A long time ago my former elder made a video on his views of the Granville Sharp rule and I made a post about it. I made a short response but never really went back to do the full diligence of a refutation. That’s not only because it already exists, but because I’ve been way off track into other studies. This topic did also come up a bit in my recent debate but this is not a direct rebuttal to that subject—it just deals with the same issue. Hopefully this first post here can be a bit of a bit by bit refutation of the mis-use and abuse of trinitarian interpretation of the word “God.”
See when trinitarians argue, they act like finding even one text where the Messiah Jesus is called “God,” it disproves biblical unitarianism. Some trinitarians go so far as to believe this proves trinitarianism. But in reality, if one is well versed in Scriptural definitions for “God” and sees how it is used in a few other applications it reveals a problem. The problem is that the trinitarian is arguing with a non-sequitur. A non-sequitur definition from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/non%20sequitur:
Definition of non sequitur
1: an inference (see inference 2) that does not follow from the premises (see 1premise 1); specifically: a fallacy resulting from a simple conversion of a universal affirmative (see 1affirmative 3) proposition or from the transposition of a condition and its consequent (see 1consequent 1)
2: a statement (as a response) that does not follow logically from or is not clearly related to anything previously said <We were talking about the new restaurant when she threw in some non sequitur about her dog.>
To show this more informally, it’s the same as if:
- Person makes claim A.
2. Evidence is given to prove claim A.
3. Therefore claim C is true.
The demonstration of the normal trinitarian argument is:
- Trinitarian makes claim that Jesus is God.
2.Scriptural evidence is given to prove Jesus is called “God.”
3. Therefore biblical unitarianism is false.
This is in short exactly as the title of the video by my former elder in an older post. Yet, this is a non-sequitur. Most biblical unitarians do not deny the possibility of Jesus being called “god.”[my personal take is not necessarily in agreement with most biblical unitarians, but that’s for another post] This is because the Scriptural evidence demonstrates other legitimate usages of the word “god” to denote human beings and angels. We’re not talking about idols or demons, we’re talking about God given titles to humans or angels usually in a superior place of power.
A clear example is Psalm 82
1 God stands in the congregation of the mighty;
He judges among the gods.
2 How long will you judge unjustly,
And show partiality to the wicked? Selah
3 Defend the poor and fatherless;
Do justice to the afflicted and needy.
4 Deliver the poor and needy;
Free them from the hand of the wicked.
5 They do not know, nor do they understand;
They walk about in darkness;
All the foundations of the earth are unstable.
6 I said, “You are gods,
And all of you are children of the Most High.
7 But you shall die like men,
And fall like one of the princes.”
8 Arise, O God, judge the earth;
For You shall inherit all nations.
And this is one among many where men/angels are deemed as “gods.” This is usually because these people/angels are to be representing God therefore they are given that title. There are plenty of commentaries that are open enough to admit this fact if you just do some slight digging. I only post one for now for brevity and to have you search it out more as the reader.
So do you see now why my former elder’s claim is false? See how it’s a non-sequitur? Does biblical unitarianism fall because he or any other trinitarian can assert Jesus may have the title “God/god” upon him? Nope…not unless the trinitarian wants to deny all the other texts and usages of the word “god” throughout the Scriptures and start to prove that. They’ve got a lot more steps to go to disprove biblical unitarianism and many many many more to try to prove trinitarianism.
You tell me…you read this text as objectively as possible and tell me who is the one and only God Paul preached among the Greeks at the Areopagus. Highlights will be done by me for clarity, that’s it. And trust me, there’s tons more I could say and cross-reference.
22 Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; 23 for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription:
TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.
Therefore, the One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: 24 “God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands.25 Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. 26 And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, 27 so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; 28 for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring.’ 29 Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. 30 Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, 31 because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.”
So *who* is the one God, the one He, the one Him according to this one block of text preaching by Paul?
I’ve had this thought on my mind recently and decided to finally put it into words. I try my best to work with what is in common when talking with other professing believers whether they be trinitarians or the occasional oneness(modalist). I have a video on this subject already in some form regarding looking at the larger picture of the term “o theos”(God) in the New Testament–but I want to highlight the main difference in understanding that flows from a true larger picture of this word “God.”
The main difference between these three positions is consistency ultimately. Consistency in definitions and simple grammar. I would presume most all Scripture believers would agree that we should use clear verses to interpret difficult verses. Otherwise it would seem rather ludicrous to take the more difficult, obscure statements/phrases in the Scripture and overthrow the clearer verses wherein there’s not much to debate about. It’s even worse when that larger set of verses are so clear and abundant yet overthrown or skewed by the more difficult ones. Sadly while many profess this, many do not actually follow it and that’s what I wish to show in the difference between these 3 views on God.
The main agreement between all of us is that there are around 1356 some odd times[KJV search] that the term “o theos”(God) appears in the New Testament alone. That does depends on which manuscripts are used and such, but it’s a round figure. That’s still a lot of instances to use the word “God” just for the small set of writings which make up the New Testament. The facts between us all no matter which position you hold is that over 1317+ of these usages of “God” in the New Testament are that they refer to the Father alone. I want to repeat that and make it clear—over 1317 are agreeably defined as the Father alone no matter which camp you’re in. You’re welcome to go through your own Bible’s New Testament one by one and write them all down if you’d like to test this out in more detail. I did it a long time ago–but I don’t recall it all as well. Go through and each time you come to the word “God” write down to WHOM this word “God” is referring to. You should come up with a pretty large clear picture which agrees with this claim. In my video I only came up with about 9 openly debated verses wherein the term “God” appears to refer to Jesus. If there’s more you wish to try to come up with, that’s fine—but they will be few and far between. These are the facts that we have to deal with no matter which camp.
Trinitarians, being the largest professing group of Christians believe in a triune “God.” So if they take the above facts and work their views—they must by definition begin to redefine the word “God.” There is no instance in existence that I’ve ever seen which can exegetically be shown to define “God” as all three persons at once, triune, or any other such meaning in general agreement with those two terms. Such when they come to the term “God” where they seem to apply to Jesus, they accept those at face value(and the few claims regarding the holy spirit) and will necessarily overthrow the larger facts[1317+ usages] that appear in the New Testament in how “God” is defined as the Father alone. That is not my opinion, that is their position. “God” as an ousia/essence is also not an exegetical definition that appears in the New Testament–but this is also redefined and added into the mix. They admit this in all their books, but will not admit redefinition. This position overthrows the larger foundation of clear verses where “God” refers to the Father alone. If you think you have exegetical definitions of these two meanings of “God,” then please by all means show them.
Oneness modalists on the other hand are rather simple. They accept the fact that “o theos” refers to the Father alone over 1317+ times without debate and then apply the times it appears to refer to Jesus as him being the Father. They recognize no true distinction between the Father and Jesus, and ultimately make them the one God. They don’t overthrow the larger foundation, but they overthrow other simple grammar rules and verses which clearly draw a personal distinction between the Father and the son.
Biblical unitarians take this larger picture and work with it to create a more consistent picture with the entirety of the New Testament. No matter which position you take within biblical unitarianism(because there are minor differences)—we recognize that “God” refers to the Father alone overwhelmingly and then start with that foundation. So when it comes to places where “God” seemingly refers to Jesus in the 9 or so verses we take the position that “o theos” means either “god” as in ruler/king, or look for manners in which it actually refers to the Father literally or within Jesus. We try to keep within basic hermeneutic of using clearer verses to interpret difficult verses and not redefine the terms beyond what the Scripture does.
These are simply the basic facts of agreement of how “God” is defined in the New Testament and the admitted position differences. I’m a proponent of gathering as much evidence available to give the best possible option to interpret the texts consistently. Part of the reason I personally left trinitarianism was because of this overwhelming factual position detailed above. I admit I began to start with presupposition that “God” referred to the Father so clearly that I had to start seeing if there were other consistent manners to deal with the difficult verses that kept within that framework. Ultimately I believe answers were found for all difficult verses to be interpreted clearly within that framework whether you agree with me or not. I’m just telling you my experience. What is your experience? Do you admit the facts? are the facts incorrect? or do you think your position should be represented differently? Let me know.
So recently, my former pastor attempted to do a shortly put-together(he admits this in the video, because it was on the fly type of teaching) teaching on the “rule” that Granville Sharp discovered in Greek grammar 1800 years later. You can watch the video above linked. I will eventually do a more full response and likely post a video, but it takes a while to truly compile the texts, cross-references, and facts that were not revealed in the teaching to show the errors. I will hopefully be able to do a text by text contextual response, since context should govern the grammar. Otherwise, I end up with the same type of on-the-fly response, because it’s even been a while since I’ve delved into the Granville Sharp rules.
The reason the context should govern the grammar is the exact reason this argument fails when it’s used in the English. The pastor brought it into the argument, so it applies in rebuttal. If one says “This is my best friend and my wife (name)” it can be referring to two different persons, or the same person. Yet the pastor doesn’t want to recognize or admit that this works exactly the same way using the other form “This is my best friend and wife (name).” Why? Because context governs it. If I was out somewhere new and was introducing my family to another individual, I could easily say “This is my wife and daughter (name).” The context reveals I have 2 other persons with me, my own daughter is not my wife… and that could be easily understood without another “my” in the second part of the statement preceding “daughter.” It really falls flat on it’s face in the English, and grammar is not really a place trinitarians want to enter… it is an un-even battle.
I cannot say for sure why… because I do not know the motives, but many things were left out in this teaching. It is one simple fact that this “rule” is still debated amongst scholars and translators. There are even many trinitarian apologists who admit that this rule is not decisive and outright fallacious place to found an argument. It’s not as full-proof as both my former elder and other trinitarian apologists like James White try to press. The very fact that multitudes of translations still inconsistently translate this “rule” shows enough that it’s not “without exception” even though the translations came well after the “rule” was established.
In fact, in the video itself 2 Thessalonians 1:12 is mentioned and it does separate God from Christ. Of course, we’re all(including me) translation critics when it comes to our theology… nothing new in that though. A simple short study shows that Calvin Winstanley produced 4 different categories of exceptions to this rule, one of them even being in the LXX of Proverbs 24:21 saying “My son, fear the LORD and the king;” This fits the TSKS standard, and it is clearly about two persons. Calvin also found many extra-biblical instances in which the rule did not fit, and many in the early church writings which also were exceptions to the rule. I guess the early church Greek speaking church wasn’t aware of this “rule” because they did not hold to it.
And therein lies one of the largest problems… you cannot prove the “rule” existed. No one talks about it, no one’s used it, no one promotes any of these texts with this type of rule in any time in the past until Granville Sharp…. with his entire motive being that he was trying to support the deity of Christ by grammar and searching for these types of patterns.
There are many more things I could comment on the double-standard and hypocrisy of accusing unitarians of using their minds to love God and assess Scripture… but I’ll leave it for the video probably.
One of the last things I will comment on, is the title of my own response. And that is… that this is a non-sequitur. Even if, if… it was granted that the Granville Sharp rule was true, and legitimate without exception… it still stands that one must prove that the “o theos”(God) in those texts must mean capital “G”od…. not “god” as in “ruler” which Jesus even used as his own defense in John 10:34 wherein God called his own people(judges) “gods.” It rests as a burden of proof on trinitarians to prove this because of the foundation which came before it in Jesus’ own explanation. *edit*… I also thought later of the fact that trinitarians also have to prove it does NOT mean God the Father. Obviously I would never accept that, and neither would they–but the point stands because they have to prove otherwise since 99% of the time “o theos” clearly refers to the FATHER. So they would have to prove that Jesus is not being called the Father. I know, it’s nuts… but remember we were essentially told in the video that we cannot use our minds, just accept the Scripture as it is without any critical thinking…. and even then leads to more problems if it is attempted to be proven. The point is, as the video’s own explanation tries to say… that this “rule” utterly refutes unitarianism, is a non-sequitur. It doesn’t follow.
Why? Because the moment you make another identity “God” with a capital “G”–you have two “Gods.” This is masked by equivocation and using the unbiblical word “person” to hide it. This isn’t high-minded theology, it’s grade school grammar and logic one uses every single day without question. Yet when it comes to trinitarian theology, out the window it goes. This is why I said trinitarians don’t really want to enter this gate… grammar is their largest enemy. So we know that “o theos” comes from the Greek, and it’s modeled from the Hebrew “elohim” meaning “Mighty One.” It’s a title, not necessarily a name.
If I have:
Boss One is not Boss Two
Then, it follows:
I have 2 Bosses.
Thus, if I have:
God the Father
God the Son
God the Father is not God the Son
Then, it follows:
I have 2 Gods, 2 Mighty Ones.
And this is where the trinitarian tries to claim “it’s a mystery” or “you’re using philosophy” or “God’s infinite, you cannot use logic.” I cannot shake my head hard enough… anything to deny the Sh’ma and that one truly means one.
It’s the fallacy of ad hoc… save the theory at all costs, even if it means denying the logic you use to read the Scriptures themselves and evaluate what is therein. It’s even worse, because the theory itself makes the Messiah into a sinner… good job trinitarians. You saved your theory trying to make it unfalsifiable by removing it from the minds of any possible criticism(though you have no problem attempting to criticize others beliefs using logic), and then you condemned the Messiah you claim to be following.
It still stands, and it will always stand as a fact… that the Messiah is a unitarian. Jesus still has(in terms of the trinity) a one-person God, his Father alone. My beliefs do go back to the founder himself of the ekklesia… and that’s why I rest safely in them.
“Hear O’ Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one” – Jesus, Mark 12:29
Acts 3:13 The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob[Israel], the God of our fathers, glorified His Servant Jesus, whom you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let Him go
Until next time,
Figured I should update this again and make a short explanation. I will likely link another video in here again soon with a fuller update as to how I came out of trinitarianism to actually FOLLOWING Jesus and becoming a (biblical) unitarian. I must make that distinction because in the USA, “unitarianism” is almost automatically linked to the “unitarian universalism” church(meaning that all believers are united in one faith and all have salvation)… if you can even call it that. This type of “unitarianism” I believe is false, yet the biblical unitarianism is strongly founded upon the Scriptures and believing in them. Bibilical unitarian is only used in contradistinction between trinitarians (and binitarians).
So what does a biblical unitarian believe in general? Well for starters, that “one” actually MEANS “one.” It’s quite simple, they believe the same Sh’ma that Jesus quoted in Mark 12:28-34 coming from Deuternomy 6:4.
“Hear O Israel, The LORD our God, the LORD is one” – Jesus, Mark 12:29
Notice that “our”—it should be pretty important to know that Jesus was under the Law of Moses, not just quoting it for giggles as some might like to say. But more on that another time.
We can get into other discussions and explanations later as to why no other possible view other than biblical unitarianism fulfills this text in its historical and immediate context. That means that trinitarians, oneness, and binitarians all must vacuum this verse out of it’s historical and immediate context to uphold their view and eisegetically interpret it.
But on to the simplicity, the biblical unitarian stands on the whole of Scripture and tons of clear contextual verses that show that the Father alone… alone… is the one and only true and living God. No one else, “One” truly means “one.”
Hopefully that’s enough to begin explaining what I believe and why I came to believe it. I hope to make more posts and explanations why soon enough.
And remember, your Messiah, Jesus(Yeshua) is a Jewish unitarian. Don’t condemn him with your doctrine, or your doctrine is surely wrong!