Category Archives: Jesus as God

Does John 1:1 Say that Jesus is Merely a God, Not the God?

Jehovah’s Witnesses are famous for mistranslating John 1:1. They argue that the verse identifies Jesus as a god rather than as God Himself. Andreas Kostenberger, in The Gospels and Acts (The Holman Apologetics Commentary on the Bible), explains why their translation is incorrect.

Interestingly, around 1950 there was a change in how Jehovah’s Witnesses dealt with this verse. Before 1950, they carried a copy of the American Standard Version of the Bible. However, the problem they faced was that the ASV rendered verse 1 accurately with the phrase ‘the Word was God.’ In an effort to resolve the difficulty this rendering posed for its theology, the Watchtower Society (the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ publishing group) issued its own translation of the Bible, which rendered the verse as ‘the Word was a god’ (Reed 1986, 71). However, there are several reasons why this translation is inaccurate.

First, John, as a monotheistic Jew, would not have referred to another person as ‘a god.’ The Jews had no place for demigods in their belief system.

Second, if John had placed a definite article before theos, he would have abandoned the distinction between the two persons he established in the previous clause (‘the Word was with God’).

Third, the view defended by Jehovah’s Witnesses misunderstands Greek syntax. It is common in Greek for a predicate noun to be specific without having an article. For example, later in this chapter reference is made to Nathanael’s confession of Jesus, ‘you are the King of Israel’ (1: 49), with no article being before ‘King’ in the Greek (for other NT examples of this construction, see 8: 39; 17: 17; Rom 14: 17; Gal 4: 25; Rev 1: 20). From these examples, it is clear that the lack of an article in Greek does not necessarily imply indefiniteness (‘a’ god).

Finally, John could have used the word theios if he were simply trying to say that Jesus was ‘divine’ (i.e., that he had God-like qualities) rather than being God himself. The anarthrous (article-less) theos is most likely used to explain that Jesus ‘shared the essence of the Father though they differed in person’ (Wallace 1996, 269). As D. A. Carson explains, ‘In fact, if John had included the article, he would have been saying something quite untrue. He would have been so identifying the Word with God that no divine being could exist apart from the Word. In that case, it would be nonsense to say (in the words of the second clause of this verse) that the Word was with God.’

Is Isaiah 52-53 Speaking of National Israel Rather than the Messiah?

Many modern Jews identify the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 52-53 as the corporate nation of Israel rather than the individual Messiah. This raises two questions: 1) Has this always been the Jewish view of the passage? and 2) Does this interpretation make sense of the text?

To answer the first question, we turn to biblical scholar Michael Brown. In his book Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus: Volume 3, Brown surveys the historical positions of Jewish rabbis and scholars.

For the last thousand years, religious Jews have often interpreted Isaiah 53 with reference to the people of Israel, but that has by no means been the consensus interpretation, and it is not the interpretation of the Talmudic rabbis. So, for example, the Targum interprets the passage with reference to the Messiah— as a warring, victorious king, even to the point of completely twisting the meaning of key verses — while the Talmud generally interprets the passage with reference to the Messiah, or key individuals (like Moses or Phineas), or the righteous. Note also that Sa‘adiah Gaon, the influential ninth-century Rabbinic leader, interpreted Isaiah 53 with reference to Jeremiah. This means that virtually without exception, the earliest traditional Jewish sources— and therefore the most authoritative Jewish sources— interpret Isaiah 52: 13– 53: 12 with reference to an individual, and in some cases, with reference to the Messiah.

As stated above, this is highly significant. While it is true that Rashi, Ibn Ezra, and Radak all interpreted the passage with reference to Israel, other equally prominent leaders, such as Moses ben Nachman (called Nachmanides or the Ramban), felt compelled to follow the weight of ancient tradition and embrace the individual, Messianic interpretation of the Talmudic rabbis (found in the Midrash, despite his belief that the plain sense of the text supported the national interpretation). Noteworthy also is the oft-quoted comment of Rabbi Moshe Alshech, writing in the sixteenth century, ‘Our rabbis with one voice accept and affirm the opinion that the prophet is speaking of the Messiah, and we shall ourselves also adhere to the same view.’ This too is highly significant, since Alshech claims that all his contemporaries agreed with the Messianic reading of the text, despite the fact that Rashi, Ibn Ezra, and Radak had all come out against that reading. Could it be that Rabbi Alshech and his contemporaries came to their conclusions because the text clearly pointed in that direction?

The Messianic interpretation is also found in the Zohar as well as in some later midrashic works. Thus, it is clear that there is substantial Jewish tradition— spanning a period of up to two thousand years— that differs with [the] objection. . . .

All this is especially important when you realize that sections from Isaiah 52:13– 53:12 are quoted several times in the New Testament, and the passage as a whole can arguably be called the clearest prophecy of Jesus in the entire Tanakh. Yet many traditional Jewish commentators and teachers have still interpreted the prophecy as Messianic. How tempting it would have been for the Talmudic rabbis and their successors to interpret this passage with reference to Israel— rather than to the Messiah or any other individual— seeing that it played such an important role in Christian interpretation and polemics. Yet they did not interpret the passage with reference to the nation of Israel in any recorded traditional source for almost one thousand years, nor did they interpret it with reference to national Israel with unanimity thereafter.

Thus it seems clear that the idea of Isaiah 52-53 speaking of national Israel is not the original view of Jewish teachers at all. In fact, the more likely explanation is that prominent Jewish scholars one thousand years ago reacted against the rise of Christianity and reinterpreted these verses to avoid the conclusion that they point to Jesus. This view became the dominant position at that time and remains so to this day.

What about the second question? Does the text support this view? Biblical scholar Barry Leventhal, in Why I Am a Christian,  offers four arguments against the view.

In addition, the passage itself yields at least four arguments countering the claim that the nation Israel, or for that matter any other mere human being, is the promised Suffering Servant of the Lord. First is the Servant’s sinlessness (52:13; 53:9): The Servant of Isaiah 53 is described as without sin, that is, completely innocent in thought, word, and deed. He is perfect in his actions as well as his reactions. Where is the Jew who would dare to proclaim Israel, or for that matter even Moses or Isaiah, to be without sin? Why the need for a national Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16)? Or for Isaiah’s indictment against Israel’s sinful rebellion against God (Isaiah 1)? Or for that matter, Isaiah’s confession of his own sinfulness (Isa. 6:5–7)?

Second is the Servant’s submission (53:7): The Servant of Isaiah 53 submits (without any resistance whatsoever) to be slaughtered like a lamb. He lays down his life as a sacrifice, willingly and voluntarily, in an absolute sense. There are few exceptions in secular history and none in biblical history that Israel ever submitted passively to her fate. Quite the contrary, Israel’s heroism is well documented in the annals of history.

Third is the Servant’s cessation (death) (53:8–9, 12): The Servant of Isaiah 53 is ‘cut off out of the land of the living’ (53:8 NASB). ‘He poured out himself to death’ (53:12 NASB). The Servant is also portrayed as alive from the dead and enjoying fellowship with God and his faithful followers (52:13, 15; 53:10–12). Israel as a nation still exists and always has, even as God promised (cf. Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 28). The nation has never ceased to exist, let alone been raised from the dead in any literal sense of the word.

Fourth is the Servant’s substitution (52:14–15; 53:4–6, 8, 10–12): The Servant of Isaiah 53 is a substitutionary atonement for others, not for himself. He is pictured as dying vicariously, punished for the sins committed by others. Israel, as well as Isaiah and all other individuals, were punished for their own sins. Accordingly, it is not surprising that Jewish prayer books make continual confessions on behalf of the Jewish people.

Leventhal concludes:

[N]o one else in all of history can come even close to fulfilling these, as well as the many other, messianic prophecies, except Yeshua himself. He alone is the promised Messiah who was born in Bethlehem, the totally unique One who died as the final Lamb of God—a vicarious and substitutionary atonement—and who was raised from the grave to enter into all of his own splendor and glory!

Does Micah 5:2 Indicate That the Messiah Is Divine?

Micah 5:2 indicates that the future Messiah of Israel would be born in Bethlehem, but it is also indicates that his origins are from a long time ago. Some translations of the Bible translate “a long time ago” as “eternity” and some translate it as “ancient times.” If the text actually means “eternity” this would be strong evidence of the divine nature of the Messiah.

Hebrew biblical scholar Michael Brown analyzes this verse for us in his book, Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus: Messianic Prophecy Objections, Vol. 3:

Which translation is right? It comes down to the rendering of the Hebrew phrase describing the nature of the Messiah’s origins, miqedem miyemey ‘olam. The first word simply means ‘from of old’ and is used elsewhere in Micah to refer back to God’s promises to the patriarchs, which he made ‘from days of qedem’ (Micah 7: 20, rendered in the King James with ‘from the days of old’). The next two words, however, would most naturally be translated ‘from eternity’ (literally, from ‘days of eternity’), unless context indicated a translation of ‘from ancient days’ (in other words, way back in the very distant past). In most cases in the Scriptures, ‘olam clearly means eternity, as in Psalm 90: 2, where God’s existence is described as me‘olam we‘ad‘olam, ‘from eternity to eternity’ (cf. NJPSV). There are, however, some cases where ‘olam cannot mean ‘eternal’ but rather ‘for a long time’ (either past or present). How then does Micah use the word?

Brown continues:

In Micah 2: 9; 4: 5, 7, ‘olam clearly means ‘forever,’ as commonly rendered in both Jewish and Christian versions. This would point clearly to a similar rendering just a few verses later in 5: 2. In Micah 7: 14, however, the expression ‘as in the days of ‘olam’ is used in a non-eternal sense, the whole verse being translated in the King James with, ‘Feed thy people with thy rod, the flock of thine heritage, which dwell solitarily in the wood, in the midst of Carmel: let them feed in Bashan and Gilead, as in the days of old.’ This indicates we cannot be dogmatic about the translation of Micah 5: 2, since the context allows for an ‘eternal’ or merely ‘ancient’ meaning.

Brown goes on to cite an influential medieval Jewish scholar, Rashi, as well as two modern Hebrew Bible experts about the meaning of Micah 5:2. First, Rashi.

In this light, the commentary of Rashi on Micah 5: 2 takes on added significance, since (1) he reads it as a clear Messianic prophecy; (2) he makes reference to Psalm 118: 22, which says that the stone rejected by the builders has become the chief cornerstone (a verse quoted several times in the New Testament with reference to Yeshua, who was rejected by the leaders of his people but chosen by God); and (3) he interprets the end of the verse as pointing to the preexistence of the Messiah (or, at the least, of his name) rather than as pointing only to Bethlehem as the ancient city of David (which is made clear at the beginning of the verse).

Next, Brown quotes respected Hebrew Bible scholars David Noel Freedman and Francis Anderson:

. . . the person spoken of here has some connection with the remote past. ‘One whose origin is from of old, from ancient times’ (NJPS). A legitimate sensus plenior [i.e., fuller meaning in the light of unfolding scriptural revelation] is that this Ruler will be a superhuman being, associated with God from the beginning of time. Psalm 2:7 speaks of the king as the one whom God ‘sired’ (by adoption). Psalm 110 places the king on God’s right hand. At the least the language suggests that the birth of the Messiah has been determined, or predicted in the divine council, in primal days. Micah 4– 5 thus has time points in the Beginning and End as well as the Now. Even if mōşâ’ôt means no more than an oracle expressing the divine determination, it does not require a great shift in conceptuality to move to the Son of Man figure of the later apocalypses— the Urmensch— and to the classical Christology of the ecumenical creeds or the heaven-created Adam of the Quran or the Metatron of the Jewish mystics. So Christians did not abuse the text when they found Jesus in it. Or to put it more cautiously in a negative way, this mysterious language relates the mōšēl whose outgoings have been from of the olden days to God () in a special way. He will rule ‘for’ Yahweh.

Thus, although it is not 100% certain that Micah 5:2 indicates a divine origin of the Messiah, it is certainly a plausible interpretation of the verse with support in the Jewish scholarly community.

Did Paul Think Jesus Is God?

Post Author: Bill Pratt 

There are many indications in Paul’s writings compiled in the New Testament that Paul thought Jesus was God. Perhaps one of the most famous texts would be Philippians 2:6-11. Referring to Jesus, Paul writes:

Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death — even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Paul Owen, in the New Mormon Challenge, provides a very helpful commentary on these passages below.

Perhaps the most striking example of [Paul indicating Jesus’ divinity] comes from Philippians 2:6-11, which is widely acknowledged as a Pauline citation of an early Christian hymn. This passage contains some striking statements regarding the divine status of Jesus: he possessed God’s nature (2:6a), and he was equal with God (2:6b) prior to his incarnation (2:7-8). The divine one who became enfleshed was subsequently exalted by God to the highest possible heavenly status (2:9a). God made the name of Jesus equivalent to the divine name YHWH (2:9b).

What is perhaps most striking, however, is what is found in 2:10-11: “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, 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.”

This is an astonishing adaptation of one of the clearest monotheistic texts in all the Old Testament—Isaiah 45:22-24: “Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other. By myself I have sworn, my mouth has uttered in all integrity a word that will not be revoked: Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear. They will say of me, ‘In the LORD alone are righteousness and strength.’ All who have raged against him will come to him and be put to shame.”

In an astonishing exegetical move, Isaiah 45:22-24 has been read to refer to the eschatological vindication of Jesus Christ, when God the Father compels all creation to acknowledge the lordship of the Son. Whereas Isaiah depicted every knee as bowing to Yahweh and every tongue confessing him as LORD, Paul understands this prophecy in terms of the confession and acknowledgment of Jesus’ universal lordship.

Every earthly and heavenly power will one day acknowledge that Jesus has been exalted to the highest place—which can only mean God’s own heavenly throne—and that the divine name YHWH and Jesus’ name are to be revered as one and the same (Phil 2:9). As Richard Bauckham writes: “The Philippians passage is therefore no unconsidered echo of an Old Testament text, but a claim that it is in the exaltation of Jesus, his identification as YHWH in YHWH’s universal sovereignty, that the unique deity of the God of Israel comes to be acknowledged as such by all creation.

What we have in Phil 2:6-11 is an early Christian hymn that was being repeated within a short time after Jesus’s death and that was clearly equating Jesus with the God of the Old Testament. Did Paul and the early church think Jesus was God? It seems so.

Were the Doctrines of the Trinity and the Dual Nature of Christ invented in the 4th and 5th Centuries?

Post Author: Darrell

(This post originally appeared on Darrell’s Thoughts and Reflections and is being reposted here for the benefit of TQA readers.)

One of the charges I often hear leveled against Christianity today is that both the Doctrines of the Trinity and the Dual Nature of Christ were “invented” by the Church in the fourth and fifth centuries, during the Ecumenical Councils.  Proponents of these charges claim that the Church prior to the Ecumenical Councils believed neither in the Trinity, nor in the Dual Nature of Christ.  I freely admit that the language by which the Church codified these doctrines was fortified in the Ecumenical Councils.  However, I believe those who charge that the Church invented the doctrines themselves in the Councils and that the Church prior to the Councils did not hold to them are gravely mistaken.

One of the earliest Church Fathers to articulate a basic understanding of the Trinity and the Dual Nature of Christ is Saint Ignatius.  Saint Ignatius was the third Bishop of Antioch, serving from 70 AD to 107 AD.  He was a disciple of the Apostle John, and Church Tradition teaches that he was the child Christ held in His arms when He said, in Matthew 18:3, “. . . unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”  Shortly after the turn of the second century, Saint Ignatius wrote several Epistles while in captivity on the road traveling to his martyrdom.  Seven of these epistles have survived to our day.  In the seventh chapter of his Epistle to the Ephesians, he says:

But our Physician is the only true God, the Father and Begetter of the only-begotten Son.  We have also as a Physician the Lord our God, Jesus the Christ, the only-begotten Son and Word, before time began, but who afterwards became also man, of Mary the virgin. For “the Word was made flesh.”  Being incorporeal, He was in a body; being impassible, He was in a passible body; being immortal, He was in a mortal body; being life, He became subject to corruption, that He might free our souls from death and corruption, and heal them, and might restore them to health, when they were diseased with ungodliness and wicked lusts.

There are several aspects of this passage which demonstrate that Saint Ignatius held beliefs consistent with the Doctrines of the Trinity and the Dual Nature of Christ.  First, he refers to two separate Persons, God the Father and Jesus Christ, yet he calls both of them God.  This is completely consistent with Nicene Theology, which teaches that both the Father and the Son are God by nature/essence.  The Nicene Creed calls Christ “true God of true God”, saying He is “of one essence with the Father” as God.  Had Ignatius been an Arian or had he held to a non-Trinitarian Doctrine that teaches Christ to be something less than or other than God, He would not have referred to Him as God.

Second, Ignatius refers to Jesus Christ as begotten “before time began”.  This is almost word for word identical to the Nicene Creed, which says, “I believe in. . . one Lord, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only-begotten, begotten of the Father before all ages. . .”  Some today claim that the Early Church believed Christ’s being ”begotten” of the Father was in relation to His birth from Mary (specifically, this is an LDS claim).  However, Ignatius’ comment here demonstrates that the Early Church’s understanding of Christ’s nature as “only-begotten” was a relationship with the Father that was “before time began” and has nothing to do with His earthly incarnation.  It is interesting to note that the Greek word translated as “only-begotten” both here and in the New Testament is ”monogenes”.  Monogenes literally means “one of a kind,” and to the Church Fathers it connoted Christ being of the same nature as the Father. . . something that was entirely unique to Him.

In addition to calling Christ God and claiming Him to be the “only-begotten” of the Father “before time began”, Ignatius tells us that “afterwards” Christ “became man”.  Ignatius then goes on to point out some aspects that Christ’s becoming man added to His nature.  He says that although Christ was incorporeal, He was in a body; although He was impassible, He was in a passible body; although He was immortal, He was in a mortal body;  although He was life, He became subject to corruption.  These differing aspects of Christ’s nature, aspects that are polar opposites to one another, speak to Christ having two natures, one as God and one as man, and demonstrate that Saint Ignatius understood Christ in this manner.  As God, Christ was incorporeal, impassible, immortal, and life itself.   However, as man He was corporeal, passible, mortal, and subject to corruption.

Last, Ignatius explains that Christ took on our nature in order to free our souls from death and corruption, heal us, and restore us to health.  This speaks to the true reason for the Doctrines of the Trinity and Dual Nature of Christ.  Rather than being doctrines for doctrine’s sake, created as purely intellectual pieces of information to be discussed by dry theologians over coffee and tea, they are doctrines directly tied to our understanding of how Christ redeemed us.  He was the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, true God of true God.  Yet He chose to take upon Himself our nature, becoming man for our sakes, so that He could unite our nature to the Divine Nature in His Person, giving us a rebirth in Him.  Had He not been God and had He not taken on our nature, He would have been unable to redeem us.  The Church understood this from the earliest times, and as the writings of Saint Ignatius show us, it is not an understanding created in the fourth and fifth centuries.  It is Apostolic Doctrine that has been handed down to us and is a product of the Holy Spirit guiding the Church.

Was Jesus Just a Good Moral Teacher?

Post Author: Bill Pratt 

There are people who take the Gospels to be more or less reporting history, but who claim, nevertheless, that Jesus was merely a good man, and nothing more. I am not here talking about skeptics who question virtually everything in the Gospels, who believe that almost all of the material is legendary.

The people I am referring to generally have a cursory knowledge of the New Testament and are turned off by traditional religion. They are fans of Jesus in a shallow way. If you stopped them on the street and asked them what they thought about Jesus, they would say he was a great teacher of peace and love, an exemplary moral figure. Jesus is still popular, even nowadays.

What is frustrating about these shallow-Jesus-fans is that they have completely missed what Jesus stood for. The only group that would be more frustrating would be the Jesus-is-a-great-carpenter club. C. S. Lewis gives voice to this frustration in Mere Christianity by pointing out the absurdity of the shallow-Jesus-fans:

Among these Jews there suddenly turns up a man who goes about talking as if He was God. He claims to forgive sins. He says He has always existed. He says He is coming to judge the world at the end of time. Now let us get this clear. Among Pantheists, like the Indians, anyone might say that he was a part of God, or one with God: there would be nothing very odd about it. But this man, since He was a Jew, could not mean that kind of God. God, in their language, meant the Being outside the world Who had made it and was infinitely different from anything else. And when you have grasped that, you will see that what this man said was, quite simply, the most shocking thing that has ever been uttered by human lips.

Norm Geisler and Frank Turek, in I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist, ask us to imagine our neighbor making these kinds of claims:

“I am the first and the last—the self-existing One. Do you need your sins forgiven? I can do it. Do you want to know how to live? I am the light of the world—whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. Do you want to know whom you can trust? All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Do you have any worries or requests? Pray in my name. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. Do you need access to God the Father? No one comes to the Father except through me. The Father and I are one.”

What would you think about your neighbor if he seriously said those things? You certainly wouldn’t say, “Gee, I think he’s a great moral teacher!” No, you’d say this guy is nuts, because he’s definitely claiming to be God.

Shallow-Jesus-fans, don’t be ridiculous. Jesus did not come to teach moral platitudes in a long line of religious moralizers. No, he came to demand your allegiance to him, for he is King.

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.

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!

What Were They Arguing About at the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

In A.D. 325, an ecumenical council of Christian bishops gathered to discuss a theological issue that was tearing apart the unity of the church. A common misconception about this council was that the argument was over whether Jesus was God or man. In fact, this idea has become so popular that one of my skeptical friends, who usually knows his stuff, made this mistake recently in a discussion we were having.

He said, in effect, that the church was arguing about whether Jesus was a man or God all the way up to and including the Council of Nicaea. This view, however, is completely false.

The two major positions presented at the council were proposed by Arius and Athanasius. Arius believed that Jesus was created by God the Father in eternity, but that he did not share eternality with the Father. Athanasius believed that Jesus and the Father both existed from eternity, that one never existed without the other.

Please note that the issue was not about whether Jesus was merely a man or God, but what kind of God Jesus was. Both parties agreed he was divine, that he was much more than a mere man, but they disagreed about how he was divine.

The council sided with Athanasius against Arius, declaring that Jesus always existed along with the Father. The debate about Arianism, however, did not subside until the Council of Constantinople in A.D. 381 provided further clarification of the terms used at Nicaea and united the church around its understanding of the nature of Christ.

If Jesus Is God, Why Did He Get Tired?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

If Jesus is God, and God is uncaused, immaterial, omniscient, omnipotent, and eternal (and lots of other things), then don’t we have a problem with Jesus being a real man who lived in 1st century Palestine?  After all, Jesus grew tired, but God doesn’t get tired; Jesus sometimes didn’t know things, but God knows everything; Jesus died, but God can’t die; Jesus has a human body, but God doesn’t have a body.  I think you get the point.  How does the Christian church deal with this problem?

Well, before we get to the Christian church, one approach that has been taken by some religious groups over the last two millennia is just to give up on the idea that Jesus is God.  If he is less than God, then all these questions go away.  Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses are two groups that took this approach, but they are just the latest in a long line.  The problem with this approach is that it contradicts the Bible’s clear teaching that Jesus is God (see the series of posts on how we know Jesus is God).  So this approach fails to take seriously the biblical data.

The approach that the Christian church has taken is to accept the fact that the Bible teaches that Jesus is both God and man.  In the early church, there was a couple centuries of debate about how this works, until the Council of Chalcedon came together in AD 451 to settle the issue.  Here is the creed that resulted from the Council:

We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach men to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man, of a rational soul and body; consubstantial with the Father according to the Godhead, and consubstantial with us according to the Manhood; in all things like unto us, without sin; begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, according to the Manhood; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, unconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten, God the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ, as the prophets from the beginning have declared concerning him, and the Lord Jesus Christ himself has taught us, and the Creed of the holy Fathers has handed down to us.

What does all that mean?  It means, among other things, that Jesus is one person composed of two natures: human and divine.  The creed repeats the words Godhead and Manhood several times to hammer the point home.  So, whenever we ask any question about Jesus, we have to specify whether we are asking about his divine nature or his human nature.  In his divine nature, he is omniscient, eternal, and uncaused.  In his human nature, he was tired, he needed food, he didn’t know everything, and he even died.  Two natures, two sets of questions about Jesus.

The church never went so far as to try and explain how exactly Jesus’ two natures interacted; they set boundaries around what was acceptable, based on Scripture, and captured it in the above creed.  Many theologians have attempted to go further with this doctrine and explain in more detail how this is possible, but these details, to my knowledge, have never been formally adopted into creeds of the church.