Prayer to Jesus from “Did the First Christians Worship Jesus?” by J.D.G. Dunn

In the synoptic Gospels Jesus speaks on several occasions about praying (proseuchesthai), with the assumption that prayer is made to God [i.e., Mat 6.5-13/Luke 11.1-4]…

The less prominent term deesthai, ‘ask, request’ can be used both of requests to other individuals and of requests to God. In the narratives of Matthew, Mark and Luke we find both usages, with requests made to Jesus1 and Jesus talking of making requests to God.2

Another word with a similar range of usage is aitein, ‘to ask for’ [Mar 6.22-25; Matt. 27.20; Mar 15.43 pars.]…Presumably the request of James and John for the top seats in his glory falls into the same category (Mark 10.35-38). But Jesus also uses it of requests in prayer to God.3

John’s Gospel uses none of the common words for prayer (proseuchesthai, proseuche, deesthai, deesis)…[Jesus] repeatedly promises that whatever his disciples ask (aitein) in his name the Father will give them (15.16; 16.23-24), even promising that he (himself) will do whatever his disciples ask (aitein) in his name, ‘so that the Father may be glorified’ (14.13)And he adds, ‘if you ask me for anything in my name, I will do it’ (14.14). Requests to the Father in Jesus’ name are of a piece with requests to Jesus himself; the common factor is ‘in his name’. ‘In that day you will ask (erotan) the Father on your behalf; for the Father Himself loves you’ (16.26-27). If the disciples abide in him and his words abide in them they may ask (aitein) whatever they want and it will be done for them (15.7).

Elsewhere in the NT writings, ‘prayer’ as such (proseuchesthai, proseuche), explicitly or implicitly, is always made to God…in Acts 8.22, 24, where Simon is urged to ‘pray (deesthai) to the Lord’ that he might be forgiven; the reference to ‘the Lord’ is ambiguous.4 But deesis is used in the Epistles always for prayer; that is, prayer to God.

in the Epistles aitein is used almost exclusively in prayer contexts. For example, ‘I pray (aitoumai) that you may not lose heart over my sufferings’ (Eph 3.13); God ‘is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask (aitoumetha) or imagine’ (3.20); ‘we have not ceased praying (proseuchomenoi) for you and asking (aitoumenoi) that you may be filled with the knowledge of God’s will’ (Col 1.9[Jam 1.5-6; similarly 4.2-3; 1 John 5.14-16])…

In Acts and the Epistles [parakalein] regularly appears in the everyday sense of ‘urge, exhort [2Cor 1.3-7; 7.4-7, 13]…The only obvious case [of it] being used in a prayer context is 2Cor 12parakalein here is used in the sense of an appeal in prayer…to the Lord Jesus Christ. This can safely be concluded not only because ‘the Lord’ in Paul is almost always the Lord Jesus (apart from its occurrence in scriptural quotations)5but also because the grace and power that the one appealed to promises Paul in answer to his appeal is specifically identified as ‘the power of Christ’…Paul understood the exalted Christ as one who could be appealed to for help, a request or petition that can readily be understood as prayer.6

Another passage that calls for attention is [1Cor 16.22; cf. Rev. 22.20]. The fact that it appears in Aramaic strongly suggests that it had become a regular feature in early liturgies—rather like the continued use of the Aramaic ‘Abba, Father’ in the prayers of the Greek-speaking churches (Rom 8.15; Gal 4.6)…Yet perhaps we should recall that according to the Gospels, when Jesus cried out on the cross, some of the bystanders thought he was calling on (phonei) Elijah; that is calling for him to come and help him (Mark 15.35-36). Elijah, it should be remembered, had been taken to heaven…and there was a widespread expectation that he would return from heaven before the day of the Lord [Mal. 4.5; cf. Mark 6.15; 8.28; John 1.217]. However, we have no examples of appeals to Elijah being made in Second Temple Judaism for him to return or to help someone,8 though we should also recall Alan Segal’s observation that in Jewish mystical texts all kinds of angelic beings are invoked.9 [Yet, Jesus’ crucifixion] may provide evidence that the contemporaries of Jesus could well conceive of an appeal being made to one who had been transferred to heaven that he come (again) to earth.

To call upon Jesus (in prayer10) was evidently a defining and distinguishing feature of earliest Christian worship.

The most explicit prayer language is used exclusively of prayer to God. Jesus himself is remembered as regularly praying to God and giving instruction on prayer to God. With the less explicitly prayer language of ‘asking, requesting and appealing to’ the picture is somewhat different. Again, where it appears in prayer, the request is normally addressed to God. But in John’s Gospel repeated emphasis is placed by Jesus on his disciples’ future praying to God ‘in his [Jesus’] name’. Paul both appeals directly to Jesus for help from heaven and reflects a commonly used appeal for the Lord Christ to come (again) from heaven. And the earliest Christians are known as ‘those who call upon or invoke the name of Jesus’. If, speaking with tightly focused precision, ‘prayer’ as such was not usually made to Jesus in the worship of the first Christian congregations, at least he was regarded as one, sitting at God’s right hand, who could be and was called upon, and to whom appeal could be made.

Looking back over the first centuries of the Christian era, we may come to this conclusion: to judge from all that survives in documents and accounts of the Church’s life in this period, liturgical prayer, in regard to its form of address, keeps with considerable unanimity to the rule of turning to God (repeatedly described as the Father of Jesus Christ) through Christ the High Priest…It was not until the end of the fourth century that we meet by way of exception prayers to Christ the Lord, and these are not within the Eucharistic celebration proper, but in the pre-Mass and in Baptism. On the other hand we know that in private prayers, both in apostolic times and later, the prayer to Christ was well known and customary.” J.S. Jungmann, The Place of Christ in Liturgical Prayer (London: Chapman, 1965, pgs. 164-6).

This [quote] also reminds us that a more prominent theme in the NT is Jesus as the one who prays for his followers rather than the one prayed to…Hurtado notes that in the NT ‘any direct prayer or appeal to Christ is always to be framed by the sovereignty of the one God, and is in fact very limited in scope and frequency’ (Origins 104)…

[Another] important side to the question of whether Jesus was prayed to [is] the thought of Jesus as the heavenly intercessor [and his functioning as High Priest, Heb 7.24-25]…intermediary between God and humans [1Tim 2.5]…Christ can emphasize with and help those who come to God through him…Equally, indeed more, important for many of these Christians was the assurance that Jesus was praying for them. Here again we find ourselves with the two-sidedness of the first Christians’ esteem for Christ, both as the mediator between God and man, the one through whom they would come confidently to God, and as the one who was also conjoint with God in the worship [and prayers] they brought to God.



1 Luke 5.12; 8.28, 38; 9.38 (the same request made to the disciples—9.40).

2 Matt. 9.38/Luke 10.2; 21.36; 22.32 (Jesus makes a request on behalf of Simon Peter). The noun deesis is used exclusively of requests made to God (Luke 1.13; 2.37; 5.33).

3 Mark 11.24; Matt. 7.7-11/Luke 11.9-13; Matt. 6.8; 18.19.

4 …as in the other ‘Lord’ = God references in Acts, the influence of the OT usage suggests that Luke was thinking of worship [and prayer] to God.

5 19 times in the Pauline corpus…However…the OT eschatological expectations of ‘the day of the Lord’ seems to have become the Christian hope for ‘the day of our Lord Jesus Christ’ (1Cor 1.8; 2Cor 1.14)…in several instances Paul quotes an OT reference to the Lord (Yahweh) and refers it to the Lord Jesus Christ [Rom 10.9-13]…[this means] for Paul either that Jesus is Yahweh, or, more likely, that Yahweh has bestowed His own unique saving power on the Lord [Jesus] who sits on His right side, or that the exalted Jesus is himself the embodiment as well as the executive of that saving power…

[…if Ps 110.1 allows the concept of two Lords, the second given his plenipotentionary status by the first, then there is presumably no reason (why such passages) should not be referred to the second Lord…That God was understood to pass divine authority to others is indicated by the various individuals who were thought to play the role of heavenly judges—Adam & Abel (T. Abr. 11,13), Melchizedech (11QMelch 13-14), Enoch and Elijah (1 Enoch 90.31; Apoc. Elij. 24.11-15)—including the saints themselves (Matt. 19.28/Luke 22.30; 1Cor 6.2-3). Cf. Hurtado’s careful formulation: ‘Early Christians saw Jesus as the uniquely significant agent of the one God, and in their piety they extended the exclusivity of the one God to take in God’s uniquely important representative, while stoutly refusing to extend this exclusivity to any other figure’ (Lord Jesus Christ 204.)].

6 ‘Paul’s easy recounting of his actions suggests that he expects his readers to be familiar with prayer-appeals to Jesus as a communally accepted feature of Christian devotional practice [1Cor 1.2] (Hurtado, Origins 75).

7 …we should stress that there is no thought of Elijah being worshipped [or prayed to] in any of these accounts. But again the precedence for the belief that Jesus had been exalted to share in heavenly glory should not be ignored.

8 Hurtado, Origins 77.

9 In common Greek epikaleisthai is regularly used of calling upon a deity [BDAG, 373. Alan Segal, ‘Paul’s “SOMA PNEUMATIKON” and the Worship of Jesus’, in Newman, et al. (eds.), Jewish Roots 258-76, notes that the terminology is characteristic both of pagan magic and of Jewish mystical texts: ‘In the Hekhaloth texts, all kinds of angelic beings are invoked with the terminology’ (274)…the motif of angelic intercessors was already familiar within Second Temple Judaism [e.g., Job 33.23-26; Tobit 12.15; 1 Enoch 9.3; 15.2; 99.3; 104.1; T. Levi 3.5; 5.6-7; T. Dan 6.2].

10 Cf. “call upon”, Acts 7.59; 9.14, 21; 22.16; Rom 10.12,14; 1Cor 1.2; 2Tim 2.22. This defining feature of these early Christians…marked them out from others who ‘called upon (the name of)’ some other deity or heavenly being…’Jesus’ cultic presence and power clearly operate here in the manner we otherwise associate with a god’ (Hurtado, Origins 80).

The Prophetic Pre-existence of the Messiah by Robert Hach

The question of the so-called “preexistence” of the Messiah is not settled by a biblically-informed rejection of the doctrine of the Trinity. That the Messiah existed before his birth is clear from many NT texts. In what sense, or form, he existed remains a question insofar as it continues to be a matter of debate among those who believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, while refusing to embrace the extra-biblical identification of Jesus as the Trinitarian “God the Son.” Regarding the “preexistence” of the Messiah, the options can be termed personal pre-existence, that is, that prior to his birth, the Son existed in some other-than-human form, and prophetic pre-existence (the option for which I argue in this paper).

Undeniable, I think, is the fact that the very term preexistence is a product of the post-apostolic debate that gave birth to Trinitarian theology. While it is possible to reject the Trinity as a non-biblical formulation and a post-apostolic invention while, at the same time, retaining the doctrine of the personal pre-existence of the Messiah, it is not possible to trace any term that might be translated as pre-existence back to apostolic times.

The Athanasian-Arian debate that was decided at the Council of Nicea in 325 C.E. seems to have been the cradle out of which emerged the terminology of pre-existence, which only afterward became enshrined in Christian theology.

The term that, in my view, serves as the biblical equivalent of pre-existence is foreknowledge. The NT claim that the Messiah “was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times” (1 Pet. 1:20) is sufficient, in my view, to explain every NT text in which the concept of pre-existence is found.

To say that God the Father foreknew the Son “before the foundation of the world” is to say that the Son existed in the purpose of the Father from “the beginning” in the form of “the word” (John 1:1, ‘and the word was God’ in the sense not that “the word” was part of God’s being but that “the word” was, thereafter, the revelatory form which God used to mediate his presence and purpose to his people and to the world).

No textual necessity for interpreting “the word” (Greek, ho logos) as a person (or a Person) exists in the prologue of John’s Gospel. (The Greek pronoun, autos, is susceptible to either the neuter [“it”] or the masculine [“he”] rendering, depending on what the context makes the more likely.) The NT writers uniformly use “the word” to refer to the gospel, that is, the message spoken by and about Jesus. For the NT writers, “the word” is the message about the fulfillment in Jesus the Messiah of the biblical God’s purpose in Adam and promise to Abraham.

When “the word became flesh” (John 1:14), God’s Adamic purpose and Abrahamic promise became God’s Messianic person. That is to say, the Son existed in the form, first, of God’s purpose and, then, of God’s promise before he existed in the form of the person of Jesus.

The biblical concept of foreknowledge is not compatible with the concept of personal pre-existence. If the Son existed as a person from “the beginning,” how was his existence a matter of God’s foreknowledge? That God foreknew the Messiah would seem to preclude the possibility that God also knew him in some pre-existent other-than-human form. Rather than God having both foreknown the coming Messiah and known the pre-existent Son at the same time (though in presumably two radically different personal forms), God’s foreknowledge and his knowledge of his Messiah-Son were one and the same. This is the case in the sense that, from a biblical standpoint, what (or whom) God foreknew is what God knew as a foreordained reality before it came to pass in human history. (This has nothing in common with Calvinistic predestination, which asserts that God has foreknown and foreordained all that has ever happened or will ever happen; by comparison, biblical predestination is confined to what God purposed in Adam and, subsequently, promised to Abraham and, therefore, has fulfilled and will fulfill in his Son and Messiah Jesus.)

God’s foreknowledge of the Messiah, then, is the biblical alternative to the doctrine of personal pre-existence. Biblical foreknowledge is, in the terminology of pre-existence, best represented in terms of prophetic pre-existence. That is to say, the existence of the Messiah was, prior to his birth, a matter of prophecy. And, from a biblical standpoint, to believe that God had made a promise, conveyed by the words of the prophets (that is, in the form of prophecy), was to believe that what God had promised (and, therefore, previously purposed) had been an inevitable reality from the instant God purposed it. (The literary rhetorical term for this figure of speech is prolepsis: to speak of a future event as a present reality; in the case of “the word,” however, prolepsis becomes far more than a mere figure of speech in that it is a matter of God’s righteousness—that is, faithfulnessthat what he has promised will inevitably come to pass and, therefore, can be spoken of as a present reality.)

This is consistent with the NT definition of faith: “Now faith is the reality [Greek, hupostasis] of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). The existence of the Messiah was a reality of faitha reality in the eyes of God, that is to say, a prophetic reality—from its “beginning” as “the word” (John 1:1). The Messiah’s existence passed from a reality of faith (“the reality of things hoped for”) to a reality of fact when “the word became flesh” (John 1:14) in the person of Jesus.

Nothing about this idea is alien to the biblical testimony; in fact, the idea of foreknowledge-as-prophetic-pre-existence is rooted in the Hebrew prophetic tradition. When God promised to make Abraham “the father of many nations” (Gen. 17:5), Paul pointed out that God spoke as if the promise had created a present reality—“as it is written, ‘I have made [not ‘will make’] you the father of many nations’”—and then calls God the one who “calls into existence the things that do not exist” (Rom. 4:17). Literally rendered, Paul wrote that God calls things not being as being. Which is to say that what the biblical God spoke in the form of a promisehaving already been foreknown and, therefore, foreordained (that is, predestined) according to his purpose (see Rom. 8:29)was a prophetic reality long before the promise was fulfilled, from the instant that the promise was made. Accordingly, Abraham was “the father of many nations” in faith, that is, prophetically, long before he became so in fact. Likewise, the Son existedand, further, was crucified and resurrected and exaltedin faith, that is, prophetically, long before he existed in fact, that is, personally.

Accordingly, when John’s Jesus asks the Father to “glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed” (John 17:5), he speaks of “the glory” that God had purposed in “the beginning” to manifest in the crucifixion and resurrection of the Messiah. This is clear in that Jesus asks the Father to “glorify me . . . with the glory that I had with you”: the very same “glory” that the Father and the Son shared “before the world existed” would now be manifested in Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. Not a “glory” that was manifested then (to whom?) and another “glory” that would be manifested now in his crucifixion and resurrection. Rather, the Son asks the Father to “glorify” him now in fact and in person “with the glory that I had with you” in faith and in prophecy from “the beginning” (John 1:1). Which is to say that Jesus’ prayer to the Father was a prayer of faith, arising out of what Jesus believed the Father to have purposed and promised regarding his Messiah.

Only if the Messiah is understood to have been (as he is invariably and consistently affirmed to have been by the NT writers) a fully human beingone whose person originated in his mother’s womb—can his proclamation of the word and his crucifixion by the world be understood as the manifestation of his faith in the promise of God. Otherwise, when John’s Jesus speaks of his “glory” with the Father, he speaks not out of his faith in “the word” (John 1:1; 3:31-34), through which God revealed his destiny to him, but out of a god-like memory of an extra-human pre-existence.

(Noteworthy in this regard is the fact that precisely the same construction in the original language for “the faith of Abraham” [Rom. 4:16] appears in multiple Pauline texts regarding faith and Jesus: Rom. 3:22, 26; Gal. 2:16, 20; 3:22; Phil. 3:9. Each of these texts is best understood as contrasting “works of law” with the “faith of” Jesus as the condition of his followers’ righteousness, just as “the faith of Abraham” [Rom. 4:16] rather than his works was the condition of Abraham’s righteousness. The fact that English NT versions almost invariably render these texts in terms of “faith in” rather than the “faith of” Jesus may be indicative of their Trinitarian bias. A Trinitarian “God the Son” would have had no need for faith. Neither, however, would a Son who could recall a pre-existence as a god like spirit being.)

The NT writers’ insistence on Jesus’ humanity, and their testimony to his faith in the promise of God, must call into question any interpretation of so-called pre-existence texts that would cast doubt on either his exclusive humanity or his faith. The concept of personal pre-existence requires that, prior to his conception (laying aside the question of how a pre-existent being could be said to have been conceived) and birth, the Son must have been some-other-than-human-kind-of-being who would not have fit into any biblical category of beingneither God nor human nor angel (at least according to Hebrews 1) nor nonhuman animal. Such a god-like spirit being that the Son is believed to have been prior to his birth (?) in the person of Jesus, if he existed, did not begin as a human being but somehow “morphed” into humanity in the process of transitioning through the womb of Mary. (The question here is not whether or not God could have created such a being but whether or not the NT writers are best understood as testifying that God did so.)

If this is the case, the NT writers seem to have seen no need to name or explain this unique kind of being. Instead, they were content to repeatedly claim and affirm that he was a fully human being. For the NT writers, the Messiah’s uniqueness was not that he was a one-of-a-kind other-than-human being before he was human. To the contrary, for them, the uniqueness of the Messiah was that he was a one-of-a-kind human being (whose resurrection, according to the NT writers, makes him the prototype for the new humanity of the coming age).

That he was “the firstborn of all creation” (Col. 1:15) identifies Jesus not as a pre-existent person but as the one who was purposed from the beginning to inherit (according to Hebrew tradition, the right of the firstborn son) all things from the Father (see Matt. 28:18; Eph. 1:22; Phil. 2:9-11; etc.). That God created “all things . . . in [Greek, en, in other texts not usually rendered ‘by’] him” and “through him and for him” (Col. 1:16) does not make him the co-Creator but, rather, means that “the word” that purposed and later promised his coming was the blueprint and the instrument and the rationale for God’s creation (which, after all, agrees with the testimony of Genesis 1 that the biblical God spoke his creation into existence).

When Jesus was created in the womb of his mother by the power of God, “the word became flesh” (John 1:14) in that God’s promise to send his Messiah to deliver God’s people from sin and death through his proclamation of the kingdom, crucifixion for sins, resurrection from the dead, and exaltation to God’s side (that is, “the word”) was fulfilled (that is, “became flesh”).

The biblical concept of foreknowledge establishes the prophetic pre-existence of the Son in the Adamic purpose and, subsequently, in the Abrahamic promise of God. Moreover, biblical foreknowledge provides a reasonable and sufficient

biblical paradigm for interpreting each of the NT texts that are used by both Trinitarian and some non-Trinitarian believers to support the personal pre existence of the Son. Given that this is the case, the burden of proof would seem to rest with those who insist that the Son existed as some-other-than-human-kind-of being in heaven before he existed as a human being on earth.

CSI “Begetting”: Mistranslations, corruptions and bias on the origin of the Son

For those who came in late, the title of this study takes after those popular crime shows on television which are involved in Crime Scene Investigation cases of all kinds. The Bible is riddled with them. As we will see, these are crimes that have been committed by people not only in the past but also in the present. The evidence will show that these people continue to commit violence to texts which millions of people around the world consider as ‘holy writ’.  This article will take on the ‘episodic’ style of those shows, in an effort not only to uncover the biblical crime scene, but to investigate and resolve the issues at hand. 


There is strong evidence to support our first case dealing with those texts associated with the “begetting” of the Son of God, “the man Messiah Jesus” [1Tim 2.5]. As the evidence will show, there is a strong case to be made that very early in the transmission of the NT letters, people at times sought to obscure and, in some extreme cases, totally remove evidence that clearly relates to the reader the unique creation by God of His Son. Not in some “time before time” [as the Catholic/Protestant creeds suggest], but in a small Jewish village near Jerusalem some 2 000+ years ago.

2Sam 7.14

Ps 2.7 [Mat 3.17; 17.5; Mar 1.11; Luke 3.22; 9.35; Acts 13.33; Heb 1.5; 5.5; 2Pe 1.17-18]

Ps 40.6 [MT]; [39.7, LXX; Heb 10.6, NT]: “Heb ‘ears you hollowed out for me.’ The meaning of this odd expression is debated (this is the only collocation of “hollowed out” and “ears” in the OT). It may have been an idiomatic expression referring to making a point clear to a listener.” NET Bible Online

Dr. Kennicott has a very ingenious conjecture here: he supposes that the Septuagint and apostle express the meaning of the words as they stood in the copy from which the Greek translation was made; and that the present Hebrew text is corrupted in the word אזנים oznayim, ears, which has been written through carelessness for אז גוה [body]…On this supposition the ancient copy translated by the Septuagint, and followed by the apostle, must have read the text thus: ‘Then a body thou hast prepared me’: thus the Hebrew text, the version of the Septuagint, and the apostle, will agree in what is known to be an indisputable fact in Christianity; namely, that Christ was incarnated for the sin of the world.

The Ethiopic has nearly the same reading: the Arabic has both, “A body hast thou prepared me, and mine ears thou hast opened.” But the Syriac, the Chaldee, and the Vulgate, agree with the present Hebrew text; and none of the MSS. collated by Kennicott and De Rossi have any various reading on the disputed words.” Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible

The reading soma de [a body] could be either a case of an interpretative translation of the Hebrew idiom, which was subsequently corrected in the revisions of Aquila, Theodotian, and Symmachus to read stia [ear], in conformity with the Hebrew text.1 Alternatively, the original stia [ear], chosen by the Gottingen Septuagint as the lectio difficilior, might have evolved to read soma [body] as result of corruption in the transmission of the Greek text.

Textual evidence suggests that the reading soma [body] and not stia [ear] was more likely to have been the text in the Author’s Vorlage. This variant also provides a more plausible explanation of the development of the other variant. The Septuagintal reading obviously is more conducive to a Christological interpretation than the Hebrew parallel text.2

the application of this Scripture to the Incarnation of Christ is directly provided by the Septuagint of Ps. 39 LXX [40 MT].” R. Gheorghita, The Role of the Septuagint in Hebrews, pp. 48-49, 2003.

The Greek version cannot well be explained as representing a variant or corrupted Hebrew reading;3 it is rather an interpretative paraphrase of the Hebrew text. The Greek translator evidently regarded the Hebrew wording as an instance of pars pro toto [(taking) a part for the whole]; the “digging” or hollowing out of the ears is part of the total work of fashioning a human body.4 Accordingly he [Hebrews writer] rendered it in terms which express totum pro parte [(taking) the whole for the part]. The body which was “fashioned” for the speaker by God is given back to God as a “living sacrifice”, to be employed in obedient service to him.

But if our author had preferred the Hebrew wording, it would have served his purpose almost as well, for in addition to reminding him and his readers of the psalm from which it was taken, it might have reminded them also of the Isaianic Servant’s language in the third Servant Song [Isa 50.4f.].” F. F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews, p 240, 1990.

The early Christians understood the psalm as messianic prophecy, vv. 6-8 are quoted in Heb 10.5-7 in the LXX version where the somewhat curious Hebrew ‘ears you have dug for me’ (NRSV ‘you have given me an open ear’) is replaced by ‘you have prepared a body for me’, which was taken to be a reference to the incarnation. The origin of the LXX phrase is uncertain; it may have been internal Greek corruption (the Gk. Words for ‘ears’ and ‘body’ are not too dissimilar, but could hardly have been confused except in a damaged MS) or a part of the body (‘ears’) may have been taken to represent the whole.” J. Barton, J. Muddiman, The Oxford Bible Commentary, p 379, 2001.

Ps 110.3 [MT]; Ps 109.3 [LXX]“…the clause LXX Ps. 109:3 [“I have begotten thee from the womb before the morning”, Brenton] is comparable to Ps. 2:7ab.b [MT/LXX]… LXX Ps. 109:3 is easier to read and comprehend than the MT counterpart… The idea, then, is that it reflects a Hebrew Vorlage that depicts Yahweh’s giving birth in a way comparable to Ps. 2:7. Moreover, the difficult MT, on the contrary, assumed to be the result of a corruption.”5

“…refers to the king’s divine adoption (see on Ps 2), although the text of verse 3 is obscure and poorly preserved… Verse 3 would be sort of poetic commentary of Ps 2:7.”6

“…the LXX translation is rather surprising [, though it could be] justified as free renderings of the Hebrew… Ps 110.3 is never explicitly cited in the NT period. It was not until Justin took it up in the middle of the second century AD (Dial. 63.37; 76.78) that it began to be used as a prophecy of Christ’s pre-existence.”9

The interpretation of this verse is so uncertain that it cannot be given a place of importance…the problem is complicated by extensive corruption [mutilation] of the text of Ps 110, especially v. 3. Rowley has stated the matter thus: the MT text is certainly not in its original form; the textual difficulties are so great as to render restoration impossible.10

For the MT’s “Your youth” several MSS, HO, LXX and Syriac appear to have read, “I have begotten you.” MT’s form is rare, occurring only in Eccles 11.9 [the consonants without the vowels]; while LXX’s reading is identical with that of Ps 2.7 in both MT and the Versionsmany recent commentators have preferred the LXX’s variation.11

In the light of the Versions of Ps 110.3 and of other texts examined in the present study, a conception of God’s “begetting” the Messiah need not be regarded as a later messianic interpretation of royal psalms; the conception was taken over intact from the earlier psalms.

The king is “begotten” or “brought forth”, by God; he becomes God’s son, receiving thereby the special status and powers of one in close relationship to God and in the capacity of standing for or representing the people before God.”12

“In Ps 110:3 the ‘I have begotten you’ was probably in the original but owing to the corruption of the Hebrew text, not perhaps unintentional, these words had no influence in Judaism.” TDNT, Vol. 1, p. 668

Mat 1.1, 18: Some early scribes who were uncomfortable with “genesis” (“engendering”) changed it to “gennesis (“birth”). Textual critic Bart Ehrman explains why.

Both genesis and gennesis can mean ‘birth’, so that either one could be appropriate in the context. But unlike the corrupted reading, genesis can also mean ‘creation’, ‘beginning’ and ‘origination’. When one now asks why scribes might take umbrage at Matthew’s description of the genesis of Jesus Christ, the answer immediately suggests itself: the original text could well be taken to imply that this is the moment in which Jesus Christ comes into [existence]. In point of fact, there is nothing in Matthew’s narrative, either here or elsewhere throughout the Gospel, to suggest that he knew or subscribed to the notion that Christ had existed prior to his birth.”13

Mat 1.20: Of the 96 times the Greek word gennaö appears in the New Testament, this is the only place where it has been rendered ‘conceived’. That should tell us something. ‘Conceived’ is not the intended meaning of the original Greek.

According to A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament by Bauer, Arndt and Gingrich, gennaö means ‘to beget — literally to become the father of’ as in Matthew 1:2-16 and Acts 7:8, 29

Fenton’s translation says the conception was ‘produced by the Holy Spirit’. Rotherham’s translation says, ‘the source of the pregnancy being the Holy Spirit’. William’s translation renders the passage, ‘for it is through the influence of the Holy Spirit that she has become an expectant mother’. You could substitute the word ‘produced’ with ‘caused’, ‘generated’, ‘brought forth’ or ‘begotten’ and the meaning would still be the same. Gennaö refers here to the action of the Holy Spirit in producing or causing the conception. Gennaö does not mean ‘conception’ in this verse any more than it means ‘quarrels’ in 2 Timothy 2:23.

Contrary to what some have thought, Strong’s dictionary does not say gennaö means conceived. Strong says the word gennaö means ‘to procreate (properly of the father, but by extension the mother); fig. to regenerate’. That’s where the definition ends. Strong goes on to cite the various ways the King James translators render gennaö. But a rendering is not a definition.”14

Similarly the Word Study Dictionary comments above regarding the word gennao, Matthew’s use of words “with a temporal notion” [i.e. genesis] has long “troubled theologians”. 

Luke 1.35

According to the IVP Bible Background Commentary, Luke1.31follows the typical Old Testament structure for a divine birth announcement15. The story echoes the miraculous accounts of the patriarch Isaac, whose parents were too old to conceive [Gen 21], and Samson, whose story closely parallels that of Jesus [Judg. 13]:

The point of [Luke] 1:36–37 is that God, who acted for Elizabeth as he did for Sarah, could still do anything (Gen 18:12–15).”16

Luke 3.22:“Instead of “You are my one dear Son; in you I take great delight,” 1 Greek ms and several Latin mss and church fathers (D it Ju [Cl] Meth Hil Aug) quote Ps 2:7 outright…But the weight of the ms testimony is against this reading.” NET Bible Online

What many fail to see when it comes to the belief of “the Son…before the incarnation”, are the clear Gnostic-pagan overtones that this introduces to the biblical text. As many scholars note, “what we find in Matthew and Luke is not the story of some sort of sacred marriage (hieros gamos) or a divine being [“the Son”] descending to earth…in the guise of a man…but rather the story of a miraculous conception without aid of any man, divine or otherwise…As such this story is without precedent either in Jewish or pagan literature, even including the OT (Machen).”17

(This biblical fact regarding Jesus’ uniqueness [monogenes] also speaks against “the straw man argument” used against those who do not belief in this doctrine, accusing their opponents of making the Son a “mere man”.18)

Note the technical words used to describe “the holy child to be born”. The first is the word tikto, variously translated “to bring forth, give birth”. This word is related to another that is often used in reference to the Son, prototokos [“firstborn”] related to gennao [“cause to exist”] and used synonymously with ginomai [“come into existence”]. The latter introduces us to dio kai in Luke1.35, describing the how the Son is miraculously created by God through His spirit [“for this reason precisely”]. This explains why throughout the rest of the NT Jesus is identified by both spiritual beings [the Devil, Mat 4.3] and humans [the Baptist; Nathaniel, John 1.34; 49] as the unique Sonof God.

John 1.13:

John 1.18:“The earliest manuscripts say the only God (using the same word for “only” as 1:14, meaning “unique, one-of-a-kind”). John refers to two different persons here as “God,” as he did in v. 1. John concludes the prologue by emphasizing what he taught in v. 1: Jesus as the Word is God, and he has revealed and explained God to humanity.” ESV

1 John 5.18: “He who was born of God is a reference to Jesus Christ, who in his physical birth was “born of God” in that he was sent from God the Father and was conceived by the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35) and in his resurrection from the dead was “born of God” in that he was brought back to life (Col. 1:18).” ESV

Acts 13.33 [“raised up Jesus”]: “[The word gennao in Ps 2.7] is used of the act of God in the birth of Christ, Acts 13:33; Heb. 1:5; 5:5, quoted from Psalm 2:7, none of which indicate that Christ became the Son of God at His birth.” Vine’s Expository Dictionary of the NT

Heb 1.5: today I have begotten you. A poetic expression reflecting the unique relationship of the Son to God Almighty (see further Heb. 1:6); this speaks of entering into a new phase of that Father-Son relationship and should not be pressed to suggest that the Son once did not exist (he has begotten the already living Son “today”). ESV

Heb 1.6: Let all God’s angels worship him. Since only God is worthy of worship (Ex. 20:3–5; Isa. 42:8; Matt. 4:10; Rev. 19:10; 22:9), this is further evidence of the Son’s full deity. ESV

Heb 10.6: a body have you prepared for me. The esv translates the corresponding phrase in Ps. 40:6 as, “you have given me an open ear.” Literally, the Masoretic (Hb.) text reads, “ears you have dug for me” (Ps. 40:7–9MT). The Hebrew metaphor has been understood by the Septuagint translators (Ps. 39:7–9 lxx) and by the writer of Hebrews to indicate the physical creation of a person’s body. (NT quotations of OT texts are not always precise; NT authors often reword them or adapt them to suit their own purposes, yet always in a way that is compatible with their original meaning.) ESV


1 Attirdge, Hebrews; Bruce, Hebrews; Lane, Hebrews.

2 Karen H. Jobes argues unconvincingly that the reading stia [ear] in the Author’s Vorlage was modified to read soma [body] on rhetorical considerations, “Rhetorical Achievements in the Hebrews 10 ‘Misquote’ of Ps 40”, Biblica 72 (1991) 388.

3 As though MT ‘oznayim, “ears”, were a corruption of ‘az gawah, “then a body” (B. Kennitcott). Neither can soma be satisfactorily explained as due to a corruption in the transmission of the LXX, as though it replaced an earlier stia (“ears”), as has been suggested, e.g., by F. Bleek, G. Lunemann, and A. Kuyper. J. Moffat says: “Whether stia was corrupted into soma, or whether the latter was an independent translation, is of no moment” (ICC, ad loc.); true enough, but that it is a corruption is, as F. Delitzsch rightly says (ad loc.), “highly improbable”. (Aquila, Theodotian, and Symmachus, with Origen’s Quinta and Sexta, and some late LXX editions, read stia, by way of conformity to the MT.)

4There is no ground for relating Ps. 40:6 to the boring of the servant’s ear in Ex. 21:6; Deut 15:17.

5 Gard Granerod, Abraham and Melchizedek: Scribal Activity of Second Temple Times in Genesis 14 and Psalm 110, pp 177-78, 2010.

6 L. Sabouring, The Psalms, their Origin and Meaning, pp 360-61, 1969.

7“Trypho said, ‘This point has been proved to me forcibly, and by many arguments, my friend. It remains, then, to prove that He submitted to become man by the Virgin, according to the will of His Father’…I answered, ‘This, too, has been already demonstrated by me in the previously quoted words of the prophecies…what is said by David, ‘In the splendours of Thy holiness have I begotten Thee from the womb, before the morning star’…does this not declare to you that [He was] from of old, and that the God and Father of all things intended Him to be begotten by a human womb?…Therefore these words testify explicitly that He is witnessed to by Him who established these things, as deserving to be worshipped, as God and as Christ.”

8 “David predicted that He would be born from the womb before sun and moon, according to the Father’s will, and made Him known, being Christ, as God strong and to be worshipped.”

9 Dunn, Christology in the Making, pp. 70-75, 1992.

10 Festschrift Alfred Bertholet, Tubingen, 1950, pp. 469-70, n.3. Eerdmans comments: “All translations are little more than presumptions”—op. cit. 501f. Ringgren, however, suggests that “even the MT might be intelligible without changes”: The Messiah in the Old Testament, London, 1956, p.14. Johnson’s reconstruction also follows the consonantal text of the Hebrew: op. cit., pp. 121ff.

11 Inter alia: Mowinckel, T.C. Vriezen, Johnson, Widengren.

12 Cooke, Gerald. ‘The Israelite King as Son of God.’ ZAW 73 (1961): pp 218-225.

13 Ehrman, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, p 75-76, 1993.

14 Gene Nouhan, The Meaning of Gennao in Matthew 1.20.

15 Keener, Craig S.: The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament. Intervarsity, 1993, S. Lk 1:31

16Ibid. S. Lk 1:36.

17 Green, Joel B.; McKnight, Scot; Marshall, I. Howard: Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. Intervarsity, 1992, S. 70.

18See further One God & One Lord, Graeser, Lynn, Shoenheit, 2003.

The Right to Heresy: Castellio against Calvin

By Stefan Zweig

Translated by Eden and Cedar Paul

Cassell and Company Ltd. 1936

Chapter Five:

The Murder of Servetus

(pgs. 140-165)

For some months after his escape from prison, Servetus vanished without leaving a trace. It is unlikely that we shall ever learn what suffer­ings the hunted man endured until that August day when, upon a hired hack, he rode into Geneva, and put up at the Rose. Nor are we likely to find out why Servetus, prompted by an evil star (“malis auspiciis appulsus“), should have sought refuge in Geneva. Was it his inten­tion to stay one night, and continue his flight by taking boat across the lake? Did lie perhaps expect to concili­ate his greatest enemy at a personal interview, since cor­respondence was unavailing? Or, perhaps, was his journey to Geneva one of those foolish actions character­istic of invalids whose nerves are overstrained; one of the pleasurable toyings with danger not infrequent in persons whose situation is desperate? We do not know; prob­ably we never shall know. None of the official reports of what happened in Geneva explains why Servetus came to the place where he could only expect the worst from Calvin.

But the unhappy fugitive did something even more foolish, more challenging. Almost immediately after his arrival, on the same Sunday morning, August 13, Servetus attended service at the cathedral of St. Pierre, where the whole Calvinist congregation was assembled, and where Calvin was to preach, Calvin, who could recognize Servetus, because the two had been students together long before in Paris. No reasonable explanation of such conduct is possible, save that some mysterious compulsion, a fascination like that which brings a serpent’s victims to their doom, must have been at work.

It was inevitable, in a town where everyone spied on everyone else, that a stranger should be the cynosure of all eyes. What ensued was likewise inevitable. Calvin reorganized the ravening wolf among his pious flock, and unconspiciously gave orders to his minions. Servetus was arrested as he left the cathedral. Within an hour the fugitive was in chains. This arrest was a breach of international law, and also of the laws of hospitality generally accepted throughout the world. Servetus was not subject to Genevese jurisdiction,, unless for an offence committed d in that city. He was a foreigner, a Spaniard, who had only just arrived, and who had committed no crime which could justify his seizure. His books had been mm, -n and printed across the frontier, so that his heretical views could not have harmed any of the pious Geneses. Besides, a “preacher of God’s word” had no right to order a man to be arrested and chained when no charge had been brought, and when no trial had taken place. From whatever angle we regard the matter. Calvin’s seizure of Servetus was an outrageous exercise of dicta­torial power, which, in its open contempt of laws and treaties, can only be compared to Napoleon’s arrest and murder of the Due d’Enghien. In this case, as in that, the arrest was to be followed, not by a properly constituted trial, but by an illegal homicide.

Servetus was arrested and thrown into prison with­out any charge having been brought against him. Surely then a charge must subsequently be invented? Would it not be logical to expect that the, man who had insti­gated the arrest—”me auctore”, “at toy instigation” is Calvin’s own admission—should himself come forward as Servetus’s accuser? But the laws of Geneva were ex­emplary, and gave little encouragement to informers. They prescribed that any burgher who accused another of a crime should himself be arrested, and should be kept in prison until he had justified his accusation. Calvin, therefore, if he accused Servetus, would have to place himself at the disposal of the court. The theocratic dictator of Geneva did not relish the prospect. He would be in an unfortunate position if the Town Council were to declare Servetus not guilty, and if he himself were to remain under arrest for having brought an un­justifiable charge. What a blow that would be to his prestige, and what a triumph for his adversary. Calvin, diplomatic as ever, assigned to his secretary—or cook­—Nicolaus de la Fontaine, the thankless task of accuser. The worthy Nicolaus went quietly to prison instead of his master, after he had handed the authorities an indict­ment consisting of twenty-three points (a document com­piled, of course, by Calvin). Such was the comedy which served as curtain-raiser to a horrible tragedy. After a gross breach of law, the affair was given a legal complexion. Servetus was examined, and the various counts of the indictment were read aloud to him. His answers were calm and shrewd, for his energies had not yet been undermined by long imprisonment. Point by point, he rejected the accusations. For instance, in answer to the charge that he had attacked Calvin in his writings, Servetus declared this to be erroneous, for the attack had opened on Calvin’s side, and all that he, Servetus, had done was to reply that Calvin was not infallible. If Calvin accused him of obstinately sticking to, slain theses, he could rejoin that Calvin was no less stubborn. All that was at odds between Calvin and himself was a difference of opinion about certain theological matters, with which a secular court had no concern; and it Calvin had nevertheless arrested him, this had been the outcome of spite. The leader of Protestantism had denounced him to the Inquisition, and if this preacher of God’s word had had his way, he (Servetus) would have been burned long ago.

The legality of Servetus’s contentions was so indubit­able that the prevailing mood of the Council was very much in his favour, and it seemed likely that there would be no harsher decision than the issue of an order for deportation. Calvin, however, got wind of the fact that things were going well for Servetus, and he feared that in the end his victim might give him the slip. On August 17th, the dictator appeared before the Town Council and took a line which made an end of the pretence of non-participation. He showed his colours, no longer denying that he was Servetus’s accuser; and he begged leave of the Council to attend the proceedings henceforward, on the pretext that “thus the accused could be better convinced of his errors“. Calvin’s real reason obviously was the wish ‘to throw his whole in­fluence into the scale in order to prevent his victim’s escape.

From the moment when Calvin autocratically thrust himself in between the accused and the judges, Servetus’s cause was lost. Calvin, a trained logician and learned jurist, was much more competent to press home the charge than his servant de la Fontaine had been; and Servetus’s confidence was shaken. The Spaniard was obviously unmanned now that his enemy sat among the judges, cold, severe, making a pretence of dispassionate­ness, as he asked one question after another-but, as Servetus felt in the marrow of his bones, moved by an iron determination to send the accused to doom. The defenseless man grew irritable, nervous, aggressive, bitter, and wrathful. Instead of tranquilly sticking to his legal standpoint, instead of insisting that as a foreigner he was not subject to Genevese jurisdiction unless he had broken the laws of the town, he allowed Calvin to entice him on to the treacherous ground of theological discussion, thus giving abundant justification for the charge of heresy. For even one of his contentions, such as that the devil likewise was part of the substance of God, sufficed to make the pious councilors shudder. But as soon as his philosophical vanity had been affronted, Servetus showed no restraint in the expressions he used about the thorniest and most dangerous problems, forgetting that the councilors were not able theologians before whom he could unconcernedly expound the truth. His very eloquence, his eagerness for discussion, made Servetus suspect to his judges. More and more they inclined to Calvin’s view, that this foreigner, who, with gleaming eyes and clenched fists, railed against the do brines of their Church, must be a dangerous disturber of the spiritual peace, and was probably an incurable heretic. Anyhow it was a good thing that he was being, objected to thorough examination. The court decided that he should remain Under arrest, while his accuser, Nicolaus de la Fountain, was to be set at liberty. Calvin had got his way and wrote joyfully to a friend : ” I hope he will be condemned to death.”

Why was Calvin so eager to obtain a capital sentence upon Servetus? Why was he not satisfied with the more modest triumph of having his adversary expelled the country, or humiliated in some similar way? Calvin did not detest Servetus more than he detested Castellio, and everyone who defied his authority. He loathed all those who tried to teach others in a different way from that which he advocated, such a detestation being instinc­tive in a man of his tyrannical disposition. So here, if he was particularly enraged against Servetus and wished to take extreme measures at this particular moment, his motives were not private but political. The rebel against his authority, this Miguel Servetus, was to be the scape­goat for another opponent of Calvin’s orthodoxy, the sometime Dominican monk, Hieronymus Bolsec, whom he had also tried to destroy as a heretic, and who, greatly to his annoyance, had escaped’. Bolsec, generally respected as family doctor to the leading patricians in Geneva, had openly attacked the weakest and most vul­nerable point of Calvin’s teaching, the rigid doctrine of predestination, using the argument which Erasmus had used against Luther. It was impossible, declared both these “heretics “, that God, as the principle of all good, could wittingly and willingly impel human beings to perform their worst deeds. Everyone knows how in­furiated Luther was by Erasmus’s reasoning; and what a flood of abuse the most noted champion of the Reformation, this master of coarse invective, let loose against the elderly sage. Still, rough, ill-tempered, and violent as Luther was, he nevertheless adduced logical considerations against Erasmus, and never thought of having Erasmus haled before a secular court for challenging the doctrine of predestination. Calvin, with his mania of infallibility, regarded and treated every adver­sary as a heretic, objection to his religious doctrine being for him equivalent to a crime against the State. Instead, therefore, of answering Bolsec with theological argu­ments, he had his critic clapped into gaol.

Unexpectedly, however, his attempt to make a terrible (sample of Hieronymus Bolsec was a failure. There were too many in Geneva who knew the learned physician to be a god-fearing man; and, just as in the Castellio affair, so also in that of Bolsee, Calvin’s behavior aroused the suspicion that he desired to rid himself of one who was not completely subject to his will, that he might reign hence toward alone in Geneva. Bolsec’s plaint penned while in prison, passed from hand to hand in numerous manuscript copies; and, despite Calvin’s clamours, the Town Council was afraid of condemning the prisoner for heresy. To evade this painful decision, they declared themselves incompetent to deal with religious matters, and refused to transcend their powers by adjudicating in a theological affair. At any rate, the councilors declared, in this thorny question they must demand the formal opinion of 1b. t h t Reformed Churches of Switzerland. This demand was Bolsec’s salvation, for the Reformed Churches of Zurich, Berne, and Basle-being, under the rose, ready enough to give their fanatical colleague in Geneva a set-back-unanimously declined to regard Bolsec’s utterances as blasphemous. The accused was acquitted by the Town Council; Calvin was refused his victim, and had to content himself with the municipal authority’s decree that Bolsec should leave the town.

Nothing but a new and successful charge of heresy could make people forget that Calvin’s theological supremacy had been successfully impugned. A victory over Servetus must compensate the dictator for his failure to make an end of Bolsec and against Servetus the chances of success were enormously more favourable. Servetus was a foreigner. He had not, like Castellio and Bolsec, many friends, admirers, and helpers in Geneva. Besides, the reformed clergy everywhere had for years been outraged by his bold attacks on the Trinity and by his challenging ways. It would be much easier to make an example of this outsider who had no backing. From the first, the trial was pre-eminently political; was a question of whether Calvin was or was not to rule; was a tug of war to show whether he would be able to enforce his will as spiritual dictator. If Calvin had wanted nothing more than to rid himself of Servetus as a private and theological adversary, he could have done so easily enough. Hardly had the Geneva inquiry opened, when an envoy from the French judicial authorities arrived, to demand the handing over to Vienna of a refugee already sentenced in France, where the scaffold was ready for him. What a splendid opportunity for Calvin to play the magnanimous, and nevertheless to rid himself of this hated adversary. The Town Council of Geneva need merely approve the extradition, and, as far as Geneva was concerned, the tiresome affair of Servetus would be over and done with. For centuries the odium of con­demning and burning this independent thinker would attach to the Catholic Inquisition. Calvin, however, opposed extradition. For him, Servetus was not a sub­ject, but an object, with whose aid lie would give an indubitable demonstration of the inviolability of his own doctrine. Servetus was to be a symbol, not a man. The French emissary, therefore, was sent back unsatisfied. the Protestant dictator intended to have the trial carried through under his own jurisdiction, that all and sundry might be convinced how disastrous it was to contradict Maitre Calvin.

Calvin’s friends in Geneva, as well as his enemies, were not slow to realize that the Servetus case was noth­ing more than a test of the dictator’s power. Naturally, therefore, friends as well as foes did what they could to prevent Calvin’s getting his way. To the rival groups of politicians, the unhappy Servetus was nothing more than an instrument, a crowbar with which the tyrant could, p chaps, be unseated. Little did any of them care whether this crowbar would break in their hands. Those who were most friendly to Servetus, did their protégé a very bad turn, for the false reports they circulated served only to increase Servetus’s hysterical exaltation; and their secret missives to the prisoner urging the latter to stiffen his resistance could not fail to work mischief. All that interested them was to make the trial as sensational as possible. The more Servetus defended himself, the more rabid his onslaught on Calvin, the better.

Really, alas, there was no need to incite Servetus to fill the cup of his heedlessness. The hardships of his long imprisonment inflamed the wrath of a man already prone to neurotic frenzy, since, as Calvin could not but know, Servetus had been treated with refined harshness. For weeks, though in his own eyes he was innocent, lie was kept like a condemned murderer in a cold and damp cell, with irons on hands and feet. His clothes hung in rags upon his freezing body; he was not provided with a change of linen. The most primitive demands of hygiene were disregarded. No one might tender him the slightest assistance. In his bitter need, Servetus petitioned the Council for more humane treatment, writ­ing: “Fleas are devouring me; my shoes are torn to pieces; I have nothing clean to wear “.

A secret hand (we cannot but guess whose hand it was that gave the screw-press another turn) interfered when the Council proposed to better Servetus’s lot. The up­shot was that this bold thinker and independent scholar was left to languish in his cell as a mangy dog might have been left to die upon a dunghill. Still more lament­able were the cries of distress uttered in a second letter, dated a few weeks later, when the prisoner was, literally, being suffocated in his own excrement. “I beg of you, for the love of Christ, not to refuse me what you would give to a Turk or a criminal. Nothing has been done to fulfill your orders that I should be kept clean. I am in a more pitiful condition than ever. It is abominably cruel that I should be given no chance of attending to my bodily needs.”

Still, nothing was done! Can we be surprised that when, once more, he was brought into court out of his befouled lair, he should explode with fury? This man in irons, clad in stinking rags, was confronted by his arch-­adversary on the judge’s seat; by Calvin, wearing a spruce, black gown, calm and cool, thoroughly prepared for the I ray after a good rest; by Calvin with whom the prisoner now wished to discuss matters, mind against mind, –polar against scholar; by Calvin, who reviled Servetus as .1 criminal and an assassin? Was it not inevitable that Servetus, teased by the basest and most malicious questions and insinuations relating to the most private affairs of his sexual life, angered and tormented, should lose his self-control, and answer the outrageous queries with invectives, should rail coarsely against his accuser? Servetus was wearied beyond endurance by sleepless nights. Now the man to whom he owed so much inhuman treatment had to listen to a volley of abuse.

Do you deny that you are an assassin? I will prove it by your actions. As regards myself, I confide in the justice of my cause and am not afraid of death. But you scream like a blind man in the desert, because the passion for vengeance burns in your heart. You lied, you lied, ignorant calumniator that you are. Wrath boils up within you when you are hounding any one to death. Would that all your magic were still hidden away within your mother’s womb, so that I could have a chance to recount your errors.”

In this outburst of wrath, the unhappy Servetus for­got the powerlessness of his position. His chains clank­ing, foaming at the mouth, he demanded of the Council, of his judges, that, instead of condemning him, they should pass sentence upon Calvin the law-breaker, upon the Genevese dictator.

“Magician that he is, you should not only find him guilty and sentence him, but should banish him from your city, while his property should be made over to me in compensation for mine, which, through him, I have lost.”

It need hardly be said that the worthy councilors were horrified at such words and at the spectacle before them; that of a lean, pallid, emaciated man, with a tangled beard, who, with glowing eyes and speaking foreigner’s French, hurled abominable accusations at their Christian leader. They could not but consider him a man possessed, a man driven by the promptings of Satan.

From hearing to hearing, their feelings towards him grew more and more unfavorable. Really the trial was over, and nothing left but to condemn the accused. But Calvin’s masked enemies wanted the affair to be long drawn out, still doing their utmost to deprive the dictator of the triumph he would secure from the condemnation of his adversary. Once more they did their utmost to save Servetus, arranging, as in Bolsec’s ease, to secure the opinion of the other Swiss Reformed synods, actuated by the secret hope that in this instance, likewise, the victim 4 Calvin’s dogmatism would be torn from the zealot’s dews.

Calvin, however, was only too well aware that his authority was shaken and might fall. It was essential for him to avoid a second reverse. He took measures accordingly, dispatching, while his victim still rotted in prison, missive after missive to the synods of Zurich, Basle, Berne, and Schaffhausen, to influence the opinions of these bodies. Messengers were speeded to all points of the compass; friends were set in motion to warn his colleagues against helping so wicked a blasphemer to escape judgment. He was aided in his machinations by the fact that Servetus was known to be a disturber of the iii-logical peace, and that since the days of Zwingli and Bucer, the “impudent Spaniard” had been loathed throughout Protestant Europe. The result was that the Swiss synods unanimously pronounced Servetus’s views to be erroneous and wicked. Even though not one of the four religious communities frankly demanded or even approved capital punishment, they nevertheless endorsed on principle any severe measures that might be taken.

Zurich wrote: “We leave it to your wisdom to decide how this man should be punished “. Berne answered that the judges in Geneva should “borrow the spirit of wisdom and strength “, so that their Church and the other Swiss Churches should be well served, and they should all be freed “from this plague”. Still, the reference to settling the matter by violence was weakened by the exhortation: “We trust that you will decide to act in such a way as to do nothing which might seem unbecoming to Christian municipal authorities”. Not one of those whose counsel Calvin sought, ventured openly to urge the passing of a death sentence. Never­theless, since the Churches had approved the legal pro­ceedings against Servetus, Calvin felt they would also approve the inevitable sequel; for, by their studied am­biguity, they left him a free hand. Whenever Calvin’s hand was free, it struck hard and resolutely. Vainly now did those who secretly desired to help Servetus, endeavour at the last hour, when the opinions of the synods had been sent in, to try to avert the doom. Perrin and other republicans proposed an appeal to the Council of Two Hundred, the supreme authority. But it was too late; even Calvin’s opponents felt it would be perilous to resist. On October 26th, by a majority vote of the Small Council sitting as High Court of Criminal Justice, Ser­vetus was sentenced to be burned alive, this cruel verdict to take effect next day on the plateau of Champel.

Week after week, Servetus, shut away from the outer world, had indulged in extravagant hopes. He was a highly imaginative man; he had been yet more disordered by the whisperings of his alleged friends, and he clung more and more desperately to the illusion that he had convinced his judges of the soundness of his theses; so lie felt assured that within a few days Calvin, the usurper, would be shamefully expelled from Geneva. How terrible was his awakening, when, with an inscrutable expression, the secretary of the Council entered his cell early in the morning of the 27th and ceremoniously un­rolled a parchment to read the sentence. Servetus was thunderstruck. He listened as if unable to understand the words which informed him that this day he was to be burned alive as a blasphemer. For a few minutes be stood as if deaf and unconscious. Then the unhappy man’s nerves gave way. He began to sob and to groan, until at length in his Spanish mother-tongue he cried aloud: “Misericordias!” His arrogance gave way before these terrible tidings. Crushed, almost annihilated, he succumbed to overwhelming discouragement. The domineering preachers, likewise a prey to illusion, believed that the hour had come in which, after gaining a secular triumph over Servetus, they would gain a spiritual triumph as well, that despair would wring from the prisoner a voluntary avowal of error.

Yet, marvelously enough, as soon as the poor, broken wretch was asked to repudiate his theses, as soon as his innermost faith was challenged, his pride flamed up anew. If his body was to be burned, his body was to be burned; but he would not abate a little of  his beliefs; and during the last hours the knight errant of science rose to the stature of a martyr and hero of conviction. Though Farel hastened over from Lausanne to share in Calvin’s triumph, Servetus contemptuously rejected Farel’s promptings, declaring that a secular legal decision could never be accepted as proof of a man’s rightness or wrongness in divine concerns. You might murder a man without convincing him. His mind had not been convicted of error, though his body was to be put to death. Neither by threats nor by promises, could Farel extract from the chained and doomed victim as much as a word of recanta­tion. Still, since he held firmly to his conviction that he was no heretic but a believing Christian whose duty it was to reconcile himself even with the fiercest of his enemies, Servetus expressed a wish to see Calvin.

The only report of Calvin’s visit is Calvin’s own. Dead men tell no tales. Calvin’s report of Calvin’s be­haviour admirably discloses Calvin’s rigidity and harsh­ness. The triumphant dictator came down into the victim’s cold, dank, and dark cell, not to offer consola­tion, not to say a brotherly or Christian word of kindness to him who was about to die in torment. Quietly, in the most matter of fact way, Calvin opened the conversa­tion by asking why Servetus had summoned him. Plainly he expected Servetus to kneel, to urge from the almighty dictator a cancelment, or at least a mitigation of the sen­tence. Servetus answered simply, so that anyone with a human heart in his breast must be touched by the record that his only object in sending for Calvin had been to beg forgiveness. The victim offered reconciliation to the inquisitor who had sent him to his doom. Cal­vin, however, stony of visage, could never regard a political and religious opponent as either a Christian or a man.

Read the words of his frigid report:

“My only answer was to say that I had never (this being the truth) regarded him with personal animus.”

Calvin could not or would not understand the eminently peaceful nature of Servetus’s last gesture. There could, said Calvin, be no reconciliation between him and Servetus. The latter must cease thinking of his own person, and frankly acknowledge his errors, his sinfulness towards God, whose trinitarian nature the condemned man had denied. Wittingly or unwittingly the ideologist in Calvin refused to recognize as a man and a brother this poor wretch, who that day would be committed like a worthless billet to the flames. As a rigid dogmatist, he could see in Servetus nothing more than one who had rejected his (Calvin’s) conception of God, and thus had denied God. The only use Calvin wanted to make of his dictatorial power was to extract from Servetus during these last hours the avowal that Servetus was wrong and Calvin right. Since, however, Servetus recognized that this iron zealot wanted to deprive him of the only thing still left alive in his wasted body, that which the prisoner regarded as the immortal part of him -his faith, his conviction-Servetus stubbornly resisted, and resolutely refused to make the cowardly avowal. He had voluntarily declared his willingness to become reconciled with his adversary, man to man, Christian to Christian; but nothing would induce him, whose life was counted by minutes, to sacrifice the convictions to whose advocacy he had devoted a lifetime. The attempt at conversion failed. To Calvin it seemed that further speech was needless. One who in religious matters would not unhesitatingly comply with Calvin’s will, was no longer Calvin’s brother in Christ, but, only one of Satan’s brood, a sinner on whom friendly words would be wasted. Why show a trace of kindness to a heretic? Calvin turned away leaving his victim without a syllable and without a friendly glance. Here are the words with which this fanatical accuser closes his report, words which condemn him for all eternity: “Since I could achieve nothing by argument and warning, I did not wish to be wiser than my Master. I followed the rule laid down by St. Paul, and withdrew from the heretic who had passed judgment on himself “.

Death at the stake by roasting with a slow fire is the most agonizing of all modes of execution. Even the Middle Ages, famous for cruelty, seldom carried out this punishment to an extremity. In most cases those sentenced to such a fate were not left to the mercy of the flames. They were strangled, or benumbed in some way. But this abominable death had been decreed for the first heretic sentenced to it by Protestants; and we can well understand that Calvin, when a cry of indignation rose from the humane persons still left in the world, would endeavor, long afterwards, very long afterwards, to shuffle off the responsibility for the exceptional cruelty of Servetus’s execution. He and the other members of the Consistory, so he tells us years after Servetus’s body had been reduced to ashes, tried to secure that the sentence of death by slow fire should be commuted into the milder one of death by the sword. Their labors had been in vain. (”Genus mortis conati sumus mutare, sed frustra.”) In the minutes of the Council, we cannot find a word about such frustrated endeavors and what unprejudiced person will believe that Calvin who, throughout the trial, had IoW the screw upon the Council to pass a death sentence on Servetus, and had gained his end, should have suddenly become no more than an uninfluential private citizen in Geneva, and should have been unable to ensure a more merciful method of execution? As far as the latter e. concerned it is true that Calvin had contemplated a mitigation of the sentence-but only if Servetus were to purchase this mitigation by a spiritual sacrifice, by a last hour recantation. Not from human kindliness, but from crude political calculation, Calvin would then, for the first time in his life, have shown himself gentle to an adversary. What a triumph it would have been for Genevese doctrine, if Servetus just before going to the stake, had admitted himself to be wrong and Calvin to be right. What a victory to have compelled the Spanish blasphemer to acknowledge that he was not dying on behalf of his own doctrine, but must admit before the whole population that Calvin’s was the only true doctrine in the world.

Servetus, however, knew the price he would have to pay for any concession. Stubbornness was faced by stubbornness, fanaticism by fanaticism. He would rather die in unspeakable torment on behalf of his convictions than secure a more merciful death to favour the dogmas of Maitre Jehan Calvin. He would rather suffer agonies for half an hour, winning thereby the crown of martyr­dom, and attaching to Calvin for all time the stigma of utter barbarism. Servetus bluntly refused to comply, rallying his forces to endure his awful fate.

The rest is a tale of horror. On October 27th, at eleven in the morning, the prisoner was brought out of prison in his befouled rags. He was looking his last, with blinking eyes, at the light of day. His beard tangled, his visage dirty and wasted, his chains rattling, he tottered as he walked, and his ashen tint was ghastly on that clear autumn day. In front of the steps of the Town Hall, the officers of the law, having hustled him along (since weeks of inaction had almost robbed him of the power of walking), thrust him on to his knees. With lowered head, he listened to the sentence, which a syndic now read aloud to the assembled populace. It ended with the words : ” We condemn thee, Miguel Servetus, to be con­veyed in bonds to Champel, there to be burned alive, and with thee the manuscript of thy book and the printed volume, until thy body is consumed to ashes. Thus shalt thou end thy days, as a warning to all others who might wish to repeat thine offence.”

The doomed man’s teeth chattered with cold as he listened. In his extremity, he crawled on his knees nearer to the municipal authorities, assembled on the steps, and implored that by their grace he might be decapitated before his body was burned, “lest the agony should drive me to repudiate the convictions of a lifetime “. If he had sinned, he went on, it had been unwittingly; for he had always been impelled by the one thought of promot­ing the divine honour.

At this moment, Farel pushed between the judges and the kneeling man. In a voice that could be heard far and wide, he asked whether Servetus was prepared to denounce the teaching he had directed against the Trinity, and thus to secure the boon of a milder form of execution.

Servetus, however, though in most respects he was but a mediocre man, contemptuously rejected this offer, thus showing his moral greatness, his willingness to fulfill his pledge, his determination to suffer the worst on behalf of his convictions.

Now the procession moved on towards the place of execution. It was led by the lord lieutenant and his deputy, wearing the insignia of their rank and sur­rounded by a guard of archers. The crowd, eager for sensation, followed. All the way across the city, past numerous affrighted and silent spectators, Farel clung to the side of the condemned man, keeping step with Servetus, whom he continually asked for an acknowledg­ment of error and for repudiation of false doctrine. When Servetus, with genuine piety, answered that, though he was being put to death unjustly, he neverthe­less implored God to be merciful’ to his accuser, Farel replied with dogmatic wrath:” What? After having committed the most abominable sin, do you still try to justify it? If you remain obstinate I shall leave you to God’s judgment, and shall go no farther beside you, although I had determined not to leave you before you should draw your last breath.” Servetus made no further reply. He was nauseated by the executioners and the disputatious theologians, and would not vouchsafe them another word. Unceasingly this alleged heretic and atheist murmured, as if for his own comfort: “0 God, save my soul, 0 Jesus, Son of the Eternal God, have pity on me.” Then uplifting his voice, he begged all present to pray with him and for him. On reaching the place of execution, within sight of the stake, he kneeled once more to collect his thoughts in pious meditation. But the fanatical Farel, fearing lest this pure-hearted demeanor of a reputed heretic might make an impres­sion upon the people, cried to them over the head of the condemned: ” You see what power Satan possesses when he has a man in his claws ! This fellow is most learned, and believed himself to be acting rightly. But now he is in Satan’s grip and the like may happen to any of you.

Meanwhile the loathsome preparations were begun. The wood was piled round the stake to which the clank­ing chains had been nailed. The executioner bound the victim’s hands. Then Farel, for the last time, pressed nearer to Servetus, who was only sighing, ” 0 God, my God “, and shouted fiercely : ” Have you nothing more to say? ” The contentious pastor still hoped that the sight of the post where he was to endure martyrdom would convince Servetus that the Calvinist faith was the only true one. But Servetus answered: ” What else can I do than call on God?”

The disappointed Farel quitted his victim. Now it only remained for the other executioner, the official one, to perform his hateful task. The chains attached to the stake were wound four or five times around it and around the poor wretch’s wasted body. Between this and the chains, the executioner’s assistants then inserted the book and the manuscript which Servetus had sent to Calvin under seal to ask Calvin’s fraternal opinion upon it. Finally, in scorn, there was pressed upon the martyr’s brow a crown of leaves impregnated with sulphur. The preliminaries were over. The executioner kindled the faggots and the murder began.

When the flames rose around him, Servetus uttered so dreadful a cry that many of the onlookers turned their eyes away from the pitiful sight. Soon the smoke inter­posed a veil in front of the writhing body, but the yells of agony grew louder and louder, until at length came an imploring scream : ” Jesus, Son of the everlasting God, have pity on me! ” The struggle with death lasted half an hour. Then the flames abated, the smoke dispersed, and attached to the blackened stake there remained, above the glowing embers, a black, sickening, charred mass, a loathsome jelly, which had lost human semblance. What had once been a thinking earthly creature, passion­ately straining towards the eternal, what had been a breathing fragment of the divine soul, was now reduced to a vestige so offensive, so repulsive, that surely the sight of it might have made even Calvin aware how inhuman had been his conduct in arrogating to himself the right of becoming judge and slayer of one of his brethren.

But where was Calvin in this fearful hour? Either to show himself disinterested or else to spare his nerves from shock, he had remained at home. He was in his study, windows closed, having left to the executioner and to Farel (a coarser brute than himself) the odious task of witnessing the execution. So long as no more was needed than to track down an innocent man, to accuse him, browbeat him, and bring him to the stake, Calvin had been an indefatigable leader. But in the hour of performance, he left matters to Farel and the paid assist­ants, while he himself, the man who had really willed and commanded this “pious murder”, kept discreetly aloof. Next Sunday, however, clad in his black cassock, he entered the pulpit to boast of the deed before a silent con­gregation, declaring it to have been a great deed and a just one, although he had not dared to watch the pitiful spectacle.

A Response to… Lane Tipton’s Christology in Colossians 1:15-20 and Hebrews 1:1-4: An Exercise in Biblico-Systematic Theology By Patrick Navas

In his Christology in Colossians 1:15-20 and Hebrews 1:1-4, Professor of Systematic Theology Lane Tipton attempts to “exegete” the meaning of two New Testament texts in connection with the post-biblical doctrinal formulas of Nicea, Chalcedon, and the Westminster Confession of Faith. Tipton’s stated goal is, in fact, not only to correct contemporary theological positions that “deviate” from what he regards as “biblical teaching,” but also those that depart from, in Tipton’s words, “Reformed confessional orthodoxy.”

The first question that came to my own mind was, if Tipton wants to correct views on the Christian faith he believes to be in error, then why not focus on points that deviate from “biblical teaching” exclusively, where the original Christian teachings are not only found but fully expressed? Why the concern about “deviations” from “Reformed confessional orthodoxy,” something that neither Jesus nor his apostles could have made reference to? If our true goal is to conform our beliefs to the word of Christ and his apostles (not merely human traditions and doctrinal formulas), why can’t we—as Christ’s followers and as adherents of the apostolic tradition—just stick to the “creeds” and “confessions of faith” already present in the inspired scriptural accounts and concern ourselves with positions that deviate from these?

In any case, Tipton goes on to point out what is, in his mind, the ideal expression of “Biblico-systematic theology,” an “exegetical discipline” that he believes will harmonize with his “Reformed” doctrinal tradition, a tradition that must be ‘militantly defended.’ As Tipton states,

Biblico-systematic theology, at its best, is an exegetical discipline regulated by the sole authority of the inscripturated Word of God and militant in its defense of Reformed orthodoxy.

The problem, in my view, is that Tipton seems to almost equate “the authority of the inscripturated Word of God” with his own “Reformed orthodoxy,” as if they were one and the same, or as if “the authority of the inscripturated Word of God” some how needed “Reformed orthodoxy” to clarify its teachings—when, as I will attempt to show below, “Reformed orthodoxy” unfortunately goes beyond the authoritative statements of Scripture and misrepresents what is revealed there in the process.

Let us now consider the actual words of Hebrews 1:1-4. I will present some straightforward observations regarding critical points in the text that Tipton seems to overlook, along with an ongoing commentary on Tipton’s Trinitarian “exegesis.” The opening verse in the book of Hebrews states:

In the past God spoke to our forefathers at many times and in various ways through the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us through a Son…

In the opening verse the author announces that “God” has spoken in various ways in the past through “the prophets,” but, at the end of these days, has spoken to us through “a Son.” That is, the introductory verse itself—which sets the tone for everything that follows—plainly presents “God” and the “Son” as two distinct figures, just as “God” is a distinct figure from “the prophets” through whom He spoke in the past. Since “the prophets” were not “God” but the ones “through” (literally ‘in’) whom “God” once spoke, there is no reason at all to think that the “Son” is “God” but that he is, as the text states, the one “through/in” whom “God” has spoken in the last days.

There is, in fact, no logical reason why the notion that Jesus is “God” would even come up into the consciousness of any reader at this point, especially those in the first century who had no knowledge of Trinitarian doctrine or of “Reformed confessional orthodoxy.”

…whom [God] appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the ages…

Here the “Son” is not identified as the “God” who spoke long ago but as the one whom this “God” has “appointed heir of all things,” in harmony with an ideal ‘Father-Son’ relationship. Likewise, the “Son” is not presented as the “eternal” possessor of “all things” because of his so-called “ontic status” as “the eternal, second person of the Trinity,” but as God’s “Son” who has been “appointed” by God to be “heir of all things.” In other words, the Son has what he has in this text (‘all things’), not by “nature” or “ontological right,” but by “inheritance” as the beloved Son of his Father.

The movement of the chiasm, then, is from preexistence understood economically in 2c (i.e., with regard to the economy of creation) to preexistence understood ontologically in 3a-b (i.e., with regard to the deity of the Son and his coequality with God the Father). The movement is quite natural. An immediate level of explanation regarding the Son’s role with respect to creation is his essential deity and coequality with the Father (i.e., the homoousios).

The ‘Son’s role with respect to creation in Hebrews’ is, clearly, an intermediary one. That is, the Son is not depicted as the maker of the “ages” but the one ‘through/in’ whom “God” has made the ages. In this verse, the “Son” is not “God” himself, since “God” is the one who made the ages “through” him—a very basic, non-controversial point.

[The ‘Son’] is the radiance/reflection of [God’s] glory and the exact representation of his very being…

Here, in full harmony with the above observations, the Son is described as the “radiance” or “reflection” of another’s glory, namely, that of the “God” of the Hebrew forefathers. Indeed, the “Son” is the “exact representation (charakter)” of this God’s “very being (hupostaseos).”

Three points need to be kept in mind in light of Tipton’s foregoing ‘exegesis’: (1) The text does not identify the Son as ‘God’ but presents him as distinct from ‘God’ as God’s perfect representative—the “exact representation of [God’s] very being.” (2) It should really go without saying that, if someone is “the exact representation” “reproduction” of God’s “being,” then that someone is not “God” but “the exact representation/reproduction of God’s being.” (3) The text says nothing about the Son’s “coequality with God the Father,” nothing about his “essential deity,” and nothing about him as “homoousios” with the Father (meaning ‘of the same substance/being’).

Considering what was actually written in Hebrews, it is difficult to understand why the notion that the Son is ‘God,’ or that he is ‘of the same substance/being’ as the Father, even comes up, since 1:3 explicitly tells us that the Son is the “exact representation” of “[God’s] being,” not that he is (or that he is of) the same ‘being’ as Him. The “consubstantial/of the same being” concept can only enter the picture, of course, when one imports it from a source outside the text itself, particularly the doctrinal formula of Nicea (325CE).

To put it another way, according to the clear language of the text, the Son is an exact “representation” or “reproduction” of someone else’s being, namely, God’s being; yet, in Trinitarianism, God’s ‘being’ and the Son’s ‘being’ are the same ‘being’ (one ‘being’ shared by multiple ‘persons’). But the first-century text itself completely rules out the need to even bring up a fourth-century concept like “of the same being (homoousious),” since it already tells us that the Son is a “copy” or “representation” of God’s being, not an “eternal partaker” in it (in line with Trinitarian thought).

“D and D [Heb. 1:3a and Heb. 1:3b]’, when properly understood, therefore express the glory and deity that belong to the eternal Son of God prior to and apart from any economic activity at all. In this sense, then, the revelatory and redemptive works of Jesus Christ—his eschatological significance in redemptive history—derives ultimately from his eternal ontic status as the Son of God.”

Yet nothing in this text, or any other place in Scripture for that mater, tells us that Jesus ever possessed an “eternal ontic status” or “deity” as “the eternal Son of God.” In other words, Tipton’s argument never even gets off the ground, scripturally speaking. The theological premise Tipton appeals to does not even appear in the New Testament.

“The relative pronoun hos, followed by the present participle on, denotes timeless dimension to the Son’s status.”

The pronoun hos (who), followed by on (being), says nothing about the “timeless dimension of the Son’s status,” as if the author of Hebrews is articulating the Son’s status as an “eternal” person (without beginning). The meaning is simply that “he,” the Son, “exists as…” In other words, this is what he is, or what he is existing as—namely, the reflection of God’s glory and the exact representation of God’s being.

…sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

If the reference to the “all things” the Son sustains by his “powerful word” is to be understood as “the universe” (ESV) or ‘all created things,’ the Son clearly sustains these by his powerful word, not as “God” (Heb. 1:1), but as God’s “Son” who has inherited “all things” by God’s appointment (Heb. 1:3). It should be noted, likewise, that the Son is not identified as the “Majesty in heaven” himself, namely, as “God” (Heb. 1:1), but as one who has “sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven,” an honor that has been conferred upon the Son by God, according to the Scriptures. That is to say, the Son enjoys the position he has at the “right hand of the majesty on high” (= ‘the right hand of God,’ Acts 2:33; Rom. 8:34) because God has “highly exalted him,” due to his obedient life and sacrificial death (Phil. 2:5-11).

So He has become as much superior to the angels as the name he has inherited is superior to theirs. The next verse clearly reveals that the Son “has become superior” to the angels since the name he has “inherited” is “superior” or “more excellent than theirs.” According to the clear teaching of the New Testament, the Son achieved his exalted status because of the name (and corresponding authority/power/honor/position) God has “given” to him—again, due to his “obedience” to God to the point of death, a death which resulted in “purification for sins” (Phil. 2:8; Heb. 1:3).

“Hebrews 1:3a offers a virtual ascription of Isaiah 42:8 to the Son of God. The effulgence of the glory of the Lord God, which will not be shared with another, is essential to the identity of the eternal Son of God.”

Hebrews 1:3 does not offer “a virtual ascription of Isaiah 42:8 to the Son of God.” Hebrews 1:3 says that the Son is the “radiance” or “reflection” of “[God’s] glory.” Isaiah 42:8 records God as saying: “I am Jehovah; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.” What “virtual ascription” is to be found when comparing these two texts?

Isaiah 42:8 is not even a text that presents an attribute of God that can be ascribed to another, like Jesus or anyone else. It is simply a statement made by God to the effect that “Jehovah” is his name and that he will not give his “glory” to another. And Isaiah 42:8 does not exactly speak of the “the effulgence of the glory of the Lord God,” but simply of the “glory” that God will not give to another, particularly glory in connection with “praise” to a lifeless “carved idol.”

It appears that Tipton tries to argue the point that, since God said that he would not share his “glory” with another (Isaiah 42:8), yet the Son ‘radiates’ the “glory” of God, that this should somehow lead us, theologically speaking, to believe that the Son must be “coequal/consubstantial” with the Father as a second member of the “Godhead.” Yet there is, in truth, no logical or scriptural necessity in drawing such a far-fetched, anachronistic theological conclusion.

That is to say, scripturally speaking, the Son does not have to be “God,” “eternal,” or “consubstantial with the Father,” in order for him to “radiate/reflect” the glory of God. In fact, in order for the Son to radiate or reflect the glory of God, he has to be someone other than “God” for the statement to even make sense. Even the glory that the Son is said to possess in other texts is the “glory” that was “given” to him by God, not a “glory” possessed by him as an alleged “eternal, second ‘person’ of the Trinity.” The fact that the Son has “glory” or that he ‘radiates’ the glory of God neither leads us into a Trinitarian doctrine of the Son, nor does it somehow contradict Isaiah 42:8. In other words, we do not have to conclude from the fact that ‘glory’ is ascribed to the Son in Scripture that this somehow makes him “God” or “coequal with the Father.”

In reference to his disciples, Jesus said to his Father, “The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one” (John 17:22). In this example, even the disciples are “given” the “glory” that God has “given” to the Son; and, according to Jesus, they can even participate in the unity or “oneness” characterized by the Father-Son relationship (‘that they [the disciples] may be one even as we [the Father and Son] are one’). This, of course, does not make the disciples “coeternal with the Father” as members of a so-called “Godhead,” and neither does the “glory” possessed by the disciples make them part of a “Godhead” either, even though God explicitly declared that he would not share his glory with another (Isaiah 42:8).

God’s unwillingness to share his glory with others, in the context of Isaiah, clearly speaks to how God will not share glory with a rival or competing god, particularly a man-made “idol.” From a biblical perspective, however, God gladly confers ‘glory’ upon those who serve him and carry out his will/purpose, as in the case of his “beloved Son” and all of God’s faithful “children” (Compare Psalm 8:5; Luke 2:32; Acts 3:13 ; Romans 8:17, 21, 30; 9:4; Hebrews 2:10; 1 Peter 5:1, 4, 10).

Hebrews 1:3 does not identify the Son as Jehovah (‘the God’ of the ‘fathers’), nor does it say or somehow imply that the Son is an “eternal” member of Jehovah’s “Godhead.” The text does clearly indicate that the Son “radiates” or “reflects” the glory of Jehovah (the ‘God’ who ‘spoke through the prophets,’ including the prophet Isaiah), something that is completely appropriate for God’s Son to do as “the exact representation of [God’s] very being.” By speaking for God and by performing God’s will perfectly (‘obedience’ to God ‘to the point of death’ Phil. 2:8), the Son not only perfectly ‘represents’ God but ‘radiates’ and ‘reflects’ the glory of God like no other.

“…if we take them in a theological, Trinitarian sense, then the first phrase expresses the essential unity of the Godhead by reason of the identity of the Father and the Son; we cannot think of the Son without the Father; and the second phrase indicates the result, namely, the likeness of the Son to the Father. In theological language, then, the expression the effulgence of his glory assures us of the Son’s being homoousios with the Father, and the expression the very image of his substance assures the Son’s being the monogenese of the Father.”

In one sense, Tipton is right. If the statements in Hebrews 1:3 are taken in a latter, “theological, Trinitarian sense,” then any Reformed theologian could attempt to superimpose a concept of the Son’s alleged “essential unity” and “homoousios” with the Father onto the text. If, however, we take the statements as they stand, according to the language used, then the phrases express how the Son is one who ‘reflects’ the glory of God (someone the Son is distinct from) and how he is a perfect “reproduction” of God’s being, as is fitting for a true and ideal “Son” like Jesus to be. And, if we understand the unity between the Father and Son as it stands presented in Scripture, we will see that the unity or “oneness” Jesus enjoys with his Father is the same “oneness” that his disciples, according to Jesus, can participate in as well. Biblically speaking, Jesus’ “oneness” with God has nothing to do with an “ontological” or “metaphysical” unity with God as the “eternal Son of the Father,” but has everything to do with the Son’s agreement with, and loving obedience to, “the will of the one who sent” him (John 5:30; 6:39); as the Lord Jesus himself said concerning his Father: “And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him” (John 8:29).

Colossians 1:15-20 is the second section of Scripture “exegeted” in Tipton’s study. Beginning in verse 15, Paul says of the “beloved Son” Jesus:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For in him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

“Verse 15b, however, relates the eternal Son in his preincarnate mode of existence to the created order; he is ‘firstborn over all creation’ (prototokos pases ktiseos).”

Verse 15 does not speak of an “eternal Son.” Neither does verse 15 say that the Son is “the firstborn over all creation,” but “the firstborn of all creation.” “Firstborn over all creation” is an erroneous rendering not supported by the original Greek. The correct translation is the one found in most literal Bible versions—“the firstborn of all creation.” The phrase must include the “of” because it is a necessary element, part of the word pases, the genitive form of the word “all.” The word ktiseos is likewise a genitive form of the Greek word for “creature” or “creation.”

“The word prototokos denotes superiority in rank or dignity, illustrated by its usage in LXX Psalm 89:27, ‘I will appoint him my firstborn [prototkov in the accusative, the most exalted of the kings of the earth.”

Lexically, the term prototokos simply means “firstborn (one born first),” and is often used to mean precisely that in Scripture. It is true that the term is used at times in Scripture figuratively to denote ‘superiority in rank’ or ‘dignity,’ but that is not what the term actually means, by definition.

If we interpret “firstborn” in Colossians 1:15, however, to denote “superior in rank” or “most exalted,” then Colossians 1:15 would essentially mean that Christ is “the most exalted of all creation,” doing nothing to support the concept of an “eternal Son of God.” So, the problem, for “Reformed Confessional Orthodoxy,” is, if Tipton is correct about the implication of the term “firstborn,” Christ is still “of,” or a part of, “all creation”; only he is “the most exalted” of it all, no matter what “creation” is in view.

“Therefore, the distinction between the Son of God as the image of the invisible God and the firstborn over all creation becomes clear. The image of God language clarifies the Son’s consubstantial relation to the Father (cf. 1:19 and 2:9), and the firstborn language clarifies the Son’s fundamental relation to creation. While there is a meaningful way to distinguish what comes into view in 15a and 15b, namely, relationship to God and world respectively, both phrases denote the personal preexistence of the eternal Son of God.”

Again, the Son is not described as the firstborn “over” all creation but as the firstborn “of” all creation. And the “image of God” language clarifies that Jesus is exactly that; he is the “image” or “visible representation” of the “invisible God,” not the “invisible God” himself—just as, in Hebrews 1:3, Jesus is identified as the “exact representation” or “express image” of the “God” of the forefathers, not as “God” (Heb. 1:1). Scripturally, the “image of the invisible God” language cannot clarify the Son’s “consubstantial relation to the Father” because the Son is never said to have a “consubstantial” relation to the Father, but another kind of relationship. As pointed out, the Son is not “of the same substance/being” as the Father (‘consubstantial’) but a “perfect copy/exact representation” of the “substance/being” of the Father, according to Hebrews 1:3.

Contrary to what Tipton implies by referencing the two texts, neither Colossians 1:19 nor 2:9 present the Son as “consubstantial” with the Father. This kind of language does not appear in these texts and the concepts represented by this language are not there either. The language of Colossians 1:19 actually implies that the “godship (theotetos)” possessed by the Son in Colossians 2:9 is possessed by the Son because of God’s decision to endow him with such, not because he is an “eternal” possessor of such in a so-called “consubstantial” relationship with the Father.

“Just as the eternal Son of God is before all things (17a), so also, as the ascended Son, Christ is preeminent in everything (v. 18c). Just as the eternal Son originates all things (v. 16), so also as resurrected he is ‘the beginning’ (hos estin arche, 18b).”

 The Son is not described as “eternal/without beginning” in this text or in any other. He is “before all things (Gk. pro panton),” evidently, because “all things” were made “in” and “through him (di autou).” Logically, the Son had to be “before” the “all things” in order for him to be the one “in” and “through” whom they were created. But the Son does not have to be “before” all things because he is “eternal/without beginning.” He can be described as “before all things” because, out of “all creation” (whatever ‘creation’ is in view), he is “firstborn” (Col. 1:15).

The expression “before all things (Gk. pro panton),” however, does not necessarily have to mean “before” in the sense of “before (in time).” Contextually speaking, the statement can very well mean that the Son is “before all things” in the sense articulated in verse 18, namely, that “[the Son] might have first place [or ‘preeminence’] in everything.” The Greek pro can bear the sense of “before (in time)” or ‘superior’ in ‘rank’ or ‘importance.’ In fact the identical expression is used this way in 1 Peter 4:8, where the apostle wrote, “above all things (Gk. pro panton) have fervent love for one another” (NKJV)—meaning that “love” among Christians should be ‘pre-eminent’ or the ‘most important,’ above all other virtues. In the same way, the statement that the Son is “before all things (Gk. pro panton)” could simply mean that the Son is above, or that he has ‘first place’ in, all things, a meaning that would fit the context perfectly.

Contrary to Tipton’s assumption, verse 16 does not say that the Son is eternal or that he “originates all things,” as if Scripture presented the Son as the ultimate source or power behind the creation he is associated with. Verse 16 says literally, “in him were created all things” and that “all things were created through him and for him.”

“…estin immediately following the relative pronoun hos can be taken as a timeless/atemporal present, which would mean that the Son is eternally the image of the invisible God and would imply his eternal generation…the prelapsarian activity of the eternal Son with reference to creation, lending support to taking estin as a “timeless/atemporal” present.…the timeless estin in 15a/17/a. The implication is that while the preexistent Son remains forever the one who is before all things as the eternal image of God and firstborn over all creation, he nonetheless comes to possess preeminence in all things by virtue of his exaltation in redemptive history.”

This is one of the more surprising and bizarre arguments in Tipton’s article. In this case, because the verb estin itself represents a state of existing (without reference to beginning or end), Tipton wants to make the verb “is/estin” carry the connotation of “eternally existing” in reference to Christ as the image of God. That is, for Tipton, Paul is not just saying that Christ “is the image of the invisible God,” but that he “is [eternally existing as] the image of the invisible God,” in line with the requirements of Trinitarian theology. This is a linguistic fallacy of a very odd but commonly Trinitarian sort.

The verb estin is equivalent to the English verb “is” and implies “eternal existence” no more than the English verb it is equivalent to. In the very same letter, Paul says of Epaphras: “He is [estin] a faithful minister of Christ…” (Col. 1:7). Does the occurrence of the quite ordinary verb estin (‘is’) imply that Epaprhas is somehow “[eternally] a faithful minister of Christ (without beginning)”? Of course not; and neither does the declaration that “he [the Son] is [estin] the image of the invisible God” somehow imply his “eternal/timeless” existence as such. The statement ‘he is the image of the invisible God’ tells us how long the Son has been the image of God no more and no less than the statement “Barack Obama is the president,” or “Paul is an apostle,” or “Jesus is the Messiah,” or “Tipton is a systematic theologian,” tells us. No theological implication can be derived from the simple English or Greek verb “is.” “Is” is simply the verb needed to identify someone as something at present. But this is a common occurrence in Trinitarian apologetics—namely, that of trying to draw profound theological implications out of ordinary, every-day Greek verbs and expressions that do not contain them.

Put simply, Colossians 1:15 does not say that the Son is the “eternal image of God” or that he is the “firstborn over all creation.” None of these nuances are found in the text, but superimposed onto the text by Tipton and other Trinitarians in order to harmonize Scripture with post-biblical doctrinal formulas.

“Significant theological and hermeneutical implications follow from Hebrews 1:1-4 and Colossians 1:15-20, which together allow us to promote Chalcedonian Christology (and ward off erroneous Christological constructions) and expand the vistas of Reformed biblico-systematic theology with its special interest in redemptive history.”

Why would Christians want to promote “Chalcedonian Christology” when we have the far wiser option of simply pointing to or reiterating the “Christology” (doctrine of Christ) already articulated by Christ himself and the writers of Scripture? Jesus is the “reflection” or “radiance” of God’s “glory,” the “exact representation” of his very “being,” “the first born of all creation” and “the image of the invisible God”—genuine scriptural “creeds” that really do speak for themselves.

“The preexistence of the Son of God in Hebrews 1:3 and Colossians 1:15 relates core concerns of Chalcedon to christocentic eschatology. The Son’s preexistence, particularly his homoousios with the Father and monogonese from the Father (Heb. 1:3), supplies the deepest Christological rationale for the realized eschatology in the book of Hebrews. In this connection we can discern from these texts the deepest possible relationship between Chalcedonian orthodoxy and biblical theology.”

The homoousious concept is absent from Scripture; yet Tipton refers to it casually as if it were a scriptural doctrine. The “relationship” between “Chalcedonian orthodoxy” and “biblical theology” Tipton hopes to establish automatically shows that they are not one and the same thing. The concepts found in “Chalcedonian orthodoxy” are products of post-biblical theology and interpretation, not doctrines clearly taught by Jesus or his apostles in Scripture.

In a complementary way, Paul’s Christology in Colossians 1:15-18 enables us to articulate the communicatio idiomatum [‘sharing of attributes’] in categories derived from the interface between the preexistence and postexistence of the Son of God. For instance, the Son of God is both the one by whom all things were created (16), as well as the beginning of the new creation as resurrected (18a);

The “communicatio idiomatum” concept is, likewise, a theological invention, nowhere to be found in Scripture. Colossians 1:16 does not say that the Son was the one “by” whom all things were created but the one “in” and “through” whom all things were created. This is not merely a “distinction without a difference” or a trivial quarrelling over words. As N.T. Wright pointed out in the conservative Tyndale Commentaries: “All that God made, he made by means of him. Paul actually says ‘in him,’ and, though the word en can mean ‘by’ as well as ‘in,’ it is better to retain the literal translation than to paraphrase as NIV has done. Not only is there an intended parallel with verse 19, which would otherwise be lost: the passive ‘were created’ indicates, in a typically Jewish fashion, the activity of God the Father, working in the Son. To say ‘by’, here and at the end of verse 16, could imply, not that Christ is the Father’s agent, but that he was alone responsible for creation.”

…he is both the firstborn over all creation and the firstborn from among the dead (15b and 18b). How do these observations enable us to articulate the communicatio idiomatum? When we predicate something of Jesus’ person, such as creation (15b-16), we do so with special reference to the Son’s divine nature as the eternal Son of God. And when we predicate of his person a new state into which he entered as resurrected (18), we do so with special reference to his transformed human nature as Second Adam (cf. 1 Cor. 15:44bff.). This is a distinctively redemptive-historical way of expressing Chalcedonian Christology that relates the implications of the unipersonality and dual natures of the Son of God to the eschatological outcome of his resurrection.”

There is, put simply, no doctrine of the “communicatio idiomatum” present in any of these scriptural statements, and no doctrine of Christ’s “dual natures.” Surprisingly, although profound theological concepts like these are given so much priority by systematic theologians like Tipton, none of them can be supported by one clear scriptural statement.

In the concluding section of his article, Tipton is critical toward “systematic theologians” who disagree with his theological tradition. Although Tipton rightly recognizes that the “perennial problem” confronting systematic theologians is their “tendency toward abstraction and philosophical speculation,” and how often their proposals arise from “speculative and essentially unbiblical categories,” the point is made, ironically, as if Tipton himself “exegetes” the texts in question in either biblical language, categories, or terms (as opposed to ‘philosophical’ and ‘speculative’ ones), when he clearly does not. But Tipton claims:

Biblical truth offers not merely a path of exploration that allows us to expand the vistas of biblico-systematic theology, but a fortress to be defended against the onslaught of heterodox hermeneutical and theological proposals that owe much more to Athens than Jerusalem.

These are, by far, some of the most remarkable of Tipton’s statements, in terms of their outstandingly self-contradictory nature. It is well established and often admitted by the most conservative New Testament scholars, that the classical creedal terms/concepts necessary to articulate the Trinitarian doctrine of God were derived from non-biblical, Greek, philosophical thought-forms and categories—from “Athens” not “Jerusalem.” How Tipton can direct criticism toward those who promote unbiblical ‘speculations’ and ‘abstractions,’ at the close of a twenty-five-page-article in which Tipton engages in this very practice (in defense of a tradition widely-recognized for abstract and speculative thought), is difficult to comprehend.

Consider, first, the kind of language and theological concepts/categories used and already presumed to be true, yet which were entirely foreign and unknown to the biblical prophets, the Messiah, the apostles, and entirely alien to the Scriptures discussed in Tipton’s study (Col. 1:15-20; Heb. 1:1-4).

Remarkably, in this twenty-five page article, Jesus Christ is formally defined and presumed by Tipton to be the “eternal Son of God” a total of thirty-five times. This is in noticeable contrast to the language of the scriptural accounts where, although Jesus is formally marked out as the “Son of God” in numerous instances (even spoken of as one who has the kind of life that was ‘granted’ to him by his Father), he is never described as, or qualified with the words, “eternal Son of God”—a description simply alien to the biblical writings. Nor are there Scriptures in existence that teach or articulate the notion that the Son of God is “eternal” (without a beginning of existence), or the post-New Testament doctrine of an “eternal generation.” Most of Tipton’s “exegesis” of Colossians 1:15-20 and Hebrews 1:1-4, in fact, flows from the unfounded and scripturally-unarticulated assumption that Jesus is an “eternal second person” of a “triune God”—a concept that simply never appears in Scripture, a concept nowhere discussed by Jesus or his apostles, and a concept nowhere to be found in the first chapters of Hebrews or Colossians.

Strangely, in spite of his pointed criticism, Tipton—throughout the entirety of his preceding argument—advances scores of ‘abstract,’ philosophically-loaded theological terms, concepts, and ‘speculations,’ all infused with unfounded theological assumptions nowhere to be found or even discussed in Scripture.

That is, for Tipton, Jesus is not simply the scriptural “Christ, the Son of the living God,” but the theological “eternal Son of God” in light of his alleged “pretemporal existence as the second person of the ontological Trinity.” Though never mentioned in Scripture, additional reference is made by Tipton to the “opera Dei ad extra or economic aspect of the Trinity,” the “essential deity of the eternal Son of God,” the Son’s “eternal ontic status,” his “essential deity and coequality with the Father,” his “eternal status as homoousios (‘of the same substance/being’)” as God the Father, the “prelapsarian activity of the eternal Son,” his so-called “eternal generation” and “consubstantial relation to the Father,” and the corresponding “eternal relationship of the Father to the Son.”

Further reference is made to “the uncreated Son,” the doctrine of the “communicatio idiomatum,” the “dual natures of the Son of God,” “the eternal Son of God, coequal with the Father” who is nevertheless “hypostatically distinct from him,” the Son’s alleged status as the “eternal, firstborn Son (Meredith G. Kline)” and as “the second person of the Trinity, being very and eternal God,” and other non-biblical expressions like “the third person of the ontological Trinity,” “the second and third persons of the Trinity,” and “the classical distinction between the ontological and economic aspects of the Trinity”—all, of course, doctrines, distinctions, concepts, and complex theological nuances nowhere articulated in Scripture.

As one example of what is widely recognized, Professor of Systematic Theology Shirley C. Guthrie (from the same religious tradition as Tipton) freely acknowledged: “The Bible does not teach the doctrine of the Trinity. Neither the word ‘trinity’ itself nor such language as ‘one-in-three,’ ‘three-in-one,’ one ‘essence’ (or ‘substance’), and three ‘persons’ is biblical language.” Guthrie’s observation is correct. He is also correct in noting further that the “language of the doctrine [Tipton’s ‘homoousios,’ for example], is the language of the ancient church, taken not from the Bible but from classical Greek philosophy.”

This is a true and eye-opening admission by a reputable scholar within Tipton’s very own theological tradition. Yet this kind of non-biblical terminology and these kinds of concepts (some having there origins in ‘Greek philosophy’) appear all throughout Tipton’s article on Hebrews 1:1-4 and Colossians 1:15-20, to an excessive degree.

Colossians 1:15-20 and Hebrews 1:1-4 do nothing to support “Nicene,” “Chalcedonian” or “Reformed” confessional orthodoxy. They only confirm that Jesus is what he is described as elsewhere in Scripture, namely, as the scripturally foretold “Christ” and “Son of the living God,” not as a mysterious and metaphysical “God the Son” and “second person” of a so-called “Trinity.” Together, these Scriptures speak in harmonious accord in their exaltation of the “beloved Son” of God as the “reflection” of the “invisible” God’s “glory,” as God’s “image,” and as “the exact representation of his very being.”


The history of the study of the New Testament is far from being a subject of wide popular interest, even among New Testament scholars themselves’ Yet there is one episode in this history which is surprisingly well known among both theologians and non-theologians I refer to the history of the Comma Johanneum (1 John 5, 7b-8a) in the editions of the New Testament edited by Erasmus It is generally known that Erasmus omitted this passage from his first edition of 1516 and his second of 1519, and only restored it in his third edition of 1522.

The current version of the story Is as follows Erasmus is supposed to have replied to the criticism which was directed against him because of his omission, by proposing to include it if a single Greek manuscript could be brought forward as evidence When such a manuscript was produced, lie is said to have kept his word, even though from the outset he was suspicious that the manuscript had been written in order to oblige hum to include the Comma Johanneum. We cite the version of the story given by Bruce M Metzger, since his work, thanks to its obvious qualities, has become an influential handbook and is in many respects representative of the knowledge of New Testament textual history among theologians “In an unguarded moment Erasmus promised that he would insert the Comma Johanneum, as it is called, in future editions if a single Greek manuscript could be found that contained the passage At length such a copy was found or was made to order it. As it now appears, the Greek manuscript had probably been written in Oxford about 1520 by a Franciscan friar named Froy (or Roy), who took the disputed words from the Latin Vulgate Erasmus stood by his promise and inserted the passage in his third edition (1522), but lie indicates in a lengthy footnote his suspicions that the manuscript had been prepared expressly in order to confute hum”‘.

This version of events has been handed down and disseminated for more than a century and a half by the most eminent critics and students of the text of the New Testament, for example S P Tregelles (1854), F J A Hort (1881)4, F H A Scrivener (1883)5, B F Westcott (1892)6, A Bludau (1903)’, Eb Nestle (1903)’, C H Turner (1924)’ and F G Kenyon (1901, 1912/1926)’. The same tradition has also been disseminated in a number of works intended for a wider public interested in the textual transmission of the Bible or other ancient literature, for example in the works of W A Copinger (1897)”, T H Darlow and H F Motile (1903)12, L D Reynolds and N G Wilson (1974)13 and J Finegan (1974/5)14 The story of the way Erasmus is said to have honoured his promise is also handed down in the hteratuie which refers specifically to the humanist himself, for example by P S Allen (1910)’ and by the authors of such excellent biographies as those by Preseived Smith (1923) ” and R H Bainton (1969) ” How often must those who lecture in the New Testament or textual criticism at universities the world over have passed on the story of the good faith with which a deceived Erasmus kept his word, to the students in their lecture halls’ The writer of these lines cannot plead innocence in this respect.

Yet there are a number of difficulties in the story of Erasmus’ promise and its consequences, which arouse a certain suspicion of its truthfulness. In the first place it is remarkable that there is no trace of this tradition in the works of the great experts in the history of the text of the New Testament in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries We find not a word of it in Richard Simon’s Histone critique du these du Nouveau Testament (1689) even though a special chapter of this work (ch. xvni) is devoted to the Comma Johanneum John Mills too is completely silent about Erasmus’ promise, although in paragraph 1 138 of the Prolegomena to his Novum Testamentum Graecum he refers specifically to the inclusion of the Comma Johanneum in the third edition of Erasmus’ New Testament He even adds the interesting detail that Erasmus included the Comma Johanneum as early as June 1521, in a separate edition of his Latin translation published by Froben at Basle This detail is important because it helps to determine the period of time within which Erasmus must have become aware of the Comma Johanneum in Greek He was still unaware of it in May 1520 when he wrote his apologia Libei to this against Edward Lee. Thus, he must have received evidence of the passage between May 1520 and June 1521. It is not known who brought it to his attention. Not only do Simon and Mills make no reference to Erasmus’ promise, J Clericus does not mention it, either in his Ais Cittica (1696, often reprinted) or his commentary on I John 5,7 (17142). Nor do we find it in J J Wettstein  (1751/2), Jle Long C F Boeiner A G Masch (1788/90)”, J D Michaelis (1788)20, G W Meyer (1802/9)21, J Townley  (the author of Biblical Ane(dotes, 1821)22 or in T F Dibdin (1827)22.

The earliest reference to Erasmus’ promise of which I am aware is that of T H Horne in 1818-24. It remains unclear from which source Horne delved his information. He was too scrupulous a critic to raise any suspicion that he was the inventor of the whole story. Moreover, Horne himself published a list of mole than fifty volumes, pamphlets of crucial notices on the Comma Johanneum which had appealed up to his time’s He may thus very well have derived the details from a predecessor but it is scarcely feasible to go through all his material again. A second difficulty is that in the retelling of the story of Erasmus’ supposed promise, there are striking variations Some authors, such as Hoinc, Darlow and Moule, Kenyon and Turner, relate that Erasmus made this promise in the controversy with his Spanish opponent Jacobus Lopis Stunica. Others, among them Bludau and Bamton, say that the promise was given to his English assailant Edward Lee Yet others write, without making a clear distinction, that Erasmus gave his promise in reaction to the catechisms of both Lee and Stunica, while others again leave it indeterminate, to whom the promise was directed.

Now it is completely impossible that Erasmus could have given his pledge to Stunica, for he did not address himself to the Spaniard until his Apologia…of September 1521 2G In this apologia he explains, in dealing with 1 John 5, that he had received a transcript of the Comma Johanneum, from a Codex Britannicus, and had inserted it into the text of 1 John, which was shortly to appear in a new impression of his Novum Testamentum (15223). Therefore, Erasmus can hardly have given Stunica any promise containing the condition, if a single Greek manuscript with the Comma Johanneum is found”. Nor did Erasmus give such a promise to Lee at least not in any of the surviving correspondence 2′ or apologias 2s in which the Rotterdammer addressed Lee.

A third problem is that the famous promise of Erasmus is not to be found anywhere else in his oeuvre It is thus not surprising that, with one exception, none of the authors known to me who relate the story, refer to a specific passage in Erasmus or in other sixteenth-century literature, where such a pledge is to be found. The only exception is Bainton, who himself seems to have become suspicious and eventually includes a reference to a passage which is by no means a promise, as will be clear from what follows”.

It is naturally exceptionally difficult, if not impossible in principle to furnish conclusive proof that someone did not say something. Yet in my opinion there is sufficient reason to assume that Erasmus, when he chose to insert the Comma Johanneum, did not feel himself constrained by any promise. He explained on several occasions what had led him to include this passage in his third edition He did so `so that no one would have occasion to criticize me out of malice”…or as he expressed it in his Annotationes on 1 John 5, 7

It should be borne in mind that Lee had written that the omission of the Comma Johanneum brought with it the danger of a new revival of Arianism This was of course a very serious insinuation Erasmus had reason to fear that if he were suspected of heretical sympathies, his Novum Testamentum would miss its exalted goal. This Novum Testamentum was not in the first place intended as an edition of the Greek New Testament, as is incorrectly assumed. It was, in Erasmus’ intention, in the first place a new, modern and readable translation of the New Testament into Latin The function of the Greek text was secondary it was to show that Erasmus’ new version rested on a firm foundation and that it was not Just a reckless search for novelty. By his new translation Erasmus hoped to make the words of Christ and the apostles accessible to a wide circle in clear and easily understood prose. He wished to fill the world with the philosophta Christ, the simple pious and practical Christianity which would best serve the world. To achieve this, as many people as possible had to read the New Testament.

But not the Vulgate which was full of all sorts of obscurities; a new, more readable and clearer translation was necessary, and that was Erasmus’ Novum Instrumentum from 1519 entitled Novum Tcstamuitum. The goal of Erasmus undertaking to imbue all Europe with a clear and simple gospel threatened to fail if Erasmus himself were tinged with any suspicion of unorthodoxy. For the sake of his ideal Erasmus chose to avoid any occasion for slander rather than persisting in philological accuracy and thus condemning himself to impotence. That was the reason why Erasmus included the Comma Johanneum even though he remained convinced that it did not belong to the original text of 1 John.

The real reason which induced Erasmus to include the Comma Johanneum was thus clearly his care for his good name and for the success of his Novum Tcstamcntum. How then did the famous story arise of his promise and the way in which he honored it? It is likely that it grew out of a misinterpretation of a passage in his Rcsponsio ad Annotationcs Eduaich Lci of May 15203 Lee was a truly quarrelsome individual a myopically conservative theologian later archbishop of York who troubled and pestered. Erasmus for several years with his criticisms which were unusually mediocre of the Novum Inbtiumuttum Lee was one of several critics who had remarked on the absence of the Comma Johamuum in the first two editions. In 1520 Erasmus felt himself obliged to snake a detailed reply to Lee In his lengthy discussion of 1 John 5.7

If a single manuscript had come into my hands in which stood what we read (Sc in the Latin Vulgate) then I would certainly have used it to fill in what was missing in the other manuscripts I had Because that did not happen I have taken the only course which was permissible that is I have indicated (se in the Annotations) what was missing from the Greek manuscripts. This is the passage which Bainton regarded as containing the promise which Erasmus is supposed to have redeemed later. It is to Banton s credit that he at least tried to find the promise somewhere in Erasmus works no other author so far as I am aware took this trouble. Still no such promise can be read into the passage cited It is a retrospective report of what Erasmus had done in 1516 and 1519 If he had had a Greek manuscript with the Comma Johanncum then he would have included the Comma. But he had not found a single such manuscript and consequently he omitted the Comma Johanneum. This is not a promise but a justification after the event of what had happened cast in the unfulfilled conditional. It is not impossible that another passage in Erasmus apologia against Lee played a part and gave reason for a misunderstanding. It was with particular reference to Erasmus omission of the Comma Johanneum that Lee had charged him with indolence (“supinitas”). According to Lee, Erasmus might very well have had, by some chance, a manuscript which gave an abbreviated text of 1 John 5,7-8, but he ought not to have published, on two occasions, the mutilated text of this manuscript, without consulting other manuscripts. Lee here suggests that Erasmus, if he had looked at other codices, would certainly have found a copy which contained the Comma Johanneum, but that he had been remiss in not doing so In his answer to this charge Erasmus explains that he consulted not just one but many manuscripts in England, Brabant and Basle, none of which contained the Comma Johanneum. He continues…”What sort of indolence is that, if I did not consult the manuscripts which I could not manage to haves At least, I collected as many as I could Let Lee produce a Greek manuscript in which is written the words lacking in my edition, and let him prove that I had access to this manuscript, and then let him accuse me of indolence”.

Nor can this passage be interpreted as a promise by Erasmus to include the Comma Johanncum if it is shown to him in a single Greek manuscript Erasmus is here defending himself against the accusation of having deliberately neglected to search for Greek manuscripts in which the Comma Johanncum occurs. The accusation of Stunica was thus, according to Erasmus, premature Let Lee first prove that Erasmus neglected a manuscript containing the Comma Johanneum. If Lee can prove this negligence, with the evidence, then and only then will Erasmus accept Lee’s accusation of Stunica Erasmus does not say that if Lee can prove this negligence, he will include the Comma Johanneum but only that in such a case… Erasmus is not thinking of the possibility that he would have to insert the Comma Johanneum, for he regarded it as completely out of the question that the Comma should turn up in any Greek manuscript The only point he is making is let Lee first prove my point, and then he can accuse me of it. The passage therefore does not contain any promise, but an exhortation to prove the truth of an accusation before making it.

Another misunderstanding deserves to be corrected. As we showed above, Erasmus received a Greek text of the Comma Johanneum at some time between May 1520 and June 1521. This text had been copied from a Codex Britannicus also named, after a later owner, Codex Montfortianus, and now at Trinity College, Dublin (A 421), and designated as minuscule Gregory 61 It is as good as certain, as J R Harris demonstrated, that this manuscript was produced to order. Many writers on this subject, for example Tregelles, Kenyon and Metzger, assert that Erasmus himself suspected at the time that the Codex Britannicus had been produced to oblige him to include the Comma Johanneum. This is again a version of events which does not seem to be based on any passage in Erasmus’ printed works or letters. It is true that Erasmus assumed that the Codex Britannicus was “recens”. But so far as I am aware, his writings do not contain any expression from which it would appear that he suspected that the Codex Britannicus had been written especially to induce him to include the Comma Johanneum. The confusion presumably arose from a misunderstanding of a remark which Erasmus made in his first apologia against Stunica, and repeated in his Annotations on 1 John 5. After declaring that now that the Comma Johanneum had been brought to his attention, in Greek, in a Codex Britannicus, he would include it on the basis of that manuscript, he wrote…”Although I suspect this manuscript, too, to have been revised after the manuscripts of the Latin world”.

Erasmus does not mean by this that the Codex Britannicus was interpolated to invalidate his own reading He means that the Codex, like many other manuscripts, contained a text which had been revised after, and adapted to, the Vulgate. This was one of Erasmus’ stock theories, to which he repeatedly referred in evaluating Greek manuscripts of the New Testament. He regarded manuscripts which deviated from the Byzantine text known to him, and showed parallels with the Vulgate, as having been influenced by the Vulgate”. Erasmus believed that the Ecumenical Council of Ferrara and Florence (1438-45), whose chief object had been the reunion of the Latin and Greek churches, had decided in favor of adapting the Greek manuscripts to the Vulgate In 1527 he commented on the adaptation of Greek manuscripts to the Latin as follows…”It should be pointed out here in passing, that certain Greek manuscripts of the New Testament have been corrected in agreement with those of the Latin Christians. This was done at the time of the reunion of the Greeks and the Roman church. This union was confirmed in writing in the so-called Golden Bull It was thought that this (sc the adaptation of the Greek biblical manuscripts to the Latin) would contribute to the strengthening of unity We too once came across a manuscript of this nature”, and it is said that such a manuscript is still preserved in the papal library written in majuscule characters”. The manuscript to which Erasmus refers at the end of this passage is the Codex Vaticanus pat excellence, now Gr 1209, designated as B40 Erasmus regarded the text of this codex as influenced by the Vulgate and therefore inferior. For the same reasons he had earlier, in 1515/6, also excluded Gregory I as an inferior manuscript, from the constitution of the Greek text of his own Novum Instiumentum although this manuscript is now generally regarded as more reliable than the codices which Erasmus preferred and made use of Erasmus passed the same verdict on the Codex Rhodiensis (minuscule Wettstein Paul 50 =Apostolos 52) from which Stunted cited readings in his polemic against Erasmus.

Erasmus’ view, according to which Greek manuscripts had been adapted to Latin, was indeed applicable to the Codex Britannicus the Comma Johanneum was no more than retroversion of the Vulgate. But for most other manuscripts…The Bulla aura of the Council of Ferrara and Florence says nothing at all of any decision to revise Greek biblical manuscripts in accordance with the Vulgate. In 1534 Erasmus admitted that he had not read the bull himself, but only knew its content from hearsay. He maintained, however, that even if the bull did not say anything about the intended latinisation of Greek manuscripts, this latinisation had in fact been carried out in some cases.

However erroneous Erasmus’ theory of the latinisation of Greek manuscripts may be in general, from an historical viewpoint it has played an important role. When J J Wettstein was working on his great edition of the New Testament which eventually appeared in 1751/2 he became increasingly convinced that the text of most of the old Greek codices was influenced by the old Latin translation

He subscribed to Erasmus’ evaluation of codex B and minuscule 1, but he also extended the theory to the majority of the old codices, among others, A, B, C, D’, DP, FP, Ke, Le, min 1, 3 etc. He regarded all these manuscripts as unusable for the constitution of the text of the New Testament. Wettstein’s title to fame was formed by his excellent presentation of the copious text-critical material which he had collected, as well as by his commentary, but not by his insight into the history of the text.

It is time that Erasmus repeatedly disqualified the Codex Vaticanus as a latinising textual witness. Yet it should be pointed out nonetheless, that Erasmus was also the first scholar who appealed to the Codex Vaticanus for critical purposes. On 18 June 1521, Paul Bombasius, the secretary of the influential cardinal Lorenzo Pucci at Rome, sent a letter to Erasmus containing a copy of 1 John 4, 1-3 and 5,7-11 from the Codex Vatieanus. In his Annotations, on 1 John 5,7 Erasmus later stated that the Comma Johanneum was missing from the Codex Vaticanus, according to a transcript which Bombasius had made at his, Erasmus’, request (meo 1•ogo1u). It appears from this that Erasmus himself had asked Bombasius to verify the passage in question in the Codex Vaticanus. It is with Erasmus that the Codex Vaticanus began to play a role in the textual criticism of the New Testament. Again, Erasmus also suspected the Codex Britannicus of having undergone the influence of the Vulgate. It cannot, however, be shown from Erasmus’ writings, that he ever considered the Codex Britannicus as a product specially prepared to induce him to include the Comma Johanneum.


(1) The current view that Erasmus promised to insert the Comma Johanneum if it could be shown to hum in a single Greek manuscript, has no foundation in Erasmus’ works. Consequently it is highly improbable that he included the disputed passage because he considered himself bound by any such promise.

(2) It cannot be shown from Erasmus’ works that he suspected the Codex Britannicus (nun 61) of being written with a view to force him to include the Comma Johanneum.

Zeemanlaan 47           

Henk Jan DE JONGF,

2313 SW Leiden,

the Netherlands.

Background to the Son of Man sayings. F. F. Bruce

In his New Testament Theology Donald Guthrie concludes a discussion of the Son of man in the Gospels with the observation ‘that the title Son of man applied to Jesus made no important impact on early Christian theological thinking and that there is no evidence of a Son of man Christology. The title itself was displaced, but the basic ideas it was intended to express lived on in other forms.’ None would have agreed more cordially with that last statement than the late T. W. Manson, who cherished at the back of his mind a project (to be undertaken, perhaps, when he retired) of writing a comprehensive ‘Son of man’ theology. His untimely death robbed us of a work which might well have crowned his earlier studies. The problems of the use of ‘the Son of man’ in the Gospels continue to fascinate. New Testament scholars,2 not least the problem of the almost entire absence of any echo outside the Gospels of an expression which plays such a prominent part within them.

In an incident towards the end of Jesus’ ministry as recorded in the Fourth Gospel, he speaks of his shortly being `lifted up from the earth’, and the Jerusalem crowd replies, `We have heard from the law that the Christ remains forever. How can you say that the Son of man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of man?’ (Jn. 12:34).

The Johannine idiom in this interchange is readily recognized. The double entendre of the verb `lift up’ is characteristic of this evangelist. Moreover, there are two surprising features in the crowd’s response. Jesus had not said, in the immediately preceding context, `the Son of man will be lifted up’ but `when I am lifted up’ (Jn. 12:32). He had, however, said in verse 23, `The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified’, and in earlier situations in this Gospel he had spoken of the lifting up of the Son of man (Jn. 3:14; 8:28). From this it might be gathered that his being glorified and his being lifted up are identical. So, indeed, they are: we are dealing with two different ways of expressing the same idea. It is plain from some of the contexts in which the lifting up of the Son of man is mentioned that the verb (Gk. hypsoo) refers also to Jesus’ being literally `lifted up’ on the cross. And the context in which he says, `The hour has come for the Son of man to be glorified’ (Jn. 12:23), makes it clear that here too the crucifixion is meant.

Also, and even more surprisingly, the crowd seems to identify the Son of man with the Christ or the Messiah, although Jesus has not spoken about the Messiah. To Christians, who believed Jesus to be the Messiah and who were familiar with his use of the term ‘the Son of man’, the equation `The Messiah = the Son of man’ came naturally; here there may be an antedating of this equation into the setting of Jesus’ ministry. Certainly there is no reason to suppose that at the time of the ministry the expression `the Son of man’ was current in Judaism as a synonym of `the Messiah’. Nevertheless the crowd’s question, `Who is this Son of man?’ was a natural one to ask, and may still be asked by readers of the Gospels as they are repeatedly confronted by it.

`The Son of man’ in the Gospels

All four of the evangelists regard `the Son of man’ as a self-designation of Jesus. Sometimes, indeed, a comparison of Gospels or Gospel sources indicates that on his lips it could be taken as a periphrasis for T. The Marcan form of his question at Caesarea Philippi, `Who do men say that I am?’ (Mk. 8:27; cf. Lk. 9:18), is replaced in Mat 16:13 by `Who do men say that the Son of man is?’ On the other hand, `I’ may appear as a later re-wording of `the Son of man’. The Lucan form of another saying of Jesus, ‘everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of man also will acknowledge before the angels of God’ (Lk. 12:8), has a Matthaean counterpart with the simple pronoun: everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven’ (Mt.           10:32; the locution `my Father who is in heaven’ is distinctively Matthaean). But the following words in Matthew, whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven’ (Mt. 10:33), correspond to a Marcan saying in which it is the Son of man who will be ashamed of those who are ashamed of Jesus and his words `in this adulterous and sinful generation’ (Mk. 8:38; cf. Lk. 9:26).

This oscillation between `I’ and `the Son of man’ is sufficient to make the reader stop and ask before each `Son of man’ saying in the Synoptic record, `Is this original, or has it replaced an earlier “I”?’ However, even when allowance has been made for the possibility of a change from ‘I’ to ‘the Son of man’, the fact that sometimes the change seems to have worked the other way confirms the impression made by the spread of the designation `the Son of man’ – the impression that, not only in the Gospels as they stand but in the tradition behind them, `the Son of man’ was a distinctive locution of Jesus, one which he used as a self-designation.

The criteria of authenticity invoked by proponents of modern redaction criticism of the Gospels are not so conclusive as is sometimes supposed; but if one of them, the `criterion of dissimilarity’, be applied to the occurrences of `the Son of man’, the conclusion seems plain (although indeed a number of redaction critics would not concede its validity in this instance).’ Here is a locution unparalleled in the Judaism of the period and one which, outside the Gospel tradition, was not current in the early church. Its claim to be recognized as an authentic vox Christi is thus remarkably strong.

It has often been pointed out that the Greek phrase translated `the Son of man’ in the Gospels, ho huios tou anthropou, means literally `the son of the man’, which would naturally prompt the question: `the son of which man?’ But no such question is prompted by the phrase as used in the Gospels, where it is a conventional rendering of an Aramaic expression, probably barendsa. But bar ‘enasa is the regular Aramaic form for `the man’, `the human being’ or even, when the emphatic state (rendered in English by means of the definite article) is used generically, `a man’. (We may compare John the Baptist’s words in Jn. 3:27 NIV: `a man can receive only what is given him from heaven.’) It is argued by M. Casey that this construction and meaning lie behind the Gospel use of ho huios tou anthr”opou, the speaker saying something which is true of a man generically and applying it to himself. Thus the statement of Mark 14:2, `the Son of man goes as it is written of him’, could have originated in Jesus’ application to himself of the general principle that `a man goes (to death) as it is written of him’ (cf. Heb. 9:27, `it is appointed for men to die once’).’ G. Vermes has argued, more generally, that the Gospel use goes back to the circumlocution use of bar fenasa (`the man’, this man’) as a substitute for the pronoun `I’, `me’.’

There are indeed some passages in the Gospels where `the Son of man’ on the lips of Jesus seems to mean little more than `I’ – for example, when he compares himself with his forerunner in the words: `John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine;…the Son of man has come eating and drinking … ‘(Lk. 7:33f.; cf. Mt. 11:18f.). Again, there is reason to think here and there that the Greek rendering ho huios tou anthropou has been used where bar nasa meant simply `man’ – for example, a comparison of the Q saying in Luke 12:10 with its Marcan counterpart in Mark 3:28-30 (the two are conflated in Mt. 12:31f.) suggests that in the original form Jesus contrasted the venial sin of speaking against men with the `eternal sin’ of speaking against the Holy Spirit; the Son of man’ in the distinctive sense of the expression is not in view. There are, however, two outstanding situations in which the Son of man (in the distinctive use of the phrase) figures. One of these is his appearing in glory; the other is his suffering.

His appearing in glory In the Olivet discourse it is said that, after the great tribulation which leads up to the end-time, they will see the Son of man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect …'(Mk. 13:26f.). It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the Son of man coming in clouds harks back to the `one like a son of man’ (Aram. kebar ienas) who, in Daniel’s vision of the Day of Judgment, comes `with the clouds of heaven’ to be continuing with him in his trials. We recall his assurance to James and John, when they professed themselves ready to drink his cup and share his baptism, that they would indeed do so (Mk. 10:38f.). But when his trial reached its climax, they proved unable to stand the test. T. W. Manson remarked that, if it had been James and John, and not the two robbers, that were crucified with Jesus, ‘one on his right and one on his left’, their request to be enthroned on either side of him (Mk. 10:37) would have been fulfilled and the church’s formulation of the doctrine of the atonement might have been somewhat different from what it has been. As it was, Jesus himself at the time fulfilled single-handed `everything that is written of the Son of man’ (Lk. 18:31). The time was to come, however, when he would return from death to gather his demoralized followers together again and lead them as before and associate” them even more closely with himself in his continuing ministry. `The aliveness of Christ,’ says C. F. D. Moule, `existing transcendentally beyond death, is recognized as the prior necessity for the community’s corporate existence, and as its source and origin.” Positive evidence is lacking that Jesus ever included his followers in the concept of the Son of man, but he did attach them as firmly as possible to the Son of man.

His suffering in these last paragraphs we have already begun to refer to the suffering Son of man. Alongside those sayings which reflect Daniel’s vision of `one like a son of man’ who receives sovereign authority from God, there is a group of sayings, especially in the Marcan record, which speak of the Son of man as suffering. In this record, from the Caesarea Philippi incident onward, Jesus emphasizes repeatedly that `the Son of man must suffer many things’ (Mk. 8:31; 9:31; cf. 10:33). The necessity of the Son of man’s suffering lies in its being the subject-matter of Scripture: Jesus’ consciousness that his own deliberately chosen mission was in accordance with what was written confirmed his resolution to submit to arrest in Gethsemane with the words: `Let the scriptures be fulfilled’ (Mk. 14:49). The other Synoptic evangelists bear similar testimony: Luke, for example, inserts into his description of the lightning-like appearance of the Son of man `in his day’ the caveat: `But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation’ (Lk. 17:25). The fourth evangelist brings the two groups of Son of man sayings together in his distinctive idiom. For him the crucifixion of Jesus is the `lifting up’ (hypsosis) or ‘glorifying’ of the Son of man; it is the moment of disclosure, when the disciples will ‘see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of man’ (Jn. 1:51).

But in the Synoptic records the two groups of passages remain separated. There is no difficulty in seeing the influence of Daniel 7:13f on those which speak of the Son of man’s glorious advent and judicial authority; but `how is it written of the Son of man, that he should suffer many things and be treated with contempt?’ (Mk. 9:12). Many have seen a pointer to answering this question in Mark 10:45, where Jesus sets an example before his disciples by impressing on them that `the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’. This saying is reproduced verbatim in Matthew 20:28, but is missing from the parallel context in Luke 18 (between verses 34 and 35). Luke has indeed a parallel elsewhere, in the context of the Last Supper, but it is not a Son of man saying and makes no reference to a ransom (Lk. 22:27, ‘1 am among you as one who serves’).

The wording of the Son of man saying in Mark 10:45 has often been held to reflect that of the fourth Isaianic Servant Song (Isa 52:1353:12). It does not, strictly, reflect its wording but it does reflect its thought. The word for `serve’ in Mark 10:45 (diakoneo) is not that used to render Hebrew `ebed in the Servant Song (ho Pais mou, Isa 52:13, Lxx; douleuo, Isa 53:11, Lxx), and the word for `ransom’ in Mark 10:45 (lytron) is not used to render ‘afam (‘guilt-offering’) in Isaiah 5 3:10 (Lxx peri hamartias). But the sense of the saying in Mark 10:45 corresponds well to the description of the Servant’s self-giving in which he procures righteousness for ‘many’ and bears the sin of `many’ (Isa 53:11f.). The linking of this saying with Isa 52:13-53:12 has, indeed, been ably contested: it is pointed out, for example, that to give one’s life as a ransom or atonement for others was a familiar concept in the Judaism of the time, as the Maccabaean martyrologies show (cf. 2 Macc. 7:37f.; 4 Macc. 6:27-29; 17:22; 18:4). It is not suggested that either Jesus or Mark was familiar with these Greek martyrologies; on the other hand, the book of Isaiah was well known to them both.

Moreover, the Son of man’s suffering is said to be something that was `written’ concerning him. This is a reference to Hebrew Scripture, in which the books of Maccabees played no part. Where, then, in Hebrew Scripture is it written that the Son of man is to suffer? It is not so written of Daniel’s `one like a son of man’. True, his counterparts, the saints of the Most High, are targets for the assault of the `little horn’ (Dn. 7:21), and it could easily be inferred that, in a situation dominated by God-defying powers, the `one like a son of man’ would fare ill until the time of divine intervention, but the statement ‘it is written’ implies more than an inference. In any case, the `one like a son of man’ makes his appearance in Daniel’s vision at the moment of the overthrow of the God-defying powers and the vindication of righteousness, and it is probably inappropriate to import him into an earlier phase of the vision where he does not figure. Further, when the activity of the little horn is recapitulated in greater detail, and we might expect Daniel to say that he saw the little horn making war against the `one like a son of man’, he does not say so; he imports a feature from the interpretation and says that the little horn `made war with the saints’ (Dn. 7:21), as though deliberately avoiding a suggestion that the `one like a son of man’ was attacked.

This could be explained if for Daniel the `one like a son of man’ is not the symbolical personification of the saints but their heavenly representative. If we look for a figure in Hebrew Scripture who suffers many things and is treated with contempt, the righteous sufferer of Psalms and the suffering Servant of Isaiah come to mind at once. As between these two, the balance is tipped in favor of the Isaianic Servant because his sufferings, unlike those of the righteous sufferer of Psalms, are explicitly said to procure the removal of sin for others. Is the Son of man in the Gospels, then, to be equated with the Servant of Yahweh? Let it be said at this point that there is some reason to think that the Daniel texts we have been considering, and some others associated with them, had the Isaianic Servant Songs in view and were indeed intended to provide an interpretation of them. One of the designations of the faithful in the time of trial depicted in Daniel’s visions is mafkilim, the wise’ or the `teachers’ (i.e. those who acquire wisdom or those who impart it, the latter activity naturally following from the former). The reference is especially to those who communicate to others the insight which they themselves have gained into the times of the end; `none of the wicked shall understand, but the mafkllim shall understand’ (Dn. 12:10).

Daniel himself is given such insight: when Gabriel is about to impart to him the revelation of the seventy heptads, he says, ‘I have come out to make you wise (lehaskileka) … know therefore and understand (weta(kel) that … there are to be seven heptads . . . ‘(Dn. 9:22, 25). When the minds of many are shaken by the apostates, ‘those who make the people wise (ma(kile ‘am) shall make many understand’, although their faithfulness involves them in severe persecution (Dn. 11:33). So severe will the persecution be, indeed, that some even of the markilim will fall away, but their defection will but serve to refine those who remain faithful (Dn. 11:35). And when at last the righteous are delivered and the faithful departed are raised to everlasting life, `the mafkilim shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness (masdige harabbim) like the stars forever and ever’ (Dn. 12:1-3).

It would be rash to draw too certain inferences from the coincidence between these instances of the hiph’il conjugation of Al and the opening words of the fourth Servant Song, hinn’eh yaskil ‘abdi, ‘behold, my servant will deal wisely’ (Isa 52:13); but that we have to do with more than a mere coincidence is suggested by the statement in Isaiah 53:11 that the Servant will by his knowledge `make the many to be accounted righteous’ (yasdiq…larabbim)-i.e. he will fulfill the role assigned to the ma.rkilim in Daniel 12:3. But if Daniel is thus providing an interpretation of the figure of the suffering Servant, it is a corporate interpretation.

To revert to the Gospels: there is one exception to the rule that when Jesus speaks of `the Son of man’ both nouns have the article (ho huios tou anthropou). The exception comes in John 5:27, where the Father delegates judicial functions to the Son, ‘because he is Son of man’ (hoti huios anthropou estin). Grammatically, this doubly anarthrous form can be adequately accounted for in terms of Colwell’s law: it is the complement with the copulative verb. But exegetically, even if there is no particle his here, it is not far-fetched to recognize a specific reference to the ‘one like a son of man’ (his huios anthropou) who is assessor to the Ancient of Days on his judgment-throne (Dn. 7:13f.).

There is, again, one exception to the rule that only in the Gospels, and only on Jesus’ lips (apart, of course, from Jn. 12:34, where the crowd takes up his own words), does the expression `the Son of man’ occur in the New Testament. The exception comes in Acts 7:56 where Stephen, at the end of his defense before the Sanhedrin, sees ‘the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing at the right hand of God’. The language resembles that of Jesus himself before the same body: in the Lucan form of his reply to the high priest Jesus says, `But from now on the Son of man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God’ (Lk. 22:69). The change from `seated’ to `standing’ arrests the attentive reader, and points to the meaning of Stephen’s words. The Son of man is Stephen’s advocate in the presence of God, and standing is the posture proper for an advocate. Stephen, so to speak, appeals from the judgment of the earthly court to the arbitrary of the heavenly court, where the Son of man stands as his prevailing advocate. It is illuminating to read Stephen’s words against the background of the dominical logion of Luke 12:8, `every one who acknowledges me before men, the Son of man also will acknowledge before the angels of God.’

Whatever the Aramaic phrase was that Jesus used (and it can scarcely have been anything other than bar `enafa), and whatever its significance may have been, there was a time antecedent to the compilation of all our Gospels and their ascertainable sources when ho huios tou anthropou was fixed as its appropriate Greek equivalent. M. Hengel considers that `an unequivocal Christological conception’ must stand behind `this unusual translation’ and he is disposed to believe that Stephen’s vision of `the Son of man’ may have had something to do with this development.

Hengel’s understanding of the matter underlines the conclusion to which the available evidence in any case points – that `the Son of man’ was not a current title, whether for the Messiah or for any other eschatological figure. When Jewish thinkers devised a title for the figure who is brought to the Ancient of Days, it was not the Son of man but Anani (the ‘cloud-man’). There does not appear to have been any existing concept of `the Son of man’ which Jesus could have taken over and used either to identify himself or to denote a being distinct from himself.

The expression as Jesus used it was evidently original to himself: one reason for his use of it may have been precisely that it was not a current title which would already have had associations in the minds of his hearers. It could well have meant for him `the one like a son of man’ (of Daniel’s vision) but he could fill it with such further significance as he chose, and not the least part of the significance with which he filled it was the prophetic picture of the humble and suffering Servant of Yahweh. If the heavenly voice at his baptism, (Mk. 1:11) hailed him in language which he recognized as that of Isaiah 42:1, there was no problem in his associating with that scripture another which similarly begins with ‘Behold, my servant’ – the scripture which we call the fourth Servant Song. It was this that gave him the assurance that a mission involving suffering and contempt was written for `the Son of man’, and that this mission was the Father’s will for him.

Evidence from Qumran

The transition from suffering for faithfulness to exercising authority and executing judgment is well attested in the Qumran literature (from c. 130 BC onwards), and the phase of suffering for faithfulness is bound up with the portrayal of the Isaianic Servant.

The Servant Songs Shortly after the publication of the complete Isaiah scroll from Cave 1 at Qumran (IQIsa), a peculiar reading was noted in Isaiah 52:14.Of the Servant it is said there (in MT) ken mishat me’is mar ehu, `such was the marring of his appearance, beyond (that of) man.’ The common translation treats mishat as construct state of mishat, `marring’ (from root !ht), but there is an awkwardness in that the construct is separated from its following genitive by the comparative expression me’is. The same awkwardness would persist if mishat were treated (less probably) as the construct of mishah, ‘anointing’ (from root msh), the sense then being `such was the anointing of his face, beyond (that of) man’. (The awkwardness would be avoided if the word were vocalized moshat, hoph’al participle of!ht, the sense then being ‘his appearance was marred beyond that of mankind’.) In 1QIsa, however, the spelling mshty appears – i.e., probably, masahti, `I have anointed’ (perfect qal of msh). It is unlikely that the prophet meant ‘I have anointed his face beyond that of mankind’, but the curious spelling may reflect a messianic interpretation placed on the figure of the Servant by some members of the Qumran community. D. Barthelemy, indeed, one of the first scholars to draw attention to this spelling, thought it had serious claims to be regarded as original; W. H. Brownlee compared the construction with that of Psalm 45:7 (MT 8), ‘God … has anointed you with the oil of gladness above your fellows’ (mehabereka), where a royal anointing is in view.

The prophet himself, speaking perhaps in the role of the Servant, claims in Isaiah 61:1, `Yahweh has anointed me’ (m sahtan1), where a prophetic anointing is in view. But what kind of anointing was in the mind of the editor or scribe responsible for the spelling masahti in Isaiah 52:14? Perhaps a priestly anointing, in view of the following words, `so shall he sprinkle many nations.’ Brownlee rightly retained the MT reading yazzeh (‘will sprinkle’), adding that, according to his understanding of the Qumran interpretation, `the anointing of the Servant would indicate his consecration for the priestly office, so that he could “sprinkle” others.’ It may be, then, that here we have a pointer to an identification of the Servant with the expected priestly Messiah, the `Messiah of Aaron’.

But this is not the only interpretation of the Servant attested in the Qumran writings. In the H64ayot (the `Hymns of Thanksgiving’) the person who speaks in the first person singular – be he (as some have thought) the Rightful Teacher himself or some other spokesman for the community – repeatedly applies to himself the language of all four of what we have come to call the Servant Songs. From the first song (Is. 42:1) possibly comes: Thou hast shed [thy) holy spirit on thy servant (1QH 17.26).

From the second (Is. 49: lff):

For thou knowest me from (better than) my father, and from the womb [hast thou set me apartl. [Yea, from the body of J my mother hast thou dealt bountifully with me, and from the breast of her who conceived me have thy tender mercies been on me. In the bosom of my nurse [hast thou sustained me], and from my youth hast thou enlightened me in the understanding of thy judgments. With thy truth hast thou supported me firmly, and in thy holy spirit hast thou made me rejoice (1QH 9.29-32).

From the third (Is. 50:4):

My tongue is as that of those who are taught [by thee}. (1QH 7.10)

I could not raise any voice

[with the tongue of those who are taught [by thee),

to revive the spirit of the stumbling,

or to sustain with a word him that is weary.(1QH 8.35f.)

And from the fourth (Is. 5 3:4, 10):

{My} dwelling-place is with diseases, and my resting-place among those that are stricken; I am as a man forsaken (1QH 8.26f.).

Whether the composer was speaking of his personal experience or not, the community probably used these hymns in worship, as an adjunct to the canonical Psalter, and in that case each member who participated in the worship made the composer’s language his own.

There is, moreover, evidence to indicate that the Qumran community viewed itself as called corporately to fulfill the Servant’s ministry. It believed that by its painstaking study and practice of the divine law, and by its patient endurance of the persecution inflicted on it by the ungodly, it would not only secure its acceptance in God’s sight but also accumulate a store of merit sufficient to atone for people and land polluted by the dominion of the wicked.

In default of Levitical sin-offerings, sin would be atoned for ‘through an upright and humble spirit’ (1QS 3.8). When all the prescriptions of the community rule were fulfilled, `to establish a holy spirit for eternal truth, to make atonement for the guilt of rebellion and for sinful faithlessness, and to obtain favour for the land apart from the flesh of burnt-offerings and the fat of sacrifice, then the oblation of the lips according to right judgment shall be as a sweet savour of righteousness, and the perfectness of one’s ways as an acceptable freewill offering’ (1QS 9.3-5).

In the Rule of the Congregation, which envisages the new order when the rightful regime of the sons of Zadok has been restored, the members of the community are described as `the men of God’s counsel who kept his covenant in the midst of wickedness, so as to make atone{ment for the lan}d’ (1QSa. 1.1-3). With this may be compared what is said of the Servant of Yahweh in the Targum of Jonathan: ‘He will make entreaty for our trespasses and for his sake our trespasses will be forgiven; … by his instruction peace will flourish over us, and when we follow his words our trespasses will be forgiven us. All we like sheep had been scattered, each in his own way we had gone astray, and it was the Lord’s good pleasure to forgive all our trespasses for his sake’ (Tg. Isa 53:4-6). There the speakers are the people of Israel and the Servant for whose sake they have been forgiven is the Messiah; but in the Qumran texts it is not for the sake of one individual, but for the sake of the righteous community, that this forgiveness is bestowed on the nation. Nor is the community’s suffering minimized almost to the point of disappearance, as the Servant’s suffering is in the Targum.

If the whole community had its mission prescribed in terms of the ministry of the Isaianic Servant, it was possible for some smaller body, acting or speaking in the name of the community, to be referred to in similar terms.22 In one place the atoning terminology is used of the inner council of twelve laymen and three priests, who are called `a holy house for Israel, a most holy foundation for Aaron, true witnesses in judgment, the elect ones of God’s favour, to make atonement for the land and to requite the wicked with their recompense’ (1QS 8.5-7).

In the Old Testament atonement `for the land’ is necessary when it has been polluted by bloodshed, and this atonement can be made only by the blood of those responsible (Nu. 35:33). In the Song of Moses God makes atonement for his people’s land by avenging the blood of his servants at the hands of his and their enemies (Dt. 32:43).

Vindication and judgment When the inner council of the community is said to `requite the wicked with their recompense, to execute judgment on wickedness, that perversity may be no more’ (1QS 8.7, 10), it has an activity prescribed for it which cannot be paralleled in the Servant Songs. Nor can it have been possible for the inner council, or for the community as a whole, to undertake this activity in the days when it was at the mercy of its powerful opponents. But the community looked forward to a time when the roles would be reversed, when God would intervene in justice, and then it would be his chosen instrument to execute judgment on the ungodly.

It would be misleading if we said that the community believed itself called to fill the role of Daniel’s `one like a son of man’ as well as that of the Isaianic Servant, for there is no reference in the extant Qumran texts to Daniel’s `one like a son of man’, nor does `son of man’ appear anywhere in them except in the regular sense of `human being’. Nevertheless, some of the ideas associated with Daniel’s `one like a son of man’ and with `the Son of man’ in the Gospels find expression, albeit in different terminology, in the Qumran literature. Here, for example, is the Qumran commentator’s explanation of Habakkuk 1:12b (‘Thou hast ordained him to execute judgment; and thou, 0 Rock, hast established him to inflict chastisement’):

The interpretation of this is that God will not destroy his people by the hand of the nations, but into the hand of his elect will God commit the judgment of all nations, and by the chastisement which they inflict those who have kept his commandments in the time of their distress will condemn all the wicked of his people (1QpHab 5.3-6).

God’s ‘elect’- `those who have kept his commandments in the time of their distress’ – are presumably the members of the righteous community who have maintained their fidelity in spite of persecution. They are, in the words of the Community Rule, `to condemn all transgressors of the law’ as well as ‘to make atonement for all volunteers for holiness in Aaron (the priesthood) and for the house of truth in Israel (the laity)’ (1QS 5.6f.).

In the Rule of War the righteous community is the spearhead of the successful attack on the Gentile oppressors of Israel, but in the Habakkuk commentary it is plain that it will also administer final judgment on evildoers within Israel. It is not unreasonable to conclude that its members identified themselves with the `saints of the Most High’ to whom, in Daniel 7:18, 22, 27, judgment and sovereignty are given.


Before we leave Qumran, we should glance at the heavenly judge Melchizedek who has given his name to the fragmentary document 11Q Melchizedek, published in 1965.24 Quoting the passages about the year of jubilee (Lv. 25:13) and the year of release (Dt. 15:2), this document understands both as references to the return from exile at the time of the end, in the tenth and last year of jubilee, `the acceptable year of the Lord’ (Is. 61:2), when the dispersed of Israel will be gathered home. The proclaimer of restoration and liberty at that time will be Melchizedek,. `for that is the epoch of Melchizedek’s “acceptable year”‘ (line 7).

A scriptural basis for Melchizedek’s heavenly ministry is sought in Psalm 82:1, `God (‘elohim) stands in the congregation of ‘El: he judges among elohim.’ Melchizedek is promoted to be president of the heavenly sits in judgment on the ‘elohim, the spirits of Belial’s lot. This related he statement of Psalm 7:8, `God (‘elohim) will judge the nations’, through the exegetical device of gezerah sawah (‘equal category’), since el occurs singular in both texts as the subject…to mean Melchizedek, to whom the Most High delegated his judicial authority). But Melchizedek’s ministry of liberation…the children of light, is celebrated in Isaiah 52:7, the mountains are the feet of him who brings glad tidings, who says to Zion, “Your “elohim reigns!”‘ Here also, as in the other two texts, the elc”rohim hizedin question is Melchizedek. By passing sentence on the hosts of Belial, inaugurates the age of liberation for the righteous. There is little enough in the two explicit references to Melchizedek in the Hebrew Bible to provide a basis for this concept…Some have tried (unsuccessfully, this conception to the portrayal in Hebrews of the Son of God, enthroned at his Father’s right hand, discharging a ministry of intercession as his people’s high priest order of Melchizedek’ (cf. Ps. 110:4). A distant parallel might be found in 4:18f. , where the proclamation of the ‘acceptable year Jesus’ ministry on earth, but the other side of the coin, vengeance of our God’, is designedly missing from Luke’s quotation of Isaiah 61: said, If. (There you are indeed, in Jn. 10:34-36, an argument based on gods”‘, but that argument bears resemblance of that of 11Q Melchizedek.)

In the Letter to the Hebrews, Melchizedek, made like the Son of God’ (Heb.7:3), is a very great man as men go, but he is not a heavenly figure and not by him that salvation and judgment are administered. The closest parallel is 1 IQ Melchizedek appear in those rabbinical texts where Melchizedek is identified with the archangel Michael, ‘head keeper of the gates of right Midrash Hanne’elam Lekh). Daniel’s `one like a son of man’ has been identified with Michael by one or two scholars, but this is not of much relevance.

Other Jewish evidence

The closest resemblances to the Gospel usage of `the Son of man’ ore found in documents neither of which is likely to have influenced Parables of Enoch (1 Enoch 37 – 71) and the Apocalypse of Ezra 2 Esdras 3-14).

The Parables of Enoch

The Parables of Enoch appear to be later than the other sections which the composite `Ethiopic Enoch’. We should be cautious in drawing any logical inferences from the absence of any part of the Parables from the Aramaic fragments of 1 Enoch which have been identified among the Qumran texts; but the comparative lateness of the Parables is suggested by their internal evidence.

In the Parables God is described as ‘one who had a head of days’ (or, more briefly, ‘the Head of days’), whose hair is white like wool (1 Enoch 46:1). This language is clearly based on Daniel 7:9, where God is seen as ‘one that was ancient of days’ with ‘the hair of his head like pure wool’. Alongside the Head of days Enoch sees ‘another being whose countenance had the appearance of a man’ (46:1). This being is referred to repeatedly in the sequel as ‘that Son of Man’ – an expression which renders three distinct phrases in the Ethiopic version (so that one may wonder about the precise Greek wording, now lost, which was so translated). It is, however, evidently the same figure that is indicated by all three Ethiopic phrases. Here, beyond doubt, we have the ‘one like a son of man’ who is brought to the Ancient of Days in Daniel 7:13; but as in Daniel ‘one like a son of man’ is not a title, so `that Son of Man’ is not a title in the Parables. ‘That Son of Man’ is simply that particular ‘Son of Man’ (human figure) whom Enoch saw in the company of the ‘Head of days’. In 1 Enoch 46:3 he is called ‘the Son of Man who has righteousness’ and is apparently identical with the being denoted elsewhere in the Parables as ‘the righteous one…whose elect works depend on the Lord of spirits’ (38:2), the ‘elect one of righteousness and faith’ who ‘dwells under the wings of the Lord of spirits’ (39:6f. ), the ‘anointed one’ (Messiah) of the Lord of spirits (48:10; 52:4). He is to be a support to the righteous and ‘a light to the nations’ (48:4; cf. what is said of the Servant in Isa 49:6), and the executioner of divine judgment on the ungodly (48:8-10).

From the beginning the Son of Man was hidden and the Most High preserved him in the presence of his might and revealed him to the elect (62:7). But on the day of visitation he comes out of his place of concealment and is manifested as vindicator of the righteous and judge of the wicked: and pain shall seize them when they see that Son of Man sitting on his throne of glory (62:5).

This Son of Man `was named before the Lord of spirits, and his name before the Head of days, before the sun and the signs were created, before the stars of heaven were made’ (48:2Q. But his name is not divulged until near the end of the Parables: then Enoch is translated to heaven and welcomed by God in the words: `You are the Son of Man born for righteousness; righteousness abides over you, and the righteousness of the Head of days does not forsake you’ (71:14).

The relation borne by the Son of Man in the Parables of Enoch to the community of righteous and elect ones is comparable to that borne by Daniel’s `one like a son of man’ to the saints of the Most High. If he is righteous, so are they (38: lff. etc.); if he is elect, so are they (38:3, etc.). While hidden in God’s presence from all eternity, he takes historical form on earth from time to time in someone who is outstandingly righteous, such as Enoch. If in another section of 1 Enoch the patriarch is commissioned; because of his righteousness, to pronounce God’s judgment on the disobedient angels, in the Parables he has been chosen, for the same reason, to pronounce judgment on all the ungodly at the time of the end.

The identification of the Son of Man with Enoch (which may be compared with Enoch’s portrayal as the Servant of the Lord in Wisdom 4:10-15 is evidence enough that in the Parables we are not dealing with a Christian work. Yet there are some verbal links between the tradition which finds expression in the Parables and certain strands of the Gospel tradition, especially the distinctively Matthaean strand. We recall Matthew 19:28, where the Q promise that Jesus’ followers will `sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel’ (cf. Lk. 22:30) finds its fulfillment `in the new world (palingenesia), when the Son of man sits on his throne of glory’, or the similar words at the beginning of the judgment scene of Matthew 25:31-46: `When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then will he sit on his throne of glory.’ So in the Parables of Enoch the Day of Judgment dawns when `that Son of Man’ is seen `sitting on his throne of glory’, having been installed there by the Lord of spirits.

The Apocalypse of Ezra

It is certainly’ to the period following AD 70 that the Apocalypse of Ezra belongs. In a dream vision recorded in this apocalypse (2 Esdras 13:1-53) `something resembling a man’ (Syr. ‘eyk demuta debarnaSa) is seen coming up from the sea: `that ‘man’ flies with the clouds of heaven to judge the ungodly and deliver creation. He is acknowledged by God as ‘my son’ (verses 32, 371, 52) and described as ‘the one whom the Most High has kept for many ages’ (verse 26). This language, which in other dream visions in the same work is used of the Messiah (7:28, 29; 12:32), is fairly certainly based on that of Daniel 7:13f., although it is reminiscent also of Enoch’s `hidden’ Son of Man. The Semitic original of the Apocalypse of Ezra is lost, as is also the Greek version; it survives in a number of secondary versions (notably Latin, Syriac and Ethiopic) based on the Greek. We can only guess what the Semitic term for the `man’ was (Heb. ben ‘adam, perhaps, or Aram. bar fenasa); since the Latin refers to him as ipse homo (in the vision, but vir in the interpretation),” the lost Greek version presumably had autos ho anthropos (i.e. no attempt was made to reproduce the Semitic idiom by some such rendering as huios anthropou with accompanying pronoun or article).

The Apocalypse of Ezra (a Jewish work) could have had no influence on the development of the Gospel tradition. Its vision of the man from the sea represents an independent line of interpretation of Daniel’s vision, parallel to that in the Parables of Enoch.


The identification of the ‘man’ of Ezra’s sixth vision with the Messiah crops up elsewhere in Judaism. Naturally, with the growth of exegetical controversy between Jews and Christians towards the end of the first century, the messianic interpretation of Daniel’s ‘one like a son of man’ was bound to become as unacceptable to Jewish theologians as the messianic interpretation of the Isaianic Servant. But the messianic interpretation of Daniel’s figure had already been established in some Jewish circles, and it emerges in the remark attributed to Aqiba that the thrones set for judgment in Daniel 7:9 were two in number – one for God and one for `David’, i.e. the Messiah (cf. Ps. 122:5, ‘There thrones for judgment were set, the thrones of the house of David’). Aqiba’s colleagues were shocked to hear him voice an interpretation which by now smacked of profanity, but Aqiba would not have voiced it had it not been of respectable origin.


Our conclusions, then, are as follows:

1. `The Son of man’ was not a current title for the Messiah or any other eschatological figure.

2. Jesus’ special use of the expression (as distinct from its general Aramaic use in the sense of `man’, `the man’, or a possible use to replace the pronoun `I’) was derived from the `one like a son of man’ who is divinely vested with authority in Daniel 7:13f. Because it was not a current title, it was not liable to be misunderstood, as current titles were, and Jesus was free to take up the expression and give it what meaning he chose.

3. Jesus enriched the expression by fusing with it the figure of a righteous sufferer, probably the Isaianic Servant, so that he could speak of the suffering of the Son of man as something that was `written’ concerning him. By suffering and vindication Jesus, the Son of man, became his people’s deliverer and advocate.

4. A similar fusion of suffering and vindicated figures is found in some Qumran texts, although they use a different vocabulary (in which `one like a son of man’ does not appear), and there is no indication that Jesus or the evangelists were influenced by Qumran thought.

5. The `Son of Man’ in the Parables of Enoch and the `man’ in the Apocalypse of Ezra also hark back to Daniel’s `one like a son of man’, but in these works also the expression is not a title, and they represent developments probably later than Jesus and the Gospels and certainly independent of them.

6. A `Son of man’ theology could be nothing other than a theology based on what can be ascertained about Jesus’ understanding of his identity and life mission.