Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Matthew 1:23 and "ho theos"

 originally posted 12/8/14

The following is reproduced from another blogpost.

Some Unitarians hold to a position similar to Greg Stafford that rejects not only the full deity of Christ but also Christ's dual nature. If with Stafford they also reject the distinction between 1. person and 2. being (alternatively termed substance or essence), then that presents a dilemma for them with respect Matt. 1:23 which applies the prophecy of Isaiah 7:14 to Christ. The prophecy says the messiah would be called/considered "Immanuel" (which means "god/God with us"). If Jesus didn't have two natures immediately upon incarnation then Jesus ceased to have the nature (or being/essence/substance) of God (or "a god" as Unitarians would translate it) during the incarnation. In which case Jesus couldn't have been "Immanuel" since god/God WOULDN'T be "with us." On the other hand, one way Unitarians can affirm "(a) god with us" is to say that while Jesus ceased being a god during the incarnation, it was still nevertheless the same PERSON as the god who previously existed with a god-like nature and now has a human nature. The problem is that then they would be conceding a Trinitarian distinction between person and being. Which therefore opens up the possibility of the truth of Trinitarianism which teaches God is one in being and three in person. That is, One WHAT and Three WHOS. Moreover, Colossians 1:19 and [especially] Col. 2:9 teaches in some sense that "all the fullness of deity [or what makes one "divine" or "Divine"] resides in Christ bodily. Which again supports Christ's dual nature as opposed to a single nature both before [only "divine" small "d"] incarnation and after incarnation [only physical human nature] between conception and right before resurrection. Different Unitarians believe different things regarding Christ's nature at the resurrection. If I recall correctly, Jehovah's Witnesses for example believed at one time (still do believe it?) that Jesus' dead body eventually dissolved in the tomb. Also, that Jesus now lives only as spirit (without a physical body).

Back to Isa. 7:14 and Matt. 1:23. It must be understood that the original prophecy was probably not initially understood to mean that Almighty God Himself would take on human nature. Regardless of whether one applies the principle of dual fulfillment (immediate and long distance) regarding Isa. 7:14 or not, the original recipients of the prophecy would have interpreted the prophecy to mean that at some future date a mere human would be born who would (by his birth and possibly in conjunction with his deeds) represent (or signify) and inaugurate (in some sense) Almighty God being with "us" (i.e. His people),  in the sense of being on their side helping and delivering them. That is to say His benevolent presence which would bring victory and prosperity. The original audience would not have assumed that an elohim that was an inferior supernatural being to Almighty God (but submitted to Almighty God) would be incarnated. Yet, incarnation is what the New Testament teaches whether you take it to be the incarnation of "a god" or "Almighty God." Couple that with the fact that the original prophecy was talking about Almighty God being present, one must conclude that when Matt. 1:23 applies the prophecy to Christ as el or elohim in the flesh, the natural interpretation would be that Matthew intends to teach that the el or elohim who was "with us" wasn't a mere angelic being but Almighty God Himself. Moreover, it seems to me the Greek says "ho theos." That is in keeping with my interpretation of Matthew is telling and indicating to us that Almighty God (THE God) is with us in Christ's birth. The Greek phrase "ho theos" is usually (though not exclusively) reserved for Almighty God in the New Testament. Even the Jehovah's Witnesses Kingdom Interlinear (1969 and 1985) says, "With us the God" in Matt. 1:23.

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