Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

A Rebuttal to Shabir Ally’s Response to Dr. James White Pt. 4h

Sam Shamoun

We pick up from where we left off.

In one of the Pastoral Epistles (PE), Paul refers to Christ in such a way as to leave absolutely no doubt that he believed that the risen Lord is Yahweh in the flesh (even though he is not the Father or the Holy Spirit):

“awaiting our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ (tou megalou theou hemon kai Soteros Iesou Christou), who gave himself for us to redeem us from all iniquity and to purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds.” Titus 2:13-14

The blessed Apostle employs what is called a Granville Sharp construction to identify Christ as our great God and Savior. We will allow Dr. White explain this grammatical rule:

“Basically, Granville Sharp's rule states that when you have two nouns, which are not proper names (such as Cephas, or Paul, or Timothy), which are describing a person, and the two nouns are connected by the word ‘and,’ and the first noun has the article (‘the’) while the second does not, *both nouns are referring to the same person*. In our texts, this is demonstrated by the words ‘God’ and ‘Savior’ at Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1. ‘God’ has the article, it is followed by the word for ‘and,’ and the word ‘Savior’ does not have the article. Hence, both nouns are being applied to the same person, Jesus Christ. This rule is exceptionless. One must argue solely on theological grounds against these passages. There is truly no real grammatical objection that can be raised. Not that many have not attempted to do so, and are still trying. However, the evidence is overwhelming in favor of the above interpretation…

“The vital point that is available to the reader of Sharp's work is this: *Sharp's rule is valid only for singulars, not plurals; and it is not intended to be applied to proper names*. His rule only applies to persons, not things. As you can see, Granville Sharp's rule is much more limited in its scope than the more modern definitions reveal.

“Does this more accurate and definite definition make a big difference? Indeed it does! There are 79 occurrences of ‘Granville Sharp’ constructions in the writings of Paul, using Vaughn and Gideon's definition. Hence, here we have constructions that mix singulars and plurals, descriptions of places and things, and constructions that reflect both nouns as having the article. A quick glance over the list reveals a maximum of 15 exceptions, and a minimum of five. Even this ratio would be considered very good for a general rule of grammar. However, Sharp claimed that the rule *always* held true. Obviously, if the modern versions of his rule are accurate, Sharp was not. But when the constructions in the New Testament that truly follow Granville Sharp's rule are examined, a very unusual thing happens: *it is found to be entirely exceptionless!* As Robertson quotes from Sharp's work, ‘But, though Sharp's principle was attacked, he held to it and affirms (p. 115) that though he had examined several thousand examples of this type, "the apostle and high priest of our confession Jesus" (Heb. 3:1), he had never found an exception.’(5) From my own research, I concur with Sharp. The rule, in its pure form, is exceptionless.” (“Granville Sharp's Rule: Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1”; bold and underline emphasis ours)

As Dr. White correctly noted, there are no exceptions to this rule within the inspired pages of the NT writings.

Therefore, since Titus 2:13 follows this construction perfectly there is simply no denying that the blessed Apostle is indeed calling Christ our great God and Savior who offered himself up for the purpose of redeeming and purifying a people from their sins so as to make them his cherished possession! 

However, Paul could only identify Jesus as our great God if he thought Christ is Yahweh Incarnate, since the Holy Bible plainly teaches Yahweh is the only God that is great:

For thou art great and doest wondrous things, thou alone art God.” Psalm 86:10

“For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods.” Psalm 95:3

Moreover, this isn’t the only place where Paul spoke of Christ offering himself for the redemption of his people:

“For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, the testimony to which was borne at the proper time.” 1 Timothy 2:5-6

The blessed Apostle’s statements echo what the Lord Jesus himself taught his disciples while he was on earth:

“For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45 – cf. Matthew 20:28

“for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” Matthew 26:28 – cf. Mark 14:24

This provides further confirmation that Jesus is God Almighty in the flesh since the inspired Scriptures plainly teach that no man is capable of ransoming another human soul, let alone countless numbers of lives (cf. Revelation 7:9-17). The Holy Bible expressly says that this is a divine work which only God can carry out since he alone is able to redeem and purify individuals from their sins in order make them a people for his own possession:

“Truly no man can ransom himself, or give to God the price of his life, for the ransom of his life is costly, and can never suffice, that he should continue to live on for ever, and never see the Pit… But God will ransom my soul from the power of Sheol, for he will receive me. Selah” Psalm 49:7-9, 15

If thou, O Lord, shouldst mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand? But there is forgiveness with thee, that thou mayest be feared… O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is plenteous redemption. And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.” Psalm 130:3-4, 7-8

“They shall not defile themselves any more with their idols and their detestable things, or with any of their transgressions; but I will save them from all the backslidings in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them; and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.” Ezekiel 37:23 – cf. Exodus 19:5-6

Hence, the so-called Deutero-Pauline epistles depict Jesus as being both subordinate to God as well as being fully God in essence, which is why he is portrayed as accomplishing the very tasks and functions that the OT ascribes to Yahweh:

“… The Pastorals view Christ as subordinate to God yet accord him, as a past and also yet-to-come manifestation of God, the same titles as God. Here he receives the very name of God… Biblical promises made by God (Ezek 37:23; Ps 130:8; Exod 19:5) are accomplished through Christ’s self-giving.” (Robert A. Wild, S. J., “The Pastoral Epistles,” The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, p. 895)

Now it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Paul would speak of Jesus being our great God and Savior, since everything that the blessed Apostle says in Titus 2:13-14 is ascribed to the risen Lord elsewhere in the NT.

For instance, Christ is called great by the angel Gabriel: 

“And the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. HE WILL BE GREAT, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end.’” Luke 1:30-33

Christ is also identified as the Savior who comes to save his people from their sins:

“she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21

“And the angel said to them, ‘Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.’” Luke 2:10-11

“For the Son of man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:10

“God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.” Acts 5:31

“Of this man’s posterity God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as he promised… Let it be known to you therefore, brethren, that through this man forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, and by him every one that believes is freed from everything from which you could not be freed by the law of Moses.” Acts 13:23, 38-39

Moreover, all throughout the PE Jesus is said to be our Savior, or the One who saves sinners, in the same contexts where God is referred to as our Savior:

“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Savior AND of Christ Jesus our hope… The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. And I am the foremost of sinners; but I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience for an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.” 1 Timothy 1:1, 15-16

“and at the proper time manifested in his word through the preaching with which I have been entrusted by command of God our Savior; To Titus, my true child in a common faith: Grace and peace FROM God the Father AND Christ Jesus our Savior.” Titus 1:3-4

Here, Paul not only refers to God and Jesus as our Savior he even invokes both of them to bestow grace and peace upon Titus and the rest of the believers, thereby showing their essential coequality!

“For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by men and hating one another; but when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of deeds done by us in righteousness, but in virtue of his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal in the Holy Spirit, which he poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that we might be justified by his grace and become heirs in hope of eternal life.” Titus 3:3-7

Christ is further called God in an absolute, eternal sense:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1

“And Thomas answered AND SAID TO HIM, ‘My Lord and my God!’” John 20:28 NKJV

Note what one of Ally’s favorite liberal, critical scholars had to say concerning Thomas' confession:

This is the clearest example in the New Testament of the use of ‘God’ for Jesus, for the contention of Theodore of Mopsuestia that Thomas was uttering an exclamation of thanks to the Father finds few proponents today. Here Jesus is addressed as God (ho theos mou), with the articular nominative serving as a vocative. The scene is designed to serve as a climax to the Gospel: as the resurrected Jesus stands before the disciples, one of their number at last gives expression to an adequate faith in Jesus. He does this by applying to Jesus the Greek equivalent of two terms applied to the God of Old Testament. The best example of the Old Testament usage is in Ps 35:23, where the Psalmist cries out: ‘My God and my Lord.’ It may well be that the Christian use of such a confessional formula was catalyzed by Domitian’s claim to the title dominus et deus noster.” (Brown, Jesus God and Man [Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc., New York 1967], Chapter One: Does the New Testament Call Jesus God?, III. Texts Where Jesus Is Clearly Called God, p. 28; bold emphasis ours)

Brown went on to write that,

“The question that forms the title of this chapter must be answered in the affirmative. In three clear instances and in five instances that have a certain probability Jesus is called God in the New Testament. The use of theos of Jesus which is attested in the early second century was a continuation of a usage which had begun in New Testament times. Really, there is no reason to be surprised at this. ‘Jesus is Lord’ was evidently a popular confessional formula in New Testament times, and in this formula Christians gave Jesus the title kyrios which was the standard Septuagint translation for YHWH. If Jesus could be given this title, why could he not be called theos, which the Septuagint often used to translate ‘elohim? The two Hebrew terms had become relatively interchangeable, and indeed YHWH was the more sacred term.” (Ibid., pp. 28-29; bold emphasis ours)

In fact, Christ is even called God in an OT text which the NT treats as a Messianic prophecy:

“But there will be no gloom for her that was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zeb′ulun and the land of Naph′tali, but in the latter time he will make glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined… For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called ‘Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God (El Gibbor), Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.’ Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David, and over his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and for evermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.” Isaiah 9:1-2, 6-7 – cf. Matthew 4:12-16; Luke 1:32-33, 78-79

Here the prophet Isaiah identifies the Messiah as the Mighty God in a prophecy that was written well over seven hundred years before Christ was born!

That Isaiah’ statements basically mean that the Messiah would be Yahweh God in the flesh is confirmed by what the prophet says of Yahweh in the very next chapter: 

“In that day the remnant of Israel and the survivors of the house of Jacob will no more lean upon him that smote them, but will lean upon the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God (El Gibbor).” Isaiah 10:20-21

Here we see that it is Yahweh who is the Mighty God, and yet Isaiah says that the Child who is to be born to rule on David’s throne is also the Mighty God!

Thus, since the prophet says that Yahweh is the Mighty God, and since elsewhere he emphatically proclaims that there is no deity besides Yahweh (cf. Isaiah 37:16, 20; 43:10-13; 44:6-8; 45:5-6, 21-22; 46:9-11), the Messiah must therefore be Yahweh God in the flesh; otherwise, the One to be born to reign on David’s throne couldn’t be called the Mighty God and Everlasting Father if he isn’t Yahweh Incarnate.

Therefore, seeing how the sacred Scriptures call Jesus Great, God (in fact the Mighty God!), the Savior who redeems his people from their sins etc., why should it come as a shock that Paul would do the same in a passage like Titus 2:13-14?

We have seen all throughout this series how this blessed Apostle ascribes to Christ the unique functions and characteristics of Yahweh. Hence, If Paul could apply Yahweh’s own roles and qualities to the Lord Jesus then he surely would have no problem calling Christ our Great God and Savior.

For more on the issue of the grammar and syntax of Titus 2:13 please consult the following article.

With that said it is time to respond to Ally’s assertions concerning the Gospel of John.