Calling Jesus God

From: Paul Moser (
Date: Thu Sep 21 1995 - 11:13:00 EDT

Larry Hurtado's distinction between the linguistic evidence
and the functional evidence in the NT regarding the divinity
of Jesus is plausible and important. The essays I noted
by France and Baukham treat some important functional
evidence, whereas the essays by Taylor and Wainwright focus
on linguistic evidence. Translators should be cautious
about using inferences from the functional evidence to
settle delicate ambiguities in the linguistic evidence
(e.g., in the translations of Rom 9:5, Titus 2:13, Heb
1:8). The NRSV and various other mainline translations
fail on this score, at least at a few important points.
It's misleading at best to work with the assumption that
Paul and various other NT writers held either that "Jesus is
God" or that the orthodox doctrine of the trinity is true.
This would be to read later developments into the minds
of various NT writers. It is arguable that the later
developments offer the best explanation of the relevant
data offered by the NT writers, but it is quite another
matter to propose that the various NT writers themselves
had this best explanation. Even though the author of
John and the apostle Paul (cf. Phil 2) had certain
conceptions of the divinity of Jesus, it is not at all
clear that they, or any other NT writer, knew how
to elaborate those conceptions in accordance with
later trinitarian monotheism. At least, the burden
of proof is definitely with the person who holds
otherwise. --Paul Moser, Loyola University of Chicago.

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