I have heard more than a few times that without Church tradition, our knowledge of important doctrines such as the Trinity would be thrust into doubt. While tradition certainly gives us clarity, I would also want to assert that the Scripture is unequivocal in so many places concerning the deity of the Son and the Spirit that extrapolating such a doctrine from the Scripture is eminently logical.
Note: This article was written before the author’s conversion to Orthodoxy.
Now, I do not want to tread much ground on this specific topic. Rather, I want to briefly discuss a couple passages we gloss over in Luke 8 without fully reflecting upon the Deity of Christ. Let’s start with the obvious one:
The people went out to see what had happened; and they came to Jesus, and found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting down at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind; and they became frightened. Those who had seen it reported to them how the man who was demon-possessed had been made well. And all the people of the country of the Gerasenes and the surrounding district asked Him to leave them, for they were gripped with great fear; and He got into a boat and returned. But the man from whom the demons had gone out was begging Him that he might accompany Him; but He sent him away, saying, “Return to your house and describe what great things God has done for you.” So he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city what great things Jesus had done for him.
The passage is simple enough. Jesus heals the Gerasene Demoniac and that man wants to now follow Jesus. Jesus gives an interesting response. Most of the time he tells people to keep quiet for his time has not yet come, but apparently Jesus was very soon going to Jerusalem (Luke 9:53) and was ready for the Gospel to be preached in earnest. So, He instructed the man to return to his house and describe the great things God has done.
In a obvious literary parallel, the man responds much like all the people who are healed respond. He goes overboard. Instead of returning to his house, he travels throughout the whole city of Gerasene. Instead of merely proclaiming what great things that a nameless God has done for him, he proclaims God by His name (Jesus). The Trinitarian reading of this passage makes sense on every level, allowing it to flow smoothly and adding a sense of anticipation with the literary parallel between the last two sentences.
The other, less obvious, passage pertaining to Christ’s deity in Luke 8 is when He stills the waters:
They came to Jesus and woke Him up, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” And He got up and rebuked the wind and the surging waves, and they stopped, and it became calm. And He said to them, “Where is your faith?” They were fearful and amazed, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey Him?”
This passage goes over a lot of people’s heads, unless they have been paying attention to the entirety of the Old Testament. In Gen 1, God separates the waters. In the Exodus, God splits the Red Sea. In Joshua, He does the same with the Jordan River. In 1 Kings, God does the same through Elijah and then Elisha. In the Book of Job, there are a few cryptic statements that God has mastered Leviathan and this has a parallel with mastering the ocean. There is an obvious theme throughout the Scripture with God’s mastery over water.
What is the significance of this? Apparently, it refers to God’s creative power and mastery over the shadowy being Leviathan. Ps 74:12-14 recounts:
Yet God is my king from of old,
Who works deeds of deliverance in the midst of the earth.
You divided the sea by Your strength;
You broke the heads of the sea monsters in the waters.
You crushed the heads of Leviathan…
The dividing of the waters in Gen 1 is conflated with crushing the heads of Leviathan. Who is Leviathan? According to Is 26:21-27:1 he is the dragon that God will judge on the Last Day:
For behold, the Lord is about to come out from His place
To punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity;
And the earth will reveal her bloodshed
And will no longer cover her slain.
In that day the Lord will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent,
With His fierce and great and mighty sword,
Even Leviathan the twisted serpent;
And He will kill the dragon who lives in the sea.
So, whenever God shows mastery over the waters, delivering His people in the Exodus or what not, He is essentially re-presenting His initial defeat of Satan at the beginning of creation (apparently during his rebellion.) It shows God’s mastery over evil and chaos. Again, this is not the most obvious interpretation one might come up with, but it is apparent when one connects what the whole of the Scriptures say about the subject.
Let’s go back to Luke 8:25. The disciples ask, “Who is this that even the waters obey Him?” Clearly, they had some sense of the significance of what it meant for Jesus to master the waters. It is not that they knew of no examples of regular prophets such as Moses or Elijah getting the job done. No. Rather, they understood that Christ was not merely a means in which God used to master the waters. After all, Moses did not divide the Red Sea, God divided the Red Sea through Moses. In this case with Jesus, the Christ Himself stilled the sea. Hence, Christ Himself must be God.