Science in Christian Perspective
Letter to the Editor
The Person of Christ
23 Union Heights
Arcadia, Pretoria, South Africa
From: JASA 22 (1970): 77
Reply by Yamauchi
The review by Edwin M. Yamauchi (Journal ASA, 21, 27-32) of Schonfield's book, The Passover Plot, contains many comments which try to show that Christ is equal to God (Yahweh). For the benefit of readers of your journal, I, as a scientist, would like to point out that an ever increasing body of scholars maintain that the early Christians (not only heretics) believed that Christ was a created, high angelic person. The book by Prof. Martin Werner, The Formation of Christian Dogma, contains a wealth of information on this topic. Even the opposers of Werner have had to admit that the Angel-Christology is a very real theme that "had an important position in the early Christian period ."2
Did the pre-Nicene theologians equate Christ (the Logos) with God? Scheidweiler (1954) informs us that "all the great pre-Nicene theologians represented the subordination of the Logos to God."3 It was this early Christian belief that Jesus Christ is a created high angel that formed the very basis of the later Arian controversy. Should we close our eyes and try to evade the issue by accusing these pre-Nicene theologians of gross inaccuracy in their statements, as is indeed done by Joyce?4 If such is the case, why did the ordinary Christians (converted from polytheism) protest against the proclamation of a divine triad?5
It can be stated without fear of contradiction that the trinity concept was
cherished universally in the ancient religious systems of the Babylonians,
Assyrians, Hittites, Phoenicians, Egyptians, etc. The Canaanites also worshipped
their trinities at a very early date.6 Professor Albright informs its that the
"triad of plastic statues from the Neolithic of Jericho suggests that the
divine triads of the ancient Near East, usually consisting of father, mother,
and son, were already known by the sixth millennium B.C., and that they were
already worshipped with the aid of a shrine and rites of some sort.7
In contradistinction to these heathen nations with their trinities, Israel did not worship a triune God. Rather, Yahweh is one (Dent. 6:4) and the import of this assertion is that "Yahweh is a single person, not many,8 or for that matter three equal persons in one God. Actually, we find that in Babylon as well as Egypt, the concept of three persons in one god was very closely approximated.9 Should we accept the deduction that the Babylonians possessed a superior notion about the nature of Cod in comparison to the Israelites who "were entrusted with the oracles of God' (Rom. 3:2)?
Even the symbolism used by the Christian Churches through the ages correspond to those used by the heathens to depict their triads. In this regard we may mention the equilateral triangle, the circle, the trefoil, and the fleur-de-lys.10 The heathens used these symbols many centuries before the Trinity was accepted in Christian circles. Therefore, the only valid conclusion is that the Christians adopted heathen symbolism to picture their Trinity. If they could have adopted this heathen symbolism without qualms, they could equally well have adopted the universal trinity concept present in the heathen religious systems.11 The heathen concept of the trinity clearly influenced the Council of Nieaea. The Melchite Christians present at this Council postulated the existence of a trinity of the Father, the Virgin Mary, and the Son. These Christians therefore elevated the mortal Mary to the level of God Himself. 12
From a historical point of view it is therefore abundantly clear that the early Christians did not believe that Christ was equal to God. Rather, the initial belief that Christ is a created high angel was supplanted by the trinity concept which was borrowed from the heathen nations. In this process certain Christians even went so far as to incorporate a female deity into their triad, namely Mary, the mother of Christ.
1. Barbel, J. ( 1941) Christos Angelos. Bonn.
2. Grillmeier, Aloys (1965) Christ in Christian Tradition, 54, 55.
3. Scheidweiler, F. (1954) Byzanthinische Zeitschrift, 47. 352.
4. Joyce, G. H. in Cathosic Encyrsopedia (1912), vos. 15, 51.
5. Prestigc,G. L. (1936) God in Patristic Thought, 98.
6. Nielsen, D. (1922) Der dreieinige Gott in retigionshistor isher Belenrhtong.
7. Alhright, W. F. (1957) From Stone Age to Christianity, 173.
8. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, vol. III, 1080.
9. Obbiok, H. Th. ( 1933) De Godsdienst in Zijn Versshijnihgsrorwen, 125. The Hague.
10. Stafford, T. A. (1952) Christian Symbolism. New York,
11. Paine, L. L. (1901) The Ethir Trinities and their Rela
tions to the Christian Symbolism New York.
12. Hislop, A. (1960) The Two Babylons. 89. London.