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Jesus – Trinitarian or Biblical Unitarian?

Anthony Buzzard

“For a Jew the word God could mean one Person only…The use of the word God for Jesus would have seemed to have been an infringement of monotheism, whereas by calling Jesus Lord they confessed that he was associated with his Father in the exercise of authority.”[1]

“In my view Christianity should be much more tightly focused upon Jesus’ words than it usually has been in the past…The real Jesus is a much more interesting and religiously relevant figure than the divine Christ of later faith and he [the real Jesus] has the advantage of having actually lived.”[2]

“In the teaching of Jesus Christ, God is preeminently the Father.”[3]

“Forget the pseudo-orthodox attempts to make Jesus of Nazareth conscious of being the second Person of the Trinity…The word Messiah had of course nothing to do with Trinitarian or incarnational theology.”[4]

The Lord our God is one Lord. 
                                   – Jesus (Mark 12:29)

The original Jesus was a Jew who recited and affirmed as the center of true theology the unitarian creed of Israel. Attempts to expand that creed, on the basis of the Bible, into a Trinitarian one have failed, as historians and many Bible experts recognize. The creed of Jesus must on no account be modified. To do so is to risk compromise with paganism.

The original Jesus is not only a confirmed unitarian, underlining the creed of Israel. He himself is the one whose “genesis” or origin (Matt. 1:1, 18) is spelled out for us in the clearest terms in Matthew’s and Luke’s opening chapters. Jesus is the Son of God who is rooted in a miraculous human history (Luke 1:35) and specifically by divine promise in the history of Israel. He is the “Jesus Christ” who came “in the flesh” (not “into the flesh,” as mistranslated by Luther[5] ), that is to say as an originally human, historical person, a member of the human race. This is John’s yardstick for our grasp of the true spirit (1 John 4:1-6).

The original Jesus is not a pre-historical person. That would not fit the profile of the son of David promised as Messiah by the Hebrew Bible. Once his history is moved out of history and outside time and space, the faith loses its anchor in history and in fact. We are then left adrift on the stormy seas of speculation and fantasy.

According to the prophets of Israel one day the whole world will indeed recognize the God of Israel as the one true God: “And the LORD will be king over all the earth; in that day there will be one LORD and His name one” (Zech. 14:9). Jesus will be acknowledged too, not as Almighty God, but as the unique servant of that one God. He will be recognized for who he truly is, “the Son of God, the Messiah” (Matt. 16:16), and “the man Messiah Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5), the mediator between the One God and mankind to whom all judgment has been delegated: “The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son” (John 5:22).

1 Timothy 2:5, defining the One God as the Father, distinct from the man Messiah Jesus, if believed, could in an instant revolutionize two thousand years of distorted theology and enable us to return to our Jewish roots in Jesus. No other testimony is really needed when once the words of Paul’s creed are grasped: “There is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Messiah Jesus.” Could not the creed of Jesus and Paul provide a rallying point, at least a center of intense conversation, between millions of Jews and a billion Christians, and of course more than a billion Muslims?

Liberal Christians are very much aware of the early loss of the Jewish creed from the faith, but they do not regard this defection from the Bible as very serious, holding a low view of Scripture. Evangelicals however regard the Bible as authoritative but have so far been unwilling to face the difference between their creed and that of Jesus. In fact they are the ones who have shown the most ingenuity in attempting the hopeless task of finding the Trinity in the Bible, even in the Old Testament. By cobbling together their case using a small number of verses, taken out of the overall biblical context, they try to turn the New Testament writers into Trinitarians or at least people struggling to become Trinitarians!

In practice Trinitarian proof texts are taken almost exclusively from John and Paul with some help from Hebrews. But the doctrine of God must be established across the whole range of Scripture, certainly not neglecting the Old Testament in which the New is rooted. The fact that Jesus’ creed was not a Trinitarian creed does not seem to disturb or deter evangelicals. This is because of the enormous emphasis they place on the death of Jesus rather than on his teaching. Many evangelicals seem to view Paul as the founder of the faith they recognize as Christian and forget that Jesus was the original preacher of the Gospel and that the Apostles describe as the greatest peril of all, the failure to hear and heed the words of Jesus (Heb. 2:3; 1 Tim. 6:3; 2 John 7-9; 1 John 5:20). Being Christlike should surely include believing the same creed as Jesus (Mark 12:28-30).

The problem requiring resolution is simply this: Jesus must be taken seriously in the matter of defining God. The sacred birth narratives of Matthew and Luke were designed as definitive accounts of the supernatural origin of Jesus as descendant of David and Son of God. That picture should have guaranteed that the human Messiah remain at the center of Christian faith.

However, under the distorting influence of a post-biblical philosophical theology from the Greek world, the writings of John and Paul were made to support the later creeds. John and Paul were found to be the most susceptible to “interpretation” in support of that later “revised” view of God and Jesus. But they have been made to say what they did not intend. The post-biblical creeds have simply been read into them and not out of them. They have thus been made to disturb the cardinal unitarian creed of Jesus, something they never intended. John and Paul have been turned into servants of creeds they did not recognize. They should rather be read in harmony with the Hebrew Bible and synoptic and Acts accounts of Jesus which preserve, as the primary data about his person, his descent from King David and his supernatural status as Son of God, not God Himself. Only then will the God of Jesus be honored as the single unrivaled God of the universe.

Buzzard, Anthony (2007). Excerpt from – A Future for Monotheism. In, Jesus Was Not a Trinitarian (pp. 380-384). Restoration Fellowship.


[1] D.E.H. Whiteley, The Theology of St. Paul, Blackwell, 1980, 106.

[2] Don Cupitt, The Debate About Christ, 138.

[3] “God,” International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, 1983 ed., 2:1261.

[4] N.T. Wright, “The Historical Jesus and Christian Thought,” Sewanee Theological Review 39, 1996.

[5] “In das Fleisch gekommen” (1 John 4:2; 2 John 7). Other German versions corrected the mistake by translating the Greek en sarki “im Fleisch.”

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