The NT states that the Lord Jesus is the Creator of all things. For instance, the inspired author of Hebrews writes:
“But about the Son he says… ‘In the beginning, O Lord, you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will roll them up like a robe; like a garment they will be changed. But you remain the same, and your years will never end.’” Hebrews 1:8a, 10-12
The author has the Father addressing the Son as the actual Creator of the cosmos. The inspired author applies to the Son an OT passage which refers to Yahweh’s work in creation:
“‘O my God,’ I say, ‘take me not hence in the midst of my days, thou whose years endure throughout all generations!’ Of old thou didst lay the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of thy hands. They will perish, but thou dost endure; they will all wear out like a garment. Thou changest them like raiment, and they pass away; but thou art the same, and thy years have no end.” Psalm 102:24-27 Revised Standard Version (RSV)
Amazingly, the OT elsewhere states that Yahweh ALONE stretched out the heavens:
“He speaks to the sun and it does not shine; he seals off the light of the stars. He ALONE stretches out the heavens and treads on the waves of the sea.” Job 9:7-8 New International Version (NIV)
For the author of Hebrews to write that the Son personally laid the foundations of the earth and that the heavens are the work of his hands means that the author truly believed that the Son was Yahweh God (yet not the Father), the very eternal Creator himself! Note for instance the following syllogism:
Yahweh God created the heavens with his own hands and he alone stretched them out.
The Son created the heavens with his own hands.
Therefore, the Son is Yahweh God.
Former Jehovah’s Witness apologist and founder of Christian Witnesses of Jah (CJW) Greg Stafford takes issue with this conclusion. In his book, Stafford tries to address the inspired writer’s application of Psalm 102:25-27 to the Son:
“… It will be shown that in 1 Corinthians 8:6 the apostle Paul makes a careful distinction between the ‘one God’ (the Father) as the one ‘out of [… ex (hereafter transliterated as ek)] whom all things are,’ and Jesus Christ as the one ‘through [di, a contraction of dia] whom’ all things came into being…
“Clearly, then, in context Hebrews 1:10-12 could not be teaching that Jesus is the Creator, for here, in the opening words to the Hebrews, it is clearly stated that God made all things ‘through’ His Son. Since Jesus’ role in creation has already been discussed (Heb. 1:3), it is not likely that in verses 10-12 the author would return to the same point he has explained earlier. It could be that these verses from Psalm 102 are appropriately applied to the Son of God in view of his being the preexistent Wisdom spoken of in Proverbs 8. There he is described as a ‘master worker’ alongside his Creator, Jehovah. (Pr 8:22-31) B. W. Bacon acknowledges, ‘The passage could be made to prove the doctrine that the Messiah is none other than the preexistent Wisdom of Prov 8, 22-31, “through whom” according to our author [the author of Hebrews], v.2, God “made the worlds.”’
“It would certainly be appropriate to refer to the heavens and the earth as ‘the work of Christ’s hands’ in a secondary sense in view of his being mediator of the creative acts of Jehovah God. Indeed, as the ‘master craftsman’ Jesus was very much involved in Jehovah’s works. (Pr 8:30, Jerusalem Bible) Still, there seems to be another reason why Paul applies verses 25-27 of the 102nd Psalm to God’s beloved Son.” (Stafford, Jehovah’s Witnesses Defended: An Answer to Scholars and Critics [Elihu Books, 2nd Edition, Huntington Beach, CA, 2000], pp. 171-174; emphasis added)
Stafford is operating under a certain set of assumptions that forbids him from allowing the text to say what it does in fact say. Stafford assumes that since Jesus is the instrumental cause of creation, the heavens and the earth can only be the creative works of Christ solely in a secondary sense. He reiterates this point in his response to Evangelical apologist Ron Rhodes:
A conflict with ‘Christ as the Creator’? Rhodes believes that Revelation 3:14 means that Christ is “the ‘beginner’ of God’s creation,” thinking that this interpretation “harmonizes with other New Testament passages about Christ as Creator.” Rhodes then cites Colossians 1:16, 17, Hebrews 1:2, and John 1:3 as examples of other passages that he believes teach that Christ is the Creator.
One of the problems with Rhodes’ argument is there are no other ‘New Testament passages about Christ as Creator.’ The three verses he cites speak of what God did through Christ. Rather than speak of Christ as the Creator, the Bible consistently uses language of Jesus that could never be used of an eternal almighty God, and which reveals the simple truth that Jesus lives ‘because of the Father’ (Joh 6:57) (Ibid., p. 239; emphasis added)
Stafford has erroneously assumed that the language used in relation to Christ’s role in creating the cosmos demonstrates that he is not the almighty God. Yet an examination of how the preposition dia is used elsewhere, specifically in reference to God, shows that the biblical language affirms beyond any reasonable doubt that Jesus is the eternal almighty God!
“For from him and THROUGH (di’) him and FOR (eis) him are all things. To him be glory forever! Amen.” Romans 11:36 NAB
“In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God, FOR (eis) whom and THROUGH (di’) whom everything exists, should make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering.” Hebrews 2:10 NIV1
God is not simply the efficient cause (“from”) cause of creation, he is also the instrumental (“through”) and final (“for”) cause of it. Paul elsewhere ascribes to Jesus the function of both instrumental and final cause of all things:
“yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through (di’) whom all things came and through (di’) whom we live.” 1 Corinthians 8:6 NIV
“For IN (en) him ALL things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; ALL things were created THROUGH (di’) him and FOR (eis) him. He is before all things, AND IN (en) HIM ALL THINGS HOLD TOGETHER. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.” Colossians 1:16-18
For Jesus to be given two of God’s functions in creating all things demonstrates beyond any reasonable doubt that Jesus is THE CREATOR in an active sense, which makes him Yahweh God (yet not the Father)!
This identical use of language in relation to God’s role in creation emphatically affirms that the Lord Jesus is the Creator in a primary and active sense. As NT scholar Richard Bauckham states in relation to Paul’s claim that all things are from God and through Christ:
“The description in its undivided, unmodified form is used elsewhere by Paul, specifically in Romans 11:36a: ‘from him and through him and to him [are] all things’. Here the statement simply refers to God, whereas in 1 Corinthians 8:6 Paul has divided it between God and Christ, applying to God two of the prepositions that describe God’s relationship as Creator to all things (‘from’ and ‘for’ or ‘to’) and the third of these prepositions (‘through’) to Christ. Although Paul’s formula in Romans 11:36 does not appear precisely in this form elsewhere, there are enough Jewish parallels to make it certain that Paul there simply quotes a Jewish formulation. That God is not only the agent or efficient cause of creation (‘from him are all things’) and the final cause or goal of all things (‘to him are all things’), but also the instrumental cause (‘through whom are all things’) well expresses the typical Jewish monotheistic concern that God used no one else to carry out his work of creation, but accomplished it alone, solely by means of his own Word and/or his own Wisdom. Paul’s reformulation in 1 Corinthians 8:6 includes Christ in this exclusively divine work of creation by giving to him the role of instrumental cause.” (Bauckham, God Crucified: Monotheism & Christology in the New Testament [William B. Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, MI, 1998], p. 39; emphasis added)
The Pseudepigrapha provides support for Bauckham’s claims:
“O sovereign Lord, didst thou not speak at the beginning when thou didst form the earth — AND THAT WITHOUT HELP— and didst command the dust and it gave thee Adam, a lifeless body? Yet he was the workmanship of thy hands, and thou didst breathe into him the breath of life, and he was made alive in thy presence.” 4 Ezra 3:4-5 RSV
“then I planned these things, and they were made THROUGH ME AND NOT THROUGH ANOTHER, just as the end shall come through me and not through another.” 4 Ezra 6:6 RSV
“This name was very appropriately bestowed upon him by our first ancestors, in order to signify that He THROUGH whom all things are endowed with life and come into being, is necessarily the ruler and lord of the Universe. Set all mankind an example of magnanimity by releasing those who are held in bondage.” Letter of Aristeas 16 RSV
Hence, the role of Christ in creation persuasively shows that the Lord Jesus is indeed the Creator of all things.2
An additional problem with Stafford’s reasoning is that it commits the fallacy of false dilemma. Evidently, Stafford assumes that Jesus cannot be the Agent of creation while at the same time being the actual cause of creation. Yet, this is a dilemma that Stafford imposes upon the text since the inspired author had no problem in viewing Jesus as both the Creator as well as the instrumental Agent of creation. In relation to the Father, Christ is the Agent through which all things came into being. Yet, in relation to creation both the Father and the Son, along with the Holy Spirit, are the one Creator with all three Persons being fully responsible for bringing all things into existence (Cf. Genesis 1:2, 26-27; Job 33:4; Psalm 104:30).3
Let us also not forget that according to the author of Hebrews it is the Father himself who personally addresses his Son as THE Creator of the cosmos!
“… Is it to prove that Jesus Christ is ‘Jehovah God of the Old Testament’ that the author of Hebrews makes such an application of Psalm 102? Again, those who embrace the doctrine of the Trinity would likely answer, ‘Yes, the fact that a verse was originally applied to God, and later applied to the Son proves that he is Jehovah God of the Old Testament.’
“Using this type of reasoning one might feel justified in concluding that Solomon was Jesus Christ! Why? Because in the verses just previous to Hebrews 1:10-12 Paul wrote: ‘But reference to the Son: “God is your throne forever and ever, and the scepter of your kingdom is the scepter of uprightness. You loved righteousness, and you hated lawlessness. That is why God, your God, anointed you with the oil of exultation more than your partners.”’ (Heb 1:8-9) As we have already discussed the translation ‘God is your throne’ in this chapter, we simply want to point out that these words were originally addressed to Solomon in Psalm 45:6-7, but here in Hebrews 1:8-9 they are applied to the Lord Jesus Christ. The book Reasoning from the Scriptures, page 414, adds more to the point:
It should be observed in Hebrews 1:5b that a quotation is made from 2 Samuel 7:14 and applied to the Son of God. Although that text had its first application to Solomon, the later application of it to Jesus Christ does not mean that Solomon and Jesus are the same. Jesus is ‘greater than Solomon’ and carries out a work foreshadowed by Solomon-Luke 11:31.
“Paul no more intended to identify Jesus with Jehovah than he intended to identify Solomon with Jesus. He did, however, apply certain concepts and ideas expressed in those verses that were originally applied to Jehovah God and Solomon, to the Son of God. The application of Psalm 45:6-7 to Jesus at Hebrews 1:8-9 shows that God is the source of Jesus’ royal office and authority. Because Jesus ‘loved righteousness and hated lawlessness,’ Jehovah ‘anointed him with the oil of exultation.’ Paul’s words are, ‘God, your God [ho theos sou; lit. ‘the God of you’],’ when referring to the One who anointed Jesus.
“Jehovah was both the source of Solomon’s royal authority as well as his God. The same is true of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jehovah is the source of his authority and is also his God (compare Da 713,14; Mt 28:18; Php 2:9,10; Rev 3:2,12)…” (Ibid., pp. 172-173; emphasis added)
Stafford commits several fallacies here. First, Stafford begs the question since he assumes that Yahweh is unipersonal and proceeds to read this into the text. Because of this assumption, Stafford argues that the application of Psalm 102 to Christ no more proves that Jesus is Yahweh than the application of 2 Samuel 7 and Psalm 45 to Christ prove that Jesus is Solomon. Yet, this example simply highlights Stafford’s post-biblical 19th century a priori assumption that Yahweh God is one in Being and one in Person much like Solomon is one being and one person. Hence, his analogy may work with Solomon since he is obviously a unipersonal Being, but it does not work with Yahweh unless, of course, one has already assumed that Yahweh is a unipersonal Being like Solomon.
Another reason why Stafford’s analogy here is erroneous is that kingship is not a trait which was unique to Solomon alone since there were many kings in Israel. Hence, attributing to Christ a passage that originally referred to Solomon only shows that Solomon wasn’t the only person to rule over Israel. Yet, only Yahweh has the characteristics of eternality, immutability and creatorship.
For a writer to, therefore, apply a passage that highlights some of Yahweh’s incommunicable attributes to Christ shows that the authors of the NT believed that Jesus is Yahweh God! Evangelical scholar Dr. James R. White sums it up best:
“… The connection between the Lord Jesus and Solomon has to do with a shared characteristic: kingship. But kingship is not a unique attribute of Solomon. There have been many kings. So while citing a passage about Solomon of Jesus doesn’t make Jesus Solomon, citing a passage about a unique characteristic (creatorship, immutability, eternality) of Yahweh does make Jesus Yahweh, for no one else shares that characteristic. Being a king didn’t make Solomon who he was, but being eternal and unchangeable does define who Yahweh is.” (White, The Forgotten Trinity: Recovering the Heart of Christian Belief [Bethany, Minneapolis, MN, 1998), p. 135)
Furthermore, Stafford is seemingly unaware that his argument actually reinforces the Trinitarian position. For instance, both Jesus and Solomon were descendants of David, divinely appointed kings and royal sons of God. The two share similar titles and functions without this making them the same person. Likewise, in applying to Christ a passage originally referring to Yahweh God shows that the author of Hebrews believed that the Father isn’t the only One who is immutable, eternal and the one Creator of the cosmos; the Son is also!
In other words, the application of Psalm 102 to Jesus proves that the Son, much like the Father, is the one true God. I.e., that both the Father and the Son perform works that the Holy Bible says that only Yahweh performs shows that Yahweh is a multipersonal Being. It does not show that the Son is the same person as the Father, but that the Son is the same in nature and essence.
It is primarily Stafford’s erroneous and unbiblical position regarding the Father alone being Yahweh that leads him to argue in the manner that he does. He erroneously assumes that unitarianism as a theological given, as opposed to allowing the Holy Bible to clarify the exact nature and existence of the true God, e.g., whether in fact, the scriptures teach Yahweh is multipersonal as opposed to being unipersonal. Hence, Stafford’s analogy of Solomon and Jesus to undermine Jesus’ identification with Yahweh only shows that his reasoning is flawed and is guilty of committing the fallacy of false analogy, as well as straw man argumentation. It does nothing to refute the Trinitarian position. In fact, it actually misrepresents what Trinitarians believe.
Stafford’s criticism of the Trinitarian position serves to demonstrate the inconsistency of the hermeneutics employed by Jehovah’s Witnesses and Arian apologists in general, and severely undermines their claim that Christ is the archangel Michael. It is quite common for Witnesses and Stafford to assert that since Michael and Jesus share similar functions they must be one and the same person. Stafford and those Arians who think like him feel that it is perfectly consistent to argue from their similarities that Jesus is Michael, despite the fact that not a single NT passage explicitly states that they are.
And yet these same Arians then cry foul when Trinitarians conclude that Jesus is Yahweh even though this position is based on the fact that OT passages which specifically refer to Yahweh along with titles, attributes, functions and the worship, which is given exclusively to Yahweh alone, are all applied to Christ!
It is quite evident that these Arian apologists are guilty of a double standard, employing a methodology that they only too quickly condemn Trinitarians for using. This is simply religious hypocrisy.
Stafford then commits a categorical fallacy since he assumes that since the Father is Jesus’ God and the source of his authority, this somehow proves that Jesus is not the same kind of God that the Father is. This fails to take into consideration that at the incarnation Christ truly became man and set aside his authority by taking the form of a slave. (Cf. John 1:14; 2 Corinthians 8:9; Philippians 2:5-8).
By becoming man and setting aside his authority, Jesus became subject to the Father. Jesus also entered into a new relationship with the Father. Whereas prior to the incarnation Christ related to the Father specifically as a Son, now after becoming flesh the Father became Jesus’ God due to Christ willfully becoming part of the very creation he came to redeem. Since Christ retains his humanity (contrary to what Stafford would like to believe) the Father will continue to be Jesus’ God (Cf. Rev. 1:6; 3:2, 12).
In order for Stafford’s argument to work he needs to present a single passage where the Father is said to be Jesus’ God even before the Incarnation. If Stafford can show such a verse he may have a case. Yet, if he cannot produce such a text then Stafford’s claim that Jesus has a God does nothing to refute the Trinitarian position.
Stafford might offer Micah 5:4 as evidence that the Father was God to the Son in His preexistence. Yet this is a messianic prophecy, and as such refers to the Messiah AFTER the incarnation (Cf. Micah 5:1-3). Therefore the appeal to Micah 5:4 will not establish the Arian position regarding Christ.
Stafford tries to deny the immutability of Christ’s eternal Deity by claiming that Psalm 102 refers to Jesus’ exaltation during which time he became immortal (Ibid., pp. 173-174).
The problem with Stafford’s reasoning is that Psalm 102 does not refer to Christ’s post-resurrection exaltation. Rather, it refers to Jesus’ pre-incarnate state when Christ created the cosmos. The inspired author is clearly saying that from the very time that creation came into being Christ remains the same. Christ has always been and will continue to be immutable:
“Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8 NIV
The only thing that became different is that at the incarnation Christ took on human flesh. Yet Jesus’ divine nature never changed since he never ceased being God even while on earth. At the resurrection, Christ’s physical body became immortal and no longer experiences change.
It is quite evident that an accurate reading of the Holy Bible shows that the Lord Jesus isn’t simply a passive agent that God worked through to create all things. The Lord Jesus is the active agent of creation, the very One whom the Father acknowledges as the Creator of the universe. It is rather unfortunate that Stafford’s post-biblical, 19th century theology prohibits him from seeing this divinely revealed truth.
- In the three verses cited by Stafford (John 1:3; Hebrews 1:2; 1 Corinthians 8:6) and in the two I have cited (Romans 11:36; Hebrews 2:10), dia is followed by a genitive, and thus generally means “through, by means of.”
Bauer, Arndt, Danker & Gingrich’s A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature ([BADG] The University of Chicago Press, Third Edition, 2000) lists the first three verses under the definition, “denoting the personal agent or intermediary, through.” It lists the second two under the definition, “of the originator of an action.” However, other than the subject (Christ vs. God the Father), there is no grammatical difference between the usage of dia in each of these verses. Indeed, the Greek of Hebrews 2:10 and 1 Corinthians 8:6 is identical: di’ hou ta panta (“through whom are all things”). Thus, despite Stafford’s assertion otherwise, the Biblical authors speak of creation as coming “through” both Father and Son.
- In an online debate with Robert Hommel on the subject of the Julius Mantey Letter (see here http://forananswer.org/Mars_Jw/GS-RH.Mantey.Index.htm), Stafford takes issue with Bauckham’s citation of these passages from 4 Ezra:
- Ezra is preserved in Latin, Syriac, Ethiopic, Armenian and Arabic manuscripts, and portions in Coptic, Georgian and a “tiny scrap” of Greek from the 4th century CE. The oldest Latin Codex containing 4 Ezra is dated to 822 CE (Metzger, OTP1, page 518). The oldest Syriac version is the Peshitta. Metzger agrees with most other scholars in dating this book to the early part of the second century CE. Thus, dating to a time after the writing of the NT books.
Mr. Hommel refers to 4 Ezra 3:4 as evidence that “2nd Temple Jews believed quite clearly that Jehovah acted alone as the Creator, to the exclusion of even a helper.” The text reads: “O sovereign Lord, did you not speak at the beginning when you formed the earth–and that without help—and commanded the dust and it gave you Adam, a lifeless body?” So, once again, we see that this refers to God’s creative acts, which Jehovah’s Witnesses DO NOT believe were shared by anyone else. God ALONE created through his Son, the Logos. That is why the PASSIVE verb forms are used in Col. 1:16-17, in relation to the Firstborn’s role. Also, since this is the work of a post-first-century Jew, it may be that he is contradicting popular view about God and the Logos, prevalent in Christian circles (Second Reply to Robert Hommel).
The fact is that scholars regularly cite 4 Ezra as indicative of Jewish thought during the 2nd Temple period, and indeed in his published work, Stafford does so himself (Stafford, pp. 314, 555-56). Stafford himself has cited a Pseudepigraphal work that would seem far more susceptible to the “post-first-century” criticism than 4 Ezra:
I specifically mentioned the Jewish Pseudepigraphal figure Metatron, of whom we read in 3 Enoch 48C:7:
I bestowed on him some of my majesty, some of my magnificence, some of the splendor of my glory, which is on the throne of glory, and I called him by my name, `The lesser YHWH, Prince of the Divine Presence, knower of secrets.’ Every secret I have revealed to him in love, every mystery I have made known to him in uprightness.
Additionally, in 3 Enoch 10:3-6 we are also told that “eight” other princes are “called YHWH by the name of their King,” and 3 Enoch 30:1 speaks of “the great princes who are called YHWH by the name of the Holy One.” In 3 Enoch 30:2 the question is asked: “How many princes are there? There are 72 princes of kingdoms in the world, not counting the Prince of the World”! Clearly, then, in Jewish literature in and around the time of Jesus and the apostles one could be “called YHWH” or even be considered a “lesser YHWH” without being equal to or “one in nature” with YHWH Himself (Posted by Greg Stafford on Tue – May 6, 2003 – 3:52pm: http://www.channelc.org/cgi-bin/eboard30/index.cgi).
While 4 Ezra dates to early in the 2nd Century, 3 Enoch is much later:
3 Enoch, or the Hebrew Apocalypse of Enoch, was supposedly written by Rabbi Ishmael the ‘high priest’ after his visionary ascension into heaven (d. 132 C.E.). Although it contains a few Greek and Latin loan words, there is no reason to suspect that the original language of 3 Enoch was anything other than Hebrew. Whereas some of the traditions of 3 Enoch may be traced back to the time of Rabbi Ishmael, and even earlier, the date of composition is probably closer to the fifth or sixth centuries. It was probably written in or near Babylon. (Evans, Noncanonical Writings and New Testament Interpretation (1992), p. 24)
Thus, if Stafford views a fifth-century text as valuable in determining Jewish theology circa 70 A.D., he can have no reasonable objection to one dating within 60 years of that date.
- Stafford takes exception to Trinitarians distinguishing Christ’s role in creation from the Father’s role, as opposed to saying God’s role, asserting that we are somehow pouring into these terms post-biblical language and concepts. In his response to Dr. James R. White, Stafford writes:
Having reviewed all the above points regarding John 1:1, it may be helpful to remind ourselves of White’s claim. He writes: “Stafford notes that God created all things through the Son (Hebrews 1:2), and writes, ‘Clearly, then, in context Hebrews 1:10-12 could not be teaching that Jesus is the Creator, for here, in the opening words to the Hebrews, it is clearly stated that God made all things “through” His Son’ (p. 48). This is circular argumentation, for it assumes that conclusion Stafford wishes to reach. It assumes unitarianism. The fact that the Son is differentiated from the Father is admitted by all. But unless one assumes that the term ‘God’ must always and only refer solely to the Father (unitarianism), the entire argument collapses” (The Forgotten Trinity, page 216, note 6)
You will note that my appeal is to the first part of Hebrews 1 where “God,” not simply “the Father,” is distinguished from the Son. Of course, White again substitutes the ontological term for the personal one, and this will be discussed again under point five. However, note how my argument is presented.
QUOTE FROM JWD1, pp. 48-49:
Clearly, then, in context Hebrews 1:10-12 could not be teaching that Jesus is the Creator, for here, in the opening words to the Hebrews, it is clearly stated that God made all things ‘through’ His Son. Since Jesus’ role in creation has already been discussed (Heb 1:3), it is not likely that in verses 10-12 the author would return to the same point he has explained earlier. It could be that these verses from Psalm 102 are appropriately applied to the Son of God in view of his being the preexistent Wisdom spoken of in Proverbs 8.
Note that I do not say, “Jesus cannot be the Creator because he is not the Creator”; rather, I refer to fact that “God” is the One who made the ages (epoiesen tous aionas) “through” (di’) the Son (Heb 1:2-3), who is here presented as distinct from Him. I then point out on page 51 that “the thrust of [Paul’s] message is to highlight Jesus’ immortality (deathlessness) since his resurrection by God. (Ro 6:9; Ga 1:1)”… (http://jehovah.to/exegesis/general/cri_review.htm; underlined emphasis ours)
Stafford states that Christ is being distinguished from God, not simply the Father, as if this somehow undermines Trinitarianism. As White correctly pointed out, unless one assumes that God must always refer to the Father then Stafford’s entire argument collapses. In context, the God who created all things through the Son is the Father and hence it is legitimate for Trinitarians to substitute the word Father for God here. In fact, we find inspired writers doing the same thing as in the case of the Apostle John:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God (een pros ton theon), and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God (pros ton theon).” John 1:1-2 English Standard Version (ESV)
Now contrast this with John’s first epistle:
“That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life-the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father (pros ton patera ) and was made manifest to us-that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.” 1 John 1:1-3 ESV
John had no problem substituting God with Father and neither do Trinitarians. Besides, the real issue is not whether Christ is being distinguished from God or the Father, but whether the NT teaches that Christ is God in the same sense and to the same degree as the God that he is with. If he is (and the NT data shows that he is), then the one true God is multipersonal since the plain biblical teaching is that there is only one ontological being that is God.
In order to deny this, Stafford assumes that the passages that distinguish God from Christ must be in terms of their being, that they are distinct ontologically not just in person. The problem with Stafford’s claim is that he hasn’t provided any solid biblical evidence to support this view. He cannot simply assume his conclusion and proceed to read this back into the passages which show that God and Christ are distinct and then derive his argument that the distinction is ontological in nature.
Stafford presumes that since distinct persons in the Holy Bible are also distinct beings, then the same applies to God. The problem with this argument is that it fails to take into consideration that God is unique in his existence and being, and that there is nothing in creation that is exactly like him:
“Among the gods there is none like you, O Lord; no deeds can compare with yours. All the nations you have made will come and worship before you, O Lord; they will bring glory to your name. For you are great and do marvelous deeds; you alone are God.” Psalm 86:8-10 NIV
“The heavens praise your wonders, O LORD, your faithfulness too, in the assembly of the holy ones. For who in the skies above can compare with the LORD? Who is like the LORD among the heavenly beings? In the council of the holy ones God is greatly feared; he is more awesome than all who surround him. O LORD God Almighty, who is like you? You are mighty, O LORD, and your faithfulness surrounds you.” Psalm 89:5-8 NIV
“Who is like the LORD our God, the One who sits enthroned on high, who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth?” Psalm 113:5-6 NIV
“Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens? Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket, or weighed the mountains on the scales and the hills in a balance? Who has understood the mind of the LORD, or instructed him as his counselor? Whom did the LORD consult to enlighten him, and who taught him the right way? Who was it that taught him knowledge or showed him the path of understanding? Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket; they are regarded as dust on the scales; he weighs the islands as though they were fine dust. Lebanon is not sufficient for altar fires, nor its animals enough for burnt offerings. Before him all the nations are as nothing; they are regarded by him as worthless and less than nothing. To whom, then, will you compare God? What image will you compare him to?” Isaiah 40:12-18 NIV
“‘To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?’ says the Holy One. Lift your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one, and calls them each by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.” Isaiah 40:25-26 NIV
“To whom will you liken me and make me equal, and compare me, that we may be alike?… remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me,” Isaiah 46:5, 9 ESV
“No one is like you, O LORD; you are great, and your name is mighty in power. Who should not revere you, O King of the nations? This is your due. Among all the wise men of the nations and in all their kingdoms, there is no one like you. They are all senseless and foolish; they are taught by worthless wooden idols. Hammered silver is brought from Tarshish and gold from Uphaz. What the craftsman and goldsmith have made is then dressed in blue and purple- all made by skilled workers. But the LORD is the true God; he is the living God, the eternal King. When he is angry, the earth trembles; the nations cannot endure his wrath.” Jeremiah 10:6-10 NIV
In light of the foregoing, Stafford’s argument that since rational creatures are one in person and in being, or that they are distinct in terms of their being as well as their persons, that this then somehow also applies to God is simply erroneous. If anything, the Trinity better fits the biblical depiction of God being different and distinct from rational creatures since there are no triune creatures in creation! God alone is Triune, demonstrating how truly and utterly unique he is in comparison with his creation.
- Stafford’s point that Psalm 102 is applied to Christ in view of his being the Wisdom of Proverbs is astonishing since Psalm 102 refers to the role Yahweh played in creation, not Wisdom! Unless Stafford wants to claim that Yahweh is also the Wisdom spoken of in Proverbs then it becomes clearly evident that Stafford’s post-biblical unitarian theology is guiding his exegesis of the passages in question. His unitarianism does not allow him to accept the plain teaching of the passages since he would be forced to accept Jesus as Yahweh God.
Besides, to say that Christ is both Yahweh God and the Wisdom of Yahweh poses no problem to the Trinitarian since Wisdom is an intrinsic aspect of God’s eternal being. Hence, for Jesus to be God’s own Wisdom proves that Christ is uncreated, and therefore God in the fullest sense of the term. Furthermore, since Jesus is not the Father or the Holy Spirit he can be the Wisdom of Yahweh since Yahweh here would refer to the Father. In other words, Christ is the Wisdom of the Father who is Yahweh God, while also being Yahweh at the same time since both the Father and the Son exist as the one true God.