God is not a human being…or a mortal…

Numbers 23:19 (NRSV) reads:

God is not a human being, that he should lie,
    or a mortal, that he should change his mind.
Has he promised, and will he not do it?
    Has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?

This has been used as an argument against the Incarnation. I must be honest, I have never found this even a remotely credible argument, for the following three reasons:

  1. This passage was written hundreds of years before the Incarnation. It was thus true that, at that time, God was not a human being.
  2. Even when God the Son became incarnate, it is still true that the Son is not a man in his natural, eternal state a man. It is an acquired nature, not an inherent one.
  3. The point of the passage is not about the substance of God, whether he is a spirit or a man of flesh and blood. The point is that God is not like a sinful, deceitful human. And this is still true even after the Incarnation – Christ, even when he took on human nature, was not a liar.

This is why I have never found this argument convincing. But please do let me know your thoughts below 🙂



Categories: Islam

105 replies

  1. I must agree with you Richard. Its not an argument I have found remotely convincing.

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    • Paul wrote…
      “I must agree with you Richard. Its not an argument I have found remotely convincing.”

      Funny that hasn’t stopped you from using that argument against Christians in speakers corner and even on a previous version of your blog.

      It also never stopped you from telling Muslims on this very blog who also use it that it is not ” remotely convincing.”

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  2. Well, these two concepts have to be essential to any divine being

    1- A divine being cannot lie

    2- A divine being cannot change his mind because of error once he has made his decision

    Now in the incarnation we have a fully divine being and a fully divine person united but separate. Two natures but one person. In summary with incarnation we have three propositions

    A- Jesus is Identical to the Son of God. Know in two natures not separate and not divided etc.

    B-Jesus is fully divine

    C- Jesus is fully human

    Obviously Jesus cannot lie as a human or as God (he is sinless on this account

    It is the second proposition that concerns us. For him to be fully human he has to forget, change his mind, make mistakes, have limited knowledge. On the other hand he is fully divine and he cannot have these properties. This is an apparent contradiciton (along with notions of “death”) that brought forth many an interesting apologetics. I think none of them work. So Richard fire away with your model to refute the “apparent contradiction”

    Now your comments regarding Numbers are problematic

    1- Being written hundreds of years before the incarnation does not make those points contingent!

    2- It is the acquired nature that becomes problematic if we take the creeds associated with the incarnation and the points made by numbers

    3- Lying is deceitful. Changing ones mind isn’t necessarily so

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  3. For me, I have to disagree completely with you, Richard.
    I’m not gonna through in all this right now,but maybe I will write later ( Insha’ Allah).
    However and in short, this kind of thinking is only emerged after christians have already accepted the idea of god – man. Otherwise the passage in the OT is rather than clear.
    You want a proof?
    Just omit the idea of “god man” from your head ( just a moment) and
    re -read that passage again?
    Did you get that god is a man who is righteous one ?

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    • I think christians have to acknowledge that their interpretations for that passages – whether they like that or not – is against the common sense and the normative understanding for the human language and the logic. It’s very obvious that they desperately try to find a ” new” meaning for the normative understanding of the language. Oddly, I’ve heard some christians even say that Quran doesn’t explain what it means by God is one!!!!
      As if I said ( I’m one), it would be a real difficulty for the listener to understand me or it would be a necessity for another explanation!
      While and in the fact, Christians the ones who need to define their language again and to provide explanation for their understanding although that would be against the whole history of the human’s language and the common sense per se.

      In Arabic we have saying
      من المعضلات توضيح الواضحات
      It means It’s impossible to explain what’s explained already!… It’s impossible to open the door which’s open already.
      I hope this introduction will give christians a hint of what we feel as (Muslims/jews) when christians try desperately to justify their violation of monotheism and the perfection of God.
      ====================
      Again, that passage is very clear that God is not a man nor son of man for the human nature has its deficiency ,and that understanding is compatible with major skeleton outline that God was teaching to the israelites,and that what israelites kept underacting! Indeed, not only was God teaching them that he is not a man rather God was CARVING that in their mind. You may,read (Isaiah 2:22) or ( Job 9:32).
      We can see easily that there’s a huge distinguishment between God and the Human.
      In fact, Elijah said in (1 Kings 18:27) “And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.”
      It’s obvious that Elijah used that same argument that muslims use against christianity since that what he got from the scripture!
      In sum, you cannot argue against that clear teaching by an odd understanding not giving by the passage itself.
      Notice, there’s not been any necessity for ” explanation ” as christians demand for what God meant by that he is not man according to Elijah!

      ====================

      1) ” This passage was written hundreds of years before the Incarnation. It was thus true that, at that time, God was not a human being. ”
      I’d consider this as a tacit acknowledgment from you that “incarnation” idea does not compatible with that passage,and that why muslims insist that OT as whole doesn’t compatible with teaching of NT.
      Also, I’m sure that you know that (YHWH doesn’t change)

      2) “Even when God the Son became incarnate, it is still true that the Son is not a man in his natural, eternal state a man. It is an acquired nature, not an inherent one.”
      Regardless the violation of Oneness of God obviously!
      I’d say this statement “Still true that the Son is not a man in his natural” ≠ God has become a man.
      According to your statement , we can ask why do christians say that God (EMPTIED) himself?
      It seems that you say that God just dwelt inside the body of that human being otherwise you need to define your language, especially the some passage in the NT suggest otherwise! For example, “Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form”
      If God was still not man even after he became incarnate, there is no need for that ” emptiness ” !
      All of that must be explained without neglecting the fallacy idea that a person is god and man in the same time. Perfect and imperfect simultaneously !

      3) ” The point of the passage is not about the substance of God, whether he is a spirit or a man of flesh and blood. The point is that God is not like a sinful, deceitful human. And this is still true even after the Incarnation – Christ, even when he took on human nature, was not a liar.”
      I think I’ve answered this point at the beginning.
      However, here’s Dr Ally refuted this ” odd” justification.

      @ (5:30)

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  4. Regarding point 1: the NT too (I think) teaches that God is spirit and God is invisible.

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  5. Alhamdullah, we don’t have to rely on Numbers 23:19 to know that God is not a human or a mortal. In determining who or what is or isn’t God, Prophet Jesus cannot come close to passing the litmus test as laid out in the Holy Qur’an al-Kareem…….

    “Say: He is Allah,
    The One and Only.
    “Allah, the Eternal, Absolute.
    “He begets not, nor is He begotten.
    And there is none like unto Him.”
    [Al-Qur’an 112:1-4]

    Is it not true that Jesus did not know the hour (Mark 13:32; Matt. 24:36) or did he just forget?

    “…my Lord never errs, nor forgets.”
    [Al-Qur’an 20:52]

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ibn Issam

      That quote from jesus is a references to jewish wedding practices – muslims don’t know that because allah knew nothing about jewish belief or culture. He thought they worshiped ezra.

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    • Trey,
      Jewish wedding practices have nothing to do with the question at hand. “Can God ever be human or mortal?” If you are concerned about Jewish beliefs and practices, just ask any Jew that question and you will receive a firm and emphatic “NO” from them, God was never human or mortal, nor did he ever incarnate into a mortal human. Jews agree with Muslims on this point.

      Also, you seemed confused in regard to who Allah is. Let me explain… Allah = Almighty God, the God of the Torah (old Testament) and the same Unitarian God who Jesus himself worshipped.

      Importantly: “Allah is all knowing, all aware” ~ Qur’an 49:13 So yes, he did know about Jewish belief and culture, for whatever that is worth to you.

      Liked by 1 person

    • ibn issam

      You are not making sense.Your claim is that jesus could not be god because did not know the hour – I’m saying that this was a reference to an ancient jewish wedding custom that implies the exact opposite.

      As for Allah being the god of the OT, I would have to differ – the god of jacob would never have permitted his people to borrow pagan worship practices.

      And saying “allah is all knowing” is just rhetoric – allah thinks jews worship ezra. That makes him ignorant.

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    • Trey,
      You really need to specify you comments, I am not a mind reader here. The verse before each of those passages, (Mark 13:32; Matt. 24:36) both state, “Heaven and earth shall pass away” which clearly indicates that Jesus was speaking of the last hour, not some wedding, or reception party.

      In regard to pagan worship practices, what would you call the temple sacrifices, or the human blood sacrifice on the cross? Seems like a throwback to pagan practices to me!!!

      In regard to to your tired old argument about Ezra/Uzair, the Qur’an was referring to a belief held by a minority of Jews, and Tabari in his Tafseer has mentioned that this belief was not held by all Jews. I might add that those Jews who held such deviant views may have resided in Arabia far away from the centers of mainstream orthodox Jewish life. So it is not outside the realm of possibility that there were some Jews who worshipped Ezra.

      Liked by 1 person

    • ibn issam

      Muslims just never seem able to comprehend that jesus spoke in parables and used a lot of symbolic speech. Those words refer to jewish wedding practices – to cut a long story short, at the ancient jewish wedding everyone in the community/village/extended family is involved in the preparation for the “hour” when the bride joins the groom.

      So, even though everyone knows when the bride will join the groom, only the father of the groom gives the permission or “knows” the hour. It’s a parable that is telling christians to prepare for the “wedding” or the time when the father will call for the bride to join the groom. But the “signs” or “hour” will be known to all who prepared for it, but only the father gives the permission or “knows” the hour.

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    • Trey,
      We get it, Jesus spoke in parables, its not that hard to understand. But regardless of any parable, he is still ultimately speaking of the last hour, on the final day. He may be comparing it to wedding day as you said, however the main point is that Jesus did not know the final hour. This casts doubt on the triune nature of God, since if Jesus is connected to a triune Godhead, he would have known the hour but he didn’t. Christians just “never seem to comprehend” that God is One not three.

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    • Ibn issam

      That is a very dense answer.

      I just explained why your understanding of the verse is inadequate and you just repeat the same ignorant position. Jesus is telling his followers that they will know the hour – that is not hard to understand is it? God “knowing” the hour refers to the time when god will call to the bride (the church) to join the groom (god in heaven), but the hour will be clear to those who prepare for the “wedding”.

      There, I’ve explained it clearly, if you still don’t get it, then you need to get tested by a social worker.

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    • Trey,
      Biblical Scholars might say that you are reading something into the text that isn’t really there. There is no solid evidence to prove that there is any parable involved in this case. I stand by my previous interpretation.

      p.s.- no need for the impolite personal comments.

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  6. Too late Pauly Wally since I already saved the posts and will be publishing my reply on my blog since I knew you would delete my responses.

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  7. I cannot see how the God of Numbers even remotely relates to a triune three-personal being/substance/nature or vice versa.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Burhannudin,
      I agree with you and Abdullah. Whether Numbers 23:19 provides an argument against the incarnation, can be debated. But Richards red herring distracts us from the main issue. That is that we must take the Old Testament Torah as a whole. And in its entirety, the Torah absolutely, without a doubt, provides a strong argument against the Incarnation. This is evidenced by the fact that the majority of Jews never accepted Christianity and never will.

      That is why Richard and every other Christian who wishes to argue in support of the incarnation, is forced to argue against the Torah OR they are forced to twist and torture the Torah until they make it say what they want it to say in a sad attempt at making their own innovated theology meld with a very disagreeable Torah. The problem is that it is like fitting a square peg into a circular hole…….and they never seem to learn.

      Sad really…..I feel sorry for them.

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  8. It seems reason 1 does not really address the argument. It might possibly be some kind of straw man.

    Reason 2: Might be problematic logically and cause problems with regard to doctrinal issues.

    Reason 3: Is possibly not generally true, as there are even Christian apologetic concepts that might allow for Jesus being a liar.

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  9. One small comment, it is interesting that Targum Onqelos (i.e. the ancient and essentially the “official” Jewish Aramaic translation) to Numbers 23:19 renders the opening lā k’miley b’ney enashā meymar Elahā (i.e. “the word of God is not like the words of the sons of men”):

    In other words, there are even ancient Jewish exegetes who did not see the text as denying the ability of God to take human form; rather, they saw it as a commentary on the difference between the trustworthiness of God’s speech vis a vis that of the words of men.

    Liked by 2 people

    • In contrast, I see that translation supoorts that god is not a man,and it doesn’t give any possibility that god would be a man!

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    • Denis,
      Even if, as you said, the ancient Jewish exegetes “saw it as a commentary on the difference between the trustworthiness of God’s speech vis a vis that of the words of men.” it does not negate the fact that the Jews as a whole have never believed in any form of incarnation.

      One possible reason that the ancient Jewish exegetes in the Aramaic Targum did not concern themselves with the question of human form and mortality of God, is because they weren’t constantly pestered as we are today by those among the Christians who are constantly trying to find verses in the Old Testament which they can use to argue in support of the incarnation.

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    • The question is how you concluded that Jewish exegetes didn’t see that text and according to that translation as denying the god would be a human literally?

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    • Obviously the context of numbers is in relation to the words of man that can be distrustful and mistaken.

      Having said that, the question still remains. Can one consistently hold onto the premises in Numbers and the standard “orthodox” view on the incarnation ?

      Wouldn’t it be bizarre anyway to think of it in the context of Jewish Christian polemic ?

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    • Greetings Ibn Issam

      Ibn Issam
      {{the fact that the Jews as a whole have never believed in any form of incarnation.}}

      This is far from clear. I would think that Genesis 18:1-3 may itself be evidence of an ancient Jewish belief in the ability of God to take human form (at least if the text is read literally; admittedly, Jewish history have produced a number of alternative approaches to that text). That aside, Benjamin D. Sommer’s work, The Bodies of God and the World of Ancient Israel, may also have relevance here.

      Moreover, specifically Targūm Onqelos (i.e. the very source I referenced above) refers to the hypostatized and personified “Word,” Meymrā, making a sound while moving through the garden (Gen 3:8), being the one Moses interacts with (Num 3:16, Deut 5:5), et cetera, and aside from that Onqelos has Jacob declare that Meymrā will be God to him (Gen 28:21). That, coupled with Wisdom 18:15-16 referring to the all-powerful Logos leaping from the thrown in Heaven to stand on earth as a warrior, leads me to believe that a number of ancient Jews were open to the idea of God (or an aspect within God, like the personified “Word”/Logos/Meymrā) acquiring a physical form via which He could move through creation.

      If we move to later interpretations of Judaism (like that in Qabbalistic and Hasidic texts), we find more references to something akin to the divine being enclothed in human form. Therefore, with all of the above in mind, I do not believe it is the case that Jews have never believed in any form of incarnation.

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    • Salaam David,
      And yet the bottom line is that there is no Trinitarian belief in an incarnated God in Judaism. Don’t let your erudition and knowledge of ancient language blind you from seeing the forest from the trees. in the Abrahamic Faith Tradition Judaism and Islam agree that God is One. It is Christian Trinitarianism that sticks out like a sore thumb.

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    • Hmm not so sure about any of those references Denis. Remember, one must not believe in any old “incarnation” in the Old Testament (which is certainly debatable) but the incarnation as vouched for by orthodox creeds which came many a year after the books of the Old Testament.

      Still, like I said previously, how in the world are we going to take the premises of Numbers and square it with the three essential aspects of orthodox incarnation?

      There are philosophical models out there. I don’t find any of them convincing

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    • Hello Denis
      I’ve no idea how this translation led you to have this conclusion
      ” ancent jewish exgetes did not see the text as denying the ability of God to take human form”
      I can see quite the opposite of that conclusion based in this very translation.

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    • [Nota Bene: This post contains responses to Ibn Issam, Unitarian and Abdullah.]

      ***

      Greetings Ibn Issam

      Ibn Issam wrote:
      <>

      I can agree with that, but of course, though Christianity and various forms of Judaism can overlap at many points, Christianity was never meant to be limited to Jewish thought; rather, what we call the Christian faith was meant to further unfold the faith of Israel (in the process helping one parse through the many views floating around among Jews).

      Whatever the case, we seem to be at risk of straying from the question of whether Numbers 23:19 precludes the possibility of divine incarnation. Whether or not Jews accept specifically embrace the Trinity does not seem to me to answer that question.

      Ibn Issam wrote:
      <>

      Christians also agree that God is one. If you are referring to the precise conception one holds of the one God, I would say Jewish history has not been uniform on that question; rather it has been littered with a mix of unitarians, binitarians, panentheists, outright pantheists, et cetera…

      ***

      Greetings Unitarian

      Unitarian wrote:
      {{Remember, one must not believe in any old “incarnation” in the Old Testament (which is certainly debatable) but the incarnation as vouched for by orthodox creeds}}

      The point of noting certain kinds of apparent incarnations in either the Old Testament or Jewish thought is that such things fly in the face of the claim that Numbers 23:19 necessarily precludes the possibility of God (or an “aspect” within God) acquiring a human form.

      Unitarian wrote:
      {{how in the world are we going to take the premises of Numbers and square it with the three essential aspects of orthodox incarnation?}}

      If, as Onqelos believed, Numbers 23:19 is referring to God’s speech differing from the speech of mere men, I don’t see how that is problematic fora Christian. Beyond that, even if the verse bluntly means God is not a man, Christians can agree with that as well. The triune God is something profoundly different from a mere human being. Yes, Christians believe one Person within God acquired a human nature in addition to His divine nature (and we even call that Person a man by virtue of His possession of an authentic human nature), but that is still profoundly different from saying the one God (which comprises the three Persons therein) is a mere human.

      For a light analogy, the statement…

      “God comprises three Persons and one of those Persons was enclothed in a human form”

      …is as different from the statement…

      “God is a man”

      …as the statement…

      “Michael Jackson enclothed his hand in a glove”

      …is from the statement…

      “Michael Jackson is a glove.”

      So I would ask you: why should Christians believe Numbers 23:19 contradicts the Christian faith?

      ***

      Greetings Abdullah

      Feel free to elaborate on why you feel the rendering in Onqelos would preclude God (or an “aspect”/”part”/Person within God) from taking (or somehow animating)human form.

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    • Denis Giron wrote

      “If, as Onqelos believed, Numbers 23:19 is referring to God’s speech differing from the speech of mere men, I don’t see how that is problematic fora Christian. Beyond that, even if the verse bluntly means God is not a man, Christians can agree with that as well. The triune God is something profoundly different from a mere human being. Yes, Christians believe one Person within God acquired a human nature in addition to His divine nature (and we even call that Person a man by virtue of His possession of an authentic human nature), but that is still profoundly different from saying the one God (which comprises the three Persons therein) is a mere human.

      For a light analogy, the statement…

      “God comprises three Persons and one of those Persons was enclothed in a human form”

      …is as different from the statement…

      “God is a man”

      …as the statement…

      “Michael Jackson enclothed his hand in a glove”

      …is from the statement…

      “Michael Jackson is a glove.”

      So I would ask you: why should Christians believe Numbers 23:19 contradicts the Christian faith?”

      I think we are mixing creeds here. We are not talking about the creeds associated with the trinity. Ironically, one should be careful with this analogy but let us leave it for now

      We should really concentrate on the concept of the incarnation which is a different issue.

      Numbers would have it that God cannot be Man because his speech does not have the attributes typically associated with man. The first, lying maybe put aside for now. The second I find essential to any description of “full humanity”. This is the idea of limited knowledge, unintentional error etc which leads one to change his or her mind.

      Why would this be problematic? Well we have the assumptions noted below for the incarnation

      A-Jesus is identical to the Son of God,

      B- Jesus is fully human

      C-Jesus is fully divine

      One person with two natures united but distinct etc.

      We know that a fully divine person, at least in principle, does not have limited knowledge and does not err etc.

      We know that a fully human person, at least in principle, does have limited knowledge and is very likely to err, at least once (for now allow a probablistic account of the latter)

      How are we going to bring together the two apparent contradictions for the one person that holds both of these natures fully? This is my issue with Numbers and the incarnation. Now I know the different models that try to account for these points, I am claiming that none really work to the satisfaction desired. I await your trajectory. Which model do you think satisfies you the most and addresses my concerns ?

      For now leave aside the supposed references regarding God coming in human form in the old testament

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    • Sorry, correction,

      Numbers has it that God’s speech cannot be identical to mans

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    • Denis,

      I find the excursion into “certain kinds of apparent incarnations in either the Old Testament or Jewish thought” not helpful, maybe even problematic or counterproductive from a Roman Catholic perspective.

      The Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly defines the Incarnation of the Son of God as a “unique and altogether singular event”.

      Thus any interpretation of the OT implying the triune God having taken on human form could be seen as an argument against the Incarnation.

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    • Denis, you ask Unitarian

      “So I would ask you: why should Christians believe Numbers 23:19 contradicts the Christian faith?”

      Just my opinion on your analogy, I feel like the claim one of those Persons “was enclothed in a human form” is problematic and might not express Roman Catholic faith correctly.

      Apart from that why should Christians believe the statement about God in Numbers supports the idea that God could become something analogous to the glove of Michael Jackson?

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    • Unitarian wrote:
      «Numbers would have it that God cannot be Man because his speech does not have the attributes typically associated with man.»

      It certain distinguishes between the speech of God and the speech of mere men, but I do not see it as precluding the possibility of God (or a Person within God) from acquiring and animating a human form).

      Unitarian wrote:
      «I find essential to any description of “full humanity”. This is the idea of limited knowledge, unintentional error etc which leads one to change his or her mind.

      Why would this be problematic? Well we have the assumptions noted below for the incarnation

      Unitarian wrote:
      «We know that a fully divine person, at least in principle, does not have limited knowledge»

      I would be careful here. Do we “know” that a divine Person cannot acquire and animate secondary ranges of knowledge which are limited?

      Unitarian wrote:
      «How are we going to bring together the two apparent contradictions for the one person that holds both of these natures fully? This is my issue with Numbers and the incarnation.»

      I don’t see the text in Numbers as requiring us to believe that if a divine Person acquired a human form (a) He would cease to possess some of the knowledge that He had prior to such or (b) He would be unable to acquire secondary ranges of knowledge. In fact, I think we’re at risk of reading way too much into the text.

      Unitarian wrote:
      «Which model do you think satisfies you the most and addresses my concerns ?»

      Simply put, I do not believe the Chalcedonian reference to Christ’s full/true/authentic humanity requires that He not be omniscient [whether or not certain texts in the NT depict Him as limited in knowledge is another question].

      Nonetheless, I do believe that it is possible for a single Person to have multiple ranges of consciousness and for one such lack information which is possessed by another such range. We can see such in creation, and once such is accepted, I see nothing impossible about a divine omniscient Person acquiring a human form and with that form secondary or tertiary ranges of knowledge which are limited.

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    • Burhanuddin wrote:
      «I find the excursion into “certain kinds of apparent incarnations in either the Old Testament or Jewish thought” not helpful, maybe even problematic or counterproductive from a Roman Catholic perspective. The Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly defines the Incarnation of the Son of God as a “unique and altogether singular event”.»

      Yes, specifically paragraph 464. But does that statement mean no other event approximating an incarnation of any sort ever occurred? Or that specifically the Incarnation of the Son as referred to in John 1 is unlike anything else (even profoundly different from other apparent incarnations)? The latter seems a real possibility, especially since Catholicism permits us to believe, for example, that the Holy Spirit somehow interacted with creation in such a way that the form of a dove was presented to human senses.

      But my original point was that if Numbers does not preclude other sorts of apparent incarnations (or of divine Persons acquiring forms available to human senses), I do not see why it has to preclude specifically the Incarnation of Christ as referred to in John 1 and paragraph 464 of the Catechism.

      Burhanuddin wrote:
      «why should Christians believe the statement about God in Numbers supports the idea that God could become something analogous to the glove of Michael Jackson?»

      My point that I was trying to convey is that there’s a difference between saying “God is a man” and saying one specific Person within God acquired a human form. Of course the mechanics of Jackson enclothing his hand in a glove will be profoundly different from the details of the Incarnation. But the point is that affirming the Incarnation is not the same as saying the Trinity is a mere human being.

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    • Denis,

      What are “apparent incarnations” or an “event approximating an incarnation of any sort” exactly? What are you talking about exactly?

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    • Dennis, regarding

      “The Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly defines the Incarnation of the Son of God as a “unique and altogether singular event”.»

      You ask: “But does that statement mean no other event approximating an incarnation of any sort ever occurred?”

      I think yes absolutely. That’s what the century-long partially painful process of establishing orthodoxy is all about: To tell real incarnation from fake “incarnation”.

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    • Burhanuddin wrote:
      {{What are “apparent incarnations” or an “event approximating an incarnation of any sort” exactly?}}

      Any event where the divine seems to acquireor animate a physical form and interact with (or more through creation) via that form.

      I (Denis) asked:
      {{does that statement mean no other event approximating an incarnation of any sort ever occurred?}}

      Burhanuddin replied:
      {{I think yes absolutely.}}

      What then are we to make of the same faith permitting its adherents to believe the Holy Spirit appeared before creatures in a way that resembled the form of a dove? As I wrote previously, it seems to me that paragraph 464 of the Catechism entails that specifically the Incarnation of the Son as referred to in John 1 is unlike anything else (even profoundly different from other apparent incarnations). I do not believe it precludes belief in any other instance of God (or a Person within God) presenting a form to creation (and interacting with creation via that form).

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    • Denis,

      “As I wrote previously, it seems to me that paragraph 464 of the Catechism entails that specifically the Incarnation of the Son as referred to in John 1 is unlike anything else (even profoundly different from other apparent incarnations).”

      Just to get this straight: There is only one Incarnation of God ever. Right?

      How does “any event where the divine seems to acquireor animate a physical form and interact with (or more through creation) via that form” approximate the Incarnation?

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    • Burnhanuddin wrote:
      «There is only one Incarnation of God ever. Right?»

      That would depend on how we define “incarnation of God”. If such a phrase can encompass instances of a Person within God acquiring, animating or presenting to creation a physical form (e.g. the Holy Spirit appearing to humans in what seemed to them like the form of a dove), then the answer is no.

      I’m fine with saying that the Incarnation of the Son, as described in John 1, is a unique event, different even from other instances of the divine moving through creation via acquired forms. But that position does not force me to believe all (other) instances of the divine interacting through creation via physical forms is therefore impossible.

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    • Denis

      if this is your understanding of “incarnations of God” there was no need to speak about “events approximating an incarnation” or “apparent incarnations”, was there?

      So there is the Incarnation of God the Son (unique) and other incarnations of God (not unique). Is this Roman Catholic teaching or your opinion?

      Like

    • Burhanuddin wrote:
      «there was no need to speak about “events approximating an incarnation” or “apparent incarnations”»

      I employed such language because I don’t know the “mechanics” of such events, thus there may be much I’m missing or misunderstanding.

      Burhanuddin wrote:
      «there is the Incarnation of God the Son (unique) and other incarnations of God (not unique). Is this Roman Catholic teaching or your opinion?»

      My understanding of Catholic teaching would posit that the Incarnation of the Son, as described in John 1, is a unique event, but there were other instances of God (or a Person within God) interacting with creation via forms apparent to human senses.

      Like

    • Denis, in my opinion it makes no sense to speak of an incarnation of God other than the one of Jesus Christ. The Church has always denied the Father or HS are incarnated.

      As I said I find the excursion into “certain kinds of (apparent) incarnations in either the Old Testament or Jewish thought” not helpful, maybe even problematic or counterproductive from a Roman Catholic perspective.

      I don’t think the Catholic Church would accept possible ideas of some ancient Jews about God somehow possessing a body as legitimate forms of incarnation.

      Like

    • Denis Giron said

      “I would be careful here. Do we “know” that a divine Person cannot acquire and animate secondary ranges of knowledge which are limited?”

      This is typically the pathway taken by the Kenotic approach. Certainly not favoured by a significant body of theologians but if this is the approach you wish to take then we can take it from here. Are you then “diminishing” the attributes of the fully divine attributes of the Son of God? I would assume then that omnipotence is a contingent attribute. Yes?

      This, I assume is related to the expression “acquire”. On the other hand we have the “animation of limited knowledge ” Here we have the approach taken by Swinburne noted below. Sort of an “experiential” expression of “full humanity”

      Well… that has issues noted below

      Denis Giron said

      “I don’t see the text in Numbers as requiring us to believe that if a divine Person acquired a human form (a) He would cease to possess some of the knowledge that He had prior to such or (b) He would be unable to acquire secondary ranges of knowledge. In fact, I think we’re at risk of reading way too much into the text.”

      Numbers has it on the plain reading that being human implies essentially having limited knowledge. I claim that is a contradiction if you require one person to be fully divine and fully human at the same time. I also doubt that Numbers thinks that the speech of God can be in error. In other words a fully divine being has these attributes necessarily. That is. It reading too much, more the obvious reading. The complexity you introduce only comes about because of the dilemmas
      associated with the creeds of the Incarnation. Hardly the intent of the authors of Numbers

      Denis Giron said

      “Simply put, I do not believe the Chalcedonian reference to Christ’s full/true/authentic humanity requires that He not be omniscient [whether or not certain texts in the NT depict Him as limited in knowledge is another question].

      Nonetheless, I do believe that it is possible for a single Person to have multiple ranges of consciousness and for one such lack information which is possessed by another such range. We can see such in creation, and once such is accepted, I see nothing impossible about a divine omniscient Person acquiring a human form and with that form secondary or tertiary ranges of knowledge which are limited.”

      I am sorry when I am fully human I acquire the attributes that are obviously human. That is, limited knowledge, the ability to have a mind, a will, the ability to be a person,

      I don’t know any human that is omniscient! Clearly we have an ad hoc definition of “humanity” which would be at odds with the Old Testament and at odds with the empirical normative sense of the term. If we can define ourselves out of an argument we are really not arguing our case.

      Finally this “Swinburnian” idea of a range of consciousness(human and divine) is extremely problematic. How are we to make sense of a self with dialectically opposed ranges of consciousness ? Where are the streams embedded ? On Swinburne’s view we have one soul and the “one mind view”. Surely though, a fully human person has a soul too and a mind of its own too. So now I ask what does it mean when we say “fully” human ? The shadow of the Nestorianism starts to creep over the traditional creed again.

      So much more to say…

      Liked by 2 people

    • I look forward to reading more..

      Like

    • Burhanuddin wrote:
      {{The Church has always denied the Father or HS are incarnated.}}

      This actually depends on what we mean. The Church clearly has a belief in the Holy Spirit appearing before certain humans in the form of a dove. Now, hypothetically speaking, if that dove form landed on a table before you, and you reached out to touch it, I have no idea if your fingers would go through it like a hologram, or if they would come into contact with feathers (and maybe feel muscle and/or bone under those feathers?). Nonetheless, the Catholic faith clearly permits belief in Persons within God appearing to humans via visible forms other than the body Christ had during His earthly ministry.

      Moreover, Catholic history has had thinkers who believed Christ was the messenger who wrestled with Jacob (if I recall correctly, Augustine took such a position?), or that Christ was one of the men whom Abraham met, or that Christ walked among Adam in the garden. Admittedly, none of those postions are required, but neither do they strike me as contradicting Catholic teaching. How such events would relate to the Incarnation is an open question, but the point is that Catholic teaching seems quite open to Persons within God appearing in forms that can be grasped by human senses before Christ’s earthly ministry.

      Whatever the case, none of this gives me any reason to think Numbers 23:19 contradicts the Incarnation.

      Burhanuddin wrote:
      {{I don’t think the Catholic Church would accept possible ideas of some ancient Jews about God somehow possessing a body as legitimate forms of incarnation.}}

      You may well be correct on that, but I also doubt Catholic teaching would hold that Numbers 23:19 precludes the Incarnation. If other participants in this correspondence wish to argue that Catholicism does not have the final say in the matter, then various ancient Jewish beliefs may at least have relevance in showing that, separate from Catholicism, even in the spectrum we call Jewish thought it is not immediately obvious that Numbers 23:19 precludes God having (or acquiring) a physical (even human-like) form.

      Like

    • Unitarian wrote:
      {{Are you then “diminishing” the attributes of the fully divine attributes of the Son of God?}}

      Emphatically, no. For an admittedly simplistic analogy, if you have a glass with X-units of water, and you acquire a second container, with a lesser amount of water, you will not have diminished the amount of water in that first glass.

      Unitarian wrote:
      {{I would assume then that omnipotence is a contingent attribute. Yes?}}

      Why would you assume such? I do not believe anything I wrote implies such.

      Unitarian wrote:
      {{Numbers has it on the plain reading that being human implies essentially having limited knowledge. I claim that is a contradiction if you require one person to be fully divine and fully human at the same time.}}

      I would say Numbers gives a picture of a mere human being as likely being dishonest or prone to changing his mind. In a vacuum, that need not apply to a divine being who acquires a human form or secondary human nature (i.e. Christ is not a mere human being).

      Having said that, I am open to the idea of Christ’s humanity including a range (or ranges) of knowledge which was (or were) limited (I think a fairly straight reading of the NT can lead to that conclusion). But, as I wrote before, Numbers does not preclude the possibility of a divine Person acquiring a secondary range of knowledge which is limited.

      Unitarian wrote:
      {{I don’t know any human that is omniscient!}}

      With all due respect, how helpful would this sort of approach be? Do we really want to form a Christology based on our own limited experiences with human beings? For example, I’ve never met a human born of a virgin, but does that tell us anything about the possibility of Christ being born of a virgin?

      Unitarian wrote:
      {{Clearly we have an ad hoc definition of “humanity” which would be at odds with the Old Testament}}

      Interestingly, I believe Daniel 7:13, though not explicitly referring to the Messiah, nonetheless refers to the Messiah as /like/ a human. He resembles a human, but He is not /merely/ human.

      Unitarian wrote:
      {{How are we to make sense of a self with dialectically opposed ranges of consciousness ?}}

      I don’t know how each individual makes senses of such to his own satisfaction, but from modern neuroscience we know something along such lines is possible. For example, from studies of commissurotomy (or “split brain”) patients (i.e. persons who have had their corpus callosum severed), we know it is possible for a single person to have multiple ranges of knowledge, with one such range possessing knowledge lacked by another such range (we also know it is possible for a person to have competing wills).

      Unitarian wrote:
      {{Where are the streams embedded ?}}

      I don’t think the plausibility of the concept rests on our ability to answer such a question definitively. For example, incarnations aside, most theists conceive of God as something along the lines of a conscious, self-aware being, right? If so, I don’t think those who believe such are required to note the precise “location” of God’s “mind”.

      Unitarian wrote:
      {{On Swinburne’s view…}}

      To be fair, to avoid the risk of attacking straw men, I would ask that we grapple directly with my position (regardless of how much it might seem to overlap with the positions of others).

      Unitarian wrote:
      {{a fully human person has a soul too and a mind of its own too.}}

      The Catholic Church certainly affirms that Christ has a human “anima” (which we can translate “soul,” though what precisely that refers to can be open to question). As for Him having a human mind, that is basically what is being proposed here. If a range of knowledge/consciousness cane be considered a “mind” (and if we think of “mind” as something a person has rather than necessarily something a person is), then I am saying that in acquiring a human nature, Christ also acquired human mind (though I would prefer to say secondary and even tertiary ranges of knowledge/consciousness, some of which can be immaterial of physical).

      Unitarian wrote:
      {{what does it mean when we say “fully” human ?}}

      I cannot give a full definition, but I would simply say it refers to Christ’s humanity possessing at least that which is essential to humanity.

      Like

    • Denis Giron said “Emphatically, no. For an admittedly simplistic analogy, if you have a glass with X-units of water, and you acquire a second container, with a lesser amount of water, you will not have diminished the amount of water in that first glass.”

      My bad! I read the statement below as a divine nature rather than a divine person.

      “that a divine Person cannot acquire and animate secondary ranges of knowledge which are limited?””

      In the orthodox sense, a divine person acquires a human nature which implies “secondary ranges of knowledge” . This on the other hand d would now seem to contradict the view that a human nature can acquire omniscience. So we will stick with the “two mind theory”(forgive the pigeon hole. If a red herring comes up please cry fowl!)

      Denis Giron says

      “I would say Numbers gives a picture of a mere human being as likely being dishonest or prone to changing his mind. In a vacuum, that need not apply to a divine being who acquires a human form or secondary human nature (i.e. Christ is not a mere human being).”

      Well, it is important. On the obvious reading of Numbers it isn’t talking about “mere” humans but about the essential aspect of any man (the human nature) . In this sense these properties of sin or “changing of the mind (implied by error)” are universal of human nature. That is why we have this problem.

      Denis Giron said

      “Having said that, I am open to the idea of Christ’s humanity including a range (or ranges) of knowledge which was (or were) limited (I think a fairly straight reading of the NT can lead to that conclusion). But, as I wrote before, Numbers does not preclude the possibility of a divine Person acquiring a secondary range of knowledge which is limited.”

      Number does preclude the fully human nature acquiring omniscience. I assume these properties are then transferable to a person (both divine and human ) who has this nature. This is the problem

      Denis Giron said

      “With all due respect, how helpful would this sort of approach be? Do we really want to form a Christology based on our own limited experiences with human beings? For example, I’ve never met a human born of a virgin, but does that tell us anything about the possibility of Christ being born of a virgin?”

      With all due respect Denis we would like a Christology that defines terms reasonably :). The analogy of the virgin birth fails because it is a miracle. It is precisely because it is a miracle (in this case unique yes?) that we cannot place it in the class of essential attributes shared by a “fully” female human nature. In other words the analogy begs the question if we are to talk about essential attributes. That implies a “universality” of some sort.

      Denis Giron said

      “Interestingly, I believe Daniel 7:13, though not explicitly referring to the Messiah, nonetheless refers to the Messiah as /like/ a human. He resembles a human, but He is not /merely/ human.”

      More like the vision is talking about “like a human being” because usually humans don’t come down from the clouds. Sort of like saying “I actually saw someone who looked like an Ashkenazi Jew converting to Islam” I use “like” because it isn’t a common occurance. That wouldn’t imply a class of “mere Ashkenazi Jews”. Seems the obvious reading, no? Hardly a text to imply an incarnation of sorts

      Denis Giron

      “I don’t know how each individual makes senses of such to his own satisfaction, but from modern neuroscience we know something along such lines is possible. For example, from studies of commissurotomy (or “split brain”) patients (i.e. persons who have had their corpus callosum severed), we know it is possible for a single person to have multiple ranges of knowledge, with one such range possessing knowledge lacked by another such range (we also know it is possible for a person to have competing wills).”

      The analogy is bad(try others?). We do not have a simultaneous range of consciousness (two minds, on my view) associated with separate simultaneous wills, souls (hey why not) etc when the corpus callosum is avulsed (worst case). Rather, we have one person( one will) relying on one hemisphere and then another, even in those bizarre cases( in most cases this does not happen)

      “The Catholic Church certainly affirms that Christ has a human “anima” (which we can translate “soul,” though what precisely that refers to can be open to question). As for Him having a human mind, that is basically what is being proposed here. If a range of knowledge/consciousness cane be considered a “mind” (and if we think of “mind” as something a person has rather than necessarily something a person is), then I am saying that in acquiring a human nature, Christ also acquired human mind (though I would prefer to say secondary and even tertiary ranges of knowledge/consciousness, some of which can be immaterial of physical).”

      So we have two minds, two wills , two souls?, two natures and so on . What is a person then?

      “I cannot give a full definition, but I would simply say it refers to Christ’s humanity possessing at least that which is essential to humanity.”

      Well, you can give essential attributes then. Numbers implies that essentially humans (not mere humans) change their minds or err. We have still have the problem then. I don’t know of any human nature that has the attribute of omniscience. Again then, how can one person simultaneously be omniscient and not omniscient at the same time?

      Like

    • “Change their mind or err”

      I obviously meant change their mind (because of error, limited knowledge etc.) or sin. All humans according to Numbers, at least on what seems to be the plain reading, fall into at least one of these limitations

      Like

    • Denis

      “The Church clearly has a belief in the Holy Spirit appearing before certain humans in the form of a dove.”

      That does not mean the HS is in incarnated. Or even approximately incarnated. It could mean anything. Referring to this dove is a red herring. It muddies the waters even more.

      “How such events would relate to the Incarnation is an open question.” Exactly.

      Like

    • Hi Denis,

      It is a bit of a stretch to suggest that  לא כמלּי בּני אנשׁא מימר אלהא  talk about  God’s “speech who is actually God Himself. To my understanding  this Targumic  designation is meant to avoid anthropomorphism, so it is not meant to be understood literally. In rabbinic literature the מימר  is an agent of God sent through his angel to Abraham.

      Liked by 1 person

    • [NOTA BENE: this post contains replies to Unitarian, Burhanuddin and Eric. Greetings to all three gentlemen.]

      —***—

      Unitarian wrote:
      {{On the obvious reading of Numbers it isn’t talking about “mere” humans}}

      I disagree. It is obviously referring to mere humans (and what is typical of them), but I see no reason to believe what is stated there necessarily extends to the extraordinary (and rather different) case of a divine Person moving through creation via an acquired human form.

      Unitarian wrote:
      {{Number does preclude the fully human nature acquiring omniscience.}}

      I’m not so sure that’s the case, either, but, just to be clear, that wasn’t what I was referring to. I was talking about a person who is other than human, and who is omniscient, acquiring a secondary human nature (which can have limited ranges of knowledge within it).

      Unitarian wrote:
      {{I assume these properties are then transferable to a person (both divine and human ) who has this nature. This is the problem}}

      I’m not sure I understand what you mean, here. Are you saying that if an omniscient person acquires a secondary range of knowledge which is limited, that necessarily will cause his primary range to become similarly limited? If so, why?

      Unitarian wrote:
      {{The analogy of the virgin birth fails because it is a miracle.}}

      And therefore an extraordinary case not typical of what you or I have observed in humans, right? Ergo, as a rule of thumb, our limited experience with observing humans need not dictate the limits of what is possible for humans.

      Turning to the subject of split brain patients…

      Unitarian wrote:
      {{The analogy is bad(try others?). We do not have a simultaneous range of consciousness (two minds, on my view) associated with separate simultaneous wills, souls (hey why not) etc when the corpus callosum is avulsed (worst case). Rather, we have one person( one will) relying on one hemisphere and then another, even in those bizarre cases( in most cases this does not happen)}}

      Permit me to note that no analogy is going to perfectly capture the Incarnation of the Son, as it is not like there are any other observable events exactly like it. So the analogy was not required to be like it in every single way.

      The salient point was that it establishes that it is possible for a single person to have multiple ranges of knowledge (and even multiple wills). Once that is understood, I don’t see why the model proposed should be considered impossible. And this brings us to this question:

      Unitarian asked:
      {{how can one person simultaneously be omniscient and not omniscient at the same time?}}

      It is possible for a single person to have multiple ranges of knowledge, and for one such range to possess information that another such range lacks. It is even possible for that person to sincerely profess ignorance of a subject when speaking from the vantage of a range which lacks that information, while simultaneously possessing that information in another range. All of this is clear from the relevant studies on commissurotomy patients, and once it is understood, there is nothing implausible about a divine person having a primary, divine range of knowledge which constitutes omniscience, and also having secondary (even tertiary), limited ranges of knowledge.

      Unitarian wrote:
      {{So we have two minds, two wills , two souls? two natures and so on}}

      Multiple ranges of consciousness/knowledge (which we can call “minds”), multiple wills.

      Unitarian wrote:
      {{What is a person then?}}

      I think “person” can be extremely difficult to define, but I think of a person as an entity possessing “personhood,” which I think of as a column of volition, consciousness, sense, perception, self-identity and self-awareness. Now mind you, I believe a single person can have multiple layers of volition or consciousness/perception/intellect/comprehension, so if we have an entity which is self-aware, and has multiple layers of comprehension layered upon one another, I would still think of that as a single person.

      —***—

      Burhanuddin (on the Holy Spirit taking the form of a dove) wrote:
      {{That does not mean the HS is in incarnated. Or even approximately incarnated. It could mean anything. Referring to this dove is a red herring. It muddies the waters even more.}}

      I myself noted the possibilities (e.g. us reaching out to touch the form and our fingers going through it like a hologram, or coming into contact with feathers and feeling muscle and bone underneath). Without knowing the precise nature of the form, it is nonetheless an example (from the Catholic perspective) of a Person within God employing a secondary form to interact with creation. Ergo, even from the Catholic perspective, the uniqueness of the Incarnation of Christ (as described in John 1) need not preclude other instances of the divine interacting with creation via secondary forms [note that this fully acknowledges the Incarnation of Christ having the potential to be profoundly different].

      I (Denis) wrote:
      {{How such events would relate to the Incarnation is an open question.}}

      Burhanuddin replied:
      {{Exactly.}}

      If they are open to question, then it is far from a foregone conclusion that belief in such events necessarily contradicts belief in the uniqueness of the Incarnation of Christ described in John 1.

      —***—

      Eric wrote:
      {{It is a bit of a stretch to suggest that לא כמלּי בּני אנשׁא מימר אלהא talk about God’s “speech who is actually God Himself.}}

      That’s not what I stated. I stated that the relevant phrase from Targum Onqelos to Numbers 23:19 shows an understanding of the verse where the speech of humans is compared to the words of God, in contrast to an understanding which is stating that God cannot acquire human form. I would think it is clear that Num 23:19 is referring to the speech (i.e. precise statements) of God conveyed to men, to be distinguished from the personal agent called Meymra, which I noted is mentioned in other verses. When referring to hypostatized, personified Meymra, I invoked other verses (e.g. Gen 3:8, Num 3:16, Deut 5:5, Gen 28:21).

      Eric wrote:
      {{To my understanding this Targumic designation is meant to avoid anthropomorphism, so it is not meant to be understood literally.}}

      Onqelos was seeking to, as Jastrow put it, “obviate” the possibility of an anthropomorphic interpretation. In other words, the Hebrew text might be understood by some as God engaging in certain activities, and Onqelos polemicizes against such by putting Meymra in place of God in those instances. So take Gen 3:8, for example: is God making a sound by walking through the garden? Or, even if “qol” is treated as meaning voice rather than sound, readers still might have understood God as being the one moving through the garden and producing audible speech. With that in mind, we have to think of where Onqelos’ apparent polemicizing takes us. If Onqelos added Meymra into his translation to inoculate the text against the reading that God is the one moving through the garden, what does that mean? It would seem to mean one person says “this text means God is the one moving through the garden,” and Onqelos’ text responds to, or preempts(?), them by saying no, it is not God, but rather Meymra. In other words, we reach a point where Meymra produces a sound or has a voice (qal), and the Meymra moves through the garden.

      I don’t see how we can wave that off as not literal. The personified Meymra is something tangible, something real, and when we turn to Onqelos to Genesis 28:21, we see Jacob saying Meymra will be God to him. Comparing that with the treatment of the Logos in Wisdom 18:15-16, we see a concept of a personified “Logos/Meymer” which is divine and can move through creation – we see different realms of ancient Jewish though producing concepts similar to that of the prologue of John.

      Like

    • By the way Denis it is a pleasure chatting! Certainly appreciate the civil nature of the conversation

      Denis Giron wrote

      “I disagree. It is obviously referring to mere humans (and what is typical of them), but I see no reason to believe what is stated there necessarily extends to the extraordinary (and rather different) case of a divine Person moving through creation via an acquired human form.”

      I think we are talking at cross purposes here. I was referring to the human nature in the incarnation taking on divine attributes like omniscience. Numbers in this case targets this directly whether you have “mere” humans or extraordinary ones.

      Denis Giron said

      “I’m not so sure that’s the case, either, but, just to be clear, that wasn’t what I was referring to. I was talking about a person who is other than human, and who is omniscient, acquiring a secondary human nature (which can have limited ranges of knowledge within it).”

      It might be easy to summarise the two ways mentioned to tackle the apparent contradiction of Jesus being simultaneous omniscient and not omniscient. The Kenotic method diminishes the divine nature while the “enhanced human nature model” ( my term and not quite catchy) attaches to the human nature divine attributes (Morris holds onto such a method)

      It seems you hold onto neither and hence our initial confusion. Allow me the grace of being the confused one and let us move on to the third model which you use later on

      Denis Giron says

      “I’m not sure I understand what you mean, here. Are you saying that if an omniscient person acquires a secondary range of knowledge which is limited, that necessarily will cause his primary range to become similarly limited? If so, why?”

      I am not saying that, although one would have dissect some of these terms at another time. I am just saying that if a person has two natures then the properties of the individual natures are possessed by that person. This is orthodox creed as far as I know. That is why Jesus the person has the attribute of being omnipotent and not omnipotent. We are addressing methods to overcome this rather than notions of “limitations”

      Denis Giron said

      “And therefore an extraordinary case not typical of what you or I have observed in humans, right? Ergo, as a rule of thumb, our limited experience with observing humans need not dictate the limits of what is possible for humans.”

      I think you have missed the point here. We have natures that have essential attributes. These attributes are shared by those who have similar natures, hence the “universal” aspect to it. On the other hand the miraculous birth of Mary is an exception (unique one at that) to the “female human nature ” . Such a miracle cannot describe natures by definition as it is not subject to a “universal quantifier”.

      Denis Giron wrote

      “Permit me to note that no analogy is going to perfectly capture the Incarnation of the Son, as it is not like there are any other observable events exactly like it. So the analogy was not required to be like it in every single way.

      The salient point was that it establishes that it is possible for a single person to have multiple ranges of knowledge (and even multiple wills). Once that is understood, I don’t see why the model proposed should be considered impossible…”

      True but an analogy should clarify the salient concern. I am concerned about how a person simultaneously can know and not know something. That seems to be a contradiction. On the other with the split brain analogy we have a person relying on the different hemispheres at different points in time. Sort of like me knowing something now and something else later. That is why the analogy crucially fails. More on this…

      Denis Giron said

      “It is possible for a single person to have multiple ranges of knowledge, and for one such range to possess information that another such range lacks. It is even possible for that person to sincerely profess ignorance of a subject when speaking from the vantage of a range which lacks that information, while simultaneously possessing that information in another range. All of this is clear from the relevant studies on commissurotomy patients, and once it is understood, there is nothing implausible about a divine person having a primary, divine range of knowledge which constitutes omniscience, and also having secondary (even tertiary), limited ranges of knowledge.”

      It is here we now move onto another method to tackle the apparent contradiction noted below (forgive the pigeon holing and cry fowl when ever you can)

      Jesus is both omniscient and not omniscient simultaneously is a contradiction but it really should be addressed differently

      Jesus is omniscient with respect to his divine nature (vantage point) and not with respect to his human nature (vantage point)

      Jesus is thus “borrowing” properties from distinct natures. Unfortunately on this model we have opened another can of worms. Here properties can only be described if they are attached to clearly distinct (non overlapping) natures. If we can only talk of the properties of Jesus in this light how can we talk about the unity of the natures (orthodoxy requires this)? What is the common ground? Hardly helpful to say that they are in the person of Jesus when we are asking how they are united in the person of Jesus. In other words this model leads to Nestorianism.

      Now let’s look at the split brain analogy. We have hemispheres with distinct properties but they also share properties and are united (leave aside the corpus callosum) in other ways. Literally why one will can alternate between hemispheres. The analogy thus fails in the salient features again.

      Denis Giron says

      “I think “person” can be extremely difficult to define, but I think of a person as an entity possessing “personhood,” which I think of as a column of volition, consciousness, sense, perception, self-identity and self-awareness. Now mind you, I believe a single person can have multiple layers of volition or consciousness/perception/intellect/comprehension, so if we have an entity which is self-aware, and has multiple layers of comprehension layered upon one another, I would still think of that as a single person.”

      Hold on if the fully human nature of Jesus has a will, consciousness (I don’t know any human who isn’t necessarily) sense perception, a soul , a mind, self awareness( again seems humans have this a lot. It would seem that the ability to to gain self awareness is a human trait ) and thus self identity, we are looking at a person!

      If not, we need to describe the Creed’s fully human nature in a way that does have the attributes that are necessary and sufficient for personhood. Could I be fully human and not a person? Fire away!

      It gets worse with the divine nature. Again we have a will, etc…. Seems all the properties that are needed for personhood. Yep, seems we have two persons then in the incarnation.

      Denis wrote

      “…so if we have an entity which is self-aware, and has multiple layers of comprehension layered upon one another, I would still think of that as a single person.”

      This “layered” approach thus does not work then. We are not just talking about layers of comprehension but distinct ones attached to properties that make one a person in a single entity. Saying something is “layered” does not clarify the difference between a “fully human nature” and a person. Sort of sounds like the trinity now! Two persons in one “self” analogous to three persons in one Godhead

      Like

    • “in a way that does have the attributes that are necessary and sufficient for personhood. Could I be fully human and not a person? Fire away!”

      Sorry meant “in a way that does not have the attributes that are…”

      Out of curiosity it does seem that the creed requires a “full” human. Would this include properties that are normative and not just essential to the human nature.

      I could be a human person and have no will that is expressed in the public sphere . Let me give this analogy. Total locked
      in syndrome is a condition where someone is aware and has no ability to express their will. Now, if that is the case could we exclude this from the “human nature” of the incarnation. I doubt it but I could be wrong. If that is the case we are talking of “fully” not in just the essential sense but in the normative sense (by normative I am taking it colloquially to mean “probable trends”). That would make the distinction between the “fully human nature ” and personhood even worse!

      Like

    • Greetings Unitarian (and my apologies for the delay in response).

      Unitarian wrote:
      {{By the way Denis it is a pleasure chatting! Certainly appreciate the civil nature of the conversation}}

      Likewise.

      Unitarian wrote:
      {{I was referring to the human nature in the incarnation taking on divine attributes like omniscience. Numbers in this case targets this directly whether you have “mere” humans or extraordinary ones.}}

      I continue to disagree. I think we can agree it is referring to things typical of Persons who are mere humans, but I see nothing in the text requiring that it also apply to a divine Person who acquires a secondary human nature. We can go back and forth on this, but I think we might have to ask what in the text would require such.

      Whatever the case, perhaps this is a small point (pertaining to reading the verse in a vacuum), as I am fine with reading the New Testament as meaning that Christ’s humanity did in fact include a limited range of knowledge.

      Unitarian wrote:
      {{We have natures that have essential attributes. These attributes are shared by those who have similar natures, hence the “universal” aspect to it. On the other hand the miraculous birth of Mary is an exception (unique one at that) to the “female human nature ” . Such a miracle cannot describe natures by definition as it is not subject to a “universal quantifier”.}}

      I think I get that, but it brings us back to the same point I was attempting to establish (which I think is a minor point): you appealed to what you observed among humans you have encountered. I think from the above we can infer that what we observe among those humans we have encountered need not dictate what is the case with Jesus. It is possible for Jesus to be different from every human you have personally observed.

      Unitarian wrote:
      {{I am concerned about how a person simultaneously can know and not know something. That seems to be a contradiction.}}

      But that’s just it: we know from observation that it is possible for a single person to have multiple ranges of knowledge, and to sincerely express ignorance of a subject when speaking from a range which lacks information on that subject, while simultaneously possessing that information in another such range. It sounds impossible when oversimplified to “he knows and he doesn’t know,” but the phenomenon properly stated does exist in reality.

      Unitarian wrote:
      {{On the other with the split brain analogy we have a person relying on the different hemispheres at different points in time.}}

      Or we have the single person communicating from different ranges of knowledge, which contain different amounts of information.

      Unitarian wrote:
      {{If we can only talk of the properties of Jesus in this light how can we talk about the unity of the natures (orthodoxy requires this)?}}

      If I understand you, your objection is not that such a scenario is impossible, but rather (a) you don’t understand how two such natures could be considered united, and (b) it seems to smack of your understanding of what constitutes Nestorianism. Is that correct?

      Unitarian wrote:
      {{Now let’s look at the split brain analogy. We have hemispheres with distinct properties but they also share properties and are united (leave aside the corpus callosum) in other ways. Literally why one will can alternate between hemispheres. The analogy thus fails in the salient features again.}}

      I’m at a loss as to where the analogy fails, being that the only point of the analogy was to establish that it is possible for, as I worded it above, “a single person to have multiple ranges of knowledge, and to sincerely express ignorance of a subject when speaking from a range which lacks information on that subject, while simultaneously possessing that information in another such range.” Can you elaborate on how the analogy does not demonstrate that?

      Unitarian wrote:
      {{if the fully human nature of Jesus has a will, consciousness (I don’t know any human who isn’t necessarily) sense perception, a soul , a mind, self awareness( again seems humans have this a lot. It would seem that the ability to to gain self awareness is a human trait ) and thus self identity, we are looking at a person!}}

      Here’s the question: is it possible for a person to have multiple ranges of consciousness which each have their own layers or levels of thought, will, perception? I think the answer is yes (I think we, again, see this from studies of commissurotomy patients). So, as I stated before, while I would consider a person to be an independent column of “personhood” (comprising consciousness, will, perception), I also believe a single person can possess multiple ranges of consciousness, will, et cetera. Ergo, the ranges are not necessarily distinct persons; rather they are something akin to “layers” within a single person.

      Unitarian wrote:
      {{We are not just talking about layers of comprehension but distinct ones attached to properties that make one a person in a single entity.}}

      I think that is precisely what we are talking about: layers, or ranges of consciousness, thought, will. We can say they are distinct from one another, but that does not negate what I am saying. I would offer this analogy: if it turns out each hemisphere of your brain has its own information, will, perception, would that necessarily force us to deny that you are a single person?

      Unitarian wrote:
      {{Out of curiosity it does seem that the creed requires a “full” human. Would this include properties that are normative and not just essential to the human nature.}}

      I previously wrote that Christ’s human nature had *at least* that which is essential to humanity. Of course I would think it also has things that are not essential yet nonetheless found among humans (e.g. I don’t think a person is required to have body hair to qualify as human, yet I am confident Jesus’ body had hair). I do not believe the Creed requires everything that we might consider “normative” (return to the Virgin Birth analogy: there can be details about Jesus which are profoundly different from what is typically true of humans).

      Like

    • “I continue to disagree. I think we can agree it is referring to things typical of Persons who are mere humans, but I see nothing in the text requiring that it also apply to a divine Person who acquires a secondary human nature. We can go back and forth on this, but I think we might have to ask what in the text would require such.

      Whatever the case, perhaps this is a small point (pertaining to reading the verse in a vacuum), as I am fine with reading the New Testament as meaning that Christ’s humanity did in fact include a limited…”

      As it is a small point we shall move on but, forgive the emotional appeal, I really find it hard to believe that the authors of Number were talking about mere humans and not “extraordinary ” ones. Do you know of any humans that did not change their mind(because of limited knowledge) or sin in the Old Testament? As for the idea that the hermeneutics of the text does not rule a divine being that acquired a human form; well more likely the Jewish authors didnt think about it in their wildest dreams( the hermeneutics seems anachronistic). Far easier for us to believe that this would be blasphemy, even according to Numbers. Never the twain shall the attributes of these natures meet is the plain reading and obvious historical
      context. Human nature just cannot acquire essential divine attributes. It has the Old Testament written all over it.

      “I think I get that, but it brings us back to the same point I was attempting to establish (which I think is a minor point): you appealed to what you observed among humans you have encountered. I think from the above we can infer that what we observe among those humans we have encountered need not dictate what is the case with Jesus. It is possible for Jesus to be different from every human you have personally observed.”

      Forgive me Denis but I still don’t think you quite understand it. We are talking about a creed that describes a human nature. This nature must have essential attributes, attributes shared by other humans (miracles cannot be transferred in this way). Are we to believe that the creed was talking about unique essential human attributes ( unique and part of a general class of Humans?) That wouldn’t really be human then. One seems to have defined themselves out of a conundrum at the expense of a meaningful creed.

      “But that’s just it: we know from observation that it is possible for a single person to have multiple ranges of knowledge, and to sincerely express ignorance of a subject when speaking from a range which lacks information on that subject, while simultaneously possessing that information in another such range. It sounds impossible when oversimplified to “he knows and he doesn’t know,” but the phenomenon properly stated does exist in reality.”

      I use this simplified phrase because that is the requirement of the creed. We don’t say that God the Son died according to his human nature. We say God the son died.

      “Thus everything in Christ’s human nature is to be attributed to his divine person as its proper subject, not only his miracles but also his sufferings and even his death: “He who was crucified in the flesh, our Lord Jesus Christ, is true God, Lord of glory, and one of the Holy Trinity.”

      This is why the “borrowing property” theory smacks of Nestorianism. You can only talk about the attributes of each nature from a vantage point and not talk about them in relation to the subject himself

      I ask “Is Jesus limited in knowledge?” You should say Yes! You cannot just claim that he is limited as “qua” human.

      Remember, the natures are both distinct and united.

      Finally I disagree. This does not exist in nature. A “split brain” person is not simultaneously aware as a single “I” that he is a believer in God and not a believer in God. The analogy does not work.

      It gets worse…

      “Or we have the single person communicating from different ranges of knowledge, which contain different amounts of information”

      Well, you don’t even need a split brain analogy. One can talk about subconscious or suppressed knowledge even in a normal human (allow the subconscious set for now).

      Here is the problem, leaving aside the temporal sequence in accessing such knowledge as an “I”. We don’t just have an “awareness” or “streams of consciousness”.

      Each nature has a soul, is capable of being self aware (hard to say humans don’t have this capability in principle), has a mind, free will of its own (the cerebral hemispheres have no will! They are accessed by the one will, hence one person). Put together these define what it is to be a person. At least I can’t see the difference

      “If I understand you, your objection is not that such a scenario is impossible, but rather (a) you don’t understand how two such natures could be considered united, and (b) it seems to smack of your understanding of what constitutes Nestorianism. Is that correct?”

      (a) Yes I have problems understanding how they can be absolutely distinct and united

      (b) the “borrowing property” theory smacks of Nestorianism. Actually I fail to see how personhood is not a normative aspect of human nature

      “Here’s the question: is it possible for a person to have multiple ranges of consciousness which each have their own layers or levels of thought, will, perception? ”

      If I have two part that have essentially independent free wills,souls, natures, minds(streams of consciousness), self awareness, then we have two persons. Better to think of Siamese twins. If you don’t like that crass Social Trinitarianism. In other words, one person can’t hold these two “natures” and still be one person. That is unless we radically redefine what it is to be a person

      “the ranges are not necessarily distinct persons; rather they are something akin to “layers” within a single person.”

      Using the word “layer” only muddies the water.

      “if it turns out each hemisphere of your brain has its own information, will, perception, would that necessarily force us to deny that you are a single person?”

      Yes, I would think I am dealing with a number of persons with their own will. After all, each will can communicate with the outside world independent of me. I assume the person at the other end of the conversation would think they are speaking to a person.

      “I do not believe the Creed requires everything that we might consider “normative” (return to the Virgin Birth analogy: there can be details about Jesus which are profoundly different from what is typically true of humans).”

      Fair enough. How do we decide what is “normal” for the human nature of Jesus?

      Like

    • Unitarian wrote:
      «I really find it hard to believe that the authors of Number were talking about mere humans and not “extraordinary ” ones.»

      I would say that a statement about humans need not constitute a statement about the extraordinary case of a divine nonhuman acquiring secondary human nature.

      Consider an analogy. Suppose God, or really advanced science, gave me the ability to animate the brain and body of a goldfish, and to move through an aquarium via that goldfish form, and experience the aquarium via that form. A statement about ordinary goldfish need not include or apply to the extraordinary case of a human animating (or being enclothed by) a goldfish brain and body.

      Unitarian wrote:
      «Do you know of any humans that did not change their mind»

      No, I do not. Nor do I know of any human (other than Jesus) who was born of a virgin. But of course, what can be true of Jesus need not be limited to what we have observed in, or know about, regular humans.

      Unitarian wrote:
      «As for the idea that the hermeneutics of the text does not rule a divine being that acquired a human form; well more likely the Jewish authors didnt think about it in their wildest dreams»

      The verse appears in the Torah, a corpus which elsewhere seems to clearly have God appearing in human form (e.g. Genesis 18). One might try to argue that the author of Genesis 18 had different beliefs from the author of Numbers 23, but we could never prove that. It would remain possible that Genesis 18 has the same author as Numbers 23 (or they were authored by persons who believed each other’s texts), hence it is very possible that the author of Num 23:19 did not see the text as precluding God from acquiring human form.

      Unitarian wrote:
      «Human nature just cannot acquire essential divine attributes.»

      I’m not even sure that’s obvious, but that aside, is there not a difference between (a) a human nature acquiring divine attributes and (b) a divine Person acquiring a human nature?

      It might be the case that a wooden cart cannot, by itself, push a living horse, but that tells us nothing about whether a living horse can pull a wooden cart.

      ***

      Unitarian wrote:
      «We are talking about a creed that describes a human nature.»

      Recall that in this part of the discussion I was responding to your appeal to your own observation. Recall what you wrote: “I don’t know any human that is omniscient!”

      Unitarian wrote:
      «miracles cannot be transferred in this way»

      I’m at a loss as to what this means. But I am not asking that something particular to Christ be transferred to other humans. On the contrary, I am saying that He is unique — that there can be things which are true about Him yet which are not true of any ordinary human being.

      Unitarian wrote:
      «Are we to believe that the creed was talking about unique essential human attributes»

      If you are referring to the Chalcedonian creed, it was describing the unique and extraordinary case of a single Person who had two natures, one divine and the other human. It was not a mere discussion on what is typical of ordinary humans.

      Unitarian wrote:
      «We don’t say that God the Son died according to his human nature. We say God the son died.»

      Actually, as there are multiple kinds of death, if we were to describe in what sense the Person died, it can relate directly to His humanity. For example, the cessation of existence can be one type of death, and somatic termination (where the physical body goes into failure and the person becomes disembodied, yet does not cease to exist). We can say Jesus died in the sense of suffering somatic termination. Yes, we say the Person died, but in what sense He did so relates directly to His physical form.

      For another analogy, I would turn to William Lane Craig’s much maligned “Avatar” analogy. In that film, we have a human character who acquires a secondary, non-human, “Navi” form, and he, in a sense, animates both forms simultaneously. Under such a scenario, the man is under seven feet tall from the vantage point of his human form yet well over seven feet tall from the vantage point of his “Navi” form. It would be an oversimplification to reduce that to “he’s taller than seven feet and he’s not taller than seven feet” (i.e. there’s more nuance to the actual concept).

      Turning to examples of the human mind, to say a person has certain information in one hemisphere of his brain but lacks that information in the other hemisphere of his brain (and that he can sincerely express ignorance of a subject when speaking from the hemisphere which lacks that information) is not the same as simply saying “he knows it and he doesn’t know it”.

      Unitarian wrote:
      «You can only talk about the attributes of each nature from a vantage point and not talk about them in relation to the subject himself»

      On the contrary, I do both: I talk about the person himself from the vantage point of a given aspect.

      Unitarian wrote:
      «I ask “Is Jesus limited in knowledge?” You should say Yes!»

      Why should I say yes? The better answer is to ask what you mean, and then to explain: Jesus ultimately possesses all knowledge, but He acquired secondary (and tertiary?) ranges of knowledge which are limited, and He is able to speak from the vantage point of those limited ranges. Others might doubt that’s even possible, but we know from modern science that it is indeed possible for a single person to possess multiple ranges of knowledge, for one range to possess information lacked by the other, and for that person to speak from the vantage point of the range which lacks that information.

      Unitarian wrote:
      «A “split brain” person is not simultaneously aware as a single “I”»

      You yourself refer to him as “a … person”. He doesn’t have to be like Christ in every way; he is simply appealed to as an example of a single person who possesses multiple ranges of knowledge (who can speak from the vantage point if specific ranges).

      You want to object that there’s lots of ways a commissurotomy patient is different from Christ. Of course there are. I simply cite them to show that it is possible for a single person to possess multiple ranges of knowledge, for one range to possess information lacked by another such range, and for that person to speak from the vantage point of one range.

      Unitarian wrote:
      «you don’t even need a split brain analogy. One can talk about subconscious or suppressed knowledge even in a normal human»

      Agreed! I may return to this, somewhat, below. 🙂

      Unitarian wrote:
      «Each nature has a soul, is capable of being self aware (hard to say humans don’t have this capability in principle), has a mind, free will of its own (the cerebral hemispheres have no will!»

      On what do you base the claim that a hemisphere has no will? On the contrary, the hemispheres can have their own wills, their own levels of perception and awareness, and their own abilities to respond to questions independently of each other.

      Above you appealed to the subconscious. And with that in mind, how about we ponder Freud’s notion of the unconscious? Freud had posited that available evidence pointed to the human brain having at least two layers of consciousness, each with its own semblance of will. Fritz Wittels summed up Freud’s position thusly:

      «We make mistakes, slips of the tongue, we pick up the wrong thing, we forget, because the unconscious has a will of its own which differs from our conscious will; and because the unconscious does what it pleases with us when our strictly logical attention lapses for a moment. This inner will, which is so often an opposing will, can be known by its works, by manifold trifles of everyday occurrence.»
      [SOURCE: Fritz Wittels, Sigmund Freud: His Personality, His Teaching, & His School, (Routledge, 1924), pp. 98-99.]

      Also, on page 99 of that same work, Wittels noted that “Freud had rightly pointed out […] a disturbance of the will through the operation of a counter-will.”

      But of course, Freud’s position was somewhat speculative. Some of the broad strokes of his theory, however, might be seen as having been corroborated by neuroscience, when scientists began to study commisurotomy patients, who had their corpus callosum severed. Here’s how Iain McGilchrist describes the situation with the two hemispheres of the brain:

      «If there are separate sensations, percepts, thoughts and memories, as well as separate ways of dealing with all of these, it would hardly be surprising if there were separate desires formed, separate wills, to each hemisphere — and we know from split-brain subjects’ experience that this is the case.»
      [SOURCE: Iain McGilchrist, The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World, (Yale University Press, 2009), p. 220.]

      Those studying subjects with a severed corpus callosum (whether in humans or animals) observed how, with the different (separated) hemispheres of the brain controlling different parts of the body, the differing wills of those hemispheres could play out physically. One humorous example is the following:

      «if a split-brain monkey gets hold of a peanut with both hands, the result is sometimes a tug of war.»
      [SOURCE: Thomas Nagel, “Brain Bisection and the Unity of Consciousness,” Synthese, vol. 22 (1971), p. 399.]

      A perhaps less funny example, is the following:

      «One man reported reaching out with his right hand to give his wife a hug, only to see his left hand fly up and punch her, instead.»
      [SOURCE: Rita Carter, Mapping the Mind, (University of California Press, 2010), p. 50.]

      Another interesting example is the following:

      «Paul S. showed some interesting differences between his hemispheres. His right hemisphere said he wanted to be a racing driver whereas his left hemisphere wanted him to be a draughtsman!»
      [SOURCE: Michael Eysenck, Fundamentals of Psychology, (Psychology Press, 2009), p. 108.]

      And remember your quip about being a believer in God and not a believer in God? Consider this:

      «Unknown to the dominant left brain, the right brain [can] secretly ha[ve] a completely different agenda for the future. The right brain literally ha[s] a mind of its own. […] This means that the two hemispheres may have different beliefs. For example, the neurologist V. S. Ramachandran describes one split brain patient who, when asked if he was a believer or not, said he was an atheist, but his right brain declared he was a believer. Apparently it is possible to have two opposing religious beliefs in the same brain.»
      [SOURCE: Michio Kaku, The Future of the Mind (Doubleday, 2014), p. 39]

      I could go on, but the point is that the scientific evidence is in favor of the possibility of a single person having multiple wills (even wills which are contradictory).

      Unitarian wrote:
      «I have problems understanding how they can be absolutely distinct and united»

      I couldn’t possibly describe the precise “mechanics” of such, but I don’t think the veracity of a concept rests on our ability to describe it in every detail.

      Unitarian wrote:
      «I fail to see how personhood is not a normative aspect of human nature»

      It’s certainly an interesting question. For now, I would say that a person can have a human nature and a person could also have a nature of some other sort (i.e. there can be human persons and nonhuman persons, et cetera). Also perhaps worthy of note, we can distinguish between the corpses of mammals. For example we can distinguish between a human corpse and a feline corpse. So, while I might need to think about this some more, it might not be the case that personhood is essential to what makes a thing human, though of course persons can be human.

      Unitarian wrote:
      «If I have two part that have essentially independent free wills,souls, natures, minds(streams of consciousness), self awareness, then we have two persons.»

      As was noted above, it seems the evidence is in favor of each hemisphere of your brain having its own will, awareness, perception, thought. Are you sure you want to define yourself as actually comprising multiple persons?

      Unitarian wrote:
      «one person can’t hold these two “natures” and still be one person.»

      I honestly do not see why I should agree with this proposition.

      Like

    • Denis Giron said

      “Consider an analogy. Suppose God, or really advanced science, gave me the ability to animate the brain and body of a goldfish, and to move through an aquarium via that goldfish form, and experience the aquarium via that form. A statement about ordinary goldfish need not include or apply to the extraordinary case of a human animating (or being enclothed by) a goldfish brain and body.”

      I think you are missing the point. I do understand what you are saying but I have to take the text in light of its historical context. Thinking that the Jews in that period could have possibly excluded the concept of incarnation( as described by the Chalcedonian Creed that evolved many a century later) from the apparent reading of the text ( attributes that are distinct to God and distinct to man) is anachronistic hermeneutics. The onus is thus on you to provide the proof that the Jews could have allowed such a concept. Genesis 18 is a bad example as it is only talking about a vision of God and the identity of the three men is not clear at all. In other words we are using an equivocal understanding to support anachronistic hermeneutics. Now that is good going Denis 🙂

      Denis Giron said

      “No, I do not. Nor do I know of any human (other than Jesus) who was born of a virgin. But of course, what can be true of Jesus need not be limited to what we have observed in, or know about, regular humans.”

      Yet again that does not help us understand by what Creed means by human nature. What are these essential attributes that Jesus the human shared with other humans to have a “human nature”. I would assume that Numbers obviously thinks that changing ones mind or sinning is one of them

      “The verse appears in the Torah, a corpus which elsewhere seems to clearly have God appearing in human form (e.g. Genesis 18)”

      Try again? Not convinced by Genesis 18

      “One might try to argue that the author of Genesis 18 had different beliefs from the author of Numbers 23, but we could never prove that. It would remain possible that Genesis 18 has the same author as Numbers 23 (or they were authored by persons who believed each other’s texts), hence it is very possible that the author of Num 23:19 did not see the text as precluding God from acquiring human form.”

      Sorry to say but this bizarre gymnastics. Isn’t it more likely that this is a Christian reading into the text rather than the intent of the Jewish authors? Sort of like reading the trinity into Old Testament texts.

      Rather go with what is probable.

      “I’m not even sure that’s obvious, but that aside, is there not a difference between (a) a human nature acquiring divine attributes and (b) a divine Person acquiring a human nature?”

      Yes there is a difference but I was arguing against one trend in Christian philosophy that tries to override the apparent contradiction. In this model the human nature of Jesus literally takes on divine attributes.

      “Recall that in this part of the discussion I was responding to your appeal to your own observation. Recall what you wrote: “I don’t know any human that is omniscient!””

      Well, according to the obvious reading of Numbers that is the case. By the way , please tell us of any essential human attribute that we do not observe? Seems a red herring here.

      “I’m at a loss as to what this means. But I am not asking that something particular to Christ be transferred to other humans. On the contrary, I am saying that He is unique ”

      Exactly it is that simple. You can’t use unique attributes to define the essential attributes in human nature. After all what does the Creed mean if all the attributes of this “human nature” are unique. You are obviously not saying that. I am therefore asking which ones are essential and not unique in the creed How did it come to that conclusion ?

      “Actually, as there are multiple kinds of death, if we were to describe in what sense the Person died, it can relate directly to His humanity. For example, the cessation of existence can be one type of death, and somatic termination (where the physical body goes into failure and the person becomes disembodied, yet does not cease to exist). We can say Jesus died in the sense of suffering somatic termination. Yes, we say the Person died, but in what sense He did so relates directly to His physical form.”

      I only mentioned death to highlight the Creeds forumulations.

      Death is another ball game! Will come to it on another day.

      All I am saying is this. I as a person (that includes everything that constitutes me) cannot claim that “I am not omniscient” and “I am not omniscient because of my human nature” are identical statements. They are not.

      Let me give you an analogy. Let’s say I have a weak left arm and a very strong right arm.

      Now I can say that relative to my weak left arm I cannot lift that 4kg weight. Does that lead to the conclusion, that I as a person cannot lift the 4kg weight ? Of course not! I can use my right arm.

      Yet the creed requires that Jesus as a a person, the “I” , be limited in knowledge as a subject (no division of the natures) even though according to his divine nature he is not.

      Do you see why the vantage point view of incarnation fails? One cannot meaningfully talk about attributes that are related to the person as a whole without using a vantage point. The creed requires that you do.

      Denis says

      “For another analogy, I would turn to William Lane Craig’s much maligned “Avatar” analogy. ”

      It is much aligned for good reasons too! The native avatar has no will, self awareness, knowledge or mind..

      Here you have one person with one will (heresy as you know), transporting his mind into an empty vessel(another heresy because the human body is not united with the body of the Avatar) . Note, we also only have one mind with one stream of consciousness so I fail how this analogy explains the contradiction in any way! The guy isn’t knowledgeable and not knowledgeable simultaneously as a person in the movie.

      Denis Giron says

      “On the contrary, I do both: I talk about the person himself from the vantage point of a given aspect.”

      I know you do but they are not identical in meaning. If I have access to divine knowledge as a person i.e. because it is subject to my will then me being not omniscient relative to my human knowledge does not allow me to say that I,as a person, am limited in knowledge. That is a false conclusion. Your Creed requires it.

      Denis Giron says

      “Why should I say yes? ” The better answer is to ask what you mean, and then to explain…”

      Because the Creed requires you to.

      “You want to object that there’s lots of ways a commissurotomy patient is different from Christ. Of course there are. ”

      They are different in the salient features of the analogy

      “On what do you base the claim that a hemisphere has no will? On the contrary, the hemispheres can have their own wills, their own levels of perception and awareness, and their own abilities to respond to questions independently of each other.”

      Not a dualist then? This is a classic fallacy of decomposition. Just because I partially need (it is far more complex http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/self-awareness-with-a-simple-brain/ ) my cerebral cortex to be self aware it does not follow that my cerebral cortex is self aware! I also don’t know of any neurologist who thinks this. Self awareness and consciousness etc are properties of the organism as a whole.

      If we mean by “will” any old response to stimuli then cells have their own perception , awareness and will.

      We don’t really mean that now do we. In the incarnation the human nature has a will, self awareness, communication skills etc all the properties for personhood. ) and so does the divine nature. Yet we have one person holding onto the experiences of two self aware beings(they have natures) simultaneously.

      Now we don’t have a “meta cerebral hemisphere” experiencing simulataneously the right and left hemispheres . So saying that a cerebral hemisphere has a will etc does not address the salient points needed in the analogy.

      “Above you appealed to the subconscious. And with that in mind, how about we ponder Freud’s notion of the unconscious?…”

      Like you said it speculative, Wittgenstein would not be pleased, actually quite out dated and it is not cooroborated by modern neuroscience (seem to have misquoted McGilchrist?)

      More importantly it is deterministic. Why complicate it ? Just use the autonomic nervous system for Gods sake! Ha ha

      That too has a “will”. Here is the problem with this analogy. Unless we believe that one of the natures is suppressed (one way out of it is too claim it partially ) we still have the problem!

      After the resurrection , Jesus fully expressed his divine and human nature simultaneously not in some subconscious “I don’t know my vagus nerve is partially controlling my heart rate way”but in a conscious manner. Jesus expressed both natures with full knowledge. Doesn’t seem to be Freudian suppression here

      The analogy fails again, sorry.

      Denis Giron says

      “Those studying subjects with a severed corpus callosum (whether in humans or animals) observed how, with the different (separated) hemispheres of the brain controlling different parts of the body, the differing wills of those hemispheres could play out physically. One humorous example is the following:

      «if a split-brain monkey gets hold of a peanut with both hands, the result is sometimes a tug of war.»
      [SOURCE: Thomas Nagel, “Brain Bisection and the Unity of Consciousness,” Synthese, vol. 22 (1971), p. 399.]”

      Yet the very same Thomas Nagel says

      “if the patient is permitted to touch things with both hands and smell them with both nostrils, he arrives at a unified idea of what is going on around him and what he is doing, without revealing any left-right inconsistencies in his behavior or attitudes. It seems strange to suggest that we are not in a position to ascribe all those experiences to the same person, just because of some peculiarities about how the integration is achieved. The people who know these patients find it natural to relate to them as single individuals. ”

      Yeah I agree with Nagel. None of the examples show two different persons represented by individual hemispheres, including the example about belief in God which is a well known atheist favourite. They just show privileged access to hemispheres when working or thinking from a vantage point ( something you can’t do when corpus callosum is severed )

      This is not equivalent to two natures that have all the attributes of personhood and yet are distinct and united in one person. Sorry the split brain analogy fails.

      “I couldn’t possibly describe the precise “mechanics” of such, but I don’t think the veracity of a concept rests on our ability to describe it in every detail.”

      A salient analogy that explains how something can be absolutely distinct and absolutely united with something else ?

      Denis Giron wrote

      “…So, while I might need to think about this some more, it might not be the case that personhood is essential to what makes a thing human, though of course persons can be human.”

      Will be waiting with interest. Find out about the list of essential human attributes in the human nature of Christ and see if personhood naturally follows.

      Denis Giron said

      “As was noted above, it seems the evidence is in favor of each hemisphere of your brain having its own will, awareness, perception, thought. Are you sure you want to define yourself as actually comprising multiple persons?”

      Well I feel you have misunderstood my take on the split brain analogy. I as an individual have privileged access to the hemispheres in a distinct manner which includes the sensory and rational information contained there. That does not make multiple persons. If on the other hand the hemispheres can communicate, have independent free wills ( not subject to my will) , are self aware (which they are not! ) etc then we make a case of me being an Avatar to two persons.

      Like

    • I said!

      “All I am saying is this. I as a person (that includes everything that constitutes me) cannot claim that “I am not omniscient” and “I am not omniscient because of my human nature” are identical statements. They are not”

      What I meant to say here is that these are not identical on the incarnation. It would seem that the second is an obvious explanation of the first if you have only one human nature

      Like

    • Denis Giron said

      “So, while I might need to think about this some more, it might not be the case that personhood is essential to what makes a thing human, though of course persons can be human.”

      I actually have been thinking about this! When we say that the “divine nature ” is incarnate in the person of Christ, what is the signified in the trinity. It can’t be the divine nature of the trinity because it is the “substance” of the three persons. On the traditional Aristotelian view (The Creeds just seem loaded with this understanding) substances can’t be divided. Yet we have “part of the substance” or the “whole substance” incarnate? If the whole substance is incarnate why aren’t the other persons in the trinity part of the incarnation. Can we talk about a susbtance not carrying with it it’s essential predicates?

      If we mean by “divine nature” the person of God the son then the divine nature in the incarnation is essentially a person as well. Also how do we deal with the statement of identity ? God the son is identical to Jesus? What does “is” indicate?

      Furthermore if the divine nature carries the personhood only and the human nature of Jesus died on the cross then Jesus the person did not die. We know that would go against the creed.

      If on the other hand the human nature has personhood as an attribute (Humans, in principle, are persons) we then have two persons for each nature and a ?third person to unite them?

      Actually I am just confused ! Lol.

      This is me thinking out loud and I am not making an argument

      Like

  10. Richard

    You said;

    3. The point of the passage is not about the substance of God, whether he is a spirit or a man of flesh and blood. The point is that God is not like a sinful, deceitful human. And this is still true even after the Incarnation – Christ, even when he took on human nature, was not a liar.

    I say;
    If God knows He will incarnate to man, it would have been logical for him to say;

    Numbers 23:19 (NRSV) reads:
    “God not a being who should lie,
        or a mortal, that he should change his mind.
    Has he promised, and will he not do it?
        Has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?”

    instead of

    Numbers 23:19 (NRSV) reads:
    “God is not a human being, that he should lie,
        or a mortal, that he should change his mind.
    Has he promised, and will he not do it?
        Has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?”

    Why will God compare Himself to a man, He clearly said he is not and later becoming that same man? You Richard is saying that;

    No. God is just comparing Himself with what that man does.

    Richard, God said “God is not a human being” which is clear. Why discard this clear and unambiguous statement?

    If I say. “I am not a donkey, that I should carry loads”. Does that mean I am a donkey? or will that not make me a liar if I one day become a donkey?

    Thank

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  11. Denis, you seem to contradict Richard’s argument

    Reason 1: “This passage was written hundreds of years before the Incarnation. It was thus true that, at that time, God was not a human being.”

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    • Greetings Burhanuddin

      First let me say that, that precise example, it is certainly possible for different people who identify as Christian to present different lines of thought (i.e. it is entirely possible for two people who identify as Christian to contradict each other on a given subject).

      Having said that, getting to your precise example, if we are examining the phrase “God is a human being,” whether or not that statement is true or false at any point in time depends on what we mean by it. For example, if the statement means the one God – the Trinity – is simply a human being, then it was false when Numbers was written, it was false throughout Jesus’ earthly ministry, and it remains false to this very day. However, if it is intended as a sort of shorthand for a renference to an event in which one specific Person within the Trinity acquired a human form, then its truth value can change at different times. And then there is the discussion we already had on the uniqueness of the Incarnation of Christ (as described in John 1) not necessarily precluding other (different) instances of a Person within God moving through creation via an acquired form, so we might wonder if the phrase under discussion is referring to that unique event or something more general.

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    • Greetings Denis

      This post is about the reasons why Richard rejects Numbers 23:19 as an argument against the Incarnation.

      You seem to contradict his reason 1 – do you believe “God was a human being” before Christ in some sense(s) as you elaborated?

      I would say a person of the Trinity who was “human” before the Incarnation of Jesus Christ is another person of the Trinity who wasn’t. Maybe this of more relevance nah just “different lines of thought”.

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    • Greetings Burhanuddin

      Burhanuddin wrote:
      {{do you believe “God was a human being” before Christ in some sense(s) as you elaborated?}}

      I believe it is possible that, before Christ’s conception in Mary’s womb, at least one Person within God (e.g. the Son Himself) moved through creation via what would strike our senses as a human form (e.g. perhaps He was the messenger who wrestled with Jacob, or among the men who met Abraham, or even moved through the garden when Adam was there [though that need not require a human form]). How such relates to the uniqueness of the Incarnation is open to question (e.g. I could think of a couple different approaches in which such stances can be harmonious).

      Now, the question is, would that contradict Richard’s point? Maybe. I’m not sure what his precise position is, but I do notice that even in his second point, he alludes to how, even after the Incarnation, the truth value of the statement “God is a human” depends on what we mean by that.

      I guess the interesting question is whether Richard himself is open to the idea of a Person within God appearing in human form before Christ’s appearance in Mary’s womb (such as in the examples given above, like the messenger who wrestled Jacob, among the Yahw__ and the messengers who appeared before Abraham, et cetera). Perhaps Richard will answer that question here (or I can ask him separately from this thread).

      Like

    • Okay, as a quick addendum, I wrote to Mr. Zetter, and asked the following: are you open to the possibility that, before Christ’s conception in Mary’s womb, a Person within God (perhaps the Son Himself) appeared in what at least seemed like human form (e.g. as the messenger who wrestled with Jacob, as one of the men who met Abraham in Gen 18, et cetera)?

      He responded as follows [what follows is a truncation of a longer correspondence, and I am posting this with his permission]: I’m absolutely open to that interpretation. I’ve not thought a huge amount about it, but I’m happy for the Son to have appeared in human form. If it is the Son, I in no way see this as violating Numbers 23:19.

      He also noted, perhaps for those who wish to get hyper-technical, that if it was the Son who wrestled with Jacob, one could still say: when Numbers 23:19 was written, it was indeed true that the Son was not in the form of a man – because Numbers 23:19 was written after Jacob wrestling with the angel. 🙂

      There was more that he wrote, which may come up when he returns to the thread (time permitting, Lord willing). But suffice to say, my belief (in the possibility of a Person in God taking on what seemed to human senses like a human form, before Christ’s conception in the womb of Mary) need not be at odds with Mr. Zetter’s own stance.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Denis, Richard,
      So first according to “Reason 1″ God was not a human being before Incarnation, and then you and Richard change your position when cornered, to say that yes God actually was a human being before the incarnation…….” Is it really that hard for Christians to maintain a consistent view? It seems to me that you are forced into these types of inconsistencies in order to prove the innovated doctrines of Trinity, incarnation, atonement, etc. And the wheel goes round…..frustrating.

      Alhamdullah, ana min al-Muslimeen!!

      Liked by 2 people

    • Greetings Ibn Issam

      Ibn Issam wrote:
      {{So first according to “Reason 1″ God was not a human being before Incarnation, and then you and Richard change your position when cornered, to say that yes God actually was a human being before the incarnation…….”}}

      I’m not sure in what sense either one of us was “cornered”. To clarify, it was noted that we seem to take different positions. So I wrote to Mr. Zetter to see if he was open to a possibility that had come in my posts, but not in his article. Mr. Zetter replied that he had previously not given that possibility much thought, but does agree with the idea.

      Note, however, that in this thread there was some discussion on a contrast between a unique Incarnation of the Son, on the one hand, and other instances of one or more Persons within the Trinity employing secondary forms, on the other. Ergo, there can remain a distinction between /THE/ Incarnation and other apparent “incarnations” (and so instances of the latter occurring at time T need not contradict an assertion that the former had not yet occurred at time T).

      As for the truth of the statement “God is a human” at any given point in time, as has been alluded to in the article and brought out in subsequent comments, that will depend on what, precisely, we mean by that.

      Ibn Issam wrote:
      {{Is it really that hard for Christians to maintain a consistent view? It seems to me that you are forced into these types of inconsistencies in order to prove the innovated doctrines of Trinity, incarnation, atonement, etc.}}

      Well, I’ll say this: when you bring different people, from different backgrounds (different “sects,” denominations, schools of thought), and have them delve into topics that require some level of speculation (e.g. solutions to questions not explicitly discussed in Scripture, especially questions which might have multiple possible solutions), there is going to be the potential for differing stances and conclusions. Having said that, while it is certainly possible than Mr. Zetter and I may contradict each other in the future, I do not believe that has occurred here, yet. If anything, what we saw is that, after a short correspondence, our positions were a bit closer than others might have initially thought.

      Liked by 1 person

    • David,
      OK, I get it now, the previous Incarnation does not contradict the unique incarnation…….next you and Richard will explain how the 9 incarnations of Vishnu do not contradict Kalki, the 10th incarnation. I mean really,what’s the difference, it just sounds ridiculous.

      Why is it that Christians always seem to change the simple meaning of words in order to support their innovated doctrines? Isn’t that called the fallacy of equivocation? Let me help you and Richard understand the meaning of the word “Human”

      hu·man
      /ˈ(h)yo͞omən/

      adjective
      adjective: human

      1. of, relating to, or characteristic of people or human beings.
      “the human body”
      synonyms: anthropomorphic, anthropoid, humanoid, hominid
      “in human form”

      2. of or characteristic of people AS OPPOSED TO GOD or animals or machines, especially in being susceptible to weaknesses.
      “they are only human, and therefore mistakes do occur”
      synonyms: mortal, flesh and blood; More
      fallible, weak, frail, imperfect, vulnerable, susceptible, erring, error-prone; physical, bodily, fleshly

      Alhamdullah, we Muslim’s don’t have to redefine the meaning of Human to defend our theological beliefs.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Greetings Ibn Issam

      Quick note: I believe this is the third time you have called me “David”. My name is Denis.

      Ibn Issam wrote:
      {{the previous Incarnation does not contradict the unique incarnation>>

      Or, put slightly differently, a unique event we call The Incarnation can differ from a number of other events we might refer to as “apparent incarnations” (i.e. instances where a Person within God employed a secondary form when interacting with creation). I don’t see why such a proposal needs to be considered absurd.

      Ibn Issam wrote:
      {{next you and Richard will explain how the 9 incarnations of Vishnu do not contradict Kalki, the 10th incarnation. I mean really,what’s the difference}}

      With all due respect, I’m not sure where such sarcasm gets us. However, if your objection is that you feel what is proposed here somewhat resembles your impression of certain Hindu beliefs, I would simply ask: does “Hindus believe X” mean X is necessarily false? For example, if certain Hindus believe the earth was created, should we Christians and Muslims adopt the position that the earth is eternal? Or if a certain Hindu holds that it is possible for a person to be born of a virgin, should we turn around and deny the possibility of virgin births (denying the virgin birth of Jesus in the process)? If certain Hindus prostrate during prayer, should we prohibit prostration? Comparing a doctrine [or practice] to something in Hinduism, and then droping the microphone, so to speak, seems to tell us more about one’s negative feelings towards Hinduism than it does the veracity of the relevant doctrine [or practice].

      Ibn Issam wrote:
      {{Why is it that Christians always seem to change the simple meaning of words in order to support their innovated doctrines? Isn’t that called the fallacy of equivocation?}}

      If every word can only have one possible meaning or application, you might find my post below (comparing Num 23:19 to Ex 15:3) of interest. Beyond that, I think we might have some interesting discussions on various Qur’anic passages (for one of many possible examples, doesn’t surat al-Hashr 59:23 calling God “al-mu’min,” and the word “mu’min” being applied to humans, elsewhere in the Qur’an, entail some shades of meaning for that term?).

      Like

    • Ibn Issam

      “Denis, Richard,
      So first according to “Reason 1″ God was not a human being before Incarnation, and then you and Richard change your position when cornered, to say that yes God actually was a human being before the incarnation…….” Is it really that hard for Christians to maintain a consistent view? It seems to me that you are forced into these types of inconsistencies in order to prove the innovated doctrines of Trinity, incarnation, atonement, etc. And the wheel goes round…..frustrating.

      Alhamdullah, ana min al-Muslimeen!!”

      I agree. I’m amazed by the skeletons in the various closets of trinitarianism. Figuratively speaking.

      Like

    • Greetings Denis,

      thank you for trying to clarify the point re. Richard’s reason 1. That’s necessary, it would be helpful if Richard could reply himself.

      I’m still not convinced there is no contradiction between your and Richards understanding. It might well be Richard is contradicting his reason 1 by assuming God can be a man apart from the Incarnation of Jesus Christ.

      It certainly looks like he is refuting his own reason No. 3 by assuming “the Son to have appeared in human form” other than Jesus Christ.

      Seems he didn’t think of the apologetic approach you take with your references to other possible incarnations.

      Perhaps you could write an article about the issue God being able to be multiple human beings apart from Jesus Christ?

      Like

    • Hi chaps!

      Great to see you’ve been discussing this topic in my absence. Sorry I’ve not been involved thus far – I got caught up in researching and replying to comments on another of my earlier blog posts.

      To clarify my point (1) – my point is that God never before the incarnation could have taken human form, either apparently or actually. My point is that that is not God’s normal state, and that at the time Numbers was written, that was not God’s state.

      To clarify further, in terms of the appearances of God in the Old Testament, like Jacob wrestling with YHWH, I believe it could either be someone respresenting YHWH, or an angel who looks like a human, or an actual human body the LORD temporarily created and inhabited, or something that appeared to humans like one of the above. I don’t know the answer for sure, partly because I haven’t studied the relevant texts in great depths, but also because questions that scripture does not intend to answer, can/need to be answered by speculations based on but to some degree beyond scripture. I say this last point in response to anyone who thinks I am being overly speculative.

      I hope this helps clarify scripture. I read some of Denis’ comments above, though probably not every single one – I’m not aware of contradicting his position, but if someone points a contradiction I would be happy to accept it. As Denis said, Christians can come to different positions on certain issues, just like Muslims do.

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    • Dennis
      Firstly, regarding your name, the mistake was unintentional, you have my sincere apology.

      Now for my apologetics:

      About your question, “does “Hindus believe X” mean X is necessarily false?” of course the answer is no. But just because some Hinduistic beliefs are valid, it does not validate everything else. In making the comparison, I was simply trying to illustrate that the incarnation (and trinity) have more in common with polytheistic faiths, than with Abrahamic Monotheism. I respect Hinduism as a faith tradition and I admire the very rich and vibrant culture that Hindus have, the people I have met among them are nice people and I have even visited their temples in order to learn more about their beliefs. I even believe that some personalities (Brahman, Vishnu) now worshipped by Hindu’s may have been legitimate Prophets of God sent on the path of Islam, but that their message was distorted into something else over a long period of time, similar to how the true teachings of the historical Jesus, morphed into Christianity. This may be why some Hindu beliefs, as you hinted, are similar to Abrahamic faith. However, I simply don’t believe that God would incarnate himself into any avatar, or into the body of any human, anywhere, anytime. This is not meant in disrespect of Hinduism. As Qur’an says: lakum dinakum wali a deen.(109:6) So your accusation that I harbor negative feelings towards Hinduism simply because I do not believe in incarnation is a non-sequitur. And yes, your proposition regarding incarnation is absurd, based on numerous reasons that other commentators on this blog have already enumerated. Not to mention I love Indian food! 🙂

      In regard to the word Mum’in in surat al-Hashr 59:23 I see your point in regard to different shades of meaning. It has been translated in different translations as: the Bestower of Faith; the Giver of security; the Guardian of Faith; the Granter of security; the Keeper of Faith; and The Supreme Believer; – However in relation to the way the word is used to apply to humans, the meaning of the word does not necessarily have to carry a different shade of meaning. as it could simply mean that God IS a believer, in himself, his abilities, his power, might and majesty, he is a believer in his creation and in the message that he has sent his Prophets with. So, although one may read shades of meaning into the word, it is not an absolute foregone conclusion.

      Unlike Christianity, Islamic belief does not necessarily force us into awkward positions regarding linguistics.

      Like

    • Just to add a bit about incarnation (assuming the Son did indeed became incarnate at times in the OT, though I consider this to be just one of multiple options) –

      1) I’m not sure there’s any problem if the OT incarnation is of the same kind as that which takes in the NT.
      2) But the NT incarnation is different in experience, in that Christ is born as a child, and experiences normal human life like us.
      3) It’s also different in extent – we believe Christ was raised bodily, and will forever be incarnate. This was not the case with the OT incarnation, if there was such, which was temporary.

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    • 3) It’s also different in extent – we believe Christ was raised bodily, and will forever be incarnate. ”

      are you saying your god is EXISTING currently as a human being and fully experiencing the 3 persons in trinity?

      is the incarnated seeing , hearing just like the other two persons?

      Like

    • “I simply don’t believe that God would incarnate himself into any avatar, or into the body of any human, anywhere, anytime. This is not meant in disrespect of Hinduism. As Qur’an says: lakum dinakum wali a deen.(109:6) So your accusation that I harbor negative feelings towards Hinduism simply because I do not believe in incarnation is a non-sequitur. And yes, your proposition regarding incarnation is absurd, based on numerous reasons that other commentators on this blog have already enumerated. Not to mention I love Indian food!”

      some hindus said that other day that a human being can exist as a dog and think like a dog
      and the dog can think like a human being and do human like things.

      this world is strange.

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  12. He was in every sense a real flesh and blood human being with feelings and aches and pains and longings and shortcomings. For we have not a high priest who cannot be touched with feelings of infirmities but was in every way tempted like we are, yet, without sin.

    I remember when Ted shared the gospel with me as we walked around the university campus in the desert on a hot fall evening flooded with scantily clad co-eds, and asking him if Jesus would have been driven out of His mind with hot chics frolicking around Him. “You bet” he said. “He was all man.”

    Acts written around 62 A.D.

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    • It is shameful how Christians disrespect and slander their own Prophet by assuming he would have engaged in such sinful behavior as being tempted by “scantily clad co-eds” and being “driven out of his mind with hot-chics frolicking around him.”

      I guess this proves that deep down in their hearts some Christians themselves don’t really believe in the “sinless innocent lamb of the sacrifice” theory. I think Freud would argue that Hanks comments tell us what is really on his own mind.

      Alhamdullah, the Qur’an frees all the Prophets including Jesus (as) from such false accusations, that are not befitting of a Prophet of God.

      Liked by 1 person

  13. “It is shameful how Christians disrespect and slander their own Prophet by assuming he would have engaged in such sinful behavior as being tempted by ‘scantily clad co-eds'” Ibn Issam

    Being tempted to commit sin is not sinful. Imagine what he endured as he was assaulted directly by the devil [no wormwood or slugbog-like intermediators] non-stop for 40 days even as he refrained from eating? Fasting one meal is nearly impossible for me.

    You are right about Freud, though, I’m sure. He would have had a field day inside my noggin.

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    • Hank,
      Nice to see that you have a good sense of humor. But as for me, I prefer not to come anywhere near to insulting any of the Prophets.

      Like

  14. I’d like to share another small thought on this subject. It may be worthwhile to contemplate the first four words of Numbers 23:19 together with the first three words of Exodus 15:3…

    The first question I would ask is if “God” (El) in the verse in Numbers is referring to the same Being as “the Lord” (Yahw__) in the verse in Exodus? I think most of us would agree, the answer is yes.

    Beyond that, note that the verse in Numbers has a proposition being negated, and the waw/vav employed therein results in that proposition constituting a logical conjunction. So a second question becomes: are we to read the text as negating the entire proposition, or each of its conjuncts individually? In other words, there is a difference between saying “it is not the case that God is an īsh (“a man”) and one who lies [i.e. God is not a man that lies],” on the one hand, and saying “God is not an īsh (“a man”) and God does not lie,” on the other. I know some will be tempted to (perhaps intuitively?) treat the verse as meaning the latter, but I suspect that if the text is read literally (which is generally what those who wish to wield the verse as a polemic against the Incarnation tend to do), it reads plainly as a negation of the conjunction (not a negation of each individual conjunct therein).

    This raises a third question: if the two texts are referring to the same single Being, what are we to make of one verse saying that Being is an īsh (“a man”) and the other verse saying that same Being is not an īsh (“a man”)? The obvious answer is to say “well, one use is metaphorical and the other is literal”. But even that concedes that the word īsh can be used in different ways, and can help us reassess the second question, above. The verse is not saying God is not an īsh in any sense of the word. Once that is conceded, it has the potential to strengthen the aforementioned point about the verse negating a conjunction, not each individual conjunct therein (i.e. God is not an īsh that lies, which is not necessarily a denial that God is an īsh of any sort whatsoever). And of course one might try to say the point is an īsh is necessarily a liar, but if God is a sort of īsh who doesn’t lie (which seems to be the implication if the two verses are read together), then that assertion seems unfounded.

    Such are the fruits of musing on a hyper-literal approach to the text.

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  15. “I prefer not to come anywhere near to insulting any of the Prophets.” issam

    I am drawn to Him because He understands the depth of my struggles with sin, my battles with the flesh. Been there and done that, all without succumbing to lust, to the craving to take and use another for my pleasure, rather than placing her first, meeting her needs and fulfilling her desires to be close with another.

    I was an animal, a nasty, selfish, rotten punk seeking to get what I could without regard for the feelings of others. When Jesus became real to me, He gave me the desire to respect and to honor females and to my amazement they responded to me entirely differently–they liked me. I was blown away. Even if I had wanted to be nice, my sinful nature was too powerful. My “niceness” didn’t last long if I didn’t get what I wanted pretty quickly.

    Jesus knows all about the strength of physical/sexual attraction between people. He made us sexual creatures. He made beauty. He knows exactly what I experience, not just mentally, but physically, when I’m in the presence of a female I find extraordinarily appealing. I don’t have to hide from Him. I feel grateful that He can relate and that he understands. It sparks love for Him deep inside me..

    Like

    • As Paul Williams says: “Preach brother, Preach!” Hallelujah!

      Like

    • I never dreamed I would follow Christ. No one who knew me back in the day could have imagined I would become a devout disciple. No one. I was the least likely person to fall under His spell.

      But, His manifest presence was so gentle, so beautiful, so unexpected, so desperately needed, so powerful, I was and still am stunned. I had absolutely no idea He existed. None. And yet here He was/is, alive and real and present and I was blown away.

      I have no ulterior motive for “preaching” about Him. Nothing to gain of monetary value, or an ego boost. But, since finding in Him beauty and peace and joy unspeakable, I just hope that others will find Him, too. I really do.

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    • Hank,
      I appreciate your kind thoughts. However, I have already found Jesus……..in Islam.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Isn’t that wonderful?

      I found Him flat on my back, head spinning, trying to sleep on a water bed, mornings greeted with 2 quarts of beer and a fresh pack of Marlboros, 113 degree inside and outside, dirty, holes in my pants and shirt, an ulcer brewing in my stomach, filled with fury, hatred, cursing, and self-pity without a reason to live and too afraid to end it

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  16. High Richard, thank you for your reply

    Just to clarify your stance: Do you say as you have written

    “…. my point is that God never before the incarnation could have taken human form, either apparently or actually.” …

    or do you mean

    “…. my point is NOT that God never before the incarnation could have taken human form, either apparently or actually.” … ?

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  17. Hi Unitarian,

    Thanks for the interesting, though I must say as a trinitarian, irrelevant arguments that you have come up with.

    As a trinitarian I wouldn’t agree with your following statements which I would take to be based purely on rationalism without any scriptural foundation:

    Like the following:

    When we say that the “divine nature ” is incarnate in the person of Christ, what is the signified in the trinity.

    It can’t be the divine nature of the trinity because it is the “substance” of the three persons.”

    “Yet we have “part of the substance” or the “whole substance” incarnate? If the whole substance is incarnate why aren’t the other persons in the trinity part of the incarnation.”

    “If we mean by “divine nature” the person of God the son then the divine nature in the incarnation is essentially a person as well. ”

    “Also how do we deal with the statement of identity ? God the son is identical to Jesus? What does “is” indicate?

    “Furthermore if the divine nature carries the personhood only and the human nature of Jesus died on the cross then Jesus the person did not die. We know that would go against the creed. ”

    If on the other hand the human nature has personhood as an attribute (Humans, in principle, are persons) we then have two persons for each nature and a ?third person to unite them?

    Actually I am just confused ! Lol.

    I reply,

    Yes, I agree. To me it seems that you are utterly confused.

    Can you actually support any of these assertions from any scripture in the bible?

    I wouldn’t as a trinitarian feel obliged to answer of these questions because they are all based on false rationalistic premises to start with for which I can see no proof in the bible.

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    • I assume you follow a scripture based theology only? Ok, Can we claim that God can lie?

      Scripture denies this yes ? Is that enough? Shall we start from here?

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  18. By all means.

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    • I assume you have evidence that God can’t lie correct ?

      How can we be sure that God is not lying when he utters those statements ?

      If we have no rational reason to think that he cannot lie we are left with a scriptural basis

      Note, now we have a scriptural basis that makes it scriptually impossible but rationally possible

      We are left with the possibility with God lying, whatever scriptural basis we are putting forward

      Well, what if we say that this is justified from two angles (my position) ? We have a scriptural and an independent rational reason for God not lying

      That is why , in a similar vein, a good body of Christian and Muslim scholars have set aside impossible tasks and attributes from Gods nature and his attributes .

      That is why a Christian needs a coherent concept of the Trinity. It cannot just be scriptually based

      Liked by 1 person

  19. “As a trinitarian I wouldn’t agree with your following statements which I would take to be based purely on rationalism without any scriptural foundation:…”

    That they wrapped Him in swaddling clothes is a pretty good indication that He was human. The fact that His Mom was a virgin when He was conceived and when she gave birth to him is a positive sign He was divine. What do you think?

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  20. “The point of the passage is not about the substance of God, whether he is a spirit or a man of flesh and blood.”

    but then why contrast himself to all of humanity?
    how is god proving that he is trustworthy?
    what does he have that human beings don’t ?

    “God is not a human being, that he should lie,
    or a mortal, that he should change his mind.
    Has he promised, and will he not do it?
    Has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?”

    Like

  21. “The point of the passage is not about the substance of God, whether he is a spirit or a man of flesh and blood. The point is that God is not like a sinful, deceitful human.”

    are you saying original sin is a lie? your words seem to indicate that there are humans who are not sinful and deceitful.

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    • he said ” god is not like a sinful and deceitful human”

      does this mean he is like a human who is not sinful and deceitful?
      does this mean original sin is a lie?

      “He was fully God and fully man.”

      i have a few questions on this

      can your god SEE and hear LIKE a finite human being without wearing human eyes and ears?

      Like

  22. quote :

    Christian translations tend to be self-serving in that they choose to translate one word in different ways to best “proof text” their theology. They will translate a word correctly most of the time but then use a totally different meaning in places they think they can make something fit their religion. Take 1 Samuel 16:14:

    And the spirit of HaShem departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from HaShem frightened him.
    So why don’t the Christians have a quadinity instead of a trinity? Obviously there is a 4th aspect to their god — an evil spirit as well as a holy spirit.

    If not, why not? It is the same usage as the good spirit!

    There is nothing in the Jewish bible that infers there is a separate entity of G-d called the “holy spirit” — and it is up to them to prove that there IS — not for you to prove a negative (something that IS NOT THERE).

    There is copious proof, however, that G-d is ONE and not three. You might want to read Is the Trinity found in the Torah

    Over and over again the T’nach makes it clear that G-d is ONE and that He has no son. Further is does not SHARE His glory with any others.

    Remember the first things of old, that I am G-d and there is no other; I am G-d and there is none like Me. Isaiah 46:9
    If there are none like Him then how can Christians insist that one who appeared to be a man, even to the point of being born human, could possibly be G-d? Being a man would make G-d like other humans — something He tells us He is NOT.

    Quote:
    Deuteronomy 32:39, See now that I myself am He! There is no god except Me . .

    This is His name forever.

    This shows clearly that G-d will NEVER be a man.

    And lest you have any doubts left:

    Quote:
    “I am HaShem; that is my name; and my glory will I not give to another” (Isaiah 42:7).

    G-d is the Supreme Being, and there is none other besides Him! Deuteronomy 4:35

    HaShem, He is G-d in heaven above and on the earth below; there is no other! Deuteronomy 4:39

    There is none beside You; neither is there any Rock like our G-d. 1 2:2

    You alone, O L-rd, are G-d 2 Kings 19:19

    Before Me no god was formed, nor will there be one after Me. I, even I, am HaShem, and besides Me there is no Savior. Isaiah 43:11

    You might also want to remind one who insists Jsus is G-d in the following:

    Quote:
    Do not put your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no salvation! (Psalm 146:3)

    Time and time again the GT says Jsus is the “son of man.” G-d tells you not to trust him, because in him there is no salvation.

    So to recap:

    1. G-d is not a man

    2. G-d is not a son of man

    3. Do not put your faith in the son of man — there is no salvation

    4. G-d is unchanging He is as He always was and will be

    5. Do not add to or subtract from Torah (Deuteronomy 4) — saying G-d can be a man or a son of man and that He can change into a man at some point in the future

    6. One means ONE.

    end quote

    Like

Trackbacks

  1. Allah- The Ever Forgetful and Deceitful One! – Answering Islam Blog
  2. Jesus the avatar ? – a short muslim critique about God incarnate – Blogging Theology

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