted as one God exacting exclusive devotion.  Although the Shema was a moral as opposed to a philosophical creed of Israel, the religion of ancient Judaism was sufficiently clear on who YHWH was, that certain philosophical descriptions can be made about the Jewish God:

Over against the polytheistic naturalism of Babylonia and the confused “consubstantial” ideas of the Egyptian pantheon, Israel affirmed, “The Lord our God, the Lord is one”… At its center there sat enthroned a Being of unutterable greatness and holiness, who was at once its creator and sustainer… It is of the very essence of Hebrew thought that God is a person…. And for them personality meant the sort of concept that they and we, in turn, apply to human nature.[3]

In contrast to polytheism, monotheism singled out one God, YHWH who would be worshipped as the Most High God of heaven exclusively.[4]  In philosophical terms, certain realities about the nature of YHWH can also be derived from ancient Hebrew literature.  One feature of the monotheistic deity of Second-Temple Judaism stands out, namely that YHWH was assumed to be “one divine self[5]” of ultimate and exclusive divine authority.[6] The singularity of YHWH can be concluded from:

  • Thousands of pronouns in the Bible in which YHWH is (self-)described in singular terms;
  • Biblical anthropomorphisms depict YHWH as a singular entity comparable to human or personal singularity (Ex. 15:3; Hos. 11:1 – 4; Joh. 15:1; 1 Tim. 1:17);
  • In vision YHWH is consistency seen as a singular entity with human features (2 Chron. 18:18; Isa. 6:1; Ezek. 1:26, 10:1; Dan. 7:9; Ac. 7:55; Rev. 4:2);
  • Pagan writers highlight the distinguishing factor of Judaism: its worship and confession of a single God,[7] and its being aniconic;[8] and
  • Singularity is conveyed not only in the Hebrew language, but also in the pre-Christian Greek Septuagint, the Bible version most often quoted in the New Testament.[9]

This was the Judaism Jesus and his followers inherited and confirmed; a Judaism within which Jesus was born and raised.  Unless explicitly stated otherwise, terms and concepts used by Jesus and his followers would have had no other meaning than the normative meaning indigenous to Second-Temple Judaism.

The books and letters contained in the New Testament were written by followers of Jesus who were thoroughly immersed in the Jewish worldview of their time. All New Testament books and letters are authentically Jewish.  The NT contains references to the Jewish God which, to the first Jews and Jewish Christians, could only refer to the singular, personal YHWH of the Old Testament, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  God is also presented as Someone in relation to others.  In relation to creation He is Creator; in relation to children, his son or sons, He is Father; etc.  This relational aspect is significant when applied to the relationship between God and Jesus.  The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is presented as the Father of Jesus of Nazareth, and Jesus as his son.  Once again, cultural schemas existed within the ancient context, which captured the relation between Jesus as son, and God as his Father.  These schemas include assumptions of intimacy between Jesus and God, Jesus as the wise revealer of divine truths, Jesus as imitator and reflector of God, etc.[10] As the son of God, Jesus is naturally presented as wholly distinct from the God of Israel, YHWH, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Original Christianity compared to the Greek/Roman Church

It should become clear at this point that the picture of God and Jesus emerging from the Bible and related documents of the time, differs in significant areas from the picture which emerged from Nicaea in 325 C.E. and Chalcedon in 451 C.E. Nicaea and Chalcedon were culminations of a centuries long process of gradual detachment of Christianity from Judaism and assimilation of Christianity into Hellenism:

[D]uring the patristic period Christian thought drew progressively on the language and ideas of Greek philosophy to express what were emerging as its distinctive theological claims, particularly in reference to Christ.[11]

As Christianity became more and more distinct from Judaism, it became more and more Gentile, more and more Greek, more and more attuned to the religious-philosophical debates of the Greco-Roman world.[12]

[A]ll Christian thinking, and especially all Christian thinking about the being and nature of God, was influenced, often unconsciously, by philosophical ideas current in the Hellenistic world.[13]

The orthodox catholic Christian concept of the unity of God in the Trinity was developed slowly as a result of a long process of mixing various ideologies. The whole idea of the Trinity came about as a syncretic development from the clash of the Hebrew Unitarian concept of God; the Greek religious- philosophical concepts of the nature of God and the powers governing the world.[14]

The new theological thinking along exclusively Gentile-Christian lines was initiated by the Apostolic Fathers in the first half of the second century.  The trend is characterized by the reshaping of the image of Jesus following non-Jewish patterns, by the allegorical interpretation of the Greek Old Testament, which Christianity took over from Hellenistic Judaism and by a growing theological, as distinct from concrete historical, anti-Judaism.  Such a transfer of a doctrinal message from one civilization into another, known as acculturation, may be successful if it avoids a fundamental distortion of the original ideas.  But if it fails to do so, as seems to have been the case of Gentile Christianity, it is bound to produce a slant unpalatable to Judaeo-Christians and disturbing for historians.[15]

…[T]he traditional formulations of Christology, so far from enshrining revealed truth, are themselves the product of witness and confession in a particular historical environment… If we avoid reading the New Testament with spectacles coloured by later dogma, we find emerging a Christological picture – or rather pictures – quite different from later orthodoxy; if we look at the contemporary environment, we discern not only the cultural factors which led the fathers to the dogmatic position from which the New Testament has traditionally been interpreted, but also the inherent difficulties of their theological construction… It was inevitable that further ‘intellectualising’ should take place, that philosophical questions should be asked about Christian claims, which certainly contained highly paradoxical elements. But this does not mean that the questions were asked in the right way, or the right solutions found… Different christological positions were intimately related to different ways of understanding salvation; they were upheld by inadequate arguments and distorting exegesis of scripture; and compromise formulae were devised which did nothing more than restate the impossible paradox and leave it unresolved.[16]

In addition to the scholarly admissions above, the history of Christological developments from the second century onwards and the controversies of the fourth and fifth centuries clearly indicate that the concepts developed during these debates (the same concepts employed in Rudolph’s explanation of “Biblical Trinitarianism”) can hardly be regarded as of Biblical origin.  The Hebraic worldview during the time of Jesus and his followers was unconcerned with the metaphysics of matter, and even less so as it related to their Most High God, YHWH.  Initiated by non-Jewish thinkers with differing degrees of fascination with non-Jewish philosophies, the process of doctrine-making gradually developed among Gentile Christians until it finally reached a burning point when Arius and the pro-Nicaeans had to decide on the relation between God and Jesus in Greek ontological terms.   As if the final doctrinal assembly in terms of being (ousia) and substance (hypostasis) was not complicated enough, different thinkers had different understandings of the meaning of ousia and hypostasis.[17]  Throughout these controversies, no two prominent Church officials of the time had the exact same understanding of the meaning of these concepts and how these described God, Jesus, and their relation with each other:

Alexander of Alexandria retained a concept of the subordination of the Son which would have been thought heretical by the Cappadocians.  Athanasius had no word for what God as Three in distinction from what God is as one, and acquiesced in a formulation of God as a single hypostasis at Serdica which by the standards of Cappadocian orthodoxy was heretical… Ossius efficiently believed that God is a single hypostasis… [T]he Photinians knew very well that the incarnate Word must have had a human mind, a doctrine for which Hilary condemned them.  Hilary himself… plunged heedlessly into Docetism when he came to consider the passion of Jesus. [The Nicene Creed] included in one of its anathemas a statement which could by no ingenuity be regarded as consistent with orthodoxy as the Cappadocians understood it.[18]

What was later declared Orthodoxy and in modern times zealously defended as of Biblical origin, was in fact a doctrinal synthesis during which conceptualisation and reconceptualisation produced what is today regarded as the Orthodox doctrine of the Trinity:

It is not a story of embattled and persecuted orthodoxy maintaining a long and finally successful struggle against insidious heresy.  It should be perfectly clear that at the outset nobody had a single clear answer to the question raised, an answer which had always been known in the church and always recognised as true… Orthodoxy on the subject of the Christian doctrine of God did not exist at first.  The story is the story of how orthodoxy was reached, found, not of how it was maintained.[19]

There is no doubt, however, that the pro-Nicene theologians throughout the controversy were engaged in a process of developing doctrine and consequently introducing what must be called a change in doctrine.  In the middle of the third century Dionysius, bishop of Alexandria, produced in a treatise an account of the Son as created which evoked a rebuke from the bishop of Rome but no more.  At the end of the fourth century such a sentiment would have cost him his see.  The Apologists of the second century, Irenaeus, Tertullian and Hippolytus all believed and taught that, though the Son or Logos was eternally within the being of the Father, he only became distinct or prolated or borne forth at a particular point for the purposes of creation, revelation and redemption. The result of the great controversy of the fourth century was to reject this doctrine as heretical.[20]

From this brief discussion, the dissimilarity between first-century Christianity and what Rudolph calls “biblical Trinitarianism” should become clear.  It is one thing to describe in modern language as accurately as possible the intricacies and nuances of ancient cultures, worldviews and belief systems; it is something quite different to synthesise a hybrid theory from contemporary philosophical material as ingredients, and express this theory using unoriginal concepts.  Such a theory can hardly be considered original:

All sides lack almost completely (with a little exception allowed in the case of Gregory of Nazianzus) a sense of historical perspective.  This is as clear in the statement of Hilary that all the apostles taught the eternity of the Son… Consequently all parties tend to read the ideas and doctrine of their own day into the earliest period of Christianity.  There were very few, if any, Biblicists in the strict sense among the writers of the fourth century.  The result is, inevitably, much perverse and some positively grotesque interpretation.[21]

The ultimate outcome of this controversy was an irreversible deviation from the original conceptualisation of God according to Second-Temple Judaism and first century Christians, whose religion first and foremost included “devotion to a single God.”[22]  The Hebraic concept of God changed from a personal transcendent Self to an abstract ousia or substance or nature, expressed in three hypostases or persons.  It was later even further elaborated when it was decided at Chalcedon that the Son had two physes or natures, a human nature and a divine nature; something the first Christians simply could not have conceptualised. No longer committed to derive an understanding of who God is and how God and Jesus are related from an ancient biblical perspective, Trinitarians have assumed the Nicean formulation (and later the Chalcedonian elaboration) as the framework through which all Scripture should be interpreted.

After quoting the final part of the Chalcedonian Definition, complete with its highly sophisticated concepts of prosopon and hypostasis in reference to Jesus Christ, Maurice Casey correctly noted:

This is quite remote from Jesus of Nazareth.  The definition is full of abstract Greek philosophy, an approach to Christology which eventually saw the condemnation of the Aramaic-speaking churches.  The world-view of even the Gentile part of the Church which spoke the same language as Jesus and the apostles was too semitic to think like this.[23]

The Chalcedonian Fathers depended on a long tradition of the rewriting of history.  It involved pulling Old Testament passages out of their own cultural tradition, pouring scorn on that tradition to which Jesus and the apostles belonged, and appropriating them in the interests of a dogmatic structure correspondingly alien to Jesus and to the first apostles.  This dogmatic tradition rejected Jewish identity, even when it was not concerned with inherently unJewish views such as the deity of Jesus.[24]

Weighing up the evidence from a historical perspective

The religion of Jesus dealt differently with God’s transcendence than the later dogmatists did. The problem of a transcendental God of unapproachable glory on the one hand, and his immanence on the other was not solved by devising three hypostases, two of which brought humans into direct contact with God himself (namely, Jesus as God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit).[25] In Second-Temple Judaism, God used intermediary figures in whom or through whom people encountered God himself.  These intermediaries ensured that God remain transcendental, while through representation and reference God was made present:

‘[T]he angels of Judaistic angelology are always a naive representation of the omnipresent and omniscient Word and will of Yahweh’…The most significant development here is the emergence of angelic intercessors and intermediaries… In short, this angel talk seems to have been an early, still unsophisticated attempt to speak of God’s immanent activity among people and within events on earth without either resorting to straightforward anthropomorphism or abandoning belief in his holy otherness. Spirit talk seems in fact to have been an early alternative to this, perhaps even replacing it as the charismatic prophecy and leadership of the judges and early monarchy replaced the earlier leadership of the wilderness and conquest period (perhaps, that is, a leadership attested by vision and dream gave way to a leadership attested by ecstasy). Whatever the historical actuality behind these narratives, both Spirit of God and angel of God are best understood as ways of speaking about God in his active concern for men and approach to men – as also other phrases, like ‘the glory of Yahweh’, ‘the face of God’, ‘the name of Yahweh’ and ‘the hand or finger of Yahweh.’ [26]

Consistent with the above observations, God in the NT is never encountered as Jesus, but always in Jesus (Ro. 8:39; 2 Cor. 2:17, 4:6; 5:19; 12:19; Eph. 4:32; 1 Thess. 5:18) or through Jesus (Ac. 2:22; Ro. 2:16; Eph. 2:16).  This is found to be the case in the Synoptics, Paul and the other epistles, as well as John:

In this Gospel [John]… there cannot yet be any question of a ‘metahistorical drama of Christ,’ the objection often put forward by the Jewish side. Precisely in this late, fourth Gospel, we still have statements like: ‘And this is eternal life, that they may know the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.’ Or, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ Here there is a clear distinction between God and Jesus Christ. No, this Gospel too does not contain any speculative metaphysical Christology – torn from its Jewish roots – but rather a Christology of sending and revelation associated with the world of Jewish Christianity. However, its statement about pre-existence, understood in an unmythological way, takes on heightened significance: ‘John does not investigate the metaphysical nature and being of the pre-existent Christ; he is not concerned about the insight that before the incarnation there were two pre-existent divine persons who were bound together in the one divine nature. This way of conceiving of things is alien to John. So too is the conception of a ‘begetting within the Godhead.’ ‘I and the Father are one.’ This statement has nothing to do with any dogmatic-speculative statements about the relationship of the natures within the Godhead. So what was John’s positive concern? What stands in the foreground is the confession that the man Jesus of Nazareth is the logos of God in person. And he is the Logos as a mortal man; but he is the Logos only for those who are prepared to believe, trusting God’s word in his word, God’s actions in his praxis, God’s history in his career, and God’s compassion in his cross… If the Jewish tradition has always held unshakeably to a basic truth of Jewish faith, then it is the ‘Shema Israel,’ Hear, O Israel, Yahweh is our God, Yahweh alone! … This confession of the unity and uniqueness of God meant the strict repudiation not only of any dualism but also of any trinitarianism.[27]

Since the first Christians were almost certainly not Trinitarians, a more scholarly responsible endeavour should be to determine how the first Christians gave expression to their faith, and, with the cultural schemes available to them, how they made sense of the relation between Jesus and God (and God’s spirit). It is hardly a confusion when scholars and believers recognize the ontological distinctiveness of the Biblical God, YHWH, and Jesus of Nazareth, while also appreciating the functional similarities between them.  What is instead a clear confusion, is when later doctrinal formulations are assumed to be original (or “orthodox”), and then used to reinterpret the evidence inversely, by assuming ontological identity between God and Jesus and functional distinction where they are presented as unequal and distinct. Another example of using late philosophical concepts and anachronistically applying these to the Biblical text is the assumption and that the ancient Hebrew Christians in the Roman world drew a clear distinction between Creator and creature (an idea popularised by Richard Bauckham in his ‘Christology of divine identity’). Or that these Jewish followers assumed a philosophical position which was only formulated in the second century, namely creatio ex nihilo (‘creation from nothing’). From a historical perspective we find the following:

Ittai Gradel’s approach to the notion of the divine in his book Emperor Worship and Roman Religion is inspiring when applied to religions of the ancient Near East. In the introduction to his book, Gradel cautions us against viewing ancient religions as an independent dimension, separable from other spheres of human experience and capable of being independently dissected. Based on the practice of ritual and sacrifice, he interprets the man-god divide, which clearly existed also in antiquity, as a reflection of a distinction in status rather than a distinction between their respective natures of “species.” He suggests that we speak of divinity as a “relative category” rather than beginning with the rather diffuse notion of “the Holy” and the “Numinous” and from the concept of the gods as a species. . . . Rather than conceptualizing the divine and human worlds as distinct realms, the human sphere gradually merges with the realm of the divine.[28]

I have also observed how mystery is appealed to (to echo John Calvin) when the philosophical and hermeneutical entanglements of later Church doctrine are scrutinized.  To quote John Hick in reference to the Chalcedonian Definition:

The formula sets before us a ‘mystery’ rather than a ‘clear and distinct idea.’ Further, this is not a divine mystery but one that was created by a group of human beings meeting a Chalcedon in present-day Turkey in the mid-fifth century.  Many attempts were made in the great period of Christological debates, both before and after Chalcedon, to give intelligible meaning to the idea of a God-man.  However, they all failed to meet the basic Chalcedonian desiderata, namely to affirm both Jesus’ deity and his humanity, and accordingly they had to be rejected as heresies… It is a humanly devised hypothesis; and we cannot save a defective hypothesis by dubbing it a divine mystery.[29]

When the biblical data is examined within its own Hebraic universe, it is clear that the God of the Jews was a singular Self, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God and Father of Jesus and his followers (John 17:21). The God the Jews were worshiping was the same God whom Jesus worshiped and revealed as his own Father (John 8:54). The exclusivity of Yahweh as the God of the Jews was repeated by Jesus in his personal prayer to his own God (John 17:3). Jesus was, just like every other entity apart from God, a distinct and separate self from Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Ac. 2:22). This was the teaching of Jesus’ followers and a presupposed truth preached by Paul, James, Peter and others from those faithful communities. Even after his exaltation to God’s right hand, the faithful Christians of old still considered the Lord Jesus to be distinct from Yahweh (1 Cor. 15:28; cp. Ps. 110:1), and even after receiving this most exalted position, remained subjected to his own Lord, Father and God, Yahweh (2 Cor. 1:4; Phil. 2:9-11; Rev. 3:2, 12). When the original Christian concept of God is compared to the post-biblical musings and eventual Creeds of the fourth and fifth centuries, the conceptual hybridisations and metaphysical embellishments become clear.

Conclusion

From this brief discussion on the Christian concept of God, the one proposed by Rudolph – one provided to parishioners since the fourth and fifth centuries, even under duress – can hardly be considered original.  Neither Jesus, his apostles, or the writers of the NT could possibly have thought in such unJewish and culturally alien concepts, let alone sophisticated philosophical entanglements.

The study of the origin of Christianity poses a problem for Christian researchers – they tend to look for its beginning in the orthodox form known to us after the Council of Nicaea. Nothing could be more misleading. Early “Christianity” was a Jewish messianic movement propagated by many sects with strictly Jewish theological doctrines – especially the monotheistic, Unitarian concept of God and the Jewish concept of a messiah. This concept, however, was undergoing modifications from an earthly political figure into a more abstract and angelic/spiritual figure under the influence of Hellenistic philosophy and religion. Therefore, at its very early stage it would have been considered a Jewish messianic sect.[30]

Endnotes:

[1] Seixas, P. (n.d.). Historical Perspectives. The Historical Thinking Project. Available at: http://historicalthinking.ca/historical-perspectives [Accessed 20 March 2017], par. 3.

[2] Bracketing is “a scientific process where a researcher suspends or holds in abeyance his or her presuppositions, biases, assumptions, theories, or previous experiences to see and describe the essence of a specific phenomenon.  This process allows a focused researcher to observe the unfiltered phenomenon as it is at its essence, without the influence of our natural attitude – individual and societal constructions, presumptions, and assumptions.” (Geering, R. E. (2008). Bracketing. In Geering, L. M. The SAGE Encyclopedia of Qualitative Research Methods – Volumes 1 and 2. California: SAGE Publications, pp. 63 – 65.

[3] Frankfort et al. (1977). The Intellectual Adventure of Ancient Man. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, pp. 224, 231.

[4] Gnuse, R. K. (1997). No Other Gods – Emergent Monotheism in Israel. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press Ltd.

[5] Nathan, N. M. L. (2006). Jewish monotheism and the Christian God. Religious Studies 42, p. 82.

[6] Grabbe, L. L. (2010). Judaic Religion in the Second Temple Period. New York, NY: Routledge, p. 219.

[7] “Judaism offered both a reasonable and a traditional account of a single God and his ways.” Chilton, J. & Neusner, J. (1995).  Judaism in the New Testament: Practices and beliefs. New York, NY: Routledge, p. 101.

[8] “[Hecateus of Abdera] indicates a monotheistic, aniconic religion in his day… The Greek and Roman writers are universal in proclaiming Jewish worship of one God.” Ibid., p. 218.

[9] “LXX uses the term εις and not μονος, indicating that the translator understood אחד in a numerical sense, meaning one.” Waaler, E. (2008). The Shema and the First Commandment in First Corinthians: An Intertextual Approach to Paul’s Re-reading of Deuteronomy. Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, pp. 103 – 104.

[10] See Vermes, G. (2013). Christian Beginnings from Nazareth to Nicaea. London: Penguin Books, pp. 45 – 48; Robinson, J. A. T. (1973). The Human Face of God. London: SCM Press; Peppard, M. (2011). Son of God in the Roman World. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, pp. 9 – 30.

[11] Dunn J. D. G. (2015). Christianity in the Making. Volume 3: Neither Jew nor Greek – A Contested Identity. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing, p. 27.

[12] Dunn, J. D. G. (2009) Christianity in the Making. Volume 2: Beginning from Jerusalem. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing, p. 31.

[13] Wiles, M. (2008) The Making of Christian Doctrine. London: Cambridge University Press, p. 28.

[14] Hillar, M. (2012). From Logos to Trinity.  The Evolution of Religious Beliefs from Pythagoras to Tertullian. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, p. 132.

[15] Vermes, pp. 237 – 238.

[16] Young, F. (1977). A Cloud of Witnesses, in Hick, J. (Ed.). The Myth of God Incarnate. London: SCM Press, pp. 14, 23.

[17] “The search for the Christian doctrine of God in the fourth century was in fact complicated and exasperated by semantic confusion, so that people holding different views were using the same words as those who opposed them, but, unawares, giving them different meanings from those applied to them by those opponents.” Hanson, R. P. C. (1997). The Search for the Christian Doctrine of God. Edinburgh: T & T Clark, p. 180.

[18] Ibid., 870.

[19] Ibid., 870.

[20] Ibid., 872.

[21] Ibid., p. 826.

[22] McGrath, J. F. (2012). The Only True God: Early Christian Monotheism in Its Jewish Context. Urbana and Chicago: The University of Illinois Press, p. 3.

[23] Casey, M. (1991). From Jewish Prophet to Gentile God: The Origins and Development of New Testament Christology. Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press, p. 163.

[24] Ibid., p. 164.

[25] “As man exalts God in transcendent quality, at the same time he pushes him steadily farther off from human need. [The Trinity, however] was not the formulated solution of ancient Israel.” Frankfort et al., p. 233.

[26] Dunn, J. D. G. (1989). Christology in the Making, 2nd Ed. London: SCM Press, pp. 150, 151. See also Kupp, D. D. (1996). Matthew’s Emmanual: Divine Presence and God’s People in the First Gospel. New York: Cambridge University Press, pp. 109 – 137, 228 – 230.

[27] Küng, H. (1995). Judaism: Between Yesterday and Tomorrow. London: Bloomsbury Academic, pp. 382-383.

[28] Pongratz-Leisten, B. (2011). Divine Agency and Astralization of the Gods in Ancient Mesopotamia, in Pongratz-Leisten (Ed.). Reconsidering the Concept of Revolutionary Monotheism. Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, pp. 137 – 187

[29] Hick, J. (2005). The Metaphor of God Incarnate: Christology in a Pluralistic Age, 2nd Edition.  Louisville, KY: Westminster/John Knox Press, pp. 48, 71.

[30] Hillar, p. 112.

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