In the lead up to Christmas and Easter, Jesus deniers and antagonists reappear on the media circuit espousing their speculations. They are entitled to express their opinions but it would be nice if they occasionally observed the evidence, rather than hanging their theories on innuendo and cockeyed imaginations.
On Late Night Live with Phillip Adams (November 25), author and Academy award winning screenwriter, Frederic Raphael, was being interviewed on the topics of anti-semitism and screen-writing. What was an otherwise intriguing conversation about cinema and anti-semitism, was interrupted by some odd ahistorical claims, including that Jesus never said he was the Son of God, “…the Jews who would not accept that Jesus was the Son of God, nor of course did Jesus…but what does he know about it”.
Raphael’s argument isn’t that Jesus and his followers were wrong in believing that he was the Son of God, but that Jesus himself did not believe that he was Son of God.
Presumably, however, the same sources that Raphael depends on for historical figure of Jesus Christ, are also the very same the sources that insist upon the idea of Jesus’ Divinity. It is one thing to reject that Jesus is the Son of God, but it simply impossible to escape the fact that Jesus identified himself as God the Son. The only way one can arrive at his conclusion is if we were to erase the historical record.
Here are some examples (and please note that these are only samples) from the historical record indicating Jesus’ self-belief in his Divine nature. The documents I am quoting are also considered by academics as the most reliable and earliest sources for the words and life of Jesus. It is therefore incongruous to consider Jesus without them.
“If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.” Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” (Matthew 4:6-7)
‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.” (Matthew 22:32)
“It is written in the Prophets: ‘They will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard the Father and learned from him comes to me. 46 No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. Very truly I tell you, the one who believes has eternal life”. (John 6:45-47)
“Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live”. (John 5:25)
“Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” (John 8:58)¹
Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. (John 8:54)
“I and the Father are one” (John 10:30)
“Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, ‘I am God’s Son’? Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.” (John 10:36-38)
“When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.” (John 11:4)
“How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work” (John 14:9b-10)
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”(John 3:16-18)²
The many ‘I AM’ sayings of Jesus in John’s Gospel are less about English grammar and is the holy name of Israel’s God, revealed to Moses at the burning bush. The religious intelligentsia rightly understood Jesus’ use of the phrase as calling himself the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
In addition, Jesus’ most frequently used title was ‘Son of Man. While it’s meaning was somewhat enigmatic, Jesus spoke and acted in ways that accorded with the Old Testament and therefore it is difficult to conclude that Jesus viewed the title, ‘Son of Man’, in a way that differed from its use in Daniel chapter 7, where the ‘Son of Man’ is described as one who is given the authority and power of God, and is worshiped accordingly.
Words from others that Jesus did not repudiate
“The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” ((Matthew 4:3)
“What do you want with us, Son of God?” they shouted. “Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?” (Matthew 8:29)
“Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” (Matthew 14:33)
“Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” (Matthew 16:16)
“Some of the Pharisees said, “This man is not from God, for he does not keep the Sabbath.” But others asked, “How can a sinner perform such signs?” So they were divided. Then they turned again to the blind man, “What have you to say about him? It was your eyes he opened.” (John 9:16-17)³
“When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Luke 5:20-21)
“Again his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?” “We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.” (John 10:31-33)
“Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” (John 11:27)
“Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28)
The reason for Jesus’ crucifixion
“For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God”. (John 5:18)
“The Jewish leaders insisted, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.” (John 19:7)
The conclusion is simply inescapable, Jesus believed he was the Son of God. The volume of statements spoken by Jesus about his Divinity is significant, and is perhaps greater than the number of recorded words spoken by President Obama whereby he addresses himself as the President of the United States! In addition to the words of Jesus, when considering whether Jesus is the Son of God, one must also attest to his character and works, all which draw us to the same conclusion. We may question the conclusion, but it is poor form to excise parts of the historical record simply because it doesn’t fit your agenda.
To summarise the evidence:
- On numerous occasions Jesus indicated that he is God’s Son.
- Jesus’ opponents believed that Jesus was claiming to be God, and for the said reason they had him killed.
- Many people believed that Jesus was God and Jesus did not correct them
- Jesus’ life, character, works, miracles, death and resurrection are unique in the entire history of the world, and each adds weight to his claim of Divinity, not detracts.
- The first Christians, many of whom were eye-witnesses to the life of Jesus and others were at one time opponents, were prepared to suffer imprisonment and even death for the confession, Jesus is Lord.
“These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31)
- Jesus is suggesting more than that he was living prior to Abraham’s birth (at least 1600 years earlier!)
There is debate over whether these words were spoken by Jesus or are a commentary on Jesus’ words to Nicodemus by John. Either way, the understanding is clear.
This debate between Pharisees implies that some people indeed believed Jesus was God