We close out this brief series–one I have found particularly interesting personally, especially in light of the uncritical use of scholarship by the wide spectrum of Islamic apologists–with a discussion of the final element of the “argument” borrowed from Bart Ehrman by Abdullah, cited last week, that regarding Theodore of Mopsuestia. Citations of early Christian writers are notoriously popular on the Internet these days. Yet, only a very small handful of folks ever take the time to check out what was originally said, and fewer still have the resources to do so to any depth at all. My library of patristic materials, while not exhaustive, is quite adequate, and still there are plenty of odd citations I can’t track down or check out. And given Rome’s history of making up patristic citations, the discerning reader will be careful to put a lot of weight in almost any use of patristic sources without full documentation.
But it is just that which is lacking in everything we have cited so far. Yes, there is a footnote on Theodore in Ehrman, #25 (p. 266, the note appears on p. 271). But it is not to Theodore’s writings. It is to a secondary source. It reads, “See Brown, Gospel According to John, 1026.” This refers to Raymond Brown’s work, which itself reads,
Against the theory of Theodore of Mopsuestia, the Second Council of Constantinople (fifth ecumenical council, A.D. 553) insisted that these words were a reference to Jesus and not merely an exclamation in honor of the Father. There is no tendency among modern scholars to follow Theodore. The expression, as used in John, is a cross between a vocative and a proclamation of faith (“You are my Lord and my God”). Dodd, Interpretation, p. 403, suggests that “my Lord” refers to the Jesus of history and “my God” is a theological evaluation of his person; he cites with favor F.C. Burkitt’s paraphrase: “Yes, it is Jesus—and he is divine.” But Bultmann, p. 538, is correct in insisting that in combination with “God,” “Lord must also be a cultic title….The article is used before “God”; it was not used, we recall,in the Greek of i 1….However, the difference of meaning should not be pressed too sharply, as if i 1 where a markedly less exalted statement (Moule, IBNTG, p. 116).
So Brown does not provide the direct reference to Theodore either, outside of making the proper statement that Theodore stands alone in patristic interpretation in thusly arguing. My assumption is that the reference is to Theodore’s commentary on John, known only in Syriac and translated last century, but I do not own this reference. Similar is the information provided by Robert Reymond:
No modern scholar has shown any interest in following the opinion of Theodore of Mopsuestia (c. a.d. 350-428) that Thomas’s words do not refer to Christ “but having been amazed over the wonder of the resurrection, Thomas praised God who raised the Christ.” This opinion was rejected by the Second Council of Constantinople in a.d. 553. The closest one comes to finding this idea expressed today is in the insistence of Jehovah’s Witnesses that the first title was addressed to Jesus while the second was addressed to Jehovah. But Bruce M. Metzger is justified when he writes:
It is not permissible to divide Thomas’ exclamation.… Such a high-handed expedient overlooks the plain introductory words, “Thomas said to him: ‘My Lord and my God!’ ”
Moreover, the fact that both appellations appear to be nominative in form should occasion no difficulty for the view that the terms are addressed to Jesus. The articular nominative with vocative force is a well-known idiom in classical, Septuagint, and New Testament Greek.
Reymond, R. L. (1998). A new systematic theology of the Christian faith. Lectures delivered at Covenant Theological Seminary, St. Louis, Mo. and Knox Theological Seminary, Fort Lauderdale, Fla. (Page 297). Nashville: T. Nelson.
Likewise, in looking at Theodore’s exegesis, one source notes,
“Yet we note a want of spiritual insight…and feeling…, and detect an occasional departure from the author’s own first principles under the pressure of theological prejudice (xx. 22, 28).” Theodorus in A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography, Wace and Pearcy, eds., 972.
Without going into a tremendous amount of discussion regarding Theodore’s role in church history, and in particular, his role as one of the founders of the Antiochene school of interpretation, and his role in the origins of the Nestorian movement, suffice it to say that later generations accused Theodore of imbalance in maintaining the unity of the person of Jesus Christ, which may explain his argumentation on John 20:28. Specifically, if his view of the divine person in Christ indwelling the human as grace dwells in flesh, he may have found it problematic (i.e., the “theological prejudice” noted in the previous quote) to address the risen Christ as Lord and God, and hence adopted his argument. But in any case, Theodore is alone in his argument, and the exegesis offered at the beginning of this series is just as relevant to him as to any Muslim using the argument.
And so we have seen Islamic apologists buying everything Ehrman says, no matter how it is spun, even to the point of misunderstanding the implications of his statements. How total is their acceptance of his work? Check out this blog article from only a few weeks ago to see the uncritical embracing of Ehrman by Muslim apologists.
So, in conclusion, we have seen the contextual meaning of John 20:28. We have seen the simplistic errors of leading Islamic apologists like Deedat, Badawi, and Abdullah, on the text (and noted that Shabir Ally did not even note the text in an entire booklet on the deity of Christ). And we have found the source of the assertions regarding the text of John 20:28 in Codex Bezae in none other than the Happy Agnostic, Bart Ehrman. My hope is that you will be fully prepared to respond to the abuse of this text and be encouraged to firmly support the truth of the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ seen so clearly in John 20:28.