Wednesday, 22 October 2014
Luke 1:35 - learning to live within the confines of ones own convictions
The angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. [NRSV]
Sometimes this blog might seem to be deeply questioning the scriptural validity of the creeds. But it does not stop there. Luke 1:35 sheds light on how all of us read Scriptures, whatever our persuasion. Luke 1:35 is an absolute favourite it would seem of many Biblical unitarians and antitrinitarians, but through it, I am learning to question their assumptions too. The reason why they get so excited about it, I am fairly sure, is they want to demonstrate Biblically that Jesus is not eternal. No matter how highly God has exalted him since he was miraculously conceived, we must know that the Bible says he had a beginning in time, and that is written black on white in Luke 1:35.
I receive Anthony Buzzard's somewhat crudely-argued monthly publication, Focus on the Kingdom, (some of which is enlightening, but there is never any uncertainty, sense of evidence-weighing, etc., which I find quite unsatisfying) and I am certain that this Luke reference comes up in pretty much every issue. But is it so clearly stating that Jesus' life begins at this point of history? Let us read the verse again:
35 The angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you;
All I am sensing so far is that Mary is going to be made pregnant by God, future tense. So far totally in line with the trinitarian view that God became human at a point in time.
therefore. As a result of it being the Holy Spirit of the one true God making Mary pregnant, we can prophecy certain things of this child:
the child to be born [of you]. Still nothing strange here.
will be holy. A clear link to the Holy Spirit, the child coming directly from the Holy God. It's all future tense here, which linguistically makes sense in the context of this prophecy.
he will be called Son of God. This is the only part I can see where some debate can be made, because of the lack of the definite article, "the". In fact, we can see quite clearly if we look up Strongs 5207, υἱός, that the term here is not "the son", so the resulting indefinite article of "a son" needs some explanation. Attention is drawn away from this problem, if it is a problem, by translations like the NRSV simply dropping the article altogether.
How might a trinitarian respond? Firstly, I think, they must remind the unitarian that actually most of the verse makes a lot of sense, while they should admit that it might have been more convenient for them doctrinally for the Greek to say υἱοῦ τοῦ θεοῦ like elsewhere in the New Testament canon. Doctrinally, it is completely possible to say that Jesus is A son of God, even if it is not at all the wording that the 4th Century fathers would have wanted to use. I think a final defence would lie in remembering just how overwhelmed and afraid Mary was. She has only so much capability of understanding, she was young, vulnerable and about to be impregnated by God, so this was quite enough information!
Conclusion: some unitarians weaken their position by over-relying on this passage, Buzzard in particular. Lacking the "the", however, and being an important text for biblical unitarians, I am including this passage in my main study as a "dissuasive" text, more suggestive (but by no means determinative) of a non-Nicene position.