The Apotheosis of Jesus of Nazareth 1

The Apoth­e­o­sis of Jesus of Nazareth

Pre­am­ble

    We believe in…one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begot­ten Son of God, begot­ten of the Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, begot­ten, not made, being of one sub­stance with the Father by whom all things were made ; who for us men, and for our sal­va­tion, came down from heav­en, and was incar­nate by the Holy Spir­it of the Vir­gin Mary, and was made man…

These extra­or­di­nary words express the faith of the Chris­t­ian church since it for­mu­lat­ed them in a creed in 325AD at the Coun­cil of Nicea. Jesus is iden­ti­fied unequiv­o­cal­ly as very God” of very God”, of the same sub­stance as the Father. In a word, Jesus is God.

How­ev­er, unknown to the vast major­i­ty of Chris­tians who faith­ful­ly fill the pews each week, since the nine­teen cen­tu­ry his­to­ri­ans of the Bible have attempt­ed to look afresh at the per­son of Jesus of Nazareth to see what his life sig­ni­fied to those first cen­tu­ry writ­ers who wrote the canon­i­cal gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

For the pur­pos­es of this study I want to focus on one aspect of this ongo­ing enquiry into Chris­t­ian ori­gins : the ear­li­est recov­er­able chris­tol­ogy. By which I mean the study of those beliefs held (as far as we can now deter­mine) about Jesus of Nazareth by his imme­di­ate fol­low­ers ; those whose lives chrono­log­i­cal­ly over­lapped that of Jesus but who nev­er met him (e.g. the apos­tle Paul); and the beliefs of the evan­ge­lists who com­posed our four gospels.

It is clear that there has been a devel­op­ment in the way Jesus is pre­sent­ed in the pages of the New Tes­ta­ment. Even a cur­so­ry read­ing of the ear­li­est gospel to be writ­ten, that of Mark, shows us a very human fig­ure, a man who prays to God (1:35); is unable to work mir­a­cles in his own town (6:5); con­fess­es igno­rance about the date of the End of the world (13:32); and who appar­ent­ly despairs of God’s help at the cru­ci­fix­ion (15:34).

If we then read the chrono­log­i­cal­ly last of the four gospels, that of John, we move into a dif­fer­ent world. Here Jesus seems to move effort­less­ly through his min­istry, who is clear­ly por­trayed as a divine fig­ure, indeed as God” him­self. The creed quot­ed above finds a famil­iar echo in the pro­logue to John’s gospel. Chap­ter one, verse 14 ranks as a clas­sic for­mu­la­tion of the Chris­t­ian belief in Jesus as God incar­nate : The Word became flesh and dwelt among us’. So even this brief sur­vey has shown the enor­mous devel­op­ment which occurred in less than two gen­er­a­tions after Jesus was tak­en up to God.

I believe it is now pos­si­ble to pin­point one instance in the syn­op­tic gospels where we can actu­al­ly wit­ness the writer’s inten­tion­al ele­va­tion of Jesus from a man into a divine being. We can observe in one small but sig­nif­i­cant instance the remark­able apoth­e­o­sis of Jesus.Apoth­e­o­sis : ele­vat­ing to the sta­tus of a god ; deification

I do not claim that this exam­ple explains but a small frac­tion of the the­o­log­i­cal move­ment that lead ulti­mate­ly to the Nicaean creed. In fact a large part of the Trini­tar­i­an doc­trine was ini­ti­at­ed in embry­on­ic form by the apos­tle Paul in the 40s and 50s of the first century.

James D.G. Dunn per­haps more than any oth­er schol­ar made tru­ly sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tions to Jesus research. His book Chris­tol­ogy in the Mak­ing, a New Tes­ta­ment Inquiry into the Ori­gins the Doc­trine of the Incar­na­tion is vital read­ing for the stu­dent of Christology.

In his For­ward to the Sec­ond Edi­tion of the book (p xii) he asks whether the Chris­to­log­i­cal devel­op­ment to be found in the NT is either an organ­ic devel­op­ment (tree from seed) or an evo­lu­tion­ary devel­op­ment (muta­tion of species)?

It will be clear to the read­er that I believe it is the lat­ter. I will con­sid­er this in more detail in my con­clu­sion at the end.

Let us now sur­vey the evidence.

1. Intro­duc­tion

Edward Schweiz­er in an arti­cle pub­lished in 1959 stat­ed : The idea of the pre-exis­tence of Jesus came to Paul through Wis­dom spec­u­la­tion.“Schweiz­er, Herkun­ft, p.109 He fur­ther con­clud­ed that in the expres­sion God sent his Son, to…” which is com­mon to Paul and John one finds a chris­tol­ogy which seeks to grasp Jesus in the cat­e­gories of the pre-exis­tent Wis­dom or Logos.“Schweiz­er, Hin­ter­grund, p. 92

Turn­ing to the Syn­op­tic gospels we find that Jesus appears as bear­er or speak­er of Wis­dom, but much more than that as Wis­dom itself. As pre-exis­tent Wis­dom Jesus Sophia…“F. Christ, Jesus Sophia, pp.80, 99

In this arti­cle I intend to focus exclu­sive­ly on the syn­op­tic gospels and their for­mu­la­tion and devel­op­ment of Wis­dom chris­tol­ogy. To my knowl­edge the most thor­ough study to date on this sub­ject is to found in the work of Dunn in Chris­tol­ogy in the Mak­ing, A New Tes­ta­ment Inquiry into the Ori­gins of the Doc­trine of the Incar­na­tionSec­ond Edi­tion, 1989, SCM Press. I have relied on his exe­ge­sis and sur­vey of the Wis­dom lit­er­a­ture in my analy­sis of the sub­ject. The con­clu­sions though are mine.

2. Wis­dom in Pre-Chris­t­ian Judaism

To get our inquiry going we must ask who or what was this Wis­dom whose func­tions and descrip­tions are attrib­uted to Christ in the New Tes­ta­ment ? To get an answer we need to inquire into the mean­ing of this con­cept in those Sec­ond Tem­ple Jew­ish texts before the rise of Chris­tian­i­ty. This will pro­vide us with a his­tor­i­cal con­text of mean­ing” with which to eval­u­ate NT texts. The cen­tral pas­sages can be found in Job 28, Proverbs 8 22 – 31, Eccle­si­as­ti­cus 24, Baruch 3.94.4, Wis­dom of Solomon 6.1211.1, 1 Enoch 42 and var­i­ous ref­er­ences to Wis­dom in Philo.

So who or what is Wis­dom in this lit­er­a­ture ? Dunn lists a sum­ma­ry of the cur­rent options in what he calls a still unre­solved debate”.Ibid., p.168

The main options are as follows :

a) Wis­dom is a divine being, as par­al­lels in Egypt­ian and Mesopotami­an texts
b) Wis­dom is a hyposta­sis – i.e. a qua­si-per­son­i­fi­ca­tion of cer­tain attrib­ut­es prop­er to God, occu­py­ing an inter­me­di­ate posi­tion between per­son­al­i­ties and abstract beings“Ibid., p.168
c) Wis­dom is sim­ply a per­son­i­fi­ca­tion of a divine attribute
d) Wis­dom is the per­son­i­fi­ca­tion of cos­mic order (for exam­ple the Sto­ic lan­guage of Wis­dom of Solomon)

So, if we are to answer with any his­tor­i­cal pre­ci­sion the ques­tion What did it mean that the first Chris­tians iden­ti­fied Christ as Wis­dom?’ we must come to a deci­sion from the list of options as to which is the best inter­pre­ta­tion of these Old Tes­ta­ment and inter-tes­ta­men­tal passages.

When these pas­sages are con­sid­ered in chrono­log­i­cal order we see a devel­op­ment in the con­cept of Wis­dom. Dunn sees this as due in large part to the influ­ence (pos­i­tive and neg­a­tive) of reli­gious cults and philoso­phies preva­lent in the ancient near east at that time.’

Job 28 : Sure­ly there is a mine for sil­ver, and a place for gold which they refine…But where shall wis­dom be found?”

Clear­ly there is no per­son­i­fi­ca­tion here or wis­dom as a divine attribute. Von Rad describes it as the order giv­en to the world by God”.Von Rad, Wis­dom, p.148

In Proverbs 8 Wis­dom is robust­ly per­son­i­fied as a woman : Does not wis­dom call out ? On the heights along the way, where the paths meet, she takes her stand…she cries out aloud’. Dunn sees talk of Wis­dom as a woman as an attempt to coun­ter­act the per­ni­cious influ­ences of the Astarte cult by por­tray­ing Wis­dom as much more attrac­tive than the strange woman’ he warns against in Proverbs 2, 5, 6, and 7.

Wis­dom in the Wis­dom of Solomon is the per­son­i­fi­ca­tion of cos­mic order

She reach­es might­i­ly from one end of the earth to the other,
and she orders all things well (8.1);[Wisdom, who] sits besides God’s throne (9.4).

Sto­ic thought about cos­mic rea­son is par­tic­u­lar­ly evi­dent in 7.22ff.:

intel­li­gent, holy, unique, man­i­fold, sub­tle, mobile,…
For wis­dom is more mobile than any motion ;
because of her pure­ness she per­vades and pen­e­trates all things.
For she is a breath of the pow­er of God,
and a pure ema­na­tion of the glo­ry of the Almighty.

Dunn con­cludes his in-depth sur­vey of the Jew­ish lit­er­a­ture with the view that no wor­ship is ever offered to Wis­dom ; Wis­dom has no priest­ly cast in Israel. When set with­in the con­text of faith in Yah­weh there is no clear indi­ca­tion that the Wis­dom lan­guage of these writ­ings has gone beyond vivid per­son­i­fi­ca­tion.“Dunn, Chris­tol­ogy in the Mak­ing, p. 170 The wis­dom pas­sages are sim­ply ways of describ­ing Yahweh’s wise cre­ation and pur­pose”.Ibid., p.174

Sec­ond Tem­ple Judaism there­fore, as far as the tex­tu­al evi­dence goes, sug­gests that there was no thought of Wis­dom as a hyposta­sis” Hyposta­sis : hav­ing being, sub­stance or inter­me­di­ary being”. Wis­dom, like the name, the glo­ry, the Spir­it of Yah­weh, was a way of express­ing God’s imma­nence, his near­ness to the world, his con­cern for Israel ; while simul­ta­ne­ous­ly con­serv­ing his utter oth­er­ness, his tran­scen­dence. Wis­dom was a per­son­i­fi­ca­tion of God’s own activ­i­ty in cre­ation, rev­e­la­tion and sal­va­tion. This is impor­tant to bear in mind as we con­sid­er the syn­op­tic gospels use of Wis­dom lan­guage in ref­er­ence to Jesus.

3. Q and the Con­trast­ing Redac­tions of Matthew and Luke

What is Q ?

The Q doc­u­ment (or just Q” from the Ger­man Quelle, source”) is a pos­tu­lat­ed but now lost tex­tu­al source for the gospels of Matthew and Luke.

The recog­ni­tion of 19th cen­tu­ry NT schol­ars that Matthew and Luke share much mate­r­i­al not found in their gen­er­al­ly recog­nised com­mon source, the gospel of Mark, has sug­gest­ed a sec­ond com­mon source, called Q. It seems most like­ly to have com­prised a col­lec­tion of Jesus say­ings. For fur­ther infor­ma­tion and links go to : http://​en​.wikipedia​.org/​w​i​k​i​/​Q​_​d​o​c​u​m​ent

The con­trast­ing redac­tions of Matthew and Luke

Hav­ing briefly dis­cussed the nature of Jew­ish Wis­dom lan­guage I now want to analyse how the syn­op­tic gospels utilise such lan­guage in their redac­tion of the Q logia, and why this is so sig­nif­i­cant for our under­stand­ing of the his­tor­i­cal Jesus and how lat­er gen­er­a­tions came to por­tray him.

I want to focus on Matthew chap­ter 23 and the par­al­lel pas­sages in Luke. In this chap­ter Math­ew seems to iden­ti­fy Jesus as Wis­dom. He does this by edit­ing the Q mate­r­i­al at his dis­pos­al. It is pos­si­ble, by a com­par­i­son with Luke, to demon­strate how this was done. Dunn gives us sev­er­al exam­ples of this redac­tion but I want to focus on one, part­ly for simplicity’s sake but also because my exam­ple most clear­ly demon­strates this fact. (It might prove help­ful for the read­er to read these quo­ta­tions in their larg­er gospel context).

Luke 11.49 : There­fore also the Wis­dom of God said, I will send them prophets and apos­tles, some of whom they will kill and persecute’…

Matt. 23.34 : (Jesus’ words) There­fore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and cru­ci­fy, and some you will scourge in your syn­a­gogues and per­se­cute from town to town…’

Here we have a Q say­ing. I would argue that Luke’s ver­sion is near­er to the orig­i­nal Q form, because it is more prob­a­ble that Luke’s Wis­dom utter­ance : I will send them…’ is more like­ly to be the orig­i­nal than that he delib­er­ate­ly altered a pre­cious first per­son say­ing of Jesus : I send you…’

So in Q we have Jesus quot­ing a say­ing of Wis­dom where she promis­es to send emis­saries to Israel, and Jesus is the spokesman of Wis­dom. So much is clear.

When we turn to Matthew’s redac­tion of Q, he has turned the say­ing of Wis­dom into a say­ing of Jesus him­self. For Matthew, Jesus is Wisdom.

How are we to assess the sig­nif­i­cance of Matthew’s Wis­dom chris­tol­ogy ? The syn­op­tic tra­di­tion allows us to see the chang­ing thought of Chris­tians in the first cen­tu­ry. We are for­tu­nate to be able to com­pare and con­trast Matthew and Luke with their sources Mark and Q. With close and intel­li­gent atten­tion to the texts we can detect where Matthew and Luke have altered or expand­ed the tra­di­tions about Jesus.

Not all changes to Mark and Q are the­o­log­i­cal­ly sig­nif­i­cant. Some­times the evan­ge­lists abbre­vi­ate a longer sto­ry in Mark, or retell a sto­ry about Jesus to bring out a par­tic­u­lar dra­mat­ic point.

Here how­ev­er I want to argue that the evan­ge­list in his redac­tion of Q (here and else where, see 11.2530 ; 23379) has made a move of incal­cu­la­ble the­o­log­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance the grav­i­ty of which is not suf­fi­cient­ly recog­nised by Dunn in his oth­er­wise per­cep­tive dis­cus­sion of the issue.

I refer of course to the apoth­e­o­sis of Jesus implic­it in Matthew’s nar­ra­tive. I want to pro­vide a snap­shot of this meta­mor­pho­sis. Dunn’s char­ac­ter­i­sa­tion of this trans­for­ma­tion as a tran­si­tion” is too weak ; we are deal­ing with some­thing of pro­found onto­log­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance.Ontol­ogy : con­cerned with the nature of being

4. Christ as Wis­dom in Matthew’s Gospel and the Apoth­e­o­sis of Jesus of Nazareth

Math­ew, with­out any appar­ent fan­fare has made a change in Jesus’ onto­log­i­cal sta­tus from Jesus as a mes­sen­ger of Wis­dom to Jesus as Wis­dom. His­tor­i­cal­ly one may pos­tu­late that this opened up the pos­si­bil­i­ties for a sub­tle deifi­ca­tion of Jesus, which becomes explic­it in the chrono­log­i­cal­ly lat­er parts of the NT (Pro­logue to John’s gospel comes to mind). This means that we have a fun­da­men­tal shift away from the his­tor­i­cal Jesus of Nazareth towards the Trini­tar­i­an spec­u­la­tions of the patris­tic era.

As Dunn con­cludes, when we press back behind Q, inso­far as we reach back to the actu­al words of Jesus him­self, the prob­a­bil­i­ty is that Jesus’ own under­stand­ing of his rela­tion to Wis­dom is rep­re­sent­ed by Q rather than by Matthew.“Dunn, Chris­tol­ogy in the Mak­ing, p. 206

If the gospel was writ­ten after 70 CE (the con­sen­sus of schol­ars), the out­break of hos­til­i­ty between rab­binic Judaism and Jew­ish Chris­tian­i­ty which occurred after the fall of Jerusalem in AD70 (which is implied by Matthew 23) may have been pro­voked by what to Jew­ish monothe­is­tic ears trained to val­ue the uni­ty of the God­head, must have sound­ed like the rank­est blas­phe­my in attribut­ing deity to a creature.

5. Con­clu­sion

It will be appar­ent from this analy­sis that at least one writer known to us many years after Jesus’ ascen­sion, by his delib­er­ate edit­ing of the gospel say­ings of Jesus, took a com­plete­ly new step : he applied Wis­dom cat­e­gories that had pre­vi­ous­ly drama­tised Gods sav­ing actions in the world to a man who lived only decades earlier.

The most sophis­ti­cat­ed attempt known to me to save ortho­dox Chris­t­ian teach­ing in the face of ear­ly Christianity’s chang­ing doc­trines about Jesus is to be found in the cel­e­brat­ed Vic­to­ri­an church­man John Hen­ry New­man. He was con­cerned to defend the truth of Catholic teach­ing about Jesus against his­tor­i­cal evi­dence sug­gest­ing that the dog­ma of the deity of Christ was not church teach­ing till cen­turies after Jesus’ time. He wrote a high­ly influ­en­tial work An Essay on the Devel­op­ment of Chris­t­ian Doc­trine.

It was com­posed in 1845, when New­man was halt­ing mid­way between two forms of Chris­tian­i­ty. Its aim was to explain and jus­ti­fy what Protes­tants regard­ed as cor­rup­tions and addi­tions to the prim­i­tive Chris­t­ian creed, and to show these to be legit­i­mate devel­op­ments. In a series of elo­quent and eru­dite analo­gies, he seeks to show that the present high­ly com­plex doc­trines of the Church lay in germ in the orig­i­nal deposi­tum of faith, which has evolved or devel­oped through pro­gres­sive unfold­ing and expli­ca­tion.Har­rold, Charles F., A New­man Trea­sury, Lon­don : Long­mans, Green and Co., 1943, pp.83 – 84

New­man was writ­ing at a time when Vic­to­ri­an Eng­land was com­ing to terms with the notion of devel­op­ment in his­to­ry and sci­ence. The idea of evo­lu­tion­ary change was part of the zeit­geist, and soon Dar­win would pub­lish his mon­u­men­tal Ori­gin of Species.

But was New­man right ? Did the church’s devel­op­ing doc­trines about Jesus sim­ply make explic­it what had been implic­it in the truth about Jesus ? Could one still cred­i­bly believe that Jesus believed him­self to be Almighty God as the Nicaean Creed sug­gests ? Would Jesus him­self be con­tent with what the church has done with his mem­o­ry and teaching ?

In answer to these ques­tions I would like to leave the last word to the Jew­ish schol­ar Geza Ver­mes, who has spent over 50 years of schol­ar­ly activ­i­ty study­ing Judaism, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the New Tes­ta­ment and Jesus.

By the end of the first cen­tu­ry Chris­tian­i­ty had lost sight of the real Jesus and of the orig­i­nal mean­ing of his mes­sage. Paul, John and their church­es replaced him by the oth­er­world­ly Christ of faith, and his insis­tence on per­son­al effort, con­cen­tra­tion and trust in God by a reliance on the sav­ing mer­its of an eter­nal, divine Redeemer. The swift­ness of the oblit­er­a­tion was due to a pre­ma­ture change in cul­tur­al per­spec­tive. With­in decades of his death, the mes­sage of the real Jesus was trans­ferred from its Semit­ic (Aramaic/​Hebrew) lin­guis­tic con­text, its Galilean/​Palestinian geo­graph­i­cal set­ting, and its Jew­ish reli­gious frame­work, to alien surroundings…Jesus, the reli­gious man with an irre­sistible charis­mat­ic charm, was meta­mor­phosed into Jesus the Christ, the tran­scen­dent object of the Chris­t­ian religion.

The dis­tant fiery prophet from Nazareth pro­claim­ing the near­ness of the king­dom of God did not mean much to the aver­age new recruit from Alexan­dria, Anti­och, Eph­esus, Corinth or Rome. Their gaze was direct­ed towards a uni­ver­sal sav­iour and even towards the eter­nal yet incar­nate Word of God who was God.Geza Ver­mes, The Chang­ing Faces of Jesus, Pen­guin, 2000, p. 263

Fur­ther Thoughts

At the end of the day the con­sid­er­a­tions of this paper do not exist in a vac­u­um. If I am broad­ly on tar­get in my analy­sis then this mat­ters pro­found­ly. In the are­na of the world’s reli­gions, claim and counter claim about reli­gious truth calls each of us to respond thought­ful­ly and with courage.

If ortho­dox Chris­tian­i­ty, the Chris­tian­i­ty of the Trini­tar­i­an creeds, is now shown to be too rad­i­cal­ly dis­con­tin­u­ous with the his­tor­i­cal flesh and blood Jesus who walked the streets of Jerusalem 2000 years ago, then we are oblig­ed to look else­where for unal­loyed revelation.

Some­one once asked the not­ed Eng­lish Mus­lim writer Gai Eaton why there is no his­tor­i­cal crit­i­cism of the Qur’an as there is of the Bible. He answered :

There is a mis­un­der­stand­ing : the Bible is made up of many dif­fer­ent parts, com­piled over many cen­turies and it is pos­si­ble to cast doubt upon one part with­out impugn­ing the rest ; where­as the Qur’an is a sin­gle rev­e­la­tion, received by just one man, either you accept it for what it claims to be, in which case you are a Mus­lim or you reject this claim, and so place your­self out­side the fold of Islam.Gai Eaton has writ­ten some of the most acclaimed books about Islam in the Eng­lish lan­guage. Par­tic­u­lar­ly rec­om­mend­ed is Islam and the Des­tiny of Man. See reviews here.Endmark

6 Comments

  1. There are no Chris­t­ian com­mu­ni­ties in Sau­di Ara­bia, so for whom should be church be cre­at­ed ? For dec­o­ra­tion pur­pos­es ? Chris­tians who do stay in Sau­di Ara­bia do so for a tem­po­rary peri­od, after which they go back to their own countries.”
    Though the work­ers may be there tem­porar­i­ly, the work force of around FIVE MILLION which they com­prise is there per­ma­nent­ly. Isn’t a red her­ring to say there is no one there to build a church for ?

  2. I enjoyed the orig­i­nal arti­cle and want to pass on an impor­tant scrip­tur­al link embed­ded in Paul’s writ­ings : 1Corinthians 1:24 call­ing Christ the wis­dom of God”.

    Here Paul takes the leap sug­gest­ed by Matthew and equates Christ with the WISDOM of God, though Jesus him­self (peace and bless­ings be upon him) acknowl­edged that he spoke only what was giv­en to him to speak (John 12:49,50).

  3. Ques­tion : What would Jesus look like if we dis­man­tled and removed the spec­u­la­tive and philo­soph­i­cal per­son­i­fied wisdom/​logos lenses/​mode of thought and expres­sions that were used to interpret/​conceptualize his iden­ti­ty and his rela­tion­ship to the God he worshipped ?

    It’s very sim­ple actu­al­ly …when you remove those spec­u­la­tive Wisdom/​logos con­jec­tures, you get a human (only) prophet that per­formed mir­a­cles by the pow­er of God who exem­pli­fied an excel­lent char­ac­ter toward his peo­ple. Those pagans and adher­ents to Jewish/​Greek philosophies/​mysticism who were wit­ness­ing the min­istry and mir­a­cles of Jesus inter­pret­ed him through their dis­tort­ed lens­es. Just like they did momen­tar­i­ly with Paul and Barn­abas, when they healed a man from Lystra. Peo­ple imme­di­ate­ly erro­neous­ly wor­shipped them and believed they were gods from heav­en vis­it­ing the earth as reflect­ed in their will­ing­ness to make sac­ri­fices in rev­er­ence toward them.

    1 And it came to pass in Ico­ni­um, that they entered togeth­er into the syn­a­gogue of the Jews, and so spoke that a very great mul­ti­tude both of the Jews and of the Greeks did believe. 2 But the unbe­liev­ing Jews stirred up and incensed the minds of the Gen­tiles against the brethren. 3 A long time there­fore they abode there, deal­ing con­fi­dent­ly in the Lord, who gave tes­ti­mo­ny to the word of his grace, grant­i­ng signs and won­ders to be done by their hands. 4 And the mul­ti­tude of the city was divid­ed ; and some of them indeed held with the Jews, but some with the apos­tles. 5 And when there was an assault made by the Gen­tiles and the Jews with their rulers, to use them con­tu­me­lious­ly, and to stone them :

    6 They under­stand­ing it, fled to Lystra, and Derbe, cities of Lycao­nia, and to the whole coun­try round about, and were there preach­ing the gospel. 7 And there sat a cer­tain man at Lystra, impo­tent in his feet, a crip­ple from his moth­er’s womb, who nev­er had walked. 8 This same heard Paul speak­ing. Who look­ing upon him, and see­ing that he had faith to be healed, 9 Said with a loud voice : Stand upright on thy feet. And he leaped up, and walked. 10 And when the mul­ti­tudes had seen what Paul had done, they lift­ed up their voice in the Lycaon­ian tongue, say­ing : The gods are come down to us in the like­ness of men ;

    11 And they called Barn­abas, Jupiter : but Paul, Mer­cury ; because he was chief speak­er. 12 The priest also of Jupiter that was before the city, bring­ing oxen and gar­lands before the gate, would have offered sac­ri­fice with the peo­ple. Acts Chap­ter 14

    This was one mir­a­cle. Now can you imag­ine these pagans and oth­er peo­ples versed in Jewish/​Greek philosophies/​mysticism wit­ness­ing the greater mir­a­cles of Jesus dur­ing his min­istry whilst he walked this earth. How would they have expressed their beliefs about him ? Think about this for a moment… I know the answer….. its trans­par­ent in the writ­ings of the pagan church fathers and NT doc­u­ments that obvi­ous­ly applied the wisdom/​logos temples/​lenses that dis­tort­ed the iden­ti­ty of Jesus. Cer­tain pro­fessed’ fol­low­ers of Jesus erro­neous­ly and lit­er­al­ly inter­pret­ed the per­son­i­fied wisdom/​logos modes of expres­sion as an actu­al pre-exist­ing eter­nal attribute that pos­sessed its own self aware­ness shar­ing the same onto­log­i­cal equal­i­ty with God (father) Almighty that con­versed with Him from eter­ni­ty. God’s attrib­ut­es nev­er pos­sessed their own self aware­ness or con­versed with God Almighty accord­ing to Old Tes­ta­ment times and his­to­ry. The per­ver­sion of the under­stand­ing of the nature of Gods attrib­ut­es hap­pened from NT onwards. These erro­neous inno­va­tions and con­cep­tu­al­iza­tions begot the incar­na­tion and Trin­i­ty doc­trines that con­se­quent­ly dis­tort­ed the real human his­tor­i­cal Jesus.

    There are no bib­li­cal or scrip­tur­al exam­ple where Gods attrib­ut­es were per­ceived as actu­al self con­scious per­sons’ that shared the same onto­log­i­cal equal­i­ty of God Almighty that sub­sist­ed with Him from eter­ni­ty, pri­or to the sup­posed incar­na­tion of the Logos that became Jesus as artic­u­la­tion in the doc­trine of the Trinity ?

    God’s attrib­ut­es – Wisdom/​Logos nev­er pos­sessed their own self aware­ness or con­versed with God Almighty as a dis­tinct per­son’ pri­or to the NT times. Only the Jewish/​Greek mys­tic NT authors and Church fathers inno­vate this per­vert­ed idea, which lat­er pre­pared the foun­da­tions for a sect of Chris­tian­i­ty known today as Trinitarianism.

    Remove the wisdom/​Logos templates/​lenses and see the real Human prophet of God — Jesus the Messiah.

    Jesus was not the Word (Logos) he was cre­at­ed by the Word -

    This simil­i­tude of Jesus before Allah is as that of Adam : He cre­at­ed him from dust then said to him : BE” and he was..”

    O Peo­ple of the Book ! Com­mit no excess­es in your reli­gion : Nor say of Allah aught but the truth. Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) a mes­sen­ger of Allah, and His Word, which He bestowed on Mary, and a spir­it pro­ceed­ing from Him : so believe in Allah and His mes­sen­gers. Say not Three” : desist : it will be bet­ter for you : for Allah is one God : Glo­ry be to Him : (far exalt­ed is He) above hav­ing a son. To Him belong all things in the heav­ens and on earth. And enough is Allah as a Dis­pos­er of affairs. ”

  4. Bar­ton, your com­ments to the apoth­e­o­sis essay con­sist sole­ly of red-her­rings, exager­rat­ed ones at that, and broad gen­er­al­iza­tions. Noth­ing you said is rel­e­vant to the essay to which you com­ment. I won­der why you decid­ed to post your unre­lat­ed tirades to this well-writ­ten and schol­ar­ly essay ?

    The Eaton quote has noth­ing hate­ful” to say about Chris­tians. That’s your heavy (mis)interterpretation of Eaton’s words. For both Mus­lims AND CHRISTIANS, those out­side of their faith — who accord­ing to the adher­ents reject the truth of these respec­tive faiths — are infi­dels, or unbe­liev­ers. There is noth­ing hate­ful” here. Chris­tians and Jews are addressed as the peo­ple of the book” by the Quran, who are free to prac­tise their reli­gion, even though their reli­gions are deemed to be a mix­ture of truth and false­hood. There is no pun­ish­ment” for them mere­ly for being Chris­tians or Jews. Like­wise, you dis­tort Mus­lim the­ol­o­gy when you imply that forced con­ver­sion via the sword is an Islam­ic teach­ing. There is no such Mus­lim the­ol­o­gy. Forced con­ver­sions are for­bid­den in Islam.

    You do not explain via argu­ment why the calls for tol­er­ance and equal­i­ty by Mus­lims resid­ing in the West are laugh­able”? You just make a state­ment with­out mak­ing any attempt to argue for it. You then claim for your­self the pow­er to read into the minds of all Mus­lims when you pro­claim that Mus­lims call­ing for mod­er­a­tion are in fact rag­ing” with hatred” and believe it is their duty” to become mar­tyrs for their cause” — what­ev­er that means. Basi­cal­ly, it seems you believe you can read into the hearts and minds of all Mus­lims and know for sure what they real­ly” think. Their words mean noth­ing because you already know” what they real­ly” think. Here your prej­u­dice and own hatred towards Mus­lims is obvi­ous. Your hate and con­tempt for Mus­lims is also clear when you pro­claim that the rea­son for the high birth rate among some Mus­lim com­mu­ni­ties is due to the desire of these Mus­lims to out-pop­u­late” oth­ers. As usu­al, no argu­ment and evi­dence is sub­mit­ted for this nasty claim. Your hate con­tin­ues in your lies regard­ing Muham­mad (P) — the claim that he liked young girls” etc. If you would study Islam with an open mind, you will see that Muhammed (P) was a man of high moral and eth­i­cal char­ac­ter, pos­sess­ing immense charisma.

    Regard­ing Jesus (P), have you not read the part where he went inside the tem­ple and applied vio­lence upon the mon­ey chang­ers and traders therein ?

    There are no Chris­t­ian com­mu­ni­ties in Sau­di Ara­bia, so for whom should be church be cre­at­ed ? For dec­o­ra­tion pur­pos­es ? Chris­tians who do stay in Sau­di Ara­bia do so for a tem­po­rary peri­od, after which they go back to their own coun­tries. They are, how­ev­er, per­mit­ted to wor­ship where they reside and observe their reli­gious cus­toms. Also, Saud­is are not par­tic­u­lar­ly tol­er­ant towards non-Wahabi Mus­lims either. It is not just non-Mus­lims, but large seg­ments of Mus­lim pop­u­la­tion who face a dif­fi­cult time in Sau­di Ara­bia. Be that as it may, church­es exist in numer­ous oth­er Mus­lim countries.

    As for con­ver­sions, some Mus­lims do con­vert to Chris­tian­i­ty and oth­er faiths in var­i­ous Mus­lim coun­tries with­out any action being tak­en against them by the state. It is true, how­ev­er, that in some nations apos­ta­sy is a pun­ish­able crime. My point here is that there is diver­si­ty among Mus­lim nations which you overlook.

    Nonethe­less, your com­ments are excep­tion­al­ly of a poor qual­i­ty for con­tain­ing numer­ous log­i­cal fal­lac­i­es and for being basi­cal­ly a mass of red-herrings.

  5. I am real­ly aghast at the writ­ings con­tained with­in your web­site. I refer to this quote above :
    “…Some­one once asked the not­ed Eng­lish Mus­lim writer Gai Eaton why there is no his­tor­i­cal crit­i­cism of the Qur’an as there is of the Bible. He answered :

    There is a mis­un­der­stand­ing : the Bible is made up of many dif­fer­ent parts, com­piled over many cen­turies and it is pos­si­ble to cast doubt upon one part with­out impugn­ing the rest ; where­as the Qur’an is a sin­gle rev­e­la­tion, received by just one man, either you accept it for what it claims to be, in which case you are a Mus­lim or you reject this claim, and so place your­self out­side the fold of Islam…”

    The dis­cus­sion as to whether Christ was God or a mes­sen­ger of God I will leave for anoth­er day. But this quote defines, clear­ly, the Mus­lim hatred of the Chris­t­ian. So you place your­self out­side the fold of Islam..” So, by def­i­n­i­tion and exten­sion, you become an infi­del, wor­thy of exclu­sion or worse pun­ish­ments by the Mus­lim faithful.

    The one-eyed view of the world by Islamists and the fun­da­men­tal­ists brooks no dis­sent and chal­lenges it with vio­lence. The calls for tol­er­ance” and equal­i­ty” by Mus­lims liv­ing in the West is laugh­able. Beneath the veneer of mod­er­ate Islam is the rag­ing hatred of those who believe that it is duty of all Mus­lims to become Mar­tyrs for their cause.

    Tell me, can a Chris­t­ian church be erect­ed in Sau­di Ara­bia ? NO. Is there a mosque in Rome ? YES. Can a Chris­t­ian legal­ly con­vert to Islam in Chris­t­ian coun­tries ? YES Can a Mus­lim con­vert to Chris­tian­i­ty ? NO

    You take the tol­er­ance and free­dom grant­ed by West­ern lib­er­al democ­ra­cies and fes­ter a can­cer with­in them that will one day doubt­less destroy them and you as well. You spur on a bur­geon­ing birth rate amongst Mus­lims in the West in the hope to out-pop­u­late them if you can­not con­vert them via the sword or through faith.

    I am not a bible-bash­ing” Chris­t­ian but I have a great faith in the greater good of human­i­ty. I believe that Christ was a very good and Charis­mat­ic MAN and one of high­er moral val­ue than the misog­y­nis­tic and pedophilic Mohamed (He had a lik­ing for young girls…even mar­ried one!). Mohamed mere­ly stitched togeth­er his inter­pre­ta­tion of Christ’s teach­ings and the Jew­ish faith to cre­ate his own following…in that way no dif­fer­ent to many prophets” lit­er­al­ly sell­ing reli­gion for prof­it (both Chris­t­ian based and Islam­ic) around the world to this very day.

    Christ’s mes­sage was undoubt­ed­ly cor­rupt­ed by the ear­ly Catholic church and its inter­pre­ta­tions of the New Tes­ta­ment but here is what all human beings need to remem­ber about what he said :
    ‑That we must love one another.
    ‑That we must obey the ten com­mand­ments (Some­one pass that mes­sage on to Bin-Laden please…).
    ‑That we should ren­der unto Cae­sar that which is Cae­ser’s (In oth­er words, Church and State must be separate…thankfully the Turks realise this and have slowed the drift of that nation towards fundamentalism.).
    ‑That vio­lence is nev­er the answer…“turn the oth­er cheek.”

    I don’t believe that he actu­al­ly said he was the one Son of God”…rather he told us that we were all the Sons and Daugh­ters of God.
    When all the reli­gious nut­cas­es of all the var­i­ous flavours of reli­gion realise this then human­i­ty will reach its full potential.

    What­ev­er God” is is with­in all of us…every liv­ing thing. My per­son­al opin­ion is that word God” can eas­i­ly sub­sti­tut­ed for the word Uni­verse.” Good will ulti­mate­ly tri­umph over evil…history repeat­ed­ly bears this out. We are chang­ing and evolv­ing and know­ing more about the state of being, of exis­tence every day. Your web­site calls on peo­ple to think that Christ was no more than a off-beat prophet whilst Mohamed was the one and only true” mes­sen­ger of God. God’s mes­sage can­not be deliv­ered by any man, Christ or Mohamed but you can feel it every time you embrace your fam­i­ly or shake the hand or some­one you care about…that sim­ple feel­ing is God at work…connecting all life with love, knowl­edge and curios­i­ty. This is a mes­sage that can­not be con­veyed in words.

    Anoth­er page in your web­site has a poem by an ear­ly Mus­lim cler­ic ask­ing Chris­tians why they hon­or the cross when it was the instru­ment of Christ’s death and how it is that God could be cru­ci­fied on the cross. He missed the point of Christ’s sac­ri­fice and so do many Chris­tians. Christ’s sur­ren­der­ing to the cross was not only an act of sac­ri­fice and faith on his part but a sym­bol and reminder to all of us that His love would sur­pass the hatred of mor­tal men. His sac­ri­fice was to remind us of the pow­er of for­give­ness and love in the face of pure evil. Think about it, please.

  6. Salam

    thanks for post­ing my arti­cle. Despite its imper­fec­tions I do hope I gen­er­ates some inter­est­ing debate.

    My one com­ment about your site is the addi­tion of Chris­t­ian links embed­ded in my piece, e.g. in the first sen­tence Jesus Christ” con­tains a link to a Chris­t­ian site I am not hap­py with. Can this (and the oth­ers) be removed please ?

    best wish­es

    Paul Williams

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