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The Divinity of Jesus

By Doug KennardKennard Blog 12-12-17 If you have wondered what the writers of the Bible and other related sources have to say about the divinity of Jesus, this week’s blog provides a helpful snapshot. Check out the footnotes below for further study.

A fringe version of early Judaism, referred to as the Two-Powers Heresy, called the Daniel 7:13, cloud-riding Son of Man a second Sovereign Divine within Jewish monotheism.[1] Some in early Judaism expect this cloud-rider to be Messiah.[2]

Jesus referred to himself ambiguously as “Son of Man” until he clarifies it for (1) his disciples at the Olivet discourse as Daniel’s cloud-riding Son of Man, thus the Divine Sovereign bringing kingdom for His disciples[3] and (2) to the priests by condemning those who judge him to death.[4] So, in the synoptic gospels Jesus claims to be the Sovereign God with these Son of Man references.

In the gospel of John, Jesus refers to himself with “I am” statements, usually with a referent (John 8:12 “I am the light of the world”; John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth and the life”). In John 8:24, 28, and 58, Jesus refers to Himself as “I am” without a descriptive, thus Yahweh, Who will condemn the resistant sinner. These “I am” statements fit the pattern of Yahweh self-pronouncement statements.[5] Jesus clarified this claim for deity in acknowledging that as “I am,” He existed before Abraham (John 8:58). The Jews in the Temple recognized that Jesus had claimed divinity and thus accuse Him of blasphemy, trying to stone Him but He eluded their grasp (John 8:59).

Jesus encouraged His disciples to pray to Him (John 14:14), and later New Testament disciples do pray to Jesus (Act 4:24; 7:59; Rev 22:17, 20). In short blessings which begin epistles, there is usually a prayer to a deity, but the New Testament short blessings often pray to Jesus, further affirming Jesus as God.[6]

A number of New Testament authors apply Old Testament Yahweh texts as referring to Jesus Christ as Yahweh.[7] Jesus, and many NT authors, utilize the Ps 110:1 Adonai reference to refer to Jesus Christ using kurios to translate both Yahweh and Adonai.[8] Several New Testament authors identify Jesus as God.[9] Jesus was acknowledged to be the Creator in a Jewish monotheistic sense and thus God (John 1:1-5; Heb 1:10-12). The author of Hebrews cites Deut 32:43 and LXX Ps 97:7 to indicate that all should worship Jesus as God (Heb 1:6). Several in the New Testament worship Jesus.[10]

Jesus is praised as God by early Christians.[11] Second- and third-century pagan writers identified that Christian identity was centered on the worship of Jesus Christ as God.[12]

Perhaps in your reflection on the Christmas story this season, you will not only see a baby in a manger, but a King sent to earth to help us see the face of God.

[1] 1 En 47.3; 60.2; cloud riding as Divine King: Deut 33:26; Judg 5:4; Isa 19:1; Pss 18:11-15; 68:4; 104:3; Enuma Elish tablet 4; KTU 1.2.4; Jub 1.28; 1 En 62.3; T. Mos 10.7.

[2] 1 En 46.1; 47.3; 4 Ezra 7.28-29; 12.11; 13.1-9, 25-26, 32, 35-36; b. Sanh 96b-97a, 98a; Targum 1 Chr 3:24; Pirque Masiah, BhM 3.70.

[3] Matt 24:27, 30; Mark 13:26; Luke 21:27; also Rev 19:11-16.

[4] Matt 26:64-65; Mark 14:62-64; Luke 22:69-70.

[5] LXX: Exod 3:14; Deut 32:39; Isa 41:4; 43:10, 25; 45:18; 46:4, 9; 47:10; 48:12, 17; 51:12; 52:6; Mekhilta de Rabbi Ishmael: Shirta 4, Babodesh 5, and Pisha 12; b. Rosh ha-Shanah 17b.

[6] 2 Pet 1:1-2; 1 Pet 1:2-9; Rom 1:7; 1 Cor 1:3; 2 Cor 1:2; Phil 1:2; 2:6.

[7] Rom 10:13(using Joel 2:32); 1 Cor 1:31 and 2 Cor 10:17 (using Jer 9:24); 1 Cor 2:16 (using Isa 40:13); 10:26 (using Ps 23:1).

[8] Matt 22:43-44; Mark 12:35-37; Luke 20:42-43; Acts 2:34-36; Heb 1:13.

[9] John 1:1; Titus 2:13; Heb 1:8-9; 2 Pet 1:1.

[10] Matt 14:33; 28:9, 17; John 9:38; also possibly evident in bowing homage of Matt 2:11; 8:2; 9:18; 15:25; 18:26; 20:20; Mark 5:6

[11] John 20:28; Titus 2:13; 1 John 5:20; Ignatius, before 110 AD, To Polycarp 8.3 “I bid you farewell always in our God Jesus Christ; may you remain in Him, in unity and care of God…Farewell in the Lord.” Also creedal statements: Eph 7.2; 18.2; 19.3; Rom 3.3; 6.3; Smyrn. 10.1; Trall. 7.1; Acts John 43, 77-78; Acts Thom. 59-60; 80; 153; Acts Paul Thecla 42; Acts Peter 20; 39; Acts Andr. 29.1; Mart. Pol. 21; Mart. Carp. Lat. 7; Mart. Pion. 23; Mart. Just. Rec. B & C 6; Mart. Perp. 21.11; Mart. Marc. Rec. N 5; Mart. Iren. Sirm. 6; Mart. Jul. 4.5; Mart. Crisp. 4.2; Melito, Peri Pasha 10, 45, 65, 105; frg. 2 23; Mart. Perpetua 1.6; Tertullian, Or. 29; Hippolytus, Comm. Dan. 1.33; 4.60; Origen, Princ. 4.1.7; 4.3.14; Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 5.28.4-5; Nicene Creed

[12] Pliny Younger about 111-113 AD, Ep. 10.96.7; Lucian, Peregr. 13; Marcus Aurelius, Epistle to Senate as contained in Justin Martyr, 1 Apol. 45; Claudius in Praef. 60,163; Celsus in Origen, Cels. 8.12-15; Porphyry in Augustine, Civ. 19.23; Mart. Pol. 17.2.

Doug Kennard, ThD, is Professor of Christian Scripture at Houston Graduate School of Theology.

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