Did Jesus’s Disciples Think He Was God? Part 2

Post Author: Bill Pratt

Continuing from part 1, there are additional lines of evidence showing that Jesus’s disciples thought he was God.  Again, this material is excerpted from theologian Norman Geisler’s book, Systematic Theology, Volume 2.

Picking up where we left off, the third line of evidence is that the disciples attributed the powers of God to Jesus.

According to Geisler:

There are some things only God can do, but these very things are attributed to Jesus by His disciples. He is said to be able to raise the dead (John 5:21; 11:38–44) and forgive sins (Acts 5:31; 13:38). Moreover, He is said to have been the primary agent in the creating of the universe (John 1:2–3; Col. 1:16) and in sustaining its existence (Col. 1:17). Surely only God can be said to be the Creator of all things, and the disciples claim this power for Jesus.

Fourth, the disciples associated Jesus’ name with God’s.

How did this happen in the New Testament?  Here are some examples:

Often in prayers or benedictions, Jesus’ name is used alongside God’s, as in “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal. 1:3; Eph. 1:2). The name of Jesus appears with equal status to God’s in the so-called trinitarian formulas: For example, the command to go and baptize “in the name [singular] of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19). Again this association is made at the end of 2 Corinthians: “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (13:14). If there is only one God, then these three persons must by nature be equated.

Fifth and finally, the disciples called Jesus God.

Geisler catalogues examples from the apostles John and Paul, and the writer of Hebrews.  All three call Jesus God in multiple ways.

First, the apostle John:

Thomas saw His wounds and cried, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28). The prologue to John’s gospel also minces no words, stating, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word [Jesus] was God” (John 1:1).

Paul and the writer of Hebrews provide several more examples:

Paul wrote, “Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised!” (Rom. 9:5). He calls Jesus the one in whom “all the fullness of Deity lives in bodily form” (Col. 2:9). In Titus, Jesus is “our great God and Savior” (2:13), and the writer to the Hebrews says of Him, “Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever” (Heb. 1:8). Paul says that before Christ existed in the “form of a servant,” which clearly refers to being really human, He existed in the “form of God” (Phil. 2:5–8 NKJV). The parallel phrases suggest that if Jesus was fully human, then He was also fully God. A similar term, “the image of the invisible God,” is used in Colossians 1:15 to mean the manifestation of God Himself. This description is strengthened in Hebrews, where it says, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word” (Heb. 1:3).

Geisler summarizes all of the evidence nicely:

In summary, there is manifold testimony from Jesus Himself and from those who knew Him best that Jesus claimed to be God and that His followers believed this to be the case. They claim of the carpenter of Nazareth these unique titles, powers, prerogatives, and activities that apply only to God. There is no reasonable doubt that this is what they believed and what Jesus thought of Himself according to the New Testament.

7 thoughts on “Did Jesus’s Disciples Think He Was God? Part 2”

  1. Just curious, but what is the significance of the disciples thinking Jesus was God? Is it just that there are dissenting opinions, or does it bear some significance on the christians view of Jesus as being human vs. divine?

  2. Todd,
    There are various religious groups who claim that neither Jesus’s disciples nor Jesus himself considered Jesus to be divine. These posts are aimed at dispelling that notion.

  3. As I understand it, there are instances in ancient Jewish tradition where God exalted certain individuals and conferred upon them the authority to perform functions that would normally be viewed as divine prerogatives. These people acted as God’s agents but were nonetheless human beings. Darrell Bock discusses this in Blasphemy and Exaltation in Judaism: The Charge against Jesus in Mark 14:53-65. As I recall, Bock thought that the the priests in Mark 13 may have charged Jesus with blasphemy because they thought he was claiming to be an exalted person rather than claiming to be God.

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  5. What is the origin of the Trinity doctrine?

    The New Encyclopædia Britannica says: “Neither the word Trinity, nor the explicit doctrine as such, appears in the New Testament, nor did Jesus and his followers intend to contradict the Shema in the Old Testament: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord’ (Deut. 6:4). . . . The doctrine developed gradually over several centuries and through many controversies. . . . By the end of the 4th century . . . the doctrine of the Trinity took substantially the form it has maintained ever since.”—(1976), Micropædia, Vol. X, p. 126.

    The New Catholic Encyclopedia states: “The formulation ‘one God in three Persons’ was not solidly established, certainly not fully assimilated into Christian life and its profession of faith, prior to the end of the 4th century. But it is precisely this formulation that has first claim to the title the Trinitarian dogma. Among the Apostolic Fathers, there had been nothing even remotely approaching such a mentality or perspective.”—(1967), Vol. XIV, p. 299.

    In The Encyclopedia Americana we read: “Christianity derived from Judaism and Judaism was strictly Unitarian [believing that God is one person]. The road which led from Jerusalem to Nicea was scarcely a straight one. Fourth century Trinitarianism did not reflect accurately early Christian teaching regarding the nature of God; it was, on the contrary, a deviation from this teaching.”—(1956), Vol. XXVII, p. 294L.

    According to the Nouveau Dictionnaire Universel, “The Platonic trinity, itself merely a rearrangement of older trinities dating back to earlier peoples, appears to be the rational philosophic trinity of attributes that gave birth to the three hypostases or divine persons taught by the Christian churches. . . . This Greek philosopher’s [Plato, fourth century B.C.E.] conception of the divine trinity . . . can be found in all the ancient [pagan] religions.”—(Paris, 1865-1870), edited by M. Lachâtre, Vol. 2, p. 1467.

    John L. McKenzie, S.J., in his Dictionary of the Bible, says: “The trinity of persons within the unity of nature is defined in terms of ‘person’ and ‘nature’ which are G[ree]k philosophical terms; actually the terms do not appear in the Bible. The trinitarian definitions arose as the result of long controversies in which these terms and others such as ‘essence’ and ‘substance’ were erroneously applied to God by some theologians.”—(New York, 1965), p. 899.

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