Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Is Jesus Subordinate To God?

What is the evidence for the Trinity? Specifically, how well does scripture support the claim that Jesus is equal to God?

Jesus: Messiah, Lord, Son of God

Jesus was not unique in being considered the son of God. Jews believed that all their kings were the adopted sons of God. This Old Testament text illustrates that:
2 Samuel 7:12 When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, 15 but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. 16 And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me.[c] Your throne shall be established forever.’”
Is this text, King David was adopted as the son of God. As the supposed King of the Jews (and according to both geneologies a direct descendant of David), Jesus also would be the adopted son of God.

These Psalms are about David, not Jesus!
Psalm 89:26 He will call out to me, ‘You are my Father,
    my God, the Rock my Savior.’
And I will appoint him to be my firstborn,
    the most exalted of the kings of the earth.

Psalms 2:7 I will proclaim the Lord’s decree:
He said to me, “You are my son;
    today I have become your father.
8 Ask me,
    and I will make the nations your inheritance,
    the ends of the earth your possession.
This also made Jesus the messiah, which Jews understood to be the eagerly awaited king, who would lead them to freedom. The messiah (or Christ in Greek) meant the anointed one, referring to the tradition of anointing the king at his coronation.

Jesus was called "Lord". Does that make him God? No. The Old Testament has the word "Lord" over 6000 times, but this is translated from the Hebrew יְהֹוָה (Yhvh or Yahweh). Was Jesus ever called Yahweh? Not that I am aware of. The word Paul used, which is translated as "lord", is Κυρίου. This is the same word used in Mark 12:9 and Matthew 20:8 to indicate the owner of a vineyard!

Jesus was considered in the same way David was considered. Both were thought to be kings, adopted by God as his son, both were messiahs, both worthy of being called "Lord". This was true of all the Jewish kings. That may well mean he and David were considered divine (and it may not), but they were certainly not considered to be God.

Looking at the Hellenistic world, it is worth noting that Alexander the Great was considered the son of Zeus, despite also being the son of the king of Macedon, Philip II, and his fourth wife, Olympias.

I am going to start by looking at verses cited by this web page, though I note that it is not addressing quite this question:


This page, which I found later, does attempt to address this exact question, and some points come from there.

Old Testament

Genesis 1:26, 3:22, 11:7, Isaiah 6:8 all have God referred to in the plural. The argument goes that this must be God and Jesus together. While that is possible, a more likely explanation is that these verses come from a polytheistic tradition, and it refers to the god El and his wife or consort Asherah. El was the father of Yahweh, and the Bible does a good job of combining the two.

I appreciate Christians will reject that view, but nevertheless the trinity claims that all three parts co-exist and are equal. Whatever way you read it, at best referring to God in the plural can only show two or more beings present. It cannot hope to show that they are equal or that they are also one being.

Genesis 18 to 19 describes God appearing to Abraham in human form. This is assumed to be Jesus, though the text itself gives no reason to suppose this is true. God also appeared to Adam and Eve and had to go looking for them (Genesis 3:9), so we know the Bible authors believed God could take human form and in very early texts, they probably assumed God was man-like in appearance, just as the Romans assumed Jupiter was man-like; remember, Genesis has man created in God's image - again, I appreciate Christians will reject this view.

And as before, even if we assume this is Jesus, why should we imagine Jesus is equal to God?

The web page invokes Isaiah, but it relies on John to reintepret the text, so I will just see what it says about John later.
Then there is Micah 5:2. Let us see some context:
Micah 5:2 ‘But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
    though you are small among the clans[b] of Judah,
out of you will come for me
    one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
    from ancient times.’

3 Therefore Israel will be abandoned
    until the time when she who is in labour bears a son,
and the rest of his brothers return
    to join the Israelites.

4 He will stand and shepherd his flock
    in the strength of the Lord,
    in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God.
And they will live securely, for then his greatness
    will reach to the ends of the earth.

5 And he will be our peace
    when the Assyrians invade our land
    and march through our fortresses.
We will raise against them seven shepherds,
    even eight commanders,
    So Micah is prophesising someone coming from the clan of Bethlehem Ephrathah (and the text is clear that it is talking of a clan, not a place) who will get eight commanders to stand against the Assyrian invaders. This is nothing to do with Jesus!

New Testament (not John)

So now we turn to the New Testament, which we might expect to have rather more evidence.
Mark 2:7 ‘Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?’
8 Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, ‘Why are you thinking these things? 9 Which is easier: to say to this paralysed man, "Your sins are forgiven," or to say, "Get up, take your mat and walk"? 10 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.’
Jesus explains this away himself! Just as a prophet is given the authority to perform miracles, so he can be given the authority to forgive sins - afterall, forgiving sins is easier than healing a paralysed man.
Romans 14:11 For it is written, "As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall give praise to God."
I have no idea how this supports the trinity. Anyone?
2 Corinthians 13:14 and Philippians 2:1-2 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.
Again, I do not get this. Sure, the three parts of the trinity appear in the same sentence, but that does not make them the same thing or make them equal.
Philippians 2:9-11 "Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
Nothing here to suggest Jesus is equal to God, just that God regards him highly.
Revelation 22:3 "And there shall no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His bond-servants shall serve Him."
Same again. Nothing that says Jesus is equal to God.


By far the most evidence comes from John. I find that interesting, as John is known to give its own unique view of the life of Jesus. It is rather more developed, theologically.
Certainly John holds that Jesus is holy and more than just a man. John indicates a Jesus who is eternal, who has been around since the start of the universe; none of the other books of the NT indicate that as far as I am aware.
But does John hold Jesus as equal to God?   
John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.
So Jesus has existed from the start, but nothing to indicate Jesus is equal to God.
John 5:18 For this cause therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.
This might be the best verse so far. But think about it. This is reporting the reactions of the Jews. It does not actually say Jesus was equal to God, it says the Jews objected because they thought Jesus was claiming to be equal to God. What if the Jews were wrong?

Let us see some more context:
John 5:16 So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jewish leaders began to persecute him. 17 In his defence Jesus said to them, ‘My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.’ 18 For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.
19 Jesus gave them this answer: ‘Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. 20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so that you will be amazed. 21 For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. 22 Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, 23 that all may honour the Son just as they honour the Father. Whoever does not honour the Son does not honour the Father, who sent him.
24 ‘Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. 25 Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.
God has delegated to Jesus. You do not delegate to an equal, you delegate to a subordinate. God is the boss; it is God who chooses who will do the judging. As Jesus admits, "the Son can do nothing by himself", it is only through God.
John 8:23 But he continued, ‘You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. 24 I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins.’
25 ‘Who are you?’ they asked.
‘Just what I have been telling you from the beginning,’ Jesus replied. 26 ‘I have much to say in judgment of you. But he who sent me is trustworthy, and what I have heard from him I tell the world.’
27 They did not understand that he was telling them about his Father. 28 So Jesus said, ‘When you have lifted up[a] the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. 29 The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him.’
It is clear here that Jesus is considered to be heavenly by John, but it is also clear that Jesus is subordinate to God. Jesus is acting as God's messenger, giving God's message, not their shared message. Jesus is very clear on this "I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me".
John 8:58 "Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad." The Jews therefore said to Him, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?" Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am." Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself, and went out of the temple.
The claim is Jesus saw Abraham. That does not make him equal to God. If he was equal to God, why would he hide himself?
25 Jesus answered, ‘I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all[c]; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.’
Wow, verse 30 looks like a slam-dunk!

But wait, verse 29 says Jesus' father is greater than all. Note that Jesus is establishing his relationship to God as being distinct from God, and then saying God is greater than everything.

When Jesus says he and God are one, I would suggest he means they are of the same nature, specifically, just as no one will steal a sheep (i.e., a follower) from God, no one shall steal one from Jesus either.

The text continues:
31 Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him, 32 but Jesus said to them, ‘I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?’
33 ‘We are not stoning you for any good work,’ they replied, ‘but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.’
34 Jesus answered them, ‘Is it not written in your Law, "I have said you are ‘gods’"?
Let us start at the end, which is a reference to Psalm 82:6 "‘I said, "You are ‘gods’; you are all sons of the Most High." This appears to be talking about human rulers, as it later says they will die like men. So Jesus is presumably pointing out that in the Bible God describes some people as 'gods', so how can it be blasphemy to do likewise?
John 12:41 Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him.
This could be a reference to Isaiah 6, were Isaiah saw God. But Isaiah saw seraphim too, and spoke of them too. Why should we not conclude that Jesus was one of them?
John 19:7 The Jews answered him, "We have a law, and by that law He ought to die because He made Himself out to be the Son of God."
That does not make Jesus the equal of God, however.
John 12:45 "He who sees Me sees the One who sent Me"

John 14:9-10 "He who has seen Me has seen the Father"
Do these verses mean that Jesus is God? I think not. Any more than watching a football game on TV is the same as being right there at the stadium.    Jesus is saying that you will see God through him, not that he is God (otherwise, why not say "I am God").

Further Evidence Against Jesus and God Being Equals

Why does Jesus pray to himself? It makes no sense. Jesus prays at numerous points in the NT, and it is clear he is praying to a superior being, not to himself, not to an equal.
Luke 4:5-8: "The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, "I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours." Jesus answered, "It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’"
Why would Satan offer this authority to Jesus if Jesus was God or was equal to God? Jesus would already have more authority than Satan. For this to make any sense, and for this to be in any way a real temptation, Jesus must have less authority than Satan, who in turn has less authority than God.
Luke 22: 41 He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42 ‘Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.’ 43 An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.
Here Jesus is asking God to take away his duty to die on the cross (i.e., the cup). Why would Jesus do that if he was God? How could an angel, clearly a lesser being than God, give strength to Jesus if Jesus was equal to God?
Mark 15:34 And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?’ (which means ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’).
If you believe in the trinity, then Jesus is calling out to himself, wondering why he has himself forsaken himself!
Luke 12:8 ‘I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God. 9 But whoever disowns me before others will be disowned before the angels of God. 10 And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.
Here Jesus shows a clear distinction between himself and the Holy Spirit. Talking against the Holy Spirit, an aspect of god, is blasphemy and unforgivable. Talking against Jesus, a human being (son of man) is forgiveable.

The Son of God, The Messiah, Lord

The Bible does say Jesus was the son of God, but remember, this was a title bestowed on all the Jewish Kings. This title in no way indicates Jesus was a part of the trinity, any more than King David was (to be clear, they were considered divine; they were God's sons by adoption).

The same is true of the word "Messiah". This was applied to all the kings. Jesus is often called "Lord" in the Bible; again, this is consistent with him being king, and not evidence he was considered to be God.

None of these terms implies Jesus was God.

How the Bible has been modified to support the trinity

Several centuries ago, one enterprising Christian added a bit to 1 John to include the trinity. If you read the KJV, you will find this:
1 John 5:7 For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.
This is the single most significant mention of the trinity in the KJV. But it is a forgery, and most modern Bibles now omit the second half of the verse.

New International Version:
For there are three that testify:

New American Standard Bible
For there are three that testify:

This page gives a useful comparison of numerous translations:

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