Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Explaining Isaiah 9:6

Gustave Dore: The Nativity

Isaiah 9:6

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

Trinitarians should admit that this verse is translated improperly just from the fact that Jesus is never called the “Everlasting Father” anywhere else in Scripture. Indeed, Trinitarians correctly deny that Jesus is the “Everlasting Father.” It is a basic tenet of Trinitarian doctrine that Christians should “neither confound the Persons nor divide the Substance” [Athanasian Creed]

Oneness believers also fall victim to this creed; whilst they preserve the Person of God (as Father) they divide the substance by allocating a split-personality to Jesus. Namely giving Christ a dual-nature. Ironically, they do this with the full support of Trinitarian Christology!


For more than a thousand years, from the church councils in the fourth century until the nineteenth century, the orthodox position of the Church was that Christ was Fully God and Fully man at the same time in one body. This doctrine is known as the “dual nature of Christ,” and has to be supported with non-biblical words like communicatio idiomatum, literally, “the communication of the idiom.” This refers to the way that the “God” nature of Christ is united to the “man” nature of Christ in such a way that the actions and conditions of the man can be God and the actions and conditions of God can be man. Dr. Justo Gonzalez, an authority on the history of the Christian Church, notes, “The divine and human natures exist in a single being, although how that can be is the greatest mystery of the faith.” Biblical truth is not a 'mystery' as much as our Trinitarian and Oneness friends would like us to believe. In fact, God longs for us to know Him and His truth.

The doctrine of the dual nature of Christ has been the standard explanation for the miracles of Christ, such as multiplying food, knowing the thoughts of others, raising the dead, etc. This explanation is maintained in spite of the fact that the prophets in the Old Testament were also able to do these things. The doctrine of Christ’s dual nature has caused a serious problem that is stated well by John Wren-Lewis:

"Certainly up to the Second World War, the commonest vision of Jesus was not as a man at all. He was a God in human form, full of supernatural knowledge and miraculous power, very much like the Olympian gods were supposed to be when they visited the earth in disguise."

The average Christian does not feel that Christ “was made like his brothers in every way” (Heb. 2:17), but instead feels that Christ was able to do what he did because he was fundamentally different. I believe that the teaching of the dual nature is non-biblical and robs power from people who might otherwise seek to think and act like Christ. This artificially separates people from the Lord Jesus. [SEE also John 3:35] <-- This verse along with many others that the diligent reader can determine plainly states that it is the Father who has given 'all things to the son.'

Any linguist or grammatarain admits that the one giving is separate from the one receiving. Whilst the Trinitarian circumvents this by declaring that God The Son is separate but equal to the Father, the Oneness believer reconciles this dichotomy by affirming that the Son is an office of the Father, as is the holy Spirit. Both are unnecessary given the full weight of scripture.

This proves itself moreover in the plain Bible teachings that:

1.) God is not a man

2.) God by definition is immortal, ie., cannot DIE

Both Trinitarians and Oneness believers DENY these through theological gymnastics.

Back to our study

In the culture of the Bible, anyone who began anything or was very important to something was called its “father.” For example, because Jabal was the first one to live in a tent and raise livestock, the Bible says, “he was the father of those who live in tents and raise livestock” (Gen. 4:20). Furthermore, because Jubal was the first inventor of musical instruments, he is called, “the father of all who play the harp and flute” (Gen. 4:21). Scripture is not using “father” in the sense of literal father or ancestor in these verses, because both these men were descendants of Cain, and all their descendants died in the flood of Noah's time. “Father” was being used in the cultural understanding of either one who was the first to do something or someone who was important in some way. Because the Messiah will be the one to establish the age to come, raise the dead into it, and rule over it he is called “the father of the coming age.”

The phrase “Mighty God” can also be better translated. Although the word “God” in the Hebrew culture had a much wider range of application than it does in ours, the average reader does not know or understand that. Readers familiar with the Semitic languages know that a man who is acting with God’s authority can be called “god.” Although English makes a clear distinction between “God” and “god,” the Hebrew language, which has only capital letters, cannot. A better translation for the English reader would be “mighty hero,” or “divine hero.” Both Martin Luther and James Moffatt translated the phrase as “divine hero” in their Bibles. [See: Exodus 7:1] where Moses was declared to be "as GOD" to pharoh and Aaron would be his prophet. Can anyone see a parallel?

A clear example that the word translated “God” in Isaiah 9:6 can be used of powerful earthly rulers is Ezekiel 31:11, referring to the Babylonian king. The Trinitarian bias of most translators can be clearly seen by comparing Isaiah 9:6 (el = “God”) with Ezekiel 31:11 (el = “ruler”). If calling the Messiah el made him God, then the Babylonian king would be God also. Isaiah is speaking of God’s Messiah and calling him a mighty ruler, which of course he will be.

The phrase translated “Mighty God” in Isaiah 9:6 in the NIV in the Hebrew, el gibbor. That very phrase, in the plural form, is used Ezekiel 32:21 where dead “heroes” and mighty men are said, by the figure of speech personification, to speak to others. The phrase in Ezekiel is translated “mighty leaders” in the NIV, and “the strong among the mighty” in the KJV and NASB. The Hebrew phrase, when used in the singular, can refer to one “mighty leader” just as when used in the plural it can refer to many “mighty leaders.”

The context illuminates great truth about the verse, and also shows that there is no justification for believing that it refers to the Trinity or any dual-natured God/Man or Man/God. but rather to God's appointed ruler, namely, the man Christ Jesus. [1 Timothy 2:5] The opening verse of the chapter foretells a time when “there will be no more gloom for those in distress.” All war and death will cease, and “every warrior’s boot…will be destined for burning” (v. 5). How will this come to pass? The chapter goes on: “for to us a child is born and to us a son is given” (v. 6). There is no hint that this child will be “God,” and reputable Trinitarian scholars will assert that the Jews of the Old Testament knew nothing of an incarnation.

For them, the Messiah was going to be a man anointed by God. [Acts 2:22] He would start as a child, which of course Yahweh, their eternal God, could never be. And what a great ruler this man would grow to be: “the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty Hero, Father of the Coming Age, Prince of Peace.” Furthermore, “he will reign on David’s throne (v. 7), which could never be said of God. God could never sit on David’s throne. But God’s Messiah, “the Son of David,” could (Matt. 9:27, et al). Thus, a study of the verse in its context reveals that it does not refer to the Trinity or a schizophrenic Christ at all, but to the Messiah, the son of David and the Son of God.

Thus, if this verse is translated properly, then Trinitarian, as well as Oneness believers have translation and or Christological problems. However, the phrase is mistranslated. The word translated “everlasting” is actually “age,” and the correct translation is that Jesus will be called “father of the [coming] age.”

No comments: