What If Jesus Never Claimed to be Divine? [Questions That Haunt]

Questions That Haunt Christianity

I’ve received some fantastic questions in the last couple weeks (you can submit your questions here). I’m jazzed about seeing the discussion around each of them, including this one from Andrew:

In the Gospel of John, Jesus makes many confident self-proclamations (conservative Evangelical’s favorite verses which seemingly demonstrates the exclusivity of Jesus). Now, I’m sure that claiming to be God in 1st century Judiasm is a really big deal; however, how is it that none of these self-proclamations make it into any of the synoptic gospels? Is it possible that Jesus never made these self-proclamations? If not, how does this effect our understanding of Trinitarian theology in the gospel accounts?

You respond in the comments. I’ll respond on Friday. See all of the past questions and answers here.

  • Pete Zimmerman

    I don’t think jesus thought he was a member of a trinity. I think he thought he was the messiah. I think he was aware that he was god’s son. I think he felt one with God. I think he began to understand that the god only in heaven theistic model was limited. I think his prayer life revealed to him that God and he were in union, and that this was difficult to cognitively understand. however, what I think he did not understand was that he was the fullness of the divine, specifically incarnated. i don’t think he fully understood that until the resurrection.

    • PAUL RACK

      I’m impressed that you are so able to know what Jesus was thinking.

      • http://twitter.com/jcarlostzavala Juan Carlos Torres

        lol!

  • http://www.facebook.com/harrisonzleonard Harrison Leonard

    Great question. This topic has fascinated me, particularly over the last couple years, and it’s one I still wrestle with.

    I’ve heard the argument that, while Jesus was not as verbally explicit about his deity in the synoptics, his behavior was reflective of one claiming divine authority by doing things only God could do (i.e., forgiving sins). That’s something to ponder, I guess. Nevertheless, my suspicion is that Jesus never did actually utter many of the exclusive “I Am” statements found in John’s gospel. As I understand it, John was being composed during a time when gnostic Christianity was becoming increasingly more popular and mainstream and, as the end of the book attests (John 20:30-31), it was important for the writer(s) to convincingly reaffirm the deity of Jesus. More than mere historical accounts, there is little doubt that each gospel has a theological message behind it, and it’s obvious that the “God-ness” of Jesus was John’s primary concern.

    I can’t recall if I read this in a book or heard it in an interview, but I remember Bart Ehrman (whose conclusions I don’t always agree with, but whose scholarship I nevertheless respect) detailing the contemporary consensus among biblical scholars with respect to John in this way: it was probably written in three stages, the first stage possibly coming from John himself; the second stage included revisions, either by John, or with the help of a so-called “Johannine community”; the third and final stage may have come entirely from the Johannine community after John’s death. I remember there being seemingly sensible reasons for scholars to have reached these conclusions (mainly relating to internal evidence and grammar in the original greek), but I’m not an expert.

    The notion that a community of believers may have contributed to the compilation of this book, especially in light of how first century Jews used mashal as a way of communicating their teachings, leads me to the humbly tentative conclusion that Jesus never actually said the things John said he did. It makes for a tremendous discussion, and one believers shouldn’t shy away from having. But for me, it does nothing to affect the basic substance of my faith, mostly because “being God” was not a prerequisite for Messiah (to my knowledge, anyway). Jesus’ humanness is attractive to me, and I quite like the idea that Jesus was empowered by God as the Christ. Who knows, maybe he came into some kind of full messianic divinity in his resurrection! It’s captivating, mysterious, and beautiful, but, in the final analysis, it’s just an intellectual exercise. I don’t need my Jesus to be God Incarnate for him to be worthy of my praise and thanksgiving. His life, death, teachings and deeds are enough for me. The redemptive work God did through Jesus on the cross is enough. It’s only when one holds an unflinchingly rigid view of Scripture that this becomes a problem, because then one is forced to confront contradictions that are, to me, seemingly irreconcilable (i.e., how can Jesus say things like, “Concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only” and “I and the Father are one”?). Actually, I feel that historical criticism should be liberating for the believer, not threatening. Modern scholarship frees us from needing to play theological twister with the four gospels. Even if Jesus and the Father weren’t as the gospel of John claims they were, I don’t see how that changes any of what God did for us through Christ Jesus.

    • Lausten North

      I liked a lot of this, but that last line threw me. If the scholarship disagrees with the theology passed down from before the scholarship, how it can it not change your perception of what Christ did or didn’t do?

      • http://www.facebook.com/harrisonzleonard Harrison Leonard

        Hi Lausten: I could be totally off-base, but it seems to me like you may be confusing what I said in my last sentence. A distinction is to be made between what Jesus did or didn’t *say* and what he did or didn’t *do*. I agree with your sentiment, if you take historical criticism seriously, it will an impact on the prism through which you view the teachings of Jesus. But no one of any repute disputes that Jesus died on the cross, and all four gospels affirm that fact. In fact, they are even harmonious in affirming the reason behind his death–as a sin offering for all. That may be one of the few areas where all four gospels agree. So in that light, I’ll stand behind what I previously intimated: whether or not Jesus was “God in a bod”, it does not change what his sacrifice means for us. Maybe that’s stated a little more clearly?

        • Lausten North

          According to my study Bible, and commonly held by those reputable folks you mention, Mark, the first one written, ends with the death and that’s it. The last verse was tacked on later. I’m not so sure about agreement on the “sin offering” either. I think you have to read that in a bit.

          • http://www.facebook.com/harrisonzleonard Harrison Leonard

            I agree about Mark, but I’m not sure what point you’re trying to make with that? Interesting too about the sin offering bit…expound on how I’ve read into it a bit?

            • Lausten North

              Maybe it’s too much to ask, but I don’t find any verses relating to “sin offering” in the synoptics. Resurrection, okay, but sin offering is an OT idea that seems to have been used as an explanation after the fact.

            • Lausten North

              Was I not clear? The words and actions of a Messiah are
              discussed in the OT, then in the NT, we see parallels. The synoptic gospels leave you the job of finding them and does not make direct statements about why Jesus died until the end of Luke. John is much more direct. This is why we have
              a debate about whether Jesus made the claims, or did writers elaborate on the parallels and put words in his mouth. To strengthen your side of the debate, you would
              need clear statements, preferably with more than one source. If I’m missing those, let me know.

          • http://www.facebook.com/ricshewell Ric Shewell

            The earliest ending of Mark doesn’t have Jesus’ appearances after the resurrection, but does have the proclamation that Jesus has risen, and the women leave in “fear and trembling,” – a reference to Mark 5, a story where two women are present and healed, and where someone comes back from the dead. In Mark 9 and 10, Jesus also teaches that he’ll rise from the dead. Resurrection is definitely in Mark.

    • ME

      Paul wrote before either Mark or John and, while debatable, he believed Jesus was God. Does that carry more water than scholarship on the Gospel of John?

      • http://www.facebook.com/harrisonzleonard Harrison Leonard

        I’m not sure. What is more important to you: Paul’s opinions about Jesus, or the claims Jesus made about himself?

        • J_M_Green

          We don’t know that we have the claims which Jesus made about himself. What proof do we have that the Gospels aren’t the opinions of the writers about Jesus (i.e. that they didn’t put the dialogue they wanted into the mouth of Jesus)? Especially when the Gospels disagree with each other on various points.

      • http://www.facebook.com/harrisonzleonard Harrison Leonard

        I’m not sure. What is more important to you: Paul’s views about Jesus, or the claims Jesus made about himself?

        • http://www.facebook.com/ricshewell Ric Shewell

          That’s not entirely fair, since we don’t have anything that is directly from Christ. The question is more like, “What is more important to you: Paul’s views about Jesus, or the Gospel writers’ views about Jesus?”

          In any case, we have the letters of Paul, testifying to an early community that worshipped Jesus along with the Father.

          • http://www.facebook.com/harrisonzleonard Harrison Leonard

            You’re right, Ric. Actually, the most accurate way to have phrased the question may have been: “What is more important to you: Paul’s views about Jesus, or what the gospel writers recorded Jesus as having claimed about himself?”

            I’m still skeptical as to how Paul worshipping Jesus along with the Father means that Jesus = YHWH.

            • http://www.facebook.com/ricshewell Ric Shewell

              You are right, the fact that Paul worshipped Jesus along with the Father, that fact alone does not get us to place where we say Jesus = YHWH. But it is one piece that adds to the eventual doctrine of the Trinity, and its importance cannot be ignored. Clearly, Paul’s interpretation of worshipping Jesus with God was widely accepted by the early Christian church. What does that mean, that a primarily Jewish movement saw it fit to worship someone along side of the Holy One of Israel, when so much of their identity was wrapped up in the mandate to worship no one but God?

              Paul’s arguments and letters aren’t the linchpin to the doctrine of the Trinity either (see my post above), but it is a piece we cannot ignore.

              • Andrew Mason

                Ric, I think you make a good case. Your assertions make me think harder about my own; however, see what I said a few comments above (respond if you’d like) about the possibility of misunderstanding Paul’s assertions concerning Jesus.

        • ME

          The point being that if Paul believed Jesus was God, and it is likely the earliest community did, that increases the likelihood Jesus made the claims about himself.

          I’m in no way trying to convince, and my opinion isn’t worth a hill of beans, but, when people don’t believe the divinity of Jesus that’s when I start to wonder if they are what I would label a Christian. Like you wrote, it’s a fascinating topic.

          An interesting question I don’t have an answer to- if Jesus was not God how does that change what happened on the cross? Atonement is such a non-consensus topic, maybe if Jesus wasn’t God it becomes easier to explain?

          What do you make of the statement, “Blessed are those who are not offended at me?” I take the statement to really mean, blessed are those who are not offended at the existence of the God-Man.

          Hopefully my comments are not offensive to you!

      • Andrew Mason

        Did Paul believe that Jesus was God? I think in the end, the answer to that question depends on how we interpret Paul’s claims about Jesus. A very high Christology, no doubt, but I wonder if we’ve misunderstood what Paul means when he says things like, “He is the image of the invisible God” (Col. 1:15). Does Paul mean to say that Jesus is God by this statement? As I have also said above, we have a great tendency to misunderstand the very Jewish scriptures when we read them through the lens of Nicene Creed theology (“son of God” is taken to mean “divine”).

  • Lausten North

    My understanding of recent findings is that the Christian community began as small groups with different views, stories and beliefs. The gospels, canonical or otherwise, are just what you would expect from that. I would not expect that we can find definitive facts, given those beginnings. For non-believers, this is not a problem. For believers, you just need to accept that you are making a leap of faith and I guess that is what God wanted.

  • curtismpls

    That’s easy. If Jesus never claimed to be divine, then the doctrine of the trinity likely would never had been adopted around 350 AD, and orthodox, trinitarian Christian doctrine would not exist. There still would be Christians; Quakers, Unitarians, and Mormons are among believers who do not hold a trinitarian doctrine. Not a total deal breaker, in the big scheme of things. But losing the doctrine of the trinity, and the orthodox Christian church, would have had a huge impact on world history, the lives of countless people throughout history.

    • nietzschesdownfall

      Note that Quakers DO hold a Trinitarian view, depending which sect of Quakers you ask.

      • Daniel Wilcox

        William Penn, from his booklet The Sandy Foundation Shaken: “Let them first prove their Trinity (three distinct and separate Persons in one Essence) and then charge their Blasphemy.”

        “God is not an Holy THREE, nor doth subsist in THREE distinct and separate Holy ONES. God only is that Holy ONE; he can’t be divided into, or subsist in an Holy THREE, or THREE distinct and separate Holy ONES.”

        “Unless the Father, Son, & Spirit, are 3 distinct Nothings, they must be three distinct Substances, & consequently 3 distinct Gods.”

        Divine Persons in a Trinity would be “Three distinct Infinities, Three Omnipotents, Three Eternals, and so Three GODS.”

        Penn reasoned, “For if that the only God is the Father, and Christ be that only God, then is Christ the Father.”

        “[Trinity] was born above Three Hundred Years after the Ancient Gospel was declared.”

        “Conceived in Ignorance, brought forth & maintain’d by Cruelty..he that was strongest, impos’d his Opinion, persecuting the contrary.”

        “Neither was believed by the primitive Saints, or thus stated by any I have read of in the first, second, or third Centuries”

  • curtismpls

    What is more important: what Jesus said, or what people have said about Jesus? Why?

  • PAUL RACK

    But he did. We could also wonder: What if he was a space alien or a gorilla? But he wasn’t.

  • ME

    Yes it’s very possible Jesus never said he was God and that he was not God. You’ll probably never unequivocally know in this lifetime one way or another.

  • http://sweeteye.tablegrace.net/ J.D. Whitlock

    The Gospel of John is high-Christology theology. Good for theology, bad for Jesus quotes. I like the way Richard Rohr puts it: “It is not correct to say that Jesus is God. Jesus is the union of the human and divine. That’s different”

  • Andrew Mason

    I think I often have a hard time justifying the differences between biblical Christianity (the time in which the Bible was written) and post-credal Christianity. I think that as people commit their lives to Jesus, they are often flooded with the “essentials” of the Christian faith (many of these “essentials” come right out of the Nicene Creed). So, we confess that Jesus Christ is the only Son of God . . . of one Being with the Father and so forth. Thus, as we read scripture and we see the gospels affirm Jesus as the “Son of God,” we automatically think that “Son of God” denotes divinity, when, in Judaism, it doesn’t. The king of Israel was often known as God’s son (Solomon in 1 Chron. 28:6). I think too often we read the Bible through the lens of post-credal Christianity, and in doing so, we refuse to let Scripture speak for itself. Although a scriptural case can be made for the divinity of Jesus, I think that we must read it in light of the strictly monotheistic, Jewish context in which it was written.

    • http://www.facebook.com/ricshewell Ric Shewell

      I think you are making too clear of a distinction between ante- and post- Nicene Christian belief. There are plenty of ante-Nicene writings that use the word “trinity” and defend Christ’s uncreateness. It was a long process of Christian thought that developed the trinitarian mystery, but it was in development from the earliest of Christian communities. The goal was always to keep the Christ event in the framework of Jewish monotheism, otherwise they would not have needed the trinitarian symbol.

      • Andrew Mason

        My argument does not primarily deal with ante- and post-Nicene Christian belief, but primarily with the disconnect between the Jewish scriptures and the evolving gentile Christian faith. The “development from the earliest of Christian communities” does not negate the obvious evolution from a 1st century Jewish sect to Constantine’s institutionalized Christianity, which, might I add, is tinged with anti-Semitism. I think you make a good point about maintaining constancy with Jewish monotheism through the use of the Trinitarian symbol, but I do not think the motivation was to remain within the framework of Jewish monotheism. In many ways, one could argue, the Patristics attempted to disassociate and divorce themselves from the Jewish faith. Additionally, many of the authors of the creeds were more influenced by Neoplatonic Greek philosophy. Thus, much of the debate in the creeds was spent on arguing over non-biblical terms such as “being” or “substance,” etc. It quickly became more about the theological implications of Jesus’ life and less about following the way of Jesus.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ricshewell Ric Shewell

    The Gospel of John is not the linchpin to trinitarian theology.

    Even if Jesus never said those things in John, we are still left with the question of “Who is Jesus and what is his relationship with the Holy One of Israel?” In the other Gospels, Jesus is depicted as doing things only God can do, like forgive sins, walk on water and tell the wind and waves where to stop (a reference to Job 38), among others. But I think we get hung up on the Gospels too much also. Without John or the Gospels, theologians would still have to wrestle with Paul’s letters and the Christ hymns that seem to be in place and used in worship before Paul wrote the letters. What does it mean to “be in the form of God” before becoming human?

    i think one of the most trinitarian documents in the NT is the Book of Revelation. There Jesus is depicted with a white beard and white hair and flaming eyes – a reference to the Ancient One in Daniel. Jesus is also the Lamb who sits on the throne in heaven, but the Ancient One is sitting on the throne, too?? It’s either a big throne, or the Ancient One and the Lamb have some things in common.

    Well, anyway, we have the Gospels, and especially John, but the church may have just as likely arrived at Nicea anyway. John’s not the linchpin.

    • Daniel Wilcox

      Intriguing view of yours–that “the most trinitarian documents in the NT is the Book of Revelation.”

      The opening verse claims just the opposite:
      “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants..” ESV

      Clearly, this verse states Jesus is separate from God, not co-equal, co-omniscient God the Son. Also, trinitarians can’t argue that Jesus is still in his human form or is speaking only from his human nature, because Revelation was written after the resurrection and ascension!

      It is true, that in a number of places, Revelation identifies Jesus with God, but this is because Jesus is the visible Image of God, not because he is God.

  • S_i_m_o_n

    If Jesus never proclaimed to be God then why did the Jewish leaders want him dead? Why did they acuse him of blasphemy?

    • VorJack

      One would this his little display in the Temple would explain that.

      • S_i_m_o_n

        Not really. Caiaphas didn’t accuse him of blasphemy even when the charge of claiming to be able to destroy and rebuild the temple was levelled against Jesus. It wasn’t until Jesus said he will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power that Caiaphas thought he had enough evidence to convict him of blasphemy, a crime worthy of death. And this all comes from Matthews gospel, not John.

        • Andrew Mason

          You don’t explicitly make this assertion, but I’m not sure that claiming to be the son of man at the right hand of the Father would have been considered blasphemy to a 1st century Jew. “Son of man” does not denote divinity, but is rooted in its Jewish context (“son of God” does not denote divinity either). Many of the OT prophets referred to themselves as a son of man. We also see Jesus refer to his Jewish peers as “sons of men” in the gospel of Mark (3:28). I believe that Jesus was killed, not because of his claim to sit at the right hand of God, but because he posed a threat to the pax romana. We see as he entered Jerusalem that many people were expecting him to overthrow the Roman government. A spectacle like that would, no doubt, spark the interest of the Roman authorities. Many other examples of this could be given. We also know, historically, that the Roman authorities had put an end to other would-be messianic movements before Jesus.

          • S_i_m_o_n

            Jesus made it obvious, by mentioning his arrival on the clouds of heaven, that the Son of Man he was talking about was specifically the Son of Man mentioned in Daniel 7. So this is no ordinary Son of Man. But I’m most interested in your assertion that the it would not be considered blasphemy to a 1st century Jew when Matthews gospel explicitly states Caiaphas thought is was. You also say Son of God does not denote divinity yet again in Matthew 14 we see 1st century Jews worshipping him saying truly you are the Son of God. A devout Jew of any century would not worship anyone but God.

            As I understand the original question we are looking at the synoptic Gospels to see any evidence of self proclamation from Jesus as God. You can ignore Matthews gospel account as inaccurate and come up with your own (baseless) theory but that does not negate the fact that according to it the Jewish religious elite of the time thought Jesus blasphemed and had him killed for doing so.

            • Andrew Mason

              You are right. No doubt, Jesus is pulling from OT messianic prophecies such as Daniel 7; however, “son of man” is still NOT a term used to denote divinity. At no point in any of the messianic references in the OT do we ever see any indication that the “messiah” is or would be Yahweh. Jesus is drawing from OT scriptures and identifying himself with those messianic passages, but in no way does he identify himself as YHWH in the flesh when he calls himself the “son of man.”

              Claiming to be the long-expected Messiah is not a blasphemous act. Perhaps it is, if your fellow Jews believe you not to be the Messiah (I don’t know if that’s what made Caiaphas call it “blasphemy,” but it makes sense). In your comment above, you asked the question, “If Jesus never claimed to be God then why did the Jewish leaders want him dead? Why did they accuse him a blasphemy?” What I’m trying to tell you is that claiming to be God (Jesus did NOT do by calling himself the “son of man”) and identifying yourself as the long-expected Messiah (Jesus DID do by calling himself the “son of man”) are two different assertions.

              In one of my comments above, I explain more about “son of God” not being a term that denotes divinity. The king of Israel was thought to be God’s son (check out Solomon 1 Chron. 28:6). I do not mean to demean the phrase “son of God.” No doubt, it is a very respected title and denotes Yahweh’s anointing, To worship (proskuneo in Greek) simply means to bow down before or prostrate oneself and denotes a kiss. Proskuneo does find itself in other passages in reference to worshipping God, but it is also used in Matthew 18 in reference to the slave that fell to the ground and prostrated (proskuneo) himself before his owner (vs. 26).

              I think the point still stands that in the synoptic gospels Jesus never proclaims to be divine or proclaims to be Yahweh or Yahweh’s manifestation. The gospel writers did, however, emphasize that Jesus believed himself to be the long-awaited Messiah who was anointed by Yahweh to restore Yahweh’s kingdom.

              ***********I also ask, “Is it possible that Jesus never made those self-proclamations [in John's gospel]?” I don’t think he did. To claim to be “the way, the truth, and the life” or “I and the Father are one” would have been a very big deal in 1st century Judaism. Therefore, the fact that those great “I am” statements never make it into any of the synoptic gospels leads me to believe that Jesus never made those confident self-proclamations. Would the writers of Matthew, Mark, and Luke not want to add those claims to their gospels? Did they simply forget that Jesus made such lofty claims? Of course not!

              • S_i_m_o_n

                You play down the Daniel 7 reference as if it is just another ‘son of man’ instance. What Matthew’s gospel points out is that Jesus’ claim to be the Son of Man points directly at the Daniel 7 ‘son of man’ as opposed to the many other ‘son of man’ references in the O.T. So what’s so special about the Daniel 7 ‘son of man’. Well three things, he rides the clouds like Yahweh does, rules over all the nations like Yahweh does and is worshipped by all people just as Yahweh is.

                Jesus’ reply to Caiaphas forces us to consider specifically the ‘son of man’ of Daniel 7. I find it hard to believe that even 1st century Jews didn’t at the least see something supernatural in this ‘son of man’.

                • Andrew Mason

                  In the past few of your posts, you make many assumptions about my argument that are simply not true. I’m not, in any way, playing down the Daniel 7′s “son of man.”

                  I believe that you have proven the assertion that I’ve made in other posts: modern day Christians misunderstand the very Jewish nature of the Bible, which includes the” son of man” reference in Matthew’s gospel and in Daniel 7. You’ve taken those references to mean that Jesus is divine, which is a misunderstanding of the text. You read Daniel’s dream literally, when it is filled with metaphorical language (beasts, horns, 4 winds, etc.). In Daniel 7, the “son of man” does not come from heaven down to earth, but to the Ancient of Days (YHWH) and is presented before him. It is purely your misunderstanding that would have you believe that the son of man is riding on the clouds like Yahweh. The clouds are merely the vessel that takes the son of man to YHWH. Additionally, the context of this passage is the persecution of God’s chosen people; therefore, the “son of man” is a reference to the saints of the Most High receiving the kingdom (Dan. 7:18). It is the saints of the Most High (“son of man”) who will rule over the nations (which is fully supported in other passages in the Bible: i.e. Deut. 15:6), and it is simply your own interpretation of the passage to say that the “son of man” is worshipped just as Yahweh is. The passage does not say that. You did.

                  Additionally, I am not contesting that 1st century Jews did not see something supernatural in Jesus.

  • http://www.culturemonk.com/ Kenneth Justice

    What if the answer is more simple than we want to admit; maybe Jesus, Paul, the early Christians just didn’t view things the way we do in relation to divinity….maybe N.T. Wright is onto something; perhaps the Early Christians weren’t using Western Scholasticism to write their epistles and gospels.

    • Andrew Mason

      I’m not sure that I’m willing to admit that it’s simple, or at least not yet. I do greatly enjoy N.T. Wright, and I think he makes a very good point when he makes the distinction between Western scholasticism and the early Christian writers. He does, however, critique the Patristics for using very gentile language in the creeds, rather than the biblical language that, he believes, is fully sufficient. Thus, I do believe that there is a disconnect between the very Jewish writings of the Bible and the evolving gentile Christian faith.

  • JimA

    For me, this was a critical question. It might have come into focus – in part – in my noticing the change [over my years} of hymns from a focus predominantly on praise of God, to almost exclusive focus on Jesus. Outside the hymns, there was also growing implicit and explicit expression of the equivalency of God and Jesus (probably rooted in the Jesus movement in the 60′s). Yet Jesus always seemed to point to God. And he prayed …uh …to himself?, …among other troubling issues with this perspective.

    But the question that emerged was, “What if Jesus is not identical with God? Then what of the worship we have created around this Jesus?” The Bible does not speak kindly of …uh …idolatry.

    I’ll (uncharacteristically) just leave it at that, though I now no longer fear the wrath of God because I (completely unavoidably) make some mistake in my understanding of who/what God is, and how to go about the specifics of living in awareness of, and in the benevolence of the Creative Impulse whose still-unfolding work allows me to be, and to think about such things.

  • Andrew Mason

    ***********I also ask, “Is it possible that Jesus never made those self-proclamations [in John's gospel]?” I don’t think he did make these self-proclamations. To claim to be “the way, the truth, and the life” or “I and the Father are one” would have been a very big deal in 1st century Judaism. Therefore, the fact that those great “I am” statements never make it into any of the synoptic gospels leads me to believe that Jesus never made those confident self-proclamations. Would the writers of Matthew, Mark, and Luke not want to add those claims to their gospels? Did they simply forget that Jesus made such lofty claims? Of course not!

  • Andrew Mason

    I believe that it may also be helpful to clarify what we mean when we say, “divine.” It may call for some redefining of our (mis)understanding. N.T. Wright talks about this, “When people ask “Was Jesus God?” they usually think they know what the word “God” means, and are asking whether we can fit Jesus into that. I regard this as deeply misleading.” (http://ntwrightpage.com/Wright_JIG.htm)

    He also asks the question, “What did 1st century Jews, including Jesus and his followers, mean by “god?”

    Great article.

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