Who Jesus is has been a contentious issue for the past 1,800 years, with the dominant opinion being sometimes violently established. The correct opinion should not be determined based on its popularity, or the ability of its supporters to establish it. The correct opinion should be the one that is consistent with Biblical teachings.
Jesus rarely agreed with the Jewish religious leaders. However, the Gospels record one issue on which there was agreement, namely, the first commandment given to Moses by God.
Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, “Which is the first [foremost in importance] commandment of all?” Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God, the LORD is one. And you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”
So the scribe said to Him, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other but He. And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” Now when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” But after that no one dared question Him. (Mark 12:28–34)
The prevailing denominational tradition is that God is One, and is revealed as a Trinity of: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In determining who Jesus is, we shall examine:
a) what God said about Jesus;
b) what Jesus’ disciples taught about Jesus following His resurrection;
c) how Jesus is referred to in the Gospels;
d) how Jesus is referred to after His resurrection;
e) what Jesus said about Himself and God; and
f) where Jesus is?
We shall then examine the evidence used to support the tradition that Jesus is God.
a) What did God say about Jesus?
At Jesus’ baptism, God said: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17b)
At Jesus’ transfiguration, God said: “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” (Matthew 17:5b)
What does “My beloved Son” mean? Does it support the view that Jesus is God? We shall examine this issue in the following post (Who is Jesus according to Christian denominational tradition?).
b) What did Jesus’ disciples say about Jesus?
The messages of the apostles that are recorded in the Biblical book of Acts repeatedly (approximately 20 times [i]), consistently, and explicitly show that Jesus and God were two separate and distinct persons. Some examples follow.
“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know” (Acts 2:22)
“Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” (Acts 2:36)
The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified His Servant Jesus, whom you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let Him go. (Acts 3:13)
Paul wrote to the church in: Rome, Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi, Colossi, and Thessalonica. He also wrote to Timothy, Titus, and Philemon. Letters were also written by the disciples James, Peter, and John. They all repeatedly (approximately 130 times[ii]) mention Jesus and God, and consistently and explicitly describe them as separate persons.
Paul consistently identifies the One God as the Father.
There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. (Ephesians 4:4–6)
yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live. (1 Corinthians 8:6)
Every one of Paul’s recorded letters open with a greeting: in the name of God the Father, and the Lord Jesus.[iii] This seems to indicate that Paul wanted his readers to understand that God is the Father, and Jesus is the Lord. Paul also repeatedly and explicitly identified the Father as the God of Jesus.
Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 15:5–6)
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, (2 Corinthians 1:3)
The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying. (2 Corinthians 11:31)
that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him (Ephesians 1:17)
We give thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, (Colossians 1:3)
John also referred to God as the Father and God of Jesus in the book of Revelation.
To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (Revelation 1:5b–6)
c) How is Jesus referred to in the Gospels?
The following list describes how Jesus is referred to in the Gospels.
- God called Jesus: My Son, and My beloved Son.
- Jesus called Himself: Lord, Son of Man, Prophet, the Son, Christ, Teacher, Christ, Son of God, Lord of Sabbath, Good Shepherd, Only begotten Son, Messiah, True Bread from Heaven, Bread of God, Bread of Life, Living Bread, Light of the World, Door of the sheep, Resurrection and the Life, Way, Truth and Life, and the True Vine.
- Angels referred to Jesus as: Jesus, Immanuel, Jesus of Nazareth, Savior, Christ the Lord, Son of the Highest, and Son of God.
- John the Baptist referred to Jesus as: Lord, a Man, Son of God, Lamb of God, and Rabbi.
- Jesus’ disciples referred to Jesus as: Jesus Christ, Son of David, Son of Abraham, Jesus who is called Christ, Christ, Son of God, Lord, the Lord’s Christ, the Word, Light, Only begotten of the Father, Teacher, Messiah, Son of Joseph, Rabbi, King of Israel, Master, and Christ of God.
- Others during Jesus lifetime referred to Jesus as: Lord, Christ, Son of God, Teacher, Jesus, Rabbi, King of the Jews, Prophet, Master, Son of David, King of Israel, and King of the Jews.
- Demons referred to Jesus as: Son of God, Holy one of God, Son of the Most High God, and Christ.
d) How is Jesus referred to after His resurrection?
For the next 30 to 40 years after Jesus’ resurrection, Jesus is referred to in the following way.
- Peter referred to Jesus as: Lord, Jesus, a man attested by God, Christ, His Servant Jesus, The Holy One and Just, the Prince of Life, Prophet, Lord, Holy Servant, Prince and Savior.
- Stephen referred to Jesus as: Just One, Son of man at right hand of God, and Lord Jesus.
- Paul referred to Jesus as: Christ, Savior, this Man, Jesus, and Lord.
- Others referred to Jesus as: Jesus Christ Son of God, the Word of God, Lord, Just One, and Christ.
- Jesus referred to Himself as: Jesus of Nazareth.
In the evidence from the Bible, there are no explicit or indirect references to “Jesus our God”, or “our God Jesus”. There are numerous references to “Son of God”, “Lamb of God”, and “God the Father”, but not “God the Son” or “God the Lamb” or anything similar. The word “of” suggests that the Lamb belongs to or comes from God, not that the Lamb is God.
e) What did Jesus say about Himself and God?
Jesus provided some explicit evidence about His relationship with God.
And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46)
Jesus identified His disciples as His brethren after His death, and identified their common Father as God.
Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’” (John 20:17)
When Jesus prayed to His Father, He identified Him as the only true God, and Himself as separate from God.
And this is eternal life, that they may know You [Father], the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. (John 17:3)
Jesus actually refers to God as “My Father” approximately 50 times in the Gospels, and “the Father” approximately 70 times in the Gospels. Therefore, Jesus appears to have taught His followers that His Father is the One and only true God.
f) Where is Jesus
Jesus is repeatedly and consistently described as being at God’s right hand following His resurrection. Some examples follow.
The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree. Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. (Acts 5:30-31)
Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. (Romans 8:34)
If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God. (Colossians 3:1)
There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him. (1 Peter 3:21-22)
Stephen’s last recorded statement before he was stoned to death was: “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man [Jesus] standing at the right hand of God!” (Acts 7:56b)
All of the verses in this pose should not be ignored, but must be reconciled with any subsequent evidence that claims to support the tradition that Jesus is God. That evidence is in the post “Who is Jesus according to Christian denominational tradition?”
(This post was extracted from “Brothers Kept Apart”.)
[i] Acts 2:22, 36; 3:13,26; 4:10; 5:30; 7:55; 8:12,37; 10:36, 38; 11:17; 13:23,33; 20:21,24; 28:23,31
[ii] Romans 1:1, 7, 8; 2:16; 3:22; 5:1, 11, 15; 6:11, 23; 7:25; 8:39; 10:9; 15:5, 6, 8, 16, 17, 30; 16:20, 27; 1 Corinthians 1:1, 2, 3, 4, 9, 30; 6:11; 8:6; 12:3; 15:57; 2 Corinthians 1:1, 2, 3, 19; 4:6; 5:18; 11:31; 13:14; Galatians 1:1, 3; 3:26; 4:14; 6:14; Ephesians 1:1, 2, 3, 17; 2:10; 3:9; 5:20; 6:23; Philippians 1:2, 8, 11: 2:11; 3:3, 14; 4:7, 19; Colossians 1:1, 2, 3; 3:17; 4:11; 1 Thessalonians 1:1, 3, 2:14, 15; 3:11, 13; 4:1, 14; 5:9, 18, 23; 2 Thessalonians 1:1, 2, 8, 12; 2:16; 1 Timothy 1:1, 2, 12; 2:5; 5:21; 6:3,13; 2 Timothy 1:1, 2; 3:12; 4:1; Titus 1:1, 4; 2:13; Philemon 1:3; Hebrews 2:9; 4:14; 12:2; 13:20; James 1:1; 1 Peter 1:2,3,13; 2:5; 3:21; 4:11; 5:10; 2 Peter 1:1,2; 1 John 4:2,3,15; 5:1,5,6,20; 2 John 1:3; Jude 1:1,4, 21; Revelation 1:1,2,9; 12:17; 14:12; 19:10; 20:4
[iii] Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:3; 2 Corinthians 1:2; Galatians 1:3; Ephesians 1:2; Philippians 1:2; Colossians 1:2; 1 Thessalonians 1:2; 2 Thessalonians 1:1; 1 Timothy 1:2; 2 Timothy 1:2; Titus 1:4; Philemon 1:3
[iv] John 6:27; 1 Corinthians 15:24; Galatians 1:3; Ephesians 5:20; Philippians 2:11; Colossians 3:17; 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Timothy 1:2; Titus 1:4; 1 Peter 1:2; 2 Peter 1:17; 2 John 1:3; Jude 1:1