Introduction (Written by Jason Petersen)
This is a comprehensive seven-part article on the Deity of Christ that is written by Evan Osborne. Seven arguments can be used to show that Christ was God in the flesh. The seven parts to this series is listed below. The reader can feel free to click on any of the links below so that they may easily access the parts.
Written by Evan Osborne
One of the most attacked points of the doctrine of the Trinity by many religious groups is the deity of Christ. Many groups present the idea that he is simply a created being who began to exist at a certain point in time. As Christians who are called to “give a defense” (1 Peter 3:15), we need to take what the Scriptures declare about the nature of Christ and use it to powerfully defend and proclaim the gospel. Over several articles, I hope to equip Christians with the biblical evidence for the deity of Christ. The articles will cover these biblical evidences:
1.) Christ claimed to be God
2.) Christ was worshipped
3.) Christ is identified as the Son of God
4.) Christ fulfills the attributes of God
5.) Christ performs the work of God
6.) Christ is identified as YHWH
7.) Christ is explicitly called God
This article will begin our series, as we now turn to discuss Christ’s claims to be God. Christ’s claims to deity can be categorized as such:
1.) His claims to be the Son of Man
2.) His claims to be the I am
3.) His claims of unity with the Father
SON OF MAN
Roughly forty times in the Gospels, Jesus is identified as the Son of Man. When many hear this, they immediately understand the human connotations of this title. However, this title has a deeper reference to it, one that points to the identity of Jesus Christ as God. In Mark 14, Christ has just been arrested, and is being questioned by the Jewish leaders. After false accusations and various charges being brought to Jesus, the high priest begins to question him: “But He kept silent and did not answer. Again the high priest was questioning Him, and saying to Him, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?” And Jesus said, “I am; and you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” Tearing his clothes, the high priest said, “What further need do we have of witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy; how does it seem to you?” And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death.” (Mark 14:61-64; cf. Luke 22:69-70)
Jesus brings up two points here: the Son of Man will be 1.) sitting at the right hand of power, and 2.) coming with the clouds of heaven. With these phrases, Christ is connecting the idea of the Son of Man to two notable OT passages: Psalm 110 and Daniel 7:13-14.
Psalm 110, which speaks of one sitting at the right hand of the Lord, makes it clear that the one sitting at the right hand of the Lord is divine. In v. 1, this person is called “Lord” as well; in vv. 2-6, he brings judgment and wrath upon the nations; in v. 4, he is an everlasting being (“you are a priest FOREVER after the order of Melchizedek”).
Daniel 7:13-14 makes the connection with Christ’s statement much more evident. In this text, Daniel, having just spoken of the “Ancient of Days,” a title used of God in this book, has visions of “one like a son of man” (now we know where Jesus gets the phrase “Son of Man” from). This individual receives dominion, glory, and a kingdom. Again, this individual is everlasting, as “his dominion is an everlasting dominion which shall not pass away” (v. 14). From Daniel’s text, a divine being is clearly being described.
By claiming to be the Son of Man, connecting himself to these two OT passages, it is quite clear that Jesus is claiming nothing short of deity.
While the OT was written in Hebrew, at the time of Christ, many people had been quite familiar with the Greek translation of the OT, called the Septuagint (usually abbreviated as LXX, the Roman numeral 70, after the roughly 70 Jewish scholars commissioned to translate the text). In the LXX, God repeatedly refers to himself as the “I am” (“ego eimi” in the Greek text). This is seen as early as Exodus 3:14, when God reveals himself to Moses at the burning bush: “God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” However, the “ego eimi” is more strongly used later in the OT (cf. Deuteronomy 32:39; Isaiah 43:10; 46:4; etc.), with Isaiah’s texts using the “ego eimi” as an exclusive reference to God. One can therefore conclude that in the OT, “I am” is an exclusive reference to God.
At the time of Christ, there are various places where he uses the phrase “I am” (the same Greek terms, “ego eimi”) of himself, pointing powerfully to the fact that he truly is God. I will be discussing three of these instances.
1.) John 8:24: In this text, Christ has been discussing his unity with the Father (vv. 14-19). The Jews again demonstrate their rejection of him, and in the context of their rejection, Jesus says, “therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.” Christ’s statement of himself as “I am he,” using the same Greek phrase as that of the LXX, shows him declaring himself to be God.
2.) John 8:58: Earlier in this passage, Jesus speaks of how Abraham looked forward to Christ (v. 56). The Jewish leaders scoff at such a statement, basically asserting that, since Jesus is not even fifty years old, he couldn’t have possibly seen Abraham (v. 57). He responds, saying “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am” (v. 58). Not only is Christ referencing his pre-existence (he existed “before Abraham was born”), but he is again using the ego eimi, therefore implying his deity in this passage.
3.) John 18:4-6: As Judas is leading men to come arrest Jesus, the following conversation results: “So Jesus, knowing all the things that were coming upon Him, went forth and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” They answered Him, “Jesus the Nazarene.” He said to them, “I am He.” And Judas also, who was betraying Him, was standing with them. So when He said to them, “I am He,” they drew back and fell to the ground.” Again, the use of “ego eimi” comes from Christ, but what is more interesting is the result of him using that phrase of himself. In v. 6, the men “drew back and fell to the ground.” This is very consistent with Moses’ response to hearing God identify himself (cf. Exodus 3:6).
Thus, the “I am” statements prove to be very powerful in asserting that Jesus claimed to be God.
UNITY WITH THE FATHER
Since virtually no one today denies the deity of the Father, if we can have Christ on record claiming to be one with the Father, then we have yet another instance of Christ claiming to be God. There are numerous places where Christ identifies himself as united with the Father, and three prominent passages stand out. I’ll be using these texts to make my point.
1.) Matthew 11:27 (cf. Luke 10:22): In Matthew 10, Jesus commissioned his disciples to preach to various communities. In Matthew 11, they return and deliver a report on how successful their efforts were. Upon hearing these things, Christ praises the Father, and subsequently says this: “All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.” The parallel in Luke is more specific, as Christ asserts here that no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and that no one knows who the Father is except the Son (Luke 10:22). Such reciprocal knowledge on the part of the Father and the Son shows incredible unity between them, again presenting us with yet another claim of Christ being God.
2.) John 10:30: In John 10, Jesus, describing himself as the Good Shepherd, is teaching about the salvation of God’s people, and how, like a shepherd, Christ will not let anyone snatch his sheep out of his hand (cf. vv. 27-28). In this context, Christ makes a bold assertion: “I and the Father are one.” The Father and Son are not the same person, as the term “esmen” (“we are”) is used in the Greek text (meaning that a more correct rendering of this verse would be “I and the Father, we are one”). So, the context needs to determine what kind of unity exists. Well, as explained above, the context is the salvation of the people of God. Therefore, many scholars have come to the conclusion that the Father and Son are one in the salvation of God’s people: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KG0Qf7YjCAM. This unity between Father and Son demonstrate that Christ is claiming to be God, as is evident in the next verses when the Jewish leaders attempt to stone him (vv. 31-33).
3.) John 14:7-11: While Jesus is engaging in his private ministry with his disciples (the private ministry is found in John 12-16), he is asked by Thomas what the way is to where Jesus is going (vv. 4-5). After claiming that he IS the way (as well as the truth and the life, v. 6), he continues on: “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.” Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves.” Christ here is expressing the fact that he is the very reflection of the Father, a great testimony to his deity.
Therefore, we conclude that, in identifying himself as the Son of Man, as the I am, and as one united with the Father, it is quite clear from the text of Scripture that Jesus Christ did claim to be God.