Is Jesus YHWH? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
What dose it mean to say Jesus is included in the divine identity?
If we consider relative identity (‘a is the same F as b’),45 it doesn’t seem that this framework will give us
an understanding for inclusive identity. Logically, two are one (the same) relative to their satisfying a
categorical predicate (‘the same F’; Fido and Pooch are the same breed’). Does Paul think that Jesus is the
same God as Yahweh? One doubt would be that he distinguishes them in terms of ‘God the Father and
the Lord Jesus Christ’. However, putting this doubt aside, if Paul believed that they were the same God,
this doesn’t necessarily imply that he is ‘including’ Jesus in the divine identity of Yahweh/God of Israel
Yet Perry never seems to define what is meant by this. Do we mean they are the same God? If you mean they are the same person, then no. I am not surprised that Jesus is differentiated from the Father. If anything, this convinces me. They needed two different ways to speak of them to avoid confusion.
The language of the divine nature deals with this. There are two persons at least that share the divine nature. Again, what that is needs to be fleshed out for us, but for the ancient audience in a high-context society familiar with Jewish thought, that would have been much better understood.
If we think of shared identity or group identity, these are examples of ‘inclusive’ identity. We might say
‘a is a member of the same class as b’. There are many gods and many lords and these would be classes in
which we might place the God of Israel and the Lord Jesus Christ. Putting it in this way, doesn’t
obviously include Jesus in the class of many gods, but rather the class of many lords. In fact, 1 Cor 8:6
doesn’t lend itself to an inclusivity thesis, since Paul would seem to affirm that the “to–us” class of gods
has only one member and likewise the “to–us” class of lords. He assigns deity to the Father and lordship
IF Perry goes with this, then he would have to deny that the Father is Lord since the Father is not in the class of Lords but Jesus is. If Jesus not being in the category of gods means He cannot have the divine nature, then the Father not being included in the category of lords means He cannot have the nature of Lord. Is there any Jew that would remotely think that possible?
It is one thing to claim that Paul includes Jesus within the divine identity of the God of Israel; it is another
thing to show this worked out in his writing. We have noted the declarative quality of Christological
Monotheism. For example, we might ask whether (for Paul) it was God the Father that included Jesus
within his identity. If this were the case, and suppose that he did so through the bestowal of his Spirit
upon Jesus, does this have any implication as regards intrinsic deity in respect of Jesus? If Jesus is
included within the divine identity of the God of Israel, is the identity nevertheless still retained by the
God of Israel as his identity in such an inclusion?
Perry is responding more to adoptionism in this case than to Trinitarianism. First off, there is nothing that says Paul has to work this all out in his writing. In his society, his listeners would be expected to work that out and know the background knowledge to do that. Perry wants an ancient writing to read like a modern one.
Next time, we will look at some verses that seem to identify Jesus with YHWH in the New Testament.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)