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The Binitarian Nature of the Holy Bible’s supreme proof text for the unity of God Pt. 5

Sam Shamoun

We continue with our discussion of the binitarian shape of the monotheistic creed of the OT, this time by focusing on the NT witness to God’s binitarian nature.

Jesus Christ – The Divine Son of Man and Sovereign Lord at God’s Right Hand

In the previous parts of our discussion we saw how the NT writings identify Jesus Christ as the exalted Lord of David who, according to Psalm 110:1, sits enthroned at God’s right hand. The NT also depicts Christ as the Divine Son of Man whom Daniel saw coming on the clouds of heaven to reign over all the nations:

“I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him (yipelachun); his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed… As I looked, this horn made war with the saints, and prevailed over them, until the Ancient of Days came, and judgment was given for the saints of the Most High, and the time came when the saints received the kingdom… And the kingdom and the dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High; his kingdom shall be an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve (yipelachun) and obey him.” Daniel 7:13-14, 21-22, 27

Now compare the following:

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. Then the King will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.’” Matthew 25:31-34

“And the high priest said to him, ‘I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.’ Jesus said to him, ‘You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.’” Matthew 26:63-64

Our Lord here combines Daniel 7:13-14 and Psalm 110:1 together, affirming that both these OT texts have one and the same Person in view. And:

“But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. ‘Look,’ he said, ‘I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.’” Acts 7:55-56

“I looked, and there before me was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one ‘like a son of man’ with a crown of gold on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand. Then another angel came out of the temple and called in a loud voice to him who was sitting on the cloud, ‘Take your sickle and reap, because the time to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.’ So he who was seated on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the earth was harvested.” Revelation 14:14-16

Seeing that Jesus is identified as the heavenly Son of Man it isn’t surprising that his rule is said to be eternal, never ending:

“He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” Luke 1:32-33

“Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:10-11

It is also not surprising that the NT describes Christ as the God who reigns forever when according to the Hebrew Scriptures both the Son of Man and David’s Lord are fully Divine in nature. Nor should it come as a shock that every creature is expected to worship Jesus in the same way that they worship God the Father when we recall that the prophet Daniel saw all the nations worshiping and serving the Divine Son of Man in the same way that they worship and serve the Ancient of Days/Most High:

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above EVERY name, that at the name of Jesus EVERY knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and EVERY tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:9-11

“In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven ... And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, ‘Let all God's angels worship him.’ … But about the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy.’” Hebrews 1:1-3, 8-9

“And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. And they sang a new song: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.’ Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they sang: Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!’ Then I heard EVERY CREATURE in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: To him who sits on the throne AND TO THE LAMB be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!’ The four living creatures said, ‘Amen,’ and the elders fell down and worshiped.” Revelation 5:8-14

Moreover, as the exalted Son of Man and Lord who sits enthroned at God’s right hand Jesus is vastly superior to and sovereign over every creature since everything is subject to him:

“and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, FAR ABOVE ALL rule and authority and power and dominion, and above EVERY name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.” Ephesians 1:19-23

“But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject ALL THINGS to himself.” Philippians 3:20-21

“For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in him, who is the head of ALL rule and authority… If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.” Colossians 2:9-10, 3:1

“Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.” 1 Peter 3:21-22

To sum up what we have learned thus far from the NT application and interpretation of specific OT texts which directly relate to God’s binitarian nature:

  1. As we saw in our previous discussions both the Son of Man of Daniel and David’s Lord are personally distinct from Yahweh according to the inspired Hebrew Bible.
  2. At the same time both of these exalted figures are described in language normally reserved for Deity, for Yahweh God.
  3. This indicates that the Son of Man and David’s Lord are fully Divine and must be God in some sense.
  4. This also means that the OT prophets knew and testified that Yahweh is more than one Divine Person.
  5. The NT writers identify Jesus Christ as the heavenly Son of Man and David’s exalted Lord.
  6. This means that the Son of Man and David’s Lord are actually one and the same Person.
  7. This also shows that the NT authors believed that Jesus is fully Divine and therefore God in an absolute sense.
  8. The NT writings are equally clear that Jesus is personally distinct from God the Father, depicting them as two distinct Persons.
  9. Therefore, the inspired Christian Scriptures are in perfect agreement with the Hebrew Bible concerning the binitarian nature of God.

This brings us to the next major section of our presentation.

Christological Monotheism – The Shema becomes a Christian creed

Within the NT there is one direct reference to the Shema along with several allusions to it, and in each of these cases the inspired authors interpret it along binitarian lines. The NT writings take this Jewish monotheistic creed and expand it to include both the Father and the Son, and in so doing actually identify Jesus as the one Lord or Yahweh confessed in the Shema.

Jesus and the Shema in Mark’s Gospel

We find our Lord affirming the binitarian nature of the Shema in Mark’s Gospel. Here is what the Lord said when asked about the greatest commandment:

“Now one of the experts in the law came and heard them debating. When he saw that Jesus answered them well, he asked him, ‘Which commandment is the most important of all?’ Jesus answered, ‘The most important is: “Listen, Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one (Akoue, Israel, kyrios ho theos hemon kyrios heis estin). Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.” The second is: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’ The expert in the law said to him, ‘That is true, Teacher; you are right to say that he is one, and there is no one else besides him. And to love him with all your heart, with all your mind, and with all your strength and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.’ When Jesus saw that he had answered thoughtfully, he said to him, ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God.’ Then no one dared any longer to question him.” Mark 12:28-34

What makes this text relevant to our discussion is that the Lord immediately went on to quote Psalm 110:1 which mentions David’s Lord sitting at God’s right hand:

“While Jesus was teaching in the temple courts, he said, ‘How is it that the experts in the law say that the Christ is David’s son? David himself, by the Holy Spirit, said, “The Lord said to my Lord (eipen kyrios to kyrio mou), ‘Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet.’” If David himself calls him “Lord” (kyrion), how can he be his son?’” Mark 12:35-37

It is not a coincidence that our Lord brings up the issue of the Messiah being David’s Lord after having just mentioned the importance and centrality of the Shema. It is obvious that Jesus’ purpose in quoting Psalm 110:1 was to establish from the Hebrew Scriptures that Israel’s one Lord is multi-Personal and that the Messiah is God as well as man. Noted NT scholar Craig S. Keener states:

12:36-37. The one who would reign in God’s kingdom was David’s “lord,” not merely his descendant; he would thus be greater than the resurrected David. Writing in Greek, Mark may want his readers to connect this verse (Ps 110:1) with a verse he has cited in the preceding section, because Jewish interpreters often linked verses with a key word–there was only one Lord: God (Mk 12:29). If so, Mark makes a claim for Jesus’ deity here (cf. 1:3). (Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament [InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Il.; February 1994], p. 169; underline emphasis ours)

Christ’s point here is rather simple: If the Messiah were merely a human descendant of David then he couldn’t be his Lord. However, since the Messiah is David’s Lord then this means that he is more than a mere human being. As the NET Bible translators explain:

69 sn It was a common belief in Judaism that Messiah would be David’s son in that he would come from the lineage of David. On this point the Pharisees agreed and were correct. But their understanding was nonetheless incomplete, for Messiah is also David’s Lord. With this statement Jesus was affirming that, as the Messiah, he is both God and man. (NET Bible Text Notes; underline emphasis ours)

Or as the following commentary puts it:

… The question asked by Jesus must have seemed very easy to the Pharisees. It was common knowledge that the promised Messiah (ho Christos, “the Christ,” i.e., “the anointed One”) was to be of the lineage of David (John 7:42; for OT background, see 2 Sam 7:12-13; Ps 89:4; Jer 23:5; cf. Ps. Sol. 17:21). Conversely, throughout the Gospel the references to Jesus as the Son of David (e.g., 1:1, 20; 9:27; 12:23; 15:22; 20:30-31; 21:9) amount to assertions to his messianic identity… How can it be that David calls his son kyrios, “lord”? This question, which goes unanswered either by the Pharisees or by Jesus, must not be taken as an implicit denial that the Messiah is in fact the Son of David (pace Chilton), an ascription that the evangelist repeatedly uses in referring to Jesus and that Jesus himself willingly accepts (see Comments on vv 41-42). The point of the question addressed to the Pharisees is apparently to elevate the concept of Messiah from that of a special human being to one who uniquely manifests the presence of God – and thus one whom David has also to address as his lord. This pericope serves thus in one sense as a kind of justification for the extravagant claims made by Jesus, or concerning him, earlier in the Gospel (10:32-33, 40; 11:27; 14:33; 16:16). As in Peter’s confession, so here, the Christ, the Son of David, is to be recognized as uniquely “the Son of the living God” (cf. Gibbs, 460-64). He is the living Lord of the church (Burger, 88-89) who sits at God’s right hand. The Pharisees accordingly reject Jesus at their very great peril. They have rejected not merely a human messianic claimant but the unique emissary of God, whom even David had called “my lord.” Kyrios, “lord,” in reference to Jesus here, as Fitzmyer points out, suggested to the evangelist and his community that Jesus “was somehow on a par with Yahweh of the Old Testament” (125) … (Donald Hagner, Word Biblical Commentary, Bruce M. Metzger gen. ed., Ralph P. Martin & Lynn Allan Losie [Word Books Publisher, Dallas, TX 1995], Volume 33b, Matthew 14-28, pp. 650-651; bold emphasis ours)

That these commentators are correct can be easily demonstrated from Jesus’ response to the high priest combines Psalm 110:1 with Daniel 7:13-14 in his reply to the high priest’s question regarding his Messianic identity:

“Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, ‘Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?’ But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer. Again the high priest asked him, ‘Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?’ ‘I am,’ said Jesus. ‘And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.’ The high priest tore his clothes. ‘Why do we need any more witnesses?’ he asked. ‘You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?’” Mark 14:60-64

The following chart should help the readers see that Jesus expressly and unambiguously identifies himself as Daniel’s Son of Man and David’s exalted Lord.

“And Jesus said, ‘I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” Mk. 14:62

“The Lord says to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.’” Ps. 110:1

“As I watched in the night visions, I saw one like a son of man coming with the clouds of heaven. And he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. To him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away, and his kingdom is one that shall never be destroyed.” Dan. 7:13-14

We have already seen how truly significant Jesus’ confession is in establishing his absolute Deity in the previous section. Here we will simply cite a quotation which confirms the exegesis which we provided earlier:

“Another powerful affirmation of Jesus’ own belief in his divinity took place at his trial before the Jewish council on the eve of his execution (Mark 14:53-64). Looking to pin a charge at Jesus that would stick until Jesus could be brought before Pilate, the high priest Caiaphas asked, ‘Are you the Christ [Messiah], the Son of the Blessed One?’(Mark 14:61b). Jesus’ answer jarred the high priest and his associates ...

“At first blush, the reaction of Caiaphas and the council seems extreme. After all, there was nothing inherently blasphemous about the claim to be the Messiah. But, as we will see, Jesus claimed far more than that.

“Jesus claimed to be more than the King of the Jews when he identified himself as the ‘Son of Man’ (Mark 14:62). It’s often wrongly assumed that the title ‘Son of Man’ refers simply to Jesus’ humanity. However, Jesus’ interrogators, who were saturated in the Hebrew Scriptures, wouldn’t have had Jesus’ earthly qualities in mind. They would have been thinking of the heavenly vision of Daniel 7:13-14…

“Obviously human frailty was from the mind of Daniel, who portrayed the Son of Man as an exalted, humanlike figure possessing all judgment authority and ruling over an everlasting kingdom. Daniel’s vision also revealed the Son of Man to be more than human. In other Old Testament writings, the image of riding on clouds was used exclusively for divine figures (Exod. 14:20; 34:5; Num. 10:34; Ps. 104:3; Isa. 19:1). Daniel employed this image, and Jesus embraced this as his own.

“Jesus made an even more staggering claim when he said that he–a divine-human figure with all judgment authority–would be seen “sitting at the right hand of the Power” (14:62). This imagery was not unfamiliar to the Jewish council, which was intimately familiar with the Psalms…

“That Jesus would apply this text to himself was astonishing. Only a few significant figures in Judaism ever entered God’s presence. Even fewer sat in it. But up to this point, no one in Jewish literature was ever afforded the privilege of sitting at God’s right side. Yet Jesus personally insisted on his right to do so ...

“The priests of the Jewish council, before whom Jesus made this radical claim, could not, as a rule, even go into the inner sanctum of the temple. The Holy of Holies–God’s earthly dwelling place–could only be entered on a specific day in a specific way by a specific person. On the annual Day of Atonement, the high priest was allowed to enter the Holy of Holies to offer the blood of a bull for personal purification and the blood of a goat for the people’s atonement. This was preceded by a change of garments and ritual washings (Lev. 16). In other words, God’s presence in the temple was entered cautiously. Failure to proceed with caution resulted in death.

“With such restrictions for entry into the earthly Holy of Holies, we can imagine what went through the priests’ minds when Jesus claimed the right to enter God’s heavenly presence. And we can only begin to imagine what they thought when Jesus said he would enter into the heavenly Holy of Holies and sit down. He might as well have claimed that he owned the place!

“Jesus’ response was too much for the religious leaders to swallow. He had claimed to exercise the authority of God, implying that he sat in judgment over the Jewish council–not the other way around. He also had committed blasphemy by threatening the uniqueness of God’s presence. Jesus spoke brashly about going directly into the heavenly Holy of Holies and staying there, thus occupying a place far above even the angels, for ‘the place on the throne of God at the right hand of the Father is the highest place in heaven.’ Jesus’ words staggered the Jewish council; their reaction strongly suggests that they understood him to be claiming divinity. No doubt, this is how Mark understands Jesus. And this is how Jesus understood himself. We are thus safe in concluding with Richard Bauckham that the earliest Christology was already the highest Christology.’” (J. Ed Komoszewski, M. James Sawyer & Daniel B. Wallace, Reinventing Jesus: What the Da Vinci Code and other Novel Speculations Don’t Tell You [Kregel Publications, 2006], Part 4: The Divinity of Jesus: Early Tradition Or Late Superstition?, Chapter 12. Divine Portraits: Jesus in the Gospels, pp. 176-179; bold emphasis ours)

To summarize Jesus’ explanation of Deuteronomy 6:4.

  1. Jesus quotes the Shema to affirm there is one Lord.
  2. Jesus also quotes Psalm 110:1 to prove that the Messiah is more than a mere human son of David seeing that he is also David’s Lord who sits at the Lord’s right hand.
  3. Jesus’ question presupposes that David himself knew by inspiration of the Holy Spirit that the Messiah is also fully Divine which is why he can be David’s Lord.
  4. Jesus therefore affirms that there are two distinct Divine Persons who are Israel’s one Lord.

Jesus and the Shema in John’s Gospel

In John’s Gospel Jesus again confirms that the Godhead consists of at least two Divine Persons since he speaks of being one with the Father in a context where he clearly claims Deity:

“‘MY sheep listen to MY VOICE; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. I and the Father, we are one (hen esmen).’ Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, ‘I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?’ ‘We are not stoning you for any of these,’ replied the Jews, ‘but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.’” John 10:27-33

The reason why the Jews rightly concluded that Jesus was claiming to be God is because he made specific assertions which the OT writers say only Yahweh can make.

For instance, Jesus says that believers are his sheep who hear his voice and are protected by his hand of power. However, according to the Hebrew Bible the covenant community is to hear Yahweh’s voice since they are the sheep of his hand:

“Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker! For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand. Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,” Psalm 95:6-8

Jesus further says that he will personally give eternal life to all of his flock and that no one can ever take snatch them out of his loving hand of protection and blessing. Yet in order for Jesus to be able to carry out this task he must be omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent since Christ must know who belongs to him and must be able to preserve them for all eternity no matter where they maybe.

Again, the OT emphatically teaches that these are functions which only Yahweh can perform:

“See now that I myself am He! There is no god besides me. I put to death and I bring to life, I have wounded and I will heal, and no one can deliver out of my hand.” Deuteronomy 32:39

“‘You are my witnesses,’ declares the LORD, ‘and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me. I, even I, am the LORD, and apart from me there is no savior. I have revealed and saved and proclaimed—I, and not some foreign god among you. You are my witnesses,’ declares the LORD, ‘that I am God. Yes, and from ancient days I am he. No one can deliver out of my hand. When I act, who can reverse it?’” Isaiah 43:10-13

With the foregoing in perspective it is abundantly clear that Jesus wasn’t merely saying that he was (is) one with the Father in purpose. His statements show that he actually believed that he was (is) one with the Father in power and ability as well. Otherwise, how could Jesus say that he actually gives eternal life as well as guarantee the eternal security and preservation of all true believers no matter where they are if he didn’t believe that he was (is) in possession of the same Divine power that the Father possesses?

With that said it is now time to move on to the next part.