Review: Journal for Trinitarian Studies and Apologetics (2)

coverIntroduction

The first article I’ll be engaging in my extended reviews is “Jesus’ Claims to be God: Answering the Objections,” by Edward L. Dalcour, senior lecturer of the North-West University Faculty of Theology. This post will broadly present the author’s main thesis before treating individual sections. Along the way, some issues of definitions and methods will be discussed as the material warrants.[1] This will make this review much larger than the others, but many of the articles appeal to the same presuppositions and definitions, so it should help to set the stage for some of the discussion to come.

Dalcour’s article is aimed at supporting the traditional Trinitarian notion of Jesus as one of the three persons constituting the one being that is God. Ostensibly, the article seeks to answer objections to this ideology, but in reality the few objections presented are weak hermeneutic claims broadly attributed to “all unitarian groups” (93). There is one section directly addressing the New World Translation’s rendering of “I have been” for John 8:58’s ἐγὼ εἰμί, but the bulk of the article is dedicated to positive exegetical support for the assertions that (1) the New Testament declares Jesus to be “God the Son,” (2) it does so in “the most unequivocal and explicit way” (114, all emphases will be in original), more so “than if he had literally said: I am God” (94), and (3) salvation is predicated upon acknowledgement of Jesus’ identity as God.

Methodological Considerations

The second proposition listed above is the starting point for Dalcour’s discussion. The premise for the idea that “I am God” would not have been explicit enough is the claim that the word “god” had a variety of meanings in the Bible “according to the context in which it appears” (94–95). In addition to “the true God,” the Greek θεός can also refer to “false gods,” and the Hebrew אלהים can refer to judges (Exod 21:6 and 22:8–9), angels, and “false gods.” None of these entities were gods “by nature,” and the entities actually thought to exist were only called “gods” because they operated as God’s representatives. Thus, Jesus’ claim to be God would have been understood rather as a claim to be a representative of God.

There are multiple methodological problems with this claim, and I use this opportunity to make some general comments about method and definitions that will bear on subsequent article reviews. First, Dalcour’s English phrase “I am God” is not as ambiguous as he would have you believe. “God,” with a capital G, is a title designating a very specific divine entity within the contemporary Judeo-Christian worldview. On the other hand, “god,” with a lowercase g, simply designates a member of the generic noun class “deity.” It normally follows an indefinite article in the kinds of ambiguous singular predicate nominatives Dalcour is describing. “I am God” and “I am a god” are quite different claims. The latter actually reflects the ambiguity Dalcour suggests, but he is markedly reticent to use such terminology. Even in his statement that angels, judges, and false gods are not “by nature, God,” he refuses to refer to the generic category (“not, by nature, gods”). His comment, as a result, does not mean angels, judges, and false gods are not deities, but rather that they are not YHWH himself. (He also fails to provide any evidence for such a qualification, or for the presumption that the Jews of Second Temple Palestine were so concerned with ontology.)

The reason for Dalcour’s equivocation is the fundamentalist position that YHWH, the God of Israel, exhausts the category of deity. The being of YHWH and the category “deity” are coterminous. There is no deity beyond the being of YHWH. It is thus impossible to be “a god” in the fundamentalist worldview. “Ontological monotheism” precludes it because YHWH leaves no space in the category. This is why the phrase “the deity of Christ” doesn’t mean “Christ’s divinity,” but “Christ’s identity as God.” Ironically, it is also why the frequent reference to other entities as “gods” throughout the Bible must be interpreted as mere honorific titles lent to representatives. Dalcour actually interprets the word to mean the one and only thing his theology allows it to mean, despite his claim that it can mean different things. Observe his comments on Exod 7:1:

‘See, I make you as God [Elohim] to Pharaoh.’ Of course, Moses was not actually made true deity, but only as God’s direct representative, he was made ‘as God’ to Pharaoh.

In other words, and in contradiction to his comment that “the term God in Scripture has an assortment of meanings according to the context in which it appears,” the word does only mean “God” (i.e., YHWH). The difference, for Dalcour, is that the title is simply borrowed by those who are operating as his “direct representative.” This is not a different “meaning,” it’s just a metonymic use with the exact same meaning. There is also a problem with Dalcour’s rendering of Exod 7:1. The Hebrew does not say “as God,” the Hebrew says נתתיך אלהים לפרעה, “I have made you a god to Pharaoh.” There is no hint whatsoever of the comparative particle “as.” Again, Dalcour cannot allow for a different meaning, despite explicitly stating that it has different meanings. Divine power has been given to Moses in Exodus 7, allowing him to function in the role of a deity in his dealings with the Egyptian king. “Deity” is not ontological here, but functional. This is how the term should be understood in Hebrew.[2]

This brings us to his examples about angels and judges. Simply put, the Hebrew אלהים never referred to human judges. I have discussed this previously here, but I have provided a more detailed discussion in this document. For this review, I make some summarizing comments and then move on. The Hebrew word for “judges” in Exodus 21–22 is פללים, as is made clear by Exod 21:22. Additionally, there is no reason for the individuals mentioned in each section to go before judges; appearance before judges is presupposed, as v. 22 also makes clear. The verse calls for whatever penalty the judges levy, meaning the verse presupposes the case has been heard by judges. These law codes were to be applied and enforced by the judges, so there is no need to prescribe appearance before them. The plural verbal forms in Exod 22:8–9 are likely to be understood as reflecting a singular sense, as in 1 Sam 28:13–14. The best reading is thus “to/before God.”

Next, while all angels were certainly deities in early Israelite religion, not all deities were angels. Angels were the servile lowest class of deity. Above them were the “sons of God,” who were the operative deities who had relative autonomy and were often petulant and lascivious. The story of their escapades with human women in Gen 6:2–4 is an example. Angels were not conceived of as disobedient within the Israelite worldview until the exilic and post-exilic periods, and that reading was itself rejected around the turn of the era in favor of a human reading (this is why the angelic reading of Gen 6:2–4 was vehemently rejected by many early Jewish authors and rabbis).[3] The presence of the “sons of God” in heaven and at the creation of the world (Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7), their contrast with humans (Gen 6:2–4; Ps 82:6–7), and their direct inheritance of rule over the nations from El Elyon (Deut 32:8–9) makes it absolutely undeniable that they were conceived of as deities. Dalcour’s conflation of the two classes of deities reads later theological constructions into the Hebrew Bible. There is nothing to suggest the two were equated prior to the Greco-Roman period.

The next problem with Dalcour’s claim is actually the ambiguity he asserts for the term “god” in the Greek. “I am God” is quite unambiguous in English, but Greek lacks the definite article, meaning “I am God” is grammatically indistinguishable from “I am a god.” In the Greek, Dalcour’s concern for vagueness is justified, although his arguments in other portions of the article flatly ignore the very concern he expresses. In fact, many of them actually rest upon the very rejection of that vagueness. For instance, of Jesus’ claim to be one with God in John 10:30 he states, “the response of the Jews in verse 10:33 is an irrefutable confirmation of Jesus’ claim of being equal with God—God Himself: ‘For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God” (107). The term is supposed to be ambiguous, though. Dalcour equivocates once more. The verse could just as accurately be rendered “make yourself out to be a god.” Given Dalcour’s explanation of the inadequacy of the term θεός to specifically designate God himself, we would expect him to suggest this reading. He does not, though. In fact, he asserts that ambiguous predication to be an “irrefutable confirmation” that Jesus is God himself. Evidently is it explicit enough when Dalcour needs it to be. He also insists John 1:1 and 20:28 declare Jesus to be God himself (116), but again, we’re dealing with that ambiguous and indeterminate noun that just doesn’t serve to do what Dalcour wants it to do. He is arguing out of both sides of his mouth.

In reality, John 10:33 is best rendered as “a god,” since Jesus’ rebuttal is a scripture that designates other humans “gods” in the generic sense (according to the then contemporary reading of Ps 82:6).[4] That response would be a ridiculous strawman if the accusation were that he claimed to be God himself, rather than a member of the generic class of deity. That makes little sense. The Jews’ accusation is best understood to reflect a claim to be divine in the generic sense. To paraphrase Jesus’ argument, “why are you getting upset that I, as the son of God, am a deity, when your own scriptures, which you consider authoritative, call other humans deities?” No identification with the being of YHWH is at all intimated.

The third problem with Dalcour’s claim is his inconsistent notion of “context.” Above he refers to the individual literary contexts of each occurrence of the word “god,” but in his discussion of “sons of God” he claims that in a “Semitic (Jewish) context, to be the ‘son of’ something meant that one possesses or shares the nature of that something” (103). This again asserts a fundamental concern for ontology in early Judaism, but it also asserts an incredibly broad context, specifically the context of all Jewish language and literature. This is a bizarre claim, since it basically invalidates the influence of all possible literary contexts. He declares the phrase to mean the exact same thing no matter the immediate context, since the wider “Jewish” context establishes a single, consistent, and figurative (!) meaning.

This is nonsense, however, since “son of” can certainly refer to a variety of things within a “Jewish context,” including literal male genetic descendance. Figuratively, it refers most often to a shared functionality, rather than a shared essence, as in “sons of the prophets” (1 Kgs 20:35; 2 Kgs 2:3, 5, 7, 15; 4:1, 38; 5:22; 6:1), or “sons of Belial” (Judg 19:22; 1 Sam 2:12; 2 Sam 23:6; 1 Kgs 21:10). Dalcour is asserting a specific metaphorical sense for the phrase in all its usage within Jewish literature, although he then goes on to directly reject that sense. Immediately after stating the “son of” means one shares in the essence of the nomen rectum, he states that humans who are called “sons of God” (John 1:12) are so “by adoption.” Suddenly, “son of” does not mean a shared essence. Evidently the broad Christian ideological context obliterated the universal Jewish context. He elaborates even further, though:

Even though the phrase “son(s) of God” was applied to angels and men, when applied to Jesus, it was in a context of essence or nature. Whereas Christians are sons of God by adoption, Jesus is the Son of God by nature—which was a clear claim of deity.

Suddenly it is not the “Jewish” context that indicates a shared essence, but only the contexts in which Jesus alone is called “son of God.” He flatly contradicts himself in claiming the phrase specifically refers to shared essence in a “Jewish context” and then immediately claiming that only in those references to Jesus alone does the immediate context impose the sense of shared essence.[5]

The last broad methodological shortcoming I discuss is perhaps the most pervasive within the articles of this journal, and that is the claim that the scriptures must be read univocally:

We must take Scripture as a unit: All Scripture is theopneustos—“breathed out by God.” Hence, John 8:58 and the other absolute “I am” clams [sic] are all a part of 1:1 and 20:28, which are a part of 5:17 and 10:30. And these are a part of 1 John 5:20, which is a part of Romans 9:5; Philippians 2:6-11; and Colossians 2:9, which are all a part of Isaiah 9:6 and the prologue of Hebrews. In other words the entirety of Scripture must be considered when examining the “I am” claims of Christ.

There are several problems with this application of 2 Tim 3:16. First, the author of 2 Timothy never delineates what texts he believes to be scripture. That the modern Evangelical delineation of “Scripture” is intended is simply assumed by Dalcour. This, of course, means he is not engaging critics, but talking to people who already agree with him. It also conflicts with the scriptures themselves, as, for instance, the author of Jude obviously considered 1 Enoch to be inspired scripture.[6] Jude 1:14 states that Enoch prophesied (προφήτευσεν) of God’s coming in judgment with ten thousands saints, directly quoting 1 En 1:9.[7] Dalcour would never accept it as such, though, despite Jude’s clear belief in its inspired and authoritative status.[8] Even if one rejects the conclusion that Jude thought the text was scripture, the author unquestionably feels 1 En 1:9 preserves an authentic prophecy uttered by Enoch. Is the author of Jude mistaken here in taking 1 Enoch as the actual inspired prophesies of Enoch?

For the author of 2 Tim 3:16, “scripture” referred to the authoritative Jewish texts. There is no indication the author conceived of any texts that would subsequently be included in the then-non-existent New Testament as scripture. Certainly a couple later NT texts can be read to understand some Pauline texts as scripture, but that has no bearing on the position of the author of 2 Timothy, unless, of course, one commits to a circular argument by insisting that later texts must be interpreted univocally with 2 Tim 3:16 because 2 Tim 3:16 says so.

Next, the precise meaning of the word θεόπνευστος is unknown. We don’t know exactly what it meant to first century Christians to be “God-breathed”? Does that refer to the transmission of the scripture to the author, or all the way to the executed composition? Does  it entirely preclude any human filtering or influence? The fundamentalist answer will obviously be quick and decisive, but will also be based on nothing more than theological presupposition. “It means X to me today, so it meant the same to them back then.” There is no lexical or rhetorical context for the word in the first century CE, so there is simply no way to know how to answer the questions above. Even when the word does begin to show up in later literature, there is not enough specificity in its usage to say whether or not univocality is actually demanded by 2 Tim 3:16’s characterization of scripture. What ends up requiring univocality for modern Evangelicals is the imposition of Enlightenment-era philosophizing.

Next, univocality is flatly precluded by a number of texts from the Bible. For instance, Acts 15:16–17 ostensibly quote “the words of the prophets” in Amos 9:11–12 to defend the taking of the gospel to the gentiles, but in reality they quote a Greek testimonia that conflates the words of different prophets in v. 16 and then adapts the Septuagint’s misreading of Amos 9:12 in v. 17 (see my discussion here).[9] The resulting text has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the actual words of Amos 9, which refer only to the military reconquest of lands belonging to YHWH at Israel’s political height. We know the rendering must come from the autograph, since the Hebrew has no bearing at all on the question of taking the gospel to the gentiles. Only the Septuagint’s misreading bears on the context of James’ quotation. The author of Acts has James insist the prophets of the Old Testament say something they simply do not say.

Then there are the examples of outright disagreement between authors. For instance, Rom 3:28 says that “a person is justified by faith, and not by the works of the law.” Rom 4:1–4 argues that Abraham was not justified by works, asserting in v. 2 that if Abraham were justified by works, he would have something about which to boast. James 2, on the other hand, directly refutes Paul. In Jas 2:21 he responds to Paul’s assertion about Abraham, insisting he was indeed justified by works. In v. 24 he responds to Paul’s underlying claim about justification by works, stating, “You see, then, that a person is justified by works, and not by faith alone.” James flatly disagrees with the author of Romans and repeatedly emphasizes his position. Faith and works do not share a dichotomous relationship, but a vertical and dependent one. Faith is derivative of works, and thus salvation is very much dependent upon works. Many creative ways have been concocted to harmonize the two accounts, such as insisting Paul meant only the rituals of the law of Moses, or that James refers to a different kind of justification, namely public justification before people. Such eisegetic question-begging derives entirely and exclusively from the subjugation of the scriptures to modern tradition.

For these reasons and others, I can neither accept Dalcour’s insistence that we read the texts univocally nor the conclusions he rests upon that insistence. Univocality has absolutely nothing to support it; it does nothing but damage to the original message of the texts, and it serves only to obscure those aspects of the Bible that problematize contemporary conservative dogmas.

Dalcour’s Case

I now move on to the Dalcour’s arguments. He lists four claims found in the New Testament that he asserts “explicitly demonstrate that Jesus did indeed claim to be God, in the same sense as God the Father” (96):

(1) the seven ἐγὼ εἰμί declarations
(2) “The ‘Son of God’—in essence (i.e., God the Son)”
(3) John 10:30: “I and the Father are one”
(4) Jesus as “Alpha and the Omega,” “The First and the Last,” and “The Beginning and the End”

(1), (2), and (4) argue, essentially, that Jesus carried designations reserved in the Hebrew Bible exclusively for YHWH. (3) argues that Jesus’ claim to be “one” with God, and the Jews’ interpretation of his nature as God’s son indicating he is “equal” with God, is “irrefutable confirmation” of Jesus’ identity as God. Many of the details of these arguments, however, betray an inadequate understanding of the texts’ literary and cultural contexts. In the interest of space, I address only his discussion of the ἐγὼ εἰμί declarations and then draw some implications for argument (4). John 10:30 and “Son of God” have been discussed already.

Essentially, for Dalcour, Jesus’ seven “I am” claims (John 5:24, 28, 58; 13:19; 18:5, 6, 8) are non-predicated statements that allude directly to Deut 32:39 Heb. אני הוא; LXX ἐγὼ εἰμί), which was understood throughout Judaism to be a claim to self-existence which was attributed exclusively to YHWH. As a result, Jesus is claiming to be the “I am,” which is “a clear and absolute claim to deity” (97).

Dalcour’s presentation of the meaning of the ἐγὼ εἰμί fails to address the vast majority of the exegetical issues associated with the phrase. He addresses none of the nuances of the use of the non-predicated construction throughout the Septuagint or the New Testament (e.g., John 6:20; 9:9), or the relationship of that construction to the predicated construction. He does not address the fact that the predicate is implied in several occurrences of the non-predicated construction, often indicated by a clear antecedent (John 4:26; 8:24; 18:5). Additionally, he shows no familiarity with several important English publications on the Hebrew and/or the Greek phrase in question.[10] Rather, he describes the interpretation of the construction as black and white, which is a gross misrepresentation.

There are several ways to understand the construction that Dalcour insists could have only been understood one way. In John 8:24, for instance, it is to be understood as “I am he.” Not only is this indicated by the presence of the antecedent (the one “not of this world,” i.e., the heavenly Messiah), but also by the response, “Who are you?” rather than “you are what?” or “No, you’re not!” The Jews miss the messianic inference,[11] not only undermining the connection with YHWH himself, but also proving incorrect the notion that such a connection was “clearly understood” by the Jews. It was not. Jesus had to assert his preexistent relationship with God vis-à-vis Abraham for them to blow their collective stack.

Jesus stresses a unique relationship with God in vv. 26 and 28, but also stresses his subordination to God and the inertness of his own will. That’s hardly the context for claiming to be the very God of the Old Testament. J. F. McGrath points out, quoting C. K. Barrett,[12] that it is nonsense to read John presenting Jesus as saying, “I am Yahweh, the God of the Old Testament, and as such I do exactly what I am told.” That is exactly what Jesus claims in vv. 26 and 28, though. While the “I am” claim of John 8:58 appears to be absolute, and asserts a special relationship with God, there is simply no reason to understand that relationship to be one of identity or ontology.

The real ideological context of Jesus’ unique relationship with God and his name is the notion of divine agency. In the ancient Near East and in early Judaism one’s authority was connected with their name, and that authority was communicable along with the name. In the Hebrew Bible, God’s name is “in” the angel of YHWH, which grants him God’s authority to pardon or not to pardon sins (Exod 23:21). The temple in Jerusalem is also intended as the dwellingplace for God’s name, at least in the Deuteronomistic literature (2 Sam 7:13; 1 Kgs 5:5; 8:16, 18, 29; 9:3). In the first century Jewish Apocalypse of Abraham, the principle angel Yahoel (YHW[H]+El) bears God’s two names, and in chapter 10 it is explained that he exercises God’s power through that very name, which he describes as “dwelling in me” (vv. 3, 8). Phil 2:9 explains that God “highly exalted” Jesus, and “gave him the name which is above all names.” Complete subordination to the will of the divine patron makes sense of Jesus’ claim in John 8 to do what he is told. Jesus’ possession of God’s name is not unique within early Judaism, or even within early Christianity. According to Rev 3:12, he that overcomes will have God’s name and Jesus’ new name written upon him.

Jesus’ relationship with God in John is not one of identity, but agency. Ontology was not nearly as big a concern for Jews as functionality and authority. Concerns with ontology arose with the widespread assimilation of Greco-Roman worldviews in the second century CE and after.[13] As was explained above, the figurative use of “son of” in the Bible has nothing to do with “essence,” but rather with functionality. Dalcour repeatedly retrojects much later philosophical models and concerns into the texts of the New Testament. The fact that titles applied to YHWH in the Old Testament are appropriated by Jesus in the New Testament is not an assertion of ontological identity, but of divine agency. This extends also to the book of Revelation’s use of “Alpha and Omega” and other titles in reference to Jesus. The titles were appropriated for unique rhetorical circumstances, which meant they had specific reference to Jesus’ function as Messiah, but also reflected his connection with God.

Conclusion

Dalcour’s arguments only function within a fundamentalist Evangelical worldview, which means they’re not aimed at critics or the actual objections, but at others who already agree. Without already presupposing basically all the scriptural dogmas of modern Trinitarianism, a sustainable argument for the “deity” of Christ in the New or Old Testaments (in the sense of Jesus’ ontological identification as God) simply cannot be made. The evidence for the trinity’s slow development over time is quite clear, and the primary steps in the direction of that orthodoxy were taken during the apologetic era of the second century, when Christian ideologies were intellectualized and philosophized in an effort to facilitate their promulgation among the authorities and intelligencia of wider Greco-Roman culture.

This intellectualization caused orthodoxy’s eclipsing of orthopraxy, which is fundamentally responsible for Dalcour’s attempt to read the soteriological necessity of the trinity into John 8:24. As has been shown, however, John 8:24 does not refer to Jesus’ identity as God, but to his role as Son of God—the one “from above.” In other words, John insists on the belief that Jesus is the Son of God. This is consistent with the testimony of all the New Testament authors who address the question. The most repeated and ideologically significant claims about Jesus made throughout the New Testament are the assertions that he is the Messiah and the Son of God. Jesus himself links salvation almost exclusively with proper conduct and actions (he even identifies belief as a work), while other authors also give priority to the understanding of Jesus as (1) Christ and (2) Son of God. The authors of John themselves explain that this is the entire purpose of the existence of the gospel (John 20:31): “these things are written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.” For other examples of the priority of that identification, see Matt 16:15–16; 26:63; Luke 4:41; John 6:69; 11:27; Acts 8:37; 9:20; Rom 1:4; Eph 4:13; 1 Jo 4:15; 5:5, 10, 13.


[1] Some of my analysis will treat presuppositions that are commonly shared among Christian groups. It may seem unfair to challenge such suppositions in light of the journal’s own desription as “for the church and by the church,” but two observations, I believe, warrant such challenging. First, the journal ostensibly adopts an academic approach and interacts with several scholars whose work does not presuppose the relevant dogmas. As an explicitly apologetic endeavor, it cannot expect freedom from critical analysis. Second, there is really little reason for apologetics at all if a layperson or scholar demands that certain dogmas be ceded without argument. How can one demand dogmas like inerrancy be given a pass while directly engaging objections to dogmas like Christ’s identification as God?

[2] This is why David can be called אלהים in Ps 45:6–7. It is why Hezekiah can be called “Mighty God” in Isa 9:6. Kings were thought to be intermediaries between the divine world and the human world, thus they were not infrequently called “gods.” See the essays in Nicole Brisch, ed., Religion and Power: Divine Kingship in the Ancient World and Beyond (Chicago, Ill.: Oriental Institute, 2008).

[3] See P. Alexander, “The Targumim and Early Exegesis of the ‘Sons of God’ in Genesis 6,” JJS 23 (1972): 60–71.

[4] See J. S. Ackerman, “The Rabbinic Interpretation of Psalm 82 and the Gospel of John,” HTR 59.2 (1966): 186–91; J. H. Neyrey, “‘I Said: Your Are Gods’: Psalm 82:6 and John 10,” JBL 108.4 (1989): 647–663. Heiser rejects this understanding of Christ’s reading on the grounds, primarily, that John would be reading things into the text that were not there (here), but  eisegesis was quite common in New Testament interpretation of the Hebrew Bible. Cf. my SBL paper on the contemporary LDS reading of Psalm 82, here.

[5] Of course, there is nothing in any context that demands such a reading. In every instance where Jesus is called “son of God,” the context indicates the possession of divine authority and functionality, not nature or essence. It is always about what power Jesus has, not what ontology he has. The literary context of the phrase “son of God” will be discussed in more detail below.

[6] Here the fundamentalist approach runs into more problems. Even if a modern reader decides that they believe the apologetic notion that the quotation formula used does not indicate canonicity, the author of Jude unquestionably believes that 1 En 1:9 actually contains a prophecy uttered by Enoch himself.

[7] Cf. R. Bauckham, “A Note on a Problem in the Greek Version of I Enoch i.9,” JTS 32 (1981) 136–38 and the numerous discussions in L. M. MacDonald’s publications on canon: The Formation of the Christian Biblical Canon. Second Revised Edition (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 1995); “Identifying Scipture and Canon in the Early Church: The Criteria Question,” in The Canon Debate (edited by L. M. MacDonald and J. A. Sanders; Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson, 2002), 416–39; The Biblical Canon: Its Origin, Transmission, and Authority (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2007); Forgotten Scriptures: The Selection and Rejection of Early Religious Writings (Lousiville, Kent.: Westminster John Knox, 2009). External evidence supports the authoritative position the book enjoyed in earliest Judaism and Christianity. For instance, there were more copies of 1 Enoch discovered among the Dead Sea Scrolls than all other books of the Bible save Deuteronomy and the Psalms.

[8] It is Evangelical tradition and exegesis that is inerrant and inspired for Dalcour, not the scriptures in and of themselves. The Bible is subordinate to that tradition. This is nothing new, of course. All authoritative texts, whether religious or political, mediate the constant negotiation and renegotiation of a community’s past with its present, with the present taking priority. Those aspects of the texts and traditions no longer relevant to the community’s identity are reinterpreted, ignored, or sometimes even excised from the corpus. As an example, the New Testament has been read as supporting slavery for almost two millennia. Once that reading was no longer culturally prudent, it has either been culturally compartmentalized or flat out rejected. For more on communal memory, especially as it relates to the New Testament, see A. Kirk and T. Thatcher, eds., Memory, Tradition, and Text: Uses of the Past in Early Christianity (Atlanta, Ga.: Society of Biblical Literature, 2005).

[9] For more, see here, here, here, and, more recently, W. E. Glenny, “The Septuagint and Apostolic Hermeneutics: Amos 9 and Acts 15,” BBR 22.1 (2012): 1–26.

[10] For instance, R.E. Brown, ‘Appendix IV: EGŌ EIMI—I AM’, in The Gospel According to John (i-xii) (Anchor Bible Commentary, 29; Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1966), 533–38 P. B. Harner, The ‘I Am’ of the Fourth Gospel: A Study in Johannine Usage and Thought (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1970); D. M. Ball, ‘I Am’ in John’s Gospel: Literary Function, Background, and Theological Implications (Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1996); C. H. Williams, I Am He: The Interpretation of ’Anî Hû’ in Jewish and Early Christian Literature (Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2000); A. Y. Collins and J. Collins, King and Messiah as Son of God: Divine, Human, and Angelic Messianic Figures in Biblical and Related Literature (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 2008), 178–81; P. N. Anderson, “The Origin and Development of the Johannine Egō Eimi Sayings in Cognitive-Critical Perspective,” JSHJ 9 (2011): 139–206.

[11] Note that in John 10:24 the Jews ask him to be explicit and tell them whether or not he is the messiah, the χριστός. He responds that he’s already told them, and they didn’t believe him. They never ask him if he’s God, they only ever ask if he’s the messiah.

[12] McGrath, The Only True God: Early Christian Monotheism in Its Jewish Context (Urbana, Ill.: University of Illinois Press, 2009), 61–62.

[13] For discussions of divine agency, see McGrath, The Only True God, 107–08: “The term ‘agent’ used here, like the term ‘angel,’ which is applied often to Jesus/the Logos in early Christian (and Jewish) writings, has to do with function and does not have ontological issues and considerations in view.” This concept was also found in the wider ancient Near East. Cf. B. Pongratz-Leisten, “Divine Agency and Astralization of the Gods in Ancient Mesopotamia,” in Reconsidering the Concept of Revolutionary Monotheism (edited by B. Pongratz-Leisten; Winona Lake, Indiana: Eisenbrauns, 2011), 140–52.


8 responses to “Review: Journal for Trinitarian Studies and Apologetics (2)

  • Edward Dalcour
    Dr. Edward Dalcour said: After reading LDS writer Daniel O. McClellan’s review of Jesus’ Claims To Be God: Answering the Objections in the book, The Journal of Trinitarian Studies and Apologetics, I, felt it necessary to respond for the sake of all who read it. I think that it is both important and beneficial for Christians and Mormons alike to see firsthand for themselves the typical objections and disinformation regarding the historic orthodox position of the deity of Christ. I pray that all LDS who read the review and my responses would see, by the grace of God, the truth of the only true God of biblical revelation and thus, embrace the true Lord Jesus Christ as affirmed in Scripture—who is “The true God and eternal Life” (1 John 5:20). McClellan entire review centers on the following points (not necessarily in order): 1. Anyone who holds to the historic orthodox position of the deity of Christ, thus opposing the LDS/McClellan position is labeled a “fundamentalist.” 2. Jesus Christ is a “member of the generic class of deity,” in that, a “lowercase g, simply designates” as McClellan asserts, “a member of the generic noun class ‘deity.’” Note, because of the abundant amount of biblical passages that teach (exegetically and contextually) the full deity of Christ (His ontological equality with the Father), McClellan must hold to an “a god,” “generic class of deity” position (as JWs do) in order to reconcile the biblical record with LDS Christology, which rejects Jesus as coeternal, coexistent, and coequal in very nature with God the Father. 3. YHWH does not ‘exhaust the category of deity,’ and 4. Only “fundamentalists” (a repeated term used by McClellan), hold to the view that “There is no deity beyond the being of YHWH” (which, of course, exposes the crass polytheistic/henotheistic view of McClellan—viz. that there are indeed other true Gods aside from YHWH/God of Scripture (“the God of this world”). Further, McClellan departs from the actual content/context of the chapter and spends a redundant and bulky amount of time grappling with the issue of canonicity (as he asserts his understanding of it). And he then attaches a feeble argument of a James vs. Paul contradiction pertaining to justification, which both issues are clearly outside of the chapter’s thesis, which is, again, the deity of Christ—not textual criticism or canonical issues. I find that odd being that the chapter that he is reviewing only contains a couple of sentences or so, on the sufficiency of Scripture. It seems to me that McClellan feels he must interrupt his review to draw attention to his personal belief of a contradictive and untrustworthy Bible as implied in the LDS scripture, Pearl of Great Price: “We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly” (Eighth Article of Faith). What must be disappointing for the readers of his review is that McClellan’s limits his entire review to only three of the several affirmations I presented in the chapter. McClellan mainly responds to 1) the phrase “Son of God” as applied to Christ, 2) John 10:30, and 3) the seven “I am” affirmations. However, even these three alone, coherently, justifiably, and exegetically establish the full deity of Christ—, which is the historic orthodox position of the Jesus Christ of biblical revelation. What is most troublesome though, is that after rummaging through his verbosity, we find that McClellan provides no meaningful exegetical interaction to any such passage presented in the chapter—not one exegetical point either in affirmation or refutation. Last of all, McClellan presents a cargo of complaints and denials to the position that Jesus’ “Son of God” claim was a clear claim of equality with God. But yet, McClellan says nothing, not one word, pertaining to one of the strongest passages substantiating that Jesus’ “repeated” claim to be God’s Son was tantamount to “making Himself equal with God” in John 5:18—not one word at all in refutation or even a passing comment! McClellan said: First, Dalcour’s English phrase “I am God” is not as ambiguous as he would have you believe. “God,” with a capital G, is a title designating a very specific divine entity within the contemporary Judeo-Christian worldview. On the other hand, “god,” with a lowercase g, simply designates a member of the generic noun class “deity.” It normally follows an indefinite article in the kinds of ambiguous singular predicate nominatives Dalcour is describing. Dalcour said: First, it is amazing for one such as McClellan to use such a ridiculous and uninformed argument as using English grammar rules (viz. lower case “g” vs. capital “G”) to interpret the Greek text. Proper exegesis of the biblical text does not include asserting interpretations based on how an English word in a biblical translation reads or is punctuated. McClellan said: “I am God” and “I am a god” are quite different claims. The latter actually reflects the ambiguity Dalcour suggests, but he is markedly reticent to use such terminology. Even in his statement that angels, judges, and false gods are not “by nature, God,” he refuses to refer to the generic category (“not, by nature, gods”). His comment, as a result, does not mean angels, judges, and false gods are not deities, but rather that they are not YHWH himself. (He also fails to provide any evidence for such a qualification, or for the presumption that the Jews of Second Temple Palestine were so concerned with ontology.) Dalcour said: Aside for the fact that no specific texts were offered, McClellan fails to differentiate between the one true “God” (“YHWH”) who made the heavens and the earth, and, as I have stated, all others called “god,” which must be false gods (since there is one true God ontologically) or representatives/agents of God (e.g., Moses, judges, angels, etc.). Clearly, McClellan’s personal theology sees YHWH as not the one true God, but merely the true “God” of this world. McClellan said: The reason for Dalcour’s equivocation is the fundamentalist position that YHWH, the God of Israel, exhausts the category of deity. The being of YHWH and the category “deity” are coterminous. There is no deity beyond the being of YHWH. It is thus impossible to be “a god” in the fundamentalist worldview. “Ontological monotheism” precludes it because YHWH leaves no space in the category. This is why the phrase “the deity of Christ” doesn’t mean “Christ’s divinity,” but “Christ’s identity as God.” Ironically, it is also why the frequent reference to other entities as “gods” throughout the Bible must be interpreted as mere honorific titles lent to representatives. Dalcour said: McClellan’s asserts a henotheistic view here, which he feels is “the fundamentalist position that YHWH, the God of Israel, exhausts the category of deity.” As I will mentioned again, anyone who opposes the McClellan-LDS position is a “fundamentalist.” In terms of other classes of deities, Ps. 96:6 (along with many other biblical passages), prove henotheism/polytheism as biblically false: “For all the gods of the peoples are idols, But the LORD made the heavens.” Scripture does not hold to the idea of demigods, “a gods,” or any category of ontologically TRUE deity (not including, of course, “created” representatives of God or angels)—only two biblical categories: God and creatures: “But the Lord is the true God; He is the living God and the everlasting King. . . . Thus you shall say to them, ‘The gods that did not make the heavens and the earth will perish from the earth and from under the heavens’” (Jer. 10:10-11). This is why McClellan has not provided any examples in the OT or NT of so-called “a gods” or anything or anyone called elohim or theos (“God/god”) who possesses, in an ontological sense, deity and was worshiped as God, as Jesus Christ was and continues to be by true believers. As we will see McClellan ignores all references where Jesus was worshiped as God, as pointed out several times in the chapter. McClellan said: Dalcour actually interprets the word to mean the one and only thing his theology allows it to mean, despite his claim that it can mean different things. Observe his comments on Exod 7:1: ‘See, I make you as God [Elohim] to Pharaoh.’ Of course, Moses was not actually made true deity, but only as God’s direct representative, he was made ‘as God’ to Pharaoh. In other words, and in contradiction to his comment that “the term God in Scripture has an assortment of meanings according to the context in which it appears,” the word does only mean “God” (i.e., YHWH). The difference, for Dalcour, is that the title is simply borrowed by those who are operating as his “direct representative.” This is not a different “meaning,” it’s just a metonymic use with the exact same meaning. There is also a problem with Dalcour’s rendering of Exod 7:1. The Hebrew does not say “as God,” the Hebrew says נתתיך אלהים לפרעה, “I have made you a god to Pharaoh.” There is no hint whatsoever of the comparative particle “as.” Again, Dalcour cannot allow for a different meaning, despite explicitly stating that it has different meanings. Divine power has been given to Moses in Exodus 7, allowing him to function in the role of a deity in his dealings with the Egyptian king. “Deity” is not ontological here, but functional. This is how the term should be understood in Hebrew.[2] Dalcour said: Yes, we are all aware of McClellan’s theological LDS position: YHWH does not “exhaust the category of deity” which he sees (and misdefines) ontological monotheism as a “fundamentalist position.” However, again he provides no text showing where others could be and called YHWH. No, Mr. McClellan it is not merely a “fundamentalist position,” but rather a firm biblical one (cf. Isa. 43:10; 44:6, 8; Jer. 10:10-11). McClellan avoids the issue by positing a red herring. As stated in the chapter, yes, Moses, judges others creatures can be called “God” (elohim/theos), but in representation, not by nature. And please listen, there is no place in Scripture where anyone was called “YHWH” or worshiped as YHWH, but only the one true God who made the heavens and the earth. That only the God of Scripture who made the heavens and the earth is the true YHWH, all others called “God” will perish, as the prophet Jeremiah writes (Jer. 10:10-11). On this alone, McClellan’s argument (and theology—viz. the LDS doctrine of exaltation) is demolished. In terms of Exod. 7:1, first, my rendering was from the NASB—, which really has no relevance to the issue semantically: Again, Jesus’ claims to be fully God were stronger than if He had said: Egō eimi theos (theos with or without the article). Second, the context of Exod. 7:1ff (starting in chap. 3) is Moses as God’s representative/agent (as “a,” “as,” or “like” God) to Pharaoh. McClellan overstates his Hebrew semantic assertion. He says: “There is no hint whatsoever of the comparative particle ‘as,’” but according to whom? McClellan provides no lexical or scholarly support—he merely asserts it. In contrast to McClellan assumption, the Hebrew term Elohim does indeed contain an implied comparison. This comparison is clear back in 4:16: “Moreover, he shall speak for you to the people; and he will be as a mouth for you and you will be as God to him.” McClellan then asserts: “The Hebrew does not say “as God. . . ,” but rather “a god.” Problem is McClellan argues in a circle here. The Hebrew does not say literally say “a god,” but rather, literally, “make God to Pharaoh.” So adding “a” or “like” is of no consequence to the meaning (for it could be rendered “a,” “as,” or “like” God). This argument only shows that what McClellan demands of others he cannot provide. Further, In Exod. 7:1, the word “like” (as in the NASB, NIV; “a god” in the KJV, “as God” in the NKJV) is added in a number of translations for clarity, making obvious the implied comparison in the statement “I have made you God to Pharaoh.” As seen, the word אֱלֹהִים (elohim) is used only a few times in the OT for humans (cf. Pss. 45:6; 82:1), and always and clearly in the sense of ontological inferiority to God—again, they are God’s representatives/agents on earth—creatures. As stated, the explanation here goes back to Exod. 4:16. If Moses is like God and Aaron is his prophet, then, Moses is certainly like or as God to Pharaoh in that only Moses is able to speak to Pharaoh with divine authority (as like God), giving him instructions. McClellan submitted passages such as Exod. 22 where Judges are called “elohim.” And? That has been my point continuously: Jesus’ claims were more clear and much stronger than if He had claimed: “I am God.” Others such as Moses, judges, angels, and false gods were called “God,” but they were not “God” by nature. Whereas, Jesus claimed He was the true eternal God; His apostles, and God the Father Himself (in Heb. 1:8, 10-12), claimed that Jesus was “the God,” YHWH, and the Creator of all things. McClellan said: This brings us to his examples about angels and judges. Simply put, the Hebrew אלהים never referred to human judges. I have discussed this previously here, but I have provided a more detailed discussion in this document. For this review, I make some summarizing comments and then move on. The Hebrew word for “judges” in Exodus 21–22 is פללים, as is made clear by Exod 21:22. Additionally, there is no reason for the individuals mentioned in each section to go before judges; appearance before judges is presupposed, as v. 22 also makes clear. The verse calls for whatever penalty the judges levy, meaning the verse presupposes the case has been heard by judges. These law codes were to be applied and enforced by the judges, so there is no need to prescribe appearance before them. The plural verbal forms in Exod 22:8–9 are likely to be understood as reflecting a singular sense, as in 1 Sam 28:13–14. The best reading is thus “to/before God.” Next, while all angels were certainly deities in early Israelite religion, not all deities were angels. Angels were the servile lowest class of deity. Above them were the “sons of God,” who were the operative deities who had relative autonomy and were often petulant and lascivious. The story of their escapades with human women in Gen 6:2–4 is an example. Angels were not conceived of as disobedient within the Israelite worldview until the exilic and post-exilic periods, and that reading was itself rejected around the turn of the era in favor of a human reading (this is why the angelic reading of Gen 6:2–4 was vehemently rejected by many early Jewish authors and rabbis).[3] The presence of the “sons of God” in heaven and at the creation of the world (Job 1:6; 2:1; 38:7), their contrast with humans (Gen 6:2–4; Ps 82:6–7), and their direct inheritance of rule over the nations from El Elyon (Deut 32:8–9) makes it absolutely undeniable that they were conceived of as deities. Dalcour’s conflation of the two classes of deities reads later theological constructions into the Hebrew Bible. There is nothing to suggest the two were equated prior to the Greco-Roman period. Dalcour said: Sigh. . . . all the above is more of McClellan’s rhetoric, which has been previously repeated over and over: angels, judges, and false gods were called “God,” but they were not “God” by nature, unlike the claims of Christ and His apostles. And unlike God the Father’s claim of His Son as the YHWH of Ps. 102, the unchangeable Creator. Nevertheless, McClellan offers no affirmation to the converse, he only points to places where men are called elohim. McClellan said: The next problem with Dalcour’s claim is actually the ambiguity he asserts for the term “god” in the Greek. “I am God” is quite unambiguous in English, but Greek lacks the definite article, meaning “I am God” is grammatically indistinguishable from “I am a god.” Dalcour said: Again, McClellan’s argument is incorrect. Any first year Greek student would detect McClellan’s flaw here in his assertion. To say, “the God” and “God” without the article “is grammatically indistinguishable” fails to consider context and grammar, and fails to consider the sematic categories to which theos is placed. Simply, the anarthrous theos and the articular theos have function only within a context. However, based on McClellan’s statements, it seems clear that he does not understand the Greek grammar, esp. the sematic categories of nouns. The fact is, the anarthrous theos appears 282 times in the NT—mostly referring to the true God. Grammatically, the article is only one of ten ways to make a noun definite in Greek (cf. Wallace, BBGG). Hence, the anarthrous theos refers to the one true God in the NT almost three hundred times (e.g., John 1:1, 6, 12-13, 18, etc.). McClellan equivocates on the meaning of theos and commits a word fallacy when he says: “I am God” is grammatically indistinguishable from “I am a god.” So here, with no support from grammatical authorities, McClellan creates (makes up) a grammatical rule: anarthrous nouns = an indefinite rendering (just as JWs do for John 1:1c!). McClellan, however, is flat out wrong and thus, unapprised in his grammatical/semantic supposition. To say again, the anarthrous theos appears 282 times in the NT—mostly referring to the true God (cf. John 1:6; 12, 13; 3:2, 21; 1 Cor. 1:1; Rom. 8:33; Eph. 1:1; 1 Thess. 1:9; Titus 1:1, etc.). McClellan seems clueless to the fact that anarthrous nouns can refer to Quality or they can refer to one of many in a class (Indefinite), but they can also function as a “monadic” noun, which carries a Definite meaning (as with archē in John 1:1a). So, contrary to McClellan’s incorrect assumptions: “‘I am God’ is grammatically indistinguishable from ‘I am a god,’” the anarthrous theos as in “I am God” does not necessitate an indefinite rendering (as with “I am a god”). And, if a noun is an anarthrous preverbal predicate nominative, then, nearly every time, it is Qualitative, not indefinite (cf. John 1:1c, 14; 4:24; etc.; cf. Wallace, BBGG, 262ff., etc..). Besides that, the articular theos “the God” (ho theos) can refer to false gods as well (cf. Phil. 3:19). These are basic rules of Greek grammar. McClellan should have known better before imposing an flawed grammatical principle into the text of Holy Scripture. McClellan said: In the Greek, Dalcour’s concern for vagueness is justified, although his arguments in other portions of the article flatly ignore the very concern he expresses. In fact, many of them actually rest upon the very rejection of that vagueness. For instance, of Jesus’ claim to be one with God in John 10:30 he states, “the response of the Jews in verse 10:33 is an irrefutable confirmation of Jesus’ claim of being equal with God—God Himself: ‘For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God” (107). The term is supposed to be ambiguous, though. Dalcour equivocates once more. The verse could just as accurately be rendered “make yourself out to be a god.” Given Dalcour’s explanation of the inadequacy of the term θεός to specifically designate God himself, we would expect him to suggest this reading. He does not, though. In fact, he asserts that ambiguous predication to be an “irrefutable confirmation” that Jesus is God himself. Evidently is it explicit enough when Dalcour needs it to be. He also insists John 1:1 and 20:28 declare Jesus to be God himself (116), but again, we’re dealing with that ambiguous and indeterminate noun that just doesn’t serve to do what Dalcour wants it to do. He is arguing out of both sides of his mouth. Dalcour said: First, McClellan (yet again) provides no comments or exegetical interaction to the passages leading up to 10:30, which I clearly explicated. This is the usual way of which McClellan draws his interpretations of the passages that militate against his/LDS theology. As seen throughout his review, McClellan conveniently dismisses this exegetical data of surrounding John 10:30. He ignores the fact that in verses 27-29, Jesus claims that He is the Shepherd. And He claims that He gives eternal life to His sheep in which no one can snatch from His or His Father’s Hand (for the Jews were familiar with Ps. 95:7: “For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand” and Deut. 32:39). Second, as stated, McClellan provides no exegetical response to the actual text of 10:30. If no context is provided then any assertions of John 10:30 is meaningless. McClellan said: In reality, John 10:33 is best rendered as “a god,” since Jesus’ rebuttal is a scripture that designates other humans “gods” in the generic sense (according to the then contemporary reading of Ps 82:6).[4] Dalcour said: “In reality” v. 33 is “best rendered a god”? Incorrect. The problem here is that McClellan merely asserts that 10:33 is “best rendered as “a god.” However, he provides absolutely no exegesis; he just supposes his personal view is correct. What is the grammatical justification to say this? Does McClellan see Jesus as “a god” in John 1:1c too? (I am sure he does, as he applied a “made up” grammatical rule [anarthrous theos = an indefinite rendering] to John 10:33). The fact is, John 10:33 is in response to vv. 26-29 and then v. 30—they charged Jesus with blasphemy, they wanted to kill Him. McClellan shows no awareness to the direct context. Jesus said: Egō kai ho patēr hen esmen, “I and the Father One we are.” If Jesus claim to be an indefinite (“a god”) that would simply not warrant stoning. By now it is clear that McClellan has done an inadequate job in explicating his position of Christ in that he never has yet defined what an “a god” actually is. Is it a mighty man? Or a really godly man? Or is “a god” Michael the archangel? No one knows what McClellan means. In point of fact, Jesus affirmed His ontological equality with the Father and His divine attributes leading up to v. 30: only God can give eternal life to His elect, “a god,” angel, or mighty man cannot do that. No can “a god,” angel, or mighty man can say: “I and the Father are hen (i.e., “one” in essence here; cf. BDAG, 291; Thayer, 186). Further, as seen, McClellan does not allow context to decide the semantic ranges of words, he merely asserts his theology into the text. Again, he provides no exegetical interaction; he only asserts how he thinks it is best rendered. Further, there were no comments as to the Greek of v. 10:30 (Egō kai ho patēr hen semen). McClellan offers no exegetical response to the fact the neuter hen (one) is used, and not the masculine heis, which, as recognized grammars indicate, “it implies a unity essence, not merely of will or of power” (cf. BDAG, 291; Thayer, 186) Context cannot be laid aside. McClellan never responded to the Jews’ response of wanting to kill Jesus. If Jesus was claiming to be “a god” and not the true God, His statement “I and the Father are One, and the passages leading up to v. 30, would not in any way, shape, or form warrant killing Him for blasphemy. But McClellan has no comments on this contextually important point. McClellan said: That response would be a ridiculous strawman if the accusation were that he claimed to be God himself, rather than a member of the generic class of deity. Dalcour said: McClellan has not provided anywhere in the OT or NT where “a generic class of [true] deity” is found he only asserts this to be true. Thus, it is not the context and exegesis of the passages, which causes McClellan to deny that the Jews did indeed see v. 30 and what Jesus said in the previous passages leading up to v 30, as a claim to be God Himself. Rather, his own theology precludes Jesus from being God Himself. McClellan said: That makes little sense. The Jews’ accusation is best understood to reflect a claim to be divine in the generic sense. To paraphrase Jesus’ argument, “why are you getting upset that I, as the son of God, am a deity, when your own scriptures, which you consider authoritative, call other humans deities?” No identification with the being of YHWH is at all intimated. Dalcour said: To claim He was a “a god” or sorts, or any other than the true God would not have been a proper cause for stoning, nor would this technically be blasphemy: “The Jews answered Him, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.” The Jews believed in only one true God, who has always been God, Creator of all things, who was YHWH: “Know that the LORD [YHWH] Himself is God (ELOHIM; Ps. 100:3). Simply, Jesus claimed He was God, which, to the Jews, warranted blasphemy. McClellan said: The third problem with Dalcour’s claim is his inconsistent notion of “context.” Above he refers to the individual literary contexts of each occurrence of the word “god,” but in his discussion of “sons of God” he claims that in a “Semitic (Jewish) context, to be the ‘son of’ something meant that one possesses or shares the nature of that something” (103). This again asserts a fundamental concern for ontology in early Judaism, but it also asserts an incredibly broad context, specifically the context of all Jewish language and literature. This is a bizarre claim, since it basically invalidates the influence of all possible literary contexts. He declares the phrase to mean the exact same thing no matter the immediate context, since the wider “Jewish” context establishes a single, consistent, and figurative (!) meaning. Dalcour said: Still, McClellan denies that the whole revelation of Scripture (OT and NT) must be embraced, not one passage removed from its context in order to make one’s personal theology work. Scripture does not contradict Scripture. As mentioned, John 10:30 falls in context with the previous passages and clearly the Jews’ response affirms Jesus’ claim to be equal with the Father. The full deity of Christ as God Himself is contained throughout the OT and NT and esp. John’s literature (John 1:1, 18; 5:18; 8:58; 13:19; 20:28; 1 John 5:20; Rev. 1:8, 17; 2:8; 22:13; etc.) McClellan said: This is nonsense, however, since “son of” can certainly refer to a variety of things within a “Jewish context,” including literal male genetic descendance. Figuratively, it refers most often to a shared functionality, rather than a shared essence, as in “sons of the prophets” (1 Kgs 20:35; 2 Kgs 2:3, 5, 7, 15; 4:1, 38; 5:22; 6:1), or “sons of Belial” (Judg 19:22; 1 Sam 2:12; 2 Sam 23:6; 1 Kgs 21:10). Dalcour is asserting a specific metaphorical sense for the phrase in all its usage within Jewish literature, although he then goes on to directly reject that sense. Immediately after stating the “son of” means one shares in the essence of the nomen rectum, he states that humans who are called “sons of God” (John 1:12) are so “by adoption.” Suddenly, “son of” does not mean a shared essence. Evidently the broad Christian ideological context obliterated the universal Jewish context. He elaborates even further, though: Even though the phrase “son(s) of God” was applied to angels and men, when applied to Jesus, it was in a context of essence or nature. Whereas Christians are sons of God by adoption, Jesus is the Son of God by nature—which was a clear claim of deity. Dalcour said: It is odd for a LDS advocate as McClellan to offer unitarian arguments regarding the term “Son” as applied to Christ. Simply, as presented in the chapter, “Son/son” (huios) can mean a host different things, depending on the context. However, Jesus claimed to be “Son of God” in a unique way—viz. possessing the nature of God. Various biblical passages were presented in the chapter, which expresses the concept that to be the “son of” something was tantamount to possessing the nature of that something, such as in Ephesians 2:2-4. McClellan does not ever comment on Ephesians 2:2-4. Yet again, McClellan commits a word fallacy when he falsely assumes that “son of” means the same thing in every place that it is found. McClellan does not provide any comment or response whatsoever to the fact that Jesus is presented as the monogenēs huios and the monogenēs Theos? (John 1:18)—“the unique one and only Son, unique, one and only God.” McClellan selectively chooses passages that he can fit into his theology while carefully avoiding passages that would clearly destroy his position. Not one single word from McClellan on this very important passage proving that Jesus’ claim to be the Son of God was tantamount to claiming equality with God. “For this reason [calling God His Father] therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He was not only breaking [ELUEN] the Sabbath, but He was also calling [ELEGEN] God His Father, making Himself equal [ISOS] with God” Were the Jews merely interpreting Jesus as saying “I am ‘a god’ of sorts, a mere child of my Father like us all”? No! They were “seeking all the more to kill Him,” because Jesus was “making Himself equal with God” by claiming that His Father was God—namely, the Son of God. Exegetically, the imperfect elegen (“kept calling” God His Father) is used. Given the import of the imperfect (repeated action, ongoing past) apparently this was not the first time Jesus had claimed that God was His Father in an ontological sense (also note eluen is in the imperfect). In addition, note that the reflexive pronoun is used (eauton, “He Himself) indicating that Jesus Himself made Himself equal with God. These are very significant points in correctly evaluating the meaning of the passage. The last part of the passage is striking: Ison eauton poitōn tō thō (lit., “equal He Himself made to God). This clearly demolishes McClellan assertions regarding a non-significant “Son of God” view. But McClellan says nothing about one of the clearest passages denoting the full deity Christ and thus Jesus’ claim to be equal with God the Father.Thus, I understand why McClellan chooses to completely avoid it. At first, I did not think that McClellan would be so utterly unfamiliar with NT Greek that he would miss such vital points the exegesis of the text, as he does in this passage and others presented to him. While I do not expect him to find the exegesis of the passage important, especially the import of the reflexive pronoun (eauton) and the imperfect verbs being used, I did except him to at least responded to this passage on his so-called analysis on the phrase “Son of God” as Christ claim to be in John 5. The fact is, biblically, Christians are children of God through faith by adoption, not by sexual intercourse, and not by nature (cf. Gal. 3:26; 4:5-6; Eph. 1:5). Jesus is presented as the monogenēs huios and the monogenēs Theos? (John 1:18)—“the unique one and only Son, unique, one and only God.” No other person or angel can make this claim, but Jesus as God the Son. McClellan said: Suddenly it is not the “Jewish” context that indicates a shared essence, but only the contexts in which Jesus alone is called “son of God.” He flatly contradicts himself in claiming the phrase specifically refers to shared essence in a “Jewish context” and then immediately claiming that only in those references to Jesus alone does the immediate context impose the sense of shared essence.[5] Dalcour said: It has been demonstrated here and in the chapter that both the Jewish understanding and the understanding of the biblical authors is that when Jesus claimed to be the Son of God it was another of saying “God he Son.” Again, this is most clear in John 5:18: Jesus was “calling God His Father, making Himself equal [ISOS] with God.” Does not McClellan understand that the Jews wanted to kill Jesus for affirming that God was His Father? Why would that warrant blasphemy? Did not the Jews see themselves as “sons” of God? Are not Christians presented as sons of God in NT? Why then did the Jews seek to kill Jesus for claiming the same? This can be answered in John 19:7: “The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and by that law He ought to die because He made Himself out to be the Son of God.” McClellan is simply misdirected in his assumptions. The Jews wanted to kill Him because they understood the “blasphemous” claims that Christ made to be the Son of God; He claimed He was the Son of God in a way that denoted equality with God, as the Apostle John indicates. Jesus was Son of God in a unique way, as John says in John 1:18: Jesus is the monogenēs theos unique, one and only, God. But McClellan in light of his many assertions, says nothing to one of the strongest and clearest passages showing that when Jesus claimed to be God’s Son, He made affirmed Himself equal with God and John and the Jews knew it! McClellan said: The last broad methodological shortcoming I discuss is perhaps the most pervasive within the articles of this journal, and that is the claim that the scriptures must be read univocally: We must take Scripture as a unit: All Scripture is theopneustos—“breathed out by God.” Hence, John 8:58 and the other absolute “I am” clams [sic] are all a part of 1:1 and 20:28, which are a part of 5:17 and 10:30. And these are a part of 1 John 5:20, which is a part of Romans 9:5; Philippians 2:6-11; and Colossians 2:9, which are all a part of Isaiah 9:6 and the prologue of Hebrews. In other words the entirety of Scripture must be considered when examining the “I am” claims of Christ. Dalcour said: As I mentioned, McClellan’s own religious authority (LDS), does not hold to any kind of objective or accepted hermeneutic when interpreting the biblical text, rather, it is a system of conflicting revelations that are “outside,” and even against, the authority of the biblical revelation. This is not a personal attack on McClellan’s character, I do not know him, and he may be a charming man. However, I do not see McClellan as going “outside” the teachings of his Church and engaging in proper exegesis (as seen thus far), but I do pray that he will, and I pray that God will reveal the truth of the gospel to him. McClellan said: There are several problems with this application of 2 Tim 3:16. First, the author of 2 Timothy never delineates what texts he believes to be scripture. That the modern Evangelical delineation of “Scripture” is intended is simply assumed by Dalcour. Dalcour said: Frankly, a discussion here about canonicity would clearly demonstrate the patent inconsistencies of that of McClellan’s and his sole religious authority—the LDS Church. But I will comment of a view things. McClellan said: This, of course, means he is not engaging critics, but talking to people who already agree with him. It also conflicts with the scriptures themselves, as, for instance, the author of Jude obviously considered 1 Enoch to be inspired scripture.[6] Jude 1:14 states that Enoch prophesied (προφήτευσεν) of God’s coming in judgment with ten thousands saints, directly quoting 1 En 1:9.[7] Dalcour would never accept it as such, though, despite Jude’s clear belief in its inspired and authoritative status.[8] Even if one rejects the conclusion that Jude thought the text was scripture, the author unquestionably feels 1 En 1:9 preserves an authentic prophecy uttered by Enoch. Is the author of Jude mistaken here in taking 1 Enoch as the actual inspired prophesies of Enoch? Dalcour said: Since he cites none, I would suggest for McClellan to read some recognized textual critics (Wallace, Metzger, Bruce, etc.) so he will have a better (proper) understanding regarding the Jude citation. To appeal in this way, pointing to the non-canonical book of Enoch to support his argument, only shows that McClellan assumes that Jude was actually referring to the pseudepigrapha book of 1 Enoch—that is a post hoc fallacy and it is question begging. That Jude cites from the person Enoch only means that he knew of this prophecy, it by no means prove that Jude had a copy of the book of 1 Enoch in his living room above the fireplace. But this again is not relevant to what is “Scripture,” if Jude cites this prophecy, what Jude cited is scripturally true, regardless of the source. McClellan said: For the author of 2 Tim 3:16, “scripture” referred to the authoritative Jewish texts. There is no indication the author conceived of any texts that would subsequently be included in the then-non-existent New Testament as scripture. Certainly a couple later NT texts can be read to understand some Pauline texts as scripture, but that has no bearing on the position of the author of 2 Timothy, unless, of course, one commits to a circular argument by insisting that later texts must be interpreted univocally with 2 Tim 3:16 because 2 Tim 3:16 says so. Dalcour said: It seems to me that McClellan has no “historical” conception of canonicity. If he holds to the position of his Church (LDS), then, McClellan must concede that Scripture is an open canon, which non-apostolic men (viz. LDS General Authorities) can freely add to and take away as they see fit (omitting, additions, and changes). This, was exactly what founding President of the LDS, Joseph Smith did in his so-called Inspired Version; e.g., with no MS support at all, Smith adds to, thus distorts John 1:18 (v. 19 in Smith’s version). He did so in order to avoid a glaring contradiction to what the unaltered Greek of John 1:18 actually says regarding no one being able to see the bodiless Father and the current LDS position regarding the Father with “flesh and bones.” Thus, McClellan has placed himself in a real dilemma: For within his own LDS scriptures (viz. Book of Mormon, D&C, and POGP) are literally hundreds of additions omissions, modification, and errors on essential LDS doctrine. So, if McClellan is going to be all consistent, then, he must hold the LDS scriptures to the same bibliographical and critical standard as that of the biblical canon. If he did, McClellan would have to reject the reliability of the LDS scriptures on the same ground that he rejects and attacks the reliability of the Bible. When discussing canon issues in the NT (in light of Paul assertion in 2 Tim. 3:16—on the nature of Scripture), we are dealing with “apostolic” books, not pseudepigrapha/antilegomena or post- second century books—thus, they were not circulating and cited by the catholic (universal) church the first century. McClellan merely assumes that we have no idea what is and is not “Scripture” in Paul’s mind when he writes Tim. 3:16, because, as McClellan sees it, historically a few men cited 1 Enoch or that GRAPHĒ in 3:16 is limited to the OT. Again, 2 Tim. 3:16 is dealing not with a canonical list of books, but rather the nature of Scripture as theopneustos (lit., “God breathed out”). Further, McClellan is in error when he asserts: “For the author of 2 Tim 3:16, “scripture” referred to the authoritative Jewish texts . . . There is no indication the author conceived of any texts that would subsequently be included in the then-non-existent New Testament as scripture” Here McClellan broadly leaps into his “unproven” notion that Paul had Jewish Scriptures in mind (i.e., the OT)—and thus he had no NT “Scripture” in mind. McClellan assertions are quickly by the fact that many NT books were already codified, called GRAPHĒ, circulating, and read before Paul wrote 1 & 2 Tim. In point of fact, most NT books were known and circulating at the time when Paul had written 2 Timothy (A.D. 66-68): For example, 2 Pet 3:16 refers to Paul’s “letters” (not, “letter” is plural in the Greek, epistolais, “letters”) as GRAPHĒ (“Scripture”). This confirms that Paul’s epistles (at least most, if not all) were circulating (as a set, cf. P46) before the death of Peter around A.D. 64-66. In 1 Timothy 5:18, Paul establishes the book of Luke (10:7) also as GRAPHĒ (“Scripture”). “Scripture.” Note that here both Deuteronomy 25:4 and Luke 10:7 are preceded by the phrase, legei gar hē graphē, “For Scripture says.” Further, in reference to the Apostle Peter, Jude remembers what “was spoken beforehand by the apostles” (v. 17). Then, in verse 18, Jude quotes from Peter (cf. 2 Pet. 3:3). The contextual correspondence between 2 Peter 2:1ff. and Jude 6ff. unquestionably substantiates that either Jude quoted from Peter or the converse showing that these books were also circulated, collected, and read by Christians in the first century, and thus, before Paul wrote 2 Tim. So McClellan in his assertion, “There is no indication the author conceived of any texts that would subsequently be included in the then-non-existent New Testament as scripture” is proven false. Only “apostolic” books were GRAPHĒ. In Eph. 2:20, Paul indicates that the church having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone.” McClellan does not understand aorist participle of eοικοδομeω. When the verb is in the indicative it precedes the tie of the main verb—here 2:20 having been built proceeds este, “are” (“are fellow citizens of God’s Household”). Thus, contrary to McClellan’s position, Paul points out that the true church has been (not on-going) laid upon the foundational NT apostles/prophets (cf. Eph. 3:5; 4:11), with Christ as the cornerstone that holds the whole thing together. Same with Jude 3: “Beloved, while I was making every effort to write you about our common salvation, I felt the necessity to write to you appealing that you contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all [hapax] handed down to the saints.” Paul in 2 Tim 3 and Jude are not saying that an apostolic book would not written after them, but that the very nature of what is Scripture (God as its source) and “the faith” is complete. If God’s revelation to the church is an incomplete wide-open river of divine utterances in which virtually anyone can add to it claiming personal interaction with God there is simply no way of objectively verify these additional revelations—for who can question God? *The canon is closed (but not for LDS/McClellan). That the canon is closed and thus, God’s revelation for the church is complete can be clearly demonstrated theologically, historically, and providentially. Theologically: all the NT books were written by apostles. Subsequent to the OT canon, it was these writings alone that were THEOPNEUSTOS (cf. 2 Pet. 1:19-21). The apostolic age ended with the death of the apostles (cf. Acts 1:22). The NT unambiguously defines what a foundational apostle is: those upon which the church HAS BEEN built (once for all time) built (cf. Eph. 2:20). For only an apostle of Christ can authoritatively say, “the things which I write to you are the Lord’s commandment” (1 Cor. 14:37). Thus, the 27 books of the NT are the only books which are apostolic and hence, canonical. The ‘last day’ revelation is complete (cf. Acts 2:16-18). Historically: There is no evidence that anyone possessed the special gift of apostolicity after the death of the apostles (cf. Acts 2:22; Heb. 2:3-4). There is no evidence that a letter that was authentically apostolic was not included or missing from the canon of the NT. McClellan does not understand that the early church drew a sharp distinction between apostolic writings (THEOPNEUSTOS) and the writings of others (like Enoch, Thomas, Clement, Shepherd, etc.). By the fourth century (Hippo and Carthage), the universal Christian church recognized the current twenty-seven books of the NT as canonical. Providentially: Simply stated: God’s providence secured that His Word would be complete. God promised that His Word would endure forever. Since God orchestrates all things after the counsel of His own will (cf. Eph. 1:11), the NT canon is really a matter of God’s providence. A historical selection process, undertaken by fallible human beings and fallible institutions, originally established the Canon is no reason to REJECT the role of the providence of God in these affairs. The NT canon is simply the books that the church recognized as the apostolic writings, that is, books that were THEOPNEUSTOS. The NT is the revelation of Jesus Christ that was delivered to man by God’s chosen special envoys (viz. apostles). Since apostles wrote all the NT books, the church’s ultimate test for canonicity was apostolicity. Therefore, since apostolicity was the determining factor of THEOPNEUSTOS writings and the apostolic age ended with the death of the apostles, the canon is closed. God’s revelation for the church is complete. For the church did not invent the canon, rather the church discovered it and submitted to its authority. McClellan said: Next, the precise meaning of the word θεόπνευστος is unknown. We don’t know exactly what it meant to first century Christians to be “God-breathed”? Does that refer to the transmission of the scripture to the author, or all the way to the executed composition? Does it entirely preclude any human filtering or influence? Dalcour said: Here McClellan shows his lack of lexical research when he asserts: “the precise meaning of the word θεόπνευστος is unknown. We don’t know exactly what it meant to first century Christians to be “God-breathed”? Unknown? Really? According to what lexical or textual authority? No, it does not refer to transmission; obviously, when Paul stated that pasa graphē theopneustos he does not anywhere refer or imply all transmission of GRAPHĒ is also “God breathed out.” The original autographs were THEOPNEUSTOS, not scribes who copied them. Simply, the term THEOPNEUSTOS, lexically is from theos (God) and pneō (breath, blow; cf. Matt. 7:25, John 3:8). Princeton biblical scholar, B. B. Warfield (in “God-Inspired Scripture”) explains what the term means as used in 2 Tim. 3:16: “What the word naturally means from this point of view also, is “God-spirited,” “God-breathed,” “produced by the creative breath of the Almighty.” Thus it appears that such a conception as “God-breathed” lies well within the general circle of ideas of the Hellenistic writers, who certainly most prevailingly use the word. . . . . In all such expressions, the main affirmation is that Scripture, as the product of the activity of the Spirit, is just the “breath of God”; and the highest possible emphasis is laid on their origination by the divine agency of the Spirit. The primary characteristic of Scripture in the minds of the New Testament writers is thus revealed as, in a word, its Divine origin. That this was the sole dominating conception attached from the beginning to the term ‘theopneustos’ as an epithet of Scripture, is further witnessed by the unbroken exegetical tradition of its meaning in the sole passage of the New Testament in which it occurs.” McClellan said: The fundamentalist answer will obviously be quick and decisive, but will also be based on nothing more than theological presupposition. “It means X to me today, so it meant the same to them back then.” There is no lexical or rhetorical context for the word in the first century CE, so there is simply no way to know how to answer the questions above. Even when the word does begin to show up in later literature, there is not enough specificity in its usage to say whether or not univocality is actually demanded by 2 Tim 3:16’s characterization of scripture. What ends up requiring univocality for modern Evangelicals is the imposition of Enlightenment-era philosophizing. Dalcour said: For McClellan, anyone in scholarship who disagrees with him is labeled a “fundamentalist.” That only indicates that McClellan’s views are uncoordinated with the biblical scholarship, the same is asserted by every JW and Oneness believer. The fact is, McClellan and the LDS Church cannot find theological refuge in recognized biblical scholarship—for biblical scholarship sees the LDS view of canon and theology (esp. in regards to the nature of God) as patently heterodox—i.e., non-biblical and thus, heretical. On this issue of canon (which I only spent couple of sentences on), I would again suggest to McClellan to read recognized textual and lexical sources so he will not make basic academic mistakes. The simple lexical meaning of the term (from Homer down) is from theos (God) and pneō (I breathe, blow, as the wind—Thayer)—thus properly, “God breathed out.” The term THEOPNEUSTOS as textual and OT scholar G. Archer points out: qeopneustoV is better rendered ‘breathed out by God’ as the emphasis is upon the divine origin of the inscripturated revelation itself” (A Survey of OT Introduction). McClellan said: Next, univocality is flatly precluded by a number of texts from the Bible. For instance, Acts 15:16–17 ostensibly quote “the words of the prophets” in Amos 9:11–12 to defend the taking of the gospel to the gentiles, but in reality they quote a Greek testimonia that conflates the words of different prophets in v. 16 and then adapts the Septuagint’s misreading of Amos 9:12 in v. 17 (see my discussion here).[9] The resulting text has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with the actual words of Amos 9, which refer only to the military reconquest of lands belonging to YHWH at Israel’s political height. We know the rendering must come from the autograph, since the Hebrew has no bearing at all on the question of taking the gospel to the gentiles. Only the Septuagint’s misreading bears on the context of James’ quotation. The author of Acts has James insist the prophets of the Old Testament say something they simply do not say. Dalcour said: So, now McClellan goes to unrelated texts to assert his conclusion and sees any NT conflation (or paraphrase) of an OT LXX as ??? and?? Is McClellan aware that most of the OT citations are from the LXX and not from the Hebrew? Authors of the NT (and Jesus Himself) cited more than one source (e.g., mainly the LXX, but also from the Heb., Targum, and even the Samaritan Torah). Again, we see a double standard, on the one hand, McClellan accepts the LDS scriptures as truth, but yet complains and impugns the NT asserting contradictions, errors, etc. On the other hand, he does not apply the same standard to the LDS scriptures where errors, contradictions, omissions, additions, and factual mistakes in the data abound. If he did, he would have to deny and reject reliability of the LDS scriptures. But McClellan remains totally inconsistent. McClellan said: Then there are the examples of outright disagreement between authors. For instance, Rom 3:28 says that “a person is justified by faith, and not by the works of the law.” Rom 4:1–4 argues that Abraham was not justified by works, asserting in v. 2 that if Abraham were justified by works, he would have something about which to boast. James 2, on the other hand, directly refutes Paul. In Jas 2:21 he responds to Paul’s assertion about Abraham, insisting he was indeed justified by works. In v. 24 he responds to Paul’s underlying claim about justification by works, stating, “You see, then, that a person is justified by works, and not by faith alone.” James flatly disagrees with the author of Romans and repeatedly emphasizes his position. Faith and works do not share a dichotomous relationship, but a vertical and dependent one. Faith is derivative of works, and thus salvation is very much dependent upon works. Many creative ways have been concocted to harmonize the two accounts, such as insisting Paul meant only the rituals of the law of Moses, or that James refers to a different kind of justification, namely public justification before people. Such eisegetic question-begging derives entirely and exclusively from the subjugation of the scriptures to modern tradition. Dalcour said: Amazing, I would expect this kind of sloppy exegesis from Mormon missionaries, but not from McClellan. If McClellan bothered or was even willing to engage in any kind of exegetical study of James 2 and the biblical doctrines of justification, perhaps he would at least apprehend the differences in context between James and Paul and the semantic variations of the same terms used by both authors. McClellan let us know that he is aware of a few ways to reconcile James and Paul, which McClellan calls “outright disagreement between authors,” however, his starting premise (which he does not prove from the Scripture) is inherently flawed, in his assertion: “salvation is very much dependent upon works.” Yet, he offers no biblical affirmation to this or response to the many biblical writers throughout the years and contemporaneous who have provided scholarly commentary on this issue, which decidedly dismantles and refutes the usual un-exegetical LDS/McClellan position regarding James 2 issue and the so-called biblical contradiction assertions. Again, McClellan cannot oppose his sole religious authority on the issue of soteriology (i.e., the LDS works-faith system), which always appeals to an eisegetical treatment of James, erroneous conclusion of the doctrine of justification, and, of course, LDS scriptures (“for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” 2 Nephi 25:23). McClellan errors in his exegesis, for he states with James and then he assumes Paul is dealing with the same context in Rom. 4. To cross-reference unrelated texts only because they contain the same terms (dikaioō, pisteuō, ergon) is again a word fallacy in exegesis—, which McClellan constantly does. Simply, James is dealing with justification before man (by works), while Paul, justification before God is through faith alone (without modification or addition of human merit/works). Please note: 1) Both James and Paul clearly mean something different by their usage of justified (dikaioō), faith (pisteuō) and works (ergon). Paul is speaking of actual act on God’s part whereby He pardons, imputes righteousness to the ungodly—Whereas James is speaking of a Christian being “justified” BEFORE MAN by what he does—his works. 2) James is dealing about God declaring the already justified person “just” by the person’s obedience and good works. McClellan just cannot distinguish between the actual act of justification where God pardons and imputes righteousness to a sinner in which God constitutes the sinner righteousness (cf. Rom. 4:4-8; 5:1; 9-10; 2 Cor. 5:19-21) and God’s SUBSEQUENT declaring act of justification where God openly acquits the justified sinner before others. 3) Although both Paul and James uses the same terms “faith,” “justified,” and “works” they use them in a different sense and different context. In Gal. 3:6, Paul is concerned as to how a man may achieve justification before God in which he turns to Gen. 15:6. Whereas James is concerned as to how one is to demonstrate or display that he is actually justified before God in that his faith is TRUE and genuine and turns to Gen. 22:9-10. 4) To apply James 2 to the issue of “how a man is justified before God” is a blatant “misuse” of that text. Contextually, the context of James 2 is not saving faith in which one is justified before God. Rather, the context is clearly demonstrative faith, e.g., v. 18: DEIXON MOI, “show me”; SOI DEIXŌ, “will show you”; v. 22: BLEPEIS, “you see”; v. 24: HORATE, “you see,” etc. Note the “observational” terms James uses. This, along with Abraham’s “show” of faith (to offer Isaac as a proof of his faith, which was at least twenty years after he was credited as “righteous”), defines the context: a show-faith before man, not before God. Thus, only by ignoring the audience to whom James wrote, the specific words being used (viz. deixon moi; soi deixō; blepeis), and the examples of Abraham and Rahab causes groups like Catholics, LDS, Church of Christ, etc. to remove James 2 out of its natural context and make it discordant with Paul faith-alone theology. Again, McClellan strays far off from the substance and relevancy of the chapter in which he is reviewing (the book of James is not even mentioned) and he does not he even give the reader any exegesis to substantiate his claims—he merely and ramblingly asserts them as contradictions. McClellan said: Dalcour’s Case I now move on to the Dalcour’s arguments. He lists four claims found in the New Testament that he asserts “explicitly demonstrate that Jesus did indeed claim to be God, in the same sense as God the Father” (96): (1) the seven ἐγὼ εἰμί declarations (2) “The ‘Son of God’—in essence (i.e., God the Son)” (3) John 10:30: “I and the Father are one” (4) Jesus as “Alpha and the Omega,” “The First and the Last,” and “The Beginning and the End” (1), (2), and (4) argue, essentially, that Jesus carried designations reserved in the Hebrew Bible exclusively for YHWH. (3) argues that Jesus’ claim to be “one” with God, and the Jews’ interpretation of his nature as God’s son indicating he is “equal” with God, is “irrefutable confirmation” of Jesus’ identity as God. Many of the details of these arguments, however, betray an inadequate understanding of the texts’ literary and cultural contexts. In the interest of space, I address only his discussion of the ἐγὼ εἰμί declarations and then draw some implications for argument (4). John 10:30 and “Son of God” have been discussed already. Essentially, for Dalcour, Jesus’ seven “I am” claims (John 5:24, 28, 58; 13:19; 18:5, 6, 8) are non-predicated statements that allude directly to Deut 32:39 Heb. אני הוא; LXX ἐγὼ εἰμί), which was understood throughout Judaism to be a claim to self-existence which was attributed exclusively to YHWH. As a result, Jesus is claiming to be the “I am,” which is “a clear and absolute claim to deity” (97). Dalcour’s presentation of the meaning of the ἐγὼ εἰμί fails to address the vast majority of the exegetical issues associated with the phrase. He addresses none of the nuances of the use of the non-predicated construction throughout the Septuagint or the New Testament (e.g., John 6:20; 9:9), or the relationship of that construction to the predicated construction. Dalcour said: First, the chapter in the Journal was not intended to be a full orb exhaustive presentation of the deity of Christ—we had a limitation on space. Second, if McClellan wants that, I can certainly provide that in more than a few works on the topic and in works, which I have produced dealing with the “LDS Jesus.” But what is submitted in the chapter is more than sufficient in proving my case especially in John 8:58 in light of the response of the Jews in v. 59: “they picked up stones to kill Him” and the OT import of the claim. Hence, the Jews certainly understood the implications of what Jesus was claiming and in light of the OT background, to which McClellan merely muddies and denies. McClellan said: He does not address the fact that the predicate is implied in several occurrences of the non-predicated construction, often indicated by a clear antecedent (John 4:26; 8:24; 18:5). Additionally, he shows no familiarity with several important English publications on the Hebrew and/or the Greek phrase in question.[10] Dalcour said: McClellan appeals to authority here. He attempts to cite some writers who do not see 8:24 et al as absolute egō eimi claims. McClellan is quite misleading when he provides references of men in his footnote 10, who, as McClellan sees it, somehow denies that Jesus’ “I am” claims were not absolute. Also, I never stated that “every single biblical scholar” saw all seven egō eimi claims as being absolute, McClellan simply misrepresents the argument. What is true is that 8:58, as virtually all biblical Christian scholars agree, was a claim to deity (scholars, presently and historically). Of course, anyone can find a so-called “scholar” who starts with a prior theological commitment that Jesus is not God, and simply reject every passage that is argued for the deity of Christ, such as John Dominic Crossan, all Islamic scholars, unitarians, JWs, and, of course, every LDS scholar. But the ground of denial is anything but exegetical, as shown by McClellan’s assertions. To add to this, McClellan does let the reader of this review know what these men he cited actually said regarding Jesus’ egō eimi claims as being absolute claims of deity. For example, McClellan cites R. E. Brown, who takes the egō eimi in vv. 24 and 28 as NON-predicated (i.e., absolute; see R. E. Brown, John [AB], 1:533-38). Why does McClellan cite him? He cites P. N. Anderson who sees the “I am” statement of Christ in John 8:24, 28, 58; 13:19 and 18:5, 6, and v. 8 as occurring “in the absolute having no predicate” (The Christology of the Fourth Gospel, 21). There is a mass of scholarship (far to many to cite here) that sees the “I am” statements of Christ as a clear affirmation of full deity linked with the LXX of Deut. 32:39; Isa. 41:4; 43:10; 48:12. To add more snags to McClellan/LDS position of a non-deity “I am” claim of Christ, note in 41:4 and 48:12 where YHWH claims to be the “I am” and declares: “I am the first, I am also the last” as only Jesus does throughout Revelation. The case for the deity of Christ and the “I am” claims are made apparent in that both divine titles are applied exclusively to YHWH in the OT, and applied exclusively by Christ NT. The number of biblical scholars who see Jesus’ “I am” statements (esp. 8:58) as absolute include Wallace (BBGG), White (Trinity), Alford, and Philip Harner (The “I Am” of the Fourth Gospel; Fortress Press, 1970, 4. 4); A. T. Robertson in “A Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the Light of Historical Research, (Broadman Press, 1934; 879-880). Jamieson—Fausset—Brown’s in their Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible who sees the language of John 8:24 as “so far transcending what is becoming in men, of those ancient declarations of the God of Israel, ‘I AM HE’ (Deuteronomy 32:39 , Isaiah 43:10 Isaiah 43:13 , 46:4 , 48:12 ).” And note Jamieson—Fausset—Brown’s comments on v. 58: “And in v. 58: “…in other words, [Jesus] existed before creation, or eternally (as John 1:1). In that sense the Jews plainly understood Him, since ‘then took they picked up stones to cast at Him,’ just as they had before done when they saw that He made Himself equal with God.” And many more can be cited in affirmation of Jesus’ claim to be YHWH the External One in John 8:24, 28, 58; 13:19; et al. Also the early church saw Jesus; “I am” statements as an absolute claim deity. The phrase was so understandable by the early church Including Irenaeus (“Against Heresies” in Schaff, The Nicene and Post- Nicene Fathers [NPNF], 1:478); Origen (NPNF, 4:463); Novatian (NPNF, 5:624-625); Chrysostom (Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, 14:199), et al. The patristic record is verifiable and accessible to all. The fact is, biblical scholarship clearly counters the opinions of McClellan and the LDS non-eternal God doctrine of Christ and bluntly affirms Jesus as the eternal God—namely, the Great “I AM” of Deut. 32:39 and Isa. 41:4; 43:10; 48:12. McClellan said: Rather, he describes the interpretation of the construction as black and white, which is a gross misrepresentation. There are several ways to understand the construction that Dalcour insists could have only been understood one way. In John 8:24, for instance, it is to be understood as “I am he.” Not only is this indicated by the presence of the antecedent (the one “not of this world,” i.e., the h
  • Daniel O. McClellan

    Thanks for taking the time to engage my discussion, Dr. Dalcour. In order to do your concerns justice, I would like to respond in a separate blog post. It may be a few days, though. Also, it appears the comments section only allows so many words in a single comment, so your text got cut off before the end. Feel free to post the rest of your thoughts in a reply to the comment.

  • Allen

    “Of course, anyone can find a so-called “scholar” who starts with a prior theological commitment that Jesus is not God, and simply reject every passage that is argued for the deity of Christ, such as John Dominic Crossan, all Islamic scholars, unitarians, JWs, and, of course, every LDS scholar.”

    Every LDS scholar? My, you are full of it. Of course, one group is conspicuously missing from your blanket assertions here.

  • Allen

    “I find that odd being that the chapter that he is reviewing only contains a couple of sentences or so, on the sufficiency of Scripture. It seems to me that McClellan feels he must interrupt his review to draw attention to his personal belief of a contradictive and untrustworthy Bible as implied in the LDS scripture, Pearl of Great Price: “We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly” (Eighth Article of Faith).”

    It seems to me that you are lacking substance in your response and thus must find a way to crow cheap victory by dismissively sweeping all his concerns under the carpet. So far I’ve seen you exhibit not only little understanding of scholarship, but little understanding of LDS thought.

  • Kevin

    Wow, that just took a lot of time to read all that (McClellan’s post and Dalcour’s lengthy response). I have to say that I am disappointed in Balcour’s response.

    Balcour says that “McClellan assumes that Jude was actually referring to the pseudepigrapha book of 1 Enoch—that is a post hoc fallacy and it is question begging. That Jude cites from the person Enoch only means that he knew of this prophecy, it by no means prove that Jude had a copy of the book of 1 Enoch in his living room above the fireplace. But this again is not relevant to what is “Scripture,” if Jude cites this prophecy, what Jude cited is scripturally true, regardless of the source.”

    I suspect Balcour hasn’t read much of the literature published concerning the epistle of Jude (Bauckham, Ellis, Charles, et al). It isn’t really debatable that he quoted 1 Enoch 1:9 in Jude 14-15, and there are in fact other allusions to 1 Enoch in the epistle. I would recommend (at the bare minimum) for him to read these two articles by Carroll Osburn: ‘1 Enoch 80:2 (67:5-7) and Jude 12-13’, CBQ 47 (1985): 296-303; and, ‘The Christological Use of 1 Enoch i.9 in Jude 14, 15’, NTS 23 (1977): 334-341.

    Additionally, note that the author of Jude places the quotation of 1 Enoch between references to the Old Testament and a reference to the authoritative words of the apostles (vv. 17-18). This strongly suggests that the author most likely considered the text of 1 Enoch to be authoritative just as the other Old Testament scriptures he alluded to were, and just as the Apostles were (note, though, that he obviously did not possess all of what is now called 1 Enoch).

  • Jaco van Zyl

    Kevin,

    You don’t understand. North-West University’s Theology Department is one of the strongholds for the most conservative ultra-Calvinist Dutch Reformed Church (Gereformeerde Kerk) in South Africa. The conditioning required to be a gate-keeper for that Church renders one’s mind impenetrable to objective fact. I am not a Trinitarian (to the amazement of most fellow Church-goers), and to be a non-trinitarian in mostly conservative Afrikaans circles produce some very amusing reactions…

    Daniel, looking forward to your response…

    Jaco van Zyl

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: