ChurchETHOS

Did Jesus Claim to be God?

Posted in christian thought, theology by Nathan Creitz on December 1, 2008

jesusteachingsqLast night my Bible study group had a great discussion from John 10. Since I’m working on translating Greek all day today for my Exegesis class, I thought I would take a few minutes and share what we talked about and invite you to join the conversation.

To begin with, we talked about how Jesus claimed to be God here in John 10. There are dozens of other places that can be discussed but from this one passage, there are several proofs that Jesus was claiming to be God.

1. John 10:25 – After the Jews said, “If You are the Messiah, tell us plainly.” Jesus responded and said, “I did tell you and you don’t believe.” Don’t believe what? Obviously, the Jews were having a hard time believing that Jesus was the Messiah. We can infer, therefore, that Jesus is saying “I did tell you [that I am the Messiah] and you don’t believe.” Clearly, Jesus is NOT saying “I did tell you [that I am NOT the Messiah] and you don’t believe” because there is no ambiguity on what the Jews believed and didn’t believe.

2. John 10:28 – Jesus goes on to talk about how His sheep follow Him and then He says, “I give them eternal life.” That’s a pretty bold statement for a mere human to make. The Jews believed that only God Himself could give eternal life. Therefore, Jesus is clearly stating that He is God.

3. John 10:30 – Jesus said, “The Father and I are one.” Again, the devout Jew would never claim to be one with God. For Jesus to say this is to say that He is God.

4. John 10:33 – If we knew nothing of the Jewish context and couldn’t read between the lines of what Jesus said, the clearest proof that Jesus was claiming to be God doesn’t actually come from anything that He Himself said. The clearest proof of Jesus’ claim to divinity comes from the critics. They picked up stones to kill Jesus and said that their reason was “because You – being a man – make Yourself God.” They sensed no ambiguity in what Jesus was claiming. They knew that He was claiming to be God and were ready to kill Him for it.

5. John 10:36 – Jesus asks rhetorically, “do you say, ‘You are blaspheming’ to the One the Father set apart and sent into the world, because I said: I am the Son of God?” He then tells them to look at the works that He is performing as evidence of the veracity of His statements and then says, “This way you will know and understand that the Father is in Me and I in the Father.” Here Jesus alludes to the fact that He has said, “I am the Son of God.” and further reinforces that the Father is in Him and He is in the Father. This could be two separate proofs of Jesus’ deity but I’ve rolled it into one proof for brevity. It doesn’t need to be repeated that this was a clear indication to the Jews that Jesus was claiming to be God and once again they try to seize Him so that they could kill Him but he escapes.

So, did Jesus claim to be God? Here are several proofs that that’s exactly what Jesus was claiming. We could also look at all the times Jesus referred to Himself as the “Son of Man” – the Old Testament reference to the Messiah. We could look at Colossians 1:15-16 which says, “He [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the One who is preeminent over all creation; because by Him everything was created…” We could look at John 1:1 which says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Of course, Colossians 1 and John 1 are not evidences that Jesus Himself claimed to be God, but they reveal what His disciples thought about Him because that’s what they wrote about Him. Taken together, Jesus clearly claimed time and again that He was the Messiah, the Son of God. So, if there are any Jehovah’s Witnesses reading this, I would love to hear your thoughts.

What do you think? Did Jesus Claim to be God? Anyone else want to offer insight into Jesus’ claim to be God? Does anyone see a flaw in the logic here? Let me know what you think.

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10 Responses

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  1. Rob French said, on December 2, 2008 at 12.29 am

    Nathan,

    I don’t see any flaw in your logic, and of course, I agree with you. I thought I might add another thought as well, and that’s on the overemphasis of the Red Letters, as it were.

    Some people are tempted to downplay doctrines such as Jesus’ divinity, on the grounds that Jesus Himself didn’t explicitly speak to such subjects (although, as you’ve here alluded to, I think that He -was- pretty explicit, if we consider Jewish categories of thought–the mindset of original audience).

    The problem with emphasizing the so-called Red Letters, however, over and against other parts of Scripture–especially other parts of the New Testament–is that there’s no intellectual grounds for doing so.

    Consider John’s writings, both his gospel and his epistles. John 1 and 1 John 1 make clear that John considered Jesus to be God. Let’s suppose that, in the Gospel of John, Jesus never actually claims divinity, though John attributes it to Him. How can we accept Jesus’ words–recorded in John–without also accepting John’s commentary/interpretation? Why should we expect John to be an accurate recorder, but an inaccurate commentator?

    Anyhow, just my two cents.

    -Rob

  2. General Kafka said, on December 3, 2008 at 2.52 am

    Nathan:
    Your posts speaks about the “Messiah” — is it clear whether the Jews believed that the Messiah would be God himself ? I don’t think so — they couldn’t understand such thing as Psalm 110:1 before the Holy Spirit would reveal a great deal to them about Jesus.
    Note that Muslims believe in Jesus as the Messiah, but do not understand this as giving any credentials to the idea of Jesus being God.

    Additional (corroborative) evidence that Jesus claimed to be God:
    in Luke 22:70-71, we read that the Sanhedrin condemned Jesus because they understood that he was claiming to be the Son of God.
    In Mark 14:60-63, the claim is also that he will be sitting at the same kingly level as God himself. (what does ‘sitting at the right hand’ really mean to 1st century jews, btw — can you clarify ?)
    Same in Matthew 26.

    I think I got this in Lee Strobel’s Case for Christ.

  3. Koranist said, on December 3, 2008 at 6.57 am

    Jesus never claimed to be God and himself worshiped God. How can he claim to be God? Did Moses say such a thing? Or did Abraham? Did they even mention Jesus?

    You are taking verses out of context. The Koran came to CONFIRM the Torah and Gospel yet even it never claimed that Jesus claimed he was God. I have an article I posted about what the Koran says about Torah and Gospel. This is not Sunni/Shia stuff, its strictly from the Koran. I am after all a Koranist.

    http://www.ballot.com/hotwire/26302-what-koran-says-about-torah-gospel.html

  4. Nathan Creitz said, on December 3, 2008 at 8.11 am

    Hey Rob,

    Thanks for the comment. You are absolutely right that the other Christological passages are just as important than Jesus Himself saying that He is God. God’s Word is God’s Word. I took this opportunity, however, to address those who would say, “Jesus never claimed to be God”, since my Bible study was in John 10. Otherwise, I probably wouldn’t have written about this issue. On the other hand, as I dug through the text I discovered more about Jesus’ claim than I ever had thought of previously so I wanted to share that with you on my blog. Before, I had read “I and my Father are one.” and about how the Jews said, “You have made yourself out to be God.” but there are about 5 or 6 other proofs in this one text that Jesus was clearly saying, “I am God.” that I had never seen before. That’s why I wanted to list them in this post. Thanks again for your comment and the reminder to appreciate “the whole counsel of God” and not just the red letters.

  5. Nathan Creitz said, on December 3, 2008 at 8.20 am

    Hey Kafka,

    You are right, the Jews wouldn’t have equated the Messiah with being God but here Jesus ties the two together. It’s their own fault for not having seen the connection. But Jesus clearly says He is the Messiah and clearly says He is God and I think they are more angry (in this passage at least) that Jesus is calling Himself God.

    I also agree with you, as I mentioned in point 4 above, that the best evidence for what Jesus is saying comes from his opponents. I went into more detail with this in our church Bible study because that’s what stood out to me the most. I always find it interesting in my own life when a truth of Scripture is confirmed by opponents of Scripture and here it is happening in the Scripture themselves.

    As to your question about “sitting at the right hand”, I would have to do some research but I think you are right that the understanding from Jesus’ opponents was that He was claiming to be deity and that’s what angered them. Thanks for the comments.

  6. Nathan Creitz said, on December 3, 2008 at 9.21 am

    Hey Koranist,

    Thanks for your viewpoint. I think I enjoy when people disagree more than when they agree…it gives me something to think about and challenges me to think even more Christianly about what I believe. I respect your thoughts, but I wouldn’t expect the Koran to claim that Jesus was God as it is not inspired BY God. Only the Bible can speak authoritatively about God since they are the very words OF God. Obviously, you will disagree with me about that and that is not the point of this post. So, I’ll give you that you believe the Koran is inspired if you will grant that I believe it is not…let’s not get into that debate here.

    You accused me of taking verses out of context. Respectfully, would you mind pointing out which verses I took out of context and how I might have been led astray?

    Finally, I would just say that Jesus’ Messianic claims and His claims to deity are mutually corroborative. There are numerous prophecies regarding the Messiah that are only and completely fulfilled in Jesus. Jesus claimed to be God because He is. The Jews may not have expected that but there are clear references to the Trinity even in the Law and the Prophets so they should’ve anticipated it. Jesus is the Word of God made flesh. He is the Messiah and the Messiah is God. Make sure you read my post entitled, Distinctively Christian: The Trinity which sheds more light on this exclusively Christian doctrine.

  7. Rob French said, on December 4, 2008 at 6.13 am

    I don’t know whether or not the Jews “would have expected” the Messiah to -be- God or not, but there is certainly the hint of a similar idea throughout the Old Testament–namely, the strong association between the throne of David and the throne of God. While an “ordinary” king such as Zerubbabel (had he assumed the throne post-exile as it seemed like he was supposed to) would have fulfilled the various restoration prophecies, Jesus fulfilled them in a unique and more complete way; and the throne of David was completely united with the throne of God!

    My interpretation of much of Old Testament prophecy is somewhat different than what is common in contemporary Christianity (though by no means unorthodox or unique to myself!), in that I see Old Testament prophecy as primarily directed at bringing about changes in the behavior of God’s people in the light of various recurrent themes: sin, blessing and curse, salvation and judgment, mercy, grace, redemption, and ultimately, the presence of God with His people.

    Remembering this, then, it’s inconsequential that Moses or Abraham (or anyone else) didn’t speak directly of Jesus. Jesus fulfilled all of the things about which they -did- speak: blessing and cursing, the promised land, a great king, a sabbath rest, the presence of God. Furthermore, He proved Himself, to paraphrase the author of Hebrews, by the power of an indestructible life.

    I would grant that if Jesus weren’t resurrected, then His claims to be both Messiah and God, and His disciples’ attribution of said roles to Him, would be highly suspect. But there’s the rub–the resurrection is the core of Christianity. If it didn’t happen, then our faith is in vain. But it did–so we are heirs with Him who was raised as the firstborn among many brothers.

  8. Jim Marks said, on May 18, 2009 at 8.01 am

    Is the Messiah equated to being G-d in ancient Judaic thinking? I didn’t think that was the case.

    Psalms 8 would suggest that “the son of man” is in fact not G-d, but is in fact “a little lower than G-d”.

    I think another important question to ask is whether Jesus said anything remotely similar to his claims in John 10 in any of the other Gospels. The passages in the epistles aren’t relevant since -obviously- Jesus followers in the early church quickly decided that he had been, in fact, G-d and would have written about him in those terms, but that bears no witness one way or the other to his actual words. Strictly speaking, the Gospels don’t, either, but they’re the closest we have. I would say without strong support from the other three Gospels it would be difficult to insist that Jesus’ claimed to be G-d.

    • Nathan Creitz said, on May 20, 2009 at 1.43 pm

      Hey Jim,

      Thanks for the thoughts and questions. I’m curious. You remove the “o” in God for a reason? It actually makes it look like a curse. I know that’s not the topic of this post but I’m curious as to why you do that.

      More to the point. The Judaic thinking wouldn’t have anticipated the Messiah being God. That’s why Jesus was such a shocker for them. In fact, some Jews even believed there would be two different kinds of Messiah’s but Jesus said, “today this prophecy has been fulfilled in your hearing”. They never would’ve anticipated one person fulfilling all the “tasks” of the Messiah or that he might do them at two different times (death and resurrection followed by the second coming).

      Psalm 8 is fulfilled in Philippians 2 where Jesus “existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage. Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men. And when He had come as a man in His external form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death – even to death on a cross. For this reason God also highly exalted Him and gave Him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow – of those who are 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.

      Jesus’ deity was accepted by all the disciples as well as Paul. Colossians 1:15 says of Jesus that “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation; because by Him everything was created, in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things have been created through Him and for Him.

      In Mark 2:5 Jesus claims to forgive the sins of the paralyzed man. The Jews understood that only God could forgive sin.
      In the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew Jesus would say, “You have heard it said…but I say to you.” The prophets often spoke FOR God saying, “The Lord said to me…” But Jesus spoke AS God by fulfilling what the prophets had already said.
      In Matthew 13:41 Jesus calls them His angels but in Luke 12:8 angels are considered to belong to God.
      In Matthew 26 Pilate asks Jesus if He is in fact the Son of God. Jesus replies “You have said it…” The reason the Pharisees are so upset with Jesus at that point is that He has made Himself equal with God. Could the crucifixion have been one big misunderstanding? If Jesus hadn’t meant for them to think of Him as the Son of God He could’ve said, “Wait, there’s been some mistake! Did you think I was calling myself the Son of God…No! How silly!”

      etc.

  9. Donald Sullivan said, on May 26, 2009 at 10.49 am

    When Jesus was baptized, God said “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.”
    God speaks of Jesus as a third person.
    On the cross, Jesus says, “My God, my God, hast thou forgotten me?” Here Jesus speaks to God as a third person.
    Jesus spoke of sitting at the right hand of God.
    Personally, from this (and other places in the Bible where Jesus refers to God as his father) I would conclude that Jesus is the Divine Son of God, but not God himself.


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