Mark 10:18

Mark 10:18

Here I am going to respond to selections of Kel’s article.  The selections I have chosen are the ones I regard as embodying Kel’s main arguments; I have left out what I regard as repetitious or off the point.  If I have missed or misunderstood Kel’s arguments, anyone who reads this – including Kel – is welcome to bring that to my attention.

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A rich man once said to Jesus, “‘Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.'”

Argument:

“In this passage, Jesus denies he is God by indicating he should not be called good since “no one is good but God alone.”

“Honestly regard the obvious contrast between “me” and “God alone.” To try and avoid the plain implication of these words, Trinitarians would like to pretend Jesus is being enigmatically coy as if he is suggestively implying he himself is the one God without coming right out and saying it. But this is to imagine an extraneous notion into the text for which there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever.”

Response:

A friend of mine said that he thought Jesus was neither implying that he is God or implying that he is not God, but rather rebuking the rich man for trying to butter him up by asking him a question he could not answer, after which he cut to the real issue by asking the rich man to “Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”  I find this possibility as likely as any other.

I challenge Kel to prove how he knows that Trinitarians are “pretending” anything here.    How does he know that we don’t actually believe that Jesus was being enigmatic?  Kel’s ad hominem attacks seem to be an attempt to arouse irrational distrust of Trinitarians, an attempt to discredit the Trinitarian arguments without disproving them.

Kel asserts, “[Jesus] is the one who said,”Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.” No one would say such a thing unless he wanted to point out that their words were misdirected.”  Here I must point out that Kel is arguing that Jesus being enigmatic by “suggestively implying” that he is NOT God without coming right out and saying it.  Does that mean that Kel is imagining an extraneous notion into the text for which there is absolutely no evidence whatsoever?

All Jesus did  was to ask the man a question – and all that Trinitarians assert here is that the question is as consistent with Jesus being God as it is with his not being God.

Jesus did not deny being good in the sense that only God is good, rather, he asked the man why he called him good.  As Greek expert A. T. Robertson says, “The language is not a disclaiming of deity on the part of Jesus,” (Word Pictures in the New Testament).  To that I would add that neither is the language an assertion of deity.  The only thing we know for certain is that Jesus challenged the man to think about the meaning of his words, and then left him to draw his own conclusions, which are not recorded in Scripture.

I reject Kel’s assertion that the “plain implication” of Jesus’ words is that he is not God.  What Jesus might have been implying here depends on what Jesus said in other places (such as John 5:18, 8:58, and 20:28) as well as what other passages say that directly address the issue (see John 1, 5:18-19, Colossians 1:16 and Hebrews 1:1-10 for example).  Let the reader study Kel’s articles on those passages and then compare those with my articles on the same passages.  If the conclusion is that Jesus said he is God in other places and is identified as God by other Scripture passages, what is the likelihood that he is denying he is God here?

Kel then sets up a straw man arguments he attributes to Trinitarians.

He begins by saying “Trinitarians claim that if only God is good then Jesus must be God because Jesus is good,” which is such an oversimplification that it is just plain false, because all Trinitarians (or mostly all) accept the fact that Jesus was referring to some kind of goodness that only God has.  He then says “Let the reader fully understand that the Trinitarian interpretation of Mark 10:18 contradicts these Scriptures” (referring to passages that call people and things good).  In light of what I said above, what Trinitarian interpretation is he talking about?  None that I know of.

After this, Kel says that the man was merely calling Jesus a “good teacher” and not a teacher who is good in a moral sense.  I doubt this because Jesus did not respond by saying “why do you call me a good teacher?” but “why do you call me good?”  Jesus explicitly excluded the word “teacher” from his question for the man, which tells me that he was not talking about the goodness of his teaching.   Because of this, I conclude that Jesus was not talking about the same thing as he was when he said “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me.”

Conclusion

I found these word from Kel particularly troubling: ‘Trinitarians would like to pretend Jesus is being enigmatically coy as if he is suggestively implying he himself is the one God without coming right out and saying it.”  My objection to his accusation of pretense on the part of Trinitarians has already been given.  But I also object to his characterization of the Trinitarian position as Jesus being “enigmatically coy” in this passage.

As you will see when you look it up, the word “coy” has a number of unsavory definitions.  If you say someone is being coy you might be saying they are being flirtatious or deceptive or both.  Neither one of these describes Jesus’ intentions.  I feel that the use of this word to describe the Trinitarian response is misleading at best.

The remaining definitions of coy involve a reluctance to give details, which falls short of describing Jesus’ usual way with people.  He usually encouraged those who needed encouragement, rebuked those who needed to be rebuked, and taught those who needed teaching.  Jesus was never shy and he never feared the people.  However, withholding details is often a good way to teach.

It is easy to forget what you have been told; it is almost impossible to forget something you figured out yourself.  To ask a question and then leave it hanging in the air without answering it is a very effective way to get someone to dig for the answer themselves.  This teaching method is without equal in terms of getting you to remember what you learned.  And of this I am sure – Jesus was indeed a good teacher.