Friday, April 15, 2016

Answering Objections to Modalism (Hebrews 1:8)

Excerpted from the author's book entitled "Godhead Theology."
“But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.” —Hebrews 1:8

In answering Trinitarian and Binitarian objections to the Modalist faith, Hebrews 1:8 is an important issue. In this verse, these particular Pluralists feel they have finally found a place where the Son of God is said to be a separate god-person from the Father. Even more to the point: They are sure they have found a place where the Father calls the Son, God. Here is the quote: “But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom”  —Hebrews 1:8.
Modalism’s Response
Scripture must be interpreted in the light of other Scripture—there can be no contradictions. There are no opposing truths. The Scriptures state there is but ONE God-person ( E.g. “See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me:” see Deut. 32:39; Isa 43:3, 11; 44:6; 45:5, 18, 21, 22; 46:5, 9; Mark 12:29; 1 Tim 2:5; Gal 3:20). For the purposes of this chapter we will call this truth: “Bible Absolute, Number One.” So, however Hebrews 1:8 is interpreted, it must not, cannot, violate “Bible Absolute, Number One.”
If the Trinitarian interpretation is correct, we have several huge problems: 
  1. There is more than one God-person, which violates “Bible Absolute, Number One;”
  2. If the Trinitarian interpretation is correct, God has a God, and one God is anointed by the other God; because v9 says, “Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You...” (NKJV): and “Bible Absolute, Number One” is violated.
  3. If the Trinitarian interpretation is correct, God has “fellows” (i.e. companions, equals); “Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of gladness more than Your companions” (NKJV). Notice the “companions” (“fellows” KJV), are plural. So, a race of Gods? and “Bible Absolute, Number One” is violated.
The three items listed above are solid proof that neither Trinitarianism nor Binitarianism have the correct understanding of Hebrews 1:8.
The difficulty that is experienced by all who hold the Trinitarian or the Binitarian view is this: They have jumped into the middle of the story (i.e. the New Testament texts) of theology without the context (knowledge) of the beginning of this grand narrative. In the beginning of the biblical narrative of Godhead Theology, God introduces Himself as One Only Person. ( E.g. “See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me:” (See Deut 32:39; Isa 43:3, 11; 44:6; 45:5, 18, 21, 22; 46:5, 9; Mark 12:29; 1 Tim 2:5; Gal 3:20.) They are violating the radical monotheism of the Bible, when they proclaim more than ONE God-person. Please excuse the poor illustration: It is like coming into a play in the middle scene, AFTER the characters have been introduced, and trying to sort each one in one’s own mind, only by the words spoken on stage—it is most confusing.
Now, the question we should be asking ourselves is, “How may Hebrews 1:8 be interpreted without doing violence to holy Scripture, and, at the same time, hold the integrity of Old Testament monotheism that declares God to be but ONE sentient God-person?” This radical monotheism is our “Bible Absolute, Number One.”
First, we may begin by acknowledging that Hebrews 1:8 is a quote from Psalm 45:6-7; and is only half of the quote, at that. Verse 9 of Hebrews ch 1 must be considered. We give the complete  text here:
“But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.9 Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows”  —Hebrews 1:8-9.
Second, we will acknowledge that the quote concerns King David, as v1 of Psalm 45 attests: “I speak of the things which I have made touching the king....”  
Psalms 45:1, 6-7, “My heart is inditing a good matter: I speak of the things which I have made touching the king: my tongue is the pen of a ready writer. ... Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the sceptre of thy kingdom is a right sceptre. Thou lovest righteousness, and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.”
 Third, we will acknowledge that the writer of Hebrews applies the quote to the Son of God. This would be in context with Psalm 45:1-7, because Jesus in the Son of David, and David was a type of the Messiah (Jesus). So, was David called God in Psalms 45:1-7? And more importantly: Was the Son of God called God in Hebrews 1:1-9?
Since this is an odd text, a difficult text, it must be understood in the light of the clear and plain texts concerning the person of Christ. It is the 7th law of Scriptural Interpretation that must be applied to our text: “Clear Passages Interpret Unclear Passage.”
The Laws of Scriptural Interpretation are: 
  1. The law of: Context, 
  2. The law of: Witnesses, 
  3. The law of: Addressee, 
  4. The law of: First Mention, 
  5. The law of: Apostolic Example, 
  6. The law of: Didactic Interprets Narrative, and 
  7. The law of: Clear Passages Interpret Unclear Passages. 
The clear passage is Psalms 45:1, which tells us that King David is being addressed: “My heart is inditing a good matter: I speak of the things which I have made touching the king: my tongue is the pen of a ready writer.” We  also, give it here from the NKJV: My heart is overflowing with a good theme; I recite my composition concerning the King; My tongue is the pen of a ready writer.”  Our text (Heb 1:8) may NOT be taken out of that context.
Scholars
The knowledge of the scholars may help us come to the proper understanding of our text.
  • Vincent informs us that the Hebrews text (1:8) and Psalm 45:6-7 may very well be defective, and gives as possible translations: “Thy throne is a throne of God;” or “God is thy throne.” (Word Studies in the NT, Vincent pg 390, vol 4, Eerdmans.) 
  • A. T. Robertson states “It is uncertain...if the “ho theos” is vocative ...or nominative.” Possible translations are: “God is thy throne;” or “Thy throne is God.” (Word Pictures in the NT, pg 399, vol 5.) 
The Greek reads: πρὸς δὲ τὸν υἱόν, Ὁ θρόνος σου, ὁ θεός, εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα τοῦ αἰῶνος, καὶ ἡ ῥάβδος τῆς εὐθύτητος ῥάβδος τῆς βασιλείας σου.The debated phrase is “ὁ θεός.” Is it “O God” or “the God?” To interpret ὁ θεός as “O God” would be odd, indeed, and do violence to the rest of holy Scripture. 
So, according to the actual Greek text, and the scholars, the text may read:  “As to the Son, thy throne, the God is, from age to age.” So, then, both David (who was a type of the Son of God), and the actual Son of God (who was the anti-type of David and was, in fact, the son of David), are told that God is their throne. This is the legal translation of the text, which removes all the problems that are created by twisting it and making ὁ θεός “O God,” instead of “the God.”
If one would reject our understanding of “ὁ θεός,” and the reasons given by us, by insisting on ὁ θεός being vocative instead of nominative as we have suggested, then there would be the following to be stated in defense of our “Bible Absolute, Number One:”  
  • There is but One God-person: “See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me:”—see Deuteronomy 32:39; Isaiah 43:3, 11; 44:6; 45:5, 18, 21, 22; 46:5, 9; Mark 12:29; 1 Timothy 2:5; and Galatians 3:20. 
  • The prophesied dominion is to the deity nature of the Son and not to the Son of man (the humanity of Christ). In the sense that it was God (Logos) that became flesh (John 1:1, 14), the prophesied dominion was to the ONE tabernacled in the flesh (2 Cor 5:19; the “only [uniquely] begotten God” —John 1:18, NASB. 

By this, the integrity of John 1:18 (“the uniquely begotten God”) is maintained while also doing no violence to our “Bible Absolute, Number One:” Namely, “The Scriptures state there is but ONE God-person.” “See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me:” —Deuteronomy 32:39.


Apostolically Speaking
☩ David Ignatius



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