10. theologypicapr John 1:1 has the Son “with” God in the beginning. The Greek here is “toward” or “facing.” How can we understand this is not showing a trinity?

Well first, the most you have here are two somethings. The question is does this show two persons or something else? Just like John 1, we see in Proverbs 8 attributes or qualities of God personified. The problem with arguing for the term “pros” or “facing” necessitating an eternal son would mean, to be consistent, it must be applied in Prov. 8 as well. Wisdom is shown as a woman “with” God helping in creation… Do we see here an eternal daughter? No, again our trinitarian friends are making the mistake of reading their theological position into John 1 instead of letting the OT use of this type of language inform their theology.

What is used in both Proverbs and John is a very common literary device in the OT, the NT, and has even carried over into language today. It’s called “personification.” Dinah Birch’s Oxford Companion to English Literature defines personification (prosopopeia) as “a figure of speech [or a trope, a literary device that uses words other than in their literal sense] in which inanimate objects or abstractions are endowed with human qualities or represented as possessing human form…”

In the OT, Jeremiah 47:6 personifies the “sword of the LORD” and speaks to it as if a person. The OT prophet says the “… stones cry out…” in Hab. 2:11 and even trinitarian writers like Birch show lady wisdom is used this way too, “Doth not wisdom cry…” Batteux, another trinitarian scholar, says this rhetorical strategy “…open the tombs, and gives words to the deceased, to the heavens, earth, and in short to all real objects, as well as to abstract qualities and imaginary beings.” We see in modern writing many examples of this as well: Father Time, Mother Nature, Lady Justice, etc. and we understand the rhetorical strategy.

So the word pros in “prosopopeia” is in the term on purpose even though not meaning to literally be “facing” something. But if your theology is making you look for a trinity or eternal son you miss the OT poetic or rhetorical use of this type of language.

One more example is good. Jesus uses personification too in reference to His own word. In John 12:48, Jesus says, “He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.” Even Cornelius à Lapide admits this is the same rhetorical strategy used here by Jesus Himself. The point is our friends’ theological bias causes them to miss what would be normal to Jewish people regarding personification and “see” what’s not there. Our job would be to show the OT, NT, and even current language today that they’re missing the point.

 

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