Is Jesus in the divine identity? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
So let’s just jump right back into it.
Wright asserts that Paul has taken kurios from Deut 6:4, but offers no argumentation for this proposal.
He then concludes, “There can be no mistake: just as in Philippians 2 and Colossians 1, Paul has placed
Jesus within an explicit statement, drawn from the Old Testament’s quarry of emphatically monotheistic
texts…producing what we can only call a sort of christological monotheism.” We have criticized
Wright’s exegesis of Colossians 1 and Philippians 2 in previous articles, but only Philippians 2 uses a
characteristic monotheistic OT text (Isa 45:23). We might agree that Phil 2:10 places Jesus within the same
eschatological situation as Yahweh in Isa 45:23, but placement within a situation is not the same as
inclusion within the divine identity and so Wright’s comparison is false.
This seems to be too easy a dismissal of Wright. YHWH is the one who won’t share His name with another and for all the talk that Perry made last time about there being no parallel to the Shema for Jesus, can he find a parallel where everyone else bows at another name besides that of God? If it works one way, it ought to work the other way too.
The case for the christological monotheist is based around the claim that kyrios is picking up ‘Yhwh’ from
Deut 6:4 and using this name for Christ, thus identifying Jesus with Yhwh in some sense. The first
counter-argument to this claim is that, even if Paul is picking up ‘Yhwh’ from Deuteronomy, bearing the
name ‘Yhwh’ doesn’t imply an identification of Jesus with Yhwh. This is shown in two ways: first, the
name that is above every name was given22 to Christ by God (Phil 2:9); and secondly, the name was also
given to the Angel of the Lord who led Israel through the wilderness (“My name is in him”, Exod 23:21).
For the first objection, this is an assumption of unipersonalism whereby if a name is given, then that person cannot be in the identity, but this is not explained why. Jesus is given this name as a public vindication of what He had done publicly. Had He not done a public act, He would not have been known in this way.
For the second, I have regularly pointed to the Angel of the Lord as a Trinitarian precursor. He acts in ways that only God can act. He is the one speaking in Exodus 3. He appears to Hagar in Genesis 16 and she refers to Him as the God who sees me. Rather than demonstrating the point is incorrect, Perry is actually with this demonstrating the point is highly accurate!
The Angel of the Lord is a type of Christ leading his people through the wilderness. In the same way that
he bore the name, so too Christ bears the name. Hence, any basis there might be in the possession of this
name for identifying Jesus with Yhwh would also apply to the Angel of the Lord. Yet the Angel of the
Lord is distinguished from Yhwh in the same way that Paul distinguishes ‘one…and one’ in 1 Cor 8:6.
Obviously, great scholars like Bauckham and Wright never noticed that there was a distinguishing here. The Angel of the Lord is often treated as YHWH, but yet somehow is seen as a servant of YHWH. Consider how in Genesis 19:24 we read that YHWH on Earth rained down fire and brimstone from YHWH out of Heaven. If you come in with the assumption that God must be unipersonal, you have to read the texts in a way to avoid any plurality in the Godhead. If you dismiss that, you must remain open to the idea that perhaps God is a unique being in a sense that He is multipersonal while we are unipersonal.
However, before we reach this conclusion, we should ask, as a second counter-argument, whether
kyrios in 1 Cor 8:6 is actually picking up ‘Yhwh’ from Deut 6:4 in the first place. ‘Yhwh’ is a proper name,
but kyrios in 1 Cor 8:6 is not being used here as a proxy for this proper name precisely because it is
modified by ‘one’. The ‘one’ is in a semantic contract with the ‘many’ of v. 5, which in turn has the
plural of kyrios. This in turn brings that plural into a semantic contract with the singular of v. 6. Thus,
because the plural is functioning as a descriptive title, so too kyrios in v. 6 is functioning as a title and not
as a proxy for the name ‘Yhwh’. Accordingly, we can observe a symmetry between the two clauses: just as
‘God’ is not a proper name in ‘one God’ so too ‘Lord’ is not serving as a proxy for a proper name in ‘one
I am unclear as to what difference this makes. It is as if Perry is treating YHWH as a personal name. (By the way, aren’t all names given to someone?) Paul is making a contrasting statement indeed saying that the pagans have many gods and many lords, but we only have one. If he submits two different beings here, then he has a sort of ditheism going on. If he has one God with at least two persons here as both are in the divine nature somehow, then he does not.
Even if we went to the Shema, saying Lord as a proper name wouldn’t make sense. Did the Jews need to know there was only one YHWH? Even when they were living in idolatry, they could say there was one YHWH, but there was also one Asherah, one Molech, etc. Yet if they say there is one God and one Lord and those are combined, then they have monotheism.
If the first clause, ‘there is one God, the Father’, is monotheistic, what type of clause is ‘there is one Lord,
Jesus Christ’? Is it possible to have a god and a lord within a scriptural faith? Is this conjoining of the Father and the Son so innovative that it redefines Scriptural Monotheism and Jewish Monotheism? Is the
associative partnership implicit in ‘of whom are all things’ (the Father) and ‘by whom are all things’ (the
Son) actually (or still) monotheistic?
But this is just begging the question. It is saying that if we go with the understanding of Bauckham and Wright and Capes and others, then we are redefining monotheism. It’s kind of hard to redefine a term that means “There is only one God.” The Trinity necessarily has it that there is only one God. Perry also since he is refusing to look at intertestamental literature is ignoring any data that Jews had to the contrary in pre-Christian thinking. Once again, if anything is redefining it, it is somehow having Jesus being a being that is separate and yet somehow Lord. By framing the Shema in this way, Paul is saying that you can’t have one without the other. If the Son is exclusively Lord, then the Father is not, but if the Father is exclusively God, the Son is not. Putting them both in the same identity avoids the problem.
Our two clause reading of 1 Cor 8:6 is immune to Bauckham’s reasoning for Christological Monotheism.
He says, “there can be no doubt that the addition of a unique Lord to the unique God of the Shema‘
would flatly contradict the uniqueness of the latter…The only possible way to understand Paul as
maintaining monotheism is to understand him to be including Jesus in the unique identity of the one God
affirmed in the Shema‘.” All we have to observe here is that the second clause is not ‘adding to’ the ‘one’
of the monotheism in the first clause and that ‘one…and one’ does add up to two! We do not have to
maintain Paul’s monotheism by deploying a late-20c. theological construct like ‘included in the divine
identity’. We can maintain his monotheism by confining his avowal of monotheism to the first clause.
The language is 20th century, but is the idea? That is the question. We could just as well ask if anyone in the time of Paul was going around talking about Christological monotheism like Perry is. Would that invalidate his case? Absolutely not.
One and one does indeed add to two. So you either have two persons in the divine identity, or you have two beings, one distinctively God, but then the other must be distinctively Lord. If this is the Shema then, it is Perry that is dividing it and not Bauckham.
We will continue next time.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)