Did Jesus Claim To Be God?

The deity of Christ is probably the most disputed and attacked doctrine of the bible.  Muslims insist that Jesus was not the son of God but a merely a prophet; and unique by virtue of his virgin birth.  Jehovah’s Witnesses say that Jesus was a god, not The God.  Te various other Christian cults also all deny the deity of Jesus.  Liberals are on an endless but futile quest to find “the historical Jesus” and to “de-mythologise” him.  And atheists try to deny Jesus out of existence altogether. 

Muslims teachers and Jewish Pharisees don’t understand the Bible

Contrary to the Muslim apologists who insist that Jesus never once claimed to be God, a simple reading of the gospels will show their claim to be ignorance and wishful thinking at best.  But they have to say this because the Qur’an only has Jesus as a prophet.  And in the Qur’an, Allah states that he has no son and pronounces a curse on all who say he does.  It is understandable that they do not wish to disagree with their holy book, and nobody has a problem with that.  If they profess Islam, then they must do what Muslims do and believe what Muslims believe.  If they didn’t, they would be unfaithful to their religion.  But so many Muslim apologists go much further than that and claim that Jesus never said he was God.  They speak with an assumed and assured authority about a holy book which isn’t theirs.  They claim to know all about the central figure in the Bible – Jesus Christ.  And they cherry-pick verses from the Bible which they vainly think bolster their claims; but these verses are taken out of their context and do not mean what these Muslims would have them to mean. 

Muslims have no right to do anything with or to the Bible unless they are seeking to be right with God – it is not their Book and they don’t understand it.   Just like all enemies of God and the Bible, they approach it with a mind already made up.  So, instead of placing themselves in submission to God’s words, they approach it with the intention of disproving and ridiculing it.  They can’t learn anything from the Bible because they disbelieve before they’ve even turned the cover; they cannot and will not hear what God might say to them because their only reason for opening its pages are to tear them apart.  They know nothing about God or his words, the Bible, but in their pride and arrogance they think they know it all.

Jewish Pharisees

The Pharisees were the bible scholars of Jesus’ day and they knew every word of the Old Testament, knew how many words it contained, knew the middle verse, and other such useless information – it was their raison d’etre.  They spent their lives being trained by experts so that they, too, could become experts; they never spent a day without reading it and praying it.  Yet for all their vaunted knowledge of it, they still didn’t understand Jesus and who he is.  And he rightly reproached them for their wilful blindness, saying to them: “Have ye not read what David did…?” (Matt 12:3); “Or have ye not read in the law…?” (Matt 12:5); “Have ye not read….?” (Matt 19:4); “…have ye never read….?” (Matt 21:16); “Did ye never read in the scriptures…?” (Matt 21:42); “…have ye not read….?” (Matt 22:31); “…have ye not read this scripture….?” (Mk 12:10); “Have ye not read in the book of….?” (Mk 12:26); “Have ye not read so much as this….?” (Lk 6:3). 

He knew, of course, that they had read these passages; he was making his point that the most fundamental truth in the whole of Scripture is that Jesus, God manifest in the flesh, had come to them; the Messiah, to whom every Jew looked and longed for, was in their midst; but when he did come they wanted to kill him because they didn’t recognise him.  And they didn’t recognise him because they didn’t understand the Bible correctly.

If Jesus rebuked the Pharisees, who knew the scriptures backwards and forwards, how much more do “know-it-all” Muslims deserve to be put in their place when they make such stupid statements as that Jesus never said he is God.

Christian converts to Islam don’t understand the Bible

I’ve looked at dozens and dozens of testimonies of so-called Christians who have converted to Islam; I’ve purchased books of them from Islamic bookshops; I’ve searched Islamic website after Islamic website looking for and reading these testimonies. Why?  Because I want to know what has motivated them to leave the Truth and embrace a fiction.  I want to read their reasons why they would abandon Christianity and Jesus, the Son of God; I want to read their strongest arguments against the Bible to see if there is any legitimacy in them.  These testimonies are from Baptists, Pentecostals, Orthodox, Catholic, and liberals; pastors, priests, theologians, academics, doctors, ordinary people, men, women; Western and Middle Eastern.  Many of them were just nominal Christian who never were Christian; they had been brought up in a Western country, or grown up with some connection to a church, or had been brought up in a Christian family e.g. missionaries’ children, or had some kind of involvement with someone somewhere who was Christian.  But nearly all of them did not understand the Bible properly or well; even the priests and academics had a wrong understanding of the Bible and therefore of Jesus and the gospel; so they were not equipped to deal with the claims of Islam and their attacks on Christianity. 

I’ve also read the best Muslim apologists that I know of to weigh their arguments, their challenges, their theology, their claims that the Bible is wrong – Islamic websites, books, online videos – I’ve read all of Ahmed Deedat’s books and watched videos of him overcoming his Christian opponents and ridiculing them; but they all fail.  I’ve read books by Western scholars and Western Higher Critical theology which seem to be where many Muslim apologists get their arguments from – the books which debunk Christianity and try to make it look stupid and fanciful. 

But for all this, I’ve never read a convincing argument against the Bible.  I’ve weighed their arguments against the Bible and found every single one of them insubstantial.  For sure, some of what I’ve read has really challenged me, particularly Western scholars such as Professor Bart Ehrman or Dr. Laurence E. Brown.  But a little digging – even sometimes simply reading the Bible passages under attack – shows their attacks to be bogus and unfounded. 

Faith, not knowledge

And for all that we’re all trying to prove or disprove the Bible, we cannot come to Christ by proving him to be true or by forming a good argument.  God’s criterion is faith.  Yes, the Bible is true, Jesus did exist and he is God; he was raised from the dead and he did ascend to heaven – the Bible is not a book of fiction and stories; it has not been spin-doctored by the disciples or anybody else.  The Bible is a record of eyewitnesses to Jesus Christ; it is historically true, and archaeology, among other disciplines and sciences, demonstrates that and gives good reason to believe it.  But the Bible doesn’t require a person to have or acquire academic knowledge before they can come to God; it says: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen….without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:1, 6). 

The simplest of people can come to God through belief in Jesus as the Son of God and Saviour, and consequently have more knowledge than the greatest pagan philosopher or atheistic scientist.  King David said, “I understand more than the ancients because I keep thy precepts” (Psalm 119:100).  And the apostle Paul wrote: “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.  For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent (intelligent).  Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?  For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe….For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence” (1 Corinthians 1:19-21, 26-29).

So don’t be afraid of enemies who want to rob you of your salvation – God will judge them.  If you wish to be saved, put your faith, your trust, your hope, in Jesus Christ, and he will do the rest – and you will have peace in your soul because you will have peace with God.  “…if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.  For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:9-10).

Jesus Did Say he is God

Although Jesus did not come to demonstrate his deity, he nevertheless did make this claim on several occasions; but his primary focus was not to glorify himself but the Father, who had sent him to redeem fallen humanity.  In prayer to the Father, Jesus prayed, “I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do….I have manifested thy name unto the men which thou gavest me out of the world….” (Jn 17:4, 6).  And the apostle Paul tells us of Jesus: “…Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:5-8).  Jesus didn’t claim deity, because he came as a man to die in humanity’s place so that he could reconcile us to God (2 Cor 5:19).  But when he returns, the smug faces of those who have denied him will be changed to abject terror; for Paul goes on to say of Jesus: “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:9-11).

Jesus equated himself with the Father

When Jesus healed the lame man at the pool at Bethesda, the Jews (on this occasion the religious leaders) persecuted him because he healed the man on the Sabbath.  His response, and then theirs to him, is very enlightening: “Therefore  the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God (John 5:18).

Jesus knew what he was saying and what his claims signified.  Likewise, the Jews, who knew the law thoroughly, also knew what he was claiming.  By calling himself the Son of God, he claimed deity.  This is evident from the following verses in which he claimed the attributes of God: power to raise the dead and to give life to whomever he chooses (5:21, 25-26, 28); and authority to judge each and every person who ever lived (5:22, 27, 29), so that the Father and the Son may receive equal honour (5:23).  When he says “The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do” (5:19), he is not saying he is less than God.  He indicated that despite his equality with God as second Person of the Trinity, he subordinated himself to the Father in order to complete the mission for which he had been sent, as I pointed out in Philippians chapter 2.  He shows his equality with God – which means he is God, as the Jews correctly concluded – and that he is separate from the Father.  John earlier stated it succinctly: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God….And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:1, 14).

It is also significant that Jesus made this same claim after his arrest and interrogation by the Jews.  Matthew tells us: “And the high priest answered and said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God.  Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: Nevertheless I say unto you, hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.  Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy.  What think ye?  They answered and said, He is guilty of death (Matt 26:63-67).   

So again, Jesus claimed equality with God, not only by claiming the title “Son of God” but also “Son of Man”, a reference to Daniel 7:9-14.  And he was consequently sentenced to death for blasphemy. These titles signify his equality with God (Son of God) and his subordination to God (Son of Man).

Jesus claimed to be the God of the Old Testament

On another occasion when Jesus was speaking with the Jews, in response to what Jesus said about Abraham, they said, “Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?  Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.  Then they picked up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple” (Jn 8:57-59).  No wonder the Jews were so riled!  Jesus was identifying himself with God who spoke to Moses from the burning bush.  When God was telling Moses what he wanted him to do, Moses said to God, “Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them?  And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: And he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you…..this is my name for ever, and this my memorial unto generations (Exodus 3:13-15).

Jesus claimed attributes and titles of God

But Jesus claimed other names and attributes of God.  To start with, the opening words of the Revelation (1:1; also 1:11, 19) tell us that this revelation is given by Jesus Christ; thus Jesus is telling John what to write: a record of the future which is to become Scripture.  This is the prerogative of God alone (2 Tim 3:16; 2 Pet 1:21).  Incidentally, notice that in Rev 1:1 God gave Jesus the revelation to show to the Church, and in 2 Peter 1:21, the Holy Spirit brings the inspired word to men.  Here we see that the three Persons of the Trinity are the authors of Scripture.

Then we hear Jesus saying: “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty” (Rev 1:8).  He repeats this claim in verse 11, saying, “I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last”.

After this (Rev 1:12-16), we’re given a description of a being who in appearance is just like the visions of God given to Ezekiel (1:26-28) and Daniel (7:9-10; 10:2-9).  And this being is Jesus.  And he again takes to himself the name and attributes of God: “Fear not; I am the first and the last:  I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death” (Rev 1:17-18).

The Old Testament names of God that Jesus takes to himself are found in Isaiah: “Thus says the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first and I am the last; and beside Me there is no God” (Isa 44:6; see also 48:12-13).

The Good Shepherd

Jesus said he was the shepherd of the sheep (Jn 10:2), and the good shepherd (Jn 10:11, 14).  This is a title of deity.  In Ezekiel chapter 34, God rebukes and condemns the leaders of Israel for being unfaithful shepherds of his sheep, the people of Israel.  In order to rescue his sheep, God says: “Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out.  As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day….I will feed my flock….I will seek that which was lost, and bring again that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick…”  (Ezek 34:11-12, 15-16).  Here is God calling himself the shepherd….just as Jesus calls himself the shepherd.  Jesus even said of his sheep, “I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.  My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.  I and my Father are one” (Jn 10:28-30).  A big claim indeed; one which only God could make.  The Jews recognised that Jesus was claiming deity because “they took up stones to stone him” (Jn 10:31).

It is so interesting and revealing that in Ezekiel chapter 34 where God identifies himself as the shepherd of Israel (which title Jesus also claims), he also said he would send an under-shepherd; and this would be none other than Jesus, known in the New Testament as the Son of David.  “Therefore will I save my flock, and they shall no more be a prey; and I will judge between cattle and cattle.  And I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, even my servant David; he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd.  And I the LORD will be their God, and my servant David a prince among them” (Ezek 34:22-24).  This is comparable to Isaiah chapter 49 where God the Father and God the Son covenant that Jesus will be born as a man, and that he will rescue his people; and comparable to Daniel chapter 7:9-27 where God the Father and God the Son appear together and where their people will possess the kingdom (Dan 7:22, 27).  Jesus therefore repeatedly identifies himself as God but distinguishes between himself and the Father.  He is God, yet a separate and distinct Person from the Father.  He repeatedly says that God the Father sent him as his messenger to rescue his people.  “Thus shall they know that I the LORD their God am with them, and that they, even the house of Israel, are my people, saith the Lord GOD.  And ye my flock, the flock of my pasture, are men, and I am your God, saith the Lord God” (Ezek 34:30-31).

Jesus is the only Mediator between God and humans because he is God: “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time” (1 Timothy 2:5).  Of this man called Jesus who was also God, we’re told, “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory” (1 Tim 3:16).  “Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us (Matt 1:23).

Jehovah and Allah are not the same God

The God of the Bible is not the God of Islam.  And the Jesus of the Bible is not the Jesus of Islam.  Islam is not the final revelation of God; Christianity is.  Islam is not even a revelation of God of any kind – it is a false religion.  Islam is not connected to Christianity in any way.  Christianity and Islam are two separate religions with two different Gods and two totally different ways of relating to God.  A Muslim cannot be a Christian unless he first renounces Islam.  And if a Christian adopts Islam, he at the same time renounces Christ and the Gospel and loses salvation, condemning himself to hell.  Christianity and Islam are diametrically opposed to and incompatible with each other and can never worship together; if they do, they cease to be either Christian or Muslim. 

The following passage from the Bible flies in the face of everything that Islam says about Jesus.  “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom he also made the worlds; Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.  For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee?  And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son?  And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him.  And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire.  But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.  Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.  And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the world; and the heavens are the works of thine hands: They shall perish; but thou remainest; and they shall wax old as a garment; And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail.  But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool?” (Hebrews 1:1-13).

This passage from the Bible, in just a few verses, shows that Christianity and Islam can never be reconciled.  Christian teaching about Jesus is anathema to Islam, so all the “Christian” namby-pamby do-gooders who try to find common ground between the two religions, and who say that Allah is the same God of Islam and Christianity, are deceivers and false teachers, and will bring all who listen to and believe them, into the same hell to which they are destined.  Here we have Jesus as being the final revelation of God – he is not just a prophet or the final prophet – he is the final revelation itself.  He is the end, the goal, the purpose, the fulfillment, of all prophecy.  The next revelation from heaven will be when Jesus returns in great power and glory to put all things right, make an end of this sinful world, and judge all mankind.

This passage also reveals very clearly, unequivocally, and unapologetically, that Jesus is the Son, eternally begotten of the Father, Creator of heaven and earth, and is so because he is God.  He is not the Father and the Father is not the Son; BUT both are God; as it says in the passage: “But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever”; and, “therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness”.  And though the Father and the Son are both equal and of the same substance, the Son willingly subordinates himself to the Father: “But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool?”

For example, where the passage says of Jesus that he is “the express image of his person” i.e. of the Father, the definition of “express image” in Strong’s Concordance is: “The phrase expresses the fact that the Son ‘is both personally distinct from, and yet literally equal to, Him of whose essence He is the imprint.’  The Son of God is not merely his ‘image’…He is the ‘image’ or impress of His substance, or essence.  It is the fact of complete similarity which this word stresses” (entry 5481 in Strong’s Greek Dictionary).

Infidels love to mock Christians for believing that God can be three-yet-One, a trinity of Persons but one God.  And the concept to them is open to question because it seems impossible according to all known laws and principles of physics and any other discipline or science.  But God is not bound by the physical laws which bind us.  He created the vast universe yet is greater than it, he stands outside it; he holds it in his hand; he transcends it; he is not bound by its laws.  He is God!!  We finite creatures can never comprehend the being of God – he is unique and words can never come near to describing him.  All we know about God is what he has revealed to us.  We can never know any more about him than this.  And we don’t need to.  So to try and analyse and explain his triune being is futile – we just need to believe what God has revealed about himself.

So when Jesus does identify and equate himself with the Father, he always reveals a triune Godhead: “For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one” (1 John 5:7).  Thus he cannot be Allah because Allah identifies himself as a unity; and he insists he has no son.  “On the Day when We will gather the righteous to the Most Merciful, as guests.  And herd the sinners into hell, like animals to water.  They will have no power of intercession, except for someone who has an agreement with the Most Merciful.   And they say, ‘The Most Merciful has begotten a son.’  You have come up with something monstrous.  At which the heavens almost rupture, and the earth splits, and the mountains fall and crumble.  Because they attribute a son to the Most Merciful.  It is not fitting for the Most Merciful to have a son” (Itani, T. 2014, p131, “Qur’an in English, surah “Mary (Maryam”) verses 85-92).

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.  He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:16-18).

References

Itani, Talal, translator, 2014, Qur’an in English, pub. ClearQur’an.com (for Kindle)

Strong, J.  Greek Dictionary of the New Testament (Ref: 5481) in “The New Strong’s Expanded Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible”, 2001 Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN