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Is Jesus God?

by James Garlow, Ph.D. , Senior Pastor of Skyline Wesleyan Church in La Mesa, California and by Peter Jones, Ph. D. , Executive Director, Christian Witness in a Pagan Planet

"Is Jesus God?" Many have questioned the claims of Jesus' divinity; seeing it as a legend grow from the blind faith of Christianity's naive followers. However, The Da Vinci Code claims something more disturbing: that at the Council of Nicaea the Emperor Constantine rejected the earthly Jesus and made him divine for the first time. Brown writes on Nicaea: 'until that moment in history, Jesus was viewed by His followers as a mortal prophet'a great and powerful man, but a man nonetheless. A mortal.' Or again on the same page: 'Constantine turned Jesus into a deity who existed beyond the scope of the human world, an entity whose power was unchallengeable' (p. 315).

Is Jesus God - the Apostles thought so

Some of this is true. Certainly the Council of Nicaea did assert that Jesus was fully God. But Brown is wrong in two ways here. First of all, belief in the full divinity of Jesus was present from the outset of the Christian faith, not just from the time of Constantine and Nicaea. The letters of Paul, for example, written in the first century, show that the early Christians believed that Jesus was God. Paul speaks of Jesus in a way that a Jew would only speak of God. He calls him 'Lord (kurios)', the word used of God in the Old Testament, and he applies Old Testament texts to Jesus that speak about God himself. A good example occurs in his description of Jesus in Philippians 2:9-11:

Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Here Paul applies to Jesus Christ words that in the prophecy of Isaiah in the Old Testament refer to God alone:

Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other. By myself have I sworn, my mouth has uttered in all integrity a word that will not be revoked: Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear. (Isaiah 45:22-23)

Lest we think that this was just something that Paul invented, we may note the many ways in which the Gospels themselves indicate the divinity of Jesus. In Mark 1:1-3, for example, we find a similar application to Jesus of an Old Testament text about God. John the Baptist comes to prepare the way for Jesus, but we read that in the desert he proclaimed 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him'. This is a quotation from Isaiah 40:3, where the 'Lord' is God himself. John prepared for Jesus, which in itself was preparing for God.

Is Jesus God -Early Church literature taught so

Christian literature from just after New Testament times also speaks of Jesus plainly as God. Ignatius of Antioch (who had died by about 107), wrote this of Jesus to the church at Ephesus:

'Very Flesh, yet Spirit too; Uncreated, and yet born; God-and-Man in One agreed' (§ 7; Early Christian Writings, p. 63)

Secondly, Brown is wrong when he claims that the four Gospels downplay the humanity and mortality of Jesus. This is an incredible claim, since it makes absolutely no sense of what we find in the Gospels. John declares emphatically that 'the Word became flesh' (1:14). Jesus in the Gospels is born, grows, eats, sleeps, is in agony, weeps, and dies. The Gospels actually seek to show that Jesus was a man.

There is a great irony here. Brown accuses the Gospels of denying the true humanity of Jesus, but it was the Gnostics, the authors of those other gospels that Brown favours, who denied the humanity of Jesus. This is Gnosticism 101: anyone who knows anything about Gnosticism knows this. Far from the Gnostics being wonderfully in favour of earthly existence, they were the ones who hated the flesh. They propagated a heresy which denied the true humanity of Jesus and held that he only appeared to be human (hence it was known as 'docetism', from the Greek verb dokew, 'to seem'). It was not Constantine who came up with this heresy, it was the Gnostics.

What to look for when answering "Is Jesus God?"

"Is Jesus God?" - When answering this question, we need to look at the facts about Jesus, the history of Jesus and the miracles of Jesus. But we can surely know that Jesus divinity was believed by Christians centuries before Constantine ever lived.

Is Jesus God?

Excerpted from:
Garlow, James L. and Peter Jones Cracking Da Vinci's Code
© 2004 Cook Communications, Colorado Springs, CO pp.22-23

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