Exposing how Trinitarian Apologists Misuse Thomas’ “My Lord, My God” Expression
Christian polemist Sam Shamoun considers Dr. James White a “reformed Christian scholar and apologist”. As such he quotes him towards a common agenda – the viability of Trinity, especially, the deity of Jesus (peace be upon him):
Unfortunately there are those that oppose the doctrine of the glorious and blessed Trinity who seek to diminish Thomas’ declaration to the essential Deity of our risen Lord. Yet noted reformed Christian scholar and apologist Dr. James R. White demonstrates why such feeble attempts by these anti-Trinitarian groups simply do not work:
“Thomas’s answer is simple and clear. It is directed to the Lord Jesus, not to anyone else, for John says, ‘he said to Him.’ The content of his confession is plain and unambiguous. ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus is Thomas’s Lord. Of this there is no question. And there is simply no reason–grammatical, contextual, or otherwise–to deny that in the very same breath Thomas calls Christ his ‘God.’
“Jesus’ response to Thomas’s confession shows not the slightest discomfort at the appellation ‘God.’ Jesus says Thomas has shown faith, for he has ‘believed.’ He then pronounces a blessing upon all who will believe like Thomas without the added element of physical sight. There is no reproach of Thomas’s description of Jesus as his Lord and God. No created being could ever allow such words to be addressed to him personally. No angel, no prophet, no sane human being, could ever allow himself to be addressed as ‘Lord and God.’ Yet Jesus not only accepts the words of Thomas but pronounces the blessing of faith upon them as well.” (White, The Forgotten Trinity – Recovering the Heart of Christian Belief [Bethany House Publishers, Minneapolis, MN 1998], Chapter 5. Jesus Christ: God in Human Flesh, pp. 69-70) (http://www.answering-islam.org/authors/shamoun/identity1.html)
By quoting Dr. White from his book “The Forgotten Trinity”, Shamoun wants to support the deity of Jesus (peace be upon him) through Thomas’ proclamation of him being his “Lord and God”!
Thus, we would concentrate specifically on this darling Trinitarian argument to expose how Shamoun and White have been twisting their own “Scriptures” merely to suit a sectarian agenda.
Note that White is confident that the grammar and context around “Thomas’ confession” does not yield anything else but that Jesus (peace be upon him) was his “Lord and God”. Therefore, we would use White’s own yardsticks to check the viability of the argument. We take context first and then grammar.
We are glad that Dr. White has appealed to the context of Thomas’ confession since the context itself dispels most of Trinitarian mist. Thomas’ so-called confession is specific to immediate scenes after Jesus’ (peace be upon him) alleged post crucifixion resurrection. Consider the following “verses”:
It was late that Sunday evening, and the disciples were gathered together behind locked doors, because they were afraid of the Jewish authorities. Then Jesus came and stood among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. After saying this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy at seeing the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father sent me, so I send you.” Then he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive people’s sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” One of the twelve disciples, Thomas (called the Twin), was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” Thomas said to them, “Unless I see the scars of the nails in his hands and put my finger on those scars and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” A week later the disciples were together again indoors, and Thomas was with them. The doors were locked, but Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands; then reach out your hand and put it in my side. Stop your doubting, and believe!” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Do you believe because you see me? How happy are those who believe without seeing me!” (John 20: 19-29)
Notice the set up very carefully. The same day – Sunday – when Jesus (peace be upon him) had allegedly risen from death, he meets all his disciples in a closed quarter except Thomas.
When the other ten disciples inform Thomas that they have had actually witnessed the “risen Jesus” (peace be upon him) physically – he belied them: “I will not believe”.
In fact, Thomas provided his own whimsical yardstick that unless he has put his fingers through Jesus’ (peace be upon him) wounds, he would not believe in as foundational a doctrine as Jesus’ (peace be upon him) resurrection!?
In Thomas we have a man torn between two emotions: On one side he – the best and earliest Christ “believer” – could not believe the super natural event of resurrection, while on other hand, he has the testimony of categorically all of his colleagues. It was under these confused and agitated circumstances that Thomas had to spend one full week praying for peace of heart.
It was under this context that Jesus (peace be upon him), after a week’s period of tested patience, appears to Thomas pandering to his demand, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands; then reach out your hand and put it in my side.”
Initially Thomas was sure of the falsity in the reports of the Apostles and now he did not merely witnessed the allegedly post crucifixion resurrected Jesus (peace be upon him) but he was also given a chance to put fingers in his wounds – exactly as he demanded. In fact, Jesus (peace be upon him) himself pacified him towards belief: “Stop your doubting, and believe!”
On the foregoing, the doubting-Thomas was but naturally taken by surprise and when he was confirmed of Jesus’ (peace be upon him) alleged so-called resurrection, he inadvertently exclaimed at the moment, in his conversation, to his interlocutor – Jesus (peace be upon him), “My Lord and My God!”
No wonder White also makes a big argument that Thomas said specifically to Jesus (peace be upon him) as His Lord and God:
Thomas’s answer is simple and clear. It is directed to the Lord Jesus, not to anyone else, for John says, ‘he said to Him.’
Although we believe we have already responded it above yet we revisit it. Thomas and Jesus (peace be upon him) were in conversation where the latter was trying to put faith in the former. Under such circumstances Thomas’ inadvertent exclamation upon belief would have to be towards Jesus (peace be upon him) with whom he was conversing, although, not necessarily for him. And any third party recording the conversation would apparently have to claim that Thomas said to Jesus (peace be upon him) what he said (for the simple fact that they were in conversation).
Taking parallels from daily life, while conversing with somebody else we often come across surprising moments and we do exclaim, “My God” at the interlocutor yet this is not specifically targeted for him/herself.
Jesus’ (peace be upon him) further response to Thomas’ exclamation further corroborates that the exclamatory remark was not meant for Jesus (peace be upon him). Consider the following explanation:
Once Jesus (peace be upon him) had received positive exclamatory remark from Thomas, awing at the wonders of “His Lord and His God” – the biblical Father – Jesus (peace be upon him) praised Thomas for him finally believing in the resurrection! He connected Thomas’ exclamatory remark to the belief in hisresurrection than on accepting his deity! This can be further evidenced by Jesus’ (peace be upon him) statement wherein he said, “Do you believe because you see me? How happy are those who believe without seeing me!”
Notice the rationale in Jesus’ (peace be upon him) query; he questions Thomas that he has believed because he has seen him! Therefore, how much more blessed would be those who not witness his physical resurrected body and yet believe in his resurrection! Now, we have seen in the contextual “verses” that all other disciples of Jesus (peace be upon him) had witnessed/seen physical resurrected body of Jesus (peace be upon him) except Thomas. Thus, Thomas also “believed” in the resurrection of Jesus (peace be upon him) once he saw him (“you see me”) after resurrection.
Therefore, any attempt to connect Thomas’ exclamation to anything else (like Jesus’ deity) than his belief in Jesus’ (peace be upon him) resurrection would only evince the dire desperation of Trinitarians to prove his deity! As such White was only twisting and forcing his interpretations when he “exposited” as follows:
“Jesus’ response to Thomas’s confession shows not the slightest discomfort at the appellation ‘God.’ Jesus says Thomas has shown faith, for he has ‘believed.’…There is no reproach of Thomas’s description of Jesus as his Lord and God. No created being could ever allow such words to be addressed to him personally. No angel, no prophet, no sane human being, could ever allow himself to be addressed as ‘Lord and God.’ Yet Jesus not only accepts the words of Thomas but pronounces the blessing of faith upon them as well.”
However, such “exegesis” is expected in given weak situation of Christianity undermined by the lack of concrete, explicit evidence even in their best chosen scriptures.
The problem with White’s flawed “exegesis” does not stop here since rather than doing any good it backfires to jeopardizes the very base of Trinity-ism:
Let us agree with Dr. White’s “exegesis” that when Thomas exclaimed “My Lord and My God”, he had actually “shown faith” and “believed” in the deity of Jesus (peace be upon him). On the light of this explanation we would have to infer that, a couple of “verses” earlier, Thomas disbelieved in the deity of Jesus (peace be upon him) since he claimed the following “gospel-truth”:
Unless I see the scars of the nails in his hands and put my finger on those scars and my hand in his side, I will not believe.”A week later the disciples were together again indoors, and Thomas was with them. The doors were locked, but Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands; then reach out your hand and put it in my side. Stop your doubting, and believe!” (John 20: 25-27)
If Jesus (peace be upon him) ratified and “Apostle” Thomas’ belief in his deity, then he must have been rebuking, a couple of verses ago, Thomas’ disbelieve (“I willnot believe”) in his deity!! So then we have the earliest of all Christians, an apostle himself, the so-called twin brother of Jesus (peace be upon him), “not believing” in Jesus’ (peace be upon him) deity; so much so that, Jesus (peace be upon him) had to revisit after his alleged death to re-baptize Thomas’ hitherto maverick belief!!??
To further exacerbate the situation, it was not merely doubting-Thomas but,according to White’s explanation, all other ten disciples were not willing to “believe” in the “deity” of Jesus (peace be upon him)! This is so because just like Thomas, all other disciples, initially disbelieved in the resurrection until they witnessed it firsthand:
He is not here; he has been raised. Remember what he said to you while he was in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, be crucified, and three days later rise to life.’ “Then the women remembered his words, returned from the tomb, and told all these things to the eleven disciples and all the rest. The women were Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James; they and the other women with them told these things to the apostles.But the apostles thought that what the women said was nonsense, and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; he bent down and saw the grave cloths but nothing else. Then he went back home amazed at what had happened. (Luke 24:6-12)
They returned and told the others, but these would not believe it. (Luke 16:13)
As Jesus (peace be upon him) was irked at Thomas’ disbelief “in-his-deity”, similarly he also chided the other ten “apostles” for their unbelief (!):
Last of all, Jesus appeared to the eleven disciples as they were eating. He scolded them, because they did not have faith and because they were too stubborn to believe those who had seen him alive. He said to them, “Go throughout the whole world and preach the gospel to all people. (Mark 16: 14-15)
And we had hoped that he would be the one who was going to set Israel free! Besides all that, this is now the third day since it happened. Some of the women of our group surprised us; they went at dawn to the tomb, but could not find his body. They came back saying they had seen a vision of angels who told them that he is alive. Some of our group went to the tomb and found it exactly as the women had said, but they did not see him.” Then Jesus said to them, “How foolish you are, how slow you are to believe everything the prophets said! Was it not necessary for the Messiah to suffer these things and then to enter his glory?” And Jesus explained to them what was said about himself in all the Scriptures, beginning with the books of Moses and the writings of all the prophets. (Luke 24:21-27)
Accepting White’s “exegesis” would imply that none of the disciples of Jesus (peace be upon him) were willing to believe in his deity unless they saw and spoke to him after his resurrection. As New Testament manuscript scholar D.C. Parker asserts:
“…that the disciples did not believe (neither source has such a reference), and that when Jesus does appear, he rebukes ‘their unbelief and hardness of heart’. It is only when they see and speak with Jesus that they believe.(D.C.Parker, The Living Text of the Gospels (1997), p.140)
On foregoing, as a Muslim all we want to say to Mr. White is – Thank you very much!
So much with the “context” of the verse! In this section we would deal with White’s second argument that the grammatical construction of Thomas’ exclamation also proves nothing but deity of Jesus (peace be upon him). Note that Dr. White is a learned scholar of the Greek language. To refresh here are White’s words once again:
And there is simply no reason–grammatical, contextual, or otherwise–to deny that in the very same breath Thomas calls Christ his ‘God.’
According to classical Trinity-ism there are three distinct persons in the godhead! As such it was considered heretical to blur the distinction between the 3 distinct persons in the godhead:
Modalism is probably the most common theological error concerning the nature of God. It is a denial of the Trinity. Modalism states that God is a single person who, throughout biblical history, has revealed Himself in three modes, or forms. Thus, God is a single person who first manifested himself in the mode of the Father in Old Testament times. At the incarnation, the mode was the Son and after Jesus‘ ascension, the mode is the Holy Spirit. These modes are consecutive and never simultaneous. In other words, this view states that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit never all exist at the same time, only one after another. Modalism denies the distinctiveness of the three persons in the Trinity even though it retains the divinity of Christ.
Present day groups that hold to forms of this error are the United Pentecostal and United Apostolic Churches. They deny the Trinity, teach that the name of God is Jesus, and require baptism for salvation. These modalist churches often accuse Trinitarians of teaching three gods. This is not what the Trinity is. The correct teaching of the Trinity is one God in three eternal coexistent persons: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. (Source: CARM)
With that understood, let us see how White’s “exegesis” has led him to efface the important Trinitarian distinction between the persons in the godhead!
The literal translation for the English expression, “My Lord and My God” in Greek would be: Mou Kurios Kai Mou Theos. In other words, Greek word “Kurios” is for “Lord” in English and “Theos” is equivalent to English word “God”. And, standard Trinitarian “exegesis” to which White also endorse, both the words have been addressed to Jesus (peace be upon him).
However, this is exactly where the problem lies. According to standard Trinitarian belief, the three persons (gods?) in the godhead (polytheism?) are distinct from each other. The Father is not the son and vice versa. And technically, New Testament, especially in the epistles of “apostle” Paul has always applied the titles “Kurios” (Lord) to the person of son (and therefore not to the father) and “Theos” (God) to father (and therefore not to the son). Consider the following Pauline verse as substantiation of the notion:
yet there is for us only one God (Theos), the Father, who is the Creator of all things and for whom we live; and there is only one Lord (Kurios), Jesus Christ, through whom all things were created and through whom we live. (1 Corinthians 8:6)
Luke also made similar distinction:
“All the people of Israel, then, are to know for sure that this Jesus, whom you crucified, is the one that God (Theos) has made Lord (Kurios) and Messiah!” (Act 2:36)
Observe the theological nuances in the above quotations. In the Pauline quote, God – the Father is the creator (not the Son), however, the creation is facilitated through the person of Son. As such Father is termed as God and Son as Lord – to make distinctions clear. As such the appellation of God and Lord to the same person would diminish the distinction between the Creator (Father) and the means of creation (Son); of course such ignorance cannot be attributed to “apostle” Thomas.
In the Lukan quote, God (Father) has not made Jesus (peace be upon him) as Godand Messiah. Rather, he wrote that God has made him “Lord” and Messiah; indicating that although where Jesus (peace be upon him) was referred to as Lord, he was never entitled as God even when Jesus (peace be upon him) was to be appealed for his (Trinitarian) divinity.
On the foregoing, it is rather interesting to observe that where Father has been referred to as “God” at numerous places in the Bible (including New Testament) and Jesus (peace be upon him) has been referred to as lord elsewhere; at not one place do we find Jesus (peace be upon him) referred as God prior to this Trinitarian misunderstanding. This lends more support to the notion that Thomas, based on the biblical literary traditions, could not possibly have entitled Jesus (peace be upon him) as God.
Thus, it can be argued on good grounds that the New Testament authors aptly reserved the title “God” for the “person” of Father and lord for Jesus (peace be upon him). They hardly mixed the two titles together to avoid “heresy” of the Sabellistic kind!
“In the very same breath”
White made an interesting remark that Thomas called Jesus (peace be upon him) God in the very same breath as he called him his Lord!
…in the very same breath Thomas calls Christ his ‘God.’
We showed the Sabbelistic perils in calling Jesus (peace be upon him) Lord andGod “in the very same breath”. However, if White would be at all consistent with his argument of “same breath” then we have several instances in the Bible where God and mere mortals have been conjoined together in divinity, in the same breath. Consider a few of such for instance:
“Then David said to the whole assembly, ‘Bless Yahweh your God.’ And the whole assembly blessed Yahweh, the God of their fathers, and bowed their heads low and worshiped Yahweh AND the king (wayyiqadu wayyishtahawu YHWHW walammelek).” 1 Chronicles 29:20
“They will serve (wa‘abadu) Yahweh their God AND David their king whom I will raise up for them.” Jeremiah 30:9
Notice in the above citations the congregations are bowing, worshipping Yahwehand in the same breath bowing and worshipping the king of the state too! They served Yahweh and in the same breath, served David (peace be upon him) as well.
Thus, if White is consistent then he got to use his argument to bow, worship and serve worldly kings as did his Israeli forefathers! Probably he has forgotten to take note of it and thus we may assume The Forgotten Polytheism is on its way.
Let alone the term “God”, Thomas’ referral to Jesus (peace be upon him) as Lordwould also hardly do any good to the Trinitarian argument. Since in Old Testament the term “Lord” has been assigned to Yahweh,
“Thus says your Lord (adonayik), Yahweh and your God, Who pleads the cause of His people: ‘See, I have taken out of your hand The cup of trembling, The dregs of the cup of My fury; You shall no longer drink it.’” (Isaiah 51:22)
And the same term – Lord (adonayik) – in the same breath, has been assigned to worldly kings too:
“So the King will greatly desire your beauty; Because He is your Lord (adonayik), worship Him (wahishtahawilow)… I will make Your name to be remembered in all generations; Therefore the people shall praise You forever and ever. (Psalm 45:11, 17)
So much for Dr. White’s claim that Thomas claimed in the same breath that Jesus (peace be upon him) is his Lord and God!
We were amazed to see how a “scholar” of New Testament – Dr. James White – claimed that there is nothing in the context and grammatical construction of “Thomas’ confession” to prove other than he claimed Jesus (peace be upon him) as his Lord and God.
As far as context was concerned, Thomas was too much a “disciple” to merely believe in the resurrection of Jesus (peace be upon him); he wanted to tangiblyexperience of Jesus’ (peace be upon him) resurrected body. As such when, after one week of boiling confusion, Jesus (peace be upon him) appeared to Thomas, he couldn’t help but give words to his hitherto half baked belief in the resurrection with a exclamatory remark of remembering God: “My Lord My God”. Jesus (peace be upon him) after hearing the exclamatory remarks of alluding to Thomas’ acceptance of his resurrection, confirms him that he has believed, not to former’s deity, but the belief in his resurrection!
Therefore, if Trinitarians like White (and Shamoun) would argue that Thomas believed in the deity of Jesus (peace be upon him) through his “confession”, then they would also have to agree that one of the closest disciple, the so-called “twin brother”, disbelieved in the deity of Jesus (peace be upon him) for good long period! Embarrassingly, on the same corollary, not merely Thomas but all other disciple initially disbelieved in the deity of Jesus (peace be upon him).
Grammatical construction also does not avail much as appealing to it would diminish the important Trinitarian difference between the persons of Father and Son since New Testament has reserved the title of God for Father and lord for Jesus (peace be upon him).
On the contrary, appealing to the grammatical construction, would deify multiple kings.
We expect from scholars like Dr. White that although they have full right to profess their faith yet they need to be more sincere while propagating it. In the mean time,there is no God but Allah (SWT) and Mohammad (peace be upon him) is His messenger and slave.