A Missionary’s Response to John 8:58


After my article here, Anthony decided to respond in an article copiously filled to the brim with nonsensical ad hominem and straw man attacks. He’s upset, very upset after a bust up we had along with Br. Yahya Snow via e-mail, I didn’t realise my words had stung him that badly that it drove him to such madness. I’ll be skipping the filibustering and get straight to his counter arguments:

Contrary to this authors’ claim, Christians do not argue that Jesus is referring to himself as “a” God, as if Jesus is just one God among others.

He’s arguing pedantically, I removed the word ‘a’ and the argument still stands, “Many Christians claim that Jesus in John 8:58 claims to be “I AM”, and God in Exodus 3:14 refers to Himself by this title/ name, therefore Jesus is knowingly referring to himself as God.” So his qualms, cries and rantings thus far have been negated by simply removing a word. Regardless of how much he writes, the premise still stands, by removing the word ‘a’, he effectively now cannot claim I’m appealing to modalism. Now he has to actually respond to the argument at hand. It’s a shame though, since a significant majority of his “response” is fixated on the trumped up connotations that the word ‘a’ is supposed to imply a belief other than trinitarianism. In no way did I appeal to, or for myself believe, that by applying the word ‘a’, that I would be arguing using modalism. Therefore, by removing one letter, I’ve essentially rendered 90% of his counter argument useless. His next argument rests on this claim:

Those who enter John’s Gospel through the front door would already be alerted to this idea and would not be surprised when they come across it in the narrative. In the prologue to the book, John introduces Jesus as the eternal Word…

Except for a very big problem, the Johannine Prologue is effectively as most textual critics would agree, an interpolation onto the Gospel of John. There are three facts that this propagandist must face:

  • John 1 and 21 are philologically outside of the original text of the Gospel.
  • None of the other Gospels report such language, terms or beliefs associated with Christ.
  • The prologue is in of itself unique to John 1 and cannot be found anywhere else throughout Johannine literature.

In as much as he wants to appeal with it, he has to concede that the prologue is not from the original author of John, we read from the Hermeneia Series on the Johannine Prologue:

“Bultmann has done us the great service of demonstrating, on the basis of style, that the core of the Johannine Prologue is an independent entity, a hymn, that was added to the Gospel as an introduction.”

“What really prompted the author of this Gospel to preface his work with this hymn? Ever since Harnack’s essay, “Uber das Verhaltnis des Prologs des vierten Evangeliums zum ganzen Werk,” this question has been given serious consideration. Did the Evangelist intend to preface his work with a statement of its leading ideas – as an introduction? But does the Prologue really recite these leading ideas? Did the Evangelist want to make his work palatable to hellenistic readers by making use of the Logos concept?”

Anthony even concedes to the fact that there are numerous other “I AM” statements littered throughout the Gospel of John which do not hold such weight as in equating such instances with Exodus 3:14:

In fact, even if we restrict ourselves to the local context of John 8:58 we see Jesus assert this several times in the same dialogue. Moreover, two of these notices even occur in conjunction with other “I Am” statements:

Then He said again to them, “I go away, and you will seek Me, and will die in your sin; where I am going, you cannot come.” So the Jews were saying, “Surely He will not kill Himself, will He, since He says, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come’?” And He was saying to them, “You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world. Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am, you will die in your sins.” (John 8:21-24)

So Jesus said, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am, and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me. And He who sent Me is with Me; He has not left Me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to Him.” As He spoke these things, many came to believe in Him. (John 8:28-30)
Therefore, even this Christian polemicist agrees that John 8:58 uses a phrase uttered by Jesus many times, and that it’s use in one verse cannot magically carry over to Exodus 3:14. He later fully admits this by stating:
As for Exodus 3:14, along with many scholars I don’t think that it is the most directly relevant verse to John 8:58.
We thank him for disagreeing with the majority of Trinitarin scholarship on the issue, as he echoes a sentiment also claimed by Dr. Anthony Buzzard, a noted Unitarian Biblical scholar. We can now read where in one paragraph the author, Anthony, refutes himself and clearly demonstrates that he is lying:
According to the author the word for “God” in Exodus 3:14 is Elohim. Furthermore, the author tells us that for Christians this word can refer either to the Father alone or to all three persons together. But this isn’t correct, or at least it is not the whole truth, which means that our author has committed the fallacy of false choices or exhaustive hypotheses.
Here he claims that I am wrong for saying that Elohim or God, can refer to one person in the Godhead or all three. Yet here he agrees with what I’ve stated above:
Since all three persons are consubstantial, the word God is equally applicable to any single member of the Godhead, whether Father, Son, or Spirit, or to all three persons together. This means the word can either refer to the Father, to all three persons, or to either one of the other persons, whether the Son or the Spirit.
At this point, we have to ask, does Anthony realise he is arguing against that which he himself claims of his own beliefs? This takes care of his “response” to Problems 1 and 2. Despite refuting himself and declaring what I said as wrong, although he himself in the very same paragraphs claims to believe in that same belief, he went on to state:
In other words, the word Elohim can be used for the Son even as it can be used for the Father by Himself or for the Holy Spirit by Himself.
This is in no way different to what I claimed previously. So the problems still persists:

Problem 1:

Elohiym consists of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit of one substance, united by the Godhead. If Christ is claiming to be this Elohiym (the united Three Persons), then he is claiming to be the Father as well as the Holy Spirit. According to Trinitarian dogma, the Son is not the Father or the Spirit. In other words, if Christ is claiming to be the Elohiym (of Three Persons) then he is effectively breaking the rules of the Trinitarian dogma as the Son is claiming to be other persons in the Godhead.

Problem 2:

If the Elohiym of Exodus 3:14 is the Father alone, then Christ who is the Son is claiming to be the Father and according to Christian Trinitarian belief, the Son is not the Father. Therefore if the Christian is claiming Christ to be Elohiym – the Father, then the Christian is admitting that the Trinity in this case is a false teaching or that Christ did not believe in the Trinity that they appeal to.

Anthony at this stage, did not offer any response to Problem 3, which can be seen here:

The Fallacy of False Equivocation.

Jack is a boy.
James is a boy.
Jack is James.

Obviously Jack is not James.

Orange is a fruit.
Apple is a fruit.
Oranges are Apples.

Obviously Oranges are not Apples.

God says I am.
Jesus says I am.
God is Jesus.

Clearly we can see that this is the fallacy of false equivocation.

His only meaningful reply was:
If first century Jews reasoned like this author they wouldn’t have been upset with Jesus.
Which is hilarious because on this occassion the Christian is willing to accept the testimony of Jews against Christ and he’s also willing to admit that the Johannine author who put those interpolated words into the mouth of Jesus is hinged on 1st century Graeco-Roman Jewish Syncretism with their Roman counterparts whom they saw the word or wisdom of God as being a distinct deity. So appealing to Jewish reasoning during the 1st century is one of the worst counter-arguments he could have used. In other words, he’s appealing to the arguments and reasoning of the same people whom Christ declared as being severely misguided on their beliefs about him, see John 8:44-48.
In response to Problem 4, he states:
While Christians do believe that “the Son is not the Father or the Spirit,” we do not believe that “the Son is the Father and the Spirit unified.”
My argument was as such:

You cannot say that John is an employee in the company, but you can say that John works for the company.
You cannot say that Shem and Ham are brothers, but you can say that they have the same mother and father.
You cannot say that a banana is a fruit, but you can say that the banana belongs in the fruit basket.

Similarly:

You cannot say that the Son is the Father or the Spirit, but you can say that the Son is the Father, Son and Spirit.

I therefore do not see how Anthony has responded to the argument. I agree that you do not believe the Son is the Father and the Spirit unified, you do believe however, that the Son is the Son, the Father and the Spirit unified. By ignoring the argument and responding to his whims and fancies, he’s distracted himself and failed to address the point at hand which still stands.

Conclusion:

Anthony hasn’t presented any new rebuttals, this article of his was a poor attempt at responding to my Problems with John 8:58 which he has yet to refute. In essence, it seems hastily authored and filled with assumptions and ad hominem. The Problems with John 8:58 in Christian usage still stands and Anthony’s article does not add to the discourse on its use but rather distracts from it.

I hope and pray he has something of substance to present next time in response to what I author, I do not consider mad ranting or inane arguing worthy of my time. His response was nothing more but an attempt to recover from the whooping he received via private e-mail discourse.

and God knows best.

9 comments

  • Pingback: The Problem of John 8:58 for Christianity | Calling Christians

  • Ijaz,
    Can you clarify? Do you agree that Elohiym can be used or referenced to any member of the Godhead individually, or to all three collectively?

  • Yes, individually or collectively. However, if and when it is used singularly, there must be criteria and evidence for this claim.

    Similarly, if it is used for the three collectively, then there must be evidence to explain what it means to be used collectively. How are they united, in what way can the Son not be the Father, but the Son and the Father be a single entity?

  • So if that be the case, then you must affirm, therefore, that the usage of Elohiym in Exodus 3 is not limited to the ‘Father’ or the ‘Trinity as a whole’, therefore dismantling your two problems above.

    It could, by your own admission, be rightly understood to be the Son.

  • Your haste to claim dismantling is very telling. If you read my comment or article, then you’d have to provide solutions to the problem at hand:

    1. If Shemot 3 is spoken by the Son, what evidence demonstrates this and what is the criterion used to determine who Elohiym is when used in the Tanakh?

    2. By means of progressive revelation, the Son was not revealed to be God until Christ’s ministry, in this case, it is perfectly reasonable to assume that Elohiym refers to the supreme deity of the Father and not the Son. Progressive revelation gave rising to the new belief of the Spirit and the Son as being Elohiym in and of themselves.

    3. Did Moses believe he was speaking to the Son or the Father and if so, what evidence is there for this? Did Moses believe in the Christian concept of Progressive Revelation? If not, then the problem is exacerbated by claiming Shemot 3 is the Son speaking.

    In conclusion, your haste has exposed more of your beliefs to be quite erratic and detrimental to your faith.

  • Your original argument suggested that Jesus’ I AM statements are problematic since it must mean that he was claiming to be the Father, or the Trinity as a whole.

    But you now admit that this need not be the case. Your wish for me to ‘prove’ my own understanding is irrelevant. It is enough for me to know you that your two ‘problems’ are nothing of the sort. Elohiym can rightly be referenced to and by the Son.

    Are you willing to admit that your original article on this topic was in error? We are all human after all!

  • That’s not what my original argument postulated. While I am happy you are willing to attack a straw man, please attempt to answer the argument and the questions I presented in my previous comment – reply to you.

    To claim that Elohiym in Shemot 3 is anyone but the Father in lieu of progressive revelation isn’t “irrelevant”, to even mention this signals to me that you are unable to satisfy the questions and problems presented.

    We’re not all human, some of us are demi-Gods, the Spirit is in some of us and if I’m not mistaken the Spirit is divine.

  • “HE is ONE , AND THERE IS NO OTHER BESIDE HIM”

    paulus, WHO is the “he” and “him” refering to in the verse quoted above?

  • do you believe that he+ he + he make trinity or do you believe that the son has its own he, the father has its own he and spirit has its own he and the trinity is ANOTHER he?

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