Tuesday, August 09, 2016

The Most High God and His Witnesses

The writer of Psalm 83:18 professes that Jehovah/YHWH is the Most High God (EL ELYON) and the Most High himself made another emphatic declaration over 2000 years ago: "You are my witnesses" (Isaiah 43:10-12). But fleshly Israel did not render Jehovah implicit obedience. As a result, the nation lost its unique privilege to exalt God's majesty (Exodus 19:5, 6). The Christian congregation is now a "people for God's name" (Acts 15:14). It is this congregation that not only witnesses about Christ, but also testifies with respect to the God and Father of Christ Jesus.

Please see Revelation 1:9 which informs us why John was placed in prison. Not only was he incarcerated because he bore witness to Christ, but he also was bound "for the word of God." John was persecuted for magnifying the Most High--the God and Father of Jesus Christ.

"and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee (καὶ δύναμις Ὑψίστου ἐπισκιάσει σοι)"-Luke 1:35

Compare Luke 1:32, 76; 6:35; 8:28.


Philip Fletcher said...

Nicely said.

Sean Killackey said...


I note that in other places, such as Jesus message to the angel of the congregation of God at Philadelphia he says, 'my God' quite a number of times. I think that this is good evidence that God is separated from Jesus. At the very least it suggests that Lord or God are not stand ins for the divine name; the Father is the God and Father of our Lord or the Lord Jesus. So his Lordship is not the same as the Fathers. Even if this leaves open the possibility that Jesus does have the Lordship of the Father qua God, it does hinder the Trinitarians ability to justify that conclusion merely by pointing to Jesus as Lord (and God as Lord and Lord substituting Jehovah).

Have anyone tried to bring the economic trinity into play, by saying, well the Lordship of Jesus as our one Lord is not a lesser Messianic role, but that of the one God. He as our Lord in this sense has a Lord, and this is consistent with functional subordination?

Duncan said...

There seems to be a general reluctance to translate 83:18 in full. cf Psalms 97:9. Different constructions translated the same way.

Edgar Foster said...

Philip: Thank you.

Duncan: I'm only going to compare the ESV for now, and I'll check NWT 2013 later:

"that they may know that you alone, whose name is the Lord, are the Most High over all the earth" (Ps. 83:18 ESV).

"For you, O Lord, are most high over all the earth; you are exalted far above all gods" (Ps. 97:9 ESV).

The caps for "LORD" did not carry over in the paste, but I'm sure most everyone understands why this detail is significant. But to address your concern, I see differences in how ESV renders these passages. Admittedly, I have not reviewed the Hebrew for each psalm. Just noting how ESV treats the verses differently.

Edgar Foster said...

Sean, if I understand your question properly, my answer would be that plenty of Trinitarians believe the expression "Christ is Lord" means "Christ is Almighty God the Son" or "Christ is YHWH the Son." In other words, his title "Lord" is on par with the Father's title "Lord." You are probably also familiar with theologians who posit eternal subordination for the Son, but it's not ontological subordination, but functional.

Duncan said...

The point of focus is "most high". El elyon. Either one is under translated or the other is over translated.

Alethinon61 said...

"Sean, if I understand your question properly, my answer would be that plenty of Trinitarians believe the expression "Christ is Lord" means "Christ is Almighty God the Son" or "Christ is YHWH the Son." In other words, his title "Lord" is on par with the Father's title "Lord." You are probably also familiar with theologians who posit eternal subordination for the Son, but it's not ontological subordination, but functional."

Pretty hard to square such a Trinitarian presupposition with the verses that that call the Father "the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ". No Jew at the time could have thought that Lord there was a stand in for YHWH, because that would logically yield the following in the common Christian salutation:

"The God and Father of Jehovah Jesus Christ"

Such a statement would have been like pieces of sharp glass ricocheting inside the brains of the ancient Jews. Just hearing such a salutation would have caused them to drop dead from shock, with blood dripping from their eyes, ears, nose, and mouth. Yet we're to believe that such statements were to be understood that way, despite the lack of historical evidence that so much as a single solitary soul raised his or her hand in class and asked: "Ah, excuse me, but, what? Can you explain that paradox, please?"

People who can believe that, frankly, can probably believe anything.


Philip Fletcher said...

Yes it is very interesting that Jesus says he has a God(my God), but the Father never says he has a God. Also I like reading about the historical Jesus, it is different from the theological Jesus, but it makes a lot of assumptions.

Edgar Foster said...


The verses in question only contain elyon, right? Not el elyon
like Genesis 14 has.

Philip, like other models, the historical Jesus has limitations too.

Sean Killackey said...

They, that is, Trinitarians, believe that the man Jesus has the title Lord as well, right? After all, the Christ was to be of the descendants of David and thus had to be a human. It seems pretty clear that time and time again Lord is predicated of the Messiah, who is a human; for instance, Psalm 110:1.

Now this doesn't logically rule out Jesus having two natures, one of which is Lord in the way that the Father is, but it does make the need to think that Jesus being called Lord in this sense superfluous.

They believe that Jesus is yet a man, an exalted man, in heaven now, right? If so, is Psalm 110:1 about this man Jesus? (It would seem to be so.) If so, why should we not regard Daniel's vision of the Son of man coming before the Ancient of Days or Psalm 2 about the man Jesus in heaven? It is the Christ that sits at God's right hand, that then rules as king; and it would be reasonable to conclude from this that his being head of the congregation is according to his human nature.

Every instance that Jesus is called Lord can be explained by appealing to his being the Messiah who is then exalted by God and given authority by him. Even when he forgave sins - something that "only God can do" - the people praised God "since God had given such power to men;" indeed, Jesus gave his disciples such authority.

What "need" is there for Jesus to be Lord in the same way as the Father is (according to a supposed divine nature) if it can be explained by Jesus having this lesser, yet exalted, Lordship?

And if we take the exalted Messiah in heaven to be a man (at least experimentally), then it is this man whom Paul calls our one Lord at 1 Cor 8:5,6, not the divine nature of the Son of God, and this would seem to rule out any appeal to the shema as a proof of the Trinity here. In fact it would not make sense to think of God as our one Lord in this sense, as the Christ, since the Christ is a man (at least experimentally), but God has never been a man, even on a functional subordinationist view. (This, I think can be extend to cover verses such as 'the head of Christ is God,' it is meant of the man Jesus, not the God nature being economically subordinated to the Father.)

In fact, it not only becomes superfluous to propose that Jesus has another nature and Lordship, but cumbersome and it adds no explanatory power to our concept of Christ, but just gets in the way.

Sorry if my paragraphs don't quite make sense, it's late where I'm at. I hope that my main point is still discernable; it really is just the same as before, but builds off of it a bit.

Duncan said...

Yes Edgar, this does seem odd.

Alethinon61 said...

"Yes it is very interesting that Jesus says he has a God(my God), but the Father never says he has a God. Also I like reading about the historical Jesus, it is different from the theological Jesus, but it makes a lot of assumptions."

Quite so, Phillip, and the proposition that the early Christians thought that Jesus both was God Almighty and that God Almighty was his god at the same time defies reasonable historical expectation.

So some would have us believe that Christians experienced divisions and hostility over matters of law to the extent that Paul had to step in and clarify matters to reestablish unity, but not so much as a single solitary soul (yes, I'm repeating myself) expressed concern over the Christological paradox? We know from the historical record that non-Christian Jews couldn't tolerate the notion of a crucified Messiah, but no one showed so much as a soupcon of concern over the notion that the Messiah was God Almighty, yet simultaneously subject to God Almighty? That just doesn't work, IMO.


Edgar Foster said...


I'm not going to press the issue further, but I cannot fault translators for choosing "most high" as a rendering for those two verses.

Edgar Foster said...


I've posted on 1 Cor. 12:3 and how Trinitarian commentators tend to understand the text. Again, I concur with your observation on the ancient Jewish reaction to hearing that "Jesus is Jehovah." In this regard, I've been perusing Paul Rainbow's dissertation again to see how he might address this issue. I believe Hurtado and Dunn might also have some potential input on the subject too. Stay tuned. :)

Keefa Ben Yahchanan said...

The WBC on Luke 1.35 does not have much to say about this term. However, other passages in the Christian Greek Scriptures also use it, namely :Lk 1:32, 35, 76; 6:35; 8:28; Ac 7:48; 16:17; Hb 7:1. I propose that this ὑψίστου is embarrassing for the Orthodox camp. There can only be one who is Most High God and to express it this way implies that there are other gods, but they are not the highest. Trinitarians have redefined and restricted the word God to include only three, but yet they are one! Luke does not think so! In Luke 1.35 his parallelism is that the spirit is the power of God(i.e. active force) and thus cannot be a person. Next, Jesus is called the son of the highest God and Luke exclusively uses Most High for the Father alone. The title Most High God only have the Father as its referent. Therefore this small piece of evidence puts Trinitarianism at odds with the biblical data.

Philip Fletcher said...

That is a sound point from you Keefa, I like it. But the trinitaian are at odds because they accept 3rd to 5th century teaching as inspired as well as the bible canon. This is their greatest error.

Duncan said...

Psalm 82-84 Wycliffe Bible (WYC)

82 The psalm of Asaph. God stood in the synagogue of gods; forsooth he deemeth gods in the middle. (The song of Asaph. God standeth in the council of heaven; and he judgeth among the gods.)

Edgar Foster said...

Sean: my 1 Cor. 12:3 blog entry was meant to address some of your comments.

Keefa: great points to use. Christ is never identified as the Most High God.

Duncan: I just want to understand the connection you're making with Ps. 82 and 83. Thanks.

Sean Killackey said...

I saw it after I posted that, thanks.

Sean Killackey said...

And while he is not identified as the Most High, he is identified as the High Priest of the Most High God, a priest like Melchizedek.

Duncan said...

Compare psalms 84:7 MT & LXX.

Edgar Foster said...

Cambridge Bible on Psalm 84:7: The LXX read El Elôhîm, ‘God of Gods,’ for ĕl Elôhîm, ‘unto God,’ and thence, through the Vulg., came Coverdale’s rendering, And so the God of Gods apeareth unto thç in Sion. The P.B.V., while giving the right construction to the Heb. sentence, has retained God of Gods.

appeareth before God] The technical term for visiting the sanctuary at the great Festivals. Cp. Psalm 42:2, note.

Duncan said...

One example does not automatically translate to the other & it seems that the usual assumption applies, that the MT is superior in reading to the LXX. We are coming back to the "original Hebrew". I see much evidence in the Vulgate that the majority of it was not translated from Greek.

Duncan said...


Duncan said...


More MT Bias here.

Unfortunately the oldest witness is a Masada Psalm dated between 1-50CE but this does concur with MT.

Edgar Foster said...

Jerome preferred the "Hebrew verity" to the LXX when he studied or rendered the "Old Testament." I tend to share his view, but recent studies have shown that the LXX and DSS sometimes trump the MT. Nevertheless, I'm partial to the Hebrew, especially where Exodus 3:14 is concerned. But I'm not trying to start a new subject.

Edgar Foster said...

Duncan, you call it "MT bias," but why not give the MT or the Hebrew text precedence over the LXX and DSS unless there is reason to think otherwise? We know the Hebrew historically preceded the Greek LXX. Furthermore, the LXX is a translation of the Hebrew-Aramaic text. But as I said earlier, there are times when we probably should side with DSS or LXX over the MT.

Duncan said...

I do not think that MT Bias is an unreasonable claim especially when the discrepancy in a text is due to vowel points which come later than the LXX.

It is fairly obvious in a number of places that the LXX translates a different text tradition.

I am in favor of Hebrew as it is the source text but there are verses of concern when seen through the lense of Masorete vowel pointing. Malachi 4:2 being one of particular interest to me.

I am also conscious of following any single text tradition as this could develop into something akin to KJVonlyism.

When I say "MT bias", this is not a blanket statement but aimed at this particular commentary and conclusion.

Duncan said...


This article probably sums up the majority of what I call "MT bias".

Duncan said...

As a demonstration of MT bias see:-



The divergences shown here are misleading as is the translation since the vowel points of the MT are being imposed on the DSS text prior to translation.

This type of translation should show the possible words, not just the MT interpretation.

Duncan said...

Mat 14:35,36 IMO is a strong argument for interpretation problems with Malachi 4:2.

Wings or Corners?

Sun or Servant? (this is an example of that sister language overlap between Hebrew and Aramaic.)


Duncan said...

Found an interesting quote attached to Hebrews 7:14:-

ἀνατέταλκεν, “hath sprung.” The verb is used generally of the sun rising (Malachi 4:2; Luke 12:54; 2 Peter 1:19), but also of the springing up of plants (Zechariah 3:8; Zechariah 6:12, &c.). Hence the LXX. choose the word Ἀνατολή, which usually means sunrise, to translate the Messianic title of “the Branch.”

Johann Albrecht Bengel

Edgar Foster said...


Yes, that's an interesting quote. I would also recommend Rashi for this verse. See http://www.chabad.org/library/bible_cdo/aid/16221/jewish/Chapter-3.htm#showrashi=true

NET Bible Notes: sn The expression the sun of vindication will rise is a metaphorical way of describing the day of the Lord as a time of restoration when God vindicates his people (see 2 Sam 23:4; Isa 30:26; 60:1, 3). Their vindication and restoration will be as obvious and undeniable as the bright light of the rising sun.

5 sn The point of the metaphor of healing wings is unclear. The sun seems to be compared to a bird. Perhaps the sun’s “wings” are its warm rays. “Healing” may refer to a reversal of the injury done by evildoers (see Mal 3:5).

Duncan said...

Rashi uses reasoning similar to the light rays of exodus which lacks any real evidence. Wings resembling light, horns resembling light. Hebrew is function not form.

I also favour the "a calf" of the DSS.

The wording in Matthew points to an easily recognised prophecy of healing from the tzitzit. So the question is where is that prophecy?

Duncan said...

Shamash probably came to mean sun as being the servant of the earth.

Duncan said...

Lev 6:8 does not account for the specifics of the tzitzit.

Edgar Foster said...

There's an article here by E. Merrill: https://bible.org/seriespage/7-malachi#P3288_1066077

I would also recommend the Anchor Bible Commentary on Malachi and the Word Commentary is also good.

Merrill writes in a couple of footnotes:

For a full discussion of the imagery here [in Mal. 4:2], see Glazier-McDonald, Malachi: The Divine Messenger, 233-40. Though “sun” is nowhere else a messianic epithet, Zecharias the priest (and father of John the Baptist) appears to appropriate the imagery of Malachi as a part of his blessing on his son, the forerunner of Jesus (Luke 1:76-79). For a helpful discussion of the NT use of this text in Malachi, see Walter C. Kaiser, Jr., Malachi. God’s Unchanging Love (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1984), 105-6.

966 Chary draws attention to similar imagery from the ancient Near East, including the Egyptian disk of the sun from which “hands” extend to the divine protege, the ideogram for which is the ankh sign meaning “life.” The winged sun is also common in Assyrian art, examples of which are the disk of Shalmaneser III (ANEP, #351) and a figure of the god Assur (ANEP, #536); Th. Chary, Agge-Zacharie, Malachie, 275. While there no doubt was a common fund of such imagery in the ancient Near East, a deposit from which the authors of the OT occasionally drew, there is enough inner-biblical support for the winged sun of Malachi as an apt metaphor for blessing as not to require any cross-cultural borrowing. Moreover, the “wing” here, in common with the usual use of [n`K* in figurative speech in the OT (Num. 15:38; 1 Sam. 15:27; 24:5, 6, 12; Jer. 2:34; Hag. 2:12; Zech. 8:23), may refer to a pocket or fold in the garment. Perhaps, then, the sun rises with healing in its “pouch” or “bag.” Cf. Verhoef, The Books of Haggai and Malachi, 331.

Duncan said...

Num 15:38 refers to the tzittzit. The other references are not very relevant. The people being healed were not from the nation's. There is still no solution to Matthew here. This whole commentary does not allow for any other translation than sun even though it is already demonstrated that the LXX uses it as replacement for other terms. It is still within MT bias.

Matthew specifically states the fringe of the outer garment not just the outer garment.

Duncan said...

Sun possibly as a servant.


Duncan said...

For Luke 1:76-79 compare Mat 4:16 & Isaiah 9:3 - "shadow of death". Sun rise is Generic.

Duncan said...


Edgar Foster said...

With all due respect, I don't think the criticism of Merrill is fair. While he takes the position that "sun" is the likely reading, as so many others do, notice that Merrill suggests that his readers consult "Glazier-McDonald, Malachi" which contains a more thorough discussion of the imagery in Mal. 4:2 and he recommends other works. He is also trying to provide the possible context for the utterance. I don't take him to be saying that there's no other way to understand the verse.

Duncan said...

He is not taking the position that "sun" is the likely reading - from what I am reading, his position is that Sun is the only reading and he then proceeding to make a justification for it against Luke which is IMO unfounded.

I am fully aware of the common usage of sun and wings in some circles:-



When I said "other references are not very relevant", I meant the other scriptures.


Look a the "usage of the "sun going down/or dark" from Ezekiel through to the minor prophets in general.

This is used as an argument for the usage:-


This is still not widely accepted as authentic & if it does prove to be it is probably a diplomatic seal.


All of this assumes that "Sun" is the correct translation but then they have to wonder at the "healing wings" which has no equivalent in surrounding culture.

As I said before, this all still leaves us wondering about Matthew.

Duncan said...


Duncan said...


Edgar Foster said...

I don't understand him to say, and he never explicitly states, that "sun" is the only way to understand the verse. Taking a position on a word/text doesn't automatically mean that one assumes that's the only way to read a text. Most scholars realize that biblical texts can possibly be rendered in more than one way. They might assume a position, but then it's common to mention other works for further consulation.

It seems that he also connects Malachi 4:1-2, 5 with Lk 1:76-79. He is apparently not just associating Luke with Malachi 4:1-2.

All the language about the sun and healing in its wings is metaphorical--probably a mixed metaphor. Regardless of how one translates the verse, the reading "sun" has good backing as a comparison of the ancient texts will show. It may/may not be the correct rendering; nevertheless, the reading has solid backing.

Some authorities also cite Ps. 139:9 as a comparison text.

Duncan said...


Birds of prey glide extremely well at dawn next to a cliff. I have experienced this watching peregrine falcon battle at 6am (sun rise) in spring. A very special event to see. The speed of flight is breath taking. You can hear them cut the air.

Edgar Foster said...


As I try to give this issue serious attention and look at the matter as objectively as possible, I wonder which scholars really think shemesh does not mean "sun" in Mal. 4:2 and in other texts. See http://bible.knowing-jesus.com/Malachi/4/2

Note all the translations that use "sun" although I think one Bible says "son." But not one chose another rendering.

There's also the Orthodox Jewish Bible: "3:20) But unto you that fear My name shall the Shemesh Tzedakah (sun of righteousness) arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall."

Here are other texts to compare: https://www.biblegateway.com/verse/en/Malachi%204%3A2

Duncan said...

Two verses of note in relation to this are Jeremiah 23:6 & 33:16.

I cannot deny that the LXx says sun. The fact that all the English translations follow this is unsurprising especially when combined with the MT vowel pointing.

A rashi commentary for another verse were this is used alludes to the possablilty of it meaning servant but that's about it.

But keep in mind that we are not talking about the title "sun", we are talking about the title "sun of righteousness". I have been tracking this back through archeological evidence. I think is goes as far back as ahurah Mazda. It is certainly used later for mithra. Do you think a Jew would use this title in such a way. Maybe a fully Hellenised translator might, but malachi?

Is is undeniable that the "servant of righteousness with healing in his corners (tzitzit)" makes more functional sense, especially if seen as a prophecy regarding the Messiah as opposed to Jehovah himself.

It is undeniable that the Hebrew word itself can mean servant and originally meant servant as opposed to the Aramaic definition.

So I suppose this is at an impass until some Hebrew scholar recognises it at least as a possibility.

I agree that Bible writers sometime subvert pagan ideas but not in a way like this.

Edgar Foster said...

I'm not asking you to necessarily track down the evidence, but I wonder about the proof for shemesh possibly meaning "servant." There's been a lot of material posted in this thread and maybe you've already submitted a particular link or source. I'll check again and consult a lexicon as well.

The title "Sun/sun of righteousness" doesn't particularly bother me. The name Mithra/Mithras actually precedes the writing of Malachi, and so does Ahura Mazda. But I don't think Malachi was influenced by Persian religion as some want to claim. But does that mean he would never use "sun of righteousness"? My question would be, where exactly is Mithra ever called "Sun/sun of righteousness"? I would ask the same question about Ahura Mazda.

Lastly, I still don't see the rationale for translating "corners" rather than "wings." In other words, I don't understand the semantic reason for translating the text that way.

Edgar Foster said...

For the meaning of shemesh: https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?t=kjv&strongs=h8121

On kanaph: https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H3671&t=KJV

Okay, I now see the reasoning for corners better, but "wings' dominates translations. Even wing and corner are joint ideas.

Edgar Foster said...

I don't necessarily agree with all of the remarks made in this book, but I now see why one could translate "corners" instead of "wings." I still have no problem with sun of righteousness though. We also can't forget we're dealing with metaphor here. See https://books.google.com/books?id=C0wGCQAAQBAJ&pg=PA269&lpg=PA269&dq=malachi+4:2+healing+wings+kanaph&source=bl&ots=afBqN6kPwf&sig=52AalioTPhPVuHkiSVQa30CNsbg&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi8jqrirdDOAhXKPCYKHQXDC1g4FBDoAQhDMAk#v=onepage&q=malachi%204%3A2%20healing%20wings%20kanaph&f=false

Duncan said...

This was in one of my links but needs confirming.

Clark's Etymological Dictionary of Biblical Hebrew, based of Rav Shamshon ben Refael Hirsch, has on page 265 an entry for shemesh:
serve: use as intended
explanation/commentary: 1) serving (refers to Devarim 4:19 and Tehillim 19:5). 2) sun, serving God's purpose (refers to Bereshit 19:23 and Shemot 32:25). 3) window, opening to the sun (refers to Yeshaya 54:12).
cognate meaning: serve. (phonetic cognates שמץ, lack will.)

I have a date of 515 for Malachi & from about 550 for ahura mazda so who precedes who is quite debatable. I have yet to look through info on mazda worship which is somewhat older.

Duncan said...

Encyclopedia Britannica, 15th Edition.

Christmas Tree
"The traditional customs connected with Christmas have developed from several sources as a result of the coincidence of the celebration of the birth of Christ with the pagan agricultural and solar observances at mid-winter. In the Roman world, the Saturnalia (mid December) was a time of merry making and exchange of gifts. December 25 was also regarded as the birth date of the Iranian mystery god Mithra, the "Sun of Righteousness." On the Roman New Year (January 1) houses were decorated with greenery and lights, and gifts were given to children and the poor. To these observances were added the German and Celtic rites when the Teutonic tribes penetrated into Gaul, Britain and central Europe. Food and good fellowship, the Yule log and Yule cakes, greenery and fir trees, gifts and greetings all commemorated different aspects of this festive season. Fires and lights, symbols of warmth and lasting life, have always been associated with the winter festival, both pagan and Christian. Since the Middle Ages, evergreens, as symbols of survival, have been associated with Christmas."

Duncan said...

In my exhibition catalogue :-


On pg 151 under religion written by:-


Ahuramazda is probably represented in archiminid art by the winged disc with a human figure holding a ring or flower.

Duncan said...


Edgar Foster said...

We're going down sideways from the OP, but this source indicates that Ahura Mazda had to be venerated before 522 BCE: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Uspf6eDDvjAC&pg=PA26&dq=ahura+mazda&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwik9-HEtdHOAhWMwiYKHeHUDvYQ6AEISjAG#v=onepage&q=ahura%20mazda&f=false

That would still place Mazda before Malachi, even accepting the 515 date.

Some date Mithra/Mithras to the 5th-6th century BCE. Contemporary scholarship now also makes a distinction between the Persian Mithra and the Roman divinity by the same name. See http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Gazetteer/Periods/Roman/Topics/Religion/Mithraism/David_Fingrut**.html#per

Proposed dates for Malachi range from the 400s-500s BCE.

Duncan said...


Duncan said...

THe Previus post may be dubious but this seems to be the image to which it refers:-


Duncan said...