John 1:1. Much is made by Arian amateur grammarians of the omission of the definite article with “God” in the phrase “And the Word was God.” Such an omission is common with nouns in a predicative construction. To have used it would have equated the Word and the Word only with God, whereas without it the force is “And the Word was Himself God.” The article is omitted, too, on occasion in other constructions; in fact, there are four instances of it in this very chapter (verses 6, 12, 13, 18), and in John 13:3, “God” is written once without and once with the article. To translate in any one of these cases “a god” would be totally indefensible (see R. Kuehner—B. Gerth. Ausführliche Grammatik der griechischen Sprache, Vol. I, pp., 591 f., and E. Schwyzer, Griechische Grammatik, Vol. II, pp. 24 ff.).
Strange literalistic interpretations, too, have been put on the word “beginning” in this verse, and to read as if it said “In the beginning the Word began,” whereas what is affirmed is that in the beginning he was already existing. The reference is to something within the divine, not the human, order of things, and to apply the analogy of temporal succession and progression to the presence of God (“And the Word was with God”) is utterly unwarranted. Equally narrow interpretations have been put on the word “Beginning” in such passages as Revelation 3:14: “the beginning of the creation of God.” The context, however, demands an agent as a parallel to “witness,” so the sense must be “Beginner” or “the first cause,” as is the case in Revelation 21:6 where “Beginning” is applied to God himself (compare the Greek translation of Genesis 49:3, and Colossians 1:18, and Revelation 22:13). To understand what John means by “Word” (Logos) read Revelation 19:13–16 in conjunction with First Timothy 6:14–16.
John 14:28. “My Father is greater than I.” This can refer only to the self-imposed limitations of the Son in his incarnation. He has already claimed equality with God (John 5:18), and oneness with him (John 10:30); but he was not only true God, he was now also true man. In fact, rightly understood this is a claim of the highest import, for only things of the same order of magnitude can be compared. No mere man or angelic being could ever say, “God is greater than I,” for created and uncreated are of different orders.
Mark 13:32 (Matthew 26:36 RV). “Concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, not even the Son, but the Father.” This is in complete harmony with his consistent claim that he came to do the Father’s will. He came to reveal the redemptive purpose of God but certainly not his whole mind (see John 17:8). There is again nothing here to contradict the many passages where his deity is positively and clearly stated; on the contrary it is in itself a very extraordinary claim, when we consider the ascending order: men, angels, Son, Father. He places himself above the category of angels (the highest created beings) and classes himself with the Father (see Hebrews 1:13).
1 Corinthians 11:3. “And the Head of Christ is God.” Paul cannot imply by this inferiority, no more than in the case of the wife to the husband, which would be a contradiction of Galatians 3:28.
1 Corinthians 15:28. “And when all things are subjected to him, then the Son also himself will be subjected to him who put all things under him, that God may be all in all.” Paul is speaking of the relation of the Son to the Father (verse 24) which was ever one of subjection (see John 5:30). But subjection does not imply subordination in the sense of inequality (see First Corinthians 14:32, “The spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets”). The reference in verse 28 may well refer to organizational matters that do not come within the purview of revealed knowledge.
John 17:21. This verse is quoted in an attempt to weaken the force of John 10:30, “I and the Father are one,” about the meaning of which his audience were in no doubt whatever (see verse 33). In 17:21, however, the second “one” is not the best manuscripts (see RV), thus simply, “that they also may be in us.”
Philippians 2:5–9. A fair rendering of this passage might be: “Cultivate this attitude of mind among you, which was in Christ Jesus, who being already in the form of God, did not treat it as a prize to be equal with God, but divested himself, taking the form of a servant.” No one would dispute that when Paul says, Christ was in the “form” of a servant, he means that he was a servant in the truest and fullest meaning of the word. There is no ground for taking the phrase “in the ‘form’ of God” to mean less. Now from the nadir of his humiliation God has re-invested him with the insignia of his ineffable and divine glory, “and has given him the name that is—without exception—above every name.”
Mark 10:18 (“And Jesus said to him. Why callest thou me good; but one is good, God”). “Good” in the phrase “Good Master” meant in the suppliant’s language (Aramaic) “benevolent,” not “morally good”; hence there is no question of Christ denying that he was sinless (see H. L. Strack, P. Billerbeck, Kommentar zum Neuen Testament aus Talmud und Midrasch, Vol. I, pp. 808 f., and Vol. II, pp. 24 f.). Moreover “The Good”—Psalm 145:9 was probably cited—was one of the many Judaic titles for God (op. cit., Vol. I., p. 809). The point of our Lord’s remark is that a word with such hallowed association should not be used in a merely conventional manner. He is not stating that God alone is sinless, but that he is the personification of benevolence. To deduce from this an unexpressed contrary: “I am not sinless” or “I am not God,” would be sheer sophistry. Besides, in all interpretation, situation and context, immediate and remote, must be taken into account. Now when Christ comes to disclose (verse 21) the full limit of benevolence (the end of selfish possessing), he demands a response that hitherto had been the prerogative of God alone: “And come, follow Me.” No prophet had ever presumed to say this. Even the great Samuel unshakable in his integrity (1 Sam. 12:3) did not suggest personal discipleship but said: “Turn not aside from following Jehovah” (verse 20). And invariably in the Old Testament “following” in a religious sense has as its object God (Num. 14:24 and passim). The implication is surely undeniable.
Mark 15:34 (Matthew 27:46). This prayer on the Cross (“My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”) has been seized upon as a possible refutation of Christ’s claims to deity. We cannot, of course, know all that these words meant for him at that terrible moment, but there are several possible interpretations. First, he was still in communion with his Father, in spite of the past tense of the verb. Second, the meaning of these words to an attentive Jew would be that he was claiming all the Twenty-second Psalm for himself, for it was a common practice to name books and Psalms by their opening words, e.g., Psalm 113 was called the “Hallel,” from the Hebrew word with which it begins. An approximate analogy might be a dying Christian saying only: “Just as I am without one plea”; but his friends would know that the hymn as a whole was in his mind. The third possibility is that he was quoting it with the immediate context in mind, namely, forsaken with regard to present help. The fact that he did not use the Hebrew wording of the original but that of his mother-tongue serves only to bring out the poignant depth of his feeling of desolation.
The main argument of those who deny the deity of Christ seems to rest on a misconception of the full meaning of “Son.” The fallacy consists of arguing from the analogy of human experience, that “son” implies a pre-existing father in time. The truth is, however, that “son” is used widely in both the Old and New Testaments divorced from the idea of “generation” or “priority,” to denote relationship only. For instance in Hebrew, age is expressed by “the son of x years,” and in the New Testament in such expressions as “the sons of disobedience.” It was, in fact, one of the commonest ways of expressing identity. Again the phrase “only-begotten” refers to the uniqueness of Christ’s relationship to the Father. The word is even applied to God himself in John 1:18, where the reading in the most ancient and textually best manuscripts is “God only-begotten” (in Hebrews 11:17 of Isaac, one of several sons, where the stress is on relationship).
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