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Did Jesus claim to be God? : Part 1

27 Apr 2011 at 10:44hrs | Views
Many are willing to accept Jesus Christ as a good man, or a great prophet, but argue that Jesus never claimed to be God. Those who deny Jesus' deity point out scriptures that back up their belief that Jesus never intended to be worshipped as God.

The evidence, however, indicates that from the time of the apostles, Jesus was worshipped as Lord. After the apostles died, several first and second century church leaders wrote of Jesus' deity. Finally in 325 A. D. the leadership of the church articulated the belief that Jesus is fully God.

Some argue that the church "invented" Jesus' deity by rewriting the gospel accounts.  In fact, the world's best-selling fictional book, The Da Vinci Code sold over 40 million books by making that claim (See "Was there a Da Vinci Conspiracy?"). Although the book made its author, Dan Brown, wealthy, his fictional account was debunked by scholars as bad history. In fact, the New Testament has been deemed the "most reliable of all ancient historical documents" (See. "Are the Gospels True?").

In this article we will examine what Jesus Christ said about himself. What did Jesus mean by the terms, "Son of Man," and "Son of God?" If Jesus wasn't God, why did his enemies accuse him of "blasphemy?" More importantly, if Jesus wasn't God, why did he accept worship?

First let's look briefly at what Christians believe about Jesus Christ.

From Creator to Carpenter?

At the core of Christianity is the belief that God came to earth in the Person of His Son, Jesus Christ. The Bible teaches that Jesus is not a created being like the angels, but is the very Creator of the universe. As theologian J. I. Packer writes, "The gospel tells us that our Creator has become our Redeemer."2

The New Testament reveals that, in accordance with his Father's will, Jesus temporarily set aside his power and glory to become a tiny helpless baby. As he grew, Jesus worked in a carpenter shop, experienced hunger, got tired, and suffered pain and death like us. Then at age 30 he began his public ministry.

One God

The Bible reveals God as the Creator of the universe. He is infinite, eternal, all powerful, all-knowing, personal, righteous, loving, just, and holy.  He created us in His image, and for His pleasure. According to the Bible, God made us to have an eternal relationship with Himself.

When God spoke to Moses at the burning bush 1500 years before Christ, He reaffirmed that He is the only God. God told Moses His name is Yahweh, (I AM). (Most of us are more familiar with the English translation, Jehovah or LORD.6) Since that time, the foundational Scripture (Shema) for Judaism has been:

    "Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God is one LORD." (Deuteronomy 6:4)

It is in this world of monotheistic belief that Jesus entered into, ministered in, and began making claims that astounded all who heard them. And according to Ray Stedman, Jesus is the central theme of the Hebrew Scriptures.

    "Here, in the form of a living, breathing human being, is the one who satisfies and fulfills all the symbols and prophecies of Genesis through Malachi. As we move from the Old Testament to the New, we find that one person, Jesus of Nazareth, is the focal point of both Testaments."7

But if Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament, his claims should confirm that "God is one LORD," beginning with what he called himself. Let's look further.

God's SACRED Name

When Jesus began his ministry, his miracles and radical teaching immediately drew huge crowds, creating a frenzy of excitement. As his popularity swelled with the masses, the Jewish leaders (Pharisees, Sadducees, & Scribes) began to see Jesus as a threat. Suddenly they began looking for ways to trap him.

One day Jesus was debating some Pharisees at the Temple, when suddenly he told them he is "the light of the world." It is almost bizarre to picture this scene, where a traveling carpenter from the lowlands of Galilee tells these PhD's in religion that he is "the light of the world?" Believing that Yahweh is the light of the world, they replied indignantly:

    "You are making false claims about yourself" (John 8:13 NLT).

Then Jesus told them that, 2,000 years earlier, Abraham had foreseen him. Their response was incredulous:

    "You aren't even fifty years old. How can you say you have seen Abraham? " (John 8:58 NLT)

Then Jesus shocked them even more:

    "The truth is, before Abraham was, I AM." (John 8:58 NLT)

Out of the blue, this maverick carpenter with no degree in religion claimed to eternal existence. Furthermore, he had used the I AM title (ego eimi)8, the sacred Name of God for Himself! These religious experts lived and breathed the Old Testament Scriptures declaring Yahweh alone as God. They knew the Scripture spoken through Isaiah:

    "I alone am God. There is no other God; there never has been and never will be. I am the Lord, and there is no other Savior." Isaiah 43:10, 11 NLT)

Since the penalty for blasphemy was death by stoning, the Jewish leaders angrily picked up stones to kill Jesus. They thought Jesus was calling himself, "God." At that point Jesus could have said, "Wait! You misunderstood me---I am not Yahweh." But Jesus didn't alter his statement, even at the risk of being killed.

Lewis explains their anger:

    "He says√¢‚Ǩ¬¶'I am begotten of the One God, before Abraham was, I am,' and remember what the words 'I am' were in Hebrew. They were the name of God, which must not be spoken by any human being, the name which it was death to utter."9

Some may argue that this was an isolated instance. But Jesus also used "I AM" for himself on several other occasions. Let's look at some of these, trying to imagine our reactions upon hearing Jesus' radical claims:

  •     "I am the light of the world" (John 8:12)
  •     "I am the way, the truth and the life" (John 14:6)
  •     "I am the only way to the Father" (John 14:6)
  •     "I am the resurrection and the life" (John 11:25)
  •     "I am the Good Shepherd" (John 10:11)
  •     "I am the door" (John 10:9)
  •     "I am the living bread" (John 6:51)
  •     "I am the true vine" (John 15:1)
  •     "I am the Alpha and Omega" Rev.1:7,8)

As Lewis observes, if these claims were not from God Himself, Jesus would have been deemed a loony. But what made Jesus credible to those who heard him were the creative miracles he performed, and his wise authoritative teaching.

Son of Man

Some say that Jesus didn't intend the name I AM to mean he is God. They argue that Jesus' reference to himself as the "Son of Man," proves he didn't claim divinity. So what is the context of the title, "Son of Man," and what does it mean?"

Packer writes that the name, "Son of Man" referred to Jesus' role as Savior-King, fulfilling the messianic prophecy of Isaiah 53.10 Isaiah 53 is the most comprehensive prophetic passage of the coming Messiah, and clearly depicts him as the suffering Savior. Isaiah had also referred to the Messiah as "Mighty God," "Everlasting Father," Prince of Peace" Isaiah 9:6).

Additionally, many scholars say Jesus was referring to himself as the fulfillment of Daniel's prophecy about the "son of man." Daniel prophesies that the "son of man" will be given authority over mankind and receive worship:

    "I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshipped him." (Daniel 7:13, 14)

So who is this "son of man," and why is he being worshipped, when God alone is to be worshipped. Jesus told his disciples that when he returns to earth,"Then everyone will see the Son of man arrive on the clouds with power and great glory" (Luke 21:27). Is Jesus saying here that he is the fulfillment of Daniel's prophecy?

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