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Authority to forgive sins
Authority over Satan
Why not simply say "Jesus is God"?
Declaration of Jesus as God
There are three questions I would like to deal with under the topic "Is Jesus God?". They are:
1. Does New Testament claim that Jesus is God?
2. Did Jesus claim that he was God?
3. Is Jesus God?
The first question is addressed in this page.
Some people claim that the authors of the literatures included in the New Testament do not really regard Jesus as God and the dogma "Jesus is God" is a production of Christians in the second century. It is true, as far as I know, that the statement "Jesus is God" itself does not appear literally in the New Testament. Interestingly, the statements in the New Testament supposedly interpreted as "Jesus is God" by one group can be always interpreted to mean differently from "Jesus is God" by another group. But what matters is whether the authors of the books in the New Testament regarded Jesus as God or not, and whether they were telling this to their readers or not.
In this page, I argue and show its supporting evidence that the author of Mark's Gospel account indeed regarded Jesus as God and structured his account in order that his readers could come to the conclusion that "Jesus is God", even though the author did not state it explicitly.
Papias, who was a bishop of a church in Hierapolis (now in Turkey), in the early second century, and the disciple of the apostle John (some dispute this), stated that the Mark's Gospel account was written by Mark, the interpreter of the apostle Peter.
1 The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 2 It is written in Isaiah the prophet: "I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way" -- 3 "a voice of one calling in the desert, 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.'" 4 And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. 6 John wore clothing made of camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 And this was his message: "After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."
9 At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased."Mark 1:1-11 (NIV)
Christ: "Christ" in Greek, "Messiah" in Hebrew. It means "anointed one" and the one who is chosen by God to be the king. Gospel: proclamation. Isaiah the prophet: One of the prophets in Old Testament. Baptism: One of Jewish religious rituals. It represents to be cleansed from sins or to be born again? Holy Spirit: God's spirit.
One thing I found helpful for me to read Bible passages more carefully is to have some questions. So I will ask some questions and give my answers to them for the first three sections. Please answer the following questions from the author's point of view.
Question 1: Who was expected to come according to Isaiah after the "one calling in the desert"?
Question 2: Who do you think Mark meant by the "one calling in the desert" at the time of Jesus?
Question 3: Who came after John the Baptist?
Question 4: Who do you think Mark meant by the "Lord" in Isaiah?
My answers are as follows:
Answer 1: Lord.
Answer 2: John the Baptist.
Answer 3: Jesus.
Answer 4: Jesus.
Two thousands years ago, people who read this passage (or listened to this passage? As the book is called Gospel = proclamation, it is said that the book was read out loud in the streets in order for anyone to hear) and were not familiar with the book of "Isaiah" should have asked their Jewish friends who Isaiah meant by the term "Lord". A Jewish friend must have answered that the "Lord" was God, the one and only Creator, since the word used in the original Hebrew Isaiah was the unique word representing God. (Refer Isaiah 40:3. In the New International Version, the capitals "LORD" represent this unique word). Did Mark mean "Jesus = LORD = God"? Isn't it reasonable for a reader to start questioning whether Mark meant Jesus was God or not?
By the way, Peter, from whom Mark wrote this account, was not with Jesus at this time. One might wonder how he knew that "heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove". But according to John's Gospel account, it was John the Baptist who witnessed this phenomenon, and Andrew, Peter's brother, was a disciple of John the Baptist. Peter might well have got the information from them.
1 A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. 2 So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. 3 Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. 4 Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven."
6 Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 7 "Why does this fellow talk like that? He's blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?"
8 Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, "Why are you thinking these things? 9 Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up, take your mat and walk'? 10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins...." He said to the paralytic, 11 "I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home." 12 He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, "We have never seen anything like this!"Mark 2:1-12 (NIV)
Home: Peter's home. Paralytic: A person with disease losing ability to move. Faith: To depend on. Blasphemy: To discredit God's dignity.
Please answer the following questions from the author's point of view.
Question 1: Why did the paralytic come to meet Jesus?
Question 2: Why did Jesus say to the paralytic "Your sins are forgiven"?
Question 3: Why did the teacher of the Law regard that Jesus' statement was blasphemy?
Question 4: What authority did Jesus claim to have?
Answer 1: To be healed from being paralysed.
Answer 2: Because Jesus saw their faith.
Answer 3: Because the teacher of the Law thought that no one can forgive sins but God alone and Jesus claimed that he had God's authority.
Answer 4: The authority to forgive sins on the earth.
Before this passage, Jesus healed many people from fever, all kinds of disease, and leprosy. It can be reasonably assumed that the paralytic came also to be healed. And yet, Jesus said "Your sins are forgiven." Wasn't it the first time Jesus met with the paralytic? How did the paralytic commit sins against Jesus? Rather, wasn't it the sins that this paralytic -- fixed on the bed -- could possibly commit was the sins inside the man's heart -- the sins against God and not against a person? For example, what if I somehow hurt my friend Mr A and I ask A's forgiveness, and yet not A but bypassing Mr B came to tell me "Your sin is forgiven"? What B says does not reflect the state of my guiltiness. What matters is whether Mr A forgives me or not and Mr B is nothing to do with it. I think what the teacher of the Law in the passage thought was logical. Only God and no one else can forgive sins one commits against God. I suppose that this teacher of the Law should have thought that Jesus made himself equal to God, or Jesus could forgive sin in place of God, or perhaps Jesus was claiming he was God. The teacher of the Law concluded that Jesus was blaspheming. There were occasions described in the Old Testament where a prophet declared that God forgave someone's sin. (For example, the prophet Nathan declared that God had taken away David's sin in 2 Samuel 12:13) But, as far as I know, there was no occasion that a prophet forgave someone else's sins in place of God.
Jesus asked, "Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up, take your mat and walk'?" What would I answer? It is easy just to say "Your sins are forgiven" because no one can actually see whether this is true or not -- whether God really has forgiven or not. He said "that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins" and claimed that he had the authority to forgive sin, which is invisible to us. To back up his claim, he demonstrated a miracle of healing the paralytic at once. Wasn't he claiming that he had an authority equal to that of God?
The house where an opening was made on its roof was Peter's (or Peter's mother-in-law's?) and he too must have been there. One may wonder how Peter could know the things in the teacher of the Law's heart or the work of the spirit in Jesus mind. But if we hear Jesus saying "Your sins are forgiven" and after that to the teacher of the Law "Why are you thinking these things?", isn't it reasonable to guess that what in the heart of the teacher of the Law was "God alone can forgive sins. Jesus is blaspheming"? (Possibly Peter too well have thought that way.)
By the way, Jesus called himself "Son of Man". The phrase "Son of Man" seems to place an emphasis on humanity. However, when it is combined with another phrase "coming with the clouds of heaven", as we shall see below, it can refer to the prophesy in the book of Daniel in the Old Testament.
In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.Daniel 7:13-14 (NIV)
This passage was spoken by Daniel, the prophet, and it describes his "vision". Could one "like" a son of man mean that he looked like a son of man but was not just a son of man? If Jesus was claiming to be "one like a son of man" prophesised by Daniel, wasn't he also claiming to be "given authority, glory, and sovereign power" and to be the one whom not only the Jews but "all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped", whose "dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away", and whose "kingdom is one that will never be destroyed"? Could there be anyone beside God like that?
20 Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. 21 When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, "He is out of his mind."
22 And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, "He is possessed by Beelzebub! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons."
23 So Jesus called them and spoke to them in parables: "How can Satan drive out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. 26 And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. 27 In fact, no one can enter a strong man's house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he can rob his house. 28 I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them. 29 But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin."
30 He said this because they were saying, "He has an evil spirit."Mark 3:20-30 (NIV)
His family: Jesus' mother, his brothers and sisters. Beelzebub: The origin of the word could be "Baal-zebub" (Lord of flies?) in 2 King 1:2. In this context, it refers to Satan.
Please answer the following questions from the author's point of view.
Question 1: Who was referred to by the "strong man".
Question 2: What was referred to by "carrying off his possessions".
Question 3: What authority did Jesus claim to own?
My answers are as follows:
Answer 1: Satan.
Answer 2: To drive out demons.
Answer 3: Authority over Satan.
I think Jesus was claiming, by using the parable of "strong man", that the reason why he could drive out demons was because he had authority over Satan. Satan was named three times in the Old Testament. The first time, in 1st Chronicles chapter 21, Satan incited David to commit a sin. The second time, in the book of Job, Satan brought calamity to Job as far as God would allow him to. And the third time, in the book of Zechariah chapter 3, Satan accused Joshua (representing the Israelites?). But never was prophet said to have an authority over Satan. Mankind was always described to be under the rule of Satan. Although there were occasions where prophets cast out demons in Old Testament (e.g. David cast out an evil spirit from Saul in 1 Samuel 16:23), no one had claimed to have defeated Satan, as far as I know. But Jesus, here in this passage, claimed that he had authority over Satan, tied him up and robbed his possession. Didn't the author of this Gospel account mean that Jesus had an authority equal to that of God?
If the author of this Gospel account meant that Jesus = LORD = God, that Jesus had the authority to forgive sins, and that Jesus had the authority over Satan, why doesn't he simply state "Jesus is God"? I suspect an author's deliberate intention here. That is, I regard that the author specifically did not state that "Jesus is God" and yet he wished his readers to reach this conclusion without him telling it. The reason why I think in this way is because it seems to me that the author described Jesus as waiting for his disciples to realise who he was - the Son of God - without him telling it.
Let me explain.
34 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.
35 By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. "This is a remote place," they said, "and it's already very late. 36 Send the people away so they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat."
37 But he answered, "You give them something to eat."
They said to him, "That would take eight months of a man's wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?"
38 "How many loaves do you have?" he asked. "Go and see."
When they found out, they said, "Five --and two fish."
39 Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. 41 Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to set before the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. 42 They all ate and were satisfied, 43 and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. 44 The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand.
45 Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. 46 After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray.
47 When evening came, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. 48 He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. About the fourth watch of the night he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, 49 but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, 50 because they all saw him and were terrified.
Immediately he spoke to them and said, "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid." 51 Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, 52 for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.Mark 6:34-52 (NIV)
Seeing Jesus walking on the lake and the wind obeying him, the disciples were completely amazed. Mark gave a reason for their amazement saying "for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened." "The loaves" of course should refer to the miracle just described that fed five thousand men with only five loaves and two fish. But what was it that disciples should have had "understood" from the miracle? Please think twice before we proceed to the next passage.
31 Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis. 32 There some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged him to place his hand on the man.
33 After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man's ears. Then he spit and touched the man's tongue. 34 He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, "Ephphatha!" (which means, "Be opened!"). 35 At this, the man's ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly.
36 Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it. 37 People were overwhelmed with amazement. "He has done everything well," they said. "He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak."
1 During those days another large crowd gathered. Since they had nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples to him and said, 2 "I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. 3 If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance."
4 His disciples answered, "But where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?"
5 "How many loaves do you have?" Jesus asked."Seven," they replied.
6 He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. When he had taken the seven loaves and given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people, and they did so. 7 They had a few small fish as well; he gave thanks for them also and told the disciples to distribute them. 8 The people ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. 9 About four thousand men were present. And having sent them away, 10 he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the region of Dalmanutha.
11 The Pharisees came and began to question Jesus. To test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven. 12 He sighed deeply and said, "Why does this generation ask for a miraculous sign? I tell you the truth, no sign will be given to it." 13 Then he left them, got back into the boat and crossed to the other side.
14 The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, except for one loaf they had with them in the boat. 15 "Be careful," Jesus warned them. "Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod."
16 They discussed this with one another and said, "It is because we have no bread."
17 Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: "Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? 18 Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don't you remember? 19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?"
"Twelve," they replied.
20 "And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?"
They answered, "Seven."
21 He said to them, "Do you still not understand?"
22 They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. 23 He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man's eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, "Do you see anything?"
24 He looked up and said, "I see people; they look like trees walking around."
25 Once more Jesus put his hands on the man's eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. 26 Jesus sent him home, saying, "Don't go into the village. "Mark 7:31-8:26 (NIV)
Readers of Matthew's Gospel account are told that the "yeast of the Pharisees" refers to the teachings of Pharisees. But I do not think Mark was telling his readers that the disciples should have had understood the "yeast" as teachings. It seems to me that Jesus was trying to teach his disciples far more important things. Jesus said, "Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened?". What should have the disciples understood from the two miracles of the loaves? Again he said, "Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear?" Is it just coincidental that the stories of healing a deaf and a blind sandwich these questions?
The first sentence of the Mark's Gospel account is "The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God." The readers are told from the beginning that Jesus is "the Son of God" and is "Christ", but the disciples were not told this information. Indeed, those testified so far that Jesus was "the Son of God" and "Holy One of God" were either the voice from heaven or demons.
9 At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased."Mark 1:9-11 (NIV)
23 Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, 24 "What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are --the Holy One of God!"
25 "Be quiet!" said Jesus sternly. "Come out of him!"Mark 1:23-25 (NIV)
33 The whole town gathered at the door, 34 and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.Mark 1:33,34 (NIV)
11 Whenever the evil spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, "You are the Son of God." 12 But he gave them strict orders not to tell who he was.Mark 3:11,12 (NIV)
6 When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. 7 He shouted at the top of his voice, "What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Swear to God that you won't torture me!" 8 For Jesus had said to him, "Come out of this man, you evil spirit!"Mark 5:6-8 (NIV)
Demons and evil spirits knew that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God - and perhaps they knew that Jesus was God incarnated. But disciples just simply could not understand who Jesus was. Disciples could not understand that Jesus was the Son of God, having the authority to forgive sins and the authority over Satan -- the authority of God. The last healing in this passage is very unique in that it took two steps for the healing to be completed, while all the other healings were completed almost instantly. The first healing restored the sights but was not perfect and the second healing made the blind able to clearly see. Just like the deaf was healed to hear and the blind was made to see, disciples' hardened hearts began to open and they started to realise who Jesus was. The above passage is directly followed by the passage below:
27 Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, "Who do people say I am?"
28 They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets."
29 "But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?"
Peter answered, "You are the Christ. "
30 Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.Mark 8:27-30 (NIV)
This is the first time in Mark's Gospel account that a person--Peter, not any evil spirits-- confessed that Jesus was the "Christ". At last the disciples had understood who Jesus was. Then and only then Jesus started to tell his disciples clearly why he came into this world.
31 He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. 32 He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
33 But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. "Get behind me, Satan!" he said. "You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men."
34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36 What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? 37 Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? 38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels."Mark 8:31-38 (NIV)
Although Peter had confessed that Jesus was the Christ, he could not accept Jesus' words, probably what Peter expected the "Christ" to be was so different from what Jesus told him the real "Christ" to be. If Peter had really accepted Jesus as God-chosen King, he should have accepted whatever Jesus said. The disciples started realising who Jesus was, but just like the blind who could not see clearly at the first healing, the disciples' understanding of Jesus was also not clear. Only after the resurrection of Jesus did the disciples' understanding of Jesus become clear.
As explained above, it seems to me that Mark's Gospel account describes that Jesus was patiently waiting for his disciples to come to understand who he was without him telling them that he was the Son of God. If this is so, it is my guess that Mark also would not clearly state, "Jesus is God", and yet he wished his readers to come to this conclusion by themselves from the hints that he gave in his Gospel account to his readers.
Lastly, let me show in Mark's Gospel account what I think as the declaration of Jesus as God, using God's name. There is a word in the Old Testament that God used to refer to himself, that is the phrase "I AM".
13 Moses said to God, "Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?' Then what shall I tell them?" 14 God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you.'"Exodus 3:13,14
The God's answer to Moses in original Hebrews is as follows:
The Hebrew words translated into English as "I AM" could mean "I will be" or "I was" or something else depending on the context, and it is difficult to be translated. To make it in an English sentence, the best we could do may be just to use "I AM". The capitals "LORD" in NIV, so called Yahweh, is said to be derived from this sentence "I AM".
There is only one occasion in the Mark's Gospel account that Jesus claimed unambiguously that he was the Son of God.
60 Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, "Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?" 61 But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer.
Again the high priest asked him, "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?"
62 "I am," said Jesus. "And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven."
63 The high priest tore his clothes. "Why do we need any more witnesses?" he asked. 64 "You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?"
They all condemned him as worthy of death.Mark 14:60-64 (NIV)
The original phrase in Greek for "I am" is "egw eimi". It is just a common combination of usual words. But the previous Hebrew phrase "I AM" also can be translated to "egw eimi" in Greek. The passage describes the dialogue in the Jewish court with Jewish high priest, elders, and teachers of the law, and probably they all spoke in Hebrew. If Jesus answered the high priest's question in Hebrew using "I AM" as exactly used by God, I see here the declaration of Jesus as God. That is, Jesus claimed to be God in front of the Jews using God's name. (Isn't it so well done if the only occasion that Jesus gave a definite answer to be the Son of God was also an occasion to declare to be God himself?)
Of course, this argument does not go beyond my speculation. There is no firm evidence that Jesus used in Hebrew "I AM" to answer the high priest's question, nor the usage of Hebrew "I AM" being equal to the declaration of being God is beyond argument. But even if my speculation was proved to be wrong, I still see in Jesus' answer to the high priest's question his declaration of being God. Jesus claimed that he (the Son of Man) is equal to (sitting at the right hand of) God (the Mighty One). How? We can understand what he claimed by seeing the reaction of the Jews who heard his claim. The high priest concluded that Jesus' claim was blasphemy. Why was to claim to be the Son of God -- God's chosen Christ -- blasphemy? To claim to be Christ, i.e. God's chosen King, while actually he was not, is to falsely testify about God, isn't it? But to claim to be God, while actually he was not, is to discredit God's dignity -- a blasphemy against God. Wasn't Jesus claiming to be more than just the Son of God -- claiming to be God himself?
The word "blasphemy" is blasfhmia in original Greek was also used in the following passage in John's Gospel account.
31 Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, 32 but Jesus said to them, "I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?"
33 "We are not stoning you for any of these," replied the Jews, "but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God."John 10:31-33 (NIV)
Jesus was condemned to death not because of false testimony but because of blasphemy. Jews understood that Jesus was claiming to be God, concluded that his claim was not true, and condemned him to death. Mark, the author of this Gospel account, of course believed that Jesus' claim was true, and I consider this passage as strong evidence that the writer regarded Jesus as God, even though he did not state explicitly "Jesus is God" in his account.
The authors of Matthew and Luke's Gospel accounts also quote Isaiah's prophesy and formulated "Jesus = LORD = God" from the beginning, as was shown in Mark's case above. There is a description in Matthew 28:17 that Jesus' disciples "worshiped" Jesus after his resurrection. The original Greek word for the "worship" was sometime used as "kneel down" before Jesus in Matthew's Gospel account, but the same word was also used in Jesus' reply to Satan in Matthew 4:10, "Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only." Wasn't Matthew claiming that Jesus was the only Lord our God worthy of being worshipped?
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning.
3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
6 There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. 9 The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.
10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God-- 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.
14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
15 John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, "This was he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.'" 16 From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known.John 1:1-18 (NIV)
How can one understand the above passage without accepting that the author meant "Jesus = Word, became flesh = God the One and Only"?
5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross!Philippians 2:5-8 (NIV)
How can one understand the above passage without accepting that the author meant "Jesus = God incarnated"?
However I tried to be objective in assessing the claims of the New Testament authors, I can only conclude that they all regarded Jesus as God. Maybe those who claim that the writers of the New Testament never meant that "Jesus is God" have a prejudice to blind themselves from seeing the obvious claim. Maybe I too have a prejudice believing "Jesus is God" and consequently making any ambiguous statements in the New Testament to mean "Jesus is God". To assess which claim actually stands, one can only read the New Testament itself and see what the authors were trying to tell their readers.
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Produced by Hajime Suzuki
Special thanks to Robert Shaw for his help with Hebrew and Greek
Special thanks to John Lew for his helpful suggestions
Special thanks to my wife Louise for her constant encouragement and patience