Nabeel Qureshi does it again, making terrible arguments in defense of the doctrine that Jesus is Jehovah God himself. In a previous debate with Shabir ally Nabeel Qureshi made many bad arguments, including this one and this one. In this discussion on the Unbelievable? Podcast, Nabeel tries to establish the fundamentals of Christian belief, these are what Nabeel believes are the definitional aspects of Christianity that made it distinct from paganism and Judaism:
Christians were divided from Jews based on their belief in the messiah of, Jesus being the messiah and in fact being God himself. And then how did they divide themselves from the Pagans? Well they believed in the God of the Hebrew Bible.
Was Jesus being God himself really a distinguishing factor from Jews? We have some glimpses of very early Jewish opposition to Christianity, preserved for us in Celsus’ Jewish critic which itself is preserved in Origen, in Trypho as preserved in Justin Martyr and in the Rabbinic writings. Do we find in these sources some opposition to a claim that Jesus is Yahweh himself? No we do not. We have in Celsus’ Jewish critic the claim that Christians called Jesus a god, the son of God and angel:
One who was a God could neither flee nor be led away a prisoner; and least of all could he be deserted and delivered up by those who had been his associates, and had shared all things in common, and had had him for their teacher, who was deemed to be a Savior, and a son of the greatest God, and an angel.
What view would this fit with? Well, it seems to be a subordinationist one, so that’s the view Celsus’ Jewish Critic assigned to the generic Christian in the second century. What about the Rabbinic Writings, they claim that he was the result of adultery and was a sorcerer and apostate, nothing about him being God at all. So it seems that Jesus being Yahweh himself was not a definitional factor separating Christians from Jews.
We also have Justin Martyr’s dialogue with Trypho the Jew, they argue over almost everything differentiating Christianity from Judaism. Justin Martyr does call Jesus god, but in what sense? Well let’s take a look in his Dialogue with Trypho:
Then I replied, “I shall attempt to persuade you, since you have understood the Scriptures,[of the truth] of what I say, that there is, and that there is said to be, another God and Lord subject to the Maker of all things; who is also called an Angel, because He announces to men whatsoever the Maker of all things–above whom there is no other God–wishes to announce to them.”
So like Philo, Justin Martyr believes there is another God, and angel subject to Yahweh, Later on he associates this angel with Jesus:
“Moreover, in the book of Exodus we have also perceived that the name of God Himself which, He says, was not revealed to Abraham or to Jacob, was Jesus, and was declared mysteriously through Moses. Thus it is written: ‘And the Lord spake to Moses, Say to this people, Behold, I send My angel before thy face, to keep thee in the way, to bring thee into the land which I have prepared for thee. Give heed to Him, and obey Him; do not disobey Him. For He will not draw back from you; for My name is in Him.’ Now understand that He who led your fathers into the land is called by this name Jesus, and first called Auses(Oshea).
So we don’t have the kind of monotheist that Nabeel wants us to believe the early Christians had, at least not in Justin Martyr. Rather we have a subordinationist view being presented when Justin Martyr defends his Christianity against Trypho’s Judaism.
Nabeel Qureshi, like many other apologists, makes a big deal of emphasizing “Jewish monotheism.” The problem is it’s never quite explained what that actually means. Does it mean no one else can be called God? I doubt it since the bible calls all sorts of people god in a certain sense. Does it mean there is only one God who is creator? Perhaps, but then what is to be made of the Logos theology of Philo or the Jewish Wisdom theology? Does it mean that there is only one Yahweh? Perhaps. But that would not be unique to Christians or Jews; presumably all the Pagans of the time would agree that there is only one Yahweh. Does it mean there is only one who is worthy of worship? Well it would depend on what you mean by worship, since there are people who receive a kind of worship in the bible who are clearly not God. For this category of Jewish monotheism to be meaningful it needs to be defined and defended as a definitional category for Christianity.
Am I saying there were no Christians in the first 2 centuries of the Church that believed Jesus was Yahweh? No I’m not, I have no way of knowing, what I do know is that there is very little, if any, evidence for it. What I am saying is the claim that the belief that Jesus was Yahweh was definitional to early Christianity is patently and demonstrably false.
Nabeel has a definition that he presents from the bible in order to defend his view; he says:
I basically think what the New Testament says, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead you will be saved. Romans 10:9, the word Lord there is defined just a little bit further down it refers back to Joel chapter 2, so we’re talking about the Lord of the Hebrew bible.
Here we have some exegetical gymnastics going on. Here is the scripture, including the reference to Joel 2, Romans 10 (from the NRSV):
9 because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. 11 The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. 13 For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
The reference to Joel 2 is in verse 13, the original says (replacing the “Lord” of the NRSV with Yahweh):
32 Then everyone who calls on the name of the Yahweh shall be saved; for in Mount Zion and in Jerusalem there shall be those who escape, as the Yahweh has said, and among the survivors shall be those whom the Yahweh calls.
So is the Lord in verse 13 which is Yahweh defining the Lord that Jesus is in verse 9? Not at all. Let’s continue in verse 14 to 17:
14 But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? 15 And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” 16 But not all have obeyed the good news; for Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” 17 So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ
Now the Lord in verse 16 is clearly Yahweh, but notice what it says right after in verse 17:
ἄρα ἡ πίστις ἐξ ἀκοῆς, ἡ δὲ ἀκοὴ διὰ ῥήματος Χριστοῦ.
So calling on the lord, comes through faith, or believing, which comes through hearing the word “Dia Hreimatos Christou” Through sayings of Christ. Do you follow the logic? People call on the name of Yahweh, because of what is heard through Christ, through the message of Christ.
So verse 13 is not defining at all what the Kyriou of verse 9, rather it is setting up an appeal for evangelism, evangelism which brings people to worship Yahweh through the word of Christ. So is there any connection to verse 9? Absolutely, why would the word of Christ bring people to call on the name of Yahweh? It says it right there in verse 9, because God, Yahweh, raised Jesus from the dead.
So why was Jesus called Lord in verse 9? What does that mean? It means the same thing it means in just about every other time it is used in the New Testament in connection with Jesus, it means the Adoni of Psalms 110:1 The messianic Lord whose enemies Yahweh will make his footstool. It certainly is not a replacement for the divine name.
So both the historical and exegetical defense of the idea that the belief that Jesus was Yahweh was somehow definitional in early Christianity given by Nabeel Qureshi is completely false.