Divine Nature

Bible Students often express the thought of the “divine nature” as opposed to the “human nature.” “Divine nature” is often thought to mean immortality, of being equal to God in such a “nature”. Charles Taze Russell adopted, more correctly adapted, the trinitarian usage of the word “nature”, as that word is used by trinitarians to express Jesus’ alleged dual natures, one of which they consider to be “divine”, by which they mean having the nature of God Almighty, the only Most High. At the same time the trinitarian says that Jesus has even to this day, the human “nature”: that is, that Jesus still has his body of flesh to this day. Brother Russell adapted these terms in his study “[a href=”http://www.mostholyfaith.com/beta/bible/volumes/A10.asp”]SPIRITUAL AND HUMAN NATURES SEPARATE AND DISTINCT[/a].” Nevertheless, I know of no word in the Hebrew or Greek as used in the Bible that actually corresponds with the usage as Brother Russell uses for “nature”; the closest I can find is the Greek transliterated as sarx in the sense that Paul uses it in 1 Corinthians 15. I have a study that corresponds with Brother Russell’s study, entitled, “[a href=”http://reslight.net/?p=1006″]With What Kind of Body Will We Be Raised?[/a]” Rather than use the word “nature” as did Brother Russell, the study uses the more scriptural term, “body”.

Brother Russell often used the expression “divine nature” (as it appears in the KJV and many other translations) in 2 Peter 1:4 to mean the opposite of “human nature”, as applying to the plane of existence; however, the Greek words used in 2 Peter 1:4 are not in reference to the kind of body, or the plane of existence, but is in reference to godlike qualities as opposed to the corruption that is the world. In other words, “divine nature,” in 2 Peter 1:4, is in reference to what man should possess as opposed to the sinful nature that man now possesses.
See:
[a href=”http://reslight.net/?p=164″]Divine Nature in 2 Peter 1:4[/a].

Did Adam, then possess the divine nature spoken of in 2 Peter 1:4 before he sinned? As expressed in 2 Peter 1:4-7, Peter was especially speaking of the calling and election to be joint-heirs with Christ. (2 Peter 1:10) This suggests a point where one has developed the divine qualities to a point of perfection. As far as not having sin, I believe that one could say in a broad sense that Adam had a divine nature, but Adam never developed the divine qualities to the point of perfection. If he had, then he would not have sinned. Thus, in the sense of completeness, Adam did not have the divine nature as spoken of in 2 Peter 1:4.

Brother Russell also arbitrarily defined the “divine nature” as meaning immortality, which he limited to God, Jesus and the 144,000. Again, we find no such definition of “divine nature” given in the Bible, so it would appear that this definition was adapted from trinitarian definitions, which would limit “divine nature” to only God Almighty.

Despite the meanings man may have given to the word “divine” and “deity”, scripturally, the words “divine” and “deity” have to relate to forms of the Hebrew word often transliterated as “el” and forms of the corresponding Greek word transliterated as “theos”. Defining “divine” and “deity” along the lines of the Hebraic usage of these words does allow us to say that Jesus is “divine” and Jesus is “deity”, although Jesus is not God Most High. Not only this, one could define many humans as divine, possessing special mightiness or authority.

Some past studies may prove helpful:

Hebraic Usage of the Titles for God
The Fullness of Deity
The Logos was Theos
Russell and the Deity of Christ
Was Jesus Divine as a Human?
Divine Nature in 2 Peter 1:4

This matter was somewhat confusing to me until I spent many hours examining the usage of the various forms of el and theos. Even then, I had to do a lot more study and comparing spiritual revealing with spiritual revealing (1 Corinthians 2:10,13) so as to draw conclusions from what God, through his spirit, had revealed concerning this.

Yes, “divine” can mean God/god, but “god” does not always mean the Supreme Being, nor does it always refer to a spirit being. Nevertheless, the English words “god,” “God”, “divine”, and “diety” are all derived from forms of the same Hebrew word. The basic meaning of forms of the Hebrew word for “God” is “might, strength, power.” There is only one true power, one source of all power, in the universe, and that is Jehovah, and there is no might, power beside — aside from — Him. (Isaiah 44:6; 1 Corinthians 8:6) In this sense only Jehovah is “God” — the Supreme Being.

However, the Bible uses forms of the Hebrew word for God in a broader sense as applied to others who have received special power, might or authority from that only true source. Even the power of the demons comes from Jehovah, although they misuse that power. Most translations of the Bible into English as well as other languages recognize this usage, but the words for god are not apparent to the English reader, since they have been rendered with the more basic meanings with form of power, strength, might, etc. We can use the most popular English translation — the King James Version — to illustrate such usage. This can be demonstrated in such verses where the KJV renders the word for “God” (forms of EL and ELOHIM in the Hebrew) so as to denote strength, power, might, rulership, etc., such as in the following verses: Genesis 23:6 (mighty); Genesis 30:8 (mighty); Genesis 31:29 (power); Deuteronomy 28:32 (might); 1 Samuel 14:15 (great); Nehemiah 5:5 (power); Psalm 8:5 (angels); Psalm 36:6 (great); Psalm 82:1 (mighty); Proverbs 3:27 (power); Psalm 29:1 (mighty); Ezekiel 32:21 (strong); Jonah 3:3 (exceeding). If one were to substitute “false god” in these verses, we would have some absurd statements. This proves that these words are used in a sense other than the only true God, or as “false god.”

Thus, angels are divine beings, and translators of the New Revised Standard Version recognized this usage, as a footnote for Psalm 8:5 reads, “Or [than the divine beings] or [angels]: Heb [elohim]”. This meaning, however, would not be applied to human beings.

Crosswalk’s Lexicon lists the following meanings for el:

1. god, god-like one, mighty one
1. mighty men, men of rank, mighty heroes
2. angels
3. god, false god, (demons, imaginations)
4. God, the one true God, Jehovah
2. mighty things in nature
3. strength, power

http://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/hebrew/kjv/el.html

elohim:

1. (plural)
1. rulers, judges
2. divine ones
3. angels
4. gods
2. (plural intensive – singular meaning)
1. god, goddess
2. godlike one
3. works or special possessions of God
4. the (true) God
5. God

http://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/hebrew/kjv/elohiym.html

Theos (Please note that these definitions are often mingled with extra-Biblical Greek meanings):

1. a god or goddess, a general name of deities or divinities
2. the Godhead, trinity
1. God the Father, the first person in the trinity
2. Christ, the second person of the trinity
3. Holy Spirit, the third person in the trinity
3. spoken of the only and true God
1. refers to the things of God
2. his counsels, interests, things due to him
4. whatever can in any respect be likened unto God, or resemble him in any way
1. God’s representative or viceregent
1. of magistrates and judges

http://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/greek/kjv/theos.html

The truth, however, is that the concept of “God” as we often conceptualize that word in our modern English way of thinking does not fully fit the Hebraic usage, since the Hebrews thought of the forms of EL in terms of the mightiness, the power, [or authority as applied to others than Yahweh], and these meanings would also be brought forth in the translation of the forms of EL in the forms of the Greek theos in the New Testament. There is no power besides Jehovah, since He is the source of all power. Thus Jehovah is the only true Power, although he does give special power and/or authority to others, as He did with the angels, as he did to Moses. Likewise, various rulers and judges could be called gods, since they receive their authority by permission of Jehovah. And, the power [el, god] of the hand of various ones spoken of in the Bible, signifies the divine power as given by Yahweh, even if that power is used for evil purposes.

As I have stated before, the scriptures use the terms for god with different shades of meaning. When John said that the Word “was” theos, he was talking about what Jesus “was” before Jesus became flesh. Thus, John used the word theos to mean more than just might as such would be used of men, but John used the term theos to describe Jesus’ celestial bodily glory that “was” before the Word became flesh. (John 17:5; 1 Corinthians 15:40) This is similar to the manner in which the NRSV refers to the angels as “divine beings.” Jesus “was” indeed a divine being, but, during the days of his flesh he was not that divine being. This meaning would realize the words for “God” as referring to spiritual being (body) rather than fleshly, physical being (body). (1 Corinthians 15:40,44) For those who would attain the prize of their calling, the spiritual, celestial [body] is not first, but rather the physical, terrestrial body — a body as Adam had before he sinned (1 Corinthians 15:45) — is first accounted to the seed. (1 Corinthians 15:46, I include this to show that Paul does not confuse the spiritual body with the physical body; 1 Corinthians 15:37,38) Thus, there is a sense that the Hebrews understood the words for god to signify divine/god in “being” as such is applied both to Jehovah as well as to others than Jehovah.

Nevertheless, as the word elohim (god/divine one/mighty one) was used of the human being Moses (Exodus 7:1), and the humans who became “sons of the Most High” (Psalm 82:1,6,7; John 10:34,35), it does not signify divine in being/body, as opposed to fleshly, terrestrial body/being, but divine in the power/authority given. Thus elohim in Psalm 82:6 could be understood as “divine ones”, but not “divine beings”. Jesus, being “the” specially-sent human “son of the Most High” (Luke 1:32), could certainly, like the human “sons of the Most High” mentioned in Psalm 82:1,6,7, be referred to as having divinity, mightiness and power, even while he was in the days of his flesh, although he most certainly did not have the divinity of “being” that he had before he became flesh, nor the divinity of being that he now possesses. These “sons” to whom the Word (Jesus) came (John 10:34,35) are those who received the Word that John spoke of in John 1:12 to whom was given special authority to become sons of God, and thus be spoken of as “gods”. Psalm 82 outlines the great difficulty even the sons of the Most High have in overcoming selfish tendencies, and that many of them will die like men, without obtaining the prize for which they were called.

See Who are the “Gods” of Psalm 82?

Of course, if one arbitrarily gives the word “divine” the meaning of being death-proof, immortal, etc., such a definition would not fit Jesus while he was in the days of his flesh, since, as a human being, he died for our sins. And if one arbitrarily limits the word “divine” to God, Jesus and the 144,000, then no human could be said to have such a “divine nature”. The Bible, however, never places such a limitation on forms of the words EL and THEOS.

         
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3 comments to Divine Nature

  • This is a very informative and Useful post and help me out to get all valuable information regarding this topic. Great work

  • Lee

    My understanding of the divine nature mentioned by Peter is that of Godly love or AGAPE. Jesus fulfilled the law, Matthew 5:7 and Paul says that AGAPE is the fulfillment of the law. This AGAPE is a gift of the holy spirit to believers and is a love that human beings do not have by nature. God plants as a seed this AGAPE in His saints and it is to grow. It is by this AGAPE we can overcome sin. Jesus had AGAPE just as his Father was AGAPE and this is how Jesus was in the image of his God. This is why Jesus could not sin or be tempted with evil thus making him the lamb without spot or blemish. We are to be made in the image of God, Jesus the man, our messiah. Jesus was the image of God only in AGAPE as all other works Jesus did while on Earth were done by his Father. God made an image of Himself, His son, the messiah; an image of AGAPE only and nothing else. This AGAPE is the greatest of all things and without it we are nothing.

    • ResLight

      Agape is certainly at the greatest quality of divine nature, but I don’t think it would be appropriate to say that divine nature is agape. Agape love is just one of the fruits of the spirit; it is not THE fruit of the spirit. (Galatians 5:22,23) Peter’s description of the divine nature includes agape love (2 Peter 1:7), but he lists many things necessary to reach the perfection of the divine nature. — 2 Peter 1:5-10.
      s

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