Victor Paul Wierwille wrote a book called Jesus Christ is Not God, which he claimed conclusively proved that Jesus Christ was a perfect man, but did not have the nature of God as well. The purpose of this article is not to counter The Way's doctrinal pronouncements with Scripture. That has been done by others. Instead, we will discuss how validly and accurately Wierwille interprets Scripture to arrive at his doctrines. In particular, we will examine his use of Scripture to deny the deity of Jesus Christ. Wierwille emphatically condemns "private interpretation" and demands that the Word interpret itself.9 Yet the question remains whether he is manipulating biblical evidence to bend the way that the Word "interprets itself" to the advantage of his preconceived theology.
If Wierwille's interpretations of biblical passages are valid, Christians must reassess their traditional beliefs and join forces with The Way. If his Interpretations are invalid in only minor areas, Christians may accept Wierwille as a misguided brother in Christ. If he is incorrect in major areas, Christians must reject him as a false teacher, warn against him, and seek to win Wierwille and his misted or deceived followers from the Satanic corruption.
The Way's View of Christ
Examining first The Way's view of Jesus Christ, we find that Wierwille departs from Christian teaching in every area of Christology- the work, nature, and preexistence of Christ. He claims Jesus was only a thought in God's mind, and not actually existent with God before His birth.
9. Wierwille, Power for Abundant Living, pp. 145ff.
We, as well as Jesus Christ, were with God in His foreknowledge, but not in existence, before the foundation of the world.10
He bases this doctrine of nonexistence on John 1:1, "the Word was with God." He states, "The key to understanding John 1:1 and 2 is the word 'with,' . - . The word pros means 'together with, yet distinctly independent of.' "I' He claims "with" does not mean that Jesus was personally with God before the world, but only "in the mind of God," "in his foreknowledge. 1112 He cites Ephesians 1: 4 and 2 Thessalonians 2:13 to corroborate this. According to Dr. Wierwille's logic, if believers were chosen before the world, as these verses say, they must have been "with" (pros) God in His mind. Jesus, he says, was with God also. So he concludes that Jesus as well as believers were only in God's mind before the world. Jesus did not really personally preexist with the Father.
Wierwille also bases his denial of Jesus' preexistence on the Greek word proginosko. The KJV translates this word "foreordained" in reference to Jesus (I Pet. 1:20) and "foreknow" in reference to believers (Rom. 8:29) " Since this word is used both of believers, who did not really exist in the beginning, and of Jesus, he concludes that Jesus was not really in existence before the world, except in God's mind.
Wierwille misdefines the Greek words above in order to deny that Jesus personally existed in the beginning. First, pros does not mean simply to be with someone as a thought, as Wierwille demands. Instead, it consistently denotes existence together with someone and personal intercourse with another (pros can mean "face to face with"-ed.). Many passages which use the Greek word pros illustrate this, including Mark 6:3, Mark 9:9, Galatians 1: 18, and 11 John 12. Even if Wierwille's definition of pros were valid, it still would not rule out the fact that Jesus personally existed alongside of God the Father in the beginning. Jesus was and is definitely "Together with" the Father-so close as to be of the same divine nature. Jesus is also "distinctly independent of" the Father, being of separate persons as trinitarian doctrine explains.
Second, his corroborating passages in Ephesians and Thessalonians use the word "chosen," (two separate words in Greek, ekleg6 and haireomai). Neither contains pros or another word which can be translated "with." Wierwille, who attempts fine distinctions between very similar words, should realize that "with" and "chosen" are nowhere near equivalent.
Third, Wierwille misunderstands the word "foreknow." He assumes that if Jesus was foreknown by God, He could not have been actually ex-
10. Victor Paul Wierwille, Jesus Christ Is Not God (Now Knoxville, 0H: American Christian Press, 1975), p. 29.
11. Wierwille, Power for Abundant Living, p. 102. 12. Ibid.
13. Wierwille, Jesus Christ Is Not God, pp. 28-29.
istent with God in the beginning. However, we find that the Jews "foreknew" (proginosko) the Apostle Paul (Acts 26:25). This doesn't mean that Paul was a thought in their minds before he personally existed: rather they knew of Paul's youth and background as a Pharisee because he actually existed side by side with them at that time. Since the meaning of this word is not so narrow as Wierwille demands, it is fully possible that Jesus, the Lamb Peter spoke of in I Peter 1:20, was personally present when His sacrificial death was meticulously planned before the foundation of the world. Wierwille's repeatedly invalid word definitions and interpretations really invalidate The Way's teaching.
Wierwille's most voluminous exegesis defending his "Jesus Christ is not God" doctrine is contained in a book of the same name. He spends 41 pages radically interpreting John 1:1-18. In the first two verses of John alone, Wierwille changes the definition of logos ("word") three times. He claims the first "word" is God, the second is the Word revealed to man, the third is again God, and in the last instance, the pronoun "same" refers to the second definition, the revealed Word. He also reverses the order of the phrase "the Word was God" to "God was the Word, 1114 -a seemingly slight, hut crucial, difference. He gives no support for these changes in meaning and order, except the fallacious use of pros which was discussed above.
Wierwille is guilty of copiously adding "explanatory" words to John I to bend John's intended meaning. While the Greek text of John 1: 1-3 has only 36 words and the KJV uses 42, Wierwille's "literal translation according to usage" contains 91.15 His "literal translation" of John 1: 12 follows suit: he has 44 words compared to the KJV's 25 and the Greek's 16.16 Since Wierwille agrees that the Bible can interpret itself, one wonders why he needs to add so many of his own words. Without the massive additions, it is impossible to interpret John as Wierwille does. Although Wierwille
claims to translate "according to usage," he never cites other passages that use the same Greek words as evidence. He merely asserts his own definitions arid occasionally cites passages that only roughly relate.
Wierwille abuses other Greek words in this chapter of John. John 1:12 reads, "to them that believe on his name," but Wierwille alters this to read "namesake," without giving any support for this critical change of meaning." The Greek word for "name," onoma, is never used to mean "namesake" in any of the 235-plus occurrences in the New Testament, including the 25 in John. Rather, it is used to denote "the person in his
14. Ibid., p. 87. 15. Ibid., pp. 91, 93. 16- Ibid., p. 99. 17. Ibid., pp. 98f.
specific quality."18 Wierwille imposes his own meaning on onoma, muting the passage's testimony to Christ's deity.
In addition to these misinterpretations, Wierwille consistently refers the nouns and pronouns of John I to the Father instead of Jesus. One instance of this is John 1:6-8, which states that John came to bear witness to Jesus (not the Father, as Wierwille would have us believe).'" In John 1: 19, the apostle states, "This is the witness of John." He then discourses on Jesus, not the Father. John 1: 15, 34; 3:26; 5:33 cite John "bearing witness" (Greek- martureo) to Him who comes after me," to "the Son of God," to "Jesus" who was then baptizing, and to the "truth" who is Jesus. The Baptist repeatedly testified specifically to Jesus, not to God the Father as Wierwille claims. Hence, the Light of John 1:6-8 must be Jesus, not the Father.
In addition to disagreeing with all Christian scholars, Wierwille often disagrees with himself. His inconsistency illuminates his manipulative brand of "scholarship." For example, he twice defines the Greek word dia in the same chapter of Jesus is Not God. He first defines the word dia in reference to John 1: 3, "All things were made by Him." He concludes,
The word "by" is the Greek preposition dia which, when indicating instrument or means, is translated "by," the cause of action. God was the cause of the creation,-"'
Dia is here used with the genitive case. As such, the definition Wierwille gives is correct.
However, it is disturbing later to read Wierwille's contradictory definition of dia as he discusses Hebrews 1: 1, 2. This verse reads in part, "[God hath spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds." Wierwille's following definition of dia is irreconcilable with the definition given 29 pages before
The Greek word for "by" is dia, and, in the genitive case, is translated 11 on account of' or "because of" or, according to current language, "for." . . . God appointed His Son heir of all things, for whom also He made the ages."
As any reliable lexicon will point out, this is an incorrect meaning for dia when it is used with the genitive case. Had he used his earlier, correct, meaning for dia he would have had to translate the verse "God appointed His Son heir of all things, by means of whom also He made the ages." This correct rendering shows that Jesus was existent in the beginning, together with the Father and Spirit as the Creator. The correct translation
18. Max Zerwick and Mary Grosvenor, A Gramrnatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament (Rome: Biblical Institute Press, 1974), p. 286.
19. Wierwille, Jesus Christ Is Not God, pp. 95-96. 20. Ibid-, p. 92. 21. Ibid., p. 121.
of dia in this passage soundly refutes Wierwille's entire book and premise that "Jesus Christ is not God." Dr. Wierwille's preconceived theology twists God's accurate word..
The following diagram shows how Wierwille's arbitrary definition of dia would disprove his own doctrine.
dia (in the genitive case)
|Meaning given on page 92 of Jesus Christ Is Not God||Meaning given on page 121 of Jesus Christ Is Not God|
|"instrument or means." "The cause of"||"on account of," "because of," "for"|
|As applied to John 1:3||As applied to Hebrews 1:2|
|"All things were made by instrument of means of Him"||"God appointed His Son heir of all things, on account ofwhom also He made the ages"|
|If meaning given on page 121 applied to John 1:3||If meaning given on page 92 applied to Hebrews 1:2|
|"All things were made on account of Him"||"God appointed His Son heir of all things, by instrument or means of whom also He made the ages"|
|Wierwille's fabricated meaning on account of conflicts even with his own view of John 1:3. This makes his "Father" not the Creator, but the reason for another's creation. This meaning also violates the accepted definition of dia and the sense and context of the passage.||The correct meaning of dia, "by instrument or means of, elucidates the true meaning of Hebrews 1:2. Christ was personally in the beginning and actually cooperated in the creation of the heavens and the earth.|
Conclusion Regarding dia in Hebrews 1 and John 1
Wierwille does not consistently use accurate and appropriate definitions or dia to draw out the passages' true meanings. Rather, he creates differing and false meanings to mold passages to his preconceived conclusions.
More of Wierwille's Distorted Definitions of Greek Words
Wierwille continues with his spurious definitions of Greek words in his discussion of Hebrews 2:14, which reads;
Forasmuch then as the children are partakers [koinoneo] of flesh and blood, he (Jesus) also himself likewise took part [metecho] of the same....
He distinguishes Jesus' nature from man's nature by contrasting two similar Greek words:
It does not say that Jesus Christ partook; He took part of the same. . . . 22 The word "partake" is
the Greek word koinoneo and means "to share fully." . . . But Jesus just "took part" of the same;
the Greek word is metecho which means "to take only a part, not all." Jesus took some part, but
not all; he did not share fully, koinoneo. 23
strates his deficient research. He does not realize that the Greek metecho is translated five times as "partake" in the KJV and only in this verse is it translated "took part."
Wierwille insists that koinoneo has the exclusive meaning, "to share fully," but most instances in the NT are ambiguous in meaning. Passages such as Romans 12:13 would infer his meaning, while Galatians 6:6, Philippians 4:15, and others would not.
Moreover, New Testament usage of the word metecho contradicts Wierwille's definition. A few passages suffice to show that his definition is a farce. Can a person "take only a part, not all" of the Lord's table (I Cor. 10:21)? Can Paul "take only a part, not all" of the food set before him at a dinner (I Cor. 10:30)? Does a baby "take only a part, not all" of milk? Was Jesus "only a part, not all" of the tribe of Judah when the Bible states that he, Mary, and Joseph were all of Judah (Heb. 7:13)? The NT repeatedly contradicts Wierwille's errant definition of metecho.
Rather than contrasting koinoneo and metecho, as Wierwille demands, Hebrews 2:14 contrasts the tenses of these two words. Koint3neo here is a perfect form, that we, the children, continue to share in flesh and blood. The aorist of metecho shows that Jesus once took up flesh and blood fully, but now has returned.
Wierwille holds that Jesus, unlike man, had what he calls sinless soul-life. He tries to fortify this tenet by taking Judas' cry literally, "I have betrayed the innocent blood .1124 Wierwille is ignorant of the real meaning of Judas' cry, which is based on the OT use of the phrase "innocent blood." The 18 references to this from Deuteronomy to Joel consistently refer to people slain without a just cause. Judas' cry, and Pilate's abandonment of Jesus
22. Wierwille, Power for Abundant Living, p- 286.
23 ' Wierwille, Jesus Christ Is Not God, p. 71.
24. Ibid., p. 73; idem, Power for Abundant Living, p. 296.
in similar words (Matt. 27:24), do not infer that Jesus had sinless blood, ir soul-life. Rather they acknowledge that he was guiltless of any Crime and therefore was crucified (his blood shed) unjustly.
Wierwille also grossly misinterprets Philippians 2:6-11 so that it denies Christ's deity. Verse 6 reads, "(Jesus), being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God-" First, his interpretation overlooks the phrase "in the form of God." The Greek morpha (form) designates one's form or appearance by which those beholding him would judge him, and so reveals Jesus' divine nature .2., Second, Wierwille defines the Greek term isos (equal) by using its English derivative, "isosceles." His totally backwards linguistic methodology obliterates the real meaning of isos (equal), which also points to Jesus' divinity.
The key to understanding Philippians 2:6, he says, is Oriental mannerisms. He explains the Oriental relationship between Father and Son on the basis of John 5:18, since it also uses the word isos.211 By this he reduces Jesus to a favored son rather than a man who at the same time possessed a divine nature. Testifying against Wierwille's view, however, is George M. Lamsa, whom Wierwille considers "a friend and consultant" and "the Aramaic scholar." Lamsa's superior knowledge of the Oriental brings him to see Jesus' divinity throughout Philippians 2:6:
Paul implies here that Christ was divine and existed with God from the very beginning. This is in
accordance with the teaching of Jesus.21
Lamsa, whom Wierwille acknowledges as an Aramaic expert, exposes Wierwille's erroneous use of Orientalisms to deny Christ's deity.
Finally, Wierwille neglects the fact that Philippians 2: 10 and 11 directly quote Isaiah 45:23 from the Septuagint, the Jewish translation of the Old Testament into Greek. With this quotation Paul seals his testimony that Jesus is not only equal to God but is indeed YHWH (~ Jehovah) come in the flesh.
Wierwille makes flimsy attempts to refute passages that reveal Jesus' Godhood. His brief exegesis of Colossians 2:9, "For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily," reads:
God was in Christ. Colossians 1:27 says that Christ is in us. This does not make us Christ or God .28
He not only brings in unrelated passages, but also conveniently ignores the actual words of Colossians. "Godhead" is translated from the Greek
25. W. R. Nicoll, ed., The Expositor's Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1961), vol. 3, p. 435.
26. Wierwille, Jesus Christ Is Not God, pp. 52-53.
27. George M. Lamsa, New Testament commentary (Philadelphia: A. J. Holman Co., 1945), p. 360.
28. Wierwille, Jesus Christ Is Not God. p. 147.
theotetos, a word that designates actual deity.29 Wierwille's simplistic "God in Christ" interpretation violates the actual meaning of theotetos.
Colossians 1:13-18 explains that Jesus is the image of God, creator of all things and head of the body. But Wierwille discounts key verses 16 and 17, claiming that they,
... are a parenthesis (parembole. which is a figure of speech) in which the insertion is complete in itself explaining God as the Creator.:"'
However, his placement of the "parenthesis" is not based on the form of the text, but on conjecture. Wierwille disregards Galatians 4:6, which reads, "God bath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts." His only basis for altering this passage is that the Chester Beatty Papyrus, known as p4", deletes the word "son."31 However, there is absolutely no other Greek manuscript which deletes this word. This unanimous witness against p46 here testifies that while p411 is valuable, it errs occasionally. Let this sampling of Wierwille's merciless mutation of biblical scholarship be sufficient warning against his overall perversion of God's Word regarding Christ's nature.
Distorting the Sufferings of Christ
In addition to denying the divine nature of Jesus Christ by his exegesis. Wierwille also attacks Christ's work and purpose. For instance, Christianity has always held that as Jesus hung on the cross, God the Father forsook Him, and poured out on Jesus His righteous wrath for the sins of men. The words of Matthew 27:46 express this belief:
And about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani? that is to say, My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?
However, Wierwille claims that as men translated the Aramaic original into Greek they misunderstood the Aramaic words. In the confusion, they left the Aramaic in and added an errant Greek interpretation. Wierwille here supplies the "true translation" of Matthew 27:46:
The word eli means "my God," but there is no Aramaic word like the word lama. There is a word Lmna. Lmna is always a cry of victory, a declaration of "for this purpose," or "for this reason." The root of sabachthani is shbk. Shbk means "to reserve," "to leave ... .. to spare," or "to keep When he was dying upon the cross He did not cry,
11 my God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me," but "My God, my
29. W, F. Arndt and F. W. Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957), p. 359. Even The Way's favorite lexicon appears to oppose Wierwille here. Cf. Bollinger, The Critical Lexicon and Concordance to the English and Greek New Testament, p. 335.
30. Wierwille, Jesus Christ Is Nor God, pp. 146-47.
31. Ibid., p. 146.
God, for this purpose was I reserved. for this purpose was I spared."
. . . Now we have an accurate translation of Matthew 27:46 . . . . :12
Wierwille may be correct in saying that Syriac Aramaic does not have the word lama and that the root of sabachthani is "to reserve," However, this is not the case with the Palestinian Aramaic that Jesus spoke. The first three words of Psalm 22: 1 (which Jesus uttered from the cross) read in Hebrew, "Eli, Eli lemah," meaning, "my God. my God, why. . . ." The term "lemah" is composed of two Hebrew words-the preposition "le" which means "for," and the pronoun "mah" which means "what." The combined meaning. "for what," is the Hebrew manner of saying "why," as the Hebrew-English dictionaries point out (e.g., Brown, Driver and Briggs, p. 554 Koehler and Baumgartner, p. 499). In Palestinian Aramaic the final silent ~: H" of the Hebrew "mah" becomes an equally silent "Aleph."I'l Since Greek had no letters to indicate either "H" or "aleph," all that could be written in Greek was "lema." This is exactly what Matthew has-" eli, Eli lema . . . . " For Wierwille not to recognize the combination of preposition (le) plus the interrogative pronoun (mah), which occurs at several places in the Old Testament (e.g., Gen. 12:18: 1 Sam. 1:8, etc.), shows he is not very conversant with either biblical Hebrew or Palestinian Aramaic. "Sabachthani," of course, is simply the Palestinian Aramaic equivalent of the Hebrew "azabthani" used in Psalm 22: 1, which unquestionably means "to leave," "to abandon." It was used repeatedly in the Old Testament in such passages as God promising not to abandon Jacob (Gen. 28:15), of men not forsaking their idols (Ezek. 20:8), of men forsaking the Lord (Jer. 17:13), etc. How tragic that on the basis of such erroneous scholarship Wierwille changes the clear words of the text and thus detracts from the depths of the suffering Christ endured upon the cross for us.
The Way followers are generally not aware that Palestinian Aramaic was written in Hebrew script like the Aramaic of Daniel (2:4-7:28) and Ezra (4:8-6:18, etc.). This is doubtless due to the fact that Dr. Wierwille constantly refers them to the Estrangelo Aramaic, written in Syriac letters. The Jews of Palestine, however, would not have recognized the Estrangelo letters that The Way emphasizes so strongly. This again shows the misinformed nature of The Way scholarship.
The Way further believes that the New Testament writers on occasion inserted both the
transcription of the Aramaic along with the translation in Greek because the alleged "translators"
of the New Testament into
32. Wierwille, Power For Abundant Living, pp. 154-56.
33. On the Aramaic form of Matthew's text see Bruce M. Metzger, A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (United Bible Societies, 1971), p. 70; H. B. Swete, The Gospel According to Mark (London: Macmillan Co., 1905), pp. 385f.; and cf. Brown, Driver and Briggs, p. 552. Scholars transcribe the Aramaic form of mart into English as ma'.
Greek could not understand the Aramaic phrases well enough to put them into Greek alone. However, the use of both transcription and translation such as Paul employs in Romans (8:15) and Galatians (4:6) was a literary form, not an evidence of the ignorance of the meaning of an Aramaic word or phrase by supposed "translators" of the New Testament from Aramaic into Greek.34
34. Donald Guthrie, New Testament Introduction, 3rd cd. (Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 1970), p. 60.
(The above section if from The Integrity and Accuracy of the Ways Word, John Juedes, 1980,
including page numbers shown.)
The Way denies the deity of Jesus Christ and thus jettisons the Trinity as well from its system of beliefs. If Jesus is not God, then who is He; According to Wierwille, He is the Son of God. "God cannot be born," he writes, "but His Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, was conceived in Mary by God's creation."~4
Thus, The Way teaches that Jesus Christ was born of the virgin Mary but is not God. What God did, was to create a sperm and artificially inseminate the ovum of Mary with this sperm." This bad to be done for Jesus to be born sinless. The Way believes that sin is transmitted through what it calls "soul-life." This "soul-life" is in the blood. Thus, sin is transmitted through the blood.'6 This "soul-life" "which is in the blood is contributed by the sperm of the male. Soul-life is carried in the seed. You can understand the important significance of the male's contribution when studying the conception of Jesus Christ. 11.17
If Joseph bad had sexual intercourse with Mary, his soul-life would have been passed through him and into the ovum of Mary, thus making
31. Whiteside, The Way . ~ . , p. 84.
32. Joseph M. Hopkins, 'The Word and The Way According to Victor Wierwille," Christianity Today, September 26, 1975, p. 40.
33. A letter to the author from The Way headquarters.
34. Wierwille, Jesus Christ Is Not God, p. 73.
35. Ibid., p. 74. 36. Ibid., p. 72 37. Ibid.
the child sinful. But God solved this problem by creating a sperm which had sinless soul-life in it, Thus, when the sperm fertilized the ovum of Mary, it brought with it the sinless soul-life. Thus Jesus was born of a virgin with sinless soul-life.38
Yet, Jesus was only a man, since God created the sperm with which Miry was impregnated. That makes Jesus the Son of God; God is His Father, because He created the sperm.
Wierwille seeks to prove by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Son of God and not God the Son. He points out that though Jesus is called the Son of God 50 times in the Bible, he is not once called God the Son."
In order to prove his doctrine, Wierwille must do away with certain Scriptures which plainly say that Jesus is God. Using textual criticism, he rejects the King James rendering of I Timothy 3:16, which, when speaking about Jesus Christ, says that "God was manifest in the flesh." He rejects this rendering because the majority of ancient manuscripts use hos (which means "who") instead of Theos (which means "God").40 Here he has strong manuscript support for not using the word God. Yet, in other texts he does not use the evidence supplied to him by the ancient manuscripts. Rather, he uses his own subjective reasoning to reject well attested texts that do not fit into his theological preconceptions.
This is the case, for instance, in his dealings with the trinitarian baptismal formula in Matthew 28:19. All ancient manuscripts of Scripture contain this text and read "baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." What can Wierwille do? Instead of allowing the text to stand as it is and bowing to the authority of Scripture, he seeks to find a way out. He does this by asserting that one early Christian writer, Eusebius, must have bad a text that lacked the trinitarian words, because he used only the phrase "in my name." Here is exactly how Wierwille puts it:
All extant manuscripts do contain this verse in Matthew 28, the oldest from the fourth century during which century trinitarianism was becoming a part of formal doctrine and writing. It would not have been difficult for scribes to insert "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and the Holy Ghost," in place of the original "in my name." This must have been what happened because earlier manuscripts from which Eusebius (who died in 340 A-D.) quoted in the early part of the fourth century could not have used the trinitarian formula. He cites Matthew 28:19 eighteen times without once using them. Rather he wrote . ... . . baptizing them in my name.1141
This is a tragic misstatement of the facts. Wierwille makes it sound as
38. Ibid., pp. 71f. 39. Ibid., p. 27. 40- Ibid., p. 31. 41. Ibid., pp. 19-20
Though Eusebius always read Matthew 28:19 as "baptizing them in my name" because that is how the text of his day read. Yet that is certainly not true. In the first place, of the 18 times that Eusebius is thought to use the phrase "in my name" as a reference to Matthew 28:19, he never once used the word "baptizing" in connection with it.42 So Wierwille has misquoted Eusebius by adding the word "baptizing" to his phrase "in my name." Secondly, and most importantly, Wierwille failed to mention that in addition to the 18 times Eusebius used the phrase "in my name," in four other passages he quoted Matthew 28:19 expressly using the trinitarian formula.43 This shows beyond question that Eusebius' copy of Matthew's Gospel contained the trinitarian words. Eusebius not only knew of but even appealed to the trinitarian formula in discussing the Trinity in his controversy with Marcellus. It is true that he most frequently used the more convenient phrase, "in my name," but Johannes Lindblom has observed that he does so "when the interest is centered on the mission to the nations." However, when the issue under discussion "is concerned about some aspect of the teaching on baptism or the Trinity," he is careful to cite the full form: "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.""
It is likely that Wierwille simply borrowed his information from the Anglican ultra-dispensationalist Ethelbert W. Bollinger (1837-1913). Bollinger refers in a footnote to "eighteen" passages in Eusebius as well as
to Justin Martyr and the obscure Syrian writer Aphraates, just as Wierwille does .4' However, Bollinger does not fall into the blunder that Wierwille does. He simply says Eusebius refers to the commission to evangelize the gentiles in 18 passages. It is Wierwille who bungles the material by attributing the phrase "baptizing them in my name" to Eusebius. Regardless of his source of information, however, it is very evident that Wierwille is poorly prepared to discuss the doctrine of the Trinity." One could
42. See Fred C. Conybeare. "The Eusebian Form in the Text Matth. 28:19," Zeuschrift far die neatestamendiche Wissensrhaft. 1901. p. 282. and E. Riggenbach, "Der Trinitarische Taufbefehl Mauh. 28, 19 nach seiner ursprunglichen Textgestalt unit seiner Authentic unterwetit," in A. Schlatter and H. Cremer, Beilrdge zur Forderang chrralicher Theoropie, 1903, pp. 11-25.
43. These can be found in his Contra Marcellron (twice), in De ecclesiastica theologia, and in a letter written to the church at Caesarea.
44. J. Lindblom. summarized in G. R. Beasley-Murray, Baptism in the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1962), p. 82; but see the full discussion of all the Eusebian passages in Lindblom's Jesu Missions -och Dophefallning, Tillika en Studie ~;ver der krisina Dopers Ursprung (Uppsala, 1919), pp. 16-27. In Contra Marcefluut Eusebius uses Matt. 28: 19 in arguing that the Trinity is a revelation of the gospel era.
45. E. W. Bullinger, The Giver and His Gifts (Fyre & Spottiswoode, 1905, Kreget reprint), pp. 48-49. The Way sells a number of Bullinger's books but fails to mention the above title among them.
46. The Eusebian reading of Matt. 28:19 was the subject of an extended debate at the turn of the century. Those interested in pursuing the discussion further should see on the anti-trinitarian side: Fred C. Conybeare, "Three Early Doctrinal Modifications of the Text of the Gospels," Hibbert Journal 1, Oct- 1902:96-113~ Kirsopp Lake, "Early Christian Baptism," Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, James Hasrings ed., (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1909), vol. 11, pp. 379-90; on the trinitarian reply: E. Riggenbach, op. cit., F. H. Chase, "The Lord's Command to Baptize," The Journal of Theological Studies VI (July 1905):481-521, and 1. Lindblom, op. cit. Lindblom's definitive answer devoted 272 pages to a consideration of the Matt. 28:19 passage, and in the judgment of Beasley-Murray had Lindblom's work appeared in either English or German, instead of the less familiar Swedish, the trinitarian position would have carried the field long before it did (p. 78).
hardly regard Wierwille as deserving any serious attention when he rejects the unanimous testimony of all New Testament Greek manuscripts to the trinitarian formula and does this on the basis of a misquotation and distortion of Eusebius.
Wierwille does try to buttress his Eusebian argument by citing the second century writer Justin Martyr as well as the fourth century Syrian preacher Aphraates. He writes:
The Greek Christian Justin Martyr who wrote in the middle of the second century never quoted "in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost," nor did Aphraates of Nisibis in the early fourth century. This shows that Justin and Aphraates must have had earlier manuscripts than are now in existence IT
These citations create the impression that the trinitarian text was unknown prior to the late fourth century. But that is a completely false picture! The first century Didache cites the trinitarian words, as do the second century writers Irenaeus and Tertullian,18 along with the Diatesseron, a second century harmony of the Gospels compiled by Tatian. Furthermore, it is extremely questionable whether the references in Justin Martyr even allude to the Matthew 28:19 passage. They are certainly not direct quotations of the text and cannot even be regarded as a paraphrase." Even the briefest
47. Wierwille, Jesus Christ Is Not God, p. 20.
48. See the Didache. chap. 7; Irenaeus, Against Heresies, bk. 111, chap. 7; Tertullian, On Baptism, chap. 13.
49. The two passages are found in chapters 39 and 53 of Justin's Dialogue with Trypho. In the first passage he writes:
Therefore, just as God did not inflict His anger on account of those seven thousand men, even so He has now neither yet inflicted judgment nor does inflict it, knowing that daily some [of you] are becoming disciples in the name of Christ tinos matheteuomenous eis to onoma tou Chnstou autoul and quitting the path of error; who are also receiving gifts, each as he is worthy, illuminated through the name of this Christ [dia tou pneumatos tou Christou toutoul.
In the second passage Justin writes:
And that expression, "binding his foal to the vim, and the as*s foal to the vine tendril," was a declaring beforehand both of the works wrought by Him at His first advent, and also of that belief in Him which the nations would repose. For they were like an unharnessed foal, which was not bearing a yoke on its neck, until this Christ came, and sent His disciples to instruct them ematheteusen autous).
F. H. Chase has carefully examined these passages and concluded concerning the first that the evidence "seems to me, I confess, very slight," and that the phrase matheteuomenous eis to onoma tou Christou autou, "is quite in Justin's manner. and there is nothing in the context which recalls the language or the thought of Matt. xxviii l9f (op. cit.. p. 490). Similarly he writes concerning the latter passage. 'in the second passage. indeed, there is nothing directly on the question of the reading in Matt. xxviii 19" (ibid., p. 489). With this we fully agree.
glance at them shows that they provide no sufficient ground for overthrowing the testimony of the thousands of Greek New Testament manuscripts from all families of the New Testament text that without exception contain the trinitarian words. The reference in Aphraates is just as vague as the words of Justin Martyr. It reads, "Go forth, make disciples of all the peoples, and they shall believe in me." It is only by the most circuitous reasoning that this can be construed as referring specifically to Matthew 28:19.-"' To reject the reading of the unanimous testimony of all the Greek manuscripts on the basis of such questionable passages is to make a mockery of the whole science of textual criticism. It is abundantly clear that it is only Wierwille's rejection of the deity of Christ that leads him to resort to such a specious line of reasoning.
When one studies the doctrines of The Way he must be prepared to meet all sorts of revisions in the carefully worked-out principles of textual criticism.--,' Wierwille at times seems to use legitimate procedures. but at other times, when he encounters a verse which goes against his theology, he ignores the rules and makes up his own.
After superficially dispensing with other texts that loudly proclaim Jesus
50. F. C. Conybeare arrives at a connection with Matt, 28:19 by imagining that the words "Believe in me" are a gloss on Eusebius "in my name," Bullinger accepts this conjecture uncritically, and Wierwille apparently follows Bullinger without further investigation. For the weaknesses of Conybeare's conjecture see F H. Chase, op. cit.. pp. 490f., n. 2.
51. An example of how The Way arbitrarily changes the carefully established rules of textual
criticism at whim, and thus does violence to the text, can be found in Walter J. Cummins' article in
the May-June 1975 issue of The Way Magazine. The Way does not believe that death can glorify
God. John 21:19. 19 makes it very plain that God can use death for His glory. Jesus States:
"Verily. Verily I say unto thee, When thou was young, thou girdest thyself, and walkedst whither
thou wouldest but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands and another shall gird
thee and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. This spake he. signifying by what death he should
glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Folio, me" (John 21:18, 19). What
can The Way do? All of the ancient manuscripts ha~e the word "death" (thanatos) in the text,
saying "by what death he should glorify God.- But Cummins finds a thirteenth-century cursive
manuscript (MS 31) ~ ic
deletes the phrase, "This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this." He then mentions that "at the bottom of the page in MS 31 another hand wrote that other texts insert the following: 'this he said signifying by what he should glorify God.' The word 'death' is deleted from this secondary reading in MS 31. It also flows with the rest of Scripture and explains the context better than the total omission" (Walter J. Cummins, "The Integrity of the God Breathed Word," The Way Magazine, May-June, 1975, p. 7). Presto' Cummins has solved the problem! He forced the text to say what he wanted, even if he had to do it at the expense of ignoring the manuscript evidence and the rules of textual criticism.
Christ is God, Wierwille tackles his most formidable foe John 1:1. By distorting other Scripture passages he tries to show that God is Spirit and could not take on flesh. He binds God to certain rules of the universe that he himself has the audacity to impose upon Him. He writes: "Spirit and flesh are in two different realms and each one must stay with its own boundaries. Spirit can communicate with spirit only, and flesh by way of the senses can communicate only with the senses of the material real M. 1152 This type of argument reminds one of the medieval theologians who always reasoned that if a thing could have happened and should have happened, therefore it really did happen.
Wierwille uses I Peter 1:20 to "prove" that Jesus Christ was not actually with God from eternity, but only "in His foreknowledge."5' Christ, in I Peter 1:20, is mentioned as being "foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you." Wierwille interprets God's foreordaining (Greek: proginosko, meaning "to foreknow") to mean that Christ was not actually with God from eternity, but only with Him in His foreknowledge. He does not seem to understand that in 'he context of this chapter this verse is not speaking about Christ's existence from the foundation of the world in God's foreknowledge, but rather is stressing that God had in His foreknowledge the eternal sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Yet, Wierwille victoriously walks away from this verse thinking that he has proven that Christ was not actually preexistent but only foreknown before the foundation of the world.
Thus, when dealing with John 1: 1, he adds the word "foreknowledge" to the text. This is not the only word be adds to John 1: 1-2 in his "literal translation according to the usage of the words." This translation reads as follows: "In the beginning (before the creation) God was the Word, and the revealed Word was in God's foreknowledge (which was later communicated to man in spoken Words, written Words and the incarnate Word). This Word absolutely was in the beginning before the foundation of the world together with the one true God in His foreknowledge yet distinctly independent of Him."54 This "translation according to the usage of the words" is quite a long way from what the text actually says.
Wierwille adds words when he feels like it and he even uses more than one meaning for the word logos(Word) in the text. Yet, to his followers, this looks like great scholarship- Wierwille has twisted the Scriptures to say what he wants them to say. One thing, however, is certain-his translation is not what John wrote through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
Wierwille and his false teaching on Jesus Christ stand condemned by the church since ancient times. In A.D. 325 Christian leaders set forth the Nicene Creed with a special condemnation:
52. Wierwille, Jesus Christ Is Not God, pp. 83-84. 53. Ibid., p. 28. 54. Ibid., p. 91.
But those who say: "There was a time when he [the Son] was not; and "He was not before he was made": and "He was made out of nothing," or "He is of another substance" or "essence," or "The Son of God is created," or "changeable," or "alterable" -they are condemned by the holy catholic Church.5',
In light of the above and especially in the light of what the Holy Scriptures have to say about Jesus Christ, Wierwille stands universally condemned by the orthodox Christian church, and his organization, The Way, is judged as heretical and outside the Christian church and salvation.
55. Philip Schaff, Creeds of Christendom (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, T977), vol. 1, p.
Wierwille's vehement hatred of the Trinity has led him to hunt for support for his errors among the past great men of the church. One such man that he attempts to enlist is the great Reformation leader, Martin Luther. Luther's preference not to have the doctrine of the Trinity stated in "the old Scholastic terms" is twisted by Wierwille into evidence that Luther was really an Arian but did not want to be labeled as such. In an article entitled "Forgers of the Word" Wierwille writes:
The trinitarians demanded the insertion of I John 5:7, 8 because it speaks about "these three are one," and then they could speak of three persons in one.
Storey and Flatt's Biblical Theology, 2nd edition, page 301, states regarding the words three
persons, etc . . . . .. Among the advocates for their expulsion ... were a number of the first divines
of the age, not excepting Hunnis and even Luther himself- Yet, to prevent the
67. Sparks, The Mindbenders, p. 199.
charge of Arianism or Socinianism, which he (Luther) knew his enemies would eagerly seize the least pretext to prefer against them, Luther yielded to Melancthon's wishes, and in the Augsburg Confession, the doctrine of the trinity is couched in the old Scholastic terms."
This indicates clearly that Luther and other men of the Reformation period did not put the trinity into the creed because they believed it to be true, but in order to escape the charge of heresy which was labeled against Arius and Socinius. I'm surprised by a great man's action; but that is man. ("Forgers of the Word," p. 23; emphasis added.)
In an interview with the National Courier, Wierwille again called on Luther to support his own denial of the deity of Christ. The Courier quotes him as saying, "If Martin Luther would have had more time, and lived in our culture, I'm confident he would have come up with a far better work on Jesus Christ Is Not God than I did, because he knew it. But he just didn't have time" (Art Toalston, "Way Leader Rejects Deity of Christ," National Courier, April, 1977, p- 4)_
Anyone acquainted with Luther and the Augsburg Confession knows how they both uphold the deity of Christ and the Trinity because they believed them. They did not want to be labeled among the Arians because they were trinitarian. Article I of the Augsburg Confession rejects as heretics those who do not hold to the Trinity. They include the Arians among those rejected as teaching such heresy. Luther knew that men like Wierwille would pervert his words for support of their own heretical doctrines, so in 1528, two years before the drafting of the Augsburg Confession, Luther wrote:
I see that schisms and errors are increasing proportionately with the passage of time, and that
there is no end to the rage and fury of Satan. Hence lest any persons during my lifetime or after
my death appeal to me or misuse my writings to confirm their error.... I desire with this treatise to
confess my faith before God and all the world, point by point. I am determined to abide by it until
my death and (so help me God!) in this faith to depart from this world and to appear before the
judgment seat of our Lord Jesus Christ. Hence if any one shall say after my death, "If Luther were
living now, he would teach and hold this or that article differently, for he did not consider it
sufficiently," etc., let me say once and for all that by the grace of God I have diligently traced all
these articles through the Scriptures, have examined them again and again in the light thereof, and
have wanted to defend all of them as certainly as I have now defended the sacrament of the attar.
I am not drunk Or irresponsible. I know what I am saying, and I well realize what this will mean
for me before the Last Judgment at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Let no one make this out
to he a joke or idle talk; I am in dead earnest, since by the grace of God I have learned to know a
great deal about Satan. If he can twist and pervert the Word of God and the Scriptures, what will
he not be able to do with my or someone else's Words?
First, I believe with my whole heart the sublime article of the majesty of God, that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, three distinct persons, are by nature one true and genuine God, the Maker of heaven and earth; in complete opposition to the Arians, Macedonians, Sabellians, and similar heretics, Genesis IJIJ. All this has been maintained up to this time both in the Roman Church and among Christian churches throughout the whole world.
Secondly, I believe and know that Scripture teaches us that the second person in the Godhead, viz. the Son, alone became true man, conceived by the Holy Spirit without the co-operation of man, and was born of the pure, holy Virgin Mary as of a real natural mother, all of which St. Luke clearly describes and the prophets foretold; so that neither the Father nor the Holy Spirit became man, as certain heretics have taught. (Martin Luther, "Confession Concerning Christ's Supper," Luther's Works, vol. 37, trans, Robert H. Fischer, Philadelphia: Fortress This confession is hardly one made by a man who did not believe the doctrine of the Trinity to be true. Luther did not want to be labeled an Arian for the clear reason that he was not one.
Luther held to these teachings all of his life. In the Smalcald Articles, written by Luther in 1537, he confesses the Trinity and the deity of Christ clearly and directly. At his death in 1546, at the age of 62, he was asked if he were willing to die in the name of Christ and upon the doctrine which he preached? His answer: Yes. (Fred H. Weber, "A Man to Remember --Dr. Martin, . . ." Concordia Tract Mission.)
These are enough to show that there is no relationship between what Luther really believed and what Wierwille would have the reader to think Luther believed. This distortion of Luther's personal faith in the Trinity shows that Wierwille, in addition to distorting the Bible, is willing to twist history to find support for his Arian heresy.
(From The Integrity and Accuracy of The Way's Word, Douglas Morton, 1980, including page
numbers shown. Www.empirenet.com/~messiah7)
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