Does the Bible really say Jesus was God?


#11

Why don’t you believe Jesus is God? We can discuss this through messages if you like.


(Jon) #12

Because I don’t believe it’s taught in the Bible. And yes I’ve seen all the verses, heard all the arguments.


#13

Many scholars who have seen all the verses, heard all the arguments, and have been studying this for decades have exactly the opposite position. You don’t think, for example, the Gospel of John or Revelation or Titus, for example, teaches that Jesus is God?


(Jon) #14

And unsurprisingly, most of them have a personal believe that Jesus is God. How coincidental. In the scholarly literature it is agreed that Jesus “became” God as a result of a development in Christian doctrine, and the only disagreement is over how early or late that happened. For Christians who don’t believe the apostolic teaching is definitive, and who believe that later Christians can legitimately develop doctrine in ways that differ from the apostles, this is obviously not a problem.

No.


#15

And unsurprisingly, most of them have a personal believe that Jesus is God. How coincidental.

Few scholars at all, even those with zero belief in the divine Jesus (i.e. Bart Ehrman as a good example) would deny that Jesus is God in John’s Gospel. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Could that be any more clear? I don’t need to note which verse that is. Surely the overwhelming majority of scholars think Jesus claimed to be God in John’s Gospel, but of course many would say that those words were put on Jesus’ lips by John’s mouth. Nonetheless, John does say Jesus is God here and in many other places, and John is in the Bible. You are confusing scholarship on whether Jesus believed He was God (which may be affected by personal beliefs) with scholarship on the divinity of Christ in the New Testament writings (which is assuredly not, at least much less so).

In recent decades, an emerging consensus has emerged in scholarship that states that the earliest Christology was the belief that Jesus was God, that this belief had spurred almost immediately after the crucifixion. This consensus has emerged in no small part because of the works of Martin Hengel, N.T. Wright, Richard Bauckham and Larry Hurtado – all Christians, but have convinced the academy. In Ehrman’s How Jesus Became God, he too adopts that Jesus being God emerged almost right after Jesus died, as Christians came to believe it right after they believed Jesus had been resurrected. Ehrman says Paul thought Jesus was God, and that Paul’s predecessors thought Jesus was God, and that the predecessors of Paul’s predecessors thought Jesus was God. The emerging consensus states that the belief in Jesus as God predates the New Testament. In C. Fletcher-Louis’s 2015 monograph literally titled Jesus Monotheism: Volume 1: Christological Origins: The Emerging Consensus and Beyond, he writes in the preface that the work of Hurtado and Bauckham constitute the framework of the “emerging consensus” of scholars regarding the new early-high christology (you should read the entire first chapter of that book if you have not already so). Perhaps the most convincing monograph as of yet is Richard B. Hays 2014 Reading Backwards: Figural Christology and the Fourfold Gospel Witness.

I’ll end this comment by quoting Fletcher-Louis: “There is now, however, a newly emerging consensus that a “high Christology” goes back to the earliest period of the church and that it was adopted by the Jerusalem-based disciples in the early years, or even the first few months, of the movement after Jesus’ death” (pg. 4).


(Jon) #16

Yes I have read it. Earlier, George even linked you to it.

The problem is that you’re reading it as saying “In the beginning was Jesus, and Jesus was with God, and Jesus was God”. Leaving alone for now the logical contradictions involved here (specifically that Jesus could be both himself and with himself), this is very obviously not saying Jesus. It could have been made abundantly clear by actually saying “Jesus”. It doesn’t.

No I am not. I know the difference between Jesus calling himself God and other people calling him God in the New Testament.

I have read NT Wright, Hurtado (I follow his blog), Bauckham, Hays, and Ehrman. This view is fine for people who are comfortable with binitarianism or bitheism (it works perfectly for Arians such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and it also works for the Mormons), not so much for “orthodox” Trinitarians (other than those who are comfortable with a couple of centuries of doctrinal development to correct the apostles’ original teaching). Hurtado, for example, argues for what Fletcher-Louis refers to as “a binitarian mutation in monotheism”.

Allow me to quote him also.

And because the leading voices of the emerging consensus, to one degree or another, admit a personal, confessional interest in the enterprise, there is an excursus after these two chapters on some theological questions and issues raising from Hurtado’s work.

And another quotation.

At the outset, it is worth saying that, underlying all the specific issues that will be covered in Part 2, I discern a weakness in the underlying conceptual structures within which many in the emerging consensus work. Its leading voices seem to have theological assumptions that reflect the tendencies of a distinctively Western and especially a Protestant (and, in particular, a Reformed), theological vision that construes the relationships between God, the world, and humanity in terms that militate against the international shape of NT Christological material.


(Mervin Bitikofer) #17

This apparent contradiction didn’t bother the author of John 1:1 … that the Word both “was with God” and the Word “was God”. So whether or not you allow that the Word refers to Jesus, the “logical contradiction” you object to would already seem to be in place in John 1:1 alone. Of course I don’t know Hebrew like you do, so I will be glad to learn of any nuances in all this. Additionally, I’m not really going to jump in between Korvexius and you on this issue, as you both seem to be doing just fine. It does seem to me, though, as if John 1 does pretty seemlessly and unambiguously slide into the intended association that this same “He” through which the world was made (vs. 10) is the same “He” that the world did not know when he came to it – the same “He” that became flesh and lived among us (verse 14). If that “He” doesn’t refer to Jesus, then I’m curious how these passages play out for you.

Again, I’m not barging in here to challenge your identity as a Christian, Jon – if you self-identify that way, then I praise the Lord for that. I once knew an extremely passionate Christian who knew the Bible better than any of us, and yet he surprised me by confiding that he did not think Jesus was God. I just smiled at him and told him that we’d have to agree to disagree about that; but I knew there was no arguing him away from his set of convictions. He worships and knows Christ intimately in ways that I admire so I trust to the Lord who sees and knows our hearts and our limited understandings – both my friend’s and mine.

corrections and edits added.


#18

I would say that you friend was going to hell. When one denies what God has said about this, it moves beyond the point of honest mistake. When dealing with the divinity of Jesus, the error is fatal.


#19

I missed it. There were too many comments coming in at once. I think I had read or thought of something similar many years ago when looking at the subject. I had forgotten some of the details.


(Jon) #20

The writer of John didn’t read this as saying “the word was with God and the word was God”. That’s an English language gloss.

I know nearly no Hebrew, but this is Greek. You’ll find confessional translators saying they avoid translating “and the word was a god” or “and the word was divine”, for theological reasons.

The word isn’t Jesus, which is why the word isn’t referred to as “he”. On the contrary, Jesus is the word made flesh. [quote=“Mervin_Bitikofer, post:251, topic:36748”]
Again, I’m not barging in here to challenge your identity as a Christian, Jon – if you self-identify that way, then I praise the Lord for that.
[/quote]

Much appreciated.


#21

My old Greek professor who was not a Christian said that it was written that way to show which is the subject and which is the predicate. It is written in a way that fits perfectly with the concept of the trinity. As Martin Luther said, the lack of an article avoids Sabellianism and the word order avoids Arianism. ‘The Word was God’ is the best translation of the Greek for grammatical reasons.

I wrote this comment mostly for Mervin_Bitikofer’s benefit.


(Mervin Bitikofer) #22

Which is why I’m glad that it’s God who’s in charge of our destinies and not all of you self-appointed guardians of doctrine. I agree with you, BTW, but I won’t pontificate to others who have a different understanding of the trinity than we do. Regarding knowledge of our English scriptures, I know them quite well enough to know (or at least have heard) most if not all of the arguments we use to insist on all the “correct” answers regarding our long lists of important details surrounding who Jesus is. I’ll leave you to continue your exchange with Jon as the rest of us may continue to learn things in the exchange (as much from Jon as from you I might add). Nobody (certainly not my friend) is disagreeing with God, who is infallible. He is disagreeing with you and me; and I don’t claim infallibility for myself. If you do for yourself, then I leave you to search scriptures in vain for any justification for that.

Correctional edits already added in!


#23

The problem is that you’re reading it as saying “In the beginning was Jesus, and Jesus was with God, and Jesus was God”. Leaving alone for now the logical contradictions involved here (specifically that Jesus could be both himself and with himself), this is very obviously not saying Jesus. It could have been made abundantly clear by actually saying “Jesus”. It doesn’t.

My reading isn’t problematic at all. John later tells us “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us”. So, who is this Word/Logos? Obviously, we don’t have to speculate at all, it’s Jesus. If it wasn’t more than obvious by verse 14 who is being spoken of in the Johannine Prologue, the next few verses give it away:

John 1:15-18 NRSV: (John testified concerning him. He cried out, saying, “This is the one I spoke about when I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’”) 16 Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.

John tells us that through this being, we have received grace, and then explicitly tells us that this grace came through “Jesus Christ.” In your later comment, you make a rather pedantic claim: that Jesus is not the Logos, Jesus is only the “Logos become flesh”. That sounds so pedantic and, in my opinion, rather evasive of the obvious meaning of the text. We don’t need to think that it is only the incarnated Logos that is Jesus, since Jesus tells us He is Himself His pre-existent anyways (“Before Abraham was, I am”). This text is absolutely talking about Jesus, splitting hairs over when the Logos is first called Jesus is just irrelevant. Again, I’m aware of no living scholar that claims Jesus is not God in John’s Gospel, and even if you produced this scholar, he could be set aside to the extreme fringes of academia. There is no contradiction either in the text, later Christians and earlier Christians (like Paul) were just fine with the fact that Jesus was both God and distinct from God, and that there was one God. You later appeal to biased translation:

I know nearly no Hebrew, but this is Greek. You’ll find confessional translators saying they avoid translating “and the word was a god” or “and the word was divine”, for theological reasons.

What are the names of these translators? Are these the translators of the NRSV, NASB, or NIV you’re talking about, or are you referring to the New World Translation of the Jehovah’s Witnesses that specifically translates the text as “and the Word was a god” for religious purposes? F.F. Bruce easily refuted this Jehovah Witness translation. The phrase can’t at all be translated “and the word was divine”. My Koine Greek vocabulary is weak, but I know that theos is translated as “God”, not “divine”. The translation “was a god” is non-existent in the original Greek. I’d confidently say that there is no serious Greek scholar in the world who takes with credibility such a translation. And this verse does not create any binitarianism either, since it both says Jesus “was with God” and “was God”, as in, not a separate deity. And if you seriously consider this binitarian, which it certainly isn’t as we’ve just seen, it would be binitarian whether or not the Word is Jesus. You refer to Hurtado’s words:

Hurtado, for example, argues for what Fletcher-Louis refers to as “a binitarian mutation in monotheism”.

Hurtado himself has commented on the scholars who have misunderstood the use of his words “binitarian mutation”. Hurtado writes on his blog:

Until recently, I used the term “binitarian” to characterize that devotional practice/pattern, and I repeatedly explained that by that term I meant simply a pattern in which we find two distinguishable but uniquely linked figures: God and Jesus. More recently, I’ve begun to use the term “dyadic” (from “dyad”), to avoid accusations/suspicions that I was trying to sneak in doctrinal/conceptual developments later than the NT.

Fletcher-Louis hasn’t made this interpretation error of Hurtado, as he stresses later in the first chapter:

Christians did not create an additional, separate Jesus cult and add it to the existing worship of the one God. That would have entailed, in effect, a ditheism (rather than a “binitarianism”). (pp. 26-27)

You provide two quotations from Fletcher-Louis as well, neither of which challenge any of my contentions. The first quote you offer notes that the founders of this emerging consensus (Hengel, Wright, Hurtado, Bauckham) are all Christians, however I’ve already noted as much in my previous comment, and I’ve also pointed out that these arguments have convinced most of the academia in general, not just Christians (I gave Ehrman as a major example, who shifted his views accordingly to the evidence when the emerging consensus began to … emerge). Your second quote shows that Fletcher-Louis has some disagreements with some specific contentions made by these ‘founders’ (what I will heretofore call them). However, Fletcher-Louis fully accepts the main contention itself based on the evidence that the earliest Christology was the high Christology, and he agrees with the great majority of the arguments made by the founders. He only has nuanced disagreements.

Interestingly, Fletcher-Louis himself discusses scholars who have take issue with important contentions of the models used by the founders, yet still are on the side of the main contention. He writes:

Even those who take issue with important aspects of their work now accept their main contention: a high Christology was a very early phenomenon and not one brought about by a Hellenization of Christian theology. (pg. 5)

Footnote 7, which is offered for this statement, reveals a number of these scholars, including Ehrman himself (and Daniel Boyarin). Fletcher-Louis’s disagreements seem to be about more nuanced issues, he is definitely a taker of the main contention here. By the time the earliest books of the New Testament were being written, the idea that Jesus was God was already orthodoxy in the early church, and the New Testament simply reflects this orthodoxy.


#24

If your friend does not believe that Jesus is God, he is certainly disagreeing with God. If you care about your friend you will warn him of his dangerous position. I realize that you may have done all you can and that you may just realize that you cannot say anything more to change his mind, but you certainly want to warn him as much as you can about his error that will lead him into a Christless eternity.


(Mervin Bitikofer) #25

Thank you for your care and concern. We do only enter the Kingdom of Heaven by His grace, even if we’ve managed to have all our "I"s dotted and "T"s crossed; which also only happens by his grace. I thank Christ for that grace that he gave and still gives.

Have a blessed Christmas season remembering his entrance into our world.


#26

Thank you. Merry Christmas.


#27

Philippians 2 includes the “Philippian Hymn” which could be the very oldest piece of Christian text in existence. It equates Jesus with YWHW by attributing to him what is said of YHWH (and explicitly only YHWH) in Isaiah 45. That’s pretty compelling that the perception of Jesus as deity did not evolve over time.

Further, all the Gospels portray Jesus as the embodiment of YHWH himself visiting his people, as proclaimed by John the Baptist, again quoting Isaiah, this time chapter 40.


#28

Where does Scripture say that if you don’t believe Jesus is God you are going to hell? Did the thief on the cross believe Jesus was God? Because that would be a monumental theological leap for which there is no evidence in scripture…


(Jon) #29

So you’re arguing that this hymn says Jesus is Yahweh?

Again, this sounds like you’re saying Jesus is Yahweh.


(Jon) #30

Again, you are reading the text completely backwards. You’re starting with your conclusion and then reading the verses back to verse 1, in order to make the Greek word “logos” mean “Jesus”, instead of what it actually means. The way you’re reading it, we end up with “In the beginning was Jesus, and Jesus was with Jesus, and Jesus was Jesus”.

If you look in the Old Testament and the Second Temple Period literature, you’ll find that “the word” does not refer to a pre-existent being called “Jesus”. It refers to God’s actual speech or thoughts.

No I am not referring to the JWs, and I don’t believe the correct translation is “and the Word was a God”. I am talking about standard translations such as the New English Translation, which says this in a footnote.

A definite meaning for the term is reflected in the traditional rendering “the word was God.” From a technical standpoint, though, it is preferable to see a qualitative aspect to anarthrous θεός in John 1:1c (ExSyn 266–69). Translations like the NEB, REB, and Moffatt are helpful in capturing the sense in John 1:1c, that the Word was fully deity in essence (just as much God as God the Father).

Moffat and the NEB give “the Word was divine”. That’s the qualitative translation of theos here. This is not a novelty. In fact it’s found in early conservative commentaries such as Albert Barnes.

The evangelist in the first four verses stated that “the Word” was divine; he now proceeds to state the proof that he was a man, and was the Messiah.”, Albert Barnes, Notes on the New Testament: Luke & John (ed. Robert Frew; London: Blackie & Son, 1884–1885), 177.

It’s also found in modern commentaries and dictionaries.

“So the theological inclusio that frames John’s Gospel (1:1 and 20:28) is especially important, even though the phrase in 1:1c lacks a definite article in the predicate, kai theos ēn ho logos (καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος) and is therefore sometimes translated “the Word was divine” rather than “the Word was God.””, Neil G. Richardson, “God, NT View Of,” ed. Katharine Doob Sakenfeld, The New Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 2006–2009), 599.


“In other words, John is saying, “The Word was divine.””, Grant R. Osborne, The Hermeneutical Spiral: A Comprehensive Introduction to Biblical Interpretation (Rev. and expanded, 2nd ed.; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2006), 75.


R. E. Brown considers the NEB rendering more accurate than saying simply that the Word was “divine” [The Gospel according to John, I, 1966, 5].", J. Schneider et al., “God, Gods, Emmanuel,” ed. Lothar Coenen, Erich Beyreuther, and Hans Bietenhard, New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1986), 81.

Some commentators make it totally clear that their motivation for avoiding the translation “the word was divine”, is theological; they need this verse to conform to their doctrine.

“We could translate this verse “the Word was divine,” but that would be misleading in English. We use the word divine to indicate something which has godlike qualities but is less than God.”, Emmaus Journal 12, no. 1 (2003): 35.

So much for the idea that the phrase cannot be translated “and the word was divine”.

As I have pointed out, reading it this way is a contradiction. If the word is with X, then the word cannot be X in the same way that X is meant in the phrase “the word was with X”. So you either live with a logical contradiction (Trinitarians), or you take a binitarian view (JWs and others). Remember that Yahweh, in Second Temple Period Judaism, was one person. If you can find evidence that the Jews actually believed Yahweh was three persons, you would have more of an argument. When a first century Jew referred to God, they meant Yahweh, and they meant one person. Not three.

Yes. What do you think he is saying here? Do you think he’s arguing against binitarianism? Because you go on to quote Fletcher-Louis reading Hurtado’s view as binitarian. Fletcher-Louis even describes the early post-ascension church’s belief as a binitarian modification of Judaism.

I think you need to read more closely what these scholars are saying, and where the agreement actually is, because right now you’re taking a number of different scholars’ views and sort of smearing them together into a consensus which isn’t the actual consensus described in Fletcher-Louis. For example, please list all the places in which Hurtado says that Jesus believed he was God, or that his disciples believed he was God, or that the first century Christians believed he was God.

I will save you some time by quoting from Fletcher-Louis.

“Hurtado shares the view of the overwhelming majority of modern scholars that Jesus did not think of, or present, himself in divine terms.” (27)

Do you share that view?

Hurtado shares the view of the overwhelming majority of modern scholars that Jesus did not think of, or present, himself in divine terms. Here again.

“For many modern Gospel interpreters the Synoptics have a low Christology. Indeed, for Hurtado the Synoptic Gospels are clear that Jesus did not claim a divine identity during his earthly life (even though the Gospels are, in their own way, a testimony to the wider pattern of Christ devotion).” (29)

Do you agree with that?