My Lord and My God!

In honor of the events following Easter:

John 20:26-28 says

A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

As an Evangelical or a Mormon, can you join Thomas in calling Jesus your Lord and your God? (note the capital G in God) Is this the correct response to Jesus for all men?

For me it’s an absolute and emphatic “YES”.

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45 thoughts on “My Lord and My God!

  1. Not quite sure what to make of this, but it is not exactly correct that Thomas calls Jesus “My Lord and my God” in this verse. If he were to do so, he would use the vocative, but instead he uses the nominative. Instead, I suggest that it might be best understood as a declarative statement of surprise such as “Oh my God!” The capital G is obviously an English translation choice, and doesn’t tell us anything about how John was using the term. There is no dispute between evangelicals and LDS with respect to agreeing with what John meant by “God”…neither of us agrees with him!

  2. Are you saying every English translation is wrong? What about the fact that Jews were reluctant to use any word for God in any use?

  3. Hi Tim,
    No, it is not a translation issue. The issue is interpretive. The question is whether Thomas is speaking directly to Jesus, or to God. It should be noted that Theodore of Mopsuestia thought that Thomas was addressing the Father, not Jesus.
    Anyway, I looked it up and found out that when an article is used with the nominative, it can function as a vocative. So, it looks like this is a confessional formula.

  4. “As an Evangelical or a Mormon, can you join Thomas in calling Jesus your Lord and your God? (note the capital G in God) Is this the correct response to Jesus for all men?”

    About a year ago, I would have hesitated – mostly due to Christ’s own example of always deferring to the Father. But gradually, I’ve come to a feeling that this hierarchical issue need not detract from feelings of praise, adoration, awe, and worship that are properly directed toward Christ as God (with a capital G).

    Setting aside TT’s ideas on the subject (with which I neither agree nor disagree), and simply assuming Thomas was declaring Christ to be God – yes, I would be happy to join with him.

    “Blessing and glory, honor and power be unto him”

  5. If the consensus is that Thomas was using the vocative, then Amen! I’m with every Christian who believes that salvation is and always will be through Christ the Lord my God.

  6. TT-
    Jews would not of taken God’s name in vain like he did. Thomas was a Jew, and Jews take that sort of thing seriously( as already pointed out). Also if you take it back to the original language, you will note, Thomas is still calling Jesus Lord. Why this matters is, the Greek word for Lord is Kyrios. When the Jews translated the Bible into Greek, the Greek language had no words for YHWH. So they were stuck with the standard words for “god” and “lord”, that being Theos and Kyrios. Its interesting to note that out of the more then 6000 something times they wrote God, they used Kyrios in that translation, and only Theos a few hundred times (I have the exact numbers somewhere but not currently with me). They carried this over to their everyday language by not using it so vainly, such as calling Roman emperors Kyrios. The writers in wanting to show that the Son is not the Father, used the word Kyrios to denote him, and Theos to denote God the Father. However as we can see this sometimes spilled over,as if the writers could not contain themselves.Jesus is refered to many more times through out the NT, as being Theos, and this is clearly seen.

  7. brooksrobinson,

    How many exactly is “many more times”? This is the only instance I am aware of where Jesus is potentially referred to “ho theos” with the definite article; and there are very few where Jesus is even called “theos”. Significantly, as noted Catholic scholar on the Johannine literature Raymond Brown has pointed out, in John 1.1 the definite article is missing. As he said:

    “The prologue’s “the Word was God” offers a difficulty because there is no article before theos. Does this imply that “God” means less when predicated of the Word than it does when used as a name for the Father? Once again, the reader must divest himself of a post-Nicene understanding of the vocabulary involved… It is Jesus Christ who says in John xiv 28, “The Father is greater than I,” and who in xvii 3 speaks of the Father as “the only true God.”

    Quite consistently throughout the Synoptic gospels and Paul’s writings (I am not here referring to Ephesians or the Pastoral’s, but they don’t really change the point anyway) Jesus is not referred to as “theos” let alone the title of God the Father, “ho theos”.

    In any case, LDS consider Jesus fully divine.

    And as far as the post goes, and as TT points out, capitalization is a modern invention.

  8. The Yellow Dart:

    Hebrews 1:8-12
    Titus 2:13
    Philippians 2:5-7
    John 1:18- “No one has ever seen God, *but God the One* and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.”
    “Theon oudeis heooraken poopote. * Monogenees Theos* ho oon eis ton kolpon tou Patros ekeinos exeegeesato”- New insights on interpretation revealed the error, before it read *but the Son* instead of but God the One

    1 John 5:20

    1 Corinthians 8:6-Both Jesus and Theos are given same roles as everything coming from them, also Jesus is declared one kyrios, which is one God.

    The Bible clearly reveals one living God. The others are idols, and created things. If Jesus is divine and not God then God is a liar.

    “And as far as the post goes, and as TT points out, capitalization is a modern invention.” This is true, however, if theres only one god(since capitalization should technically not be used) as the Bible proclaims, what does that make Jesus?

  9. “This is true, however, if theres only one god(since capitalization should technically not be used) as the Bible proclaims, what does that make Jesus?”

    The Son of God – to be praised and worshiped.

    By the way, just about all those verses you quoted can be read more than one way.

  10. brooksrobinson,

    I happen to be able to read Greek, but thanks for giving me your NIV translation(s) anyway 😛 (However, the NIV is a translation that I don’t really like; I much prefer the NRSV if I have to read translations at all, but that’s another topic for another day).

    Let me refresh your memory about what you actually said and what I was actually responding to in my comment:

    “Jesus is refered to many more times through out the NT, as being Theos, and this is clearly seen.”

    You make at least two claims:

    1) Jesus is referred to as “theos” many more times
    and 2) that this occurs “through out the NT”.

    In my response I simply asked what qualifies in your judgment as “many times” given that only the passages which I referred to in the gospel of John have a high probability (especially John 1.1; John 20.28 I am not entirely certain of) of actually referring to Jesus. Other than that/those passage(s), there is/are no other passage(s) which refers to Jesus as “theos” (as you clearly claimed).

    This hardly seems to me to qualify for “many times” “through out the NT”.

    There are, of course, many passages which refer to Jesus as Lord; however, this is not always a clear-cut situation, since Lord (kyrios) is a common Greek title or respect. I fully agree that there are passages in which Jesus is referred to as Lord with reference to the name YHWH (John 8.58 and Phil. 2.6-11 seem to have the highest probability, but there are others I think probably fit as well)–but again, your claim that I was addressing was about the use of the word “theos” *NOT* the word “kyrios”.

    Moreover, the very passages which you cite (such as Phil. 2.6-11; 1 Cor. 8.6 [c.f. 1 Cor 15. 27-28], etc.) quite clearly subordinate Jesus (just as other references in John do as Raymond Brown mentioned in my comment above [namely, John 14.28 and 17.3, among many others]) to the Father.

    Showing that Jesus inherits the divine name and acts as the Father’s agent in the worlds’ redemption, however, isn’t enough to “prove” 4th century Trinitarian theology as you seem to be implying with your comments. If you want lengthier, scholarly studies of the development of Trinitarian theology, I’d be happy to provide you with plenty of (non-LDS) references, including those scholars (Catholic and Evangelical) who actually personally hold a belief in the creedal Trinity.

    The obvious problems with your other proof-text passages involve textual variants and ambiguities in Greek.

    For instance, the variant and translation you cite for Jn. 1. 18 is only one of many (and one which I disagree with, though not for theological reasons, since I agree that Jesus is fully divine). Moreover, the passage in Titus (2.13) is very ambiguous in Greek, and your translation is in no way entailed, since it is only one of several possibilities. (I was actually debating in my previous comment whether to include it with John 1.1 and 20.28, but it is so unclear that I don’t consider it in the same category.) Further, 1 Jn. 5. 18-20 also in no way entails that “theos” is being predicated to Jesus instead of God the Father (as even the NIV study bible footnote clearly states). I think it clearly is referring in context to God the Father; again I don’t consider this passage in the same category as John 1.1 and John 20.28.

    Best wishes,

    TYD

    So now, in conclusion, it sees clear that both your statements are false, namely that Jesus is 1) referred to as “theos” many times and that this appellation occurs 2) throughout the NT.

  11. brooksrobinson,

    I realized I missed responding to several of your assertions and proof-texts (e.g., Heb. 1. 8-12 and that the bible claims there is only one “god”) in your last comment, but I will get back to them later when I have time–however, right now I have an errand to run.

    It seems clear to me, however, that you aren’t very well versed in modern biblical scholarship. Is this a correct assumption?

    Best wishes,

    TYD

  12. *I only ask this question because I like to know where the other person I am conversing with is at so-to-speak and so that I can dialogue in the appropriate manner.

    Sorry for the numerous little posts.

    Best wishes again,

    TYD

  13. Seth R:
    Anything can be read more then one way. However there is a right way to reading and understanding.

    The Yellow Dart:

    I have multiple versions of the Bible, but chose the NIV simply for its more modern language structure, yet preserving accurate Greek lexicons.

    Jesus is referred to as Theos many times through out the NT. Perhaps you’d like to see Hebrews 1:8-12 in Greek? “pros de ton *huion*, Ho thronos sou *ho Theos* eis ton aioona tou aioonos, kai hee rabdos tees euthuteetos rabdos tees basileias sou. -Notice how the Son is referred to as ho Theos

    Philippians 2:5-7 clearly referring to Jesus as being God in nature or form (morphe), also equal(isos) to God.

    Titus 2:13 also makes a clear reference to Jesus being God.prosdechomenoi teen makarian elpida kai epifaneian tees doxees tou *megalou Theou* kai Sooteeros* heemoon Ieesou Christou,-notice how Christ is called great God, and Savior.

  14. brooksrobinson,

    3-5 potential references to Jesus as “theos” in a compilation of books as substantial and large as the NT does not equal “many times”, nor would I consider it “through out the NT” as you asserted (and I’ll add that they certainly don’t lead to the formal notion of the Trinity). Did you forget what you actually said? Did you mean something else by your statement? You should really clarify if this isn’t what you actually meant.

    —-
    Now to your comment(s):

    Titus 2.13 (which I already said above) does not technically refer to Jesus as “theos” unless one chooses to read it that way, since there are other (and in my judgment, better) possible translations of the passage. The Greek which you are so found of quoting could just as easily be rendered “the great god and our savior jesus christ” which in no way entails that Jesus = the great god. In Greek, as in English, the ambiguities of the genitive as well as the conjunction do not unambiguously state that Jesus = the great god. Your proof-text is ambiguous at very best, and I honestly think it doesn’t make much sense give the overall usage of the Pastoral author.

    Further, what are you claiming the significance of “morphe tou theou” in Phil. 2.6-11 is? The question is what does that mean. I agree that Jesus is stated in Phil. 2. 6-11 to be in the “morphe tou theou”. However, Jesus is also said in the next verse to have taken on the form [morphen] of a slave; this possibly suggests, among other pieces of evidence, that “morphe” in the first instance intends to refer to the actual visual person of God the Father himself; see further Markus Bockmuehl, “‘The Form of God’ (Phil. 2:6): Variations on a Theme of Jewish Mysticism,” Journal of Theological Studies 48/1 (April 1997): 1–23.).

    Your quotation of Hebrews 1. 8-9 also fails to mention that this is actually a quote from the Hebrew Bible, specifically Ps. 45. 6-7, in which the coronation of the Israelite king is described and wherein the king is apparently referred to as “elohim” (god). This can be seen more clearly in the following verse which addresses both the Israelite king and the god of Israel as “elohim”. This passage cited in Hebrews is drawing on the ancient metaphors of Israelite kingship and reapplying them to Jesus. I would ask you, are you also willing to attribute divinity to the ancient king(s) of Israel? (I think cross-referencing John 10.34 (which also quotes Ps. 82.1) would be useful here as well, which I may discuss more in the near future.)

    Now this brings me to another assertion that you made in a previous comment, namely that no other beings are genuinely referred to as “god” in the Bible; such a claim seems based on your prior assumptions that the bible is completely uniform in its presentation(s) of “God” and that it also agrees with your post-Nicene onto-theology. However, these assumptions are clearly an assumption unwarranted and undermined by serious study of the biblical books.

    Simply, there are numerous instances where genuine divine heavenly beings are referred to in the Hebrew Bible. We can and should easily cross reference passages which make other elohim, bene elohim, qdshim, and other members of the heavenly divine council explicit, such as Ps. 82; Deut. 32.8-9; Ps. 29. 1-2; Ps. 89; Hos. 12.1; Zech. 3; Zech. 14.5; 1 Kings 22.19; Is. 6; Is. 14.13; Jer. 23.18, 22; Dan. 3.25, etc. These references are about as clear as one can get that other real divinities existed in the ancient Israelite worldview(s). As noted biblical archeologist William Dever has said:

    “A generation ago, when I was a graduate student, biblical scholars were nearly unanimous in thinking that monotheism had been predominant in ancient Israelite religion from the beginning — not just as an “ideal,” but as the reality. Today all that has changed. Virtually all mainstream scholars (and even a few conservatives) acknowledge that true monotheism emerged only in the period of the exile in Babylon in the 6th century B.C., as the canon of the Hebrew Bible was taking shape.”

    What the texts actually say is that that there are “bene elohim” and “elohim” (sons of god and gods); I don’t know what a clearer usage marking a genus relationship between God and the “(sons of) god(s)” could be than this. What in your view could ever merit the conclusion that the Israelites believed there was a plurality of gods of the same “kind” as the Most High God if calling them “sons (of god)” (or in other places simply calling them “gods”) can’t do it?

    Moreover, Second Temple Judaism was not “radically” monotheistic in the sense you are proposing. Second Temple Judaism (from which Christianity emerged), as scholars have well noted for a long time, perpetuated the common ANE view/Israelite view of a High God surrounded by divine and semi-divine figures who carry out his will and actions and surround him in his heavenly court. Your proof-texts attempting to equate the God of Israel YHWH with Jesus (see additionally Phil. 2.6-11) as though they simply demonstrate or necessarily lead to post-Nicene theology overlook numerous passages throughout the NT which clearly subordinate Jesus to the Father and which show that Jesus, as God the Father’s chief vizier and mediator/broker of the covenant relationship, is granted, at the deference of and for the glory of God the Father, to possess the honor of the divine name and sit at God’s right hand as his Son and heir acting in his behalf as his agent. You might like to read more concerning honor/shame dimensions in ancient Mediterranean cultures, and Judaism in particular, if you really want to appreciate more fully how honorific titles function in the NT, and how they shape the theological views and presentations of the NT writers. Moreover, the philosophical dimensions necessary to create a Trinitarian/Nicene understanding of the Godhead simply was not available to the biblical writers (especially those of the synoptics and Paul), and it is simply abusive to their writing to foist such anachronistic readings back onto them.

    I can give you plenty of references for these issues if you want to look at them more closely before commenting. You may be interested to read a brief summary of such views here:

    http://ldsfocuschrist.blogspot.com/2007/07/lds-gods-as-monarchic-monotheism-blake.html

    As evangelical scholar Larry Hurtado has said:

    “I propose that Jewish monotheism can be taken as constituting a distinctive version of the commonly-attested belief structure described by Nilsson as involving a “high god” who presides over other deities. The God of Israel presides over a court of heavenly beings who are likened to him (as is reflected in, e.g., the OT term for them “sons of God”). In pagan versions, too, the high god can be described as father and source of the other divine beings, and as utterly superior to them. In this sense, Jewish (and Christian) monotheism, whatever its distinctives, shows its historical links with the larger religious environment of the ancient world.”

    Even evangelical scholars such as Mike Heiser have admitted that “monotheism” is an inadequate description of what the biblical texts present, and that the biblical usage of “elohim” refers to other genuine deities. Passages typically cited as proof-texts as evincing a onto-monotheism (usually in Second-Isaiah) fail to grasp the nature of the divine council as well as the evolving theological developments in the history of Israel (not to mention Israelites and early Christians did not think of divinity in terms of ontology).

    Simply the “bible” doesn’t say things, because it is a compilation of books by diverse authors over a long period of time and is not always consistent. There are biblical books which present views of god, not a single, entirely uniform view. You seem to be performing the error of historical collapse in your analysis.

    In conclusion, it seems to me that there are at best a handful (and probably only between 1 and 4) references that can be plausibly suggested to refer to Jesus as “theos”. Your claim that it is throughout the NT and occurs frequently is simply not true to the historical record(s). It is not my argument that Jesus is never called “theos” (it really doesn’t bother me at all when/if he is), but simply that your assertion is severely misleading and that it seems to engage in historical collapse (i.e., reading your own theology back onto the NT texts), and is bound under the assumption of scriptural uniformitarianism. Simply, none of the passages you cited articulates post-Nicene Trinitarian theology. A post-Nicene Trinitarian conclusion/reading can only be reached by adding inferences and novel elements into the reading of the text(s).

  15. Anything can be read more then one way. However there is a right way to reading and understanding.

    Total crap. Your way, right?

  16. The Yellow Dart:

    I’m in the process of your response now.

    “Total crap. Your way, right?”

    Kullervo:

    it was a response to Seth R. that said the verses I listed can be read in a different way. Chillax on the constant badgering. I’ve read all of your statements, and not one had an once of intellectual thought behind them.

  17. brooksrobinson,

    I just got your message at my blog ldskaitabiblia.wordpress.com (I haven’t been there in a while since I actually blog at another place now called faithpromotingrumor.wordpress.com).

    I will send you an e-mail then, as you asked, and you can send me whatever information you wanted that way if that is more convenient for you.

    I know my comments were really long (you’ve raised quite a number of issues); but really all I am trying to say is your claim that the NT says Jesus is called ‘theos’ “many times through out the NT” is accurate. That word is almost universally used throughout the NT in reference to God the Father.

    TYD

  18. Chillax on the constant badgering. I’ve read all of your statements, and not one had an once of intellectual thought behind them.

    Ooh, zing. I know what it was in response to, and it’s total crap either way. Prtetty much everything we know about language argues that statements like “there is a right way to reading and understanding” verge on total meaninglessness. Language is simply too malleable and context-laden, on the part of both the sender and the receiver for “the right way” to mean something.

    What way is “the right way” for reading and understanding, anyway? The most persuasive argument you could make would be to say that the “right way” would be the way that leads to an understanding of the sense and meaning that the speaker/writer intended, but even that’s not a given, especially when complexities of communication mean never eeally being able to know what was intended. The more complex the message, the more ambiguity creeps in on the part of both sender and receiver, and the higher the chance of message corruption during transmission.

    Saying things like “the right way” in this context not only presupposes a God, but it presupposes that language has some kind of concrete meaning outside of and independent of the human mind and experience. And everything we know about linguistics leads us to conclude that simply isn;t so, as uncomfortable as that may be for believers in message- or book-bound religious traditions. You’r inherently built on a foundation of sand.

  19. What does Thomas’ opinion (as reported by John) matter, in he original Greek or otherwise?

    If I saw Jesus in my living room I would probably react the same way. . . .

  20. “in he original Greek or otherwise?”- The point is, he is saying to Jesus in a literal translation, “the Lord of me and the God of me.” , “Ho(The) Kurios(Lord) mou(me) kai(and) ho(the) Theos(God) mou(me)! Not just some simple taking the Lord name in vain statement out of shock.

  21. I mean, it’s not like they caught it on videotape.

    Seriously, think about this–let’s assume that John even wrote the Gospel of John, which isn’t a given, especially considering how much it differs from the other Gospels and how much crazy gnosticism it’s filled with. Let’s assume John wrote it. He didn’t write it right there in the house when it was uttered. He probably wasn’t sitting there with a dictaphone or even taking shorthand notes.

    Eyewitness accounts are notorious for being surprisingly unreliable and inconsistent. But even assuming the writer of the Gospel of John (whether or not it was John at all) was present at the events being described–which isn;t obvious since he’s got no corroborating accounts and he rarely mentions himself–even assuming he was there and heard what was said, who knows how much time went by before he wrote it down? We have absolutely no idea, except that it was probably somewhere in like a two-hundred-year window. The more time went by, the less likely he (she? who knows?) was to accurately report the events.

    So like I said, we have absolutely no real idea if Thomas was even there, or that he said anything at all, or that the words he actually said were exactly these.

    And we’re quibbling over the exact phrasing? Give me a break.

  22. In dealing with Christian apologetics, my experience is that gnosticism basically means “any Christian spinoff religion Christian theologians don’t like.”

  23. Seth R:
    “In dealing with Christian apologetics, my experience is that gnosticism basically means “any Christian spinoff religion Christian theologians don’t like.”- This is not the case… It is a more mystical idea. Its main theology consists of, a perfect god and a lessor evil god who created the material world. In which human spirits are trapped in.

    Kullervo:

    A. should not use wikipedia as a scholarly source, as anyone can add things to it that are false . B. Gnosticism is one of the first heresy’s of Christianity, and thus will be expected to share some elements of Christian,wordings or idea’s. C. Based on writing similarities to 1st,2nd, and 3rd John, and the fact that four 2nd century church fathers attributed the Gospel of John and 1st,2nd,3rd John to the disciple of John, it is widely accepted that John wrote this gospel.

  24. A. You’re right. That’s why I’m not using it as a scholarly source. But things that get added that are false usually get edited back out really quickly. Try it and see what happens. Anyway, look at the entry–it cites sources. Furthermore, you’re not supposed to use Wikipedia as a scholarly source because it’s an encyclopedia and you’re never supposed to use encyclopedias as scholarly sources. Any source can be filled with misinformation. But that is totally irrelevant.

    B. Irrelevant. I’m just saying that John has a notably different theological emphasis. And I’m only referring to the Wiki article to indicate that I’m not alone in thinking so.

    C. Perhaps widely accepted by evangelical scholars, yes. That’s not the same thing as “widely accepted.” Even if john really wrote it, that’s irrelevant to my point. Remember when I said the part about even assuming the writer was there?

  25. Also, you’re _quibbling_.

    Get to the main point, which is that arguing over meaning of the exact wording of an account written probably years–if not decades–after the events reported by a third party who may or may not have been an eyewitness.

    Seriously?

  26. Out of curiosity Brooks, why do Mormons continually get accused of being a “Gnostic heresy?” Because nothing in your blurb describes Mormonism, yet we still get to wear the label for some reason. Unless there’s more to Gnosticism than that sentence lets on…

  27. For the same reason that every authoritarian or totalitarian regime gets labeled “fascism.”

  28. If someone is describing Mormonism as Gnostic, they either don’t understand Mormonism or they don’t understand Gnosticism. Mormonism is the opposite of Gnosticism in many keys ways. Gnostics view material as evil, Mormons believe that material is all that exist.

  29. Seth R:

    “Out of curiosity Brooks, why do Mormons continually get accused of being a “Gnostic heresy?”-Mormonism isn’t gnosticism, as Tim said. Those who say that are clueless, and you shouldn’t listen to them :p

  30. Again, as with fascism, when people say that Mormonism is a gnostic heresy, they aren;t actually saying that Mormonism is a literal revival of 1st- and 2nd-century gnosticism, but that Mormonism shares some elements with gnosticism.

  31. Tim said: “If someone is describing Mormonism as Gnostic, they either don’t understand Mormonism or they don’t understand Gnosticism.

    On this I agree with you 100 percent.

    Of course, there are going to be some elements that are similar. That’s probably true of most philosophical/theological systems. But as a whole, the teachings of gnosticism more in common with those of Oprah Winfrey than with those of Thomas S. Monson.

  32. “Gnostics view material as evil, Mormons believe that material is all that exist.”

    Well that’s not the whole story. Mormonism views the perfected union of the physical with the spiritual as the highest ideal. But you are right, we don’t view the flesh or the material world as inherently evil just for being material.

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