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Wholly Trinity


The trinity seems to be a bit more controversial topic that I have previously assumed. I have recently become close to believers who do not share the same ideas on the trinity, and have heard a few good questions and thoughts on the subject. Since the “doctrine of the trinity” is central to Christianity, as it defines who Christ is, I find it a pretty important topic for discussion, though I do not find it necessary to agree to get along, in any capacity.
Psalm 110:1 is quoted in all three synoptic gospels and in Acts during the pentecost sermon. “The Lord says to my Lord: ‘sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.'” What does this mean, “The Lord says to my Lord”?
There seem to be three clear options that arise. 1) The Messiah is divine worthy of Lordship and is a separate being from God in the facet that they can have a conversation and different ‘wills’. 2) The different words translated the same “Lord” do not both imply divinity (This comes with a great deal of implication) 3) The Messiah is divine worthy of Lordship but is not a separate being from what would be called “God the father”.
Let’s explore. I have to add a warning: I believe Jesus to the Messiah, and the son of God. If I use Jesus’ name assuming he is indeed the Messiah without prior evidences, I apologize, but it is necessary to make that assumption, at times when referring to his own specific merit. There is always the option that Jesus is not the Messiah in which case some of the afore mention options would have to be modified to fit the context. I did not do that already.
1) I favor this idea. Though it does pose many questions it also sufficiently answers them and just tends to make more sense. Obviously there is conversation involved. Many times throughout the gospel Jesus is reported praying, both alone and in company. This a characteristic of interpersonal relationship. People don’t do that with themselves the way it is described that Jesus did. Also, he submits to the father’s will many times. That has no meaning if he is the same being as God.
2)  I think that was addressed pretty well in 1. There are some more issues that arise as you look through the biblical text as well as some philosophical issues concerning the cognitive nature of God (though they are easily answered without a trinitarian view) that the trinitarian doctrine easily resolves. But, honestly, the gospels lose meaning if they’re the same. Communion loses significance on many levels. The entire event at the cross, and all of passion week really, are just kind of… eh’… I don’t want to bash anyone’s beliefs, but I really haven’t heard any substantial reason for doubting the trinity without doubting the authenticity and accuracy of the biblical text, which is an entirely different conversation.
3) This was brought up to me, and I was really interested. I used netbible.org to check up on the original hebrew. It turns out that the first Lord is Jehovah, the proper name for God. The second is an authoritative figure, a master of sorts. However, this second Lord is also used in reference to God. It seems this is a way of referring to God by a quality rather than a name. In poetry this makes sense to use a different word in reference to the same object. There is a time for repetition, and there is a time for fresh vocabulary. That is my theory on why it was a different word. I believe it to be referring to a divinity no less that God.
Let’s look at what this would mean if the second Lord did not refer to heredity, the implications are immense. From the quotes in the synoptic gospels it is clear that the jewish community believed this to be a prophesy about the messiah, who was also prophesied to be a descendant of David. When Jesus points out to the people that David called his descendent Lord, they shut up. Jesus questions his own heredity and leading theologians of the time are left speechless. Amazed. Peter quotes it in Acts to question Jesus’ heredity and affirm his Lordship as well. It was quite effective, if you remember the number of hearts won over on that day. So what does this imply? Well, it implies that the Jewish culture and the acclaimed Messiah completely misinterpreted their own cultural records and religious writings. Misinterpretation happened often, but not on such a gigantic scale. There’s no other way around it, they were just completely wrong, all of them.
Another implication is that there is another level of authority between humanity and the heavenly courts. It would mean that the Messiah has authority, even over his own predecessors, but is not quite deity. There is, to my knowledge, no other scripture to give this any real backing. It’s a stretch as it is, and since the word for ‘Lord’ used there is not specific, one could not tell for sure on this one scripture anyway.

There is a fatal flaw I have stumbled upon. I believe in the trinity. I need good apologetic responses to a unitarian view of God that does not illegitimately negate the value of scripture that point to a unitarian view. Until I have that I either have sound ideas, or severely flawed ideas, with no feedback to sift it out. Your thoughts positive or negative will help.

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  1. June 6, 2011 at 11:19 AM

    “Psalm 110:1 is quoted in all three synoptic gospels and in Acts during the pentecost sermon. “The Lord says to my Lord: ‘sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.’” What does this mean, “The Lord says to my Lord”?” (Carly)

    I have talked and read some rabbinic work on this and I am thoroughly convinced of one thing – divinity is not implied by the scripture. Its really quite simple based on interpretation.

    If we take that passage at its literal English translation – ‘The Lord is speaking to Himself’ or worse ‘The Lord is speaking to a 2nd and equal God’ (polytheism not monotheism). It’s plainly clear Judaism, the first monotheistic religion, would not have moved towards a duality of Gods as part of their scripture – even if this is just a Psalm (song). So interpreting that as 2 Gods is a huge translative step away from the Judaism of that time period and now – meaning to do so is to break a tenant of interpretation – tradition.

    Fact is, Lord is used in that passage and this was seen as a messianic piece by some forms of Judaism in Jesus’ time. However, even in those forms of Judaism (ie: Essence communities or even some Pharisee sects) there is not historical proof that second ‘Lord’ ever was meant to be God. To anyone reading that without a Christian lense already on – it reads as God speaking to a ‘King’ or someone of power ‘priest’ (ie: of the order of Melchizedek – in the same Psalm). Regardless of who it is, it is a human being.

    I tend to think it is a messianic reference as well, however I don’t see a God to God convo happening there. I see the second Lord being someone that is below God, adheres to God, and is at the ‘right hand of God’ (beside God – but obviously not Him). All this means is that the messiah is defended by God and allowed to sit at God’s right hand (literal or figuratively – can be seen both ways) – God has taken care of this individual and this individual was faithful to God.

    I guess my wonder is why you doubt the Jewish interpretation for the Christian one? Who would know the Hebrew interpretation better and have a tradition with this text?

    One just needs to read Mark on its own to see a Jesus that clearly does not see himself as equal to God. It would also be quite heretical for Jesus to make these claims since he believed in God himself – and if he is the messiah – even a bigger taboo when you think about it (due to position of power and his claim of closeness to God).

    Which is what always boggled my mind – if Jesus thought he was equal to God – why was he so ‘mum’ on the issue? He never once comes out and actually says this about himself – it’s accredited to him in places – but never does it come from his lips. Even with this passage, why not just clearly say ‘I am God’?

    • June 7, 2011 at 8:23 PM

      Hey, this kind of good insight is exactly what I was looking for when I wrote this blag up. Thanks brother for helping me out. Since I do have that Christian bias it’s really hard for me not to see what that scripture could mean. The jews at the time shared your view, in fact, at least some of them, according to the bible. Jesus was saying that it didn’t make sense for David to call his descendent Lord. If the conclusion is made that it isn’t odd, since his descendent is the Messiah, and therefore while not being divine has Lordship over David, what then? I’m still finding this not divine, but above men thing unbiblical.
      So, I asked a question to you before: Do you believe Jesus to be divine but not separate from God, or do you believe Jesus not to be divine?
      Also, it’s kind of hard to talk about this with out having read some of those Jewish sources you mentioned, since I do already have a pretty strong bias. Most of it is based on New Testament teachings, however. I believe Jesus to be divine and the gospel narratives to be accurate. In doing so the conclusion becomes pretty clear. Jesus is God, but not the Father, and the Father is God, but not the Son, and there is a mysterious Holy Spirit that comes to replace Jesus and lives inside of those who follow and do as Jesus did.
      So if you don’t mind sharing those sources with me, I’d love to check it out. Anything I can get online or in a library would be very helpful. Again, thanks.

  2. June 8, 2011 at 12:22 PM

    For some of the Jewish interpretation of stuff I view a few sites:

    (1) My Jewish Learning – http://www.myjewishlearning.com/ – to learn about Judaism and what they teach on certain texts and ideas (ie: messiah)

    (2) Outreach Judaism – site is down right now – but the rabbi answers a lot of common questions concerning scriptures Christians use about the messiah – for example Psalm 110 is discussed on that site (even has a video now).

    (3) Jews for Judaism is a fun site to putz around on – get to read some of the things they also look at – they also discuss these same scriptures – http://www.jewsforjudaism.org/

    Some of it may be a lil offensive at first – they are kind of trying to fight off Jews for Jesus more or less.

  3. June 8, 2011 at 12:23 PM

    This is interesting as well – http://www.whatjewsbelieve.org/

  4. June 8, 2011 at 12:30 PM

    “So, I asked a question to you before: Do you believe Jesus to be divine but not separate from God, or do you believe Jesus not to be divine?” (Carly)

    I do not see Jesus as divine,since there is only one God. I think Jesus is the messiah – which is a leadership role (of power and authority) all on it’s own and worthy of being called ‘teacher, master, Lord’. If you think of the way Jesus taught – well it’s rabbinic in nature and he calls his people students (ie: disciples). I believe this is a God bestowed position – but still a human one.

    “Jesus was saying that it didn’t make sense for David to call his descendent Lord” (Carly)

    I think Jesus is addressing the misunderstanding of that passage and how people were wondering about that use of ‘Lord’ (as we are on this blog today). David’s psalm is to God – however he uses the term Lord – which could be 1 of 2 things:

    (a) himself as leader of Israel
    (b) messianic reference

    Both interpretations have been used within Jewish circles. However, what has never been used in Jewish circles and in interpretive tradition is that second use of Lord being divine – in fact it would be hard for King David to even imagine such an idea being a strict monotheist. All that Lord means is that there was someone in a position of authority (whether David or the messiah) that answered to God, that God also showed favor towards (ie: right hand of God).

  5. June 8, 2011 at 12:42 PM

    “Most of it is based on New Testament teachings, however. I believe Jesus to be divine and the gospel narratives to be accurate. In doing so the conclusion becomes pretty clear. Jesus is God, but not the Father, and the Father is God, but not the Son, and there is a mysterious Holy Spirit that comes to replace Jesus and lives inside of those who follow and do as Jesus did.” (Carly)

    Is that actually clear biblically or just denomination-ally? Also begs the question, how do you view the NT and it’s few books/gospels and many letters? Were they all written at the same time and handed to the first believers the way you received your first version of an NT? If not, what difference doe sit make to not have a complete NT like we do and maybe just use Mark in a community? Or a letter from Paul?

    These are some of the things we miss out when we don’t look back to that early community that started this movement we call Christianity – what exactly were they getting at? I tend to see a a dual version of Christianity within Acts for example…something it seems Paul also seen and somewhat fought against – and somewhat supported.

    Obviously Judaism can never accept our version of teachings because it flies in the face of their own beliefs about those same scriptures…so the goal of any good theologian should be be to find out ‘why’?

    • June 13, 2011 at 12:56 PM

      To your first paragraph: it does not matter what denomination one is associated with. If Jesus is believed to be divine and the gospel narratives accurate there is very little room for dispute of a trinitarian view of God. It is not clearly outlined in the gospels, like loving your neighbor as yourself is, but it is referenced and implied and pointed at from a far with pretty clear indications. However, my response to Judaism’s receiving of Jesus also leaves the door open for questioning on this issue. According to Jesus the Jews had the wrong idea of the messiah. In the same way I could have the wrong view.

  6. June 14, 2011 at 4:39 PM

    “If Jesus is believed to be divine and the gospel narratives accurate there is very little room for dispute of a trinitarian view of God” (Carly Jo)

    Agreed, again the question really is – is the trinity being ‘read into’ the bible or ‘out of it’? I personally think the trinity is clearly read into the bible, not actually part of the evidences about God, but a new Gentile theory about a 1/2 man – 1/2 God idea – which was clearly not a problem in Gentile territories. However, within Judaism that idea could never fly, it went in the face of the One God (who is also not a human may I add).

    That’s why I have a severely tough time thinking Jesus believed he was the 2nd member of the God-head. This is the same guy that always said thing like ‘do you not know the scriptures say…’ and in Mark something even quite more shocking:

    “One of the scribes came and heard them arguing, and recognizing that He had answered them well, asked Him, “What commandment is the foremost of all?” Jesus answered, “The foremost is, ‘HEAR, O ISRAEL! THE LORD OUR GOD IS ONE LORD” (Mark 12: 28 – 29)

    Wait, what?

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