For Paul Jesus is the lord Messiah not the LORD God

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For Paul Jesus is the lord Messiah not the LORD God

Opening from my debate with Anthony Rogers.

Paul uses the title “Lord” [kyrios] in reference to “Christ” [christos] more than 200 times! This means Jesus’ lordship is synonymous with his being the anointed, Messiah lord and not the Lord God!

After all, Paul cannot possibly be teaching that Jesus is the anointed, Messiah Yahweh!

That would be nonsensical and make 1 Yahweh too many, according to the Shema!

So the word “Lord” when used for both God and Jesus needs to be carefully distinguished by the most used OT verse by the NT writers, Ps 110:1. This key controlling, definitional verse informed and shaped Paul’s famous Christological confession of “Jesus is lord.”

It’s amazing to find how many scholars misreport the Hebrew adoni [“my lord” never for God] as Adonai [only for the Lord God].

In fact the widely cited Dr. David Capes, known for popularizing the phrase “Yahweh texts” used for Jesus, teaches that the word Adonai refers to human beings, “persons in authority,” like the patriarchs!

Yet, any standard lexicon or bible dictionary will show this is simply not right. Adonai is the age-old, well known and preferred word used for God alone by religious Jews instead of His Divine Name.

This is in sharp contrast to adoni which in all 195 times in the Hebrew OT is never used for God!

This distinction between the two Lords is also born out in the Greek translation of Ps 110:1 where “The Lord [ho Kyrios],” that is God, “says to my lord [to kyrio mou].” This Greek phrase is never used for God either!

With this in mind we can better understand Paul’s repeated use of Yahweh texts for Jesus, 20 times throughout his letters, as what was said about the one God being applied to His human Messiah. And not because the Messiah was also somehow the same one God, let alone a second Yahweh.

So for Paul “the great day of the Lord [Yahweh] in Zeph. 1.14 becomes “the day of Christ” in Phil. 1.6, 10; 2.16 or “the day of our lord Jesus Christ” in Corinthians (1Cor. 1.8; cp. 2Cor. 1.14) or the judgment seat of God in Rom. 14.10 with the judgment seat of [the] Christ in 2Cor. 5.10.

Paul said in his famous Sermon on Mars Hill in Acts 17:31, God “has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man [andri, a male human being] He has appointed.”

Paul’s command to believers to “call on the name of the lord Christ” (1Cor 1.2) follows the well-known OT “calls on the name of the LORD [i.e., Yahweh]” (Joel 2.32). For Paul Jesus is now the one and only mediator between God and human beings, as we saw in 1Tim 2:5!

Paul now identifies Christ as both “the power and wisdom of God” (1Cor 1.24). That’s why if you have “the mind of the lord” Christ (1Cor 2.16) you have both “the spirit” and “mind of the Lord [i.e., Yahweh, Isa 40.13]. But NOTE that Christians are supposed to have the same mind in 1Cor 2:16!

So instead of concluding that Jesus is somehow a second Yahweh it’s “more likely,” Dr. Dunn notes, “that Yahweh has bestowed his own unique saving power on the Lord who sits on his right side [as per Ps 110:1], the exalted Jesus is himself the embodiment as well as the executive of that saving power.”

If Psalm 110:1, as we have seen, “allows the concept of two Lords, the second given his plenipotentiary status by the first, then there is presumably no reason why a passage like Joel 2.32 should not be referred to the second Lord. That God was understood to pass divine authority to others is indicated by the various individuals who were thought to play the role of heavenly judges.”

Dr. Dunn goes on to list such figures in Jewish tradition like Adam, Melchizedech, Enoch, Elijah and even the saints:

Luke 22.30 ERV You will eat and drink at my table in that kingdom. You will sit on thrones and judge the 12 tribes of Israel.

1Cor 6.2a Do you not know that the saints [Christians] will judge the world?

1Cor 6.3a Do you not know that we [Christians] will judge angels?

The point is that just as God worked by and through other agents in the OT, how much more by and through His unique human agent, the Messiah. This goes back to the well-known Jewish principle known as Shaliach, agency, where God can be said to be doing something when in reality He’s doing it by or through His agent.

According to The IVP Bible Background Commentary NT “Jewish law taught that the man’s agent was as a man himself (backed by his full authority), to the extent that the agent faithfully represented him. Moses and the OT prophets were sometimes viewed as God’s agents.”

But of course unlike all of them, Jesus was the uniquely-begotten, perfect agent of God. After all, the Messianic prophecies refer to him as the “firstborn, high above the kings of the earth.” (Ps 89.27).