All Christians should be biblically familiar with the real meaning of what most call “Christmas”, which is the most important event in all of human history: God became flesh. It is a celebration of God the Son adding a new nature and becoming flesh, in order to live the perfect life and die on the cross fulfilling the requirements of God’s perfect and holy justice. This produced both forgiveness of our sins and the evasion of divine wrath due our account because of it (cf. 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:13). The fact that the eternal Word, Jesus Christ, stepped into His own creation to provide redemption for sinners is the theological trademark and faith to which true Christians are devoted.

Essential Part of the Gospel 

The perpetual incarnation of God the Son is one of the most essential and foundational doctrines of Christendom – not only does it define true Christianity, but it defines the work of the Son—the gospel itself! The Incarnation is fully revealed in the NT. Paul calls it a “mystery”[1] meaning that it was once hidden (pre-NT), but now has been revealed (NT). However, we do see allusions of it in the OT (cf. Isa. 9:6: “child[humanity] will be born to us, a son [deity] will be given to us”). The Apostle Paul says in 2 Timothy 2:8: “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel.” The term translated “descendant” is from the Greek spermatos (from sperma), which means that He was from the literal bloodline of David, nothing metaphorical or figurative about it—God actually became flesh (cf. Rom. 9:5). Only as God-man could Paul say that is was the “Lord of glory” that was crucified (1 Cor. 2:8; cf. 1 Sam. 15:29; Acts 7:1), or say in his farewell address to the elders/overseers (pastors) of the church of Ephesus: “the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood (Acts 20:28). God’s “own blood” is the blood of the God-man, Jesus Christ(Acts 20:28).

JOHN 1:1 (trans. mine): In the beginning before time, the Word was (ēn) already existing [eternally, cf. Phil. 2:6], and the Word was with [pros], distinctly and intimately, God [the Father], and the Word as to His essential nature/essence [i.e., qualitatively] was fully God [theos—in the same sense, but not the same person as that of God the Father].” Two distinct persons sharing the same nature of God.

JOHN 1:14 (trans. mine): And the Word [who was God] became flesh and tabernacled among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the one and only, unique one, from the Father, full of grace and truth.” The verb eskēnōsen (“dwelt among us,” NASB) derives its meaning from the Hebrew term sākan referring to Yahweh coming down to earth to dwell (cf. Exod. 25:8; cf. 2 Sam. 7:5-6). In verse 1, the Apostle John positively affirmed that the Word was (a) eternal/preexistent (1:1a), (b) distinct from God the Father (1:1b), and (c) absolutely God (1:1c). In verse 14, John further identifies the bodily incarnation of God the eternal Word showing that Jesus Christ was not merely a temporary “theophany” (theos phainō, lit., “God appearance”; e.g., Gen. chaps. 18-19), but rather “the Word became flesh [ho logos sarx egeneto].” The Greek here clearly indicates that God the Son did not “wrap” Himself in flesh as one would put on an outfit or costume, but He actually BECAME (egeneto) flesh.

JOHN 1:18: “No one has seen God [the Father] at any time; the only begotten God who is [ho ōn] in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.” The prologue of John (vv. 1-18) contains some of the highest Christology in the NT (as does the prologues of Col. and Heb.). After having established the Word’s deity (including His role as the Creator), preexistence, distinction from the Father, and His incarnation, now in verse 18, the perpetual incarnation of the eternal Word is expressed. The phrase (“who is”) present active articular participle ho ōn (“who is,” lit., “the one being”) denoting timeless ongoing existence (as with Rom. 9:5: “Christ according to the flesh, who is [ho ōn, i.e., “the one who is/being always”] over all, God blessed forever. Amen.”

Systematic theologian, Robert Reymond remarks on the significance of the articular participle: “The present participle ho ōn . . . indicates a continuing state of being: ‘who is continually in the bosom of the Father’” (Reymond, Systematic Theology) In the LXX of Exodus 3:14, we find the same articular participle denoting Yahweh’s eternal existence: Egō eimi ho ōn, literally, “I am the eternal/always existing One.” Thus, “No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is [ho ōn, i.e., “the one who is/being always”] in the bosom of the Father, He has explained [“exegeted”] Him.”

PHILIPPIANS 2:7: He “emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, and being made in the likeness of men.” Verse 6 starts with the affirmation that Christ is “always existing” in the form/nature of God (as clearly taught in John 1:1, 5:17-18; Titus 2:13; Rev. 1:8, 22:13 et al). However, He “did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,” that is, to be used for His own independent advantage. “But [He Himself][2] emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross”— God the Son emptied Himself by incarnating Himself in order to provide definite redemption by His vicarious and perfect life and substitutionary death on the cross.

The Necessity of God Becoming Man

First, no “mere man” can provide redemption (cf. Ps. 49:7-8), but as perfect man and fully God, Jesus’ redemptive work has infinite value, as He declared on the cross, “It is finished”! Second, as perfect man,Christ lived the perfect life fulfilling the “covenant of works” that Adam did not keep and to which all humans are related (cf. Gen. 2:17; Hosea 6:7; Rom. 5:5-13). God required perfect obedience, which resulted in the promise of eternal life. Adam, as well as all humans, could not keep this covenant. So, God enacted a new covenant, a covenant of grace, in which salvation is granted to sinners, but not on grounds of their own merits, rather the merits of the incarnate “God Christ,” the “second Adam,” who met all the requirements of the justice of God in not only His vicarious cross work, but also His perfect and substitutionary life. That is why Paul says that we “shall be saved by His life” (Rom. 5:10).

Hence, the incarnation of God the Son was the very means God provided to redeem His people—“the Word became flesh and dwelled among us.” Only because the Son is both God and man is He now our Priest in which He intercedes (mediates) forever between God the Father and us (cf. 1 Tim. 2:5; Heb. 7:24-25).

The Perpetual Incarnation

The incarnation of the second person of the Trinity, God the Son, was not a temporary event, rather it was perpetual and is permanent—He is forever more God in the flesh.

COLOSSIANS 2:9:“For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form.” The book of Colossians sharply refutes the dualistic ideology (i.e., spirit vs. matter) of gnostic philosophy that rejected the material/physical world). Some the “Docetic” gnostics went so far as to say it really did not exist—anything physical was illusory only seeming to be real. Hence, they naturally repudiated the concept of Jesus being God in the flesh. Paul opposed this view, definitively presenting the Christ as the Creator of all things and (cf. 1:16-17), and in Him, Christ, presently, continuously, and permanently “dwells” (katoikei) all the fullness (plērōma) of Deity (theotētos) in bodily form (sōmatikōs)—namely, Jesus is God in the flesh. Therefore, against the Gnostics, in 2:9 (and many other places), Paul stresses in the strongest way that in the person of God the Son, Jesus Christ, continuously and permanently dwells all the fullness of God in human flesh.

1 & 2 JOHN. In these two epistles, we find the same problem that Paul addresses in Colossians. The incarnation of Jesus Christ was so essential to the Christian faith that the Apostle John sees it as the ultimate test of true orthodoxy—namely, genuine Christianity. As with Colossians, John provides a sharp refutation against the flesh-denying Gnostics. This is especially seen in 1 John 4:2-3:

By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; 3and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist.

Note the phrase translated “has come” is from the Greek verb elēluthota, which is a perfect active participle (from erchomai, “to come”). The general import of a perfect tense is a completed action occurring in the past with continuous effects; it denotes a present condition or state resulting from a past action (the perfect is used in John 19:30: “It is [has been for all time] finished.” Thus, the literal reading of verse 2 is “Every spirit that confesses/acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come and remains in the flesh is from God.” The two-natured person, God the Son, became and remains in the flesh. John expresses the same in 2 John 1:7 where the present active participle is used to express the same thing:

For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming [and remaining] in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist.

The Apostle John sees that believing that Jesus Christ is God in the flesh presently and forevermore is a mark of true Christianity. In fact, so important is this biblical truth to John that anyone who denies it (as with JWs) is not only characterized as “the spirit of the antichrist,” but in 2 John 1:7, this person is ho planos (‘the deceiver”) and ho antichristos (“the antichrist”)—note the definite article precedes both nouns.

Scripture explicitly stresses both the necessity and importance of the incarnation—namely, knowing and understanding that Jesus Christ became man and thus remains the God-man forever (cf. Acts 17:31; 1 Tim. 2:5). Hence, we must always include the incarnation and deity of the Lord Jesus Christ in our proclamation of the gospel, just as biblical authors and the early church did—not merely on December 25th.

Because He became flesh, He is our Prophet, Priest, and King. Scripture presents that God the Son actually substituted Himself on behalf of His people, in their place. His cross work perfectly secured salvation for them. Because He became flesh, His substitutionary atonement did not merely make salvation a possibility for all men, but rather it actually and infallibly saved those for whom He died. Christ’s death removed the wrath from those who were effectually called – both Jews and Gentiles, “men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9)—only because God the Son became flesh.

NOTES

[1] By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness: He [or “God”] who was revealed in the flesh. . . .”

[2] Here the reflexive pronoun heauton (“Himself”) precedes “emptied” (heauton ekenōsen, lit., “He Himself emptied”), which denotes a “self-emptying.” 

  

Excerpt from the book of Hebrews (1:8-9) from P46, which is the earliest Greek manuscript of Hebrews (c. A.D. 200)

The prologue of Hebrews is one of the most Christologically significant prologues in the NT. The context of the prologue is crystal clear: The author presents a marked well-defined contrast between all created things (viz., angels and the heavens and the earth) and the eternality of the divine Son (cf. vv. 3, 6, 8), the unchangeable Creator (cf. vv. 2, 8-10-12), who was worshiped as God(v. 6). The author initiates his context by stating first that God’s final revelation is found in His Son alone (i.e., the NT), who is the Creator of all things.

Specifically, in verses 1-2, a contrast is drawn between the particular way God the Father spoke to His people in the OT—“in the prophets in many portions and in many ways”—and how God subsequently speaks to His people today—namely, through His Son: “through whom also He made the world”—God’s final revelation. Thus, it is the apostolic “writings,” concerning the Son, by which God speaks to us today (cf. Eph. 2:20). Verses 3-4 clearly present the Son’s person, nature (as God-man), sacrificial cross-work (“purification of sins”), and exaltation “at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” After affirming that the Son is the Creator of the world in verse 2, the author then exalts the distinct person of the Son as fully God—in the same sense (i.e., the very nature) as that of God the Father.

Hebrews 1:3

“And He [the Son] is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature. . . .” (NASB)[1]

Greek: Hos ōn apaugasma tēs doxēs kai charaktēr tēs hupostaseōs autou.

The entire prologue of Hebrews presents a clear distinction of persons, Jesus, the Son who provided “purification of sins” (vv. 3-4) and the Father, who commands His angels to worship someone other than Himself, the eternal Son. In verses 8-12, the Father directly addresses the Son as a distinct person from Himself: “But of the Son He [the Father] says.”

 Let us now note the fine points of the exegesis of Hebrews 1:3, which provide a fantastic refutation to unitarian groups such as the Muslims, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and especially Oneness Pentecostals who deny the deity and unipersonality of the Son, thus rejecting the biblical revelation of the triune God:

  • He is the radiance of His glory” (hos ōn apaugasma tēs doxēs). As we have noted elsewhere regarding John 1:18 and Romans 9:5, the present tense active participle wn, ōn (“is/being”) is a very significant feature in exegesis.[2] The present participle ōn can indicate a continuing state of being. Here the author says that the Son is always, that is, in a continuing state(ōn) as the radiance of God’s glory, and “exact representation of His nature.”  The present tense participle ōn (“is”/being) in this passage is set in contrast with the aorist epoiēsen (“He made”) in verse 2 and in contrast with the aorist genomenos (“having become”—referring to the incarnation) in verse 4.This is similar to the use of the imperfect ēn (“was”) in John 1:1, which is set in contrast with aorist egeneto (“came to be”) in 1:14, and similar to the use of the present participle huparchōn (“existing/always subsisting”) in Philippians 2:6, which is set in contrast with the aoristgenomenos (“having become”) in verse 7. In each case, there is an outstanding contrast between the eternal preincarnate Son and all things created.
  • “He is the exact representation of His nature” (charaktēr tēs hupostaseōs autou). The present active participle ōn (“is”) at the beginning of the phrase governs the phrase—thus, “He is [ōn, “always is/being”] the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature.” As we commented on Philippians 2:6, Paul expresses the same idea by using the present tense participle huparchōn (“being” NIV) to denote that the Son is always subsisting/existing in the very nature or essence (morphē) of God.The Greek term charaktēr (appearing only here in the NT) refers to the exact reproduction or representation expressing the reality or essence of the very image it is representing. The Septuagint (LXX) usage of charaktēr signifies the exact character or nature of the thing to which it is applied (cf. Lev.13:28; 2 Mac. 4:10; 4 Mac 15:4). It denoted the exact imprint left by a signet ring such as a king, for example, after having been placed into wax—it is his exact non-replicable imprint.[3] It also referred to the “engraving” stamp of a Caesar on a coin that exactly represented his honor, authority, and power. 
  • Louw and Nida define charaktēr as “a representation as an exact reproduction of a particular form or structure—‘exact representation of his being’ He 1.3.” One of the most recognized and cited Greek lexicons, BDAG[4], defines the meaning of charaktēr, as applied to the Son in Hebrews, as something “produced as a representation, reproduction . . . Christ is [charaktēr] an exact representation of (God’s) real being, Heb. 1:3.” In the clearest sense, then, the Son is the “exact representation” of the God’s nature.The Greek term translated “nature” (NASB; “person” in the KJV) is from the Greek term,hupostaseōs (from hupostasis). According to the lexical support, the term carries the meaning of substantial nature,essence, actual being, reality (cf. BDAG). The term indicates “the substantial quality, nature, of any person or thing: Heb. 1:3”(Thayer). Note below how hupostaseōs is rendered in this passage by major translations:
  • “Flawless expression of the nature of God” (Phillips)
  • “The express image of His person” (KJV, NKJV)
  • “The very image of His substance” (ASV)
  • “[The] exact expression of His essence” (ALT)
  • “The true image of his substance” (BBE)
  • “He is an exact copy of God’s nature” (ICB)
  • “The exact reproduction of His essence” (Wuest)
  • “All that God’s Son is and does marks him as God” (TLB)
  • “The very imprint of his being” (NAB)
  • “The exact imprint of God’s very being” (NRSV)
  • “Everything about Him represents God exactly” (NLT)

Even the biblical translation of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the New World Translation (NWT) reflects an accurate meaning: “He is the reflection of [his] glory and the exact representation of his very being”—although they still deny Jesus as God. Therefore, Hebrews 1:3 unambiguously teaches that the Son possesses the “exact nature” of God. Neither king, prophet, mighty man, nor created angel such as Michael the archangel is said to be, or has ever made the claim of being, the charaktēr, that is, the “exact representation” or “express image” of the hupostaseōs—namely, the essence or very nature of God’s Being. Only God can rightfully be the exact representation of the nature of God.

The prologue of Hebrews presents in the most intelligent way that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is fully God and fully man, and adistinct person from God the Father. In light of the striking contrast presented in the prologue of Hebrews (things created vs. the eternal SonCreator of all things), the author affirms straightforwardly in verse 3 that the Son is the eternal God. In a most literal sense, verse 3 says that the Son is (ōn—“always being”) the brightness, the eternal radiance (apaugasma) of the glory of God and the exact representation or impress (charaktēr) of the very nature (hupostaseōs) of God Himself.

Again, no creature can make this claim. Then in Hebrews 1:6, we read that God the Father commands all the angels to worship the Son (see also Dan. 7:14; Matt. 14:33; Rev. 5:13-14). In light of Exodus 20:5 (“You shall not worship them or serve them”), divine worship is restricted to God alone. Thus, only from within a Trinitarian context can the Son be justifiably worshiped.

Further, the Father’s attestation as to His Son’s coequality is plainly stated in verse 8 where we read of God the Father’s direct address to the Son as ho theos (“the God”), whose throne is forever and ever. That the Father addresses “another” person as “God” (the Son) is precisely what the doctrine of the Trinity teaches. In the gospels, the Son addresses His Father as “God,” but here, the Father addresses the Son as “God.”

And finally in verses 10-12, God the Father directly addresses the Son as the unchangeable Creator, the YHWH of Psalm 102:25-27. Note, in verse 10, the Father says to the Son: “You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, And the heavens are the works of Your hands. . . .” Two important points should be considered here, 1) the term “Lord” in the Greek (kurie) is in the vocative case (i.e., the case of direct address) signifying that the Father is actually addressing the Son and 2) verses 10-12 are citations from Psalm 102:25-27, which speak of YHWH as the unchangeable Creator. Therefore, the Father actually identifies the Son and hence addresses Him as the YHWH of Psalm 102—the unchangeable Creator.

Again, only within the context of Trinitarianism can the Son be worshiped by all of the angels and be identified and directly addressed (by God the Father) as both “God” and the “Lord,” that is, the YHWH of Psalm 102:25, the immutable Creator.Hence, along with the prologue of John and Colossians, the Trinity is expressed vividly in the prologue of Hebrews. It has been used historically by Christians to present both a positive affirmation of the deity of the Son and a clear and pointed refutation to the many non-Christian cults who “deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 4),—God the Son.

NOTES

[1] The Amplified version reads: “He is the sole expression of the glory of God [the light-being, the out-raying or radiance of the divine], and He is the perfect imprint and very image of [God’s] nature. . . .”

[2] John 1:18: “No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is [ho ōn, i.e., “the One who is/being always”] in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him” (emphasis added). Romans 9:5: “Whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh,who is [ho ōn] over all, God blessed forever. Amen” (emphasis added).   

[3] The “instrument used in engraving or carving” (Thayer).

[4] BDAG is the abbreviation for Walter Bauer, A Greek English Lexicon.

Throughout the OT, we frequently encounter the “angel of the Lord” (or, “angel of God”—as used interchangeably[1]). The term translated “angel” in both Hebrew (malak) and Greek (aggelos) simply means “messenger.” Although, we find many occurrences and classes/ranks of “angels” in both the OT and NT (some by name/description such as Michael, Gabriel, Satan, sons of God, cherubim, seraphim, etc.), the angel of the Lord in the OT was not a mere “created” angel (as asserted by the JWs). Rather, He was identified as, and claimed to be, YHWH, “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,” “God.” While all unitarian groups (esp. Muslims, JWs, and Oneness Pentecostals) oppose any implication of the deity and thus preexistence of the Son, Jesus Christ, the biblical evidence points to the preincarnate Christ as the identity of the angel of the Lord. Note below some of the more significant examples:

HAGER: In Genesis 16, Hager encountered the angel of the Lord in the desert. In verse 10, the angel of the Lord said to her: “I will greatly multiply your descendants so that they will be too many to count.” In verse 11, the angel of the Lord refers to YHWH in third person: “Because the LORD has given heed to your affliction.” However, note Hager’s words to the angel of the Lord in verse 13: “‘You are a God who sees’; for she said, ‘I even remained alive here after seeing Him?’” First, she addresses the angel as “a God who sees.” And second, she acknowledges that she “remained alive here after seeing Him,” thus echoing Exodus 33:20, where YHWH says, “no man can see Me and live!”

ABRAHAM: In Genesis 18:1-2, we read that “the LORD [YHWH] appeared” to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre. “When he lifted up his eyes and looked, behold, three men were standing opposite him.” Chapters 18 and 19 provide some interesting things pertaining to the preincarnate appearance of Christ as the angel of the Lord—YHWH Himself. First, Genesis 18:1-2 indicates that YHWH had appeared to Abraham. Second, one of the visitors had told Abraham: “I will surely return to you at this time next year; and behold, Sarah your wife will have a son,” which Sarah laughed since she “was old advanced in age” (v. 11). Lastly, verses 13-14 identify one of the visitors as YHWH: “And the LORD [YHWH] said to Abraham, ‘Why did Sarah laugh, saying, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, when I am so old?’ ‘Is anything too difficult for the LORD [YHWH]?’” Also note verses 16-17, where the men spoke of Sodom and Gomorrah: Then the men rose up from there, and looked down toward Sodom; and Abraham was walking with them to send them off. The LORD [YHWH] said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do.”

After Abraham’s interesting dialogue with YHWH (cf. vv. 22-33), we read in chapter 19:1: “Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening as Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom.” Here, only two of the visitors are mentioned. After the two men repeatedly warned of the coming destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, verses 23-24 indicate that

The sun had risen over the earth when Lot came to Zoar. Then the LORD [YHWH] rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the LORD [YHWH] out of heaven (emphasis added).

Literal Hebrew: “Then YHWH rained on Sodom and Gomorrah brimstone and fire FROM the YHWH FROM [min- preposition] Heaven.”

This point cannot be missed. YHWH did something (rained brimstone and fire) from another YHWH in heaven! This can only be consistent with biblical monotheism in the context of Trinitarianism.[2] The angel of the Lord (preincarnate Christ) was one of the visitors; He is called YHWH, and He did something on behalf of another YHWH (the Father) “out of heaven.” Even more, the Targum[3] rendering of Genesis 19:24 reveals the identification of the angel of the Lord as the “Word of the Lord”:

And the Word [Memra] of the Lord had caused showers of favour to descend upon Sedom and Amorah, to the intent that they might work repentance . . . . Behold, then, there are now sent down upon them sulphur and fire from before the Word of the Lord from Heaven. . . . (Targum Pseudo-Jonathan; emphasis added).

MOSES: We all are familiar with Moses’s encounter with the angel of the Lord in Exodus 3:1-6: “Then the angel of the LORD appeared to him” (v. 2). Yet verse 4 indicates that it was “God” who “called to him from the midst of the bush.” Throughout the account, the angel of the Lord is used interchangeably with “God.” Further, in verse 14 (in the LXX), the angel of the Lord claimed that He was the Eternal One—egō eimi ho ōn (lit., “I Am the One/Being”); and in verse 6, He affirmed to Moses: “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Notice Moses’ response to Him: “Then Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.”

GIDEON: In Judges 6:11-24, Gideon also encountered the angel of the Lord[4]: “The angel of the LORD appeared to him and said to him, ‘The LORD is with you, O valiant warrior’” (v. 12). However, because “the sons of Israel did what was evil in the sight of the LORD” (6:1), the “LORD gave them into the hands of Midian seven years” (v. 1), which prompted Gideon to ask the angel of the LORD: “O my lord, if the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the LORD has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian” (v. 13). However, the response of the angel of the Lord in verse 14 clearly identifies Him as YHWH: “The LORD looked at him and said, ‘Go in this your strength and deliver Israel from the hand of Midian. Have I not sent you?’” As in other places, the angel of the Lord is referred to as YHWH (“LORD”). After “the angel of the LORD vanished from his sight” (v. 21), Gideon reveals his understanding that the “angel” to whom he was speaking was not a mere angel, rather, as he stated: “Alas, O Lord God! [Adonay YHWH]. For now I have seen the angel of the LORD face to face” (v. 22). And the Lord Himself said: “Peace to you, do not fear; you shall not die” (v . 23; see Exod. 33:20).

MANOAH: In Judges 13, we find the angel of the Lord announcing to Manoah and his wife of their coming son, Samson, a “Nazirite to God.” Verse 16 (and v. 21) indicates that Manoah knew that this angel was not an ordinary angel, but the angel of the Lord, YHWH Himself. Manoah had wanted to prepare some food for Him, but the angel of the Lord said to Manoah: “‘Though you detain me, I will not eat your food, but if you prepare a burnt offering, then offer it to the LORD’ For Manoah did not know that He was the angel of the LORD.”

Attesting even more as to the identity of the angel of the Lord, not only as YHWH, but as the preincarnate Christ, is the response the angel of the Lord gave after Manoah had asked of His name in verse 17: “Why do you ask my name, seeing it is wonderful [Heb. piliy/paliy]” (v. 18). In Isaiah 9:6, the name of the coming Messiah will be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father [or father/possessor of eternity], Prince of Peace.” The Hebrew term translated “Wonderful” (pele) is from the same root word (both from pala) as in Judges 13:18: “seeing it is wonderful.” No created angel can claim this name of Himself. This claim is certainly consistent to the many claims Jesus made and titles ascribed to Him in the NT, which were claims that only YHWH made and titles ascribe to YHWH alone in the OT (e.g., “First and Last”[5]; egō eimi [“I am”][6]; “Lord of glory”[7]; “only Lord”[8]; etc.). When Manoah discovered that it was the “angel of the Lord,” he declared to his wife, “We will surly die, for we have seen God” (v. 22)—seeing that the angel of Lord was God.

There are many other angel of the Lord references in the OT (cf. Josh. 5:13-15;[9] Num. 22:22-35; 2 Kings 19:35; etc.). However, the examples mentioned above are more than sufficient in showing that the angel of the Lord was identified as YHWH Himself and as the preincarnate Christ. This view has been concurred by early church Fathers and most biblical commentators throughout church history. In sum,

1. As countlessly revealed in the NT regarding the personal distinctions between Jesus and the Father (and the Holy Spirit) there is a marked distinction between the angel of the Lord and God/YHWH—i.e., two divine speakers/persons both identified with divine titles (i.e., YHWH, God, “the God of the fathers,” etc.).

2. In Colossians 1:15 and 1 Timothy 1:17, Paul explains that God the Father (as with the Holy Spirit) is an invisible spirit, which “no man has seen or can see” (1 Tim. 6:16, as confirmed in John 1:18 and 1 John 4:12). Hence, it is quite implausible that the angel of the Lord is the Father or the Holy Spirit.

3. In Zechariah 1:12, the angel of the Lord (who had been claiming to be YHWH since Genesis) is now praying to the “LORD [YHWH] of hosts.” As stated, YHWH praying to “another” YHWH can only be consistent with biblical monotheism in the context of Trinitarianism (cf. Gen. 19:24). We find the same in the NT, where God the Son prays to another divine person, God the Father (cf. Luke 10:21-22; John 17:1ff.).

4. Unitarian groups (esp. Muslims) frequently assert that the angel of the Lord was merely a “divine agent” as with Moses, judges, prophets, created angels, etc., but not God Himself. This assertion, however, is clearly refuted by the fact that no agent of God ever identified himself as “YHWH,” “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob,” “Wonderful,” etc.

5. Lastly, many who encountered the angel of the Lord identified Him as God in which they feared for their life: “We will surly die, for we have seen God” (Judg. 13:22; cf. Gen. 16:13; Judg. 6:23).

The angel of the Lord was not an indefinite created angel. Rather, as He claimed, He was the “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob”—YHWH, yet a distinct person from another YHWH (cf. Gen. 19:24; Zech. 1:12). In the highest probability, the identity of the angel of the Lord was the pre-incarnate Christ, God the Son. As revealed in the NT, He mediates and intercedes for the people of God, on their behalf— not as a mere created agent, but as YHWH Himself, second person of the Holy Trinity.

NOTES

[1] Cf. Judges 6:20.

[2] The Trinitarian force of this passage sharply disproves any unitarian view of God.

[3] The Targum was an ancient Aramaic translation providing explanations and paraphrases of the Hebrew OT. In the post-exilic period, Aramaic began to be broadly spoken in the Jewish community in conjunction with Hebrew. Further, throughout the OT, the Targums identifies “the angel of the Lord” with the Memra (“Word”) of the Lord—pointing to the background of John’s Logos doctrine.

[4] Again, as with other places, here the angel of the Lord is used interchangeably with the “angel of God” (cf. vv. 20-21).

[5] Cf. Isaiah 41:4; 44:6; and 48:12. In the NT, only Christ claims to be “the first and the last” (Rev. 1:17; 2:8; 22:13).

[6] In such places as in the LXX of Deuteronomy 32:39; Isaiah 41:4; 43:10; and 48:12, YHWH alone claims to be the “I am” (egō eimi). As with the divine title, “the first and the last,” only Christ Himself claims to be the absolute “I am” (egō eimi, John 8:24, 28, 58; 13:19 et al.) To recall, at Isaiah 41:4 and 48:12, both divine titles, “I am” and “the first and the last” are contained in the same verse!

[7] In Acts 7:2, Steven declared, “The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham.” Whereas in 1 Corinthians 2:8, Paul calls Jesus, “the Lord of glory,” which is a title of full deity (see 1 Sam. 15:29 where YHWH is called “the Glory of Israel”).

[8] Biblically, there is only one true Lord and God—YHWH. In Jude 1:4, Jesus is called ton monon despotēn kai kurion, “the only Master and Lord.”

[9] Especially note verses 14-15: “[Joshua] said, ‘No; rather I indeed come now as captain of the host of the LORD.’ And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and bowed down, and said to him, ‘What has my lord to say to his servant?’ 15 The captain of the LORD’S host said to Joshua, ‘Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place where you are standing is holy.’ And Joshua did so.” This is exactly what the angel of the Lord said to Moses in Exodus 3:5: “Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” Nowhere in Scripture is it even implied that being in the presence of mere angels is “holy ground” in which one must remove his sandals. John the Baptist speaks of the coming Christ before whom he is “not fit to remove His sandals” (Matt 3:11). Thus, John saw the presence of the Christ, as God incarnate, sacred.

Scripture presents powerful claims of Jesus Christ attesting to His deity, that is, His coequality with God the Father. The natural response of the unbelieving Jews only adds to the confirmation of what Jesus affirmed: “Because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God” (John 10:33; see also John 5:17-18; 8:58-59). In addition to this is the clear testimonies of the apostles presenting Christ the Son as fully God and fully man, distinct from the Father and the Holy Spirit (cf. Matt. 12:6; 28:19; John 1:1, 18; 20:28; 1 Cor. 2:8; Col. 2:9; Titus 2:13; 2 Pet. 1:1; Jude 1:4). Their Christology is expressed coherently and exegetically.

Along with the testimonies of Jesus and the apostles, (and the OT affirmations[1]), we find clear affirmations of the Son’s deity made by God the Father especially in the prologue of Hebrews. In fact, it was the Father’s testimony that Jesus used to authenticate His own testimony (see John 5:31-32; 8:16-17).

In the NT, God the Father clearly substantiated the deity and unipersonality of His Son, Jesus Christ, by the following:         

1) The Father openly declared Jesus to be the “Son of God” (cf.  Matt. 3:16-17; 17:5)

2) The Father commanded all of His angels to worship the Son (cf. Heb. 1:6)

3) The Father directly addressed the Son as “the God” whose throne is eternal (cf. Heb. 1:8-9) 

4) The Father directly addressed the Son as the “Lord,” that is, the Yahweh of Psalm 102:25-27, the unchangeable Creator (cf. Heb. 1:10-12)

“SON OF GOD”

The theological significance of the title “Son of God cannot be ignored or denied. The biblical evidence is clear: The unique way that Jesus applied this title to Himself and the unique way that the apostles applied it to Him show that it was a title of full deity—tantamount to “God the Son” (cf. John 1:18; 5:17-18; 10:30-33; 19:7; Rom. 1:1-4; Heb. 1).

The Fathers attestation of the full deity of Christ and His coequality with Him, in very nature, starts with His open declaration of Jesus’ Sonship. The Father claimed Jesus was His Son and Jesus claimed the reverse—namely, that He was the Fathers Son. So when the Father openly announced that the person of Christ is His Son, He affirmed in the strongest way the Son’s essential and ontological deity. Jesus’ Sonship was openly declared at several different times throughout His life: At His baptism (Matt. 3:16-17); at His Transfiguration (Matt. 17:5); and in reference to His resurrection (cf. Acts 13:33; cf. also Heb. 1:5). We also read of Jesus’ declaration of Sonship in Romans 1:1-4, where the Son was “declared [‘marked out’] the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness.” The Father’s open declaration of Jesus’ Sonship demonstrates to the world that Jesus Christ is the “one and only/unique Son” (monogenēs huios), God in the flesh. Again, “The Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He . . . was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God” (John 5:18; cf. 10:30ff).         

ALL THE ANGELS COMMANDED TO WORSHIP THE SON (cf. Heb. 1:6) 

Contextually (similar to the prologue of John), the prologue of Hebrews is a well-defined contrast between all created things (viz., angels and the heavens and the earth) and the eternal divine Son (cf. vv. 3, 6, 8), who was worshiped as God (v. 6), and presented as Yahweh, the unchangeable Creator (cf. vv. 2, 10-12). After the author provides some of the most potent passages proving the Son’s deity (esp. vv. 2-3), from verses 5-13, to intensify his antithesis (i.e., the eternal Son vs. creation), the author moves from his own inspired words to the words of God the Father.

In Hebrews 1:6, an undeniable verification of the Son’s deity is evidenced by the fact that God the Father commands[2] all of His angels to “worship” (proskuneō) the Son: “And when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says, ‘And let all the angels of God worship Him.’” The Father’s command to His angels to give religious worship to His Son clearly proves the Son’s essential deity—for creature worship was strictly forbidden by God (cf. Exod. 20:5). There are many places in both the OT and NT where the Son was worshiped in a religious context, by all the angels (cf. Heb. 1:6); by men (cf. Dan. 7:14; Matt. 14:33; John 9:38); and by every creature (cf. Rev. 5:13-14).[3]

DIRECT ADDRESS AS “THE GOD” WHOSE THRONE IS ETERNAL (cf. Heb. 1:8) 

Thus far, the author of Hebrews has exhibited so precisely the very object of Christian evangelism and historic faith: The two natures of the person of the Son, as fully God (esp. vv. 2-3, 6) and as fully man who made “purification of sins” (v. 3). In verses 8-9, the Father demonstrates further the exalted divine status of His beloved Son:

“But of the Son He says” Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, And the righteous scepter is the scepter of His kingdom. 9 You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of gladness above Your companions.’”

Here the Father addresses the Son (pros de ton huion, “but regarding the Son”) as ho theos (“the God”) affirming that the Son’s throne is “forever and ever.” This is a citation from the LXX of Psalm 45:6-7. Although some have attributed the Psalm to David, Solomon, or a Persian king, the original sense of the Psalm is purely Messianic. The writer here seems to envisage the ideal king, a “magnificent and beautiful prince—a prince riding prosperously in his conquest” (Barns). In the same way, Isaiah speaks of the Messiah as “Mighty God” and “Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:6). Note the rendering of the ancient Targum[4] of Psalm 45:7, which is a direct address to Yahweh Himself: “Thy throne of glory, O Lord endures for ever and ever.” Further, the targumist applies verse 3 to the Messiah: “Your beauty, O King Messiah, is greater than the sons of men; the spirit of prophecy has been placed on your lips; because of this the Lord has blessed you forever.” None of Israel’s kings were ascribed as “God” whose throne is forever. The full deity of the Christ is a constant theme in the OT (esp. Dan. 7:9-14; Isa. 9:6-7).

In Hebrews 1:8, the Father positively affirms that His Son, Jesus the Christ, is “the God” whose throne is forever and ever. That the Father addresses the Son as “God” (a distinct person) is precisely what the doctrine of the Trinity teaches. In the Gospels, the Son addresses the Father as “God,” while here, the Father addresses the Son as “God.” Just as the Son addresses the Father as “Lord of heaven and earth” (Luke 10:21), in Hebrews 1:10, the Father addresses the Son as the “Lord” (i.e., as the Yahweh of Ps. 102:25-27) who made the heavens and the earth (cf. also John 1:3; 1 Cor. 8:6; Col. 1:16-17; Heb. 1:2).  

Unitarian groups (esp. JWs) consistently deny the direct address rendering and syntax of the passage by translating theos (“God”) either as a nominative, “God is your throne” (as in the NWT) or as a predicate, “Your throne is God.” However, the vocative of direct address[5] rendering of theos (i.e., the Father addressing the Son as “God”) is confirmed by 1) the LXX of Psalm 45:6-7 where Elohim (“God”) is in direct address, 2) the Targum of Psalm 45:6 where “Lord” is in direct address, 3) all ancient versions of Psalm 45, 4) most English translations, 5) biblical commentators, historically and presently, 6) the context of the prologue, which presents a defined contrast between all created things and the eternality of the Son, and 7) in verse 10, the Greek term for “Lord” is in the actual vocative case of address (kurie), which unmistakably shows that the Father addressed the Son as “God” and as the “Yahweh” (“Lord”) of Psalm 102:25-27, as we will discuss below.      

DIRECT ADDRESS AS “LORD”—NAMELY, THE YAHWEH OF PSALM 102:25-27 (cf. Heb. 1:10-12)

“You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the works of Your Hands. . . .” (v. 10).  God the Father attributes the creation of the heavens and earth to the Son (as did the author in v. 2). This passage (and the entire chapter) is devastating to Oneness advocates who see the “Son” as representing merely the humanity (non-divinity) of Jesus and, of course, most challenging for Muslims and JWs who likewise deny the deity of the person of the Son.

In verses 10-12, the Father applies Psalm 102:25-27, which speaks of Yahweh as the unchangeable Creator, to the Son! As we saw, starting in verse 5, the author moves from his own words, to the Father’s words regarding the Son. Hence, verse 10 does not warrant any break in context or switch of speaker to recipient—it is the Father speaking tothe Son: You, Lord, in the beginning.” The connective conjunction and naturally looks back to the addressee in verse 8: But of the Son He says.” As pointed out, kurios (“Lord”) actually appears in the vocative form, kurie: “You, Lord [kurie], in the beginning.” This irrefutably shows that the Father is speaking to the Son. It also supports the vocative force of theos in verse 8: “But of the Son He says, ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.’” Hebrews 1:10-12 is a citation of Psalm 102:25-27 (from the LXX),[6] which describes Yahweh as the unchangeable Creator. Hence, the Father identifies His Son with the Yahweh of this Psalm, the unchangeable Creator.  

The Christian religion is established by its Founder, Jesus Christ, God incarnate, Creator of all things. This is confirmed by the OT prophets, NT apostles, Christ Himself, and God the Father. The Father affirmed His Son’s ontological status as God by 1) making open declarations as to Jesus’ Sonship, 2) commanding all of the angels in heaven to worship the Son, and 3) directly addressing the Son as “the God” whose throne is eternal and as the Yahweh of Psalm 102:25-27, the unchangeable Creator.


[1] Cf. Genesis 19:24; Daniel 7:9-14 (cf. Mark 14:62); Isaiah 9:6; “angel of the Lord” references; etc.

[2] The term translated “worship” is an aorist active imperative verb. A verb in the imperative mood indicates a commandment/request. But when the imperative is in the aorist tense, the commandment stressing urgency, a “do it now” kind of verb—namely, worship the Son now!

[3] The word “worship” appeared in the JWs’ New World Translation at Hebrews 1:6 from 1961 (the first complete ed.) to 1970. However, due to the damaging implications of the Son being worshiped, the Watchtower replaced “worship” with “obeisance,” meaning, honor, respect, etc. in all subsequent editions.   

[4] The Targum was an ancient Aramaic translation (in explanations and paraphrases) of the Hebrew OT. In the post-exilic period, Aramaic began to be broadly spoken in the Jewish community in conjunction with Hebrew. The earliest known portions of the Targum were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls (e.g., Job, Cave 11).

[5] In verse 8, we noted that although theos technically is in the nominative case, it clearly carries the vocative force of direct address. In fact, in every occurrence in the NT, where God is being addressed, theos appears in the nominative case except in Matthew 27:46, where both occurrences of theos are actually in the vocative case—Thee mou, thee mou (“My God My God”).

[6] The LXX reads: kat’ archas su kurie (lit., “In [the] beginning, You, Lord”). Hebrews 1:10-12 is utterly shattering to all who deny the Trinity and the deity and unipersonality of the Son since God the Father identifies His Son with the Yahweh of Psalm 102:25-27—the unchangeable Creator whose “years will not come to an end.”

Last month, I, Edward Dalcour, president/apologist of DCD, formally debated Muslim apologist Sadig Abdul Malyk, which was held at Foothill Bible Christian Church in Upland, CA.

The thesis of the debate was the deity of Jesus Christ. Being familiar with the method to which Muslim apologists defend Islamic teachings, in my opening statements I described how Mr. Malyk would handle the biblical affirmations and evidence regarding the deity of Christ. I stated that I did not expect Mr. Malyk to 1) exegetically interact with any of the passages submitted for his examination, 2) adequately respond to the unambiguous claims of deity made by Christ Himself (esp. John 5:17ff.; John 10:30; the “Alpha and Omega” claims; and the absolute “I Am” [egō eimi] declarations found in John 8:24, 28; 58; 13:19; 18:5, 6, and v. 8), and 3) I did not expect Mr. Malyk to respond to the heated reaction of the Jews when Jesus made these claims: They wanted to kill Him for blasphemy!

I also stated in my opening that due to Mr. Malyk’s denial of the deity of Christ as a Muslim, I did expect him to 1) appeal to liberal scholars such as Bart Ehrman who not only denies the reliability of the NT and thus denies divine revelation all together, but calls himself a “happy agnostic.” Ehrman, as I pointed out, would certainly see the Koran as a ridiculous piece of work, 2) deny all the passages that affirm the deity of Christ asserting that the passages in the Gospels that allegedly assert the deity of Christ and/or Jesus’ claims of deity, were either not the original work of the biblical authors (esp. John) or an incorrect interpretation. And further assert that the Apostle Paul cannot be trusted. Paul, as Muslims claim, did not accurately represent the teachings of Christ, and 3) ignore and/or evade specific passages that present the deity of Christ. In the end, as I predicted, Mr. Malyk did exactly that!

The arguments of unitarians (i.e., groups that assert a unipersonal God—namely, God as one Person) are basically the same. Assuming that “one God” means “one Person” causes unitarian groups such as the Muslims, JWs, Oneness Pentecostals, etc., to reject the idea that the Son, Jesus Christ is also God. In their mindset, that idea violates monotheism. But as biblically stated, the very foundation of the Trinity is monotheism:

One eternal God revealed in three coequal, coeternal, coexistent, distinct Persons (not 3 Gods). For it must be pointed out here: there is a distinction between “being” and “person.” “Being” is what something is, “person” is who something is. Thus, maintaining a continued awareness of this distinction is greatly efficacious in accurately communicating the doctrine of the Trinity—one Being revealed in three Persons.

Passages Muslims & JWs use to Deny that Jesus is God

The passages used by Mr. Malyk in the debate and by most JWs to deny the deity of Christ are as follows: Mark 13:32 (where seemingly the Son is ignorant of His return); John 14:28 (where Jesus says that the Father is “greater” than the Son); Matthew 16:28 (where Muslims make the absurd claim that Jesus made a false prophecy); and Matthew 27:46 and John 20:17 (where Jesus addresses the Father as His God).

Before dealing with these passages, it must be remembered that the deity of Christ is exegetically presented in virtually every NT book[1] (e.g., Matt. 12:6; John 1:1-3, 18; 8:24, 58;10:30; Rom. 9:5; 1 Cor. 2:8; Phil. 2:6; Col. 1:16-17; 2:9; Titus 2:13). So, to put implicit biblical passages against explicit passages reveals a serious flaw in one’s hermeneutic. Furthermore, these passages that Muslims and JWs use to deny the deity of Christ actually prove the converse—they affirm the deity of Christ!

Mark 13:32: “But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone” (same with the response to Mark 10:18)

If one is going to use Mark 13:32 (or 10:18) to argue that the ignorance of the Son- shows that the Son cannot be God; to stay consistent one must use the entirety of chapter 13 and not omit verse 32 from its context. In short, the entire context of the chapter is future events from the time of which the author is writing. However, in spite of the various eschatological views proposed these days, it seems that in verse 32 (in light of Matt. 24:36), Jesus is speaking of His final Eschaton (return).

Note first, verse 27, where we read that the Son “will send forth the angels, and will gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest end of the earth to the farthest end of heaven.” Here the Son is said to “send forth the angels” and they will gather His elect. Does Mohammad (or Michael the archangel, as JWs believe Jesus to be) have angels that obey him? Does Mohammad have an elect? For only Yahweh has an elect class (cf. Rom. 8:33; 1 Pet. 1:1). So thus far, the full deity of the Son is clearly presented in chapter 13. So whatever Jesus actually meant in verse 32, it cannot be in objection to verse 27.

Now, let’s deal with verse 32. First, Philippians 2:7 says Christ emptied (kenoō) Himself. But how did He empty Himself? By taking the NATURE (morphē) of a slave, being made in the likeness of men. . . .” Then in verse 8, we read that the Son humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross! Thus, Jesus Christ voluntarily veiled some of His divine prerogatives, without divesting any deity.[2]

So any knowledge that the Son did not apparently have, must be seen within the context of His incarnation, thus, His emptying and humbling—He was not only God, He was God-man. Muslims and JWs confuse and deny all aspects of His incarnation and merely go to passages which denote His humanity. If the incarnation and humiliation of Christ is misrepresented and/or distorted, then, one will be hopelessly confused, and keep asking questions, such as, “If Jesus was God, why didn’t He know the day or hour of His return?, “How can He die?” “Why didn’t He know who touched Him”; and on and on it goes.

Secondly, and a key point, notice the ascending ontological (in nature) order in verse 32: “But of that day or hour”:

1) “No one knows.” Thus, no “man” knows. Thus, the first category of being is man.

2) “Not even the angels in heaven.” The next category is angels, which is a higher category of being than that of man.

3) “Nor the Son, but the Father alone.” What being is higher than angels? God. So, the ascending order: man> angels> Son shows that the Son, as God, is in a higher category than that of man and angels—hence clearly affirming the deity of the Son.

John 14:28: “The Father is greater than I.”

Just as Mark 13 actually proves the deity of Christ, John 14 likewise proves the same. First in verse 6, Jesus says that He is the Way, and the Truth, and the Life and no one can come to the Father except through Him. Neither Mohammad nor Michael the archangel, nor any mere man or angel can make such a claim. Then in verse 14, Jesus says that “If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.”

Prayer is to God alone, but the Son instructs His disciples to pray to Him. And in verse 23, Jesus says, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.” What does this passage reveal about the Son? It indicates that Jesus is omnipresent as the Father is. Jesus claims that He and His Father will be with believers everywhere: “We will come to him and make Our abode with him.”

Up to now, Jesus reveals that He possesses the very attributes of God affirming once again His absolute deity: He is the only Way, the only Truth, the only Life, and hence, the only means of coming to the Father; He instructs His followers to pray to Him; and He claims to be omnipresent.

Therefore, when we come to verse 28, we must take the preceding passages into consideration theologically and not wrench them out of the chapter. So what then does Jesus mean? First, it must be realized that the term translated “greatest” is meizōn (from megas), which denotes position or function—not nature (cf. BDAG). In fact, no standard lexicon offers a meaning of qualitative or ontological superiority for the term megas. Note how the same term in the same form (meizōn) is used in Romans 9:11-12:

though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, 12 it was said to her, “The older [meizōn] will serve the younger” (cf. John 15:20).

If the Son wished to communicate that the Father was ontologically superior (better) than He was, He certainly could have used the term kreittōn, “better/stronger” to accomplish this.

This term can indeed denote ontological superiority (e.g., Heb. 1:4: the Son is “much better [kreittōn] than the angels”). The same word is used in verse 12: “He who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater [megas] works than these. . . .” What are these greater works? Contextually, they can only refer to greater in quantity (geography), not greater in quality (cf. Matt. 28:19).

Matthew 16:27-28: “Truly I say to you, there are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.”

All the apostles died and Jesus has not yet come. So is this a false prophecy? This assertion of Jesus making a false prophecy rests upon the assumption that the phrase, “Son of Man coming in His kingdom” speaks of His final return. Simply, the first word in verse 1 of chapter 17 is the conjunction: kai, “and.” (“and six days later . . .”). Hence, 16:28 and 17:1 are connected: the “Son of Man coming in His kingdom” is connected with the Transfiguration, which was witnessed by Peter, James, and John who were the “some of those” that “would not taste death.” This coming was not the final return, but rather a precursor to Jesus’ final Eschaton.

Finally, in Matthew 27:46 and John 20:17, Jesus calls His Father “God.” Thus, it is argued, “If Jesus is God, how can He address someone else as His God? The simple answer: Jesus is not only God, but God-man. He has two natures. As to His humanity He can grow in wisdom, feel pain, die on the cross, etc., but as to His deity He can claim that He is the “I Am” of the OT (John 8:58; cf. Deut. 32:39; Isa. 43:10 LXX); He can still the waters (Matt. 8:23-27); command the Father to glorify Him with the glory that only Yahweh possesses (Isa. 48:11; John 17:5); be the Creator of all things (John 1:3; Col. 1:16-17); claim that He is greater than the temple and “Lord of the Sabbath” (Matt. 12:6, 8).

Further, in John 20:17, Jesus carefully distinguishes His relationship with God the Father and the relationship of God the Father with others: “My Father and your Father, and My God and your God.” Jesus is the Son of God by nature; whereas believers are sons and daughters of God, by adoption.

Therefore, many of the arguments railed against the deity of Christ by Muslims and other anti-Trinitarian groups, actually affirm the deity of Christ. Aside from that, it is no wonder as to why Muslims deny the authenticity of the Gospel of John and the Epistles of Paul—they present in the strongest and clearest way that the Son, Jesus Christ, was God (e.g., John 1:1; 8:58; 20:28; Col. 2:9; Titus 2:13; see also Heb. 1:3, 8), Creator (cf. John 1:3; Col. 1:16-17), and He was worshipped in a religious context (cf. Matt. 14:33; John 9:35-38; see also Heb. 1:6; Rev. 5:13-14)–see Christ Worshiped as God

.NOTES

[1] In the OT, as well, there are numerous places that teach the deity of the Son (e.g., Gen. 19:24; Ps. 102:25-27 [cf. Heb. 1:10-12]; Prov. 30:4; Isa. 6:1-10 [cf. John 12:41]; 9:6; Dan. 7:9-14; Joel 2:32 [cf. Rom. 10:13]; etc.).

[2] In verse 6, Paul indicates that the Son was en morphē theou huparchōn, lit., “in nature God subsisting.”

The biblical evidence of the pre-existence of the Son irrefutably proves the Oneness position false. Just as the present active participle huparchōn, in Philippians 2:6 communicates the perpetual existence of the divine Son, more than a few passages contain the present active participle ōn (from eimi), which also  denotes the Son’s eternal existence (cf. Harris, 1992: 157-58). In explicit reference to the Son’s eternality, the present active participle is used both articularly (ho ōn) and anarthrously (ōn). Two such examples of the articular form of the participle are John 1:18 and Romans 9:5.

John 1:18: “No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is [ho ōn, i.e., “the One who is/being always”] in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him” (emphasis added).

Romans 9:5: “Whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is [ho ōn, i.e., “the One who is/being always”] over all, God blessed forever. Amen” (emphasis added).

Note the defining context of both passages: the Son’s absolute deity. They even call the Son theos, which intensifies further the affirmation of the Son’s deity and His pre-existence. Referring to John 1:18, Reymond (1998: 303) remarks in the significance of the articular participle: “The present participle ho ōn … indicates a continuing state of being: ‘who is continually in the bosom of the Father.’” In the LXX of Exodus 3:14, we find the same articular present participle to denote Yahweh’s eternal existence: Egō eimi ho ōn, literally, “I am the eternal/always existing One.” Also note the egō eimi phrase preceding the participle here (cf. John 8:24, 58; cf. Chapter 2, 2.4.5).

We also find the use of the anarthrous present active participle ōn, in contexts where the deity of the Son is clearly in view. In Hebrews 1:3, the present active participle (i.e., hos ōn) “marks the Son’s continuous action of being, which denotes total and full deity” (Robertson, 1932: 5:17-18; cf. Tenny, 1981: 34).[7] It “refers to the absolute and timeless existence” (Rodgers and Rodgers, 1998: 516). The participle ōn in Hebrews 1:3 is set in contrast with genomenos, in verse 4. This is similar to the use of ēn, in John 1:1, which is set in contrast with egeneto, in 1:14, and of huparchōn, in Philippians 2:6 (cf. 2 Cor. 8:9), which is set in contrast with genomenos, in verse 7. In each case, there is an outstanding contrast between the eternal pre-incarnate Son and all things created. 

 

The ultimate test that unequivocally decides what is and what is not genuine or orthodox Christianity is simply the biblical doctrine of the Person, nature and finished work of Jesus Christ. He made this clear in a question to His disciple Peter: “What do you think about the Christ” (Matt. 22:42). Similar to Jesus’ statement in John 8:24 (cf. chap. 2, sec. 2.4.5) eternal life is absolutely dependent on believing in the Jesus of biblical revelation (cf. John 17:3). The fact is, virtually all major non-Christian cults assert, “Jesus Christ is Lord” (e.g., Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Oneness Pentecostals, etc.). This is, to be sure, a meaningless assertion. For the Jesus of these groups oppose the biblical presentation. The Apostle John indicates in 1 John 2:22-23:

Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also (emphasis added).

Thus, proclaiming a belief in God the Father while denying the biblical presentation of the Son (i.e., denying His nature as God-man, His finished work, and His unipersonality [i.e., that He is a distinct Person]) denies God Himself. One cannot remove the Son from the Godhead and yet claim that he or she has salvation – for he or she, as John indicates, does not have God. “He that does not honor the Son,” says Jesus, “does not honor the Father who sent Him” (John 5:23).

In spite of the clear biblical (exegetical) affirmation of the full deity of the Person of the Son, Jesus Christ, non-Christian groups crassly reject this essential truth of God. The deity of the Son is especially seen in places such as: Daniel 7:9-14; John 1:1, 18; 20:28; Romans 9:5; 10:13; 1 Corinthians 2:8; Philippians 2:5-11; Colossians 2:9; 1 Timothy 3:16; Titus 2:13; 2 Peter 1:1; Hebrews 1:3-10; Revelation 5:13-14; and 22:13.

There are several places in the New Testament where the Son is actually called ho theos, “the God,” these would be, as included above, John 20:28; Titus 2:13; 2 Peter 1:1; Hebrews 1:8; and 1 John 5:20. What is theologically noteworthy is that Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1 (and perhaps 2 Thess. 1:12) are both Granville Sharp grammatical constructions – namely, Sharp’s rule #1. This rule is named after its founder (not inventor) Granville Sharp (A.D. 1735-1813). Sharp was passionate in his unyielding belief in the full deity of Jesus Christ. Sharp’s research of the Greek New Testament led him to discover six grammatical rules in which the Greek article ho, “the” and the conjunction kai, “and” were utilized.

Although there were six grammatical rules that Sharp discovered, rule #1 is the most recognized and cited. Generally (not verbatim), rule #1 states that when the connective kai, “and” connects two nouns of the same case (singular nouns that are not proper [e.g., personal names]), and the article ho, “the” precedes the first noun, but not the second, each descriptive noun refers to the first named person.[1] Hence, Titus 2:13 and 2 Peter 1:1 contain this construction emphasizing the full deity of the Son. Titus 2:13 reads: “Looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus.” Notice the phrase tou megalou theou kai sōtēros hēmōn Iēsou Christou, literally, “the great God and Savior of us Jesus Christ.” Here, the conjunction kai, “and” connects both singular descriptive nouns, theou, “God” and sōtēros, “Savior” and the article tou, “the” proceeds the first noun, theou, “God,” but not the second noun, sōtēros, “Savior.” Therefore, according to Sharp’s grammatical rule, Jesus Christ is tou megalou theou kai sōtēros, “the great God and Savior.”

The same great truth is found in 2 Peter 1:1. Minus the extraneous words preceding the Sharp construction and the adjective megas, “great” in Titus 2:13, the reading in 2 Peter 1:1 is virtually identical: tou theou hēmōn kai sōtēros Iēsou Christou, literally, “the God of us and Savior, Jesus Christ.” According to recognized Greek grammarians (e.g., Robertson, Greenly, Wallace), lexicographers, (e.g., Cremer), and commentators (e.g., Hendriksen) this rule is invariably valid markedly showing the full deity of the Son.

In contrast, Oneness teachers insist that the “Son” denotes only Jesus’ humanity and not the deity of Jesus blatantly rejecting the Son’s deity (seeing the “Father” and “Son” as modes or roles of the unipersonal deity named “Jesus.” While other non-Christian cults see Jesus as not God, but rather as a mere man. However, aside from the biblical passages where Jesus claims that He is God (e.g., John 5:17-18; 8:24, 58; 10:30; 13:19; 18:5-6, 8) and the passages where He is presented as God by His apostles (as seen below), the Son possesses the very attributes of God:

  • He has power to forgive sins (cf. Matt. 9:6)
  • He is greater than the temple (cf. Matt. 12:6)
  • He is Lord of the Sabbath (cf. Matt. 12:8)
  • He is the King of a kingdom and the angels are His gathering His elect (cf. Matt. 13:41; Mark 13:27)
  • He is the Messiah, the Son of the living God (cf. Matt. 16:13-17)
  • He was to be killed and raised from the dead (cf. Matt. 17:9, 22-23; 19;26:2; Mark 8:31; 9:31; Luke 9:22; 18:31-33; John 2:19ff.)
  • He is omnipresent (cf. Matt. 28:20; John 14:23)
  • He is omniscient (cf. John 2:24-25; 6:64; 16:30; 21:17)
  • His is omnipotent (cf. Matt. 8:27; 9:6; 28:18; Heb. 7:25)
  • He gave His life as a ransom for many (cf. Mark. 10:45)
  • He gives eternal life (cf. Luke 10:21-22; John 5:21; 10:27-28)
  • He is the monogenēs theos, “unique/one and only God” that came from heaven (cf. John 1:18; 3:13)
  • He pre-existed with and shared glory with the Father (cf. Micah 5:2; John 1:1; 17:5; as will be shown in chap. 4)
  • He is Immutable (cf. Heb. 13:8)
  • He was worshiped (cf. John 9:35-38; Heb. 1:6)

Virtually every New Testament book teaches the full deity of the Son, Jesus Christ, explicitly or implicitly. This is exegetically seen in passages such as Matthew 1:23; Luke 10:21-22; John 1:1, 18; 5:17-23; Jesus’ seven absolute egō eimi, “I am” statements (viz. John 8:24, 28, 58; 13:19; 18:5-6, 8); John 20:28; Romans 9:5; 1 Corinthians 2:8; 16:22; 2 Corinthians 8:9; Philippians 2:6-11; Colossians 2:9; 1 Timothy 3:16; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 1:3, 8-10; 2 Peter 1:1; 1 John 5:20; Jude 4; Revelation 1:8; and 5:13-14. The biblical evidence is massive.

The Son is Creator

Further, the New Testament specifically presents the Son as the Creator of all things, thus pre-existing (cf. John 1:3; Col. 1:16-17; Heb. 1:2, 10). This is the strongest point of refutation against Oneness theology as well as all non-Christian cults who deny the deity and eternality of the Son, Jesus Christ.

The Son is Worshiped

There is another important piece of evidence affirming the deity of the Son. Scripture presents the Son as receiving the same kind of religious “worship” (proskuneō) as that of God the Father. This important reality can be especially seen, for example, in Daniel 7:9-14, where two distinct divine Persons are being presented (note, v. 9 says “thrones,” thus, not a single throne), the Ancient of Days and the Son of Man. In verse 14, the Son of Man was “given dominion, glory and a kingdom,” by God the Father in which “all the peoples, nations and men of every language might serve [douleuō, i.e., worship, cf. Exod. 20:5; LXX] Him, His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away” (emphasis added).

In the New Testament, Jesus received religious proskuneō, “worship” – for example, by the men in the boat (cf. Matt. 14:33) and the blind man (cf. John 9:35-38). In Hebrews 1:6, the Father commands “all the angels of God” to proskuneō, “worship” the Son. This kind of worship was clearly religious in nature – for the setting is in the heavens before God the Father. In Revelation 5:13-14, the Father and the Lamb receive the same kind of blessing, honor, and glory and the same kind of worship: “To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever. And the four living creatures kept saying, ‘Amen’ and the elders fell down and worshiped [proskuneō].” Note that these acts of proskuneō, “worship” to the Son were not merely in the context of honor and/or falling prostrate before another in mere “obeisance” (as the Jehovah’s Witnesses bible [NWT] says in Heb. 1:6 and other passages where Jesus received worship). Rather the Son was worshiped in a religious context – namely, worship that was reserved for God alone (cf. Exod. 20:5) – creaturely worship is highly forbidden by the Lord. This revealing truth shows that the Son shares the very essence of God the Father. He is God in the same sense as that of the Father (cf. John 1:1b): “Who always being the brightness of His glory, the exact representation [image] of the nature of Him” (tēs hupostaseōs autou, i.e., nature of the Father; Heb. 1:3; translation mine).

Scripture presents a clear Christology

The Son of God, Jesus Christ is the second Person of the Holy Trinity. The Son is fully God co-existing with the Father (cf. John 1:1; 17:5). He became man (cf. John 1:14). He was sent by the Father (cf. John 6:37ff.) to redeem the elect of God by His sacrificial death on the cross (cf. Mark 10:45; Rom. 5:9-11; 8:32). The Son is the only Mediator between the Father and man (cf. 1 Tim. 2:5). Thus, the Christ of biblical revelation is the divine Son, a personal self-aware Subject distinct from the Father and the Holy Spirit.

This is the Christ that saves. This is the Christ that Paul and the other New Testament authors preached. The very foundation of justification is through this God-man’s infallible and efficacious cross-work, the very instrument being faith alone, not the sacrament of water baptism (i.e., a work) accompanied by a five word formula (viz. “In the name of Jesus” as Oneness Pentecostals assert) of which the church has never prescribed.

Jesus affirmed that unless one has accurate knowledge, assent and trust in the Son of biblical revelation he would perish in his sins (cf. John 8:24). The rejection of the unipersonality and deity of Son and the rejection of the personal distinctions between Jesus, the Father, and the Holy Spirit rejects the very nature of the triune God Himself (cf. John 17:3; 1 John 2:22-23).

Hebrews 1:2, 8, 10: In these last days [God the Father] has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. . . . But of the Son He [the Father] says, “YOUR THRONE, O GOD, IS FOREVER AND EVER. . . . And, YOU [the Son], LORD, IN THE BEGINNING LAID THE FOUNDATION OF THE EARTH, AND THE HEAVENS ARE THE WORKS OF YOUR HANDS.”

“To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever, Amen” (Romans 9:5 ESV)

The Christ that the Apostle wrote and preached about was fully God (cf. Phil. 2:6; Titus 2:13) and fully man (cf. Gal. 4:4; 2 Tim. 2:8)—thetwo natured Person. At a time when the gnostic heresy (which denied Jesus’ humanity) was mounting and deluding the church, Paul constantly presented a clear antithesis to the two natures of Christ. In Romans 9:5, we have just that: a contrast between the human origins and the deity of Christ. However, some ambiguity exists in the punctuation of the phrase kata sarka ho ōn epi pantōn theos (lit.,“according to the flesh who is over all God”—i.e., to whom does the phrase refer—God the Father or Christ?[1]).

Although, the majority of early important church Fathers[2] and present day scholars[3] attribute the phrase to Christ—namely, Christ is over all God blessed forever.” Nevertheless, biblical translations are somewhat mixed. While some translations see the phrase as unambiguously referring to Christ (e.g., NIV, ESV, TNIV, NET, NLT, NKJV, Message, HCSB).

Others see the phrase as clearly referring to God the Father (e.g., RSV,[4] NEB, REB, NAB, TEV, GNB, CEV). Others are just ambiguous (e.g., KJV, ASV, JB, NRSV, and NASB). One thing we must keep in mind, the original text of the NT was written in all capital letters with no punctuation.[5] Thus, any subsequent punctuation was at the discretion of later editors.

There are both contextual and grammatical considerations that support the position that the phrase who is over all God blessed forever” refers to Christ.

Context:

1) Lament over Israel’s rejection of Jesus as the Messiah. The style of these opening verses is a lament, thus, it seems most natural to take this as an affirmation of the deity of Christ. For Paul is feeling deep sorrows for his kinsmen who although had Jewish privileges, they had rejected the true Messiah.

2) An independent or asyndetic (i.e., omission of conjunctions) doxology to God the Father is contextually out-of-place. A doxology(i.e., an outburst of praise) to God the Father would be incongruous in a passage marked by sorrow over Israel’s failure to recognize in Jesus Christ her spiritual blessing. This doxology jumps out in the middle of Paul’s utter grief for his fellow Jews who refuse to believe in Jesus as the true Messiah.

3) All of Paul’s doxologies are tightly link with the preceding context. Every time Paul gives a doxology, it is linked to the preceding context (e.g., Rom 1:25; 11:36; 2 Cor 11:31; Gal 1:5). There is no place in the writings of Paul where he steps out of the context to give a separate praise to God (unless one sees Rom. 9:5 as the one exception).

Grammar:

1) Kata sarka (“according to the flesh”)Throughout Paul’s writings, he routinely emphasizes the two natures of Jesus Christ—divine and human. In Paul’s theology, Jesus’ perpetual incarnation (as a literal blood descendant of David) is part of his gospel: Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant [spermatos] of David, according to my gospel (2 Tim. 2:8). We also find Paul placing the phrase kata sarka in apposition (side-by-side) to something else and/or set in contrast to Jesus’ deity. In Romans 1:3-4, for example, we find kata sarka in contrast to the phrase kata pneuma (“according to the Spirit”). If this doxology in Romans 9:5b refers to Christ, then, as NT scholar Murray Harris rightly points out,

there is a natural climax that elevates the person of the Messiah as well as an antithesis that complements the limitation signified by to kata sarka. . . . Not only did the Messiah come from Jewish stock, he is a universal monarch who will be eternally worshiped as God. To refer theos to Christ accords perfectly with the immediate context.[6]

2) Ho ōn. The phrase ho ōn (“who is”) adds significant weight to the affirmation that “who is over all God” refers to Christ. The participle ōncan denote a continuing state of being or timeless existenceThe participle phrase is used in John 1:18: “No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God [or “the one and only God”] who is [ho ōn—i.e., continually] in the bosom of the Father. . .” Since Paul’s doxologies are always connected with the preceding context, obviously the participle phrase in Romans 9:5 would modify the preceding context and thus point to the previous subject (namely, the Christ, whom the Jews rejected), not a different subject. In the NT, we find many examples where the articular[7] participle ōn further describes an existing subject as with John 1:18.[8]

Consider also that the participle phrase ho ōn agrees grammatically with ho Christos (“the Christ”),[9] which makes “the Christ” even more likely to be the referent to the phrase “who is over all God.” The “who is,” then, describes Christ as both “over all” and “God blessed, forever.”

3) “Over all.” First, the phrase epi pantōn (“over all”) is connected to the participle phrase ho ōn: “Who is over all.” “Over all” denotes ultimate supremacy. Jesus the Messiah is supreme ruler over all Jews, Gentiles, believing, and unbelieving. It is true that Scripture calls God the Father “over all” (cf. Eph. 4:6). However, Jesus is called “over all” in Acts 10:36: The word which He sent to the sons of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ (He is Lord of all).” Note the parallel to the phrase in Romans 9:5: ho ōn epi pantōn theos (lit., “who is over all God”) with the end of Acts 10:36: houtos estin pantōn kurios (lit., “He is of all Lord”). Further, in Romans 10:12, Paul states that Jesus is kurios pantōn—“Lord of all.”

The supremacy over all things is constantly expressed in Paul’s theology (esp. in Col. 1:16-17 where Jesus is Creator of all things, thus having the supremacy over all creation). As “God blessed forever,” we would except to read passages where Christ is supreme over allthings; the “Lord of all”; “the Lord of glory” (1 Cor. 2:8); and the Creator of all things.

4) Jesus as theos (“God”). Objection may be raised at Paul identifying Jesus as “God” being that he normally identifies the Father as “God” and Jesus as “Lord” (e.g., Gal. 1:1, 3; 1 Cor. 8:6). It is true that in the NT Paul normally refers to the Father as theos (“God”) and the Son as kurios (“Lord”) particularly when the Father and Jesus appear in the same verse or context. However, in religious contexts both titlestheos and kurios were two equal descriptions of deity. This is especially seen when one considers that the very term used to translate the Tetragrammaton (i.e., YHWH, “LORD”) in the LXX was kurios.

Frequency does not mean exclusivity. The fact is, even though Paul regularly refers to the Father as “God,” he has specifically referred to Jesus as ho theos (“the God”) in Titus 2:13; existing in the nature of God in Philippians 2:6; and dwelling in “all the fullness of Deity” in Colossians 2:9; and, as mentioned, the Creator of all things in Colossians 1:16-17. To Paul, Jesus Christ is the YHWH of Isaiah 45:23as presented in Philippians 2:10-11.[10] So referring to Christ as “over all God blessed forever” is quite consistent in Paul’s theology.

One more point, in Romans 9:5, theos (“God”) does not have the article: ho ōn epi pantōn theos (lit., “who is over all God”). As with John 1:1c (lit., “and God was the Word”) where the anarthrous[11] theos refers to the Word’s nature, not identity. Hence, in Romans 9:5, Christ is “over all God” as to His nature.

5) “Blessed forever.” When we examine the biblical record, whenever eulogētos (“blessed”) appears as an independent or asyndetic doxology to God the Father, it always comes before the name of God.[12] But here in Romans 9:5, it comes after “God”: “who is over all God blessed forever.” Paul uses the expression “blessed forever” twice in his letters and each time, undeniably, it is an assertion regarding the subject (see Rom 1:25 and 2 Cor 11:31). In 2 Corinthians 11:31, a similar construction as Romans 9:5 is found where ho ōn refers to the subject of the sentence: “The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, who is [ho ōn] to be praised forever, knows that I am not lying.”

Therefore, it is with the highest of probability that the phrase in Romans 9:5, “who is over all God blessed forever” refers to Jesus the Messiah. As seen in point 4 above, in Paul’s theology, Christ is the supreme God, which is congruous, not only within Paul’s own literature, but with the other biblical authors. Whereas Paul refers to Christ as “over all God” in Romans 9:5; John refers to Him as the “one and only God” and “the true God” (John 1:18; 1 John 5:20); the author of Hebrews refers to Him as “the God” (Heb.1:8) and unchangeable Creator—the YHWH of Psalm 102:25-27 (cf. Heb. 1:10-12); Peter refers to Him as “the God and Savior” (2 Pet. 1:1); and Jude refers to Him as “the only Master and Lord” (Jude 1:4).

Since his conversation on the road to Damascus, Paul’s life was forever changed. He personally encountered the “the great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). The Christ that Paul preached was from the line of David “according to the flesh” and as to His divine nature, He is “over all God blessed forever, Amen.”

 NOTES:

[1] Either as: “the Christ, who is over all, God blessed forever,” or “the Messiah. God who is over all be blessed forever!” or “the Messiah who is over all. God be blessed forever!”(the former referring unambiguously to Christ).

[2] E.g., Irenaeus, Cyprian, Athanasius, Gregory of Nyssa, Ambrose, Augustine, and Hilary, etc. 

[3] E.g., (partial list): Calvin (1540); Haldane (1958); Dwight (1881); Hodge (1886); Shedd (1879); Moule (1887); Sanday and Headlam (1902); Denney (1904); Lenski (1936); Schlatter (1959); Schmidt (1963); Murray (1965); Cranfield (1979); Metzger (1980); Bruce (1985); Morris (1988); Harris (1992); Fitzmyer (1993); Stott (1994); Mounce (1995); Moo (1996); Schreiner (1998).

[4] The RSV reads: “To them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ. God who is over all be blessed for ever.Amen,” clearly attributing “God who is over all” to the Father.

[5] For example, an early copy of John 1:1 would look like this: ENARCHHNOLOGOSKAIOLOGOSENPROSTONQNKAIQSHNOLOGOS as compared to later manuscripts in which punctuation and spaces were added:) Ἐνἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος.

[6] Murray J. Harris, Jesus as God, 165.

[7] “Articular,” meaning with the article (“the”) in contrast to “anarthrous,” which means without the article.       

[8] Also at John 3:13; 11:31; 12:17; Acts 11:1; 2 Corinthians 11:31; Ephesians 2:13; Colossians 4:11.

[9] Both the articular Christos and the articular participial ōn are in the nominative (subject) case.

[10] Cf. Hebrews 1:10-12.

[11] See note 7 above.

[12] E.g., Genesis 14:20; 2 Corinthians 1:3; Ephesians 1:3; 1 Peter 1:3.

 

And behold! Allah will say: “O Jesus the son of Mary! Didst thou say unto men, worship me and my mother as gods in derogation of Allah?” He will say: “Glory to Thee! never could I say what I had no right (to say). . . . ” (Qur’an, Sura 5.116).[1]

Anyone who has interfaced with Muslims (or also JWs) on the Person of Christ or nature of God has probably been asked that question. Although, Muslims are taught that Jesus was a prophet of Allah, sinless, virgin born, preformed miracles, etc. they reject that He was eternal God in the flesh, crucified, and resurrected from the dead. The rejection of the deity of Jesus Christ (and the Trinity) is common to all non-Christian cults and false religions. Because Jesus said in John 8:24 that “unless you believe that I am [egō eimi], you will die in your sins” we cannot be hesitant or be timid in proclaiming that Jesus is God in the flesh—for salvation is predicated on that belief. A few months ago, in a formal debate with a Muslim apologist, I was asked the typical question: “Where did Jesus claim to be God and say worship Me?” The fact of the matter is this: If Jesus is God, Islam is proven a false religion and thus, Mohammad is merely another false prophet who deceived his followers.

Jesus’ claims to deity were much stronger and clearer than if He had said, “I am God”

First, we must understand that in the NT, Jesus never literally said, “I am God.” As we will show, the term “God” is subject to different meanings according to the context. In other words, the term “God” (Heb. Elohim; Gk. theos) had many meanings in the OT. And in the NT, the plural form of theos (theoi, “gods”) denoted false gods (cf. John 10:34-35; 1 Cor. 8:5). In the OT, Elohim (“God”/“gods”) referred to judges (cf. Exod. 21:6; 22:8-9), false gods (cf. Ps. 96:5), the true God (cf. Jer. 10:10); etc. In Exodus 7:1, the Lord said to Moses: “See, I make you as God [Elohim] to Pharaoh.” Of course, Moses was not actually made deity, but only as God’s direct representative, he was made as God to Pharaoh. The point is, Moses, judges, angels, etc. were called “God(s),” even though they were not God by nature. So if Jesus would have stated, “I am God,” those that deny the deity of Christ could construe the phrase to mean that Jesus was merely claiming that He was a representative of God, or a perfect judge, or a mighty angel (as the JWs see it, using Isa. 9:6).

However, Jesus’ claims to deity were much stronger and clearer than if He had said, “I am God.” In other words, Jesus made specific claims to express His deity (some of which were used only of YHWH in the OT), which were clearly understood by both friends and enemies as claims to be equal with God. These specific claims were not used by nor were they applied to humans or angels, as with the term “God.”

Note the following claims, which explicitly demonstrate that Jesus did indeed claim to be equal with God, in the same sense as God the Father.

Egō Eimi (“I am”)

In John 8:24 Jesus declared: “For if you should not believe that I am [egō eimi] you will perish in your sins” (lit. trans.). Although, many translations add the pronoun “he” (e.g., NKJ, NASB, NIV)[2] after “I am” in spite of the fact that the pronoun is not contained after egō eimi (“I am”) in any Greek manuscripts of John 8:24—nor is the pronoun contained after Jesus’ other egō eimi affirmations in John 8:28, 58; 13:19; 18:5, 6, and 8. Jesus claimed He was the “I am” seven times in the Gospel of John. These instances are absolute “I am” claims—i.e., with no supplied predicate. Hence, they are the not same as statements such as, for example, “I am the door” or “I am the shepherd.” These all have predicates following “I am” whereas the seven “I am” statements listed above have no supplied predicate, but rather the “I am” stands alone. Cleary this was an absolute and clear claim to deity.

The Hebrew phrase, ani hu, which was translated egō eimi (“I am”) in the LXX,[3] was an exclusive and recurring title for YHWH (cf. Deut. 32:39; Isa. 41:4; 43:10; 46:4; etc.). Thus, this title, then, clearly denoted YHWH alone (which the Jews clearly understood, cf. John 8:59). Further, Jesus’ claim to be the “I am” was not only seen in John 8:58 (as many assume), but note the marked progression starting in 8:24, then, vv. 28, 58; 13:19; 18:5, 6, and 8. It is when we take all the “I am” statements do we see the thrust of His claim.

So strong was this affirmation of deity that the Jehovah’s Witnesses had to mistranslate the present active indicative verb, eimi (“am”) in John 8:58 turning it into a past tense, “I have been” (NWT), as if Jesus was merely claiming to be older than Abraham. However, what immediately refutes this false notion is the response of the Jews in verse 59: They wanted to stone Him (legally, under Jewish law), which clearly shows that the Jews understood Jesus’ claim as an unequivocal claim to be God. Jesus’ claim to be the “I am” was essentially a claim to be YHWH, not a mere judge, angel, or representative of God, but YHWH. Hence, salvation is predicated on believing that the Son, Jesus Christ, is the eternal God, YHWH, the great “I am.”

The Son of God—in Essence

Muslims deny that Jesus’ claim to be the “Son of God” was in fact a claim of deity. Muslims are taught that Jesus was only speaking metaphorically when He referred to Himself as the Son of God (cf. John 10:36). In other words, Muslims argue that Jesus was the Son of God by doing good works, glorifying God, being humble, etc., thus, Jesus was not the one and only (monogenēs)[4] Son in a unique sense.[5] They further point out that in both the OT and NT, “son(s) of God” was applied to both angels and men (cf. Gen. 6:2; Job 1:6; Luke 3:38). So, as Muslims argue, when Jesus claimed Himself to be God’s Son, it could not have been a title of deity. In response,

1) The meaning of biblical words and phrases are determined by the context (as with the term Elohim). In a Semitic (Jewish) context, to be the “son of” something meant that one possesses or shares the nature of that something. In Ephesians 2:2-3, for example, the unsaved are said to be the “sons of disobedience . . . by nature children of wrath” in that they possess the nature of disobedience and wrath. Unbelievers are sons of the devil (cf. John 8:44), whereas believers are sons of God by adoption (cf. Eph. 1:5), through faith (cf. Gal. 3:26).

2) Even though the phrase “son(s) of God” was applied to angels and men, when applied to Jesus, it was in a context of essence or nature. Whereas Christians are sons of God by adoption, Jesus is the Son of God by nature—which was a clear claim of deity.[6]

3) Son of God = God the Son (cf. John 1:18). In John 5:17-18, when Jesus said, “My Father is working until now,” note the response of the Jews (similar to John 8:59): [they] “were seeking all the more to kill Him.” But why? The Apostle John tells us: “because He . . . was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.” The Jews (and the Apostle John) clearly understood that by claiming God was His Father, Jesus was claiming to be “equal with God.”

“I and the Father are one” (John 10:30)

Many Christians rightfully point to this passage to show that Jesus claimed equality with God the Father. As with Jesus’ other undeniable claims to be God (cf. John 5:17-18; 8:58-59), the response of the Jews in verse 33 is an irrefutable confirmation of Jesus’ claim to be God: “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; and because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.”

However, it is not merely in verse 30 where we see a clear claim of equality with God. Note the passages leading up to verse 30. In verses 27-29, Jesus claims that He is the Shepherd and He gives His sheep eternal life and no one can snatch them from His or His Father’s hand. The Jews were familiar with Psalm 95:7: “For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hand.” Knowing that only YHWH can make this claim of having sheep in His hand as well as giving them eternal life (cf. Isa. 43:11), when Jesus made this exact claim and then added, “I and the Father are one,” it’s easy to understand the response of the Jews: “You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.”

Therefore, to answer the question of the objectors, Yes, Jesus claimed He was God in the most unequivocal and explicit way.

He claimed He was the egō eimi (“I am”; John 8:24 et al); Son of God (by nature; John 5:17-18; cf. 17:5), which was only applied to YHWH; and claimed that He has sheep in His hand and He is one in essence[7] with the Father (John 10:27-30). Jesus’ claims to be equal with God were much stronger and clearer than if He had said, “I am God.” We also see other unmistakable claims of deity such as when Jesus boldly stated He was “greater than the Temple” (Matt. 12:6); that He has “the authority on earth to forgive sins” (Mark 2:10); that He gives His life as a ransom (Mark 10:45); etc.

The Worship of Jesus

We worship Jesus because He is truly God. Jesus came to earth as a humble servant (cf. Phil. 2:7-8); He came to serve, not to be served (cf. Mark 10:45). His mission on earth was to die for the redemption of sinners, for this reason, God became flesh. Hence, it was not His role on earth to demand His creatures to worship Him—believers did this naturally.

However, in John 5:22-23, Jesus states that the purpose of the Father giving all judgment to Him was for the result of all honoring the Son in the same way (kathōs) they would honor the Father. The honor that is given to the Father is clearly religious honor—namely, worship. Therefore, Jesus asserts His essential equality with God by expressing that the worship/honor given to the Father is to be given to the Son and if one does not worship/honor the Son, he or she “does not honor the Father who sent Him.” Further, we find many examples in both the OT and NT where Jesus was worshiped in a religious context[8] and He accepted it (e.g., Dan. 7:14; Matt. 14:33; Heb. 1:6; Rev. 5:13-14).

NOTES

[1] Yusufali’s translation.

[2] The pre-2011 NIV had a bracketed clause after “I am” that read: “the one I claim to be.”

[3] LXX is the abbreviation for the Septuagint (meaning “seventy”—the traditional number of scholars that translated the OT Hebrew into Greek originating in Alexandria, Egypt around 250 B.C.). The NT authors frequently utilized the LXX in their OT citations (esp. in Hebrews).

[4] Monogenēs means “one and only”/“unique one” (cf. John 1:14, 3:16) with no idea of “to beget,” “give birth,” or origin. Thus, monogenēs huios, means, “one and only Son” (NIV) or “unique Son” (cf. John 1:18: monogenēs theos, “God the One and Only”/“only begotten God”). The lexical meaning of the term is especially seen in Hebrews 11:17 where Isaac is called one and only (monogenēs) son, yet Isaac was not Abraham’s first or only son, but he was the unique son from whom God’s “covenant would be established” (Gen. 17:19-21).

[5] See Answering Islam, which is one of the best and most prolific sites dealing with Islam > http://www.answering-islam.org <

[6] The most substantial way that the “Son of God” is used is in a Trinitarian sense. Jesus Himself employs it that way in several places (cf. Matt. 11:27; 14:28-33; 16:16; 21:33-46; 26:63).

[7] The neuter hen (“one”) here denotes essential unity, not identity, as Oneness Pentecostals assert. In addition, it is one in essence as the context demands (cf. vv. 27-30 along with the response of the Jews in v. 33).

[8] A religious context is any such context where spirituality or holiness exists.