The Divinity of Jesus

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The Data

Dealing with our desire for proof

Our minds are designed to seek the truth.

We hunger for certitude.

We don't want to be fooled.

We know that there are liars, cheats, thieves, perverts, and self-deluded or deranged people who claim to be "apostles."

We scorn those who are incapable of critical thinking.

We know that messages can get garbled in transmission.

We cannot worship what we do not believe to be true.

We cannot love what is wholly unintelligible.

If we do not have a logically prior conviction that there is a God, it is impossible for us to be convinced that Jesus is God the Son.

Our capacity for the proper act of faith--a reasonable act of intellect and will, not "blind faith"--is weaken by our culture's hatred of religion. We have been culturally conditioned to "think" (really, just to feel) that the way to truth is to doubt everything.


Paul's letters are the earliest writings that have been preserved by the Church as inspired by the Spirit and intended by God to be Scripture.

- "Though he was in the form of God, [Jesus] did not regard equality with God something to be grasped; rather, He emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness" (Phil 2:6-7). Paul is probably quoting an early Christian hymn, which means that faith in Jesus' divinity was well-established in the earliest Christian communities.
- "Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every other name that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." "Jesus" replaces "yhwh" as the most sacred name. "Lord" was the euphemism that the Jews used when the Divine Name (yhwh) was seen in the Hebrew scriptures. In modern editions of the Bible, where "yhwh" appears, it will be printed as "Lord," using half-capitals to draw attention to the sacred Name. When Jesus is addressed as "Lord" elsewhere in the NT, it may well be that the authors intended the reader to understand that this is a recognition of His divinity.

Synoptics (Mt, Mk, Lk)

Matthew, Mark, and Luke are called the "synoptic" gospels because they have the same basic outline of His public ministry. They are "lookalike" gospels compared to the gospel of John.

- The miracles of Jesus do not directly prove His divinity. Every kind of miracle attributed to Jesus was worked in the OT by the prophets or in the NT by disciples of Jesus, none of whom is thought to be God.
- The Viriginal Conception of Jesus (Mt & Lk) does not directly prove His divinity. Muslims tell the story of the miraculous, virginal birth in the Koran, but explicitly deny that Jesus is God.
- Calling Jesus "the Christ" definitely does not assert His divinity. For the Jews, Christs (Messiahs) were human beings like David and Solomon who were anointed (christened) to serve as the King of Israel (King of the Jews).
- Calling Jesus "Son of God" does not directly prove His divinity. "Son of God" might be applied to the King of Israel (Ps 2, Ps 89) and to the angels, including the Adversary (Hasatan; Job 1:6). Luke calls Adam "Son of God" (Lk 3:38). "Son of God," therefore, may be interpreted as a synonym for the Messiah (Heb), the Christ (Greek), the person anointed to be the King of Israel (King of the Jews). If, on other grounds, one is persuaded that Jesus is God, the Son, then, of course, the phrase "Son of God" takes on a whole new meaning different from the original OT meaning. This may well be the case in the Centurion's confession at the moment of Jesus' death: "Truly this man was the Son of God" (Mk 16:39). It is impossible for me to decide what the demons meant (or what the gospel writers thought the demons meant) when they called Jesus "Son of God" (e.g. Mk 5:7).
- The tone of Jesus when He revises Torah (Law) suggests His personal authority as the lawgiver (Mt 5:17-48), "for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes" (Mt 7:28). This is not a direct proof of divinity, but it is consistent with the claim that Jesus acted as if He were God. (In many passages, Jesus does reason like a rabbi, using interpretations of OT passages to make things clear to His disciples.)
- Jesus claims a unique relationship with the Father not possessed by other human beings: "All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the father except the Son and any one to whom the Son wishes to reveal Him" (Mt 11:27; Luke 10:22). This is not a direct claim to divinity, but is consistent with it.
- "The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath" (Mt 12:8; Mk 2:27; Lk 6:5). For the Jews, the Sabbath was the "day of the Lord." The tone of this saying suggests that Jesus is the Lord.
- When Jesus forgave the sins of the paralytic (Mt 9:2; Mk 2:5; Lk 5:20), his opponents (scribes in Mt and Mk, scribes and Pharisees in Lk) accuse Him of blasphemy: "Who can forgive sins but God alone?" (Mk 2:7; Lk 5:21). This is powerful evidence that the evangelists believed Jesus is God, the Son.
- The Transfiguration of Jesus (Mt 17, Mk 9, Lk 9, 2 Pt 1:16-18) suggests Jesus' glory, hence divinity.
- In the synoptic account of the trial before the Jewish authorities, Jesus says that they will see "the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming on the clouds of heaven" (Mt 26:64; Mk 14:62; Lk 22:69). Mark even says that Jesus said "ego eimi" (the rabbinic translation of "yhwh"--see point B2 below) in answer to a question before predicting His coming in glory; this is ambiguous in context, but might be read as an affirmation of Jesus' divinity. In all three accounts, the Jews listening to him understand that what Jesus said is a claim to equality with God and is therefore an act of blasphemy, a crime that is punishable by death in Jewish law (Torah). This is the primary synoptic text which asserts the divinity of Jesus. When the Jewish court sends Jesus to Pilate, the crime that they accuse Him of is claiming to be the Christ (the Messiah), which means that He is claiming to be the King of the Jews and therefore is acting as an enemy of the Roman empire. They don't mention the good religious reasons they have for wanting him executed: Torah required execution of blasphemers.

Gospel of John

The gospel of John was probably the last gospel written. We do not know whether he had read or had heard of the synoptic gospels. He tells the story of Jesus' public ministry very differently from Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

- John's Prologue explicitly asserts the divinity of Jesus from the very beginning of time: "In the beginning was the Word (Greek: logos), and the Word was with God and the Word was God. ... All things came to be through Him ... The Word became flesh (Latin: incarnated) and pitched His tent among us and we saw His glory, the glory as of the Father's only Son, full of grace and truth. ... While the law (Torah) was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. The only Son, God, (Greek: monogenes theos) who is at the Father's side, has revealed Him." (Jn 1:1-18). The Arians interpreted this passage differently from the Church. Using Colossians 1:15 as their guide, they saw Jesus as "the firstborn of all creatures" so that He is a god to us but not God to God. The Council of Nicea was called in 325 AD to address these conflicting interpretations of the Scriptures.
- Jesus appropriates the Divine Name to Himself (John 8:21-59; arguably also in John 18:5-8).
The rabbis who translated their Hebrew scriptures (TNK, "Tanak") into Greek (the Septuagint, LXX) used "ego eimi" as the translation of "yhwh". John's gospel was written in Greek. When Jesus says "I AM" ("ego eimi"), He is using the Divine Name of Himself--He is claiming to be God.
That this is the meaning understood by his audience is made clear by the fact that they picked up stones to execute Him for blasphemy (John 8:59) and fell on the ground (John 18:6--either by a miraculous reaction to Jesus' self-revelation as God or as an indication of how much they despised Him for blaspheming).
- Thomas, the doubter, addresses Jesus as "My Lord and my God" when proof of Jesus' resurrection from the dead convinces him "to doubt no longer, but believe" (John 20:27-28). This is clearly the act of faith that the gospel writer intended his audience to share. The original gospel (chapter 1-20) begins and ends with the declaration that Jesus is God.
Jn 5:17-19

17 But Jesus answered them, “My Father is at work until now, so I am at work.”

18 For this reason the Jews tried all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the sabbath but he also called God his own father, making himself equal to God.

19 Jesus answered and said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, a son cannot do anything on his own, but only what he sees his father doing; for what he does, his son will do also.”

Jesus rose from the dead

This is a common theme of the whole of the NT.

For me, it is the strongest evidence we have that Jesus is Who He claimed to be. It is not strict proof by any means. All humans are to rise from the dead and our resurrection will not prove that we are God--just that we are loved by God. Matthew claims that "many saints" were raised from the dead when Jesus rose from the dead and appeared "to many" in Jerusalem (27:52-53), so just being raised from the dead does not logically entail that one is God.

Nevertheless, like Thomas the doubter, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead causes me to say, "My Lord and my God!" (John 20:27-28). The resurrection of Jesus is confirmation of the truth of what He had claimed to be: God the Son.

Other dimensions of Tradition

Worship of Jesus as God

Scripture is just part of Tradition. Tradition came first, and produced the scriptures of the New Testament. When Jesus ascended into Heaven, He left a Body, not a Book. The writings later collected, preserved, and certified as "The Word of God" came from the Body, not from nowhere.

- The Church has always worshiped Jesus as God, the Son. See the text of the Gloria for evidence that this worship continues to this day.

Trusting Jesus and the Apostles

- In arguing with skeptics, the theologians of the Church developed an argument most recently made popular by C.S Lewis and Peter Kreeft:
If Jesus claimed to be God, he had to be:
-- mentally ill (a madman);
-- deliberately lying (a criminal, a blasphemer);
-- badly mistaken (stupid); or
-- God.
Nothing in the Scriptures backs up the first three possibilities. If Jesus is healthy, good, and intelligent, then He is God.

Many modernists claim that Jesus was betrayed by all of His disciples, who promoted Him to divine status in order to become rich and famous by creating a religious racket. Many movies present the theory that Jesus was just a good man who was turned into a god by his followers: Life of Brian; Being There; Forrest Gump; The Last Temptation of Christ. The disciples can be defended by an argument similar to that about Jesus.

If the apostles claimed that Jesus claimed to be God, they had to be:
-- mentally ill (madmen);
-- deliberately lying (criminals, blasphemers, conspirators);
-- badly mistaken (stupid); or
-- telling the truth.

I trust the apostles because they did not become rich and famous by preaching the good news about Jesus. Ten of the Twelve died as martyrs. John apparently lived to a ripe old age (John 21). Judas committed suicide--he did not live to see Jesus risen from the dead. The apostles only believed that Jesus was risen when Jesus gave them proof; others believed the apostles only after the apostles showed that they were trustworthy witnesses of the resurrection.

The Dogma

The doctrine of the Trinity teaches us that Jesus is God the Son.

He is one Divine Person.

In the Incarnation, that single Divine Person, Who always has existed and can never not exist, took on a second nature.

Taking on a human nature did not change Jesus' Divine nature nor did it change His human nature. He is one Person in two natures.

There is only one Person, one "who" in Jesus: the Divine Person Who has always existed, Who cannot not exist, Who is eternally from the Father, in Whom and through Whom all that is created was created (Jn 1:3).

The Consciousness of Jesus

None of our business.

His problem, not ours.

Dogma: two wills in Jesus.

Speculation: two consciousnesses in Jesus.

He is "truly God" and "truly human."

Human beings grow in awareness of who we are.

  • "And Jesus advanced (in) wisdom and age and favor before God and man" (Lk 2:52).
  • He learned from suffering (Heb 5:8).