Response to Georg Kaplan on Trinity and Gregory of Nyssa, Jesus as Theos, Ignatius

My response to a guy named Georg Kaplan (A Unitarian, and he has made many videos and arguments against the doctrine of the Trinity and the Deity of Christ, who has recently come over to Muslim Paul Williams’ blog and we are having good discussions.):  (we have been having a cordial discussion at a Muslim blog – “Blogging Theology” – see here “Gullible and Stubborn”.

The quote from Gregory of Nyssa about combining Jewish Monotheism and the best from Greek pagan thought, etc. is a quote I have never heard before,

[Georg made a video of this.]

but I don’t think he is saying that Greek paganism is the “source” of the doctrine of the persons / hupostasis – rather the quote clearly says “The Jewish dogma (Unitarian Monotheism) is destroyed by the acceptance of the Word and by the belief in the Spirit . . . ” These are Biblical sources; not Greek paganism – and many scholars see the hints of the “word” (logos) in Genesis 1 (God spoke by His word everything into existence) and the Spirit also is there in Genesis 1 – 1:2 – “And the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters”. So even those 2 aspects are rooted in Jewish Monotheism.

Furthermore, Ignatius, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Origen, and Athanasius and Hillary and others had expressions of the Trinity in centuries (and at the same time – Athanasius and Hillary) before Gregory of Nyssa. Ignatius is clear on the Deity of Christ in early second century (around 107-110 AD) and has a simple expression of the Trinity –

“For Ignatius God is Father, and by ‘Father’ he means primarily ‘Father of Jesus Christ’ : ‘There is one God, who has manifested Himself by Jesus Christ His Son’ (Magn. 8.2). Jesus is called ‘God’ 14 times (Eph. inscr. 1.1, 7.2, 15.3, 17.2, 18.2, 19.3; Trall. 7.1; Rom. inscr. 3.3, 6.3; Smyrn. 1.1; Pdyc. 8.3).  [but see the other quote that cites 11 times, below] He is the Father’s Word (Magn. 8.2), ‘the mind of the Father’ (Eph. 3.3), and ‘the mouth through which the Father truly spoke’ (Rom. 8.2). He is ‘His only Son’ (Rom. inscr.), ‘generate and ingenerate, God in man . . . son of Mary and Son of God . . . Jesus Christ our Lord’ (Eph. 7.2). He is the one ‘who is beyond time the Eternal the Invisible who became visible for our sake, the Impalpable, the Impassible who suffered for our sake’ (Polyc. 3.2).

“. . . he does sometimes mention Father, Son, and Holy Spirit together. He urges the Magnesians to ‘be eager . . . to be confirmed in the commandments of our Lord and His apostles, so that “whatever you do may prosper” . . . in the Son and Father and Spirit’ (Magn. 13.2). And in one of his most famous passages he declares: ‘Like the stones of a temple, cut for a building of God the Father, you have been lifted up to the top by the crane of Jesus Christ, which is the Cross, and the rope of the Holy Spirit’ (Eph. 9.1).” Edmund J. Fortman, at a Greek Orthodox web-blog. ( I use that for convenience only; as Protestants, Roman Catholics, and E.Orthodox agree on the doctrine of the Trinity.
This is very early, over 2 centuries before Gregory of Nyssa.

Also, Tertullian, around 190-220 AD, used the basic words, “Trinitas Unitas” (three in one) and “persona” (the Latin equivalent of hypostatis) over 1 century before the Cappadocian Fathers, as did Origen around 250 AD.

 

From an article by Brian J. Wright, on Jesus as Theos:  (footnote 13)

https://bible.org/article/jesus-%CE%B8%CE%B5%E1%BD%B9%CF%82-scriptural-fact-or-scribal-fantasy

“Ignatius designates Jesus as ‘God’ on at least eleven occasions,” notes Weinandy, “Thus, Ignatius effortlessly and spontaneously wove within his understanding of the relationship between the Father and the Son the simple and unequivocal proclamation that Jesus Christ is God” (Thomas Weinandy, “The Apostolic Christology of Ignatius of Antioch: The Road to Chalcedon,” in Trajectories Through the New Testament and the Apostolic Fathers [New York: Oxford University Press, 2005], 76). Here are 14 such occurrences in Ignatius: Eph. prol.; 1.1; 7.2; 15.3; 18.2; 19.3; Rom. prol. (2x); 3.3; 6.3; Smyrn. 1.1; 10.1; Trall. 7.1; Pol. 8.3.

Excellent summary conclusion of the issue of Jesus as Theos and the Deity of Christ:

CONCLUSION

No one contests that the NT usually reserves the title θεός for God the Father. Yet this usage, though dominant, is not exclusive.146 The textual proof of the designation θεός as applied to Jesus in the NT merely confirms what other grounds have already established. In fact, the title θεός only makes explicit what is implied in other Christological titles such as κύριος and υἱὸς θεοῦ. Harris adds:

Even if the early Church had never applied the title θεός to Jesus, his deity would still be apparent in his being the object of human and angelic worship and of saving faith; the exerciser of exclusively divine functions such as creatorial agency, the forgiveness of sins, and the final judgment; the addressee in petitionary prayer; the possessor of all divine attributes; the bearer of numerous titles used of Yahweh in the OT; and the co-author of divine blessing. Faith in the deity of Christ does not rest on the evidence or validity of a series of ‘proof-texts’ in which Jesus may receive the title θεός but on the general testimony of the NT corroborated at the bar of personal experience.147

The question now before us is not whether the NT explicitly ascribes the title θεός to Jesus, but how many times he is thus identified and by whom.148 Therefore, with at least one text that undoubtedly calls Jesus θεός in every respect (John 20.28), I will conclude by answering my initial question: When did this boldness to call Jesus θεός begin? It began in the first century. It was not a creation of Constantine in the fourth century. It was not a doctrinal innovation to combat Arianism in the third century. Nor was it a sub-apostolic distortion of the apostolic kerygma in the second century. Rather, the church’s confession of Christ as θεός began in the first century with the apostles themselves and/or their closest followers and therefore most likely from Jesus himself.  Brian J. Wright

On the issue of John 1:3-4:

Also, I purchased Murray J. Harris’ Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament on John, and he actually gives cogent reasons for accepting the punctuation of John 1:3 that makes 1:4 begin with “in Him was life . . . ” – page 23. Too much to type out, maybe Google books will allow you to see it.

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About Ken Temple

I am a follower of Jesus Christ. I am a sinner who has been saved by the grace of God alone (Ephesians 2:8-9), through faith alone (Galatians 2:16; Romans 3:28; 4:1-16), in Christ alone (John 14:6). But a true faith does not stay alone, it should result in change, fruit, good works, and deeper levels of repentance and hatred of my own sins of selfishness and pride. I am not better than you! I still make mistakes and sin, but the Lord is working on me, conforming me to His character. (Romans 8:28-29; 2 Corinthians 3:16-18) When I do sin, I hate the sin as it is an affront to God, and seek His forgiveness in repentance. (Mark 1:15; 2 Corinthians 7:7-10; Colossians 3:5-16 ) Praise God for His love for sinners (Romans 5:8), shown by the voluntary coming of Christ and His freely laying down His life for us (John 10:18), becoming flesh/human (John 1:1-5; 1:14; Philippians 2:5-8), dying for sins of people from all nations, tribes, and cultures (Revelation 5:9), on the cross, in history, rising from the dead (Romans 10:9-10; Matthew 28, Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24; John 20-21; 1 Corinthians chapter 15). His resurrection from the dead proved that Jesus is the Messiah, the eternal Son of God, the word of God from eternity past; and that He was all the gospels say He was and that He is truth and the life and the way to salvation. (John 14:6)
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12 Responses to Response to Georg Kaplan on Trinity and Gregory of Nyssa, Jesus as Theos, Ignatius

  1. Ken Temple says:

    Thanks for the advice, Sam.
    Do you have a written article?

    • Ken Temple says:

      Sam,
      Did you read all of the interaction there at Blogging theology? At the Gullible and Stubborn post; We are up to almost 500 comments and there is much more there; but I don’t have time to type it all out in a coherent fashion. I hope to find time. I am just responding as I have time.

  2. Ken Temple says:

    I am starting to read more of your articles about Jehovah’s Witnesses. This one is very good.
    Excellent! The format is better also – without so much capital lettering as in your http://www.answering-islam.org articles.

    very good material. It will take a long time to read through all of your stuff on Jehovah’s Witnesses; but so far so good.

    https://badmanna.wordpress.com/2014/09/14/a-series-of-questions-for-jehovahs-witnesses-pt-12-a-post-by-sam-shamoun/

  3. georgkaplin says:

    Ken,
    After looking over your comments, I have prepared a video/presentation on Wolfson’s analysis of the Origin of the Trinity by Harry Wolfson.

    The title is: The Origin of the Doctrine of the Trinity according to John of Damascus and Gregory of Nyssa, the Ken edition.

    The Patristic historian, Harry Wolfson, demonstrates how Gregory of Nyssa and John of Damascus describe the Trinity as a combination of Jewish and Greek dogma. This presentation provides the quotes in English and also the Greek from Mignes Patrology. — https://youtube.com/watch?v=4Exc6ZIWids

    Harry Austryn Wolfson was a scholar, philosopher, and historian at Harvard University. Wolfson authored an astonishing variety of works which included the Church Fathers, and the foundations of Western religion. Wolfson also wrote the book “The Philosophy of the Church Fathers.” There on pages 362 and 363 he reveals two shocking quotes from two revered Church Fathers and gives his interpretation.

    Speaking of the doctrine of Trinitarian apologists, he says: “… its own conception of the Trinity was looked upon by the Fathers themselves as a combination of Jewish monotheism and pagan polytheism… to them this combination was a good combination; in fact, it was to them an ideal combination of what is best in Jewish monotheism and of what is best in pagan polytheism…The Christian conception of God, argues Gregory of Nyssa, is neither the polytheism of the Greeks nor the monotheism of the Jews and consequently it must be true, for”

    “the truth passes in the mean between these two conceptions, destroying each heresy, and yet, accepting what is useful to it from each. The Jewish dogma is destroyed by the acceptance of the Word and by the belief in the Spirit, while the polytheistic error of the Greek school is made to vanish by the unity of the nature abrogating this imagination of plurality.”

    “As restated by John of Damascus, this ideal combination in Christianity of what is best in Judaism and paganism reads as follows: “On the one hand, of the Jewish idea we have the unity of God’s nature, and, on the other, of the Greek, we have the distinction of hypostases, and that only.”

    Has Wolfson made a compelling case that the Trinity doctrine part Jewish and part Greek? Let’s look at these two quotes together.

    On the left pane, we see how the two Trinitarian apologists describe the beliefs of the Jews. On the right, the Greek. In the center are the “useful” parts of each. Together, the Jewish and Greek elements contribute to the Trinitarian doctrine.

    I have never seen these quotes discussed by modern day Trinitarians. Certainly they deserve serious discussion.

    Georg Kaplin

    • Ken Temple says:

      All you have done is just repeat what we have already covered in the comboxes at blogging theology.

      the key phrase is this:
      “by the acceptance of the Word and by the belief in the Spirit,”

      Which shows the source of the doctrine of the Trinity is the New Testament revelation, not what Wolfson says or John of Damascus or the other part of what Gregory of Nyssa says. They are fallible, only Scripture is infallible; and Scripture has the teachings of:
      1. There is only one God. ( OT and NT)
      2. The eternal Word / Son of God. (John 1:1-5; 1:14; 1:18; 20:28; John 17:5; Philippians 2:5-8; Colossians 1:15-20; Hebrews 1:3, 6, 8, Revelation chapter 5, Romans 9:5)
      3. The Holy Spirit. (Acts 5:3-5; John 14; 15:26; 16)
      4. The Triad in one name. Matthew 28:19, 2 Cor. 13:14
      5. Distinction between the persons. See more at my other posts on the doctrine of the Trinity:
      https://apologeticsandagape.wordpress.com/2014/01/18/the-doctrine-of-the-trinity-trinitas-unitas-unitas-trinitas/

  4. georgkaplin says:

    Ken:
    All you have done is just repeat what we have already covered in the comboxes at blogging theology.

    the key phrase is this:
    “by the acceptance of the Word and by the belief in the Spirit,”

    GK:
    Ken, I put a lot of thought and effort into the new slide which breaks down the statements of John and Gregory into categories.

    Here it is:

    There are three sources, not one. I take this from the statements quoted.

    Ken:
    Which shows the source of the doctrine of the Trinity is the New Testament revelation, not what Wolfson says or John of Damascus or the other part of what Gregory of Nyssa says.

    GK:
    My analysis is about “the other part” where they take something from (EK) the Greeks.

    Your emphasis of the part you accept does not make “the other part” to disappear.

    Ken:
    They are fallible, only Scripture is infallible; and Scripture has the teachings of:
    1. There is only one God. ( OT and NT)

    GK:
    This is certainly a good place to start. Would you mind providing the verses to which you appeal?

  5. georgkaplin says:

    All of the verses in your list that have the phrase “one God” identify the one God as the Father. If you are a mono-theist (ie one-god) and not merely a theist, then you have just proven that the Father is the one God all by himself.

    BTW You missed Mal 2:10. Dt 6:4 does not contain the phrase “one God.”

    See this short 2 min video that discusses this verse.

    • Ken Temple says:

      Except the New Testament revelation revealed more about the true God who existed from all eternity. The Word (John 1:1-5) who is also the eternal Son (John 17:5) who became a human (John 1:14; 18; Philippians 2:5-8) and the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-17; 14:26; 15:26; 16:12-15; Acts 5:3-5) and many other passages.

      The Word and the Spirit are hinted at in Genesis 1:1-3 – the Spirit of God hovering over the waters and God spoke His Word and created all things, etc.

      Thanks for the Malachi 2:10 reminder. I was just naming verses off the top of my head. So what if Deut. 6:4 does not have “one God” exactly. It is clear in meaning that the Lord God is one God or one Lord.

      Nothing about one God as the Father is contradictory to the Word/Son being the same eternal substance and with the Father and the Holy Spirit as eternal and a person and the same substance as the Father.

      Matthew 28:19 and 2 Cor. 13:14 and many other Triadic passages in the NT give us the basics, with the other passages above, that consistently and exegetically demonstrate the doctrine of the Trinity and it has no contradiction to “One God”, since Trinitarianism includes the doctrinal foundation of “one God”.

      • georgkaplin says:

        Ken,
        Your were initially starting to repeat the common Trinitarian argument 1) there is one God…Dt 6:4… 1 Co 8:6… etc , 2) Jesus is God, 3) the Holy Spirit is God, so 4) they are the same God.

        But ALL the verses that speak of “the one God” also identify that one God as the Father. So back to the drawing board.

        You also say:

        Nothing about one God as the Father is contradictory to the Word/Son being the same …

        GK:
        Not true. Your other verse, 1Co 8:6. Is an example of a convertible proposition. The Father exhausts the category of “one God” there.

        This means that the statement “One God = the Father” is not a subset proposition. It is a equation of identity.

        In the same sense, Jesus Christ is the one Lord and Owner of Christians because he died for our sins. That is another convertible proposition.

        Look up KURIOS in BDAG, and see that word is used differently of the Son than the Father.

        There is a common Trinitarian rebuttal to 1Co 8:6 that ignores the different senses of KURIOS. That is an exegetical fallacy to assign one invariant meaning to a word, called the root fallacy. You will find Jude 4 with DESPOTHS also falls into this category.

        .

      • Ken Temple says:

        Georg,
        We are just going to have to disagree; as kurios clearly means Yahweh for Jesus as the same substance of the Father, which the early church recognized as the proper exegesis and harmony of all the relevant passages that touch on the Deity of Christ and the Oneness of God and the person and Deity of the Holy Spirit.

        John 1:1 and all the other verses I have already gone over with you have demonstrated that you and the Jehovah’s Witnesses are wrong.

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