Two Questions: Who Died on the Cross? Thee or You?
“At times some of those who offer prayer at the communion table, in expressing thanks for the bread and the fruit of the vine, will frame their prayers somewhat in this way: ‘Dear Father, we thank you for dying on the cross and shedding your blood for us.’ This troubles me. What can be done to remedy this situation?”
Sometimes good brothers, who actually know better, get their words mixed up when praying before an audience. In the pressure of the situation, they have a difficult time thinking clearly. Perhaps this explains the misdirected wording on some occasions. Be that as it may, the error needs to be corrected, albeit in the most kind and gentle way possible. Harsh criticism can do significant damage to a sensitive person.
Though some religionists (e.g., the Mormons) contend that God is a physical being with flesh, blood, and bones — the Bible does not sanction this idea. Here are some points for reflection.
- Even in the age of the patriarchs, informed people knew that God was not a man. On one occasion, Job said: “For he is not a man, as I am?” (9:32). Later, under the Mosaic regime, that sentiment would be echoed. The Lord, speaking through the prophet Hosea, declared: “I am God, and not man” (11:9).
- When Peter confessed Jesus as the Messiah, the Lord proclaimed: “Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven” (Mt. 16:17). Note the contrast between “flesh and blood” and the “Father.” God the Father is not physical.
- To a woman of Samaria, Christ once said: “God is spirit?” (Jn. 4:24). At a later time, the Lord declared that “a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have” (Lk. 24:39). Combining these statements, one must draw the conclusion that the Heavenly Father does not possess “flesh and bones,” i.e., a material body
- In one of his letters to Timothy, Paul stated that God possesses “immortality” (1 Tim. 6:16). The Greek term for “immortality” is athanasia (from a, “not,” and thanatos, “death”); the word suggests deathlessness. God, as a spirit-Being, is incapable of dying. It is not proper to speak of God’s “death.”
It is inappropriate, therefore, to speak of God (in prayer or otherwise) as being physical. Sincere brethren, who have misspoken regarding this matter, will thank you for courteously calling the mistake to their attention.
“Some of the newer Bible translations have men addressing God with the use of the pronouns ‘you’ and ‘your.’ Is not this a less-respectful mode of speech than the use of ‘thee’ and ‘thou’?”
From time to time good people express this idea. A sincere gentleman recently wrote an article in which he made this statement: “For many years I have appreciated those who use ‘thee’ and ‘thou’ in prayer. In my judgment, it shows more reverence for God” (emp. added). With due respect, this statement is exceedingly misguided.
- It is precisely this brother’s “judgment” that is at issue. He has “judged” the brother who says, “Thank you, God,” to be less reverent than the one who says, “Thank thee, God.” Truly, this is a most unwarranted deduction.
- There is nothing in the Hebrew text of the Old Testament, or the Greek text of the New Testament, that distinguishes between pronouns used of God, and those employed of ordinary human beings. No informed person would even dare to suggest such.
- According to the older translations (KJV, ASV), when Jesus addressed Peter at Caesarea-Philippi, he said: “I say unto thee, that thou art Peter?” (Mt. 16:18). Is one to conclude, from the language here used, that we would demonstrate more respect for one another if we adapted our language to the stylistic mode of the 17th century?
We can appreciate the longing for more reverent demeanor among the people of God today. (Certainly, in some respects, it is sorely needed.) One is free to construct his prayers in the language-style of that used four centuries ago if he chooses. He is not free, however, to suggest that folks who pray in the normal language of the 21st century are less spiritual.
About the Author
Wayne Jackson has written for and edited the Christian Courier since its inception in 1965. He has also written several books on a variety of biblical topics including The Bible and Science, Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth, The Bible on Trial, and a number of commentaries. He lives in Stockton, California with his dear wife, and life-long partner, Betty.