Monday 13 January 2014

Examination of "Early Church History by C.S."

There was an article which had caught my interest on which I will link to here:

This article will be taking a look at some of the claims made by the article which has been linked to.

"Missionaries allege that their belief in the divinity of Jesus is rooted in Jewish Scriptures. Some missionaries take this argument one preposterous step forward. They contend that the veneration of Jesus as a god can be traced to Jewish thinking that predated Jesus.

Let us step back and examine this claim from a historical perspective.

There are certain aspects of history which are difficult for us to ascertain from where we stand today. However, there are other aspects of history which are well known and easily verifiable.

The verifiable elements of early Christian history are; that the early followers of Jesus were Jews, that Paul was the one who brought a Christian message to the Gentile world, and that when the Council of Nicea was convened there was a strong contingent of followers of Jesus who believed that he was not divine."

Ok, So far so good, although the last statement is incorrect, the Arians themselves did affirm Jesus as divine, but they denied his deity, whereas the Eusebian and Alexandrians where Trinitarian and affirmed the Deity of Christ and affirmed him as the God of the TANAKH, though distinct from the Father in personhood. In other words the Trinitarians believed he was God but was not the Father in heaven whereas the Arians saw Jesus as a created divine being and not truly God. The Jehovah's Witnesses and Socinians, while not the same as the Arians of yesteryear hold similar beliefs to them, although Jehovah's Witnesses hold Jesus to be the arch angel Michael and Socinians hold that Jesus was not divine in any sense.

"The question we must ask is; where did this concept of the “non-divinity” of Jesus get inserted into the Christian thought process? How did such a concept gain so much popularity amongst Gentile Christians? According to the aforementioned missionaries, the Jewish followers of Jesus all believed that he was divine in a “smooth progression” from Jewish teachings. So was it the pagan converts to Christianity who resisted the message of “divine man”? Which pagan group would have had a problem with a “man-god” or with a “virgin birth”? Which pagan nation would have made such a fuss about the claims for the divinity of Jesus that the Council of Nicea needed to deal with those claims with such seriousness?

According to these missionaries we would need to imagine that the original followers of Jesus believed in his divinity while the pagans who joined the movement were the ones who resisted this message.

I propose that the far more plausible scenario is that the Jewish followers of Jesus never heard of the claim for his divinity and that it was the pagans, who were so familiar with the concept of a “man-god,” who inserted this concept into the Christian thought process.

The writings of the early Church Fathers lend validity to this version of history. Irenaus, Eusebius, Epiphanius and Origen all describe the Jewish followers of Jesus as people who rejected the belief in the divinity of Jesus."

What's funny is that the author doesn't bother quoting from the NT to actually bolster his point with respect to whether the early followers of Jesus believed he was Ha Shem in the flesh or not. Here are a few articles on the subject of the Trinity I have written which I recommend the author reading:

He goes onto the subject of the church fathers and I am happy to deal the church fathers he mentions in another article but first let's carry on quickly. He assumes that Jews who believed in Jesus would of had a problem with the Deity of Christ rather than pagans who would accept this concept readily. This quite frankly is broad brushing. In the articles I posted here, keep in mind the apostles were Jews, as was Paul, so why boldly assume that Jews, who accepted Jesus as his Messiah, did not see him as God after the resurrection?
The disciples, as well as the Jewish and Gentile believers, called on his name, which involved invoking him and beseeching him.

"Acts 9:10 In Damascus there was a disciple named Ananias. The Lord called to him in a vision, “Ananias!”

“Yes, Lord,” he answered.

11 The Lord told him, “Go to the house of Judas on Straight Street and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul, for he is praying. 12 In a vision he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight.”

13 “Lord,” Ananias answered, “I have heard many reports about this man and all the harm he has done to your holy people in Jerusalem. 14 And he has come here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who call on your name.

15 But the Lord said to Ananias, “Go! This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel. 16 I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”"

Calling on one's name in this context is the same as how the Saints of the TANAKH called on God's name. All in the context would of included JEWISH believers and Gentile believers. Stephen himself to prays to Jesus in the context of Acts 7:54-60:

"Acts 7:54 When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. 55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”

57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.

59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep."

Here he beseeches Jesus to have mercy upon the men who stoned him and tells the Lord to recieve his spirit, Just like what Jesus did with the Father in Luke 23:46

"Jesus called out with a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." When he had said this, he breathed his last."

This phrase of commiting your spirit is not something you do with an ordinary man, even in Psalm 35 in the TANAKH, such an idea is foreign:

"1 In you, Lord, I have taken refuge;
    let me never be put to shame;
    deliver me in your righteousness.
2 Turn your ear to me,
    come quickly to my rescue;
be my rock of refuge,
    a strong fortress to save me.
3 Since you are my rock and my fortress,
    for the sake of your name lead and guide me.
4 Keep me free from the trap that is set for me,
    for you are my refuge.
5 Into your hands I commit my spirit;
    deliver me, Lord, my faithful God.
6 I hate those who cling to worthless idols;
    as for me, I trust in the Lord.
7 I will be glad and rejoice in your love,
    for you saw my affliction
    and knew the anguish of my soul.
8 You have not given me into the hands of the enemy
    but have set my feet in a spacious place."

While the Psalm isn't to do with the death of the individual, that's not the point. Observe the following:
1. The Psalmist says into your hands I commit my Spirit to God
2. Jesus says into your hands I commit my Spirit to the Father
3. Stephen asks Jesus to recieve his spirit
4. You cannot say to a mere creature or ask him to recieve your spirit.

Before I carry on I am aware Stephen is sitting at the right hand of God, but that doesn't prove he is not God, all it does is prove he is distinct from the Father and nothing more. As I have said in my response to Tovia Singer:

"Tovia doesn't realise that God is the main designation of the Father and Lord is the primary designation of the Son. When Christ is called Lord, it is in the SUPREME sense, not simply a polite honorific. If the Son is not God based on this argument, then the Father is not Lord."

Also, Robert Bowman and J. Ed Komoszewski, commenting on Stephen's prayer, have stated the following:
"The word translated prayed in the NRSV (likewise in the NIV) is a form of epikaleo which literally means to "call on" someone. When used in religious contexts of appealing to a heavenly or supernatural being for help, epikaleo is another technical term for prayer. Thus it is undeniable that in this context Stephen was praying to Jesus. The significance of this act of invoking Jesus is only heightened by the occasion: the heavenly being on whom one calls at the moment of death for spiritual repose is quite simply one's God. Stephen entrusted the "Lord Jesus" with his spirit. The same writer Luke, is the only Gospel writer to report that Jesus had entrusted his spirit to the Father at the moment of his death (Luke 23:46 cf. Ps 31:5). Clearly Luke understands Jesus to be performing a function of deity by receiving Stephen's spirit- and on in this contexts Stephen's calling on Jesus is as significant as an act of pray as one could imagine. As the late Yale theologian and historian Jaroslac Pelikan pointed out "For Stephen to commit his spirit to the Lord Jesus himself when the Lord Jesus himself had commited his spirit to the Father was either an act of blatant idolatry or the acknowledgement of the kurios Iesus [Lord Jesus] as the fitting recipient of dying prayer of Stephen"" (Robert Bowman and J. Ed Komoszewski, Putting Jesus in his place, Page 49).

If you want Jesus' words about beseeching him in prayer, I have said my article the following regarding this issue:

""12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it." 

Even though some Bibles do not contain ask me but say ask instead, Jesus still says HE will do it within the given context. In John 15:16, The Father ALSO gives to the believer:

"16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you."

Both contexts demonstrate BOTH the Father and the Son can be invoked and give what is requested from them. We know how the Father does, but the only way Jesus can grant us our requests, not just to one person but to multiple people at the same time, is if he is OMNIPRESENT, an attribute that belongs ONLY to God."

The disciples were convinced of the Deity of Christ in the NT and prayed to him, sang to him and honoured him in such a way which could only be done to God alone. Even Paul beseeched Jesus in prayer:

"2 Corinthians 12:1 I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. 2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. 3 And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— 4 was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell. 5 I will boast about a man like that, but I will not boast about myself, except about my weaknesses. 6 Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, 7 or because of these surpassingly great revelations. Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

Paul, a Jew is pleading with Jesus that the thorn or hindrance in his flesh may be removed but Jesus refuses his request and give Paul the grace to cope with what is happening to him.

There are many passages I could go into but that is enough for now.

In the next article I shall look at the subject the church fathers and examine the quotes given by my Rabbinic friend

Answering Judaism.

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