September 10, 2007

The “Christ” Under Siege

Part 1: Does the Samaritan example in John 4 prove “the Christ” is a title devoid of Deity?

This article series will examine the claim of Grace Evangelical Society (GES) proponent Zane Hodges that “the Christ” is a title devoid of Deity. The first part will examine his arguments in reference to the Samaritans in John 4.

Crossless gospel advocates deny that the lost must believe that Christ is the Son of God (Deity) who came in the flesh, died for our sins, and rose again. Instead, they have isolated Christ's guarantee of eternal life apart from these essential truths that identity Jesus as the Christ and comprise the gospel. They claim the lost must only believe that “the guarantor of eternal life to all believers is named Jesus” [1].

To support this new doctrine, crossless gospel advocates must redefine Jesus' title as “the Christ”. Among other things, they deny this holy title conveys His Deity. In other words, they claim the lost can believe on Him as “the Christ” and receive eternal life without believing His Deity. This is important because several passages predicate eternal life upon believing on Jesus as the Christ (cf. John 20:31; 1 John 5:1; Acts 9:22; 17:3; 18:5, 28).

To prove that a person can believe Jesus as “the Christ” while not believing in His Deity, crossless gospel advocates appeal to the example of the Samaritans in John 4. They have turned this into a major argument for their position. Zane Hodges, Bob Wilkin (Executive Director of the GES), and Jeremy Myers (GES staff member) all claim the Samaritans received eternal life by believing in Jesus as “the Christ” while not believing in His Deity. This article will deal specifically with crossless gospel advocates’ interpretation of “the Christ” in John 4. Does the example of the Samaritans prove that the lost can believe in Jesus as “the Christ” and receive eternal life while not believing His Deity?

In order to understand this argument and the importance of it, let us follow the reasoning of Zane Hodges in How to Lead a Person to Christ, Pt. 1 [2]

“One night [a] student made a statement to me that I have never forgotten. He said something like this, 'I know that I trusted Christ for salvation before I realized that Jesus was the Son of God.' I was surprised because I had never heard anyone say this before. But I did not quarrel with that statement then, nor would I quarrel with it now.”

In contrast to Hodges, I would quarrel with this statement because John 20:31 says,
I have written these things that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.”

Hodges's statement is a flat contradiction of John 20:31 in addition to a number of other passages. How does he get around the term “Son of God” in this statement?

Hodges theorizes that we should look for the least “common denominator.” In other words, if there is a passage that predicates salvation upon believing something less than what is stated in John 20:31, only the “common denominator” is the required element and John 20:31 contains superfluous information. Hodges believes he has found such a passage.

First, he takes us to another passage where we find the same term “the Christ, the Son of God:”
“It is precisely the ability of Jesus to guarantee eternal life that makes Him the Christ in the Johannine sense of that term. Our Lord’s exchange with Martha in John 11:25-27 demonstrates this clearly. You remember it, don’t you? ‘Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?’ (John 11:25-26). Her reply is a declaration that she believes Him to be the Christ. Martha said, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world’ (11:27). Notice here that to believe that Jesus is the Christ means to believe that He guarantees resurrection and eternal life to every believer.”

Notice that Hodges only attempts to define “the Christ” at this point. He says nothing about the meaning of “the Son of God” even though Martha connected it with “the Christ.” In this particular article, Hodges remains consistent in distinguishing “the Christ” which he equates to “guarantor of eternal life” from “Son of God,” which he conceded to be a divine-ontological title. As far as Hodges’s argument about the “Christ,” he has it backwards. It is not the ability of Jesus to guarantee eternal life that makes Him the Christ any more than it makes Him God. It’s the other way around—the fact that He is the Christ, the Son of God means that He can guarantee eternal life.

Hodges goes on:
“But now let us look at John 4. In that famous passage we have the Samaritans saying to the woman who had encountered Jesus, ‘Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world’ (John 4:42). Observe that the common denominator to both passages is the term ‘Christ.’ On Martha’s lips He is ‘the Christ, the Son of God,’ and on the lips of the Samaritans He is ‘the Christ, the Savior of the world.’ This is not an accidental or insignificant difference.” (Emphasis mine)

Hodges is starting to argue that in the phrase “that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” (John 20:31) only the truth that He is “the Christ” is essential because the least-common denominator between John 20:31, 11:27, and 4:42 is “the Christ.” Hodges’s “common denominator” theory does not hold up. Someone else could just as easily cite John 9:35-38 and 1 John 5:5 in respect to John 20:31 to suggest the least common denominator is to believe “that Jesus is the Son of God.” In fact, 1 John 5:5, says, “Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” Furthermore, if “the Son of God” is appositional to “the Christ” in John 11:27 and 20:31 (and other passages), the proper understanding of “the Christ” in all passages entails believing that He is the Son of God. It simply does not need to be repeated in every single verse. Hodges's “common denominator” argument is weakened even more by the fact that 4:42 is a textual variant that may not even contain the words “the Christ”, just “the Savior of the world.”

Hodges clearly explains his understanding of the Samaritans in John 4 and how this ties into his “bare minimum” gospel:
“In Jewish prophecy and theology the promised Christ was also the Son of God—that is, He was to be a divine person. Recall the words of Isaiah: ‘For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given…and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace’ (9:6-7). But in Samaritan theology, the Messiah was thought of as a prophet and the woman at the well is led to faith through our Lord’s prophetic ability to know her life. Her words, ‘Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet’ (4:19) are a first step in the direction of recognizing Him as the Christ. There is no evidence that she or the other Samaritans understood the deity of our Lord. But they did believe that he was the Christ. And John tells us in his first epistle that ‘whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God’ (5:1)!”

Problems with Crossless Gospel Advocate's Interpretation of John 4
First of all, every argument of Crossless Gospel advocates in regards to the Gospel of John ignores the clear Scriptural truth of progressive revelation. This was addressed in False Paradigms of the Crossless Gospel, Pt. 1. They also disregard the fact that John is written as a narrative that may portray a consummate view of what it means to believe in “Jesus” as “the Christ.” From a historical standpoint, a person living during Christ's earthly ministry who stood in His physical presence would have a different perception of the Person indicated by the name “Jesus” than a person presented with “Jesus” only after this Man died. The name “Jesus” is not just a name to be attached to “guarantor of eternal life for all believers.” It refers to a real, historical Man, and it represents some particular truths that identify Him, apart from which a person may falsely believe Jesus Martinez guarantees eternal life. When these essential historical truths are presented, it becomes necessary to explain the significance of His death, and that He did not just die but was raised. Only in this way can this Jesus be known as “the Christ, the Son of God.” While going into this further would not fit the purpose of this article, this is important to note at the outset.

The passage at issue is John 4:7-42. One should be aware of all the assumptions built into Hodges's conclusion that the Samaritans believed in Jesus as “the Christ” without believing in His deity. His argument is built upon assumption after assumption:

Assumption 1:

First, Hodges asks us to accept his premise that popular Samaritan Messiahology circa 29 A.D denied the Deity of the Messiah. Let me ask: how do we know what the Samaritans believed about the Messiah at that time? Hodges cites no historical works to prove his point. Actually, there are no extant records that speak of Samaritan theology on the Messiah in any period prior to the fourth century at the earliest. In fact, there is no such thing as the “Messiah” in ancient records of Samaritan theology.

The earliest historical insight we have into Samaritan thought related to this matter comes from a collection of Samaritan commentaries called Tibat Marqe. Tibat Marqe speaks of a coming figure called “Taheb” (Ta'ib). Several realities invalidate the assumption that this document reveals Samaritan beliefs about Taheb at the time of Christ. First, this work originated no earlier than the fourth century.[3] In fact, some distinguished scholars in Samaritan studies now argue it originated much more recently than the fourth century. [4] There is no evidence of belief in “Taheb” prior to this work. Secondly, the reasoning that the Samaritan concept of the Messiah at the time of Christ must have been similar to the Taheb described in the later 4th century Tibat Marqe seems historically anachronistic. If anything, it is more likely that the Gospel of John directly or indirectly influenced, Marqah, the author of Tibat Marqe, especially when Johannine themes such “knowing the truth” and “walking in truth” recur in Tibat Marqe. [5] Historians recognize a certain amenability of the Samaritans toward Christians, who were thought to have treated the Samaritans favorably. Samaritan scholars Anderson and Giles noted, “The Sources for Marqe are the Pentateuch, the New Testament, Jewish (non-Torah) documents, and certain Muslim documents. ” [6] It is most likely, therefore, that the concept of Taheb developed hundreds of years after the time of Christ. Thus, Hodges has absolutely no basis to comment upon Samaritan thought regarding Taheb, much less the Messiah, in 29 AD!

But there is an even more significant problem that puts Hodges into an indefensible position. It is significant and highly problematic for Hodges that the woman calls Him “Messias”. The Hebrew word Messias is equivalent to the Greek Christos. We know the woman actually used this word because John specifically quotes her saying “Messias” and then includes the Greek translation “Christos” (John 4:25). Where did the Samaritan woman get “Messias” from? If we grant that Samaritans at this time had no Scriptures beside the Torah, Hodges must deal with the fact the woman calls him “Messias.” This term was incepted in OT Scriptures outside the Torah, namely the Psalms wherein the Deity of the Messiah is taught. It is actually impossible that the Samaritan woman equated “Messias” or Jesus to the later concept of Taheb because she knew Jesus was a Jewish man and the “Messias” was a Jewish term and concept. Taheb was specifically to be a Samaritan, not a Jew. Where did the Samaritan woman and her community get the term Messias? It could only come from one of two places: a) the Psalms which speak of His Deity or b) from the Jews who took this word from the OT Scriptures, i.e., the same Jews that Hodges claims believed in the Deity of the Messiah. This point reveals inexcusable assumptions in Hodges’s argument.

When Hodges says, “in Samaritan theology, the Messiah was thought of as a prophet” I'm sure he has in mind Deuteronomy 18:15, 18. But so what? We agree this prophecy was fulfilled in the Person of Jesus Christ. The Messiah is a prophet. Obviously, the fact He would be a prophet did not preclude His Deity. Furthermore, this verse in Deuteronomy does not use the term Messias used by the Samaritan woman in John 4--so we cannot pretend that it explains the extent of the Samaritans' understanding of Messias in 29 AD!

We do not need to argue these particular Samaritans in Sychar expected a divine Messiah. It is enough to point out that Hodges is building a case based on assumptions that cannot be proven. The simple fact the woman called Him “Messiasshatters Hodges's underlying assumption.

Assumption 2:

After Hodges' unproven foundational remarks on popular Samaritan Messiahology in 29 AD, Hodges asks us to accept his next assumption: this particular Samaritan woman and community accepted the same popular non-Deity view of the Messiah. Hodges's distinction between the Jews and Samaritans regarding the Messiah--that the Jews believed the Messiah would be Divine while the Samaritans did not--is disingenuous to start with because various and opposing views of the Messiah prevailed in Israel, the one People whose Messiahology we actually know anything about! This is easily demonstrated in the Gospels. Isn't that why Jesus corrected a popular false view of the Messiah, for example, in Matthew 22:41-46? If opinions varied in Israel, why should we assume they did not in Samaria?

Assumption 3:

If we are to base our understanding of “the Christ” based on what some Samaritans supposedly believed about the Messiah before He even preached to them, then Hodges must have concluded the Samaritans already believed the Christ would be the guarantor of eternal life to all who would believe in Him before He even arrived on the scene. But if Hodges is supposedly relying on historical information to suggest the Samaritans denied the Deity of “Messias,” would he be so kind as to furnish information that proves the Samaritan community believed “Messias” would be guarantor of everlasting life by faith alone? No. Furthermore, certain things in the passage argue against Hodges's assumption. Jesus said “if you knew the gift of God...” (John 4:10). Why would He say this if the Samaritans already knew the gift of God was eternal life by faith alone? When the Samaritan woman mentions the Messiah she said, “I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when He is come, He will tell us all things...” Notice that she does not say, “The Messiah will guarantee eternal life by faith alone.” This is particularly conspicuous after Christ has already raised the issue of eternal life. Obviously, no matter whose viewpoint is ultimately true, we should NOT base our understanding of “the Christ” upon what Samaritans supposedly believed about Jesus before he even preached to them!

Assumption 4:

This fourth assumption is the most reckless assumption of all--that Jesus never convinced these Samaritans that He is the Son of God! There is not one reason to argue from this passage that Jesus did not convey His Deity by His words and actions. For one thing, crossless gospel advocates ignore important indications that oppose their view. We'll consider these next. Furthermore, if Scripture clearly teaches that believing in Jesus as “the Christ” involves believing He is the “the Son of God,” what right do we have to truncate this by claiming the Samaritans believed in Jesus as “the Christ” minus His Deity!? This assumption is not just an argument from silence, it is illicit because it contradicts other Scripture. This is a classic case of trying to override clear passages by the more ambiguous.

Observations on John 4 Overlooked by Crossless Gospel Advocates:

1. In Jesus’ opening statement to the woman Jesus said, “If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.” (John 4:10). Jesus wants her to know two things: 1) “the gift of God” and 2) “Who it is...” How can someone read the Gospel of John without realizing His Deity is the most important feature that identifies “Who it is...” Christ's Deity is also indirectly implied because He offers the “gift of God” (4:10) and presents Himself as the source of this gift (4:14).

Jesus Christ said, “But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4:14). In the first sentence, the “I” (ego) occurs for emphasis. It is otherwise unnecessary in Greek because the verb is in the first person and identifies the subject. The first person pronoun emphasizes that Jesus Christ is not merely speaking as an evangelist but as the very source of the living water and the gift of God.

2. The woman's view of Jesus increases progressively from v. 10, 12, 19, 25, and 26. Her ignorance of Him is mentioned in v. 10: “if thou knewest...Who it is...” In v. 12, she asks in disbelief, “Art thou greater than our father Jacob...?” As Christ speaks, her estimation moves up. She responds, “Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet” (v. 19). Her estimation of Him continues to rise as He speaks. Next she replies, “I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ...” (v. 25). In the next verse Christ replies, “I AM, who speak unto thee” (v. 26). If Jesus' statements in 4:10-15 referenced only His “function” as Christ and if the woman believed in Him as “the Christ” by 4:19, why did she express uncertainty about the identity of the Christ is 4:25 where she said, “I know that Messias cometh, which is called Christ: when he is come, he will tell us all things”?

This point contradicts Myer's argument about the woman's statement in John 4:19, “Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet.” Myers argues, “If Jesus had just told her that He was God, and shown her by references to Scripture that He was God, isn't her response in 4:19 rather odd?”[7] In contrast to Myers, I think it is rather odd to delimit belief in Jesus as “the Christ” by this statement made by a woman before she even believed in Him! That would be like delimiting belief in Jesus as “the Son of God” by the blind man's statement in 9:17, “He is a prophet,” before he even believed in Jesus as the Son of God (cf. 9:35-38). Furthermore, Myer's argument is self-contradictory. If Jesus' statements in 4:10-15 referenced only His “function” as Christ and if the woman believed in Him as “the Christ” by 4:19, why did she express uncertainty about the identity of the Christ is 4:25?

The example of the Samaritan woman is not the only place where the Gospel of John records an example of a person's estimation of Jesus moving up to the point he or she believes in Jesus as the Son of God. There is a parallel in John 9 with the example of the blind man (See 9:11, 17, 25, 30-33, 35-38). Notice that the blind man was required to believe in Jesus as the Son of God: “He said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God? He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him? And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee. And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him.” (9:35-38). Was the bar higher for the blind man? Did Jesus require the blind man to believe in Him as the Son of God after offering a lower standard to the Samaritan woman?

3. Jesus' omniscience is referenced in 4:17-18, 29, and 39: “He told me all that ever I did.” Though the woman did not immediately believe in Him as the result of this sign, it certainly pointed to His Deity. Eventually, she and others came to faith after the witness of this sign. This sign more directly points to “Who” Jesus Christ is (Deity) than the “gift” He offers (cf. 4:10). It is also interesting to note that the omniscience Jesus Christ expressed regarded her sin: “Thou hast well said, I have no husband: For thou hast had five husbands; and he whom thou now hast is not thy husband.” (4:17-18). If someone were to omnisciently point out your sin in the process of offering a Divine gift, the implication is that this person is not a sinner Himself – he is Deity. Nathaniel also came to the same conclusion, that Jesus is “the Son of God” through a sign of His omniscience (1:47-49). As far her progressive realization that the sign pointed to His Deity, the example of the blind man is also similar in this respect (John 9:1-38).

4. The Samaritan woman could not have believed in Jesus as the Christ under Hodges’s construct of supposed Samaritan theology in 29AD because she knows that Jesus is a Jewish man: “How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria?”(4:9). If anything is to be surmised from later Samaritan belief in Taheb, it should be obvious, first of all, that Samaritans expressly rejected the idea that God would operate through the Jews to bring in a savior figure. Taheb is supposed to be Samaritan. Notice that Jesus Christ says this: “Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.” (4:22). It is only after He says this that the woman brings up the Jewish “Messias” (4:25). Jesus Christ identifies Himself, a Jewish man, as the Messiah. This very clearly suggests the woman was led to believe in the true Jewish concept of Messias, not the Samaritan concept of Taheb. According to Hodges, “In Jewish prophecy and theology the promised Christ was also the Son of God—that is, He was to be a divine person.”

5. Jesus identified Himself by saying literally “I AM” (Gr. ego eimi). While this is a way of identifying oneself in Greek without necessarily referring to Deity, we should be very careful about downplaying these words when spoken from the lips of Christ. Jesus used these words to identify Himself as the “I AM” (cf. 8:23-24; 58). I believe every single one of the “I AM” statements from Christ that John records in the Gospel of John and Revelation refer to His Deity. Even when the “am” is transitive/equative (e.g. I AM the bread of life), Deity is required for that identity. Even when He proclaimed, “I AM” in response to a request for “Jesus of Nazareth” to be identified, His words conveyed something very powerful (See John 18:3-6). John clearly indicates that this is a holy phrase from the lips of Christ. When He uttered these words, He identified Himself as the incarnate “I AM” of the Old Testament (Ex. 3:14; Isaiah 43:10-11) who alone could be the Messiah and the “Savior of the world” (Isaiah 43:10-11; 45:21-22; John 4:42).

6. This passage simply does not claim to relay all that Jesus Christ taught about Himself before the Samaritans “believed” (cf. vv. 41, 42). The passage does indicate that some of the Samaritans in the city believed “because of the word of the woman who testified, He told me all that I ever did.” If anything can be directly inferred from this miracle, it is His Deity.

7. Even the phrase “Savior of the world” (4:42) requires that the Christ be Divine. In fact, “all the ends of the earth” were commanded to look to none other but the One true God as Savior (Isaiah 43:10-11; 45:21-22). To suggest a person can receive salvation by believing in a person they believe is not God is tantamount to saying a person can receive eternal life through an act of idolatry.

While these observations are offered for consideration, it is not our burden to show any specific statement that the Samaritans believed in Christ's Deity. Hodges appealed to the example of the Samaritans to blunt the plain meaning of John 20:31. To believe He is “the Christ” involves believing He is “the Son of God.” Nothing in Hodges arguments has offered any valid reason to truncate the clear meaning of John 20:31.

Denying Vs. Not Believing?

Since August 24, Lou Martuneac has sought a reply from GES on this question: “Can a lost man be born again, while consciously denying the deity of Christ, if he believes in Jesus for eternal life?” [8]

Even though the affirmative answer is the obvious logical answer of their view, both Bob Wilkin and Jeremy Myers have refused to answer. Wilkin replied, “Do you know of a passage in the Bible where someone ‘consciously denying the deity of Christ’ is said to ‘believe in Jesus for eternal life?’”

Wilkins’s reply seems lacking of candor in light of the fact he already advocates Hodges's view on the Samaritan woman in John 4. Apparently, GES is operating on the premise that there is a soteriological difference between “denying” and “not believing” the Deity of Christ. While they already argue people are saved while “not believing” Christ's Deity, they refuse to publicly admit their belief that a person may be saved while “denying” Christ's Deity. This distinction is unbiblical. John 3:18-19 states:
“He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.”

The simple fact someone has not believed that Jesus is the only begotten Son of God means that one is condemned. According to this verse not believing is tantamount to denying (also see John 3:36). Why would someone ultimately not believe in Him as the only begotten Son of God? Is it only because he is lacking intellectual facts? No, it is because he loves darkness rather than light. Similarly, in the realm of confession, not confessing is tantamount to denying (cf. 1 John 4:2-3; 2 John 7).

Let us think of a practical example. Do Jehovah's Witnesses “not believe” or “deny” the significance of Jesus as “the only begotten Son of God?” Both! If the individual JW accepts the teaching of his denomination, he too is guilty of denying that Jesus is “the only begotten Son of God.”

Now rewind 2,000 years. Hodges has claimed the Jews believed the coming Messiah would be the Divine Son of God. According to John 4:25, the Samaritans apparently adopted the Jewish term and idea of a coming Messias. But, according to Hodges, they adopted this term while denying the Jewish teaching in which this very term was incepted! If Hodges's view is true, did the Samaritans “not believe” or “deny” the Deity of the Messiah? Both! Taking the Jewish Scriptural term Messias and divesting it of Deity would be just like what Jehovah's Witnesses have done by taking the name “Jesus” and divesting it of Deity. To “not believe” in His Deity is to deny it.

Furthermore, Jesus did not merely teach, “If you consciously deny I AM, you will die in your sins.” He taught, “Unless you believe I AM, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24).

In a recent internet post, Jeremy Myers admitted this verse spoke of Christ's Deity, but he claimed believing in Christ's Deity is only a normal logical step toward believing His promise, not an absolute requirement [9]. At the same time, however, he cited the Samaritans in John 4 as an example of people who were saved through faith in Christ's promise while not believing His Deity. I asked him this question:

Am I correct that, according to your view, it could be said to the Samaritans: “You do NOT believe I AM, yet you shall NOT die in your sins?” If so, how do you maintain the veracity of Christ's words in John 8:24?

Jeremy Myers refused to answer.


The burden of proof is on advocates of the “Crossless-Godless” Gospel to prove Christ's Deity is NOT involved in believing in Jesus as “the Christ”. They have certainly not proved this by appealing to John 4. Instead, they've offered an argument built on assumption after assumption. They will never succeed in this endeavor because the Bible is reliable and Scripture will not contradict Scripture.

The Old Testament predicted the Messias to be Deity from the very inception of this title. In the New Testament, Jesus Christ specifically taught that a non-Deity view of the Christ is deficient. He taught that the Christ is the Son of God and specifically described this in terms of Deity. He explicitly predicated salvation upon believing in His Deity. John 20:31 predicates eternal life on believing “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.” The “Son of God” gives explanation to “the Christ”. The Word is clear. It is essential to believe in Christ's Deity.

We cannot blunt these clear teachings of the Word of God with eisegetically forced propositions that are built upon assumption after assumption.

In the next article, we will consider positive Scriptural proof of “the Christ” signifying Deity.

Greg Schliesmann

I would like to thank my pastor, Tom Stegall, for his important contributions to this article. His research uncovered the false claims about Samaritan theology made by crossless gospel advocates (John 4:35-38).

Continue Greg's series with, The “Christ” Under Siege: The New Assault From the Grace Evangelical Society.

[1] E.g. See: Zane Hodges, How To Lead people to Christ, Pt. 1. Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society, (Autumn 2000).

[2] Ibid.

[3] For the view that Tibat Marqe was written during the 4th century A.D., see J. MacDonald, The Theology of the Samaritans (London: SCM, 1964), 42; see also J. D. Purvis, “The Fourth Gospel and the Samaritans,” Novum Testamentum 17 (1975): 163-68.)

[4] Some distinguished scholars in the field of Samaritan studies now argue for a much later date and more complex history of composition for Tibat Marqe than the fourth century AD. See. Catrin H. Williams, I am He: The Interpretation of ̉Anî Hû̉̉ in Jewish and Early Christian Literature (Tübingen: J. C. B. Mohr [Siebeck], 1999), 258.

[5] Boismard, Marie-Emile. Moses or Jesus: An Essay in Johannine Christology, trans. B. T. Viviano (Leuven: Leuven University Press, 1993), 40-41.

[6] Robert T. Anderson and Terry Giles, Tradition Kept: The Literature of the Samaritans (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2005), 271.

[7] See Myer’s comments on OPEN QUESTION to Bob Wilkin at the Grace Evangelical Society. Blog comments posted 8/28/2007 8:28 PM.

[8] Lou Martuneac, OPEN QUESTION to Bob Wilkin at the Grace Evangelical Society (August 24, 2007)

[9] See Jeremy Myer’s comments on OPEN QUESTION to Bob Wilkin at the Grace Evangelical Society. Blog comments posted 8/28/2007 2:29 PM.


  1. I continue to hear advocates of the Crossless-Godless gospel claim that the Samaritans believed in Jesus as "the Christ" without believing in His Deity. If there is any proof for this claim beside the unsubstantiated claims of Hodges, I would be happy to hear it.

    I would also be happy to respond to other passages that Crossless-Godless gospel advocates use to claim that anyone believed in Jesus as "the Christ" without believing in His Deity.

    -- Greg

  2. Greg:

    Your article is so thorough and well documented there is no answer or reply to it that can refute any of it.

    First year Bible college students are taught to let the Bible shape their theology. They are cautioned against taking into the Scripture pre-conceived notions with the intention to make the Bible support it. Hodges has gone to the Bible to force into or wrench out of it whatever he must to make the “Crossless” gospel work. This has lead to the assault on the titles of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

    I do not think we have seen the last of what will come of this. Hodges has been irresponsible in his teaching of these things that you have irrefutable exposed and corrected.

    It is very disturbing what the advocates of the “Crossless/Deityless” gospel will do to the titles of the Lord Jesus Christ. IMO, those who still cling to this egregious error on the Gospel.

    I'm looking forward to your next article.


    PS: I may be postng a new article today. I am going to look at the "Crossless" gospel and missions.

  3. Hi Greg,

    I have to admit, being a GES member I was really hesitant with some of your writings at first, but you have convinced me through exposing Hodges' lack of evidence. I was stunned since I wrote a paper in college about how faith in Jesus' divinity was not necessary based on Hodges claim, since I simply assumed that he had gotten it through historical research. I've also come to understand the true meaning of repentance through Duluth's family journal articles. I have had to confess to the Lord my ignorance and am thankful that He is a forgiving God. Thanks for your help in these areas.


  4. Tom:

    Greg will be encouraged by what you just wrote. I am sure that this was a careful, deliberate and prayerful process for you.

    I am sure he will reply later tonight or in the morning.

    In a few days or up to a week Greg is going to post more on this matter.

    God bless you,


  5. Tom,

    Thank you for your post. I do not know how many people have repented over this, so the fact that you did really means a lot to me. That's very encouraging. Praise the Lord!

    "Amen" to your comments about our God. He dealt patiently to bring me to repentance on the same issues in the past. Lam. 3:22-23.

    I also highly esteemed the writings of Zane Hodges. His chapter on James 2 in "The Gospel Under Siege" was truly intrumental in helping me to understand the gospel. I believe James 1:21 and 2:14 uses "save" in respect to our objective as saints in the Christian life while Hodges thinks it is salvation from physical death. Nonetheless, he does a brilliant job showing the issue there is not salvation from hell. After reading that, I took everything Hodges said very seriously. I had a similar skepticism, like you described, toward anything that disagreed with Hodges.

    However, I soon started to notice GES was wrong in point after point. Now, they are so off track that their efforts are focused on supporting their strange distinctives--not the distinctives that set them apart from Lordship Salvation--but the distinctives that set them apart from the rest of Free Grace. And it's getting weirder and weirder. Nearly every article they publish has an agenda to support some strange GES doctrine. Besides Hodge's "How to Lead a Person to Christ," another example would be Jeremy Myer's article in the last issue about "the gospel" in which he claims there is no such thing Scripture calls "the gospel" that the lost need to believe to be saved. Nobody would have ever reached this strange and blatantly wrong conclusion, nor would anybody ever publish such an article, unless it was done to undergird GES's crossless "saving proposition". Just read these passages on "the gospel" for yourself: Acts 15:7-9; 20:24; Rom. 1:16; 1 Cor. 1:17-21; 4:15; 15:1, 2-3; 2 Cor. 4:3-4; Gal. 1:6-9; Eph. 1:13; Col. 1:5; 2Thes. 1:8.

    Your point about the true meaning of repentance, i.e., a change of mind, is also important. I'm happy you are seeing that the gospel of free grace does not need the constructs GES has built for it. I will be praying for you, Tom. I'm sure that neither Satan nor ardent GES proponents are happy about your change of mind. Stick to the Word.

    Feel free to contact me any time at

    -- Greg

  6. I also wanted to mention that I am thankful to the Lord to have a local grace-oriented church and pastor where the grace of God in the gospel and the Christian life are emphasized. It has never adopted the strange distinctives of GES so it has been a wonderful testimony to me to the real deal of free grace. I will pray, Tom, that you may find such a church. I will also pray that more churches will take a stand and fill this need.

    -- Greg

  7. Greg:

    Your notes to Tom were a blessing to read for their charity and heart-felt sincerity.

    You also gave a fine synopsis of how the GES has drifted far ("off track") from its distinctives and theological moorings.


  8. Greg:

    You wrote, "Jeremy Myer's article in the last issue about "the gospel" in which he claims there is no such thing Scripture calls 'the gospel' that the lost need to believe to be saved. Nobody would have ever reached this strange and blatantly wrong conclusion, nor would anybody ever publish such an article, unless it was done to undergird GES's crossless 'saving proposition'."

    This is an incredible departure from orthodoxy.

    First year preacher boys are taught not to take a presupposition and try to wrench out of or force into the Bible what he must to make his presupposition work.

    I have not read this article by Myers.

    Would you please post a link to it, if it exists on line, or how one may attain a printed copy?



  9. Lou, here is a quote from this article by Myers:

    "I did a comprehensive word study on the words euangelion and euangelizo„, and came up with a list of fifty items that various NT writers include in their definition of the gospel. And some of them are so vague and general, that essentially, the gospel includes everything in the NT, if not everything in the entire Bible.

    So if we say a person has to know and believe the entire gospel, we are saying a person has to know and believe most, if not all of the Bible, which means that few, if any, actually have eternal life, and nobody has ever shared the entire gospel with anybody else, unless you have read or taught through the entire NT with them.

    It's not my intention to offend anybody, but Myer's methodology for arriving at this conclusion is simply absurd. Needless to say, Myers closed his eyes to the fact that Scripture predicates the salvation of the lost upon believing "the gospel" over and over.

    Myers takes references where John the Baptist teaches the gospel of the kingdom, references where the word "gospel" is used in the general sense of "good news", references where supporting proofs of "the gospel" are given (e.g. 1Cor. 15:5-9) and piles them all together to conclude "the gospel" includes all of the New Testament and "probably" all of the Old Testament too.

    He has this article up at his website:

    -- Greg

  10. Greg:

    Thanks, I'll look at it later.

    The “Gospel of the Kingdom” approach reminds me of the Lordship Salvation advocate finding the Gospel of Jesus Christ in His Sermon on the Mount.


  11. Yes, you're right.

    But here's another twist.

    In the same article Myers distinguishes "the gospel of the kingdom" as a technical usage (see "Matthew's Gospel of the Kingdom"). So he avoids the error of LS on the gospel of the kingdom. So it would appear that he has this rightly divided from "the gospel" we are to bring to the lost today, right?

    But then, with no explanation, Myers combines "the gospel of the kingdom" with other usages of "the gospel" to argue that the NT defines "the gospel" as the whole NT. So then, after avoiding the error of LS in one part of the article, he commits the same error by mixing "the gospel of the kingdom" with "the gospel" that we are to preach today (1Cor. 15:1-4)!

    With all due respect, this was done to fit an agenda and it is hypocritical.

    -- Greg

  12. Greg:

    With all due respect, this was done to fit an agenda and it is hypocritical.

    This is like waking up in the morning and asking yourself, "How can I use the Bible to cover my interpretation of the Gospel with a veneer of divine authority?"

    Looks like you have already done a thorough review. I'd post it you like.


  13. Greg,

    I am personally touched by your words. Thanks so much for the encouragement and prayers. I am actually in the process of searching for a youth ministry position right now and need God to direct me to a place that will proclaim the freeness of the gospel.

    By the way, that paper I wrote in college - I'm reworking it to show how Jesus' claim to be the resurrection and the life is a claim to deity and not just as the one who is able to guarantee it. I'll post on my site as soon as its ready to go.

    Thanks again,

    Tom <><

  14. Tom:

    Once you post that reworked paper please let me know I'll link my guests to it.

    God bless you,


  15. Isn’t it incredible that in order to destroy the 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 facts, and to decry them as not being part of the “saving message” (GES term of choice) you’ve got to destroy and distort the technical meaning of the word “gospel”.

    That is a massive undertaking. But, that’s exactly what GES, through the voice of Jeremy Myers and others, is in the process of doing.

    If you can make the word “gospel” have a general meaning synonymous with, err… the word “bible”, you don’t have to deal with the haunting voices of those who teach the biblical, technical, historic meaning of the word “Gospel”.

    You will not hear crossless advocates say anymore, “lets go preach the gospel”! I’m serious.

    The Gospel message, being the story of what happened on the greatest weekend in history is antiquated.

    What do I mean by the Gospel being the news of what happened on the greatest weekend in history? What that’s it-the Gospel! On Friday God destroyed sin by pouring out our just punishment on His own divine Son. At dusk, His Son shouts out, “It is finished”. He was then proven to be dead, beyond any doubt and was thus buried. Then in the early hours of Sunday morning, He was restored to life, unending life, by the Father and in doing so was victorious over the greatest enemy of all time – death itself. He did something that no other man has ever done.

    That’s message this world needs to hear and believe. That is the “Good News” of what God did in Jerusalem 2000 plus years ago. The world is supposed to believe in that person, Jesus Christ the Lord, as their own personal Savior!

    But, tragically, the Gospel now doesn’t have a technical meaning. It’s a general term. “How could you be so theologically challenged to believe that the Gospel Paul speaks of 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 has a technical meaning.

    I just wonder why Jeremy M. in his writing didn’t include the index, concordance and the maps in his definition of the word gospel. It’s global you know!

    Greg, thanks for bringing this so clearly into light. Their doctrinal-erosion-in-progress can now be seen through the flowing debris of their own writings.


  16. Bret, thanks for your post. Another thought that came to mind when reading it is that if the Church is to follow crossless "proposition" proponents in not identifying a technical usage of "the gospel" and the contents of it, then we are left in the most dreadful and detrimental position imaginable in light of this:

    2 Thessalonians 1:7-9
    "...when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey [believe] the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power... "

    If those who do not believe the gospel are going to suffer eternal torment, what's the point of even entertaining Christianity if we cannot identify the gospel like Myers who says:

    "[I] came up with a list of fifty items that various NT writers include in their definition of the gospel. And some of them are so vague and general, that essentially, the gospel includes everything in the NT, if not everything in the entire Bible."

    If that is true, woe is us!

    -- Greg

  17. After reading my last post, I wanted to encourage everyone with this passage which shows "the gospel" is not so hard to identify:

    1 Corinthians 1:17-18
    "For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect. For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God."

    The gospel is not the whole Bible, it is the message of the cross which is the power of God to salvation for all who believe (cf. 1Cor. 1:18, 21; Rom. 1:16).

    In line with this, Paul said:

    1 Corinthians 15:1, 3-4: Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand...For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received:

    1) that Christ died for our sins

    -- Scriptural proof: according to the Scriptures
    -- Second proof proof: and that He was buried, and

    2) that He rose again the third day

    -- Scriptural proof: according to the Scriptures
    -- Second proof: and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve...

    On this basis, as ambassadors for Christ, we are to plead with the lost:

    "...we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him." 2Cor. 5:20-21

    -- Greg

  18. Greg,

    You nailed the Gospel right on the head.

    The two proofs of each aspect of the gospel are exactly right! This is what crossless proponents don’t understand.

    Since to the crossless folk the gospel is a phrase (the saving message), they believe the gospel we speak of in 1 Corinthians 15 is our “gospel phrase”. Since they give a phrase as the gospel to be believed they think that the gospel we preach is a phrase. And they don’t like what they believe our phrase to be so they oppose us.

    I’m really beginning to see that we are talking apples and oranges not apples and apples.

    We are not into “phrase” evangelism.

    When we say that the gospel is the death and resurrection of Christ for our sins they are thinking that we use that as our pithy little catch phrase.

    What the crossless position does not understand is that the Gospel is not somebody's “popular saying” rather it is a provable prophesied person and event that actually happened in time and space. It is the event where God put everything right. They need to know what he did and how he did it. Then they need to be invited to believe it as God’s eternal solution for their eternal need. The lost must be taught who Christ is and what he did. That’s what it means to preach the good news. They are to believe in that Person and His great accomplishment wrought on the three days that totally redefined human history.

    The gospel is a person, not a phrase. Thanks Greg for bringing this out!