The Name of the Trinity

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And Jesus came and said to them, �All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.� (Matt 28:18-20, ESV)

It realized something at a baptism last year about Matthew 28's Trinitarian formula. It doesn't just use a Trinitiarian formula that assumes enough of a parity between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to put them in the same sentence in parallel. I've seen commentators mention this, but it's not a strong enough argument that all three persons of the Trinity are fully God. After all, you could list God, the church, and the world in parallel like that, although here there's a sense of commonality and joint authority in addition. One thing occurred to me that I had to go check the Greek to be sure of. Jesus talks about the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This 'name' is singular, one name for the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The name of the Father is 'YHWH' (Hebrew at the time didn't have written vowels), also called the tetragrammaton and covenant name of God. I can't think of another name that these three persons could share. Anyway, that's not the sort of thing those who deny the Trinity but want to affirm the scriptures will be able to deal with easily. Even the fact that there's one name they fall under is some threat to that view.

I think the clearest statement at least of the divinity of Jesus is in Philippians 2:1-11, but it will take some work to draw it out. Some common misreadings of what Paul says there (due to the infelicities of English renderings) hinder what I think would have been an obvious implication of the text to its original readers.

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so 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.

I don't want to get into all the exegetical details here. I really couldn't anyway. Gordon Fee's commentary has 55 pages on this section, and Peter O'Brien's has 109! I think the flow of thought makes it quite clear that Jesus' not focusing on his rights is a model for believers who also shouldn't do that but should deliberately take themselves to a level that for them isn't really even lower, even though for him it was, to treat others with self-sacrificing love. The text at this point doesn't have to assume complete equality with God, though I think the assumption is that Christ Jesus had complete equality with God and therefore didn't need to grasp it. The reason I think this is because of how it ends, and this is also where it will tie back in with the name of Matthew 28.

God's exaltation of Jesus Christ is particularly interesting in what it says people will acknowledge about him. The expression 'the name of Jesus' in English doesn't sound very interesting. The name he had in his earthly ministry doesn't sound to me like the sort of thing that says much more about him at his exaltation. However, the Greek really doesn't mean the name 'Jesus' as many English readers assume. It means the name belonging to Jesus. God here gives him a name that's already his, which sounds a little strange except that this is sort of the revelation of who he really is upon his resurrection and exaltation, so it then makes sense.

Well, what name could do such a thing? Paul goes on to say what name it is. People will acknowledge that Jesus is Lord, which is the Greek translation of the divine name YHWH in the Septuagint translation of the Old Testament. Jews at the time would not use that name, believing that even mentioning it was tantamount to misusing it (which of course is a big misunderstanding of what it is to take the name of YHWH in vain, but that's another story). Instead, they used the word for Lord. So the early Christians, in calling Jesus Lord, were deliberately ascribing deity to him, and Paul here explains that this name is revealed to be his at his resurrection and glorification, revealing particularly that he is Lord, that he is YHWH and that those who don't acknowledge it now will acknowledge it on their knees. So the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the name of Jesus (who is Lord) here, is simply the name 'YHWH'.

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his weeks entries are interspersed with lines from appropriate poetry by George Herbert, a priest of the Church of England who lived from 1593-1633. ...Give to all something; to a good poore man, Till thou change names, and be where he... Read More

9 Comments

Interesting post. I've always understood the phrase "in the name of" to mean "by the authority of" (similar to "stop in the name of the law" or "in the name of Caesar"). But I think your commentary makes a lot of sense, too. The name YHWH would indeed apply to all three persons of the Trinity. In fact, Jesus uses it of himself when he says, "Before Abraham was born I AM" in John 8:58.

That's right. It's a direct affirmation of his identification with God. Most people seem to assume it's got something to do with "I am who I am" in Exodus. I can't remember the argument (I believe grammatical or due to the particular words used) that convinced me that that's not the primary reference (if Jesus had that passage in mind at all). I became convinced recently that Jesus in John is referring back to the "I am" statements YHWH makes (mostly) about himself in Isaiah 40-55, like "I am your God, and there is no other" and "I am YHWH, and I do not share my glory with any other", which interestingly means that if Jesus shares his glory then he's not really an other.

I don't think Jesus is referring to the I Am statements of Isaiah as in "I am your GOd and there is no other". The arguement Jesus is having has a component of time involved in it and He refers to Abraham's existance versus who He is claiming to be. Although previous (and subsequent) "I AM" statements may refer to that, this one is indicative of ever-present existance which has direct ties to the introduction of I AM in Exodus 3:14. Remember, Jesus even uses that same passage to support the present survival of Abraham, Issac and Jacob.

Regardless, I think your commentary is on point. Let's expand on it though...is there a problem with the forever existing YHWH giving YHWH a name if He is God and He never changes...?

The Greek translation of Exodus 3 reads ego eimi ho on, or "I am the one who is" or "I am the existent one". Then it goes on to say "Tell them that ho on has sent you". If Jesus had intended a reference to Exodus 3, he would have said something that would have translated into Greek as ho on. John consciously uses ego eimi, the classic form of the "I am" statements of Isaiah 40-55.

The expression can mean "I am he", and it sometimes appears in response to a "Are you ______?" question. The Greek of Isaiah uses this expression over and over, and Jesus' statements in John match up with that section of Isaiah extremely well. Isaiah 43:10 says "You are my witnesses, says the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he." That sounds exactly like what John might say and is a likely source for the kind of language he uses over and over again. Some of the Isaiah passages might refer back to Exodus 3 (e.g. Isaiah 43:11-13 has similar themes), so John 8-9 and the other "I am" statements might refer indirectly back to that. I'm not ruling that out. I just think it's not the immediate reference.

I'm not sure why "before Abraham was born" requires an immediate reference to Exodus either, since the same content as in Exodus is expressed more clearly in Isaiah 41:4, where the expression more closely parallels the Greek John uses to translate Jesus' words. Isaiah 43:13 also gets to the same theme.

I don't think your last comment is getting the dynamic right. It's not the three persons of the Trinity giving the three persons of the Trinity a name, and it's not giving the person of the Son who is co-existent with the Father a name. It's the Father giving the incarnate, resurrection, ascended Lord Jesus who had all along been of one nature with the Father but had sacrficed his rights and glory as Son to complete his mission in submission to the Father's will. Then at a moment in the temporal life of the incarnate Son, who only in another sense exists eternally, the Father bestows a name on him. In the eternal moment, everything is simultaneous, so it's a simultaneous action for God, but the Son as incarnate experienced it in time at that moment in his glorification.

I'm not saying he was making a direct reference to Exodus 3 but that the thought conveyed was that same thought of Exodus 3. As the Logos, the Lord doesn't have to refer...He is. Whereas the other I Am statements are dependant on the descriptive clause (I am blank) the I Am statement from both Exodus and John 8 were making reference to the continued existance. I think that the context definitely rules in this passage.

You make a great point with John's repetition of Isaiah passages throughout his book though, that's why I said it applies in other sections but the thought-flow just doesn't seem to support it here.

Last point on the dynamics...Fault mine: lack of detail. I should have said Father YHWH giving the Son the name YHWH. It wasn't commentary, just progressing it to see what pans out.

Good stuff.

The "I am" with no other sense is more appropriate for John 8:58. It's important to bear in mind that there has been a whole series of statements leading up to it. Earlier in the series they start more along the lines of "I am X" and gradually move to "I am he". I haven't gone back and looked at all of them right now, but if I remember correctly it's only with the last one here that "I am" meaning "I exist" makes much contextual sense. That's why I don't think the context of the whole series of statements has primary reference to Exodus, even if there's a secondary reference to it in this case. If all you're claiming is that it involves that kind of content, then I have no problem, but I don't think that's the primary passage Jesus had in mind for this. I think he was explicitly drawing reference to himself as filling certain divine prerogatives, but I don't think it was primarily in terms of that passage.

Yup, that sounds right especially since the whole point of John is to illustrate that point (Jesus as the Christ, how He fulfills divine perogatives proving that He is the Son of God and having life via belief). Rock on.

Great post. I think an even stronger case can be made from Romans 10. There is a direct quote from Joel 2 which uses the Greek "kurios" and then we see the familiar, "because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord. . ." Clearly Paul is stating a need (yes a need) to confess Jesus as YHWH. The interplay between the OT quotation and the Lord Jesus does not leave ambiguity. Dave

Isn't the Joel quote several verses later? You may still be right that Paul intends us to hear 'kurios' as referring both to Jesus and to YHWH. But it's not as if the two are right next to each other.

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