I know Tom (N. T.) Wright of the UK. He is a most charming fellow and an engaging public speaker. He also is one of the top theologians in the world. Many of his peers would say he is the world’s preeminent New Testament scholar. Tom Wright is also a Trinitarian.
In Tom’s book, The Challenge of Jesus: Rediscovering Who Jesus Was and Is (IVP, 1999), he states, “I do not think Jesus ‘knew he was God'” (p. 121). He also says it in other writings. He first said it in Jesus and the Victory of God (p. 653) in this form, “Jesus did not, in other words, ‘know that he was God.'”
I think Wright is right about that, to make an unintended pun. And he certainly is not alone. Many distinguished Trinitarian scholars now believe Jesus did not think he was God. Yet Tom also believes that during Jesus’ life here on earth he was God, and, of course, Tom believes he still is God. So, Tom Wright believes Jesus was God during his earthly ministry even though Jesus didn’t know he was God. Tom also thinks it is very important for all of us to believe that Jesus is God.
Anyone who follows this blog knows that I was a Trinitarian for twenty-two years–thus I believed Jesus was and is God because, like most Christians, that is what I was taught–but that I had a eureka moment one time in 1980 during my private Bible study that led to my undertaking a very indepth study of the identity of Jesus in the Bible. Over the next twenty-eight years I estimate that I read about a thousand books on the identity of Jesus, most of them by reknown biblical scholars, and I scoured the several critical texts about this in many hundreds of Bible commentaries. The result was that I changed to believing the Bible says Jesus was no more than a virgin-born, sinless man who died for our sins on the cross, God raised him from the dead, and he ascended to heaven. I then wrote a 600-page book about my discovery, in which I cite over 400 biblical scholars, and it is entitled The Restitution of Jesus Christ.
One time when I was with Tom Wright at the Annual Meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature, I briefly told him about this book. I then asked if I could send him a copy. He said “yes” but added that he probably wouldn’t have time to look at it. It seemed obvious to me that he wasn’t interested to know what I thought or wrote in this book about this subject because he told me he believes Jesus was and is God.
I’ve seen Tom on subsequent occasions, and he has never said anything to me about my book. But then, why should he since I don’t have a PhD. And although I’ve been a serious Bible student all of my adult life and more, biblical scholarship has never been my profession. I’ve never been a professor of any kind. So, I’m still just an amateur.
Yet, didn’t Jesus choose twelve men as his apostles, and none of those guys had ever been to seminary? And what about Jesus? One time when Jesus taught at the temple in Jerusalem, “The Jews were astonished at it, saying, ‘How does this man have such learning, when he has never been taught?'” (John 7.15). They may have meant he had not attended either of their two rabbinic schools (like our seminaries) in Jerusalem.
In fact, there is strong evidence in the New Testament that most of Jesus’ apostles were illiterate. For instance, Luke reports about Peter’s preaching after the Christ event, that the religious leaders at Jerusalem “saw the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and ordinary men” (Acts 4.13). Indeed, they were no more than commercial fishermen. At least I got a college education and have been taught some Greek and Hebrew, the two languages in which the original biblical manuscripts were written.
Yet I respect biblical scholars very much, and certainly Tom Wright. I’ve learned so much from them. I constantly read books and Bible commentaries written by them. My personal library of such books is now at about 2,500 volumes. You could say I’m obsessed with such reading.Nevertheless, I would like to ask my friend Tom Wright that if Jesus didn’t know he was God, why should we know he was God since he didn’t know it. Moreover, if Jesus during his earthly ministry didn’t know he was God then he didn’t believe he was God. And that is indeed what we find in the New Testament gospel sayings of Jesus–he never said he was God.
Thus, during Jesus’ earthly life if someone would have asked him if he was God, he surely would have answered in the negative. If he had done that, and he really was God, then he would have been lying and therefore would have been a false prophet. And if Jesus had not known that he was God, but he was and is God now, does he know it now? And if he does, when did he learn it?
I think it must be concluded that if Jesus did not know he was God, he wasn’t God. For there would not have been hardly anything more important for Jesus to have known than that he was God if he was. And if Jesus did not say or believe he was God, as Tom Wright rightly claims, must we believe Jesus is God in order for us to be saved even though Jesus didn’t believe he was God when he lived here on earth? Now that’s a brain-twister I’d like Tom Wright to answer.
i pose that question because the church says people must believe Jesus is God in order for them to be saved, be justified, be divinely forgiven, be promised eternal life, and thus in the future spend eternity with God and Jesus in their kingdom. That’s what Jesus was all about–telling people how to be saved and thereby enter into this glorious kingdom. Just think about Jesus telling Nicodemus he must be “born again” to “enter the kingdom of God” (John 3.3, 5 NIV). If people must believe Jesus was God to enter this kingdom, surely Jesus would have told Nicodemus or some of the others he preached to about this most important information. Since he didn’t, it must not be so.
Jesus told people enough to believe in order to be saved. Just consider Nicodemus, again. In that incident he mentioned the poisonous snakes that came into the camp of the Israelites, and people were bitten and dying. Moses, according to God’s instruction, then made a bronze image of a snake, put it on his staff, held it high, and told the Israelites to look at it and they would be healed, and they were (Numbers 21.4-9). So, Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man [Jesus] must be lifted up [on a cross], that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life” (John 3.14 NIV). Believe what about this Son of Man? Truly believe Jesus died for our sins, so that believing this is what causes God to save us. Whether or not Jesus is God has nothing to do with it. If it did, Jesus surely would have known that he was God and told people this in order for them to be saved and enter the kingdom.
To see a list of titles of 130+ posts (2-3 pages) that are about Jesus not being God in the Bible, with a few about God not being a Trinity, at Kermit Zarley Blog click “Chistology” in the header bar. Most are condensations of my book, The Restitution of Jesus Christ. See my website servetustheevangelical.com, which is all about this book, with reviews, etc. Learn about my books and purchase them at kermitzarley.com. I was a Trinitarian for 22 years before reading myself out of it in the Bible.