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!