The Deity Of Jesus Christ
Jesus of Nazareth was a divine being in human flesh. The evidences for this are many.
The Old Testament Ascribed Deity to the Messiah
Two Old Testament passages that did this will be noted. Isaiah 9:6 assigned the names “The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father” to the Messiah. Ancient Judaism recognized that this referred to the Messiah. The Aramaic Targum Jonathan (first century B.C.) paraphrased part of Isaiah 9:6 as follows: “And there was called His name from of old, Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, He who lives for ever, the Messiah in whose days peace shall increase” (quoted by Victor Buksbazen, The Prophet Isaiah, pp. 163–64).
Both Isaiah and Jeremiah indicated that “mighty God” (El Gibbor) was a name of God (Isa. 10:21; Jer. 32:18). Thus, Isaiah 9:6 ascribed deity to the Messiah when it said that this name of God would be His name.
Franz Delitzsch wrote that the name “everlasting Father” designated the Messiah “as the possessor of eternity” who would rule His people like a loving, faithful father (Isaiah, Vol. 1, Commentaries on the Old Testament, p. 253). Eternality is exclusively an attribute of God. Thus, through this name Isaiah 9:6 ascribed eternality and therefore deity to the Messiah.Names in biblical times were designed to reveal the nature of a person. Thus, both of these names in Isaiah 9:6 were intended to reveal the divine nature of the Messiah.
In Daniel 7:13, a unique being was brought before the Ancient of days (God). The language implies that this being was a separate person from the Ancient of days.
Ancient Judaism identified this being as the Messiah. The author of the Similitudes in the Book of Enoch (written during the time between the Old and New Testaments) and other Jewish commentators made this identification (Charles Boutflower, In and Around the Book of Daniel, pp. 54–57).
Daniel 7:13 states that this being “came with the clouds of heaven.” The Bible declares that the clouds are the chariot of the Lord God (Ps. 104:1–3) and consistently associates His movements with clouds (Ex. 13:21; 19:9; Isa. 19:1). In light of this, by having this being come with the clouds of heaven, Daniel 7:13 ascribed deity to the Messiah.
The priests and Sanhedrin of ancient Israel believed that only deity comes with the clouds of heaven. They accused Jesus of blasphemy when He claimed that He would come with the clouds of heaven in fulfillment of Daniel 7:13 (Mt. 26:57–66). They recognized that He was claiming deity for Himself.
God’s Command to the Angels
God commanded all of His angels to worship Jesus Christ (Heb. 1:6). This is significant for several reasons: Jesus Himself indicated that only deity is to be worshiped (Mt. 4:10). Holy angels rebuked a man who tried to worship them and made it clear that deity is to be the object of worship (Rev. 19:10; 22:8–9). The Apostle Paul warned against worshiping angels (Col. 2:18). Both he and the Apostle Peter forbade the worship of themselves because they were human beings (Acts 14:8–18; 10:25–26). These things indicate that no creatures are to be worshiped. Only deity is to be worshiped. Thus, God’s command to the angels to worship Jesus Christ implied that He possessed deity.
Human Beings Worshiped Jesus Christ
The wise men from the east worshiped Jesus when He was a child (Mt. 2:1–2, 11). As an adult, Jesus was worshiped by a leper (Mt. 8:2), a ruler (Mt. 9:18), His disciples (Mt. 14:33; 28:17), a Gentile woman (Mt. 15:25), two women (Mt. 28:9), a demon-possessed man (Mk. 5:6), and a man whom He had healed of blindness (Jn. 9:38). It appears that all of these people believed that Jesus was a divine being.
Jesus accepted this worship. He never rebuked people for worshiping Him. This is significant in light of the fact that Jesus Himself indicated that only deity is to be worshiped. It implied that He was conscious of His deity.
Jesus Claimed Deity for Himself
Jesus claimed deity for Himself in several ways. First, He asserted, “Before Abraham was, I am” (Jn. 8:58). If Jesus had said, “Before Abraham was, I was” (past tense), He would have implied that He pre-existed before Abraham came into existence. But Jesus said, “I am” (present tense). That implied much more than pre-existence. Leon Morris wrote, “It is eternity of being and not simply being which lasted through several centuries that the expression indicates” (The Gospel According to John, p. 474).
The Jews were very familiar with the expression “I am” and its implication. It was used in their Septuagint version of the Old Testament to express the eternality of God (C. K. Barrett, The Gospel According to St. John, pp. 282–83). According to Barrett, the tense of “I am,” as used in the Septuagint for God and by Jesus for Himself, “is a properly continuous tense, implying neither beginning nor end of existence.” It therefore “(i) indicates the eternal being of Jesus” and “(ii) thereby, and in itself, places Jesus on a level with God” (Ibid., p. 283). In essence, through His statement Jesus was saying, “Before Abraham came into being, I eternally was, as now I am, and ever continue to be” (Ibid., p. 292).
Jesus’ hearers recognized that He was claiming eternality and therefore deity for Himself. Concerning their action recorded in John 8:59, Leon Morris wrote, “The Jews could interpret this as nothing other than blasphemy. Therefore, they took up stones to stone Him, this being the proper punishment for that offence (Lev. 24:16)” (The Gospel According to John, p. 474).
Second, on another occasion Jesus declared, “I and my Father are one” (Jn. 10:30). He did not mean that He and the Father were the same person. The word translated “one” is neuter in gender. It therefore refers to “ ‘one thing’ and not ‘one person’ ” (Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John, p. 522). Thus, God the Father and Jesus Christ were two distinct persons, not two different expressions of the same person.
Jesus’ hearers decided to stone Him to death in response to His declaration (Jn. 10:31). This revealed that they understood it. To them it was far more than an assertion of oneness with the Father in purpose and will. It was a declaration of oneness in essence or nature with the Father. Jesus was claiming absolute deity for Himself. They said, “For a good work we stone thee not, but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God” (Jn. 10:33).
Jesus did not tell His hearers that their understanding of His declaration was wrong. This implies that He agreed with it and therefore was claiming deity for Himself.
Third, Jesus claimed to be the Son of God. On one occasion He clearly stated, “I am the Son of God” (Jn. 10:36). More than once His enemies testified that He made that claim (Mt. 27:43; Jn. 19:7).
In The Old Testament and writings of post-biblical Judaism, the Hebrew words for “son” were “often used to denote the relationship which determines the nature of a man” (Eduard Lohse, “huios,” Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol. VIII, p. 358). It signified that a son has the same nature as his father. Thus, when Jesus asserted that He was the Son of God, He was signifying that He had the same divine nature as God the Father.
Several times Jesus’ enemies tried to kill Him because they understood the implications of His claim to be the Son of God. Once “the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he…said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God” (Jn. 5:18). On another occasion, after Jesus said that He was the Son of God, “they sought again to take him; but he escaped out of their hand” (Jn. 10:39). When Jesus was on trial before Pilate, His enemies said, “by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God” (Jn. 19:7).
Other Persons Ascribed Deity to Jesus
God the Father ascribed deity to Jesus. Psalm 45:7 states, “therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee.” This passage calls two distinct persons “God” (Elohim). The term Elohim denoted the kind or nature of a being, signifying “what is divine as distinct from what is human” (Ethelbert Stauffer, “theos,” Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Vol. III, pp. 81, 83). Thus, Psalm 45 referred to two distinct divine beings. According to the writer of Hebrews (1:8–9), one of those beings was God the Father addressing His Son, Jesus, with an ascription of deity.
The Apostle John ascribed deity to Jesus. Referring to Him as “the Word,” he wrote, “and the Word was God” (Jn. 1:1). John did not write, “and the Word was the God” because that would mean that the Word was God the Father. John wrote “God” without “the” for a purpose. He wanted to signify that although Jesus, as the Word, was a distinct person from God the Father, He was of the same divine essence or nature as God (H. E. Dana and Julius R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament, pp. 139–140).
The Apostle Paul ascribed deity to Jesus. Concerning Him, Paul wrote, “in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Col. 2:9). The Greek terms that Paul used indicate that deity in its entirety took up permanent residence in the physical human body of Jesus at His incarnation (Curtis Vaughan, “Colossians,” The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 11, p. 199).
Those who called Jesus “the Son of God” ascribed deity to Him. We noted earlier that the designation “the Son of God” involved an ascription of deity. Demons (Mt. 8:29), disciples (Mt. 14:33), Roman soldiers (Mt. 27:54), Mark (Mk. 1:1), the angel Gabriel (Lk. 1:35), Satan (Lk. 4:3, 9; the sense of the Greek in his statement is, “Since you are the Son of God”), John the Baptist (Jn. 1:34), Nathanael (Jn. 1:49), Martha (Jn. 11:27), and the Apostles Peter (Mt. 16:16), John (Jn. 20:31), and Paul (Acts 9:20) all called Jesus “the Son of God.” They thereby ascribed deity to Him.
An Important Conclusion
Any person who rejects the deity of Jesus of Nazareth thereby rejects not only the witness of Jesus but also that of God, the Old Testament, angels, and several human beings, including John the Baptist and apostles. In essence, that person insinuates that all of these witnesses, including God Himself, were in error when they ascribed deity to Jesus. Such an insinuation invites serious consequences.