Since some time ago, one of my first posts on this blog was titled Jesus Claimed To Be God — where I provided a very lengthy post to show that Jesus did in fact put the claim of God upon Himself. However, upon further research, I realized that the debate on this issue was a lot deeper, and a lot further than my initial blog on this topic had entailed to discuss. For example, I read Tim O’Neill’s objections to this idea (Tim is an atheist historian) as well as watched the debate between Bart Ehrman and Justin Bass (both have a PhD). I’ve already posted a full rebuttal to Tim’s post (and it can be found by scrolling under Tim’s answer), however it’s time for me to fully update this on my blog. This new post will serve as a further defending the claim that Jesus claimed to be God. We will respond to both the arguments of those who deny that Jesus claimed to be God.
Jesus as God in Paul’s epistles?
Believe it or not, some people actually believe Paul did not view Jesus as God. Scholars and textual critics only view seven of Paul’s letters as definitely authentic and were certainly written by Paul — the book of Romans, Galatians, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, 1 Thessalonians, Philemon and Phillipians. Although the other six contain obvious references of Jesus as being divine (Titus 2:13, Colossians 2:9), they are argued to be pseudonymous by the majority of Scholars and thus not authentic to Paul’s name and thereby do not reflect Paul’s views. Although I disagree that they are pseudonymous, I will not reference them in discussion of Paul’s views. Here, we will see that Paul obviously viewed Jesus as God.
Let us see that Paul’s texts that clearly establish Jesus as God, and how those who deny this wish to respond are able to respond.
Phillipians 2:5–7: Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus, who, being in very nature of 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.
A very obvious reference to Jesus as God, correct? The dissidents argue otherwise. Here, they say that the Greek word for the word ‘nature’ is μορφῇ (which is correct) — but they also claim that this Greek term does not mean ‘nature’, it merely means ‘shape’. Thus, Paul says the following:
Phillipians 2:5-7: Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus, who, being in the very shape of 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.
Then, the claim is put forth that this does not mean Jesus is God, it really (somehow) means that Jesus is taking on human likeness in some pre-existing celestial form. Unfortunately for these people, although they wish to pertain to this rather fanciful interpretation of this obvious verse, they are wrong. The Greek word μορφῇ does not only mean shape, μορφῇ can mean both shape and form.— in other words, translations like the HCSB are correct when they translate Phillipians 2:5-7 to say the following:
Phillipians 2:5–7 Make your own attitude that of Christ Jesus, who, 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,
Saying that the phrase “Jesus existed in the form of God” doesn’t actually mean “Jesus existed in the form of God” will always be a rather simple attempt to explain away this clear-cut phrase from Paul here. Paul here very clearly places Jesus as God. It only gets worse from here though. These people that attempt to completely re-interpret these straight forward statements will not like the fact that the Greek word μορφῇ is exercised elsewhere in the Biblical Greek literature, such as Mark 16:12.
Mark 16:12: After this, Jesus appeared in a different form to two of them as they walked along in the country.
The Greek word μορφῇ here is used very obviously, and we can see that this Greek word means taking on a physical form, so when Paul says “Jesus exists in the form of God”, he means that “Jesus literally exists in the physical form of God”. So it seems to me there is no possible way to put forth a plausible view where the text in Phillipians 2:5-7 does not amazingly clearly interpret Jesus as God. This itself can drive the position of these dissidents into the ground, but there is more.
[Romans 9:5] The ancestors are theirs, and from them, by physical descent, came the Christ, who is God over all, praised forever. Amen.
Another very clear verse, right? It says the Christ (Jesus) is “God over all”, right? Not to the deniers. The deniers rightfully point out that there is great debate over how this verse is to be translated and where the punctuation goes, as punctuation didn’t exist in the first century when Paul wrote Romans. Thus, it is up the modern Greek scholars to determine where the puncutation in Biblical verses are to be placed in light of the verses context. So these are the contending translations of the verse:
” … from their race… is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever”
” … from their race… is the Christ, who is over all. God forever be blessed!”
” … from their race… is the Christ. God who is over all be forever blessed!”
The deniers will tell you that only the first one views Jesus as God, but this is again false. As you can see, the second translation says “Christ, who is over all”. If Paul views Jesus as being over all things, or as being the highest being, then Paul views Jesus as God. So, two translations put Jesus as God and one doesn’t. But is the third translation really plausible? Notice, the translation has the unbearably long phrase “God who is over all be forever blessed!” — is this an accurate translation? No where else in Paul’s literature is such phraseology used, giving us good reason to believe that such a translation is false, it is in error. Therefore, all viable translations clearly put forth that Jesus is God.
Now, we will see other Pauline verses that make it extraordinarily obvious that Jesus is God. Firstly, we see Paul recording that people pray to Jesus.
[1 Corinthians 1:2] To God’s church at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus and called as saints, with all those in every place who call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord—both their Lord and ours.
I didn’t know Paul thought people could pray to someone other then God? Now, take a look at this verse which is an elephant in the room to anyone claiming Jesus isn’t viewed as God by Paul:
[Phillipians 2:10–11] so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow—
of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth—and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Paul tells us that at the return of Jesus, ALL PEOPLES IN HEAVEN AND ON EARTH AND UNDER THE Earth will BOW down to Jesus, and will CONFESS that Jesus is Lord. It gets amazingly worse for these people when the word translated as ‘Lord’ is κύριος, which means one who exercises absolute ownership. 2962. κύριος (kurios) — lord, master — if Jesus wasn’t God, then why does the entire world bow down on the mark of His name? This becomes increasingly more troublesome when we see this phrase in Phillipians 2:10-11 correlate with the following Old Testament text.
[Isaiah 45:23-25] By Myself I have sworn; Truth has gone from My mouth, a word that will not be revoked: Every knee will bow to Me, every tongue will swear allegiance. It will be said to Me: Righteousness and strength is only in the Lord.” All who are enraged against Him will come to Him and be put to shame. All the descendants of Israel
will be justified and find glory through the Lord.
We now see that what Paul is actually doing in Phillipians 2 is literally correlating an Old Testament text on the almighty Yahweh where Yahweh receives divine homage DIRECTLY with Jesus. This is a type of evidence in the Pauline epistles for the defenders of the idea that Paul portrays Jesus as God fascinates even myself. Seriously. But the problems get much more enormous for anyone continuously denying this. Paul views Jesus and God as the same person. For example, did Paul preach the Gospel of God?
[Romans 15:16] “to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles with the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.”
Or did Paul preach the gospel of Christ?
[Galatians 1:6–7] I am astonished how quickly you are deserting the One who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is not even a gospel. Evidently some people are troubling you and trying to distort the gospel of Christ.
I can give many more examples, such as when Paul first says the churches belong to God (1 Corinthians 11:16) and then says the churches belong to Christ (Romans 16:16), or when Paul says the Spirit is of God in Romans 8:9 but then says the Spirit is of Christ in the exact same verse Romans 8:9. Paul even tells us the only way to be saved is to call on Jesus name (Romans 10:13) and to say that Jesus is Lord (Romans 10:9) ! The Greek word used for ‘Lord’ is κύριος which is used multiple times to reference God the Father. The evidence shows it is amazingly obvious that Paul viewed Jesus is God. There is more to go through, but this should be pretty clear by now. The Pauline epistles do in fact portray Jesus as God, as this is what Paul believed as well as Jesus and the early Christians. Because Paul is the earliest author of any Christian writings we have, his view that Jesus is God says quite an enormous amount regarding the earliest belief of Christians and the earliest theology of Christianity.
Christ, Son of Man, Son of God, divine phrase or Messianic phrase?
Some of these people like Tim O’Neill argue that the phrases Christ, Son of God, and Son of Man being titles of Jesus does not make Jesus as God in any way. Tim says this in his answer:
“Christ”, “Son of God” and “Son of Man” are all titles of the Jewish Messiah and the Messiah was not considered to be God.
Though he is right about ‘Christ’, which simply means the ‘Messiah’ in Hebrew or ‘the anointed one’ in English, he is dead wrong about the other two. There is no evidence found in the Old Testament that the phrase Son of God or Son of Man are mere terms used upon the Messiah that do not invoke divinity or being God in any way. Both terms are used on Jesus, such as Jesus being called the Son of God in Mark 1:1 or being called the Son of Man in Matthew 20:28. Although there is no evidence these terms only refer to a being aside from God, there is undeniable evidence that the phrase Son of Man in the Old Testament refers to God.
[Daniel 7:13-14] I continued watching in the night visions, and I saw One like a son of man coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was escorted before Him. He was given authority to rule, and glory, and a kingdom; so that those of every people, nation, and language should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and His kingdom is one that will not be destroyed.
The Son of Man is a figure authority over all peoples of all nations of all languages, whom is forever served by all the world, and possesses an everlasting kingdom in His dominion that will never cease. This figure is obviously God. I have a feeling Tim might go wild about the verses saying that He is given this authority, but this is because God is the Father and Jesus is the Son, and thus authority belongs to the Father by nature. Since when does a regular human control absolute authority over all humanity for eternity? I can find no place in the Old Testament where this is said to be due to anyone but God Himself — but I did find Zechariah 14:9, which tells us that it is Yahweh that is king over all the Earth — so it seems that the Son of Man is… Yahweh? Jesus proclaimed to be the Son of Man, therefore Jesus proclaimed to be Yahweh?
The funny thing that I’ve come to notice is that Tim O’Neill is one of the very only people who seriously believe that the phrase Son of Man does not refer to God. Others like Bart Ehrman fully accept it — but now you may be asking yourself, if Bart Ehrman himself viewed Jesus as not claiming to be God, what does Bart Ehrman do with Jesus’ claims to be the Son of Man if he views it is a term for God? Well, easy! He simply says that the Gospel authors made up every single phrase in the New Testament of Jesus (more than 80) where Jesus calls Himself the Son of Man. More on this later. In fact, if anyone is still denying that Jesus clearly claimed to be God such as in the Synoptic Gospels, perhaps they can take a look at the following few verses:
[Mark 14:60–64] Then the high priest stood up before them all and questioned Jesus, “Don’t You have an answer to what these men are testifying against You?” But He kept silent and did not answer anything. Again the high priest questioned Him, “Are You the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” “I am,” said Jesus, “and all of you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming with the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “Why do we still need witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy! What is your decision?” And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death.
Jesus affirms He is the Messiah, Son of the Blessed One and the Son of Man all at once, and in response the High Priest rips off his robes and declares that Jesus must be put to death because He committed blasphemy. In Jewish Law, you can only commit blasphemy in this context by claiming to be God.
Let’s go back to the term Christ — Jesus claimed to be the Christ, or the Messiah. These people will sometimes say that the Messiah was never to be a God figure according to the Old Testament… But the Old Testament will now challenge them on this.
[Isaiah 9:6–7] For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us, And the government will rest on his shoulders; And his name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. The dominion will be vast, and its prosperity will never end. He will reign on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish and sustain it with justice and righteousness from now on and forever. The zeal of the Lord of Hosts will accomplish this.
The Old Testament tells us that the figure who reigns on the throne of David, a son that will be persecuted and will establish an eternal kingdom (this sounds frighteningly like the Messiah) will also be called Mighty God and Eternal Father. So Jesus claiming to be the Messiah is Jesus claiming to be the one who is called Mighty God and Eternal Father, correct? It seems so. Thus, all three terms — Christ, Son of God and Son of Man establish that Jesus claimed to be God.
Jesus as God in the Synoptic Gospels of Luke, Mark, and Matthew
Remember, in the view of those who claim Jesus did not claim to be God, John’s Gospel when saying Jesus is God doesn’t count because it was written too late! Let’s ignore the fact that John the Elder wrote the Gospel of John, a man who directly knew Jesus. Let’s also ignore all the times Jesus calls Himself the Son of Man in the Synoptic Gospels as well, as well as Mark 14:60-64 in which we’ve already made note of. Let’s also put aside Paul’s letters for now. Even aside from all this, Jesus is still clearly shown as God and declares to be God in all the Synoptic Gospels. Jesus says He will literally judge the world on His throne.
[Matthew 25:31–32] “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
Who, aside from God alone, is going to sit on their throne and judge the world? We also see the very nice term ‘Son of Man’ appear again. Needless to say, the Old Testament obviously says God judges the world (Amos 5:18–20, Psalm 9:7–8). Anyways, Jesus calls Himself the Lord of the Sabbath.
[Mark 2:27–28] Then Jesus told them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. Therefore, the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”
[Matthew 22:41–45] While the Pharisees were together, Jesus questioned them, “What do you think about the Messiah? Whose Son is He?” “David’s,” they told Him. He asked them, “How is it then that David, inspired by the Spirit, calls Him ‘Lord’: The Lord declared to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand until I put Your enemies under Your feet’? “If David calls Him ‘Lord,’ how then can the Messiah be his Son?”
Jesus tells us only the Father knows Him, and only He knows the Father and to whom anyone Jesus wishes to reveal the Father to.
Matthew 11:27: All things have been entrusted to Me by My Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son desires to reveal Him.
Jesus tells us He is wherever His followers gather, basically saying He can exist anywhere He pleases.
[Matthew 18:20] For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there among them.”
Peter tells Jesus He is literally God’s Son, and Jesus blessed him for it.
[Matthew 16:13-17] When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But you,” He asked them, “who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God!” And Jesus responded, “Simon son of Jonah, you are blessed because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father in heaven.
Jesus is declared to be the “Holy One”, that is called Son of God.
[Luke 1:35] The angel replied to her: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the holy One to be born will be called the Son of God.
We can go forwards — Jesus further declares the Father hands Him authority over earth and heaven and so forth. The Gospels contain tens of references to Jesus as the Son of Man in all the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke). Jesus is obviously portrayed as God. All this and all these verses together make an overwhelmingly compelling case to Jesus being God as portrayed in the Synoptics. These are not the claims of a mere human being, a human Messiah, or even the mightiest prophet. These are the claims to be put forth onto God and God alone.
Book of Hebrews says Jesus is God?
In discussion on Jesus claim to be God, the Book of Hebrews always seems to be ignored. The Book of Hebrews is an amazingly early text of the New Testament (written 64 AD). This is a very great document in order to understand the earliest interpretation of Jesus amongst the Christians, and lo’ and behold, it says Jesus is God.
[Hebrews 1:7-8] And about the angels He says: He makes His angels winds, and His servants a fiery flame but to the Son: Your throne, God, is forever and ever, and the scepter of Your kingdom is a scepter of justice.
Finally.. Let’s discuss the Son of Man again.
You’ll recall I said earlier that some people who deny Jesus claimed to be God simply think that Jesus proclaiming Himself to be the Son of Man was ‘made up’ by the Gospel authors. Not only is this the obvious dying breath of someone whom has a failing argument and has to come to terms with the facts that all the Gospels, Pauline letters and earliest Christian texts like the Book of Hebrews and the writings of Ignatius portray Jesus is God — also has absolutely no evidence in support of it. In fact, all the evidence seems to support that Jesus did claim to be the Son of Man based on these sayings. The idea that Jesus historically claimed this passes many historical criterions. For example, it passes the criterion of multiple attestation (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John say Jesus said Himself as the Son of Man), it passes the criterion of early attestation, and it also passes the criterion of dissimilarity. You’ll realize the term ‘Son of Man’ appears almost absolutely nowhere in the New testament apart from the sayings of Jesus — perhaps twice at best. This shows that it is not being made up, as the criterion of dissimilarity shows that this saying of Jesus is unique to Jesus’ quotations, and thus Jesus’ quotations are more likely to be His own (as a fictional quote from John would sound a lot like John’s own writing). All the historical evidence seems to clearly favor the authenticity of this saying, and thus we can have no doubt that Jesus claimed to be God.