BSR 15: Jesus Didn’t Even Think He Was God

BSR 15: Jesus Didn’t Even Think He Was God May 20, 2020

We’re halfway there! Half of the 28 Christian Quick Shots have been responded to with a Bite-Size Reply. I hope they’ve been useful for you. Yes, this is a long project, but it does provide a way to have brief replies to popular Christian responses to some interesting atheist arguments. If you want to work out your own skills, read the Christian response and stop to think how you’d reply if you overheard the conversation. My responses don’t claim to be complete, so feel free to add your ideas in the comments. And thanks, everyone, for the thousands of comments so far.

In this Bite-Size Reply, the Bible says lots of things. Some verses argue that Jesus thought he was God, but others say something else.

That people worshipped Jesus isn’t the surprising thing; it’s that he allowed it. And Jesus only claimed to be divine in John. How could something that momentous have slipped the notice of the other gospel authors?

(These Bite-Size Replies are responses to “Quick Shots,” brief Christian responses to atheist challenges. The introduction to this series is here.)

Challenge to the Christian: Jesus didn’t even think He was God.

Christian response #1: Old Testament prophets spoke for God, while Jesus spoke as God.

To support your point with one example, it’s true that Jesus made a number of corrections to Old Testament law when he said, “But I say to you that. . . .”

But—wouldn’t you know it?—the Bible says a lot of things. Unsurprisingly, Jesus in the Bible also made clear that he wasn’t God. For example, “The Father is greater than I,” “Why do you call me good? No one is good—except God alone,” and “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

The Bible is contradictory. You can make it say that Jesus is God or that he’s not.

Jesus in the Bible says that he is God, but then he also says that he isn’t God. A contradictory Bible isn’t a reliable source of history. [Click to tweet]

Christian response #2: Jesus accepted the worship of others. As a Jew, he knew it was blasphemy to do that as an ordinary person.

Judaism came from roots that had no problem with polytheism (worship of many gods) or henotheism (worship of one god but recognition of others). I would think that Israel had lots of instances of ordinary people bowing down to kings, prophets, or other powerful men, but let’s ignore this. The bigger issue isn’t people eager to worship but a god allowing worship. Being treated like a god is what shallow but powerful people want, not a perfect god.

That Jesus did accept worship suggests that the Bible is just another book of ancient mythology.
Jesus accepted the worship of others, but it’s not the others that’s surprising. It’s that Jesus allowed it! Being treated like a god is what shallow but powerful people want, not a perfect god. [Click to tweet]

Christian response #3: Jesus’s claims to deity were clear to his Jewish opponents. That’s why they wanted to stone him.

Jesus’s Jewish opponents wanted to stone him “for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.” But we read that only in John. Other clear statements that Jesus is God are also only in John: “I and the Father are one” and “If you have seen me you have seen the Father,” for example.

Did Jesus say he was God? Not the messiah, not the Son of Man, but God? If so, that would have been the central message in all the gospels, but we only get this in John. The state of divinity of Jesus seems to have been an editorial decision of the author of each gospel (h/t Bart Ehrman interview).

Jesus claimed to be divine, but only in John. This claim is glaringly absent in the other gospels. Did it just slip the mind of the authors of those gospels, or was Jesus’s divinity a literary invention? [Click to tweet]

(The Quick Shot I’m replying to is here.)

Continue with BSR 16: Atheists Believe in Just One Less God than Christians

For further reading:

Success is not permanent,
but neither is failure.

— Anon.

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Image from Derek Σωκράτης Finch, CC license
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