Lord and God 



LogoFather, Son and Holy Spirit

There is a word found in the Nicene Creed, 'and,' which in context sometimes elicits perplexity:


believe in one God
The Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible;

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father; by whom all things were made; who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the virgin Mary, and was made man, and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures, and ascended into heaven, and sitteth on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again with glory to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.

And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of life, who proceedeth from the Father [and the Son]; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets;

And I believe in one catholic and apostolic church; I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.

(Nicene Creed)



Logo"And in one Lord Jesus Christ. . ." What could it possibly mean? Does it mean, 'I believe in One God, to wit: The Father Almighty. . .the Lord Jesus Christ. . .and the Holy Spirit? Or does it mean, 'I believe in One God, the Father Almighty. . .and in two others who are not God, the Son and the Spirit'? This latter approach, 'the third of three,' was taken by the unlettered Arabian prophet, Mohammed ibn Abdallah:



Third of Three Father Only
The Apostle Paul Philo Judaeus
Oaks at Mamre Destroyer


LogoThird of Three

The unlettered Arabian prophet warned against making God the third of three:



  • “They surely are Infidels who say, 'God is the third of three:' for there is no God but one God: and if they refrain not from what they say, a grievous chastisement shall light on such of them as are Infidels.”


  • (Koran, Sura 5:77)




LogoBut who is it that makes God the third of three? While one must concede to Muslims apologists that the Koran does not specifically enumerate the 'three,' many an honest and naive reader of the Koran has inferred that the 'three' who comprise the Christian trinity are 'Mary, Jesus and God.' For readers of the Koran without access to independent first-hand information about Christianity, this inference is natural, perhaps inevitable:



  • “'Mujahid and several others said that this Ayah was revealed about the Christians in particular. As-Suddi and others said that this Ayah was revealed about taking 'Isa and his mother as gods besides Allah, thus making Allah the third in a trinity.' [Tafsir Ibn Kathir, 3:236]”



  • (Ibn Kathir, quoted Kindle location 1264, James White, What Every Christian Needs to Know about the Qur'an).






LogoFather Only

Many people, such as 'Oneness' Pentecostals and Muslims, not to mention modern liberals, take it for granted that, if the Father is God, then only the Father is God. Jehovah, the God of the Old Testament, is thus by definition the Father, and the Father-only. Notice that this modern author defines the heresy of 'modalism' as thinking that Jesus is "the God of Israel":


"The New Testament writers are really quite careful at this point. Jesus is not the God of Israel. He is not the Father. He is not Yahweh. An identification of Jesus with and as Yahweh was an early attempt to resolve the tensions indicated above; it was labelled as 'Modalism,' a form of 'Monarchianism' (the one God operating first as Father and then as Son), and accounted a heresy." (James D. G. Dunn, Did the First Christians Worship Jesus? Chapter 4.7, Kindle location 2813).


Russian Icon


LogoThus a true affirmation: that Jesus is not the Father,— turns into the rank heresy that He is not the God of Israel. Or is it possible that Jesus is God, but not the God of Israel? Like Baal, maybe? Is there any God except the true and living God?

People who debate with 'Oneness' advocates find it downright frustrating that they take this point so much for granted as to place it beyond all debate. What after all is the point of discussing the trinity, if we have ruled out in advance any possibility that God might be triune, or might be known to be such?:





LogoNotice how this 'Oneness' Pentecostal debater takes it for granted that, to establish the trinity, his opposite party will have to prove that there are two others who are "equal" to the "God of the Old Testament"!:




  • “Because I intend to prove to you tonight from the Word of God. . .that God did not all of a sudden after 4,000 years begin to reveal Himself in three persons that are co-equal
    and co-eternal and co-existent in the word of God. You cannot find that in the scriptures.
    Isaiah chapter 46 and verse 5, God said, 'To whom will you liken me and make me equal?'Who are you going to liken me to and make me equal? And yet we have a gentleman here this evening that is telling us that there are three co-equal in the Godhead.
  • “But the God of the Old Testament says, who are you going to make me equal to and compare me that we may be like?”


  • (Nathan Dudley, at 41:40-42:44 Edward Dalcour vs. Nathan Dudley, November 11, 2016 Debate, 'Is the God of Scripture Triune?').



LogoThat would be pretty hard to do, and the other debater wisely does not try to prove that there are two other gods equal to God. In any case, that is not what Christians believe. Those who talk with 'Oneness' Pentecostals will hear them object to the 'and' of the Nicene Creed. They will say, 'I believe in one God, the Father Almighty,' is fine. But it should then continue, 'Who is one Lord Jesus Christ.' Not 'and.' The word 'and' can be exclusionary; when we say 'salt and pepper,' generally speaking, we are ruling out the possibility that 'pepper' might be another name for 'salt,' though sometimes even in English 'and' can imply, 'that is.' So where does the 'and' in the creed come from? The answer is, the apostle Paul.

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Thrice Holy Radio!


LogoApostle Paul

Penning a creed like the Nicene should not be an exercise in creative writing. The rules of the game, agreed upon by all parties, specify that any reference which is directly scriptural must be allowed. The 'and' is in there, because Paul said it. It's Paul's 'and':




  • "But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him."


  • (1 Corinthians 8:6).




LogoAnd the 'and' means, of course, exactly what Paul meant when he said it. Those who dislike it, must line up to argue with him.

To some readers, Paul's 'and' and monotheism are mutually exclusive: "He emphasized that this distinction was fundamental to his belief: 'there is one God, the Father. . .and one Lord, Jesus Christ' (1 Cor. 8.6). This is, to say the least, a remarkable contradiction of Deut. 6.4, if he understood that verse in the way that we do, as a statement of monotheism." (Margaret Barker, The Great Angel, p. 193). But believe it or not, Paul was a monotheist, as are his spiritual heirs today.

There is more than one way of misunderstanding this verse. Alas, 1 Corinthians 8:6 is the founding proof-text for 'Father-onlyism.' The word 'God,' here, is reserved for God the Father alone! But when you stop to reflect that 'Lord' is also a divine title, and by no means the lesser of the two, some air deflates from this dilemma. While a slave might call his master 'Lord,' so would a worshipper call the living God. Already at the time the Septuagint was translated, from Hebrew into Greek, there was visible a reticence about speaking the divine name: "And he that names the name of the Lord, let him die the death: let all the congregation of Israel stone him with stones; whether he be a stranger or a native, let him die for naming the name of the Lord." (Leviticus 24:16, Brenton Septuagint). So when public readers came across the name 'Jehovah' in the scriptures, they would substitute 'Lord.' Though the New Testament authors are not precisely consistent, there is a tendency for 'God' to be used of the Father, and 'Lord' to mean the Son. 'Lord' is not a lesser or subordinate title; it stands for the divine name.

But from where does Paul get his 'and'? Would it have been perceived by his contemporaries as unusual or eccentric?

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Psalm 68:30


LogoPhilo Judaeus

It would not have seemed eccentric. The first century author Philo Judaeus, a non-Christian Jew who is a slightly elder contemporary to Jesus and Paul, uses the same construction; he talks about 'God and Lord:'

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  • "But the dream also represented the archangel, namely the Lord himself, firmly planted on the ladder; for we must imagine that the living God stands above all things, like the charioteer of a chariot, or the pilot of a ship; that is, above bodies, and above souls, and above all creatures, and above the earth, and above the air, and above the heaven, and above all the powers of the outward senses, and above the invisible natures, in short, above all things whether visible or invisible; for having made the whole to depend upon himself, he governs it and all the vastness of nature. . .
  • "Therefore he who stands upon the ladder of heaven says to him who is beholding the dream, “I am the Lord God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac; be not afraid.” [Genesis xxviii. 13.] This oracle and this vision were also the firmest support of the soul devoted to the practice of virtue, inasmuch as it taught it that the Lord and God of the universe is both these things also to his own race, being entitled both the Lord and God of all men, and of his grandfathers and ancestors, and being called by both names in order that the whole world and the man devoted to virtue might have the same inheritance; since it is also said, “The Lord himself is his inheritance.” [Deuteronomy x. 9.]. . .
  • "Now this disposition stands in need of two powers to take care of it, the power that is of authority, and that of conferring benefits, in order that in accordance with the authority of the governor, it may obey the admonitions which it receives, and also that it may be greatly benefited by his beneficence. But the other disposition stands in need of the power of beneficence only; for it has not derived any improvement from the authority which admonishes it, inasmuch as it naturally claims virtue as its own, but by reason of the bounty which is showered upon it from above, it was good and perfect from the beginning; therefore God is the name of the beneficent power, and Lord is the title of the royal power"


  • (Philo Judaeus, On Dreams, Book I, Chapters XXV.-XXVI. (157-162).





LogoNow this usage is not the New Testament usage; no one thinks that, in the New Testament, when the authors say 'God' they mean God's attribute of 'mercy,' nor when they say 'Lord' that they mean God's attribute of justice. Philo's usage is nevertheless somewhat similar to the New Testament in that he does not understand these two words to be synonyms, two 'titles' or two words meaning exactly the same thing. Neither, of course, does he understand God's mercy and God's justice to be two separate beings outside of God threatening to overturn God's monarchical rule over the world. God is not "the third of three," but neither are 'God' and 'Lord' two dittos:



  • “That, since the Lord had laid his commands on him as his Master, and God as his Benefactor, he might now, in both these characters, chastise him for having disobeyed them; for thus, by the same power by which he had exhorted him does he also banish him, now that he is disobedient.”


  • (Philo Judaeus, Allegorical Interpretation, The First Book of the Treatise on the Allegories of the Sacred Laws, After the Work of the Six Days of Creation, Book I, Chapter XXX.).




LogoWhat seems to have sparked this tendency is the observable pattern one finds in the Pentateuch, that the names and titles of Deity, such as 'Lord' and 'God,' appear divided up, but not at random: these titles are associated with other material in a meaningful manner. In the nineteenth century, when the concept of evolution seemed to people the answer to everything, they used these patterns to slice the text up into portions which, they imagined, were then stitched together to form the final document. They thought they had 'explained' the text by positing an earlier state from which it could have 'evolved.' In other words, the distinctive usage of 'God' and 'Lord' are just artifacts remaining from bad editing. Modern readers are looking for 'seams' along which, they hope, they can rip the text apart. But readers back in the day, noticing that the divine name 'Jehovah' tends to occur in contexts slightly different from those in which 'God' occurs, asked, 'what does it mean?' Philo and other careful readers noticed the same thing these nineteenth century 'scholars' noticed, but instead of casting the text aside as hopelessly and successfully compromised, they thought there must be something there:


God the Father God the Word
God the Holy Spirit Only One God
Trinity Philo the Heretic
A Philo Miscellany



LogoPhilo is not a Christian of course, but his theology must be of interest to Christians not only because of the demonstrable influence he exerted on the early church 'fathers,' but because his vocabulary and syntax in talking about God can shed light on some otherwise puzzling usages in the New Testament. Among the points to be gleaned is that 'Lord and God,' not pointing to one solitary referent but to two who differ to an extent yet without becoming separate beings, is in no way surprising or alarming to a first century Jewish readership: "The name cherubim designates the two original virtues which belong to the Deity, namely, his creative and his royal virtues. The one of which has the title of God, the other, or the royal virtue, that of Lord. Now the form of the creative power is a peaceable, and gentle, and beneficent virtue; but the royal power is a legislative, and chastising, and correcting virtue." (Questions and Answers in Genesis, Book I, Chapter 57). Now this does not line up with the New Testament usage of 'God' and 'Lord,' because we do not generally think of God the Father as gentle and the Lord Jesus as chastising. But what it does show is that the syntax was unobjectionable. Paul was not blazing a new trail here.



  • “But here we must observe that Moses says, that "Noah pleased" the powers of the living God, "the Lord and God," but that he tells us that Moses himself pleased the Being who is attended by those powers as his body guard, and who, without them, is conceived only according to his essence. For it is said, here, speaking in the person of God, "Because thou hast found grace in my sight," [Exodus 33:17] pointing out himself instead of any one else whatever.”
  • (On the Unchangeableness of God, Chapter XXIV).



LogoIt is interesting to study these references, not because they track exactly with Christian theology,— they don't,— but they do provide a useful correction for those who imagine Christian theology was impossible for the period, and therefore must have been developed later. Certainly it was impossible for the rabbis of the Talmud, but their views only developed after centuries of anti-Christian polemic, and the creative destruction of Philo and everything he represented. For whatever reason, Philo understood 'Lord' and 'God' as titles conveying a distinct meaning:

"Why when he [Abraham] was ninety and nine years old does the sacred writer say, 'The Lord God appeared to him and said, I am the Lord thy God?' (Genesis 17:1).

"He here makes use of both the titles of each superior virtue, applying them in the case of his address to the wise man, because it was by them that all things were created, and by them that the world is regulated after it had been created. By one of them therefore the wise man, just in the same manner as the world itself, was fashioned and made according to the likeness of God; and God is the name of creative virtue; and by the other of them that he was made according to the Lord, as falling under his authority and supreme power." (Philo Judaeus, Questions and Answers in Genesis, Book III, Chapter 39).



  • “For thus God allotted three days to eternity before the appearance of the sun, and those which came after the sun he allotted to time; the sun being an imitation of eternity, and time and eternity being the two primary powers of the living God; the one his beneficent power, in accordance with which he made the world, and in respect of which he is called God; the other his chastening power, according to which he rules and governs what he has created, in respect of which he is further denominated Lord, and these two he here states to be divided in the middle by him standing above them both. “For,” says he, “I will speak to you from above the mercy-seat, in the midst, between the two cherubims;” [Exodus xxv. 22] that he might show that the most ancient powers of the living God are equal; that is to say, his beneficent and his chastising being both divided by the same dividing Word.”
  • (Philo Judaeus, Who is the Heir of Divine Things? Chapter XXXIV).




LogoOaks at Mamre

This next example is decidedly out there. It is instructive nevertheless. Some readers retroject back the pinched, crabbed and impoverished theology of the Talmudic rabbis into the first century A.D., where it really does not belong. What are the possibilities inherent in the 'Lord and God' reading?:

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  • “The things which are expressed by the voice are the signs of those things which are conceived in the mind alone; when, therefore, the soul is shone upon by God as if at noonday, and when it is wholly and entirely filled with that light which is appreciable only by the intellect, and by being wholly surrounded with its brilliancy is free from all shade or darkness, it then perceives a threefold image of one subject, one image of the living God, and others of the other two, as if they were shadows irradiated by it. And some such thing as this happens to those who dwell in that light which is perceptible by the outward senses, for whether people are standing still or in motion, there is often a double shadow falling from them.


  • “Let not any one then fancy that the word shadow is applied to God with perfect propriety. It is merely a catachrestical abuse of the name, by way of bringing before our eyes a more vivid representation of the matter intended to be intimated. Since this is not the actual truth, but in order that one may when speaking keep as close to the truth as possible, the one in the middle is the Father of the universe, who in the sacred scriptures is called by his proper name, I am that I am; and the beings on each side are those most ancient powers which are always close to the living God, one of which is called his creative power, and the other his royal power.


  • “And the creative power is God, for it is by this that he made and arranged the universe; and the royal power is the Lord, for it is fitting that the Creator should lord it over and govern the creature. Therefore the middle person of the three, being attended by each of his powers as by body-guards, presents to the mind, which is endowed with the faculty of sight, a vision at one time of one being, and at another time of three; of one when the soul being completely purified, and having surmounted not only the multitudes of numbers, but also the number two, which is the neighbor of the unit, hastens onward to that idea which is devoid of all mixture, free from all combination, and by itself in need of nothing else whatever; and of three, when, not being as yet made perfect as to the important virtues, it is still seeking for initiation in those of less consequence, and is not able to attain to a comprehension of the living God by its own unassisted faculties without the aid of something else, but can only do so by judging of his deeds, whether as creator or as governor. This then, as they say, is the second best thing; and it no less partakes in the opinion which is dear to and devoted to God. But the first-mentioned disposition has no such share, but is itself the very God-loving and God-beloved opinion itself, or rather it is truth which is older than opinion, and more valuable than any seeming. . .


  • “But that what is seen is in reality a threefold appearance of one subject is plain, not only from the contemplation of the allegory, but also from that of the express words in which the allegory is couched. For when the wise man entreats those persons who are in the guise of three travellers to come and lodge in his house, he speaks to them not as three persons, but as one, and says, “My lord, if I have found favor with thee, do not thou pass by thy servant.” [Genesis xviii. 3.] For the expressions, “my lord,” and “ with thee,” and “do not thou pass by,” and others of the same kind, are all such as are naturally addressed to a single individual, but not to many. And when those persons, having been entertained in his house, address their entertainer in an affectionate manner, it is again one of them who promises that he by himself will be present, and will bestow on him the seed of a child of his own, speaking in the following words: “I will return again and visit thee again, according to the time of life, and Sarah thy wife shall have a son.” [Genesis xviii. 10.].”


  • (Philo Judaeus, On Abraham, A Treatise on the Life of the Wise Man  Made Perfect by Instruction, or, on the Unwritten Law, that is to say, on Abraham, Chapters XXIV-XXV).




Logo As time rolls on in its relentless stream, people begin to perceive connections which are really spurious though they appear compelling. For instance, during America's involvement in the Vietnam War, certain slogans used to pop up at anti-war rallies: 'Give Peace a Chance,' 'Make Love not War,' etc. Who wrote them? Who knows? Somebody with a magic marker wrote the first one on a piece of cardboard, and then it caught on. I'll bet the day will come when someone claims John Lennon wrote those slogans. Much of the music heard at peace rallies was heard no where else, and has not been heard since. Who today listens to Phil Ochs? But some people today still listen to John Lennon. He repeats those slogans; no one who was around at the time would have thought he wrote them, they'd been around a long time and besides he was perceived as a has-been after the Beatles broke up. But because so much of the context has fallen away in the interim, I'll bet some young person would think it plausible that John Lennon first dreamed up those popular slogans.

In a similar vein, we still read Philo Judaeus today, and he is well worth reading; he is a brilliant man. And we still read the New Testament, which is the word of God. Paul and Philo were both part of a world of discourse, most of which has disappeared without a trace; how many intermediate links there were between their two tendencies of thought, we cannot now even guess. There can seem to be connections which are really spurious; both works use a 'Lord and God' vocabulary, but they mean different things; the New Testament authors are not interested in teasing out the meaning of God's attribute of mercy versus His attribute of justice, nor His kingly power versus His creative power, etc. What is apparent is that to see such a distinction made would not have startled or offended a first century readership. This should be the take-away lesson.

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LogoDestroyer

The 'Philonic Trinity,' if so I may call it, is not directly familiar to Christians. We don't think of God as triune in the sense of God the Father accompanied by His two chief powers, the beneficent and the chastising power:



  • “But I have not gone through all these particulars for the sake of showing the magnitude of that vast and novel calamity, but because I desired to prove that of the three beings who appeared to the wise Abraham in the guise of men, the scriptures only represent two as having come to the country which was subsequently destroyed for the purpose of destroying its inhabitants, since the third did not think fit to come for that purpose. Inasmuch as he, according to my conception, was the true and living God, who thought it fitting that he being present should bestow good gifts by his own power, but that he should effect the opposite objects by the agency and service of his subordinate powers, so that he might be looked upon as the cause of good only, and of no evil whatever antecedently.
  • “And kings too appear to me to imitate the divine nature in this particular, and to act in the same way, giving their favors in person, but inflicting their chastisements by the agency of others. But since, of the two powers of God, one is a beneficent power and the other a chastising one, each of them, as is natural, is manifested to the country of the people of Sodom. . .For it was necessary that the calamities should be inflicted by the chastising power, and that the one which was to be saved should be saved by the beneficent power.”


  • (Philo Judaeus, On Abraham, Chapter XXVIII)




LogoThere is sort of a 'family resemblance' between this construct and the trinity, but it's not really all that close. Christians believe what the New Testament reveals about the nature of God, which isn't this. Or is it possible this conception is found in the New Testament, not taught directly but present in the back-story? The author of the letter to Hebrews presents several arguments for the deity of Jesus Christ, which he expects will be meaningful for his co-religionists, though he does not explain them in detail. He shows that Jesus is higher than the created angels, by quoting a verse from Deuteronomy. The author points out that the angels of God are commanded to worship the Son: "But when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says: 'Let all the angels of God worship Him.'" (Hebrews 1:6).

Where is this scripture found, in which the angels are commanded to worship the Son? It is in Deuteronomy 32:43 of the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament:

"Rejoice, ye heavens, with him, and let all the angels of God worship him; rejoice ye Gentiles, with his people, and let all the sons of God strengthen themselves in him; for he will avenge the blood of his sons, and he will render vengeance, and recompense justice to his enemies, and will reward them that hate him; and the Lord shall purge the land of his people." (Deuteronomy 32:43 Brenton Septuagint).

This is not a phrase the translators inserted; the Hebrew basis for it is found amongst the Dead Sea Scrolls. Who are the angels commanded to worship? The letter to Hebrews says, the Son; as the original context makes clear, Almighty God, Jehovah. Go back a few verses, and see Who it is who is coming in judgment:

"Behold, behold that I am he, and there is no god beside me: I kill, and I will make to live: I will smite, and I will heal; and there is none who shall deliver out of my hands. For I will lift up my hand to heaven, and swear by my right hand, and I will say, I live for ever. For I will sharpen my sword like lightning, and my hand shall take hold of judgment; and I will render judgment to my enemies, and will recompense them that hate me." (Deuteronomy 32:39-41).

Can there be any question? The speaker is Jehovah God. The author of the letter to Hebrews takes it for granted that his readers will acknowledge that the text of Deuteronomy 32:43 refers to the Son, i.e. the Logos. Why? From this very interpretive tradition, that the judgments of God's vengeance are executed by the Logos. The apocryphal Wisdom of Solomon here ascribes the slaying of the firstborn of Egypt to the Word: "All things were lying in peace and silence, and night in her swift course was half spent, when thy almighty Word leapt from thy royal throne in heaven into the midst of that doomed land like a relentless warrior, bearing the sharp sword of thy inflexible decree, and stood and filled it all with death, his head touching the heavens, his feet on earth." (Wisdom of Solomon, 18:14-17). This is the Son. Philo shares this expectation; perhaps it was common in the day.

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