The Name of the Trinity
And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Matt 28:18-20, ESV)
I realized something at a baptism last year about Matthew 28's Trinitarian formula. It doesn't just use a Trinitiarian formula that assumes enough of a parity between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to put them in the same sentence in parallel. I've seen commentators mention this, but it's not a strong enough argument that all three persons of the Trinity are fully God. After all, you could list God, the church, and the world in parallel like that, although here there's a sense of commonality and joint authority in addition. One thing occurred to me that I had to go check the Greek to be sure of. Jesus talks about the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This 'name' is singular, one name for the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The name of the Father is 'YHWH' (Hebrew at the time didn't have written vowels), also called the tetragrammaton and covenant name of God. I can't think of another name that these three persons could share. Anyway, that's not the sort of thing those who deny the Trinity but want to affirm the scriptures will be able to deal with easily. Even the fact that there's one name they fall under is some threat to that view.
I think the clearest statement at least of the divinity of Jesus is in Philippians 2:1-11, but it will take some work to draw it out. Some common misreadings of what Paul says there (due to the infelicities of English renderings) hinder what I think would have been an obvious implication of the text to its original readers.
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
I don't want to get into all the exegetical details here. I really couldn't anyway. Gordon Fee's commentary has 55 pages on this section, and Peter O'Brien's has 109! I think the flow of thought makes it quite clear that Jesus' not focusing on his rights is a model for believers who also shouldn't do that but should deliberately take themselves to a level that for them isn't really even lower, even though for him it was, to treat others with self-sacrificing love. The text at this point doesn't have to assume complete equality with God, though I think the assumption is that Christ Jesus had complete equality with God and therefore didn't need to grasp it. The reason I think this is because of how it ends, and this is also where it will tie back in with the name of Matthew 28.
God's exaltation of Jesus Christ is particularly interesting in what it says people will acknowledge about him. The expression 'the name of Jesus' in English doesn't sound very interesting. The name he had in his earthly ministry doesn't sound to me like the sort of thing that says much more about him at his exaltation. However, the Greek really doesn't mean the name 'Jesus' as many English readers assume. It means the name belonging to Jesus. God here gives him a name that's already his, which sounds a little strange except that this is sort of the revelation of who he really is upon his resurrection and exaltation, so it then makes sense.
Well, what name could do such a thing? Paul goes on to say what name it is. People will acknowledge that Jesus is Lord, which is the Greek translation of the divine name YHWH in the Septuagint translation of the Old Testament. Jews at the time would not use that name, believing that even mentioning it was tantamount to misusing it (which of course is a big misunderstanding of what it is to take the name of YHWH in vain, but that's another story). Instead, they used the word for Lord. So the early Christians, in calling Jesus Lord, were deliberately ascribing deity to him, and Paul here explains that this name is revealed to be his at his resurrection and glorification, revealing particularly that he is Lord, that he is YHWH and that those who don't acknowledge it now will acknowledge it on their knees. So the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the name of Jesus (who is Lord) here, is simply the name 'YHWH'.
[You can read the discussion thread in the comments on the original post at the Wayback Machine archive of that post.]
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Jeremy Pierce is a philosophy professor, Uber/Lyft driver, and father of five.