I made a new friend in 2008. We met through our blogs and then we saw each other briefly in Jerusalem in December. His name is Daniel and he has a blog at http://christian4moses.wordpress.com/
Daniel, a Dutch Christian who developed a love for Torah and Rashi during a sojourn in various Torah, Hebraic Roots, and Messianic Jewish groups, talked to me as we sat in the lobby of the Dan Panorama hotel in Jerusalem. He explained that he no longer believed he was under obligation, as a non-Jew, to keep all of Torah. I agreed. He also explained that in spite of returning to a normative church, he had gone through some changes in his faith. Having set out to explore new possibilities and interpretations, Daniel did a good thing. He thought for himself instead of simply assenting to the beliefs he was told he must adhere to.
I am a fan of both independent thought and conversing with tradition. We need to do both.
What seems unfortunate to me is that Daniel has arrived at a theory about the person of Messiah, specifically regarding his Deity, which I cannot agree with. He tried to explain his theory to me, but it took me weeks, even a month, to begin to understand what he was really saying.
I’m not sure why I have been a little slow to really comprehend. It has been a busy time in my life, a time of career change. Maybe I was also guilty of trying to listen to Daniel’s theory through preset categories instead of letting the originality of his thought sink in. Whatever the reasons, it has taken me until recent weeks to really understand.
I will lay out Daniel’s theory, as I understand it (I wouldn’t be surprised if I still get parts of it wrong) and respond to it. Who knows? Maybe this dialogue will produce greater understanding, for me, Daniel, or any readers who take the time to think this through.
THE PROLOGUE TO THE FOURTH GOSPEL, YESHUA, AND DEITY: A THEORY
Here is Daniel’s theory, as I understand it:
–The Fourth Gospel (esp. John 1:1-18) is not saying that Yeshua is God.
–This does not mean that Yeshua is like all the rest of humanity. He is unique in two ways, one inherent and one resultant. Inherently, Yeshua is unique because he has no human father, but (like Adam) has only God as his father. The result of his unique nature is that Yeshua alone (including Adam) lived a life of perfect righteousness, reflecting the wisdom and plan of God without fault.
–When the Fourth Gospel says the Logos (Word) was God it is not speaking of Yeshua, but of God’s Reason or Plan (see below).
–Logos = the Divine Plan or Order behind all things. It might be called the Genius of God. (Note: Genius is a word I came up with, not Daniel. I thought it might be analogous to the worship of the Caesars in which people worshipped their genius after they died.)
–The Genius of God became flesh and dwelt among us (paraphrase of John 1:14).
–This does not mean that Yeshua is God in himself. In fact, the key to understanding Daniel’s theory is realizing that Yeshua is not the Logos (Word, Genius), but a uniquely born son of God who was destined to perfectly live out the Genius of God in his life.
–In the beginning was the Genius of God, and the Genius of God was with God, and the Genius of God was God (paraphrase of John 1:1).
EVALUATING THE THEORY
The good thing about this theory is the way it accounts for many of the details of the prologue to the Fourth Gospel. It is an interpretive option that should be considered. But does it cover all of the details and do justice to the language of the prologue?
Crucial to this theory is the idea that Yeshua is not himself the Logos (Genius) but someone who achieved it in his perfect life.
If this crux is not maintained, then the theory falls apart. If you admit that Logos (Genius) = Yeshua, then you will have little choice but to admit that the Fourth Gospel teaches the Deity of Messiah. (Note: There are arguments to the contrary, such as the idea that Yeshua is divine but not exactly God. I believe these arguments are problematic as well, even more so than Daniel’s theory. I am not covering my reaction to these arguments in this article.)
Yet, if this theory maintains that the Logos (Genius) is not Yeshua, then it faces some serious problems:
1. This theory does not do justice to the last clause of John 1:1. Instead, it renders the clause a contradiction: the Reason/Command/Genius of God was God. This statement is nonsensical, like saying “the mind of Derek was Derek.”
2. The Logos (Genius), as used by the Fourth Gospel, is not merely some abstract quality of God. The Logos is creative and active. Nothing exists that was not made by the Logos (John 1:3). The Logos is the light of the world and in the Logos is life (John 1:4). The Logos’s own people did not receive him (John 1:11). We beheld the Logos (John 1:14).
3. The Fourth Gospel, contrary to this theory, does directly equate Yeshua and the Logos (Genius). In John 1, the Logos is depicted at the light and life of men, overcoming the darkness. Throughout the rest of the Fourth Gospel, Yeshua is depicted as the light and life of men, overcoming the darkness (”I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life,” for example). In general, this fits the purpose of a prologue: to foreshadow that which comes after. And that which comes after is Yeshua fulfilling the promise of the Logos.
Daniel’s theory, while worth considering, goes to a fair amount of trouble to avoid an interpretation which fits better: the Logos is Yeshua. The Logos is not merely God’s Genius. It is not merely some abstract quality which Yeshua alone achieved. It is Yeshua. And thus:
Logos = God = Yeshua
The Logos is God’s creative, active agent in the world. How can the Logos at once be God and yet separate from God (the Logos was with God and at the same time was God)?
This is exactly what the tradition of Christianity sought to understand centuries ago and arrived at some very sound interpretations. God is not limited to one person, although he certainly is one being. Simply because our nature can be expressed in only one person does not mean we should assume God has the same limitation. His one nature has multiple expressions (three that we know of).
The age-old interpretation fits well. The Father is the ruling agent of God, the Son is the active/creative agent, and the Spirit is the immanent agent. They are three expressions of one being.
At the right time, as Rome was spreading new ideas and as Israel was about to enter a new phase of exile, the Son became a man. In the beginning was the Son. The Son was with God. The Son was God.