Who Did Jesus Claim to Be?
Many have come and claimed to know the way to God. Did Jesus do the same, or does the evidence show that Jesus actually made the claim that he is God, come in the flesh to save mankind? This is the most important question in our investigation.
Organizations like the Jehovah’s Witness, secular media, and popular fictional stories like The Da Vinci Code will try to tell you that Jesus is not God. Some will insist that Jesus was made into God by men in the third century at the Council of Nicea. Because the vast majority of people have never examined the evidence themselves, many just accept statements. The question is what does the evidence reveal about Jesus identity. Here we will examine who Jesus himself claimed to be in the Scriptures, numerous other scriptures and what the early Church fathers believed and taught about Jesus’ identity hundreds of years prior to the Council of Nicea. (More information on Nicea: http://www.gotquestions.org/council-of-Nicea.html)
Jesus Had to Walk a Fine Line
Let me ask you a question. What would Jesus have needed to do to prove to those around him beyond all possible doubt that he was God? Hover in the sky and command the thunder and the lightning? Raise a bunch of people from their graves and have them all stumble into Jerusalem in a mob? What would it take to convince (beyond all possible doubt) every single person (including you) that he is God?
Now if every person at the time of Jesus’ existence on this earth believed beyond all possible doubt that He was God, would they have crucified him? Personally, I think the obvious answer is no. So the point here is that Jesus could not have walked around with a Big G on his shirt, proving to everyone he was God come in the flesh. If he had, the crucifixion and the payment for the sins of the world, as the Bible teaches, would have never taken place. The truth is that Jesus had to walk a fine line so that they would crucify him. That said, the overwhelming evidence Jesus is God is there, for all who are willing to investigate.
Who Did Jesus Claim to be in Scripture?
- Jesus Claimed to be God.
In the Old Testament, God calls Himself, “I Am.” In the New Testament, Jesus uses the same name; the Jews realized what He was saying and picked up rocks to stone Him because they knew He was claiming to be God. The Pharisee’s crucified Jesus for His claim to be God.
“God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ And He said, ‘Say this to the people of Israel, I AM has sent me to you’” (Exodus 3:14 NIV).
“Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I Am,’ so they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple” (John 8:58-59).
- Jesus Claimed to be the Object of Prayer.
Jesus claimed to be the mediator between God and man, thus He was claiming to be God. How would you respond if I asked you to pray in my name? “Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son” (John 14:13).
- Jesus Claimed to Forgive Sins.
We can all forgive someone for sinning against us personally. But of the numerous times Jesus forgave sins, He had just met the people, so they had not sinned against Him personally. He was forgiving their sins against God; something only God can do.
“‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’ Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, ‘Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?’” (Mark 2:5-7, emphasis added).
- Jesus Claimed to be Worthy of Honor Due God.
“The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him” (John 5: 22-23).
- Jesus Claimed to be the Messiah.
“The woman said to him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things’ Jesus said to her, ‘I who speak to you am he’” (John 4:25-26).
“Caiaphas asks Jesus, ‘Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?’ And Jesus said, ‘I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven’” (Mark 14:61-62).
- Jesus Claimed to be Equal in Authority with God.
“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (Matthew 24:35).
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matthew 28:18).
- Jesus Claimed to be Yahweh (LORD)
In the Old Testament, God is referred to in many ways. In the New Testament, the same attributes are applied to Jesus, suggesting that He is God in the flesh.
Old Testament Name New Testament
Psalm 23:1 Shepherd Heb. 13:20
Isa. 44:6 First and Last Rev. 1:17
Isa. 40:28 Creator Col. 1:16-17
Isa. 62:5 Bridegroom Matt. 25:1
Ps. 27:1 Light John 8:12
Isa. 43:11 Savior John 4:42
Isa. 42:8 God’s Glory John 17:5
1 Sam. 2:6 Giver of Life John 5:21
Deut. 32:4 Rock 1 Cor. 10:4
Joel 3:12 Judge 2 Cor. 5:10
- Jesus Accepted Worship reserved for God alone on at least Ten Occasions.
The earliest New Testament manuscripts are written in Greek. When the word, “worship,” is used in the following verses, the original Greek word used for “worship” is “proskuneó”. The same exact word is used in the Greek every time the New Testament refers to worshipping God, to only worship God. Here is an example: “And Jesus answered him, ‘It is written, You shall worship (proskuneó) the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve’” (Luke 4:8, emphasis added).
- a) Mother of James and John – Matthew 20:20
- b) Possessed man – Mark 5:6
- c) The Great Commission: “And when they saw him they worshiped “proskuneó” him, but some doubted” (Matthew 28:17, emphasis added).
- d) The resurrected Jesus revealed himself to Thomas: “Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’Jesus said to him,‘Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’” (John 20:28-29, emphasis added).
- e) Jesus revealed himself resurrected to the women at the empty tomb: “And behold, Jesus met them and said,‘Greetings!’And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped “proskuneó” ” (Matthew 28:9, emphasis added).
- f) A Canaanite woman – Matthew 15:25
- g) “Jesus and Peter walked on the water and Jesus calmed the storm as the disciples watched from the boat. And those in the boat worshiped “proskuneó” him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’” (Matthew 14:33, emphasis added). Can you imagine what you would think and do if Jesus displayed control over nature itself?
- h) A healed leper – Matthew 8:2
- i) A rich young ruler – Matthew 9:18
- j) “The blind man who could now see: He said, ‘Lord, I believe,’ and he worshiped “proskuneó” him.” (John 9:38, emphasis added). Blind and now you could see, who do you think you would believe Jesus was? What would you do?
Jesus was also a rabbi, and the first duty of a rabbi is to point out blasphemy. Yet Jesus never rebuked anyone who worshiped Him and even commended Thomas in John 20:29. In contrast, the apostle John tried to worship an angel in Revelation 22:9 and was rebuked. Jesus, on the other hand, accepts worship reserved for God alone. He was more than an angel. Even as a newborn child, Jesus was worshipped by the wise men: “And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped “proskuneó” him. (Matthew 2:11, emphasis added).
- Jesus Claimed to be One with God the Father.
It is clear that the Jewish witnesses had no trouble figuring out that Jesus was claiming to be God. They did not believe He was God, so in the end they crucified Him for blasphemy (claiming to be God, using God’s name in vain). If He was not God, they would have been right.
“‘I and the Father are one.’ The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, ‘I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?’ The Jews answered him, ‘It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God’” (John 10:30-33).
10) Why Does Jesus Call Himself the Son of Man?
In the first verse below, “Son of Man” is the God figure in the Old Testament. In John 8:28 and in eighty-two other instances in the New Testament, Jesus calls himself the Son of Man.
“I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13-14).
“So Jesus said to them, ‘When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me’” (John 8:28).
11) The book of Revelation’s was written after Jesus resurrection. At this date after the crucifixion, a very clear revelation of Jesus’ identity was given to us. This book tells us that it is the revelation of Jesus Christ. “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John” (Revelation 1:1).
In Revelation, Jesus identifies himself as the Alpha and the Omega, First and the Last, and the Beginning and the End. The Bible specifically reserves these titles for God himself.
In Revelation 1:17-18, we see Jesus’ words claiming to be the First and Last, an Old Testament title in Isaiah 44:6 reserved for God. He also says, “I was dead and behold, I am alive forevermore,” confirming that it is Jesus speaking.
“When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, Jesus speaks: ‘Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades’” (Revelation 1:17-18, emphasis added).
In Revelation 1:8, God calls himself the Alpha and Omega: “’I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty’” (Revelation 1:8, emphasis added).
In Revelation 21:6 and 22:13, Jesus calls himself the Alpha and Omega. “And he said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end’.” (Revelation 21:6) “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” (Revelation 22:13)
Numerous additional scriptures that state Jesus is God, God the Son.
“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). (Immanuel means God with us)
In chapter nine of Isaiah, there is further information to pinpoint the child and reveal His identity. He will be born of a virgin and His name shall be called Mighty God and Everlasting Father. Jesus is the only one who can possibly fit these prophecies.
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace”(Isaiah 9:6, emphasis added).
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). Matthew 1:23
In Acts 20:28, we see Scripture tells us it was God’s blood that purchased us. “Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.”
“Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.” 1 Timothy 3:16
“waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,” Titus 2:13
These verses show God the Father talking to Jesus (God the Son) and calling Jesus God: “But of the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions’ And ‘You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end.’”
“To keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, whom no one has ever seen or can see. To him be honor and eternal dominion. Amen.” 1 Timothy 6:14-16
“For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily,” Colossians 2:9
“Who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,” Philippians 2:6
The Early Church Fathers Believed and Taught That Jesus is God
In any investigation, it is important that the evidence be secured to avoid tampering. With a criminal investigation, the evidence is kept in a locked room. If anyone desires to remove the evidence from that room, their identity is recorded in the chain of custody. The initial Early Church Fathers start with the first followers of Jesus directly after the original disciples. These men wrote passing on what they received directly from the disciples to their students, and this continued in successive generations. We know the identity of these men, and since they were much closer to the actual events than we are, valuable information can be learned by following the chain of custody and reading what they wrote far before the Council of Nicea. We can learn if they believed and taught that Jesus was God and much more. Here are some quotes and a link to several more.
- Ignatius of Antioch (c. 50–117): “For our God, Jesus the Christ, was conceived by Mary according to God’s plan, both from the seed of David and of the Holy Spirit.” (Ignatius, Letter to the Ephesians, 18.2. Translation from Michael Holmes, Apostolic Fathers, 197)
- Polycarp of Smyrna (69–155): “Now may the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the eternal high priest himself, the Son of God Jesus Christ, build you up in faith and truth . . ., and to us with you, and to all those under heaven who will yet believe in our Lord and God Jesus Christ and in his Father who raised him from the dead.” (Polycarp, Philippians, 12:2. Holmes, AF, 295)
- Epistle of Barnabas(written c. 70–130): “If the Lord submitted to suffer for our souls, even though he is Lord of the whole world, to whom God said at the foundation of the world, “Let us make humankind according to our image and likeness,” how is it, then, that he submitted to suffer at the hands of humans?” (Epistle of Barnabas, 5.5. Holmes, AF, 393)
- Justin(again): “Permit me first to recount the prophecies, which I wish to do in order to prove that Christ is called both God and Lord of hosts.” (Ibid., 36. ANF, I:212.)
- Tatian(110–172): “We do not act as fools, O Greeks, nor utter idle tales when we announce that God was born in the form of man.” (Tatian, Address to the Greeks, 21. ANF, II:74)
- Irenaeus(120-202): “Christ Jesus [is] our Lord, and God, and Savior, and King, according to the will of the invisible Father.” (Ibid., 1.10.1. ANF, I:330)
- Clement of Alexandria(c. 150–215): “This Word, then, the Christ, the cause of both our being at first (for He was in God) and of our well-being, this very Word has now appeared as man, He alone being both, both God and man…” (Clement of Alexandria, Exhortation to the Heathen, 1. ANF, II:173)
- Tertullian (c. 160–225): “For God alone is without sin; and the only man without sin is Christ, since Christ is also God.” (Tertullian, Treatise on the Soul, 41. ANF, III:221)
- Hippolytus (c. 170–235): “The Logos alone of this God is from God himself; wherefore also the Logos is God, being the substance of God.” (Hippolytus, Refutation of All Heresies, 10.29. ANF, V:151)
- Origen(c. 185–254): “Jesus Christ . . . in the last times, divesting Himself (of His glory), became a man, and was incarnate although God, and while made a man remained the God which He was.” (Origen, De Principiis, Preface, 4. ANF, IV:240)
The above quotes were taken directly from an excellent article that contains 25 quotes in all. It can be found here: http://thecripplegate.com/did-the-early-church-affirm-jesus-deity/
Read the writings from the Early Church Fathers: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/churchfathers.html
No matter whom you or anyone else in popular culture think Jesus is—based on the evidence, it’s ludicrous to say that Jesus never claimed to be God. Format adapted from Dr. Frank Turek’s video series I Do Not Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist.
“Additionally there is an enormous difference between who Jesus claimed to be when compared to other leaders of different beliefs. Jesus claimed to be able to forgive sin, He accepted worship numerous times, and He said He was the only way to the Father. Only Jesus claimed equality with a sole, supreme deity. According to E.O. James, an authority on comparative religions, nowhere else had it ever been claimed that a historical founder of any religion was the one and only supreme deity. Only Jesus spoke on his own unquestioned authority. Zoroaster and Muhammad acted as spokesmen for God, while Socrates and Buddha urged every man to consult his own conscience.” Edwin M. Yamauchi, Professor Emeritus of history, Miami University, http://www.irr.org/yamauchi.html (emphasis added).
“Indeed, it’s shocking to me how much of Jesus’ life can be established, including his radical personal claims, his crucifixion, his burial in a tomb, the discovery of his empty tomb, his post-mortem appearances, and his disciples’ coming to believe suddenly and sincerely that God had raised him from the dead. We therefore have quite solid reasons for believing in Christ on the basis of the historical facts preserved about him in the gospels.” Dr.William Lane Craig, www.reasonablefaith.org (emphasis added).
“Buddha did not claim to be God; Moses never said that he was Yahweh; Mohammed did not identify himself as Allah; and nowhere will you find Zoroaster claiming to be Ahura Mazda. Yet Jesus, the carpenter from Nazareth, said that he who has seen Him (Jesus) has seen the Father (John 14:9).” Josh McDowell, Evidence That Demands a Verdict, rev. ed., Here’s Life Publishers, 1979 http://www.josh.org/
Conclusion – Jesus’ claim to be God is supported in many ways. He gave us the ultimate proof by rising from the dead as He predicted. Therefore, Jesus is God who came in the flesh.
I thought Jesus was the Son of God
He is the Son of God; He shares the nature of God with the Father and the Holy Spirit. This is what is called the Trinity—one God but in three distinct persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. A very simple but limited analogy that seems to help people understand the Trinity is H2O. It can be water, ice, or steam—but the nature of all three is H2O. It is the Father, Son and Holy Spirit—but the nature of all three is God. The Trinity is hard to fully comprehend, but it’s not contradictory since there are not three Gods and one God at the same time.
Some object because the word Trinity is not found in the Bible. But the word “Bible” is not found in the Bible. The word “monotheism” (teaching that there is only one God) found in the Bible but it is very clearly taught. Following the evidence we discover that the Bible teaches there is only one God but it also teaches us of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. It also alludes to the Trinity in several areas: Then God said, “Let us make man in our image…..” Gen 1:26 and “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” Mathew 28:19 for example. The trinity was being taught from the start by the original disciples and passed on to the Early Church Fathers who also taught it.
“But concerning baptism, thus shall ye baptize. Having first recited all these things, baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit in living (running) water…But if thou has neither, then pour water on the head thrice in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Didache, 35-60 AD J.B. Lightfoot, ed., The Apostolic Fathers (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1976), 126.
“In the case of this heresy, which supposes itself to possess the pure truth, in thinking that one cannot believe in One Only God in any other way than by saying that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are the very selfsame Person.(31) As if in this way also one were not All, in that All are of One, by unity (that is) of substance; while the mystery of the dispensation is still guarded, which distributes the Unity into a Trinity, placing in their order the three Persons — the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost: three, however, not in condition, but in degree; not in substance, but in form; not in power, but in aspect; yet of one substance, and of one condition, and of one power, inasmuch as He is one God, from whom these degrees and forms and aspects are reckoned, under the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” Tertullian (c. 160–225):. Part Second, Section 7. Against Praxeas, Chapter 2.
Two excellent resources on the Trinity and deity of Jesus and when it was first taught:
How could Jesus be God and Man?
The Bible tells us Jesus was a man and God incarnate; deity willingly clothed with humanity. When reading the Bible, it is important to consider who is speaking and who the audience is. For example, many people, who do not believe in the Bible, claim that Jesus said, “God forgives” and think it applies to everyone. But in context, this is spoken only in reference to those who have placed their faith in Jesus. The importance of context is obvious.
The question, “How could Jesus be both God and man?” needs to be asked in two ways. Did Jesus get hungry? As God, no; as man, yes. Did Jesus get tired? As God, no; as man, yes. Did Jesus die? As God, no; as man, yes. Dr. William Lane Craig uses an analogy that utilizes the movie Avatar, to explain the two natures of Jesus:
“I explained the doctrine of Christ’s being one person who has two natures and used the movie Avatar to illustrate the doctrine (“Avatar” is another word for incarnation). The movie tells the story of Jake Sully, a disabled marine who becomes an avatar among a race of extra-terrestrials called the Na’vi. He becomes physically incarnated among them as one of them. At the same time he doesn’t cease to be human. So Jake has both a human nature and a Na’vi nature. In the movie these two natures have strikingly different powers. If you were to ask, “Can Jake Sully run?” The answer would have to be, “Yes and no: yes, in his Na’vi nature but no, in his human nature.” “I told the audience that if you can make sense of Avatar, you can make sense of Christ’s incarnation. For in a similar way, Christ has both a divine nature and a human nature. These natures have different powers. In his human nature Christ experienced all the limitations intrinsic to human nature. But in his divine nature he had supernatural powers. Just as Jake Sully in his Na’vi nature became the Savior of the Na’vi people, so Christ in his human nature becomes the Savior of mankind.” William Lane Craig, Christian philosopher and theologian, debate with Yusuf Ismail, www.reasonablefaith.org
In the Bible, two of the titles for Jesus are the Son of God and the Son of Man. Understanding this when reading Scripture as a whole allows us to understand objections to the deity of Jesus. Here the Bible teaches that Jesus set aside his divinity to become a man, thus the God/Man. “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” Philippians 2:5-8
Objections that Jesus is God
When we hear anyone object to Jesus being God, we first must remember the abundance of Scriptures and the beliefs of the early Church that indicate to us Jesus is God the Son. Remembering that Jesus had to walk a fine line so they would crucify him, we should expect to see some verses that are harder to understand like the following two verses skeptics often use to claim that Jesus is not God. Taken alone they seem to contradict Jesus divinity, but we must remember they are heavily outweighed by scriptures and evidence that indicate Jesus is divine. Is there a reasonable answer to these objections.
“….because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.” John 14:28
“But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” Mark 13:32
The two verses above do not say explicitly that Jesus is not God. That needs to be read into the verses. Considering Philippians 2: 5-8 above and many others, this verse could easily be interpreted that when Jesus walked as a man emptied of his divinity, the Father was at that moment Greater than He was.
God the Son
The Bible is extremely clear in identifying Jesus as God the Son. Even skeptics like Jehovah’s Witnesses cannot deny this fact. So the next time you meet a skeptic, ask them these questions. 1) Do you believe that a human son is less human than his father? I think we all agree the obvious answer is no. 2) Then, how can Jesus, as God’s Son, be less God than His Father is God?