The heart of Christian theology centers around the person of Jesus Christ. However, before we can begin to defend the truth of the faith we need to first ask if Jesus really was who He and His followers said He was.
“Jesus Christ is the Son of God! King of kings and Lord of lords! He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life!”
For many of us growing up in the church, the truth of Jesus’ divinity is something that has been sadly assumed and taken for granted more than it has been defended. But a simple and honest question is enough to start a journey down the road of doubt and disbelief. Maybe you’ve been asked to provide evidence for Christ’s divinity outside of the Bible? Or maybe you’ve been challenged to provide evidence that what we have in the Bible wasn’t made up? Or if the Bible really did record history, you’ve been challenged to refute the objection that the miracles and the resurrection are but fabricated stories or legends that evolved over time. These are all very real questions and ones I have encountered many times as a writer of apologetics.
In order to answer these objections thoroughly and comprehensively, we need to resist the urge to give an immediate answer. If we don’t we can easily wind up using further assumptions to defend our position, assumptions that then need to be addressed and defended themselves. Therefore, the most comprehensive road to defending the truth and historicity of the Christian faith is to start at the very beginning and build our way up. I am not talking about Adam and Eve or the book of Genesis but with Jesus Christ Himself. Did He claim to be divine? Is there any Biblical evidence to suggest so? How convincing is that evidence? This is where we will begin this long but profound and life-changing journey. A journey I have been taking myself over the past four years.
Before we begin I must highlight a few notes and caveats. Firstly, although this series on the divine claims of Jesus and the following series on the resurrection will be comprehensive they will still be kept as short and as basic as possible. Many of the arguments and data that will be used are found in many of the books in the recommended resource section. I can only provide a beginning to this journey. Secondly, this series of posts will be working with a few assumptions in mind. I will not be attempting to defend the existence of the historical Jesus and I will only touch on the general historical reliability of the NT text if it is so needed. These are two entirely separate subjects from the two I will be looking at here. I will, however, look into them at a later date. With that information noted we can begin.
The best way to search for Biblical evidence for the divine claims of Jesus is to use the Old Testament to find out what God called Himself and what role He played in His creation. We can use examples in the Gospels to prove that Jesus claimed to be divine but if we do not understand how they relate to the God of the Old Testament we would have succeeded in going nowhere. Jesus claimed to be the Son of God and both the Wisdom and the Word of God. But who was God and what was He called? I will write the title in italics and the examples of usage by God and Jesus Christ below.
The First and the Last/The Beginning and the End
- Thus saith 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. (Isaiah 44:6)
- Hearken unto me, O Jacob and Israel, my called; I am he; I am the first, I also am the last. (Isaiah 48:12)
- And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, 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. (Revelation 1:17-18)
- And unto the angel of the church in Smyrna write; These things saith the first and the last, which was dead, and is alive; (Revelation 2:8)
Forgiver of Sins
- If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. (2 Chronicles 7:14)
- Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; (Psalm 103:2-3)
- I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins. (Isaiah 43:25)
- When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee. But there was certain of the scribes sitting there, and reasoning in their hearts, Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? who can forgive sins but God only?…. But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (he saith to the sick of the palsy,) (Mark 2:5-7, 10)
- Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven. And they that sat at meat with him began to say within themselves, Who is this that forgiveth sins also? (Luke 7:47-49)
- Into thine hand I commit my spirit: thou hast redeemed me, O Lord God of truth. (Psalm 31:5)
- Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. (John 14:6)
Referenced from NT Writers
- But ye have not so learned Christ; If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: (Ephesians 4:20-21)
Light of the World
- The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1)
- The sun shall be no more thy light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee: but the Lord shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory. Thy sun shall no more go down; neither shall thy moon withdraw itself: for the Lord shall be thine everlasting light, and the days of thy mourning shall be ended. (Isaiah 60:19-20)
- Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life. (John 8:12)
- I must work the works of him that sent me, while it is day: the night cometh, when no man can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. (John 9:4-5)
Alpha and Omega
- And he said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. (Revelation 21:6)
- And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. (Revelation 22:12-13)
- The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. (Psalm 23:1)
- Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, thou that leadest Joseph like a flock; thou that dwellest between the cherubims, shine forth. (Psalm 80:1)
- I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep….. I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine (John 10:11, 14)
- And Moses said unto 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. (Exodus 3:13-14)
- Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am. (John 8:58)
Glory Belongs to God Alone
- I am the Lord: that is my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images. (Isaiah 42:8)
- Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ (John 8:54 ESV)
- Therefore, when he was gone out, Jesus said, Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God be glorified in him, God shall also glorify him in himself, and shall straightway glorify him. (John 13:31-32)
What these allusions make clear is that, if true, Jesus claimed to be identified with the God of the Jews and not merely a “new god” or an “additional god.” He didn’t claim to be a new supernatural entity that was to be worshipped above other gods including the God of Israel, He claimed to be the Son of the God of Israel Himself made flesh. That is an astonishing and, if I may add, incredibly foolish thing to say had it not been true (one only needs to see how the Pharisees responded, and that was with the support of Christ’s miracles!). Without a sign or piece of evidence to support them, his claims would have been blasphemous and heretical. Furthermore, these claims would not have gone over well with the Jews had the story of Jesus been a mere invention at the time.
However, did Jesus really claim to speak these things? Perhaps He was really nothing but a normal man who did marvelous things, so to remember His legacy, centuries later the church ascribed these claims to Jesus themselves. It is this theory that we will turn to next.