Kermit Zarley presentation at One God Seminar, Oct 23-24, Federal Way, WA

 

Does the Bible Say Jesus Is God?

(all Scripture references are from the NRSV)

 

 

INTRODUCTION

 

Who Was Jesus in the Original Christian Gospel?

·        The Bible constantly distinguishes between God and Jesus as the promised Messiah-King of Israel.

·        In the four New Testament (NT) gospels, Jesus refers to himself about 39x as the Son of Man.

·        Jesus only privately admitted to being the Messiah, and he finally said it publicly to the Sanhedrin.

·        The Sanhedrin condemned Jesus as a blasphemer worthy of death, but not for claiming to be God.

·        Early Christians preached that Jesus is Lord, Messiah, Savior, Son of God, and he rose from the dead.

·        They never preached Jesus is God in their evangelistic sermons, since Jesus never said he was God.

 

The Catholic Church Changed the Gospel (cf. Deut 4.2; Prov 30.5-6)

               How so? Nicene Creed: Jesus is “very God of very God,” and whoever rejects this is anathema. The Church later asserted that God is three co-equal and co-eternal persons: Father, Son, and Spirit.

               Why? Anti-Semitism (Rom 9-11), Greek philosophy, departing from sound words (1 Tim 6.3; 2 Tim 2.13), delving into forbidden, secret things (Deut 29.29), and accepting union of church and state.

 

OLD TESTAMENT (=OT)

 

God Is Not Three Persons but One Person, and the Holy Spirit Is Not a Person

Since man is a single person God is too, because man was made in God’s image (Gen 1.27; 5.1, 3). So, God’s Spirit (=Holy Spirit) is to God what man’s spirit is to man. Thus, God’s Spirit is not a person.

·        Shema: “Hear, O Israel: The LORD is our God, the LORD alone” (or “the LORD is one,” Deut 6.4)

 

Who Are “Us” and “Our” in Genesis?

·        God does not speak to trinity members but a certain class of angels (Gen 1.26; 3.22; 11.7; cf. Isa 6.8).

 

YHWH (=Yahweh?) Is the God of the Messiah

·        Micah writes, “he [ruler of Israel=Messiah] shall stand and feed his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God” (Mic 5.4).

·        Isaiah’s righteous Servant says, “my cause is with the LORD, and my reward with my God” (Isa 49.4).

·        Isaiah’s suffering, righteous Servant says, “I am honored in the sight of the LORD, and my God has become my strength” (Isa 49.5).

 

Who Is “The Angel [Heb. malak/angelos] of the LORD”?

Not preexistent Christ or God but Israel’s guardian angel—Michael (Ex 23; Dan 10.13, 21; 12.1).

 

Who Is “One Like a Son of Man” (Dan 7.13-14)?

Dan 7.9-10 portrays a heavenly judgment scene of God and his angelic council. “Thrones” likely belong to the 24 elders of the book of Revelation. Dan 7.13-14 depicts a heavenly coronation ceremony in which God gives the SofM a great kingdom to take to earth. This SofM is not strictly a symbol of the endtimes Jewish saints, nor do clouds indicate he is divine. Jesus called himself SofM based on this text.

 

NEW TESTAMENT (=NT)

 

Introduction

According to the NT gospels, Jesus never claimed to be God. Rather, Jesus did miracles by the power of the Spirit of God. This indicates his dependence upon, and subordination to, God, which nullify that he is God. Thus, Jesus doing miracles and arising from the dead do not indicate that he is God. The nine major, NT theos texts traditionalists cite to support their belief that Jesus is God are as follows:

 

Text

Problem(s)

Genre

Translation (nasb)

Jn 1.1c

punctuation grammatical

hymn (?)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Jn 1.18

textual grammatical

hymn (?)

No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten God, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.

Jn 20.28

grammatical

confession

Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”

Rom 9.5

punctuation grammatical

doxology

whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.

2 Th 1.12

grammatical

doctrine

according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Tit 2.13

grammatical

prophecy

looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus

Heb 1.8-9

textual grammatical contextual

Old Testament citation

But of the Son He says, thy throne, o god, is forever and ever,… therefore god, thy god, hath anointed thee

2 Pt 1.1

textual grammatical

salutation

by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ

1 Jn 5.20

grammatical

summary

we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.

 

Christology of Jesus

Jesus Believed that Only the Father Is God, Repeatedly Calling Him “my God.”

·        Jesus answered the scribe about what is the greatest commandment by saying, “‘The first is, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one” … Then the scribe said to him, ‘You are right, Teacher, you have truly said that “he is one, and besides him there is no other”’”(Mk 12.29, 32).

·        Jesus referred to “my/the Father” as “the one who alone is God?” (Jn 5.43-45).

·        Jesus prayed, “Father,… that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ” (Jn 17.3).

·        Jesus said on the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mt 27.46; quoting Ps 22.1).

·        The risen Jesus said to Mary Magdalene, “go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God’” (Jn 20.17).

·        The heavenly Jesus called God the Father “my God” five times in Rev 3.2, 12. See also Rev 1.6.

 

Jesus Asked His Disciples Who He Was:

·        Peter answered Jesus, “You are the Messiah” (Mk 8.29; Lk 9.20 adds “of God” & Mt 16.16 “the Son of the living God”). Peter never said Jesus is God. Being God is far greater than being the Messiah.

 

The Jews Asked Jesus Who He Was:

·        “Who are you?” (Jn 8.25)

·        “Who do you claim to be?” (Jn 8.53).

·        “If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly” (Jn 8.24).

·        At Jesus’ hearing before the Sanhedrin, no one ever accused him of claiming to be God. Finally, the high priest asked him, “‘Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?’ Jesus said, ‘I am; and you will see the Son of Man ’” coming with power and clouds (Mk 14.61-62).

 

Twice the Jews Accused Jesus of Claiming to Be God, and Both Times He Denied It:

·        When Jesus healed a lame man on the Sabbath, “the Jews started persecuting Jesus” because they had unbiblical laws against it (Jn 5.16). “But Jesus answered them, ‘My Father is still working, and I also am working.’ For this reason the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because he was not only breaking the Sabbath, but was also calling God his own Father, thereby making himself equal to God” (vv. 17.18). For Jesus’ disclaimer, see vv. 19-46.

·        Jesus said, “The Father and I are one” (Jn 10.30). The Jews took stones to stone him for blasphemy, saying, “you, though only a human being, are making yourself God” (v. 33). See denial in vv. 34-38.

 

Christology of John

·        The synoptic gospels and Fourth Gospel present the same Jesus as essentially subordinate to God. See esp. Jn 14.28: “The Father is greater than I.”

·        The Johannine Jesus was constantly misunderstood: he spoke figuratively and people understood him literally. Both the post-apostolic church and modern historical critics have committed this error.

·        Jews and later Christians wrongly postulated that certain divine prerogatives belong only to God. So, when Jesus claimed them, e.g., forgiveness and judgment, they erred in thinking he claimed deity.

·        Jesus as “Son” (27x) should be understood from the OT background, not Greek metaphysics as church fathers did. Jesus is God’s one-of-a-kind (Gr. monogenes) Son by birth, piety, and agency.

 

Problem Passages:

·        Jn 1.1c: “and the Word was God” (kai theos en ho logos; NEB: “and what God was, the Word was”).

·        Jn 1.18: textual difficulty. It is ho monogenes theos, ho monogenes huios, or ho monogenes.

·        Jn 1.15, cf. v 30: John the Baptist said of Jesus, “He who comes after me ranks ahead of me because he was before me.” Some translations have “existed” for “was.”

·        Jn 5.18: “the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him [Jesus], because he was not only breaking the Sabbath, but was also calling God his own Father, thereby making himself equal to God.”

·        Jn 6.41: “I am the bread of life that came down from heaven…. ” Cf. v. 63 and 8.23.

·        Jn 8.24: “you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am he” (Gr. ego eimi; cf. v. 28 & Ex 3.14).

·        Jn 8.56, 58: “Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day; he saw it and was glad…. Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was I am.” Cf. Ex 3.14: “I AM WHO I AM” = “YHWH” in v. 15.

·        Jn 10.30: “The Father and I are one.” Cf. same Gr. word for one (hen) in 17.11, 22.

·        Jn 12.41: “Isaiah said this because he saw his glory and spoke about him.” Cf. Isa 6.1-3; 42.8; 49.3.

·        Jn 17.5: “Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory that I had … before the world existed.”

·        Jn 20.28: “Thomas answered him [the risen Jesus], ‘my Lord, and my God!’” Cf. 14.7-11.

·        1 Jn 5.20: “He is the true God and eternal life.”

 

 

Christology of Paul

·        Paul constantly distinguishes God and Jesus as two separate individuals. In nearly all salutations of his letters he states, “Grace to you and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

·        Six times Paul says the Father is the God of Jesus Christ (Rom 15.6; 2 Cor 1.3; 11.31; Col 1.3; Eph 1.3, 17; cf. 1 Pt 1.3). For example, he writes, “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 15.6).

·        “God is one,” and “the only wise God” (Rom 3.30; 16.27)

·        “Christ belongs to God” (1 Cor 3.23), and “God is the head of Christ” (11.3).

·        “‘there is no God but one’ … for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist” (1 Cor 8.4, 6).

·         “There is one body and one spirit,… one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and in all and through all” (Eph 4.4-6).

·        “To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, the only God” (1 Tim 1.17).

·        “he [God the Father] who is the blessed and only Sovereign,… It is he alone who has immortality and dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see” (1 Tim 6.15-16).

·        “there is one God: there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus” (1 Tim 2.5)

 

Problem Passages

·        Rom 9.5: “to them [Jews] belong the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, comes the Messiah, who is over all, God blessed forever.”

·        Phil 2.6-11: Jesus “did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself” Cf. Isa 45.23.

·        1 Th 1.12: “according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Same in 2 Pt 1.1.

·        Tit 2.13: “while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.”

·        The NT calling Jesus “Lord” (kurios) does not mean he is YHWH due to LXX translating YHWH kurios.

·        OT citations about YHWH applied to Jesus—e.g., Rom 10. 13/Joel 2.32, Rom 14.11/Phil 2.10-11/Isa 45.23—do not mean Jesus is YHWH, but his agent.

 

Christology of Hebrews

               This author strives to prove that Jesus is superior to others, showing he did not think he is God.

·        Heb 1.8: “But of the Son, he [God] says, ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever,… therefore God, your God, has anointed you.” Quotation of Ps 45.6-7. Psalmist did not intend to call the king “God.”

 

Worship in the New Testament

The Greek NT word proskuneo indicates the oriental custom of genuflection (bowing the knee) or prostration (laying the whole body face down), both of which are physical acts. English Bible versions usually translate proskuneo “bow down” when applied to men or angels and “worship” when applied to Jesus, showing translator bias. Pipto=fall down. Mt 4.9-10 is different.

·        Matthew records proskuneo directed to Jesus in Mt 2.11; 14.33; 28.9, 17. Cf. Mt 18.26.

·        Proskuneo is done before men and angels in Rev 3.9; 19.10; 22.9.

·        24 elders proskuneo before “God” in Rev 7.10-11; 11.16, although God and Christ are mentioned.

·        Rev 5.14 might mean the 24 elders proskuneo before God and Christ, but it is not clear. If so, it may mean no more than Jesus saying, “all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father” (Jn 5.23).

·        Conclusion: human worship of God should be directed through God’s Son, not to the Son as if he is God. The reason is that God saves humans through his Son—Jesus. For example, Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn 14.6).