Ponder Scripture Newsletter
  
By Larry and June Acheson
 
 
W
ith the seemingly endless array of Bible-based articles, newsletters and other publications currently available on the Internet, there is a veritable "information overload" of sorts when it comes to searching for various Bible-related topics.  Since there is already an abundance of Bible-related topics to choose from, you can well imagine that one could devote his or her full time to reading these studies.  June and I have added our share of studies to cyberspace, some of which are very lengthy.  Indeed, some topics require lengthy explanations to provide in-depth answers.  On this page, however, we want to keep things as "short and sweet" as possible.  While we primarily gear our writings to those who share our understanding that the Torah is relevant for believers today, anyone is welcome to read and offer feedback; however, due to our schedules, we cannot guarantee a quick turn-around response time.  We invite you to direct all correspondence to seekutruth at aol dot com.

Newsletter #27  

 

The Debate: Did Yeshua the Messiah Have a

Pre-Carnal Existence?

By Larry,Acheson

09/22/2019

 

I
n June 2019, I held my first-ever public debate with a gentleman named Chuck Henry.  As you can tell from the title of this newsletter, the topic was whether or not Yeshua the Messiah had a pre-carnal existence.  Although I was definitely “rough around the edges,” I am persuaded that the points I made established my position as being the correct one, and since those points were not refuted by Chuck, I am moreover persuaded that I won the debate.  Chuck’s strategy was to establish that Yahweh is One (which I already agree with 100%), that Yahweh alone created the heavens and the earth (which I already agree with 100%) and that Yeshua came as a Man (which I already agree with 100%).  However, where we primarily disagree is whether or not the angel who identified Himself as Yahweh was a mere angel or if this could have been Yeshua in His pre-carnal form, the physical manifestation of Yahweh that mankind can look upon face to face without suffering death.  Chuck did not mention anything in his commentary refuting my claim that this angel was the pre-incarnate Yeshua, who later divested ("emptied") Himself of His spiritual form to become a flesh and blood man (Philippians 2:5-11).

    To be sure, I have never billed myself as a speaker.  Over the years, as those who know me will attest, I have said, “I’m a seeker, not a speaker.”  I would rather not speak out on my beliefs, but if no one else will, I will, and that is partly why I challenged Chuck to this debate.  One reason I have shunned debates is because in a typical debate you are expected to come up with quick answers to challenging questions.  I have never really been able to do that effectively, even though the answers to those challenging questions shouldn’t have been difficult for my brain to retrieve.  It’s always been a few minutes after I have given weak answers that I come up with the best answer.  I imagine all of us have experienced this phenomenon to some degree, which is why the saying “Hindsight is 20/20” is so popular.  However, I have observed that some folks are better equipped than I am to give quick answers that at the time seem reasonable.  Ten years ago, I learned that what I actually experience is part of a handicap widely known as ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), and to cope I have worked on ways to avoid putting myself in situations where I am called upon to give quick answers.  In fact, this goes right along with what we read in the book of James, where we are cautioned to be swift to hear, but slow to speak.  So how do I challenge someone to a debate if I need to simultaneously cope with my ADHD handicap?  Is there a way for someone with ADHD to participate in a debate while coping with his or her handicap?  Yes, there is.

     I don’t mean to come across as negative, nor do I like making excuses.  However, the fact remains that due to my ADHD diagnosis, I requested and was actually granted, exactly two months ahead of the debate, one hour in which to read and review audience questions before answering them.  At least I thought my request was granted.  Only minutes before the debate began, I was pressured into reducing that hour to 20 minutes (a compromise of sorts from the 15 minutes that they at first tried pressuring me into).  I need to explain that another symptom of ADHD folks is impulsiveness, i.e., making quick decisions that are not always in one’s best interests.  I suppose it’s because of this latter symptom that I agreed to the 20 minutes.  I’m not sure why I was pressured into this decision because it had no bearing either way on when the debate would end.  I needed time to read and review questions, and possibly a little time to do some quick research before coming up with the most accurate and cohesive answers, but instead we were given 20 minutes to read and prepare answers and an hour to deliver them!  I didn't need an hour to answer questions -- I needed an hour to read, ponder, reflect, research -- whatever it took to produce the most accurate answers.  Was the brand new and unexpected format a pre-debate strategy?

     One thing I have found to be true:  Many folks who do not have ADHD do not understand why those with ADHD need special accommodations, even when requested.  Such was eventually the case with Chuck.  Even though I had fully explained my need in February 2019 to what I thought was his understanding, he nevertheless counter-proposed, a little over a month later, a debate format in which I would give a rebuttal to his presentation a mere five minutes after he finished.  Needless to say, I was stunned to the point of backing out of the debate.  Only after I counter-proposed a compromise debate format that would eliminate rebuttals and instead give each of us an hour to mull over audience questions before answering them did we reach an agreement to proceed with the debate.  Of course, as is now known, even that agreed-upon format was not accommodated.  For those who would like a summary overview of what those who have ADHD experience, here’s the link to a WedMD article.

     Someone who doesn’t have ADHD might be tempted to say, “Well, if you have ADHD, then you have no business debating anyone.”  That is a narrow-minded approach, especially if no one else cares to speak out against what they feel is “Scripture abuse,” and even more so if the ADHD individual requests some reasonable accommodations.  Not only were my requests reasonable, but Chuck initially agreed, as seen from a text exchange that we had in February 2019:

     In addition to the one-hour time frame that I requested for reading/mulling over answers to audience questions, I requested accommodation for a PowerPoint presentation.  My request was granted and in fact, my presentation for the most part went off “without a hitch.”  However, once again, I am left to wonder what’s going on because when the YouTube video of our debate was pieced together, my PowerPoint presentation was left off – except for my “Summary” slide, which was displayed for a few seconds.  It would appear that a camera recorded the entire PowerPoint presentation, but they elected to not use it for the YouTube video.  To be sure, cutting out the PowerPoint presentation diminishes the effectiveness of my overall presentation, impacting my presentation much more than it did Chuck’s, who for the most part read excerpts from a PDF version of his book.

     The YouTube video was posted online on September 6, 2019 and I found it the very next day.  I only located the video the day after which it was posted because I had been looking for it nearly every day, hoping it would never show up!  I had been performing Google searches on a near-daily basis using Chuck’s name, my name and the word “debate” as my search criteria.  My point in sharing the fact that I had to find this video on my own with diligent, near-daily searching is to establish the fact that no one let me know about the posting – I only found out because of my persistent online searches.  Curiously, a few days later, two individuals who lean heavily in favor of Chuck’s position posted comments heralding Chuck as the “winner.”  I find it interesting that these two individuals just "happened" to know about the video posting so quickly after it found its way online.  Somehow I doubt that they were performing the near-daily Google searches that I was doing, i.e., it looks like those of Chuck’s persuasion may have been given a “heads up” that I was not (can you say, "Tipped off"?).  This accommodation would allow these individuals to quickly give a “thumbs down” on my presentation without giving me an opportunity to defend myself.  This tactic is only one more item in a growing list of unfair practices exhibited by Chuck and whoever assisted with compiling and posting the video online.

     In spite of the negative reviews I was given, in spite of the last-minute decision to pressure me to reduce the previously agreed-upon time frame for reviewing audience questions, I maintain that I won the debate.  Proving this can be as simple as my pointing out that no one has (as of yet) demonstrated that I was mistaken in any of the points I made during my presentation.  If I had to select the one point on which Chuck’s premise absolutely fails, it’s his ill-conceived decision to add by interpretation the word “ordained” to the text of Micah 5:2.  Ironically, although it seems that whoever pieced together the debate video deliberately chose to cut out my PowerPoint presentation, he inadvertently captured my “bottom line” critical issue with Chuck’s treatment of Micah 5:2.  Adding the word “ordained,” whether by interpretation or infusing it directly, completely overhauls the meaning of the verse.  Here’s what Micah 5:2 says:

And you, O Bethlehem of Ephrath, least among the clans of Judah, from you one shall come forth to rule Israel for Me – One whose origin is from of old, from ancient times.

       The above translation is taken from the Jewish Publication Society’s Tanakh – The Holy Scriptures, where they position the text as verse one of the chapter.  I choose the Jewish Publication Society’s translation of the above verse, not only because it’s a faithful rendering of the Hebrew text, but also because Jewish believers do not recognize Yeshua as the Messiah.  In other words, they have no “axe to grind” and since they are such huge promoters of the Shema, which holds that there is no Elohim but One, they would have much the same incentive as Chuck to make the verse read differently.  But they don’t.

      Here's a screen shot from the portion of the debate where the videographer inadvertently captured the bottom line issue of what Chuck must do in order to drum up Scriptural support for his doctrinal position — manipulate Scripture:

        Here’s a “full screen” shot of the actual slide from my presentation:

        I eventually plan on putting together a full study of my own on this subject, which I hope will incorporate all the slides from my original presentation, as well as a follow-up presentation that I delivered at the 2019 Unity Conference in Sterling, Illinois.     

       Update:  I have completed Part 1 of the study, titled "Did Yeshua the Messiah Have a Pre-Carnal Existence?  The Overview," which is available here.

       Update (06/28/2020):  I have completed Part 2 of the study, titled "Did Yeshua the Messiah Have a Pre-Carnal Existence?  The Enhanced Public Debate Presentation," which is available here.

       The videographer did manage to incorporate ONE full slide of my PowerPoint presentation into his featured video, and that slide is a very brief summary of the points I brought forth:

     As stated previously, Chuck offered no refutation of any of the points I brought out in my presentation.

     In spite of my lack of debate experience, I think I handled myself pretty well, but I try to be objective, so I will acknowledge my weaknesses:

     1) I was nervous, knowing that I was the proverbial sheep in the lion’s den, plus I don’t really like being either photographed or videoed (another reason for why I wanted the PowerPoint presentation to be displayed).  I wanted it to be about the presentation, not about me.

     2) I was rushing to finish my presentation within the allotted 45-minute time frame.  This, plus my nervousness, contributed to my non-relaxed delivery.  Chuck and I had what I call a private pre-debate warm-up three months earlier in which I had been so focused on researching this issue that I wasn’t able to condense all of my findings into our then-agreed-upon 30-minute time frame by the date of our debate.  By then I had accumulated over two hours of material and I didn’t know what I could leave out, so Chuck graciously allowed me to present most of what I had accumulated that day; nevertheless, my failure to condense things in time for that March 2019 “debate” had a detrimental impact on our relationship and I didn’t want to repeat this “overload” scenario in June.  As a result, I over-compensated, finishing my presentation well in advance of the allotted 45 minutes, but in the rushed format as observed on the video.

     3) This is the worst part:  I was completely out of character for the “Question & Answer” portion of the debate.  Again, to emphasize this weakness, it is attributed to my ADHD diagnosis.  I know how to compensate for this handicap, and that is for me to allow questions to “marinate” before answering them.  In the Bible, we are cautioned about being “swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath” (James 1:19).  As mentioned earlier, I cited this verse to Chuck via text back in February 2019, suggesting that we use it as an explanation for the “breaks” that I really needed between the presentations segment and the rebuttals.  On a personal level, I would prefer to give Chuck time to ponder any challenging questions rather than hoping he comes up with lame “kneejerk” responses that he regrets later.  I hoped that he would have had the same concern for my answers.  After all, should we be more concerned about accommodating an impatient audience or about mutually agreeing on the truth?  And if there are impatient spectators, why did they come in the first place?  As Yeshua asked His disciples, “What, could ye not watch with me one hour?

MISSED OPPORTUNITIES:

     Although this wasn’t a “debate + rebuttal” style of debate, I definitely missed some excellent opportunities to rebut some of Chuck’s comments.  While I definitely attribute some of those missed opportunities to the reduced time frame allotted for reviewing & answering questions, I am certain that many debate participants, after the debate is over, share the same regrets that I do.  No matter what, there will always be something that, in hindsight, you wish you would have picked up on and addressed better than you did.  My primary oversight is Chuck’s handling of 1st century Jew named Philo of Alexandria.  I actually covered Philo during our March “warm-up” and I thought Philo’s insights into “logos” would have a positive influence on Chuck, especially since he had no problem with my citing Philo as a valuable historical reference for our shared views on such matters as the calendar in determining the start of a new Scriptural year, the new moon being the first visible crescent after sunset each month as opposed to the conjunction, the count to Pentecost, the continuously-repeating pattern of the weekly Sabbath, and abortion.  I had no idea that when it came to Philo’s view on the logos that Chuck would consequently plan an ad hominem attack, attempting to make Philo look like a pagan philosopher who was more into Plato than Yahweh’s Word.  Talk about “throwing out the baby with the bathwater!” Chuck also openly mocked Philo’s claim that there is a “lesser deity” (Elohim), essentially presenting Philo as an idolater who betrayed the Shema (that Yahweh is ONE).  In response to these claims, I should have made the following points:

      1) First and foremost, I don’t really need Philo to establish my case that Yeshua had a pre-carnal existence as the Logos, but it sure helps knowing that my personal interpretation of Scripture has the support of historical evidence.  The same could be said in support of Justin Martyr and others, such as Arius, whose name was not mentioned during the debate.  These are ancient witnesses who just happen to have agreed with my own personal interpretation of Scripture.  By contrast, Chuck presented zero (0) historical evidence in support of his position, instead going by his interpretation of Scripture and his interpretation alone.

      2) In spite of Chuck’s attempt to mock Philo’s claim that there’s a “second Theos” (Elohim), the fact is, Philo’s claim has the support of Scripture.  For a quick validation of this, please re-read the account of Jacob wrestling with the angel in Genesis 32.  Please note that Jacob did not wrestle with Yahweh, even though he thought he did (Gen. 32:31)!  Jacob actually wrestled with an angel, as plainly explained by the prophet Hosea in chapter 12:2-4:

2Yahweh hath also a controversy with Judah, and will punish Jacob according to his ways; according to his doings will he recompense him.

3He took his brother by the heel in the womb, and by his strength he had power with Elohim:

4Yea, he had power over the ANGEL, and prevailed: he wept, and made supplication unto him: he found him in Beth-el, and there he spake with us;

      So according to Genesis 32:24, Jacob wrestled with a man.  According to Hosea 12:4, this “man” was an angel According to the previous verse, this “angel” was Elohim.  Was this “Elohim angel man” the pre-incarnate Yeshua?  I believe it was, but regardless of “who” it was, the fact remains that this Being was a “lesser elohim,” the physical manifestation of Yahweh:

Genesis 32:28 – And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with Elohim and with men, and hast prevailed.

      So just to be clear, Jacob did not wrestle with Yahweh, but he DID wrestle with Elohim, a physical manifestation of Yahweh.  Like it or not, this is a "second Elohim."

      Is Yeshua an Elohim?  At the 2:23:16 mark of the debate, Chuck states, “The fact that the Messiah is an image of Elohim proves that He is NOT Elohim.”  Yet, in Psalms 45:6 we read, “Your throne, O Elohim, is forever and ever; a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom.”  This verse is a reference to Yeshua, as confirmed by Hebrews 1:8, so contrary to Chuck’s teaching, Yeshua IS an Elohim.  Is Abraham ever called an elohim?  Is Moses ever called an elohim?  Daniel?  I'm trying to think of any specific man who is ever referred to as “elohim" in the sense of what is known as deity  I know of only one man, the Man Yeshua.  Even “doubting Thomas” called Yeshua His Elohim.

     So yes, Philo did indeed understand that there is a second Elohim.  And so does Scripture.  That is the Elohim, the Logos who spoke the world into existence, it’s the Elohim who wrestled with Jacob, it’s the Elohim who spoke to Moses from the burning bush and it’s the same Elohim who spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai.  This is the physical manifestation of Yahweh, identified by Philo as the Logos, the same identity given by the Apostle John (John 1:1-3).  Will Chuck likewise perpetrate an ad hominem attack on the Apostle John?  Chuck offers a name for this interpretation of Scripture:  Gnosticism.  I call it the plain understanding of Scripture.

      Here are a couple of PowerPoint slides from the private warm-up debate that was held in our home on March 9, 2019:

      It will require an extensive study to fully address Chuck's eloquent misrepresentation of Scripture.  If Chuck and the moderator would agree to go with the originally-agreed-upon debate format, I would be willing to schedule a follow-up debate with Chuck.  I don’t look for this to ever happen, but I’m throwing it out there anyway.

 

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