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An Exegete’s Testimony

 

The Challenge

God placed a theology across my path in 2014 which claimed the Bible alone as Scripture, but rejected the Trinity. Those who defended it challenged me to consider a "Sheliach" paradigm as an explanation for the Bible's elevated statements about Jesus. "Sheliach" is a Hebrew word meaning "emissary" or "sent one." The paradigm took this as a title because it argued Jesus was only a highly-exalted man, sent by God, appointed to be Messiah and savior, even sitting at the right hand of The Father in Heaven. I had never heard of the Sheliach paradigm.

 

Picking Up the Gauntlet

Once before in my life, I had fully and genuinely opened my heart to the possibility of a heterodox theology being true. After being exposed to Sheliach theology for a while, I decided to do so a second time. It seemed like it could explain a lot. I asked myself: what if the doctrine of the Trinity was stretched out of context by the Early Church? Was there any merit to the idea that Jesus was not God? And more important than all the creeds and traditions: what did the Bible say?

 

I was well-positioned to engage this challenge. I had recently earned a Master's degree in Biblical Languages from a top-accredited graduate school. Afterward I accepted a position teaching Biblical Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic professionally, and thus my studies had not deteriorated. I was a linguist—so I knew "how language works" and would not fall prey to the linguistic fallacies so common in dogmatic theology. Finally, I held no ecclesiastical office which would persecute me for a departure from Trinitarian theology, should the new theology prove correct.

My formal training had taught me to set previous bias aside in order to follow biblical data wherever it led, but I had never applied this specifically to the Trinity. So, I wiped my mental slate clean of previous dogma, commentary, and opinion, and set out in prayerful exegesis of the Bible to determine if God was triune or unitary.

 

The Journey towards Truth

The beginning was slow. I listened to my challengers defend their concepts. My initial work sketched some of the Epistles. First John had some notable statements about God’s nature. But when I moved into the book of Revelation, it was like a fireworks display.

 

Dozens of data points accumulated; eventually it became hundreds. A clearer picture of God began to formulate, clear of the obstacles existing even in faithful translation of the Bible into English. I found myself worshiping God via exegetical discovery. What I was seeing concerning The Father, The Son, and The Spirit was a phenomenon I came to call "distinction amidst conflation."

 

The Final Straw

After a pause in the summer of 2017, I resumed intensive study. I started with 1 and 2 Timothy, moved into Titus a second time, but then was forced to a standstill. Paul's lexical crossover was too dense to exegete without stepping back and looking at the broader matrix of his most frequent concepts. After 30 days of Pauline lexemes and exegeting the text—between 2 and 8 hours almost every day—I finally summarized the tiny book of Titus, and only as it pertained to God's nature! The preponderance of evidence for the key verse, Titus 2:13, supported the reading of "our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ."

 

But the data of Titus did not consolidate into a conclusive argument until I researched the two themes of The Mystery of God, and The Kabod Yahweh. This was after around 40 weeks of original-language exegesis over the span of 3 years. What I found was this: according to the fascinating Old Testament background about the appearing of The Kabod Yahweh (commonly translated "The Glory of the Lord"), both syntactic interpretations of Titus 2:13, including the one defended by my challengers, represented Jesus as God. We don't use the word "conclusive" much in exegesis, due to something called "academic reserve," but I used it for the conclusions demanded by Titus 2:11–14. It was inexorable.

 

The Challenge Has Been Answered, But God Is Beautiful

Much more evidence has accumulated since then. I had been told, more broadly, that the Trinity was not explicitly in the Bible—that an implication here and a suggestion there coalesced into the vague idea. That turned out to be quite incorrect. Once one becomes familiar with the Judaic background of the New Testament, and the textual rather than the creedal evidence, the biblical depiction is the opposite of vague or penumbral.

 

After more than 8 years, I have exegeted about 50% of the New Testament and 31% of the Old Testament. I have seen entire constellations of data on God's triunity. Indeed, the biblical testimony of God's triunity stands unrefuted both in scholarship and in theological debate. In light of the Bible's comprehensive witness, the Sheliach paradigm cannot viably explain the conflations of Father, Son, and Spirit.

The challenge has been answered, but I continue to research God's nature, because He is worthy and wonderful to behold.

 

This is a faithful testimony, and its assertions are true. Yahweh is triune. Praise be to Him, the only true God.

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