Tough Questions Answered

A Christian Apologetics Blog

Did Jesus’s Disciples Think He Was God? Part 1

Post Author: Bill Pratt

A couple of years ago, I wrote seven posts on the subject of whether Jesus claimed to be God.  At the end of those posts, I promised to follow up with an additional series of posts discussing whether Jesus’s disciples thought he was God.  Better late than never, I suppose.  Here begins that series.

There are several lines of evidence captured by theologian Norman Geisler in his book, Systematic Theology, Volume 2, that point to the fact that Jesus’s disciples did indeed believe he was divine.

First, the disciples attributed titles of deity to Jesus.

The apostle John referred to Jesus as the “the first and the last” (Rev. 1:17; 2:8; 22:13); “the true light” (John 1:9); the “bridegroom” (Rev. 21:2); “Savior of the world” (John 4:42; cf. Isa. 43:3).  He also attributed to Jesus the role of “Redeemer” in Rev. 5:9.

The apostle Peter called Jesus the “rock” and “stone” (1 Peter 2:6–8; cf. Ps. 18:2; 95:1); and “the Chief Shepherd” (1 Peter 5:4).

The apostle Paul referred to Jesus as the “rock” (1 Cor. 10:4) and the “bridegroom” (Eph. 5:22–33).  According to Geisler, “The Old Testament role of ‘Redeemer’ (Hosea 13:14; Ps. 130:7) is given to Jesus by Paul in Tit. 2:13–14.  Jesus is the forgiver of sins in Col. 3:13 and He is  “Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead” (2 Tim. 4:1).

What is so special about these titles?  Geisler explains, “All of these titles are unique to Jehovah (Yahweh) in the Old Testament but are given to Jesus in the New Testament.”  The disciples were steeped in the Old Testament and would have only applied these titles with great care.  If they did not think Jesus was divine, they would have never used these words to describe him.

Second, the disciples considered Jesus the Messiah-God.

The New Testament opens with a passage concluding that Jesus is Immanuel (“God with us”), which refers to the messianic prediction of Isaiah 7:14. The very title “Christ” carries the same meaning as the Hebrew appellation “Messiah” (“Anointed One”). In Zechariah 12:10, Jehovah says, “They will look on me, the one they have pierced.” The New Testament writers apply this passage to Jesus twice (John 19:37; Rev. 1:7) as referring to His crucifixion.

But there is more, as Geisler elaborates on Paul’s view of Jesus.

Paul interprets Isaiah’s message, “For I am God, and there is no other.… Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear” (Isa. 45:22–23) as applying to his Lord, “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow … and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:10–11). The implications of this are strong, because Paul says that all created beings will call Jesus both Messiah (Christ) and Jehovah (Lord).

There are several more lines of evidence that Geisler presents.  We’ll cover these in future posts, so ya’ll come back now!


About The Author

Comments

  • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ Vinny

    Jesus called Peter “the rock.” Does that mean Jesus thought Peter was God?

  • Bill Pratt

    Obviously not. Context is important and you’ve completely ignored it.

  • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ Vinny

    Why is it obvious? If you are going to infer Paul’s belief in Jesus’ divinity from his calling him “rock,” then you need to explain why it means something different when Jesus calls Peter “rock.” Wasn’t Jesus just as steeped in the Old Testament? Clearly Jesus thought that “rock” could be used to describe a human being even if you and Geisler don’t think so.

  • Bill Pratt

    The word “rock” can have multiple meanings. The argument is not that “rock” is always a synonym for Yahweh. The argument is that when used in specific contexts, it can have that meaning. My understanding of your position is that the NT texts are mostly manufactured myth and legend, so I’m not really sure why this issue even interests you.

  • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ Vinny

    You wrote “If they did not think Jesus was divine, they would have never used these words to describe him.” Now you write “The word ‘rock’ can have multiple meanings,” so it is clear that someone might use that word without any intent to attribute divinity.

    What interests me is the way that apologists regurgitate what they hear from other apologists without any reflection. The fact that Jesus named Peter “rock” occurred to me immediately upon reading your post. I am amazed that these kinds of things never occur to Christians and that it doesn’t bother them at all when they are pointed out. There’s nothing I hate more than overlooking something that obvious and having it pointed out..

  • Bill Pratt

    Vinny,
    This is not complicated. The words the disciples used in the contexts in which they used them combine to provide the evidence. You seem to be troubled by the fact that I left out the criteria of context, but I thought that the requirement of context was obvious and would go without saying. In fact, I’m betting that almost everyone that is reading the post and these comments is thinking the same thing.

    Vinny, you don’t seem to read my blog posts to understand what is being said; you read them to chop up the text and find imaginary problems and contradictions. Are you so opposed to Christian apologetics texts that you never give them a charitable reading?

  • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ Vinny

    It has nothing to do with being charitable. Had you and/or Geisler said that these words could possibly be interpreted as attributing divinity to Jesus, I would happily concede the point. However, you claimed that these words could only be interpreted as attributing divinity to Jesus. I don’t see anything uncharitable in challenging the exclusivity of your reading.

    The fact of the matter is that the Gospel of John is pretty unambiguous about Jesus being God while the synoptics and the Pauline epistles are much less clear on the question of his divinity. Being steeped in Jewish thought, the writers would have been aware that God had upon occasion exalted particular human beings and conferred authority upon them to carry out functions that might normally be considered divine prerogatives. These exalted agents were nonetheless human beings and not God. Had all these writers thought that Jesus was God incarnate (a concept for which there would not seem to be any clear precedent in Jewish tradition) rather that God’s agent (a concept for which there was ample precedent), it is not unreasonable to think that they could have made this as clear as the author of John did.

    By claiming that yours in the only viable interpretation, it seems to me that you are being uncharitable to the many well respected scholars who have reached a different conclusion

  • Andrew Ryan

    “…it seems to me that you are being uncharitable to the many well respected scholars who have reached a different conclusion”

    Every Islamic scholar, for a start.

  • Bill Pratt

    Vinny,
    Where in the post did I say that ours is the only viable interpretation?

  • Bill Pratt

    Andrew,
    I would be interested in hearing what Islamic scholars say about some of these verses. Would you mind sharing some of that information? Do you find their arguments more persuasive than what I’ve written? If so, why?

  • Andrew Ryan

    Bill, anyone wishing to argue for the divinity of Jesus, or even that his disciples accepted His divinity, can only strengthen their arguments by acquainting themselves with the counter arguments if Muslims, who believe Jesus was a prophet, but not divine. But you do not need me as a conduit to reading up on their beliefs and arguments.

  • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ Vinny

    You wrote:

    “If they did not think Jesus was divine, they would have never used these words to describe him.”

    Such a statement does not allow for the possibility that those words could be subject to any other interpretation.

  • Bill Pratt

    Really? Where do you get that idea from? I am making an argument, and that’s how arguments are made. Do I need to follow every sentence I type with the disclaimer, “There may exist other interpretations”? I think my blog posts would tend to get pretty long and tedious if I had to type out that disclaimer every time I stated a proposition.

    Vinny, you have created in your mind a caricature of who I am and what I think and it is this caricature with whom you like to argue. Almost every time you comment, I try to destroy this caricature and help you understand who I really am and what I am really saying, but you cling to the caricature despite my best attempts. Once again I have failed.

  • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ Vinny

    That is how apologists and lawyers make arguments Bill, but I don’t think that it is how scholars make them. A scholar has an obligation to acknowledge and confront the strongest counter-arguments to his to his position. I think that anyone who aspires to intellectual integrity is circumspect in the degree of certainty that he expresses about his conclusions.

    There are other ways you could have written that sentence:

    (1) If they did not think Jesus was divine, they would likely not have used these words to describe him.

    (2) If they did not think Jesus was divine, they might not have used these words to describe him.

    (3) If they did not think Jesus was divine, some scholars think they would never have used these words to describe him.

    None of these are are significantly longer or more tedious than your statement. Nonetheless, they express the same argument while informing your readers that reasonable minds can and do differ on the question.

  • Andrew Ryan

    Bill, I think it comes down to whether you’re trying to establish the truth or just trying to convince people of your position. A lawyer does the latter – they make the best case possible for their client, under no obligation to present counter-arguments. This is a workable system when they’re up against a team presenting the other side of the argument. But it’s important to remember the lawyer is not out to establish the truth, but to get their client off (regardless of their innocence or guilt).

    Surely your interest is in the truth?

    A good recent example was the recent discussion of slavery. I’ve seen four different occasions recently where an apologist has dismissed OT slavery as being more like indentured servitude, and backed up the claim by quoting from laws governing how Jews must treat Jewish slaves*. You could say that the apologist is under no obligation to reveal that non-Jews were not given the benefit of these laws, but the reality is that you’ll lose the biblically literate side of the audience and mislead the rest.

    * 1) You, 2) The slavery link you gave me, 3) Ray Comfort debating on The Atheist Experience last month, 4) WL Craig debating Sam Harris last week.

  • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ Vinny

    It is also important to remember that a lawyer’s goal is not to convince anyone permanently. Once the verdict is returned, the lawyer doesn’t care whether a juror changes his mind upon learning of better arguments or stronger evidence for the other side. The lawyer also doesn’t care whether the juror is equipped to go out and convince others that his position is correct.

  • http://graceandmiracles.blogspot.com Anette Acker

    Hi Vinny,

    You said, “What interests me is the way that apologists regurgitate what they hear from other apologists without any reflection,” and, “I am amazed that these kinds of things never occur to Christians and that it doesn’t bother them at all when they are pointed out.”

    Are you sure it’s true that apologists always regurgitate what they hear from other apologists without any reflection? And do you know for sure that certain things about the Bible never occur to Christians, and it doesn’t bother us at all when our oversights are pointed out to us? If not, then you did not express yourself any more circumspectly in your degree of certainty than Bill did when he said, “If they did not think Jesus was divine, they would have never used these words to describe him.” And therefore, IMHO, you should be charitable.

    It is true that some (not all) Christians regurgitate what they hear from other Christians without much reflection, but it’s also true that some (not all) skeptics regurgitate what they hear from other skeptics without much reflection. (Reading the writings of Dawkins and Hitchens is one long, “Oh, that’s where that slogan/argument came from!” experience for me.) Instead of identifying a characteristic unique to Christians, you’ve identified a typical human tendency that is more noticeable to you when you see it in those with whom you disagree.

  • http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ Vinny

    Anette,

    I don’t believe that I used the word “always.”

    Moreover, I made that remark in response to Bill’s concession that people could use the term “rock” to describe someone without attributing divinity to that person. The fact that Bill made that concession so readily suggested to me that he had not thought about Geisler’s argument very carefully.

    But you are correct that I over generalized when I said “that these kinds of things never occur to Christians.”

  • Peter

    The letters to the christian congregations sum up the thinking of early Christians concerning if they thought that JESUS WAS GOD..

    ►NOTICE THE REFERENCE TO JESUS ☼AND☼ GOD
    AND NO THIRD PERSON

    To the Romans
    1 4 but who with power was declared God’s Son according to the spirit of holiness by means of resurrection from the dead—yes, Jesus Christ our Lord

    8 First of all, I give thanks to my God through Jesus Christ concerning all of YOU, because YOUR faith is talked about throughout the whole world.

    ►The First to the Corinthians
    1 Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through God’s will, and Sos´the·nes our brother

    ►The Second to the Corinthians
    2 May YOU have undeserved kindness and peace from God our Father and [the] Lord Jesus Christ.

    ►To the Galatians
    1 Paul, an apostle, neither from men nor through a man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him up from the dead,
    3 May YOU have undeserved kindness and peace from God our Father and [the] Lord Jesus Christ.

    ►To the Ephesians
    1-2 May YOU have undeserved kindness and peace from God our Father and [the] Lord Jesus Christ.
    3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,

    ►To the Philippians
    1. 2 May YOU have undeserved kindness and peace from God our Father and [the] Lord Jesus Christ.

    ►To the Colossians
    1.3 We thank God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ always when we pray for YOU,

    ►The First to the Thessalonians
    1.1 Paul and Sil·va´nus and Timothy to the congregation of the Thes·sa·lo´ni·ans in union with God the Father and [the] Lord Jesus Christ:

    ►The Second to the Thessalonians
    1.1 Paul and Sil·va´nus and Timothy to the congregation of the Thes·sa·lo´ni·ans in union with God our Father and [the] Lord Jesus Christ:

    ►The First to Timothy
    1.1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus under command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus, our hope, 2 to Timothy, a genuine child in the faith:
    May there be undeserved kindness, mercy, peace from God [the] Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

    ►The Second to Timothy
    1.1 Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus through God’s will according to the promise of the life that is in union with Christ Jesus, 2 to Timothy, a beloved child:
    May there be undeserved kindness, mercy, peace from God [the] Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

    ►To Titus
    1 Paul, a slave of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ according to the faith of God’s chosen ones and the accurate knowledge of the truth which accords with godly devotion
    4 to Titus, a genuine child according to a faith shared in common:
    May there be undeserved kindness and peace from God [the] Father and Christ Jesus our Savior.

    ►To Philemon
    1>3 May YOU people have undeserved kindness and peace from God our Father and [the] Lord Jesus Christ.

    ►To the Hebrews
    2 has at the end of these days spoken to us by means of a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the systems of things.

    ►The Letter of James
    1 James, a slave of God and of [the] Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes that are scattered about:
    Greetings!

    ►The First of Peter
    3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for according to his great mercy he gave us a new birth to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

    ►The Second of Peter
    1.1 Simon Peter, a slave and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have obtained a faith, held in equal privilege with ours, by the righteousness of our God and [the] Savior Jesus Christ:
    2 May undeserved kindness and peace be increased to YOU by an accurate knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord,

    ►The First of John
    1.3 that which we have seen and heard we are reporting also to YOU, that YOU too may be having a sharing with us. Furthermore, this sharing of ours is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.

    ►The Second of John
    1.3 There will be with us undeserved kindness, mercy [and] peace from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Son of the Father, with truth and love.

    ►The Letter of Jude
    1 Jude, a slave of Jesus Christ, but a brother of James, to the called ones who are loved in relationship with God [the] Father and preserved for Jesus Christ:

    ►A Revelation to John
    1.1 A revelation by Jesus Christ, which God gave him, to show his slaves the things that must shortly take place. And he sent forth his angel and presented [it] in signs through him to his slave John,

  • Ggodat

    Question, If so many atheists are correct and they obviously know that God does not exist, why do you waste your time telling us stupid Christians this repeatedly? You know we are stupid and dont understand science and stuff so why dont you just let us alone in our misbeliefs and when we die you will get the last laugh in our nonexistence as we pal around in an annihilated state?

  • Betty

    Jesus Christ is God he should know everything, but why does Jesus say he doesn’t know when he will come again but only the Father knows the timing?

SEO Powered by Platinum SEO from Techblissonline