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More on Sharp's Rule, Trinitarianism and Rob Bowman
Part Four: Who is "the Great God"?

By Greg Stafford


In Titus 2:13, does the description "the great God" have the restrictive force of a proper name? Can this same expression be used in a qualified sense of someone other than Jehovah? Is Rob Bowman creating a distinction between Jehovah and the Father that is legitimate? Does he make up rules and qualifications for his arguments in an effort to create harmony between his view and post-biblical theology? Do these same self-serving qualifications create problems for his view elsewhere, which he ignores?

These are just some of the questions we will consider in Part Four of my reply to Bowman. Please take your time and study the points carefully. If possible, print out a hardcopy, make notes, and look up the references given. Whether you agree with my view or not, if you spend a little time going over the arguments, then you will have a better knowledge of the issues surrounding Sharp's rule, as it relates to the trinitarian understanding of God.

Part Five will be sent in a few days, after you have had sufficient time to consider this reply. After that I will send Part Six to conclude this series, then I will give a reply to Bowman's recent post on the meaning of ALETHINOS, and complete my participation on this board with a post on the meaning of God. Regarding his ALETHINOS post, anyone who reads it carefully should be able to detect Bowman's errors. I am not saying this to put him down, but merely to underscore the fact that his mistakes are not hard to find. If you simply compare what he says to what the Bible says, and if you compare the way he uses terms with the way the Bible uses those same terms, then you should have no problem recognizing where Bowman takes a wrong turn.

As I stated previously, anyone who wants me to comment on a post after I send my final reply on the meaning of "God" will have to email me privately, and provide a link to the post. If you find that I have not responded to a post that you feel I should have addressed, you my send me a link at any time.

Now, let's talk about "the great God."

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Posted by Rob Bowman on June 18, 1998 at 21:22:47:

Reply to Stafford on Sharp's Rule
Part Three: "The Great God" as a Proper Name
By Robert M. Bowman, Jr.



BOWMAN:
In the second post in this series I discussed the question of proper name equivalents. I argued that we need to distinguish between REFERENTIAL significance and SEMANTIC significance. Referential significance is the function of a noun or noun phrase in referring to or describing a specific object. Semantic significance is the function of a noun or noun phrase in contributing to the sense of the clause or sentence of which it is a part. For example, consider the following sentence:

S4. We're waiting for the President and Commander-in-Chief, Bill Clinton.

In this example sentence, "President" has the referential significance of describing "Bill Clinton." It has the semantic significance of being one of two designations conjoined in a single descriptive expression, "the President and Commander-in-Chief," which is in apposition to "Bill Clinton." It was my contention that Greg erred by confusing the two concepts. I will now discuss the application of this distinction and related points to the exegesis of Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1.



STAFFORD:
Of course, I have confused no such thing, and Bowman's second post was seriously lacking in any substantive support for his argument. In fact, in the above example the only reason we take both descriptive expressions in apposition to "Bill Clinton" is because the terms used are, at this time, restricted in their application to Mr. Clinton. However, if we said, "We're waiting for the Governor and Commander-in-Chief, Bill Clinton," then we would naturally understand two persons to be in view. However, if we added the word "former" before "Governor," then we would likely understand a single descriptive reference for one person.

I find it interesting that Bowman continues with his arguments, assuming that he has made some "point." I'd sure like to know what that is! Of course, he has proven nothing at all. This is a frequent tactic in trinitarian apologetics: They regularly proceed with an argument all the while assuming that something has been "established" when they have done no such thing. The result, of course, is that those who fail to recognize this flaw in their reasoning are duped into thinking that they have proven their case, when they have only evaded the real issue(s). This is not meant as an insult, but as on observation based on years of dialogue with trinitarians. It is an observation that continues to be reinforced by the present dialogue. In any event, please keep in mind that throughout the rest of this discussion Bowman assumes that he has proven that I somehow "erred" on the matter of semantic and referential significance.

Consider:



BOWMAN:
E. "THE GREAT GOD"

1. Is "The Great God" a Proper Name Equivalent?

I have argued that the adjectival modifier "great" gives the word "God" the semantic character of a personal description rather than a proper name. Again, the issue here is NOT whether the expression "the great God" in its cultural and literary context refers exclusively to Jehovah. Of course it does.



STAFFORD:
This is indeed an important issue. But Bowman does not want you to think it is, and here is why: Since the Bible makes it clear that Jehovah is the God of Jesus (Micah 5:4; Rev. 3:12), and also refers to the Father as the God of Jesus (Rom 15:5,6 and MANY others), then, naturally, the Father is Jehovah, the God of Jesus. Thus, if Jesus is Jehovah, then, from a biblical perspective, he is also the Father, for both Jehovah and the Father are identified as the same being! Obviously Jesus can only have one who is God to him. Therefore, if we take the expression "the great God" as a reference to Jehovah, then it is ipso facto a reference to the Father. Consequently, if "the great God" is a fixed expression for Jehovah, the Father, then there is no doubt it could stand on its own in Titus 2:13, since the first descriptive phrase is made specific by being a fixed expression, and the second noun ("Savior") is without question restricted to the person named, "Jesus Christ"! It is, therefore, similar to the expression, "the California Governor and the President, Bill Clinton."



BOWMAN:
The question is whether the expression functions as a separate semantic unit that can be construed as part of a larger descriptive expression only if that is made grammatically explicit. The answer to that question is DEMONSTRABLY NO. Greg's own list of OT texts in which Jehovah is called the great God demonstrates this fact beyond dispute. Here are some of those texts as I presented them in my paper:

"the Lord your God among you [is] a great and awesome God" (Deut. 7:21)
kurios ho theos sou en soi theos megas kai krataios

"the Lord . . . the great and strong and fearsome God" (Deut. 10:17)
ho kurios . . . ho theos ho megas kai ischuros kai ho phoberos

"the Lord, the God of heaven, the strong, great, and fearsome" (Neh. 1:5)
ho theos tou ouranou ho ischuros ho megas kai ho phoberos

"our God, the strong, great, awesome, and fearsome" (Neh. 9:32)
ho theos hêmôn ho ischuros ho megas ho krataios kai ho phoberos

In these four texts the words "the great God" are part of a larger descriptive expression in which further descriptive terms are connected using KAI.



STAFFORD:
Your point is? These texts show that Jehovah, the Father, was well known as the "great God," so in using this description Paul is most likely (see below) calling to mind the familiar designations in the OT LXX. This is reinforced by the other examples I cited, which you highlight below.



BOWMAN:
In two of these four texts the description HO MEGAS is even separated from HO THEOS by three or four words (Neh. 1:5; 9:32). These four texts illustrate the point that HO MEGAS THEOS or HO THEOS HO MEGAS was not a fixed semantic unit like "President Bill Clinton." It did not have the semantic coherence, as I have called it, requiring it to be construed as having a separate referent unless the contrary is made grammatically explicit.



STAFFORD:
Rob, I can you see are either missing the point or trying desperately to make others believe you are somehow refuting my position. But the fact is NO ONE else is spoken of as "the great God," or a God who is "great," in the OT, except Jehovah. THAT is what I am trying to point out. It does not matter if the expression "the great God" was itself a fixed expression, even though I believe that it was, but whether or not the description given is one that would automatically create a concept of Jehovah, the God of the OT, the God of Jesus (Micah 5:4), in the mind of the Christian/Jew. Because the description is made more specific by the use of "great," it has EVEN MORE restrictive force than a proper name, as it was only considered applicable to one person! (Ps. 85:10) That is the point I tried to explain to you before, and which you tried to refute in part two of your post. But, as we have seen, you did not do a very good job presenting your case.



BOWMAN:
Notice that in the following two examples the word MEGAS is used with THEOS in a comparative sense; here again, we do not have a stylistically fixed expression that could be expected to assert itself semantically as a distinct semantic unit:

"our God is greater than all the gods" (2 Chron. 2:4)
megas ho theos hêmôn para pantas tous theous

"What god is as great as our God" (Ps. 76:14b LXX; cf. 77:13 Heb.)
tis theos megas hôs ho theos hûmôn



STAFFORD:
Again, the term "great" was commonly used of Jehovah's Godship, and that DESCRIPTION was well known and restricted to him.

Now, everyone should pay close attention to this fact: BOWMAN HAS LEFT OUT THE MOST SIGNIFICANT EXAMPLE SUPPORTING MY POSITION! This is a very obvious attempt to hide key information from people reading this exchange. Bowman has left out Psalm 85:10, which definitely used the descriptive phrase "the great God [hO THEOS . . . hO MEGAS]" as MEGAS is in the attributive position. Also, the text uses MONOS. Thus, we are told, "You ALONE are the great God"! The effectively crushes Bowman's weak attempt to try and obfuscate matters. Clearly we can see that the description "the great God" was restricted to Jehovah ALONE. You will notice below that Bowman quotes me where I make direct reference to Psalm 85:10, but he still does not address it.



BOWMAN:
Greg himself apparently admitted that "the great God and our Savior" could be used as a single descriptive expression. He thinks that it is the addition of "Jesus Christ" following these words that uncouples "our Savior" from "the great God" and links the words "our Savior" to Jesus Christ as a separate referent from "the great God." Thus, he quotes with approval Abbot's statement that the expression "the glory of the great God and our Savior," "STANDING ALONE, would most naturally be understood of one subject, namely, God, the Father" (Abbot, "Titus ii.13," 14, quoted in Stafford, Jehovah's Witnesses Defended, 240; the words "standing alone" are italicized in the original). If that is correct, then "the great God" does not function as a rigidly separate semantic unit; it can be construed as part of a larger expression even where grammar does not make this explicit and unavoidable. Thus, if the grammatical construction "most naturally" (as Abbot put it) would be construed as treating "the great God and our Savior" as a semantic whole (and on the basis of Sharp's rule, it would), then we ought so to construe it unless there is some semantic reason to do otherwise.



STAFFORD:
Again, Bowman obviously does not understand my position on this matter, or he is deliberately distorting it. First, we do not accept Bowman's qualification that if one of the two nouns is the equivalent of a proper name, then they do not refer to the same person. Basically, he just made that up (see below). As I have stated time and again, we must consider the author's habitual use of language and the context. Grammar is no more important in terms of exegesis than these and other considerations. Since the description "the great God" is restricted to the Father per the OT, and since the Father is also called "Savior" in the NT, then there is nothing in the grammar, context, or the author's habitual use of language to keep us from referring both "the great God" and "Savior" to Him when the grammar permits it. But when "Savior" is restricted to one whom the Father "sent forth as Savior of the world" (1 John 4:14), then we have to ask whether or not the first descriptive phrase is or was commonly applied to "Jesus Christ." When we consider the OT LXX, which Paul knew very well, we can see that the description, if taken from the OT LXX, is RESTRICTED to Jehovah (Ps. 85:10), who is also the God of Jesus. (Micah 5:4) Also, we know that Titus 2:13 is speaking about the appearance of the great God's glory and Jesus Christ. The Synoptic teaching on this matter is clear: Jesus will appear in his FATHER'S glory. (Matt. 16:27; Mark 8:38) There is no way around it. But Bowman is chained to his doctrinal presuppositions, and it appears that he will try and breathe life into his view no matter what the cost.



BOWMAN:
Please understand what I am and am not saying here. It's quite true that in some contexts "the great God" can and is used as a distinct semantic unit referring as a complete descriptive expression to a single referent (e.g., Dan. 2:45). My point is that the expression does not have the semantic character of an expression that would NORMALLY be construed as having a separate referent when conjoined by "and" to another descriptive expression.



STAFFORD:
That depends on what nouns are used! This goes back to the previous post (Part Three of my reply) where none of Bowman's examples upheld his position. We must consider the nouns used, the context and the author's habitual use of language, and only then should we attempt to interpret the text.



BOWMAN:
Proper names and proper name equivalents such as "President Bill Clinton" and "Lord Jesus Christ" do have this character; "the great God" does not. Greg Stafford himself, following Abbot, admits as much.



STAFFORD:
I admit to no such thing. Again, the fact that the equivalent to a proper name is used in the first instance and a noun of personal description is used in the second has nothing to do with whether or not both descriptions apply to the same person. The phrase "the great God" is without question restricted to Jehovah per the OT LXX (Ps. 85:10). You knew this, so you neglected to comment on it. Instead you made it seem like my examples failed to support my point, a point you later agreed with (see below), given your unbiblical distinction between the Father and Jehovah. It ("the great God") is even MORE restrictive than a proper name, since a proper name can be applied to more than one person, but according to the OT LXX "the great God" is only to be applied to one person (see below). This goes back to my point about "the first woman prime minister of England" and "Margaret Thatcher," which you failed to disprove.



BOWMAN:
By the way, regarding Daniel 2:45, Greg accuses me of using a "lame argument" when I stated that "the great God" in that verse was not being used as a proper name equivalent because Daniel was speaking to the pagan king Nebuchadnezzar. I'll ignore the rest of Greg's personal attack and concentrate on the reason he gives for thinking my argument lame.



STAFFORD:
It is not a personal attack. I am simply pointing out that your ARGUMENT is lame. Of course, my complete reply to you on this matter was:

<<FROM TRINITARIAN APOLOGETIC: A CASE STUDY>>

"This is truly a lame argument. I refer the reader to the author index in my book and ask that you look up all the references to Bowman, and you will see that this type of argumentation is not infrequent in his writings, unfortunately. Don't get me wrong, I am sure Bowman is a nice guy (he told me so himself!), but the type of arguments he uses are sometimes very difficult to appreciate. Regarding the above, how does the fact that Daniel is speaking to Nebuchadnezzar remove Daniel's reference from being a proper name equivalent? Daniel knows what terms are commonly used of his God, and he used them."

<<END OF QUOTE>>



STAFFORD:
Now, let me explain why your argument is lame:



BOWMAN:
Greg asks, "how does the fact that Daniel is speaking to Nebuchadnezzar remove Daniel's reference from being a proper name equivalent? Daniel knows what terms are commonly used of his God, and he used them" (Stafford, 18a). The answer is that once again Greg is confusing reference with semantics. I don't question for a second that "the great God" in Daniel 2:45 refers to Jehovah, and that for Daniel it could ONLY refer to Jehovah. But semantically the expression functions as a descriptive expression, not a proper name equivalent.



STAFFORD:
Wrong. The expression has a greater restrictive force than a proper name, as it could only be applied to one person by Daniel, and that is what I am talking about. The restrictive force allows the descriptive expression to be construed as a proper name equivalent. Actually, "equivalent" is not the right word, since it has more restrictive force than a proper name, but it will suffice for the purpose of this discussion.



BOWMAN:
We know this in part because the use of a descriptive expression as a proper name equivalent depends on shared linguistic conventions and cultural knowledge. For example, to those unfamiliar with recent British history the expression "the Iron Lady" is not likely to function as a proper name equivalent for Margaret Thatcher. Thus, assuming Daniel intended to communicate coherently to Nebuchadnezzar, it is unlikely that he would use the expression "the great God" with the expectation that this would be construed as a simple proper name equivalent for Jehovah.



STAFFORD:
Of course, nothing can be said to have prevented Daniel from using a proper name equivalent in direct communication with one who did not have knowledge about the One of whom Daniel speaks. But you also appear to assume that this is the ONLY time Daniel ever used this phrase. Why, even in a small book such as Daniel we find a reference to the "great" God twice. It is entirely reasonable to assume that Daniel and other Hebrews frequently used this description for their God, and Nebuchadnezzar had became familiar with it. But whether he did or not makes no difference in terms of our discussion.

BOWMAN:
This consideration merely confirms what I have argued on more general grounds, namely, that the use of adjectival modifiers with the title "God" makes it clear that it is being used as a title or description, not as a proper name equivalent.



STAFFORD:
Wishful thinking, Rob. You haven't proved anything except your ability to leave out pertinent data and to draw conclusions from evidence you have not presented. Remember, I am not attacking Bowman, but merely pointing out that he has done a poor job presenting his case, and has even shown signs of deception, by leaving out the reference to Ps. 85:10 in his listing of my examples (see above). He even fails to comment on it when he quotes my reference to it below! The reason for this is because earlier Bowman wanted to discredit the view that "the great God" was a fixed expression that could stand on its own. But now he thinks that by accepting this view he can push for Sharp's rule and have Jesus described in words that are reserved for Jehovah alone! Of course, this is where he gets confused, and fails to realize that the reason proper names are excluded from Sharp's rule is because they are restricted in their application to a particular individual. But in this case we have a descriptive phrase that is even more restrictive in its application than a proper name, and so it is even LESS likely to conform to Sharp's rule than if an actual proper name (like, "John," Peter," etc.) were used!

Bowman knows this, but I honestly think he is deliberately trying to confuse many of you who may not be familiar with the nuances of Sharp's rule, thinking that you will accept what he says, if you are a trinitarian. There is some major damage control going on here, because Bowman knows what is at stake, and he is not about to let the application of Sharp's to christologically significant passages go down without a fight. Consider:



BOWMAN:
2. Could "the Great God" Be Applied to a Created Deity?

In his critique of my paper, Greg discusses the expression "the great God" in two separate places. When he argues against my claim that Sharp's rule applies to Titus 2:13 because "the great God" is not a proper name, Greg reiterates the view expressed in his book that the expression "the great God" has a "restrictive force" such that it applies to Jehovah alone. As I have just explained, that really missed my point, but I actually agree with Greg when he makes this claim, and I always have. Note what he says in his critique (capitalized emphasis added):

Greg:
>>> . . . the term "God" was frequently associated with the description "great," when used of Jehovah, and even negatively of those gods who rival Jah. (Ps. 76:14) Thus, Psalm 76:14 is very relevant, for it shows that no other god is "great" like Jah. This shows that THE TERMS WERE GUARDED AND SECURED FOR JEHOVAH ALONE. This is stated explicitly in Psalm 85:10, su ei ho theos monos ho megas. . . .

For readers of the LXX, like Paul, to run across expression like "the great God," or "the God who is great," etc., particularly when it is said, "You alone are the great God" (Ps. 85:10) this would CERTAINLY restrict the application of "the great God" to serve as DESCRIPTION THAT WAS RESERVED FOR JEHOVAH ALONE. . . .

My point is simply this: The LXX Bible provided Paul with a description of God that is RESERVED FOR HIM ALONE.

The fact that the Bible makes it clear that JEHOVAH ALONE IS "THE GREAT GOD," points to the fact that this is a description that IS RESTRICTED IN ITS USAGE TO JEHOVAH, and thus carries the restrictive force of a proper name.>>> (Stafford, 17a-c; 17-18)



BOWMAN:
I don't think I could have made the point much more emphatically myself. Let me summarize the point using Greg's own words. JEHOVAH ALONE IS "THE GREAT GOD"; THIS DESCRIPTION IS CERTAINLY RESTRICTED IN ITS USAGE TO JEHOVAH FOR READERS OF THE LXX, LIKE PAUL; IT WAS GUARDED, SECURED, AND RESERVED FOR JEHOVAH ALONE. Despite these repeated and clear assertions that only Jehovah could be called "the great God" and that Paul would have understood this as well, Greg backs away from this position later in his critique (just as he did in his book). When he attempts to refute my argument that IF Jesus is indeed called "the great God" in Titus 2:13 this would (for the reasons just stated by Greg himself) clearly identify Jesus as Jehovah, Greg ignores his own explicit and unqualified statements quoted above. Here is what he says (Stafford, 29-30):



STAFFORD:
Before we move on, let me bring some order to Bowman's chaotic understanding of my position. Of course, we have seen several examples of where Bowman either misunderstood or deliberately misrepresented what I said in my posts and in my book. Regarding the above, it should be obvious to everyone that my comments are in reference to the usage of the descriptive phrase "the great God" in the LXX. If that is the source from which Paul gathered this expression, then there is no question that the description could only properly be given to Jehovah, by a Bible-believing Jew or Christian. HOWEVER, that is not the only use of the term that was available in the first century. If Paul intended to use the description of Christ, in contrast the Greco-Roman deities, then the sense of the term should be gathered from its use in the first-century Greco-Roman society, not as it is used in the LXX.

No can be definite on this matter, but the fact that, in the Synoptics, Jesus is said to appear in the glory of the Father and in Titus 2:13 the glory of "the great God" is said to appear with Jesus, weighs in favor of a two-person translation. In any event, the one thing that is CERTAIN is that Paul did not use the term "God" in any sense commensurate with trinitarianism, because the doctrine of the Trinity is not articulated in Scripture, and Paul everywhere uses the term "God" in reference to the being of the Father (1 Cor. 8:6) or the being of some other entity. Of course, the fact that he frequently refers to the "God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" also shows that he did not believe in the Trinity, and understood that the "one God" was different in His being than the one over whom He is God, namely, Jesus.



BOWMAN (quoting Stafford)
>>>This is related to a point that we already considered with regard to whether or not "the great God" could be considered the equivalent of a proper name in view of the LXX OT usage. We noted how Bowman initially objected to this conclusion, but then hedged and agreed that only one person could be understood in relation to the use of this term.>>>



BOWMAN:
So far, Greg seems to be sticking to his initial position. He's mistaken in claiming that I objected to this conclusion and then hedged and agreed with it. What I objected to was the claim that semantically "the great God" had to be distinguished as a separate referent from "our Savior" in Titus 2:13. I always objected to this claim. On the other hand, I have always agreed that "the great God" could only denote Jehovah. I never hedged on this point because I have enthusiastically agreed with this point all along. In fact, I would have insisted on it even if Greg did not.



STAFFORD:
Bowman is hedging again. I made the claim that "the great God" has the restrictive force of a proper name, being limited in its application to one person/being, namely, the Father, Jehovah. Bowman disagrees that it is a term restricted to the Father, but he agrees that it is restricted to "Jehovah" because to him Jehovah is a triune being! Thus, we again find Bowman reading his theology into the text. Of course, the Father is Jehovah, for Jehovah is said to the God of the one Paul calls "Savior" (Micah 5:4) and we are elsewhere told that this One is the Father. (Rom. 15:5-6 and many others). There is NOTHING about a triune being here or elsewhere, but what is said contradicts such a view. So, if we refrain from reading later theology into the text it becomes ever so clear that the Father is Jehovah, the God of the Son, the One to Whom the LXX restricts the description, "the great God," the One in whose glory the Son will appear.



BOWMAN:
But the important question here is whether Greg hedges. Here he seems to be saying that "the great God" is a proper name equivalent consistent with OT (LXX) usage, which would of course mean that it referred to Jehovah alone. This is what he said before; but now he apparently is not so sure. Let's allow him to continue:

BOWMAN (quoting Stafford)
>>>In my book, as Bowman states above, I suggest that even if "the great God" were not the equivalent of a proper name, that is, it did not, based on its usage in NT times, necessarily create a concept restricted to the Father, but, because of the exaltation of Jesus to the glory of his God and Father, was applicable in a qualified sense to Jesus, then we could translate Titus 2:13 as referring solely to Jesus.>>>



BOWMAN:
If anyone would like to diagram this sentence and explain it to me, I'd be grateful to have Greg's very long, very convoluted sentence here clarified. No doubt Greg will bristle and insist that his meaning is obvious and clear, so that the problem must lie with me. I don't think so, though.



STAFFORD:
Obviously you feel that way, Rob. But let me help you out: As I said above, if the sense of the descriptive phrase is that which comes from the OT LXX, then it is restricted in its application to Jehovah, the Father, the God of Jesus. (Micah 5:4; Rom. 15:5-6). But if the expression is used with a sense similar to when it is used of Greco-Roman deities, then we should take it in direct contrast to the Greco-Roman usage of the expression. In that case, we could properly refer to Jesus as "the great God" in contrast to these pagan deities, but with the knowledge that he is the "only-begotten god" and that he has One who is God to him. (Rev. 3:12) This makes it clear that the sense attached to this expression, if applied to Jesus, is qualified. If you ignore what the Bible says about Jesus' godship in relation to the Father, and read post-biblical theology into the text, then I can see where you might be confused about my reply. Actually, we will consider Bowman's post-biblical response to the Bible's presentation of Jesus' godship in Part Six of my reply.



BOWMAN:
Is Greg now saying that "the great God" is NOT a proper name equivalent? Is he saying that it was in OT times but no longer was "in NT times"? Is he saying that although he thinks "the great God" was a proper name equivalent for Jehovah (the Father), if it wasn't a proper name equivalent it could be applied to Jesus "in a qualified sense"? I think this last interpretation best fits what Greg is trying to say, but if I'm wrong I'm sure he'll trumpet the fact and tell me again that I'm either a dolt or deliberately misrepresenting him.



STAFFORD:
No, I just think you are still confused about sense and reference. The sense given to a term must be viewed in light of its reference. That is why when Satan is called "God" we know, based on what Scripture tells in the context of that statement, and what we read elsewhere, that the sense of the term is not the same as when the same term is used of the Father. The only way we can know if Paul is making use of the OT LXX usage of this term, and thus using it with the restrictive force of a proper name, is if he tells us. Though we are given clues that this is the nature of his usage (see above), it is possible that he is using the expression in a manner similar to the way Greco-Roman society often referred to their deities. If this is the case, then we should recognize this as another qualified reference to Jesus' godship, in view of the fact that he has one who is God to him, and in view of his being a MONOGENES THEOS. Biblically, there is nothing "convoluted" about it.



BOWMAN:
For now I'll assume this is what he means, since it comes closest to making sense of his statement. On this interpretation, here's what Greg appears to be arguing: (1) The expression "the great God" refers to Jehovah alone and has the force of a proper name. (2) Therefore, "the great God" in Titus 2:13 does not have the same referent as "our Savior." (3) If it turned out that "the great God" does refer to the same referent as "our Savior," namely, "Jesus Christ," then we would have to conclude that "the great God" does not have the force of a proper name after all, at least in the NT.

My objection is simple: in order to endorse the conclusion set forth in (3), we would need to have the evidence for (1) explained. In other words, there is too good a case for (1) to allow that (3) could be a viable position. In short, Greg is hedging. If (1) is true, and it is, Greg should stick to his guns and not bail out with (3). Remember, Greg himself said that the expression "the great God" CERTAINLY was restricted to Jehovah. Of course, Greg offers a rationale for (3) that he evidently thinks is consistent with (1), to which we turn next:





STAFFORD:
It is an expression that would CERTAINLY be restricted to Jehovah per the OT LXX usage. But if Paul used the term with a sense common in different cultural and religious circles, like when he contrasts the pagan lords and gods with the "one God" and "one Lord" of Christianity (1 Cor. 8:4-6), then the sense of the term would be different, especially when applied to Jesus, since the Bible makes it clear that he is not God in the same sense as the Father, Jehovah, for the this One is his God.

Of course, I could sit here and dogmatically assert that the sense of the expression MUST come from the usage in the OT LXX, and it is unlikely that anyone could effectively dispute that point. But I must consider all the options, and it is possible that Paul used the expression "the great God" in reference to Jesus, in contrast to Greco-Roman deities, in light of Greco-Roman usage, knowing as he did that the first-century Christians understood that Jesus was God in a qualified sense.



BOWMAN (quoting Stafford)
>>>The fact is descriptions that may have at one time been understood exclusively of one person or entity may through time acquire a new referent with a new sense. We may use as an example the word "Christ" or "Messiah.">>>



BOWMAN:
I don't think this is a very good example. In the OT the term "anointed one" (messiah, or in Greek CHRISTOS) was used for many individuals (the patriarchs, priests, prophets, and kings). In the NT CHRISTOS is used exclusively with one referent, namely, Jesus. So here we have a phenomenon the exact reverse of what Greg is trying to illustrate, namely, an expression used of only one referent in the past later being applied to more than one referent.



STAFFORD:
You fail to understand the purpose of my example. I am simply pointing out that the sense given to terms can and does change through time, and in view of the referent. Also. I do not agree with your statement about CHRISTOS in the NT. I think Hebrews 11:26 can be used to show that Moses was considered a "Christ," with the sense of "anointed one."



BOWMAN:
Of course, the other problem here is that the "one person or entity" that the expression "the great God" was used of in the OT was the one and only Jehovah God. But Greg thinks he has an explanation for that, too:

BOWMAN (quoting Stafford)
>>>If the first-century Christians used the expression "the great God" in reference to Jesus in view of his divinity and exalted position, then there is no problem accepting this within the biblical teaching that Christ is the "only-begotten god," and has one who is God to him. In other words, the sense that would be associated with the description "the great God" depends on the referent. For example, if I were to refer to "the greatest president" only those who share the same presupposition pool as I do, or who thoroughly recognize the context of my statement as relating to the history of the corporation for which I work, would know that I am not referring to any United States President. This underscores the need to understand and utilize the articulated theology of the Bible writers when trying to understand the meaning of certain terms in relation to different individuals. In this case, the Bible writers are so clear on the matter of Jesus' relationship to his Father that they cannot be considered the same God.>>>



BOWMAN:
I have already illustrated in Part Two of this series of posts why Greg's argument here will not work.



STAFFORD:
And I have already shown why your arguments are out of touch with the present discussion. Anyone interested in this can simply review Part Three of my reply.



BOWMAN:
Furthermore, there is nothing in the immediate context in Titus 2, or indeed anywhere in that epistle, to alert us to construe the expression "the great God" as having a qualified application to someone other than Jehovah. Such a claim could be sustained only on the ASSUMPTION that no biblical text could possibly identify Jesus Christ as Jehovah.



STAFFORD:
The contextual clues all point to the Father, Jehovah, as the referent in the first instance. But I cannot rule out the possibility that the expression may have been intended for Christ, though I find it VERY unlikely in view of the fact that the great God's glory is said to appear. Still, there is nothing to assume when it comes to the matter of Jesus' godship. The Bible makes it clear time and time again that Jesus is not the same God as the Father, for the Father, Jehovah, is his God. (Micah 5:4; Rom. 15:5-6) I realize that this is a difficult subject for trinitarians, and it usually brings forth a post-biblical explanation that is against what the Bible teaches, but that is your problem, not mine.



BOWMAN:
I conclude that in neither Titus 2:13 nor 2 Peter 1:1 is the noun "God" being used as a proper name or as part of an expression functioning as a proper name equivalent. It should be noted that in his critique Greg twice asserted incorrectly that the noun THEOS appears by itself in 2 Peter 1:1, thus on my own view allowing it to be construed there as a proper name equivalent. "Is it not he himself who claims that 'God' by itself can be used as a proper name? And yet that is precisely what we have in 2 Peter 1:1!" (Stafford, 19c; so also 25b). The fact is that THEOS is modified in 2 Peter 1:1 by HÊMÔN (the complete phrase is TOU THEOU HÊMÔN KAI SÔTÊROS IÊSOU CHRISTOU). I am at a loss to explain this simple error on Greg's part, but there it is.



STAFFORD:
The fact is, Rob, in the context of my observation I am clearly referring to adjectival modifiers, like "great," not possessives. Recall:

<<FROM TRINITARIAN APOLOGETICS: A CASE STUDY>>

Stafford-Response
No, just as article-noun-kai-article-noun phrases can sometimes apply to one or two persons, so it is true with article-noun-kai-compound proper name constructions, or with constructions that have a proper name in the second position, used appositionally. That is why such constructions should not be included in the general category of article-noun-kai-noun constructions, for they are not the same. Also, as we noted earlier, the most frequent example of Sharp's rule, ho theos kai pater ("the God and Father"), has the equivalent of a proper name in one (probably both) positions, and yet the nouns apply to the same person. Even Bowman states that theos is used as a proper name when it is not accompanied by adjectival modifiers, and this creates problems for his view of 2 Peter 1:1 (see below).

Stafford-Response
If "God" is not a proper name here, then where is it? Bowman earlier made a completely unsubstantiated qualification for recognizing when "God" is used a proper name: When it is not accompanied by adjectival modifiers like "great." But this, then, as stated above, would put 2 Peter 1:1 outside the pale of Sharp's rule. The fact is, since "God" is usually contextually limited in its application to the Father it can usually be understood as having the force of a proper name, without actually being one. The word "God" is, in fact, a title, not a name. But its application is so often restricted to one individual that it serves as a semantic signal for the Father, unless the context specifies otherwise. To refer to "the great God," as in Titus 2:13, only further restricts the application to the One to whom this title is elsewhere restricted, according to the LXX OT.



<<END OF QUOTE>>



STAFFORD:
Now, Rob, I am curious about one thing: Why did you avoid discussing the implications of your self-serving qualification in light of my reference to the most frequently cited example of Sharp's rule, hO THEOS KAI PATER?

Please try not to avoid this again.

END OF PART FOUR

GO TO PART FIVE

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