Wednesday, November 24, 2010

John 20:28 ("'My Lord and MY GOD'")

(Bowman's Attacks on the NWT (the New World Translation, the Bible translation by Jehovah's Witnesses) in his Understanding Jehovah's Witnesses)

JOHN 20:28 - Bowman admits that this scripture is correctly translated in the NWT but includes it, like Is. 9:6 and 1 John 5:20, because the Watchtower Society interprets it in a non-trinitarian way!

John 20:28 ("Thomas answered, `My Lord and MY GOD [ho kurios mou kai ho theos mou]'") is one of the favorite trinitarian "proofs" of the trinity doctrine. In fact, Dr. Walter Martin, the famed Trinity-defender and "cult-buster," calls this scripture "the greatest single testimony recorded in the Scriptures" of the "Deity of Christ." - KOTC, p. 95.

To examine it properly we should (1) discuss the context, (2) discuss the implications if "my God" was not meant to apply directly to Jesus, and (3) discuss the implications if those words were meant to be applied directly to Jesus in this verse.

(1) Thomas had said (verse :25) that unless something happened he would "not believe." What was it that Thomas refused to believe? Was it that he refused to believe that Jesus was equally God with the Father? There is certainly no hint of this before or after Thomas' statement at John 20:28.

If the disciples had learned, upon seeing the resurrected Jesus, that he was God, certainly they would have indicated this! But notice, neither before nor after receiving Holy Spirit (:22) did they kneel or do any act of worship such as one would certainly do upon becoming aware of being in the presence of God! [see WORSHIP study.]

Notice that the disciples who had seen Jesus earlier did not tell Thomas that Jesus was God (:25)! This is an incredible oversight if they had really believed they had seen God! If they had discovered that Jesus was really God when they saw him resurrected, they would certainly talk of nothing else!

If, on the other hand, they had already known that Jesus was God even before seeing his resurrected form, then Thomas, too, would have already known about it and certainly would not have meant: "Unless I see ... the print of nails [etc.] ... I will not believe [Jesus is God]."

No, the context of John 20:24, 25, and 29 shows that Thomas refused to believe that Jesus had been resurrected from the dead. (See footnote for John 20:8 in The NIV Study Bible, Zondervan, 1985: "John did not say what [the disciple who saw the empty tomb of Jesus] believed, but it must have been that Jesus was resurrected." - Also see Barclay's The Daily Study Bible Series: The Gospel of John, Revised Edition, Vol. 2, p. 267, and pp. 275, 276.)

Certainly, being resurrected from the dead does not make you God. Many other persons in the Scriptures had been resurrected from the dead before Jesus, and no one, for a moment, ever suspected them of being God! In fact, being resurrected from the dead would indicate that a person was not God, since God has always been immortal and cannot die in the first place!

Furthermore, Jesus' statements before and after Thomas' exclamation ("my Lord and my God!") show not only that Jesus wanted Thomas to believe that he had been resurrected to life but that he could not possibly be God!!

Jesus' command to Thomas to literally touch his wounds and actually see his hands proves that he meant, "See, I am the same person you saw die, but now I am alive ... be believing that I have been resurrected to life" (not, "see, these wounds prove I am God ... be believing that I am God").

Notice that the reason given for Thomas to "be believing" is that he can see Jesus' hands. Likewise, after Thomas says "My Lord and my God," Jesus reaffirms that Thomas now believes (as did the other disciples after seeing - Jn. 20:20) that Jesus has been resurrected (not that he is God) "because you have seen me" (:29).

Certainly Jesus wouldn't mean, "you believe I am God because you can see me." Instead, this is proof that Jesus, Thomas, John, and the other disciples did not believe Jesus was equally God with the Father! How? Because John himself (long after Jesus had been resurrected and seen by the Apostles) has made it manifestly clear that "no one [no human] has ever SEEN God" - 1 John 4:12, RSV. (See the SF study; also OMN 3-5.)

"For the NT God is utterly invisible (Jn. 6:46; 1 Tim. 1:17; 6:16; Col. 1:15). 'God does not become visible; He is revealed,' ... yet the resurrection narratives especially stress that the risen Christ is visible." - The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, p. 518, Vol. 3, Zondervan, 1986.

Therefore, since no man has ever directly seen God (who is the Father only - John 5:37, 6:46; 17:1, 3) but only indirectly through representations such as visions, dreams, etc., Jesus is saying: "Believe I have been resurrected and that I am obviously not God because you see me directly (and even touch me so you can be sure I'm not merely a vision or indirect representation)."

What about the rest of the context? It's obvious that Jesus did not understand Thomas to be calling him equally God with the Father in heaven. But did John, in spite of the incredible contradiction of a previous statement (like 1 John 4:12 above) at John 1:18 that "no man hath seen God at any time," somehow think that Thomas understood Jesus to be God?

Well, no other disciple of Jesus ever made a statement to him which could honestly be construed as meaning Jesus is God! So, if John had, somehow, understood Thomas' statement that way, he certainly would have provided some follow-up clarification and emphasis in his own comments.

Surely John would have shown Thomas prostrating himself before "God" and worshiping him (but he doesn't!). So how does John summarize this incident? -
"But these were written that you may believe [Believe what? That Jesus is God? Here, then, is where it should be if John really believed that!] that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God" - John 20:31, RSV.

Or, as the very trinitarian The NIV Study Bible, Zondervan, 1985, states in a footnote for this scripture:

"This whole Gospel is written to show the truth of Jesus' Messiahship and to present him as the Son of God, so that the readers may believe in him."

Obviously, neither Jesus' response, nor Thomas' responses (before and after his statement at John 20:28), nor John's summation of the event recognizes Thomas' statement to mean that Jesus is the only true God! So it is clear from context that neither Jesus, nor John, nor Thomas considered the statement at John 20:28 to mean that Jesus is equally God with the Father. (Remember this is the same Gospel account that also records Jesus' last prayer to the Father at John 17:1, 3: "Father,.... This is eternal life: to know thee who alone art truly God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent." - NEB. It is obvious from this scripture alone that Jesus and the writer of the Gospel of John do not believe Jesus is equally God with the Father!)

This may be, then, one of those places where the idioms of an ancient language are not completely understood by modern translators. As the Encyclopedia Britannica puts it:

"And it is not certain that even the words Thomas addressed to Jesus (Jn. 20:28) meant what they suggest in the English version." - 14th ed., Vol. 13, p. 24.

And John M. Creed, as Professor of Divinity at the University of Cambridge, wrote:

"'my Lord and my God' (Joh. xx. 28) is still not quite the same as an address to Christ as being without qualification God, and it must be balanced by the words of the risen Christ himself ... (v. 17): ... `I ascend unto My Father and your Father, and MY GOD and your God.'" - The Divinity of Jesus Christ, J. M. Creed, p. 123.

Yes, think about that very carefully: After Jesus was resurrected, he continued to call the Father in heaven "MY God"! (Even after he was fully restored to heaven and seated at the right hand of God - Rev. 3:2; 3:12.) So if we must insist, as many trinitarians do, that the single instance of Thomas' saying "My God" in Jesus' presence, with all its uncertainties, means that Jesus is superior in every way to Thomas (in essence, eternity, authority, etc.), what do Jesus' even clearer statements that the Father is his God actually mean? - "He who conquers, ... I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, ... and my own name." - Rev. 3:12, RSV (Compare Rev. 14:1).

You can't have it both ways. If Thomas' statement can only mean that Jesus is highly superior to Thomas in all respects, then Jesus' repeated and even clearer statements that the Father is HIS God can only mean that the Father is superior to Jesus in all respects. If Thomas really understood that Jesus was equally God, it is certainly blasphemous for John and other inspired Bible writers to turn around and call the Father the God of the Christ! - Micah 5:4; 1 Cor. 11:3; 2 Cor. 11:31; Eph. 1:3,17; 1 Peter 1:3.

(2) To understand what may have really been intended by Thomas, let's first examine it as if the words were not directly applied to Jesus. Notice the parallel between 1 Samuel 20:12 (where Jonathan's words appear to be directed to David: "... Jonathan said unto David, `O LORD God of Israel, when I have sounded my father about this ....'" - KJV) and John 20:28 (where Thomas' words appear to be directed to Jesus: "Thomas answered him, `My Lord and my God!'"). - Also compare 1 Sam. 12:6, KJV, RSV, and a Hebrew interlinear.

The significant point here is that, although the scripture shows Jonathan speaking to David, it apparently literally calls him (David) "O LORD God"!! (For a straightforward literal translation see 1 Samuel 20:12 in the King James Version.) You can bet that, if modern Bible translators wanted to find "evidence" that made King David also appear to be equally God (Quadrinarians?), they would continue to translate this scripture literally (as they do John 20:28 to "prove" that Jesus is equally God)!

Instead, we see many modern translations adding words to bring out what they believe may have been originally intended. There is absolutely no reason for this addition except the translators believe from the testimony of the rest of the Bible that David is not Jehovah God. So something else must have been intended here.

Translators from about 200 B. C. (Septuagint) until now have been guessing (and disagreeing) at what was intended here. It was probably some idiom of the time such as: "I promise you in the sight of the LORD the God of Israel" - NEB, or, as found in the Septuagint: "Jonathan said unto David, `The Lord God of Israel knows that....'"

The translators of the KJV and the translators of The Holy Scriptures, Jewish Publication Society of America (JPS), 1917, decided that it was better not to guess and left it literally as: "And Jonathan said unto David, `O LORD, God of Israel - when I have sounded....'"

A significant interpretation by the NIV is, "By the LORD God of Israel" which is an oath by Jonathan meaning, probably, "I swear by the LORD God...." (cf. Tanakh translation by JPS, 1985). Perhaps the most used interpretation is: "Jehovah, the God of Israel, (be witness)...." - ASV (cf. NASB, RSV, NKJV). The very trinitarian ETRV renders it: "Jonathan said to David, `I make this promise before the Lord [Jehovah], the God of Israel. I promise that I will....'"

Since the context of John 20 (indeed, the context and testimony of the entire Bible) does not confirm the trinitarian belief that the Messiah is equally God, John 20:28 could just as honestly be translated with some addition comparable to that of 1 Sam. 20:12.

So, keeping in mind the interpretations for 1 Sam. 20:12 and the context of John 20:28 (where Jesus tells Thomas to believe, Thomas answers, and his answer convinces Jesus that Thomas finally, completely believes that he has actually returned from the dead), let's use an interpretation similar to that of 1 Samuel.

(27:) "Then he said to Thomas .... `Believe!'

(28:) "`My Lord and my God (be witness) [that I do believe now]!' Thomas said. [Or,
following the NIV example above, "I swear by my Lord and God (that I do believe)!"]

(29:) "Then Jesus told him, `You believe because you have seen me.'" - Based on the
Living Bible translation of John 20:27-29.

Another interpretation is that Thomas' words might be a doxology, or praise, such as "My Lord and my God be praised." In that sense the words would still be aimed directly at the only true God (the Father alone). This may be similar to the abbreviated doxology at Ro. 9:5 which some trinitarians take advantage of (see the AO study). That doxology is also without a critical verb and is abruptly joined to a description of Jesus. Literally, in Greek it reads: "the being over all god blessed into the ages amen." Even some trinitarian translators add the necessary words and punctuation to make this a clearly separated doxology to the Father: "May God, who rules over all, be praised for ever" - TEV.

Again, some scholars have interpreted John 20:28 as "an exclamation of astonishment" by Thomas. And, although a few modern trinitarians would like us to believe that such exclamations as this are really only modern idioms and were not used in ancient times, that is simply untrue.

For example, Theodore, Bishop of Mopsuestia (350-428) was

"an early Christian theologian, the most eminent representative of the so-called school of Antioch. .... he was held in great respect, and took part in several synods, with a reputation for orthodoxy that was never questioned." This respected Bishop of Mopsuestia was a very early trinitarian and a friend of John Chrysostom and of Cyril of Alexandria. - Encyclopedia Britannica, 14th ed., Vol. 22, p. 58.
This very early trinitarian wrote (probably in the late 300's A. D.) that Thomas' statement at John 20:28 was

"an exclamation of astonishment directed to God." - p. 535, Vol. 3, Meyer's Commentary on the New Testament (John), 1983, Hendrickson Publ.

As we know from the examples of angels, prophets, and kings, persons who represent God are sometimes addressed as God. Or as the preface in Young's Analytical Concordance to the Bible states: "What a SERVANT says or does is ascribed to the MASTER." In that sense, also, the words, "My Lord and my God" could be addressed to the only true God through his servant, Jesus Christ. - "God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first ..." - Acts 3:26, RSV.

An example of this is illustrated by the footnote for Gen. 16:7 in the trinitarian NIVSB: "... as the Lord's personal messenger who represented him and bore his credentials, the angel could speak on behalf of (and so be identified with) the One who sent him."

The Watchtower Society points to Judges 13:20-22 as an example of an explanation of this type. Here Manoah knowingly calls an angel "God"! - Compare Gen. 16:7, 13; Gen. 32:24, 30; Hosea 12:4; Judges 6:11-15, 20; and Ex. 3:2, 4-6, 16 with Acts 7:35. The Watchtower Society suggests that Thomas might have been using "God" in a similar sense at John 20:28. - See September 1, 1984 WT, p. 28. Also see pp. 919-920, Aid to Bible Understanding, 1971 ed.

We might well interpret Matt. 16:23 similarly: Jesus "said unto Peter, `Get thee behind me, Satan.'" Here Jesus apparently addresses Peter as "Satan"! But we know full well that Satan is someone else entirely. Therefore it would be reasonable to conclude that Jesus considered Peter to be (at this particular moment only) Satan's servant (unwittingly, of course) and addressed that "servant" as though actually speaking to his "master"! We certainly would need much clearer (and many repeated) instances of Peter being shown as Satan himself before we could even begin to suspect that Peter was somehow a member of some mysterious Satanic trinity in which he was absolutely equal to Satan in power, longevity of existence, authority, etc.!

It is certainly possible, then, that Thomas, upon discovering that this really was the resurrected Jesus, suddenly realized that this, then, must be a direct representative of God. As we have seen in the WORSHIP study (WORSHIP-3), the Angel of Jehovah was sometimes addressed as "God" or "Jehovah" because at that moment he perfectly spoke and performed God's will (e.g. Judges 13:21, 22). Some trinitarians even believe that Jesus was, at least at times, that Angel of Jehovah - pp. 39, 624, Today's Dictionary of the Bible. Realizing this, it would not be surprising to hear Thomas address God through this perfect representative of God: "My Lord and my God!"

I personally think, however, that this is an unlikely explanation simply because I do not believe this expression by Thomas is an address to anyone. If Thomas had said, "You are my Lord and my God," we would have reason for such a representational interpretation. Or if he had addressed Jesus with the intent of saying something further (e.g. "My Lord and my God, why have you returned to us?"), it could also be indicative of the above representational interpretation. But there is no indication of any intent by Thomas to follow up an "address" with anything further as is normally required of nouns of address. (cf. Acts 1:6; 22:8; Rev. 7:14.)

The very fact that the words of Thomas are not a complete statement show that it is probably the abbreviated form of a common expression or doxology (#2 above) and not a statement of identification such as "Jesus is my lord and my god." Whereas doxologies and other common expressions are frequently abbreviated to the point of not being complete statements (cf. Dana & Mantey, p. 149), statements of identification appear to be complete statements (certainly in the writings of John, at least), e.g., Jn 1:49, "Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel." - NASB. Cf. Jn. 6:14, 69; 7:40, 41; 9:17; 11:27; 21:7.

Furthermore, when using the term "Lord" (at least) in address to another person, a different form of the NT Greek word is used than the form found at John 20:28 (ho kurios mou).

"The vocative is the case used in addressing a person .... kurie (O Lord), thee (O God) ... are almost the only forms found in the N.T." - pp. 14, 15, The New Testament Greek Primer, Rev. Alfred Marshall, Zondervan, 1978 printing.

This is especially true of "Lord" and "my Lord" in both the Septuagint and the New Testament. Kurie, not Kurios, is the form used when addressing someone as "Lord" or "My Lord." ("God," thee, however, is not always so certain.)

We can see a good example of this vocative form, which is used in addressing a person as "Lord," at 3 Kings 1:20, 21 (1 Kings 1:20, 21 in modern English Bibles) in the ancient Greek of the Septuagint: "And you, my Lord [kurie mou ], O King ..." - 3 Kings 1:20, Septuagint. Then at 3 Kings 1:21 we see the same person (King David) being spoken about (but not addressed) in the same terms as Jn 20:28: "And it shall come to pass, when my Lord [ho kurios mou] the king shall sleep with his fathers .... - 3 Kings 1:21, Septuagint.

We also find Thomas himself, at Jn 14:5, addressing Jesus as "Lord" by using kurie. And, when addressing the angel at Rev. 7:14, John himself says kurie mou ("My Lord")! (See note [1] at bottom)

Therefore, it is probably safe to say that when John wrote down the incident with Thomas at Jn 20:28 and used the nominative form for "My Lord" [Kurios], he was not saying that Thomas was addressing Jesus as "My Lord and my God"!

(3) What if the words "My Lord and my God" were meant to be applied directly to Jesus? Then, since context clearly shows that Thomas (and John) did not mean that Jesus is equally God with the Father, the word theos ("God," "god," or "mighty one" in NT Greek) must have been meant in its accepted secondary sense of "god" or "mighty one" - see the BOWGOD study.

In the preface to Young's Analytical Concordance (in the section entitled "Hints and Helps to Bible Interpretation") it states:

"65. God - is used of ANY ONE (professedly) MIGHTY, whether truly so or not, and is applied not only to the true God, but to ... magistrates, judges, angels, prophets, etc., e.g. Exod. 7:1 ... John 1:1; 10:33, 34, 35; 20:28 ... 2 Thess. 2:4..."

Notice how this famous trinitarian, Robert Young, has listed John 20:28 as an example of "God" (or "god") being applied to someone other than the true God (as in the case of "judges, angels, prophets, etc.").

Understanding, then, the different meanings of the NT Greek word theos as it was used at the time of the Bible writers, we should also know that individual speakers of that language (even as in most languages today) used it in highly individual ways. Whereas one Bible writer might frequently use a word or phrase in its alternate meanings as it was commonly used at that time, another writer might seldom (or never) use it with that alternate meaning.

For instance, some Old Testament writers used the Hebrew word elohim ("God" or "god" - there was no capitalization or punctuation in the original Bible writings) exclusively for the only true God, Jehovah. Others apparently used it only for Jehovah and, occasionally, false gods. And still others used it in all its possible applications (including God's judges, angels, prophets, etc.). - See p. 208, Today's Dictionary of the Bible, Bethany House Publishers, 1982.

So, if we examine the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, we can see that they never use theos in its positive subordinate sense ("a god" for angels, prophets, etc.). Therefore, if one of those inspired Gospel writers were to call Jesus theos, it might honestly be considered acceptable evidence for those who want to prove that Jesus is equally God with his Father.

But of the 57 times the title theos, in all its forms (or cases), is used in the Gospel of Matthew it is always used for the only true God and is never applied to Jesus! Of the 51 times the word theos (in all forms) is used in the Gospel of Mark it is always used for the only true God and is never applied to Jesus! And of the 126 times the word theos (all forms) is used in the Gospel of Luke it is always used for the only true God and is never applied to Jesus!

But if John and the rest of the disciples present when Thomas made his statement at John 20:28 understood that statement to mean that Jesus was equally God with the Father, they must have "forgotten," because Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the very first Gospels to be written, obviously don't call him "God" in any sense of the word!

Think about that. These inspired Bible writers, who supplied the only Gospel accounts available to the first Christians (the Gospel of John was written much later) during the first 50 years of Christianity, completely ignore the "Jesus is equally God" idea! And yet most of Christendom today considers this trinity idea to be "the centrality of the Christian faith," and "of primary importance," the very "cornerstone of the Christian faith," and "vital to its [Christendom's] existence." - See the KNOW study paper.

It is highly significant, therefore, that Matthew, Mark, and Luke, when writing those very first Gospel accounts, never used theos (in any form) with its positive subordinate meanings and never applied theos (in any form) to Jesus (which would have been essential knowledge for all Christians if they had really understood Jesus as being equally God with the Father)! Since these Gospel accounts only use theos for the only true God, it is not surprising (to any non-trinitarian) that it is never used for Jesus.
John, however, is the only Gospel writer who used the word theos in all its meanings. It should not be surprising, then, that he is also the only Gospel writer who clearly applies the title theos directly to Jesus! John, like some of those ancient Hebrew Scripture writers of the Old Testament who used elohim in ALL its various meanings, used it to mean the only true God over 90% of the time. But in a very few scriptures he used it to mean "a god" in its positive, subordinate meaning. A clear instance of this is found at John 10:33-36 where Jesus quotes from and comments on Psalm 82:6.

It is certainly better to use the trinitarian-translated New English Bible (NEB) here because it obviously translates theos correctly at John 10:33 ("a god") whereas the King James Version and many other trinitarian translations do not. (See the THEON study.)

The context of John 10:33-36 (and of Psalm 82:6 from which it is quoted) and NT Greek grammar show "a god" to be the correct rendering. Young's Concise Critical Bible Commentary, p. 62, by the respected trinitarian, Dr. Robert Young, confirms this:

" '... makest thyself a god,' not `God' as in c.v. [King James Version or `Common Version'], otherwise the definite article would not have been omitted, as it is here, and in the next two verses, -- `gods .. gods,' where the title is applied to MAGISTRATES [human judges of Israel], and others ...." - Baker Book House, 1977.

The highly respected (and highly trinitarian) W. E. Vine indicates the proper rendering here:

"The word [theos] is used of Divinely appointed judges in Israel, as representing God in His authority, John 10:34" - p. 491, An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words.

The very popular (and highly trinitarian) New International Version Study Bible (NIVSB), Zondervan, 1985, also admits in a footnote for Psalm 82:1,

"rulers and judges, as deputies of the heavenly King, could be given the honorific title `god' (see note on 45:6....)"

and the NIVSB footnote for Ps. 45:6 says,

"it is also possible that the [Israelite] king is addressed as `god.' .... it is not unthinkable that he was called `god' as a title of honor (cf. Isa. 9:6)."

So, in the NEB it reads:

"`We are not going to stone you for any good deed, but for your blasphemy. You, a mere man, claim to be a god.' Jesus answered, `Is it not written in your own Law, "I said: You are gods"? Those are called gods to whom the word of God was delivered - and Scripture cannot be set aside. Then why do you charge me with blasphemy because I, consecrated and sent into the world by the Father, said, "I am GOD'S SON"?'"

Not only do we see John using theos in its positive alternate meaning here, but we also see Jesus clarifying it. When some of the Jews were ready to stone him because they said he was claiming to be a god (Jesus' reply about men being called gods in the scriptures would have been nonsensical if he were replying to an accusation of being God), Jesus first pointed out that God himself had called judges of Israel gods (Ps. 82:6)!

Then he, in effect, denied that he ever used the word theos for himself (even in its God-approved alternate meaning) and said that, instead, he had merely called himself God's Son! (It's interesting that those judges or magistrates of Israel who were called gods by Jehovah himself were also called "SONS of the Most High" at Ps. 82:6, and Jesus was called "SON of the Most High God" at Mark 5:7.)

At any rate, we see John using the term theos to mean not only "God" but those chosen by God to represent him ("gods")! And since the account of Thomas' exclamation (or indeed any instance of Jesus apparently being called theos in any of the 4 Gospels) appears in only John's Gospel, it should not be too surprising to find him addressing Jesus as theos. (It would be surprising, indeed, to find Matthew, Mark, or Luke addressing him as theos, since they, unlike John, reserve the term for God alone or false gods.)

So there are a number of honest possibilities for Thomas using theos in this scripture, but context certainly rules out the trinitarian explanation.

Even the Encyclopedia Britannica, 14th ed., Vol. 13, p. 24, showed the doubt of honest Bible scholars about the usual trinitarian interpretation of John 20:28:

"And it is not certain that even the words Thomas addressed to Jesus (Jn. 20:28) meant what they suggest in the English version."

So even though we may not be certain of the exact meaning here, there is absolutely no reason to insist it must be a trinitarian meaning!
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Notes:

[1] So, when addressing a person as "Lord" or "my Lord," kurie was used. But some trinitarian scholars who refuse to give up this scripture as one of their best "proofs" say that we have to accept the nominative form of "Lord" (kurios ) as an alternate form used as a noun of address (vocative) in John.
For example, the noted (and highly trinitarian) NT Greek scholar Dr. A. T. Robertson insists that "My Lord and my God" of Jn 20:28 must be understood as nouns of address (vocatives) in order for this verse to be interpreted as a trinitarian statement as he wants. (Moule and Harris have also been noted above as adopting this "vocative" understanding.)

He tried to find some authority for claiming that "My Lord and my God" (especially "My Lord [ho kurios mou]") must be interpreted as nouns of address (vocative case nouns) even though they are truly nominative case nouns (nouns used as subjects, predicate nouns, and their appositives). However, he has managed to come up with only two examples in the entire NT in his attempt to back up this interpretation.

It is true that for some nouns the nominative form can be used as a vocative. But in the cases of kurios (translated "Lord," "master," and "sir") and didaskalos ("teacher," "instructor") the true vocative forms (kurie and didaskale) are probably always used by the NT writers when actually intended as nouns of address.

Nevertheless, Robertson points to Jn 13:13 and Rev. 4:11 (the only such "examples" he could find in the entire NT).

Most Bibles say at John 13:13, "You call me teacher [ho didaskalos] and Lord [ho kurios] and rightly so for that is what I am." - RSV, KJV, NIV, NASB, ASV, JB, NEB, LB, AT, Mo, CBW, MLB, Beck, Lattimore, Barclay (John, Vol. 2, p. 139). Or, in other words, "You say that I am your teacher and your master, and you're right. That's what I am." The sense of such a rendering is actually that of a predicate noun (nominative) or direct object (accusative), but not a noun of address (vocative).

Nevertheless, Robertson insists that this is an example of the nominative case kurios being used as a noun of address. (But compare other uses of "call me [him, her]" such as Mt 22:43, 45; Mk 12:37; Lk 20:44; 1 Pet. 3:6. - none use a noun of address. Also notice that all uses of "Satan" used in address are the vocative Satana whereas the nominative Satanas is used at Rev. 12:9 - "serpent who is called the Devil and Satan [Satanas]".)

For further evidence of this, "teacher" [didaskalos in all its forms] is used 51 times in the NT. It is clearly, indisputably used as a noun of address for a total of 31 times and always in the vocative form (didaskale).

Yes, all 6 times it is used as a noun of address in Matthew (Mt 8:19; 12:38; 19:16; 22:16; 22:24; and 22:36), it is always in the vocative form: didaskale !

All 10 times that Mark uses "teacher" as a noun of address (Mk 4:38; 9:17; 9:38; 10:17; 10:20; 10:35; 12:14; 12:19; 12:32; and 13:1), it is always in the vocative form: didaskale !

All 12 times that Luke uses "teacher" as a noun of address (Lk 3:12; 7:40; 9:38; 10:25; 11:45; 12:13; 18:18; 19:39; 20:21; 20:28; 20:39; and 21:7), it is always in the vocative form: didaskale !

And all 3 times that John clearly uses "teacher" as a noun of address (Jn 1:38; 8:4; and 20:16), it is always in the vocative form: didaskale ! (The only possible exception is Jn 13:13.)

So for certain trinitarians to say that it is used as a noun of address in the nominative form (didaskalos) one time only in the entire New Testament at John 13:13 (where the interpretation of a noun of address is highly disputable anyway) is extremely improbable at best!

And when we add the further evidence that "Lord" (kurios) is also always used in the vocative form [kurie] when it is clearly intended as a noun of address in the NT, we have really clinched the case.
Yes, after searching through the trinitarian New American Standard Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible to find all the places in the New Testament where kurios and kurie are translated as nouns of address, I found a total of 111 such instances (which include "Lord," "sir," and "master"). 109 of the 111 use kurie, the vocative form! The only places kurios is sometimes translated in a way that it appears it could be a noun of address are found at John 13:13 and Rev. 4:11.

We find that the Gospel of John itself uses kurie 33 times: every time "Lord" (or "sir") is clearly meant as a noun of address (John 4:11, 15, 19, 49; 5:7; 6:34, 68; 8:11; 9:36, 38; 11:3, 12, 21, 27, 32, 34, 39; 12:21, 38; 13:6, 9, 25, 36, 37; 14:5, 8, 22; 20:15; 21:15, 16, 17, 20, 21) the only possible exception seems to be John 13:13 (examined above for use of "teacher") which also uses kurios. The only other possible exception (Rev. 4:11) outside the all-important (for the purpose of this study) Gospel of John also does not clearly intend its use of kurios as a noun of address. It probably uses it, in fact, as an appositive (which in this case would have to be the nominative case kurios).* - see RSV, NASB, ASV, NAB (`91), AB. The very best evidence, then, is that kurie was always used when "Lord" or "My Lord" was intended as a noun of address!

So, again, there is not even one valid, certain example in the entire New Testament to back up the trinitarian assertion that the nominative kurios in John 20:28 should be understood as a vocative. But there are many straightforward, indisputable examples (109 of them) to show that John 20:28 was not intended as a noun of address signifying identification.

For more, see:
MY GOD (Examining the Trinity)

Why did Thomas say "My Lord and my God" at John 20:28? (SFBT)

Why did the apostle Thomas exclaim "My Lord and my God!" at John 20:28? (JWQ&A)

John 20:28 - Is Jesus Given the Title 'ho theos'? (Bible Translation and Study; Scroll down to 3rd Scriptural Heading)

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