A Different Message to Jews and Gentiles
After Jesus resurrected, He showed Himself to Thomas, and said, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”
Thomas answered Him, “My Lord and my God!”
John 1:1 and John 20:28 may be the most confusing verses for many believers.
Most scholars will readily admit that it is impossible to believe Jesus is God by reading the letters of Paul. Paul only makes statements like “there is one God, the Father” . . . “there is one God and Father of all.” Nobody will conclude that Jesus is God after reading Paul’s letters.
It is only a few statements made by John and Peter that have caused people to believe that Jesus is God.
Why is the message of John and Peter so different than that of Paul?
The audiences of Peter and John were different.
Paul was commissioned by the Lord Jesus Christ to preach to the Gentiles. Peter and John were sent to the Jews, as Paul mentions in Galatians 2:7–9:
But on the contrary, when they saw that the gospel for the uncircumcised had been committed to me, as the gospel for the circumcised was to Peter (for He who worked effectively in Peter for the apostleship to the circumcised also worked effectively in me toward the Gentiles), and when James, Cephas (Peter), and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that had been given to me, they gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.
We can see the strong working relationship of Peter and John, beginning from Acts 3–5. They were co-preachers. They preached that Jesus Christ was the promised Messiah of the Old Testament, and the ELOHIM of Israel.
The fact that John and Peter were co-workers explains the similarity of John 1:1 and 2 Peter 1:1; and the similarity of John 20:28 and Acts 2:39. First let’s look at John’s verses:
In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and God was the Word.1
We discussed this verse at length in Chapter 2. John told us that the ELOHIM in Genesis 1:1 was the Spirit of Christ, the pre-existent Christ: ELOHIM was Christ.
John really grabbed our attention with the first verse of his gospel.
And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God.”
In verse 17, Jesus had just called the Father His God, saying, “I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.”
Verse 28 almost seems to be Thomas’ reply to this. Jesus called the Father His God, and so Thomas called Jesus his God.
Many rightly call John 20:28 the literal climax of John’s gospel, which began with “And God was the Word.” For here, Thomas recognized Christ was his God, YHVH ELOHIM, the ELOHIM of Israel.
The revelation that Christ was YHVH ELOHIM is the continual theme of John. John’s Gospel contains several “I AM” statements to show the fulfillment of God’s promise: “I will save them by He WILL BE their ELOHIM” (Hosea 1:7).
2 Peter 1:1
To those who have obtained like precious faith with us
by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.
John and Peter were co-workers, and they seem to have copied each other’s introduction style. We are not certain, which verse was written first, 2 Peter 1:1, or John 1:1? But, one seems to be copying the other!
Peter, as stated in 1 Peter 1, wrote to the “pilgrims of the dispersion,” the dispersed Jewish saints. The message of Peter was clear. Christ was the fulfillment of God’s promise to save them by their God.
Many think that Peter’s real meaning was “our God and our Savior Jesus Christ,” referring to two separate persons, as the Apostles normally did. They believe Peter just skipped the second “our” from convenience. If I say “the stone and gold” there is no need to write “the stone and the gold” because the reader already knows that they are two separate entities.
In 1798, a famous believer, by the name of Granville Sharp, undertook a study of the New Testament Greek to prove that Peter’s grammar was sound. He tried to prove that the Greek grammar of Peter’s day did not allow a writer to make a shortcut.
His study proposed that several unbreakable grammar rules existed. The first of these rules became known as “the Granville Sharp rule”:
When the copulative kai connects two nouns of the same case, if the article ho, or any of its cases, precedes the first of the said nouns or participles, and is not repeated before the second noun or participle, the latter always relates to the same person that is expressed or described by the first noun or participle . . .2
Over the years, Sharp’s rules have undergone significant challenges. Many exceptions to his rules have been found. The first and most significant list of exceptions was compiled by Calvin Winstanley in 1819. Winstanley also looked at the classical and patristic Greek, outside the Bible. 3
In recent years, Sharp’s rules were challenged by a Trinitarian theologian, Daniel B. Wallace. His results are available on the Internet.
Wallace created the “Sharper rule,” which he says avoids all the known exceptions to Sharp’s rule. Wallace’s “Sharper rule” is considered to be the most defensible analysis of Greek grammar.
Wallace’s Sharper Rule is as follows:
In native Greek constructions (i.e., not translation Greek), when a single article modifies two substantives connected by καί (thus, article-substantive-καί-substantive), when both substantives are (1) singular (both grammatically and semantically), (2) personal, (3) and common nouns (not proper names or ordinals), they have the same referent. 4
Wallace examined all the possibilities, including 2 Thessalonians 1:12; Titus 2:13, Ephesians 5:5; Col 2:2; Jude 4; and 2 Peter 1:1.
He determined there are only two passages where Jesus Christ and God refer to “the same person.”
These are in Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1.
2 Titus 2:13
In one English version, Titus 2:13 reads, “looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.”
In this verse, Paul is talking about the Lord’s Day, which we will discuss in Chapter 30. In that Day, we will see that the Spirit of Christ appears as both the “Ancient of Days” and “the Son of Man” for He is the image of the invisible God.
We have to challenge the application of “the Sharper rule” in Titus 2:13. The Greek text reads “the glory of the great God and Savior Christ Jesus” (τῆς δόξης τοῦ μεγάλου Θεοῦ καὶ Σωτῆρος ἡμῶν Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ). The subject is the “glory.” This is the shared “glory” of Christ and God, described in John 17:4, “the glory which I had with You before the world was.” Titus 2:13 is describing the glory that is shared by two persons, who come together as one unit, in the LORD’s Day, “in that Day it shall be the LORD one, and His name one” (Zechariah 14:9).
Paul is not saying these two persons are the same. If this verse really said, “our great God and savior Jesus Christ,” it might be more difficult to explain. But it says, “THE Great God” – the one “Great God,” who is not Christ in Paul’s theology.
Again, these were Peter’s words: “as many as the Lord our ELOHIM shall call.”
God was our Lord prior to Christ’s resurrection, and will be again after the LORD’s Day.
In the Appendix, we prove that, in the New Testament, only Christ was called “Kurios,” the Lord, after His resurrection and before the Lord’s Day, among 500 cases, except when referencing Old Testament passages, or referring to God as the Lord of creation.
We can understand why Thomas called Jesus “my Lord and my God,” in John 20:28.
But why do we also find the expression “Lord our God” in Acts 2:39, “As many as the Lord our God will call?” Was Peter calling God the Lord, in this verse? Could this be the only exception of 500 uses of the phrase “Lord,” calling God “the Lord” after Christ’s resurrection?
Is it possible that, in his excitement of the Pentecost day, the Apostle Peter had forgotten that Jesus had been made “the Lord”? No, because just three verses earlier, in verse 36, Peter had just finished saying that God made Christ “the Lord.” How could he forget, only two sentences later?
It seems more likely that Peter, like Thomas, was calling Christ the Lord and ELOHIM of the Jewish people.
In Acts 2:39, Peter’s message to the Jews gathered there was most likely “as many as the Lord our ELOHIM shall call” (John 15:16).
Verse 47 is the next time the phrase “Lord” is used. Here, we read: “and the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” This can only refer to Jesus Christ, who “poured out” the promise of the Father, adding the believers to the Church, as stated in verse 33.
Again, we can see the strong similarity of John and Peter’s explanation of Christ and God. These two Jewish fishermen were co-preachers to the Jewish people, and told them that Jesus Christ was their ELOHIM.
It is worth noting that, in this passage, Peter considered the words of David, to be a prophecy that Christ would be made the Lord. Peter quoted David, saying,
For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself:
‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at My right hand,
Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.”
“Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” (Acts 2:34–36)
In the next verse, we read, “Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart.”
The Letters of Ignatius of Antioch
“I pray for you happiness forever, in our God, Jesus Christ”
Epistle of Ignatius to Polycarp, 8
Trinitarians love to quote the letters of Ignatius as proof that Jesus was God. Ignatius also called Jesus, OUR God, in his letter to the Ephesians, 18; and in his letter to the Romans, 3.
Why would Ignatius call Jesus, OUR God?
There are a great many scholars who doubt the legitimacy of the manuscripts of Ignatius’ letters, but there is a very logical reason why Ignatius would have called Jesus, his God.
Ignatius was believed to have been the young Jewish boy who was held in Jesus’ arms.
Quoting from the Catholic Encyclopedia,
More than one of the earliest ecclesiastical writers have given credence . . . to the legend that Ignatius was the child whom the Savior took up in His arms (in Matthew 18:2).
Both Polycarp and Ignatius were believed to have been disciples of John, who Paul told us, preached to the circumcised.
Like Peter and John, Ignatius also wrote to “the pilgrims of the dispersion” (1 Peter 1:1), the dispersed Jewish saints, one of whom was Polycarp.
According to Irenaeus, Polycarp was appointed by the Apostles as bishop of Smyrna 5. Smyrna was a center for Jewish Christians, which we understand from Revelation 2:9, “I know the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews, and are not.”
All the evidence tells us that both Ignatius and Polycarp were Jews, who called Jesus, OUR God.
- John 1:1, Greek text ↩
- Sharp, Granville (1798). Remarks on the Uses of the Definitive Article in the Greek Text of the New Testament, Containing Many New Proofs of the Divinity of Christ, from Passages Which Are Wrongly Translated in the Common English Version. London. p. 8. ↩
- Wikipedia, Granville Sharp ↩
- Sharp Redivivus? A Reexamination of the Granville Sharp Rule, by Daniel B. Wallace, Ph.D. Associate Professor of New Testament Studies, Dallas Theological Seminary. ↩
- Against Heresies, Book III, Chapter 3 ↩