(Answering Objections to Modalism)
“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” —Isaiah 9:6.
The text is referencing the future Son of David that would be the Messiah. This is confidently stated from the clarity of v7 which states: “Of the increase of his (the child born, and the son given) government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.”
There are four throne names that are in dispute between Modalism and Subordinationism. These throne names of the Messiah are: “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” Unlike “Immanuel,” of Isaiah 7:14, these four throne names consist of two elements each (view them in the NASB): “Wonderful” describing the kind of Counsellor, “Mighty” describing the kind of God, “Everlasting” describing the kind of Father, and “Prince” describing the Messiah’s relationship to Peace. Modalism holds that these four throne names are descriptors of the one name given to Mary’s baby by the Angel (Matt 1:21). Thus the description of the name “Jesus” (and Hebraically, the holder of said name) is that He is: the “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.”
One may, conceivably, ask, “How does the name Jesus come to hold such divinity? The answer is found in the following explanation (this paragraph has reoccured in this writing): Jesus, is the New Covenant Name of YHWH. In Matthew 1:21, the Angel tells Joseph, “thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save... .” Jesus, is the Greek Iesous, (Strong’s NT #2424) the origin is Hebrew—Yehowshuwa (Strong’s #H3091). The Hebrew Yehowshuwa is from two Hebrew words (Strong’s #H3091): Yehovah and Yasha. Yehovah, is Yahweh/Jehovah, Strong’s #H3068 (YHWH). Whereas, Yasha is Savior; or, bring salvation; (Strong’s #H3467). Therefore, Yehowshuwa (Hebrew); Iesous (Greek); Jesus (English) translates to “Yahweh (YHWH) Savior.” Thus, Yehowshuwa (Jesus) is the New Covenant name of YHWH. One will notice the tetragrammaton in the name Y-eh-o-w-s-h-u-w-a.
This text is especially challenged by the Unitarian Arians (Subordinationists), who have denied the deity of Christ altogether. They are fond of asserting, “Jehovah’s, or Yahweh’s, name being called upon the Israelites indicates that they were His people. They, then, gave a list of passages to establish their point. I agree with their initial observation. But, here, we should recognize that “Truth has boundaries, error has none.” I will explain where I see that their application has gone out of bounds of truth: There is a vast difference between the name of Yahweh being “called upon” someone or something, and the name of someone, or something BEING Yahweh. At stake here is the biblical and Hebraic concept of the name of God containing His presence.
The texts they reference are represented by the following: Deuteronomy 28:10; 2 Chronicles 7:14; Isaiah 43:7; 63:19; 2 Kings 21:4, 7; 1 Kings 11:36; Acts 15:16-18; and Amos 9:11-12. These, all speak of the name of the LORD (Yahweh ) being CALLED UPON someone, or something, either outright or in idiom, not that the one (or the thing) shares, personally, the name ‘Yahweh.’ What follows is an example from Amos 9:12. The English reads, “called by my name,” but the Hebrew has “My name called over them.” So, then, we recognize “called by my name” as an idiom for “name called upon/over.”
Amos 9:12 lmon iirshu....so-that they-shall-tenant -e⋅quim....the nations -ieue.... Yahweh - sharith adum u⋅ki.... remant-of Edom and⋅all-of ashr - nqra shm⋅i....which he is called name of me over them averment of oshe zath....one-doing this...
First, we know this MUST be the case, because Yahweh will not share His personal name with any other person or being—heavenly or earthly. The Bible speaks clearly enough on this point in Psalm 83:18 “May they know that You alone—whose name is Yahweh— are the Most High over all the earth” (HCSB), and then Yahweh Himself declares in Isaiah 48:11, “... For how should My name be profaned? And I will not give My glory to another” (NKJV). (As a side note, Jesus IS CALLED YAHWEH [Jer 23:5-6; Zech 12:4, 10; showing that He is, in fact, the very Yahweh, Himself], not that the name of Yahweh was called UPON Him to show possession.)
Secondly, they often reference to the Ark of Covenant and Tabernacle of Moses, and the name of Yahweh associated with these items. However, the Ark and the Tabernacle are in a class to themselves, in that the Tabernacle, and later the Temple, tabernacled the very being of God on the Mercyseat of the Ark of the Covenant; thus, making the Ark, Tabernacle and later the Temple the “tabernacled presence” of Yahweh God. (2 Samuel 6:2, “And David arose, and went with all the people that were with him from Baale of Judah, to bring up from thence the ark of God, whose name is called by the name of the LORD [YHWH] of hosts that dwelleth between the cherubims.” The Ark was, indeed, called by the name “Yahweh,” and the reason is clearly stated: The LORD of hosts dwells “between the Cherbim.”) A tabernacled presence of Yahweh is indeed Yahweh Himself made known to His creation. Thus, Paul writes in 1 Timothy 3:16, that, “God was manifest in the flesh;” and John wrote (John 1:14) that God was “ἐσκήνωσεν ἐν ἡμῖν,” literally: “tabernacled among us.” God, who fills all space and time has “tabernacled” Himself in different ways and manners throughout biblical history. E.g., the voice in the Garden, the Angel of the LORD that appeared to Abraham, and Abraham washed His feet; Melchizedek; the burning bush—by being a tabernacled presence of the great I AM, the very ground was made holy; the pillar of fire; cloud; then the ultimate—and consummation of all theophanies—the Tabernacled Presence of Yahweh in the flesh of Mary’s baby —John 1:1, 14.
Lastly, they will reference the two angels that went to the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, as both having the name of Yahweh, as proof that one having the name “Yahweh” does not mean that that one is Yahweh. If I understand them correctly, they are implying a thing that is biblically impossible: namely, that the two angels shared the personal name, “Yahweh.” This is impossible, because only One has that name (Ps 83:18), and He will not share it with any other (Isa 48:11). So then, one MUST return to what should have been the first understanding, because it is the (oli⋅em nam) normal understanding. That being: Angels are ministers of God to carry out His wishes throughout creation; therefore, their deeds are the deeds of God. So that when they (the Angels) destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah, it was, indeed, Yahweh who destroyed. This should have been clear from Genesis 19:24 “Then the LORD (YHWH) rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD (YHWH) out of heaven.” However, they see two LORDS (two Yahwehs), which is impossible, because only ONE has this name; and He will not give its glory to any other: “May they know that You alone— whose name is Yahweh—are the Most High over all the earth” (Psalm 83:18 HCSB), and then Yahweh Himself declares “... For how should My name be profaned? And I will not give My glory to another” —Isaiah 48:11 (NKJV).
Another challenge that Subordinationists (who deny the deity of Christ) like to bring is a refusal to accept that Yahweh could be in Heaven as God, and on earth as a child at the same moment in time.
In dealing with Isaiah 9:6 the Arian has a problem understanding how God could be IN Jesus and IN heaven. How can God, they ask, occupy a throne in Heaven, while dwelling in Jesus on the earth? With this concept, it is not possible for them to comprehend God in Christ. So they must be reasoned from that position, if they are ever to accept Jesus as their God.
I submit to you that the Subordinationists do not have a correct concept of the omnipresence of God: “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens cannot contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded?” —1 Kings 8:27.
God is a being Whose center is everywhere and Whose circumference is nowhere.
God cannot be excluded from any location or object in creation. God’s presence is continuous throughout all creation. (God Is A Being Who’s Center Is Everywhere and Who’s Circumference Is Nowhere.) The Bible reveals that God can be both present to a person in a manifest matter, as well as being present in every situation in all of creation at any given time. God is naturally present in every aspect of the natural order, in every level of causality, every fleeting moment of natural history.
God is actively present in every event in history;
God is attentively present to those who call upon his name;
God is bodily present in His Incarnation of His Son;
God is mystically present in the Eucharist, and through the means of grace in the church, the body of Christ;
God is sacredly present and becomes known in special places where He chooses to meet us; where it may be said: “Truly the Lord is in this place.”
Such omnipresence is logically possible by way of the classic geometric point or its equivalent, in that such a point is, by definition, within all of space without taking up any space.
Quality Not Quantity
When Colossians 2:9 declares that the fullness of the God-head dwells in Jesus, Paul is not speaking of the total quantity of God dwelling in Christ, but, of the total quality of the Deity dwelling in Jesus’ physical form.
Keeping in mind that any earthly illustration of a Heavenly truth will always be lacking, let us consider the following illustration:
Let us say that I go to the Mississippi River and take a glass and dip it full of Mississippi River water. I then hold that glass up before all present and announce: “This is the Mississippi River.” Now, no one present, who is in their right mind, would understand me to say the glass contains the total quantity of the Mississippi River. My statement is true, in that the glass contains the quality of the Mississippi River. The minerals that are particular to the Mississippi River are in the Mississippi River glass. But, I do not mean that the Mississippi River ONLY exists in the Mississippi River glass. So, too, Jesus. We point to Jesus and say: He is Father God. Because God is Omnipresent, we do not mean that God exists only in the bodily form of Jesus. We mean all God is qualitatively is in Christ. We do not mean quantitatively. (Therefore, in the baptism of Christ by John the Baptist, God could speak from Heaven concerning His Son on the earth, while occupying that Son without measure—quantitatively.)
Further, the Subordinationists allege that Isaiah 9:6 has been mistranslated. Of course we deny the allegation and challenge the “alligator.” The translation of “His name shall be called” has been challenged.
Modalism responds with the following:
First: The Greek translation of the Old Testament, known as the Septuagint (LXX), translated the expression as “his name is called.” The LXX was translated by Jews in the 3rd century B.C., and thus not affected by the Christian-Jewish debates over this issue. The translation of the verb is the important thing here. Obviously these Jewish translators had no problem rendering the verb as a passive.
Second: In the Talmud the verse is translated as follows: “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, Mighty, Judge, Everlasting, Father, Prince, and Peace.” [Sanhedrin 94a]. Obviously this is an authentic Jewish translation.
Third: The Subordinationists have taken the Jewish Publication Society Bible, and the Complete Jewish Bible as their preferred rendering (“Wonderful in counsel is God the Mighty, the Ever-lasting Father, the Ruler of peace.”) Christians should reject these sources out of hand because of the bias against the deity of Christ from that quarter.
Unitarian, Subordinationists and Arians:
Paul quotes a passage from Joel that says “whoever calls on the name of the LORD (Yahweh) will be saved.”
Joel 2:32 “whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered ... .” Compare to:
Romans 10:9-13 “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. 10 For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. 11 For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. 12 For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. 13 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
It is evident that the Lord in Romans is Jesus Christ, and Paul says that He is the same LORD of Joel 2:32. We must notice that the word “LORD” of Joel is written in all uppercase letters which is the Tetragrammaton YHWH, or Yahweh. So, then, the name of Jesus is the same as the name Yahweh.
Before I move on, a word needs to be said about the proclivity of the Subordinationists’ camp to claim that the Bible (as the world has it) is corrupted and unreliable in directing its readers to God. At every turn, where the deity of Jesus is declared in the Bible, the Subordinationists allege corruption. Do they not understand, that in doing this, they, and those of their ilk, are disparaging the integrity of God to protect His Word? Is the One Who said “Let there be” and His universe leapt into existence, is the One Who reached into His tunic and flung stars into space, so inept that He could not protect His Word from corruption!? I think not!
☩ David Ignatius
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