Trinitarians believe Jesus is God just as much as God the Father is God. They support this viewpoint by citing three major, biblical texts in which Jesus’ opponents alleged that he claimed to be God, or the like, whereas each time Jesus denied this allegation. So, in each case Trinitarians believe Jesus’ opponents and not Jesus. These texts are Mark 2.1-12, John 5.17-47, 10.30-38.
First, Mark 2.1-12 (cf. Matt. 9.1-8; Luke 5.17-26) says Jesus came home to Capernaum and entered a crowded house. He told a paralytic man, “‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’ Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, ‘Why does this fellow speak in this way? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?'” (vv. 5-7). But these scribes wrongly thought forgiveness was a prerogative that belonged only to God, and Trinitarians have believed likewise. We shall soon see Jesus taught fully to the contrary, that God gave him this authority as the Son of Man.
Trinitarians claim that these scribes were correct–that only God can forgive sins. Thus, they reason that if Jesus can forgive sins, then he must be God. But in the remainder of this narrative, Jesus denies this allegation by scribes. For we read next, “At once Jesus perceived in his spirit that they were discussing these questions among themselves; and he said to them, ‘Why do you raise such questions in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, “Your sins are forgiven,” or to say, “Stand up and take your mat and walk”? But so that you may know that the Son of Man [referring to himself] has authority on earth to forgive sins’–he said to the paralytic–‘I say to you, stand up, take your mat and go to your home.’ And he stood up, and immediately took the mat and went out before all of them; so that they were amazed and glorified God, saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this!'” (vv. 8-12). Notice that Jesus says he has this authority to forgive sins because he is the Son of Man. More on this later.
These scribes must have thought it is just as impossible for a man to heal a paralytic as for him to forgive that man’s sins. When Jesus healed him, that suggested Jesus also had authority to forgive the man’s sins. So, Trinitarians and these scribes only disagree as to whether or not this indicates Jesus was God.
Second, John 5.1-47 tells about Jesus encountering a man who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. He was lying beside a pool of water near the temple at Jerusalem. We read, “‘Jesus said to him, ‘Stand up, take your mat and walk.’ At once the man was made well, and he took up his mat and began to walk. Now that day was a sabbath. So the Jews said to the man who had been cured, ‘It is the sabbath; it is not lawful for you to carry your mat'” (vv. 5.8-10). The Jews had 39 laws about what you could do and not do on the sabbath.
Then we read next, in John 5.15-18: 15 “The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. 16 Therefore the Jews started persecuting Jesus because he was doing such things on the sabbath. 17 But Jesus answered them, ‘My Father is still working, and I also am working.’ 18 For this reason the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because he was not only breaking the sabbath, but was also calling God his own Father, thereby making himself equal to God” (vv. 15-18).
Second Temple Jewish literature reveals that Jews disagreed on whether or not healing on the sabbath was breaking it. It appears Sanhedrin members didn’t think it was or they likely would have mentioned it as evidence against Jesus when they later interrogated and condemned him.
Trinitarians believe that in John 5.18, those Jewish opponents of Jesus were correct in claiming he was “making himself equal to God.” Trinitarians furthermore believe this statement represents the viewpoint of the author. Not at all! In all of v. 18, the author is relating what Jesus’ opponents believe about him, all of which is wrong.
Now, Trinitarians do not think those Jews were right in accusing Jesus of so breaking the sabbath. Neither do Trinitarians believe Jesus was wrong to call God his “Father.” All Christians do that, and they don’t think they thereby claim to be equal to God. Yet Trinitarians believe those Jewish opponents of Jesus were correct in claiming Jesus was making himself equal to God, yet Trinitarians reject the two reasons those Jews had for making their allegation. That doesn’t make any sense.
Nevertheless, Jesus then gave a lengthy refutation of this charge that he was “making himself equal to God.” And he didn’t even do it by arguing against their two reasons. Trinitarians fail miserably here by not realizing that Jesus’ response in John 5.19-47 is a refutation of the charge in v. 18, and a multi-faceted refutation at that.
Jesus first says he “can do nothing on his own” (v. 19, cf. v. 30). He means he cannot do his miracles, such as healing, “but only what he sees the Father doing.” He soon says they are “the works that the Father has given me” (v. 36). So, Jesus does not do miracles because he is divine as is commonly believed by many untaught Trinitarians.
In sum, Trinitarians do not comprehend that in John 5.19-47, Jesus denies he makes himself equal to God and explains that all of supernatural power and authority that he possesses is derived from God. Thus, Jesus is essentially subordinate to God.
Third, John 10.30-38 is preceded by Jesus explaining in vv. 25-29 that he and the Father work together in giving his genuine disciples, whom he calls “sheep,” eternal life and protecting them so “no one can snatch them out of my hand” and “the Father’s hand.”
Then Jesus says next, “I and the Father are one” (John 10.30). Many Christians cite this saying to support their claim that Jesus claimed to be God. But Jesus says nothing of the kind. This interpretation removes this saying from its previous context. Rather, Jesus here means that he and the Father are unified in their work. Jesus later uses the same word “one” (Greek hen) in his so-called High Priestly prayer when he says concerning his disciples, “Holy Father, protect them you your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one…. that they may all be one…. so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be completely one” (17.11, 21-23). If Jesus means in 10.30 that he is God due to his oneness with the Father, then the disciples must be gods/Gods also due to their oneness, which is ludicrous.
After Jesus says, “I and the Father are one,” we read, “The Jews took up stones again to stone him. Jesus replied, ‘I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these are you going to stone me?’ The Jews answered, ‘It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you, but for blasphemy, because you, though only a human being, are making yourself God'” (John 10.31-33).
Here, Trinitarians commit a grave error again by believing these Jewish enemies of Jesus are right in accusing him of making himself God. On the contrary, Jesus then refutes their charge in what follows. We read, “Jesus answered, ‘Is it not written in your law, “I said you are gods”? If those to whom this word of God came were called “gods”–and the scripture cannot be annulled–can you say that the one whom the Father has sanctified and sent into the world is blaspheming because I said, “I am God’s Son”? If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father'” (John 10.34-38; cf. 14.10-11; 17.21).
Jesus herein refers to Psalm 82.6, in which the God-inspired psalmist called Jewish religious leaders “gods” (Hebrew elohim). Jesus reasoned that if that was so, surely it would be okay to call Jesus that too. Yet Jesus then says he only claims to be the Son of God, not a god or God. He finishes this refutation by explaining what he met in v. 30 by saying, “the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” This is not an admission that he is God but that God indwells him. Scholars call this concept “the Mutual Indwelling.” There is a great difference between identifying Jesus as God and merely saying God indwells Jesus and Jesus indwells God.
To sum, in all three of these biblical narratives in which Trinitarians have believed that Jesus’ enemies rightly accused him of claiming to possess a divine prerogative that was thought to belong only to God, or making himself equal to God, or making himself God, each time Jesus clearly denied these allegations. Yet Trinitarians have ignored these denials by Jesus and believed Jesus’ opponents. I know about this from experience, for I was a Trinitarian for twenty-two years who did this very thing.
To see a list of over eighty posts on this blog about the Bible not saying Jesus is God, click here. They are condensations of portions of my book, The Restitution of Jesus Christ. Buy this book at kermitzarley.com. I was a Trinitarian for 22 years before reading myself out of it in the Bible.