One God and One Lord proposes that the church of Jesus Christ has for centuries taught an erroneous understanding of who Jesus of Nazareth actually is. Authors Mark Graeser, John Lynn, and John Schoenheit claim to "carefully re-examine the biblical evidence in light of modern textual research and a thorough survey of scholarly opinion" (back cover of 2000 second edition). The book is impressive both in its length and its apparent scholarship. But does it accurately convey what the Bible teaches about the person of Christ?
The following critique is not intended to be a comprehensive examination of the entire book. Instead it concentrates on chapter 3, "Jesus Christ: The Diameter of the Ages"; chapter nine, "But What About John 1:1?"; and certain sections of Appendix A: "An Explanation of Verses Commonly Used to Support the Trinity." A sufficient number of significant problems can be found in these key sections to call into question the scholarship and exegesis found in the entire volume.
One God & One Lord depends heavily on the work of E.W. Bullinger (1837-1913). The book's bibliography lists more books by Bullinger than any other author (pp. 647-648). Particularly important to One God & One Lord are the definitions found in his Lexicon. Bullinger gives extremely precise definitions to key prepositions. For example, ek means "something coming out from its source or origin, and indicates motion from the interior" (p. 67). Recent Greek reference books, however, do not corroborate Bullinger's definitions. In fact, they do not even come close to giving such precise definitions to Greek prepositions.
Bullinger may have been a recognized authority in his time, but the study of Koine Greek has progressed far beyond his studies. He seems to have rather consistently committed what D.A. Carson (Exegetical Fallacies, pp. 34-43) might call either the fallacy of semantic obsolescence or the fallacy of unknown or unlikely meaning. Either Bullinger read a classical Greek meaning into a Koine Greek usage, or he was creating a precise meaning that the original writers would not have recognized. The simple fact is that Greek scholars do not accept Bullinger's definitions.
This observation has a major impact on the conclusions that One God & One Lord reaches. If the book depends upon definitions that are not supported by the best Greek scholarship, then its conclusions must also be questioned. For example, in the discussion of pros in John 1:1 (p. 216), Bullinger's definition is given: "Implying intimate and closest inter-communion, together with distinct independence." A conclusion is then drawn about what John means and does not mean when he says that "the Word was with (pros) God." But Greek scholars do not recognize that definition of pros as accurate. If the premise is wrong, the conclusion drawn from it must also be questioned.
One God & One Lord is surprisingly selective in its use of scholarship. No doubt this is true of all books. After all, no single book can possibly cite all of the relevant literature on any one subject. This is particularly true on the subject of Christology since it has been discussed by so many over the centuries. Nevertheless, certain omissions are rather surprising.
For example, there is no mention in the bibliography of Victor Paul Wierwille's Jesus Christ Is Not God (p. 652). So much of One God & One Lord-- including its reliance upon Bullinger--flows clearly from Wierwille's work. (The authors do cite their previous affiliation with The Way International, the ministry started by Wierwille. In fact, they say that for them it was "a lifesaver" (p. x). Therefore, it is striking that they do not acknowledge their dependence upon Wierwille's theology or even mention his name.)
The book includes a quotation from F.F. Bruce on John 1:1 (p. 219) in support of their understanding of the relationship between the Word and God. One God & One Lord, however, omits the opening statement in the paragraph that is quoted. Bruce writes, "The structure of the third clause in verse 1, theos çn ho logos, demands the translation 'The Word was God.'" One God & One Lord's omission of that opening sentence gives a misleading impression that F.F. Bruce taught that Christ was less than full deity.
One God & One Lord does not interact with some scholarly sources that specifically address the issues that the book discusses. In particular, it is surprising that there is no mention of Murray Harris's book, Jesus as God. Harris's treatment is thorough and scholarly. It is perhaps the best recent discussion that explores the use of theos in reference to Jesus.Exegetical
Insufficient research was done on the meaning of Greek words. For example, the New International Version rendering of Hebrews 1:2 reads, ". . . in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe (aionas)." The verse thus teaches the work of the Son of God in creation. But One God & One Lord says that the NIV has "badly mistranslated" the verse because aion means "an age, or period of time" (p. 63, n. 14). The authors conclude that Jesus did not create the universe but only "the ages after Christ's resurrection" (pp. 519-521).
To establish that definition of aion, Bullinger's Lexicon is cited. Other reference books point out that aion can have a broader range of meaning than simply "age." In fact, one example of that usage comes from a later chapter of Hebrews. In Hebrews 11:3, the word is used for "universe" when it says that "by faith we understand that the universe (aionas) was formed at God's command." Blass, Debrunner, and Funk's A Greek Grammar of the New Testament explains this usage of aion as a Septuagintism [4(2)] meaning "world." (The Septuagint is a Greek Translation of the Old Testament which many of the apostles used.) See also Arndt, Gingrich, and Bauer's A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament under aion 3. (Both Hebrews 1:2 and 11:3 use a plural form of the noun. Blass, Debrunner and Funk explain the plural noun as a Hebrew example of a plural being used in a singular fashion [11(1)]. Thus aionas does not mean "universes" but "universe.") Therefore, the NIV and other translations have correctly translated the word and the verse. Christ is indeed the one through whom God made the universe.
One God & One Lord's treatment of 1 Corinthians 8:6 is both confusing and misleading. The NIV reads, ". . . yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live." The latter part of the verse teaches that Christ created "all things."
It should be noted that the appendix of One God & One Lord says that "there is no mention in either the immediate or the remote context about the creation of all things in the beginning" (p. 494). But the body of the book states that "both verses [Genesis 1:1 and 1 Corinthians 8:6] say that the source of 'all things' is the one true God, the Creator of the heavens and the earth and the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ" (p. 67). How can 1 Corinthians 8:6 not mention creation but also teach that God is the Creator and the source of all things? One God & One Lord contradicts itself.
Even more significantly, the book says that the first ta panta of "from whom all things came" refers to God's creation of the heavens and the earth. Then it goes on to say that the second ta panta in "through whom all things came" refers to the way "that through . . . the one Lord, Jesus Christ, all things come from God to us" (pp. 67-68). In other words, One God & One Lord contends that this second ta panta refers to redemption and not creation. Therefore, ta panta in the first phrase and ta panta in the second phrase refer to two different things. But where is the contextual support for that idea? Paul has written two phrases that are parallel in construction even though different prepositions are used. Contextually ta panta in both the first and second phrases must refer to the same thing. There is no indication in the context to think otherwise. Therefore, a proper reading of 1 Corinthians 8:6 indicates that Paul is teaching that Christ is the one through whom God created the world.
The above examples are representative of the kind of research and reasoning that run throughout One God & One Lord. While the book may give the impression of careful study, a close analysis reveals that it is based on selective scholarship and poor exegesis. The book fails in its attempt to disprove the full deity of Jesus Christ.
Dr. Frederic M. Martin, 2005
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