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My Brief Discussion With Dr. Rob Bowman

Updated: Nov 21, 2022

On April 1, 2019, I created a post in the Trinities podcast group that is managed and owned by Dr. Dale Tuggy. My inquiries were concerning the lack of emphatic titles in Greek for Jesus that would have been more than efficient enough to support the belief that the GNT (Greek New Testament) authors beheld the idea that God was the Son. Titles such as Θεός ὁ υἱός (God the Son), τὸν θεόν ὁ υἱός (The God-Son) or Ο Θεάνθρωπος (God-man).. Dr. Rob Bowman, a distinguished and well respected Trinitarian apologists took interest in my questions, which I really do appreciate, and offered a reconciliation in his defense. However, it seems to me that his objections left me with more questions than answers. I decided to revisit this momentarily to amplify my concerns. Here is the link to the actual post on Facebook.

Me: Greetings.. Question inquiring minds wanted to know.

Were the biblical authors limited in the language at their disposal? Was it impossible for them to use terms like Θεός ὁ υἱός (God the Son) , τὸν θεόν ὁ υἱός (The God the Son), τοῦ Θεοῦ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ (Jesus Christ our God) or Ο Θεάνθρωπος (God-man)? This is the kind of language one would expect to see if The Son was indeed God. We see this in later creedal statements but it is not in the actual inspired literature. They had no qualms using the term θεοῦ πατρὸς/Theou patēr (see 2 Peter 1:17) , θεοῦ πατρὸς ἡμῶν/Theos pater hēmōn (1 Cor. 1:3) to describe the Father who is undoubtedly the most High God.

Yes, there are other concepts not explicitly mentioned in scripture but indeed exist. But because this doctrine is said to be so important to modern Christendom we should hold this doctrine to such a high standard to mention things more notably. The Biblical authors (the koine Greek speaking ones) had every resource available to them to exhaust the Greek language to convey ideas to their specific audience, after all Greek was the LINGUA FRANCA of that time. They neglected to do so. Why?

*Dr. Bowman then cites his article dealing with similar concerns*

Me: Rob Bowman I actually ran across this article about a year ago. I affirm there are more than enough biblical terms not used in the scriptures but the concept is indeed present. I’m simply holding the doctrine of "Jesus is God" to a higher standard than just some philosophical term later expressed.

It’s equivalent to a soldier being sent on a co-op military mission that is possibly suicidal, I would expect explicit commentary and language. I’m constantly told this is a non-negotiable Doctrine. Is that not fair?

Dr. Bowman: Renzo, I'm having some trouble understanding your objection. If we have statements in the Bible that explicitly refer to Jesus as "God," that seems to meet your requirement for explicit language to be used.

The point of my article is that we need to base our doctrine about the person of Christ on what the Bible says, not on what it doesn't say.

Me: Rob Bowman I agree with your last statement, however I vehemently disagree with your first. This is my objection, it is "explicitly” mentioned Jesus was called God, at least unambiguously. We know others were called at some point θεός.

I thought my op was very clear. Θεός ὁ υἱός or τὸν θεόν ὁ υἱός are terms that were available to the biblical authors, but was used after the apostolic faith, that is significant.

Dr. Bowman: Renzo, please cite for me a text from the first century AD or earlier that used the expressions Θεός ὁ υἱός or τὸν θεόν ὁ υἱός. You won't be able to do it. Therefore, your claim that these expressions were "terms that were available to the biblical authors" is simply a bald assertion, not something supported by evidence.

It is true that other beings are called θεός. That is why context is important. If a text affirms that someone was θεός before creation and that all created things came into being through him, that is a very telling context. It is certainly different than a context in which a group of beings are called "gods" but condemned for their lack of justice (for example).

And again, your whole objection is nothing more than an argument from silence. It's logically fallacious.

Me: Rob Bowman, So it all of a sudden became available after the 1st century? Excuse me but how long was the Greek language the lingua franca of those regions?

Absence of evidence isn’t evidence of absence. That’s a cop out to say that it wasn’t available.

Yes context is king, that’s why we don’t find The Son unequivocally called God before creation, we see him as a plan or predestined from τὸν θεόν (The Father). Furthermore all things were created "through" him. Yes I agree.

Dr. Bowman: Renzo, was that a real argument?

Greek was around a long time before the NT, but we don't see anyone using those expressions you are claiming the NT writers should have used if they really believed Jesus was God. You were the one who made the assertion that those expressions were readily available to the NT authors. You bear the burden of proof to support your assertion. You can't get out of that responsibility by intoning "Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence," since you made a positive assertion that it was available to the NT writers.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't recall anyone using those expressions in the second or third centuries, either. In fact, I'm not sure when they first appear in Christian literature. I think that the expression "God the Son" doesn't show up until Augustine in the early fifth century. That would mean, by your standard, that Athanasius didn't clearly teach that Jesus is God, and that the idea is also not found clearly found in the Nicene Creed. At this point your criterion appears to be rather ridiculous.

Me:Rob Bowman, I felt like my case was pretty plausible. Let’s say the usage doesn’t appear until Augustine, was Greek still the standard language? If indeed the NT writers believed Jesus was God the terms and words were there. ὁ υἱός And Θεός was there for sure. Is there some grammatical rule that says you cannot correlate the two?

I say the absence of evidence is evidence of absence is because your reasoning is illogical. Neither term when it’s used independently is foreign to the biblical authors.

Dr. Bowman: Renzo, Greek was still widely used throughout the eastern Mediterranean in Augustine's day. But if the first exemplar of the expression "God the Son" comes from a Latin writer, your argument is in big, big trouble.

There is no grammatical rule that says the two words could not have been used in that way. But that isn't the issue. The issue is whether the lack of such usage in the NT is some sort of problem for the orthodox position. Obviously, it is not.

Me: Rob Bowman, It’s a big problem, maybe not for you or "Orthodoxy", I believe my BU position has no issues or problems. You can provide treatments for it all day, I understand why you would reject any dangerous idea, It’s hard to accept things when you don’t normally accept. However this is significant because an "non-negotiable" doctrine is not as clear as it should be given the language they had at their disposal.

Him being a Latin writer is kind of irrelevant, Latin didn’t become the dominant language at that time..

Dr. Bowman: You wrote: "This is the kind of language one would expect to see if The Son was indeed God."

No. The kind of language one would expect to see if the Son was indeed God would be statements calling him "God." And we do find such statements. But that isn't good enough for critics of orthodox doctrine.

Me: Rob Bowman, I disagree, Jesus is called “God” but it isn’t unambiguously. You would be hard pressed to find a passage that hasn’t been debated to tedium concerning “Jesus is God".

And no, it’s not enough. Because even orthodoxy can be wrong and disingenuous. The law, salvation by grace, the Messiah is the Son of God, Gentile acceptance, etc has been explained explicitly or implicitly within the body of scripture. Why can’t we hold this doctrine to a higher standard? People want to subscribe to their theology as if it was at a high standard but shy away from actually holding it to a high standard.

Dr. Bowman: Renzo, you have fallen for the polemical rhetorical strategy that what is obvious to you is sufficiently explained but what is not obvious to you needs more explanation. Here's a simple example. You object that references to Jesus as God have been debated endlessly. Yes they have. But so have references to Jesus as the Son of God, which you seem to think are self-explanatory. They aren't. Does "Son of God" mean "human Messiah," or "virgin-born man," or "manifestation of God in flesh," or "angelic being created by God," or "human offspring of Heavenly Father"? These are all interpretations offered by competing religious belief systems such as Unitarianism, Oneness Pentecostalism, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Mormonism. Which one is right? You see, what is obvious or self-explanatory to one person might not be to someone else.

Me: Rob Bowman, Sir, you are proving my point. Yes the concept of Jesus was "the Son of God" was actually debated. WITHIN THE BODY OF SCRIPTURE. Which further support what I’m saying.

You see that layed out in the literature, ho huios theou can be found for sure in the literature. The premise behind my question is that I don’t believe the biblical authors believed things the way trinitarians see him today. Are you following me?

Dr. Bowman: Renzo, I certainly understand that it is the premise of your argument that the biblical authors did not believe what orthodox Christians believe. I get that. And indeed that seems to be the guiding assumption of your argument, not its conclusion. That is, you are assuming what you ought to be trying to prove.

I've made a number of points in response to your argument. I don't think you have grasped those points. In any case, I don't have time to debate the matter endlessly.

Me: Rob Bowman, Understood, for the record I absolutely grasped your argument and understand it, I just don’t think it’s sufficient. It’s special pleading.

End discussion.

My recent amplification:

I would like to add that some of these terms or similar to are mentioned explicitly in the bible, but are either in the genitive or nominative in conjunction with the genitive, i.e θεοῦ υἱὸς, [ὁ] υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ (Matt 8:29), υἱὸς τοῦ θεοῦ. How easy would it have been to swivel those genitives into strictly nominatives with genitives or accusative's for the Son (Θεός ὁ υἱός, Ἰησοῦς Χριστος τοῦ θεοῦ, Ἰησοῦς Χριστος θεοῦ or τὸν θεόν ὁ υἱός)? Interestingly, the biblical authors had these grammatical necessities ready and available for God the Father. For example 2 Corinthians 1:3 emphatically introduces a doxology for the Father and uses nominatives and genitives + nominatives without qualification. The author says Εὐλογητὸς ὁ θεὸς καὶ πατὴρ [Blessed be the God and Father vs 3]…Vs 2 employs the combo θεοῦ (genitive) πατρὸς (nominative)-[God our Father].

I will also acknowledge that Titus 2:13 could be debated where we see a rather emphatic term “τοῦ μεγάλου θεοῦ καὶ σωτῆρος ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ” that is arguably said to be a reference to the Son of God. However, I give a thorough case as to why τοῦ μεγάλου θεοῦ has the Father as the only possible antecedent. See my article on ‘A total deconstruction of James White’s Infallible Rule’

It seems highly unlikely that the Greek-speaking authors did not have such terms such as ‘God the Son’, our God Jesus or our God Jesus Christ (Θεός ὁ υἱός; ὁ θεὸς Ἰησοῦς Χριστος, τοῦ Θεοῦ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, & ὁ υἱός τοῦ Θεοῦ) when the author used the exact same words in 1 Corinthians 1-2. So for the good Dr. to assert that no earlier sources used the phrases at all before the first-century a.d. because it wasn't available is inaccurate. The authors it would seem to have never used the terms epexegetically, but did so freely with the Father. Although it's debatable that St. Ignatius in one of his proclaimed authentic letters contained the said phrases. For example, the dating on his epistle to the Romans (around 100-110 a.d.) is where most patristic historians set the date for it's inception and in it, it has the soon martyred bishop from Antioch declaring "the Church which is beloved and enlightened by the will of Him that willeth all things which are according to the love of Jesus Christ our God," Ἰησοῦς Χριστος τοῦ θεοῦ [Πρὸς Ρ̓ωμαίους C. III] . If this is the case, then we have an example not to far removed from the 1st century that such explicit and emphatic language was available to the NT authors. Especially since Latin had not become the dominant language at the time and the Bishop himself was a hearer of the Apostles John [or Peter]…

Yes, little to no evidence from earlier sources is shown to have used the word structures, but the language in general was available and could have been utilized indeed. We see it being used for The Father exclusively. The feeling is that the authors didn't use such terms for Jesus is because they didn't believe such terms applied, meaning they perhaps didn't believe Jesus was God Almighty.

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