DID YESHUA THE MESSIAH

Have a Pre-Carnal Existence? - Chapter 9

Part II – The Enhanced Public Debate Presentation

 

By Larry Acheson

 

A Response to Chuck Henry’s book

Trinity, Oneness, Duality, and Pre-Existence

 

 


 

 

IX.  Twice Martyred:

Chuck Henry's Ad Hominem Attack on Justin Martyr

       

  

J

ustin Martyr professed his faith in Yeshua the Messiah as His Saviour, but insofar as Biblical Unitarians are concerned, he was no better than a pagan idol worshipper, all because he taught that Yeshua had a pre-carnal existence.  Ironically, Justin Martyr was executed for refusing to worship idols.  In other words, if Justin Martyr had believed and taught that which Biblical Unitarians portray him as teaching, he would not have been beheaded by the Romans.  However, Biblical Unitarians living during that time period would have stoned Justin Martyr, not for refusing to worship idols, but for the exact opposite reason listed on the official 2nd century Roman court record.  Either way, he would have been executed – in essence twice martyred.

      Justin Martyr was born and raised a pagan, but circumstances led him to begin a quest for truth and he found it in Scripture.  He eventually founded his own school in Rome.  After a dispute with a philosopher, the latter denounced Justin to the authorities.  Justin and six companions were subsequently arrested.  All they had to do to secure their release was offer sacrifices to the Roman idols.  They refused, knowing that the penalty was to be scourged and beheaded.  According to the court record, all the martyrs said: “Do as you wish; for we are Christians, and we do not sacrifice to idols.”[1]  They were all executed. 

With this backdrop, let’s redirect our attention to Chuck’s debate commentary.  Once Chuck handed down his official judgment of Philo’s faith, he proceeded to malign Justin Martyr, as follows:[2] 

Also, Justin Martyr — Larry mentioned him. He’s considered one of the “Church Fathers,” quote, unquote.  He lived about 100 to 165 CE. He’s a Christian apologist; let’s look at a couple of statements by him, and I quote:

 

“...the Father of the universe has a Son; who also, being the first-begotten Word of God, is even God.”[3]

 

“… is even God,” Justin Martyr said.[4] 

      Larry’s interruption:  That’s not quite what Justin Martyr said.  Remember, Chuck is quoting from a translation of Justin Martyr’s writing and the translator didn’t get it quite right. Aside from the translation error, I find it truly puzzling that Chuck chose the above quote from Justin Martyr because Justin Martyr essentially wrote the same thing that the Apostle John wrote in John 1:1, the only difference being that neither John nor Philo ever referred to the Almighty as “God.”  I addressed Chuck’s use of “God” when quoting those opposed to his point of view in my previous chapter, but it’s something worth at least a small reminder in this one.  But to address my point, since both the Apostle John and Philo wrote that the Logos is Elohim, would Chuck likewise malign the Apostle John for writing the same thing as Philo? 

      It is also interesting that Chuck chose such a small snippet from Justin Martyr’s commentary found in “First Apology of Justin,” which he clearly read aloud to his audience without any regard to context, nor did Chuck reveal the source of the quote.  Thanks to Google, I was able to locate it.   Let’s take a look at an expanded excerpt of what Justin Martyr wrote: 

And if you wish to learn what follows, you can do so from the same writings; for it is impossible to relate the whole here.  But so much is written for the sake of proving that Yeshua the Messiah is the Son of the Almighty and His Apostle, being of old the Word [Logos], and appearing sometimes in the form of fire, and sometimes in the likeness of angels; but now, by the will of the Almighty, having become man for the human race, He endured all the sufferings which the devils instigated the senseless Jews to inflict upon Him; who though they have it expressly affirmed in the writings of Moses, “And the angel of Elohim spake to Moses in a flame of fire in a bush and said, I am that I am, the Almighty of Abraham, and the Almighty of Isaac, and the Almighty of Jacob,” yet maintain that He who said this was the Father and Creator of the universe.  Whence also the Spirit of prophecy rebukes them, and says, “Israel doth not know Me, my people have not understood Me.”  And again, Yeshua, as we have already shown, while He was with them, said, “No one knoweth the Father, but the Son; nor the Son but the Father, and those to whom the Son will reveal Him.”  The Jews, accordingly, being throughout of opinion that it was the Father of the universe who spake to Moses, though He who spake to him was indeed the Son of Elohim, who is called both Angel and Apostle, are justly charged, both by the Spirit of prophecy and by Messiah Himself, with knowing neither the Father nor the Son.  For they who affirm that the Son is the Father, are proved neither to have become acquainted with the Father, nor to know that the Father of the universe has a Son; who also, being the first-begotten Word of Elohim, is even Elohim.  And of old He appeared in the shape of fire and in the likeness of an angel to Moses and to the other prophets; but now in the times of your reign[5], having, as we before said, become a Man by a virgin, according to the counsel of the Father, for the salvation of those who believe on Him, He endured both to be set at nought and to suffer, that by dying and rising again He might conquer death.  And that which was said out of the bush to Moses, I am that I am, the Almighty of Abraham, and the Almighty of Isaac, and the Almighty of Jacob, and the Almighty of your fathers, this signified that they, even though dead, are let in existence, and are men belonging to Messiah Himself.  For they were the first of all men to occupy themselves in the search after the Almighty; Abraham being the father of Isaac, and Isaac of Jacob, as Moses wrote.[6] 

      No one likes being quoted out of context, but if you compare Chuck’s partial quote of a single sentence of Justin Martyr’s writing with the full quote above, you should notice a vast difference with the added context.  Chuck might say he only offered a clause from a single sentence out of his concern for time.  I would answer that if you cannot at least supply the context, then don’t bother offering the quote.  As it is, the intent is all too obvious:  Find whatever looks like “dirt” and throw it.  Chuck offered such a tiny sound byte from Justin Martyr, a snippet designed to malign and paganize a man whose writing, in full context, eloquently expresses what I myself hold to be true in my own study of the Word:  The Angel who appeared to Moses in the flame of fire from the burning bush is the same Angel who identified Himself as the Almighty of Abraham, and the Almighty of Isaac, and the Almighty of Jacob, then became a Man by a virgin and willingly suffered the agony of death for the sake of saving humanity from itself and the punishment of sin that we all deserve.  He conquered death and is now at the right hand of the Most High Supreme Elohim and Father of all.  But the greatest mystery surrounding Chuck’s attack strategy is that the very quote he attempts to demonize is nearly verbatim what the Apostle John wrote in John 1:1.  Let’s compare:

      The Apostle John literally states, “The Word was Theos [Elohim]” and Justin Martyr writes, “The firstborn Word of Theos [Elohim] is even Elohim.”  Since the Apostle John so clearly identifies Yeshua as the Word (Logos) who became flesh (Jn 1:14), everything Justin Martyr writes is in harmony with what John wrote: The Word is Yeshua, not the “Plan.”  In consequence to Justin Martyr’s identifying Yeshua as the Logos, Biblical Unitarian Chuck Henry publicly presents him as one who subverted Yahweh’s Word.  Let’s face it:  Chuck fingers Justin Martyr as an idol worshipper.  If Chuck’s words aren’t sufficient to validate this remark, I suggest listening once more to the tone he uses in his debate commentary.

      Chuck continues: 

Second quote [from Justin Martyr]:

 

“Since if ye had understood what has been spoken by the prophets, you would not deny that He is God, Son of the only and Unbegotten and Ineffable God.”[7]

 

Justin Martyr’s statement. 

      Larry’s interruption:  The above is more of the same from Chuck – this time it’s a clever sound byte taken from Justin Martyr’s Dialogue with Trypho, adversely punctuated with the title “God,” a title that Justin Martyr would never have used in reference to the Almighty.  I accessed the actual chapter from which Chuck quoted and once again, if you read what Justin Martyr wrote in full context and with amended titles, I agree with virtually everything he wrote.  Here’s an excerpt from chapter 126 with the portion that Chuck cited highlighted for easy reference: 

1. Now, Trypho, I said, if you had known who this is, who sometimes is called Angel of Great Counsel, and Man by Ezekiel, and as Son of Man by Daniel, and Child by Isaiah, and Messiah and Theos to be adored by David, and Messiah and Stone by many, and Wisdom by Solomon, and Joseph and Judah and Star by Moses, and Day-Spring by Zechariah, and liable to suffering and Jacob and Israel again by Isaiah, and Rod and Flower and Cornerstone and Son of Theou, you would not utter blasphemies against Him, when He has already come, and been born, and has suffered, and has ascended into heaven. Who shall also come again, and then shall your twelve tribes wail. 2. Since if ye had understood what has been spoken by the prophets, you would not deny that He is Theos, Son of the only and Unbegotten and Ineffable Theou. For thus it is said somewhere even by Moses in Exodus: Now YHWH spake unto Moses, and said unto him: I am YHWH, and I appeared unto Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, I their Theos, and my Name I did not make known to them, and I established my covenant with them. 3. And thus does he say again: A man was wrestling with Jacob, and He affirms that he is Theos. For he states that Jacob said, I saw Theos face to face, and my life was saved. And he wrote down that he also called the place where He wrestled with him, and appeared to him, and blessed him, The Vision [Form] of Theos.[8] 

      As with the previous quote from Justin Martyr’s First Apology, Justin Martyr once again emphasizes that Yeshua is the Angel with Whom Jacob wrestled and the Angel who spoke to Moses from the burning bush.  In other words, Yeshua is Elohim.  And for that, Chuck castigates him.  I’ll let Yeshua be the judge of who’s right and who’s wrong in this matter. 

 

Gnostic, Agnostic, Legalist, Heretic — Labels We Like to Pin on “Those People”
 

      Chuck concludes his ad hominem attack by giving it a name:  Gnosticism.  Frankly, although I had heard of Gnosticism, I didn’t really know what it meant, nor was it was ever on my radar because my concern is not so much about the different belief structures that have come and gone or the labels people tend to apply to individuals or groups who don’t see things their way.  I’ve been called things like “church-hopper,” “legalist,” “cultist” and, of course, “heretic.”  Yes, I know all about name-calling.  I try to not focus on the names or labels others pin on me because my focus has been on cultivating and deepening my relationship with Yahweh and His Son, learning more about Them, determining what Yahweh wants His children to do and then acting accordingly.  Were Philo and Justin Martyr Gnostics?  If so, what about such a belief structure would separate us?  Chuck associates Philo and Justin Martyr with Gnosticism, but first he offers his audience a definition of “Gnosticism.”  With that, I will now turn things over to Chuck: 

By the way, in the Second Century, Gnosticism was invading the early Assemblies.

 

Under “Gnosticism,” The Oxford Dictionary states,

 

A prominent heretical movement of the 2nd-century Christian Church, partly of pre-Christian origin.  Gnostic doctrine taught that the world was created and ruled by a lesser divinity, the demiurge, and that Christ was an emissary of the remote Supreme divine being, esoteric knowledge (gnosis) of whom enabled the redemption of the human spirit.

 

That’s under the article “Gnosticism,” from The Oxford Dictionary.[9]

 

Stephan A. Hoeller, a Gnostic Bishop, writes: “The True God of transcendence is unknown in this world; in fact, He is often called the Unknown Father.”  Unquote.

 

Thus, Gnostic doctrine includes the following assertions: The Supreme Being is remote and unknown in this world; a spokesman was thus necessary to communicate with man and the world was created by a lesser divinity.  Do these statements sound familiar? All are ingredients of pre-existence doctrine.[10] 

      Thus furnished with the above definition of “Gnosticism,” I have very little problem with identifying myself as a “Gnostic,” at least based on the above definition from The Oxford Dictionary.  With regard to the “heretical movement” clause, I’m sure Chuck understands that both he and I are considered “heretics” by nominal Christianity due to our mutual rejection of the Trinity Doctrine, and we wouldn’t we fare any better in the minds of Judaism.   Justin Martyr, though revered as a saint by the Catholic Church, would be branded a heretic if he were alive today because Gnosticism, by definition, rejects the doctrine of the Trinity.  You might say that, in the scheme of things, we’re in “no man’s land” – theologically rejected by normative Christianity, Judaism, Islam and, of course, secular society.  We can all at least rejoice together that we currently live in a nation where we are free to practice our faith. 

      The above definition cited by Chuck from The Oxford Dictionary posits that Gnostic doctrine taught that the world was created and ruled by a lesser divinity.  In principle, I agree with that premise, as does the Apostle John who, in reference to the Logos, wrote “All things were made by Him” (Jn 1:3, 10).  The Apostle Paul likewise agrees with our premise.  Ho wrote, “For by Him were all things created” (Col 1:16).  The author of Hebrews also stands with us.  He wrote that it was by the Almighty’s Son that the worlds were made (Heb 1:2).  So yes, we regard Yeshua as being in subjection to His Father, which is another way of expressing that He’s a “lesser divinity.”  That’s not quite how I would word it, but I get the point and I agree with its premise.  The definition goes on to describe Yeshua as an Emissary of the remote Supreme divine Being.  An Emissary is in many ways functions as a Mediator, and as such, that’s an accurate description of “Who” Yeshua is.  He’s the Mediator between us and His Father.  In summary, Chuck attempts to lampoon the definition of Gnosticism, but in the end, he’s only fighting against truth.  In the end, truth wins. 

      When Bible authors such as John and Paul wrote that all things were made by Him in reference to Yeshua, Biblical Unitarians answer, “Well, those verses could have been translated, ‘all things were made for Him.’”  But then along comes Philo, who wrote, “Now the image of the Almighty is the Logos, by which all the world was made.”  Philo, to the disdain of Biblical Unitarians, thus validates our interpretation of such verses as John 1:3, John 1:10, Hebrews 1:2 and Colossians 1:16.  Do you now see why Chuck wants to remove Philo from the discussion? 

      Much of the foregoing commentary, especially beginning with chapter six, considerably expounds upon and expands my commentary from the debate.  That’s because not only do I intend to present what I would have presented in May 2019 before needing to whittle things down to the agreed-upon 45-minute time frame, but I also feel the need to incorporate my reactions to Chuck’s reactions as I go along.  There is no way I ever thought I would be defending the likes of Philo and Justin Martyr against Chuck’s ad hominem attacks, so it becomes more of a challenge for me to bring Philo into the discussion when I know Biblical Unitarians have already made up their minds that he was a confused pagan philosopher.  For those unbiased souls out there, I have defended Philo and Justin Martyr against the attacks.  Although I brought them up here at this juncture of my presentation, they will both come up again as I wind things down.


[1] C.f., The Catholic Encyclopedia , Vol. 8, article “St. Justin Martyr,” by Jules Lebreton, Robert Appleton Company, New York, NY, 1910.  The full article may be read online at the following link:  https://www.catholic.org/encyclopedia/view.php?id=6554

[2] Chuck’s commentary on Justin Martyr begins at the 1 hour, 26 minute, 58 second mark of the debate video.

[3] This partial quote is taken from the First Apology of Justin, chapter LXIII.  As previously mentioned, we need to keep in mind that neither Justin Martyr nor the Apostle John ever referred to the Almighty as “God.”  Instead, they employed the generic Greek term for the Almighty, which is Theos.  I prefer the universally accepted English translation “the Almighty.”  I am persuaded that Chuck intentionally preserved the translator’s choice of translating Theos as “God” for added effect during the debate, as though Justin Martyr was a “god worshipper.”  The title “God” can be traced to the idol named God, who was worshipped by those who had forsaken Yahweh (cf., the Hebrew text of Isaiah 65:11).  For more information, we invite you to read our study Tracing the Origin of the Word “God” or God’s Identity According to Ancient Hebrew Scholars.

[4] In case you didn’t listen to Chuck’s presentation during the debate, this comment was made in a disparaging tone, mocking Justin Martyr’s words.  However, please note that Justin Martyr essentially wrote the same thing that the Apostle John wrote in John 1:1 – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with Elohim, and the Word was Elohim.”  Does Chuck wish to likewise malign the Apostle John in the same way that he attempts to malign Justin Martyr?  Again, keep in mind that neither Justin Martyr nor the Apostle John ever referred to the Almighty as “God.”  Instead of using “God,” they employed the generic Greek term for the Almighty, which is Theos.

[5] “Your reign” is a reference to Roman Emperor Antoninus Pius.

[6] From The First Apology of Justin, Chapter LXIII – “How the Almighty Appeared to Moses.”  Note:  Since it is known that Justin Martyr did not refer to the Almighty as “God,” I rendered Theos as “the Almighty” in my citation.  I also refer to the Messiah as “Yeshua the Messiah” instead of “Jesus Christ.” Justin’s work is available online at such locations as the following link:

https://books.google.com/books/about/The_Sacred_Writings_of_Justin_Martyr_Ann.html?id=0wZJvQqqrSsC

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

[8] Justin Martyr, The Dialogue with Trypho, Chapter CXXVI:1-2, translated by A. Lukyn Williams, D.D., The MacMillan Co., New York, NY, 1930, pp. 260-261.  This writing may be accessed online at the following link:  https://earlychurch.org.uk/pdf/e-books/williams_a-lukyn/dialogue-with-trypho_williams.pdf

[9] The Oxford English Dictionary, originally published by Oxford University Press.  In his book, Chuck supplies the following link to access the definition of Gnosticism https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/us/gnosticism.  When I try accessing this link, it redirects me to the following web site:

https://www.lexico.com/en/definition/gnosticism

[10] This concludes Chuck’s commentary on Justin Martyr.

        

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First Publication, June 28, 2020

Edited August 16, 2020

 

 

 

 

 

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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).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

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