Friday, June 5, 2009

John 1:1 - The Modalist Misconception

Well, It's been a couple days since I posted and I apologize. I've been studying John 1:1 because it's one of the scriptures quoted most often by Modalists/Jesus-only believers. I want you to note that I use the word "believers" there. This is important because I DO consider a person that is Modalist/Oneness Pentecostal to be a believer. They believe in God as Father in creation, the Son in redemption, and the Holy Ghost indwelling the believer. In that regard they are no different than every other Christian sect. Due to that, I believe that, Biblically, they are going to heaven. My issue comes with their definition of God, and the propagation of a non-Biblical doctrine by the adherents. The saint in this situation has far less to be worried about than the leadership, and they are the ones that I consider worth reaching for. The leadership generally have more to lose by changing their beliefs, as well as they are not likely to admit that they were spreading a false teaching/doctrine.

A great deal has been written about John chapter 1, both by Modalist apologists, and Trinitarian writers. John was the Apostle that Jesus loved the most, and the one that showed the highest level of understanding of Jesus' divine nature in contrast to the human nature that would allow Jesus to be the propitiation for our sins. The two natures existed simultaneously in the form of Jesus, and are absolutely integral to our salvation. The fact that John loved Jesus so much is seen by his rendition of the scene at Golgotha. It is by far the most heart wrenching material in any literature known to man. With this unique level of love and understanding, John begins his account of the gospel by stating an incredibly profound statement that spans 3 verses and in the original Greek is one sentence.

"In the beginning, was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God; this one was in the beginning with God; all things through Him did happen, and without him happened not even one thing that hath happened." John 1:1-3

It is important to understand that the Bible was not written with chapters and verses. Those were added by translators later, and they are used to show distinctions between clauses. When we exegite a passage of scripture, we must consider the entire sentence as written in the original language. As well, we must review the context of the scripture and the audience that it is intended for. In the case of the Gospel of John, the intended audience is the Jews of the day. Paul was sent to the gentiles, but scripture shows that John was not involved with that except for an excursion with Peter to investigate the claims of an outpouring in Samaria (

With this in mind, let's look at that first sentence of John chapter 1. It starts with a reference to a passage of the Septuagint that every Jew would have been absolutely familiar with: Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God..." By rendering the beginning of his Gospel thus, he is telling the Jews of the day that what he is about to say is in comparison to what they hold as the absolute beginning of all time. This would be an arresting statement to make, and would guarantee the rapt attention of the reader. He continues by stating that "the Word was with God". What is so incredibly important here is that in the Old Testament (OT) Hebrew, the "Word" is portrayed as a personality attribute of God, not as a separate entity. In contrast to this, John identifies the Word as being a person by preceding both with the article. Then, he uses a word that has an absolute application of being separate from: the word we translate as "with" in John 1:1 is almost properly translated as "toward", which signifies a personal, intimate relationship. That precludes the belief that the Word could be simply a part of God or a thought in His mind. We know, from further in the chapter, that the Word became flesh, and that this refers to Jesus Christ. Modalists contend that Jesus is almighty God in entirety, and that He, Jesus, manifest Himself as the creator. This has obvious logical problems in that Jesus couldn't be a thought in His own mind. The Word is given it's own personal reference and is given attributes throughout the passage beginning John's Gospel. Thus it must be a separate entity from the God that John refers to. Bearing in mind that John is speaking to the Jews, we can understand that John was speaking of "God", he was referring to the person that the Israelites knew as YHVH. He states that the Word had a personal, intimate relationship with YHVH (FYI, Jehovah is an improper pronunciation. The actual letters sound phonetically like YudHeyVavHey To have a personal relationship toward something, you must be separate from that something. Otherwise you're simply freakin nuts (very scientific term :D).

Next he states that "the Word was God". Now we reach a complete breakdown in the similarity between NT and OT beliefs. The Israelites worshipped and believed in God as an absolute single entity. They had the concept of plural singularity in their language, yet didn't worship in that context. So we have a statement that specifically defines a duality in relationship, yet refers to the OT Israelite belief of One Singular Complete God.

Next it states "This One was in the beginning with God"...again we have the duality of relationship. It's been stated twice for a reason.

"All things through Him did happen" seems pretty clear...we have an imperative involvement of this second "thing" in the duality of relationship. So we must absolutely have 2 "things" involved here. It seems real easy to see based on the Greek.

Finally, not one thing happened that did not happen without Him. So this second "thing" has now been proved to be both separate and involved.

Keeping all this in mind, how can anyone possibly defend a Modalist viewpoint? But wait, there's another issue: the whole point of Eternity is that it is without time as we know it. God exists outside of time. Since God cannot change, and God exists outside of time, and transition takes time, then how can God change from one mode to another? He simply cannot change between 3 different modes because it is impossible. So, there absolutely has to be a plurality of persons that contain, embody, and exist within the very nature of a single Spirit. That is God.

God Bless you

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