DID YESHUA THE MESSIAH

Have a Pre-Carnal Existence? - Chapter 13

 

Part II – The Enhanced Public Debate Presentation

 

By Larry Acheson

 

A Response to Chuck Henry’s book

Trinity, Oneness, Duality, and Pre-Existence

 


XIII.  The Historical Perspective

  

T

he historical perspective is a necessary part of this discussion because it’s important for us to know  how the early believers regarded Yeshua.  Historically, before the Trinity Doctrine was ever conceived, the understanding was that the Logos is the firstborn of all creation, and it was through this same Logos that the world was created.   Earlier, I touched on only ONE of Philo’s comments in which he recognized that the Logos is the physical manifestation of the Father, but Philo also wrote that this same logos is not only the firstborn son of the Almighty, but he is also the high priest.  This comes from a first century Jew who never even knew who Yeshua was.  Chuck doesn’t really go into the historical aspect of his belief and I surmise it’s because history is not on his side and he knows it.  As I mentioned during the Question & Answer session of the debate, “Notice that Chuck was unable to present any historical evidence of his own that any early believers shared his belief that Yeshua did not pre-exist, but rather was left to try to discredit the sources I presented.” 

      I also touched on The Book of Enoch.  This historical text makes reference to a Son of man who will come with ten thousands of his saints to execute judgment on the earth.  The Book of Enoch is quoted by Yeshua’s brother, Jude, in the Bible and in chapter 48 of this same book we learn that this Son of man existed before the creation of the world.

      Although Chuck Henry ignores The Book of Enoch, both in his book and during the debate, you can be certain, based on how it presents the pre-carnal existence of the “Son of man,” that he would like nothing better than to see this ancient writing discredited.  In Part Three of this study, I mentioned the fact that according to 3rd century theologian named Tertullian, one of the primary reasons that Judaism rejects the Book of Enoch is because of its many obvious references to Yeshua.[1]  Biblical Unitarians would reject it based on how it presents Yeshua.

      Of course, I also presented excerpts from the writings of Justin Martyr, including my reaction to Chuck’s ad hominem attack on this 2nd century theologian.  I’m not about to claim to agree with everything Justin Martyr believed or wrote, but I do find myself in agreement with His claim that the Logos, who he recognized as being the pre-incarnate Yeshua, is Elohim.  Here’s a statement from Justin Martyr that Chuck selected for criticism: 

Since if ye had understood what has been spoken by the prophets, you would not deny that He is Theos [Elohim], Son of the only and Unbegotten and Ineffable Theos [Elohim].[2] 

      This statement seems to go right along with Thomas’ open declaration that Yeshua is Elohim, which he made upon thrusting his hand into the resurrected Yeshua’s side.  As we know, a soldier’s spear pierced Yeshua’s side when He was crucified.  Displayed below is John 20:27-28: 

27 Then saith he to Thomas, Reach here thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach here thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.

28 And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Sovereign and my Elohim

      Justin Martyr referred to Yeshua as Elohim and was attacked for doing so by Chuck.  Thomas referred to Yeshua as His Elohim and Chuck essentially says, “That’s not what Thomas meant.”  Actually, Chuck’s exact words are, “… in this context, [Thomas is] referring to a person in a position of authority, such as a judge.”[3]  Displayed below is a screen capture of the pertinent page from Chuck’s book from which this quote is taken:

      It would seem, based on what I get from Chuck’s writings, he agrees that Yahweh the Supreme Most High Elohim is the only true Elohim, but if any true believers in the Bible refer to anyone else, including Yeshua, as “Elohim,” it must be “in the context” of some meaning other than deity.  In the case of Thomas, according to Biblical Unitarian reasoning, his referring to Yeshua as Elohim must surely, at least in this instance, be a reference to a person in a position of authority.  Conversely, if someone outside the Bible refers to Yeshua as Elohim, they become subjects of Chuck’s ad hominem attacks.

      In Part I of this study, I made reference to a third century theologian named Origen.  Origen is credited with devising the “origin” of the Trinity Doctrine (pardon the pun).  If the following excerpt from his writings reflects Trinitarian reasoning, then I guess I’m a Trinitarian.  According to current Trinitarian doctrine, Father, Son and Holy Spirit are One in essence and are co-eternal.  According to Origen, however, Yeshua “was born of the Father before all creatures,” i.e., He hasn’t always existed.  This remark from Origen comes very close to what we read above from the writings of Justin Martyr: 

Secondly, that Iesus Christos Himself, who came (into the world), was born of the Father before all creatures; that, after He had been the servant of the Father in the creation of all things—“For by Him were all things made”—He in the last times, di-vesting Himself (of His glory), became a man, and was incarnate although Theos [Elohim], and while made a man remained the Theos [Elohim] which He was; that He assumed a body like to our own, differing in this respect only, that it was born of a virgin and of the Holy Spirit: that this Iesus Christos was truly born, and did truly suffer, and did not endure this death common (to man) in appearance only, but did truly die; that He did truly rise from the dead; and that after His resurrection He conversed with His disciples, and was taken up (into heaven).[4] 

      Frankly, before composing this study, I had never read Origen’s commentary on the nature of Yeshua the Messiah.  In fact, since Origen is credited with the development of the Trinity doctrine, I really wasn’t all that interested in what he had to say on the subject.  As it turns out, Origen regarded the Trinity as a “hierarchy,” not that Father, Son and Holy Spirit were “co-equal.”  I find myself in full agreement with the above commentary by Origen, at least in principle. 

      Insofar as the belief that Yeshua had a pre-carnal existence, we have seen that Philo, a first-century Jew who most likely never knew who Yeshua was, Justin Martyr, and Origen all agreed that the Logos is the firstborn Son of the Almighty by whom all things were made.  This historical understanding spans two centuries.  During that time frame, the only Messianic believers who sided with today’s Biblical Unitarians were those who rejected most of the New Testament.  These are the Ebionites, a group of believers that I referenced in chapter 8 of this study. 

      Before I move on to the next piece of historical information, I would like to present another quote from Justin Martyr.  The following slide is one that I used during our “warm-up” debate of March 2019.  I felt that the entire quote was worthy of being read, but even during our warm-up debate I had to by-pass the slide due to time constraints.  I’m making it available here for those who would like to take the time to read it in its entirety:

      Due to the time constraints of the debate, I was compelled to shelve my historical information covering the intervening years between Justin Martyr and the ratification of the Trinity Doctrine, when the belief system I uphold was declared “anathema.”[5]  The one upheld by Chuck wasn’t even on anyone’s radar. 

      During the fourth century, the prevailing consensus was that Yeshua had a pre-carnal existence.  The only question to be decided was whether He was of the same substance as the Supreme Most High Elohim – or not.  The chief proponent of Yeshua not being of the same substance, which in turn means He had a “beginning,” was a man named Arius, who lived from 256 – 336 ce.  Here’s an excerpt from one of Arius’s writings: 

Some of them say that the Son is an eructation, others that He is a production, others that He is also unbegotten. These are impieties to which we cannot listen, even though the heretics threaten us with a thousand deaths. But we say and believe and have taught, and do teach, that the Son is not unbegotten, nor in any way part of the unbegotten; and that He does not derive his subsistence from any matter; but that by His own will and counsel He has subsisted before time and before ages as perfect as Theos [Elohim], only begotten and unchangeable, and that before He was begotten, or created, or purposed, or established, He was not. For He was not unbegotten. We are persecuted because we say that the Son has a beginning but that Theos [Elohim] is without beginning.[6] 

      As with Philo, Justin Martyr, Origen and now Arius, I do not necessarily agree with everything these scholars believed and taught.  Nevertheless, the common thread binding us all is the belief that Yeshua had a pre-carnal existence and that He had a beginning

      Although Chuck never addresses the historical perspective of the Biblical Unitarian belief system in either his book or during the debate, his book does offer a semi-historical timeline for when the Trinity Doctrine was officially adopted by Christianity.  That was in the year 325 CE, but Chuck omits the fact that the op-posing faction, which agreed with my position, eventually overturned the Church’s position and adopted the belief that Yeshua had a beginning Only later did the politico-religious powers that were in place again rise up to champion the Trinity Doctrine. 

      As previously mentioned (but it bears repeating), the only record that anyone ever supported Chuck’s position is the record of believers known as the Ebionites, but as I mentioned earlier in this study, these same Ebionites rejected all of the New Testament except the Hebrew Book of Matthew starting at chapter three, which means they certainly rejected the Apostle John’s record, and they considered the Apostle Paul to be an apostate.   Curiously, Chuck never mentions the Ebionites in either his book or during the debate.  I think he understands the negative implications of offering the Ebionites as his “historical support.”  Since Chuck’s historical timeline doesn’t include historical evidence that anyone who upheld the inspiration of the New Testament writings simultaneously supported the Biblical Unitarian position, it should be regarded as having no value. Chuck is essentially left to believe that while his view is the correct one, no credible believers in the record of history ever agreed with him.  Displayed below is the timeline offered by Chuck in his book: 

      Displayed below is an alternate timeline that I propose is more complete and more balanced than the one offered by Chuck.  It not only includes the historical data of those who shared my belief that Yeshua had a pre-carnal existence, but it includes the sketchy data concerning the Ebionites, as well as the first true Biblical Unitarians who, in spite of accepting the inspiration of the New Testament, nevertheless concluded that Yeshua did not exist prior to His conception in Miriam’s womb.  Please note, however, when this belief began to be circulated.  It began with a man named Miguel Serveto in the 16th century, i.e., over a millennium and a half after Yeshua’s resurrection.  I would ask, “Why didn’t anyone think of that before Miguel Serveto did?”  Could it be because it’s a misinterpretation of the Bible that wasn’t contrived until the 16th century? 

      I will here note that Miguel Serveto was burned at the stake for promoting his unorthodox Biblical view, a horrendous act that I vehemently oppose.  I remain persuaded that Yeshua is the appointed judge for these matters, not man. 

      Here is my alternate timeline:

      Some of you may wonder why I dwell so heavily on the record of history.  Well, if we didn't have an historical record, we would have a difficult time understanding how to apply much of Scripture to our lives.  For some perspective, please consider the following information: Thanks to the record of history, we know that the early believers were not lunar Sabbatarians; rather, they recognized a continuously-repeating weekly cycle with the 7th day falling on the day now known as Saturday.  In fact, if it weren't for the record of history, we would have no way of knowing that the day we call “Saturday” just happens to coincide with the day that, according to Jewish record, is traced to the seventh day of creation.  Unless all of Judaism collectively woke up one day and forgot what day of the week it was, we can be sure that the day our society calls “Saturday” is the day the ancient believers called “Shabbat.” 

      Not only that, but thanks to the record of such ancient historians as Josephus, we can agree that our interpretation of Scripture, which has each day beginning at sunset, is validated.  There are some who reject Josephus’ testimony and they begin the weekly Sabbath in the morning at dawn.  That’s how they interpret the Bible. 

      Thanks to the record of history, we know that Judaism acknowledges that in their history they promoted the free and open use of the Tetragrammaton. Anyone reading most translations of the Bible today would likely fall into the trap of believing that the Creator’s name is “too sacred to pronounce.”  In fact, that’s the reason most Bibles replace the Tetragrammaton with “the LORD” – to accommodate modern-day Jewish practice and belief.  Judaism also admits to changing the calendar from one of going by the visible sighting of the new moon crescent for determining when a month begins to a calculated calendar that begins each month in accordance with the conjunction of the moon, which is most certainly not visible to the naked eye.  Thanks to the record of history, we can know that the ancient practice of looking for the new moon crescent after sunset is the way the ancients began a new month, even though Scripture doesn’t specifically give us instructions for how to begin a new month. 

      I think it was in the year 2000 when I attended a debate between a man who agrees with our position that the Scriptural new month begins with the visible sighting of the new moon crescent after sunset and the other guy who believes the Scriptural new month begins with the conjunction of the moon, at which time the moon is not visible.  As I just mentioned, Scripture doesn't actually come out and clearly state either way, so indeed it’s a matter of interpretation and therefore a matter of controversy, which is why there was a debate.  At the conclusion of the debate, during the “Question & Answer” session, I asked the “conjunction supporter” if he had any historical evidence to validate his position.

      His response was to hold his Bible high above his head, much like the guy in the slide displayed below.  He had no words, just his Bible to proudly display before all.  Now I'm sure some folks watching the debate thought that was a terrific answer and on the surface it may seem like a debate-clincher.  However, let's face it, the other guy had also defended his reasoning with Scripture, but he also furnished historical testimony to back it up.  So anyone truly pondering the conjunction supporter's silent claim that the Bible is his “historical evidence” surely understands that he was going, not by Scripture and Scripture alone, but by his INTERPRETATION of Scripture and his INTERPRETATION of Scripture alone.  The other guy not only went by his interpretation of Scripture, but also by the corroborating record of history.

      When you ignore the record of history and instead go only with your interpretation of Scripture, you simultaneously open the door for lunar sabbatarians to bring in their doctrinal beliefs, all the while insisting that they go by Scripture and Scripture alone; when you ignore the historical record, you open the door for folks who believe the conjunction is the new moon to bring in their doctrine, the same with folks who believe the Sabbath begins at dawn, and yes, you also come up with folks who believe Yeshua did NOT have a pre-carnal existence.  Let’s go with the perfect blend of careful Scripture study complemented with historical precedence that this is what those who came before us likewise understood as being TRUE.  Thank you.

      I will close out this, Part II of my study, with the ONLY slide the hosting assembly chose to display during the video they made of my debate presentation.  The following slide is a one-page summary listing of the points I established during my presentation, none of which were refuted by Chuck.  For this study, I decided to squeeze in an extra “point”:

      Thank you for taking the time to consider my perspective of the discussion “Did Yeshua Have a Pre-Carnal Existence?”  For my concluding part of the discussion, Part III, I will offer the information presented at the 2019 Unity Conference that was held in Sterling, Illinois.


[1] Tertullian, in De cultu foeminarum (On the Apparel of Women), Book I, ch. 3An English translation of this work, authored circa 200 c.e., may be read online at the following link: www.newadvent.org/fathers/0402.htm.

[2] This excerpt is taken from Justin Martyr’s The Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter CXXVI:2.

[3] Chuck Henry, Trinity, Oneness, Duality and Pre-Existence, H.V. Chapman & Sons Bookbinders, Abilene, TX, 2018, p. 433.

[4] Origen (c. 185–c. 253), De Principiis, Preface, 4.  This work is available online at www.newadvent.org/fathers/04120.htm.

[5] “Anathema” is defined as “A curse, denunciation or condemnation pronounced with religious solemnity by ecclesiastical authority, and accompanied by excommunication; execration generally; curse; the person or object denounced or detested.” (New Webster’s Dictionary of the English Language, “anathema,” the Delair Publishing Company, Inc., 1971, p. 38.)

[6] Theodoret: “Arius’s Letter to Eusebius of Nicomedia,” translated in Heresy and Authority in Medieval Europe, by Edward Peters, p. 41.

  

                            [Previous chapter]          [Back to Intro]

  

Click here to access a full-length PDF file of this study.

 

 

First Publication, June 28, 2020

Edited July 19, 2020

 

 

 

 

 

A Truth Seekers Publication

Plano, Texas  75074-6010

 

www.ponderscripture.org 

 

 

 
`

 

 

 

This is the name of our Creator, Yahweh, sometimes called the Tetragrammaton.  It is given here in (A) the Phoenician script, (B) the Ivrit Kadum (Paleo-Hebrew) script, and (C) the Modern Hebrew script (a stylization of Aramaic).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

Thank You for visiting our website.  May Yahweh Bless you as you continue your search for truth.