AC21DOJ

THE DEITY OF JESUS CHRIST
by Greg Williamson (c) revised 2009

Introduction
Challenges to Jesus' Deity
Claims of Deity: Son of God | God
Proofs of Deity: God in the OT = Jesus in the NT | Rights & Privileges of God
Conclusion
Sources

INTRODUCTION
In general, the word "deity" refers to "the rank or essential nature of a god." When capitalized, it usually means "God" or the "Supreme Being." [ref] The belief that there is one God is known as monotheism; the belief in more than one God (that is, the belief in several gods) is polytheism; the belief that everything is God is pantheism; the belief that there is no God is atheism; and the belief that God (or ultimate reality) cannot be known is agnosticism.  

As a monotheistic religion, biblical, orthodox Christianity teaches that there is one God. What sets it apart from its Jewish cousin, however, is the belief that rather than a simple unity, the one true God is a triunity composed of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, in which Jesus Christ is the divine Son of God, both fully human and fully God.  

In many ways, the deity of Jesus Christ is the defining issue of the Christian faith -- of any religious faith or belief system, for that matter. If Jesus was, as orthodox Christians claim, God in the flesh, then he is the unique Son of God and the only Savior of the world.  

If Jesus really is God and he made exclusive truth claims, it is fatally foolish to either a) ignore his teachings or b) write Jesus off as just one more in a long line of religious teachers. In fact, as noted by others and as immortalized by C. S. Lewis in his Mere Christianity, a close examination of the evidence leaves room for only one of three conclusions: Jesus was a lunatic, Jesus was a liar, or Jesus was the Lord God. If Jesus really is God, then he deserves not merely our admiration but also our complete adoration and our total allegiance.

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CHALLENGES TO JESUS' DEITY
The deity of Jesus has been challenged from the very beginning. Some of the religious leaders of his day wanted to kill Jesus because they believed his claims to equality with God made him guilty of blasphemy -- which, of course, would have been true if he in fact were not equal with God (Matthew 9:2-3; John 5:18; 10:31-33). And while the fact of Jesus' many incredible miracles could not be denied, nonetheless some sought to discredit him by attributing his miracle-working power to Satan instead of God (Matthew 12:22-24).

The orthodox belief that Jesus is fully human and fully God was spelled out explicitly in the early centuries of Christian history in response to a number of unbiblical teachings or "heresies." It is both interesting and informative to recall that the first major heresy to arise within the Christian faith -- "docetism" (the view "that Christ only seemed to have a human body and suffer and die on the cross" [ref]) -- had to do with the denial of Jesus' humanity rather than his deity. While never completely free of detraction, the orthodox understanding of Jesus' two natures taught in Scripture and preserved in the creeds went relatively unchallenged for several centuries until the time of the Enlightenment (17th-18th centuries) with its enshrinement of "Reason" and its corresponding emphasis on the "historical Jesus." According to Enlightenment philosophy, Jesus was a merely human "prophetic moralist and religious reformer" whom later followers sought to deify. [ref] One end result of such thinking is the declaration that the New Testament (NT) is filled with "myths" that were meant to be taken symbolically and not as historical fact. [ref] 

In America the first major challenge to orthodox Christology came in the form of Unitarianism as early as 1710. Unitarianism affirms monotheism but rejects the deity of Christ (and the Trinity). [ref] [ref] Around the beginning of the 20th century came the liberal Protestant effort to radically "redefine the nature of Christ." [ref] This was accomplished by a) redefining "deity" and b) stressing Jesus' humanity. While they accepted Jesus as the founder of Christianity, liberals claimed that he was divine only in the same sense -- but to a greater degree -- as every other human being. And so to their way of thinking, "Jesus had called people to believe with him, rather than in him. Consequently, authentic Christianity should not require belief in statements about Christ's deity, but call for an imitation of his humanity." [ref] The conservative response to this overemphasis on Jesus' humanity was a major reassertion of -- some would even say an overemphasis on -- his deity, with the virgin birth becoming the touchstone of orthodox Christology. Since the latter part of the 20th century, secularism, existentialism, process theology, liberation theology, and feminist theology have all sought to radically redefine the biblical, orthodox understanding of the deity of Jesus Christ.  

It is worth noting that some contemporary critical scholars have compared Jesus to the "Divine Man," which is "an alleged type of religio-philosophical hero, legendary or historical" within the Greek world who was "characterized by moral virtue, wisdom and/or miraculous power" such that he was "held to be divine." [ref] According to this theory, Gentile Christians fabricated the miracle stories of Jesus in order to present him as the ultimate Divine Man, superior to the Greek heroes with whom he competed for the people's affection and allegiance. In point of fact, however, Jesus had much more in common with the (Jewish) Old Testament (OT) prophets, especially Moses, than he did with any of the variety of Greek so-called Divine Men. While it is possible to see some parallels between the miracle stories of Greek heroes and those of the gospel writers, such parallels can also be found in the OT and reflect a general style of storytelling more so than a particular genre of literature. Moreover, Jesus' primary purpose is very different from his alleged Greek counterparts, in that he came to offer himself as a sacrifice for the sins of the world and to usher in a new age in God's plan to redeem a lost and dying world. [ref] It is no coincidence that the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) focus most of their attention on the last week of Jesus' life, and all the gospels include Jesus' crucifixion and resurrection.  

On the popular level, innumerable books, motion pictures, and television programs continue to directly or indirectly challenge the belief in Jesus' deity. For example, at the time of this writing, Dan Brown's best-selling novel The DaVinci Code has been released as a major motion picture directed by Ron Howard and starring Tom Hanks. While Brown asserts that the story is fictional, he also maintains that it is based on fact -- i.e., the "fact" that Jesus was a mere human being who married one of his followers, Mary Magdalene, and fathered a child by her. Jesus' divinity, it is alleged, was fabricated and has been kept secret by the Roman Catholic Church in the grandest hoax and most intriguing conspiracy ever concocted. Many skeptics have used The DaVinci Code to confirm their suspicions, while more than a few Christians have had their faith seriously shaken by it. Any number of coinciding trends help to account for the popularity of the book and its heretical assertions, including:

  • Widespread ignorance regarding the Bible, the NT, and Church history.
  • Pluralism, in which "[d]ifferent groups of people disagree over their understanding of truth, goodness, reality, and the nature, purpose and goal of human life." [ref]
  • Syncretism, which is the combining or blending of different, often opposing, belief systems.
  • A deep-seated distrust of all authority in general and religious authority in particular, to include institutional  or "organized" religion.
  • A conspiracy mindset.
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CLAIMS OF DEITY
Son of God
The idea of divine sonship is first seen in the OT, where it refers to angels, the nation of Israel, and the king. In the case of the latter two, to be God's son is to belong to him; to serve him; and to experience his "love, mercy, protection, and gifts." For the king in particular, to be God's son is to be given God's ruling authority and to play a vital role in God's covenant with King David (aka the Davidic covenant). [ref] As we move into the NT, we see Jesus presented as the preeminent Son of God, both sharing and surpassing connections with Israel and the kings. "Jesus' sonship is on one level a successful replay of Israel's sonship. But whereas the sonship of Israel and of her kings was fraught with tension and disobedience, Jesus lives up to the full stature of the image of an obedient and faithful Son on intimate terms with the Father." [ref] 

While in the NT every true Christian is presented as a member of God's family, sonship is preeminently associated with Jesus. Jesus' sonship is often linked with the resurrection, leading some scholars to conclude that Jesus was not born the Son of God but became such only after his resurrection. As reflected in the gospel records, there was a significant shift in the mindset of Jesus' followers before and after his resurrection. However, the gospels clearly and repeatedly assert that Jesus was God's Son before the resurrection and, in some mysterious way, even before his earthly existence. This is clearly seen: from his preincarnate existence as the Word (as reflected in John's gospel, Jesus "always had a personal existence with God that was of the same quality and purpose in this preexistence in heaven as it was during his lifetime on earth" [ref]) to his being born of a virgin; from his multitude of miracles to his crucifixion; from his resurrection to his exaltation and promised future return. In the gospels we see Jesus routinely addressing God as Abba, Father, and this filial relationship includes intimacy with God (often through prayer); obedience to God's will (including serving and suffering); and uniqueness (Jesus "speaks of 'my Father' and 'your Father,' but never 'our Father' [the 'our' of the Lord's Prayer (Mt 6:9) is what the disciples are to say]"). [ref] [ref] 

There is also the claim that when the apostle Paul spoke of Jesus as the "Son of God," he was drawing from pagan traditions with which his Gentile audience was familiar. For example, occasionally a man would be referred to as a son of a god because of some exceptional quality, ability, or accomplishment ("the heroes of traditional Greek mythology [were] often referred to as sons of Zeus" [ref]). As a title, however, "son of god" was reserved for the Roman emperors (and the pharaohs of Egypt [ref]). But besides the fact that Paul's customary way of referring to Jesus is as "Christ" or "Lord" rather than as God's Son, Paul's Jewish background combined with his disdain for pagan religions would have prevented him from tying Jesus' divine sonship to the pagan ideas and practices current in his day. [ref] A summary of Paul's Christology leads to the conclusion that "Paul saw Jesus as participating in God's attributes and roles, as sharing in the divine glory and, most importantly, as worthy to receive formal veneration with God in Christian assemblies. ... Paul's references to Jesus as the 'Son' of God meant that Jesus possessed a unique standing, status and favor with God." [ref]

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God
While the NT most often refers to Jesus as "Christ" or "Lord," there are several passages that directly refer to him as God. [ref] These include the following (with Scripture verses from the NASB and commentary from Word Pictures in the New Testament):

Verses: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. ... And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. ... No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him." (John 1:1, 14, 18)

Commentary: And the Word was God [v. 1] (kai theos ēn ho logos). By exact and careful language John denied Sabellianism by not saying ho theos ēn ho logos. That would mean that all of God was expressed in ho logos and the terms would be interchangeable, each having the article. The subject is made plain by the article (ho logos) and the predicate without it (theos) just as in John 4:24 pneuma ho theos can only mean "God is spirit," not "spirit is God." So in 1 John 4:16 ho theos agapē estin can only mean "God is love," not "love is God" as a so-called Christian scientist would confusedly say.

The only begotten Son [v. 18] (ho monogenēs huios). This is the reading of the Textus Receptus and is intelligible after hōs monogenous para patros in John 1:14. But the best old Greek manuscripts (Aleph B C L) read monogenēs theos (God only begotten) which is undoubtedly the true text. Probably some scribe changed it to ho monogenēs huios to obviate the blunt statement of the deity of Christ and to make it like John 3:16. But there is an inner harmony in the reading of the old uncials. The Logos is plainly called theos in John 1:1. The Incarnation is stated in John 1:14, where he is also termed monogenēs. He was that before the Incarnation. So he is "God only begotten," "the Eternal Generation of the Son" of Origen's phrase.


Verse: "whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen." (Romans 9:5)

Commentary: Who is over all, God blessed for ever (ho on epi pantōn theos eulogētos). A clear statement of the deity of Christ following the remark about his humanity. This is the natural and the obvious way of punctuating the sentence. To make a full stop after sarka (or colon) and start a new sentence for the doxology is very abrupt and awkward.


Verses: "Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood." (Acts 20:28)

Commentary: With his own blood (dia tou haimatos tou idiou). Through the agency of (dia) his own blood. Whose blood? If tou theou (Aleph B Vulg.) is correct, as it is, then Jesus is here called "God" who shed his own blood for the flock.


Verses: "so that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ." ( 2 Thessalonians 1:12)

Commentary: Of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ (tou theou hēmōn kai kuriou Iēsou Christou). Here strict syntax requires, since there is only one article with theou and kuriou that one person be meant, Jesus Christ, as is certainly true in Titus 2:13; 2 Peter 1:1 (Robertson, Grammar, p.786). This otherwise conclusive syntactical argument, admitted by Schmiedel, is weakened a bit by the fact that Kurios is often employed as a proper name without the article, a thing not true of sōtēr in Titus 2:13; 2 Peter 1:1. So in Ephesians 5:5 en tēi basileiāi tou Christou kai theou the natural meaning is in the Kingdom of Christ and God regarded as one, but here again theos, like Kurios, often occurs as a proper name without the article. So it has to be admitted that here Paul may mean "according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ," though he may also mean "according to the grace of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ."


Verses: "looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus" (Titus 2:13)

Commentary: Of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ (tou megalou theou kai sōtēros Iēsou Christou). This is the necessary meaning of the one article with theou and sōtēros just as in 2 Peter 1:1, 11. See Robertson, Grammar, p. 786.


Verses: "Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 1:1)

Commentary: Of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ (tou theou hēmōn kai sōtēros Iēsou Christou). So the one article (tou) with theou and sōtēros requires precisely as with tou kuriou hēmōn kai sōtēros Iēsou Christou (of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ), one person, not two, in 2 Peter 1:11 as in 2 Peter 2:20; 3:2, 18. So in 1 Peter 1:3 we have ho theos kai patēr (the God and Father), one person, not two. The grammar is uniform and inevitable (Robertson, Grammar, p. 786), as even Schmiedel (Winer-Schmiedel, Grammatik, p. 158) admits: "Grammar demands that one person be meant." Moulton (Prol., p. 84) cites papyri examples of like usage of theos for the Roman emperors. See the same idiom in Titus 2:13.


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PROOFS OF DEITY
The NT gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) are our primary source for the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. While space does not allow for an in-depth look at the NT's historical trustworthiness, suffice to say that the science of textual criticism offers ample evidence that the NT writings have been accurately transmitted to us. We can put full confidence in the fact that the NT we possess today is a completely true, wholly reliable reproduction of the original writings that, in turn, were based on eyewitness testimony. [ref]

It is also worth bearing in mind that while the NT is our primary source regarding Jesus, several secular writings from the first and second century AD provide further confirmation. While none of these secular sources offer any factual data beyond what is recorded in the NT gospels, [ref] what they do offer is additional testimony regarding certain key facts, including: that Jesus was a real person who lived a wise and morally upright life despite which he was put to death by way of crucifixion under Pontius Pilate in Jerusalem on the charge of being "the king of the Jews"; that he performed extraordinary acts and was worshipped as divine by followers who rejected polytheism; and that his small group of followers multiplied rapidly, including establishing a presence in the very heart of the empire, the city of Rome. [ref] 

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God in the OT = Jesus in the NT
One very significant proof for Jesus' deity is the way in which what was said of God in the OT is now said of Jesus in the NT. [ref] [ref] To give just a few examples (with Scripture verses from the NET Bible):

Old Testament
New Testament

"God said to Moses, 'I AM that I AM.' And he said, 'You must say this to the Israelites, "I AM has sent me to you."'" (Exodus 3:14)

"Jesus said to them, 'I tell you the solemn truth, before Abraham came into existence, I am!'" ( John 8:58)

"Who is this majestic king? The LORD who commands armies! He is the majestic king!" (Psalm 24:10)

"None of the rulers of this age understood it. If they had known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory." (1 Corinthians 2:8)

"The LORD delivers and vindicates me! [Heb: 'the LORD is my light and my deliverance'] ... " (Psalm 27:1)

"Then Jesus spoke out again, 'I am the light of the world. The one who follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.'" (John 8:12)

"For you, O LORD, are the sovereign king over the whole earth; you are elevated high above all gods." (Psalm 97:9)

"The one who comes from above is superior to all [alt: 'is above all']. The one who is from the earth belongs to the earth and speaks about earthly things." (John 3:31)

"For God will evaluate every deed [Heb: 'will bring every deed into judgment'], including every secret thing, whether good or evil." (Ecclesiastes 12:14)

"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be paid back according to what he has done while in the body, whether good or evil." (2 Corinthians 5:10)

"In the year of King Uzziah's death, I saw the sovereign master seated on a high, elevated throne. The hem of his robe filled the temple.  Seraphs stood over him; each one had six wings. With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and they used the remaining two to fly. They called out to one another, 'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord who commands armies! His majestic splendor fills the entire earth!'" (Isaiah 6:1-3)

"Isaiah said these things because he saw Christ's glory, and spoke about him." (John 12:41)

"He will become a sanctuary, but a stone that makes a person trip, and a rock that makes one stumble – to the two houses of Israel. He will become a trap and a snare to the residents of Jerusalem." (Isaiah 8:14)

"and a stumbling-stone and a rock to trip over. They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do." (1 Peter 2:8)

"A voice cries out, 'In the wilderness clear a way for the LORD; construct in the desert a road for our God.'" (Isaiah 40:3)

"For he is the one about whom Isaiah the prophet had spoken: 'The voice of one shouting in the wilderness, "Prepare the way for the Lord, make his paths straight."'" (Matthew 3:3)

"Look, the sovereign LORD comes as a victorious warrior; his military power establishes his rule. Look, his reward is with him; his prize goes before him. Like a shepherd he tends his flock; he gathers up the lambs with his arm; he carries them close to his heart; he leads the ewes along." (Isaiah 40:10-11)

"Now may the God of peace who by the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead the great shepherd of the sheep, our Lord Jesus Christ" (Hebrews 13:20)

"I am the LORD! That is my name! I will not share my glory with anyone else, or the praise due me with idols." (Isaiah 42:8)

"'And now, Father, glorify me at your side with the glory I had with you before the world was created.'" (John 17:5)

"This is what the LORD, Israel's king, says, their protector, the LORD who commands armies: 'I am the first and I am the last, there is no God but me.'" (Isaiah 44:6)

"When I saw him I fell down at his feet as though I were dead, but he placed his right hand on me and said: 'Do not be afraid! I am the first and the last,' ... 'I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end!'" (Revelation 1:17; 22:13)

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Rights and Privileges of God
It is also highly significant that Jesus: [ref]

  • Claimed the authority to forgive sins -- something only God alone can do.

"Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, 'My child, your sins are forgiven.' But some of the teachers of religious law who were sitting there thought to themselves, 'What is he saying? This is blasphemy! Only God can forgive sins!' Jesus knew immediately what they were thinking, so he asked them, 'Why do you question this in your hearts? Is it easier to say to the paralyzed man "Your sins are forgiven," or "Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk"? So I will prove to you that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins.' Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, 'Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!'" (Mark 2:5-11)

  • Claimed the power to raise and judge the dead.

"'For just as the Father gives life to those he raises from the dead, so the Son gives life to anyone he wants. ... And I assure you that the time is coming, indeed it's here now, when the dead will hear my voice -- the voice of the Son of God. And those who listen will live. ... Don't be so surprised! Indeed, the time is coming when all the dead in their graves will hear the voice of God's Son, and they will rise again. Those who have done good will rise to experience eternal life, and those who have continued in evil will rise to experience judgment.'" (John 5:21, 25, 28-29)

  • Claimed he should receive the same honor as God.

"'so that everyone will honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Anyone who does not honor the Son is certainly not honoring the Father who sent him.'" (John 5:23)

  • Requested prayer in his name.

"'You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. Yes, ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it! ... But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted!'" (John 14:13-14; 15:7)

  • Accepted worship.

    "Then the disciples worshiped him. 'You really are the Son of God!' they exclaimed." (Matthew 14:33)

    "And as they went, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they ran to him, grasped his feet, and worshiped him."  (Matthew 28:9)

    "When they saw him, they worshiped him -- but some of them doubted!" (Matthew 28:17)

    "So they worshiped him and then returned to Jerusalem filled with great joy." (Luke 24:52)

  • Equated his words with the Law of God -- the "You have heard, but I say" statements during his Sermon on the Mount. (Matthew 5:21, 27, 33, 38, 43)

  • Performed many mighty miracles,including giving sight to someone born blind, raising the dead back to life, turning water into wine, and walking on the water. Besides summary statements, the NT gospels contain no less than thirty different miracle stories. [ref] Regarding Jesus' many miracles, one source offers the following insights.

    Our Lord's ministry was attended from first to last by events entirely beyond the ordinary course of Nature. He was born of a Virgin, and His birth was announced by angels, both to His mother, and to the man to whom she was betrothed (Matthew and Luke). He suffered death on the cross as an ordinary man, but on the third day after His crucifixion He rose from the tomb in which He was buried, and lived with His disciples for 40 days (Acts 1:3), eating and drinking with them, but with a body superior to ordinary physical conditions. At length He ascended to the heavens, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. But besides these two great miracles of His birth and His resurrection, Jesus was continually performing miracles during His ministry. His own words furnish the best description of the facts. In reply to the question of John the Baptist, His predecessor, He said, "Go and tell John the things which ye hear and see: the blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good tidings preached to them" (Matthew 11:4, 5). Specimens of these miracles are given in detail in the Gospel narratives; but it is a mistake to consider the matter, as is too often done, as though these particular miracles were the only ones in question. Even if they could be explained away, as has often been attempted, there would remain reiterated statements of the evangelists, such as Matthew's that He "went about in all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of disease and all manner of sickness among the people" (Matthew 4:23), or Luke's "And a great number of the people from all Judea and Jerusalem, and the seacoast of Tyre and Sidon, who came to hear him, and to be healed of their diseases; and they that were troubled with unclean spirits were healed. And all the multitude sought to touch him; for power came forth from him, and healed them all" (Luke 6:17-19).

    It must be borne in mind that if there is any assured result of modern criticism, it is that these accounts proceed from contemporaries and eyewitnesses, and with respect to the third evangelist there is one unique consideration of great import. ... Luke was a trained physician. His testimony to the miracles is therefore the nearest thing possible to the evidence which has often been desired -- that of a man of science. When Luke, e.g., tells us of the healing of a fever (Luke 4:38-39), he uses the technical term for a violent fever recognized in his time; his testimony is therefore that of One who knew what fevers and the healing of them meant. This consideration is especially valuable in reference to the miracles recorded of Paul in the latter part of Acts. it should always be borne in mind that they are recorded by a physician, who was an eyewitness of them. [ref]

  • Fulfilled the numerous OT prophecies regarding God's Anointed, including the following: [ref]
Prophecy
OT Reference
Fulfilled in/
by Christ
The Gentile nations shall be blessed through Abraham. Genesis 12:3; 18:18; 22:18 Acts 3:25; Galatians 3:8
An everlasting covenant with Israel. Genesis 17:7, 19; 22:16-17 Luke 1:55, 72-74
A prophet like Moses. Deuteronomy 18:15, 18 Acts 3:22-23
Opposition to God's Anointed. Psalm 2:1-2 Acts 4:25-26
God's Son. Psalm 2:7 Acts 13:33; Hebrews 1:5; 5:5
Praise from the mouths of infants. Psalm 8:2 Matthew 21:16
Not left in the grave. Psalm 16:8-11 Acts 2:25-28, 31
Forsaken by God. Psalm 22:1 Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34
Clothing gambled over. Psalm 22:18 Matthew 27:35; Mark 15:24; Luke 23:34; John 19:24
Spirit committed into God's hands. Psalm 31:5 Luke 23:46
Betrayed by a close friend. Psalm 41:9 John 13:18; Acts 1:16
An everlasting kingdom. Psalm 45:6-7 Hebrews 1:8-9
A conquering hero. Psalm 68:18 Ephesians 4:8-10
Seated at God's right hand. Psalm 110:1 Matthew 22:44; Mark 12:36; Luke 20:42; Acts 2:34-5; Hebrews 1:13
An everlasting priesthood. Psalm 110:4 Hebrews 5:6
The rejected stone becomes the chief cornerstone. Psalm 118:22-23 Matthew 21:42; Mark 12:10-11; Luke 20:17; Acts 4:11
A Davidic king. Psalm 132:11, 17 Luke 1:69; Acts 2:30
Born of a virgin. Isaiah 7:14 Matthew 1:23
A light in the darkness. Isaiah 9:1-2 Matthew 4:15-16
An everlasting, universal kingdom. Isaiah 9:7; Daniel 7:14, 27 Luke 1:32-33
A root of Jesse. Isaiah 11:10 Romans 15:12
A choice stone in Zion. Isaiah 28:16 Romans 9:33; 1 Peter 2:6
Make ready for his arrival. Isaiah 40:3-5 Matthew 3:3; Mark 1:3; Luke 3:4-6
Will bring justice to the nations. Isaiah 42:1-4 Matthew 12:17-21
A light to the nations. Isaiah 49:6 Luke 2:32; Acts 13:47-48; 26:23
Not all will believe. Isaiah 53:1 John 12:38; Romans 10:16
Despised and forsaken; to suffer for our sins. Isaiah 53:3-6, 11 Matthew 8:17; Acts 26:22-23; 1 Peter 2:22, 24-25
Numbered with transgressors. Isaiah 53:12 Mark 15:28; Luke 22:37
A new covenant, with the Law written on the heart. Jeremiah 31:31-34 Hebrews 8:8-12; 10:16-17
"Not my people" changed to "my people." Hosea 2:23 Romans 9:25; 1 Peter 2:10
God's Spirit poured out. Joel 2:28-32 Acts 2:16-21
The Christ will come from Bethlehem. Micah 5:2 Matthew 2:5-6; John 7:42
A wondrous work. Habakkuk 1:5 Acts 13:40-41
A humble king riding on a donkey. Zechariah 9:9; Matthew 21:4-5; John 12:14-15
Thirty shekels for the potter's field. Zechariah 11:13 Matthew 27:9-10
The shepherd will be struck and the sheep will scatter. Zechariah 13:7 Matthew 26:31, 56; Mark 14:27, 50
A messenger to prepare the way. Malachi 3:1 Matthew 11:10; Mark 1:2; Luke 7:27
Elijah to be sent. Malachi 4:5-6 Matthew 11:13-14; 17:10-13; Mark 9:11-13; Luke 1:16-17
  • Lived a sinless life.

"This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin." (Hebrews 4:15)

  • And rose from the dead, an event Jesus repeatedly predicted beforehand.

    "From then on Jesus began to tell his disciples plainly that it was necessary for him to go to Jerusalem, and that he would suffer many terrible things at the hands of the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but on the third day he would be raised from the dead." (Matthew 16:21)

    "As they went back down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, 'Don't tell anyone what you have seen until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.' ... After they gathered again in Galilee, Jesus told them, 'The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of his enemies. He will be killed, but on the third day he will be raised from the dead.' And the disciples were filled with grief." (Matthew 17:9, 22-23)

    "'Listen,' he said, 'we're going up to Jerusalem, where the Son of Man will be betrayed to the leading priests and the teachers of religious law. They will sentence him to die. Then they will hand him over to the Romans to be mocked, flogged with a whip, and crucified. But on the third day he will be raised from the dead.'" (Matthew 20:18, 19)

    "Suddenly there was a great earthquake! For an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled aside the stone, and sat on it. His face shone like lightning, and his clothing was as white as snow. The guards shook with fear when they saw him, and they fell into a dead faint. Then the angel spoke to the women. 'Don't be afraid!' he said. 'I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn't here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying. And now, go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and he is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there. Remember what I have told you.'" (Matthew 28:2-7)

Of the NT's twenty-seven books, the resurrection is explicitly mentioned in seventeen, and is implied in most of the remaining ten. Henry Morris once referred to the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ as "the crowning proof of Christianity." If it did not actually take place, he said, then the Christian faith is a lie. On the other hand, if the resurrection really did happen, then it offers irrefutable evidence for the deity of Christ and the truth of the Christian religion. [ref]

Among today's evangelical Christians there is quite a bit of emphasis placed on the empty tomb, particularly at Easter time. And rightly so, since the empty tomb bore (and bears) silent testimony to Jesus' resurrection. As important as the empty tomb was (and is), however, in and of itself it is not the reason we believe in the bodily resurrection of our Lord. Rather, the supreme evidence of Jesus' resurrection is the eyewitness testimony regarding his post-crucifixion physical interaction with many people in many and various settings in which he was seen, heard, and touched. [ref] [ref] Jesus' resurrection body was real -- albeit one with new "spiritual qualities." [ref] It is Jesus' real post-crucifixion appearances in his real body -- and not merely the empty tomb -- that offers indisputable proof that the same Jesus who had died and was buried returned to life. [ref] [ref] (See The Resurrection of Jesus for more info, including inadequate attempts to explain away the resurrection.)

Philippians 2:5-9
A pivotal NT passage regarding Jesus' deity is found in the apostle Paul's letter to the Christians in Philippi.

"Don't be selfish; don't try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don't look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal's death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, 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." (Philippians 2:3-11)

In what may have been an early Christian hymn, Paul beseeches his readers to true humility, punctuating his pleadings with the greatest example possible -- that of Jesus Christ. Notice what Paul does not do: he does not make an argument for Jesus' deity. Rather, he takes it as a given and established fact and offers it as the greatest example of humility he can think of. Paul's point here is that Jesus "left a state of inexpressible glory, and took upon him the most humble form of humanity, and performed the most lowly offices, that he might benefit us." [ref]

"He existed in the form (Greek morphē) of God" and "equality with God" emphasize Jesus' divine nature, while "emptied Himself, taking the form (Greek morphē) of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man" emphasize Jesus' human nature. "Form" translates the Greek morphē, which "denotes 'the special or characteristic form or feature' of a person or thing," [ref] "with emphasis upon both the internal and external form." [ref]  There are actually two Greek words that are both translated by our one English word "form." Schema refers to to the outward form that changes, while morphē refers to the essential form that never changes. For example, a person's schema is constantly changing as he or she grows and develops through the various life stages from newborn to old age. A person's morphē, however, refers to his or her humanity, and that never changes. [ref] In the same way that being in "the form of a bond-servant" assumes a human nature, being in "the form of God" assumes a divine nature. [ref]

The language in which our Lord's intrinsic Deity is expressed ... is probably as strong as any that could be devised. Paul does not say simply, "He was God." He says, "He was in the form of God," employing a turn of speech which throws emphasis upon our Lord's possession of the specific quality of God. "Form" is a term which expresses the sum of those characterizing qualities which make a thing the precise thing that it is. Thus, the "form" of a sword (in this case mostly matters of external configuration) is all that makes a given piece of metal specifically a sword, rather than, say, a spade. And "the form of God" is the sum of the characteristics which make the being we call "God," specifically God, rather than some other being -- an angel, say, or a man. When our Lord is said to be in "the form of God," therefore, He is declared, in the most express manner possible, to be all that God is, to possess the whole fullness of attributes which make God God. Paul chooses this manner of expressing himself here instinctively, because, in adducing our Lord as our example of self-abnegation; his mind is naturally resting, not on the bare fact that He is God, but on the richness and fullness of His being as God. He was all this, yet He did not look on His own things but on those of others.

Paul is not telling us here, then, what our Lord was once, but rather what He already was, or, better, what in His intrinsic nature He is; he is not describing a past mode of existence of our Lord, before the action he is adducing as an example took place -- although the mode of existence he describes was our Lord's mode of existence before this action - so much as painting in the background upon which the action adduced may be thrown up into prominence. He is telling us who and what He is who did these things for us, that we may appreciate how great the things He did for us are.  [ref]

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CONCLUSION

Dead Men Don't Bleed

The story is told of a a man -- we'll call him Phil -- who was absolutely convinced he was dead. Neither his friends, nor his co-workers, nor his pastor, nor anyone else could convince him otherwise.  

One day Phil's doctor had an idea. The doctor had Phil read from a number of medical textbooks, let him watch several films, and even took him to the local morgue to examine a few dead bodies -- all to prove the point that dead men don't bleed. "Alright, alright," said Phil, "I understand that dead men don't bleed."  

Whereupon the doctor pulled out a needle and jabbed the top of Phil's thumb. Phil yelled in pain as he stared down at the small stream of blood flowing from his thumb. 

The doctor was pleased to see the sense of wonderment and understanding reflected on Phil's face. Until, that is, Phil said: "Doc! It's amazing! Dead men do bleed!"

This story helps to illustrate just how difficult it can be to convince someone whose mind is already made up. In that respect, it could be titled Dead Men Don't Believe.  

The Bible teaches that all people are born spiritually dead. A person must first be given spiritual life before he or she can embrace spiritual truth, including the truth that Jesus is the divine Son of God. That said, every Christian should be intimately familiar with the doctrine of Jesus' deity and be ready to passionately teach it and vigorously defend it, since doing so accomplishes at least three vitally important things: 1) It strengthens our faith in and commitment to Christ. 2) It helps us take a stand for God's truth and against the Devil's lies. 3) It stacks logs of truth in a person's heart -- logs that the Holy Spirit can ignite to bring a person to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.

"Don't be faithless any longer. Believe!"

"Eight days later the disciples were together again, and this time Thomas was with them. The doors were locked; but suddenly, as before, Jesus was standing among them. 'Peace be with you,' he said. Then he said to Thomas, 'Put your finger here, and look at my hands. Put your hand into the wound in my side. Don't be faithless any longer. Believe!' 'My Lord and my God!' Thomas exclaimed. Then Jesus told him, 'You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.' The disciples saw Jesus do many other miraculous signs in addition to the ones recorded in this book. But these are written so that you may continue to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing in him you will have life by the power of his name." (John 20:26-31)

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SOURCES
(Click on the title for more information.)

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Bible
Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics
Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible
The Daily Study Bible Series
Dictionary of Biblical Imagery
Dictionary of Christianity in America
Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels
Dictionary of Paul and His Letters
Dictionary of the Later New Testament and Its Developments
Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology
Evangelical Dictionary of Theology
Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains
Holy Bible, New American Standard
Holy Bible, New English Translation (NET)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation (2nd ed)
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
Merriam-Webster's 11th Collegiate Dictionary
Nave's Topics
Nelson's Complete Book of Stories, Illustrations, and Quotes
Nelson's New Christian Dictionary
Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Dictionary
New Dictionary of Christian Ethics and Pastoral Theology
New Dictionary of Theology
Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words
What's in the Bible
Word Pictures in the New Testament

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