In traditional Christian teaching where the Bible is assumed to be true and consistent (for example, perhaps: Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, or traditional Protestant circles), is God's transcendence plainly seen in the New Testament? E.G. are Romans 1:20 and John 1:1-3 clearly implying transcendence?

I know it refers to Him as creator (and sustainer) of the universe (in koine: cosmos). Does this necessarily imply transcendence?

  • Are you asking about the interpretation of a few Bible passages? If so, I'd ask on hermeneutics.stackexchange.com instead. This site requires that your questions be scoped in such a way that it can be concretely answered by a teaching authority within Christianity. (There are exceptions, but a short (but not simple) question like this probably doesn't meet this exceptions) – Peter Turner May 2 '19 at 18:38
  • @NigelJ you're right on all points. I'm using the word as it is defined in the OED, and if it is in the NT, it is by implication. So my question is: is it necessarily implied? I can try to ask the opposite question: can God in the NT be logically consistent with a non-transcendent God? But I'm not sure if that's the right question... – rje May 2 '19 at 22:12
  • @NigelJ I'm not trying to elevate reason above revelation, for sure. However, reason must be brought to bear when interpreting the Bible. Therefore, let us reason. – rje May 2 '19 at 22:38

The lack of the use of your wording is noticeable within Protestant literature and I cannot find it used anywhere. The reason, I think, should be obvious.

The etymology of 'transcend' (the verb from which 'transcendence' is derived) can be seen in the Oxford English Dictionary to come from the Latin trans/scandere meaning, quite literally, to 'climb over'.

To transcend a mountain, one climbs over the summit.

This etymology is quite unsuitable to use in relation to Deity which is eternal and which (as Jesus says, in John 4:24) is spirit. The eternal Spirit, who is God, is whom he is and is whom he has revealed himself to be.

He is what he is, within himself. He needs not to 'climb over' anything in order to be 'The Most High'. He is The Most High - in and of himself.

Abraham spoke of God as :

The Most High God, the possessor of heaven and earth. [Genesis 14:22, KJV.]

I would say the wording 'transcend' and 'transcendence' is quite unsuitable to use in regard to Deity. And it is never so used in scripture in English nor is there any Hebrew or Greek word that I can think of which would require to be translated by it.

I believe it is best to remain within the revelation that God has given, of himself, regarding himself. To stray from that wording has always been, historically, damaging - and even disastrous.

Nor can such wording be used of the ascension of Jesus Christ, for it was God who raised him from the dead, it was God who received him into heaven and it was God who gave him to sit at the right hand of God, Ephesians 1:20 and Colossians 3:1.

These things were done to him : he did not 'climb over' to gain such a place.

Fat from it : the reason he is ascended and seated where he is, is that :

he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. [Philippians 2:8, KJV.]

As is pointed out in comment, the word 'condescend' is more suited to God's demeanour as revealed in Jesus Christ, his Son.

  • 1
    I agree and would go so far as to say that the exact opposite of transcend is indicated: God condescends (as your quote of Philippians shows) from his position to reach us. – Paul Chernoch May 3 '19 at 13:44

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