The most common doctrine taught in Christian churches, about the relationship between God and Jesus, is that they are one and the same. Both, along with the Holy Spirit, are considered a single “Godhead.” This three-in-one approach to Jesus’ identity is really just a theory – a dogmatic point of view that did not exist during his time on earth. While most modern denominations claim God is a Trinity, not all do.
The Trinity was derived from ideas by Greek philosophers during the third century A.D. and eventually adopted into the Christian church during the famous first seven ecumenical councils called to settle such issues. Although there was solid support for Christ being a created being, apart from God,1 the First Council of Nicaea condemned this teaching and adapted the Nicene Creed supporting God and Jesus being the same. This ultimately led to the later adoption of the Trinity doctrine. In other words, the Trinity doctrine is not in the Bible, but a man-made assumption, established as doctrine about four-hundred years after Christ died. For a related article titled “Can you be a Christian and Not Believe in the Trinity?”, see References & Notes at the end of this discourse.2
I’m not trying to start a debate, but only present a different idea, one that is believed by hundreds of thousands of Christians today. If God is not a three-in-one Trinity, then what is the relationship between God and Jesus? Remember that a belief in the Trinity is not critical to being saved, because if you truly dedicate your life to following Jesus’ teachings and believe that he died for your sins, then you are a Christian and your salvation is safe. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” (John 3:16.)3
So, Who is Jesus? — Why does he have so many names?
Many languages were spoken during of our Lord’s life on earth, some of which were Aramaic, Hebrew, and Greek, along with their varying dialects. His name is Jesus in English, Iēsous in Greek, and Yeshua (or Yahsuhua, as some few prefer) in Hebrew/Aramaic; those are just some examples. Since there were no last names used in biblical times, a description was sometimes necessary to accurately identify who was being spoken about. He was called by descriptive names, such as the Christ, the Nazarene, the Redeemer, etc. and these words also sounded differently, depending upon language and dialect. The apostle John used a different label to describe Jesus; he called him by the Greek Logos,4 which translates into English as ‘Word’ in John 1:1, and we will investigate this closely, in a moment.
The apostle Paul, in his epistle to the Colossians, mentions that Jesus was in existence even before the world was created. “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible . . . all things have been created through him and for him.” (Colossians 1:15–16.) Here Paul establishes that Jesus was the firstborn of all created beings and God used Jesus as the instrument through which everything else was created. This implies that Jesus (the Word) was a servant of God, who carried out the Almighty’s will.
As the firstborn of all creation,5 Jesus was God’s only direct creation and, thereafter, he used him as the instrument through which everything else was created, and the Word always credited his father with all that he did. An analogy, of which I often use, is about Frank Lloyd Wright6 the famous American architect, who is credited with the construction of more than 500 homes and buildings, most of which still exist today. Although famous for the structures, he was not the one who manually constructed them; he designed, but others built by his plans. Likewise, God designed the world, but Jesus was in charge of construction.
Proclaimers of the Trinity theory use the first verse in the book of John as their strongest proof that God and Jesus are one and the same: “In the beginning was the Word [Logos],7 and the Word [Logos] was with God, and the Word [Logos] was God.” (John 1:1.) On the surface, this statement seems to be a rather straightforward explanation of the relationship of God and Jesus. However, truth does not arise from single Bible verses taken out of context or blindly accepted without research and study. There are many translations of this verse, which give a different meaning. Always remember, a translation, because of its language complexity, is only one translator’s opinion (or group of translators).
Concerning John’s use of the Greek term Logos (Word) in describing Jesus, it should be noticed that nowhere did Christ call himself by this name, or was he so called by any of the Apostles, except John. The evangelist had much knowledge about the mystical terms and thoughts of Pythagoreans, Platonists, and Philo, who believed that besides God the Father, there was a second God, whom they called the Logos. But although he used the same word they did, he took it in a different sense and bestowed it upon Jesus, not as some attribute of God the Father, but actually as a person distinct from the Father.8
This term, also known among the Jews of Palestine at that time, indicated the belief in an entity of a celestial nature, with majesty and dignity near the Father, and clothed in a human body, that would be appointed to the position of Messiah. Rabbinical writings indicate that all entities of a celestial nature were thought not only superior to all humans, but were pre-existent with God before the creation of the world.9
Pertaining to John 1:1, Bible scholar Philip Harner wrote that John spoke in terms of relationship and differentiation, which “would mean that the logos was ‘divine,’ without specifying further in what way or to what extent it was divine.”10 The 1935 Moffatt version of the Bible translates this same verse as: “The Logos existed in the very beginning, the Logos was with God, the Logos was divine.”11 The 1864 Diaglott version gives this translation: “In a beginning was the Word, and the word was with the God, and a god was the Word.”12
Then there is this: “In the beginning the Word already was, the word was in God’s presence, and what God was, the Word was” (REB).13 And yet, here is another translation: “In the beginning the Word was existing. And the Word was in fellowship with God the father. And the Word was as to his essence absolute deity” (WET).14 Besides these four versions mentioned above, there are six more Bible translations listed in the notes at the end of this article that indicate similar thoughts.15 A serious search will reveal others, as well.
Here is another interesting thought. Although the Hebrew Elohim is sometimes used for God’s name, it is basically a plural noun meaning gods in the ordinary sense.16 An example, to explain this plurality concept, is indicated in Genesis. “Then God [Elohim] said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness . . . ’” (Genesis 1:26, emphasis added.)
Biblical author E. A. Watson, writing about John 1:1, stated, “Elohim is a collective noun meaning more than one person, like the English words ‘army,’ ‘family,’ or ‘group.’ Thus, Yahshua [Jesus] is a member of the Divinity as is the Father, showing their duality!”17 So, since some researchers believe Elohim is plural and can mean family or group, let me present another Bible translation of John 1:1: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with Elohim, and the Word was Elohim.” (The Scriptures.)18 In this case, God the Father and God the Son could be inclusive of this family or group, but two separate entities. This particular opinion is presented as still another point of view for you to think about.
Other evidence for Jesus not being God
There are a few times in the Gospels that Jesus attests to the fact that he was not God. In the book of John, at the Last Supper when praying for his disciples, he said “. . . that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” (John 17:3.) Writer Kermit Zarley stated that this verse indicates “Jesus tells the Father that he [the Father] is ‘the only true God’ and then distinguishes himself from that one God. Both of these points clearly indicate that Jesus himself cannot also be God.”19
Zarley goes on to say that two other passages “which irrefutable establish that only the Father is God, and distinguish Jesus from God are in Paul’s letters.” In writing to the church at Corinth, Paul states “. . . for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.” (1 Corinthians 8:6, emphasis added.) In his letter to the Ephesians, “Paul implicitly identifies Jesus Christ as ‘one Lord’ and distinguishes him from the ‘one God,’ whom he unequivocally identifies as ‘the Father.’”20 “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 4:4-6.)
There are many verses that indicate Jesus is not God Almighty that can be found in most any Bible version. Here are a few, also from the book of John:
“Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise . . . I can do nothing on my own. As I hear, I judge; and my judgment is just, because I seek to do not my own will but the will of him who sent me.’” (John 5:19, 30.)
“My teaching is not mine but his who sent me. Anyone who resolves to do the will of God will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own.” (John 7:16-17.)
“. . . I do nothing on my own, but I speak these things as the Father instructed me.” (John 8:28.)
“Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say—‘Father, save me from this hour?’ No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.’ Then a voice came from heaven, ‘I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.’” (John 12:27-28.)
As stated in the beginning of this essay, these ideas are not presented to start debate about the status of Jesus’ relationship with his Father or suggest any type of conversion of thought, but only to present the opinions of Christians that have a different point of view. We should search the scriptures and learn and decide for ourselves what is true or not. God gave us the free-will to investigate and make up our own minds.
All the differences derived from one short verse, such as John 1:1, may seem rather difficult to comprehend, but it would be even more complicated if we were to delve into Greek grammar. But even if we do not get that deep into our Christian studies, someone might wonder, “Why get all ‘nit-picky’ – does it really matter?” Well, maybe!
As Christians, we are expected to move on into maturity with our religious beliefs by learning more and, specifically, gaining accurate knowledge. While it is not necessary to actually study ancient languages, we are expected to not get stuck in our adolescent stage of spirituality.21 The Bible encourages us to grow-up and mature in our faith.
Copyright © 2018, by Dr. Ray Hermann
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References & Notes
- “Council of Nicaea,” (Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 2018),
Note: The First Council of Nicaea (325 AD) called by Constantine I, condemned Arius who taught that Christ was a created being. The emperor then exiled Arius to remove his influence from the council.
- Hermann, Ray, “Can you be a Christian and Not Believe in the Trinity?” (The Outlaw Bible Student, OBS, 28 July 2018), https://outlawbiblestudent.org/can-you-be-a-christian-and-not-believe-in-the-trinity/
- Unless otherwise noted, scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible (NRSV), ©1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
- Note: [As used in the book of John] Strong’s Greek #3056. λόγος lŏgŏs, log´os; spec. (with the art. in John) the Divine Expression (i.e. Christ).
Strong, James, The New Strong’s Dictionary of Hebrew and Greek Words, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1996).
- Note: Strong’s Greek #4416. πρωτοτόκος prōtŏtŏkŏs, pro-tot-ok´-os, first-born, first-begotten.
Strong, James, The New Strong’s Complete Dictionary of Bible Words, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1996).
- “Frank Lloyd Wright,” (Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 26 July 2017), https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frank_Lloyd_Wright
- Note: Brackets [ ] are added for clarity of what is the Greek translation of “Word.”
- Bloomfield, S. T., Recensio Synoptica Annotations Sacrae, (London: C. and J. Rivington Publishers, 1826), vol. 3, pp. 1-3.
- Harner, Philip, “Qualitative Anarthrous Predicated Nouns,” Journal of Biblical Literature, The Society of Biblical Literature, 1973, vol. 92, no. 1, pp. 81-87.
- Moffatt, James, A New Translation of the Bible, (New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1935).
Note: A 1913 copy of this book is available for free viewing at: https://archive.org/details/newtestamentnewt01moff/page/n7
- Wilson, Benjamin, The Emphatic Diaglott, (New York: Fowler & Wells Co., 1864).
Note: A later copy of this book is available for viewing or download in PDF, Kindle, and other forms at: http://www.archive.org/stream/emphaticdiaglott00wils#page/n7/mode/2up
- The Revised English Bible (REB), ©1989 by Oxford University Press. The text has been used by permission. All rights reserved.
- Wuest, Kenneth S., Wuest Expanded Translation, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1961).
- Note: Also, see these additional resources for similar translations:
(1) Kneeland, A., The New Testament in Greek and English, 1822;
(2) Heinfetter, H. (Frederick Parker), A Literal Translation of the New Testament, 1863;
(3) Thompson, J. S., The Monotessaron; or, The Gospel History According to the Four Evangelists, 1829;
(4) Young, R., Concise Commentary on The Holy Bible, 1885;
(5) Horner, G. W., The Coptic Version of the New Testament, 1911;
(6) Tomanec, J. L., The New Testament of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Anointed, 1958.
- Strong’s Hebrew #430. אֱֱלֹהִים ˒ĕlôhı̂ym, el-o-heem’; plur. of 433; gods in the ordinary sense; but spec. used )in the plur. thus, espec. with the art.( of the supreme God; occasionally applied by way of deference to magistrates; and sometimes as a superlative:— angels, × exceeding, God )gods( )-dess, -ly(, × )very( great, judges, × mighty.
Strong, James, The New Strong’s Dictionary of Hebrew and Greek Words, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1996).
- Watson, E. A., “Was Yahshua Created?” (Treatis published 2006, retrieved 1 September 2018), pp. 5-6, https://congregationofyhwhmilton.org/wasyahshuacreated.pdf
- The Scriptures, (The Scriptures Bible), ©2009, Institute for Scripture Research, Northriding, South Africa. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
- Zarley, Kermit, “Jesus Is Not God Bible Verses,” (Servetus the Evangelical, retrieved 19 September 2018), http://www.servetustheevangelical.com/doc/Jesus_Is_Not_God_Bible_Verses.pdf
- Hermann, Ray, “Hebrews 6:4 – Can We Lose Our Salvation?” (The Outlaw Bible Student, OBS, 20 August 2018), https://outlawbiblestudent.org/hebrews-64-can-we-lose-our-salvation/