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.
John 1:1, Greek text
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, Yihvah ELOHIM, the ELOHIM of Israel.
The revelation that Christ was Yihvah 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 Acts 2:39, Peter tells us that the promise of the holy spirit is for “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.”
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”
In the next verse, we read, “Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart.”
Why were they cut to the heart? Because they realized that they had delivered their ELOHIM up to be crucified. As Jesus said, “when you lift up the Son of Man, you will know that I AM” (John 8:28).
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 (Against Heresies, Book III, Chapter 3). Smyrna was a center for Jewish Christians, which we understand from Revelation 3:9, “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.
The Sharper Rule
In 1798, a famous believer, by the name of Granville Sharp, studied the New Testament Greek to prove that Peter’s grammar in 2 Peter 1:1 was sound, that it equated Christ to God. But he did not understand that Peter was describing the ELOHIM of the Jews. And so, he went even further to prove that Greek grammar equated Christ to God in many other verses.
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 . . .1
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.2
In recent years, Sharp’s rules were challenged by the Trinitarian grammarian, Daniel B. Wallace. He created the “Sharper rule,” which he says avoids all the known exceptions to Sharp’s rule.
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.3
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.
However, there is one issue. According to his own rule, both substantives cannot have personal names. All support for this rule is based on verses where personal names are not used.4 Obviously, Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1 have the name of “Jesus Christ.”
We have accepted 2 Peter 1:1 for other reasons.
How about Titus 2:13? Does this verse equate Christ and God? It equates the glory of Christ and God. The glory is the “same referent” of the Greek article. The same kind of grammar is also used in Ephesians 5:5, and 2 Thessalonians 1:12.
“looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of
our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.”
The “same referent” in this verse is “the glory.”
The Greek article can be used to particularize the quality of abstract nouns like faith, love, righteousness, and glory.
Such is the case in John 11:4, where Jesus describes, “the glory of God” τῆς δόξης τοῦ θεοῦ.” This glory is unlike the glory of men and is set apart by the article τῆς. The phrase “τοῦ θεοῦ” must have the article because it is a genitive construction that modifies τῆς δόξης. The phrase “τοῦ θεοῦ” restricts this glory to God. Τοῦ is not a definite article—we would not translate τῆς δόξης τοῦ θεοῦ as “the glory of the God.”
The genitive case can also restrict the quality of abstract nouns to a class of people. An example is: ἐὰν μὴ περισσεύσῃ ὑμῶν ἡ δικαιοσύνη πλεῖον τῶν γραμματέων καὶ Φαρισαίων, “unless your righteousness exceeds the scribes and pharisees.”[Matthew 5:20] :Here, the article τῶν does not equate “the scribes and pharisees,” it equates the righteousness that is shared by them.
The same thing is happening in Titus 2:13. In this case, the genitive article is being used to tell us that this “glory” is shared by Christ and God. The Greek text reads τῆς δόξης τοῦ μεγάλου Θεοῦ καὶ Σωτῆρος ἡμῶν Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ, “the glory of our great God and Savior Christ Jesus.” This is the glory described in John 17:5, and 22, “the glory which I had with You before the world was…Glorify Me together with Yourself … the glory which You have given to Me, I have given to them that they may be one, just as We are one.”
In Titus 2:13, Paul is talking about the Lord’s Day, which we will discuss in Chapter 31. In that Day, we will see that the Spirit of Christ appears as both the “Ancient of Days” and “the Son of Man.” In that Day, we will witness the appearance of their glory when Christ appears as the image of the invisible God.
- 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. ↩
- Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar beyond the Basics, pg 270-278 ↩