Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Jesus Christ a god, article in Manford's Magazine 1887

JESUS CHRIST A GOD, article in Manford's Magazine 1887

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{Previously] I stated that, in a few instances, Jesus is called a god, in the New Testament. But the assumption from this fact, that he was the supreme Deity, is entirely unauthorized. With Christians there is but one God; and hence, if Jesus is called God, it is concluded at once, and with apparent reason, that he must be Jehovah himself, as there is no other. But in the time of Christ, there were "gods many and lords many." It was believed that men who were great in this world, became gods in the world to come; and this exaltation was sometimes anticipated by their being deified while on earth. Nor was it necessary that they be good men. The Roman senate deified some of the emperors; who were a disgrace to human nature. Nor were they worse than other pagan gods.

It is true that neither Jews, nor Christians believed in more than one God; but it is also true, that the pagan doctrine had an influence on those who were not pagans. With the Christians, god became a title of honor. And indeed, it was the same with the Hebrews. Moses was called a god to Pharaoh; and some of the great men among that people were called gods; but the translation covers up this fact by the rendering of judges. So Jesus says, that some were called gods, to whom the word of God came. In this way he justified himself, for assuming the title "Son of God."

In view of these circumstances, it will not be thought strange, that Jesus should be called God in a few instances. The first verse of John's Gospel should read as follows: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god." In the New Testament, the supreme God is distinguished from all lesser gods, by the Greek article, answering to our the; though seldom if ever translated. The Greek has no indefinite article, answering to our a or an; but the latter are employed in the absence of the other.

In the verse from John, the article is used before God, in all cases except the last; "The Word was a god." It was not right to say, "The Word was God;" nor "God was the Word;" for that would be, to ignore the distinction made by John himself. The Word or Logos was a god, is the only true rendering. The Logos or Word does not here mean Jesus; though it became Jesus afterwards. It was the Word spoken in the beginning; God said, Let there be light. God said, Let there be a firmament. It is this Word personified. It was a god; for it did the work of a god. It was not the supreme God, but was with him, and was dependent on him.

What suggested such a personification, we can not say; perhaps the doctrine of Plato, that the world was not made by the supreme God, but by a subordinate being, called a "second god." Or, if the fisherman of Galilee did not know anything of Plato, he may have known something of Philo, a Jew, who taught doctrines similar to those of Plato; who also held to a second god, having the name Logos; but a real being, and not Logos personified.

The purpose of John seems to have been to show that the Logos, by which the world was made, had not yet done its entire work. It was destined to make a new creation, as important as the old, in the person of Jesus, made flesh and dwelling among us. But all that is attributed to the Word, before Jesus became flesh, belongs to the Word alone, and must not be ascribed to Jesus.

The apostle Thomas, addressing Jesus, says, "My Lord, and my God." John 20:28. I give it as it is in our version; but it would have been strictly more becoming to have given these titles without the capital letter; My lord and my god; as they must be taken in subordinate sense, if they apply to Jesus. But some interpreters suppose that these words are an exclamation of wonder and surprise, and refer to the supreme God; in which case, the capital letters are required. If they apply to Jesus, as is more probable, they are simply titles of honor, as in the case of Moses and others in the Old Testament.

In Heb. 1: 8, 9, Jesus is called God:

"Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever. * * * *

Therefore, God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows."

It is plain here, that, he who is addressed as "O God," in the first part of this passage, is a finite and dependent being. He had a God, who had exalted him above his fellows. The supreme God has no God, who can exalt him. He has no fellows, above whom he can be exalted. The passage that succeeds this, refers to the superior of the two Gods, that had just been noticed.

The inferior of the two was to reign forever and ever; but so far from proving that he was the supreme God, it is conclusive proof that forever and ever denotes a limited duration, namely to the time when Jesus shall deliver up the kingdom to God the Father, and God be all in all.

W. E. M

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