Calling Jesus God in the NT

From: Paul Moser (
Date: Fri Sep 22 1995 - 12:00:00 EDT

Regarding the common use of the vocative of "theos" in
translating Heb 1:8a, it's noteworthy that the
Jewish Publication Society translation of the
Masoretic text of Psalm 45:7a is: "Thy throne
given of God is forever and ever" (1955 ed.).
The corresponding translation of v.6a in the
margin of the RSV and the NRSV is: "Your throne
is a throne of God." I wonder if Christian
translators too readily translate Psalm 45 with
an eye to a standard Christian translation of
Heb 1:8a. Does anyone have a standard Jewish
translation of Psalm 45:7a in the LXX? It
would be helpful to know if it, like the JPS
trans. of the MT, departs from the vocative
of "theos."

In any case, Mark O'Brien's recent post seems
right on two key points: (a) various NT writers
do portray Jesus as behaving in ways reserved for
God, but (b) the NT writers do not really know
how to relate Jesus's phenomenal behavior to
their monotheism. It's noteworthy that no
NT writer has Jesus say "I am God," nor does
any NT writer clearly say "Jesus = God." Jewish
monotheism runs too deep among the NT writers for
such misleading statements. It's interesting
that the translators of the *New English Bible*
2d ed. (chaired by C. Dodd) feel this point to such
an extent that they render Jn 1:1 as "what God was,
the Word was." I have no doubt that the apostle
Paul and the main author of John (whom, incidentally,
is probably Zebedee) had some conception of the
divinity of Jesus (as did some of the other NT
writers). What I doubt is that these writers
either taught anything like a trinitarian doctrine
or otherwise knew how to accommodate Jesus within
their monotheism. For that matter, I too plead
ignorance on that latter, even in the face of
the legacy of trinitarian monotheism.--Paul Moser,
Loyola University Chicago.

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