Jesus as God, Revisited

I know someone who's been to this actual location.

Last week, in my post Does It Matter if Jesus Is God?, I wrote:

In particular, it’s far from clear whether the gospel authors themselves considered Jesus to be God…as it turns out, this belief is never explicitly stated anywhere in the Bible.

I thought I knew all the verses that were used to justify Jesus’ Godhood. Verses such as: “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” All these were, in my opinion, veiled and indirect references. I thought there was nowhere in the Bible that came right out and said it.

But as commenter (and longtime friend) Jimmy Taco pointed out, I was wrong. There are at least two places where it’s spelled out pretty clearly.

First, there’s the famous John 1:1.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

I knew this verse well, and knew it had been used as an argument, but I wasn’t convinced “the Word” really referred to Jesus, as mainstream theology claims. What I did not remember was this later verse, John 1:14.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Clear as day. Of course, there are questions about the translation of John 1:1 as well: some say the Greek phrase for “the Word was God” is better translated as “the Word was a god,” or “the Word was divine.” But saying a Bible verse is controversial is like saying an ocean is wet, and I’m far from knowledgeable enough to puzzle that one out on my own. I’m willing to accept the standard translation.

Another quote worth quoting is Colossians 2:9.

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form…

This is from one of Paul’s letters. I like this one even more, because Paul is (to me) much more reliable than the anonymous author of the so-called Gospel of John. The Gospel of John is believed to have been written around 90 AD, sixty years after the death of Jesus. Paul, on the other hand, probably wrote just twenty years after Jesus died.

So the Bible does make a clear statement that Jesus is God. But of course, that wasn’t my question. My question was: does it matter?

Based on the comments I received, the answer seems to be that it does indeed matter – insofar as Jesus must be God in order to act as Savior.

In other words, we all agree that the central point of Christian theology is the salvation offered by Jesus. The question of Jesus as God, on the other hand, is only important as a corollary: because (it is argued) he must be fully God in order for Grace to make sense.

I don’t necessarily accept this latter argument, but I’m not sure it’s the kind of question that debate can properly resolve. The mechanics of the Divine seem largely inscrutable.

So, that’s my latest attempt at armchair Biblical analysis. Thoughts?

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4 responses to “Jesus as God, Revisited

  1. I like it! But I like it any time that I am right. I do agree that there are some arguments may not be possible to resolve. That being said, I’m pretty sure my record of being right speaks for itself. You know like 1 out 8 gazillionoogleplex.

  2. Well, here is my biblical analysis on why Jesus had to be God for grace to work. Forgive me if I am being too basic but often times assuming someone knows one point that leads to another point can leave for poor understanding.

    -For starters, the world was created perfect. After every day of creation God said the world was ‘good’ and after man was created he said it was ‘very good.’ The idea is of perfection and completion there.

    -Man was given dominion over this world. So much so that later man’s actions of sin affected not only himself but the world as a whole. (Gen 1:26, Gen 3:17)

    -Man had to have a choice. God was not only creating a companion who would have to be able to choose him or not, he was creating it in his own image thereby necessitating the ability to have free will or choice. (Gen 1:26 again)

    -Man chose himself over God. Woman ate of the fruit because it seemed good in her eyes even though God told them not to eat of it. Man ate too, not because he was deceived but because he chose it. The Bible is not entirely clear on this but it seems the idea that Adam chose it for some reason, whether it was because Eve had done it and he did not want to lose Eve or something else. (Gen 3, Rom 5:12-14 1Tim 2:14)

    -The Law and its covenant was introduced so man could have a proper relationship with God. It was put in place so man could know what was required of him to live rightly, and to put in place sacrifices that could atone for sin. In less theological terms, that means the sacrifices of the law are there to restore man’s standing before God when man puts himself before God, instead of God before himself. Other sacrifices are there for things beside sin, but those sacrifices are there for thankfulness for what God has given us or just sacrifices saying God should be put first. (Ex 24:12, Ex 30:10, Lev 4:3).

    -Much later in Israel’s history God declares that he will establish a different covenant with his people. (Jer 31:31-34)

    So that’s most of the Old Testament ‘set up.’ Here is why Jesus had to be divine:

    -Only blood sacrifices could cover up or remove sin from people. There had to be some sort of substitution where the sins of a person were transferred to a sacrifice that would substitute for that person. In the Old Testament it was done with animals that were chosen by God, and that is fine, because a) the world is here for man (hopefully we use it responsibly, but that’s a side point), and b) since only man was created in God’s image it is better to substitute an animal than have the sin remain on a person.

    -Only perfect sacrifices could be used. No spot or blemish were allowed in any sacrifices. (Ex 12:5, 29:1, Lev 3:1 etc)

    Animal Sacrifices were not sufficient for the complete removal of sin. They could only put it off for a time. (Heb 10:1-18 <- this is a good read for this topic in general)

    -All of mankind is with blemish and therefore not perfect. (Rom 3:23, 5:12)

    Therefore for a man to die to take away sins he had to be divine. He had to not be a son of Adam, but a son of God.

    Phew that is long. Let me know if I left anything out or if there are jumps in my reasoning that don't make sense. Or if there is just something you disagree with. I tried to have verses for most things, so that this is a 'Bible analysis' of what the Bible says, and hopefully, as much as possible, this is not my own interpretation but what the Bible says.

    • Hi Lelden! Very in-depth citations here.

      I think I agree with your conclusion: “Therefore for a man to die to take away sins he had to be divine. He had to not be a son of Adam, but a son of God.” We disagree, though, on whether being “divine” and “a son of God” necessarily means that Jesus was God himself. It would seem to me that a whole range of possibilities exist in between being fully man and fully God. Might “son of God” mean some sort of lesser divine being, free from sin and fully connected to God’s will, yet still a creation rather than The Creator?

      Of course, as I mentioned in the post, the Bible does indeed make claims for Jesus being fully God. I’m merely claiming that this would not seem to be inherently necessary. Perhaps I would see it differently if I were Christian myself – but then again, perhaps not.

      Thanks for the insightful comment.

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