COGaIC: Paul a Monotheist?

History of Early Christianity

COGaIC’s Peter Nathan posted the following yesterday:

Was Paul a monotheist?

To question the unquestionable.

Mark Goodacre raises this question over at New Testament Gateway. Mark has been reading Paula Fredriksen’s articles that are now posted on line and has noted her handling of the subject. One article of Paula’s that I can’t find listed on line is one from the 1992 Bible Review in which she first posed the question. The articles to which Mark refers address this same question.

“… something of a puzzle to explain how a group of Jews, known best of all in antiquity for their absolute insistence on the oneness of God and their refusal to grant worship to any other, should come in the middle of the first century to worship the man Jesus of Nazareth, whom they call the Messiah. The question becomes even more puzzling when you consider that those Jews who believed in Jesus gave him titles apparently ascribing to him qualities and actions previously reserved for God alone” (Paula Fredriksen, Bible Review, December 1992, 14-15).

Comments by COGwriter:

The Apostle Paul was a binitarian as the Bible makes clear (binitarians and trinitarians tend to consider themselves as monotheists, unitarians tend to have a different view).

Even a Protestant trinitarian scholar noted this about the Bible (including some of Paul’s writings) and the writings right after the New Testament:

The binitarian formulas are found in Rom. 8:11, 2 Cor. 4:14, Gal. 1:1, Eph. 1:20, 1 Tim 1:2, 1 Pet. 1:21, and 2 John 1:13…No doctrine of the Trinity in the Nicene sense is present in the New Testament…There is no doctrine of the Trinity in the strict sense in the Apostolic Fathers...(Rusch. W.G. The Trinitarian Controversy. Fortress Press, Phil., 1980, pp. 2-3).

The theological scholar L. Hurtado observed that Paul held a binitarian view:

Prior to his conversion experience, Paul saw Jewish Christian beliefs and practices as so improper and dangerous as to call for urgent and forceful action to destroy the young religious movement. He said his own conversion specifically involved a “revelation” of Jesus’ significance that produced as radical change in him, from opponent to devotee (e.g., Gal.1:12; 2 Cor. 5:16). So far as we can tell, immediately after this experience he espoused the remarkable “high” christological claims and “binitarian” devotional practice (Hurtado LW. Lord Jesus Christ, Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity. William B. Eerdmans Publishing, Grand Rapids, 2003, pp. 175-176).

Paul makes the duality of God clear in every book of the Bible he wrote. All, except the Book of Hebrews, have a version of this in the introduction (the third verse in most books), “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 1:7). 

Paul also pointed out that Jesus was equal with God the Father:

Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God (Philippians 2:5b-6).

Hence the Apostle Paul did not hold the view that most of the Jews of his day held.

Several articles of related interest would include:

Binitarian View: One God, Two Beings Before the Beginning Is binitarianism the correct position? What about unitarianism or trinitarianism?
Is The Father God? What is the view of the Bible? What was the view of the early church?
Jesus is God, But Was Made Man Was Jesus fully human and fully God or what?
Virgin Birth: Does the Bible Teach It? What does the Bible teach? What is claimed in The Da Vinci Code?
Did Early Christians Think the Holy Spirit Was A Separate Person in a Trinity? Or did they have a different view?
Did the True Church Ever Teach a Trinity? Most act like this is so, but is it?
Was Unitarianism the Teaching of the Bible or Early Church? Many, including Jehovah’s Witnesses, claim it was, but was it?
Binitarianism: One God, Two Beings Before the Beginning This is a shorter article than the Binitarian View article, but has a little more information on binitarianism.

Get news like the above sent to you on a daily basis

Your email will not be shared. You may unsubscribe at anytime.